Okay, so we went to Paris. It was divine.
Full disclosure: I could live off coffee, wine, cheese, chocolate and bread. And I like wearing blazers. And walking everywhere. So it was inevitable that I would fall in love with the city.
To avoid writing a novel about my eight days in the city of light, here are some highlights of our trip (Part 1):
It was my first time there, so it would be silly to avoid the tourist-y stuff just because I hate tourists. These places are popular because they're awesome!
My favourite places:
1. Juno Beach Centre and the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery
We took the train to Caen, Normandy, then rented a car — Matthew drove stick shift and got into zero accidents! — and headed to Juno Beach. Our visit was just five days before the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Pretty special.
It was a chilly day. We toured a command centre and bunker on the beach, and walked along the shore. It felt very…real.
When we arrived at the Canadian War Cemetery later that afternoon, we both had tears in our eyes.
If you ever get the chance, please go.
(Thanks, Andrew and Kelly for the awesome recommendation. So worth it.)
2. Musée D'Orsay
I have a crush on every single Monet painting ever painted. This museum is full of impressionist masterpieces. (It's also the only no-cameras-allowed museum we encountered.)
I want to paint something. Anything. Even just a wall.
3. Musée Rodin
The weather was perfect, and we had just climbed down the Eiffel Tower and had a couple of hours to kill before heading back to our AirBnB apartment to get ready for dinner. So we went to the Musée Rodin and wandered around the gorgeous gardens.
I really gained an appreciation for sculpture on this trip.
4. Picnicking in front of the Eiffel Tower
I mentioned this before. THIS is what I was most looking forward to — and it did not disappoint.
Cured meats, pate, strong cheese, a baguette and wine. Repeat four times. That's all you need for life and happiness.
5. Le Jardin du Luxembourg
This 60-acre park is practically a tropical destination in the city. Palm trees! Sandy walkways! Naps in the sun!
Kids played with model boats in the central basin. Families picnicked. We wandered aimlessly for a while, then stopped to just relax and journal a bit.
6. Notre Dame
I fell in love with this cathedral during a Grade 2 French class. And I finally had the opportunity to go inside. It's strange how you can enter a building for the very first time and feel nostalgic.
Shakespeare and Company
(We bought the clichés: The Little Prince and The Old Man and the Sea. And a 100-year-old copy of Dickens' Christmas stories.)
Versailles on a Tuesday.
Don't believe my "nobody's here" photos. The place was a madhouse.
Don't. Do. It.
Paris' museums are closed on Tuesdays. So EVERY TOUR GROUP ON THE PLANET heads to Versailles instead. The grounds are massive and gorgeous and lovely. Petit Trainon and the Grand Trainon are also pretty breathtaking.
The actual palace, however, is a whole other story. A very crowded — and subsequently unpleasant — story.
Don't do it. Not on a Tuesday.
I, Nadine Kalinauskas, am an introvert. I cannot handle wall-to-wall people. In any circumstance. If you elbow me to get a closer look at a malachite vase, I will...glare at you passive-aggressively while daydreaming about deserted islands.
The Louvre on a Wednesday.
"The museums are open again! We should ALL go to the Louvre."
I don't think I'll ever fully recover from the Mona Lisa mosh pit. (Next time, I'm just going to body-surf to the famous painting. Probably a better strategy than slowing inching my way forward only to get slightly abused by very eager amateur photographers.)
A man physically moved my head so he could get a better photo of a Michelangelo statue. I have a new, simple rule for strangers: Don't touch my head.
We did see works by all the Ninja Turtles, so it was still worth it. Cowabunga, dude!
And the Louvre itself is quite stunning. (The Napoleon apartments are actually better displayed than the rooms at Versailles.)
Next up: Eating our way through Paris....