Needed Self-Care

Wow. There’s not much else I can say besides that. It’s been almost a year since I last posted. I can honestly say that wasn’t my intention when I stopped posting. However, I can say that last spring was rather busy. I was finishing my Master’s (which is done! Woot!) and preparing to return to the states for my graduation ceremony. I was also trying to start the official job hunt for jobs. Something had to give, right?

That’s where this blog comes in. I had to take a step back from the things that added stress, even if it was miniscule. I hate that I haven’t posted in so long! I’ve missed writing about our travels, which have slowed down, and having an opportunity to share things that we’ve learned as we’ve gone. But, as I said, it was necessary for me to take a step back as there were other things that I struggled with that I think I need to speak out about.

While I know that I am lucky to have the opportunity to live overseas in Germany and explore Europe, it isn’t all sunshine and daisies. As exciting as it is to have this opportunity, it can also be isolating and include a hard adjustment. Before coming to Germany, I spent all of my years living in North Carolina in a fairly small radius of where I grew up. I love North Carolina. It’s fairly warm year round and I lived close to the beach. We were close enough to other things in larger cities that I didn’t think I was missing out on anything. A major plus: my family was close by.

I’ve never considered myself a social butterfly, but I’ve come to realize I might be more of one that I thought. Uprooting myself from my hometown and coming somewhere I don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language was majorly difficult. The anxiety I felt (and still feel) was overwhelming. How was I supposed to adjust to living in a country that was so, well, foreign? I missed my friends, family, and coworkers. That familiarity was sorely lacking.

These anxieties consumed me to a point. I was worried to venture too far out and to step outside my comfort zone. Because of this, I spent a lot of time at home. On the one hand, this wasn’t terrible. I was able to read, write, and watch TV. But, I didn’t meet people. I didn’t make friends. And, because of this, I found myself in a continuous cycle of seeming depression. I have determined that it was more home-sickness than anything, but it was still tough.

I finally had to force myself out. I would go to the library. A restaurant. A coffee shop. I eventually got a job. I met people and made friends. I finally felt like I belonged. I had a life! But, it still wasn’t the same. Visiting home in May of this year also made it doubly difficult as, when I returned to Germany, I found myself yearning for the familiarity of my hometown.

I was stuck at this point for a bit, which wasn’t helped by my returning home again in July for a friends wedding. Do I enjoy my life in Germany? Yes, I have come to enjoy it. Do I miss my life in North Carolina? Most definitely. But, I have to learn to move on and make do with the life I have now. This wasn’t easy.

I forced myself to get out and explore. I forced myself to live my life. I also made sure I allowed myself the opportunity to feel everything that came along with being homesick. By doing this, I allowed myself to fully heal and come full circle.

I still have issues and days where I miss something specific about home (can I please get some Cheerwine, Chick-fil-a, or Bojangles here?). But, I force myself to stop and take a moment to remember what I’m thankful for since I’m here. I’m thankful for technology that allows me to stay close to family and friends. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve met since I’ve been here in Germany. They certainly help to keep my sane. I’m thankful I have the opportunity to travel home periodically to see my family. I am also thankful for my husband because he is my main support here.

What about y’all? Experience with homesickness? How have you overcome those feelings?

Harry Potter Studio Tour

Well, this is a bit embarrassing, isn’t it? Sorry for the long pause between my last post and this one. New semester of grad school started up and I’ve been eyeball deep in books for reading. Not a great excuse, but that’s about it. Anywho. This is a post I have been so excited to share with everyone.

To give a small reminder, I was in London in December. One of the most exciting things that I did was the Harry Potter Studio Tour at WB Studios right outside London. If you have never been, I highly recommend going. They have sets, costumes, props, and so many other things for you to explore. I think it was well worth the money to go.

You do have to prebook your tickets and select a time, so I would say you should do that well in advance. I think I booked mine four months before going just so I could have the most times to choose from. You also need to allot between three and four hours to complete the tour. Only a small part of it is guided (the beginning), so I also recommend you get the audio guide. When I booked, I got a ticket that included the audio guide (£5 normally if I’m remembering right) and a souvenir booklet (around £15 in the gift shop). While the tickets were more expensive, I think it was worth it.

In August of last year, I went to the Brussels Exhibition which had the traveling Harry Potter exhibit. There were a lot of similarities between that exhibit and this one, but the studio tour had so much more to offer. While it isn’t necessary to see something like that, I was glad that I had as I had an idea of what to expect at the larger tour.

Honestly, the tour was absolutely amazing. My friend and I had so much fun finding out the facts about the movies, seeing the amazing costumes and sets, and just nerding out a little inside. I think one of the more fun things we did was the green screen photos. We were given robes and took a picture (which we purchased later). It’s a pretty funny picture. I also took the opportunity to “ride” a broom through London. This was also done on a green screen. I didn’t buy the video, but it was a lot of fun to experience it.

The highlight of the tour, though, was the butterbeer. Throughout the years, I have seen recipes for homemade butter beer. I have even tasted some (but never made it). None of them compare to the actual butterbeer they served in their cafe. It was absolutely delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed it, which you can definitely tell in the pictures of me taking my first sip (included below).

Overall, what’s not to love about the studio tour? I got to learn more about one of my favorite series, see items from the movies up close, tried butter beer for the first time, and just thoroughly had a good time. I highly recommend it to anyone in the area.

As a side note, it’s fairly easy to get to the tour also. It is about an hour or so outside London, but there are a few options to get there. We ended up taking an Uber simply because the cost wasn’t that much different from taking the train (when we were there at least) and it was easier for us overall. You can also take the train and then hop a bus from the train station to takes you to and from the studio tour. You can’t miss the bus as it is covered with Harry Potter related things. You just need to check the studio tour site for specific information on how to get there from London by rail.

Ah, London Town

Before delving too deeply into my most recent excursion to London, I do feel the need to specify something fairly important. This trip is the first that I have handled planning mostly on my own and done on my own. Yes, I flew to Korea by myself. But Jon was at the other end waiting for me. With this one, I was on my own when I landed in Heathrow. Granted, I am very familiar with London, so getting to my hotel wasn’t overly difficult. But it was still nerve-wracking.

I arrived the day before my friend from the States did, so I had the joy of finding the hotel and figuring out my relation to everything. I really didn’t do too much that first night, just checked into our hotel (Grange Rochester by Victoria) and made my way to Oxford Street for shopping. Since it was Christmas, I hoped to knock out some gifts for people. I’m ashamed to admit that everything I bought there was for me, but that’s mainly because it was somewhat late, crowded, and cold.

Oxford Street, however, was beautiful. They strung Christmas lights and it was just magical all around. The first time I visited London, I was introduced to Oxford Street by my friend Erica. She took me into Top Shop, showed me the end at Hyde Park, and a few other things. So it was fun and interesting to compare this experience with that one. Honestly, it was vastly different. I don’t remember too much about Oxford Street except that it was busy and had a lot of shops. This time I let myself wander a bit (and find Lush) before heading to Covent Garden for dinner.

The next day, I met Lindsey at the airport, dropped her at the room, and then went to Westminster Abbey. I hadn’t visited it to this point, so I was excited to delve into it since I knew there is a special little place inside called Poet’s Corner. Besides the price (£20, ew), it was well worth it. I remember seeing it when William and Kate married, so it was cool being where they were that day. The audio guides are free, so I definitely recommend grabbing one before starting your tour otherwise you can try to book a guided tour or just wander with no guidance.

The Abbey is stunning and, unfortunately, guests are not allowed to take photos of the inside. So I don’t have anything to show you for it. But, let me tell you, Poet’s Corner lives up to everything I imagined. They have a beautiful floor mural that honors some of the most famous British authors. Then, the walls are covered in busts and memorial’s to some of the same as well as different authors. It is awe-inspiring. I sat down for a little bit to come to terms with being somewhere I taught about and that is full of so much history.

It was disappointing that I not only could not take pictures, but that they didn’t have a postcard in the gift shop of that floor mural, so I had to settle for a Shakespeare postcard (and what a way to settle, right?). I also picked up a few other knick-knacks before taking some more touristy pictures outside and heading back to the hotel. Lindsey and I did do something that night, but it deserves its own post because it was epic. Just know that it was…magical.

Overall, London is one of those places that I just love returning to. While planning out what I wanted to do while I was there by myself, I came across so many different things I still haven’t visited. I definitely plan to return to London at some point to try and knock some more off my list.

Round Four of England

If you follow me on Instagram or are even a friend with me on Facebook, then you know that in December I went to England. Again. I just can’t stay away. In August, I started planning a trip with a friend from graduate for a week in England. She stayed longer than I did–about a week and a half–but it was so much fun.

Once we agreed to meet up, it came down to flights, travel dates, and tourist attractions to visit. We started in London and then went to Oxford. After we finished in Oxford, I came back home to Germany. But, she continued to Edinburgh. I am so jealous of her trip there, to be honest. I have to visit Scotland soon!

Anywho, back on topic. We planned what we hoped would be an absolutely amazing trip. And, let me tell you, it was. I’m not going to go into too much detail about everything here. This post is just to whet the appetite for more. I mainly want to talk about how we got around.

London has the obvious Tube to utilize. We also used Uber for one part of our trip in London, but more on that later. While researching transit options to, from, and in Oxford, my friend came across the Oxford Bus Company. We were discussing taking the train to Oxford as it would be about an hour and some change to get there. The price was just a bit of a problem. Unless we left super early, we pay through the nose.

Enter Oxford Bus Company. They have a bus that runs from London to Oxford and back. A round trip ticket is £20. Because of that, great reviews, ease of loading, and time on the bus, we decided to go that route. It was a nice change from riding a train. We got to see more of the English country side and even see parts of London we hadn’t seen before. Honestly, though, because of price, I don’t think it ultimately matters about the scenery.

This same bus company also operates some local buses in the Oxford area. There is an app for it–search Oxford Bus Company–that you can search stops, timetables, and prices in. You can even purchase your tickets and have an e-ticket instead of a paper one or buying one from the driver. We were pretty lucky, also, that there was a stop right around the corner from our Airbnb. That made getting into Central Oxford a breeze since it would take about 20-25 minutes to walk there.

Really and truly, I think this particular trip was one of the easier ones for getting around. We didn’t have too many issues getting around and figuring out the transit. And, ultimately, by utilizing more of the public transit, we were able to save some precious money that we put towards other things, like food, souvenirs, and tickets to exhibits.

Disney Ice Sculptures in Metz, France

At the beginning of December we went to Metz, France with a group of friends to see Ice Sculptures. This is a yearly installation that runs for a couple of months and has a theme. Last year, it is our understanding that last year’s theme was Star Wars. I would have loved to see that! This year’s theme was Disney.

Before going into the ice sculptures, or anything like it, you need to understand something. To keep the ice as ice, it is cold in the building. And, not just a little cold. It was well below zero. -6°C to be exact. So, you want to be well bundled as well. Even though it was freezing, it was enjoyable.

It was so cool to walk through the building and try to identify the couples and the movie they came from. Most of them weren’t able to be touched, but there were a few you could touch or take pictures on. There was a small tower to climb, a bed you could sit on. Interesting fact, it was warmer sitting on the ice bed with the fur than it was standing.

They also had Cinderella’s carriage and an ice tower with slide. There’s a funny story associated with that slide. We stood in line to go down it. They didn’t have sacks or anything to go down on, so from watching other people struggle, we came up with two solutions. One was to fold legs under you and the other was to use your jacket to go down. I chose the first one and Jon chose the second one.

So, let’s set the scene: people are generally taking a while to get down. Two kids go down the slide in front of me, so I wait a few extra seconds before starting my descent. Apparently I didn’t wait long enough. As I got near the end, I noticed that the kids were stalled on the slide. I was able to stop myself. However, Jon wasn’t. We ended up bowling over the kids somewhat. Of course, if they hadn’t just laid there and moved, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But, either way, that’s the story of how we took some French kids out.

After that, we got some hot chocolate, finished checking the sculptures out and made our way outside. Going into the display, we thought it was cold outside. Coming out, outside felt tropical. Outside the display was a small German Christmas market food stall area. They mainly had some pretzels, crêpes, and other foods. We all ended up getting something–we got a large pretzel–before moving on to the main area of the town.

I didn’t know this going to Metz, but apparently it’s a fairly big shopping area. It was a full of chain stores and little local places also. We found a street market with vendors of various products as we walked up to the Metz Cathedral. Outside the cathedral was a large Ferris wheel with more market booths. We all got some gluhwein and macaroons after touring the cathedral.

This was actually my first experience with macaroons. I think it quite fitting that I experienced my first one in France. I got a variety of flavors and all of them were yummy. Except the vanilla. The vanilla was nasty. Moving on though.

We found the third and final part of the Christmas market which had just food items primarily. Other people had told us that Metz had a great Christmas market. But, we weren’t impressed. We ended up finding a pub by the Christmas pyramid to eat lunch at before hitting a small cafe up for some coffee. After that, we made our way back to the parking garage and parted ways.

It was a lot of fun to visit the sculptures and I would definitely be interested in going to next year’s display, especially if it’s a different theme.

German Christmas Markets

Christmas in Germany is a very big deal. Very big deal. I had to say that twice to make sure the seriousness of this is known. For most villages, Christmas celebrations will start in November. What marks the start of the festivities is St. Martin’s Day, a day devoted to a saint that used his own cloak to cover poor people as he went from village to village, and the Christmas markets.

For Saint Martin’s Day, there is usually a parade that children walk in with lanterns. The parade is usually led by someone dressed as St. Martin. At the end of the parade, the children are given sugared pretzels (they are delicious, even the cheap store kind) and some sort of drink, usually milk or even hot chocolate. Each village will have the parade throughout the weekend. We were unable to attend our village’s parade as we were in Paris that weekend and had no idea it was going on when we booked. But, we’re hopeful that we’ll see next year’s.

The Christmas Markets, though, are where it is at. Depending on the size of your village or surrounding villages, will determine how long the market goes on and when. Some smaller village will have their market for a weekend. Sometimes it will be only on the weekend. Others have them run for a week or weeks straight. I don’t think our village had a market, but I might be wrong. However, there were several neighboring villages that did. We went to the one in Trier and it was huge! It ran from around Thanksgiving to just after Christmas. There are some, though, that last until after the New Year and a week or two into January.

Our visit to the Trier market was the first market we experienced. It was pretty cool. We wandered around a little first, just to see what they had and what we were interested in buying or trying food wise. Most markets, from what I understand, have handmade goods made by the Germans as well as traditional German holiday food. Gluhwein is a warmed wine, sometimes with spices, that is sold to the adults. Depending on the market itself, you are guaranteed to be able to buy red or white gluhwein. But, you might find other varieties. In Heidelberg, they had a Rosé version and a “pink” version.

When you buy Gluhwein, some of the really good markets will also have a special mug for that particular market. No matter what, you’ll have to pay a small deposit for the glass you use. If you don’t want the glass, then you just turn it back in. That’s what we did when we got some in Metz France. The mugs were very generic. But, Trier and Heidelberg both had super cute mugs and I was more than happy to pay the small deposit and keep the mugs.

Since this is Germany, of course there are a plethora of pretzel vendors. Something else Germany is known for is their roasted nuts. There are little street carts everywhere that sell these fresh roasted nuts. We didn’t get any, but they absolutely smelled divine. There are also quite a few hot chocolate, cookie, fries, and countless other food vendors.

We did have one thing that I still haven’t found the ability to describe. It’s called a dampfnudlen. From what I can tell, it’s a steamed bun that is covered in a vanilla sauce and a fruit compote of some kind. Ours had blueberries on top. It looked a little weird, but it tasted absolutely wonderful. Jon and I split one, but I think we each could have eaten our own.

As for the handmade goods the market had, there were obviously a lot of Christmas themed things. There were handmade ornaments, nativity and winter scenes, generic decorations, etc. We bought some hand carved wooden ornaments for friends in England. I so wish we had bought one for ourselves because they were pretty darn cool.

Something else that Germany is known for with its decorations are its Christmas Pyramids. Most Christmas Markets will have a large scale one that you can see from just about anywhere in the market, but there are also a lot of vendors that sell smaller ones for your home. There are two kinds you can buy: electric and candle. An electric one is obviously pretty cool, but because it’ll be on 220V plugs, we probably wouldn’t be able to use it once we move back to the States. So, we went for a candle powered one. What’s really cool about this pyramid is that the heat from the candles is what makes the pyramid turn. It was fascinating to watch when we lit ours at Christmas.

I can honestly say that I look forward to next year’s markets. And, if you have the chance to go to a German market, take it! You won’t regret it.

Happy (Belated) New Year!

Well. It’s been a month and a half since my last posting. I honestly didn’t believe it until I checked my post dates. I honestly didn’t intend for it to be a huge break, but I’m glad I took it. I finished up my fall semester classes, started my winter session class, started a new job, celebrated the holidays, and finished my winter session course. With all that going on, I think I needed the break from posting.

But, my winter session course ended today (and I totally rocked it!) and I have five glorious days before my spring semester courses start (also my last semester! Yay!). In between now and then I plan to pre-write my blog posts for the next few weeks. Just because the last month and a half was busy for me doesn’t mean that I didn’t take the opportunity to do some traveling and experience some things.

To give you a preview:

  1. We went to two separate Christmas markets and I can’t wait to share our experience and the pictures we got.
  2. We visited some ice sculptures in France and they were amazing to see–if a bit cold.
  3. I went to England for the fourth time. I don’t want to give too much away, but know that I visited London again and one other place. And it was a very literary trip.
  4. We experienced a German tradition on Three King’s Day or the Feast of the Epiphany, whichever you call it. It was pretty awesome.

Even though it’s short, that’s all I want to give away right now! Be on the lookout for my first post on Friday!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Well, it’s that time of year. The holidays are almost upon us. This upcoming Thursday is Thanksgiving for the Americans out there and then it’s just a few short weeks until Christmas. It’s a bit hard to believe that this time of year is already here. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was on my way to Korea to celebrate Thanksgiving last year. But, it really has been a year.

Jon and I have mainly concentrated on surviving life right now as it has been stressful. We’re both transitioning a bit with work and we’re figuring out how to have Christmas with a cat. I decided last week that I wanted to put the tree up and see what happened. So far, the tree has not toppled. I don’t think the cat has tried to climb it though. It also isn’t decorated.

The biggest issue we’ve had is her gnawing of the fake needles and her picking at the tree skirt. To help with that, we bought a spray called Bitter Apple and sprayed it on the tree. I’m not entirely certain she’s tasted it, but she hasn’t been chewing either. Jon and I are slowly introducing ornaments to her. Yesterday we put two ornaments up that were also sprayed with the Bitter Apple. She batted them around, even succeeded in getting one off. But, other than that, she hasn’t messed with the tree. At least, not when we’re around.

I am so ready to decorate it though, even more so this year. This year will be the first year I am away from my entire family for the holidays. Last year I spent Thanksgiving in Korea ( I discuss it here), but I had Christmas in the States. The year before, it was reversed. But, this year I won’t see any family for either holiday. I expect that to be a lot more difficult than I imagine.

I am thankful though that we have some good friends here that we can spend Thanksgiving with at least. We’re having a small dinner with them and another family on Thursday. I’m looking forward to it. I think I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving more than Christmas (though Christmas is obviously awesome) because Thanksgiving is just a time for families to come together.

Another added nuance of living in a foreign country is figuring out Christmas gifts. Thankfully, Amazon has enough of a selection that we can pretty much order anything and ship it to whomever for dispersement. Unfortunately, we can’t do that for things that are distinctly German or that are souvenirs from places that we’ve visited. Because of that, I have several bags of gifts to mail off tomorrow. I will most likely be at the post office for a very long time tomorrow getting the boxes ready. It’ll be worth it in the end though.

I look at the coming holidays as a chance for Jon and I to forge new memories and maybe some new traditions as well. Before signing off, I’m going to list a few things that I am thankful for this year.

  1. I’m thankful that Jon and I are finally able to actually live together and we hopefully won’t have too many separations in our future.
  2. I am thankful for good friends that will help make holidays away from family easier.
  3. I am thankful for smart wool and other things that are helping this North Carolina native adjust to a fall that is more like a winter.
  4. I am thankful for the opportunity to live in another country and experience a different way of life–no matter how difficult it sometimes is.

I would also appreciate any tried and true methods for keeping a cat off a decorated Christmas tree. 🙂

Paris, je t’aime!

Based on the title for this post, I think it’s safe to say that I thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in Paris last week. I’ll be honest, I was a little worried going into the trip. I visited 6 years ago right after college graduation and, while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t my favorite place. This trip helped to supplement that one and I can without a doubt say that I want to visit Paris again.

As I discussed in my last post (here), we visited Versailles and the Eiffel Tower our first day. Our second day was devoted almost exclusively to museums. As I stated in that post, we started our day at the Eiffel Tower to try and knock it out quickly. Upon finishing there, we made our way to the Louvre. The Louvre, for those of you that haven’t been there, is massive. It is also mind-boggling. The first time I visited we barely got through a wing in a few hours. So, for this visit, we went in with a plan of attack. We mainly wanted to see the Mona Lisa and I wanted to see the Venus de Milo. Other than that, we didn’t care too much about the other stuff. That sounds terrible, I know. But, honestly, there were so many other things we wanted to see that we just didn’t want to squander our time.

So, we saw those few things, popped into the Ancient Greek gallery quickly, and then went on our way. I do have to say, though, the pyramid at the Louvre is awe-inspiring. I remember reading The DaVinci Code when it came out and the whole “blade and chalice” thing. So, my literary side had a squeal.

After the Louvre, we made our way to Île de la Cité, where Sainte Chapelle, the Conciergerie, and Notre Dame are located. We started in Sainte Chapelle and saw the famous Rose Window. I remember seeing it 6 years ago, but there was some renovation work in the sanctuary at that point, so it was hard to get the full feel of the place. This time, there was no renovation efforts. The stained glass in this church is simply amazing. I remember reading about it in an Art Appreciation course. Not that I really remember much from that course about it except that it has some of the most famous stained glass windows in the world.

Once we finished there, we made our way to Notre Dame. We wanted to go in and even look at climbing the tower, but the line was super long. As much as I would have loved to go in and see it all again, I told Jon I just wasn’t willing to wait outside. It was not only cold, but it had started to rain on our walk over to the cathedral. So, we made our way over to a store that I remembered being that from my previous visit: Shakespeare & Co. It is an all English bookstore and it has an amazing selection. For reference, it’s located at kilometer 0. Unlike last time, though, they had a small café that we ducked into and got something to drink. I jokingly told a friend that I would, of course, be the person to find the store owned by the English speakers. It seems to be a gift.

After we finished there, we headed to our final store: the Musée d’Orsay. I mainly wanted to visit here because of the Van Gogh exhibit I knew they had. And, showing my nerdy side here, I remembered the Doctor Who episode where they took Van Gogh to see his own exhibit. What can I say? My pop culture rules my life. The museum itself is really pretty as well because it’s a converted train station. How many places can boast that?

When we finished at Orsay, we decided we were done for the day. I’d like to say that we went back to our room, looked up things to do at night, and then had a wild night out. But, that’s not really our scene and we were exhausted. We were both in bed and asleep by 9 o’clock, that’s how tired we were. What we did was head back to Port d’Orleans (where our hotel was located) and found a restaurant for dinner. We ended up at an Asian place. Upon finishing there, we finished our evening with the above mentioned sleeping.

Overall, we both thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Paris. We stayed at the Acropole Hotel and it was very nice. They had a continental breakfast in the mornings and, as mentioned, there is a metro stop right outside the door. For location and what it offered, we definitely can’t complain and strongly recommend it to anyone looking to stay in Paris.

Château de Versailles and La Tour Eiffel

Our first day in Paris was such a blast. The night we arrived, we went to a ticket booth that sells the Paris Museum Pass. As the name suggests, for a flat rate you can buy a pass that allows you to get into the majority of the museums in the city for free and to even pass the long queues that some of them will have. It is totally worth it to buy if you plan on hitting some of the museums that are included.

We got it primarily because of the Palace at Versailles and for some of the things that we saw on Saturday in the city proper. Unfortunately at Versailles, we weren’t able to jump the line, but we did get into the Palace for free. Now, going to Versailles was an interesting experience. I checked the website to see what they suggested for train travel and tried to follow what they said, but it didn’t work. Luckily ,we were able to figure out we could use the public transit in Paris to get to Versailles. Something to keep in mind when using it though is that while your tickets that you buy from the Metro will work going to Versailles, you will have to buy a separate ticket to come back to Paris. I think for the two of us it was €7.80 to come back.

I can honestly say that my expectations were met and even surpassed at the Palace. I knew that it was opulent and that it is an immensely popular site, but it was awe-inspiring when we walked up. Versailles the city is absolutely beautiful and then Versailles the Palace is breathtaking. I still can’t get over the fact that we were walking on history. Jon and I discussed the people that used to live there and what that would have possibly been like. While it is an obviously beautiful “house”–if you can call it that–the thought of living there is weird. It’s so large that I honestly think I would probably get lost and not see anyone for weeks in there.

The line to get in was ridiculous. We arrived around 10:30 or 11 and the wait was about 30-45 minutes. There’s a lot to look at and many pictures to take, but for that early in the morning it was still shocking.

A major plus we discovered once we were through security is that they offer maps in multiple languages and they offer free audio guides in multiple languages as well. Obviously you don’t have to get the guides, but I would suggest it since all the signs are in French. There are signs to tell you the numbers for your guides and it was pretty interesting to listen to the history and to see the opulence of the place.

Obviously, one of my favorite places was the Hall of Mirrors. My expectations and pictures just could not and cannot do it justice. I can only imagine how awesome it would have been to attend something at the Palace when it was still used and how beautiful it would have been. My other favorite place was the Gardens. The Gardens are huge and we didn’t even explore 10% of it I don’t think. We mainly went out to see the lakes and the big things that draw people before heading back into the city proper. We discussed coming back when it was warm and the flowers were actually blooming because it would make it even more beautiful. Still, even without the addition of blooming flowers it was still absolute beautiful.

Upon arriving back in Paris, we decided to go on to the Eiffel Tower. We knew that it was wishful thinking, but we were hoping the lines wouldn’t be too long and we might be able to go on and ride the lift to the upper levels. Unfortunately, the lines were absolutely ridiculous. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t take advantage. We took a lot of pictures and are happy we at least visited the site. We did go back the next day, however, and actually go up the tower. I highly recommend pre-booking tickets for the tower if you can because it allows you to skip the lines completely and go right up. However, we weren’t able to do that, so we just go there as close to opening as we could and waited. All told, in an hour we were leaving the tower after having been up to the summit and the 2nd floor. If you’re not sure about going up to the summit, it’s pretty cool. I would say that it was definitely worth the money to ride to the top. Just know that if you go when we did, it was super windy up there and very cold. So make sure you dress appropriately!

That evening (Friday), Jon and I decided to celebrate our anniversary early. We booked a dinner cruise through Bateaux Parisiens. It was very nice and worth the money. I honestly didn’t take too many pictures because I was trying to enjoy the moment, but I’ll include the few pictures I did take. You embark by the Eiffel Tower and ride down the Seine. Depending on which cruise you select, you will either take about an hour and a half or two and a half hours. We opted for a window seat on the 6:15 cruise and were quite pleased.

All things considered, not a horrible first day in Paris and we certainly can’t complain.

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