Paris Journals / A little neighborhood tour


Hello again from Paris!

Today we tried to start the day out right by making a short list of things to accomplish:

  1. Write a song
  2. Have lunch at Marche des Enfants Rouges (The covered market in Le Marais)
  3. Buy butter, eggs, bread, cheese & flowers
  4. Go for a long walk to take pictures in the neighborhood
  5. Read & have a glass of wine at a bistro
  6. Sit and chat in Place des Vosges (neighborhood park)
  7. Stop by for dinner at Cafe Hugo (we discovered it last night when passing by)
  8. Try not to nap for 4 hours again...

And believe it or not, this may have been the first entire To Do list that I've ever checked off. The list made for a lovely day with good food and inspiration. I can't remember my last Sunday that was this relaxing for us.


Here's somewhat of a walking tour of our apartment/street:

OUR STAIRWELL /

THE LOBBY (haha) & COURTYARD /

EXIT COURTYARD: LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD /

LOOK UP /

LOOK RIGHT /

LOOK LEFT /


The market today was quite a surprise. We went expecting a grocery market sort of place, and it was really a bunch of food trucks. The individual vendors also had wholesale booths behind their retail booths where you could buy the cheese, cream, pasta etc. for the ravioli you just ate. But we went expecting to buy groceries for the evening, and wound up eating lunch there. 

It was really such a pleasant surprise though, I think we'll go again and try a few other vendors. We ended up leaving with some beautiful butter, cheese and eggs, but had to go elsewhere for the bread & flowers. 

Ended up finding an open bakery on the way home, and a sweet little flower shop selling these beautiful peonies. I can't wait to see them open all the way up this week.

Our evening at the park was lovely. We brought our books and our journal, and made a little list of our Paris to-do's. I'm hoping the days start moving slower so we can get it all done--somehow these first 3.5 days have FLOWN by.

The Place des Vosges doesn't seem like it will ever get old. Only a 3 minute walk from our apartment, I'm hoping it becomes our little spot to rest and dream and chat. Today we sat by this beautiful fountain:

After we had been sitting for awhile and the sun was beginning to sink behind the buildings, we got up and wandered to Cafe Hugo around the corner. It was our first French cafe experience -- sitting in woven chairs at a marble round-top table, sipping wine and people watching. I love how the French always have both chairs facing the street, even when they're eating with someone. But I particularly love seeing people sitting alone, having a tea or a cigarette with the newspaper. They don't stare at their phones, they sit and enjoy.

I'm hoping to learn something about that while I'm here.

P.S. I've been so embarrassed at my rusty French that I downloaded an app and I've been doing French exercises every night. I'm really hoping that by the time we leave here I'll be a little closer to that old dream of speaking the language well.

Bonsoir!

xo


TWO DAYS IN BROOKLYN



If you're a romantic like me, when you think about New York you get a feeling.

It's the big city. The place where so many of my favorite movies are set, or were filmed. The place where my favorite jazz musicians got their start in those old famous clubs below street level. The city where my favorite actors and actresses have a second home, and pop over to the shop around the corner get their morning juice. The place where my favorite writers have lived, or been published. The place with some of the most delicious food, some of the most beautiful and unique clothing, and some of the most exquisite inspiration and history.

I love New York.

Michael and I take some sort of trip for our wedding anniversary every year, and this year we decided we'd love to see the Big Apple for a few days. While Manhattan is wonderful, and is quintessential "New York", we wanted to give Brooklyn a try this time. 

Brooklyn is booming, hip, and wonderful. We had a blast exploring, trying lots of food and drinks, and staying in the most lovely hotel that is literally worth a trip in itself.

What a city, what a trip.


My favorite thing about Brooklyn was The Wythe Hotel.

It's in the middle of Williamsburg, which is my favorite part of Brooklyn. The hotel was walking distance to most of our favorite spots. When our uber pulled up and dropped us off about a block away, it set us up for the most picturesque reveal. We walked around the corner to see this gorgeous brick building, with a tiled courtyard covered in twinkle lights. Inside there were exposed brick walls, thick wooden beams, intricate tile, big, bright windows. There is a gorgeous coffee shop/restaurant and the most lovely, classy rooftop bar. Our rooms had hand drawn wall paper, all white linens, and a soaking tub.

We arrived mid-morning, so brunch was the first item on our itinerary. The main floor of The Wythe is open to the public for meetings, coffee, and food. The restaurant is called Reynard, and it was a highlight of our trip, for sure. White marble cafe tables lined the room, there were these gorgeous tiled floors, a solid wood bar. The whole place has this perfect natural light. This dish with black rice, poached eggs, sweet potatoes and curry aioli was absolutely perfect. 

Checking into our room was a treat in itself, and we both seriously considered spending the whole day there. The mini bar had everything we could need, including the ingredients for a little cheese and charcuterie plate (the way to my heart). But there's a tradition of ours that began with the dream of opening our own donut shop, and ended with us attempting to taste all of the best donuts in the United States. A lofty goal, I know. But in every city we ever visit, we research the donut happenings and try to make our way there. We've had donuts from several other places in NYC, including one of our favorites of all time, The Doughnut Plant. But there's one famous donut shop in Brooklyn that we had never made it to, and always wanted to. So we decided to go ahead and catch a train over to DOUGH

Dough was everything we hoped it could be.

A little out of the way, but the staff was friendly, the donuts were fresh, and the service was quick. We bought a little carton of milk and took our box of donuts to a park bench to taste a few different flavors. I didn't expect to like this one, but the Hibiscus was by far my favorite.

I blame Michael Harrison for my love of donuts. Man, they're so good.

The first night we ran into our dear friends (who both have just moved to New York and both  happened to be in our wedding almost 5 years ago) Alysse Whatley and Aaron Chewning. What a perfect evening.

It's so wonderful running into friends when you're traveling.

Is it just me or does it feel so surprising and meant to be? 

I love catching up with an old friend in new city. Dinner with Alysse and Aaron in Brooklyn was so fun, and completely picturesque. We found a restaurant in Brooklyn that sold $5 Manhattans and slider burgers. That's so cheap for New York. So we were soaking in the good deals and the fact that we all happened to be in the city at once. Oh and of course some ice cream afterwards. It was so lovely. 


What's my favorite spot in all of Brooklyn? Without a doubt, Maison Premiere.

Most of my favorite travel stories have come from our Wild Sam Travel Guides. These folks know how to tell a city's history, and they really know how to find good food. We were digging through the Brooklyn book a few trips back, and we found Maison Premiere listed as an oyster and cocktail bar. Because I love both of those things with my whole heart, we decided to make a trip out there. We were so pleasantly surprised. 

The oysters were so delicious, and they have really great happy hour prices. This was also my first place ever trying an absinthe cocktail. I had a drink that they call the Walcott Express, which has absinthe, fresh mint, creme de menthe, and some other delicious ingredients. It was so fresh and perfect for my taste. Absinthe has a very unique flavor-- not everyone likes it-- but I definitely recommend you trying it! I like how their vintage absinthe drip makes it feel like you're in Paris in the early 1900s.

The next day we had brunch at Marlow & Sons,

which I highly recommend. They had homemade sausage patties and biscuit sandwiches that were to die for. They have great coffee, and a cute little general store in the front. It's definitely worth a visit, and they also sell some oysters and main dishes when they're not serving their delicious brunch. I mean, look at those pastries.

We did end up taking a train into Manhattan to see a dear friend. Kevin had promised to show us "his New York", so he took us to his favorite spot in Central Park near the reservoir.

He was right, it was absolutely magical.

We stood on the edge of the lake and watched the city light up and talked about our hopes and dreams (what else is there to talk about in New York, in Central Park, at night?). I can see why so many New Yorkers spend a lot of their time in the park, it's truly a sliver of peace in the middle of one of the craziest cities in the world.

Later that night we ate some incredible Thai food that Kevin said represented "his New York" because of how often he had ordered take out from there on the way home from work and eaten it at home. We laughed and shared Pad Thai and Green Curry. He took us to a little bakery down the street and we brought home a few pastries to have with our coffee. He showed us his apartment on the Upper East Side, where we had to teach him how to use his own coffee maker. He makes me smile. We sat and listened to music, catching up on all the changes in our life.

It was such a sweet, New York memory. 


You're not doing your New York trip justice if you're not trying some sort of heaLth fad.

NYC is famously ahead of the curve, especially with their diet and wellness trends. I had been hearing about matcha smoothies and matcha lattes for months, and I had to see what this green super-food was all about. We stumbled on Matchabar, because it happened to be near our hotel. It was flawlessly decorated and the baristas were really friendly and helpful.

For those of you wondering, matcha is an oriental tea with wonderful health benefits, and it's made from grinding all parts of the green tea leaves into a fine powder, which you make into a tea, latte, smoothie, etc. It's better for you than green tea because you're consuming the whole leaf.

Let just say it's a taste I'll have to get used to. But I do want to continue having matcha. It's said to make your skin lovely and balance out your body chemistry a bit. Add some honey if you want to make the experience enjoyable. If you are already a green tea fan, you may like it right off the bat!

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Oh New York,

I love you so much. Thank you for delicious food, for health trends, for jazz music, and for some of my very favorite movies. I hope to visit many, many more times. 

Next on the list in Brooklyn is Red Hook. 

It's a little further down south, so for our one-day trip it was a little difficult to get to. But for our next visit we hope to make there, as well as to:

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Stumptown Coffee Roaster

Fort Defiance

Buttermilk Channel

Brooklyn Flea

Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club

Brooklyn Brewery

& Brooklyn Bowl

Check these spots out before we do if you're interested!

xo, Emily


Tuscany, you're oh so lovely...



When Michael and I started planning our trip to Europe we had no idea where to go.

A trip overseas is laced with pressure to do something amazing, because anything that requires a 16 hour flight and puts that kind of a dent in your bank account needs to be amazing. We racked our brains for the right cities, the best deals on hotels, the shortest amount of time that would be enough time to really see a city. We were out of our league.

Luckily for us, Michael has some amazing family members that have lived in Milan for years. We reached out to them and they gave us some extraordinary recommendations, including the ever lovely Villa Bordoni

The villa itself was gorgeous down to every detail -- the pool, the open-air workout room (check out the view from the treadmill), the food, the staff, and the wine was the best I have ever tasted.

When we first got there, we had to pick our jaws up off the floor and pretend like we fit in. Ha! It was gorgeous, and ELEGANT. We noticed the hand-painted tiles on the floor of the bathroom, the floor-to-ceiling windows that opened out onto a balcony overlooking the rolling Tuscan hills. There was an adorable garden with little tables for two where we ate breakfast and had several glasses of wine during our stay. Right outside our room there was a shared sitting room where you can play chess (...who has time for chess on the reg?) and enjoy a cocktail. The bar looked like a scene out of the roaring 20's. Everything about this place felt like a breath of fresh air.

Click through all the pictures below:



The first day, Michael and I took a cooking class with their chef where we learned to make handmade pasta, a rustic marinara sauce with fresh tomatoes from the garden, tender Veal Osso Buco, and classic Italian Tiramisu for dessert. We love cooking so this was a real treat for us, not to mention that all-you-can-drink wine was being served all afternoon. The pasta process was almost therapeutic. The chef gave us tips on how to chop vegetables correctly, how to find the best olive oil, and how to cook in-season. His broken English and the glasses of wine made it more of a lighthearted Italian experience rather than any sort of real cooking school. 

And we were great with that.

The next day we visited the Antinori Vineyard for lunch and a flight of local wines. The whole place reminded us of a James Bond movie -- the towering concrete building with a vineyard literally built on top of it. The entrance was lined with swirling barbed wire, and you can't help but to feel fancy (and underdressed) when you're there. We kept catching each other’s eye with that “play it cool” but “I can’t believe we’re doing this” look.

When you're trying to pack light for a 10-day road trip across Europe you don't typically bring a whole lot of fancy clothes. But man I was so glad I brought that one dress.

On our last night, we cuddled up in our room, opened the floor-to-ceiling windows to our balcony, and we watched Under The Tuscan Sun (my first time ever seeing it). We laughed, we cried. It was absolutely perfect.

The next morning we picked out a case of local wine to preserve all the dreamy memories (never gotten a case of wine before...wow) and headed on our way to the train station. As sad as we were to leave we could LITERALLY not afford one more night (hehe). So we got the heck out of there and headed to Rome where our hotel was tiny and crappy, which is pretty much what we can actually afford.

So here's my blog tribute, to hoping that we’ll be able to return one day, but grateful for the beautiful moments we had there.

As beautiful and extravagant as Villa Bordoni was, there was something more that really impacted us when we were there. 

IT WAS ALL ABOUT TAKING IT SLOW

We all have an everyday pace that is so fast-- it never stops. We can even feel guilty for having a lazy Saturday. But everything about the place was designed to help you retreat for a day or two from the usual stresses of life and just be. I don't just think that's nice--I think it's necessary.

Up until this trip, Michael and I hadn't really taken a vacation, we were always traveling for work. As wonderful as that can be, and as blessed as we were to be able to travel together for work, we realized we had never really de-stressed and enjoyed ourselves like we did there. 

But I don't think we were able to relax just because Villa Bordoni was a swanky place to vacation.

I think you can tune into that feeling wherever you decide to go. Maybe it's a retreat to the mountains or to the beach for a weekend. Maybe it's a stay-cation at home. Maybe it's saving airline points and eating Ramen Noodles instead of eating out so that you can go live it up for a weekend. Go somewhere you've always wanted to go, or buy a bottle of $30 champagne because there's something worth celebrating.

I know it's not possible to do this stuff all that often, or to rush off to Italy, but it is always possible to enjoy yourself, be grateful, and relax. I hope we all decide to do that sometime soon.

XO,

Emily

Memories from Italy


In May of 2016 we decided to put everything on hold and take a crazy 10 day trip to Europe. The plan was to hit Scotland, England, France and Italy all in this time. Ambitious? Yes. Memorable? A thousand times yes. 

It's so difficult to choose a favorite, but I'd say that Italy took me the most by surprise. I didn't expect to, but I fell in love with it.

Italy is romantic, magical, rugged. 

It's been almost a year now since we were there, but I can remember it all so vividly. The plan was to hit a few of the highlights in just 5 days. Michael and I have a lot of experience with making the best of 24 hours in a city, so we figured why not hit Italy road trip style.


Here was the itinerary:

1 Night in Florence 

(rent a car and drive to Tuscany)

2 Nights at a villa in Tuscany

(followed by a train ride to Rome)

2 Nights in Rome

(fly home to GA)


It was crazy, it was stressful at times, it was completely beautiful, and it was the perfect way to end our trip.

Over the next few days I'll share details and photos with you, one city at a time >>

Day One: Florence

They say that every trip has a hiccup, and Florence was ours...

Here's my recommendation for anyone who loves to travel: go ahead and expect at least one bad entire day. 

On that day for us, the bad stuff just. kept. happening.

Go into it ready to laugh, and even ready at some point look at your travel partner and say..."Ok, so this is the day. Lets see if we can make some of it good!" 

If you go into it with that mentality, your chances of still having a good trip are so much better.  

I think we all know this, but it's worth saying out loud...

A good attitude changes everything


I wasn't able to jump right away into the good attitude...as you can see in the picture above.

To sum it all the Hiccups up quickly: 

We were traveling from Paris to Florence, and by some CRAZY airport language miscommunications (even though we were there on time) we missed our flight. The next flight was 6 hours later. Too short to leave the airport (Paris is about an hour away), and TOO LONG to sit at the airport.

Flight was delayed twice. When we landed the line for a taxi was 2 hours long. So we decided to wait for a bus...which also took 2 hours.

So we didn't get into Florence until about 10:00pm. Who knew that all the restaurants in Florence closed before 10? Except one, "late night" pasta place, similar to Olive Garden, but much worse. (seriously, it was bad)

We left the next afternoon, but not before we got lost in Florence and were late to check out of our hotel, because we were lost. With no phones. And Michael got a $200 ticket. Cool.


So now for the FUN stuff

The most exciting thing was that our apartment was right beside the Duomo. We were truly in the heart of the city. The view was incredible and the winding cobblestone side streets right outside of our window were so whimsical. It made our initial travel misfortune a little less painful.

The next day in Florence was only a half day, but we made the best of it. We found an adorable little family owned restaurant called Trattoria Mario. The seating was limited, so Michael and I got seated with two other solo travelers. At first we felt awkward, but once the server came and took our order there was something so beautiful about sharing a meal with these two strangers. Our food was so homemade and delicious. Couldn't have asked for a more authentic experience.

Then we explored the town, popping in to get some gelato, some coffee, and to see the famous Ponte Vecchio--the old bridge with colorful buildings and shops built on it. The scenery and the atmosphere were incredible.

We wandered around and found an adorable little Italian man painting with watercolors, and he happened to be painting Tuscany, where we were heading that same day. So we bought a few of his small paintings to bring home with us. It was dreamy.

I really believe that every bad day has something to celebrate.

For us, a sweet little surprise came in the form of a FREE upgrade to a super fancy rental car. I was lost, running (and sweating) back to our Airbnb trying to check out on time. I didn't check out on time. BUT I was waiting on the curb for Michael to come pick me up with the car, expecting something cheap and grungy. And he drove up in this:

WIN.

Looking back Florence was lovely, and even though it was our hiccup, it was so special.

XO,

Emily