Let me start this article by asking you a couple of questions! Do you consider yourself relatively healthy? Do you like to travel to exotic places? And, have you ever thought about doing a bike tour?
Since 2014 the operator and his excellent team have been offering some of the best bike tours available in stunning Sri Lanka. From 1-day sample rides to 12 day Sri Lanka package tours, you can experience the beauty and see the fabulous culture, country and wildlife from the saddle of a bicycle. Alternatively, if you and your friends would like to customise a tour just for you, the operator can make that happen also. So, what’s stopping you?
We stopped off in Galle, where the operator organised a perfect 2 hour sampler ride along the paddy fields and countryside around Galle.
Our day starts at 08:00 a.m as we make our way to our designated meeting point to meet our tour guides for the day. We stayed within a few minutes from the city centre and Galle Fort, and the tuk tuk ride to get to our meeting point was a quick 15 minute ride.
Our meet up point is an off ramp just outside of Galle and we are greeted by our tour guide for the ride, Nuwan, his bike mechanic helper Kavindu and our support vehicle. Nuwan provides us Specialized mountain bikes, which Kavindu adjusts to make sure they are at the right height for us.
Once everything is sorted, we commence what can only be called a fantastic ride. Nuwan takes us along country laneways through a rubber plantation and multiple rice fields.
The ride isn’t difficult, although there are a couple of gradual inclines that have you working a little harder. But the scenery and wildlife are spectacular. During our ride we came across an enormous water monitor walking through a family’s rice field and some beautiful birds like the colourful Kingfisher.
The ride isn’t just single file riding. Nuwan would stop and point out local facts and things of cultural significance, to ensure we had a well-balanced tour.
The whole riding tour took approximately 1.5 – 2 hours and was a nice casual workout. Cycling is a wonderful way to see the countryside and keep fit. srilankacyclingtour.com offers excellent bike tours throughout Sri Lanka and we’re sure you can find a bike tour to suit your needs.
For those of you booking in the future, Sri Lanka Cycling Tour are in the process of updating their bikes, so you will have even better bikes than the ones we tried.
So, contact Sri Lanka Cycling Tour now and book your fantastic bike tour today, to see Sri Lanka like you’ve never seen it before and tell them, Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
If you are going to spend some time in the south of India, you may have heard that it is quite popular to spend a day or two on a houseboat. After a busy two weeks travelling around India we decided to spend three nights cruising the backwaters of Kerala from Alappuzha near Alleppey, Southern India with Cosy Houseboats.
After days or research, trying to select an affordable houseboat operator was becoming a painful task. To alleviate this we logged onto booking.com to check out what houseboats were available. This made the task a lot easier and in the end we choose to book a Cosy Houseboat cruise for three nights, departing from Alappuzha.
Prior to our cruise we stayed in Alleppey for a night in a little backpackers called Artpackers.life which turned out to be a godsend. They were so helpful that as Cosy Houseboats weren’t replying to any of our previous emails, the receptionist found the correct number (wrong on booking.com) for their offices and found out our check in time and meeting point.
Thank god, we decided to spend a night in Alleppey before boarding our cruise, otherwise we would have had enormous issues trying to contact the operators. Once everything was settled and we left the backpackers it was a quick auto rickshaw ride (INR100) to the Cosy Regency Hotel, the meeting point for the houseboat cruise.
After check in, it was explained that although we booked for a shared three night cruise we would be following the same itinerary for the three days. This meant we had to check out off the boat each day and head back to the meeting point before boarding the next boat at check in time. This important information should have been communicated to us after booking and was a little frustrating to say the least. Whilst at the office they did try to encourage us to pay extra for a private houseboat. Once price negotiations broke down, as we weren’t going to pay their optimum price, they advised that they didn’t have a boat available and we ended up staying on the shared boat.
Our next issue was that we were unable to pay using a credit card as their EFTPOS machine was faulty. Cosy houseboat management then insisted we withdrawal the daily limit for international cards (INR10000) to make a down payment. Then they would try an EFTPOS payment the next day. The manager ended up transporting us to 6 ATM machines that all had no cash available. In the end they allowed us to board and try paying the next day.
With the wedding season fully underway in India, we spent our first shared night with three other couples. Two couples were newly weds and the third couple were on their one year anniversary. All were nice and we ended up chatting away with a couple from the North of India for most of the cruise.
The four berth houseboat was a little rundown and in need of a little maintenance. The room was small but thankfully the bed was comfortable. Being a wooden vessel, it does get extremely hot in the cabins during the day. There is a ceiling fan to circulate air, but the air conditioning only comes on between 7pm and 7am. My advice is to stay out of the cabins until evening when the air conditioning kicks in.
The bathroom was……”fit for use”, nothing special, a bit dirty with a shower that sprayed everywhere but on you and no hot water. If you are looking for hotel quality, than this is not the place for you.
The rest of the boat is “well used”. Our boat has a dining table, eight single seated lounge chairs and a small television mounted to the wall.
The boat has three crew members aboard, the helmsman, a cook and a waiter, who keep to themselves so you can enjoy the slow cruise through the river system. All meals, water, and tea and coffee are included in the price and are quite good. The cruise itself is casual, calm and relaxing as we traverse along the waterways.
We stop for lunch, moored to a riverbank and are encouraged to leave the boat to visit some shops or massage parlours. Then it’s back onboard for a final cruise around before we moor up for the night alongside the Cosy Lake Villa. Although the advertising states free wi-fi for your time on the houseboat, you actually only get limited poor wi-fi access when you berth in the evening.
It is here we have a candlelit evening meal, before heading to our cabins for an early night. The operators do allow you to have a shower in one of the villas hotels rooms, which is a little more pleasant. Unfortunately, yet again it is without hot water.
The boat starts up again at 8:00am and heads back into Alleppey for a 9:00am check out. Once berthed you are picked up by car or auto rickshaw and taken back to the Cosy Regency Hotel. We then have until 12:00pm before we are required to board our next vessel. Since, the Cosy Regency Hotel has average wi-fi coverage we decide to stay to book ongoing travel arrangements. Then I do the whole payment thing again, this time the Internet connection is working and I’m able to pay the total amount.
Our second boat, ends up being the boat we remain on for the next two days. It’s a smaller two cabin boat, whom we share with two more newly weds on the different days. This boat has an upstairs viewing deck but again is in serious need of maintenance. Once again the cabin is small but the bed is comfortable. It has its ceiling fan and air conditioner, which again only comes on at 7:00pm.
The bathroom is awful, and in serious need of renovating. Plus we are lucky enough to have two large cockroaches, who I meet in the middle of the night and a small lizard living in the air conditioner. Additionally, the power point in the room doesn’t work so we end up charging phones etc. on the upstairs deck.
Although, initially we were told we would follow the same route on each day, we ended up being around the same area but each day we went down different canals. Once again the actual cruising was relaxing, the company was nice and the food was very good.
Overall, Cosy Houseboats offers a cheaper affordable cruise to experience the houseboats of Kerala. Is there better boats? Yes! Are they more expensive? Yes. So depending on your budget and if you don’t mind roughing it a little, than this could be the houseboat company for you.
Cosy Houseboats has a lot of work to do to improve their product. The boats are in need of a good overhaul. The bathrooms are awful, but the silver lining is they allow you to use the Cosy Lakeview Hotel if you’d like a better shower. Communication is a huge issue. We sent two or three emails to them and received no reply and if it wasn’t for the help of Artpackers.life hostel, we would have struggled to find out any information. The staff at the hotels and on board the boats are friendly but they do try to push you to write a good review on TripAdvisor. And although it is stated you have access to wi-fi, it is very limited and rarely works.
The cruise itself is peaceful, relaxing and nice. Travelling up and down the canals is pleasant with beautiful scenery for good photos. The waterways are at times full of houseboats, so you can see how popular these cruises are.
Look, I must admit, although the houseboat was a little rundown, I really enjoyed cruising along the Kerala waterways. And although Cosy Houseboats was a little disorganised, they ended up providing what we paid for, a fully catered, three-day cruise around Kerala. So, if you don’t mind roughing it, and can put up with a few minor disappointments and a couple of creepy crawlies, than Cosy Houseboats may have the cruise for you. If not, then book somewhere else, although I can’t guarantee it will be any better.
Additional Information for Cosy Houseboats
Cosy Regency, Finishing Point, Alappuzha, Kerala 688013, India
Ph: +91 477 225 5555
Once again Istanbul has been a great place to stay. The culture the atmosphere and the people have been kind and gracious. If you are considering a trip to Turkey, then I would say without any hesitation, “do it!”
As Australian’s, we’ve been to Turkey for the last couple of years. Last year, we experienced the pilgrimage to the Gallipoli peninsula, which is considered a rite of passage for many Australian’s. Here we paid our respect to the fallen heroes of WWI.
Then we visited Istanbul and had an incredible meal at Mehmet Gürs marvellous Mikla. Both times have come away with the same impression of Turkey. “What a remarkably friendly place!” Although the tensions of the regions have affected Turkey we have found it to be a safe place to go. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed in the amazing history, culture, markets and food.
Therefore, why not dip your toes into Turkey? And if you only decide to visit Istanbul, there is a remarkable little place that showcases all of the major attractions within Turkey called Miniaturk.
Miniaturk, is park consisting of miniature models of the sights of Turkey. It’s located alongside a stretch of the Golden Horn and is a nice place for families and backpackers to discover what Turkey has to offer. If you haven’t finalised your itinerary whilst backpacking in Turkey, stop by at Miniaturk and discover which cities contain some of Turkey exquisite architectural history.
See places like the Galata Tower, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Green Tomb of Bursa, Cappadocia or the white terraces of Pamukkale all in the one park.
The models contained are a remarkable re-creation of these attractions and you can’t help but marvel at all the places to available to see. During our visit, we constantly commented about going to see certain attractions.
Spend some time walking up and down the walkways, it takes a good one and a half hours to traverse the entire site.
There is also plenty of things to entertain you and your family. Miniaturk also has a large playground, games arcade and a small train that the kids can ride on. For the older kids and adults, you can also try the helicopter flight simulator. Who’s the best pilot in your family?
Additionally, Miniaturk has multiple food stalls scattered around the park and a nice restaurant if you prefer something more substantial.
To finish the day, stop into the souvenir store and take home a memento of your time in Turkey.
Overall Miniaturk is a fun and amazing place to visit. Get some inspiration of other attractions around Turkey. At an inexpensive cost, Miniaturk is an ideal place for a young family to experience some of Turkey’s attractions without actually having to visit them. Of course, it is always better to see them up close and personal. But if you don’t have the time, this is the next best thing. So, if you are in Istanbul visit Miniaturk and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
In all our travels, Sarajevo would be one of the top 10 cities that has intrigued me the most in the Balkans. A city still rebuilding. Trying to ensure their past mistakes don’t erupt again. When speaking to its residence you can see their frustration from their “scars and smiles”. Yet, those frustrations aren’t directed towards the different ethnic groups, they are directed towards their over-governed parliament. With unemployment rising, Sarajevo is becoming more reliant on tourists visiting and understanding the beauty, culture and pain of this remarkable city.
During our stay here, we base ourselves at two completely different accommodation options. For the first part of our visit, we stay outside of the city centre at the four-starred Hotel Emiran. Then for the remainder of our stay we head into the old town and experience what hostel living is like at Hostel Franz Ferdinand. It is here that we organise the Scars and Smiles, Urban Adventures tour online. Urban Adventures offer two quality tours, the Story of Sarajevo and Scars and Smiles.
The Scars and Smiles tour starts at 9:00 a.m and our meeting point for the tour is the impressive city hall/ national library building. Our friendly helpful guide for the tour is Almedin, who you cannot miss due to his 205cm height. Almedin is the tallest tour guide we have ever had. No need for an umbrella or a sign, because if you can’t see him, then he’s not there!
Group sizes vary from day-to-day and on our tour, we only had one other guest. Almedin spoke excellent English and was a toddler during the Sarajevo siege, so has an honest family perspective of life during wartime.
During our tour, Almedin speaks passionately about the scars and smiles of the Bosnian people. He talks about why the war occurred, how it ended and specific tragedies that had befallen its residents at the time.
We are taken on a 3 hour journey around the city of Sarajevo and visit important places like the Sarajevska brewery, the only source of fresh water in Sarajevo at the time. Almedin then speaks about the importance of the Sarajevo roses, shows us a memorial for the children and takes us for Bosnian coffee.
An intriguing and at times moving tour, Almedin speaks about life after the conflict and finishes the tour at the Sarajevo National Theatre.
Once the tour is completed, guests can either join Almedin for a drink at a local pub or state their farewells. I suggest having a drink with this kind gentleman and learning more about Bosnian and Herzegovinian hospitality.
Overall for the price, the Scars and Smiles tour is a fantastic way of getting to understand Sarajevo and its tragic history. So, book your Urban Adventure tour today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for Urban Adventures: Scars and Smiles
If you were to tell me before we started this trip that I’d be going to visit a salt mine, I may have laughed. That would be because in Australia when I think about salt mines, I picture a stark salt pan. Therefore, when we were looking for another tour to do in Krakow we wanted something less emotionally draining than the Auschwitz and Birkenau tour we did the day before. The Krakville tour operator suggested for us to go to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. So, after a bit of umming and ahhing we decided why not?
The Wieliczka Salt Mine was listed as a UNESCO heritage site in 1978 and consists of 300kms of tunnels. The mine has been in operation since the 13th Century (that’s an old mine) and is open for visitors daily from 07:30 a.m to 07:30 p.m. The mine can be visited without a tour group, but you may have a long wait depending on the number of visitors and tour groups.
The tour starts mid-morning and our meeting point for the start of the tour is the Krakville office building in the Old Town Krakow. Once again, we are given identification stickers to ensure we aren’t separated from our group. This straight away tells us that the mine is busy. We all climb into mini vans and are driven approximately half an hour to the town of Wieliczka.
It’s not long before we are at the mine and climb the steps to the mines entrance. On arrival it is raining, but that hasn’t stopped the crowds from showing up. There is a large number of tour group already here and a fair contingent of lone travellers negotiating the throng of people. The mine has some additional souvenir shops and a cafe outside if you must wait for a while.
After a short wait, we are guided past the crowds and into the mine. We are given radio receivers so that we can hear the guide as she explains the enormity of the mine. First, we descend down 350 steps to the entry-level of the mine. Like a column staircase you’d find in a hundred-floor building we descend down and down. It is quite a work out and if you make the mistake and go to fast down, you can get quite dizzy.
At the bottom of the stairs the guide checks to make sure we are all alive after the workout and explains the ground rules of the tour. Like don’t wander off, as there are so many tunnels, therefore getting lost is quite easy.
As we walk through the tunnels we encounter open chambers within the mine providing a visual aid about the construction and operation of the mine. In total there are 20 chambers available to be visited. The guide explains that the workers would construct churches, halls, theatres and specific carvings as they were down in the mine for large amounts of time.
We walk through various places of worship and are shown some of the incredible wall fresco’s etched by the workers. Photos are allowed to be taken at a small additional cost and there are photo permit places along the route. The mine also has an underground souvenir store and a large restaurant and cafeteria area.
Overall, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is a worthwhile attraction with the website stating that tourists should allow three hours to visit the site. The temperature of the mine averages 14 degrees Celsius so warm jackets are handy. You will be amazed at the chambers and carvings done by the workers. Photos are a must so my advice is pay for the permit. So, book your tour today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for Krakville Wieliczka Salt Mine
What are the first things that come to your mind when someone mentions Transylvania? If you are like me you think of Dracula, vampires, dark nights and scary castles. Through the popularity of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, Transylvania has always had an intrigue for travellers. With many fans doing the trek to visit Bran Castle, commonly known as “the home of Dracula”.
During our travels, we always had Romania pencilled in as a possible country to visit and after some investigations we decided to base ourselves in Sighișoara and do a day trip to Bran Castle. Although Bran Castle is the home of Stoker’s Dracula, Sighișoara is the actual birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration behind the character.
Arguably, one of the prettiest villages in Romania, this picturesque village is home to one of the oldest medieval citadels in Romania. With its many Church’s, restaurant’s and residences located on top of a hill the colourful town oozes character.
For our day tour to Bran Castle we opted to go with someone who knew Transylvania well. After a quick internet search about tours from Sighișoara, we came across, Emanuel Enache. Emanuel is the owner and primary tour guide for tour business, YourGuidein Transylvania. Emanuel offers his customers personalised tours throughout Transylvania, so we booked him to take us to Bran Castle. Booking was easy through his website, and he responded back quickly to organise morning pick up’s and inclusive tour information.
The tour commences at 10:00 a.m with Emanuel picking us up from our hotel during our stay the Doubletree by Hilton Sighișoara. After introductions Emanuel places emphasis on us becoming friends from the start. His point of us meeting possibly only once in a lifetime is a good excuse for us to be friends from the outset. It’s not hard to like him, with his bubbly character and charm.
The drive from Sighișoara to Bran Castle takes two hours, which fly by as Emanuel provides us with the history of the Transylvanian region, economy and life. This insight gives us an appreciation of the Romanian people and its culture. Emanuel has no set schedule to his tours, he allows his guests to dictate when they would like to stop for lunch or rest breaks along the way.
Once in Bran, Emanuel allows us to walk around the souvenir tents and food stalls whilst he organises skip the line entry into the castle. The various stalls show off their Dracula inspired souvenirs, from magnets, coffee cups and T-shirts. There is something for everyone!
Bran Castle is one of the seven castles of Wallachia, and although Vlad the Impaler ruled the region during his reign from 1448. It is unknown if he used Bran Castle. This doesn’t take away from the breathtaking visual of this castle on the hill. Today it is mainly a museum to Queen Marie of Romania, who lived in the castle during her lifetime.
The three level castle is impressive, like many castles throughout Europe, so if you like castles then have a visit, the picture of Bran castle on the hill is a good photo to show your friends. Emanuel is excellent explaining the rooms, and the history of Queen Marie and the royal family, there is some rooms dedicated to the vampire myth, but they aren’t that interesting.
Overall, Bran Castle by itself is something I wouldn’t do by myself. It is a nice drive but the castle is just another castle, if you don’t have the story about it. What made this tour especially worthwhile was Emanuel’s information and conversation about Transylvania, the castle, Dracula and the vampire myth. Emanuel’s engaging personality makes is tour worthwhile. Emanuel offers plenty other tours throughout Transylvania and will pick you up from your accommodation.
If you have had the pleasure of travelling with children, you would know that sometimes it’s hard to keep them happy. In their minds, Museums and Art Galleries can be boring. That’s because most young children don’t appreciate looking at the ancient pottery from Pompeii or the subject and detail of Rembrandt’s The Nights Watch. Basically, unless there are dinosaurs or places with amazing interactive fun, children become disinterested quickly. They want to go to places like Disneyland, Sea World or the other major amusement parks. But, at times we all become those little kids and desire that entertainment. Feeling in a fun and happy mood we head off for a day at the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium.
After a lovely breakfast at Cafe Clave, we decide to walk the 1.1 km from our Scandic hotel to the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium.
Now, if this is your first trip to Berlin, you may want to think about purchasing the Berlin Welcome Card. This transport tourist card lasts up to 6 days and covers all your public transport options. It also comes with a booklet containing discounts to many of the major attractions, including the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium. Additionally, it comes with that all important city map, so you can see the various tourist sites and construct your touring itinerary accordingly.
If you are short on time, you can do the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium separately. We opted to combine the two at a discounted price (See below). Since the zoo is the larger of the two complexes we do the zoo first.
As mentioned the zoo is large, exhibiting a wide range of animals from around the world. Our recommendation is to examine the zoo’s map provided and work out a plan of attack. That way you won’t be backtracking and possibly missing some of the animals. Of course, the information is in German so have your translating app available if you can’t read German.
The zoo has set times for feeding and information on the animals (again in German), but it was still interesting seeing them being fed. From wolves, elephants, gorillas, rhinos, lions, zebras and giraffes it was amazing to see the children’s young faces light up in awe of these magnificent creatures.
Finding food is not an issue at the zoo as they have a large cafe, a restaurant and many food carts scattered around the park.
Once you’ve finished in the Berlin Zoo make your way to the Aquarium. Here you will find an arrangement of diverse types of fish, amphibians, reptiles and creepy crawly insects.
This three-story building holds a vast quantity of fish species of assorted sizes and incredible colours.
There is a warm, humid, central forest area that has some crocodiles, which was inviting on a cooler Berlin day. Like the zoo the aquarium has a cafe, in case you want a snack or coffee.
Overall, both the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium are wonderful places to visit in Berlin. By using the Berlin Welcome Card, we had a 25% discount on the combined price, so great value for money. There is enough fun and intrigue for children to enjoy the day. The zoo also has a large playground area, so your children can burn off some extra energy if required. Visit the zoo and aquarium today and tell them, Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
As a family, we have had some wonderful adventures. We have been lucky enough to take our girls to many overseas destinations. So, why not let them choose some of the things we do! In 2015, we did a trip to Hong Kong and the girls selected to go to Disneyland. We spent two full days there and they were hooked. Therefore, when they first heard we’d be visiting France on this journey they were definite that they wanted to visit Disneyland Paris and do it all again.
After looking at our schedule we decided that this time we would only spend a day at Disneyland. With the theme park only opening at 10 am we could take our time getting there. From our accommodation at the B&B Hotel Paris Porte de la Villette we jump onto the Metro to Chaussee d’Antin La Fayette. From there we take the 5-minute walk to the Auber RER station and purchase our train tickets for Disneyland Paris. Disneyland is about 45 minutes out of the city in Gare de Marne la Vallee Chessy. The cost of the train ticket from Auber to Disneyland is €15.20 one way per person.
Once arriving at Disneyland Paris, if you haven’t purchased your tickets, then head over to the ticket office. Just so you are prepared the Parks offer various entry options. Now, you would have just heard me mention “parks”, because Disneyland Paris contains two parks; Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios. You have the option of visiting one or both parks. We of course decided to visit both.
Excitedly we entered Walt Disney Studios and had a look around. Our first stop in the park was to visit the animation theatre. Here we discovered how the Walt Disney studio created their animation and creature effects. Only lasting about 10 minutes is gives us some valuable information about animated production and set design.
Much of the Walt Disney Studio’s areas are based on a certain theme. Be it Ratatouille, Toy Story, Lilo and Stitch or Armageddon, the sections have rides and theatre shows based around these popular Disney Studio titles.
We found that it was quite easy to fly through Walt Disney Studios and quickly moved to the Disneyland Park.
Like the Studio, the Park is separated into defined areas. There’s Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland. These lands are separated by a central plaza and main street containing the various Disney retail and food outlets. Also scattered throughout the park are food stalls and restaurants.
A family could easily spend a day or two exploring these two sites. We spent most of our stay in Disneyland Park and whilst there probably tried out every ride and feature available. Unfortunately, some of the park is still under construction, with a Pirates of the Caribbean area still being developed. Saying this though doesn’t take away from the intrigue of the park.
Now for the important detail, which will determine if you elect to stay or go to Disneyland Paris. The cost… It can be expensive, we were there for a twelve-hour day and spent close to €600 for a family of four. So, I would consider that an expensive day out.
Disneyland Paris also has accommodation available in their hotel, with room packages including access to the Disneyland Parks. So, it may be a better option to book your accommodation at the hotel and access the parks that way. This way you don’t have to worry about transport to the parks and accommodation in Paris. Likewise, you could find some cheap accommodation in Marne-la-Vallée and just worry about tickets into the park.
Although expensive, we had an awesome time at Disneyland Paris. Disneyland holds some fascination and wonder to people of all ages. It is an extremely fun day, although sometimes you may need to line up to access the more popular rides. They offer a “Fast Track” ride option which costs a little extra, where you are given a time to go on a particular ride. This way you can have fun elsewhere in the park and when your time gets closer you just go to the fast track lane and hop onto the ride.
Overall, Disneyland Paris is an amazing place. My recommendation is that if you are planning on going, make sure you have saved your pennies. But sometimes, spending quality time and enjoying a fun-filled day is more valuable than the cost. Because I know, these memories will last forever. Therefore, when you are in France, pencil in Disneyland Paris for a day or two, enjoy an incredible experience and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
No matter what your first thoughts of France are, it is undoubtedly full of history. The opulence of France is on full show and there is probably no better place to see this wealth than the Palace of Versailles.
Like many tourists to France we decided to make our way to the Palace to spend a day visiting the royal residences and relaxing in the gardens.
After leaving the B&B Hotel Paris Porte de la Villette a little later than we had hoped for, we hop on the 9 am train to Versailles. Train tickets can be purchased from the train stations. Just tell the ticket office we’re you are going and they will give you the right ticket. Likewise, you can use the automated ticket machines to select your required tickets. Please note; conductors do check your tickets so if you select the wrong one you may find yourself being fined or paying for another ticket. This depends on how the conductors are feeling on the day.
When arriving at Versailles station it is a short walk around to the Palace. Just follow the signs and masses of other tourists. Online purchasing is a good idea as you won’t need to line up for tickets at the ticket office. Unfortunately, you will see need to wait in the entry line unless you’ve purchased a “skip the line” ticket, through a third-party operator, for an extra cost.
We were lucky on the day we were there as everyone wanted to buy tickets from the ticket office. Therefore, no one was using the hidden ticket machines in a different room. We quickly purchased our tickets for the palaces and gardens and headed to the huge line up.
Now, we were prepared for the wait, we had some water, some snacks and our entertainment devices to keep us occupied. If fact Josie and I used to time to write a few posts whilst we waited. The girls listened to some music and sang, harmonising the day away.
It was a 2.5 hour wait but the lines constantly moved, so there was a sense that you were going somewhere. Group tours through travel agencies are always available. These tours get you into the grounds quicker, but you have a limited time for your visit to the Palace and gardens. And the Palace of Versailles is a take your time attraction.
When you make it to the front of the line, you will need to pass through a security checkpoint. So, make sure you are sensible and leave any sharp implements in your room. We have seen people try to enter with their favourite Swiss Army knife, only for it to be confiscated.
Once you’re past the security check the Palace of Versailles shows you its wealth around every corner. This Palace has seen Kings and Queens grace these beautiful halls and their need for luxury is incredible.
Once through the Palace buildings you cannot help but be overwhelmed by the enormity of the Palace grounds. Water fountains, sculptures, manicured lawns and flower exhibits are everywhere. Make sure you grab a map so you don’t get lost.
As mentioned earlier, you should make a day of it. The gardens contain a cafe and restaurant if you are feeling hungry. We ate a nice lunch in the La Girandole Versailles garden cafe at a slightly elevated price. However, it was great to relax for a little while before exploring the gardens more.
Our Passport Ticket also gave us access to the Petit and Grand Trianons, which once housed the Queen’s, Princess’ and Princes of France.
These Trianons are located outside of the main palace grounds with separate security checks being performed at each site.
A fantastic day, the Palace of Versailles is an ideal day getaway from Paris. So, spend a day or book some accommodation in Versailles and tell them Simon of Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for the Palace of Versailles
Before this big adventure started, we knew we’d have to plan some activities before we arrived in Europe. After doing some research we booked some tours with Urban Adventures. One of those tours was a Storyline of Berlin.
Urban Adventure’s Storyline of Berlin is a 4-5 hour walking tour, around the streets of Berlin. Germany has had an infamous history and Berlin has been at the heart of those historic tragedies. This tour gives, visitors an honest historical insight into the heartbreaking treatment of the people of Europe by Hitler’s Germany. It then details the subsequent division of a city after World War II ended. The tour does need a little fitness to complete the 5 hour walk. But your tour guide will control the pace of the walk depending on speed and health of their guests.
Our meeting point for the tour is at the large flag pole in front of the Reichstag building. Here we are greeted by our guide for the day, Sara. Sara is an Italian archaeologist with an extensive knowledge and love for Berlin. Her passion for this city is evident in how she delivers her knowledge to her guests.
From the Reichstag, you walk the streets and visit some of Berlin’s main attractions. The Holocaust Memorial is a large eerie art display, that makes you feel trapped the deeper you walk in, with imposing walls on either side. The stunning Brandenburg gate with its horse and chariot to the Topography of Terror, which has a timeline of the horrific treatment of the innocent.
Not only does the tour take in all this history, Sara also ensures that you have a couple of rest stops. A stop at a local café for some refreshments and a toilet break. Then another pause later when you visit Rausch’s, an incredible chocolate store with samples and magnificent chocolate displays.
A Storyline of Berlin tour completes at Lustgarten, next to the Berlin Cathedral. Here Sara will give you advice on where to eat and what else to do with your time in Berlin.
Our small group of four found the tour very interesting and well worth the cost. Sara was an excellent guide, easy to understand with a well measured delivery of her knowledge. We have no issue in recommending this excellent tour through Urban Adventures. So, book your next tour today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for Urban Adventure’s Storyline of Berlin