Zach’s Paris

Following our promise to show our nieces and nephews the world, we are in Europe for Zach’s big trip. Granted, Zach graduated three years ago but better late than never.

Espresso to fight jet lag

Our first stop is Paris where we met up with Zach’s boyfriend Drake, who happened to be in France at the same time. The four of us had a blast exploring the highlights of this beautiful city.

On our first day we arrived early and immediately walked off the jet lag. Our intent was to walk the Champs-Élysées but because of violent yellow vest protests the week before, all of the streets were blocked and it was not possible to get near that part of the city. Instead we wandered through the Jardin des Tuileries all the way to the Eiffel Tower.

As all the guidebooks recommended we had reserved entry to the top of the tower, which saved us a ton of time in line. We ascended right at sunset and enjoyed watching Paris light up as darkness fell.

Our second day featured a visit to the incredible Musée d’Orsay to see the world’s greatest Impressionist works of art.

Van Gogh’s Self Portrait

We followed our museum visit with a surprise meeting with our friend Nancy Bruce. We met Nancy while on our yacht charter trip with Lauren back in June. Nancy, who works for Ikea in Sweden, was in town for work. Thanks to Facebook we learned that we were close and just had to meet up. Lunch and a walk through Luxembourg Gardens gave us time to catch up.

Our second day wrapped up with a tour of the Catacombes, Paris’s underground burial ground. Creepy, eerie, morbid…it’s hard to describe what it’s like to walk through the remains of six million Parisians.

The next morning we tackled the Musée du Louvre, and its big three: Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory. Zach even saw some paintings he has studied in school.

After the Louvre we finally strolled up the Champs-Élysée and were lucky enough to stumble upon a formal ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe. French President Macron was welcoming Chinese President Xi to the country with all the pomp and circumstance you would expect when two leaders come together. The event closed down the roads and created a mess all around but it was fun to see the spectacle.

This evening we navigated the Paris subway to see the legendary show at the Moulin Rouge. It’s bawdy, tacky, and a lot of fun! There were can can girls, ponies, and an act with live snakes! Champagne comes with the ticket, so it was a great night!

We couldn’t bring Zach to Paris without visiting the Palace of Versailles. An early tour allowed us to avoid the biggest crowds and see the palace in all its glory. Of course, the Hall of Mirrors, site of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles was everyone’s favorite.

We finished our time in Paris with sunset at Montmartre on the steps of Sacré-Coeur followed by a raucous dinner of fondue with wine in baby bottles at a cute little restaurant called Les Refuge des Fondues. Our waitress was from Nebraska, so Big Red was celebrated! Yes, too much is one way to describe our evening.

Now we’re on to London for more sightseeing and shows! Here are more photos from our short time in Paris, along with Zach’s perspective on our trip so far:

I’m glad I chose Paris as my first experience with international travel. I have never witnessed a more beautiful, cohesive, and culturally significant city where every angle is picture perfect. It’s hard to say what my favorite part about Paris was. We crammed so much into such a short amount of time, but I thoroughly enjoyed every excursion. The museums were amazing and awe inspiring. If I had to pick a favorite it would definitely be the Louvre, I could have spent days in there. The monuments also really took my breath away. I would often catch myself with my jaw on the ground at the sight of them . The food was phenomenal too, even though I’m not the most adventurous eater. The best part, however, was the company I spent my time with. I can’t thank my aunt and uncle enough for introducing me to this amazing city. Apart from the jet lag and the occasional hoards of tourists, I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience Paris.

The Long Road Home

Phoenix, AZ

As we are in the middle of our long flight home, we can’t help but reflect on what a wonderful vacation we’ve had. The eight hour flight from Amsterdam to Philadelphia, followed by the five hour flight from Philadelphia to Phoenix are grueling, but they are a small price to pay for the wonderful experiences we had at this year’s Tour de France.

We finished our vacation in the fabulous city of Beaune, France. We visited this area two years ago when we followed our first Tour and the city continues to impress.

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Final lunch in France

The medieval walls and turrets that surround the city conjure up images of ancient battles and wine-making monks. This time we had less than 24 hours in this special place but we made the most of it.

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Steve in Beaune

On our final night with our Custom Getaways friends, we enjoyed a fabulous five course French dinner at a Beaune restaurant. With great local Burgundy wine and fine cuisine, we recalled the highlights of our trip:

 

  • The rainy time trial Prologue in Rotterdam, won by “Spartacus” Fabian Cancellara
  • The up-close and personal back-stage access of the start of the race in Brussels
  • Getting Lance Armstrong’s autograph and patting him on the back to wish him good luck on the Tour
  • Riding the closed course during Stage 2
  • Crossing the finish line by bicycle and then having our pictures taken on the podium, as if we were all the holders of the maillot jaune
  • Viewing the race from the Izoard VIP area while enjoying champagne after a sprint finish
  • Riding 100s of miles through the Dutch, Belgian, and French countryside, through polders, cobbles, and vineyards
  • Spending time with new friends from across the globe—Australia, Canada, Belgium, The Netherlands, Greece, USA, and France to be exact
  • Being led by a great group of cyclists and tour leaders: Sandra, Erik, Thomas, Nico, Giles, and our driver Adrian

 

 

 

Custom Getaways allowed us to see the Tour from a perspective that few will ever experience. They executed the plan with precision and flexibility and were attentive to our needs. They adapted to our varying levels of cycling experience and worked to make sure that everyone got what they needed whether it was a short ride, long ride, no ride, vegetarian meals, or medical attention.

All great trips must come to an end. Our end started yesterday when Adrian dropped us at the TGV station in Le Creusot, France. A transfer on the Paris metro and another train to Amsterdam marked the end of our European journey. It certainly will not be our last. For now though, we will continue to follow the Tour daily on the US broadcast from Versus. We will read the blogs and Facebook posts from our cycling friends and wish that we could be there for the Tour conclusion in Paris. Viva Le Tour!

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Just another routine day at the Tour de France

Beaune, France

Today we had one more day in the Champagne region of France. The beautiful scenery of the vineyards and the French architecture never gets old. Steve rode about 58 miles today with the “fast” group while I took the bus into town to wait for the group and the Tour de France start. The ride was a challenging one, through the hills of the champagne region. One of our group members had a really bad wipe-out, so I was glad to be in the bus.

The Tour de France is like a traveling circus. Each day a new city hosts the departure, which means they must stage the arrival of the teams, their buses, and their cars along with the publicity caravan, the press, and the dignitaries.

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Riders at the start in Epernay

Roads are closed and large event venues are assembled each day just to host the departure of the race. Then, along the race route there are sprint zones and feed zones set up by roving crews that are always a step ahead of the peloton for the entire month of July. At the finish each day, usually in a town over 100 miles away from the starting line, the same thing happens in the town that hosts the arrival of the peloton. At each phase there are moving restaurants, souvenir stands, medical tents, and the like.

We’ve been so lucky because we travel in a bus that has VIP access. For each stage we’ve visited, we have been able to drive within a block or two of the race course. As you’ve seen on previous days sometimes that means we have to drive on the actual course, across the finish line, in order to find our parking space. Spectators along the way cheer and wave to us each day as if we are something special.

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Radioshack team car

This afternoon, after the departure of the riders in Epernay, we walked down the Avenue de Champagnes. This is a beautiful, famous street that is home to some of the most prestigious champagne houses in the world. We took the tour at Champagne de Castellana and then tasted the good stuff at the end. Yum! This was the perfect thing to do before our four hour bus ride south to Beaune.

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Stainless steel vats

We will spend this evening in Beaune and have planned a nice dinner with the group. We expect there will be plenty of good Burgundy wine since this is the capital of the Burgundy region of France.

This will be our last night in France as tomorrow afternoon we will begin the long journey home via Paris, Amsterdam, and Philadelphia. What an adventure we’ve had!

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