Posts filed under france

My Paris | A Private Tour of Versailles

 

You know that feeling you have when you're traveling and you stumble across some place new... there's a sense of excitement that pulses through you and, if you're like me, you feel like you need to start running, or finding the best restaurant or peeking into real estate offices to begin your new life here.

I love that feeling, and it wasn't until I found myself wandering through the city of Versailles last week that I felt it again for the first time in a long time. To my surprise, the feeling came back and I realised how long it had been since I felt this incredible feeling of the unknown. Most of the places we go to are familiar... like the feeling of seeing an old friend. It's a happy feeling, but a very comfortable feeling.

Anyway, I was in Versailles and we ended up walking 10 minutes past the Chateau and into the heart of town. There was a huge daily market and gorgeous cafes and streets. I couldn't believe I had been to this town so many times and, yet, actually had never seen the cute town here.

But I didn't realise the new view of Versailles had only just begun...

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VISITE PRESTIGE | VERSAILLE'S PRIVATE TOUR OF THE KING & QUEENS APARTMENTS

Okay, so there's a visit to Versailles and then there is THIS VISIT. I was traveling with a private group of clients and they jumped at the opportunity to splurge when I suggested this private tour of the king and queen's private apartments inside Versailles. I had never been on it before, but knew that a guided tour was a must- as the standard lines are just horrific; however, I had my socks officially knocked off by this incredible experience.

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The tour consisted of a private tour through the closed doors of Versailles. We had a docent walk through with us and a second person who carried the ancient keys to unlock the doors and open the shutters inside these dark, closed-off rooms.

You're walked into Marie Antoinette's bedroom where she would hang out with her friends during the day getting dressed and relaxing in between court appearances, you see the bathroom of Louis XIV and the spot where he took his baths and had his face shaved every morning. You see the fluffy bed inside Madame du Barry's apartments... whee the king would come down to visit his beloved mistress. 

You sit in the private opera house to discuss details with the guide, you wander around hidden stair cases and dawdle through empty corridors. 

You are lead and given access to places that you can only imagine. Away from the hustle and formality of the state rooms where events were held, you get to wander through the quiet spaces where they actually lived the meaningful moments of their lives.

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Meanwhile, we never saw another human during the entire two hour tour. We almost began to see the palace as our own... until it ended and found ourselves in the middle of the hoards of tourists. We quickly felt ruined by our incredibly posh beginning so rushed through to the gardens.

Oh man, what an experience. Definitely not the cheapest way to visit Versailles (the tour is €1000 and can include up to 20 guests); however, for a special occasion or a larger group it is an incredible opportunity to see Versailles in such a special way.

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And if you don't get that butterfly-travel-excitment from this day out in Versailles, well, I don't know what to tell you. 

 


Looking for help on a day-trip to Versailles from Paris? I've made it easy in my Daytrip to Versailles post here. Find more of my Paris favourites in my travel guide to Paris.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on August 1, 2018 and filed under day trips, france, my paris, paris, travel, work life, work.

My Normandy | Chateau de Servigny

One of the hardest things about living in London with kids is the lack of space. To be candid, its one of the conversations Tyler and I have the most when discussing raising our kids here. We have so many memories of just wandering and exploring in our backyards. We have countless memories of quiet afternoons spent poking at roly-polys, riding bikes around, and just… well, doing weird kid stuff. Having outdoor space to roam as a kid is like having your own kingdom in which to conduct the weird experiments you concoct in your mind. You get to play out things that you imagined up that day at school. It’s not only a little laboratory for trial and error, but it also is a social ring in which kids can interact with each other without adult interference. 

And sadly, in 1300 square feet- you just can replicate that. And even at the parks, you often are keeping a close eye on your kid or having to force them to share their experience with someone else who may wander up. And while we love them having to learn to share and live with others, it does often interrupt their imagination and reroute the experience. 

All of that to say, the vast expanse of space we get when we travel is not lost on us or our children. There is little luxury in travel that we can really treasure than open space to roam and enjoy. (Okay, maybe a free spa with unlimited services…. I’m only human.) 

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The last time we spent the spring in Paris, my friend Stacy arranged for us to stay at the Chateau de Servigny on our trip to Normandy. It was so lush and we had the best time. With our size group this semester, it was actually cheaper for us to rent out the space than to do hotel rooms… so we were happy with our luck forcing us back here. Not only is it personally important, but it also has special significance as the treaty for the German surrender of Normandy was signed in the chateau! What a special place.

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If you’re headed to Normandy for a trip longer than a couple of nights, I think this is the perfect base for your travels. It’s location near St. Mere Eglise make it a perfect spot for D-Day Beaches and it’s about 2.5 hours away from the iconic Mont St. Michel…. Where I am, in fact, currently sitting in a cafe on as I type out this blog post. 

The Chateau has eight bedrooms that you can rent, a full kitchen, dining room, tennis courts, bathrooms, perfect sitting rooms and all the other amenities that can come with a privately rented chateau. We have a cook come in each night and she cooks us 3 course meals for €20 per person. It’s a fantastic value… especially when she tells you that the chicken she roasted came from her very own farm or her daughter works in the patisserie that made the triple chocolate cake you are eating.

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I really can’t say enough about what a retreat this space is for us. I hope you can come and see for yourself what special place Chateau de Servigny is.

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Looking for more on trips to Normandy? Find my France guide or read my previous Normandy posts.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 11, 2018 and filed under normandy, france, travel.

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.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 14, 2016 and filed under france, paris, friends, get out of town.

Pack Your Bags | La Rotonde at Le Negresco, Nice

I wrote this post on May 6, but hadn't had the chance to edit the photos for it until this week. When the Bastille Day attack happend in Nice, I was sick to my stomach. The attacks were in front of the Negresco Hotel, and the rooms we were in and took hilarious pictures of Harrison were now triage areas for the wounded victims of this senseless event.

While I don't speak about these kind of events online, please don't mistake that for a lack of recognition of what is happening in the world around us. I endlessly read and observe what is taking place. When I wake up to these horrific headlines, I feel them deeply.

And while I do feel fearful at times and unsure of being in certain places, I realize that fear is a bigger enemy than any terrorist group. So I keep going. And I want to encourage you to keep going, too. Keep living lives that are full and joyful and rich. Keep exploring God's gorgeous world without the fear of "Yeah, but what if?" And, please, go to France. Enjoy la vie en rose at a cafe in Paris, the coastlines of Normandy and the light-heartedness of the Riviera. Don't let dark times snuff out the brightness of great cultures and places. And if and when you find yourself enjoying the sunshine of Nice, I hope you'll find joy in this place like we so recently did, too.


 

Our semester in France ended in Nice, on the dazzling coastline of the French Riviera. Nice definitely lives up to its name. From the sunny climate, the lush gardens and easy-going culture which feels, unsuprisingly due to its location on the border of Italy, somewhat of the love child of France + Italy- Nice lends itself to a rather pleasant place to find oneself.

After the last official day of the semester, we found ourselves with one last day in town. With nothing other than unwinding on the agenda, we decided it was time to treat our kids to something special. (After a few months of having them submit to our crazy schedule, it was the least we could do.)

If you followed our France time on Instagram, you'll probably have noticed my kids have a thing for carousels. Like a really big thing. At almost every town square of France, you'll find DNA from one or all of our family who have touched the carousel there.

 

So when we heard that the Negresco Hotel had a restaurant decorated as a carousel, "La Rotonde", and we also heard that they had a great lunch offer... and, thus, we deemed it serendipitous for how to spend our last day in Nice.

 

 

We went at the end of the lunch rush, which was good because it was nearly empty and our kids were a bit strung out. None the less, it was sooooooo lovely. (Does it make me sound less professional if I add endless "oooo"s to my adjectives? I'll deal with it. It fits the mood of this dreamy spot.)

 

 

The set menu was a great value- 2 courses for €25, but you are limited to only one option for your main course. The setting and food live up the famed Michelin star of the hotel chef, Jean-Denis Rieubland. Definitely a stop not to miss after a sunny day wandering along the Promenade or lounging at the beach.

 

 

Find more of my favorite places in Nice here, as well as in my France travel guide.

 

LA ROTONDE BRASSERIE, NEGRESCO HOTEL | 37 Promenade Des Anglais. Nice, France. 06000.  +33 4 93 16 64 00


FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN


 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Pack Your Bags | Domaine de Fontenille, Provence

Wow. It has been a while since my last post. Whenever I say that, I always feel like I have some pretty good reasons to back up my absence... you know, like traveling Southern France to wrap up our semester in France, packing up our place in Paris, moving into our new place in London, visiting friends in Germany on their way back from deployment in Afghanistan, grading endless stacks of papers and finals, living without wifi. You know how it goes. Life is busy!

But before the London summertime absorbs all my brain space, I wanted to share a few special places that we stumbled upon towards over the past few weeks. They're really too good not to share, and I hope that, someday, you can find yourself there, too!


When I was looking to book a spot for us to stay in Southern France, everyone seemed a bit overwhelmed at the idea of switching to a new hotel every night during our Provence trip. In search of a place that could be more central and a home base for our time there, I scoured Tablet Hotels. (One of my favorite places to find hotels!)

Domaine de Fontenille showed up in the search and the prices were really reasonable- €160 per room. Compared to staying in the city centers of the major Provençal towns, this seemed like an easy swap... and the upgrade on the quality of the hotel was a no-brainer.

Once we arrived, we all dropped bags (and jaws) and wandered around this gorgeous retreat tucked in the hills of Provence. I could go on and on, but I'll try to just hit you with the highlights and some photos to do it justice.

WHAT YOU'LL WANT TO KNOW:

-The hotel is situated in the countryside and will require renting a car. This will allow you to explore the surrounding towns easily and give you freedom to get out during the day, even if just into the tiny nearyby town of Lauris.

- The hotel has a Michelin-starred chef overseeing the food at the hotel and it is amazing.

- The hotel staff is very friendly and exceptionally accommodating. The hotel manager came and personally made the bed in the baby cot in our room.

- You can book a massage with the front desk, as well as request use of the hamman area for complimentary use of the sauna.

- Breakfast is worth waking up for, make sure you try the homemade croissants with a big smear of butter and the apricot & lavender jam. A bite of that lovely concoction may be my lasting memory of our stay there.

Also after breafkast morning, some photographers shot Viola playing out in the garden. I figured it was for the hotel website or a travel blogger at work. LIttle did I know when I asked if they could take some photos of her that it was for ELLE Magazine. Who knows if they will use the photos, but man- if they end up running the pictures of her, it will be a really neat keepsake!

We had such an amazing stay at Domaine de Fontenille, and I really do dream of getting back there sometime soon. I have no doubt that if you find yourself there, you'll not only find it to be a great hotel for exploring Provence, but feel that hits that tricky target being of approachable yet luxurious.

 

Find more of my travel favorites for France in my France Travel Guide.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kenendy

 

Pack Your Bags: The Perfect Normandy Itinerary

Over the weekend, we went with my students to Normandy. What started as a regular group trip evolved into an epic getaway when my friend, Stacy, hooked us up with a stay in the Chateau de Servigny. As you may have imagined, my students heads nearly fell off when we rolled up and they saw our accommodations for the weekend. 

Luckily, the fun didn't stop there. We had a day in Bayeaux- eating at our favorite spot and seeing the famous tapestry, touring the D-Day beaches, visiting Mont St. Michel in all of its Easter Sunday madness, frolicking through the port side town of Honfleur and wandering through Monet's garden in Giverny.

Normandy isn't the easiest place to get to from Paris, but I'm going to make it a little easierby doing a suggested itinerary for a few days there. In exchange, you have to indulge me and see a slew of pictures from our weekend away. If it's any consolation, most were taken by Stacy (who just happens to be an amazing photographer) and they are really pretty.

 

THE PERFECT NORMANDY ITINERARY

 

DAY ONE | DEPART FOR NORMANDY

You have a few options to get to Normandy- either rent a car at Hertz in Gare du Nord or train from Paris to Caen. From there, rent a car and drive from there.

Head to Bayeux (approximately 20 minutes from Caen).

Lunch at La Moulin de Galette (get the Galette l'Aure - but sub out the chicken for ham. It's incredible.)

Spend the rest of the day enjoying the tiny town of Bayeux: visit the Bayeux Tapestry, explore the town, or wandering through the town's stunning cathedral.

Stay at the Hotel Churchill, Reine Mathilde or the pricier (but equally central), Villa Lara Hotel.

 

DAY TWO | D-DAY BEACHES

Wake up. Have breakfast in Bayeux.

Explore Utah Beach. 

Drive to St-Mere-Eglise. Explore the Paratroopers Museum there. See the "paratrooper" hanging in memory of the US soldier who survived German fire by playing dead as he hung, stuck on the village's church steeple, during the chaos of D-Day. Eat lunch. Visit the tasty bakery in town.

Drive to La Pointe du Hoc. Visit the stunning place dotted with craters from explosions and explore German armories. 

Visit Omaha Beach & The American Cemetery above the beach.

Return to Bayeux. Relax for the evening in town.

 

DAY THREE | MONT ST MICHEL & VILLEDIEU-LES-POÊLES

Breakfast in Bayeux- at the hotel or from one of the nearby local cafes.

Depart for Mont St. Michel. (If you're not up for driving. Hotel Churchill offers a daily shuttle from their hotel to Mont St. Michel at an affordable rate!) The drive is two hours from Bayeux, and you'll have to either take the shuttle bus from the parking lot or walk 30 minutes to the famous rocky village.

Explore Mont St. Michel. Eat in town, do some souvenir shopping, explore the Abbey on top of the town, and enjoy the views offered from the top. You'll want about 2.5 hours to explore the town after you reach the base of it.

Depart Mont St. Michel. If you leave early enough, you can stop for lunch in Villedieu Les Poeêles. This tiny town is not only really cute with lots of cafes, shops and bakeries, but it also is the home to Mauviel copper cookware- the fancy kind that you can buy for 3x the cost in Williams-Sonoma.

Drive on to Honfleur, spend the evening eating in one of the endless restaurants dotted around the tiny seaside town.

 

DAY FOUR | HONFLEUR, GIVERNY & RETURN TO PARIS

Wake up in Honfleur. Shop around the town. Eat lunch in a cafe around the main port in the sunshine. Wander through the little streets. Visit Saint Catherine's Cathedral to see the naval-esque architecture of the fishing town.

Depart Honfleur for Giverny. Wander through Monet's family home, manicured gardens and legendary water garden. 

Drive back to Paris in time for dinner and an evening settling back into the City of Lights.

 

 

So there you have it- your Normandy getaway all planned out. Check out more travel advice in my France Travel Guide or contact me for a personalized consult for your vacation.



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy by L'Amour de Paris

 

 

Paris | Week 1

Our first week in Paris is in the books. Our students are here, we are settled in our new/temporary apartment, and life is rolling on. In the midst of work and family life, we are dutifully shoveling brioche down our throats as much as possible. 

And Tyler and I have even been able to spend some nice time together in the midst of it all. Wandering along the Seine in the middle of day together, we'll find ourselves hugging the other and savoring the sweet moments alone in a city we love. What adventures the two of us have had!

Yesterday, we had a choux pastry cooking class at La Cuisine Paris. In the midst of an amazing time making eclairs, we looked out and sad the biggest, chunkiest snow falling out the window over the Seine and Ile St. Louis. Considering I nearly left the house in a JCrew t-shirt two hours before, I can only explain the change in weather as: "bizarre."


One of my former students that we love has come to stay with us this spring. She's helping with the kids during the day, and it's been so nice. Plus, it has been so fun to have another girl around the house to watch Fuller House with each night and laugh at hilarious SNL skits. (How had I never seen this Kristin Wig one? I live under a rock, I tell you.)

Plus, she lets me force her into taking pictures pretending to be a Joni Mitchell album cover. Complete with a napkin cigarette. I'm never letting her leave us. 

Last night after the kids went bed, Tyler & I snuck out for a little dinner out at our favorite place. Sadly, the place has become so... not charming. It was sad to come back to "our" place to see it was so full of tourists. The food was really blah and the service was terrible. All night, we sat there hoping to get a glimpse of the place we once loved with the arrival of a perfect dish to our table or a conversation with a charming waiter that would rekindle the flame... but it never happened. It was like waiting for an old friend to show up in a crowd, but you never recognize the familiar face you are hoping to see. We walked out of there and walked home a bit sad at the reality that our history of dates there was at an end... but with the determination to find a new place that would be our "new" spot. 

It reminded me how fast these cities can change... recommendations and advice for travel has such a short shelf life. With that in mind, I'm working hard to update and add some really good new places for the Paris travel guide, so that the places I recommend can lead you to places that will help you make great memories. Rather than just "meh" ones like we experienced last night.

So... we are officially back on the market. We are looking for our Parisian soulmate- in the form of a cozy restaurant- that we can have a serious fling with over the months come. Anyone want to play matchmaker for us? What's a great date spot we should try in Paris!




*images original to aspiring kennedy


Posted on March 3, 2016 and filed under paris, france, travel, work life.

The Perfect Parisian Lunch | Cafe De La Paix

When Amber & I booked tickets for a day-trip to Paris, we knew that the day would be (or could be potentially) rushed. With a city as gorgeous and jam-packed with great sites, stores and neighborhoods- it was easy to try and cram the day full with amazing stops like Galleries Lafayette, brunch with local friends or stopping in a few museums.

But the good thing about traveling with someone you really like and know is that you can be honest with each other about how you want to spend your time. Luckily, we both had the same goals in mind: eat amazing food, take as long as we want since we wouldn't have babies with us and keep it simple.

So basically, eat great food and let the rest of the day fall as it would around that. We kept breakfast simple (yet amazing) with a stop at, in my opinion, Paris' best boulangerie (Du Pain et Des Idées) and a casual picnic from the market along the Seine for dinner... but lunch? Well, that we did in style.

For a long time, I've seen Cafe De La Paix sitting smugly next to the Palais Garnier, as part of the luxe Intercontinental Paris Le Grand HotelWith it's iconic green awnings, distinctive signs and posh clientele dotting the terrace- it's been on my "If I'm ever cool enough, I'll go there" list. Well, without a baby... we were both feeling cool enough. 

It would be fair to say that lunch here was the crown jewel in our girls' day to Paris. I wanted to give a full review of it, so that when you plan your next trip to Paris- you'll have all the details needed to decide if an afternoon here is how you, too, should spend your time. Pull up a chair and join us for our ladies lunch in Paris. 


FIRST IMPRESSIONS 

The prominent position just out of the Opera Metro station beside the Palais Garnier is a, undoubtedly, striking. The sunny terrace with posh waiters running around makes the scene even more... Parisian. You can eat on the Terrace for a bit more relaxed menu and service (though, it will be one of the fancier sidewalk cafes you can find in the city!), but we had reservations inside the main dining room.

The main dining room? Amazing. With painted ceilings, plush red velvet banquettes and fine china dressed on the table- it is a "pinch me" kind of place.

 

OKAy, IT SOUNDS PRETTY... BUT HOWS THE FOOD?

The food is amazing. Honestly, it ticks that "Fine French Cuisine" box in every perfect way. I'll give you a visual walk-through to prove it.

There is a seasonal set menu from the market that is available at lunch and pre-theatre which offers three courses for €53. While the regular menu was dotted with glorious options like oysters and grilled meats, I felt compelled to do some "travel research" and opt for the menu so that I could pass along the information to you here. We told our waiter that we wanted to try the menu, if there was anything we didn't particularly like and he said he would take care of us.*

(*I've never handed over my dining before- as I'm typically a bit of a control freak over my food. Think Sally in the diner from When Harry Met Sally. But hey, I was baby-free in Paris with my friend at a gorgeous restaurant. If there was ever a time to go with the moment, it was then.)

While we waited for our first course, a little amuse bouche arrived at our table. Gorgeous. Perfect. 

From there, the first course arrived: "le jardin du printemps"... which, naturally, means "Spring Garden." Now I've never eaten a spring garden before- but this gorgeous bowl of color seems to do a pretty amazing job of living up to the title. A light puree of greens crowned with bright vegetables and flowers that was so light and fresh.


Next came the main: turbot- because nothing says "ladies lunch" like simple white fish and beautiful veggies. Cooked simply in butter, the fish was perfectly cooked and the right choice for the meal.

And of course, after that dessert descended on our table like an angel from heaven. It was a creation that only the French can create that somehow combines art and flavor. Wild strawberries, cream, homemade salted shortbread... We were in pain trying to finish it after being so stuffed, but you'll be glad to know that we persevered and ate every bite. 

 

While we were moaning over how full we were, coffee arrived... alongside a plank of about a dozen gorgeous handmade sweets like macarons and tarts. Obviously, it was hard work to pay them all the respect they deserved and eating them all. But we aren't quitters, so we rallied. 

And it would be a pity to talk all about such beautiful food and fail to mention the exceptional service. It's not everyday that the chef comes out to personally say hello! The entire staff was so kind and helpful- it made the experience all the sweeter! (They didn't even seem to mind that we were the last people to leave the dining room after rest of the bustling lunch crowd had long left.)

 

WOULD YOU GO BACK? 

Yes. Definitely. It's a great spot to spend with someone that you'd love to enjoy a long meal with. It's not to be rushed, but if you're with someone that you want to spend some good time with in a perfect place, Cafe de la Paix is pretty hard to beat. I'd love to take Tyler back there for a romantic dinner out in Paris or waste the afternoon away with a girlfriend there again. 

Or, in a dream scenario, stay above at the Intercontinental's hotel in one of their balcony suites and meander downstairs to the Cafe de la Paix for brunch after a lazy morning in bed. (A girl can dream, right?)

 


 

Thank you, Cafe de la Paix for treating us to the *perfect* lunch for our trip. We left feeling significantly chubbier and blissfully spoiled.

 

Find more of my favorite places to eat here in my PARIS TRAVEL GUIDE.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on April 30, 2015 and filed under eat, paris, travel, france.

I'm Probably in Paris.

Here's something you may not have expected to see when you clicked through to read today: I'm in Paris! (Or maybe you did if you've been reading for a while and realize that random trips are right up my alley.)

In a move that I can only describe as "impulsive," "amazing," and/or "legendary," I bought tickets for a day trip to Paris with my friend, Amber. Eurostar was having a sale and we jumped at the chance to spend a day (kid-free!) in Paris for €70 round-trip tickets.  It's a little last hoorah before the baby arrives, and I can't wait to waddle all around the city with one of my favorite people!

 

 

Our main goal for the day? EAT. We are going to hit up as many eateries as we can. Why? Well, for starters- why not? What else does a pregnant woman want to do in Paris? But also, because we are both wanting to check out some places that we have heard are great... and if we love them, they'll make the cut for the PARIS TRAVEL GUIDE. So wish us luck that we find some great new spots... because it could be to your benefit!

We'll be back in time for bed, but in the meantime... follow along on our fun girls day on Instagram!


And speaking of French loveliness, the sweet Paris-based company, Émoi Émoi did an interview with me that just went live this week. I actually really liked what they asked me and I like how it summarized how I feel about being a mom. Read the interview here

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 22, 2015 and filed under paris, travel, france.

Souvenirs De France

When I'm with guests traveling from the US, a big question that I get asked is: "What are the best souvenirs to buy when you're here?" So I figured it would be fun to share a few of my favorite things to bring back with me when I travel from various places.

To be honest, some of these are obvious while others are hidden gems. And then the rest? Well, they're everyday items that we've somehow got hooked on when traveling that we love to enjoy in our everyday back home when we're lucky enough to have them.

First up... Souvenirs de France, complete with a pretty visual and a reason why each makes it to my suitcase, when possible.

 

1. MONOPRIX BABY CLOTHES | While it may be on par with Marks & Spencers or Target, Monoprix is probably my favorite stop in France. Their baby clothes are gorgeous, and if you're lucky enough to travel during the sale time? Jackpot. My French friend told me that a director from Bonpoint had taken over their children's line and that is why it is so gorgeous. Fact? Fiction? Either way, most of my favorite pieces in Viola's wardrobe are from their end of season sales.

2.  MACARONS | As cliche as it may be to put this on your list, we all know they're going to be purchased and brought back from someone. The two heavy hitters are Ladurée and Pierre Hermé. Either way, you're in good hands.

3. GROCERIES | As silly as it may sound, we have a few items that we love to get in Paris- especially at Monoprix. Green curry paste, granola with dark chocolate, sirop de fraise to make sparkling water feel very fancy,  and of course chocolate-covered waffles.

4. FRAGONARD | This French perfumer has it's main studio in a charming hillside town of Eze in Provence. Luckily, you don't have to go to Southern France to get access to their goodies. (Just you know... across the ocean to various other parts of France.) I can never resist getting a souvenir from here- especially the candles. They have a Brioche candle that burns in our kitchen. It is one of my favorite gifts to give friends. They also have adorable items for sale like hand-embroidered pillows and shirts. 

5. TABLE LINENS | Is this one kind of random? Maybe, but whenever we are at a market, I find myself drawn to thumbing through the stacks of table clothes for sale. Maybe it's because they are classic and simple... maybe its because they are so cheap (typically around €7-10).... Either way, these are another great gift to bring back for yourself or someone else.

6. TEA | Tea? The girl from England is recommending you buy tea in France? Yes, but let me explain. France has great teas. I love Ladurée's almond tea, and pretty much any Kusmi Tea. (I like the Anastasia blend.) They're quite a bit more than you would pay in England, but they are crazy blends and a bit more of a specialty item.

7. BIODERMA | I use this everyday. It feels like water and it removes makeup like none other. Every French woman I know loves and uses it. Luckily, Amazon now makes it accessible to the US & UK... but you can get it for about half the price in a French pharmacy. Stock up... and send me some!

8. ANTIQUE BOOKS | The book stalls along the Seine have some of the prettiest treasures in them. They pack great, they are cheap (if you shop around) and, I think, they make for sweet gifts for friends.

9. MONOPRIX CLOTHES | Okay, okay... one more thing from Monoprix: clothes for us! I can't say that 100% of their store is a hit, but they do some great classic pieces at great prices. Anything chambray that I have is from here, as well as some of my favorite coats and skirts. The guys line is significantly smaller than the women's line, but Tyler has a few favorites from there, too.

10. APILCO | I registered for Apilco dishes from Williams-Sonoma when I was getting married. Thank goodness people gifted them to us, because there is NO WAY I would ever shell out the dough for them on my own. (So expensive!) I found a store in Paris though, La Vaissellerie- just off St. Paul metro in the Marais- that sells the entire line for a fraction of the price. We bought bowls and plates for €3-4 each. They have multiple locations around Paris.

11. MAILLE MUSTARD | Everything is better with this on it. I have a hard time thinking of a meal in France that I don't put this on. (Okay, fine, breakfast... but otherwise, it has to be on the table.) I can get it here, but not as cheap as there. You can get a huge jar of this heavenly concoction that makes your nose run in just the way for only €2.50. Yum.

 

 


 

What would you fill up your suitcase with? Anything I'm missing that I need to know about? Educate us!

 

*image original Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

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.

 

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

*shirt from Emoi Emoi

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

Our Weekend in Paris | Top 8 Moments in Pictures.

 

Because a picture can say 1000 words...and because black & white pictures say it even better, here are the top eight moments from our weekend in Paris.

 

1. MINNIE MOUSE | Viola shocked us all when she stripped out of her normal shy exterior and bolted to Minnie. She hugged her, kissed her, and told her she was "TWO." I don't think Tyler & I have enjoyed watching anything more than that moment in a long time. It was so cute.



2. OUR FIRST DAY | We woke up at 4, took the train to Paris, dropped our bags at the flat... and went out to explore. We should have been exhausted and ruined from the drizzle, but we were too excited to care.

 


3. FAMILY PICTURES | To be honest, this wasn't actually that fun or easy. It was raining buckets all day, we had our big stroller to deal with and there were tourists everywhere. But we did get to hang out in Le Palais Garnier with Stacy Reeves (photographer extraordinaire and our good friend) and have lunch together afterwards. (This photo was taken by her. More to come!)

 


4. PARENTS DAY OUT | After brunch, we hit the park. The kids play together. The parents chat on the benches. Win-Win.

 


5.. HANGING OUT WITH TYLER | Fine, this isn't a particular moment, but getting to be less distracted by life for a few days and just hang out with him was nice. I really do like living life with him.

 


6. LE CAFE | We spent a lot of hours in cafes: sipping espresso and laughing hysterically when Viola would tell the waiters "Mershy."



7. THE MORNINGS | Because it is hard to beat pastries, La Fermiere Yogurt and fresh coffee with a view out your window of the Paris streets.... all topped with the absence of an alarm clock. 

 


8. FAIRE LE BRUNCH | Sunday morning, we had brunch at one of our favorite places, Cafe St. Regis. The casually cool atmosphere, custard-drenched french toast (le pain perdu) and view of Notre Dame make this place a "must" for us. Note: brunch is only on Sundays, after 10am.

 


 

I'd say I was missing Paris, but this gorgeous spring weather in London is suiting me just fine. I'm happy to stay here and enjoy the sweet memories we made.

 

FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN

 

 

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on March 9, 2015 and filed under france, travel, family, paris.

EURODISNEY | Worth the Trip?

 

When we were in Paris this spring, my sister & her husband came to visit. As it wasn't their first time to Paris, they were a bit more relaxed in what they wanted to see. In fact, the only place they really cared about getting to during their week in France was Disneyland Paris- or "Eurodisney" as it was once known.

I had been 10 years before while backpacking through Europe, and the golden memory I have of my unbathed nineteen year-old self stumbling into that slice of Americanized heaven was enough to charm me into the idea of going back. We used the excuse of going for the sake of our kid, and headed out to make the trek to Disneyland. And of course, once we got there we reused that same excuse when making the leap into season passes.

We went out to Disney three more times during our time there, which more than paid for our season passes. We tried the park out on a number of different days: midweek, rainy, sunny and on in the early days of peak season. As you can imagine, the lines are better earlier in the year and on the weekdays. However, you'll also miss out on many of the rides and restaurants being closed as the park operates on a slimmer staff. For us, that was a small price to pay as we were stroller-laden and visiting with a baby. We, literally, could stay on It's a Small World and loop it as much as we liked. 

Even though the park is smaller, it has many of the Disney essentials you'll hope to experience (Madhatter's Tea Cups, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pinocchio, Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, Main Street, It's a Small World, Space Mountain, etc). You'll see all the characters and there are daily parades. 

Also, sitting next door to the Disneyland Paris is the Walt Disney Studios Park. You'll need a ticket that allows for both parks. These are about €10 more per day, but you can access a slew of more rides and attractions like The Tower of Terror and the newly opened Ratatouille ride.

 



Here are few tips & thoughts that can help your visiting Disneyland Paris be a bit easier:

GETTING THERE: Eurodisney is easily reached by the RER. Literally, you're dumped out by the gates of the park at the Marne-la-Vallee stop. Just take the RER Line A from Central Paris all the way there. It'll take you about 45 minutes. Read more on how to access the park here on the Disneyland Paris website. The round-trip RER ticket price to the park is roughly €15 per person. These are available for purchase at any metro or RER station.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST: The standard day passes can give you a bit of the sticker shock that you might expect. However, there are few ways to work around the normal pricing. First, check the offers page on the site. They are typically family passes or other seasonal promotions. With a valid student ID, you can get a daily ticket for €41 for both parks. Most of the must be purchased in advance, so do this before arriving at the park. The basic ticket for one park is around €79 per day.

The season pass start at around €120, but you can't use it for a second day until 5 days have passed from having your card issued. (It's a tricky system that makes it really hard to use unless you're living locally or in Paris for an extended time.) The general pricing page can be found here.

EATING AT THE PARK: The park has various restaurant options available. Some are hilariously overpriced in the seated options (around €75 per person!), but if you grab lunch or dinner you can typically get a LOT of food for around  €10 per person. At the various restaurants, they have a standard menu of items... but the value comes in the meal deals. You can get a main item, fries or salad, yogurt, dessert and a drink for a few euros more. With all the various sides, we easily shared a couple of meals between three people. You can find a full list of eateries on the property here.

We would pack snacks for the morning and the train ride back at the end of the day. It's fine to bring food into the park, if you'd like. Either way- I'd recommend bringing a bottled drink for your day at the park. You'll be glad you grabbed one at the grocery store when you see them for €4 at the park.

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So, overall, would I recommend going out to Disneyland Paris? Sure! Maybe not if it's your first time to Paris, or if you're time there is rushed, but if you're a repeat visitor to the City of Lights or you're traveling for a longer stretch of time? Why not?

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on September 24, 2014 and filed under france, kids, travel, viola, traveling with kids, paris.

6 Things To Make Traveling Europe With a Baby Easier.

 

Is it possible to travel with a baby and not be completely out of your element? Is there any hope that you won't look like a flustered hot mess with stuff flying everywhere and baby gear strapped to every part of your body? Well, in the airport, no.  I haven't mastered that yet (so much stuff to carry!), but once you arrive to your destination? Yes, I daresay it is possible! Here are six things that help you travel with a baby and still keep some dignity in tow, too.

ONE  |  BYOHC

Bring your own... high chair? In England, a few places will have high chairs. In France, we probably encountered three. One being at the newly opened Chipotle. Holding a toddler during a meal can be described in many terms, but "relaxing" is not one of them. Plus, it makes eating nearly impossible.

We marched to Monoprix and bought a cloth one that slipped over the back of chairs and snapped Viola into an inescapable sitting position. It was amazing, and it folded up in my bag. We loved it, and I have a feeling it will travel many places with us over the years to come. 

Here's a similar one. If you use a high chair at home and are planning to travel: buy it! Trust me.

 

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TWO  |  WEAR A SCARF

 Wear a scarf? Yes. Stop hauling around your nursing cover and just get a large summer scarf. It's one less thing to schlep around, it is way more inconspicuous than a giant paisley shawl, and hey- it's Europe. You'll probably be wearing light layers and a scarf anyway. This is my #1 trick I like to share with people. All the modesty, way quicker than "cloaking up", and looks like the baby is just snoozing on you. And yes, that is why I wore a scarf for pretty much the entire year of 2013.

GAP has these ones on sale that should do the trick.

THREE  |  DOUBLE'S TROUBLE

If you have more than one child, a double stroller can be a great thing on a day with lots of walking. On behalf of all the citizens of a large city, can I ask you a favor? Don't get a double-wide! The side-by-side strollers are great for surburban walking trails and amusement parks, but in cities where massive amounts of people use sidewalks? It's one of the worst offenses possible. It bottlenecks the traffic and people have to dodge around you to get past. Just trust me, a stadium seating stroller will save you annoyed glances and mumbled comments. Plus, the side-by-sides don't fit on buses!

The Baby Jogger City Select is what we bought. We love it, and it collapses in half quickly when you're in a pinch. Just make sure you check it when you fly. Airlines have broken two of ours from handling it when checking it at the gate, and airlines take no responsibility for them.

 

FOUR  |  URBAN JUNGLE GYM

Give your little a break and take advantage of the playgrounds and parks around the city. Not only is a great time for them to get out some energy, but they are typically in amazing places. It's fun for adults, too. 

Some of our favorite places to let Viola play in Paris are the park alongside the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower, a tiny garden playground right next to the Pompidou, the playground at Place Des Vosges and a neighborhood park in the shadows of the Picasso Museum near our apartment.

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FIVE  |  LIVE LOCAL

Hotels have some great amenities, but when traveling with a kid- renting an apartment is so nice. You can get cozy, have access to a fridge and food, and extra space to stretch out with little. Plus, the lower prices make it way more affordable. Almost all of them can provide you with a pack & play, if you request it in advance. We typically book through AirBnb or One Fine Stay.

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SIX  |  PACK SOME SNACKS

Maybe this seems obvious, but I often forget. Meals are long and there is no "hold-over" food waiting for children once you're seated. No chips and salsa. No bread. No kids meal out early, It's a good habit to form, but it may save some sanity to have some small toys (we love finger puppets) and puffs or crackers to munch on while you wait.


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There you have it. Six easy things to make your trip overseas a bit more doable... and, hopefully, a bit less hectic!

 

FIND MY OTHER POST ON FLYING WITH BABIES HERE.

 

*all images via Aspiring Kennedy

Paris | Locks (and Locks!) of Love

 

You know those locks along the Pont Des Arts in Paris? The one where lovers go to lock up their love forever and toss the key in the Seine below? Well, over the past year that novel idea has seemingly made the must-do list of every tourist couple to touch down in France.When we were in Paris for the spring, the bridges were absolutely heaving with them.

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There were men dotted along every ten feet or so of the bridges with assorted locks and sharpies out for purchase.

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The once romantic gesture has transformed from something quite to something that... well, had gone too far.

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And this weekend, it really went too far. Like down-into-the-river-too-far.

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Apparently, the locks have gotten so out of control that they weighed down a portion of the railing and ripped it down into the Seine.That's pretty in-seine, isn't it?

Read more about it here.

After seeing how out of control they were, I'm kind of ready to see Paris stop the tradition like Florence did on the Ponte Vecchio in years past.

Then again, I was really sad when Venice outlawed selling birdseed and feeding pigeons in St. Marks Square. (Though selfishly, who really cares after snagging a photo like this?)

 



What do you think?

Should the tradition be locked into the culture of Paris

or should it be tossed to the bottom of the (key-ridden) Seine?




*images by Noah Darnell for Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on June 10, 2014 and filed under france, travel, viola, paris.

Pack Your Bags | Painting in Provence


painting_in_provence_with_aspiring_kennedy_arles_ruins

Sometimes when you travel, its easy to get diluted experiences of places. Sometimes, that can be okay if you're tired or have seen a place a few times. But sometimes, you don't want to settle for site seeing and cafes. And sometimes, I don't either. When we visited Provence this spring, I was eager to get the full experience. I wanted to the most concentrated moment in Provence I could get. With only one day in Arles on our itinerary, it was going to be hard. After thinking through the area and what's it is known for, my mind wandered to Van Gogh's stay there. During his hospitalization in Arles, he managed to paint some amazingly famous paintings like "Cafe at Night" and "Starry Night." As I thought about the pieces, I paused for a moment and decided that, regardless of how terrible the outcome, I wanted to try to paint the countryside in Provence. (Go big or go home, eh LBK?) Now as charming as that sounds, you have to realize this is slightly absurd. First, the last thing I painted was a banner for the highschool football team to run through in 2002. Second, I had no where to go and no art kit to help me. But it was going to happen. When we got there, I ran to Monoprix and grabbed some paper, some cheap acrylic paints and brushes, some tape and food for a picnic. We hopped in a cab and asked them to drive us out of town until we said, "Stop!" They did, and we jumped out out here on a random, lonely road with some even lonelier ruins in the distance. It was windy and chilly, and we were done in about an hour and half... oh, and my art was hilariously childlike. BUT It is a memory that I won't forget. It won't melt into other moments sitting in a cafe like the hundreds of others in my mind. It was distinct and rich. The director of my semester in Florence, Robbie, joined us for the day (who is also a talented artist!), and guided me through the basics. What a fun day!

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It's not always comfortable to do the big moments in travel- like having to use the bathroom behind bushes off a highway in the French countryside, but those moments of pushing yourself are what stay with you. 

 

Have you ever gone above and beyond in travel?

How did you feel about the reward- enriching or draining?

I've had both feelings. It's not always a win, but you never know until you try.

 


 

Also, thanks for the notes about the travel links in the Travel Section being down. I'm going to try and get those sorted out ASAP. Until then, the search box on the home page is a great way to search for previous posts. Just type in a keyword or place, and you should be able to find what you are looking for. Thanks for letting me know!

 

 

*photos original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on June 5, 2014 and filed under travel, france, southern france.

Paris Time.

 

Poof.

 

Just like that, our time in Paris is coming to a close. My students have taken their final and are out conquering the continent with their Eurail passes. Tomorrow my parents land and we spend the weekend closing up shop in Paris before jumping around Normandy & Amsterdam for a few days. How did that happen so quickly? I have to say,

I was excited about Paris...Who wouldn't enjoy getting to spend 11 weeks somewhere this great? But while I looking forward to shallow aspects like crepes and museums on my mind, I've been surprisingly charmed by the city on a much more personal level this time around. It helps to have a few friends in a place...and a spot that feels like home to come back to each day...

Just a few small things that turned out to be big things. It's actually been a really refreshing and pleasant time for Tyler & me.

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We've spent great time with visitors that we love, and been able to enjoy some good "us" time in the quieter moments of the semester, too. It was a needed break from the past year...it feels a bit like someone hit the 'reset' button for us. It's been good. Really good. I'm sad to say goodbye to this great time, but if I don't....who knows what other adventures I might miss out on?

 

Thanks for hanging around for this chapter of the adventure. Now then...who's ready for some English summer?

Posted on April 24, 2014 and filed under life, paris, travel, france.

My Paris | L'Eclair De Genie

It was a long time coming before I could make it to the famous L'Eclair de Genie...Well, in retrospect to my entire life, I suppose. Once we got to Paris, we were there within 72 hours. Since then, we've been back, well....more times than I'd like to admit.

I love these pretty little things...and dream in the Vanille et Noix de Pecan. It's, by far, the best eclair I've ever tasted. And, hey, when you're in France, that's exactly what you want to have.

Flavors rotate out seasonally, but there are typically some classics that stick. Don't go for a cheap treat, as they are around €5 a piece for a gorgeous-yet-small eclair. Go for a taste of something truly special or a treat for someone that you really fancy.

It also makes a great dessert after a falafel from it's lovely neighbor, L'As du Falafel.

*   *   *

For more of my Paris recommendations, check here.

 

*photography by Noah Darnell

Posted on March 24, 2014 and filed under "Paris", "dessert", "le marais", "noah darnell", paris, eat, france, my paris.