Visit: Paris

1 Apr

The City of Light had a lot to live up to in order to meet my expectations, but any place where I was encouraged to start my day with a chocolate croissant and my favorite coffee is an instant winner in my book. We had perfect weather during our 3+ days in the city, and enjoyed walking through the neighborhoods and people watching everywhere we went. Some of the sites were very crowded, and we seemed to move from place to place with a horde of Asian tourists, but the locals were friendlier than expected, and my French was far worse. Overall, seeing Paris was a highlight of my trip, and surely a place we will return.

Stay: We stayed at Le Meridian Etoile, which is located in the 17th arrondissement. We were just a few blocks from the Arc de Triomphe, and walked home every night on the Champs Elysees. The metro stop was on our block, and we were able to get from place to place very easily. I loved the 17th, which seems very much the traditional Parisian neighborhood. There was a patisserie and grocery down the street, and cute little restaurants without lots of tourists.

Eat: Lots of bread, cheese and wine. Our french was shaky enough to keep us out of most of the fine dining restaurants, but that provides an excellent opportunity for some language tutoring and a return trip. A life where eating pastries for breakfast every day is the norm is certainly one I was meant to lead. Coupled with quiche, baguettes and wonderful coffee breaks – I loved eating in Paris, even without trying many of the traditional foods or high-end restaurants.

Shop: Every store imaginable can be found in Paris, most too expensive for me to even set foot in. My darling husband did buy me a new bag while in the city, as a souvenir, but only after I convinced him that the prices were better in Euros. I may have also mentioned that I’m looking forward to returning when I’m fabulously wealthy in order to have the consummate Parisian shopping experience. He didn’t seem amused.

See: The Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees, Parisian architecture, stylish people, Versailles, cute cafes, the Louvre, the Eiffel Towner, Notre Dame Cathedral, charming side streets, the Seine.

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Visit: Amsterdam

30 Mar

Steve’s study abroad roommate is an Amsterdam resident, and a former tour guide to boot, so as soon as US Air allowed us to deplane, miss our train and navigate the Belgian mass transit systems, we headed from Brussels to the Netherlands.

Stay: We stayed with our wonderful friend in his teeny, tiny studio apartment. After two days, I longed for the suburbs. Amsterdam is currently in a building frenzy as they try to increase the number of hotel rooms in the city, so rooms are a bit scarce most weekends, but we were told to avoid the Hard Rock. I think that’s universally applicable.

Eat: Our host quickly explained that the Dutch have absolutely no unique cultural foods, as they are like Americans and just steal everyone else’s ideas. However, we found this to be a bit untrue. Appetizers consisting of fried molten cheese and fried sausage, and snacks that were just like small pancakes covered in powdered sugar and butter. Exactly the same actually.

I will mention that day 2 started my love affair with European coffee, which is nothing different from ours other than it is made with really expensive machines that make the coffee frothy and smooth. None of this drip brewing bullshit for me anymore. I’m a little unsure what these machines are and how they work, but I’m very interested in finding out so that I can force Steve to buy one.

See: Bicycles, people nearly getting hit by bicycles, canals, night canal tour by boat, Red Light district, Maarken Harbor, the North Sea, Haarlem, Dam Square, cool old bars, and more bicycles.

How Very European

28 Mar

Our quick trip across the pond has come and gone, although US Air did everything in their power to keep us from coming or going. Three destinations in eight days meant we packed a lot into our vacation, but we loved every minute. It was an amazing first Europe trip for me, and Steve got to relive his study abroad and backpacking memories. Everything was perfect, at least until I was served cheese cubes and summer sausage for lunch on day 7. Recaps to come.

Has Seemed Rather Applicable of Late

23 Mar

Large Scale Sacrifices

22 Mar

I’m sure I’ve more than covered how I’m not Catholic. I’m a fake. But I do participate in Lent. It’s like my annual attempt to prove I have anything remotely close to willpower.

So this year I’m giving up Diet Coke, which quickly spiraled into giving up all sodas, until my boss mentioned that tonic water is technically a carbonated beverage. No G&T’s? This portion of my Lenten promise is still under negotiations until we can further define tonic water as a soda. However, as a girl who drinks her fair share of DC – this has been a daily sacrifice for me already.

My husband (the actual Catholic), takes a different approach. His promises usually fall somewhere along the giving-up-some-form-of-alcohol line, and he has never been very successful. Spring break + St. Patty’s + weekends just seem to do him in every time. In recent years, he’s started preempting these dates from his Lent calendar.  This year, he has seemed to negotiate around Lent almost completely. Steve’s initial statement for Lent this year: “I’m giving up beer, but nothing else.” Then these qualifiers: ” But I’m not counting Ash Wednesday because I’m meeting a friend after work, and I’m not counting our spring break trip, and I’m not counting weekends.” Way to give your best effort there, Susan.

This time, it’s not my judgment he might have to be worried about.

On the Continent

9 Mar

Steve likes to pretend he’s still in college. Like the one time he hosted an “Amateur Day” party and made us all do jello shots and play drinking games in his garage. He also wanted to bring back spring break. Unfortunately for me, he went for classy rather than authentic – so we’re not going to Panama City or Daytona. A bit of an upgrade really, to western Europe.

So, I’m hitting Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels over eight busy days. I’ve done my shopping, chosen my wardrobe inspiration pics (sure to be uninspired once I unpack) and converted dollars to euros. I’d love to hear any of your recommendations for those cities, or just for European travel in general. We have some definite plans, like hotels, train tickets and sight-seeing to-do’s – but suggestions are welcome, as I will otherwise spend quite a bit of time being dragged for eight-hour walks through each city by Steve. Which would be awesome, of course, except that he never sits down or eats or rests. Just walks. Help?

Merci.

‘Round Here

2 Mar

Too tired to catch up. In summary:

Upgrade for your style

4 Feb

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Weekend, briefly

2 Feb

Prior to the ice storm extravaganza, I had a weekend away with my college roommate. And an evening with my sister-in-law. It was basically like every other vacation – lots of wine, good weather and very little else on the agenda.

We took a little time to plan the next reunion – which will be in Northern California this summer. So many wineries, so little time. Any places we just shouldn’t miss? It’s always my policy to have something on the calendar to look forward to – and I’m way too excited about this trip for something that is still six months away. Better plan a few extra distractions in the mean time.

Dump

20 Jan

Concerning thoughts:

  • I said it last year, and I’ll repeat it again – it isn’t really any fun living where it snows all the damn time. You’d think we would’ve taken action on this by now, and moved south – but we are nothing if not stubborn. Cities I think I could live in, where the climate is more moderate: Nashville, Savannah, San Francisco, New Orleans. I’m open to all other options where the winter weather is such that standing water does not freeze by November.
  • January and February bring the usual round of SAD, with doses of general malaise. Not knowing what to do with my life, feelings of restlessness, mild depression, pasty pale skin and serial lack of excitement are the recognizable symptoms. In order to combat this development, travel to warmer and more scenic locales has been planned. By March, I’ll have crossed Georgia, Arizona and continental Europe off the list. I suppose I’ll also be going to Chicago as well, but plan to stay mostly inside to combat winter fatigue.
  • We had a very successful MLK weekend in northern Michigan, which was surprisingly fun despite the fact that it never stopped snowing. We dabbled in skiing, sledding, euchre and happy hour. Next year, we’ll be competing for the Sno-Blast Winter Festival King and Queen titles.
  • I bought the J.Crew Quoddy boots, and found them for a better deal on eBay. I know you were wondering.
  • I’m also not sure what it says about my life that I spent several hours over the past few days selecting…..throw pillows. Which are really way more expensive than you would imagine. Same can be said of the light fixtures we’ve upgraded recently. At least those have been installed, which has not been the fate of our new bathroom accessories, which sit strewn about our counters. Their day will come, just not too soon given how lazy I’ve been.
  • I’ve been doing a good amount of reading lately. Since Christmas, I’ve finished: “Decoded” by Jay-Z, “Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine” by George Dohrmann and “The Romantics” by Galt Niederhoffer. I’m mid-way through “Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook” at the moment, and looking for my next read. Any suggestions?
  • My new hobby involves spending hours staring off into space while I imagine my life as a lottery winner.
  • I’m working on learning French with Rosetta Stone. I believe it will be very helpful as I am now able to say words like horse and car. Hopefully the next unit will teach me the phrases I’ll actually need: “Where the hell is a clean, public restroom?” and “Can you direct me to Dior?”

That is all.