I knew our Paris adventure was off to a great start when Melody got us matching shirts for the flight. It's hard to believe I've gotten to this point in my life and have never been to Paris. I was skeptical about going to such a big city when I really love the outdoors. But I'm so happy that I finally went - and especially with Melody who loves city-life, art and quaint cafes.
One of the things that had initially scared me away from Paris was all of the people that told me how unfriendly and unhelpful the Parisians are. I didn't find that to be true at all. I loved walking around a city with so much history and beauty. I enjoy a culture that values the beauty of things, and not just their functionality.
When we first arrived in Paris, we checked into our studio apartment. It had a cute window that opened up to the streets. We loved being close to many cafes and bakeries. That evening we walked to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time.
The next morning we started early and rode the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe. We climbed the stairs to the top quickly, and had a the beautiful view to ourselves before the crowds arrived. It was fun to see the 12 streets come together into a single round-a-bout. The top of the Arc provided amazing views of the city and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
One of our favorite activities was an electric bike tour around the city of Paris. Our tour guide was super fun and took us to off-the-beaten-path places like Le Procope, the oldest cafe in Paris. This little restaurant has one of Napoleon's hats in its window, Voltaire's desk upstairs and a hand-written note by Marie Antoinette. Both Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson spent time here. Loads of history, including an original cobblestone street. Other stops included the Louvre and the only church to survive the French Revolution.
The following day we toured both the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay. The Louvre was the royal palace before it was moved to Versailles, so the building itself is stunning and full of history. We of course had to see the Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace, and the Mona Lisa. The crowds around the Mona Lisa were crazy - for once I was thankful to be tall and see over everyone :) We only saw a small fraction of the Louvre before moving on to the Musee d'Orsay. The Orsay was equally beautiful in its own way. Previously a train station, it has been completely renovated but still maintains the charm of the original station. The d'Orsay is filled with Impressionist and Post-Impressionart such as Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir and Van Gogh. If you go, don't forget to go to the top floor to see the iconic clock.
The Palace of Versailles was a must-see on our list, especially seeing the gardens and fountains. We loved strolling the grounds that were like mazes through the tall hedges. We'd round a corner and see another fountain with classical music playing and choreographed to match the motion of the water. After lunch, we saw Marie Antoinette's chateau that was a short walk from the Palace. She planted a gorgeous english garden around the chateau that was one of the highlights of the trip.
Notre Dame speaks for itself. I've never seen a more beautiful church. We climbed to the bell tower for more views of Paris, but the exterior and the main floor of the church were exquisite.
Of course in between all of this touring, we enjoyed macarons, crepes, gelato and croissants. Melody wasn't able to eat the sweet crepes that had gluten, but she could enjoy galettes which are just like a savory crepe. We found a cute place around the corner from our apartment and ate there almost every day. Sooooo good! For macarons, we went to the world famous Laduree store.
When I got back from my vacation, I had someone at my office ask me three meaningful questions about my trip: What meant the most? What would I not do again? What didn't I do that I wish I had? No doubt what meant the most was having such a sweet time with Melody. We had time to talk and share like we used to. The thing that we didn't do that I wish we had done was take the day trip to Mont Saint-Michel. I would love to see that some day. And if I had to leave something out (like I did for this blog) it would be the dinner cruise on the Seine - such a tourist trap.