Our First Europe Trip…. (The Paris Edition Part 1)

paris-1We ditched London bright & early, and I was not prepared at all. I brought shame on my family name! One thing that I completely spaced on was checking which terminal I we were flying out of. OOPS! London Heathrow Airport is a beast, and we were entering from the underground. Because of all of this, we almost missed our flight. I know I said I had been there several times before, but never was I in charge, and hot damn, I dropped the ball. We made it to our gate with probably 10 minutes to spare, but as we were boarding they told my mother-in-law & I that our carry-ons were too big & had to be checked. {TIP: American carry-on sizes are not equal to other countries. It is true: everything in America is bigger. So if you are flying on any international airlines outside of the US, double check the regulations for carry-on baggage.}

paris-4Aside from the baggage faux-pas, Air France was great- you get croissants instead of peanuts. 🙂 In Paris we stayed at Pratic Hotel. The location was great. It was near the Bastille, and area full of cafes and a crepe truck…. FACT: I should forewarn you that I am obsessed with Nutella crepes… Eat one & your life will be changed for the better. Our hotel was not the greatest, but it was worth it for the location. You see, the issue is that hotels in Europe can be very pricey. So for about $120 a night we got crammed in the smallest room I have ever experienced. The bed was crammed in the corner, and there was hardly room for our luggage. The walk way to the door led past the shower and the toilet & sink. There was no A/C and although it was nearing October, our room was very warm.  Brad’s mom stayed at a different hotel a couple blocks away, Grand Hotel Amelot, Her hotel was a little further off the main drag, but the room was much more spacious, and at the moment it is cheaper & has better customer reviews. …and it had A/C, which for an American from Arizona, that is a BIG deal. FACT: In Paris, you pay BIG $$$ to be closer to the sights. Getting to our hotel from the airport turned out to be a big mess. I knew one thing… you have to take the Roissybus to the Opera Square… We then had to navigate our way via our iPhone maps to our hotels. It was a long, hot & tiring trek. But along the way I did have the best ham & cheese sandwich of my life… the secret…. butter. FACT: Butter makes everything better.

paris-31Much like London, some of the best walking you can do is along the River Seine. The river is lined with trees and beautiful bridges. It’s truly peaceful. When I go back I’d like to bring some Pain au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissant, but the best in the world) & sit and watch the water run.

One of the greatest views along the river is the sight of Notre Dame towering over the riverside Flats. The Grandeur just radiates, and you can’t help but be drawn in to such a magnificent sight. We worked our way through the side streets & finally found our way to the Cathedral. We used the Paris Pass on this leg of trip (which is similar to the London pass from my previous post). By using the pass we were able to do one of the greatest things ever… climb to the top of the towers for some incredible Paris views. You do have to wait in line to make the climb, and we probably waited close to an hour, but it was worth every second. It was one of those experiences that you want to continue for an extensive period of time. I was sad that they only allow you a certain amount of time on top, but I guess, everyone deserves an opportunity to check it out.

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paris-32…and then there was The Louvre. Where do I even begin for that? Well, this was my second visit & my husband & his mom’s first. When you read that it’s an all day thing, don’t take it lightly. It truly is, but you will have so much fun diving into history. My favorite section is definitely the Egyptian history exhibit. …but I enjoy the classics as well, such as the Mona Lisa & Venus de Milo.  FACT:Mona Lisa draws such a large crowd that you have to be truly dedicated to waiting or shoving to get an up close view… Truthfully, you can get a better view on the internet, but I understand the curiosity & the thrill of seeing it in person.

These are probably the two most famous works of art in the whole gallery.  DID YOU KNOW: The Louvre originated as a fortress in 1190, you explore the original design which is now underground. In 1528, the king decided to move back to the capital city of France & took up residence in the Louvre. You can read more on the history of the Louvre here.

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Apollo Gallery: click to learn

Our final group activity before Brad’s mom left from Paris was to hit Versailles…. It was a mad house. It isn’t like other places where they slowly filter people through in tour groups…. They pack them in here. TIP: If you or anyone in your travel group in prone towards anxiety induced by noise or crowds.. skip the big house! Trust me!  It was our last day with Brad’s mom & I was burnt out… Three can be a crowd and I was in desperate need of quality time with my husband. ….I also can be prone to anxiety, so I know what I am talking about.

 The Palace of Versailles is truly exquisite. It makes it easy to understand why France ended up being broke.  I am making all of these pictures bigger, just so you can appreciate the grandeur of it all, as much as possible.
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The entrance into the palace. Yes, this is what it will look like if you go… A money making machine… the Disneyland of Palaces & Castles…
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The price chapel within, complete with a giant-ass pipe organ.  Who says you can’t worship from home?
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A simply elegant corridor lined with statues and marble.
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the Hall of Mirrors… I don’t know how we ever made it out in a group.

Honestly, the palace was beautiful. But the Gardens of Versailles were magnificent. My husband discusses moving to the town Versailles, just so we can get our coffee and tea and stroll through the parks whenever we wish. …and I wish that too. To walk down lanes lined with huge trees, and beautifully choreographed gardens, with fountains all over, was a dream for this desert dweller.

When we left Versaille, we stopped at the local McDonald’s for a quick snack, and a bathroom break before getting back on the train into town. That, too, was packed. But some sodium packed fries & a sprite were what I needed to regain some energy.

When we did arrive back in Paris, we made it a point to view the Eiffel Tower. Christal, needed to see it before she left.  When we got to it, the lines to go up were insane. None of us felt the need to be a crowded elevator to see the Parisian landscape. I think we were all starting to wear on each other. (My biggest Parisian regret: not booking the romantic Eiffel Tower dinner for two) After our quick pictures, it was time to head back for dinner & rest. Christal needed to pack & I needed to some alone time while I left Brad to help his mom figure out her game plan.

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LESSONS LEARNED:

1) Take a break & step away from the group to regroup if you feel like you are losing your edge

2) Sometimes it might be a good idea to map things out before you arrive

3) Sometimes spending a little extra for a little extra comfort is worth it

4) Ham & Cheese sandwiches are better with butter, especially in Paris. 

 

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The Compulsive Traveler

out to see the world, and snap beautiful photos while doing so.

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