Yellow Van Travels: A Family Travel Blog

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Murano and Burano Italy

Just outside of Venice, on a less than an hour vaporetto ride, lay the islands of Murano and Burano. Known for their glass, lace and colorful houses, Murano and Burano are great places to visit and make for a great day trip outside of Venice.

How to Get There:

The only way to get to the islands of Murano and Burano is via boat. If you get on line 12, the first stop is at Murano. You can also stay on that line and will eventually get on Burano. From Burano, you can take another vaporetto and end up back at St. Mark's Square. The boat rides can take a while. From Venice, the boat ride is about 30 minutes to Murano. And from Murano, it is another 30-45 minutes to Burano. 

What You Will See:

The island of Murano is known for it's hand-blown glass. There are many shops that all house beautifully unique pieces. From jewelry to home decor to pens to jewelry, Murano has everything imaginable made out of glass. We happened to be there on a Saturday and we got to the island slightly before 9:00 am and most of the shops were closed. But the more we walked around, a few more shops started to open. We found out because it was a Saturday, lots of glass blowers don't work that day. Because of that, many shops were closed. But it was actually nice to only have a few options to go see (there were still PLENTY of shops to wander through!) There are also glass blowing demonstrations to see. Blogs we read said that there were free demonstrations, but we did not find any for free, but we did find a cute small shop with demonstrations for only 2 Euros per person. 

We had so much fun walking around and exploring the island. The shops were so amazing to see. Because these shops feature people's artwork, most of them do not allow pictures. Also, you need to be extra careful if you have large bags because everything in the shops are made of glass. 

There are lots of choices for souvenirs to take home from Murano, but be careful in your choices. Make sure that what you take is well wrapped and can be easily transported. Some things we brought home were magnets, glass cherries, a Christmas ornament, a fountain pen and some Pandora charms for my charm bracelet. Nothing came home broken even though most of it was packed in our luggage. 

Once you get to Burano, you will see SO MANY COLORS! The homes are all painted in such vibrant colors. Our favorite part was just wandering up and down the canals and seeing all of the different colors. We saw lots of kiosks with lace, but did not find any lace factories or tours. Part of the reason was because we couldn't find that much info on Burano and the fact that we were extremely tired. (This was our last day of our 3 weeks Europe before coming home.) Even though we didn't spend a lot of time on the island because we were tired, you could easily spend hours just wandering around the cute little town. They also have really good gelato there :)

Sum Up:

Murano and Burano are great places to visit if you are spending a couple days in Venice. They make for a great day trip and, just like Venice, are perfect for getting lost in. They are so cute and small enough to explore without feeling like you could get lost. Make sure you buy your souvenirs on Murano and take a TON of pictures and get gelato on Burano.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Eddie Bauer Travel Pillow Review

Pillows are a big deal when you travel. At least they are to me, because I have a lot of trouble sleeping while in transit. Knowing that we would be on long flights on our trip to Europe this summer we knew we would need to find a way to help me sleep on the airplanes. I have already detailed the sleep mask from Skoozzz that I used here.

I was also planning on taking an inflatable camping pillow that I won at the Adventure + Gear Fest, but then one day we were looking around the Eddie Bauer store in the mall, because that is what adventures do when they are at the mall.  We found a neck pillow there and I thought it felt ok. Most neck pillows I haven't been a big fan of but this one felt pretty good. Since Meagan had a coupon and there was a sale going on I decided to get it for our trip

We hadn't realized when looking at it before that it was actually a 2-in-1 pillow that could covert from a neck pillow into a small regular pillow. This was great because it meant I would have different options while flying so I could switch it up depending on how I was feeling.

The pillow is made with the soft bead stuffing. So you just have to unzip the back and you can pull out the fabric for the rectangular pillow and push the beads down into it. Then you push the fabric for the neck pillow into the little pocket and zip it closed.

The pillow is very comfortable in both of its forms. I used it on our long flights in conjunction with my sleeping mask to be able to sleep pretty well. Its versatility means that you can use it like a regular neck pillow or you can switch it to the rectangular form if you are lucky enough to have a window seat. It can also be used as a regular pillow in a pinch, for example when we got to Venice and the hotel pillows were as flat as pancakes.

This Eddie Bower travel pillow has two options for connecting it to your bag while walking through the airport or a city. There is a snap between the two ends of the pillow that you can loop through the handle on your carry on or backpack, there is also a loop on the back that can be hooked onto a carabiner.

Overall this pillow was a good choice for me and I will likely continue to use it on overnight flights. You can get it from Eddie Bauer here, or you can find a similar one on Amazon here.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

St. Mark's Square: Piazza San Marco

St. Mark's Square or the Piazza San Marco in Italian is the main center of action in Venice. It is where a lot of historic places come together like the Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Basilica, the Campanile and the Museo Correa. It is also the home to some fancy restaurants. It is the place to see and be seen.

How to Get There:

Getting to St. Mark's Square is pretty easy. Follow the yellow signs or take the vaporetto and get off at either of the San Marco stops. Once you're there, be sure to check out the Rick Steves Audio Europe App and listen to the St. Mark's Square track. We suggest getting there early in the morning before things open (definitely before 10:00 am) to walk around and listen to the audio guide. You will learn a lot of history and learn the layout of the square. 

What You Will See:

Once you are there, it really is just a big square with buildings around it. At one end you will see St. Mark's Basilica and next to that you will see the Doge's Palace.  In front of those two buildings you will see the Campanile. On either side of the Piazza you will see two large restaurants with outdoor and indoor seating. Opposite of the Basilica is Museo Correa. 

Sum Up:

St. Mark's Square is the center of Venice. Lots of shops and stores are close to the square as well as most of the main historical sites of Venice. 


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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Frari Church in Venice

One of the great artistic secrets of Venice is the Frari church, formerly known as Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. It really is hidden and we wouldn't have known about it at all if it didn't have a dedicated track in the Rick Steves app. We likely would have walked right past it if we hadn't known to look for it. As a church it isn't unimpressive looking, but there are so many churches in Venice, and Europe generally, that it can be hard to know which ones you should go into. They are probably all worth seeing, but as with all things in travel there just isn't enough time.

How to Get There:

Like most things in Venice outside of St. Mark's Square and the Rialto Bridge, the Frari Church is not easy to find. I honestly don't know if we would have found it if our friend Holly hadn't had a working phone with data and GPS. Your best shot if you don't have a phone with data may be to use the Lonely Planet guide. Remember that your phone's GPS will still work to show you where you are as long as you have downloaded the map before hand. 

Because of the congested nature of the Venetian alleys you will not see the Frari Church until you are actually in the Campo dei Frari where it stands. It dominates the square as it is a large redbrick gothic basilica. But having already passed a number of churches you may be unsure if you are in the right place. You will see a sign with the word Frari on it, and then you will know you have arrived. 

Before you head out to visit the Frari Church make sure that you are appropriately attired to visit a religious site, this means being modestly covered, removing your hat, putting away your selfie stick, etc. 

When you arrive you will enter through the front door and there will be a small booth to your right where you can purchase your tickets which are just €3 per person. There are some steps just to the left of this booth where you can leave your bag if you would like, although I don't think it was required. 

What You Will See:

Unless you know an awful lot about 16th century Venetian art and the Franciscan order I would definitely recommend using the Rick Steves' audio guide here. I don't pretend to know anything about art of any century so I really liked having something to listen to in the Frari. I am sure I would have enjoyed seeing the religious paintings without the guide, but I certainly wouldn't have understood their significance in context.

One of the really special things about the Frari Church is the chance to see full alter pieces in their intended settings. The church has a number of chapels and each one has an alter piece of its own.

You also get the chance to see the church's reliquary which I was excited about since both Notre Dame and Saint Mark's charge you to see their reliquaries.

In addition to the art, there is a ton of it for a single church, and the relics, you will also see several tombs that are quite impressive. The visit to the church won't take you much longer than total length of Rick's audio guide, depending on how long you want to look at the artwork.

It is worth noting that you are allowed to take pictures in here, which is rare for a church. I did not realize this until we were leaving, which is why we have so few and such low quality images for this post as I just snapped a few on my phone on the way out.

Sum Up:

I really enjoyed visiting the Frari Church and highly recommend it. Not only is it very cool to see, but it is also very cool temperature wise inside. Considering that when we were in Venice it was blistering hot and oppressively humid, this was a great blessing. It is not very expensive to visit, so it is certainly wort the cost of getting in. As a lesser known site in Venice it doesn't get very crowded which in contrast to St. Mark's Basilica gives you the time and attention to enjoy yourself. 

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Doge's Palace and Venetian Prisons

St. Mark's Basilica is arguably the most famous site in Venice, but right next to it, actually connected to it, is the Doge's palace, and just across from the palace via the Bridge of Sighs are the historic prisons of Venice. If you are interested in Venetian history, which you will be once you are in Venice, then these are a must see.

Title card showing the Doge's Palace in Venice

How to Get There:

Finding the Doge's Palace is not hard once you get to St. Mark's square. It is the building to the right when you are facing the basilica. If you come by vaporetto you can get of at either of the San Marco stops on the 1 or the 2 boat, it really doesn't make much difference. The key to visiting the Palace though is not to stand in the line at the palace itself. Instead go to the Correr Museum across the square from the basilica. We were clued into this by the Rick Steve's audio guide for the San Marco Square. There is never a line at this museum and the ticket for it will get you into the Correr, the two other museums attached to it, and the Doge's Palace and prisons for just €19.

Once you have your ticket from the Correr you just go around the right side of the palace. There will be a line full of people, and an empty line. The empty line is for you because you already have tickets. 

What You Will See:

Picture of the courtyard in the the Doge's Palace

Once inside you will enter the main courtyard of the Palace. When I was there I really wanted to go see the prisons so we followed the signs for them and it took as through the whole palace as well. This palace explains and is dedicated to the history of Venetian government, which is quite fascinating, at least to those of us who studied political science. Walking through the palace reminded us a lot of Versailles in Paris because there was so much gold and incredible murals, and general richness around the place. You can take as long as you want walking around here, but be aware that they close the palace at 6 PM so if you go late in the day like we did you will need to go pretty quick.

The bridge of sigs over a canal in Venice

View from inside the bridge of sighs

Just keep following the signs and you will eventually cross the Bridge of Sighs into the prisons. These are a stark contrast to the beautiful palace you have just walked through. They are thick stone walls with small rooms, double bunks in each room and tiny windows looking out into the hall. Its pretty much what you would imagine a prison being like.

picture of the hallway in the prisons of Venice

Sum Up:

The Doge's Palace and the Venetian Prisons are some of the most important sites in Venice. They are really cool to see and have the advantage of being indoors which is nice if it is unbearably hot outside, like it was when we were there. The tickets seem a little expensive, but when you figure how many places they let you see and the fact that you are in Venice, they aren't too bad. I would recommend going to see them if you are interested in museums or history. 

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Monday, August 15, 2016

St. Mark's Campanile

When you are looking at St. Mark's Square in Venice, the most apparent building in the square is St. Mark's Campanile (or bell tower). It is tall, slightly crooked, and a beautiful red color and stands out amongst the white and creme colored buildings.

How to Get There:

If you are traveling by vaporetto, you can get off at any of the San Marco stops. If you are planning on walking, follow the yellow signs to San Marco. (Check out our post here for more details about getting around Venice.) Once you get to the square you will easily be able to see which building is the bell tower. 

The entrance to the Campanile is on the side of the tower that faces St. Mark's Basilica. You will enter the doors and buy your tickets. From there, you will stand in a very small line area and wait for the elevator to get to the top of the bell tower. The elevator only takes 12-15 people up at once, but the line does move pretty fast.  

What You Will See:

If you are lucky enough to time your visit on the half hour, you will be able to hear the bells ring at the top of the tower. We just happened to go up during the time the bells were ringing. It was such an amazing experience that we highly suggest that you go up while the bells are ringing. It is extremely loud though so if you have little kids, you might want to bring ear plugs for them. 

At the top of the tower you have amazing 360 degree views of the city. It was amazing to me to see how big Venice seemed from up there. It was also neat, and kind of sad, to see how many of the other bell towers and other buildings around Venice are severely leaning to one side due to the unstable foundation of the city. 

As you look out around the city, there are plaques that go with the Venice Panorama app that give you information about what you are looking at. It is a paid app and we did not know about it or download it before we were at the top of the tower, so we can't vouch for how well it works. It is a cool idea and we did wish we knew more of what we were looking at. If any of you have used it we would love to hear your experience with it!

Sum Up:

Visiting St. Mark's Campanile was one of my favorite things we did in Venice. It offers amazing, unique views of Venice. If you make it to the top on or around the half hour, you will be in for a treat of listening to the bells ring. Even though it is extremely noisy, it is such a unique experience and we highly recommend it. Visiting the bell tower is high on our list of Venice must do's and is totally worth the 8 euro price tag.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Rick Steves Audio Europe App Review

I am a big fan of using audio for learning experiences. As an instructional designer I understand the efficacy of this approach and as a tourist I appreciate its convenience. So when our friends, who were with us for part of the recent Europe trip, introduced us to the Rick Steves Audio Europe App I jumped at it. Being able to stay visually engaged with a place while getting audio information about it allows a greater appreciation than trying to look back and forth between info plaques and the thing you are suppose to be seeing. In addition to the inconvenience of trying to look between an object or scene and a plaque, in many places there will not be plaques in English or even plaques at all. This is particularly true of places like gardens and churches. For these reasons I found the Rick Steves app to be extremely valuable while traveling in Europe.

Title card showing the yellow van in front of the Louvre and the text, Review of the Rick Steves Audio Europe App

Rick Steves is an American who is an expert on European travel. He has written numerous guide books and also runs his own tours. His audio guides are very informative and tell you just where to look and what you are looking at. Of course we all know, much to my chagrin, that you can't learn everything about a place when you visit it, and Rick does a good job of condensing down the information and sharing a good amount with you.

The key to using the app is to be patient with it. It's far from perfect as an app and of course there is no way for Rick to know what might be going on when you are at any particular location in Europe. Despite its failings the information is very useful and I found myself wishing that I had Rick Steves' audio guides for many places where there wasn't one available.

If you decide to use this app while you are traveling in Europe I highly recommend that you download everything you need before you leave your own internet, as I do with most apps you use for traveling. Download anything that you think might need, it is far better to have some audio that you don't listen to than not have one downloaded that you end up wanting. I would recommend downloading everything available for each city you are visiting and double check that it actually downloaded.

One of the problems is that you can't always tell if a certain location have an audio guide available because some places are hidden inside of larger guides. For example we did not think that there was one for Notre Dame until we downloaded the Paris walking tour guide and found that it had its own tracks. Since you can't see the individual tracks until you download the guide its hard to know which ones you are going to need. It's not the best user experience, but the content is good.

Speaking of the user experience I'll just point out a few things that are likely to be frustrating so you are prepared for them. The first is non-standard audio controls, this just means that it doesn't use the iPhone's regular audio controls so that when you turn on your phone's lock screen you can't use options like the 15 second skip back and forward controls. The second is the maps, in every guide Rick will tell you there is a map available, these are just simple PDFs which might be helpful in a pinch, but you are probably better off getting a map from the info desk of whatever location you are visiting.

One issue that we encountered was trying to all stay in the same place on each guide. In hindsight my suggestion is to not worry much about it, if you start at the same time then you are mostly going to be near each other. I also highly suggest using headphones with a play/pause button so that you can easily stop the audio when needed and then start it again without having to dig out your phone. As way of a word of caution to Android users, it appears the Android version of the app does not allow for playback at double speed.

Aside from the audio guides to specific places that are in the app Rick also has a number of interviews he has done with experts on a particular location. These can be good to listen to when you are traveling to or from a place to give you more context and understanding, but if you have a limited amount of storage on your device definitely prioritize the actual audio guides.

In summary this app really is a must have for visiting Europe. Even though many of the places you go might offer audio guides of their own they are normally harder to understand and require an extra purchase whereas this app is free, so you should use it wherever you can.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Visiting Saint Mark's Basilica

While getting lost and wandering around the beautiful streets of Venice was one of my favorite things we did, Saint Mark's Basilica is definitely a main attraction to this seaside city. Located in Saint Mark's Square, and also known as Basilica San Marco in Italian, the Basilica is a beautiful piece of architecture on the outside and full of beautiful details on the inside.

How to Get There:

Getting to Saint Mark's Basilica is pretty easy because it is one of the main features of Venice. There is lots of signage pointing you towards the basilica if you choose to walk. Or you can get off at either of the San Marco stops on a vaporetto. Saint Mark's Basilica is located at the East end of Saint Mark's Square, right next to Doge's Palace. 

To get inside the building, you will need to stand in line. The line starts at the front of the building and heads towards the Doge's Palace. They do not allow large bags to be brought into the basilica but they do have a bag check. To get there, head north of the basilica, past the lion statues into a little alley way between the yellow and white buildings. If you get lost or confused, just ask someone near-by and they can tell you where to go. There is also a map of where to check your bag near the entrance to the basilica. The bag check is free, but lasts only an hour. 

Also to get inside the building, you will need to be covered. They do not allow bare shoulders or knees inside of the basilica. If you do come with bare shoulders or knees, they do have these plastic table cloths that you can wrap around yourself to cover the bare skin. 

What You Will See:

To get inside of the church is free, and within the church there are areas that you can pay to go see. We only did the free things and it was still a beautiful experience. We suggest listening to Rick Steves Audio Europe app and following along on the St. Mark's Basilica track (the track starts with the outside of the church). It took us about 30 minutes to see the free parts of the church and this included listening to Rick. 

Inside the basilica you will see lots and lots of mosaics. They are all over the place! The floors, the ceilings, the walls, everywhere. The mosaics were my favorite part of the church. They were so detailed and so beautiful! Because Saint Mark's Basilica is an active, working church, they do not allow pictures inside. 

Saint Mark's Basilica is a beautiful place and is a nice way to take a little bit of a break. It is dark and cool and a nice place to relax for a bit before heading back into Venice. The lines to get into Saint Mark's can often be quite long and get especially long during the afternoon. The best time to go is first thing in the morning when they open. But be aware that the line starts forming at least 30 minutes prior to them opening the doors. 

Sum Up:

Saint Mark's Basilica is one of the main attractions to see in Venice. Located in Saint Mark's Square, it is a free site to see with paid options inside. Without doing the paid options it takes about a half an hour. There is a Rick Steves Audio Europe track to listen to while you are visiting the basilica that gives you lots of information and neat history about this beautiful church.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Getting Around Venice

Venice is a crowded, ancient city built in a lagoon on top of hundreds of individual islands. It is this very nature that makes Venice one of the most charming places on the planet and probably why you want to go there in the first place. However this unique history also causes it to be a difficult city to navigate. This guide will help you to avoid frustration as you visit this incredibly amazing location.

Title card with yellow van and text saying getting around Venice.

Embrace Getting Lost:

While there are a few "must sees" in Venice, like the Grand Canal and St. Mark's Basilica, the real attraction is Venice itself. This place is amazing, I can't even tell you how much I loved just looking at it. So if you are lost, don't sweat it, you are seeing what you came here to see and sooner or later your going to stumble upon a major area with lots of people and be able to find your way again.

People in a Venice alley during a rain storm.

Getting lost is easy in Venice because it has two types of streets: canals which will only help you if you are a boat, and alleys that cross the canals via hundreds of bridges. Because you are not a boat you will mostly get around Venice on foot, and you will love it. A few tips though are to carry as little as possible, because you will be going up and down a lot of bridges, and be aware that the main alleys can get extremely crowded during busy times, so watch for pick pockets. 

Watch for Yellow Signs:

As you walk around Venice you will go down many different alleys and through an enormous number of squares. You will likely have some famous place you are trying to get to, such as San Marco Square. The key to getting there is to watch when you come to crossroads or through a square for the yellow signs posted on the walls above alleys. These will have arrows directing you down certain alleys to certain places. They key is to keep looking for these signs. For example if you follow a sign pointing to the Rialto Bridge down one alley, the next time you come to a square you need to look for the next sign pointing to the Rialto Bridge. Following this pattern will eventually get you to the place you are looking for.

Use Vaporetti (Water buses):

Like most major cities in the world, Venice has a public transit system. Unlike most major cities this system is made out of vaporetti, or water buses. These are public ferries that cruise around Venice, mainly on the Grand Canal, and to the outlying islands like Lido, Murrano, and Burrano.

There are a couple things to consider before taking a vaporetto. The first is whether you can figure out how to get there on a vaporetto. The lines are confusing, especially when you first arrive and don't know much about the city. Maps can be found posted at each vaporetto stop or can be purchased from the info station near the railway station for €3. Its a rather steep price for a rather bad map, Venice is one big tourist trap, so be prepared for it.

The second thing to know is that if you take the number 1 or the number 2 bus which are the main lines down the Grand Canal you likely could have walked to your destination faster. The benefit of taking the water bus is that you don't have to walk. The drawback is that travel on the Grand Canal is not fast, especially when making a lot of stops. On the plus side if you can get a spot standing on the deck you can see Venice in a completely different way than you do by walking.

The third thing to know is to make sure you get the right stop. There will normally be several stops right next to each other each one only receiving one or two of the routes, normally only in one direction. These stops will all have the same name (i.e. Ferrovia) but will be labeled with different letters (i.e. Ferrovia A, Ferrovia B, etc).

The fourth thing to know is that it is expensive to take the water buses. A ticket will cost you €7,50 and unless you are making a transfer right away you can assume that is a one way price. In the next section I will talk about getting a pass if you are going to ride the buses quite a bit.

Meagan on a vaporetto on the Grand Canal.

One important note is that if you want to visit any of the outlying islands you will need to take a vaporetto or a private water taxi. Since we highly recommend you visit the islands of Murrano and Burrano this will entail at least one vaporetto trip.

Unica/Rolling Venice Pass:

The best way to use the vaporetti system, if you plan to ride it more than a couple times, is to get a pass. Unfortunately this is fairly confusing process online, so I suggest you just wait until you get there which is what we did. If you arrive by train into the railway station, or by bus into Pizza Roma you will be close to the information booth just outside the train station. This is where you can buy passes. You might also be able to buy passes at the airport, but I am not sure about that.

When you buy a pass you can choose how many days you want it for. If you are over 29 years old be sure to plan your trip so that you only get the number of days you need. If possible try to group all your water bus trips on to a single day to save money. If you are under 29 years old you qualify to get a special youth pass with the purchase of an add on called Rolling Venice. This special youth pass will be good for 3 days and will cost you only €22. The Rolling Venice costs €6 itself but this is by far the best deal. I know that is confusing, for some reason they can't seem to make it easy.

Note that online it will say that this "youth pass" won't get you to the airport, that is only true for airport direct shuttles. The pass will work fine on the public bus (#5) that runs to the airport.

The passes are made out of somewhat heavy paper which have a proximity chip inside them for tapping on to the water busses. Be sure the keep them in a safe place, preferably a theft resistant bag, and keep them dry.


Gondolas are very cool to watch on the canals, they also happen to be very expensive. If you ride in a gondola it is not to get from one place to another but rather to experience the gondola ride. We did not do one because of how expensive it is, but if you are wondering it is €80 during the day and €100 during the evening. You can take up to 6 people with you, so if your group is large enough you can lower the price per person quite a bit.

Some people in a Gondola in a Venice canal.

Getting To and From the Airport:

The Marco Polo airport is one of the most likely places you will arrive in Venice. Except that it is not actually in Venice since it is on the mainland. That means that when you arrive you will need to get from the airport to Venice. This was one of the most stressful parts of the trip because we didn't know how we would get there even though I had looked it up online and was planning to take the #5 bus. It turns out that there are actually quite a few ways to get to the city from the airport, so it isn't something to stress over. 

The #5 bus worked just fine, although we missed one right when we arrived because of a delay our plane had leaving Paris. The #5 is a public bus and what Google Maps will likely recommend to anyone looking for a public transportation option. Since it is a public bus it makes quite a few stops on the way to the island and also can get quite crowded. There are several other buses that are just for getting to and from the airport so you could also buy tickets for one of them. You can of course also take a private taxi if you want, either land or water.

If you take a land vehicle to the island you will cross a huge bridge and get off at Piazza Roma. From there you can cross the large glass bridge to the area by around the train station and the vaporreti stops. 

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Friday, August 5, 2016

A 3 Day Travel Guide to Paris

We spent a solid 3 days in Paris and felt like we saw everything we wanted to see. I'm sure if we stayed longer, we would have found some amazing hidden gems. But in 3 days we were able to hit lots of major landmarks.

After our experience, we found that there were a few things we could have done better. So while this travel guide is not exactly how we saw everything, we did see everything in this guide and want to share from our experiences.

Before we start, here are a few suggestions of things to do before you start your trip.

  • Hotel: Make sure to get a hotel near a metro stop. We suggest going through When you are looking at hotels, make sure to check the comments from previous guests. They are usually good about saying if the hotel is close to a metro stop or not. We stayed at this hotel and it was SO CLOSE to a metro stop, but it was also a teeny, tiny room which we were not expecting. 
  • Paris Museum Pass: You can't go to Paris and not get a museum pass. It saves you so much money! And it lets you into so many different sites around Paris. Some of the sites even let you skip the waiting line if you have the Museum Pass. We bought our passes just at the airport near baggage claim, but you can also buy them online and have them mailed to you before you go or you can pick them up in Paris when you get there. 
  • Metro Passes: Check out our post here to get all of the details on what and how to get the passes. 
  • Apps: Make sure to download these four apps before you get to Paris. 

Day 1:

Because you're in Paris, probably the first thing you will want to see is the Eiffel Tower. This is one of the attractions in Paris that opens at 9:00 am during peak season (mid-June through early September). You can check out our post here for specific details. Plan on spending 2-3 hours at this site, especially if you are planning on walking up the stairs! 

**For another cool Eiffel Tower experience, try going 30-60 minutes before sunset so you can watch the sun setting and see the tower lit up. While we did not do this on our trip, this was something I saw recommended after we were already home**

While at the Eiffel Tower, you may want to stop and eat at one of their restaurants or cafes. We found that the cafe had delicious food and wasn't too terribly priced. 

After viewing the Eiffel Tower, make sure to take some time back on the ground to take some pictures of the whole tower. When we were there, the grassy area in front of the tower was closed. So we just went across the Seine and were still able to get amazing pictures. 

From the Eiffel Tower, we suggest heading to the Arc de Triomphe. Check out our post here to find out details about the tricky way to go to get to the Arc. While at the Arc, we definitely suggest climbing up to the top if you can! After the Eiffel Tower, it might be a lot for people in poor health or for young children. Our legs definitely hurt after our first day but the stairs were worth it!
For an easy end to the day, we suggest going to Napoleon's Tomb and the Army Museum. While we didn't actually go inside the museum (because it was closed when we got there), from what we hear it is a good place to visit. Check out our post here about Napoleon's Tomb.
At this point we suggest finding a place to grab dinner. Our favorite places were little crepe stands and shops.

After dinner we headed back to our hotel to unwind and relax for the evening because we were so tired from touring all day! If you're up for it, head back to the Eiffel Tower to see it at night all lit up. The Arc de Triomphe at night is also an amazing sight.

Day 2:

The second day we suggest going to the old city center. By getting off at the Cite metro stop, you are within walking distance of 3 amazing sights in Paris. 

First, head over to Sainte Chapelle. This was my favorite place we saw in all of Paris. Plan on spending at least an hour there. Ben wanted to stay longer and I now wish that we would have. 

After Sainte Chapelle, go over to Notre Dame and wait in line to climb the towers. Check out Ben's post here about the towers. This was my second favorite thing we did in Paris. 

After the towers, grab some lunch at a crepe stand across the street from Notre Dame and start to listen to the Rick Steves Audio Europe App. Go to the track called Historic Paris. As you eat your crepes and start listening to Rick, you can stand in line to enter the cathedral. Even if the line looks long, it moves pretty fast. Check out Ben's post here about seeing the inside of Notre Dame. 
When you come out of the church, if you have time and want to cool down a bit, head on over to the Archeological Crypts at the opposite end of the plaza. 

After the Crypts, continue listening to Rick and take the Historic Paris walking tour. Sadly we did not have time to do this tour and I really wish that we had.  

If you aren't into seeing the Crypts, or you don't want to do the walking tour, you could go to the Louvre and Orsay Museums. But, we wouldn't suggest them, except maybe going to the outside of the Louvre Museum in order to see the glass pyramids. Check out my post about the Louvre here and why you probably don't need to see it.

Day 3:

This last day, we suggest spending in Versailles. It is such a beautiful place and you can literally spend all day there. Make sure to take into account transit time getter there. Since it is outside of the main city center area of Paris, it does take a little bit of extra time getting there but it is so worth it. See my detailed post about Versailles here

And there you have it! 3 days in Paris! We loved our time in Paris and are so grateful that we got to experience one of the most popular cities in the world. It is so popular for a good reason. There are so many things to see and do, but don't over schedule yourself. Take your time and really enjoy the place you are in. Look for the beauty and the details and take lots of pictures! But also spend time in the moment. I think we had a good balance of enjoying our time in the moment and enjoying our time through camera lenses. Plan and prepare, but don't freak out when plans don't go your way. 

We hope you have enjoyed this travel guide! Make sure to Pin if for later!

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