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France, Part I

We’re currently spending 3-weeks in France before heading to Spain and Portugal! Since 3-weeks in such a beautiful country is WAY too much to fit in one post, I’m breaking up the France portion into two pieces.

A little tip: you can click the individual images in the galleries throughout the post if you want to see the full picture or get a closer look.

I went on a trip to France with my high school nine years ago, but this is my husband, Cardin’s, first time here. I’ve loved re-experiencing the sites and getting to see Cardin’s reaction to everything. The first 5 days of our trip were spent in Paris. After arriving in the morning and taking a quick nap [I know, not exactly how you’re supposed to get over jet lag], we decided to explore the neighborhood.

We were staying in République, and it was a very cute, colorful and non-touristy spot! Below are a few pictures of the area and “Cafe Le Bistrot” where we had happy hour our first night. ***Side note: they had the BEST popcorn [thankfully my husband isn’t a big popcorn eater, so I didn’t have to share too much].

Before starting our walking tour the next morning, we decided carb-loading was a must and headed to the best boulangerie in the neighborhood: Du Pain et des Idees. They’re known for their delicious escargots—and no, I don’t mean snails. It’s the swirled pastry in the pictures below.

I picked the praline flavor, and it was delicious [not that you can eat a bad pastry in Paris]! As we finished breakfast, we noticed a dog standing outside the door waiting patiently for his pastry. It was so sweet and we were so impressed by such a well trained dog. Our poorly trained pup would have immediately run off to play with people sitting outside—even if she was promised a pastry for waiting by the door for us.

Our first site of the day was the Arc de Triomphe. As amazing as the structure was, I think Cardin was more impressed by the 4-lane traffic circle around the Arc. After our traumatizing rental car experience in Cape Town [which you can read about HERE], we tend to view streets abroad with gratitude that we’re walking instead of frantically trying to avoid crashing!

Cardin even has a building named after him—I think he’s secretly related to the fashion designer… 😉

After exploring a few more spots along the way, we finally made it to the Louvre.

One of our favorite things was getting to watch local artists paint throughout the museum, and seeing the Mona Lisa [despite its shockingly small size].

Now let me just say, we had a wonderful time exploring the Louvre. As far as museums go, it’s by far my favorite! …BUT….as much as I hate to admit it, we are not museum people. We both quickly lose interest and somehow staring at art has the magical ability to make us instantly starving [even if we eat beforehand]. So, instead of being mature, cultured museum-goers…Cardin ends up posing like the art, and I unashamedly photograph it [don’t worry, we only do it when no one is watching].

Some of the best marriage advice I can offer, especially for traveling, marry someone who has the same museum stamina as you do—trust me, it makes the whole experience much more enjoyable!

Cardin worked up quite an appetite after all that posing, so we found a great little cafe near the Louvre called La Comedie and ate a croque monsieur and a croque madame. The only downside, which we’ve noticed at most cafes in France, is that a lot of people smoke here. We were squished into a tiny semi-enclosed patio without much circulation, so we didn’t linger much once we finished eating.

After lunch, we headed to Notre-Dame de Paris. Even after visiting it once before, it was still so amazing to see this beautiful, massive cathedral!

After cooking dinner at our Airbnb, we decided to make a late night macaron run—because Paris is probably the only place you could make a late night macaron run. Unfortunately, all of the patisseries in our neighborhood were closed, but we found one called Laduree on the Champs-Élysées. It’s a touristy chain, but honestly, it was by far the best macarons we’ve had on our trip. They were relatively expensive but worth every penny! We ate a coconut-lime flavored one that I swear tasted just like Fruity Pebbles! Cardin didn’t entirely agree with that comparison, but it was our favorite flavor.

The next day, we headed to Disneyland Paris. Unlike any other Disney park, you enter through a hotel. Everything about this park was beautiful and the colors were very different from what we’re used to seeing at Disney.

Below is a picture of us in front of the hotel/park entrance. It’s also a picture of me holding the absolute worst cup of coffee known to man. Honestly, I’m not even sure you can consider it coffee. It was a great hand-warmer though!

Our day at Disney also happened to be the coldest and wettest day of our entire trip so far. No amount of layers could save us from the unavoidable soaking after riding a roller coaster in the pouring rain. I foolishly thought “that’s ok, I’ll just hold my head down with my hood on to prevent my face from getting wet on the ride.” Unfortunately, that was completely ineffective when going upside down and we were forcefully pelted in the face by rain. A definite perk of the rough weather though: lighter crowds!

They also have a Ratatouille ride, which we’ll be getting at Epcot soon. Ratatouille is one of our favorite movies, so we loved getting to experience it! Another unique aspect of the park is they have indoor alleys on the backsides of main street. Not only are they well-done, but they were a welcome relief from the weather. Also, please take a second to admire Cardin’s excellent impression of his carousel horse below—see we don’t just do that at museums 😉

Our favorite surprise at Disneyland Paris was the castle and not just because of its appearance [although it was very pretty]. They have a dungeon that you walk down into and have a dragon moving around and breathing smoke! And they use fire during the castle fireworks, which was a bonus!

You may be asking yourself, “why the heck did this girl take a picture of a mustard packet?!” Don’t worry; I’m about to tell you exactly why. By the end of the day, we were freezing, soaking wet and didn’t feel like searching further for food, so we ended up grabbing hot dogs for dinner. I know, “who eats hot dogs in France,” but we were desperate and didn’t want to spend much money.

I grabbed multiple of these little mustard packets and proceeded to spread two of them on my hot dog. What I thought was typical dijon mustard [which I eat regularly] turned out to be straight up horseradish. And my hot dog was covered in it. I guess that’s what we get for eating hot dogs in France!

We started the next morning at the Sainte-Chapelle. A friend recommended it, claiming it was the best thing they did in Paris. Since we’re traveling so much we don’t have time to research every destination thoroughly, so we rely heavily on friend’s tips and “top things to do” lists. In this case, we just trusted my friend’s recommendation and didn’t even google it. Our initial reaction as we entered the downstairs level of the building, was a bit disappointed. Yes, it was pretty, but nothing we would have classified as our favorite place to visit.

Until we went upstairs.

Breathtaking is the only way I can describe it. It’s essentially a chapel made of stained glass windows—the pictures don’t even come close to doing it justice! And the best part was being clueless about what we were about to see! The chapel was a beautiful surprise, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Paris!

After we finished visiting the Sainte-Chapelle, we dedicated the entire rest of the day to see the Eiffel Tower. We found a walking tour online and followed the route to all the best views around the city.

About an hour before they turned the tower lights on, we decided to take a crêpe break and try to warm up a bit. Mine was Nutella and Cardin had honey-lemon. Both were delicious, but of course, the Nutella crêpe won!

Before our trip, we tried to purchase tickets for going up the Eiffel Tower online, but unfortunately, they were sold out. We had been warned about the extremely long line to buy tickets in person and didn’t want to waste precious time standing around. Instead, the walking tour we followed recommended going up the Tour Montparnasse to get a view of the city since that view includes the Eiffel Tower!

Tour Montparnasse is the only skyscraper in Paris. After it was completed, the city outlawed the building of skyscrapers because it ruined the skyline. If you scroll back up to the cover photo of this post, you can see the building directly under the arch of the Eiffel Tower—it’s an unattractive addition to the view, but the observation deck on the top floor ended up being amazing! It’s one of Paris’ best-kept secrets. We only had two people in line in front of us and the observation deck was practically empty. It was much cheaper than going to the top of the Eiffel Tower and had the best panoramic view of the entire city, so really it was a win all around!

As a reward for saving time and money by skipping the top of the Eiffel Tour, we decided to go out for a nice dinner. We went to a little restaurant called Le Bistrot Des Campagnes. We had to wait a bit for a table, but it was worth it! The food was delicious, and the place was full of locals, which is a great sign. Plus they didn’t have an English menu, which makes ordering challenging, but also means it’s not a tourist spot!

The next day we took the train to the Palace of Versailles.

By this day, we had already spent four full days exploring Paris, and our energy was lagging. After seeing the palace, we headed to the gardens to see Marie Antoinette’s house. What they don’t tell you [and what I must’ve forgotten from my last visit] is that you have to walk quite a bit to get to Marie Antoinette’s house. They offer a tram for 8 euros each to take you around, but we thought that was a silly waste of money and decided to walk.

As the tram passed us about 20 minutes later and the hunger started to set in, it occurred to us that the tram would have been well worth the 16 euros. By the end of the day we had walked a total of 15 miles, and the last building of Marie Antoinette’s estate was closed for restoration. Those never-ending stretches of gravel [pictured above] while wearing ankle boots was not my greatest shoe choice. On the plus side, the weather cleared, and the walk through the gardens was beautiful!

To make up for the calorie loss after our 15-mile walk, we decided to finish the day with dessert. We went to a cute neighborhood in Paris called Le Marais. As we turned the corner, we saw a long line of people waiting for these treats at a place called Aux Merveilleux. We bought four with the initial plan of saving two for the next day—which didn’t work, and we ended up eating all four in one sitting. We’re still not sure what they were, but our best guess is stuffed meringue puffs. Either way, they were delicious!

After five days in Paris, we headed to a small town in Normandy called Bayeux. Below is a picture of our adorable Airbnb. The owners did such a good job decorating the place, and it gave us a great taste of tiny house living done right! The kitchen was so efficient and stocked with everything we needed [aside from counter space of course].

Bayeux is a sweet little town, and we loved walking around. The only downside was we were there on Sunday and Monday, which meant that almost everything remained closed until Tuesday. We ended up with a couple of relaxing days though, which was great.

The first night we found one tiny market open to buy a few things for dinner. We bought a giant baguette and thought it was hilarious walking around town carrying it [with no wrapper]. Until it started to rain—so of course Cardin had to stick the baguette in his jacket to protect it from getting wet!

The next day, we walked into a patisserie carrying another baguette purchased at the supermarket. As we walked in the woman working there saw our groceries, and essentially baguette shamed us for “buying fake bread.” Little did she know that was our fourth “fake baguette” of the trip…don’t worry though, we won’t make that mistake again. Only real patisserie purchased baguettes for us from here on out, promise!

Our original plan for our stay in Normandy was to rent a car in either Bayeux or the neighboring town and drive to the D-day beaches and Mont Saint-Michel. We tried to reserve one ahead of time, but the online reservation system wasn’t working. And after walking in the cold rain for 30-minutes to the rental car place, we discovered they were out of cars.

We ended up spending the rest of the day exploring Bayeux and booked a shuttle to take us to Mont Saint-Michel. Sadly, that was our last day in Bayeux, and we had to choose between the D-day beaches and Mont Saint-Michel. Since the Mont day trip was a third of the price, we booked it instead.

Mont Saint-Michel is a unique and incredibly beautiful abbey! Plus we had the first sunny day of our trip, which was wonderful! We even packed a lunch and had a picnic [rosé included] with the view in the picture above. Also, please appreciate Cardin’s well executed titanic impression!

Our trip has been amazing so far, and we can’t wait to keep exploring this beautiful country! And don’t forget to look out for my next post: France, Part II.

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