Corona-What????

Do you have those places that are your unicorn destinations?  I have a few….and mine are all based on history – if you have read any of my posts before, you know I am a history buff!!!!  My tippy-top unicorn destinations are Rome (check), London (check), Greece and Egypt.  And this week, I am going to Greece!!!

Last year, a friend and I took advantage of a great deal to Athens – 4 nights there, hotel, breakfast, flights – and springtime temps in the upper 60s!  We can’t wait!  But recently, there have been some hurdles – and you all know about COVID-19 or coronavirus.

My travel buddy and I decided (along with many of my clients traveling to Europe this spring) that we were not going to let this media frenzy hold us back.  Now, there is a lot to consider, including one’s health and work situation (some jobs are telling people that if they visit Europe they will be forced out of work for 2 weeks post return) and of course, fear plays a factor for some.  But not for us!!!  And certainly, I would not advise clients to do anything that was counter intuitive for them, but my travel buddy and I are biting our thumb at coronavirus and going to Athens.

Stay tuned for some cool pictures, stories and tips!

Christmas in July

Last fall, I had some friends contact me about taking a river boat cruise for the Christmas Markets in Europe.  Most people plan these a year or so out, but I love the spontaneity of these folks, so getting a last-minute request for such an amazing trip was both awesome and a bit hurried!  But, we had sweet success in finding the perfect trip and my clients really enjoyed their experience.  They have given me permission to share some of their photos and it is always fun to show off other people’s travel experiences as I get to see the world from someone else’s eyes!  Check out these fabulous memories!!!

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The lobby of AmaWaterways’ beautiful ship AmaPrima

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The AmaPrima decorated for Christmas

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Gegenbach, Germany

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Great eats at Heidelburg, Germany

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Heidelburg Market

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Rudesheim, Germany

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Strasburg Market, Germany

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Strasburg, Germany

Downton in Bean Town

Sometimes it is fun to tour at home.  I live in a gorgeous part of the Northeast – not too far from Boston and close to the coastal Maine towns of Ogunquit, York and Kennebunkport.  I also live less than two hours from the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire and lakes galore in both states.  My husband and I love taking local weekends – even off season – to enjoy the beauty that is in our own backyard.  A simple date night in Perkins Cove, Maine makes me feel a bit like I am on vacation.  If you have never heard of Perkins Cove – Goggle it.  You will love it!!!

A couple weekends ago I had the pleasure of joining some girlfriends in a day trip to Boston.  While it is lovely to just get together, we did go with a purpose – and that was to see the special Downton Abbey exhibit that was in town for two short weeks.  We decided to make a day of it.

We left Dover, New Hampshire (close to our home towns) via the Amtrak train Downeaster in the morning and headed to North Station in Boston.  We splurged on the Business Class seats ($31 per person round trip) and enjoyed some visiting and relaxing – watching the world go by.  I had forgotten how much I love traveling by train….the train trip is coming back in vogue!  It is part of a travel movement called “slow travel” and it is emerging as we begin to love our journeys as much as our destinations!  Stay tuned for a blog I am working on about slow travel and what it’s all about!

While in Boston, we road the “T” – the subway, walked a ton, ate at “Cheers” in Faneuil Hall, shopped, saw our exhibit, got caught in a rain shower, passed through some type of filming (movie or TV show, we aren’t sure – we didn’t see anyone famous!) enjoyed Boston Commons (a lovely park) and made our way back to the train station to catch our ride home!  It was a fabulous day with friends and I got indulge my Downton Abbey obsession just a little!  Perhaps there will be a post about that someday as well!!!

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Amtrak Downeaster on a gorgeous summer’s day in New Hampshire!

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The ever busy and fun Faneuil Hall

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I love the juxtaposition of old and new on the east coast – our cities are a blend of history and modernity.

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Outside the Downton Abbey exhibit

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Mr. Carson’s pantry.

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The famous maid’s bell board.

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Bell board up close.

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The amazing costuming is something I really love about period dramas. Downton Abbey really shines in this department!

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The dining room!

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Outstanding evening dresses for Lady Edith, Lady Mary and that FABULOUS pants outfit by Lady Sybil!

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This car was on the “set” of the movie/show we saw while in Boston.

The Doors

I always want to bring home a ton of things when I travel to a new place.  I find so many things that are cool, unusual, and signify an experience I never want to forget. My son “collects” key chains and my daughter “collects” snow globes from our travels.  My husband “collects” shot glasses and I always bring back a Christmas ornament for my tree.  Recently, I started collecting Nativity Scenes unique to the place I am visiting.

Another ritual I have is taking pictures of doors.  I love how doors are so culturally significant and really indicative of personally, class and background.  I love the variation of size, color, materials and purpose.  I imagine what is on the other side of the doors, how old they are and what stories they would tell if they could talk.  I enjoy making simple blank greeting cards out of many of the pictures I take during my travels and sending those to clients.  The door pictures are some of my favorites.  Here are some I took last year in Italy and last month in Mexico.

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Rome, Italy

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Rome, Italy

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Rome, Italy

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Rome, Italy

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Rome, Italy

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Rome, Italy

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Sorrento, Italy

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Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy – the most stunning place I have EVER been!!!

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Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy

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Pompeii, Italy

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Pompeii, Italy

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

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Oaxaca, Mexico

 

Throw Back Thursday – Italy 2016

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Sunset in Sorrento, Italy reflected in Aperol Spritz.

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Looking down…..Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy

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San Gimignano towers through the window of our tower bedroom.

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Countryside view from Volterra, Italy

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Photo from the top of one of the towers – San Gimignano, Italy

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Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

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San Gimignano in rain

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Zurich, Switzerland – these are our “Polish faces” – my sister in law is Polish, and she said Americans smile too big in pictures – so this is how we imagine the Poles smile!

In April 2016, my husband and I took our first week long vacation without our children!  They went to visit their grandparents on the West Coast (their first time traveling unaccompanied) and we took a long week to Italy!  Let me start off by saying it was everything I thought it would be and I loved every minute.

In a nut shell, we flew into Zurich, picked up a rental and drove to Rimini on the eastern coast of Italy, sitting nicely on the Adriatic Sea.  We spent our first night there and had the most wonderful seafood dinner ever!  The next morning, we headed towards Sorrento – but first we visited the micro country of San Marino and took time to stick our toes in the Adriatic.

We spent four nights in Sorrento and toured the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii and Naples.  We had our most expensive meal ever (the kind of place that doesn’t have prices on the LADIES’ menu!!) and also the best pizza in Naples!

We drove to Tuscany and spent another four nights in San Gimignano and toured that lovely hill town, Volterra, a winery, Florence and ate WAY too much!!!!

Finally, we spent a night in Zurich before we left the next day to return home, just ahead of our kids.  It was amazing and filled with wonderful surprises, character building struggles and joyful experiences that deepened the bond I have with my hubby.  Traveling does all those things for you and it is the main reason we enjoy traveling….it brings us together and challenges us!

Above are some of my favorite pictures from this fabulous journey!

 

Sunrises and Sunsets…iconic views of travel.

I have a thing for sunrises and sunsets.  They signify the beginning and the end.  They are an invitation to start anew and force us to put things behind us.  I have found great joy in witnessing these celestial spectacles and even though some of them happened years and years ago, they recall memories that I may have otherwise forgotten.

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November 2018. A sunrise in my backyard with freshly fallen snow.

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March 2013. Argenton-sur-Creuse. This was sunrise out the window of our charming 16 century townhouse at the end of the bridge.

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Summer 2018. Naples, Maine. Sunset on Long Lake.

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Summer 2016. Naples, Maine. Tubing at sunset on Long Lake.

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November 2015. Sunset over Monterey Bay, California.

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Fall 2012. Sunset on the amazing island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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Unknown date. Sunrise on my street.

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December 2013. Sunrise over Mount Baker, Washington State.

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Sunset. Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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Sunset. Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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Summer 2017. Sunset over Balch Lake, Maine.

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February 2019 aboard the Symphony of the Seas. Sunset while docked off the coast of St. Marteen.

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February 2019. Man-made sunset on the Savanna in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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February 2019. Sunset over the lake from our room in Bay Lake Towers, Disney World.

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June 2018. Sorrento, Italy. Sunset over Vesuvius.

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June 2018. Shortly after sunrise over Vatican City.

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September 2014. Sunset in Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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April 2016. Sunset in Sorrento, Italy reflected in Aperol Spritz.

 

Top 10 Culinary Finds in Paris

Traveling with a rather picky 12 year old doesn’t really lead itself to a culinary adventure, but we did have a few of my Parisian favorites and a few standbys to get me through!

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10. At the airport upon our arrival, the child was starving! With a classic mixte brioche sandwich with ham and cheese and an eclair, we were ready to tackle the train to Paris!

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9. Beef hot dogs. OK – well…what can I say?! We were at Disneyland Paris and needed a pick me up!!!

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8. Speaking of Disneyland Paris…did you know they serve MEAT IN A CONE as a snack?

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7. Gelato. Need I say more?

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6. Coffee? Tea? Nope. Vin Chaud, or hot mulled wine. Only in Paris, people!!!

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5. Dinner our first night. While Charlotte enjoyed a hamburger (ugh!) I marveled at burgundy braised beef with shallots, button mushrooms, whipped potatoes and FOIS GRAS that absolutely MELTED in my mouth!!! I’m hungry now!!!

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4. Lunch for day 2 – a Hawaiian Poke Bowl! Confession – I do not even LIKE some of the things in this bowl – the avocado and mangoes in particular BUT…sitting outside in a Parisian cafe inspired me to try new things! It was delightful! I did NOT, however, eat the cilantro. I think it tastes like soap and you cannot tell me otherwise!! hahahaha

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3. Well, I am not generally a wine drinker but I was in PARIS!!! A glass of wine was a requirement. And they don’t have wine types that Americans are generally familiar with – no Chablis, Chardonnay and pino grigios on every menu. I cannot tell you what this one was named…but it was lovely!

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2. The Macaron. NOT a macaroon!!! The macaroon is made from coconut and generally does not have a filling. The French MACARON is wonderfulness in your mouth. A delicate dance of almond flour cookie shell and buttercream or ganache filling. Traditional French flavors include lavender, rose, pistachio, lemon and chocolate. If you haven’t ever tried this bit of magic in your mouth, check out La Maison Navarre in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. You will be delighted with authentic French cooking, macarons, crepes and the most amazing French Onion Soup on the entire planet!!!

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1. Last but certainly NOT least – my absolute favorite, most amazing French culinary staple….the crepe! And my crepe of choice is nutella and banana!! Every day/night of our visit involved at least one crepe! Our go-to crepe stand was just around the corner and was a part of an Gyro shop! The guys there were fantastic and I endeared them immediately with my elementary Arabic skills – we were fast friends and they were happy to see us daily!

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Our last crepe of the trip!!!! It was kind or our lunch that day!

 

I hope you enjoyed this picture journey of our culinary experience in Paris.  We weren’t fancy, but really enjoyed each meal we took together and really, isn’t that the point?

Tips for Traveling to Paris, Part 2

Did you read Part 1?  These are some basic tips for traveling to Paris – but really, when you plan to travel anywhere!!!

  1. Decide on a basic plan of touring and prepare. We bought our tickets ahead of time to save waiting in long queues.  During the winter months, this isn’t as important, but there still were lines for the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.  We didn’t have to wait in those – we just walked right in!!!!  Also, figure out how you are getting from the airport to your destination.  Explore mass transit options – they are usually VERY user friendly, as the whole continent of Europe is accessible by train and many people use them.  Trains tend to be less expensive and an adventure all on their own.  Also, we have downloaded on to our phones city maps from Google Maps that can be accessed even if we are off line.  These have been fabulous for Paris and Italy for both driving directions and walking city streets!  I highly recommend doing this as you prepare for a trip!

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  1. Don’t be afraid of the unknown – life is full of them – they make the ride more interesting! You hear about pickpockets in airports and train stations and tourist sites.  There are pickpockets in the US, too.  Just be aware or your surroundings.  Hold your important things close and pay attention.  For Paris, I had a little pouch I carried around my neck under my jacket that had my Euros, copies of our passports, keys to the apartment and my ID/credit cards.  For Italy, we had cross body purses that had IFR protection for credit cards and anti-theft straps so they couldn’t be cut.  Also – be sensible.  Don’t venture off the beaten path and if you are worried walking at night, get a cab.  Don’t be sacred!  Live life!!!
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This is the wonderful street action just around the corner from our AirBnB!

 

  1. Be flexible – I am a planner, but even the best laid plans can take a sharp right turn! Learn to roll with it! I have found that the greatest character building, memory making experiences have come out of adversity.  On this trip, we faced with some unexpected closings, some inclement weather (although I loved the snow) and pockets of protesters.  We had Plan Bs available when necessary and turned any lemons into lemonade – and hopefully Charlotte learned that there can always be a positive outcome if you look at a situation the right way.
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What do you do with fresh snow in Paris? Build a French snowman at Notre Dame!

 

  1. Off seasons – I had some amazing deals come up this past summer for European travel this winter. People were afraid to jump on board because it was going to be cold weather.  They really missed out!  Winter in Europe is generally milder (is was 35 degrees here to the 3 degrees at home while I was gone) and the crowds are way thinner.  What does that mean?  Fewer queues, better prices and more opportunities to experience something different.  Don’t be afraid of the off season – it makes travel affordable for many!
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I love this one with the Eiffel Tower in the background!

 

  1. Learn some French – or whatever language is spoken where you are visiting.  I learned some French in high school and have since been using it here and there when I have the chance.  To prepare for this trip, I have been listening to French lessons on my phone via Audible (an app) from a company called Pimsleur.  I used them to learn some Italian before my trip to Italy.  Want to know why some Americans think the French don’t like them?  Because we travel to places like Paris and don’t even attempt to speak the language.  We try to engage everyone in our loud American voices and think if we speak English louder the French will understand.  Guess what?  Most of them speak a little English – if you at least attempt some niceties and smile, it will go a long way!  Learn how to greet people and say, “thank you”, “please”, “where is the……”, “I would like……” and “goodbye”.  Your experience will be must better!!!

These tips can be used in most new situations.  I hope you find them helpful and maybe a bit entertaining!!!

Lights and Sights of Paris in Winter – our trip in a nutshell!

Paris is known as the City of Lights – and Paris did not disappoint!  With a glittering Eiffel Tower and some Christmas decorations still on display, we enjoyed the beautiful twinkle that Paris had to offer.  We also enjoyed a LOT of sight seeing in a short amount of time.

We visited the Louvre (bought tickets ahead of time on line and printed them out) on our arrival day to help us get through the jet-lag.  We have always flown overnight to Europe so arriving around mid morning and staying awake until bedtime has been great advice for concurring jet-lag!  We visited the Louvre in the late afternoon – around 3:30pm and this was a great time to visit – the crowds were thinner and we didn’t feel rushed anywhere.  Of course, we saw the Mona Lisa and roamed around aimlessly for about 2+ hours before we got board and headed out.  I’m just not a museum person but you can’t go to Paris and NOT go to the Louvre!

The next morning, we walked to a rendezvous point to meet up with a great guide named Peter.  We took a 2.5 hour bike tour of Paris with another couple and had a fantastic time!  It was a Sunday so many cars were off the road and we felt safe enjoying the morning seeing some pretty cool places.  We popped into the Marais – a trendy and chic neighborhood on the right bank of Seine.  We rode through the plaza of Notre Dame and learned some history there.  We rode to and through the courtyards at the Louvre.  We rode to the Place de la Concord and saw the glitz and glamour of the set up for Fashion Week!  We rode over to the Eiffel Tower and our guide shared some great tips about the city, the history, and what Parisians do!

Monday we went to Disneyland Paris – I already wrote about it so all I will say is that we planned ahead, got our tickets on-line the week before the trip, knew where we were getting the train in Paris to take us directly to DLP.  It was a super fun day and I am glad we took the trip!

Tuesday – our last full day – we scooted around the city on electric scooters for much of the day!!!  It was snowing so the city was magical!  We scooted to Notre Dame, fed some birds and walked into the cathedral.  We wanted to go up into the towers but they were closed because of the snow.  We picked up the scooters again and took them to the Eiffel Tower to check out the snow!  We took some pictures, then scooted all the way back over to the Jardin des Plantes where we visited the small zoo they have there!  It was pretty fun and we saw some beautiful creatures enjoying the snow!  After a bit of a rest in our apartment, we walked to the Latin Quarter (about 8 minutes away from us) and walked through Saint Severin church (one of my favorites for it’s Gothic style) and finished up some shopping in the narrows of the Latin Quarter.

Wednesday, we woke up late, packed up and headed out to Notre Dame one last time for some bird feeding!  We scooted back to the apartment, had our last crepe, finished packing and hoofed it to the train for the airport!

We had a fantastic quick trip and SO worth every single minute and penny spent!!!!  We made memories we will never forget!!!  Check out some of our funny selfies and be sure to keep and eye out for my Hints for Traveling to Paris!

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Our last crepe! Nutella and banana, of course!

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I didn’t know she stuck her tongue out until I looked at the pictures that night!!!

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Our first selfie in Paris!

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Well, who doesn’t eat hot dogs at Disneyland Paris?

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The arrival!!!!

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Eiffel Tower!!!!

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Sleeping Beauty Castle was so pretty!!!!

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From the other side!!!

Top 10 Favorite Pictures from Paris

Many of you followed my fantastic mother/daughter adventure to Paris this January.  You can catch up on the highlights in my Travel Diaries, but I wanted to take a minute and post my favorite pictures from the trip.

I love so many things about travel, and one of them is making memories that turn into the stories of our lives.  Being able to share this special time with my daughter was precious in so many ways and I hope she will look back on it with as much fondness as I know I will!

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Our first selfie in Paris!

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I love Char’s look – so adorable!

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I didn’t know she stuck her tongue out until I looked at the pictures that night!!!

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I love this one with the Eiffel Tower in the background!

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What do you do with fresh snow in Paris? Build a French snowman at Notre Dame!

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The Eiffel Tower was closed due to the weather, but we scooted all the way there to take in the rare sight!

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Our last crepe! Nutella and banana, of course!

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What a beauty!

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Finding Eva and Wally – pure joy!!!!

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The first gelato of the trip! Kinda like the first gift of Christmas!