It was our last day in Paris, and although I was absolutely exhausted, there was so much more we had yet to see in the City of Lights! Paris is synonymous with luxury and extravagance, and there were two places that epitomize both which we had yet to visit: Versailles and Galleries Lafayette, which is basically the Versailles of malls. So, for our final day in the most beautiful city in the world we set out in search of the most pretentious palace and swanky shopping. Little did I know I’d be sobbing into my pillow by day’s end.
Though we’d planned on using the Metro, we were seeing so much, and were so short on time, that Ubers were just easier. However, the cost of all those Ubers was really adding up. While none of us were confident that we’d be able to figure out the train system and actually get where we wanted to go on time, we were able to be a bit more flexible on our last day, so we decided to save some money and brave the train.
We’d planned to go to Galleries Lafayette first. We studied the train map and thought we knew which train to get on, but about two stops down the tracks we realized we were going the wrong direction. Oops. This was why we hadn’t attempted public transit until now. Luckily we were headed in the right direction for Versailles, so we just flipped our plan for the day and went to the Sun King’s Pleasure Palace first.
The train station is a short walk to the palace, and we’d arrived quite earlier than our timed entry slot, so we stopped for coffee, then to peruse an antique shop. Antique books, trinkets, furniture, you name it. It felt like walking through the past; the truly authentic Paris of regular people, instead of those who occupied the palace we were about to explore. I felt like everything I touched had a story, each one a small piece of Parisian history, the Paris Hemingway fell in love with, the Paris in which Monet was born. It was one of my favorite places we visited in the entire city.
There’s no missing the Palace of Versailles. We came around the corner and there it was, dominating the landscape in the distance, occupying an entire city block. It’s absolutely gargantuan, and looks as if someone drizzled gold over the whole thing. Even the fence around it is gold. It’s insane. It’s difficult to imagine it being someone’s home, not at all difficult to imagine the effect living in such a place would have on the ego of its inhabitants.
As we walked the halls and rooms of Versailles, each one seeming more opulent than the next, I could almost see the members of his Majesty’s court milling around in flamboyant outfits and powdered wigs. Ostentatious doesn’t even begin to describe just how ridiculous the luxury on display is in the Palace of Versailles. The girls were loving it, but I found it all a little off-putting, to be honest. Seeing the in-your-face exhibit of wealth made it fairly easy to figure out why people were pissed enough at the monarchy to start a Revolution.
It took a couple hours to get through the palace, and I was absolutely spent by the time we were done. My legs felt like lead weights and my blisters had blisters. All I wanted to do was lie down, but the girls had been looking forward to shopping since we first began planning the trip, so I womaned up and off we went.
The Galleries Lafayette is a multi-building mall/department store in Paris with everything from an H&M to Dolce & Gabbana. We perused cashmere sweaters and colorful berets (the girls each bought one), smelled designer fragrances and admired the domed, leaded glass ceiling. The top floor holds a resale shop of all top designers, and the girls each found a little something to take home that didn’t break the bank. I found it rather amusing to watch a woman try on a used Burberry coat that was at least 3 sizes too large for her, and still drop $300 on it, just because it was Burberry. I’m no fashion icon, to be sure, but that made me roll my eyes so hard I thought they’d pop right out of my head.
By this point I was ready to drop. I was hungry and so tired, and I just wanted to be sitting down in the flat. It had been go-go-go, nonstop, for a week. Wonderful, yes. Exactly as I’d planned it, yes. Worth it, also yes. But I was physically shutting down from the pace of our epic Ladycation.
Since we were staying outside the city limits we had to switch trains at one of the main hubs in order to get back to Suresnes. That meant buying a second train ticket for the different train line. To this day we have no idea what the hell we were doing wrong, but we couldn’t figure out how to buy the second ticket to save our lives. We bought three tickets, all of which ended up being wrong, and we couldn’t even get out of the train terminal because we needed to scan the tickets we didn’t have in order to do so. “Screw this. We’re getting an Uber.” I was beyond frazzled. A few kind Parisians took pity on us inept Americans and had us closely follow them through the gate when they swiped their tickets, and we were finally out of there.
Unfortunately, our frustration was not over once we emerged from the train station. We couldn’t figure out how to get down to the street level, and it felt like we were wandering in circles forever in a concrete maze. By the time we finally found the street and got in the Uber I was ready to cry, but I kept it together.
The second we arrived back in our flat, however, I went into my room, shut the door, and sobbed. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t having a bad time, they were tears of pure exhaustion. We hadn’t stopped since the second we stepped foot in Europe, and my old ass simply couldn’t handle that much fun for that long. We were walking a minimum of six miles every day without a break. Even when I was backpacking we never went four days without a rest day, and I was in much better shape then.
Before we left the US my boss asked to see our planned itinerary. I gave him a multi-page, detailed outline of everything we planned to do, filled with my own colorful commentary for some added flavor, and he shared it with his family. They gave me a card with a gift before we began our adventure (truly incredible, amazing people. I was blown away by their kindness), wishing us a wonderful trip. His wife wrote that she’d be exhausted attempting just half of our ambitious itinerary, and advised us to make time for relaxation. As I was melting down on that bed, dripping snot onto the pillow, I remembered that card and thought, Dammit, this is what the Lews were afraid of! But, after a good thirty minute emotional purge I pulled myself back together. Sometimes a person just needs a solid ugly-cry to cleanse and refresh the soul. Besides, compared to my busted neck on my Hawaiian Crap-Cation some sore muscles and blistered feet felt pretty benign and unremarkable.
The only thing we had planned for that evening was dinner, so I ordered McDonald’s yet again (comfort food), and the girls ventured out on their own. I won’t speak for them, but I suspect it was nice to leave Mom behind for a few hours. As far as moms go, I think I’m a pretty cool one. Olivia and I have a great relationship, we’re very close, and Carey and I were getting along beautifully. But I am still Mom. So, while I enjoyed a quiet, solo evening relaxing on the balcony watching the Eiffel Tower and eating my American junk food, Olivia and Carey set out on their own for an adventure without their chaperone.
By the time the girls returned I was full and relaxed, and they were laughing and telling me stories of their mom-less dinner. They’d had a blast, I’d enjoyed my me-time, and we all gathered together once more to watch one last Eiffel Tower Twinkle Show from our balcony to cap off the day. What an absolutely magical time we’d had in Paris! Sure, I broke down and cried like a little bitch-baby by the end, but I wouldn’t change a moment of our trip.
We’d completed our first week of vacation, and still had another week to go! Come back again to read about the next adventure: renting a car and road-tripping from castle to castle through the Loire Valley! Till then, stay chill and keep hiking, my friends!