I know, it has been way too long since I’ve posted, but I thought I would re-cap the end of my traveling anyway! My goal when I got back home was to finish my travel posts before my birthday – this is pretty close!! Thanks for keeping up with me and for following me in my adventures across Europe!
After celebrating the end of classes with my new friends, I started packing up and getting ready for my last round of traveling with… my parents. They were meeting me in Paris on Thursday, April 12th, and I was so excited to see them. Our vacation itinerary was as follows: April 12-15: Paris, France; April 15-18: Prague, Czech Republic; April 18-21: Budapest, Hungary; April 21-24: Krakow, Poland; April 24-28: Nantes, France.
I was able to go to Paris one day earlier with my friend Erika. We stayed in a super cute hotel (Hotel ClaireFontaine) and spent the day exploring the most famous bakeries and chocolate shops of Paris. It was great. We knew our way around Paris by then, so we were able to go visit Ladurée, Pierre Hermé, Angelina’s Café and l’Étoile d’Or.
In case you were not able to watch my presentation on Macarons, here it is again: Macarons Presentation. You have heard me talk about Ladurée here, here and here, but you might not have heard about Pierre Hermé yet. He is also famous for his macarons, many of which have unusual flavour combinations. He is also known as the “Picasso of Pastry”. Their flavours vary from traditional caramel, chocolates, oranges, to avant-garde flavours like wasabi, ketchup and truffle. When we visited, we split a box of 8 macarons, and my favourite was chocolate passionfruit (second from the bottom in the picture below). The texture of these macarons were much more dense than those at Ladurée, but still just as delicious. We loved trying out the different kinds of macarons, and were so excited for the rest of our day!
We then made our way through the Jardins des Tuileries, where we ended up at Angelina’s Café on rue du Rivoli. Angelina’s café is known for its hot chocolate. It was absolutely phenominal! We were brought into a beautiful tea room where we were served a large pitcher of dark, rich, creamy hot chocolate with our own pot of chantilly cream. The hot chocolate was so thick, and velvety smooth. It felt as though we were drinking liquid chocolate. It was the most amazing hot chocolate I’ve ever had, and was worth the 8 euros!
After filling our bellies with hot chocolate and macarons, we sat near the big fountain in the Jardin des Tuileries and just enjoyed the beautiful weather. Our next and final stop was l’Étoile d’Or near Moulin Rouge. It was a tiny little chocolate shop that looked like it was stuck in 1920. In fact, it has been there since 1902, and the shop owner explained to us some of the varieties of the chocolates and that the hazelnuts are hand-picked from a local farm! They were some of the best praliné chocolates I’ve had – almost as good as in Belgium at Pralinette. We finished off our day eating a late dinner near our hotel, and calling it a night!
I woke up early the next morning and rolled my suitcase to the RER, and met my parents at the airport at 9AM. Their flight was just a bit late, but I was so happy to see them when they came through the gates! We made our way to our apartment, which was just north of Montmartre, and it was just like in the pictures – so eclectic and really cozy.
We dropped off out luggage, and started our day right away (I wanted to fight their jet-lag by keeping them busy). I had put a lot of work into organizing our trip so that it was the most optimal, so that we could see the most in the least amount of time We started at la Place de la Concorde, where we got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. We decided to visit the musée de l’Orangerie, which was a great experience. My mom is an artist, and she was absolutely blown away by les Nymphéas, Monet’s Lilypads. It looked as though she was going to faint, because she was in awe. We walked through the jardin des Tuileries and made our way to the Louvre.
Both museums were nice, but my favourite of the two is still l’Orangerie, especially because of Monet’s huge paintings. We decided to finish off our touring for the day by visiting the Eiffel Tower. We stopped at Trocadero, where we got some amazing photos of the tower, and walked through the gardens to be below the tower. We decided to walk up, because the line was very long. It was a hard climb, and it was very windy, but it was so worth it! When we got to the top, it started raining, so we stayed up there and enjoyed the view, until it cleared up. We headed back to our apartment’s neighbourhood, and picked up a bunch of baguettes, cheeses, wines, charcuteries and veggies. We went back to our apartment, and enjoyed our “French dinner”. We even popped out for a bit later that night to visit Sacré Coeur Basilica, which was only one metro stop away. It was absolutely beautiful inside!
On our second day in Paris, we started off by browsing through the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, which was a flea market. Not too much was open because it was a Friday, but we saw a few cool shops that were kind of like storage garages where people arranged their vintage stuff and sat outside for you to look through. A lot of the stuff was very random like the plastic top hat that the woman was trying to sell as an ice bucket for champagne. My mom decided to try it on as a hat instead… all for 25 euros!? We enjoyed our time at the flea market, and even collected a few ideas for my mom’s art projects. We headed towards Notre Dame de Paris, and visited the cathedral. I think it was extremely nice for my parents, since they had never been, but had only read about it in books. It really is an amazing cathedral.
We saw Shakespeare and Company, and even went for the best falafel ever (that Kathleen and I discovered during Paris 3.0). After lunch, we visited the Sainte Chapelle, where my mom’s reaction was caught on camera. Her jaw literally dropped when she walked up the stairs to the upper chapel, and saw the stained glass “walls”.
We even got to squeeze in the Musée d’Orsay before it closed, which was great, because they had an exhibit on Degas’ nudes, which was a huge collection. On our way home, we picked up the same type of dinner, and even got some roasted chicken to go with it, and ate at our beautiful apartment. We decided to spend the night in, because we were all pretty exhausted from the extensive metro-tunnel walking, climbing and museum-going. It was nice to stay in, especially since we were essentially renting out someone’s house. They had bookshelves after bookshelves of interesting books, CDs, and filled with artwork. They seemed like a very cultured family, and it made it feel like we were truly living the Parisian life.
The next morning was our last full day in Paris. We started off bright and early and went to Versailles! It was great to show them Versailles as the only castle in France, since it truly is the most renown, and the most decorated castle in France.
We came back to Paris after a nice lunch of sandwiches and wine in the town of Versailles, and made our way to the Arc de Triomphe. We walked down les Champs Élysées and also got a chance to visit the Moulin Rouge and Pigalle districts (sketchy stuff). I brought them to the Étoile d’Or chocolate shop, where we had a few delicious chocolates, and even got to take a picture with the store owner – she was so cute!
We had dinner back at the apartment, and were planning on making the 8:00 boat ride on the Seine. However, we were running late, and rushed the whole way there, only to arrive at 8:02. The boat was just leaving. We were pretty upset, but it’s okay, we probably would have gotten bad seats anyway. We waited along the river banks for about 30 minutes before buying our tickets.
We got great seats, and loved the boat ride. The best part was when we were getting close to the Eiffel Tower, and decided to go out on the deck. We started taking pictures, and got stuck in front of a group of Italian students. It was pretty funny trying to get a picture of the three of us at night on a moving boat!
My favourite moments in Paris were definitely climbing to the second level of the Eiffel Tower, laughing so hard on the boat tour and walking down the streets of our neighbourhood (the Jules Joffrin metro stop) every night in search of our dinner! It was beautiful weather most of the time we were there, and it was nice to see the tulips (my favourite flower) in bloom! It was neat to have my parents get to see my new country, and to visit the places that I visited this whole year. Overall, it was amazing getting to show my parents around the city that I had come to know this year, and I’m glad they got to get an idea of why I love France so much!
Next stop: Prague, Czech Republic!