Relaxing in Wroclaw

It’s a classic example of what came first: the chicken or the egg? Wroclaw was the last stop on our trip through Poland before we made our way back to Krakow to get our flight home to Paris. I’m not sure if our time in Wroclaw was so laid back because of general travel fatigue at that point, or if it was just a perfect city to take things a bit slower. Maybe at that point in my travel research I got a little more lax after tackling an in-depth document of things to do and eat in all of the preceding cities (I’m not as intense a traveler as I used to be, but still am a bit type-A when it comes to planning!). Most likely, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. All I do know was our almost three days in Wroclaw were characterized by lots of relaxing and chilling out, sprinkled with tons of laughter.

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Understanding Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw. I knew I couldn’t plan a trip around Poland without hitting the capital city. Yet as I mentioned before, it seemed to be unpopular with a majority of tourists who didn’t like its modern feel. In fact, it seemed to be unpopular with some of the Poles as well. On our last night in Krakow, upon hearing what our next destination was, our bartender proclaimed Warsaw to be “the most hated city in Poland.” And further elaborated that it was a place where “the uneducated live like kings.” So with that last vote of confidence, we left picture-perfect Krakow to see what Warsaw had in store for us.

At first look, I could see why there’s a lack of love for Warsaw. It was modern and shiny, busy and bustling, befitting of an international capital. Many of its visitors whether Polish or otherwise come for business. Those who come for pleasure seem to dismiss it in favor of smaller, more manageable cities.

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All Hype or Just Right? Krakow, Poland

Krakow. Whenever I heard about fellow travelers’ experiences in Poland, this city was one of the first words off their lips, or off the proverbial lips of blogs. Krakow was a clear favorite of many and given these high praises I wondered how it would all hold up in person. I had created high expectations and wondered if they would be met. And perhaps part of me wanted my opinion to differ. After all, had all these people set aside two weeks to travel around Poland? Surely I would prefer less touristy city like Wroclaw. 

There is certainly more to Poland than just the city of Krakow and the country deserves more time of a traveler to experience its diversity. Yet I’m going to admit it - I utterly fell in love with Krakow. It’s a must-visit on any Poland itinerary, and if I were to formally draw up a top 10 of Europe list, Krakow would make the cut. 

Let me try to back my opinion up - if the food alone doesn't convince you, here are some things I did and saw that made me join the ranks with many others declaring Krakow a Polish favorite.

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Take me "Bach" to Leipzig

Today's post is a guest post from a special someone - my husband! It's his first guest post, and appropriately on a subject he has always been passionate about, his favorite composer of all time. It's the reason we made Leipzig, Germany a stop on our first European Christmas market tour in 2012. Although it felt like a concession at the time on my end, it was a surprisingly delightful town that earned our superlative of "the most local" Christmas market we have visited, and all of this to do:

While we were planning our trip through Germany to see the Christmas markets, there was one thing on my Christmas wish list that had nothing to do with hot spiced wine or baked German treats: the town of Leipzig.

In America, Leipzig earns a mere footnote in our contemporary world history textbooks: they are mostly known for two things:

  • Their failure to prosecute WWI war crimes (this is one of the primary reasons the Nuremberg Trials took place: the Allies didn't trust Germany to prosecute the war crimes on their own this time)
  • The Monday demonstrations which led to the fall of the Berlin wall

Going further back in history though, Leipzig was a notable cultural center of the world. Martin Luther preached here, and some of the greatest minds in music have lived, worked, and/or visited here -- including Mozart and Schumann -- but most importantly...

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Pre-Opening at the Musée Picasso

Have you ever been known in your group for some sort of never-ending saga? This happened to me when I was moving into my first apartment in New Jersey and had months of issues with acquiring a couch. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that we paid for the couch in full, and then every time we called to check on the status of the delivery, it was further from being made (going from being in transit to the distribution warehouse to unraveling before our eyes when our fabric of choice suddenly was out of stock). I became the girl at work with no couch, which provided lots to talk about at the copy machine as the story just kept getting more ridiculous.

Once again in Paris I can take part once again in a long, drawn-out tale, but thankfully this one is a bit less personal and inconvenient. For the past two and a half years, I've been following closely the progress (and drama) of the Picasso Museum’s renovation and long-awaited re-opening. 

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Day trip from Paris: Chartres, France, Part II

10 Things to do in Chartres besides the Cathedral

Let’s be clear. If you are going to Chartres, you are making the trip to visit its incredible cathedral. It truly is something special and deserving of your time and focus while in town. It’s perfectly acceptable to treat Chartres as a stop to see the Cathedral and then move on. But should you choose to hang around longer, there is plenty more to do.

I spent the weekend (a full day and a half) in Chartres. With more than enough time to see the Cathedral, I had plenty of time to explore. Let’s follow my route around town so I can show you what else the city has to offer:

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Paris Practicalities: 15 Ways to Maximize Your Budget in Paris

In the "Paris Practicalities" series, I lay out some basic advice for the foundation of a trip abroad for the well-informed and savvy traveler.

Paris has a reputation for being a notoriously expensive city to visit. While it is pricey - especially when compared to neighboring countries Spain, Italy, and Germany or even the rest of France - it doesn't have to be a ridiculously pricey destination. Here are 15 ways you can maximize your budget during your time in Paris:

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Gold and Glitz: The Restored "From Louis XIV to Louis XVI" rooms in the Louvre

I've found a new favorite section of the Musée du Louvre. There's a lot to choose from and despite my annual membership I still have more ground to cover. But for now, I declare the newly reopened section entitled "De Louis XIV à Louis XVI" (From Louis XIV to Louis XVI) one of my preferred series of rooms to walk through during a visit.

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Park it in Paris: Jardin des Plantes

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 fact that Paris is divided by a river has set the stage for the age-old debate of Left Bank versus Right Bank. At least we can say that the city's beginnings took place on the neutral ground of Île de la Cité, and it remains the heart of Paris. (If you stand in the square facing Notre Dame Cathedral, in Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame, look for the star plaque on the ground. All route distances from Paris are measured from that marker.) I like to imagine that when the city was ready to expand off the island, it was the time when the two camps were formed.

I will admit that I am a Right Bank girl all the way. I live on that side and spend most of my time there. If I didn't have friends who live on the Left Bank, it would be easy for me to go weeks with crossing over a bridge. 

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Inside the Musée Gustave Moreau

If you happen to be in Paris on the first Sunday of the month, make a mental note of it and be sure to check out a museum or two! That's because many museums offer free entrance. (Take a look at en.parisinfo.com for a list and be sure to check the time frame as some museums only offer this during the off-peak season.)

This free museum day can be good for saving some money on big ticket sites such as €11 admission to the Musée d'Orsay (completely worth it in my opinion though). Lately I've been utilizing free admission Sundays to explore museums I might not otherwise want to commit to monetarily. It introduced me to the cool Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature that I had reservations about visiting (a hunting and nature museum?! Let's just leave it that my girl scout troop "camped" in hotels back in the day). 

When my aunt and cousin were in town on the first Sunday of July, we decided to stop in the Musée Gustave Moreau to explore.

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Something Old, Something New

Bon lundi!

Summer is in full swing, bringing with it school break, time off, vacation, and...summer visitors! One thing I didn't realize before moving to Paris was that it would give us the opportunity to host dear friends and family and share our new home with them. Counterintuitively it's proven to often allow us more quality time with loved ones than we ever had living at home. Especially being out and about in the city, cutting visitors off of the wifi access they so crave. 

Recently my aunt and cousin had the opportunity to visit us for a week. I loved every minute with those girls! It allowed me to share some places that I love with them, like the Musée d'Orsay (it had been too long since my last visit there!) and also pushed me to discover some new places too. Follow me this week as I share some of our findings! 

The Musée d'Orsay is a fabulous art museum that used to be a train station known as Gare d'Orsay in its former life!

Park it in Paris: Place des Vosges

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.

It wouldn't be right to continue the Park it in Paris series without stopping to acknowledge one of Paris' most beautiful squares. Sure, Place des Vosges may not be a secret, but it is well known and loved with good reason.

Place des Vosges is in the Marais and has the distinction of being the oldest planned square in the city. Its example was followed throughout Europe. It was commissioned by King Henry IV and inaugurated in 1612 for the wedding of his son, Louis XIII (whose statue can be seen in the middle of the square, mounted on horseback). The square was unique at the time because the style of the building facades were designed to be uniform and harmonious, featuring all that gorgeous red brick.

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Ten Free Activities in Paris: Summer 2014 Edition

Paris can be a notoriously pricey city to visit, but a visit doesn't have to break the bank. Here are some ideas of completely gratuit (free) events and activities available to enjoy this summer. Profitez! 

1. Enjoy a view from the terrace of the Institut du Monde Arabe. 

I asked on Monday for guesses on where a free terrace in Paris could be that offers a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and a view of Notre Dame. The answer? At the Institut du Monde Arabe in the 5th. 

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