A Day in Versailles

After spending a day in Paris, we decided to snag a last-minute hotel in Versailles, just outside the city.  We found an awesome deal at the Waldorf-Astoria (!!!) right off the actual grounds of the stunning palace of Versailles and planned spending Saturday night and Sunday morning there.  Before dinner, we worked up an appetite by walking around the charming city streets-- bike rentals had just closed for the day when we arrived :( . We loved exploring the streets of this city and seeing the gorgeous architecture and lovely restaurants.   We enjoyed a delicious pizza dinner and then for the piece de resistance, we wandered over to the most delicious bakery ever, the Boulangerie Guinon.  Seriously, this place is incredible-- best pastries and bread of my life.  We had been here once before when we did a bike tour of Versailles with some of our best friends, the Dardanos, a couple of years ago.  But, this time we invested in more sugary fare, specifically the eclairs and tarts.  Amazing.  Before we even finished satiating our appetites, we were planning a trip back tomorrow before we left Versailles.

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The next morning we woke up, worked out together, showered, and then went to indulge again in the hotel's breakfast for Mother's Day!  Per expectation when traveling in France, it was incredible.  The croissants, cheese, yogurt and fruit were top-rate.  Almost as good was the beautiful setting as we dined outside under a tent on a gorgeous morning.  Such a happy memory!  After finishing up, we rented bikes and started our self-guided tour of the grounds of Versailles.  We rode all around the Grand Canal, stopping to go down less-traveled roads as well as soaking it all in as we went along.

 Here are those less-traveled roads...so so so beautiful.

Here are those less-traveled roads...so so so beautiful.

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After parking our bikes and wandering the gardens for a bit, we decided to go into the Palace and see what all of the fuss is about. ;) I'm sure its incredibly busy in the summer, during high tourist season, but it still felt a general crowded push at all times to see the most popular things.  We visited the bedrooms and the Hall of Mirrors, where we tried to wrap our heads around the kind of lives the French royalty lived back then.  Nuts.

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One of my favorite parts was this room full of important French portraits and events in French history.  I recognized a lot of scenes and people from our favorite broadway, "Alexander Hamilton", which was really fun.

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We biked back out of the grounds and continued our tour of the actual city.  After discovering our favorite bakery was closed today (so sad!!), we found a disappointing replacement and sat on these church steps to eat.

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We rode around the market and surrounding areas and then rode to the Paris LDS temple, which is actually right in Versailles.  It was so cool to walk around and learn a little about the construction and the LDS history in the region.  The temple and grounds were immaculate and beautiful and it was so fun to see in real life.  We LOVED every second of our time in Versailles and were so glad we decided to get out of the big city for just one night.  Totally and completely worth it.

A Weekend in Paris

We took the red-eye on Thursday night and arrived in the City of Lights early Friday morning.  Did we get business-class upgrades??  Yes!!!  Makes a red-eye a teeny bit exciting and ALLLL of the traveling Brian does seem okay for just those few cushy hours up in the air.  I could totally (but won't ever get the chance in this life) get used to flying like that. ;) . Our friend, Dallin had a room at the Marriott by the Champs Elysees, where we unloaded our luggage and grabbed a quick breakfast before he and Brian headed out for work meetings together.  I snuck in a quick nap and shower and then headed out to explore by myself for the day.  Naturally, I did some things that I could never do when we traveled here with our kids....museum hopping!  I visited the Musee de l'Orangerie to see Monet's famous Water Lilies first.  Stunning.  I loved sitting quietly and soaking in the massive impressionist panels in the rooms dedicated solely to this work.  I loved walking all over the Tuilerie Gardens and seeing the famous Louvre, which I passed on this time, having seen it when we visited a couple of years ago.  I snuck in a few shops and even took a few minutes to sit down and enjoy an almond croissant, my favorite!  Then I wandered back to meet Brian as he finished up his meetings.

And, that is why you will see actual photos of what we did next.  Wishing I was a talented photographer is just that, a wish.  So, until Brian tags along, there will not be many pictures of what I did before we met up.  We walked through the Tuileries again and along the Seine River and over to the Latin Quarter, where we ate a traditional French dinner in the most cozy and charming corner.  I totally fell in love with French architecture on this trip.  I don't know why I wasn't so enamored with it when we've gone here before, but on this trip I simply could not get enough!  I love this city so so so much.

Quick walk-by of Notre Dame- still can't get over how beautiful and HUGE this church is.  Love the pop-up shops (the original pop-ups!) all along the Seine.

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We slept in way too late the next morning, but still managed to sneak in a run through the streets and gardens where we stayed, near the Place de la Concorde.  The weather on this trip was something else- perfection that just solidified my new-found love for this city.  We showered, grabbed a quick lunch and headed to a macaron class in Montmarte that we were able to get reservations in by the "skin of our teeth", as my mom would say :).  The pictures above, are from our walk around Montmarte and we happened to run into this wall (which appeared to be insta-famous because there were TONS of people there) which has "I Love You" written in every language.

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Back to that macaron class...this was seriously the best!!  I love baking, so to be able to do it in Paris whilst making their specialty macarons=highlight of the trip!  It was a small class and we learned a ton and were able to make and take home 3 kinds of flavored chocolate varieties as well as the almond cookies that adorn the tops and bottoms of those sugary delicacies.  It was the coolest thing and I hope I can recreate it some day.  Lauren is way into macarons right now and was so excited to see what we had done, especially when some of our leftovers actually made it home to the USA!

It was such an intense and delicate process.  Our chef was amazing and helped us perfect what we'd made- so all of our little cookies grew their "feet" and none cracked in the oven!  Brian and I chose purple for our color and they turned out so beautiful!

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On our last night in Paris, we stayed in a hotel near the Eiffel Tower.  I didn't think I would enjoy switching hotels every night as much as I did on this trip.  It was so cool to see a different part of the city every time we moved because there are just so many awesome areas- I left feeling like we only saw a small sliver of what there is to explore here (and thats after having visited 4 times!)  

 
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We walked all over on our last night- seeing the Eiffel Tower up close as well as the streets near our hotel.  We looked up some delicious Michelin-starred restaurants for our final dinner and ate at the most delicious cafe.  I had melt-in-your-mouth pasta that I'm still honestly wondering how they made it so flavorful.  We gathered some souvenirs (in the form of sugar) for the kids and got ready to head home early the next morning.  This weekend in Paris was just what we needed after having spent so little time together in the last few months...everything about it was perfect!

My 12-Year-Old Trip (Taylor)

When we turn twelve in our family, our dad takes us on a father/daughter trip. I chose Utah for my trip because I had never skied before and I wanted to go to the BYU store 😂. We stayed in the Sundance mountain resort for a little less than a week.

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Luckily, there was a cafe next to the ski lift so I could occasionally have some hot chocolate and lunch breaks… yum! What I call the perfect balance is catching a snowflake on my tongue and then sipping hot chocolate.

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We went down to Park City for a little bit and just hiked and explored. I loved looking at all the different colored homes in the snow. And with my warm coat, I loved jumping into piles of snow because it was like a cloud that you could eat.

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 We hiked through the Sundance Resort, just exploring around the winter wonderland.

We hiked through the Sundance Resort, just exploring around the winter wonderland.

We got some snowshoes and trekked through a trail that looked over Mount Timpanogos. Everything coated with a fresh layer of snow is just beautiful up in the mountains.

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I also brought a camera so I could snap some pictures as well. Also, we stayed in my Grandma Becky and Poppy’s cabin, which was so much fun. A big cabin all to ourselves! My dad made the best food, especially his famous quesadillas... mmmmmm.

My dad was asked to speak in a class at BYU for business stuff (I don’t really know 😂). I’m sure I fit right in!

Then we explored around the BYU campus, got some delicious food (Chick-Fil-A and a BYU donut) and ate at the Wilkinson Student Center, where I also got to go to the BYU Store!!

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In Jordan, Part II

Woke up in Petra, excited to start the day....

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We took our hotel van to the site, got our tickets, and began our full day of exploration at one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  The anticipation was at an all-time high.  You are greeted at the entrance by lots of local bedouin men and boys trying to sell you rides on their horses to the base of the hike- which really wasn't far at all so, we decided to walk it- and it was such a beautiful day out.  We kept saying how hot this place must be in the summer because the winter is so nice!  Once at the base of the siq, or crack in the stone, which starts your walk toward the first sight in Petra, it took about 30 minutes on pathways through this stunning stone crevasse to the Treasury.  Locals, Nabatean bedouins, are the people who currently live right here inside Petra, but its been populated as early as the 4th century BC when it was a trade route, which generated a lot of wealth- the locals obviously excelled at stone carving, and hence, Petra was born...

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We rode these camels around the facade of Al Khazneh- or the treasury.  You can't go inside, unless you're a local bedouin, so we took in as much of the grand exterior as we could.  It was massive and the scope of it was as overwhelming as you can imagine.  I wore my Nikes for ease of walking and leggings under my dress.  The combo was perfect and so comfortable.

Kissing camels...

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The bedouins would take you on the shortened 10-minute hike, if you paid them a little.  Worth it to avoid the 1.5 hour hike and catch the morning sunlight! We hiked up/tried to keep up with a little boy that took us to a tent up above the treasury here.   From up high, you got an excellent view of the site, but could also see the many bedouin tents set up for actual residents right on the top of the mountains.  I cannot wrap my head around living up here- it was fascinating to see.    

We then walked by the theater, followed by the loooong walk to the Monastery, or El Deir.  The locals told us the walk was about an hour and a half and we were asked many many times along the way if we wanted to ride a donkey to the top instead (for a price).  We were tempted because my heel had a massive blister on it, but I took my shoe half off and we ended up walking the entire way.  I am sooo glad we did.  The walk was really beautiful and passed so quickly.  I always feel like earning a view makes it that much more valuable when you reach it- this was definitely the case with the monastery.  It felt like it was in the middle of nowhere- peaceful, quiet and stunning.  

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We climbed a rock overlooking the monastery and just sat and relaxed and took it in.  Favorite moment for sure.  And we were almost entirely alone- there was hardly a soul around!  We stopped on the way back for a quick drink and then finished the walk back.  I didn't even know Brian was snapping these pics behind me as I was going- I'm so glad he caught the feeling of this magical place.

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After Petra, we went back to a local restaurant and ate a late lunch.  Then, we waited for our tour bus to come and take us to our next stop...the Wadi Rum, or The Valley of the MOON.  "The Martian" was shot here, and you can see why.  It looks like another planet, quite literally.  We stayed in a funky little hotel with permanent tents for rooms.  They had a small hike to the top of this huge rock on the grounds, where Brian and I hiked up and he was able to catch the night sky with all of its amazing stars- a sight you don't ever see in NYC.  

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The next morning we woke up and Faris, this totally awesome bedouin and tour guide, showed us around a small part of what his family has called home for many generations . Faris lives in a tent with no running water or electricity and only a camel for transportation, which he rides to work 2.5 hours every single day, and he wouldn't have it any other way.  You could really feel his love for the desert as well as the simple life he leads.  We talked a lot about his life and it was incredible to hear.  He was the nicest guy- by his own terms, he was a "good"ouin (not a "bad"ouin).  He took us to a cave where locals go when its too hot, showed us the echoes off the walls of the stone cliffs, wrote our names in Arabic in the sand (with a heart around it, no less), and showed us where they shot some famous movies.  

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The pictures do NOT do this view justice.  The shapes of these mountains were so unique and went on and on and on in the distance.  It was quite the sight.  Faris offered to take a picture of Brian and I below...no, that is not a mirage. ;)  Haha!  He did about as good as I would have done behind the camera.

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From Wadi Rum, we drove to the passport control in Aqaba, walked across the border into the Israeli city of Eilat, where we had to undergo another INTENSE security check.  The Israelis do not mess around.   We basically had to unpack our entire suitcase and answer a million questions anytime we wanted to leave or enter their country.  But, I get it.  We got through and got on a plane to Tel Aviv so we could spend one more day in Israel before heading home.  We got a last-minute hotel and decided to spend the evening in old Jaffa- which ended up being another total highlight of the trip.  Old Jaffa was gorgeous- like a comfortable old beach town which also happens to be the oldest port in the entire world!   We walked around the charming city and then ate a slow dinner at the cutest little restaurant that sat right on the water.  They opened the huge windows and we sat and relaxed and watched one of the most gorgeous sunsets I've ever seen in my life.  It was amazing.  The meal was delicious and it was the perfect ending to our trip.

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I've said this already, but I cannot wait to get back to Israel- even if I am sweating through their intense security checks-totally worth it.  What an amazing country!!