Published: May 19th 2008May 10th 2008
I am narrowing down on my last 6 weeks of work, and 9 weeks on this lovely continent. The weather lately has been fantastic, actually I dare say kind of warm, and I have been trying to change up my wardrobe a bit (remember no air conditioning - not even at work!) I have a few more trips planned over the next 6 weeks, but I want to hang around Germany and Karlsruhe a bit as it is now pool, parks, and grill season and who would want to miss that plus a couple of beach bars. (They dump a bunch of sand somewhere and turn it into a bar. Awesome concept)
The big finale comes in July and there have been some tentative changes to our plans as we weren’t able to acquire our Russian Visas. More of that to come though, since I have plenty of planning left to do. All I know is I just bought a ticket to a country that I didn’t really know existed…
I was overjoyed a couple of weeks ago at the long awaited arrival of my mom and aunt to Europe! This trip has been in the works for about
a year and the last 4 months of no family visits has been agonizing. I am reminded of how much of a tight-knit family person I really am and this was the longest stretch I had ever had in my life away from all of them. My mom and Vivian arrived in Paris on the 30th in the evening to some chilly rainy weather (I had promised them warmer spring weather). I was at work that day, and unable to change my ticket because French Trains actually sell out, unlike the German ones who don’t care how many people get on. I like the German Train concept better, if you don’t have a seat, its your own darn fault.
I was proud of those two because pushing through Jet Lag and a bit of rain and chill (ok for Texans), they still managed to knock down most of the Paris sights in their first day! I believe they hit up the Eifel Tower and the Louvre, some Gardens and took a bus tour! Phew. I was overwhelmed with excitement as I woke up at 6 am to get to the train station on the 1st of May in Karlsruhe.
The glorious cathedral
Unfortunately German transportation is not always as punctual as it says it is, and even though I left 45 min early, I had to sprint for the train (always a joy). I knew though, with the lovely French Train system, that I wouldn’t be able to just catch the next one, so I gave it my best effort. After catching my breath on the train, I finally settled in for my very nice and quick 3 hour train ride to Paris.
My mom and Vivian met me on the platform at the train station with big hugs and smiles. Can’t explain the feeling. We made our way out of Gare d’Est to the taxis and eventually back to the hotel. May 1st was a holiday in much of Europe which is why I was lucky enough to have the day off to start the trip a bit earlier. After dropping my stuff off at the hotel, we made our way to a café for some late breakfast/lunch and caffeine. It was a lovely lunch and I enjoyed my favorite French sandwich, the Croque Monsieur (fancy ham and cheese sandwich).
We took a nice walk along the Seine River
as I caught my first glance at the Eiffel Tower in about 4 years. It hasn’t changed one bit ;). Our plan was to hit up the Orsay Museum first, but we were highly disappointed when we arrived and it was closed, oh yeah, European holiday! So, we quickly gave up on that idea and headed on down the Seine to visit the Notre Dame. Luckily the church was open and we managed to get in (faster than we should of) to take a peek at the inside. The church was even more beautiful than I remembered! I took some fabulous pictures with my new camera (my last ones didn’t turn out so great) and we spent a good amount of time walking through the whole church. We decided to visit the Crypts next, but big surprise, they were closed! It was off to visit another church which was closed and we were tired so we decided to take a much needed break in a café for a beer/dessert/water/coffee. The chocolate Mousse was fantastic!
We thought maybe the shops would still be open and were reassured by a Taxi driver that they were, so we were off to the
Beautiful Stained Glass Windows!
Champ Elysees. Much to our sadness they were in fact closed too…sensing a pattern?...so we got out anyways and took some time to go see the Arc de Triumph, which I had never seen myself. It was quite triumphant I must say. We then made our way to the subway system and figured out where to go, with some help of course, and were off to the Eiffel Tower area to pick up a river cruise. We took a short pause to grab a crepe and then got our tickets and boarded our cruise. Much to our dismay it was quite full and we were unable to sit next to each other, but the tour was very nice and gave us some time to sit and relax.
We realized quickly that we were going to be late for the dinner reservations I had made at a fancy restaurant in town, so we zipped by the hotel to change and then headed off to dinner. Unfortunately, the restaurant, so hip and nice, had decided to take the day off too…without informing the people who had made reservations…a month ago…so, we scoured the neighborhood a bit and finally decided on a
cute restaurant near by. We enjoyed a couple of bottles of wine and great conversation, the food took hours, but it was nice to relax. We were definitely the last people out of our area of the restaurant, but we didn’t care, its Europe, I love how they just let you sit and never kick you out of your table. After dinner we took a short walk down to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up, there was an attempt at some pictures, but I’m not sure any of them turned out less than blurry.
We took it easy the next morning getting up and getting ready which was nice. Our first stop was back to the Orsay because it was closed the day before. We arrived around 10:30 and of course the line was ridiculously long. I went on a hunt to find us some crepes, since we had not eaten any breakfast and were obviously going to miss lunch, while my mom and Vivian stood in the line. I was able to find a crepe shop nearby and bought us a few which made everyone feel a lot better. (Everyone knows how grumpy I get when I
don’t eat) The Orsay was fabulous; we saw many familiar paintings, from Monet to Manet and Van Gogh. I am not a huge museum fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The museum itself is the remodeled building of an old train station. The remnants of the station still exist and they did an absolutely beautiful job. I loved the big clock at the end of the huge hall.
When we had enough of paintings and had purchased all the needed souvenirs, we realized we didn’t have a whole lot of time left before our train left for Amsterdam. We hopped in a cab that zipped us off to the Champ Elysees to do some speed shopping at Zara before grabbing a different cab and speeding back to the hotel. We made our train with plenty of time (I always budget extra time at train stations) and took our time boarding the Thalys Train to Amsterdam in our 1st Class Seats! It was a 4 hour train ride from Paris to Amsterdam and we enjoyed the luxurious 1st Class service (something I’ve never experienced in Europe!). The trip itself was quite uneventful, but we enjoyed the countryside and seeing
Brussels from the Train.
Stay tuned for Part 2…Amsterdam and the Tulips!
There are more photos below