It’s been a little over a week since I came back from my 17-days long vacation. I’ve been crazy busy with piles of work after I came back (200+ work emails that I ‘ignored’ during those 17 days), have been packing to move, and just a lot of things happened and I admit, I was just too lazy to upload my blog…Nevertheless, here is my first post! Since I was away for 17 days I guess this will be a long 17-posts series of this wonderful vacation.

On June 28th, I went into work in the morning and left after lunch for my flight which was at 4pm. I had to see my new landlord to sign some papers before I left, so I was in a hurry to finish everything. Long story short, I got to the airport on time, and this was my first time taking KLM so I was quite excited about that. And indeed – I think KLM was the best airline I’ve ever used in my life. I have been on not that many, but quite a few airlines – American Airlines, Delta, West Jet, United, Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, Korean Air, Asiana Air,Air Asia, Lufthanza, and Iceland Air. KLM adds onto my European airline list, and now I know which airline I’m going to be flying with for my next Europe trip. Services were great, food AMAZING (for on-flight food), free alcohol, and comfy seats! I think that’s more than you can ask for from an airline these days, so I was very glad that I decided to go with KLM. And the wrappers for their main food has Dutch paintings on it, which was the cherry on top for me!IMG_6403

After about 9 hours of flying, I arrived in Amsterdam at Schiphol airport for my next flight to Paris. I was excited to stop over at Schiphol because I heard so many good things about this airport, and I was actually reading this book Art of Travel by Alain de Botton, and he describes this airport in comparison to Heathrow, which I found very interesting (I highly suggest de Botton’s books to everyone so my opinion might be a little biased). With Dutch tulip stands and everything, you can really tell you are in the Netherlands. IMG_6404

After a short flight from Amsterdam to Paris, I finally arrived in Paris around 1:30pm. I had booked a shared van service before I left Paris, so after I picked up my luggage I found the van driver to drive me to my hotel. I always try to book a shared van service when I go traveling to a city where I know that my place of stay and the airport is quite far away. And aren’t I glad I booked it this time; The day I arrived in Paris, it was their gay parade day so the city blocked off a lot of streets. In Vancouver, on Pride Parade days they only block off one street in downtown (at least when I lived in West End they only blocked off Davie street) but PARIS!!! They blocked off a whole lot of streets so it took my driver more than 3 hours to drop me off at my hotel which should’ve only taken 1.5 hrs at the most. At the beginning I thought I would take a cab from the airport to the hotel because on Google map it said 40 min cab ride – if I actually ended up taking a cab, I would’ve spent 1/5 of my trip budget on one single cab ride. So do look into booking a shared van, because it only cost me 28 euros for this 3 hr long ride.

Anyhow, this ride changed my plan for the day completely. I thought I would arrive at my hotel around 2pm, then I would head out right away for at least one of the museums that I was going to go, but I actually arrived after 4pm and all the museums were closing at 6pm. Then I figured I wasn’t going to pay the entrance fee to only to stay there for half an hour, so I messaged my friend in Paris that I was going to meet up the day after. We changed the plans and we decided to meet up for dinner. As soon as I had everything arranged with my friend, I headed out because I wanted to walk from my hotel to Pont Marie, which would take me about 40 minutes of walking. I love walking in good weather, so with my camera I started walking. Oh, I stayed at Best Western Le Patio Saint Antoine, which is near Nation station.

I walked and walked along La Seine, and it was beautiful, sparkling with tiny reflections of the sun –

Then I met up with my friend David, and he took me to this famous ice cream place in Paris called Berthillon and I had hazelnut and chocolate ice creams – yummmm

From there, we walked around Paris and had dinner. By this point it was getting a bit chilly and I was wearing shorts, so David suggested that we go back to my hotel first so I can get changed and then head to the Eiffel tower. Oh, one thing I forgot to mention – David has a scooter!! So from Chatlet I hopped on his scooter back to the hotel, which was just AMAZING; I felt like I was in one of those Disney/Nickelodeon movies where the girl meets a boy in some kind of an European city and the boy gives her a ride around the city.
(CLICK to see my video of this scooter ride in Paris at sunset <3)

We arrive at Eiffel tower in Champ de Mars, and it looked so much different than the last time I was there. Last time it was freezing cold, and we couldn’t sit on the grass as our butts would freeze off with the grass; but this time the grass was green, a lot of people chilling out to see the tower light up at night. Since I didn’t get to see the tower all lit up, we decided to stay there to see it this time. 

We were there from around 9:50pm to 11:30pm, but the tower didn’t light up!! I was quite disappointed, but it got too cold so we decided to leave. David gave me a ride back to my hotel, and said à bientôt!

Europe, France, Travel

Paris, France 2013: Day 1

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Europe, France, Travel

Trip Planning: France and Italy Part 3

In the last few weeks since the last posting, I’ve booked two hotels and one little flight!

First, is the hotel in Paris; Since I’ll be in Paris by myself, I decided to stay in a safer area and booked the room for two people just in case my friend can make it to Paris. I looked around on several websites, and I decided to go with Best Western Le Patio Saint Antoine. It’s very close to Nation station, I already have Best Western membership so I get my points, and I also wanted to be not too far from la Seine. Price wasn’t too bad, around $230 for two nights. More information about the hotel can be found here –> TripAdvisor’s review on Best Western Le Patio Saint Antoine

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The second hotel is Hotel Wilson in Nice. For four nights, we paid € 276, which is about $380 CAD. Gosh, I hate seeing Euro going up !! Anyhow, it’s less than $50 per person per night so we thought it was a good deal. It’s not too far from the train station, and it’s only a few minutes walk from Promenade des Anglais. We always stayed at hostels last year except in Salzburg, but this year it seems like hostels cost as much as hotels, so we are trying to find hotels with good deals. Nonetheless, we both love the atmosphere of hostels so we are thinking of finding a hostel for Florence, maybe. For more information on Hotel Wilson –> TripAdvisor’s review on Hotel Wilson

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The last purchase of last week is my flight from Paris to Nice. I’m leaving from Paris’ Orly airport in the early afternoon, and will arrive at Nice airport. My friend will be arriving from Budapest to Nice around the same time, so we can probably cab together for about 15 minutes. This flight was with Air France.

 

I’m so excited to see our plan slowly coming together! Gosh, I just can’t wait until summer time and get out of Vancouver for two and a half weeks!!

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Europe, France, Italy, Travel

Trip Planning: France and Italy Part 2

I’ve booked my flight tickets!!

..well, actually three days ago. I’ve been busy at work and outside of work so finally I get to write this posting. Anywho, As I always do, I’ve been researching like crazy and keeping track of the price trend. I had two options for my flights:
1. Round trip from Vancouver to Paris
2. Two separate trips, Vancouver to Paris and Milan to Vancouver

First I only thought of option 1 since Paris/London/Frankfurt are the cheaper options to fly to Europe from Vancouver. And for the past few weeks, prices were around $1200~$1300 for the round trip. And the option 2 was also around $1300~$1400. I know the trip is not happening for another four months, and for my last trip last year I only got the tickets about eight weeks before the trip. Nonetheless that was during low season (January-February) and I was flying from and to United States (from New York to Prague, from Paris to Seattle). So when I was searching for my ticket for this year’s trip I decided to go on the hunt earlier since July is very high season. Also I already got my vacation approved, so there was nothing that’d stop me from getting my tickets.

I was tracking the price trend for the past few weeks on various websites – Momondo, Bookingbuddy, StudentUniverse, and I also asked for a quote from Flight centre.

  • Momondo: Very user friendly UX, searches different European websites which tend to offer lower prices for tickets in Europe. But one downfall is that since they search up on European websites, some of those websites offer the price in Euros, or British Pounds. Therefore depending on the exchange rate the price might differ from what you saw on Momondo.
  • Bookingbuddy: It also combines many website searches into one. The usual websites are Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, Priceline, CheapOair, etc. Shows you the correct US/CAD price.
  • StudentUniverse: Great website for students or people under 26. I found out about this website the year before last year when I was researching for my tickets to Europe and since I was a student I was looking to see if I can get some perks of being a student. It feels like it’s either hit or miss for StudentUniverse, because most of the times the prices offered are little more expensive than what you can find elsewhere; but if you are lucky (like I was the year before last year AND this year) you can find some great prices. However, I’m not sure if they changed the policy or not, you need to prove that you are a student by sending them a screen capture of your logged in page on your college website.
  • Flight centre: This one, also is a hit or miss. They got me an amazing price for my flights from/to Hong Kong for my exchange. Everywhere I searched I only could find $1900 and above, but they were able to find it for $1300. I was flabbergasted and have been going back constantly for quotes for all my trips, but since then I was always able to find better price than them. And when they say they’ll ‘beat the lowest price’, they mean it by a dollar and $20 credit for your next booking with them. But quite honestly, I was able to find prices that are much lower than what they offered and I didn’t want to bother going through them for $21 in savings. And some consultants are just not too nice 😦

As I was keeping track of the price trend, there was one day last week when I could get the option 2 flights, with KLM, for under $1300 on StudentUniverse (This definitely was another hit by StudentUniverse). That day the option 1 flights were also around $1300 but for option 1 I had to get another flight from Milan to Paris. So when I found that price on StudentUniverse, I just got my credit card and purchased it. It only stops once in Amsterdam, and I’ve heard that their airport is one of the best in Europe so I wouldn’t mind kicking around at the airport for a couple of hours. And the greatest thing is, when I checked the prices yesterday, the exact same tickets now – same airline, same time, same stops – are now over $2000! (I usually keep checking prices even after I purchase my tickets to see if I was smart or not). I’m usually good with purchasing the ticket at the right time, but since I paid $500 for what used to be $350 on my flights to Austin next month, I was determined to not make that mistake again.

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So… that’s my two pennies on booking tickets online. I guess it’s going to have to be a nickel from now since Bank of Canada has gotten rid of pennies! hahahaha 😛

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Europe, Italy, Travel

Trip Planning: France and Italy Part 1

So, I’ve done my first Eurotrip last year around this time – from early January to mid February right after I finished college. I travelled from the East to the West, starting off from Prague. Then bused down to Budapest, and from there I reunited with my best friend and we trained to the rest of our destinations.

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I’m very much of a planner, and I need to have everything ready before I do anything. Travelling is no exception; I need to have the itinerary set and ready for every destination and have to do an extensive research to find the best deal (This tells me I’m in the perfect career field for myself that requires to pay attention to every detail obsessively and research..). Anyhow, it was a fantastic trip last year, and I am extremely happy that I’ll be going back to Europe this summer!

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This is my tentative plan for this summer. I will fly in to Paris and spend a couple of days there, then to Nice and chill there for a little less than a week and travel a little to Monte Carlo. Then we’ll travel East to Cinque Terre, Florence, and up North to Milan and I’ll fly home from there. It seems like from Nice to Cinque Terre is a little tough to arrange the transportation, so I’m looking into different ways to do this. If anyone can give me their two cents that’d be lovely 😉 I’ve been thinking of this trip since last year, and since I just got my vacation days approved I need to start moving quickly and get my flight tickets.

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