Secrets to Best Eiffel Tower Experience

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Paris is never on the very top of my list of places I would go back to again and again, but when I find myself there I always do love the over looking views of Paris on the Eiffel Tower.  We have been there a couple of times, and each time we find ourselves on the Eiffel Tower at the most perfect time.  Here are my tips to having the perfect Eiffel Tower experience.

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Buy tickets ahead of time

Purchasing your tickets ahead of time does cost more,  but we are only talking about 6 euros more than the regular ticket price.  Those 6 euros are more than worth it.  Some days the line can be outrageous to buy your tickets at the tower, possible 1-2 hours of waiting in line.  When you pass by the tourists waiting in the heat or cold you will be thankful.

Mark in you calendar when to buy tickets

If planning your trip far enough a head of time make sure you set a reminder of when to buy your tickets.  They go on sale three months out.  During tourist season these can go fast.  I would recommend setting a calendar reminder for your purchase.  If you are planning with less than three months to go, no big deal there still can be tickets available but it might not be on the time or day that works perfectly into your schedule.

Splurge for the top of the tower

There are two sets of tickets for purchase.  2nd floor lift tickets and tickets to the top.

Definitely go for the tickets to the top, this one gives you access to BOTH the 2nd floor and the top of the tower by lifts.  The 2nd floor it also accessible by stairs, so this is not really giving you the full tower experience.  For comparison the second floor stand at 377 feet which it tall! but the third floor is 905 feet from the ground! A BIG difference!  Even though I believe checking out the second floor is worth it, go to the top as well.  The second floor has restaurants, bars and more.  It seems like its own little town within itself.

2nd floor lift prices-

at the tower: 10 euros

pre sale: 16 euros

Tickets to the top prices-

at the tower: 19 euros

pre sale: 25 euros

Although there is a price difference it is definitely worth it to go to the top!

Pick your time slot

The most important secret for getting the best Eiffel Tower experience is going at the perfect time of day! Check the Paris time and date calendar (here) before picking out your time slot.  And go just before the city of Paris loses light.  About an hour before is perfect.  Seriously this is the best way to overlook Paris in the daylight and after you snap a few pictures and wander around the top you will get to see all the sparkling lights over the city at night.  And really its the best!  I will be honest I am not a fan of Paris, but I am a fan of this!  And you get the best of both worlds, daylight and nightlights.  It truly unbelievable.   Go! -and tell me about it! I would love to hear your experiences as well.

And look at these views!

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What to do in Chamonix

What to do in Chamonix

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If you have never been to Chamonix, drop what you are doing right now and book the next flight out.  If I could live in this charming alps town in France I would in a heart beat.  Hiking in the summer months, skiing in the winter and coming home to eat things cover in hot cheese, can you possibly ask for anything more in life??  Chamonix was a perfect break from our few days in the hustling and bustling city of Paris.  Although I would be perfectly happy sitting on a porch eating cheese, cured meats, and sipping wine while peacefully gazing at the mountains and glaciers there are some pretty great things to do Chamonix.

1. Take the cable car to Mont Blanc

Don’t leave Chamonix without at least taking the cable car up to Aiguille du Midi.  The cable car ride makes two stops on the the way up.  One at small jut out with a shop and lunch stop and one at the top of the mountain point which is the main attraction  This is incredible, Aiguille du Midi is actually the highest mountain top point you can get to with access from the cable car in the WORLD! You can’t get any higher in the world than right here, unless you are someone who treks up sides of mountains often.  How cool is that??  Try to plan this around the weather and go on a clear day.  They views are breath taking and worth all the money for your ticket.

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2. Take a ride on the train

Take the famous little train to the top to get to the Montenvers building.  Make sure you get a window seat to see the sights over town on your way up and down.  From here you have a panoramic view of Mer de Glace Glacier, and many mountain peak views.

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3. Hike down to the glacier

From the train stop from above you have the option to hike down to the Mer de Glace Glacier and even go inside the Ice Cave.  The ice cave is re-sculpted every year as the glacier is melting and moving.  The hike is only about 20 minutes and it is all downhill.  If not up for the hike there is a gondola that will take you closer to the entrance of the Ice Cave.  And remember a hike down to the Ice Cave means a hike up! Unless we you to use the gondola, which we did on the way back up!

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4. Hike- long or short

Being near the Alps there are always great hiking options, both long and short hikes.  Just make sure the paths are clear of snow and ice unless you have the proper equipment with you.  I would suggest taking one of the ski lifts up and hiking down!

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5. Visit the local bakeries

Every bakery we went into in Chamonix was absolutely delicious!  I still dream about waking up to the pastries that we enjoyed in Chamonix.  I usually am not one crazy about breads in the US but those European pastries and croissants…I could never get sick of them.

6. Eat fondue

One of my favorite memories in Chamonix is dipping cured meats into hot cheese, sipping on a glass of wine all while staring at the mountains surrounding us.  I could have stayed in that seat for as long as they would let me.

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Some other things we saw people doing, but we did not get a chance to partake in were:

  • Rock Climbing in the local park
  • Small Casino
  • Chamonix Luge Alpine Coaster

 

 

Visiting Killarney Brewing Company

Killarney Brewing Company

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We always love to find the best eats and drinks in the towns we travel to.  Before arriving I thought for sure that Ireland would mostly serve major Irish labels in their local bars.   After a little research we found out we were very wrong.  Most towns had at least one local brewery.  One of our favorite was in Killarney, Ireland named Killarney Brewing Company.

After a day driving around the Ring of Kerry (our itinerary here) we made it just before closing at Killarney Brewing Company.  The brewery offers tours, has a gift shop and occasionally has food available for purchase.  Due to laws when we went in March 2017 they are not able to directly sell you a pint or tasting.  As described to us upon entering you can still find a way to enjoy their brews.  One way would be purchasing a pint glass at the gift shop and they will fill it up with purchase.  The other way would be buying a tour pass which includes a sampler tasting at the end of the tour (this is what we chose to do).

In our travels we have been to multiple brewery, winery and distillery tours.  I will admit they start to get repetitive as you learn about the processes of making alcohol.  But we thoroughly enjoyed this tour.

We came in running late so the tour group had already gotten started on the included samples.  We had to wait until the end for ours.  The tour started out with a humorous video made by the staff explaining the history of the town and beer making in Ireland.  A short tour around the building we were back to get to taste their products.

As any local brewery does their taps rotate for seasonal flavors.  And as in most of Ireland they were not skimpy on their samples.  We got to try 8 between the two of us.

We sampled:

  • Scarlet Pimpernal IPA
  • Golden Spear Blonde
  • Devils Hells Lager
  • Casey Brothers: Extra Stout
  • Spailpin Saison
  • Rutting Red Ale
  • Christmas in Killarney
  • Brazen Banshee

The staff there was more than friendly, they gave us a map circling their favorite eats and drinks around the town before we headed out for dinner.  I would definitely come back to this brewery if I found myself back in Killarney and recommend that you go as well!

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How to Pick the best AirBnb for your Trip

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During our travels we tend to stay in a lot of AirBnB rentals.  This is not the only way we have booked stays, hostels, hotels, sleeper trains and more are all options for choosing a place to sleep at night.  But with AirBnb and another home rentals we have found some gems making our trip even more memorable, even staying on a boat in Paris!  The ease of having all of our places booked through the same site makes communication easier and we have always had an enjoyable experience.  While searching where to stay we always have had some things we consider each time.

Transportation

Depending on what type of traveling we are doing we may be be arriving at a new destination differently each time.  Sometimes we may be in a rental car, our own car, using trains, buses or any other type of city transportation.

Thinking about this will help narrow down a good location to stay.  If arriving in:

A rental car/personal car:  If arriving in car make sure that the location has parking available.  If there is no on site parking try to find out if there are parking garages nearby, street parking or any other safe place to park your car over night.  Also think about how much luggage you have and how far of a walk you are willing to take on with said luggage.

Train/public transit:  Always check the location of the rental in comparison of what type for transportation you plan on using.  Look if you are able to reach the public transit within walking distance, or a short Uber drive (discount code).  Especially if needing to catch an early train or bus to your next destination, or coming in late at night.  The last thing you want to do is be wandering unknown streets in the middle of the night, or in bad weather.

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Sleeping Arrangements

No matter the number of people staying at a location make sure you know how many beds and what the sleeping arrangements are.  We always scan the pictures counting the number of beds in the rental.  Often places list their maximum number of occupants, but they do not add up equally with sleeping spots.  One time I found a place that seemed to have labeled a few sleeping spots as the Lazy-Boy recliners.  Not my ideal sleeping arrangement after a long day of traveling.

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Meals

Think about what type of trip you plan on going on.  If this one you plan on making your own breakfast, lunch or dinners?  Always check and see if there will be a cooking area available.  Especially if you are renting a shared space.  In Ireland we looked for places that had a breakfast available in the mornings, we knew some of the small towns may not have many options open during the off tourist season or early in the morning before day trips.  If planning to eat out a lot check Google maps that there are restaurants within walking distance.

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Laundry

This is something not on our priority list every trip.  But when planning a multiple week trip you often want some time to be able to wash a load of clothes to wear again.  We occasionally pick out a rental that has a washer and dryer when we have trips that either last multiple weeks and or that we plan on hiking and sweating a lot.  No fun putting sweaty clothes in your suitcase next to your clothes you still need to wear.  We don’t look for this in every rental but just certain locations and times.  And having a washer and dryer in your apartment makes it better than wasting a day of your vacation finding and waiting at a laundry mat all day.

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Reviews

Read the reviews before booking! Sometimes you may come across hosts that have cancelled on their guest a lot, stay away from those.  Reviews will also give you more insight on the city, rental and host.  Do keep in mind that some people are nit picky when it comes to writing a review behind a screen, but go with your gut on this one!

Remember rental living areas are not always the best and cheapest options.  We have stayed at many hotels, bed & breakfasts and coming up soon even a campervan! We still had an enjoyable experience in all of them.  Find what fits your trip and vibe the best.

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Travel Gift’s for Under $25

As the holiday season approaches I wanted to take some time to round up some of gift ideas for your favorite travel enthusiast is your life.  Some of these items make great stocking stuffers and are on my list as well 😉  And the best part about these gifts are that they are all under $25!

Pack-able Water Bottles

Valpur Pack-able Water Bottles

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Hydrapack Stash Collapsible Water Bottle

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Packing cubes

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Toiletries Containers 

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Quick Dry towels (variety of sizes)

Turkish Towels: For the beach, baths, and blankets

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Small Towels: For personal use

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Cord bag

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Hiking the Southern France Calanques

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In the summer of 2016 we had tickets to one of the Euro Cup games.  Our game was set in Marseille, France and we got to watch England vs Russia.  It was our first out of country soccer game and it was a blast.  Definitely an unforgettable experience.  We knew we would be in Marseille for a few days and wanted to see some of the best sites.  A friend pointed us in the direction of the Calanques National Park.  This park spreads pretty wide across the coast but is an approximate 45 minute drive from the city center of Marseille.

If traveling to this area I definitely think heading to these blue narrow inlets dipped into the sea side cliffs is a must!

You have a few options to get to these Calanques:

1. By boat tour

2. Kayak

3. Hike (what we did!)

Although the others seem just as amazing I will tell you about our hiking experience.

These can be tricky to get to by train from Marseille but definitely possible.  We were lucky and had a rental car, so a few toll booths and about an hour drive we arrived in the town of Cassis.  Cassis is a small town and completely adorable to walk around for a day.

Parking:

We first made the mistake of trying to take our rental car right into the heart of town, but parking was slim and the roads were narrow.  We finally found a parking lot across the street from the Le Bestouan beach. This lot was great, I would recommend the location and ease of finding a spot here instead of on the narrow streets.

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Before we set out on our hike we stopped at a restaurant right by the parking lot called “Le Pastis by Little Papé”.  They were kind enough to let us purchase some sandwiches to-go, we put those in our backpacks to enjoy during our hike as it was still a little early for lunch.

Once ready to start follow the signs to the right (if facing the beach).  This starts with a small walk through the town roads before getting to the trail head.

Calanque #1

Calanque de Port-Miou

This was first calanque we came across, right off the walk through the streets.  It looks more like marina instead of a natural landscape, but still beautiful with its blue waters.  Boats were docked along the edges.  Once passing this one is when you arrive at more of a dirt path and need good shoes. For the rest of this hike make you may want to have a pair of hiking or gym shoes, we saw many people struggling that did not have the proper footwear.  Although it seems like you are just heading to the beach, this hike has lots of slick rocks and hilly landscapes to climb up and down (pictures below).

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Calanque #2

Calanque de Port Pin

After hitting more the the hiking trail head to the first of the beach-y calanques.  This hikes brings you to the top of the calanques to over look the beautiful waters on the coastal side of France. Absolutely magical.  A steep climb up and right back down brought us to the second calanque of the day.  I was in awe of the crystal blue waters.  Make sure you bring a swim suit to take a dip in these amazing waters.  We also enjoyed our packed sandwiches on the rocky sides here.  After a quick stop knowing we would see it again on our way back we took off for a third and final calanque.

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Calanque #3

Calanque d’En-Vau

This was definitely more of an aggressive hike.  A lot more than we realized but all worth it in the end.  At some points I felt like we were scaling the cliff sides! Definitely some steep inclines and declines, and the loose rocks didn’t help.  It is where the gym shoes become a necessity.  It was quiet the hot day in June so we were glad we brought plenty of water.

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After awhile we were covered in sweat and dust but made it d’En-Vau.  I felt like this one was a lot more dramatic than the others.  The sides of the inlet were so tall you had to to really turn your neck to see all of it.

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Although the waters were a little cold, getting in is amazing.  Not only does it feel great after that hot long hike, when else would I get the chance to go into these incredible coastal French waters.  We were with another couple so we took turns watching our backpacks on the beach.  I could of spend all day here, relaxing, climbing the rocks, and people watching.  This was definitely the most blue and surreal waters I have ever been to.

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After awhile we had to pull ourselves away and head back.  We stopped at Calanque de Port Pint again, and got in the water more as it was not as crowded on our way back.

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After arriving in Cassis we headed into the town to get dinner and some drinks to enjoy at our apartment while watching the first of the Euro Cup games before ours the next day.

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Somethings you might want to consider while hiking:

  • There are a lot of other calanques that are easier to access but not as scenic
  • If not able to complete the hikes the boat tours looked great, and brought you right into the calanques, as well as the kayaking looked like amazing!!
  • Make sure you bring your swimsuit, it’s hard to resist getting into those waters
  • Bring lunch so you can spend more time there
  • Make sure you have plenty of water!
  • Again wear good shoes!

 

 

What to Pack for Zion National Park

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When visiting Zion, and especially planning to complete some of their must see hikes, such as Angel’s Landing, The Narrows and Observation Point don’t leave without these items.  When we spent 2 days in Zion, you can read about it here, we were glad to have everyone of these essentials.

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1. Hydration Bladders

If enjoying some of the longer hikes at Zion you want to make sure you stay plenty hydrated.  Hydration bladders are the best way to go.  They are lightweight, fit well in most hiking backpacks and can be easily be refilled.  I would suggest getting a 3L bladder.  Although this seems like a lot the water it will go fast, especially if hiking during the summer months.  Zion has a few areas to refill but they are not at every bus stop, so it is better to be prepared.

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2. Hiking Poles

These are a must if wanting to hike The Narrows, but they also came in handy during other hikes as well.  The Narrows can get quiet slippery, these will give you more stability when trying to maneuver the river and slick rocks.  The poles also helped when trying to figure out the depth of the river at varying points.  My sister had these pack-able hiking poles which folded up nicely during hikes like Angel’s Landing in which you don’t need them.

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3. Hiking Shoes

Make sure you have a sturdy pair of shoes with a great grip on them.  You will need it while on Angel’s Landing and The Narrows when you need that extra traction.  I love using my Ahnu shoes, but don’t forget to pack an extra pair or some sandals to change into after getting wet in The Narrows.  We hiked the river as our last hike of the day to make sure we weren’t in soggy shoes the rest of the day.

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4. Waterproof Bags

If planning to hike The Narrows you want to make sure your gear is protected.  If bringing anything valuable with you (cameras, cell phones, etc) make sure you have a waterproof bag.  I used a friends waterproof backpack as I had my camera with me, but these pouches are great for cellphones.

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5. Food/Snacks

Some of the hikes in Zion can be pretty lenghty, make sure you pack some snacks to give yourself an energy boost.  Getting back to the Lodge to get lunch can be hard to do with their busing system.  We packed things such as jerky sticks, peanut butter crackers, applesauce pouches, granola bars, tuna packets, fruit strips, etc.

Some other things to consider:

  • Camera
  • Waterproof Camera for The Narrows
  • Hat
  • I love these Columbia shirts to keep the sun off (and they have pockets!)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Quick drying clothes