France is one of my favourite countries. The food, the architecture, the countryside, they’re all incredible!! I think I’m also drawn to it because it feels familiar. I at least recognize the language, and it brings a sense of knowing to a foreign place. Despite the rocky start to the trip, I was excited to share my love of France with our friends!
After such an adventurous trans-Canadian & trans-Atlantic flight, we were happy to arrive in Paris. We’d planned to take it easy the first day to get over jet-lag a bit, but we spent the first day stuck in Toronto! Instead of relaxing in Paris, we’d hit the ground running right from the start. There are SO many places to visit in Paris, we didn’t have time to relax!
I always like to check-off the “must-do” activities at the beginning to ensure we get them done. In Paris, our must-do activity for the adults was to visit Vimy Ridge. It’s a special place, a little piece of Canadian soil in France.
A Vimy Ridge tour honours the fallen in France from World War 1, over 100 years ago. The memorial itself was restored right before Randy and my first visit in 2007! It’s absolutely stunning and definitely brings mixed feelings of pride and sorrow at the sight.
The area around the memorial is just as fascinating to explore. The earth is still scarred from mortar explosions, and it’s possible to still wander the trenches. It’s hard to comprehend what really happened here, and how it’s shaped the face of history.
If you’re a Canadian in Paris, I highly recommend renting a car and spending a day at Vimy Ridge!
Blue Bike Tour
There was no time to rest (plus we’d pre-booked everything!), so the day after our outing to Vimy Ridge, we went on a Blue Bike Tour. Paris is a wonderful city to explore by bike, and is incredibly bike-friendly. I was a bit nervous biking with the girls, but they absolutely loved it! Plus, I didn’t actually have to bike with a kid because I was too short to fit the bike with a child-seat on the back!!
We spent a fantastic few hours riding through the Marais, Latin Quarter and St. Germaine, parts of the city where we hadn’t spent much time on previous trips. It felt like we were seeing the “real Paris” beyond the tourist sights, and it really solidified my love of this city.
The Eiffel Tower
When we have friends visiting Paris for the first time, one of the things we tell them to do is take the metro to Trocadero, follow the Eiffel Tower signs, and walk out at Place du Trocadero for their first Eiffel Tower spotting. Of course we had to do this with our friends!
It doesn’t matter how many times I visit, this view never seems to get old. The gardens are also beautiful, so of course we walked through the gardens and across the Seine to the base of the Eiffel Tower. (This was before there was a ton of security set up around it and you could just wander in freely!)
The only thing Calais wanted to do was go up the Eiffel Tower, so of course we did! Rather than standing in line forever we bought “Skip the Line” tickets. We spent the morning watching the wonder on Calais’ face as she climbed into the elevator, looked over the City of Lights, and realized that she was at the top of the Eiffel Tower!
A Sea-Side Break in Brittany
Brittany was a part of France I hadn’t visited, and I’m so glad we chose to spend a week here.
We dined on seafood, played on the beach, toured Mont St Michel (my must-do!) and the quirky city of Dinan, got lost in flower fields and danced at a castle. It was magical!
We had a relaxing week of fun-filled days, and card-playing & cider-drinking nights! We ate delicious Breton crepes with salted caramel, and the best croissants I have ever had at Le recommande in Pleneuf Val Andre.
It felt like a real vacation, with great food and great company.
Despite the initial hiccup in transit, France definitely delivered!