Snapshots from Paris

France, Photography, Travel

While September took us to Normandy, and October to the Loire, November was spent exploring Paris, falling even harder for our new home. From cathedral and mosque tours, to numerous cafe visits in search of Paris’ best hot chocolate (blog post on this coming soon), to early evening walks around Montmartre sipping warm wine, to Christmas tree shopping and our first Parisian snow, our first November in Paris was a lovely one.

Now with the days growing even shorter, the weather colder, and the city all the prettier with decorated trees and sparkling lights around town, my focus has shifted to Christmas, and all the fun our December will bring. Nice and Alsace next week with my mom (yay!!), and then to the French Alps with Jacob and Heidi for our first ever quiet holiday.

For now, here are snapshots from Paris, highlighting some of our favorite November memories.

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A Weekend in Normandy France

Culture, France, Photography, Travel

This time last year we were eating tacos in Mexico and hiking 14.5 miles through the beautiful Big Bend National Park. Today, I’m celebrating the holiday in my pajamas, reminiscing about the trip we took to northern France in September, and thinking about the BBQ we are going to eat tonight.

It has been a few years since we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving the traditional way, with huge plates of food, naps, and watching football with family and friends, but that’s okay. Though I miss loved ones back home, being in France certainly makes up for the lack of turkey and stuffing on our agenda today. However, I still intend to make a pie and a nap is definitely in the plans…

With that said, reminisce with me for a moment with snapshots from our trip to Normandy, where we admired Monet’s lily pond in Giverny, sipped calvados where the Seine river meets the English Channel in Honfleur, visited the D-Day landing beaches and paid our respects at the Normandy American Cemetery to the 9,385 Americans who were killed during the invasion of Normandy, learned about the Battle of Hastings admiring the Bayeux Tapestry, toured the beautiful Bayeux Cathedral down the street, wandered the narrow, sloping streets of the medieval island town of Mont Saint-Michel, swooned over eerie, foggy views of the surrounding mudflats, and lastly, toured the magical Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, an early-medieval monastery perched on top of a hill in the center of the island.

Whether your day is full of food, adventure, relaxation, or reminiscing, may it be a day of gratitude and love. Happy thanksgiving!

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P’tit Weekend in the Loire Valley

France, Photography, Travel

“Parisians all get sick of Paris after a while. So they regularly choose to leave the city for a few days. Those expeditions are called p’tits weekends…

It is important to realize that in the Parisian’s mind, le p’tit weekend is not a luxury or treat. It is a necessity. A need he feels deep inside his body. A sound door to escape momentarily the oppression of the big, fast, and loud city: J’en peux plus, faut que je parte m’aérer. Tu veux pas qu’on se fasse un p’tit weekend? (‘I’ve had enough, I need to leave the city to get some air. You want to go on a p’tit weekend?’)”

Olivier Magny, Stuff Parisians Like: Discovering the Quoi in the Je Ne Sais Quoi

The idea of a p’tit weekend is a universal one. A long weekend, quick escape, weekend getaway, short vacation… whatever you call it, the idea behind it is the same.

Jacob and I know all too well the importance of a p’tit weekend. When we first moved to Boston back in 2011, as excited as we were to be there, it didn’t take long for us to desperately crave a weekend away. We were newlyweds, newly employed, newly in graduate school, and biggest of all, newly living in a big city. After just the first few weeks of settling into our new routines, we needed some time away. A time to rest. A time to reset. A time to step away from our new norm, and as Magny says, “to leave the city to get some air.”

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Though city life quickly grew on us, we still deeply valued those long weekends each time we were able to sneak away. We’d leave Friday after work or bright and early Saturday morning, and head back to the city late Sunday night. Every chance we got we were leaving the city. Not because we hated where we lived, but instead, because we understood just how much of a necessity those weekends away truly were.

Now, living in a new, and even bigger city, we value p’tits weekends all the same, if not even just a little bit more.

I think this time around we handled the transition into city life a bit more easily, however, I will say that our first p’tit weekend in Normandy, taken shortly after we arrived in France, was just as refreshing as that first trip we took out of Boston quickly after rolling into town. Arriving in Paris was exciting, yes, but after a summer full of stressful planning to get us here, and then an overwhelming first few weeks once we finally arrived, a relaxing weekend away was called for. (Belated blog post about Normandy coming soon…)

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Having traveled back to the states early October, then fighting jet lag and a nasty cold for the week or so after I returned, by the end of the month, I was eager to get out and explore somewhere new. Not wanting to throw off Heidi’s routine now that she finally seemed settled, we decided on an easy dog friendly destination that could quickly(ish) be reached by car so that we didn’t have to introduce her to another new and potentially scary mode of transportation, the train, so soon after flying.

Jacob and I had already spent some time in the eastern portion of the Loire Valley on our last trip to France, but being a large area, we figured there was still plenty left to discover. This time around we headed to the western side of the region which was just as lovely as the area we had already explored.  It was geographically similar with the Loire River gracefully meandering through the region and a number of stunning châteaux littering the countryside, but what was different this time were all of the golden vineyards decorating the hillsides.

Following a quick trip into town to pick up provisions for lunch, our weekend kicked off with a visit to one of these beautiful vineyards, where we were able to take a peaceful, self guided tour around the property, and walk through the rows of vines. Being the only two on the tour, we took our time, enjoying the lovely, cool morning and stunning views, while Heidi sniffed around for the cat. After the tour we enjoyed a generous tasting and left with three bottles of organic wine. It’s easy to do when the wine is delicious, and incredibly cheap… (Or at least comparatively. One bottle we bought, a nice 2011 Cabernet Franc, was only €15, or about $18. Maybe we should have purchased a few more… 😉

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After our winery tour we enjoyed one of our new bottles of wine and a simple picnic lunch on the banks of the River Cher, a tributary of the Loire. It was slightly chilly, but sunny, and really such a perfect day to be outdoors. From lunch we headed to the nearby town of Villandry, where we spent the rest of our afternoon walking through the impressive château gardens.

Finally, after a long day of exploring, we headed back to our Airbnb to finish off our lunch wine and watch the sunset from our balcony. Heidi, exhausted from such a big day, quickly fell asleep while Jacob and I snuck away to a local farm for dinner where we enjoyed more local wine, wild boar, venison, and cheese from the goats next door. Eaten in a lovely old farmhouse warmed by a crackling fire in the fireplace, this meal was the perfect way to end our relaxing, yet busy day.

On Sunday, we got an early start and drove 45 minutes west to tour a monastery. It wouldn’t be a weekend away with Jacob if we didn’t do such a thing… After a few hours at Fontevraud we headed back to our Airbnb to pick up Heidi and our bags, and moved on to the final stop of our weekend getaway, the lovely town of Chartres, where we toured the massive Chartres Cathedral. We had to tour it in turns since we had Heidi, and the stained glass wasn’t at its best since we arrived after dark thanks to daylight savings (which comes earlier here than in the states), but still, we were both blown away by this Gothic masterpiece.

After some annoyingly heavy traffic, we returned home late Sunday night a bit tired but also so glad for a nice weekend away. I love living in Paris, but Magny says it best when he says “Le p’tit weekend is not a luxury or a treat. It is a necessity. A need he feels deep inside his body.”

Two p’tit weekends down for us, one for Heidi. We look forward to where our next journey will take us next!

Until next time!

Caramelized Onion “Camemburgers”

Food, Food Photography, France, Recipes

Life in our 193 square foot apartment seems ages ago, even though we’ve only been in our new home for less than a month. Or for me, just one week…

Last month, living in that tiny flat, Paris felt like an extended vacation. Now, in a slightly larger space, and with Heidi asleep next to me on the couch as I write, Paris feels like home.

On those nights where we felt somewhat displaced and homesick, what helped us to feel rooted were the meals we cooked in that little apartment almost each night. With a kitchen smaller than most people’s pantries, and a fridge similar to what you’d find in a college student’s dorm room, daily trips to the market were required, but honestly, that was half the fun. Each day I would walk around the corner to the organic market, or one block over to Rue Montorgueil, one of Paris’ best market streets. When I wanted something that felt a bit more familiar, I would walk just a bit further to the British grocery store, Marks & Spencer, a place that felt much like Trader Joe’s, and sells the most wonderful flavors of crisps (the cornish cruncher cheddar and pickled onion, and the chicken mustard and worcester sauce crisps are where it’s at).

IMG_1088.jpgWorking with just two small burners, a microwave, and a toaster, I couldn’t get fancy with what I cooked, but each night that we ate at home, we ate well. With meals like French onion soup, bangers and mash, pot roast, pasta bolognese, and I kid you not, one of the best burgers I have ever had in my life, we didn’t go hungry. For dessert, we’d drink wine and eat chocolate, or enjoy a treat from one of the incredible patisseries nearby. Who needs to bake when you live in Paris?

Heidi and I returned to Paris a week ago today, but unfortunately, I came down with a horrible cold from all of my recent traveling, so while I now have a larger kitchen to cook in, I haven’t yet had much time to play. I made ratatouille earlier this week, and a delectable, buttery quiche the night after that, but since then, it’s been homemade chicken noodle soup and cup after cup of hot tea. Tonight, I think i’ll move on to a spicy curry, and then as soon as I feel 100%, these “camemburgers” will definitely find a place on our dinner menu.

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A play on the word hamburger and camembert, the hubs thought calling these burgers “camemburgers ” would be appropriate and cute, and I fully agree. Rich and gooey, these burgers melt in your mouth, and definitely require the crunch of a cornichon and deserve to be washed down by a good red wine. Though we try and limit how often we eat red meat, we ate these guys twice last month, and I can’t wait to get over this cold so I can fully appreciate another one soon.

Cornichons, which are basically just little baby pickles, should be available in your local grocery store, and are for sure available at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods if you have one nearby. If you can’t find camembert cheese, or find the flavor too strong, brie cheese would work wonderfully as a replacement. And while we love a good strong camembert, for this particular recipe, I recommend a milder one as the strong flavor could overpower the taste of the caramelized onions, which no one wants to miss. If you do use a strong camembert, cut off the rind before melting the cheese on your burger.

Caramelized Onion Camemburgers

Yields two burgers 

1 lb ground beef

Brioche buns*

Camembert cheese (or brie if you prefer a milder flavor – see note above)

Cornichons

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

Butter

Mayonnaise

Dijon mustard

Sugar

S&P

Melt a pat of butter in the bottom of skillet over moderately low heat. Add the onion, and stir until your onion slices are well coated in butter. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to very low and let the onions steep for about 10-15 minutes.

After about 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly, and stir in a pinch of salt and sugar. Cook onions, stirring frequently, for about 30-40 minutes, until they have turned an even, light golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare your burgers by forming two patties and sprinkling each with salt and pepper. Next, add a little butter to a skillet and cook your patties until they reach your desired doneness. For this recipe, I like the burgers to still be a bit pink. I believe our burgers were probably cooked to medium. Before you pull your burgers from the heat, top them with a couple of slices of cheese, and cover the skillet so your cheese can quickly melt. If your onions have finished caramelizing, you can top your patty with onions before adding the cheese to help everything nicely meld together. Otherwise, you can add your onions later.

Once your patties have finished cooking and your onions are done caramelizing, it’s time to assemble your burgers. Spread both buns with a bit of mayonnaise, and one side with a little dijon mustard. Add your burger patty, your caramelized onions (if you haven’t already), and a few cornichons. You can either slice your cornichons in half (long ways) or add them whole. The cornichons we buy here are rather small, and we love the acidity and crunch that they add, so we don’t bother cutting ours.

Serve with some herb seasoned fries and fry sauce (we love sautéed garlic and herbs mixed with mayonnaise) and a bottle of red wine (really, most reds will go great with this, but we particularly love a good Pinot Noir or Côtes du Rhône) and bon appetit!

*Sure, you could use regular buns, but really, I don’t recommend it. I used regular buns the first time I made this recipe and the burgers were good, however, the second time I made them, with brioche buns, they were GREAT. 

Bonjour From Paris

Culture, France, Photography, Travel

When so much has happened since your last blog post, it’s really hard to just dive right into a new one. Even with the best intentions to write about our travels, share tasty recipes, and update you on other fun life updates, my schedule the last few years hasn’t really allowed me to do so. However, I expect that to change over the course of this next year.

Since it’d be impossible to cover everything that’s happened since January 7th, 2017 (the date of my last blog post) in just one post, let’s just jump ahead to the biggest news of all…

Two weeks ago yesterday, the hubs and I MOVED TO FRANCE.

That’s right. From Fayetteville, to Boston, to Austin, to PARIS, we’ve made our biggest move yet, and it has been a whirlwind of a process as well as a total dream come true.

In short, in May Jacob was awarded a grant to fund dissertation research for his PhD, and since most of the manuscripts he needs to study are here in France, fast forward four months, and here we are; two excited expats with just a few suitcases of belongings living in a 193 square foot apartment smack dab in the middle of the city…

The process to get us here hasn’t always been easy and many tough decisions had to be made along the way, like giving up a great job, leaving behind friends and family, and temporarily saying goodbye to our best girl, Heidi (the dog). However, this is only one small chapter of our lives (we’ll return to Austin August 2018) and we couldn’t be more excited to be here.

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Since arriving our time has been filled with long walks, buttery croissants, endless baguettes, cheap (but delicious) French wine, amazing ethnic foods (of all kinds), riverside picnics, beautiful sights everywhere we look, museums, churches, leisurely reads in the parks, lovely fall temperatures… the list could go on and on. But also, let’s not to forget about stressful apartment hunting, language barriers, lots of work for the hubs, sleepless nights on an uncomfortable pullout couch, homesickness, missing our girl terribly, and SO MUCH cigarette smoke.

Really though, the few negative asides, being here so far really has been a dream. While we long to be reunited with our girl (she’ll arrive in just a few weeks!) and to move into a space a little bigger than what we’re in now (We’re moving into a more permanent space in October that’s a whopping 484 square feet!) I say to myself at least five times a day “What!? I live here?!” because being here truly is surreal.

I look forward to the adventures we’ll go on this next year, the memories we will make, and blogging about it along the way. It’s good to be back.

Until next time, mes amis!


In a city like Paris, there’s literally always something to take a picture of. With that said, I have unfortunately missed the opportunity for some really great photos these last couple of weeks, simply because I don’t carry my camera with me 24/7. HOWEVER, there is one thing I do always have on me, and that’s my phone. For live updates, funny crisis moments, and more beautiful Parisian sights, be sure to follow me on Instagram, @jndoss. 

Dordogne France and Anniversary Waffles

Culture, Food, Photography, Recipes, Travel

To think that Dordogne almost didn’t make it on our itinerary is a shame. Protected by its relative inaccessibility, the region of Dordogne is full of unspoiled beauty and sites unlike anywhere else in France.  Filled with prehistoric caves, rock-sculpted villages, and the best foie gras in Europe, Dordogne was an easy area to fall in love with, and the perfect place to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary.

A near five hour drive from Amboise, we took our time getting to Dordogne, enjoying the views and stopping for a roadside picnic lunch of baguette sandwiches with pork rillettes, whole grain mustard, and cornichons, and the best market strawberries on earth for dessert.

Arriving in the region in the late afternoon, we started our Dordogne adventure with a scenic drive through the eastern part of of the area, wandering through the sleepy towns of Carennac, Loubressac, and Autoire, and pausing for a Belgian pint in the well-preserved medieval town of Martel. After our drive, we made it to our bed and breakfast nestled near the river in Castelnaud, and it was there where the true magic of our Dordogne adventure began. IMG_0224IMG_0280IMG_0227

IMG_0260IMG_0303IMG_0339Our stay at La Tour de Cause was nothing short of perfect, and it’s partially because of this inn that Dordogne will forever have a spot on our itinerary each time we visit France. Our room and the grounds were lovely, the food was impeccable, and the inn owners had a gift for making us feel right at home.

After forcing ourselves from the too comfortable beds, we’d start each day with freshly squeezed orange juice, ripe cheeses, buttery croissants, homemade jams, creamy yogurt, decadent hot chocolate, and some other French or Belgian delight perfectly prepared and served by Igor and Nico, our hosts and new friends.

We’d sit around in their stunning  kitchen long after we’d finished eating, sipping our coffee and chocolate, chatting, and finalizing plans for our day. After breakfast, we’d slowly get ready and enjoy some time on the patio, before venturing out into the countryside to explore the best sites this part of France had to offer. IMG_0717IMG_0706.jpg

IMG_0795IMG_0772On our first full day we explored the nearby town of Sarlat-la-Canéda where we shopped the stalls at the bustling Wednesday market. As one of the most important market towns since the Middle Ages, not only did the Sarlat market offer us a wonderful culinary tour of the area, but it also offered a downtown rich in architecture and history, a great introduction to this historic region.

At the market we bought cheese and cured meats, tasted walnut liqueur, and spoke to the merchants in broken French. We stocked up on foie gras and terrines, and purchased fruit, wine, and baguettes for lunch. When it started to rain, we ducked into the church to sit and pray, before heading on to the more adventurous part of our day.

Once the rain passed, we headed down the road to start our nine-mile, lazy canoe ride down the scenic Dordogne river. Paddling at a relaxed pace, we took in views of lush forests and towering limestone bluffs, and then of castles and cliff-dwelling villages.

IMG_0389churchIMG_0445IMG_0420IMG_0466IMG_0541IMG_0594Docking our boat at the foot of the first village, we stepped onto dry land to explore the beautiful town of La Roque-Gageac, a quaint little place where we later returned for our anniversary dinner. From there, we paddled on past Castelnaud, where our bed and breakfast was located, before ending our excursion with a tour of one of my favorite castles, the mighty 12th century fortress of Beynac.

Hiking to the tip top of town, we enjoyed our walk up the narrow cobblestone roads, surrounded by historic homes and rose covered buildings, before being rewarded with sweeping views of the river valley area below.

Nestled 500 feet above the Dordogne River, Château de Beynac was used as a defense fortress by the French during the Hundred Years’ War, and having been recently restored,  gave us a great glimpse into what life might have looked like in this area during that time. Much different than the newer, more luxurious palaces we saw in the Loire, the fortress of Beynac was one of the coolest châteaux we visited in France, and is perhaps one of my favorite châteaux  I’ve seen in all of Europe thus far. IMG_0671

IMG_0621IMG_0617IMG_0645IMG_0659IMG_0656IMG_0629Winding down from a fun-filled day, we made our way back to our bed and breakfast where we had one of the best meals we had during our entire stay in France. Starting with aperitifs and hors d’oeuvres on the patio, I knew right away that our decision to stay in for dinner was the right choice. Igor and Nico serve up a lovely breakfast, but it’s dinner where their talent is truly able to shine.

Gathered around the kitchen table with Igor and Nico and two other guests, we enjoyed herring crostinis with creme fraiche and fresh dill, duck pâté croquettes topped with fried parsley and lemon, sausage stuffed quail with a wine and fruit reduction, sauteed zucchini, and a melt in your mouth polenta. The wine flowed freely, the conversation never stalled, and before we knew it, we were no longer a table of strangers, but instead, a table of friends.

After dessert, more wine, and then a pot of tea, we collapsed into bed, happy and full, and never wanting to leave. france wafflescave

tree.jpgDay two of our Dordogne adventure was another special one as it was also the day of our 5th wedding anniversary. As if dinner the night before hadn’t already been perfect enough, we were greeted at breakfast that morning with cheers and music and special, anniversary waffles. With Frank Sinatra’s Love and Marriage playing in the background, we celebrated with our new friends, feeling loved, and so happy to be in France.

Though maybe not the most romantic way to celebrate an anniversary, we continued our day and our Dordogne adventure by exploring the region’s biggest attraction and touring two of the hundreds of prehistoric caves that are scattered around the area.

The first cave we visited, Lascaux II, is an exact replica of the area’s most famous cave, Lascaux. Just feet away, the original cave was closed to the public in 1963 to help preserve the art. After being discovered in 1940, changes in the environment caused by human visitors did more damage  to the art in the 15 years it was open to the public than in the estimated 17,000-20,000 prior. This cave is most famous for The Great Hall of the Bulls, a section of the cave which depicts colorful paintings of bulls, equines, and stags, as well as the largest painted animal discovered so far in cave art, a 17 foot long bull. Next we saw original and newer (though certainly not new! est. 13,000 years old…) cave art at Rouffignac, which is well known for its engravings and drawings of mammoths, bison, horses, and other large animals. Our visit to these caves was a highlight of our trip, and though maybe not romantic, was a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary. 

After our cave excursion we enjoyed a late picnic on a quiet riverbank next to an 11th century Romanesque church, before heading back to our bed and breakfast for a nap, and then on to another memorable French meal.

While I would be happy celebrating marriage anywhere on earth with my dear hubs, our 5th wedding anniversary is definitely a day I will never forget, and it’ll take a lot to top this year’s memorable celebration. IMG_0864IMG_0844IMG_0817IMG_0849On our third and last day in Dordogne, we cracked open a bottle of Chimay before noon, and enjoyed one more chat with Igor and Nico gathered around their kitchen table. We talked politics and about our work, and most importantly, about food. I shared with them some of my favorite recipes, and walked away with some of theirs. Too quickly the bottle was empty and the hour was late, and we still had one last castle to visit before leaving for our next town. Sadly saying our goodbyes, we packed the car and went down the road to visit Château de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle before heading on our way.

I cried a bit when leaving, sad to move along so soon, but also excited for what was next to come. I read the paper Igor had given me,  a recipe for the waffles we enjoyed on our anniversary, and smiled knowing we’d forever be able to have a bit of Dordogne in our lives, wherever we may go.

My new go to waffle recipe, these are great for breakfast, dessert, or a late night snack. Though I call them anniversary waffles, they’re really just a great Belgian waffle recipe that came from some amazing Belgians in France, perfect for anniversaries, or any weekday or weekend meal. We like them best warm and very crisp, served with a smear of apricot jam, and washed down with a chilled glass of champagne.

Anniversary Waffles 

Makes 9-10 Waffles 

2 cups flour

1 cup milk

3/4 cup water

3 eggs

10.5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1.5 teaspoons dry yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

dash of vanilla (optional)

dash of salt

In a large bowl, mix together sugar, water, and yeast, then mix in all other ingredients, except for the salt. Loosely cover batter and rest in the fridge for 12 hours.

After your batter has rested, mix in a dash of salt, and cook waffles according to your waffle maker instructions. I like to cook mine on the hottest setting, allowing them to become extra crisp. Serve with powdered sugar, syrup, or my favorite, a high quality jam.

 

Road Trip Through France, Part 1

Culture, Photography, Travel

It was nearly three years ago that I first experienced France, in the city of lights, in a city I had never visited, but yet a city I already deeply loved.

I talk here about how nervous I was about our first visit to Paris. I had played it up so much in my head that the thought of it being anything less than magnificent was a scary one. Well, to my great pleasure, it was everything I had ever hoped it would be. The food was memorable, the people were lovely, the sites were breathtaking, and our overall experience was one I will never forget.

Wanting to experience this perfection all over again, for this trip abroad, instead of zipping all around Europe, we put roots down in one country and spent two weeks exploring some of the best sites and landscapes that France has to offer.

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Our trip started in the stunning Loire Valley where we spent our time château hopping and exploring the lovely town of Amboise. Arriving in Amboise we were greeted by the cold and rain, but we made the best of our first night in France, bundled up in sweaters walking around town, and dropping into a small cafe for crepes and onion soup. After a good night’s rest we started our Loire Valley adventure with pastries and hot chocolate at our lovely little inn, and set off to the first château of our journey, the 17th-century mansion of Cheverny.

Arriving mid morning on a Monday we had Cheverny mostly to ourselves. Along with a few other tourists and roughly 110 dogs, we toured this grand establishment and walked the spacious grounds. After our tour around the estate, we enjoyed a visit with the Cheverny hunting dogs, and then moved on to continue our day.

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We left the property to find picnic supplies and settled down in front of an old church to enjoy our meal. We had been in France for less than 24 hours, but already, it was just as lovely as we remembered.

From Cheverny we headed to the largest château in the Loire Valley and explored the massive palace of Chambord. Originally built as a hunting lodge, this 440-room palace has a fireplace for every day of the year and is surrounded by Europe’s largest enclosed forest park, a game preserve defined by a 20-mile long wall. 

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We spent a couple of hours wandering the grounds and exploring the château’s many empty rooms. We played around on the property’s famous spiral staircase, and then, growing tired of Chambord’s massiveness, moved on to discover my favorite château, the dreamy and romantic Château de Chenonceau. Gracefully arching over the Cher River, this 16th-century Renaissance dwelling is the kind of place I would happily call home.

As the most popular château in the Loire Valley, Chenonceau is well-known for crowds, but thanks to a chill in the air and a perfectly-timed rainstorm, we nearly had the whole place to ourselves, which only added to Chenonceau’s charm.

We were welcomed into the château by a crackling fire in the entry fireplace, and greeted in each room by stunning arrangements of flowers put together from the property’s gardens. Each room we entered not only gave us a well-preserved look back into time, but also flooded our senses with the smell of peonies, roses, and lilies. Jacob would chuckle at my excitement not for the centuries old art or architecture all around us, but instead, over the exquisite flower arrangements that adorned each room.

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Flowers aside, the architecture and history of this manor did not fail to wow me. We loved the views of the river and gardens which could be seen from almost every room, the creepy mourning room of Louise de Lorraine,  and most of all, the beautiful and historic kitchen.

Most other kitchens during this time were in a separate or semi-detached building to reduce the risk of fire, but because of its location, Chenonceau was one of the only châteaux in the 16th-century to have a kitchen within the château itself, and while that was cool and all, if I am really being honest, it was really all of the copper pots and pans and the gigantic butcher block that still has me swooning over that kitchen today…

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Once the rain cleared we checked out the gardens and took a stroll around the tourist-abandoned farm. We watched ducks and smelled more flowers, and stumbled across sections of the property that very well could have used as movie settings for The Secret Garden. 

Having had enough châteaux for one day, we headed back to Amboise where we enjoyed a bottle of local wine and a picnic before taking a bright, late-night stroll along the Loire. Hugging tight to stay warm, we watched the city lights twinkle, reminiscing about our day, and looking forward to the wonderful adventures in France still to come.

2013: A Year in Review

Boston, Culture, Photography, Travel

 I am fully aware that it is February and that I am a full month behind on this post. I was hesitant to post anything at all at this point, but 2013 was too good  to not look back on. Better late than never, right?

Here’s a summary of our 2013 in handful of words and a plethora of pictures:

We experienced a blizzard and dealt with the Boston Marathon bombing aftermath.  We celebrated milestones, accomplishments, a graduation and a wedding. We traveled from Boston to the Cape, to Maine, Vermont, and everywhere in between.  We said farewell to our first home, a favorite city, and so many people that we love. 

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We spent a month in Europe with only a backpack on our back. We saw Big Ben in London and the Louvre in France. We drank beer at the Hofbrahaus in Germany, and wine on the Rhine. We hiked miles and miles in Chacos and marveled over the majestic Swiss Alps. We splashed in the refreshing waters of the Mediterranean and rode vaporettos through the Venetian canals. We ate truffles with Fabricio in Umbria and drank wine in the warm Tuscan hills. We explored Roman ruins and played hours of Go Fish in an empty Italian square. I cried when we boarded our flight home and have spent every day thinking about our trip since.

unnamed1385359_620398167079_1124592443_n76114_619012808349_5578899_nunnamed-1970653_611471206779_267726798_nScreen shot 2014-02-03 at 1.25.43 PM1424291_624703559039_1224241147_n548334_622403358659_350101081_n63702_622887628179_124582956_n1017560_635034954839_657219007_n 1002037_630231196609_208284773_nWe took a road trip back to Arkansas and settled into our second little home.We started new jobs and Jacob spent hours upon hours working on PhD applications.We ended the year with a bang at 10,000 feet feeling grateful for each memory made the year before. My 2014 is already off to a happy start and I look forward to all that is yet to come. 

IMG_6501 IMG_6583IMG_7411photo-3I’m a month overdo, but here’s to wishing you all a happy and blessed 2014! May your year bring you lots of peace, joy, and happiness!

Until next time!

Je T’aime, Paris

Culture, Food, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

IMG_1948For as long as I can remember, I have loved all things Paris. I can’t recall what started this obsession, but when I was 13 years old, I decided to paint my room hot pink, decorating my walls with Parisian icons. During holidays, I’d always receive French-related gifts, and I started studying the language in junior high. I’d often stay after class, learning from my teacher how to travel abroad. She taught me about the art of overnight trains, and how to choose a good hostel. All tips which came in handy this summer.

When we first decided that we were to visit Europe, there was no question about adding Paris to our itinerary. In fact, it was the first guidebook that I bought, and the first place that I planned. The hubs and I spent many nights dining on cheese, baguettes, and bottles of wine, watching favorite French films, looking forward to the arrival of our trip.

Arriving in Paris, I was a bit nervous. What if this city that I had perfected in my mind, failed to meet my standards? What if the people really were as rude as I had heard they were? What if the Eiffel Tower wasn’t really all that magical? Or if the the Louvre was just another tourist trap? I was terrified of disappointment…

When we arrived, I cried. A lot. I cried after eating lunch that our host family so beautifully prepared. I cried because their house was so perfectly French. I cried when I first spotted the Eiffel Tower. I cried during our picnic on the Champs de Mars. I cried when I drank too much wine, and I nearly cried when I ate my first chocolate croissant. Paris was everything that I had ever hoped it would be, and so much more.

Each day started with fresh bread from the local bakery, and a mean shot of espresso. We’d walk to the train in the morning, passing locals on their way to work. We’d wait on the platform for the subway, next to French lovers always in a tight embrace. I’d try to read a bit of the morning paper, and study our itinerary preparing for our day to come. We filled our time with museums and markets, and almost always stopped in the park for an afternoon nap.

We hung out with Monet at the Musée d’Orsay and the Gargoyles at Notre Dame. We strolled the Champs-Élysées and dined at the foot at the Arc de Triomphe. We walked along the Seine, shopping for antique books. We scaled the Eiffiel Tower, all 674 steps. We imagined that we were royalty in the halls of Versailles, and explored the king’s chapel, La Sainte-Chapelle.

The people were lovely, despite what I’ve always heard. A simple, “Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?,” to start a conversation always seemed to do the trick. I was obsessed with the Haussmann architecture that dominated the streets, and even more obsessed with the food, or at least the passion that went into each meal. I looked forward to meal times and the events that they were. We ate duck, and quiche, and full sticks of butter. We had stinky cheese, and souffles, and the most perfect of tarts. We sipped French wines and a green chartreuse, and fell in love with the French way of life.

Our three days there were much too short. Even my skeptical hubs fell for this romantic city that I’ve long lusted for. It’s nice to know that my French obsession wasn’t just a phase. I loved it when I was 13, and I love it even more today. I spend meal times scouring through my French cookbooks and swooning over my new Flame Le Creuset. At night, I study the language and plot how to one day live in France. I’m constantly listening to “I Love Paris! Classic Gypsy Swing and French Accordion Jazz” on repeat and longing for the day that I can return to find my own favorite little French cafe.

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IMG_7076 collage2IMG_2538jacobIMG_2079 versaillesIMG_2407 IMG_2427 eiffeltower jacobjennparis collageeiffelnightWhere is it that you dream to go?

Hello From Germany

Culture, Food, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

It’s hard to believe that 10 days have passed since we left the states. Our days have been filled with museums, monuments, and lots of great food. We’ve seen some of the world’s best artwork and architecture, and have dined on some of the most delicious cuisines. We are becoming professional picnickers, and our settings never disappoint. We are getting this whole train travel thing down, and are in awe everywhere we go.

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London was grand, and felt much like home. We adapted very quickly, and were sad to leave so soon. We spent time with friends, old and new. We enjoyed the pub culture, and we even didn’t mind the warm, flat beer. London was great, but it’s Paris that stole my heart.

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There’s really just too much to say when it comes to Paris. Best saved for another day. The architecture had me at first glance. The people were not at all what I expected. And the food! The way the French appreciate their food is admirable and respectable. I long to live a bit more like the French in my eating…
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After an exhausting week in the city, we are now relaxing in the countryside of Germany. We’ve explored castle ruins, drank fine wines, cruised a mighty river, and walked town walls. I feel like we’ve left the real world and entered a fairytale.

Tomorrow we are off to Munich, and on Monday, we will be sleeping 4,500 feet high in the Swiss Alps. Three days after that, and our two week journey in Italy begins. Our trip has been a dream thus far. I’ll hate to see it end. Updates soon!