Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Paris, Day 3 - VERSAILLES!!!

Okay, so one of the things I was most looking forward to about going to France, was Versailles. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Just a 40 minute drive from Paris and it's free to get in. Versailles was the home away from home for French royalty to spend their summers when Paris got too hot and muggy. I don't blame them. It's insanely cool. All the trees and shrubs are immaculately trimmed, with man-made lakes and greek style statues and fountains. Marie Antoinette even had a little Austrian style village built to comfort her when feeling homesick that looked like something out of a Thomas Kinkade painting (but a lot less cheesy).

*click to enlarge

Although, the palace in Versailles is beautiful, it's the grounds/gardens that take your breath away. The grounds are HUGE, so after walking a couple miles to get in, we had a picnic lunch of baguettes, cheeses, fruit and chocolate on the lawn right by the man-made lake where you can rent row boats (which, of course, we did and it was wonderful... at least for me, Ryan did all the work). The surroundings made me feel like everyone should have been dressed like they were in a Jane Austen novel, but it felt a little like we were at some kind of confused beach, because it was so crowded and lots of people were laying out in their bathing suits. Maybe in that part of France, it's the closest thing they have to a beach. I don't know, but being at this 4 century old castle with people laying on a towels in their bathing suits with their mp3 players in and ipads out just didn't feel right.

All over the gardens are fountains. The cool thing about them is the fact that they were built centuries ago, before modern technology, and they run on pressure. Also all over Versailles, there are mazes of 6 foot tall shrubs. You'll be walking through these mazes then, all of the sudden, you find a giant hidden opening with crazy fountains and sculptures. The fountains only go off on Saturdays and Sundays at certain times of the day. Luckily we went on a Sunday. Not only were they beautiful, but the mist felt SO good after walking around in the sun.

I think you get the best view in Versailles from the top of a large marble stair case in front of the palace. If you're looking out over the fountain there's a view of most/some of the grounds (seen in the top picture), then if you turn around you'll see the palace behind you (the bottom picture). I loved it, I could have gone back and spent another whole day in Versailles. Maybe one day I will.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Paris, Day 2 - Evening on the Seine

So, after a day of bike riding, museums, and car tours, we got all dolled up and set sail on a river cruise dinner/party for Pierre's 40th birthday! It was an enchanting/relaxing way to see the city. The Seine runs right through the heart of Paris so we got to sail passed everything: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, and even the o.g. statue of Liberty.

Tata & Pierre have some friends who are in a bluegrass trio that plays at Disneyland, Paris. It made for a fun atmosphere. In Paris, I kinda felt like a kid at Disneyland, the feel of the city is like what Disneyland is trying to re-create, but it's better, it's real. The castles are real. The musicians on the streets are real (not hired). The cool buildings that line the main streets are real. And the boat rides are real.

When I was about 7 years old, my parents hired an au pair (nanny) from Italy to watch over us and keep us out of their hair while they ran their businesses from home. Her name was Rosi. She was amazing. Now she's married to a really awesome guy named Mirko, and they have two little girls of her own, Vanessa (named after my sister), and Paula. They drove 5 hours from Germany to Paris to see us and come to the party!

The night the view, the people, the music, it was all wonderful. And the food. Oh the food. There was a 5 course meal that ended with all the desserts and pastries you could ever hope to try. They were bite size and as cute as they were delicious. I took a sampler plate of tiny french pastries to the front of the boat and just ate them slowly and took in the view. It was another one of those surreal I can't believe I'm actually here doing this right now moment.

Did you know that the Eiffel Tower sparkles? Well it does. Every hour, on the hour, as soon as the sun goes down (so pretty much from 11pm tp 3am). At first I thought "Yeah, the Eiffel Tower is alright, but what's all the fuss about?" This is what it's about. It's like watching a new kind of fireworks.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Paris, Day 2 - "Paris Authentic" Car Tour wtih Squints-McGee

*It was a pretty sunny day and Ryan is squinting in EVERY picture from I have from this tour.
He gave me permissions to use these pictures.
Sorry babe, you left me no choice.

On our second day in Paris, after enjoying lunch at Musee d'Orsay, we rode our Velib bikes back through the city to meet up with my mom, Tata, Pierre, their baby Gwendolyn, and Pierre's dad, Pierre. My Tata had arranged for us to take a tour through Paris in these tiny, convertable, vintage cars. She has a lot of people visit and says that out of all the touristy stuff she recommends, this is usually everyone's favorite.

One reason this car tour was SO much fun was because the drivers were able to take us through tiny side streets that were obviously built for a horse and buggy and were definitely too small for a normal car to fit through. We drove right through some of the town square's and right past everything you could ever hope to see in Paris. We had a great tour guide who told us the history of the city's attractions and a thorough history of his own life.

Along the way we made a little pit-stop to a pastry shop that sells "THE BEST" macaroons in Paris (there are so many perks when you know someone who lives there). I bought a BUNCH as souvenirs and Ryan and I ended up eating half of them throughout the rest of the tour.

The tour was an absolute blast! Riding around in those cute cars would be fun anywhere, let alone Paris. If you're interested, go to You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Paris, Day 2 - Musee D'Orsay

In the middle of our wonderful bike ride, we decided we were going to spend an hour or two at the Musee d'Orsay. It's the second most popular museum in Paris (after the Louvre). It was built as a train station in 1900 before being converted to a museum, and the building itself is really a work of art. We got to see collections from Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh. We also got to see the actress, Emma Thompson, who was there in real life with some of her children. She's even prettier in person than she is with all the professional make-up and lighting in the movies.

One of my FAVORITE places to eat in Paris, and that's saying a lot because the food there is a-ma-zing, was the restaurant at the Musee d'Orsay! Before eating salmon, I tried a platter of salad, bread and stinky cheeses! The waiter said it was his favorite and I wanted the real French experience. The food was wonderful, the waiters were wonderful (not always the case there, like it usually is here in the USA), and the dinning room was gorgeous! You can see a little of the wall paintings, chandeliers, mirrors, gold leaf, and windows in that picture, but it doesn't do it justice. There were giant windows over looking the Seine River and the Tuileries gardens. I could have sat in there and just stared all day. If you ever go to Paris, this is a stop I HIGHLY recommend.