In Travel

I guess it all started when James and I decided to cancel our trip to Germany because we realized that Aidan wasn’t ready for both of his parents to be gone for an entire week. We called Delta and after subtracting off some cancellation fees, were able to get what we paid in airfare credit and took a trip to Washington D.C. with the kids instead. No regrets. That was a great trip and it was my first time to our nation’s capitol.

But, we both still had about $600 leftover. I love to travel and so I was looking for a travel buddy to go to New York or somewhere new with me before the travel credit expired in a few months. But I couldn’t find anyone available to go with me. Just when I’d resigned myself to giving up the credit, James’s sister April contacted me to see if I’d be interested in joining her and her friend, Emily, on a trip to the French Riviera.

At first I said no. I mean, I was definitely interested, but again, I’m a busy mom of two little ones, plus my work was putting on a big conference at the end of October and I needed to be around for the planning which really ramps up at the last few months before the conference, and my kids are little, and I just didn’t know if I could get away for so long, and my kids are little…. I was really looking for more of a weekend domestic trip.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I really felt this pull to go. I’d even say it was a spiritual prompting. So, I prayed and told Heavenly Father that if He wanted me to go to Europe, I would, but he had to help everything fall into place. I needed inexpensive airfare, for starters.

The next day, I received an email from NextVacay telling me that Delta currently had a roundtrip deal to Paris, France for $550 right on the dates April, me, and Emily were looking at. This deal would likely only last 24 hours. I ran upstairs from where I’d been in our office and told James. He told me to take it. He and the kids would be fine for a week and this was an opportunity he didn’t want me to miss. So, I ran back downstairs and purchased the tickets. Then I told April that I was in.

We had two months to plan this trip. Over the course of our planning, it changed from a trip to the French Riviera and instead to a trip in Spain. Because I was flying in and out of Paris, and would need to head back, Emily and April decided to head to Paris for a day too.

Ultimately, after all the talking and purchasing and plans were all done, my trip over there turned into: One day in Paris by myself, and then four days in  Sevilla, Granada, Málaga, and Madrid, with April and Emily (yes, that’s a new city each day), and then back to Paris where Emily and April would spend the day exploring the main city, and I would head off to Versailles to tour the palace and gardens by myself, then meet them at the Eiffel Tower later that evening for the light show. Talk about an adventure!

Getting There

I was pumped. When the day came to fly to Paris, I really couldn’t believe that I was sitting at a gate that said this plane was heading to Paris, France. I exchanged my dollars for Euros at the exchange counter (next time, I think I’ll just go to a bank; the fee to use the exchange counter was expensive). Then, I waited.

This was me when the plane that would take me to Paris pulled up.

I watched movies for pretty much the entire flight. I think I tried to sleep for half an hour, but then gave up. I was far too excited. Besides, it was kinda nice to just sit and relax for ten hours. And Delta really takes care of you with their food and amenities on international flights by the way—I definitely recommend them.


When the airplane landed in Paris, it was about 2:00 a.m. according to my body, but it was about 10:00 a.m. in Paris, and I knew I had one day to see everything I wanted to see. Oh sure, I might come back someday, but I also might not, and I wasn’t about to miss my chance to see everything.
Or, at least the four big things on my list: Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre (and Mona Lisa), Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower.
I got off that airplane, breezed through customs (thankfully there was hardly a line), figured out how to get a ticket for the metro (harder than it looked), and got on the metro train heading to Saint Michel station. I verified with a kind woman on the train that I was indeed on the correct train, and then enjoyed looking out the window and listening to the French conversations around me, just soaking in my first views of Paris.
Saint Michel station normally connects right to Notre Dame Cathedral, but that particular exit was blocked due to the repairs happening on Notre Dame right now, so I exited the station onto a normal road, and Notre Dame was nowhere in sight. I was a little panicked, not knowing where to go, but then I just took a deep breath and said, “Okay, who can you ask for directions?” I looked around me and saw an alleyway of restaurants across the street. Surely someone over there spoke English or even if they didn’t, they would at least understand “Notre Dame?” and point me in the right direction.
This turned out to be one of my most favorite parts of the day. The alley was fascinating. So many different types of foods being created! The cobblestone road was fascinating to me, the oldness of the buildings, the bustling of the people. I soaked it all in, as I wandered through the maze, pausing at every turn to ask for directions to Notre Dame. Within five minutes, I saw the massive cathedral and headed towards it, but not before deciding to go back to the alleyway afterward for some lunch.
The bell towers of Notre Dame still stood tall and magnificent. I had always wanted to get a picture with them. And I did.

The picture above was as close as I could get to Notre Dame, but it was enough. The gargoyles were still visible and I snapped a picture of them too.

The gargoyles are just visible on that top ledge.

I took a walk down the road that runs along the Seine River and just looked at the magnificent building. It is very much under construction and has a long way to go before it is restored, but it is still incredible and still very much worth a visit.

There were little shops all along the walkway too and I bought two little Paris snow globes as a present for my kids.

After about half an hour, I headed back to the alleyway. I wasn’t super hungry and also didn’t want to spend time sitting down. I wanted to get going to the Louvre and continue exploring. I had a timed entry for 3:00 p.m. at the Louvre, and I had about two hours more to go, and apparently it was only a 20 minute walk, but again, I only had one day in Paris, and I didn’t want to miss anything. I walked around the alleyway until I saw a creperie that looked like it made especially appetizing crepes, and bought a chocolate and strawberry crepe for the road. I tried to order in French and was gently laughed at. I laughed back and said, “Okay, how is it pronounced?” “Frase,” the frenchman replied. I had pronounced strawberry as “frah-say.” I did better with the language in Spain. Anyways, he made me my crepe and it was easily and by far the best crepe I had ever tasted!
The little crepe shop where I bought my afternoon snack


Heading out of the alleyway and toward the Louvre

I got lost on my way to the Louvre, and what should’ve been a twenty minute walk ended up being an hour long tour of various parts of Paris. I saw some neat government buildings and gardens though and some shops and restaurants I would’ve never seen otherwise, so that was at least something, right?

I have no idea what that building behind me is. I just thought it was pretty and I passed it a lot while trying to find the Louvre.
I finally did locate the Louvre though and was grateful. I’d brought nothing but a backpack with me, and it was heavy because it held all of my belongings. I was glad to set it down. I ate some Clif bars and people-watched for an hour. Then I got my picture taken with the Louvre triangle thanks to some English tourists from Manchester and headed inside.
The first exhibit I headed to was of course the Mona Lisa. She was in a different location than usual due to some construction in her usual area. It must’ve been a smaller area because there was a line and guards that made sure everyone kept moving. I had about 30 seconds to get a picture with the Mona Lisa. I went through the line twice to try to get a good picture of me with her. This is the best I was able to get:

Yeah, it’s nothing great, but hey, it’s proof that I saw her! It really was neat to see that famous painting.

I then headed to the statue area and saw Hammurabi’s Code and the Venus de Milo. I thought about going to find Napoleon’s Coronation, but the Louvre is a MAZE and I was losing a bit of patience. It honestly took long enough to find those two statues. It was about 5:00, I was hungry again, and I still needed to hit the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower before sundown.

Hammurabi’s Code


Venus de Milo

I could’ve stopped at the Louvre’s cafeteria, but again, I just figured I’d find something to eat on the way to the Arc. That was a bit of wishful thinking, and well, there were a few places I could’ve stopped, but as it turns out, the Arc is directly west of the Louvre and I just wanted to get there. Google Maps told me that it was a 45 minute walk, but the Arc is HUGE and looked so close, I figured I could get there in 30!

Well, no, I was wrong. I think I got there in an hour. I had a heavy backpack on which definitely slowed me down and I was hungry. But, my determination did get me there. And, on the way, I walked through the Tuileries Garden, Place de la Concorde, and Champs-Élysées, none of which I’d expected to be able to hit. Again, this trip was planned in two months. I didn’t really focus on any details I didn’t have to, so this was a wonderful surprise!
Place de la Concorde



Tiffany’s on Champs-Élysées

I finally did make it to the Arc. I only wanted a picture with it and got that taken care of pretty quick by some fellow kind tourists.

Then, I went straight to a taxi (something I didn’t see on the entire walk to the Arc), asked how much it cost to go to the Eiffel Tower, was told 10 euros and happily paid that. I am so glad I did because I could tell on the way there that that would’ve been a miserable walk.
Taxi Ride—can you tell I’m exhausted and going on little sleep? 🙂

When the taxi turned a corner and the Eiffel Tower came into view, all I could think was, “Wow! That is HUGE!” My friend who had been to Paris before me warned me that I would be amazed at the Eiffel Tower’s massiveness, but I still hadn’t been prepared for it. She told me to get as close to it as I could and just gaze up at it. Yes, it is massive.

I walked a little way down Champ du Mars and again found some nice tourists to take my picture. For today, all I wanted was just a picture with the Eiffel Tower with some greenery in the background.
After this picture, I headed to the metro station that would take me back to the airport, where I would take a shuttle to my hotel. I said au revoir to Paris and promised to be back in one week.
At the airport, I got a ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette for dinner. I chatted briefly with James and the kids and then went to bed, ready for my adventure the next day in Sevilla, Spain.
Waiting for the shuttle with my dinner


Now, I know that in America we say “Seville,” but I first learned about Sevilla from my Spanish teacher in high school and it was her love of Sevilla and of Spain that first planted the seed in my heart to some day visit Spain, and to definitely make a trip while there to Sevilla. My teacher loved Sevilla and told us we must go there when we go to Spain. I was so glad Emily and April were willing to keep it on the itinerary even through all the changes the trip went through during our two month planning phase.
The first thing I thought when I got on the city bus heading to La Plaza de España from the airport, was how beautiful Spain was! Everything was a subtle shade of orange, red, cream, yellow, or green. The sky was bright blue and the palm trees were lovely. There was definitely something of a “Spanish vibe” everywhere.
I arrived at La Plaza de España before Emily and April and I’m glad I did. I needed some time to just soak it in and be there all on my own. I had dreamed for many years of visiting La Plaza. That same high school teacher had shown us pictures of La Plaza, and it looked so beautiful and amazing to me. I stood there at the entrance for just a moment, soaking it all in: the grandness, the vastness, the Spanish-ness. There was the fountain! There were the arches! There were the towers! It was so beautiful.
After taking it in, I explored La Plaza as much as I could. I saw people dressed in their best casual-wear taking pictures of each other. There were people playing instruments in the stairways and in the hallways. There were people selling fans and other types of souvenirs. There were flamenco dancers in the main entryway. And there was so much attention to detail on the building an Plaza itself.
Tile on the floor of La Plaza
Andalusia Flag, Spain Flag, and European Union Flag

I got some lunch and then joined April and Emily, who had arrived by that time, back in the Plaza. We enjoyed watching some Flamenco and they kindly snapped a picture of me in the Plaza.

We headed to our Air BnB with plans to come back to the Plaza later to eat dinner and enjoy the general ambiance.
The AirBnB was a little tricky to find, but we managed. I rested for a bit while they grabbed some salads at a local grocery store, and then we all headed out to explore. We found a garden near the plaza that was very peaceful and fun to explore.


I enjoyed seeing the little train playground. It reminded me of Adelynn and Aidan and made me smile.


We ate our dinner at the plaza while watching some more flamenco and then headed out again to visit the Santa Cruz Barrio (a pretty neighborhood.) We passed some lovely moorish walls on the way there that I believe had once guarded one of Ferdinand and Isabel’s palaces.
Moorish Wall


A more castle-looking part of the wall


Santa Cruz Barrio. I was thrilled with how “European” it looked.


We saw this sign about Washington Irving once staying in a particular room in the barrio. Irving seemed to have been all
over the Andalusia region.
After exploring the barrio, we saw La Giralda which was under construction (kind of a theme of my trip so far, huh?). It was still neat to see it and to see just how TALL this bell tower truly was!
La Giralda
The cathedral that is home to La Giralda


April and Emily gazing up at the cathedral
We then walked along the Guadalquivir River and saw some more beautiful architecture. I’d like to say these were homes, but I’m not certain.
We walked through a gypsy neighborhood after that, which I’ll admit I didn’t really enjoy. It was very dirty and I was happy to leave it. On the way back to the Air BnB, I saw an Aldi’s, a common supermarket store in Europe, which I had heard about, and which James had experienced on his mission in Minnesota. Apparently Aldi’s is quite an experience in cheapness and James is highly amused by them. Seeing the Aldi’s made me smile and I took a picture with the sign for James. He told me the next day that he’d loved seeing all my pictures (they uploaded to a shared cloud overnight), especially the one of me with the Aldi’s sign :).


Next up was Granada. We got up early and took a charter bus about two hours from Sevilla to Granada. The road to Granada was mainly farms and fields and it was lovely in it’s own way even if it reminded me a lot of the drive from Spokane to Seattle.

When we arrived, we first walked around outside the church where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel are buried. It was quite an active area with shops, restaurants, and even mimes. There was quite a bit of history and life to the area and one building was even being excavated. It was a fun 45 minutes just walking around and exploring.

April walking down the corridor between the church and the other buildings/shops


A mime. Every time someone put a coin in his bowl, he changed position. He had three positions.


The building being excavated.


April and I in the corridor between the church and the shops.


King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel are buried in there
Statues of King Ferdinand, a pope (not sure which), and Queen Isabel

After we explored the area near the famous king and queen’s burial place, we headed to our main attraction of the day: La Alhambra. I had heard of La Alhambra a long, long time ago, probably in a high school Spanish class, and its name had a distant ring to it. April was the one who really drove us all to see this and I’m glad she did. It is a fascinating fortress teaming with the history of the area. I will not spend time in this blog post going over it, but for anyone interested, you can read more about it here.

La Alhambra was as massive as it was beautiful. We spent quite a bit of time exploring the gardens which seemed endless, but were very, very beautiful even in late summer.

Everywhere I went in Spain, there was so much attention given to detail. Even the floor was decorated!


This was a clever irrigation system that was implemented into the gardens.
The buildings were of course fun to explore as well. Seeing all the variations in architecture was especially fascinating. We were able to explore one of the palaces too which was neat.
Looking out over the city of Granada from the palace

After our visit to La Alhambra, we paused for a couple of hours. I rested at the apartment and I believe April and Emily went grocery shopping. After my rest I went to a restaurant and had my first experience ordering in Spanish.  I then met up with April and Emily and we headed to the gypsy caves museum. However, something was happening that evening that caused the buses to not go as far as they usually can, or we’d misunderstood which bus line to catch. We were about to resign ourselves to not seeing the caves and just exploring the neighborhoods near them, when I decided that I really did want to see those caves and when would I ever get a chance to see gypsy caves again? Maybe someday, but I didn’t know that. So, I asked Emily and April if they would be okay booking it up a large hill where we had hoped the bus would take us, and see if we could make it to the museum before it closed.

April and Emily were up to it and we made it with about 30 minutes to spare before they closed. I darted ahead to make sure I saw all the caves (I’d discovered during our short time together that Emily and April both liked to take their time and absorb things more than I did), but that turned out to be unnecessary as there weren’t a lot of them. A bit chagrined, I rejoined them, and we discussed what we’d learned and what stood out to each of us. For me, it was how the people who had been forced into the caves by those invading the area, had tried to make the best of their situation and truly make the caves homey. If the museum was portraying things accurately, the gypsies had been industrious and clever with the land and the resources around them. They didn’t resign themselves to the awfulness of their situation and give in to despair. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work and made the best of a bad situation.
A home. You can see the bed in the back.
Basket weaving cave


A kitchen


There was beautiful pottery in another cave
The outside of a cave


The caves in the hillside.


April and Emily heading back down the large hill. (I had to sneak to get pictures of these two! They prefer not to be in pictures, but I wanted to remember them as well as the places.)

On our way back to the main road where we would get our bus, we noticed quite a lot of religious activity in a neighborhood. We stopped inside a Catholic church to see if we could figure out what was going on, but we couldn’t, and continued on our way. As we did, we noticed a bunch of people lined up, like a parade was going to start. We sat down and I struck up a conversation with the man next to me to see what was happening. This ended up being one of the highlights of my trip!

The man’s name was Antonio. He didn’t speak a word of English, but he was very, very patient with my broken Spanish. He slowly and patiently explained to me that the neighborhood we were walking through was very old and that there was a “brotherhood” that was being celebrated that night. They were celebrating their 75th year. It seemed like a Christian brotherhood, perhaps even Catholic. When I asked him what time the procession would start, he sort of waved and said, “15 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour? Sometime soon.” It struck me as so different from United States culture where everything has a start time and an end time. This neighborhood was much more laid back, though steeped in tradition. Antonio told me that each of the neighborhood’s districts were represented in the procession and that each person in the procession had been in the neighborhood all their lives, including the children. It was a very big deal.
What a treat that we were able to be there that night for it! The procession started about ten minutes later with drums and trumpets. It sounded like a Spanish marching band, but had a much different vibe than a marching band. There was more zeal and commitment and pride in the air. It was neat to be able to witness this bit of culture in Granada.
Antonio and I


The procession starting


The proud “marching bands”

We headed home after about fifteen minutes of the procession. Outside of our apartment, there was some dancing happening and we got to see a little bit of the Spanish night life. We didn’t participate though because we had to be up early again the next morning to head to Málaga.

The square where people were dancing
And, a random street light. I really liked the street lights in Granada. Again, that Spanish attention to detail just amazed me.


Since we arrived in Málaga on a Sunday morning, we headed first to church. I was excited about this as I had never before attended a church meeting that was held entirely in a different language. You’d think I would have, having served a mission in the Philippines, but Filipinos actually like to have their meetings in English as much as possible—even if the English is mixed with the local language. At least, this was my experience in the areas I served. So, again, I’d never been to a church meeting that wasn’t in at least some English and I wanted the experience.
Málaga did not disappoint me in this regard. The church was in an office building which was a bit different, but inside it actually reminded me so much of the churches I’d been in in the Philippines. The floor was white tile, the chairs were made of wood. Everything was very simple, but there was still a feeling of reverence in the building that I recognized.
I didn’t understand much of what was said in sacrament meeting, but I enjoyed singing the hymns in Spanish and took pictures of the hymns we sang. And, though it’s not entirely appropriate, I did take a picture of the chapel during sacrament meeting because I wanted to remember the scene…


The section of office building dedicated the the church.



Sacrament meeting


As I Search the Holy Scriptures
Behold! A Royal Army


In Relief Society we were met by a friendly Relief Society president, who also didn’t speak any English, but I had a good time explaining who we were and why we were there. A friendly sister missionary from California sat next to me and she seemed to enjoy seeing some people from the United States. When I was handed something to read during Relief Society she helped me pronounce “adquirimos” and helped me know what I was reading (I had forgotten the meaning of a couple words, but those words were quite important.) No one did anything when I read my part, but I knew it was obvious that I was not a native Spanish speaker. It was a different experience for me, but a good one.


Translation: “It is through obedience that we acquire light in our soul.”
The Relief Society room. The teacher did a great job, by the way. She had a fantastic energy about her!

After church, we headed to our Air BnB which took a bit of trial and error to find, but we did indeed find it. I got started on some laundry and then we headed on a walk to see an old Roman amphitheater. I was pretty excited. Europe was turning out to be so cool! There was so much history EVERYWHERE!

We saw something happening at a large Catholic church on our way there. We think it had something to do with Mary, but we’re not sure.
Anyways, we made it to the Roman amphitheater and spent a bit of time there. It was neat to see it even though the reasons for its existence were not so great. I found it to be very interesting that there were old Roman ruins in the middle of a large bustling city. Surely this city could use the space for something else, something modern. However, they had chosen to keep the ruins. It was free for us to see them on Sunday, but perhaps the ruins brought in good money on the other days. Or, perhaps Málaga just liked this piece of history. Regardless, it was neat to see the ruins of a time gone by.
After this, I went back home to finish my laundry and April and Emily went off to find some gardens (I think.) We met up a few hours later and bought some food at Aldi’s for dinner. This was my first time shopping at an Aldi’s and I wanted to document the occasion for James.
James later told me that the Aldi’s he had shopped at in Minnesota as a missionary had never had anything fresh! He was surprised to see these pastries.

We ate our dinner and then headed to the beach so that I could swim in the Mediterranean Sea. This was another highlight of the trip for me! I have never swam in any saltwater besides the Pacific Ocean. It was very exciting for me to cross another great body of ocean water off my bucket list.

The sea was beautiful and not too cold. There was a lighthouse off in the distance. The waves were gentle and rolling. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I swam for maybe five minutes. Emily and April were not interested in swimming and I didn’t want to hold them up from what they wanted to do, or be in the ocean on my own. But it was a fun five minutes and I appreciated April taking pictures of me.




Me swimming with the lighthouse in the distance
The beach. I liked that there was a playground on the beach.
And that pretty much concluded the day. I remember that I headed back to the apartment for some quiet time and April and Emily went off to explore the city some more. I was impressed by how they could just go, go, go and never seemed to need to rest.


The following morning we were off to Madrid. I believe we took an Ave high-speed train to get to Madrid in about two and a half hours. It was a bit more of an expensive train ride, but we were all willing to pay it so that we could spend more of the day exploring.
Madrid was very business-like, at least compared to the other cities. There were so many government buildings! It was also very, very touristy and that actually made the least enjoyable city to me that we visited. I mean, I still enjoyed it, but it was missing that special flavor of culture that the other cities had had. It seemed to be a city for government officials, businessmen, and tourists. I didn’t get a chance to talk to any locals unless they were trying to sell me something and I missed Andalusia.
However, we did see some neat, historical buildings and plazas in Madrid and we ate some good, authentic Spanish cuisine.
We saw La Puerta del Sol, a place more famous for its night life than its day life I think:
We then saw the Royal Palace where the current Spanish monarchy lives, at least officially.
We also saw the Temple of Debod, a temple that Napoleon’s army had moved from Egypt and then dropped off in Madrid on their way through Spain. It was rebuilt stone by stone in Madrid and has had a park built around it. It was kinda cool to see an ancient Egyptian temple even though it was in Madrid.

Next, we saw Sobrino de Botín, the world’s oldest operating restaurant. Hemingway ate here, I think multiple times, when he came to Madrid.

Guinness World Record plaque stating that it is the world’s oldest operating restaurant

We took a break after visiting these places and stopped in at a cafe. I ordered some churros con chocolate, which is a must try any time you go to Spain! The hot chocolate is like a thin pudding and dipping Spanish churros in it is a heavenly combination.

After our cafe stop, we visited the “Golden Mile” which is a large stretch (possibly a mile long?) of very expensive shops. Emily and April wanted to do this, and I was game, so we just enjoyed looking at the very fancy and expensive displays in the windows. It was fun to window shop and I took a picture of a yellow dress that I thought was pretty and showed exceptional draping skills on the part of the designer.
Finally, we ended our day with viewing the Prado from afar. We had hoped to get to it in time, but we arrived about thirty minutes before it closed, and they were no longer accepting admissions. Still, it was neat to see it even from the outside. It is huge!
At lunch time, we’d also tried chicken paella, which had some amazing butter beans, and then for dinner I ordered some tapas which included Iberian bacon (AMAZING! So flavorful!!) and fried egg and potatoes. Spanish eggs are fried in olive oil which definitely gave a distinct flavor to the eggs. The potatoes just tasted like really good hashbrowns.
I also stopped by a tourist shop and got a pink Flamenco dress for Adelynn and a Real Madrid soccer ball for Aidan.
Our apartment had a fancy elevator that I was admittedly highly amused by. You had to shut like two doors to get it to operate! I’d only ever seen these kinds of elevators in movies!

We once again did not enjoy any Spanish night life because we had to get up early. I hardly slept that night because our apartment was so stuffy. But, I survived, and we were off to France the next morning.


At the Orly airport in Paris, April and Emily and I parted ways. They went off to see the main city of Paris while I, having already seen Paris, went to Versailles. I wanted to see the palace and had purchased a time-stamped ticket to an audio-guided tour of the palace that started at 1:30 p.m.

I nearly didn’t make it on time because I had the HARDEST time finding the correct metro at the Gare Montparnasse. After a lot of prayer, and asking directions from a kind vendor, I made it with about two minutes to spare. I asked a woman on the train if I was heading to Versailles, and she confirmed it for me. She spoke excellent English and so I then had an enjoyable twenty minute conversation with this woman all the way to Versailles. She was from Peru, but had come to Paris for a job in fashion. She missed her country, but enjoyed her work, and there weren’t many, if any, opportunities for her at home. I could tell she was very smart and likely very good at her job.

Anyways, I made it with a bit of time to spare to the place I was supposed to meet to be guided to the palace and given my audio guide. I was able to drop off my backpack at the palace, which was very welcome. Then, I was given my audio guide after passing through some security, and I was off to explore the palace and its gardens.

The palace itself was very interesting, especially the Hall of Mirrors. I remember being amazed at the opulence and not a bit surprised at how ticked off the revolutionaries of the French revolution were at the monarchy. It was all quite lovely though and the many kings who had lived in that palace had been great interior decorators and also very proud Frenchmen. There was so much history everywhere in the palace and it was such a treat to see it.

The magnificent golden gate outside of the palace.


The king’s room


The Hall of Mirrors


Marie Antoinette’s room


Marie Antoinette and her children


The Coronation of Napoleon (so glad I didn’t try to go find this in the Louvre)


Bottom floor of the palace where a museum had been placed by one of the kings

The palace was magnificent, but I especially loved the gardens. I’ll admit though, that despite me being in the gardens of the Palace of Versaille, I did order a cheeseburger and french fries at the little restaurant just inside the gardens. I loved my adventure, but I wanted to eat something familiar and that cheeseburger and fries hit the spot.

Anyways, the gardens are amazing. There’s really no adequate way to describe them. They are huge, with statues, amphitheaters, fountains (which were accompanied by recorded music the day I was there which was neat), arches, hedges, flowers, rocks, massive trees, swans…And so much more. Do not skip the gardens on a visit to the Palace of Versailles.
I liked this statue because it’s the only one I’ve seen of a father being portrayed as so attentive and loving towards his child.
The view of the palace from one side of the gardens.

The palace and its grounds closed about fifteen minutes after I finished my self-guided tour. I grabbed my backpack and headed to the train to go back to Paris. I had planned to meet back up with Emily and April at the museum on the west side of the Seine River directly across from the Eiffel Tower. We were going to watch the light show together before we headed to our last Air BnB.Unfortunately my train was heavily delayed by a train in front of it that was having some severe technical issues. We were delayed about an hour and a half and creeped station by station. When we were stopped a station away from the one that I wanted, and been sitting there for about half an hour, I decided to get off the train and find a taxi. I wanted to see the 9:00 p.m. light show with April and Emily. The light show was on the hour every hour after dark and I knew that they wouldn’t want to stay out for the 10:00 show since they wanted to get up early again the next morning and I really didn’t want to miss this light show.

As I hopped off the train, I heard an announcement. I looked at a woman next to me who was listening too.

“Is it the same?” I asked her, hoping she spoke English. I assumed it was the same “sit tight, we’re working on it” announcement that had been happening the last hour and a half, but didn’t speak French, so didn’t know for sure.

“It is the same,” she said.



I would later learn that she was actually asking me the same question. She assumed I spoke French. I assumed she did. The reality was, she spoke Portuguese and very broken English. I just spoke English.

I exited the train station and saw the Eiffel Tower straight ahead, but still at least a 45 minute walk away. I was surprised there weren’t any taxis waiting outside the station for impatient, desperate travelers. I went into a metro station, but none of the lines went to the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t know how to navigate the bus system. I was about to start walking to the Eiffel Tower when the woman I had just spoken with grabbed my arm and said something to me in Portuguese.

“I don’t speak French,” I told her.

“French? Not French. Portuguese. I speak Portuguese!” she replied.

“I speak English,” I replied.

She looked at the man with her who was apparently her husband. She said something to him in Portuguese.

He looked at me and said, “No Portuguese?”

“No,” I replied. “English?”

“Very little,” he replied.

We both sighed.

Then he said, “Where did you just come from?”

I replied, “Versailles.”

“No, what other country?”

“I visited Spain.”

“Spain! Español?”

“Sí!” I replied.

And from there we communicated with each other in broken Spanish. I told them that I planned to walk to the Eiffel Tower. The metro wouldn’t get us there. Our train had moved on (apparently that miscommunication between us was costly). They told me they needed to get to the metro station near the Eiffel Tower. I told them that I knew where that was and to follow me.

So, we trekked to the Eiffel Tower communicating a little here and there. They followed closely behind me. The woman seemed to question the wisdom of our decision after about twenty minutes, but her husband seemed to communicate back that he didn’t see any better options. After about 40 minutes I pointed out the Eiffel Tower metro station to them for which they were grateful. We parted ways.

I made my way over to the Eiffel Tower and made it to the top of the stairs of the museum about ten minutes before the show started. April and Emily were still making their way over. As I stared at the lit up tower, waiting for the show to start, wondering at it’s beauty and taking in the view of the city with the moon just to the left of the tower, someone tapped my shoulder.

It was a boy, about my age, maybe younger, offering me a rose. I told him no thank you. He said it was free. Naive, I thanked him and took it. I gazed at the Eiffel Tower again for a few seconds, and then felt him tapping my arm. I turned and asked him what he wanted. He demanded payment. I told him, “No, you gave it to me,” and turned away again. He kept demanding payment. I paid him a little and he demanded a little more. I didn’t want a scene and I wanted him to go away, so I paid him a little more. He went away. I was annoyed, but determined not to let the exchange spoil my evening. Just then the light show started.

It was lovely watching the sparkling Eiffel Tower. Pictures can’t capture it. And in the background the song “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran was playing. I thought of James since that is our song. I missed him. Holding the rose, which he probably would have bought for me had he been there, and listening to the song while I watched the dazzling show, I felt close to him in that moment and looked forward very much to seeing him the next day.

Thinking of James

After the show, I met up with April and Emily. We took pictures in front of the tower and then headed to the metro to get to our AirBnB, a fantastic Parisian apartment that I actually wished we could have spent more time in.

Heading Home

The next morning, April and Emily got up bright and early to view another part of Paris. I slept in an additional thirty minutes and then got up to begin my trek home. I had exact change to buy a train ticket to the airport and I was grateful for how familiar I’d become with the Paris metro/train system.
I experienced some questioning by a security guard in the airport, which was normal and standard for the CDG international terminal, but it was a first for me and I initially didn’t know who this woman was and why she was asking me such personal questions. I was in line to get a seat assignment and very focused on my task. I was next in line and wanted to be ready. When I realized who was asking me these questions, I apologized and became very cooperative. The security guard seemed unfazed.
Anyways, the ride home was uneventful. I watched movies the whole time, including Gone with the Wind (never again.) It honestly felt great to just sit for ten hours.
When I landed in Salt Lake City, I got through customs easily, then took the metro and then train back to Lehi, Utah where James and the kids picked me up. They were as thrilled to see me as I was them and I definitely felt welcomed home. They had even made a large “Welcome Home” sign for me which they had taped to the entry way outside our home.

I gave everyone their souvenir gifts. James enjoyed the chocolate croissant I had bought eleven hours earlier in the CDG airport, Adelynn put on her pink Flamenco dress and danced around, and Aidan kicked his soccer ball all over the downstairs. They would also run over and admire their Paris snow globes, ask some questions, then run off to play again. I snuggled up to James and watched them play. It was good to be home.

Remember how I said I felt a pull to go on this trip? I’m not entirely sure why that was, but I will say that I definitely missed my family while I was away. I mean, I loved my adventure, but my adventure also helped me realize what matters most. I didn’t miss work which I always looked forward to getting to each day before my trip; I missed my people. I came home with a new appreciation towards them and that appreciation has lasted these last several months, though at times I’ve had to work at it ;).

Travel adventures are fun and I hope for many more in my future. But family adventures are better and I hope for many, many more of those. And, hey, if we can continue to combine the two every now and then, all the better!

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