Picking up where we left off, we had spent a few days stuffing our faces with pasta, drinking Prosecco by the gallon, and making sure to throw a gelato in when necessary (<–always necessary). Then, ready to trade gluten in the form of pasta, for that in a flaky, buttery, baguette shape, we excitedly boarded a sleeper train running a straight shot from Venice to Paris.
Back in high school I did one of those 2 week tours with a few classmates, and I’m fairly certain we made this same trip. Only, back then I remember boarding the train and nearly melting in the oppressive heat and wondering what the heck the heavy wool blankets at the end of my couchette were for, then waking the next morning, snuggled tightly in said blanket, to the Parisian cityscape.
This trip was not like that.
We chose to do a 6 couchette berth so we could all stick together. The train was air conditioned. And for the first few hours, when most of the train was still empty (it later filled up as we made a few more stops), we enjoyed having our cabin and a few neighboring ones to ourselves. We visited the dining cart and had a nice dinner, then retreated back to our berth for some friendly chit chat before it was time to hit the sack.
At this point everyone was pro-trains, and ready to start trying the few routes that are available in the states for their next trips.
The problems started when instead of only a couple of stops between Venice and Paris, we instead seemed to stop about every hour, but we managed to work through the starting and stopping. NBD. However, a few stops later we were awakened to what sounded like police aboard the train. Having just gotten Aubrey back to sleep, when the border control knocked heavily on our cabin door my mom nearly attacked them, but managed to just politely whisper scream “we just got the baby to sleep!!!”
Surprisingly they apologized and were fairly quick in double checking all of our passports and moving on. Only, we didn’t move on. As in they then came back through a second time, and we sat for close to 2 hours on the Swiss border while the officials searched the train from top to bottom, arrested a few people, took a few people off who were missing proper documentation (including a man in the cabin next to us), threw off some stowaways, and brought the drug dogs through.
Now aware our train was going to be 2 hours delayed in arriving in Paris, we readjusted and adapted, just happy the train finally started moving.
Then it stopped again. I don’t even know what border it was this time, but we were stopped for another hour-ish. Around this time the AC started to go in and out (it was completely out two cars down). The heat started to seep in, the bathrooms had become a tragedy no one wanted to deal with, sleep was impossible, but thankfully, thankfully, Aubrey continued to sleep.
18 hours later we arrived and breathed sighs of relief as the unseasonably cool Parisian weather washed over our now filthy selves. I don’t even want to think about the state of the PJ’s Aubrey wore during the ride.
A call to the property manager and a short, yet scenic taxi ride later we were presented to our Parisian apartment. And it was awesome!
Although we were exhausted, we were instantly reenergized and ready to get out on the town. Jill and I made a quick run to Meat & Bread for some burgers, while the rest of the crew freshened up and napped a bit. Then we hit the streets.
The Pompidou Center, Hôtel de Ville, and Notre Dame were just a short walk away, and the weather was just perfect. I quickly remembered just how much I loved Paris. A love affair that started years ago when Will and I studied abroad there. I was a little sad he couldn’t be there to relive it with me.
We had about 5 days in Paris altogether. One thing I should note, we did go during summer, in what is most definitely peak tourist season. One thing the whole family agreed on was that we had little desire to actually do the full tourist tour of the various sites. So we didn’t actually wait in the line to go in Notre Dame, and we didn’t navigate through the overwhelming experience that is the Louvre. For some that’s probably not ok, but for us it was perfect. We were able to see a number of different sites, while still having plenty of downtime to just enjoy the city and each other.
That evening we found a little cafe and had a round of steaks with a roquefort cheese sauce and some French wine.
The next day we set out for Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur.
We did go inside this time.
After walking around and ooh and ahhing at the artwork lining the square, we settled in for lunch. I was craving something with some greenery after all the pasta in Italy. So a nicoise salad was in order!
Our second stop of the day was the Catacombs. We didn’t get there till late late afternoon and were told we could expect to wait for 2 hours before getting in. We were just hoping to get in before it closed at 8:00 pm.
Luckily the line went much faster than expected, and after wrestling A’s stroller down the super narrow spiral staircase, we were in the empire of the dead.
Aubrey chose this time to express her frustration at being dragged all over the place for days on end. So these pictures are not great. We practically ran through, while A’s high pitched protests reverberated throughout the tunnels.
It came as a surprise everyone (although not to me), that they liked Paris much better than Italy. The French are just so nice, the food is so varied and all of it so delicious, and the history and architecture of the city is just unbelievable. It’s still one of my most favorite places. It also helped that I was back in a place where I could at least read and understand the language slightly better. Our bad luck seemed to have subsided, and we fell into the magic that is Paris in the summer.
To be continued…