Jesus take the wheel: Girls’ road trip to France

Hey kids. I keep talking about how behind I am with my posts and not actually doing anything about it. Until now. Time to stop being polite and start being real and posting on a regular basis. …Once I catch up with all my old stories for you. So hold on to your butts seats, time to get you up to speed on a recent adventure with two of my very best friends from Chicago, S & L. Here they are:

My darlings

These two darlings came to Amsterdam in May for a visit. And, naturally, we carpe diem-ed that shit and made the most of their time here by also planning a little side trip to Paris!! How many best friends do you know that can just casually go to Paris together? How lucky are we!? Ah yes, the benefits to living in Europe. You may remember that I was in Paris recently with my parents. Truly a dream come true to be able to experience that with my family. But now with friends?? Almost too good to be true. Until it wasn’t.

Let’s dive in, shall we? It started off innocently enough, we had printed off all our Google map directions, had plenty of fuel (no, not gas, although we had that too.. I mean, more importantly, road trip snacks), and a sense of adventure. Nevermind the fact that we had celebrated Cinco de Mayo the night before, which may or may not have ended in a chugging mango salsa vodka disaster and we could barely open our eyes let alone walk…..

But, hey, Paris was waiting.

So Jesus took the wheel (as he did many times throughout the trip) and got us going in the morning on Sunday. Everything was going smoothly for about 5 seconds. Then Lizz, my dedicated directions-reader, had to read the first street name to turn on. Ruysdaelkade. You can imagine how this came out of her mouth. Now that I can read/speak Dutch, hearing my poor friend try to sound it out was hilarious. And also so confusing for me. By the time we figured out what street it was, we were already ‘lost.’ As in, not at all following the directions. Since I never drive in Amsterdam, I have no idea where snelwegs (highways) are and how to get on them. So! After about 45 minutes of torturous hell fun & laughs, we got out of Amsterdam and on the road to Paris!! Fast forward 5 hours and 1 stop at McDonald’s later, we were ‘in’ Paris. And got lost in about 10 seconds. After trying to figure it out on our own for about 45 minutes, we gave up, called our host, had her meet us at a metro, and guide us to the apartment. We stayed in a nice flat in Pere Lachaise (20e). While the flat was nice, the area was not so hot. All homes and no patisseries or shops makes a Parisian hood a dull one. Since we still had a bit of daylight, we checked out Notre Dame and the Louvre, and then we went to that magical place as soon as dark set in.

Hey, I know you!

That’s right, the Eiffel Tower. As I mentioned in my other post about Paris, first timers just have to see the grand Eiffel Tower on their first day… preferably their first night when she really shines! I think it really helps get everyone in the mood. A Parisian mood. S&L loved it, right then they realized they were really in Paris! Of course, getting there included someone running through red lights, breaking her purse strap and nearly getting hit by a car, but it was worth it. Right? (Jesus took the wheel there.)

Day 2. Completely revitalized from a sober decent night of sleep. Time to hit the Louvre! We metro’ed over to it after some croissants and lines were surprisingly light for a Monday (it’s closed on Tuesday so I’d expect Monday to be super busy). Checked out the heavy hitters: Mona (always underwhelms, btw), Venus, and some others. I’m always struck by the Greek god/goddess statues, I dono why. After we Louvre’d, we lunched in Jardin du Luxembourg. This was my favorite part of the trip! Munching on cheese, baguettes & sandwiches, sipping white wine in the sun… it was the perfect afternoon!

Cheers to Paris!

After our lunch, we headed over to Les Invalides to see a must do on Stacy’s list – The War Museum or Musée de l’Armée. We wandered around Napoleon’s tomb for a minute, confused about were the museum entrance was and by the time we found it – they wouldn’t let us in! I guess we only had 10 minutes before closing and needed “at least” two hours. C’est la vie. 

So, we hopped back on the Metro and headed to one of my favorite hoods – Monmartre. Here we are having wine in Painter’s Square:

American girls in Paris

Eventually headed over to a place we had read about for dinner to find out it was closed! Again, c’est la vie. We ended up at this other cute place nearby where we had onion soup and foie gras. Oops.

The next morning, we went back to the War Museum. A few things: It is massive. Way bigger than I expected. We only walked through WWI and WWII and it took over two hours. There are a bunch of other war stories in there as well! I was really impressed, they have so much memorabilia and information- It was a lot to take in. Highly recommend! After a speedy lunch of crepes and vin, we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping. Since we were already on the Champs Élysées, we hoofed it to the top of the Arc du Triomphe for some amazing views at sunset!

Arc du Triomphe

It was my first time up there and I’d say it’s the best view of Paris. Better than Notre Dame, Eiffel or Sacre Coeur, but that’s just me. Had dinner that night in the Latin Quarter, which is on par with the Istanbul/Barcelona/Marrakech chaotic dining street scene. Hosts harrassing you to choose their place, etc. Great for people watching (even the crazies that troll around). Decent enough food (although I was disappointed in the onion soup). But most importantly, wonderful conversation with my girls. Le sigh!

Next morning we bid adieu to Paris, hopped back in the car and got to the Champagne region (without incident). Epernay first. What a cute little town! Of course we enjoyed some a dis:

Champagne in Champagne

At a cute restaurant with al fresco seating. After strolling through town for a bit, we realized it was sort of… deserted. Not in a spooky way, just in a quiet, mysterious way. We ended up driving over to the big houses (Moet & Chandon, Perrier Jouet, etc) and it was just so quiet. So we humbly entered the tourist office and asked where small houses were that we could check out. He pointed us toward Rheims (where we were headed anyway) and off we went through magical fields of yellow flowers, and of course, rolling hills of grapevines.

Along the way, we passed through many small villages and, while beautiful and charming, none seemed to be catering to tourists at that time. Maybe we miscalculated our timing (I did forget my guidebook after all), but it was weird. We stopped in Mailly for a tasting, but it was a ghost town so we chugged our bubbles and split. And by split, I mean left. Not the mini bottle. 😉 Once in Rheims, we walked the streets and went into the shops. It’s an ordinary French city with shopping, dining, etc. Had a nice dinner on a pretty square with a fountain then it was time to make the long trek home. Luckily, we did NOT get lost and all got home in one piece. Even the car. Phew!

We hit France like a tornado. Not the kind that drop houses on witches, more the kind that is in your bathtub as the water drains out. We floated around the whole city in a constant whirlwind and just like that, we were gone. And now my friends are gone too! Up and back to Chicago …why I oughta. Was hoping they’d stay. ❤