Vaux-le-Vicomte: The Model for Versailles

You’ve all probably heard of the Palace of Versailles, built by Louis XIV, used by Marie Antoinette and her husband Louis XVI until their arrest (and eventual beheading) and also occupied by Napoleon I. Well anyway, the gorgeous and elaborate palace was inspired by a much smaller one – Vaux-le-Vicomte, which I had the pleasure of visiting this past weekend.

It was a train and bus ride away and quite far away from the actual city but no matter. Whenever a castle is around, Gemma, Aimi and I are sure to be found there.

Upon arrival there is a horse and stable museum that we explored first. It was quite small but full of wax characters and posing horses. I made a joke to the girls that all of the wax people probably come to life at night; it’s probably true. They were so lifelike. 

 But anyway, our walk through the museum led us out onto the palace grounds and behold! There it was: a mini Versailles!

When we got inside I stopped mid-step in a flurry of excitement at the sign on the front desk.. YOU COULD RENT 17th CENTURY PRINCESS COSTUMES! So immediately I blurted out to the desk lady that I needed a costume and she took me to the back closet to pick out a princess dress. First one I saw I knew I needed it – it was a beige color with purple and pink (what I thought were) flowers. I grabbed it and had her button me up. Gemma and Aimi immediately laughed at me and teased me pointing out that they weren’t in fact flowers, they were roosters. Ugh.. Oh well, I was too thrilled at the fact that I WAS ABOUT TO DANCE THROUGH A CASTLE IN A PRINCESS DRESS. 

         So, that’s what I did, I danced through a castle in a princess dress. Gem and Aimes were such good sports, they took photos of me everywhere and even held my train while I walked up the stairs. They completely indulged me in my princess adventure.

Then came the time for me to take it off. I didn’t like that part. But I had to. So, slowly.. reluctantly.. and wearing an upside down smile.. I did.

After that, the girls and I toured the gardens on.. get this.. a golf cart! So fun! We just rented a golf cart and drove it around for an hour looking at the pretty waterfalls and lovely greenery. 

           It was just overall a spectacular time.. BECAUSE I RAN AROUND A CASTLE IN A REAL PRINCESS DRESS. 

 

Edith Piaf, Long Lost Professors and Living the French Life

It has occurred to me that I should probably update all of you on what I’ve been up to the past few days – and it’s been a lot. First, let’s start off with the most recent French film I went to (alone again, because that’s my new favorite thing) – “La Tête Haute/Standing Tall.” Centering around a troubled young boy just trying to find his way in the world. He’s abusive and temperamental and a disaster to be around but by the end he’s grown into himself. Full of anger, hatred, compassion, love and a happy ending, it was as uplifting as it was upsetting. Oh, how I love these French cinema experiences that I keep all to myself. Next, I spent my Saturday afternoon exploring the Edith Piaf exhibition. I’ve loved her for years; that dark, smoky voice and soothing lyrics – I’m a sucker for French classics. Immediately upon entrance I was handed an audio guide full of about 50 Edith songs to listen to while walking through the exhibit. With movie clips, vintage mementos and even a live karaoke box inside, I became lost within history. The exhibit even had one of her little black dresses (her signature look) hanging from above in one of the sections. I learned so much about her and her tragic life and I have a newfound respect for the glorious French singer. For those of you not familiar, here is one of her most famous songs, La Vie En Rose:

         Then, I spent all day Sunday running around in a real princess dress at another castle – Vaux-le-Vicomte – but that’s going into a separate post because it was so special to me and deserves more attention than a mention. Then, yesterday two things happened. One, I received my new custom made leather journal cover for my personal journal I’ve been keeping throughout my time here in Paris! I was so delighted when I saw the package sitting in my family’s flat that I literally squealed! It’s so beautiful and personal and everything I wanted. Thank you so much, Megan’s Mark for this wonderful work of art!     And then two, I met up with one of my French professors from university! She and her hilarious other half are in Paris for the week for the beginning of her last study abroad that she’s leading. This wonderful lady is one of the three main reasons I was able to go to France the first time two (!!) years ago and then decided to come back long term. She led my study abroad group back then and it’s only fitting that we met back up at a cafe for drinks while I’m living here.    Finally, last night I spent the evening with some of my favorite people in Paris just lounging along the Canal Saint-Martin having a picnic.       Honestly I couldn’t ask for a more perfect life to live, I thank God every day for my abundant blessings. I’m in awe at every moment of every day of this beautiful life I get to live because of Him.

My birthday as a real life Princess

Words cannot express how wonderfully blessed I feel right now after the beautiful weekend that I had. It was completely surreal. I guess I’ll start at the beginning and tell the story of my 23rd birthday spent in Paris.

It all began on Thursday when I received a HUGE package from my parents for my birthday present. They honestly went above and beyond for me and I feel so blessed to call them Momma and Daddy. I felt so loved opening it up and finding all of my favorite things inside. Spending my first birthday away from the greatest parents in the world was incredibly difficult but I’m reminded every day of how proud they are of me and it makes it just a little bit easier to be away from them on this day. A little bit..1920253_10153167281293465_6266701975404633540_n

Then came Friday, which was spent with my French family. They went so out of their way to make sure that I enjoyed this birthday and felt loved and I was almost brought to tears knowing how much they care for me. On Thursday, the mom asked me what I’m doing for the weekend and if I had plans for Friday night or if I could spend the evening with them. I told her I was completely free Friday night and would love to be with them. I started to realize it was a big deal late Friday afternoon when my kiddos wouldn’t let me in their rooms because they were working on my birthday presents. Literally every time I walked in their rooms to nag them about getting in the shower, they would scream, “NO MEEEEGAN, NO! OUT!” And I’d walk away laughing. Then the mom came home and started on les aperatifs, which is what the party would include. For those of you who don’t know, this means we were going to have a tea party type thing with champagne and finger sandwiches and such. Anyway, everything gets ready and we all gather in the family room to indulge on mini finger pizzas, chips, foie gras (liver pâté) and much more. Oh, and champagne. Can’t forget the best part. We all eat and talk and have a grand ole time until getting full and then I feel the mood change. All of the sudden, the kiddos are all excited and anxious. The mom then excuses them to go get all of my presents. Man, these kids are so great. S made me a coin purse that she sewed all on her own out of fabric that I picked out as my favorite a few weeks ago and A drew me a picture of a princess in a carriage (Cinderella) but I was the princess. His little face when I looked at it for the first time was priceless – he was so nervous hoping I’d like it. AND I LOVED IT OF COURSE! The parents even got me something. Expensive perfume. In Paris. Like whaaaaaat. They spoiled me for sure! Then came possibly the best part; they had bought seven French pastries from the bakery and put 23 candles in them and sang happy birthday to me (in French AND English). Overall it was a magnificent night and I don’t think I could have been blessed with a better family if I had picked them myself.

Then came Saturday and a picnic at the Eiffel Tower for mine and Tessa’s friend Katie. It was beautiful and we had champagne and lots of goodies and just sat on the lawn enjoying life. It has become a weekly thing to spend Saturday afternoons on the Eiffel Tower having a picnic.10613048_10153172416753465_5121196513263663068_n I can’t complain about anything in life anymore. After separating for downtime and naps before going out that night, Tessa and I decided to kill some time at the movies. We went and saw Dracula – for those of you who don’t know, Dracula is my favorite book of all time so you can imagine how ecstatic I was that we actually had time to go see it. Wellllllll, to be honest, I thought the movie was a huge let down and a disappointment and it felt like it was about 20 minutes long. UNTIL THE END. The end, my goodness was phenomenal and just tied everything together and made it perfect and I couldn’t have been happier with it! Sooooo good. So then after the movie we all met back up and went out for Nuit Blanche, which is like an all night art expo thing all over the city that they have once a year in Paris. We met up with Aimi and Julia and started walking around. Somehow ended up at a bar.. Had a few drinks and everyone sang to me at midnight (even the bartenders and other patrons and they whistled and rang a bell for me, which was pretty awesome) and then decided to head to another bar. But I wasn’t feeling too well so Tessa and I decided to go home and get some sleep before having a great day for my birthday. Not 20 feet away from the bar, I puke my guts out. Like hardcore. It wasn’t pleasant. Needless to say, the metro ride home was also unpleasant. And then I threw up again outside my apartment building. Started to think I was sick and wasn’t going to enjoy my birthday and got really upset and down about it. And then the most awful thing in the world happened – we got stuck in the elevator on the way up to my apartment on the fourth floor. I DON’T DO ELEVATORS. I immediately burst into tears and faced the wall and stuck my face in the corner. I thought the elevator was going to drop from the fourth floor and that we were going to die. I was in full blown panic mode. Well the elevator did go down, but it didn’t open up. So here Tessa and I are, me in a corner bawling my eyes out and about to scream, and Tessa trying her hardest to keep me calm while also apparently freaking out internally. She’s banging on the door and I’m calling my French parents for help because it’s 1am and the lights are off in the courtyard where the elevator is so it’s pitch black and terrifying. My French parents don’t answer so I call Aimi and try my hardest to convey to her what’s going on but all that comes out are cries and screams and I’m not quite sure how she managed to not hang up on me but she didn’t. Then finally the concierge comes to the elevator door and explains what buttons to push to manually open the door. By this time my mascara is running down my face and I’m nearly hyperventilating over what just happened. I’m not sure how I’ll ever face the concierge again.. Anyway, we finally get safely up into my apartment and just pass out from exhaustion over everything we’d just gone through. Thank goodness. And I’m not sure how Tessa managed to handle everything I put her through, but she did it quite well.

Then came my birthday! I woke up feeling amazing and not sick at all so you can imagine my excitement at this. I immediately start to get ready for the day that Tessa and I are about to spend at the Palace of Versailles so that I can be a real life actual princess. But before any of this, we go for lunch at a Mexican restaurant called “El Rancho.” Um, hello again CoMo. 10678719_10153176320288465_4228978024340393316_nAfter lunch we head off to the Palace and spend the entirety of the afternoon and evening exploring the gardens and Marie Antoinette’s cottages and villages. We even rented bikes and were totally Parisian for the day, riding throughout the gardens being all cutesy.10671304_10153176382003465_923862846432562418_n Needless to say, it was a dream come true for me to spend my birthday at a real castle. I still can’t believe it actually happened. Then the sun started to go down and Tessa and I parted ways and I headed off to dinner with Aimi and Julia. I wanted Pad Thai to top everything from the weekend off because so far I’d had all of my favorite things all weekend and I wanted some yummy Thai to top it all off. So being the wonderful people they are, Aimi and Julia found a delicious Thai place and we had a wonderful evening full of curry, spiciness, wine and discussion about bad British television. It was great.

So, basically I had the birthday of a lifetime this year full of Eiffel Towers, presents, yummy food, scary movies and castles. It was absolutely unbelievable and I still can’t believe it was real. The only thing missing was my family but I FaceTimed them all throughout the day today so that it felt like we were together as much as we could be. I am so blessed to live this life that I live and I couldn’t have asked God for anything more.

Time Machine: Medieval Times

Today I visited a real-life castle for the first time in my life. It was incredible. I’m not quite sure that everyone else on the trip had as good a time as I did in Perouges but I have to say that I was completely in my element. The entire place reminded me of scenes from Lord of the Rings and the whole time I just wanted Frodo to come walking up the cobblestone road to greet me.

Seriously, I think I was born to be royalty or something because I know that I belong in a castle. I’m a princess, everybody knows that. But today I also realized that the lifestyle of the royalty makes me happier than almost anything in the world. Yeah, I’m that high-maintenance. At least, that’s what my Dad has been telling me since I was about two years old. Now I’ve fully realized how right he was; although, I’m pretty sure I’ve known it this whole time.

Yeah, so I just realized how much both of those paragraphs differ from one another. One is total geek out and the other is complete brat. Funny thing is that they go perfectly hand in hand in my personality. I’m such a weirdo. But..

I am the princess.1011722_10151982601317564_1134185310_n