London: An Afternoon in Kensington

#kensingtonhilarystyle

#southkensingtonAfter Six weeks of travel our amazing adventures through Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, were coming to an end, and it was time to head home, but not before one last hurrah! What better way to end the trip of a lifetime, than strolling around in my number one favorite city: London!

#kensingtonhilarystyle

Wanting to explore somewhere new, we chose Kensington, not only was it a neighborhood I hadn’t spent much time in, but we had an early flight back to the States and its proximity to Heathrow was a big plus. Our hotel, The Kensington, was walking distance to Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, the Museum of Natural History, High Street, and many other interesting sights and restaurants!

#herefordarms

Speaking of restaurants, arriving, from Paris, just in time for lunch we discovered the Hereford Arms, a friendly  pub and restaurant with excellent service and even better food. I had the best tarter sauce I’ve ever had there, and after weeks traveling throughout the UK, thats saying a lot! Seriously!

After lunch we walked up and down High Street enjoying the beautiful flower arrangements, poking in and out of the various shops and galleries and stopping to take photos. Our little one had recently discovered he actually enjoys reading, so we picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone for the flight home.

Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens

#princealbertmemorialWanting to make the most of our very last day, Simon and I decided to explore Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, which were walking distance from our hotel and are conveniently connected to one another.  London’s parks are the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon just like the locals do! They are beautiful, vast and filled with activities for every interest.

#royalalberthall

We wandered through the parks taking photos, hunting Pokemon, and stopping along the way to admire The Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall and the interactive Peter Pan Statue.

#princealbertmemorial

One of my favorite things to see is the Serpentine Gallery, but in past visits my boys have enjoyed both the Princess Diana Memorial Playground and Diana Memorial Fountain.

The fountain was an especially big hit as the day we visited it was quite a warm afternoon, however the playground’s Peter Pan theme is really charming. Who wouldn’t want to take the helm of a giant pirate ship, hang out in a tee pee , or play sentry on the walls of a fort!

The Serpentine Gallery

#serpentinepavilion2016As I mentioned I really enjoy, the Serpentine Gallery and our  first stop within the Park was the Gallery’s Summer Pavilion installation. If you haven’t had a chance to see this, I highly recommend it! The exhibition is different each year, and showcases the designs of up and coming architects via the building of unique and temporary structures located within the Park. This was my second visit to see this exhibition and if given the opportunity I would go every year! Depending on the year’s design, visitors can go and in and out, enjoy drinks and snacks, and even climb onto the structure. While most years the exhibition features only one structure, this year’s featured some smaller buildings as well.

#serpentinepavilion2016

Highlights and Tips:

  • The many activities within the park differ depending on the time of year, so consider repeat visits.
  • Admission to The Serpentine Gallery is free.
  • The Pavilion Exhibition is a summer installation and changes every year. Check the website for the most current information.
  • Kids 12 and under can enjoy the Peter Pan themed Diana Memorial Playground with adult supervision.
  • Go ahead and dip your feet into the Diana Memorial Fountain. Its permitted!
  • The Peter Pan statue is interactive, so consider bringing a smart device.
  • Did you know you can take a guided tour of the Albert Memorial?
  • Kensington is a great place to stay if you have an early morning flight out of Heathrow.
#
Until next time, London…

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InstaLA! 15 Places to Snap Those InstaGood Pics

These days it’s all about documenting. After all if you haven’t posted it on Instagram, were you really there? Of course you were, but sharing the fun is a big part of any experience, which is one reason why I started this blog in the first place! Sharing the fun!

#paulsmithwallla
The famous Pink Wall at Paul Smith on Melrose #paulsmithla

As an amateur photographer, I appreciate that a great photo, not only documents the moment, but also tells the story. So, as a tourist in my own town, I’ve been on a quest to see new places, enjoy the moments, AND get that #pic.

Are You Looking for that LA Experience?

#madeinla
Another Insta Icon the #madeinla wall at  Cisco Home on Melrose

Whether it be a #selfie, a portrait, or just your surroundings, If you’re looking for more than just a photo, but an experience to go along with it consider some of these #fun on and off the beaten path LA locations:

1. Colette Miller Angel Wings Location: 453 Colyton Street, Los Angeles

If there’s one #instapic you have to take while visiting the City of Angles it’s the one with a pair of Colette Miller’s Angel Wings. Surely, you’ve heard of Colette Miller’s Angel Wings project by now, and if not, you have now! With multiple locations around LA, and now the world, you are bound to run across a pair! This particular pair is located just outside the DTLA Arts  District Co-op, which also happens to be a great shop!


2. Fnnch Honey Bear Mural Location: 608 Mateo Street, Los Angeles

The #insta #opportunities in Downtown’s Arts District are endless. No matter your taste, there is street art for everyone! It was while looking for another piece that we came upon this lovely “little” honey bear by the San Francisco based artist known as Fnnch. Of course I had to take a quick #pic with my #littlehoney!


3. The Most Famous Artist Mural Location: 608 Mateo Street, Los Angeles

You might already be familiar with the polka dot wall as it’s become an #icon of the LA #instawall scene. (Is that a thing? I guess it is now!) The work of Matty Mo, otherwise known as The Most Famous Artist, its just one of many murals made with the intention of being featured on social media. It’s conveniently located in the same area as some other pretty nice pieces.


4. The Broad Museum Location: 221 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles

If you only have time to visit one museum while in LA, I highly suggest The Broad located in DTLA. Entry to the museum is free, and the collection is top notch! Not only that, the building itself makes a lovely #instawall backdrop! Do keep in mind that it’s incredibly popular and advance reservations are required.


5. The Chandelier Tree  Location: 2811 W. Silver Lake Drive, Los Angeles

The Chandelier Tree, created by, Silver Lake resident and artist, Adam Tenenbaum is a magical piece of art which is located in his front yard! The tree’s restored chandeliers have been collected over time through donations, swap meet purchases and film sets. Visitors to the tree are very welcome and if you’re so inclined you can contribute to Adam’s electric bill, by inserting coins into the meter beneath the tree. Check out this neat little video to learn more about the Chandelier Tree.


6. Elliot Smith Figure 8 Wall Location: 4334 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles

Just a few minutes away from the above #instaspot you’ll find the Elliott Smith Figure 8 Wall. If you’re a music lover, you might be familiar with Elliot Smith, who met a tragic end in 2003. This wall was featured on the cover of his last album and has since become a place where fans can snap a #pic and pay tribute to the deceased singer. As my husband is a big fan of Elliott’s music, our son is also named Elliot…


7. Micheltorena Stairs Location: 3400 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles

Painted by artist Corrine Carrie the Micheltorena Stairs are not only a lovely spot for an #instapic, but part of a larger network of “hidden”stairs within the Silver Lake neighborhood. If you’re feeling inspired after you snap your #staircandy pic, why not consider an urban hike! You’ll get some exercise along with your #snap!


8. View of DTLA Griffith Observatory Location: 2800 E. Observatory Rd, Los Angeles

The views from the Griffith Observatory, are quintessential LA, so it’s no wonder this very view was featured in the movie LA LA Land. Not only will a visit here provide you fabulous views of #DTLA, but the #iconic Hollywood Sign as well. Thats two birds with one #instastone!


9. The Hollywood Sign Location: 2800 E. Observatory Rd, Los Angeles

#hollywoodsign #griffithpark #hollywood #losangeles #california #icon #staycation #fun #hilarystyleme

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One of the most famous icons in Los Angeles and the world, no trip to Los Angeles would be complete without a glimpse of the famous Hollywood Sign!


10. Urban Light at LACMA Location: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles

There’s something so magical about artist Chris Burden’s Urban Light installation, I could spend hours there! I couldn’t stop taking photos. The solar powered installation is made from 202 restored cast iron street lamps from 1920s and 30s Los Angeles. Part of LACMA’s permanent collection, the exhibit is free to the public. Urban Light is an incredibly popular place to take photos and hang out, so unless you visit in the middle of the night, expect to have other people in your photos.


11. Carrera Cafe Location: 8251 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles

Located just across the street from the pink #paulsmithla wall on Melrose Avenue, Carrera Cafe, is not just a pretty face, but also a lovely little cafe with both sweet and savory treats.


12. Social butterflies LA Location:  8222 W. 3rd St, Los Angeles

You’ll be kept plenty busy exploring all the restaurants, shopping, galleries and fun #wallcandy on West 3rd Street, which is located in West Hollywood about one mile from Melrose Avenue.


13. Palm Tree Photo Mural Location: 1130 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice

For a guaranteed LA experience and those #instagood #instapics don’t miss one of the hottest streets in town, Abbot Kinney located in Venice. Both sides of the street are lined with not only fabulous street art, murals and pasteups, but many of the most sought after fashion brands have stores here. After you’ve snapped and shopped, you can satisfy your hunger in the one of the many trendy bars and restaurants. It’s #instapic heaven! This Noah Abrams photograph is on the wall outside of Kit and Ace.


14. J. Goldcrown’s #bleedinghearts #Lovewall Location: corner of Santa Clara Avenue and Abbot Kinney Boulevard

While you’re in the neighborhood, why not make a stop at J. Goldcrown’s #bleedinghearts #lovewall, which is painted on the side of the Green Leaf Chopshop. Don’t worry, it’s okay to take photos at both! Then stop by the TOMS store and pick up a matching pair!


15. Will Rodgers State Beach  Location: 17000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Los Angeles

Tourist or not, there’s nothing quite like an LA #sunset, and the best part: It happens each and every night!

#happysnapping


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#instalapinme

Would you like directions to all these fabulous places? Why not take me with you! you can download this and other fun hilarystyle articles using the GPSmyCity app!

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The J. Paul Getty Museums 

#gettyvilla

I had the best time during my visits to the Getty Villa and the Getty Center, two world renowned art museums, and I didn’t even look at the art. Yep, it’s true! I was so busy enjoying everything else they had to offer, I ran out of time, which is why both of these LA institutions will be going on my Repeat List and should definitely be on everyone else’s Must List.

The Getty  Villa

#gettyvillaLocated on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, the Getty Villa is dedicated to the antiquities and features 7000 years of ancient art. Even if antiquities aren’t your thing, The Villa itself is a site to see.

#gettyvilla

Built in the early 1970s it was modeled after the Villa dei Papiri, a roman country home which was located in Herculaneum, Italy.  Herculaneum, along with Pompeii, was buried in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD and has only been partially excavated.

The Getty Villa Los Angeles California

My friend, Melissa, and I had the most amazing time here, it was the perfect day out. We  enjoyed two guided tours, architecture and garden, watched a brief film about the history of the Villa and its creator, J. Paul Getty. We also enjoyed a fabulous lunch at the Getty Cafe.

#gettyvilla

As I mentioned we ran out of time and didn’t see much art, even so, this may have been the most fun I’ve had at an art museum… well… ever!

Tips & Advice:

  • Entry to the Getty Villa is free, but reservations, which can be made online, are required. There is a $15 fee for parking.
  • The museum tours of the art, architecture, and gardens are complimentary.
  • The food in the cafe was excellent. Consider eating there while you enjoy beautiful views of the Villa and gardens from above.
  • I hope to visit again in the summer when the there will be performances in the Villa’s amphitheater.
    The Getty Villa Los Angeles California
  • Don’t forget to leave time for the art!

The Getty Center

#gettycenter

If you’ve been to LA you might have noticed the Getty Center, a large white building perched on the hillside above the 405.

#gettycenterview

While the Getty Villa features antiquities through the fall of the Roman Empire, the Getty Center features American and European art from medieval times to the present. Not only is it considered an architectural masterpiece, but it’s surrounded by beautiful gardens and on a clear day the view of Downtown Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean are spectacular.

#gettycentergarden

The museum campus is vast and there are many different areas to explore. My boys loved the gardens and it is our goal to come back each season to see how they’ve changed. Hopefully, we’ll find time to see some of the art during one of those visits! Stay tuned!

#gettycenterview

Tips & Advice:

  • Entry to the Getty Center is free. There is a $15 fee to park. Unlike the Villa reservations are not required.
  • Once parked you’ll take a complimentary tram up the hillside to the Getty Center.Getty Center Los Angeles California
  • If you’re visiting with children, the casual Getty Cafe is cafeteria style and offers something for everyone.
  • We plan to come back every season to see the changes in the gardens.

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Los Angeles, How I ❤️ Thee…

#lovewallI ❤️ LA, and clearly I’m not alone! From Venice Beach to the streets of Downtown and everywhere in between! Love is everywhere in the City of Angels!

#lovemeanywaysAnd while some might complain that it’s too big, too smoggy, or too congested, there’s a reason 45+ million people found a reason to visit in the last year. With mild weather and endless possibilities it’s no wonder that Los Angeles is the ❤️ of Southern California.

Sharing The Love

#lovewall #bleedinghearts

Join me on a whirlwind photo tour showcasing just some of the fun and he(Art)s I’ve discovered throughout the LA LA Land that I love.

Venice Beach

#ilovevenice

Like the sign says, I ❤️ Venice, and not just for the cheap sunglasses and great people watching! I just can’t get enough of the good weird that is Venice!

#heartglasses

Thinking about a new pair of shades? Have you considered heart shaped?

#venicebeach

Who doesn’t love candy, hearts and selfies, but especially selfies with candy hearts?!

Venice is a work in progress, always changing, so whether you’re, driving, biking or walking, keep your eyes open! Even Muhammad Ali is showing the love.

Washington Boulevard

#wrdsmth

WRDSMTH’s inspirational pieces can be found throughout Los Angeles and the world. ❤️

Windward Avenue

#ilovevenice

While out biking one morning Marioe’s bright red heart caught my eye !

Abbot Kinney Boulevard

#aviatornation

We often find ourselves in the Aviator Nation shop  on Abbot Kinney Boulevard! And it’s not just because we love their ping pong table… Their loungewear is pretty awesome too!

#lovewall

Artist J. Goldcrown’s #bleedinghearts #lovewall is a favorite among tourists and locals alike!

Santa Monica Pier

#bodylove

I came across these brave and confident lovelies sharing the #bodylove on the Santa Monica Pier one afternoon!

Culver City

#lovelovelove

Artist Curtis Kulig’s Love Wall at Smashbox Studios in Culver City isn’t exactly on the beaten path, but it’s bright happy message is worth a detour, especially if you’re with someone you love!

Museum Mile

#Lovebug

If you’re a car lover, than you might like to visit Herbie the Love Bug who lives at the Peterson Automotive Museum on the Museum Mile!

Silver Lake Neighborhood

#micheltorenastairs

It was love at first sight when I saw the not so “secret” Micheltorena Stairs while out exploring the Silver Lake neighborhood with my boys!

#dallasclayton

We just had to stop at take a family photo underneath this happy message of love painted by artist and writer Dallas Clayton on the wall at Dangerbird Records on Sunset Boulevard!

Downtown Los Angeles

The change to Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) in the past decade is unbelievable and IMHO it’s all for the better! Not only will you find amazing art everywhere (more on that in a future post), but there are fabulous brewery’s, restaurants, shopping, markets and more! I LOVE DTLA!

#angelcitybrewery

This lovely street art heart is on the side of the Angel City Brewery.

#gotlove

Literally, art on the street, these fun little stencils can be found just about everywhere around town. I’m particularly fond of the official kissing spot!

#adamdare

This new piece by artist Adam Dare was finished in October 2016 and it says, Love is Love. I couldn’t agree more! It’s located just outside the Dejavita boutique in the DTLA Arts District. What I don’t love… cars parked in front of the art, but it is LA, and we do love our cars!

#cafegratitude

Can’t get enough of  J. Goldcrown’s #bleedinghearts? You can visit them in DTLA at Cafe Gratitude!

With Love
xo

 

#xo


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Paris: The City of Love A Photo Tour

Sometimes referred to as The City of Love, Paris is definitely moving up on my Favorite Cities list, but it wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, It wasn’t until my third visit, that I really came to realize what, many other people already feel: I love Paris! I know that with so many amazing places in the world it can be hard to commit precious vacation time to repeat destinations, but sometimes it’s those repeat visits that really show you what a city is all about.

In Paris there are…

#Paris

Lovely views around every corner.

The Pantheon…

Paris France

Is a place I’ve still never stepped foot inside. Its first on my list for next time!

How much love is too much…

Paris France

Over 1 million locks of love have been removed from Paris’s bridges! That’s 65 tons of love!

Speaking of Love…

Paris France

I just love it when we see a bride and Groom!

What’s that smell…

Paris France

I love cheese, but the boys weren’t too keen on the smell.

However…

#paris

They had no complaints about the cookies!

A perfect afternoon…

#paris

is made up of, Street performers, Berthillon glace and a little rest along the banks of the Seine on the Ile de Sainte Louis.

Once upon a time…

#ruemouffetard

The Rue Mouffetard was a main road in and out of town. One of our favorite places! You’ll find a mix or tourists and locals alike on this pedestrian friendly market street.

Graffiti or art…

#paris

Street Art! We were delighted to discover among other street art pieces this C-3PO Chewbacca piece by the elusive French street artist, Invader.

You’ll find yourself surrounded by beauty…

#paris

Sometimes in the most simple of forms. From the Metropolitan signs…

yellow-bicycle-7125

and bicycles…

Paris France

to corner flower shops, and

#paris

The many corner cafes.


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#pinmeparis

Much Ado about Paris!

After 5 weeks of travel… the Pièce de Résistance! Paris!

#parisWe’d arrived, and as we drove down the boulevards lined with beautiful architecture, endless cafes and world famous monuments I was struck by just how much I love this city! Having checked many of the city’s biggest tourist attractions off on a previous trip, I decided this visit would be about new experiences. Taking it one step further, we threw  guidebooks to the wind, and decided to wing it!

La Joie

#parisWe spent a lot of our time wandering and in doing so found ourselves enjoying the unexpected. I noticed golden details on many of the buildings and wondered if they’d always been there? We marveled at how every street corner is something special. We hunted Pokemon and sailed tiny boats in the Luxembourg gardens and had the best time. Why hadn’t we done that before?! We saw the Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie, marveled at Sainte Chapelle, climbed the bell towers of Notre Dame de Paris, and so much more…

The Monuments

La Madeleine 

#lamadeleineLa Madeleine was commissioned by Napoleon and is located on the Rue Royal in the 8th arrondissement. The church is beautiful both inside and out, and provides a fabulous view of the Place de la Concorde. We wandered in just in time to hear a choir singing, and it was simply amazing. Louis XVI was originally buried here before his body was moved in 1815.

Tip: To really get a feel for just how many and how big the columns are, consider walking the colonnade. La Madeline is a popular place for weddings and you just might see a bride!

Sainte Chapelle

#saintechapelleHave you ever been to a place and were so surprised by its beauty that your mouth literally fell open? This is exactly what happened to me when I visited Sainte Chapelle. I was completely surrounded by jaw dropping beauty. This is a place I firmly believe deserves to be on everyone’s must-see list when visiting Paris. No photo can really do it justice, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself.

Tip: To skip the line at Sainte Chapelle purchase your tickets inside the Palace of Justice, which seemed to be less crowded.

The Palace of Justice

#palaceofjusticeAdjacent to the  Sainte Chapelle and beautiful in its own right is the Palace of Justice. Once the Palais Ile de Cite, it was home to French royalty until the 1400s. Later it became a revolutionary prison, at which time Sainte Chapelle became a place of final confession and prayer for those condemned by the tribunal. One such person, was Marie Antoinette and there is a memorial to both her and Louis XVI in the Palace.

Notre Dame de Paris

#notredameNotre Dame is one of the few places we visited on this trip that wasn’t new, however we’d never climbed the bell towers, so we made an exception. To say I loved our visit to Notre Dame would be an understatement! Some places just deserve repeat visits, and Notre Dame is on that list.

Tip: The entry to visit the bell towers is located on the OUTSIDE of the Cathedral, on the left side of the West façade. This is separate from the entrance to the Cathedral’s interior.

Museums

Musée de l’Orangerie

#LorangerieIf you’re short on time, or even if you’re not consider a visit to the Musée de l’Orangerie. Monet’s Water Lilies, given to the museum by Monet himself, as a symbol of peace, are probably the museums most famous pieces, but there are many other wonderful artists on display. The museum’s layout was very efficient and we were able to see everything before our little one lost interest. Afterwards we enjoyed ham sandwiches in the cafe gift shop!

Tip: Go early! If you’re one of the first to enter you’ll have a few moments to enjoy the Water Lilies before the room fills up.

The Gardens

#luxembourggardensNo visit would be complete without time spent in one of the city’s many famous gardens. So much more than just a pretty backdrop, surrounding some other famous place, they offer a welcome respite from the bustle of city life, or if you’re a traveling family a great place to relax and regroup.

Jardin du Luxembourg

#luxembourggardensThe Jardin du Luxembourg, located in the 6th Arrondissement offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a quiet place to relax or something a little more active. We loved sailing the little wooden boats on the pond, but also enjoyed the playground, and the many statues and fountains throughout.

Tip: You’ll find the wooden boats just next to the pond. They are available to rent for €3.50 an hour.

Jardin des Tuileries 

#jardindestuileries

Due to its proximity to the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries might just be the most famous garden in Paris, so there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself here. If you’re visiting in the summer look out for the Fete des Tuileries which takes place every very summer from June to August. I loved seeing the stark contrast between the carnival rides and the centuries old gardens. Lots of fun photo ops here!

Tip: Entry to the Fête des Tuileries is free, however there is a fee for the rides and attractions.

The City of Light

#eiffeltowerOn our last night in Paris, knowing that it could be many years before I return to the City of Light, I had a sudden desire to see the Eiffel Tower lit up one last time. Having no car, we decided to hire a taxi and asked the driver to take us somewhere we would have a great view. I guess he decided the best view was just under the Tower itself! The Tower was red, white and blue to honor the victims of the Nice terror attacks, which took place earlier in the week. Other monuments we drove by included, Les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, and Montparnasse.

Tip: Don’t miss out on one of the best parts of Paris, the city’s lights! Our taxi fare was around €40, which included the time we took to get out for photos at the Eiffel Tower.  

Day Trip

Chateau de Versailles

#versaillesWhat better place for those “life of royalty” daydreams than the Chateau de Versailles? Even on an overcast day the golden gates of this world famous palace can be seen shinning brightly in the distance. As you wander through the palace you’ll find yourself surrounded by opulence.

A stroll in the almost 2000 acres of Gardens features among other things a Grand Canal, which is over a mile long, groves, the Orangerie, and at least 50 different fountains.

Tip: Purchase your tickets in advance online. Arrive early! The gates open at 9 am. If you can, be there before they open.

Restaurants

Enjoying the local cuisine is an important part of any city visit! Here are three of our most memorable all located within close proximity to some of the most famous places in Paris.

Minim’s

#minimsdeparisMinims, the brasserie version of the famous Maxim’s de Paris, is located on the Rue Royal. We enjoyed, not only the food, but the restaurant’s Art Nouveau style. Eating here felt very Parisian!

Tip: Minim’s is located on the same street as La Madeleine.

Invictus

#invictusrestaurantWe enjoyed everything about our meal at Invictus. A cozy restaurant with only a handful of tables, the chef personally took our order! The food was excellent and we had a lovely evening!

Tip: Invictus is just blocks from the Jardin du Luxembourg. A reservation if recommended.

Cave La Bourgogne

#CaveLaBourgogneCave La Bourgone, recommended to us by a local friend, is located at the end of the Rue Mouffetard, one of the oldest streets in Paris. We enjoyed this traditional, tasty and reasonably priced brasserie so much , we’ve been twice!

Tip: First wander the Rue Mouffetard, a pedestrian friendly market street, and end at Cave La Bourgogne where you’ll enjoy a quintessential Parisian meal while you gaze out at the lovely square along with all the locals.


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Les Jardins de Paris

luxembourg-gardens-6237

With so many famous landmarks in Paris it can be tough to decide, but no visit would be complete without time spent in one of the city’s many famous gardens. So much more than just a pretty backdrop, surrounding some other famous place, they offer a welcome respite from the bustle of city life, or if you’re a traveling family a great place to relax and regroup. Aiming to spend less time planning, and more time wandering, the gardens of Paris fit our bill perfectly.

Jardin du Luxembourg

#luxembourggardensOur first stop upon arrival to Paris was the Jardin du Luxembourg, conveniently located just three blocks from our hotel. With no particular destination in mind, our initial intention was to wander straight through, but as soon as we saw the little wooden boats on the pond, we changed our minds!

Simon, teen that he is, wasn’t sure this would be fun, but before too long he was just as into it as the rest of us! Each ship represented a different country and we were excited to see that there was also a pirate ship! However, it was already in use when we arrived. When eventually the rain chased us off we found shelter at a nearby gelato place.

Returning here many times during our visit I loved the many statues and fountains within the gardens, while my boys enjoyed hunting the many Pokemon who apparently live there. Not interested in statues or Pokemon? Don’t worry, you’ll find there is something for everyone! There are plenty of spots perfect for contemplation, the reading of a good book, or a cat nap. Feeling a bit more active, there are tennis courts, bocce courts and playgrounds.

Tip: You’ll find the wooden boats just next to the pond. They are available to rent for €3.50 an hour.

Location: The 6th Arrondissement between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter

Jardin des Tuileries 

#fetesdestuileries

Due to its proximity to the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries might just be the most famous garden in Paris. While we didn’t find time for the Louvre on this visit we did find ourselves in the gardens. In addition to the usual offerings the gardens host a carnival each summer from June to August. I loved seeing the stark contrast between the carnival rides and the centuries old gardens, buildings and statues.

#fetesdestuileries

Tip: Entry to the Fête des Tuileries is free, however there is a fee for the rides and attractions.

Location: The 1st Arrondissement between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde


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Sainte Chapelle

Have you ever been to a place and were so surprised by its beauty that your mouth literally fell open? Were rendered speechless? This is exactly what happened to me while visiting Sainte Chapelle in Paris.

#saintechapelle

In hindsight I wondered how could I have overlooked such a wondrous place? After all I do pride myself on being a knowledgable traveler. With almost unlimited information available it’s hard to believe I had never heard of these places, which played such important roles in French history, Sainte Chapelle and the Palace of Justice. That said, I’m giving myself a break because while I do appreciate love my expansive collection of guide books, I also think that an important part of being a good traveler is the ability to wing it, go with the flow and embrace the unexpected.

#palaceofjustice
The Palace of Justice (photo taken during our 2013 visit)

So, it was while we were doing just that, winging it on our last day in Paris, that we decided, as we happened to be walking by, to enter the Palace of Justice. The ticket clerk asked if we also wanted to see Sainte Chapelle … sure, “why not?” we said, completely clueless.

Sainte Chapelle

#saintechapelleConfession: It wasn’t immediately upon entering Sainte Chapelle that I discovered her jaw dropping beauty, I blundered around a bit first. Wondering, Is this it? It’s so small, there must be more? What am I missing? Turns out a lot!

Noticing the items for sale at the souvenir counter had photos of what looked to be a lovely, but obviously different place. I decided to enquire, “This is lovely, but is there more?” I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it amounted to: Yes, just over there through that tiny hardly noticeable nondescript door over in the corner .

Sainte Chapelle Paris France

As I emerged from the doorway into the main part of the chapel my mouth literally fell open. I was completely surrounded by jaw dropping beauty. No photo can really do it justice. The Stained glass was shimmering in the sunlight, the golden paint on the ceilings was glowing, I know I gasped in surprise and delight! I couldn’t get enough, and even joked that a place this beautiful could actually get someone to convert!

#saintechapelle

#saintechapelle

Saint Chapelle, is showing her age and is currently undergoing a lengthy renovation, however in my opinion this faded splendor, as I like to call it, only added to her charm.

The Palace of Justice

#palaceofjustice
Even on a sunny day the light inside the Palace of Justice was dim.

Adjacent to the  Sainte Chapelle and beautiful in its own right is the Palace of Justice. Once the Palais Ile de Cite, it was home to French royalty until the 1400s. Later it became a revolutionary prison, at which time Sainte Chapelle became a place of final confession and prayer for those condemned by the tribunal. One such person, was Marie Antoinette and there is a memorial to both her and Louis XVI in the Palace.

#palaceofjustice
Stretching their legs a bit inside the Medieval Hall at the Palace of Justice.
#palaceofjustice
The memorial to Marie Antoinette and Louise XVI is through these curtains.

Tips and information:

  • To skip the line at Sainte Chapelle purchase your tickets inside the Palace of Justice, which seemed to be less crowded.
  • The medieval hall and exhibitions representing the revolutionary prison are fascinating and tied in perfectly with our recent trip to Versailles.
  • There is a lot to see and learn here, but we were able to see everything in about an hour, which appealed to my little one.
  • Sainte Chapelle was commissioned in 1238 by Louis IX to hold his collection of holy relics including Christ’s crown of thorns. The chapel sustained damage during the Revolution and the crown of thorns along with other surviving relics were moved to Notre Dame de Paris.
  • Like Notre Dame, the chapel was restored by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.
  • The impressive stained glass inside the chapel, of which 2/3 is original, tells the story of both the old and new testaments.

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Notre Dame de Paris

#viewfromnotredame

#notredameYou know what they say, “Third times a charm”, and that’s exactly how I felt after our most recent visit to Notre Dame de Paris. Hardly able to remember the first occasion as I  was just a child, and battling large crowds and illness during our visit three and a half years ago, it wasn’t until the most recent visit that I really got a chance to appreciate this magnificent place!

#notredame

You might be wondering why we keep visiting the same place repeatedly when there is so much to see and do in a city the size of Paris? There are a number of reasons, but the simple answer is that a place this amazing deserves repeat visits.

Another, and more practical reason is that Simon wasn’t feeling well enough to climb the 387+ stairs to the top of the bell tower during our last visit and I promised him that if we ever came back it would be a priority. Simon has never met a staircase he didn’t consider a challenge, one reason why I don’t worry about finding time to exercise on our vacations. I know I’ll be guaranteed a workout anyway!

Tickets and Advice:

We loved this visit! However, to make the most of your time here a few things we wished we’d taken the time to know beforehand

  • If this is your first trip to Paris: Notre Dame de Paris is located on the île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement and can be accessed in a variety of ways. We choose a bicycle cab!
  • 13 million people a year visit Notre Dame, so be prepared for large crowds. The lines to enter the Cathedral look daunting, but do move steadily. Once inside there are audio guides available, or you’re free to explore on your own.
  • Entrance to the Cathedral is free and all are welcome.
  • Suitcases and large back packs aren’t allowed into either the Cathedral or bell towers.  I whole heartedly agree with this rule, and if you’re interested in reading more about my feelings on backpacks click here!
  • The entry to visit the bell towers is located on the OUTSIDE of the Cathedral, on the left side of the West façade. This is separate from the entrance to the Cathedral’s interior. If you’re only interested in the bell towers there is no need to enter the cathedral.
  • Entrance to the bell towers is run independently by the Centre Des Monuments. There is no need to purchase tickets in advance just enter the line. Adults are 10 € and children under 18 are free with a paying adult.
  • The visit will take about 50 minutes and keep in mind there are no restrooms.
  • Only 20 people are admitted to the bell towers at a time. The next group is allowed in once the previous group has come down, about every 10 minutes.
  • Be prepared to climb. There are 387+ steps leading to the top of the bell tower. Wear proper shoes and clothing! We were behind a woman in high heel booties and it was obvious she was struggling the entire climb.
  • Each group will only be allowed 5 minutes at the top.
  • Once inside and just before you climb the steps you’ll listen to a brief talk and have an opportunity to purchase items at a small gift shop. If you see something you want, purchase it, because you won’t be going back the same way.
  • If you’re lucky you’ll be there on a clear day, however, keep in mind there is no shade and it gets hot at the top!

5 Fun Facts!

  1. The first stone was laid in 1163, but Notre Dame wasn’t completed until 1345. Almost 200 years later!
  2. The Crown of Thorns, a piece of THE Cross as well as a nail are just three of the holy relics inside Notre Dame.
  3. Another name for Notre Dame is Our Lady of Paris.
  4. Bee hives are kept on the roof of the sacristy.
  5. The cathedral’s famous sentries, the gargoyles, you see perched high above the ground, are officially known as chimera, and were added by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc during a 25 year restoration which started in 1845.

To say I loved our visit to Notre Dame would be an understatement! From the sweeping views of Paris from high atop the bell towers…

#viewfromnotredame

To the Chimeras and gargoyles ever present keeping a constant and silent vigil over the cathedral, Paris and all who pass below…

#notredamechimera

And finally the feeling you get wandering through the cool dark interiors knowing you’re not alone. That for 850+ years people from around the world have been coming to this same place, each for their own reasons, but surrounded by these same walls, bathed in the glow of these same chandeliers and stained glass windows. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but for me it was magical.

#notredame

Believe it or not, we still haven’t seen everything! Twist my arm, I guess we’ll have to go back…


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