Ramblings From a Coffee Lover

It’s National Coffee Day!

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“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?” ― Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes

Of course, coffee celebration happens every day for java lovers, but the opportunity to celebrate with all the rest of the addicted caffeinated latte-loving humankind is one not to be missed. Ever.

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“I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

 Really, it’s just another good excuse (as if we needed any) to have one more cuppa …

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How about this awesome, one hundred-year old coffee scale still in use at Polcari’s in Boston?! I discovered this quaint store when looking for a place to purchase coffee while on a visit this summer. This coffee and spice store will be my go-to from now on every time I visit Beantown.

Top: Anthropologie. Jeans: Old Navy. Cardigan: Joie (from TJ Maxx). Tote: Free People. Shoes: Anthropologie. I bought these early this year when they were on super sale and an extra 20% off. Crafted by Sixtyseven with superb quality that one doesn’t often see in mass-produced shoes, they were a steal at $14. Even the Anthro cashier told me what a good deal it was (I think she was afraid I wouldn’t appreciate the bargain. Believe me, I did and do!). 

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Paris, Part II

To follow from last week’s post, here is part 2IMG_0930

Transportation and Eating

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Walk if you can rather than use the expensive Metro. Again, a strategically placed hotel or rental will help with this. To save money on meals, stop at a patisserie in the morning and have an inexpensive, delicious, buttery (if unhealthy, but whatever, you’re in Paris!pastry. The patisserie around the corner from our hotel had the most savory croissants and brioche au chocolat for about 2 euros. For lunch, buy a sandwich and opt to eat it away from the restaurant. Not only can you save a lot of money, but if you picnic along the Seine or in the Jardin des Tuileries, you will be treated to some spectacular people-watching. Also, fill up on lunch specials. One day I was able to order a quiche, soda, and dessert from a restaurant special for only 6 euros.

Free Attractions

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Take in as many free attractions as possible. Lucky you, this means the gorgeous public gardens and elegant cathedrals.

IMG_0923Don’t wait in line at Notre Dame! Get there at 7:30 for a short, fast moving entrance line. Saint-Chapelle was beautiful, but my friend and I felt it wasn’t really worth the entrance price as it was undergoing restoration at the time. Save your money until the restoration is complete and visit the free cathedrals in Paris instead.

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Musee D’Orsay entrée gratuite? Oui!

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Paris beyond the clock…

My friend and I also discovered that you can slip into the Musee D’Orsay without a ticket about 30 minutes prior to closing. Of course, that gives you little chance to see the art, but we were able to take in the Impressionist floor (which was what I cared most to see) for free. If you need to save a little, you can here.

Coffee, Water, and Wifi

I love coffee. I thrive on my morning cuppa. What a disappointment to discover that coffee is not only very expensive, but you get very little of it (clearly Parisians aren’t as dependent on caffeine as we are). I had minor caffeine withdrawals while there, and had to rely on the mini coca colas available in the supermarket for caffeinated perks. Cheaper than coffee, this is a good way to get in some extra caffeine, and the small size is perfect for stowing in your purse. Note that Starbucks is really the only place in the city to get a good-sized cup of (mostly) good coffee. Order the Cafe de la semaine and say “oui” to whipped cream on top (it does cost a little extra, but it’s worth it!). Oh, and Starbucks is also a great place to log onto free wifi. Of course.

When eating out, remember to ask for tap water. Specifically ask for it in a carafe. Do not just ask for water, as they will charge you. Carafe water is free though.

More Food Ideas

Visit the grocery stores for snacks and food. I bought fresh fruit and the above-mentioned sodas. I think I bought some other items but can’t remember. One thing I do remember is that the refrigerated sections were barely cold. Yogurt was runny. I usually rely on yogurt for getting through the day, but skipped it here. I’m sure it was perfectly safe, I just personally can’t stand runny yogurt.

How To Shop Unlike a Tourist

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Skip the Champs-Elysee – try a market!

Totally ignore the cheesy tourist shops around the visitor attractions. Head for one of the numerous flea markets for cheap, unusual souvenirs to take home. There are also unique food options and excellent treasure-hunting opportunities here. I also enjoyed perusing the bookstalls along the Seine, but don’t expect inexpensive prices here – simply enjoy browsing and who knows? You may find a book you’ve been looking for the world over.

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Slow Down

If you are in Paris, slow down. Don’t try to take it all in right away, in one trip. Take your time meandering, opt for a bicycle tour (we used Bike About Paris – highly recommended!), or just sit in a beautiful place and soak in the enchanted city.

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My favorite activity, anywhere. But especially enjoyable in the Jardins du Luxembourg

 

Hellooo Weekend!

Friday makes me happy. Very happy. I always start my weekend with a to-do list a mile long and, always, inevitably, make very little progress on it. So busy am I with doing the things that I don’t have time for that, well, I don’t have time for them still. But whatever, there’s always next weekend, right??

What I’m Reading this Weekend:

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Not my edition. But it’s so pretty that I may have to acquire it for my bookshelf…

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Having recently read Evelina by Frances Burney (Miss Austen’s predecessor, whom I’ve already blogged about), I thrilled to see a reference to it in Northanger Abbey, something I had never noticed before (and I’ve visited this book multiple times!).

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Diary of A Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield. So far an enjoyable story of a British family straddling modernity and tradition in the 1930’s and written in humorous, journal-like snippets.

My Shopping Plans

I plan on picking out a new fall fragrance this weekend. As a horrible decision-maker, I predict that not only will this monumental, life-altering choice take forever to make, but that my nose will have lost all sense of smell at the end of it.

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Jo Malone… and wanting this top from Anthro… and picking out a purse for my mom…

Any place that has a sale! (Did you see that Anthropologie is having an extra 25% off? Wut wut?! See ya in the sale section…)

My lovely mom has a birthday next week. I plan on getting some pretty things for her big day. (Any one else have a mom whose style sense is closely related to your own? Makes shopping so.much.fun!)

Eating and Drinking

Whatever I indulge in this weekend, let me tell you, it will be good. (I don’t work out all week not to enjoy my weekend foods…)

Come back tomorrow for part 2 of Paris! Until then, dear friends… xo

 

 

Paris, Part I: The City and Things To Know About It

For years I had longed to visit Paris, that enigmatic and magical city that is legendary almost more for itself than for what it offers. Full of long-heard stories of its legend and lore, I was somewhat disappointed when I finally got there and discovered that Paris was… like any other European city. Except it really wasn’t.

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Parisian sunlight

I realized that Paris waits to show her true self to you, slowly unveiling her soul only when you can begin to appreciate all the quirky things that make Paris Paris. It is such eclectic, unusual elements to the city that lend her the charm and sophistication, even more so, the confidence, that has defined the city for centuries.

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Obligatory Eiffel Tower photo.

I was taken aback at first by the amount of dirt and the sameness of the buildings I saw. However, as the days of my visit wore on, I began to realize that the city’s dirt and sometimes unsavory scents made me that much more attune to the powerful scent of flowers or the buttery smell of fresh bread that greeted me at certain points. The dirty, lacklustre Seine during the day transformed magically at night under the stars, twinkling and brilliant beneath the happy boats that passed over the rippling waters.

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The predominately sameness of Haussmann architecture caused me to take notice of and revel in the truly beautiful cathedrals and palatial buildings that rise from the midst of the ordinary.

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The lack of color in the white city caused the flowers to stand out that much more boldly, and the trees that blocked the sky provided sunlight filters too enchanting for description.

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When I visited Paris with a friend last year, I had great plans and a long list of things to do and see. This wasn’t my first trip to France, but it was my first to Paris, and I was wholly unprepared for the amount of work we had to do finding our way around and rewriting our itinerary when finding that a restaurant or store was closed. At various times and all through our visit we were surprised, we were disappointed, we were lost, we were enchanted. I made a list of suggestions one night while eating out alone (my friend was tired and stayed at the hotel) in Le Marais. I did it for mostly for my next trip, but I’m sharing it with you in the event that you might be visiting Paris for the first time. These are little things that may not make it into a guidebook, but are nonetheless worth sharing and knowing.

What to Know That The Guidebooks Won’t Tell You

Shoes are critical here. Cobblestones along the Seine make for unsure footing. Flip flops and sandals not advised if you plan on walking a lot (trust me on this. I ended up using my Soludos espadrilles for most of my visit).

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Layers. Even during August. Paris can be cool in the mornings and evenings but warm during the day. I relied on my trusty, no-fail travel accessory: a scarf wound artfully around my neck during the day that transformed into a wrap when needed.

We stayed outside of the popular tourist areas, namely, on the fringe edge of the unsavory Pigalle (ironically, now undergoing a transformation into a trendy area. Check out this article from The Guardian if you plan on visiting/staying here). It was not nearly as bad as I expected (being there in August, when the area was dead, might have helped), but it was far from the Parisian attractions and so we spent a lot of time on the Metro. It was close to Montmartre, however, and since we visited the Sacre Couer on our last full day, we had not realized how much there was to see in the city overlooking Paris. When I return, I plan on spending a full day there wandering its steep and narrow streets. Oh, and the best Starbucks in Paris is near the Sacre Couer. Beautiful inside and out, excellent wifi, and friendly baristas (a novelty in Paris, to be sure).

Do get a good hotel. I’ve already written about the importance of this, and it’s because my experience in Paris taught me well. Our wifi was unreliable, the room was not very clean, and the staff was hard to work with. I understand that in Paris, one must forgo the usual standard of overbearing civility that Americans expect, but our hotel’s staff seemed to care little about meeting its guests’ needs. That said, I didn’t have too many bad experiences as an American. It’s possibly because I was often mistaken for being French. Or perhaps, I had low expectations to begin with, having heard stories. But honestly, most Parisians were still kind and helpful, if blunt at times.

Yes, Parisians don’t want you speaking French. But sometimes they don’t speak great Anglais. It’s helpful to know some basic phrases, just in case. My friend and I got lost one night and stopped at a creperie on a side street somewhere. Amazingly, the staff didn’t speak English and there was much smiling as we used a combination of halting French (on our part) and English (on their part) to communicate. Oh la la…

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This will take you approx. 1.5 hours.

Eating is not quick. Nor is stopping into a cafe for a petite cafe au lait. Plan on spending at least 1.5 hours if you stop somewhere for a bite (unless you are getting it to-go, that is) or a beverage. Don’t be a typical, rushed American. Savor the chance to enjoy the slower paced life that defines much of Europe.

IMG_0976It’s hard to save money in Paris. On the other hand, the museums are worth every penny. Do splurge on the museums, and plan to spend all day at the Louvre. Also know that in no way will you get to see it all in one visit (if you are to actually stand and admire the art, that is). Handy Tip: be at the Louvre at 9 am on a Sunday. If seeing the Mona Lisa is your objective, you stand a better chance of beating the crowd rush. Obtain your tickets and map ahead of time and mark the must-see. As already stated, you won’t see it all in a day so don’t even try. Also know that this place is massive and easy to get lost in. Getting lost and wandering the halls in search of a specific exhibit will happen, so plan your time accordingly. See next week’s budget tips to learn how to see the Musee d’Orsay for free!

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Don’t just look at the art on the walls, look up for spectacular ceiling art!

Versailles is overrated. Sorry, but it is. See it once if you must, but be prepared for crowds so thick you can’t see anything anyway.

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See what I mean?

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My friend and I were constantly crushed along between the rooms, and one woman in the crowd physically pushed my friend out of her way. It was hot, airless, and the grandeur was enough to be too much. Out in the gardens, we enjoyed a picnic lunch (from the cafe) on a lawn near a fountain, relaxed, basked in the fresh breezes and watched the world go by. We then wandered aimlessly down paths that wound through the blooms, with some walkways seeming to disappear mysteriously into the surrounding foliage.

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IMG_0743Next time I visit, I will opt for the gardens only and rent a bicycle in order to further explore the town proper of Versailles. Budget Tip: Don’t buy the express pass to get in. The wait for that was as long as waiting in line, so my friend and I opted for the cheaper route into the palace and stood in line. Luckily we were armed with reading material.

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Paris is dirty. Yes, this beautiful, magical city is dirty. My friend and I were grateful for the anti-bac wipes and gels we had brought along. Public restrooms are scarce, so they are typically much-used, if you know what I mean. And usually out of toilet paper. I suggest carrying a package of kleenex with you at all times, as you will encounter this scarcity. We were also a little surprised at the lack of sanitation surrounding eating areas/kitchens. Clearly we weren’t in our sanitized US of A. Which was perfectly okay. Just don’t be surprised at the trash, smells, and lack of public facilities.

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Come back next week for Paris budget tips! Until then, dear friends… xo

When Summer Gives Way To Fall

It’s that strange time of year when transition occurs and it’s hard to tell exactly what season I am in. As summer lingers on, fall is breaking in with a chilly, rainy day here and there. This is when the seasons are tangibly changing, and yet are holding on; summer’s grasp is beginning to loosen while fall’s hand is reaching out to hold, touch, then wave summer away.

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These seasonal in-betweens are always so hard to dress for. I began today in this skirt and the shirt that is peeking from beneath my sweater, but by this afternoon I was able to top my outfit with this sweater and feel comfortable, thanks to a cloudy day and intermittent rain showers.

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I have had this maxi skirt for ages, and am amazed still at how well it is withstood time and wear. The earrings have also been around for several years now, but as I still get compliments on them, I continue wearing them.

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See the white shoes peeking out? Yes, it’s after Labor Day but I feel confident that this year, more than any other, the white rule will be thrown to the wind and no one will feel strange sporting it all year round anymore.

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I am in love with this H&M sweater and bought one of the last two remaining at my local store. It has so many styling possibilities, and just happens to be my in my favorite color with the name of one of my favorite cities on it.

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Which reminds me, do check back in later this week as I will be featuring a post on my visit to Paris, the sights worth seeing (and those I could’ve skipped) and ways to save money in the magical City of Light. It is all the information I wish I’d had before I went there.

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Until next time dear friends… xo

Sweater: H&M. Blouse: Old Navy. Skirt: NY&Co. Clutch: Free People.Bracelet: Anthropologie. Earrings: Kohls.