We spent Christmas in Paris. Wow.
Brice and I slept in on Christmas morning and then went for a run through our neighborhood. Fun fact: our hotel had an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower (from all windows AND the shower, no less) which meant that our run had to include a trip around it. (FYI, we stayed in the 7th arrondissement in Paris at the Hotel Le Walt.) I refused to take pictures on the run for a few reasons: (1) I really wanted to just take in the experience and not live through a series of pictures, (2) it would have been cumbersome, and (3)Brice is faster than me and would likely have left me to get lost in the throngs of people without knowing it. Anyway, we ran by the Tower and then across the river on the Pont de l’Alma bridge, and then back into our neighborhood via Rue Cler. I LOVED feeling less like a tourist and more like a local on the run, and yes, I even got a little frustrated by the crowds by the Tower — um, can there BE any more people out there, and why do tourists feel the need to STOP in the middle of the f-ing sidewalk when there are people behind them! Oblivious much?
After the run, we got
ready gussied up for a fancy Christmas meal at La Marée, an amazing seafood restaurant in the 8th arrondissement. Everything we ate and drank here was incredible, and we ate everything on our plates and drank every drop of wine that we were given — so delicious. I will never forget the look on Karen’s face when she was served her meal — so much joy and excitement!
We decided to take a walk up to the (very close) Arc de Triomphe and then down the Champs de Élysées, thinking that maybe the tourists would be the only ones out, since it was Christmas Day, but I’m thinking now that that particular part of town is slammed regardless of holidays, because it was crazy-busy! We snapped a few pictures, and then walked back over to the Christmas Market we’d seen on the first full day in Paris. Still crazy-busy — any tourists not at the Arc or at the Tower or on the Champs were at the Christmas Market! SO. MANY. PEOPLE. Holy smokes. Since there were too many people for the Market to be enjoyable, we got the heck outta there and took the long way back to the 7th arrondissement and to Rue Cler for a nightcap and a final, leisurely stroll through the streets of Paris.
Un Noël inoubliable. A Christmas to remember.
France, Days 3 and 4
We took an
early morning train to Bayeux, in the Lower Normandy region of France (the town is very close to Omaha Beach, for you WWII buffs out there). From here, we planned to rent a car and drive to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial and then, across the country to Verdun (more on this to come!).
We stayed at a beautiful B&B called “Le Petit Matin” (“the little morning”), run by a wonderful owner named Pascal. It was so welcoming, so peaceful, and it was very obvious that Pascal was so proud of his work in taking care of guests. Each morning, he laid out a gorgeous and delicious breakfast for all of us, and showed us the magazines that he’d been featured in, and invited us back for another stay… We were all so thankful for that experience.
Bayeux is a gorgeous and cold city! It’s full of cobblestone streets and old buildings, and appears dead in many areas of town, but after arriving, settling in to the Matin, and grabbing a quick lunch at a crêperie, Karen and Mike went to see about the rental car while Brice and I walked down to the center of town for Bayeux’s annual “Marché de Noël” – a Christmas market! We had so much fun wandering through the market and seeing the different shops and cafés, and we ended up stopping in an Irish pub for a libation. This place was so fun – it had tons of American trinkets and jerseys in it from Notre Dame, Boston College, and others, and the owners insisted on playing the Eagles.
After dinner, we took a short walk past the Bayeux Cathedral, which was the original home of the Bayeux Tapestry (an embroidered tapestry depicting the history and battle of the Norman conquest of England and how William the Conquerer became king of England after the Battle of Hastings). The city has done a beautiful job of lighting up the Cathedral at night!
The next day, Karen and I visited the Bayeux Tapestry, and then the four of us went to the American Cemetery at Normandy, a 20-minute drive from Bayeux. We spent so much time watching videos and reading the stories about individual soldiers who died on the beaches at Normandy, and all of us were very moved by the experience.
The next morning, we left Bayeux for Verdun, France. More on that soon!
I don’t know how to say much in French, but I’ve gotten very comfortable saying “merci” to nearly everyone I meet here! The people we’ve met are so kind and despite one horrible restaurant in Bayeux, we’ve been fortunate to have really pleasant experiences here.
France, Day 2:
Our second day here was spent in Paris, and this was a long, amazing day. Brice and I started our morning with a quick walk to the Eiffel Tower, which was about a 15-minute walk from our hotel. We went much closer this time — underneath it, in fact — and stopped for a coffee (tea for me) and quiche for a bite to eat.
Afterwards, we took the subway to the Musée de Cluny, a tiny museum with a huge collection of medieval tapestries and artifacts. There are some really spectacular items housed here, and their exhibition on travel in the Middle Ages was absolutely amazing.
Afterwards, we stopped for lunch (I had my first croque madame), and then walked to the Notre Dame. The plaza out front was slammed with people, and yet I still managed to fight my way through them to take some pictures. There were a ton of
morons tourists taking pictures of themselves with backpacks under their jackets like the famous Hunchback — I am proud of myself for resisting the urge to tell them to go play Disney at home.
Next up, a walk to the Louvre (yay, an up-close picture), and more crowds, so we avoided them by staying out of the museum and heading towards the Christmas market at the Champs-Élysées. It was absolute mayhem – you’d think that Christmas was the only holiday ever and that it was only coming this one time!
After a hot wine (it sounds horrible, but it’s actually really delicious) and some strategic weaving through people, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up and head out to dinner at Le Royale. This place was fabulous! The wait staff were all so kind, and one man in particular became a little friend and gave us some tricks and things to think about in Paris (tipping your waiter for example — good stuff to know!) and made the absolutely delicious meal even more amazing with his demeanor.
Day 3 update to come! I’m behind, but hoping to get caught up in the next day or so…
Brice and I LOVE Santa Fe. We went once in March, during my Spring Break, and fell in love with the place. It’s so relaxed. And, when you’re a little ball of stress (or, in Brice’s case, a taller ball of stress), a place like Santa Fe is a great place to mellow out.
We left on Friday morning around 9, and actually hit the road around 9:30 or so. It’s an easy drive — just a straight shot down I-25 until you see the signs for Santa Fe, and it only takes 5-6 hours! We use Jetsetter to find great deals on hotels, and we have been fortunate enough to stay at the Hotel St. Francis each time we’ve gone to the city. (It’s a cool, gothic-looking place with a warm feeling, clean rooms, and a welcoming staff.) This hotel is perfect for us — it’s about a block from the Santa Fe Plaza and surrounded by tons of cool restaurants (including my new favorite, Cafe Pasqual’s), museums, art galleries, and there’s no shortage of little shops to peek into or street vendors to haggle with (if you’re into haggling — I stink at it and would rather just pay the price on the little handwritten tags). Fortunately enough, it was also a few blocks from the Inn and Spa at Loretto, where my good friend Josh married his love, Daniele, last night (which, of course, was the reason for our trip).
After we checked in to our hotel on Friday, Brice and I went to the downstairs bar for our first margarita of the weekend, and ended up spending the entire evening wandering from one restaurant to another, walking and talking, and eating and drinking well (in moderation, obviously). Our friend Dan joined us later that night, and we spent some time just catching up and enjoying each other’s company. The next morning, Brice and I went to breakfast at Cafe Pasqual’s before meeting up with Dan, another good friend, Jillian, and her husband, Laith, to wander around the Plaza, eat more good food, and find Dan a cowboy hat. (Did you know that a good one can cost $1000? Holy smokes. I had no idea!)
Before too long, it was time to head over to the wedding. Jill, Laith, Dan, and Brice and I went our separate ways to get ready, and we all met up again at the Loretto Chapel for Josh and Dani’s wedding. This was the first wedding Brice and I have been to since our own, and it was really, really nice. We were able to sit and enjoy someone else get married, and I really loved that I wasn’t thinking, “Oh, I love this idea… stealing it” or “I don’t think I’ll do that one…” for a change. It was so fun to hear Josh and Dani’s vows, and it made me think of my own to Brice, and how happy I was to exchange them with him. I had forgotten what it was like to simply observe a wedding; to simply sit and watch two people make a commitment to one another that will change their lives forever… I really appreciated the chance to do so. And, after having the opportunity to work on a ceremony and vows, I loved hearing the vows that Josh and Dani chose for themselves — very traditional, very simple, very elegant.
My favorite part of the whole wedding was getting to see some friends that I hadn’t seen in years. I was able to catch up with Grant, who I haven’t seen since he joined the Navy and was deployed to a ship that traveled all over the world; and introduce Brice to Sam, a friend who lived in the same neighborhood as Josh and I (around the corner, in fact), and who I hadn’t seen in at least 10 years. We talked and it felt like we were picking up right where we left off, and it made me so grateful to have such old friendships that could just continue from the last time we’d seen each other, and that were still so much fun and not the least bit awkward.
This trip to Santa Fe was even more fun than the last time we went, because I was there to celebrate a wonderful couple and spend time with great friends. Here’s to a fabulous city and weekend, and I can’t wait for another one in Santa Fe.
September has been (and will continue to be) really busy! Each weekend, there’s something happening, somewhere to go, and people to catch up with.
Brice’s mother, Karen, was in town over Labor Day weekend, and she and Brice spent a huge portion of their time figuring out where we’ll eat and sleep when we return to England and Ireland (and take a few days in Scotland, too!) this winter. The rest of the time, I was taking walks through our neighborhood with her, and then returning home to make my yummy guacamole and drink some good wine with great company.
Last weekend, Brice and I got up early to participate in the Fitness Festival that I’ve run in for the past couple of years. It’s a little 5K race through the Denver Tech Center, and the school district I work for is a huge participant — there are tons of teachers, administrators, support staff and students all running and walking through the streets. I’m not the best runner, so my goal is always to finish without doing any walking from start to finish. I met that goal last year, so this year, my goal was to finish in under 33 minutes (31:50, yay!). Check. Brice beat me by about a minute… I think I’ve got a new goal for next year. 😉
After the Fitness Festival, it was off to the Horseshoe Campground in Pike National Forest (near Fairplay, Colorado) to pitch a tent and roast some marshmallows with our neighbors, Ben and Katie, and a few of their friends. Our trip out there was fine… up until the road ran out and we were bouncing along a rocky road up to the campsite. I’m pretty sure that I said “oh no” about 30 times on that 5-7 mile portion of the drive. Yikes. We had a fun night, filled with good food and awesome people. Once we left the heat of the fire and retreated to our tent, Brice and I nearly froze our rears off — thankfully, we had sleeping bags that zipped together, and his body temperature runs about 5 degrees higher than mine at all times. I don’t remember the last time I was so thankful to feel the warmth of the sun! Brice had never been camping before, and I’m not sure I’ll have an easy time convincing him to go again unless we have better padding underneath our sleeping bags and a ride to the campgrounds!
This weekend, I was thankful to see my newly engaged cousin and her wonderful fiancé, Lauren and John, for their engagement party in Denver. They are living in Virginia while he is finishing up law school, and were unable to come out for Brice and my wedding in June, so it was really nice to see her and hear their engagement story. This morning, I caught up with another newly engaged friend, Maureen, which was great, because I hadn’t seen her in months. Both ladies mean so much to me, and I feel so lucky that they’re in my life. I am so happy for both of them!
This week, I have round 1 of parent-teacher conferences, and then Brice and I are off to Santa Fe for my friend Josh’s wedding. That’s sure to be a fun time, since Brice and I fell in love with Santa Fe in March, when we went for a pre-wedding getaway (you know, before all of the madness began). We’ll get to be in a great place, with some great friends, celebrating a great event. Can’t wait for our weekend-warrior-ness to continue!
Today may have been the most emotional day of the trip. We started around 11 with a tour of Belfast in a taxi. Our driver was an amazing man named Michael (which sounded like “Maakel” to us) who had many connections to the Troubles and was kind enough to drive us all around the city and share knowledge of the time and what’s being done to continue the peace process now. His information and insights into the history of the Troubles were invaluable. He took us to see some of the amazing murals and the grave of Bobby Sands, the first to die in the hunger strike by the imprisoned IRA members protesting for political prisoner status. It was hard not to cry, and I actually did when Michael told us that Bobby’s mother still goes to the grave every day. Sure enough, there were fresh flowers on the grave. Incredible. There is too much about the tour to put in this email, but I’d love to share more later…
Michael dropped us off at city hall and we wandered around the city centre for some time and found a few fun stores and places to eat. (The picture of Brice is from a popular souvenir shop in Ireland, Carroll’s.) The food in Belfast is incredible, with posh restaurants and fine dining, better than what we experienced in London or Dublin…
Tomorrow, we are going to Giant’s Causeway and the coast and will be gone all day. The weather has been pleasant so far, but isn’t supposed to be tomorrow, so it could be an interesting day.
Yesterday after I emailed, we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and took in the sights. It was beautiful, and even though it’s a Protestant parish, I felt oddly connected to it, much like I did to the Book of Kells.
After lunch at a great pub called “The Pale” (with an awesome owner), we went to the Guinness Storehouse and enjoyed a free pint in the Gravity Bar, which gives you a 360 degree view of Dublin – there are no words.
Then we went back to our flat before having dinner at a bistro across from the Christ Church Cathedral and listened to the church bells while we ate.
Because of the early train today, we had a drink at a pub while a drunken, toothless Irishman sang about Molly Malone. Then we went back and turned in early.
The train to Belfast was easy and the countryside is so beautiful that the pictures don’t do it justice. There were herds of sheep everywhere and cows lying close to the tracks, clearly used to the train and looking fat and happy.
Our flat is far better than we anticipated, and we will be very comfortable here for the next 5 nights. Today is Karen’s 60th birthday, so Brice and I will take her out to celebrate her, how hard she worked on this, and this amazing trip so far. Tomorrow we will go on a tour of the city and look at the murals painted here in memoriam of The Troubles, then spend some time wandering through the city and taking everything in.
Love and miss you all,