Thursday, August 30, 2018

Denmark ( Copenhagen, Odense)

Our plan was to visit Norway, but we figured that Denmark was a short flight away and having family in Odense meant we definitely wanted to spend a couple of days here. Hence we booked our flight to and from Oslo to Copenhagen or Kobhaven through SAS airlines. Except for their capital city of Copenhagen, there isn't much to see we figured. Here is our itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive in Copenhagen -> drive to Odense
Day 2: drive back to Copenhagen and fly out to Oslo

When to go:

I found this clock really fascinating
We were here for a couple of days end of August and it was drizzling all through. I would perhaps recommend going earlier in summer for a sunnier weather.

Getting around:

Public transport is your best option. We got a bit lazy and decided to rent a car and drive to Odense, which was only a couple of hours drive, but it turned out to be an expensive proposition due to tolls and rental. Public transport is pretty well connected and your best bet. I won't complain about the drive though, the bridge and the views of the sea were quite pretty! 

Luggage storage:

In case you want to take a day trip to Copenhagen, which is not a bad idea at all, you can store your luggage at the airport or the train station. We had intended to do that, but after renting a car, we didn't store our luggage. 


Round tower
It's the third largest city in Denmark, but still a very small City by any standard. We were here to meet family and we are so glad we did. Drive to Odense is beautiful. The views of the sea are spectacular and I have always been in awe of European road engineering especially with bridges and tunnels. We also got to witness our families Desi Danish life. 
The town is small and had a very calm and serene vibe. We were happy to gobble up home cooked Indian food and later went for a walk to a nearby park and pond and then to a community garden closeby. Ate fresh Danish apples and walked back home. Was so lovely to meet our nephew and our niece. For those looking for more things to do, Odense is the hometown of Christian Anderson, writer of some famous children story books like The Ugly Duckling. You could visit his house and his museum. Another things to do would be to visit the Egeskov Castle and the church in the city. We went to the castle but ditched going in as it was raining and we wanted to get to Copenhagen and spend as much time as we could in the city.


This city has lots to see and you can plan your entire day visiting various tourist spots. Again, we shouldn't have rented the car because parking was crazy expensive. But we didn't have a choice. First stop was an Italian restaurant, Spaghetteria la Perla, for some good lunch. Now we were set to walk around and explore the old town on foot.
We started walking to the round tower (Rundetaam) and the church. Then we walked all the way to the City Hall square and visited the clock museum. Clocks always fascinate me, hence the visit. Next up was walk through Stroget to Nyhaven. Goal was to take a boat tour. But, we didn't check the times earlier and ended up missing the one that had just left. So, plan your day trip around this tour if you want to get on one.
One of the many fountains in the city
Anyhow, we decided that since it had stopped drizzling, we would simply walk around the old town. So, we walked along the colorful boat harbor to Amalienborg and the Geifan fountain, and carried on to the The Little Mermaid statue. This was an absolute must on my list. Why, I don't know, but I have read and heard so much about it, that I just had to visit and take pictures of this statue. Mind you, it is quite a long walk, but had plenty of pretty sceneries to offer. From he we walked back to Frederik's church and picked up dinner to go from Indian restaurant, Caven before driving to the airport for our return flight.
I strongly feel that we should have stayed for a little longer may be another day and enjoyed the evening/ night here in Copenhagen. We missed visiting the freetown Christiania and going to Rosenberg Castle. Our rough walking map in case you want to get an idea.


What else to do in Denmark:

My favorite - mermaid statue

  • Drive to Sweden via an underground tunnel. I hear its pretty exciting and popular htings to do as lot of people combine their travel to these countries.
  • Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen are another popular attraction that we completely skipped in the interest of time.
  • Lot of museums to visit. 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Norway (Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Geiranger, Alesund, Andalsnes)

Norway had always felt like a far fetched destination on the map. But this time, when I took some time off between the jobs, I felt it was a perfect time to go to Norway. But when I started exploring I realized this country looks much smaller on the map because of the latitude, but it is actually a very big country and travelling around the country isn't as easy. Hence we settled down for a shorter quicker tour of the country. Here is a brief itinerary:
Day 0: Arrive in Oslo
Day 1: Norway in a nutshell ( Olso-> Bergen)
Day 2: Day in Bergen. Fly to Stavanger at night
Day 3: Pulpit ferry and hike to pulpit rock
Day 4: Fly to KSU(Kristinasund) -> drive via high Atlantic road to Alesund -> Geiranger
Day 5: Ferry in Geirangerfjord -> drive to Molde via Trollstingen. Stay in Molde.
Day 6: Drive to Molde airport and fly to Oslo
Day 7: Day in Oslo
Day 8: Fly out in the evening.

When to go:

Norway countryside
Summers! Of course. Unless you are targeting auroras and want to fly to north Norway in winters. I am not a great fan of winters and can definitely do without auroras, hence the plan to always target summer months in any country we plan to visit. Norway however, we ended up going during end of winters, which was late August. Summers were ending, but winters had not yet begun.

Where to fly:

Oslo is the biggest airport. So you will find plenty of flights getting in to Norway. Even though it might be the biggest airport in this country, it isn't as big as other airports you might have seen. So, we chose to fly in to Oslo, however there are some airlines, like Norwegian and SAS which fly in and out of many other airports in the country connecting other Scandinavian countries. So you could totally fly in and out of different airports if that is how you want to plan your travel.

Drive or fly for intra-country travel:

Norway is a huge country, don't fall in to the trap of their deceptive size on the map. Plus driving around isn't that simple. We realized that it may be better to just fly between cities of interest and drive locally if needed, instead of driving between the cities. And this turned out to be a huge time saver for us. Unless you are planning a road trip in Norway, there is no reason for you to be driving within cities.
Ready for Norway in a nutshell

Arrive in Oslo

We were flying in from Copenhagen, or as you would see on airport terminals, Kobhaven. Yes, it can be confusing, so be prepared to look for Scandinavian names instead of the English names of the cities. We had booked a hotel closer to the Norway central station as we had to board our train for our Norway in a nutshell tour from this station early morning at 6 am the next day. Oslo is in general a safe city and it was perfectly convenient to take an uber or a train from the airport to the hotel.

Norway in a Nutshell

Cruise ships docked in Flam
Myrdal station
This is by far the most convenient and easiest way to get a taste of Norway. If you are here for a short time, I highly recommend it. It had fjords, trains, scenic rides all wrapped into one. Their website offers multiple options, over multiple number of days, but we chose the one day option from Oslo to Bergen. Two things you must keep in mind, first, you must collect your physical tickets for a part of your tour from their kiosks at railway stations and airport which have limited hours of operation. So, plan accordingly. Second, We booked a porter service from Oslo to Bergen, which simply picked our luggage from our hotel in Oslo and transported it to our hotel in Bergen. This way, we didn't have to ferry our luggage around through multiple hops. Super duper convenient. Now about the tour itself, ours was the original Norway in a nutshell tour.
Oslo to Myrdal by train: First leg of our journey was a train ride from Oslo to Myrdal. After the first couple of hours of mundane train journey, the views became better and better as we gained altitude. Last hour or so were very pretty and keep your cameras ready if you have been lucky enough to be assigned window seats. We were!
Myrdal to Flam by legendary Flam railway: This is a very cute scenic ride going through several hairpin bends with waterfalls along the way to the town of Flam located in the fjord. Our train stopped for few minutes midway where there was a performance by a lady dressed in a white gown on some music, keeping up with some old folk tale. Was funny.
Flam: Once you are in Flam, you get an hour or so to unwind, get lunch and enjoy the fjord. There are a few short hikes nearby that you could indulge in. We did a short hike nearby in the time we had after we grabbed lunch. Its a beautiful tiny little valley town. Here is the official site for Flam tourism.
Ferry ride/cruise from Flam to Gudvangen: The cruise takes you through Aurlandsfjord and Naeroyfjord to Gudvangen. The fjord cruises are all very serene and peaceful You see some waterfalls along the way and the calm waters of the fjord. There won't be much for you distinguish between various fjord cruises except for the surrounding mountains.
Gudvangen to Voss
Bus ride from Gudvangen to Voss: This was one interesting bus ride. The roads are narrow with hairpin turns. A couple of times I did have my heart in my mouth while on the bus. The view offered were beautiful though. Lush green mountainous landscapes while you are on a good 15-20 degree downward incline.
Voss to Bergen train ride: The final leg of our journey. Was mostly through plains which were fields and farms and of course green. I dozed off through most of this journey as we had had a long day. But were glad to have discovered Norway in a nutshell.
Once in Bergen, we walked to our hotel Radisson Blu, which wasn't too far from the station and luckily found an Indian restaurant on our way back to dine at, Arti Indik. At our hotel, our luggage was waiting for us and it was time for a nice shower and a good night's sleep.
To Note: Mind you, it isn't a guided tour, just a bunch of tickets that were purchased for you and its simple to follow the route. You could do the same by booking the tickets yourself at the times you find convenient.

Day in Bergen

Bergen from the top
City centre
Initially, we had planned that Sumit might go biking nearby, but it was constantly drizzling and biking was ruled out. We also thought of renting a car and driving up to Rosendal, but then we both got lazy and decided to have an easy day in Bergen. We were staying at Radisson Blu which was  an excellent choice. Loved the hotel, the location and the amenities. Breakfast in the morning was sumptuous and I was ready for the day. All we had to do was remember to carry our umbrellas. First, we walked along the cobbled pathways and visited a tiny museum nestled up in a house in the alleys right behind our hotel. Then we walked about to the entrance of the funicular that takes you all the way up to the Floibanen. It offers a bird's eye view of this port city. We just walked around the area and then it started drizzling again, so decided to come back to the city and grab something to eat and drink. After a cup of coffee and sandwiches, it was more walking through the city. Its a very walk able town and we just enjoyed the small tiny little shops everywhere. Then we walked across the port to get a look at the colorful houses, or the Bryggen. Its a little far for taking pictures, but otherwise it offers a good view. Now this side of the city was little more modern and had a mall and some upscale shops.  After strolling for sometime, we decided it was time to get early dinner and take a bus to the airport. We ate at Maharaja and the food was good. Then we picked our bags and got on the bus to the airport which btw, is the most convenient way to get the airports in Norway as most of the airports are fairly outside the city.
There was also an old church we visited, right behind our hotel and there are other plenty of things to see and do in Bergen, which we conveniently skipped for an easy day. You will find more details and  an itinerary for spending a day in Bergen here.


Colorful houses in Stavanger
Our flight from Bergen was on time, but we were reaching pretty late, just before midnight. The airports, like I said are fairly outside the cities, so the best way to get in and out is by local buses if you don't plan to rent a car at the airport, which we didn't. We took this bus service to city centre, and simply mapped the drop off location closest to our Airbnb. Such a safe country, we didn't feel unsafe at all while walking in the middle of the night to our rented location. Our AirBnb was just 10-15 minutes walking distance form the city center. Once we reached, we just dozed off as the next day we were planing on a long hike and a cruise.
Next morning, we were up bright and early and decided to explore the town on foot before our cruise at 12 noon. So, we walked the old town, took pictures near the old church, wooden houses, the tower and the pier after grabbing breakfast. It is a really small town and the old town area is easily walkable and explorable on foot.

Lysefjord cruise and Pulpit rock hike

Lysefjord cruise
I wanted to combine the fjord cruise and the hike and I found a perfect option for that. The cruise left at 12 noon and took us through the Lysefjord, then dropped us off. Here a bus picked us up and dropped us at the base of the hike. After the hike, another bus would pick us up and drop us off at the ferry terminal, Tau, for the ferry to take us back to Stavanger. It worked like a charm. Note that the return from the base of the hike has fixed departure times for the buses, so time your hike accordingly. If you are interested, here is the link to Rodne cruises with which we made the booking.
The cruise through the fjord is like any another cruise, infact I would say the Sognefjord and Geiranger cruises were better. This one was just to get to the base of the hike.
Ready to hike
The hike is challenging though. Pack yourself enough water and snacks. Its not an easy one. It took us 2 hours for the uphill climb and took us 1:45 hours for the downhill. Wear sturdy shoes and be aware of the slipper rocks in between. Once at the top, I absolutely loved it. Some people were brave enough to take picture sitting at the edge, I clearly wasn't. But the flat rock at the top and the view of the fjord from here is absolutely gorgeous and majestic and totally worth the hike. I was so so happy to get this off my bucket list. Here is the official site for details about the hike and how to get there.
Once back the base, like I mentioned earlier, we took the bus back to the ferry terminal which took us back to the city centre. Then we got some good dinner at Delhi restaurant, some really good Indian food in Norway I must say, or may be we were too hungry! Now was the time for an easy stroll back home and crashing for the night.
Made it!

Drive High Atlantic Road to Geiranger

We had our flight booked from Stavanger to KSU(Kristinasund) on SAS airlines in the morning. But, our flight was cancelled and we were put on another flight to KSU via Oslo. This totally disrupted our plans for the day as we got in 2-3 hours later than expected. So we decided to see how things panned out and make a call accordingly. Luckily, the days are so long in summer.
We rented a car at the airport and drive straight to the High Atlantic Road. There are some spots which give you a very view of the road and once you are underwater, I was so freaked out, but apparently this is totally common in Europe. I just felt that the tunnel is going to collapse by water weight at some point. But nothing happened, of course. There are a few spots, where you can stop and take pictures and enjoy the sea.
High Atlantic Road
Eagle Road to Geiranger
We decided to skip Alesund and drive up to Bud and then turn to Geiranger as we were already very behind on our schedule. Else, the plan would have been to go to Alesund and get lunch there. But we took a break in Molde instead. This is a bigger town which is a popular stop for cruise ships. From here there are regular ferries (for people and vehicles) to cross the water bodies. I was totally in awe of these car ferries. Saved so much time going around instead, Just drive in your car on to the ferry. Get out, get coffee or something, and then just drive out! So cool. So we took two ferries, one from Molde to Vestnes and another one to Valldal.
Our route
The drive was pretty from Vestness to Geiranger. Some areas were narrow and curvy and a little challenging to drive, especially the Eagle Road, but nothing unmanageable. And this road offers the best views of the fjord. We reached geiranger pretty late in the night. And it was all very quiet. Luckily we had gotten some dinner to go in Molde, so we didn't have to look for food that late in the night. All hotels offer a very pretty view of the fjord and are located at the very end of the fjord. Postcard worthy views of this town and the neighboring areas. Lots of hikes to explore too.


View of Geirangerfjord from our hotel
Next morning, we had a pre booked tour of the fjord. Many options for the fjord cruise. There are quite a few hikes and you could get dropped off at the base and hike all the way up get the bird's eye view of the fjord. We didn't explore that option and simply opted for a regular cruise in the fjord. The town if so picturesque that Sumit opted for an early morning run before the cruise. The town is located at an elevation, so I am guessing any activity would be a little more tiring than usual. The cruise was one of the prettier ones and this fjord is definitely one of the better fjords we saw in Norway. The drive up to the town and the fjord itself are very unique. After our short cruise, we got lunch, did some souvenir shopping, ice cream eating and picture taking before heading out of the town.

Drive to Molde via Andalsnes and Trollstingen:

We drove back through the Eagle Road, this time stopped again to take pictures and take one final look at the Geirangerfjord. From here we drove straight to Trollstingen. What a beautiful road with such curvy hairpin bends. Its one of the bucket list items for cyclists. I had tried so hard to convince Sumit to rent a bike and give it a try, but he had no enthu and I really wish to go back for him to try this out. You will see a lot of bikers on your drive and I can only imagine the euphoria at the end of the climb.
Trollstingen is a proper tourist spot, with an area to park cars and then walk up to the vista points. Some of them offer picturesque views of the entire valley.
From here we drive to Andalsnes, which is another popular tourist town and had lunch at Bakgarden Thai, good Thai food. And then had coffee at Sodahlhuset. A very tiny coffee shop with excellent coffee. That's the things about such family run coffee shops, they have unique settings and give excellent coffee, such a refreshing change from your regular Starbucks.
We then drive to Molde, again via an underwater tunnel, less nerve wrecking this time. We reached early evening and had some time to walk around the city. Explore some fountains
, streets, a very old church and then grab dinner at a local restaurant, Egon. Next morning, was our flight to Oslo from Molde airport,  this would be our final stop, before our vacation ends.


Hello sunshine!
Our walking map
Welcome to a city! Well connected public transport, a big city center and lots to offer. We reached very early in the morning, so we had planned to store our luggage at the airport instead of checking into our hotel. Super convenient option once you find the lockers. Then we took a train straight to city center. Our touristy day in Olso began with visit to a cathedral in the city center. Like we all know, I love cathedrals! The city has too many museums and halls to offer, so pick the ones you would like to visit. Here is our rough walking route to just explore the city on foot.
We walked from Central station to Oslo Cathedral. From here we walked through the Karl Johans street all the way to the National Theater. From here we walked to the Nobel Peace Center. Then hung out by the pier and the street with lots of cafeterias and restaurants for some time Then walked to the Akershus fortress and spent sometime walking around this area before finally walking to the Opera building. We didn't really go inside most of the museums, except for the Nobel Peace prize one. From here, we took a bus to the Viking ship museum. I was really curious to explore that for some reason. Was pretty cool to see the typical viking ships. You see them in movies and pictures, but I was happy to see them for real. And then we were back to our hotel to call it a day on our very interesting and a picturesque Norway vacation.
Viking Ship museum

What else to do:

Who knows, a kiss might turn a troll into a prince!

  • Fjord Cruise: A lot of people explore Norway Fjords on a cruise. Definitely a great option to combine cruise experience with fjord tourism. I never though about it because it needs a minimum of 10 days or so and I was also interested in other activities.
  • Hikes: Norway boasts of hiking as its national sport. So, yes, there are quite a few hikes in this country which a world famous. Mostly Pulpit rock (the one we did), Trolltunga and the Kjerag Boulder. Google for them to see the fascinating pictures. This is best site to explore your options and decide which ones work for you.
  • Tromso: Northernmost town. Well, the sun wouldn't set here in summer and this is a popular town to see the northern lights. But we decided to totally skip it because we realized unless we were planning to go see northern lights, there wasn't much to see up north
  • Svalbard Islands: Polar bear viewing. There are cruises to the island from other cities. You can see polar bears roaming freely on ice covered lands on these islands. So much so that polar bear spotting is guaranteed. But it would have taken a few more days and we weren't that eager to explore these and we had to leave something to bring us back to Norway.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Monaco (A day trip)

Monaco gets its special page because it is an independent country and I do not want to put it under the South France page! More about the South France itinerary is on its dedicated page. This page is about our day in Monaco.

Getting In:

Biking from Nice to Monaco
Conveniently connected by trains from nearby cities. It was a twenty minute ride from the Nice train station. Train tickets may not be available or the trains cancelled, so check early on the day off or the day before and get tickets.
While I took the train, Sumit was biking from Nice to Monaco. On his way, he stopped by a cute town Eze, a popular stop over for a hopping southern coast tour.
We both reached around the same time, but rendezvous was a nightmare. Here is what happened. Since Monaco is a different country, our phones that were working fine in France, didn't immediately start working in Monaco. I had a bad connection and no wi-fi at the train station, so I couldn't connect with him. We had initially planned to meet at the Oceanography museum, but I couldn't get a taxi. During the intermittent signal calls I got, we decided to meet at the famous pool located in middle of the city by the docks.
Getting to Nice
However, I had come up to the second floor exit of the station and figuring out how to get there was a nightmare. It was right in front of me, I could seeit , but when I stepped out, I couldn't find a road leading up to it. Thankfully I went back into the station and found a help desk. So, this city is vertical and horizontal! I was at the wrong floor. I had to exit on a different floor and just take the stairs all the way down and walk straight for 10 minutes to get to the pool, or the La Condamine area. but I spent an hour figuring this out and with no connectivity I was almost prompted to head back to Nice.
So when you get here, take a deep breath, ask someone and find the right exit and navigate correctly and not just rely on the google map as it doesn't have capability to navigate vertically!
Also, while you are the the tourist information office or the help desk, make sure to get a tourist map to help you navigate.

What to do:

The iconic pool - Next time, taking a dip!
Initially, I had planned on following this walking map I had created. After our fiasco, we met at the pool. First, we grabbed lunch at on of the many restaurants around the area. Sumit left his bike securely fastened to a lamp pole near the restaurant. Food was good.

Next up, we decided to follow our tourist map and go to the Prince's palace, many steps later we were outside the palace and got really good views of this tiny little city-country. Some souvenir shops are close by. There is also an oceanography museum and a view point located close by, but we ditched that and decided to head out straight to the Casino, Monte Carlo.
F1 tracks in the city!

We walked to the Casino Monte Carlo and what a sight! Luxury cars lined outside. I think there was an entry fees, but I don't remember now. the interiors are so royal and opulent, it was much more royal than I had expected. Of course you aren't allowed to go inside to all the game rooms as I guess they are reserved for some "A-list" people.

Casino Monte Carlo
We then walked back to the La Condamine area and settled in a restaurant to watch the France vs Belgium semi final at a restaurant. The atmosphere was electric and there were of course French supporters everywhere.
La Condamine area

After the match, we headed back to Nice via train. This time we had no issues going to the station and yes, we took the stairs and the elevators. Pretty convenient if you do that and follow the tourist information map. The city oozes luxury and clearly you see it would be the richest per capita country in the worls.

Friday, July 13, 2018

South France (Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Lyon, Grenoble)

For our Euro summer trip, there was one city I definitely wanted to visit and that was Grenoble, because of all the endless tales I had heard from Sumit about his internship. So, why not visit South France along with this city. We were going to be in Switzerland after our Germany roadtrip. So this was the plan for the last leg of our trip through South France. Its is a comparatively shorter trip, but you could spend more days in each of these beach towns.
Day 1: Arrive in Nice
Day 2: Bike to Monaco and spend the day in Monaco
Day 3: Train to Cannes ->Antibes -> Lyon
Day 4: Day in Lyon -> Drive to Grenoble
Day 5: Bike day in St. Michelle -> Drive to Lyon ->Train to Paris
Day 6: Fly out of Paris

When to go:

Crepes + Coffee = France
South France was hot when we visited. We were there end of June and it was scorching sun all through our trip. If you love that, this is the places for you, but carry buckets of sunscreen!  Else, you may want to give the shoulder season a try. Perhaps, May or September.

Where all to go:

Southern coast of France is popular for its beaches and the coastal drive. We didn't drive along the coast  but that is always an option. Here is a route that I had picked along the coast.
Nice, Monaco, Cannes are most popular, but there are smaller beach towns which also make for a good relaxed vacation, eg: Antibes, Saint Tropez.
Marseilles is a big city in the south with popular connections to take trains from or fly in to.

Getting around:

Europe is of course well connected with public transport, so you don't need any car unless you want to drive around. Our trip was a mix and match of both. Between cities which were more than 2-3 hours away, we preferred public transport, or else we rented a car.

Getting to Nice:

Nice beach
This was an adventurous day. We had our flights reserved from Geneva to Nice at about 6 pm. Around 3 pm we get a message from our airlines that our flight has been cancelled, and they won't reschedule us, but simply refund the money. We were both in Lausanne that time driving from Zurich to Geneva. We had no idea what to do now. There were no flights, or trains available for the next two days. Everything was completely booked as it was a weekend. One option was to skip the south France trip and just take the train to Grenoble after 3 days, which was the only available option. Or, option number two, which was to extend our car rental and drive to Nice. It was 6-7 hours drive, but we would be in Nice the same day we had planned and we wouldn't need to alter any other reservations.
So, of course, we picked option two. We had to pay a couple of hundred euros extra for returning the car in another country, but it would save us more in reservations and re bookings.
We drove through southern Switzerland, near Mont Blanc, and norther Italy, close to Turin. The drive and the tunnels are a beauty. Its amazing how the bridges have been built connecting mountains and tunnels have been built cutting right through these giant mountains. It was an adventure as it was unplanned, but good thing was, we made it. We were in Nice at midnight and driving through narrow streets and one-way alleys of Nice was a challenge we hadn't signed up for. Luckily we found street parking as we had to return the car the next day, we didn't have a hotel with car parking.
Haash! A long day, but we reached Nice!


Plan was to bike to Monaco. Sumit had found a bike rental shop in Nice and he left early, around 8 or 9 am to return the car and rent a bike as soon as he could in the morning. He was planning to bike to Moncao and I had plans to meet him there and spend the day with him in Monaco.
More details about biking to Monaco and the city are here on the Monaco blog page.


Lamborghini by the dinner table
We returned in the evening and spent time in Nice. We were staying at de la Fontaine. Tiny rooms, but thats what we could manage with such late reservations. Location was good with respect to the train station, Gare du Nice Ville was only 15 minutes walk.
Walking along the beach in the cool evening breeze is definitely a memorable experience. Lot of food carts, caricature artists, crepieres along the beach. The city side of the street, Promenade du la Anglais has a lot of hotels and casinos and plenty of restaurants to pick from. You can spend a few days here easily, without getting bored. Its a crowded city, so don't rent a car and prefer Uber or walking around. We had dinner at a really good Lebanese restaurant, Ya Habibi.
True to its reputation of opulence, there was a Lamborghini parked right outside our restaurant and it was a picture-worthy moment to have dinner with a luxury car casually parked right behind you on the street.


Plan for the day was to visit Cannes, spend some time in a beach town, and we chose Antibes and then head out to Lyon from Cannes in the evening.
Outside the red carpet
It is a 30 minute train ride from Nice. Given the town is popular due to Cannes Film Festival, it is crowded with tourists. We left our luggage at the luggage storage right outside the train station (very convenient!). Now we had our days packs and were ready for the day. This town has quite a few private beaches and also public beaches. We chose to first walk straight to the theatre with the red carpet to take our pictures there. The theatre is actually a convention centre, Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. The town is small and walkable. There is also a gallery next to it which has displays of movie stars who are regular a the film festival. After posing for pictures and feeling content, we headed to the beach right next to it. It was still quite sunny, so we thought of going to Rue D'Antibes for some shopping instead.
Pretty little walkable town with small cathedral somewhere in the middle. The shopping was fun and I went crazy at Mango store as we don't have many of those in US and they had an awesome 70% discount going on! Yayy! Grabbed a bite sometime in between all of this.


Next up was Anitbes. It is 15 minutes ride from Cannes. A cute little beach town. But, while on our way to train station, we realized that Sumit had forgotten his biking jersey in the hotel room as it was drying in the bathroom! It was his IronMan Canada jersey, so we couldn't leave it behind. Hence, we went all the way back to Nice, got the jersey and came back to Cannes and then headed out to Antibes.
I always have stories from our trip, don't I?
Anyhow once we reached Antibes, we picked a beach to go to from many beaches listed online. We went to Plage LaGrauppe. We took an Uber from the station to get to the beach. Loads of activities at the beach and an Italian restaurant with private showers to offer. Its a lovely coastline here. I would advise you carry or rent an umbrella here as it gets super duper hot. There is a Picasso gallery here which we didn't have time to visit, but it did sound interesting.
A few hours and we were off to Cannes to get on our train to Lyon now. Train was super comfortable and so glad we chose to ride the train instead of driving. Fours hours just flew by. We reached Lyon and we staying at Ibis hotel close to the train station. Tiny rooms, but comfortable. Luckily we reached just in time to watch the FIFA semi final of Croatia vs Russia extended thirty minutes and the penalty shootout.


Vieux Lyon
We had a full day in Lyon and I was ready to explore. First we got our rental car and drove to the old town area. We first headed out to Bellacur. After parking our cars, we just used Google maps to explore the city. We first took the funicular up to the church Fourviere. Beautiful church and it offered lovely views of the city from the hilltop. Must do. The ride, the church, the views, a perfect thing to do in Lyon. Next, we were roaming around Vieux Lyon (old town). Visit the Church Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Just roaming the streets was a lot of fun and we decided to stop by one of the shops to get some Onginon pies. It was pretty good. I had been quite skeptical about french cooking, but this was good. Next, I just had to try some crepes and coffee. I mean, I was in France after all!
Here is a link to the walking map that will help.
Church Fourviere

Our hotel in Grenoble


In the evening, we headed out to Grenoble. First up, we went to Inria. It was about time I got to see this place. What beautiful location. Surrounded by tall mountains. Being a weekend, we couldn't get in. But was totally worth the visit. We drove around the city first and then headed out to Fort Bastille, but the roads were so narrow that we ditched it. If you intend to go, must take the funicular/gondola. The town is super cute and a great place to spend a few laid back days. We ate at a really good Indian restaurant, Bombay. Then we drove around the old residence and then to the old town. We were staying at beautiful hotel, in the lovely old town area. Since we had to park, we had to drive around a few loops to find an overnight parking spot. The old town area had some good restaurants and a lively ambience.

Biking around Saint Michelle

Early morning we left for Sanit Michelle and headed straight to the bike rental shop, Velo rental. This is a village at the foothil of Alps and a good starting point for very interesting bike routes. Some of the bike routes around are also a part of Tour de France routes. At 9 am, we were at the shop and Sumit got his bike and was ready to head out.
6 hours to spare
Now who finished his ride!
I had to kill 6 hours ahead of me. I spent that time arguing with a waitress who wouldn't understand English or sign language, offering Swiss Francs to pay for food, and completely forgot I needed Euros in France, and also struggling with a public toilet that self cleaned every few minutes and if you were inside, it meant, you would get drenched, and yes I did. I kept myself fully entertained for those six hours while Sumit was burning calories and riding up Col du Galibier.

Col du Galibier

Back to Paris:

Around 4 pm we headed back to Lyon for our train to Paris at night. We were stuck in traffic first and then, had a tough time refueling our car beacuse it was a diesel and the nozzle type wasn't available at all gas stations. Luckily we made it in time at the station with full TEN minutes to spare before the train! Whew! it was an adventurous day for sure. But we got on our train back to Paris and on our flight back home.


  • Make reservations early to get good hotels in Nice.
  • Always prefer a train ride over flying. More reliable and super comfortable.
  • Indian vegetarian food may be tricky to find, but not hard.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Germany (Trier, Heidelberg, Romantic Road)

Germany was always on our destination list. As a tourist, one can divide Germany into two parts, historic Berlin and other big cities. And the second part, smaller quaint towns with castles. Germany has two tourist routes, Romantic Strasse (with all the quaint towns) and Castle Strasse (with all the castles) with a decent enough overlap between the Romantic Road and the Castle Road. We chose Romantic Strasse for our road trip, which runs from Wurzburg to Fussen and we stopped by a couple of other towns on our way from Luxembourg.

Here is our itinerary:

Day 1: Trier -> Mainz -> Heidelberg
Day 2: Heidelberg -> Wurzburg -> Rotheburg ob der Tauber
Day 3: Rothernberg ob der Tauber -> Dinkelsbuhl ->Nordlingen
Day 4: Nordlingen -> Augusburg  -> Fussen/Schwangau
Day 5: Fussen -> Konstanz -> Zurich

Our road trip route

Getting Around

We rented a car in Trier and returned it in Konstanz, our last destination in Germany. Driving around was pretty simple and roads were not crowded. There are some online sites to help you get acquainted with the road signs. Also, our favorite store was ALDI to buy water, snacks or anything else we needed. Getting vegetarian food isn't difficult in Germany and most of the restaurants do offer a vegetarian variant of most of their dishes.

Day 1: Trier -> Mainz -> Heidelberg

Karl Marx's birthplace

We reached Trier from Luxembourg via train. We took the local bus to the Hertz rental where we rented a car and drove to the old town. We spent some time wandering about in the old town (Altstadt) area. All the major attractions are in this area. We grabbed some lunch here. Saw the old cathedral, Point Nigra and Karl Marx house. From here we drove to Mainz.  Mainz was a comparatively bigger city and all we did there was to have a burger at Hans im Gluck. Burgers were really good and so was their lemonade. I highly recommend them. I guess they are a chain so you can find another restaurant in some other city.
Heidelberg Citadel
Up next, we were headed to Heidelberg. The drive was through vast rolling hill pastures. We reached Heidelberg in the evening. Parking on street is hard to find, but there are enough parking garages in the city. Also, try making a reservation for your stay where parking is included. Once we found parking and checked in to our hotel, we decided to head out to Old town for getting some dinner. We walked along the Haupstrasse. Its a lovely pedestrian area with many local shops all around. We walked all the way up to the old bridge. Crossed the bridge and took picture. The views of the hilltop citadel are also great from here. There are many dining options in the old town area, and we decided to get some Thai food. Now was the time to head back to out hotel.

Day 2: Heidelberg -> Wurzburg -> Rotheburg ob der Tauber

Wurzburg Marketplatz
We had initially wanted to go to the citadel in the morning, but decided against it. You see, there are so many citadels in Germany, that they get repetitive after a while, so we decided to skip this one. Instead, we spent our morning going to a swimming pool (Thermalbad). Finding parking was not easy in the morning as there were no parking structures closeby and the directions for one way streets can get confusing. But after some struggle, we did manage to find a parking spot with an hour validity or something. After our swim session, we head a sumptuous brunch at Mindel Cafe. Another cafe I can recommend. Now we were off to Wurzburg.
We drove straight to the top of the Wurzburg fortress which overlooks the city. It was too hot and we were just looking for some shade. We walked around the fortress to get some views of the city. I remember there was a tiny little shop in the corner which had ice creams! Yay! Then we drove to the Old town area. There was a pretty old church as usual and lots of shops all around. We found parking in one of the garages and then just walked around the Marketplatz before settling in at a Bierhaus for the football match. It was a party!
Night Watchman Tour

Rothenberg ob der Tauber
After the match we drove to our next destination, Rothenberg ob der Tauber. Such a cute little town on a hilltop and my favorite town in the country. You can only enter from one side and it was hard to find where to drive in from. But once we figured, we were good. It felt as if we were transported in to a fairytale village. We were here in time for the popular "Night Watchman Tour". It was so much fun walking around this tiny little town and hearing the stories of this watchman in his costume. This is the best way to go around this town. It takes only about an hour or so. Later, walking around cobbled streets we got dinner at a local restaurant. Surprisingly enough, finding vegetarian food in Germany hasn't been tough at all. There are quite a few boutique hotels in this town and we stayed at Golden Rose. And do not forget to take the famous picture at the most photographed spot in the city.

Day 3: Rothernberg ob der Tauber -> Dinkelsbuhl ->Nordlingen

Romantic Road
We had initially thought of renting bicycles and biking around the town, but the bike shops were closed on Sundays, so we decided to go for a run instead. I think the whole loop around the city was less than 5 km! But what fun running around this city. This city has a lot of souvenir shops. We wanted to get a cuckoo clock and we found the one we liked and shipped it directly to our home in US. There are a lot of price ranges and options if you want to get one. We got ours safe and sound in the next few weeks and it works just fine. 
After brunch, we headed to another small town of Dinkelsbuhl which was like a miniature replica of Rothenberg ob der Tauber. We found parking right outside and went for a walk in the city. Got coffee at a local gelato and coffee shop. Wandered around aimlessly, perfect vacation!
From here, we drove to Nordlingen. After checking in to our hotel, we went to the cathedral. Here you can go up the tower for a minimal fees and get some views of this tiny little town. These towns are so small that you can walk around the entire town in a few hours and be familiar with the entire layout of the town. We rented bikes at the JUFA hotel for 24 hours. Plan as to go biking the following morning. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant, Pablo Cantina. Again, the food was awesome. Then we got back to our hotel to watch Croatia vs. Denmark. 

Day 4: Nordlingen -> Augusburg -> Fussen/Schwangau

Biking countryside
We were up early, Bright eyed and bushy tailed! Ready to for a short 15-mile ride around the German countryside. We had to get back in time for the checkout. Sumit had already chalked out a route the night before, so we knew where to go. We had our water bottles and energy bars ready in Sumit's backpack. Be wary of the drivers around as these are not popular bike routes so it can get scary and risky when you cross roads. I am so glad we biked around, it was a very different way to experience the countryside. Totally loved  passing through fields with cottages, small towns and coffee shops.
Once we got back to our hotel, something interesting was waiting for us. A parking ticket! We had unknowingly parked overnight in a parking spot without displaying an appropriate parking sign. So now we started looking for the municipal office to pay our fine. After some sign language and broken English, we figured where the office was, of course everything is close by, the towns are so small! We went to the office and paid our fine.
Experiencing the German countryside
After getting some bad Italian food for lunch, we headed out to Augusburg. We drove past Donauworth as we didn't have much time on our hands. Augusburg was a big city. We parked in a garage. Walked around the old town (Altstadt), saw the fountain and the old church. The golden hall had closed by the time we reached. We spent some time walking around the marketplace and shopping. There was an Indian restaurant in the vicinity, Sangam, so we decided to get dinner here. We got some food to-go and headed out to Fussen, where we were staying overnight.
Drive to Fussen got prettier as you got closer to the Swiss border. As you get closer to the Swiss Alps, the scenery just keeps getting better. We reached a pretty little cottage in the Schwangau area and were all set to go see the Sleeping Beauty castle the next day.

Day 5: Fussen -> Konstanz -> Zurich

Carriage ride up to the Castle

So glad that we had made the reservations earlier for the Neuschwanstein castle. This place gets super crowded. We drove up to the visitor area and parked. Walked upto the ticket window to collect our physical tickets, but it was a long wait. Then to get on the horse carriage was another long queue and wait. Glad that we started the day early. Once at the castle, you are called in groups and have to stick to your group tour. From inside this is like any other castle. Lavish and bautiful. The real beauty of the castle is its location I believe. There is a short hike to the bride close to the castle where you get beautiful panoramic views of the castle. That is a MUST DO. This is where we got all our great pictures and lovely views. We spent good enough time around this area and then hiked all the way downhill to the visitor entrance.
View from the bridge
Next up was the drive to Konstanz where we had to return our car and take the train to Zurich. The views just kept getting prettier as we drove.After we returned our car in Konstanz, getting to the train station was a but of a struggle. Public transport wasn't as frequent and we had to walk quite a bit to get to a bus stop. Nevertheless we made it and reached Zurich pretty late in the night.Voila! That was a lovely German road trip.


  • Payments are accepted mostly in cash. Very few restaurants and shops accept credit cards
  • There are very pretty boutique hotels that you might want to stay at instead of hotels. So prefer AirBnBs.
  • German countryside, atleast the area we were in aren't as scenic. But as you get closer to the Swiss Alps, the scenery keeps getting better.
  • The towns are quite but very similar. Pick the towns you want to spend your time at. Pick a few citadels, castles you want to go see.