Giant Calzones and a Rainy Piazza San Marco – Venice, Italy

Arriving in Venice via Paris( and the long layover from there is its own story to tell that involves being ferried out onto a snowflake dusted runway by a very rickety bus jam packed with pissed of Italians) we were greeted at the airport by a private driver that would be taking us to a waiting water taxi- transportation arranged ahead of time by the hotel we would be staying at,the Ruzzini Palace hotel. Having never taken a water taxi before, I can say it was one of the coolest experiences, not least of all because I was pretty out of it from having been traveling for the past 24 hours and watching the city open up in front of us, the twinkling lights from open windows reflected on the waters of the canals was a beautiful introduction to the enchanting city of Venice.

We didn’t do much that first night apart from get settled in, marvel at the beyond gorgeous room we had been given and order breakfast in for the next morning. I poked my head out the room windows for a while, just trying to really believe I was actually there, because it all still felt like something out of a (slightly sleep deprived) dream.

The next morning we woke up somewhat bright and early, tucked into a super delicious breakfast and then got ready to go out and explore the city. There was a light drizzle coming down and we were still pretty bone tired from the traveling and time zone juggling of the day before but, we were ready for this new adventure.

We headed towards Piazza San Marco, a supposed easy 7 minute walk from where we were staying. I say supposed because if you’ve never been to Venice, let me paint you a picture : imagine a maze with very narrow pathways that still managed to be beautiful and is also full to bursting with interesting little shops everywhere you look. We got turned around a good couple of times but eventually we made it to the square and by the time we got there I was already holding a couple of souvenir items I’d bought for friends.

The square and the immediate surrounding area holds some of the top attractions in Venice so we expected it to be fairly crowded but we were pleasantly surprised to see it wasn’t too bad- perhaps the rain was a blessing in disguise? Either way, we didn’t want to do any real in-depth sightseeing that day so we just walked around a bit, did a quick currency exchange (that I recommend against doing btw, unless your bank fee’s are insane just take money out of an ATM, much cheaper) and then headed off back into the maze of pretty and winding streets to seek out some more interesting shops and eventually, lunch.

We stopped by a restaurant called Tratorria Casanova, mainly because the menus were displayed outside and I saw that one of them one clearly marked in English. I pointed this out to the boyfriend in a lightly teasing way, “look, they have it in English for you“, and one of the waiters who was outside came over to us and asked me, curious and giving us a easygoing charming smile, “Ah and for you? Italian?”

My Italian was at that time, according to my efforts with Duolingo, at about 50% so I just laughed along and said I could understand it but I was better with Spanish and English. This btw, was something that would happen a lot in Italy over the course of the next week, people assuming I could speak Italian and then being a bit disappointed in my less then adequate attempts- my goal is that the next time I visit, my Italian will be much more up to par. For this visit though, the basics were good enough and with a menu in English, definitely a good choice for us!

The food was amazing and I got to experience the great joy of eating a rather enormous pepperoni and mushroom calzone that cause a number of covetous looks when it was brought out- both because of its size and delicious smell. We ate, got desert and coffee and then we received complimentary savory sorbets that ended up being even more yummy than the desserts we had just finished. Stuffed to the gills, we eventually got on our way and headed back to our hotel to drop off our bags before heading back out foro one last quick exploration (and to find a local grocery store to buy some bottles of water).

Bottles of water procured and a couple of other treats in the bags as well, we walked back to our hotel, rain still drizzling and making the cobblestone streets fairly glisten and sparkle. I had wished, earlier in the day, for a bit more sunshine, but at the moment I took this photo above, standing on a small footbridge over one of the canals and looking towards our waiting hotel, I was content to have a little bit of rain.

~ m

OutTakes- EuroTrip Edition (Includes video clips, for once!)

This post was meant to be done about a month ago- or at the very least not right after i’ve come back from my latest travel adventure (I went to Italy but obviously thats for another set of posts) but life has a funny way of kicking plans straight to the curb and here we are: back home, still unpacking and finishing up the last set of posts. And truth time- while I was more than happy to just quietly move on to writing about this last trip and forget about my customary Outtakes post, a couple of friends and readers have been insistent about it so, here we go. (Porcsha, this ones for you.)

For those that have followed this blog for a while, I’m sure you’re used to my “Outtakes” post by now but for any new readers, here’s we go-

I’m a horribly procrastination prone writer/blogger and I like to travel. Those two things tend to intersect badly when I’m trying to post about recent travels while also trying to plan upcoming trips and it’s the reason why sometimes I forget to talk about the hotels I stayed at or the tours I took. And so, we get outtakes posts with photographs I forgot to include in other posts as well as the side stories and misadventures I got up to that didn’t fit that well in the general posts I was writing. Like I say to friends when I arrive at their homes or crash land into their lives – hope you enjoy the meds!

Dallas —> Edinburgh 

I did actually manage to cover this part of the trip pretty extensively and accurately- sharing how I lost one of my credit cards on the flight from Paris that first day (because of course I did). On the plus side I must have looked so stressed and tired on this part of the trip that the counter agent for that flight waved the weight overage fee on my checked bag, so I guess you win some and lose some (sometimes literally). 

The hotel I stayed at was the Best Western Braid Hills and I had a couple of reasons to pick it. First, the reviews on it were some of the best in the area and that’s pretty important to me when I’m traveling somewhere I’ve never been before by myself. My friend Rob who I met up with there berated me a bit (gently) as it’s located outside the city center but in general I tend to pick the quieter places where I can come back and unwind. Also I ended up choosing Edinburgh as my first stop almost in a whim, because at first I had been planning of visiting London instead and so by the time I started trying to book a room, pickings were getting slim. I definetly don’t regret staying at this hotel though, and though I plan to come back to Edinburgh in the future with my bf and probably stay in the city center, I’d still recommend this hotel for anyone looking for some relaxation with their stay and great views.

Like I said, this part of the trip was pretty faithfully covered in my original posts but here’s a video clip from the day trip my friend Rob and I took up to Loch Lomond (this would be after we mutually agreed it would be best for him to continue the hike on his own as I was probably gonna die if I tried to complete it with him and I headed back down to the lake )

(This goes without saying but I’m not sponsored by any of the hotels, restaurants, tour companies or anything else I mention in this post- it would be hella sweet if I was but that’s just not the case currently)

Post From this Part of the Trip :  My visit to the Scottish National Gallery
My visit to The National Museum of Scotland
My visit to Loch Lomond and the Last Night in Edinburgh

Edinburg –> Amsterdam 

How to start writing about this part of the trip…. Don’t choose connecting flights that have less than 3 hours of a layover in Dublin because going through customs there is like getting popped in the face by a giant time stealer? That’s probably good advice. Anyways, long story short, I missed my connecting flight to Amsterdam, ended up having to go through some odd airport backrooms to get back to the right side and get my luggage and then had to buy another ticket. Thankfully it wasn’t pricy and finally I made it to my hotel and though I had meant to maybe walk around that evening and explore a little the reality is I shot off an email to a friend I hadn’t talked to in almost a year who lives in the city, ordered delivery and then promptly crashed.

I stayed at the Quentin England Hotel, mainly because of the location which is right by all the museums I wanted to see and just a couple of blocks away from the Vondelpark which just seemed like a good idea.  Amsterdam is a pretty walkable city (at least as long as you don’t fear getting run over by the overwhelming multitude of bike riders) and I don’t know that there’s a “bad” place to stay, so at least to me it’s relative to what you’d like to visit and i’d definetly stay in the area again- though perhaps not at this hotel because my room ended up actually being in the -1 floor which was unexpected.

My first day here I made my way to Dam Square where I was meeting up with the group that would be doing the historical walking tour I had signed up for. I had never done one of these before but it was genuinely fun and I even met a cool girl to walk around with afterwards. During our lunch I got an answer back from the friend who I had emailed the day before letting me know he would be available to meet up either that day or the next- honestly I was a bit shocked he had even responded given how crappy of a friend I had been lately but we made plans to meet up the next day as I had plans to spend as much time as possible at the Rijksmuseum (I made two posts on this visit and could easily have done 3 more.)

The next day was a jam packed adventure- I woke up early to make it to the Van Gogh museum, then walked to the Albert Cuyp Market to meet up with Elsa before she headed off to Geneva and then took a break in the form of getting lost on my way back to the hotel to drop off my bounty of accidentally acquired souvenirs before meeting up with my friend Dennis that afternoon for a good couple of hours. He took me to an excellent music shop where I made a couple of purchases, namely this Toto greatest hits CD which I think he’s still befuddled by to this day. But really, it was such a good deal, I love Toto and the look on his face when he realized I was seriously gonna buy it was priceless.

Post From this Part of the Trip: 

First Day in Amsterdam
Rijksmuseum pt 1
Rijksmuseum Pt 2
Last Day in Amsterdam

Amsterdam –> Munich 

The longest part of the trip, the time I spent in Germany with my good friend, Bavarian native (and fantastic human being all around), Julia. I made the 8 hour journey from Amsterdam to Munich via train and while it wasn’t always comfy or easy, it was still an experience worth having if only so I know what to do the next time. So technically my first day in Germany was spent traveling to Munich, navigating the train-station with Julia, being stuck in rushhour traffic for a bit before she took me on a picturesque side road to get to her apartment (she lives outside of Munich thankfully, in a charming smaller town and I have never been so tempted to want to switch lives with someone then when we drove into it). 

My second day in Germany was actually not spent in Germany. Julia and I had agreed on doing a day trip to Salzburg since I had picked up a travel guide book to Bavaria that listed it as a possible day trip option and when am I ever not swayed by suggestions in guidebooks? It was honestly the highlight of the trip since it was the day we were blessed with perfect weather, bountiful energy and a beautiful city full of winding streets, beautiful churches and grand squares to explore.

We ended that day by her driving us out of Salzburg and then to find one of her favorite churches in Ramsau which we made it to right as the sun was setting and it was a perfect end to the day. On the drive home we got a bit turned around and ended up having to bust out the google maps to find the way but we were still laughing and happy by the time we stumbled up the stairs to her apartment and after a small dinner and fresh fruit we dropped off to sleep so we could wake up relatively early for the next days adventure.

A day exploring Neues Schloss Herrenchiemsee and then crossing the lake by ferry to wander on the Fraueninsel and take a look at the Benedictine abbey of Frauenwörth. The day ended with us driving in after dusk to her hometown of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and us stopping in at a Burger King to grab a quick dinner. The experience was surreal for us both but the fries were hot, crispy and delicious.  Afterwards, Julia dropping me off at the Biohotel Garmischer Hof (I booked it last minute but would definetly recommend if staying in the area).

The next day involved waking up somewhat early, checking out of the hotel since I had only booked it for one night (and booking another one for that next night as our plans changed a bit) and then taking a Julia guided tour around Garmisch-Partenkirchen before heading on our way towards Neuschwanstein Castle. I covered this extensively it’s own post but we ended up skipping the tour of Neuschwanstein and instead hopped on over to the town of Füssen to grab lunch and some Schneeball. We finished up the day at a Linderhof Palace and then drove back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen so she could introduce me to her bunnies (and her family to off course).

My final day in Germany involved heading over to her family’s house again to see her bunnie’s (Tinki, the white one, looked like she wanted to prove she wasn’t scared of strangers and would fight me- I love her) after which we grabbed a quick breakfast at a local cafe and then headed off to the town of Mittenwald. It was rainy but the colorful town was incredibly beautiful and charming nonetheless and by the time we made it back to her apartment and I started packing, I knew I would want to be back to explore more of what this region of Germany had to offer. (And of course it doesn’t hurt that Julia gifted me a fantastic book full of beautiful photos of the region as a welcoming present, or that her family put together a parting gift for me that included a little cow because of course their daughter made friends with a weird American girl who loves cows).

That last night was meant to be a quiet and relaxing one and Julia and I both needed to go to sleep early so she could help me catch my early train the next morning but, unexpectedly, I got a call from work. I mentioned in my Loch Lomond post that I had been dealing with stress from waiting to hear back for a job I interviewed for just a couple of days before I left on the trip, and I had resigned myself at this point that I hadn’t gotten it, as they had said they would be contacting candidates the next week (which would have been when I was still in Amsterdam).  So there I was, 9pm Germany time trying to go to sleep by listening to soothing music in Julias living room and thinking about my Paris plans when my phone starts to go off and I just stare at it because who could be calling me from Texas right now? Turns out, I got the job and even though I was still on vacation and would be till the following week, they would be retroactively bumping up my pay-grade from that last Sunday if I accepted the job offer. I accepted happily, told a sleepy Julia what had happened and decided to stress less about all the money I had been spending on souvenirs.

Post From this Part of the Trip: 

Salzburg, Austria pt1
Salzburg, Austria pt2 (the Churches post)
Salzburg, Austria (Finalpost)
Ramsau , Germany
Herrenchiemsee, Germany
Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany
Neuschwanstien, Germany
Fussen, Germany
Schloss Linderhof, Germany
Mittenwald, Germany (Last Post)

Munich –> Paris 

By the time I got to Paris, I was somewhat tired. Just kidding I was mother-frikin exhausted and ready to ooze onto the hotel bed. But I only had 2 full days left, so I found some extra energy reserves, called it an early the night the day I made it there and woke up the next day bright and early so I could go meet up with the tour that would take me to Versailles. I stayed at the Hotel Minerve, located in the Latin quarter in the 5th district of Paris and about 10 minutes walking distance from Notre Dame on the recommendation from Rachid for the area and because the reviews were pretty great. I don’t think i’d stay there again as the rooms where a bit cramped but, the view from my small balcony was pretty excellent and I did actually love the neighborhood a lot.

So about the tour to Versailles. I had signed up for a tour through Viator because 1. I didn’t really want to deal with getting to Versailles by myself either through the metro or by cab and 2. there was a tour that provided skip the line tickets without being an actual guided tour- they just gave you a map and audio guide and set you loose for the next 8 hours. Perfect for me. It’s operated by the PARISCityVISION Agency and they actually run a whole bunch of tours all over Paris and the surrounding area, plus their office is located just blocks from the Louvre so its super easy to find. If you’re looking to take a tour, i’d definetly recommend them.

I finished up that first day in Paris by meeting up with my friend Rachid and us taking a really wonderful night walk over some bridges and unexpected to the exterior area of Louvre which was open to us to walk through. It was a surreal experience for both of us in the best way and by the time I made it back to my hotel that night it was almost 11 but even though my feet ached I still fell asleep feeling happy and just a teensy bit enamored by the city.

I took it easy the last day of the trip, spending pretty much the whole morning repacking my mess of souvenirs and clothes and everything so that I would hopefully not end up having to pay a weight overage charge (I succeeded!) and finding a little present Julia had slipped into my backpack when I wasn’t looking apparently. I then spent the rest of the late morning and afternoon at the Louvre and I didn’t even see a third of it, which was honestly kinda fantastic. Rachid and I met up outside by Pyramid entrance and we went off to see Sacré Cœur and a beautiful sunset there was the perfect goodbye to the city.

The next morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4am to get ready and head off to CDG and headed home, determined to come back to Europe again soon (though after a lot of rest.)

Post From this Part of the Trip: 
Versailles, Pt1
Versailles Pt 2
Musée du Louvre pt 1
Musée du Louvre pt 2
Sacré Cœur (last post)

Misc: 

(Cappuccinos in Germany and inside Versailles- also cappuccinos were had in literally every other country I went to, hence the video below )

So thats it, finally. There so many other stories, anecdotes, videos and photos I haven’t shared here but at least you can trust I shared the best ones, the good stuff if you will. I’m working on possibly doing a whole video edit of clips from all the videos I took on this trip but 1. still need to find the perfect music for it and 2. the whole point of this post is what a horrible procrastinator I am so obviously it will be about a year before that gets put together probably. I had an absolute blast on this trip though, and hopefully if you’ve been following this adventure or even if you just read this one post, you had some fun reading it as well.

Will post sometime in the next week (no, really I will!) about this most recent trip I took to Italy and all the sundry adventures therein.

Not drowning in my coffee cups yet,
~m

A Sunset at Sacré Cœur – Paris, France

After finishing up my visit to the Louvre with a quick trip to the gift shop to grab some postcards for friends and coworkers, I headed outside to meet up with my friend Rachid and embark on the last adventure of the trip. Being a resident Parisian, he offered me two choices for the evenings activities- we could either take the métro to the Eiffel Tower or we could go to Sacré-Cœur, another lesser known although still famous landmark. Having never been to Paris before, I was tempted to pick the Eiffel Tour choice, but then I thought, “Ok, you never do things as expected so why start now?”, besides which, I thought it would be good motivation to come back, and bring my bf with me so we could see the Eiffel Tower together. Also, why not visit yet another church?

Choice made, we set out on a walk through the Jardin des Tuileries to find the nearest métro station.

A short while later found us looking up at the tallest hill in all of Paris, Montmartre- at the top of which was my chosen destination. Given I had just spent the day walking around a very immense museum and hadn’t stopped to grab lunch in between, this was probably not the best idea but, onward and up we went. The climb was a bit of a huff and puff for me, though of course Rachid did it easily and I could only side eye him with a bit of probably not so well concealed fitness envy. It was at least a fun climb as it was made with a friend and if I had been alone I might have just plonked myself down at the bottom and enjoyed the crisp weather instead.

The view when we finally made it to the top though, that was worth the climb a hundred times over.

We didn’t attempt to go inside the basilica as the crowds were rather large and tour group after tour group seemed to be lining up already, but I made a mental note to come back for this as well in a later trip. What we did instead was take a walk in the neighborhood behind the church, which Rachid stated was one of this most favorite areas in all of Paris. After turning the corner onto the cobblestone charmingly crooked streets, I could easily see why it had captured a spot in his heart and it grabbed a corner of mine as well.

The smell of good food wafted to us in the cool breeze, artists painted portraits and landscapes on almost every street and beautiful houses and shops lined up one after another on the winding streets and I feel like if I had been less tired (and feeling the impending stress of the next day’s journey back home) I would have liked to have stayed here well into the night.

Eventually though, the fading light from the sunset brought us back to Sacré-Cœur and I took the chance to take a couple of photographs of it’s exterior during a moment when the crowds lessened a little.

While I would never advise someone who’s never been to Paris to not take the chance to see the Eiffel Tour, for me at least, choosing instead to pick another landmark as my last visit of the trip, it was well worth it and a choice I don’t regret at all. Yes the climb is steep (though I’m pretty sure there’s a cable car type deal you can take up as well) and you couldn’t quite call this a hidden gem given the number of tour groups I saw and the accompanying souvenir hawkers posted everywhere, but. Just one full minute of gazing out at Paris laid out in front of you and everything else just fades into the background.

By the time got down the hill and had made our way to yet another métro station, I was ready to call it a day. It was still relatively early and a Friday night to boot, but I had some last minute packing to do, not to mention I had to be up tat 4am the next morning to catch my shuttle to CDG airport. And so, my last night in Paris concluded with a fiercely tight hug to Rachid and about a dozen thanks for having made the city feel that much more fun and lovely and wishes that we would get the chance to meet again soon.

Upstairs in my hotel room, I opened the balcony windows and let the noise of the city float over to me on the cool breeze and while I felt bone achingly tired and ready to head home finally, there was a part of me that would have been happy to stay another night, another week even. That’s the magic of Paris though, that even when your heart longs for home and the familiar, there’s a part of you that’s captured by the city and won’t ever be let go of.

~ m

This is my last full post about my 2017 EuroTrip adventures but my at this point tradition “outtakes post” is still coming up later in the week and in it I’ll talk about where all hotels I stayed at, give some tips about traveling in multiple countries throughout Europe and also give mention to my upcoming travel plans. Thank you for everyone that stuck with me and read along even when it seemed like procrastination was gonna make it a year before I finished!

Chasing the Reflected Light at the Musée du Louvre- Paris, France

One of the most exciting things about deciding to visit Paris, apart from the joy of getting to meet a new friend in person, was knowing I would be visiting the Louvre. If you’ve followed this blog for a bit or know me in real life then you know, I’m a gigantic lover of museums. Some people might even say that’s an understatement, given how much I can nerd out in those kinds of places. Museums, mountains and ghost towns- those are my top three favorite types of places to visit.

The Louvre, established in 1793 and located in central Paris, is the worlds largest art museum and annually ranking at the very top (if not at number 1) of most visited globally. The museum is located in the Louvre Palace, which used to be a fortress up until it was converted to the main residence of the French kings in 1546. In 1682, when King Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles as his new household residence, the Louvre was then used primarily a place to display the royal collection. The Louvre was officially opened in 1793 and now houses a collection of 380,000 objects and 35,000 works of art, which should give you an idea of how long you could spend inside and still never get to see everything.

I visited on the last full day of the trip, and while I had big plans for the day- waking up early to visit the Eiffel Tour and then taking a leisurely long walk down the Champs Elyseès, i of course overslept and didn’t end up waking up until almost noon. Considering I had been traveling pretty much non-stop for the past two weeks by myself though, I can hopefully be forgiven for being dead tired and in desperate need of some rest. The Eiffel Tour and all the rest would have to wait for a return visit ( which I’ll be making in March btw- more on that in a later post though!).

I bought a skip-the-like ticket with audio tour through Viator which I really do think was a great idea since the line to get in was very long when I arrived and I’ve heard it can be even worse in the summertime/peak seasons. I didn’t really use the audio tour guide that I got though, because it mainly highlighted how to get to the most popular sights- namely the Mona Lisa. I was really more interested in the Near Eastern Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculpture and Decorative Arts collections than diving into yet more paintings and I also really didn’t want to get swallowed up by crowds just to see a painting that had never been a favorite. Still though, if you’re keen to see it and other popular items like Winged Victory of Samothrace, do budget your time around them.

So, with no real guide or map, I just kinda wandered through hallways and corridors and honestly that was a ton of fun because I never knew what was going to be around the corner, what new world of beautiful items I would stumble across.

Its hard to overstate exactly how beautiful and wonderfully curated this museum is. The space is illuminated by light streaming in from all the many windows and refracted across the floors and that day I visited turned out to be a gloriously sunshine filled day so it was even more luminous inside.

Of course I did pass through plenty of areas that displayed some really beautiful and interesting paintings, but the stuff that really made my brain light up was still to come.

-to be cont,d in part 2

~ m

A Goodbye to Versailles and Hello To A Magical Night Out- Paris, France

 

By the time I had wandered my way to the Grand Trianon on the grounds of Versailles after leaving the the Queens Hamlet, my feet were getting achy and the rain had started to sprinkle down a bit more forcefully. Instead of going inside however (because that would be too logical), I sat just inside the steps, the beautiful black and white tiled floor providing a super elegant resting place to get my energy back up to start the trek back to the main palace and eventually to the meeting place for the tour company I had arrived with that morning.

A lengthy and leisurely visit to the gift shop (but of course) and then it was goodbye to Versailles and back to being a peasant outside it’s gates while I waited with my gathered tour group for the bus to arrive to take us back to Paris.

While on the ride back I got in touch with my friend Rachid who was finishing up teaching a class (because he’s a very smart cookie that teaches mathematics and the story of how we managed to become friends is best left for another day but involves me discovering that some math majors are actually quite cool) and we attempted to coordinate when and where we would meet up, things made a little more difficult because of the weather and unpredictable traffic. Eventually though, I made it back to Paris and the drop off point with the tour group and shortly thereafter met up with Rachid. Being a current Parisian resident, he immediately shuffled us off to the nearest Métro station so we could journey back to my hotel so I could pick up the gift I had gotten for him in Amsterdam and drop off that days souvenirs. He was exceedingly keen on having me experience this form of public transportation, as it’s what he uses on a daily basis and well, why not right? It was a quick trip and soon we were back on our way to our first destination, the french-gothic cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris.

The cathedral was as beautiful as I had expected it to be, almost larger than life in a wonderful way. We didn’t go inside as the area was deeply congested with visitors but just getting to see it up close and personal this way was a great experience to mark off as done on my list of “things to do/see in Paris“. Even as we crossed back over the Seine to head towards what turned out to be the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore, I was already making plans in my head to come back for a more in-depth visit.

Before visiting Paris, I had only heard of the bookstore via movies and blurbs in travel guides- I think I might have mentioned this before but, I’ve never viewed Paris as that interesting to me personally. Not because its not bursting at the seams with museums and fascinating history- it surely is- but just because there have always been other places that interests me much more. That being said though, the history of the Shakespeare and Company Paris bookstore is a fantastic one and I definetly suggest stopping in. It’s situated just across from Notre-Dame and its a really unexpected book oasis that invites you to linger for a good long while.

Once we had managed to extricate ourselves from here (because I of course wanted to buy dozens of books and maybe a couple of postcards) we began the hunt for a place to grab dinner at nearby. After a bit of talking we settled on the idea that we should try and find a traditional French restaurant as I had never really experienced French cuisine before. Eventually after some walking around the area, we stopped to read a menu displayed outside a restaurant and the waiter (or host, I couldn’t quite tell) managed to get us-er I mean, to invite us to come inside.

So… i’m not going to give the name of the place we ate it- mostly because I honestly can’t with 100% accuracy remember it and so therefore i’d hate to drag the wrong place. But gods, I don’t think i’ve ever had a worse meal. Perhaps it might have been because I couldn’t read the menu (as Rachid speaks fluent French and when our waiter asked “anglaise or french” he said French, leaving me a bit in the dark as an unintended result) and I felt mighty uncomfortable asking him to translate every item and so ended up just going with what seemed familiar to me. It might have been the odd neon lighting, the crinkly plastic tablecloth that stuck to my skin the second I dared to let my arm rest on the table, maybe the really narrow table and hard wooden chairs…or maybe the rather unexpectedly terrible food.

The good thing though, is the meal wasn’t an utter wash because Rachid tucked in and greatly enjoyed his food, the vegetable soup I got on a haphazard whim ended up being almost tasty enough to make up for everything else and the really great conversation we had over the hour we were there made everything else fade into the background. Ahhh the powers of friendship, no?

 

And so, with that neon adventure behind us, we walked onward with no real destination in mind and the sky darkened to true nightfall. We walked over what felt like half a dozen bridges, talking about literature, history, our relationships and respective ideas of love (after all, the subject is almost infused into the bones of this city) and eventually found ourselves outside the Louvre. I remember seeing people walking past the gates and towards the illuminated pyramids and turning to Rachid to ask, “Wait, people can go in there at night?” . He hadn’t known you could explore the courtyard area after the Louvre closed for the day either, and so we crossed the street to follow the rest of people wandering in.

To say it was magical would be such a severe understatement. The next day I came back in the bright daylight hours but the way everything look that night- softly lit and only sparsely populated with visitors- thats the way I think I want to remember it forever.

I really can’t overemphasize visiting the Louvre at night- you can’t go inside the museum itself because it’s closed but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting the area to view it at night, to get a chance to look around such a historic place with plenty of breathing room thats very hard to find during the daylight hours. Also, it’s just really freaking cool.

We ended the visit by crossing the street to get a closer look at the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (not to be confused with the larger and more famous Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile ) and idly wondering how far it would be to walk from here to either the Eiffel Tower or the other Arc. Probably overambitious on my part but I was considering walking from either one back to the Louvre the next day, though Rachid was more rational in that taking the Métro would be the better plan (he’s such a smart guy but definetly still needs to learn just exactly how utterly irrational I can be, ha).

Eventually though, as the time got later and later, we decided it would be a good idea to call it a night as he had a class to teach in the morning and I was more than a little tired from the long day. Ever the gracious host to his city and an amazing friend, Rachid walked me back to my hotel before finding his own way back home. Have I mentioned what a great person he is? Yes? Once more then!

Considering I started and spent half the day exploring Versailles and then the other half seeing so many wonderful Parisian sights and treasures, it truly was a day and night to remember and it ended up really cementing in me the deep desire to come back again, and soon.

~m