Travel

Ok, so Monday we covered the marathon. Now it’s time to talk about the more fun (and less sweaty) portions of my trip. Like the wine. And the architecture. And the wine.

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{1} We arrived in Paris around 11:00 a.m. Our luggage hadn’t made our connecting flight, so we headed to our apartment expecting it to be delivered between 3 and 8 p.m. (Because that’s what the airport told us.) We booked our apartment through Vacation in Paris, which I highly recommend. Our 2-bedroom apartment also had a living room and kitchen (plus a washer/dryer), which was not only plenty of room but also made it possible for us to have a few meals at home. There’s just something a million times more enjoyable about relaxing in a real living room than in a depressing tiny hotel room. This was our actual rental if anyone is looking for a place to stay near Paris.

Joey’s and Diana’s bags (mine was still MIA) didn’t end up arriving until about 10:30 p.m., so we had to cancel our dinner reservation. Instead, we grocery shopped and snacked on cheese and wine at the apartment. Di and I also picked up our race packets from the expo (and may have grabbed a celebratory glass of champagne).

{2} The Paris Marathon offered a 5K “Breakfast” Run the morning before the marathon. I’m putting breakfast in quotes because it was literally bananas and bottles of water, but it was nice to take an easy jog through the streets of Paris.

{3} That night, we had dinner at La Gauloise, a charming, very French restaurant where we consumed as many carbs as possible for the impending race. That included what can only be described as the best chocolate mousse I’ve ever had. EVER. Seriously, if you go here and do not order the mousse, you have done your mouth a disservice it should never forgive you for.

{5} Race day. After the run, we headed back to the hotel to rest up and shower before going out for the evening. We broke tradition and had Italian for dinner at a place called Fuxia, which I’ve sinced learned is actually a chain. The food was SO GOOD, and I’m not just saying that because I had just burned 2,500 calories. Plus, the staff was extremely nice, which can be kind of rare in Paris.

{6} For me, the real vacation didn’t start until the marathon ended. For the first time in over three months, my whole life didn’t revolve around my running schedule. It was pretty freeing. We had been pretty sure we would be sore the day after (we were right), so we had booked an hour-long cruise on the Seine with Vedettes du Pont Neuf to see a few landmarks without having to stand up. The cruises feature a student tour guide who describes the surroundings in both French and English, and you’re allowed to bring drinks and snacks aboard. (We may have brought a bottle of champagne.)(I imagine you’re picking up on the theme of the trip by now.)

{7} After the boat ride, we grabbed lunch at a cafe along the river before hitting up a few shops (I still didn’t have my bag, so I needed underwear, yo) and doing some more sightseeing. Dinner was at Au Pied de Fouet, an 8-table restaurant that literally defines hole-in-the-wall. It has been in business for over 150 years without changing much (they’ve added a bathroom in the last ten years), at it’s about as French as it gets.

{8} The original plan for Tuesday was to hit up a market in the morning, visit Monet’s home and gardens during the day, and then cook dinner at home that night. Finding the market took a bit longer than expected, though, and by the time we’d returned home and eaten lunch, we were kind of pooped. Instead, we pushed the Monet visit to Friday.

But can we just talk about this market for a minute? If you go to Paris any time in the near future, I strongly suggesting visiting. It was probably my best impression of the French the entire time. Not only was all the food we purchased incredibly fresh and delicious, but every single person we came in contact with was extremely kind. (It helps that Diana speaks really great French, but locals were even nice to me with my not-at-all perfect Français.)

Bonus: My luggage arrived that night. Yay!

{9} Wednesday was wine tour day. We started the day bright and early at a cafe where we met our all-day wine tour group. Paris Wine Day Tours take a group of up to eight people to tour a local market, vineyard, and chateau in France’s wine regions Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Coteaux du Giennois. The tour guide picks everyone up in a van around 7:30 a.m., and it takes about an hour to get to the first stop. At the market, we were able to sample a few local treats like goat cheese and chocolate truffles. In other words, everything I love to eat. {10} After that, we visited a family-owned wine estate, Domaine de Villargeau. There we sampled about five different wines and learned about how French wine is made. We brought home three bottles, so, what I’m saying is, we liked it. {11} Next, we toured what was probably the most picturesque village in all of France. Seriously, I’m pretty sure the song “Belle” was written about this town. We also got to see a few stunning vistas of the French countryside. {12} Finally, we toured a family-owned chateau and garden. I may or may not want to live in a castle now.

{13} Thursday was our anniversary. We slept in a bit, then wandered to a park Diana had discovered online called Bois de Boulogne. And, you guys? I’m still not entirely convinced this park wasn’t a dream we all had simultaneously — it was that perfect. The weather was beyond gorgeous, there was grass to stretch out on, there was a pond with ducks and geese, and everyone in the park had super friendly, well-trained dogs they let just wander over to you so you could pet them for a while. Diana went for a stroll and accidentally found a cafe about two minutes from where we were picnicking that served rosé and gelato. (Her exact words when she came back were, “I don’t even know if I can say these words out loud, but do you see those orange chairs over there?” My response: “Diana, I know it’s my anniversary, but you didn’t have to get me every single thing I like.”)

{14} After the park, Diana went to grab a drink with some friends she had in the area while Joey and I got ready for dinner. We made a quick pit stop at Pont de l’Archevêché, which is famous for couples locking locks onto it’s sides and then throwing the keys into the Seine to symbolize the eternity of their love. It was a tradition I hadn’t known about when we visited Paris on our honeymoon, so I was happy to check off this bucket list item on this trip.

{15} Next was dinner at Ciel de Paris, which sits on the 65th floor of one of the tallest buildings in Paris and provides a panoramic view of the entire city. If you go, try to make your reservation as far in advance as you can so you can request a table near the window. We had a spectacular sunset and were there when the Eiffel Tour light show began.

{16} On Friday, Joey and I finally visited Monet’s house and garden, something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a little girl. It was, in a word, spectacular. Giverny is so beautiful, I completely understand why Monet spotted it out a train window and had to live there. The gardens themselves are one of the most colorful things I’ve ever seen, and the house is adorable — most of the rooms are done all in one color, giving the feeling of being inside a doll house. Basically, Monet had good taste.

After that, it was time to head to the airport for an overnight flight to Moscow, our layover. (I know…it was weird.) We actually ended up spending about 12 hours there, but that’s a story for another post. We finally got back to New York on Saturday.

All in all, it was a great trip. The weather, food, and experiences were incredible. I’m not sure when the next time I’ll visit Paris will be (there are too many other locations on my list to visit), but it was definitely a fantastic way to celebrate our third anniversary.

 

First, thank you for all the kind words so many of you sent me after reading this post. I didn’t write it in a cheap attempt to get compliments (I swear, I really am over it now), but it was still nice to realize how far that support system I mentioned reaches. You’re all wonderful.

Now, let’s talk about something frivolous, shall we?

As you may know (from the 8 million times I mention it), I’m taking a little trip this week. To Paris. The primary purpose is to run my first full marathon, but the rest of the week will be dedicated to enjoying France. (Life is such a trial sometimes, isn’t it?)

I started packing last night, and then I thought, you know what I haven’t done in a while? Written a “what to wear” post. Heaven forbid this blog goes legit and only posts about feelings, right?

Here are three variations of outfits I’ve put together for three of the activities I’m most looking forward to on our trip. You know, just in case anyone out there is looking for a little Parisian inspiration.

First, a general sight-seeing uniform:

Paris Sightseeing

Next up, what I plan to wear whilst touring Monet’s gardens:

Touring Monet's Garden

And finally, my ensemble for our all-day wine tour:

French Wine Country

I’m hoping to contain my overpacking instincts by sticking to a simple color palette — only black, white, navy, and pink/coral are making the cut. Anyone else have good tips to avoid overpacking for long-ish trips?

I can’t even begin to express how excited I am for this trip! I’ll be back in a week with (hopefully) tons of great photos and stories to share. À bientôt!

Today, I did something a little crazy.

I signed up for a marathon. In Paris.

All together now: Eeeeeeeeee!

 

Taken from the Eiffel Tower on my first Paris trip.

Taken from the Eiffel Tower on my first Paris trip.

 

Really, I could not be more excited to go to Paris again. And heck, to run a full marathon for the first time. I just can’t think too hard about it. Or about the training.

Oof, the training.

I’m running it with my pal, Diana, who ran the Philly Half with me, and of course Joey will be there to support. It’s actually the same week as our anniversary, so it will be nice to celebrate by revisiting one of our honeymoon spots. (You know, without getting food poisoning this time.)

So I’m psyched. And terrified. And totally open to any marathon training suggestions/schedules my marathoner readers have to share.

Allons-y!

Is there anything better than going home for a visit? Not if you’re me.

Joey and I spent a long weekend over Thanksgiving with my parents, and it was exactly what I needed. I’ve loved living in New York these last (almost) five years, but sometimes a girl just needs to get out of the city.

Besides, going home means so much more than a change of scenery. If you’re me, it means your mom cooking you breakfast every morning and making your favorite dinners most evening. And if she’s not cooking, your dad is taking you to your favorite local restaurants, as well as a few new spots. So now, I’m sharing the wonder with you.

Here’s a quick guide on what to do (and, let’s be real, what to eat) should you ever been lucky enough to spend a weekend in DSM.

First, a few things you can’t eat unless my mother is also your mother:

Our first night home, my mom made my favorite soup IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, Italian Wedding Soup. But trust me, it’s so much better when my mom makes it.

The next night, we had a family dinner. FEAST YOUR EYES (since you can’t feast your belly):

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Dinner featured a few of my favorites, like my mom’s sweet potato casserole, butternut squash casserole, and corn bread. (My name is Justine, and I like carbs.)

The next day, I hit the gym with my dad (to work off the aforementioned carbs), shopped with my mom, had ANOTHER delicious dinner by my momma, and then hit up downtown Des Moines with a few of my oldest friends. If you’re in town, I recommend El Bait Shop if you like beer, The Lift if you like hipsters and creepy art, and Fong’s Pizza if you’ve gone to the other two places and need something to soak up all the incredibly inexpensive drinks you ordered.

Because, guys? I didn’t pay more than $6 for a single drink all weekend. And the $6 one was fancy.

The next evening, my mom had a party for some of our family friends, so we got dressed up and ate fancy apps for a few hours.

Aren’t my parents cute?

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The next night, we had another family dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Des Moines, Centro.

Do yourself a favor and order the Lemon Sage Martini.

The next day, my sister took some picture for my for my blogger style swap, but not before a quick lunch at La Mie.

I got the Avocado Tartine, and I wasn’t disappointed.

And that night, Joey, my parents, and I stormed downtown Des Moines, grabbing dinner and drinks at The Continental (so many cheap cocktails and apps…) and playing a few rounds at the arcade bar Up-Down (I own at skeeball).

Our last day, we had lunch at Zombie Burger (the one place Joey requested) with my family and a few friends we hadn’t had time to see yet. If you go, I highly recommend getting one of the milkshakes. (Spiked, of course.)

Sadly, then it was time to pack up. And while it is nice being back at our home, I’m already looking forward to our next trip back to Des Moines.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I’m not a camping person.

But because my previous attempts at roughin’ it had been resounding successes (read ‘em here, here, and at the link above), I’m usually up for a few days in the woods when the opportunity arises.

I like the food, remember? I like hiking and lakes and campfires.

So at this point, I thought I could safely say that while I may not be the ultimate camper, I do like camping.

I thought wrong.

As I actually pointed out in the post at that first link, I had only ever camped in cabins before. Bare-bones-wooden-bunk-communal-restroom-type cabins, but cabins nonetheless. I had never expressed nor felt the desire to camp in a tent. And if I had just followed my (prissy little) gut, I might never have had a bad camping experience.

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.

Last weekend, we joined a few of our friends in Vermont for a little camping adventure. I knew going in that it was tent camping. I knew it. But I had convinced myself that it would be fine. FINE. I mean, how much time do you spend in your tent anyway, right? I would still have all the parts of camping I genuinely like. And the company would be great. WHERE COULD THIS WATER-TIGHT PLAN GO WRONG?

Actually, “water-tight” is particularly apropos. Because it rained. The entire time.

And what did we discover upon arriving at the campsite and opening our tent? That we were missing the top part that keeps the rain out. Le sigh.

Fortunately, Joey was able to fashion a frankentent out of a few extra tarps:

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Unfortunately, the door zipper was also broken, meaning water could leak in from all sides. Fun!

After one night of torrential rain and damp EVERYTHING, I opted to sleep in the car. I have no regrets about that.

Other than the rain, though, it really was a nice trip.

We toured the Magic Hat Brewery:

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Visited the Ben & Jerry’s factory:

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Shopped at a local farmer’s market that made me miss the Midwest like whoa:

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And, you know, spent some time communing with nature:

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Plus, we swam and rowed at the lake, ate way too much of everything, and enjoyed the company of our friends. All in all, can’t complain.

Though I think we can rule out tents for the rest of my life.

 

My mom is pretty great.

In the last couple of years, she’s dealt with the stress of marrying off two of her children, the addition of multiple grandchildren, and being diagnosed (and beating) cancer.

Like I said, a pretty awesome lady.

So a few months ago, I decided I wanted to do something nice for her. I thought about flying us both somewhere, but ultimately decided I couldn’t afford it. Then I remembered I live in a destination city. Why not just fly her here and have a little “stay-cation”? (For me at least.)

That’s exactly what I decided to do.

With my dad ensuring she didn’t make plans on the weekend I had in mind, I set out making reservations, buying show tickets, and generally planning the ultimate NYC weekend for my momma.

A week and a half ago, I sent her a package of five envelopes:

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As she opened each envelope, she found a clue as to what her surprise was. (Spoiler: It was that she was coming to New York. Have you really not been paying attention?)(yuk yuk yuk)

Once she got the packages, we only had to wait a few days before her visit. And now I’ve decided to share our weekend with you! Here’s where we stayed, what we ate, and what we did.

FridayMy mom got in on Friday around noon. Joey and I both took the day off to pick her up and keep her entertained.

That night, we headed into the city for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, The Smith.

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Fun side note: The Smith is actually where I first heard of my favorite drink, the French 75. So obviously it’s near and dear to my heart.

My mom had the trout, I had grilled shrimp with jalapeno grits (AMAZING), and Joey had the moule frites. It was all pretty great. We ended the night with the Quarter Pounders, three homemade chocolate chip cookies. If there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that there is nothing in the world I would prefer to warm chocolate chip cookies. So…yeah. I liked the dessert.

Saturday
Saturday I had planned the New York-iest day I could think of for my mom. We started out by heading in to the city early in the morning. After dropping off our luggage at our hotel (more on that later), we headed to Union Square. After a quick breakfast (at Panera…not every meal can be fancy!), we took part in a little retail therapy.

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I mean, is it really our fault that our first appointment was on 5th Avenue? No, no it is not.

Speaking of our first appointment, it was at a little place called Drybar. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s basically a salon that specialized in blowouts. (Which you know I love.)

IMG_4163Within minutes of arriving, we each had a drink (mimosa for my mom, champagne for me) and were on our way to incredibly voluminous hair.

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Next, we headed to Bloomingdales (because why not more shopping?), and then headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner.

We stayed at The Sanctuary Hotel, which was conveniently located near Times Square. The rooms were…compact, but not in a way that felt claustrophobic. More like, in a way that made you feel like you were in a well appointed New York City studio.

Post-primping, we hopped in a cab to dinner at The House, a restored 1854 carriage house in Gramercy Park. We started off with drinks (I had The Ellington, my mom had a gin martini) and a deviled egg tasting appetizer, followed with the tile fish and the sea scallops. For dessert, we had a cookie sundae topped with fresh berries.

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And, you guys. It was so good. Like, ridiculous. We couldn’t stop talking about it.

Then it was time for the highlight of the evening: Newsies!

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We both loved it — the singing/dancing is pretty awesome. Plus, the cast is made up of cute, talented boys. Definitely a good choice to take your mom to. (In case you were wondering.)

SundayThe next day, Joey’s parents and sister joined us for a late brunch at The Thirsty Koala, which I’ve told you about before.

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My mom and mother-in-law had The Three Sisters sandwich, my sister-in-law and father-in-law had burgers (one beef, one kangaroo), Joey had an omelet, and I had a spinach salad with shrimp. We all had mimosas. Because it’s brunch, you guys.

Then it was time to take my mom to the airport. (Sigh.) The weekend was over too fast, but we definitely made the most of it. Can’t wait until we’re together again!

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