Return to International Travel – Introduction

Return to International Travel – Introduction
Review: SWISS A340-300 ORD-ZRH and Marhaba Lounge ZRH
Lodging Review: Sina Villa Medici, Florence, Italy
Our Time In Florence, Part 1
Our Time In Florence, Part 2
Lodging Review: Park Hyatt Vendome, Paris, France
Our Time In Paris, Part 1 (Louvre, Sainte-Chappelle, Arc, Eiffel Tower)
Our Time In Paris, Part 2 (Versailles)
Our Time In Paris, Part 3 (Catacombs, Musee d’Orsay)
Viking Kari and an Afternoon in Montmartre
Our Time in La Roche-Guyon and Vernon/Giverny
Our Time on the Normandy Beaches
Our Time in Les Andelys and Le Pecq
Lodging Review: Renaissance Republique, Paris, France
Review: Air France A350 CDG-ORD

After two years without an international trip I was thrilled to finally be able to travel internationally again. I researched Viking River Cruises that we had not yet taken and was excited to see that an extension on the Seine Cruise was a visit to Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey). As a relatively new fan of the show and films that would be something I’d love to see. However we like to cruise in October and not only did that particular extension package end in September, that extension was sold out for all but about two dates during the summer. So we decided to do something different.

In 2008 we had taken a Western Mediterranean cruise where in a single day we visited Pisa in the morning and Florence in the afternoon. We had a whirlwind tour of Florence, just enough for the famous museums and monuments to be pointed out to us but not enough time to get to explore any of them. So we decided to do a few days in Florence before flying to Paris to take a cruise on the Seine out to the beaches of Normandy and back. While the river cruise would start on Wednesday, we flew to Paris the Saturday before and had several days to explore things at our leisure as the mood struck us.

Red: Memphis-Chicago-Zurich-Florence (United and SWISS) Green: Florence-Paris (Air France) Blue: Paris-Chicago (Air France)
Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz

We had planned to return from Paris on the following Wednesday, the day the ship returned to Paris, but I found I could save over 30K Air France miles by returning on Thursday instead of Wednesday. That gave us an opportunity to try a hotel in a different section of Paris and an opportunity to see one more museum we’d missed.

For the flight to Florence I actually paid cash for a business class ticket on United to Chicago, where I met my traveling companion, connecting to flights on SWISS to Zurich and Florence. My friend used her United miles to fly in economy on the same flights.  I wouldn’t ordinarily pay cash for a long-haul flight but this put me over the top for Silver status for next year.

We’d planned to visit the Priority Pass lounge in O’Hare’s T5 but it was open only to those who had access due to their flight class or status and not to Priority Pass members. Once we reached Zurich we were able to visit the Marhaba Lounge using Priority Pass.

In Florence we chose to burn a few of our Marriott points. We considered both the Westin Excelsior and the St. Regis which were super-close to the historic center but decided to save our points and stay at the Sina Villa Medici which is part of the Autograph Collection. It was a little farther to walk but we felt it was worth it to save points for later trips.

Sina Villa Medici, Autograph Collection

We bought economy tickets on Air France to Paris from Florence and were able to use the Masaccio Lounge in the Florence airport (it’s the only lounge) thanks to Priority Pass. It was quite busy and I didn’t take photos of it.

I knew we wanted to stay at the Park Hyatt Vendôme in Paris so we used our Hyatt points for that. It was as lovely as expected, I just wish I had upper-level status with them so we could have enjoyed the breakfast there. But we found some nice cafes in the area which were much cheaper and fueled us up each day. For our stay we redeemed World of Hyatt points.

Park Hyatt Vendôme, Paris

We boarded our Viking ship in Paris on a Wednesday and it returned the following Wednesday – well, it almost returned to Paris! Thanks to a lock workers strike we had to stay docked at our final port of call. Fortunately it wasn’t that far outside of Paris but it was still a more expensive ride to our final hotel than we’d have had otherwise.

Viking Kari

For our final night in the City of Lights we stayed at the Renaissance Paris Republique Hotel and once again used Marriott points for our stay. This hotel is in a much more residential part of the city and had tons of cafes around as well as being very close to the Metro stop.

Renaissance Paris Republique Hotel

For the return flight I was able to use 58K Air France miles plus about $380 in fees and surcharges for the flight back to Chicago. My friend chose to use her American Airlines miles on one of their flights in economy.

Air France A350

It was wonderful to be able to fly long-haul again, to spend time in a place I knew I wanted to revisit and to visit new places and fly new-to-me airlines.

Categories: Air France, Autograph Collection, Award Travel, Cruises, Europe, France, Hyatt, Italy, Marriott, Renaissance, River Cruise, SkyTeam, Star Alliance, SWISS, Tours, Trip Report, Viking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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