Category Archives: Travels

Visiting Norway

Here’s another email-turned-blog-post. I’m posting the information below just in case you’re making plans to visit (which I CAN’T RECOMMEND ENOUGH).

“Given your preferences and time allotment, I’d recommend going to Geiranger and Bergen. Geiranger is fairly small but offers stunning scenery and awesome hiking. There’s also a few local dives, like this AMAZING little chocolate shop called Geiranger Sjokolade. There’s a visitor’s center in the port area with plenty of hiking maps/guides. We did a pretty rough trek up to a waterfall (rough for me anyway…haha), but it was totally worth it. It seemed like every ten steps I’d turn around and the view was even more incredible as we got higher and higher. The snow melt was streaming from the mountains, and we’d stop for cool drinks of crystal water from little streams. Some of the hiking trails passed through people’s farms, so you’d open the gate, continue along the path with sheep and lambs (and the occasional llama) prancing around you, and then close the gate on your way out. Even as I’m writing this, I’m like there’s no way. Anyway, at the top, there was a grassy span above the waterfall that we relaxed on for a little while next to this rushing river. Then we hiked down the path behind the falls. So cool. Something else you might be interested is the Geiranger Fjord Center. It was under construction when we were there but the parts we could access were really interesting. There were these neat walkways along the river, a pretty shop and indoor exhibits. Geiranger has an excellent visitor’s site.

From there, or I suppose it doesn’t matter what order you do it, I’d definitely recommend Bergen. It’s Norway’s second largest city but hardly a metropolis. It’s colorful, hilly and cultural and also offers some interesting activities. We explored the outdoor fish market, the pedestrian shopping street, the arts district and Bryggen, the city’s antique wharf. There’s plenty of bakeries, restaurants, etc. and you can try interesting stuff like whale meat. There’s a stave church on the outskirts of town that’s pretty easy to access via local transportation (it’s a bit of a walk from the stop to the church, but depending on how badly you want to see it, it’s worth it.) Don’t miss the funicular up to Mount Fløyen, where you can catch a pretty spectacular view (I only know this from photos, because the day we went it was pea soup fog, but still a cool experience in my opinion.) Look out for all the street art, and don’t miss Skostredet, where you can check out galleries, vintage stuff, etc. I bought a tote at the Made in Bergen store, because I’m a sucker for totes. Bergen also has an excellent tourist page.

As far as transport between the two, I’d check out the Norway in a Nutshell routes and would highly recommend travel by train or even boat. The perspective of the fjords from the water is pretty outstanding.

One unfortunate note: everything is pricey, and our dollar does not exchange well. Not a huge deal, but just a heads up if you want to save.

Anyway, I’m excited for you. It really was other-worldly in its natural beauty. I highly recommend visiting, even before some of the more well-known European hotspots.”

Visiting Copenhagen

I suppose without realizing it, I wrote a blog post in the form of an email to someone who wanted to pick my brain about visiting one of the world’s coolest cities. I’m posting the information below just in case you’re making plans to visit.

“I think you all would love Copenhagen, and I highly recommend going. It quickly rose to the top of my list of favorite places, and I’ve been considering going back.

We flew Norwegian Airlines; my ticket was less than 600 bucks from JFK. You could also try Icelandair. They fly out of DC, and you can add up to a 7-day layover in Iceland, which is nuts.

I’d definitely recommend staying in an Airbnb. Here’s the one we stayed in: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1218328. The host was present, so not sure if you’re into that.

The city has a ton to offer in terms of food. We ate at Noma, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime splurge. The staff there recommended Atelier September, but it was closed the day we tried to go. Still though, we figured if the staff at the world’s best restaurant recommended a place, it has to be good. Others we tried: The Coffee Collective and Meyers Bageri. Also, you must check out Torvehallerne. We walked through/ate here twice and still regret not spending more time here. A couple places we didn’t make it to this time but I hear amazing things about are Conditori La Glace and GRØD. Be sure to try a hot dog at one of the city’s stands!

As far as activities go, the city has several historic landmarks. We climbed to the top of the Rundetaarn, and I thought the Royal Palace and adjacent gardens were stunning as well as the city’s Botanical Garden. There’s a lovely (and pretty long) pedestrian street called Strøget that’s full of shops. One I’d definitely recommend visiting is Illums Bolighus. Also, be sure to check out Tivoli! We had a blast the night we went. We didn’t visit any museums, although I hear exceptional things about the Glyptotek. There’s a flagship Lego store in the city as well. Just for curiosity’s sake, I’d walk through Christiania, a sort of hippie, squatter, grunge neighborhood that has its own government. Lots of interesting sights and sounds to be sure. 🙂

Copenhagen is a great wandering city, so I recommend plenty of leisure time to explore as opposed to a rigid itinerary. The canals and gardens are lovely, and some of the architecture is stunning. We didn’t use the subway much at all, but the one time we did, I noticed it was pristine. Anyway, transport is available if you need it.

Gee, I’m tempted to check out tickets myself. Not sure of areas surrounding Copenhagen, although I’m sure there are plenty of day trip options. I did write a hotel in Malmö, Sweden, which is just a trip across the Øresund Bridge from Copenhagen. Even if you stayed in the city the whole time, there’s plenty to do.”

Visiting Martha’s Vineyard

I suppose without realizing it, I wrote a blog post in the form of an email to someone who wanted to pick my brain about visiting one of the world’s most beautiful islands. I’m posting the information below just in case you’re making plans to visit.

“As far as the Vineyard goes, they have a really inexpensive and efficient bus system that makes it easy to cover the island in a day. There are also Jeep and scooter rentals as well.

Not sure what ferry you’re taking, but if it’s docking in Oak Bluffs, sort of the island’s main hub, I wouldn’t miss the Flying Horses, which is the oldest operating carousel in the country (this may be more of a nostalgic thing for me since I’ve ridden it as a kid, but if it’s just you and your parents, you might want to just take a look and then move on…haha). The famous gingerbread cottage village is also in Oak Bluffs and definitely worth a walk-through. The town is very walkable and full of unique shops and restaurants. (There are no chains on the island save for a couple reduced-sized grocery stores.)

Here are some food recs:

Mad Martha’s ice cream (OK, my sister swears by Ben & Bill’s, which is also delicious, but you can get it on the mainland. Either way though, you can’t go wrong.)
Murdick’s Fudge
MV Gourmet Cafe and Bakery (THE APPLE FRITTER OMG)
Mocha Mott’s
Nancy’s (you can sit on the harbor and they have excellent seafood)

Of course, you’ll want to see some Jaws shooting locations. You’ll probably recognize a lot of the Amity Island town scenes in Edgartown, and if I remember correctly, you can see the infamous bridge/pond (from the terrifying scene with Brody’s son) from one of the bus routes, since the bridge is on the road that connects Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.

I also love Vineyard Haven (again, not sure which ferry you’re taking, and it might dock here too), which is the home of the original Black Dog restaurant. Whether or not the food is actually excellent or if it’s more of a tourist trap is debatable, but it’s basically a shack on the beach and is a cool experience IMO. The last time I was there I remember my food being delicious. There’s always a crazy wait though.

That’s what I’m most familiar with, but of course there’s tons more. There are plenty of biking paths, organic farms, lighthouses, beaches, etc. that you can explore. They have plenty of guides and tourist information should you need it too. There’s a pretty big art/film scene too, which I imagine you’ll enjoy. Also, if I think of anything else, I’ll pass it along.

Oh, and keep your eye out for celebs! My sister has talked with Maggie Gyllenhaal, and of course the Obamas and Clintons have vacationed there. My dad has seen David McCullough a bunch of times. Also, Carly Simon has a shop in Vineyard Haven.

Overall, wherever you go (at least on the Vineyard anyway), it’ll be walkable and beautiful with plenty of interesting, non-chain places to check out. Hope that helps! Didn’t mean to write a book…haha. Excited for you guys! The Cape is a beautiful place.”

On My Phone Dying During a Sunset

Today I ventured out for a post-Christmas run; my feet felt as if they were filled with the 20 pounds of peanut butter fudge I ate yesterday.

I headed toward the beach and then over the bluff. By the time I reached the harbor, the sun had completely set behind Nobska, but that saturated Cape light still cast its unmatched glow on the boats and water, and bright oranges still blanketed the horizon. I walked out onto the jetty to take a panoramic photo when my phone died.

A COMPLETE DISASTER. WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT. OH NO.

But really, it wasn’t. I put my phone away and stood there breathing in the cold air, smelling its salt and feeling the chill in my nose. I turned my head to the right and to the left, taking in from the highest point of Grand Avenue to the harbor entrance then to the inner marina. The colors were rich and deep, from the royally blue water to the gradient sunset. The small, tired waves were my soundtrack, that calm ocean churn repetitively melodic. I stayed for a while, perched on the jetty. When I turned to leave, I felt guilty about turning my back on such a sight.

Let’s talk about Disney World.

So, several months ago, my older sister Leah contacted our entire family and asked if we’d all be interested in meeting at Disney World to help celebrate her and my brother-in-law’s 30th birthdays. We told her we’d think about it and then replied within .87 seconds with a resounding yes. I just got back, and I think I can speak for my family when I say we all had a blast together. I think I slept a cumulative 3.5 hours the whole trip (not really), fell asleep on the bus back to the airport and was catching up on rest for days afterward. Signs of an excellent vacation (for me anyway)!

I have a few thoughts and observations:

1. FastPasses are worth their weight in gold. Not going to lie, it was hard for me not to feel smug walking past a two-hour line to meet Anna and Elsa because my sister had reserved a time in advance. And so forms the Disney Black Market: how much would harried parents pay for an Anna/Elsa FastPass? I can’t pretend and say this thought didn’t cross my mind.

2. The Christmas decorations at Disney World are like already having the most delicious mocha fudge ice cream sundae and topping it with your favorite salted caramel cheesecake. Magic upon magic!

3. Some food highlights:

  • The Dole Whip at Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland – creamy and pineapple-y. Definitely refreshing.
  • The mushroom pizza at Mama Melrose’s in Hollywood Studios – seriously so good. I tried my mom’s vodka pasta which was also scrumptious.
  • The brioche ice cream sandwiches from L’Artisan des Glaces in Epcot’s France Pavilion – I mean, come on!
  • The dinner buffet at Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge – lots of unique dishes and new culinary experiences. I’m still talking about the curried pasta salad and corn pudding.
  • The breakfast buffet at Fort Wilderness’ Trail’s End Restaurant – we got a little turned around trying to get here, so when we finally did, it was like we’d reached the Promised Land. My family did an excellent pillage job on the buffet, which included items like French Toast Bread Pudding with Pecan Praline Syrup and Smoked Brisket Eggs Benedict. What.

4. Disney World takes food allergies very seriously, which frankly, I found embarrassing, but I suppose it’s for the best. I tried to whisper to the waitress at Boma what I was allergic to, and she immediately went and got the chef to come walk me through the buffet. I was mortified, but my family thought it was cool. Again, I suppose it’s for the best. How terrible would it be to have to cause a scene with an EpiPen at Disney World?!

5. OK, what I’m about to say here will sound negative or that I didn’t have a good time, but bear with me. Despite being the most magical place in the world, Disney World can sometimes be a breeding ground for agitation and discord. We saw a guy full out yelling at his wife/girlfriend in the middle of a walkway; my mom saw a lady chew out her wheelchair-bound mother, berating her to not ruin her son’s day. Kids don’t magically behave and not scream their heads off just because they’re at Disney World (for the record, my niece and nephew were champs, and I’m not just saying that). The Monorail is often packed, as are the buses. And sometimes it seemed like the only moment’s peace you could get was in a bathroom stall. So, I say, pack some flexibility and a sense of humor! Find a seat and sit down. Get an ice cream or a coffee (there are fully operating Starbucks in Magic Kingdom and Epcot). Find a water feature and listen to the soothing sound of trickling water. Get plenty of sleep (kind of hard, but do your best!), drink plenty of water and eat snacks. Again, I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture at all. Just trying to keep it real.

6. When traveling, we all want perfect weather, perfect circumstances, perfect schedules, perfect everything. But this obviously never happens. That doesn’t mean “the entire trip is ruined.” Instead, we embraced the conditions as part of our experience. The night we had Extra Magic Hours in the Magic Kingdom, it was rainy and a little chilly, but, not to be deterred from a night of fun, I bought myself a Mickey Mouse hat and walked on basically every ride without a wait. My sister bought one of those emergency ponchos, which opened up the doors for a plethora of jokes at her expense. My dad was in his photography glory as he walked around the park shooting the castle and its reflections on the wet sidewalk. We headed back to the hotel that night with wet pants butts and some great memories.

In conclusion, I think Disney World has become Nostalgia Heaven for my 27-year-old self. Disney puts on some great shows, fireworks displays, rides and parades, and how could we not sing along at the tops of our lungs to some of our favorite songs from childhood. I loved spending time with my favorite people in the world in a place that is pretty universally appealing for all of my family members. Great idea, Leah!! So glad you suggested it.

(If you’re looking for more info, there are about a million other blog posts with very specific tips and tricks on how to navigate the parks, when to visit, what to eat, etc. Just hit up Google!)

Pannekaker

What’s that, you ask? Norwegian pancakes! I went to an international party the other night; everyone picked a country (or region/state) and brought representative foods. I opted for Norway, having just been in May (More on that later! Still sorting thoughts…). We had taken a train from a small port town to a village called Myrdal on top of a mountain. The little station had wireless Internet access (because obviously) and a cafe, where I ate a delicious Norwegian pancake topped with sweet sour cream and raspberry preserves.

I decided to recreate this dish for the party. I used this recipe, only I nixed the ricotta topping and used raspberry preserves instead of strawberry. I also sweetened the sour cream. However, depending on how sweet your preserves are, adding a sweetener is optional.

They turned out delicious–I must say the batter is basically a liquid, and since I was opting for miniature pancakes (party foods!) as opposed to pan-sized ones (like a crepe), I added more flour to thicken the batter so it would maintain a circular shape in the pan.

Here’s the cool thing I learned, which I’ve basically been telling everyone: The recipe called for cardamom, which I don’t have in my spice cabinet. A regular-size spice container was $12 at the store. It says you can substitute lemon zest, but hello authenticity! I insisted on using cardamom, a spice commonly used in Scandinavian baking, but I didn’t want to drop twelve bucks when I only needed one teaspoon. Enter bulk spices! Turns out places like Garner’s, a natural supplement store in South Carolina, sell spices in bulk. (Earth Fare and Whole Foods might, but I haven’t confirmed this.) You can actually buy as little or as much as you need and pay by weight. I eyeballed a teaspoon, and it was only 89 cents. I look at it as buying a spice sample for a recipe that may or may not work. If it does and I plan on using the spice continually, I might invest in the $12 container. But if not, I only spent, in this case, 89 cents. I’m filing this away for future reference.

Here are the pancakes sitting naturally* next to a Norwegian hat:

*staged strategically for an Instagram

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P.S. I do know ethnic grocery stores often sell spices for cheaper but not necessarily in bulk.

 

Jeanne Petrizzo, Age 27

One of my favorite books growing up was Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Not about anything particularly grand or epic, the book describes the antics and issues of a normal little girl who is a member of a normal family. I think that’s why I like it so much. Throughout the book, the parents face car trouble, financial problems and job insecurity, and these adult stresses translate into their own set of worries for Ramona. At the end the family is cooped up together in the house on a rainy Sunday afternoon; they’re cross with each either and antsy. Finally, the father demands that the family get in the car and go to a restaurant so they can be together and enjoy a delicious meal, while temporarily setting their stresses and anxieties aside. The book describes Ramona’s sheer enjoyment of her juicy burger and crispy fries as she sits with her kind family. The relief and warmth is tangible compared to the stress and rain at the beginning of the chapter. On the way home, “Ramona snuggled inside her car coat, feeling cozy enclosed in the car with the heater breathing warm air on her nice family. She was a member of a nice sticking-together family.” I admit, as a little girl myself, I cried when I read the ending.

On Saturday, Cara, my traveling buddy and blogger over at Trip Crush, and I ventured to Charleston for the day. We had only two things on the agenda: eat at Jeni’s new Charleston scoop shop (a bucket list item for me), and visit the Rifle Paper Company’s pop-up shop. The rest we could fill in with whatever suited our whims. I had the Purple Goat at Glazed on King Street–it’s a berry-and-goat-cheese-filled donut with a lavender glaze. We browsed the stands at the city’s lovely and large farmer’s market, where we stumbled upon some of the most delicious pickles and okra at Fresh Pickle Works. We went to Jeni’s as soon as it opened at 11–I ordered a scoop of the Wildberry Lavender and the Goat Cheese with Cherries. In addition to really creative and masterfully paired flavors, the ice cream itself is the richest, creamiest consistency. King Street is one long line of both actual luxury shops, like Louis Vuitton, and stores that are luxurious in my book, like Madewell and Lucky Brand. We browsed and made purchases and then stopped for a BBQ taco snack. OK, I admit, we went back to Jeni’s for more ice cream.

Now, I don’t have nearly the list of problems that Ramona’s parents had (right now, anyway). But like most normal adults, there are the demands and responsibilities of simply waking up every day. Not that I’m necessarily overwhelmed, but I must say, a meandering day in a pretty place is just what I didn’t realize I needed. I’m not advocating irresponsibility, but I (obviously) disregarded my normal daily caloric concerns and readily spent a little more money than I usually do. And to be honest, it felt GREAT. I highly recommend a break every now and then, whatever that might look like for you.

P.S. On our fun little trip, we frequently quoted Donna and Tom from Parks and Rec: “Treat. Yo. Self.” They’re definitely onto something with their annual tradition.

Holland Days

After a lovely few days in Paris, we boarded a train for Amsterdam. The train was just a means to an end, but an ideal means it was. Foggy expanses of European countryside dotted by the occasional village. I wanted to stop at every single one.

Amsterdam is all parts style, grit, Dutch Masters, pancakes, bicycles and the Amstel River, tossed and mixed to create the network of charming canals that comprise it. If you hear someone mention Amsterdam and don’t think of drugs and prostitution first, I commend you, because this city is so, so, so much more.

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We arrived in the late afternoon, hungry, tired and missing Paris. To remedy our misery, we ate pizza and went to bed, and wouldn’t you know, it worked. The next days were filled with food, new friends, exploration and a step or several back in time.

Some notes and highlights:

1. BIKES. BIKES. BIKES. Biking in Amsterdam is no joke. Everyone owns a bike and rides it everywhere. To simply walk across the street, you must be sure the way is clear of cars and then the tram, and once you’ve made it that far, you have to look out for the multitude of bikes coming and going in all directions. It’s real-life Frogger. In fact, pedestrians carry Valium with them to combat the anxiety they suffer every time they have to cross a street. I’m kidding, but I did find it nerve-wracking at times. Bikers have their own lane, and they will yell and/or ding their bike bells at you if you so much as set your big toe on their allotted pavement. (Read this New York Times piece for more insight.)

2. People. I’d say all the people we encountered in Amsterdam were friendly, helpful and proud of their city (not to mention they spoke flawless English). I was impressed with their knowledge of the canal layout, restaurant recommendations and help with tram stops. I was challenged to better know the city I live in and be the kind of helpful ambassador I encountered in Amsterdam.

3. Anne Frank House. A sobering but necessary experience, the Anne Frank House was worth the wait and emotional strain. Anne wrote often in her diary about the challenge of that many people living in such a small space, but their endurance of those cramped conditions was literally a matter of life and death. Anne’s and Margot’s mother marked their growth progress in pencil on the wall; the markings are still visible. My own mother did the same with me and my siblings.

4. Language. Dutch is a mixture of German and English. Like most city transportation systems, an automated voice on the trams would call out each stop and then name the next one. I liked listening to all the different grachts, straats, pleins and skades; the street names exuded a manner of significance. Perhaps it was the amount of syllables?

5. Cheese. The Netherlands has a big dairy scene, so CHEESE. YES, CHEESE. I LOVE CHEESE. Most shops in the city sold shrink-wrapped selections for tourists to take through airport security. I brought back smoked goat cheese, which I had never seen over here in the States; shock of shocks, it made it all the way home untouched, tempting as it was to rip into and scarf down (it was a gift for my sister).

6. Other Delicious Culinary Treats. So, if pancakes are your thing, you’ll love Amsterdam. Savoury, sweet, local, international, you can get anything you want. The dish pictured below easily falls in my top ten list of most delicious foods I’ve ever had the privilege to enjoy. It was a pancake filled with warm apple compote topped with homemade apple ice cream, chocolate, whipped cream and a type of buttery syrup. Cara’s selection, which I was more than happy to help her eat.

pancakes

The city is full of ethnic options–we had some delicious Italian food on multiple occasions, including homemade pasta–and lots of fried food stands, for obvious reasons (In reference to the photo below, coffeeshops in Amsterdam don’t specialize in coffee).

high time

We met a nice lady named Mary on the tram one night, and we asked her for a restaurant recommendation. She told us she’s a chef at a cafe called Van Puffelen and that we should stop by for lunch. We had hot sandwiches with a side of Dutch cheese and mustard. I also ordered bitterballen, a fried meat snack.

7. Dutch Masters. The Rijksmuseum is The Netherlands’ national museum where you can see works by Rembrandt and Vermeer, among other Dutch Masters. The Night Watch, Rembrandt’s wall-sized masterpiece, is certainly a highlight. You can also visit Rembrandt’s Amsterdam home; of course, the house has been staged for tourists, but it still is an educational glance into his lifestyle and artistic habits. I felt much the same sense of awe I had when I stood at the door of Carl Sandburg’s personal home office.

8. Dutch Trademarks. I hope to return someday to see the tulip fields in the spring, but the bulbs were readily available everywhere. The cold weather didn’t shut down the enchanting Bloemenmarkt. Another trademark of the Dutch is the wooden shoe, the prevalence of which in Amsterdam is that of netted bags of seashells in a beach town; it’s what tourists know and want. Also, the blue and white motifs like those found on Delftware, a famous and historic Dutch pottery brand, accent many of the city’s interior walls and dishware.

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shoes

tiles

9. Zaanse Schans. A short train ride took us outside the city to the small town of Zaanse Schans. An idyllic change of city scenery, Zaanse Schans is home to several historic windmills and a delicious-smelling chocolate factory. The arms of the windmills waved to welcome, and the flat, wet plains stretched as far as I could see. We went inside a windmill and climbed to the top; I’m glad I can say I did it, but it was certainly precarious.

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Paris Places

Apart from the main attractions, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, et al., Paris is full of streets, shops and cafes begging to be explored. Here are a few that left an impression:

Lodging

– I guess I should start with our home base, the Hotel Beaugency. With a location a street over from the picturesque Rue Cler, we couldn’t have asked for a better spot, not to mention having access to the entire city via the nearby metro stop. Great rates for a comfortable space only a couple blocks from the Eiffel Tower.

Eats & Treats

In the first ten hours I was in Paris, I’d already visited four, yes four, pastry shops for a delicious snack, and each was delectable (for instance, a donut filled with Nutella, much to my excitement). I’m sure some bakeries are better than others, but really, the worst is probably better than most anything we can get here. Anyway, below are some memorable cafes, restaurants and bakeries.

– On the aforementioned Rue Cler was L’Eclair, the quintessential French cafe, serving memorable croissants and cafe au laits to locals and travelers alike. (The link leads to my friend Cara’s blog. Her write-up with photos is spot on.)

– Also on Rue Cler (I loved Rue Cler, can you tell?) was Café du Marché, apparently a favorite with locals because of the inexpensive, for Paris anyway, prices. We tried a salad with fresh vegetables including green beans and a subtle vinaigrette, topped with foie gras. It became a worthwhile challenge to stack our forks with a little of each individual ingredient of the salad for the taste explosion! I also had a delicious and buttery steak accompanied by bacon-y potatoes.

– Le Wilson, near the Place de Trocadero, played a part in one of the loveliest evenings I’ve ever had. We set out on a walking tour of the various monuments lit up at night. We had stepped out of the Trocadero metro stop and didn’t really see anything remarkable until we rounded a corner–I’ll never forget the impact of seeing the lit Eiffel Tower from the plaza across the Seine. After basking in the glow and every-hour-on-the-hour light show, we decided we needed a snack, which turned into a full-fledged dinner, naturally. French bread and butter, Brie, Salade Nicoise, and onion soup were our selections over the course of a leisurely couple hours. On our stroll home in the glow of the Eiffel Tower, it started to snow.

– We visited Vagenende on Boulevard Saint Germain for a splurge meal, a prix fixe, three-course dinner served in the lovely Belle Epoque-style interior. Each course offered two options, so naturally we each chose something different and shared. Since the menu was all in French, I don’t know exactly what I ordered, but I did enjoy a lovely salmon appetizer and a delicous, rich stew entree with Indian influences.

– We visited a GROM in Venice, and after discovering that there was a location in Paris, we made it a point to stop by. Sure, I was wearing a winter coat, mittens, a wool hat and three scarves, but it’s never too cold for gelato is my motto.

– Ladurée is the pastry shop destination with its celadon and pink motifs and gilt gold details. Macarons are the highlight, but I tried some other pastries that were just as delectable. There are Ladurée shops around the world, but the only one in the States is in New York City (they just have to have it all–the cronuts! the macarons!).

– We visited Angelina’s location in the Louvre for liquid chocolate; Cara opted for the hot version, while I chose the cold. Ne’er a marriage more divine than that of art and chocolate.

– One afternoon I strolled over to Davoli, an Italian deli on Rue Cler, for a snack (by which I mean some pasta and sausage). The nice Italian man tried to teach me some French words as he prepared my food. For a little while, I pretended I lived in Paris and was just making my daily stop at the deli to visit my friends from the Motherland. Great fun.

– Crêperie Josselin in Montparnasse is the kind of place you’d want to step into on a cold day for a hot drink and good eats. Full of people and food, the little cafe served a variety of crepes from savory to sweet that you could enjoy for as a meal or a snack.

Josselin

This is a sampling; there were many more cafes and bakeries which we tried and loved. They say to stay from heavy tourist areas, which I would say is wise. If a local recommends it, definitely give it a whirl.

Shops

If you see something pretty in a window, step inside and check it out. You never know what other delightful things you find; what’ll stick with you; what you’ll take home with you.

– Deyrolle is a taxidermy shop where you can buy a stuffed elephant for EUR 20,000, among other animals. In addition to the taxidermy, the shop offered various nature-related curiosities and books. Upstairs and in the back was a room dedicated to the collection and framing of insects. I probably wouldn’t buy a scarab in a shadowbox, but some of the butterfly species were incredibly beautiful.733953_10151344944733149_986158458_n

– I’m hesitant to call the Galeries Lafayette a department store lest you picture a Macy’s. For all intents and purposes, that’s what it is though. We spent a good bit of time in the especially marvelous paper, book and stationery section.

Layfayette

Just a little sampling, but a fine one it was. We were there from Saturday until Wednesday, and we jam-packed our days as best we could. But naturally it wasn’t enough.

“We have to go back!” – Dr. Jack Shephard, Lost

Come to Paris with me.

I spent the last week of February, 2013 exploring Paris, and I’ve been wondering (for about four months now):

What could I possibly say about Paris that the greats haven’t said already (like Ernest Hemingway’s delightful memoir A Moveable Feast)?photo

Probably not much, but here’s how the City of Lights felt to me:

Paris is the old, beautiful manor on the corner, the stately house the neighbors slow down as they drive by to admire the impeccable landscaping. The windows glow gold on a dark winter evening; you’re standing outside envious of the warmth within.

And then the grand door with the gilt gold knocker is opening, and people are motioning you inside as they say “Bonjour.” You take off your coat and scarf, and someone whisks it away. Despite the rich decor and symphonic noise, the array of aromas is what you notice first. Sweets, savories, breads. Once your nose is out of the clouds, you look around, and you see lots of people dressed in dark, rich colors, conversing animatedly. You wish you spoke French, but it’s lovely to listen to the melody regardless.

You’re led through a great room of artifacts, sculptures and paintings, a collection of works that spans centuries. You marvel at the colors and materials and wonder who the curator is. He or she has perfect taste. Past the ancients, through the Classics, into the Impressionists and now the moderns. And then you’re in the grand golden dining hall with thick tapestries, glowing chandeliers and more people, talking, laughing and eating. Then you see the table, longer than you could ever imagine and full of foods beyond your dreams. You take a plate and fill it with a little of everything. Someone is leading you to the table, and you hear “Mon ami!” My friend. You start with the bread and cheese and wish that’s all you filled your plate with. But you try the soups and stews, the salads, meats and quiches. Rich and fulfilling from start to finish.

You sit and listen to the chatter and tinkling glasses in quiet bliss. You’d be happy to sit here until you have to leave, but then someone is leading you into a great hall with a circular stained glass window. You stand for a while mesmerized by the intricacies of the colored perfect pieces until you’re summoned down the hall into the next room. Dark, cosy and dessert.

More people, more talking and now the aroma is too much to resist. And then the colors. Trays and trays of macarons in every imaginable hue wait for you to choose and try. You hear an espresso machine and a milk frother, and then the cafe smell reaches your nose. You quietly request “Un cappuccino, s’il vous plaît” because you at least know how to say that. You’re motioned to a bistro chair where you sit with your plate of macarons, tartes, eclairs and cremes. The creamy cappuccino leaves some foam on your upturned lips.

You’re in the great hall again wondering which way you should venture, but despite the espresso, you are sleepy. You hear music down one hall and a film down the other. Discussions and conversations in the salons, dancing in the ballroom. You stand for a minute trying to decide where you should go next, and then find yourself being led upstairs and shown a bedroom. You sink into the bed, content but also wondering what you’ll experience tomorrow. Paris is in your dreams.

Here is a more practical post with some cafes, shops and other destinations that my friend and I enjoyed. Also, while I loved being in Paris in the winter, I’d love to revisit in the spring or fall. I imagine the experience would be different despite being in the same city.