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My husband and I arrived at Chicago O’Hare airport on the Monday after our wedding day completely exhausted, drained and weak from a weekend full of celebrations and family time. We were very much in need of a vacation. As we waited for our flight, we grabbed a bite to eat at the airport and came to a very important realization. We had nothing else to plan, no more checks to write and no relatives to entertain. After a year and a half of wedding planning, it was time for the two of us to just relax.
We decided to visit the booming metropolis of Paris and the beachside city of Barcelona for our honeymoon. We spent five nights in each destination. It was the perfect amount of time for us to unwind after the hustle and bustle of the wedding and still do lots of sightseeing. Here are our travel tips that made this honeymoon one of the best trips we’ve ever experienced:
Live on European Time: In both Paris and Barcelona, locals break for lunch around 2 p.m. and dinner typically begins after 9 p.m. The mornings are fairly quiet -- best for beating the crowds to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or taking a brisk walk along the beach in Barcelona. My husband and I chose to sleep the mornings away, so we would leave the hotel between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. each day and wander the streets to find a café in Paris or a tapas bar in Barcelona. No such thing as “fast food” in Europe, so sit back, relax and spend some time savoring the food and drinks.
Getting Around: Take the bus or the metro everywhere in these cities. I would suggest no other way to explore the area. The bus and metro stops are clearly marked, and station attendants are quick to offer route suggestions. Taking the bus or metro is also a great way to see neighborhoods with fewer tourists. The concierge at our hotel in Barcelona told us that the best way to get to Parc Guell was to take a taxi. We really didn’t want to spend money on taxis because they were quite expensive, so we decided to forgo her suggestion and take the metro. We had to switch metro lines (which is the reason why the concierge suggested a cab), but it was super simple and we were able to wander around in a part of the city that was actually quite beautiful.
A Shopper’s Haven: Don’t forget your tax refund! One of our most memorable shopping experiences was at the Galeries Lafayette department store on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris. Tourists were grabbing designer handbags like kids fighting over Snickers bars at a candy store. Then, they would stand in a long line to get their tax refund (12% in Paris) while surrounded by shopping bags from Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Longchamp, etc. Some tourists were even buying designer luggage to bring back all of their new handbags. We already know Paris is a shopping mecca, but my husband and I quickly learned that Barcelona boasts its own version of the Champs Elysees called Passieg de Gracia. This street is lined with high-end shops like Louis Vuitton and Gucci as well as European favorites like Zara and Mango.
Must-Sees: Our favorite arrondissement in Paris was Montparnasse. This artsy area felt more like a neighborhood, unlike the touristy parts of the city. We had dinner at a café on Boulevard du Montparnasse that was hopping with locals that did not speak a word of English. Nor did our waiter, but we embraced the language barrier and savored every ounce of our drinks, dinner and dessert. Our top-of-the-list attraction in Barcelona is La Boqueria. This market, right off of La Rambla, features rows of vendors selling jamon, meats, candy, fruit, fish and vegetables. We visited this place three times during the course of our five-day stay -- it’s perfect for a fresh snack in between meals.
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