travel recap - versailles and bayeux

We woke early on day seven, ready to hit the ground running to visit a place that I'd wanted to visit ever since I can remember; a place of kings and queens and pure decadence: Versailles.

We boarded the metro and headed out of Paris and into the town of Versailles.  Walking up to the palace from the train station, all you could see was the golden gates and rooftop of the palace glittering in the morning sun.  We arrived, took the obligatory "photos in front of the golden gates" and then headed inside.  After picking up our (free) audio guides we started exploring the palace.

I can't even find the words to describe how over-the-top everything was.  The wall paper, ceilings, fireplaces, and chandeliers were all amazingly opulent; so much so that it almost felt like it wasn't real, like it was a ride at Disneyland.

Even though the palace itself was amazing, my (and I think Hubby's) favourite part of Versailles was the gardens.  We assembled a picnic lunch before we left the palace and then headed down the eat our lunch canal-side.  After lunch we decided to rent bikes (you can also rent paddle boats and golf carts that play classical music) to explore the gardens for a couple hours.  It was very romantic, and definitely one of our best memories of our whole trip.

the new Lance Armstrong

After riding up to the Grand and Petit Trianons we were hot, exhausted, and ready to make our way back into Paris.  So we returned our bikes and headed back to the train station.  Once we were back in Paris we freshened up at home and then headed out to a nearby cafe for our last dinner in Paris. 

Over dinner we reflected on our time in Paris.  This city had definitely captured our hearts, and we both definitely want to go back.  We remarked how wonderful it was that we only spent less than a week in Paris, but if felt like we were there for a lot longer; such a great feeling.  After dinner we made our way back home to tidy up and pack up all of our belongings so we could be ready for our early-morning train to Bayeux.

The next morning we awoke early, excited and a little nervous for our busy day ahead.  This day marked our first day of using our rail passes, finding and boarding our train, renting a car, and navigating through the French countryside.  Yeah, we were a little nervous, but also excited to try things that we've never experienced.  We ended up being ready a little early, so we decided to just head to the train station and grab some breakfast there.  We called a cab, locked up the apartment, and made our way through the city in the early morning to the train station.

Once there, we decided to get our rail passes validated first; finding the right booth to have our rail passes validated at proved to be a little confusing, but we found it and in no time everything was good to go.  We then went to the only open coffee shop (ever-reliable Starbucks) to grab a light breakfast of a latte and a croissant.  Hubby grabbed a table and guarded our bags while I ordered and conversed with the Barrista in perfect decent French - guess spending a couple days in France will bring back your high-school French.  When I joined Hubby at our table to wait for our drinks to be ready he said the sweetest thing: "If I wasn't already married to you, I'd marry you again".  Made. Me. Melt.  It was a moment that I'll always remember: sitting in Paris with my love, while he embraced the romance of the city.

After finishing our breakfast, we made our way to the platform to board our train.  With our luggage in hand, we stared anxiously at the giant board waiting for our platform number to pop up.  Finally, our train number was displayed and we located our car number and boarded the train.  We found our seats, and settled in for our first European train ride.

The next couple hours were spent in a comfortable silence, while we watched the French countryside whisk by.  Each time the train was coming to a stop, we anxiously glanced around to see if this was our stop; you could tell that we were both train virgins. When our stop finally arrived, we grabbed our luggage and hopped off of the train.  I have to admit, I had some butterflies in my stomach as I watched "our" train leave us on the platform as it headed out to it's next destination; it kind of felt like we were all alone in a strange place.  We were in this adventure together though, and as long as we had each other I knew we were okay.

As we emerged from the train station, we started searching for a taxi to drive us to the car rental agency.  Unfortunately, every other person who got off the train also needed a taxi.  So, it took a little while (and a little stress), but eventually we arrived at Hertz, packed our bags into our rental car, and started making our way to the Juno Beach Centre. 

our rental car
After a few wrong turns, some back-tracking, and some tense moments, we finally made it.  Apparently the absence of street signs makes driving and navigating difficult.

Juno Beach Centre
Walking into the Juno Beach Centre, we were greeted with a friendly, Canadian welcome.  For those that don't know, the Juno Beach Centre is staffed entirely by Canadian citizens (university students, to be exact); it made us feel like we were back at home, which was nice after a stress-filled morning.  We started with the museum portion of centre (which surprisingly wasn't very big), then explored the beach and the outside of the centre, and then we finished with a guided tour of Juno beach itself.  If you're at all interested in military history, or Canada's history, a trip to the Juno Beach Centre should not be missed.  Also, Juno beach is a gorgeous beach - bring your beach towel and sunscreen and partake in some sunbathing if the weather is nice!

From the Juno Beach Centre, we ventured to the nearby Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.  This cemetery is beautiful and heart breaking at the same time.  It's so nice to see how lovingly everything is cared for; such a great way to show respect for those who gave their lives for our freedom.  I know this November 11th I'll be reflecting a lot on our visit to this cemetery.

Hungry, tired, and emotionally drained, we left the cemetery and navigated our way back to Bayeux for some dinner.  We wanted to hit the road well before it got dark as navigating the roads of the French countryside seemed to be our biggest challenge thus far, however, we made it back to Bayeux (and found our hotel) with plenty of time to spare.  We checked into our room, had a little nap, ate our last dinner in France, and then crawled into bed as we had to be up bright and early for our trip to Germany the next day.

from the balcony of our hotel in Bayeux

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