Europe

A royal celebration of my aging in Paris

It’s official; I’ve kicked off the last year of my twenties! Thirty is looming, oh my oh my. But that’s still an entire year away. First, it was time to celebrate twenty-nine! And is there a better way to spent a birthday than abroad? I don’t think so!

It’s a rule for me not to work on my birthday, as I don’t want to experience any type of stress on that day. Aging is already stress enough, no? Just kidding! Last minute, my boyfriend also managed to get time off work so of course my mind instantly went to the possible trips we could take. I swear, that travel virus is one nasty one. 😉

The weather wasn’t really cooperating however. Rain was forecast all around us. But last minute it miraculously seemed like things were clearing up in the area of Paris for at least one of both days. I adore this city and my boyfriend had never been; decision made!

Early Monday morning, at 4:45am (yawn!) we hit the road and headed south. This way we’d beat at least a bit of the horrible morning traffic around Paris. Not all, that’s probably impossible, but a little before 8am we had our car parked at the Rédélé Clichy Montmartre parking garage. Win!

We had booked the car park the evening before, wanting to be sure of our spot, but also saving some money. Finding an affordable, safe parking space in Paris can be stressful, and as I said; no stress on my birthday. Or the day before. For about 26 euros we could rest assured that all was well.

As the name of the car park suggests, we were close to Montmartre. One of my favourite places in Paris. The gorgeous Sacre Coeur cathedral and the view over the city of Paris from in front of that building is simply breathtaking. The best place to start your visit of the city.

We couldn’t get to the balcony for the best view as a film crew was occupying the steps at the time, but the extra ambiance of that was pretty cool. From there we then took the subway, trying to save our feet just a little bit. Destination Arc de Triomphe! A must see, if only for the crazy traffic situation around the monument.

And can you actually go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower? It’s just one of those things that’s a must. It’s not that it’s that special of a building, but it’s an icon and therefore I simply cannot leave it out of my itinerary. And with a first-timer on my heels, it had to be checked-off, right?

More walking, from the Eiffel Tower, to Hotel des Invalides, along the Seine river to the Notre Dame cathedral. I was especially curious to see how the Notre Dame was faring after the horrible burning in April 2019. To my inexperienced eye, the facade of the cathedral seemed to be pretty intact, thank god! Around the building a whole exposition with pictures of that horrible night and the aftermath are on display. Such heartbreak.

A baguette for lunch – what else?! – and off we were again, past the gardens of the Royal Palace, to the beautiful Opera Garnier building and then of course a stop in Galleries Lafayette. Not to empty our pockets on luxuries, but to admire the decadent Christmas decorations. A must!

All of the stuff above, I’d already checked-off on my previous visits in the city. But now it was time for something new; the Louvre Museum! I know, it’s a shame. Five trips to Paris and yet I’d never entered the Louvre before. I’m not much of an art lover, but there are just some places that are a must see. And the Louvre is one of them.

But be warned; it’s big. Massive. HUGE! We got our hands on a map and were already wondering how on earth we’d manage to see all rooms before closing time. Fortunately you can find a lot of help online on what are the must sees. So we stuck to those. And mostly just wandered through the amazingly decorated rooms of this impressive building. Just when you thing you’ve seen the most exquisite room, another appears. It’s crazy.

While the Mona Lisa is of course thé must see – not that it’s that impressive -, I was mostly in awe of the Napoleon III Apartments and the Galerie d’Apollon. The riches there are mindblowing!

After three hours, my feet and knee simply couldn’t take it anymore. We rounded up our visit of the museum and went to look for dinner, which we found at a place called Le Florentin. Great food, good service and affordable. Check!

My Garmin watch indicated 34 kilometers walked that day, so we opted to take the subway back to our car. The nearest metro stop was close to the Moulin Rouge, so one more glace at that iconic structure before we retrieved our vehicle and headed a little more south.

Yup, the trip wasn’t over yet! My actual birthday was the day after, so we had arranged a hotel a little outside the city. Not to avoid the city by night, but because I was eager to check another must-see of my bucket-list; the Versailles Palace! We spent the night at the Hotel Pavillon Des Gatines. A basic, but clean motel-style hotel. More than enough for me!

And then the next morning; happy birthday to me! Time for some royal celebrations in one of the most famous palaces in the world! Finally!!

We chose the easy option for parking; right in front of the palace, on Place d’Armes. It seemed like all parking options in Versailles were pretty expensive, so not why make it easy on ourselves, right?. We had another big palace to visit and saving a few steps didn’t seem like a bad idea.

Entrance to the palace for us was booked at 10am, but we were allowed in a bit earlier. Yay! In this building, you simply go from one breathtaking room to the other. It’s extremely decadent and just too much. After a while it becomes an overload of luxury. The ceilings, the tapestries and just ALL. THE. GOLD! It was hard to wrap my head around it all.

And then we arrived in the most famous room of them all; the Hall of Mirrors. Wow. Simply wow! It reminded me of the Grand Foyer in the Opera Garnier and even the Galerie d’Apollon from the Louvre. Mind-boggling!

Leaving the Palace behind, we set foot in the gigantic gardens surrounding the building. And when I say gigantic, I mean gi-gan-tic. It’s insane! You can even rent golf carts to get around the property. We figured we were young enough to get around by foot – yes, even with the extra year added that very day-, but boy, it’s all quite a distance. I think we ended up with 16 kilometers on the sport watch after our visit.

The weather wasn’t that great and it was winter time, so the gardens itself are a bit of a letdown for me. I’d love to come back to see those in full bloom in spring or summer while the fountains are also operational. I’m sure it’s a whole other sight then.

But we had to cross the gardens to get the the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet. All three also worth a visit. The first two are more beautiful rooms, but the last one, the Queen’s Hamlet, was my favourite. A little village around an artificial lake, made for Marie-Antoinette’s walks. An odd sight after all the rest of the sights.

A little birthday cake at Angelina café next to the Petit Trianon of course couldn’t be passed upon. Yummy! Expensive, but worth it.

And that concluded our visit at the Domaine de Versailles. An amazing location to celebrate aging! But all good things come to an end; it was sadly time to head home again, back to reality. But I’d just had one of the best birthdays so I am in no way complaining. Ready for the next year in life!

♡ Ellen

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