Synopsis of my vacation to Europe
Paris, France. After visiting Lourdes for two days, I went back to Paris to start my vacation. When I arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, I took a taxi to the Hotel Concorde La Fayette, where I booked an extra day stay before the start of my tour holiday the next day. I was a bit tired after the long trip from Lourdes and Toulouse, so instead of going out to eat I had ordered room service for dinner. I looked out the window from my hotel room and I could see the Eiffel Tower well-lighted standing out from the other tall structures and buildings. So I said to myself, “This is Paris, a dream come true finally, I am right here looking at the famous tower and it was staring back at me as if saying come here and visit me.”
The Eiffel Tower
I will be there tomorrow as soon as our tour starts; Eiffel Tower is first on our list of attractions to visit, then the famous Avenue des Champs-Elysées in the heart of Paris. Next is the Louvre Museum, then on to the Moulin Rouge Theatre for a night of fun, “Las Vegas-Style”. Next day after that to Montmartre Paris, where artists used to hangout before the tourists invasion. Then we had more places to go and we also went on a dinner cruise at the Seine River, one evening in Paris. Before dinner we visited the Notre Dame Cathedral nearby, a lovely church full of history, then after the river cruise we all went back to the hotel to rest for the night.
I did go back to the Eiffel Tower after our previous visit on our free afternoon schedule to see the tower on my own good time and soaked the Parisian atmosphere, but before going there I passed by a small Parisian store, picked up a bottle of sparkling drink and some cheese and French baguette to go on a picnic at the park by myself. And around my picnic area I was joined by some American students backpacking in Paris and none of us spoke French, so I was a bit at home with this group of young people. Then after the picnic we said our goodbyes and I bought a ticket to ride the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The tower was so old and antiquated that you can see the dark oil dripping from the elevator chains. The view at the top of the Eiffel Tower during the day was as grand as the night time view that we experienced the day before with our tour group. I stayed at the top of the tower for as long as I can bear the cool breeze of Autumn, even with the cashmere sweater I had on it was very cold; and just watching those trees around the park changing colors in the fall was awesome.
From Paris to the French Riviera at Nice in France where topless swimmers walked the private beaches. Then to Monte Carlo in the small Principality of Monaco after that we crossed The Dolomites Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage landscape of exceptional natural beauty located in the Italian Alps.
St. Peter’s Basilica at St. Peter’s Square
Rome, Italy. We stayed in Rome for a few days then to the Vatican City where I attended the Papal Blessings after getting my personal invitation for the occasion; it was delivered to the hotel where I stayed on the day before the blessings. My tour companions were surprised to see me being escorted by a Swiss Guard to be seated up front during the blessing ceremonies. I told them later that I had a personal invitation from the papal nuncio office that I had requested months before. And visited St. Peter’s Basilica at St. Peter’s Square.
While in Rome we visited the Roman Colosseum, the remains from its glorious past, then visited different fountains as well as the famous Trevi Fountain; the Roman Forum Ruins and Rome’s museums that showed the city’s history and art from the ancient times to modern era.
Trevi Fountain was made famous by the movie, “Three Coins in the Fountain” and there’s a belief that if you throw coins in the fountain, someday you will be back in Rome to see it again.
We went to other cities and towns in Italy and visited Venice, Sorrento, Tivoli, Capri, Florence and Pisa where we saw the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. I love Venice and the Gondola ride along the water canals of the city and also the Blue Grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the hill in Capri where they take you by boat under the grotto’s blue lagoon in the cave under the hill. We took the ferry boat to visit the Islands of Anacapri and Capri at the coast of Italy.
From Italy we went on to our next destinations like the Swiss Alps, Lake Lucerne, Cities of Zurich and Bern. Then our tour group proceeded to travel to the Swiss Alps where we visited Mt. Pilatus and rode the train up to the top of the mountain and where we basked in the sunshine, it was only autumn so there was no skiing yet. Then we went to visit the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, after passing by Frankfurt and Heidelberg (reminded me of the place that Jose Rizal, our National Hero had visited). From principality of Liechtenstein with the capital of Davuz , we proceeded to Austria in the Cities of Salzburg and Innsbruck; then to Amsterdam in Holland, where the Schiphol Airport is one of the largest in Europe. Brussels, Belgium was the last city we visited before crossing the English Channel and left Calais Port on our way to Dover Port in England.
London, England. Crossing the English Channel on board an amphibious vehicle called Hovercraft boat, we arrived at Dover Port in the UK our entrance to England; since we were from the commonwealth nation they treated us like royalty but the rest of the tour group had to line up for hours like the rest of the foreigners. We waited at the lounge for a few hours and they served free cocktails and drinks. From there we headed to our hotel near London’s famous West End. We stayed at the Hyde Park Hotel and the next day we went to see the changing of the guards at the Buckingham Palace grounds.
We also went shopping at Harrods, the famous Department Store in Knightsbridge, London. We went to the Underground trains just for fun and took the London red double decker bus tour of the city. From a bright sunny afternoon to a rainy evening, so be prepared for a sudden change of weather and sometimes a heavy downpour when you least expect it. Have an umbrella handy most of the time or be prepared to get soaking wet and walk in the rain!
After a few days in London, we were ready to say our goodbyes to the tour group and attended the farewell dinner party at the hotel restaurant. From the London Heathrow International Airport departure that served London, England, United Kingdom , I boarded an Air Canada flight back to Toronto Pearson International Airport.