After almost a week on the road, we are finally home from our first European family vacation and recovering from six days of nonstop sightseeing in Paris, Bruges, and Amsterdam. My sister, Alli, was visiting for the first time since we moved out here, so it was extra special for my mom and me to have someone else to share our travels with. We did a ton of fun things so I’m breaking the trip down with one post for each city so people don’t drown in a single 3,000-word post.
We arrived in Paris in the evening to pouring rain—not exactly what you want for your first visit to one of the world’s most treasured cities. Our cute little hotel was in the Latin Quarter about a 10-minute walk from Notre Dame, so the first thing we did was grab our raincoats and head to the cathedral. Even in the rain, the centuries-old architecture was stunning, towering over the Seine River. We walked in to find the 7 p.m. mass going on with tourists and locals alike coming together for prayer. We had the surreal experience of having communion at one of the world’s most famous Catholic churches, so that was a pleasant surprise to start our trip and made going out in the rain worth it. And luckily that was the only rain we had on our whole trip.
We saw so many different sights, from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe to Les Invalides, because we took a two-day hop-on/hop-off bus tour that made it super easy to get around the city. By far my favorite was the Eiffel Tower, probably just because it’s so iconic. Our first day it was extremely crowded with tourists, more tourists than I’ve seen at any other attraction in my life, so we waited till the second day to go up to the observation deck. Mom had already done it before so Alli and I went alone, climbing 704 steps to the second level and then taking an elevator to the very top. The sun was out (a rarity in Europe) which meant we could see the city really well and take good pictures. We could even look down on the Trocadero where Tom Cruise was filming his next Mission Impossible movie. I also found it cool that there was a graphic going all around the wall pointing out world cities in whichever direction we were facing and comparing their landmarks’ sizes to the Eiffel Tower—who knew the Washington Monument is only about half its size?
The Catacombs was my other favorite thing we did just because they were so unique compared to everything else. Though we waited about an hour and a half in line to get in, it was definitely worth it. At first they just seem like a series of cold, dark underground tunnels, but when we got to the section that holds the remains of more than six million people, the atmosphere became very spooky. Piles of bones and lined-up skulls formed the walls and tunnels continued for so long with skeleton after skeleton. A security guard even checked bags at the end to make sure people didn’t steal any bones. Definitely a different way to see some history in Paris.
And let’s not forget the food! While it’s hard to fit in meals when you’re spending so much time and money sightseeing, we definitely still got to enjoy some French cooking. For breakfast we mostly had croissants and coffee. At the Eiffel Tower, we picked up some warm Nutella crepes from a stand at the base. The best meal was our lunch on the second day, where we ate a cafe right by Notre Dame. I had croque madame covered in delicious gooey cheese and a fried egg. As an appetizer, Alli and I split an order of escargots. I never thought I’d say snails could be one of my favorite foods, but I loved the chewy texture and they were coated in garlic butter which helped distract me from what I was actually eating. I’ll add that to the list of weird animals I’ve eaten—kangaroo, crocodile, shark, frog legs and now snails!
Our other culinary adventure was waiting in line 45 minutes for Ladurée macarons from the flagship shop on the Champs-Élysées. They’re as famous as Georgetown Cupcake back home and Mom had brought some back to the states for me two years ago when she went to Paris for work, so visiting the bakery myself was a must!
The more time I spent in Paris the more I started to appreciate being in such an iconic setting. At first I found it overwhelming and rather dirty, but it was cool to see how the architecture differs from Germany to France and all the sights there were truly breathtaking. I’m sure I’ll be back for Christmas sometime or to visit Euro Disney!