The past month has been somewhat of a whirl wind tour in the way of travel. We decided to take full advantage of the Summer break and head to Europe for vacation. If you caught my earlier Hawaii posts you’ll understand where I coming from. Our Europe trip was packed with some great do’s and a few don’ts that I’ll share in the way of best practice over the next few posts.
First off I’ll start by saying that Europeans definitely get the concept of vacation. Summer holiday is a full month for all of Europe and many even stretch beyond the 4 weeks. Getting 2 weeks truly disconnected here in the U.S. is difficult to say the least especially if you are in Sales. This is more our cultural that anything else in my opinion. As a society, I don’t feel like we are any more productive yet it really does make a huge difference on our quality of life. Many companies will take the position that they do provide the vacation time and some even now offer unlimited vacation time but reality differs greatly. I truly believe that until the pendulum swings back to a normal balance companies and employees are better served forcing mandatory vacation time. The notion of not allowing your folks to truly out of office is going to burn out the team and the company and you’ll eventually lose people to companies that offer a better balance. To net it out, plan a trip to Europe if you haven’t done so… won’t be disappointed.
One of the early stops was to Paris, France. I must say the City is definitely something special, there is a uniqueness and character to it that is unlike the rest of Europe. We arrived late evening on the EuroStar from London directly into Paris. The bullet train experience was fantastic, definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We need this rail system in the U.S. desperately!
Our visit to Paris unfortunately got off on the wrong foot right out of the gate. We had 4 adults and 4 kids with a corresponding amount of luggage and packed into a taxi (basically a full size van). Since the air show was in town and the city was pricey, we opted to stay about 30 minutes away over by Disney. The fare on the meter in the cab was ~ 80 Euros, so I handed the driver my credit card to which he handed me back a charge slip for 240 Euros! I broke out google translate and proceeded to try and have a conversation in French with the driver. The rationale was that because we had 8 large bags, some carry-on’s and 8 total passengers (never mind that 4 were under 7 years old) that it was really a 3 taxi fare not a single taxi fare. After getting a copy of the rate card which aligned to the meter and clearly didn’t support his agenda we hit an inflection point. We took the high road and decided to just document it and take it up with my credit card company to dispute the charge. Debating the conversation with the driver further would not have resolved anything. I didn’t want to add any fuel to the perception on American tourists in France. The locals at the hotel were honestly embarrassed about the whole situation and very apologetic.
During the visit, to everyones suprise a car carrying firearms rammed into a police van and the driver ended up dead. Champs Élysées: driver dead as car carrying firearms rams police van We weren’t about to let anything get in the way of exploring the city and wound up dining at the L’Alsace a few hundred meters from the scene of the attack the following day. The Restaurant L’Alsace right on the Champs Élysées offering a great outdoor view. The dining expericence was top notch honoring Alsatian gastronomy through different specialties such as sauerkraut, Alsatian wines, … Alsace also offers a nice selection of seafood, loved the shellfish platter and oysters!
Paris police were very present throughout the city and are taking security extremely seriously. The force was quite visible, more so that any other place on our tour throughout the continent. Seeing the armed officers with serious assault rifles locked and loaded took a bit to get used to but I was confident that they meant business and will take down any threats.
Ok, so here are a few of my top tips for visiting Paris:
- Budget more time, trying to do Paris in a 3 days just isn’t enough time. It is good to get your feet wet but you know there is a lot more to explore. I could have easily spent all 3 days in the Musée du Louvre which was utterly amazing. I’ll definitely plan to go back and visit the Palace of Versailles, Notre Dame and explore the culinary side in much greater depth.
2. In all Europe, make sure you select your payment to be in Euros when using your credit cards. If you opt for the proposed exchange rate you are getting taken for a ride. Make sure you have a card that doesn’t stick you with any foreign transaction fees. I used my Capital One card which did the job.
3. Speaking of rides, take Uber whenever possible. It is a safer way not to have to deal with the taxi’s and it works just fine in the city.
4. Make sure you call your credit card companies ahead of time to avoid the block on your card for “your safety”. Since we jumped around a lot this actually came up despite my calling ahead of time and listing out all the countries… so have more than one card.
5. Budget extra money for unplanned shopping. The cost of luxury goods – i.e. Purses and Clothing is much lower than here in the U.S. In typically male fashion, I underestimated the importance of the shopping side of Paris! – lol.
Lastly, budget plenty of time to get to the airport!!! We budgeted an hour to get to the airport which turned into a 2:25 minute drive from City center because of the highway getting shut down. Doing an international flight with 8 people packed to the gills with baggage showing up at the ticket counter with 35 minutes prior to flight time definitely tested everyone in our travel party. My sincerest apologies to anyone we may have run over in the process as we flew through the airport! To my surprise we made the flight, traveling weekly for work is much different than with a family and friends entourage… but we did it!
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