VACANCES
my recollections of being whisked through paris + versailles

We've landed. Thank goodness. It's almost midnight, and we're headed to the baggage claim. When I was searching for a sink to wash my hands, I saw that they were all full. However, in the mirror, I see another set of sinks around the corner. I go and wash my hands, but when drying my hands, I realized that the men's and women's bathrooms were connected. France is bizzare.

With our luggage in hand, we need to find a way to get to our hotel. We see a large sign with a big M. Metro. Of course. We go down the steps, and find a local. We ask him if this is the metro. He confidently answers yes, and helps purchase our tickets at the machine. In a matter of minutes, we were on our way.

Or so we thought we were. The train proceeded to go above ground, which we found peculiar. We soon found out that we were on a tram, and that we had been misinformed. My dad asks the conductor at a stop for assistance, and he responded with a very French "your problem". We had gone 30 minutes away from the city. We rush off with our luggage, and find ourselves in the middle of nowhere in a dark tram station. It's 0 degrees celsius outside.

My family and I stand at the station. I'm going to do it.

Settings > Cellular > Enable Data Roaming

I frantically log into Uber and have a password reset email sent. I log in, and our driver is five minutes away. [A brief word on the tram station: there is no road near the tram. You can't even leave the station. Next to us was a 8 lane highway, and a two lane exit. We were separated by a two foot tall highway guardrail.] A black Renault pulls into the middle of the fork. We are all yelling to rush into the car, which is quite difficult with 3 pieces of luggage and 3 carry ons, not to mention a car seat and a six year old. Our driver whisks us into his car after running across two lanes of highway, assisting us with our luggage while simultaneously stuffing us in the car. Our driver says goodbye to his friend on his phone call, and begins to drive. A unanimous sigh of relief is heard throughout.

I guess you could call us loyal Uber customers after that. No taxi driver would have dared what our brave Uber driver did. We still think about him sometimes, grateful. He drove us safely to our hotel. We check in and promptly crash.

. . .

day one

I wake up, in disbelief that I am in Paris. I can't see much out my window. I get ready, and am quickly out the door with my family. Across the street is a restaurant. On our walk there, I am in awe of the ridiculous level of activity in this corner of the city. We enjoy some crepes, and return to our hotel in search of a couple we were travelling with; Derek and Angie. Derek is a kind, generous goofball whose wild and intense humor can get him in trouble. Angie is a sweet, loving woman whose hilarious blunders can get her in trouble. An excellent pairing.

Derek and Angie. Angie's friend told her that opening her eyes wider would make her look younger. This hilarious selfie was the result.

My dad (Daniele) and Derek go to the front desk at our hotel to confirm directions to the Musée d'Orsay. The friendly attendant recommended that we take a specific metro route, so we could enjoy the Jardin Des Tuileries, which proved to be a lovely walk.

We cross the beautiful river Siene, surrounded by breathtaking architecture, and arrive at our destination: the Musée d'Orsay, the best art museum in the world. [ #TeamD'Orsay vs TeamLourve ]

To walk into the Musée d'Orsay is an experience in itself. My jaw drops in awe. So much art, so little time.

At the top of the Musée d'Orsay is a large glass clock, which provides a beautiful look at the river Siene and the city.

The Musée d'Orsay has an extensive impressionist collection, which was my personal highlight. I found my new favorite painting!

"Study of a Figure Outdoors: Woman with a Parasol, facing left (1886) by Claude Monet"

After an extensive look at art from several cultures and time periods, it was time to say goodbye. But there was one person I could not leave without saying hello to: Mr. Vincent Van Gogh.

"Self-Portrait (September 1889) by Vincent Van Gogh"

Taking a final look (and the Metro 1 line back), we returned to our hotel for a rest at about four in the afternoon.

My phone reports that I was up at about 8:30 PM, and we headed to the Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel) with perfect timing, as we were near dusk, ideal for seeing the tower lit up. It was a nice walk to the Metro station.

We arrive at the Eiffel Tower at 10 sharp, just in time to see the hourly light show. We walk around the surrounding gardens and taking delight in the spectacular tower.

As you could imagine, we were hungry by now. Wanting an authentic French experience, Derek used TripAdvisor to find a nearby restaurant. After poking through a couple of listings, we chose Le Petit Cler.

taken at 12:45 AM! notice the funny face made by the parisian in the lower right;

The place was bright and lively, and we knew that we had found the local's spot. [sorry locals, it's the price you pay for having such a great city] I had the most delightful Thai Curry Chicken and other savory and delicious things. If that wasn't enough, I was graced with a dinner plate crème brûlée!

As you might expect, we head back to our hotel (and arrive around 1 AM).

. . .

day two

We got a late start. I'm was on vacation, okay? Fight me!

Today is jour des Versailles! Versailles is about an hour by train on the RER-C. The nearest RER-C station is about a 20 minute walk away from our hotel, so we took a brief detour at the Jardin des Plantes (France's national botanical garden and research center). It was a nice break from the city.

I like the way the light dances on the ground in this picture. Also, the trees.

Now arriving in the city of Versailles, we follow the signs to the Palace of Versailles. The outside had me in awe.

The inside just blew me away. I was without words. The sheer spectacularness and craftsmanship was astounding.

We said goodbye to Versailles, ate savory crepés, and took the RER-C back to Paris.

You were expecting us to go back to our hotel and rest? NO, BECAUSE WE ARE INSANE.

This was our last night in France, so we decided to do everything we could! We took the Metro 1 line to Notre Dame (next to the Siene). These were our last moments in Paris, and I savored them. Notre Dame was majestic and brightly lit! The plazas along the Siene were bustling with locals, musicians, young couples, and groups of friends, even at midnight!

We head to our hotel and arrive there at about 1 AM. The city never seemed to sleep.

. . .

partir

It's a rainy day. We leave for Italy today, taking the TGV, France's bullet train system. One thing I noticed was the chasm between American train stations and European train stations. The train station was ornate and elegant, while remaining modern.

It may be time to say goodbye to France, but the adventure's hardly over.

. . .

this is part one of the series "vacances, vancanza, vacation".