Out of all the cities in the world, Paris was by far the city at the top of our list to visit. Those of you who have or haven't been to Paris will probably agree that it's one of those "bucket list" cities to visit before you die. So, you can imagine how lucky and excited we felt that we were going to expierence the "city of lights"! With one of the most well known monuments in the world, culture, fashion, food, architecture, history, museums etc, Gino and I were jumping out of our skin when we decided that's where we wanted to go during his Christmas break.
We researched and booked the trip about a month before, once we knew what days Gino would have off from pracitce and games. Roundtrip tickets from Oslo were about $800 for the both of us combined which wasn't bad but we decided to see what a one way on Norwegian Air would cost and then a return one way on Ryan Air (budget airline)...It ended up being about $550 cheaper!!! So roundtrip from Oslo to Paris for the two of us was only $270 bucks. Ryan Air airports are very small and are sometimes located about 45 miles outside of a major city, which can be a little inconvenient to get to but the prices are well worth it. You can get some roundtrip tickets for one person for as cheap as $20 Euro...if not less!
We had the team Christmas party on Friday night and our train left for the Oslo airport at 4:15 am on Saturday morning. I think we slept for about 3 hours but were suprisingly awake when the alarm went off. One little side note about the Christmas party. It was at the Radisson hotel near our apartments, which is probably the largest hotel in Lillehammer. We didn't really have too high of expectations for the food, etc. Most of the guys on the team weren't even going to bring their significant others. But when we showed up, all the guys were dressed in suits! Not a huge deal, we all dressed up nicely too and the food spread was incredible! There were 3 buffet tables full of traditional Norwegian Christmas food with sausage, lamb, crab legs, cheeses, potatoes, gravy, red cabbage, saurkraut, etc. Gino and I liked it so much we decided we're going to have a Norwegian Christmas meal on Christmas Day. After dinner, Gino had to give a speech (its tradition for the captain to give a speech about the year). He didn't know he had to do it until about 20 min before but did great! He pulled together a little speech about the words he has learned to say in Norwegian (which he got a few laughs for) and about how much he's liking the team/city and the potential they have for doing very well in playoffs. I was proud! For all you hockey fans, here is a nice little article that was written about Gino and the team. Here is the English version, some of the words still don't translate correctly...but you get the gist. It talks about Gino being the last import to sign with Lillehammer and he's proving to be the right choice for the team and the leading scorer in all of Norway. Again...very proud! Believe me, this is well deserved and hasn't been acomplished without ALOT of hard work, sacrifice, and a few bumps in the road, but the season isn't over yet. It's just nice to see him playing at the top of his game again.
Ok, back to Paris! So we hopped on our 4:15am train to Oslo for a 7:55am flight. The travel went very smooth and soon enough we were in Paris. We bought a 3 day Metro pass in the Paris airport which we weren't sure how much we were actually going to use the subway so almost didn't buy it. They were about 30 Euro per person. Honestly, the best decision we made was to buy the passes. We were on that subway at least 7 times a day and it made it so easy to just take out your pass, scan it, and jump on the subway instead of buying a new ticket everytime you had to ride. After grabbing a metro map of all the lines in Paris, we found that it was a pretty slick system and relatively easy to follow. It took us about 20 min to get to our hotel from the airport. We debated about staying in a rental by owner type place but ended up finding our best bet booking a hotel through Priceline.com Pick Your Own Price. We could choose our location, price, star, etc and just cross our fingers! We ended up staying about a 15-20 min walk from the Eiffel Tower in a 3 star hotel for about $85/night. NOT BAD AT ALL! You could even see the tip of the Eiffel Tower from our window!
After we checked into our hotel, we went to go grab some lunch. We ended up stopping at a little pizza restaurant near our hotel. We asked the waiter what he liked best on the menu and he picked out one of the pizza's. We couldn't really tell what was on it but ordered it anyways. It came with ham, a couple different kinds of cheese, and a fried egg! A little different, but so good. I noticed a few days later that they use egg in alot of their dishes. After lunch we started our walk to the Eiffel Tower. That was our top priotity on the first day. As we started turning corners we could see it! It felt like we were seeing a celebrity or something, we got really excited and were walking so fast we might as well been running!
|We can see it!!|
It might sound corny but seeing the Eiffel Tower fufilled so many dreams for me! Not that this is even comparable to the real thing, but we got engaged at the Eiffel Tower in Vegas and seeing the original in person was unbelieveable! After seeing the Eiffel Tower my trip would have been complete....but we had so much more to see! The next 2 days were CRAZY. We must have walked about 6 miles a day and were out of our hotel room from 9am-10pm each night. Paris is definitely not a relaxing type of vacation....but honestly, if it's your first time visiting Europe, no trip is! You want to soak up as much culture as you possibly can.
We proceeded to take about a million pictures of us by the tower and walked around it for an hour or so. On the other side of it is the Seine River and across from that was one of the 5 Paris Christmas markets. We walked over the bridge to the Christmas market and got ourselves a glass of Vin Chaud (hot spiced wine), they seem to have it served in every European country around Christmas time. There was a subway station just on the other side of the Christmas market and by this time is was about 4pm so we decided to jump on the subway to Champs Elysees to see the Arc de Triomphe before it got too dark for pictures.
|Christmas market on the Seine River|
|Arc de Triomphe ALMOST as amazing to see as the Eiffel Tower|
The Arc was much larger than I thought it would be. The picture that I have posted above was what we saw immediately after we walked up the subway stairs. I think I literally took this picture at the top of the stairs. Champs Elysees was a really cool street with shops on both sides going for about a half mile to a mile. On one end was the Arc and on the other was the largest Christmas market.
We wanted to wake up early to start the day, we had so much to see! We had planned on going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, taking a river cruise, etc but the weather was not so great. It was snowing and raining a bit so we decided to go to the Louvre instead. What I forgot to mention is that on the 1st night the bottom of one of my boots broke so my feet were getting soaked! Before doing anything on the second day we had to go find a shoe store that was open on a Sunday...not easy. I put plastic bags over my feet and shoved them into my broken boots and we started our search for a shoe store. The first 2 places we saw near our hotel were closed but the 3rd store was suprisingly open! I walked in found a pair of rain boots that were the cheapest (55 Euro $74) and we ran out. We took the subway a few stops to the Louvre and grabbed some brunch at a little restaurant outside.
|Walking through the Louvre|
The Louvre was spectacular and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Paris. It was worth seeing and one of our favorites. After the Louvre we decided to make our way over to Notre Dame located basically in the Latin Quarter of Paris.
|Crossing the Seine River over to Notre Dame|
We waited in a short line to get in and tour around. It was free to enter. The inside was beautiful and the pictures just don't do it justice. The cathedral was built in 1163! Amazing.
We walked around the to the back which was even more intricate and gothic. The river view picture has to be my favorite.
We walked across the river to the Latin Quarter to do a little exploring and found that we love that area of Paris! If we ever went back, we would stay in the Latin Quarter. It was so quaint with tiny cobble stone streets, tall old buildings, little cafe's, exactly what you picture a European city to look like. We stopped at a Gyro stand for a snack. We both agree that it was the best Gyro we have ever had! Maybe its because we are in Paris, but all of your senses are enhanced and everything seems that much better.
Another one of the couples that live and play for the Lillehammer team were traveling in Paris at the same time so we met up with them at the Eiffel Tower for some photos and to check out the Christmas market.
|Scott & Gino holding up the tower, looks heavy|
|Kyla and I holding up the tower with our pinky's...looks light!|
The Christmas market was so pretty all lie up and was busy with people ice skating, eating, drinking, singing, etc. We had a cup of vin chaud and a sausage baguette and enjoyed the scenery!
The weather on our last day seemed a little clearer which was good because we had a big day planned. We decided to head north and see the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart Basillica), a Roman Catholic church which was started in 1875 and completed in 1914. It is located on the top of a hill which just so happens to be the highest point in the city and is supposed to have beautiful views. When we got off the subway we noticed all the snow!! We had to walk a few blocks to the stairs where we walked up the hill to the Basillica.
Once we got to the top we saw the Sacre Coeur...it was beautiful in the snow! Much larger than I had anticipated. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside but it was gorgeous and we may have liked it a little more than the Notre Dame.
Unfortunately, the view wasn't what we thought it was going to be due to the unexpected snow. When we were leaving the Basillica you could see a faint outline of the Eiffel Tower.
The Moulin Rouge was also on our list and was only a few blocks from the Sacre Coeur. We walked through a little village square in the Montmarte area of Paris where we decided to eat before finding the Moulin Rouge. It was such a cute area! Alot of artists were sitting in the park area painting the dome of the Sacre Coeur. You really felt like you were in Paris!
The sign said Moulin Rouge and people were on all sides of the street taking photos. We were a little disappointed. We kept walking until we reached a busy square where we ended up seeing the real Moulin Rouge. HA
Much better! But not our favorite stop on the trip. Unless you're going to see a show, I wouldn't recommend taking the time to find it. But what we saw across the street was worth the walk!!
They only have Starbucks in major cities and most coffee shops serve very small cups of coffee or cappuccino so it was nice to finally have an "american" sized Chai Latte, yum!
After the Starbucks we decided to jump on the subway back down to climb the Eiffel Tower. When we got to the base of the tower there was of course a long line that we were happy to wait in. After about 30 min we noticed that the line had stopped and heard that the elevators shut down and they weren't letting people go to the top because of the wind. So we opted to hop out of line and take the Seine River cruise instead. We saw on many websites that people had recommended doing the boat cruise and it was a good way of seeing the city. I'm glad we did it! It was a great time to warm up, sit down for an hour and get a guided tour.
From the river we were able to see the Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, the most expensive area to live in Paris, many old historic buildings, the bridge that Princess Diana crashed on (which now has a memorial for her), we drove under bridges that were created as gifts for past Kings, etc. It was great!
The tour ended back at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Can't get enough of these pictures!
The last place we wanted to see on our trip was the Luxembourg Gardens. We knew that they wouldn't look as good as they could in the Spring or Summer but wanted to check them out anyways. I was suprised to see there were flowers blooming! The Luxembourg Gardens are in the backyard of the Luxembourg Palace which was built by the wife of Henry IV in 1611. The gardens looked like a huge field with fountains to us...but would be blooming with flowers and plants in the Spring.
We made one final stop before heading back to the Latin Quarter for our last dinner. That was back to the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomph for one more picture.
We loved Paris! I don't know how many times we both said that our friends and family have to visit Paris! It's a magical city and I can see why people fall in love with it. I hope someday we can go back but for now we have amazing memories. We hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Je'Taime!