After I hiked 100 miles along Hadrian’s Wall in England with my friends in 2016, I met up with my wife and one-year-old daughter on a train to Paris. My legs were shot and Paris was amid a heat wave, but the excitement of visiting Paris for the first time overshadowed the blisters on my feet and the pain in my legs.
As most tourists in Paris do, we spent a majority of time eating and visiting the top sites; like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Sainte Chapelle, and Conciergerie. And I loved every minute of visiting all those places since they were a bucket list of vacation stops. During this time, we were baby wearing at all the locations, since it’s much easier to get around while wearing a baby than by using a stroller. Did I mention there was a heat wave?
When I was a kid, I checked a book out of the library that was all about the Palace of Versailles. The gold ceilings and walls grabbed my curiosity. And then I read more about King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Since I grew up poor, the idea of ever going to Versailles was a pipe dream. It didn’t stop me from dream traveling, where I would read as much as possible about a location and learn everything I could. I did that with Versailles. I read and dreamed.
I was extremely glad when my wife had suggested we visit Versailles while in Paris.
Did I mention the heat wave?
We got on a bus early in the morning and it took us about 60 minutes to get from Paris to Versailles. The heat knocked us back as we exited the bus. With a baby strapped to my chest, sweat dripped off my body as we walked towards the entrance. Once inside the Palace, we meandered from room to room and gawked at the size and splendor of the palace. It truly is an incredible sight.
Did I mention the heat wave?
Did I mention that I just finished walking 100 miles?
When I dreamed of visiting Versailles, I envisioned myself finding a place to sit, observe and study while wondering what the place looked like with the bustle of royalty traipsing in and out. I thought I would wander the grounds and think about the violent protests that awaited the King and Queen. But, with each step in and around the palace, my blisters rubbed my feet and extra heat radiated off my daughter onto my chest.
After touring the Palace, we explored the grounds and walked to The Petit Trianon, which was Marie Antoinette’s apartment. Only her inner circle could enter. As we reached the front door, my sweaty baby had enough of being attached to her sweaty daddy and wanted out. Her mother went into the apartment to explore while my baby and I found a shady spot in Marie Antoinette’s backyard. We stretched out under a tree, and I placed my head on my backpack. My daughter, after climbing around my body, placed her head upon my chest and fell asleep. Soon, my eyes were closed, and I was dreaming once again. This time, I was dreaming at Versailles instead of about Versailles.
I don’t know how long we were out and were awakened by my wife’s return. We walked to grab a bite to eat close by and agreed that our day should end. The heat had shortened our trip. We got back on the bus and were soon sleeping as the cool AC chilled our sweaty bodies.
Years later, I have to concentrate to recall how hot we were and how badly my feet hurt. Some things we saw are now a blur in my memory. There is a moment that I remember clearly and I wasn’t even conscious the whole time. My favorite memory of that day is taking a nap on Marie Antoinette’s lawn with my baby girl. That visual will be with me forever.
And yes, we did eat cake.
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