Rome Photo Dump

via our Facebook page:

Photo dump!

Rome is an awesome city, there is just so much history packed into one place. We’ve felt like our entire trip (the history of all the places we’ve been to) has been based around the rise and fall of the Roman empire. It’s surreal and feels like a completely separate dimension, but nope, it actually happened here!

This past week we’ve been to ruins, catacombs, more churches (I don’t think I can get sick of those), museums, and walked through medieval streets. Bernini is everywhere! We watched an opera rehearsal and a Baroque concert. And we found our favorite gelato place.

We’ll try and write more blog posts when we can!



The RomaPass – Cost-Savings Analysis

by Karen

In Paris, we purchased the Paris Museum Pass to visit an unlimited number of museums within 6 days, and thought it was our best purchase there. We heard that Rome had something similar, called the RomaPass, and decided to get one. Unfortunately, its rules and usage is not as clear as the Paris pass.

Whereas the Paris Museum Pass allows you to visit any (listed) museum for an unlimited number for times during a set period, the Roma Pass has these rules:

– costs 34€ per person
– activated on your first visit to any site or first use of public transportation, expires at midnight on the third consecutive day
– unlimited use of public transportation (a 16.50€ value)
– allows you to visit your first two museums/attractions for free
– any museum you visit AFTER your first two freebies are subject to a discounted entrance fee
– allows you to skip lines at some museums (not necessary in early December, but I’d imagine crucial in peak season)
– all major attractions & museums are covered, EXCEPT anything inside Vatican City (it’s not a part of Rome!)

Now, this sounds like a really great deal! That is, until you look at the admission fees for these attractions & museums, as well at the cost of public transportation: this stuff’s already pretty cheap! And the discounted prices to museums aren’t really significant. So did we end up saving money buying a Roma Pass?

Here are the general costs of public transportation (as of Dec 2013):
– Single ride ticket: 1.50€
– 1-day Metro pass: 6.00€ (4 rides)
– 3-day Metro pass: 16.50€ (11 rides)
– 7-day Metro pass: 24.00€ (16 rides)



Paris – Musée Carnavalet

by Mark

via our Facebook page:

Musée Carnavalet is a haphazard assortment of Parisian history. However it displays one of my favorite museum rooms in Paris, a replica of Alphonse Mucha’s jewlery shop.

With Mucha art nouveau explosion writhing through every centimeter of the room, I had to take pictures of everything.

Links to interactive 360 panoramas:




Paris Museums – Passes, Costs, Audioguides, and Scheduling

by Karen

Paris Museum Pass
Mark & I ended up getting a 6-day Paris Museum pass for 69€. With it, you can go to any one of the 60 museums listed in their pamphlet, and there are a lot of major ones in there. I think the pass is well worth it, if you plan on going to a lot of museums, but you should probably figure out the costs before going. The pass is also sold as a 2-day (29€) pass and a 4-day (49€) pass. Even if you are a few euros shy of making up the cost of the pass, the convenience of skipping ticket lines altogether or going through a “fast lane” will help convince you of its value (you’re only in Paris for a limited amount of time, and your time is very valuable!).

Sometimes, a museum will have a special, temporary exhibition. Your Paris Museum Pass may or may not allow you free access into the exhibition as well, so it doesn’t hurt to stroll up to the exhibition bouncer and flash your pass.

You can buy your pass ahead of time online, but we bought it in Paris a few days before we used it. They are sold at major train stations (like Gare du Nord, look specifically for a tourist info booth), or at the museums themselves (look online for info). We were fortunate that one of our residences was near a museum on the list (Musée de Arts et Métiers), and it’s a small and quiet museum, so there was no fuss to get one. I wouldn’t recommend getting one at the major museums (i.e., Louvre) unless you go super early. There will be long lines for it as well.

When you get the pass (it’s really a thick pamphlet folded up to the size of a business card), you’ll see there’s a place to write your name and the date. DO NOT WRITE IN THE DATE. As soon as you write in the date, the pass is “activated”. Rather, you can just present your pass at the museum and someone will stamp it for you.
Cost Savings Analysis

Here’s the breakdown of costs for each individual museum we attended whose admission is covered by the pass:
Thus, if we hadn’t bought a museum pass, we would’ve had to pay a total of 102€ for all our entrance fees (I didn’t include the museums where we got in for free).

We had planned to go to three more museums as well, but we were just too tired so we decided to take an off-day. But even in 5 days, we’ve more than made up the cost of our passes.

(Note: If you are under 26 years old, these prices don’t apply to you, you’ll probably get in for free to all museums in Paris. Double-check to make sure!)

Free Museums / Attractions

Worth having its own section. These are all free to the public, and no pass is required:
– Musée Carnavalet, a museum about the history of Paris
– Notre-Dame Cathedral (not the Tower)
– Sacre-Coeur Basilica
– The Tuileries Gardens
– Walking around (but not going up) the Eiffel Tower
– Musée des Arts et Métiers (free after 6pm on Thursdays only)

Scheduling Our 6 Days

It is worth noting that different museums in Paris close on certain days, particularly Mondays & Tuesdays. You will have to check each museum’s schedule.

In addition, some of the same museums are open late on different days, so you will want to check on that too. Here is an incomplete list:

– Louvre – Open til 9:45p Weds & Fri
– Arc de Triomphe – Open til 10:20p daily
– Musée Rodin – Open til 8:45p Weds
– Musée d’Orsay – Open til 9:45p Thurs
– Musée des Arts et Métiers – Open til 9:45p Thurs

In order to fully take advantage of these hours (the term “min-maxing” comes to mind), we structured our schedule as thus:

Day 1, Sunday – Louvre (full-day), Arc de Triomphe (1hr)
Day 2, Monday – Louvre (full-day), Sacre-Coeur
Day 3, Tuesday – Notre-Dame Tower, Notre-Dame Crypts, Cluny Off-day
Day 4, Wednesday – Musée de l’Armée (5hrs), Musée Rodin (2.5hrs)
Day 5, Thursday – Musée l’Orangerie (4hrs), Musée d’Orsay (5hrs)
Day 6, Friday – Versailles (full-day)
Previous week: Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Musée des Arts et Métiers (free)

On days when museums were open late, we’d schedule half a day for one museum, and go to the other museum at night. It was a system that worked pretty well, since many museums usually close around 5pm.

There were other museums that we found interesting that weren’t covered by the pass; however, we didn’t go to them for lack of time, and will probably try again when we come back:

– Paris Catacombs – 8€
– Museum of Erotica – 8€
– Montparnasse Tower – 12€

Skipping Lines
One of the main draws of the pass was the ability for us to skip ticket lines. This is true for a majority of museums, but for others we still had to wait. You’re pretty much waiting for the metal detector and bag check more than anything, and in most places you can’t skip this.

In particular:
– Musée l’Orangerie – had to wait in line for an hour, there is a “fast lane” for passholders, but it merges with the regular line. (There was a temp special exhibition going on though, so tons of people around)
– Musée d’Orsay – Separate line in the back, maybe a 15 min wait
– Louvre – passholder entrance is in the underground mall (Carrousel du Louvre), just walk right in.


We used a few audioguides while we were in the museums, including our free Rick Steves guides.

Here’s a review of them:

– Louvre – OH GOD YES, rent the 3DS, best audioguide ever. Lasts 6hrs on one charge. Includes 3 excellent guided tours. It also knows where you are in the museum via magical wifi properties. We had our own. Rick Steves had a good guide for this too, but we loved the 3DS so much more.
– Orangerie – it was ok, the museum is fairly small, so it depends on whether you feel an audioguide is worth it. Uses a standard audioguide handset. We shared one.
– Orsay – an iPod touch, worth it, but battery life sucks, expect to go back to the station and exchange your machine every few hours. The UI could be a bit better. We each had our own. Rick Steves’ podcast is very outdated, as the rooms have changed, but you can still listen to his commentary on the pieces, which are out of order.
– Armée – also an iPod touch, battery life sucked, had to exchange 3x. While it was good for the medieval armor section, it was not very good for the Louis XIV-Napoleon section (it essentially read the information placards throughout the museum, which are all readily available in English). We each had our own.
– Rodin – also a small museum, uses standard handset, but worth it, although we shared one.
– Versailles – it’s free, just get one! We used both Versailles’ official handset and Rick Steves’ guide, and both were pretty good.

Our first week in Paris

by Karen

We’ve been in Paris for a week already, one would assume we’ve gone crazy all around town, seeing sights, and living the Parisian dream, with baguettes, turtlenecks, and berets, right?

Most of this week was spent:
– getting & recovering from our colds
– moving through three different types of housing (yeesh)
– being “lazy” tourists (running day-to-day errands instead of sightseeing)
– lots of planning (holy crap, Paris is overwhelming)
– enacting emergency plans for the middle part of our Europe trip (more on that later)


The “marriage” district


night facade


Paris Metro




Solitaire machines at the park


Some people fly all the way to Paris in order to ____.


But, we did manage to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing:
– Arc de Triomphe
Eiffel Tower
– Champs Elysées
Notre-Dame Cathedral
– Musée de Carnavalet
– Musée de Arts et Métiers
– Another Sandeman’s free walking tour


Charles de Gaulle statue


Book vendors along the Seine River


Eros, I think


Obligatory Disney store visit


Republique square

London Wrap-Up

by Karen

We managed to squeeze in a lot of sight-seeing during our precious little week in London (our AirBnb hostess even marveled at our “sightseeing stamina”), and yet we hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface. We’ll definitely be back!

Speaking of AirBnb, we really loved our hosts, and we considered the little amount of time we were able to spend with them to be one of the highlights of our week. Their house was a bit far from central London, but it really felt like a cozy home, and it was nice to be in a place that didn’t feel like a hotel or dorm. So if you happen to be reading this, thank you for being awesome, Bill & Philippa!

And now, a quick list of our likes & dislikes about London—

– so much history!
– the London Underground and ease of public transportation
– the diversity of people and neighborhoods
– the markets
– free museums
– everything is within walking distance
– plethora of ethnic foods
– local television
– the “internationality” of it
– tourist-friendly maps on every street corner

– everything is pretty expensive (compared to America)
– air pollution & quality is very bad (gave us black snot)

The weather was actually gorgeous while we were there, so can’t complain about that!

Ultimately we enjoyed our time in London very much, and are eager to go back again (don’t worry Edinburgh, we want to give you more love next time too). We made the (somewhat) tough decision of skipping Stonehenge, Bath, and York, simply because there was already so much to see and do in London, and we had a short amount of time. We had already crammed so much into a few days, we were starting to get exhausted by the end of the week.

We’re actually considering returning to London after Barcelona at the end of our trip, since both our UK stamps are valid for 6 months (and it would give us an opportunity to get Mark a visa for Ireland). It would be a lot more expensive to fly back from London than Barcelona, but since we’re already on this side of the pond anyways…….

Stay fresh, London! Til next time!

London – Tate Britain museum

by Karen

Made a quick visit to the Tate Museum today, which houses a collection of British-only art from 1500s-present. Admission is free to permanent galleries, and there are free guided tours available at different times of the day. The closest railway station is Pimlico, but we walked across the Thames from Vauxhall. Depending on how much you like British art, you could spend anywhere between 2 hrs to a half-day here. Mark & I were primarily interested in older artworks (pre-1900), so we finished in about 2.5 hrs.








Unfortunately, the one painting we both wanted to see, Ophelia, is currently on tour in Russia. 😦