Paris is Always a Good Idea | Personal

Long post alert! Much verbiage and pictureage ahead!

Audrey Hepburn knew what she was talking about. Mom and I originally had planned for our trip to just be to the south of France, but then decided since we'd be "in the neighborhood," we really needed to see Paris. No brainer, right? And so we ended up having about 3½ days in the city, broken up with the south in the middle. (If you missed my post about the south of France, click here!)

^ First picture I took in Paris! ^

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. I was in Europe for the first time, and in Paris no less, supposedly the most romantic place on earth. I tend to be really excited but try to keep my expectations low, because I know things are never as perfect as they appear in pictures, and people tend to rave about things to the extreme. I had high hopes of thoroughly enjoying the city, but I had heard mixed reviews. You know the line. "Paris is overrated." I had been told it was dirty. You hear all the time that the French people are snooty and unfriendly to Americans. In spite of such glowing reports, I knew I needed to experience it for myself in order to form my own opinion. ;-)

And.... I loved it! We had amazing weather our whole trip long (so I did miss out on taking Sabrina Fairchild's advice of getting some "real, honest to goodness rain" on my first day in Paris. Ah, well. C'est la vie). I remember driving to our hotel the morning we landed with my face practically glued to the window and thinking, It really looks like that!! My heart can't handle all the darling shutters and iron gratings with flower boxes on them! (Seriously. A very favorite element of Paris, that). I love that basically all of the architecture is white or light colored, so the entire city is incredibly reflective (so many reasons the nickname City of Light is appropriate!).  I enjoyed how much slower paced everything seemed to be. It definitely still felt like a big city but in a way very distinct from Chicago or New York. People didn't seem to be rushing about in a mad hurry; the traffic was horrendous but nobody seemed very perturbed by the fact; you do get the feeling that people stop and savor life a little more than we're used to.

Of course, you could make the argument that maybe there's a little more to savor over there, but that's another topic. ;-)

One of the best parts was how often you would see a woman walk by with a big tote bag and a baguette sticking out the back, or a business man in a suit carrying a briefcase, but with a baguette tucked under his arm. This city has it figured out, folks.

I mentioned before that I'm not a super touristy person; it doesn't thrill me to pack as much as possible into each day and just rush from landmark to landmark. But when you're in Paris for the first time, of course you want to see a few of the main attractions. I felt we had a nice balance of touristy-ness and just wandering around-ness. We checked into our darling little boutique hotel, with an elevator (pardon, I mean lift) that was so tiny we weren't sure the two of us and our two carry-on suitcases would fit. (We did. Barely.) Henri, the concierge, did his best to turn us into full fledged tourists. :-) We still did our own thing, but he was very helpful with his knowledge of how to get around, and his lunch recommendation was delectable, and two doors down.

Salmon pie (swimming in some kind of creamy heaven) and creme brûlée! To die for!

Our street! :-D

The first day we pretty much just walked around and got our bearings. Our hotel was in a very ideal location, pretty much right between the Louvre and Notre Dame.

I especially loved walking along the river.

Biggest meringues I have ever seen in my LIFE.

And biggest palmiers.

Since we'd had a fancy lunch we decided to just get sandwiches from a street vendor for dinner, and eat them by the river. SO GOOD. I'm all about fancy French food, but I have to say that was one of my favorite meals.

We ended the night at a cafe across from Notre Dame, eating a sinfully delicious Nutella tiramisu, and listening to an old man play the accordion while the city lit up.

I know. It's real, people.

I got such a thrill out of our window!

Part of breakfast (admittedly it had nothing on the breakfast in the

south

, but we didn't know that yet. ;-)

The second day we decided to actually go to the Louvre and go in. Alas, it was closed because the workers were on strike. (Our original flight in was cancelled due to a strike as well - apparently Paris is the city of strikes. They schedule them. Which is convenient, because you can at least look up when the next one will be and be prepared. The next one was scheduled for the day we were supposed to come home - ha! Thankfully they cancelled it.)

Swoon!

So we decided to go into Notre Dame instead! Which is free, and the line looked long but moved quickly.

Pretty awe inspiring to think of the amount of work and engineering that goes into a structure like this.

Had to go back for a giant palmier. Because I was in France.

And you just should eat a giant pastry when you're in France.

We took a baguette to the Luxembourg Gardens for lunch.

And had French onion soup (or, I guess it's just onion soup there ;-) for dinner at a cafe where the old gentleman waiter (who reminded me of my great uncle) didn't speak a word of English, but we managed to get what we wanted.

We knew we were coming back to Paris after our southern leg of the trip, so if you can believe it, we didn't see the Eiffel Tower during our first stay. We stayed in a different hotel practically at its base for last part of the trip, and I will say, I recommend finding a cute little hotel instead of staying at a big, more mainstream one. It was fine, but it wasn't the same adorable experience we had in the first hotel.

There it is! It was pretty surreal to be looking at it as large as life!

The Champs-Élysées

Unfortunately at that point my feet were absolutely killing me, so we didn't really get to see much of it... next time!

America needs to up their signage game.

We splurged big time and took a ritzy dinner cruise on the Seine! SO much fun. We got all dressed up and had a fancy 4 course meal while floating down the river as the sun set. It was delicious and such a lovely experience. It was neat to watch the bridges light up and float under them.

The boat was window-enclosed, so unfortunately most of the pictures I took of the scenery have window glare or reflections, but that's ok. It's all about the memory, really.

That brings me to our last day! I have loved a certain vintage Hallmark card for years and wanted to recreate the outfit, and it struck me that it would be a darling outfit to wear in Paris. So the incomparable Lily whipped it up for me (I'm telling you, this is the best gig in the world!) and I promised her I'd get photos of it in front of the Eiffel Tower. (You can read her post about it

here

).

We took a VESPA TAXI!

If you know me well, you know I have a thing for vespas (I blame Roman Holiday). Well, these little two seater jobs were just too cute. They were a bit overpriced, but our feet were beyond sore, and you're only in Paris for the first time once, so we just went for it!

We took the vespa from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, because we decided to see if the strike was over and we could go in, and it was!

We didn't have a ton of time, and I'm far from being an art aficionado, so we decided the Napoleon apartments looked like fun. WOW. Sumptuous, luxurious, and lavish to the extreme.

Wouldn't mind a staircase like this in my house.

That chandelier was probably the size of my bedroom.

Two favorite nooks. :-)

After that we wandered a little until it was time to go. We figured we were there so we

probably

 should see the Mona Lisa, just because.

Loved this incredible portrait gallery! Not so much for the portraits as for the GOLD.

There. I saw it.

And I still don't like it.

I found this darling tea room called Angelina online before we left. Later I found out that apparently it's famous and a popular tourist destination. A favorite haunt of Audrey Hepburn's, I think, and known for their hot chocolate.

The other end of the Champs-Élysées

(Still on the bucket list - ride a bicycle in Paris).

We debated what time we should actually go up the Eiffel Tower. I knew I didn't want bright midday sun for taking pictures, so we decided we'd risk long lines and wait until later. We got there later than we intended, but the timing worked out perfectly. We were up at the top for the sunset.

I know so many tourist tips tell you not to bother with actually going up the Eiffel Tower, and I would agree it's probably not for everyone. But this is one of my favorite memories of the trip. It was a very warm day and we were overheated from walking around all day, but up at the top with the sun going down it turned perfectly cool and breezy. There were a lot of people up there at first, but then it cleared out a little and we got a spot at the edge, and just stood there quietly, arms resting on the railing, watching the sunset deepen into darkness, and all the lights of Paris come on. Magical.

Macarons at Laduree were on my to-do list, but that was on the 

Champs-Élysées and we didn't make 

it there. Thankfully they are in the airport, so we still got some and were able to bring some home to share. :-)

I think the Marie Antoinette Tea flavor was my favorite.

I still look at these pictures and think, "I took that! I was there!" It was such a wonderful, delightful experience and I can't wait to go back. :-D Thanks for following along with my travels! Au revoir until next time!

The South of France | Personal

Bonjour! At long last... I am blogging pictures from France!!! I guess it has only been a month since I got back, but that's too long. :-) I do apologize for keeping you all waiting, it has just been non-stop craziness and weddings since getting back and I'm only just now finishing up my photos! Still not done with the Paris pictures, so I'll be breaking this into two posts.

First up, the south of France. Get ready for a LONG post.

We split our trip up into a Paris sandwich - we started in Paris for a couple of days, then took a high speed train south near Avignon, and then back to Paris before heading home. As the train chugged away from the city, we left the tall buildings behind and started whizzing past flat farmland, that really looked a lot like Illinois, except the little farms were about 115% more charming. I started wondering if I was going to be disappointed in the south. As we went along, though, more rolling hills appeared and the further we got the more picturesque it was, with pretty little villages tucked into valleys or perched on the sides of hills, and white cows dotting the landscape everywhere. I was not disappointed. :-)


We arrived, picked up our little Fiat, and cruised off to our B&B... which was a piece of heaven on earth. It was off season, and we were the only guests, so Antoinette, our hostess, upgraded us to the best room with a private terrace... no big deal. ;-) The whole house was completely charming and the grounds were beautiful. We didn't want to leave. Especially after breakfast (more on that in a moment...).

It was the cute car club. :-)







Wouldn't mind having that view out my window every day!


I was obsessed with the door handles. No surprise there, I've always had a thing for doors...




That window was seriously one of my favorite parts of the whole room. Rounded top, with a shutter, and you could turn the little latch and open it. 
It's the simple things.















Yes, that is a chicken in the middle of the frame. I am not a farm animal fan, but those chickens were hilarious! We would walk around the lawn and they would all come running after us in hopes of a handout. Running.
A running chicken is a comical thing.






We decided we need a wisteria tree.


Like, NEED a wisteria tree!






Pictures don't do this bloomy tunnel justice!





Ok. Breakfast. This deserves its own paragraph. We were given the option of having breakfast there or we didn't have to if we didn't want to. We figured, well, we should at least try the breakfast instead of having breakfast in town, since we had already done some cafes in Paris. I considered leaving my camera in the room - it was "only breakfast," after all. Um, NO. It was not "only breakfast." We came down and were greeted by this spread... for TWO PEOPLE! There was nobody else staying there! Also, the light in the breakfast room was soooo lovely...












I'm going to start collecting blue & white china, and silver.
I'm taking donations, just fyi.






On Saturday, we drove out to Uzes for the street market. It was a glorious day and the drive was beautiful, through roads lined with chestnut trees, and winding around mountains and through little villages, with beautiful views everywhere. The market was such fun - it was a very quintessentially French experience. We walked the first main street which had mainly clothing stalls, purses and bags, shoes, jewelry, etc. (I'm still kicking myself for not buying shoes for 5 euros and earrings for 2! Why didn't I?!). We were surprised at how little food there was, till we noticed a lot of people coming out of a side street with produce in their bags, so we headed that way and found a whole open area packed with food stalls. This might have been my favorite day in the south... it was a highlight of the trip, for sure!


We were told that the chestnut trees were planted along the roads by the Romans so the soldiers would have something to eat as they walked.




Just a ruin by the side of the road.











One night Mom obliged me with a photoshoot around the grounds of the B&B at sunset. I was dying to take pictures in all the pretty spots, but unfortunately Mom hates having her picture taken, and I did want pictures of myself in France, so I bossed her around for half an hour... she's very patient. :-)










We visited Pont du Gard as our next outing. Talk about impressive! It was pretty hot that day and my feet were absolutely killing me... so wading in the Rhone felt wonderful. (And I realized in all the pictures except the portraits, I'm wearing the same dress. I packed light... but I DID wear other clothes. ;-)






















After Pont du Gard, we headed back to Avignon. I have to say, I heard great things about Avignon, and while it was lovely and I particularly loved the open square by the Palais des Papes with the gentleman playing the accordion, and it was charming, Mom & I both decided we liked Uzes better. The Palais, however, was a lot of fun to see - an amazing piece of architecture!!














I loved that house on the right - all the shutters closed but one, and that one had cheery red flowers. Perfection.


The south of France was beautiful, what I saw of it. I was a little sad that April is too early for the lavender (a shoot in a lavender field is totally on my bucket list!), but that just means I have to go back. :-) 

I hope you enjoyed the first installment of my French travel adventures! (Credit to my mom for all the pictures of me!). I'll be back with more photos from Paris!!

I'm going to France!

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that European travel was in the near future... and I am excited to share that I will be going to FRANCE this spring!!

I'm not a super touristy person. I'm not all that into museums or running around from place to place just to hit all the "must-see" landmarks. I will, however, have "tourist" written all over me given I will likely have a camera plastered to my face half the time, but that's ok. :-) What appeals to me is experiencing the culture, taking my time, walking around and just soaking it up. And eating the food. I'm already dreaming about French bread...

While I am there, I would love to fit in a photo session or two!! If you or someone you know is interested, drop me an email!