It’s been awhile since we checked in on here. Welcome back! Travel prep, work, and house guests kept us busy in the weeks leading up to our trip and then we were vacationing in France, Spain, and Italy for two weeks. Blogging updates were the last thing on our minds.
But we are back home now and eager to document our trip. We have got a lot of territory to cover, so settle in for many forthcoming posts about our European adventure! Feast your eyes on these two fresh-faced innocents. Heck, they hadn’t even been to Europe yet.
Our flight left Reagan National and headed to JFK. Not quite a red-eye, our 5 pm-ish departure from New York meant we never managed to sleep on the way to Paris. After making it through French customs (barely a cursory nod at our passports and an emphatic stamp), we faced our first challenge—Paris’s ultramodern restrooms. It may have been the jet lag, but the rooms were labyrinthine, the fixtures unresponsive, and the lights kept cutting off when you peed unless you sort of jerk-danced your upper torso and arms the entire time you sat on the bowl.
With some trial and error we located our shuttle and were on our way to our hotel in Montmartre. We landed early in the morning Paris-time, and so were faced with a dilemma—stay up and power through on zero sleep or take a nap and face the jet lag consequences. We decided it would be best to acclimate to the new normal and proceeded to stay up for about 36 hours straight.
Hotel Le Squara where we stayed was an absolute delight. Located right near a metro and nestled in the charming streets of Montmartre, we couldn’t have asked for a better location. Granted, it’s right next to the red light/sex district, but if you don’t mind the occasional nudie bar, it’s really prime real estate for travelers and affordable.
In true Kathleen and Paul fashion, we started our travels with croissant, pan au chocolat and espresso in the art nouvea decorated Lux Bar. The coffee helped our addled brains orient enough to tentatively figure out the metro map and negotiate our way to some sights.
Our first stop was St. Chapelle. Paul read about this chapel in Rick Steves and its promise of the most beautiful stained glass in Europe did not disappoint. Located right near government buildings, I saw my first of many armed guards staring down tourists with semi-automatic machine guns.
After St. Chapelle, we walked to Notre Dame and took in its majestic beauty. Sadly, it was very short on hunchback sightings.
After lunch, we had one of what would be a handful of mini-freak-outs on my part. I had really, really, really wanted to do a boat ride down the Seine. I figured I’d picture myself as a character in Les Miserables and watch the sights go by. But the reality was negotiating about a zillion slippery moss covered steps and my already janky knee was balking. Never mind my fear of heights (and stairs without banisters—Europe, you’re a tricky mistress). My disappointment in my wimpiness, a pervasive sense of crippling exhaustion, and dreams dashed had me in quite a sore mood. But the view definitely helped me regain some equilibrium. After getting lost for a good 25 minutes navigating a few blocks, we managed to make it to the famous bookstore Shakespeare and Company and all was well again.
We had booked a wine tasting at O’Chateau and my dim recollections of it are positive. I was so tired I actually fell asleep at one point mid-lecture from our sommelier. The wines were very good—especially the champagne and the Languedoc—and the atmosphere was incredible, a sort of underground cellar/wine cave.
We finished the evening with a pretty average, over-rare steak frite and then some truly memorable aged Gruyere. Marvelous cheeses are a recurring theme on this trip and many, many Lactaids were consumed to help me cope with my intolerance to lactose. Quelle horreur being lactose intolerant in Europe!