Category Archives: Travel

Haute-Normandie, Rouen & Caen

Rouen, Normandie

The half-timber architecture (or “Bois de plusieurs”) was my favorite part about Rouen

The “Gros Horlage”…walking under it made me feel like I was being taken back in time to the Medieval ages

The Tower in which Joan of Arc was imprisoned before being burned at the stake

Caen, Normandie

A charming little port we stumbled upon after wandering around the sunday morning market in Caen

Sunday Brunchers in the city center next to the Sunday morning market

Exploring the Castle of Caen

The other weekend, our good friend Kathleen (fellow Au Pair and jubilant Canadian) had the weekend off for a change, so we decided to celebrate with a brief weekend trip to High Normandy with some other Au Pairs from Fontainebleau. Comme d’habitude (like always), we were blown away by the beauty that Europe, and namely France, has to offer. It still baffles our minds that one can simply travel simply an hour and a 1/2 north on a swift train and suddenly be surrounded by a completely different culture with totally new and different architecture. One word that comes to mind when recalling Rouen & Caen is “charming.” When peering down the cobble stoned streets with the amazingly well-preserved medieval houses we would constantly spot old women shaking rugs and sheets out of the top floor windows. Trisha and I swear that the town in our favorite Disney Classic, “Beauty and the Beast” HAD to have been based on Rouen. At any second we were waiting for everyone to open their shutters one by one singing, “Bonjour! Bonjour!….Bonjourbonjourbonjour!” The overall experience was quite enchanting and I think the desire to travel and do some more “day trips” around France was planted within all of us that weekend!

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

Best of Amsterdam, Pays-Bas

A super choette painting our friend nataleeet did…If I recall correctly she painted over a shopping bag from Amsterdam?

Shannon and I took a little overnight trip to Amsterdam last weekend. It was so easy to jump on the train, relax for a few hours, get off, and explore the city. The trip was super quick (we stayed for a grand total of 26 hours). I’d say the first 5 hours included wandering around, finding our “botel” and wandering around some more. Then we spent the next 10 hours stumbling upon all of the activities we wanted to check off our list (trying on wooden shoes, eating pancakes, hanging out in coffee shops, drinking Heineken, etc.). We slept on our boat hotel for a grand total of 6 hours and then woke up to find an excellent (and complementary!) Dutch breakfast. The last four hours of the trip included the tulip museum, more coffee, and more wandering! We hopped back on the train, looked for windmills out the window, then fell asleep and woke up back in Paris.

Proost!

1 Comment

Filed under Travel

Best of Budapest, Hungary

View of Castle hill and the Chain Bridge from across the Danube

Some Hungarian street art

Parliament (2nd biggest in Europe) and the Chain Bridge from the other side of the Danube

View from the Palace. Lots of Communist blocks.

Typical Eastern European building; covered in soot

Loved all of the beautiful domes. The yellow building is a library.

Tower to the Biggest Synagogue in all of Europe

Outside of the Synagogue

My favorite building in all of Budapest, it was really close to our hotel so we passed it everyday. The paintings/mosaics (?) look like they could be by artist, Mucha.

One of the best parts about Budapest: Thermal Baths. So relaxing...the water smelled like mint!

Not sure if anyone going to Budapest on vacation knows what to expect (other than Thermal Baths and Goulash if they do some research beforehand!) Eastern Europe lived up to it’s reputation. The buildings were dark, beautiful and covered in soot, the air was thick and of course the locals walked around in ankle length fur and those little round fur hats. Weather wise, we were very lucky and got to see Budapest on 3 very different days. The first it was incredibly foggy and gray, the second was nothing but blue skies and sunshine and there was a very soft, quiet snowfall on the last. Overall, it was Budaful, to say the least 🙂

Egészségedre! (cheers!)

xx,

ss

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

Best of Copenhagen, Denmark

Bikes everywhere! Denmark is the most bike-friendly country in the world.

 

Nyhaven Harbor

 

With all of it’s different colors, it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, even on a gray, freezing cold day!

 

 

Ice cold water.

 

Sadly, for the second half of vacances, Shannon and I went our separate ways. She went to the East to explore Budapest (pictures coming soon!) and I went up North to Copenhagen, Denmark. Needless to say it was a harsh contrast in weather from Valencia, but I had an amazing time! The Danish people are easy on the eyes and very welcoming. Copenhagen is very clean, charming and beautiful! It was so cold out that we spent a lot of time indoors drinking and eating– thankfully those are two of my favorite activities!

Skål! (Cheers!)

-tb

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

The Best of Valencia, España

 

 

Horchata is a drink originally from Valencia made from ground almonds or tigernuts. Yum!

 

So much street art in Valencia !

An evening of the bluest sky I’ve ever seen…stunning

 

You & I

 

 

We'll take one of each please!

View from the top of the Cathedral

such striking colors on all of the buildings. This combined with the street art gave the entire city such personality.

La Playa

 

Valencia was all around amazing. The trip was filled with sunny weather, colorful architecture, and eclectic graffiti art. Bicycling, ice-cold Horchata and great night-life topped off the long weekend. I’ve already visited Barcelona and Sevilla on my first two trips to Spain and Valencia did not disappoint. I guess you can say third time’s the charm!

Salut! (cheers!)

-tb&ss

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

Best of Florence, Italia

So, I know I don’t usually post about food, but I just got back from Italy where I truly left no carb behind. My friend and travel buddy, Lindsay and I indulged in copious amounts of pizza, pasta and wine without a care in the world!

The highlights of our Italian culinary experiences were two absolutely divine ristorantes; 4 Leoni and La Giostra. And now, I am going to tell you about both of them. In detail. Because I want to relive the experience. And because I probably won’t have good, true Italian pasta in a long time so I am milking this for all it’s worth, so, sorry for not being sorry.

4 Leoni:

4 Leoni is the perfect stop for an afternoon lunch on a sunny and brisk winter day in Florence. It’s 2 giant rugs on the pavement outside of the door invite you in for some delicious and typical Florentine dishes. When we walked in the main doors we were immediately aware that we had chosen a very non-touristy hot-spot by the all Italian being spoken and the blank stares we received from all the customers and workers. Nevertheless, they were very kind and welcoming. Everyone there seemed like regulars that had been coming for lunch for the past 20 years and most likely knew the menu by heart. This is when you know you’ve made the right decision in choosing where to eat. If the locals like it, it’s bound to be good stuff. Which of course was the case. Lindsay and I got the spinach salad with sun-dried tomatoes, pomegranate seeds and the most delicious fresh parmesan I have ever tasted. We also split the pear ravioli which was undoubtedly the best decision of the trip. The raviolis were shaped in little pouches in the most heavenly tasting cream-based sauce ever with pieces of asparagus…the sauce with the pear filling was the absolute best combination. Lindsay and I literally savored every bite and then talked about it for 3 hours afterwards.

Do I fit in with the locals?? Can you find me? 😉

La Giostra: “The Flavor of Forgotten Tuscany”

Well, where to begin with this one?? Most likely the unparalleled history and the magical atmosphere. Simply, because the food is so obviously amazing, wonderful and pretty much indescribable, so I’m not going to waste my time there.

The word “La Giostra” means the carousel. It is owned by a noble family, the Hapsburg Lorena princes. It is called “La Giostra” because the building itself is over 400 years old and it used to be the residing place of a very old carousel before the princes turned it into the famous restaurant it is today. The story behind the Prince and his passion for cooking goes all the way back to when his grandmother would sneak him into the kitchen of the castle (once all the servants were dismissed) and teach him the “Big Magic”…a way of Tuscan cooking that was long forgotten by many. Today the restaurant sees many famous people, local florentines and tourists alike, walk through it’s 16th century red brick arches…all dying to savor a dish prepared by chef Ubaldo Tonarelli or to get lucky enough to take a picture with or even be served by his son, the prince, decked out in his thousands of silver and shark-tooth necklaces and his pewter bangles going all the way up to his elbows.

La Giostra knows how to treat it’s customers right. Lindsay and I think we were possibly mistaken for celebrities by the way they catered to us. We were greeted with free glasses of champagne and an entire sample plate of all their appetizers. Our Florentine neighbors at the table to the right did not finish a good half of their costly red wine so our waiter so generously offered it to us, and we so blatantly obliged. Le duuuuh. As if all our culinary (and monetary) stars were aligned that night, we were not charged for our entire bottle of wine and we were offered a free shot of limoncella for dessert. Either they thought we were incredibly poor students or some sort of American socialite/celebrities…regardless, we were not going to correct them. To top it all off, Lindsay and I were lucky enough to not only get a picture with the prince, but we also got a 10 minute conversation with him.

We literally frolicked and giggled our entire walk home that night. And indulged in some Italian gelato with the large amount extra cash we had left over from our practically stolen dinner. It was a Florentine evening I don’t think either one of us will ever forget.

appetizer plate

vino

The box your check comes in...making something not so pleasant, a little more pleasant. I love this idea. (but as it turned out, we were pleasantly surprised by how pleasant our check turned out to be 😉 )

Lindsay and the Prince

As happy as a camper clam on the walk home.

xx,

ss

p.s. A BIG shout out to the lovely Carolyn Weideman for sharing La Giostra with us, we would not have ever found out about this little gem had it not been for you and your fabulous discoveries! Gros bisous

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel