So this last weekend we were in Paris! It was an amazing weekend, and let me start out with a picture of me and Doug in front of the Eiffel tower. We actually didn’t make it to the tower until Sunday, but I just want to put the picture first because it was my favorite part of the trip.
Before we left for Paris, we had a “Cinco de Mayo” party at our house, even though it was actually tres de Mayo. Most Americans think that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence day, but it’s actually not. It’s the day that the Mexicans beat the French in some big battle, so it’s still worth celebrating (or just an excuse to have a party). We invited all our friends over, including Mexicans and French ones! The food was amazing! We said we would supply tacos and tequila, and then everybody showed up with awesome authentic Mexican dishes. We even had our friend Jeff who was here from Indianapolis bring some real corn tortillas from the states since you can only find flour ones over here. That was a great success! And after much searching for “cilantro,” and almost thinking they didn’t have it over here, I found out that it’s called “coriander.” Blew my mind!
On Friday, we headed to Paris!! It was a really short flight from East Midlands airport to Paris CDG. Oh! And we had a fabulous tip from a lady at work on what to do for FREE parking. If you are interested, you park on the street nearby the Castle Donington bus station. Street parking is free! And then you take the Skylink bus which comes to the bus station every 15 minutes, is less than 2 pounds per person, and drops you off at the airport within 10 minutes. It was super convenient and really saved us some money by not parking at the airport!
Anyway, back to Paris. Friday night we got in sort of late, so by the time we got to our hotel, we just walked around the neighborhood of our hotel and had a little bite to eat. We had no idea what we were ordering because we don’t know any French and nobody at the bar seemed to speak English, but we ended up with a plate of meats and some baguettes. Here it is, almost all gone by the time I remembered to take a picture.
On Saturday, we spent almost the entire day at Versailles Palace. This is an amazing palace and gardens that is about a 30 minute train ride from Paris. Apparently, King Louis XIVth, XVth, and XVIth all lived here and just kept making the palace more and more extravagant. Eventually the French people who were very poor and starving got fed up with the kings living a life of luxury while they were suffering. This spurred the French revolution and the people stormed the palace, seized King Louis XVIth and his wife, Marie Antoinette, and beheaded them. Quite a tragic end, but at least they got to live in this amazing palace that I will show you pictures of.
Here is the palace as we approached. It was enormous!!
The palace was just absurd! Every room was decked out, and they just kept going. I especially loved all the chandeliers and painted ceilings.
The palace also had huge fireplaces! Those “logs” in the fireplace are actually tree trunks!
There was this amazing room called the “hall of mirrors” which is apparently where they had a lot of high class social gatherings. The people were so full of themselves that they liked to admire themselves in the mirrors along the walls!
The palace also had a room called the Coronation room that had a painting of Napoleon, who ruled after the kings. They had overthrown the kings to establish a democracy, but they got the emperor Napoleon, who seemed to act almost like a king. The picture shown below (we also saw this same painting in the Louvre which you will see later on) is Napoleon crowning himself emperor. I guess he thought nobody was good enough to crown him emperor, so he did it himself!
After we left the main palace building, we explored the massive gardens. The gardens consisted of many tree groves, fountains, statues, and tons of other luxurious stuff. Here is the orangerie where King Louis XIVth had real orange trees that would be wheeled out from greenhouses into the courtyard when the weather was nice enough. King Louis was nicknamed the “Sun King” (like the brewery in Indianapolis!). Therefore, he wanted to have orange trees to show that his warmth could grow these trees even though they aren’t suited for the environment.
Here is Doug with one of the many statues. Not sure why he picked that one to get a picture with?
The Grand Canal ran down the middle of the gardens, and it is a mile long!! Just to give you an idea of how expansive the gardens were.
Since there were no Roman ruins in Paris, the king decided to build his own Roman ruins. See the marble columns and arches found in a grove in the gardens.
We had a nice picnic lunch sitting by the grand canal. Apparently the king imported gondoliers from Venice to ride around the canal, but today it is just people in paddle boats.
Apparently the main palace wasn’t the only palace on the grounds. The kings felt that even though they had retreated from Paris all the way to Versailles (which is a 30 min train ride today – think how long it would have taken back then!), they actually needed to retreat from Versailles as well. So on the other side of the gardens, there was the Grand Trianon and the Petite Trianon. These were amazing luxurious palaces, that were just as luxurious, or even more so, than the main palace.
Then we toured this area called the Hamlet. Apparently Marie Antoinette idealized the simple life of a peasant, so she built her own village with a water mill, dairy, and domestic animals. She didn’t do any of the actual work, but supervised her fairy tale village.
After the exploration of the grounds, we made our way back to the main palace. There, we got to see the musical fountains show. This was kind of a let down because we were expecting a sort of dancing fountains experience like you get at the Bellagio in Vegas, especially since you have to pay extra money on the days that they have the musical fountains show. Instead, it was simply fountains with music piped through the loud speakers. There was no dancing involved.
That pretty much ended our tour of Versaille, but it was quite a long day and we covered a lot of ground. On the train ride back to Paris, it started pouring down rain, so we got really lucky that it didn’t rain on us the whole day. Once we arrived in Paris, we quickly ran into a restaurant for dinner and to escape the rain. Later that night we went to a little jazz club and had some wine while listening to jazz. It was very nice and we enjoyed it.
On Sunday, we headed to Musee d’Orsay because it is free on the first Sunday of the month. Great to save money, but bad for the crowds. We waited in line for about an hour and a half, but at least it wasn’t raining! The d’Orsay was actually a really cool museum, and the building itself is an old railway station.
There were signs around that said no pictures, but everybody was taking pictures, so I snapped some as well! Nobody ever yelled at me, so I figured I was fine.
This was one of my favorite paintings, so I noted the artist.
After awhile in the d’Orsay, Doug was getting grouchy, so we needed to get him some food. We went to the Montmartre area and went to this great cafe for “brunch.” It seemed odd that they were serving brunch at 3pm, but we enjoyed it. This was probably my favorite meal of the trip because we got to sample so many different things! And we were sitting on the patio of this great little neighborhood.
We walked around Montmartre a bit, which is the area where all the artists hang out. I loved this area and could have spent more time there.
We made our way to the Sacre Coeur church, which has an amazing view over Paris.
Then we walked over to Moulin Rouge to snap some touristy photos.
And FINALLY we headed to the Eiffel tower! This was what I had been waiting for! The line to take the elevator up the tower was ridiculously long, but the line to walk up the stairs? Non-existent! Plus, it was 3 euros cheaper to walk up, so that’s exactly what we did. In fact, you only walk up to the second level, and then you take the elevator (“lift”) the rest of the way, so it wasn’t that bad!
As we were making our way back down the steps, the lights to the Eiffel tower came on! It was so cool that we were actually on the tower when that happened!
Once we got to the ground, we took a ton of pictures of the tower! Here is a good one.
That night we took a river boat cruise, and it was a nice relaxing way to see the sites and rest our feet from the long day of walking and climbing stairs. The river boat even had some English commentary, so that was great. Here is a picture of the Statue of Liberty with the Eiffel tower in the background.
At the beginning and the end of the boat cruise, we got to see the tower go crazy with flashing lights.
On Monday (we were off work for a bank holiday) we had a really nice weather day. We did a walk from the Arc de Triomphe, through the Tuileries garden, to the Louvre.
I actually liked the d’Orsay museum more than the Louvre, which I was surprised about because I think the Louvre is more famous. We had pre-ordered our Louvre tickets which was nice because we got to bypass the line. Most of the stuff that we saw in the Louvre was from the Italian renaissance, so it was similar to the things we saw in the Uffizi museum in Florence. However, we did see the Mona Lisa!! It was so packed in there, it was like the paparazzi!
And we also saw another painting of Napoleon’s coronation like the same one we saw in Versailles. I’m not sure which one is the original or even why there are two.