Back in 2011, I was a starving Production Assistant on a newly hit TV show in its first season. We were done for the season and won’t be back for another 2.75 months. As usual with the little money i had, I thought it be fun to go and take a trip to Europe.
I found a website that catered to the El cheapo like myself. Go Today Tours
It was quite an awesome deal. Since I was already visiting friends in Minneapolis ( where I use to live) I feel it was even more of a steal than flying out of Hawaii. My friend and I jumped on it and we were off to Europe … Her first time, My 5th to London and First to the rest.
The trip included, Flights, Domestic European Flights, hotels, one airport transfer and trains. The cities/countries we visited were: London , UK,: 3 nights, Paris, France: 3 nights, Rome, Italy: 4nights ( due to a mishap with trains we were given an extra day). The cost? $2300 per person. Not bad at all.
We flew into LHR ( London Heathrow) from Minneapolis on Delta’s wide body 747. I was so cramped and so uncomfortable for the nearly 8 hr flight. When we landed, we were met by our driver to take us into town and to our hotel
London Ambassador Hotel: You can read my full review on TripAdvisor by clicking the link.
We stayed in an area known as Earls Court. Which is pretty touristy, but close to two tube stops which is perfect for getting around pretty much all of London. The hotel is a tourist class, and the rooms are clean and decent. It’s a 2.5 star property ok well its more like a 3 , the staff are friendly and the breakfast is ok.
I forgot to mention that we were there right before and up to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middelton. So the city was super festive with memorabilia being sold everywhere.
Quick highlights of our trip: Big Ben, Parliament, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly circus, Buckingham Palace, Convent gardens, Trafalgar Square, Knotting Hill, Camden Market, Soho, Hampton’s Court and tons of shopping and window shopping at Herrods.
On our last day we were packing it up to go and catch our plane to Paris. Initially with this company we were supposed to take the Euro Star train which is a high speed train that goes under the English Channel and arrives in Paris’ Gare Du Nord Station. I was so looking forward to this as I always wanted to try it. Unfortunately due to the wedding, the city was crazy and our representative with Go Today didn’t want to risk something happening to us.
Sio we packed our bags like I said, checked out and headed for the nearest tube station in Earl’s Court. The pubs were filled with people watching the procession of Royals and Glamorous celebrities arrive in style to the church. We flew out of London City Airport. An airport I recommend to anyone and everyone who is traveling from a stay in London on their way to another european destination. This airport is like a half hour tube ride from the city ( shorter than LHR) so you get to see a different part of London, it is a small airport which means, shorter lines. In fact there were really no lines really, and we swept through security in a breeze.
The flight on Air France was quick and easy. It took all of an hour and a half max. The FA’s were very sweet and they gave us a nice snack ( unlike USA airlines) The only problem was that we were stuck behind the smelliest woman I’ve ever met in my life. Her forest of hair under her arms added to the Bog like stench that was permeating the plane. With her was her toddler who thought it was funny to stare at us and throw his crackers ( cookies in brattish) In my long hair. She was so obnoxious and oblivious to her stench and her very very loud speaker mouth, until the FA’s came to us and apologized ( without us even complaining or asking to be moved) that the plane is full and there are no empty seats. He said all this while cupping his mouth with a napkin to avoid the stench. We all had a really good laugh at her expense, while she swore like a sailer. All went well in the end.
We landed at ORLY airport a city airport which also serves close by countries. It’s a small and lovely airport and an easy RER B train ride into the city. Our accommodations via GO TODAY TOURS had us staying in the Comfort Davout Nation Hotel ( click link to read my review on TRIPADVISOR) in the 20th Arrondismont . Yes 20th. It was my first time to Paris so I didn’t realize what an error this was on our part as all the major sights were an hour away by subway. The area of the 20th Arrondismont is very working class, with the Africana and Middle Eastern sects. Trying not to sound racist here by explaining the people who are living here. When we got out of our train, to our surprise, there were no escalators or elevators so we had to carry our heavy bags up many many many flights of stairs . Once street side, the sidewalks and roads were in disrepair. We now had to roll our luggage on gravel for about a good 10 minutes to find our hotel tucked behind a street corner. At fist glance we were a little worried about it as the area leaves nothing to be desired.
However, the check in, front desk clerk, and lobby were very nice and decent. The room was a broom closet with two beds and halogen lit bathroom. A little depressing The breakfast was excellent and I had many cups of their cappuccino ( from the machine) as well as their delicious croissants. Quick highlights of our Parisian trip: Eiffel Tour ( didn’t go up) La Louvre ( didn’t go in but had a lovely picnic) Trocadero : our first meal in Paris with Champagne 🙂 That was nice.The river Siene, Notre Dame, Sacre Cure and the Mont Marte area, Champsellyse , left bank, marais, Pantheon, Jardin Du Luxembourg , Mont Pernaus.
A quick funny story. We decided or rather I forced my friend to go out one night in Paris. It was a Saturday and I just could not bare the fact of not seeing Paris at night . We left the hotel around midnight boarded the last subway to the Marais ( we wanted to go dance at a gay club to have fun and listen o awesome music) and arrived at the Marais. Got out and stopped at a pub to have some quick food and some champagne to start the night. My friend didn’t want to eat to which I said, your loss girl. Having traveled to Greece a few times, I knew the customs of going out. You leave late, go have a late dinner relax and take your time and then you hit the club, full, happy, and ready to dance. Well all that was achieved. The only problem was getting into a club. No madame you must be a Bear to get into this club, No madame Men only in leather to get into this club, No Madame Butch dykes only for this club, No Madame, no Madame. NO, NO , NO !!!! WTF? In the USA i can easily go to any gay club I want. I get it though, the clubs are specific that way everyone has the same likes and agendas. But what about us? Where are we going to go? We ended up walking for a good hour all over trying to find a place. Finally we found a tiny club with an entrance fee that came with a free drink. It was as big as our hotel room and playing cheesy music. Defeated we decided to leave and walk around a bit before returning home. The Marais at night is very interesting. It has this dark foggy mystere. It was very enchanting to me. We walked past this restaurant window, and I noticed a bunch of ladies in there with men. So I said to my friend . Girl lets try here. Guarding the front door like it was Fort Knox was this 20 feet tall hunk of an Africana security / door/ bouncer dude. I’m sorry Madame but this is only for men. Excusemoi? But there are women there . Yes , he said, it is because they came with some gay men. ( lowered my voice as low as i could and said ) ” But Monsieur , what if we are men? Ok madame go have fun. hahahaha that was thrilling…
Well we danced the night away , smoked a ton of cigarettes outside watching the french display their delicious lust for love, performed on the dance floor like we were madonna and Brittney Spears and had a blast. Exactly what we needed.
It was now 4 am and we thought we should head out before the club closes at 6 and the last thing I want to do is see the sun rise under my false eyelashes. So we simply left the club in search of a cab. Well, it seems as if everyone else had the same idea. On every street corner was a couple or a few people trying to flag down a taxi. It became a game , and one we were definitely loosing. About 4o minutes later, my hot portuguese hawaiian blood was boiling. Finally a cab stopped. I tried my best to pronounce where we were going, but to no dismay as the cab driver rolled up his window and moved forward to the French speaking competition 10 feet away. UGGGG a lot of profanity and a few finger gestures later and he was gone. Defeated I couldn’t take it any more .. I saw another cab coming and dead something I never thought i would.
I FLASHED A BOOB!!!!
Tires screeched to a halt the cab driver rolled down his window, but instead of talk to him, i told my friend to jump in the cab NOW. From there i held his gaze and confessed my adoration and need to get home … 50 different tongue twisting ways to pronounce our local and bam we were there. WOW what a memory that was.
We took the RER B from Gare Du Nord up to the CDG airport and was reaching there in a split second of time. When we were almost there, my friend let out a big OMG to which I was like: WHAT? ” I forgot my passport!!!! ” she said. OMG are you kidding me ? Told her to hop on the train , back to the hotel and I will do my best to talk to Air France on how to rearrange her flight. Air France was as helpful as they could and tole me that if she misses her flight there is another one but it will cost 150 Euro I called our hotel and informed them what happened, and then had her call me from there. I told her what will happen and if she makes in within a half hour she’ll make it on. Well by the graces of all that is good, she did , and we were off to ROME
I must also add that initially we were supposed to take a night train to Rome from paris. After reading horrific stories about people getting robbed on the train and decided against it so the company just added an extra day and night in Rome for us.
We arrived in Rome’s Fumacino Airport . An airport that like its expressive people is a bit nutty. We took the train into Termini Station and from there walked about 5 minutes to our hotel at Hotel Impero ( click link for my Trip Advisor Review) another 3 star hotel at most. However, we were pleasantly surprised. The hotel has a very Renaissance look to it with old gold chairs, disappearing inked portraits , a grand stair case and best of all a very proud and stern Front Desk Clerk who spits while he talks.
Our room was gorgeous. I was so happy. It was a large room with 2 double beds , a window with shutters that opened up to the Opera’s Piazza next door, large bathroom with Bidet and toilet and it was just the perfect setting for our Romand Adventure.
Our Rome highlights were : Coliseum ( didn’t go in ) Spanish Steps: lovely, Fontana De Trevi : tiny but beautiful, Pantheon , Piazza Novana , Vatican City, Trastevere .
My friend from Naples met up with me and took me and my friend for an overnighter to his hometown in Naples. That was really special and beautiful His flat on the top floor was gorgeous. The ride there was nice and easy on their pretty efficient train.
All in all I had a good trip with GO TODAY TOURS: The flights were all fine, the rooms and hotels were decent , although i would never stay in that quality type of hotel again especially in Paris. I’ve since returned to Paris and wow what a difference staying in the 6th really is. The service with Go Today Tours is good, its definitely great for those on a budget. My suggestion is to really review the hotel choices they offer you because they start with the lowest starred hotel but you do have 3 options with price differences to choose from. If you’re on a budget and want to tour somewhere on your own, then I would go ahead and try them out.