Apr 29, 2013

paris day three // walking through the city { europe 2012}

// day three //

Another day, another adventure!

I was feeling really sick today, but insisted on still exploring the town. I mean, come on, being sick in Paris is better than not being in Paris at all, right? I rarely get sick, but I think the recirculated air in the airplanes, buses, trains, and other modes of transportation really hit me hard.  Next trip I will definitely use a lot of Emergen-C or Airborne to try to boost my immune system.

Anyways, back to the fun stuff . . . 

Sarah and I used Sandeman New Europe walking tours again (we used this group in London the previous week) for a 3.5 hour walk around Paris. I felt exhausted because my body was fighting whatever foreign virus I caught, but I still couldn't believe all the beautiful sites we walked through.

{ p.s. I don't know if I've mentioned, but almost all of the Paris pictures were taken by my sister Sarah on her awesome DLSR camera. It was a huge pain to carry that huge camera around, but now looking back at the amazing quality of photography, I can truly say it was worth it! }

We walked through the Louvre and gasped at the magnificent architecture, walked on Pont Alexandre III, which is the bridge above {I fell it love with it when I saw Midnight in Paris and had to find it!}

We didn't actually go inside the Louvre on this day (we saved it for our last day!) but simply walking in the square knowing that behind those walls were priceless masterpieces was enough. 

We finished up near Les Invalides (below), a complex of buildings of museums and monuments related to the French military. At one point, it was a hospital and retirement home for war veterans. And lastly, it is also a burial site of some short guy with a big ego named Napoleon. 

After the tour, we walked over to our favorite area on the Left Bank (near Notre Dame) and I found this little gem that I had been hoping to scout out. Opened in 1919 by Silvia Beach, the original Shakespeare and Company was a hotspot for literary greats including Ernest Hemingway. Closed in 1940 under German occupation, it never reopened. Then in 1961, the second (and current) Shakespeare was opened here on rue de Bucherie and serves as a reading library and bookstore and was featured in one of my favorite films, Midnight in Paris. 

Needless to say, my {not so} inner geek came out full force.

We finished up our day by walking around the neighborhood and trying to soak in the experience, while at the same time trying desperately to find places to sit down because I was starting to feel worse.

{ coming soon: our fun day on the BatoBus boat tour! }

Apr 24, 2013

paris, je t'ame { europe 2012 }

day  2  //  p   a   r   i   s

This day was beautiful! The weather was sunny { one of the few cloudless days during our stay } and we got to spend the whole day with our cousins as they took us around the center of Paris. The city is grouped up in different districts, or arrondissements, and in the very center of Paris is arrondissements 1 and 2. Notable landmarks include Notre Dame and the Louvre.

Here is a map of Paris that shows the arrondissements and landmarks in each one. When I planned for this trip, I planned each day by these arrondissements so that we wouldn't have to be traveling long distances between sites to see, but instead we took the metro to each specific arrondissement and then walked the whole day as we explored that specific corner of Paris.

Ok, back to the story: We walked all around the center of Paris on foot, which was great because there was so much to see and take photos of! We started off between arrondissement 6 at the Jardin du Luxembourg after going to church with my cousins in this area. This park is the second larges in Paris and is actually the garden of the State Senate { in the Luxembourg Palace }.

We the walked around the rue de la Huchette, one of the highest concentrations of restuarnts in Paris. As we walked down the little streets in this tourist trap, waiters would try to welcome us into their restaurants to the point that I would try to avoid eye contact because they were really convincing in their French accents! We decided on the Maison de Gyro (seen behind us in the photo below) for amazing gyros. Il était très bon!

Once we walked around this area and checked out many of the stands selling souvenirs, we soon came smack-dab in front of this beauty, Notre Dame de Paris! It was so surreal to standing in front of it! Notre Dame de Paris is situated on  Île de la Cité, a remaining natural island in the center of Paris, and the site of the founding of Paris. It is surrounded by the Seine River, which cuts through central Paris.

Thus began my jumping photos in Paris. Stay tuned for more jumping in famous Paris landmarks :)

{ The front and rear views of Notre Dame }

Right across from Notre Dame was the public square, Place Saint Michel, which became the hub for most of our travels in the next week since it was so central to everything.

We then walked along the Seine River and would name different movies that were filmed along this famous paysage (Bourne Identity, Ratatouille, and of coarse, Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame).

Pont Neuf, translated as New Bridge, is actually Paris' oldest bridge

Another one of the famous bridges of Paris is Pont des Arts, affectionately knows as the Love-Lock Bridge. People "lock" their love on this bridge for eternity --- or at least for the three months it takes to get too crowded  (a city landscaper has to cut off the locks to make room for more. What an utterly unromantic job)

We finished our fun day by driving over to the Trocadero near Le Tour Eiffel to see it at sunset. Quite possibly my favorite day in Paris!

 As I am tying this and reminiscing all the beautiful moments in Paris I am listening to the playlist I created for the trip, filled with French music as well as fun songs from the roaring '20s that just ooze with Parisian chic. Here are some of my favorite picks to get me in the Paris mood:

  • La Vie En Rose [ Edith Piaf ]
  • Smile [ Madeleine Peyroux ]
  • Opening Scene from Midnight in Paris 
  • Le Festin [ Ratatouille soundtrack ]
  • Darling Je Vois Aime Beaucoup [ Nat King Cole ]
  • La Mer [ Chantal Chamberland ]
  • Non Je Ne Regrette Rien [ Edit Piaf ]
  • La Soledad [ Pink Martini ]
  • I'm Beginning To See The Light [ Ella Fitzgerald ]
  • Ain't She Sweet [ Ben Bernie ]
  • In the Mood [ Glenn Miller ]
  • Dream A Little Dream of Me [ Ella Fitzgerald + Louis Armstrong ]
  • Under the Bridges of Paris [ Eartha Kitt ]

more to come soon { walking tour around Paris }

Apr 23, 2013

a little taste of the city of l.o.v.e. { europe 2012 }

On the 7th of July last summer { after struggling to find each other in the CDG Paris airport for 3 hours! } Sarah and I arrived to the beautiful city of love,   

p   a   r    i   s   !

There is just something so romantic and dreamy about this city. I hope that comes out in the many photos that will follow in the next few weeks as I post about the beautiful week I spent in this gorgeous piece of European bliss!

Once again,  very gracious cousins { and their adorable son! } host us during our week-long stay in this beautiful city. Upon our arrival, we ate our first meal in France { complete with baguettes and croissants, bien sur! } and then hurried off into town so that we could learn about the Paris metro because we would spend the week on our own since my cousins both work. In order to acquaint ourselves with the metro and with the somewhat confusing layout of the city, we visited two of the most iconic landmarks of Paris! We were exhausted and so relieved to finally get into Paris after those horrible three hours searching for each other in the airport, but once we caught sight of that gigantic piece of metal that is attached to anything parisien, we were in love with Paris. 

Thus began our  [ [ a m a z i n g ] ] week in Paris. 
Stay tuned for more posts about our many adventures!

bonne nuit!

Apr 20, 2013

walking through beauty { europe 2 0 1 2 }

Days 4 + 5 of my time in London last summer were filled with lots and lots of walking. This was one of my favorite things about Europe: walking is an adventure and a practical mode of transportation.

{ d a y  4 }

I spent the morning shopping in the Ealey Broadway district (right outside of London proper) and found some affordable and adorable {always a good signs when these 2 words are in the same sentence!} tops from the shops. My two favorite shops in London were discovered on this shopping day: Next { similar styles as H&M } and PRIXMARK{ somewhere between F21 and H&M, with ridiculously low prices }. I bought gifts for family, belts, and a few tops for myself.

I wish I had taken photos on this day. I think I was starting to go through camera-fatigue and left it at home to charge.  Here's what some of the areas during my walk looked like (photo credit in caption hyperlink of the next 5 photos).

Duke of York in Hanwell

Hanwell Broadway
Ealing Broadway, where I shopped till I dropped
The evening was spent in my cousin's neighborhood. They had visitors from Spain for dinner, so we all took a walk to a nearby parish where the bell ringers where making beautiful chiming music. Lucky for us we had several kids with us (by cousin's daughters) who were adventurous and called up to the bell ringers and asked if we could climb up the tower and see the bells. It's amazing what you can do if you have 2 adorable, lively girls :) I'll post a few photos I googled to give you a taste of what it looked like since I forgot my camera at home for this excursion (I really regret it!)

St. Mary's
After climbing the tower of the parish to watch the volunteers pull the long strings to move the massive bells and create the chiming sounds, we walked to the neighboring park, which was beautiful. A long waving path lined by trees and bushes led us to an Alice in Wonderland-ish maze made out of bushes. The little girls darted towards the maze and I soon followed suit and acted like a little child. It was great... I got lost a few times in the maze and could not stop laughing at how ridiculous I probably looked, but it was lots of fun.

Millenium Maze at Brent Lodge Park

{ d a y  5 }

I was back in the heart of  London on my fifth (and last!) day in the U.K. The morning started with a 3 hour free walking tour with Sandeman's  New Europe walking company. The guide was entertaining and full of great tidbits about London's history. It was an excellent walking tour, especially since it was free! Of coarse tips are very much appreciated (and well earned!).

Some of the highlights during the walking tour included Wellington Arch, Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street (home of past prime ministers), and Westminister Abbey.

Westminster Abbey
beloved Big Bed during the walking tour

I had lunch at Pret-A-Manger (I loved this place! Their baguette sandwiches were cheap, but so tasty!) and then continued on for my own personalized walking tour through two of the large parks in central London -- Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Both parks were beautiful in their own way. I had the misfortune of wearing my wellies (it was raining on and off all day. These are not good walking shoes, but they are practical shoes in the oft-rainy London!), so my feet were aching the whole time, but I still couldn't imagine a better place to spend my last afternoon in London. The clouds would part for short while throughout my walk and the birds with chirp, geese would float upon the Serpentine (snake-like lake) and I would pretend for a few minutes that I actually lived in this city of history and royalty. Oh, it's fun to dream!

Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in central London and is one of the royal parks. It is divided in two by the Serpentine and flows into the neighboring Kensington gardens. You can tell as soon as you enter these gardens because they look more Italian than English.

 the Serpentine

the Italian-inspired Kensington Gardens
Although my feet were super sore and all I wanted to do was relax along the Serpentine, I had to keep going. I wanted to get at least a few minutes in the Natural History Museum before it closed. I luckily arrived about 20minutes before closing time and regretted that I had not come earlier because there so so soooo much to see!! I practically half-ran-half hobbled through as many exhibits as I could look at during those few sweet minutes and then came smack-dab in front of a huge dinosaur skeleton in the main lobby. It was amazing. This is most definitely on my list of places to visit next summer when I return to London!

Afterwards I walked around in the adorable South Kensington area and then finally headed home to my cousin's flat via double-decker bus one last time

Here are a few tips for London:

  • Bring {or be prepared to buy} an umbrella and Wellies/rainboots. I was there in the middle of summer and most of my 5 days had at least a little bit of rain showers. As a Pacific NW-er, I was used to the rain, but I was glad I came prepared. It allowed me to explore despite the weather.
  • Not just for London, but for any trip: bring comfortable shoes that are waterproof, or bring insoles that can be interchanged between shoes. My rainboots were worn several days and they were not comfy at all but they were practical, so I had to bear the ache of my achey flat feet.
  • London is not well known for their food, so do not splurge on eating at restaurants. Try several local staples, such as beans and fries for breakfast, tea (of course!), fish and chips, but stick with affordable places. Splurge on food anywhere in France and Italy, not here.
  • The tube is exciting and practical, but also try to use their bus transit system. Not only will you really feel British by riding in a double decker, but you'll be getting more views of London than if you're in the underground tube. AND as a bonus, the bus is cheaper than the tube. I had one of those "OMG, I am really in London!!" moments while sitting on the front seat of the top part of a double-decker, reading a book, and taking peeks around as we drove through suburbs of London. It was one of those simple, but so meaningful moments when I could soak it all in. 
  • This is a more general tip for any traveling: take a break from all the busy touring and just soak it in once in a while. I brought my journal along everywhere I went and would jot things down when I took a few minutes to just sit and realize what a cool experience I am having. 

next up: P A R I S !