How can you describe the beauty of travel? It is as challenging as describing the beauty of a happy marriage.
To make clear my intentions, this is not a travel blog. While it may detail a great three-day itinerary for Paris and have "reviews" of locations, this is not meant to be for travelers seeking advice. And while I do detail my experiences of our first year of marriage, in no way is it a marital advice column. Rather, it is just my travel journal, written out for all of you to see. It's personal, and the photographs are a documentary experience of the past three days.
Before preceding, stick with me on this metaphor. Travel is a lot like marriage, or from the limited experience I have of it. The take off is an exciting time, as is the honeymoon stage. By the time you've landed, you may be exhausted but still ambitious about the trip ahead. For us, that exhaustion hit in September as I began the full swing of first year teaching. It was amazing, however, in those times when I could not be present, my husband supportively stepped in. As I reflect back on the year, he has been the biggest blessing in my life.
As the trip progresses, there are peaks and valleys. There are exciting attractions and sore feet. There are delicious eats and wrong turns. As in our marriage, there have been amazing moments. Memories have been made in trips, date nights, and even in the monotonous daily tasks of life. But, there have also been family illnesses and deaths, personal illnesses that have shaped our relationship and made us stronger, job transitions, and unexpected changes. As I am thankful for the good moments in our first year of marriage, I am equally grateful for those hardships. It's made our marriage stronger, it has brought us closer together, built trust, and helped us discover new things about ourselves and our relationship.
The trip concludes, you look back on those memories made, the places you've been, and reflect on experiences that you have had. And while that is not synonymous with the ending of a marriage, I believe it can be symbolic of the end of a year, the celebration of an anniversary. You look back on all those memories, you think about all the places you've been, and reflect on each experience you shared together. Yesterday, we celebrated our first anniversary. The traditional one year anniversary gift is paper and the modern gift is a clock. I thank my husband dearly for our ticket to Europe and for the precious quality time we get to spend together.
And as I promised, for those of you who are still reading and wondering about our trip I will begin detailing our exciting adventure.
We landed in Paris on Saturday afternoon and quickly hit the streets. After stopping off at our lovely Airbnb, we stopped to grab some French street food. Then we were off to Musee d'Orsay, a spectacular museum that has the largest collection of impressionist masterpieces. Impressionism is Ben's favorite style, and I was in heaven amongst the Monet's, the Degas', and the Van Gogh's. I was able to observe Seurat's paintings closely and it reminded me that I used to tell my elementary art students, "Seurat the Dot" so they could remember his famous style, Pointillism. There were many more paintings by Manet, Renoir, and Cézanne to name of a few. For my creatives reading this, you'll know how valuable this experience truly was.
Following our immersive art experience, we walked along the Champs-Élysées. The Champs-Élysées is described as the world's most beautiful avenue and while I cannot say that my avenue experiences have been extensive, this is by far the most beautiful one I've seen to date. And while it is normally a tame environment, our walk along the avenue was quite exciting. As we began our walk, France won their round of the World Cup. People roared up and down the streets waving their nation's flag. The excitement amongst the locals was contagious. We people watched, window shopped, and observed the celebration around us until we reached the Arc de Triomphe. This was a must-see Paris attraction. My dad went to Paris when I was in elementary school and when he came home he printed a photograph he had taken of the Arc de Triomphe and it hung in my sister's room. I remember looking at that photograph often, imagining a place far away that I would hope one day to see. Seeing it in person brought back the emotions and memories of childhood and it felt surreal standing in front of a monument that seemed so unobtainable and far.
And so the evening went on with even more surrealistic experiences. In the evening we devoured pizza at the La Dolce Vita followed by some drinks at the secretive bar, Moonshiner. It is one of the two (real) speakeasy's in Paris and the experience was unique to say the least. Our first night in Paris ended with a walk along the Seine River and underneath the Eiffle Tower. And while the exhaustion began to set in, we were determined to have another exciting day on Sunday.
Sunday, our one year anniversary. It is truly mind-blowing how quickly our first year has gone by. As described above, it has been an amazing, whirlwind of a year and I loved having my partner by my side every step of the way. In celebration of our special day, we awoke early to beat the crowds and watch the sunrise in Paris from the Place du Trocadero. The view was breath-taking and we absorbed our surroundings as we watched the sun slowly rise over the romantic city. Following that incredible experience we had a lovely breakfast at a quant cafe, and then we were off to Versailles. Château de Versailles was a non-negotiable for Ben, and I am extremely glad that it was. Once just merely a small village, Versailles is now a bustling historic attraction. From the amazing artwork to the gorgeous gardens, I loved every bit of it.
Following our immersive historic experience, we traversed to Montmartre to see some shops and the Basilica, La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre. We lost ourselves amongst the cobblestone streets and artistic history. Locals says that it is "not what it once was," but Montmartre was beyond what we could have imagined. We, like many tourists, were absorbed in the culture and sounds of Paris.
The history and culture continued as we enjoyed our anniversary dinner at Restuaurant Le Montparnassee 1900, a restaurant that was frequented by artists and writers such as Picasso and Fitzgerald. The history was fascinating and the food, delicious. Our evening ended with Tour Montparnasse, taking in the view of it all. From the panoramic observation deck we were able to get the best view of Paris. It was the perfect end to one unforgettable day.
And finally, today, we concluded our trip in Paris with a morning full of beauty. We visited Notre Dame, followed by Sainte Chapelle. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was more than its infamous gargoyles and bells, it was a stunning cathedral with rich history. And Sainte Chapelle was spectacular with its stained glass windows and Christian relics. While the religious history was interesting, I was most excited to visit Louvre.
And of course, we spent hours at The Louvre. It is as spectacular as people say it is. And while the Mona Lisa was not as impressive as anticipated, it was surpassed by numerous famous, invaluable works of art. I was lost. Literately, but also mentally as I let go of my surroundings and fell in love with painting after painting. The hours passed by in what felt like seconds. I could have stayed for days amongst the antique canvas and hand sculpted marble. Our Paris tripped ended with a grande finale of a museum.
We would have stayed longer, but we had to head to the airport. Off to Rome, then Barcelona at the end of the week.
In high school, Ben took a french class and this is what he scribbled out a piece of loose-leafed paper, "Je suis tombé pour vous, mon amour. Il me faut toí avec moi." He had my heart since then, and he will have it forever. I will end with this on the eve of a sweet day.