My Best-Kept Secret Souvenir from Rome

I know you may already be thinking of a gladiator helmet magnet to stick on your fridge or a bunch of post cards of the Trevi fountain but I prefer something else to preserve the memories from our travels. I am not a fan of buying lots of trinkets or cheap souvenirs I’ll never do anything with while we are on vacation. I do buy Liv a gold souvenir coin from churches we have visited (usually found in a vending maching for €2). My biggest frustration when we return from a trip is looking through all my vacation photos and seeing hundreds of photos of Olivia and Antz taken by me or Liv and me but hardly any of all three of us together besides a few not-so-great selfies. I get even more upset when we ask a relunctant tourist for a photo and it turns outs terrible. We have all been there. My last few trips I thought I found a solution by bringing a tripod with a remote however the museums did not allow selfie stickes or tripods so we had to leave it in the locker room. We have tried to set up the tripod outside however we didn’t feel comfortable with leaving our iphones out of reach when we were in a large crowd (and how do these influencers stop people from walking through your shot?!)

I finally had enough so I decided the best souvenir (and value) is booking a family photo shoot so I have photos of all us which I will cherish forever! I wish I could hire our friend and talented photographer Lee to follow us around the world and shoot us (our rad shoot in London) but alas, I am not as wealthy as a Kardashsian. So, I reached out to my friends who may know photographers in Rome that would be available for booking a family shoot. Mostly everyone was out of town because locals tend to skip town during the peak tourist season. I wasn’t having much luck finding someone so I ended looking online and I found a 2 hour walking tour that included a photo shoot.

We started off super early (to beat the crowds) and met two other couples at the Colosseum. It was already boiling hot but our tour guide found some shade to shoot us in. Victoria, our guide and photographer is an American who lived in Rome for several years. She was able to show us famous landmarks from an expat point of view and quickly take some shots during our walk.

The tour was pretty hurried due to the large tour buses arriving so we tried to stay ahead of the big tour groups, we had some good spots all to ourselves.

Our reward for getting up so early was seeing the Roman forums without the tourists, huzzah!










Our advice for posing for photos, don’t forget to let your silly side shine. I have so many photos of us in the same boring pose so I try to think of something different or pretend like we are in a magazine photo shoot. We do our best to capture the I’m a character in a Wes Anderson film aesthetic.


I can’t believe how far we walked in just one hour. Don’t forget to pack wet wipes, we were so hot and sweaty but the wipes kept us from looking like we were melting, I literally was soaked!

Some souvenirs are necessary, such as that Roma fan. Luckily we stopped at a cafe for some juice to keep us hydrated.

Another tip I have is to request candids but also be aware of the camera. I like the observational photos as much I like the posed ones because it shows us in the moment.

Grazie Victoria! We really enjoyed talking to her and sharing our expat annoyances and joys. Even though there was two other couples in our group she made us feel like we had her full attention. She also got our photos back to us in a week which is record time! I found her to be a great bargain but unfortunately due to Covid-19, I don’t see her actively online.

There are a few photography websites that you can find a photographer to book online:

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Airbnb Experiences

I recommend to start by asking friends if they know someone because it’s easier when you find a photographer who doesn’t normally do tourist shoots. My experience has been they are less likely to take you to popular tourist locations and pose you in a generic (like school picture day) poses. I like finding someone that has a more edgier, artsy style (like Lee!!) Sometimes you have no choice because you want those to shoot at those landmarks but if we have been to a location before we tend to skip the main attractions and find a less crowded part of town. For example, I wouldn’t encourage anyone visiting Paris to go to the Eiffel Tower/Trocadero for photos. It’s packed with tourists and souvenir vendors so if you are coveting the perfect shot with the iron lady, head around the corner to rue de Buenos-Ayres and hope you don’t have too many cars parked on the street (again always go early!).

Of course when I went it was rainy and every car in Paris had to drive past when I was trying to get a photo.

Bon Chance!

The Best Way to Tour Rome (during peak tourist season)

Rome is a huge metropolis and the public transportation isn’t as efficient as other cities we have visited. That being said, we found an excellent way to see the city while avoiding the hordes of tourists. We began our day early and was surprised that it was already unbearably hot outside. We waited for a bus to take us into the east side of town and it took forever to arrive. I was already missing the convenience of French bus stops, that have electronic boards which tell you when the next bus will arrive. It was also annoying that we didn’t have any change on hand to pay for bus tickets so we just gave the driver €5 and he smugly kept the change. We couldn’t order an Uber because the city only has Uber Black service which is insanely expensive so hot and dirty city bus it was. I have always dreamed of renting a pastel pink Vespa scooter with a matching pink helmet to tour the city pretending like I am Audrey Hepburn’s character in Roman Holiday. So I had the brilliant idea to book a scooter tour for our family. It took almost an hour just to find the scooter rental company as we kept getting sidetracked by the scenery.

Alas, my dream riding around Rome in a pretty, pink vintage scooter were dashed when I saw these red and black scooters lined up outside. Fine, I could improvise with bright red only because it matched my earrings and lipstick. I was ready to hit the road until the guy leading our scooter tour asked us, “So you know how to drive a manual transmission, right?” Uh, err, no absolutely not! He also asked if we had previous experience driving a scooter in city traffic. Now technically, I drove my Mom’s 4-wheeler in the desert once and that ended in me crashing into a cactus while wearing flip flops, so admittedly, not a ton of experience. He laughed and said you think you’re going to drive a scooter in this city (in heavy bumper-to-scooter traffic everywhere). We all agreed, we didn’t want to die that day despite my further disappointment. The guy at the scooter rental place gave me our only other option…take a guided three person Vespa tour. Bravo!!

The downside was the driver wouldn’t arrive for a few hours. We decided to walk around the neighborhood and find some lunch and gelato while we waited.

We were told to check out one of the city’s best gelato places Giovanni Fassi but we arrived before they opened. I was surprised that people were lining up for this place but luckily we were first in the door.

Holy Cow! The gelato was insanely good. Liv wanted another one but we promised to get some after our tour. The place had 1960’s Wes Anderson vibes. We headed back over to the scooter rental place and met our tour guide.

Our guide/driver, Georgio, was amazing! He was so knowledgeable and fun. He asked us what we wanted to see and put together a comprehensive tour of Rome in three hours.

He was smitten with Lulu!

I was elated that we didn’t opt for the crazy scooter ride. We chilled in the Vespa and soaked in the breeze as we drove past poor, miserably-hot tourists walking by.

Georgio made stops at each site and gave an in-depth explanation of the history of the location from the perspective of a bonafide Roman. We learned so much!

Basic bitch photo but I was so upset about the construction below. Why am I always cursed?!

The time seemed to fly by. Georgio even swung by the Trevi fountain to attempt another photo but it was the middle of the day and swarmed with people.

We ended our tour by driving past the infamous Spanish Steps and it was so crowded I couldn’t even recognize them!

If you visit Rome and want to book the Vespa tour please request Georgio, he is the best!

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We hugged Georgio and said ciao. I had to bite the bullet and ordered an expensive Uber Black to drive us to the other side of town. I knew I wouldn’t survive the city bus in that heat at that time of day. As we were basking in the air conditioned Uber, I totally kicked myself for forgetting to take a photo with all of us and Georgio, boo! 🙁

Well, I was immediately cheered up when we arrived at our next destination.

I was super excited to visit the Galleria Borghese. I followed the museum on Instagram prior to our trip and it didn’t look real in photos. I was absolutely blown away by the vivid colors and the 3-D painted characters.

I highly recommend visiting the Gallery Borghese even though it’s a bit outside of the city center. It was really nice to stroll through the tree-lined gardens after spending most of the day in the crowded, busy city.

We ended our day with another mediocre meal near our Airbnb. I was so tired and hungry I can’t recall what we had but you can guess it was some sort of generic pasta…when in Rome.

When in Rome…

Let me take you back, not just to the summer of 2018 when we took our trip to Rome but to the summer of 1957. There was a young man named Tom Ripley and he had one talent, becoming someone else. If you haven’t gotten the reference by now, The Talented Mr. Ripley, is one of my favorite films, set in dreamy coastal Italy and most notable for its gorgeous cinematography and score by Gabriel Yared.

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If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend it. The cast is fabulous and it’s currently on Netflix. I wish I could time travel and visit Italy during the 1950s. It feels so romantic and stylish, I adore the fashion from the 1950s.

Our Airbnb was just five minutes from the famous Piazza Navona in Rome. We spent our morning searching for locations where the movie was filmed. Little did I know that using my phone to match the photos would make a glare from the sun that annoyed me, but you get the idea. Piazza Navona looks exactly the same from when the film was made twenty years ago. With exception to the giant Apple store advertisement on a building being renovated.

It took all our strength to not jump into this fountain!

We walked to a store and bought some groceries and stopped for a gelato. We could only find a small convenience store so the groceries were limited. Although they had a full olive bar, unfortunately, we don’t eat olives. So many shops sold every variety of pasta you could imagine however our Airbnb had no cookware and I was already burned out on pasta.

We spent the afternoon napping and enjoying the air conditioned bedroom while Antz did some work. Then we forced ourselves to take a walk and grab some dinner. It’s hard to find something good in our neighborhood due to all the obvious tourist traps, and I wanted shrimp fettuccine alfredo so bad. The place we chose looked legit yet had no idea what shrimp alfredo was but agreed to make me fettuccine pasta with shrimp.

So, check out what they served me after waiting 30 minutes in an empty restaurant. I didn’t eat one bite, it was ice cold like they took it out of the freezer and put it on a plate. The visibly irritated waiter tried to offer me something else but I didn’t have the energy to wait and I tipped him anyway. I had been in Rome for less than 24 hours and already had two horrible meals. I just don’t eat well when I travel. I have terrible luck with eating outside of the US. My palette is not at all refined. Don’t worry, I survived Rome on a lemon gelato diet. We took a nice evening stroll and I fell in love with this vintage movie poster shop but we have limited wall space in our apartment, I had to leave empty-handed.

At least I found some decent wine! It was a chill first day and the heat made it difficult to go out during the day. We waited until dark and took a lovely night stroll for more gelato although the temperature remained in the 80s.

It’s hard to be glamorous when you sweat off all your makeup from the humidity. I must admit, visiting Rome in the middle of the summer was not a wise choice. The city was overrun with tourists (imagine the worst stereotypical versions) it was unbearably hot and Rome is really a huge tourist trap, like you can’t walk down the street without guys trying to get you to come eat at their restaurant or buy something from their shop. I don’t like feeling accosted when I’m outside. Well, you live and you learn. I was happy to cross it off our travel list but my next visit to Italy will be during off-season and in a town that is not so popular (dying to go to Sicily!)

How to find the almost-perfect Paris Airbnb rental

Bonjour,

Finding a perfectly charming Parisian rental can be headache-inducing but I’m here to give you tips and what to keep in mind when choosing an Airbnb rental in Paris.

Firstly, you need to think about the city of Paris like a snail’s shell. Each neighborhood is divided into 20 arrondissements in a clockwise spiral starting at the Louvre. Most of the major tourist attractions are located near the Seine river which splits the city in half. The southern side is known as
la rive gauche/the left bank which is home to intellectuals, jazz clubs and writers sipping espresso in cafes (Hemingway is a noteworthy resident). My side of the city, la rive droite/the right bank is considered the chic, party side. You will find the Moulin Rouge, high fashion boutiques on Champs-Élysées Boulevard and the bohemians of Montmartre. The further from the center you go, the less tourists (more quiet) and more working-class Parisians there are. This adorable map is helpful when deciding what area you want to stay in.

My first experience renting an Airbnb was our summer vacation in 2014. After giving up on finding a hotel that ticks all my boxes within our budget, I decided to look at rentals online. I liked how easy their website was to navigate and there is a wide selection of rentals. They have accurate photographs and honest reviews. I was able to save my favorite apartments to a wishlist and contact the owner to ask questions. I was a bit disappointed that the first three apartments I wanted weren’t available with kids but I was very happy with the one we ended up renting. Half of the time, it’s sheer luck that you find a nice place that has everything you want.

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On the Airbnb website you can search by location, price and availability. Let me tell you that most apartments in Paris will often come with some kind of trade-off. You will have to put up with something lame in order to get most of your wishlist. Usually a place with a nice view will mean a strenuous flights of stairs. Larger apartments are often found in a part of town that you may not feel comfortable out late at night. I’ve even had to turn down a beautiful two bedroom apartment simply because it was across the street from a sex club. It’s good to check the address or neighborhood on Google maps before you book. You may score a place close to popular landmarks which will certainly mean noisy, obnoxious tourists, possibly a higher crime area (terrorist threats and pickpockets) and lower quality of restaurants. Don’t be too discouraged, Paris has amazing security and a police and military presence is reassuring.

In our case, we didn’t find anything available for two weeks in our ideal location le Marais, (the 3rd/4th arrondissements) but our rental was in walking distance from the the upper 10th arrondissement which was super convenient to the Metro station and we had a lovely, quiet courtyard so we didn’t hear all the street noise.

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The courtyard was quiet and lovely

Here are my recommendations to keep in mind for your search for the almost-perfect Parisian rental:

Stick to your budget.

It’s easy to fall in love with an elaborate pied-à-terre with a sparkly chandelier, and there are plenty of luxury apartments listed on Airbnb but the reality is, besides sleeping, bathing and occasionally eating, you really won’t spend much time in the rental during your vacation. Unless you are staying long-term, I suggest you keep the cost of the rental lower than what it would cost for a hotel per night. In my case I would have paid $299 per night for a hotel and our rental was approx. $150 per night for two weeks. Plus, we saved money cooking our own delicious meals and not having to tip hotel staff. Take note, Airbnb may charge a cleaning fee and a fee for additional guests. I like to introduce myself via message to the host before booking so I can get a feel for how they manage the property.

Who could say no to these happy faces!

Keep in mind during your search to look for a place that is bright, has lots of windows, and preferably not on a ground floor. Most of the apartments are tiny in comparison to American homes, so white paint gives an illusion of a larger space with a sun-filled apartment. High ceiling also help you not feel too claustrophobic.

Renting in Paris, it’s all about trade-offs.

I really wanted classic apartment with herringbone hardwood floors, an elevator in a Haussmann style building but the apartment we chose didn’t have any of those things. However it did have an awesome swing for Olivia, had a modern design, I loved the high ceilings and charming skylights in the loft. Although our place was small, the layout felt spacious and everything was efficiently designed. We wanted a place with a modern kitchen but we didn’t have air conditioning (A/C is rare in Europe) and it was brutally hot during the summer. We ended up leaving our windows open at night for a breeze but Liv and I were bitten by mosquitos everyday. We were pleasantly surprised how much we liked the area we stayed in. Normally, I would have chosen a place near the center of Paris but staying further out allowed us to shop and dine where locals go and that is how we found the absolute best rotisserie chicken in Paris. Find a place that has something you love but be prepared to give up something else in exchange for it.

Beware of dated apartments.

I know it’s hard to resist the 19th century rustic charm of Parisian apartments but the older the rental, the less amenities you will have. Things we take for granted such as a microwave, a dryer (French people love to use hangers to dry clothes), decent water pressure in the shower, WC (water closets) which are tiny closets with a toilet inside. Those gorgeous herringbone wood floors you may covet may be creaky and noisy and may be annoying hearing your neighbors. I fell in love with a few chic, traditionally rustic Parisian apartments during my search but I had to face the reality that staying in a period apartment with a three year old would have been a headache when she couldn’t resist touching the fragile antiques. We knew we wouldn’t be comfortable lounging around on older furniture. Plus laundromats are expensive and a bummer.

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I almost rented this rustic apartment with the tiniest kitchen ever and five flights of stairs!

Renting a place with small children can be tricky. Some rentals have a strict no children under 12 policy while others may charge more for kids. Since Liv was three years old when were Airbnb hunting, we made a list of kid-friendly must-haves and list of would be lovely. I wouldn’t consider any places that didn’t have white painted walls, I also ruled out any rental with longer than a five minute walk to the Metro. I didn’t want too many stairs because we had so much luggage and I worried about our kid falling on the stairs. It turned out not to be a deal-breaker because Olivia loved the bath.

We showed Liv how to scoot down the steep loft stairs.

Be flexible about the location.

My favorite neighborhoods in Paris are le Marais 3rd and 4th arrondissement, and more recently, the 10th arrondissement near the beautiful Canal Saint Martin. It feels like a more authentic Paris with lots of cool boutiques, trendy restaurants and art galleries without the annoying tourists traps. Although just like LA, the cooler the location, the smaller and more expensive the rentals are (equivalent to Venice beach). There is also a pickpocketing issue throughout the city so always be aware of your bags. There really is no bad part of Paris, the further you are from the Seine the longer the walk, but you can always take the Metro or bus. Like any major city there is crime but it’s not as bad as big cities in the US, and I am a firm believer in not going out with my passport (unless I need it) or large amounts of cash. It’s also a good travel hack to keep a copy of your passport, drivers license on your cell phone and an emergency credit card hidden in your luggage (in your shoe) or somewhere safe.

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We loved buying fresh croissants every morning from the Patisserie on the corner.

If you don’t mind a smaller place, always choose the better location. Become friendly with your local baker, butcher, florist and fruit stand vendors. After a few days, we felt right at home in our Airbnb and even knew some people in our neighborhood by name. Liv made friend’s with our neighbor’s French bulldog.

Happy Airbnb hunting! I’m happy to answer any questions about the places we have rented. Do you have any Airbnb tips or hacks? Please share in the comments below!

Lizzie

Summer Roman Holiday

I can not believe it took me over 40 years to finally visit the amazing city of Rome! Antz and I traveled to Venice, Italy all the way back in prehistoric times of 1997. We didn’t even have cell phones or digital cameras back then. So, this trip was long overdue. We took the train from lovely, quiet Turino to bustling, crowded Rome in the evening.

As per usual on long train rides, I edit my photos, Liv snacks and reads and Antz plays on his phone or draws. We didn’t get a carrefour which is four seats facing each other but this seating was fine.

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It was tricky finding our way out from Roma Termini, which is enormous. My phone didn’t have service inside the terminal so we just guessed which direction to walk. The real side of traveling is dealing with the hot, overwhelming crowds and the frustration of navigating a new city. I try not to let it get the best of me but I am so much happier when I have a pre-booked car waiting for us or I can just call an Uber. Once I got service, we discovered that only Uber Black cars were available which is too expensive, so we walked in the dark to the bus stop.

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It was too damn hot to be lost. When the bun goes up, it’s serious business time.

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Our Airbnb was very cute, perfectly located near the famous Piazza Navona, had an elevator (we were on the top floor), an awesome balcony overlooking the square and AIR CONDITIONING in the bedroom! We were so happy in the apartment, since we had a late arrival my photos are pretty bad. I love a sexy wood ceiling.

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We were starving so we headed to the first pizzeria that looked the least crowded. I must say that for Italy being the pasta capital of the world, they really have terrible tourist trap restaurants all over Rome. You will not find anything impressive near the city center. The food wasn’t great but we were so tired and hungry, who cares.

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It was midnight by the time we finished eating so I thought it would be a good idea to check out the Trevi fountain since the crowds would have died down by then. We walked past some boring old buildings and not at all special landmarks that have existed since the time of antiquity, no big deal.

Ciao sweaty Lizzie!

Well, as you can see there is no perfect time to walk around Rome. It was still crowded and 90 degrees at midnight. Be we are in Roooooommmaaa!

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There she is folks… the Trevi fountain in all its glory.

It’s almost impossible to get a shot without someone in it at this fountain. The ground is covered in trash and you feel like you will get pickpocketed but we waited and found someone who looked trustworthy to get this shot. I hate to say it, this place is overrated. It felt artificial, like Las Vegas but dirtier. I won’t say to skip it but keep your expectations low.

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I am proud of this shot because I had to crop out so many heads and selfie sticks.

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Despite my poor reviews, the fountain is extraordinarily beautiful and full of coins (the money is collected daily and supposedly donated to poor charities).

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Lesson learned, no late night siteseeing after a long day of traveling, we were all cranky and my quest for the “perfect” family shot was in vain. We called it a night and happily went to bed with the air conditioner cranked on high.

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Ciao Rome!

Off to Torino, Italy

We landed back from Nice to Paris with only 48 hours to sleep, do some laundry and re-pack our suitcases, we hopped on a train at 5 am to the small town of Torino, northern Italy.

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Why did I choose to visit Turin? (Torino in Italian) Well, I was planning a summer trip to Rome but I discovered most of the trains were sold out of first class seats and it only was a five and half hour ride to Turin versus a grueling eleven hour ride to Rome. Then I found the cutest Airbnb rental for less than €100 for two nights!  I knew it was worth spending a few days in a smaller town before our week in Rome.

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This is my favorite meme

We took an Uber to Gare de Lyon at 5 am because it was too early to take the bus or Metro. Our train was scheduled to leave at 6:25 am so I may have overestimated our departure time. Spending an hour waiting, I never paid attention to how beautiful Gare Lyon is.

We had a long wait with no cafes open yet to get breakfast. Lucky for us, there was a piano in the station and talented folks treated us to a rendition of Dr. Dre and Amelie medleys.

We traversed this gorgeous lake somewhere in southeastern France for ages. I need to find out the name of this lake but I am guessing it could be lac d’Annecy. I want to go to there.

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We arrived at the Torino Porta Susa train station before noon. Let me say how much I appreciate a clean, not too crowded, easy to navigate train station like this one. We couldn’t use Uber so we walked to our Airbnb. It was unbearably hot so after 20 minutes, I was drenched and feeling grumpy. However, my mood lightened as we passed the beautiful buildings and quiet streets.

The city is so classic Italian and charming but also terribly hot. I was so relieved when we made it to our Airbnb and found an elevator in the lobby. It’s such a luxury in European buildings.

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That stained glass window was bellissimo! The street we stayed on was quiet in comparison to our lively street in Paris. I am sure Italians take siesta hour very seriously.

Wow, we actually had to use an old skeleton key, so delightful! Our apartment was small but splendid. It had the perfect mix of modern and old-world. I adore the stain glass window and arched ceiling.

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I loved the balcony (although it was too hot to hang out there) but lovely breezes.

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The bedroom had this lovely, ancient painted ceiling.

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It’s always weird to me that most homes in Italy have a bidet. I honestly never used one. Someone is going to have to show me a tutorial, I have so many questions!

Our Airbnb host was super cool, he gave Antz an ice cold beer upon our arrival.

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We needed lunch and gelato right away so we walked to the tram and headed to Old Town.

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I love the curtains for shade on the balconies. Torino is so lovely, all I was missing was a convertible Fiat 500 like this beauty.

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I really need to learn how to drive a manual transmission! I would drive this adorable car in a heartbeat if I fit inside.

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Did I walk into the 1950s? Look how cute the street lamps are!

Balcony goals!

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Prego Antz!

I can’t believe how incredibly beautiful this pharmacy is. I saw it on Pinterest and had no idea what the address was but it was easy to find.

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Italy has my heart with this Accidentally Wes Anderson signage.

Liv got peach, Antz got chocolate chip and I tried cantaloup. I can’t get enough Italian gelato. Ice cream is mandatory several times per day in the Italian summer heat.

So of course we arrived during the awkward afternoon time of 3 pm – 7 pm when most restaurants were closed. We walked for hours looking for anything open but we ending up having to wait hours before 7pm. I don’t know how to time our travels so that we don’t end up starving in the middle of the day but it always seems to happen. We stocked up on some water and fruit from a convenience store and went back to our Airbnb for a nap before dinner.

Guess who overslept?! We slept right through dinner so we were starving the next morning.

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Believe it or not, this was the first time the three of us brushed our teeth together at the same time. We all can’t fit together in our teeny bathroom in our apartment in Paris.

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Thank goodness we found a cafe that was open but it wasn’t the bacon and pancakes breakfast we were hoping for. We settled for orange juice and pastries.

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We left on a Sunday so most places were closed and it was brutally hot so we took the bus downtown to take some photos of Turin before our afternoon train to Rome. I was playing with the settings on my Nikon but as always, I ended up with blurry shots. D’oh!

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Even Lulu was sweating.

I wish we could have figured out how to rent a bike but we proceeded on foot.

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There’s something alluring about telephone booths, I suppose it’s the same appeal as a photobooth. It brings back nostalgia and I love the 1960s vibes. Also, how rad is that green mailbox. I love a good mailbox.

We loved these adorable tram cars. However, they weren’t going in our direction.

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We saw this roof in the distance so we walked towards it. This building is the Mole Antonelliana which is now a museum of cinema. It’s believed to be the tallest museum in the world however the access to the roof was closed so we just browsed the gift shop.

 

The store selling these paletas saved our lives. It was deathly hot!

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We took the bus back to our Airbnb and walked to the train station. We had a couple of hours to kill before our train so we hung out in a tiny shop with a little fan.

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Turin was charming, very quiet, less tourists and slower paced. I wish we were able to try some food but we never seem to time it right. So 48 hours later, we were off to Roma.

Arrivederci Torino!

Our last day in Cote d’azure

We spent the last few days day in Nice on a whirlwind of adventures. Everyday during our vacation, I tried to get photos of the beautiful landmarks in Nice. Yet, with so many tourists, “C’est impossible.” I finally decided to wake up at the crack of dawn (which is difficult for an insomniac like me) to get photos.

Our first stop was Le Negresco hotel. Of course, there were cars parked right in front of the entrance but it’s my unlucky curse. Even without the crowds, I couldn’t capture how beautiful the hotel is. I just love the architectural details.

How sweet was the bellhop? Our next stop was the fountain of the sun in Place Measséna.

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Even at 8 am, it was so hot I wanted to jump in the fountain. We drove over to Castle Hill park, a park on top of a mountain. Lucky for me they have an elevator. We stopped at the I love Nice sign for a cheesy family photo.

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We walked across the street to Castle Hill park. There is an elevator built right into the mountain.

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OMG! This view was everything.

We asked a couple to take our photo with the beautiful coastline of Nice and this is what they delivered. I took their photo and made sure to not get the morning shadow and I took several photos. They took three of the same exact shitty shot. *EYE ROLL*

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I don’t know what to say to describe how pissed I was. I am sure it was the extremely hot weather but we were all in a grumpy mood. Luckily, Antz broke the tension making fun of my attempt to rock a chic French scarf. He said I looked like Bret Micheals from Rock of Love and I couldn’t stop laughing.

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We set off to find the waterfall I heard about and after walking forever we realized we kept passing it.

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I feel like my entire day was an article of expectation vs what you get. We bought popsicles from a snack bar and took Liv to the playground.

We almost died from the sun! I couldn’t brighten these photos anymore.

The Castle of Nice (Chateau Hill) used to be a military citadel but it was destroyed in 1706. It is a must see spot to visit in Nice (just bring tons of water!)

Poor baby was dripping with sweat. We hurried back to our rental car which I had to return before noon. We took the tram to the Nice train station and then took another tram to Old Town so we could meet my friends for brunch.

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The couple that we house swapped with last March were in town for vacation. Her family is from Nice so we met at a friend’s cute restaurant and we met her brother and his family. I wish I took more photos of all of us but they food and conversation was so amazing, I totally forgot.

I am normally not a huge prosciutto fan, but it was sublime paired with the fresh cantaloup. Antz ordered mashed potatoes at the chef’s suggestion and I took a bite. Ummm, did I just taste the yummiest, creamiest mashed potatoes of my life? Just look at that fresh butter! I was falling in love with the south of France even though the sun was trying to melt us.

The place we had brunch is:

Marinette
13 Rue Colonna d’Istria
06300 Nice

After brunch, we took an Uber back to our rental and had to hit the beach for one last swim. We met two sweet ladies on vacation and chatted with them. They were a mother daughter duo and the daughter was on summer break from college in America. The funny thing about our conversation was they were both topless the whole time so it was pretty weird for us, but they were so chill about it, we just ignored the obvious awkwardness. Good thing I was wearing sunglasses.

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Antz had to start work that afternoon and Liv needed to relax and play video games on her Nintendo Switch. I took a quick nap. Later that evening I had to meet my friend Brandi for drinks one last time before we left.

The next morning we flew back to Paris. I know we will return to the south of France. I would love to visit more inland in the Aix-en-Provence area.

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Road Trip: Cannes

A visit to the south of France requires a visit to the most famous city, Cannes. The international film festival is held in May. It was a scenic hour drive from Nice.

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I admit, I thought the city would be pretentious and snobby but it was as charming as any of the cities in the south of France. There was more traffic than we had seen before and of course more luxury brand boutiques but after we parked Liv found an American style diner and we bought some ice cream.

We were so sunburned from laying out on the beach the day before, ouch! I was so happy to find my first and only Invader in Cannes.

Liv and I rode the ferris wheel. The city was practically empty.

I normally don’t like riding ferris wheels, but I felt brave and I prefer enclosed rides. The view was worth it.

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If I ever go to the Cannes Film Festival (because I totally am) I would like to stay at the Splendid hotel. Now I know the famous Eden-Roc hotel is where all the celebrities stay in Cannes but I feel burned that we were turned away at the gate when we tried to get a drink at the notorious bar. Turns out you can only visit the hotel grounds if you have a reservation and the guy at the gate said there was an opening in 11 months. Cool.

We walked across the street to a little park and found a cute brocantes (antique sale).

I was super tempted into buying a Louis Vuitton travel case that was a bargain for €600 but luckily, she only took cash and I realized, I had nothing that valuable to travel with such an expensive bag.

Maybe one day.

Cannes was lovely but also just a normal French town. I have always associated it with such A-list celebrity, even the public bathrooms were just a fancy port-a-potty.

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On the lovely drive back to Nice, Liv asked if we could stop and ride one of the beach bikes. Antz was exhausted so I took one for the team and rode in the blazing heat with Liv and Lulu. The things I do for my kid.

It was actually very fun, it would have been perfect if it wasn’t so darn hot. We rode the breezy coastline for an hour while Antz napped in the car with the air conditioner on.

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We couldn’t find a restaurant open to have dinner so I ordered my delicious Mediterranean pasta again from the place in Old Town Nice.

Cannes was a lovely day trip. I would only stay overnight if I chartered a yacht, we didn’t find much to do if you aren’t doing some serious shopping.

Road Trip: Côte d’Azur

Day three in Nice I took the bus to the airport to pick up a rental car so we could drive to a special beach outside of Nice recommended by our friend Louise and drive the magnificent Cote  d’Azur.

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The only compact car they had with an automatic transmission was a boring black BMW. I always imagined myself driving the cliffs along the south of France in a cute vintage convertible like Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief yet my non-stick driving skills doesn’t make that a reality.

 

We drove south of Nice to the small coastal town of Saint Jean Cap-Ferrat. The roads were very narrow and curvy.

 

 

The roads were right along the cliffs against the stunning blue sea waters and houses were built right into the mountainside. It seemed impossible to walk in the city but we saw women pushing strollers right on the tiny streets. It was such a contrast to the huge, busy beaches of Nice.

It was easy to find our dream house.

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Bougainvillea everywhere!

 

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The beach had rocks but we spent most of our time in the water.

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