European Road Trip Part II: France

I mentioned in the original post here that I wanted to dedicate some space on this blog to reminiscing about one of our most favorite (if not the most favorite) travel experiences to date – our road trip through Germany and France in 2014. After spending a number of days, exploring Germany, we crossed the border into France, marking leg 2 of this journey. First, let me say, I was surprised at the ease of the border passing from Germany into France. I realize it’s the European Union, but I expected something – a toll, a traffic stop – something. Nope, we literally just continued driving and all of the sudden the road signs switched from German to French and that was it. As soon as we crossed into France, navigating the roads became a bit trickier – in Germany, Paul was comfortable because he could understand the language and read the road signs. In France we knew nothing – and even all the colors, styles and symbols of the signs were different. Luckily, the driving portion of our French trip was not too complicated, and our plan was to head straight for Paris with a stop over in Reims, the heart of Champagne. We were a little unprepared in Reims, and had a bit of difficulty locating the vineyards (it was mot as clearly marked as we expected, or maybe it was but we didn’t understand the signs). We stopped in the city center to find a vineyard map, and managed to find our way to a few, but kept it simple and brief since A- we were a little lost and B- we still had to make it to Paris later that evening and couldn’t exactly just drink champagne all day. We did a quick vineyard tour at Pannier, and some sampling at smaller vineyards along the way, then stocked up on fine champagne to bring to Paris and continued on our way.

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Champagne tasting at Pannier

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Arriving in Paris, we returned our car at the airport then took the metro to city center. This again was more complicated than it should have been, but I think we were tired, travel weary and confused, and we struggled to find the correct train at the height of Paris rush hour. Eventually, though we made it to our stop near Notre Dame and exited for the walk to our apartment (we booked through airbnb again, and loved the tiny loft apartment we stayed in the heart of Saint Germain – it felt like real Parisian living!) Coming up those stairs from the metro was one of my favorite memories from this trip – we exited at one of the most beautiful parts of the city, around sunset and the streets were bustling. Paul was blown away by his first glimpse of Paris, and even I was taken aback, as the city was way more beautiful than I ever remembered. The sights, and the architecture, and the energy drew us in and we were instantly revitalized after our somewhat unsuccessful day of travel. We found our apartment easily, received some helpful dining tips from our local hosts and set out to explore the city. Have I mentioned already that we loved staying in Saint Germain? We were surrounded by cafes, restaurants and nightlife, yet still within walking distance of the major tourist attractions – it was a super convenient and fun place to be.

Undoubtedly, the thing Paul and I both loved most about Paris was the food…and the culture… and the architecture… and the wine. Ok, we loved every single thing about that city. The French have really mastered the art of wine and dine, and we reveled in every meal and every moment spent picnicking and people watching from cafes. Our time in Paris was pretty leisurely – we walked EVERYWHERE, we loved wandering the beautiful city streets. We did our research and sought out the top rated patisseries and fromagers. We sampled the famous french staples, the obligatory croissants, cheese, baguettes and steak frites – and we expanded our palates with foie gras, blood sausage, bone marrow and escargot (Paul is way more of an adventurous eater than I am, but I will almost always try everything once). We picnicked beneath the Eiffel tower (which included our champagne from Reims), strolled along the Seine, and navigated our way through the city to all the major tourist stops; Notre Dame, the Louvre, Champs-Élysées, the Arc di Triomphe and Luxembourg Gardens. Paul spent a lot of time taking in these destinations slowly, and photographing them beautifully – which was fine with me, as it allowed plenty of time for me to relax and soak in the sights.

Our only negative to report on our time in Paris was that there was simply not enough of it!! It was the perfect relaxing, romantic and indulgent way to end an already magical trip. Well, this post is really making me want to return to Paris, or at least eat some fine French food – but since I will be doing neither in the near future, I’ll have to settle on enjoying these photos below!

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Stopping for cheese to bring to the Eiffel Tower
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Luxembourg Gardens

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City streets
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The Capital building at night
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Parks outside the Louvre

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From the top of the Eiffel Tower

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Arc di Triomphe
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Paul’s favorite bridge along the Seine, Pont Neuf

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Notre Dame

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Sunset along the Seine – taken from Pont Neuf, of course

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Pont Neuf at night
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The famous love bridge, Pont des Arts – we did not add locks

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The Louvre
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We found our wedding anniversary (even the correct year!) engraved in the streets of Les Halles! Les Halles also happens to be the name of a French restuarant we love in NYC – serendipitous much?
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From the top of the Arc di Triomphe

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Dinner the first night – escargot and french onion soup
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Meat pie
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Paul’s bone marrow

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