I've known for a little while that Ram was planning something for our anniversary this week. He told me to keep a few days free in my diary, and when Harry came down with chicken pox last week and he was starting to fret, he admitted to me that we were going away for a night. He'd organised for my parents to come down to look after the children, and a friend to do the school run. He has also been planting seeds in my mind for the last few months which led me to believe that we were going to Nottingham, where we first met.
So even on Tuesday, when we arrived first thing at Ebbsfleet International station, I was still convinced that we were taking the train up through St Pancras to Nottingham. Even when he took me over to the Eurostar desk and took out the passports - I still thought he was winding me up! So I think I was still in shock as we sat in the departures lounge a few minutes later poring over a map of Paris!
I've been lucky enough to visit Paris a few times in the past, and it's also where we spent our first holiday together, although that was quite some time ago! My favourite art gallery is the Musée d'Orsay, and Ram had booked us tickets. It's a magnificent art gallery, housed in a former railway station and home to the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world. We spent quite some time here, visiting all my favourites.
Then we took a walk down the Champs-Élysées, currently playing host to a vast Christmas market. Christmas markets in the UK tend to be based around the traditional German model but the Christmas markets in Paris had a definite French feel, with meat and cheese alongside luxurious soaps and cashmere. We walked all the way to the Arc de Triomphe and climbed to the top for some fantastic views across Paris. Then we headed to our hotel, stopping to see the Eiffel Tower on the way which was very close by. I think that you can still see my stunned expression in this photograph!
After a rest we headed to La Défense, the business district of Paris, for an early dinner at Vapiano. Vapiano is a pasta and pizza restaurant chain that we discovered on our recent trip to Berlin, and this time we had the luxury of a lovely meal without small children in tow! We enjoyed some delicious pizza, then headed down the steps to explore the Christmas market in the square below.
We finished the evening by returning to the Champs-Élysées Christmas market at night. This time we walked down the other side of the road, where there were fewer stalls and more entertainment, like ice-skating rinks and animated scenes as well as more food and drink.
On our second morning we enjoyed a lovely lie-in before heading to the Louvre. Again it's a while since my last visit, and it seemed to have doubled in size! Something I don't remember seeing in the past was the fascinating medieval foundations of the Louvre palace, all preserved underground.
I do like a mosaic, the impressive one below is a floor mosaic from the Church of St. Christopher in Lebanon, from AD575. You can't possibly see everything that the Louvre has to offer in one visit, and even if you just concentrate on the areas that interest you most it can still be quite a trek, we certainly felt as though we'd had a workout by the end of the morning!
Then it was lunch, and after some lovely pasta we went for a wander. We went into Galeries Lafayette, the large and beautiful department store, popped by the Paris Opera and took a trip to visit Notre Dame. We ate waffles near the Pompidou Centre, then it was time to head for the Gare du Nord and catch our train home.
We had two brilliant days in Paris, and I think that I'm still in a daze! I was sat at toddler group on Thursday, hardly able to believe that the morning before I had been wandering around the Louvre. Thank you so much to Ram, what a fabulous anniversary surprise!