Normandy: Part 2

DSC_0970Wow, I can’t even believe that it has already been a week since I wrote my last post! Where did the week go? I certainly don’t remember it.

Since I was so horribly neglectful of Day 2 of our Normandy trip I’ll fill you all in with the charming details, now. Getting back on a Sunday night meant jumping straight into the work week, so I haven’t felt like I’ve had any time to sit down and write it out before now. Shame on me. Anyway:

We stayed with a French couple through the website Airbnb, so our day started off with sitting down to a traditional French breakfast: croissants, baguettes, orange juice, tea, coffee and some jams and jellies. It was lovely, although a part of me can’t ever be fully satisfied with French breakfasts. There’s always a little American voice in my mind screaming out for bacon and eggs.

But we had fun trying out our French on the couple, since they didn’t speak English, and then we packed up our backpacks (I had my Batman backpack, that’s important to note) and headed out with our maps and a stubborn desire to see the DDay beaches we were told were “too far” for us to reach.

First stop? A bike shop. It would have been a lot easier for us to take a bus or to take a taxi on this venture but a) It was Sunday so there weren’t any buses and b) The taxi would have been around 60 euro each way *choke*. So off to one of the little bike shops we went, remembering that they opened at 9am.

We arrived at 9:15am ready to get an early start on our day. But as we walked up to the shop we noticed something. It was dark. It was empty. And it was closed.

Awesome.

Rather than sit on the sidewalk, crying (everything in France being closed on Sundays is a HUGE struggle as Americans who are used to everything being open always), we called up another shop and asked if they could deliver bikes – which they could…30 minutes later. We were not amused.

Luckily, just as we were about to finalize the order the owners of the bike shop we were standing in front of, drove up – ready to open – 30 minutes late. France.

But we got our bikes and we headed out on the open streets. It took us a little while to get our bearings, but the advantage of French life shutting down on Sundays, is that there are hardly any cars on the roads. Once we finally found the right direction, we were good to go and we made our way across the 11 km that it would take to get to the beach (we went to Arromanches-Les-bains).

The best part about biking around in Normandy is that it isn’t Paris. Don’t get me wrong, Paris has beautiful buildings and beautiful museums, but there is something forever missing from my heart – nature. I don’t think we understand how lucky we are in Seattle to be in a city, but to be surrounded by so much natural beauty. And breathable air. That too.

Riding through the countryside was just the absolute best. Over the hills and through the woods we saw cows, horses, fields and pastures (and a bike race that had like 200 bikers randomly riding on the same road as us).

When we finally reached the beach (it took us a little under 2 hours, but we were definitely taking our time), I felt weirdly refreshed from the exersion. And it was then that I realized how much I missed my bike. Going from 6 miles, 5-6 days a week, to 0 miles 0 days per week has been rough, and honestly, really sad. Bike rides are definitely going to be happening more once I get back to Seattle.

Anyhoo. Once we got to the beach we locked up our bikes and explored the museum that was right next to the ocean. A really great tip for anyone who is planning on traveling through France is to MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE TIMES that things are open. A lot of businesses close whenever they want to, and it can be really frustrating to know you could have seen an exhibit or gone to a store, but now you have to wait two hours for it to reopen. That’s right. Lunch breaks in France are two hours long. Good luck.

Post museum we headed over to get lunch and ran into another American couple (and by “ran into” I mean the waiter made us share a four person table because they were swamped, and apparently Americans should sit together). We all ordered fish and chips and we helped them practice their French. We also warned them about their next stop, Paris. “Get ready,” was all I could say when they noted how friendly the French people at Arromanches were. And they were friendly! I didn’t want to leave. But the key was they were NOT Parisian.

After our little lunch adventure it was time for a photo shoot! Luckily I had come prepared with my camera and the American “flag” that I normally have hanging in my room. The pictures couldn’t have turned out more perfect. I love them so so so so much.

After that I grabbed a quick crepe (because I’m an addict) and we rode our bicycles back over the hills and past the cows. Once we got back to Bayeux we headed back over to the Irish-French pub we had dinner at the night before, for a bit of a dessert treat, and it was just as lovely as dinner had been before. Such a great place, if you’re ever in Bayeux I would HIGHLY suggest going there. The service and the food were sublime both times. And they had Wifi! Score.

Our return journey included two trains to get back to Paris and we both had packed Jane Austen with us, so the train ride back was about as tranquil (despite us being exhausted) as we could have asked for.

All in all, the trip was such a huge success. I was so happy to have had my first non solo travel adventure in 6 years. Crazy. I was so proud of us for fitting so much into such a relatively short amount of time. But in the end, stubbornness wins. Normandy has won my heart for my favorite French location (so far!). Stay tuned for some photos from our trip!

Day In Paris: Musée du Luxembourg And L’atelier Du Pied De Fouet

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Every Friday I try my best to push myself into the busy city and go see something wonderful and beautiful that Paris has to offer (hopefully dragging along some of my friends). Sometimes it’s a museum, sometimes’s it’s a garden, sometimes it’s a home of a famous person. But regardless of what it is, we try to make Friday our “fun day.”

Looking back I’m really glad we started doing this pretty much right off the bat of moving to Paris because Paris is one of those multi-layered cities where you think there are just a few things to see (Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower) but there are actually hundreds of places you’ll be sad if you miss.

So, every Friday we have an outing. And I really love them (especially since we have some sunshine, now!) A couple weeks ago we got to go see a really awesome exhibit at the Musee du Luxembourg and it was all portraits and history around the Tudor family and I just realized that I never wrote up a blog post about it – which is a shame.

I went through a pretty large part of my childhood OBSESSED with everything about the Tudor lineage, so I loved being able to see all of the beautiful original paintings! I did get to see a few of them when I was in London a couple of years ago, but the overall exhibit was a lot more extensive than anything else I’ve ever seen.

Afterwards we went to this swanky literal hole in the wall restaurant called Atelier Pied De Fouet and had the most magical burgers and fries. I don’t know why, but I seem to eat so many more burgers since living outside the U.S. But, you have to understand, when I say “burgers” I’m not talking about McDonalds. I mean juicy French burgers that drip goodness and savory sauces out the back as you try to fit their massivity somehow in your mouth for a bite. That kind.

The overall atmosphere of the restaurant was really relaxed when we got there, although it got crowded pretty quickly as the lunch rush began. The space is extremely small, so if you go visit I would suggest you do so during a non-rush hour period. The place did have Wifi (but you have to ask for the password and they print you one out). But overall I was just really reminded of Seattle by the vintage hipster feel of the restaurant and the tattooed staff. Sigh. I miss my home city so much. But if you’re in Paris and want a taste of Seattle culture, this is your place to go! (P.s. This place is kind of pricey – for a burger and fries it was 14 euro, which is a lot more than we would usually pay. The burger was worth it, and HUGE, but I want to make sure you know what you’re walking into) Cheers! 5star1

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If I were Queen Elizabeth I…

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A Day In Paris: Picasson Museum, Merci Cafe

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Life in Paris isn’t all crepes and picturesque walks along the Seine. But sometimes they are, and I think it’s fun to share with all of you darlings what one of the fun outing days of my life looks like! This time the feature was the Picasso Museum along with some other beautiful spots in Paris.

We started off in the 3rd Arrondissement, which is the most “hipster” spot I’ve found in Paris (so far). There are lots of little shops, chic cafes and art shops and galleries. If you’re looking for a more low key artist vibe while in Paris this is the spot to head to.

Our first stop (because rule #1 is never go to a museum hungry) was a sweet little cafe located near the Picasso Museum named Royal Bar. This little cafe was the quintessential Parisian experience. It was filled with art and made me feel like I had been transported back to the Paris of Hemingway. The tea was lovely (although, fair warning – when you order you’re ordering a pot, not a cup, so it’s a bit more expensive) and the man working there gave us some of the best lemon square type deserts I’ve ever had. It was sublime.

After we had had some caffeine and some little desserts we headed over to see Picasso, because if you’re in Paris and don’t see Picasso what are you even doing with your life? It has kind of become ridiculous how many original pieces of classical art I’ve seen since living in Europe. It’s like my history books have jumped off of the pages, and it’s pretty incredible. Picasso hasn’t really been a favorite of mine, in the past, but I’m a strong believer that seeing work by “The Masters” makes an artist more rounded.

The museum was such a beautiful building, I loved being able to see the amazing architecture and I fell in love with the floors. Yes, the floors. There’s something about black and white checkered floors that will get me every time.

After we’d tipped our hats to Picasso, Cezanne and Matisse we headed over to walk along the shops surrounding. We found this absolutely beautiful shop called Papier Tigre. I loved the geometric feel of their designs and the minimalism. If I wasn’t a broke expat I would have bought the whole store.

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Our next stop was for some yummy drinks and the best wall decoration any place can have – books! This was actually our second time at this Merci cafe because the first time we went we made the mistake of going on a Saturday. In case you don’t know about Paris, some of the best advice I have for actually getting into places is to not go on Saturdays. Go any other day of the week, but Saturday is the “going out” day (while Sunday is more for staying in with family) in France. My partner in crime ordered a Pear flavored alcohol and I grabbed a banana, apple and kiwi smoothy which was just so good (even though it sounds awkward). It seemed fitting to end our day with a such a lovely cafe. Our day was so lovely and I love finding new spots that make me feel a little less like a stranger in Paris.

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Review: Merci Cafe

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This cafe is one of the most hipster cool experience you’ll find (Paris or otherwise) while begin a great cafe, it’s also filled wall to wall with used books. In addition to the antlers hanging on the walls, there are also vintage chandeliers that are just lovely. There is also a lovely store adjoining that has everything for your hipster needs ( no really, you’ll understand when you walk in).

It took us a couple of times to get into this cafe because the first time we tried to go it was a Saturday – which was a mistake in the first place. In fact, I would advise staying away from such establishments on Saturdays in general. Saturdays are the French “go out-hang out” days, so you’ll probably find yourself packed in a place if you do. Sundays, in contrast are a great day to go out (especially early) because most French people stay in with their families on Sundays, or do things that don’t involve going out (unless it’s to a park or something).

Overall the experience was great and our servers were just the nicest.

Ordered: Banana, Apple and Kiwi smoothy (so good!)

Where: 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais 73003 Paris, France

Went: Friday, March 6th, 2015 around 1pm

Wifi: Unknown. I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot to check.

5star1

 

 

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Day in Paris: Catacombs, Hemingway and Luxembourg Gardens

DSC_0897This past weekend was so filled with goodness that it’s hard for me to even put together a blog post, but here are some of the highlights! Saturday was such a whirlwind of awesome. We started off visiting The Catacombs, which I’ve decided is one of the creepiest tourist attractions I’ve ever experienced.
Why waiting for an hour to see the skulls and bones of dead people is a thing, I may never know, but it’s one of those experiences that you’ll never forget (and can always brag about – which is a win! 😉 ) The experience itself consists of walking down down down into the depths of the earth and then coming out on piles and piles of bones, murky lighting and extremely humid recycled air. I wouldn’t suggest this attraction for anyone who experiences fear of being underground or claustrophobia. The key, though, is to not think about how far you are underground…or the fact that you’re walking through a tomb of millions of dead people.

After the Catacombs we jumped over to the Luxembourg gardens (after devouring some crepes, which are pretty much my Paris addiction) and hung out there a while. The steps up and down into the pit of The Catacombs was definitely a workout, so it was nice to sit down for a bit. The only danger of three American girls in the gardens, though, is French guys thinking the “nice American girls” are the perfect target for potential kisses and practical jokes. ” But we took it in stride. Maybe American girls are just really nice.

Our next stop was the home of Ernest Hemingway, and I would be lying if I said it was anyone’s “fault” other than mine that we went there. Hemingway is kind of a literary crush of mine (the geek in me is showing) so being able to stand outside his old apartment, in the neighborhood he called home was pretty incredible. There was even a cafe underneath the apartment which he wrote about in his book A Moveable Feast! Definitely worth the extra trek over there from the gardens.

Overall the day was just jam packed with fun and awesome memories. I’m so excited for the days to start getting warmer as spring arrives in Paris. We’ve all been a little cooped up over the winter months since it has been absolutely frigid, but now we can go out and see more of the city! More adventures to come!

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Stop! This is the empire of the dead.
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We almost went to jail for taking this photo with a flash. But we needed proof of our adventure. (that wasn’t dark and murky)
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As we were walking through we just kept saying “Whose idea was this?” …it was mine. Oops.
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We were walking so far down under Paris. Not saying I was a little bit scared, but I’m not saying that I wasn’t.

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Tweetup: JACafe

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Being in Paris can feel REALLY isolating, sometimes. You would think, in a city with 7 million people, that it would be easier than a lot of  places to make new friends, but living in such a huge city means having a lot of other obstacles, as well (not to mention a language barrier). One of my goals, since being here, has been to make more Parisian friends, though, so I’ve really been trying to be intentional about going out and meeting some new people, despite my desire to sit inside all day and read.

Last Friday I took up the challenge, though and headed over to Coutume Cafe. It was such a fun time because I got the opportunity to meet up with some absolutely delightful women (and one guy!) who all live in Paris, all through our mutual Twitter followings! I know, I know, you’re all thinking it’s weird that I went and hung out with random people from Twitter – but it wasn’t! It was so much fun, and already having the basis of being travelers, Twitter peeps and bloggers (some of us) made it even more fun to meet up!

I went by myself, so it was a little bit intimating at first, but I ended up meeting some amazing people and finally making some new friends in this enormous city. It just goes to show you, stubbornness is a key factor in getting things done when you’re living the expat life. Here are some of the lovelies I met, so you all can follow them too!

Ami Cadugan @amytakesonparis

Elodie’s Paris @Paris_by_Elodie

Mama Loves Paris @mamalovesparis

Catherine Nicholson @ACatinParis

Laetitia @Thebestinparis

Zheng-Hao Chen @TeddyCHEN

Paula Schuck @inkscrblr

Pola @jettingaround

 

Paris Fashion 2015: Gentlemen

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Round 2 for Paris fashion – this one’s for the boys! Parisian guys in their 20s dress pretty similar to guys in Seattle, but there are a few tweaks that are pretty “French.” Like I said, there isn’t any way that I could all encompass everything a city of millions wears, but these are the trends that I’m noticing while I’m walking the streets of Paris on a day to day basis. So here we go, gentlemen!

1. Scarves: Guys and dolls alike all rock scarves in France. Whether it’s a earth tone neutral, a subtle print or a pop of color, the scarf is something you hardly ever leave the house without. There are several ways one can tie a scarf, gentlemen – for further instructions, though, I refer you to one of my personal favorite websites: The Art Of Manliness.

2. Shoes: As far as shoes goes, the key is to make sure they’re of good quality and well made. Whether they’re a sneaker, a dress shoe (oh my word – there are some beautiful dress shoes in this country) or a pair of leather boots, just make sure they’re in great condition (that doesn’t mean new, it means shined, oiled etc.). Grubby is not the way of the Parisian man.

3. Shirts: Graphic t-shirts are acceptable, if you’re mixing them with some nice jeans, but the print needs to be a high quality and have some kind of illustrative narrative. Use your intuition when you’re choosing these tees! Make sure they aren’t screaming for attention, but are commanding it nonetheless. Remember: “Try your best without looking like you ever tried.”  *You get extra points if you grab one with an “ironic” American flag on it.

4. Sweaters: Sweaters are a staple of your wardrobe that you’re able to wear year after year. Not only are they a trendy choice, but can add some patterns to your wardrobe. Don’t look for your Bill Cosby inspired soulmate, though (as charming as that might sound) – grab that pattern in a neutral charcoal or beige. Another great option is a pop of color such as a solid red or turquoise.

5. Turtlenecks: Yep. It’s on here. You knew it was coming. French men are not afraid of turtlenecks, and they wear them proudly. Whether this lightweight style buddy is standing alone as your outfit top, or it’s matched with a sweater over it, you’ll be well on your way to dressing like a Parisian with a couple of these in your wardrobe.

6. Button-ups: First things first: Grab a pink one. As with the turtleneck, you must not be afraid to sport the pink shirt if you’re going to rock the Parisian style. Other great button-ups can include denim, and smaller prints and patterns.

7. Coats: Peacoats right now are pretty popular, the key is to have them fit like a glove. Oversized is not an option. Colors are generally dark blue, black or gray. The leather jacket (of course) is a must have for your wardrobe, but we’re not talking biker tasseled vintage model. Again, you might have to throw down some cash to get the right fit, but the nice thing about leather is that once you commit it’s until death do you part.

8. Blazer: Tastefully mixing business wear and casual wear is a trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The “tasteful” part means making sure your pants, jeans though they may be, are fitted and pull together your outfit, rather than distracting from it. And speaking of pants…

9. Pants: Go ahead and stick with a jean, but why not try a pop of color with that jean!? Red? Turquoise? Green? One of each? Colored jeans are definitely a thing, although I’m seeing them a little less now, while they seemed to be more popular a few months ago. If you’re not up for the colored jean, you can grab a dark wash pair but it is going to need to be fitted. And if you’re REALLY daring, grab a pair of skinny jeans – no, not paint on tight, but just a bit tighter than a straight leg. You’re not trying to mimic your high school emo days.

10. Bags: Messenger bags, canvas or leather are THE thing to have. Parisian men carry bags a lot more than I’m used to seeing in the U.S., but why shouldn’t they!? Men have things to carry, right? So why not have a great briefcase style handbag or crossover bag to carry them!

Notice some other Paris mens trends that I’ve missed? Write them below in the comments box!

Paris Fashion 2015: Ladies

26756e31dbc5e4d431c5df96f9e0eaa2So, you want to dress like a Parisian? Well great, because I happen to live in Paris and  LOVE fashion (so much that I have a college degree in it). Living in Paris has been such a struggle (#firstworldproblems) because I love fashion, but I am/will be absolutely broke while I’m living here. So no Paris shopping sprees for me, as much as I would love to. (That being said, I have bought a few choice items that I’ll love forever.)

Today when I was sitting on the metro, drooling over a girl’s shoes, I thought: People probably want to know what’s going on for this side of the pond, right!? So, from one fashion addict to another, I’ve decided to fulfill your dreams and desires. At least, from my perspective. There are obviously a lot of different clothing choices, and it’s hard to just make a “quick list” of everything, but here are some of the items/trends that I see on a day to day basis!

1. Scarves: The stereotype about Europeans wearing scarves is true, and I’m so glad. A scarf is one way to throw in a print, a different texture or just some fun into your outfit, and the French are great at it! Since French people generally seem to spend more money on statement items, scarves are also a great way to inexpensively add new flavor to an otherwise neutral colored outfit! And speaking of statement items…

2. Leather Jacket: Let’s talk leather jackets! Oh my word. Everyone has one, and they are BEAUTIFUL. I’m absolutely in love with leather in general, but I love the jackets that are effortlessly thrown over a spring dress or a cute flowy top. It is my firm belief that buying a well fitting leather jacket is a kind of rite of passage into womanhood (I do acknowledge my animal rights friends who won’t like this – but it’s my opinion, sorry!).

3. Boots: The trends that I’m seeing a lot of right now, in Paris, are ankle boots of every style though mostly black and brown. Again, leather (bien sûr!). I love that the French keep fashion simple while using detailing to tell their fashion story, instead of overindulging in frills and whistles (save that for the buildings). Another thing on the hot item list are simple leather riding boots (generally a lighter brown) that are knee high. Trending: Timberland logger style boots – try them with some floral skinnies for a soft and sweet/kick ass style punch. And speaking of skinnies…

4. Jeans: Skinny jeans are here to stay…at least for now. The twenty something Parisian woman has dark colored jeans that fit just right. You can tell that she’s spent the time and money to find her brand and her fit. I’ve heard that 70s bell bottoms are coming back, but I haven’t seen them on the streets, yet. I have, however started to see the return of the overall – talk about 90s flashback.

5. Phone Cases: Whether it’s an iPhone or a different smart phone, the case is another accessory that just can’t be ignored. Just think how often you’re pulling that out every day!? The cases I’m seeing are generally geometric with a neutral color or solid with a pop of color. While prints don’t seem to be as popular, there are some minimalist ones  I’ve seen that I love.

6. Nails: Speaking of the hands that are holding that trendy phone, French nails are well kept – although not as overly done as to look it. If there’s one motto for French style it’s:

“Try your best without looking like you ever tried.”

Either keep the color a solid dark dramatic, a pastel spring shade or natural with just a clear coat of polish. No patterns, no crazy long fakes. Work what you’ve got, lady!

7.  Headphones: If you’re riding the metro and want even a chance of hearing that latest indie song you’ve been waiting to get released, you’re going to need a good pair of headphones, and for many French women (and men!) that means grabbing a pair of Beats By Dre. Once again, these are quite the deposit piece, but quality over price? You decide.

8. Purse: Shoulder bags (dare I say it – leather?) and canvas totes are the most common purses that I see walking the streets of Paris. Whether it’s a cute screen print or just a basic tote, canvas book bags are very popular right now for the 20-something Parisian. As for handbags, they run across the scale, but are generally another piece that is invested in.

9. Sunglasses: Black, darling. Always black. Whether it’s a cat eye or a circle lens, black sunglasses are classic and may never go out of style. On Paris streets they’re almost exclusively worn, and it’s unlikely you’ll find other colors or designs nearly as much.

10. Hair: The French do, I’ll admit, have a better hold on hair than Americans. Why? Because they just let it be. Yes some dye it, or do other little tweaks, but as a whole hair here is loved as is, and I love that. The key to French hair is to take care of the hair you have. Whether that means moisturizing, having a great hair cut or shaving it down short the French own their gorgeous locks and that’s a love you can’t help but have rub off on you.

Have some Paris fashion trends you’ve noticed!? Add them in the message box below!

Review: Royal Bar

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This little darling cafe feels like you’ve passed back through time when you walk through the doors. While feeling like I should have been writing the next great American novel about the war torn past I never had, I enjoyed a pot of the most delightful tea and nibbled on lemon squares that were out of this world.

The space is small and intimate, so I can imagine it could get crowded quite easily during rush hours, but when we went it was just simply us, one older gentleman and the server – absolute bliss.

Ordered: Black Tea, Lemon dessert

Where: 19 rue du Parc Royal 75003 Paris, France (Marais Nord, 3ème, Marais)

Went: Friday, March 6th, 2015 around 10am

Wifi: Nope. In fact there’s a sign that says to leave your computer

5star1