Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jessica's European Favorites: FRANCE

Josh already got the chance to elaborate on some of his favorite moments from our European travels, and now it is my turn! I'll save you all from any repeats, but instead just add a few highlights of my own. Unlike my husband's list, I don't have a set number and they're not in any particular order. We're different like that.

The first stop, after landing in Brussels, was Paris. We met my parents on the way there at the train station, and my brother was already waiting for us at our Parisian hotel.

We didn't skip a beat once we all got in, but instead promptly headed out on our adventure. First stop?

The Eiffel Tower.

I KNOW it is cliché. I know it is. But I did love it - the big park around it, the hubbub of tourists, the masses or iron bars stretching up into the sky, and of course the hoards of street vendors selling mini versions on key chains. Okay, maybe not the pushy vendors. And since it was pretty much the first stop, it was the ultimate "We're Heeeeeere!" moment for all of us.

We went back at night. It was stunning.

Directly after stepping under the tower, we stumbled upon another favorite:


Here we are enjoying the first of many crepes for each of us. Bananas, chocolate, and whipped cream, was the topping combination most enjoyed by my family.

Continuing on with touristy clich̩s (get used to it Рthese destinations are popular for a reason!) is my next pick:

Notre Dame

This ornate Gothic cathedral is impressively huge, impressively old, and impressively beautiful. I learned that it took over 180 years to complete, beginning in 1163. 1163?!? It is a whole lot of massive, especially when you remember they were using pretty basic tools the whole time.
Josh, Ben, and I climbed up to the top. Well worth the effort.
Holy cow high up. Can you imagine a church today embarking on such a project? I can hear it now..

Well, we want to start a building project. It will cost an obscene amount of money. No one will live to see it complete. In fact, our children's children might see it, if they live a long life.
Also pretty at night.

And what is a trip to Paris without experiencing some...


We only made it to the Louvre and the Orsay and barely scratched the surface at those places. However, we definitely enjoyed witnessing some masterpieces. Of the two museums, my favorite was the Orsay, which is known for housing an extensive impressionist collection. I have a soft spot for Degas and Manet, and got to see works of art by both of them while there.

Ben was once nicknamed "Rembrandt" by our Opa. Upon seeing the artist's self portrait, I can actually see a resemblance. I think it is mostly in the hair.
I started singing "One Day More" and other Les Mis favorites while walking past this beauty.

One day to a new beginning. Raise the flag of freedom high.
Venus de Milo, rockin' out the size 18.
Winged Victory, which dates back to the third century B.C.

These poor dames without arms. Really.
Gotta love a crazy dutchman.

Moving on.

I found that when you see the major sights in Paris, you end up seeing a lot of its famous river:

The Siene.

Up and down the river are impressive statues, buildings, and parks. We took a cruise down it one night and marveled at the beauty of the city at night.

Rounding out my list were these:

The Gardens at Versailles

We visited the palace, too, but it wasn't nearly as cool. Opulent? Yes. Over-the-top? Yes. Built by pleasure-loving Louis XIV in the 1600's, it struck me that there was no wonder why the common frenchmen revolted a hundred years later. I'd be pissed if my tax dollars went to that kind of overindulgence, too.

The gardens were absolutely over-the-top as well, but more interesting and fun to explore. Josh told us that with the French, gardening is all about perspective. That was why the main lawn sloped just so and the pathways were made from crisp, straight lines. Josh's architecture degree was put to similar use throughout the trip.

It was especially fun when the fountains came on.

They tried, but they didn't quite get there.
The number of pools, statues, and fountains was pretty overwhelming. Perfectly trimmed bushes everywhere. Flowers in extremely neat rows. Criss-cross patterns of paths. Very cool. I swear we walked for miles around that place, and were drop dead tired when we made it to lunch. Worth it.


Tom, Beth, and Ainsley said...

So fun! It makes me miss Paris so badly. You have some great pictures! I'm so glad you got to see Versailles with the fountains on! I've been there three times and only got to see the fountains on once. It totally makes a difference! Looks like you guys had such a fun trip!!!

Lynn said...

Really fun post, Jess. We've been discussing a Europe vacation (we have friends stationed in England and Germany). We weren't sure if we wanted to take the girls, but we clearly need to make sure we can be out at night. Your evening pictures are just beautiful!