Bon Paris-versaire

The other day, a feeling came over me that I was forgetting to do something. You know that familiar sensation when a to-do list item is just out of reach from your mind’s grasp. It’s common for this to happen to me these days, between managing work and major house renovations and day-to-day life in general. Finally I looked at a calendar and realized what it could be this time.

I should be planning my next Paris-versary party. And I would be, if we still lived in Paris.

Let me explain. 
Paris-versary (n): The festivity that ensues on the weekend nearest the calendar date of moving to Paris, marking another year of life in France and celebrating the friends that made it wonderful. 

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Park it in Paris: Parc André Citroën

In the "Park it in Paris" series, I write about the city's parks - some of the best spots to relax, people-watch, and mingle with the locals.

The last park spotlighted in this series, the Square des Batignolles, took me a very long time to get around to discovering it. Similarly, this featured parc du jour waited a while for me to step foot inside. Over three and a half years of living in Paris passed by and just five days before our flight out to NYC, we made the trip over to check out the Parc André Citroën.

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Sheep in the Big City // Salon de l’Agriculture

Picture this for a moment. You’re in the metro and you see some posters for an event called the Salon International de l’Agriculture (International Agricultural Show). What is your general concept of what this show entails?

If you are like me, a few things come to mind: farmers, pitchforks, plows, soil, crops, barns. Basically, a whole world of things that are very far removed from me. This is why for two years, I wrote off the advertisements as an event that wasn’t for someone like me. Certainly not for a someone who struggles to take care of the occasional house plant that has the misfortune of falling under my guardianship. I assumed it was a nice convention for farmers to put aside their road barricades (as seen in articles like this one) and meet up peacefully to discuss the hottest tractor of the year.

I’m here to do my civic duty of telling you this is NOT what the Salon is all about! Thanks to a post by Expat Edna, and then a huge food post highlighting the event by David Lebovitz, I realized last year that I had it all wrong. I needed to go check it out and -- and if you’re in Paris, you need to as well. It starts on Saturday, February 27, 2016 - so here’s a little of what you can expect.

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Park it in Paris: Square des Batignolles

In the "Park it in Paris" series, I write about the city's parks - some of the best spots to relax, people-watch, and mingle with the locals.

I used to think that parks were only meant to be visited in the warmer months of the year. That concept was formed in my suburban days, as I grew up surrounded by trees and grass and was even accustomed to seeing wildlife such as deer wander through our property. Living in a city as an adult made me realize the need to see nature all year round - something I had long taken for granted.

That’s why I’m sharing another “Park it in Paris” in the dead of winter. Today’s parc du jour was a brand new one for me to set foot in during my visit this December: Square des Batignolles. I love that even after living in Paris for a couple of years, I can still go back and continue to discover new places.

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Natural Beauty: Winter in Paris, Part Deux

If you want to see an intimate side of Paris, pay a visit during the winter.

This isn’t the first time I’ve shared this sentiment. Last year I shared this post full of my favorite photos from our last winter living in Paris. Every time I look at those pictures, they bring back a sense of calm and peacefulness. Paris felt like it was ours, devoid of tourists and full of true locals hunkering down for a season of chilly weather and overcast skies.

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2015: A Year of Wander

2016 has arrived and everyone’s looking ahead  to new beginnings, fresh starts, and wish lists for the upcoming year. I am too - but I’m a little behind, and I can’t fully move on until I take a long pause and reflect on all that 2015 was before I catch up with the rest of you.

Some years slide by us, and as the calendar flips to January, it just marks the passage of time. Then there are some years that are so life-changing and momentous and exhausting yet exhilarating all the same that as that last digit changes, you try to peer out of the wild haze you are surrounded in, wondering aloud, “Did that just happen?” That was this January 1st for me. And because of that, more than anything I need to recap it all for myself so one day in the future I remember what was built in the tumultuous year of wander that was 2015.

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A New Perspective on Thanksgiving

“Do you like Thanksgiving?” a co-worker asked recently, after admitting that she wasn’t too fond of the holiday.

I was taken aback at first. I didn’t think that Thanksgiving needed to be defended. What’s not to like about an excuse to gather together and eat wonderful seasonal one-offs like sweet potato casserole and pecan pie, and, being a conversation set in America - get one (and often two) whole days off?? 

But as I headed home, I reflected and realized that while I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving as an opportunity to spend time with my family, I never loved it until I moved to France.

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The Peach and the Pit: Tour de France in Numbers and Superlatives

There many reasons why I love my sister. (Yes, she’s technically Michael’s sister, but I believe when you luck out with great in-laws, you can just freely claim them as your own family.) One reason is that she shares the same enthusiasm I have at the end of a trip for reflecting back on the ups and downs. After an adventure with Dawn, we sit down over a meal and rehash the “peach and the pit” of the vacation. Each time we realize at some point that this exercise is really called the “peak and the pit,” but we inevitably decide that the peach and the pit sounds cuter anyway. We continue mentally narrowing down the experiences until each person arrives at one highlight and one lowlight of the trip that s/he shares with the group.

Last week, I began to recap our month-long road trip around France as seen through our various accommodations. This week is a different way of stepping back and taking a sweeping survey of the trip as a whole before examining each stop in sharp focus. (I warned you, I love reflection time!) Whether you’re more math-oriented like my hubby or a lover of language like me, I think both approaches give a sense of how this journey through France was an emotional release as we ran around the country with open arms, trying to embrace all that we could in our last month before moving back to the US.

Ready for the big picture of our Tour de France? 

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Home on the Road: Our Tour de France in Accommodations

Recap: Michael and I lived in Paris for three years, and moved back to where we grew up and previously lived (in the northeastern US) in June. But before we said au revoir, we went on a month-long road trip through France as a part of the transition process.

That was back in May. It’s October, and it’s finally time to start talking about our Tour de France.

There are so many ways to start telling about the adventure we went on. I’m going to start with perhaps an unconventional one, by first sharing about our accommodations during the trip.

Often when I travel, accommodations are just a necessity to a trip. I often view it as a place to rest my head - especially when it’s just Michael and me traveling together. I would rather spend my money on a decadent meal than a luxurious room. This trip though was largely enhanced by our accommodations - and it’s not even necessarily because we dished out the last of our euros (in many cases, quite the contrary!). Here’s a first look at our Tour de France, as told by the places that became home at a time when we were wandering without a permanent address.

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Life Lately and a Liebster

It’s somehow September already, which means it’s the time of year I’ve fondly come to know as “la rentrée.” If you’re not familiar with the French term, it literally means “the return,” and is closest to the American concept of “back-to-school.” The difference though is that it applies to everyone. The French come back from their typical month-long vacations and the adults go back to work, the kids back to school, and life back to its normal rhythm again. 

This year, though I’m no longer living in France, I’m still feeling a bit of that la rentrée spirit. This summer saw us in temporary housing in Manhattan, and with the turn of the calendar to September, it came time for us to relocate once again. Now we’re in New Jersey, and are hopefully in the last leg of our string of temporary living situations before we have a place to call home. The pieces are starting to come together. I recently went back to work as well, and slowly we’re settling into normal routines that solidify “the return” - to America, to NJ, to our jobs, to our church, to all our loved ones who waited for us to come back. 

A lot has been going on in my life, and I’ve realized I’ve missed a few weeks of posting on the blog. To get back into the swing of the things and have a little rentrée back to writing here, I decided to keep things on a more personal note and finally respond to my Liebster award nominations. (For those who are unfamiliar with what this is, it’s basically like a big blogger chain letter. You get nominated and are asked to answer a list of questions, and then you share the love and choose other bloggers to answer your own questions.) I can be a procrastinator at times, and as the months have slipped by, I’ve gotten Liebster shout-outs from three lovely bloggers - Marcella from What a Wonderful World, Sara from Sara Sees, and Nikita from Life in Transience. They each asked 10 questions, but I’m not sure how long I can talk about myself so I choose to respond to 5 questions from each. If you're ready to learn more about the girl behind Simply Sara Travel, keep reading!  

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Shoreditch Street Art Tour with Alternative London

I’ve been drawn to the colorful streets of Shoreditch in London. I love visiting this neighborhood when I’m in town. It’s always changing, with new art popping up as well as interesting shops and restaurants entering the scene. It never gets old to me, and since I never tire of exploring artsy Shoreditch, it’s what made me narrow in on this particular neighborhood to stay in last time I was in London this past April.

I think it’s safe to say one doesn’t need to go on a tour to see the street art of Shoreditch. Once you arrive, all you have to do is walk around. You barely need to be an observant person. It’s everywhere. But this last trip, I decided to check out the Alternative London street art walking tour. The tour is “free,” meaning that it’s meant to be accessible by all. The guides are super passionate about leading others around and exploring street art in London together, though they expect to be tipped in a way that reflects how one values the tour, or what one can afford to give. It seemed like a great way to learn more about this art that I love, and provide an introduction to Shoreditch to my sister-in-law and her friend who were visiting London with me, lest they thought I had chosen to stay in some strange gritty section of town far from “London proper.”

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Afternoon Tea fit for a Queen: Goring Hotel, London

My sister-in-law has taught me how to enjoy the finer things in life. She took me to get my first pedicure and even patiently provided a pair of flip-flops when I lacked the understanding that those were needed (it was winter, after all!). I had always wondered what it would be like to have a sister to share clothes and accessories with, and the few times I’ve forgotten items on visits back to the US, she’s hooked me up with things much trendier than in my own wardrobe.

It follows then, that my first high tea in England would be with her. The truth is that I’m pretty cheap when it comes to spending money on myself. I had been interested to attend a classy afternoon tea time, but the price tag has always made me think twice. With Yumchaa as my go-to tea spot in London, I can get a personal pot of tea for a few quid - a far cry from the price tag of a proper sit-down experience. But as we planned for a fun week ahead in London with Michael’s sister and one of her friends, we figured our last hurrah (for now!) in London should include this bucketlist item. And who else to go with than the queen of class herself, Miss Dawn.

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Breaking the ice with London

Do you ever have that feeling when you’re at a party, and there’s someone there that you want to meet, but you’re too intimidated to just put yourself out there? Wishing you had a friend in common to give an introduction to break the ice?

Well, if the party is Europe and you’re staring down London from across the room -- I’ve unwittingly become that friend in common to give an introduction to get things started.  I got my own introduction with a two-week college course on theater and since then I’ve had the pleasure of introducing the city to many of my friends and family (starting with my husband -- London was our first European vacation as a married couple).

Now, I’d like to give you an idea of how to look London in the eye and say “How you doin’?” by way of recounting my most recent London introduction: to my brother, David.  One never knows where he is bound to show up, and so it should come as no surprise that somehow it worked out in our last few months in Europe that David’s business trip to London aligned perfectly with one of Michael’s work trips there. It was David’s first time in London, and he had an afternoon between business meetings to spend with me in England’s capital.

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