December 12, 2017

Four Days In Paris

This is going to be another long journal entry with lots of cell phone photos of my trip to Europe so feel free to skip ahead if travel posts aren't your thing. If they are your thing, you can read about my first four days spent in London here.

On Wednesday, we woke up in London and headed to Paris via train. We stayed in a hotel in Monmarte with a sketchy elevator and a long winding staircase with windows that opened outwards towards the street. It felt very Parisian. Our first stop was the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, most commonly known as the Sacré-Cœur. It's a beautiful white church on top of a hill and once you manage to get up all the steps, it offers gorgeous views of Paris. Once we finished there we wandered the streets of Monmarte and went in several churches and watched the artists paint at Place du Tertre. After we found some dinner we walked to the Moulin Rouge then called it a night.

Our next day was a bit of an adventure. We took a train to Versailles, but when we got there, the Palace of Versailles was closed due to a worker strike. We were told that they were in talks and a decision would be reached within an hour so we decided to wander and see what else we could find. We found the Norte Dame of Versailles which was gorgeous and spent some time there. When we got back to the Palace of Versailles there were still no signs of it opening so we took a train back to the middle of Paris. Once back we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris. The history of how it was built was amazing and the stained glass windows were beautiful. After touring the inside, we walked across the bridge to find lunch on Ile St. Louis and couldn't pass up some ice cream from Berthillon. Once replenished, we took on the challenge of taking the stairs to the top of Notre Dame. Those spiral stairs seem like they're never going to end and just when you think you're near the top, you find a new set of stairs to climb. There was an older man in front of me and by the sound of his breathing, I was sure it was only a matter of time before I was going to have to catch him. I wasn't doing too much better myself so the two of us would have probably tumbled down that infinite stairway together. Luckily we both made it to the top without any casualties and the views were incredible. It was well worth the effort to get to the top. I didn't think much could top that view, but then we entered Sainte-Chapelle, a 13th century chapel. It's small compared to other well-known churches, but it is the most stunning chapel. It seems like you're standing in a jewelry box. The next stop was the Conciergerie which was a prison during the Revolutionary War and housed Marie Antoinette. After that, it was endless wandering around the Louvre trying to soak in all the art and history. Our final stop was the Musée d'Orsay which is an art museum in a former railway station. I'm getting tired just typing this day out - I didn't realize how much we did that first full day until I wrote this up.

On Friday we started our morning by stopping by a boulangerie. I got a pain au chocolat (my absolute favorite pastry that I will never stray from). We decided to begin with a cheery activity by touring the catacombes de Paris. It was crazy to think that we were underneath Paris with the remains of over 16 million people, and the history of it all is super interesting. Google it. Once we joined the land of the living, we walked through Tuileries Garden and then on to Musee de l'Orangerie which houses Van Gogh's water lily murals. Next was the Musée Rodin, which was formerly the Hôtel Biron where Auguste Rodin had lived. It holds the largest Rodin collection, with more than 6,000 sculptures and 7,000 works on paper. I really enjoy Rodin's work so I especially liked this museum. We did some shopping on Rue Cler, a pedestrian only street with lots of little market shops. I bought some candy to take home and stopped in the cutest little French bookstore. We headed to the Eifel Tower. We rode the elevator to the top for some epic views of Paris. Then we spent twenty minutes trying to get a semi-decent picture of us jumping in front of the Eifel Tower - who knew it was so hard?  

On Saturday, our last full day in Paris, Steph and I decided to take the train back out to Versailles. Lucky for us, the worker strike had been resolved and we were able to get in. I was actually a little disappointed in the Palace of Versailles. It's a rather short tour and Marie Antoinette's chateau was closed for some restoration work. Maybe I was just burnt out after seeing so many other grand palaces. Haha. We made our way back to the middle of Paris and had some lunch then wandered around Place du Tertre again. Brad and Michelle had stayed in London for a few extra days and they joined us in Paris that evening. Once we were all reunited, we went and found some delicious Caribbean food. I was exhausted so I ended my day by being in bed by 9 o'clock. 

We woke up early the next morning to head home. We grabbed a bus that took us to another bus that took us to the airport. Our flight from Paris to London was delayed which made us almost miss our flight back to the U.S. We were rushing through the airport and then my bag got stopped for an extra security check. They went through everything, even opening up my make-up products to check for any secrets I might be hiding. After watching them go through every item in my bag painstakingly slowly, we had to sprint through the airport to make our flight. I hope I don't have run to catch a flight again anytime soon because that was not a fun experience

Again, cell phone pictures and my fading memories don't do the trip justice. It was all amazing and wonderful and I'm grateful I was able to take a trip like this. I'm especially grateful for the fun group that I experienced it all with. 

I'm also grateful for a husband who watched the kids by himself for 10 days without complaint. I don't think the kids missed me one bit because Andrew planned fun excursions for them every day. I left being Olive's favorite and came home to Andrew being the favorite. I think this trip was all a ruse so he could steal the title from me. Well played Andrew. 

December 6, 2017

Four Days In London

In October, I went to Europe with my mother-in-law, three sister-in-laws (Mimi, Michelle, and Stephanie), and Brad (a family friend of the Snows and one of Michelle's best friend). So it was a girls trip... plus Brad. We were able to spend four days in London and four days in Paris, plus two days for traveling. This is going to be a journal type entry with lots of cell phone photos so feel free to skip this post. This is for my own memory.

We flew from Phoenix to L.A., L.A. to Houston, and then finally Houston to London. We got to London about 11 am on a Saturday, got our Oyster cards for the Tube, and went to Leicester Square to see if there were any shows we wanted to buy tickets for. We couldn't decide on anything so we put that idea back on the shelf. We then went to the British History Museum for several hours which was amazing. It's crazy how much history and artifacts can be housed in one place. I particularly liked the exhibit on Egyptian mummies. After we finished there, we went to Chinatown and had dumplings at Jen Cafe. After dinner we adventured to Covent Garden and watched several street performers. We grabbed some cookies and ice cream for dessert in the area that were absolutely delicious. To end the night, we watched Motown the Musical. That seems like a pretty random musical to see in London, but the tickets were cheap and it ended up being a fantastic musical. I loved every second of it! Well almost every second - I fell asleep for part of the first act because jet lag is a real thing.

The main attraction the next day was the Harry Potter Studios. We spent the majority of our day here and I think we all geeked out running around the studio. There was so much that went into the making of those movies and it was fun to learn some of the secrets to filming. For dinner, we ate the most fantastic Indian food on Brick Lane in the East End. Brick Lane is an interesting place where you basically barter for the price of your dinner. Luckily we had Cheri with us who always gets the best price when it comes to anything. We feasted at a bargain.

On Monday we started our day off at Hampton Court Palace. They provided a free audio tour that was about two hours. I honestly wish the audio tour was 3x longer. It provided so much information and it was all just fascinating. After Hampton Court, we went to Tower Bridge which is just a quick elevator ride to the top to walk from one end to the other. In the middle of the bridge are glass floors so you can see what's underneath you as you walk. Just fyi, Tower Bridge had the most affordable gift shop. I was able to get Taylor a toy double-decker bus for £2 and Olive the most adorable onesie for £10. Elsewhere they were 2-3x that cost. For dinner we ate at a gorgeous pub called The Counting House which used to be an old bank. We all either got the classic fish and chips or meat pies and then shared several puddings for dessert. That night we got to go on a walking Jack the Ripper tour which was so well done. I have heard the Jack the Ripper case told many times on various podcasts and documentaries, but I still learned some details I had never heard before.

Our final full day in London we were able to fit a lot in. We visited the Tower of London which is full of a wide range of history. It has been home to a menagerie of animals, been the prison of several well-known historical figures, saw the beheading of multiple queens, and boasts the claim that their are several ghosts still residing. We took a Beef Eater tour which was fantastic. They are able to feed you so much history in a short period of time and are also hilarious (mostly at the expense of Americans). I loved learning about the resident ravens that live on the grounds that the Beef Eater's tend to. I also loved finding the "graffiti" left by prisoners in the tower. Since they were there for several months/years with nothing else to do, the graffiti they carved into the walls is more like art. After the Tower of London, we took a boat cruise down the Thames to Westminster. I loved the Westminster Abbey. You could spend hours and hours reading all the monuments in there. Luckily you get an audio tour with entry otherwise I wouldn't have even known where to start. Once we all finished there, we went to the Churchill War Rooms which we thought would be a quick stop. It ended being a rather large museum with a long audio guide with it. It was quite interesting, but I think we were all a bit exhausted at this point. Just by chance we ate at a pub called Churchill Arms for dinner. Well actually we ate at the Thai Kitchen which was a restaurant located inside the pub. It was delicious. I wish I could go back for some more of their Pad Thai right now. Even after a long day, we wanted to end our final day in London doing something. So we headed to Harrods for some shopping. It was more gawking at the expensive clothing and drooling over the candy counters, but I did manage to find a good deal in a bookstore so I got the kids two adorable London books that have been a big hit (this one and this one if you're interested).

Sadly, these cell phone pictures don't do the trip justice and I didn't write enough down while we were there which has caused some of the memories to fade a bit. The days were filled with so much and that sort of starts to blend together if you don't take the time to sort through all the individual events. It took me far too long to write up this post and I still need to write up our days spent in Paris before more memories start to fade. I just know that everything I saw and experienced was amazing and beautiful and inspiring. And what made it all the better was the group of people I experienced it with.

November 20, 2017

Do Good By Shopping - Part 2

There's a lot of bad in the world. But for every bad thing, there is someone trying to bring about good and combat hate. YOU can be one of those people doing good. It can seem overwhelming when trying to figure out ways to help or what you can do to make an impact. Today I've compiled my second list of places that you can do good simply with your shopping powers. That's right, you can contribute to change just by shopping. And with the holiday season upon us, shopping for gifts is in full swing for a lot of us. So why not give back and do good just by buying gifts? If you'd like to see my first post with more great places to shop, click here. There's still a lot more places I'd like to add so I think I'll do a few more posts like this in the future.


+cuddle + kind sells ethically produced, hand-knit dolls that help feed children in need. Each doll is hand knit in Peru by talented artisans with premium cotton. Every doll purchased provides 10 meals. Shop here.

+MY SISTER's mission is to prevent sex trafficking, educate communities, empower the population, provide after-care for survivors and offer growth opportunities to at-risk women through the sales of statement-making, ethically-sourced apparel and accessories. Shop here

+Best Friends is an organization that finds animals safe, loving, forever homes and has become the largest animal sanctuary in the country. You can help fund their efforts by purchasing some of their goods. Shop here.

+Global Goods Partners is dedicated to ending poverty and promoting social justice by creating economic opportunities for women in some of the world’s poorest countries. They give technical assistance, product development, operational expertise, and small capacity building grants, empowering women to fund and solve the problems within their communities. Every product you purchase is made by these women, from home decor to children's apparel. Shop here.

+Sudara advocates for women enslaved in prostitution in India, restores their broken lives, and empowers them to live free. What started with just six women sewing in a single room has grown to over 150 women and girls employed by one of Sudara’s three sewing centers in India. Shop here.

+kidogo kidogo provides the life-changing tool of a mobile phone to low-income women in Tanzania. For every two phone cases purchased from their site, they provide one cell phone plus the additional resources needed to teach women how to use and benefit from the connection a mobile phone brings to them. Shop here.

+Mitscoots Outfitters gives clothing and gear to those in need all over the country. For every product purchased, they give an equal quality product such as a hat, beanie, gloves, or a scarf to those in need. They also partner with several organizations that specialize in taking individuals off the streets and into steady employment situations. Mitscoots employs the transitioning homeless to pack and ship every order. Shop here.

+I WILL BRING CHANGE exists to prevent human trafficking and support the rescue, restoration, and reintegration of survivors.All profits from the sale of their bracelets and other products are being invested into the goal of ending human trafficking. Shop here.


+Out of Print is dedicated to celebrating your favorite stories while promoting literacy in underserved communities. Each purchase helps to fund literacy programs and book donations to communities in need. It also supports the authors, publishers and artists who made these iconic works an integral part of our lives. Shop here.


Do you have a favorite organization to support? Do you know of other great companies helping those in need? Please leave them in the comments below and I'll add them to my next round-up of doing good by shopping!
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