Personal Travel

Leg Two of Europe 2016 – Paris/Normandy

As sad as I was to leave London, the upcoming rest of the trip was still very exciting. Paris is a city I have visited twice previously. Once on that same London trip when I was 13 and once for a day on a Germany trip when I was 15. I’ve always have a love for Paris and even decorated my childhood bedroom in all of my souvenirs (i.e. useful postcards because I don’t do trinkets) from my first trip. I’ve never bothered to change it so when I visit my room at my parent’s house I get to relive that trip over and over again. Both of my previous trips were in July so it was really cool to see how the city changes in the autumn weather.

Instead of flying to Paris it was significantly easier to just take the train. Previously, on my first trip my family and I also took the train so this wasn’t my first rodeo. However again… that was 12 years ago and I wasn’t in charge that time. I managed to get from the train station to my Air BnB unscathed and was pleasantly surprised to find that the location was as close to the Eiffel Tower as previously described. I was literally across the bridge from the tower and could see it from around the corner of my apartment. This was super convenient especially giving that my grasp of the French language was way stronger in my head than in real life. My French Rosetta Stone computer program is still collecting dust on my bookshelf…. #goals

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I managed to avoid the Metro by being this close to all of the major sites, which from my memory, saved me from some smells I would rather not ever smell again if I can help it. I did notice that in the past 10-12 years Paris does seem a lot cleaner. Maybe that’s just my memory or maybe it was because both previous times were during the height of tourist season and the city just couldn’t keep up with the demands of the people. I really enjoyed exploring the city without the previous hustle and bustle that can occur during the summer months. Either way I wasn’t about to chance it for the smell and for the fact that I most likely was going to get myself lost. If I was here for a week or so, not a problem. Three days is not enough time to salvage time from being lost. I know, I know, “getting lost is part of the adventure“! I’ll save that adventure for my fourth trip to Paris, thank you very much.

The first day was basically just getting to my apartment and walking around the neighborhood a bit. I of course had to visit the Tower several times and Day 1 was no exception. Traveling as an adult who needs to actually be in charge in a new place is way more exhausting than I remember as a teenager who just needed to follow a group. Couple that with anxiety and just getting to my next destination is already enough struggle for most of the day. I managed to get to my destinations and that was basically all I could handle for that day. I have consistently been going to bed super early mainly due from exhaustion and from the paranoia of going out at night in a new city where I don’t know where things are. My love for adventure sometimes takes a back seat to my personal fears and capacities, but that is probably what has kept me safe many a time. If you’re reading this looking for wild stories, then this is probably not the trip for you (but stay posted for other trips with more people and when I’m not in charge). 😉

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The next day was some more low-key sightseeing, which totally needed to include a trip to the Champs-Élysées! Since I had already done my major purchase in Dublin for LV, I just needed a quick run-through of the flagship store in Paris. If I hadn’t already looked at my credit card statement I might have been tempted to buy another addition to my now growing collection. I reigned it in for a few more stores, but then I ran across Longchamp. In my extensive research of what to buy in Paris I discovered than not only LV, but also Longchamp bags were significantly cheaper. They are also a great travel bag since they fold up fairly small and are made from nylon which is more water resistant than the calf-hair MK crossover I had been carrying. Yet another useful souvenir was purchased 🙂 Between the two bags I have probably saved over $500 dollars that I would have spent at some point. I already have been wanting them for a long time so it just makes logical sense to buy them both now at the cheapest I’ll ever get them rather than waiting until I’m back in the states. If I ever get the opportunity, there is also a Burberry outlet in London I discovered for the next trip! I may like to shop, but I am not into paying more than I have to for anything.

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After Longchamp the Ladurée macaron store was calling my name. I would have brought back some for others, but as I am not checking a bag that would prove difficult and they do not travel well. Let me just tell you that they were every bit as delicious as I imagined. Dublin and Harrod’s in London actually have their stores as well, but I decided to wait until Paris to get some for the real experience. I only got 4 for a little snick-snack. Coconut, pistachio, coffee, and salted caramel; all of them delicious. This one also had a little cafe inside, which I probably should have visited, but alas, there were sights to see! Someday when I am rich and famous I will spend more time on this street and the cafe will be my headquarters.

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I walked down the entire district and ended up at the Louvre glass pyramids. I had been previously had spent the better part of four hours in there the last time so I decided to skip it for this trip. However, it did remind me of the time when I went with my parents and sister. My parents left me in charge of 10-year-old Tara (who looked 7) while they went to figure out tickets for our next attraction. All around the glass pyramids there are ponds with ducks. Anyone who has met or knows of my sister probably knows about her love of animals. There are ducks everywhere on the ponds so she was just minding her own business looking at the ducks when all of a sudden an Asian family swooped in a scooped her up and started walking away with my baby sister! Thirteen year old, gothic Savannah was not as assertive as you might think and I was stumped on what to do. I sort of followed them at a concerned pace until I realized they thought she was a cute, french child that would be perfect for their family portrait. They sat her in their family picture, put her down, and walked away without a word. I was never more scared/amused in my life. Fortunately, Marc and Sarah soon returned and I did not get into trouble (my main concern). Tara and I have laughed about that for years. I can just imagine a gigantic blow up of this picture on some random family’s wall hanging there for the past 12 years.

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I like to book tours especially when I’ve already seen most main sites and want a different perspective from an insider. They also take the pressure off of me trying to figure out where I am going for the day/driving. God knows I avoid driving in foreign countries at all costs. I just get flashbacks to watching my parent’s honeymoon video of my dad driving around the Arc de Triumph, videotaping with one of those gigantic 80’s film cameras, narrating, and my mom screaming bloody murder. You need dramamine just to watch the tape. I will not be a part of any driving accident abroad if I can help it. It also doesn’t help that my manual transmission driving skills leave a lot to be desired. Marc took it upon himself to teach me in his Z06 Corvette around the North Texas Motor Speedway a few years ago… let’s just say it didn’t end with flying colors on my part.

My tour for that random site-seeing day was dinner at the Eiffel Tower followed by a show at the Moulin Rouge! I was pretty hyped since this was my first “adult” thing to do in Paris since both previous trips I was barely in high school. Let me save you the trip: it’s basically a dated Vegas show with nothing you haven’t already seen. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be really cool to say I went, actually going is a different story. Save your money. Dinner at the Eiffel Tower was also pretty cool, but I think I would rather book it on my own next time now that I’ve done it. I had read a lot of travel blogs who hyped it up a lot so I had one image in my mind, but it was actually very different. Because it was a tour and we are on a time schedule there was just a set menu that everyone got (which was good, don’t get me wrong), but probably wasn’t what I would order if I was there as just a normal patron. I will put it on my list to return next time, but it will most likely be for lunch and not on a tour.  The tour was fun though and it was nice being taken all of these places on a comfortable coach bus and skipping lines. You know how much I love living the VIP life.

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The next morning came very early for my Normandy tour. Fortunately, the meet-up spot was right down the street from my apartment, which made my early morning, anxiety-ridden walk that much easier. Our tour guide, Felix, was a very friendly and knowledgable former history teacher from Croatia. I enjoy having tour guides who aren’t from the actual city since they are most of the time not biased the way nationals would be. That being said nationals/locals should know the area really well in their own way and can offer different insights. I have been very fortunate to have really awesome tour guides most of the time so I could myself lucky. I usually book all of my tours through Viator. They have the best deals and always a wide selection to chose from. I’ve had issues with tours not being available on the dates that I want, but that’s usually my fault for looking last minute. (again: not sponsored)

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We left Paris for Normandy around 7am. I am pretty good about sleeping anywhere and everywhere so I slept the majority of the way to our first site, which was the farthest away. The bus was fairly small and didn’t have Wi-Fi (my major complaint) so sleeping was my best alternative. I do have data for some reason in all of these places, which I am sure my cell phone company is going to remind me about on my next bill even though I am on an international plan. I tried to get a portable Wi-Fi device, but even if a country is in the EU that doesn’t mean that their data plans transfer from country to country. That makes no sense to me and in this day and age with international travel being so prevalent this needs to change steps off soap box.

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Our first stop was a gas (petrol) station for breakfast and a leg stretch. We hopped back on and pretty soon were at our first site, Utah Beach. Not going to lie, I am not the biggest history buff. All of my family, that I know of, survived WW2 and no one was stationed in France so I have no personal ties to these historical sites in that way even though I did have several serve in other capacities. We did have one veteran on the trip (he hates Trump) so that was interesting especially since Felix was a history professor so he had his own personal questions, which made for a lively discussion on the bus during our “down time”. After Utah Beach we drove past a German cemetery where all of the graves were buried vertically to save space since it was such a small cemetery. After this we went to a Cidery (my favorite part) and learned about the history of the Cidery and the plans for the future. The owner just got FDA approval to sell in the US so I didn’t feel too bad that I couldn’t buy any at the moment #carryonproblems 

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After the Cidery we went to lunch in a nearby fishing village at a Michelin starred restaurant. I had probably the best Haddock I’ve ever had in my life and I am so glad I took a picture of the restaurant. I sat next to a father/son duo from Minnesota so we chatted about that for a bit since I had visited briefly in college at the Mall of America. I also discovered that there were two other Texan groups on the trip: one from Houston and the other from Forney (near Dallas)! Again, such a small world.

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After lunch we went to Pont du Hoc, which was not that far away, then to an American cemetery for their closing ceremonies where Teddy Roosevelt was buried, and then Omaha beach. We had a long drive back, but managed to stop back just in time for the Eiffel Tower to sparkle at 10pm. It was a great way to end the last night in Paris. 🙂

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Stay tuned for the rest of Europe!

-Savvy

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