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

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City Insider: Meet Lou in Paris

A few weeks ago, I was featured on Lou’s brilliant blog. Lou is a British gal living in Paris, and her blog serves up a delicious slice of Parisian life. The photos are beautiful, her tone is personal, and her French adventures are just so darn charming. As I was headed to Paris myself last weekend, I decided to ask Lou some insider questions before the trip. And as they were so fantastic, I thought, why not share them with you here?! So as a preamble to my own Paris adventures, here are some lovely Paris tips from a lovely paris insider :)

Welcome to the blog Lou! Can you tell me about yourself, Paris, and your blog?

Hi Ali – thanks for having me on the blog. So, my name is Lou and I’m originally from the UK. I’ve been in Paris now for 5 years and my main reason for moving to Paris was to be with my boyfriend. I blog at www.lou-in-paris.com and originally started the blog over 2 years ago, for friends and family to keep track of my life on the other side of the Channel (like you right?) Over the past year I’ve made more effort to write for a wider audience and about things going on in the world that interest me, as well as the more personal stuff.

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 in a Onesie

Let’s talk about something exciting . . . something like Paris.

ParisI’ve been to Paris for work a few times, but never for play. I’m now getting extremely stoked because in a few weeks I’ll be traveling Paris with B for a long, fun weekend! As I’m a super-nuts-o-planner, I’ve spent the evening mapping out the must-dos, researching restaurants, and pinning some lovely Parisian spots – all while wearing my onesie, as you do. Usually I share my travel recommendations following the trip, but this time around, I wanted to share my plans ahead of time, incase you wanted to chime in with any recommendations as well!Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 8.58.52 PMSo first things first – let’s talk location. We’ll be staying right by the Eiffel Tower. ^ ^ This is the view from our flat. The most important thing was to be in the center of it all . . . . to be able to look out the window and think ‘ah, this is Paris!’ I don’t plan on spending much time at the flat, but I’m excited to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle from my bed. I found this place on AirBnb. I’ll be traveling a lot in the next few months with Radisson Blu (as I mentioned here), so I thought it would be cool to switch it up a bit and stay in an apartment this time around. I love the luxuries of hotels – the deep tubs, fuzzy bathrobes, and well tucked sheets. But staying in a French dude’s flat for a weekend is also cool, because you get to pretend to be a local :)

Now on to the second most important thing, food.smukkekagerI’ve been snooping through Timeout, as when I was in Lisbon they gave the absolute best restaurant recommendations. Here are a few food stops I’m contemplating:

1) Pierre Hermé – This stop is non-negotiable. Last time I was in Paris, I stocked up at Ladurée, so this time around I’m going for Hermé. If you’re going to go to Paris, you need to eat macaroons. I’m not just making this up. It’s the law.

2) Angelina – This is another stop I will definitely be making. Rumor has it Angelina has the thickest, most divine hot chocolate in all of Paris. You know I’m a sweets woman, so you know I will be at Angelina!

3) Pizza Chic – This is on the maybe list for lunch. Usually I only need to eat twice a day, especially if one of the meals is hot chocolate and macaroons. But B is a three times a day guy, and I know he’ll be starving by 1pm. So I’ve picked out a few lunch places, and Pizza Chic was top-recommended on Timeout.

4) L’As Du Fallafel – This is another lunch spot I picked out with B in mind, but hell, based on the reviews I may have to try it as well! Supposedly L’As du Fallafel has the best falafel in all of Paris. Going to have to test this theory . . .

5) Le Dauphin – I stumbled across this restaurant a while ago via another blogger, and have been wanting to give it a try. Vibrant and sexy, Le Dauphin is sister restaurant to Le Chateaubriand, which is *supposedly* the one of the best restaurants in the world. Le Dauphin is much more pocket-friendly, and is €23 for Starter+Main or €27 for Starter+Main+Dessert. Downside? It’s quite a hike from our flat.

6) Restaurant Astier – Right next door to Le Dauphin – also a bit of a trek from our flat. BUT Timeout gives it rave reviews, and Astier’s special menu is €45 and comes with a starter, a main, an unlimited cheese platter (!!!!) and desert. I know it’s a ways out, but I just keep thinking, unlimited cheese, unlimited cheese! (photo below).

photo-3

7) Brasserie Mollard – Mollard is the third option for dinner on Saturday. They’re a bit closer to our accommodation and the interior is rockin’. They have all of the Parisian classics, and you can get the set menu – a first course, main course, and dessert for €33,70.

8) Au Pied de cochon – I’ve already told B we’re going to Au Pied de cochon for dinner on Friday night. They’re open 24/7, so even though our train doesn’t get in until 9.30pm, we can still have a late, stylish dinner. Hey, we’re only in Paris for two nights! You can get courses for €34.50. Au Pied de cochon are known for their delicious pork, but I’m more of a tartar lady myself. Decisions, decisions!

9) Moisan – One of the most popular bakeries in Paris. Always a line, the tarts are supposedly outstanding. Link here.

Next on the list are things to see – outdoor attractions, parks to walk by, monuments to photograph, bridges, etc.Louvre_at_night_centered1) Parks – On my list are Monceau Park, Tuileries Garden, Luxembourg Gardens, and Parc De Bagatelle. This is a hard one, because loving a park is so subjective. Some people like trees, some people like quiet, and some people like people watching! From what I can see Monceau Park seems to be the most beautiful, and a trip to Luxembourg Gardens is the thing to do. I’ve saved all my park-picks on a map, and I’ll probably make it to whichever just so happens to be nearby at the time.luxembourg-gardens-paris2) Monuments – This list is obvious, but yell at me if I’ve missed anything important! I’m going to make a point of visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Place des Vosges, and the Arc de Triomphe. mostly-paris-6103) Love Lock Bridge – You can’t go to Paris with your partner without locking your love on the bridge. I mean, if you’re in love, and you’re in Paris, this is just the ultimate cliche-cherry on the incredibly delicious cliche-sunday.

Second to last on the list is history. Paris has such a rich and romantic culture, from the Mona Lisa to the Renaissance architecture. On the list I have . . url-11) Orsay Museum – I did some research, as I wasn’t sure if I would have enough time to go to both the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre. When asked, most people chose the Musée d’Orsay. I was still a bit torn, but then saw that the special exhibit at the Musée d’Orsay is Gustave Doré (1832–1883): Master of Imagination. Sold.

2) The Louvre – Ok, so in the end I couldn’t choose just one. I am going to have to apply my ‘when in Rome’ mentality, and get up at 8am on Sunday to go to the Louvre. I will be there at 9am when the doors open, I will make a B-line for the Mona Lisa. If it gets crowded and overwhelming, I will leave. But you can’t go to Paris without seeing the Mona Lisa. She’s almost as important culturally as Pierre Hermé.

3) Notre Dame Cathedral – The only other history-related attraction I feel like I HAVE to see in Paris is the Notre Dame Cathedral. If we have time, we’ll climb it, if not, I’m happy gazing from the ground :)

Last on my to-do in Paris list is shopping . . . url-2I have a few places picked out, but they’re not the high-street shops as you might expect. Sure, maybe some gals dream of Chanel and Louis Vitton when they envision a trip to Paris. But personally, I’m more excited for thrifting!! Thrifting and books.

1) Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen – This is the biggest flea market in Paris. Hell, it’s the biggest flea market in the world. I’ve heard people say they spent three days at the Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen and they STILL did not manage to see the whole thing. My goal is to come early on Saturday morning, even though it’s by far the furthest attraction from our flat. I’m going to buy junk. Lots and lots of junk. I’m a thrifting lady, and I’m not ashamed. Hence the next spot on the list . . .

2) Vintage stores – There are three or four vintage stores I want to check out in Paris, one of which is a pay by the kilo shop!! Kiloshop, Free’p’n Star, and Rag & Vertiges are all located in the same shopping district, conveniently close to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Love Lock bridge. So I will be dragging B into a few thrifty stores, if only to momentarily satisfy my bargin-hunting-heart.

3) Shakespeare & Company – Also located nearby is Shakespeare & Company, the most famous bookstore in Paris – a book-worm’s dream. This is the kind of place you buy a book, just to say you bought a book. And then you treasure that book and pass it down to your kids and say, hey, this book is from Shakespeare & Company in Paris. Yes, I want to be able to say that!

If I’ve missed anything, please let me know!! I want to hear your Paris favorites and top recommendations :)

Now, maybe you’re wondering why the title of this post mentions Paris and a onesie . . .

I’m not feeling very well tonight, which is fine. I’m happy snuggled in bed drinking hot cocoa, surfing the web and mindlessly absorbing the internet. Any other night this might be considered boring, but not tonight. Tonight I have something special. Tonight, I’m wearing a brand new onesie.IMG_0274My dork level has risen about 10% thanks to this new wardrobe piece. I’d had my eye on the jumpsuits at OnePiece for a while, and was totally working up the courage to spend €2oo on a pair of pajamas. The running dialogue in my head went something like this . . . You’ll have this jumpsuit for the rest of your life. You can wear it all winter. You’ll never need to buy another pair of pajams ever again. You’re alway cold. It will be totally worth it. I was very close to turning my online shopping basket into a reality. But then, at lunch time on Friday, I was walking down the Albert Cuyp Market and I came across a onesie blowout sale! Off all the things . .output_8wmCZzThis soft grey onesie was on sale for only €10! I used to avoid buying clothes from the Albert Cuyp Market. All of the shops and stalls just feel a bit synthetic. But then, just before Christmas, I found some lovely, handmade Italian leather purses. They would have been beautiful Christmas gifts, but as they were only €15 I was worried they were a bit cheap or fake. I didn’t buy them. About a month later, I saw the exact same purses for sale on the nine-streets, going for €85!! So I’m learning to go with my gut when it comes to the Albret Cuyp Market, as many retailers shop with the same vendors and then just package and price items differently. The second my hand grazed the inside of this onesie, I knew I’d found something special. It was soft and felt-like, and incredibly plush. It also had a hood and pockets – score! So not only do I look stylin’, I was able to do so on the cheap, and I’m super comfy to boot!

Anyways, that’s enough about my onesie. It’s getting late and I’m off to bed. Paris dreaming time. . .

xo Ali

*FYI – Although I take most of the photos on Pressed Words, the lovely Paris photos in this post are not mine. I’ll report back soon enough with some of my own. In the meantime, hats off to these lovely Parisian photographers!