Sharmi on the Trot

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Archive for the tag “Things to do in France”

5 Ways to Plan Your First Europe Trip on a Budget

The Sleeping Beauty Castle

The Sleeping Beauty Castle in Germany

It’s summer in Europe and before you know it, you’ll be walking along Champs de Elysees, biting into churros dipped in chocolate and loving the ruins at the Roman Forum. But it’s the pre-holiday bit – the planning – which can be daunting. Especially when you’re travelling to Europe for the first time. Many feel it’s impossible to travel to the Continent on a budget on your own. So, they prefer to travel with groups and eat Indian food day in day out. But if you want to explore Europe on your own, eat and travel the way locals do, planning a budget trip is easy. Here’s how:

1) Set a Budget

The first step is very important. If you’re not earning in Euros or Dollars (I earn in Indian Rupees i.e $1 = Rs 63 approx) you must make sure you know how much you approximately want to spend on your trip. If you have an idea of how many days you want the trip to last, setting a budget becomes easier.
Eg: During my last trip to Europe, I decided to travel for about a month and accordingly set my budget. It included my return flights, internal travel, accommodation, food and the attractions I wanted to visit.

Seeing the Mona Lisa was high on my list

Seeing the Mona Lisa was high on my list

Notre dame in Paris

Notre dame in Paris

2) Save Money by Planning Ahead

It sounds preposterous but if you can figure out which part of the continent, which city or country you want to be in when around an approximate time, it becomes easier to save. Instead of shelling out 100 euros for a train ticket at the last moment, you can end up buying tickets for less than 10 euros.
Eg: I got an overnight bus ticket from Amsterdam to Paris for 8 euros since I booked about 12 weeks in advance. (Also Read: Loving Amsterdam on a Budget)

The beautiful canals of Amsterdam

The beautiful canals of Amsterdam

3) Travel Route

Once you figure out the approximate plan, decide your travel route. Start checking travel websites for deals in and out of Europe from your country. If you book 3-4 months in advance you will find cheap deals. It’s always easier to compare the prices on a travel website and then purchase the tickets from the actual airplane website.
Eg: I got a return fare from Munich to Delhi at Rs 42000 approximately.

It was easiest and cheapest to fly into Roma from Barcelona. Isn't the Fountain of Trevi beautiful?

It was easiest and cheapest to fly into Roma from Barcelona via Vueling.
Isn’t the Fountain of Trevi beautiful?

Now decide how you want to travel from city to city, country to country. The best way is a combination of trains, buses and flights. It’s useless to invest in a EuroRail pass. Eg: Instead of buying a pass for Rs 60000 approx, I used a combination for all internal travels at less than half the price. (Also Read: Paris on a Budget)
All tickets go on sale around 3-4 months before, so if you buy then, you save a lot.
Subscribe to Rail Europe, SNCB Europe, DB Bahn, Eurail, Eurolines, EasyJet, Vueling. They keep having offers.

4) Cheap Accommodation in Europe

Stay in key cities like Paris, Rome and Berlin can be expensive. But instead of booking in hotels, try booking in dorms or private rooms in hostels. Check out HostelWorld, HostelBookers and AirBnB.

The sister and I loving Parc Guell. We stayed in an AirBnb in Barcelona

The sister and I loving Parc Guell. We stayed in an AirBnb in Barcelona

Couchsurfing is a wonderful way to meet new people and understand the city from a local’s perspective.
Eg: I’ve surfed and hosted couchsurfers and I can vouch what a great experience it is. I’ve stayed in hostels in Italy, couchsurfed in Austria, France, Germany and booked in rooms via AirBnb in Spain. (Also Read: Why I Love to Couchsurf)

5) What to See, What to Eat

The best way to see a city is on foot. Instead of investing in City Cards, decide on the attractions you want to visit depending on the days you stay in the city and purchase separate tickets. You can never visit all attractions offered in a card in the limited time-span. Buying separate tickets often work out cheaper.

How can you not have churros when in Spain? The deep-fried delight with oodles of sugar is sinful as it's delectable.

How can you not have churros when in Spain? The deep-fried delight with oodles of sugar is sinful as it’s delectable.

Eating out every meal burns a hole in the pocket. Why not make a meal yourself? Buy local ingredients from markets and indulge in fresh baguettes with olives and meat in Paris. It’s cheap to taste the local street food. You can find crepes at less than 3 euros in France, Paella and Churros with Coffee at less than 10 euros in Spain, delicious pizzas at about 6 euros in Italy. So go indulge! (Also Read: Eating my way through Spain)

Over loading on fried prawns, calamari and mussels at La Boqueria

Over loading on fried prawns, calamari and mussels at La Boqueria

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Who can not try Paella in Spain, right?

Reminiscing about Roland Garros

The second Grand Slam of the year is underway and I could not be more excited! I doubt I’ve mentioned what I do when I’m not travelling or cooking, but my day-time job is of a sports journalist. And where would my specialisation lie? Tennis of course!

Guess what that is!

Guess what that is!

I don’t think I can remember a day when I haven’t heard the word tennis. Some statistic, some gossip, some childhood memory, some obscure video or book simply an article about a player. Associated with the sport since I was about four, it’s been a long long journey… from the courts to covering from the other side… it never tires.

Beautiful day isn't it?

Beautiful day isn’t it?

Anyway, getting back from all the rambling, I can’t help but feel nostalgic because last year this time I was roaming about the street of Paris, eating crepes sitting on the banks of Seine, admiring works of art at the Louvre… But among the few days I spent falling in love with the city, I took one whole morning off to visit Roland Garros. And when you have an all-access pass (well, somewhat) how can you not enjoy the second Grand Slam of the year!

Which way?

Which way?

Situated in the suburbs, it took me a while to reach Port d’Auteuil, the stop for Roland Garros on line 10, from where I was putting up. About a 15-20 minute walk away from the metro station exit ‘Roland Garros’, you come across many people who love the sport as much as you do. I met this rather determined old lady with a walking stick walking towards the Stadium. “Je na parle pas L’Anglais,” she smiled pointing towards the entrance. With a mattering of broken French I figured out she’s been going there for over 20 years now.

Flags in the sky!

Flags in the sky!

As the roads began to get crowded, I knew I was getting closer. The little tennis ball and racquet stickers on the side walk act as guiders. I was told to waltz in and ask for the pass kept under my name. They turned out to be the florescent wrist bands which are reserved for player guests among others. That was fun!

When you walk into Roland Garros, you realise just how small the area is. I mean I knew it wasn’t as big as Wimbledon, but for years what you’ve seen on television and when you actually stand there – there’s a major difference. But there’s no dearth of atmosphere. The air is charged with excitement, fans move about carrying large tennis balls which will be shortly filled with autographs, tennis officials looking smart in Chanel-inspired outfits giving instructions – it’s everything a Grand Slam should be.

Roaming about

Roaming about

I made my way to Bullring or Court 1 to catch up on the matches. The stadium is so tiny that you feel the red clay is at your feet (Watching a match from the player box does have its perks!). It was a gorgeous feeling. First up was India’s very own Sania Mirza partnering Bethanie Mattek-Sands. It was a good match but I was longing to look around the stadium. Before I knew it, it was time to explore.

That's Court Suzanne Lenglen!

That’s Court Suzanne Lenglen!

I played tennis thanks to my grandfather. Since the age of four, I had heard tales of the importance of Davis Cup, how the French Musketeers surprised the Americans in 1927, the exploits of the likes of Helen Wills-Moody, Bill Tilden, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson… I heard it all. And I would dream. Dream of one day witnessing it all. The replica of the Davis Cup stands tall as you walk to look for souvenirs. I tried to imagine how things were in 1928. Very different to the giant screen or children slurping on ice lollies I’m sure.

Yes, I'm feeling a bit smug!

Yes, I’m feeling a bit smug! (notice the wrist!)

The little florescent wrist band allowed me certain privileges – like walk down the east tunnel entrance into Court Suzanne Lenglen over which stands the legend’s sculpture, barge into the players area (unfortunately Roger Federer wasn’t playing that day) and watch Serena Williams on the red clay. It was something I had been dreaming for a rather long time.

The bas relief of the legend - Suzanne Lenglen

The bas relief of the legend – Suzanne Lenglen

Apart from the three stadiums – Philippe Chatrier, Suzanne Lenglen and Court 1 – the rest of the 17 courts are open to the public. After a quick bite and a Roland Garros photograph (I was such a tourist!) I went to the open courts to check up on proceedings. Since this was the second week of the Slam, the juniors were showing off their calibre on the red clay. There’s something so magical about the clay sticking to your white socks, I mean it feels real. Yes, this is the French Open.

Court Philippe Chatrier

Court Philippe Chatrier

It was Serena’s defeat which suddenly triggered this memory. Well, I did see the American live in action last summer! Anyway, after a whole day of fun, frolic and laughter (and learning new French words) it was time to head back. But somehow as I walked back to the metro station with the canopy of greens sheltering me, I knew I would be back one day. I only wish it’s sometime soon.

The red clay against the blue sky - almost poetic isn't it?

The red clay against the blue sky – almost poetic isn’t it?

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