Paris is always a good idea

Paris, France

February 8, 2017

France. My European home. Now I get to share it with my love.

After spending two months on exchange in Dijon at the age of 16, returning to France on subsequent trips felt very much like returning to somewhere so familiar. I understood the customs, I knew how to navigate and I could communicate with the people. I couldn’t wait to share this place I’d spent so much time in and grown to love so much with my husband on our honeymoon.

Paris greeted us with a smoke smog that was to linger for most of our stay, which was a shame but even that couldn’t kill the beauty of this city – though I don’t think it helped John’s cold that he’d developed before the wedding.

We were staying in our first AirBnb – a little apartment in Montmartre. The stairs were a bit of a killer but the location was fantastic – on a surprisingly quiet street near the Moulin Rouge (ooh la la!).

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The weather was a shock to the system even though I’ve done several European winters. You really have to spend your time flitting in and out of shops and cafes to stay warm.

I had a few places I wanted to hit up while we were here – either for a revisit or to catch something I had missed on previous visits – but of course when you’re a part of someone’s first trip to Paris there are a few obligatory places you have to go.

So over the next few days we made our way to the Champs-Elysées and its Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur, the Louvre and the Notre Dame.

 

The highlight of these for me was the Notre Dame. I’ve been inside it before but never climbed it and the view was gorgeous. The main reason I loved it though was because as soon as we got there it started snowing a tiny bit. Snow wasn’t even forecast for our time in Paris and I practically squealed with delight when it began. By the time we reached the top of the cathedral more snow had come in and it was truly magical. It was also John’s first time seeing falling snow.

 

To warm up we found tea and hot gaufres (waffles) at a nearby cafe while the snow kept falling outside. Honestly, this was the stuff of my dreams being in snowy Paris with my husband!

L’Arc de Triomphe was also well worth the admission. There’s not quite as many stairs to climb here but the 360 degree view is truly spectacular, as you watch cars zoom dangerously around the ginormous roundabout and check out the sights down the twelve main streets that lead from it. On a clear day I’m sure you could see a long way off, but on our visit we had to embrace the smog adding to the atmosphere of our photos.

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There are a couple of places I just love in Paris and I was excited to see them again and show these to John. The first was Shakespeare and Co. I spent ages in here on my last visit. Much to my delight John fell just as in love with it as I did and we had a great time picking out a couple of books to take home, playing on the typewriters, exploring little nooks and he even played some tunes on the piano (which did actually ask people to play on it). It’s a booklover’s dream place to stay all cosy on a freezing winter day.

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The famous Parisian macaron house of Ladurée was also on my hit up list. They may be pricey but nothing compares to the macarons here. Last time, I just purchased a salted caramel macaron at their airport store. This time we found ourselves in a queue at their restaurant on the Champs-Elysees. This place was seriously beautiful. There seemed to be a million different rooms in the building where diners were taken to tables. The carpet, walls, ceiling, chandeliers and tables and chairs were all like dining in Versailles itself.

We ordered a selection of macarons to sample and a chocolate frappé each. Hands down, best iced chocolate drink I’ve ever had, but way too small to satisfy.

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The rest of our time in Paris was spent just exploring the streets – my favourite way to get to know any city – and enjoying lots of the local cuisine (namely sweets but we did throw in some French onion soup for good measure).

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Kia Ora from Queenstown

Arriving into Queenstown was like no plane landing i’ve ever been on. It was absolutely breathtaking flying over snow covered mountains, down onto a runway nestled in between towering mountains. We had to cross the tarmac to enter the airport, giving us our first feel of the freezing cold air outside.

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Within half an hour of arriving in Queenstown it started to gently snow, tiny bits at first and before we knew it it was a full snow shower as we drove from the airport to our little lodge.

The place we are staying is a cute little house that has a gorgeous view of Coronet Peak – the most popular skiing destination in Queenstown.

After being awake for more than 30 hours I slept like a baby for 12 hours, it was worth staying up so long just for the experience of such a great sleep.

I woke in the morning to mum getting us up to explore outside, as it had snowed all night. It looked beautiful outside, so picture perfect with everything covered in white. We had so much fun having snowball fights and making snow angels before we decided it was too cold.

On our first full day in Queenstown we ventured into town and enjoyed scones and coffees by the lake. The cafe was in a beautiful little spot in the park right by the lake and the views from the centre of town were just gorgeous. It’s crazy to think that some people see all of this as just normal.

DSCF2589DSCF2600 DSCF2597DSCF2594 DSCF2608After a little walk through town it was time to go luging.

The luge is a light toboggan that you ride down a road-like track. Generally one person rides in each luge, but you can partner up if you have small children. You use the handlebars at the front to control your speed and steer.

To get to the luge we had to ride the gondola up the side of the mountain. It was a very steep climb and i couldn’t believe how fast the gondola tackled it. All the way up you climb between pine trees and there are great views of the town as you go.

At the top the snow was deep in many places and heavy on the branches of the pine trees, making it feel like Canada at Christmas! (not that i’ve ever been).

We had to grab a helmet and queue to take a quick chairlift to the luge starting point. Once there they make sure you know how to turn and stop and then you’re let loose to race down the track.

The luge is speedy and there are a few sharp turns on the more intermediate course, which make it great fun but also slightly scary if you’re going full speed ahead! The cold whips at your face and even made my eyes water. I was freezing each time i hoped off at the end but it was definitely worth it. We had 3 luge rides, which i thought was just enough as there are two courses to experience and you do need to queue each time to go up the chairlifts again.

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All that adventuring during the day meant a nice quite night in. Perfect.