European Vacation: Paris, Venice, and Pisa

When I Went: October 29- November 2, 2012

Was That the Best Time of Year to Go? Although we loved each of the cities, I’m not sure whether it was the best time for a trip. I believe Paris is good all year round, as is Pisa. Venice is the one that makes me unsure. When we arrived there, it had obviously been raining quite heavily, and many of the canals had burst their banks. I had been there once as a child but had visited with my family during the summer months when it was extremely warm. Before Jeff and I got there, I had told him all about the famous Piazza San Marco. However, when we arrived in the square, it was completely flooded and impossible to walk through. We then opted to take a gondola ride — just to get the full experience. We had literally pushed off from the dock when the heavens opened. We may has well have been swimming in the canals. All we could do was laugh. We’ll never forget our first gondola experience together!

Why I Went There: My husband Jeff had never been to mainland Europe. I picked out Paris and Venice as definite options and then added Pisa as a bonus, as it wasn’t going to break the budget. I didn’t tell Jeff anything about the trip and was quite proud of myself, as I was simply dying to surprise him. It’s literally the best surprise that I’ve been able to give anyone. Ever. 

We Stayed Here: In Paris, we stayed at La Manufacture. It was a three-star hotel. The location was almost ideal. We could walk to different attractions, but the metro was also pretty much on our doorstep. In Venice, I got a really good deal for the Plaza Hotel. It wasn’t actually in Venice but just across the water in Mestre. It was gorgeous, and the train stop that took us straight into the centre of Venice was literally right outside our door. Finally, in Pisa, we stayed at the NH Cavalieri, which was probably our favorite hotel. It was in a pretty good location, about a 20-minute walk from the Leaning Tower. It was also close to little restaurants and bars — and plenty of amazing gelaterias.

You Won’t Want to Miss: In Paris, don’t miss the Eiffel Tower (it’s quite difficult to miss, really). Also make sure you visit the Louvre; even if you don’t go in to see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, the outside of the building is impressive. Don’t miss Notre Dame — the architecture is spectacular, and you should also queue to get up to the top of the cathedral, as the view of Paris is breathtaking. You should (if you’re with your significant other) take a walk over the Pont des Arts, where you can leave a lock on the bridge to signify your love to each other.     In Venice, obviously don’t miss Piazza San Marco, provided it’s not flooded. Definitely take a gondola ride; it’s expensive at around 80 euro, but it’s worth it (especially if it’s raining).   You actually won’t need a whole lot of time in Venice. We really only spent half a day there. With the rest of our day, we took a train over to Verona, to the home of Romeo and Juliet. It’s definitely worth a visit. There are lots of shops, and there’s an old arena there that has a great view of the city.     In Pisa, visit the tower (obviously) and take the obligatory funny photos as you try to push the tower back into place. One thing we learned by the time we got to Pisa was that you should eat where the locals do. We found an awesome sandwich shop called L’Ostellino. We stumbled upon it by accident, and we were so happy that we did.

Eat Here: Obivously try L’Ostellino if you’re in Pisa. However, I booked one other surprise for Jeff: dinner at the Eiffel Tower. Again, I got a pretty good deal. I picked the early dinner option — which I think was around 6:30pm — and it was perfect. It’s a set menu, but all of the food is delicious. You also get complimentary champagne — always a bonus. And, of course, it’s hard to beat the view of Paris while you eat your dinner.

Play Here: You can play pretty much anywhere in Paris; it’s such a vibrant city. We were lucky that a friend of mine was living in Paris while we were there, and she took us to some pretty fun bars and showed us around. Venice is a different kind of city entirely. They are famous for opera, but that’s not something that either Jeff or I really wanted to go to — as everything is in Italian! But I’m sure it’s something that many other people would enjoy.     Pisa has a very old vibe to it. Lots of cobbled streets and ancient buildings. I’d recommend taking a walk around all of the buildings that surround the tower. It’s such a gorgeous city, and there are plenty of little souvenir shops lining the streets.

If I Went Again: The only one thing I would do differently is I would stay longer in each city. I’m glad we got to see three different places. However, looking back, we probably just didn’t have enough time in each. I particularly would have liked to explore Paris more. I think we’ll definitely be making a return trip to Europe in the future. 

Other Tips For Fellow Travelers: Each one of these cities is worth a visit. They all have something special to offer, and we enjoyed each of them immensely. Overall, it may have been costly, and my budget may have been tight, but I’m so glad that I was able to give Jeff that gift. My husband is the best man I know, and he totally deserved that holiday.

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