Tag Archives: vacation

Our Trip to Napa: We Did Everything Wrong

We experienced a few new things as a family last week:

  1. I stopped nursing completely. This wasn’t difficult and I wasn’t as sad as I expected. If anything, I’m not worried about how I’ll ever clip AM’s nails ever again (I always did it when she was nursing because she would sit still!).
  2. I spent a night (actually 5) away from Annmarie. I had never done that before. I only cried twice the day that I was leaving.
  3. Jeremy and I vacationed together without Annmarie. And while I missed her terribly, I also felt guilty about enjoying myself. Oh mommy guilt.

An opportunity arose at work that involved traveling to Napa, California for a work conference. I didn’t think my manager would approve my going but the conference asked me to be a panelist in a discussion. My manager saw it as a good opportunity so off I went!

We only really had 2 1/2 days to explore Napa (I spent 2 days at the conference and we had an early morning flight on Sunday).

sadly – I felt pretty sick most of the trip so we didn’t do too much but here are some grainy cell phone pictures! I took pictures with our point and click but I rarely pull photos off of that camera (because I can never seem to find the cord). We had some weekly pictures of Annmarie on there from when she turned 1… and that was a few months ago.

anywho.

Jeremy and I ate at Kitchen Door twice because it was within walking distance of the hotel and they had some lighter, veg-friendly fare. Jeremy saw a menu item called “Mexi-coke” and ordered it. I expected something more interesting and was disappointed that it was just coke. Apparently it doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup, it uses cane juice.
A "mexi-coke"

Jeremy was pretty pooped from traveling so we kept it low key the first night he arrived. We went and saw The Avengers. yes, we went to the movies while we were in Napa, California. Obviously we were doing it all wrong.

We grabbed breakfast at The Model Bakery (on both mornings). Their veggie sandwich (a fried egg with avocado and other delightful items) was delicious.

Then we went to Frog’s Leap winery.

Wine tasting at Frog's Leap

Frog's Leap vineyard

Wine at Frog's Leap

We broke for lunch (although we kind of winged it so it blew up in our faces. The nearby restaurant was crowded and the wait was too long. We had a wine tour within an hour and couldn’t risk it. We drove down to a Dean & Deluca’s but the lines for sandwiches were super long too! Luckily we picked up a baguette from the bakery so we just bought some cheese and called it lunch.

Our next stop was Robert Sinskey Vineyards where I failed to take ANY pictures. We did some cave tour and were the ONLY people on the tour. The woman was super nice and informative. Jeremy had a lot of questions about wine making. All I could think was, “I am so hungry.” A baguette with cheese wasn’t cutting it for me.

We were pretty beat from the day so we didn’t do much that night expect… see a movie. We’re so lame. We saw “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (mostly because there wasn’t much else in the theater). It was okay.

On our last full day in Napa, we checked out Paraduxx.

Wine tasting at Paraduxx
Wine tasting at Paraduxx

We enjoyed this place the most, probably. They had little information cards with each of their wines. We prefered this over listening to a person discuss, at length, all of the wines we’re about to taste. Sometimes it is just too much information all at once. I felt like Paraduxx offered a slower paced tasting experience.

But after this place, we both decided we didn’t really feel like going to another winery! Again, I realize we are super lame. Instead we just drove around Napa. We stumbled across the Napa State Park and decided to check it out. Since this was an unplanned trip, my attire of a maxi dress with sandals wasn’t appropriate but we still decided to go on the nature hike anyways.
Poor choice in footware for hiking

Napa State Park
Napa State Park

We also got milkshakes from Gott’s Roadside. Again, we were in Napa and we had milkshakes. We really did everything wrong here.

We nearly missed out flight home (I’ve never experienced running through a terminal to catch a flight before!). I was happy to see Annmarie. I ridiculously worried that she would have forgotten me since it had been nearly a week. I know it is silly but I worried that she’d run to Jeremy and not me. I’m happy to report she came to me! Yippee!

Taken any vacations lately?

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Everything is Fine (I’m Still Here!)

I really didn’t intend to go nearly 2 weeks without posting anything especially when my last post was a super serious post on my family. 

Quick update – my dad is a stubborn man who refuses to listen to reason.  He and my mom have repeatedly told me that he merely went to the ER about his hiccups and they’re gone now so everything is a-okay.  I’ve compared this situation to a car.  It is like they’ve taken their car to get an oil change but found out that the engine is on the verge of dying (or perhaps just has a lot of things wrong with it).  Instead of addressing the engine, they just got their oil changed and left.  That is my dad.  (And thank you everyone for your nice comments)

Anywho…

One of the other reasons for the long absence (even though I totally meant to blog during this time) was that we just returned from our first family vacation to the Outer Banks (Duck, NC to be exact).  Jeremy is hyper-paranoid about indicating that we’re out of town on any sort of social network so I just dropped off for a week.

We were a little nervous about traveling with a baby but took comfort in knowing that (1) we weren’t going anywhere that wouldn’t have the essentials if we needed them and (2) Jeremy’s parents were also going so we’d have help if necessary.

The drive down to the Outer Banks is about 6 hours from Baltimore.  I was concerned about the long car ride with an infant but I looked up travel advice on parenting blogs, asked parents I knew and decided that the best plan was to travel at night.  That was we wouldn’t have to worry about frequent stops and it wouldn’t throw off Annmarie’s sleep schedule too badly.  As for OUR sleep schedule?  Meh – we survived.

Overall we had a great time.  I won’t lie – I was a little nervous about vacationing with my in-laws but we really did have a good time.  Annmarie’s cousin was also there (he’s 3.5 years old) and he was really sweet with Annmarie.  I never understood families that all vacationed together (even though I’ve had a blast vacationing with one of my friend’s families to the Outer Banks… and have gone 2 years ina row with them!  But things are always different when it is your OWN family) but Jeremy and I really had a nice time.  We hope to do this again yearly!

I won’t bore you anymore with rambling.  Instead I’ll bombard you with the cutest little 6 month old on the beach pictures (we took a ton and I have had a really hard time narrowing down to just a few to share on Flickr).

 
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She seemed to enjoy hanging in the pool in this floaty (she tried to chew on it though).

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She seemed fascinated by her cousin. It was cute to watch her watch him play.

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She got a few naps in at the beach. Apparently the ocean makes for a great sound machine!

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Snapping a photo of herself (okay, not really – she was just trying to grab the camera from Jeremy)

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Playing with dad on the beach towel.

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One of my favorite pictures from the beach.

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We tried to have her pose in the sand without us and then she quickly grabbed a handful of sand and put it in her mouth.

Now this is what I call, “Trying to Get Annmarie to Pose on Things”:
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She’s riding side saddle…

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Now’s she’s riding a shark! She’s fearless.

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She didn’t like pretending the be eaten by a shark. Party pooper.

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And now she’s a pretty (albeit confused since we had just waken her up to do this) butterfly.

I have plenty more but I think I’ll stop while I’m ahead (before I bore you all to tears since they’re pretty much the SAME photos but with slightly different poses).

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4 Years (And in that time we made a baby!)

Tomorrow is my 4 year wedding anniversary.  Holy cannoli!  I wish I could say that my wedding feels like it was yesterday but honestly – I sort of don’t remember much about the day anymore.  Perhaps that is what having a baby does?  My brain can only hold so many memories.

4 Years ago tomorrow, I was doing this…

and then some of this…

and then some of this…

And in those 4 years, we’ve traveled to some great places like…

The Maldives (our honeymoon)

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Scotland (where I got to drive on the opposite side of the road… and we lived to tell the tale):

London
The Tower Bridge in London

Paris
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And some other places (Turks and Caicos, The Outer Banks 4 times! and I’m sure I’m forgetting something because I forget everything these days…)

While I loved all of the places we’ve been and can’t wait for all the places we’ll go, our biggest adventure to date (cue sappy music) was having a baby…
Still can't believe we're parents
Annmarie - just a few hours old

and watching her grow and change everyday (this photo was taken on Sunday… can you believe she’s gone from the picture above to this?!  she’s frickin’ huge and adorable!)
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(okay – sappiness over!)

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Turkeys & Tacos? (or “My Trip to the Turks & Caicos”)

We just returned from what may be our last vacation in a very long while.  Some may consider this a “baby moon” but we really just needed a damn vacation before the madness of Jeremy’s semester starts up again and then I plop out a bambino.

This trip was originally supposed to take place in Napa Valley where my gorgeous cousin Ji just got hitched (she got married yesterday).  I was super stoked when we received her invite and I saw where it would be.  Jeremy and I promptly took the time off of work and then started looking into planning the trip…

… and then I found out I was pregnant.  Now here’s the downside of pregnancy.  You can’t drink.  That is some bullshit, right?  Apparently drinking + pregnancy = defected babies.  Or something like that.  I love watching movies that take place in the 40s & 50s and they feature pregnant women chain smoking and sipping on brandy. 

Anywho.  I love my cousin and I’d still LOVE to go to Napa Valley, but we couldn’t justify the price tag of the trip when I couldn’t even enjoy some vino.  I told my cousin and apologized profusely (and hope that the sweet new blender we sent them makes up for it).

I figured with the pregnancy – we weren’t going to do anything but Jeremy had a different idea.  He pitched the fact that we already had the time off and that this may be the last vacation we have together… just the two of us (we can make it if we trrrrryyy… go ahead and say “just the two of us” and not hum that damn song).  He began looking at last minute deals to the Caribbean and we booked a trip to Turks & Caicos.

And holy shit – I love that place.  I’ve only been to a few places in the Caribbean but Turks & Caicos (or Turkeys and Tacos as Jeremy likes to call it… won’t he make a swell dad?) is hands down the best place we’ve gone.  It was apparently their low season (since its hurricane season) and we loved it.  There were still people there (and lots of babies… and they are super cute in their little swim wear and hats) but overall it was just the perfect amount of crowd and quiet we wanted.

So here’s a picture montage…

The view from our balcony (we stayed in an “ocean view” suite with a full kitchen)

It wasn’t the swankiest place we’ve ever stayed but we loved the fact that it had a full kitchen.  There was a grocery store about a mile down the road so we were able to buy food to prep (and as a vegetarian… this was amazing).

This was also the first tropical/beachy trip we’ve taken where I haven’t ended up with heat rash.  I basically parked myself under an umbrella for most of the time and wore some crazy, super thick, chemical-free SPF (it was 20% zinc oxide so it didn’t rub in totally… so I was a nice shade of white).

The place had Hobie Cats and kayaks that you could check out for free.  We kayaked for about 20 minutes until I realized it was too much work.  And the day we finally took out the Hobie Cat there was NO wind.  We caught a gust of wind and I sailed us pretty far from shore.  And then we were stuck.  And then Jeremy got pissed and accused me of trying to kill us.  We obviously made it back to shore.

They had several pools at The Royal West Indies (where we stayed) and Jeremy enjoyed himself in the kiddie pool.

Us at sunset.  This was apparently a very popular time for people to snap photos on the beach.  We saw a few couples setting up posed photos laying on the beach and one guy was even (what appeared to be) professionally photographing his very pregnant wife. 

I saw quite a few pregnant women on this vacation and also quite a few infants.  I’m not sure if I’m just more aware of them now but I felt like they were frickin’ everywhere. 

It rained every day that we were there for only about 10 minutes each time.  The weather was probably around 90 degrees everyday but oy, the humidity.  But it was awesome.  The people were friendly.  The resort was great.  We were conveniently located near a grocery store and other restaurants.  I highly recommend this place.

Now back to the grind…

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Vacation… Glad I Got Away

I went on another super secret vacation the last week of May.  Again – I never really publicize that I’m on vacation because Jeremy thinks our house will get robbed.  I don’t think our neighbors have internet access.  Whatev.

We went down to the Outer Banks, NC (again) but this time we stayed in Buxton.  Also new for the both of us is that we went with my friend’s family (her husband, her parents and her in-laws).  At first I felt like a little kid but it actually worked out just fine.

I’d also like to add that I absolutely love that her folks get along so well with her in-laws.  I don’t see that type of friendship often and I think it is awesome that they can vacation together. 

My parents are socially-challenged.  But I digress…

There isn’t much to do in Buxton.  In fact, there isn’t anything to do in Buxton so I ended up with a lot of this:
Image of bottles of wine

Also sprinkled in my trip was my attempt to run outdoors.  I haven’t really been running outdoors since the November marathon.  I’ve run twice with disastrous results.  Distrastrous in that I wasn’t able to run nearly as far and long as I used to and that is really ridiculously frustrating.

But I vowed to run at least twice while at the Outer Banks.  Running in Buxton is tricky because there isn’t any ideal running path.  When I vacationed in Duck, NC – there was a lovely path.  Buxton gives you a small shoulder on the road where tons of traffic zips by you.  It was stressful.  My first attempt at running wasn’t ideal but I was happy to do it.

Jeremy ran a different path (towards a lighthouse) and said he really liked it because, despite not have a sidewalk or shoulder on the road, traffic was light, there was plenty of shade and there were nice things to look at along the way.  For my second attempt I ran Jeremy’s path.

I ran past this lighthouse:

Image of a lighthouse

And up to a memorial for some fallen British soldiers:

Image of a soldier's memorial
Because of the limited amount of traffic – I wasn’t feeling as stressed and was able to run faster and longer while feeling fantastic.  Who knew I hated cars so much?

Sadly – the majority of the week was filled with dark clouds and rain but we did manage to catch at least 3 days of sun (and it was enough to give me an awful heat rash).  On one of the cloudy days, we hit up Ocracoke Island.  We ate at some restaurant, poked into a terrible gift shop (called the Treasure Chest!), were horribly disappointed that the ice cream shop closed and then were entertained by this:

Images of birds hovering around a car
Those are a mass of birds hovering around a car because they threw out a bit of food.  Jeremy started that trend by throwing a Pringle at the birds.  Immediately a ton of birds hovered around the car… it was like an Alfred Hitchcock movie or something.

So because I only ran twice, did nothing else but sit on my tush (I read a lot!) and eat a ton of junk food… this week has been tough.  I feel like I’m in a fog.  I’m exhausted.  I’m hungry all the time for junk and my workouts have been pitiful.

OY!

Tomorrow I’m attempting another outdoor run.  My goal is to get up to at least 5 miles outside.  Maybe I’ll even sign up for the Baltimore Half Marathon?  Who knows.

have a great weekend!

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My Husband the Boy Scout

Despite being together for nearly 6 years (over 3 being married) – my husband still surprises me from time to time with his knowledge and skills in specific areas.

Example – he has a freakish knowledge about cars.  I’m not even kidding.  He knows more things about makes and models of old cars than I think is healthy.  I think that is an entirely different post.

This post is about how his spending 1 month (or some ridiculously short amount of time) in the Boy Scouts as a wee lad has really shaped some of his adult skillsets.  He has an incredible sense of direction.  Freakish almost.  We can be driving through a new city and while I am completely turned around and lost, he knows exactly where to go (or at least a good idea of how to get where we need to).  He pulled this skill out when we were driving through Edinburgh and got lost in the city.  Amazing.  And another reason I think we’d totally kick ass in the Amazing Race.

He can also read maps.  Isn’t it amazing how things like a GPS system or Google Maps has rendered most people my age and younger incapable of reading old school maps?  My husband can read them.

Anywho.  Last week we were in the Outer Banks (surprise!  bet you didn’t know we went on vacation).  On the last night, we all decided to have a little fire to make smores.  My husband busted out his sweet Boy Scout skills and made an awesome fire that lasted much longer than I wanted.  I bring to you lots of boring photos of a fire!  Enjoy!

Starting a fire

I realize he is sort of cheating by using a lighter but I was still impressed with his wood stacking skills.

Roasting marshmallows

Roasting marshmallows

Now a bunch of random pictures of twirling burning marshmallow roasting sticks at night with the camera  flash turned off:

Oh… we amuse ourselves so easily.

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The Lights of the Eiffel Tower

Okay – I’ve decided to make this my last post about Paris! I have too many pictures and too much to say but was only there for 2 FULL days. I’ve dragged this out too much! Plus, it just makes me hate being here even more. So for my sanity (and everyone else’s, I’m sure) – this is the last post. I’m dedicating this post to the many lights of the Eiffel Tower.

The twinkling lights that twinkle every hour on the hour for 5 minutes. Everyone gets really jazzed about the twinkling lights. I was too… the first 5 times. I was then like, “meh… they twinkle. Ooh – look at that crepe!”
Eiffel Tower on NYE

Blue lights!
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Crazy multi-colored light show:
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More crazy colored lights from the light show:
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This isn’t easy to see but the colors and pattern looked like a Christmas tree! (I accidentally left the flash on my point & shoot and this lady got in the way):
Eiffel Tower on NYE

My favorite light show display – the French flag!
Eiffel Tower on NYE

And my absolute favorite? The crepe stand just outside the Eiffel Tower:
Drunk off of Crepes

People have asked me what my favorite thing was in Paris. My response? The crepes. I got a chocolat-banane crêpe avec chantilly. Basically it was a crepe smeared with chocolate sauce and sliced bananas and then filled with the most divine whipped cream. So.f’n.good.

If you really want to see my ridiculous pictures, you can view my albums here:

Our Expedition in London

Our Photo Montage of Paris

I missed so many things and rushed around so much that I definitely didn’t get to fully appreciate Paris.  And now I can’t wait to go back!  Next time, however, I will go back in the Spring!  I met a lovely couple in the Montreal airport that told me that April/May was a great time to go.

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Trés gay, trés chic, Trés magnifique*

*lyrics from “Bonjour, Paris!” – Funny Face (One of my favorite movies)

I’m going to try to consolidate my 300+ pictures (many of which are “bad” according to my brother) into this one post. We did another round of marathon sight-seeing in Paris and two days was definitely NOT enough time to see and do everything I wanted to do.

First – if I had to do this all over again, I would have done more research! I would have created a plan. Going with the flow only works if you have more than 2 days… otherwise you waste time wandering around trying to find the open bus tour stops and dealing with a husband with frozen feet.

Second – my fear about Parisiens being rude to Americans? So NOT true. Or perhaps we just lucked out? Everyone was SO nice to us even though I completely blanked everytime someone spoke French to me. I would always open with “Bonjour” and could even order 2 coffees (deux cafes… ha!) but everyone knew immediately that we were American and would just start speaking English to us. And they were so nice. Everywhere. I loved it.

So now onto things we did. Well, I mentioned previously that we walked to the Arc de Triomphe. Because of that, I really wanted to go to the Louvre the next day. I didn’t know (apparently I’m an idiot) that the Louvre is one of the LARGEST museums in the world! You need an entire day or two just to go through the whole thing. We didn’t have that kind of time.

Because the Arc de Triomphe was so much closer to our hotel than we thought it was, we figured we could walk to the Louvre. It wasn’t that bad of a walk but when you factor in freezing temps, a long walk and then MORE walking and standing around inside a museum – it kind of blows.

We walked through the Tuileries Gardens and I imagine that it is probably gorgeous in the springtime.
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le Louvre!
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A note about the Louvre. We got to the Louvre around 10am. There was a line wrapped around for what appeared to be MILES. It was insane! We found the end of the line and one of the employees said that there was a 4 1/2 hour WAIT TIME. But then he also said there was another entrance into the museum. Hmm…

Jeremy had read something online about a small newspaper stand that sold tickets to the Louvre. We walked around the outside of the museum and didn’t see a single newspaper stand. After being told of the 4 1/2 hour long wait, I decided that it wasn’t worth it (since we were so pressed for time).

A few people started to walk away and we noticed a few quickly duck into the mall that is attached to the museum (Carrousel du Louvre). I really needed to pee and it wasn’t very clear where the bathrooms were located. And wouldn’t you know – we stumbled upon the small newspaper store IN THE MALL.  Jeremy noticed some folks buying tickets to the museum so we bought our tickets through them.

… and there is an entrance into the museum from the mall! Our 4 1/2 hour predicted wait time? It took us less than 20 minutes to get into the museum. Score!

The underground entrance into the Louvre:
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Because of the enormous amount of things to see in the Louvre, I had to prioritize. I decided that I was okay with just seeing the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo:
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(The Mona Lisa is quite popular)

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We stayed primarily in this wing of the museum and quickly walked through each section. We were only in there for about 2 hours but we were EXHAUSTED. We saw lots of religious art, egyptian art and greek statues. I liked this guy. Despite being naked, he’s totally hanging out like, “hey – what’s up?”
Naked Man in The Louvre

The Louvre was crazy crowded too:
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We ended up grabbing lunch at the food court in the Carrousel du Louvre because it was convenient. But holy hell – it was crowded in there too.

After the Louvre, we walked around for awhile. We saw the open bus tours driving around but couldn’t figure out where they stopped. We were getting tired so the idea of sitting on a bus and checking out sites seemed like a magical idea to us. But alas, when we finally DID find a stop (in front of the Musee d’Orsey) – we found out that they did NOT accept credit cards.

And we also didn’t go into the Musee d’Orsey because the line out front was insane! (This is the side of the museum)
Musee d'Orsey

It was also New Year’s Eve / Jeremy’s birthday. With the holiday and the limited amount of daylight, we knew we had to start heading back to the hotel.

We picked up a bottle of champagne and stopped into a patisserie to pick up a small dessert (to celebrate Jeremy’s birthday!). I didn’t take a picture of either.

We also stopped by a restaurant around the corner from our hotel because we saw that they had vegetarian pizzas. Yes, we were in France but we ate pizza. And? It was f’n fantastic! And our waitress was so sweet. She recommended a fantastic wine to go with our vegetarian pizza. I didn’t take pictures of us at dinner because I was trying to play it cool and not look SUPER touristy.

One thing I noticed in Paris was how slow the service was. I didn’t necessarily find this to be a bad thing. It appears most people took TIME to enjoy their meals and restaurants appreciate that (versus having your check thrown at you if you sit at your table longer than 30 minutes in America!).

Okay – crap, there is so much more to write. I’ll save the NYE Eiffel Tower stuff for another post. My Paris adventure to be continued…

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Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris*

*-Appleton,Thomas Gold
Quoted in Oliver Wendell Holmes The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table (1858), ch.6. Although the speaker in Holmes’s book is not identified by name, he is generally identified as Appleton.

The long awaited post about Paris (long awaited by the small handful of you that have asked me where the eff my Paris post is… haha!). What can I say about Paris?

I am in love.

I googled quotes about Paris and after weeding through crap about Paris Hilton, I came across the one I used as the title for this post because I thought it perfectly summed up how I feel about Paris.

First, Paris is ridiculously expensive. Oh my god. I haven’t even looked at our credit card bill and quite frankly, I don’t plan on it (a benefit of being married!).

Second, Paris is ridiculously COLD in January. I’m not sure why I expected anything else. It was freeeeeezing. There were a few times where Jeremy requested that we duck into a warm store so that he could regain the feeling back in his feet. I told him to stop acting like a baby. :-)

Finally, Paris on New Year’s Eve is kind of underwhelming. Let me take that back, watching the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve is underwhelming. I (and tons of other tourists) expected fireworks. Instead, we got a light show that they’d played every hour leading up to midnight. It was a cool light show on the Eiffel Tower, but when you’re expecting fireworks – it is a letdown. This is something I should have researched because apparently Paris only shoots fireworks off of the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day and only once on NYE (the millenium). Boo.

Still – despite everything above, I fell in love with the city. It was cold, the skies were gray and the trees/plant life were all dead… but it was still beautiful.

We only had 2 full days in Paris (something I wished I would have planned better) but we stayed right by the Eiffel Tower at the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel. I think choosing this particular location was one of the best choices we made! While the hotel wasn’t fabulous (it was a bit run down) – the staff was fantastic, the breakfast was good and the location was amazing. However, our room view of the Eiffel Tower? Here it is:
A View from our Paris Hotel Room
The Eiffel Tower is right behind the building on the left. Ha!

However, this is right in front of our hotel:
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We landed in Paris on December 30th around 9pm.

While I was super excited about this trip – I was also terrified of Paris. I’ve always heard that Parisiens are rude to Americans and even though I took French in high school (and a little in college) – I was not up to par with my French. I can read bits and pieces of French. I can even say that I don’t speak French (or that I speak very little French). However, anytime someone spoke French to me while we were in Paris – my mind went blank. I would look like a deer caught in headlights and sometimes, when I did understand what was being asked, I would turn to Jeremy (someone that has never taken French classes) and tell him what they said as though he would turn to them and reply in perfect French. Don’t ask. My mind was spinning!

Anyways.

We landed at night and immediately I wanted to go for a walk over to the Eiffel Tower. I squealed when we pulled up to our hotel.

We picked a good night to walk around the Eiffel Tower. They were practicing their New Year’s Eve light show (but I was unaware that this was “practice” – I just assumed it was like this every night). Music was blasting, tons of people were walking around. It was awesome.

We walked over the Seine River and found a great spot to take pictures with the Eiffel Tower behind us. A TON of people were doing the same thing so we had to walk down the street quite a bit to find a spot away from other people.
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And Paris lived up to the whole “city of lights” thing. The energy was amazing. The city was lit up beautifully. And there were even a few river cruises that had some blinding lights.

We decided to just walk aimlessly (but always towards lights). We came across a traffic circle and I realized that we were pretty close to the Arc De Triomphe. So we walked up the Champs Elysee to check it out.

And let me just say that it was nearly midnight at this point and there were no signs of people going home. It was crazy crowded everywhere!

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This area is jam packed with high end stores (Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Chanel, Dior, Christian Laboutin… you name it… I was DYING of fashion envy).

We walked back to the hotel and passed out knowing that we had a very big day ahead of us (and me secretly trying to figure out where I was going to go SHOPPING!). The only thing really on my agenda at that point was to go to the Louvre. (we had seen the Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triomphe so I was good on that front)

Our Paris adventure to be continued…

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A Jolly Good Time

As I mentioned yesterday, my husband and I took a super secret vacation the week after Christmas. I didn’t intend for it to be so secret – and in fact, didn’t realize just how secretive I kept it until I shared my Flickr pics with friends and got lots of, “you went to Paris?!” responses.

We booked the trip very last minute and with the holiday and my graduation – it just became a topic that fell by the wayside. I also failed to plan anything for this trip (something that I kind of regret).

I have always wanted to go to London and Paris. I still hold on to a dream of moving to Europe and living an uber fabulous life. This short trip just solidified that dream for me.

If I had to do it all over again, aside from wishing I had done some actual planning, I wouldn’t have squeezed in 2 large cities into 1 week. We definitely rushed around to catch the sights (something I like to refer to as “marathon sight-seeing”) and it left us exhausted. We need a vacation from our vacation!

We spent 3 full days in London and 2 full days in Paris (2 days were lost traveling).

I bring to you… the jolly good time in London.

We flew out on December 26th. I was so unprepared for this trip that we didn’t even pack until the MORNING OF THE FLIGHT (another decision I regretted… as I was feeling pretty unstylish abroad). With the layover in Ottawa and the time difference, we didn’t get into London until Sunday morning.

We stayed at the London Bridge Hotel. It was a great location (right outside of an Underground stop and very close to the Tower Bridge and Tower of London). Our room was a shoebox but it was very cute and clean. Our bed took up the majority of the room (and it was not very comfortable) but overall, I liked the hotel.
London Bridge Hotel room
London Bridge Hotel room

Breakfast was included and while it wasn’t anything impressive (most hotel included breakfasts are just a buffet of crap) – I did appreciate the french pressed coffee. Regretfully, I never took the plunge and drank tea.

Because we had such a short amount of time there and SO MUCH TO SEE, we did one of those open bus tours. I love those things! Because of the off season, the tour company offered a 2 day pass for the price of 1. We checked out: Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Tower of London… so much. To keep your attention, I’m just going to post a bunch of pictures of what we saw.

Tower Bridge:
The Tower Bridge in London

Buckingham Palace (so much smaller than I imagined it):
Outside of Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey:
Westminster Abbey

Tower of London (a part of it):
Tower of London

Big Ben:
Big Ben!

Trafalgar Square:
Trafalgar Square in London

The Top of the Monument to the Great Fire of London (you climb 311 steps…and get a certificate):
Top of the Monument to the Great Fire of London

Inside the London Eye:
A View from the London Eye

And that’s just a small chunk of our trip. Another highlight was checking out a play in the west End. Originally I wanted to check out “Wicked” but read the paper and saw that Keira Knightley was starring in a play. I got starstruck and opted to see that show. So we went and saw The Misanthrope. We walked into the box office at 2:15pm one day and asked if there were any available tickets for the 7pm show. The guy said there were standing room only seats available (boo!) and then mentioned that there were box seats still available that normally fetched 125 pounds A PIECE. But since it was the day of and they weren’t sold yet, they offered them to us for half off. SCORE!
The Misanthrope - London

As for eats… here is where I wished I would have planned better. I didn’t know that London was voted one of the best vegetarian cities IN THE WORLD. We basically winged it most of the time and ate at a few unmemorable places. We did grab indian food one night but apparently went to a not very impressive indian restaurant (um – I thought London was known for having great indian food?).

But one day (our last day… which happened to be a half day since we were flying out that afternoon) – I forced Jeremy to make the quick trip to Harrod’s. When I realized that I couldn’t afford a pair of socks there, we decided to grab lunch. Due to the time crunch, we ran across the street to the Harrod’s food court type place and dined at a Lebanese restaurant that offered appetizers on a conveyor belt:
Conveyor Belt Lebanese Cuisine

And the last thing I want to mention is the Tate Modern Museum. I *love* modern art. It is unbelievably entertaining (much more so than 16th century art). One of their big exhibits was the “Big Black Box”. And its just what the title describes. It is a giant black box that you walk into.

It is pitch black and as you’re walking in, you can’t see a damn thing. You run into people and you wonder what the f you’re doing. And then you reach the back of the box and turn around. At this point, you realize that (1) your eyes have dilated and (2) you can see EVERYONE walking into the box. So you can see the people who are scared of the unknown and you can see those people who have no issue running into the dark. Weird.
The Black Box of the Tate Modern Museum
Tate Modern Museum London

Also in this museum was a featured artist named Paul McCarthy. There was an art installation in a separate room with a giant sign warning of graphic images, nudity, blah blah blah. Of course I had to go in.

Oh.my.god. I watched a video of a man throwing around raw meat in a bathtub and dry heaving, a man rubbing what looked like lip balm on his weiner and I don’t even remember what else… the images are burned into my brain FOREVER. You really should read his wikipedia entry. Go ahead. Go. This man is REAL.

We also went on a Jack the Ripper walking tour (led by the author of a Jack the Ripper book that I giddily purchased and had him sign like a dork).

It was freezing and it drizzled/lightly rained for 2 of the days we were there. I definitely would love to go back but PLAN my trip a bit better. Maybe planning a trip (and perhaps giving myself more time there) would allow me to actually RELAX on the trip and not make me feel like I was running a damn marathon.

And I never drank any English tea!

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