Day 8 – Wednesday
We took it easy on Wednesday morning. After the go-go-go of the past week, it was just what we needed.
But even a non-active morning eventually leads to lunchtime and we impressed ourselves yet again with our own metro navigation skills when we made our way to the Hotel de Ville without any trouble. It is a massive building adorned with statues of various political figures and fronted by a huge square that was well-utilized by people from all walks of life – business people enjoying a minute away from work, sun bathers, street performers. The Hotel is still a functioning government building as well as a museum.
There was a lunch spot right off the square with a nice view of the Seine and Notre Dame. I ordered a margherita pizza and Kevin ordered the salmon. A bit later, the waiter brought out two margherita pizza’s. No, no, say we, he ordered the salmon. So one pizza disappears and then reappears a few minutes later…covered in salmon. A bit of dialogue made us realize that after I ordered a pizza and Kevin ordered salmon, the waiter heard, “Same.” Kevin’s a good sport and enjoyed his first salmon pizza.
Then it was time to prepare our own dessert – at a macaron making class. Tania and her husband went to the class when they were in Paris last fall and as soon as I read this post, I knew Kevin and I had to try it out. Held at La Cuisine Paris, there were eight of us in the class. The instructor was an experienced baker and had all the ingredients measured out for us. As a group we made two types of macarons – praline and mocha. It was really a fun experience. And who knows – maybe we’ll someday bring our knowledge full circle and make some macarons at home.
From macaron making class to the Louvre. All in a Parisian day. On Doug’s recommendation we had settled on Wednesday afternoon/evening for the lovely Louvre and it was an excellent decision. Busy but not crowded. We met him there and yet again, it was like having our own personal tour guide.
The building itself is a museum piece. With beautifully painted ceilings, gold plated columns, and vast hallways with marble flooring, we found ourselves admiring the building as frequently as we did the artwork within it. The artwork is amazing too. We made sure to see the big ticket items – the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo – and also perused the countless other paintings and sculptures along the way. The collection of antiquities was extremely impressive, representing ancient Rome and Egypt. There was also a large exhibit that featured the original wall of the Louvre, dating back to the Middle Ages. Our favorite exhibit was possibly the Napoleon III rooms which contained the actual furniture of his “apartment”. Needless to say, it was lavish.
^ I’ve always heard that seeing the Mona Lisa in person is disappointing because you have to fight crowds to get up as close as possible to it and it’s small. Maybe my expectations were just really low, but I wasn’t underwhelmed at all by the painting. It is not as small as I’d imagined it and we timed our visit well so the crowd wasn’t bad either. I want to learn more about why this painting – of all Da Vinci’s work – is so famous. I think it has an interesting history. ^
^ Original walls! I love that they were preserved as an exhibit. ^
^ Oh, just the little dining room where Napoleon III would host a few friends for an informal dinner. Hashtag no big deal. ^
Doug took us to one of his favorite restaurants for dinner – Le Comptoir des Petits Champs – and it was really nice. I had a grilled shrimp appetizer and a creamy mushroom pasta; Kevin had chicken with cream sauce and saffron rice.
After dinner we went back to the front of the Louvre for some nighttime pictures. We said our goodbyes to Doug and hopped on the metro to head back to the apartment.
Day 9 – Thursday
We made our way to Gare Saint Lazare station which was – in a word – crazy. So. many. people. Fortunately we found our group from Blue Bike Tours easily and soon we were on a train, headed to Versailles. Our first stop was a series of shops to buy provisions for a picnic. Then we headed to the bike storage unit and we were each assigned a pretty baby blue bike. (Kevin’s was named The Sun King; mine was Roquefort.) A few blocks through town and then we were on the grounds of Versailles, which were breathtaking – expansive and green and richly royal. You can tell – even now with all the tourists – why the monarchy laid claim to that beautiful area and built it up into an even fancier getaway. Our tour guide gave an informative background of French royalty and how Versailles gradually came to be what it is today.
The weather was perfect – sunny and mild and absolutely ideal for a picnic. So picnic we did! Our food from the local markets was so delicious and fresh. It was such a treat to enjoy such delicious food in a spot along the Grand Canal that was allegedly Louis XIV’s favorite view of Versailles.
I highly recommend a bike tour if you ever decide to visit Versailles. The grounds are so huge and you can see so much more in a day from the seat of a bike. We made our way across the property, stopping to explore the palaces along the way – the Grand Trianon, the Petite Trianon, Marie-Antoinette’s quarters, and her hamlet. Each was stunning and lavish (except the Hamlet, which was Marie-Antoinette’s place to escape reality and pretend to be a country girl – my favorite spot on the grounds).
Eventually we rode our bikes back to storage and walked up to the Chateau. There are many parts of the Chateau that are not open to the public, so it only took around an hour to explore. Some rooms were packed with tourists and it’s easy to see why – it is so lavish and ornate. So. much. gold.
^ This is just one small section of the outside of the Chateau. ^
^ We managed to get a mirror selfie in the Hall of Mirrors without a swarm of tourists photo bombing. ^
We caught the train back to Paris when we were done exploring and we ate dinner at a place on our street – Café Mucha. We split a shrimp and avocado salad, I had pasta, and Kevin had a steak. A lovely final dinner in France.
We caught a flight home the following morning – after Kevin went down to our favorite little patisserie (how French are we?) to pick up our morning pastries.
Our trip to Europe was unbelievably special. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to see the three countries we visited. And with my best friend to boot! Kevin is so easy to travel with and I always have so much fun with him. It was perfect. Our final takeaway of favorites – Amsterdam for the people, Bruges for the setting and the feeling of the town, and Paris for the museums and the sites.