{Hiking in Southeastern France}

I love the outdoors and absolutely love to hike. As someone who has spent most of her life in South Florida (notoriously flat landscape!), I haven’t been able to hike as much as I would like, so whenever I am in a place with mountains, I always try to take advantage. Annecy provided us with a gorgeous hike in a nature reserve called Roc de Chère. The hike itself was relatively easy and the views were magnificent. The reserve was impeccably well kept and very popular among the French. We brought lunch with us and picnicked on a bed of rocks overlooking the lake and surrounding mountains.
Getting to Roc de Chère can be a little bit confusing if you are not prepared with proper instructions (Take it from me!): From Annecy center, you must take a bus from the main station towards Talloires. You will know you have arrived at the stop when you see a sign on your right saying “Beinvenue a Talliores” and on your left will be a tiny wooden hut that is the bus stop. Once you have gotten off the bus, you must take the small side street to the right of the sign (and will pass a residential area) and eventually reach a sign by the main road pointing right towards the golf courses. Follow the sign and go right. You will know you have arrived to the entrance of the trail because you will see people playing golf on your right. The entrance to the trail will be on your left and marked with a big sign. (I have included pictures on the bottom of this post of both the sign for the bus stop and sign for the entrance to the trail for additional help). We did the green hike and followed the arrows to “Bellvedere”. Our hike began and ended in the same spot and we took the bus back to Annecy from the same place we had gotten off; except this time the bus picked us up from the wooden hut across the street (the bus was a bit late and the hut was not in the best shape, so don’t be alarmed). While it seems confusing while reading, if you follow these instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems finding the entrance to the hike.


{Annecy// Exploring the Lake Town}

I had read about Annecy on a blog during my research for our trip and immediately knew that we had to visit as a stopover between France and Italy. The scenery, turquoise water, and beautiful architecture were like a dream. The city is located in southeastern France and is absolutely breathtaking (look at the pictures and see for yourself!). We spent our first day just exploring the old city, eating good food (real French crepes!), drinking good wine and walking along the lake (we even found a small beach where we relaxed in the sun for a bit). The old town is easily explored on foot and definitely something that I would recommend doing because we found that part of the fun is exploring the small streets, crossing the bridges, and walking along the water.

{A Perfect Day in Paris}

Today I fell in love with Paris… or rather, Eiffel in love with Paris (too much? I cant help it!). We started the day with a tour of the city. We walked along the gorgeous streets lined with trees and cream buildings. We saw the Notre Dame and then the Palais Justice where Marie Antionette was imprisoned. Next, we made our way to the Lovelock Bridge, where Adam and I added our own lock that we had brought from home. A quick note about this bridge: Every 6 months or so, the city of Paris removes all the locks because the bridge becomes too heavy, but it is still such fun to partake in this beautiful tradition (Plus, the views of the Siene from the bridge are gorgeous). Next up were the Tuilerie Gardens where scores of people sat around the fountains enjoying the sun and beautiful weather. Adam and I partook in this Parisian pastime and sat around one of the fountains to enjoy some downtime in our busy day.
For lunch, we stopped at a small café. Adam had steak and I had onion soup (better known in the US at French onion soup). It was amazing and totally different to the soup that I am used to. For dessert, we stopped at the famous pastry shop, Laduree, and picked up chocolate and vanilla macarons. The whole Laduree experience was so luxurious- the shop was full of bright colors and beautifully crafted desserts, and the macarons were perfectly sweet and rich.
After we enjoyed our fancy desserts, we headed to Montmarte to see the views of the city (Beware of opting for the stairs when you get off at the Montmarte stop in the metro – we made this mistake and it was a hefty climb to the exit! Take the elevator instead). After we explored this area, we metroed to a beautiful park called Parc des Buttes – Chaumont where we were joined by many Parisians taking their afternoon runs. After quite some time exploring, climbing up and down hills, crossing streams and even finding a grotto, Adam and I began to feel hungry. We decided to visit Polaine, which is Ina Garten’s favorite bakery (which she talks about on her show!) to pick up some bread for a late afternoon snack. As a huge Ina Garten fan, this was such an exciting moment for me. The bakery was packed with French women picking up fresh baked bread for dinner and it was such fun to experience true Parisian life (away from all of the tourists). At this point, we decided to turn our snack into a picnic along the Siene, so in addition to the bread that we purchased from Polaine, we also found a small cheese shop where we picked up some Brie before finding our spot right next to the Museum d’Orsay along the water. This was my favorite moment of our day in Paris- the food was delicious (Ina, you know your bread!), scenery gorgeous and company amazing. It was great to just experience Paris (almost) like a Parisian.
As a perfect end to our perfect day in Paris, we watched the Eiffel Tower light show after dark (and had a baguette sword fight). Paris is magical and I am going to be dreaming about our few days here for many nights to come.

{Mona Lisa and the Louvre: Paris}

Of course one of the things on our list to see while in Paris was the the Louvre (and the Mona Lisa). Adam and I bought our tickets for the Louvre before we left for Europe and what a difference did that make! We were in the door within one minute (actually!), while the regular line was at least 2 hours. So if you ever find yourself in Paris, do yourself a favor and buy your tickets to The Louvre beforehand, you won’t regret it!
The Louvre itself is gorgeous. Most people can identify the museum by its glass pyramids, but it is actually housed in the surrounding castle. Once we entered the museum, we made our way to the Mona Lisa (and it is a very long way). The room where she hangs is full of people jostling and pushing to get to the front in order to capture the perfect picture. Adam and I managed to squirm our way front and center (without much trouble) and found a nice man to take our photo. After we did that, we took out our museum map and began searching for pieces of art that we recognized. Along the way, we took silly pictures with some statues, admired the gorgeous ceilings, and found Hammurabi’s Code and the famous statue of Aphrodite. In the 3 hours that we were there, we barely managed to scratch the surface of what the Louvre has to offer. My suggestion for future first-time Louvre goers, don’t attempt to see everything in one visit because it is not only impossible, but it will hinder your ability to appreciate the masterpieces that are right in front of your eyes. Pick a few highlights to visit and otherwise just wander and marvel.

{Zaanse Schans: A Look at Traditional Netherlands Living}

On our last day in the Netherlands, Adam and I bussed to a small town called Zaanse Schans. The town boasts windmills, cheese, clog factories, and beautiful scenery. In the clog factory, we watched how actual clogs are made, and then Adam tried on a pair of “fancy” clogs. While we hadn’t seen anyone wearing clogs around Amsterdam, obviously we know about the clog culture in Holland, so it was fun to experience a bit of the traditional Dutch lifestyle.

{Visiting The Hague}

Adam suggested we visit The Hague while in the Netherlands and we decided to take the train there for a half-day visit. If you have never heard of The Hague before, it is home to many international courts where high profile international cases are tried. For me, the highlight of our visit was the Peace Palace, mainly because of the Imagine Peace Wish Tree. And for Adam, the highlight was going to the International Criminal Court. But we both agreed that the Smule’s in the train station had amazing french fries (a common theme in Amsterdam)!

{Amsterdam// About Town}

We started our weekend in the Netherlands with a tour of Amsterdam, but a lot of our time was spent just strolling up and down the cobblestone streets. Let me tell you, Amsterdam in May is gorgeous! The roads are lined with canals, bicycles, people dining outside and to top it off, we had fantastic weather. My favorite area of the city is the Jordaan District, which was wonderfully picturesque, but in all honesty, I felt that most of Amsterdam was beautiful. Aside from the canals, another of Amsterdam’s defining features has to be its bicycles. We learned that there are more bicycles in Amsterdam than there are people and I believe it! Bicycles are a way of life in the Netherlands, and it certainly was nice to see and experience such a cultural difference, just make sure you look both ways before you cross the street!
We walked through the famous Red Light District twice- once during the day and once at night. During the day, the district is quiet and boasts restaurants, sex shops, a church and even a kindergarten! But at night, the streets are jam-packed with tourists, bachelor parties, and local regulars. I certainly would recommend seeing the Red Light District at night, if nothing else, just to see how popular it actually is.