It’s been a while since our trip to Europe, so I thought it best to finish off the series. Our final two destinations after Belgium was France to see Versailles and Paris and then finally Amsterdam.
We started off with a short trip to Versailles for two nights. Getting there was one of the more stressful times in our trip, again due to issues navigating the local train network (recurring theme it seems). On hitting Paris and struggling to find an efficient way to get to Versailles we ended up just buying a ticket to get to the next station and getting off the train and buying a new ticket to the next station. After about three trains this got us to Versailles.
Once there we got to the last of our Air BnB stays, a lovely little studio apartment not far from the Palace. The host there was delightful despite there being a communication gap. He spoke little English but was in the process of learning and had his teacher on site to assist. It was sort of fun having him describe everything in the apartment (“This is a toaster, you can make toast”) and every now and again we’d let him know when we called something by a different name.
We had a great visit to the Versailles Palace the next day. Unfortunately we hadn’t planned the stop as well as we may have liked and went the day of the week that the palace isn’t open to the public. Fortunately walking around the grounds was more than sufficient and kept us busy for an entire day. Other than our trip to the Vatican, I doubt we walked further than we did visiting the Versailles gardens. Certainly I’d recommend anyone travelling to Paris visits the palace, just make sure you don’t go on a Monday.
After Versailles we travelled to Paris where we spent just under a week. I won’t do a day by day run down, but there was a number of highlights. Chief amongst them was a trip through the Paris catacombs, an eerie series of underground tunnels filled with the remains of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of peoples. It was quite remarkable to walk through there and in some ways it made you as an individual feel rather insignificant in the scheme of things. Well worth a trip, but be prepared for a long lineup if you go. We arrived almost an hour before opening and didn’t get through the front gate until 40 minutes after the doors started letting people through.
It goes without saying that the Louvre was wonderful and had a lot to see. Again we got hit by long lines, but once in it was a great way to spend a day. Surprisingly it wasn’t too hard to get up front near the Mona Lisa. I’d been told to expect an hour plus effort to do so, but I think it took us all of ten minutes when we got there about mid day. If you do go to the Louvre, also make sure to check out the shopping centre that’s underground near by. We missed it at the time and revisited it. While there wasn’t a lot to see down there, it was sort of cool and the inverted pyramid was a sight to behold.
The Arc Di Triumph proved to be a bit of a disappointment. Maybe something to see if you’re in the area, but myself and Ali both felt it was a bit of a waste of time having set out specifically to see it. In some regards it is impressive, it’s just that there’s impressive architecture all over Paris and most of it isn’t surrounded by 20 lanes of traffic. We actually found the traffic more interesting than the monument itself. Perhaps going inside is another matter, but the entry price was a bit steep and we figured the Eiffel Tower would give us a better view of Paris.
Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, I really enjoyed going up there. We went just before sun set so the sun was up as we went up and the moon out as we came down. Compared to other buildings around the world, it really isn’t that high (and we didn’t even get to the upper platform), but given Paris is such a low built and flat city you really do get a remarkable view of the place and it does span on and on and on. Unfortunately I couldn’t work out how to get to the top platform as tickets didn’t appear to be available when I booked months ahead as well as at the time, but I wasn’t disappointed with the second levels views anyway. I doubt Ali would have coped with going all the way up, so perhaps its for the best.
Overall I loved Paris and would go back there in a heart beat. There’s so much to see including a few things I haven’t gone into (Norte Damn etc). Also despite being warned that the people can be a bit rude to foreigners, I found the French to be absolutely delightful. I really had to question how that opinion of them gets spread. Besides Scotland, France is the one country we visited that I would look to go back to (well possibly Belgium as well). We even worked out the metro pretty quick and once we had, it was a fantastic way to get around the city.
After Paris we headed to Amsterdam for thee or four days. I did enjoy my time there but unless I was going with friends I don’t see any need to stay for longer than we did. It was very interesting to walk past the famous red windows, but other than that and a number of eateries the places seemed rather devoid of things to do. There is the Ann Frank museum, but it didn’t really interest us and I’ve been told the lines are horrendous. It was just nice walking around the city though and taking in the architecture, especially around the canals. Ultimately Amsterdam proved to be far tamer than I had originally anticipated. I’d gone in expected a rather sleazy place but in many regards the controlled regulation of the sex industry has resulted in the entire city being quite clean and pleasant. If anything the red light district felt more welcoming than say the Valley in QLD on a Friday night. Not what I expected.
And that was the trip! After what felt like an eternity we eventually got home, drained and tired but in many ways richer for the experience. Ali in particular was glad to be back in her own bed. We both enjoyed it and it’s given us some thoughts as to where we’d go in the future, but it also makes me appreciate home more as well. Certain comforts such as free public bathrooms that are readily available is something I’ve always taken for granted and then missed while overseas. All in all it was an eye opening experience and one I’m glad I had.