Archive for Europe – Page 2

Road to Rome, Day 5 – Arriving in Lucerne

On the morning of Day 5, we bid adieu to Paris and continued our journey on the Road to Rome with a scenic ride through France’s Burgundy region. This part of the country is famous for many different wines, such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and of course, Burgundy. You can also thank Burgundy for Dijon mustard. Dijon is the region’s capital city and famously combined white wine and brown mustard seeds to create this tasty condiment during the Middle Ages.

France's Burgundy Country

After crossing the border into Switzerland, Ruth gave us with a quick tutorial in Swiss German and before we knew it, we were saying “Grüezi!” to the beautiful town of Lucerne. Lucerne is the most populous town in central Switzerland and offers a unique combination of architecture and culture to entice visitors from all over the world. It is also a shopping mecca, showcasing the best of Swiss craftsmanship. From watches and clocks to chocolate and cheese, you’d be “cuckoo” not to indulge a little!

We were super excited to get off the coach and explore the area after a long day of travel. Our first stop was the “Lion of Lucerne”. This famous monument is dedicated to several hundred Swiss Guards who were massacred while protecting Tuileries Palace during the French Revolution. The stunning memorial is carved into rock and portrays a lion, wounded and dying, with his head resting on a shield bearing the “fleur-di-lis”, a symbol of the French monarchy. Around the lion is a small pond, which provides a serene resting place for the brave and mournful warrior.

Lion of Lucerne

Our hotel for the next two nights was Hotel Astoria. We loved the modern design of this hotel and the fact that there was rooftop bar with a 360-degree view of the city. Unfortunately, we never made it up to the top but had no problem hearing the bass-heavy dance music that pulsated throughout the building during our stay. There is supposed to be strict noise ordinance in Switzerland, but Hotel Astoria definitely did not get that memo!  If you prefer a quieter environment, you may want to stay elsewhere.

Lake Lucerne

Switzerland is one of many landlocked countries in Europe, but you would hardly miss the ocean after seeing beautiful Lake Lucerne. We took advantage of the optional Happy Hour cruise organized by Insight Vacations and enjoyed a couple glasses of wine as we sailed around the lake. As twilight approached, the Swiss Alps provided a stunning backdrop and the remaining sun created a dazzling light show on the water. It was just one of many moments that made our trip magical and reminded us how fortunate we were to be there!

After the cruise, we walked back to the hotel to freshen up before heading out again for an evening stroll. We spent some time on Chapel Bridge, or “Kapellbrücke”, a popular local attraction and the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world. The bridge features unique triangular shaped paintings dating back to the 17th century, most of which were destroyed in a fire in 1993. We also walked to The Church of St. Leodegar, one of many churches in Lucerne, and hung out at the rail station for a bit to people watch after grabbing a bite to eat.

Check back soon to read more about our time in Switzerland!

Lake Lucerne


Sparkling Eiffel Tower

Check out this short video of the Eiffel Tower, taken from Place du Trocadéro in Paris!

Road to Rome, Day 4: Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Moulin Rouge

On day 4, we were up and out early for another fun filled day in Paris! We began with a quick visit to the Arc du Triumph and souvenir shopping on Champs Elysee.Arc de Triumph Paris Next was another visit to the Eiffel Tower for “Le Tour Eiffel“, which took us inside the tower for a circular view of Paris. Our group had the privilege of an expedited entrance and lifts brought us up to the second floor, where the entire city was visible in all its enchanting grandeur. We took a ton of pictures, then paid a quick visit to “le boutique de souvenirs” before taking the steps back down to the ground level.

A late morning snackAfterward, we stopped at a small café called Boulangerie-Patisserie de la Tour Eiffel, where we enjoyed a late morning glass of wine and a basket of potato chips. Ruth was seated at a table next to us and we chatted for a bit before Domenico picked us up to bring us to another of Paris’ iconic landmarks.

Notre Dame Cathedral is situated on Île de la Cité, one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine and the center of Paris. I visited Notre Dame during my brief stay in 2010, but it was so cold, I didn’t spend much time outside. This time, an expert local guide took us on an hour-long tour and shared several interesting facts about Notre Dame and the surrounding area. It’s incredible the cathedral has survived so much damage over the years but thankfully, this amazing structure has been beautifully restored for future generations to enjoy. From the magnificent interior to the imposing gothic façade, it’s truly a must see!

Notre Dame Paris

After the tour, we perused several street vendor tables while waiting for the coach. In less than 24 hours, we had seen a lot of what makes Paris amazing, but we had only scratched the surface. Fortunately, there was one more fun experience planned for our last evening in the City of Lights that guaranteed we would always remember our time there!

Le Chat Noir is considered by most to be the first modern cabaret, but Moulin Rouge, which means “Red Mill”, is perhaps the most famous. We were impressed that Insight Vacations secured tickets for our entire group and didn’t think twice about taking advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity! Upon returning to the hotel, we had a couple hours to relax and then got gussied up for our visit to the iconic nightclub.

Moulin Rouge Paris

The coach dropped us off in front of Moulin Rouge, and once again, our group received priority entry that allowed us to bypass the regular queue. It was a bit surreal stepping into the lobby, which still displays original turn of the century décor from the club’s heyday. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures once inside but did manage to snap one pic of the dining room.

At dinner, we met several new folks on the tour and enjoyed conversation and wine while watching people dance to the opening band. Our table was stage-side, and from the moment the show began, we were blown away by the performances mere inches from us! The side acts were as captivating as the main program, and we saw everything from snakes writhing around in a see-through pool that rose out of the floor to highly skilled acrobatics. Oh, and there were lots of topless gals, too 😉 If that sort of thing doesn’t bother you, we highly recommend Moulin Rouge’s Féerie show.

Check back soon to read more about our first day in Switzerland!

View from the Eiffel Tower



View from the Eiffel Tower

Photo of the Week – The Colosseum

The Colosseum
Rome, Italy

The Colosseum in Rome

Road to Rome, Day 3: Arriving in Paris (part deux)

Our Welcome Reception was held at a restaurant called La Bouteille d’Or, which means “The Golden Bottle”. Notre Dame Cathedral is right across the street and most of the restaurant offers a great view of the magnificent church.  Our group quickly filled the dining room and the wait staff handled everything courteously and efficiently. Jay had chicken and vegetables with Crème brûlée for dessert.Crème brûlée My choices were limited so I had an eggplant plate. We were happy with the food and had a great time getting to know the folks at our table, who were from North Carolina and different parts of Australia. Not sure about golden, but there were plenty of red and white bottles being passed around!

After dinner, the coach picked us up and drove to Port de la Conference, where we boarded a “Bateaux Mouche”. Bateaux Mouche Riverboat Sign  It was a beautiful evening and we chose seats on the top level of the ship. Behind us, the Eiffel Tower glowed in the twilight hues of the Parisian sky, and for the next 45 minutes, we enjoyed seeing Paris from the serene water of the River Seine.  We passed under two notable bridges, Alexander III and Point Neuf, and had a magnificent view of the Orsay Museum.

Ruth had promised a big surprise on the cruise excursion, but we weren’t quite sure what to expect as we headed back to port. All of a sudden, the Eiffel Tower Eiffel Tower Paris lit up in the near distance, and everyone around us was completely stunned. The ship moved closer and closer, until it seemed you could reach out and touch the tower, and we literally took hundreds of pictures in less than a few minutes. It was truly an extraordinary experience!

Once back on the coach, Ruth announced she had a few more surprises in store before taking us back to the hotel. Our next stop was Place du Trocadéro, where we had another great view of Paris’ most famous landmark. The area was alive with visitors and vendors and dozens of people waited on the hill for the tower illumination to begin again. We bought a few LED mini towers to take home and I treated Jay to a hot crepe filled with berry jam and whipped cream. Afterward, the coach drove from one end of Champs-Elysees to the other, and everyone oohed and ahhed at the views of the Arc de Triomphe and the Obelisk of Luxor. We also got to see The Big Wheel on Place de la Concorde lit up!

We finally arrived back to the hotel around 11 p.m. Our second day in Paris was even more exciting than the first, so check back soon for the next post!

The Louvre Paris