As I mentioned briefly in a previous post, Josh and I are planning a pilgrimage to Europe. (I am resisting using an !!!!!!! on the end of that first sentence.) Since we got married in 2011, we’ve thrown around the idea of doing a Europe trip but never really moved forward with any plans. We weren’t even researching it, honestly. Then while Josh was deployed, he got an email about an incredible opportunity. That Man is You (a national men’s group that has a chapter at our parish) was making a pilgrimage “Into the Heart of the Holy Family” in France. After reading the itinerary, we felt God calling us to be a part of this pilgrimage. Then! We figured, heck, we’re already over there…might as well extend our trip and do some exploring on our own. Thus our general itinerary was born: Rome for 7 days (with one day in Assisi perhaps), Paris for 3 days and then meet up with the TMIY pilgrimage group in Paris. During our time with the group, we’ll stay in Paris (and the surrounding area) a few more days and then go to Mont San Michel, Bayeux, Omaha Beach (the D-Day beaches), and Lourdes. We’re terribly excited! The video below gives more details about the pilgrimage
Also, see this precious video about pilgrimages and Mont San Michel.
However, the last time I was in Europe I was with an EF Tour group from my school. I was in 9th grade. It was fantastic. (thank you, mom. seriously.) But that doesn’t help me too much in regards of how to plan our own European adventure! Our time with the group is all planned out, but we’re still setting our own schedule for the days we have on our own in Rome and Paris.
Here’s where I need your advice, O, Seasoned Travelers! While this is certainly a spiritual pilgrimage for us, we also want to enjoy the culture, art and food of Rome and Paris. We imagine spending our mornings and early afternoons visiting holy sites (we have our papal audience and scavi tickets reserved!) and our late afternoons and evenings spent at leisure, soaking up all we can of the local side of Rome/Paris. Afterall, God is very present in the ordinary, too! Any general suggestions? Any mistakes you made that you want to caution us against?
I’m open to any and all suggestions! Here are some specific questions though.
There’s so much to see in Rome – Church and world history and art overload. What do you think is an absolutely “must see” and what may get alot of hype, but can be passed up?
What are the best areas in Rome to experience life as a Roman?
What do you think is the best way to get around Rome? Did you find it walk-able?
What is your favorite church in Rome?
What was your favorite food/restaurant(s) during your time in Rome?
Did you find that most people spoke English? What sort of Italian phrases would you have found useful?
What are your Top 3 Must Sees of Paris?
Which arrondisements lend themselves to leisurely strolling with lovely (but not extravagant/not $$$) shops and food?
As a tourist, did you find that Vélib’ was an enjoyable and realistic way to get around? Did you feel overwhelmed/confused/lost/like you were going to get hit by a car and die? Any tips on that?
There are so many art museums. We plan to visit the Louvre. Are there others that you loved?
Food. Tell me your favorite places to eat. Especially delightful places that may be off the beaten trail a bit – we want to try and experience more of the local scene and not simply fall into tourist traps because we don’t know where else to go!
I am a lover of vintage and treasure hunting. Any particular shops that you would recommend?
Should we plan to see any shows? Any that you suggest?
What French phrases would have been helpful to know? Or did you find that most people knew and were willing to speak English?