WELCOME TO MY TRAVEL BLOG

I have always enjoyed traveling, even if it meant sleeping in a tent when I was younger. I prefer hotels and cruise cabins now, but the motivation is the same...an adventure waiting to happen. Sometimes you will find me traveling with my husband and/or family. Sometimes I will travel alone, and sometimes I will travel with friends. I hope you find it entertaining to keep up to date with me as I explore the world around me. Warning...I like to take pictures of food so don't read if you're hungry. More adventures await...see ya soon...Amy.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Paris: Our Last Full Day

This morning we woke up to a clouds and drizzle, but thankfully that didn't last all day. We slept a little later today and ate breakfast again here at the hotel. We took the Metro to the Louvre but it wasn't on our lists of "must sees" to go inside. We did do a little shopping at the "mall" underneath the Louvre which kept us out of the rain for awhile. We left the Louvre and took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe. We were able to walk from the Champs-Elysees underneath the road and come up under the Arc de Triomphe. It is a memorial to those who fought in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I is also memorialized there. We walked down the Champs-Elysees a short distance and we stopped at the Nespresso store for me to grab some capsules as they are less expensive here.  We then went back to the hotel to drop off our purchases and have some lunch. We ate at the Bar du Marche which is close to the hotel on Rue de Buci. It was a good lunch, but the waves of cigarette smoke drifting in the door were almost overpowering. In the old days, sitting outside a cafe and watching the world go by was a typical Parisian thing to do. Today, it's the smoking section and if you are unlucky enough to be located by a window or the door inside, you become an extended part of the smoking section which is not pleasant at all! After lunch we boarded the Metro again to go out to a part of the city that I have never been to and probably will never go again.... Belleville. We went there because Maddie likes graffiti art and I had read of a street there that is covered in it. We found the street, Rue Denoyez, and it was indeed covered with graffiti along the entire length of the street. It was awesome! We then decided to go to the Parc de Belleville which rivals Montmartre for the highest point of the city. I knew there was an overlook there that was supposed to be really pretty. Here is where things got a little squirrely. My friend, Sara Beth, talks about her "city radar" and mine was certainly up and attentive on this little jaunt. I was very uncomfortable with the number of young men just standing and congregating and looking our way. I'm sure it was just out of curiosity but the fact that we couldn't understand the language made me very wary. We were never approached so maybe there was no reason to feel uneasy, but we decided not to tarry at the beautiful vantage point and to hurry ourselves back down to the metro station. We arrived back at our hotel in time to rest a little before dinner. Dinner was at Au 35, a tiny little restaurant just steps away from our hotel on Rue Jacob. We went there at the recommendation of our hotel and our meal was yummy. Maddie tried Salmon for the first time and said it was good! Our waiter was especially nice and funny. He seemed to delight in helping us and loved it that I knew that circuma was tumeric so he could tell another couple that spoke English. Our waiter didn't know the translation for the word. That couple should have had the menu translate book that I was referencing! An early dinner meant plenty of time to pack our suitcases for tomorrow. We will receive a taxi at 12:30 at the hotel so there is still plenty of time to wander the neighborhoods before we go. This has been a wonderful trip and one that I hope that Maddie will remember for a very long time because I certainly will.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Paris: Wishing the Rain Away

We woke up this morning to grey skies and the weather forecast looked ominous. We ate breakfast at the hotel and scurried out in our raincoats and umbrellas to make the most of the day before the first raindrops. Our first stop was City Pharma, the pharmacy store that sells cosmetics and skin care at a big discount over what they cost in the States. After shopping we dropped our purchases at the hotel and headed for 59 Rivoli, a building that is nothing but artist's studios. It used to be a squat for the artists to live and work, but now is a legalized operation run by the artists and open to the public. You get to walk through all of their studios free of charge and interact with the artists themselves if they are so inclined. When we arrived they weren't open yet and it wasn't raining so we walked over to Notre Dame. We toured ourselves through the beautiful church, stopping frequently to admire the gorgeous stained glass. After touring the church, it still wasn't raining and we had a little more time to kill so we took advantage of a boat tour of the Seine, compliments of our hotel. It was very interesting, and COLD! The boat tour took about an hour and by the time it finished, we were pretty hungry. I would like to say that we ate at a great place for lunch, but that is not the case. We stopped at the Jess Cafe and it wasn't terrible, but wasn't much to speak about either. But, it filled our bellies and we were able to go back to 59 Rivoli and visit some of the artists. The spiral staircase is completely painted with graffiti and is an art piece in itself. We met an artist on one of the upper floors that was painting with a little girl. I never could figure out if it was his daughter, niece, someone taking a lesson, or just a child that he knew. Regardless, they were painting together. He was super friendly and struck up a conversation with us right away. Before long, he was sketching a little face into a tiny piece of freehand art work that he had. The little face was Maddie's and we were so taken with his quirkiness that Maddie decided she wanted to buy the little piece of art. Maddie disagreed with us about his oddness, but either way we did agree that he was the nicest person we met in the whole building! Upon exiting the building, the rain began to sprinkle. We walked back over to Notre Dame and I did confirm that ALL of the love locks on the bridge behind the Notre Dame have been removed, including the love locks from our family. How sad!! The bridge's railings are being replaced with glass panels now. We wandered in the rain down Ile St. Louis and then walked back to the hotel, stopping occasionally to pop into shops that looked interesting. We made one stop into the Square Rene Viviani to look at the oldest tree in Paris and then moved on toward home. We ate supper tonight at Le Relais de l'Entrecote. Its a favorite of mine and I always try to go there when I am here. The only thing on the menu is steak and frites (and fabulous dessert) and they do it all very well! Debbie and I went for a Starbucks latte before we retired early for the night. It's been a full day but we were thankful that they rain wasn't bad and we didn't get soaked. It was, after all, a 100% chance of rain today. So until tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Paris: Montmartre and Tour Eiffel

We were happy to wake up to sunny skies today because we know the rain is coming! We met for breakfast at 9 here at the hotel. After breakfast we took the Metro to Montmartre to wander. We saw Sacre Couer high up on the hill and climbed the many steps to take a peek inside the large white church. At the base of those steps were the typical gypsies attempting to tie strings on our wrist. They seem more aggressive these days and mock you when you tell them no. There were gypsies peddling their wares on rounds of cloths and we laughed when the police walked through and they jumped up and ran. We went around Sacre Couer to Place du Tertre, the square where the artists are. With such a pretty day today, the square was ringed with artists with varying styles and talents. I'm not sure how many times Debbie and I made our way around admiring, comparing and considering. Maddie had decided that she wanted an artist to draw her portrait and after careful consideration she selected one. Well after sitting for almost an hour it seemed, the picture, although pretty, didn't look too much like her. Lesson learned, don't have yourself drawn at Montmartre! We ate lunch in the square at Chez Eugene where we have eaten before. Apparently I didn't eat the quiche at that time because it was pretty tasteless. It was a great bathroom stop however and an opportunity to rest our feet before we wandered the streets of Montmartre. We walked up and down and around and around and saw so many interesting things. We made note of many of the street artists such as Space Invader (http://space-invaders.com/home/), Gregos (http://www.gourmantic.com/2011/05/03/faces-of-gregos-paris/), Intra Larue (http://undergroundparis.org/intra-larue-installs-her-painted-breast-art-streets-paris#more-5901), Vuille Thoma (http://parisdansmonoeilen.weebly.com/m-chat.html), and Cyklops (http://www.ufunk.net/en/artistes/le-cyklop/).  I truly enjoy hunting for graffiti and interesting street art so the little discoveries while we were wandering were exciting! We saw Moulin Rouge and the two other windmills that have been subjects of french painters for many years. We stopped to get some ice cream from Amorino before making our descent down to Denise Acabo's chocolate shop, A l'Etoile d'Or. It was closed last year after a devastating explosion and noone knew if she would be able to reopen it. Well it reopened late last year and is exactly the same, as far as I can tell, as what it was before! She is an interesting lady in her braids and school girl skirt and she doesn't speak a lick of English. She is still such a personable soul and I was tickled to death to be in her shop while she was there. She even let us take a picture with her after our purchase. I feel like I have a photo with a French celebrity! http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2014/07/update-on-a-letoile-dor-chocolate-shop-denise-acabo/ . We left Montmartre for a visit with the Eiffel Tower which turned out to be quite a memorable one. I had tried to buy tickets online to go up to the top a couple of weeks ago and they weren't available. We decided to brave the lines anyway and buy tickets to go to the tippy top of the Eiffel Tower. This was something that Maddie really wanted to do so up we went. I haven't done this since 1994 and the views are still just as amazing. We left the Eiffel Tower and after some confusion as to where our next metro station was, we decided to stay in the area, eat locally and go back to Trocadero to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle. It sparkles at the top of the hour for 5 minutes beginning right after sunset until 1 a.m. It is magical and was a wonderful way to end this gorgeous day. Tomorrow there is a 100% chance of rain but that won't keep us inside. So until tomorrow....

Monday, May 16, 2016

Paris: Arrival Day and Family

We awoke early this morning to be ready for a cab at 6:30 a.m. to take us to the train station for the Eurostar. Maddie had purchased a pair of jeans yesterday at TopShop and wanted to wear them today.  She put them on only to find out that the HUGE security sensor had not been removed! We don't know how the young man missed it when she was checking out. We had a train to catch so we couldn't return to the store to have it removed. I checked google and found out that TopShop is not located in Paris, however they do have a small section in Galleries Lafayette. We met our taxi on time and grabbed a muffin at the Costa coffee shop when we arrived at the train station. We went through security and waited a short time for the train. Our train travel was uneventful and we all took a nap on the train which made the two hours seem very short. We traveled by metro to the Hotel Millesime as there is a direct line to the stop near the hotel on the 4 line. Unfortunately we had to haul our bags up several steps at the Saint-Germain-des-Pres stop. The first few weren't so bad but we were laughing so hard at ourselves that the remaining steps were rough. We pulled our suitcases to the hotel and only one room was available which was fine. All of the bags went into that room and we immediately left for lunch. Debbie has been talking about French Onion Soup since we started planning this trip so that was what was on the menu today. We ate at a cafe on the corner, Le Pre Aux Clercs. Debbie and I had onion soup and Maddie chose a delicious salad that had greens, pasta, chicken, olives, walnuts, cucumbers and cheese. There was very little left in the plate when she was done. We stopped into Laduree to pick up some Macarons for me and then wandered in the Saint Germain streets. We stopped at Amorino to have some Gelato for dessert. You choose the size cone or cup you want and they make a flower out of the gelato using as many flavors as you would like. Debbie had sorbet and Maddie and I had Gelato. It was delicious and somehow I think we may end up there again. Maddie was carrying her blue jeans and receipt with her because we had planned to go to the TopShop department and see if they could take off the security sensor. I forgot that the TopShop was at Galleries Lafayette and instead took us to Bon Marche where we discovered that indeed there was no TopShop there! So we decided to take the Metro over to Galleries Lafayette and try to find the TopShop department. We had success in finding it, but the sensors they had were not the same. There was a very nice young lady that told us that H&M had very similar sensors and maybe they could take it off. So, we went next door to H&M and after waiting in line for some time and getting permission from a supervisor, we almost jumped for joy when the young lady behind the register put some force into her attempts and popped the sensor off. We scooted back to the hotel in plenty of time to wait for Vincent to pick us up for dinner. We went to Vincent and Sophie's and ate dinner with ALL of the family, including Axelle. They have been on a 3 day holiday and Axelle was home during a break between exams at school. Vincent served us Champagne and some Hors d'oeuvres, with Augustin's special stuffed mushrooms. Sophie prepared a delicious meal of veal cooked in a light sauce, a roasted vegetable medley of eggplant, zucchini, and tomato and also a pan of  tiny little cubes of roasted potatoes. We cleaned our plates and I had seconds on vegetables! Debbie especially liked the grainy mustard (similar to our Creole mustard) with her Veal. We had cheese after dinner of 3 different types of goat cheese, a comte, a gouda with cumin, and one other that I can't remember. Sophie also had a chocolate cake in the shape of a flower, an apple and apricot tart, and some pots de creme. We were so spoiled! Our meal was delicious but the company was what was so special. Debbie and Maddie enjoyed getting to know our French family and they were so gracious to invite us to dinner in their home. After dinner Vincent took Axelle back to school and took us back to our hotel. He made a special effort to drive slowly until the Eiffel Tower put on it's sparkling show and did a u-turn to drive in front of it. It was magical! We are back in our hotel tonight and really hoping the transit strike tomorrow does not affect us too much. So until tomorrow.....

Sunday, May 15, 2016

London: Cramming It Into a Day!

I don't think we could have seen one other thing today if we had tried. Our poor little legs and feet are beat! We started the day around 9:30 with a stop at Starbucks for a quick breakfast. It's located near the hotel and the tube station which made it very convenient. Our hotel does not have a restaurant. We took the tube to a stop near Kensington Gardens with the intention of walking through the park to the Serpentine Gallery, a modern art museum. Something green sitting on a fence caught Maddie's eye and upon closer inspection we found it to be a rather large Parakeet eating an apple. To be specific it was a Ringed Neck Parakeet and as we looked around there were a LOT of them and they were flying around people nearby. We went closer to see them and saw that they were landing on and eating something out of people's hands. A very nice man shared some birdseed with us and next thing we knew, they were eating out of OUR hands. We had a great time giggling and photographing each other with the parakeets. We finally tore ourselves away and continued on to the Serpentine Gallery. Before we got there, we stopped at the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. It was designed to express her spirit and love of children. It is a huge oval ring stone fountain made of granite but looks like a shallow stream bed. People are encouraged to wade in it and we might have if we had come prepared with a towel. We found the Serpentine Gallery which is a small modern art gallery located within the park. It was nice with some interesting artwork but what Maddie was really looking for was the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and we found it a short distance away. This was also a modern art gallery but it was more 3d art instead of 2d art, which Maddie really enjoys and appreciates more. We thoroughly enjoyed this gallery especially a light and music exhibit in the center of it. We left the gallery and went to ride on the London Eye. This is a very very slow ferris wheel looking contraption that brings you slowly up in large, clear, egg shaped rooms. You can see out over most of London and the views are amazing. It takes 30 minutes to make the full round. We were very hungry after our ride and Debbie had been hoping we would have some Fish and Chips. We went to Tattersalls Tavern which is near Harrods for our Fish and Chips. We have eaten there several times before and it has always been really good. Maddie even ate the traditional side dish, green peas! I have been watching the PBS show, Mr. Selfridge, and wanted a peak inside of Selfridges Department Store. It was located on Oxford Street where the big TopShop was. We went one way down Oxford Street to find Selfridges and then the other way to the TopShop where Maddie did a little shopping for herself. It was getting later in the afternoon and we still had a few more stops. We went to Buckingham Palace to see where the Queen lives when she is in London and then walked down the Mall to the next tube station. We then went to the Millennium Bridge so that I could find the artwork of Ben Wilson who paints on chewing gum that is ground into the sidewalk or in this case the treads of the bridge. These are tiny little paintings and we saw a bunch of them! Many of them were commissioned for him to paint or ideas given by special request. This was one of my favorite things we did today! We made one last stop down to Tower Bridge for some quick photos and then wanted to go to dinner at a place that I had planned earlier. We were so tired though and it was late so we just went back to our Earl's Court station and ate a wonderful hamburger at Byron Burger. It was a long day but a full day and Maddie said she had no idea the Underground System was so huge! We have certainly gotten our money's worth out of our day passes. Tomorrow morning early we leave for Paris on the Eurostar. Until then.....

Saturday, May 14, 2016

London: Arrival and Sightseeing

We flew to London today on Delta airlines and this has got to be the most uneventful series of flights I have ever had with Delta! Our flights were on time and our bags arrived with us. Maybe I can take Delta off of my bad list now. We arrived in London Heathrow around 11:20 pm. After making our way through customs and picking up our suitcases, we proceeded to the Underground where I had decided I wanted to try that route to get to the hotel instead of acquiring a taxi. This was a great idea! It took us about 30 minutes to take the Picadilly line straight from the airport (where it dead ends) to the Earl's Court station. We did not even have to change lines! We walked from the train station to our hotel, The Nadler Kensington. This used to be Base2Stay where we have stayed twice before, but now it is under new ownership. Our rooms were ready and after freshening up just a bit, we left to see some sights and get our bodies into the sunlight. The best way to combat jetlag and reset your body clock is NOT to go to sleep when you arrive but to hit the pavement and expose your body to sun. This will affect your natural hormone production in a positive way and help your body adjust well to the new time zone. We had planned to have some lunch, but Westminster was closing earlier than I expected so we decided to skip lunch altogether. We had eaten the plane meals and weren't very hungry anyway. We got on the tube going the wrong way and had to jump off and go back to find the correct ride. This was my fault but I usually make a few errors early on with public transit. We went to Westminster Abbey because I wanted Maddie to see where the new King of England would be crowned. This will happen in her lifetime and it's always kind of cool to say "Hey, I've been there! Westminster Abbey stretches back 1000 years in history and since 1066 it is has been the site of every Royal Coronation except for two, Edward the V and Edward the VIII. It is a very beautiful Gothic style church with such pretty stained glass. Photos inside are not allowed and we were so disappointed. I told Maddie that she would just have to soak it up and sear it into her memory. After leaving Westminster, we walked on a bridge over the river Thames. We took turns taking pictures of each other with Big Ben and Parliament in the background. We then crossed back over the bridge and walked along the river toward the Embankment stop. I was curious about a brightly colored area that I had read about while researching for this trip. Neal's Yard was just something pretty to see but wasn't near as pretty as what I had seen on the internet. I was disappointed! We left there and went to nearby Covent Garden to find some ice cream! We wanted the Thornton's ice cream we had tasted in the past, but it wasn't located there anymore. Instead we ate Venchi gelato which is a company from Italy. Their gelato was amazing and we enjoyed every bit of the tiny scoops. Maddie got 2 little scoops of coffee gelato, Debbie chose milk chocolate and strawberry and I had just one tiny scoop of 72% cocoa dark chocolate. It was very refreshing and we stopped on our way back to the Underground to watch a pair of outdoor jugglers/performers that had drawn a crowd. They were very entertaining! We got back on the tube and stopped to see Piccadilly Circus before going back to the hotel for dinner. This was where I left Debbie and Maddie standing on the side of the platform when the doors closed behind me on the train car before they could get on. Thankfully Maddie had heard me say the name of the stop we were headed to as I smiled and waved goodbye to them. I waited for them at the next stop which was our stop near the hotel, Earl's Court. We went down the street to Zizzi's which is one of my favorite Italian restaurants here. They have several locations. We managed to get through dinner without falling asleep in our plates. After dinner, it was a short walk back to the hotel where we were given little boxes of chocolates in celebration of Maddie's 18th birthday and her graduation. It was a sweet gesture and we are now in our respective rooms preparing for a full whirlwind day tomorrow! Until then.....

It's Maddie's turn for London and France!


Maddie graduates from Destrehan High School

My niece Maddie graduated from High School this year and just as we did for her sister, Brittany, I am taking her on a whirlwind week long trip to London and Paris. We are squeezing it into a week but I'm sure we will be able to see all of the highlights! My sister Debbie, Maddie's mom is also along on this trip and I am thankful that mom and daughter will have a little forced family bonding before Maddie flies out of the nest and stretches her wings. Maddie is a middle child and very independent. She has a strong desire for adventure and would like to see the world. This will be just a baby step in that direction but hopefully a memorable journey.
at the airport in New Orleans waiting for our first flight