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.)

Week-End Highlights: GLT Get-Together and All the Pumpkins!

This week-end was all about two things: girlfriends and pumpkins! We had planned a fun day-trip to the Middletown/Frederick area to visit a pumpkin patch and the weather could not have been more perfect. If anything, it was too warm to wear the typical instagrammable fall outfit 😉

We headed to Jumbo’s pumpkin patch because I had seen it listed in a couple of articles as one of the best in the United States (like in this post on Travel + Leisure). This seven-generation family farm offers lots of family friendly activities like face painting, pony rides, hayrides etc. but also has a legit patch where you can pick-your-own gourd. There were A LOT of kids, but once you got out to the patch it felt a bit calmer.  And it’s just an hour from D.C. so it’s a perfect day trip! 

Jumbo's Pumpkin Patch

Jumbo's Pumpkin Patch

We had planned on visiting nearby South Mountain Creamery and Distillery Lane Ciderworks but unfortunately ran out of time after a particularly long lunch at The Main Cup. We did squeeze in a quick visit to Olde Mother Brewing, just outside of Frederick, on the way back. It’s a pretty new spot, and I wouldn’t have thought to visit it if one of my friends and former colleagues hadn’t messaged me that she worked there when she saw that I was in the neighbourhood. I must say I actually really liked their pumpkin beer (which is rare!!) 

Tasting flight at Olde Mother Brewing

In the evening, I met up for dinner and drinks with a couple of awesome local ladies from the Girls Love Travel group. I’ve recently joined this group to interact with like-minded travel chicks and get some travel inspiration and it was super fun to get together for the first time. Some of the girls are actually pretty new to the DC areas and up for doing some slightly touristy stuff, which is always fun! 

Girls love travel get together in DC

Sunday, I went back to the National Museum of African American History and Culture for a third time. I had wanted to go back to the history galleries since I skipped those altogether on my second visit but there was a pretty ridiculous hour wait just to get into that part of the museum. So instead, I focused on the “Making a Way Out of No Way” section, which details how African Americans acted to change and build their lives despite tremendous obstacles. This is probably the last time I’ll go to the new Smithsonian this year, though I feel like I still have SO much to see. Have you been yet? 

2015 Notre Dame de Cousignac Rosé Luberon

I spent the rest of the day writing. The weather was beautiful so I opened up a bottle of 2015 Notre Dame De Cousignac Rosé Luberon just in time for sunset!  I love trying wines from regions I have been to, like the Luberon where we spent Christmas with my uncle’s family a few years ago. I found the bottle in the 2 for $20 bins at Batch 13 so it was quite a steal too! ps: that pic is from snap chat. Do you follow each other on the social platform yet? We should 😉 Click here to find me!

Hope you had a great week-end too! 

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

Premières Visites du Nouveau Musée d’Histoire & Culture Afro-Américaine

Ça y est! Le tout nouveau Musée National de l’Histoire et de la Culture Afro-Américaine (l’acronyme c’est NMAAHC en anglais) a ouvert ses portes au public samedi dernier à Washington. Et il les a ouvertes en grande pompe et circonstance,  avec l’ancien président George W. Bush, Barack et Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey et plein d’autres célébrités ainsi que deux jours de fête et de concerts sur le National Mall.
National Museum of African American History and Culture L’inauguration du NMAAHC c’est l’événement culturel de l’année ici… les billets d’entrée (qui sont gratuits d’ailleurs, comme ceux pour tous les musées nationaux gérés par l’Institution Smithsonian) se sont arrachés comme des petits pains en ligne. Il faut maintenant quasiment attendre jusqu’à janvier pour avoir des places. Heureusement, je m’y suis prise à l’avance et du coup j’en suis déjà à ma deuxième visite 😉 J’ai eu la chance de pouvoir le visiter juste avant son ouverture officielle, trois jours après l’inauguration et j’y retourne mi-octobre…. Un peu beaucoup? Non. Il y a plus 33 000 objets a découvrir sur presque 40 000 mètres carrés, donc je pense que j’aurais même besoin d’y retourner l’année prochaine, surtout que je n’ai pas du tout étudié l’histoire américaine  à l’école, donc j’apprends plein de chose à chaque fois!

En gros, le Musée National de l’Histoire et de la Culture Afro-Américaine propose un veritable voyage dans l’histoire des Etats Unis comme l’ont vécus les afro-américains. La visite s’organise chronologiquement au début et commence tout en bas, au troisième sous-sol du musée. C’est symbolique, bien sûr. Dans ces premières salles on revoit les épisodes les plus sombres de l’histoire Américaine: l’esclavage et la ségrégation… Cette partie m’a rappelé le Musée de l’Holocauste, qui est tout près d’ailleurs. On y voit des cartes retraçant le commerce des esclaves, des chaînes (dont des toutes petites pour enfants), des notes de vente et une cabane d’esclaves provenant d’une ancienne plantation de Caroline du Sud.
unnamed-27National Museum African American History and Culture

Un grand mur m’a fait particulièrement réfléchir: celui du paradoxe de la liberté. Derrière une statue de Thomas Jefferson on peut lire les noms de tous les esclaves dont il était “propriétaire…” lui, l’auteur principal de la Déclaration d’Independence qui décrit que tous les hommes sont nés égaux et sont doués par le Créateur de certains droits inaliénables; parmi ces droits se trouvent la vie, la liberté et la recherche du bonheur. Progressivement, on arrive à l’époque de la ségrégation et à la lutte pour les droits civiques. Là, il n’est pas rare d’entendre quelques personnes un peu plus âgés raconter leur propre experience pendant cette période et c’est extrêmement émouvant quand ils sont là en famille, avec leur enfants et leurs petits enfants, de les voir partager ces souvenirs difficiles qu’ils ont vécus personnellement. Cette scène de parents qui expliquent ce lourd contexte à leurs enfant se répète à travers le musée. Certains sont si jeunes qu’ils n’ont jamais connu d’autre président que Barack Obama, dont l’élection conclue d’ailleurs cette partie du musée. On sort enfin des épisodes les plus sombres de l’histoire américaine pour arriver aux plus glorieux.

Tuskegee Airmen Trainer Plane at the NMAAHC

Les étages supérieurs redonnent leur place aux contributions des Afro-Américains dans l’histoire militaire, le sport, les arts et la culture. Les thèmes précédents ne sont pas oubliés… la ségrégation et la lutte pour les droits civiques y sont encore mais on y célèbre surtout la réussite, les victoires, les premières historiques que ce soit celle de Josephine Baker, Alvin Alley, Spike Lee, Mohamed Ali ou des soeurs Williams. Et oui, d’Oprah Winfrey aussi… elle a donné plus de 20 millions au musée donc elle est un peu partout 😉

Oprah Winfrey's studio at NMAAHC A statue of the 1968 Olympics black power salute at NMAAHC

En dehors des expositions, il y a trois endroits que j’ai beaucoup aimé dans le musée. Le premier c’est une petite fenêtre cachée dans la section histoire militaire au troisième étage. Quelle vue! Attention, pour prendre la photo comme moi, il faut s’allonger par terre, sinon on coupe le haut du Washington Monument… 

The view from the 3rd floor of NMAAHC

Ensuite, c’est la cafétéria au premier sous sol, qui est en elle même un exposition à part entière puisque le menu retrace les contributions culinaires afro-américaine à la cuisine du pays. Enfin, un bon resto sur le mall 😉

Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich from sweet Home Cafe at NMAAHC

Le dernier endroit est un pièce dédiée à la contemplation, un endroit calme (assez dur à trouver d’ailleurs!) où on peut s’assoir et, bercé par le murmure d’une fontaine qui tombe du plafond, réfléchir un peu à tout ce que l’on vient de voir, au poids de l’histoire, à la situation actuelle qui est loin d’être idéale en ce moment. Bonus: ça fait une belle photo instagram aussi! 

Contemplation room at NMAAHC

Le musée est déjà un énorme succès avec plus de 28,000 visiteurs en quelques jours… Si vous ne vous êtes pas pris comme moi au mois d’août pour réserver vos places gratuites, il faudra vous armer d’un peu de patience… et d’un bon réveil. Tous les matins, des places seront mises à la disposition du public à 9:15. Une fois toutes distribuées, il vous faudra revenir le lendemain. Donc surtout là au début je conseillerai d’y aller assez tôt! Sinon, les reservations pour janvier-fevrier s’ouvriront le lundi 3 octobre à 9 heures du matin. Après vous pouvez aussi juste apprécier l’architecture extérieur du musée, il est superbe aussi… mais bon, si vous pouvez visiter, c’est mieux tout de même! 

Highlights From My Trip to Anaheim, California

Me and MickeyWhen you think Anaheim, your first thought is probably Disney and that’s sorta what brought me there. A work conference. At the most magical place on earth 😉 The last time I was in Disneyland, I was still a teenager and Disney had taken a more important role in my life since. I worked at the store on Champs Elysees during summer offs from college and I worked in the offices at Disneyland Paris right after graduation. So I was pretty stoked to be reunited with my old boss Mickey even if I didn’t have a ton of time for non work-related activities.

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO ANAHEIM?

To this tune… work work work work work work! The trade association I worked for was hosting its annual conference at the Disneyland Hotel so I got to spend a few days there, mostly locked up in the hotel hosting luncheons, workshops and meetings. 

HOW I GOT THERE

I could have flown to SNA, closer to Anaheim, but opted for a direct flight to Los Angeles International instead. My friend Lindsay picked me up and I spent one night with her in Santa Monica. She dropped me back off at LAX the next morning, and I caught the magical Disneyland Resort Express bus from there to the parks. The shuttle departs every hour from LAX and only sets you back $48 round trip, which is nothing compared to what a taxi would cost for the 35+ miles trip. 

Taking the bus to Disneyland

 

WHERE I STAYED

Since I spent a LOT of time inside the hotel, it’s a good thing we stayed in a really nice one, the Disneyland Hotel.  If you’re looking to do Disney on the cheap, this isn’t going to be the place. The rooms are pricey, buy hey, I wasn’t picking up the tab 😉

disneyland-hotel

Here’s a couple of things I loved about the hotel: it’s within a quick walk to Downtown Disney District (perfect spot to grab a bite, a drink or do a little Disney shopping after work-hours!) and both the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks. The hotel is also considered the original Disneyland Hotel (not the flagship one, that would be Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa next door) and is full of Disney-history. There’s a strong Mickey Mouse motif throughout the rooms, with Mickey accents and details here and there, though my favourite “disney” touch was the “goodnight kiss,” where “when you wish upon a star” star playing along with fireworks in your headboard when you turn off a switch.

Disneyland headboard

The hotel also has a really nice pool (not that I ever went) and boasts one of the only decent bars in all of Disney, the legendary Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. I would have spent a lot more time there, except after a long day of work everyone had the same idea and the last thing I wanted was to hang out with colleagues and other conference attendees 😉 

Tiki Drinks at Trader Sams

 

BEST THING I ATE

So, let’s be honest, people don’t come to Disney for the food. To be fair, there are a few decent meals to be had around the resort. As I mentioned earlier, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar makes a mean cocktail. There’s also Napa Rose, Disneyland Resort’s flagship restaurant, located at the Grand Californian. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to squeeze in a meal there…. I did have an unexpectedly decent meal at the UVA bar, right in the middle of Downtown Disney District. I had gotten up super early that morning and I’d been indoors in the air conditioning all day. I had an hour window to relax before a diner organized by one of my colleagues. I knew the food would be bland at best (hello conference chicken my old friend!) if I even got to sit down long enough to eat any of it so I took a chance on UVA’s chorizo burger with UVA fries and a glass of rosé that surprisingly was one of my better meals at Disney.

UVA Burger

I also loved the beignets at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen. But when I got a little bit of free time, I hopped in a Lyft (I was able to activate a $50 Promo Code at LAX since I was a new user) and explored Anaheim beyond Disney a little bit. I had a lovely breakfast one morning (when work started a bit later) at Ink & Bean’s Coffee Saloon and Wordshop and an equally lovely lunch at the Anaheim Packing District, a food hall a bit like our Union Market, with an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants inside a two-story renovated Sunkist packing house from 1919.

Anaheim Packing district

I had a great meal there, a lemongrass beef bun at Sawleaf Vietnamese café, though I was really tempted to get the poutine at Kroft too! I also would have loved to check out the Anaheim Brewery right around the corner, but somehow it wasn’t open at 11AM on a weekday… 

Fireworks at disneyland

BEST FREE ACTIVITY

Hum… Disney and free don’t really go hand in hand 😉 However, if you’re staying at one of the hotels near the parks like I was, you can experience the fireworks from the Esplanade between the Disney California Adventure and the Disneyland parks. You don’t get to hear the music or have the stunning cinderella castle as a backdrop, but it won’t cost you the $97 admission to the park.  

 

BEST SPLURGE ACTIVITY

My best splurge was definitely going into the California Adventure park for an evening and seeing the World of Color nighttime show (you can see it here on YouTube too). Having been in Las Vegas the summer before (also for work) it made the Bellagio’s fountains look like amateur hour… The park opened in 2001 so I had never been, though I had done some of its ride like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (which is closing soon at Disneyland!!) at Disneyworld in Florida.

Me at Disney's California Adventure

A smaller splurge was this $25.99 Disneyland 60th Diamond Anniversary Minnie Mouse Headband with Ears that allowed me to fit right in and pretend I was on vacation too! I mean, EVERYONE is wearing some kind of Mickey or Minnie ear accessory on their head, it’s not something I had ever seen at Disneyland Paris when I worked then (doesn’t strike me as something the French would be into, even today!) Also, using Lyft to get outside of the resort on occasions was also totally worth the (small) splurge.

 

MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO ANAHEIM

Well, obviously that all depends if you’re there with kids or grown ups, for work or for fun. If you can, definitely stay at one of the two hotels on the Disneyland Resort. Not only are they beautifully designed, but you’ll save a lot of time on transportation if you’re headed to the parks. Also, they offer a special extra hour to patrons where you get to go to the park a whole hour before everyone else. The parks get so crowded, it’s totally worth it! Buy some Mickey and Minnie ears and embrace the whole Disney thing, they have some for everyone, including some really cool star wars stuff now that Disney owns the franchise. And if you’re not going to the parks, or want a break from them, there are lots of other things to do in Anaheim. If you’re into sports, Anaheim is home to two teams: the Mighty Ducks hockey team and the Angels baseball team. See a game if you can! There’s also the Anaheim Packing District for food, a couple of breweries, a museum (the Muzeo) . And if you didn’t rent a car, don’t let that deter you from getting around with Lyft or Uber! 

Have you been to Anaheim for work and/or fun? What was that like for you?

Los Angeles en 10 Photos

J’ai rarement l’occasion de visiter la côte ouest. La Californie, mine de rien, c’est quand même à six heures d’avion de Washington (DC! mais c’est quand même quatre heure de vol de l’état de Washington aussi) donc c’est pas comme si on peut y aller juste pour un petit weekend…  Mais comme j’étais à Anaheim pas loin pour une conference au travail, j’en ai profité pour rentabiliser le billet (surtout qu’il était payé par ma boite!) et je suis restée quelques jours de plus sur Los Angeles, histoire de redécouvrir un peu la deuxième plus grande ville des Etats Unis. 

Voici un petit aperçu de mon séjour à Los Angeles en 10 photos. Pas mal on été prises à Venice Beach comme c’est là que j’avais loué un AirBnB (que je recommande fort d’ailleurs pour ceux qui passeraient à Los Angeles!) Sinon, comme ce n’était quand même pas mon premier voyage là bas, j’ai évité les gros lieux touristiques et j’ai préféré explorer un peu des nouveaux quartiers comme Echo Park et Silver Lake ainsi que revoir le Hollywood sign, mais d’un angle un peu different cette fois 😉 Je vous laisse voir:

Palm Trees in Los Angeles

Le gros cliché de Los Angeles: les palmiers partout, à perte de vue, sur la plage, dans la ville. Ils font rêver et on ne s’en lasse pas!

 

Les surfeurs adorent et moi aussi! Un bol de sashimi hawaïen de Poke-Poke, dégusté sur la plage de Venice Beach pour un diner healthy et léger, et pas cher en plus.

Toujours à Venice, la célèbre Muscle beach, la plage du bodybuilding avec ses salles de musculations en plein air.

Toujours à Venice, la célèbre Muscle beach, la plage du bodybuilding avec ses salles de musculations en plein air.

Il n'y a pas que la plage à Venice Beach, y'a aussi le quartier historique des Canaux de Venice qui était tout près de mon AirBnB.

Il n’y a pas que la plage à Venice Beach, y’a aussi le quartier historique des Canaux de Venice qui était tout près de mon AirBnB.

Hiking to the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles

C’est LE symbole de Los Angeles et la meilleure façon de le voir de près, c’est a la fin d’une randonnée dans les collines d’Hollywood.

Trouvaille colorée au détour des rues du quartier branché de Silver Lake, à l’Est de Downtown

On reste dans le sport avec cet escalier, une trouvaille colorée au détour des rues du quartier branché de Silver Lake, à l’Est de Downtown. 

 

Decouverte pour moi lors de ce voyage: la quartier de Echo Park avec ces collines couvertes de petites maisons colorées et son superbe park, avec une vue imprenable sur downtown.

Découverte pour moi lors de ce voyage: la quartier de Echo Park avec ces collines remplies de petites maisons colorées et son superbe park, avec une vue imprenable sur downtown.

Autre découverte, celle du nouveau musée d'art contemporain du Broad. Il a ouvert ces portes fin 2015 et rengorge d'œuvres de Koons, Hirst, Basquiat, Mapplethorpe et Braque. Bonus: il est gratuit!

Autre découverte, celle du nouveau musée d’art contemporain du Broad. Il a ouvert ces portes fin 2015 et rengorge d’œuvres de Koons, Hirst, Basquiat, Mapplethorpe et Braque. Bonus: il est gratuit!

Un de mes buts pendant mon sejour a Los Angeles: ne jamais depenser plus de $20 par repas. Mission accomplie avec ces ramens a Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle.

Un de mes buts pendant mon séjour à Los Angeles: ne jamais dépenser plus de $20 par repas. Mission accomplie avec ces ramens à Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle.

Postcard from Montréal ~ BYOB Restaurants

I spent a lot of time during my last visit in Montréal reminiscing about the past. I guess that’s what happens when you’re back in a city you called home for four years. Suddenly, the dépanneurs (deps!) and S.A.Q.s (saqs!) bring back memories of carefree evenings with friends. That coffee you’re drinking at this trendy new spot tastes better with a side of nostalgia for the memories of that pretty green dress you had bought there back in the days when it used to be a chic boutique. Some of it is bitter sweet of course, like seeing that a place you loved went out of business and was replaced by something new or realizing that you used to live in a WAY nicer house (and for much cheaper) when you were a junior than now that you are a professional. Gosh, I miss Montreal and its cheap real estate!! I don’t miss the heating bill though 😉

That nice house I used to live in when I was a junior was on Rue Sainte Famille, right in the heart of the McGill Ghetto (<– not an actual ghetto, just how the neighbourhood is called). We had a dépanneur right around the corner, where we could get our milk in plastic bags, as is done in Quebec, or a bottle of “Château Dépanneur,” aka cheap 2-buck chuck. On the other end of the street, there was Place Milton where we would go for cheap breakfasts on Saturdays and Amelio’s where we would treat ourselves to dinner once in a while, and sometimes go on dates too. We loved Amilio’s: the food was good AND it was cheap AND it was convenient AND we could bring your own wine to diner. When you’re a college student, that’s a magic formula!

The facade of Amelio's now Amelia's... my fave BYOW when I was in college

The facade of Amelio’s now Amelia’s… I’d love this spot even more now with this mural!

Being able to bring your own wine (Apportez Votre Vin as it is know in Quebec) with no corkage fee is a thing in Montréal. I’m almost ashamed of some of the wines I brought to very decent restaurant like Au 917. Yes, I’m French. But I was also 20 years old, wasn’t earning any money and was just beginning to appreciate wine for more than just my preferred method of getting a buzz. Well, wine and Molson, of course. It all started like a lot of things start… with a legal loophole. A couple of restaurateurs in the Plateau began allowing patrons to bring their own wine back in the 80s. The government corrected the situation a bit, requiring establishments to at least have a liquor license but the practice caught on and is still around today, and you will not be charged a corkage fee for bringing in your own vino to the table. The plateau is still where you’ll find most of the city’s BYOB resto, but new ones have started popping up all over Montréal too. 

Apportez votre vin

I know a 200%-400% mark-up is the norm in most restaurants, and that it is how dining establishments make money. But sometimes it just breaks my heart to spend THAT much on a bottle I know I could get for less than $20 at my favourite wine shop. In France, meals seem a lot more affordable, even with gratuities included, because the wine is so much more reasonably priced than it is in the United States. So if you’re visiting Montréal, definitely have diner at a BYOW one night! It’s a pretty unique only-in-Montréal kinda thing. Since my Montréal references are a bit dated – I mean, I’m not sure how much I’d actually enjoy Amelio’s or Place Milton these days, other than for the nostalgia factor – I asked a couple of my friends who still live in the city what their favourite BYOW are and here are some that stood out:

  • Au 917 – Now this is a place I used to go to because its reasonably priced table d’hote menu AND BYOW option was basically a French-expat-on-a-college-student-budget’s dream! Try the veal tongue! Seriously, try it… 

Restaurant au 917

  • Les Heritiers – pretty much all of them mentioned this upscale Plateau establishment from the restaurateurs duo Pierre Roy and Marc-Andre Paradis who own a mini-empire of amazing BYOWs including O’Thym… read below.
  • O’Thym – What pairs with foie gras tarte tartin… because that’s one of the items on the menu. OMD! This one is in the Village, which makes me sad that I didn’t go because I was staying right there during my last trip…
  • Le Quartier General – everyone also brought up this restaurant as not just one of the best BYOW restaurant, but also just one of the best Montréal restaurant. Noted for my next trip!!
  • Wellington – I never went to the Verdun neighbourhood when I lived in Montréal, but it sounds like Wellington would have been a good reason for me to head there! It offers a $45CAN table d’hote on Sundays, which coupled with BYOW makes it a pretty good deal. Despite the name, the food it pretty French. 

Do you have a fave restaurant Apportez Votre Vin in Montréal? Do you wish that concept could come to where you live? I know I do!! 

A Taste of Lille ~ Méert’s Legendary Waffles

No visit to the Northern French city of Lille would be complete without a stop at 27 rue Esquermoise. This address has delighted local gourmands since 1761. Initially, it was a humble chocolaterie and ice cream shop until it was taken over in 1849 by Michael Paulus Gislinus Méert who turned the shop into a local institution with its signature thin, gaufres filled with Madagascar vanilla. Today, the former confectionery is an elegant patisserie, salon de thé and gourmet gourmet restaurant and a must-visit sight if you’re in the area. 

Meert's famous waffles - image courtesy of Meert

Meert’s famous waffles – image courtesy of Meert

I don’t remember the first time I had one of Méert‘s waffles, but I must have been a baby — I’m a second generation Lilloise after all, though we moved to Paris when I was 5 years old and hardly ever think of myself as anything but a Parisienne. Today, you can find Méert in Roubaix, Brussels or Paris (I love the tiny shop near the Picasso Museum in the Marais) and the sweet waffles are set to jet off to America as well soon (to New York… of course…).

Meert's first boutique in Paris is located at 16 Rue Elzevir in the Marais. There's a new one in Saint Germain now too.

Meert’s first boutique in Paris 16 Rue Elzevir in the Marais. There’s a new one in Saint Germain now too.

During my last visit to Lille, we swung by Roubaix, which is a quick metro ride away. We visited la Villa Cavrois  as well as La Piscine-Musée d’Art et d’Industrie André Diligent, a fantastic museum housed in a former indoor swimming pool, with a notable art déco interior. My dad actually learned to swim in that pool when he was young!  

The former A.Baert's 1932 Art Déco swimming baths offer a stunning backdrop for the Museum of Art and Industry's collections

The former A.Baert’s 1932 Art Déco swimming baths is a stunning backdrop for the Piscine’s collections

Méert runs the restaurant and café there so we were able to get our waffle fix without having to wait in line at the shop in Lille — there’s always a bit of the line these days!

Meert's waffles at the piscine museum

 Trust me though, those waffles are worth waiting in line for…. and while I love their fun new flavours, especially the spéculos one, the classic Madagascar gaufre is still my favourite, and has been since I was a wee little Northern France girl.  

Meert Lille