5 Reasons To Visit Paris

Continuing my articles about places I have visited without needing to fly, here is a post about staying in beautiful Paris. Paris is a city that I have been to many times. Originally I caught the ferry from Dover to Calais and these days I get there by train.

Travelling by EuroStar is very efficient from London and Paris’ Gare du Nord station is just two hours and fifteen minutes away. I usually find myself in the buffet carriage throughout this journey, often during the twenty minutes that the train spends whizzing through the tunnel, deep under the English Channel.

Paris is magical to me because it is filled with wonderful memories. I took a group of close friends there for a special birthday and have also been there to celebrate New Year before.

Here is my list of five reasons why you should take a trip to the enchanting city of Paris:

1) History

France is a country which used to have a royal family but now has a president instead. Paris has many leftovers from its regal past, including such beautiful buildings as the Palace of Versailles.

On the day that I went there it was incredibly busy and we were on a bus tour so I opted to look around the magnificent gardens rather than spend time inside the building. The gardens were expansive, packed with fascinating fountains, statues and floral displays. Of course the palace is not only a previous seat of kings and queens but also the venue where they agreed a settlement at the end of the First World War (The Treaty of Versailles 1919).

2) Tours

As soon as I got to Paris I wanted to do a bus tour of the city and take in some of the incredible views. Open top buses are brilliant because you get great pictures (when the weather is good) and can pop some earphones on and listen to an audio tour at the same time.

I believe the bus tours Paris provides move around four quadrants of the city and I recall covering most of the important sights such as the Arch de Triumph, Notre Dame and The Louvre.

There are also plenty of boat tours daily which leave from various sites around the city. I have done a boat trip almost every time that I went to Paris and learned something new every time.

Notre Dame Cathedral before the tragic fire. (Reasons to visit Paris)

3) The Eiffel Tower

This incredible structure is what most people associate with Paris. Standing 324 metres high, the cast iron marvel first opened in March 1889 to the public. It is layered like a wedding cake in tiers and you can choose how high you want to go.

Last time I took the endless stairs to the first level and then caught the lift the rest of the way to the top. As well as being an excellent viewing platform for the whole city, there is a sense of achievement when you reach the top, able to reflect upon the historical significance of this landmark.

4) Disneyland Paris

It would be wrong of me to mention the French Capital without a reference to the nearby Disney resort. Having never been to any Disney parks before, I was so happy to visit this one on a cold February day. It was full of magic and intrigue and left me wanting to come back for more.

Me, absolutely frozen but totally enjoying Disneyland.
The stunning fireworks and light show. ((Disneyland Paris)

My favourite part of our brief visit to Disney was the amazing firework display at the end of the evening. Somehow the Disney imagineers manage to create a series of video projections that celebrate Disney movies from throughout the ages, all inter-spliced with colourful fireworks and set to a rousing Disney score.

You can find some incredible Eurostar Disney deals on the DisneyLand Paris website. There are always opportunities to go straight to Disney by Eurostar, which is an option I might take in future as I certainly want to spend lots more time there.

5) Museum

Paris is a wonderful setting in which to enjoy some fascinating museums. Going to the Louvre is a must-do activity but remember that it is always closed on a Tuesday. Such an expansive place is hard to explore in just one session.

The one picture that everyone wants to see. (Reasons to visit Paris)

Having viewed the Mona Lisa portrait and many other delightful paintings and statues, I also had a lovely time taking in the incredible architecture.

Another brilliant museum is the Musee D’Orsay which has collections of paintings including those by Monet and Renoir. It also has a variety of sculptures and furniture from different historic periods.

The Musee D’Orsay (affordable and educational)

I feel as though I could talk about Paris all day long. In fact I may end up following this article with a future one about some of the lovely features that I have yet to mention. Here is another article that I wrote about a visit by train to Luxembourg which also involved changing trains in Paris.

I hated saying goodbye to Disneyland Paris.

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5 Reasons To Visit Salzburg

Last week I mentioned my incredible trip to Zurich in Switzerland which I took by train in Autumn. Now I want to share my experience of travelling to the equally beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg during the summer.

My blog often discusses environmental issues and this article is all about trying to avoid using aeroplanes when visiting Europe. I went to Salzburg via Brussels (2 hours on the Eurostar) and then Munich (about 7 hours with a stop off) with a final stretch of just over an hour before arriving at the main station. This sounds like a long time but the views were breathtaking and the food on the train was of a very good quality and affordable.

Have you ever wanted to go to Salzburg, Austria? Here are five reasons why you should.

1) The views

The mountains around the city are stunning and the whole place is situated in a scenic valley which has a very wide river, known as the Salzach, running through it. The city is divided into two sides, with the old town on one side and the newer part on the other. Many bridges cross the Salzach, including the MozartSteg which is built for pedestrian traffic.

The footbridge used in ‘The Sound of Music’.

2) Mozart and History

The city was especially musical when I visited in August because it just so happened to be the month that the well known Salzburg Festival took place. With theatrical productions and live music events held in the town square and prestigious buildings, the town was full of orchestras and a genuine buzz which was infectious.

The birthplace of Mozart is open to view as part of a museum called the Mozarteum. His music lives on all around Salzburg and the town seems very proud of its musical prodigy. The Mozart Wohnhaus is a second museum, where he lived for much of his youth, after the house he was born in became too small for his family. Along with two museums, there is a Mozart monument watching over Mozart Square. If there is one famous person you come to know more about after visiting Salzburg, I can bet it will most probably be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A concert hall where we heard a lovely classical music performance.

Historical buildings such as the abbey and Nunnery (Nonnberg Abbey) are all within easy reach as the city is actually quite small and most places of interest are within walking distance of each other.

Another quirky place that we sampled was the intriguing Salzburg Marionette Theatre, where we saw a production of the Sound of Music usually exquisite puppets, much like those used in the film.

Some startling puppets from the marionette show.

3) Salzburg Castle (Hohensalzburg Fortress)

Up on the hill sits a large, intriguing castle which overlooks the city and is full of things to do. In order to get up there, we took the steep funicular railway which gave some stunning views and picture opportunities as we were whisked up to the castle itself. Inside there was plenty to see of the old fortress and there were shops and refreshments that included places selling local artwork, which was of a high quality.

Hohensalzburg Fortress overlooks the old town and river.

4) The Sound of Music

One of the main reasons that I was originally intrigued by this beautiful city was because it appeared in ‘The Sound of Music’ movie. I have always loved this movie and wondered what the places featured on it were actually like. So naturally I booked us onto the Sound of Music Tour organised by Panorama Tours. I was not disappointed as we went to all of the key locations.

I especially enjoyed seeing the Mirabelle Palace gardens which were used during the famous ‘Do-Re-Mi’ song in which Julie Andrews and 7 children danced around the fountain and raced through the hedge tunnel which was covered in overhanging plants.

The painted wall mural as seen in the film.
The Mirabelle Gardens
The tunnel that Julie Andrews ran through while singing Do-Re-Mi.

5) Mondsee and the countryside

Taking time out of the city, we got to see some of the incredibly beautiful sites of the surrounding hills. The Sound of Music tour took us to the huge church at Mondsee where Maria and Captain Von Trapp got married in the sixties musical. The town of Mondsee had a lovely market square with some wonderful shops and eateries which made the visit even better.

Mondsee Abbey

On the way we saw some of the popular lakes that locals flock to when the sun comes out, nestled beneath the mountains. As a geographer, I found myself marvelling at the landscape and enjoying taking photos of the green valleys and tranquil waters. The fresh air did me wonders as well.

A few things I have taken away from my visit are:

– a taste for sauerkraut (which it turns out is very good for your gut)

– a fascination with Austria with its traditions and Christmas shops, its love of music and intriguing history

– the satisfaction of visiting the locations of my favourite musical movie, ‘The Sound of Music’

– lots of knowledge about Mozart and classical musical history

– a desire to go back to Salzburg very soon

I hope that you enjoyed this post and it has shown how intriguing Austria can be. I especially loved that I could travel there by train from the UK. The scenery was impressive and the reception was welcoming. Salzburg is such a culturally interesting and friendly town where I felt totally at ease.

If you enjoyed my blog post please consider following my blog. Here is a link to a post about a trip I made to Switzerland:https://jamieadstories.blog/2021/06/13/5-reasons-to-visit-switzerland/

5 Reasons To Visit Switzerland

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Continuing my write-ups on holidays I’ve enjoyed which have not involved air travel, I want to share with you just how wonderful Switzerand is. Nestled in the Alpine region, between Italy, France, Germany and Austria, this incredible nation has everything you could wish for.

Beautiful Zurich

1) It has good rail links

For me, it became increasingly important to try and avoid aeroplanes and make more of an effort to travel in a less polluting kind of way. Trains in Europe are electric and depend a lot less on fossil fuels, so are easily the best option when journeying across some distance. From London to Zurich it was only six hours (two to Paris, then an easy connection and four more hours to Zurich). The best thing about travelling by train is that you get to sit back with a drink and watch as the beautiful scenery changes from flat farmland to mesmerising mountains.

2) Mountains and Valleys

There is nothing quite like being amongst mountains and Switzerland has some of the most stunning views I have ever seen. One November day I used a very steep funicular to get to the top of Stoos, a skiing village perched above the town of Schwyz. At times the vehicle almost goes straight up as it clings close to the cliff and gives you a majestic view of the surrounding valley and breath-taking countryside.

The incredibly steep funicular up to Stoos.

3) Cheese!

Switzerland is famous for Swiss Army Knives, chocolate and cheese. Every main street has a variety of intriguing chocolate sellers with astounding displays of the sweet stuff of the highest quality. I bought my friends plenty of chocolate and they all really appreciated it as generally it outdoes the standard sweets you get back home in the UK.

Cheese is also a delicacy and you can’t visit Switzerland without trying some deliciously hot melted cheese. Otherwise know as fondue, this treat for your tastebuds will knock your socks off. Don’t worry though, even if you are dairy intolerant, the fondue restaurants have other delights on their menus. There is always dairy free cheese, which in my experience is just as tasty.

4) Towns and Cities

Although I stayed in Zurich, which was lovely and full of energy, I also managed to visit beautiful Bern and lovely Lucerne. All three places were incredible in their own right. In Zurich I shopped, had a wonderful afternoon at the Zurich OperaHaus and sampled some amazing food. I also sampled the nightlife and enjoyed some cool cocktails as well as the great nighttime views of this old city, steeped in history and intrigue.

Lucerne was hot on the day that I visited and the lake looked stunning. Walking across its famous Chapel Bridge was great when wanting to take photos as it provided plenty of different perspectives of the town. I particularly remember sampling pastries at one of its brilliant bakeries and not only being full up but also thinking how exquisite everything was.

Bern was one of the government centres. In Switzerland the seat of government moves between Geneva, Bern and Zurich on rotation but some of the larger and architecturally interesting buildings are situated in Bern. It is also full of shops and when I visited it was raining a lot so plenty of undercover places to snack and browse proved popular with me.

Einstein was born here in Bern.

5) Lakes with views to die for

For me, the bodies of water that I came across in Switzerland were distinctly magical. From the entrance to Lake Zurich to the tranquil Lake Zug, Switzerland is full of watery views that will take your breath away.

Taking a ferry from Zurich to the other side of Lake Zurich, I was amazed by the delightful views of both the city in all its splendour and the surrounding hillsides. It felt so peaceful in the middle of that surprisingly clean water, taking in the incredible panorama. Our bus driver also showed us the mansion that Tina Turner now lives in, nestled right next to that enormous lake. It’s true to say that you haven’t seen anything until you have set eyes on the stunning Swiss lakes and mountains.

Charming Zurich is full of history.

Why not try taking a holiday by train?

This was one of the holidays I took by train and I cannot speak highly enough of the service I received on the journey. If you enjoyed reading my post, perhaps consider commenting your thoughts and following my blog for more of the same content.