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Rouen is just over an hour train ride northwest of Paris, on a map you just follow the Seine all the way up towards the English Channel and you’re bound to stumble across this adorable normande town. I have some fun memories of Rouen as it was the closest city to the town where I spent a year of high school. I remember taking the bus in with friends to go shopping, walk around, go clubbing, all those things adventurous teenagers do. Going back as an adult makes me realized that during those trips I unfortunately didn’t soak the beauty in… what a beauty Rouen is!

Rouen is the capital of Normandy, and you probably have heard about it’s gothic cathedral at some point or another, as impressionist Claude Monet painted a series of it in the late 19th century (psssst sometimes at night they project his paintings onto the facade of the actual cathedral). Its beautifully colorful maisons à colombage that line the streets, and there are many adorable passageways to be discovered. The pictures shared here are from a recent trip there with my mom.

CITIZEN // Coffee shop
CATHÉDRALE DE NOTRE DAME // Iconic cathedral
L’ESPLIGUETTE // French restaurant
JACOTTE ET JAVOTTE // Antique store
JARDIN DES PLANTES // Gardens
MUSÉE DES BEAUX ARTS // Museum

A weekend spent near Poitiers in a dreamy chateau thanks to G&T Weekends.

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Sometimes what can do the soul some good is a weekend trip to a castle. Not even kidding. There’s something magical about waking up in a castle. Not having to worry about anything, not having to cook or clean… just a good time with good people. It’s quite simple, you get some snazzy people in one place and magic can be made. This is what G&T Weekends does. This particular G&T weekend organized by the charming duo Gillian and Tess took place in a castle near the town of Poitiers, about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Paris. I had found out about the Easter weekend extravaganza through my girlfriends Haleigh and Lou, and totally knew that I wanted to be a part of it, eep!

The Chateau St. Julien truly was a little treasure in the French countryside, so charming, tucked next to the church of a small town called Saint-Julien-l’Ars with camellias and daffodils everywhere. Its pastel towers are the perfect contrast with any color sky, but preferably baby blue. It has medieval towers with beautiful hallways and secret rooms, a rad spiral staircase, an estate with perfectly lined trees, clawfoot bathtubs, a cozy fireplace and beautiful tiles… the works. 33 young professionals (and good-time cravers) came together that weekend, and we had delicious meals at one long table and our hearts were filled with joy. Between prepared rosé-filled feasts, strolls outdoors with champagne flutes in hand and fireside chats into the wee hours of the morning, there was laughing and even more dancing. We even went horseback riding one morning, took a cooking class and had a French-themed champagne tasting. Everything was prepared for us, and the only thing guests have to do at G&T weekends is have a good time, they sure know how to pamper! There were even snacks!

As busy humans it’s so easy to get caught up in routine and work and work and work, let’s just say a long weekend away with bottomless wine was much needed, and the people there were just sublime.

More about G&T Weekends and their upcoming trips planned in Europe on their site and of course with #gandtwknds.

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Ile Tudy, a tiny port town filled with memories of my mother-in-law’s childhood and adulthood, where she would spend every summer in their family home right on the ocean. A magical place that I just love going to when we have the opportunity. This time ’round we came for Christmas with Louis, absolute perfection with the fireplace, good movies and baths in the enamel clawfoot tub. I was very grateful to be able to share this place with good friends post-Christmas, it was truly a pleasure. Here we indulged in delicious local seafood, good wine… we played games, strolled on the beach, ran into the wind. My in-law’s, my lover, Rachel, Haleigh and Anne were the perfect company to long late lunches.

It’s a special place, right on the sea, where you can actually give yourself time to relax and breathe in the fresh air. Sometimes you just need to hear the waves crashing as you’re falling asleep to re-emphasize how small we humans are in this world, eh?

The funny thing about Bretagne – like all seaside climates – is the weather can be just as nice in the winter as it can in the summer. No joke, this Christmas at Ile Tudy we had afternoons far nicer (& warmer!) than last August. It’s a crazy world. Thank goodness in this crazy world there are such beautiful quaint places to make memories in.

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3 and a half hours from Paris’s Gare de Lyon. I had seen so many pictures of Provence on fellow expat’s Instagram’s accounts, visits to see the lavender fields. It seemed like the “to do” thing this spring and summer. We didn’t make it to the Provence lavender fields given the autumnal season that had arrived every so justly, BUT we did get to discover Aix-en-Provence for a weekend away with my lovely aunt who was in town. The tones of the city are different from Paris, a different kind of magic. I could literally feel how much more relaxing the lifestyle there must be as soon as I took in a breath of the mediterranean air.

Provence is known globally also for their food. I remember even the French restaurant I worked at in Denver when I was 16, the sadly no longer Le Central, it was a “Provencal French Restaurant”. Even then I didn’t really realize where Provence was, or what its specialities was, anything French seemed exotic for a Denverite! Ratatouille, stuffed vegetables, aioli, pesto soup, fig tarts, calissons… it’s all just so good an world renowned.

The city itself deserves a good old fashion stroll, mainly because it is just so adorable: pastel colors, little balconies, tiny pedestrian streets and warn down old advertisements on the sides of buildings…

If you’re in Aix for a quick trip like we were, I suggest giving lunch a try up at the Place des Cardeurs, then stroll down through the adorably tiny and pastel streets to pop in for a caffeine recharge at Mana Espresso (ex-baristas from Paris’s Loustic!). After more wandering and buying things like herbs and soap, sit on a terrace and try a glass of Pastis, the local apéritif, paired with some people watching. I obviously wanted to make the mini detour to see that big Petit Prince book statue that has been all over social media, and I found out it’s actually the entrance to a library called La Cité du Livre, how cute is that? You’ll have to try to local sweet confection, le calisson (pssst Pâtisserie Béchard makes a darn good one!) Dinner is a must at Les Deux Garçons, the staple brasserie du coin that sits on the main drag, if the weather permits, reserve a table on the terrace. Paradise.

Quick side note—- if you take the TGV you’ll arrive at a train station about 20 minutes from the center of Aix. We didn’t know that until AFTERWARDS. There are busses that go to the city center, and also taxis which run for about 20-30 euros. Bref, to keep in mind more precisely for your departure!

AIX EN PROVENCE PLACES:
Cité du Livre // Library, Oversized Book Statues
Chez Féraud // French Restaurant
La Compagnie des Savons // Soap Shop
La Route des Bières // Beer Shop
Les Deux Garçons // French Restaurant
Mana Espresso // Coffee Shop
Pâtisserie Béchard // Candy Shop, Calisson masterminds
Place des Cardeurs // Place with heaps of restaurants
Santons Girault // Santons Boutique

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I’m not yet at the age where heaps of my friends are getting married. It’s starting. For example, this is only the second wedding I’ve ever been to! (The first one was also documented on here). That said, I’m eternally bummed about missing two dear friend’s wedding last summer due to distance and a new job, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to be a part of more celebrations for dear ones in the future. Because quite simply, seeing people so so happy and being a part of such a celebration is one of the most magical things.

This September someone I really care about got hitched, my fromager friend Romain. We met in our Master’s program here in Paris, and he’s probably one of the sweetest humans I’ve ever met, so to head down to the Aquitaine with the other two members of our quartet, Coline and Mohamed, was just the best way to finish off the summer season. The simplicity and beauty of their wedding was beyond rad, full of brocante-themed details, bubbly and dancing. The adorable little Mairie was in a small town north of Bordeaux, near the newlywed’s new home, and the reception was in a beautifully modest local castle (to which I unfortunately did not bring my camera, cos boy was it beautifully decorated a rustic-vintage charm, streamers and table decor galore!).

Last but not least, a little side note on how epic French celebration meals are— they start so late after already stuffing one’s face in amuse-bouche and hors-d’oeuvres, and so they finish so late but it’s all just so wonderful and because of all the happiness in celebration of love, no one even realizes they’re tired! Leaving the dinner table at 3am isn’t always a bad thing, especially if it’s to get up and boogie to Claude-François and Jean-Jacques Goldman (Google both of these people now if you haven’t heard of them, and yes, you will probably hear their songs at any type of huge French gathering, notably weddings).

It was a very happy weekend, so much love to the newlyweds. And total props to Romain on the cheese course, he knows his stuff.