6 of the Best Style Tips I Learned from France

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A little known fact about me is that I have a degree in fashion design. I don’t usually talk about it because in the professional world I don’t use those skills as much, but I grew up making clothes and sewing and I’ve always loved style. I also grew up watching entirely too many black and white movies, so I have a soft spot for classy clothing and pearl earrings. 1950’s Paris *sigh*. When I lived in France one of the parts that I loved was seeing all of the beautiful European style. I would have loved it more if I was making any amount of money close to a salary so I could buy any of these clothes, but not having the income to splurge made me vastly more aware of the trends and how I would apply them to my own life, once I got back into a position to. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

shoppingSimplicity is Queen
One of the most beautiful things about living in France was how simple the style and lifestyle is. Now it’s important to note that we’re not talking Scandinavian minimalism (although I’m sure there are houses that follow that) but the French have a clean, yet intricate, attention to detail that I absolutely adore. I love the minimalism, mixed with color and patterns and my heart was won over by the beautiful patterns that you can find in so many homes.

Pearls Solve a Multitude of Sins
Having a bad day? Not feeling like feeling you’re usual classy self? Throw on some pearl stud earrings! This is one of my favorite style hacks because it makes me feel like Audrey Hepburn on days when I’m feeling more like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. And who doesn’t want to look like Audrey? No hands? I didn’t think so. Not ready to throw down on real pearls? I’ve found some really great pairs of studs at Nordstrom that do the trick, while on a budget.

Mix and Max

You’re probably thinking that the French spend millions each year on clothing. And, of course, for some you’re probably right. But some of the classiest women I ever met taught me the very important lesson to mixing where you shop. This means you may have a designer wool peacoat, but your t-shirt is from Abercrombie. This lesson taught me that it’s not just about what you’re wearing, it’s about how you’re wearing it. And another key is to buy quality, over quantity. When you do splurge, splurge on statement pieces that are going to last you years. There’s a really great book I have called Paris Chic that does a great job of outlining Parisian and French fashion. Your wardrobe will thank you for the $1.99 you spent buying it.

Treat Yourself
The French know how to pamper themselves, and I don’t mean going out and coming back with a carload of clothes charged on their credit card. I mean lotions, bubble baths and perfumes. I mean those things that make you feel like gold – even with nothing on. Spending the extra dollars to buy quality skin care products is worth it. Treat yourself, and your body, by investing in some bath salts or some soothing lotions. You’ll be surprised how lovely you feel without even needing to spend money on clothes.

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Scarves
If there’s one style tip that I’m so glad I learned when living in France, it’s the beauty of scarves. From light and airy to bulky and bold, scarves aren’t really something I invested in before I lived in Europe. But I’m definitely now riding the scarf train! A great scarf can not only double your options on a simple sweater, they’re a lot less expensive than buying a whole new wardrobe. And they’re warm. I’m all about the warm. I’ve found some of my favorites at Nordstrom (because, despite popular opinion, Nordstrom isn’t always crazy expensive, if you know the right places to look), but I also love to buy them at World Market.

Kids Wear
One of the cutest things about living in France was definitely the children. The child style goals I now have are insanely high. Like, I kind of want to fly to France yearly so that I can dress my future children. Yeah, that bad. The cute little animals, the cute little patterns. All of it. If you’re looking to replicate all the cuteness (or just see what I’m talking about), you can type in “French kids clothing” in Pintrest and envy away, or hop over to Petit Bateau which has a U.S. website but totally French kids style. J’adore.

Pere Lachaise Cemetary

DSC_0774As a sort of “last adventure” I decided to go visit the Pere Lachaise Cemetery yesterday. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the cemetery, it’s absolutely beautiful and known for having the graves of celebrities such as Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Moliere and Delacroix. But what really too my breath away were the tombs of people who I had no idea who they were. There were some absolutely beautiful sculptures and a serious lack of weeping angels. But overall I spent a good 3 hours there and it was absolutely beautiful.

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Oscar Wilde

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How to Museum 101

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During the past year, while I’ve been living in Paris, I’ve been to more museums than I can count. Whether it’s art, history, architecture or culture I absolutely love museums and I always have (thanks, mom!). Being centralized in one of the biggest European cities sets me up pretty well for feeding this addiction. It’s not very hard to wake up, decide where I’m going and hop on the metro – ending up at a museum featuring famous works from many of my favorites.

Like this morning, for instance, when I decided I would go to the Louvre on a whim. A sentence which I don’t think I would have ever dreamed I could write. Treating myself to Louvre days has been something I’ve done throughout the year. Not only is it important for my introvert artist self, but it really is necessary, since the museum is so incredibly huge.

While walking around the Louvre today I realized that I felt like more than a tourist. I “had down” the whole museum thing – I knew what I was doing, where I was going and I had everything in my bag to keep me happy for the rest of my time there. No longer was I the stumbling around scared expat I once was. It would seem, after all this time, I have FINALLY perfected my up-and-go technique. To save you all the months of confusion I went through, I thought I would share some of my tips on how to optimize your museum going experience! Sound good?! Great!

1. Check online for discounts/open hours BEFORE going: This may sound like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how often people pay more than they actually have to when going to a museum! There are a lot of discounts available, especially in European museums, so make sure that you know what category you fall under (under 26 year olds – you’re probably FREE!) and save yourself some cash. EU residents (including expats, aupairs, students etc.) can also get in most museums free in France, just make sure you have your passport with you!
Checking museum open and close times can also save you time and stress. Museums can have odd days when they’re closed, so make sure you’re headed there on a day when they’re open (many are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays), and when you have plenty of time to see everything! Again, sounds like a no brainer – but you’d be surprised how easy it is to miss.

2. Bring water/snacks!: Museums take time, and if you’re like me, you’re likely to be there for more than an hour (or two…or three) so make sure you’re stocked up! You don’t want to have to leave and go seek out food just because you need a snack, or have to pay the absurd museum prices! Water bottles are allowed in most places, as well as little snacks (I like to bring dried fruit) which can help you maintain your blood sugar throughout your time of exploration. On the same note, going after you’ve eaten a meal (ex: lunch) rather than right before, when you’re bound to get hungry, is always a good idea.

3. Audio guides: These are one of my favorite companions when it comes to solo travel through a museum. Of course, I do like going with friends as well, but some of my favorite museum experiences have been when it’s just me and my audio guide. Not only can audio guides give you the inside scoop on art pieces, but they can also give you tour routes which get you, more easily, through the museum without missing anything. Audio guide prices generally range from free – 5 euro. Especially if you did your research and got in for free/reduced, they’re a great little added extra!

4. Camera!: Whether you’re bringing a DSLR or just your smartphone, make sure all batteries are charged BEFORE you leave for the museum. There is nothing worse than arriving at a place and having a dead battery – especially if you’re about so see things you’ll definitely want preserved with more than just the recesses of your mind. Battery up! You won’t regret making sure you did!

5. Sturdy shoes: It always amuses/humors/horrifies me to see how many woman are walking around in heels when they’re at museums. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the biggest fans of pumps you might ever meet, but wearing them to an extensive building where you’ll be walking from exhibit to exhibit is just not ideal. Throw on a pair of tennis shoes for your museum trip, or if you simply must wear your heels, make sure you slip some flats in your bag (just in case).

6. Bathrooms: Some museums have bathrooms – but some do not. Which means it’s up to you to make sure this is something taken care of before you pay to get in. It wiill save you the annoyance of having to go out and back in again, as well as the uncomfortableness of the situation as a whole.

7. Know your favorites: Call me a nerd, but doing a bit of research before you go into a museum can save you time, frustration and energy once you’re there. For art museums there are certain favorite artists that I generally search before going in, so I know where in the museum they are, and can enter in the right entrance. Knowing the layout can also help save your legs from having to wander around parts of the museum which may not be as important to you.

8. Bring the proper baggage: For me this generally means a smaller backpack, but packing all of your *maybe items and then toting them around in an arm bag for three hours is exhausting and makes me want to leave twice as fast. Save your arms, and balance out the weight you’re carrying, with a bag/backpack/fanny pack that can hold everything (including souvenirs!) while keeping you comfortable.

*Maybe items to bring: Chapstick, jacket/sweatshirt (if you’re wearing light clothing), notebook/sketchbook, reading book (lines can be long), more snacks

Review: Tough Burger

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Want a great place to feel like a hipster, eat great hamburgers and possibly get a tattoo afterwards? Well I’ve got just the place for you!
Tough Burger was actually a suggestion from my aupair host mom, because she noticed the hipster vibe of the places I generally like to go. She thought I would like it – and she was right!

Luckily, this swanky little joint isn’t only about good looks – the food was phenomenal as well. I ordered the fish burger and french fries and it was sublime. Again, perhaps a little pricey at 15 euro for burger, fries and drink. But that’s Paris. And also why we only go out once a week. Ha.

One of my favorite features of this bar was the stash of American candy they had. You heard me. Real American candy – in PARIS!! I was a little bit excited. There are, of course, specialty places that carry American food at the cost of an arm and a leg, but I was just so surprised to be able to buy a dark chocolate Milky Way at a burger joint. Beware though, the prices are (of course) inflated due to the candy not being French.

Overall the food was amazing, the waiters were some of the most suave I’ve ever seen, and the atmosphere was swanky, fun and perfect. A warning about this place: YOU HAVE TO RESERVE VIA TEXT MESSAGE in order to get in. You’ve been warned.

Ordered: Fish Burger, Fries, Coke

Where: 40 rue de Meudon
92100 – Boulogne-Billancourt

Went: Saturday, April 4th, 2015 around 1pm

Wifi: Unknown – I did see that they had a connection, but I’m not sure it was accessible to the public

Reservation Needed: Yes. SMS 06 21 63 44 17

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Top 5 questions I get asked about Paris:

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Living in such a tourist favorite city as Paris, I get a lot of friends who are visiting here and want to know what my perspective on the city is. For the sake of time management, and so I can help out as many people as possible with my faux Parisian opinions, I thought I would put together a post with the answers to some of the questions I get asked most frequently. Ready!? Let’s go!

1. Where should I stay?

There are tons of options for where to stay during your time in Paris! My personal favorites would probably be to either find a hostel to stay in or to find a place on Airbnb because Couchsurfing requests don’t work as often in such a huge city. The hostel that I stayed in the first time I came to Paris (which I would definitely recommend) is the BVJ Champs-Elysées Monceau which is an affordable option for a city where money melts out of your pockets, if you’re not paying attention. This hostel had so many lovely memories for me. It was here that my friend and me met a couple of awesome backpackers who walked the streets of Paris with us, late at night. We had drinks at a café and talked about how different life was in each of our different countries (Brazil, Spain, USA and Romania). It was the quintessential Parisian moment and one of my favorite memories. The hostel itself is also just lovely and looks like a museum from the outside.

2. What should I see?

I think Paris does a great job with their most famous attractions, but if you want some personal suggestions I would say make sure you visit Montmartre and Sacre Coeur church. That’s my favorite area in Paris because it’s where all of the artist stores are. This is also where you can find the “famous” square where you can buy original paintings from Parisian artists! One time I got my silhouette cut out from one a man there and I absolutely love it. 🙂
Another favorite spot is the Gardens at Luxembourg, especially if it’s sunny outside. These gardens are absolutely beautiful and such a great place to sit, have a picnic, walk or sketch. But fair warning, if it’s a sunny and nice day this is a very WELL KNOWN spot for Parisians so you most certainly will not be alone.
My best suggestion is to look up things you love, such as the movie Mulan Rouge, Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo, or Midnight in Paris and then go from there. There are just so many amazing settings  for stories that you can visit in real life. It’s amazing!

3. Should I stay away from anywhere in Paris?

I get a lot of questions asking what the “bad” parts of Paris are. The answer, of course, is not quite so simple. There are of course “bad” metro lines ( *cough* 13) that are a bit on the sketch line, but I would say to be aware no matter where you’re traveling in Paris.  1) Keep your valuables in zipped or buttoned pockets so people can’t slip their hands in and pick pocket you. 2) If you’re in a crowded space, and have a bag or purse, hold it over your shoulder and in front of you so it’s not hanging behind being gone through without your knowledge. 3) NEVER leave your bags unaccompanied 4) Don’t walk alone late at night down dark alley ways 5) If you feel like you’re in an area that’s less than serene keep your headphones out of your ears and keep aware of the people around you. The rules are pretty much the same for any big city – don’t be scared, be prepared.

4. How do I get around?

There are actually a few ways to get around, although the main ones that we use are the RER and the metro (sometimes other trains, but not as much for Paris proper). Paris actually has a pretty understandable system when it comes to metros and each line is color coded and numbered. If you ever need help when riding the metro feel free to ask the info places at the entrances to the stops (before you put your ticket in). They’re extremely helpful and have even been known to print directions for lost travelers or first time visitors to the city.

5. Do you have any favorite spots I should know about?

Honestly, my favorite thing to do in Paris is to just walk up and down the Seine river. It’s the closest thing we have to an ocean, and I miss Puget Sound so very much. I also love that it will take you along many of the major attractions. The gardens of Paris are also just simply magnificent. If there’s one thing the French excel at it’s making things beautiful and elaborate, and their gardens are no exception – if you have the opportunity to step into one with a book to read – do it. The atmosphere is lovely and oh so French.

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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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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