Hey remember that one time I was all, “I’m so far behind on updating my blog, but now I’ll do better and catch up the past few days with two posts?” Yeah, that didn’t happen. After my family got to London, we’ve been flying by the seat of our pants, and frankly, I’ve been really lazy (getting back to the hotel late at night, I just want to go straight to bed and not write….). BUT I AM HERE NOW, ready to truly catch up once and for all and STAY THERE.
Alright, let’s do a time jump back a week ago to Sunday, June 28th, when Alex, Jordan and I went to the beautiful Palace of Versailles. Arriving via train in the morning, we opted to tour the gardens first, as the line to get into the Palace was extremely long. We had such good luck at the Vatican when we waited to tour St. Peter’s Basilica, so we were optimistic about Versailles. For those of you who don’t keep up with the global weather, Europe is having a bit of a heat wave, so we were grateful for the cool morning air and shade provided in the gardens. The landscaping and fountains were stunning, and there was even Baroque music playing throughout the gardens. As Alex and I remarked, the high quality level of ambiance was very Disney. It was great.
After having a lovely lunch amidst the landscape, we ventured up to the palace in hopes of shorter lines…..unfortunately we were not met with pleasant news. Like tightly wound intestines, a long line wove back and forth in the giant courtyard, with an excess of humans and lack of shade. Begrudgingly, we made our way to the end of the queue, placing bets on how long it would take to reach the front. I called an hour. Alex and Jordan were more hopeful. Spoiler alert, we were all wrong. During this long stretch of waiting, I started the fond ritual that anyone who has ever spent an extended period of time with me is familiar with: situational questions. Winding across the cobblestone expanse, I asked the likes of “If you had a superpower, what would it be?” and “Which era would you travel to if you could go back in time?” Having spent a lifetime going to theme parks with equally long lines, I forced Alex and Jordan to play along as if they were my own little sisters that I pester for attention. Thanks guys for amusing me. An hour and a half later of people watching, would-you-rather and using our maps as sun-shielding hats, we finally approached the entrance to Versailles.
Shuffling into the palace, our first stop was the area explaining the history of Versailles. Now I am all about learning as much as possible from historical places, but we basically sped through this entire section because there was no room to move. Crowds and crowds and crowds of people stuffed into small, un-airconditioned rooms is not our idea of a good time, so we all agreed to watch some History Channel and read more about this stuff once returning to the comfort of our own country’s amenities.
Next up was the State Apartments, within them the big kahuna of all palace highlights, the Hall of Mirrors. I really did enjoy seeing where Marie Antoinette and her family lived their day-to-day lives, but I could hardly stand it, I was so eager to reach the Hall of Mirrors. At last, we turned the corner, and I exclaimed, “Guys, we’re here!” We had finally reached our destination, and it wildly exceeded my high expectations.
The Hall of Mirrors is something out of a dream. It is opulent and overwhelming, but not in an offensive way. Sometimes these grand buildings are just too over-the-top and have a reverse effect on its visitors. But the Hall of Mirrors is bewildering with all of its light and sparkle. With the sun streaming in, the room is illuminated by its reflective walls and shimmering chandeliers. My eyes entranced, I was filled with a sense of wonder and excitement. The splendor of the Hall of Mirrors was hands-down worth the wait, and I would return again in a heartbeat, just to experience this incredible work of architecture.
Winding through more royal apartments, Alex, Jordan and I resolved to leave Versailles for the afternoon and travel back to Paris for dinner and packing. Of course, we first did some souvenir shopping, and after a forced detour from the train station (because why wouldn’t something go wrong on our public transportation exploit?), we came back to our charming Parisian neighborhood. Eating one last French meal, we spoke fondly of our time with France and began to mentally prepare ourselves for hauling our suitcases down four flights of narrow stairs.
Morning came, and we were relieved to make it out of our flat without any damage to the staircase or our necks. Navigating the Metro, I griped about the lack of escalators (I’m sorry Paris, but if your stop is a train station, you should be accommodating to people with suitcases), however we made it to our Eurostar departure point with a surprising amount of ease. And then the fun began.
We approached the Eurostar customs center, having filled out our information cards with 45 minutes to spare until our time of boarding. Waiting in line, we suddenly heard a crash, then saw a flash of light, then smoke……we glanced over to the platform where the incident took place, and shrugged……chances are, it wasn’t our train, right?
WRONG. We made it through customs — me having to explain to the British officer that N/A on the employment line meant I had just graduated and was still unemployed, to which he jokingly responded, don’t work, it’s not fun. Ha. Walking to our designated coach’s queue, our trio waited patiently, expecting that our call time would come up in ten minutes or so. Little did we know, the loud noise we heard was, in fact, our train, as an overhead announcement recited in French then English that we would be delayed 20 minutes in boarding due to a “mechanical electric issue”. 20 minutes turned into 30 minutes, 30 to 45, until finally, 90 minutes later, we boarded and were on our way!
Alex, Jordan and I were whisked through France and the underwater Chunnel until at last, we arrived in my glorious England. Having studied abroad here two years ago, I hold this country in a very, very special place in my heart, and I couldn’t have been more excited to return. After getting settled in our respective lodgings, I met up with Jordan and Alex and her family at the wonderful Harrod’s. My parents and sisters would arrive the following day, so I was very happy to tag along and catch up with everyone. After a yummy dinner and hugs goodbye, I sadly parted ways with my two companions. Alex and Jordan have been fantastic travel partners, and I’m so grateful we got to have so many fun adventures together!
Next up….my family’s time in London!