Home, Home on the Range

Our alarms woke us up at a nice 6am. The final alarm of our honeymoon and it couldn’t be any more bittersweet. Quickly, we had a shower, packed up, had one final look at our adorable hotel, and walked over to the metro.

The metro system is Paris is fantastic, and really trumps that of Italy. Italy seemed to rely more on buses and trains, which were great too. It made traveling between cities a breeze. The metro is Paris though is made for travelers. It’s ridiculously easy to figure out and very affordable. All you need to know is where you’re headed, and the map clearly directs you to the line you should be on. It’s crazy though because we would take at least two escalators down to the platform, which tells you how far below the ground the system runs.

Arriving at the airport, we easily went through security and waited patiently for our plane. It didn’t take us nearly as long as we had anticipated, so we were a bit earlier than we expected.

The first route of our trip home took us to Halifax. It was an easy flight, no issues. We had about an hour layover, just enough time to grab a little snack, before jumping on our next short flight to Ottawa.

The flight itself was easy. Once we arrived was a different story. Apparently, there were big storms in Toronto, where our plane was coming from and most planes were going, and it was an absolute mess. Every flight was delayed. Some flights were canceled. I was annoyed and irritated, and becoming a bit delusional from the lack of sleep. Then, you’d look around and see all the kiddos trying to keep it together, and instead, I felt bad for them!

Three hours later, we finally were able to board. Our plane was packed, and to boot, an old crappy Westjet plane. I tried to stay awake but my body wouldn’t allow for it. It’s such an interesting feeling when you literally have no control over how your body responds. I’d be playing a game on my phone and then would wake up who knows how long later, not even realizing I had fallen asleep.

I wouldn’t claim it to be the best way to end our honeymoon, being up 26 hours straight, but I am glad to be home. It was the perfect amount of time away. Enough time to enjoy everything around us, but also enough time to wish I had brought more than a carry on worth of clothes, and of course to start thinking and missing our family and friends.

There really is something special about coming home to two furry faces which make you feel so loved!

It will take me some time to digest everything we were able to do on our honeymoon. It really was all I could have dreamed for! It was such an incredible journey.

I’ll leave you with a final quote, something that really spoke to me:

Travelling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go: this is my station.’

~Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

Paris is Always a Good Idea

With a beautiful sleep, we awoke to a stunning breakfast in bed. It was everything you could imagine when you think of Paris: pain du chocolate, croissant, café.

We enjoyed the breakfast half in bed and half on our adorable balcony then headed out to finish our final day in Paris!

Strolling through our neighborhood, by Notre Dame, through the latin quarter, and onwards, we enjoyed the scenic views and dreamed that our trip would never end.

Being it was our final day, we of course had to visit the Iron Lady, with her strong base and flashy looks.

It was the perfect place for us to enjoy a bottle of champagne and to toast to how perfect our trip has been.

We spent some time further exploring the city, and hoping for a hot air balloon ride. However, we were disappointed with the fact that a hot air balloon ride entailed solely going up and down, stationary.

We abandoned the idea, and instead dipped our feet in the little water park, where all the kiddos were running around crazy.

Doing our research and planning for a fantastic dinner on our last night, we headed back to our neighborhood to a restaurant called Les Bourgresses. It has a deliciously sounding set menu and fantastic reviews so we jumped at the opportunity to try it out.

To start with, we each had an appetizer. Daniel ordered the fish tartar and I ordered the baked cheese bread on a salad.

For our mains, Daniel had the steak in foie gras and I had the sea bass.

We ended with two amazing desserts: creme brûlée and an apple type crumble (only way better!).

Strolling back home, we stopped to grab some drinks to toast to our final night in Paris. The beautiful scenery made our evening that much better.

We’ve been to Paris now twice in just over a year, and it really is a special city. Perhaps the nickname the city of love is an understatement. There’s no way you can’t fall in love with this place and everything it has to offer. But, if you can’t fall in love with the city, then you can at least fall more in love with the person you’re with!

J’aime Paris

The ringing of the alarm at 6am was not the most pleasant sound to hear. We both slept awful, perhaps in sadness for leaving Rome, or in anticipation of arriving in Paris. Either way, we walked to the tram, took the train to the airport, and arrived in Paris. Last year in April, Paris was where Daniel proposed and I will always have a soft spot for it in my heart. Not to mention, it’s an absolutely stunning city.

We felt at home, as we hopped on the metro and arrived at The Notre Dame station. A quick walk and we checked into our hotel. It is literally the cutest place you could set your eyes on. Plus, they gave us an adorable top floor room!

When we arrived in our room, sitting on the table was a little note and a complimentary bottle of champagne. Just add it to the list of one more reason why I love this city so much!

We popped the bubbly and sat on our balcony, admiring the view and planning our afternoon.

Once the champagne was finished, it was time to start our Paris adventure. What did we do first you ask? I hope everyone can answer this!

The Parisian essentials in my books! We walked down to the river where they had beautiful little picnic/”beach” areas set up to relax along the river. It was the perfect setting for macaron eating!

Continuing our walk, we visited our old stomping grounds, the Latin Quarter. We passed Notre Dame (where it’s accession Wednesday and the Bell Tower was going crazy!), walked through the cobbled streets, and remembered our previous abode.

Being in Paris, we had to relive our previous last day here, so we walked over to Luxembourg Gardens to see it’s glory. The memories, the surprise, the happiness, everything came pouring back. We had an amazing picnic, reminisced, and just enjoyed each other’s company, now as husband and wife.

Stuffed from our picnic and people watching, we slowly made our way back to our hotel, wine in hand to enjoy the sunset.

We wandered the streets, checking out a few places. By the time 11pm came we were quite starved and stopped at a place in the latin quarter. It definitely wasn’t the best meal we had here by it made due when you’re in a crunch. The escargot to start with was pretty fantastic.

Then, we had the duck confit and muscles.

Our way home, we again walked by Notre Dame for a nighttime pic. This place is just something else!

The City of Love

We wanted our last day in Paris to be a relaxing one. No lines, waiting, or traveling but just enjoying the final day of our holiday. Waking up later than normal, we decided to have a nice, long, sit down breakfast, or brunch really, as we would call it back home based on the time. For a small €13.50, we both began with a savory type crepe that consisted of ham and cheese, and an egg on top. 

Our next course was a sweet crepe. I ordered the apricot and Daniel went for chocolate. 

We concluded with a tasty americano. 

Now that our bellies were full, we could officially start our day. We stopped to purchase a box of macaroons to bring with us as we walked along the banks of the river and throughout the gardens surrounding Notre Dame. With blooming flowers, cherry blossom trees, and the sun shining brightly, our day was off to a wonderful start. 

Recommended to us as a must visit, we decided to stop at a book store called Shakespeare and Company. This was the first English bookstore in Paris, which opened its’ doors in 1951. It was started by an American named George Whitman, who allowed people to sleep in the bookstore in exchange for helping out. Over 30,000 people have slept within the beds among the bookshelves since it’s opening. 

Entering the bookstore, you’re immediately met by the smell of old books and wooden floors. The store itself is full of nooks and crannies, and different rooms and levels, and is surrounded by and fully stocked with floor to ceiling book shelves. As you walk along, the floors creek underfoot reminding you of the age and history of the shop. Above one of the entrances, painted on the wall, you’re reminded of George Whitman’s philosophy: Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise. 

To the left of the bookstore, and with a separate entrance is the rare books selection. We entered the tiny room to see what constituted “rare” and were surprised not only by the age, but the price! The shop keeper informed us that his most expensive book that he housed was In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway. This was Hemingway’s first major work, and was first published in Paris before being reeditioned in the U.K. and USA. It was priced at €2000. Your more mainstream books, like Ken Kesey’s One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was €800. 

Being as the sun was shining, we were feeling quite warm, and it was our last day, we felt it was essential to stop for a gelato. I had been eyeing up a shop since we arrived, who construct a beautiful rose shape out of gelato and then place a macaroon on the top. It was obvious this was where we had to stop. 

With our picnic lunch in hand, we wandered to Jardins du Luxembourg to relax. These gardens were constructed alongside the Luxembourg Palace in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France. The main pool and palace area is surrounded by numerous statues of queens and famous women of France. 

Each path you take leads you to a new garden or fountain which is beautiful and unique in its own way. 

After endless strolling, we finally decided on a place to sit down where we could open our newly purchased bottle of Veuve: a 2008 vintage rosé. Posing the bottle and snapping pictures, as any amateur photographer would, I was surprised when I turned around to see something else sparkling in the sunlight: a ring! As if anything couldn’t be more romantic, I of coursed said yes, we popped our champagne, and enjoyed our final day ever more! 

Leaving the gardens even more in love, we stopped at a little bakery to purchase our final treats. Being obsessed with macaroons, I tried a vanilla one, while Daniel stuck with his profiteroles. 

Next door was a wine shop, where we purchased a delicious €9 bottle from the cutest old man. He chilled the bottle for us, and even opened it so we could enjoy it right away in a park close by. 

For our final evening, we made a reservation at a place called Les Papilles to not only make our last meal a great one, but to also celebrate our exciting news. This restaurant has a set meal each night, which changes constantly, for around €40. We ordered a recommend bottle of wine and then our meal began with broccoli soup. They served us each separate, garnished bowls, and then the soup in a pot. It was heaven!

Our main course consisted of duck and vegetables. 

Next, to cleanse our palate we had a strong cheese, accompanied by a fig jam. 

Mango panna cotta was served for dessert, and of course we finished with an espresso. 

Our meal was perfect, and our day was perfect. Not only did I fall in love with Paris, but I fell even more in love with my new fiancé! 

The City of Long Lines

Paris is full of sites and opportunities to explore a city unlike no other. We set a big agenda out for ourselves to do everything super touristy that we could, and to see the main must sees on our list. Our first stop was the Louvre. We bought tickets ahead of time online, thinking this would help to avoid massive line ups, but instead it enables you to line up in a long line of people who bought tickets. Big tricksters! Once we went through security, we already had our plan mapped out to explore the Denon section of the museum, mainly the French paintings and the Greek and Roman area. 

No visit to the Louvre is complete without seeing the Mona Lisa, who although was smaller than I thought, was stunning. It was such a neat experience to see such a famous piece of art. 

After our visit, we walked through the brightly coloured Jardin de Tuileries, along the busy Champs-Elysées, to the massive Arc de Triomphe. We waited in the line to purchase tickets so that we could travel to the top for panoramic views of the city. 

The Arc itself was created to honor those who fought for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Along the arc itself, inscribed on the inside, are the names of the generals, and beneath the arc rests the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I. 

Once we climbed the 284 steps, we were at the top of the Arc, which provided stunning views of the city, including the Avenue des Champs-Elysées and the Eiffle Tower. 

Seeing the Eiffel Tower in the near distance, made us excited to continue heading to our final destination. We climbed back down the stairs, sauntered along the streets, and finally arrived at the monument that has only been in our dreams! 

In awe, we walked around the Tower, snapping photographs, before settling down in a nearby park for our packed lunch. Having the view of the Tower in the background provided the perfect, and most romantic lunch. 

Deciding that you can’t visit the Tower without actually going to the top, we waited in a ridiculous hour line to purchase our €17 each tickets to go to the very top. Once through the ticket purchasing line, we waited in several more lines for each time we needed to ascend or descend a level. However, the stunning views at the top and the surreal feeling of being on the Eiffel Tower made it all worth while. 

After our Tower experience it was after 7pm, and we decided that we had to stay to see the Tower in the evening. We had a quick pit stop for crepes and an espresso, purchased a bottle of wine, and returned to see the beautiful structure lit up and glowing. We spent some time taking photos, and then sat in the park enjoying our bottle of wine, and wondering, does life get any better than this?

Realizing that we hadn’t ate dinner yet and it was almost 11, we hopped on the metro to head back to our home base location. We tried a cheaper €15 set meal just to see if there was any difference, and needless to say there was. The quality and flavors of the food were lacking, but being hungry and exhausted, we didn’t overly mind. 

For our first course, I had a leek tart and Daniel had a smoked salmon salad, accompanied by a bottle of wine. 

Our next course consisted of lamb for me, and duck for Daniel. 

Finally, we ended with apple tart and profiteroles. For the first time, we skipped our evening espresso, and promptly headed back to our house, our stomaches satisfied and our hearts full. 

But First, Champagne 

Waking up bright and early this morning, one would expect we would explore the beautiful city of Paris, but we decided that it was essential to visit the Champagne region to experience the world’s finest. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve been turned on to champagne, primarily because of my mom’s obsession with it. But I will say that my love for those little bubbles has blossomed, and being in France, it seemed like we had to take advantage of the situation. 

We hopped on the closest metro and headed to the train station. With over an hour to spare, we had our classic pan de chocolate and espresso, only to realize that we had arrived at the wrong train station! Mad panic, hearts racing, and quick navigational decisions, we reached where we actually should have been, with only minutes to spare. We boarded the train, exhausted already, yet so excited for our day!

Forty minutes later, we arrived in the city of Reims, smiles on our faces and ready to explore. We took the bus into town with our first stop being the Notre Dame Cathedrale. Again, the beauty and architecture continues to amaze me. 

After a bit of walking around town, we headed to our first champagne stop: Taittinger. This winery dates back to 1734 with the relationship between Jacques Fourneaux and the Abbey of Saint-Nicaise. Although this winery has another site where the majority of their champagne is produced and stored, the location we visited still housed a mere three million bottles in the cellar. After a brief historical briefing and tour, we headed into the tasting room to try out their Brut Reserve and the Comtes de Champagne, the second of course being the older and better tasting!

After a quick snack, we headed to our next stop: Veuve Cliquot. This was a dream of mine to visit this winery and was truly spectacular. They offered world class service and provided a true “experience” that made our three hour visit one we’ll never forgot. The history and empowerment that you feel as a woman visiting the estate is inspiring. Madam Cliquot was widowed at 27 and took over the job of running the estate.  She was an unstoppable business woman who developed several techniques in the champagne making industry, consistently being innovative and ahead of her times. 

The tour itself was fantastic, with history of not only Madam Cliquot but also about the use of the cellars during WWI. Afterwards, we were taken into the tasting room where we tried the classic yellow label, as well as the Grand Dame. The difference in a good quality champagne has become so much clearer. We truly loved this experience!

Our final destination took us to a small winery called G.H Martel, where we only did a small tasting of three of their varieties. The final option was their reserve that is aged in oak barrels and had a very unique, but delicious, taste to it. 

We had a little time left before our train ride back to Paris, so we explored a little more of Reims. 

Returning to Paris, we captured some night shots of the beautiful Notre Dame cathedrale and the surrounding square. 

Finally, the moment you’re all waiting for…dinner!! Tonight we dined in style in the Latin Quarter for our traditional €65 dinner. 

Course 1: We both selected the French onion soup, to accompany our wine, and were not disappointed. 

Course 2: I ordered the beef bourguignon, and Daniel ordered the confit duck. 

Course 3: Tonight, I decided that Daniel should try the creme brûlée, so instead, I selected the apple tart. 

Let’s not forget our espressos! The little restaurant had a great atmosphere with a local artist playing a piano and singing some lovely tunes. 


Paris: The City of Lights

We packed up our bags this morning, headed through our traboules to the train station, ready for our final destination: Paris! The train ride was a mere two hours, and with a baguette and cheese, the journey went rather quickly. 

Leaving the train station behind in a furry, we were ready to walk into the city of lights. Fun fact: Do you know why Paris is called the city of lights? Apparently, back in 1889, it was one of the first cities to start using streets lights. Using these lights meant that people no longer had to the spend the evenings in their houses, but could instead be safe and more productive. Perhaps that is why Paris is still a lively and bustling place!

Walking along the Seine River to our Air B&B, the sun shone brightly, the air blew through our hair (or maybe just mine), and we were completed surrounded by gorgeous views, every direction we looked: A long wavey river, massive boats, old buildings, and beautiful flowers. The view that caught my eye the most was that of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Pearched on the naturally formed Île de la Cité, it is considered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic French architecture, and home to the infamous Quasimodo. Although I thought I saw Quasi swinging to ring the church bell at 4:00pm, I know for certain what I saw was a gorgeous cathedrals surrounding by beautifully blooming cherry blossom trees. 

Finally, we checked into our adorably tiny but centrally located room, and set out to get our bearings in our new location. We ended up stopping along the way for another amazing dinner. We’re getting quite use to these €25 set meals. 

Course 1: For me mussels and for Daniel escargot, and of course an incredible bottle of Côte du Rhone wine. 

Course 2: I chose the duck while Daniel had the salmon. 

Course 3: I couldn’t resist a creme brûlée, and Daniel tried the profiteroles, and as always, was accompanied by an espresso. 

The crazy thing about Paris is everywhere you look, you’re surrounded by the most beautiful and incredibly old architecture. I just can’t get enough of it and am looking forward to exploring this city for the next few days.