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Things I Learned on My Trip to France

Eiffel Tower photographed by Casey Fatchett

Caroline and I recently returned from a trip to France and looking at the pictures (many, many pictures) I was inspired to ruminate over our experiences…

The Eiffel Tower Is Amazing

I live in a city with a lot of landmarks and incredible buildings. I was blown away by the Eiffel Tower. It is truly majestic. And at night, when they turn on the lights…it is downright gorgeous!

Eiffel Tower photographed by Casey FatchettEiffel Tower photographed by Casey FatchettEiffel Tower photographed by Casey Fatchett

And the view from inside it is not half bad, either…

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Mt. St. Michel Could Easily Have Been the Inspiration for Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, or Pretty Much Any Disney Castle

This place is real, and it sits on a tidal island. Which means when the tide comes in, the whole area around it floods. You have to park about 2 miles away and take a bus that drops you off half a mile away (where this picture was taken).

Mt St Michel Abbey by Casey Fatchett

This is the view from the ramparts at low tide. Only 963 steps to the top!

Mt St Michel Abbey by Casey Fatchett

And this is what it looks like from the inside.

Mt St Michel Abbey by Casey Fatchett

And if you thought it could not get any more spectacular…at night, they turn the lights on. (By the way, these images are taken from about 2 miles away to give you an idea how huge this place is…)

Mt St Michel Abbey by Casey Fatchett

Go To the Beaches At Normandy

This is a photo of one of the plots at the American D-Day Cemetery. There are many more. They stretch on for miles. It is a truly sobering sight.

D Day American Cemetary by Casey Fatchett

And this is Omaha Beach. It just goes on and on. And it is nearly a half mile from the water up to the top of the ridge. And that ridge is steep! What those soldiers went through is truly mind boggling.

Utah Beach - Normandy by Casey Fatchett

The Catacombs Are Creepier Than You Think They Will Be (And A Lot Further Underground)

After going down more than 100 steps on a tightly winding spiral staircase that will leave you thinking the world is spinning once you finally get to the bottom, the feeling of claustrophobia will start to kick in. It’s cramped. Damp. And dark! Luckily, your path is very clearly marked and you can’t go wandering off down the tunnels (which go for hundreds of miles) or else you would most likely get lost and never be seen or heard from again. And then you come to the skeletons.

There are a lot of skulls in here…

Paris catacombs by Casey FatchettParis catacombs by Casey Fatchett
Lots of skulls…

And when you are done, you get to climb up another spiral staircase to the surface. Tiring, but awesome.

Versailles Is A Lot Bigger Than You Imagined

Seriously, I would have been pretty mad if I were a peasant during the French Revolution to see the King’s “country home”. It is epic.

Versailles by Casey Fatchett

And then you go inside. Who likes some ceiling art?

Versailles by Casey Fatchett

And every time you think the next room can’t be more opulent…it is…

Versailles by Casey Fatchett

And the grounds…

Versailles by Casey Fatchett

If you have never been, you would probably think this picture below is one of the larger gardens, right? Nope. Pretty small actually. The grounds and the palace take up an area equal to the island of Manhattan. Yea, that big!

Versailles by Casey Fatchett

If you are traveling to Paris, or to France in general. Here are some travel tips:

1. Learn some basic French.

Yes, a lot of people in Paris can speak English (but not necessarily fluently), but you shouldn’t depend on that. Be able to have a basic conversation. The French, contrary to the stereotypes, seemed on the whole to be a very nice people who were happy to answer questions, give directions, etc. and usually if they detected your accent they would switch over to English if they spoke it (which is rarer once you get outside of Paris).

But think about it – how would you react if someone walked into your place of business or your hometown and started speaking a foreign language and assumed you spoke it to? You would probably be a little put off.

2. Be prepared to walk

Caroline and I walked nearly 47 miles in a week. Yes, we like to try to see everything we possibly can. The Paris Metro is amazing (and quiet…and easy to navigate) but you will still be pounding a lot of pavement if you are sight seeing.

3. Eat the food

I can not stress this enough. The food is great. Eat it. Don’t go to McDonalds.

4. Drink wine with every meal you can.

I am not a ‘wine person’. It is better than 90% of the wine you will get in the United States and it is probably cheaper than drinking a soda (not kidding).

5. Give yourself time to see things

We could have spent a week alone in the Louvre – there is a lot to see. Pace yourself. And if you go during the height of the ‘tourist season’, you can expect there will be very long lines.

I hope you enjoyed this little departure from the norm – back to wedding photos and such very soon! If you have any thoughts about Paris, France, or traveling in general – please feel free to leave them in the comment section!

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