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. 

Malibu Mission

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What to do when you’re in Malibu?  I’ve had a lot of followers asking about where and how I met Stanley the Giraffe. The answer is a trip to Saddlerock Ranch and signing up for a Malibu Wine Hike. The suggestion for this activity came from my good friend Jordan, and I’m so glad she suggested it.  I knew my boyfriend was coming to visit and we were looking for some ideas on unique things to do in the area. Malibu Wine Hikes was the perfect solution and I think we would all continue to recommend this adventure.

First off, the word “hike” is being used pretty loosely (we both did the entire hike in Sperrys). It’s more of a nice walk through a beautiful vineyard that’s rested among the Malibu Canyons. Along your walk you’ll get to explore beautiful scenic views, rows of grape vines, a unique garden, and romantic event and venue spaces (you may even spot the Bachelor mansion). The highlight of this trip though, is of course all of the friends you’ll meet along the way.

There was about 10 of us in our group all of different ages and backgrounds, but most were all from the surrounding Los Angeles area. Now the hikes we did were group hikes, but if you have a big enough group, you can book a private hike as well.

The other friends I was talking about though, are the main attractions- an eclectic family of exotic animals. On your hike you’ll make plenty of new friends when you stop and feed goats, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, zebras, and even Stanley the Giraffe. On the hike you’ll spend quite a bit of time interacting with the animals and you’ll get to learn more about them as well as the history behind the ranch’s owners, the ranch, and the vineyard.

Be sure to have your cameras ready and fully charged because there are tons of photo ops along that way that you won’t want to miss. It’s truly an experience you’ll never forget and is definitely worth it.  Once you’re done with the hike you’ll get to go up to the wine tasting area and sample 5 of the most popular Saddlerock wines (a $20 value included!)

Tips & Tricks of the Day:

Whether you’re from LA, just here visiting, or have a special celebration coming up, Malibu Wine Hikes is the perfect way to celebrate and enjoy the area. Our hike was $65/person for about 4 hours of fun.  I booked our hike about 3 weeks in advance. Just be aware that the spots can fill up fast since it’s such small groups. The hike itself took about two hours then we spent about two hours in the wine tasting area.

***things we didn’t know but wish we did***

You can stay after in the wine tasting area as long as you’d like. On the weekends they often have live music playing and it’s a very hip and trendy spot to spend a day or afternoon. They also sometimes have a food truck, BUT you can also bring in as much food and non-alcoholic beverages as you like. Tons of people had gourmet picnics set up and one group even had pizzas delivered.  You and a group of friends could easily make a day out of it (plus if you’re worried about driving so far and drinking, it’s not as expensive or uncommon as you’d think to just take an Uber especially from the valley.) Regardless of doing the hike or not though, the only way to get to the wine tasting area is by trolley or shuttle from the main parking lot.  The main parking lot address is associated with Saddle Rock Ranch and the same parking lot for the Wine Hikes and safaris.

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Other things to keep in mind:

Check the weather before you go.  Since it’s deeper in the canyons and at a higher elevation than the beach it tends to be warmer and sunnier.  In the event it rains, or the weather is horrible (extremely unlikely) they do have a rescheduling policy that might work for you. You’re definitely going to want to make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen.  There’s very little shade along the path and bringing sunglasses is also a smart idea. You’ll also want to bring a water bottle with you.  They do have filling stations along the way, but they don’t have any bottles or cups available at the time we went.

As far as what to wear, I wore jean capris, a light weight sweater, and Sperrys (you have to wear close toed shoes for the hike). I was waaaaay too hot in my outfit, but I managed just fine. If you’re most comfortable in workout gear, I would suggest you wear that.  If you want to dress up a little more and be more fashionable for photos, you’ll be fine just make sure you can move freely and be prepared for about a  two-mile walk.  The reason why people would want to look cute for the hike besides photos, is because the wine tasting area is extremely trendy and very LA. To me, going can even feel like being part of a fashion show. There’s always a very diverse group of people there though, and of course other people will be in casual hiking clothes as well so just wear whatever you will be the most comfortable in.

When you look to book your trip, you might also come across the Wine Safaris. They’re at the same location and you’ll see many of the same things, but you’ll miss out on the exercise and won’t get to interact with the animals quite as much.  But for larger groups, it still looked like an extremely fun experience.

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Extend your Day:

If you drove (or even if you didn’t) you can always extend your day before or after your hike and go to one of Malibu’s beautiful beaches.  We went to El Matador before our hike (one of my favorite beaches in the area.) I love El Matador because it’s very scenic due to its stunning rock outcroppings.  Again, it also makes for great photo opportunities.  Don’t worry though the sand is still perfectly soft and not rocky at all.

When visiting El Matador beach, you can pay to park for pretty reasonable fees in the lot, but if the spots are all full you can park a little farther away along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) for free.  (I haven’t got a ticket yet for doing that and everyone else does it, so I think it’s fine!) 

It is a bit of a journey to get down from the parking area.  You’ll have to trek down a pretty steep slope and then make your way down a few flights of stairs, so I’d think twice before you bring too much stuff to carry. The view is amazing, and you never know what you might see, perhaps a pod of dolphins swimming in the distance, a few surfers catching waves, or you may just find the lost swing.

Malibu Wine Hikes and beaches were great suggestions and I am more than happy to recommend!  Please let me know if you sign up for a Malibu Wine Hike and feel free to ask any more questions.  I’m always taking recommendations and suggestions of what to do next for my Things To-Do List at dayofjae@gmail.com!