The City of Love
After settling into our hotel in Paris, we took our tour bus to Notre Dame Cathedral. From there, we walked to the Quartier Latin, where we broke off into three big groups to explore and choose a place to eat. One group found an adorable family owned sushi shop, where we filled out a collective menu card to share a great assortment of Japanese dishes. At one dinner, a ‘fake’ happy birthday was announced for Harry who enjoyed his birthday surprise, and cake! The other group found a delicious macaroon shop for dessert.
Sadly, Pieter’s bus shift came to an end, but his colleague Mario picked up right where he left off. A Paris expert, he educated the group as he drove us through the city of lights and love, and we had some unscheduled stops to get the best views of the city’s masterpieces. The boat ride down the Seine River in the late evening was the most romantic and heartfelt moment of our trip so far. A palette of orange, pinks, and purples filled the sky as the sun set in the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. The impressive monument lit up with glittering lights for five minutes at ten o’clock.
I think, therefore I am.
We began our day at the Rodin Museum, which features the statue The Thinker, before wandering through the pristine gardens and pausing to pose with an array of sculptures.
After Rodin, we made a trip to the vast gardens of Château Versailles. Also very well-kept, our group explored the rich greenery and fountains. We entered the palace and had a guide take us through the ornamented chambers of royalty. The young learners among us observed the art, which covered the walls and ceilings and told the stories of France, Europe, Gods, kings, and historical figures like Alexander the Great.
At night, we climbed the steps of the Eiffel Tower. Some trip members viewed the city from the first platform and enjoyed the camaraderie in the lounge, while others challenged themselves to climb all the way to the top to get a 360-degree view of Paris. It was a romantic reflection to look back at the Seine. We were at the top of the Tower when the clock struck ten and, once again, we witnessed the glittering lights; this time from within her iron frame. Before leaving, we hung out in the grass fields at the base, gazing into the night sky with locals and other tourists from around the world.
Our guided tour of Le Louvre was fascinating! We walked through the original moat and fortress walls, and passed under the drawbridge. The students learned the story of the Mona Lisa and her artist, Leonardo da Vinci. We browsed Italian renaissance paintings and Ancient Greek statues. There was a statue of Apollo holding what looked like a cellphone up in the air facing himself; which we deemed “The Original Selfie.” It was nice to hear Olivia S. comment, “I love this country, I just decided!” after our tour of the Louvre. We even saw the French President, Emmanuel Macron, outside his home on our drive back to the hotel!
Later on, we had a spectacular evening of dinner and karaoke at Café Rive Droite. We rocked the house, singing all together, whether on the mic or at the tables. The trip leaders took the stage to sing “Dancing Queen,” and all of us jumped on stage to sing and dance with them! It was really fun to see everyone dancing, smiling, and coming together as a group!
Bourgogne et Annecy
Today was our travel day to Annecy, which meant a picturesque tour through the countryside. Beautifully manicured vineyards climbed rolling hills as we approached Burgundy, or Bourgogne in French. It was the cutest little town, with old stone buildings, small fountains, flowers blooming from balconies, and the hotel-dieu featuring large wooden doors and gold-plated finishing on the roof.
Once in Annecy, we walked along the canal that leads into the town and also opens up into the turquoise Lake Annecy, which sits at the base of the surrounding mountains. It was delightful to try local delicacies, like fondue, while sitting 10 feet from the canal with the mountains in the background.
La piste cyclable
The next day in Annecy was a group favorite! We started the morning by renting bicycles to tour the lake by following a bike path along its perimeter. Some trip members were eager to lead the pack with some of the staff, while others were happy to improve their cycling skills with the help of their friends. Everyone enjoyed the pleasant ride and followed it up with refreshments on a lakeside patio.
We walked to the Annecy beach area for the afternoon, where we bought a bunch of sports equipment in order to play beach volleyball, football, and frisbee. The lake also had a giant water slide (which was super fun), and some of us were content to just play music from portable speakers in the refreshing water.
We discovered a really good restaurant called Le Chalet to have dinner, and we ordered local dishes like tartiflette, Chateaubriand steaks, and tartare.
On our third day in Annecy, we went whitewater rafting. The kids got suited up in their wetsuits and set their boats into the glacier run off. After a little practice, our guides docked our rafts and instructed the kids to swim out to the middle of the river and practice the safety position floating on their backs and then swimming back to the boats. The water was incredible; an enjoyable stream surrounded by tall forests and canyon walls.
We had some free time after lunch, so some trip members decided to organize a basketball game on a local court, while others walked the streets browsing little shops and cafés. After dinner, we visited our favorite gelato spot, which had a gazillion flavors ranging from Kiwi, or Lychee, to Banana Chocolate Salted Caramel Swirl, and blue Smurf ice cream.
The Goats of Zermatt
Off to Switzerland! Zermatt is a gorgeous little town up in the sky which sits in the valley of Switzerland’s tallest peaks. We had to take a train, because motored vehicles are not permitted in the region.
We arrived outside our hotel for a group chat when the sound of bells filled the street. It was a herd of Blackneck goats walking through the streets, which they do daily during the summer, so we ran up to take pictures with them. Our hotel rooms were in adorable cottages with balconies that overlook the mountains and, after getting settled, we set out to browse shops of Swiss gear and mountain apparel and tasted local treats like sausage and Swiss chocolate. For dinner, the whole group headed over to a Sushi restaurant.
After dinner, many of us hung out listening to live music. The band that was performing was from England, and really good! They took request after request from our group as we sang all the words to songs like Wonderwall, Shape of You, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), and Sweet Caroline. It was a great atmosphere for us to bond and dance.
All of us took a 45-minute gondola ride to the top of the mountains, where clear skies gave us a beautiful view of the Matterhorn and the surrounding peaks. At 13000ft elevation, some us embarked on a morning ski or snowboarding adventure on the Alps.
Back in the town, groups of Alphorn musicians filled the air with their beautiful songs. We had dinner on a boat, and then walked over to a local disco with stone walls and archways. It was empty when we got there, but we quickly animated the booths and dance floor. The DJ moved the group to the beat and worked his smoke machine into the atmosphere. It was a fun après-ski of socializing and dancing.
Until Next Time,
The Westcoast Blogger
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