This past June Vince, his parents, and I traveled to France for a 10-day adventure! Paris and the French Riviera hold very special places in my heart. 15 years ago, when I was in high school, I got to take a European school trip that included these iconic destinations. I've gushed to Vince about these amazing parts of the world, and I've always dreamed of returning to them someday with him. Finally, this was the year!
We started our journey in Paris, taking in all of the iconic sights, including a day trip to Versailles. From there we took the train down to Nice, which served as our launchpad to explore the French Riviera. We covered a lot of ground, traveling as far north as Monaco and as far south as Biot.
Paris is intoxicating. It's addicting. You can't help but be swept up in the city's graceful splendor and ease of life. It is so true that Parisians live some of the most balanced, pleasurable lives in the world. They unapologetically enjoy the true pleasures in life. They center their lives around social connections and take time to enjoy each meal. I have long believed that Americans spend too much of their lives trying to make a living, forgetting to make a meaningful life. Spending just a few short days in France helped remind me that it's okay to turn off that email every now and then in favor of a late lunch and evening stroll.
On our final evening in Paris, after a delicious meal of seafood and wine, Vince and I took the Metro to Champ de Mars, the park beneath the Eiffel Tower. I had a very particular image in mind that I wanted to capture and it was now or never. I hadn't packed my tripod on this trip, but I told myself that I could just bump my ISO (way) up. That would make the photo exceptionally grainy, but better than no photo, right?
When we arrived there was a man there also taking photos. We acknowledged each other in the way that only a common interest can bring two people from different cultures together. We stood near each other taking our respective photos, trying to stay out of each other's frames. When I was finished I glanced over to him to say goodbye. To my surprise he was holding out his tripod adapter for me to use! This complete stranger took time out of his late evening to let me use his tripod to capture this beautiful image, which is far superior to any I captured that night without a tripod! I was so touched by his thoughtfulness, and I hope that I can pass it along to someone someday. The best part? I wasn’t even trying to line up the tower’s top light and I caught it perfectly symmetrically!
Versailles is one of those places that you have to see to believe. It's only when you see the perfectly pruned gardens and gold-plated everything that you can really appreciate the stories about the palace's larger-than-life inhabitants and opulence.
The day we visited Versailles was misty and a little bit chilly, but I'll take that over heat and unforgiving sun any day! It made our stroll through the gardens even more enjoyable.
Those crowds though.
I've never experienced so many people in one indoor space! Thank goodness I'm not claustrophobic. Our tour through the palace was an exercise in patience and subtle elbowing through the masses.
It also made photo taking exceptionally challenging, which is why I didn't take many photos inside the palace. Finally I just started pointing my camera up to get above people's heads!
Finally we made it outside to explore the gardens! The picture below can give you an idea of the impressive scale of the palace's grounds.
Versailles' gardens are an absolute haven for photographers! Every row is immaculately symmetrical and pruned. Every new pathway and garden made my shutter finger twitch! Everywhere I turned I saw a new composition that would be just perfect for portraits. Eventually I enlisted my fellow travelers to pose for (and with) me. Let me tell you, it sure felt different being on the other side of the camera!
If anyone would ever be interested in holding a portrait session with me in Versailles, hit me up! (But seriously. So serious about this.)
French Riviera: Nice | Eze | Monaco | Villefranche-sur-Mer | Biot
Seeing Nice and Eze again were probably the highlight of the trip for me. The cactus garden of Eze is one of the top 3 places I've dreamed of revisiting in my life and I finally got to! It's amazing how much I forgot about that area in the past 15 years. Granted, I spent the majority of those years cramming my brain full of knowledge and cheap frat party booze, so there's that.
The gardens of Eze sit atop the village. Getting there is like your own medieval safari. You have to wind your way through narrow stone corridors, ancient roads that can't accommodate modern cars, quaint shops, and picturesque cafes. But there's no need to take a map. Just keep climbing up and you'll get there. And once you reach the top you'll be rewarded with some truly spectacular views.
By visiting Monaco, we could say that we traveled to two countries while on vacation! Monaco is a beautiful country to visit, if only to take in the immense wealth of the area. To give you an idea, the country's per capita GDP is $168,000, the highest of any nation.
Not only is Monaco very wealthy, but it's also very old. The oldest part of the country is situated (not surprisingly) at the top of the cliffs that overlook the sea. The earliest settlers were no dummies; they knew the safest (read: prettiest) place to found their society.
On our way back to Nice from Monaco, we stopped for dinner in Villefranche-sur-Mer. This quiet and picturesque town provided the perfect backdrop for our port-side meal!
One of our most unique stops was Biot! This medieval town situated on (you guessed it) a hilltop is known for its ancient glass blowing techniques. I really enjoyed watching these modern craftsmen at work in their shop. They must be good if they were willing to wear shorts and sandals around molten glass!
And now for the finished product!
So much of this vacation was a literal trip down memory lane for me, which made it all the more special. I completely agree that there is too much of the world to see in one lifetime. But sometimes it's important to retrace your steps and build new memories with the ones you love alongside the old memories.