Prior to leaving on our last trip, I did the most research on our destinations that I have ever done. For us, this was a big trip and I wanted to be as prepared as possible. To start, I found a really good site called http://www.tripomatic.com. This lets you build itineraries off of the maps of the city you are interested in. It shows points of interest, hotels, landmarks and transit stations. I spent a lot of time building itineraries for both Paris and London. Did we follow those itineraries? For the most part, no. But they were our guidebooks on things we wanted to see and where they were. We still saw pretty well everything that was on the itineraries, but due to inclement weather or other factors, not in the order, or necessarily on the day that it was planned for. Trying to stay on the itinerary schedule would have been very difficult and would have effected the enjoyment of the trip. By playing it loose and sometimes going elsewhere, we found things that weren’t planned for and had fun just exploring.
I also did other research. One of the most valuable bits of work I did was finding online and studying the transit maps for both the Paris Metro and London Underground or Tube. The maps look pretty imposing at first but once you get the hang of how they work and follow the color coding, you soon discover that it is pretty easy to figure out how to get pretty much anywhere you want to go. We found the service to be excellent (compared to what we have at home) and while in London, took advantage of the Oyster card program. This saved us money and it prevented a lot of frustration in regards to not having to buy tickets for each trip. We even took the tube out to the airport when we went home and saved a huge amount. In Paris we purchased a set of 10 tickets for each of us and that saved us a bit and again eliminated the frustration of trying to buy tickets for each journey.
Before leaving home for this trip, I was able to purchase a map of each city. I studied them quite a bit and when we were in each city, the matching map was always with me. Both maps are now showing signs of heavy wear and tear. One thing I did find was that it usually took awhile to get my bearings when we came out of the Metro or Tube. My internal compass failed me and I chastised myself for not bringing along my real compass. But once I got a sense of which direction was north, we were back on track.
A big advantage to the early research was being able to find a reasonably priced hotel that was well located. Many of the sites we went to see were a reasonable walking distance. The tripomatic site connects to the hotel booking site so it wasn’t too difficult selecting our rooms. We did this 6 months in advance though and were glad we did. Hotel rooms in good locations at a reasonable price are hard, if not impossible, to get the closer you are to your trip date. Even with a 6 month lead, rooms were starting to fill up. In Paris, we were a 10 min walk to the Louvre and Seine River. It was an ideal location for us. In London we were right beside St. Pauls and again found this to be a great location.
The above shot was taken just a 15 min walk from our hotel in Paris.
Another type of research we did, I say ‘we’ because my wife did most of this, was to go on youtube and check out videos of places we might be interested in. These were mostly of the markets. Museums and monuments are interesting but the markets are great fun. By seeing videos of the markets, we were able to decide which to skip and which were a must see. My favorite turned out to be the Stables Market in London. Unfortunately, some of the vendors were not ‘photographer friendly’ but I still loved the atmosphere of the place.
Stables Market, London – Fuji X100S
In summary, I have to state that the research we did was well worth the effort. We managed to see all our must-see items, most of our like-to-see items, and discovered a lot just by exploring and being willing to treat our itineraries as a loose guideline instead of a hard schedule. We had 6 months to prepare and in my opinion, that is a good amount of time to do all the planning. Of course it wasn’t full time work, but an easy pace doing a bit on most evenings after work. Also, that amount of lead time allowed us to be somewhat picky on our accommodations. By studying and understanding the transit systems, we had no problems getting around right from the time we landed. Lastly, the one thing I didn’t mention yet is that google maps is your friend. In a lot of my location research, I would go to google maps street view and ‘walk’ around getting familiar with different landmarks. On a couple of occasions, this also let me discover another site that needed to be visited. By doing our research in this manner and pace, we avoided getting burned out by it and we ended up having a wonderful trip.
I hope you may have gleaned some ideas from this post that may help in your future explorations.
Posted on June 25, 2014, in Fuji, Photography, Travel and tagged Fujifilm X-Pro1, Fujifilm X100S, Itinerary, London, Paris, Photography, Seine River, Stables Market, Travel. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.