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. 

Destination Denver

We are already in September… How is that even possible? Not only are the days just continuing to fly by, but so is the time to accomplish all the goals you’ve been working on this year.

*Hint* Maybe now’s a good time to check in with where you’re at? *Hint*

(with your goals that is)

One of the goals I shared in February Fresh was that I wanted to visit and explore a new state. I always love to travel and go on trips, but thinking realistically, I knew I wasn’t going to have the funds or time to plans some huge worldly vacation, so instead I kept it simple and had a tremendous experience crossing Denver, Colorado off the list. 

I know we just celebrated Labor day but here I am still daydreaming about my trip over the Fourth of July to Denver. For years I’ve been hearing people express their love for the state of Colorado, but me being one who doesn’t participate in Winter Sports and has never really experienced the mountain life was skeptical that I’d enjoy a trip like that. Now I can proudly say, I was so wrong and the only though I left with was, “Why didn’t I come to Denver sooner.”

Have you been to Colorado before? If so leave me a comment of your favorite city or activity to do in Colorado! I just might have to plan another trip back! 

So how did I decided to finally commit to going and seeing this state I thought I had no business being in? Simple, one of my best friends from college moved there after we graduated and to visit a friend is worth it no matter where the destination. My group of college gal pals decided we’d all plan a trip together so that we could catch up and see what’s going on in one another lives. It’s an interesting experience making friends in college, knowing nothing about one another but before you know it you spend every day of the next four years living together. Then you graduate and all go your separate ways and start on the next chapter of your life. 

For me, it’s been a challenging adjustment seeing us all go separate directions and into different time zones. At the same time though, I always look forward to our next phone call filling one another in and as we learned in Denver, it’s really fun having a good excuse to go and visit somewhere. 

So, we booked it—a trip to Denver over Fourth of July weekend. Honestly when we were thinking about doing it over a holiday weekend obviously there’s a perk of having extra free days off from work, however I thought the flight would be crazy expensive. Denver’s airport is a huge hub though for a lot of connections making it actually pretty affordable. Also having a place to stay is always nice and helps cut down on the budget as well. If you don’t have someone to stay with, I always recommend checking out Air BnB’s because you can find some unique places and amazing deals like this one.

Plan Your Own Long Weekend Getaway:

With this itinerary inspired by our Summer trip to Denver

Day 1:

Day 2: 

  • Grab brunch at Snooze in Denver’s Union Station Downtown (Don’t forget to make a reservation beforehand!) 
  • Drive out to Idaho Springs, Colorado and hike St. Mary’s Glacier! (Work off all that breakfast you just ate.) 
  • Catch a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater

Day 3: 

  • Drive up to Boulder, Colorado and walk around downtown.
  • Hike and explore the Flatirons
  • Treat yourself to some Sweet Cow ice cream (dairy-free options available!) 
  • Catch a Rockies game at Coors Field

Here’s the breakdown of our trip!

Day 1:

Our first day all together (July 4th) we explored the West Highlands neighborhood where our friend lives. It turns out that Denver is a big fan of observing the Fourth of July because a lot of businesses including restaurants and breweries were all closed for the day. We ended up at a local barbeque restaurant for lunch and followed by going to the Great Divide Barrel Bar and other breweries the rest of the night. Denver is known for their craft beer scene, and other than a lot of them being closed there was still plenty to go around. Whether you’re a beer connoisseur or not (which I’m not) you’re sure to find at least one you’ll like. Knowing we had Day ahead of us we called it a night after having dinner with a few fireworks, and it was a good thing we did because is stormed the rest of the night. 

Day 2: 

We started off the day heading to downtown to Denver’s Union Station which is a must-see place when visiting. It’s the most beautiful train station I’ve ever been to and that’s saying a lot since I’ve been to NYC’s Grand Central Station. It’s surrounded by so many unique and adorable shops and restaurants. Our Brunch club reconvened at Snooze, an a.m. eatery and it wouldn’t be brunch without a Bloody Mary and a coloring page! 

After our morning fuel we made our way up into the mountains where we did the famous Saint Mary’s hike just outside of Denver. One thing to keep in mind when taking on this hike, the parking lot was ridiculous! Of course, it was extra packed considering it was a holiday weekend but it’s also extremely rocky and you’re going to need a bigger car! While our SUV made it work it would have been preferable to have something a little bigger. The hike itself was perfect! A moderate uphill (or should I say mountain) It’s about a mile and a half hike round trip and features a few views that are worth climbing for. Once we got to the top, we were greeted by a beautiful glacier fed lake and a mountain top full of snow even though it was a warm 60-some degrees. On the way back down, we took a little detour to see the waterfall—what a rush that was. 

The day was still far from being done. We headed bag to get ready and transition into our big event of the trip—a Red Rocks concert. That night we went to see the Avett brother play at Red Rock Amphitheater. I can promise you, it’s an experience I’ll never forget! First things first, if anyone ever tells you it doesn’t rain/storm/hail in Denver, they’d be wrong! However, sometimes the unexpected can somehow make something that much more special. As we’re waiting in line to get into the concert, it starts to downpour. Before long the rain turns to thunder, lighting, and eventually hail. After the storm clears and the weather delay was over. We were left with a double rainbow and a stunning sunset. Seeing a concert in the Red Rocks is unlike any concert I’ve ever been too. The sound quality is outstanding, and the view is even better. As the concert went on, we laugh, we sang along, we made so many memories, and we got pounded with more and more rain. Ponchos quickly became our new best friends and the best money ever spent. 

Day 3:

The previous day was so jam packed, we all agreed we needed to take it easy. We walked to the Cozy Cottage, a little house with a beautiful patio that has been converted into a café. I’ve got to say; it was so nice being in an area and community that it so walkable again. That’s one of my least favorite things about LA and the area I live in specifically is you can’t really walk anywhere. 

After brunch we drove to Boulder to visit another friend from college’s stopping grounds. We explored their downtown ped-mall area and checked out another brewery, Oskar Blues, of course!  (The Boozy Sparkling Waters are delicious and dare I say better than a White Claw.) 

Day 4:

It was an early morning check out for all of us as we all headed to the airport to go back to our respective cities. The trip was full of scenic views, fresh air, delicious food, tasty beer, and best of all—reminiscing with friends. We’re all making arrangements to visit one another throughout the next year so stay tuned for another LA weekend and Chicago land visit. It also didn’t take me long to make it back out to Denver for a second time—more on that coming soon! 

Lessons from the trip:

  • Staying in touch with friends (especially across the country) is hard but extremely worth it. Make sure to make an effort to keep the people that matter most in your life actively in your life no matter the distance. And yes, that means sometimes that means just booking a plane ticket.
  • Denver is an incredible city. Although I don’t necessarily see myself living there, it surprised me in every way. It has a little something for everyone and while that little something is most likely being outside or drinking beer—what’s not to love? 
  • I’m inspired and might even…maybe…be considering…. thinking about… learning to ski. There I said it and now I can’t take it back. 

Again, share with me your favorite places in Colorado or anything that should be added to my to-do list for the next trip. I’d love to hear about any memories you have from any of your trips! Comment below!