Whenever I have a rare weekend in London, it’s hard to sit still.
I want to see everything. Explore everything. Even if I tried, I’d never experience it all.
And that’s only London.
What about all the fascinating towns just a quick train ride away?
It’s one of these “what new place will we see today?” conversations that led Joel and I to the university town of Cambridge.
Want a quick spoiler? It’s now one of my favourite UK places I’ve visited to date.
First things first: logistics.
Trains leave from King’s Cross to Cambridge at least every hour, but here’s a tip - order your National Rail ticket online ahead of time and you’ll save some £.
Then sit back and enjoy scenic English countryside journey for 50 minutes or so before arriving at your destination.
Once you’re off the train, it’s a 20 minute walk into the center of town, but you’ll be graced with beautiful architecture and pockets to scout out en route.
Although Cambridge is most well-known for its university (founded in 1209), it’s very much a thriving little city (or big town?) and has adapted the nickname, Silicon Fen - a play on Silicon Valley - because it’s at the heart of the UK’s high tech industry.
As a result, the town is a mix of small old-school shops and streets filled with every mainstream high street shop and restaurant imaginable. While Cambridge leaves you with a small and quaint feeling, it also offers lots of bigger city amenities. As a side note, here are some fun facts I learned during our visit:
- Cambridge has the highest level of cycle use anywhere in the UK. 25% of residents travel to work by bike and 47% travel by bike at least once a week.
- In 2010, Forbes listed Cambridge as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
- Over 40% of the workforce have a higher education qualification. Not surprising.
As you make your way through the town, the main street is lined with shops and cafes on one side and the “Colleges” on the other side.
To say it’s stunning would be an understatement.
Once you’ve explored the town and seen the front of the colleges, it’s time to see the backs….and there’s only one way to do that.
You have two options when punting…
1) Rent your own and do all the hard work yourself
2) Get a spot in a public punt and have a lovely student guide you along the river and college backs.
As it was our first visit, we opted for the latter so we could actually learn more about what we were seeing.
Side note: Again, order your tickets online in advance and you’ll save some £. There’s plenty of options (just use your friendly pal Google), but we went with Scudamores.
Not only did we visit on a weekend, but it was also warm (by UK standards that means 65) and sunny (a rare, celebratory event).
This resulted in a bit of a punting traffic jam, but our adorable university student guide navigated us down the river, hissing at all the amateurs blocking the route.
We spent the next hour or so soaking up the 800+ years of history and idyllic scenery.
It was at this point that I wish we had reserved our own punt, brought along a couple of friends, and piled the punt high with picnic goodies and jugs of Pimm’s. That’s definitely the plan next time.
Or maybe we’ll take a cue from these folks who found a punt that serves a Thai meal on board their chauffeured punts.
Once we hopped off, we made a couple furry friends, treated our inner 10 year old selves with a strawberry ice cream cone and called it a day.
Next up? Visit Oxford for a true compare and contrast.
"The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks."
"Prague was a portal between the life of the good and … the other. A city of dark magic."
"If European cities were a necklace, Prague would be a diamond among the pearls."
Besides a few literally references, historical events and the above imaginative quotes, I didn’t know much of what to expect from Prague circa 2014.
Here’s what I discovered in 48 hours….
I used to consider Paris the most beautiful city in the world (from what little I’ve seen). Prague now might possibly hold my vote.
Even with the unrelenting rain, I was immediately under Prague’s spell. There’s something fascinating and bewitching, and maybe even a little bit dark, that drew me in to the city’s pulse.
We took refuge from the storm under a canopy next to the extremely popular Charles Bridge. It’s here where I had my very first Budvar, the “original Budweiser” beer. (Read all about the lawsuits here.)
We also dug in to some very traditional fare…goulash (not pictured), dumplings, and cabbage - oh my!
I was a fan, but only for a meal. The heaviness of Czech cuisine is not something that agreed with any of us more than once or twice.
For the next couple hours, we took to the streets, battling our way through the mobs of tourists at each of the major points.
Side note: Prague is obviously a major destination, but I was extremely surprised by the number of tourists, particularly in the pouring rain. The number rivalled Paris, London and New York and made certain areas (i.e. the Charles Bridge and Old Town Square) slightly overwhelming.
At some point, our foursome managed to get lost, which was the best possible course of action as fate led us to quieter streets that ascended toward the Prague Castle.
As we began the climb, we turned around and my heart skipped a beat at Prague’s beauty.
And then we’d climb more and turn around again…
Prague’s beauty felt surreal.
The red roofs, the spires, the green domes, the history hanging in the mist…
We admired Prague Castle from the outside…
But quickly moved on to the next priority…
What the crepe is to Paris, trdelník is to Prague.
With roots in Czech Republic, Hungary, Transylvania, Slovakia and Austria, it’s a sweet pastry cake made from rolled dough that’s wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar, cinnamon or walnuts.
Joel found it a bit bla, but I loved it for it’s simplicity.
It’s important that you don’t get suckered into mediocre trdelník. Find a spot that’s making and serving it fresh, not letting it sit there and get stale. I had one that was like the latter later in the trip and was terribly disappointed.
The rest of the afternoon found us continuing to “get lost”, becoming totally transfixed by the city’s architecture, colors, and mystery on both sides of the Vltava River.
I was particularly excited to visit Josefov, the Jewish quarter, but was surprised that besides a couple synagogues, the area is now focused more on high end shopping. Considering the country’s history in WWII, I had expected more and was disappointed.
Following a disco nap, we made our way back over the Charles Bridge in search for dinner at Kampa Park, the lit up terrace on the river in the photo below.
The views couldn’t be beat and the food was phenomenal.
In keeping with the season, we noticed many restaurants were serving “Asparagus Menus”. I picked white asparagus, a poached egg and morels. The meal is still making waves in my culinary memory.
It was time to call it an early night, even though the view from our rental flat was trying to lure us back into the night.
But we awoke bright and early for our Czech countryside adventure.
First things first - we popped out of our flat. (if you’re visiting Prague and want a housing recommendation that’s unique and authentic, yet modern and updated, shoot me an email.)
We stayed right in the center of it all around the Old Town Square, which on Monday at 8am was still oh so quiet….for once.
Joel’s mom found the perfect cafe for breakfast, Bakeshop, located right in the middle of Josefov.
In keeping with the neighborhood’s Jewish history, I dove head first into my ancestry with an everything bagel and lox spread, similar to what I ate growing up almost every weekend. It was important to load up on carbs because….
The rest of the day was spent biking 21 miles around the Czech countryside through villages and along the river with Biko Adventures - the absolute highlight of our trip.
We began to see a whole different side of the country.
In some towns, the houses were grand.
In some, they were traditional.
In some, they were ultra modern.
We passed by a school trip of kiddies,
And tried to keep cool in the shade.
But the sun was hot and strong and there was only one way to hydrate…
Marek, our guide, took us for a Budvar break. This is why having a guide is key…there’s no way we would have found this remote little spot and seen what daily life was like for people in this village.
After one beer, I was perfectly hazy and ready to move onward. Within a couple more miles, we reached our reward….
One word: magnificent.
Marek had one more treat for us…
A meal at a middle of nowhere restaurant for what?
What else - dumplings!
Having completed the 21 mile bike ride, our group hopped on the local train and returned to Prague with weary legs, sore butts and full hearts.
We couldn’t be bothered to move much (see words above), so we showered, changed, and took our sore butts out for more Budvar a stone’s throw away from our flat (literally) in Old Town Square, which had done a 180 from that morning’s scene.
The cafes were packed…
And the street performers were aplenty.
The seasonal “Asparagus Menu” theme continued that night at Mlýnec, a restaurant that is trying it’s very best at modern Czech cuisine.
The Vltava River views continued as well.
It was that night, our last night, that the mysterious power of Prague took over. We spent the remainder of that evening at Hemingway Bar, the perfect hideaway to have some fun with a local delicacy…
Let’s just say the rest of the night was fun. Very, very, fun.
As we wandered Prague’s streets in the dark, it was impossible to ignore the history. The stories. Imagining what was hidden behind each mysterious door.
Or maybe it was the absinthe?
Until we finally found our own door and said goodnight.
With only a couple of hours before our flight, I chose to spend my last few moments in Prague alone.
I wanted to get lost.
Even more lost.
And so I did.
There was the market…
The cafes awaiting crowds…
The Jewish cemetery that required a second, prolonged visit.
The trdelnik shops that kept catching my eye…and tastebuds.
The Vltava River…and the views surrounding it.
48 hours later, it was all over and I left believing this quote with all my heart and soul.
"If European cities were a necklace, Prague would be a diamond among the pearls."
“There’s a whole world out there to explore.”
While traveling continues to move full steam ahead, I’m loving every single minute, but still adjusting to the juggling act.
Being on the go…
Resting when possible (I’ve become a pro airplane/train napper…)
Embracing the exhilaration…
Acknowledging irresponsible decisions…
Knowing when it’s time to just be quiet…
With that said, documenting the whirlwind hasn’t been as timely as I would like, but let’s jump back in, shall we?
I thought I had seen the Emerald Isle’s most beautiful coast line.
I was wrong.
Joel and I arrived early Thursday morning and met his parents who had just finished touring the northern counties.
First stop - a drive from Shannon to the small village Adare for a quick coffee/tea break. It was en route, convenient, and adorable, but certainly not a must-see destination.
Side note: I made sure to proudly point out all the “Casey” shops, cafes, and stores along the way.
Then it was on to Killarney, our adventure “hub”, to unload and refuel.
A traditional pub, along with a traditional irish seafood chowder and traditional Irish Guinness, fit the bill.
Oh so traditional.
All set to be one with nature, we ventured to Killarney National Park, a stunning park featuring foggy ranges…
It’s very own stairmaster.
All topped off with a castle, a.k.a. Muckrose House.
Before we knew it, we had gone 8 miles (give or take). Beautiful scenery will do that to you.
We returned to Killarney…
And popped into Bricin for dinner, which with the ambiance and exceptionally warm service felt more like being at a friend’s home. (Image below from their site.)
They’re famous for their “Killarney Boxty”, which is a Celtic pancake/meat dish and carries with it the local rhyme:
“Boxty on the griddle, boxty on the pan, if you can’t bake boxty sure you’ll never get a man.”
We had big plans for Friday.
It was time to explore the Dingle Peninsula, once cited as ‘the most beautiful place on earth’ by the National Geographic and voted among the top 100 destinations in the world by Trip Advisor.
Not too shabby, eh?
The route to get there was pretty easy on the eyes, too.
Once we arrived in Dingle (an hour drive north west of Killarney), we picked up a couple of bikes and began the 40km adventure around the coast.
Just as the rain arrived, we stopped for lunch at Skippers, a quintessential cottage serving seafood plucked straight from the sea a couple steps away.
We loaded up on oysters (a local delicacy. I had no clue Ireland was such a hotspot for oysters, but makes total sense.)
Scallops with their roe still attached, a vision I’m unaccustomed to, but one that is salty and yummy and oh so good.
And mackerel with dijon sauce. One word - heaven on a plate.
Seeing at this was such a quaint little place, credit cards were a no no. We didn’t have enough Euros and with no sign of life for miles away, the owner suggested we simply “drop off” the money in town later.
My jaw hit the table and I looked at him only to mutter “That is too nice. How does a person like you even exist?” Such sweetness and trust is quite a lesson.
Fortunately, he also gladly welcomed an alternative, our melting pot of bills - dollars, pounds, and euros.
The rest of the Dingle Peninsula went a little something like this…
A Game of Thrones-esque cliff….
Making friends with the local sheep.
And photobombing rams.
And coastline as far as the eye could see.
We ran into a wee bit of a hiccup along the route and had to switch from bike to car, but I’m tremendously thankful we did as the uphill finish looked treacherous.
Europe Hotel was just the ticket to revive our weary legs and thirst for Irish whiskey.
The foggy mist remained over Lough Leane in Killarney (meaning “Lake of Learning”) as we tucked in for the night ahead.
Eager would be an understatement to describe my feeling about getting into their brown bread, an Irish staple I had to have at every single meal.
I was eager to follow the Irish saying: “Here’s to a long life and a merry one. A cold pint and another one” so we curled up in their library to enjoy some traditional Irish music (or “trad”, as they call it) and warm up by the fire with Jameson.
Saturday was all about the Ring of Kerry, the extremely popular driving route on the peninsula just south of Dingle.
Spoiler: I think Dingle is better, although Ring of Kerry does put up a strong second half.
Per usual, we befriended our fair share of livestock.
But it was windy.
As in, really, really windy.
In fact, staying in the car was the preferred course of action.
Lest your forget what Irish roads are like, here is example A.
Dontcha just love the one lane curves?
We went off the official “ring” to explore St. Finian’s Bay and Valentia Island, one of my favourite parts.
Remember what I wrote earlier about a “strong finish”?
But the wind remained in effect.
Lunch was fish and chips and cider in one of the only handful of town along the loop.
Six hours later, the ring was complete and there was only one way to round out our last night in Ireland.
48 hours later, I left the Celtic island with even more luck of the Irish.
Jane Austen’s sometime home….
A UNESCO World Heritage Site….
Home to Britain’s only natural thermal spa, the Roman Baths….
A popular country retreat for the country’s elite during the Georgian era….
This is how most people know Bath, the small city just 100 miles west of London. I discovered this and so much more during my 48 hour visit.
I wrapped up Friday at work and hopped on the train at Paddington Station. Less than two hours later, I arrived in Bath with just enough time to grab a late dinner of pizza and chicken at Rotisserie Chicken, just off the main street.
At 9pm, the city was mostly dead, leaving only us to wander the streets.
Two hours later when we emerged from dinner, we were met with a completely different scene as the streets were flooded with young 20-somethings popping from pub to pub. I’m making my own conclusions that Bath must be the “going out” area for local towns.
We called it a night and woke up bright and early to a breakfast spread of soft-boiled eggs, croissants, jams and a full schedule ahead.
First up? The famous Roman Baths.
The self-guided tour took just under an hour and was very eye-opening….
The Baths were created around 60 AD during Roman occupation and were used for the follwing three centures as a full-on spa - hot baths, warm baths, cold baths, steam rooms.
Following the tour, I snuck into the Pump Room for a hot second to see it in all it’s glory.
They’re famous for regency-era afternoon tea, although known more-so for their ambiance than the actual tea and goodies.
It was just beautiful.
For lunch, we ventured through the Mendip Hills to the Somerset countryside…
To scope out The Pig, the recently opened country estate that’s part of the well-known Pig hotel series.
When we arrived, my inner Jane Austen fan girl was jumping for joy as it felt like walking into the pages of her book.
In reality, The Pig is nothing like the stuffiness of traditional English Estates. Although it’s a grand, stately home, modern updates contribute to their “home grown” theme and the whole place exudes a very welcoming, calm, relaxed vibe, as if you were spending the weekend with a family friend, not the Duke and Duchess.
The staff greeted us very warmly in their soft pink shirts and welcomed us passed the rows of Wellies…
Through to the library for drinks and Piggy Bits, bite-sized noshes influenced by pigs, of course.
While brainstorming future business ideas, Joel and I sipped on The Pigs’ Bloody Mary, which might very well be the best I’ve ever had thanks to the perfect balance of tomato and spicy, not too thick, not too thin consistency, and their rosemary-infused vodka, plucked straight from their garden.
We ventured down the hallway through to their dining room, a Victorian greenhouse.
Although The Pig is a hotel, they actually consider themselves “really a restaurant with rooms.”
As their website states, everything is driven by the gardener, forager and chef in the kitchen garden and their micro seasonal menu takes “local” to a hole other level, similar to Blue Hill in New York (read about my experience here and here.)
What can’t be grown in their gardens, such as fish, must come from within a 25 mile radius.
Simply put, everything we ate was perfect, but instead of posting hundreds of photos of our four course lunch, I’ll share the highlights…
A Scotch Egg elevated with quail eggs and tender pork.
Kentucky Fried Wild Rabbit - just like KFC, but better….much, much better.
Piping hot rice pudding with blackberry compote.
All washed down with a bottle of rose and views of Spring about to bloom.
Once our bellies were full, we were curious to learn more about the “local” aspects of our meal.
Tom gave us a tour (ask for him - he’s wonderful) of the gardens, greenhouse, smoke house, fruit cages, wild flower orchards, and the lovely animals.
As The Pig only opened in March and they began planting last summer, the produce are all at different levels of growth, a true demonstration and transparency of their efforts.
Tom encouraged us to not only explore with our eyes, but to use all our senses.
We tasted this baby cauliflower…
And I oh so elegantly stuffed herbs into my mouth.
Then it was time to meet the main crew at The Pig…..the pigs, Darcy and Truffle.
P.S. Only in Bath would a pig be named Darcy. So thoughtful.
These two are the estate pets, not food, a notion the duo fully understand as was evidence when trotted up to us, eager for pets and snuggles.
My desire for a pet piggy has now sky rocketed.
The chickens, just like Darcy and Truffles, believe they’re pets, and begged for attention, something I’ve never experienced previously with poultry.
Remember that Scotch Quail Egg from earlier? We saw them being laid in action right before our very eyes.
To describe the Pig’s deer park in one word would be…
Nature really captures this city girl’s heart.
Following our adventures, we retreated back into the library and cozied up on the velvet sofa for a late afternoon drink and cuddle, desperately not wanting to leave the Pig’s country oasis and already plotting a return stay.
But alas, it was time to venture back into town…
For an early evening exploration, scoping out the tiny street and sweet shops of Bath, this time with Lady in tow.
Still suffering from the best kind of food coma and country adventure, we called it a night. I was so tuckered out, I passed on dinner and was sound asleep by 8pm.
Sunday morning kicked off with croissants and pain au chocolat in bed.
I was simply making up for the previous night’s lack of dinner.
We moseyed toward the center of town for an al fresco caffeine pick me up at Society Cafe, which a local friend dubbed “the best coffee in Bath”.
The morning was all about seeing The Royal Crescent, a sweeping row of terraced houses and one of the most famous examples of Georgian architecture in the UK.
Lady fit right in, no?
She wasn’t in a “take in all the beauty” mood.
She preferred a good old-fashioned race.
Continuing west, we arrived at Royal Victoria Park, or “Vicky Park” as I overheard a couple people say, spending hours getting lost and making new four-legged friends in the botanical gardens.
We met our first long-haired basset hound - it was love at first sight.
We refuelled at Marlborough Tavern, a quintessential English pub with an outdoor patio made for spring days.
Lady befriended more locals, as she does.
As we sunk our teeth into a Sunday Roast with all the trimmings. The parsnips and cabbage were particularly tasty.
Fate found us that afternoon strolling by the Jane Austen museum. As much of a fan that I am, I didn’t feel the need to subject Joel to such torture.
The Gift Shop was a whole other story.
I left Joel and Lady outside and popped in for a quick peek.
As the sun began to set on this Georgian paradise, our 48 hours in Bath came to a close…
In true form, we hopped on the train back to London and spent the next two hours planning our next adventure.
Originally, 72 hours in Switzerland was meant to be filled with Spring skiing in Verbier.
But alas, it was not meant to be.
First there was a spike in temperature, followed by a customs mishap with our ski gear….
We took the hint and made it a Geneva weekend instead thanks to our thoughtful hosts, Ashley and Bo.
We arrived Thursday evening and filled up with pizzas at Luigia, my dream pizza come to life. It wasn’t too thick or too thin….it was just right.
The next morning, I knocked out as much work as possible from Bo + Ashley’s flat in the Eaux-Vives neighborhood.
The view didn’t hurt.
By lunch, it was time for an adventure.
We picked up a couple baguettes sandwiches to eat on top of Mont Salève, but once we arrived at the base, we weren’t allowed up.
Instead, we made our way to Lake Geneva to chow down by the water.
Followed by a walk up to the Old Town…
Where we could easily view The Alps’ bleak ski conditions.
We circled our way through the tiny streets, steep stairs, and hidden courtyards in Old Town, taking in all of the medieval beauty.
Although the hike never happened, we covered significant Geneva terrain that afternoon and rewarded ourselves with a little afternoon delight in the form of crepes and rose.
Some initial thoughts from that first day…
The Dr. Seuss looking trees with stubby branches are around every corner. They’re one part unique, one part creepy, and will end up looking beautifully manicured when they’re in full bloom.
One thing you must know before going to Switzerland is that the regions are very different depending on if they’re closer to the French, German, or Italian borders. Due to it’s proximity to France, Geneva is very much a French city in language, culture, and personality. Parfait!
Public transportation works on the honor code. This means that you don’t scan a ticket to ride the bus, but in the very off moment that the police come on board and check tickets (which they didn’t for any of the 5 or so times we rode the bus), you’ll need to show proof of purchase or pay a fine.
Ashley and Bo selected a phenomenal spot for Friday night’s dinner: La Crise. Although it’s an exceptionally lively and quirky restaurant, the food is classic French and dishes change frequently.
And the wine flows very freely. Something we learned the hard way and had me doing hand stands later in the evening.
I ended up losing all my photos. So there’s that.
Saturday we arose ready to see the Swiss countryside.
Montreux, situated an hour and change north at the tip of Lake Geneva at the foot of The Alps.
There was a bit of a Spring explosion along the water…
And the fog misted from the mountains.
Then it was castle time.
We spent a couple hours exploring Chateau de Chillon. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting, what with the lake and the mountains…
Felt a bit like the Little Mermaid castle.
It’s quite a deceptive castle. There were two or three times when I thought we had seen it all, only to be surprised by another secret passageway or back staircase that took us to more hidden rooms.
We made a quick stop in the town of Laussane for…McDonalds.
I can’t even believe I’m typing these words, but it was the nicest McDonalds experience of my life.
Sudden hunger hit us hard en route back to Geneva and we had heard such great stories about their McDonalds being so different, so good, so….je ne sais quoi.
So we went for it and ended up spending 5x the amount we would have in the states for what is apparently locally sourced, “high end” McDonalds.
I’m still shaking my head with guilt.
It must’ve hit our stomachs hard because we fell into a food coma on the train fairly quickly, missing out on all the beautiful sights.
Following some brief R&R in Geneva, it was time to hit the town.
As this was our first trip to Switzerland, Joel and I had one requirement: fondue.
Once again, our hosts hit the nail on the head with the very traditionally Swiss Restaurant Les Amures, one of the oldest in Geneva.
We didn’t stray from restaurant’s theme - it was a super Swiss evening.
Naturally, there was wine, but there was also cured meats and raclette, a Swiss dish based on heating cheese and scraping off the melted part onto potatoes.
Then it was on to the main event…
I could barely contain my excitement for all the cheese.
When the fondue is almost all gone, you’re greeted with “religieuse”, the crusty cheese that remains at the bottom of the pot. I learned that this is the real deal, the creme de la creme, the big cheese, if you will.
With our bellies full of cheese, we called it a night.
On Sunday, most of Geneva shuts down.
Sure, everyone is out and about at the lake, in the park, or at the market, but shops and restaurants take the day off.
We found one of the handful of cafes that is actually open, Le Coupe de Giraffe, and tucked in for the most simply perfect breakfast “assiette”, include a hardboiled egg, quiche, toast, orange juice, jam, butter, and brownie.
Sunday’s weather was the best of the trip, so we did what we do best….we walked.
And walked some more.
First up? Lake Geneva because, well, when in Geneva….
We spent time reading and people watching in the park (fun fact: did you know Geneva is called “the city of parks”?)
The park was filled with families..
And people who were minutes away from making families of their own.
Then we simply explored the neighborhoods.
It’s so funny how different all the buildings looked with the shining sun and blue sky….how vibrant they seemed.
We also went to the farmer’s market and stocked up for what was an epic dinner.
We made out pretty well.
Sunday night wound down in the best possible way with a beautifully prepared meal by Bo, some mindless TV, and a good night’s sleep before an early wake up call to return to London.
Sure, I didn’t get a chance to check off skiing in The Alps from my bucket list, but our first trip to Switzerland was a wonderful entree filled with new friends, new memories, and an excitement to return soon.
Plus, the Alps will still be there next winter!
Five of the past eight weeks have been spent on the go. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind and to avoid crashing, I’ve tapped into my inner energizer bunny, pushed fatigue to the side, and tried to seize every opportunity.
When I’m not catching up on my Zzz’s, I…..
Attended March Book Club at Kelly’s gorgeous flat in South Kensington. I actually hosted February’s Book Club, but famously forgot to take photos.
Indulged my craving for Saturday morning dim sum at Jia.
The price and the taste were just right.
Explored Hampstead Heath, nicknamed “Country in the CIty” and it’s classic manor, Kenwood House, one of my favorite spots in London. Me thinks Lady agrees.
Speaking of Lady, she’s been coming to work with me almost every day.
It’s all about the work/paw balance.
Went for a run with Joel for the first time in…wait for it…five years. That last 1/4 mile was rough.
And finally, met baby girl Sienna. Just a couple weeks ago we were toasting her mummy and here she is….
"What if we moved to London and could spend the weekends in Paris….?"
I uttered these words around this time last year. How surreal it is when dreams become reality….
And even more surreal when you can share this reality with loved ones.
After visiting us in London for a couple days, Sarah and Dean (friends from New York) joined us for a weekend in Paris.
They set the bar exceptionally high two years ago when they hosted us for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Crete, Greece.
The pressure was on to return the favor and ensure their first trip to the city of lights was filled with unlimited “joie de vivre”.
Here’s how we spent our 48 hours in Paris…
"But Paris was a very old city and we were young." - Hemingway
After a quick snooze on the Eurostar, we arrived in Paris ready to eat and drink our way through the city.
With not a minute to spare, we dropped off bags at our classically Parisian (albeit with a splash of modern art) Airbnb apartment in Saint Germain. The five flights of winding stairs made our thighs tremble, but the views (and the calories we burned) were worth it.
First agenda item? Lunch.
We took the Metro north to the Marais and wandered down the side streets away from the busier, central restaurants and opted instead for Chez Camille, an unpretentious cafe serving very classic fare. A plate of steak frites and a couple glasses of Bordeaux and rose later, it was time to explore.
The streets of the Marais were packed, as was Place des Vosges, and rightfully so - you couldn’t have ordered better weather.
After an hour or so of people watching and a quick trip around Bastille, we refueled on Nutella crepes…
Before making our way back west for a cafe crawl of sorts.
For every sight we saw, we rewarded ourselves with some vino.
Hotel de Ville?
Ile St. Louis?
Another cafe visit…
By the time we arrived at the Louvre, we picked up our own bottle of wine for some on-the-go refreshments.
Very American of us.
Just before sunset we took a stroll across Pont des Arts.
Where Dean and Sarah added a lock of their own.
Joel and I reminisced about the last time we were in the same exact spot almost three years ago.
I dug up the photo for memory’s sake :)
With throbbing feet and perhaps one too many glasses of wine, we bid adieu to the musicians and returned to the Left Bank for a much needed nap.
As night fell, we gussied up for dinner in the Latin Quarter at Le Coupe Chou.
This was everyone’s all around favorite meal of the weekend.
The restaurant is tucked away on a quiet street and is separated into several small, intimate stone rooms as if you were dining at someone’s house. The service was very warm, helpful, and attentive and the food was impeccable.
Boeuf Bourguignon, Marget de Canard, Lamb Chops - it was classic French to a T.
As if a grand-mere made it.
Typically, I’d finish a meal like that by immediately getting horizontal in bed.
But it was almost midnight in Paris….
So we took our dancing shoes to Hotel Costes to hear their renowned DJ.
I admittedly don’t know a thing about “cool DJs” and end up feeling like the lamest person in the room at sceney places, but I had so much fun on Saturday night jumping to my feet and dancing to the oldie remixes.
Oh, and the people watching itself was worth the trip.
Somehow we managed to make our way back up those winding stairs (without falling) and caught a couple hours of sleep before the alarm shocked us awake at 9am.
We kicked off the day the best way we knew how - with croissants, pain au chocolates, and multiple cafe cremes at the brasserie across the street from our apartment.
True story - as soon as we left, we swung by boulangerie to pick up another croissant each.
Thankfully, we had an active day ahead of us and spent the next five hours cruising by some of the biggest city sights.
With such limited time in Paris, we focused our experience on seeing as much as possible without actually standing in the lines and going inside. Naturally, a bike is the best way to do this.
We stopped for a quick lunch in Tuileries Gardens, which were bursting with color.
Curious what we ordered?
Let me give you a hint…
There was baguette. Cheese. And more wine.
After a full day of sightseeing, we patted ourselves on the back and rewarded each other for a job well done with…..more wine.
The laissez faire cafe lifestyle was high on our priority list, but this time we experienced it left bank-style in Saint Germain.
Clearly, the wine went down very smoothly.
Sunday night dinner was at Le Comptoir du Relais.
While the food and atmosphere was on par with the previous evening’s meal, our waiter hated us (or simply acted like it).
No matter - we didn’t let it affect our evening.
Escargots, filet, cote du rhone….it was all so good.
The cafe crawl didn’t stop there.
We wrapped things up at Cafe Bonaparte, where our waiter (pictured above) more than made up for the previous waiter’s antics and even challenged Dean to a coaster throw.
It was midnight in Paris and it was perfect….
Only to be topped by a swift walk back to the Seine for a final view of the illuminated Eiffel Tower.
I woke up Monday morning and knocked out a couple hours of work on our terrace before jumping back on the train.
Two hours+ later, I was back in London, happy to be home.
Happy to be reunited with Lady.
And happy to finally feel like London is home.