bon jour, merci, oui…?

Hello, hello everyone!  It has been a while, and I’m sure you have missed my writing very much.  To make up for it, I think this might become my longest post yet, as I reflect on the amazing time we had with our visitors, Brad & Kelly.

First, on behalf of Europe, I would like to apologize to our guests for the terrible weather they encountered during their stay.  We had lots of rain (every day) and record low temperatures in the past week…lucky them!

Okay, now back to the beginning…  Once upon a time, Brad & Kelly flew across the ocean to a magical place called Schiphol Airport.  That’s where our story begins.  We met them late on Thursday morning, and headed back to The Hague.  Given the long trip and big upcoming plans, we had a pretty low key afternoon of wandering around the city center and stopping in a British Pub for lunch.  We also had a laid back evening, ordering our favorite thai food and staying in to catch up.

Friday is where the fun really begins.  We had an afternoon bullet train ride to Paris.  The train is really convenient, and takes only 2.5 hours from Rotterdam (which is only about 20 minutes by train from here).  Unfortunately, there are reserved seats, and no picking of them, so I ended up riding backwards…an issue for the motion-sickness.  But the time went by quickly, and we were in Paris by late afternoon.

We had rented an apartment for the four of us to stay in during our five day/four night excursion, and it was really adorable.  It was in an ideal location in central Paris and was filled with Parisian charm!  (Unfortunately a central location also meant some extra noise, but worth it!)

Part of the living room - love the molding!

Part of the living room – love the molding!

Isn't it cute?

Isn’t it cute?  (minus those weird skull things)

View from the balcony.

View from the balcony.

After getting settled into our place, we headed out for dinner at a cafe in the Montmartre area and met up with our friend, Ben.  (You may remember Ben from Queen’s Day, as he visited us for it.)  I would like to take a quick moment to explain how incredibly wonderful it was to have Ben around for our trip to Paris.  He was not only a lot of fun to be around, but he also had the best recommendations, took us to areas we would have never been on our own, and could speak French/translate for us!  Seriously…wouldn’t have been the same without him!

After dinner, we made our way over to the Moulin Rouge cabaret show.  We had purchased tickets in advance, but we still stood in line for a good 45 minutes to get in.  Once there, we popped open some bubbly and enjoyed the show.  It was definitely an experience to be at such an infamous show/location.  Parts of it were great – elaborate costumes and performances – but there were some parts that were pretty cheesy as well.  All in all, a fun time though!

Outside.

Outside.

Inside - fancy red curtain.

Inside – fancy red curtain.

Saturday was a day full of touristy sightseeing, starting with a trip to Notre-Dame Cathedral.  This year it is celebrating it’s 850th anniversary!  I can definitely say, this was the oldest building I have ever seen.  It was very beautiful and impressive.  We went into the Cathedral and quietly strolled through, but we decided not to wait in the massive line for the trip up inside the towers to see the gargoyles.  (Always need a reason to come back, right?)

Outside at the front.

Outside at the front.

Inside at the alter.

Inside at the alter.

After lunch at another small cafe, we headed onward to the Louvre Museum.  The Louvre is one of the world’s largest museums in size, and it is also the world’s most-visited museum.  It holds over 35,000 works of art and 380,000 objects, including the highlights of the Mona Lisa, the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci and Venus de Milo, a famous sculpture.  We saw both of these works, as well as the Egyptian and Greek displays.  The museum was far too large to begin to conquer it all…  (something else worth a return trip… Are you gathering that I’m ready to go back?)

One of the pyramids outside the museum.

One of the pyramids outside the museum.

Outside trying to stay dry.

Inside a hallway filled with very old art works.

The Mona Lisa.

The crowd in front of the Mona Lisa.

The crowd in front of the Mona Lisa.

Venus de Milo.

Venus de Milo.

The boys taking in the Greek sculptures.

The boys taking in the Greek sculptures.

At the Egyptian display.

At the Egyptian display.

Following the museum, we met up again with Ben for dinner.  This time, we made our way to an area along the Canal Saint Martin (another spot we would have never found on our own).  Unfortunately, the first choice cafe was totally full, so we made our way down the street to another.  It did not disappoint.  I had duck (when in France…), and it was really delicious!  After dinner, we went to an African bar that Ben had been to, and it was one of the most unusual places I have ever been to.  It didn’t seem like a bar really, and it was totally hidden…  I would never find it again on my own.  But it was very busy, and we enjoyed a cocktail before heading out.

The Canal Saint Martin.

The Canal Saint Martin.

My tasty duck dish.

My tasty duck dish.

On our way back to the apartment, Ben had the BRILLIANT idea to go to the bridge near Place de la Concorde (side note: this was the location of the guillotine during the “Reign of Terror” part of the French Revolution…yikes.) to see the Eiffel Tower sparkling at midnight!  I cannot describe the moment of running out of the metro and down to the bridge to get there before midnight in any way other than that I felt like I was in a movie.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera and my attempts to capture this absolutely amazing moment on my iPhone didn’t do it justice.  Apparently, the tower sparkles on the hour, every hour, for 5 minutes.  It was really cool and of course, super romantic. 🙂

Horrible photo, but this is all of us on the bridge.

Horrible photo, but this is all of us on the bridge.

Seriously wish I had a good shot of this.

Seriously wish I had a good shot of this.

I’m just realizing how incredibly long this post is going to be.  Thanks for sticking with me…that was really just day #1 & 2.

On Sunday, we had booked tickets to visit the Palace of Versailles.  Unfortunately, we went a significantly longer route to get there than we had intended, but we made it none-the-less.  We waited in line (even though we had tickets) for over an hour to get inside the front gate, but it was worth the wait!  We primarily wandered around the gardens, as the palace was jam-packed with people.  I cannot describe to you how amazing the gardens were…nor do I feel like my photos can give you an adequate feel for how spectacular of a site it was, but I will let you see them anyway.

Waiting patiently in line.

Waiting patiently in line.

The front of the palace.

The front of the palace.

Gardens.

Gardens.

They reached literally as far as you could see.

They reached literally as far as you could see.

Group shot.

Group shot.

One of my favorites from the day.

One of my favorites from the day.

I REALLY want this tree in my future back yard.

I REALLY want this tree in my future back yard.

At the estate of Marie-Antionette.

At the estate of Marie-Antionette.

Hey - it's us!

Hey – it’s us!

Look at those trees...there was a lot of this.

Look at those trees…there was a lot of this.

Cute row-boats.

Cute row-boats.

Pretty.

Pretty.

The only part with flowers.

The only part with flowers.

We really enjoyed our visit to Versailles, and I would recommend it to future visitors of Paris.  After a long day (and tons of walking), we did dinner just down the street from our apartment at a Japanese restaurant.  The area around our apartment was lined with Japanese restaurants, so I’m not sure how we settled on one…  It was a quick and tasty meal, which allowed us to have a little earlier night after a couple very full days of touring about.

Monday was our last entire day in Paris, so we had to make it count!  We started out by going to the Pont des Arts bridge over the Seine River to attach our love padlocks.  This is a romantic gesture where you place a lock on the bridge and throw the key into the river…symbolizing that it will last forever.  I had an old lock that I brought from the States for just this purpose…so I did a little painting pre-trip.

The entire bridge looked like this.

The entire bridge looked like this.

BC with our lock!

BC with our lock!

Brad & Kelly after locking down.

Brad & Kelly after locking down.

The end result. :)

The end result. 🙂

Up next was one of the most important stops in Paris for us…CHIPOTLE!  Yes, I said it…Chipotle.  (So amazingly tasty for us Americans who haven’t had it – or really any quality Mexican food – for a long time.)  There are only 2 locations in all of Europe, I guess…so we took advantage of the opportunity.

YES!

YES!

Mmmm...

Mmmm…

After that satisfying meal, the natural thing to do would be a visit to LADUREE, a famous luxury pasty and macaroon shop on the Champs-Elysees.  It was absolutely packed, but worth the line to see the scrumptious treats and get some tasty macaroons to enjoy later!

How can you choose between all of these?!

How can you choose between all of these?!

MACAROONS!

MACAROONS!

Really cute gift-box.

Really cute gift-box.

About to devour this big one!

About to devour this big one in the Metro!

Then the sightseeing continued, with the Arc de Triomphe (a memorial to honor those who fought in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars).  This was a pretty quick stop for us, as it was pouring down rain…a few snapshots and a quick moment to take it in, and we were on our way.

From the middle of the street.

From the middle of the street.

Looking damp.

Looking damp.

On our way to the Eiffel Tower, that is!  It was really exciting to see such an iconic landmark in person…a little surreal actually.  I will try to narrow down my 500 photos to give you just a taste, but you know that is difficult for me.

Getting crazy with the old, rainy feel.

Getting crazy with the old, rainy feel.

Brad & Kelly

Brad & Kelly

Another fun one.

Another fun one.

Group shot.

Group shot.

Group shot!

Group shot!

Boys will be boys.

Boys will be boys.

Under the tower.

Under the tower.

Loved this one too.

Loved this one too.

Just wait, there’s more!  From there, we ventured to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica located in the Montmartre at the highest point in the city of Paris.  It’s a beautiful church and has some pretty amazing views also… (and a lot of stairs to climb)  We wandered just a few blocks from the basilica to a square where there were artists under large umbrellas doing portraits and caricatures of tourists.

A shot from the bottom.

A shot from the bottom.

View from up top.

View from up top.

The basilica up close.

The basilica up close.

Fun to watch them – even in the rain!

We then walked down another cute area to a little cafe and split a little meat/cheese tray and some French wine.  Then us ladies did some shopping at some of the local boutiques in the Montmartre area, and Kelly got an awesome painting from a small gallery.  Afterwards, we went to a little place that Ben knew called Le Refuge des Fondues.  You may have guessed from the title that it is a fondue restaurant, which was quite tasty…we did a meat and a cheese fondue option.  But the best part of this place……..they serve wine in baby bottles!  Why?  No idea, but it was a lot of fun and lead to some great photos!

Bottles of Wine!

Bottles of Wine!

Meat Fondue.

Meat Fondue.

Group of Babies!

Group of Babies!

As you might imagine, we had a little later start on Tuesday – but we ventured out to one last cafe for one last croque madame before leaving town.  Oh and I finally got my chocolate croissant!

YUMMY!  Yes, I think I put on like 10 pounds on this trip.

YUMMY! Yes, I think I put on like 10 pounds on this trip.

We headed back to The Hague via the bullet train that afternoon.

Overall, what can I say?  Paris was an AMAZING trip with beautiful views, great food and wonderful company!  I can’t wait for round #2 there…

We had plenty of additional adventures (although much smaller scale) with Brad & Kelly in town, but I think I will come back to you with those details as this is quite long.  Thanks for getting through all of the details – hope you enjoyed as much as we did!!

Until next time,
-MK-

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