Good Morning guys! I have to be honest, trying to find the time to sit down and write anything lately has been really hard. Between cramming in as much as I can at work, hitting all my workouts, getting together with friends, and all things Christmas, I’m so mentally drained at the end of the day that any free time I have has been spent lying on the couch binge watching ‘Friends’. #sorrynotsorry
I’ve decided to focus my first couple travel posts on the trip Matt and I took to Europe back in 2015. To be honest, I am actually trying to make up for the fact that I didn’t bother keeping a travel journal at the time. I figured I should probably write everything down before I can’t remember specifics anymore.
We started by spending a few days in Cologne, Germany [if you missed it, you can read all about it here] before taking a train down to Paris for a few days. From Paris, we planned to take another train to Barcelona were we’d spend a week touring northern Spain with my aunt/cousin/family friend/half sister [you get the idea] her husband, and her aunt.
We’d set aside 2 1/2 days for Paris. Since neither of us are big into museums and I mostly just wanted to see Versailles, this turned out to be the perfect amount of time for us. It gave us a full day at Versailles plus a day and a half to check out the major highlights of Paris as well.
The Eiffel Tower
How can I not start with this one? It really is a must see for anyone visiting Paris. I’m a huge architecture geek and I seriously can’t get over how something constructed completely of wrought iron can look so dainty and feminine at the same time. But it’s not just the tower that’s stunning. The surrounding park is beautiful and would be a lovely place to relax with a bottle of wine after work or on a weekend afternoon.
The only downside to visiting the Eiffel Tour is that the line to get on an elevator to the top can get quite long, and depending on what time of day/year you are going, you could end up waiting over 2 hours to get to the top. Knowing this, we kept our schedules open and wandered past the tower a couple times during the day to gauge whether or not it was worth standing in line. In the end, we decided to go on our last evening in Paris because we didn’t have to be up early the next day. Honestly, I don’t think it would really make a difference whether you go up during the day or at night. Either option would be beautiful in it’s own way.
Notre-Dame de Paris
Another must see on our list was the Notre-Dame. Located in the heart of Paris, this cathedral is one of the largest and best-known cathedrals in the world. We actually somewhat stumbled upon it our first night in Paris [or rather I stumbled upon it, I’m guessing Matt already knew where we were]. The timing of this ‘accident’ could not have been better. The sun happened to be setting as we were walking towards the church, and it was casting a golden glow on the cathedral. The cathedral is already pretty incredible as on it’s own, but somehow this just made it even more perfect. It ended up being one of the most memorable moments of our time in Paris.
Entry into the cathedral is free, but there is an admission fee if you want to go up one of the towers. If you are planning on going into the building, you’ll want to arrive pretty early. We actually didn’t even bother going inside because at the time we walked by, the line up to get inside looked ridiculously long [and that was already pretty late in the day]. Not really surprising though, it’s the most popular monument in France and actually gets more visitors then the Eiffel Tower!
Ok so first thing I noticed about The Louvre was that it is HUGE! We had actually been walking along beside it for quite a bit before Matt even pointed it out. It has over 650,000 sq ft. of gallery space and is currently the biggest museum in the world. To put this into perspective, if you actually wanted to see every piece in the building, it would take over 100 days and you’d have to limit yourself to 30 second per piece of art. Needless to say, we didn’t bother going inside, but I don’t feel like I missed out. The Louvre’s grounds are quite pretty, and the architecture lover in me was just happy to experience the sheer size of the building.
The day we went to Versailles was probably one of my favorite days of the whole trip. I’ve always found historical nobility to be absolutely fascinating, particularly Marie Antoinette. For me, being able to walk through what was once her home was one of those experiences that words just can’t describe.
You will definitely want to arrive super early for this one. I think we got there around 9 in the morning and still had to stand in line for about an hour just to get into the Palace. I didn’t mind the early start though, since this was a bucket list item for me, I wanted to make sure I saw EVERYTHING, and we needed most of the day to do that.
I can’t even begin to describe the palace. I had initially wrote the phrase ‘absolutely amazing’ but even that doesn’t really do it justice. The best I can do is say that seeing Versailles has made all of the palaces I’ve seen since seem a bit underwhelming in comparison. And it doesn’t stop there. Behind the palace is about 1,976 acres of gardens. Pretty amazing considering they were originally designed and laid out in the 1660’s. You could easily spend all day just in this part of Versailles.
But my absolute favorite part? The Trianon and Countryside Palaces. In case I haven’t convinced you that you need a full day here, this should do it. The Trianon and Countryside Palaces are about a 30 minute walk from the Palace but once you get there you’ll feel like you’re a world away. This is where you’ll find the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon, and the Queen’s Hamlet. We spent most of our time exploring the Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet [no surprise here, they are both inextricably linked to Queen Marie-Antoinette]. The mini palaces were so cute and cozy, and the Queen’s Hamlet was the most perfect little farm. I could have easily spent all afternoon just enjoying the sun and taking in the surroundings.
What I would do next time…
Arc de Triomphe
So we did see it, but we basically stopped at the edge of the biggest traffic circle I’ve ever seen, got a couple photos and continued on. What I didn’t realize is that you can actually climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for an amazing view of the city. We had no idea! But honestly, it was pretty hard to tell that this was even a possibility. The traffic around the Arc de Triomphe is absolutely insane. There are no lines and the general understanding is the drivers enter at their own risk [so yeah, hard pass].
So if anyone is reading this and planning a trip to Paris, to safely reach the Arc de Triomphe, you have to follow the underground passageway on the north side of the Champs-Elysées. On the other side of the passageway you’ll find yourself at the base of the arch. It’s free to walk around the base, but anyone wanting to get to the top has to pay a bit of a fee and climb about 280 stairs to get to the top. From the sounds of it though, it is totally worth it.
Nouvelle France Garden
Near the end of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées on the opposite end of the Arc de Triomphe, you’ll find a massive stretch of park. One of my favorite parts of our trip was actually sitting in the park at the end of the avenue. It was a perfect, sunny, fall day and Matt and I actually spent quite a bit of time relaxing on a park bench people watching.
What we didn’t realize, is that near here is a small and somewhat hidden garden situated near the near the intersection between avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt and Cours la Reine. Follow the broken steps to the right of the white marble statue by Alfred de Musset and you’ll find a tiny park that will make you feel like you’ve stumbled into a fairy tail. Also known as the Jardin de la Nouvelle France, this park is refreshing break from the busy streets of Paris and features beautiful greenery, a small pond, and even a waterfall.
We did wander the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, but since Matt really isn’t into shopping, we didn’t do much more then walk the full length. Just like the Eiffel Tower, the avenue is one of the most famous symbols of Paris and it’s often been described as ‘the world’s most beautiful avenue’. I’m so happy to have gotten the opportunity to experience it, but if I could go back, I would want to spend a full afternoon exploring all of the shops and restaurants it has to offer.