I’ve been dreaming of Paris the longest time. I don’t think I need to explain my fascination with this city. Paris is… Paris. I guess you can say that I’m a pseudo-Francophile. I envied friends and random people who have been there; I’d look at photos, read blog posts, books, wishing I could do the same thing. I realised it was about time I make this thing happen, at this point in my life. I know myself too well— I didn’t take action now it would never happen for me.
So I dragged my good friend Angela to be a part of this little dream of mine, and fortunately she had been wanting to go somewhere outside of Asia too. And so we spent a loong time planning— she works overseas so we did everything online. For a year we shared hundreds of emails, budget spreadsheets, twitter DMs, Google documents, travel ebooks, dropbox photos, links. A year of planning might be too much for a short trip, but we were working on a specific budget and this left us with limited choices. We also did everything ourselves (except for our Best of Tuscany day tour)… flights, train and museum bookings, visa application, accommodations, and the itinerary.
I saved up for more than a year, so by the time our travel date came along, I had enough to pay for the trip. Angela chose the date: Friday, May 27, 2011. And we planned everything around that. Sixteen days, two countries. Paris – Giverny – Versailles – Florence – Siena – San Gimignano – Pisa – Rome. We spent weeks deciding which airline / flight to take. We spent even more time looking for nice apartments. Hostels would be the cheapest option you would say, but we still are not comfortable with the idea of sharing rooms with random people. We are also shy people, at the end of the day we are tired from all the walking and the last thing we want is unnecessary small talk and socializing.. haha.
In hindsight I regret being too whiny and moody, especially in the middle of our stay in Paris. I recall not enjoying Musee d’Orsay because I was too tired, but we did manage to look at almost everything there! Finding our way to the Louvre from our flat also proved to be a challenge, so by the time we reached the massive museum (there are 65,000+ pieces and it would actually take months to see everything), we were too tired to enjoy the exhibitions. The weather has been so erratic and it can get from what feels like 14C to 32C just in one day. The crowds and the waiting also put a damper to one’s spirits, we came well-prepared, but even the special lines we were on require a relatively long waiting time. Now that we’ve covered the ‘Paris essentials,’ I’m sure I would enjoy my next visit more, by focusing on the food and the less touristy places.
The best surprise is knowing how nice and helpful Parisians are. Everyday people come up to us offering help– we had locals help us haul our suitcases up and down the metro stairs, we also got help on directions and train ticket / turnstile problems.
Overall, I really did like the atmosphere of Tuscany / Rome better. People are generally relaxed and life seemed to be slower. It really feels like a nice place to live in. Perhaps it’s also because of our travelling pace, we had planned on seeing a lot of paid attractions in Paris which we crammed in four days.
I especially enjoyed our visits at Mercato Centrale (you actually read it as CHEN-traleh) in Florence. I loved looking at all the food and getting free samples. Limoncello from Sorrento, hands down the best balsamic vinegar from Modena, cantucci, fresh pecorino romano and parmigiano reggiano, crackers topped with truffles… it was really such a joy and a good learning experience.
Thank you Lord for this trip. I won’t stop dreaming of bigger places and I cannot wait to go and see more of the world. I know by now that this is really one of my passions. I look forward to more trips, getaways, beautiful things to behold, experiences to cherish, and lessons to learn.
P.S. Took a while to post this because I am not comfortable sharing too much information online anymore. I will probably take it down sooner or later… or not. If you are planning a similar trip I’d be happy to help if you have any questions =)