Part 3: Bordeaux, France

There are some cities that are perfect in the rain. When I am in Greece for my 31st birthday am I thinking this? Absolutely not. However, in a romantic, land-locked city such as Paris or Bordeaux, there’s something about a grey, drizzly day that makes the atmosphere even more dreamy – if that’s even possible! You have to walk closer to your lover to huddle under a shared umbrella, and the dull, grey skies makes the city’s hues splendidly vivid. You can’t spend too much time outside, so you don’t feel guilty for sleeping in, and spend your days hunkered down inside some of the most charming old stone buildings sipping a cold beer (or perhaps something a bit stronger!) by candlelight. Yes, I am an optimist and a romantic, but I love a good gloomy day every once in a while! And while our friend trip to Bordeaux wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of romance, we had been treated a glorious days of sun, and so on our last day in town, when it rained, I didn’t bat an eye but merely grabbed my rain coat and umbrella, and headed out for an adventure! We had spent a day in the city and a day exploring the seaside, and so on our final day in Bordeaux, we had to do the wine thing!In addition to being a stunning world heritage site, Saint Emilion is also one of the most notable wine regions in Bordeaux. With a history that dates back to the Romans, Saint Emilion is a charming stone village surrounded by thousands of acres of vibrant green vineyards. Continue reading

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Part 2: Bordeaux, France

As much as I love exploring a new city or spending a drizzly day hidden in a dreamy wine cellar, our visit to the Dune of Pilat was by far my favorite adventure in Bordeaux. There’s just something about eating oysters by the dozen at the sea, with sandy toes and wind swept hair that feels right (says the Maine girl in me!) Add some awesome friends and a glass of crisp white wine, and you have the makings for an idyllic French adventure.On day two in Bordeaux, we were blessed with some beautiful weather. No-jacket, bare-legs kinda weather, which was quite the departure from our previous day in Bordeaux, when we roamed around bundled up like bunnies (do bunnies bundle? I don’t know, but it sounded cute :) To take advantage of the balmy weather, we popped on our flip flops and headed to the seaside for the day. Continue reading

Part 1: Bordeaux, France

I haven’t done this in a while, but there are too many photos from our wonderful time in Bordeaux, so I will be splitting this up into *gasp* a three part post! I’m not sure where to start, as the entire trip was dreamy (pardon my French) as fuck, but perhaps I’ll begin with our time in the city, and then get into a few of our French field trips a bit later.As you may know, King’s Day is a big to-do in Holland. To celebrate the monarchy, the Dutch dance, drink, sell second hand wares in the parks and along the roads, eat greasy street food, dress up (mainly in orange), and participate in a slew of other debaucherous activities (read an old King’s Day post here). The entire city shuts down, the trams don’t run, the streets and canals are packed with party goers, and music blasts from large speakers in the main squares for almost 24 hours straight. It’s definitely one of my favorite days of the year, and this year was especially jubilant as Amie, Jess, and Andrew flew all the way over from the US to get celebrate with us! As the trip to Europe is not a casual jaunt, we also tacked a little French getaway onto their European visit (I bet you were wondering where I was going with King’s Day in the Bordeaux post!) Continue reading

Hiking in Morzine, France

Morzine is a traditional market-town nestled in the French Apls. The little village is strung with chalets that run through the center and then high up into the adjacent mountains. In the winter, Morzine is a skier’s paradise, and in the summer, it’s a desolate haven, filled with colorful flowers, restaurants that rarely fill up, and cool shady streets. The mountains are speckled with local kids playing football, and the far and few who do come to the area in the off-season to mountain bike, hike, or cave.While I have some pretty photos to share, I don’t have much to tell you about Morzine. Sometimes you go on a vacation and the destination is so foreign and exciting, you simply MUST sample all of the local cuisine, fully embrace the nightlife, shop to your heart’s content, and wander all of the major landmarks endlessly until you feel you’ve truly consumed the place. Well, going to Morzine was kind of the opposite. I tagged along with Kai and his friends, we stayed in a cute little Lincoln-Log-like condo at the base of the mountains, and just chilled. We had breakfast and lunch at home, we climbed the hills, we went swimming, we took adequate beer breaks, and we walked through the little town of Morzine.  Continue reading

St. Tropez, Part 3

Hi blog friends! It’s been a while since my last check-in. I hopped across the pond last week to spend some time in Maine with the family, and of course came down with a pretty bad cold the second I was off the plane and under my mom’s watchful eye. So I’ve been alternating between trying to be on holiday and trying to sleep off this nasty cold, which took up a good chunk of time! Now, I’m finally back in action (wooo), and I have some fun USA posts to share – but before I do, let’s finish up St. Tropez!IMG_7513Our last day in St. Tropez was spent at the beach. After a quick breakfast on the terrace at the hotel . . .  Continue reading

St. Tropez, Part 2

My gosh it is hot out today. The weather in Amsterdam is quite smoldering, and although we have air conditioning and heaps of sunlight pouring into the office, I can’t help look out the window and lament sitting at my desk, because, damn the sun looks fantastic out there! This hot weather is reminiscent of St. Tropez, minus the pool, beach, and fancy-pants room service.IMG_7537 Day 1 in St. Tropez was filled with excitement and formal activities, but day two was completely unplanned and laid back. Continue reading

Sid Lee does St. Tropez, Part 1

While I love blogging, my day job is also pretty cool. I work at a global advertising agency called Sid Lee (some office photos here), where we make ads for clients like Facebook, Red Bull, and Absolut. Advertising is very much a work hard play hard industry, and the brands you work with often contribute to the overall culture of the agency. There are countless late nights and busy weekends, but on the flip side, at Sid Lee, there are also expensed dinners, cool colleagues, agency parties, and many, many Absolut cocktails. Recently, to say ‘thanks’ for a long year of hard work, the Sid Lee Amsterdam team was treated to a long weekend in paradise. IMG_7551I briefly mentioned our travel regime in my previous post – our airplane left Schiphol at 6am – which meant we had to meet in the airport lobby bright and early at 4.15am. Of course I pulled an all-nighter (I was THAT person at the airport) and stumbled through security and found my seat on the plane in a tipsy, blurry haze. After a few hours of dozing on the plane, and then on a bus, we arrived in St. Tropez.  Continue reading

A Weekend Trip to Paris

I’ve blogged about Paris before (here, here, here, and here). In fact, since living in Amsterdam, I’ve been to Paris four or five times. It’s super easy to get to, the train ride down is fairly inexpensive, and I’m consistently amazed at how drastically different the culture is, despite only being three short hours away from Amsterdam. I love France. What other culture can make snails taste so damn good, and cigarette smoking look so chic? I adore strolling through Amsterdam at night, along the yellow-lit canals. The beauty of historic Amsterdam always makes me grin. But Paris surely gives Amsterdam a run for its money, in beauty and in charm.

IMG_4404Last weekend, Radisson Blu invited me to stay at the Dokhan’s Hotel in Trocadéro. Amie was in town visiting, so I asked if she could join as well. This was met with an enthusiastic ‘yes’, so Amie and I planned to end our lady-holiday with a weekend in the City of Light. After a long weekend in Turkey, and four nights in Amsterdam, we ended our Dutch adventures with one last crazy night out, and then got on a train bright and early the next morning, headed south for the last leg of our trip in Paris.  Continue reading

Paris Part 3

I’m just going to go ahead now and apologize for the sheer amount of photographs in this post. I wish I could be a cool, curated blogger. You know, the kind of blogger who teases a glimpse into their charmed life, while still remaining aloof and mysterious. I suck at being this blogger for two reasons:

A) I feel guilty deleting photos. I’m bad at throwing things away – discarding memories or moments in time.

B) I’m not a superb photographer. Some people can take a photo that says 1,000 words. We’ll, my photos say about 30, and therefore I need quite a few to stitch together a cohesive blog post.

And on this occasion, I think the topic is also to blame for the volume of photographs. I mean, it’s Paris! Ah, Paris :) Can you forgive me?

As there are lots of photos to share, I wont waste any more time on words. I’ll pick up where I left off last time. . . .The day was beautiful. We’d spent the morning antique shopping and thrifting, and then explored Le Marais, where we had an epic falafel for lunch.

Following this massive middle eastern feast, we were both groaning and stuffed. So we decided the best plan of action was to keep moving. We headed for the Notre Dame Cathedral, intent on checking out the cathedral’s stunning facade.

IMG_1206I’ve seen some lovely cathedrals in the past year (Lisbon here, Cologne here) but what stood out to me about the Notre-Dame was the detail. It reminded me of a pristine white wedding cake, with immaculate attention to detail. It wasn’t the highest cathedral I’ve ever seen, and it wasn’t the most grand. But every brick, nook, and slightly curved stone looked incredibly intentional. And despite the size, the cathedral still looked fragile, like it was cut out of sugar cubes or fine grains of sand.

IMG_1218A hundred steps away from the Notre-Dame is the Pont de l’Archevêché (in English, the Archbishop’s Bridge). The Pont de l’Archevêchéis crosses over the Seine, and is the narrowest road bridge in Paris.

However, what makes the Pont de l’Archevêchéis truly special is love. Hundreds of thousands of locks are chained to the bridge. Some are engraved, some scribbled upon with a sharpie marker. Others are more ornate and feature a photograph, or a bright floral design. But they all have one thing in common – they were chained to the bridge in a declaration of sweet, sweet love.

IMG_1225IMG_1228Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world, and it makes my heart flutter fast to think that a small token of my love with B has been left behind, permanently chained to this whimsical city of love.
IMG_1222IMG_1233IMG_1239Our lock was small and discreet. We snapped it to the back side of the bridge, where it would be more visible to the boats floating by. We didn’t write anything on the lock, which felt more special, as if it were a secret between just B and I (and you of course!)

I’ve heard the bridge gets too heavy, and the locks have to be snipped off regularly so they don’t interfere with the walkway or weigh down the bridge. So as safe measure we threw our lock’s key into the Seine. Paris, you cannot get rid of us ;) IMG_1247I’ll be honest, B wasn’t really into the whole love-lock thing. He’s not one to declare his love, or do something because everyone else does it. He tolerates my blog (although in reality he’s a much more private person) and the idea of a romantic weekend in Paris was not his dream trip. BUT there was this one moment on the bridge, where B said something along the lines of ‘this is totally cool!’

OK, so maybe he wasn’t that enthusiastic. But he did admit that it wasn’t as corny as he thought, and looking back, I think he genuinely enjoyed himself on the trip as well. Win for team romance! Yar! :)
IMG_1265 IMG_1267Following our love lock adventure, we wandered through a sunny park, towards Shakespeare and Company.
IMG_1268Shakespeare and Company is a bookstore and reading library that opened in 1919. During the 1920s, it was a retreat for writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford. Today you can browse the shop’s books, or climb upstairs and find a quiet reading nook to enjoy your favorite book, or perhaps even pen your own!
IMG_1276There are ‘no photograph’ signs throughout the shop, so I was respectful of the writers working in silence, and did not distract them with the loud snap of my DSLR. But we did wander through the hallways, which boasted of typewriters, sleeping tourists, and avid readers. I almost bought a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, but they only had a soft cover which I don’t think would fare to well in my kitchen. IMG_1274Around 4pm the day started to get hot. As in, we need to drink iced coffee and put on our shorts hot. This was the first really warm day of the year, and I think B and I were both a bit overwhelmed – it completely unexpected, and still the first weekend in March!! We walked along the Seine for a bit, and finally decided to hit up a museum for some shade.IMG_1286 IMG_1298 IMG_1288IMG_1307IMG_1310 IMG_1348We debated going to the Louvre . . . .
IMG_1337. . . . and hum’d and ha’d and twirled about outside. IMG_1331IMG_1342But in the end we decided on the Musee d’Orsay, which was only a short walk away.
IMG_1361IMG_1364While we waited in line to buy our tickets, a security guard came over and told us we could sneak in for free. The museum was only open for another hour, and the exhibit rooms would start to close in the next 45 minutes. Thankful and renewed by a bout of shade, we made a b-line for the popular top floor featuring work from Renoir, Monet, and my personal favorite, Degas. IMG_1367You’re not supposed to photograph the art, but I did take one cheeky iPhone snap of a Monet beauty. photoIn addition to the artwork, there were some stunning views of the city scape.
IMG_1368 IMG_1372The museum is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built in 1898. A lot of the original architecture, including the large roman numeral time clocks, has been preserved.IMG_1379IMG_1387IMG_1391We were soon kicked out of the museum, as it was closing for the day. Luckily the crepe cart outside was still open, so we were able to load up on sweet Parisian delights.
IMG_1393 IMG_1397I don’t think I’ve ever seen such big Nutella jars in my entire life!!IMG_1405B got a dreamy Nutella crepe. I was just going in for a large, molten chocolate bite, when I remembered that I had given up chocolate for lent :( So I watched B eat his delicious crepe, and bought an apple from a nearby corner store for myself. Boo.

Our last stop of the day was the Arc de Triomphe. I’d heard the views were stunning at sunset, so we decided to say goodbye to the sun from the top of the monument. We high-tailed it through the Tuileries Garden and up the Champs-Élysées, racing against mother nature. IMG_1408Although two sunny chairs called to us in the park, we kept up a speedy pace.IMG_1409IMG_1416IMG_1410We made it to the Arc de Triomphe with minutes to spare.IMG_1487We whirled up the long, twisting staircase . . . IMG_1471IMG_1420And made it to the top just in time.IMG_1447IMG_1428 IMG_1438IMG_1443IMG_1453Goodnight sun, see you tomorrow!IMG_1450IMG_1470 IMG_1462IMG_1457After the sun set, the air started to cool. To be honest, this was a relief, as the day had been long and hot.IMG_1502IMG_1504We did a quick scan for the nearest metro, and rode the train back to the flat in exhausted silence. I’m sure we walked at least 20 miles that day, and had we been in Amsterdam, it would have been a pizza and a movie night for sure. But it was our last evening in Paris, and we had a dinner reservation to attend. IMG_1507So after a quick shower and shoe change, we set out once more, headed towards Mollard. Mollard is an over-the-top French restaurant, dishing up all the Parisian classicsIMG_1525The decor is swanky and very not-timeless – at one point in time Mollard was considered one of the most beautiful establishments in Paris. Today it’s a blast from the past, with ornate tiled ceilings, tall pillars and long, floor-length table cloths. The waiters all wear tuxedos and bow ties, and scuttle around to ensure you barely have to lift a fork. IMG_1543IMG_1566We started with crab and asparagus salad, and foie gras. I’m a foodie, but this was my first time eating foie gras. To be honest, I wasn’t even 100% sure what it was, but I knew it was a coveted French delicacy, and when I saw it on the menu I just went for it. A google search after would churn my stomach, but in the interim, I really, really enjoyed this starter.IMG_1531 IMG_1532Our waiter didn’t speak a word of English, so our entire meal was a bit of a mystery. I went for the fish of the day, and was delightfully surprised by a light, white fish, a large pile of french lentils, some delicate greens, and a beautiful flower garnish.

IMG_1538B went for the duck, inspired by my meal from the night before.IMG_1541We ordered one bottle of wine, and then another. It was one of those sleepy-tipsy dinners, where the night feels dreamlike and surreal.

IMG_1547This dream-like state was proved true when desert arrived. I have never tasted a more delicious sweet, and am pretty sure this creme brulee was a fictitious product of my imagination!!

IMG_1550IMG_1556B ordered the puff pastry with vanilla ice cream and warm dark chocolate sauce. I hate him, and his delicious chocolate.IMG_1552By the end of our second bottle of wine, the restaurant had emptied and we were the only guests.IMG_1564We splurged on a cab home, and fell into bed, weighed down by our creme brulee bellies.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but we woke up the next day completely sunburnt!! I don’t think I could have asked for better weather, better food, or better company.

One more Paris post to come!

xo Ali

Paris Part 2

I could spend hours just gazing up at the Parisian architecture. The contrast of dark, curved window balustrades against light-washed stone is not only romantic, but mesmerizing. I can now say from experience that waking up on the other side of a beautiful Parisian facade is equally charming.IMG_1018 copyWe stayed in the 16th, and although our flat was small, it had some stunning views.
IMG_1034IMG_1020Waking up to warm blue skies was a delight, but paled in comparison to our crystal clear view of the Eiffel Tower. Good morning Paris!! When you have a view like this outside your window, you get dressed FAST. Watching the city is beautiful, but such a tease. B and I threw on clothes quick and hit the streets of Paris bright and early, eager to explore and discover a new city.IMG_1177The sunshine was on full force, and all of the trees were in bloom. Although our visit was in early March, the temperature was in the mid-60’s and we ended up carrying our jackets around most of the time. So much for the hats and scarves I packed!
IMG_1184IMG_1074IMG_1066IMG_1067Our first stop of the day was Les Puces de Saint-Ouen – the world’s biggest flea market. IMG_1059After an evening of cabs, we decided to brave the metro, which turned out to be quite underwhelming. It wasn’t packed, the trains ran regularly, and we quickly made a game of trying to guess the pronunciation of each stop before it was officially announced over the train’s speaker. We lost almost every time!

When we arrived at the market, we were greeted by miles of century-old knick-knacks. Stalls and long alleyways were lined with treasures and junk – old postcards, vintage linens, crystal decanters, fur coats, and broken cameras. Couches, dolls, doilies, and shawls. Les Puces de Saint-Ouen is a hoarder’s heaven. It’s like a massive French yard sale  – and it’s one of my new favorite places.
IMG_1049IMG_1058We were a bit intimidated at first, but once we got bartering, we found it hard to stop. Everything is for sale, and all of the prices are negotiable. Aim low, bargain hard, and you can leave with some lovely treasures.
IMG_1055IMG_1050B and I scooped up a vintage cake knife for our wedding, and a glass candy dish for our home. I also bought a wool kilt and a leather fanny pack. IMG_1096Soon our pocket cash ran out and it was time to head back into central Paris. IMG_1085IMG_1103IMG_1104 IMG_1116 IMG_1110 IMG_1108We strolled around until hunger hit, and we then went in search of falafel. A friend had recommended L’As Du Fallafel, where the crispy garlic chickpea fritters, creamy hummus, and fried eggplant have a deliciously awesome reputation. IMG_1133You can sit in or take away, but take away seemed to be the more popular option.Paris LinesDespite the long line leading up to the window, we only waited about fifteen minutes before being served. Before you hop in line, make sure to go into the store and pay first. You’ll be given a receipt, and then directed into the line outside. We saw a few people get turned away at the window, after waiting in line for some time, because they hadn’t yet paid inside. So remember to pay inside first!IMG_1148Which is dangerous, as the shelves are stacked with delicious looking treats.Paris TreatsIMG_1144We debated finding a park bench or grassy area to plop down on, but in the end we really couldn’t wait, and dug into our Middle Eastern bounty right there on the sidewalk.  Paris FalafelIt was delicious. The falafel were crisp and gently seasoned. The hummus was creamy and the harissa had just the right amount of spice. Underneath it all was a light and crunchy bed of slaw, rounding out the meal in a way that almost made you feel healthy. Almost.

After eating a falafel the size of my head, it was time for more walking. IMG_1070I think the neighborhood area of Le Marais was my favorite in Paris. There were beautiful buildings, but also a unique blend of art and culture. I would compare this neighborhood to Shoreditch in London, or maybe even de Pijp in Amsterdam. Most cities have one – a lovely-artsy neighborhood with hip shops, interesting street art, and interesting galleries. Just the kind of place you want to spend a weekend, or grab a coffee in the sun with girlfriends. IMG_1162 IMG_1163B took this next photo – I have to say, he somehow manages to always get the best one in the bunch!IMG_1169IMG_1186We curved in and out of shaded streets, and even debated an ice cream cone. At one point we even got lost-lost, which was actually kind of fun – not knowing where we were, or really caring, in Paris.IMG_1187We were disoriented for maybe ten minutes, before hitting La Seine. We watched boats pass by, and I swear to you, I waved at every single one. Paris has this funny effect on me. . . where I want to smoke a sexy cigarette or dance in the streets to the buskers. Paris makes me feel carefree. Or maybe it’s just the first warm, sunny day of spring ;)IMG_1193That’s enough Paris for one evening. I have two more Paris updates to share, but you’ll have to wait another day or two for the next installment ;) Until then!

xo ali