A 45 minute high speed train from Paris and we found ourselves in the heart of the Champagne region, in the small city of Reims. The town is very quaint and cute, and served as an excellent spot to explore the area and the famous Cathedral.

The day we arrived, we wandered through the small city centre, really enjoying the slower pace and relaxed vibe after vibrant and bustling Paris. For lunch, Tim braved some Steak Tartare, and I tried a very small a mouthful. Considering I like my steak medium well, it was actually pretty good! After a day of wandering and some chill out time at the hostel, we had an early night in preparation for our Champagne tour the next day.

By some stroke of luck, we were the only ones on our tour, and with a fantastic guide, Marie, who was the same age as us. We had a very enjoyable day, learning about the region and the history of Champagne, as well as general good yarns. We saw the Abbey of Dom Perignon. Turns out Dom is monk, so Champagne was actually invented by a Monk! We visited both Moet and Chandon and the Tattinger houses, where we did tours of the underground cellars and enjoyed tastings. The underground cellars are very impressive and old, and rather cold! At lunch I tried escargot. Not as bad as I thought it would be, pretty much tasted like garlic butter. A bit chewy for me though. Our tour finished with a walk around the famous Reims Notre Dame, famous for being the coronation place of all the kings of France. It is a very beautiful cathedral, more impressive than Notre Dame in Paris, and older! It was actually destroyed in WWI, however was completely rebuilt by private donations after the war, many of them American. I managed to sneak away and light a candle for Nannan in the cathedral, I know she would have loved hearing about all my travels. 

Champagne in champagne!


Norte Dame in Reims!

Looking out over the Champagne valley and Epernay

A we bit excited about being in the Cellars!

A bit of Moët 

So much Tattinger!

Inside Nore Dame

Paris and Versaille 

Monday in Paris dawned rainy and cold. Clearly Paris doesn’t like Monday any more than the rest of the world. No matter, we were off on a walking tour of the Latin Quarter. On this walking tour we wound through the oldest street in Paris, past houses on a lean and sights made famous as gathering points for academics and writers. Our tour also included the Sorbonne and the Parthenon, very well known sites in Paris.

After the Latin Quarter and a quick lunch, we were off to the Louvre. I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, wandering through the collections and taking in the famous masterpieces. The Mona Lisa was crowded as ever, however my favourite part of the museum was the sculpture garden. I think if I were a Parisian, I would will away any spare hours sitting on a bench in the sculpture garden. It was just so peaceful and beautiful.Our third day in Paris we were up and out, as we headed off on a cycling tour of Versailles. It became clear very quickly that we had a great group for the trip, made up of Kiwi’s and Americans. Our tour started with a stop off at the Versailles markets to pick up our picnic lunch, assisted by our guide who recommended the best cheese, bread and meat stalls. After the market we picked up our bikes and headed off to cycle around the grounds of Versailles. The grounds were beautiful, well kept without being artificial or overdone. After some history lessons by the Grand Canal and more cycling, we enjoyed our picnic lunch at the end of the Canal, gazing down to the Chateau in the summer haze.

Next we were up and off to explore some of the smaller houses in the grounds. First was the Grand Trianon, a house built for the King to withdraw from court, made of yellow stone and red marble which had turned pink. The house was truly stunning! Following that we visited the Petit Trianon which was built for Louis XV’s mistress, but ended up being gifted to Marie Antoinette, Louis XVII’s famous wife. This is also where her Hameau de la Reine is. This was her own personal rural village, made for her to enjoy ‘rural life’. The problem is, nobody told the poor girl what life was actually like for peasants’, however it was still very cute and quaint.

After a ride back to deliver our bikes, it was time to enter the beautiful palace of Versailles. Again it was wonderful wandering through the famous Chateau, if a little crowded, and taking in the famous rooms. My favourite was probably the Hall of Mirrors, or perhaps Madame’s Apartments, which belonged to the unmarried French princesses. Exploring the Palace gardens in the evening light with our new American friends was truly spectacular. They are immaculately kept you can just imagine royalty and members of court taking turns about the magnificent gardens. 

The oldest street in Paris

The Louvre

Flighting the hoards for a photo with Mona.

Versaille Markets

Versaille grounds

History lesson in the sun

The grand canal

The Grand Trianon and gardens

Marie Antoinettes village

“Hall of mirrors

Looking out across the grounds in the evening light

New friends at Versailles! I will forever look ridiculous in jump photos.

Oui Paris

With the arrival of my friend Tim and the August bank holiday, what better thing to do than catch the Eurostar to Paris and spend a week exploring France! We caught the Eurostar which was super easy and convenient, the only difficult bit perhaps was getting to St Pancras International on the tube with our heavy packs. After a nap and a coffee on the Eurostar, voila! We were in the heart of Paris!
We had a phantom Uber mishap and then a phone issue, but finally made it to our AirBnB in Le Marais and then  we were off to explore.

Our first afternoon and evening, we wandered from Le Marais down to La Seine, through the winding medieval streets to the exquisite Notre Dame. Along the way we unknowingly sampled what is known as the best ice cream in Paris, and it was delicious. Notre Dame was beautiful, bathing in the 36 degree Parisian sun, with it’s bells chiming and putting on a show. We then wandered down to Pont Neuf with the oldest surviving bridge across the river. From here we wandered back along the Seine, through the winding streets of Le Marais and back to the AirBnB. But not without a dinner stop! All in all a lovely first afternoon in Paris.

Sunday was another beautiful, sunny day in Paris. Le Marais where our AirBnB is, is apparently the fashionable part of Paris, where true Parisians shop, eat, drink and socialise. It definitely wasn’t touristy and felt very authentic. We wandered towards a Patisserie for breakfast, and managed to find ourselves in a beautiful square which coincidentally is the oldest planned square in Paris. After picking up some pan au chocolat, we had a picnic breakfast in the square before jumping on the Metro to the Opera district for a walking tour. On our walking tour, our fabulous guide Alice told us all about the Paris Opera and history from the time of Napoleon III. She also explained the modernisation of Paris and the Haussmann influence, which has led to the Paris we have today. We also explored some of the gems of the right bank including Place Vendôme for all the most expensive designer shops. We finished up at the Tuileries Gardens, where a phenomenal amount of Parisians were playing PokemonGo! So even the most stylish city in the world is not immune to Pokemon madness!

After a ride on a Ferris Wheel to take in the views of the city, we deiced it was a good idea to risk our lives and bike up the Champs-Elysees to the Arc Du Triomphe. A terrifying 15 minutes later we ditched the bikes and walked the rest of the way to admire the beautiful Arch.

Later that evening, we were off on a bike tour of the city by night, including a river cruise. Initially we rode to Tour Eiffel along the banks of the River Seine. Once we made it to the Eiffel tower, it wasn’t long until we were on the boat for the river cruise. Just as we were about to leave, the Eiffel tower started sparkling and twinkling in the late evening light, so beautiful! However apparently quite expensive for Parisians. Our river cruise took in all the main sights of Paris by night, it really is the beautiful city of lights. After the river cruise we rode home via Napoleon III’s tomb, the Champs-Elysées and the Lourve. After a packed day there wasn’t time for much else, just bed.

La Seinne

Notre Dame. Didn’t see the hunchback or Esmeralda.

La Marais at dusk

Place des Vosges

Bit of shopping on the walking tour

Ferris wheel views

Cycling up the Champs Elysees

Acr du Triomph

Pont d’lena at sunset

Banks of the Seine by night

Tour Eiffel

The Louvre