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Expedition Edition 5: Paris and Mont Saint-Michel, France

Paris! It's a city and a state of mind, and it's where Maggie and I went after visiting Morocco. This was our fourth visit to the Big Croissant (Maggie's still never been to New York), and it never disappoints.

We flew into Paris' Orly Airport for the first time (from Tangier), which if you didn't know, is Paris' secondary airport. Think of it like Chicago's Midway or the Bay Area's Oakland International. One of the major differences is that Orly's non-EU international flights are almost exclusively to/from destinations in North Africa (primarily Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria).

Since Maggie and I aren't EU citizens, it meant that once we landed, we were grouped with North African citizens as we waited to get our passports stamped. The system/line was confusing, poorly organized, and took an eternity, and it was hard to not think that it was partially because the airport didn't care to allocate the appropriate resources to treat the mostly muslim North Africans with decent service. It was unfortunate to see.

Once we got to Paris, we saw a few of our favorite sites: Sacre Coeur! Notre Dame! Sacre Coeur again! Not the Eiffel Tower! All the highlights! Maggie says she'd live in this city. We don't know French at all (AT ALL), but the apartment we stayed in had a wall piano, so if we could find something like that, I'd be down for it too.

We rented a car so we could visit Mont Saint-Michel and the Beauty-and-the-Beast-ish town of Dinan. Driving out of Paris was stressful (Google Maps took us around the Arc de Triomphe roundabout, which is my personal nightmare), but once we hit the open road, I have to credit the French for a phenomenal highway and rest-stop system. Honestly, their rest stops make ours look terrible, dirty and gross by comparison, though I guess you don't need to compare American rest stops to anything to make them look dirty and gross.

Mont Saint-Michel was more beautiful than I've even seen in photos, and I'm really glad we went to the usually mainland/sometimes island castle town. Construction started in the 8th Century and it's been used for a lot of things since, including a prison (about 200 years ago) and a tourist destination (currently). It's pretty much France's Alcatraz.

The abbey at the top of Mont Saint-Michel also had a human hamster wheel (in the photos below), that was used to carry up supplies back when it was a prison (or a human hamster cage if you will).

While in western France, we also stayed a night in the town of Dinan. Dinan's a very quaint town about 45 minutes outside of Mont Saint-Michel, that features things all quaint towns should have: cobby streets, leany buildings, large shops that only sell sardines.

We're now heading to Italy via train (Turin in the north and the Amalfi Coast in the south). Check out our photos below and thanks again for reading!

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