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.


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!)



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


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...