Before making our way to Nice, we stopped at Saint-Paul-de-Vence. As one of the oldest, medieval towns on the French Riviera, it was full of old world charm.
There couldn’t have been more differences between France and Albania. But, surprisingly, I did run into a few similarities. One of our hotels had a shower with no shower curtain or stall. However, the fact that it wasn’t placed over a turkish toilet was a huge step up from Albania.
Which brings me to my next similarity; a turkish toilet. We did indeed find one of these in a public restroom. The chaos that resulted in my travel group was quite funny. I couldn’t help but sit back and laugh. This Turkish toilet had running water and was actually quite clean. What was the problem?! I kept having to remind myself that most of these people were coming from America and had never seen, much less used a squat toilet. Turned out this was their lucky day. It’s always great to try new things on vacation!
Nice is the second largest french city on the Mediterranean coast. We had the opportunity to stroll around this beach town and enjoy the views. Even though I live in a country that borders the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, I will never get tired of staring at that beautiful blue water!
After checking out the beaches, we left Nice and headed north towards the Burgundy wine region. We stopped in the town of Saint Maximin la Sainte Baume. The basilica here, built in the late 13th century, is said to be the lost burial site of Mary Magdelene.
One of cities I wish I could have spent more time in was Lyon. It is situated between the Rhône and Saône rivers and has developed a reputation as the capital of Gastronomy in France. Gastronomy is the study of food and culture, with a focus on gourmet cuisine. This may have had some influence over why I wanted to stay longer! Not only does it have countless restaurants to choose from, there is beautiful architecture throughout the city. We had a fantastic tour guide that showed us the ins and outs of the city. More than once, we found ourselves wandering through hidden courtyards that only the locals knew about.
As we traveled through wine country, we stopped in the regional capital, Beaune. Beaune is one of the key wine centres in France. It is also surrounded by some of the world’s most famous wine villages.
We ended the night with Moulin Rouge in Paris. Founded in 1889, this cabaret attracts visitors from around the world. Located at the Music Hall, this was easily one of the highlights of my trip. The talent and work that the performers put into each night was amazing.
On our last day, we visited the Palace of Versailles, an impressive, and HUGE, royal château in Versailles. When the château was built, Versailles was a country village; today, however, it is a wealthy suburb of Paris. In 1624, Louis XIII ordered the construction of a hunting lodge. Louis XIII’s successor, Louis XIV, later had it expanded into one of the largest palaces in the world. He began to gradually move the court there and it was officially established there in 1682. With the signing of the Treaty of Nijmegen in 1678, which ended the Dutch War, the third building campaign at Versailles began. Under the direction of the architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the Palace of Versailles acquired much of the look that it has today. To say that this building is elaborate would be a huge understatement. I’m not sure pictures will ever do it justice and it’s worth the trip to see it. However, with over five million visitors each year, you may have to wait in line for over three hours on their busy days.
A trip to Paris, wouldn’t be complete without the Eiffel Tower, the most well known monument in the world. I found myself constantly snapping pictures of the skyline of Paris because of this tower. Because it is the tallest structure in Paris, it provides unparalleled views of the city.
As I was growing up, my mom always talked about her dream of visiting Paris. That evening as we took a night cruise to take in the lights of the city, we both had undeniable grins on our face. It was hard to believe we were actually in Paris, together, making her dream a reality!
It is hard to describe the beautiful structures, buildings and cities I saw during this trip, I am not completely sure the pictures do it justice. And it is near impossible to explain how amazing it was to finally see family again after over a year! Vacations always go too fast, but looking back, I couldn’t have asked for better memories than the ones we made on this trip!