Part One: Paris
We began our journey by hopping on the Eurostar and heading straight to the City of Light. And it still amazes me that I can get a train to another country. For the first ten years of my life, leaving the country always meant getting on a plane or a boat because we're an island and those were the only way to leave it. You'd think the twenty plus years that the Channel Tunnel has existed since then would have lessened the magic somewhat, but it really hasn't.
Now, as you may or may not know, I really like going up towers. And, as I'm sure you do know, Paris is home to a pretty famous tower. So one of the first stops on our adventure had to be Gustave Eiffel's most famous creation:
Me ready to go right to the top of that thing behind me.
But while I absolutely love going up tall things, Paul is not a fan of heights so he took a bit more convincing. And how did I manage to do that?
By bribing him with the promise of booze, of course. The champagne bar at the top of the Eiffel Tower is as overpriced as you'd expect it to be, but sipping champagne at the top of Paris's most famous landmark simply had to be done.
Following that, we made our way to another famous Parisian landmark:
The Arc De Triomphe.
Did you know you can climb to the top of the Arc De Triomphe too?
Me at the top of the Arc De Triomphe with the famous Champs-Élysées behind me.
And you know what else you can go up in Paris?
The dome of Sacre Coeur, Paris's second most famous church.
If I look worn out here, it's because I am. You may have noticed that I'm wearing the same dress in all these pictures. That's because for some ungodly reason we decided to go up all these places on the same day and almost killed our legs in the process. On the plus side though, it did mean I got my Skyscraper (100 floors in a day) badge on FitBit.
Also, I feel compelled to point out that while Paul claims an equal share in this achievement, he did take the lift from level one to level two of the Eiffel Tower while I took the stairs. And there were a lot of stairs. So he's about twenty floors behind me at this point.
Moving on, we sought out the famous Moulin Rouge...
A bit underwhelming, to be honest.
The next day we ventured out of Paris to Reims, in the Champagne region of France, as part of a guided day out.
First up was a visit to the Mumm champagne house, which naturally ended with a tasting:
In my expert opinion, champagne = good.
We then took a break from the booze to visit Notre Dame Cathedral. The one in Reims, not the one in Paris, obviously:
Very interesting and historical, even if our guide did get Charles VII and Charles VIII mixed up. (She claimed that Joan of Arc accompanied Charles VIII to his coronation. Very impressive considering she'd been dead for 53 years at that point!)
After we'd had our fill of history, it was back on the coach for champagne house number 2, Mercier...
Me with my champagne in front of the giant barrel made for the 1889 World's Fair in Paris. It probably would have been the most impressive thing there, if not for some tower that had just been build for the Fair...
Another day, another trip up a famous Paris landmark...
Notre Dame de Paris.
Here I am on the walkway between the two towers. I don't have any pictures of me right at the top cos there's not much room up there and you're kinda just herded round and back down.
But you know what I do have pictures of?
And yes, I know that they're technically not gargoyles cos they don't have water spouts, but it's one of those words that's evolved enough that I think most people think of them as gargoyles now.
After that it was time to move on to seek out some of the art and culture that this city promises so much of...
This pyramid looks pretty cultural. I bet if I go in it I'll find some art.
So, yeah, did you know that the Venus de Milo is in the Louvre?
Cos the Venus de Milo is in the Louvre. That was a bit of a surprise. I turned the corner and there she was in all her armless glory!
Of course we all know the really famous piece of art in the Louvre, don't we?
The thing that everyone comes to see...
La Gioconda herself, the Mona Lisa.
It's very small and behind glass and this is as close as I could get, so it wasn't much different to seeing it on TV to be honest. But at least I have seen it.
Also, the Louvre is fricking huge. Seriously. As I was walking around it I came up with an idea for a new game show where people are dropped in a random part of it with no maps or signs to guide them and the first one to make it to the Mona Lisa wins. It could last for days!
Not satisfied with all the art in the most famous museum in the world, we then went over the river to the Musee D'Orsay. I mainly wanted to see the Van Gogh collection they had and, while I was disappointed that the Starry Night there wasn't the Starry Night I was thinking of, it was still really good. A lovely collection of his works.
And no Krafayis in sight.
Next up: Antwerp