Tag Archives: history dork

London, Again

So, I went back to London. I just loved it so very much I couldn’t help myself! Plus, my complete and total obsession with the movie Love Actually has planted enduring dreams of London at Christmastime in my mind, so I jumped at the chance to go the weekend after Thanksgiving, right as November was poised to become December–my very favorite month of the year.

I’m sure no one’s surprised to hear that I went to the Kensington Whole Foods…three times in two days. The very best part was our Friday night dinner, which consisted of American-style Thanksgiving food! This in itself completely made my weekend. It was admittedly a little sad to be away from home on Thanksgiving for the first time, even if I’m away from home in Paris. But nothing else could have possibly been quite as warm and comforting to me that day as mashed sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce from Whole Foods.

PB253736

I also enjoyed an abundance of vegetables, which the French do not believe in, over the course of the weekend. Aren’t they beeauuutiful?

PB253735

Don’t worry, though, I also took the opportunity to enjoy some real English food. At last, fish and chips!

PB243686

I didn’t get any fish and chips in August because I was absolutely reeling from the horrible dollar to pound/euro conversion and the high costs of everything in Europe and was terrified my bank account wouldn’t last throughout the semester. In fact, I barely remember eating at all the first time I went to London…and know for a fact that we had beer for dinner at least once. Insanity! Don’t worry Mom and Dad, you’ll be happy to hear I’ve gotten over my shock at the conversion rates and now spend freely! (God help me when I’m a real person and have to learn about scary things like budgets and responsible spending.)

I actually got to do several things I didn’t get to the first time around, once of which was visiting Borough Market. Even though it was crowded, it completely lived up to my expectations. On my next trip to London, I’ll be back.

PB253740

PB253744

PB253742

PB253750

PB253751

So, now that I’ve gotten the crucial thing–food and everywhere they sell it–out of the way, let’s move on to culture and sight-seeing, shall we?

I insisted upon returning to some of my favorite spots. We wandered through Hyde Park, where I loved seeing all the swans gathered in a pond near Kensington Palace.

PB243670

PB243679

I of course returned to Westminster to visit my favorite building in all of Europe. At least in terms of exteriors. Can I say that? I think I can say that. The Duomo might be a close second. Oh, I mean, the Louvre. That’s pretty impressive. Okay, I can’t pick a favorite. But I really, really, love, love this one. A lot. I mean, it’s been there, just being beautiful, for hundreds of years! Incredible. Incredible.

PB243689

I also went to the Tate Modern, but I don’t have any pictures because I accidentally checked my camera with my bag when I walked in. But it was awesome!

Moving right along to my very favorite part of the trip (aside from Kensington Whole Foods, obviously): anything and everything to do with Christmastime!

Starting with the Christmas lights on and around Regent Street…

PB263761

PB263762

PB263763

And ending, most importantly, with my Christmas dream to end all Christmas dreams: Harrods decked out in all its festive holiday glory. It was a verifiable wonderland.

PB253706

PB253713

PB253714

PB253719

PB253718

Maybe the funniest part of being back in London was noticing not how the city has changed since my trip there in August (not much aside from the Christmas decorations), but rather how I’ve changed. Walks that felt incredibly long on my first trip seemed to pass in an instant this time around. And, shockingly, I was not appreciate of but rather annoyed by our many attentive waiters–somewhere along the way, against all odds, I seem to have adjusted to the Parisian standard of service. I remember landing in London, fresh off the plane from the U.S., and delighting in how European London was. On my recent trip, I was surprised by how very American it seemed. Everything from the way people walked around with Starbucks cups to the presence of Urban Outfitters and Whole Foods to the way parents coddled (and, dare I say, seemed to enjoy the presence of) their children to the many pedestrians on the streets not dressed to the nines (how dare they!) served to remind me of all the things I’ve come to accept as normal in Paris that are not part of my life at home. Throughout the semester, I’ve maintained that both Europe and America do so many things right and so many things wrong. I keep threatening to build an island in the middle of the Atlantic that combines all the things I love best about Europe and all the things I love best about America…but maybe, just maybe, London could be that island?

I just wish they’d appreciate the importance of dressing well to go to the grocery store.

Oh God, they’ve got me.

Advertisements

on the homefront

So, I’ve been traveling like crazy and therefore have lots and lots to share but little time to share it! Don’t worry, though, I’m here to promise you and myself that I’ll be fully caught up by the time I leave for this weekend’s trip.

In the midst of all this traveling, I did manage to spend a weekend in Paris! Well, at least in France. There were some memorable day trips involved.

The first weekend in November, my friends Eric and Jimmy came to Paris. I love when people come to visit because it gives me an excuse to do all the touristy things I love and also helps me to check some of my other must-do tourist stops off the list.

For starters, I went to the top of Notre Dame! Happily, there were lots of gargoyles, and the view was gorgeous–one of my favorites so far.

PB033147

PB033150

Unhappily, no, I didn’t see Esmerelda or the Hunchback. Disappointing, Notre Dame, disappointing.

We also went through the cathedral itself just in time to witness some intensely Catholic people in the midst of an intensely Catholic ritual.

PB033139

Creepy.

No, what was actually happening was the revelation of the alleged crown of thorns–yes, the crown, the one Jesus wore when he was crucified. Well, with all due respect, I somehow don’t think the crown was made of spotless sterling silver…sooo…that’s awkward.

I also finally went to Cafe de Flore, one of the most well-known cafes in all of Paris and former gathering place of lots of famous artsy tortured writers.

PB043160

The boys were inspired by the spirit of Hemingway and ordered whiskey.

PB043161

I was inspired by the lowest possible price and the color pink and ordered a Kir. Don’t lie, Ernest, I’m sure you did the same thing at some point.

PB043163

We ended up doing something of a walking tour of Paris one night, and because it is Paris, I of course saw or noticed things I’ve never seen or noticed before.

For instance, I finally did what I have dubbed the “death dart” through the traffic circle surrounding the Arc de Triomphe to get beneath the thing. There’s no delegated crossing place, so basically you just have to say a prayer, run out into the giant no-lanes-no-rules circle while dozens of cars speed by and swerve around you, and desperately hope for best. It’s exhilarating, and I never want to do it again.

PB043176

Oh wait, except once we got to the middle, admired the giant structure, and paid our respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, we had to go back. Oops. Forgot about that. At this point just moving in was looking like a viable option. (I’m happy to report that I both made and survived the return trip, though, and am not writing this from my perch by the tomb.)

That night, I also got to see the last Eiffel Tower light show of the night…which, little did I know, is extra cool because they turn all the lights off except for the ones that are sparkling…so it’s like Eiffel Tower: The Dark Knight. Or something. I don’t know. It was dark and cool and edgy. I liked it.

PB043189

Other weekend activities included following the Rose Line through the city…some of us were more excited than others to finally find it.

PB053241

But we had lots of fun tracking it from Montparnasse…

PB053243

through Luxembourg Gardens…

PB053246

and all the way to Saint-Sulpice.

PB053266

PB053272

PB053278

The famous church is where the best part of the journey awaited us: this sign.

PB053270

HAHAHA! Little do these church people know, Tom Hanks is always right. Thus, there is a Rose Line. And it is here. (See: The DaVinci Code if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

The Tom Hanks fun continued that weekend with an extra special French day trip: to Normandy!

PB043195

(See: Saving Private Ryan if you don’t know what I’m talking about. But please, please tell me you know what I’m talking about.)

My inner American History dork came out in full force on this excursion. However, my knowledge was sadly sup-par, and I spent a significant portion of the day BBM-ing my dad, who actually knows what he’s talking about and could give me the real play-by-play of how D-Day (and WWII for that matter) unfolded. Thanks, Dad!

Let me tell you something funny about visiting the beaches of Normandy, though. The French don’t want you to do it. They hate Americans being patriotic, I guess. Our trip involved a train to Caen (that left from a different train station than SNCF told us, thanks for that), a shorter train ride to a small town outside Caen, and then a bus ride to Omaha Beach. Where, at 3:30 in the afternoon, our bus driver informed us (literally as the doors were closing) that no more buses were coming that day, so we were stranded in small-town Normandy. Uh, great. He then sped off, leaving a small crowd of nine or ten very confused Americans in his wake. HEY BUDDY, remember that time we saved your scrawny French derriere in WWII We were unimpressed. Very unimpressed. And let me just say, I imagine if that if the French had pulled off an incredibly courageous and daring wartime feat comparable to the Allied Forces landing on the beaches of Normandy and, you know, fighting off the Nazis, there would be government-sponsored trains running every five minutes to the site of said feat. And everything would be forever preserved in solid gold. And encrusted in diamonds.

I really do love, you France. All in good fun.

All American patriotism aside, though, I really do think it should be a little bit easier to do what we were trying to do. After all, it is a pretty important site in, you know, WORLD HISTORY. Anyway. It was worth it.

The beaches were beautiful in an incredibly solemn way. Maybe it was just knowing what happened there, but it was almost haunting.

PB043203

PB043205

PB043210

(Didn’t stop us from snapping a few tourist pictures. American and proud, y’all.)

We also visited the D-Day museum by the beach, which was small but cool. I think my favorite part of the day, though, was visiting the British cemetery. (Because, oh wow, shocking, the rest of the day had been so easy! But the American one was closed.) Still, even though it wasn’t the final resting place for fellow American citizens, it was incredibly moving and really very upsetting to stand among the graves. Fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, young and old, my age, my sister’s age, my dad’s age…it was really incredibly difficult to fathom the losses so many people faced that day.

PB053228

PB053225

PB053231

PB053232

Normandy was definitely on my abroad bucket list, so I’m really, really glad I got to make the trip. It was worth every little bit of difficulty the French put me through to do it. (Kidding, kidding. Sort of.)

Another recent day trip was to Rouen! Which any fellow art history dorks might recognize as the home of the Rouen Cathedral, which Monet famously painted multiple times in a series that experimented with the changing qualities of light. Others might know the small city as the site of Joan of Arc’s (or should I say Jeanne d’Arc’s?) death at the stake. So, that’s whimsical and artsy, too. No it isn’t.

Here’s the famed cathedral.

PB063296

And see the cross? That’s where Mademoiselle Jeanne d’Arc was burned. Alive. So. Ahem. That’s…awkward.

PB063320

All drama aside, Rouen was a really cute little town…that somehow, with a population just over 100,000, still gets to have an Hermes?

PB063311

That seems sort of unfair, Hermes. But whatever. Whatever.

I spent most of my day in the Vieille Ville, which was really charming because the architecture is almost entirely that style that I think is called half-timbered (but I’m not sure) but definitely looks like this:

PB063293

PB063294

I liked it. It’s the kind of city I would love to see at Christmastime, because I already felt like I was walking through a little gingerbread village. (A gingerbread village with an Hermes.) Charmed.

Aside from walking through the streets, highlights of the day included the cathedral…

PB063301

…an especially delicious apple pastry (just embracing fall)…

PB063317

…and a visit to the museum that houses the second largest collection of Impressionist works (behind the Musee d’Orsay, obviously, holla…). As cool as it was to actually see some of Monet’s (haha I just typed Money’s…) Rouen Cathedral paintings in Rouen, I think my favorite thing I saw there was the temporary exhibition installed in the stairways.

PB063337

It was cool. It made me smile and wonder how on earth the artist did that. And hey, if art does that, it’s doing something right…right? Maybe I’m just on serious art overload over here.

All in all, it was a great day. It’s consistently amazing to me how different the rest of France feels from Paris. I was told several times when I first arrived here that there’s Paris, and there’s the rest of France…and there are Parisians, and then there’s the rest of the French. Very different. I get where they’re coming from. And I am so, so grateful to get to experience it all.

PB063331

Plus fall.

Rome

Roma Roma Roma…the last stop on our amazing trip. The Eternal City. Rome was nothing like I expected in some ways and exactly like I expected in others. The city was sprawling and beautiful, at once modern and ancient. Cars raced down streets and around traffic circles in a frantic, interminable river, making crossing the street a heart-pumping, adrenaline-filled experience. Ancient ruins sat waiting around every corner, Vespas whizzed by constantly, and the food–the food. It was unforgettable.

Rome was actually a little bit sad at first, because our little travel family went separate ways upon arrival. Amanda is studying in Rome for the semester, so she went back to her homestay. Heather’s parents were in town, so she headed off to their hotel. Meanwhile, Nicole, Tess, and I checked into our hostel. But we also gained a traveler! My friend Eric met us in Rome, bringing the Tulane count to six. NICE.

Nicole and I celebrated our arrival in Italy with some McDonald’s french fries. What, that’s not what you want immediately upon arriving in the capital of the greatest food country ever? Weird of you.

PA272664

Our first night, we wandered around a bit before meeting Amanda for dinner. We ended up passing this impressive building. I’m still not entirely sure what purpose it serves, but Tess’s guidebook described it as a monument basically just meant to say “WE ARE ITALY. WE ARE GREAT.”

PA282672

PA282674

Fair enough.

We also sat by these Roman ruins and tried to figure out where exactly the Colosseum was. Embarrassingly enough, it was pretty much right down the street. We didn’t find out until a day later. It would seriously be like standing on the Champs Elysées and scratching your head over the location of the Arc de Triomphe. I pray that no actual Romans overheard our conversation. Or, you know, anyone.

PA282685

Dinner that night was 1000 kinds of amazing. (This was sort of a theme in Italy…shockingly.) We went to Dar Poeta, an amazing little restaurant located on the most charming cobblestone alley you’ve ever seen in your life. It was in Trastevere, a.k.a. Amanda’s hood! Unreal.

PA282702

We feasted on bruschetta (Amanda and I had a blue cheese and honey variety that was actually life-changing, I crave it regularly) and some of the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life.

PA282693

PA282697

PA282698

Oops, blurry.

The real highlight of the meal, however, was this:

PA282701

That, my friends, is a Nutella and ricotta calzone. Mark your calendars for our upcoming nuptials.

The next day was insanely and wildly successful in terms of sightseeing. Rome is huge, and we knocked out a serious chunk of the requisite attractions in those 12 or so hours. I slept like a rock that night. Actually, I always sleep like a rock. But you get the point.

Our day started bright and early and in line for the Vatican museum. We thought the entire Vatican experience would take until around lunchtime or so…we were very, very wrong. And I’m so glad. I don’t think there’s a nook of that place we left unexplored. Including the Pope’s living quarters. Okay, that’s a lie, but we found out which windows belong to him.

PA282714

(They aren’t those ones.)

The museum was really incredible! Eric and I went all out and sprung for the audio guides…any shame I might have once had about marking myself as a tourist has completely dissipated since August. American and proud, y’all.

PA282717

Highlights included:

dead mummy feet

PA282720

the super cool map room

PA282740

a Gator! For you, Dad. And because all ancient Romans were obviously Florida fans.

PA282727

I guess the School of Athens was pretty cool. (Especially because it was commissioned just to decorate a pope’s living quarters…which is funny, because I also commissioned Raphael to paint a mural in my bedroom! Great minds think alike, Pope Julius II.)

PA282747

Annndd then there was this tiny obscure work of art I really liked! Sadly I couldn’t take any pictures…no idea why…but it was called the Sistine Chapel, if that helps you imagine it.

(This might help, too: http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/index.html)

After spending several hours touring the museum, we grabbed a bite to eat…

PA282762

SALAD PIZZA! It’s carb-y and vegetable-y. In other words, my dream meal.

And then made our way to St. Peter’s.

PA282772

Heather and her parents reunited with us there, so that was exciting! We ended up accidentally in line to go to the top of the dome…best mistake ever. We not only got to see the inside of the Basilica from the dome, we also got to see the view of Rome outside of it! It just took a ridiculous number of steps, winding staircases, and narrow passageways.

PA282775

PA282797

PA282790

PA282777

Once we came down, we wandered around the inside of the basilica…

PA282818

…and saw some more semi-famous art.

PA282810

Also, do you know that you can get married in St. Peter’s? If you’re willing to pay an absurd amount of money and wait 147 or so years. Cool!

We met up with Amanda (this was probably around 4:30 in the afternoon, mind you), and then the sightseeing whirlwind began. Because 7 hours of thoroughly exploring the Vatican and 551 steps wasn’t enough.

We walkednacross this beautiful bridge designed by Bernini. (Angels, quit being so dramatic.)

PA282834

PA282836

had some of the BEST gelato of my life (that’s pumpkin…my heart fluttered with happiness for a good 24 hours afterward)

PA282852

wandered around this beautiful piazza (which I should definitely know the name of but have forgotten)

PA282863

PA292869

PA292871

past (and through) the Pantheon

PA292874

PA292882

made our way to the Trevi fountain, where I of course tossed a coin in so as to ensure my return to this magical city

PA292908

PA292923

and eventually ended up at the Colosseum, which was very cool to see at night.

PA292941

From there, we took another lengthy stroll in the direction of the restaurant we planned on eating at. At this point, it was nearing 10:00. We also caught sight of the Vatican in the far, far distance at one point and realized that we’d not only spent 7 hours walking around the place, we had since put several miles between ourselves and the capital of Catholicism. On foot. Taking a very indirect route. On cobblestone streets. It was worth every step, but I guess it wasn’t a surprise that my feet felt like they were about to become unattached at the ankle?

And that we were total gypsies at the tram stop.

PA292958

And that dinner tasted like heaven and then some.

PA292960

PA292962

And that I completely CRASHED that night.

Sightseeing slowed down after our first day, but we still managed to continue seeing the Eternal City at a pretty impressive rate. The next day started at the Colosseum, again.

PA292966

Heather made some gladiator friends.

PA292974

We lingered over Roman ruins.

PA292981

PA292983

We ate a delicious lunch at a mozzarella bar in a little piazza that was hosting a great market.

PA292994

PA292999

We went to the Piazza del Popolo, home to the Twin Churches (that I think might be mentioned in Angels and Demons?)

PA293004

PA293002

…and more importantly, home these days to a middle school track meet. Can you imagine if your track meet were there?!

PA293008

We went to the Villa Borghese, a beautiful and expansive park that offered great views of Rome.

PA293009

PA293012

PA293015

We laid down in the grass, where I took a much-needed nap. After an hour or so of lounging and chatting, we made our way back down into the city…

PA303018

past the Spanish steps…

PA303019

and to Heather’s parents’ hotel, where we had some wine and appetizers and shared lovely conversation before heading out to the world’s most perfect dinner.

All of my dinners this trip were completely amazing. Not one left me at all unhappy in any way. But something about this last dinner was very special. It just kind of…sparkled.

PA303035  

We ate at a restaurant on one side of a small, quiet square. When we first showed up, we were the only people there. There wasn’t even anyone in the little piazza–it was just us and a team of waiters, and I felt like so at home in this far away place with my oh-so-special fellow travelers (and Heather’s parents, who were completely amazing and ever so kindly took us under their wing).

Everyone’s meal was impossibly good. We all nibbled on this asparagus covered with cheese and shaved white truffles. It was…incredible. (The photo quality is not, sadly.)

PA303023

And then Heather, Amanda, and I made two really excellent decisions. Between the three of us, we had ordered two plates of gnocchi with pear and gorgonzola sauce and one plate of cuttlefish ink gnocchi with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes.

PA303024

PA303027

Like I said, my photos aren’t the best quality (far from it), but this meal–it was unforgettable. And I think black pasta is one of the coolest, greatest things ever. (Also the way the desserts were plated was completely charming.)

PA303034

We said goodbye to Heather that night, and I definitely might have shed a tear or two that our little family was splitting up and our absolutely amazing trip of a lifetime was coming to an end. Sad, sad night, friends.

Nicole, Tess, and I still had another day, though, which we spent eating at this charming little pizzeria…

PA303040

where I had some amazing funghi pizza and Nicole finished off my cheese for me. But not before sprinkling parmesan on it…told you the girl loved her cheese.

PA303041

PA303043

That afternoon, we wandered down Via Julia, which was absolutely charming and full of some of the most irresistibly perfect boutiques I have ever seen in my life. (We also visited a really beautiful synagogue to make up for our thwarted attempt to visit a Florentine synagogue, but pictures weren’t allowed, so I have no evidence. Sorrryyy!)

PA303055

PA303059

We even made a little friend. 🙂

PA303060

We eventually made our way back to Trastevere, where we got drinks in a little wine bar and watched little kids run in and out as they trick-or-treated. Because oh yeah, it was Halloween!

PA313077

PA313080

PA313087

(Blurry but necessary.)

PA313089

(Girly drink.)

Our last dinner was at an adorable little restaurant. As with every meal this trip, the company was amazing, conversation was sparkling and full of laughter, and the food was impeccable. It was really, really rough to part ways afterwards. This trip was truly incredible.

PA313092

PA313101

PA313115

But you know what? I got to come home to this. I suppose life is fair, after all.

PB013132

Versailles, Part II

Okay, I’m kindofalmost regretting hyping this post so much, because it’s not like anything mind-blowingly amazing happened at Versailles last Sunday. It was really just one of those days where all the little things went right.

P9241541

Let’s start with the fact that Paris has been experiencing unseasonably warm weather this week. So remember my whiny comments after my last Versailles trip about how it was so great, everything was so pretty, BUT I REALLY WISHED I’D BROUGHT A JACKET? (Okay, maybe that’s just how I remember that day in my mind. I’m one of those obnoxious people that’s freezing the second the temperature dips below 65 degrees.)

P9241548

Anyway, the point is that the weather was perfect and beautiful and wonderfully warm. I was actually almost hot a few times–I know, I’m Goldilocks. But I’ll take hot over cold any day!

P9241545

So, go ahead and chalk one up for sunshine & warmth.

P9241547

Moving right along. Reason number two why this day was great: I skipped actually going into the chateau. Don’t get me wrong–I am so glad I saw it the first time around. But honestly, the house has nothing on the gardens. Plus, it was such a stunningly beautiful day, the last place I wanted to be was fighting my way through flocks of rabid tourists and trying to avoid getting taken out by an errant flying camera. Nope, I just wanted to be outside. In nature.

P9051265

Well, in my kind of nature, which is immaculately manicured, snake-free, and where you’re always conveniently within eyesight of a massive chateau.

P9241542

So outdoorsy!

Here’s another thing that made Versailles awesome.

P9241611

Actually, I see a lot of little white dogs in Paris (shocker, right), but it’s difficult for me to get a picture without the owner thinking I’m a crazy dog-napper. Which is fair enough, because I’d be lying if I said I haven’t considered it. Anyway, this little guy just seemed especially happy and adorable…and its owner was conveniently absorbed in the process of purchasing fresh orange juice. So I snapped a picture. Pretty cute, right? But here’s something even cuter…

P7130049

P7140086

Not that I’m biased or anything.

Back to Versailles. Everything made this day right. Lunch was a picnic (!) of some yummy cheesy “focaccia verdure” thing (didn’t take a picture, don’t even known what it really is, but I’ll remember it forever) and iced tea. After lunch, I had my first ice cream CONE in years. I ate it by the huge, beautiful…uh, man-made water feature (?) that was full of people enjoying the sun in these beautiful old-fashioned boats that looked straight out of The Notebook. (Don’t lie, you know exactly what boat I’m talking about.) I’m really kicking myself for not taking a picture of that; I was too busy trying to remember how to keep ice cream from dripping all over my clothes. It’s a skill I’ve forgotten in the past ten years, apparently. It was so surreally perfect and beautiful, truly one of those many Parisian moments where you feel like life isn’t even real…that you’ve stumbled into some kind of utopia or have gone back in time or have mistakenly shown up on the set of a movie. It was just…perfect. I just felt so sublimely content. I remember wishing I could actually freeze time, thinking I could stay like that forever. But we were off!

P9241549

To the Grand Trianon, a house/chateau/large building built on the Versailles estate built by Louis XIV so that he could “escape the pressures of court life”. What that means is that he wanted to carry on an affair with his mistress, Madame de Montespan, more privately. (If this were Twitter, I would tag this #historydork.) The reason for this journey was so that we could see the exhibit being held there that was kind of a “then and now” of French fashion. It was really interesting and I’m glad I saw it, but I will say that some of the modern pieces had me scratching my head. Pictures, shockingly, were not allowed, but suffice it to say that every other garment (as my fashion crush Tim Gunn would say) looked more like a ridiculous costume than actual clothes. Or like something Lady Gaga would wear. I think I’d prefer the Marie-Antoinette-era outfits they had on display, to be totally honest.

Anyway, the real treat came after the Grand Trianon. Because…you guessed it…I FINALLY MADE IT TO LE HAMEAU!

P9241578

Sadly, I did not get to ride a bike there (I had this image in my head…), because by the time I was at the Grand Trianon, I was almost there anyway. But it didn’t matter. I was obsessed with this place.

P9241591 I

This little (relatively speaking) corner of the Versailles grounds feels absolutely nothing like the rest of the place. It’s rustic and charming, full of winding paths and vegetation that’s actually been allowed to grow freely.

P9241565

It was also much less touristy–I looked up at one moment and realized there wasn’t a single soul in sight. I can’t even remember the last time I was that alone outside.

P9241602

Lily pads!

I felt a million miles away from Paris and even the rest of Versailles. I can only imagine how Marie Antoinette must have felt…you know, back before there was a parking lot right outside of her little hameau. I can’t help but feel like I would have wanted to spend all of my time here, too.

P9241595

P9241588

P9241603

P9241601

There was even a little farm! It definitely wasn’t the most fragrant part of the day, but animals are animals, and I love them. (Except for cats. I have met, like, three cats I actually liked in my entire life. I think they’re mostly demon creatures.)

P9241561

P9241558

P9241562

P9241559

As hard as it was, I eventually meandered away from Le Hameau and all of its sun-dappled perfection. This was easily one of my top five favorite things I’ve done in France so far, though, so if you ever find yourself at Versailles, I highly recommend you take the time to go out to the Queen’s Hameau. Rent a bike! I wish I had.

P9241581

I reunited with some friends and we attempted to watch one of the fountain shows (the fountains at Versailles do interesting musical things, I guess like France’s answer to the Bellagio or something…), but we were at the wrong fountain and not even within sight of the right one (only at Versailles), so we missed it. It didn’t matter, though. The day felt perfect as it was. I was absolutely exhausted once I got back to the dorm and had every intention of collapsing in my bed for all of eternity…but then my friends told me they were going to get falafel. So all intentions of resting were, obviously, thrown out the window.

Funny thing about the falafel, though…the line for the famous place I’ve raved about was really long, so we went to the falafel place across the street instead. Um, it was even better than L’As du Fallafel. Awkward. The falafel tasted even more delightful (which I know because they gave out free samples while we were waiting in line), they put more eggplant in than the other place, I’m pretty sure the pita bread was homemade, and, to top it all off, THEY HAD SPICY SAUCE. It is so difficult to find food with some spice to it in this country (I know, feel sorry for me, I have to eat all this French food), so I was all over that. And I think they made a convert out of me. So I’ll just go ahead and say it. If you’re in Paris, don’t bother waiting in the long line for L’As du Fallafel. Go to Mi Va Mi across the street. You’ll get better food, faster. (Not that L’As isn’t amazing, because it totally is…I just liked the other one a bit better. What can I say. It was spicy.)

P9241539

One more solo shot…my mother tells me she likes seeing pictures of me in places. I’m assuming this is so that she knows that I am, in fact, alive. And not wasting away to nothingness, despite the fact that I spend approximately half of every Skype session we have complaining about the cost of food here. And the lack of peanut butter–which is, after all, where 90% of my nourishment came from in America. I love the stuff. If anyone wants to send me some PB&Co Bee’s Knees peanut butter (it would go nicely with those J.Crew boots I showed you the other day), I just might love you forever.