Tag Archives: france

We’ll Always Have Paris

img_7479First Impressions

Keith and I were coming into Paris from very different standpoints. He doesn’t speak French and has never been before. He’s slightly intimidated by the city’s size and reputation. I, on the other hand, fluent French-speaker and second-time visitor, could not wait to be back in the city of lights. I adored my high school trip to Paris and I guess I did romanticize it a bit since I didn’t remember it smelling like pee so much the last time.


Our second Airbnb experience went just as well as the first. Check-in and check-out was a breeze. Luckily the heat wave did not follow us from Brussels to Paris so the lack of air conditioning wasn’t a problem. The six flights of stairs however were not fun. At least we had a view of the Eiffel Tower which made it worth it, in my opinion. The place was tiny though, unlike the apartment in Brussels. Everything, from the bed, the kitchen, the shower and the toilet was crammed together, not an inch of space was wasted. Located in the 10th arrondissement, we really enjoyed how close it was to Gare du Nord train station and several metro stops. Plus the neighbourhood which was near the Canal Saint-Martin was super charming.

Getting Around

img_7370The Paris metro system is a modern marvel. There are so many lines that it doesn’t matter where in the city you end up, there is always a station nearby that connects to somewhere you’re going. I’m convinced that even if you don’t speak French, you will be able to figure it out. If you don’t want to take advantage of the metro for some unknown reason, then walking is the next best thing. The streets of Paris were super easy to navigate, I found. Keith said I looked like I had lived there all my life with the way I zipped around all over the city. The highlight of our transit experience was riding the driver-less metro train.


We had reconciled with the idea that it would be impossible to see all or even most of Paris in three days. We also had two of our friends who were there at the same time and had to adjust our itineraries accordingly. Our first day there, we just walked around our neighbourhood, passed Porte Saint-Denis and had dinner near Les Halles.

img_7389On the second day, a Monday, we explored the Canal Saint-Martin in the morning, where there was more locals around than tourists. Then in the afternoon, we walked from our apartment to Notre Dame, passing City Hall on the way. Avoiding the line to go in, we opted to just walk around and stay in the surrounding park. We crossed the Seine to get to the Latin Quarter, stopping by several bookshops like Shakespeare & Co. and Album Comics. I really enjoyed this neighbourhood and I loved just walking along the river. We caught a glimpse of the Sorbonne and then crossed a bridge again to find ourselves on Ile Saint-Louis. I wish we could’ve stayed a little longer on the island since I felt like I could pass a day just getting lost in the streets but we were trying to get to Place de la Bastille. Funny anecdote, once there, our friend asked if that was all there is. I had to remind him that the Bastille was torn down. He was unimpressed that only an obelisk stood in the middle of the square where the prison once stood.

Our last full day in Paris, a Tuesday, was spent hitting the big tourist spots: Trocadéro, Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. A memory that’s so vivid in my mind from my first trip to Paris was exiting the Trocadéro subway station and rounding the corner to be hit by the view of the Eiffel Tower. Recreating that moment with Keith was very special. Then on our way to the Arc de Triomphe, we passed by the Place des États-Unis, which Keith appreciated, being American.

After getting some shopping done at the Champs-Élysées, we said goodbye to our friends for a little bit, since I had planned a surprise excursion for Keith. We discovered the musical Hamilton earlier this year and we have been obsessed. A key figure in the musical and in history in general is the Marquis de Lafayette. Thanks to a little research, I found out that he was buried in Picpus Cemetery, the larger and one of only two private cemeteries in Paris. Lafayette is known as the Hero of Two Worlds after being involved in both the American and French revolutions, which is why an American flag is permitted to fly above his grave at all times and he is buried in American soil that he brought back from his visit to the US. Aside from Lafayette’s tomb, it also has two mass graves of the victims executed by guillotine during the Reign of Terror. The cemetery itself is very peaceful and secluded. While we were there, we didn’t encounter anyone else. It was the only time during our entire trip that Keith and I found ourselves completely alone in public. If you’re looking to visit a site that’s off the beaten path, this would be my recommendation.IMG_7547.jpg

Food Recommendations

IMG_7349.jpgA friend of ours from university gave us an extensive list of restaurant recommendations and I cannot thank her enough for them. For the best brunch, go to Holybelly which was super close to our apartment. It gets very busy though and we had to wait awhile but it was all worth it, especially since we were celebrating a friend’s birthday. Everything from Du Pain et des Idées was phenomenal. But my favourite meal of the entire trip has to be the pizza at Pink Flamingo. I didn’t believe it when people told me to eat pizza while in Paris but there’s something about it that makes it so good. Plus Pink Flamingo has amazing flavour combinations: I got the paella one. All of these restaurants are around the Canal Saint-Martin, which has got to be my favourite discovery during my second time in Paris.

IMG_7577.jpgWe also had crepes near the Champs-Élysées and of course got some macarons from Ladurée. Plus one night we hit up one of the grocery stores near us for some charcuterie and cheese to go with our baguette from Du Pain et des Idées. The cheese we got had cumin in it which was amazing.


If you’re brave enough to try and fly macarons back, then by all means. I was not and instead opted to buy French soaps to give out as gifts instead. For myself, I also brought back a Longchamp bag since they were way cheaper to buy there than back in Canada.

Final Thoughts

img_7583While we didn’t go to the Louvre or visit Montmartre, I think we took full advantage of our short trip to Paris. It is one of my favourite cities in the world and I could see myself living there. I love the Parisian way of living, taking the time to enjoy everything from an espresso to an expensive meal. I didn’t mind the holier-than-thou attitude we sometimes got in but Keith wasn’t having it. He attempted to order a coffee in French and was met with a blank stare. So Keith liked it the least out of all the cities we visited but on our last night, when we had an impromptu meet-up with two more of our friends who just happened to be there too and sat outside a café drinking and laughing the night away, I knew Paris was finally growing on him.


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“Do you guys wanna see my itinerary?”

img_7443I am resurrecting the blog with a five-part post on our recent European vacation. Apparently one of the best ways to combat post-vacation blues is to share your experience. Plus it would be nice to have our memories written down somewhere so why not here? This first post is an introductory one followed by four posts that will cover the four destinations of our trip: Amsterdam with a bit of Limburg sprinkled in, Brussels, Bruges, and finally Paris.

Before diving into our first stop, let me give you the context of our trip. We were attending a wedding in the Netherlands in the middle of August so we decided to make the most of this joyous occasion by visiting a few cities nearby. It would be Keith’s first trip to Europe, his first time setting foot anywhere outside of North America. As I have been to Europe before, specifically Paris, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg and Munich, I was in charge of the itinerary and did most of the planning. No pressure.

After weeks of researching (i.e. obsessively reading blog posts on all our dream destinations), we had decided that our trip would last 10 days mostly because we had a dog that I didn’t want to leave with the sitter for very long but partly because Europe is expensive and I also had a full-time job I had to get back to. Once we set our day-count limit, it was easy to pick and choose which cities to visit. We were initially going to do the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) plus Cologne and Dusseldorf but cut it down to just Belgium, the Netherlands and added Paris. We’ll save Germany for a separate trip in the future and there’s nothing to see in Luxembourg anyways (just kidding, I’m sure it’s a small but beautiful country worth visiting!).

Then I spent the months leading up to our trip booking our accommodations, buying train and museum tickets in advance and seeking out advice and recommendations from friends. The great thing about being Canadian and living in Toronto is that there’s almost a 100% chance of knowing someone that is a) European, b) has family in Europe, or c) is currently living, has lived or recently visited Europe.

A couple lessons I learned during the planning phase:

  1. Airbnb is your friend but unless you are completely sold on a place, you should maybe abstain from booking it especially when the cancellation policy is strict. I booked a place in Paris that was cheap for a reason then found a much better option so I cancelled the first one but could only get 50 % of my money back.
  2. For my own peace of mind, I needed to combine all the travel information I needed (from our flight numbers to our hotel and Airbnb confirmations and addresses to our train times) in one place. Enter Excel. I found the templates that worked for me thanks to the following link: http://protravelblog.com/free-travel-itinerary-templates/. I used number 9 to have all the references I needed and number 4 for a day by day breakdown.
  3. Even though most everything nowadays has an app and can be accessed electronically through your phone, it is always a good idea to have printouts of your confirmations and tickets.
  4. Scan and bring a printout of the first page of your passport just in case. Luckily we did not need them but one of the guests at the wedding got her passport, credit cards, driver’s licence and health card stolen in Brussels.
  5. No matter how much you plan everything down to the minute, welcome the unexpected.

Our final itinerary looked like this: Two and a half days in Amsterdam, three and half days in Brussels with a day trip to Bruges, back to the Netherlands in Limburg for the wedding for a day, then off to Paris for three and a half days.

The next four posts will pretty much have the same format: First Impressions, Accommodation, Getting Around, Attractions, Food Recommendations, Souvenirs & Final Thoughts.

Next post will be on Amsterdam and Limburg. Hup Holland Hup!


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Two Foreign Films To Watch ASAP

I found myself lacking anything to review for today since I still have yet to watch Gone Girl, even if I have finished the book last week. I should have that review up next week. So I just decided to do two mini-reviews of two movies I’ve seen recently that really stayed with me. They could not be more different in source material but they both deal with life, relationships and are in a foreign language. Here are my spoiler-free reviews and why you should definitely carve up some time to watch them:
The first is a French movie that was released last year and is now available on Netflix (or at least it was a month ago): Blue is the Warmest Color (La Vie d’Adèle) It’s based on a graphic novel of the same name by Julie Maroh. I have not read it so I can’t really comment on the adaptation but I did read the synopsis and the ending of the book is very different from the movie. I’ll probably read it one of these days. But I could imagine that the images and the panels are similar to the scenes and cinematography. Basically the story follows the main character Adèle, a teenager in France, and her relationship with intriguing, blue-haired artist Emma. I watched this film one rainy afternoon when I was missing Quebec and just craving to hear some French. I remember my director friend Adrien liking it a lot plus I had read tons of amazing reviews and it did win the Palme d’Or so I gave it a chance. And I’m extremely glad I did.

First of all, the film is gorgeous. It definitely helped that they filmed in Lille (Northern France). I’ll just add that to my must-visit places. There’s just something about movies based on comics. Now, this is speculative on my part, but some of the shot compositions must have been taken from the book because you could easily pause a scene and imagine the illustration equivalent. The comics are in black and white except for the blue hair. The movie’s in color but they definitely emphasized the blue. Most of the clothes Adèle wears are blue. I also think you can draw parallels from the way the color blue is depicted at various points of their relationship.

The acting is on another level. I only knew Léa Seydoux from her minor role in Midnight in Paris. And I had never seen Adèle Exarchopoulos before. They had great chemistry and I’m not just talking about the (graphic) sex scenes but all the tender and funny moments as well. Aside from the themes of freedom and social class, in essence, it’s just a touching love story. Don’t be deterred by the run time, you’ll be too busy falling in love with the main leads that the hours will just fly by.

Watch this alone or with your significant other.

The second movie you should watch is a Swedish comedy: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann). Yeah, no I’m not kidding. You’re probably reading this and making a face similar to the one I made when Keith suggested we go see this movie with his family this weekend. I have to admit he pretty much dragged me to the cinema. I had not heard of this movie nor did I have any desire to watch it despite the curious title. It’s based on a novel by Jonas Jonasson, which apparently is a best-seller yet I have never once seen a copy. The film also happens to be the highest grossing Swedish film of all time. Seriously how have I not heard of this before?

You only have to watch the movie, which is partly in English just FYI in case you’re a little intimidated by subtitles, to understand exactly why it’s hugely successful. It stars Robert Gustafsson, a Swedish comedian, in the role of the titular old man named Allan Karlsson. He is hilarious and I’d love to see more of his other work. The story tells the life of Allan who escapes from a retirement house to go on a crazy adventure while he reminisces on his life, which as it turns out was basically one wild escapade after another. I won’t go into details but it’s a century’s worth of unbelievably funny anecdotes, similar to Forrest Gump. And as much as it is about life and living in the moment, it doesn’t come off as preachy at all. It’s pretty amazing. Keith, if you’re reading this, thank you for forcing me to watch it.

Watch this with the whole family and prepare for fun night.

Happy Hump Day!

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2014 World Cup Quarterfinals Preview

My World Cup coverage continues on Fashion, Food & The Fortress of Solitude with this preview of the quarterfinal matches on Friday and Saturday. This past few days we have witnessed absolutely amazing Round of 16 matches. I wasn’t a soccer fan when I started watching the World Cup but last night’s USA vs BEL match converted me without a doubt. If this sport can inspire this kind of intense feelings in me that normally only a good book, TV show or movie can, then sign me up! And if watching a game doesn’t do it for you, then maybe this and this will.

Now, enough about lamenting the US Men’s Soccer Team’s loss, let’s take a look at the teams that are still in the running to lift that golden trophy. On Friday, the 4th of July, four teams will play the beautiful game but only two will move on to the semis:

France vs Germany, 12 PM EST
This match-up is definitely one of the most anticipated ones in the whole tournament. It’s an understatement to say that this will be a good game. Both “Les Bleus” and “Die Mannschaft” have been playing extremely well and it would’ve been a great semi-final or even final had the brackets been made differently but we’ll have to settle for an intense quarterfinal. They’re pretty evenly matched so I’m not sure who to give the advantage to. My heart says France but my head says Germany.

Brazil vs Colombia, 4 PM EST
We truly are spoiled in this World Cup with one juicy match-up after another. Host nation Brazil will face the 2014 World Cup favorite Colombia. All throughout the tournament, “Los Cafeteros” won the hearts of the world with their great gameplay and their celebration dances. While still the favorite, “A Seleção” has not been as dominant as everyone thought they would be. The heart-stopping penalty kicks against Chile is proof that Brazil’s World Cup dreams are vulnerable. Throw in Colombia’s convincing performances during the group stage and against Uruguay and we got ourselves a game. I’m gonna have to give Colombia the edge because if it came down to it, I think James Rodriguez will put on a better show than Neymar.

On Saturday, July 5th, two powerhouses will face an underdog that wasn’t supposed to have gotten this far and a dark horse fighting its way to the top:

Argentina vs Belgium, 12 PM EST
This will be…an interesting match. I’m sorry but except for their first group stage match, Argentina has put me to sleep, literally. I actually took a nap when they faced Switzerland and woke up to the same score of 0-0. In every one of their performances, Messi the Messiah swoops to the rescue seemingly always at the last minute, much to the relief of their fans and the chagrin of their opponents. But this is precisely the kind of mentality they’ll have to let go of when they face this World Cup’s dark horse, the Red Devils (insert angel vs devil reference here). Belgium has proven that they definitely belong in the final eight with their performance against the Americans. I was cheering for the USA but I’ll admit it. Can Messi pull off another miracle against the entire Belgian national team? For Argentina’s sake, I hope so. But if Belgium can pull off the upset, well, wouldn’t that be a sight to behold.

Netherlands vs Costa Rica, 4 PM EST
If there ever was a Cinderella story at the 2014 World Cup, it would have to be Costa Rica. They were immediately dismissed as the odd team out in their group of death that included Uruguay, Italy and England. But apparently they didn’t get the memo that they weren’t supposed to get out of the group stage let alone reach the final eight but here they are. If I hadn’t been cheering for the Netherlands since the start of this World Cup, then I would’ve made a David vs Goliath comparison. But as much as I want “Los Ticos” to prove everyone wrong once more, I have a feeling the “Oranje” will pull off the win. And if they don’t? Then I’ll gladly cheer for Costa Rica to reach the final and face Colombia.

Like I’ve already said, this has been a terrific first World Cup for me. I’ve been enthralled from Day 1. My heart has been broken, put back together then broken again. After years of trying to ignore the world’s most popular sport, I finally understand what the fuss is all about. I’ve discovered a wonderful new thing to become a fan of and can’t wait to see what the final matches have in store for us. Happy Wednesday!


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2014 World Cup & The Fashion It Inspires

This past weekend, despite actually being sick, I came down with another kind of fever: World Cup Fever. Now let me preface this post by saying that normally I don’t watch soccer. I prefer hockey, football and baseball. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that ties can happen and all the diving irritates the hell out of me but I wanted to find out what the fuss is all about since it is after all “the world’s most popular sport”. Needless to say after watching the first few games of the 2014 World Cup, I fully understood the appeal. To showcase my new obsession, here’s some fashion inspired by the beautiful game:
1. Wear this with leggings to cheer on your team in comfort (red, white and blue can apply to a lot of countries).
2. In case you weren’t aware of the fact that Brasil is hosting the World Cup this year, let this remind you.
3. This top reminded me of the host country’s beautiful colors.
4. Kate Spade did a Rio de Janeiro collection that included this bangle.
5. A bit on the nose but I couldn’t help but include this clutch.

Happy Monday and hope you enjoy this week’s World Cup action!

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