It is so hard to figure out how to summarize an incredible 12 night vacation into a few words and pics. That's why it has taken me forever to blog about our vacation. I figured out I could do a top 10. Anytime I don't have a good picture of the listed item, I'll put one of our many shots of the Eiffel Tower, because they are just too beautiful to pass up. These are in no particular order:
10. Ste. Chappelle Cathedral - the best new thing I saw this trip. There are over 1100 stories from the Book depicted in the huge stained-glass windows, and we just sat and stared and tried to pick out stories we recognized.
9. The Eiffel Tower - the most visited place this trip. I went twice, husband went four times! It was just as beautiful as I remembered. Husband and I had one night to ourselves before my family arrived, and he chose the Eiffel Tower as the place to go. We sat there at sunset and watched the twinkling lights come on, then as it grew dark, the full lights came on, making it look golden. We vowed the next time to bring a blanket, some bread and cheese, but of course forgot. Something to go back for, right?
8. Alex and Maribel - best guides in Venice. They owned the B&B where we stayed, and helped us "conquer Venezia" in only 60 hours. Alex had the best Italian accent ever, spoke wildly with his hands, tried to convince me that I could drink wine while pregnant, and everything he recommended was perfect. He sat husband down every morning after breakfast and would go over our itinerary for the day. He pointed us to the places the Venetians ate, and used the best expressions. One place, for instance, had the best fried calamari. "The owner he fries everything even his mustache."
7. San Marco Piazza - best free entertainment. According to Alex, we shouldn't do St. Mark's Square during the day, so we checked it out first at night. We had already eaten dinner (at the aforementioned mustache man's place) so we just strolled around the square, enjoying the atmosphere. Live string quartets played at several outside restaurants, and we could stand and listen to them. Many people around us would break out in dancing, and then when the song was over, we'd walk around and listen to the next quartet. Husband wanted to find where Indiana Jones came out of a manhole, but unfortunately, we couldn't see it.
6. My family - best family ever! It was so good to see them, laugh with them, talk with them, and explore Paris with them. And I think they even went away liking Paris, so I was happy. We didn't eat nearly enough pastries, nor did we make it to all the sights, finish Khabhi Khushi Khabhie Gham (oh yes I most certainly did), or play any games, but we enjoyed just being together again. The twins gave us lots of entertainment, especially with how excited they got for the choo-choo train (the subway and also the train that drove around Montmartre) and how they would say, "Bonjour!" when prompted. They were very good travelers, especially when Mimi or their strollers were in sight.
5. The Lido - best island in Venice. We stayed off the main area of Venice on the island of Lido, where they actually had cars instead of boats, and streets instead of canals. But somehow, they still managed to have that great Venice feel, with sidewalk cafes, and smaller canals, and colorful buildings. Husband remarked that towns in the US are paying big money to achieve what the Lido had.
4. The Louvre - best comeback. I am not an art museum person at all. So I only went to the Louvre because husband and my family wanted to go. I wasn't expecting much, so I was very surprised to enjoy the museum more this time around, especially seeing the architecture. And also the Royal Apartments were beautiful, too. This was husband's favorite thing he did in Paris. You can't take pics inside the Louvre (much, anyway) so here is an outside shot of the former largest palace in the world, now most famous museum.
3. Bike Riding - best way to see a city or an island. Husband, my dad and brother went on a bike tour of Paris one day. They said it was a lot of fun, and husband got a peek at sights that he went back and saw further, like Musee d'Orsay or the Rodin House. In Venice, our B&B had free bikes, so one morning/afternoon we cruised around the Lido, checking out the Mediterranean Sea. We found my favorite place that we ate at (those Italians really know how to do lasagna! :) and we took a break on the beach and walked in the Mediterranean.
2. Relaxing in Venice - best place to go after the action of Paris. There's not a lot to do in Venice except stare at the surrounding beauty, eat gelato, and relax. And so that's what we did. Since the first trimester has been demanding sleep of me, one afternoon we just went to San Elena island, spread out a blanket, and took a nap in the park. We weren't alone; there were many locals napping around us as well. We spent most of our time just wandering the streets and alleys, and unwinding after a fun-packed week in Paris.
1. Being in the West - best moments for reverse culture shock. Husband and I could hold hands in public. We also did the unthinkable - we drank from the faucet and ate fruits and veggies without poisoning them first. Let me tell you how wrong that felt. Speaking of fruits and veggies, have tomatoes, oranges, and bananas always been that big? Oh, the yogurt selection! And the cheese and meat! And pre-made foods and sauces, along with cartoned milk, lots of cereal, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, kolaches, and breads galore! Cars didn't honk, there were lines with no cutting allowed, and we blended in. We really didn't know what to think of all of it.