A Sunny Wednesday

June 25, 2014

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As spring ushered out a long winter, I’ve been shedding past lives, too. Last month, I left my full-time job, which was actually more emotionally taxing than I ever thought leaving a job could be – I suppose that is the beauty of leaving something that you loved in so many ways. It was a tough decision, but ultimately the season to try new things has come. It’s exhilarating and scary and everything in-between.

In addition to working on several projects, I’ll be spending some time traveling. If you’ve been reading for some time, you’ll have noticed that travel is what inspires me, makes me feel alive. First up: I’ll be heading to Turkey and France for a month later this summer. In addition to traveling with friends and Matt, I will be alone for a little while, too. Traveling alone is so different – but there’s something about the quiet I find in unknown streets that is truly irreplaceable.

As I find my footing in this new routine, I often leave the house early in the morning – bag packed for the day with the essentials: extra change of clothes, that pair of gorgeous yet uncomfortable shoes that I will slip on later, makeup, computer and notebooks (I’ve loved getting back to writing the old-fashioned way). It’s safe to say that my schedule has been somewhat hurried – but I am looking to really seek out the quiet moments, especially as July nears. The summer can go so quickly – I want to really appreciate the small moments these next few weeks.

The Tipping Point

May 14, 2014

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It’s easy to pinpoint the moment(s) in your life when life as you knew it changed. Although these moments are cumulative and fluid, it can often feel like a sharp departure and you’re left grasping for the ground. Anything to hold on to, really.

I often find myself thinking about these moments – they can seem so small and insignificant – but in relation to where you are and who you are becoming, it can be the tipping point. The idea that these small shifts could really create a big riptide is equal parts exciting and terrifying.

I’ve always found solace in the simple things – the ordinary beauty. Letting Weber out in the morning, witnessing the way he greets fresh air as if to say, “hello, i’m happy to breathe you in”. Listening to a kettle of water boil – bubbling up and then settling back down. How nothing beats fresh (and warm) sheets on your bed. The way a good night’s sleep feels – ushering you into a drool-inducing slumber. No harm, no fear, only nourishment and peace.

When these small moments take residence, the bigger, scarier moments feel less in control. When I die, I want to be remembered for the “everyday me”. I want people to recall my kindness in holding open a door, in paying for the stranger’s coffee behind me in line. For genuinely living in possibility’s radiance and greeting the day with a positive outlook – whether scary or not. We have the power to determine what is scary and what just “is”. Save judgement and see what happens.

Palm Springs

May 8, 2014

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A few weeks back, I had to travel to the west coast for work. I decided to add in a little fun by swinging by SoCal. I spent a few days in Los Angeles, seeing old friends, and of course working. I also got to snuggle with my friend’s four pound Chihuahua. Totally LA.

My friend, Chantal, and I opted to take a quick one-night getaway to the Parker Palm Springs. Because why not? We loaded the pup into the car and set off into the desert.

Palm Springs was HOT. Thank goodness for beautiful pools, cool trees, and frozen lemonade. We mostly hung around The Parker – which included a yummy breakfast at Norma’s. For dinner, we ventured out to see what the Palm Springs scene was all about.

All in all, it was a wonderful getaway. The hotel grounds were incredible. Although, I did get lost on occasion. The maze-like property makes it easy. I especially loved hanging by the pool, the super awesome lemonade stand, and our cute little patio.

Thanks for a great time, Palm Springs!

The wishful nals guide to Paris

May 7, 2014

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As I’ve explained many times before, Paris is very dear to me. I’ve run through the Charles de Gaulle airport halls as a young child and again as a newly-married young woman returning home after exchanging vows in the French countryside.

When I moved to Paris at nineteen, I knew that something was about to shift. Big time. Paris was like an older sister, who left the door ajar in the evening, allowing me to sneak in and out. I’d take moments by the handful – just Paris and I – all the while trying to figure out my way through.

It can be difficult to pinpoint my favorite things to do in Paris, since at the heart of it, I love to wander. Strolling through side streets until I hit major boulevards, surprised at where I find myself. There’s something so beautiful about the art of getting lost. (I’ve learned that a lot of the magic happens when you go all-in, fear retreating.)

In any event, I have decided to collect some of my favorite things and places to see while in Paris, because after all, there are spots that I choose to return to each and every time I visit. I am headed back to this beautiful city for a few weeks (!) this summer and am already plotting adventure. I’d love to hear your favorite spots, too!

Eat and drink.
Berthillion - No matter what you hear, nothing compares with the sorbet and ice cream house, Berthillion. The Île St-Louis gem is a favorite of mine. I often get a scoop of pear or cantaloupe sorbet and meander over to my favorite bench, which happens to be on Île St-Louis looking back towards Hotel de Ville.

Pizza Positano - Crowded little tables, sitting within arms distance to the neighborhooing table, and the cutest Italian pizza-spinners are a few characteristics of Pizza Positano. Nestled between Saint-Sulpice and Saint-Germain-des-Pres, lies this Italian eatery. It may seem silly to eat Italian while in France, but the pizza here is delicious – and there’s nothing like being whisked off to Rome for an evening.

Latin Quarter - For all things delicious. From galettes (savory crepes) to falafel to moules frites, the Latin Quarter has a bit of everything. Although definitely on the tourist route, I love wandering down Rue Saint-Andre des Arts and stopping by one of the creperies for an afternoon treat.

Cafe Marly - I wouldn’t recommend going to Cafe Marly for dinner – it can be over-priced, in my opinion. But, this cafe sits right outside of the Louvre and is an amazing place to rest your legs and enjoy a coffee or hot cocoa. In the summer, they have an expansive patio that is great for people watching. The inside is really beautiful, too.

Picnic! - It goes without saying that much of the delicious food in Paris can be bought at a charcuterie or boulangerie. I love buying a few things (plus wine, of course!) and sitting on a bench or lawn. If you haven’t tried it, one of my favorite combinations is fresh baguette and really good chocolate. It’s like a homemade pain au chocolat! My favorite place to picnic is along the Seine behind Notre Dame. What’s better than a little picnic and watching the sun go down on your favorite city?

Le Pop-In - A bit more on the bohemian side, Le Pop-In is one of my long-time favorites. It’s a bit more gritty, but if you’re in that mood, well worth it.

Bar Dix - One of my favorites. When I lived in Paris, you could still smoke indoors. The bar is two floors and the best part is downstairs in the cave. I recall being happily dizzy from the cigarette smoke and sangria. Oh, what a few years difference makes. They still have some of the best sangria. Plus, I love Odeon as a neighborhood.

Le Caveau de la Huchette - Nothing quite goes with Paris like jazz does. Le Caveau de la Huchette is a bit on the touristy-side, but is a great time for dancing and listening.

La Grande Epicerie - This is my happy place. Perfect if you’re making food or want to grab something quick for a picnic.

Wander.
As I’ve alluded to, Paris is a wonderful place to get lost. For one, you’ll have the opportunity to stumble upon a tiny cafe or shop that you won’t find in a tourist book. Secondly, the metro makes it ridiculously easy. If you wander too far, just look around for the closest metro and you can weave your way back to where you started from.

There are so many incredible quartiers and areas in Paris, but here are a few of my favorite things to do and areas to explore.

Jardin du Luxembourg – Without a doubt, one of my favorite places in Paris. As a child, my parents would give us a few euros for the bateaux. Grab a baguette, hunk of cheese, bottle of wine – and take a seat. I could spend hours just cozied up here. Also, there is a great little museum that often has special exhibits. The fall is actually my favorite time to be in Paris – and especially the Jardin du Luxembourg. Crunchy leaves underfoot, men lined up to play boule, and that chilly wind that simply embraces you with eagerness. Just go. You’ll love it.

L’Opera – The ninth arrondissement is a must-visit. The majestic buildings, the grand boulevards, and of course – les magasins! If you are in Paris over the holidays, the stores along Boulevard Haussman have incredible window displays. I remember visiting as a young girl and being mesmerized by the magic of it all. Galleries Lafayette has a great roof deck, where you can sneak a grand view of Paris for free. Also, if you want to experience the Paris Opera, you can often find last minute tickets.

Le Marais – In my opinion, Le Marais is one of the city’s best spots. From incredible shops (although sometimes my wallet doesn’t agree) to restaurants and parks, there’s a lot to see. I love Place des Vosges.

Marches aux Puces – Paris is well known for its amazing flea markets. The markets are not for the faint of heart – they can be massive and you often have to rifle through lots of junk to get to the good stuff. But, it’s well worth it. Especially if you have the time. There are also a number of guides that will take you around for a small amount. My favorite is of course Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, which is open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Rue Mouffetard - I love this area of Paris. Great markets, delicious restaurants (and fondue!), adorable little streets.

Montmartre – In addition to climbing up the stairs to Sacre Coeur, I love the shops and restaurants in Montmartre. Great fondue! A favorite bar is Le Rendez-Vous des Amis.

Les Halles and BHV - It may seem random to spend time at BHV, a Home Depot meets Macys meets William Sonoma meets Paper Source, but believe me, you won’t leave empty handed. Be sure to wander in to the basement, especially if you know someone like my gadget-loving husband.

Rue du Rivoli – Timeless Paris. If you find yourself wandering Paris, especially at 3am, be sure to swing by Rue du Rivoli. When you feel like you have Paris all to yourself, this street is extra magical.

Outside of the city.
Bois de Vincennes - On the perimeter of Paris (technically in Vincennes), this park is an incredible way to see the “weekend Paris”.  Canoes line the river, the smell of roasted nuts lure you in, and horse back riding is a favorite pastime. The metro line 1 will take you to the Bois de Vincennes, where many families spend the weekend. If you have extra time, be sure to swing by the Chateau Vincennes.

Giverny - Although Giverney, the home of Monet, is only a little distance from Paris, you feel a world away. You will feel whisked off into one of Monet’s paintings and will wish you could experience even more.

Educate.
Bateaux Mouches - A boat ride is a great way to see the city. Definitely take a ride at night, when the city is all aglow.

Musee Rodin - This is one of my favorite museums in Paris. The huge garden is always a highlight. I also love Centre PompidouMusee D’Orsay, and L’Orangerie.

Institut du Monde Arabe - I love this place. When I lived in Paris, I took arabic, and so spent a decent amount of time here. It is an awesome museum, but most importantly, pop next door for mint tea and pastries.

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I’m going to be updating this list as I think of favorites and find new spots to share. I’d love to hear your favorite places in Paris, too. I’m headed to France and Turkey for a month this summer, including some solo time, and am always interested in exploring new-to-me spots!

To see all of my posts on France, go here.

Halong Bay

April 30, 2014

halongbay9halongbay3 halongbayhalongbay4halongbay8halongbay7halongbay6halongbay5halongbay2Although it’s taken me far too long to document our travels to SE Asia, I’m kind of sad that this is the last post. On to the next adventure, right?

Halong Bay has long been on my list of places I’d love to see. To sleep aboard a junk boat! To kayak through caverns and limestone islands! Before our trip, I spent hours reading about Halong Bay and staring at jaw-dropping photos.

The best way to see Halong Bay is with a tour. Matt and I are not big tour people; we like to go at our own pace, but Halong Bay can be somewhat tricky to navigate, so I’m glad that we went ahead with a group. Through a friend’s recommendation, we opted to go with Vega Travel.

We met up with our group early in the morning at Vega’s downtown Hanoi office. We jumped into a van and were off! Halong Bay is about three hours away. Once we reached the Bay, we boarded the boat. I’ve never been on a traditional cruise, but I love being on small boats. The junk boat had about ten bedrooms and two large decks. It was nothing fancy, but you don’t need much when you’re in the midst of such a beautiful landscape.

The one downside – especially after having such incredible (and hot) weather in Thailand and Laos – was the gray and rainy weather. In a way, the fog and light rain added to Halong Bay’s mystical vibe. We made friends on our boat and shared bottles of beer – that we had brought on to the boat (the one caveat with many tours in Halong Bay are that they overcharge for alcohol, big time).

We spent time on the boat along with kayaking through the Bay (and stopping by at the floating villages), hiking, and visiting caves.

Although Halong Bay was not my favorite stop on our trip, I am glad that we included a short trip to visit.

As a side note: I am currently planning my next two big trips and would love any and all recommendations, etc. In August, I will be going to Turkey and in November, I will be going to Argentina and potentially Chile and Uruguay. xo

 

 

A Brooklyn Weekend

April 18, 2014

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A quick interruption in the Southeast Asia recaps since I’m trying to be a better blogger and catch up in a timely fashion. Almost caught up, promise!

Two weekends ago, we visited our dear friends in Brooklyn. They’ve spent the last ten years or so living in Boston and we loved having them around. We were so sad to see them move – we miss them! But, NYC is a pretty rad place to visit and we’re incredibly happy for them.

We travel a lot and we often have to leave Weber at home – the one downside about having a large dog. We were able to bring Web along for our weekend in Brooklyn and he had a blast. Brooklyn is so dog friendly. We stayed with our friends in Boerum Hill and so ventured from around there. I’ve often stayed in Greenpoint or Park Slope, so it was really cool to experience a new neighborhood.

In addition to enjoying the amazing fresh air, we ate and drank a lot. Here were my favorite spots:

Mission Dolores – hip outdoor/indoor pet friendly bar with lots of delicious beer on tap.

Greenpoint Heights – great brunch. I’d highly recommend the huevos rancheros! Plus, eating outside always wins.

Torst – because beer. And I was kind of obsessed with the interior – gorgeous wood tables and walls!

Royal Palms – the wait is long (ours was three hours), but don’t let that intimidate you. We were able to give them a phone number to call and then we had to show up and wait for the last hour in the bar. Shuffle board is so fun. It might even be the new bowling?

The General Greene – seriously the cutest space, and brunch was delicious.

Also, Pacific Standard and Bierkraft were a lot of fun! What are your favorite Brooklyn haunts?

 

The Rest of Hoi An

April 15, 2014

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And just like that, our time in Hoi An was complete. Next up, Halong Bay!

Cua Dai Beach

April 9, 2014

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Since we opted to skip the Thai islands on this trip, we wanted to spend at least one evening in Cua Dai Beach along Vietnam’s coast. There were so many incredible hotels to choose from, but ultimately we decided upon the Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort. This was definitely an indulgent stay, but worth every penny. We had a huge suite with unobstructed sea views. The hotel grounds were beyond beautiful — and the breakfast buffet, my goodness.

We took it easy at the Victoria – morning by the pool, afternoon at the spa, lots of banana smoothies (with rum) and platters of dragon fruit. It was seriously indulgent, and I kind of wish I were there right now.

markets of hoi an

April 8, 2014

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I could wander outdoor markets for days, literally. Savoring each stall – the smells, the colors, the details. We walked and walked and walked and didn’t even cover the entirety of the market scene in Hoi An. We wandered through the meat market (not for the weak of heart), the seafood market along the river, and everything in between.

I loved coming across foods that I didn’t recognize. There were so many interesting fruits and vegetables, all so fresh and colorful. For our cooking class, we spent the morning at one market, buying items to use in our dishes. I made a vegetable curry and purchased coconut meat and water to make my own coconut milk. It was delicious – with just a hint of sweetness.

In my dreams, I’m wandering through Hoi An, market basket in hand and fresh flowers in the other. And on sunny days, I always order a Vietnamese iced tea.

Hoi An, Vietnam

April 7, 2014

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Hoi An was magical.

Vietnam had long been at the top of my travel wish-list, but I couldn’t have prepared myself for how much I loved it. We traveled to three different parts of this incredible country – Hoi An, Hanoi, and Halong Bay.

By the time we arrived at Da Nang airport, we had been traveling Asia for a week. At this point, we had relaxed into that sweet, sappy vacation mode. We woke up daily by seven am (no alarm!), ready to chase the day through quiet moments and exchanges with soon-to-be new friends. I really do believe in timing, and in this moment, we were perfectly poised to explore Hoi An.

As a small city, Hoi An has expansive markets (more on that soon), restaurants overflowing with guests along the riverfront, and quiet streets that almost lead you to believe that you’ve wandered into someone’s backyard.

Three miles from downtown is the South China Sea – and long stretches of beach. For our first evening, we stayed at the incredible Victoria Hotel. We stayed at a variety of places throughout our trip – bungalows and guesthouses; hotels in downtown districts coupled with more indulgent resorts. We love the boutique feel, where you can feel somewhat immersed with the local culture. The Victoria was definitely more of a resort – but well worth a one-night stay. We spent the evening in a cottage directly on the beach. The views were breathtaking.

The rest of our time in Hoi An, we stayed in the rice fields, which was in between downtown and the Cua Dai Beach. We had a big marble bath tub that overlooked the fields and one of those incredible swing chairs that you could spend hours in. We also had bikes that we took out on mini-adventures around the perimeter of the city.

While in Hoi An, we took a cooking class, which was one of the highlights of our trip. We spent the morning at the market – choosing all of our ingredients – which was a really incredible experience. Hoi An is known for its custom tailors; everywhere you look, there’s a different tailor. We had a few items made and it really became a fun part of our trip. We would return each day to try on our pieces and have them altered accordingly.

The city was breathtaking. The people were the nicest. The food was mouth-watering (we went to this restaurant twice). I could go on and on.