Versailles and the Louvre…

When in Rome…right??! So we had to go to Versailles and the Louvre! At least that’s what we told the kids! We decided we would take the train to Versailles on Tuesday morning and we were told to plan a whole day for the trip. The weather was fantastic. Thank you Paris for providing wonderful weather the entire time we were visiting your beautiful city! After breakfast on the sidewalk at a brasserie we headed into the Metro. We were quickly becoming pros; maneuvering the Metro is so easy. We were getting off at the Eiffel Tower stop and switching to the train to Versailles. We had done well getting up and out. The jet lag was working in our favor in the morning. The train was a double decker train that would take less than an hour with only one line change. Once we got to the cute little town, we had a short walk to the castle. When we arrived at the gate, we quickly understood the stories about Paris lines that everyone talked about. The cue was a zigzag that would keep us standing in the sun for three hours. With each passing hour it became incredibly difficult to explain to your children why this this castle is worth standing this long in line! We did get to practice our Chinese though. Behind us there was a large tour standing with us from Beijing and of course they loved talking to the westerners in Mandarin! image

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After three hours in the sun we were inside! We paid for the walking tour with headset so we could go room to room and hear the history. Chip and I found this interesting, but with the mobs of people and room after room of paintings and artifacts the kids had no schema to relate to, we quickly picked up our pace. It was amazing to see, the Hall of Mirrors, Marie Antoinette’s bed and the door she escaped out of the night they were trying to behead her, the Catholic Church inside the castle! All of this was very cool, but we were all getting a little hungry and tired and luckily we found a cafe and relaxed with water, cappuccinos and sandwiches…stragegically placed…strategically priced!

Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

Marie Antoinette's jewelry cabinet and door where she fled the castle.

Marie Antoinette’s jewelry cabinet and door where she fled the castle.


Just one of the meticulous gardens and the side of the castle.

Just one of the meticulous gardens and the side of the castle.


The back of the castle.

The back of the castle.


After we finished our tour we headed back for the train. Of course that lovely walk included a stop at another outdoor cafe for a glass of wine and ice cream for the kids!
Next on the list of course was the Louvre. What trip to Paris would be complete without a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. We explained to the kids why they must set eyes on it. But it was tricky. Especially when that involved another line with hundreds of our closest friends! So here it is….the Mona Lisa!
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This is the hallway to get to it!

This is the hallway to get to it!


So if I was giving advice to anyone traveling to Paris with children, decide how important these two activities are to you. We did not do justice to either of the entrance fees, but we saw these two famous and amazing sites. Our kids were troopers and we certainly know when they have hit their limit of paintings and statues. Would we visit these sites again with our kids, no, but we are happy we did it once. We would love to visit Paris again as there were plenty of places we didn’t have time to see, but overall we all enjoyed this amazing city and we are excited to visit again some day!

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Ah….Paris!

Paris was everything we had hoped for and more!!! In early April Chip and I started talking about where we wanted to vacation when we traveled home. Where would we take our last trip as part of this adventure? We talked about Japan, Cambodia, Dubai and Paris. Sometime near the end of April I was having a grumpy day I decided I just wanted to get out of Asia! Chip can speak French, and the kids both wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower, so it was decided!
Getting out of China wasn’t as easy as we had hoped! We were flying from Chongqing to Beijing on Friday evening at 7:00pm. When we arrived at our gate around 4:30 we were informed that the flight was delayed, but without any specifics. Somewhere around eleven when we knew we had missed our 1:00am connection out of Beijing, Chip called the help-desk through his work and got us on the 9:00am Beijing flight to Paris (We were finally thankful for the 12 hour time difference!!). Now we just hoped we could actually get to Beijing and make it on the 9:00am flight! It wasn’t until 2:30 in the morning after a Chinese voice came over the intercom and everyone jumped up running to the gate that we began boarding the plane. imageElla had been able to sleep a little in the airport, but Chip, Will and I could not and we all only got about an hour of sleep in the 2.5 hour flight to Beijing. The delays were caused by major storms passing through Beijing, so when we arrived there they were playing catch up and so of course our next flight was delayed as well. Our 9:00am flight became a 2:00pm flight, China didn’t want to let go of us! So after finally arriving in Paris, we had lost our first day of vacation. But on a positive note, we were well on our way of getting over jet lag! We fell in love with Paris on the ride from the airport! We were driving in a cab with a cab driver who was originally from Singapore and talked with Chip in both Mandarin and French during the hour drive! When we got to the downtown area Will said “this is the quaintest place I have ever been!” Paris really was exactly what I expected and better! Yes it was a big city, but so extremely different from the cities we have been in it was a breath of fresh air. There is only one high rise building in the whole city and that building is quite controversial! Needless to say they never built any others! Paris at first glance is very outdoor friendly, kids friendly, scooter friendly, dog friendly (they were all on leashes!) and smoker friendly. Once again an early observation is that lots of people smoke. Interestingly, it seemed more people smoked than in China because women openly smoke in the street where in China it was mostly men. After checking into our hotel we decided to head to the rooftop bar and have drinks and a view of the Eiffel Tower. It was a beautiful night with a glorious blue sky! Chip and I ordered a Margarita and the kids ordered a mango juice. While we sipped our drinks and admired the view, we also did a little math. Our four drinks were sixty American dollars! Oops, I guess there is a price built in to admire the view! Needless to say after that I had a strong grasp of the Euro to American dollar exchange rate! image
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On Sunday the plan was to meet up with an old friend I grew up with and her family. This was a great way to start a vacation in a city we have never been in. We got to know the metro, we got to talk to people who live and work here everyday. We got tips on what to do and we got to enjoy great company, great food and great wine! Thank you Karen, Jean, Mallory, Olivia and Mona!
On Monday we decided to go straight to the Eiffel Tower! It was so cool to see it from afar, but we wanted to get up close! The structure itself is amazing! I couldn’t get it out of my mind that I was really here, ascending the Eiffel Tower! It was larger than life and a tick off a bucket list item. Anywhere you went in the city, the tower can be seen and it was a pleasant reminder that we were in Paris!
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We took the elevator up, but we decided to walk down!

We took the elevator up, but we decided to walk down!

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Standing on the look out platform at the top of the tower gave you a feeling of awe. I definitely paused to take it all in and appreciate my life. I still cannot believe all that we have done in 18 months and knowing that this was our last big trip for a while I wanted to savor the moment. After we left the Eiffel Tower we got on a double decker tour bus for the rest of the day! We bought the combo pass so we could ride the boat on the Seine. Day two in Paris was amazing! We literally walked around all day in fabulous moods enjoying every minute! Come back to read about day three….Versailles!