Euro Trip–Last Stop: Paris, France

Our flight out of Rome to Paris was in the morning so we arrived with plenty of day to explore. But, we were tired. And quite frankly, at that point, I really missed my kids.

Our ride to the hotel took us through some major sites but unfortunately we weren’t camera ready. The Notre Dame, which was on my list, was absolutely stunning. Sadly, we didn’t make it to see it in person.

Our hotel was whoa fancy. The Hyatt Regency boasted 34 stories with amazing views. We were on the 7th floor and had some good things to see out the window 🙂

There was a mall attached to the the hotel (I know, right!?) with shops, restaurants, and a Trader Joe-esque grocery. And guess what? The sodas there were only 2 Euros!!!

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There was also a Paradise Bakery like eatery with the most amazing croissants. I did some serious carb loading there. Serious.

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After we dropped off our luggage and freshened up, we checked out the map and decided the Eiffel Tower was of priority. We saw that on the way was the Arc de Triomphe and figured we’d visit that as well.

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This was taken in the middle of the street. Literally. There were cars zooming passed everyone and no one cared lol! That smile? That’s a take the picture and let’s scram smile.

We walked through an underground tunnel to get a closer look at the Arc. It was in the center of a busy street so you couldn’t just walk across to it.

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Ceiling

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

This was about half way between our hotel and the Eiffel Tower so we were pretty close. This was good because it started to rain. A lot.

On our way to the tower, we somehow found ourselves in a park with an amazing view.

Peace from Paris <3

Peace from Paris ❤

We huddled under a tree hoping for the rain to let and it did, enough for us to continue on our way.

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When we got to the tower, we immediately begin looking for where we had to buy tickets. The way you do this is by looking for the line. The line will take you where you need to go lol! It was about an hour and a half of waiting in line and the waiting didn’t end there.

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We decided to pay full price to go all the way to the top. I’m so glad we did. At the bottom, you could really appreciate the tower’s grandness but at top–wow.

It required getting on an elevator to the first level. This didn’t take long but the wait for the next elevator did. This is when it started to pour. I’m talking full on soaking status. Plus, it was super cold. I teeth-chattered my way through that entire line telling myself, Yolo, Helly, yolo.

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We made it to the top and it was oh so worth it. I loved how they had comparison’s of other talk buildings and how the Eiffel Tower surpassed them. I learned that there’s a ginormous building in Dubai. It was funny because you’re seeing other buildings that you thought were tall and the Tower was huge next to it. Then you get to the Burj Khalifa and whoa!!!! It makes me curious (and a little fearful) to see it in person.

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It was near evening when we made back to the bottom and initially I had wanted to stick around to see the tower lit at night but by then I was drenched and freezing and grumpy that all I wanted to do was get back to the hotel. It was two miles away.

There were quite a few people selling umbrellas and we found that we only had 6 euros; the price of one was 10. We kept telling the guy that that was all we had, take it or leave it–luckily, he took it.

That umbrella saved us from potential hypothermia as we made our way back to the hotel in the cold, pouring rain. I was wearing ballet flats (What were you thinking Helly? –Clearly, I wasn’t) and I was deathly afraid of blistering. Remember, I had 18 Death March trail miles that Sunday!

I made it unscathed and we decided to treat ourselves for dinner and order in. We fell asleep waiting for our meal to get delivered to our room.

The next day, our last day in Paris, I only had one thing on my mind. The Louvre.

We started late because we totally slept in jaja! We checked out the map to see where the museum was and we decided it definitely required a metro ride. I was better prepared with tennis shoes this time, but I still didn’t want to make that trek knowing we’d have a long wait in line.

Yep, another 3+ hour wait lol!

This time it wasn’t so bad though as we made a friend with an American from Vegas. He was a triathlete, so we talked running for a while. We also struck up a conversation with a girl from the Philippines who said she didn’t think Europe was as expensive as she’d expected.

Wait, wha???

I told her that the price of soda there was absolutely ridiculous and that in the United States you could get soda for under a dollar. And that at restaurants, when you ordered a soda with your meal, they gave you free refills. She looked at me like I was crazy. Free? Yes, free. Gratis. Gratuit.  No extra charge.

—By the way, I forgot to mention that in certain places they charged you 5 Euros to use the bathroom. We went to a McDonald’s once only to use the bathroom because it was free there.

Moving on, our Filipino friend was stunned with the news.

Because we had good conversations with our new friends, the wait in long went by swiftly. I felt like we reached the entrance in no time.

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Outside about to walk in (this is pre-line)

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Close to the entrance

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We made it!

Once inside, we had to navigate our way to purchase tickets. This wasn’t as easy as it had been other places. Plus, it was huuuge. We paid and then looked at the museum map to find the Mona Lisa–what we really wanted to see. We found the wing it was in and kept moving.

Like the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa was towards the end of the wing so you saw a lot before you actually got to it. This was great and I saw a few things I was hoping to see as this was the only wing we ended up visiting.

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And then there she was:

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My husband was shocked. And not by how awesome it was to be seeing the Da Vinci in person but because of how small it was. He said it should be renamed the Mona Little. Jajajaa!!

Trying to get close to take a picture was insane. And scary. People were jostling and pushing and elbowing that you even felt like you couldn’t breathe being sandwiched between everyone.

We finally reached the front and took super quick snaps and got out of there. It was seriously intense.

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Holding on to my husband for dear life.

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Mona

It was pretty awesome seeing her in person. It was another one of those where you’ve read tons about it (I loved the Da Vinci Code!) and wondered what it was like. When we made our way out of that wing, we debated continuing on. It was early evening and we had time to explore but I went with eating and shopping at our hotel mall instead. I was so beat.

I purchased some goodies for myself and goodies for my two kids 🙂

My parents went to Paris and all I got was this shirt.

My parents went to Paris and all I got was this shirt ❤

I missed her and my son so much. The next morning our flight was set to depart at 10:30 Paris time (1:30 a.m. Phoenix) but was delayed almost two hours. We got in to Chicago where we were supposed to connect but missed it because of the Paris delay. I was so upset. We had planned it so that we’d be home by bedtime but there was no way we’d make it now. We ended up arriving in Phoenix at 10:30 p.m. (6:30 a.m. Sunday in Paris). I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. to get in those 18 trail miles/Death March the following morning. More on how that went later.

Overall, our entire trip was absolutely amazing. I loved how we planned everything and even though our plan sort of shifted at the end, I felt fulfilled. I felt like I was able to see SO much of what I only dreamed I’d be able to see in my lifetime. Truly, I never thought I’d make to the other side of the world. I never thought I’d see things I’d only before read in books.

When we were getting on the plane to go to Spain and start our trip, I said to my husband, “We’ll come back different people, you know.”

And we most certainly did.

The face of someone very excited to go home :)

The face of someone very excited to go home 🙂

 

Thank you SO much for following my Europe journey. I love having my trip documented in this way so I can come back and fondly relive these moments. Your comments have only added to the spirit of my trip and I’ll look back on these past few posts with much love. If you missed anything, Spain is here and here and Italy is here, here, and here

 

Next stop (because I’m Helly *always* On The Run 🙂 ): Grand Canyon–Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim

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Italy–Part II; Pisa and Florence

Our second day in Italy we knew would be a long one. We planned on taking the train from Rome to Florence to Pisa and back again  all in one day.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll remember when we did San Francisco in a day. My husband and I don’t mess around lol!

Again, we were smart thinkers as far as planning was concerned because since our hotel was literally at the airport, we also had direct access to the metro. So, bright and early, we took the metro to the train station to downtown Rome. We made sure to leave plenty early in case we needed to figure things out when we got there. Thankfully, It turned out to be easier than we expected.

Breakfast of champs--bread and a coke

Breakfast of champs–bread and a coke

The metro station was seriously a happening place. There were a ton of little stores to shop at with super cute stuff. This was surprising to me but I could see how it would be profitable.

On the train. The views were amazing.

On the train. The views were amazing.

We connected in Florence and had about 40 minutes to spend. We could’ve bought a ticket straight from Rome to Pisa but we wanted to stop there on our way back and hang out. We didn’t mind this pit stop; we stretched out our legs and hung out a while.

Once we got back on, about an hour and a half later we were in Pisa.

First, I have to say that this was (ahhh!! I can’t believe I’m using past tense!!!) the #1 place I wanted to go to before I die. For some reason, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has always fascinated me and when people would ask my dream place to visit, I’d always say there. Just to see the tower.

We stopped by an information desk for a map and got to walking. On our way there, we crossed a bridge with just a stunning view:

It was seriously just like the movies.

It was seriously just like the movies.

This road led us straight to the tower. I was walking ahead of my husband; I was seriously a little kid about to go to their favorite store! I saw the tower peaking from the sky and stopped dead in my tracks. There it was.

My eyes welled up and I whispered to my husband, “Do you see it?” He told me to stay still, that he wanted to capture this moment. Me incredibly happy.

Best day of the entire trip, hands down.

Best day of the entire trip, hands down.

We kept going and it just got bigger and bigger and I became more and more excited.

We crossed the street and heeeelllloooo people! Really, the first thing I saw were a ton of people taking pictures of their friends and family “holding” up the tower. It was hilarious!

I had to take a picture of the people taking pictures.

I had to take a picture of the people taking pictures.

And then it was our turn. Get comfortable. Tower picture overload is about to ensue.

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My husband wanted to bring back a souvenir for the kids.

My husband wanted to bring back a souvenir for the kids.

It was so funny hearing the people around me. There were moms yelling, “No! You’re not doing it right! More to the left. Higher!” And husbands and kids so over taking billions of pics. LOL! Luckily, my husband was totally cool with filling up our camera phones.

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Two of my favorite pics:

Got in an ab workout while I was there :)

My ab workout

Leaning Helly and Leaning Tower

Leaning Helly and Leaning Tower

Once we finished out photo shoot (you only got a glimpse), we walked back to the train station but not without making a pit stop for gelato along the way.

The train dropped us off in Florence where I wanted to cross off another bucket list item– to see in person the statue of Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’ Accademia.

There was a 45 minute wait in line that moved quickly and then we were in.

No pictures were allowed (although we may or may not have snapped one accidentally). We sat on a bench and stared fascinated for a full thirty minutes. It was breathtaking.

I’m just astounded first, by how intricate the statue is. It’s so incredibly detailed. Second, that this still exists! And that it’s all one piece after so many years. I’m blown away by history sometimes –at how things were done, what people were thinking when they were doing things, how long things have lasted. It amazes me.

When we left the museum, we headed to the shopping district so to speak and I was able to window salivate at Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, Christian Dior, and other European fashion houses. How I don’t have a picture of this, I don’t know.

We visited another massive church as we walked back to the train station:

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And then we ate gelato, again 🙂 It would’ve been nice to hang out longer but we had to catch our train and only had one more day left in Italy.

We got back to our hotel around 9 and we were pooped. We thought it’d be a good idea to have a drink to really put us to bed:

Took a break from the vino--Italy's beer was actually pretty yummy.

Took a break from the vino–Italy’s beer was actually pretty yummy.

And that was Day 2! Here’s if you missed Day 1 of Italy, and/or if you missed my time in Spain go here and here 🙂

Next stop, Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel!

–What’s on your list of places to go or things to see? (I can’t believe I’ve crossed quite a few off already!!)

 

 

 

 

Italy, Part I

I’m going to break the time spent in Italy into parts. We were there for 3 days and the first day (actually, everyday) was jam packed.

We arrived in Rome late night Sunday and we luckily had the foresight when planning to get a hotel near the airport. In fact, our hotel was at the airport. When we landed, all we had to do was pick up our luggage and walk through a long terminal that ended at the footsteps of our Hilton. It was so convenient and after a day of 13.1 miles, a 2 hour flight, and jet lag we much appreciated this convenience.

Our intentions were to wake up early and take the hotel’s shuttle to downtown Rome but we were SO tired we slept in til around 10ish.

We got to Rome’s city center around noon and the shuttle dropped us off right in the middle of all good stuff with the Colosseum  and Pantheon within walking distance.

In fact, when we got off the shuttle the first thing we “saw” was the Colosseum. Or so we thought. Now, remember that we’ve never seen it in person. All we had to go by was history books and the movie Gladiator. We stood looking up at this building (large, but definitely the massiveness that we expected) severely disappointed. This was it?? There’s no way! We could hear other tourists around us asking each other the same thing.

Then the driver, who spoke broken English, said, “No. This not Colosseum. This is theatre.”

Whew!! For a second there we had had our spirits broken. Ben and I laughed at ourselves and took pictures in front of what we then dubbed the faux-losseum. Jaja!!!

The Faux-losseum

Teatro Marcello AKA: The Faux-losseum

There was a small restaurant close by where we decided to get lunch and yeah, it was pretty amazing 🙂 I had lasagna and Ben had a pizza with a whole bunch of stuff on it. Amazing.

The soda was only $5 at this little restaurant. Lol!

The soda was only $5 at this restaurant lol!

Then….I HAD GELATO!!! I took some to go as we got our sight seeing started. It was seriously amazing and I ended up eating gelato like 3 times everyday that we were there.

Nom!

Nom!

We decided that our first stop would be the Pantheon which was closest to where we were at. Along the way, we saw this:

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Yes, the guy is holding up the other guy with just that stick!! And, his arm wasn’t shaking AT ALL. The guy on top was super still too! The whole thing was just crazy.

Finally, we reached the Pantheon.

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I’m not a huge history buff but I did know this was a must see.

We hung out for a bit then continued onward. Next stop, the real Colosseum.

On our way there, we swung by a church (and there were quite a few of them!).

Outside

Outside

 

Inside!

Inside!

We kept at it reaching our final destination.

They had this poster on a wall near the Colosseum:

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And this is the real thing:

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At the top of each entry way was a number. So back in the day, when people would look for their seats they’d know which “section” to go to. Cool, huh?

so awesome

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We decided not to pay to go inside the Colosseum. It was pretty expensive and we had a pretty good view of the inside from the outside looking in. We were okay with just that 🙂

On our way back to our meeting spot for hotel shuttle pick-up, we swung by another church. This one was huuuge!

I don't know what this church is called :( but it was stunning.

I don’t know what this church is called 😦 but it was stunning.

Where's Helly?? :)

Where’s Helly?? 🙂

And then the inside:

This was the entrance leading inside.

This was the entrance leading inside.

That ceiling!

That ceiling!

The size of the statues inside were incredible!

The size of the statues inside were incredible!

We took a ton of pictures of this church. There was so much to look at!

When we left, we headed back to the location of the faux-losseum for our ride back to the hotel–not before getting lost of course!! Lol!

We finally made it and on our way, took a pit stop here:

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Around 7 o’clock and 8-10 miles later we were back in our room completely exhausted. We knew had a busy day ahead of us so we wanted to get a good night’s sleep.

Next stop: Florence and Pisa!!

If you missed my Spain re-cap and/or my Rock n Roll Madrid 1/2 Marathon recap, here ya go!

Hope you all had a good weekend and have a happy Monday!

–What was your weekend like? Total miles? (28 for me)

–Have you seen the movie Gladiator?