Passport to Paris

UGH the jet lag is real…. I think it’s finally starting to set in as I’m writing this! This past week I had an incredible opportunity to travel to Paris for a long weekend getaway. Now that I’m back I’m trying to do everything I can to get back to a functional routine and writing this post seems like the perfect way to start! 

This entire trip starts with a tremendous story. One night, shortly after Thanksgiving, I received a text from a good friend of mine in LA saying she found round trip tickets to Paris for quite literally an unbelievable price (round trip from LAX for less than $400, cheaper than a flight home to Iowa!) My friend then proceeded to ask, “Who wants to go with?” Being that the trip would only be a few weeks away and having to hastily decide in order to take advantage of flight prices made me both incredibly nervous and extremely tempted. I began to think my way through the logical steps.  First, check the bank account and then check the amount of PTO I’ve acquired. Next, I make a phone call to my mom fully expecting her to be the practical one and reel my crazy thoughts back in (as one does when they call their mom in moments like this.) However, much to my surprise that wasn’t her response at all. It was actually something along the lines of When are you going to have this opportunity again?”  So true… 

Hearing her say that, I knew my mind was already made up! So, I went home and booked a round trip ticket–there was no turning back! A few days later 6 women in total (many of us having never met before) had booked their tickets and started planning the trip of a lifetime! 

First night in Paris at the Eiffel Tower

Many people I’ve talked to have said they only spent a few days in Paris and that that was enough. After having been now, I can attest to that! We arrived in Paris late Thursday afternoon and left Tuesday afternoon arriving back in LAX Tuesday evening. (Time changes will always be confusing.) Four and a half days was perfect in my opinion! It was enough time to see the city and cross majority of the things off my list without feeling too rushed. By the end, I was exhausted and ready to return home. 

Next we had to find a place to stay! After looking into hotels, hostels and Air BnBs, considering there was six of us, Air BnB seemed like the best option! Paris is divided into different districts and with help from a friend of a friend going on the trip, we had the best insight into the perfect locations. We ended up staying in 2, from which everything was perfectly walkable. Contrary to popular believe, the Eiffel Tower is actually not centrally located so when planning your trip, you may consider staying in a more central neighborhood like we did. My favorite thing about Paris is how easy it is to get around. Whether you want to walk, take the subway, or Uber, all options are readily available and easy to navigate even if you don’t speak any French! 

Like most major European cities, I’ve noticed so far, you can get by with only speaking English. However, it’s always important to me to at least try and speak the language when interacting in public at a restaurant for example No matter where you’re traveling to, I challenge you to at least prepare a few words such as…

  • Hello
  • Goodbye
  • Yes/No
  • Thank you 
  • Sorry
  • Excuse me
  • Bathroom 
  • Check/Bill

I attempted to learn a little French before I left using a free app called Duo Lingo! Although it was helpful to learn some phrases, it’s important to practice consistently in order to retain any of it… I wasn’t very diligent and realized all I could remember was how to say “cat” and needless to say, that didn’t come up in conversation very often.

When I travel, I’m just as much about seeing all the sights and main tourist attractions as I am about finding happy accidents and things off the beaten path. One of my favorite ways to get acquainted with a new city though, is to take a hop on/hop off bus tour. It’s an affordable way to make it to all the main attractions in a city in a short amount of time. It also always helps me to get the lay of the land and realize where things are at in relation to another and not to mention its essentially “free” transportation that you would have paid for to get around anyway! Tours like this are offered in most major cities in the US and Europe. My favorite has always been City Sightseeing or Big Bus tours! We got a two-day pass that included two different bus routes as well as a river boat tour. 

My favorite path less traveled spots included the covered passageways that have been transformed into little shops and restraunts. I also fell in love with the small vendor booths known as Riverside Bouquinistes, that line the river around Notre Dame and contain collections of old prints and books as well as other trinkets and paper goods.

Paris being the city of love was the perfect place to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Although not with our loved ones and out on a girl’s trip, we still made sure to celebrate. We went to an amazing restaurant, Matignon (located in 8, an area equivalent to Rodeo Drive or the Upper East Side). It was surely a group date even the Bachelor would have approved of! Afterwards we hit the town for a night out and wound up at a Spanish inspired spot complete with Latin music and dancing. The whole night scene was lively with places that stay open all hours of the night. There was a lot of influence from other cultures depending on the bar, so there’s no reason to not come across an Irish Pub that feels too close to home or a place that feels so foreign you don’t know where to start! 

Arguably the best part of traveling has to be trying all the food! Part of the fun of it for me is ordering but not always knowing what you’re going to get! France is no exception! The bread is outstanding, the desserts are worth every bite, the onion soup is unbelievable… but my favorite French cuisine has to be steak and pommes frites (French Fries) What an unexpected pair but man is it good. 

On our last night I treated myself out to a restaurant that came highly recommended, le Relais de l’Entrecote. Not only is it delicious but it’s a genius business idea, really! It’s a beautiful, higher end restaurant that you’ll most likely have a wait to get seated (but it’s totally worth it.) Once you sit down you can order a drink but there’s really no menu. The entire place only serves one thing- steak and frites. I got a wonderful glass of red wine and was then treated to a side salad and baguette while I waited for the main course. The waitress then brings the steak and fries from the kitchen, takes them over to a serving station and then prepares the plate for you. (I sat right next to her station, so I got a first-row seat at how it’s done.) She brings you ½ your steak covered in a sauce that’s a cross between au jus and a very subtle pesto along with an order of fries. Meanwhile the other ½ of your steak is covered and resting on a heated tray and when you’re ready she’ll bring a fresh order of fries straight from the kitchen and the other ½ of your steak… two meals for the price of one! Then if you’re really looking for the whole experience, you can select from the extensive and incredible dessert menu (which I couldn’t read a single thing.) I let the waitress pick for me and wound up getting the most incredible two-part chocolate cake (one half is like a brownie and the other a fudgy, very rich flourless cake topped with mint whipped cream.) I left there having never felt so full and got all that for $40 dollars. 

Getting the money shot with your 7 euro cappuccino… priceless

That being said… Paris was actually way more expensive than I thought especially compared to other places like Rome. A double espresso shot would be 5 euros when I could have just got a Starbucks cappuccino at home for cheaper… still it seemed worth it. Overall, it was very comparable to the prices we pay in LA (very expensive to drink cocktails and dinner is typically in the $25-$35-dollar range.)

 Something else that reminds me of LA, the traffic. Although it’s not as densely populated with cars, 15 miles can take you an hour to drive. For example, I always thought Versailles was much further away but when we looked it up, it was only about 15 miles from where we were staying but it’d take over an hour to get there by car. We ended up taking the train all the way there and it couldn’t have been easier! 45 minutes and $3 later we found ourselves standing outside the Palace of Versailles, one of the places I’ve always dreamed about visiting since studying it in Art History classes in college. This was my favorite place we went to during our trip! The palace itself was a little underwhelming but the palace grounds were spectacular, even during off season. I loooooved visiting the Estate of Trianon (something I didn’t even know existed) and I’m now convinced my dream house will resemble Marie Antoinette’s Queen’s Hamlet. You could spend days walking through these parks and still never see it all and if your feet are too tired to go on you can always rent a bike or golf cart to zip around! I would love to go back sometime in the late spring, early summer and see everything in bloom and fully landscaped!

Overall, I’m so glad pulled the trigger and went. It taught me that not everything in life has to be planned and well thought out.  Sometimes just taking a risk can pay off in ways you never even dreamed of. Seeing the world, experiencing history firsthand and learning about other cultures makes traveling so worth it and so important to me. I hope everyone has a chance to explore new places and see the things they’ve dreamed of in real life. 

February Followup

Hey, it’s me again… yep I’m still here despite not having made a post since October! There has been so much going on as we transitioned from 2019 into 2020 that I’ve barely had time to take it all in myself let alone share any of the stories with you! 

However, now’s my chance to bring all my thoughts from these past few months to life and share them with you. This year, I’ll be approaching things a little differently with the blog. I’m beginning to come to terms with the fact that I really can’t do everything and that means picking and choosing what I spend my time focusing on. There are so many experiences and opportunities both past and present that I can’t wait to share, but as my goals continue to change the blog posts might change a little bit with it. 

To put all these thoughts in perspective here’s a look at what kept me busy this past year and a preview of what’s in store for 2020! 

Goal setting has never been more important to me than it is now.

One thing is for sure, goal setting has never been more important to me than it is now. Writing things down somehow gives me comfort in the fact that I have things I’m working towards as well as holds me accountable to make sure I actually get things done. It’s the most rewarding feeling to look back on a year and all the highs, low points you overcame, and accomplishments you’ve made this past year. 

If you haven’t had the chance to do any formal goal setting yet–there’s plenty of time. If you don’t know where to start, I highly recommend you check out my post about goal setting February Fresh and read about Hilary Rushford’s Elegant Excellence to get your mind thinking about both the big and little things you’re wanting to accomplish! 

Looking back on my list of goals for 2019, although not every goal was accomplished it’s important to realize just how much progress was made. I’ve made an effort to stop referring to my goals as a “plan” and have tried even harder to refrain from “planning” too much of my life out in general.  

Goals change, shift, and evolve throughout the year. Things may come up and get in the way or change your perspective.  It’s always important to look at your list as guidelines and ideas rather than super strict parameters.

Be realistic but also don’t be afraid to think big! When making a list you need goals that are easily attainable if you dedicate the time to them and some goals that will challenge you and push your comport zone. For instance 2018 was a huge year for me with a lot of major life changes and decisions, so my focus for 2019 was about more interpersonal goals and about maintaining a healthy lifestyle in LA. 

My favorite planning supplies: Erin Condren Planner, Moleskin Journal, Papermate Felt tip Pens, and Sharpie Pens!

Here’s a brief overview of the goals and results from this past year:

  • Run a 5k: Checked this one off in April when a friend asked me to run one with her! Signing up and paying is a great way to hold yourself accountable. 
  • Book 5 Freelance Clients/projects: This past year I was fortunate to work with some amazing new clients and well exceeded 5 projects! One in particular certainly stands out and I hope to soon share the story of The Strength Shop with you all!
  • Pay off at least ½ of my student loans: After attending a networking/speaker event…. They convinced me this is not something to put off, so I ripped off the Band-Aid and took care of it all at once! No more student loans!
  • Read a book: Easy to do when your friends start a book club…and here we are 6.5 books later.
  • Visit home at least 3 times: Done, but I wish it could be even more!

Now for the goals that have yet to be accomplished….

The goals you don’t accomplish are just as important as the ones you did! It’s crucial to take a look at this list and realize and reflect on “why didn’t this one happen?” Then try and figure out if it’s still one that’s important to you and worth continuing to pursue.

  • Create a successful morning/evening routine: While progress was made at times, it’s not super quantifiable and hard to really say. It is still in need of some work. 
  • Try something new/learn a new skill: I tried LOTS of new things that would satisfy this goal, but they weren’t necessarily the activities that came to mind when I wrote the goal down. I needed to be more specific. 
  • Launch a creative Passion Project: I spent a lot of time thinking about this one and looking for something that I was actually passionate enough to put the work into…

When I actually figured it out, I was too scared to actually move forward with it. 

Well no more, you heard it here first–this year my main goal is to drive that passion project forward and not let fears and uncertainties keep me from going for it!

Do you have something on your list of goals for the year that you really want but you’re afraid to make it happen? Maybe it’s changing jobs or starting your own business? Maybe it’s moving somewhere new or maybe it’s wanting to try a new exercise class…. Whatever the situation may be… We’ve all been there. Part of why I love Hilary’s goal setting process so much is because the thought process you consistently going through always ends up at the same place, “just start.” 

Starting is the hardest thing! No matter what the goal is, finding the courage to start it and go for it is the biggest roadblock you face but once that part is over, imagine all the amazing things that can follow. I’ve had this realization before but yet it still held me back this past year. I now know the outcome I’m looking for more clearly and I know I’m capable of making it happen so there’s no more excuses. 

So, for me my major goal for 2020 is getting my Passion Project off the ground and turning it into a business. I plan to share information about this passion project every step of the way as well as progress as it relates to other goals with hopes to not only hold me accountable but keep you on track to exceed your goals this year as well! 

The rest of my goals this year have been divided up into categories: personal, health, relationships, hobbies, and career! Some specifics that stand out include: 

  • Analyzing and fine tuning my financial budget 
  • Move to a new apartment
  • Focus more on my breathing
  • Cook a new healthy recipe once a month
  • Maintain working out at least 3 times a week
  • Continue Personal Dates at least once a month
  • Play more games (board games/card games) 
  • Travel to 3 New Places (city/state/country)
  • Read 10 Books
  • Actually take a lunch break at work by sitting with coworkers or going for a walk
  • Write at least 12 new blog posts for Day of Jae

Having a list of your goals is only the first step. Make sure you keep the list handy and accessible. Check back in with it multiple times! Don’t be afraid to change, rewrite, or add to the list. You’re the only thing holding you back from making any of these things a reality. Commit to the ones that matter and go after it! 

For three years I’ve been doing this, following the same process and every time when thinking about the biggest goal on my mind, and someone asks, “What’s holding you back?” my answer has always been… “not starting.” Trust me–start now and thank yourself immensely next February.