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I’ve heard it said that a vacation really only starts around the second week. That’s when you’re distant enough from your daily concerns and routines to enter a different state of mind.

There’s some truth to that.

For me, it happened on the sixth day of our vacation in France and Spain. N- and I went on a day trip to Versailles.

We toured the Palace of Versailles, taking in the opulent halls and extravagant rooms. It was just as grand and beautiful as you would expect.

Then we went out to the gardens. Brown leaves and bare shrubbery lined the paths. At this time of year, there wasn’t much to see.

But that also meant it was quiet and empty. We had the place to ourselves.

We strolled arm in arm at a leisurely pace. We strolled like we owned the place.

“Darling, shall we invite the king and queen of Switzerland over for dinner?” I said in a British accent, heedless of historical accuracy and the fact that we were nowhere close to Britain.

N- played along, as boyfriends do. But I have to add that he picked up his British accent from the trolley lady in the Harry Potter movies. Everything he says in this accent sounds remarkably like “Anything from the trolley, dears?” with all of its melodious cheer.

We had nothing planned for the rest of the day. No tasks or chores looming in the distance. And work was thousands of miles away.

All we had ahead of us was a nice long walk in the gardens in a foreign country I’d always dreamed of visiting.

It’s amazing how two weeks of normal life can feel like days, but two weeks on a trip can feel like months. Almost as if time is telling you, “I know you need this, so I’m going to slow down for you, just for a while.”

You find yourself in the moment. You realize that your mind, for once, is as quiet and still as your surroundings. It’s the strangest feeling, but you embrace it like an old friend.

The sun set as we approached the lake. The water was so still it looked like glass.

We didn’t make it to the Trianon palaces or Marie Antoinette’s estate. That’s how vast the gardens were—and how slowly we walked. With daylight running out, we decided to turn back.

We arrived at the palace just as night was falling, the gates golden and luminous against the dark sky.

We took the train back to Paris. I fell asleep with my head on N-’s shoulder. It was a day well spent.

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