Saturday, December 18, 2010

Paris: Day 8

Today was our last day in Paris. We slept in late, then headed to the Metro train stop closest to our hotel to start our day. Our plan: see the Arc de Triomphe, eat a crepe and visit the famous royal Versailles estate. As we entered the train station, we saw a very long line to buy tickets to the RER train to Versailles -- since it's the weekend before Christmas everyone's trying to get out of the city and we weren't about to wait in a very long line. This particular Metro stop is connected to a shopping mall so we browsed a few stores and ate lunch in a cafe. Andi ordered a slice of pizza and I ordered a quiche; even these two items had a buttery, flaky crust to die for. I wonder what's the French secret to delightfully, flaky breading? It's so wonderful ...

After wandering around a few stores, we headed back to the the Metro and decided to check out the Arc de Triompe before heading to Versailles. As we departed the train, it started to snow pretty hard. Giant white flakes were falling all around. It didn't much bother us (we're Minnesotans!) and we paid 30 Euros/$40 to go up into the Arc de Triompe monument. We climbed the 200+ stairs up to the top (that's right, we almost died) and snapped a few pictures of the city below us.

Arc de Triomphe

View from the top

The Eiffel Tower in my hand

All 200+ stairs to the top

Next, we boarded the Metro for Versailles. We had to make a few connections to the RER (suburban) trains that go outside the city. About an hour later, we arrived in quaint little Versailles, which I have to admit would have been a whole lot better if it'd been 70 degrees warmer and sunny. The snow was coming down pretty hard by now and we were freezing. My boots were full of water, again. We walked around the cobblestone streets for a bit in search of the palace grounds or a cafe to warm up - which ever came first. We found a few creperies (bakeries that make crepes? we're not sure). Most of them were closed until dinner. We finally found one that was open and went in to defrost. We ordered 2 cappuccinos, one banana and one Nutella crepe. We noticed another couple in the cafe who spoke English. I walked over to them and said "hey, I see you speak English. Where's the castle from here?" I told them I was freezing from wandering aimlessly outside and I was looking forward to locating our destination. They smiled and told us it was down the street to the left.

In search of crepes ....

We bundled up and walked to the Versailles property. It was massive and beautiful ... and covered in snow and blowing wind (I bet the cafe couple though I was an idiot - where is the castle? I'm dying to find it and warm up a little bit). We went inside and paid the entrance fee of 30 Euro/$40. They told us the grounds closed in 1 hour so we'd better move quickly. As we studied the map, we quickly realized most of Versailles is outside -- all gardens and fountains -- which I'm sure are beautiful in the SUMMER. I now understand what Andi's mom meant when she described Versailles to us before we left. "The best thing about Versailles is the beautiful gardens" she said ..... "I think Europe's pretty chilly in the winter" she warned. We now get how nice (but literal) she was trying to be.

Thoughts on Versailles in the wintertime: we're Minnesotans and we saw bigger snow flakes today than we've seen in a long time. Trudging around in wet snow for 6 hours is really cold and soggy. We got some funny pics today as we were embracing the falling snow and we could easily see why this place is a must-see in the warmer months. I bet it's beautiful.

 Versailles winter wonderland

That's Andi under all that winter gear

Horses grazing on a pasture nearby

Afterwards, we walked around the cute town streets and browsed in a few shops. We wanted to have dinner here but it was only 4:30pm and most of the restaurants didn't open until 7:00pm. So, we headed back to Paris on the train and made it back to our hotel soaking wet but feeling accomplished. We'd visited everything we wanted to see on this trip. Our legs are sore as proof. Heck, my shoes have one wear left in them and that's on the plane ride home!

We went back to the hotel to shower and clean up, then went to our hotel restaurant for dinner. It was still snowing pretty hard and you'd had to pay us big to trudge out it in again. The hotel restaurant was actually really fancy and exactly what we needed. Andi ordered a bottle of wine, cheese plate and the scallops. I ordered a chicken pasta dish with wild mushrooms. All the food was 100% local which I loved and the service was excellent. We shared great conversation and lots of loving gazes across the table. A perfect end to a wonderful vacation.

My chicken pasta dish (which looks kinda scary but was actually really delicious)

Cheese plate
Heather: Andi, try the bleu cheese, it reminds me of the state fair
Andi: Ewww! You didn't tell me it tasted like the barns at the state fair!
Heather: Well, you didn't ask how it specifically reminded me. 

Andi's Scallops

Our favorites from this trip: O' Chateau wine tasting, the Bath Spa in England. I loved the feeling as we walked up on the Eiffel Tower all lit up in the night's sky. We loved the coziness of the bed and breakfasts and of course, spending time together ... just the two of us.

We had an awesome time in London and Paris, and we're excited to come tomorrow. Excited to snuggle our little pooch, Chloe. Anxious to celebrate Christmas with our families in a few days. Tomorrow we're leaving on a 10:45am flight (weather permitting!) ... hoping this snow doesn't stick and we make it out of here on time. Loving the memories we made "across the pond" ... we'll remember them forever.

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