Sunday, September 28, 2014

france 2014.

This day we had a verrrry early start by catching the first tube out of Shoreditch and meeting our TopDeck tour group at 6:30 am at a hotel in London. We drove as a group down to Dover to see the white cliffs and hop on the ferry to Calais, France. From there we drove about 4 hours to Paris! After dropping our stuff at the hotel, we ate at Pari's Cafe where I had my first glass of champagne in France (!!!), onion soup, escargot (!!!), and duck confit. It was all delicious. We ended the night with an amazing driving tour of the city that really hit all of the highlights, including but not limited to: the Louvre, Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Luxor Obelisk, Ecole Militaire, Notre Dame, Sacre-Cœur Basilica, Place de la Bastille, the Grand and Petit Palais, and Academie Nationale de Musique. It was absolutely incredible and a great way to see a large portion of the city, especially since we'd only be there for another 24 hours.
For our free day, Jamie and I started at the Louvre, but chose not to go inside because we knew there was no way we'd see even a small percentage of it. We both decided that would have to wait for our next trip to Paris. ;) After taking some pictures of the amazing architecture, we walked to the Norte Dame and ventured inside to ogle the stained glass windows and gothic-domed ceilings. Amazing. I also fell in love with the gargoyles up top! As we were leaving, we saw what I jokingly refer to as my favorite thing about Paris: a man was standing with bread in his hand, feeding the birds. We both nudged each other, like "aw, how cute" and then he shook the birds off and TOOK A BITE of the same bread the birds had been eating off of! We both audibly gasped and died laughing.
We stopped at a cafe near the love lock bridge to have a café au lait and people watch, then headed to Musee d'Orsay, a museum known for it's large impressionist collection. Afterwards, we meandered along the Seine River and had lunch, then enjoyed some gelato at Jardin Des Tuileries. We simply knew we'd be miserable if we tried to shove as much as we could into this one day in Paris, so we really just took it in and enjoyed ourselves.
After finishing our gelato, we walked the entire length of Champs Elysées to end up at the Arc de Triomphe, then took the 287 steps up to the top to see the entire city from up high! It was incredible. Finally, we ended the evening with a picnic at the base of the Eiffel Tower with our tour group. Macarons abound! I had 5, I think? WHEN IN PARIS, y'all. To round the whole night off, we went to an 11:30 show at the Moulin Rouge. This cost some serious cash, but it was SO worth it! Boobs and booze and some seriously impressive acts. It was sometimes campy, but never lost my attention. This was my favorite part of the day!
Another early start for this day. We left our Parisian hotel for Bordeaux, which is a solid 7 hour drive. Luckily, we stopped about 1/3 of the way through for Chateau de Chambord, a structure built in 1519 by King Francis I and made famous for it's liqueur. This was a really incredible thing to get to experience. Many of the rooms and staircases are open to walk through and it really just drives home the point of the opulence that 16th, 17th, and 18th century French royalty enjoyed. This building was used almost solely for a hunting lodge. That's it! But look at it! So cool. Also, rumor has it that Leonardo di Vinci designed the main staircase in this chateau.
We continued our journey towards Bordeaux after grabbing lunch at the chateau. It was an additional 5 hours, so much of this day was spent traveling. Once we arrived at the hotel, we quickly got ready for an excellent French dinner and headed out to explore the city a bit before the sun went down.
To continue our tour through France, we stopped at a winery just outside of Bordeaux. We got a tour of the cellars and our guide explained the process of wine-making. It was really interesting! After the tour was over, we got to taste a Sauvignon blanc and a blended red that the winery is famous for. It was an excellent way to start the day - drinking wine at 10 am! Haha. After a bit more driving, we ended our day with a few hours wandering the fortified city of Carcassonne and then the best French meal I've had so far of cassoulet with duck confit.

Another early morning to start our travels through the Pyrenees. We stopped in Andorra for a bit of duty-free shopping and continued on to Barcelona!

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