Oui Oui!

The last leg of our journey, as you may have guessed from the post’s title, was a little town in France you may have heard of. Paris. ūüôā

It has been a month now since we were in Paris, and I found myself daydreaming at work yesterday about what felt like to gallivant around that magical city.

It is so cliche to suggest that everyone needs to experience Paris for themselves in their lifetime, but I’m saying it anyway. EVERYONE NEEDS TO GO TO PARIS. It is the type of city you can think about, dream about, read about for years, but¬†never scratch the surface of what it looks like, feels like, and tastes like to be there. It is indescribably beautiful, but in the most unique ways. It is big. It is artistic. It is graffiti on the side of an Hermes storefront. It is all things pretty and interesting and historic and modern all rolled into one. It blew me away.

 

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Friends suggested we take a bike tour around the city to get acclimated once we arrived. Our tour was through Blue Bike Tours and it was phenomenal. We had a quirky 20 something Parisian girl leading us through all the confusing bike paths and roads around the city as we whizzed past one spectacular site after another. The only problem with the 4 hour tour was that it was POURING rain for the majority of it. We cracked up at each other and the other tour members as we made complete spectacles of ourselves in our ridiculous ponchos. In the most fashionable city in the world, no less. It was worth it.

 

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Dream come true. Creme Br√Ľl√©e in Paris.

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One of the many great surprises Paris offered us was some long-awaited GOOD coffee. Don’t get me wrong, the lattes and espresso in Italy did the job, but there is nothing more comforting or delicious than a well-made cup of good quality coffee.

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The Sacre Coeur Basilica

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Notre Dame

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Rainy day at the Louvre

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The famous (and unstable) love lock bridge

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As with everywhere we went thus far, 4 days just wasn’t enough to do all we wanted to do. It was tough to leave knowing there was still so much left to see, smell, and taste. It is a new dream of ours to come back and spend a significant amount of time here. We could have easily stayed forever.

France Favorite:

The food. I could probably dedicate the rest of my blog posts from now until forever to the wonder¬†that is French cuisine. I thought Italy would steal my heart…er…stomach with their pasta and wine, but good grief, the food in Paris was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.¬†I will dream about the veal and potatoes and baguettes until the glorious day I set food on French soil again.

The walking. Paris is a wonderful place to be lost. Many of our best memories came from hours spent walking to nowhere in particular. The back streets and little hidden areas of town swarming with locals are just as rewarding to stumble upon as any of the major must-see places.

The public transportation. Subways and buses are a weary traveler’s best friend, and the ones in Paris are extensive and totally simple to navigate.

The art. Specifically the Museum D’Orsay. Located in a former train station with huge clocks and tons of windows, this museum brought us so much joy. The impressionist art inside was gorgeous, and the whole experience was overall the best one I’ve had at a museum.

The people. These folks get such a bad reputation for their unwillingness to participate in the english language around foreigners. But even the ones we met who only wanted to speak French were so much more hospitable than we ever thought they would be. Not only that, but French people are fascinating. They wear cool clothes and stay out until 3am on weeknights and smoke cigarettes and eat pastries for breakfast. I loved watching their every move like a weirdo and coming up with interesting stories while riding the metro about where the girl with the crazy hat and stilettos was headed.

 

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Inside Musum D’Orsay

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Luxembourg Gardens

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Paris, we will be back for you soon. Don’t ever change please.

I’m sad to end this blog series about our Europe trip because I do so enjoy talking and thinking about it.¬†Guess we’re back to our regularly scheduled program for here on out. At least until the next big adventure begins.

Au revoir! -Caroline

 

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Cinque Terre: “The Five Lands”

The¬†third stop on our European adventure was to a little town situated on the Tyrrhenian Sea¬†called Manarola. This magical little place is one of the five villages that make up what is called Cinque Terre, or “the five lands”. The towns are close together, perched on the hills overlooking the sea, and connected by both hiking trails and a regional train that¬†makes a few stops at each town per day. To give context, here is a map:

This place was beyond what I could describe. It was perhaps the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. We sat by the water and ate (ungodly amounts of) seafood and sipped wine that came from the vineyards on the hills surrounding us. There was nothing like looking into the impossibly¬†deep blue color of that water and pinching yourself wondering if it is reality.

Josh and I spent 3 nights in Manarola in a charming room from AirB&B. I had no idea which town to pick when I was booking this part of the trip, but we are both so happy that we chose Manarola. It was the perfect home base. Quaint, gorgeous, great food…What else could we want?

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There isn’t too terribly much to do in Cinque Terre, which is exactly why we wanted to include it on our itenerary. We napped and hiked and sucked sweet clean air into our lungs and loved every minute. Only one of the 4 main hiking trails between the villages were open due to a bad storm a few years ago. We hiked the trail from Vernazza to Monterossa one of the afternoons, though, and the views were INSANE. These towns are not for the faint of heart. They are all built on VERY steep hills, and if you plan to visit and especially hike, be prepared for stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. I swear my butt has never been worked so hard. It was all worth it when you caught your first glimpse of where your hike started…

 

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Half way between Vernazza and Monterosso

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We made it! Tired, but happy.

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Monterosso beach

Most of our last day in Cinque Terre was spent in the town of Corniglia. It was completely precious. It is definitely the least visited, more rugged of the 5. We fell in love with the views and quiet escape from the bustling tourists. The best gelato of our trip was found here, too. Corniglia, you were awesome.

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All 5 of the towns offered us something unique and memorable. It was so hard to say goodbye.

If you’re thinking about making a trip, here are some helpful tidbits.

1) Beware of the totally erratic train schedule. Be flexible. Rely only on the schedules displayed at train stations, not the ones listed online.

2) The public restroom situation was…eh…not good. Bring toilet paper/soap with you everywhere. Or better yet…hold it until you get to your hotel. Just trust me.

3) There are probably more tourists per square foot here than anywhere else we went in Europe. It isn’t exactly your secluded, off-the-beaten-path destination. Expect crowds and make reservations for restaurants you plan to eat. Its a beautiful place, and apparently everybody knows it.

4) The food here compared to other parts of Italy was, in general, overpriced and crappy. Each town had one or two very nice restaurants that offered amazing seafood or pasta for a pretty penny. For us, it was worth the splurge. Grab and go pizzas places and cafes were just not good at all. One of our take-away meals at a restaurant was an actual freezer meal that had been microwaved. Gross. We spent a lot of money on food in Cinque Terre to avoid more marked up tourist traps serving junk.

 

 

The best thing about our time in Cinque Terre was the news we received on our fist day there. Our best friends Julianne and Daniel¬†delivered¬†their first baby. Judah Baily. I’ll never forget where I was or what it felt like to see a photo in the first moments of Judah’s life. Between seeing him and smelling the ocean, I could have keeled over from happiness right then and there. I’m so proud of them and how wonderful of parents they are already.

Welcome sweet baby Judah. You were so loved from the moment I set eyes on you.

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Goodbye Cinque Terre! I miss you already.