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Natalie's European vacation


Natalie in Paris, France.
Natalie in Paris, France.

October 23, 2010 — TWN's on-air personality Natalie Thomas took a little trip to Scotland, London and Paris at the end of August. We caught up with her to find out more about her amazing experience.

A view of the Eiffel Tower at night.
A view of the Eiffel Tower at night.

WHERE

In early September, I went to Scotland because my best friend from high school was getting married. She lives just outside Edinburgh, so we stayed in town to do all of the 'touristy' things. While we were overseas, we figured that we should visit some other countries, so we also went to Paris, France and London, England.

WHO?

My mother came with me on the trip, so it was just the two of us. We went for ten days. Obviously two days are travel days (one day there, one back), but we basically spent five days in Scotland, two in Paris and one in London.

FIRST EXPERIENCE

This was both of our first times to Europe, and the only thing I was nervous for was the flight. It was about seven hours, and I do NOT like flying. But they give you a couple of movies in-flight (we flew Air Transat there and Thomas Cook back - some airlines have your own televisions on the backs of seats...that would have been awesome to help us get through the flights) and two meals, so it helped to pass the time. The flights weren't as bad as I thought they'd be.

FLIGHTWe flew between countries. We flew from Edinburgh to Paris, and Paris to London with a discount airline called Easy Jet (easyjet.com). The flights were ridiculously cheap, but I warn you against taking too much luggage. It was 18 pounds per checked bag (only 9 pounds if you pay online ahead of time)! So you have to be smart when packing.

TRANSIT

While Paris and London we took the transit EVERYWHERE. They both have amazing transit systems. London's “tube“ (basically the subway) was extremely easy to navigate around. But we found the Paris transit system to be top of the line. We fly into Charles De Gaulle airport, took the train into Paris, then hopped on the subway to get to the Eiffel Tour, the bus to get to our Davinci Code walking tour - I highly recommend buying a pass that allows you to hop on all three forms of transportation. I think it was around 40 euros for three days. Totally worth it. You can hop on/off any train/subway/bus and get absolutely anywhere. It was similar in London, too.

FOOD

I found the food to be extremely cheap. That surprised me. My mom and I would buy lunch, and for the two of us to eat a panini in Edinburgh it was three pounds! Our first night in Paris we ate this amazing lasagna and for the two of us it was about 16 Euros. So food was cheap, but you have to be smart about conversion. The Euro is nearly on par with the Canadian dollar, but the Pound is nearly double - so don't get fooled by a 2 Pound bottle of water - that's nearly four Canadian dollars. Best food? Paris. We had the most amazing meals. Surprisingly, the best food we ate was Italian! If you go to Paris, eat Italian! You won't go wrong. The best meal we had was our last lunch in Paris. It was a cheese ravioli in a cream sauce, drizzled in Balsamic Vinegar. Amazing!

Natalie having a blast in Scotland.
Natalie having a blast in Scotland.

TOURS

We made the most of walking tours and hop on/hop off buses. We did the hop on/hop off bus in Edinburgh and London and they were great. I recommend two things: buy your tickets online ahead of time. You can save a lot of money that way. And ride around the whole route ONCE. See all the major sights, listen to your guide (or earphones if it's just a recording), and see what stops you want to make. THEN once you've made your way once around, hop off at the stops you like best.

FAVOURITE MEMORY

Best part of our trip? The Segway tour around Paris. We booked online ahead of time with a company called Fat Bike Tours; they also book tours in other major European cities. I know it's fun to walk around and see the sights, but sometimes that can be boring - how about SEGWAYING around seeing the sights? It was incredible. It adds an extra element of fun and excitement, and the tour guides are full of knowledge. The tour guide gives you 30 minutes of training at the start of the tour to go over the safety rules and practice on the segway. I have to tell you I was IN TEARS I was so scared. I thought I would hate it. But after the practice and once we started the tour - there was no turning back! Now I want to take Segway tours wherever I go! But here's a tip - do the segway tours at night (we went from 6p -10p) because there are less people on the roads and sidewalks AND the Eiffel Tour lights up at night so everything looks so pretty!

SURPRISES

I was surprised at how many people smoked in Paris. I shouldn't have been surprised because it's such a cultural thing. But I'm the type of person who really doesn't like smoke; I can't stand being around it. So if you don't like smoke either, this is my warning to you about Paris. Most people eat in outdoor cafe's, which is great - but they can smoke outdoors at the tables. And it's generally really crowded in Paris, so the smoke is really in your face. Eat inside if it bothers you, and just be smart about where you sit.

My mom loves Diet Coke. In Paris it's called “Coca Light“ and some of the waiters really had NO IDEA what “Diet Coke“ is. So remember “Coca Light“ and be prepared to pay for it. A large glass of Coca Light cost my mom 8 Euros our first night. That was the last coke she had on the trip:)

The people in Scotland were very lovely. So were the people in London. In London, if we were looking at the train maps on the wall at the station, strangers would come up to us and ask if we needed a hand. We thought that was awesome.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • I recommend packing light. It's easier to travel around from country to country. Bring a comfy pair of shoes, a sweater (or jacket depending on what time of year you go), and comfortable pants. Who cares what you look like?! Dress warm, dress comfortably and don't think about how you look - there's too much to see and do to worry about trying to impress the locals.
  • Buy a cell phone plan before you go on your trip. And make sure your cellphone is capable of finding a provider in Europe (ask your phone company). I bought 100 texts for $25 from my cell phone provider. That way I could text/receive texts from not only people at home but also people you meet up with on your trip. Don't get caught paying for roaming charges - you don't want a giant bill when you get home.
  • Bring medicine! I got caught with out cold medicine on our first day in Paris. We had to go to the pharmacy and buy some pills. But they don't have the same brands as we do, and the pharmacist barely spoke a word of English. So that was a task! I ended up getting the right pills, but their pills are the old school chalk-tasting kind - so just think ahead and bring your favourite kind of pills in case you unfortunately need them!

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