Loyal Theme Park Insider readers will remember that I've called Epcot's Impressions de France the greatest theme park movie ever made. But until this week, that movie represented my closest encounter with the nation of France, as I'd never before visited Europe.
Except in a theme park. ;^)
But this month, I brought my wife and daughter to London and Paris for two weeks, and while in the Paris area, we just had to experience some of the sights we'd feel in love with thanks to Rick Harper's exquisite film.
"The majestic gardens of Versailles - the magic window into a golden age of kings."
"In distant towns, in quiet villages, within the heart of all my people dwells the secret heart of the vagabond."
So of course we had to take a bike tour through the French countryside. And a train ride to get there.
We booked a bike tour of Giverny to visit Claude Monet's home and gardens, through Fat Tire Bike Tours in Paris. This might have been my favorite experience in France - a great trip through the lovely French countryside, not hidden away inside some fortress-like tour bus, but pedaling and walking our way through a delightful part of the country. And, yes, we relived many Disney fans' favorite moment in the movie by shopping at a patisserie, to stock up for a picnic along the Seine.
Since we visited in July, we didn't get the chance to go skiing in the Alps. Nor did we venture too far away from Paris, to Mont Saint-Michel, the chalk cliffs of Normandy or "to the golden glow of the Riviera." Nor were we invited to a wedding in a French chapel. But Laurie did attend Mass at Notre Dame.
Just try to imagine that bridge filled with people releasing red, white and blue balloons.
Or the Garde Républicaine riding through the gates of the Louvre.
"Bastille Day. Nothing makes us prouder in all of France than to celebrate the birth of our Republic."
Even though we did visit Paris on Bastille Day, we skipped the crowds lining the Champs-Élysées for the annual parade to take advantage of another July 14 French tradition - free admission to Louvre. And with everyone out on the parade route, we waited just five minutes to get in.
(Cue the Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3, "Organ.")
"Paris. The City of Lights. The living symbol of every age, of every season, across my beloved France."
(Okay, we allowed ourselves some fun after walking the 700-plus steps to the second level of the tower.)
Thank you for visiting Robert's Impressions de France. Please gather all your personal belongings, and watch your step as you exit the blog post.
Tomorrow: We're visiting Disneyland Paris. Please follow Theme Park Insider on Twitter for updates through the day.Tweet
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