June 18, 2016

8 Surprises from Serendipity in Paris

I had several expectations for my extended stay in Paris.

I expected to enjoy delicious food. I expected to linger at the Eiffel Tower. I expected to walk way too much everyday.

These expectations were met with perfect pastries, a sparkling Tour Eiffel, and sore cafe muscles.

I also expected to trace the lines of my French life from before, and to pretend it was still mine.

There was no way to foresee how incredibly deep and meaningful my weeks in Paris would be, and there was nothing pretend about returning to my French life.

It was still there. All of it - all of them: the excited expat friends, the cool French friends, the crazy volleyball teams, the fun university students, the friendly restaurants, the kind strangers. I didn't feel like I had just spent an entire year away; it was as if I had never left.

Sometimes we belong to places we are not from.

It's all wonderfully weird because I have never felt that instant familiarity going back anywhere else - and, as someone who has lived in at least ten different locations, I've had plenty of opportunities to feel this way before.

I am a great trip planner. I organized a ton of different meet-ups with old friends in advance, incorporated a wedding into the itinerary, went to several volleyball practices, hit up some museums, and worked around everyone else's schedules while also balancing my own tutoring days at the university. Even if only these planned activities had happened, I still would have had an amazing trip.

But then...

(1) I took a bus, and my tutor boss got on halfway to my destination.

(2) I was on a tram and saw a woman who ended up on the same bus as me in an entirely different district of the Paris suburbs two days later.

(3) On another bus, one of my former students stood across from me.

(4) I went to visit a former French player of mine at a weight lifting gym, and out walked a previous French roommate of one of my American friends.

(5) I kept running into a coach from my old club on the suburban trains.

(6) A lady I had only met at church two weeks prior sat down right next to me on the metro.

It was all too much, in the best way possible.

As if those six completely random rendezvous weren't enough, there were still two more waiting to astonish me.

(7) A quick hit of Instagram one morning during work a break displayed the top photo of the Sacré-Cœur. I looked at the username and typed a hasty, "Are you in Paris?! So am I!!"

The Irish pub crawl guide my friends and I had hung out with in Berlin just happened to be in Paris for the day. Lunch was planned, I brought my crew of hilarious British coworkers, and we let our various English accents ring loud and clear for five hours at a pub in Montparnasse.

I loved that nobody had to be anywhere else, I loved that my friends could mix so seamlessly, and I loved that we totally monopolized the sound space the entire afternoon.

(8) I still cannot believe this happened. I was staying with a friend who lives so close to Notre Dame, it's insane (yes, this is also unbelievable, and yet, also true). I decided to go out for a crepe and a wander while waiting for her to return so we could go out to dinner. I walked this way and that - wearing something akin to my pajamas, nonetheless - spilling hot caramel all over my hands and sweater and thinking aimlessly along the banks of the Seine.

I crossed a bridge. Don't know which one; didn't matter. I saw an interesting corner. I went down a new-to-me street on the Left Bank. I was about halfway down the avenue when I looked up.

I know that guy.

I said his name out loud in disbelief, completely convinced it wouldn't be him and I would just keep walking like nothing had ever been said.

But it really was my favorite - and maybe only - Scottish coworker from the university, and we hadn't seen each other in nearly two years.

***The looks on our faces!!!***

I shouted, "AHHHH!!! How ARE you?!?!" at least four times.

Serendipity - fortunate happenstance, of course - struck gold again as this Scottish friend just happens to be a bar manager. A very generous bar manager, at that, and one who insisted I return before the end of my trip, and could I come back with friends?

A week later, I returned to the bar with three of my French friends and my Scottish pal was nowhere to be found. I asked the bartender if my friend would be working that night.

"Oh, he's here! He's just downstairs bartending the private party. You can go down and say, 'hi.'"

We tentatively crossed the bouncer on our way into the cellar. I found my friend and said, "I told you I'd be back! But we can only say 'hi' apparently."

He gave me a perfectly incredulous look and said, "You're staying."

The party invitees themselves were the right age for us to blend in with their mid-twenties-young-professional-hipster look, but their taste in dance music was not quite as cool. We acted like we were supposed to be there, and had a blast. One of the friends I brought just happened to know the sister of the girl throwing the party, too!

Four hours of birthday party crashing and free drinks later, my university-aged friends were convinced the Scot was some form of a bar god, and obviously every night out with me was always this epic.

I have always touted Paris as a small town, and I have other stories of accidental meetings from the time I lived there (running into someone from my California college on the Eiffel Tower is my favorite). This time around, I was only in Paris for twenty-six days, with two weeks in Portugal splitting the middle of it.

I was averaging one crazy coincidental moment every three days?!

The only word that kept coming to me in these moments was: serendipity. I couldn't get enough of these fortunate happenstances, and serendipity completely defined my first fabulous trip back to Paris.

Have you experienced these kind of run-ins with serendipity somewhere? Where is your most serendipitous place on earth?

Continue »

June 12, 2016

Pack & Plan: Florence

I am so excited to have a quick meet up with friends in Florence next week! I have technically been to Florence before, but I was sick the whole day and I spent the afternoon sleeping outside the Duomo. I am looking forward to rectifying this experience with much more gelato than last time (zero) and by feeling great!

Pack & Plan: Florence

3 days, 2 nights in June
Transport: plane
Lodging: hotel
Trip type: with friends
(the ones I met up with last year in Scandanavia!)

The Pack

Bag: sports backpack (40cm x 30cm x 20cm)
Tops: 1 tank top, 1 t-shirt
Bottoms: 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of shorts
Outerwear: 1 jacket
Shoes: 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of flip-flops
Personal items for 2 days

The Plan

Day 1

Florence tour

Day 2

Florence museums

Day 3

Cinque Terre (a little bit)
Gelato (a lot)

Have you been to Florence? Do you have any restaurant recommendations?
Continue »

June 9, 2016

Paris Museum Round-Up: Delacroix, Rodin, Barbie

I had lofty expectations for how many museums I would patronize during my 3 1/2 weeks in Paris. I ended up at three museums that are not normally on the museum tour of Paris, but maybe you will want to include one of them on your next visit to the City of Light.

Two of the museums were actually the homes and studios of the artists, and, while not quite as impressive as Monet's gardens in Giverny, it was interesting to observe where Delacroix and Rodin found the most inspiration for their creativity.

1. Musée National Eugène Delacroix - Saint Germain des Près

6 Rue de Furstenberg
Open everyday except Tuesdays from 9:30 to 17:30
More information

This home-turned-museum is right in the heart of the Left Bank, but nestled into a corner of a square down a narrow lane. I was really hoping that at least a copy of his Liberty Leading the People would be displayed somewhere, but I wasn't so lucky. Instead, several of Delacroix's original sketches and smaller paintings were on the walls. The coolest thing about this museum - besides the adorably hidden location - was the painting class going on in the garden.

2. Musée National Auguste Rodin - Meudon

19 avenue Auguste Rodin, Meudon
Open only Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 13:00 to 18:00

Meudon is so far off the beaten path, it is necessary to take a suburban train or go to the end of a metro line, then still get on a bus to reach this museum. Meudon is close to the Clamart suburb with a bird's eye view of the Eiffel Tower, and I highly recommend a good wander through the beautiful homes (and a peek into the Saint-Philippe school grounds).

Rodin was a very sensual artist, and his expressions of movement are intensely emotional. An interesting point about this Rodin home is the idea that he led a happy wholesome life with his partner, and eventual wife, Rose. There is zero mention of Camille Claudel, his student and lover who created the masterpiece The Mature Age.

My favorite part of this museum was actually the picnic I had in the garden. It's the perfect place to spend a warm afternoon, just check the limited opening hours before venturing out to Meudon.

3. Musée des Arts Décoratifs - Louvre

107 Rue de Rivoli
Open everyday except Mondays from 11:00 to 18:00

This museum has tons of exhibitions, rooms, and floors - I got lost more than once! But the main reason I went was to explore the current Barbie exhibit, which will still be on display until September 18, 2016.

It was way too much fun to read about (French and English available) and see the evolution of Barbie through the actual dolls. I found at least four of the Barbie dolls I had growing up and the museum did a great job showing how Barbie really is a cultural icon.

Gymnastics Barbie was awesome because
she could bend her elbows and knees finally!

Even if you're not into the Barbie doll scene like I apparently am, this museum travels through time with the furniture and decorations on each floor, and rewards with a lovely view over the Tuileries to the Eiffel Tower. (I am all about Eiffel Tower views.)

The next Paris museums on my list are Galliera, Marmottan Monet, and Fondation Louis Vuitton. I can't quite seem to get myself over to the west side of Paris without getting distracted by the Eiffel Tower. Eventually, I hope I have a friend living on that side, and that will give me the excuse to spend more time in those arrondissements.

My next Paris post will help everyone continue to understand my love affair with Paris, and it has everything to do with serendipity.

Have you been to any of these museums? Which Paris museum is your favorite?

wanderfulwednesday  A Hole In My Shoe

Continue »

June 4, 2016

Photos of Faro, Portugal

Our now annual trip to the Algarve is still as sacred as ever. For an entire eight days on the beach, I took one photo. I share a lot of things on What Up, Swags?!, but I have chosen to keep a certain part of the Algarve to myself.

Old Town Faro, on the other hand, I will gladly share, and I hope you enjoy this flowery and sunny photo gallery!

That book bag was literally all I packed for two weeks in Portugal! You can see what I packed here.

What's next up on the site?

Paris. Paris. Paris. Oh, my heart: what an incredible 3 1/2 weeks!!!

Have you been to Faro? Did you find it as charming and beautiful as I did? Do you have a sacred destination that you don't share with your audience either?

MummyTravels  WeekendWanderlust
Continue »

May 31, 2016

Locals Recommend: 4 Tapas Bars in Seville

Today's Travel Tuesday prompt is "The Best of Travel Tuesday" because it is the last link-up week ever! I am still out and about on my 5-week France-Spain-Portugal-France work holiday, so my husband, Marc, has graciously agreed to pen the main article below with his take on our few days in Seville.

I think I linked-up with Travel Tuesday for about three years off and on. I was so happy to finally be a host from February to April, and it is sad to see it end. However, with the upstart of #WanderfulWednesday (Lauren on Location, Snow in Tromso, Sunny Side of This, What a Wonderful World) and the very popular #MondayEscapes (My Travel Monkey, Packing My Suitcase), #citytripping (Wander Mum, Mummy Travels), and #AllAboutFrance (Lou Messugo blog, and personal favorite, especially because it's monthly!) link-ups, there is still plenty of travel love to share!

Travel Tuesday was great because of its unique aspect of rotating co-hosts. Everyone received tons of exposure this way and we all got to know each other on that virtual travel level we all know and love so much. The most important thing I learned was how to design my website better by viewing so many other blogs.

I don't have enough time to go through and find every single awesome post from my blogging buddies, but I know I will still be able to enjoy excellent content and beautiful photos from all over the world. Thanks to each and every one of you who participated and made Travel Tuesday great, and especially to Bonnie, who led the link-up for so many years!

The end of one thing is always the beginning of something else.

See you on the other link-ups, and enjoy Marc's recap of our time in Andalusia!

*     *     *     *     *

I love going on trips with Swags; we stay at cool places, see incredible sights, and eat amazing food. What is weird is we hardly ever actually travel together when getting to our destination. It just happens this way sometimes and we actually really like it.

For this trip to Seville it once again worked to our advantage. Instead of sitting next to Swags, I was flying next to a couple from Seville! Alejandro and his wife were a wealth of information and we put it to use, especially when deciding where to eat. We only spent two days in Seville, but we ate well and saw a few of the key sights. This will be a city we visit again and give it more attention.

First up was the third largest cathedral in Europe.

The Cathedral of St. Mary of the See, is better known as the Seville Cathedral and is the resting place of Christopher Columbus. 

Make sure you go up the tower for some great panoramic views of the city. It's not a staircase, it is a continuous ramp!

For a great view of the cathedral and most of the rest of the city head over to the Hotel Inglaterra. Go up the elevator to the top and walk up these incredible stairs.

At the top, enjoy the views, the sunset, and a glass of wine.

The other architectural wonder to spend some time at is Plaza de España.

Walk around the different levels, look through the many arches out onto the glassy water. Or jump into a rowboat and get onto that water!

Just like most places in Spain, Seville is more than just pretty sights. Tapas are the way to enjoy the most food for the lowest cost. Make sure to get a sangria or tinto de verano to match your meal. 

Getting the plate of multiple tapas is always recommended. Let the local chef choose what you should eat and prepare to be amazed with the mixture of flavors. Baratillo wowed us with this plate.

Casa Morales was one of those "hole in the wall" places that only a local, like Alejandro, would know. Make sure you get the tortilla (cheesy potato and egg omelette taste). 

Another great recommendation was La Flor de Toranzo. A clean, beautiful tapas bar with food so good I ate it before I could take a picture.

For something a little more hipster go to Ovejas Negras.

These were two of the most flavorful and filling tapas we had in our time in Seville.

Lastly, whenever you are in a warm and sunny location, get some gelato and enjoy life!

*     *     *     *     *

Linking-up one last time with Travel Tuesday and the gals: Diana, Rachel, and Katrina.

Also connecting with City Tripping, Wanderful Wednesday, and The Weekly Postcard!

Wander Mum

A Hole In My Shoe

Continue »

Popular Posts

Start with these posts to get to know Swags better!