Aug 2, 2013

Adieu, Bourgogne

During our last week in Burgundy we visited one more chateau, enjoyed long walks around town, & managed to pack up our summer in just seven suitcases. (Traveling light seems to come naturally to us...)

One of our favorite visits was to the Château de Cormatin, just an hour drive from us. Built in the seventeenth century the Château displays a beautiful garden, turrets, & an impressive moat.












We took a lovely tour of the Château (which is how I'm able to tell you any historical information...) that led us into the princesses' quarters.




The only private room in the house where the princess would dress & bathe.



Then my own little princess posed by the stream...

On Saturday we said goodbye to our favorite venders at the market. After purchasing our usual groceries we ate at a new cafe called F & B that we'd been eyeing for quite some time. The food left us very satisfied with our last meal in Beaune.


Mrs. C tried the Ahi Tuna


I devoured their savory burger & fries


H enjoyed some vanilla ice cream after lunch

We returned to Saint-Aubin after a very pleasant outing & spent our final days taking in all the beauty our little town has to offer.












After H said goodbye to her favorite little red horse & we gave hugs & kisses to Madame Michelle we were ready to travel back to London. It wasn't easy leaving our home away from home; it has grown to mean so much to us. Tears were shed while driving away from the most incredible summer of my life. I thought back to the phone call when Mr. C asked me to join his family in France this summer & how, even though he gave me a day to "think it over", I knew my answer immediately. I feel so fortunate to have had this beautiful experience with my wonderful second family.

Jul 19, 2013

Living as Locals

So much has changed since we drove into our little Burgundian town in early June. We've picked up some French, made wonderful friends, & learned a lot about the culture here among the vineyards. We decided we were comfortable & confident enough to start enjoying some new experiences with the locals. The kids started horseback riding lessons, we explored nearby parks, participated in a sports festival, & visited a chateau just minutes from our home.

The horse stable is beautifully situated on several acres of rolling green pastures. Our instructor Julie Anne, a lovely French girl, was both kind & patient with Connor & Dylan as they walked & trotted around the ring & then out in the fields. Even Hampton enjoyed her first pony ride on her new friend, Phoebe.










My new friend, Romeo






As you all know, Saturday mornings are spent at the Beaune Market to buy fresh food for the week. This Saturday, however, we explored a nearby park while Mum & Dad did the shopping.




We brought plenty of baguette for some lucky ducks...


...& even saw some ducklings!


Of course we found a playground!






Connor & Dylan dominated the McDo Kids Sport event in town. Apparently it's a big thing across France sponsored, ironically, by McDonald's. It's basically the equivalent of an American school's field day. There were stations set up across a huge closed area with various sports to have a go at.


D was the last one alive in the "sharks & minnows" rugby game


Connor rocked the high jump


Miss Hampton loved the dancing mat


& of course both boys were the best at basketball (French kids don't play as much as us Americans...)




Lastly they enjoyed some old fashioned brotherly competition in the relay races...


...& earned themselves a spot in the local paper!! (Bottom left picture)

Just the other day we all jumped in the car to visit Château de Sully. The stunning estate is nestled within the countryside next to the world famous Côte de Beaune vineyards. Home to duchesse de Magenta and her family, it is the largest residential château in our little region of France. My king, princess, & knight led the way across the moat to explore.









After a tour of the inside, H & I walked through the gardens...




On our way home we stopped in Nolay, a quaint town in the heart of the Cozanne Valley. We enjoyed a light lunch & soaked up the sun while H cooled off in the fountains.


Beautiful wooden framed houses surrounded the courtyard


Le Thé dans la Vigne, a delightful looking tea room is apparently a hidden gem in Burgundy




Someone had to borrow my shirt on drive home...

On a much shorter detour, we found an old windmill used from 1851-1995. We stopped to take in the incredible views of the vineyards.




Once home, Miss Michelle invited me over to show off her homemade cherry preserves. (& I mean really homemade, she picked the cherries from the tree in her garden.)




Her stunning garden filled with fruit trees, flowers, & grape vines.

After all our amazing adventures we feel like locals here in Burgundy. Sadly it's our last week at our home away from home, but we will always cherish the memories we have made here.

Jul 14, 2013

Visitors

I am terribly sorry I haven't posted in over a week, but I promise I have a good excuse! My Mum & best friend Audrey came to visit all the way from the States. We met in Paris last weekend & strutted around like we owned the place. A & I felt fairly comfortable navigating the city, but it was Mum's first trip so we happily showed her the major must sees.


Tuileries Garden, surrounded by sunbathers on a hot July day


Musée du Louvre




Notre Dame


La Seine

We made our way back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. We decided to find a spot near the Eiffel Tower to admire the twinkling lights that appear after dark.




Cheers




Can you imagine living here?


The main attraction, all lit up for the entire city to see

After a long day we collapsed into our warm, cozy beds & quickly fell sound asleep. The next morning I politely encouraged the other two to stop by Starbucks before breakfast. The three of us walked past the Opera House, got our coffee, & found a delightful bakery along the way.


Fuel for the day




Fauchon, my new favorite Parisian bakery


Audrey introduced us to an unbelievable market in Northern Paris where we discovered a whole different side to the city. We felt like locals navigating the metro, speaking French to shopkeepers, & wandering outside of the typical tourist areas. The market had everything you could imagine. We walked through rows of men & women selling clothes, jewelry, food, flowers, & antiques.








This beautiful display reminded me of my Grandparent's bookshelves




All of our adventuring made us hungry so we sat down at a wonderful cafe to indulge in some French & some not-so-French classics.


We shared a savory Croque-monsieur...


...& big ol' juicy cheese burger

After lunch we popped into Ladurée for some macaroons & weaved in & out of shops on Rue Saint Honoré & Champs Elysées as we made our way back to the Eiffel Tower.












Selfies at the Eiffel Tower? Yep...




That evening we chose a nice little restaurant on the river with a beautiful view of the Notre Dame.


Brave Mum & A ordered the escargot...


I gave it another try & it turns out the 3rd time's the charm! ;)

After dinner Audrey & I went for drinks at the Buddha Bar. Although it's not at all Parisian, we wanted to give it a try!


"The Ultimate"...I let it burn a little too long & one of my straws suffered the consequences...


A's drink

The drinks were fantastic, the atmosphere was very cool, & had it not been a Monday night we probably would've stayed a bit longer. If you're looking for some fun in Paris I would highly recommend it. On our last day in Paris we walked back to the Tuileries for a crepe & found a massive fair set up.






I'm not entirely sure what it was there for, but it sure did look fun! We kept walking to the Pont des Arts to see the love locks.




That's a lotta love

That afternoon we checked out of our hotel, kissed Pair-ee goodbye, & drove our zippy Peugeot all the way to our house in Burgundy. The next three days were filled with adventures in Beaune, Dijon, & of course our little town of Saint-Aubin.


Beaune






Notre Dame in Beaune


Lunch at Caveau des Arches (hidden gem with the best Beef Bourguignon in Beaune)




Amazing bottle of white from Chateau de Meursault


Escargot smothered in garlic butter


Beef Bourguignon


Chateau de Pommard


A & me in garden




My beautiful Mum


The experience started with a self-guided tour of the chateau...


Old wine making machines


Original Salvador Dali sculpture


Courtyard filled with huge wine barrels


Gator for Nans


Then we met with our guide who took us down to the wine cellar


Thirsty, anyone?




Walking through Saint-Aubin




We ended the trip with a goodbye supper in our neighbor's courtyard. It was a traditional French meal complete with friends, family, & lots & lots of wine from the caveau. We dined & danced into the late hours of the night.

*Pictures courtesy of Audrey's camera



'85 from the caveau


Poppin' the champagne...


A & Pierre


Our boyfriends for the evening






The next morning I said goodbye to Mum & A as we all went our separate ways. Returning to places you've been with people you haven't been there with makes it an entirely different experience. We saw new sights, ate new food, met new friends, & had one fabulous new adventure together.

Jul 4, 2013

Notre Petite Ville

With only three weeks left in our lovely little village we have been fully enjoying each moment we have here. Most mornings after our freshly delivered croissants are smothered in Nutella & washed down with cold milk we go for a walk through the town or jump into the pool. On one of our "adventure walks" we discovered a big grassy area with a soccer field, basketball court, & playground. It's become our favorite place to wander off to - not only because of the fun we have there, but the walk itself is breathtakingly beautiful.






We snuck into a "secret" garden we found along the way




















Finally, we made it to the field


Hampton loves riding the horsey




Connor & D throwing the football








H picking Dandelions (RAWR!)




Happy little girl in the field


& happy little boys in the vineyard


After a delicious home cooked meal courtesy of Mum, we cozied up on the couch with the heat from the fireplace keeping us warm until bedtime.




Jun 30, 2013

Land of the Owl, Home of the Mustard

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit Dijon for the day in order to get a feel for the city before bringing the little ones along. After three alarms, several yawns, & one terrifying incident with a spider I was ready to go. I arrived at my platform promptly at 9:47 all set for my 9:48 train. (I'm subtly bringing the American college student time schedule to France.) I wasn't alone on this; the station was practically abandoned until five minutes before the train when people flooded in from nowhere to get to Dijon.

The forecast called for cloudy skies & rain so (thanks to my temporary mom) I packed accordingly, but secretly hoped the sun would make an appearance. Nothing could stop me from exploring the home of mustard! (Shout out to my adorable little cousin Noelle, a renowned mustard-lover.)

So off I was to another city with a different story to tell. Upon arrival I headed straight to the tourism office where I was given everything I needed to take on the town. I decided to follow "The Owl's Trail" leading me through the history & charming sites of Dijon. It's about a two hour tour, but of course I made my own route due to my unstoppable curiosity.


The little owls I followed throughout the city


Jardin Darcy, the town's first public garden created in 1880






Porte Guillaume, the town's 18th century arch situated at the top of the main shopping street rue de Liberte


The Place Grangier




The Covered Market, filled with divine smells from the fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, & other treats inside
















This friendly guy waited patiently for his owner to finish grocery shopping


My next stop was Place François Rude, named after the famous Dijon sculptor who created the Arc de Triomphe in Paris


Grape harvester




This little, hidden bakery displayed miniature tables set with scones & coffee - so cute!


Dijon's Notre-Dame


Legend has it if you touch the owl with your left hand & make a wish it will come true


Maison Millière, built in 1483, was used in the film "Cyrano de Bergerac"


I spy a cat on the roof


L'Hôtel de Vogüé


La Nef


Eglise St-Michel


The theatre


Tour Philippe le Bon (Philip the good, Dad! It's your tower!)


Place de la Libération, the royal square in Dijon designed in 1685


Palais des Ducs et Des Etats de Bourgogne


That afternoon I got back on the train home. I stared out the window at the fields of tall grass sprinkled with bright red poppies as we sped past old wineries & stucco houses consumed by green ivy. Every town we passed had a big, beautiful church that stood tall watching over the villagers below. It amazes me that to some people this has been home for hundreds of years. Our neighbor for example told us her vineyards have been in her family for over 800 years. Talk about a family business!

I got home safely & reported back to the family. It was a wonderful day in a city filled with owls, architecture, & mustard.

Jun 24, 2013

To Market, To Market

Life in Burgundy is beautiful. We've fully adjusted to our new surroundings & have grown to love our summer home. Being new to the area we did some research & asked the locals what there is to do around town. After creating a long list of wineries, shops, & restaurants we decided to spend the weekend diving right into it.

Friday was the celebration of the Summer Solstice. We spent the day enjoying Beaune on our own (as most everyone else was at school or work) until eventually others started to show up for the evening festivities.




Of course we rode the carousel






H & I popped into Sephora to use the sample nail polish for a colorful manicure


Later that day the little town was packed with performers at every corner. Bands of various genres filled the air with music & the streets with dancers. With the sunlight lasting until nearly eleven o'clock the party kept going until late into the night.


In the car thinking I'm way cooler than I am


The next morning a very tired group of Burgundians slid out of bed to visit the street market. Beaune was once again transformed, but this time by vendors from all over the countryside. They brought with them everything from handwoven baskets to handpicked strawberries.




















H trying on some new shades






The market is a wonderful place to fill your senses with Burgundy: you see all the people, smell the fresh produce, taste the local wines, & hear the true sounds of Beaune. After we collected our goods (which included fresh fruit, flowers, delicious cheeses, & wine of course) we had a quick dinner & resumed our poolside positions for the remainder of the day.


Our growing wine collection


"Thanks for the spaghetti, Laura!"


Jun 21, 2013

Swiss Bliss

Last weekend all six of us hopped on the train to Switzerland for several days, being the little world travelers we are. Our destination of choice was Montreux, a lively little town happily situated on the edge of Lake Geneva. The scenery took my breath away.


Upon arrival we enjoyed our first Swiss meal on the Lake followed by some down time in our hotel. That evening we went to Vevey, Montreux's neighboring & equally as beautiful town. We explored the waterfront, discovered a large play area for children, & found a lovely restaurant for us to dine at. Of course there was ice cream devoured afterwards.




The next morning we woke up early to enjoy some fresh, Swiss air on a walk along the Lake. The fishermen were already set up in a row while several other early birds were in the middle of their morning exercise routines. Swimming docks sprinkle the edge of the water, welcoming anyone to take a cool dip on a hot day. We were pleasantly surprised on our way back to find the beginnings of a street market being set up.




Sweet little home for some very happy Mallards




Snapped a shot of the famous casino (apparently gambling is a rarity in Switzerland)


Mr. Freddie Mercury - the famous Queen singer spent some of his years writing & recording in Montreux


I kept an eye on C, D, & H while mom & dad returned with fresh crescents for breakfast. It turned into a spectacularly sunshiny day so we spent the rest of our morning enjoying the outdoors. Afterwards H & I resorted to our hotel room to take a long & much needed nap.

That afternoon we said our goodbyes to mom, dad, C, & D as they left for an adventurous expedition to Grindelwald. H & I returned to the market, which was now overflowing with people, to run, dance, & play until the sun went down.


First taste of cotton candy...wasn't so sure about the stuff


Observing the ducks & fish in the Lake


Crystal clear water


Goin on a "train" ride!


The next day was chock-full of activities. We took the first boat to Vevey to get to the closest Starbucks for me to fuel up on caffeine while H sipped on her first Vanilla Bean Frappuccino. With familiar flavors lingering in our mouths we walked to the funicular that would take us all the way up to Mont Pèlerin. The ride up the mountain was a little scary, but exciting - imagine being on a roller coaster that only went up at a 60º angle. Once we arrived at the top the spectacular views made it all worth it. We even found a playground overlooking the Lake! After hiking up the hills & taking in the scenery, we made our way back down to Vevey.








#sipface


Frightened on the funicular










After a quick nap we were back on the boat cruising to Chillon Castle.








We discovered the little "beach" next to the castle so, naturally, we went for a swim.




We splashed in Lake Geneva until the rain started to pour & we ran under the trees for cover. We took a short bus ride home & quickly fell fast asleep after a very busy day.


On our last day we ran through the streets of Montreux like wild women feeling free & filled with happiness.




The next morning we boarded our train back to Burgundy with our hearts overflowing with Swiss satisfaction. Montreux was a wonderful experience never to be forgotten.


Jun 13, 2013

Home Away From Home

After two weeks of traveling from one city to another we arrived at our final destination in Burgundy. Our lively little town is situated between acres upon acres of vineyards. Almost every house on our street is owned by winemakers who are more than happy to have visitors knock on their door to sample their best bottles. A bread truck comes every morning to deliver fresh baked goods from the shop up the road. Most of our days are spent lounging by the pool or playing in our garden. It's not a bad life...












H playing in our backyard


Run, run, run!

We feel very safe & very happy in our new summer home, & I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this adventure. Watching C & D make up games in the pool reminds me exactly of how my sister & I used to when we were their age. H is learning how to swim & has made a lot of progress since we arrived. We have a great little deck area that is used for relaxing, eating lunch, or having dance parties...whatever fits the mood.








As you have probably noticed we have lots of gardening space. The owner of the house was kind enough to provide us with some vegetables & herbs to tend to over the summer so the boys & I ventured out to the dirt with shovels & gloves to create our masterpiece.


After our long days soaking up the sun we team up to make delicious dinners to enjoy in our 16th century wine cellar. We have been spoiled to death with delicious reds that come from vineyards just miles away.






More dancing, of course.

I'm having a fantastic time here & love this laid-back lifestyle that seems to exude from everyone around us. It is the perfect place to spend a summer & an even better place to be fully immersed in French culture. I feel like I'm still dreaming when I open my door to this view every morning:


Pretty stunning, huh? We're back on the go this weekend, making our way to Switzerland this time. I'll have plenty of photos to share then!

Jun 8, 2013

Paris, je t'aime

On our last morning in Paris we made a visit to the exquisite Jardin du Luxembourg. It was another astonishingly beautiful day so we set out to soak up the sun in the most Parisian way possible. Our first stop at the park was the children's playground, naturally.


The boys conquered the rope climb...


...& the zip line.




Little Miss H preferred the sandbox.

You have to pay a small fee in exchange for a stamp on your hand & access to a very safe, clean environment for the kids to run free while parents & au pairs can relax. It's a brilliant idea because the entire playground is extremely well maintained & organized. (My kinda place!)


One.


Two.


Three. Ha.


H found a little European beau...


...it was quite cute...




...until big brother interrupted her flirtation.

After the little ones were worn out we strolled through the more historic portions of the park. We avoided the crowds by visiting on a Friday so everyone had more space to run around without any worry of losing sight of one another. Surrounded by blooming flowers & shaded by bountiful trees we found ourselves at the Luxembourg Palace, home to the French Senate.




Can't you just see Maruis & Cosette falling in love here? I mean, who wouldn't?


We met some fine feathered friends who were very eager for us to share our madeleines.


H was a big fan.




I couldn't get enough of how adorable she was with the ducks. Then something else caught my eye...an elderly man sat patiently feeding the pigeons & sparrows that flocked to his chair. I looked back to H who was still giggling at the birds as they fluffed up their feathers & quacked for more bits of cake. Observing both of them made me think about how incredible our world is. Here are two people, young & old, who don't speak the same language, live in the same place, or have anything in common other than the pure joy that comes to them through sitting in a park on a sunny day & feeding the birds...clear evidence that happiness is most often found in simplicity.



On our way out of the park we stopped at the Medici Fountain.


In the afternoon we meandered through the streets of Paris including Mr. C's favorite, Rue de Buci. It was full of quaint cafés, cute shops, & a wonderful farmers' market.


This lovely little blue set up reminded me of my grandmother's garden






We ended the day with supper at a fun Italian restaurant called Pizzeria Sant Antonio. My penne pasta, the boys' bolognese, & our pepperoni pizza were all fantastic. It was an early night as we knew the next day would be a long one traveling to our final destination in Eastern France. I'm very excited to arrive at our summer home away from home; can't wait to tell you all about it!

P.S. Remember the ongoing viewing party of the French Open I mentioned?

Pretty cool, huh?

Jun 6, 2013

Parlez-vous français?

After leaving London our journey to Paris was an easy one. We hopped on the Eurostar & were in France before we knew it.


H is a very chic traveler.


"Je suis sexy & I know it."

We were greeted by our driver at the train station & kindly dropped off at our home for the week. Located close by the river & steps from the Centre Georges Pompidou we were quickly immersed into Parisian culture.






H felt right at home running around the garden

Across the street hundreds of people sat in a courtyard watching the French Open on a huge flatscreen. We joined the festivities until we decided it was time for dinner.

The first night we dined together next to the Beaubourg to celebrate our arrival.




H loved chasing the pigeons next to the museum while waiting on the food to arrive.


She's very good about holding onto my fingers & staying close.

The next day we found our kid-friendly routine. Every morning we take the metro to the Tuileries Garden where C, D, & H run around on the playground, ride the carrousel, & jump on the trampolines. Around noon we pick up some sandwiches to enjoy by the fountains then make our way back home for H's nap. The Tuileries is absolutely stunning during the first week of June...








C ruling the playground




One of the prettiest carousels I've ever seen


Spending her college tuition riding the carousel...








Representing my AXiD all over Pair-ee ;)


Our favorite spot for lunch in the gardens


Baby girl dozed off in the sunshine

In the afternoons we are a bit more adventurous & delve into every inch of Paris' alluring history. On C's birthday we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower (on our very own private lift), yesterday we walked along the Seine, & today the boys & I ran around the Parc de la Vilette.




On our way up...don't look down!








Fountain across from the Eiffel Tower


Louvre


Pont Alexandre III


Notre Dame


Parc de la Vilette


La Géode




Innocent little sticker monster

It has been an incredible week filled with love, laughter, & lots of bakery treats! I have learned so much from this experience already. It's a truly remarkable gift to see the world through the eyes of a child. They find beauty in the smallest things that adults tend to overlook. I can't elaborate enough how incredibly grateful I am to have this beautiful family in my life. Tomorrow is our last day in Paris & we plan to make the most of it. Until then...


Jun 4, 2013

Last Days of London

Mother Nature must have read my last post because our final days in London were abundantly sunny & beautiful. On Friday I took the kids to the Natural History Museum, naturally. We arrived just as it opened so we got in without a wait. C was our "official" museum guide & led us through almost every exhibit.






Our private guide was very serious about his job


A little blurry, but D sweetly led his little sister around the big museum


These dodos found the Dodo bird!



Since the weather was so nice we ventured out to the gardens after exploring inside.




This little guy seemed quite content with his house in the middle of the pond


Baby girl making wishes on wishing flowers

Around noon we noticed our rumbling tummies & ate at the Darwin Café overlooking the gardens. (We were a bit too nervous to eat outside due to the overwhelming amount of equally hungry pigeons.) That evening mum & dad stayed home with the kids while I took the train back to where all my UK adventures began: Guildford.




The train ride through Surrey is stunning. I'm sure my British mates will laugh at me for this, but I think the green hills & fields of flowers are some of the most delightful in the world. They weren't, however, the reason I travelled down south (obviously...) I was on my way to see a wonderful old friend who I met during my gap year. We caught up over Wagamama (ohhh how I missed Wagamama) & Cabernet Sauvignon.


We were having too much fun to think to take any photographs (bad blogger, Laura!) but after dinner my friend led me to a lovely little bar called Pews. I enjoyed one too many cocktails & was very tempted to stay out, but luckily my friend's decision-making skills were more in tact than mine & I caught the last train back to London.

The next morning I met yet another wonderful friend from back home in the States. She studied abroad last semester at Southampton so we were determined to spend a day together in London. We met in Sloane Square around 9am on a blue-skied Saturday & decided to stroll through Portobello Market. Notting Hill is such a charming little part of London. The colorful houses, blooming flowers, & famous market makes it one of my favorite places to visit.





We picked up some fresh crepes for breakfast


I went for the lemon & sugar & my friend indulged in the Nutella











There was so. much. food. You can find any type of cuisine one could ever imagine on Portobello Market. The street was flooded with people, flowers, fruits, vegetables, & pretty much anything you could ever want.


This made me smile


So did this...

On our way back we decided to stroll through the less visited streets of Notting Hill.







We then made our way to Covent Garden for lunch at Café Rouge.




My croque-monsieur with pommes frites & a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio

After lunch we shopped a bit more until I met Mrs. C & took little H home while the rest of the family had dinner at Goodman Steak House & saw Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (both got great reviews.) H & I ate one last dinner at Pizza Express, shared a gelato from Amorino, took the bus home, & snuggled into bed. It was a fantastic final day in one of my favorite places in the world.

The next morning we finished our last-minute packing, ate a quick breakfast, & said our goodbyes to our quaint flat on the hidden cobblestone street in London.




The week went by much too fast for me, but I could stay in London for months & not feel satisfied. Who knows, maybe one day I'll be lucky enough to live here.

Now we're off to Paris via the Eurostar for another week of adventures...

May 30, 2013

Rainy Day Activities

The past two days have been accompanied by an on & off drizzle. Being the determined travelers we are we let nothing stop us from our adventures. On Wednesday Mr. C left for meetings while Mrs. C, the kids, & I ventured out to the London Aquarium. Regardless of the rain we stopped to smell the flowers all the way to the bus stop.




C has been keeping a wonderful travel journal that he brings everywhere...& writes in every chance he gets.




The boys love sitting on the top level of our double decker bus!

Once we arrived at Westminster Bridge we discovered it would be a looong wait before seeing any fish.


Goodbye, sun!

What we didn't realize was that all the little London babies are out of school right now. We were convinced every one of them brought their entire extended family to the aquarium that day. Nonetheless we made it inside & managed to see some of the exhibits that weren't swarmed by people.


Watch out for that alligator, H

Later the boys & their parents went to the Ireland vs. England football match at Wembley (lucky ducks!) while H & I had fun of our own watching Dora & eating pizza.

Thursday H & I spent most of our time at the park. The boys went with their parents to a very nice Scottish lunch with friends so the two of us took on London one swing at a time.


1


2


3

On our way home I popped into a little bakery called Paul for lunch. I bought two skinny sandwiches (decision-making is not my forte.) One was on a poppyseed roll with capicola ham, comté cheese, tomaotoes, olive paste, & lettuce the other a combination of smoked salmon, tomato, lemon cream cheese, & lettuce on sesame bread. Both were equally mouthwatering. No pictures of the sandwiches; somehow they disappeared before I could snap a shot. The macaroons, however...


Chocolate, Pistachio, & Vanilla. Drooling yet?

Meanwhile the boys got their swag on at Harrods.


Gucci & Dior, baby!

& Hampton tried on some glasses of her own...


We all had a cozy evening in our flat, happily sipping a wine made near our house in Burgundy. Although I'm thrilled to get there, I am quite content soaking in my current state of being in London.

May 28, 2013

London: Tourists Extraordinaire

Although I've spent lots of time in London it seems there is always something new to be found in the oldest parts of the city. On our second day here we ventured into one of the most popular tourist destinations: Westminster.


H made herself comfortable on the underground...looks like a regular.

A quick bus trip & easy tube ride later I found myself looking up at Big Ben from a dock on the Thames.




As you can see it was another gorgeously sunny day in London so we made the most of it by taking a boat tour on the river. My favorite part about being on board? The unbelievable photo ops...






Amazing, right? Once we were back on shore with rumbling tummies we found a nice little lunch spot on St Katharine dock. (Thought of you, Kat.) We weaved through the yachts to Zizzi, an Italian restaurant, where a friendly host led us to our table on the garden terrace overlooking the water. I ordered my salad & swiftly scooped H up to go for a walk while our food was prepared.


We found a Starbucks & drank some foamy milk, yum!

After our drinks we said hi to all the ducks in the river & by the time we were finished our lunch was ready. My salad was amazing: a mix of butternut squash, pine nuts, goat cheese, green beans, & chicken all on top of a fresh bed of spinach. Deeelicious. Then we made our way down the road to the infamous Tower of London.


The boys went with mum & dad on a guided tour while H & I participated in our own festivities...


Princess H


Sometimes I think we're related...

Somehow Mr. C found us & we got to cut the queue with him to see the best part: the Crown Jewels! No pictures allowed, I'm afraid, but it was a wonderful experience. The day seemed to slip away from us & before we knew it it was time to head home. Mum & dad had a date night so I took the kids to the park to play. The boys tackled an obstacle course while H found more interest in chasing the pigeons...






We found a giant tree!

The boys decided to hide from us when they heard it was time to go, but we caught them eventually. Sneaky little monkeys! We walked home, had a bite to eat for supper, & got all snuggled into bed.


We were all very sleepy after a full day of activities

The next day London showed us who's boss. It rained. Bundled in our raincoats with umbrellas & coffees in hand we set out on the town.


No more sunshine & parks for us...we decided to go to the toy store instead. Hamleys, the self-declared finest toy shop in the world, was our destination of choice. All three little faces lit up upon entering a world of remote cars, finger paint, & tutus. (Five stories of them to be exact.) We spent most of the day wide-eyed & smiling at the various displays of every toy you could imagine.


We ate lunch in Soho at a cute little Hawaiian themed restaurant called Kua 'Aina. We arrived cold from the rain, but were cozily tucked away in a hidden booth in the corner. Mrs. C & I loved our ahi tuna/avocado sandwiches & the boys gulped down juicy burgers. I highly recommend it, especially on a rainy day.

With satisfied stomachs we marched back into the drizzle to shop among the masses in Oxford Circus. I chose to separate & explore TopShop, Zara, & a nice little shoe store while the rest of the family played at NikeWorld. Eventually we were all shopped-out & found our way back home to a nice, warm flat.

I quickly changed, freshened up, & got right back on the bus to treat myself to a delicious dinner in Sloane Square. I found The Botanist at the corner & slipped inside. After a glass of wine at the bar I sat down & enjoyed a succulent steak cooked to perfection.




Somehow every bite disappeared off my plate, I don't know where it went!

I strolled back to the bus stop, admiring London all lit up. I made it home safely feeling proud of myself for navigating the big city, but most of all grateful to be here with my loving second family.

May 27, 2013

London Arrival & First Adventures

After a long day of packing & goodbyes I headed off to the airport with my extended "family" to board our 6 o'clock flight to Heathrow. The three little ones & I started together while their mum & dad enjoyed their much-deserved first class time together.



Needless to say, things got a little silly after eight hours on a plane together.




We played musical seats so everyone got to preview first class for a portion of the flight. After a very smooth landing we were all thrilled to have finally arrived to our little cobblestone street in London.








Spring is in bloom in London right now. Our pretty blue door is beautifully framed by lavender wisteria. Almost every window is accompanied by some sort of plant. Gardens are fully dressed up with rose bushes, potted flowers, & white wicker tables. It's just lovely. (The pink door just made me smile.)

Once we were settled in to our home for the week we were eager to explore. Our first stop was Battersea Park.






We North Carolinians must have brought the sunshine to London because the weather couldn't have been better. We strolled through the fields, explored the playgrounds, & decided we could use a bite to eat.


We hopped on the bus to Chelsea & found one of my favorite casual restaurants in London: Pizza Express. This particular Pizza Express had a beautiful terrace for us to sit on while we sipped red wine & orange Fanta. (Guess who drank what...) H was very pleased with her Pizza Express hat.


While waiting for food, little miss H & I went for a walk down King's Road.




After a scrumptious margherita pizza I indulged myself with some unbelievable coconut & pistachio gelato from Amorino. Luckily we were able to walk it off on our way home, watching the sunset all the while...


Regardless of our lingering jet-lag it really was a perfect first day. I am thrilled to be back in London & am remembering why I thought about living here the last time I visited. But for now I am off to bed, enjoying the time I do have in this wonderful city.

May 25, 2013

The Cowfish

Before departing for two months my sister, parents, & I enjoyed one last family supper together. After much deliberation over our restaurant of choice we decided to venture outside our usuals & try something new: Cowfish.

To be honest I didn't think I would be doing much restaurant reviewing on here, but this place is just too great not to rave about. The curiously named sushi/burger bar just popped up in our ever-expanding metropolis. Seeing as sushi & burgers are my two favorite foods this seemed like an appropriate choice for my final night in the US.

You walk in to find an incredible 8-foot cylinder tank (apparently featured on Animal Planet's "Tanked") filled with many vibrant, exquisite fish including the restaurant's own namesake: the cowfish. (Turns out it's a real type of fish!)

Note the soy sauce & burger decor

Funny looking little guy, isn't he?

We sat at the bar admiring our new aquatic friends whilst sipping wine & waiting for a table. Not a bad start... After a short wait, we were escorted to a comfortable booth where we could admire the creative artwork flooding the walls. Our handsome waiter was extremely helpful with suggestions (while my sister & I giggled like school girls.) With empty stomachs & full trust in our server we took his advice & started with the Blackened Ahi Tuna Nachos. Yeah guys, tuna nachos.

Complete with fresh guacamole & greens

Beautifully presented & equally as delicious we were all eager to order our mains. Dad went for the full experience & got the "Ultimate Bento Box" which include a mini burger of the week, four rolls of your choice, edamame, cucumber salad, & sweet potato fries *yum*.


Mom enjoyed the "North Hills" roll, a creative combination of coconut tempura shrimp, avocado, cilantro, & cashews. Anna decided on the tuna nigiri, & I had to stay true to my favorite fish: salmon. Double salmon roll, baby! Smoked salmon with avocado topped with sinfully delicious melt-in-your-mouth Scottish salmon. I added tempura flakes plus a side of sweet eel sauce & I was one happy girl...scratch that, I was in sushi heaven.


Maybe it was the two glasses of Malbec, the cute waiter, or the fun environment, but either way this was some of the best sushi I have ever eaten! *Please note, I eat a LOT of sushi people.*

If you're ever in Raleigh & want to find your own little sushi/burger happy place you can check them out here. They do not take same-day reservations so I would recommend planning your trip in advance, especially on weekends.

It was a deliciously wonderful end to my time at home this summer. Tomorrow is the beginning of my European adventures, our flight leaves at six, & I am ready to see what's in store.

May 18, 2013

Those Who Wait

With just one week left until I take off to Europe for the summer it is all starting to seem more real. I slept late on this rainy Saturday morning & met my best friend Caroline for brunch at one of our favorite spots: Whole Foods. It only just popped up outside our neighborhoods a little over a year ago & we can't get enough. Whole Foods is a happy place that satisfies a wide variety of customers from down-to-earth "granola" folks to sporty moms dressed head-to-toe in Lululemon.

As we scavenged the salad bar with eco-friendly plates in hand it struck me that this was the last time we would be doing this for a while. You see Caroline, a recent graduate, is following her dreams of acting to New York City. I couldn't be more proud & excited, but after almost a decade of knowing one another everything we've talked about for so long is actually happening. After finding a table I opened my Sweet Leaf Lemonade Tea to find an appropriate saying on the bottom of the bottle: "Good things come to those who wait."


Unfortunately, I can be somewhat impatient... Good news is I only have to wait seven days until I land in London. (Did I mention how excited I am?) I know good things will come to Caroline as she moves her life up north this summer just as GREAT things are about to happen to me. These next three months will bring many changes & incredible experiences into my life & I can't wait to share it all with you.