TRAVEL & LEISURE

Paris| Photo Diary + Travel Guide

September 27, 2014
Eiffel Tower Paris

Our first morning in Paris began with the a visit to the Eiffel Tower. It may be a cliche tourist attraction, but the views from the top are undeniably great. And the selfless are even better :)

Your best bet for visiting the Eiffel Tower is to make reservations and purchase tickets ahead of time on the Eiffel Tower website. Once you’ve done this, all you have to do is show up at your scheduled time, saving you a least an hour (and sometimes two) waiting in line. The reserved times go quick so expect to book at least two month in advance. If your desired time is no longer available, keep checking as times slots do open up.

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Eiffel Tower Paris

Rue Cler Paris

Just South of the Eiffel Tower is the pedestrian only Rue Cler. Filled with bakeries, flower shops, patisseries and cafes, Rue Cler feels a bit like being transported to a small french village. We stopped for delicious lunch at Cafe du Marche before an afternoon of French shopping.

Rue Cler Flowers

Paris

Le Bon Marche Paris

For a dose of shopping heaven, head over to Le Bon Marche in the 3rd. The building alone is a site to be seen, everything a Parisian department store should be.

Cafe de Flore Paris

Cafe de Flore Paris

For afternoon coffee we headed to the iconic Cafe de Flore. Known for its once famous clientele, Cafe de Flore is well situated on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 6th and a perfect spot for people watching. The prices are a little steep, but keep in mind you are paying in part for the experience. So sit back, relax, and take it all in.

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Luxembourg Gardens Paris

Refueled and ready for more exploration, we headed down to the Luxembourg Gardens. I love the way people in Paris, and Europe in general, love their public spaces. Groups of friends sitting around talking, a solo person enjoying reading a book, a couple taking a stroll while holding hands—space is a luxury here and its not taken for granted.

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How can you resist the delicious Orangina—the perfect accompaniment to relaxing in the gardens.

Paris, France

Notre Dame

Pompidou Museum

During my last visit to Paris, I was sad to have missed viewing the Pompidou. This time around, it was a top priority—and I’m so glad it was. We headed to the Pompidou first thing on our second day in the city and spent a good three hours taking in the modern and experiential art. We left feeling inspired and ready for more.

Pompidou Museum

Le Pompidou Museum Paris

Frenchies To-Go Paris

Frenchie-to-Go, located on the small Rue de Nil in the 2nd, is the more casual sister restaurant to Frenchie, from acclaimed chef Gregory Marchand. This tiny eatery serves unique takes on american classics, including the hot dog and the ruben sandwich. The prices are reasonably, the service friendly, and the food is good. This is a great option if you are unable to make a reservation at Frenchie, which typically books out a few months in advance.

After the Pompidou, we made a quick jaunt west for this delicious lunch and then made our way south for our second museum of the day—the Louvre!

The Louvre Museum Paris

Grander than grand, the Louvre Museum is the world’s largest and most visited museum, housing over 70,000 works of art spread across more than 650,000 square feet of gallery space. For these reasons, gaining entrance to the museum can be a nightmare. The main entrance through the glass pyramid is always jam packed. If you have a museum pass, the line does move quicker, however, a secondary option is entering through the much less crowed Carrousel du Louvre, which can be accessed off the Rue de Rivoli or by going down the external stairs to either side of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Additionally, lines also tend to be shorter on Wednesday and Friday evenings, when the museum is open until 10 PM.

For hours and admission times click here.

A single day is not nearly enough time to fully take in the complete collection. My suggestion is deciding what area you have the most interest in, i.e Italian paintings in the Denon wing, French paintings in the Sully wing, Islamic art in the Richelieu wing, etc.  Take a look at the Louvre Website or a detailed guidebook to the museum before your visit to help plan which exhibits you would most like to experience. Alternatively, there are several guided audio tours, including the fun “Davinci Code” tour that can help break down the museum for you. Whatever route you take, don’t feel like you need to see everything in one visit. A museum pass is good for as many entrances as you wish within the valid days of the pass, and a regular ticket is good for 24 hours. So even if you want to spend a few hours and come back the next day for more, this is a great option as well.

 

 

Louvre Museum Paris

Arc d'Triomphe Paris

After a full day of museums we walked through the Tulleries Garden and made our way up the Champs Elysees towards the Arc de Triomphe. The views from the top of the Arc de Triomphe are spectacular, and looking straight down the Champs Elysees you can really get a sense of how big the street actually is. This was a perfect way to end our busy day before heading to dinner. (Also, access to the top of the Arc is included with the Paris Museum Pass.)

Le Mary Celeste Paris

If I lived in Paris, I would eat at Le Mary Celeste every week. The small plates are all wonderful and theres just something special about the vibe. The deviled eggs in particular were one of the most interesting and delicious things I’ve ever eaten. The décor feels a bit like California, minimal with wood walls and accented with fresh white and aqua. The cocktails are superb and they also serve Brooklyn Lager on tap—two thumbs way up. The crowd is great, ranging from hip locals to in-the-know visitors. We sat next to a very friendly young Swedish couple, an American couple living in Paris, and an older American couple who chatted with us about all their favorite travels over the years (If you enjoy Paris, they suggest adding St. Bart’s in the Caribbean to your list—noted!). If you’d like to go for more drinks after dinner, I would suggest heading just down the street to Candelaria, which is owned by the same people. The tiny bar in the back of this small taco restaurant serves some of the best cocktails in the city.

Rose Bakery Paris

Day three of our trip was a big one—Joe’s 30th birthday! For a special birthday brunch, we headed to Rose Bakery in the 3rd, one of my favorite spots in the city for delicious egg dishes, fresh salads and the best cakes and pastries. Look at that smile—can you tell he’s excited to eat his carrot cake!?

Rose Bakery Carrot Cake

Rose Bakery Paris

Merci Paris

After brunch, we explored that area and did a little shopping. Merci in Le Marias is a great place to eat lunch or grab a coffee and then shop for everything from clothing to home goods after. Other shops in the area worth a visit: Cuisse de Grenouille, FrenchTrotters, A.P.C., The Kooples, COS, and my personal favorite, Isabel Marant.

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Place des Vosges is a lovely spot for a picnic or an afternoon nap on the grass. Especially after a long day of shopping and eating :)

Sacre Coure

On day four, we ventured up to Montemarte, famous for being home to many artists, singers, and writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Edith Piaf. Walking through the streets felt like being in a another city. Street artists and performers are still everywhere and from the steps of the Sacre Coeur, you can see a wonderful panoramic view of the city. We had a delicious lunch on the terrace at Chez Plumeau, enjoying a bottle of wine and two phenomenal burgers smothered in cheese sauce :) C’est Magnifique!

Montmartre

Montmartre

Additional restaurant recommendations in Paris:

Septime – This acclaimed restaurant from Passard trained rock star Chef Bertrand Grebaut focuses on modern french cuisine in a rustic setting off Rue Charonne in the 11th. Reservations are tricky so plan ahead. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Clamato – A sister restaurant to Septime and directly next door, this seafood focused restaurant does not require a reservation and is a great option if you are unable to get into Septime. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Bones – An ambitious restaurant from Aussie Chef James Henry, the name Bones refers to the stripped down aesthetic and focus on good, natural ingredients. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Angelina – A classic spot for breakfast and still located in the same spot where the restaurant first opened over a hundred years ago. Famous for their hot chocolate, try ordering a “white chocolate hot chocolate” and a “L’Africain Hot Chocolate’ and mix them together. Prepare to be amazed.

Big Fernand – Quick and friendly service, delicious American style burgers and fries with a French twist. What more could you ask for?

Holybelly – Located in the ever popular 10th, Holybelly opened in October 2013 and has since been a hot spot for brunch and dinner, serving fresh and delicious food, and some of the best coffee in the city. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Clint – This bright and cheery restaurant is located in the 11th and is an excellent place for brunch. Open all week.

 

 

TRAVEL & LEISURE

Capri

September 26, 2014
Capri

From the Amalfi Coast, the island of Capri is just a 30 or 40 minute boat ride away. In the summer months, hydrofoils operate direct from Positano and Amalfi, but if you are visiting in the winter months, you will need to catch a boat from Sorrento. Public sea connections between the island and the mainland do not run after 8pm, so keep this in mind when planning out your accommodations. If you would like to spend an evening on the island, enjoy dinner and drinks, etc, my recommendation would be to book at least one night on Capri.

Another option is taking a private boat tour around the island. There are several companies who all offer similar tours, but after checking out all our options, we decided on L’uomo e il mare. For only 55 euros each, we took an 8 hour tour complete with towels, drinks, and desserts. The tour began with 4 hours on the boat touring around the island and stopping at several sites along the way, including a stop to swim in the sparkling Mediterranean, sailing under the Faraglioni Rock, as well as a stop at the infamous Blue Grotto and Green Grotto. After the tour around the island, we had 4 hours to explore the mainland on our own. During the ride home, we stopped again for a final swim and toasted to a wonderful day with champagne and cakes. The private boat tour was a perfect way to see Capri and I highly recommend taking this route. Our tour guide and captain were very funny and informative, and spending a day out on a boat with visitors from all over the world was an experience I’ll never forget.

BoatDuo

Positano

Farglioni Rock Capri

It can be hard to understand the perspective from photos, but the Faraglioni rock is extremely large—our boat drove straight through the center. Crazy! What a beautiful piece of Mother Nature.

Capri

Pulling up to Marina Grande, the island was much larger than we were expecting. The beautiful white buildings sparkled against the turquoise waters.

Vintage Fiat

CAPRI

We began our time in Anacapri, the quieter half of the island. Heading first to the gardens of Villa San Michele for stunning panoramic views of the island and it’s main harbor Marina Grande, Sorrento and Mount Vesuvius.

Capri

After Anacapri, we ventured to the opposite half of the island, Capri. If you only have a couple of hours to visit the island of Capri and want to take that classic shot of the sea and the Faraglioni before you leave, head to the Gardens of Augustus.

Not far from the center of town, the Gardens of Augustus are full of flower-filled terraces with panoramic views overlooking the Faraglioni on the one side (image above) and the Bay of Marina Piccola and Via Krupp on the other (image below). Views don’t get much better than this!

Via Krupp

If you have more time on the island, here are some additional recommendations:

Monte Solaro – for the most grand views of the island, take the chair lift from Piazza Vitoria in Anacapri to the summit of Monte Solaro. Soaring 589 meters above sea level, is the highest and most panoramic point on the island.

Carthusia – if you’re looking for the ultimate souvenir, look no further. This perfume shop has been making scents unique to Capri for over half a century. All preparations are made from high quality, natural raw materials and even the finished product is hand-wrapped.

 

 

TRAVEL & LEISURE

Amalfi and Ravello

September 26, 2014
Ravello

The Amalfi Coast is a 55km stretch of Italian Coastline. Beginning in Positano and ending in Vietri sul Mare, the coastline takes its name from the most central and historically important town of Amalfi. Getting to Amalfi from Positano is extremely easy. SITA buses run approximately every half hour from Positano to Amalfi, and the trip takes about 40 minutes. Tickets can be purchased in several bars and tobacconist around the area, but not on the bus. Sold as both a one way or as a round trip, tickets are good for any time, so to make things easy, buying a round trip ticket is the way to go if you plan to return same day. For us, the easiest location for purchasing all our bus tickets was Bar Internazionale in Positano. Not only do they sell tickets, but there is a bus stop located just across the street. Getting up to the town of Ravello requires first going to Amalfi, and then purchasing a separate SITA bus ticket up to Ravello. We decided to spend an entire day visiting both towns, and had so much fun adventuring around!AmalfiChurchDuo

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AmalfiDuo

IceCreamDuo

The Duomo in the center of Amalfi is very impressive, and after climbing all those stairs, gelato was a must. The port town of Amalfi is definitely more touristy and busy than Positano. A few hours of exploring and we were ready to venture up to the far more peaceful and secluded Ravello.

Ravello

Ravello

The second we stepped foot in Ravello, it was love at first site. The drive up the cliffs is a pretty impressive one. Tiny winding streets and garden after garden. And what a view from the top.

Ravello

Ravello

Ravello

Ravello

A beautiful maze of gardens high up in the mountainside, Ravello has a feel all its own.

Ravello

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Ravello

After wandering around for a bit, we sat down to a delicious lunch of pizza and caprese salad at La Veccia Cantina. After lunch, we headed over to the tiny wine shop with this sign out front after reading they serve very generous samples of wine. However, BEWARE: Do not buy wine from this shop! They are known to mark wine up 3 to 4 times its actual retail value. So go and take advantage of their generous samples, but kindly decline purchasing and be on your way. We actually found the experience very enjoyable and educational, and didn’t feel pressured to purchase in the least. We left having tried around 8-10 wines, aged balsamic with cheese, and chocolate. And without spending a dime, had our wine fix for the rest of the day!

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Ravello

Ravello

We finished our time in Ravello with a visit to the Villa Cimbrone Gardens and found the most spectacular views of the Amalfi Coast. I love the pattern all the boats make in the water and how tiny they are from so high up. Its amazing to look down and remember you winded all the way up in a bus as wide as the roads.

Ravello is an Italian dream, and I can’t wait to return again someday.

 

TRAVEL & LEISURE

Positano | Photo Diary + Travel Guide

September 25, 2014
Positano, Italy

Oh, Positano. I think I found my little slice of heaven on the Amalfi Coast.

Joe and I celebrate birthdays only 1 week apart, and with his 30th birthday and my “golden birthday” falling in the same year, we decided to plan the trip of all trips. Additionally, our good friends who live in Austria who are finally back home after spending two years living in St. Louis, were practically begging us to come visit. So after doing some research, we decided to begin our trip on the Amalfi Coast, head to Paris, then to Cologne (and Joe’s bucket list experience: Nurburgring), Vienna, and finally Prague. It was the trip of a lifetime and I’m so glad we took the plunge and made it happen.

Getting to the Amalfi Coast is very easy with just a little planning. We flew from Chicago to Naples International Airport and had a car service arranged to take us directly to Positano city center. Because we shared a van with a few others, the price was very reasonable at 35 euros each. I prefer this method of transport over using the trains and buses for convenience and saving time. The drive from Naples to Positano is just over an hour, and once you hit the coast line from Sorrento to Positano, the views are priceless.

Positano

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Positano

After being dropped off by our shuttle in front of Bar Internazionale, we made our way up to our AirBnb in Montepertuso, a little village directly above Positano. We choose to stay in Montepertuso in a private apartment because we wanted more of a local feel. The little village is only a 10 minute ride up from Positano by bus, and tickets are very inexpensive at 1,15 euros each. The Montepertuso bus also runs early morning to late at night, so it’s easy to spend all day down in Positano without needing to worry about making your way back up. We enjoyed returning to the quiet and peaceful Montepertuso after a long day adventuring, savoring a glass of wine on one of our balconies overlooking the coast. There was a small grocery/convenience store just down the street which had everything we needed, including a great selection of wines, pasta, fresh vegetables and fruit, meats, cheeses and desserts. One of our favorite restaurants, Il Ritrovo, was also just down the street. And the hike up to Montepertuso Rock was absolutely spectacular. In about 15 minutes, we climbed 400ft to what felt like the top of the world. If you are planning to hike the Sentiero degli Dei, Montepertuso is also a great starting point for this panoramic footpath along the Amalfi Coast.

Positano

MotepertusoDuo

Positano

Positano

Positano

Positano

Our first morning, we decided to take the steps down to all the way to the beach. And not just a few steps, we’re talking over 1500 steps down! But the views during our hike down from Montepertuso were absolutely beautiful. And after winding your way down the cliffside, you exit out this little passageway right into the heart of Positano. I would highly recommend making this hike regardless of where you stay. We ended up walking down twice, as well as hiking up twice. But what better way to burn off all the pasta and gelato than getting in a little exercise with scenic views?!

Positano

Every direction you look in this beautiful cliffside town is spectacular. But for one of the absolute best views, head over to Hotel California and pop under their covered parking lot. From here you have the perfect unobstructed view to get the infamous Positano snapshot.

Positano

Positano

Spiaggia Grande is the main beach in Positano. Here you will find chairs for rent as well as an open area where you can use your own chair or beach towel.

Positano

Positano

Positano

Positano is filled with everything you would imagine a small Italian village to have: Scooters everywhere, hand painted plates decorating the walls, and beautiful doorways around every corner.

Positano

FoodandDrink

Before heading down to the beach, grab some cold drinks and antipasti to-go from a restaurant or deli. This helps to save money for nice dinners and other activities, and maximizes your time soaking up sun on the beautiful beaches. This delicatessen was our go to for delicious vegetables and fresh made parma and smoked mozzarella sandwiches.

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Positano

Positano

Positano

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Positano

Positano

Positano

There are so many cute shops along Spiaggia Grande full of souvenirs, fun hats and beach coverups. Beware of high prices though—prime real estate comes with a cost.

Positano

SeaandFlower

Positano

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Fornillo Beach, just a short walk from Spiaggia Grande, is smaller and  less crowded, with a more laid back atmosphere.

La Zargaza

Afternoon treats after a long day at the beach are a must. La Zagara has the best cakes, pastries, and coffee (or cocktails, whichever you’re in the mood for). We ordered the lemon tiramisu and my favorite, Sfogliatella. This shell shaped pastry is native to Campania, Italy, the region where Positano lies.

Le Sirenuse

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For a special birthday dinner, we made reservations at Le Sirenuse hotel. Between the views, the food, and the exceptional service, La Sponda restaurant was one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had. Lit with 400 candles and perched in the middle of the cliffside, the glowing seaside town takes your breath away.

Fair warning: the michelin rated Le Sirenuse isn’t cheap, but for me, it was worth every penny. Here are a few tips if you are looking to keep your bill down: the champagne offered as soon as you sit down is delicious, but not complimentary. Kindly decline if you are interested in sipping on something else. However, several things are on the house. Complimentary breadsticks and vegetables with a dipping sauce are brought to the table to start. Followed by a zucchini tartlet and a small soup. So if you are debating on ordering an appetizer, keep this in mind. We choose to share two first course dishes (beef tartare and ravioli) and one second course dish (Sea Bass) and found this to be plenty. I had read that a small dessert is also complimentary and not to order one of your own if you are trying to keep your bill down. Following this rule, we declined dessert but immediately following I was brought a special chocolate and raspberry tart while being serenaded with Happy Birthday. After this, we were each brought three complimentary mini desserts, followed by a complimentary glass of Limoncello. By the end of the meal, we were astonished by how many things we ate, but did not pay for. I truly cannot recommend this restaurant enough.

Also, if you do go, I would advise going an hour early to enjoy a glass of champagne and watch the sun set at the Oyster Bar. They serve the most delicious bright green olives as well as marcona almonds and potato chips with your drinks. It is the perfect before dinner snack.

PositanoOther places not to miss in Positano:

Il Ritrovo – this restaurant just down the street from our apartment in Montepurtuso was one of our favorite meals on the trip. Nestled up in the hillside, theres a feeling of eating where the locals eat. If you want to sit out on the terrace overlooking the water, be sure to make a reservation.

Da Vincenzo – this family owned restaurant is a local favorite. They have cheap house wine and delicious food. I recommend the mussels and the eggplant parmesan.

La Brezza Cafe – a great little cafe to stop at for an afternoon drink. Customers get 30 minutes of free wifi and a delicious plate of snacks while enjoying a beautiful view of the beach.

Day Trip to Amalfi and Ravello

Boat Trip to Capri

 

TRAVEL & LEISURE

Pure Michigan | Traverse City and Glen Arbor

May 28, 2014
Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Park

We just got back from spending a long Memorial Day weekend in Michigan. Perfect weather, adventure, and delicious food. Traverse City and Glen Arbor are so beautiful.

Traverse City Michigan

Traverse City Michigan

Traverse City Michigan

Traverse City Michigan

We started our first day off with a brunch at the highly recommended restaurant The Towne Plaza.

The Towne Plaza

The Towne Plaza

The food did not disappoint. As you may have guessed from the sign, The Towne Plaza specialized in pork. I don’t think you can go wrong with anything on the menu here.

Traverse City Michigan

Who would have known I have my very own park in Traverse City?  The town may be small, but it’s full of cute shops and wonderful restaurants. Unfortunately we didn’t get photos of everything, but a few other places not to miss while visiting:

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons: cute shops in an interesting setting. The complex used to be a mental institution in the 1930s. Now it’s home to stores, restaurants, and even apartments.

The Cook’s House: This was hand’s down the best meal of the trip. The restaurant is, true to its name, set inside the first floor of a house. With only a few tables, its a very intimate setting. Our service was fantastic and the food, well, lets just say my mouth is watering as I type.

Patisserie Amie – Delicious French food and pastries. Open from breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Frenchies Famous – A quirky, and very small Traverse City institution. A great spot for brunch. And now it morphs into “Frenchies Taqueria” on Fridays.

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