First Experience in Paris.

pariswalk

My first visit to Paris turned out to be chaotic in the beginning. We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport on the 25th June 2015, around 6 pm. We collected our bags and exited the airport as quickly as possible, to find stranded passengers at the gate. It was the day French taxi drivers were on strike. We were told there are no taxis to take us, if we wish to take a train or wait for a shuttle bus that’s providing transport services. The option of taking a train is not for us, as our hotel is booked within the ariport zone. Our plan was to stay in Paris for the night and fly to Majorca the next day. We were looking forward to check-in, into our hotel and have a good sleep after a long haul flight. Our hopes vanished when we saw the crowd outside the terminal, waiting to get shuttle buses. We waited to board a  shuttle bus for hours and was able to get on in one, around 11 pm, almost five hours, since we landed in Paris. As soon as we got the room, we dropped to bed from exhaustion. Within half an hour or so, we got a call from the hotel reception. The person on the phone apologised for the inconvenience and told us they checked us in, by mistake. We were puzzled about the ‘mistake’ as they had referred to our booking voucher and passports in the process of check-in us in. They even made photocopies of it and the credit card used for the booking. When we didn’t go to the lobby immediately, a hotel staff came to knock on our door, requesting us, to come to reception. We reluctantly got dressed and went down to the reception. The person who attended us first was not at the counter then, but a different man was there. He repeatedly apologised for his colleague’s ‘mistake’ and told us, that there are few Novotel hotels in the Charles de Gaulle airport area. According to him, we were at the “wrong hotel,” and they have checked us in by “mistake.” He failed to explain why and how they made such an error in the first place. Nor he could answer why that would happen when that our booking reference shows that we have booked in that particular Novotel. While we were trying to clarify the “mistake,” suddenly, he switched to speaking only in French and pretended that he didn’t understand what we were saying in English. We were too tired to argue anymore, but not willing to leave the hotel. Then the reception staff made phone calls, conversations made in French and we were practically kicked out with our bags. The staff who escorted us out, put our bags in a shuttle minivan, said something to the driver in French. The hotel staff loaded our luggage into the van, and we took off. In about fifteen minutes, we were in another hotel of the same chain.

The hassle didn’t end there. When we arrived there was no one at the reception desk, so we waited at the counter, the van driver who brought us waited outside. After a while, someone appeared from a door behind a small dining area and approached us. He checked our hotel booking and said we’re at the wrong hotel and they have no rooms. Both my husband and I have bad backs, and the travelling, the hassle up and down with luggage has made it worse by then, and I was angry. My husband was calm and asked me to be calm as well. He said my frustration and temper wouldn’t get us rooms, food and help us rest. His calmness and persistence to ask what’s gone wrong with our booking finally made sense. The reception staff at the second hotel explained that the hotel we first went were the place that we should be in. He said that our booking must have been cancelled as no show, after 8 pm Paris time. He put us in the same minivan we came in and asked to go back to the hotel and solve the problem. When we arrived back to our original hotel, the guy who ‘mistakenly checked us in” and the one who kicked us out were not there. It’s already past midnight, and the duty shift must have changed. Again we had to explain ourselves but this new person, but he didn’t have a solution for us. When we ask more questions and requests, he spoke less English and more French. Finally, he agreed to send us with no cost to Charles de Gaulle Terminal 3. We thought it’ll be safer and warmer to stay there until our flight the next day. When we at terminal 3, we tried to get wifi, and it worked. We quickly booked AC Hotel Paris at Le Bourget Airport and called the hotel to confirm and inform that we’ll be there as soon as possible. We didn’t bother to check the location or anything, we quickly booked and tried to find a way to reach the newly booked hotel. It was already 2 am. There were few taxis, probably individuals wanting to earn an extra income. They were approaching the people, offering to take them for a flat rate, which is over a hundred Euros. By then, some airport staff who has finished their work shift were already outside the terminal, negotiating wth the drivers, asking tourists and locals about their destinations. A French lady with an airport pass approached us, inquired about our hotel, and she said it’s in the same direction, not too far from her home. She said if we wish, we can share a taxi with her. We agreed. She talked to 2 other couples, and they decided to share as well. So there were 6 of us, tourists and the airport staff in one minivan. We paid 15 Euros per person and were the last to be dropped to our hotel.

After all the hassle we were finally in a good hotel with kind and helpful staff. AC Hotel Paris at Le Bourget Airport is modern and chic. We loved its interior and amenities. The breakfast and lunch were delicious and we had a restful day until we left to Orly airport to fly to Majorca. The ride to Orly airport was uneventful, even though the driver was somewhat reckless. He took us through very shady looking, ugly neighbourhoods. We noticed our driver missed the exit to Orly airport twice. We were not sure if it was a trick to make an extra income or just an honest mistake. After 5 days in Majorca we arrived to Paris again, to stay for 5 days before flyng home. It turned out to be a pleasant experience.

Lunch at Swiss Chuchi, Zurich.

Swiss Chuchi is a restaurant we found in a lovely square in Zurich. We chose the restaurant to try something authentically Swiss and ordered Raclette which reminded me of Teppanyaki dish. Raclette is basically a plate of any type of meat of your liking served with cheese, pickled onion, gherkins, tomato, mushroom and baby corn. An electric grill is placed on the table before the food is served, and you cook your meat and vegetables to your liking, melt the cheese in the small pan provided and eat. Our waiter recommended to use some paprika, and we did sprinkle some in the grilled cheese. After our lunch was over, the waiter gave us a postcard as a souvenir.  According to the information on the postcard, the restaurant is operated by Hotel  Adler adjacent to the restaurant which is situated at  Rosengasss 10, Zurich. If you want to try something Swiss, I think it’s a good place to start with. The restaurant staff were extremely friendly and helpful.                                                                                

 

Weekend in Zurich 

On this morning we walked from Toni Areal in Zurich West, towards Zurich city center and old town. As it’s a Sunday morning the roads were quite and peaceful. The weather was nice and warm. Along the way we discovered many cute little spots of Zurich.                            

A day of walking.

We visited Belgium for the second time in the summer of 2015, after almost two years of our first visit to Nieuwpoort.  It was a two-day visit to Brussels to see a friend and her family. Since it was a beautiful summer and we like outdoors and beautiful scenery, Anna took us to Sonian Forest for a good walk. It was a lovely walk with great scenery, smell and sounds of the jungle. After the walk in the forest, we visited a nearby organic farm and picked strawberries. The farm owners allowed the visitors to pick their own fruits and vegetables. The kids and adults were equally excited to see the farm and pick their fruits and vegetables.

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A short break in Galle.

We’ve travelled to Srilanka a few times before but have always stayed in Colombo. But in December  2014,  we went to Galle, a fort city on the south-west of Srilanka that was under Portuguese and Dutch rule many centuries ago. During our three night stay in Galle, we walked along the coast, visited world heritage site at Galle fort and a nearby temple. We also visited Yala national park. It was a bit disappointment as we didn’t see many animals even though we reached the park just after sunrise and were there most part of that day. However, we enjoyed our short break and have fond memories of Srilankan hospitality.

A few days in Rome.

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When we were planning our trip to Italy, we came across a lot of negative feedback about tourist traps in Rome, so we were a bit apprehensive before our visit.  To our surprise, we didn’t encounter any unpleasant experiences during our stay. We stayed in HiSuite, a small hotel near Piazza Navona. It was an excellent location with easy access to cafes, restaurants and grocery shops. Interesting places like Ponte Saint Angelo or the Arc bridge was within walking distance.  We booked our sightseeing tour with a guide in advance. It didn’t disappoint us, as we were in a small group, didn’t have to wait in long queues and our guide could explain everything in English. We visited the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel with our tour guide. We had dinner in the famous Alfredo alla Scrofa restaurant, said to be where Fettuccine originated. I personally didn’t like the Fettuccine dish they served, but the ‘live performance’ of preparing the fettuccine dish was excellent. The appetisers, meat and the deserts we tried at Alfredo were excellent.

We also visited Florence for a day trip, but unfortunately, it turned out to be a very rainy day within hours of our arrival. Here are a few photos we captured before it started pouring.