Mari Goes To…Part II

Last time around, I wrote about my experience in London (recap here). This post is super long so apologies for rambling in advance! Also, it’s been almost a month since I got back from this trip so there are some details missing a lot has happened since then and it was actually really difficult to remember everything that happened although it was all amazing.

After 3 amazing days in London, we traveled to Paris via bus and ferry. It was a long drive, but it gave me plenty of time to catch up on some sleep. We arrived to Paris, and it was cloudy and rainy. That night, we made our way up the Eiffel Tower, (we took the elevator because it was raining and we were too lazy to walk) and despite the ridiculous fog, we were still able to see the city in all its stunning nighttime glory. It was really quite breath-taking. There was also champagne toasting at the top of the tower, so that was pretty sweet.

My hair however, suffered deeply. It started off straight when we got there…but ended up in a big poof at the end of the evening. You could literally see the progression of my hair in the pictures, as it just grew in frizziness. It was so embarrassing, but after a while, I really didn’t care. I was in Paris, a city I had dreamed of seeing for so long!

The next day we started our exploration of the city at the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile. Going up those stairs was quite the journey and I felt like I was going to have an asthma attack once we got to the top, but again, the view was pretty amazing and made it worth it in the end. I guess the same can be said of any view really, but it kind of took me by surprise just how different Paris looked at night and during the day. I liked both views, but personally I think it was so much more exhilarating at night.

From there, we strolled through Champs-Elysees and did some shopping, mostly window shopping though if we’re being honest here. We were on our way to Musee du Louvre and were taken completely by surprise by just how many gypsies and scammers were around this area. Fortunately our tour guide had warned us about this, so we were able to avoid getting scammed, but they were super pushy and annoying, which kind of took away from Paris’ charm. Also thanks to our tour guide, we knew of a secret entrance into the Louvre, so we were able to avoid waiting in long lines and went right in to the museum. That was pretty great.

As a part of our tour, we had a free tour of a French perfumery. I didn’t really care to go the perfumery, but figured what the heck it’s free, I might as well…and man, am I so glad I decided to go. The perfumery, Fragonard, was beyond what I imagined it would be. We got a brief history and tour of the perfumes, and were shown samples of each perfume available for purchase. I didn’t go to Paris with the intention of buying perfume, but somehow I ended up with enough perfume to last me the next 10 years and I have no regrets because I smell amazing all the time now.

That night, we made our way back to our hotel, got dressed up and went out for dinner and a show at the Moulin Rouge. I’d heard that the show wasn’t that great and that the whole thing wasn’t worth it, so I wasn’t expecting much but I had to go because hello, I was in Paris and Moulin Rouge is one of my favorite movies in the world, so of course I had to go. But anyway, despite what people had said about the show, I actually really enjoyed it. The performances were amazing, dinner was great, and the wine was so good, our table kept asking for more. I’m pretty sure the waiter was judging us, but whatever, we had a blast.

The next day, Thursday, we got back on the bus and drove up to the Palace of Versailles. I couldn’t believe how extravagant it all was! It was absolutely beautiful and I felt really lucky to be able to experience it firsthand after reading and studying so much about it. However, I made the mistake of wearing a dress that day because I thought the weather would be nicer (and also because I had packed 5 dresses but didn’t have the chance to wear any except one the night of the Moulin Rouge and I refused to let those dresses go to waste), but it was cold, rainy and super windy, so my legs were frozen and it was a flowy dress so I had to keep pulling it down to keep from flashing all the tourists in Versailles (way to go, Mari), so that was fun. We did find a cute little crepe place though, so we were able to eat delicious crepes while we waited for the rest of our group. That made up for the cold rain.

The rest of the trip is kind of a blur. On our last night together in Paris as a group, we had a Parisian dinner in Montmartre, and I tried snails for the first and last time. I only did it so that I could say I had snails while in Paris. Suffice to say it was a once in a lifetime thing and I won’t be eating snails again. I did try duck for the first time though, and I enjoyed it, so there’s that.

Some from our group left the next day, and saying goodbye to the people who had become like family in those 10 short days was a lot harder than I ever thought it would be. But alas, it was time to go our separate ways.

I stayed in Paris with a few other people for two more nights, and during those days, we went to the Catacombs (creepy as all heck but also pretty cool at the same time), I had lunch with an old friend who interned at the magazine during my first year, and I bought 70 euros worth of chocolate from a chocolate boutique in Montmartre for everyone back home. I also bought a super cute pair of ankle booties that I’m totally in love with and want to wear with everything but I also don’t want to wear them because I don’t want to ruin them, it was that kind of purchase. We stopped at Laduree for macaroons, and man were those macaroons delicious! Oh and we had dinner at Angelina’s, a restaurant known for its hot chocolate. We waited in line for 20 minutes, and it was 8 euros for a cup of the famous hot chocolate, but you know, when in Rome and all. The hot chocolate was pretty good though, so it was worth it for a once in a lifetime thing.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in Paris. It wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, maybe because I was expecting it to be more glitzy and glamorous and romantic, but it was a great experience. My favorite part about it was the architecture and history of the city. That was something I definitely appreciated quite a bit. I ended up shopping more than I thought I had planned but I like looking back at my purchases now and thinking, I bought that in Paris, how cool is that?! I don’t have any plans to go back to Paris any time soon, maybe only for a day or two for some more shopping and macaroons.

London however, I hope to go back there soon. There’s a lot of history in England that I’m intrigued by and I would love to be able to explore the city and country even more.

I’m so grateful I was able to go on this trip. It was quite the experience, and the memories will last me a lifetime. So will all those bottles of perfume 😉

Sparkling Eiffel Tower!
Sparkling Eiffel Tower!
Creepy faces at the Catacombs
Palace of Versailles
Macaroons for days!!
I’ll never get over how big my hair got…so embarrassing
Arc de Triomphe
I got a French manicure in Paris because of course!
I got a French manicure in Paris because of course!

Mari Goes To…Part I

London! That’s right. After years of dreaming about traveling to Europe as a vacation, I was finally able to do just that. The trip was a graduation present to myself (I’ll talk about that later). It took some months of saving but it was so worth it.

Since I’ve wanted to do this for so long and had the resources to do it, I figured what the heck, I need to do this now while I can. This meant that I’d have to do it on my own since it just wasn’t an option for any of my friends at the time. So I planned my trip through Contiki Tours and Trips and traveled on my own.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought I would meet some people but would end up spending most of the trip on my own…but boy was I wrong! I met some amazing people and I was never alone. There were people from all over the world. My roommate was from Australia. She had a super strong accent and reminded me of Rebel Wilson; it was great. I had connected with some of the people traveling through Contiki prior to the trip, but the connection in person was so much greater. Getting to experience these new cities with new friends changed the entire trip for me. It was no longer about being in London or Paris and doing all the tourist-y things. It was about being together and getting to know each other better, being there to keep each other safe and make sure no one got gipped by all the gypsies in Paris, and just having a good time.

London was everything I hoped it would be. I can’t tell you what it is because I don’t even know, but I’ve been in love with London, or the idea of it, for years. Being in that city made my heart sore. I loved the accents, architecture and simplistic beauty of it all. Maybe it has to do with all the British artists I like listening to (looking at you, Lawson) but it was all just absolutely perfect. I loved how simple the metro, aka tube, was to navigate. And just the streets in general. I felt safe there, almost completely at home. London is the kind of city I would move to on my own without hesitation.

Buckingham Palace was nice, but my favorite part of it was the palace gift shop. Yeah, I didn’t know that existed either but it does! And it was glorious! I couldn’t resist and bought a pair of Swarowski crystal earrings that were modeled after Kate Middleton’s engagement ring. They’re the kind of earrings I can really only wear for very special occasions, so chances are those bad boys are going to be sitting on my vanity until my wedding day. They’ll be my something blue, whenever that happens! But they were by far my favorite purchase of the entire trip. I enjoy just looking at them, that’s how pretty they are.

Stonehenge and Bath were beautiful as well. I loved the old history and mystery of it all. We were very fortunate to have decent weather while in London, which I was not expecting at all but it was a lovely surprise.

I spent most of the day in London exploring with one of the awesome guys I met through the tour. The first night we met, I thought his name was Ben. I was wrong, it was Dave. So he was dubbed Ben-Dave for the rest of the trip and he became my trusty sidekick and bodyguard in the streets of London. Shoutout to him for dealing with me the whole day. Takes a special kind of man to be able to manage that 🙂

On our last night in London, we went to the West End to see Mamma Mia! on Broadway. It was a good show. I found it so funny how one of the actors was playing a man from Vermont and was doing an “American” accent but he sounded Southern. It made me realize that that’s probably exactly what we sound like to English people when we try to talk with an English accent, but I digress. That night we went out for drinks and karaoke at Covent Garden, a popular shopping and nightlife area in London. A couple of hours and Long Island iced teas later, we got lost in the streets of London and had to find our way back to the hotel without really knowing where we were. We ended up right in front of the Australian Embassy, which was the location of Gringotts Bank in the Harry Potter films. We found our way back eventually, but that added a nice little touch to our London adventure. The next day, slight hangover and all, we packed up and made our way to our next destination…Paris!

But more on that next time! For now, here are some pictures from London!

Typical tourist selfie with Stonehenge!
Typical tourist selfie with Stonehenge!
Some of the lovely girls I was fortunate to meet and spend time with
Some of the lovely girls I was fortunate to meet and spend time with
View of Big Ben and Parliament from the London Eye!
View of Big Ben and Parliament from the London Eye!
Ben-Dave was so done with me
Ben-Dave was so done with me
My beautiful earrings from the Buckingham Palace gift store!
My beautiful earrings from the Buckingham Palace gift store!

Small Moments: Traveling

November is the month when every one starts preparing for Thanksgiving and thinking about all the things they’re grateful for (naturally). As I was sitting in the train earlier this week, I realized that I have a lot to be thankful for, and decided that the best way to acknowledge that appreciation would be to write it down. So with that in mind, I will be writing a new series each week called Small Moments, which will highlight certain things I appreciate from that week.

For my first post, I am grateful for the opportunities my job offers me to travel. I spent the last two weekends traveling to Dallas, Texas and Memphis, Tennessee. It was my first time visiting both states, but I had a great time. One of the things I mostly wanted to do while I was in each state was eat BBQ, and compare the ribs. The verdict: while I liked the ribs in Texas, the ribs in Memphis were amazing. Like I’m still thinking about those ribs a week later. And the biscuits and gravy. Man, I had that for breakfast every day while I was there. It was so good..and now I’m hungry.

It was also nice to see how different people down south are, especially in Memphis. I honestly felt like a super important person because everyone at the hotel and at restaurants were so polite. As a bonus, the Mississippi River was right across from my hotel, so that was cool, too! I guess you could say that while I enjoyed Dallas, Memphis was my favorite city to visit out of the two. You can find some pictures of my trips here on Instagram!

I feel very fortunate that I can travel for work. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of being able to do, and now I’m doing it! Next week I’m going to Michigan, but that’s on a personal trip. It’s not every day your oldest niece turns 5! 🙂