Discovering The Continent With Paris As A Base
Eleven years ago this summer, Lief and I repositioned ourselves and our family from Waterford, Ireland, to Paris, France. We made the move for reasons that were both business (to open a new office) and personal (so our daughter could attend and eventually graduate from Ecole Active Bilingue).
As we intended to stick around a while, we decided to buy an apartment of our own to live in. Lief and I took the long view when making that purchase. We chose a place not only where our family of four would be comfortable but that also would suit when it was just us two.
Paris has long been at the center of Lief and my retirement plan. Fortunately for both of us, when the topic of how and where we’d live during that phase of life came up, we found we shared a similar idea. We’d use Paris, the city we find most appealing, most beautiful, and most engaging, as a base for continual exploration of the Continent and beyond.
This summer, we’re taking that plan for a test drive. Our daughter back in Panama City helping to mind the store and our son away at camp in New York for a month, Lief and I find ourselves on our own, filling our days as we imagine we will when we’re truly empty-nesters.
From the Algarve, where we spent a week hosting this month’s Live and Invest in Portugal Conference, we hopped a 24-euro Easy Jet flight to Paris. Nowadays, you can get from most anywhere in Europe to most anywhere else for 100 euros or less courtesy of one of the Continent’s many low-cost airlines. Easy Jet and Ryan Air are two of the best known, but you can research other low-cost flight options, depending on yourdestination, at Skyscanner.com.
These flights don’t typically travel from or to the main international airports but to more out-of-the-way, less-often-used ones. Our Easy Jet flight from Faro in Portugal landed in Paris at Orly, rather than Charles de Gaulle, cutting the travel time from the airport to our apartment in half.
Back “home” in Paris, we unpacked then, a few days later, repacked a single carry-on bag for an overnight trip to Frankfurt, this time traveling by train. Our train fares were more costly than low-cost plane tickets would have been. On the other hand, traveling by train means no airport check-in, no airport security, no waiting in airport lounges, and no travel to and from airports on either end. Door to door, we arrived at our destination in Frankfurt sooner than we would have had we flown. Plus, train rides (unlike plane rides) are fun. We had to-our-seats meal service and, once we’d crossed the border into Germany, free Wi-Fi on board.
Twenty-four hours in Frankfurt were enough for successful business meetings the afternoon we arrived then a tour the next morning before our return train to Paris. This 800-year-old city where Holy Roman Emperors were once elected and crowned has been one of the world’s most important trading centers for centuries and is today the powerhouse of the EU. Main-hattan, as our host referred to his city, was bombed nearly off the map during World War II but has rebuilt itself impressively. People don’t think of Frankfurt alongside New York and London, but it’s as important a financial center and home to the European Central Bank. Its old town is also a pleasant place to pass a Saturday morning.
From Frankfurt it was back to Paris, where we rented a car and then took off in it the next morning for Andorra.
Andorra is not an easy place to get to. The country is like a pass through the Pyrenees from France to Spain. It has no airport and no train station and is accessible only via mountain tunnels and switchback roads. To get to Andorra, you can fly to Barcelona on the Spanish side or to Toulouse on the French side and then drive from there… or, if you happen to be in Paris, as we were, you can take the opportunity as a chance to explore France going and coming, as we did.
Andorra’s history dates to Charlemagne. Today this tiny co-principality of 75,000 people is known for skiing and banking, the latter the reason for our visit. We stayed the night at the Roc de Caldes Hotel, where we were greeted with a bottle of cold cava and a box of chocolates. Our five-star night cost but 80 euros. That’s Andorra when it’s not snowing outside.
Banking business addressed early the next morning, we set out in our rental car for St. Emilion, a historic center of France’s wine culture and trade. Lief wanted to shop for 2014 primeurs.
Mission accomplished, we hopped back in our little rental car for the six-hour drive back to Paris…
We aren’t retired yet and won’t be for some time, but it’s nice to find that the retirement life we’ve been planning for years should be everything we’re hoping for. As we’ve imagined, at home in Paris, all Europe is on your doorstep.
Continue Reading: Travel To Andorra