Paris & London

In my head, Paris and London go together as a pair. For one reason, I’ve been to both in high school during my first Eurotrip. Another reason is that these are the first two cities that pop into my head when I think of Europe – the romantic city of “”Pair-ee” and the royal family in London. During my first trip, I adored Paris but didn’t enjoy London. Wow the tables have turned…

Don’t get me wrong. I loved Paris, but I love London more now. Speak French and I promise your experience would be twenty times better than mine. This was definitely the hardest language during this trip. Italian is similar to Spanish, and Katie knows Spanish. French is a whole different thing with tongue twists and throat gurggles. Haha!

When we arrived at our apartment, we were shocked at how small these units are. Katie and Baldwin slept in a loft room above the kitchen. MG and I shared the small bedroom with one bathroom. By this point, we’re into our third week of vacation, and we were pooped. We took a long nap before going out to dinner. We found a local hotspot called La Tour de Montlhéry ou chez Denise (an Anthony Bourdain recommendation). The food was amazing and a heaping amount! We family-styled the escargots, fois gras, cote de boeuf, and cote d’agneau (snails, duck liver pate, grilled beef, and grilled lamb). We were too chicken to order the lamb brains… When you order house wine, they bring a bottle and only charge you for what you drink. Awesome concept that the States are missing out on! The French know how to eat! After dinner we walked to the Louvre for some night shots. 

La Tour de Montlhéry ou chez Denise

Louvre at night

Louvre at night

The next day was a rainy one. To get out of the storm, we decided to go to the Musée du Louvre, one of the world’s largest museums. Remember when I said we were not museum people? I wasn’t joking… This day consisted of posing like statues and being silly. The museum is so big that we basically just hit up the most famous artwork. In the middle of walking around, we had to take a break so we ended up at McDonald’s for a meal. Then we got back into the museum and finally got to see the Mona Lisa. Don’t even get me started on the Mona Lisa… Baldwin and Kay almost got into an argument with someone standing behind us making rude comments at us to get out of the way! The crowds, the protective glass… can you even see the details on her? Ugh… We were at the Louvre for 5 hours (including the 45 mins at McDonald’s), and we saw like 10 famous pieces of work. Re-enforcing, we are not museum people. Haha!

Louvre

Napoleon's Dining
Napoleon’s quarters – fancy huh?

Louvre

McDonald'sMcDonald’s macrons, not too shabby!

FYI, your museum ticket serves as a day pass so you can re-enter all day. Also remember that there are multiple entrances. You don’t have to wait in the loooong line at the main entrance.

Funny story, we finally decided to purchase an umbrella because we were getting soaked. It’s rained in every city that we visited, and we were able to hold out. But now on the last leg, we couldn’t do it anymore. We purchased 2 umbrellas for 7 euros from a street vendor. Mistake… MG crossed the street, opened his umbrella, and it broke apart. We were still able to make it last through the day and once more in London! Pretty good for 7 euros!

We then went to Notre Dame, the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, and Pont de l’Archevêché, where the infamous love lock bridge is located. The tradition is to hook a lock onto the bridge with your loved one and throw the keys in the river so they are never found. A week after we got home, we found out a portion of the bridge broke because of the weight of the locks. Hopefully that wasn’t where we put it! We spent a lot of time looking for a place that was memorable in case we ever went back to look for our lock (which I think will never happen… muahah).

Notre Dame

Pont de l'Archevêché

Lock Bridge

The rain finally stopped so we made our way over to the Arc de Triomphe, only to find the all the subway exits were closed off. What the damn hell? When we finally found a way out, there was a commemoration for the 70th anniversary of D-day, celebrating the liberation of Europe in WWII. It was really cool to stumble upon something like this so we stayed a while.. and unbeknownst to us, the Queen of England showed up! So we’ve seen the Pope on this trip and now we bumped into the Queen. Can’t ask for much more than that, amirite?

Queen
Look how cute she is in pink!

We walked around Champs-Élysées for a while and got macrons, from the best macron place in the world, Laduree. I kid you not. Amazing! Afterwards, MG had to pee and restrooms are hard to come by. We found a large shopping center so that he could whiz. At this time, I found out that Longchamp purses are about $60 cheaper in Paris than in the States. Baldwin’s cousins wanted a few and me too! I ended up charging my card for 5 Longchamps. When MG went to find us, I had spent over $500. Surprise!!! Only one for me anyway, giggles.

Lauduree

Shopping

The next day was the biggie that never gets old, the Eiffel Tower. We took it to the top, and for lunch we found a nearby Korean restaurant. I figured it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle since we know how to order our favorite Korean dishes. I couldn’t be more wrong! The Korean is translated in French, duh… I used the little Korean I had to translate certain dishes and the waitress would nod. That’s how we ordered! Gyozas are called raviolis and tempura is a beignet. What?!? We bought some desserts at a bakery then laid out on the lawn to eat. We spent about 4 hours in the presence of the Eiffel Tower. After a long day of walking the city, we went to a grocery store and cooked a nice meal consisting of a cucumber/tomato salad, duck pate (you can buy this at the grocery store!!!) and bread, lamb chops, and final course, cheese burgers. Don’t you want to travel with me?

Top of Eiffel

Top

Lounging

Eiffel

Dinner

We visit the Arc de Triomphe one more time for a night view, finally able to stand underneath. It’s glorious. It was around 11:30 when we realized that the Eiffel Tower stops its twinkling light show around midnight, and it only twinkles every hour on the hour. Whoops… We hauled ass over to the Eiffel Tower, ran down the Subway hallways, and only had 2 mins to spare. We caught the beautiful show! It’s always the highlight of Paris!

France

Arc de Triomphe

Eiffel at night

Twinkling

—–

Next and final stop, London!

Really pro tip here so take note. If you’re traveling by train from Paris to London, you will probably have to go through security and customs. We didn’t know until about 40 minutes before our train left. Thankfully they are efficient workers and got us through quickly. Don’t make that mistake! We made it though! Travel with me and you’ll always have an adventure, wink!

We arrived at King’s Cross in London. Anyone? Anyone? This happened:

Platform 9 3/4

Before dinner we walked the London Bridge and then the Tower Bridge. For those that don’t know, Tower bridge is the one that’s in all the postcards! We ate a place called Picture and really enjoyed our dinner. Wow, we really missed ordering dinner in an English speaking restaurant! Whew that was easy.

London Bridge

Tower Bridge

Walking

I have a confession. I’ve lived in San Francisco for 4 years now, and I have never walked the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge. But in London, I walked both London and Tower Bridge in a day!

We only had one full day in London. Today was the day; we woke early and set out to Buckingham Palace in the rain to see the changing of the guards. That didn’t happen though… Instead we were lucky enough to see all the guards out, parading on horses and playing music. They were rehearsing for a special event that happened the week after we were to leave. Pretty neat! How does one wear a uniform, ride a horse, and play music at the same time, all in the rain? Impressive.

Buckingham Palace

Palace

Cute guardKay and I found a cute officer to take pics with! Kay thinks he might bite…

We walked to Big Ben and Trafalgar Square for some pictures. And we ended up in a neighborhood called Covent Gardens (stay here! awesome place! really fun!). We loved it! Lots to eat. Many marketplaces. Lots of shopping. It’s so hoppin’ here (dang, I sound old).

Big Ben

Big Ben with Kay and Balds

Climbing^^^ Getting up on this platform was terrifying! It was slippery, and I couldn’t get a good grip. I saw kids just jumping off like it’s nothing… So brave those little ones. Catching Baldwin making sure MG’s butt was safe was pretty funny. The scary climb was worth the picture!

Trafalgar Square

Covent Gardens
Look at those batches of paella!

Lauduree
Laduree in London because this is Katie’s favorite thing in the world

We knew that Harrod’s closes at 8pm so got there at 6, thinking it was more than enough time. If I was wrong before, this is worse… I lost Baldwin probably on the first floor when we were looking at skincare. Then we went to toy kingdom, and we basically parted ways. I got a glitter tattoo and one nail painted like a strawberry. MG was lost looking at remote-controlled cars that can drive on ceilings. Baldwin and Katie… who knows? We spent a good hour here just looking at toys. At some point, I had to yell “Baldwin, come here! Katie, stay with me! MG, get back here!” We had to leave some time for dinner at Harrod’s. As we were going down the escalators, we came across the spy gear section. The boys were lost again. Please, someone tell me how to contain kids and keep them by your side! Then the food section at Harrod’s… what department store has their own grocery market, sweets market, and snacks?!? We parted ways yet again. The store eventually closed, and we still needed to find dinner. We settled on a random Mediterranean restaurant in a super rich neighborhood (GTRs, Porsche, and other fancy cars parked on the street).

Harrod's

We left the next morning, bright and early, rolling our suitcases to the Tube, only to find out the Tube doesn’t open until late morning on the weekends. Fortunately, we hailed the one and only cabbie driving down the street, and he took us to the airport. Dang that was an expensive ride, 70 euros. Ouch. Transportation in London is expensive! Be prepared if you’re going so you don’t have sticker shock!

Cab

Almost two weeks since I’ve been back. I was homesick towards the end of the trip, especially missing my Chubalee. But now that I’m two weeks home and back at work, I have to get started planning my next vacation. Where next?

Oh, and this guy is in a cone because he’s been chewing his foot. Thought it might make you smile. He’s so sad right now, but he just so cute to me. He somehow found out how to bite his foot even with the cone on. We had to makeshift a taller cone with paper plates… He’s such a goofball now.

Conehead

Are you planning a trip to Europe any time soon? Where are you visiting?

Have a fantastic weekend!
Jay

  

Spain & Ireland

Today’s post is a big one! I’m combining my trip to Barcelona and Dublin into one big post!

To be totally honest, I had high hopes for Barcelona. Everyone has told me that it’s a great place. I was also looking forward to relaxing on the beach (spent weeks upon weeks looking for a cute swimsuit for this leg of the trip but no avail). Barca wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t my favorite place. Plus, Barcelona happened after a wonderland called Venice. It’s your typical city with shopping, markets, and a beach. The rain probably didn’t help Barcelona’s cause. I had a good vacation here, and I ate some delicious foods, but it simply wasn’t my favorite vacation spot.

My favorite thing here would, hands down, be La Boqueria. This market has lots and lots of delicious treats! For a person who considers food as her passion (tehehe fatty at heart), this place is something like heaven! Fruit, candies, and juice galore! Mmmmm nom nom noms… Now be prepared for a color overload!

La Boqueria

Chocolates

Juice

SeafoodThis market is one of the main attractions of Barcelona. That doesn’t say much about a city… just saying. Dang, I’m a hater!

I must say though, shopping was great here! I bought a new jacket from Massimo Dutti (see my new jacket in my Dublin pics) and check out my new sunnies! No tax means let’s spend some $$$. Great shops near Plaça de Catalunya! 

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We also went to Park Güell to see beautiful views of the city. Many buildings are designed by an architect by the name of Gaudí. He used a lot of mosaic tiling, ceramics, and stained glass. Buildings with these details can be found all over the city.  

Park Guell

City viewThe clouds look so ominous

Guell

You’re probably here reading to find out what restaurants we ate at, am I right to assume? I will say that I had some of the best food in Barcelona. I’m a huge seafood person so this city was on point when it came to food!

If you’re ever there, do yourself a favor and check out La Bombeta for tapas. When there’s a line of locals waiting to dine here, you know your stomach will be happy. Even the sangria is delicious! Can Majó is a noteworthy mention too. It has one Michelin star, which is well deserved for price and quality. Very fresh seafood and one of my favorite things I ate on this trip, a noodle paella. Seriously check these places out!

Paella - Can Majó

The next day we went to take pictures at Sagrada Família, a Roman Catholic church also designed by Gaudí. Construction of this church began in 1882 and will be completed in 2026. We didn’t buy tour tickets, and I’m starting to regret that… But that just means I’ll have to return.

Sagrada Família

We had a bit of sun peak through the clouds so we were able to spend a few hours on the beach! Not sunny enough to tan but warm enough to enjoy the view (of naked people!!!)

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For our last meal in Barcelona, we bought food at La Boqueria. Mussles and sea snails in a wine broth, pan-fried fish fillets, and razor clams. I’ve never had razor clams before… Why! I’ve been missing out. These things are so sweet.

Seafood dinner

Dinner part 2

Then we headed over to watch the Magic Fountain. The fountain has a music/light show at night.

Magic Fountain Show

Magic Fountain

Fountain
We spent a good amount of time trying to do this ^^^

We had some time before getting on a plane to Dublin so we walked to Parc de la Ciutadella to hang out.

Parc de la Ciutadella

Near Parc de la CiutadellaIt’s near the zoo, hence this behemoth 

Arc de Triomf
^^^ Arc de Triomf in Barcelona

—–

Then we made our way over to Dublin, Ireland. Most people are surprised to find out that I have relatives here!

My sweet Aunt Kathy bought us some musical tickets for our first day. We watched “Singing in the Rain,” and it was amazing! Katie and I love musicals, and this was one of our top favorite shows.

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DSC07447^ Family selfie after the show

The next day we headed out to see Trim Castle. To be honest, I don’t know much of European history… but there are a few things I remember. Trim is a large Norman castle, it is three stories high, and it’s uniquely shaped like a cross. Coolest thing? All of Braveheart was filmed here. The movie used different angles of the castle. I haven’t seen Braveheart so it’s just kinda cool to me. Perhaps watching the film makes it a better fact. Heheh

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The boys… I kinda love this shot!

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Oh you know… just pondering about life in his castle…

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Are you even allowed to climb these rocks?

DSC07534^^^ Richie, Jay, and Fay Kay

DSC07566It’s so beautiful 

Another really awesome place we toured, the Guinness Storehouse!  You learn how this dark beer is brewed, how to master pouring yourself a pint, and there’s a 360° viewing room to enjoy your beer. 

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DSC07646^^^ Beer staches!

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DSC07666She actually finished her pint!

We also met my cousin Richard’s girlfriend at a cute teppanyaki restaurant called Chai Yo. This place blows Benihana out of the water… It’s an interactive restaurant. They call on you to perform tricks! Our waiter even memorized all our names. I tried to catch an egg on my spatula; caught it but it cracked. MG was to catch an egg in his hat and he did it! So impressed by my man. The guy at the table next to us didn’t catch his egg, and it cracked on his back. Yikes. Not impressed but hilarious! Really random dinner but so much fun.

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Okay, okay. I’m done! I thought that Barcelona and Dublin could be in one post because there wasn’t much that went on. Going through pictures and this post, I was wrong. There was a lot that happened!

Have you travelled to these cities? How was your experience in Barcelona? How did you like Dublin? Are you interested in these cities? If so, why?

Paris and London to come soon…
Jay

  

Venezia

Let me first start off by saying that these pictures do not do Venice justice. This city is overly beautiful and jaw droppingly amazing.

Gorgeous

One thing I remember most about this trip is when we got off the train and left the building. As we walked out, I stopped and literally gasped at the beautiful scenery. There’s no place like Venice. I’m not an avid traveller, but I’ve been to some pretty neat places. Venice, by far, is one that takes my breath away. Venice consists of 118 small islands connected by bridges and canals. It’s a city that relies on water transportation; no trucks and no cars. That alone is impressive.

Pretty

We got into our apartment late in the evening. We found dinner and saw the Rialto Bridge at night. Ended the night early to wake up for a full day of sight-seeing.

Rialto Bridge

For our first full day, we took some pictures at Piazza San Marco. This is where the famous Church of St. Mark and the clock tower can be found. Nearby also houses the Palazzo Ducale, also known as Doge’s Palace, where the supreme authority of Venice resided.

Church of St. Mark

Palazzo Ducale

We wandered over Ponte dell’Accademia to the Basilica de Santa Maria della Salute to sit on the steps and just gaze. This was our rest stop.

Lock bridge

Ponte dell'Accademia
^^^ Family selfie again!

Basilica de Santa Marina della Salute
I love this candid shot of the gang!

Venice
We look like a painting, right?

After a new change of clothes, we went on a gondola ride! While planning for this trip, people told us to skip the gondola because it’s expensive. But I totally think it’s worth it to ride a gondola. When you tell people that you went to Venice, you already know the first question that will be asked, “Did you ride a gondola?” Fortunately for me, my answer is yes! For 60 euro, the boat ride is about 30 minutes for up to 6 people. Since we had the maximum amount of riders, it was definitely worth it for us!

Gondola

Bridge

Gondola

Venice is an expensive place to eat. To save money, we decided to cook at home. Sadly, the fish market is closed on Mondays. We then went to to the local grocery store to pick something up. Whole chickens were on sale, so we picked up two for under 10 euros and took them home to make rotisserie chicken (my recipe here). Ohhh yeahhh! For our first course, I made a creamy ravioli with bacon (refrigerated pasta is even amazing!). Then we had roasted chicken, cauliflower, and risotto for our main course. All this to feed 6 for under 30 euros. We did good!

Homemade

The next morning we were leaving for Barcelona in the afternoon, which meant we had a bit of time in the morning. We visited Venice’s famous fish market. So much to look at! If only we had another night to make a seafood meal. Guess that will have to wait for my next visit!

Seafood market

Tip: Trip guides mention that a vaporetto boat (water bus) is the best and cheapest way to get around. I think walking is the most ideal way to really see the city and alley ways. It’s really easy to get lost because there are few main sidewalks so bring a map! Google maps actually failed us here because buildings are so tall and old so reception is limited. We went old school way!

Just a funny pic. MG and I slept on the pull out couch in the living room. Since there wasn’t a door, we made one out of pillows. Hey, it worked!

Makeshift door

I really enjoyed Venice and would recommend this city as a must-visit in your travel bucket list. Have you been to Venice before and what was your favorite part about the city? Were you as amazed as me? If you haven’t been before, would you go and why?

Happy Monday! Stay tuned for Barcelona and Dublin in one post!
Jay
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Just a reminder, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll get some extra pics that are not on the blog.

  

Ciao!

I’m going on summer vacation! During my three weeks in Europe I won’t be posting.

First stop, Austin to see my sister graduate, then Italy!

I’m ready except that I need to leave Chubs… He’s my squishy teddy bear.

Look at him like “Don’t leave me!!!”

Chubs

Suitcase

Wish I could take him and feed him gelato everyday!

Ciao for now! I’ll post pictures when I’m back.
Jay

  

Eurotrip!

It’s summer vacation time! Do you have any travel plans coming up? Cause I do! And I’m going to Europe!

On Friday I’m flying to Austin to attend my baby sister’s graduation. Guess she’s not a baby anymore… I’m so proud that she has gotten into her dream Master’s program at the University of Texas in Houston. \m/

To celebrate, WE’RE GOING TO EUROPE! I’m leaving on Friday to attend her graduation and then we’re going to Rome for our first stop. During our three weeks on vacation, we’re going to Rome, Florence, Venice, Barcelona, Dublin, Paris, and London. Whew… you can catch your breath now!

With summer vacations coming up, I put together a packing list. I’m usually the girl that packs half her closet for a 2 week trip. My thoughts – you want choices and decisions and multiple outfits! 6 pairs of shoes for a 2 week vacation sounds right to me but perhaps crazy to some.

Chubs

If I could, I would bring this guy ^^^

BUT traveling to so many different countries in Europe means I’ll need to pack light in order to fit one carry on in those small cross-country planes. I’ve put much thought into what I should bring, and I want to share what I’m going to bring. Hopefully this will be super helpful for you if you’re going somewhere this summer too!

RULES:

1. Stick with the same color scheme!

There’s a reason why neutrals don’t go out of style. If you want a pop of color, bring a scarf. Keep your colors simple and you won’t regret your style decisions 10 years down the line.

2. Bring pieces that will match all items!

One shirt that matches all three bottoms gives you three outfits. One bottom that matches all your tops gives you 5 outfits. Possibilities are endless which means you can pack light.

3. Accessorize to change up from day to night.

Wear a fedora for day time with a dress, and switch the fedora with a chunky necklace for night time with the same dress. It’s as simple as that! Black shorts with a blouse for the day and switch to a clutch and wedges for a night look.

Take a looksee to find what I’ve put together. Links to purchase these items are found below, and they are extremely affordable! My splurges are on shoes, jewelry, and purses. I believe that those are items that should last.

Travel Light

Light anorak from GAP // Chambray cover-up from JCrew Factory // Black blouse from H&M // Lace shell from Piperlime // Short sleeve t-shirt from Target // Vintage V-neck t-shirt from Target // White tank from Target // Jacquard Mini from Zara // Black shorts from H&M // Skinnies from H&M // Striped dress from Nordstrom // Khaki dress from H&M // Swimsuit from Target // Floral scarf from Target // Hat from H&M // Aviators from Zappos // Necklace from Madewell // Statement necklace from JCrew // Braided belt from JCPenney // Clutch from Asos // Crossbody from Madewell // Converse from Nordstrom // Cole Haan wedges from Zappos // Salt Water sandals from ModCloth

Bringing less also means shopping more! What do you think of my collection? Do you have any advice on how to travel light?

While I’m on vacation, I’ll be taking a hiatus from this blog for a bit. I’ll post pictures of my trip when I come back!

Becoming practical cause I’m old,
Jay