When you’ve been married for as long as I have, you know the importance of a romantic retreat with your significant other. And for that, Paris comes to mind. My husband, Dave, and I now take at least one vacation together every year. We didn’t always do that. When our kids were younger, we would bring them with us to an all-inclusive, a cruise, and as they got older, to Europe and Asia. And sure, it was fun and memorable. And chaotic, challenging, and exhausting. And of course, I wouldn’t trade any of those memories. But once they got older, and we got busy with sporting and academic events, we began to understand the significance of a vacation alone.

So far, of all the vacations we’ve taken, our trip to France a couple of years ago came as close to perfect as possible. We spent eight glorious days in April visiting Paris and Bordeaux.
On the day we arrived, exhausted and excited, we took our usual approach to a new city by taking a day tour visiting top sites and attractions.

Louvre Museum Paris France

Toni in front of the Louvre.

As most people know, Paris is full of incredible history, architecture, art, charm, and is known for its rich, sumptuous cuisine. But we also go in search of the eclectic hidden features of each city. Taking a private tour allows you to skip the lines and assures you will see what interests you. A good tour guide can lead you to the treasures that aren’t known to the masses; like Rue Cremieux, a most quaint little street in Paris. As a luxury travel advisor, I partner with some of the best private tour guides around the world. Over the next few days, we saw the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame. Walking along the Champs Elysée, I purchased a gorgeous pair of shoes and a funky pocketbook. We strolled through my favorite museum, the Musée d’Orsay, walked the immense gardens at Versailles and relaxed in the Luxembourg Gardens. It was a romantic paradise. We ate crepes from vendors on the street, dipped our bread in cheese fondue, and delighted in pastries. We walked what felt like miles straight up to see incredible Montmartre. I love the artsy vibe and fabulous restaurants that sit atop of the city. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to experience Notre Dame right before the fire.

Paris Catacombs

Toni visiting the Paris Catacombs

My husband had only one request. To see the Paris Catacombs. I had only one request. To NOT see the Catacombs. But since he was overruled the year before, while our whole family was in Rome, I acquiesced. We waited in a very long line to find out that while it had an interesting history if you’ve seen one skull, you’ve seen enough.

Bordeaux france

Stopping on our bike tour in Bordeaux for a wine tasting.

Chateau Cote de Baleau— in Saint-Émilion.

Mid-week we boarded a train to Bordeaux. I love wine. I love vineyards. I love biking. I love taking tours. I love France. I love Saint-Émilion. Combine them all into one experience and I was rewarded with one of the best vacation days of my life. With our small group, our awesome tour guide led us by bike around several vineyards, where we stopped, learned about the wines and tasted the best duck confit I have ever eaten. The day ended at Intercontinental Bordeaux Le Grand Hôtel, where we stayed in one of the finest suites we’ve seen, with a huge rooftop terrace and hot tub. To this day, when something has exceeded our expectations, we refer to it as a “room 411”.

Pont des Arts bridge Paris

Pont des Arts bridge in Paris.

Thinking back on why this trip meant so much to me, I understand that it wasn’t just about the city, with its museums and culture, or the food and wine. It was the small loving daily gestures by my husband. I still swoon over his thoughtfulness of having the foresight to bring along a little lock for the Pont des Arts, known as the Bridge of Locks, which spans the Seine river in Paris. The legend actually started in Hungary, goes that a woman who had lost her lover during World War I started fixing padlocks on bridges where they used to meet. It was her way of expressing that her love was unbreakable. We had watched a movie where one for the stars affixed a lock to the bridge and we decided then that we needed to visit the bridge. That small kindness reminded me of why I fell in love with him in the first place.

I’m already looking forward to our next trip in May. Romance awaits.

Ready to plan a trip? Contact Toni McClelland at toni@beyondboutiquetravel.com

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