adventures of a modern mama

an honest adventure in life & style

Paris 2016 – Day 6 — October 17, 2016

Paris 2016 – Day 6

When I finally opened my eyes and reached over for my phone to check the time, I realized that our two busy days had caught up with us and we had both slept in longer than expected. As I slowly woke up and started getting ready for the day the realization that our vacation was slowly coming to a end filled my thoughts.

As we stepped outside and took a breath of the sweet-smelling air we were welcomed with another beautiful autumn day in Paris. After a couple metro rides we emerged from the sub-terranian station on the island within the city which is home to the famous Notre-Dame de Paris.

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The massive gothic cathedral was teeming with tourists madly snapping pictures and cueing up to enter the famous monument.

Seeing the long line and feeling hungry, we decided to grab some lunch before going inside. We are our lunch (mine was a delicious savoury crepe) with a view of the side of the cathedral while listening to the idyllic sound of the church bells.

After we were sufficiently full, we headed back the the entrance at the cathedral. By this time the line was a lot shorter and we basically walked right inside. It was exactly as I remembered it; as I stepped inside the enormous and quiet space I was overcome with a sense of peace and serenity. We walked slowly in a loop through the space and admired the stained glass and beautiful architecture.

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Out of the cathedral we meandered along the streets to the Conciergerie.  This was one place that we weren’t really excited to visit, but given that Saint Chapelle was closed for a mid-day break, and it was right there, we decided to give it a visit. With no expectations, we definitely enjoyed our visit more than we thought we would.

The Conciergerie was formerly a prison, and it’s most famous for housing Marie Antoinette before she was taken to the guillotine in 1793.  This place definitely felt like a prison; you could imagine yourself as an inmate awaiting your future in a bare-bones room.  The courtyard was stark and offered no glimpse of life beyond the towering walls.  We left a little somber, but very touched by our visit.

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Our next stop was next door to visit the Sainte-Chapelle.  When we first walked in  Jenn and I looked around and she said to me “really, that’s it?”.  We had heard that it was stunningly beautiful, and the view before us was beautiful, but not really anything special.  I was sure that there had to be another room or something, so I decided to start exploring.  Sure enough, right beside the entrance there was a tiny, unassuming spiral staircase.  Hoping to find a treasure, we headed upstairs and were immediately taken aback.  The view amazing.  We stepped into a room of almost pure stained-glass.  There are no real words to describe the beauty. We spent a while looking at all the stories depicted through the glass, and soaking up all the beautiful colours around us before exiting the beautiful chapel.

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At this point Jenn really wanted to visit the Jardin du Luxembourg, so we hopped on the metro to take a quick visit.  On our walk from the metro station to the park we happened to pass by a restaurant whcih I had read about before leaving on our trip: L’avant Comptoir! I was so excited to stumble across it as I didn’t think we’d be able to see it before leaving.

Once in the park, we instantly fell in love.  It was quiet and beautiful and we took it all in as we strolled along the gravel pathways, exploring all the corners of the park. I was so thankful that Jenn took us there.

When our feet finally ached for a little break  we sat at a classic green metal table beneath the canopy of trees and enjoyed a smooth glass of red wine. We chatted for a bit and also soaked up the serene ambiance of the park in comfortable silence.

I knew that if we didn’t stop at L’avant Comptoir for a quick bite that I’d regret it, so I asked Jenn if she was ok with us stopping in really quickly. She obliged and we made our way through the plastic curtain into the “secret” bar. This place is a tad intimidating; there are no seats and the menu is suspended from the ceiling by little cards showing a picture and name of each dish available. Fortunately the server behind the bar was young, friendly, and allowed us to try our terrible French and take some time to make our selections.

She poured us a cold, crisp glass of champagne and I ordered Croustillant Canard, Orange and Jenn ordered the Cigarette Chorizo. Sipping our champagne and leaning on the zinc bar, we felt tres chic. Our food arrived quickly and we nibbled on what is probably some of the best food that we ate the whole trip. We continued to eat, munching on the complimentary pickles, warm bread, and freshly-made butter. It was so delicious, we only wished that we were more hungry. We made plans to go back the next day for our last dinner in Paris.

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Feeling a little tipsy we boarded the metro to la Grande Épicerie to grab some breakfast supplies for the next couple of days and pick up some goodies to take back home with us before heading to the hotel for a little break.  We let our aching feet take a break by laying on the hotel bed and just hanging out for a little bit before getting changed for dinner.

As we walked into the familiar Italian restaurant again, we sat inside the tiny, cozy dining room and ordered our favourite appetizer (caprese salad) and a nice bottle of wine and tucked into a delicious dinner.  We practiced our French with the waiter (who was, once again, super friendly but didn’t speak a word of English), and chatted about our favourite moments of the trip so far, and decided on what we would do during our last day in Paris the next day.

Once we got back to the hotel, we started packing our bags so that we were ready for our trip home mand then slipped into a comfortable sleep ready to tackle our last day in Paris.

Paris 2016 – Day 5 — October 12, 2016

Paris 2016 – Day 5

We stepped onto the street and walked to “our” metro station; the streets were busy with locals heading to work, popping into cafes to grab their morning coffee, and delivery men unloading fresh produce and goods into the small corner grocery shops. During the mornings, the streets would feel so busy and alive and would be hauntingly deserted in the evenings.

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We rode the metro to the Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau station and then transferred to the RER line A to take us out to the small French town of Marne-la-Vallée, home of Disneyland Paris.

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When we stepped off the train, we were greeted by the familiar Disney gates and we walked right into the Walt Disney Studios.  After a quick walk through Studio 1, we headed over to our first ride: the Flying Carpets of Agrabah (it was cute, and much like the classic Dumbo ride in Disneyland).

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Our second ride was Crush’s Coaster.  We were expecting a nice, leisurely kid-friendly coaster but instead, we got a space mountain-eque thrill ride.  It was a lot of fun, but definitely un-expected and maybe a little much first thing in the morning.  After that we rode, Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy (based on the movie Ratatouille and super cute), the Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic (kind of like a lame Universal Studios Tour), and then the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (a classic favourite).

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By this time we were itching to get into the main park, so we made our way over.  The entrance to this park is stunning (dare I even say, better than California!); the water features and beautiful hotel façade make for a really grand entrance.

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We walked along Main Street, U.S.A. commenting how much it felt like Disneyland (only shorter) and then stopped at the Market House Deli where we shared a quick chicken Caesar wrap for an early, small lunch.

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Our first ride was Pirates of the Caribbean.  It was much like the Disneyland version, only the cue was inside and longer, and more themed (Indiana Jones style) and the scenes in the actual ride were in a different order and didn’t contain any either of Jack Sparrow or Davy Jones.  We were lucky and were able to walk right onto the ride.

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After Pirates we headed through to Fantasyland to ride “it’s a small world”, grabbing a Fast Pass for Peter Pan’s Flight on the way (mostly to see if our tickets granted us access to the FastPass system).  The end of the ride is a brilliant display of all the countries in matching colours. Jenn, who’s not really a fan of this ride, said that she much enjoyed this version to the Disneyland one.

After that it was off to Neverland to ride Peter Pan’s Flight (using our FastPasses which is something that Disneyland should really look into since the line for this short ride is usually 45+ minutes long).  The ride and cue were pretty much identical to the Disneyland ride.

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Then off to the classic favourite: the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups before heading back over to Frontierland to visit Phantom Manor.

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Phantom Manor was pretty cool. The cue took you though a tour of the manor’s grounds before brining you to you front porch where you got a great view of the park.  The ride itself was very similar to the Disneyland one except the narration during the elevator ride was all in French.

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Now we were starting to get pretty hungry so we made our way to the Cowboy Cookout Barbeque for lunch.  We both had the roast ½ chicken and fries.  The portions were huge and everything was really delicious. We lingered here for a long while, chatting and really taking time to enjoy a nice break in the warm sun and coolish September air.

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How cute are these highchairs?!?

After lunch we visited the dragon that lives under the castle (SO COOL!), and then rode Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains (also known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) which is identical to the one in Disneyland, other than the name, of course.

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Our next stop was Discoveryland where we rode Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast and Space Mountain: Mission 2.  Space Mountain was unreal.  It was such a fast roller coaster, but unlike the Disney counterpart, some parts took you outside, and inside you went upside down!  It was a lot of fun, and we couldn’t get over just HOW FAST it went.

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After exiting the Discoveryland area, we got a chance to catch the parade.  Jenn memorized the song in about two minutes, and then went to grab the Disneyland Paris version of a Dole Whip. It wasn’t as good as the traditional Dole whip, but maybe we were just missing hanging out in the Tiki Room with Olivia.

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We decided two re-ride Pirates and Phantom Manor again before grabbing our spot for the fireworks.  As Jenn guarded our great view of the castle, I went in search of some treats to enjoy with the fireworks.  When the show finally started, we were amazed.  In true Disney fashion, the fireworks were stunning, and the movie projections spot-on. It was a great show, and it made me really reminisce about our trip to Disneyland earlier in the year.

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After the fireworks we followed the crowds out of the park.  Instead of fighting for a spot on the train we chose to wander around Disney Village (aka: Downtown Disney) a little bit.  We browsed one last shop and bought a chai latte at Starbucks for our journey home.

And so our American day just outside of Paris came to a close.

Paris 2016 – Day 4 — October 3, 2016

Paris 2016 – Day 4

We began our fourth day in Paris with a simple breakfast to go and a train ride into a little town with a giant palace: Versailles.

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We watched the Paris suburbs fly past us while listening to all the eager tourists excitedly chatter around us.  Finally, we arrived and walked up the tree-lined streets to the palace. As each step brought us closer the bigger and more imposing the palace became. We started talking about what it would be like to be Marie Antoinette (15 years old and newly married) to see this sight and know that it’s her new home.

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After making out way through two security checkpoints and a ticket check, we started our tour of the palace. We soon realized that our visit was going to be shared with about a million tourist groups and that the beautiful, historic rooms were packed with visitors. Because the palace was crowded and hot and we were unable to see many of the details of the rooms because of the amount of people, we decided not to linger.

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On our way out of the palace we discovered a Cafe Angelina.  This cafe chain was on our list of “to visit”, so we stopped in for a cup of their famous hot chocolate and some sandwiches for our lunch. We slipped the sandwiches in our bags to enjoy later in the gardens and drank our deliciously rich hot chocolate.

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Next we made our way into the gardens. As you step out of the castle, you get the most gorgeous view of the gardens. The sprawling grounds seem to never end; it’s royal land as far as your eye can see  We took a little walk through the gardens before finding a cool, shady bench to enjoy our sandwiches.

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After lunch, with Jenn as our tour guide, we wandered down to the canal and then over to the Colonnade Grove. It was a stunning sight and I’m so glad that Jenn discovered it.  From further away, the columns seem to be a creamy grey, but up close they’re actually blue and red marble. It was definitely a sight to be seen.

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From there, we starting making our way back up to the palace. We climbed back up the hill and the steps and took a break at the side of the gardens for a view of the organerie.

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After having our fill of the royal palace, we walked back to the train station to head back to the city.

We decided to hop off the train at the Musee d’Orsay to pick up a couple items that we spotted in the gift shop a few days before. I bought the cutest little plate and cup for Olivia; unfortunately, the plate didn’t survive the trip home. Guess I’ll just have to take another trip over to pick up another one?

After shopping we headed back on the RER line to the Eiffel Tower as wanted to get a good look at her in the light of day.  We got out of the station and walked through the crowds of tourists and gypsies to marvel, once again, at the giant iron tower. By this point in the afternoon, there were hardly any clouds in the sky and the sun was warm against our bare arms. We wandered around the gardens surrounding the base of the Eiffel Tower, snapping pictures and selfies and taking in the view.

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After a little while, hungry for something to fill our tummies, we wandered down le Avenue de la Bourdonnais to the École Militaire. We found a café with a view of the busy intersection and tucked in for an early dinner.  After dinner we were tired from our early morning and busy day and headed back to the hotel on the metro to rest up before our trip to Disneyland Paris the next day.

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Check out a couple of our videos from Versailles:

 

Paris 2016 – Day 3 — September 28, 2016

Paris 2016 – Day 3

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Looking back at our whole trip, I think that this was one of my favourite days in Paris. The day started out with a quick breakfast at our hotel, and then we hopped onto the metro to the Opéra Garnier. After reading the book The Painted Girls a number of years ago and growing up with The Phantom of the Opera, I was so excited to finally step foot into the historic building.

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Walking out of the metro we had our backs to the opera house.  As I turned around and got my first glimpse of the building I was in total awe. I feel like all the pictures that we took just don’t fully capture its beauty, nor its magnitude.

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Walking around to the side of the building, we entered the great house (entrance through the front steps is reserved for those attending performances only). After going through security, visiting the washroom, and buying our tickets we set off to explore.

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As we entered the first room, we were taken aback by all the detail and beauty. It wasn’t until we ascended the first staircase that we got a glimpse of the famous grand staircase. The banisters were dripping with fresh flowers and there was so much gold all over the room that it seemed that almost everything had been touched by King Midas.  We spent so much time just staring at the room and trying to soak up as many of the beautiful details as possible, but it was almost too much beauty for us to process.

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After lingering on the grand staircase for a while, we made our way to the Grand Foyer. It seemed like an unassuming room at first, but as soon as you took a couple steps inside you were surrounded in opulence. Chandeliers and columns both sparkling  with gold leaf and a grand painted ceiling made it impossible to know just where to look. The room was so grand that I could easily imagine it filled with all of Paris society; ladies in their gowns and gentlemen donning their tails, filling the room with conversation.

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The Grand Foyer also led to an outside balcony.  We stepped outside and took in the cool air and enjoyed the view of the busy intersection below.

We then walked through a portion of the library. It was so large and filled with so many books that Jenn thought that they weren’t real (check out the video at the bottom of the post).  After emerging from the library, we were able to take a quick peek at the auditorium itself. To be completely honest, after the grand staircase and foyer, the auditorium was a tad underwhelming. It was still beautiful, with all the rich, red velvet and gorgeous (and deadly) chandelier and painted ceiling, but maybe I was expecting more?  All-in-all the Opéra Garnier lived up (and exceeded) my high expectations. It still remains one of my favourite buildings.

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Our next stop was the fancy department store, Galeries Lafayette, where we browsed the luxury goods, took advantage of the free wi-fi, and admired the beautiful views from the top-floor Starbucks.  We browsed two more stores in the area (Printemps and C&A) before heading back on the metro to the Tuileries.

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After not really having lunch, and craving another caramel crepe, we stopped by the same little stand as the day before and, once again, enjoyed an afternoon snack.

After resting our feet with a seat on the classic green metal chairs that are abundant in all Paris parks, we made our way over the to Place de la Concorde.  We crossed the busy street and stared up at the giant Egyptian Obelisk.  We took a couple pictures near the iconic fountains, and stood at the exact spot where Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were guillotined in 1793.

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Our next stop was the Musee de l’Orangerie. Once inside, we made a beeline for two rooms housing Monet’s famous Water Lilies. The oval rooms, with their diffused natural light, are the perfect space for these amazing paintings. The serenity evoked by the art and the space makes me wish that I could visit each and every lunch break to escape the craziness of every day life.

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After a quick tour of the rest of the post-impressionist art on the bottom floor, and the museum’s gift shop and we hopped onto the metro again down to our favourite foodie shop (la Grande Epicerie). We collected some supplies for a picnic dinner and breakfasts for the next two days (croissants, apricot jam, fresh raspberries, dried apricots and wine).  We took our haul back to the hotel and had a wonderfully satisfying dinner.

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After dinner, we set out on the metro once again to snap some night pictures of the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. The pyramid at night is stunning. It’s a beacon in the middle of the courtyard and cast an elegant glow over the area. We even discovered that the inner courtyard was still open and it was practically empty. We took our time walking through the eerily quite and enormous space.

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And so, our third day in Paris came to a close.  We crawled into bed eagerly anticipating our visit to the mighty palace of Versailles in the morning.

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If you’re interested, check out two videos of the Opera House that I recorded:

 

Paris 2016 – Day 2 — September 27, 2016

Paris 2016 – Day 2

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Our second morning in Paris we awoke feeling refreshed after such a long sleep the night before.  We quickly got ready and headed along the Metro to the Musee d’Orsay.  On our walk to the museum from the nearest metro station, we walked along the street where Trevor and I stayed four years earlier.  It was the loveliest flat owned by his cousin and his wife and was a wonderful little walk down memory lane; so many unforgettable vacation memories came flooding back to me. In that moment, I missed Trevor more than anything and wished that he was in Paris with us.

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We walked right into the museum and I instantly felt energized.  We were so excited to be there and we quickly walked through the art on the main floor and then headed up to the 5th floor to the café for an early lunch.  We dined on large salads in the shadow of the giant, historic clock while tourists walked through snapping pictures of the stunning room.

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After lunch, we continued along the 5th floor admiring the work of the impressionists.  Degas perfectly captured the ballerinas in the Palais Garnier, and Monet took our breath away with the paintings of the cathedral in Rouen. We slowly made our way through the rooms, taking time to linger around our favourite pieces and soak up all the exquisite art.

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After having our fill of the impressionists, we went back down to the main floor and took another walk through the art, and then perused the gift shop for a little while. Once outside we rested our feet for a couple minutes on the steps outside (and took advantage of the free wi-fi), and I remembered all the time that Trevor and I had spent on those steps.  The Musee d’Orsay still remains my favourite museum that I’ve ever had the privilege to visit. It will always have a very special place in my heart, and I’m not sure that any other museum will ever compare.

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After sitting for a little while we walked across the familiar footbridge into the Jardin des Tuileries. The beige gravel crunched beneath our feet and we gazed around in awe of the beauty that surrounded us. A leisurely walk through the gardens led us to the Musee du Louvre, where we snapped pictures of the historic former palace. The entrance through the iconic pyramid was too crowded, so we walked around to the side of the building and used the less-busy group entrance. We entered the museum and took in the impressive sight of the glass pyramid from below. Feeling thirsty, we grabbed a couple bottles of water, checked our bags and coat at the coat check, and started making our way through the massive collection.  I have to say, that I’m really not a fan of this museum. While I can appreciate all the great works of art that it contains, I find it too large, crowded, and stuffy for my liking. We didn’t want to spend a lot of time going through the seemingly endless rooms, and Jenn really wanted to see the Winged Victory of Samothrace, so we set off to find it.  Finally, as we climbed up a set of stairs, there she sat.  You could almost feel the violent sea breeze when looking at the statue’s draped clothes and out-stretched wings. The beauty of this piece took our breath away.

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After we had our fill of the enormous museum, we headed to the Carrousel du Louvre to do a bit of shopping and browsing before heading back up to the street, and into the Tuileries again.

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We passed by a small crepe stand and decided to have a little rest and goûter.  We ordered two crepes: one with apricot jam and one with caramel sauce. They were both delicious but I still dream of that caramel crepe. It’s one of the most amazing things that we ate during our whole trip. I might book a ticket back to Paris just to have another.

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After our snack, the clouds suddenly became dark and grey and we started to feel drops on rain on our heads.  Seeking shelter from the rain, we walked back underground to the metro station and made our way back to the hotel, exhausted from our busy day.img_1863

Fighting our urges to sleep, we stepped out into the street in search of dinner. We were sure that we would end up in a café, but as we walked down the familiar street we passed a tiny little Italian restaurant that we had failed to notice before.  After a quick look at the menu, we decided to give it a try. The restaurant was tiny but quaint, and the chef and server were both exceptionally friendly to us (despite our butchering of the French language and their inability to speak any English).  We quickly ordered a mozzarella, tomato, and basil salad, a couple of spaghetti dishes, and a bottle of Italian red wine and we awaited our dinner.  The salad was probably the best that I’ve ever had; the portion was HUGE (meant to be eaten family style, I’m sure) and the everything was so fresh and melted in your mouth. The pasta was also fresh, simple and delicious and totally hit the spot.  We left feeling satisfied (and a little tipsy) and sunk into our beds totally content and excited to see what our next day would bring.

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Paris 2016 – Day 1 — September 26, 2016

Paris 2016 – Day 1

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View from our hotel room

With no alarm clocks set we enjoyed a nice sleep in and awoke to the classic Parisian grey skies and the busy sounds of the street below.

We got ready and were soon walking down the charming streets to the Musee Rodin.  This was the first visit for both of us, and we were really impressed with the beauty of it all. After a quick bag check* and the purchase of our Museum Passes**, we walked through grounds enjoying the beautiful gardens and marveled at the work of a master sculptor.

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“The Thinker”

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After our visit, we were regretting not bringing our coats with us and we walked back to our hotel to quickly grab them and head out again.

We walked a little ways away from our hotel to the area near the Bon Marché. By this time we were quite hungry (we had skipped breakfast, after all) so we found a small cafe and stopped in for some lunch. I had an open-faced roast beef sandwich (with horseradish mayo, fresh tomatoes and arugula) and Jenn had a penne pasta in tomato sauce; it was exactly what we needed to give us some more energy for the afternoon. What I wouldn’t do to have that delicious sandwich again!

After lunch, we wandered through the Bon Marché, and ended up in la Grande Épicerie where we perused the aisles and drooled over all the delicious options. We decided to come back later that afternoon and grab some items for a picnic dinner.

We made our way to the nearest metro station and purchased a carnet of tickets and rode the line to the Champs Élysées. We walked up the famous street (which was packed with tourists) and stopped in at Monoprix and picked up some items for our ourselves and some gifts to take back with us.  We then continued up the street to the Arc de Triomphe. After snapping some quick shots, we took the underground tunnel to the middle of the traffic circle. We then got in line for the climb to the top. And oh what a climb it was. The narrow spiral staircase seemed to be never ending; as our legs burned, breathing became heavy, and our pace started to crawl, we finally arrived to the inner platform. We caught our breath and then climbed a few more stairs to the top! The views were just as I remembered them, and didn’t disappoint Jenn! We spent some time taking in the views and snapping some selfies before making our way down. Once at the bottom, we noticed that the lines had disappeared and that they were no longer letting anybody inside. We overheard the police telling another visitor that it was “closed for security reasons”.  We later realized that it was at about this time that there has been a fake bomb threat, and deduced that it was likely because of this that they closed the major attractions until the situation was under control.

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View from the top of the Arc de Triomphe

 

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My legs hurt just looking at this!

We decided it was a good idea to move away from the area and back down the Bon Marché to pick up our dinner supplies. We finally decided on a sandwich, salad, dessert, and wine and then headed back to the hotel to rest our feet and enjoy the simple dinner.

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Picnic Dinner (tomato and cheese sandwich, chicken and potato salad, fruit crumble)

 

After eating we couldn’t resist sleep. The long days of travel before had finally caught up with us and we were asleep within minutes of our heads hitting the pillows.

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*The security everywhere in Paris was so heightened. Every monument and almost every store we went into, we had to have our bags checked my security before we were allowed to enter. All the major monuments also made us walk through metal detectors and have our bags x-rayed as an additional security measure. There were police patrolling EVERYWHERE. They were often standing on street corners and walking around on patrols. I was thankful for the extra security, and it made us feel that we were being kept safe.

**If you’re planning a trip to Paris, and want to visit a bunch of different monuments and museums, I definitely recommend the Paris Museum Pass. It covers most of the major sights (Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Versailles, and the Arc de Triomphe, just to name a few) and allows you to SKIP MOST OF THE LINES! Even if the price savings aren’t a lot, the time it saves you from standing in ticket lines makes it worth it. They’re sold at different points around the city (including most of the museums and both airports).

 

 

 

 

Sent from my iPhone

Paris 2016 – Arriving in the City of Lights — September 25, 2016

Paris 2016 – Arriving in the City of Lights

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British Airways has the cutest packaging for their meals!

As we walked off the plane in Paris we were equal parts excited and exhausted. Our dream, the one that we had been planning and saving the last year and a half for, was finally being realized. We were in PARIS, celebrating being 30 and fabulous!

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At Heathrow Airport

I greeted the French customs officer with a “Bonjour” and “Merci, au revoir” as he stamped the page in my passport. Our vacation had officially begun.

We grabbed our bags, hopped in a cab (ok, not so much a cab but a random guy who ended up charging too much and taking advantage of our exhaustion and Canadian trustworthy-ness), and headed out into the rain towards the heart of the beautiful, historic city.

We checked into our room with ease and were thankful that the hotel had a lift and that we didn’t have to carry our heavy luggage up the two flights of stairs to our room (and free wi-fi).

Sleep was what we wanted but we were vibrating with too much excitement and starved for a warm meal, so we quickly freshened up and walked out onto the Paris streets in search of food and a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.

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Freshened up and ready to go!

After a little walk, we found a warm and inviting cafe and tucked in for a glass of smooth red wine, a warm croque monsieur, and a fresh green salad. It was exactly what we needed.  Our server was wonderfully friendly and flirty (don’t worry Trev, he definitely had eyes for J only) and put us completely at ease, even with our terrible accents and pronunciation.

With full bellies and feelings little tipsy, we walked a few blocks to the Eiffel tower. As we walked up to it, it was sparkling with lights. Even though we’ve both seen it before, we both were taken aback by her beauty. It’s hard to grasp just how massive it is from pictures; but, once you’re standing at the base looking miles up at the top, you can really feel the magnitude of her size and beauty.

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Two beautiful ladies!

After taking a few pictures we walked back to our hotel finally ready for a good night’s sleep in the city of lights.

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the simple life — June 1, 2016

the simple life

I absolutely ADORE where we live. Everything that we could ever want or need is right at our doorstep. We feel like we’re part of the community.  We know our neighbours, and enjoy the friendliness and familiarity of our small city. We’re steps away from the water, and can even smell the salty ocean air from our balcony when the breeze is blowing by.

We live in a modest apartment and drive a small, fuel-efficient car. We only own one vehicle and use public transportation, or walk, where possible.  The neighborhood we live in is wonderful; walking-distance to shopping, restaurants and pubs, and beautiful public parks.

So why can I not shake the feeling that we need something more? I feel like we need a bigger vehicle and a home with more room to grow.

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But, why can’t our current life be good enough?

It can.  It is.

I need to stop thinking that bigger equals better.

Why would we need a bigger home? The three of us fit comfortably in our apartment. There’s enough room for us to all sit around the table and share a meal, or curl up on a Friday night and watch a movie together. We have our own rooms, and two bathrooms between three people is definitely sufficient.

I’d ideally like more room for entertaining, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. We can host family and friends.  In bigger groups where we eat on our laps, and in smaller groups where we sit around the table. Either way, the conversation flows, and laughter and love fill our home.

Sure it would be nice to have a back yard to play and lounge in.  But our community is our back yard.  We ride our bikes along the path to the beach. We teach Olivia how to run and kick a ball on the grass of the nearby park. We walk to grab an ice cream cone and meet up with friends at a local brewery while our children run and play at our feet.  And not having a big house and back yard to care for also means that we don’t have to clean gutters or mow a lawn. When I ached to once again get my hands dirty in the soil, my husband set up a container garden for us. We have strawberries and herbs growing on our deck that we lovingly water while we teach Olivia about where our food comes from.

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I know that not everyone will agree with our choice to live like we do, but there’s a certain lightness and easiness that comes with living this way. We use every single room of our home, every single day. Everything we own has a place and a purpose within our lives. We have the financial freedom to travel, to decorate our home, and to build a great life for our little girl.

We’re living the simple life, and it’s simply wonderful.

c25k – week eight — September 23, 2015

c25k – week eight

I can’t believe I’ve finished the program! I started out thinking that I would be able to do it, but some part of me also wondered how hard it would be, and kind of expected me to lose interest halfway through.

I’m so proud of myself. I never thought of myself as a runner, or that I could ever actually learn to enjoy running.

Here’s how my final week went:

Day #1 (run 4.43 kilometers)

I was so stressed out about this run, that I even had trouble sleeping the night before because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I think that the closer I was getting to the end, the more I started to worry that I just couldn’t finish the program.

After a pretty crappy sleep, I ended up getting up early (while my family was all still sleeping) and left the house around 7:30 to start my run. It turned out to be really nice. The air had a nice autumn crispness to it, and the trails were quiet. It ended up being a really nice way to start my morning.

I even managed to crush all my previous goals. Not only did I run 450 meters more than I had ever before, but I also ran the whole route in my fastest time (8 minutes, 13 second per kilometer). I was amazed at how well I did at a run that I was really scared to do. WHEN will I stop doubting myself!?!

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Day #2 (run 4.43 kilometers)

I ended up doing this run twice…or, at least I think I did. The app that I’ve been using for the last couple weeks wasn’t working properly, so I didn’t know how fast I was going, or how far I had run. So, I just ended up doing the route that I did above, in order to try to continue my training as best as I could.  For the next run, I was going to run 5k, but the app still wasn’t working, so I did the same thing.

Day #3 (run 5 kilometers)

The big day was here! I was a little nervous, as I didn’t really trust my running app after it not working properly for the past two runs. But, I was determined to at least try to run the 5k.

Not only did I run the whole 5k, but I CRUSHED my goals! I managed to not only run my furthest distance, but my average pace was also the fastest to date (under 8 minutes per km!). The last kilometer seemed to go by really quickly. I think this was because I knew that I was so close to accomplishing my goal that I was so proud of myself and was able to push myself that much harder. The last 100 meters, I was almost sprinting, because I felt so great, and could literally see the finish line of my goal a head of me. I never in a million years thought that I could do this. But I did. And if felt amazing.

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FINAL THOUGHTS ON C25K

I highly recommend this program to anybody who’s ever wanted to learn how to run. It eases you into running so gently and easily that each week you get better and better, and surprise yourself at how much further you’re able to run.

I also like the fact that I could repeat weeks, if needed. My advice here is to always try current run, and if it’s just too much of a challenge, then go back and repeat the previous week. I often thought that I wasn’t up for the current challenge, but always surprised myself when I was able to do it.

If you really want to run 5 kilometers in the 8 weeks, then I strongly urge you to try to run for distance, rather than time. If you just want to run for 30 minutes, then run for time. Pick one and stick with it. I think the reason I had such trouble with my week 7 runs was because I switched to running for distance, rather than for time because I really wanted to run 5 kilometers in my last week. Although, that being said, I was able to do it. It just wasn’t very enjoyable.

This is the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long, long time. And if I can learn how to run, then ANYBODY can.

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See all my previous c25k posts here:
Weeks 1 and 2Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, and Week 7

c25k – week seven — September 11, 2015

c25k – week seven

This week was probably the most challenging week of the program, so far. I was kind of not thinking, and decided to run for distance this week. The previous six weeks I had been running for time.

It was really challenging because I went from running 22 minutes for my longest stretch, to running over 30 minutes. It doesn’t seem like much, but I could definitely feel the difference. My advice for anybody starting the program, is to choose to run for either time or distance, and then follow thorough for the whole program. I think this week wouldn’t have been so challenging if I just had to run for 25 minutes each of the days, rather than 4 kilometers. BUT the reason behind it was because I really just want to run 5 kilometers next week (the final week of the program). Oh well, live and learn.

Day #1 (run 4 kilometers)

I started out at slow, but good pace, and was PUMPED when I managed to finish the 4k with no walking! I honestly wasn’t sure if I was able to run the entire 4k without stopping, but I was so proud of myself for trying and pushing myself.

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Day #2 (run 4 kilometers)

This was probably one of my worst runs of the whole program. I was tired. I ate dinner before running (WHEN WILL I LEARN?!). I had to go to the washroom about half-way through my run, which made the second half soooo uncomfortable. I really hated this run. I felt like I wanted to give up, and almost did so many times during the last 2 kilometers. I actually started crying when I got home because I just felt so crappy.

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Day #3 (run 4 kilometers)

I was really kind of dreading this run. After my horrible experience with my previous run, I was really worried that I just couldn’t do it. But, like all the other times before, I decided to just try and figure it out from there. Not only did I do it, I also ran my fastest time yet!  Double win!

I tried to set my self up for success for this run, by drinking lots of water throughout the day, not eating dinner before (I had a banana, cucumbers, and tomatoes on my commute home to give me the energy I needed), and to make sure that I didn’t have to go to the washroom before heading out. I think all of these things gave me exactly what I needed to complete this goal.

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