Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of travelling the world, but apart from a short but fun holiday to the US with my Grandmother when I was 15, I never had managed to be the jetsetter I always planned on being (yet……..). We would always talk about travelling “one day” but for one reason or another just never got round to it. Then, on our 10 year anniversary, Peter surprised me with tickets to Paris! I was absolutely blown away, and so unbelievably excited! We spent an amazing 17 nights in France and England. We saw and did so many memorable things and before we’d even left we were talking about our next trip. In fact, I can clearly remember in our last week trying desperately to convince Peter to extend our tickets home. I just did not want it to end!
The trip was in February, 2010 and at the time we only had 2 kids, Anna (3) and Elyssa (1 &12). We also took my Mum (Wendy/Nanna) along for the ride! That first day on the way to the airport I was like a little kid, so excited, talking a million miles an hour. Queueing at the ticket counter, waving goodbye to family at the departure gates, boarding the plane, finding our seats, my dream was finally coming true and with my beautiful little family. I could not have been happier!
Driving into Paris from the airport was surreal. Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, I felt like I was in a movie (although there was a brief moment when I got it into my head that our driver may actually be kidnapping us……….different kind of movie there…). We spent 3 glorious, freezing cold days enjoying Paris. We took it slow. We spent ages under the Eiffel Tower eating Pan Au Chocolat and watching the kids chase pigeons. We took a bus tour through the city and tackled the underground train system carrying our double pram up and down endless flights of stairs. We spent a magical day at Disneyland. We ate snails and croissants and bought a cheese that smelled so unbelievably bad we had to remove it from the hotel room!
On our fourth day we woke up to snow lightly falling over the city, which, over the next few days as we toured around northern France, got heavier and heavier. This for us, coming from Melbourne, Australia where seeing snow generally requires a long day trip to the mountains, was extremely exciting. In fact, it was the first time our girls had experienced snow and they were mesmerised.
Driving on the French motorways was an experience in itself. It was scary enough that the speed limit was 130 kph (30 kph faster than we are used to in Australia), but pair that with icy snow covered roads and the French drivers flying past us, let’s just say that it was a good job that it was the cool and collected Peter driving and not myself. I think I’m still traumatised to this day from the extreme, insane minute we spent driving around the Arc De Triumph on our last day in Paris.
Over four days we drove from Paris to Rouen, then on to Mont Saint Michel before returning to Paris. We stayed in three gorgeous B&Bs and fell in love with the magnificent French countryside. At times the language barrier made things challenging and I found myself wishing I had put more effort into learning (and remembering) some basic sentences. We were laughed at in a McDonald’s as we attempted to order off the menu, and in one creperie where we had dinner, we had no choice but to point at French words on a menu and cross our fingers. I still don’t know exactly what we ate, but it sure did taste good! All the food we ate in France was amazing. I had the best dessert of my life on that road trip, all the meals we had in various restaurants were of such a high standard and even the fast food and roadside diners served better quality food than at home. Mum still can’t eat any McDonalds without comparing it to the ‘Primio au Parmesan’ she had.
The absolute highlight of our road trip was Mont Saint Michel. A UNESCO listed world heritage site known as ‘The Wonder of The West’, Mont Saint Michel is a 1000 year old Abbey sitting atop a quaint village. It is on an islet in the bay and the view as we drove toward it was like something out of a fairytale. We walked through a gorgeous alley of shops and eateries then climbed the Grande Staircase into the Abbey. The views are amazing and the whole place has such a special, peaceful feeling to it.
On the last night of our road trip we stayed in a castle surrounded by a semi frozen moat. We were all in hysterics watching a group of swans swimming madly trying to break through the icy layers and once again the little girl in me came out and I stood with Anna and Elyssa throwing stones into the moat trying to crack through the ice.
After driving through what felt like 100 tolls (one of which we got stuck in when we realised we were out of cash), we arrived back in Paris where we spent one more night before catching the Eurostar to London to begin the second half of our amazing adventure.