Happy 2015 friends! I know that we’re right about halfway through January by this point, but it has been a crazy beginning of the year for us. We flew back from Paris on the 3rd, ended up staying in Topeka on the 4th due to lost baggage issues, and drove back to Colorado on the 5th. Somewhere in there I caught one of those terrible colds that you only get from multiple days of traveling, and I spent all of last week in bed getting better. Now that I can finally breathe through my nose again and no longer feel like there’s an elephant sitting on my face and chest, I can finally get to wishing you all a happy new year and share our holiday adventures!
Kevin and I had a wonderful holiday season that started off with spending the week of Christmas in Topeka with my family. 2014 was a long and crazy year full of lots of change and new things, so it felt particularly wonderful to be able to be home for the holidays. We were able to see some of our closest friends and spend the whole week with my parents and my brother. I can’t even tell you how happy it made me to be able to spend that much time with them, especially after my first full year of living so far away from them. We opened gifts on Christmas eve, had the most delicious Christmas eve dinner, and then spent a lazy Christmas day in pajamas watching movies, eating Christmas cookies, drinking mimosas, and just enjoying time spent together. I can’t think up a more perfect Christmas than the one we had in Topeka!
The following week we got to spend in PARIS! Kevin’s sister Gretchen works as a teacher in France and his parents offered to take us with them to go visit her. The five of us spent the week of New Years in Paris! It was a jam-packed, exhausting, awesome week of sightseeing in the cold. And while I loved our trip, and loved being in Paris (what’s not to love about a trip to Europe?!) I will say that next time we head across the pond it will not be in the winter! Regardless, we had a lot of fun packing in almost everything we wanted to see in one week. This is also probably a good time to apologize for how long this post is about to get! Keep in mind its really hard to summarize a whole week in Paris!
We landed in Paris Sunday morning around 8:30 am and took the train and then the metro into the neighborhood where our rental apartment was located only to have our first experience with a Parisian, aka no real regard for timeliness or previously set agreements. Fortunately the woman cleaning the apartment was able to let us in to the apartment at the previously arranged noon timeline to drop off our bags, even if we almost immediately had to go back out in the cold with no key and wait until after 2 pm to receive keys. We waited for Gretchen to join us in the city, had lunch at a cafe below our apartment, and then Gretchen and Kevin’s parents left to catch a train to spend a couple of nights in Lille (a northern French town where Gretchen has been staying with a friend’s parents). Kevin and I finally received the keys to the apartment, took long hot showers for the first time in over 24 hours, and got dressed to go adventure and find some dinner (even though at that point all we wanted was sleep!). We took the metro to the Eiffel tower, took some pictures, found a cafe for dinner, and returned to the apartment promptly after dinner to pass out. Of course, thanks to jet lag we didn’t get much sleep!
Monday we spent a lazy day walking around Paris, learning the metro system, and exploring together. We went to Notre Dame, which was one of the first moments where it hit me that I would finally be able to see so many of the architecture and pieces of art that I learned about in my Humanities and Art History classes in high school. That may have been one of my favorite parts of the trip, getting to see things that I’d previously only been able to geek out about over textbooks and other people’s pictures. The cathedral was beautiful, although I found myself frustrated by how many tourists inside were so incredibly rude and disrespectful. Many forget that although these places are beautiful architectural tourists sites, they’re first and foremost places of worship. Simply because you don’t believe or practice the religion (or any religion for that matter) does not mean that you shouldn’t respect the sanctity of a worship space. Anyways, I digress. After exploring the area on the Isle de la Cite where Notre Dame is located, we unknowingly explored the Latin Quarter, found a place to eat, and walked around town until we ate dinner and headed home to bed.
Tuesday Gretchen, Ed and Cindy came back into Paris and we all met up at the apartment at noon where we had lunch. After lunch we headed to the Musee d’Orsay. It’s an art museum located in what used to be the train station. Saying its an absolutely gorgeous building is an understatement. The art was wonderful, and you know I love art, but for the most part it was a lot of relatively unknown and unexciting paintings by artists who are known for bigger and better. Not that the art wasn’t gorgeous, or that I didn’t totally fall in love with a Degas ballerina painting in their Impressionist section, or that I wasn’t super excited to see some really great Van Gogh. Because all of those things did happen. However I think that the standout aspect of the museum lies in its roots as a train station. I found myself wishing that they had devoted a room or two, or maybe even just a few plaques, giving background info on the train station, its history, and maybe showing pictures of what it used to look like. Regardless, we had a wonderful experience and it was my first Paris museum!
Wednesday had to have been my favorite day in France. I say France because technically we weren’t in Paris. We spent the whole day in Versailles and I was in heaven! I love history (are you starting to find the nerdy pattern here?) and for as long as I can remember have been so incredibly interested in the history of Versailles and particularly Marie Antoinette. I’m not gonna get too much into it, because this post is already long enough, but I’m definitely one of those Marie Antoinette sympathizers who thinks she was misunderstood and her naivety and very closed understanding of the world around her (not to mention her age!) is often overlooked. Needless to say, I was out of my mind excited to be there. We walked through the open areas of the palace (because something is always closed for renovations!) in awe of that fact that this was a home!! The over the top size of it all, not to mention the lavishness, is breathtaking. My favorite parts were, of course, the hall of mirrors and Marie Antoinette’s bedroom. We got outside to the gardens rather late and I was determined to get to see Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon and her little hamlet where she pretended to be a peasant girl, so Kevin and I literally ran for a big chunk of the way through the massive gardens and, what had to be a couple of miles of walking and running later, arrived at her Petit Trianon. This was by far my favorite part of Versailles! At some point during our Versailles trip I looked at Kevin and said “This is as cool as Disney World!! Almost!”. If you know me very well at all, you know what a big deal that is.
Wednesday night was New Years Eve, but after a full day of walking through Versailles, the grounds and gardens, the Petit Trianon, etc. we were an exhausted bunch. We ate dinner at the apartment, spent a really nice evening sharing stories and enjoying each other’s company, and definitely all went to bed before midnight. The next day, since almost everything is closed on New Years day, we went up to Sacre Coeur and Montmartre to check out the cathedral and the artists selling their work in looked to me like piazzas (did I mention being back in Europe made me so Italy-nostalgic!). The cathedral was gorgeous, and people were a bit more respectful here. Gretchen purchased a portrait a street artist drew of her, and the rest of us all bought very unique and beautiful original art by Parisian artists. We spent the rest of the day walking around the streets of Paris, visiting Shakespeare and Company, and had the most delicious dinner of the whole entire trip at a little tiny restaurant in an incredibly old building in the Latin Quarter. Unanimously impressed and satisfied with our food went home to bed.
Friday was mine and Kevin’s last day in Paris. We split up as a group because Kevin and I wanted to spend a huge amount of time at the Louvre and Gretchen, Ed and Cindy wanted to use part of the day exploring other sites. We managed to find the entrance by the gate of Lyon, stood in line for a maximum of 5 minutes and were in the building in no time. Suffice it to say, the Louvre was my second favorite day of the trip. I saw David (the artist, not the statue of course)! I saw Delacroix! I saw Ingres! I saw the Code of Hammurabi! I stood in front of the Nike of Samothrace! I stood in front of some of my favorite paintings of all times (The Coronation of Josephine!!!!! The Raft of the Medusa!! The Oath of the Horatii!!) I geeked out so hard, and loved every minute of it despite how absolutely exhausted we were. Kevin and I spent most of the day in the Louvre, and saw almost everything we wanted to see in that museum. So. Much. Walking. (But isn’t that always true in Europe?). We walked along the Champs Elysees (something we’d done a couple of times on the trip but was still always fun) and then went home and cooked dinner for the whole group.
So as you can see, Kevin and I had an incredible holiday break. We saw great friends, spent time with our families, were international travelers, crossed off bucket list items, saw things we didn’t think we’d get to see for years to come, and got bit by the travel bug. We are so excited to get to do more traveling together over the rest of our lives and continue to share so many wonderful experiences. Hopefully next time we travel I won’t get sick immediately afterwards and I can do a day-by-day synopsis of our trips with a little bit more detail. Live and learn right? 🙂
Keep on scrolling for some pictures I took on our trip (even though they’re a little out of order.. still trying to figure out this whole blogging thing when it comes to the best way to add pictures).
And now we’re back to the real world! Stay tuned for shorter (and more than likely less exciting) posts and news on law schools and moves, along with tidbits of our lives. I’m loving getting to share with you all, and am so thankful that you all take the time to read!
The view from our apartment windows
The back of Notre Dame, which I think its even more beautiful than the facade.
Versailles Hall of Mirrors selfie!
Clock at the Musee d’Orsay — an art museum that used to be a train station. Gorgeous architecture.
Marie Antoinette’s bedroom. Love her.
One of the rooms in Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon.
Sacre Coeur on New Years day. Because nothing else is really open!
This art history buff finally got to go to the Louvre and see some of her favorite pieces!