Posing with Pictours Paris

Moving is hard work. There is the physical aspect of sorting, sifting, donating, and packing stuff. There are the administrative tasks of booking plane tickets, canceling services, and coordinating the check-out with the landlord. And then there’s the work that most of the time, we don’t even acknowledge much: the emotional process of mental preparation.

When I moved to Paris, I never would have imagined the real estate this place would one day take up in my heart. We moved initially with the intention of using Paris as a European home base to travel the continent. We would be residents, but the extent to which we would “live” there and be present remained to be seen.

As you probably could see, if you’ve spent any amount of time following our story, is that we grew to LOVE Paris. We would travel around and cherish the ability to explore Europe, but we would become homesick - not for New Jersey, but for Paris. We would eagerly anticipate the end of a trip because it meant we were returning home, to our city.

As our departure date loomed ahead of us, the inevitability and finality of the move to the US slowly felt more concrete. And while I couldn’t pack up my favorite places and take them with me like I wished I could, I decided to do the next best thing - to coordinate a photo shoot with a photographer to capture us in some of our special corners of the city. The fact is that photo sessions aren't just for wedding-related festivities. It could be for mother-daughter trips, family vacations, or a solo traveler looking to document an adventure. Or for two people who love Paris who wanted to bring home a little piece of the city.

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My Corner of the Marais

Bon lundi!

I’ve decided that Michael and I have a shopping problem. It’s not with online shopping, and if you are familiar with our fashion sense, you know it’s not related to clothes or shoes. It’s French wine.

Somehow, on that last night in Paris, we had quite a challenge in front of us. 20 bottles of wine, a bottle of champagne, and a magnum were lined up before us, waiting to be distributed between four checked suitcases. The result of the remains of our wine cellar, compounded with visits to 6 different vineyards during our Tour de France, left us in a bit of a pickle. And if you want to know how it ended, the laws of physics won. (Thank you to our friends who are safe-guarding our stash until our next visit!!)

Thankfully, not all of our souvenirs from our time in France took up such space and weight. One of our most precious tributes to our time living abroad didn’t have to be lugged back in our baggage. That’s because it is a digital souvenir -  the images from a photo shoot we went on that included some of our favorite spots in Paris.

Introducing this week some of our favorite spots in Paris! Starting with this special street, of course...

I’ve shared a few peeks from our photo session on Facebook and Instagram, but I’ve tried my hardest not to saturate the feeds with our faces. This week though, I’ll open up the floodgates and share all of my favorites from our morning stroll with Pictours Paris. If you want to see more, come back later this week for the reveal! 

Our photo session was a perfect way to channel my little corner of the Marais to my new home, wherever that ends of being ...

Do you have any souvenirs you like to bring home with you from your travels? Or do you have more self-control than us?!

In Those Last Days

[If you're new here, I just moved from Paris to New York City just over a week ago. There will be many more posts about Paris in the weeks to come, but for today, this is a quick peek at our final days living abroad.]

When Michael and I moved to Paris, the plan was initially to stay until the end of 2013. As we set out on this adventure, two years of life abroad loomed ahead of me. It felt like it was going to be a ton of time away from home. But as you might gather, being that it’s mid-2015 and solid year and a half past that date, that time flew by. And for as quickly as that time passed, the “extension” period came and went in a blink of an eye.

Paris is an amazing place. I never knew I would fall so in love with this city (or any city for that matter), or that leaving it would hurt so much. But even in those last few days. after three years of living here, I still learned new things about Paris and re-learned some truths I had been taught along the way. 

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Live from...New York!

Bon mardi!

Today I’m writing live...from New York! After three years and three months of living in Paris, Michael and I finally moved back to the East Coast. We stayed in Europe a good year and a half longer than we intended to, and we’ve finally ended the jokes about us never coming back as we packed up and headed stateside on June 3rd.

So what is it like to be back? Well, let’s just say that living in the midst of Midtown is a bit different than the Marais. (And if you’re interested in the Marais, check out my guest post on Expat Edna to see just why I loved my neighborhood so much!) It’s noisy, both on the streets and in restaurants, life is fast-paced, and it’s crowded. But it’s also air-conditioned, spacious, and convenient living with stores open 24/7 and English being the primary language and all. It’s been less than a week and I know it will take many more to transition back to this American life.

And while you may be wondering about the move, you might also be questioning the future of Simply Sara Travel. It’s a great question, and one that I would love to answer today. New York is now my day-to-day reality, and I may be sharing some of it occasionally here. But my primary focus still remains - I intend to use this space to continue writing about Paris, France, and all the places I have traveled to in Europe. There is so much still to share - just wait until we start to talk about our amazing “Tour de France” we embarked on during the month of May! (I should mention, if you are ever moving, I highly recommend taking a month off for travel if you can swing it! But more on that later.)

More to come on our month-long adventure through France! Here we are, celebrating our 12 year dating anniversary in the adorable town of Gordes, France - a place I never dreamed we would be together 12 years prior! 

Thank you for patiently waiting for me to get things in swing again! I hope you will follow along even if my adventures aren’t unfolding in real-time. And in the meantime, please let me know if you have any tips for Manhattan! I’m looking for cute coffee shops to write in, little parks and quiet corners to get reprieve from the noise, smaller museums to discover, rooftop bars, and...I’m on a quest to see if I can find a bagel that compares to New Jersey’s! And any ideas for things to do in the city this summer :-) It’s good to be back!

Fermeture Exceptionnelle

Bon lundi!

Today’s French phrase of the week is: fermeture exceptionnelle. It’s a phrase that I learned early on during our time in France often to my frustration.

When we use the word “exceptional” in English, we are most likely using it to talk about something really good. As in, “wow, that meal was really exceptional!” But in French, it means the literal concept of something out of the ordinary. Hence, I would run into a sign on the door while trying to accomplish my daily errands of a fermeture exceptionnelle - as in, for whatever the reason, we’re not usually closed now but the doors are closed at the moment.

Then August rolled around, and I got an even bigger surprise. It turns out that people in France (and throughout Europe, really) take a month-long vacation in the summer. It usually falls over the month of August, though some take time off in July. Though taking an entire month-long chunk of time off all at once was odd coming from an American perspective, that wasn’t the shocker. The thing that I was unprepared for was that everyone leaves on a mass exodus from Paris.

This means that essential places are still open (supermarkets, cafes, and such) but many smaller businesses hang up a sign on their door, stating the dates they are closed -- which usually is 3-4 week span. This blew me away! I couldn’t believe that shops wouldn’t stagger vacation time for employees so that the store could still make money during the summer.

It’s still hard for the opportunistic American in me to grasp, but on the other hand, I appreciate the way people here approach life. There is value in taking time off, spending time with family, and rejuvenating mind and body. And maybe it’s worth more to sacrifice some business for a month in order that all employees can have that time off. 

So all that to say that I’m taking a lesson from the French, and posting my own fermeture exceptionnelle on my blog. (If you just come by, I’ll fill you in quick - I’ve lived in Paris for three years and am about to move to NYC. Before that though, we’re going on a farewell “Tour de France” trip for the month of May.) I’ve decided to completely disconnect and fully be present on our grand trip through France. That means I’m not going to be blogging, or obsessing  over social media. I’m going to follow the lead of the French, and use my month-long vacation to rejuvenate and just enjoy every last moment I have left in France.

BUT...I will still be active on Instagram! I usually don’t post photos in real time as I travel, but this time I will. So if you want to follow along on our Tour de France, follow me @SimplySaraTravel for live updates! And if you’re Instagram-less (looking at you, Mom!), you can view my feed on the sidebar. Alternatively, you can go to my Instagram page on the web to check out my entire photo gallery.

The scenery will be different than Iceland, but once again I'll be at the wheel for the month of May during our big adventure through France!

Also - just because I’m moving to NYC doesn’t mean the focus of this blog will change. I have entire trips and countries I have never shared about here, so I have plenty to keep writing about within the scope of Europe. (Though let me know if you’d be interested in things related to New York in the comments below!)

See you in June!!

Simply Sara

My "Souvenirs" of France: Part 2

If you missed the last post explaining my awesome pun, I'll fill you in: "Souvenir" in French can mean that knick-knack you need to buy for family and friends back home to show you thought of them on vacation, but it can also mean "memories." So in light of our near departure back to the US, here's Part II of my mini-series reminiscing about my favorite souvenirs I've acquired during my travels in France.

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My "Souvenirs" of France: Part 1

Yup, I had to name this little series with a pun! "Souvenir" in French also means “memory,” and some of the best things I will be carrying back to the US with me after three years of life abroad are the memories I hold of this place. Last week I painted a picture of some of the places we’ve traveled to within France. This week, as promised, is the first batch of my favorite moments experienced within the country.

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Santé to France!

Bon lundi!

I’ve been enjoying reflecting on my time in France lately. Last week I wrote that Michael and I both need some time to process together our “unexpected love affair with France,” and I truly mean that. I like to remind Michael from time to time that he never wanted to visit Paris, or France, ever. Five years ago we were planning a vacation to Italy, and Michael was really excited to share with me some of his favorite places he saw when he had studied abroad there one summer in college. I really wanted to see Italy too but got in my head the idea to tack on Paris to the end of the trip. Michael didn’t seem to see the draw of Paris, but finally struck a compromise to go for the last three days.

I throw this little “I told you so” at my hubby every now and then as I tease him that we now live in the city he once turned his nose up at. But the truth is, I didn’t have it completely right either. My debate point was if we went to Paris just that one time, I would forever get it out of my system, check off the box next to the Eiffel Tower, and move on. Neither of us had any idea how much Paris would get under our skin. Life’s funny that way.

Living in Paris for the past three years, we've also had the opportunity to do a bit of travel around France. Last week I gave you the big picture of our travels, mainly through photos. This week I’m continuing to reflect on our time in France, but this time it’s about the specifics. Last week was the photography-focused post that I hope offered some travel inspiration. This week is about the accompanying stories that need to be told. There are so many beautiful places in the world, and France is just one of many. But to me this pretty face stands out among so many others and I want to show you why France has forever impacted me. This week is about the fondest memories I have of France I will always carry in my heart, no matter where I live. 

The theme this week is story time throughout France - with a sub-theme of vineyard visits in France!

So more on this later in the week. For now, keep those France tips coming (and thank you to everyone who has helped me brainstorm our Tour de France)! 

Discover France, Outside of Paris!

I made my big announcement on Monday. In case you missed it, the time has come for Michael and me to pack our bags and move back to the US after three wonderful, full years of life in Paris. The specifics will come later, but know that it is a happy decision for us and we’re really looking forward to our next adventure in New York City -- and don’t worry: the traveling (and blogging) are not going to stop! 

Yet regardless that we are happily and willfully moving on, a big change like this doesn’t come without heartbreak and sadness. Our time in Paris has forever changed our lives for the better, and over these past few weeks I can’t help but reflect on all the happy memories we’ve shared.

One outcome of living in Paris is that we’ve had the opportunity to explore a decent amount of the country outside of its capital. France is very diverse, and I highly recommend to anyone to visit Paris (because it really is always a good idea) but then to get outside and explore other regions of France as well. In hopes to introduce you to a taste of what France has to offer, here’s a little photo montage of where we’ve been in France. I’ve roughly organized the post starting from the north and heading southward. I hope this produces a bit of curiosity to travel around this gorgeous country or motivates you to see more of it!

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Calling All Fellow France Lovers: I need your help!

Bon lundi!

It’s a little bit scary to be write down this next sentence and publish it into the black hole of the Internet. My time living abroad in Paris is coming to an end soon. There. I said it.

I’m not going to harp on it right now, though I’ll fill you in later if you want to hear the emotional side of it. (Re: It’s an roller coaster of sadness, bitter-sweetness, excitement, mixed in with periods of denial, fear, and overall stress.) The point today though is that I need some help from my fellow France lovers and France travelers!

Michael and I are planning a goodbye trip, or a “Tour de France,” if you will. We need some time to process our unexpected love affair with France and get some closure, and we’re choosing to do this in the form of a month-long road trip. The problem is there is so much to see, and as you can imagine, we have a lot on our plate with the move, never mind planning a month-long journey.

So this is where I’m hoping you all can share some France love! These next two weeks I’ll be sharing some of my highlights so far of the parts of France I’ve seen. Perhaps it will inspire some of your own French adventures. And my hope is that you might put on your thinking caps and help me brainstorm some of the must-sees of France. We’re focusing our road trip on Dordogne, Basque, Languedoc, a touch of Midi-Pyrénées, Provence, and then returning back towards Paris via the eastern border of France, hitting Alsace on the way. That’s the big picture - now we need to fill in our route with the specifics.

So please let me know during the next two weeks where you think we should go! Merci!!

There's plenty of France to see outside of Paris - like catching stunning Mediterranean sunsets in Marseille 

Back to Paris

Bon lundi!

As much as I still have more I can write about my trip through Poland, it is time to say that my Poland series has come to a close - at least for now! This week I'm looking forward to bring the blog back into "real time." Or at least almost into real time, as spring just officially began I'm here I am, talking about this winter. We spent most of our time in Paris this winter, save for weekend trips to Lyon, Bologna, Venice, and Antwerp. I'll be sharing this week about what we've been up to lately!