A wrap on Paris

Revamping the checklist.

Paris in Grey. Paris, France. January 2016.

Today while flipping through channels, I stumbled upon the 1995 film, Sabrina. While the sum total of Paris seen in this film comes to about 25 minutes of the two hour film, it is one movie which has cemented itself as my quintessential image of the city. I couldn’t help but sit and watch Julia Ormond wander the familiar Paris streets and think back to all the sites I’ve been able to see and all those that I still hope to explore.

Which brings me to my trip out to Paris last February. After that trip, I made a list of all the things that I wanted to see and do next time I landed in this lovely city.

Just as predicted, this list was a phenomenal way to pick out what I wanted to cover when mom, dad, and I visited the city during my graduation week.

My dad hadn’t been to Paris in about 30 years so while we hit all the key ‘must see’ places – Sacre Coeur, Eiffle Tower (which I got to the top of this time), Notre Dame (which I also got to climb up and all over) and the Arc de Triomphe – I also got to cross a few of my own off the list.

The Musee Jacquemart-Andre is one of the museums feature in Audrey Hepburn’s How to Steal a Million. While I really wanted to run through the outer courtyard featured in the film, my parents and I were so happy with this stop. The museum is a converted mansion home which houses the old owners collection of art. Walking around this lavish house was amazing and I loved the final section where all the portraits were painted by the lady of the house. Again, a great experience: quick and inexpensive.

The Paris catacombs was just as amazing the second time around. After walking through again, I have one piece of advice: go quickly (meaning now, not rush through the site) and behave yourself. Despite the rigorous patrolling, this walk through showed that not all the bones – especially those in the design features – are holding up. So, if you can go in, do it before they either stop general walk throughs or it’s beyond recognition.

When it comes to the Moulin Rouge, I guess the third time is the charm. A few things you’ll need to know if you are going to the show is the dress code which includes no jeans or street shoes. They seem to be a bit lax in the non-peak seasons, but not following these guidelines could keep you out of the show despite having paid for tickets. You’ll also want to arrive early – more than you’d think. We arrived just before the suggested entry time and were pretty far back in the theatre. Seating is first come, first seated, so early is better.

So what’s left to see?

I want to finally manage a river walk along the Seine. I love river walks and, bringing back the Sabrina reference, this walk will give a new kind of perspective of this city.

And if you’ve watched the past two seasons of Vikings, you’ll know that we’ve covered the siege of Paris as well as the beginning of Rolo’s time living in the city. Seeing how vital the river and its surrounding area where in these events, I’m (still!) desperate to see the city with this in mind.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to travel back alone (or with companions willing to stick to my schedule) to do this bit of my wish list unencumbered as well as hit other French cities – I loved Lyon and Normandy so I’m thrilled to see what else this country has to offer!

But until I make it back, I’ll just have to keep planning and traveling along.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

A wrap on Paris

Disneyland, Paris

Where you can REALLY feel like a princess.

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Disneyland Paris, Paris. January 2016.

While I have made it very apparent through many of my posts across this blog that I am an unapologetic nerd when it comes to all things sci-fi (mostly as a Whovian), I hereby admit to being a complete Disney-phile in the same regard.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to all but two Disney parks in my 25 years (just missing Hong Kong and Shanghai parks!) – in my family, we use the term “growing up Disney”.

For most of my childhood, my mom worked for Disney which meant we always had the highly coveted silver pass and free guest passes that pretty much allowed us into any park for free whenever we wanted, plus great discounts on everything from food to gifts and souvenirs.

We lived Disney.

From our huge collection of Disney films to my Eeyore collection, the only downside was not being able to enter any Radio Disney contests – a small price to pay for so many perks!

But coming back to the Disney passes, we would get out of school early on Friday (or other odd days as well), climb in the car only for dad to ask how we’d feel if mom met us down at the park for some dinner and a few rides.

Every few years, we’d get to fly out and run around all the Florida parks for a week or two.

I am not writing any of this to brag – I’m really not! – but to explain the absolute amazing feeling you get as a Disney fan walking through Disneyland, Paris.

Quick shot of Paris Parks. January 2016.

First off, getting to the park from the city is really easy – one of the trains ends right by the entrance – and you can (read: should) buy these tickets at least the day before.

There are two parks: Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Paris and both are small and easy enough to get through in a day – two if you have little ones or go in peak seasons.

I don’t need to go into too much detail (if you have been to one park, you’ll understand pretty much all the attractions), but the real highlights were in the aesthetics.

Paris has the most beautiful park. The castle is huge and includes a stained glass, storybook tour of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and a mechanical dragon in the caverns below. The rest of the park has you wandering the world from the American Wild West to the vivid color and futuristic structures of Discoveryland. Even in the Studios park, each land has a huge amount of space which feels like pieces of your favorite Disney films come to life – Ratatouille took my breath away!

Then, for you princess inclined little ones (really only princesses except for the odd Robin Hood or Star Wars characters), there are the costumes. The dresses sold in Disneyland Paris are stunning. While you can buy cheaper outfits in the parks and downtown Disney, the costumes sold in the park have no character buttons and are beautifully built – think proper materials and pleating, even petticoats.

I wanted one!

If you do choose to get your little one(s) a dress, I recommend thinking about longevity as well as how cute your tiniest tot will look prancing around like their favorite princess. They do cost a pretty penny so you’ll really want to get some use out of them.

If you do buy one for the day, you’ll find the best selection behind the castle and kitty-corner to the salon which can finish off your princess(es)’ look.

Anyway, I could go on and on about these parks, as I could for most Disney parks, but if you are in Paris and a fan, this is the most beautiful park you’ll probably see with many hidden gems worth the day trip out of the city.

Next time around, I’ll wrap up Paris but until then, fangirl out and travel well.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.


Disneyland, Paris

Just some points of planning well

Some advice for traveling out of London…Part two of my London travel summary

Here is my Heart: London, England. December 2015.

If you are stationed in London, whether living here or just as a home base to travel out from on vacation, this city is close to everything so it’s a great spot to travel out from, especially if you are looking for smaller outings. If you are looking to do more of these small trips as I wish I had during my time out there, there are a few pieces of advice you should keep in mind:

First, you don’t (and I really mean never) need to pack as much as you think. You can really go weeks at a time living out of a backpack or carry-on sized bag if you pack it correctly. By this, I mean both HOW and WHAT you pack.

Most travelers know that rolling clothes takes up less space in your bag, allowing for more room for other pieces which is a great tool, however, if you pack a good mix of durable items (even if some are thinner) you can get away with not packing very much at all.

A pair of basic blue of black denim pants can generally stretch across weeks with no problem, especially if you pack them in with dryer sheets and/or a small bottle of fragrance spray. If you pack two pairs (say if your trip is longer than a week) you can switch back and forth to let things air out during the day rather than all night which is the best idea with a single pair. Adding a pair of leggings or two helps with this rotation as well while still keeping things light.

Tops are a bit harder because they tend to be less resilient, however, if you are careful, follow the same patterns as stated for jeans, you can get away with double wearing shirts—triple wearing if we’re talking about a thicker material (like you’ll find in a unisex top, thicker thermals and plaid button ups). Think about packing stuff that goes together and you shouldn’t run into any issues!

This changes if you have to plan for events, of course—I’m graduating soon which includes a week of travel between countries, meaning adding in outfits for multiple nice events/nights out as well as the cold of Europe in January.

For a quick trip (call it a week,) I pack a pair of jeans, a pair of thick leggings, one jacket, one sweater, 4 shirts—two of which are long tops—and pjs. I’ll wear boots and pack a pair of easy sneakers and/or flats that I can walk in.

But this isn’t just about packing, so moving on to point two:

Before you even think about what to wear and where, plan a few small day to weekend trips at a time without any dates necessarily attached. This lets you schedule them in once you have ideas of what you want to do and around your non-travel schedule. Once you are more settled in, this pre-planning will make it much easier to actually get things set up.

A note here: when I say plan these trips, I mean write them down and in detail; don’t just keep ideas in your head. You have to know how long you want these trips to be or need them to be going into the later stage of planning (ie. nailing down your details) so you don’t waste time.

I also really recommend using the favorite feature on Google maps. You’ll be able to plan your day to day excursions based one where things are in relation to each other, as well as find easy links and time tables for when things are open and the time it will take to get from one stop to another. It also lets you discover places you physically cannot get to whether because of lack of transportation, time, cost, or any of the other issues which tend to pop up. I check this everyday I’m traveling just to check where I stand.

After you finish up one of your trips, make a list of everything you wanted to do that you weren’t able to get around to. You’re more likely to go to the same place multiple times if it’s not far or hard to reach, so having this list already created will make it easier later. I’m experiencing this now while planning a few days with my parents in Paris. While my mom is doing a lot of it with my father in mind—he hasn’t been to Paris in a very long time—I was able to send her some places from my list that would work for each of us.

But my biggest piece of advice for traveling out from London—or really any European hub city—is to do at least one solo trip with these bits of advice in mind.  It’s an experience that lets you grow in ways you probably won’t expect and lets you figure out what YOU want out of traveling, which if you’re reading this, seems like the whole point.

Today was hectic and this was a quick piece, but if you have other key pieces of advice you’ve picked up along your travels, I’d love to hear your travel codes!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Just some points of planning well

The only thing to fear…

Or the post I wasn’t going to write.

Beacon in the Dark. Paris, France. February 2015.

This week, one of the worst things that most of us can imagine happened on the streets of Paris: armed terrorists attacked and killed unarmed civilians to further a cause that uses bastardized faith to justify both their means and ends.

But I wasn’t going to write about that.

Then this week, across all media and social media platforms, news of all kinds of disasters, all over the world – natural and unnatural, yet all terrifying – started to pop up in my feeds.

Still, I wasn’t going to write about this.

Then, one conversation caught my attention:

A fellow traveler, another American girl like me living abroad, had written how she loved being out in the world but sometimes it’s a scary place to be. An older family friend responded:

“Well, you should just come home right now and you’ll be fine.”

This is a thought so many of us have had: ‘If I’m home, where I grew up, where everyone knows me, I’ll be safe.’ In our heads, it is only out in the world that danger lurks.

But I think what human history has shown us is that just staying home doesn’t grantee us anything. These acts can happen anywhere, but it is my belief that if we just sit in our houses and watch these evens on our screens, we are giving ourselves a huge disadvantage:

It is out in the world where you gain the perspective to see more than your our tiny world, your own life; even if gaining those worldviews is a truly scary experience. I’m not saying traveling is the only way to get this perspective, but it helps.

So, I’m not going to sit here and write not to be scared, or that fear is the only thing to be afraid of (although there is wisdom in that), or that if you stay afraid and at home, you’re letting the terrorists win, because that will never be my point.

What I want to say  -in this long-winded way – is that if you want to go out in the world and learn, don’t let events like the one this past week be the thing that holds you back. As always, be safe in how you travel, where you go, what you do, but don’t hold back on experience and living and learning because of the ignorance of others.

Beyond fear, ignorance and, more so,  settling for ignorance is the thing I fear, so go out, be safe, be kind, be open, and travel well. Now and always,

This is Leave on the WInd, helping (and hoping) you soar.

The only thing to fear…

The Paris Wishlist…

Because you should always look forward.

Wishing for a Day Along the Seine. Paris, France. February, 2015.
Wishing for a Day Along the Seine. Paris, France. February, 2015.

Since I’ve been neck deep in exams and revisions, this week I’m dropping a quick post covering my Paris revisit checklist.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Paris twice, so I think I’ve managed to hit most of the major spots and areas of interest. And while seeing many of these over and over again isn’t a bad idea by any measure, there are a few personal musts that I just haven’t managed.

Above all, I want to finally manage a river walk along the Seine. While anyone whose read my posts up until knows my love of walking along cities’ river-ways, Paris has some extra significance as an avid media junkie.

Firstly, if you’ve watched this season of Vikings, you’ll know that we just covered the siege of Paris. Seeing how vital the river and its surrounding area where in these events, I’m desperate to see the city with this in mind.

The second reason stems from my love of the film Sabrina, though the 1995 Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford version, more than its earlier Audrey Hepburn counterpart. In the film, Sabrina talks about walking by the river until you find your favorite bridge or spot and then coming back every day to sit peacefully and have your lunch by the river. This is the idea which has really inspired my love of completing river walks in every city I can.

When it comes to places to see, I have a great need to go into the Musee Carnavalet (exterior) and the Musee Jacquemart-Andre (interior) —the museums which makeup the heist worthy setting of Audrey Hepburn’s How to Steal a Million. This is probably my favorite of her films—it’s a quirky comedy with a splash of romance and a young Peter O’Toole as a fantastic male lead—any evening spent with Ms. Hepburn is well worth the effort, but this one will makes it even better. I don’t even need to know what’s being displayed here—I just want to skulk around the museum as if I’m casing the joint. Maybe I’ll pick up a boomerang if they have any on hand.

Then, of course, it’s all about exploring cafes around Paris as all the stereotypes of French living emphasize. Again, as a media girl, I still have to figure out where Audrey’s Sabrina cafe hangout is, where she sat and wrote her letters home (to round out the trend). Maybe run by Le Cordon Bleu while I’m at it.

As for revisits, I’d love to go through the Paris catacombs again as well as explore Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur again on a clear day where I can actually see the city stretched out before me. While I’m in the area, maybe next time I’ll see more than the outside of Moulin Rouge.

That’s the checklist and, hopefully, I’ll be back soon enough to tick these off! But until then:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

The Paris Wishlist…

Book Nerds: Shakespeare and Company, Paris.

Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Paris, France. February, 2015.
Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Paris, France. February, 2015.

Standing just opposite the river Seine with the most picturesque view of the Notre Dame behind you, sits this tiny, unassuming bookshop. While Shakespeare and Company’s history may not be as long or grand as the building across the river, this little shop has its own kind of appeal which pulls people from around the world into its courtyard and through its front door.

This trip to Paris was not my first, so only a few years earlier, I stood yards away from this historic bookshop and never realized what I was missing simply by not looking behind me. I don’t think I can stress enough how close these two major attractions are for travelers to Paris—basically, if you get to visit Paris and the Notre Dame, take five minutes (at least) across the river and you won’t be sorry.

Across the River:the view of Notre Dame from Shakespeare and Co. Notre Dame, Paris, France. February, 2015.
Across the River:the view of Notre Dame from Shakespeare and Co. Notre Dame, Paris, France. February, 2015. (My nice sunny picture was lost with my phone so gray sky aplenty here-doesn’t quiet do the view justice. Sorry.)

On four large panels in the middle of the storefront, beginning with the worlds “Paris Wall Newspaper January 1st 2004”, you can read the building’s history through the voice of the building itself as it watched the world change around it, setting the tone of the experience you encounter within the space—It really is a place out of time.

Made famous by the major literary cohorts of the 1920s and 1960s who hung out in and around the shop, Shakespeare and Company isn’t a bookstore for the modern world, but a shop that transports you back in time through the construction of its tiny passageways and alcoves to the grand history of the large range of books filling them.

This small, English language bookshop still seems a draw in and serves as a haven for literary expats like myself which was unexpected, yet a nice change from the bookshop I’ll talk about next week; I was able to look through the books as I explored without looking too lost since I can’t speak or read French. While it definitely seats you within the historically American patronage throughout the history of the store (from both its 1920s and 1960s storefronts—remember, the building did change locations though still claims its rich history), I found myself a little lost in placing myself in another country as well as the time discussed, as this shop felt almost like a satellite nation—a tiny piece of American and English space and history connected to its Parisian roots and yet separated from them.

All in all, it was an interesting place to be especially when you stopped to really place yourself in it.

In an almost constant stream, you will see tourists pick up books from the small stalls outside the building and pose/sit, pretending to read, on the benches in a mirror of all those figures who came before them as friends snap photos to send home. There are no pictures allowed inside of the shop—a beneficial scheme for them as it limits the congestion of photographers in the small alleyways within the store as well as creates a little extra money through picture postcards you can collect for 1 Euro each—but the outside of the building and it’s square are fair game.

The Iconic Shakespeare sign. Shakespeare and Co, Paris, France. February, 2015.
The Iconic Shakespeare sign. Shakespeare and Co, Paris, France. February, 2015.

I loved the inside of the shop and know I will not be able to give it its proper due through my descriptions alone—I feel it’s a place that needs to really be experienced in all its Book Nerd glory to fully appreciate. My favorite feature to note, however, was the poetry alcove sitting past the twists and turns of the sections, in the furthest back and left quadrant of the main store. This is a tiny, three sided alcove covered—almost floor to ceiling—with books of poetry. This alcove is set down a few small steps and it’s entrance is decorated with a small iron gate that can be closed and padlocked giving you a sense of a world apart, a separate sphere to be recognized separately from all the other wares in the store. I was so tempted to take a picture of this particular detail but you really can’t get away with it—there are workers and the all seeing eye of security cameras pretty much covering the entirety of the store.

Other little things to note for you book nerds while you are there are the pictures and quotes hanging and painted on the walls—seriously the building is worth checking out for these detail besides just looking for great books and shopping!—but what I really loved was the literary nod of the raven sitting high in the widow next to door.

Anyway, to wrap up this week, Shakespeare and Company is a huge MUST on my recommendation lists for anyone visiting Paris—book nerds and non-readers alike—for a place of history and art and a unique quality you won’t find anywhere else. So if you are around, spare the time and, I promise, you won’t be sorry!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you Soar.

Book Nerds: Shakespeare and Company, Paris.


But not letting them stop you.

The scene of the crime…almost (the phone picture was better). Gare du Nord, Paris, France. February, 2015.

So, last time around we talked about a lot of new and really positive experiences I had on my first ever solo adventure which came about by embracing experiences and opportunities where they came.

The trip, however, was not all sun-shiny moments (as is bound to happen on every trip), but knowing how to bounce back from those issues is a huge learning experience not just in terms of travel but facing challenges in your day to day life as well.

Where to begin….

I guess my real first brush with trouble occurred when on the (very early!) morning of my third day out as I tried to move from Paris to Lyon. If you remember, I booked my train tickets via a third party site (voyages) and I am not kidding, it was horrible.

I had gone over my plan checking, double checking, triple checking (you get the idea) all the numbers I would need to get the tickets, the location the directions said I would leave from, and everything written down nice and neatly on the notepad app on my phone—I was prepared.

Then the night before I discovered I was leaving so early that the metro wouldn’t be running yet. Great. I set my alarm super early, packed up what I could and had my clothes out for the morning and my essentials set before going to bed—I had it covered.

The next morning, I walked to the station and headed in with just over the half an hour they recommended to be safe only to discover there were no Euroline machines to pick up my tickets at. And, at the time in the morning I was there, the train stations information desks weren’t open and neither was the voyages question/help line. I was on my own and I had no idea what I was going to do.

After a long (and repetitive due to language barriers!) conversation with a shop owner, I discovered that despite all the information I had received, Eurolines did not use the station I was at. I never found out where they connect, but by the time I found out, my train would have been gone anyway.

So what did I do? Feeling like I was going to cry out of frustration, I got out my card and booked myself a new round-trip ticket to Lyon. I wasn’t going to let an issue like that screw me out of my trip, after all. However, remember to write to the company if issues like this arrive—you can usually get your money back or something if you can show that it was a failure on their part, or, at the very least, you may make them change something in their system which can help future travelers not have the same issues you did!

But, as the title indicates, that was simply the BAD and now we move onto the UGLY:

On my last day in Paris—it always seems to be Paris, doesn’t it?—The ugly reared its head in terms of ‘no good deed goes unpunished’:

I was good Samaritan-ed and my phone was pick-pocketed.

Yep, the oldest trick. I was exiting the Gare du Nord train station (a photo spot for the above—a Chuck and Blair location shot from the series Gossip Girl – also maybe my trouble is more train stations than just Paris.) where a woman was struggling with a box in the turnstile to the metro. I put my phone in my pocket for five seconds to help out and when my hand was in my pocket again, my phone was not.

Train stations are notorious for this and the thieves are professionals you will not catch. It sounds mean, but don’t help people out unless things are buried under layers of clothes that no one can get to and even then, play it safe.

I quickly traveled back to the hostel where my bags were and video chatted with my dad. We got most things sorted (including a good cry), and his main point, and one to focus on, is: this is just stuff and stuff can be replaced.

What stunk, however, was that I had pictures from that morning and the day before that were on the phone and hadn’t been loaded to any other storage space (some were on my other camera but, do to battery power and charging issues, those were limited).

A few things you can do in these situations are have a way to contact someone to help (even if this just means crying), have copies of numbers you haven’t memorized but are those close emergency contacts, have a way to remotely wipe the phone of any personal information (make the phone a useless brick), and give yourself the moment to be freaked out and cry if you need to—it’s not being unreasonable.

However, once you do that, you have a choice to make.

For me, I could have sat around the hostel on my computer for my remaining five or so hours I had in the city, or I could pick myself up, go out and explore, and make the most of the time left rather than let one thing and stupid people ruin what was mostly a very good trip.

In the end, I used the last hours to sprint from one destination to another, capturing (as close as I could) pictures from the places I’d visited and lost along with the phone with my steadily dying camera (that thing was a real trouper!).

This stress was compounded by some travel stress (a two hour delay do to ferry docking issues and no phone to contact anyone or make plans for the rest on my day!) But I would still consider this a great trip. After all, you learn a whole lot when things get bad—sometimes these lessons are about who you are as a person and what’s important and other times it teaches out to make better choices.

There’s always a silver lining to be found and a challenge to be faced, so make the best out of bad situations instead of letting them hold you back and get out there without worrying about the worst that can happen. Take care of yourself, be smart and keep rolling with the punches—accept nothing less!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.