The Sunshine Blogger Award

Move over Academy Awards. There’s a new golden prize in town and it’s name is not Oscar. It’s the Sunshine Blogger Award.

What?

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is a nomination given to bloggers by bloggers. Members of the blogging community nominate others who they think are inspiring and bring sunshine into the lives of their readers.

Neelie over at Neelie’s Next Bite (a food blog I can get behind – always looking ahead to the next delicious thing on the horizon!) was nice enough to nominate little old me! Very cool of her, and now it’s my turn to spread the love.

The Rules
1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog. (☝️️)
2. Answer the 11 questions your nominating blogger asked you. (👇)
3. Nominate other blogs and give them 11 questions to answer.
4. Notify your nominees.
5. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post. ☀️️

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And now for the questions:

1. What is it that you like most about travelling?

It’s fun! This is one of those questions where people can get very philosophical, but I like to keep things simple. Travel is fun – there’s sun or snow, good food, beautiful things to see… there’s always something new to discover, no matter where to you travel to (even if it’s your own hometown).

2. What’s your favourite way of travelling and why (by bus, car, plane..)?

Probably train. Planes are a hassle – airports are far and hard to get to and security is a pain. Cars can be stressful, depending on the driver and traffic. And forget busses – I don’t need that kind of motion sickness in my life. Travelling by train is great, because stations are often city-center and you don’t get that nasty dried-out-yet-greasy feeling that sealed airplanes give you. You can step off the train and hit the ground running to see your destination straight away!

3. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten during your travels?

I love food, but I’m not the most daring of eaters. The weirdest thing so far is probably… tripe? #AmateurHour over here, I know. But it was my very first trip to France when I was 17, and that rubbery, …distinctive texture was something I still do not forget to this day, more than a decade later.

4. What’s the most wonderful encounter you’ve had with local people in a different country?

In Italy, I had my dream scenario (mostly) play out in real life. I was in Florence and, though we were mostly winging it, there was one restaurant I had picked out in advance for its great reviews and reputation as a local favorite. So there we were, enjoying our delicious Italian meal, when the guy at the table next to us spontaneously starts chatting with us and invited us to stay over a bottle of wine. I was living a movie cliche and it was great.

5. What travel experience will you never ever forget about?

This is an easy one! My trip to Vienna. It was Christmastime and it was beautiful. Lights and trees and Christmas markets everywhere! Oh, and it was where I got engaged 😊 A completely unforgettable trip for so many reasons.

6. What do you miss most about home when you’re travelling?

My cat. As an expat, I sort of always feel a little bit like I’m travelling. So what feels like “home” can vary in meaning. Sometimes missing home is where I live now, my bed, my life. Sometimes missing home is home-home, back on ever-comforting and familiar American soil. But no matter which home I’m thinking of, the one true constant is that furry little nutcase. She’s a weirdo, but she’s our weirdo and we always miss her when we’re away!

7. What’s your travel ritual, something you always do before or during your trip?

Quadruple check that I have my passport, constantly. I’m always afraid I’m going to either lose it or forget it.

8. Are you more a chilling-at-the-beach or a mountain-climbing type of person?

If those are the only options, you’ll definitely find me firmly entrenched on the beach. If there’s a spectrum to be played with, then I’d say I’m usually somewhere in the middle! It all depends on the day and destination. Sometimes I want to go hiking in Iceland. Other times I want to lay on the beach and only get up for brunch. Sometimes I want to hit the streets and walk my feet off in a cool new city. (but I pretty much never want to go mountain climbing)

9. What place do you think every traveller should have seen at least once in their lives?

Paris. But I’m biased.

But really! It’s cliché and on every Top Something List for a reason. See the Eiffel Tower and tell me it’s not crazy impressive. Eat a baguette with French cheese and wine on the terrasse of a cafe and just try to tell me it’s not awesome. I dare you.

10. Do you use a guidebook when you travel or do you just wander off into the unknown?

I don’t do guidebooks. I do spreadsheets. Lots and lots of spreadsheets, and documents, and columns organizing activities with links and promo codes and times of day and notes.

11. What’s your ultimate travel goal?

To see all the places on my list (an impossible goal – the list keeps growing!)

Miami Beach Sunshine Palm Trees s

And now my turn for nominations!

I’m no big famous blogger, but I believe that basically any blogger can bring “sunshine” into their readers’ lives, even if the only readers are their parents. Especially if the only readers are their parents!

So, I nominate the following intrepid bloggers for the Sunshine Blogging Award:

1) Paulie from Paulie Loves Food (I mean the name alone… I feel you)

2) The gals over at Her Happy Heart (you had me at “lazy lady”)

3) The eponymous Thivy Michelle for cool fashion and cooler tips

4) Darrica from Dear Darrica for her real talk on how much grocery shopping sucks (and other stuff)

My questions for you:

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. What is your all-time favorite thing you’ve ever written?
  3. What are you most looking forward to in the next few months?
  4. What are you least looking forward to in the next few months?
  5. Name 1 place you would go right this second if you had a free ticket.
  6. What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
  7. What is something you’ve done that you don’t want to do again?
  8. Would you rather live in a big city or the rural countryside forever?
  9. What type of food could you not live without?
  10. What’s your favorite color – and how many things can you see right now that are that color?
  11. What brings sunshine into your life?

Now go be sunshiney! We could use it around here, it’s been rainy and awful in Paris for days. Here’s hoping spring comes sooner rather than later!

Salon de l’Agriculture

Every spring, Paris plays host to a massive agricultural expo, called the Salon de l’Agriculture. Held in the exact same location as my beloved Salon du Chocolat (but about 18 times larger), this event is something I’ve been curious about since seeing it featured briefly on TV once, and since wondering whether there was a Salon du Fromage or something of equally delicious interest.

With a mind to see some cows and taste some cheese, Frenchman and I decided to pay a visit to this festival of French agriculture.

We did not know what we were getting into.

Salon de l’Agriculture

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We bought our tickets and made our way to the Porte de Versailles convention and expo area, blissfully unaware of the chaos that awaited us. I honestly cannot convey to you the immense scale of this event. Continue reading

Love at the Musée Rodin

What’s more romantic than an evening spent in the company of the most iconic kiss in the world?

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Forget your impossible-to-get reservations for overpriced 18-course meals you’ll only partly like. For Valentine’s Day, Frenchman and I took romance to the next level. We went to the Musée Rodin.

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I was lucky enough to get my name on a list for the exclusive #SoiréeLove event at the Rodin Museum, so we gratefully gave up trying to find affordable romantic plans (we did just buy a home, after all) and took the even better idea that fell in our laps.

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Lunch at l’Église de la Madeleine

Here’s the thing about living in Paris. There are hundreds of “major” sites to visit, all of them surely spectacular, but unlike when visiting on vacation you’ve got work and real life to attend to so you never even get to half of them.

Literally so much to see, so little time to see it. How many things in your own hometown have you not visited except maybe when friends are in from out of town?

Fortunately for me, I work with a fun office manager who has a penchant for planning visits to nearby things to see. Our office is right in the heart of the city, so we’re perfectly placed to zip out and back during a lunch break. We’ve got a couple other expats, but quite a few French like to come as well because, like I said, it’s hard to find time to see everything in your own city when you’ve got everyday life to do.

So where did we visit this time?

La Madeleine

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Romance in Paris

It’s February! My how time flies when you’re having fun up to your neck in cardboard boxes.

The Monsieur and I are officially moved into our new place and things are looking good (we finally have a couch!). It got a little hairy in there when some door handles got broken and a dryer was delivered without the washer it’s supposed to go on top of (even though we had already paid for it…?) but the course of a move never did run smooth. All things considered, it went well. The trick now is furnishing the place so we have places to put our stuff away and more than 1 pot to cook in. Baby steps.

Anyway, we’re here now and I thought what better time to think about romance in Paris than now, after moving into our very own place just before Valentine’s Day?

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Romantic Things to Do in Paris for Valentine’s Day

In the lead-up to V-Day, here’s my list of romantic things to do in and around Paris, prefect for Valentine’s Day (or any day!)

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My Calendar of Paris Events 2017

It’s January, the start of a new year. Everyone at work, though just back from their holiday breaks, has been talking about what trips and vacations everyone has planned for the year. While I don’t have all of my weekend jaunts and 3-week retreats scheduled just yet, it got me thinking about what’s on deck for 2017.

So here it all is! A schedule of all the events and noteworthy Paris things to come this year that I’ve got on my radar. Give or take a few dozen, that is:

Paris Calendar of Events

January 1st – New Year’s Day

Everything’s closed. France is hungover. Everyone starts wishing each other Happy New Year, “meilleurs vœux” for the new year, “plein de bonnes choses,” health and happiness and all that good stuff.

January 6th (ish) – Galette des Rois

The “King Cake” is not like the New Orleans Mardi Gras version. This flaky, buttery, almond-flavored pastry is shared around the 6th of January (Epiphany) between family, among friends, and even very commonly in offices. In the galette is hidden a little “fève“, a tiny figurine, and whoever finds it in their slice is King (or Queen) and gets to wear a crown. There are whole traditions surrounding cutting the galette, the youngest person hides under the table and picks who each slice goes to, etc. Point is, it’s a delicious tradition and everybody loves it.

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Bonne Année Bonne Santé

Wishing one another a happy new year is an important custom in France. To not wish someone ‘bonne année‘ when you first see them after the holiday is a real faux pas.

New Year’s Day, while I was lounging around contemplating another mimosa, Frenchman was busy calling every relative one after the other for a quick, repetitive but heartfelt new year’s greeting. For each when the conversation turned to me I called a quick bonneannéehappynewyear from across the room. Thorough emails went out to everyone not reachable by phone.

At work on Monday, everyone pointedly wished each other happy new year first thing. As each person entered to room, bonne années were tossed around. If you sent someone a question, it was immediately followed up with “oh and happy new year!”

It’s an interesting social obligation to have to wish each other good health and happiness in the new year. Not a bad custom, but interesting to see how seriously it’s taken. It is, for sure, an obligation.

New Year’s in Paris

This New Year’s Eve was a quiet one, once again. When a nice dinner for two is nearing the cost of a washing machine, the appliances win out. So we had a nice meal at home, starting with the requisite foie gras of course, sipped our champagne and enjoyed a simple night in. We ventured out at 11:30 or so for a walk to the Seine (maybe to catch a view of the fireworks at midnight?) but very quickly decided it was just too cold and packed it in. We watched the fireworks from the comfort of our pajamas as the clock struck midnight.

Recapping 2016

Frenchman and Mrs. Frenchman have had a big year. We became Mr. and Mrs., for one. I’ve been on more planes in 2016 than I think I have in any other year. I experienced lots of travel, lots of stress, and lots of exciting milestones in the last 12 months: Continue reading

We bought an apartment

Frenchman and I are officially homeowners!

After months of apartment hunting, filing paperwork, and waiting for French bankers to come back from vacation, it’s finally official.

We’re key-carrying owners of our very own place.

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We bought a place in France!

We just barely made it by the skin of our teeth, thanks to the banks losing our paperwork and not mentioning it to us until 3 days before the signing. After running like crazy to get them new papers in the mail, and a few angry emails and phone calls from Frenchman and our notary, we made it just in time, with the expedited wire transfer arriving in the account about an hour before our appointment. Phew.

After all that stress and living in various states of temporary, I’m very much looking forward to having a permanent home with my own stuff and no deadline of having to move out.

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Quick Trip to the Opéra Garnier

One of the cool things about living in Paris (rather than visiting) is that you can take the time to explore hidden gems and smaller sites you wouldn’t otherwise have time for on a Greatest Hits tour in a week-long or weekend trip.

I’m lucky in that my office is centrally located in the heart of Paris, surrounded by some of the swankiest areas. I can see La Madeleine from our windows. Since we moved to this location back in October, our gregarious Office & Happiness Manager (official title, and it suits her!) has organized a couple of quick lunchtime trips to cool things to see nearby.

Unfortunately I missed out on the first one (to the Chapelle Expiatoire – where Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette were originally buried and now a museum about the darker sides of Paris’ history through the Revolution and the Reign of Terror. It’s now closed until May). I refused to miss out on another one, this time to the Opéra Garnier.

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The Palais Garnier

Just up the street is the magnificent Opéra Garnier. I’ve been wanting to get inside for ages, but had not yet found the time. Theaters are always spectacular anyway, but this one is high on my list for musical theater nerd reasons: Phantom of the Opera (dun dun dundundunnnnnnn)

It. is. breathtaking.

I am so glad I went. I uttered little “Wows” repeatedly as I turned corners and caught first glimpses of each part of this building. You enter through the back, and go through this big rotunda before you even enter the impressive part. Once you actually enter the ticketed area, you climb grand staircases loaded with marble and lined with gigantic mirrors up to the incredible painted ceiling. Everything is gilt. Everything shines.

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We went to Barcelona!

Barcelona has been on my list for a long time now, and I finally got to check it – and a new country! – off as visited. Originally, we had planned to visit Barcelona in the summertime, for the prime-time experience of beaches, sunshine, all the good stuff. Unfortunately, life got in the way and by the time we were in a position to plan a trip, we were looking at mid-November. We decided to head on down to Barcelona anyway, even if we wouldn’t be splashing in the waves this time of year. (Spoiler alert: toes were dipped).

A long weekend in Barcelona

We left bright and early in the morning for our short flight – less than 2 hours – to Barcelona. We were in the city and checked into our hotel before it was even lunchtime.

We set out for a walk to get our first taste of the city, both metaphorically and literally, as our plan was to find a place for lunch. We hit our hangry limit just after 1:00 and the (quite touristy, but convenient) restaurant we chose was practically empty. I was aware that people generally eat meals later in Spain, and yet it’s still sort of odd when you get there, it’s 1:30 and this large, popular restaurant is a ghost town.

Anyway, over our meal of essentially high-end fast food, we planned a bit of how we wanted to organize our few days; when to visit the Sagrada Familia basilica, when to see the beaches, and most importantly, when we were going to hit Frenchman’s favorite tapas place.

The answer to that question was: that night for dinner. And two more times. Shh don’t judge us.

Frenchman found this place (Cerveceria Catalana) a couple of years ago when he came to Barcelona with friends. On that trip, they returned daily for their entire stay. I thought they were silly for not exploring more of the food scene, but after trying to explore other options around the city, we just kept coming back. The food is, hands down, better than any other place we tried. Plus, their prices are shockingly reasonable in a town where a tiny plate of mediocre tapas can break the bank. We went all-out on our first dinner – delicious sangria, all the tapas we could handle, AND dessert. We returned for breakfast another day (actually the exact same menu, plus coffee) and dinner again for our last night in town. We just had to get another of those beef tenderloin tapas! So, so good.

But back to the city.

I had a rough list of the things to see, and in the end we managed to get to almost all of them. The advantage of visiting a beach city off-season is that you miss the huge lines most people complain about. What you don’t manage to miss, however, are the prices. Honestly, my main takeaway from this trip was how outrageously expensive everything was. Not food, for once, but actual tourist sites. The Sagrada Familia? 14€ just to go in. 35€ if you want to go up one of the towers. The Gaudí-designed Casa Batlló? 22.50€. Even the cathedrals charge. 6€ here, 9€ there… I watched them turn away an old Spanish woman who just wanted to pray. By the time we had paid for one or two things, our wallets were feeling a little bruised. But in the end we saw a lot, did a lot of walking and plenty of good eating.

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