Another trip bites the dust… There is always a strange feeling at the end of a long vacation - the longing to get home to your own bed and the comforts of home, and the desire to continue the adventure. After visiting so many great places with amazing food, interestingly enough I am most looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and making homemade tacos with super spicy salsa. (But not at the same time.)

Note - I still don't have a cord for my camera, so unfortunately there won't be any pictures. I saw a camera shop yesterday, but it was closed. Boo hoo!

Yesterday was fun; we started our day with the requisite coffee and croissant and then wandered the neighbourhood of St. Germain. There are a lot of interesting art stores and galleries, and the streets are small, narrow and winding compared to just a few blocks away where the large and grand boulevards begin. We had a date to meet my aunt, uncle, and three cousins whose European trip overlapped ours with a single day in Paris. We had a nice lunch together before parting ways to continue on with our day. It is always fun to see family or friends 'out of context'. They were excited to be just beginning their long European adventure, while we are just ending ours. I wish them lots of fun!

After lunch we walked to the river and towards the Louvre. Initially we had considered going in, but we were all feeling a bit tired so we just walked around the outside instead. The Louvre is not something you want to tackle while tired! We then hopped on the metro and went to the Eiffel Tower - no matter how many times you visit Paris, no trip is complete without seeing it! We arrived from the Trocadero metro station and were disappointed to find that the fountains are undergoing major restoration and the area is boarded up and quite ugly at the moment. Those fountains and surrounding area are really beautiful and a great place to hang out and relax, so on one hand it is fantastic that they are fixing them, but as a selfish tourist I was sad that I didn't get to see them.

The State of Emergency currently occurring in France has been very evident while we have been here; in both Nice and Paris there are many police officers walking the streets, watching pedestrians and cars, and patrolling the metro stations. Instead of feeling bothered by this, I feel strangely comforted. The security was especially evident around the base of the Eiffel Tower - we were here only two years ago and you could freely walk underneath it, while now it is barricaded and you need to go through gates and security to enter the area. It only added to the insane congestion of tourists in the area, so we quickly got away from there and went to a little café for a snack and drink instead. After making our way back to our apartment for a rest before dinner, we were amazed to see that it started pouring only a few minutes after we got back! What excellent timing, and it was also fortuitous that we were planning on going to the Japanese restaurant for dinner that was literally next door, so we didn't need to worry about wandering in the rain.

The sushi was really good, although the menu was very confusing and you couldn't order anything a la carte. Everything came as a meal with soup, salad, and an assortment of sushi that they had chosen in a combination. It took us a while to figure out what to order in a way that we could all share everything and everyone could get what they wanted. By the time we finished dinner the rain had stopped and we took the opportunity to walk off our food. Chloe bought herself a Paris phone case in a gift shop, and although the streets were full of people out socializing and having a great time, we went back to the apartment afterwards because we were all feeling tired. I think if this was the beginning of our trip we would've stayed out for hours, but we are all starting to wither, and our stamina isn't quite what it was at the beginning.

This morning we went to a boulangerie that we saw last night, and unfortunately we had a very disappointing experience. The croissants were fantastic, but the coffee was horrible (I didn't know that was possible in Paris!). The guy working was confused and slightly inept, and the few other diners in his shop looked equally disappointed. I'm not sure how he manages to stay in business - it is definitely not due to repeat customers.

After our (disappointing) breakfast we returned to the apartment to plan our day. Jeff found something online that we hadn't seen before called the 'I Love You Wall'. As we started walking to the metro it started to rain, and unfortunately we had left both of our umbrellas in the apartment. We had a bit of time to travel on the metro; we hoped that when we finally emerged back up on ground that the rain would be finished. Nope - it was pouring! We took shelter in a little café where we ordered some drinks (the coffee was much better!) and waited out the rain. The wall was interesting; it has 'I love you' written on it in 250 different languages. It was cute to see, and of course we took a bunch of pictures in front of it. (Disclaimer - although we looked for a long time, we couldn't find I love you in English!!)

Next up, and just around the corner, was the Sacre Coeur. We did the requisite climb up to the top and took in a beautiful view of Paris. Unfortunately, you can't see the Eiffel Tower from the top due to a large grove of trees blocking the view. What nerve! Lunch came next in a small bistro with a traditional French lunch. Gazpacho, lentils, chicken in gravy… everything was great and the waiter was friendly and humoured us by letting us attempt to communicate in French.

A short rest before dinner was necessary, and thankfully we had one because our evening turned out to be very long. Dinner was fantastic (interestingly enough, our final French dinner was in an Italian restaurant), and then we capped the evening off with a view of the Eiffel Tower lit up. We waited for it to sparkle (it sparkles for 5 minutes every hour, on the hour). It is gorgeous, and I'm not sure it's possible to get tired of seeing it like that. The kids wanted a final crêpe before leaving which they ate in the sparkly shadow of the tower. We took a long walk, followed by two metros, before finally making it back to our apartment close to midnight. Zzzzz! We leave tomorrow afternoon so we have one final breakfast and lunch before we leave. I have a strong feeling that one of them will involve a croissant…  :)

I was way too tired last night to write a blog… I am currently sitting on a train travelling between Nice and Paris and felt it was the perfect opportunity to catch up on the events of the last day and a half. (Edit - the first half of the blog was written on the train, the second half was written from the comforts of my bed!)


Yesterday was our one and only full day in Nice and we wanted to make the most of it. I would like to give a shout-out to the Novotel Nice Centre, because for the price it truly delivered. Breakfast was included with our room; you could enjoy a plentiful buffet, but if you preferred you could order room service for free. We discovered this at around 11 pm and quickly decided that room service was the way to go for the next morning. It was really nice - fresh orange juice, a bowl of fresh fruit (whole peaches, apples, oranges and strawberries), and of course baguettes and croissants. It was an excellent way to start the day.

Julia wanted to swim in the pool, but after half an hour she was bored so we headed towards the beautiful old part of Nice to find lunch. We ate at a lovely beach club right on the Mediterranean. We were in the shade and had a beautiful view of the ocean with a gorgeous sea breeze. As it was our only day in Nice, I felt it was appropriate to order the Salade Nicoise. Chloe did the same, and we both loved it. The water was a gorgeous colour of blue and it was really the perfect place to have lunch. Afterwards, Jeff and Julia rented two beach chairs while Chloe and I headed into the narrow streets to do some window shopping. Chloe and I ate some delicious gelato and wandered around looking in interesting little shops. After a few hours we met back up with Jeff and a slightly sunburned Julia who had spent the entire time bobbing in the water. That truly is her happy place!

Back at the hotel we cleaned ourselves up and had a little rest before going out for dinner. It may seem counterintuitive, but during past visits we have found amazing Vietnamese food in France. Vietnam was occupied by France for a long time, and some of their cooking is intricately linked. (Have you ever eaten a Vietnamese sub and wondered why it is served on a baguette?) So, with that in mind, we searched out a Vietnamese restaurant with excellent reviews. We found it, but to our disappointment it was closed. We ended up eating a delicious meal at a restaurant with a lot of authentic Nicoise dishes. It was really good, and of course we capped off with more gelato. Just because we left Italy doesn't mean that we can't eat gelato multiple times a day.  :)

This morning we decided to go down to the buffet (as opposed to getting room service), and it was really nice. This is the third Novotel we have stayed in this trip (London Blackfriars, Genova City Centre, and Nice Centre), and they have all had drastically different breakfast buffets. London had the traditional English brown beans, sausages and eggs, Genova had a strange combination of food, no fresh fruit, but excellent croissants, and this one today in Nice was by far the best. Lots of fresh fruit, beautiful baked goods, cheeses, meats, and eggs and potatoes if you'd like. It was really delicious, and much better than the donut and Tang you receive as a free breakfast in some hotels.

We took a taxi to the train station and our driver was hilarious. Jeff wondered later if he was a wanna-be comedian trying out his jokes on unsuspecting travellers. In any case, we were chuckling for the entire journey. He talked about his two boys (aged 14 and 10) and his wife, and we were in stitches. It made for a very amusing commute. Our train today departed from Nice at noon, and after a half an hour delay (which seems to be the story of our train travel this summer) we were off. We were on the top level of a double decker train travelling about 300 km/hr across the French countryside. When we entered tunnels our ears felt strange, but it was wonderful to be able to walk around and do whatever we pleased while getting from one point to the other. For lunch on the train I had a nice risotto, Jeff had a croque monsieur, and the kids had chicken farfalle pasta. Not too shabby!

We got to our apartment and were slightly disappointed by the size - it is tiny! There is very little storage and so we put our things away as best we could. Accommodations on this trip have not been up to par compared to our other European adventures, but it will make us appreciate the future great finds even more. The location of this apartment, however, is fantastic. We are between St. Germain and the Latin Quarter and there are a lot of great shops and restaurants all around us. Tonight's dinner was fondue, and it was great. Not a 'light' meal by any stretch of the imagination, but super delicious. Hunks of baguette dipped in gooey cheese, cubes of beef sizzling in oil, and a pan of potatoes with cream and bacon. Dinner of champions! They served a small green salad with it which was much appreciated, and we felt the red wine was full of antioxidants and basically a vegetable side dish.

By the time dinner was done it was pouring and we headed towards home after grabbing some bottles of water from a supermarket. We are all pretty tired so are taking advantage of the good WiFi and calling it an early night. I still can't find my computer cord so no pictures (Joyce lent me hers the other day before we parted ways, but now I need to track one down in Paris!)

We love this city, and it is nice to be back. It has taken a beating in the last year which makes me sad, but that is all the more reason to visit. Bon nuit!


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