I always think about the first time I went to Paris. My dad took for a few days when I was only 12 years old. I can still remember the joy I felt being in this incredible city. The sense of awe I felt simply walking down the street. The same joy I felt being there twelve years later. The world is full of beautiful and interesting places, but there is something special about Paris.
When I was twelve I was fortunate enough to tag along on my dad’s work trip to Paris. I felt like the coolest twelve year old in the world- after all, none of my friends had been to Paris! Standing on top of the Eiffel Tower, drinking hot chocolate in cute cafes and strolling (more like skipping) down the pretty streets was very special experience. For me the highlight was definitely the Louvre. My memories of the first time I went to this museum are almost like a dream. We had a private tour where we learnt about the history of the building and saw many ancient artefacts- which made twelve-year-old-ancient-history-obsessed Kristina very happy!
On my most recent trip to the Louvre I felt like I was in an entirely different museum. As the world’s largest museum with eight curatorial departments, there is more to see than you can fit into one day- so its no wonder it felt like a completely different museum! Everything was so new and exciting. I spent a very happy afternoon getting lost amongst sculptures and paintings. I think I may have to go back to Paris for a week just to have enough time to see everything in the Louvre (insert me frantically looking for cheap flights here!)
I can understand why the Jardin du Luxembourg has long been a source of inspiration for writers and artists, featuring in the works of writers such as Victor Hugo and Henry James. Full of magical sunlight, the garden is full of colour no matter the season. I think I could spend every day strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens. The gardens were particularly important to the writers of the Lost Generation, many of whom lived locally and spent a lot of time in the gardens. You can easily imagine Gertrude Stein walking her dog, F.Scott Fitzgerald enjoying the afternoon sun and Earnest Hemingway walking through the gardens on his way to the Musee du Luxembourg after a long day of writing.
While studying French history at university I found myself drawn to the history of the Palace of Versailles and one of its most famous residents, Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette came to France from Austria in May 1770 as the Dauphine of France and would later become Queen of France. Marie Antoinette holds a certain fascination for many. I think its a combination of the glamour, luxury and tragedy of her story makes her such an intriguing historical figure. Marie has left a lasting impression on the Palace of Versailles, especially in the beautiful Petit Trianon, her country palace and the adjoining hamlet and farm.
The Hall of Mirrors is truly stunning. You cannot properly capture the grander of this room with a camera. Light dances through the hall, coming in from the windows, bouncing off the crystal chandeliers and mirrors, lighting up the room.
The gardens of Versailles have just as long and fascinating history as the palace. There is a wonderful mini museum to the gardens that provides an insight into what inspired the various gardeners and the changes that were made over the centuries. Make sure you leave plenty of time to explore and get lost in the gardens. The gardens are as grand as the palace itself, filled with detailed statues and immaculately maintained lawns.
For me the real highlight of visiting Versailles was Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon. It was here that Marie Antoinette hoped to live a private and simple life with her closest friends. The hamlet was built so that Marie Antoinette and her children could ‘live like peasants’, feeding animals and picking produce from the gardens.
Planning Your Visit
Getting There The train from Paris to Versailles takes approximately an hour and departs regularly throughout the day.
Tickets I highly recommend pre-purchasing your tickets online to avoid waiting in line. There are several ticket options depending on how much of Versailles you wish to see. I recommend choosing the Versailles Passport which grants you access to the Palace, Gardens and Marie Antoinette’s estate.
“I work at my garden all the time and with love. What I need most are flowers, always. My heart is forever in Giverny.” ~ Monet
Being at Monet’s Garden in Giverny was like being in a dream, I felt as though I was floating through a painting. I can still remember how I felt when I first set eyes on the works of Monet at an Impressionist exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. I got lost in the brush strokes, could smell the sweet perfume from the flowers, hear the wind rustle through the willow trees and see my reflection amongst the lily pads. So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to the garden that inspired the art I love. The garden was full of colour and life. It is not hard to see why Monet was so inspired by his beautiful surrounds. A tour through his home gave an interesting insight in the life he lead, the art that he surrounded himself with every day.
Getting There: Giverny is easily accessible from Paris, in fact it makes the perfect day trip from Paris, full of art, gardens and historical charm. The easiest way to get to Giverny is to take the train to Vernon. From Vernon there is a shuttle bus that departs regularly to Giverny, however, I recommend hiring a bike from the cafe opposite the station, should the weather allow. The ride through Vernon into Giverny was stunning, especially on the ride back as the sun set behind the town.
Montmartre is home to many iconic Parisian images, the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur towering above the city, the red windmill of the Moulin Rouge and artists line up on the cobblestoned streets. There are two things Montmartre is known for, religion and art. The history of worship in Montmartre can be traced back through the centuries, dating as far back as the Romans, then with the creation of the Church of Saint Peter and now with the the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur. Just as people have flocked to Montmartre to worship so to have artist flocked here to work and live including artists like Salvador Dali, Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Piscasso. Today the area is probably too expensive to be home to many struggling artists, however, many of the cobblestoned streets, especially those on the way to the Sacré Coeur are full of artists demonstrating their talents for the tourists. In a strange way you can’t help but feel that Montmartre is religion and debauchery coexist, what with the close proximity of so many important churches to many dance halls like the Moulin Rouge.
There are several ways to explore Montmartre. You can follow the herds of tourists making their way up the steps to Sacré Coeur to take selfies in front of the church. The other option is to get lost in the cobbled streets, stopping for a wine in one of the many wine bars and cute cafes. Or if you are like us you can do a combination of both! We started our exploration by getting off at the Blanch metro stop. As we ascended the steps of the metro we were greeted by the Moulin Rouge’s red windmill- perfect way to start the day! After a quick peep into the foyer and the gift shop we wandered down the Rue Lepic to Cafe des Deux Moulins, the cafe made famous by the film Amelie. We slowly made our way uphill, abandoning all maps, but knowing so long as we headed uphill we would reach the majestic Sacré Coeur. We were particularly lucky to experience such beautiful weather as the white domes of the Basilica seemed to sparkle against the blue backdrop. Just be sure to watch out for pickpocketing. After visiting Sacré Coeur we simply got lost in the streets, stoping into stores that looked interesting and enjoying some people watching and a glass of red wine.
A day at Disneyland is just one of the many day trips you can take from Paris. On a grey and drizzly day last year we hopped on a train, giddy with excitement and singing songs from our favourite Disney movies (cue Let It Go). I have long daydreamed about visiting Disneyland and spent a lot of time falling in love with Alix’s beautiful Disneyland photos.
Disneyland gets decked out in the most spectacular decorations of all season and holidays. We were lucky enough to be there in October, just before Halloween. Halloween is not widely celebrated in Australia, so it was fun seeing all the decorations. The weather turned atmospheric for us, with the sky full of angry looking clouds that worked perfectly with the torns covering Sleeping Beauty’s castle. I look forward to re-visiting the park in the future and experiencing other seasons, especially seeing Disneyland in spring and Christmas.