Snapshots from Troyes

France, Photography, Travel

Somehow, yesterday was already my last full day in Troyes. Today I will spend the day in Paris before catching a flight to the UK tomorrow where I will first visit a friend in Scotland, and then spend a few days in Ireland with my sister-in-law. After the UK, I will give the sis a quick tour of Paris, before making my way back to Troyes next weekend for one last night in this cute little town. Sure, my time here is one week less than the hubs, but our month in Troyes sure has gone by quickly…

Located in the Champagne region of France, Troyes is a lovely town dominated by charming streets and plazas,  historic, half-timbered buildings, and some of the best stained glass windows France has to offer.

Appreciating a slower and quieter pace of life than what we’re accustomed to in Paris, our time in Troyes has largely been spent sampling (ever so affordable) champagnes and the area’s local cheeses, enjoying leisurely walks around town with Heidi, and admiring the town’s numerous churches.

I’ll be sad to leave this area of France next week, but am looking forward to another month some place we’ve yet to explore. Before we do that though, enjoy with me, this month’s round of photos – snapshots from Troyes.

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Grande Mosquée de Paris

Culture, France, Photography, Travel

Though it is neighbors with one of Paris’ most popular parks, the Jardin des Plantes, the Grande Mosquée de Paris, the largest mosque in France,  is one of the few great attractions in Paris that isn’t always buzzing with tourists. In fact, besides for the tea salon, Moroccan restaurant, and hammam (Turkish bath) on the property, I think few people even realize that you’re able to visit the actual mosque itself.  

For a modest fee of €3 (€2 for students) you can escape the bustling city streets and retreat to a quiet, lush, green oasis filled with colorful mosaics and trickling fountains — and depending on what time you visit, you might even get to experience the mosque with the soothing sound of the call of prayer in the background, a rhythmic noise as enchanting to me as monks chanting their nightly vespers.

Besides for a few school groups, and maybe a couple of tourists here and there, my visits to the mosque have been quiet, and such a peaceful way to spend a few hours of my day.

As lovely as a trip to Notre Dame or any of Paris’ other great cathedrals, I think a visit to the mosque is an integral part of any well-rounded Paris itinerary, especially for anyone looking for an interesting and relaxing way to escape the crowds for an hour or two.

Once you finish your self-guided tour, snag a table at the lively salon de thé for a cup of sweetened mint tea (ordered table side) and a sweet treat from the pastry stand indoors, and continue enjoying one of Paris’ best overlooked attractions, a place so few tourists take the time to see. 

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Hours: Summer: Saturday-Thursday 9am – 12pm/ 2pm – 7pm ; Winter: 9am – 12pm / 2pm – 6pm
Entrance Fee: €3 per person / €2 for students

Snapshots from Italy

Culture, Photography, Travel

It wasn’t until arriving in Italy that I remembered just how much I love that country. Or maybe I remembered it after waiting two hours to pick up our rental car, driving an hour on terrifying, narrow, winding roads through the mountains (which Jacob handled like a champ), and was relaxing in the town center of Ravello with an aperol spritz in hand, but you get the point…

During our first visit to Europe where we spent one month traveling from London to Rome, we were lucky enough to get to spend two full weeks in Italy. From Venice, to the Cinque Terre, to Tuscany, Umbria, and many fun stops in between, we had the time of our lives seeing the land of my ancestors. With that said, naturally, we were thrilled when we received a save the date in the mail for Jacob’s cousin’s wedding, highlighting that it would be a destination wedding in the Amalfi Coast, a region of Italy we had yet to explore.

We were very excited to see family, and of course, to celebrate his cousin’s marriage, but also, we couldn’t wait to get back to the country we fell so hard for, four years ago.

Since the purpose of the trip was to attend the wedding, we spent most of our time hanging out in Ravello, the beautiful town where the wedding and its many festivities were held.  

Perched on a mountainside, Ravello offers some of the best views the Amalfi Coast has to offer, and since there’s no direct beach access, far fewer crowds – something Jacob and I both greatly appreciate when we travel.

Outside of three nights of lovely wedding festivities, during our time in the region  we visited a limoncello factory, saw the beautiful duomo in Amalfi, enjoyed foggy coastline views on a ferry ride to Positano, had the best lemon granita I’ve ever tasted, ate cones of fried, fresh seafood, strolled the quiet, romantic streets of Ravello, tasted local wines and cheese, and spent as much time as we could on our spacious apartment balcony, which offered sweeping views of the surrounding green mountains, and bright blue sea below.

After an unbelievable wedding celebration on Saturday night, we spent Sunday touring the ruins of Pompeii, rolled into Naples just in time for a Neapolitan pizza for dinner that night, and then spent our final day on Monday exploring the colorful neighborhood of Trastevere in Rome before flying home.

Next week, I’ll take you to one of my favorite overlooked attractions in Paris, but for now, enjoy with me some snapshots from Italy.

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Snapshots from Holland

Culture, Photography, Travel

Happy Monday, friends! 

I woke up early today for my French class, only to realize once arriving that today is yet another French holiday, meaning, the school was closed… 

It’s funny how in college I would get excited when class was canceled, but that’s not really the case today. This morning, however, I am grateful for a few hours of extra free time so I can finally go through pictures and catch up on my blog. 

If you follow me here, or on social media, it probably seems like all we do is travel. While it’s true that we do get to travel more now than ever before thanks to affordable airfare and train tickets, I promise that most of the time we live normal day to day lives. The hubs works more than I want him to, and I do my best to juggle work and learning French. If I posted about that every day though, I imagine I would have quite a few less followers…

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When we first started talking about moving to France, all I could think about was how often we’d get to travel. Knowing how close together everything is in Europe, and also how inexpensive and efficient the trains and planes are here (well, the trains are efficient at least…), I dreamt about all the weekend trips we would take. I kept a list on my phone that I was constantly tweaking, as I continuously thought up new ideas. When we arrived, I quickly learned that my “travel somewhere new every weekend” idea just wasn’t going to happen.

For starters, the hubs works most weekends, so he was out of most of these plans, and then more realistically, even cheap travel adds up. Furthermore, we have the pup to think about, and then biggest of all, I realized how much I didn’t even ever really want to leave Paris.

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Before moving here, I knew I loved Paris, but until living here, I had no idea just how much. Now, with each day that passes and the closer we get to leaving our beautiful Parisian home, I don’t want to go anywhere at all. I’ve come to love our normal, everyday routines. I like getting up on Monday mornings to go to French class. I enjoy my walks past Notre Dame with the pup. I love Sunday morning market visits with Jacob, where we fight with Heidi as she tries to eat fallen baguette pieces and market booth crumbs. It’s the “mundane” things that excite me, and I want to soak up every last minute we have left in this city before it’s time to go.

However, with all that said, there were two trips on my original list that I couldn’t wait to take: 1) a spring trip to the Netherlands to see the famed Holland tulips in all of their glory, and 2) a long weekend in Italy to celebrate our cousin’s wedding (photos coming soon). The Netherlands - 25

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Holland was everything I thought it would be, with the exception of Amsterdam, which we unknowingly visited on the craziest day of the year, King’s Day. Besides for that though, the towns we visited were charming, the people friendly, and the tulip fields lovely. It was an amazing feeling to stand alongside hundreds of thousands of one of my favorite flowers together in one place.

Our first stop was a visit to the Keukenhof Gardens, which is one of the largest flower gardens in the world. Featuring millions (yes, millions) of tulips, Keukenhof was a great introduction to Holland as we basically got to see tulips of every color and kind.

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From Keukenhof, it was off to our Airbnb for a relaxing night in after a long drive and tiring walk through the gardens.

For the first two nights we stayed in an Airbnb which basically sat right on a tulip farm, making my number one goal of visiting a field full of tulips easy. Truth be told, if you visit at the right time of the year, seeing the tulip fields isn’t hard to do as you’ll see them all over the country, but getting up close and personal with one can be a different story. Thanks to the proximity of our Airbnb, we were never more than a three minute walk away. 

Outside of our crazy day in Amsterdam (basically all that we accomplished there was trying to escape the crowds, which never happened, visiting the Anne Frank House, which was a really moving site to see, and purchasing 50 tulips for €12) the rest of our trip was relaxing.

Besides for frolicking through tulip fields, we took the pup to play on the beach (which she loved – though I imagine you’ll never be able to tell by the photos 😉 ) visited the quaint cheese-making town of Edam, strolled the picturesque streets of Volendam, and enjoyed a great harbor side brewery all to ourselves in Enkhuizen. 

Like with any fun vacation, we were sad for it to end, but when you live in Paris, it’s really never a bummer to go home… 

Until next week!

A Weekend in Barcelona Spain

Culture, Food, Food Photography, Photography, Travel

My trip to Barcelona was taken somewhat on a whim. After plans to go to Norway to try and see the Northern Lights failed, the hubs encouraged me to enjoy a weekend in Spain instead. I had long talked about going to Spain and was itching for a visit to somewhere warm. Knowing that Jacob couldn’t travel anytime soon, I happily took him up on his suggestion and started researching my options. A few hours later I had purchased my plane tickets, and not long after that, I was on my way.

Having never been to Spain before, and having never taken an international trip alone, I wasn’t really sure what to expect for my long weekend away. I wasn’t nervous about traveling by myself, more so just anxious about whether I would get lonely or bored, and if I am being totally honest, concerned about just how many tapas I could realistically consume on my own. 😉

I am happy to report that I never found myself longing for company, and I had absolutely no trouble at all putting away countless plates of food. My time alone was exhilarating and refreshing, and Barcelona had a certain charm that made me never want to leave.

My trip started with a visit to La Boqueria, a massive covered food market which is truly any foodie’s dream. I spent a few minutes wandering through a maze of cured meats, colorful juices, and fresh fruits and vegetables, before grabbing a spot at the bar at El Quim de la Boquería for my first round of tapas.

Struggling to keep my Spanish and French (and English for that matter…) straight, I ended up with a plate of patatas bravas that I didn’t mean to order (this wasn’t the only time that I would order incorrectly), but in the end, this was totally okay. I ate quite a few spuds that weekend, and those were certainly the best I had, so good in fact, that I can’t even remember what it was I was trying to order initially.

Alongside my patatas bravas were a plate of fried artichoke hearts, which are easily one of the best things i’ve eaten since moving abroad. I nearly cried tears of joy after my first bite. As I washed them down with a €3 glass of local cava, I couldn’t help but to think how coming to Spain was definitely a really great idea.

After picking up a bright pink juice from one of the stalls nearby, I rushed off to the next stop of my journey where I toured Antoni Gaudí’s eccentric and unfinished church, the Sagrada Família.

There is a lot that I can say about Gaudí’s unique masterpiece, but i’ll just leave it at this: Sagrada Família is an interesting church, and indeed beautiful in many ways. However, in short, it’s not my cup of tea. There’s something about Romanesque and Gothic churches that really inspire me, and I just couldn’t find that same sense of awe in Gaudí’s modern design. The construction probably had something to do with it, as well as being asked more than once to move for someone’s selfie, but hey, that’s not Gaudí’s fault…

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I found it slightly ironic that I left for this trip same day as International Women’s Day. To me, International Women’s Day represents many different things, but this year, it was a time to celebrate aloneness. So often I think women associate being alone as being a bad thing. We’re not complete without a significant other, we’re not capable of exploring a new place without a companion by our side, we’re not as strong of a leader or an influence on our own, etc.

As I wandered around Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million people, in a country where I don’t speak the language, and in a town where I knew no one, I didn’t feel alone. In fact, I felt very much in the warm company of the 1.6 million Catalonians who surrounded me. I didn’t pity myself as I sat alone at a bar with enough tapas to feed three, or as I drank half pitcher of sangria on my own (the second occasion where my Spanish ordering abilities failed me). Instead, I felt exhilarated. I was visiting a place I had always wanted to visit, and enjoying something I truly loved. Why should being alone prevent me from doing that?

As I walked back to my hostel from the Sagrada Familia, I stumbled across thousands of other women as they celebrated all that International Women’s Day means to them. With the march taking place right in front of where I was staying, I first watched for a while from the street, and then spent my evening, alone, in the hostel, celebrating from the window. Again, something was telling me that coming to Barcelona was a really great idea…

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Sagrada Familia 

I started the following day with a visit to Park Güell, another Gaudí project. Though I enjoyed the main part of the park (the paid area), I loved the free trails and natural gardens that surrounded this area even more. Much of Gaudí’s work takes a naturalist approach, and what better way is there to experience nature in a large city than with time spent in a park? Being a perfect 70 degree day, I found a secluded bench with a great view of the city and relaxed in the sun until my next appointment.

Next came what was quite possibly my favorite experience of the trip – a paella cooking class in a lovely private garden just down the street from Park Güell. Originating from Valencia, a town about 200 miles south of Barcelona, paella is a regional dish that’s approached by Spaniards much the same way that Americans approach a backyard barbeque.  It is meant to be leisurely prepared over a glass of wine or sweet vermouth, and enjoyed alongside family and friends.

This “class” was actually called a “cooking experience,” and appropriately so, as an experience was exactly what it was. There was no formal training, per se, just 10 or so strangers who quickly became new friends, enjoying wine and tapas together, and learning a bit about paella along the way.

Our wonderful host shared with us her grandmother’s recipe, and we all cooked together in the backyard of her childhood home. We ate tapas, shaved fresh slices of Ibérico and Serrano ham, and learned the art of drinking from a porron, all before enjoying the fruits of our labor with a large plate of paella. I look forward to taking what I learned from this experience and to one day enjoying a backyard, paella barbecue with family and friends back home.

Full and sleepy from so much delicious food, I enjoyed a leisurely walk down a lovely route recommended by my cooking experience host, and then spent the next couple of hours resting at my hostel before venturing out to the old Gothic Quarter of Barcelona to see what I could discover there.

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Jacob and I have this thing when we travel in big cities where we will go out of our way to “get lost.” We intentionally take roads which aren’t the main route, and more often than not, our efforts pay off. Taking that same approach as I wandered around this historic part of town, I found myself in a number of quiet squares, and discovered many quaint streets. Eventually, I stumbled across the beautiful 14th-century Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, and settled in at a fantastic little wine bar across the square. Making friends with the bartender, I tried two fantastic Spanish wines, and jotted notes about my day on the back of a receipt while I let my phone charge behind the counter.

After a quick tour of the church, I stopped in for more tapas at a recommended spot down the street for yet another memorable meal. As I took a seat at the bar, the server’s first words were “I have just the perfect meal for one person.” After I made it clear that there aren’t really any foods I don’t like, the plates started coming…and it took a long while before they stopped. Some plates of tomato bread, clams, patatas bravas, fried squid, and a couple of other unidentified things later, I left overly full, but again, so happy for yet another great experience.

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Gothic Quarter and Playa de la Barceloneta

The last day of my journey started with, you guessed it, more good food. Having read about a place known for their croissants, I figured I would give it a try. I had been outside of France for three days at that point, and had started missing my favorite breakfast pastry.

Having the bar set pretty high after seven months in Paris, I was skeptical and only purchased one pastry. However, after just one bite, I regretted not buying two. Glazed and filled with mascarpone cheese, my croissant from Hofmann Pastisseria was one of the best things I ate all weekend. Half way through my first one, I had already made up my mind to go back for a second…

To burn off my pastries, I spent the next couple of hours walking around a new area of the Gothic Quarter, and toured another beautiful gothic church, the Barcelona Cathedral. Though there was a short line to get in, this cathedral was quiet, and evoked that sense of awe I couldn’t find at the Sagrada Familia. A €3 elevator ride to the roof made me love it all the more. Offering a fantastic view of the city, and no crowds, I spent half an hour or more on the roof enjoying the views and sunshine, and thinking about how I wasn’t ready for my weekend in Barcelona to end.

Growing hungry, I left the roof with plans to head back to La Boqueria for another round of tapas, but ended up stumbling in to a very Austin-esque coffee shop and decided to enjoy lunch there instead. I don’t know exactly what it was that I ended up eating (story of my life that weekend in Spain), but it was some sort of Asian rice bowl that was utterly delicious, and the kombucha I washed it down with also wasn’t bad.

Energized and ready to finish my off my weekend strong, I made my way to the beach to dip my toes in the Mediterranean Sea. After half a pitcher of sangria (I swear I only ordered a single glass – and no, I did not drink the whole thing), I headed back to my hostel to get ready for one last memorable Spanish meal.

I think my first meal in Barcelona was probably my favorite, but what I loved about my last was the fact that many of the tapas served were actually meant for one person. Because of this, I was finally able to try a large variety of things without feeling like a total glutton (but really, what did I care?). After one more plate of fried artichoke hearts (which didn’t hold a candle to my first plate from El Quim de la Boquería), I toasted myself with one final glass of cava to commemorate a such great solo weekend away.

36 Hours in the French Riviera

France, Photography, Travel

A day and a half really isn’t enough time to see all the great sights that the French Riviera has to offer, but with a little research and proper planning, one can make the most out of a quick visit to almost any region of France.

With just a week to spend in France, lots to do in Paris, and a quick trip already scheduled to the Christmas markets in Alsace on the French and German border, I had no idea if I would be able to meet my mom’s request to also see the south of France during her all too short visit back in December. However, after finding very cheap tickets and discovering that Nice is only an hour and a half flight away, I decided that for the price, and distance, even 36 hours in the sunny Riviera would be worth it. My mom and I left Paris on a wet and cold Sunday morning, and by lunch we were sitting on a sun-soaked patio overlooking the Cours Saleya flower market in Nice, eating pizza, salad Niçoise, and sipping a crisp rosé.

Wanting to make the most of our short visit, after a quick stroll through the market, we headed back to our hotel room overlooking the Ligurian Sea, changed, and set out for a four hour, private tour of the coast.

On our tour we walked the sleepy streets of the medieval town of Èze, toured the Fragonard perfume factory, walked a section of the Grand Prix race route in Monaco, and played a few slots in Monte Carlo. We were back in Nice by dinner where we enjoyed ravioli and pork mignon in a cozy space in Vieille Villethe city’s colorful old town center.

On Monday, we woke to cloudy skies which turned the water into a new, beautiful shade of blue, took a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais and stuck our toes into the sea, browsed the stalls of an open air antique market, enjoyed a delicious Mediterranean sandwich for lunch, and checked out a few of the shops in Nice’s New Town,” all before hopping a plane at 3:00.

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Not Home for the Holidays

Culture, France, Photography, Travel

The hubs and I have missed a lot of big family events since we first moved away from Arkansas, however, we’ve always done what we had to do to make it home for Christmas. 

This holiday season (2017) I felt a bit torn. In many ways I was my same ole jolly self, starting my Christmas playlist the day after Halloween Thanksgiving, watching Christmas movies on repeat, eating festive holiday treats, etc., but in others, I was slightly dreading my favorite day of December. 

Knowing, that for the first time ever, I wouldn’t be home for the holidays, I found myself a bit anxious over what’s otherwise a wonderful time of the year. Anticipating that I would need a good distraction on Christmas day,  I set out researching.alps hike - 1.jpgalps hike 2 - 1.jpgalps hike 3 - 1alps hike 4 - 1Alps - 38Alps - 43Alps - 54Alps - 34Alps - 18Alps - 36

Alps - 51Alps - 92Alps - 57Alps - 30Alps - 23A few years ago Jacob and I watched a Rick Steves’ Christmas special where Steves’ and his family spend Christmas day in one of the prettiest places we’ve ever been, Gimmelwald Switzerland, high up in the Swiss Alps. After finishing the special, in awe, we pledged to one day return and have a white Christmas in those lovely mountains. Little did we know then that that Christmas would come so soon.

Though it wasn’t the Swiss Alps where we spent our Christmas, i’d say the French Alps are sufficient for fulfilling that pledge, and they were just as pretty, if not even better, than the region of the Alps we explored a few summers ago. Alps - 41Alps - 35Alps - 26Alps - 59Alps - 27Alps - 2Alps - 52Alps - 15Alps - 17heidi alps 2 - 1.jpgWanting to have for the first time in my life a relaxing holiday, I got to work finding a place to stay where we could truly unwind. However, unfortunately, I quickly came to find that everyone else seemed to have the same idea. 

For a while it looked like we had two options: we could either stay in a small condo in a major ski town, or in an even smaller cabin in the foothills, likely away from the snow.

Wanting two things, well, really three, a fireplace, guaranteed snow, and seclusion, I persevered until the perfect option came about: Ma Cabane en Montagne, a lovely little traditional, eco-conscious log cabin located in the stunning Vanoise National Park. Alps - 8Alps - 65Alps - 61Alps - 62Alps - 73Alps - 77Alps - 66Alps - 68

heidi alps - 1.jpgAlps - 82Alps - 78Alps - 73Alps - 72Secluded, covered with a beautiful blanket of thick, white, sparkling snow, and containing a wood stove, Ma Cabane en Montagne was the perfect spot for us to spend our quiet holiday. The location was unbeatable, the cabin was cozy, and best of all, dinner (unfussy, yet delicious, traditional French Savoyarde dishes – think raclettes, fondue, sausages… basically good, hearty, and comforting mountain food) was included each night, taking any hard work off our hands, and allowing us more time to relax.

Though there were ski resorts nearby and plenty of Alpine activities available, we decided instead to take things as easy as possible, and really enjoy a low key Christmas break. Alps - 91Alps - 85Alps - 93Alps - 94Alps - 90Alps - 86Alps - 87Alps - 74Alps - 70Alps - 76Alps - 80Alps - 79Alps - 75Alps - 67We watched Christmas movies, read books, drank hot chocolate by the fire, went sledding, played with Heidi in the snow (who had never before seen such a thing, making the whole experience that much more fun), explored nearby villages, and on Christmas day, took a lovely hike through the mountains.

On Christmas Eve, the big night to celebrate here in France, we drank champagne and ate foie gras, steak, potatoes, chestnuts (literally roasted over an open fire), and cheese, and then fell asleep half an hour into Elf. On Christmas day, we slept in (a first for me!!), enjoyed a quiet breakfast, and then set off for our hike. We FaceTimed with family later that day, enjoyed dinner, and then fell asleep by 10. For the first time ever, it was a quiet, relaxing holiday, and really such a perfect way to spend the day.

Though I wouldn’t want to do it every year as we certainly missed family and friends, this peaceful way of celebrating was incredibly memorable, and such a nice change of pace. Here’s to more relaxing holidays in our future, and though a little bit late, a very happy new year for us all!

 

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!