I’ve Got You and Paris on My Mind: Part Three

I’ve been a slacker, plain and simple. I had grand plans of linking up with Katie for Some Things I’m Loving on Saturday, and I had grander plans of writing a Paris update for yesterday, and well clearly I didn’t do either, cause I was super lazy and spent a majority of the weekend curled up on my parents couch watching The O.C..

Of course I did manage to summon the energy to get off the couch once or twice. Saturday night I had drinks with a few friends and then went to a bar for a little while. I didn’t stay out too late, 4 am is early right? And Sunday evening, after another long day on the couch, I went to supper with my friend Debrah to discuss wedding things, because, well I love to share my opinion on things, and wedding talk is fun.

Not the most eventful weekend, but an enjoyable one.

And because I’m a firm believer in the whole better late than never thing, here’s the post I ended to have written for yesterday.

On our fourth full day in Paris, Shelley, Jennifer and I decided to take a train out of the city to visit the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial which is dedicated to the commemoration of Dominion of Newfoundland forces members who were killed during World War I. Its preserved battlefield park that encompasses the grounds over which the Newfoundland Regiment made their unsuccessful attack on 1 July 1916 during the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Our day started really really early, at about 5:30 am. We had to take the Metro to Gard de Nord, so that we could find a train heading in the direction we wanted to go.

Let me just say, that if you think three hours is a lot of time to allow to get up, get dressed and take the Metro half way across the city, then you might be right, if you weren’t going to Gard de Nord. Its one of the biggest Metro stations we visited, and doubles as a train station for SNCF. And while most of the Metro stations we passed through were very well signed, this one was not. It took us quite a while to get from our Metro stop to the ticket booth for the train, because we couldn’t find it. And even though we allowed three hours, we basically got there just in time to buy our tickets and hop on the train.

Its so cool to watch the numbers on the sign roll over.

I was so tired on the train ride that I napped most of the way to Amiens. Also, I don’t get motion sickness often, but I think if anything could induce it, it would be staring out the window of a train, so its probably a good thing that I slept instead of enjoying the view.

We had an hour and a half layover in Amiens before our train left for Albert, so we decided to see a little bit of the town and grab a coffee at a local boulangerie while we waited. We didn’t get to see much, but the little bit that we did see was very pretty. And if you ever go to France, and have a stopover here, I really suggest you wander the streets around the train station.

My cute little chocolat.

When we finally made it to Albert, it was freezing and pouring rain. We were soaked less than 10 minutes after we got off the train. And then we came to a less than wonderful realization, it was Sunday, and everything was closed. We need to catch a cab, and had zero idea of how we were going to find one. Luckily, the owner of a bar across the street from the station saw us on the corner and offered to call us a cab (but he didn’t let us inside to stay warm, how rude). We had quite a nice cab driver, even though he did drive a wee bit too fast on the windy roads to suit us, and he made sure to give us his number so that we could call him for a ride back to town to catch our return train.

By the time we made it to Beaumont-Hamel, the rain was torrential, and I really though we would blow away. But the visitor center was warm and dry, and the staff were incredibly nice, probably because they were all Canadian, and loved the fact that we were from Newfoundland. They were unbelievably accommodating, and even hooked us up with a tour guide from Newfoundland, which made the experience quite a bit more enjoyable.

Trenches where the Newfoundlanders lay in wait for the battle to begin.
These bronze plaques hold the names of the 780 soldiers who participated in the battle, only 110 survived.
Caribou memorial overlooking the ground across which the regiment advanced.
Trenches that marked the British front line.
Original posts for barbed wire. Remnants of the battle.
The Danger Tree, the furthest point any Newfoundlander made it during the battle.
A grave of two Newfoundland soldiers.
A Scottish Memorial

We learned about the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel in school. I knew that a lot of men died here, I even knew that they hadn’t made it very far in their advancement towards the German front line. But it took seeing it in person to realize how small a distance it really was. Visiting this memorial made me so much more proud to be a Newfoundlander, and it made Remembrance Day much more meaningful to me.

As much as I loved the tour of the battlefield, I do love me some war stories and all that, I was quite happy when it was over. I mean, it was super cold, and I nearly froze to death.

I only looked a little bit like a drowned rat. Massive bags under the eyes and all.

By the time we finally made it back to the city that evening I was completely 100% wiped. It was a long stressful day. Did I forget to mention that our cab driver dumped us at a restaurant and never came back to get us, and we thought we were going to miss our return train? Yeah, that happened. Anyways, I was miserable, but I was hungry, as were the girls. And we had to trek our way to the nearest Pizza Hut which felt like 1000 miles, but was only like 10 blocks, because well, we had no food, and needed to eat. And then we fell into Jennifer’s bed with our pizza and coke and didn’t move for hours.

And so ended one of the coldest, wettest and best days of my life.

Glossy Blonde

Sami's Shenanigans

I’ve Got You And Paris On My Mind: Part One

(Warning: Picture Overload. May cause extreme jealousy)

My vacation was hands down one of the best experiences of my life. Sure the weather was cold and wet, there were a lot of early mornings, a few late nights, and one or two meltdowns, but all of that combined couldn’t put a damper on how happy I was.

We rented a small one bedroom apartment in the 1st arrondissement. We were two streets away from Avenue de l’Opera, about halfway between the Louvre and Palais Garnier. Opera is a busy street with gorgeous buildings, and wonderful stores, restaurants, boulangeries, and chocolate shops. Being so close to it made me feel unbelievably alive.

There was a Starbucks on our corner, Hallelujah. Caramel Macchiato’s make me happy. We were also across the street from the very best boulangerie we found, and believe me, we tried quite a few. If you are ever in Paris and near the Opera you absolutely have to go to Boulangerie Julien. I promise that the Pain au Chocolat  and the Brioche Chocolat Pistache are worth it.

The yumminess on the right is a fresh raspberry macaron and a strawberry tartlette. Om nom nom.

I’ve dreamed of visiting Paris since I was a little girl. And all the dreaming in the world could never have prepared me for it. Its beauty and vibrance was overwhelming in the absolute best kind of way. For a girl who loves architecture, detail and decor it was absolute heaven.

Its hard to narrow down what my favorite thing about Paris is. Sure, I could pick an attraction, or a building, or a restaurant. But that would be too typical. But if I have to pick just one thing, its the design, detail, and creativity that is put into every inch of the city. Nothing is over looked. And it blows my mind. I could quite easily spend days walking the streets, soaking up my surroundings, and marveling at how ornate everything seems to be.
Sadly on a trip that’s only 8 days long wandering the streets is really not an option if you want to see all the popular sights. So, on the first full day we were there we decided to do a hop on – hop off tour with L’Open Tour. Except well, we didn’t do much hopping off. We just rode the bus around the city to get a feel for it, find out where everything was, and decide what areas of town we wanted to revisit. It turned out to be a great idea, and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting the city for the first time. I’d recommend the tour company we used as well. The buses were clean, they had an audio option, and they have four different tours to choose from. I’ve gotta say, there’s something to be said for riding around a new city on the top of a bus, even if you are frozen. There’s also something to be said for a man in a well tailored suit like 85% of the men in Paris wear, but I didn’t even try to take any pictures of that, for fear of being caught.

We were frozen, and hats and mitts were purchased that night. But we had a wonderful day.
We also decided to buy Navigo passes for unlimited access to the bus, metro and RER while we were there. A pass for two weeks was just 80 euros each, and we used them a lot. Seriously, we either walked or used our Navigo passes to get everywhere including the airport and suburbs. The pass also gave us access to bike rentals that you could pick up and return to any part of the city. We didn’t use those though, we were too scared of trying to bike around in Paris traffic, which is nuts by the way. I would never try to drive there. Before I left home I downloaded an app for my iPhone that helps you navigate the metro, even without wifi. It was a godsend. 
Having RER access meant we could easily get to the suburbs to visit the Palace de Versailles. This particular excursion was on Shelley’s list of things to do. And if I’m being honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I’m not all that interested in history so I had less than zero desire to spend a entire day in the palace of a fallen monarchy, especially since wasn’t even a castle. But holy crap, I was blown away. It is huge, like GINORMOUS.  It was beautiful. I know I keep saying that about everything, but it really truly was. We took a guided tour that gave us access to areas of the palace that are off limits to people with regular passes. I’m glad we did because it actually made me interested in the history of the palace and the monarchy instead of just the insanely amazing architecture. It blows my mind that all of this was built by hand hundreds of years ago. Long before cranes and cement trucks. 
Those are not individual buildings people. All different wings of the same one. Huge right? 
So much detail everywhere.
All that gold paint you see, yeah, that’s real gold. Everywhere.
We learned a lot about Marie Antoinette, who I must admit I thought was a fictional character until two weeks ago. What? Its not my fault. They don’t teach that stuff in school anymore. Turns out she wasn’t a very good queen, and they killed her by guillotine, but not before she built her own hamlet on the estate. Because you know, every queen needs her own hamlet when the rest of the country is starving.

Loves me a tunnel.

Thanks for letting me relive my trip. Hope you’re enjoying it and are feeling a little inspired to visit. I promise not to turn this into a series that goes on forever, I just can’t do it justice in one post. So check back for Part Two tomorrow.