Europe Train Travel-UK, Eurostar, Italy

Travelling by train all over the UK was on my husband’s bucket list so off we went in September 2022 after several years of Covid lockdown, his open-heart surgery and resulting lengthy recovery. It was great to get on the road again or should I say “rails”! We flew into London and then we were off to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Bath and then the Eurostar from London to Paris and finally several trips in Italy-all by train. Hopefully, I can help prepare you for your train travels. Remember, enjoy the journey!


We love travelling slow and looking out at bucolic grassy slopes of cow and sheep grazing on the green grass without the worry of driving in a foreign country. With good wifi, you can also get some work done (me) and catch on social media (my husband) along with the perks of a convenient café car and bathrooms. We sometimes bring along our own food and beverages and grab a table seat on the trains. In the UK, Pret and M & S Food are our go-to spots for readymade sandwiches, pastries, fruit and salads that make up an excellent train picnic! You’ll find these chain shops either in the train stations or nearby.

After a few days to enjoy London, we boarded our train to Edinburgh, a city I had been longing to see for awhile. I recommend you sit on the righthand side of the train for this trip to enjoy some coastal views along the way. Edinburgh was magical-see my blog on our visit there: Edinburgh – Travels with Melinda

As with any kind of travel, it’s best to be prepared for anything to happen. On our one hour scheduled trip from Edinburgh to Glasgow, we experienced having to exit two trains due to flooding on the tracks ahead on a very rainy (even for the UK) day. Finally, with no alternative, we quickly downloaded a local taxi app, booked a car and had them drive us the final 20 miles to Glasgow for $25GP rather than be stranded at the local train outpost standing outside during a thunderstorm. We were fortunate to be able to afford to do that but many of the fellow passengers were going to be forced to wait for another train or for the train company to get them a bus to transport them to their final destination, turning a one-hour ride into an all-day nightmare. So, while there are great pluses to train travel, stuff can happen. Be prepared. Technology is your friend. Use it.

Glasgow to Liverpool was a four-hour train trip. We saw mile after mile of sheep laying in the fields! Wind turbines are everywhere. With an energy crisis due to the Russian dependency, the UK will have to put up even more turbines to support their needs. At one stop, our driver must have exceeded his work shift, so we had to wait for his replacement to show up-about a 20-minute delay. Unlike airplanes, trains cannot make up time if they get delayed. You will just show up past the arrival time scheduled. Build in some time on your agenda for possible delays if you are making any connections.

Booking tickets can be confusing but take it one step at a time. Research going from Point A to Point B on a travel app like RometoRio, which is my favorite transportation app. There are many different train companies within a country. For our UK train travels, we used Linr (London Northeast Rail), ScotRail and GWR. When you book using their online platforms, the tickets will be accessible in your app and it’s a barcode or QR code. You scan this code on the machine to get into the platform. When you get to the train station (most don’t have a lot of seating so don’t go too early-30 minutes prior to departure is about right), go to the board listing all the train rides and, about 20 minutes prior to departure, your trip details will post with the platform #. As soon as the platform # is assigned, you can go to the entry, scan your ticket and board the train. Most of our rides had assigned seats. In the car, you’ll see red or green lights to indicate whether a seat has been booked in advance. If you want to change your seat, you can go to any seat that is green. Luggage is stored overhead (carry-on) or there are luggage racks in each car. We only travel with carry-on (even for a month-long trip!) so we keep ours in the overhead where we sit. I have heard of luggage being stolen so keep an eye on your possessions! Helpful UK links:

Trainline : Search, Compare & Buy Cheap Train Tickets (

LNER | London North Eastern Railway

Train Tickets | Times & Timetables | Fares in Scotland | ScotRail

Buy Cheap Train Tickets | Great Western Railway | First Great Western (


I always thought that taking the Eurostar would be totally cool and I was right! It’s fast and much more fun than flying from London to Paris. Hints on taking Eurostar from London to Paris:

You will leave from St. Pancras international terminal in London and travel 150 miles per hour (224km) for 2 hours and 17 minutes arriving at Paris Gare du Nord station. There is free WiFi on the train and outlets by seats (UK or EU adapters) to recharge your devices. There is a club car with food and beverages to purchase. Everyone has assigned seats-book here: Book Europe Train Tickets and Holidays |

Plan to arrive two hours before your departure. We had standard tickets but, in retrospect, we wish we had paid the extra and booked business class to skip the long lines and wait in the comfort of the business class lounges. Next time! Lots of restaurants and shops to check out at St. Pancras while you wait or buy food there and bring it with you on the train. No restrictions for bringing food and beverages on the train.

Boarding Process:

  1. 90 minutes before your departure time, you are able to queue and start to proceed to scan your ticket to enter the platform. Note: you can scan earlier if you want though the signs say otherwise but there is limited room to sit once you go through so best to just be in queue when they tell you.
  2. After scanning ticket to go through the gate, you then go through security. Everything goes in the trays. No need to take off shoes or separate liquids  Just backpack/purse/anything in your pockets in one tray and luggage in another. You will have to take off coat or jacket and put in try as well. Saw someone put their coffee cup in a tray as well.
  3. After security, then you go through passport control stations. First show passport (no need to show ticket) to UK control and then you have to show passport to EU control. Then, put away your passport. You won’t need to show again when you arrive in Paris.
  4. Try to find a seat to wait. Good luck-seats are limited! Your platform # will be announced 20 minutes prior to departure and the masses will all move to a moving sidewalk that goes up to the platform. Watch for people holding signs for where you go based on your seat.

For really in depth Eurostar details, check out this site:


Within Italy, we took the train from Florence to Venice for a weekend and also day trip to Lucca and finally train to Rome to end our trip. Please don’t think about driving in Italy. The roads are as narrow as the drivers are crazy. Just being a passenger in a car in Italy is stressful!

Arriving in Rome, the Roma Termini is a massive transportation hub. From there, you can use the metro system, buses and trams to get around the city or, even better, walk!

Pay a little more and get the Executive Club seats on the train. On our train from Florence to Rome, they even had private salons that had sliding doors to close for privacy. Great for families that need 4 seats. Make sure you know where the bathrooms are and don’t book a seat by them. Trust me. You do not want the toliet traffic or smell.

Also with Executive Club, you get to wait in the lounge. In Florence, this is really important because there is no place to sit for anyone and only pay public toliets. Now in Venice, the station has adequate seating especially in the upper food court  Florence needs to add a second floor! The lounge has a coffee machine and packages snacks and a nice water closet aka WC. Helpful Italy train links:

High speed train (we took from Florence to Rome): Italy high speed train tickets| – Official website

EN – Trenitalia

Senior Offer – Trenitalia

Can non-Italian residents get the Senior discount?

CartaFRECCIA (senior discount) member-If you do not have a domicile in ITALY you can ask for a CartaFRECCIA by sending an email to the e-mail address indicating name, surname, date of birth, place of birth (in case of birth in a foreign country indicate which) , an e-mail address and a telephone number and attaching a legible PDF copy of your valid passport.

Within 30 days you will receive your personal code, a password to access the dedicated online services and the CartaFRECCIA, immediately active, which will have to print and take you on your journeys when using trains operated by Trenitalia. Shipment of the CartaFRECCIA plastic card is not possible under any circumstances.

Paris Shopping

Wandering the streets of Paris and popping in with a “Bonjour” to all the neighborhood shops is a true delight. You just never know what you will find! I will caution you that if you find a treasure, buy it. On my trips, there will be times I see something and pause to consider before making a spendy purchase. I’m still regretting not picking up a vintage Louis Vuitton bag I saw in a little store in the Marais. From grand department stores to quaint little shops to flea markets, enjoy the journey!





VINYL (My husband’s addiction-we buy vinyl wherever we go from Amsterdam to Moscow)


  • Paul Art & Design a little shop at the bottom of the steps to Sacre Coeur filled with fun art design items that you will want to buy. Visit with the shop bulldog terrier (shown above) who inspires many of the designs.
  • Sobral at 76 Temple. Sobral jewelry creations are made of resin, by hand, in our eco-ethical workshops-laboratories where reuse and recycling are paramount. Each piece is unique and colorful. I like these pieces because they are unusual, not heavy and reasonably priced. Wished I had bought more when I was there.
  • Discounted last year fashion at:


THE bookstore in Paris to go to is Shakespeare and Company which is an English-language bookstore opened in 1951 and located on Paris’s Left Bank. Check on their website for special events such as author book readings. Buy a book and, when you purchase, ask them to stamp their “Shakespeare & Co.” logo in it. Great souvenir or gift for book lovers! The book pictured above was purchased for our granddaughter and will be cherished forever.

Value Added Tax (VAT) Refund

If you plan on shopping in France, you need to know about the Value Added Tax (VAT) so you can get some money back when you leave! It’s not that complicated so here are the guidelines:

  1. Must be 16 years old and not a citizen of European Union.
  2. Must have your actual passport with you to get the paperwork from the shop when you purchase over $100 euros of merchandise.
  3. Tell shop owner you want a “VAT Tax Refund Document”. The big luxury stores will definitely provide and fill it all out for you. Some smaller shop owners may not do it but instead sometimes they offer a discount on your purchase. Ask for it!
  4. Submit your VAT refund paperwork at the airport or rail station-go to the website of wherever you are leaving from to find out where the VAT refund office is located.
  5. You may have to drop the paperwork in a box and it will be processed within 90 days OR there may be a staff person there to scan it and process it immediately. Depends on the place. Credit goes back on credit card you purchased it on.

Paris-Getting Around Town


Walk. Everywhere. It’s fast, dependable and free. I typically walk 10,000 steps minimum on any day in Paris and have on occasion done 20,000+. There is no better way to soak up the French culture than by walking the arrondissements on foot. Enjoy the journey!


One of my favorite moments in Paris was when we were riding the Metro and sat beside a woman who was using her commute time to sketch the people in the car with us (see picture above). It’s these type of experiences you won’t get in a taxi or Uber.

Paris is a walking city but there will be times when you need to get somewhere far away or it’s raining and then you should take one of the trifectas of public transportation: Metro, bus or RER train. Unfortunately, Paris hasn’t implemented “tap to pay” for their public transportation like the UK has. You still have to buy a paper ticket at the local convenience store or automatic machines at transportation stations. Info here: Metro map of Paris and the île-de-France region | RATP. Video to check out if you are a visual learner: how to get around Metro and RER video.

Caution: you must validate your ticket for subway and RER train in Paris. We saw a couple sitting next to us get a 35 Euro fine a piece because their tickets weren’t validated when security walked through and checked everyone. Being validated means you put in your ticket at stations to open gates and go to your platform. Leaving Versailles today, I checked my ticket after I went thru the gate and it didn’t show validated, so I went to the service desk, and they had to do it for me and then let me back through. Avoid fines. Check your ticket.


G7 are the official taxis so look for the G7 placard before you get in. Don’t think you can just wave down a taxi on the street. Either get your hotel doorman to get you one or use the G7 app. The train station and some major tourist sites/shopping areas will have a taxi stand so get in line and wait your turn. We’ve used Uber more than taxis in Paris. On one eventful Uber trip, we were in the car and driving toward our destination when the driver pulled over and asked us to get out so that he could do a quick U-turn and escape a protest that had popped up nearby. He didn’t want any harm to come to his beautiful Mercedes, which I can appreciate but it was quite the adventure. Leaving the car, we saw the protest quickly catch up to us and, as we ran in the opposite direction, the tear gas exploded nearby. Quite the story to tell when we returned home. Strikes and public protests are very common in France as a means for citizens to express their displeasure at the government. When these happen, transportation is disrupted, and walking is always your best option.


Everyone visiting Paris has to take a boat ride on the Seine. This can be as quick and easy as a boat taxi (just go to boat stand on the river to get a ticket and then hop on and hop off as you desire) or as long and expensive as a dinner cruise. Choose one but experiencing Paris from the Seine is a “must do” for any first-time visitor. Book dinner cruises in advance on TripAdvisor/Viator after you see the weather forecast.


You’ll be flying into Charles De Gaulle (CDG) or Orly (ORY). Paris traffic is terrible so I recommend public transportation that is not only cheaper but faster. Check out all your options here for both airports: Access, maps, routes – Paris Aéroport (

Arriving by train? Then just use the Metro (subway) system to get to where you are going from the train station.


Transportation apps that I have found helpful:

  • G7 for taxis
  • Uber
  • Paris Metro for subway
  • Citymapper to get around walking
  • Rome2rio for transportation
  • FLUSH for public bathroom
  • Toilettes Paris


I hope you never lose your passport, but it happens. If you do, it’s best to be prepared with the knowledge of what to do:

  • Pack a photocopy of your passport and keep in separate place in your luggage for safe keeping.
  • Go to the US Embassy located right near the Place de Concorde next to the Hotel de Crillon.
  • Arrive early by 8 am (no appointment needed for emergencies).
  • Process takes a few hours at best so plan accordingly.
  • No cell phone allowed in the Embassy so leave it at home or they will hold for you while you get business done.
  • There is a photo booth onsite to take a passport photo or even better, travel with an extra passport photo with your photocopy of your passport.
  • Cash or card to pay. No ApplePay or GooglePay.
  • You’ll get an “emergency” passport that day to travel home with.
  • Good luck!

Paris Museums and Street Art

There are so many wonderful museums in Paris that it can be overwhelming when you start to plan your trip. How can I see them all? (Hint: you probably can’t!) Which one to go to first? How do I prioritize? Which is best? So much art, so little time. Even after going to Paris several times, I haven’t seen them all, but I’ll try to help guide you on how to choose the best experience for you.


  • Louvre Museum go at opening time, enter through Port de Lions entrance and go directly to the Mona Lisa-you can see from the picture below that we got a clear shot of her when we visited. You could spend a week at the Louvre and not see everything. Based on how much time you have there, prioritize what you want to see and go for it! You can book a guided tour or wander aimlessly like we like to do.


  • Musee Picasso is located in the heart of the Marais, one of my favorite neighborhoods. This museum is an art-filled oasis in a beautiful mansion with a courtyard cafe. Heaven! What I really appreciated was the pictures and stories about the artist himself. I’ve always enjoyed his art, but I never knew much about the man behind the art. I also love goats and there was quite the collection his goat art on display! More info:
    • The museum collection includes more than 5,000 works of art (paintings, sculptures, drawings, ceramics, prints, engravings and notebooks) and tens of thousands of archived pieces from Picasso’s personal repository, including the artist’s photographic archive, personal papers, correspondence, and author manuscripts. A large portion of items were donated by Picasso’s family after his death, in accord with the wishes of the artist, who lived in France from 1905 to 1973. (Wikipedia)
  • Musee Rodin has both outdoor gardens with sculptures and an inside art museum Definitely plan a visit here on a sunny day so you can walk the gardens and enjoy the fabulous sculptures in their natural setting. More info:
    • While living in the Villa des Brillants, Auguste Rodin used the Hôtel Biron as his workshop from 1908, and subsequently donated his entire collection of sculptures – along with paintings by Vincent van GoghClaude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir that he had acquired – to the French State on the condition that they turn the buildings into a museum dedicated to his works. The Musée Rodin contains most of Rodin’s significant creations, including The ThinkerThe Kiss and The Gates of Hell. Many of his sculptures are displayed in the museum’s extensive garden. The museum includes a room dedicated to the works of Camille Claudel and one of the two castings of The Mature Age.The gardens around the museum building contain many of the famous sculptures in natural settings. Behind the museum building are a small lake and casual restaurant. Additionally, the nearby Métro stop, Varenne, features some of Rodin’s sculptures on the platform. The building is served by Métro (Line 13), RER (Line C: Invalides) and bus (69, 82, 87, 92). (Wikipedia)

Musee Marmottan Monet showcases all Monet all the time and is the perfect museum for the Monet superfan, which I am. We went to his home in Giverny on another Paris trip-see separate blog post on that adventure! This museum flies under the tourist radar. The day we visited we were one of the few visitors, allowing us to sit (yes-there are benches!) and just soak in the panorama of Monet art. My husband took the panorama shot below of the empty gallery when we got there-Monet all to ourselves.



We love to wander the streets of Paris and look for street art, whether it’s a mural or artistically hung umbrellas. Make sure you allow enough time to see this type of art. Enjoy the journey!

Paris-Day Trip to Giverny

If you are a lover of art and especially Monet, take the time to do a day trip from Paris to Giverny. Walk the lily gardens, stroll through the artist’s house and studio, and immerse yourself in all things Monet-an experience you will never forget. Go on a beautiful day and you will swear you are walking inside a Monet painting. Some of the most beautiful photographs I’ve ever taken (with my phone camera-see below) came from our trip to Giverny. Enjoy the journey!

We visited Giverny in September and it was the perfect day-sunny with the gardens in full bloom. Make sure you dedicate a whole day to this trip, so you have adequate time for the trip from Paris and time to wander the fields dotted with haystacks and walk through the house and gardens. The lily ponds in person look exactly like Monet’s paintings-so surreal. I kept pinching myself that after viewing Monet’s paintings in museums all over the world, I was finally there at the epicenter of his inspiration. I am definitely not a gardener but even I could appreciate the layout and variety of plants and flowers. Well done, Monet!


Giverny sits at the confluence of the river Seine and the river Epte in the region of Normandy. While the big draw in Giverny is Monet’s garden and home, this village has existed since neolithic times and there is a church dating from the Middle Ages to explore as well as a Museum of Impressionism and plenty of cafes and shops.

Seeing Giverny from a train window, Claude Monet rented and eventually bought a house living there from 1883 to his death in 1926. He created an amazing garden, partially diverting the river Epte for these gardens that inspired his many famous paintings of the lily pond, weeping willow trees, and Japanese bridge. His house and studio have been restored and you can wander through to get a feel for how this famous artist lived and worked. Giverny is now managed by a nonprofit Fondation Claude Monet | Giverny (


Monet’s gardens are open every day including public holidays from April 1st through November 1st, 2023. Buy timed entry tickets online at Claude Monet’s house in Giverny. We didn’t spend much time in the house/studio because it was such a beautiful day, so we were outside walking the gardens. They do have a great store there so bring a bag to carry home some souvenirs.


Giverny is 75KM (47 miles) from Paris and 4KM (2.5 miles) from the small town of Vernon where the train will stop coming from the Saint-Lazare Paris station. The fastest trains (don’t book a “local” with many stops) complete the journey in about an hour. Book your train ticket from Paris to Giverny here: Trainline : Search, Compare & Buy Cheap Train Tickets ( You could also take a bus or drive, but I prefer the train ride to sit back, relax and take in the French countryside.


When Giverny is open, a shuttle bus or tram (so cute-we took this one!) can take you from the train station to Giverny’s parking lot. The round-trip costs 10 euros or less and only takes about 15 minutes. You can buy your ticket on board.

If you really want to walk, it’s about 5KM or 3 miles and mostly flat following the tracks of an ancient railroad. Go down the Albufera street and cross the bridge over the Seine. At the roundabout ignore the signs for Giverny which are meant for cars. Go straight on, cross the first street “Route de Giverny” and take the pathway to your right just before the drugstore. Maybe next time I’ll try walking!

A Perfect Day in Paris

I’ve had the opportunity to visit Paris several times and it’s become one of our favorite places. Now, I want to share with you my idea of a perfect day in Paris.

Our love affair with Paris began with a wild and crazy nine-hour layover in between flights from the US to Lisbon. At CDG, we jumped on the RER train to the Eiffel Tower, walked beside the Seine River, and then hopped back on the train to the airport to continue our journey to Portugal. The sun was shining, we marveled at the beauty we had only dreamed about, and immediately began planning a return trip. Yes, Paris is magical. I hope that once you experience it, you will love it as much as I do. Enjoy the journey!

On subsequent trips for both business and pleasure, we stayed in various arrondissements and in Boulogne-Billancourt, which was close to the Microsoft office where I worked when I was here. I can’t say any areas disappointed, as each neighborhood had its own distinct personality. In Boulogne-Billancourt, it was like staying in a small French town close to the river and parks but accessible to Paris by a 15-minute Metro ride. Staying within Paris proper was convenient for seeing the top sites.

If I had to draw from all my experiences in Paris and put together what a perfect day looks like in Paris, here it is:


No matter where you stay in Paris, a café is not far away. They are all good. Take an outside seat, enjoy a coffee and a croissant, and people watch. Simple and perfect way to start the day.

Wander the Marais neighborhood and stop in any shop that catches your eye. I’ve found so many treasures doing this-jewelry handmade by the artist that I got to meet, vinyl for Thom, an oversized knitted sweater that now has a few holes but that I refuse to part with and the list goes on.

After the Marais, walk by Notre Dame (to reopen in 2024) along the Seine River perusing the stalls where they sell books and magazines. Cross the river on the Pont des Arts bridge where the locks are hung by lovers. Take pictures of everything.


Grab some wine, cheese, fruit (figs if they are in season and, on my perfect day, they are!), sandwiches and a baguette-all at different small stores specializing in their product. Take your goodies to Luxembourg Gardens for a picnic and more people watching. Find the Medici Fountain after you watch kids sail model boats on the central pond that served as an inspiration for a similar one in Central Park in NYC-another favorite place of mine.

On the walk back to the ARBNB to rest up after many miles of walking Paris, I would plan a route from Luxembourg Garden to Shakespeare & Co., THE bookstore to visit when in Paris. After grabbing a travel book and getting it officially stamped with their logo inside, it’s time for a nap and hydration before the evening activities.


Climb the stairs or take the funicular up to Sacre Coeur to catch the sunset over Paris. Wander around Montmartre and get an original painting by one of the many artists in the main square. (Get a cardboard tube to transport home your unique souvenir.) Grab an apertif at a café.

For dinner, I prefer a café that is unique or local. We’ve had some special moments at places that are off the beaten track. One of my favorites is Refuge Des Fondues in Montmartre where the wine is served in a baby bottle. Wear pants as you might be asked to climb over the table to get a seat on the bench against the wall. Patrons are packed in tight so don’t go here if you want a quiet experience. Enjoy a reasonably priced fondue prix-fixe menu with plentiful food and booze. I turned down a digestive shot offered by the waiter at the end of my meal and, as to not waste good liquor, he just downed it for me. Cheers!

Starting at sundown and until 1 am, the Eiffel Tower sparkles every hour on the hour for five minutes. It’s a party atmosphere around the Tower as everyone waits for the light show to begin. Once we were there and there was a full moon shining on us, making it all the more magical. Even after a long day, it’s worth it to go and experience it up close and personal.

Wander home afterward and get some well-deserved rest before another excellent day in Paris. Then, start planning your next trip to Paris to experience even more of what this great city has to offer!

Paris-Sacre Coeur and Montmartre

One landmark that draws me back every time I visit Paris is the Sacre Coeur Basilica and the iconic Montmartre neighborhood that surrounds it. For a perfect day to begin your adventure in Paris, visit Sacre Coeur perched on top of Montmartre overlooking the entire city of Paris and beyond. Completed in 1914, Sacre Coeur is a Roman Catholic church that is free to visit and where religious masses are still held frequently. Inside and outside, it is stunning.

From the fabulous stained glass and sculptures to the various crypts and chapels to explore, there is so much to see and appreciate but the centerpiece is the dome, which, according to Wikipedia, symbolises the celestial world, resting upon a rectangular space, symbolising the terrestrial world. The two are joined by massive columns, which represent the passage between the two worlds. If you don’t mind walking up a lot (300+) steps, you can climb the Dome for a spectacular view. Note: no elevator.

Paris is made up of neighborhoods aka arrondissements. Montmartre is located on top of a large hill (430 feet hight) in the northern 18th arrondissement on the Right Bank of the Seine. This area is known for its artistic history and stunning views and was established as a historic district by the City of Paris in 1995. Start your visit at the Montmartre Museum Organisation d’évènement au Musée de Montmartre à Paris (, which is in the house where Pierre-Auguste Renoir once lived. Other famous artists such as Edgar Degas and Pablo Picasso lived and were inspired by this beautiful area. As you walk around Montmartre today, you can watch painting in action by the many artists with their easels set up on the streets. Perhaps a souvenir to take home and hang on your wall as a reminder of your wonderful trip? We’ve bought artwork before when we travel and love seeing it daily as a reminder of our journey. You can pick up a cardboard tube at local art supply stores to carry your treasure home safely.

Plan to spend some quality time just wandering around Montmartre. Include a meal at a café in the main square Place du Tertre and walk Rue de l’Abreuvoir street, one of the oldest and prettiest streets in Paris. Walk by, take a picture, and stop for a meal or aperitif at legendary institutions like La Maison Rose and Le Consultat on rue Norvins, which has hosted famous artists such as Dali and Toulouse-Lautrec. Take in the sunset with the crowd at the Sacre Coeur steps and end with a cabaret show at Accueil – English | AU LAPIN AGILE (, Paris’s oldest bar/cabaret since 1860.

Downhill (many steps!) from Montmartre and to the southwest is the Pigalle neighborhood, the home of the Moulin Rouge club. Even if you don’t spring for a night at the club (show with drinks and/or dinner), walk by and take some pictures of this iconic Paris institution. I haven’t made it to the Moulin Rouge show yet but am planning to include it on the Girls Trip 2023 agenda.


After the Eiffel Tower, this is one of the most popular tourist destinations so plan your visit accordingly. Come at the end of the day for a stunning sunset view or early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Up to you!

I didn’t take one but there are lots of walking tours of Montmartre: Montmartre Walking Tour: Paris’ Best Art, Culture and Food 2023 ( Maybe next trip!

We’ve stayed at various ARBNBs in this area. Our latest stay was at a one bedroom  just downhill in a cozy nighborhood with lots of boulangeries, cafes, and shops. ARBNBs are very affordable compared to hotels in Paris-about $200 USD a night depending on when you go vs. a nice hotel costing $400+. Always look for a “super host” and lots of good reviews plus a great cancel policy before you book any ARBNB. These are ones I’ve stayed at and enjoyed:

Charming 1 bedroom apartment in Montmartre – Apartments for Rent in Paris, Île-de-France, France – Airbnb

MONTMARTRE – PARIS – Cocooning flat (

Sacre Coeur is accessible by bus or metro line 2 at Anvers station. Sacré-Cœur Basilica is open from 06:00 to 22:30 every day and the dome is accessible from 10:00 to 19:00.

Montmartre is served by Métro, with Line 2 stations at Barbès–RochechouartAnversPigalle and BlancheLine 4 stations at Château Rouge and Barbès–Rochechouart, as well as Line 12 stations at Pigalle, AbbessesLamarck–Caulaincourt (one of the most photographed metro stations because of it’s iconic Parisian charm) and Jules Joffrin. It is also served by the Montmartre Funicular, operated by the RATP, ascends the hill from the south while the Montmartre bus circles the hill. (Wikipedia)

Versailles, France

On our recent adventure to Paris, we finally made a side trip to Versailles. We hadn’t been able to fit it in on previous trips but I’m glad we reserved a day to check it out. The Versailles experience is something to behold–gold everywhere and so many paintings and sculptures that it makes you wonder how many artists were employed to get it all done. We opted to wander around with ear buds playing a downloaded Rick Steves guide on our mobile devices to allow us to spend as much time as we wanted in each room versus the group tours with a live guide, which is certainly a popular option for many people.

With our 9 am “first in” tickets purchased online, we broke to the left while everyone else ran to the Hall of Mirrors. This meant we had the apartments all to ourselves to meander through in awe of the over-the-top decorations illustrating how the mighty royalty lived their lives. Must not have been all that great though because Marie Antoinette had a whole village built on the property to escape to experience the “simple life” when she needed a respite from the royal life.

We did make it over to the Hall of Mirrors eventually and it was pretty spectacular. Mirrors at the time it was created were very new and cost plenty so this was a huge showoff room for the royals to declare “hey, we’ve got mirrors!” Lots of chandeliers too. Always look up-the ceilings are masterpieces.

The most fun all day was renting a golf cart ($38 euros) for an hour. They give you a map of the route all the way around the extensive grounds (you leave your driver’s license with them, so you don’t take off with the cart-it’s happened!) and if you go out of bounds, the car shuts off (it’s electric) and you have to back it out to get back on the approved pathway. It’s bumpy over the stone paths but with a very low speed limit, it’s manageable. You can park and get out and walk around but it takes about an hour to go all the way around the paths and, if you go over your hour, you pay a hefty fee for each 15 minutes over the hour. Assign someone to be the timekeeper!

In addition to golf carts, you can rent bikes (though you have to walk miles to get to them deep into the property by the grand canal) or boats (by the bikes on the grand canal). They also have a tram you can take which rides you around and is a great option if you are either physically or time challenged. Believe me, you could spend weeks walking the property. Lots of beautiful gardens and nooks and crannies to explore. There is a restaurant (by the bikes/boats/canal) and gift stores. As always, we went off the beaten track and managed to wander into the “working” area at the back of the palace and saw the kitchen garden loaded with tomatoes, some very old and not so glamorous back rooms, and had to step over the “keep out” tape to get back to the exit out of the palace.

When I look back on our visit to Versailles, I will remember the opulence and the many huge paintings and sculptures but, most of all, the golf cart ride! One trip to Versailles was enough for us but you could definitely take days to explore the Palace and Gardens if it’s your thing.

TRAVEL FROM PARIS TO VERSAILLES: (3 ways to get there-don’t even think of renting a car due to limited parking, intense traffic and crazy drivers) Versailles is 11 miles from Paris.

  1. TRAIN: RER C train (many stations throughout Paris) Round Trip Ticket about 10 euros. About 30-60 minutes. Destination will be Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche. Buy round trip ticket in Paris to save time. Make sure to “validate” your ticket or you could get a stiff fine (we saw someone get fined 50 euros for not validating their ticket).
  2. BUS: Versailles Express Bus departs from near the Eiffel Tower and takes about 30-45 minutes. About 24 euros.
  3. TOUR: The Tour Guy offers package that includes transportation.


  • Go to the museum palace first and be there before it opens with tickets already printed from online purchase.
  • It’s closed on Monday. Tuesday is busiest day and also weekends are busy. Pack a picnic because there is very limited food to purchase in Versailles. Take your picnic and eat in the Garden.


Passport tickets can be purchased online on the official site here. This $27euro ticket gives access to the whole estate of Versailles and guarantees access to the Palace within half an hour of the selected time. It includes:

In order for you to make the most of the Estate of Versailles, the Gardens are open from 8 am, the Estate of Trianon from 12 pm, the Gallery of Coaches and the Sculptures and Mouldings Gallery from 12:30 pm. Always check the official website before going just in case there are changes to scheduled hours.

  • Printed ticket-go to Entrance A directly (can use Paris Pass: $124 two day to $199 six day)


  1. Hall of Mirrors is beautiful and the WWI treaty ending war was signed here. Light is beautiful in the afternoon.
  2. Gallary of Battles
  3. Empire Rooms


  1. King and Queen went here to “get away” from the Palance
  2. Estate of Trianon is separate ticket-two smaller palaces


Walking Paris

 I’ve always dreamed of seeing the Eiffel Tower in person.  Something about those big city landmarks speak to me and I’ve been lucky enough to live by three of the best-NYC’s Flatiron Building, Seattle’s Space Needle and Shanghai’s Pearl Tower.  On the way to Lisbon today, we got to live my dream and turned a long layover into an adventure in Paris.

Finally here in Paris!

“Think Amazing Race!” I told Thom as we raced through Charles De Gaulle airport.  We had limited hours to navigate through CDG airport in Paris, go through customs, find the RER train and make it to the city with enough time to explore.  Customs was a breeze as the French don’t chit chat like the engaging Brits who want to know every last detail of your trip.  Our security guy didn’t even say hello, which I was perfectly fine with as the line moved quickly indeed with no pleasantries unlike at Heathrow where chattiness caused 90 minute delays in processing.

Following the signs through the huge airport, we made one wrong turn that required retracing of steps (good for the Fitbit!) and sorting out which platform to aim for after a serious wait in line at the ticket machine.  Not cheap-20 euros each for a round trip to/from city, but riding the train allows for a glimpse into Paris not found gazing from a bus or taxi.  Behaving more like a locale got us into the city (with only one transfer required) in about an hour.  Not bad!

As we got off at the Eiffel stop, we ran up the stairs and looked around the leafy streets but no Tower in sight.  Where in the world is the Eiffel Tower???  Crossing the street to the River Sienne, we looked  up and to our right and THERE IT WAS looming over us and only a block away.  The Eiffel Tower in all its glory was just gorgeous.  Did I mention there wasn’t a cloud in the bright blue sky?  With no time to go up or even walk all the way around it, we walked into a park next to the Tower where school groups played next to heavily armed guards patrolling to keep us safe.    

After taking many photos, we found the nearest facilities (pay to pee here too just like London so have .50 euros handy) and then we took off walking by the river.  What a glorious day!  The wide paths easily accommodate both bikers, joggers and strollers.  The plentiful bridges and boats on the river add ambience galore.  While there were many cafes along the path, they had just opened for the day and weren’t busy yet.  I can only imagine how beautiful it is at night to walk along the river and see the historic buildings lit up.  Another time perhaps.


Paris, like Seattle and London, has a huge ferris wheel by the river to entice tourists.  Like no other city I’ve been to before, though, stalls line the river path, selling vintage books, newspapers and magazines.  Oh how I wish we had time to sit in a café, sip espresso, eat pastries and read a good book.  Heaven.


But time was wasting and Portugal was waiting.  So, 5 miles and 2 hours later, we had walked along the river from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame Cathedral and, as luck would have it, caught the express train to the airport so we made our flight with a little time to spare.  We promised each other that we would come back to Paris and explore the narrow alleys filled with quaint cafes.  Soon.