This is the third destination of our European Adventure – we boarded the Thalys from Midi station in Belgium excited about our next destination. We are enjoying our European adventure immensely and looked forward to each new country. We arrived with a little trepidation as my friend and relatives in Belgium warned us to keep our bags close because of pickpockets and watch for drivers who take tourists unawares, charging extortionate fares. We arrived to armed guards and police guarding the station. Police directed tourists to the taxi stand to wait for a taxi. I spoke to a fellow traveller while waiting in line for a taxi who said he loves this city and said he comes back every year just to visit. He recommended markets near the Eiffel Tower on the weekend and said he caught the metro, walked the streets and emphasised it was a safe city – a great recommendation upon arrival!
This city is my Aunt’s favourite city of all the places she has visited – she has spoken about it many times and has been back several times to visit. Now that I’ve been there, I can see why. One of my close friends who helped me with planning this leg of our trip, sent me a message asking me what my first impression of the city was moments after I had arrived. My response was “such a pretty city”. The city I am referring to is Paris – ah Paris!
A few hours after arriving in Paris, we made our way to the first attraction and I fell in love with the city – the vibe, the beauty, the history. J’adore Paris! When I found out we were staying only a 15 minute walk away from the Arc de Triomphe, I didn’t tell my husband or daughter where we were headed except to say “Just keep walking” when they asked “Where are we going?”. When it came into view, I said with a flourish “That’s where we are going!” It was such a breathtaking moment and seemed very surreal – to be facing a monument that I had only dreamed about and seen only on TV or in books. I couldn’t believe we were standing at the busy roundabout where the Arc de Triomphe stood! It was a breathtaking moment for me and I daresay also for my husband and daughter.
We observed the traffic on that roundabout and deduced that it was a crazy, busy roundabout! We even observed a man gambling with his life when he decided to cross the traffic to get to the Arc but I assure you there is a much safer and easier passage via the underpass! Upon returning home, my friend told me that travel insurance companies don’t cover you if you drive at that roundabout and now that I have seen it first hand, I can see why! After 7 days of observing traffic there, we still couldn’t make sense of who was supposed to give way, or how you would enter and exit!
Our next two days were aboard the hop on, hop off Big Bus tour of Paris – we caught the metro to Trocadero and had our first glimpse of the Tour Eiffel! It was a bit grey but we were amazed to be standing in sight of it! We then walked across the road to board the big bus. We were able to catch many sights, take many photos, hop off and spend time before catching another bus to the next stop!
Over the two days we saw the Tour Eiffel, Champ de Mars, Ecole Militaire, Hotel des Invalides (Napoleon’s final resting place), Petit Palais, Grand Palais, Avenue de Champs Elysees, Arc De Triomphe, Palais de L’Elsee, Place de la Concorde, Eglise de la Madeleine, Opera Garnier, Musee de Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Musee de L’Orangerie, Jardin des Tuileries, Trocadero, Notre Dame, Musee de L’Homme, Musee de la Marine, Moulin Rouge, Sacre Coeur, Gar de Nord, Gar de l’Est and Musee Grevin, just to name a few!
We didn’t have time to see inside everything but will definitely have to come back to visit places we would like to explore further! A fellow blogger also visited the Palais Garnier went inside and has graciously given me permission to provide a link to their video of their visit – it is a beautiful building, as were many of the buildings in Europe! The Phantom of the Opera’s falling chandelier scene was inspired by the real-life event of a chandelier falling from this Opera Garnier’s ceiling because of the weight. Please enjoy the video:
We saw so much and some we chose to only pass by but the places we did spend time in was amazing, these included the Musee de Louvre, Musee D’Orsay & Musee de L’Orangerie. We also spent time at the Eiffel tower and Trocadero, outside Opera Garnier, visited Petit Palais where there was free entry (that was a nice surprise), went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and visited the Sacre Coeur – my daughter said that she didn’t want to have to climb any more stairs after those two visits! There are 284 steps to climb to get to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and 270 steps to the Sacre Coeur! Our legs definitely got a workout visiting those two places! For those who are unable to climb that many stairs, there is a lift in the Arc de Triomphe where it takes you nearly to the top and there are only about 40 or so stairs to climb to the top. At Montmatre, you can ride the funicular to the top of the hill to make it easier to get to the Sacre Couer, and there is also a ramp and lifts at the Basilica for disabled access. We also visited the Arch La Defense and took the lift to the top to take in the panoramic views of Paris! My daughter was glad that there weren’t stairs to climb!
We also visited Pont Neuf and the little park underneath – the Square de Vert Galant which is on the Seine river. It is a nice place to relax and enjoy Paris! The name Pont Neuf translates to ‘New Bridge’ but it is actually the oldest stone bridge in Paris! We saw many people had put padlocks onto the bridge with their names/ initials – whilst we think this is a lovely sentiment, we feel it took away from the beauty of the bridge. We also had a quick visit to Galleries La Fayette to buy a gift! It is such a beautiful building with a gorgeous dome roof which has a restaurant in which to sit and enjoy. There is so much to see and do in Paris, we have agreed we need visit again at a more leisurely place to explore the places we were unable to do visit time.
After our busy couple of days around the city of Paris, we went on a day trip to Giverny to visit the house and gardens of Claude Monet – my favourite artist! The gardens were beautiful and seemed like I was standing in a replica of his paintings! I couldn’t believe I was standing there taking it all in! Claude Monet was a french impressionist artist who made money while still alive thanks to the dedicated support of collectors, most notably from Americans who discovered his work in the 1880s. Monet’s famous paintings of water lilies were inspired from his own garden.
Monet’s house was also wonderful, he loved colour and his house reflected that with colourful rooms and paintings. Monet liked Japanese prints and had his own private collection at his home. All the artwork in his home have been replaced with replicas – with the amount of people visiting there are sure to be valuable pieces which may be damaged or go missing!
After a beautiful morning, we headed off to a traditional french restaurant in Normandy and along the way, our bus driver went our of his way to stop and let us see a 12th century castle (the top/ turret of the castle was built in the 12th century). It was used by the Germans as their headquarters during the war, it is the Chateau de La Roche-Guyon. It is now a museum which holds guided tours, the 14th century addition is the main building which you can see behind the gates. Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, we arrived at our picturesque destination – Moulin de Fourges, it was built in 1790 on the ruins of a former mill, it is one of the most elegant mills in the valley inspired by the architecture of Queen Marie Antoinette’s hamlet at Versailles. We had traditional French food, which is simple but very nice – a lovely salmon pate for entree, Chicken for main and tart tatin for dessert because Normandy is also famous for its apples. The lunch was also paired with some lovely french wine.
After lunch, we explored the gardens around the restaurant and found an artist painting by the banks of the river. I purchased one of his paintings as did a few other people who were part of our tour, they were reasonably priced and were great souvenirs of the trip. My painting is hanging in the same room I am writing this blog where I can enjoy it and be reminded of that lovely afternoon!
We headed off to see one more grand palais that afternoon, the Chateau de Versailles! We had heard a lot about it but until you see it for yourself, you cannot imagine the scale of opulence and grandeur! It is amazing to see – the building and gates gilded in gold, opulent fabrics, paintings, statues and ornate ceilings. The gardens are also beautiful and have fountains synchronised to music. The garden is apparently smaller than the original gardens – the adverse history surrounding the palace makes you feel a bit disgusted at the opulence, when you hear that the people of Paris were starving but King Louis XIV lived in all that grandeur!
We came, we visited and we loved Paris! We ate the most scrumptious croissants and pastries (loved the chocolate eclairs!), baguettes and even tried some burgundy snails -well, when in France! All in all, we had a wonderful time and were sorry to be leaving vowing to return again some day to visit Paris at a more leisurely pace and also see more of France, particularly the south. It seemed that this European adventure was getting better and better at each destination and we still had one more country with a few more places to visit! We definitely were applying Laugh.Love.Live to the full – our first taste of Europe creating an appetite wanting more!
I hope you are enjoying our adventures as much as we did, we learnt so much on this trip – Europe is immensely rich in history! It is nice to relive the memories, discoveries and adventures – thanks for sharing them with us and hope you will join us on the final leg of our European Adventure. Peace and blessings!