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Paris Part Three: Versailles

21 May

Grandiose. Opulent. Gaudy. Lavish. Ostentatious. Versailles.

We really lucked out with lines on our trip to Paris. The longest line we waited in was undoubtedly at Versailles, and even there we waited no more than thirty minutes.

Louis the Fourteenth greeted us at the golden gates.

Louis XIV Statue Versailles

Versailles Gate

Hallway at Versailles

The ceiling of the Royal Chapel transported me back to our honeymoon reminding me of all the gorgeous Italian frescos we saw.

Versailles Ceiling

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Paris Eats

20 May

Here is what I found odd and endearing about eating in Paris:

  1. No butter or oil for your baguette
  2. No bread plates -patrons placed their bread directly on the table
  3. Tips tax included in the menu price -how spoilingly (yep, made up that word) refreshing
  4. Waiters looking at you sideways if you refused espresso and/or dessert after any meal
  5. How long the French linger over each meal
  6. Having to request your check each time you finished your food- it is thought rude for a server to present a bill before it is requested

Anthony and I learned quickly that most Parisian restaurants are closed between lunch and dinner and reopen around 7:30pm. We weren’t quite hungry for lunch after getting situated in our HomeAway, missed our first opportunity for a good meal, and were starving by dinner time. La Fontaine de Mars, a suggestion I had picked up from an article about interior designer Kelly Wearstler, served excellent French fare . There, I ate Morel mushrooms for the first time. I’m a believer.

La Fontaine de Mars | Paris, France

Rue Saint Dominique, an avenue near the Eiffel Tower, was packed with too many wonderful restaurants and patisseries. Some of my other favorites in the neighborhood were Les CocottesGateaux Thoumieux, and Aux Merveilleux de Fred.

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Paris Museums

19 May

I was pretty proud of myself for having written two blog posts in advance that posted while I was in Paris. What I failed to prepare for was the need for a vacation after my vacation. I have been back from Paris for just at a week now and have readjusted back to normalcy, which is far less exciting yet somehow far more exhausting than the thirteen hour days I spent traipsing around the City of Lights with my husband.

It is unreal how much we crammed into five days in Paris. While I wish we had another day or two so we would have slowed the pace and sipped just a little more wine in the outward-facing cafe chairs, I think we did Paris well, and we certainly did it big.

I have sifted through over a thousand pictures (eek!) and will share about 100 photos of our trip over the next five days. Today, I’ll focus on museums, tomorrow, French food!

Anthony and I opted to purchase the Paris museum pass, which is something I have always forgone in other cities. With it, we skipped some long lines and saved a few euros, while being able to pop into a few museums we wouldn’t have otherwise made time for.

Musee d’Orsay had an amazing Van Gogh exhibit going on.

Musee d'Orsay

Orsay Museum

Inside d'Orsay

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Rome Wasn’t Built In a Day, but We Saw It In One.

20 Sep

In the middle of planning our next big trip, and for the sake of the information I couldn’t find pre-honeymoon, I’m writing this post on what I learned about International cruising and getting the most out of Rome in 8 hours.

When in Rome… Anthony and I managed to hit all of the highlights on our honeymoon after our cruise ship docked in Civitavecchia, about an hour’s train ride away. I cannot tell you how many times we were told, by people who had been to Rome, that we wouldn’t have time for both the Vatican and the Colosseum. We managed to see the Vatican, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps.

Tips for Cruising to Rome*

First and foremost, plan ahead for tickets. If we hadn’t purchased advance tickets online, I can tell you that everyone who told us we couldn’t see the Vatican and the Colosseum would have been right. Avoid using travel sites and services and purchase tickets directly from the museums and sights. By 9:30am the line to get into the Vatican Museum was wrapped around 3 walls of Vatican City. We passed everyone standing in line, walked straight up to the gate where there is a separate entrance for online reservations, and waited less than 5 minutes to enter. The situation was similar at the Colosseum. For the sake of time, I’d advise skipping the Vatican tour; it takes about 3 hours. In my opinion, the first 300 Roman sculptures were plenty.

Tips for Cruising to Rome **

The Gallery of Maps, or Galerie des cartes géographique, was incredible. The Sistine Chapel was far more incredible than I had envisioned. I concluded from that Vatican that Rome is like Texas. Romans are very proud of Rome. Expect it to take you about 30 minutes from the time you want to leave to find the exit. The Vatican is like Ikea: even the shortcuts make you walk through half of the enormous building.

Secondly, plan ahead for transportation. By researching the train schedules before we left, Anthony and I found that trains ran from Civitavecchia to Rome pretty frequently. We knew we were safe to skip the expensive cruise-sponsored excursions or transportation into the Eternal City. We bought our TrenItalia tickets in advance, but happily paid for new tickets when we ported early. Also note the time of returning trains. We had to leave Rome earlier than we would have liked in order to make our All Aboard. Trains don’t run quite as frequently from Rome to Civitavecchia.

Tips on Cruising to Rome **Civitavecchia’s port is a 10-15 minute walk to the train station. If you’re heading to Rome by way of the train station, you might like to know that we did not encounter and English speaking employees there. Give yourself time to find the right platform. We got off at San Pietro and walked straight to St. Peter’s Basilica. Here, we made it in early enough to miss the line that had formed by the time we left.

Don’t waste an hour walking. The Colosseum is on the opposite side of the river from the Vatican, so for 11 euros or so, hail one of the many cabs that are waiting right outside the exit. Anthony and I got a great cabby who was happy to practice his English and tell us about the sites we were passing. We had him drop us off at the Colosseum to be sure we wouldn’t miss that, but in hindsight, I would have had him drop us off at the Spanish Steps, walked to Trevi Fountain, and then continued walking to the Colosseum, which was closest to Roma Termini,  the train station we left from. At Trevi Fountain, toss a coin over your left shoulder using your right had. Anthony and I tossed coins every way except the correct way.

Tips on Cruising to Rome **Grab some yummy Italian lunch and some gelato. If you’ve got an extra day, or even a few extra hours, add the Pantheon and Basilica San Clemente to your must-see list.

See more of our Honeymoon here.

Above all, remember (insert creeper photo from the Colosseum) that…

Tips on Cruising to Rome **

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