A slightly picture heavy post ahead, as I share a few of the snaps from our recent trip. So, it was certainly a week of the unexpected, beginning with a surprise theatre trip to London. We travelled by train and stayed at a hotel very near to St. Paul's. Once we were checked in, The Husband then told me that we were off to Paris the next day by Eurostar.
We spent our night in London watching As You Like It at the National Theatre, which had the most incredible set, and a really innovative chorus. Much like many of Shakespeare's comedies, it involved mistaken identities, people being banished, lovers chasing each other through forests, and multiple weddings. The next day I took my first ever journey on the Eurostar, and the journey through the tunnel was over almost before I realised. From there we headed to a beautiful hotel just near the Champs-Elysees. We switched rooms just after arrival because they hadn't realised when we first checked in that The Husband had booked an upgraded room. We were wondering whether to mention it, but we were glad we did, because the room we ended up with was slightly bigger, but also had a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower from the window!
The Hotel also offered a complimentary afternoon tea each day, although the only day we were there at the right time we had just returned from my birthday lunch, so didn't ever get to try it. It looked beautiful though! We visited the Louvre on our first full day, and once I had recovered from queuing for rather a long time to get in, we enjoyed having a wander around. The Mona Lisa was, as you might expect, swamped with people, as was the Venus de Milo, so it was quite difficult to get a real sense of them, especially as the Mona Lisa was behind a perspex screen, but I was glad to have seen them. It was an immense gallery to wander through, and most of the other floors were much quieter. We didn't cover even half of it, but enjoyed what we saw, and it is somewhere I have always wanted to visit.
Our next day in Paris included a beautiful lunch, and the waiting staff were incredibly helpful advising me on what they would recommend that was suitable for pregnancy. From there we had a walk through to Notre Dame, which I think was my favourite place in Paris. I didn't take any pictures at all, and wandered around awestruck by the architecture. We sat for a good while, quietly taking it all in. It felt like a very special way to spend the last day of my twenties, and it was lovely to sit and reflect on where life has brought us in the last decade.
From there we went for a coffee, and then enjoyed a night at the Opera Bastille, watching The Barber of Seville. Happily there were subtitles, as neither of us are opera aficionados, and it was another incredible set, with a full scale set of apartments that fully rotated so you could see in all the rooms (the picture above is not the set, just to be clear, I just liked that someone had got patriotic with their pants!). We returned from the opera to the most wonderful surprise, which was a knock at the bedroom door from my parents. The Husband, knowing full well that I have always shared my birthday with my mum, had invited them to join us, and so after a comedic scene which included me calling my mum and genuinely being baffled when I could hear the ringtone, I discovered our visitors! And as if that wasn't enough surprises, The Husband then told me that after my parents travelled home we would be carrying on from Paris, to spend a long weekend in Venice.
So my birthday was spent opening cards and presents with family, over breakfast in our room, and then from there we went for a very special lunch. After a beautiful meal, everyone was given a complimentary brandy to toast my birthday, and as I couldn't partake, I was given a cocktail glass of sorbets to enjoy instead. We spent the afternoon exploring the Rodin museum and gardens, posing with the sculptures and taking some very funny pictures. I was so glad to see The Thinker, a sculpture I have always wanted to see, and it was a lovely way to spend a few hours. We ended the day with an alcohol free cocktail for me, and some champagne as a gift from the hotel which everyone else enjoyed! As birthdays go, it was an incredibly memorable one.
The following morning we all went for breakfast and then waved my parents goodbye. Our final day in Paris was beautifully bright and clear, perfect for some sightseeing. We wandered up the Champs-Elysees, to the Arc de Triomphe, and then to the Eiffel Tower. The Husband was most excited of all to spot an actor from The Walking Dead, which was a little lost on me, but I daresay made his trip! We picked up a picnic, and our suitcases, and then headed to catch our overnight sleeper train to Venice.
I have always liked the idea of travelling on a sleeper train, and The Husband had booked us our own little sleeper car. It was absolutely great fun, although bizarre to wake to the train pulling in and realise we were going through passport control as we crossed the Swiss and then the Italian borders. The darkness meant there was not much in the way of a view, although it was odd to look out to see snow on the ground as we travelled through the Swiss mountains! I slept well in between the different stops, though The Husband fared slightly less well, and by the time we had got the vaporetto water bus from the station to the hotel in Venice, he definitely felt like the ground was moving beneath him!
Venice had a completely different feel from Paris, and from anywhere I have been. The buildings, and streets, are full of nooks and crannies, narrow and crooked, and then suddenly you step round a corner to see the bright blue water almost at your feet. Particularly once you had crossed over the Grand Canal, it felt a lot more residential, with far fewer shops, but even with the throngs there for Valentine's weekend, it never felt so touristy that it lost its charm.
We weren't blessed with great weather during our days in Venice, but we had umbrellas and coats, and were quite happy to wander. The Husband had also booked a really beautiful hotel, and our room was lovely so it was quite nice to have an excuse to spend a few hours there when the weather was very wet. Before we left home, The Husband had downloaded some walking tours to his phone, which link to the GPS and tell you about the different sights as you walk past them. It was a great way to explore Venice at our own pace, and as it is such a small place, you could get around quite easily on foot.
We had a great few hours at the Peggy Guggenheim museum on our second day. It had a nice cafe, where we stopped for lunch, and to shelter from the rain. Once it had dried we were able to wander through the gardens, and then into the galleries. It was a really interesting and varied collection, and a fascinating place to spend some time.
After enjoying huge pizzas on our first night in Venice, our final night of the trip was spent having a lovely meal at a restaurant The Husband had booked. It was a really nice way to spend our last night. The following morning was very wet indeed, so we spent the final few hours of our trip looking around St. Mark's Basilica. Mass was going on, although we were in the upper part of the church looking at the mosaics and artefacts, it was interesting to hear the service in the background too. We actually went out onto the roof, which gave some incredible views, but The Husband ventured out over the sloping tiles alone!
From there it was homeward bound, after what had felt like an incredibly long break. It has only really sunk in since we got home everything that we did and what an amazing surprise The Husband had planned, and how much effort he, and my family and friends had put in. There was a detailed Millie-sitting rota in place including Grandad and the neighbours for the days when my parents were in Paris, and I was amazed at how many people had kept such a huge secret! Having never visited either place before, it was such a wonderful opportunity to experience them, and enjoy two very different, very beautiful cities. It may well have been our last holiday abroad as a couple for a number of years, and what an adventure it was, with more than enough memories to last a lifetime.