After having been away for almost a whole month, it’s taken a bit of time to get readjusted to life. We spent 18 days traveling internationally, and prior to that we had been in Florida for Zack’s sisters wedding. With only three days in-between our arrival home and our departure for Europe, it was a lot to take on. The adjustment hasn’t been so much because of jet-lag or anything, more so just because we were gone for so long and had a lot of things to catch up on upon returning home. I also adapted to the jet-setting lifestyle more than I thought I would, so falling back into a routine hasn’t been as easy as I expected. Surprising for somebody who considers themselves a homebody and typically thrives on a daily routine.
Anyhow that’s mostly why it’s taken me a week to share photos from our trip. That, and honestly because I felt kind of apathetic about even taking a lot of pictures while we traveled throughout Europe. Obviously I enjoy looking back at them, and I also love sharing pictures with friends and family as I truly love to see photos of other people’s travels as well. But Zack and I, upon arriving in Paris the first day or two, quickly concurred to one another that no picture or video could ever remotely do justice to the experience of actually being there. I kept talking about how I wished one person or another was there to see this, or hear that, or taste this. I wanted to share all the wonderful sights and experiences with everyone I loved, and after looking at every picture we took I was dismayed at how unimpressive they all were after having been there in person. Obviously we continued to take pictures of the more notable sights and moments, but I still have that same kind of apathy about them. I know this isn’t the most exciting prelude to our pictures, but I’m just being honest. You can read about something, or watch it on TV or in a movie a hundred or a thousand times, but you will never be able to know the feelings of awe, excitement, and humility until you’ve experienced it for yourself. With that being said, I genuinely hope that if sharing these pictures does anything, it will inspire and encourage others to travel as well.
Be forewarned: this will be long. Paris and Florence were definitely my favorite places we visited, and since we stayed in Paris for four nights and did so many notable things there for me to talk about, I’m making it it’s own post. I think after this I’ll probably share two more to talk about what we did and saw everywhere else. Paris stole my heart though, which will be obvious by the rambling that you’ll probably have to skip over eventually.
We flew United direct from Chicago to Paris, and it was truly the most wonderful flight I’ve ever been on. Shocking, right? Well not really when you find out that Zack woke up sick the morning we were leaving so he decided to upgrade us to business class. If you wait right before the flight they’ll reduce the price of available seats, and let me say even if we’re both perfectly healthy next time I’d still think it’s 100% worth upgrading, especially on the way there. We flew economy plus home which really was fine too, but we also weren’t trying to sleep on that flight. On the flight there we definitely needed to attempt to sleep, especially considering we only had four nights in Paris, and I highly doubt I would have gotten any rest if we didn’t have the lie-flat seats. I got a solid 4.5 hours of straight shut-eye, which I thought was pretty good. We probably would have gotten more but the meal service has several courses and takes foreeever. The food was actually good though, and they were overly generous with the wine. They also wake you up in time for a breakfast service which I really enjoyed as well. On the flight home in economy there was only a lunch service followed by a snack, so I can’t speak of the dinner/breakfast, but I can say the lunch with dessert and snack weren’t bad back there either. Still though – on the way to your destination – business class, all the way people. Worth. Every. Penny.
Our first morning in Paris.
We arrived in Paris around 10am, slightly sleep deprived but better off than I expected we would be. I arranged for transportation from the airport through Victor’s Cabs and they were punctual and excellent for both our arrival and departure. We headed to the Shangri-La where we were greeted with a room upgrade and a bottle of champagne. I got an amazing deal through virtuoso which included a room upgrade upon availability, and much to my delight we had a beautiful balcony overlooking a garden with the most stunning view of the Eiffel Tower. Spoiler: we ended up getting upgraded at 3 out of 6 hotels. Zack thought I was magical. I kind of am when it comes to planning travel.
At Celine with my Celine phantom bag!
I didn’t know how we’d feel upon arriving so I didn’t have anything planned for our first day, other than a dinner reservation…and the brilliant idea to go shopping while jet-lagged and incapable of making responsible decisions.
If you’re not already aware, shopping in Europe for designer goods is actually a brilliant thing to do. Seriously. Most of them (or at the least the designers I care about) are cheaper to begin with over there, and upon leaving the EU you can also get the VAT back. If there has ever been a wise time in my life to buy something extravagant, this was it. Zack and I had discussed this a little bit, and while I was hoping he’d want to buy me a nice birthday present (it was on March 7th, a week after Paris while we were in Italy), I didn’t necessarily expect it to happen. In fact, I told myself that I wasn’t going to get anything at all unless it was what I truly wanted: a black Chanel boy WOC with gold hardware.
I had heard from numerous people that there are waitlists for it in the US, and not to get my hopes up that I’d find the exact bag I wanted when I walked into Chanel in Paris. So truly, my expectations were low. However, the stars were aligned for me on this trip (in many ways), so lo and behold when we walked into Chanel she was the first thing I spotted. I can’t even explain the jet-lagged, dazed, dreamy, excitement I was having when we asked the price and Zack said we’d take it. If you know my love for fashion you know this was truly a moment in my life. I wandered around Chanel, sipping champagne, dreamily looking at all the beautiful things while I waited for them to wrap my bag up and bring it up front. It sounds dramatic, but I had to hold back tears of joy.
After popping in and out of a few other shops, we had lunch at L’Avenue on Montaigne, and then walked back to our hotel where I sipped more champagne and admired my lovely new little bag until dinner.
Speaking of which, at every nicer restaurant we went to in Paris, they had chairs (well, stools) for your bag to sit on. They did in Florence as well. The appreciation for fashion is real there, sooo yea I was among my people. Do they do this anywhere in the states? Not that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve eaten at some pretty nice restaurants. They definitely need to start.
Day two we took a cruise on one of those ugly boats they have on the Seine. Those boats are a fun way to see Paris, but are also an eyesore amongst such beautiful architecture in my opinion. I don’t have a picture of them because, well, they’re ugly. We did a hop on/hop off one which was a great way to get from our hotel by the eiffel tower all the way to Notre Dame and see everything in between as we pleased.
I’ve always loved gargoyles, so meeting these guys up and close and personal was exciting for me.
One of my favorite things we did on the trip was climb Notre Dame. Right when we got to the top, the bells went off. I was so startled at first that I jumped a little. But standing on top of the cathedral, looking out over Paris while the bells played was such a neat experience. If you follow me on instagram you can see the video I took on top while they were ringing.
Versailles gleaming in the sunThe royal chapel at Versailles
Sunday we went to Versailles, which was spectacular. It was a sunny day so when we pulled up the place was literally glowing with the sun gleaming off of all the gold. The top picture tries (and mostly fails) to show this, but in person it’s extremely impressive. After visiting Versailles you totally understand why the French had a revolution. Like I said, pictures just don’t do it justice but I’ll share a few anyhow.
Inside the chapelHall of mirrors
Everything is beautiful and ornate – I want these floors in my house.
The grounds – must come back when things are blooming!
Petit Trianon – Marie Antoinette’s chateau, my favorite part of Versailles.
On Monday we went to visit the Louvre, again I could flood you with pictures of art but it’s just not the same unless you’re there. So obviously the highlight was Mona Lisa. I honesty wasn’t super excited because I heard the crowds around her are insane and it’s obnoxious to even get close. Maybe it’s because it was a Monday in March, but the crowds weren’t bad at all and I got right up front and center. It was so much neater than I thought it would be. Luckily Zack and I both appreciate art, so we happily wandered around the Louvre for hours on end taking it all in. Even if you aren’t into art it’s worth going I think, I don’t know how you couldn’t appreciate many of the things you’ll see there.
Shangri-La was a beautiful hotel with fantastic service, and I’d more than happily stay there again. We had breakfast included every morning which was huge and delicious. This is actually pretty common in Europe, and we filled up on a large breakfast wherever it was included so we wouldn’t have to spend much of anything on lunch, and saved up for nice dinners. They have three restaurants in the hotel, and the one which I really wanted to try (L’abeille) was of course closed the week we stayed there. So we ate at Shang Palace one night and got the tasting menu which I had no complaints about.
L’Avenue is perfect for lunch after shopping on Avenue Montaigne, which is exactly what we did. It’s pricier, and kind of a seen and be-seen type of place, but the food is great and atmosphere is fun. A perfect place to stop when you’re perusing the higher-end stores in Paris, or after to celebrate those purchases!
Monsieur Bleu is where we ate Saturday night and we both loved it. The food was great, reasonably priced, and the service was excellent. Our waiter was so nice and helpful with recommendations. One of the best parts of this place is the Eiffel Tower views, and when the weather is nicer they have an outdoor area with a bar set up too. The decor inside is beautiful as well though, so you’d be happy eating inside or out.
Le Gabriel was our big splurge on the the trip. When in Paris, you have to eat a really amazing michelin star restaurant right? This is one the hotel recommended and I read great reviews of. It did not disappoint one bit. The service was wonderful, not the least bit pretentious. The sommelier was amazing as well, he paired beautiful wines that complemented my meal perfectly, and even escorted us outside to our cab while chatting about skiing with us after the meal. With so many michelin star restaurants to try in Paris, I’d still be tempted to visit this one again when we return.
Versailles We booked our tour through Viator and I can’t recommend it enough. Our tour guide was so knowledgeable, had we not had her we really wouldn’t have known much of anything we were looking at. The ability to tour the gardens on your own afterwards was also great, and then lunch with wine was included – which was very good! We had a group of five (including us), and had some wonderful conversation over food and wine with the people we spent the day with. After lunch you then see the Grand Trianon, followed by Marie Antoinette’s estate, which was my favorite part and not to be missed. I guess many people that visit Versailles miss this second half because it’s quite far from the palace (the grounds are almost 2000 acres!), so for that reason alone the tour is worth doing. Here’s the link to the tour we did.
Tip: If you have a chase sapphire card you can book these tours on their website using your rewards points! We booked all our tours, our flight from paris to rome, our hotel in Rome, and our hotel in Florence with our rewards so essentially it’s like all of this was free. Best rewards card ever-if you don’t have one you need one, sign up here!
When we return we’ll definitely do it when it’s warm and everything is in bloom. However it was still a nice time of year to go in that we avoided huge crowds and the weather was warm enough for us to feel comfortable walking around without being too bundled up. I guess we were lucky in not having any rain either, but if I thought Paris was beautiful in late February/Early March, I’d love to see it in the summer. Especially Versailles. Also, the one thing we didn’t do which I was sad about was visit Musee D’Orsay, so that’s definitely something we plan on for our next visit. And of course, I plan on having more money saved up to do some serious shopping. Even Zack was into the shopping while we were there, so next time it be fun for us to do some serious damage together.
Due to the timing of this post, in light of the tragedy that just recently happened in Brussels, I have to acknowledge the fear that I know many people are feeling about traveling internationally, specifically to Europe. It breaks my heart that this is going on over there, and I understand some people’s choice to stay away. However, I still don’t think at this point that we should let fear stop us from living and experiencing life. If we do, they win. In the past few months I’ve actually had more friends my age traveling to Europe than I’ve ever been aware of, some even in the same places at the same time as we were. Maybe it’s our age, everyone is traveling before kids? But this was both surprising to me, due to the recent events, and also reassuring that people are still choosing to not let extremists control their lives with fear. At the same time I realize how real this threat can be. My dad flew out of the Brussels airport three days prior to the attacks that just happened, and will be returning again in a few weeks. To say it hit close to home not just because we were recently in Europe, but much more so because my Dad was at the site of the attacks just days prior, is no joke.
A week or two after we booked our flights to Paris, the attacks in November happened. Obviously we had a serious moment where we thought “should we still go?”..”is it safe?” We both agreed that of course we still should, and then at some point I actually realized not only should we go, but it was important that we still travel as we originally planned to. I’m so grateful we did, as the odds of being caught up in a terrorist attack are still pretty slim. Either way, I understand people’s fears, and I hope that the situation improves sooner rather than later. I’ve said it before, and I truly mean it: travel is life-changing. Some of the most fulfilling moments where I’ve learned the most about myself and this world have been while immersing myself in another culture, or stepping outside of my comfort zone. We live in amazing world full of mostly good people, and to not be able to experience that due to feeling you must live in fear is truly a great tragedy in itself.