Last fall, I went on my first trip to Europe. I have talked about my trip a little bit here on At Home & Abroad, but the one thing I haven’t said much about is the company that I traveled with: EF College Break. I actually get a lot of messages and comments on my Instagram asking about EF, so I decided it was finally time to write about it here!
Going to Europe, especially Paris, has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. About two years ago, a few friends and I started planning a trip to London and Paris! I was getting really excited, but when it came time to start booking flights and such, things didn’t really work out and the trip was cancelled. I was SUPER bummed.
A few months later, I was on Facebook and I saw an advertisement for a travel company called EF College Break. I had heard about them before but had never really looked into it. I started doing a little research and read a lot of great stuff about EF. I also talked to a friend from high school who had been to Europe with them, and she had a blast!
I was a little nervous about not knowing the other group members, but figured that I could make friends. On the EF College Break website, there is actually a whole page of reviews from solo travelers — I spent a lot of time on that page!
After a couple of weeks of research, I decided I was going to do it! I wanted to give myself some time to save up, so I signed up for the mid-October tour of London and Paris. October turned out to be a perfect time to be in Europe. It was pretty cold while we were there (between 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit), but since it was off season, nothing was very busy.
The whole experience was so stress free. I didn’t have to worry about booking flights, hotels, tour guides, etc. My main worry about not knowing anybody in the group was quickly put to rest. Our tour director set up a Facebook group for us so we could get to know each other before the trip. I am pretty sure we communicated every day from that point until the day we left!
When the day finally arrived, I was beyond excited. I flew from Salt Lake City to Atlanta without too much hassle. I met up with two other girls from my group in Atlanta, and we were all on the same flight to London. We lucked out and flew with Delta (which was amazing), while some of the other people from our group flew with other airlines. Some of them had to pay to check a bag, but the Delta flights came with one free checked bag, much to my relief.
Arriving in London was probably the most chaotic day of the trip. Something got mixed up with the shuttle company that was supposed to pick us up from the airport. We got a message from the tour director telling us that we would just need to get a cab and that we would be reimbursed for the cost when we got back home.
We attempted to meet up with some other members of our group who had landed at the same time as us. However, the airport was huge and we got a little lost, so eventually the three of us just got a cab. Our first hour in London was spent inside the Heathrow Airport! Haha!
The cab ride was an adventure (an expensive one). I think that the ride ended up being about £140. I was a little bit sick about how expensive it was. We were refunded in US dollars a few days after we got back, however, so it wasn’t a big deal. Plus it was pretty exciting to take a cab in London — their taxis are so much cooler than ours!
It was still pretty early when we got to the hotel, probably about 10:00 am, so the rooms weren’t ready. We had to wait around because some of the group wasn’t arriving for a few more hours. We stuffed all of our suitcases into a little closet at the hotel, and some of us went out to explore the area.
Honestly, the first day of the trip was the only day I had complaints. I felt like we spent a lot of time waiting around, and there was the whole mix up with the shuttle and having to take a taxi instead. We got to London at 8:00 in the morning and didn’t actually get out to do anything until 4:00 or 5:00 that evening.
From there, the rest of the trip was pretty smooth sailing. Our tour guide took us out and got us oriented with the main areas of London, and we had our opening mixer. The food was pretty great — we got to try some unique things.
The next day was one of my favorite days of the trip. We took a guided bus tour through the city and the local guide who was with us, Joel, was HILARIOUS! The tour was nice because we got to make stops throughout the city at places like Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge! Joel knew tons of cool facts about the city — not just history facts, but he also would point out places where movies were filmed or where famous people lived, and just all sorts of cool stuff. He even gave us a lesson in cockney rhyming!
We had free time that day and did some more sightseeing and rode the London Eye! We tried some fish n’ chips and had a blast just walking around London. While we were walking through Leicester Square that night, a movie premier was going on for Lady in a Van with Maggie Smith. We got to see her in person and it was amazing (definitely worth standing in the cold for 2 hours! haha).
My last day in London was spent seeing all of the Harry Potter sites. If you missed my previous post about the London Harry Potter sites, you can check it out here!
From London we took the train to Paris. The ride was only a couple hours and went by pretty quick (we mostly slept through it). We arrived in Paris to very cold and rainy weather. It was a lot colder than I had anticipated!
Right from the train we took a bus tour through the city. We only made one stop — at the Eiffel Tower (which was AMAZING). But by the time we got to the hotel, we were all ready to get out and move around. It was nice to be on the bus and out of the cold weather, but I would have preferred stopping and getting out a little bit more after being on the train all morning.
We got to take a riverboat cruise down the Seine on our first night in Paris. We all bought hot chocolate before we took off, and luckily the boat had a covered seating area so we could stay out of the cold for the most part.
The remaining days in Paris were just as cold as the first, but we hardly noticed because we were so busy! We basically had 2.5 days in the city, and trying to fit in everything was impossible.
On the second day in Paris, our tour guide took us on a secret walk through the city to some areas that were off the beaten path. This was one of my favorite things in Paris. The architecture in Paris is breathtaking, and just wandering around smaller neighborhoods and markets was so much fun. After our morning tour, we managed to fit in the Louvre, Champs-Élysées, and Eiffel Tower all in one day. I do not recommend this, if it can be avoided. Haha!
All the art lovers in the world are going to hate me when I admit that we only spent about three hours in the Louvre. I cringe a little bit every time I think about it. So many people told me before I left how big the Louvre is, but I didn’t comprehend just how massive it is until I saw it for myself. I literally could have spent DAYS in there.
We found the Mona Lisa (because who goes to the Louvre and doesn’t see Mona?) and spent most of the rest of our time in the sculpture gardens. The Mona Lisa really is pretty tiny, but you cannot deny that it is a beautiful work of art. Next time I am in Paris, I am definitely dedicating at least a day to seeing more of the Louvre!
After our brief time at the Louvre, we did some shopping on the Champs-Élysées. My favorite store was Monoprix, which I had read about before the trip and was so glad I found one in the city! I got a majority of my Paris souvenirs there. My favorites were the Eiffel Tower-shaped pasta and rose-scented soaps! We also stopped in at Ladurée, a must-see in my opinion. (If you missed my previous post on macarons, you can read more about it here!)
That night we went to the Eiffel Tower. We purposely waited to go at night so we could see it sparkle! It was beautiful. After the sparkling, we went up to the second level of the tower. We thought about going all the way to the top, but it was really foggy that night so we didn’t think we would be able to see anything. I am glad that I got to see the Eiffel Tower at day and at night, but if I had to choose only one, I recommend going at night! It is so beautiful.
Our last day in Paris was spent visiting Versailles. This was an optional excursion for the trip, and I am so glad that I went. I didn’t know what to expect from Versailles, but I was blown away by all of it. We had a local guide take us through the palace, and learning about the history of Versailles was incredible.
The Hall of Mirrors was a favorite all around! I also loved the gardens. It was another rainy, cold day when we were at Versailles, so we didn’t spend much time out in the gardens. They have golf cart rentals and you can just drive around the gardens. If it hadn’t been so cold, I would have done that in a heartbeat! It is on my list for my next visit.
After our trip to Versailles, we spent some time at Notre-Dame. We walked through the cathedral and wandered around the neighborhoods near by. It was in this area that I ate the most amazing eclair I have ever had in my life. Ever since I got home, I just crave that eclair. So far, I have not found anything that measures up here in the States!
Our last night in Paris was spent with the group at our farewell dinner. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant because the food was amazing. The very best part was the chocolate lava cake for dessert!
The next morning we were up early and on a bus to the airport. The whole trip just flew by all too quickly!
Overall, I would highly recommend travelling with EF College Break. I thought that it was a perfect balance between touring with the group and having free time in the city. It was so stress-free because everything was booked and planned in advance — all I had to do was show up! Our tour guide was super nice; he knew both London and Paris extremely well and gave great directions and recommendations. In addition, the trip was quite affordable. It was definitely cheaper than if I had planned and booked everything myself. I will definitely travel with EF again in the future!
Written by: Kaycie Jordan
To see more pictures from my trip, follow me on instagram (@kayciejo13)! Make sure to follow Caroline (@carolinev89) and At Home & Abroad (@athomeandabroad) too!
*All photos and content in this blog article are taken by and property of Kaycie Jordan.