Category Archives: travel

Paris When it Snows

The week before Christmas Charles and I were gifted train tickets to Paris for the weekend with all hotel and restaurant reservations already planned for us. Our good fortune was due to the misfortune of our friends Lauren and Simon. Lauren had seriously hurt her back the week before and could barely get out of bed, much less walk the streets of Paris. We had nothing planned for the weekend so jumped at the chance to visit Paris when they offered us the tickets.

We’ve been to the City of Light numerous times and have already seen and done most of the “must see and do’s” on our list. We decided that this trip was going to be all about exploring the lesser know parts of the city (at least to us) and just spend our time walking, eating and shopping.

We focused our time in the Marais and Saint Germain with several trips to the larger department stores BHV, Gallaries la Fayette and Le Bon Marche. We got to experience the somewhat rare occurrence of snow in Paris which made for very cold and wet days so we needed to retreat to the warmth of these lovely stores several times over the weekend. In the Marais we sampled dueling falafel houses L’As du Falafel and Mi-Va-Mi with the latter being our favorite. We had a great dinner at one of our favorite restaurants Au Bougnat near Notre Dame and a really nice lunch at a cafe right next to Chatelet metro station called Au Vieux Comptoir.

Below is a small pictorial of our weekend. All the photos were taken with Charles iPhone and an app called Hipstamatic. It’s a pretty cool app that allows you to choose your film, lens, filters and flash to mimic film photography. The results are not always good, but we had fun with it and I think we got some really dramatic photos.

Church near our hotel in the Marais

Place de la Bastille Monument

Wine bar next to our hotel (note the street name)

Our morning cafe and croissant

Champs Elysees on a snowy night

View of the Eiffel Tower in the distance

Jardin des Tuileries

The famous Les Deux Magots where we stopped for a drink

The Pont Neuf

Except for almost getting stuck in Paris for an extra few days due to the snow storms which nearly brought the Eurostar to a standstill causing us to arrive home 8 hours later than we had intended, the trip was wonderful.

*Special thanks to my loving partner Charles who did everything in his power to get his pregnant girlfriend home during the Eurostar debacle including, but not limited to: pushing, pleading, exaggerating the truth, queue jumping, charming a few officials and throwing the pregnancy card. I am forever grateful.


Tuscany was wonderful, beautiful, delicious and warm. Our hosts were extremely welcoming and generous. The villa we stayed in was so nice, smack-dab in the middle of vineyards and sunflower fields. The food we ate was fresh and so tasty that we ate way more than was necessary. And the weather was perfect! I can’t wait until we get to go back!

We seemed to fit so much into each day, while never feeling rushed or overwhelmed. I’m not sure I will be able to describe the trip accurately enough just in words so I am going to rely mostly on pictures. Prepare yourself because there are a lot. But they are really pretty!

Day 1 – Arrived early morning in Perugia and drove to the hilltop town for some sight seeing and lunch. We also picked up a few bottles of wine and nibbles to bring to our hosts at the villa. We got a little lost when we tried to leave the city and ended up circling the base of Perugia about four times before we finally found the right road. Getting lost is actually kind of fun when you’re not in a hurry.

We arrived a little late to the villa because of bad directions. Apparently, the five other couples that were staying at the villa got lost too so we didn’t feel too stupid. Our hosts were the parents of a friend from Santa Cruz that Charles grew up with. Her whole family was there along with a few more of their friends. We feel so lucky to have been invited.

Day 2 – After breakfast at the communal dining table at the villa we headed out with our friends Jason, Keiki and their daughter Chiara. Our destination was a few little towns in the Chianti region. Because it was mid-week and the end of the season all the little villages we stopped at were very quiet, which was just perfect.

At the end of the day we stopped in Siena in search of a supposed amazing enoteca where Charles wanted to sample some wines. Unfortunately, we never found it. We headed back to the villa and spent the evening eating yummy cheese and meats and bread and drinking way too much wine and limoncello (not me, of course) and stayed up way too late playing poker.

Side note: Chiara fell in love with Charles and they were best buddies during the whole trip. We literally had to pry her off his legs when we left at the end of the trip. It was really fun to watch them together.

Day 3 – After a somewhat extended drive, due to misleading road signs we had a yummy lunch in Florence (Firenze). Charles and hiked up to the top of the Duomo, roamed the shops for awhile and then we met our friends for a drink and some gelato before heading back to the villa for a big family dinner.

Day 4 – Charles and I didn’t feel like we had enough time to see everything in Florence the day before so we headed back, taking the train this time, and spent the day walking around the city, exploring the food market (always a favorite), walked along the River Arno while eating a gelato and across the Ponte Vecchio and finished the day with a peak at Michelangelo’s David. For dinner that night we met Keike and Jason at an old monastery in Chianti called Badia a Coltibuono for a really nice dinner.

Day 5 – This day was pretty jam-packed, but was a lot of fun. We all got up early and drove to Arezzo to check out the antiquities market. A-ma-zing! The streets were lined with vendors selling everything from beautiful antique furniture to vintage radios to antique jewelry. If we had had some way of getting it back home we would have left with a really cool old sideboard for our living room. Maybe some day we will make it back there.

After the market, Charles, Jason, Keiki and myself hopped on a train back to Florence. We had tickets to Florence vs. Palermo football game (soccer). Both Charles and Jason are huge football fans so this was a must-do activity on this trip. Although the game was a good one Florence lost, which was a bummer. For our last dinner, we met Keiki and Jason’s friends in the center of Florence and squeezed in one last gelato before hopping on the train back home.

Day 6 – After saying our goodbyes and prying Chiara off Charles’ legs we drove back to Perugia to catch our flight home. We had such a good time and I would recommend a Tuscan holiday to anybody who loves beautiful landscapes, good food and gorgeous old cities. We’re already plotting a way to get back there soon. Arrivederci!

Turkey Time!

A few weeks ago Charles and I took a last minute trip to Turkey for a week. We knew that once we started our first, and hopefully our last, cycle of IVF traveling would probably not be possible for the rest of the summer. Both in desperate need of a tan and a break from the city we booked an incredibly cheap all-inclusive package holiday to a town called Bitez on the Turkish coast. Our plan was very simple: lay on the beach, read books, play cards, drink cheap beer and eat some yummy Turkish food.

Bitez is a tiny little town near Bodrum and Gumbet. There is a nice little promenade about half a mile long lined with restaurants and cafes on one side and lounge chairs and umbrellas on the beach side. Our hotel was towards one end and was one of the only hotels with a private beach. The beach consisted on a mixture of about 80% dirt and 20% sand with bits of scrubby grass and water that was so calm it was more a lake than a sea. I’m not complaining. I just want to impress upon you that, although we really liked our hotel, we were not soaking up luxury at every turn.

To mix things up a little bit on a few nights we took a short bus ride into the next town over called Gumbet. The nightlife here was way different than that of Bitez. Nearly every bar had some sort of entertainment, whether it was break dancing shows, pole dancing, karaoke or a group of man-boys performing a choreographed dance to really bad house music. Each time we visited Gumbet we had a blast, but we were very thankful to leave the craziness and go back to our quiet little hotel in Bitez.

For the last night of our trip we skipped the buffet dinner at the hotel and hopped a bus for Bodrum, which was about 20 minutes away. There is a big castle in the middle of the port, but because our plan for the week involved nothing more than lying in the sun, eating and drinking we decided to skip it. Instead we strolled along the marina for a bit and then found a nice restaurant nestled behind a fruit market, tucked between a butcher and a fishmonger. The restaurant didn’t have a menu and you went next door to pick out your own meat and/or fish. It was a nice break from the big buffet dinners at our hotel.

At the end of the week we had read seven books between the two of us, played 38 games of gin rummy, drank about 42 beers each (they were tiny little beers) and clocked countless hours of sunbathing. We had accomplished all our goals for the week and were nicely tanned and thoroughly relaxed. To finish the trip off we had the grossest meal I have ever had at an airport.