France was my first solo trip. Given my OCD for planning trips and the fact that I was travelling alone, I ended up with pages of maps and research from ‘best places to see’ to the ‘best things to eat’. Some of these things were just ‘okay’ and I could have easily given a miss but others are definitely 5 star rated from me.I want you folks to enjoy just the way I did.
Blois is in the quiet little European country side but do not under-estimate this place.I read all about the famous tourists destinations and finally these two locations; Château Royal de Blois and Chateau de Chambord made it to my list. Both of these had the great renaissance feel but the latter was more royal. With over 400 rooms, I simply couldn’t fathom the size of the castle! The great view from the terrace of the Loire valley is still etched in my mind. My second day was spent walking in and out of the small streets filled with people and the fresh produce of the week. This is the weekly market that is set up and sells everything from pickles to groceries to lingerie. I easily spent half a day there finishing it off with a meal from Café Hineur right at Les Trois Clefs. For stay, Mercure Hotel facing the Loire valley is suggested as it is only a 5 minute walk to the downtown. There is also a long line of a sort of ‘french garage sale’ where the people sell their really old books, maps, photographs of family, lamps and so on, set up right outside the hotel, overlooking the river. These are sold from between 50 cents to 10 euros; if only I had more luggage space, I would have come back with the entire french history textbooks in my back pack!
In Paris, I chose the same Mercure Hotel, overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Yes, this is an expensive hotel but I think the opportunity that you get, to sit in your room, sipping wine, looking at the midnight skies and the lit up Eiffel Tower sort of made up for it. The metro is very well-connected and you can easily visit the ‘Notre Dame Church’ and ‘The Louvre Museum’; during the day, using the 1 day metro pass. A quick stop at Champs Elysees at sunset is a perfect end to your day and i walked back to the hotel with the Tower in my sight all along. There are a lot of souvenir shops right outside The Eiffel Tower, bursting with Asian tourists looking at the key chains and mugs, from where I got a couple of overpriced tee shirts for my family. The cold turkey sandwiches at every cafe around the corner, during my walk, made me hungry and i finally had dinner at the hotel; expensive with most of it just being raw greens.
In short, France is a very beautiful country with many many more things to do and see besides the ubiquitous Paris and I would suggest folks to spend more than 5 days here. Unfortunately, I had my time constraints but the time spent was good.
PS: Did I mention anything about the ultra soft, crumbly croissants that just melt in your mouth? I think you get croissants like this only in France! I had a long 2 hour breakfast with breaks to make sure i could enjoy as many croissants as I could without raising eye-brows.