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Dîner en Blanc: A Secret Dinner Soirée in Paris

Diner en Blanc 3
Last Thursday, Rio and I got to experience one of the most interesting nights we’ve had in Paris: Dîner en Blanc.

Thanks to our friend Stacy of L’Amour de Paris, we joined approximately 13,000 other guests for this pop-up, invitation-only dinner on Pont Alexandre III. For the past 26 years, thousands of people who are dressed exclusively in white meet up at a secret location and set up rows upon rows of tables complete with flowers, candles, and even candelabras for a chic soirée.

Diner en Blanc

Diner en Blanc
Here are some must-knows about Dîner en Blanc:

  • Want an invite? You have to be invited by a friend who attended the previous year. Those friends must have been invited by a friend (or a friend of a friend) of one of the original organizers. There are actual designated rows that are accounted for the number of people, so there is no crashing this pseudo-flash mob.
  • Around 8pm, your group converges on a designated location that’s around where the dinner will take place. We didn’t find out what our designated location was going to be until around 4:30pm. And then at approximately 8:45pm when we were all together and ready to go, we received a final text letting us know where the actual dinner was going to be.
  • Dîner en Blanc takes place from approximately 9pm to midnight, complete with DJ post-dinner and sparklers at 11pm.
  • Everything must be white! I’m not just talking about your outfit, but your table, chairs, table linen, plates, etc. must all be white. There are a few exceptions (i.e. shoes), but for the most part, this is a sea of white.
  • Not all 13,000 of us dined and partied on Pont Alexandre III…because well, we wouldn’t all fit. So the event took place across six bridges (I think we got the best one) and the grassy area by les Invalides.
  • Technically, Dîner en Blanc is illegal. If you have a group of more than 30 getting together in a public space, you’re supposed to have a permit. Luckily, the Parisian police turn an eye on this since no one gets too rowdy, we all clean up after ourselves, and it just adds to the beauty of Paris, non? (Can you imagine the police force in NYC letting us get away with this?! Ha – je crois que non.)
  • Speaking of cleanup, oui, once the clock strikes midnight, you are all expected to quickly pack up, throw away your garbage, and get the heck on out of there.

Want to know more about Dîner en Blanc? Here’s the official Facebook pagemore information with photos from one of our fellow table attendees, and more pics (spot us in the last pic), and more pics (again in one of the photos!), and more pics.

Diner en Blanc 2
Chef Justin came with a propane tank to sear chicken he sous-vided the day before, Jason entertains us with his ukelele (or is it a banjo?) and the night begins!

Diner en Blanc

Diner en Blanc

Photo Courtesy of Pictours Paris

Photo Courtesy of Pictours Paris

Photo Courtesy of Pictours Paris

Photo Courtesy of Pictours Paris

Diner en Blanc

Photos Courtesy of Pictours Paris

Diner en Blanc

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One More Month in Paris

Paris
July 16. That’s the date we move back to New York, which happens to be exactly one month from today. I can’t believe my two-plus years have flown by so quickly…and that I have a mere month left. I don’t even want to think about what moving back to NYC is going to be like. From fellow friends who have loved Paris as much as I do and have been forced had to repatriate, it is going to blow big time. Always the planner though, I’ve decided to combat the inevitable repatriation woes with the following action plan:

  1. Experience NY as an expat! When you’ve grown up in a certain city, you always take it for granted. Not this time around! I’m going to take on NY as if I never lived there. Museums, tourist sights, local events – sign me up tout de suite!
  2. Catch up with old friends, and especially, new friends. We’ve been lucky enough to make friends in Paris who have now returned to NYC. There’s an undeniable bond for those of us who have lived abroad together. Only they can truly understand the ups and downs of your time overseas, resulting in a friendship that will last a lifetime. I’m thankful that if we have to leave our friends here, we at least have many old and new friends to return to.
  3. Travel, travel, travel! Although it won’t be as easy to hop to a new country for a weekend getaway, and I’ll only have a mere three weeks of vacation, it’s time to start exploring Les États-Unis more, and the Americas side of the world.

As for now, many people ask what’s remaining on my bucket list in Paris. So here’s what we’ll be up to with our time left here:

  1. Go to a Crazy Horse cabaret show, which is a raunchier version of Moulin Rouge…I think.
  2. Capture a piece of our Parisian life. Instead of being photographed in front of a slew of tourist sites, I’m hiring our friend Lindsey of Pictours Paris for a family shoot in our apartment, neighborhood, and one or two touristy spots.
  3. Discover a new view of Paris courtesy of Messy Nessy Chic.
  4. Ride bus 69. No, I’m not being a pervert. Paris’s public bus #69 happens to have a très scenic route that includes the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
  5. Shop! Luckily, les soldes begin June 25 so I can stock up on a much-needed new wardrobe for my new job and return home! I have to attempt to look Parisian chic, after all!
  6. Consume as much cheese, baguette, and wine as possible.
  7. Finally take advantage of the free English guided tours at Notre-Dame de Paris.
  8. Je voudrais faire une réservation, svp! As you can see in my Google map, I’ve eaten at a lot of bars/restaurants in Paris…but there are so many more I still need to try!
  9. Spend quality time with my beloved friends here. Oh, how I’m going to miss them! I love you!
  10. Enjoy Paris!
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Après Paris?

Paris
After nearly two and a half years of newfound friendships, unforgettable travel experiences, and maddening #gotfrenched situations, la vie parisienne is sadly coming to an abrupt end. Oui, it’s true.

Just as we moved to Paris for an amazing career opportunity, we are doing the same for our repatriation to NYC. And so au revoir to our plans of living in Paris until 2015 and then moving to London. Ugh, putain.

Up until today, I had started telling my friends in Paris and a few close friends and work colleagues in NYC, with many of them immediately asking me the same question: “Are you excited??” Well, the answer is no, I’m too worried to be excited right now, and I have a feeling I’ll embark on a grieving stage once mobility actually starts. Although I’m happy to be reunited with my friends and family and intrigued about where this next chapter will lead me, I’m anxious about finding an apartment that’s not ridiculously expensive, incredibly worried about finding a full-time job that I’ll love (or finding a job at all!), devastated to be leaving my friends who have become my quasi-adopted family here, and equally devastated about moving from this stunning City of Lights. I love it here.

I love it here even though Frenchies drive me to drink sometimes.

I love it here despite the fact that the concept of efficiency is non-existent.

I love it here even though you have to sign multiple copies of the same document because the government knows Frenchies are too lazy to just make a copy of the one original.

I love it here even though it rains a whole lot more than I remembered (en fait, more rainy days than London!).

I love it here even though stores close for three-hour lunch breaks and it’s nearly impossible trying to remember that la pressing is closed from 1:30pm to 2:30pm, the boucherie from 1pm to 4:15pm (yes, 3 hour and 15 minute lunch break), that one boulangerie is closed on Mondays, while the one next door is closed on Tuesdays, and that la poissonnerie is closed from …wait, I still haven’t figured out when they’re closed in the afternoon.

I love it here even though a lease agreement, French ID card, bank statement, and a cell phone bill still aren’t enough proof of where you live.

I love it here even though painters poop in your toilet and steal your candy. Yeah, actually, no, I take that one back.

I love it here.

But c’est la vie…and my new life will be back in the City That Never Sleeps. What I have to try to remember is that I felt a lot of the same things when I left NYC for Paris. As many of my best friends know, there were many sleepless nights ruminating about the challenges that laid before me: would I be able to make new friends? was I ruining my career? would Tyler survive the flight overseas? would I be lonely? Yes, no, yes, and no. It all worked out, and I’m cautiously optimistic it will when I return.

I really do love you, NYC, even though this blog post probably doesn’t sound like it. I just might love Paris even more.

So, à bientôt, NYC; our repatriation begins this July!

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young (wo)man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Earnest Hemingway

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TripAdvisor’s Top 2 Percent?

TripAdvisor Top 2%
So I received the email above yesterday. Apparently, I’m one of TripAdvisor’s top 2% of reviewers in Paris? Hmm, I have a feeling that’s because they’re analyzing data of Paris-based reviewers for TripAdvisor.com and not TripAdvisor.fr. Especially considering I’ve only posted less than 30 reviews, I find that surprising…but hey, I’ll take it!

I still remember using TripAdvisor 10 years ago when Rio and I went to Spain for our first time. It definitely wasn’t widely used at the time, and now, I see restaurants and hotels touting “TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence” stickers on their windows and websites, and owners constantly asking people to write reviews for them after using their services. What a difference 10 years can make!

Yours in Travel,

The Top 2% (ha!)

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Reunited!

Tyler Napping - 4.29.14
The best part about returning from a vacation is getting to snuggle up with this love bug. I even turned down a free night with the dogwalker so Tyler could return home to his own bed and his maman et papa.

Stay tuned for pics and itinerary details of my recent Morocco trip! In the meantime, you can always find me on Instagram too.

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Climbing Up Notre Dame Tower

Notre Dame
This weekend, I crossed one off my Paris bucket list – climbing up the Towers of Notre Dame. Since we’ve lived here, we’ve only gone up the Arc de Triomphe and the rooftop of department store Printemps for views of Paris below, so it was nice to experience a different vantage point. Here are some pictures of the commanding views from the top of this Parisian landmark.
Notre Dame

Notre Dame

DSC_0081

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Notre Dame
Visting Notre Dame Tower
Queue up on the left side of the building, and expect to wait about an hour. For more information, here’s the link to the official visitor page.

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A Weekend in Cologne

Cologne
Ever since reading this New York Times article on Cologne, I’ve wanted to go…despite friends who have been to the city and said there wasn’t anything to see beyond the cathedral. Well, having spent two nights in Cologne last weekend, I have to, unfortunately, agree. There really isn’t that much to see and the town probably only warrants one night, tops. Oh well. I’m glad to have gone and crossed it off my travel bucket list, and see a German city besides Berlin. Here’s a quick recap on where we visited and ate and drank at…which probably was the best part of the trip – experiencing all the breweries!

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

Love Locks on Hohenzollern Bridge

What to See & Do
The main reason to come to Cologne is the impressive Gothic Cologne Cathedral (Kolner Dom). Stepping off the train station, you immediately come across this. For a better understanding of the cathedral, take a 7 euro guided tour, which is what we did. Tours take place 10:30am and 2:30pm on Saturdays and at 3pm on Sundays, and you meet at the interior front entrance of the church. They’re about one hour long and end with a 20 minute video with shots of the Cathedral.

After your Cathedral tour, take the pedestrian walkway on Hohenzollern Bridge and pause to take a look at the multitude of “love locks” adorning the gates. Along the way, you’ll probably turn around to snap some photos of the Cathedral, but save your camera battery for KoelnTriangle. About five minutes from the bridge, take the elevator up to the top of the observation deck for commanding views of the Cathedral and Cologne. I think it costs about three euros.

If you’re looking to do some shopping and strolling, take a walk from the Old Quarter to Ehrenstrasse Street. From Crumpler to Kiehl’s, Ehrenstrasse Street has a ton of stores for you to spend some euros.
Rhine River at Koblenz

Church in Koblenz

Koblenz

Koblenz

Koblenz

Koblenz Mascot is the Rascal
After you’ve done all of this and realized you still have a whole Sunday to fill with something to do (like we did), perhaps take a side trip to Koblenz, a small German town (pictured above) along the Rhine River that’s about one hour away. Along the way, you’ll be able to see the small towns, castles and vineyards sitting alongside the river and upon arrival, take a stroll through the Old Town, ride up to the fort on the Cable Car, walk along the river and have an alfresco meal while watching the German families enjoy a sunny weekend. Oh, and be sure to take a look at the statue of Koblenz’s mascot – the rascal – and pose like him comme moi. You can stop by the modern-looking Tourism Office to purchase a 50 centime map of the town.
Lommerzheim Brewery

Fruh Brewery

Nougatpretzel Berliner Donut
Where to Eat & Drink
As I mentioned, the best part of the trip was experiencing the different breweries. We went to three breweries that had completely different atmospheres and although I didn’t care for the German food (have I mentioned, I don’t eat meat?), it was fun to people-watch, try the different brews and see the local custom of how to order a beer. Apparently, the bartender/waiter just comes over with the a small glass of beer (it’s the shape of a long shot bottle), continues to swap it out for a fresh new one when you’re done and makes a mark on a coaster to keep track of how much you’ve drank. If you don’t want to drink until oblivion, put your coaster on top of your glass, and the bartender will know you’re done.

The first brewery we went to was Fruh. Located right by the Cathedral, a friend had recommended it and it was a great introduction to the breweries in Cologne. This is a large brewhouse with several rooms providing different atmospheres depending on what you’re looking for. So just decide whether you’d want to sit in a rowdier room, a more intimate room or a restaurant-style dining room. The next day, after our tour at Cologne Cathedral and our visit up KolnTriangle, we took a walk to Lommerzheim. Unlike Fruh, which definitely had a tourist clientele, the smaller Lommerzheim was packed with locals. They also have an outdoor area, which would be a great spot to enjoy a local brew on a sunny day. On our last night, we decided to try the giant schnitzels I had read about at Bei Oma Kleinmann since they apparently had a vegetarian “cheese schnitzel” I could eat. Well, those schnitzels are deifnitely huge…whereas my cheese schnitzel was basically a huge mozzarella stick in square shape. It was a lively atmosphere though with really friendly bartenders, so I would definitely recommend this bar/restaurant.

For a sweet mid-day snack, I had read about the nougatpretzel (pictured above) at Merzenich, so made sure to stop by this bakery chain to try one of these caramel, chocolate and nut-covered pretzels. Umm, I did not like it and neither did Rio. Why on Earth do people recommend that thing? Blech. While at Merzenich though, we did buy a Berliner, which was a pretty good sugar-covered jelly donut.

Where (Not) to Stay
We stayed at Hotel Lyskerchin, which is about a 20 minute walk from the train station. Since this four-star hotel was close to the Old Quarter and a good price (158 euros for two nights), I thought this would be a good option. Although it was fine for a place to rest your head (although your back would probably hurt the next day since the beds sink in), this is certainly not a four-star hotel as advertised. It is probably a 3 star hotel for European standards – I think the only reason it’s listed as four stars is because they have a sauna and swimming pool. Besides the sunken-in beds, the hotel charges an exorbitant amount for WiFi (17 euros for one day) and charges you to use the Internet on the hotel lobby’s computer too. As for amenities, they provide a shampoo/body wash combo, body lotion, nail file, blow dryer and a bar of soap. No shower cap and no q-tips included. I imagine if we asked, they might have been able to provide this though? On a positive note, we had forgotten our adaptor, and the hotel was able to lend us one during our stay.

Location-wise, it’s about a 20 minute walk to the train station and the cathedral, which is why I chose this hotel. However, after having spent a weekend in Cologne, I would’ve preferred a hotel that was closer to the lively shopping area (Ehrenstrasse Street) with the bars/restaurants. If you want to just stick with being close to the Old Town though and not venture out to areas of Cologne, this is probably fine. Either way, a taxi ride to breweries in a livelier area are only about 8 euros. A taxi ride to the train station is also about 8 euros.

Finally, as for the staff, they were professional but not the friendliest bunch. I would say their responses to questions and the check-in experience were pretty much no fuss, no muss. When asking for ideas on where to go, they didn’t really have much advice. Your best bet for that is to ask the tourism office.

Overall, it was a decent hotel, but I probably wouldn’t stay here again if I visited Cologne.

Ok, c’est tout and “danke” for reading my recap of Cologne!

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Eating & Drinking My Way Through Paris in Two Years


Two years ago on March 15, I moved to Paris. In that span of time, I have eaten at so many bars and restaurants (apparently, more than 120!) that I thought I would share with you all where I’ve been and what I’ve liked and didn’t like. I’m no foodie reviewer so many of my comments are succinct and definitely not editorial material, but I hope it helps you discover a new favorite spot…and perhaps steers you away from overhyped locales.

Bon app!

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Tyler’s Pic of the…Past Two Months?

I’ve been a total delinquent about posting lately. So here’s a totally gratuitous, random photo of Tyler in his wedding tuxedo (ours, not his) from New Year’s Eve so I don’t feel guilty about not having posted in the past two weeks.
Tuxedo Tyler
And here’s a pic of mon coeur in the same tux from our wedding day. It still fits!
Tuxedo Tyler
And here’s a family wedding pic because…well, pourquoi pas?
Family Wedding Photo

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