Jackie is in (love with) Europe

By a small miracle, I'm in Europe. so I decided to blog about it.

Day 17: Paris, Detroit, Home.

The saddest day of the trip for me. I could spend another month over here. There is so much to do and see.
But it will be nice to be able to wash my clothes.
We arrived at Charles de Gaulle and sailed through every security check. Since we got there three hours before our flight, we had plenty of time to kill and did some last minute souvenir shopping.
We got on the nine hour flight to Detroit. Honestly, it went by quicker than our first flight across the pond.
AirFrance is our new favourite airline.
We got complementary drinks, snacks, a hot meal, salad, bread, dessert, more bread, yogurt, juice, ice cream, and a sleep mask.
Plus, they had a large selection of movies and TV shows to watch.
I watched three movies and three TV episodes in that time.
We finally landed in Detroit. It’s as terrible as everyone says.
Then our flight to Tampa got delayed. At this point, we just wanted to be done with planes and airports. It was torturous having to wait.
When we finally boarded, we found the air nozzle above my mom’s seat was broken. We were blasted with cold air for the entire 2 1/2 flight. It felt like the longest flight of our entire journey. Every time we looked at the time, only minutes had passed.
We eventually made it back safe and sound at 1:30AM.

So, this is the big finish, I suppose. Thanks, Dad, for funding this incredible trip. Thanks, Megan and family, for giving us a place to stay and chauffeuring us around. Thanks, little brothers, for not sabotaging my room. Thanks, Mom, for being a part of something I’ll never forget, and for being the one to ask for directions when I got us lost.
And thank you, if you actually followed this blog, because it was quite difficult to keep up.

The Palace of Versailles.

The Palace of Versailles Gardens.

Day 16 - Versailles.

Part 2: The Palace of Versailles.
We finally made it to the Palace entrance.
Now, I’ve been to Disney on the day after Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I’ve been to Times Square. I’ve ridden the London Underground and the Paris Metro at rush hour. I’ve been to Starbucks at 8AM.
But never in my life have I ever seen so many people in one place.
And it was only 1 1/2 hours until closing.
The line to get into the palace zigzagged throughout the immense courtyard.
The bike tour group dispersed to walk about the palace and gardens on our own.
I made my way to the toilet first.
No toilet paper.
Grand, extravagant, priceless palace - no toilet paper.
So, we headed into the gardens. Everything about French gardens is perfect. There is not one leaf out of place, and the effect is stunning.
We went back to the massive line to wait to get into the palace. It had shrunk a bit, but was still ridiculously long since the palace closed in an hour.
We began to worry we wouldn’t even get in and regretted doing the bike tour.
We did make it in.
I have never seen such an over-the-top place. Everything is gold, marble, or has a king’s face on it.
The Hall of Mirrors is a work of art. But the mass amounts of humans makes it difficult to enjoy. In fact, once you leave the Hall of Mirrors, you enter smaller rooms. In these small rooms people like to stop walking to take pictures. Which makes the people in the doorways start to push and shove. Which makes someone small, like me, get elbowed, jostled, and smushed.
I had a bit of a panic attack.
Then, to make matters worse, an alarm started going off. More people started pushing and shoving to get out.
We were able to escape the throng by going through an empty hall leading to a closed café. At this point I thought I was going to pass out, and we just wanted to leave. We asked a woman working there if there was another way out. She told us there is only one way through the entire Palace. Not wanting to go back into the tourist mosh pit, we explained the situation, and she had us taken out a back way.
We exited the Palace talking about how great it that bike tour was.
It was certainly an exciting final day. And after these traumatizing events, I get to ride planes for 16 hours tomorrow.
Seriously debating hiding out in the Louvre instead.

Palace of Versailles Bike Tour and Picnic.

Day 16 - Versailles.

Part 1: Bike Tour.
So what’s better than catching a train at 6AM towards the end of your trip? Getting up at 6:30AM to go on a six hour bike tour around the Palace of Versailles on the very last day of your trip.
We went to a bike shop in Paris to meet our group and our guide, Nick. Then we all took the RER to Versailles. Now getting twenty-something people and a bike onto the train at rush hour is a some kind of daredevil act.
Needless to say when the first train came, and people were literally pressed into every square inch of space, we waited for the next train going that way.
Once we finally made it to Versailles, we picked out our bikes and headed to the city’s open-air market. We were given time to purchase the food for a picnic late. They sell everything. It was sensory overload.
When we had what we needed, we set off for the palace grounds.
On the grounds we saw sheep, horses, Marie Antoinette’s play village, and the getaways (or Château) for the kings and queens.
The massive man made lake was used by the king to travel between the Palace and his Château. He rode in a gondola. Wouldn’t you just love to ride a gondola from your house to your other house?
We rode around to the side of the lake opposite the Palace. We sat gazing upon the massive building from about a mile away, and the fountains were still visible. We ate our lunch from the market and sipped a (slightly warm) bottle of champagne at the spot many royals had picnicked before us.
Then came the extreme bike riding back around the lake to get a close up view of the back of the Palace.
Yeah, put a bunch of people, who have been drinking, on bikes for some off-roading.
When we finally got a close up view of the extravagant Palace of Versailles, it was easy to see why the French people had wanted a revolution.
We were to return to the bike shop to ditch the bikes, before going into the Palace and its gardens.
But, as we were pedaling along, my brakes decided to lock, which sent me swerving off into the bush. I was trying to hop off the bike of doom, but a young girl from our tour got stuck behind me and couldn’t stop in time.
Crash.
We tumbled into some lovely stinging nettle. And I reinjured my back…again.
Those from our group behind us stopped to make sure we were okay. However, Nick, half of the group, and (for the one and only time that day) my mother were far ahead of us. So, we waited while someone went ahead to get the others.
After about a half hour, failing to fix the bike of doom, and several bike swaps we made it.

Our hotel room with two twin beds.

I mean technically there are two beds there.

Our hotel room with two twin beds.

I mean technically there are two beds there.

So our hotel gave us a map…and there’s a big, red dot where the hotel is located…but you see, this big, red dot covers about a four block radius…which means we get lost within five minutes of our hotel…every, single time.

So our hotel gave us a map…and there’s a big, red dot where the hotel is located…but you see, this big, red dot covers about a four block radius…which means we get lost within five minutes of our hotel…every, single time.

The Mediterranean Sea!

Marseille.

To be honest, the French drive on whatever side of the road they feel like. Sometimes the sidewalk too.

It took me 3 1/2 days of walking through France, 2 taxi rides, and a Google search to realize the French drive on the right side of the road.

Train ride through the French countryside.

Day 15 - Marseille.

Ever wake up at 4:45 to catch a 3 hour train ride? No? Well, you are certainly missing out on quite the experience. Our long train ride through the countryside brought us to the oldest city in France, Marseilles. It’s located on rocky cliffs right over the Mediterranean Sea.
Upon arriving, no one working at the station seemed to know where we needed to go to catch our bus. We were getting pretty frustrated, but my ability to navigate any subway system came to the rescue. We made it aboard our open-top bus.
It was absolutely gorgeous. I feel like I say that about everything, but it really was.
The weather was even nice.
However, it was windy. Like, really windy. Like, hold on to a building or something.
We climbed to the summit of the city where the church, Notre Dame de la Garde, sits. The views of the city and the Mediterranean were spectacular, as long as you held tight to the guardrails.
We went to the Vieux Port area for lunch. Vieux Port is basically the city’s marina, and there are thousands of sailboats sitting there.
Apparently, our waiter didn’t like that I was only ordering fruit salad; he ripped away my placemat, silverware, and napkin. I can’t imagine what he would have done if I had tried ordering a meal catered to my many food allergies.
After lunch, we took the bus to a sandy beach area.
I WENT IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA.
Well, maybe my feet did. Still counts.
We spent some more time wandering about the city before we got on that three hour train ride back to Paris.
On the train, I got in a window shade war with the woman in front of us. I’d pull the shade down, to block the sun so I could sleep. Then she would push it up when she thought I wasn’t looking. This went on until she turned around and told me I couldn’t pull the shade down because she had to see the countryside.
The same countryside outside every other window around us.
I kicked her seat the whole way back.
Not that I’m spiteful or anything.
We finally made it back to our hotel around 11PM. It was a long day, but totally worth it.

Luxembourg Gardens.