Europe was never a dream destination but it happened when we started planning for the summer break with kids. We feel quite happy & blessed about the fact that we got a chance to visit 2 major cities of Europe & it took us to another level of understanding in terms of travel. There was challenges, language barrier, theft warnings, home sickness, racism (little bit), disappointments of making wrong choices & real joy of exploring beautiful places without any limitations set by a travel agents. We were free to explore what appealed us.
Before I share this Part 1 of European Dairies, I will like to mention that we (my family & myself) call ourselves as someone who likes the best of both worlds- a little bit of luxury & a little bit of Back packer & our itineraries are true reflection of the same. We do like our travels to be:
1. Full of Local experience
2. Zero Stress & deadlines to reach or wake up at a given time (issues of booking trips with travel agents).
3. Discover places famous with locals & not just all touristy places.
To give you a little background: We as a family, ALWAYS plan our own trips. Be it itineraries, things to do, paid activities, places to stay or eat, we like to plan it as per own liking’s.
Let’s get started with the planning stage first:
We planned a week at Paris (31st May to 8th June 2019) & a week at Switzerland (8th June 2019 to 14th June 2019).
For Flights: We opted for Lufthansa with 1 stop over. So, while going it was a stopover at Berlin & while coming back, it was Frankfurt. The in-flight service was Great, the in-flight attendants were very attentive & the food was yummy.
Once the flights were sorted, next step was booking hotels.
Since, we were in Paris for a week, we preferred booking ourselves for Airbnb. It was a tiny 1 BHK apartment & was located centrally (5 min walk to Arc de Triomphe). It had a little well equipped kitchen, one very small bedroom & a small living room with sofa cum bed. The best part about renting this apartment was the flexibility to live, sit & cook the way we wanted. With this being said, the negative part about renting an apartment was ZERO interaction with anyone. The actual apartment was way smaller than what it looked in pictures. Overall, it was a good yet different experience.
During middle of our stay, we also booked a 1 night stay at Vienna House Dream Castle at Disneyland, Paris. The main reason behind booking the property was to avoid long commute on 2 days of Disneyland Park visit. It was again a nice hotel and provided free shuttle service to the Disneyland parks after every 15 to 30 minutes. We opted for a family room wherein there was 1 double bed & 2 bunk beds. With this, the excitement in kids beyond words. They also gave welcome kits to kids (which added more fun to the stay). The only worse part about staying here was Food. The restaurant was a big let down. They charge 20 Euros per person for Horrible food. So, our recommendation will be that if you are planning to book this, please do carry some cuppa noodles.
For our stay in Switzerland, we booked 4 days at Youth Hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland. This was a total surprise & delight for kids to book. It was neat, best location possible, self sustainable approach & encourage guests to recycle & reuse clean glass water bottles & glasses rather than plastic waste. All in all, there was nothing negative about the stay.
For our last leg of trip to Zurich, we booked a hotel named “Swiss Night by Fassbind” for ourselves . It was 15 minutes walk from Zurich Lake & was in a very Quite neighbourhood. Although it had all the standard facilities, 1 double bed & 1 single bed, we still didn’t enjoy our stay here. No specific reason really, may be just the quietness of the place wasn’t upto our likings.
All the bookings were done by us after research, reviews etc. I guess this is beauty of planning your own travels, on some bookings, you end up quite pleased with your ownself while for others, you take notes.
Visa: We opted for Visa via Friend’s company. However, won’t recommend them because of the hassle we went. Our recommendation will be to go directly via VFS. They also have a priority service wherein you pay INR 2000 per person & skip the queue.
Travel Insurance: We went via friend’s company but had to re-book it again directly because of the huge difference in fees being charged by them. The maximum amount of insurance costed us INR 1500 when booked directly while we were sent a bill of INR 7500 from the friend’s company. So, my advice is please compare before blindly trusting people & spending money.
For travelling between Paris to Switzerland, we booked Train tickets via Website while we were in India. This did save us from the last minute rush & panic. Also, Points to note are:
1. Do not book for 1st class like we did because there is not much of a difference between the 1st class & 2nd class & you end up wasting money.
2. The train system, maps are very self explanatory & if you still face issue, please don’t feel shy to visit Information Desk. They are very helpful.
3. Since we booked via Website, we were suppose to visit the train office to collect Physical tickets. So, please do that well in advance because there are long queues.
Food: This world speaks one language & that is the language of food.
Food was not an issue for our family since we like to indulge in local cuisines & can handle different level of spice level. Overall, the food we had was good but Cocktails were the best.
Travel with city:
Paris: It was mix of Taxi, Walk, Bus & Metro. Metro is the affordable of all. We will surely recommend a pass if you have enough days on hand & do intend to travel multiple times.
Interlaken, Switzerland: Walk, Walk & Only Walk! Interlaken is so tiny that you hardly will find a taxi or bus.
Zurich: It was a mix of Taxi & Tram. However, Tram system was very confusing because there is difference in the way German is written & spoken.
Day Trips outside Paris:
For Disneyland, we took a taxi for going & while coming back, we opted for train. We regret for not taking train both ways because they are cheap & time saving.
For Palace of Versailles: We took Train both ways & it was good.
I will post more on our experiences in Europe in my upcoming posts.
Until then, Enjoy 🙂