Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We went to Paris

Last week was our one year anniversary of moving to London, and this weekend is our 2 year anniversary of being married!! It's hard to comprehend the life that we have built over these last two two years: getting married, moving abroad, traveling to 10 different countries in our second year of marriage, LOVE... It's everything I've ever wanted and more.

With our anniversary approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to tell you how we spent our first anniversary. Our first of many trips to Paris.  We have a guest host for today's post... Brett has had many cameos on the blog, but this is his first post! Take it away Brett....

Actual Date of Event: October 25-27, 2014
One of the best things about being an expat in a city like London is the entire continent of Europe being at your finger tips. At a moment’s notice you can book a weekend getaway to places that would take months to plan (much less afford!) if we were still living in the States. Our first experience doing just this was the second week after the move when we went for a short week to Paris for our one year anniversary.

After work I met Mary at St Pancras train station for our 6 o’clock Eurostar train under the Channel to Paris. After a short wait in the queue and security check for the Eurostar we were seated on the train, bottle of wine and homemade sandwiches at the ready and on our way to Paris! 

I had been to Paris while on a study abroad trip in college but this was to be Mary’s first time so we actually had quite a busy weekend planned trying to get to most of the main sites. We stayed at the Westin Vendome in a beautiful room with views over the Tuileries gardens all the way out to the Eiffel tower.
After dropping our bags we headed out for an evening stroll towards the Latin Quarter where I spent most of my nights while in college and even came across the doner kebab shop I so badly missed. After ordering one kebab (Mary “thought” she was going to share mine) we grabbed a beer and walked back towards the hotel, passing through the Louvre’s impressive courtyard and fighting over the next bite of kebab the whole way back.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at the hotel and then headed off through the gardens to tour the Louvre. For anyone that’s been to the Louvre they know it can be VERY exhausting. This experience was no different. However for everyone that says “meh” to the Mona Lisa due to the crowds, there is still something awe-inspiring and majestic about being able to see a painting first hand that has memorised us for 500 years.
Upon leaving the Louvre we were in desperate need of fuel; both alcohol and food. We meandered over to the St Germain area and grabbed an outdoor table at a café just off the Blvd St Germain, where we proceeded to spend the next 2.5 hours drinking, eating, people watching, and trying our best to be Parisans. The rest of the day we spent walking through the Latin quarter and checking out Notre Dame Cathedral.
Sunday was all about checking out the Eiffel tower and again, relaxing in cafes. We did however have a pit stop to make! After breakfast we began the 3ish mile walk along the Seine to the Eiffel tower however it being our anniversary Mary had a surprise up her sleeve. She had brought a lock with her and wanted to add our lock to the infamous Ponte des Arts. After scavenging the bridge for an open spot we locked the lock to the fence and tossed the key in the river. We even re-located the lock seven months later when we visited Paris with my parents!
We spent the afternoon taking in the Eiffel tower and even took a small nap in the park around the base.
After our little afternoon and siesta we pulled ourselves together for a lunch and walk back to the hotel to get ready for our anniversary dinner at Les Ombres. This was a beautiful restaurant on the roof of the Quai Branly Museum at the base of the Eiffel tower and offered incredible views of the tower lit up at night. Although, to be honest, the food was not very good but the company more than made up for it!

After a romantic evening we awoke bright and early Monday morning in time for the 7 am train and arrived back in London by 8; just in time for me to get to the office like we had been in the city the whole time!

It is trips like this that make me really appreciate living in London. And while we haven’t don’t enough of them we have both made it our goal to do more weekend trips in year two!



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Monaco, France: The lives of the rich and famous

Monaco, France
Actual Date of event: Early June

On our second day in Nice, we took a train to visit the city of Monaco. A city know for the rich and famous, the city is most well known for their world famous F1 race- the Grand Prix, their ultra fab casino- the Monte Carlo, and their banks- known to harbour foreign money. 

We visited Monaco, the day after the Grand Prix, while the stands and the track infrastructure were still in place.  

We started off the day by walking along the track and then up to the palace where Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene live. This was quite a view to be had as on either side of the palace was a beautiful vantage point for pictures of the city, landscape and the harbour.
Through Brett and my travels this year, we are a firm believer is always maintaining the proper level of food to alcohol to sightseeing ratio. If we sightsee for too long… endless museums, too much walking…. The day quickly turns from “this is the most amazing place I have ever been” to hunger, irritation and general tiredness.
After our hike to the top of the palace, we headed down to enjoy a refreshing drink and some food to prod us along. After a much needed refuelling, we visited the outside of the Monte Carlo. Entrance to the casino costs 10 euros and there is a requirement to have a jacket to enter. As we were just casual travellers, we forewent going inside.
Front of the Monte Carlo
Back of the Monte Carlo
Total days required to see Monaco: 1 Day
After a quick lunch, we jumped back on the train and headed back to Nice where we were staying for one more day.  Everything in Monaco is expensive, so I don’t think we would stay here again, but it was a really beautiful city to visit as a day trip.

Until next time-

Monday, October 6, 2014

Nice is nice

Location: Nice, France
Actual date of event: Late May

A costal town along the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is a beautiful city where hiking to the top of a vantage point or sharing a bottle of house wine are the only items on the itinerary. With the picturesque buildings all in a different shade of orange or pink, it is a dream to an expat with a DSLR.
Our first day in Nice, we walked along the boardwalk and took in the scenery. We enjoyed a casual lunch, along the cobblestone streets of the old town, with house wine and Napoli-style pizza.
One of my favourite parts of visiting cities in Europe is their old town areas which include, narrow cobblestone streets, quaint 10 table restaurants and more cafes than one can count. Where drinking a glass of wine at 11am is normal and the pace of life seems to move much slower. Like for example in Nice, one morning we were enjoying our morning pastry and café and the gentleman next to us was drinking a glass of red wine while reading the paper and wearing a dinner jacket. To which we then said "When in Nice..." and shortly thereafter got ourselves a glass of wine as well.  
There are a few staples that we look for when visiting a new city- the local deli and cheese shop, the local bakery for freshly baked bread and pastries and the local wine shop. Although it is easy to think that a city like Nice is only inhabited by tourists, there most often is a very lively local community that depends on those shops. Another perk is that these shops are not very often frequented by the tourists. Our first day in Nice, we found a cheese shop and a wine shop where the house bottle of wine cost 3.25 euros. We enjoyed cheese and wine while we cleaned up and got ready for dinner.

We went to dinner that night at a small restaurant called Papayou, where we dined on pate, homemade mushroom ravioli, seafood pasta and lots of wine. There is some saying where dinner is about the people and that the food can only complement the company and conversations being had. So the company was perfect (Brett’s parents), the atmosphere was perfect (Nice is nice) and the wine and food were perfect, hence a perfect evening in the south of France.

Wine shop: Caves Caprioclio 
Pastry Shop: La Fougasserie
Dinner first night: Papayou
Dinner second night: Bistro de Antoine

Until next time-