We try to always take the roads less travelled but, for our friends, we often find ourselves in popular destinations. In the heat of summer. At the height of tourist season.
Weddings brought me to Paris and Rome in the last month. Both short, weekend trips where I arrived eager to take in the city but, as always, unwilling to wait in line. I resolved to relax, marvel, and avoid the masses as much as possible. This meant fly-by tourism, cafe culture, and terrace hopping. Low expectations, great weather, and finding some hidden gems was key, the stunning cities themselves did the rest.
The weather was perfect in Paris, so we chose a well located hotel (Hotel Brighton) and walked all afternoon, stopping only to rest our legs and people-watch over glasses of rosé. We politely declined hundreds of selfie sticks as we passed through the Tuileries Garden, the Louvre, and as we wandered down the Champs-Élysées. Dinner was a fantastic recommendation at a classic bistro on a quiet square, Le Square Trousseau. Returning to the hotel on foot, we were able to watch the Parisian nightlife as we went. I had resigned myself to do very little and enjoyed every second.
Much like the cities, my time in Rome was a total contrast to Paris but with crowds just as intimidating. It was also stifling hot.
I tried the walking game but ended up stopping literally every 10 minutes to rehydrate. Some highlights from this delightful, albeit costly, endeavor were the garden at Hotel de Russie, where I could have stayed forever, and La. Vi, a well-located wine bar with a terrace near the Spanish Steps. That evening, drinks at the roof garden at The First Luxury Art Hotel afforded us views of the entire city followed by an unforgettable moonrise.
The next day, I needed to see some sights. We rented a Vespa from BICI & BACI (but there are tons of options) and spent the next four hours whizzing through Rome stopping to admire sights like the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and St. Peter's Basilica. The bike was perfect because we could leave as soon as we were ready (like when the Trevi Fountain was completely scaffolded). We stopped for lunch at Piazza Navona, lingering just long enough that getting lost on the way back had repercussions for my hair/makeup that night. We used every free moment to enjoy the craziness of Rome before witnessing a beautiful wedding at Castello Odescalchi.
Some trips are meant for waiting in line and actually entering sites. Weekend trips are not. Make the most of them by covering a lot of ground with plans to return. We take this so seriously that we've even done the hop-on hop-off bus. Twice.
Also, if you have to travel somewhere for a wedding and the couple is from there, use the recommendations they provide. It is the easiest way to see a city through a local's eyes and is always a good idea, especially for a short stay.