Ariel & the Sweeper Girls: A Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Race Recap

Two weeks ago, I ran my longest race of 2017: the Disneyland Paris-Val d’Europe half marathon, part of Run Disney France’s Magic Run Weekend. My previous races this year were the Cherry Blossom 10 miler and the Capitol Hill Classic 10K. I’ll cap off my running season with the Marine Corp Marathon’s 10K. I’m not quite ready to commit to training for a full marathon yet though it’s definitely a distance I’m looking to doing next year 😉

If you read my goals for the Disneyland Paris half, you saw that they didn’t include a specific time. I just wanted to complete the course, make some new memories with my bestie Caitlin and snap some fun pics with Disney characters as I ran through my old workplace. I spent six months after college working in the communication department at Disneyland Paris, right after the Studios had opened, so the parks have a special place in my heart. 

Technically, I achieved all of my goals yet it was hard for me to feel entirely satisfied with myself at the end of the 21 kilometers. Here is a quick race recap. Ok, not so quick…

First let’s talk about the race itself. The half marathon is fairly small in comparison to some of the other races I’ve done … 7,000 runners altogether (compared with 17,000 + at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler!) and is part of a full weekend of running with a 5K on Friday night, a 10K Saturday morning, a kid’s run Saturday afternoon and the 21K Sunday morning. Some runners actually do all three and get a special Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo challenge medal, in addition to medals for each of the races. I must say I was a little envious of all their bling! But Caitlin and I flew into Charles de Gaulle Saturday morning so those extra races weren’t an option for us. We went straight to our hotel, the Kyriad, via the Magical Shuttle — actual name! — do drop our bags and from there to the Expo in the Disney Village to get our bibs. There wasn’t much happening at the expo so that didn’t take too long. We killed some time at the shops (I behaved!) and grabbed lunch — food options are not great at Disney! — before checking into our room and taking a much needed 3 hours nap. Diner was the all-you-can-eat buffet at the hotel next door, the Vienna House Magic Circus Hotel. For those of you who know a little bit of fromage geography, you may know that Disney Paris is basically in Brie-land so my carb loading involved a lot of delicious runny Brie (and a glass of red wine of course, can’t have one without the other !) We managed to stay up until 9:30 then got some much needed zzzs! 

Ariel and Sebastien ready to run!

Ariel and Sebastian (not so) patiently waiting to start running

We didn’t have to wake up too early on race day since this particular Disney race wasn’t set to start until a luxurious 7AM. I say luxurious because apparently other Disney races kick off at an ungodly 5AM. Yikes! The start line was split into 3 waves (we were in wave C) and each subsequently divided into smaller groups so that only 250 runners would head inside the Studios at once. It was very exciting at first cheering for all the previous groups as they headed off. However it got a lot less fun an hour later when we still hadn’t left and realized would be in group 25 of 25 to cross that starting line. Womp womp. At this point both me and Caitlin started to worry about this for different reasons. Her because she’s a fast runner, currently training for the New York marathon, and knew she’d had to weave through a bunch of slow runners to catch up with those more at her pace. And me because I knew I had to complete the race before 11:30AM (the official cut-off for the race) and starting at 8AM meant I didn’t have much of a buffer anymore … but there was nothing we could do so off we went, Ariel and Sebastian, running through Disney in Paris! 

The Staff at Eureka Mining Supplis Cheering us on

As a former Cast Member, I know Disneyland Paris employees are the best! Here are a few cheering us on in Adventureland.

The first 5 kms of the race are THE BEST!! Right away, you’re in the Studios with cast members from various hotels, restaurants or attractions cheering you on. That was awesome. But I got super nostalgic as we passed Chez Rémy… that wasn’t there in my days! How the Studios had grown in the last 10 years! I stopped to snap a photo of the staff in their uniforms outside the restaurant … and lost Caitlin. So much for fun memories of the race together — I had at least thought I’d stick close to her through the parks. Oh well. I was on my own at the back of the pack. Where I pretty much stayed … see what happened is once we got into Disneyland there is a station set up for a photo opp with Mickey and Minnie, with the castle in the backdrop. I wanted. I wanted bad. But the line was soooooo long and I knew I was already one of the last runners since I left in the last group. Oh well, this was the one picture I wanted so I nervously joined the line.

Waiting in line for my picture with Mickey and Minnie

The line to get your picture taken with Minnie and Mickey — ps: Maleficient snapping a pic in front of me became my back-of-the-pack buddy! Her outfit was awesome!

After 15 minutes I saw them: the sweeper girls with their Minnie ears and Mickey balloons. Yikes! I was officially at the back of the back of the pack (though not alone … the line for pictures was still long.) I waited a little longer until a race volunteer basically told me that I would be out of the race if I stayed in the line any longer. I was nowhere near Mickey so I had no choice. I started running again. I basically wasted 25 minutes and didn’t get my picture with Mickey and Minnie. And now I had to catch up to the sweeper girls, which sorta became my obsession for the rest of the race. 

Running through an empty Main Street towards Cinderella’s Castle was a dream. And running through the empty park — there weren’t many runners left at this point — was a memory I’ll cherish forever. So was running through the castle!  I did stop for all the picture opportunities I could … I mean, if I didn’t get my pic with Mickey I was going to get all the other pictures I could ! So altogether, it must have taken me over an hour just to complete the first 5 kilometers. Definitely a reverse PR 😉 And of course, i still technically at this point was behind the sweeper girls meaning I really had to speed up. 

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

The next 15 kilometers weave through the lovely roads and villages around Disney. There wasn’t really anyone cheering along the course though organizers had set up some distraction points like a group of local pint-sized cheerleaders, bands or a DJ. At this point I was so focused on catching up with the sweeper girls that I didn’t notice when I actually passed them. Instead, I was freaking out, going as fast as my lack of proper training would allow me and hoping Moana’s How Far I’ll Go would keep me going a while longer! I was feeling pretty down — where were those sweeper girls!? Would I seriously not complete this course !? And then at kilometer 15 i saw them. Going in the opposite direction from me meaning they were probably just at the halfway point of the race. Way behind me.

Disneyland paris Half Marathon Sweeper Girls

The Disneyland Paris Val d’Europe Half Marathon Sweeper Girls

I started breathing again and allowed a break. Which turned into a longer break than I meant for it. I had a hard time motivating myself to run again until we basically got to the hotels. Running through the official Disney Hotels, especially the Santa Fe — which is huge — and the Cheyenne with its Wild West theme, was super fun because after a cheering desert there were people again! Kids! Parents! Runners who had already finished their half marathon and were sporting their medal(s)! I got the second wind I needed to start really going again. Running through the Disney Village was a bit tricky though since by that point the parks were open and the area was full of people trying to get into Disneyland or the Studios, as well as runners who had already finished the course and were eager to get back to their hotels. The path carved out for the runners was pretty narrow and you had to navigate multiple crossing points too… but I spotted my dad, Caitlin and my friend Calla right before going back inside the Studios for that final kilometer. And then I got all nostalgic again. We ran through the set of Moteurs … Action! an attraction I had seen hundreds of time while I worked at Disney since one of my biggest project then was a live taping of the German TV show Wetten, dass…? which took place in that theater. (You can check out a recording of the show on YouTube!)

Actions... moteurs!

Awww, Disney. I miss you!! (And my twenties too lol). Finally, I crossed the finish line (which is actually inside the Studios!! How cool is that!?) a little teary eyed and very exhausted. I got my medal and managed to find Caitlin for our finisher photo. We didn’t get a single picture together with Disney characters so this one will have to do! 

Finisher photo at Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Completed the course? Check. Made memories with my bestie? Check. Fun pics with Disney characters? Check, even if they weren’t Mickey. So my first international race was a success by the goals I had set but my lack of training really showed. I hadn’t done enough long runs leading up to the half, so by the time I realized I had passed the sweeper girls at kilometer 15 I was wiped and all but too happy to walk for a few kms. Does anyone else really struggle with longer runs too? My final time was 2h57 which isn’t great by any means though if you subtract the half hour give or take I spent in line for pictures with Mickey or other characters after that it’s slightly better, probably closer to 2h30… not great, but not that bad for me either). As always, I only have myself to blame. In running you get back what you put in and I didn’t put in enough ahead of time. I have 2 weeks now until the Marine Corp Marathon’s 10K and I’m determined to have a better race this time ! Anyone else running it or the full marathon? 

ps: can’t we talk recovery meals for a minute? As you might expect, the French know how to do it well! My mom made her signature couscous…

Couscous.jpg…. and my dad picked up some amazing eclairs at Fauchon (it was eclairs week afterall!).Eclairs from Fauchon

Since the weather was SO beautiful, we walked along the Canal St. Martin and had a few glasses of rosé on the rooftop terrace of Point Ephémère

Rose at Le Bar Ephemere in Paris

…before wrapping up a long day with some natural wine at Clown Bar.

Post half marathon dranks at Clown Bar.jpg

Sunday Funday with a bunch of Ks! I’d run a half marathon every weekend if they could always be like this one 😉

My Trip To Paris By RaShonda’s Explore Savvy

RaShonda of Explore Savvy is one of my favourite local travel blogger. Between her recent trips to Cuba or Milan and her scooping of fabulous cheap or error fare her facebook and twitter feeds give me major wanderlust – and make me want to buy all the airline tickets! Earlier in the year, she posted about an error fare on TAP Portugal, which I quickly snagged for a cheap Thanksgiving get-away. I mean, $280 round trip to Lisbon? How could I not jump on that? She also took advantage of the mistake, but rather than just stay in Portugal, opted to hop along to Paris. Here are some highlights from her trip to Paris earlier this year.

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO PARIS
As Laetitia mentioned, I came across a TAP Portugal deal for $285 round trip tickets from New York to many popular destinations in Europe. It was too good to pass up. My husband and I like to celebrate our anniversary in a different place each year so I figured we would take advantage of the deal to spend it in the City of Love this time around!

Explore Savvy's Anniversary trip to Paris

 

HOW I GOT THERE
We flew TAP Portugal. It was okay but nothing to write home about. If you ever fly this airline, my advice is to bring your own food and snacks. For what they lacked in food, they had plenty of red, white, and sparkling wine which made the food slightly more palatable. All of their flights from the US transit through Lisbon. If you have the time, they offer free tours during the stop-over, which is always a plus.

WHERE I STAYED
I’m a member of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) which means I earn points when staying at Starwood properties like Westins, W Hotels, Meridiens or Sheratons. They have properties around the world and I always try to capitalize on the use of points when I can. I wanted to stay some place that had its original Parisian charm and not your typical American hotel chain. Fortunately SPG had a few options that fit that requirement in Paris. We booked a room at Le Dokhan’s, a boutique hotel in a 19th century Haussmanian building in the 16eme arrondissement. It was recently acquired by SPG and was definitely the best of both worlds. From receiving a complimentary anniversary toast in Paris’ first champagne bar (located in the lobby level) to taking photos in its Louis Vuitton elevator, this place was oozing with charm.

Louis Vuitton elevator at Le Dokhan's in Paris

Also, it’s a short stroll to the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower! And while we didn’t use our points this go around, we earned enough for a free night or two in a less expensive city.

BEST THING I ATE
Paris is known for having tons of Michelin-rated restaurants and I figured I’d book one for our anniversary. I’d gone through the listing and narrowed down our selection to a few choices and ended up picking Kei, a one-star French restaurant which a slight Japanese influence. Each dish was so unique and the best part was all of them were very tasty. The service was absolutely amazing and I’d definitely recommend it to someone who’s celebrating a special occasion.

Kei

Kei

BEST FREE ACTIVITY
I’d definitely recommend spending the afternoon strolling down the Champs-Élysées. There are so many cute cafés and restaurants where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat and just sit there and people watch. There’s also a ton of shopping. While many of the places can be found in the States too, they do offer different options in the European stores.

TOTALLY WORTH THE SPLURGE
I know they’re opening in Washington, D.C. soon, but I finally had a chance to a go to Ladurée. We went to the one located on the Champs-Élysées. The line was out of the door but fortunately it moved quickly. As we made it halfway through, we noticed people walking right past us and into the small café area. We followed suit and learned we could order our macarons from there with no wait. Who knew?

Explore Savvy at Laduree

We ordered 8 macarons to go but still ended up sitting down and ordering a tea, a cappuccino, and a fancy ice cream dish. While, this was not our most expensive eating experience, we spent nearly $60 on an afternoon snack with a few macarons to go. But hey, you only live once 😉

MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO PARIS
I always hear people talking about how French people are so rude. Honestly, my husband and I had a totally different experience. As long as you realize that the culture in Paris is not the same as in the United States, you will see things differently and enjoy your experience. One major difference: service at restaurants! Waiters are usually not ignoring you, they’re just giving you your space. If you need something just make eye contact or wave to them and they’ll be right over. Also, if you’re not fluent in French, learn a few basic greetings. Trust me, when you simply try it goes a long way…

Have you been to Paris recently and would like your trip featured on French Twist DC? Drop me a line at FrenchTwistDC@gmail.com

Explore Savvy trip to Paris

 About the author: RaShonda Riddle is a nonprofit marketing director by day and travel enthusiast by night. She loves food, art, architecture, and learning about other cultures. Her passion is exploring the world one country at a time. You can read more about her travels on her blog Explore Savvy and on her social media channels (facebook & twitter.)

My Trip To Paris (And Champagne) By Alison

There’s no conversation I love more than when one of friends tells me that they’re off to Paris. OK, there is: the conversation we have when they get back full of stories from my hometown and appreciation for it. So I was thrilled when my friend Alison of Bon Vivant DC told me she was stopping in Paris in between visits to Portugal and Champagne. OK, I was jealous too… but thrilled mostly. Alison runs a wine consulting business so I knew she’d have a fabulous trip. Here’s an overview of how it went, in Alison’s own words.

Alison Marriott in Champagne

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO PARIS

Paris has always been my favorite city, so when I found myself with five days between a vacation in Portugal and a weeklong industry event in Champagne, my choice of where to go in between these two stops was an easy one.  Besides its proximity to Champagne, Paris was an obvious choice for my extended ‘layover’ as I have several friends and acquaintances there. Oh, and the food.  (Doesn’t everyone travel for food?!)

HOW I GOT THERE

I was already in Portugal and flew I from Madeira into Paris’ Orly airport. On the way back, I took a direct flight from Charles de Gaulle to Dulles. 

WHERE I STAYED

I made a return visit to the Relais St. Sulpice, a small luxury boutique hotel ideally situated in the heart of Saint Germain. It’s on a quiet street that’s easily accessed by metro and walkable to many of my favorite sites in Paris including the Latin Quarter, l’Ile de la Cité, the Jardin du Luxembourg. It’s reasonably priced, with infinitely comfortable beds, and the lobby has a charming self serve bar and small library where you can read or relax.

BEST THING I ATE

One of my favorite things about Paris truly is the food- pâté, cheese, the bread, croissants… you name it, I love it! Although I had several fancier meals, café culture is one of my favorite things about Paris, and where I had one of my most memorable meals on this trip.  Café Bonaparte is in quite a touristy stretch of rue St. Germain, within a stone’s throw of the more famous Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. While no means a bargain, it beats the prices of its more famous brethren with the same amazing people-watching this neighborhood is perfectly suited for. The atmosphere is as quintessentially Parisian as it gets! It was one of the only dinners that I ate alone, and so its convenience to my hotel was paramount. Big thanks to Cécile of The Worldly Bite for this great suggestion!

Champagne at Cafe Bonaparte

I also adored having crêpes and Britany cider out of traditional ceramic bowls with Laetitia’s mom at Breizh Café, right behind the Picasso Museum in the Marais! It’s a place I can imagine returning again and again to try different combinations.

Lastly, I had a lovely time picnicking along the Seine with my dear friend Tanisha of Girl Meets Glass. We picked up everything we needed at the local Monoprix and were loaded down with an astounding array of cheeses, tapenade, fruit, bread, charcuterie and a few bottles of wine for less than 30€! As we made our way over to a quai on the Seine, the fading sun cast beautiful light and shadows over the city.  After pulling the cork on a bottle of Provençal rosé we watched the lights illuminate Notre Dame across the river – which is perhaps most impressive seen at night.

BEST FREE ACTIVITY 

Though pretty touristy, taking in the Eiffel Tower at night tops this list. Feel free to take a bottle of wine and settle in for the light show, which takes place at the top of every hour.

La Tour Eiffel

I also adore wandering around the jardin du Luxembourg.  It’s one of the loveliest spots in Paris, particularly in the spring, when thousands of tulips are in bloom. 

The Luxembourg Garden in the spring

Finally not technically free but at 3.30€, practically: the gardens at the Rodin Museum. Skip the pricier interior to take in the sculptor’s most famous works set amidst a beautiful park devoid of the crowds and tour groups that throng most large museums. This has to be one of the most under-rated sites in Paris! 

WORTH THE SPLURGE 

I was in France to attend the industry only Printemps des Champagnes series of tastings as I prepare to host DC’s first Champagne Week, which will take place in early November. What most people don’t realize is how very easy it is to visit Champagne as a day trip from Paris. The TGV train will get you from Gare du Nord to the center of Reims in a mere 40 minutes.  From there, it’s easy to visit the stunning Cathedral of Reims and pop into a few of the notable champagne houses.  Taittinger has spectacular tours and beautiful cellars. Travelers who venture a bit further into the countryside (which does require a car) are rewarded with beautiful scenery and small, grower champagne houses. Just be sure to make an appointment! 

Caves in Reims

MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO PARIS 

1) Don’t over schedule!  Remember to schedule time to relax, peruse the charming shops, explore hidden courtyards, and lounge in any number of the lovely parks. Take time to soak in the city while relaxing at a picturesque cafe over a mid afternoon pastry. 

2) If it’s your first trip to Paris, pick a few sites that are most important to see and really spend some time enjoying them. My own “Top 5 Must Sees” are the Sainte Chapelle, hidden inside France’s Palais de Justice,  the light show at the Eiffel Tower, the Rodin Sculpture Gardens, the Musée D’Orsay, and the Jardin du Luxembourg. 

La Sainte Chapelle

3) Dress up and learn a few French words. There are a few things that can help you blend in a bit and not stand out as an American (or as a tourist) really.  We typically dress more casually than our Parisian counterparts so like to trade tennis shoes for driving loafers and throw on a blazer over jeans. Though you may not be mistaken for a local, dressing up just a bit commands respect and you won’t look the part of the dreaded “Ugly American.” Also, even though my French is abysmal, I’ve mastered a few key phrases like “thank you” (merci), “excuse me” (pardon), “please” (s’il vous plaît), “hello” (bonjour.) Parisians really appreciate the effort and you’ll find that many are actually eager to practice their english with you too!

Though I’ve been to Paris many times, there are still sites that I’ve never made it to- and that’s OK!  Part of the charm of this beautiful city is embracing the Parisian joie de vivre, luxuriating in the experiences you DO choose to enjoy. I can’t wait to visit the flea markets, more museums, and perhaps the Catacombes or nearby Giverny on my next visit, but you can bet I’ll still find plenty of time to enjoy a glass of champagne, pâté, and people watching – which will always top my list of favorite things to do in Paris!

Have you been to Paris recently and would like your trip featured on French Twist DC? Drop me a line at FrenchTwistDC@gmail.com

Alison Marriott of Bon Vivant DCAbout the author: Alison and I met through mutual friends and a common love of of all things vino. She runs her own wine consultancy Bon Vivant DC and is currently hard at work planning the city’s first Champagne Week, with a Grand Tasting planned on November 9th. There will also be a champagne pairing dinner held at Ripple, and custom flights of champagne around town. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.dcchampagneweek.com. Yep, that’s the week of the election and the perfect opportunity to celebrate your candidate’s victory — or plot your theoretical move to Paris over the world’s finest bubbles.

Postcard from Paris: 5 Spots Where I Love to Grab a Cup of Coffee

When I left Paris to move to Washington, DC thirteen years ago (**le gasp**) the city didn’t even have a single Starbucks yet. Now they’re everywhere, and I’m not saying that’s a good thing but I do want to point out that the coffee scene has changed in a few years. Of course, Paris has always been known for its street-side cafés, where you can grab a quick noisette at the counter or linger for hours at the terrace people watching and sipping a café crème. Those were never really about the coffee and new cafés, inspired by the artisanal coffee culture in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. have popped up all over town. In many of those, it’s not unusual to hear English spoken fluently behind the counter as well as drip or filtered coffee (not espresso) in the cups. I’m not complaining about this change, I actually love discovering new coffee shops when I’m in Paris, though here are the five I always go back to: 

CAFÉ KITSUNÉ FILLES DU CALVAIRE

Kitsuné means fox in Japanese and in France, it’s synonymous with cool tunes and trendy clothes. The record and fashion label owns a couple of shops in Tokyo and Paris (as well as two in New York too!) including one rue Amelot/boulevard des filles du calvaires, blocks from where I grew up. Tucked beneath the boutique, you’ll find a bright and playful space, with custom speckled faux marble walls and floors, that makes some of the best matcha lattes in the city, as well as adorable little fox shaped cookies. There’s another Café Kitsuné in the gardens of the Palais Royal that I enjoy in the summer as well.

Cafe Kitsune palais royal

Cafe Kitsune in ParisCafe Kitsune in Paris

Café Kitsuné is located at 51 galerie de Montpensier, 1er (Palais Royal) & 109 rue Amelot, 11eme (Filles du Calvaire)

CAFÉ OBERKAMPF

I don’t why you would be looking for vegemite in Paris, but if you are, you will find some at Café Oberkampf 😉 You’ll also find a minimalist space, brunch all day, “avo toasts” and a grilled cheese sandwich named after a famous American expat blog. Doesn’t hurt that Café Oberkampf runs an awesome instagram account either (with English captions… bien sur!)

Cafe Oberkampf

Cafe Oberkampf Instagram

 

 Café Oberkampf is located at 3 rue Neuve Popincourt, 11eme 

CAFÉ SUÉDOIS

My mom is quite the regular there when the weather is nice… it’s a short stroll from her place and just a lovely spot in the Marais.  Located in l’Hôtel de Marle, a magnificent 18th century mansion that now houses the Swedish Cultural Institute, its main draw is the peaceful paved courtyard. It’s the perfect spot for fika, or to read a book while seating on Ikea furniture and nibbling on kanelbullar. Try it in the winter too, they have glögg around Christmas time!! On occasion, like last summer, they’ll also open up the grassy garden on the other side of the building and host activities for children too.
L'Institut suédois in the Marais - Picture courtesy of l'Institut suédois.

L’Institut suédois in the Marais – Picture courtesy of l’Institut suédois.

L’Institut Tessin/Centre Culturel Suédois is tucked away in a quiet spot of the 3eme, at 11 rue Payenne.

BOOT CAFÉ

The outside still reads “Cordonnerie” in faded paint because the shoebox sized coffee shop is (appropriately) located in a former shoe repair shop. It’s cute as a button, though seats are scarce so you should plan on taking you Belleville Brûlerie coffee to go (and perhaps walk to the Picasso Museum a few blocks away….) 

Boot Cafe in the Marais

Boot Cafe in the Marais

Boot Café is in a former cordonnerie at 19 Rue du Pont aux Choux, 3eme

LA CAFÉOTHÈQUE 

I just discovered this spot recently when I got together with Pola of Jetting Around for a quick cup of coffee. I’m so glad she suggested it. I went to middle school at Francois Couperin literally one street away and had NO idea this café existed. Unlike the other spots on the list that have a more anglo angle, La Caféothèque is owned by Gloria Montenegro, a former Ambassador for Guatemala in France, who views coffee like we view wine, with an emphasis on terroir. It’s actually where the coffee revolution in Paris first kicked off (it’s been open for over ten years). There’s a very artsy and cozy feel to the space, and it’s actually VERY roomy compared to most of the other spots on my list 😉 

La Caféothèque

La Caféothèque – Photo courtesy of La Caféothèque

La Caféothèque is located at 52 Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 4eme 

   *        *      *       *      *

Do you have a favourite coffee shop in Paris? While these are my personal faves right now, and yes, they’re concentrated in the 3 arrondissements that I frequent the most. I’ll say though, sometimes, I still just pop up at an old school café for my noisette though. You? 

Bonus coffee shop: I cannot not mention Le Café des Chats. There’s a location rue Sedaine, by my parents’ as well as one closer to Beaubourg. You can read more about it in one of my previous blog post here.

Le Cafe des chats in Paris

Paris vs New York: The Striped T-Shirt Edition

Paris mon Amour or New York my Love? That’s the question that JCrew’s little sister Madewell is asking in its second collaboration with the French label Sézane®. After a successful first capsule collection last year, Madewell x Sézane is back with flared jeans, a very Parisian-chic little black dress, Ulysse lace-up sandals, accessories like a flirty printed scarf to wrap effortlessly around your neck, a “Féminin et Masculin” gray sweatshirt that’s guaranteed to sell out as fast as the “Superbe” one did in 2014, and, my personal favourite, this set of two striped tees:

Paris Mon Amour New York My Love

Paris mon Amour New York my Love t-shirt image by Madewell

J’adore New York, but Paris will always be my home so I just ordered the red-striped shirt. I can’t wait to show it off around town here in Washington, D.C. The collection is only available online (check it all out right here) and will sell out so I wouldn’t wait too long if I were you. As a matter of fact, the madewell x sézane® striped knit dress is already gone. Le sigh. I really liked that one too 😦 

 

 

Liberty Enlightening the World… For 130 Years

Did you know that the Statue of Liberty, this universal symbol of freedom, is technically French? Yep, one of America’s most iconic monuments was born in France to Mr. Frederic Bartholdi, a French sculptor who modeled her after his mother, and given to the people of America as a gift of friendship from the French people. 130 years ago today, she arrived in new York Harbour after a long trip across the Atlantic Ocean in 350 individual pieces. These pieces took about a year to be reassembled and the 450,000-pound statue was officially dedicated on October 28, 1886, by President Cleveland. To celebrate the anniversary of the Statue of Liberty’s arrival in the United States, google created a cool little doodle, bien sur!
Google Doodle Statue of liberty June 17 2015
Did you know lady Liberty has a little sister in Paris? Well, actually, she has quite a few… but there’s a little (11.50 metres or 37 feet 9 inches) one on l’Île aux Cygnes near Pont de Grenelle in the 15th arrondissement that was given to Paris by the Americans as kind of a return gift. The Parisian statue of Liberty faces west in the direction of its American sibling and if you go to Pont Mirabeau, or walk along the quai Louis Bleriot between Quai Mirabeau and the Pont de Grenelle, you can snap a pretty awesome picture of both the Eiffel Tower AND the statue of Liberty (the inside armature for the American statue of Liberty were actually made by Eiffel!)  

Everything is bigger in America, including the Statue of Liberty 😉

And while Washington, DC doesn’t have a replica of the Statue of Liberty we do have a fountain designed by its creator, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, in one of my favourite hidden gem garden, the Bartholdi Park, right behind the US Botanical Garden. 

Happy St. Honoré to all the bakers & pastry chefs

The Catholic Church has a long tradition of assigning saints as special guardians and protectors of different trades and professions, and bakers and pastry chefs are no exception! Saint Honoré, the former Bishop of Amiens in the North of France, is revered by bakers as their patron saint, in part due to a church that was built in his honor in 1202 that became the site of the bakers’ guilt. Technically, the patron saint of pastry chefs is St. Michel. But the line between boulangers (bakers) and pâtissiers (pastry chefs) is often blurred in France, with most boulangeries selling pastries in addition to bread. 

Saint Honoré Rose Framboise from Ladurée Soho

Saint Honoré Rose Framboise from Ladurée Soho – picture Laetitia-Laure Brock

The St. Honoré also happens to be a delicious dessert made of cream puffs, puff pastry, pastry cream and caramelized sugar. It’s not named after the saint, but after the Parisian street where the bakery that invented it was located. So not only do all boulangers and pâtissiers have a holiday to celebrate, they also have the perfect treat to celebrate it with!

Check out this great story in NPR to learn more about the holiday and its signature pastry, the St. Honoré pastry.

 

Postcard from France: Cour Bérard in Paris

Cour Bérard is a small street in the 4eme arrondissement in Paris. It’s the home of the Moretti & Moretti, an art galerie which focuses on street art, digital art and installations.

Cour Bérard, Paris

I headed to the galerie to check out its Konny Stedin exhibit. If you’ve been to Paris recently, I’m sure you spotted some of the German street artist’s work. Her signature black and white portraits, with the red paint tears, can be seen throughout Paris, like this one below which I snapped a few years ago outside of BeaubourgStreet art by Konny outside of Beaubourg

But the best street art wasn’t inside the gallery. It was actually outside, in the street, which was lined with graffiti black cats.IMG_1300

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Cour Bérard is a small street, but it’s definitely a street art lover’s dream street.  And a black cat lover’s dream street too!

January 11, 2015 – Far from the Eyes, Close to the Heart

Loin des yeux, pres du coeurThis past week, the news hit very close to home. 300 meters close to home to be exact. Understandably, it was a difficult week. But living abroad when the eyes of the world are turned to dramatic events in your home country is not just difficult. It’s frustrating. In moments like this, you long you be home and share in the collective sorrow, not just read about it in the news. I wish I could have been home this week, with my family, with my people. But I’m here. So on Wednesday evening, I did the next best thing. I gathered with friends and fellow expatriates outside of the Newseum, to mourn the 12 people murdered earlier that day in the Parisian newsroom of Charlie Hebdo and to make a statement for freedom of the press and of expression. As we stood together, reading the names of the victims in the icy January cold, I was overwhelmed by everyone who showed up that evening.

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Even more people showed up at the Newseum on Sunday for a silent solidarity march organized by the French Embassy. By then, the deadly count had grown to 17 victims and the perpetrators of the attacks had been killed as well. Led by Ambassador Gérard Araud and IMF head Christine Lagarde, the crowd of 3,000 solemnly made its way to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial near Judiciary Square.

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Similar solidarity rallies were held throughout the United States, Canada and the world, though of course, all of us expats wished we could have been at one of the historical gatherings that took place throughout France that day. In France, the rallies against terrorism and in support of the victims drew an unprecedented crowd of 3.7 million people, including 1.6 million people in Paris alone. As president Hollande stated, Paris was the capital of the world yesterday. It was difficult not being there, standing with friends, family and strangers alike for the values that make France the country that it is today. But while I was physically away, my heart was definitely in Paris yesterday.

Travel Highlights from 2014

2014 was a great year for me travel-wise. I made it home to France not once, but twice. I made the most out of a few work trips in New York, Chicago, Raleigh, Boca Raton and Austin, Texas. I even tested out Icelandair’s “the best part of a trip to Paris is Iceland” advertisement by doing a stop-over in Reyjkavik on my way back from Paris. The highlight of last year, though, was traveling to Brazil to cheer on my beloved Bleus during the World Cup, a trip I had been planning for and looking forward to for the past 3 years.

MAKING THE MOST OUT OF WORK TRIPS 

Chicago (and New York before that) happened in the dead of winter. For Chicago, I think I got to go because none of my colleagues were crazy enough to go there for a frozen 36-hour trip. But I really like Chicago and I can’t wait to go back. In the summer.

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I couldn’t justify renting a car in Austin since the event I was there for was at the hotel where I was staying, and unfortunately that hotel was not in the center of the city. As a result I didn’t get to see much of Austin as I would have to, but I did get to have some great BBQ and some fun food like Texas shaped waffles and Texas wine, at the Vino Volo at the airport of course.

Texas shape waffle

Texas wine flight

For Raleigh, it was really a combination fun and work since we have quite a few DC friends that somehow ended up there and we actually ended up going on 2 separate occasions. Since I’ve never owned a car (and didn’t have a car growing up in Paris either) I’m absolutely OBSESSED with road trips. It’s weird, I know. But my favourite part of the trips to Raleigh was driving down, through Richmond, VA, with my husband. I really would like to do more road trips in 2015. You know, with my imaginary car 😉

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I had been to Charlotte, of course, in 2014 for the Democratic National Convention, but Raleigh is quite different. I loved touring Duke University, especially the Sarah P. Duke gardens and fell in love with the North Carolina Art Museum. Also with LaFarm’s white chocolate chip baguette. SO good!

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I didn’t love Boca Raton as much, but it was still nice to spend a whole week in Florida. Even if I spent most of it indoor for our annual conference (helped that it was at the gorgeous Boca Raton Resort), I did spend a few hours on a beach before my flight, and checked out Whale’s Ribs of Drives-and-Dives-In fame. The oysters were cheap… but also tasteless. The bloody marys on the other end…

BRAZIL 2014 

Raleigh, Austin, Boca… those were nice trips. But of course, the one trip I was really (really really really) looking forward to was heading to Brazil for the World Cup. That trip was expensive, it required a lot of advance planning, entering of lotteries etc. Was it worth it? YES! Absolutely. For me. My husband probably thinks differently (maybe I should have tried to squeeze in one US game in there…) It certainly wasn’t an easy trip for us as a couple and we learned a lot about traveling together. We both disliked our stay in Belo Horizonte, though we adored the smaller town of Ouro Preto. We loved Rio, though I wish we’d stayed closer to Ipanema or Copacabana, instead of downtown.

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One of the highlights of the trip, for me, (I mean, not that watching France NOT score a single goal for 180 minutes wasn’t thrilling) was Iguazu Falls and crossing the border into Argentina for a quick day trip to see the falls on the other side. There’s a triple-border spot formed naturally by the convergence of the Parana River and the Iguazu River. Right there, you can literally stand between Brazil and Argentina, with Paraguay in the backdrop. I absolutely loved that spot!

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And while the whole idea behind going to Brazil was that we wouldn’t be making it to Russia or Qatar, I learned so much in my first World Cup experience that I think the next one can only be better. Privyet Russia 2018?

HOME SWEET HOME 

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I feel very lucky that I got to go to Paris not once but twice last year. I caught up with family, and my ever changing hometown. I went to the ballet at the stunning Opera Garnier with my dad and showed my husband some of my old haunts. I fell in love with Paris’ newest monument, la Fondation Louis Vuitton, and discovered the new offspring of its most famous museum (that would be the Louvre Lens, you can read more about it here). I had some great coffee at adorable new spots in the Marais and the Canal Saint Martin area and ate WAY too many pastries 😉

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I even got to show my husband a little bit of the country outside of France when we traveled to the South of France to spend Christmas at my uncle’s house in Goult and visited many cute small villages along the way (as well as the not-so-small “villages” of Avignon, Marseille and Nice.)

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THE BEST PART OF A TRIP TO PARIS IS ICELAND?

Finally, I took my husband on a bit of his dream trip, which meant meeting up in Reyjkavik for Thanksgiving. I have a feeling we’ll be back and explore more of Iceland in the future (I mean, I’m going to keep visiting Paris… so as long as Icelandair keeps offering that awesome stop-over deal… Iceland trips are going to be in our future.).

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Unlike Brazil, that trip was just easy. We booked some guided excursions, which I never do and despite some of my friends advising me to just rent a car and do it ourself. If there’s anything I learned in Brazil, it’s that it’s ok, occasionally, and it did prove to be the right travel choice for us at that particular time. I’m not saying we’ll always go with organized tours, but that it can be worth it to save yourself the hassle of doing it all yourself sometimes…

When I first started writing this post, I didn’t have a lot to look forward to travel-wise for 2015. I had such an amazing travel year in 2014 that it seems greedy to expect even half of that for 2015. And yet, I want more! So far, outside of a quick work trip to New York in early February (I already have reservations for Meow Parlor!) and another to Vegas for our national conference, I don’t really have anything concrete.  But here are some of my travel thoughts. I used to live in Montreal and I haven’t been back in ages. And Canada happens to be hosting the Women Football World Cup next summer so I’d love to make that happen (bonus: NO lottery to get tickets to games!!) I also have friends getting married in France and Finland in August and September, and while the 2 weddings are too close together to make both happen, I’d like to make at least one happen (if it’s Finland, I’m making it to Saint Petersburg this time!) Also, last week I won a 4 nights stay at a brand new hotel in Cancun through Expedia’s #TravelChat, so it looks like as soon as we can figure out flights, we’ll be headed to the dream relaxing beach vacation my husband has always wanted… and maybe we’ll rent a car and take a road trip to a new US destination as well…

What were your 2014 travel highlights? Any exciting plans already for 2015?