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Million Euro Moments (Europe Trip – A Travelogue)

R. Parvadha Vardhini Monday, June 10, 2019
Million Euro Moments (Europe Trip – A Travelogue)

What fun it is to be around with friends... And just imagine the fun when we hang out on a tour with them for 10 days... OMG, then what about the destination like Europe to hang out with friends!! Yes, it is fun, fun and fun throughout... Here I am, after a looooooooong time in my blog, to happily share my experience on our trip to 4 countries in Europe – France, Switzerland, Italy and Vatican City – over a period of 10 days!

Pre Tour Preparation

It all started with a small buzz of thinking on having a tour with friends and family way back in mid-February. Not a firm plan then, with people saying a yes sometime and a no later... But the plan started taking its shape in the month of March when Mr. Satish and Mr. Murali contacted many travel agents and acquired the details of sightseeing tours and the related costs involved. They researched and compared the details with each travel agent and finally found one Jumbo Travels in Kuwait and through them Thomas Cook, the famous travel agent around the globe.

The talks went on, mails communicated, itinerary was built. The trip was planned for 10 days combining the Bakrid Holidays during August. Slowly the members confirmed their presence and a perfect group got created with 10 families. The hotels and flight tickets were booked after researching on the facilities, costs and comfort levels. 2 more families confirmed a little later and their bookings for flights and hotels were done appropriately. A proper tour organising committee was formed with various functions delegated to each one in the committee. Each family applied for Schengen visa and obtained the same, some as early as first week of June and some during the last week of July.

Now started the scariest episode for men and the entertaining episode for women – yes, you got it right. The Shopping Spree!! :D Among others, considering also the climatic conditions of the places to be visited, shopping ranged from shoes to garments, medicines to cosmetics, cotton to woollen, scarf to jewellery – what not!!!

We packed up and got ready to explore Europe to start from Kuwait on 14th August 2018. We started our travel towards Paris, our first destination, via Abu Dhabi, though 2 families had to take 2 connecting flights to reach Paris.

Day 1 – Paris – Louvre Museum

We arrived at Charles De Gualle Airport at Paris in the morning at around 7.40 am local time. We were received by the Tour Manager from Thomas Cook, Mr. Sandeep Patil and he accommodated us on a bus with 45 seats, quite comfortable for our count of 37. Since our check in time at Hotel was only at 3 pm, he took us to Fragonard, a perfume factory located at the main city of Paris. The lady representative of the Fragonard, Ms. Yula, explained us how perfumes are manufactured at their factory, the speciality of their product and also showed us the various machinery used for perfume manufacturing. We looked around their facility and enjoyed sniffing various types of fragrances and finished our tour there with some shopping of perfumes. After a short photo session outside the Fragonard, we headed towards Gaur De Nord where an entire street had many Indian restaurants. We barged in Hotel Saravana Bhavan and had a heartful of South Indian meals, as we were quite aware that we won’t be having the luxury of south Indian food anytime during the next 10 days.

After a sumptuous meal at HSB, we checked in our hotel – Holiday Inn Express Paris Velizy. Quite comfy rooms except that Air conditioners couldn’t satisfy our needs. We freshened up and started towards the world famous Louvre Museum in the evening. This is the world’s largest art Museum located near the river Seine at Paris. The museum is housed at Louvre Palace originally built as Fortress and later converted into a Palace. This Museum is also famous for housing many artistic works of Leonardo Da Vinci, including his masterpiece “Mona Lisa”. The large Museum was very much crowded and we took a tour inside watching the great pieces of art. The painting of Mona Lisa had the largest crowd in front of it, everyone trying to take a glimpse of the smiling beauty and taking pictures with her.

The tall ceilings, beautiful paintings and sculptures around transported us to a whole new world. The glass pyramids were enchanting to our eyes. Overwhelmed by the beauty surrounding us, we took leave of the museum half heartedly.

From there, we headed towards an Indian restaurant ‘Bhojan’ to have our dinner. We were surprised to note that the sun did not set until 10 pm whereas shops and other commercial places brought their shutters down as early as 6 pm.

Day 2 – Paris – Eiffel Tower

After enjoying the continental breakfast at the hotel, we started towards the main city to have a city orientation tour. The local guide Ms. Annie joined us in the bus and explained us about the various important attractions of the city. While proceeding, we saw the Statue of Liberty installed in the river Seine which was the inspiration for the one at New York and was also gifted by the French, the tunnel where Princess Diana died in a car crash and the statue of torch flame in her memory, the Parliament house, the Galaries Lafayette – the shopping mart, etc. The Opera House also called as Opera Garnier named after Charles Garnier who was its architech, was the first place to view, followed by the circular column constructed by Napoleon Bonaparte at Vendome dedicated to his grand army with his figurine on the top. We took pictures here and then started towards the Concorde Square. Enroute we saw Les Invalides where the tomb of Napoleon is housed, Louvre Museum, and the Alexander Bridge etc. At Concorde Square, we saw a tower built in Egyptian style with a pyramid on the top called as the Egyptian Obelisk. It was a gift to the French by the Egyptian Government in the 19th century.

The Government of France added a gold leafed pyramid cap on the top as the original cap was believed to be stolen. The Concorde square had fountains and statutes of the erstwhile Kings and Queens. Once our photo session was over, we headed towards the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower considered as one of the wonders of the world, is an iron tower built by Gustave Eiffel in a span of 2 years 2 months and 2 days. With a height of 325 metres it made us admire it with glee for it is one of the greatest man made constructions. We had to wait in the queue for almost 2 hours to obtain the tickets to go up the Eiffel Tower. However, unfortunately, we were denied entry to the third level as some security related maintenance was going on then. We were able to obtain tickets only to enter the 2nd level of the tower. We took the lift to the second level of the Eiffel tower and were astonished by the bird’s eye view of the entire city Paris. We were never tired of taking pictures and kept on and on enjoying the view. Men took a short break in between to taste the world famous Champagne, a variety of wine the original form of which is available only in France.

After visiting the world wonder, we headed towards having lunch at ‘Welcome India’ an Indian restaurant. Post lunch, we visited the Arc de Triomphe, a monument built by Napoleon Bonaparte, for all the soldiers who gave up their lives for the victory of France. There is also a ‘Tomb of the Unknown soldier’ under the Arc and has an eternal flame lit on it in memory of the dead who were never identified. We took a walk around the Arc and also in the avenues nearby. Then we had a cruise tour scheduled at river Seine and headed for the same. A lovely sight of Seine River and the cruise that could accommodate almost 100 people made the cruise ride a memorable trip. Cruise ride was for almost 2 hours viewing the important places of Paris from the river. We also had fun taking pictures, singing songs and dancing to the tunes in the cruise. Fun and Fun forever!! After the cruise ride, it was time for dinner and rest. We tested our taste buds at ‘Massala Lounge’ yet another Indian restaurant at Paris.

Day 3 – Paris – Disneyland

The much awaited day for kids arrived – yes, we were going to Disneyland. Err, did I say kids? Adults were equally excited to visit the Disneyland. Disneyland was such a huge complex accommodating Disney Studios and Disney Park. We obtained tickets for Disney Park which had various rides – adventurous, fantasy, thriller, discovery and what not. There is this beautiful castle which is also the logo of Disney Pictures, in the centre. We went around Main Street USA, the Castle, Centre plaza, and then into Adventure Land. Several caves which were low lit, a few tree houses, hanging bridge, a treasure cave (oh, why do I remember the ‘Nilavarai’ in Ponniyin Selvan when I saw the skeleton among treasures there!!! PS paithiyam eppovo muthi pochu, athaan ;) ) and such small fun areas for the scared ones like me. However, gathered some guts to go on ‘Indiana Jones’ ride. Little did I realise that it was a roller coaster ride and it has an upside down turn too. We had been served packed lunch by the tour manager and we promptly had it on time. Now with this ride, my first thought was to have postponed my lunch. What would happen if I threw up during in the ride?!! Ayyo paavam, mathavanga!!! Thankfully nothing happened other than my scream during the ride; probably my co-riders had good luck!
We went around a few kids’ rides to keep my little one engaged and happy, like Hatter’s Magical Tea cups, the Maze, Snow white in the dark forest etc. The day was almost exhausted and so were we. We energized ourselves with some ice cream and finally arrived near the castle to watch the grand parade of Disney characters that happens daily. The parade was absolutely brilliant. Each one of us became a small kid while we watched our favourite characters walk across us dancing and singing and entertaining us. The beautiful chariots, ships, coaches were a delight to watch.

After the excitement of parade was over, we had our own adventure searching for all our kids who were very busy trying out every other ride available. As we moved out of Disneyland our hearts were filled with joy as we had re-lived our childhood for a while.

Day 4 – Zurich – Travel

The fourth day started off busy with packing and checking out after the breakfast, as we had a long travel ahead. Yes, we were travelling to Zurich from Paris in the bus which was going to eat up the whole day. Little did we know that travel from Paris to Zurich could be equally exciting! There were two reasons. One of them was the beautiful sceneries enroute – mountains, lakes, farms, villages, and tunnels – absolute scenic beauty. The second reason was we had wonderful fun games throughout the travel. Our young lady Ms. Shobinya had meticulously planned various games engaging men, women and kids equally. The to-be tiresome travel turned out to be so much of fun. We stopped in between for short breaks and for having our packed lunch. We reached Zurich at around 7 pm and headed for dinner at ‘Restaurant Indian Palace’. After dinner we checked in to Hotel Ibis Styles Messe Airport. Quite small rooms as compared to Holiday Inn and no Air conditioners were there. Ok ok, I know what you are about to say. You might ask why someone would be in need of AC when in Switzerland. But hey, no, it was quite warm there in Switzerland. We had to keep the windows open to get some fresh air flowing in.

We were enthused at the sight of tram at Zurich and hence a few of us strolled around in the night, took a tram to Zurich Central and had a small tour of the place. We watched the huge railway station at Zurich as the bullet trains arrived and departed; we walked around the main streets, had a glimpse of the statue of Alfred Escher who is the creative mind behind the railway connectivity to Jungfraujoch, and finally ended our mini tour with ice cream and returned to hotel in tram.Day 5 – Switzerland – Jungfraujoch

Here comes an exciting day ahead. We were about to travel to Jungfraujoch, called the Top of Europe, located in the stretch of Alps Mountains at an elevation of 3,466 metres above the sea level. Switzerland is famous for its beautiful sceneries, snow capped mountains and cold weather. Is that only so? No... The world record breaking movie ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ and many other movies have been shot in Switzerland. The blockbuster DDLJ movie has made tourists to throng to these areas. The highest numbers of tourists to Switzerland are from India, a study says. My dream destination has also been Switzerland right from my childhood when I have heard about the beauty of it. The longingness to visit the place aggravated when I watched DDLJ. Now, its the time my dream is gonna come true. Much awaited place and yes, I wasn’t disappointed. I was stunned by the beauty both in the plains and on the path while travelling towards Grindelwald.

We took train from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg (I was finding it very difficult to spell or pronounce the names of few places and while writing this, I had to cross check with google to get the names right!!!). Sceneries everywhere around and as we were moving slowly uphill, we witnessed the snow mixed with sand and that delighted every one of us, as we were gonna experience snow for the first time in life. Once we reached Kleine, we had to take another train to reach the top of Europe – Jungfraujoch. Within few moments when the train started, it entered into a tunnel for quite some time and finally reached our destination. With all the travel, we first barged into the Bollywood restaurant there to have our lunch. This time vayitrukku unavu first ;)

Post lunch, we went around to have a tour of Jungfraujoch and oh man, how much we were stunned to see the beauty of the snowy slopes. The climate was quite opposite to the warmth in the hotel we stayed. We secured ourselves with our winter jackets and enjoyed the place trying to capture those moments with pictures, pictures and more pictures. We, just like any other kid, wanted to play in the snow and we went out in the open. Oh my, it was so slippery to walk on the snow. Yet we managed, threw snow on each other and had good fun. We wanted to take the rope ride; however, worried about the limited time to finish the tour, we let it go. We consoled ourselves to do it next day while visiting Mt. Titlis.

We went around the artificial ice palace and that was the place that really chilled our spine. No no, nothing scary. Just that it was sooooooo cold and we were freezing. Later we got back to the station to take our train to go to Grindelwald via Kleine Scheidegg.
Our next destination was Interlaken, a small town, where many scenes of DDLJ were shot. A park in the town has the statue of Yash Chopra who had been the Brand Ambassador of Interlaken. We took pictures near his statue and also near the fountain where Raj gives a rose to Simren in DDLJ (SRK to Kajol)! Awww... each of the couple were feeling themselves as Raj and Simren <3 <3 The day ended with happy notes after dinner.

Day 6 – Switzerland – Mt. Titlis

When the Tour Manager announced the schedule of the day, the ladies cried in joy and the men cried in anguish. Oh ya, shopping at Switzerland were the most awaited event all these days. Swiss chocolates, Swiss watches, Swaroski, Red Wine, Cow bell, Swiss knives, Fashion garments and accessories – what not!!! The tour manager took us to Lucerne city to do our shopping and spend our time by ourselves. We took a nice walk around, went into various shops, did some shopping and finally assembled to start to Mt. Titlis. The tour manager promised surprise lunch and finally he announced it to be a South Indian Meal. We were happy that we could enjoy our sambar and rasam varieties. Because, all these days the meal had been North Indian with roti/naan, dhal, paneer gravy, aloo gravy, basmati rice and yoghurt mostly. One or two items varied sometimes, otherwise it was typically the same. But we were more surprised to see that we were offered Idli, Oothappam and lemon rice along with chutney, sambar and raitha... Dei, ithu South Indian tiffin da, meals illai da – The person next to me says, yenga, mind voice nu nenaichu sathama pesitteenga :D
After the surprise lunch, we headed towards Engelberg. From here, we had to take a cable car to reach Mt. Titlis. Mt. Titlis is also located in a stretch of Alps Mountains at a height of 3,238 metres above the sea level. The rope for the cable car looked steep going up the hill; however it wasn’t scary like a roller coaster while moving up. The cable car is designed to accommodate 8 people at a time and it was a delightful sight to look at the beauty of nature around. We were also amazed by the man made facilities that help us to reach the top of such hills to enjoy the beauty, both at Jungfraujoch and at Titlis. We crossed a station Trubsee and then alighted at the next station called ‘Stand’. From there we had to take the next cable car – the first 360 degree rotating cable car and it accommodates around 80 people at a time. But of course, we didn’t have a seating arrangement, and we had to stand through, of course, the ride was only for few minutes. (Is that the reason, the station was named ‘Stand’, Lol!! :D )

Finally we arrive at the top of Mt. Titlis, the rotating cable car taking us above the glaciers and what a spectacular view!! There we had come to the open to enjoy the snow and we had few rides and activities like the Ice Flyer and the Cliff Walk. The Ice Flyer is another cable car, but this time it is not a closed one; an open cable car but with the safety seat locks. We took a ride in it and enjoyed the beauty surrounding us with a white carpet (bayathai velila kaattapdaathu, okay?!!) The cliff walk is nothing but similar to a hanging bridge, however one might find it scary if he takes a glimpse on the ground. We took only a small walk around as we were running out of time. On the top of the mountain, when it is cold, it is adventurous when you try out the delicacies in ice cream, ain’t it! Why to miss all that fun! Yes, we had different flavours of ice cream to test our taste buds and we relished them. It was time to get back to Engelberg and we took the same route for return.

We had a long way to travel at the fag end of the day; yes, we had to reach Varese at Italy to check in the hotel. The next few days were to be spent at Italy. We finished our dinner at an Indian restaurant and checked in to the Hotel Ibis Styles Varese.

Continue reading part 2

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