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All about our France and Italy trip!
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All about our France and Italy trip!

by mccownJuly 12, 2013
This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series France/Italy

We’re finally (!) getting around to posting all of the stuff about our trip to France and Italy earlier this year (where we got engaged!!). We’ll have a bunch of posts in the future with lots of pictures and details but for now, just an overview of our trip!


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1. Air France Business Class Review – AF #9 JFK-CDG

Jeffrey surprised me by flying us in business class on Air France over to Paris! It was awesome! He told me right when we got to JFK, so we got to go into the business class lounge while we waited to board. Then, when we boarded the plane, they hang up your coats in a special closet so you don’t have to stuff your nice coat under your seat…already worth the extra couple thousand dollars, right?!

While the champagne flowed like water, we were able to get plenty of restful sleep…that is after we had our delicious three course meal (complete with fancy cheeses!). When we arrived in Paris, we were more relaxed and restful than if we’d been herded into Economy like cattle. And it was the very best start to what turned out to be our best trip ever!

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2. TGV Paris to Bordeaux

So, luckily Jeffrey was with me when we landed in Paris and made getting tickets on the TGV fast train to Bordeaux much easier. We grabbed a quick sandwich and coffee at the airport then headed to the train station (inside the airport!) to take the train to Bordeaux!

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3. Bordeaux: Walking Tour

We soon arrived in Bordeaux but headed in sort of early that evening to sleep off the jet lag. We woke up early the next day to get a head start and it turned out to be a beautiful day! Jeffrey took me on a walking tour of the city where he studied abroad in the spring of 2009. I loved the broad roads and there was no lack of stores to pop into. And, of course, when you’re traveling with Jeffrey, you stop at every other coffee shop.

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4. SNCF INTERCITÉS Train – Bordeaux to Nantes

The next day, we headed back to the train station to travel to Nantes – a city that is more northern and close to the Normandy region of France. When we purchased our tickets, there weren’t any seat assignments listed on the ticket. But, when we boarded the train, the seats were numbered. Not sure what was going on and not knowing if other people had seat assignments, we chose two seats at random and packed all of our luggage into the upper luggage racks. A few stops down the road (and just as we’d settled in…) a family boarded and said we were sitting in their seats! Ok, no problem, we’ll find two other seats. Except by this point, the train was almost full! So, here we are, lugging all of our stuff from car to car…til we finally get to the very last car…THAT DOESN’T HAVE SEAT NUMBERS!! That’s where we were supposed to sit the whole time!!

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5. Nantes: Walking Tour

We arrived in Nantes and immediately met up with Jeffrey’s sister, Leslie, who was studying abroad in spring of 2013 in Nantes. While she was in class, we took ourselves on a walking tour of Nantes. The main difference I saw between Bordeaux and Nantes was the weather! Just a few hours difference made Nantes much colder and rainier… a completely different climate than Bordeaux!! Nantes is a smaller city than Bordeaux but the same French feel. Our favorite thing Leslie introduced us to was vin chaud: hot wine! On a cold, rainy day (i.e., our days during our entire visit to Nantes!) it was the best thing ever.

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6. TGV Train – Nantes to Paris

A couple of days later, we hit the train again for Paris. It was starting to snow in Nantes when we were leaving, and we saw on the news that it was snowing pretty hard in Paris! Luckily, we got on an early train that morning, because our train was the last one of the day to make it to Paris! They were canceling all of the other trains headed into Paris that day because of the snow!

Riding the train to and from cities in France was an adventure in itself and so fun to see the countryside. And, the time passed so quickly!

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7. Paris: Walking Tour

So, when we arrived in Paris, it was frigidly cold & snowy!! It was so fun to experience Paris in the snow!! Despite the cold, we braved it to see all the sites. It was absolutely gorgeous seeing all the famous sites (like the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc d’Triumphe covered in snow! We took a break from the cold in the Musee d’Orsay, but they closed early as soon as we arrived, so we had to go back the next day to actually visit the Museum.

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8. St. Christopher’s Hostel Paris

Paris was our first trip together – when we were studying abroad in 2009. We met in Paris for the weekend and stayed at St. Christopher’s Hostel – a hip, happening hostel with a club in the basement! It’s the perfect place to meet students and young travelers from all over the world.

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9. We’re Engaged!

Ok, so are you ready for the BEST part about our trip?! We got engaged!!!! In Paris!!! By the river!!! It was the best proposal EVER! Jeffrey did such a good job!!

Even though I could use way more exclamation marks, this really was the most fun part of the trip. After a day of walking around Paris in the snow… we were walking back along the Seine River to get ready for dinner when Jeffrey proposed! We had the most fun calling our friends and celebrating with snacks and dessert (and yummy French champagne) all night! You can read more about it here.

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10. Park Hyatt Vendome

After we stayed at St. Christopher’s Hostel, Jeffrey surprised me by upgrading us to one of the nicest hotels in Paris! Yep. A real palace.

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11. Photo Gallery: Paris in the snow

So, did I mention Paris was covered in snow the entire time we were there? This is from one of our treks to dinner in the snow. Despite nearly ruining all my shoes (I’m from SC, so I don’t own a good pair of snow shoes…), it was the prettiest I’ve ever seen Paris! And missing lots of crowds!

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12. City Jet Paris-CDG to Florence-FLR

Soon after getting engaged (!!), we boarded another Air France flight to Florence, Italy. I studied abroad in Siena, Italy (about 30 miles from Florence), so we made a pit stop through Italy to visit my host family.

This plane was really small, so even though we were in business class, it translated to merely the first row of the plane.

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13. Florence: Walking Tour

Italy is my favorite country in the world! It was so fun to be back visiting my host family! But, since we landed in Florence, we took a few hours to explore (and meet up with Jeffrey’s sister, Leslie, who met us in Italy). Here we are in front of the Ponte Vecchio!

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14. Train Siena to Florence

Florence and Siena are only about 30 miles apart, but it takes about an hour via train or bus to get from one to the other. Italian trains are a bit different than French trains — time is never a factor in Italian schedules. They get there when they get there. Luckily, we didn’t run too late getting to Siena, but we were late enough to miss dinner with my family.

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15. Siena: Walking Tour

This walking tour through Siena was a walk down memory lane for me. Although it was still a bit cold in Italy, it was nothing like Paris and definitely no snow. Top two places to see in Siena: the Piazza del Campo, the main square of Siena and the Duomo (cathedral). Here we are with my host sister, Elisabetta!

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16. Trenitalia FRECCE – High speed train Florence to Venice

We left early in the morning on the high speed train to Venice, which took about four hours. It was pretty packed, but the best part about the entire train ride was arriving in Venice — it looked like we were riding over the water!

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17. Venice: Walking Tour

We met up with Leslie and her boyfriend again in Venice and spent our last couple of days of our France/Italy vacation with the two of them. I’d been to Venice before for a weekend, but it was fun to explore the majestic city one more time. The beautiful waterways never get old. We got to ride a gondola, eat pizza til we couldn’t eat anymore, and walk down the pretty alleyways surrounded by water.

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18. Water Taxi to Venice-VCE Airport

Our flight back home left early one morning, so we opted for the water taxi to the airport. It’s a bit on the expensive end, but totally worth the extra money because a) it gets you there in half the time and b) you get to ride on the beautiful Venetian waters one more time.

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19. Delta 87 Venice-VCE to New York-JFK in Business Elite

And, for our final trip home, we rode Business Class in Delta. Comparing the two, I’d choose Air France over Delta every time, and not just for the food. Still, business class is business class and we had a great time rubbing elbows with the rich bros. Even though I’ve yet to see a celebrity on board my flight. Crossing my fingers for Kourtney Kardashian on my honeymoon flight (wouldn’t that just be the best?!).

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