Sunday, December 16, 2018

A pun for the Christmas card win

When my husband and I got married and it was time to send out our first Christmas card as a married couple I thought it would be fun to use a little play on words.  
"We do!" It said on the front above one of our wedding photos.  "Wish you a Merry Christmas."  

The next year our daughter arrived and I continued the pun theme and our card read, "We are dreaming of a silent night" with a picture of my husband and I yawning with our daughter asleep in my arms.  And so each year when it came time to make our Christmas cards I continued to be as punny as possible.  We've sent out 15 cards and I am close to running out of ideas.  Below is this year's card and a few of my favorites over the years.  

We love Christmas a Latte 

Merry Kissmas

Jingle Belle 

Wishing you a sweet Christmas 

Over the fields we go... 

Oh what fun!  (pictures were taken at the Santa Monica pier) 

We've got our love to keep us warm 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Paris Travel Guide

"Go Where you Feel Most Alive"

We took the Eurostar from London's St. Pancras station, through the Chunnel to Paris.  That is a fun experience in itself and is a quick and easy way to get into France from England.  As we stepped off our train and I caught a glimpse of that first Parisian rooftop I started to cry.  True story.  My son was mortified.  Mind you, I wasn't sobbing or making a scene, I just had tears streaming down my cheeks.  Tears that came from pure love, appreciation, and excitement for being back in Paris, my favorite city in the world. Paris is without a doubt where I feel most alive.  Manhattan is a close second.

We were only in Paris for 4 days so we had a lot to cram in.  But here's my opinion on Paris, it can't be rushed.  It shouldn't be rushed.  With that, we took our time and didn't get to everything on my list but that's OK, there is always next time.  I would much rather my kids have memories of us all sitting on a park bench in the Tuileries Gardens, admiring the beauty surrounding them than of me dragging them around the city to see all the sights in 3 days.  What fun is that?

Here is what we did during our 3 days.  For more Paris ideas, see my past blog post from 2013 when my hubby and I spent 7 glorious days there.  Also, a quick note on where we dined in Paris.  All of these restaurants I found after a lot of research.  I wouldn't dare waste a meal in Paris on chance.  Most of them are in The Food Lovers Guide to Paris by Patricia Wells, the Bible to good dining in Paris.  A few of them are by the recommendation of Ina Garten and some are from both Ina and Patricia.

Day 1
Check in to our hotel
Have lunch at Chez Andre
From lunch, walk down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe
Walk down Avenue Montaigne (this is where you can find Chanel and Christian Dior)
Dinner at Chez Georges
Go on the Pont Alexandre Bridge to see the Eiffel Tower at night

Frog legs at Chez Andre.  He says they were good.  We'll have to take his word because I didn't partake. 
Chez Georges is a lovely little bistro where you can find traditional French food like steak and frites.  It's quaint, loud, and filled with locals and I love it.  

The Pont Alexandre Bridge is a great spot for viewing the Eiffel Tower at night.  Be sure to catch it on the hour when is sparkles for a few fabulous moments.   

Day 2
Breakfast at Angelina on Rue de Rivoli
From Angelina, walk the Tuileries Gardens to the Louvre
The Louvre
From the Louvre walk by the Seine to Notre Dame
Tour Notre Dame
Walk across the Pont Louis-Philippe bridge (great photo spot) to Rue des Barres (prettiest little street)
Dinner at Bistro Paul Bert

Angelina is fab place for breakfast but it's also a tea house that you could visit in the afternoon.  They have the most decadent hot chocolate I've ever had.  It's a Parisian institution not to be missed.  

The charm of these gardens is endless.
Here's a little secret, when you visit Notre Dame, go to the garden in the back.  There are hardly any tourists there, while you can usually find hundreds in the front, and I think it's the prettiest part of the cathedral.  You will get amazing photos, promise!  

As you walk to Rue des Barres (which you must because it's that pretty) be sure to stop in at one of the cute cafes for an afternoon drink.  

Another tip, the best spot for photos of the Eiffel Tower (in my opinion of course) is at Place du Trocadero.  You will have to wait your turn amongst all the tourists vying for that perfect spot but it's worth the effort.   

Day 3
Take the train to Versailles
Walk to Trianon Palace
Lunch at Gordon Ramsey's restaurant at Trianon Palace
Tour Chateau de Versailles and the gardens
Dinner at Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower

Once you arrive in Versailles by train, it's a very short walk to Trianon Palace.  And what a magical walk it is.  

Dining at the Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower is about the dreamiest thing I've ever had the pleasure to do.  When we asked the kids their favorite moment on our trip, they both agreed it was this dinner.    

Day 4
Rodin Museum
Walk through St. Germain to Cafe De Flore for lunch
Walk around Luxembourg Gardens

There are about a thousand options when it comes to museums in Paris.  I've been to 7 and I can say that the Rodin museum is one of my favorites.  The building itself, an old hotel where Rodin used to work, is simply so beautiful.  The grounds surrounding the hotel are so pretty and filled with his sculptures.  This museum is not too big so you can easily see it all in an hour or so.  

After the Rodin Museum, a walk through Saint Germain is a must.  Stop for lunch at Cafe Varenne or walk a bit further to Cafe De Flore, which is what we did this trip.

Off to Portugal, my baby girl's first trip to Paris is in the books. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

London Travel Guide: What we did and most importantly, where we ate

Our Itinerary in London

First Day: 
Lunch at the Ivy Tower Bridge
Tour the Tower of London and see the Royal Jewels
Hop on a Big Bus Tour to see all the major sights of London
Back to South Kensington for dinner at Wright Brothers

This is just outside the Ivy Tower Bridge where we ate lunch on their pretty outdoor patio with a perfect view of the Tower Bridge.  

Just around the corner from our hotel, this was a great restaurant.  

Second Day:
For the boys... the Harry Potter Experience (see note below)

For the girls...
Peggy Porschen's 
Have lunch in the Food Hall at Harrods
National Gallery
Walk to Tea at Fortnum and Mason

Getting lost in Harrods is a London must-do.  The food halls alone are worth spending some time wandering through. 

The National Gallery.  I spent so many hours here in college.  Loved sharing it with my girl.  

I spent a lot of time deciding on where to have our one tea experience in London.  There are so many amazing choices, you really can't go wrong.  I ended up going with Fortnum and Mason's for a few reasons; it was a quick walk from the National Gallery, their shop downstairs is so much fun to browse and great for gifts to bring back home, and finally who doesn't love being surrounded by Tiffany blue all afternoon?  It was a lovely tea and I would definitely go back.  

Dinner at St. John restaurant

This restaurant came highly recommended by a food blogger I love and it did not disappoint.  It is considered "nose to tail" dining and that is exactly what you can expect with some more exotic offerings.  The kids and I, who are a bit less adventurous, had fish dishes that were all incredible.  Preston had the chicken liver and it was amazing.  Apparently.  In my opinion, St. John is seasonal British food at its best.  

For all Harry Potter enthusiasts, this is truly something not to be missed.  The boys took a coach from Victoria Station to the Warner Brothers Studio Set.  They spent about 3 hours touring the actual sets from the movie including the Great Hall, Dumbledore's office, Hagrid's hut, and Diagon Alley.  My son who is a true fan had the best time and even my hubby who wouldn't know Malfoy from a Weasley was very impressed and loved the tour.

Third Day:
Tour the Globe Theatre 
Walk across the Millennial Bridge to St. Paul's Cathedral 
Tour St. Paul's Cathedral 
Lunch at Spring Restaurant at Somerset House
From lunch, walk to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliment on to St. James' Park
Walk through St. James' Park to Buckingham Palace
Stop in at the Queen's Gallery gift shop (great place for souvenirs)
Taxi back to the hotel for a quick rest
The London Eye 
Dinner in Covent Garden at Wagamama

Spring Restaurant
 Our lunch spot that was so pretty I didn't want to leave.  

The London Eye
We did the VIP Experience and I highly recommend it.  Truthfully it wasn't that much more money and we never had to queue up.  We checked in at the VIP desk and went upstairs to a beautiful lounge where we sipped champagne and the kids had mocktails.  Then we were escorted onto the capsule with our small group of other VIPs.  Once inside we were all handed more champagne and orange juice for the kids.  Cheers to that!

 Covent Garden is a London must, especially on a beautiful summer evening.

Wagamama.  When Preston and I lived in London we would often go on dates to Wagamama.   You sit at communal tables, slurping noodles and I just love it.  I had forgotten how good the food was too.  We actually went twice during our stay because we all enjoyed it so much.  There are several all over London and luckily for us, there are a few in New York.  

Fourth Day:
From our hotel walk to the Natural History Museum
Walk to PJ's Bar and Grill for lunch
Take the train to Hampton Court
Tour Hampton Court Palace
Dinner at Hart's Boatyard on the Thames
Having lunch at a proper British pub is pretty much required when in London.  We wanted to take the kids to one that didn't have a veil of smoke as you walked in.  Not so easy to come by we found out.  We are from California and therefore are off the charts revolted by cigarette smoke.  Anyway, after attempting a few pubs and walking out we ended up at PJ's in South Kensington.  A very short walk from the Natural History Museum.  It was exactly what we wanted; fish and chips, pints of beer, and smoke-free.  

My nephew is British and told us that the Natural History Museum was his favorite place in London.   After visiting it I totally see why.  The architecture is stunning to look at and the exhibits are fabulous.  After having been to a many Natural History Museums throughout America, this was by far our most favorite.

When we lived in London I loved bringing my family to Hampton Court.  It's a beautiful castle where Henry VIII lived.  There is a lot of interesting history embedded in those castle walls and the gardens are beautiful, especially in the summer. Knowing we would only have time for one castle on this trip, there was no question in my mind that Hampton Court would be the one.