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. 

Me, Myself & My

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Since I first mentioned in February Fresh my whole idea of “Personal Dates” and different version of “me time” I’ve had a few people ask me what I meant by that and I’m so excited to share!  For me a “Personal Date” is basically when I take my self out on a date, alone! (I know what you’re thinking…. I need a better name for this—open to suggestions! No other friends, no significant others, just me going out of my way to leave my house and doing something with me, myself, and my time.

Once I decided to get my own apartment, I knew I was going to have more time than ever spent alone. I’ve always known that I’m the complete opposite of a homebody. When I was growing up, I’d do anything to get out of the house and do something with friends or family!  Now that I’m living on my own, I’m realizing the the amount of discomfort I have when I’m alone.

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Autophobia is the fear of being alone. I wouldn’t say what I have is necessarily a fear though… more a moment of anxiety because I’m not afraid of the idea of being alone. I love to plan in personal days but then when that day and moment actually comes, I tend to freak out. I feel incredibly stressed like there’s 100 other things I should be doing, and then it takes me a loooooot of pep talking (to myself) and sometimes a phone call with a friend or family member to call me down… So you see, I’m not great at being alone, but that’s why I need to practice! If you’re reading and realize you can relate… stay tuned I have a solution!

“I wouldn’t say what I have is necessarily a fear though… more a moment of anxiety”

But the idea for my Personal Dates actually started well before the move even happened and actually started for another reason entirely (it just so happened they came in handy out here too.) When I first came up with the idea it was after doing my goal planning for 2018. At that time, I wasn’t really happy with my relationship status. All of my friends were going on dates and getting engaged and some even married! I was annoyed seeing everyone going out with their significant on these lavish dates. If this sounds like you… here we go!

Rather than bum myself out more about not having a person in my life to do those things with, I figured stop wasting time waiting for someone else when I could do all of those things right now! So, I made a promise to myself that each month I’d treat myself to a special date. Not by treating myself to pulling the trigger on the thing that’s sat in my online cart for forever…but by actually leave the house and going out to do something.

Examples Please:

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I started off very strong! The first month, February 2018, I booked a trip to New York and although I was going to visit I friend, I still knew I was going to have a significant chunk of time alone. From museums to tours to stores—I did it all! Obviously being in a new city with a large bucket list made it easier than being home on a Sunday… but it was a start!

Sometimes I make plans to 100% go alone, but then friends will reach out and ask what’s going on and although it’s supposed to be me time, I try to also never turn down friends when they reach out. Plus, I prefer the company! I think it’s important to find the balance until it feels comfortable in your routine. The second month, March, I went to a comedy show with a friend!

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Later in the year I got Movie Pass and that became my go to activity to do alone! Although I no longer have Movie Pass and switched to AMC A-List (which I highly, highly recommend) I still go to movies ALLLL the time, so much that I no longer allow myself to count movies as a Personal Date. (Keep up with all my movie reviews on Instagram Highlights & Stories)

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Another activity that I actually love to do alone is go to Flea Markets. There’s so many in LA that any weekend, I can find one going on. I prefer to go alone when there’s something I’m specifically keeping an eye out for because I’ll walk the whole pace 2-3 times to make sure I’m getting the best deal!

Some other activities include going to various networking event like #imakealiving and AIGA events or going to art museums (another activity that I might spend more time at than the average person.)

Just this weekend, I went to the Japanese Gardens near my house. I had been with Emory before, but this time everything was in bloom.

For these Personal Dates I try not to plan ahead and let them happen more spontaneously. Most of the activities I’ll still invite friends to go, but if no one can make it then I decide to do it any way! Or things like special exhibits that I know I’m interested in more than most people, I’ll save that for a day when I need something to do!

 

Trust me, this is a harder habit than you’d think to get into! The last thing I want though is another thing stressing me out so if at the end of the month I reflect and I’m like… wow I forgot to do anything. Who cares? That must mean I had a pretty full and busy month and that’s the real goal! It moments where I start to feel the anxiety creep back in that I try to push myself to find something to do. Sometimes it’s even as simple as let’s go run an errand or take a walk around the block. Not only have they helped me feel more comfortable being alone, but it’s also introduced me to some new activities that I otherwise may not have found!

Let me know if you give it a shot or if you think this will help you! What activities do you like to do alone that I should try? I’m always open to suggestions!

 

Here’s a list I’ve brainstormed to get you started with some ideas!

  • see a movie on opening night— it’ll be packed with strangers, so you won’t really even feel alone
  • go to the new restaurant you’ve been dying to try and order a 3-course meal. Pretend you’re there to write a review (don’t tell them that… just in your head)
  • go to a museum, take a sketchbook, and pretend like you know what you’re doing—you might surprise yourself
  • go to the dog park and make a new friend — even if you don’t have a dog
  • explore a neighboring town that you’ve never actually been to… maybe they have a great boutique or the best BBQ… you won’t know till you try
  • Go for a hike (but put your safety first & be smart about where and when!)
  • Try a new work out class that you’d normally never do, maybe even indoor rock climbing?
  • Grab a book, go to a coffee shop or a beach or somewhere not your house and just start reading (especially if you don’t really like to read!)

 

Lounging in Laguna

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Laguna is by far one of my favorite places I’ve ever been in California! My first-time visiting was a few years ago with my Aunt and Uncle and I knew once moving back out that it was a top priority on my places to go back to! Emory and I went back in October, and although it was a few months ago now, it’s too good not to share!

Laguna is about 75 miles south right on the coast line and about an hour and a half drive from where I live (making it the perfect day trip!) It’s known for its beautiful beaches and its artistic culture!

When we went, we left on a Friday, mid-morning (trying to miss all the commuter traffic.) Once we got into town, we found a little parking lot right off the main street. In Laguna there’s pretty accessible parking everywhere, you’ll just have to pay hourly at most places! We got there just in time for an early lunch at Skyloft!  They had a great lunch menu we could pick and choose from, but what we really wanted was the view. The restaurant has what seems to be a fancier main floor, a bar atmosphere on the second floor, and then the third floor is a completely open-air patio with an incredible view of the main beach!

Afterwards we walked down to the main beach complete with the little light house  and explored the neighboring street shops! You might wonder “why going shopping when you have the beach?” Well, I’m learning that early in the morning, there’s usually a lot of fog that comes off the Pacific Ocean and on somedays it can take well into the afternoon for the fog to burn off. What better thing to do while you wait for the sun? Go check out all the local artisans’ shops! Laguna is home to many artists and the perfect place to shop if you enjoy finding unique, one of a kind things!! There are a bunch of studios that line the streets selling original fine art pieces, home décor, and specialty shops. There’s a bunch of boutiques with clothes for all different ages and styles along with everybody’s favorites traditional candy shops and surf stores! I went for the first time, it was the middle of summer and they had a bunch of different art fairs and festivals going on for even more handmade and crafted items!

Once the fog let up, we drove a little further down the coastline until we got to Aliso beach! Laguna has soooooo many incredible and picturesque beaches to choose from, but honestly, we finally decided on Aliso because there was very visible and easily accessible parking! To no surprise though, the beach was amazing besides that! It was still a breezy day and not ideal for a bikini or sunbathing in early October, but it was perfect to sit and watch the waves roll in! School must have been let out because there was a group of high school boys were wave boarding which was so cool to watch. Before long a bunch of parents and high schoolers and cheerleaders showed up for a pep-rally (before what I’m assuming was a big Friday night game!)

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Off on the side of the beach is a rocky out cropping that Emory and I decided to go explore! There were a whole bunch of tide pools along the rocks (another thing Laguna is known for) but being so late in the day, all we saw was a few anemones and mollusks of some sort. We decided to stay on the rocks and wait for sunset. In the meantime, we made friends with a seagull that would not leave us alone for any reason (even though we didn’t have any food) And before we knew it the sun was setting, and the tide was rising. Man was it worth the wait!

Although not much could follow that view, we decided it was time to move on! By this time a whole bunch of people had congregated to have bon fires (only some beaches in California will let you have them.) But before we left, we made sure to take a trolley ride along the coast! Yet another selling point on Laguna (like you needed another reason, I know) is that they have great public transportation! During peak summer hours they have trolleys that run all day long and will take you on different routes through the whole city! Since we were there in October on the other hand, we were in the start of the off-season and had to wait till later at night to enjoy.

Finally, it was getting pretty dark and we figured we better head on back! We drove up the coast as long as we could before heading back to LA. Over all is was a very laid back and relaxing day!

Where’s your favorite places to day trip? What kind of activities do you look forward to doing?

All About Art

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IMG_7368You know…? I’m all about the art! I always have been. You name it, movies, television, music, theater, but mostly visual arts from crafting and sewing to basically anything that allows you to make something out of nothing (except for baking that is, I’m still working on how to do that successfully.) 

I’ve always been a creative person!  I don’t know that it was ever a conscious decision to pursue art but more so that I was always taking small steps that would lead me down that road. In fact, it wasn’t until my final years of high school that I even found graphic design and digital design. I did, however, know I needed a job that would allow me to be creative, think outside the box and provide a lot of variety.  I remember in fourth grade for career day all the girls were dressed up as teachers and nurses while all the boys wanted to be famous athletes and scientist. Me on the other hand, I showed up with a mood board (complete with fabric and paint swatches) and rendered drawings of a dream house because I wanted to have my own HGTV show one day.  (Sharing my ideas on a blog and social media is the next best thing to having my own tv show these days!)

So, I’ve always felt a connection with art, creativity, and other artists BUT I know that’s not the case for everyone. If you think art museums and exhibits sound boring, well keep reading because I’m writing this blog for you whether you think you’ll like it or not!  This week I’m here to offer up ways you can bring art into your own life in a fun and approachable way that works for you! Just stay with me…

Trust me, I get it! There was a time growing up that I thought visiting an art museum sounded like torture (I was probably five, but that’s not the point.)  In our culture, art museums sometimes get a “tricky” reputation.  They’re often thought of as being too prestigious, upper class, for people that have a higher education level and a big wallet… this is no longer the case and, in some places, it’s actually the exact opposite. Art and society generally follow suit with one another.  With the way our world is changing right now and growing to have a more open understand of other people, cultures, and lifestyles the art community is too.

I didn’t fully begin to appreciate art history and museums until I got to college.  Until then, I just like to make things and create my own art and not put much thought into it.  As part of my degree requirements I had to take a number of art history classes. I knew going into these classes that it’d be hard.  I knew art history meant learning hundreds of different dates and movements, learning words from other languages, and having to spell things like baroque and cubism and also be able to tell you what those words mean.  Don’t get me wrong-it was hard, and it could also be incredibly confusing at times.  Surprisingly though, my art history classes became some of my favorites (even despite they’re early start times and that they met on Fridays.)  Art history changed my life and outlook on art completely. It opened my mind up and changed my college experience for the better.

Art history classes taught me about other cultures, religions, and history that I hadn’t otherwise really been exposed to. It encouraged me to travel the world and look to the past to understand other people and traditions. It gave me a further appreciation and understanding for things that came and existed before me as well as for the things that will outlive me.  Now every time I step foot in an art museum, I’m reminded of all of these things.

I have been incredibly blessed to be able to travel around the world and our country.  In some cases, I was even fortunate enough to get to see the paintings, sculptures, or buildings that I’ve studied in real life. There’s nothing that can describe the feeling I get when I turn around a corner in a museum and find myself standing face to face with the statue of David or gazing into Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I literally lose my breath and just try to take it all in. Now, I don’t expect everyone to have the same reaction or get as much out of it as I do, but you may just surprise yourself.

Another stereotype closely related to the art world is you have to be rich to see it, to travel to it, or to have it in your home… all of this-not true.  Whether in a large metropolitan area or a smaller suburban or rural town, art is all around you and I guarantee you can find it if you’re willing to look. If you don’t believe me, the first place I’d start looking in your area is a local college campus.  They’ve got to have something going on whether it’s a student show or a private collection of work in a gallery it could be worth your while to look into it.  If you find yourself somewhere like New York, don’t let the prices scare you!  A lot of the museums offer different discounts and pricing options, some even take donations rather than set a strict ticket price.

Once you find one and once you get in, then what? What do you look at? How long are you supposed to look at things? What all are you supposed to read?  What if I don’t get it? 

These are ALL valid questions and my answer to all of them is to stop worrying and do what feels right. Other than being quiet and not running sprints down the hallway, there’s not much “right” or “wrong” to an art museum.

IMG_4170If you aren’t drawn to something right away (or if you think it’s absolutely horrible and don’t understand it as I first felt with abstract art and work by Matisse) I challenge you to just take a brief moment to ask yourself, why don’t I like this piece?  Your answer could surprise you and even lead your mind down a rabbit hole to discover something new… but if it doesn’t ring any bells or take you on a journey then on to the next one I say.

I guarantee when you visit a museum, you’re going to see a lot of art that you’d never want to hang on your wall or put in your house (but that’s why it’s hanging a museum and not over your mantel)  The point is you came to this place, you saw the things, you thought about it, and it gave you a reaction (that reaction could be “wow this is amazing” or “this is horrible.”)  An artist’s most basic goal though, is to get a reaction… might not be the one they had in mind but none the less, they just want to shake up something in you. Try your best to keep an open mind and give it a chance.

Believe it or not museums aren’t just paintings hung on walls these days.  There’s actually a lot of artist that are trying to change the traditional “museum” experience and setting AND there’s a lot more work and thought that goes into it than you’d think.  I myself got to explore and experience this logic myself when I created and curated my first show, Married to my Work.  It was my goal to break these art and museum stereotypes and create a space that was welcoming, memorable, and encouraged you to get involved and play a part in the art. (To read more about my own art show click here: Married to My Work.)

This idea of creating a welcome space is popping up everywhere and LA has some of the greatest examples.  If a traditional museum still isn’t speaking to you then find yourself a pop-up exhibit. One of my favorite shows I’ve ever been to was a collection of work for a lot of different artists that transformed a warehouse into an immersive experience in the middle of LA called the 14th Factory organized by artist, Simon Birch(You may remember or feel like you’ve heard about it because one of the installations was knocked over by a girl taking a selfie resulting in thousands of dollars in damage… let’s take a moment to feel for her though, because I was almost that girl.  No, I wasn’t taking a selfie, but my bag did bump one of the pedestals in that same exhibit and almost knocked them over like dominos, but I was able to catch it and steady it in time…still gives me anxiety thinking about it though.)

Another, more pop-culture based exhibit is The Museum of Selfies (where a lot of my pictures have been from lately.)  This museum did aim to teach you a thing or two and not just how to take a good selfie, but it’s main purpose was to allow you to interact with different scenes and from there create your own art with your selfie.

IMG_0872Most recently my team at Florapy also attended a pop-up art show in LA called Bloom Art Show.  It was an outdoor, weekend event that was all about flowers and experiencing the beauty of nature.

See… there are so many different ways to experience art!  Change, breaking out of your comfort zone, try new things, do something different… all key parts to an art museum as well as my goals of this blog.  I’m learning from my experiences and pushing my limits with the hope that my readers will too.  I challenge all of you who have made it through this lengthy post to keep pushing your boundaries (whatever that may mean to you!) If you go to any cool museums or exhibits OR if there’s any you’d like me to check out, let me know! You know me, always looking for suggestions. If you’d like to see more of my own art and designs, visit designforthestory.com, @designforthestory on Instagram, OR just simply click the Art Work tab above!