Posts filed under europe

One Day + One Knight in Paris

This is a post about a trip to Paris... but don't be expecting a ton of tips and tricks. This one was quick and dirty with only time for the essentials- pastries, driving by the Eiffel Tower and going to a rock concert. But that's enough for now, just keep reading for all the random fun.

On Saturday, I woke up to the smell of hot croissants baking in the oven and the sound of Viola dragging her baby doll up the stairs to wake me up. The rain was totally dumping on the roof above our room and it felt so nice to have no huge rush to hop out of bed.

We got dressed and headed to a birthday party for one of our family's favourite little girls. To say it was gorgeous was an understatement. You've probably heard me say it before after my baby showers (first & second) she hosted or her wedding in Hawaii- but my friend, Amber, can host a party like nobody's business.

Every gorgeous detail was thought of, in true Amber style.

I guzzled down a huge mug of coffee, one of her homemade cinnamon rolls, a fruit kebab...ok, fine and part of a bagel, kissed my crew goodbye and headed to St Pancras for the Eurostar.

2.5 hours later, I rolled into Paris, slapped on my favourite red lipstick and headed straight for the Champs-Élysées. 

I, fortunately, was dropped off on the corner by Monoprix who was, fortunately, having a sale. I ran in, surveyed the scene and ran out with a few pieces that are going to get worn really hard this winter.

Then I ran across the street to Laduree where I met a group of my students who had arrived in Paris earlier that morning. We got a table and I ordered us a bunch of desserts and drinks. When a giant silver tray arrived with plates of miniature art pieces arrived, we all felt so excited.... We were in Paris! On the Champs-Élysées! Eating the prettiest food!

When we finished, we walked up to Salle Pleyel where the Panic at the Disco concert was opening its doors. One of my best childhood friends happens to be married to the band's guitarist, Kenny, and they graciously got my students great tickets to the show... AND sweet Kenny chatted with them, was hilarious with them and... even made an amazing boomerang with us. Ha!

With everyone happy and in their seats, I said goodbye and rushed to find a cab. I asked the driver to pass the Eiffel Tower on the way to the station. Well, it wasn't exactly on the way, but I was fine with that. And it was totally worth the detour.

Then, we stopped in front of Gare du Nord with enough time for me to run into McDonalds (no regrets), buy my obligatory box of Fauchon biscuits from duty free and get on the train back to London.

It's one of those days that seems a bit crazy and at the risk of falling apart when one thing goes awry.... but in those glorious moments when everything goes smooth, man.... you're so glad you did it.

Looking for more Paris posts? Find my Paris posts here, as well as my comprehensive guide to Paris here.

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 14, 2016 and filed under france, paris, europe, day trips, friends.

Coffee Talk.

I have a coffee thing. Well, let me back up. I have a sweet thing and coffee is the perfect balance to it. If I'm eating something sweet, I love the taste of coffee to equalize the flavor.

So if -and when- I'm eating something like cake or a tart, I really want to have a coffee along side it. (FYI: Milk, no sugar.)

In the US, dessert is served with coffee, but here (and around Europe)- dessert comes first and coffee/tea comes as the final item served to the table. For Americans, it's always a bit confusing when they are dining out here. They'll order dessert and a hot drink, and when only the dessert arrives- they sit looking around in confusion wondering how their drink order was forgotten. In actuality, your drink hasn't been forgotten. It's just in the queue for when desserts are finished. (If you'd like them to come out together, just simply ask your server if you have your drink at the same time the dessert arrives. They'll do it, if you ask!)

I'm actually coming around to having the two split up- but it's taken me nearly five years. Maybe I'm just enjoying dragging out the dining experience more and more, but either way- coffee or some hot green tea really make a meal feel complete. 

Anyone else feel the twitch to flick on a kettle for some tea or brew some coffee before you can walk away from the table? If you don't do it now, just go ahead and try it one night. It makes any regular dinner feel a little bit more civilized and stretch the conversation just a bit further.



*images by Ashel Parsons for Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 18, 2016 and filed under europe, eat.

Pack Your Bags: Keukenhof Tulip Festival

I can't think of many things that I welcome more than spring. The warm weather and bright skies after months of grey just... well, wake me up after a long season of watching The Good Wife and eating comfort food inside. But I can tell you now, the beauty of spring in Holland made me want to strip the tights off my body and prance around in all my pale glory.

I will say, while the site of those thousands of tulips were amazing, getting out to see them wasn't exactly the easiest thing I've ever done. So, here's a few things to help you if/when you visit Holland's famous tulip festival, Keukenhof.


WHEN IS IT: The dates shift from year to year, but it will always be- hold your breath- in the spring! The dates for 2015 are March 20th through May 17th. And while it may be "spring" earlier on in the festival, it will still be pretty chilly in the end of March and start of April. Mid-April will give you the perfect balance of seeing the tulips at their finest, as well as avoiding certain buzz kills such as... you know, snow during your visit. 



GETTING THERE: To get there, you'll need a bit of patience. If you want to get there the cheapest way, there are shuttles that run to the site from the airport. This entails a train from the main station to the airport, and then queuing in a (potentially) massive line to get on board a bus. (Note: We went on what ended up being the busiest day by x4 of the season, so our experience may be a bit outside of normal.) 

The shuttle costs (as of 2014) €23 when you buy a "Combo Ticket" which gets you transportation + admission to the park. This is the most cost-effective option, so make sure you buy this before you leave the station. 

Get more information on the site via their journey planner.



WHAT TO DO: The park is enormous. We only gave ourselves a few hours to spend there before closing, and didn't make it to half of the park. If you want to see it all- get up early and plan on spending the day out there. There are several sections to Keukenhof, and each takes longer than you may think. 

Don't miss out on the food, either. You'll find fresh waffles being sold in carts, generous cups of strawberries crowned with whipped cream, and all the other yummy treats that would make your day complete.

Don't miss the opportunity to ship some of Holland's gorgeous bulbs back to your home while you're there. The prices really aren't steep and you'll have the chance to bring a piece of the beauty of Keukenhof home with you. 



Traveling to Amsterdam? Find more of my travel tips for Amsterdam here!






*images original to Aspiring Kennedy


Posted on March 12, 2015 and filed under europe, travel.

Le Supermarché.


Everyone has their "ticks" when they travel. For me, I can't stay away from grocery stores. I love the packaging. Peeking at what crazy things make up the daily diets of people in new places. I always load up a cart and then beg Tyler to let me buy it. "Some of it... Half of it? ... Okay, fine. How about this weird spice and these cookies?" (I can always get him with the cookies.)

One of my favorite things about working/living in France is daily runs to the store for groceries. In my dream world, it'd be Monoprix all the time... but sometimes, it's not the closest option. Oh man, the French do groceries RIGHT.

The dairy section is as big as the fiction section of most book shops. The yoghurt aisle is an entire wall. Who knew there could be a devoted section solely for Camembert cheese? It's impressive.

So much mustard, it's tear-inducing. (Like all good French mustard should be.)

Goats cheese in every form. Bacon-wrapped. Herb-rolled.  C'est incroyable.

Baby's first potted meat.

While it may seem like a daily chore for some... it's straight up Friday night entertainment for us.

What's the ONE grocery you wish you could have in your grocery store that you bought elsewhere? For me, it's La Fermiére Vanilla Yogurt. Oh gosh, it's so good. We have it here in London, but it's just so much more expensive.





*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

*shirt from Emoi Emoi

Posted on March 10, 2015 and filed under eat, europe, france, shopping.

Here VS There: Dining Out.


Having new students arrive so often leaves me with the chance to ALWAYS be seeing & explaining the cultural differences between the US & Britain. I also get to answer a lot of the same questions again and again. (Will they take US dollars? What is a pudding? Why is everyone so quiet on the tube? Etc.) Generally, I like it. My dorky side enjoys explaining the cultural nuances so it's pretty fun to constantly rehash the same conversations. Though I have yet to come to a good defense for their passion for meat-flavored crisps. Gag.

The biggest hurdle for visitors to adapt to in Europe is definitely dining out. The ingredients and portion sizes are always noted, but it's the speed of service that always gets people. (Do you think that they forgot about us? Do these people not want to make money? And the most popular, Where the %&$! is our bill?)

Moments like that are a definite contrast to life in the States where you can always count on being asked if you "saved any room for dessert?" as the pre-printed ticket is slid on the table. 

The pace in Europe is just... slower. It, generally, suits my style. Though sometimes I get confused in dining out in London. They seem to pick & choose between "metropolitan city" and "quaint village" paces at moments of varying discretion. Overall though, I like it lingering over a meal and sitting with a coffee for until I feel completely satisfied with food and conversation. 

What about you? Do you love it or does it drive you crazy?





*image original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on September 2, 2014 and filed under england, europe, travel.