August 2016 again. This time, a stop in Paris.
Paris and I have always been in a bittersweet relationship. I’ve frequently visited the city as a child, have family there, love the architecture, the food and the fashion but I struggle to appreciate its people. Maybe because my first experience in Paris was one less of a tourist but more of a local, with blunt-to-the-point-of-plain-rude encounters with some Parisians. Then again, I have met some very charming Frenchmen from Marseilles and Lyon so I’ll just get over it at some point… Last August was a very relaxing trip. Unlike my tense stop in Paris in November 2015, the atmosphere this time around was more relaxed, though still a bit edgy because of recent attacks in Nice.
This trip, my goal was to experience as much of the Parisian food scene as possible…so, hubby and brother in toe, we ravaged bakeries in search of the perfect croissant and baguette, had lunch in a cosy bistro (quick note, if you’re non smoker, you may want to sit inside or closer to the doors) and argued on the better Parisian macaroons (I preferred the Pierre Hermé brand which I found creamier and tastier, hubby could not care for either and brother picked the Ladurée brand because he cannot agree with anything I say, of course).
And I finally got to take a cruise on the Seine river. You gotta admit that Paris (or any city really) looks great at night.
We stayed in Saint-Dennis, 20 minutes away from the city using the train. As you get away from the city, you see sides of Paris that no one talks about, overcrowded apartment buildings, beggars with their children and even men and women selling braised corn, peanuts and barbecue chicken potstickers inside some train stations! That was a first for me.
And we walked…a LOT! Got to admire the gardens (Tuileries, Jardins the Luxembourg), various museums, fairs and a flea market at Le Marais. I missed the tango on the river but if you’re in Paris, check it out, I hear it’s worth the trip.
When it comes to outfits, I was all blue and flowers, or lace and burgundy. A total walking cliche for the city of lights and romance 🙂
Some tips from this trip:
- Unlike London, it gets harder to commute to the city from the subs, unless you do not mind waiting on buses. Otherwise, you may take a taxi or Uber to the nearest train station. Beware, the drivers are easily excitable and may swear a lot (then again if they say “Pardon my French”, you’ll know for sure it was French)
- When you take the metro, buy a carnet, will save you money.
- Check that the restaurants or stores on your list will be open! In summer, many shop owners go on vacation.
- Food scene in Paris is amazing! So good that my picky eater of a husband had nothing but positive things to say about the food (even though the carbs and sugar explosion at breakfast was a major turnoff for him). He wasn’t as impressed by the Eiffel tower or the other Paris that no one talks about but my LJ is rarely impressed by anything unrelated to science or sports.
- Go ahead and spoil yourself with escargots, steak et frites, crepes, canard, etc. You can people-watch by sitting outside at a bistro, just be ready for all the cigarette smoke.
- If you love hot chocolate, you must try Angelina’s
- Be prepared to walk a lot, best way to fully appreciate the city (and burn all the extra carbs).
- Make a stop at Quartier Latin and let me know what you think 😉
- Try tango on the Seine in summer, I hear it’s pretty cool (I have yet to experience it myself…). One location along the Seine is at Tino-Rossi I was told by a friend. This link gives an address but I have not verified it yet so if you get there before me, let me know how good (or bad) it is!
- I did not do Versailles but am leaving it for my dream trip where I will be able to combine Versailles with a stop at the abbey Mont Saint-Michel (yes I love Gothic architecture) and Lyons, finally. One day…
- Be sure to try the fairs and flea markets. Nice little treasures available. I followed David Lebovitz great guide here.
- The cruise on the Seine is very relaxing, try it in the evening. I used this viator deal and paired the cruise with a bus tour of the city at night.
- If you must stop at the Eiffel tower, try later in the day, the view is really amazing when the sun sets.
- I’d recommend you Airbnb your stay in the city to save on commute. It may be more expensive but will save you time on commute. Just make sure to leave extra early for the airport. Traffic may get frustrating (you may also catch an early train to commute to the airport).
- If you’re into shopping, try second hand stores. My favorite is Reciproque for affordable luxury items (no worries, they look as good as new). Other popular thrift stores per this.
Until next time, aurevoir Paris!
August 2016 has been a pretty interesting month and one of the highlights was this stop in London, to celebrate my baby sister’s prowess at blackmail.
I am still unclear as to how or when she got me to agree to this trip but there I found myself in London again, with a teenage girl directing my every moves and a reluctant self-proclaimed (and may I add self-inviting) bodyguard timing every stop…
In any case, London was sweeter than I remembered and my first time since Rome last year that I actually felt like a tourist. Unlike Rome, this time I took my time, saw less and thoroughly enjoyed everything. Some highlights below.
We stayed in an AirBnB flat right outside London (and right above an Indian restaurant that we were not able to try out ironically as we always came back too late) and mostly used the trains and our feet to move around.
As far as fashion, I kept it simple: GAP jeans, a GAP stripe peplum tee, an old J.Crew Collection pinwheel eyelet top, Madewell Savannah saddlebag, sneakers, a denim mini-jacket, my Fitbit and the J.Crew factory rose necklace.
Some tips from this trip:
- Definitely do consider buying a train pass for the day, will save you a lot in commute expenses
- Try different restaurants, the food scene in London is top notch!
- Try any show if you can, elevates the experience
- Though a little scary (read South Street Philly vibe) at night, the neighborhood had some very good late night gelato…felt like in Rome again
- If you were set on seeing the queen’s guards (I was) at the Buckingham Palace, time your trip to arrive during their rotation
- I passed on the Palace museum, but their gift store has pretty cool souvenirs (and may I add they are a little pricey but you will not find them anywhere else…I tried)
- Try the London eye closer to closing hour when the sun sets as the city is very pretty in the evening. It’s pretty elevated and may not be the best experience if you’re afraid of heights but the amazing view is worth the trouble (and the long line). A note that you can buy a package to include the Eye and other attractions…saves you money. A succinct article on the London eye here.
- Also try a cruise closer to the evening
- If you must do Madame Tussauds, try it first on your trip and first thing in morning if possible (I missed it due to long lines on my departure date)
- I did not share a picture with the red telephone boot here, but don’t hold back and take pictures! Should also try some in front of their taxis…and a stop at the Scotland Yard building…I was waiting to see Inspector Japp from Poirot 🙂
- The Westminster Abbey has amazing architecture. Gothic architecture has always been my favorite (my….how can you not fall for the grand, very tall structures, the elaborately decorated flying buttresses and the pointed arches) and the abbey did not disappoint on that front.
Until next time, goodbye London 😦
A quick weekend trip to get away from the routine at Vizcarra Vineyards. The vineyards are an extension of the Becker Farms on the Niagara Wine Trail. The access is free with a large parking area and great activities for old and little ones.
For our first year anniversary, we spent time at the all-inclusive Dreams Tulum Resort on the Riviera Maya in Tulum, Mexico. The weather is quite hot and humid in Mexico in August but we had a wonderful time nonetheless, enjoyed the food, the beach (despite the irregular surplus of algae) and touring the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itza.