Posts tagged Weekend Trip

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Summer is rolling out. I’m hoping this Indian summer will stick around just a few days more before the leaves fully turn and fall from their branches and the rain falls more often.

This summer Louis and I didn’t get vacation. I know, surprising being in France, the country with 5 weeks paid vacation which is often unheard of to most hardworking Americans. As I had just started my new permanent contract (paid vacation days have to be earned throughout the first year for the following year… vivement next year!) and Louis just started a new project, we had to swing through summer working full time on our mix and match schedules. We have nothing to complain about though; we are loving what we do, and this summer we took in slow, enjoyed Paris, but also hopped on the highway just a short ride to the countryside for a breath of fresh air with the in-laws whenever we could. An excuse to get out of Paris on the weekends certainly made summer feel more real.

A la campagne it feels like summer year round. Not because of the weather, but because it’s relaxing and just so beautiful. We dine even with the chills outside, with light gardlands lit and candles topping the table as soon as the sun goes down, it is as charming as ever. With the foggy mornings and flowers for every season in bloom throughout the year, it’s safe to say that the countryside is pure magic. My father-in-law’s garden was at its peak later than expected this year, so our fruit and veggie explorations were the cherry on top of a good weekend away during the Indian summer.

I suppose with age and wonderful experiences I’m realizing that summer doesn’t only consist in getting away for vacation to a beach somewhere. A weekend away in good company, delicious and quality grub in a beautifully cozy home can certainly suffice. What makes your summer feel like summer?

istabul-turkey-de-quelle-planete-es-tu-21Istanbul had been on my bucket list for quite some time. The land where east meets west, in my mind it was a Mecca of sweets, coffee and other wonderful things. The Turkish pop music only made me want to go more, the culture that was always said to be so hospitable and full of life.

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My friend Olivia and her free spirit and craving for travel and the discovery of culture, moved to Istanbul late last year. Louis and I thus had been dreaming of stopping by, so we spontaneously booked some round trip tickets for a long weekend. A whopping 3 hour flight from Paris, we made it to the land of bling and baklava. We were welcomed by freshly folded Turkish towels in Olivia’s love shack, topped with soap sporting Louis’s last name, which we quickly learned is a soap brand and literally means “pure”. Cherry on top.

A few tips on these cliché but fantastic places: Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, beyond worth it. You could spend hours in both. Accept the tea they offer you in each stall and don’t be afraid to bargain your eye candy. Grab some freshly squeezed pomegranate juice on the street to boost your body. Buy some Turkish delights to bring back home for friends and family, nuts or olives do the trick as well. Wander around and find secret rooftop cafés where you can sit and chat with a local, enjoy a random pastry.

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On a side note, one of my favorite parts of the trip was strolling in the neighborhood market to make our own Turkish breakfast (did you see my video of the Turkish breakfast Olivia and Elif made in Paris? Well, there will be a version 2 coming up). If you whip out your best “merhaba” the vendors will give you a big smile.

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As for our Saturday night in Istanbul, we kicked off the evening at the lovely Akin Balik (in Beyoğlu, reservations recommended). If possible, bring a Turk with you to make sure what you order is spot on, but regardless, order heaps of mezze, some Raki and enjoy. The main fish we shared at our dreamy dinner were leverk and çupra… unfortunately I don’t have the translation (cough, Sedat). This restaurant has hanging lights, Turkish music, Efes and the works. It’s all outside on the seaside, and to allure despite the winter chills they heat the tables by burning coal at your feet — which is initially hot hot hot but then you realize it’s pretty fantastic. We then wandered to the Karaköy area, followed by taxying (why not) up to Taksim to check out a nameless mysterious and trendy cocktail bar ran by a American fellow off of Istiklal Street.

Our Sunday, and last day, was filled with sunshine and was perfect for our touristy excursions. We strolled around the breakthtaking Blue Mosque and  Hagia Sofia, visited the rainbow staircases and strolled through the trendy Galata neighborhood with coffee breaks at adorable cafés. We finished off the weekend with a stop by the Bosphorus Brewing Company, for some Turkish beer action. I’m not sure we could have had a better 3.5 days in Istanbul. There is still so much to see, and we certainly plan to go back.

Tips on playing tourist in the city: Don’t be afraid of the public transportation. The metro and trams in Istanbul are easy to navigate and can get you to and from major points of interest (you can buy individual tickets at all stations, so keep your lira coins!) Taxis are a good deal if you’re not going far, but try to know where you’re going, as can happen in any city, tourists can get taken on the long route. Wifi is everywhere, so don’t fret about being connected and looking up places to go while you’re out and about.

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Akin Balik – Traditional restaurant on the sea, perfect for a dinner out. Mezze/seafood. Reservations recommended.

Bosphorus Brewing Company - Brewery / Taproom / Restaurant

Café Galata - Café / Sweets

Constantinople – Hagia Sofia / Blue Mosque

Grand Bazaar - Turkish Marketplace

Karakoy Gulluoglu
– Baklava heaven

Kavalti Evi - Turkish Breakfast (Order menamen!)

Mavra - Café / Restaurant / Concept Store

Miss Pizza – Italian Restaurant / Pizzeria

Spice Market – Enough said

Unter – Restaurant / Bar (with music at night)

Velvet Café - Trendy Café / Snacks

 

Caen-De-quelle-planete-es-tu-12Every November, Louis and I go to celebrate birthdays with the family that I lived with when I was 16, where I caught onto French and fell in love with French culture. This marvelous family that I adore has since moved to Caen, and I was so excited to discover their new city and the sea on our little weekend getaway. On the sunny winter afternoon we drove up to the historical seaside, popping by the fish market to prepare for the lunch that followed.

On our way back to Paris, we spun through Pont Audemer, the town where I lived for a year with them, for a little dinner date before heading back to the city life.

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Kerstbierfestival-De-quelle-planete-es-tu-38Living in Europe is magical because everything is so close together. Hopping in a car for a few hours can take you across borders. Ana Clara and I recently decided to tempt our honies into a weekend getaway to a Christmas beer festival in Essen. No, not in Germany, in Essen, Belgium. And no, I hadn’t heard of the town either beforehand, which made the adventure that much more fun.

Essen is located right on the border of Holland and Belgium. Literally. For this jolly occasion, our hotel was actually in Roosendaal, Holland, whereas the festival was in Essen, Belgium. I must say that driving back and forth passing the radiant blue EU sign with the country surrounded by a circle of stars was pretty invigorating.

The Kerstbierfestival is an annual Christmas beer festival in Belgium. The festival had 180+ beers in bottles and on tap to try. It was a passionate atmosphere, filled with jolly beer lovers from around the world. Right after I walked in a spotted a guy (now friend) in a Broncos sweatshirt, I thus immediately asked him if he was from Colorado, almost as if it was a reflex or something. Turns out he met his wife (who is from Wyoming) in Colorado. Long story short, we ended up chatting with these cool cats for the rest of the night. I think to myself at times like these how wonderful it is to just be somewhere, meet people and share conversation. As we crossed off beers in our little pamphlets snacking on delicious cheese platteres paired with various beers, the time flew.

Our weekend Belgian beer adventure also included stops in Kortrijk, Brasschaat and in the Essen ‘burbs at a magical beer shop. More details on the sleep/grub spots in the below. Oh, Belgium…

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Yes, all of that beer in boxes was in our trunk on the way home. Oops. We got carried away at the ABC shop in Essen, where Belgian beer was as cheap as can be.

KORTRIJK:
Give Paul’s Boutique a whirl for lunch. The barmaid at Le Bar Des Amis suggested this place to us, and boy were we glad she did! What a find. The burger joint features an unforgettable menu with a longer list of veggie burgers than that of normal ones.

ROOSENDAAL:
We stayed at the Hotel Central, that was suggested on the Kerstbierfestival website. It was way nicer than any hotel in Paris I had been to on my budget (or other places in France for that matter), so I was thrilled. What made it at the top of my list was the buffet breakfast included. Not only buffet, but delicious eggs and bottomless freshly squeezed OJ. Plus, the Dutch know just what to do with their gouda, and it it always at the breakfast table. After a long Saturday involving ridiculous amounts of beer, a hearty breakfast was exactly what we needed.

BRASSCHAAT:
I will admit, when looking at the map and choosing a place to stop through on our way back to France, Brasschaat stuck out. We popped through this magical town all decked out for the holidays and had a coffee at De Kroon. The restaurant had incredible decoration – so tasteful – but unfortunately we had to keep heading southwest, so a coffee had to do.

Check out Ana Clara’s documentation of the weekend here.

A weekend away - De quelle planete es tu? 1Spring has had a late start. Even this weekend a way was chilly as can be, and we had to light the fireplace. But the sunshine on this particular Sunday gave us some hope.

My in-laws pretty much have the best taste of anyone else I’ve ever met. I always find a new trinket in their home that I haven’t seen before. Little knick knacks with so many stories. There really is an appreciation for the notion of home here.

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This time I decided I was going to make a little something to hit home one night…. I made a broccoli & bacon mac ‘n cheese for my in laws. I was quite proud of. Since we didn’t have access to cheddar cheese, we used cantal, emmental, comté, and parmesan. It turned out just perfect, and it was just the meal I needed on such a chilly weekend. With a glass of red wine next to the fire place, it was pure magic. To top it off, Olivia joined us this weekend in Montargis, so we had the chance to taste her delicious carrot cake for dessert and breakfast the next day.

The hearty dishes warmed us up. It was the perfect weekend for relaxing and a stroll through a nearby town when the sun came out on the second day.

But now, Paris, we are ready for actual Spring. The joke is over. I’ve been missing the sun rays and squinty-eyed Parisians.

We’re almost there.