A videoblog of our walk in Paris city center
We explored the French and Italian Riviera in the summer of 2019. We based our travels from Nice, the largest city of the Riviera. It is a popular tourist destination in Southern France with a busy harbor, cruise port and international airport.
We drove into the city from Southern France and parked by the Port. Parking is convenient and within walking distance of boat tours and bus stop near the harbor.
Most of the city center is easier to navigate on foot than driving through congested traffic. We had lunch by one of many affordable street side cafe and visited the museum district and some antique shops.
We also took a guided tour by van around Nice learning about the history and landmarks. The tour then took us to the outskirts of Nice and to the beautiful Riviera coastline into Villafranche, Ezze and Monaco.
Check out the accompanying video clip below to learn more about our trip.
A tour of SCAD Lacoste campus in Southern France
We visited Lacoste, a historic commune in Provence (Southern France) in the summer of 2019. Below is a video blog of our tour.
Click here to read Glenda’s detail blog about our Lacoste visit.
A tour of historic Seville
Seville is the capital of Andalusia region in southern Spain. A historic city popular with tourists, it’s old town contains three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Alcázar palace complex, the Sevilla Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies.
My wife Glenda is Hawaiian-Filipino and her Filipino ancestry trace back to Seville with a migration around early 1890s during Spanish colonial era. With her recent DNA test showing her still 1/4th Iberian and her middle name (Sevilla) still bearing the heritage, a trip to Seville was an obvious choice. And when we landed she was beaming at the airports large signboard!
We decided to stay at the historic old town and took a 30 min taxi ride from the airport. Some areas in historic district are only accessible on foot which was a treat exploring the historic wonders!
After freshening up at the historic Murillo apartments, we started our walk toward Plaza de Colone for our bus tour around the city.
The Hop on hop off bus tour took us all around the city with an audio guide explaining notable sites.
The Seville harbour, located about 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, is the only river port in Spain. The river splits the city in two distinct regions.
After the bus tour and quick lunch, we headed to the Royal Alcazar for a guided tour. The palace grounds has been in existence since 10th century during Muslim Spanish rule and there are even remnants of walls from the Roman period. It was rebuilt in it’s current Andalusian Mudejar style by King Pedro I in late 14th century. More recently the palace interior and garden were filmed for the HBO hit series ‘Game of Thrones’.
One of the big attraction of Seville is it’s amazingly diverse and colorful cuisine. Tapas was invented in this city during the Spanish Golden age. Below are a few delicious samples!
Exploring Seville was a memorable experience for us. The charm of it’s old town cobblestone streets, historic architecture and delicious food makes it a must see in any Spanish trip.
We also took day trip to nearby Andulusian white villages of Zahara and Grazalema and historic Ronda.
Finally, check out the below video clip for a live experience of our tour in Seville. Enjoy!
A video blog of our first look at Paris, France
The first introduction to Paris, its historic and gorgeous city center and landmarks, is a special treat. In this video clip below we get our first look at Paris in the summer of 2018, as we head to our hotel from the Gare de Lyon train station. Enjoy the ride!
A first look at Versailles Palace
The first time encounter with the Versailles Palace, one of the largest and most beautiful royal palace in the world, is a memorable experience. Check out the below clip for a sneak peek. We will be exploring more of the palace and its world famous gardens in subsequent blogs in next few weeks. So be sure to check back to the site. Enjoy!
A 1000 year of history told through magnificent architectures
In this video series we take a tour of the famous architectures around the world that tells a historical timeline of the past 1000 years.
We start in the middle ages in the nation-state of Pisa. Then visit french medieval sites of Notredame in Paris and Pope’s palace in Avignon. Then explore the wonders of Venetian Empire of late middle ages.
Renaissance wonders by Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Vasari take us to Sienna, Florence and Milan. We then turn to the Spanish empire’s golden age in Seville.
The demise of Spanish Armada leads us to London, England during the Tudor reign in the 16th century. Followed by 17th century reign of Louis XIV in Versailles.
We then move east to Hapsburg Austrian Empire of 18th century in Vienna. Then explore 19th century Bavarian castles of King Ludwig II that gave way to German Unification.
We then head back west to visit the marvels of Industrial era and late 19th century Parisian architecture like Eiffel Tower and the modern Louvre.
Finally we cross the Atlantic to explore the rise of a early 20th century giant city in Chicago. Further crossing the Pacific, we reach Sydney, Australia and visit the wonderful post – WWII architecture in Sydney Opera House.
We end our trip in a architecture landmark of the modern era – CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.
Europe travel guide
Travelling across Europe, especially in summer, can be an exciting adventure. This is a brief guide on how to do it based on our own real life experience. The guide is primarily geared toward residents from North America but applicable for most travelers flying into Europe. The travels in this guide took place between 2015 and 2019.
To prepare, you should start planning at least 6-7 months ahead. A helpful resource for planning is Rick Steves Europe Travel Guide and his audio guide and books.
We use hotels.com and AirBnB for accommodation, Kayak for airlines, Duolingo app for foreign language learning, Viator/TripAdvisor for guided tours, Man in seat61 for train connections and Google Search for train, maps and attractions. Make sure you have an international plan with your wireless carrier for your smartphone. Verizon and T-Mobile has the most Europe friendly plans in our experience. For best price and availability, book ahead by at least following timeline:
- International flights: 3-5 months
- Long distance Trains: 3 months
- Flights within EU: 2-3 months
- Car Rental: 6-8 weeks
- Hotels/AirBnB: 4-6 weeks
- Guided Tours: 4-6 weeks
- Local Trains: 2 weeks
It is better to book the international flight first so you know where to fly in and then plan remaining itinerary.
Places to Visit
The sites visited and the accompanying video blog series are described in my blog Best Of Europe. When in a site, use your smartphone and Google map as much as needed to get the most out of your visit.
Visiting all these sites in a single trip is possible if you have 4-6 weeks in hand. However, you can split it in multiple trips to suit your budget and availability. Below is a suggested itinerary.
1. Fly into Europe via A) London, Then take a flight to Vienna, Austria. Or B) fly to Vienna directly.
2. Take a guided day trip from Vienna to Budapest, Hungary. Explore Vienna as well.
3. Take an OBB train from Vienna to Salzburg for a half day tour. Then a scenic train trip from Salzburg to Munich.
4. Take a day trip from Munich into Bavaria exploring Oberammergau, Linderhof and Newscheinstein. Then head to Zurich via train and enjoy the scenic Rhine river valley and nearby Basel and Rheinfelden.
5. Fly or take train from Zurich to Milan. Take a day tour to Lake Como. Then explore Milan before heading to Venice by train.
6. Explore Venice, then take the train to Florence. Explore Florence. Then take a day trip of Tuscany covering Siena, Pisa and San Giminano.
7a. Head to Genoa by train. Then take a Mediterranean cruise from Genoa or Savona exploring Marseilles, Nice, Monaco and Barcelona. Take day excursions from the cruise ports. Then fly to Marseilles. An alternative to cruise is available in next step.
7b. If skipping cruise then fly from Milan or Florence to Nice. Then explore the Riviera (Nice, Monaco, Ezze, Cannes) by car.
8. Rent the car (preferably automatic and German) from the airport. Then explore Provence by car including Avignon, Arles and Niemes.
9. Fly from Marseilles or Nice to Madrid. Explore Madrid. Then take the train to Seville. Explore Andalusian sites like Ronda, White Villages, Granada via guided day tours. Then head back to Madrid via Cordoba in Train. Spend half or a full day in Cordoba to explore. From Madrid take a flight to Paris.
10. In Paris explore the beautiful city as well as nearby Versailles. Take guided tour to nearby Champagne region or Normandy.
11. Then fly or take the train to London. Explore London. If your entry to Europe was in Vienna then fly back to Vienna. Finally, head back home!
A first look at Barcelona
We visited Barcelona in the summer of 2015 during a Mediterranean cruise. The city is famous for its Modernista architecture and is one of the biggest tourist destination in Europe. Enjoy the clip below for a first look at Barcelona.
Tour of a famous white village in Andalusia, Spain
Zahara de la Sierra is a picturesque village in the province of Cádiz in Andalusia, southern Spain. Perched on a mountain, overlooking a valley and a man-made lake formed by a dam, this beautiful village is conveniently located between Seville and Ronda. It is considered to be one of the pueblos blancos or “white towns” because the overwhelming majority of the buildings are white.
Below is a photo gallery of our brief tour to Zahara.