Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

Boy at SeaThe photo challenge theme this week is making me feel a bit nostalgic.  Two summers ago I realized the comforting affects of the sea, and how much I want to be near one.  The best moments in the salty-sea air are when my pants are rolled up, and my bare feet sink in the wet sand as a slight wave comes by to kiss my ankles.  My favorite kind of beaches are the ones with few, if any, people.  Perhaps there is an owner playing frisbee with his dog.

My first great memory of the ocean was when I was about five.  We were road-tripping it from Illinois to Florida to see my aunts and hang out at the beach.  Unfortunately illness took me over and I became very sick.  What was the cure?  It wasn’t the giant orange horse pills the doctor gave me.  It was wading into the water with my clothes on, breathing for the first time when the saline cleared my nose.  It was almost magical.

The ocean can be a scary place as well.  Especially when it almost eats you.  That is why I prefer flirting with the edges between the sand and the water.  If only I could crawl into one of these photos now.

Dabble into Something New

TiramisuI came across a website yesterday that I am super excited about.  Do you ever find that you are different person when you travel?  You take more risks, you try new things, you meet new people?  Why can’t I do that at home?  I do live next to the 3rd largest city in the US…  I don’t know why I reserve such exciting moments for when I am thousands of miles away from home.  I think it is time to start changing that.

I came across a site yesterday called Dabble.  Their slogan on Facebook is, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”  What do I love so much about travel?  The first time experience.  How exciting, nerve-racking, and new.  I think I almost love the nerves that come with trying something new on my own.  Questioning the people I could meet and the experiences I could have is thrilling to me.

I am excited to share that I have at least a couple classes planned and several on the wish list.  Next month I will be taking a tiramisu cooking class (with a little Italian) and a tapas cooking class.  It is probably sad that both classes are cooking classes, but just so you know, I’ve got a flash fiction writing class on my wish list.  Life isn’t all about food (but it is petty important for bringing cultures together).  Dabble cannot be found everywhere, but they are featured in many cities throughout the world.  In the end, I hope you find something that allows you to feel like you are traveling while you are waiting for the departure date.  I’ve been guilty of counting down till each new adventure.  Don’t let that time in between go to waste.

Paris by Metro: École Militaire

Rue Cler 2École Militaire at a Glance



Tip=This metro stop involves more walking.  The metro stops seem to be fewer and far between in the 7th.  École Militaire is the most centrally located exit for exploring this area.  Wear your walking shoes if you plan on seeing most of these sights.

Sights Within 1 Kilometer (Well, almost):


Rue Cler- 240m

American University of Paris-650m


Hôtel des Invalides– 1km


Saxe-Breteuil Market-1km


École Militaire-500m

American Library of Paris-850m

Champ de Mars-900m*

Eiffel Tower-1.1km

Quai Branly-1.2km

Sights Details:


Rue Cler: This gem of a market street is quintessential Paris.  The mostly pedestrian street is full of sights, sounds, and smells to overload your senses.  If you need supplies for a picnic or dinner, this is a great street to get all the goods.  If you’d rather eat out, there are several cafés worth parking yourself at.  Rue Cler may be the best people-watching location.  You will see some tourists, but you will also see the people that live in the neighborhood (and their dogs).  Walking around this area is a treat.

American University of Paris: Although you may be trying to escape America while in Paris, this can be a useful resource if you are looking for a lecture or conference to attend while visiting.


Hôtel des Invalides: Under the gold-leafed dome you will find the tomb of Napoleon.  Inside the building you will also find the army museum which mostly covers World War I and II, but you can find exhibits on other military history as well.


Saxe-Breutil Market: The market with the Eiffel Tower peaking through is one of my favorites in Paris.  I found the people to be very kind, and the produce to be the definition of fresh.  I found some of the juiciest, sweetest cherries ever at this market.


École Militaire: The military school is the kind of place you acknowledge as you pass, but you can’t really visit it.  If you are in Paris on Bastille Day, you may notice some commotion as they all get ready for the parade.

American Library of Paris: If you are interested in used book sales or author visits, you may want to keep the library in the back of your mind.  Check the events calendar before you go if you’re looking for a little literature inspiration.

Champ de Mars: The sprawling greens are the red carpet for the Eiffel Tower.  Typically this area is filled with people.  Some areas are fenced off, so you may not be able to walk on the grass.

Eiffel Tower: You’ve probably heard of this sight before (at least I hope).  Some consider this landmark to be an eyesore.  Personally, I love it.  I don’t love it so much coming up the Champ de Mars or the Trocadero.  There is a side view that captures my favorite perspective.  You can find out how to get there on the map below.

If climbing the Eiffel Tower is on your list, be sure to reserve tickets ahead of time to save yourself from the never-ending lines.  After going to the top, I still think it looks best from the ground.  My favorite moments are when I’m walking around Paris, and all of a sudden the Eiffel Tower peaks through at me.

Quai Branly: Primitive art is the centerpiece for this museum.  Even if you aren’t interested in what can be found inside, the landscaping is worth seeing.  Plants growing up the walls and a garden surrounds the museum.  It is a unique sight in the 7th.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

Courtyard2-6337Playing with the aperture can change the focus of an image.  Sometimes an image looks best with only one item in focus whereas sometimes you want to see the detail in every layer.

New Sights, Ideas Needed

ideasI am a planner.  Planning for a trip is probably one of the greatest joys I get to experience.  This past weekend I officially signed up for the Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe in 16 Days tour along with the My Way Spain Tour.  I will be visiting seven new countries which has me giddy like you can only imagine.

I need your help.  So many of you have been to these wonderful places and I’d love to brush up on some good reading material about your experiences.  If you can direct me to some of your posts or give me some ideas through comments, then I can start creating an idea list.  Here are the places I’ll be visiting:

Czech Republic:

  • Prague
  • Pustevny


  • Aushwitz
  • Krakow


  • Levoca


  • Eger
  • Budapest


  • Plitvice
  • Rab Island


  • Lake Bled


  • Barcelona (can’t wait!!!!)
  • Madrid
  • Toledo
  • Granada
  • Ronda
  • Sevilla

Please share photos, travel stories, movie recommendations, books, places you recommend visiting, or any other nuggets of gold.  I can’t wait to read what you share :).

Paris by Métro: Abbesses

Abbesses StopAbbesses at a Glance



Tip=Use the elevator.  There are a lot of stairs.

Sights Within 1 Kilometer:


Mural of Je T’aime-52m

Picasso’s Studio-300m

Espace Salvador Dali-400m

Moulin de la Galette-500m

Renoir’s Home-500m

Montmartre Vineyard-600m

Square Suzanne Buisson-600m

Musée de Montmartre-650m

Au Lapin Agile-650m



Place du Tertre-400m

Sacre Coeur Basilica-550m


Van Gogh’s House-450m

Cafe des Deux Moulins-500m

Museum of Erotic Art-600m

Moulin Rouge-650m

Montmartre Cemetery-750m

Sights Details


Mural of Je T’aime: If learning how to say “I Love You” in another language is a goal of yours, then this wall is for you.  Most of the worlds languages are represented on this blue-tiled wall.

Picasso’s Studio: The studio burned down in the 70s, but it has been since rebuilt.  Picasso’s studio is named after the bathhouses that would be found on the Seine at the time.

Espace Salvador Dali: The museum mostly recognizes Dali’s sculpture work.  Other artists are featured as well.

Moulin de la Galette: The restaurant is the inspiration for Renoir’s painting title after the name of the place.  Most tourists see the fake wind mill that was added as the restaurant expanded.  Look further back to see the once working wind mill that is now someone’s home.

Renoir’s Home: This is another home that can’t be visited on the inside, but is one you can walk past.

Montmartre Vineyard: The wine is not known to be good, but its location gives it popularity.  You truly feel like you are in a village as you pass the vines on the hill.

Square Suzanne Buisson: The lush park is surrounded by beautiful architecture.  Standing headless in the park is St. Denis.  Nearby is also a bust of the lusty Dalida.

Musée de Montmarte: This is one of my favorite small museums.  The museum is the former residence of Utrillo and Renoir’s studio.  I’ve never seen a crowd.  The garden is a wonderful escape from the city.  The history of the area is well captured.

Au Lapin Agile: This traditional cabaret was the stomping grounds for artists like Renoir, Utrillo, Picasso, and many more.  The performances are in French, but the entertainment feels authentic.  The red-lit room provides a more edgy feel.  Sip on your brandy with cherries as performances keep you entertained.


Funicular: Montmartre is built on a hill, and there is an option for bypassing stairs: the funicular.  Simply use a metro ticket to ascend to the butte.

Place du Tertre: The square filled with touristy restaurants and artists is charming and hectic.  It is worth walking through, but you can’t help but feel that everyone is just trying to get your money.

Sacre Coeur Basilica: This church looks much different than others you’ll find in Paris.  Admission is free, but be sure to enjoy your time around the church as well.  Many people settle on the steps in the evening to watch the city before them.

Unfortunately, there have been more scams forming over the years.  As you are coming down from the basilica, make sure you watch out for men that are trying to put on friendship bracelets.  They put it on and knot it before you can react.  Then they demand payment.  Being aware will keep you safe.


Van Gogh’s House: This is a site to pass by, unfortunately not one you can visit.  Van Gogh lived here for about two years during a time when his art really transformed.  Influences such as Lautrec helped form Van Gogh’s style we know today.

Café des Deux Moulins: Any Amelié fan will recognize this café.  In the film, she worked as a waitress at this restaurant.

Museum of Erotic Art: I haven’t visited this one, but it gives a feel for the area.  The Pigalle neighborhood is the red light district of Paris.  Shops filled with unique devices and posters of bare ladies dominate the area.

Moulin Rouge: Although the wind mill has never been a functional one, it is one of the most recognized wind mills in the world.  Walk past it while you are in Pigalle, or stop for a show if it is your cup of tea (or absinthe).

Montmartre Cemetery: The residents are not quite as famous as Pére Lachaise cemetery occupants, but there are definitely tombs worth visiting.  Some names you may recognize include: Dalida, Degas, La Goulue (invented the can can), and Zola.

Summer 2014

PortraitI saw a post on Facebook tonight that stated the largest boost in happiness comes from planning a vacation.  I am feeling it tonight because Rick Steves posted the 2014 tours on his website.  What am I so excited about?  After looking at the dates I have realized I can definitely sign up for my tour I won, and I can tag on another tour (as long as I save).  So the plan is to go to Eastern Europe this summer and also Spain.  Seven new countries!  New experiences, people, photos, sights, the excitement is endless.  Is it too early to start a countdown?  If you request a 2014 Tour Catalog, you may find someone in there you recognize ;).

Tomorrow I return to the job that brings me great happiness and allows me to travel the way I do.  Bring on the kids and learning.  I apologize for the lack in blog posts.  The kids are my priority right now, but soon I will find a balance again and bring you awesome information and photographs.

Paris by Métro: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre

LouvrePalais Royal-Musée du Louvre at a Glance



Sights Within 1 Kilometer:


Palais Royal-180m

Galerie Colbert-550m

Galeries Vivienne-600m


E. Dehillerin-600m

Les Halles-900m*


Pont Neuf-900m

Rue Montorgueil-950m



Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel-350m


Louvre Museum-220m



Place Vendôme-800m

Musée D’Orsay-1km

Sights Details:


Palais Royal: Unfortunately you cannot get into the Palais Royal, but you can enjoy the interesting courtyards.  Each courtyard has its own style.  Of course there is the typical garden, but there is also an artsy, playful courtyard with varying heights of black and white striped stumps rising from the ground.  If the weather is not pleasant during your visit, take shelter under the arcades filled with restaurants and shops.

Galerie Colbert: This is not a shopping passage like many in the neighborhood, but an art and history institute instead.  You will need to pass through security to go in, but walking under the rotunda and glass ceilings is worth a peek, especially if it is raining.

Galerie Vivienne: This is probably one of the more extravagant passages.  The stores are high-end and they are encased in a passage full of tile floors and a glass ceiling that gives a sense of a different time.  Passages are found all over the city, and they can be a great refuge from the rain.  Although I’ve only shared two passages within a kilometer of the metro, there are several passages worth visiting nearby.  If your feet can handle a little more walking, you might want to check them out.  If you’d like more information about a great walk in this neighborhood, view this blog post.


E. Dehillerin: This is the coolest cooking store I have ever been to.  If you walk in, you might mistake it for a hardware store or a garage.  The shop has occupied this space for a long time and was a favorite of Julia Child.  The prices are reasonable and the quality is lasting.  They even have a unique way of purchasing your items.  To learn more about how the store works, check out this blog post.

Les Halles: The famous market where Parisians would get their produce for home and restaurants is no longer here, but a shopping center has taken its place.  Even if you aren’t up for going to the mall, there are still many other activities you can engage in while in this area.  Inside the mall you can find a cinema.  There are great stores outside of the mall to browse, and a typical market street just steps away.

Saint-Eustache Church: Located in the Les Halles area, this church is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.  You’ve probably seen the flying buttresses from other areas in the city.  Step in for a concert or walk around and imagine the funeral of Mozart’s mother or the baptism of Molière.

Pont Neuf: The bridge is not ornate, but it is known as the oldest bridge crossing the Seine in Paris.

Rue Montorgueil: Rue Cler and Rue Mouffetard get the most hype when it comes to market streets, but Rue Montorgueil is in the same caliber.  Branching off from Les Halles you can find a wide selection of fromageries, boulangeries, boucheries, and every other unique food shops.  This is a great place to find the perfect spot outside at a café to watch people go by as you enjoy your lunch.


Seine/Quais: If you walk south, you will eventually run into the Seine.  Find a good spot on a bridge and watch the ebb and flow of people travel down the river.  The quays along the Seine are perfect for strolling or a picnic.  During the summer, they have different entertainment along the quays.  Art, restaurants, and other fun, creative elements can be found here.  Life is good watching the world go by on water.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel: Not the Arc de Triomphe we are all familiar with, but a version about half the size.  This arch was built to celebrate Napoleon’s military victories.


Louvre Museum: Inside the palace walls are the big names of art.  You’ll find Mona, Venus, Napoleon, Cupid, and Psyche along with miles of other paintings.  There are entire books dedicated to this museum.  To actually get into the museum, I recommend entering down by the Carrousel, and having a museum pass will make it even easier.  Everyone seems to wait outside by the pyramid, this is not the only place to get in.  Keep that in mind.

Tuileries: The palace gardens extend from the Louvre.  There are a variety of activities that visitors can participate in on any given day.  During the summer, the carnival is open with the giant Ferris Wheel.  Even finding a reclined green chair near a pond makes for a great energizer.  If you look around, you may even see someone famous sitting next to you at the café.  Gabriel Byrne from Little Women and Stigmata was enjoying a café on our right one day at the park.  If you have a little energy left in you, go to the end where you’ll find l’Orangerie and Place de la Concorde.

Angelina: The restaurant is best known for its pricey hot chocolate.  I’ve heard it said that the chocolate will take you over and never let you forget it.  Don’t eat a big meal before going because the thick chocolate can be filling.

Place Vendôme: The square plays an optical allusion on your eyes as you gaze at a rectangular place that appears to be more octagonal.

Musée D’Orsay: This house of impressionism is located inside an old train station.  If light and capturing a moment is your flavor of art, this museum will amaze you.  Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Renoir, and many more famous impressionists are located within the walls.  Just as a heads up, no photos are allowed.

Suggested Walks
This is one of my favorite walks in this area.  It is not your typical tourist walk, but you get to see what comes to mind when you think of Paris.  You don’t necessarily have to start at Palais Royal, but if you do, you are treated to a nice shopping street until you get to the cooking store.

This can be a very long walk if you go in both the Louvre and d’Orsay.  If you are just searching for fresh air and a nice view, then this is perfect.  Warning: many other people may be searching for the same thing in this area.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery

Scallops2-2383The restaurant and winery might be a chain, but it is too good not to share with everyone.  Going to Cooper’s Hawk Winery will hit the wallet a little harder than places such as Olive Garden or Chile’s, but the food and wine leave unforgettable flavors in your mouth.

One option to help save a little money and savor a variety of wines is the Wine Flight.  They have some pre-made selections, or you can create your own.  It is a great way to try 3 ozs of different wines and try something different with each course (they even have an ice wine!).

My favorite dish that I have tried so far is the Gnocchi Carbonara.  Every meal I have tried has wowed me, but if I had to a choose a favorite, this is it.  The panchetta creates a rich sauce that the gnocchi absorbs.  The roasted chicken continues that pow of flavor to create a divine experience.

If you are interested in checking out a restaurant, you can look at their website.  The restaurants can be found in: