The Story of My First Trip to Europe: Part Two


Following our smooth trip on the Eurostar, we arrived in a train station in Paris. I pulled up the directions on my phone and figured out the needed train on the Metro (subway) to get to our hotel.

A note about speaking the language.... I studied French all through high school, and for two years in college. I was only two courses away from a French minor.  In anticipation of the trip, I did some modules on the language app Duolingo, and listened to a few podcasts (Coffee Break French) about dining out, hotels, etc. I was SURE that I had enough to do fine, and that the rest would just come back to me as I started using it. I was WRONG.

So, luckily, the ticket machines let you select English, and after a frustrating few minutes trying to figure out our way, we were on the Metro and arriving at our stop at Montparnasse Bienvenue. We walked the block and a half to our hotel.

When we got out of the subway station, we saw some stereotypical Parisian scenes: cute old buildings with iron railings, cafes, creperies, etc. but no Eiffel Tower from where we were. We arrived at the hotel and my lack of French becomes even more apparent, but luckily the desk clerk spoke English, gave us all our details, and we headed to our room.

The room was small but nice, with a stocked mini bar, windows that opened on a courtyard, and a large bathroom. But Matt felt like it wasn't good enough. He went to the front desk to see what he could do. Next thing I know, we are walking out of the elevator on the top floor (8th) with our things into our SUITE. It's lovely, with a sitting room, two bathrooms, and a large bedroom, but more importantly, a private balcony with a view....

When I stepped out onto the balcony, I started to cry. My first sight is the rooftops of Paris, lovely old buildings with chimneys, floor to ceiling windows with iron balconies, and in the distance, the Eiffel Tower.

So, if you are reading this you probably know about my passion for Paris. My home is decorated with multiple images of the Eiffel Tower. I've daydreamed about the time I would finally come to Paris for 20 years. And then I was there! With the most stellar view of this place that I could even imagine.

In this post I shared a picture I had saved on Pinterest of a woman leaning off a blacony with the Eiffel tower in the background. I have a "secret" board where I post my goals and dreams. In my post about Las Vegas found here I shared about how a photo I posted on this secret board became a dream came true, when I had the exact view I'd imagined without any of my input or planning... and this happened to me AGAIN.

Here's me, on my incredible balcony, with my dream image:
I cried, I texted everyone, I facetimed the kids, I posted on social media, and I literally didn't leave the balcony all night. We got there at like 3 p.m.! We ordered room service and ate out there, and then I watched the sunset, and saw the tower light up with sparkling lights once an hour until midnight.
The next morning, I ordered breakfast to our room (included in our package, and consisting each day of baguettes, pain au chocolat, croissants, juice, yogurt, and coffee with warmed milk, our daily breakfast) and ate out there again. I spent every morning and every evening absorbing every single second of this view.
Our first full day in Paris, after breakfast, began with selfies on the balcony, and then we went out for a walk. We walked through Luxembourg Gardens, through the quaint city streets, down toward Notre Dame. We stopped at a cafe for our first real French food. I had Quiche Lorraine, and Matt had steak and frites. Our server was very gracious and recognized immediately through our broken French that we spoke English and switched to our language right way, which literally EVERYONE so kindly did for us on this trip.

We toured Notre Dame (so incredible), then, because it was over 90 degrees in Paris and we did not pack for that kind of heat, we needed to sit and rest and cool off! We stopped at a cafe for a cool glass of rose and a beer. Then we toured this chapel from the 1200s, Saint Chappel, with floor to ceiling stained glass windows. The beauty cannot be explained or captured in photos, though I tried.

Next we headed back to the hotel, freshened up and rested from the extreme heat and the many miles walked, and then took the Metro to our dinner cruise on the Seine! It was enclosed and air conditioned which was SUCH a relief! We had incredible food, and the reputation about French culinary experiences was upheld. Then, we went on the deck of the boat and took selfies with the Eiffel Tower. After the cruise, despite the heat, I insisted we walk the 1.5 miles back to the hotel so I could see more of the city. But it was a hot, brutal walk. :)

This morning our goal was Sacre Coeur, a beautiful chapel at the top of a hill with incredible views of Paris. We walked to the Metro, and got off the train at our station. We started to climb the stairs out, a winding staircase.... and then there were more stairs, and more stairs... Matt carried a suitcase for an older lady who was struggling... and it was also STILL HOT. By the time we made it out, I checked my phone and we'd climbed ten flights of stairs!

Out of the subway finally, we started our walk toward Sacre Coeur, which was ENTIRELY uphill. We had to stop and buy water, and then it started to lightly rain, which cooled us off enough to climb the rest of the hill. Once up there, it was remarkable! But man, it was rough. Over 14 flights climbed!

We wandered through the neighborhood of Montmartre, had a lovely lunch at a cafe, and walked past the Moulin Rouge. We got on the Metro, and got off at the Arc de Triomphe, and walked down the Champs Elysees. We stopped at a couple shops and bought a few things (most specifically, we upgraded Matt's sunglasses) and then, as is our now usual fashion on a European vacation, stopped at a cafe for a drink, before walking the rest of the way to our hotel.

This evening we had reservations at the Eiffel Tower for dinner. We got to eat on the first floor at 58 Tour Eiffel. I had duck for the first time. We saw a proposal a few tables away, which was so romantic! We took selfies in front of the illuminated tower at night. It was wonderful.

It was our last full day in Paris, and we debated a lot of things (train to Reims, the Louvre, Versailles) and decided on the Palace of Versailles. We navigated our way via trains after a late breakfast, and had lunch near the Palace before starting our tour. We wandered the rooms, strolled in the gardens, sat on a bench with a glass of wine taking in our beautiful surroundings. By day 7 or 8 of this trip, we were TIRED. We called an Uber back to our hotel, grabbed a bottle of wine at the bar, ordered room service, and spent the evening on the balcony again, watching the sunset and the Eiffel Tower sparkle.

Our car service was coming at noon, so we woke, ate breakfast in our room, packed, and strolled the neighborhood for a bit. We got a crepe, saw a cafe named the Indiana, and headed to the airport.

OVERALL: France was lovely. after 20 years of anticipation, it did not disappoint. I will never in my life forget the moment I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time, or how blessed I felt to have a husband who understood how much this trip meant to me, and did all he could to make it as magical as I imagined.

Thanks for reading my recap! I can't wait to go back.


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