At the end of November I had a couple work commitments a week apart in Paris and Luxembourg, so we decided to combine them into a single trip – the last and biggest of our time in Europe. (I suspect it’ll also be the longest blog post!) ❤️

We kicked off with a very early (6:45am!) Sunday morning TGV train from Munich.

Train to France

We bought coffee and pastries to have breakfast on the train, and we just relaxed and watched the scenery as the sun came up.

On the train to Paris

By 10:30am we were crossing the Rhine into France.

Crossing the Rhine

The train had been moving pretty fast through Germany, but you could definitely tell when we crossed over and started really moving. (That’s about 200mph.)

316 km/h

The French countryside is very pretty.

We arrived at Gare de l’Est around 12:30pm and caught a taxi to our hotel. We were staying at the Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile in the northwest of the city. Not an especially touristy area, but it was fairly close to my office. After we dropped off our stuff, we headed out for a walk and ended up at the Arc de Triomphe.

Arc de Triomphe

We took the underground passageway and popped out right at the base of the arch.

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Those carvings there amused me, as the ones on the right are meant to be bearded Germans while the ones on the left are the French. In the middle under the archway is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I

Hey, there’s the Champs-Élysées! While it’s considered the most beautiful avenue in the world, on a rainy day with lots of traffic it just looks like any other street.


We next headed towards the Seine, passing by some very fancy shops. Mr. Snook was looking pretty fashionable himself in the Belstaff.


We crossed the Seine at the Pont de l’Alma and got our first glimpse of the Tower.

The Seine and the Tower

We walked along the pedestrian promenade towards the Tower and passed by the Memorial National de la Guerre d’Algerie.

Memorial National de la Guerre d'Algerie

And then we were at the Tower! There’s a lot of work being done around the base, presumably ahead of Paris hosting the Olympics in 2024.

Eiffel Tower

We crossed back over the Seine at the Pont d’Iéna.

Crossing the Seine

On the other side, we walked up past the Trocadero Gardens to the Palais de Chaillot. Our only previous trip to Paris had been in 2001 (21 years ago!), and we both had a vague memory that this had been where we posed in front of the Tower all those years ago. Unfortunately it was fenced off for renovations…

View of the Tower blocked by fence

…but I peeked through the little window. Pretty sure that’s where it was.

Eiffel Tower

The date was Sunday, November 20th, which means it was our 18th wedding anniversary. I had planned something very special for dinner that night – a river cruise with Ducasse sur Seine.

Ducasse sur Seine

This is a beautiful glass restaurant boat docked right at the Pont d’Iéna. (Note: our Uber driver was confused by the directions as the wharves are below the level of the street. He ended up letting us out on the corner and we went down the stairs to the docks.) The host took our jackets and led us to our table, which had a perfect view of the Tower.

Our table at Ducasse sur Seine

I had booked us for 4-courses with matching wines, starting at 19:30. That meant we had an hour before the boat actually left for the 2-hr river cruise at 20:30. We had both dressed up and we were feeling pretty special.

The menu from our dinner is currently on a boat somewhere between Amsterdam and Sydney, so I don’t have exact details on what we ate. (The online menu has been updated since then.) But we started off with some small bites along with bread and butter.

There was also a small soup… potato, I think?


At 20:00, the twinkle lights went off on the Tower. 😍

Twinkling Eiffel Tower

For the second course, I had a beetroot and pomegranate dish while the Snook had a duck terrine.

At this point, the boat started moving! We slowly cruised east along the Seine. Here we are passing under the ornate Pont Alexandre III bridge.

Pont Alexandre III bridge

We also cruised past the Tuileries Garden, where I knew a big Christmas market was happening!

Tuileries Garden

Mr. Snook was enjoying himself.


The cruise goes all the way up to Île de la Cité, under the Pont Neuf, and around the island before heading back. Unfortunately the angles were such that we couldn’t really get a good view of Notre Dame.

Pont Neuf

For the mains, I had scallops while Rodd had lobster.

And then it was time for dessert! Mine involved chocolate and ice cream, while the Snook’s was clementine (orange) flavoured.

On the return trip we got to see the other side of the river (the Left Bank). Here’s the Musée d’Orsay.

Musee d'Orsay

And then the Tower came into sight, and we knew we were at the end of the trip. What a wonderful evening! Good food in an unforgettable setting, with my favourite person in the world.

Returning to the Tower

The next two days I was busy with work and the Snook amused himself with some self-guided tours of Paris. He went to the Fondation Le Corbusier

Fondation Le Corbusier

…and the Musée Curie (aka Marie Curie Museum).

Musée Curie

He also ate steak tartare and collected photos of invaders.

On Tuesday afternoon, we left the work hotel and moved to the Hotel des 3 Poussins in the 9th arrondissement. That night we took the Metro to Concorde and had dinner at Le Florentin, mostly because the reviews said it had excellent French onion soup. We were not disappointed.

Snookums at Le Florentin

I followed that up with a glorious steak frites.

Me and steak frites

Then we walked back to the Tuileries Garden to check out the Christmas market – “La Magie de Noël.”

La Magie de Noël

You could drop off your letters for Santa…

Letters to Santa

…and pick up some foie gras for the kids’ stockings.

Foie gras for sale

The Snook was rather dubious about the VR “sensation,” and I can’t say I blame him.

VR "sensation"

They even had an ice rink!

Ice rink

This lived up to all my expectations of a French Christmas market. Stalls full of chocolate…

La Maison du Chocolat

…and multiple different ways to eat cheese. Some stalls had dedicated special machinery for raclette, which they’d scrape onto bread or potatoes for you. Another had pasta that they’d toss for you inside hollowed out wheels of Parmesan.

This Christmas fun house was very popular, and every so often it would make noises and spew “snow” (aka foam bubbles) onto everyone walking past.

Christmas fun house

Of course, there were multiple places offering hot chocolate and “Vin chaud” (French mulled wine). I love it when there are stalls that look like Christmas pyramids!

Christmas pyramid

We also saw the Ferris Wheel – the Roue de Paris – that I had spotted from the boat a few days earlier.

Roue de Paris

Definitely a fun Christmas market!

Us with Santa

The next day, I worked from the hotel room and then that evening we went out for dinner and beers at 10 Pigalle, a tattoo studio and craft brewery. (Yes, really.) We definitely didn’t feel cool enough.

10 Pigalle

Thursday it was time to live out my Amélie dreams in Montmartre. But first, we found a Breton creperie for lunch.

Then we walked over to the Montmartre Funicular to ascend the hill…


…up to Sacré-Cœur Basilica. This is where Amélie returns Nino’s lost photo album, of course. It’s also a stunningly beautiful church with views over all of Paris.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica


View from Sacré-Cœur Basilica

We went into the Basilica and had a little look around. It’s a very modern church – only finished in 1914 – and I really liked the mosaics and stained glass.

Look at this handsome man. 😍


Another view of Sacré-Cœur.


We started walking down the hill, trying to remember exactly where Nino stood when he saw Amélie with the book. At one point I even loaded the scene up on YouTube on my phone so we can try to pinpoint it. It looks like the landscaping has changed slightly in the decades since, and the telescopes are somewhat different now too.

Halfway down the hill

I was delighted to discover that the Carousel is still in operation at the base of the hill. However, the telephone booths where Nino gets the call from Amélie have either been removed or were never permanent.


Back to work! We headed back to the hotel.

Selfie with Sacre-Coeur

That night, we headed back to Montmartre. First we had to pay a visit to the most famous cabaret in the world, the Moulin Rouge.

Moulin Rouge

Ooh la la!

Moulin Rouge

Our next destination was where Amélie worked – the Café des 2 Moulins. It’s a real cafe, and we thought about going in for dinner. I wasn’t feeling very well though so we settled for walking past and grabbing a photo.

Café des 2 Moulins

Not far away is Collignon’s Grocery. They’ve decorated the sides of the shop with photos from the movie.

Rodd had planned out the perfect way to end my Amélie adventure – taking our photos in a real analog photo booth. I hadn’t realised, but nearly all the photo booths you see these days just have colour printers inside. There are less than 50 analog booths left in the world, ones that actually develop your photos in the old way. #sohipster

Foto Automat

There were several young folks already queued up, so we had to wait a while before it was our turn. The booth is tiny so we crammed in as best we could. It’s nice to have a souvenir. ❤️

Photo strip

Later that evening I was feeling better so we went out for a late night dinner at Domenico’s Sicilian restaurant. I had the best truffle ravioli I’ve ever had in my life!

Dinner at Domenico's

And a giant piece of tiramisu. YUM.


Friday had the best weather forecast of the weekend, so we decided to go to Versailles. While I’m not really a Francophile, I’ve read a few books on Marie Antoinette (and enjoyed the 2006 movie). And since I saw where her life started in Vienna back in March, it only seemed fitting to see where she spent most of her days as Queen. We took the Metro to Versailles Château Rive Gauche station and then walked over to the palace and through to the gardens.


The famous fountains were shut down for the winter, but on the upside we didn’t have to fight our way through crowds. We listened to Rick Steves’ audio tour and walked through the gardens all the way to the Petit Trianon.

Petit Trianon

I was so excited to actually go inside. Not only did Marie Antoinette live out her shepherdess-cosplay fantasies there, but a replica also features in one of my favourite books, The Twenty-One Balloons. Here’s me on the main staircase of the Petit Trianon.

Me on the staircase

Marie Antoinette’s insignia is still everywhere.

Marie Antoinette's insignia

After exploring the chateau, we went out into the gardens. We visited the nearby Temple of Love, that Marie Antoinette could see out her bedroom window.

Temple of Love

We also walked over to the Hameau de la Reine (“Hamlet of the Queen”), a full-on fake rustic farm village where the Queen and her friends could act out their peasant cosplay fantasies. (Wikipedia says that’s a myth, but I choose to believe it because, hey, I probably would too.)

Hameau de la Reine

It’s basically like Belle’s village from the Disney cartoon, but in real life.

Hameau de la Reine

Needless to say, I loved it. The gardens are beautiful, and I can see why Marie Antoinette preferred to hang out here instead of at the palace.


We had to get back for our timed tour though! We booked it all the way back to the Palace, grabbing a couple baguettes for lunch along the way.

Back to the Palace

We made it back in time and joined our English-language guided group tour of “The King’s Private Apartments.” Our guide led us through a series of sumptuous rooms.

Touring the King's Private Apartments

I especially liked seeing the Bureau du Roi (“the King’s desk”), a beautifully-decorated rolltop desk with lots of secret locked compartments for storing important papers.

The King's Desk

We also saw the Porcelain Dining Room, which had previously been the site where a young Mozart played for Louis XV.

Porcelain Dining Room

We were also very fortunate to get to duck into the Royal Opera of Versailles. This is the palace’s theater and opera house, and it’s where Napoleon hosted a banquet for Queen Victoria in 1855.

Opera House

As our tour ended, we were free to visit the other parts of Versailles on our own. We went back to our buddy Rick Steves and his audio tour through the State Apartements. Here’s the ceiling from the Venus Room.

Venus Room ceiling

This was the Mercury Room, where Louis XIV’s coffin was displayed in 1715.

Mercury Room

The windows from the upper floor offered beautiful views of the gardens.

View of the gardens

And then it was time to visit the famous Hall of Mirrors.

Hall of Mirrors

I’d been told to expect wall-to-wall crowds, but happily it wasn’t too bad!

Hall of Mirrors

In addition to being a beautiful and decadent display of wealth and power, this is also the room where the Treaty of Versailles was signed to end WWI.

Hall of Mirrors

Our final stop was Marie Antoinette’s bedroom – the Queen’s Bedchamber. This is where she slept, got dressed each morning by her ladies-in-waiting, and gave birth to her children. Nineteen Princes and Princesses of the Realm were born in this very room.

Queen's Bedchamber

Tired and overstimulated, we headed back to our hotel in Paris to crash. That night we went back to Montmartre for dinner to Le Relais Gascon. I had seen Tartiflette on offer at the Christmas market and was eager to try it out for myself.


It’s basically potatoes, cheese, bacon, and onions, and it was glorious. The Snook, meanwhile, opted for a steak.

Snookums with a steak

The next day, Saturday, was our day for exploring the more touristy parts of Paris. We hopped on the Metro in the morning to the Cité station and walked over to Notre-Dame.


The sad faces are because the Cathedral is still closed due to the 2019 fire. This is pretty much as close as you’re able to get these days.


Again, we listened to Rick Steves’ audio walking tour. He pointed out some of the features on the west façade and we tried to spot them, including the famous gargoyle leaning on its elbows.


The tour led us around the south side of the Cathedral, where the rebuilding is much more obvious.


Here I am on the nearby Pont au Double.

Me on the Pont au Double

The tour directed us to the very easternmost tip of the Île de la Cité, to the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation. It’s dedicated to the 200,000 people deported from Vichy France to the Nazi concentration camps. From above, you just see some concrete and a narrow walkway.

Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation

Underneath are crypts that contain earth and bones from the camps, as well as 200,000 glass crystals with light shining through to represent each person who was killed.

Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation

The narrow passageways and prison-like feel really make you feel claustrophobic, like the sky is your only glimpse of freedom. It’s very effective, and it also reminded me of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin too.

Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation

We crossed back over the Seine to the Left Bank and walked down past all the booksellers (who were mostly closed) to Square René Viviani.

Square René-Viviani

In the center of the square is the odd-looking Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre.

Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre

Also nearby is the oldest tree in Paris. Here’s the Snook checking it out.

Oldest tree in Paris

We had a look in the church and down the nearby Rue Galande, a very old Roman road in the Latin Quarter with preserved medieval houses.

Rue Galande

Only a block or two away, we discovered Shakespeare and Company, the famous English-language bookstore frequented by the Beat poets, Bertolt Brecht, Anaïs Nin, and many more. It’s also of course where Jesse holds his book reading at the start of Before Sunset. There was a massive queue to get in, so we continued on our way.

Shakespeare and Company

We continued our walk through the Latin Quarter down Rue Saint-Séverin.

Rue Saint-Séverin

We ended up in Place Saint-Michel and had a look at the fountain.

Fontaine Saint-Michel

Next we crossed back over the Seine and walked past the Sainte-Chapell. It apparently has amazing stained glass windows, but the queues were all the way down the street (presumably everybody who couldn’t get into Notre Dame). We felt like staying outdoors, so we continued onwards past the Conciergerie. This was the former prison where many of the aristocrats (including Marie Antoinette) were held during the Reign of Terror before having their heads chopped off. There is a famous clock tower on the corner that was the first public clock in Paris.

Clock at the Conciergerie

The tour finished at the Pont Neuf, and we walked back over to the right bank to get a better look at the Conciergerie and the Palace of Justice.

Palace of Justice

We had a couple hours before our timed ticket for the Louvre so we explored more of the right bank. Here’s the Place du Châtelet with the Fontaine du Palmier in the center. It’s the largest fountain built during Napoleon’s reign still in existence

Place du Châtelet

Next we spotted a strange lone tower and headed over to check it out. It’s the Tour Saint-Jacques, the last remnant of a very old church at that location. Nicolas Flamel is buried under the floor!

Tour Saint-Jacques

We walked through the 4th arrondissement, which was very pretty and had lots of people out doing their Christmas shopping.

In the 4th arrondissement

And at last we came to our goal – the Centre Pompidou. I had learned about this building in a class on Post-Modernism in uni and had always wanted to see it in person. It hosts various arts-related museums and libraries.

Centre Pompidou.

The Centre was finished in 1977 and was the first major example of an ‘inside-out’ building with its structural system, mechanical systems, and circulation exposed on the exterior. We walked all the way around it.


There is meant to be sculpture by Alexander Calder in front of the center, but it’s definitely not there these days. Still, it’s a must-visit if you’re at all interested in architecture.

Centre Pompidou

You know what I’m not interested in? NFTs. 😂 (That shop really does have something to do with Web3 and crypto. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pull a face and send it to some colleagues.)

NFT Factory

Time for lunch! We ended up at Bella Piazza for some really excellent pizzas.

Bella Piazza

The cake shops in Paris are next level. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t get a Religieuse while I had the opportunity.

Paris cake shop

And then it was finally time for the Louvre! We marvelled at the Pyramid while we tried to figure out where the ticket entrance actually was.

The Louvre

Eventually we worked out that there was a system of various queues depending on your ticket time, and we found the correct one. It was pretty busy. I can’t imagine what it’s like during the summer peak season.

The Louvre

Obviously the Louvre is HUGE, and there was no way we were going to be able to see everything. So instead we turned to our buddy Rick Steves again, whose tour of 20-odd highlights takes a couple hours. We started off in Pre-Classical Greece.

The first major highlight is the Venus de Milo. We were able to get fairly close to her…

Venus de Milo

…and walk around as well. The audio tour made a big deal about how she was posed contropposto (ie with her weight on one leg). I also had not realised that the statue was discovered in two parts, and there is a fairly obvious seam just below where her robe is bunched around her hips.

Venus de Milo

Then we explored statues from the Golden Age of Greece, including this one I loved – the Athena of Velletri.

Athena of Velletri

We checked out a few of the Parthenon frieze pieces (which they and the British really should GIVE BACK TO GREECE) and then headed on to Winged Victory. Honestly, this is just stunning and I could’ve spent an hour just staring at it.

Winged Victory of Samothrace

From the Octagonal room, we had a good view out of the windows back towards the Pyramid and Tuileries garden.

Louvre Pyramid

We next went through the Galerie d’Apollon (Apollo Gallery), which houses (among many other things) the French Crown Jewels. I found the room itself more impressive than the exhibits!

Galerie d'Apollon

Next came a succession of significant paintings. Here some that I particularly liked:

And then it was time to see the most famous painting in the world. There was a zig-zag queue to get close, and everyone in the crowd was holding up their camera to get a photo. (That seemed a bit pointless to me; you’ve seen this exact image thousands of times already.) I know lots of people say that they expected it to be bigger, but my reaction was that it wasn’t as small as I expected. We shuffled our way along and grabbed a funny selfie rather than fight our way to the front.

Mona Lisa

We saw a few more artworks – I especially loved seeing The Raft of the Medusa – but we were flagging. Our last highlight before we left were Michelangelo’s two statues of the Rebellious Slave and the Dying Slave.

Michelangelo's Slaves

It was dark by the time we left the museum. Many of the luxury Paris shops had incredible Christmas decorations.

The Snook had been craving cocktails, so we headed to Dirty Dick’s. It was super crowded, but we managed to snag a couple seats along the wall. The cocktails were very tiki and very delicious.

We were worn out and tired from such a long day, so for dinner we had empanadas at a little Argentinian chain.


And that was it for Paris! On Sunday morning we got up and headed back to Gare de l’Est for our train to Luxembourg. The journey took just over two hours.

Train to Luxembourg

We were staying at the Novotel Luxembourg Kirchberg. It’s not really in a touristy area, but it was very close to my office and to the conference I’d be speaking at. The Snook was also delighted to learn who else was staying at the hotel… (Bork bork bork!)

Swedish Chefs Association

We wanted to head into the center of Luxembourg that night, and we spent like ten minutes googling how the public transportation worked. It turns out that it’s all FREE. That’s right; since 2020, all public transport in the whole country is free. 😳 We hopped on a tram to the city center and followed the stream of holiday revellers.


More Christmas markets!

Us at the Christmas Market

This was the Lëtzebuerger Chrëschtmaart at Place d’Armes, the central square in the city.

Lëtzebuerger Chrëschtmaart

We were very amused to find didgeridoos for sale!

Didgeridoos for sale!

We got some glühwein and stood around a wood fire. The nearby stall would sell you marshmallows on a stick to toast. It was all incredibly charming.


We wandered the city a bit more, following another stream of lights and folks…

Following the lights...

…and we found another Christmas market! This one is the Wantermaart (“Winter Market”).


The smoked salmon hut smelled amazing and was very popular.


This market was pretty packed.

Pyramid and Ferris Wheel

We snuck off to one side to take in the view. Hilariously, I thought the historical looking building behind us was a castle or fort, but it turns out it’s a bank headquarters! 😂

Us and Banque et Caisse d'Épargne de l'État

I’m intrigued that so many of these markets have dedicated Christmas themed amusement park rides. How is there enough demand for that? What do they do with them the other 11 months of the year?!

The Fantastical Flying Reindeer

We checked out a bit more of the center of Luxembourg. Notre-Dame Cathedral was lit up very prettily for the holidays.

Notre-Dame Cathedral

The trees had star lanterns hanging from them. It was magical.

Star lanterns

Here’s the Place de Clairefontaine, which has a monument in honour of Grand Duchess Charlotte.

Place de Clairefontaine

The city was quite empty away from the Christmas markets, and it was lovely to walk around and check out the lights in peace and quiet.

Luxembourg at night

On Monday I worked from the AWS office while the Snook walked all over Luxembourg checking out the medieval fortifications.

Rodd in Luxembourg

That night we hosted the first ever meetup of the AWS User Group Luxembourg in the prototyping lab. Here’s the organiser Jonathan kicking things off.

Jonathan at AWS Luxembourg UG

I was very excited! It was a decent turnout for a first meetup, especially on a Monday night. (Yes, the Snook joined us. He doesn’t work for the competition anymore. 😜)

The crowd

I gave a preview of my keynote talk (from the conference the next night); Jonathan talked about his company Ekonoo‘s microservice journey; and my colleague Moataz shared best practices for your AWS multi-account strategy.

Moataz presenting

Tuesday I worked from the office again, doing final run-throughs of my conference talk. At the end of the day I got dressed up and walked over the venue for the tech check.

Before my talk

The event I was speaking at was called the TNT Symposium and the theme was “Human.First”. I was the first speaker of the night, talking about how Amazon practices human-first innovation. I was a bit nervous, especially as I didn’t have any notes so I had to have it memorised! It landed pretty well and it’s mentioned in the event write-up here.

Me presenting

After a few more presenters, a group of stand-up comedians came onstage to get everyone energised before the drinks break… and proceeded to do an hours’ worth of comedy in French. I don’t speak a word of French. Have you ever had a nightmare where you’re in the audience and someone asks you a question in a language you don’t speak? Because I lived that. (Everyone else seemed to be having a rip-roaring good time though, which was nice.) At the drinks break, I made a bee-line for the cocktail cart.

It was actually a cloud-enabled Arduino-powered cocktail making robot! The guys at Accenture told me all about how it works. Very cool. I had an “Alexa’s Revenge.”

While I was hobnobbing with the Luxembourg tech scene, the Snook had again been exploring the city. He made it down into Grund, the part of the city that’s “down the hole” (as we referred to it), meaning the bit that’s not up on the plateau.

The Snook in Grund

We ended up meeting up for dinner at a highly-rated local place called Bick Stuff run by a husband and wife. The food was excellent. I had chicken stuffed with escargot! 🐌

We capped it off with dessert and a glass of wine.

Me and Rodd

The next morning we headed to Luxembourg airport for the short flight back to Munich. I’m so glad we managed to fit this trip in, despite the stress of everything we had to do either side of it. It was the perfect capstone to our time in Germany and in Europe, and I loved every minute. I’m so grateful I get to have these experiences with my best friend. ❤️