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.

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.

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’m on vacation. I have terrible luck with eating outside of the US. Don’t worry, I survived on an all lemon gelato diet. I loved this vintage movie poster shop but we have limited wall space in our apartment.

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!)

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20 Rad Things to do/explore/eat in Paris (with kids!)

Bonjour,

My sweet friend Karilyn who is a travel blogger at No Back Home, asked me to share my top twenty things to do in Paris with kids. Firstly, I’d like to dissuade the notion that traveling with kids can be a bummer. Non! If you are planning for a horrible time, you will end up miserable but prep yourself in advance for those unexpected meltdowns and keep these tips up your sleeve and you’ll be asking yourself why didn’t we travel with our kids sooner?

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We got Liv’s first passport when she was three, now she is nine, she has traveled to twelve countries, far more than Antz and I travelled by her age! So, let me help you make your traveling with kids blues fade away by following my guide to Paris.

I don’t travel anywhere without these must-haves:

  • Multi-function backpack – I cannot walk around all day with a purse. It never works for me, I carry too much stuff and I love to be hands-free so I carry this Goodordering backpack/tote. This has been my go-to travel bag for two years now. It has padded straps so it doesn’t hurt my shoulders and I love the extra pockets in the front to hold tickets and extra camera batteries. I use the side pockets for my water bottle and umbrella which you will read more about below. Invest in a reliable travel bag! I’ve seen too many Mom’s struggling with bulky diaper bags and flimsy purses.

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  • Anti-bacterial Wipes – Always handy with kids, I’m not a germaphobe but public spaces can be gross, so it’s always wise to have these on you for wiping ice cream filled faces.
  • A scarf – I have used a scarf as a picnic blanket in the park, to wrap my hair up on a windy day and covered myself up when visiting a church out of respect. I have this lightweight one from J.Crew.
  • Water bottle – There are lovely public water fountains all over Paris. Having a water bottle is essential to surviving a long day in Paris with kids.

  • Cell phone chargers – I have one for each of us because we play Pokemon Go, the Flash Invaders app and taking photos quickly drains our battery power. This one works great. Bonus: If you are an Invader fan, check out my Instagram stories.
  • Kids Headphones – If you are planning a long road trip, these are a necessity! Now that Liv is older, she prefers to listen to her own music and we can crank our old people tunes without any side-eyes from her. Plus I rather use my own headphones during guided tours than use the cheap ones they give you. Liv uses these.

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  • Snacks! – This one is a must-have for kids. Liv gets cranky when she’s hungry and Parisian restaurants close from 3pm – 7pm so I always have apples, nuts or granola in my backpack.
  • Small, travel size umbrella – I strongly recommend bringing an umbrella, even during the summer, the sky has been known to suddenly start pouring and it’s so frequent you will be happier you had it than not.
  • Backpack for your little one – I always let Liv pack a bag with her camera, a few books for long rides, her special lip gloss, a few small toys and her phone and charger. It makes her feel like she’s a big kid having her own things to bring when we travel. She has a Fjallraven Kanken backpack which was expensive but she’s had it for going on five years now.

  • I bought Liv her own instant camera and it has been a game changer for our trips. She loves playing photographer and it helps keep her busy when we are at museums or art galleries when she would normally run wild.
  • A retractable selfie stick – This one may be controversial. I really hate seeing these sticks all over touristy landmarks however, too many times I have ended up with no family photos or blurry, horrible photos taken by a stranger so I have given in to the selfie stick peer-pressure. This one is strongly recommended by my friend Kelly, who used it during her three month sabbatical while traveling solo. It has a built-in tripod and a remote. Just be aware most popular museums do no allow tripods or selfie-sticks.

Please keep in mind, you must say “Bonjour” when entering a business, to the bus driver or before speaking to any Parisian, not speaking first is considered rude. It’s always a good habit to teach your little ones how to say Hello, Goodbye and Thank you in the language of the country you are traveling to.

Okay, now that you are all prepped and ready to go, here’s the first stop.

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    1. Metro station
      (any Metro station)

      You may think walking is the best way to get around Paris but the city is huge and little feet get tired fast. If you pop into any Metro station you can buy a book of 10 tickets (called a carnet) which can be used on the trains and buses. I prefer taking a bus around the city so you can sitesee and enjoy a relaxing ride to your destination. The French public transportation is very easy to navigate and convenient. They even have the arrival times posted on most bus stops. Believe me, you will be doing plenty of walking later.

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    2. Jardin des Tuileries
      Place de la Concorde, 75001 Paris

      This is the Parisian equivalent to Central Park, located near the Louvre museum. Here you will find something for all ages. Playgrounds and sculptures are scattered throughout the impeccably manicured tree lined paths. During the summer and winter months there is a fun fair with games and carnival rides. You will find a carousel, snack stands, a puppet theater and my daughter’s favorite, the trampolines! They cost a few euros for 15 minutes of jumping so make sure you have cash on you.

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      The museum de l’Orangerie is located in the south end of the garden which houses the impressive Claude Monet Water Lilies.

    3. Jardin du Luxembourg
      6eme arrondissement
      Closes at 4:30 pm during the winter months

      This is another popular park, it’s massive and lovely. There’s so much to see here you can easily spend a whole afternoon there! The most fun thing for kids is renting a sailboat and spending 30 minutes playing captain of the sea. Don’t worry, I am referring to a small toy boat and you get a stick to launch it into a lake. Each boat has a different country flag so be sure to choose one that you can tell you little one about.

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      Liv chose Mexico which is where her Grandmother Maria was born. There are pony rides, ice cream vendors and stunning gardens, please be aware, you cannot walk on the grass here and you will get whistled at by security if you do!

    4. Try the snails at Cafe Charlot
      38 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris
      7 am – 2 am

      I know, your kids are probably like mine and will only eat buttered pasta or chicken fingers but I dare you to test their taste buds by ordering escargot at this trendy cafe in the Marais. Our kid refused to try them until we moved here, then she discovered all her French friends ate them, now she loves them. It is open all day, everyday (which is rare) and the waiters are very friendly towards Americans. I tend to opt for an early dinner so we are dining before the restaurant gets too busy and there isn’t much room for drama. Plus I like to get the best table for photos, of course. Be sure to grab a seat inside if you don’t want to be near the smokers and order a Saint Germain cocktail like the cool Parisians do.

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    5. Cité des sciences et de l’industrie/City of Science & Industry
      30 Avenue Corentin Cariou, 75019 Paris

      If your kid is a science geek like mine, this place is for them. There is a science museum, exploratorium, IMAX movie theater and VR experience. The entire area is perfect for kids with a park, boat rides on the canals and a small carnival. Try to go during the week so it’s less crowded.

    6. See the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night!
      Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris

      It is a no-brainer if you come to Paris you must see the incredible Tour Eiffel! Yet, I don’t want you to miss the nightly sparkle of the tower. There are always large crowds at the tower and the adjacent Trocadero but much less in the evening. Please note, you can no longer go underneath the tower without going through a long security check line so plan to be there ahead of time. The tower sparkles from sunset every hour until 1 am, it’s magical.

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    7. Princess Crepe
      3 Rue des Ecouffes, 75004 Paris

      What is better than a Parisian crepe? A Harajuku/Japanese crepe! This tiny place is nestled in the Marais and often has a line of people outside. Try the cheesecake and strawberries crepe, you’ll love it. Definitely Olivia approved.

    8. Disneyland Paris
      Boulevard de Parc, 77700 Coupvray

      Liv insisted I add the happiest place on Earth to this list. I will say, I adore Disneyland and it is much less crowded than the one in California. We take the RER A train from Chatelet/Les Halles station which takes about an hour to arrive at the Disneyland station. They have most of the same rides as the US Disneyland but with a European flair. Jack Sparrow charmingly speaks French on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. There is a Queen of Hearts labyrinth maze. I have heard they even have a pineapple whip (similar to Dole Whip) but it’s only available during the summer. The lines are much shorter and there is a seperate Walt Disney Studios park that is very cool.

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    9. Montmartre Village/the majestic Sacre-Coeur Basilica
      1 Parvis du Sacré-Cœur, 75018 Paris

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      Montmartre is arguably the most well-known quarter in Paris. Kids will enjoy taking the funicular up the hill. If you look to the right of the church, you will see a small fence at the bottom of the stairs, you can take this fun photo (slightly tilted) so it looks like the houses are sinking.

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      Then walk around the street to your left past the funicular, at the corner you will catch a glance of the Eiffel Tower. Keeping walking up the hill and you will arrive in Montmartre village. There you can buy tickets for a ride on the Petit Train de Montmartre which will take you on a tour of the area. I highly recommend it.

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      Skip the souvenir shops in the village and walk towards square Jehan Rictus to check out the Mur des Je’taime (Wall of I love you).

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      Afterwards, you can have an unusual dinner experience at…

    10. Le Refuge des Fondus
      17 Rue des Trois Frères, 75018 Paris
      Opens at 7pm (no reservations)

      Due to a heavy wine glass tax, this tiny restaurant now serves all drinks in baby bottles. There are two items on the menu; fondue and meat all served with skewers. This place is a total tourist trap that no locals would ever be seen in, but it is such a blast! The table seating is family style so people have to climb over the tables to be seated along the benches. The staff are notoriously mean and rude but I was somehow able to win ours over. He gifted us with a few baby bottles to take as souvenirs.

    11. Angelina
      226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
      10 am – 6 pm

      This place is a major tourist attraction but it is worth the wait. Located across the street from Jardin des Tuileries, it is a bakery that specializes in its signature, decadent, hot chocolate. I was so surprised to find out they also have white hot chocolate which is equally good, and I want some now!

    12. The Natural History Museum
      57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris

      Every town has one and Paris is no exception. There is a fascinating exhibit of the kingdom of animals on the second floor of this vast museum. In another building is Liv’s favorite, gems and minerals. It reminds me of the Natural History museum in Los Angeles and is definitely worth spending the day. It is located in the garden of plants which is especially pretty during the spring. Make sure to stop at the Dodo Manège carousel which has animals that are sadly all now endangered or extinct. There is also a zoo within the jardin des plantes but I recommend the next zoo.

    13. Parc Zoologique de Paris
      Avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris

      This zoo is located in the 12eme arrondissement on the outskirts of Paris in the enormous bois des Vincennes. I had low expectations for Parc Zoologique because in my opinion, there is no better zoo than the San Diego zoo, so I was delighted to see animals I have never seen in person before. LIKE A SLOTH! I could have stayed there all day watching this sweet guy move in slow motion. We went on a very hot day so we had to keep moving. Antz took a photo of a spider bigger than my hand but I won’t subject you to that nightmare. Kids will definitely love the animal feedings so be sure to check the schedule.

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    14. Choose your own Adventure
      Sports Saber League
      46 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, 75010 Paris

      This one is perfect for days you are feeling burnt out on museums and crowds. We like to ask Liv if she could pick one thing to do, what would it be? She was asking about fencing for awhile but the classes were the same day and time as her ballet so I found a similar alternative, Star Wars LightSaber fencing. There is a beginners class on Saturdays and they provide you with a lightsaber if you didn’t pack yours. Antz and Liv did it for two hours and loved it. It’s nice to ask your kids what they want to do because you may find something you wouldn’t have thought to do.

    15. Sip mulled cider at the Christmas Market
      Tuileries Christmas Market
      Marche de Noel La Defense (the biggest one in Paris)

      There are several markets throughout Paris that are open during the holidays. I have only been to two, La Defense and Jardin des Tuileries, but there are several within the city. There are booths like a farmers market selling Christmas homemade goods, gifts and food. There are raclette booths which are huge wheels of gooey cheese that are melted and dripped onto bread. The market at the Tuileries has rides and an ice skating rink. It’s a must do if you are in Paris during the holidays. Mamma’s be sure to try the hot wine “vin chaud“, it’s mind-blowingly good.

    16. Eat dessert American style in Paris
      Rue d’Aboukir, 75002 Paris

      We love our neighborhood which has a delightful American expat community. We have gotten to know many of the kind business owners at Boneshaker Donuts, Jean Hwang Currant cookies and Stoney Clove Bakery. Please make sure to let them know that Elizabeth sent you there! You will find every type of cuisine on a stroll down the famous rue Montorgueil. We love picking up a kilo (a French pound) of cherries to snack on during the summer.

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    17. Musée des Arts et Métiers
      60 Rue Réaumur, 75003 Paris

      Super cool, off the beaten path, museum of technology and mechanics. Your kids will love the room full of antique trains, cars and machinery. This museum is never crowded and will captivate your child’s imagination. We have been twice and still haven’t seen everything it has to offer.

    18. Rougier et Plé (awesome art supply store)
      15 Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, 75003 Paris
      (there are several other locations)

      After all those visits to the art museums  your young artists must be feeling inspired, so I recommend stopping by this mega store to pick up a few art supplies. A small paint palette, a canvas and a brush is all you will need. Then head over to Île Saint-Louis (located on an island behind Notre Dame Cathedral) and spend an afternoon painting the dreamy Paris landscape along the Seine.

      Berthillon Glacier
      Rue Jean du Bellay, 75004 Paris

      Then stop by Berthillon for the best ice cream in town. Any of the brasseries on the corner of rue Jean du Bellay sells it. There is a fancy restaurant that sells it around the corner too.

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    19. Go on a bike ride along Canal Saint Martin
      (for older kiddos)

      Download the Uber app – If you click the bicycle icon it will show you on a map where the Jump by Uber bikes are located. You can’t miss them with their cool, bright red paint. Once you scan them with your phone, you are all set to hit the bike lanes that run along the trendy Canal Saint Martin. The bikes are electric so it’s a smooth and easy cruise while soaking in the beauty of the canals. There’s also a two hour boat cruise that will take you through the canals many locks.

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    20. Get Lost! – The best part of visiting Paris is wandering the cobblestone streets, you will always find something fun to do. There are so many photo booths (they make great souvenirs) and carousels scattered around the city. A few of my favorite kids stores to check out.

      Bonton
      Smallable
      Petit Pan
      Tartine et Chocolat
      Village JouéClub
      Shakespeare and Company (English bookstore)

      Bonus – Pre-Negotiate a deal with your kids for buying souvenirs

      I have to add this because I have been there and know what a downer it is when your kid sees a gift shop and the begging commences. I worked out two options for Liv which has saved me from many tantrums. She collects souvenir coins which are mostly found in churches and museums all over Europe. So far she has over 30 coins! They cost €2, and she knows she can have one so she doesn’t ask for everything in the shop. The second option is when she finds something she cannot resist (which is everytime) she can pay for it with her own money. This has been a great solution because she earns money by doing chores at home. She has learned to save and not do much impulse shopping.

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      A few years before we moved abroad I bought Liv a toy set of world landmarks from Michaels. I also bought these two books, Maps and This is the World, which are informative and beautifully illustrated, to research our trips. We now collect landmarks from most of the cities we have visited. They all are under 2 inches tall so they fit in her Maptote travel bag.

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Always have fun!

Lizzie


Elizabeth is a stay-at-home-Mom/blogger/tour guide offering custom walking tours of Paris at Mon Ami Paree. She is a francophile who is (slowly) learning French, adores traveling and documenting her colorful family’s adventures on her blog, Violently Happy

 

Paris Life Observations

As we have come upon our year and a half anniversary of moving to Paris, we have noticed many comparisons from living in Los Angeles versus Paris. I’d like to share the ones that I find challenging and downright ridiculous.

The biggest one is life without a car. In LA, we spent so much time in our cars that it created an insulated feeling. In my twenty plus years of driving in LA, I’ve rarely had to deal with public transportation. Things like worrying about being pickpocketed, or having a man stand too close to me weren’t an issue. If it’s hot or cold outside, there’s air conditioning or a heater to keep you comfy. Life in Paris means you have to be prepared for the weather and many times that means dealing with a hot, crowded bus or giving up all personal space. One the flip side, I do love that our family spends more time together going for walks, or renting scooters for the weekend to explore new neighborhoods (and mostly Invader hunt).

It has been freeing to not spend so much time stuck in miserable traffic.

These new Jump bikes by Uber just appeared on the streets and we love them. The bikes are electric so you coast along. The two issues with them is you have to use the Uber app to rent them and I am the only one with an account so I can only rent one bike at a time. They are also more expensive than renting a scooter so we don’t use them often.

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Spending a day riding a bike would be tortue in Los Angeles because of barking dogs, very few bike lanes and brutal hills. In LA, many people would have dogs as guards so you can’t walk down the street without getting barked at. Since people don’t have yards here, dogs are kept as pets and are trained so well that they don’t need leashes. I was amazed at how you don’t hear incessant barking here.

It feels like French people have a better quality of life because they go outside more. They are used to sharing their space because people don’t have their own private backyards so they go to public parks. The French are more inclined to help someone because it’s the right thing to do, rather than just being a bystander.

That being said, there are rude, overly aggressive drivers and motorcycle riders that make it dangerous to walk on the streets at times. Jaywalking is law here, you never wait for the light to change and most times when cars are stuck in traffic and they are blocking the crosswalk, after the light changes, they still drive against a red light even if you are walking. Then they shout at you and throw their hands up in frustration as if walking on the green light is somehow the wrong thing to do. It’s annoying as hell.

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A majority of Parisians live in apartments so the lovely old buildings all share garbage bins. Our building has about 12 units (two on each floor) so that’s a ton of garbage. But the trash is collected everyday except Sunday. There are two trucks that come by for regular trash and glass bottles. It was hard to get used to the daily traffic jam on our tiny one-way street as the trash truck slowly collects all the bins at 5pm. It’s incredible to me that a building with 12 apartments have as many bins as we had for our small house in LA!

Which leads me to one of the biggest annoyances about living abroad. We rented our apartment from an English speaking rental agency. Along with two months deposit we paid a hefty 6% agency fee. The apartment manager, who handles repairs, apartment issues and acts as a liason to the person that owns our apartment, is absolutely savage. She speaks English but for some reason only communicates by email in French.  We have been waiting to have our interphone (the phone that allows you to buzz people into the building) repaired since May 2018!!

Little did I know (I admit, I was too enamored with renting a dreamy apartment in the perfect location in Paris) that I didn’t think to ask about the building itself. We don’t have a gardienne which is someone who lives and works in the building to take care of the upkeep and renter matters (collect deliveries, deal with broken things outside of the apartment, helps you if you get locked out)

Similar to Mme. Madeleine in Amelie

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We moved in without any info on what to do when a package is delivered, so I learned the hard way by going to three different post offices looking for my package that most deliveries in Paris are dropped off at a nearby shop that have a sticker on the door that says Chronopost. For our first year here, this shop was in front of our building and even though they were terribly disorganized, we got to know the shop owners and it wasn’t too difficult to find our packages. Then suddenly the shop closed and a new  business moved in that didn’t accept Chronopost packages. I asked our kind neighbor where to pick up deliveries but he didn’t know. Most times, I get an email or text with an address of where to pick up my package. It’s usually in walking distance but sometimes it’s a long bus ride away. Not so convenient for me and it would be wonderful to have someone in the building that can accept our packages. I should add, we pay a monthly building fee to cover the trash, water and elevator costs, yet when our building’s front door was broken, we were locked out for ages with no one to contact to let us in. The door was repaired and everyone got a new key but I paid for an extra key and I’ve been waiting for about three months and still no new key. There was also a time when the building was having work done to the exterior and the electricity was out in the stairwell. It was pitch dark and it was the first time I felt scared in the building. I wish I could go back in time and had the girls who checked us in the rental explain the building procedures, who to call in an emergency, what the trash policy was (we didn’t know which bin was for recycling) and how to handle deliveries. It’s all very figure it out yourself here but God help you if you make a mistake! If I had the legal right to work here, I would be the concierge of our building since I’ve home most of the day (would love a discount on our rent) but the language barrier would be too difficult.

French people I have encountered are either extremely kind and helpful or short and rude. That is my personal experience, not making a generalization. For example, we were at the parc de la Villette which is a huge park along the canals which have cute boat rentals. We saw a kiosk of park employees so we asked them where can we rent the boats. Her response (and keep in mind, Liv asked in French) “Over there” while vaguely pointing to the empty canal sidewalk with nothing there. I asked Liv to ask her to clarify where she meant. She merely repeated herself. So we walked over to the only thing she could have meant which was a sign post on the empty canal path.

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We figured if we waited there maybe a boat would come along and we could inquire about renting it, yet all the boats were on the north side of the bridge and we were waiting on the southside with no boats in sight. After waiting for 15 minutes we gave up. I also remember during a flight to Amsterdam on Air France, we left the gate late so I was concerned about making our connecting flight to Tokyo which was a fast 40 minute window. Since we were already late, I asked the flight attendant when would we be arriving? He looked me dead in the eye and said “The usual time!” and walked off in a huff. We ended up having to sprint through the airport and beg to cut the line in security to make our flight. This is the French way, employees do not make it a habit to provide customer service of any kind. It’s so frustrating because of course we Americans are used to “the customer is always right” attitude but I am well aware, this is not America and I need to adapt not the other way around. I just try to be patient and not lose my temper. Olivia is a Godsend because once people hear how good her French is, they quickly change their tune and usually are more inclined to help. It sadly hasn’t been the case with our apartment manager.

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I crack my Mom and bff, Aimee up with my horror stories of how I get treated by people here. The joke here is you can’t ask for help but God help you if you don’t know the rules. I try to take it in good humor but there are times (remember the La Redoute mattress fiasco?) when I don’t think I can stand another minute of the abuse and I lose my shit.

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This was the car I rented this summer when we hosted our friends from Finland. I asked for a car to seat six and this is what they had. They sent me to the basement to pick up this beast and as you can see I wasn’t fitting in the doors. Luckily I was able to ask a guy washing cars to pull it out for me using sign language but it’s things like this that drive me crazy. I barely made it out of the parking garage without hitting the mirrors in this huge Volvo. In LA, whenever I rented a car, the people at the rental agency would bring the car out to me. Spoiled, I suppose. The guy at the rental place also called me to pick up the car early which I gladly obliged. Then as I was checking out he tried to add an extra day charge on the rental because I was returning it after 3pm. I tried to explain calmly, that he asked me to come pick the car up early but I still needed to return it at the time I requested. I seriously had to argue with him over this. What kind of logic is that?!

Yet, the coin always has another side. There are so many delightful advantages to living in France. Things I never really appreciated in LA, like the architecture. I know everyone thinks California is so beautiful and it is, but it has thousands of beige, stucco strip malls full of tacky signage and billboards on every corner. I liken LA to the internet, you really appreciate websites without annoying ads plastered all over the page (yep, WordPress has ads all over my blog now 🙁 ) so when you find a clean, advertisement-free place it’s so pleasant.

It’s still my favorite thing just walking around and looking at the (non-neon) signage of Paris.

The French are well known for their amazing cheese, wine and universal health-care. Yet our latest experience has me scratching my head. Now keep in mind, we are American citizens with the good fortune to live here on a long stay tourist visa, but now that Antz is unemployed, we pay for our own health insurance policy from America. Which means we pay out of pocket and can submit a claim with our insurance (but with the large deductible, we don’t) so far, it’s not as expensive as we would pay in LA. In August, we took Liv to the doctor for her annual check up and wanted to make sure all her vaccinations were up to date before school started. Since we weren’t sure of what the French school system required, we asked the doctor for an update. He spoke English and had a medical student with him during the exam. They did the basics, checked her heartbeat, measured her height and weight. We asked about an issue she had with her ear but he needed more info from our pediatrician in LA so I had to email him later. He told us, she was up to date on her shots until she was about 12 years old and that was it. €75 to listen to her heart and tell us she’s tall and healthy. I was pretty stunned that we were charged that much for nothing. I emailed the doctor twice to follow up with him about the ear thing and got no response. It’s amazing how professionals will never call you back or email you when they say they will here. Well, hopefully next year we will be able to apply for French healthcare so we shouldn’t have to pay too much in the future. Thank goodness we don’t get sick often (knocks on wood)!

Funny story, last week we were coming from an appointment with our immigration lawyer and Liv and I took a scooter home. We were ahead of Antz who happened to notice a woman on the street looking at us with recognition. He knew she looked familiar so he asked her if she knew us. Turns out she was Liv’s second grade teacher from her French school in LA! She moved back to Paris and was teaching and she saw us riding by on our scooter. Antz texted me to come back and we took this photo. She was impressed by Liv’s French and so excited that we were living our dream in Paris. It’s totally a small world!

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And lastly, I get it guys, I count my blessings everyday I am here. It is a dream come true. Please don’t think I have some entitled, bratty, close-minded attitude when it comes to living abroad. I am completely open to this new culture, new ways of doing things and having a “go with the flow” attitude. I just want to be transparent and share some idiosyncrasies that I have encountered.

Do you have any tales to share about life in a foreign country?

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France still has the prettiest cleaning supplies.

Bonne journée!

 

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!

My mid-life check in

Bonjour guys,

I’ve had the most formidable (as the French say), chill summer. We hosted many special and dear friends and family that we ended up staying in Paris all summer. I started a new venture called Mon Ami Paree walking tours and this weekend we are hopping on a train for our 17th wedding anniversary. It’s completely bananas to me that I have done anything for as long as seventeen years but I’ve been with lovely Antz for half of my life so I consider myself lucky. I’ve been thinking about how I am getting closer to the midpoint of my life (fifty is creeping on me) and all the things I’ve learned, failed and grown from. Here’s my list of real talk life advice that have shaped me thus far.

Don’t pick at your face. I am so old school in my skin regime that I still use toothpaste on my pimples and I never touch my face. Now that I live in a city without a car, I feel the dirt and sun more than ever. So, everyday I wash my face with Bliss fab foaming 2-in-1 cleanser & exfoliator with bamboo buffers  (I bought a huge bottle before we left LA) and moisturize with my Holy Grail Aveeno Positively Radiant Sheer Daily Moisturizing Lotion. That’s it! I try my best not to frown but I am embracing my laugh-line wrinkles. Remember a pimple is temporary but a scar can be permanent.

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Manners first in everyday situations. When I was 11, I spent a summer in the exciting state of Oklahoma with my Grandmother’s sister. My Great-Aunt was super traditionally strict and she basically put me in charm school boot camp that summer. No elbows on the table, ask to be excused from the table and always say Good morning when you greet someone. These are no-brainer rules for Liv, lucky me I rarely have to remind her but it’s such a dying part of our society. Bring a gift the first time you visit someone’s house, hold the door for people struggling, make eye contact when you speak to someone. So many people have a hard time learning names but I always say the person’s name when we meet to remember it. I also write myself notes to remind myself (cute family we met at the park with two kids and live in the 2eme). Please learn a strong handshake. When I meet someone with a weak handshake I want to head bump them so hard. How far will you get in life with that weak grip? I don’t trust weak hand shakers. I often have to catch myself from saying “Bless you” out loud when someone sneezes on the bus because I get such strange looks (I forget, no one speaks English). One of the most charming things I appreciate here in Paris is you must always speak to a shopkeeper or bus driver when you enter. I also love how people offer their seats to elderly or pregnant women without a thought. From my observations, pregnant ladies get treated like princesses here. Remember, politeness goes a long way and shows integrity.

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Also, create your signature pose. I started looking up to the left when I noticed it makes my eyes look wider and brighter, it has become my default pose!

Always bring a umbrella! I have learned the hard way so many times since I moved to this land of unpredictable rain. I have gotten caught in rain and hailstorm without even a jacket. I am so LA that I forget to wear a jacket when I leave the house and the sun is shining bright. Little did I know it can take less than an hour for the weather to take a major turn. We have acquired so many cheap umbrellas because we get caught in the rain. Now I carry a bag every time we go out with two small umbrellas, my wireless headphones, a pack of wet wipes, portable phone charger and cords, hand sanitizer, our table tennis rackets (almost every park has a table) and a water bottle. These things used to live in the trunk of my car but now I have to schlep everything myself.

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Invest in quality lip balm. I used to throw Vaseline on my lips if they were chapped for years in my twenties. Then I got an Anthropologie gift card for my birthday so I bought some fancy Smith Rosebud Salve. I loved the smell of the balm but the container would get bent in my bag and it was too cumbersome and messy to open. So when I found EOS in sweet mint at Target, I was addicted. I literally brought 20 of them to Paris with me because I fear running out. My Mom even sends me more in my care packages because she knows I am obsessed. Find a quality lip balm and never leave home without it in your purse. Trust me, I had to stop at a 24 hour grocery store to buy some lip balm while I was on my way to the hospital when I was in labor with Liv.

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My Mommy keeps me stocked with necessities from LA. Still can’t ship In & Out burgers.

Don’t buy something with the hope of losing weight to wear it later. I bought a cute baby doll dress from Target thinking, it’s so cute and not expensive, I’ll lose some weight in my arms and be able to wear it in a few months. That dumb dress sat in my closet for five years. Why mentally psyche yourself up for something you can’t enjoy now? I no longer starve myself, or beat myself up about my weight. I am healthy and loved. I walk more now than I ever did and I feel great in my clothes. The apparel industry has come around to accepting that all women aren’t size six, so I feel great about being able to buy clothes that don’t look matronly or feel left out of what the cool girls are wearing. I was even asked to try-on clothes for two brands I adore (my darlings at Ace & Jig and Ban.do)  This 42 year old lady is still as rad as I was at 22!

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Never not wearing my favorite Ace & Jig dress

Embrace your quirky self! I used to have an unhealthy relationship with my hair. I have bleached it to death, chemically straightened it for years and mistreated it out of sheer laziness. The straw that broke my hair unhappiness was in January 2017. I was putting a chemical straightener on my hair when I had to take off my Olivia pendant necklace (the chemicals would ruin it)  I somehow lost my necklace that day so I vowed to never use that stupid (and damaging) stuff again. I haven’t put any chemicals or color on my hair since then. I replaced my necklace too. When I want to change my look, I get colorful braids. Now that I live in a more humid climate (my hair literally turns into a mushroom the second I go outside)

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I’ve learned to embrace my natural curls. I have an established hair routine that I do once in a while because I’m still lazy but the less I mess with my hair the stronger and healthier it’s been. I invested in products I know keep my dry, damaged hair moisturized and leave it alone. I broke my expensive flat iron when I first moved her because of the dumb voltage. I bought a new Euro flat iron but it doesn’t work as well as my old one so I decided, why go through the time and energy trying to make my naturally curly hair straight? Now I throw tons of leave-in conditioner and twist my hair, or sometimes I wear flexi rods overnight and poof! I’m little orphan Lizzie.

Young Lizzie (with long locks like Olivia’s) and Lizzie in her 20s (with ridiculous hair extensions)

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I’ve retired my signature braids for the summer to give my hair a rest and let it breathe. Braids are a protective hairstyle in the Black hair community but they can also cause breakage if you use the wrong type of hair or have them braided too tight. Plus they are annoyingly hot. I’m embracing my afro!

Please for the love of God know the difference between homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled and mean different things!) I am in a Facebook travel group and when I see adult people typing “I waisted a ticket because the whether was bad,” I have a brain meltdown. Listen, I am no grammar snob, I am completely aware my spelling is atrocious (thanks autocorrect for fixing that for me) and I am a serial run-on-sentence writer, but if you aren’t sure (not SHORE) which word to use, take a second and Google it. It took me years to grasp the difference between stationary and stationery. I subscribe to Word Genius which emails me a new word a day. I really wish I had a reason to use the word hornswoggle on my blog. Learn new things all the time. It’s cute to be smart.

Master your penmanship. I may sound so old-fashioned and prissy in my unsolicited advice here but have you ever tried to read a doctor’s prescription? I now live in a country where they write in lovely italic cursive however, I can’t tell an S from an R. Liv has beautiful penmanship, I have always instilled taking pride in your handwriting in her from an early age yet the French education system has taken over and she writes so teeny tiny, I can’t figure it out. I bought her a calligraphy set and she loves to practice writing fancy. Practice makes perfect and being able to write in legible handwriting is important even in today’s digital age.

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Not everyone is going to like you. Believe it or not, this can be hard for extroverts like myself to accept. I can be hypersensitive and believe it or not I get anxiety around new people. I am an only child so my friendships are everything to me. I have been told that I am a people person but I really have a small inner circle of only about five or six people who really know the real uncensored me. I’ve had to deal with people flaking on me, people mischaracterizing me and many people underestimating me for years. My confidence comes from learning self-trust. I am okay being the loud girl who listens to weird music or dresses like a toddler obsessed with rainbows, that is who I am, not sorry about it. I can’t help but be selfish about my happiness. I try my best to set an example for my (sometimes shy and quiet) daughter because growing up is hard and things like bullying, eating disorders and now the fake Instagram perfection standard makes it even harder. I never had a sibling to give me advice or tell me I look crazy so I’ve made great friends and spent time listening and learning. I now have many sisters (by marriage and my bff) but I wish I knew at 13 that just because someone didn’t like me meant something was wrong with me. Your people will get you. As you get older, you stop caring what other people think.
What strangers think doesn’t matter and are inconsequential to your success!

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Proud Pokemon Go nerd Mom. If you play too, let me know so we can be friends!

 

Fail, ugly cry and then try that shit again until you finally succeed! OMG, this was a hard lesson for me to learn y’all. I am notoriously impatient and when I don’t immediately get my way, I turn into the biggest brat ever. I have gone through every type of disappointment, felt like life was over for me and through all the drama and heartache, always came through better than I started. It’s weird when you are going through something serious, it feels like being stuck in quicksand. I now know that the harder something is for me to achieve, the more it’s worth it. I also know that anything worth doing requires sacrifice and commitment. You may sacrifice sleep, spending money, eating desserts but will it be worth the sacrifice in the end? Ask yourself this when going into a new venture. I have learned in the past twenty two years that my internal stress and anxiety is a complete overreaction. I know deep down things will work out because it always seems impossible until it’s done. The word is literally I’M POSSIBLE!!

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Bonus Advice: Fresh flowers makes everything better!

Any life advice that you learned from past mistakes you want to share? Comment below.

Have a lovely rest of the summer. I am still working on last summer’s travel posts, it’s taking forever because my laptop memory is full so for every photo I upload I have to throw away three. It’s moving slow but it’s possible.

Bisous

Paris My Friend Walking Excursions

Coucou (Hey!),

Paris My Friend is a walking excursion service created by myself, a francophile from Los Angeles who followed my dream of living in magnificent Paris. I am always finding new lovely places, learning about French culture and meeting interesting people in Paris (I share most on this blog). I made the move to Paris with my family and our cat not knowing anyone or speaking any French. Some call me brave, I say I’m passionate! I’m also a nerd for all things pertaining to WW2 history, Marie Antoinette and 1960’s French pop music and films. I’ll share tidbits about life in Paris you wouldn’t hear from a typical tour guide. I am not an expert, but I am your Parisian friend!

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“Paris is always a good idea” Audrey Hepburn once famously quipped, but it’s also enormous and can be overwhelming for the first-time visitor. I offer a casual day exploring the city hosted from a local expat’s perspective. Based on your interests and some quirky locations, we spend approximately four hours exploring arrondissements (neighborhoods) on foot, city bus or even e-scooter.

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I have spent years discovering all that Paris has to offer and I’ve yet to see everything. If you are looking for a break from a large impersonal horde of tourists, then take a walk with me. I enjoy showing my city to visiting friends and family so I’ve perfected a lovely day away from the crowds. The most requested thing people want to do is shop, of course! I’ll take you to popular boutiques based on your likes in the “trendy but not snobby” area of Paris. I am happy to take photos with your camera or cell phone for you to share on social media to make all your friends jealous of your trip!

 

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Our walk ends at my favorite Parisian cafe for you to try delicious escargot and enjoy a refreshing Saint Germain cocktail. I’ll leave you with a link to my personal Google Maps full of rad places to see, awesome photo opportunities and unexpected places to dine for the duration of your vacation.

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If you would like to book a walk with me, please fill out my questionnaire so I can put together a walk customized to your preferences. The minimum group is two people and the max is four to keep things intimate. The walks may include climbing stairs, walking on cobblestone and some hills. I suggest wearing comfortable shoes, bring a portable charger and some Euros.

How it works:

  • Email me at parismyfriendtours@gmail.com to request your date. (Tuesday or Thursday)
  • I will confirm your date and how many will be in your group. (min 2/max 5 people)
  • You will receive a Paypal invoice $150 per person/$75 under 12
  • Once the invoice is paid, you’ll receive a questionnaire via email.
  • The more info you give, the better your experience will be!
  • I’ll send a confirmation for the time and location we will meet a few days before you arrive. (Typical hours are 11:00 am – 3:00 pm)

Here’s an example of some of our excursions:

I’ll take you where French women buy skin and beauty products that aren’t commonly available in the US.

We may stop by a renowned bookstore that is frequented by many celebrities.

Let’s browse the second oldest farmers market in Paris featuring authentic French crepes, fresh fruit, poissonnier (fishmonger), florists and smell the cheese at the fromagerie.

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I will take you to la Poste to buy stamps to mail postcards you bought from the marché back home to your family.

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We may take the bus to the most memorable, off-the-beaten path, Instagrammable locations around Paris.

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À bientôt!

Elizabeth
@parismyfriend

Expat Life in Paris: What’s it really like?

Coucou,

Yesterday Antz and I picked up our cartes des titres (annual immigration renewal) for our second year in France. Voila!

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It just happened to be the hottest day in France’s history and our celebration was short lived for two reasons, the first was Antz carte de titre is expiring five months earlier than mine because he has an issue with his health insurance. The weird thing is we both submitted identical paperwork (we have the same insurance) so this is French bureaucracy at its finest. We will have to reapply in October to fix this costly mistake. Then on the way home from the Prefecture, Antz realized he accidentally left his phone on the desk of the lady who helped us. We hurried back and got his phone, so despite these hiccups, we are still here (at least until January 2020!) which is a victory.

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I wanted to update our expat life in Paris since it’s been quite awhile. Antz has been working freelance (with US clients) and Liv is finally on summer break. I am busy this summer hosting many friends visiting from the US. If you follow me on Instagram (you follow me, right?) then you can check out my Stories named Summer 2019. This is our first summer in Paris that we haven’t left town. I would love to share some of our daily experiences and observations that are different from our life in Los Angeles. Full disclosure, I don’t want to make this into a Paris vs LA comparison post or sound like I am complaining too much, I just want to give you a real perspective of some of the obstacles expats may confront. This doesn’t mean we don’t love living here and we are grateful everyday. I just want everyone to know, nowhere is perfect, even though photos may perceive it to be.

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School summer break – Liv’s school summer break begins after the first week of July. This is four weeks later than her school break in LA. It was difficult for us counting down those long four weeks mostly because France was experiencing a canicule (insane record high heatwave) this year and it was so hot that school was cancelled due to the extreme temperatures. The French have a strange aversion to air-conditioning so when it’s hot, it is miserable. The good news is she had swimming class every Thursday at school which is wonderful. I used to race across town on Fridays after school for Liv’s 15 minute swimming lessons in Pasadena and most of that time she spent just waiting for her turn to swim. After five years of lessons, she wasn’t really making progress and I didn’t feel like it was worth the money and stress. So, we love that extracurricular activities are included in the school day here FOR FREE! It really helped her cool down during the heatwave.

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During the last week of school, Liv’s class put on two performances for the parents. The first was a music and choir recital which was adorable beyond words. The older class sang “I’m Singing in the Rain” in English and I couldn’t help but giggle at their sweet accents. Liv’s class performed a play in French and Olivia portrayed a funny duck. We had no idea what the play was about but thoroughly enjoyed our duck’s antics. Antz made her costume using stuff around the house, bien sûr. He even painted her old Adidas yellow and felted a duck bill.

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Liv & her 3rd grade teacher

Most French families have second homes in the countryside so most of Olivia’s school friends are away on vacation during the summer. It’s been helpful that we’ve had so many visitors from LA so she’s seen many of her old friends. She also spent the first two weeks of summer break in camp! It’s a daily camp at the local recreation center (centre des loisirs). Everyday they ventured out into the city for field trips, swimming and nature hikes. She loved it!

It was a little hard for us to navigate the camp schedule because the website is in French and I couldn’t access my online account due to a glitch, so Liv had to translate for us the best she could. Our friend who works at her school helped us register her. It’s little things like this that sometimes can be frustrating. I need help setting up an online account so I can access the camp website yet there’s really no one to help me. I even went to the local Mairie (town hall) to get help to set up our account online but the woman told us she was new at the job and couldn’t help me. So everyday we didn’t find out what her schedule was until she came home and told us about it. I am still waiting to receive a bill in the mail for the camp a month later. Sigh, Que sera, sera.

This is a typical daily commute for me.

During the heatwave, Liv and I took the bus outside of Paris to go swimming. We arrived at noon but the attendant told us due to a “technical” issue the pool was temporarily closed. Such a bummer because it was burning hot and it took us over an hour to get there. Instead of going back home, we decided to go Pokemon Go hunting nearby and grabbed some sushi for lunch.

I love the Montreuil Mairie (town hall) and I caught a new 3-D Invader.

By the time we finished lunch, I called the pool and they told me it was open again. So, there is an inconsistent summer schedule in most of Paris. Did you know that a swim cap is required at public pools here? Liv’s cap never stays on because of her thick hair.

Most businesses have signs on their doors saying they are closed for weeks for summer holiday. August is the official month that Paris shuts down (the French enjoy five weeks of paid vacation) but most of my favorite places like Monoprix, our bakery and the farmers market will hopefully remain open. It’s been tricky when my friends visit because they want me to take them to all my favorite places but they have been closed all month.

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Our favorite American bakery have been closed for weeks.

We are fortunate to live close to Monoprix (French Target) which is open everyday except Sunday evenings (they close at noon). I practically live there, I go almost everyday.

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For the past year we have been carrying heavy groceries home in our bags so last week I made our first delivery order online. I was shocked that the minimum order was €50 and the earliest delivery time is the next day. It was almost a challenge to meet the €50 minimum to place the order. Luckily, I was able to stock up on bottled water, bags of ice and every heavy item I could think of. I used this app to place the order. If you happen to live in France and are thinking of placing an online order, please use my friend code for a discount for the both of us. The groceries arrive in crates which are easy to bring in our elevator. This is my €55 order.

I don’t know how often I’ll order delivery but it is a helpful service to utilize.

Since many restaurants are closed for summer vacation, we’ve had to resort to getting fast food because they are the only places open all-day. It’s not even close to how often we would eat fast food in Los Angeles but after a fourteen year boycott, I had to break my No-McDonalds policy out of a starvation necessity. Here’s the difference, McDonalds in France have grass-fed beef, growth hormones are illegal, there is no such thing as super size and the largest drink size seems smaller than a kids size! The restaurants only have kiosks to place an order and there are no refills on drinks. You can order fresh croissants and even a McBaguette. There is no fast service in Paris, you wait much longer for your food but they rarely get your order wrong and if you order food to go you will always get napkins, and they package your drinks so they won’t spill. I do find it absurd that they charge for ketchup but offer curry sauce and mayonnaise for free. Honestly, McDonalds reminds me most of back home. P.S. I think the pizza here is dreadful.

I’ve been eating healthier because the food here isn’t full of pesticides and hormones. I do still crave food from America. Antz made this silly photo of me along with my favorite foods.

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The pepperoni pizza, hot fried chicken and butter crunch candy are only available in the US and I miss them the most!

Navigating daily life in Paris can be a 50/50 split. The French have a way of making everything beautiful but also miserable. French people believe that air conditioning will make you sick so they have practically outlawed it except for tiny portable units that are noisy and only work if you stand directly in front of them. They are very progressive in their culture but some things they refuse to move forward on. If you order ice in a restaurant they look at you with utter disgust. Their language is elegant poetry that I could listen to all day, yet a nightmare to learn with a varying degree of arbitrary rules. Paris is a living piece of art. My favorite part of living here is discovering new street art and gorgeous architecture. It’s so refreshing not to be overwhelmed with advertising billboards, loud airplanes and tacky strip malls. I love finding new street art in our neighborhood. Sadly, someone has been going around the city painting over Invaders, the wall that awesome mural Liv is standing in front of was just demolished and someone tore down this Madame Chat. It’s so annoying that there are haters out there that must destroy to feel better about themselves. I am lucky I have so many photos of this precious art that is always disappearing.

Beauty is truly everywhere here however…don’t spend too long looking up at the stunning buildings because there is dog poop everywhere! It’s terribly smelly this summer due to the hot poop on the sidewalks. It’s weird how there are absolutely no stray animals in Paris yet so much poop. There’s also a urine epidemic that disgusts me. Yucky men pee in broad daylight on the streets with no regard. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen men standing against a wall or tree peeing in public. Listen, I can tolerate the smoke, I am used to the traffic noise but the pissing in public and nobody bats an eye, I do not like it at all. Women aren’t squatting on the streets openly peeing so why do men get to spray walls like feral animals? The city even puts out these open urinals (I suppose to suppress the peeing on buildings) but I don’t understand why this is even necessary? There are enclosed toilets everywhere so why do I have to walk around in piss puddles because baby boys can’t hold their pee pee until they get home like us ladies have to. Ugh! Do not fight me on this, it’s gross and needs to stop. Put your weiner away guys!

This adorable kitty on a leash at the post office, I absolutely support.

Désolé, on a sunnier note, Liv and I spend a lot of time at parks near our apartment. I love the small parks full of shady trees and benches. I haven’t seen many swings in parks here. There rarely is grass lawns that you are allowed to walk on. They usually have dirt or sand which bums me out because it’s dirty but there is a park with shock absorbent pavement similar to York Park in Highland Park. Most parks have ping pong tables so we bought our own set to play.

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For every complaint I may have, the trade off is we still live in freaking Paris! The most romantic city in the world. Like any place it has it’s typical up and downs. I can’t tell you have many times I’ve been told one thing and then the next day the exact opposite. We have been battling with our landlord for over a year to fix our excruciating slow wifi speed and replace our intercom phone so we can buzz visitors into our building. I spend hours sending emails and making calls to customer service and I rarely get results no matter how wrong they may be. It is practically criminal to admit a mistake no matter how glaring it may be. It’s become funny to us how many contradictions we encounter. The rules always change but no one tells you what the rules are, it’s up to you to figure it out. I’m quite proud that I’ve managed to rent an apartment, enroll Liv into a great school, made many friends (although several of our expat friends have moved on) without speaking the language or having any family here to help us. Everyday we still pinch ourselves we are here.

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I love this flawed yet magnificent place and I feel French in my heart even with my ‘orreeble Fwench azcent! Merci, for reading my blog and I hope you stick around whilst I catch up on our travel posts from this past year. I am working hard to upload, edit and post over 100,000 photos.

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Bisous,

The Hall Conleys

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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My Evian water bottle crates

Bonjour,

I have a story to share about how I copped the most coveted pink Evian bottle crates. I first saw the Evian crates on Apartment Therapy’s Instagram a short time after we moved to France. I thought they were perfect for our apartment but I had no idea where to find them. The next thing I knew, I was seeing them everywhere.

All the brasseries have their bottled drinks delivered daily, so you can’t help but see the colorful crates stacked outside on the streets.

I have asked the staff at every brasserie about buying one of the crates however they told me the crates were rented from the Evian water company so they couldn’t sell them to me. “Ç’est impossible” seems to be the French National motto. Thus began my Evian crate obsession, asking every time I saw some at a bar or restaurant. I never even knew how much I was willing to spend on them (€25 each probably) because no one would even consider it. Finally someone told me to just go to the source and ask the Evian water company directly.

I never got around to that, we happen to be driving back from Cannes when I saw a ton of crates on the sidewalk.

I made a quick (and probably illegal) U-turn and jumped out to ask the guy who was making the delivery. He didn’t speak English so I had my official translator do her thing and he sounded happy to help me.

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So the guy tells us, he isn’t allowed to sell them but we can go to a nearby grocery store to see if they have any. I had butterflies in my stomach with excitement!

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We followed the guy a few blocks away to a Franprix store (a smaller version of Trader Joes) and he spoke to the guy at the register. I was grinning like a crazy person when he walked us to the back of the store. He then pulls out a 12 pack of Evian plastic bottles of water and is like “Here you go!

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The language barrier is no joke. So that was a complete bust, I disappointedly drove back to Nice. I was over it by then. I knew that I would just end up bidding on an Evian crate on eBay for like $200 with ridiculous shipping. I looked for the crates online and I didn’t find any for sale.

So, the next day we went to the the Cours Saleya market in old town Nice. As we were walking over Antz noticed a door he thought would be interesting to photograph.

As I was posing in front of this door trying to get a shot without so much shadow, a guy came over with a delivery of water bottles and of course he had a few Evian crates.

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At first, I just moved out of his way but Antz insisted I ask the guy. He was confused by my horrible French but Liv translated and he told us to hold on while he went inside. I was fully prepared to hear the same thing “Ç’est impossible.” Well, he was smiling at us and he told us to come with him. We walked around the block to his truck. He jumped up and started moving things around. I was asking Antz for cash, not sure of how much I should offer. He then slide over a Coke Cola crate towards me. Liv then said “Non, rose Evian s’il vous plait.” I almost started crying when he jumped down he handed a crate to me, then another one he gave to Liv. I told him I only had €20 but he refused to take it. You guys, this angel straight up gave me two of the most sought after things I’ve been searching for in Paris for months!

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I gave him bises (two kisses on the cheeks) and said Merci a million times. I mean look at my face!! Nice is so aptly named. I couldn’t offer anyone any amount of money to get one of these things in Paris but he just gave them to us. So freaking rad!

I was ecstatic. It didn’t at all occur on me that I had to haul them on the plane back to Paris. I didn’t really care, I was just so happy to finally have them.

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If I had the space I would buy all the vintage postcards and portraits I could find. I love Victorian photographs.

 

This vide-grenier (antique sale) had so many good treasures. I was looking for a French emblem often worn after WW1 and WW2. The first ones we saw were expensive. He wanted €75 for this one.

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I found some cooler ones for €40 for two. They are so fragile, I’m afraid to wear them out because I don’t want to lose them.

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I also fell hard for this Parisian landmarks charm bracelet.

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I wish I bought it but it was a little over my budget and the bracelet was too snug. If it had a few more links it would have fit more comfortably. I am still on the lookout for a vintage bracelet, it’s exactly what I want.

I ended up having the Evian crates wrapped in plastic at the airport for €25 and then Air France charged me another €70 to fly them home, so in reality I spent almost €100 for these crates but I love them so much, I think they are totally worth it.

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I am currently using one of the crates for our plant and the other one is our printer stand until I find a replacement. I could also use one for a bed for Lola or to hold my records. They are super cute and functional.

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Have you ever been on a mission for a sought-after item? It’s so much harder here in France because my go-to websites don’t ship here. Yet, it’s still fun to search for treasures.

Bonjournée!