On The Road Again...

Our suitcases are zipped up and by the door,
my canvas bag is stashed with books,
and my husband is patiently playing on his iPad 
waiting for me to finish blogging so we can leave.

I've been here a few times before...

My students have a week of free travel.
No classes, no museums, nothing on the calendar for me to do.

So while they are using their Eurail passes and scouring Europe,
we are going to do the same with ours.

The only trick is:
Tyler has no idea where we are headed.

We have two weeks of travel:
I took the first week which starts today,
he's taking the second week later which is in April,
and we are both planning surprise trips for the other.

{Because when else in life will we have the chance to do this?}

We have packing two bags packed,
One for warm weather, one for cold weather...
and I'll grab the right one at the right time.

Where are we going?

Well, I'll keep you posted as our journey unfolds.

For now, I'll just tell you...
We'll be in 4 places over the next 7 days,
and it has all the makings of being an amazing memory.

A bientôt.
Auf Weidersehen.

{I'll let you guess which one we will be saying!}

From the Windows to the Walls...

Till the drool runs down my jaw.

{I'll let your imagination take it from there.}

We went to the Musee Carnavalet today.
It's a museum I'd only heard of in passing,
but knew it focused on the history of Paris
& knew it was something I "had to see."

Both of those statements were completely true.

It does focus on the past centuries of Parisian history,
and it was an amazing day.

What I loved most?

Even more than the objects on display...
and the ornately restored, period apartments sat within the museum?

The mansion the museum is in itself.

Everything about it the Carnavalet house was perfect....

from the {geometric and colorful glass} windows

to the {silk-covered & brightly paneled} walls.

And the gallery of art from the Belle Epoque?

Well that just broke my heart.

Want to visit the Musee Carnavalet?

Here's a few things to know:

It's in Le Marais, it's closed Mondays,
it's free for entrance into the permanent section (which is huge!),
& helpful audioguides are €5.00.

Oh... and one more thing to know,

I'll never miss an opportunity to have a cute kissing picture.

My poor sweet husband.

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Paris in Black & White

Our friend, Ali, came to visit this weekend.

Ali works at Oxford...
she's brilliant, clever & stylish
 in the most perfect English way.

She also throws one heck of a Robert Burns night.

Not only do I feel smarter after being around Ali,
but she has the most amazing circle of friends
that I get to glean off when I'm with her.

This weekend, Ali showed me around Paris.

Yes, that's right...
even though I am technically the one living here.

She's just cool like that.

Ali took us the Musee Rodin
to see Rodin's famous bronze statues...

Since the museum was closed and only the gardens were open,
we were let in to roam for free.... we had such a good time,
we stopped for lunch in the garden cafe. Yum.

we took a quick lap around Les Invalides ...

headed toward the iconic tower 
you may know as "La Tour Eiffel..."

broke for tea at the anthropological museum, Le Quai Branly,
which might possibly be my new favorite spot for afternoon lounging...

and went on a walk highlighting the French Revolution with Ali's friend, Clea...
a Canadian grad from Oxford who's an attorney in Paris.

{Yes, as a matter of fact, I did feel like a total ding-dong sitting beside these two women.}

We ate, we laughed, 
we talked about topics that made my brain swell...
and all-in-all, we had such a good time.

It made me miss my friends and our life in England.

I do love that place and the people we know...
daily life is so pleasant there.

But for the time being, 
I'm quite enjoying this place, too.

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags: Day Trip to Versailles

Versailles is gorgeous.

That's it.

Bottom line.

If I were starving in the 1780's
and had to walk past that place everyday,
I'd definitely have some hard feelings
towards the parties & pastries that were being enjoyed inside the gates.

It was obviously THE PLACE to be back in the day.

If you come to Paris, 
you really MUST take a day 
and come visit the world of French royalty.

From Paris,
take the RER C 
to Versailles Rive Gauche- Versailles Chateau.

You can use the basic metro ticket to do this....
but will need to pay for an extension at the desk to Versailles.

It's cheap. About €2.50 per person each way. 
Don't forget to get two tickets per person
so you can get there... and get back.

From the Champs Mars stop (at the Bir-Hakim metro stop),
it's a 26 minute ride out to Versailles.

Get off the stop at Versailles Rive Gauche....
take an immediate right out of the station
and then take the next left at the large street. 

You'll see the palace from there. 

It's easy-peasy.

Walk up the giant esplanade 
to the front gates.

Feel in awe.

Use your ticket that you have pre-purchased
and walk right in through the modern entrance on the left.

and save yourself loads of time waiting in the massive queues.}

I recommend the Passport ticket. It's €19 and gets you in everywhere...
the Main Palace, the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon & the Hamlet.

It also gets an audio guide.

These things will be handy dandy as you walk through the palace.

As you walk through the palace, 
you will be in awe of the gold.

Yes, real gold.

Whenever you see gold at Versailles,
it's real gold. 18k or 24k.

It's pretty.

It's stunning.

It's completely over the top...
and I kinda love it!

Ah, Louis XIV.

You silly, self-absorbed Sun King, you.

Take a walk down the Hall of Mirrors.
It's so beautiful.
If it weren't for the hoards of tourists,
I would have felt like Alice creeping through Wonderland.

Look at the bedroom that Marie slept in.

 Marie had her first night of her marriage in there,
 birthed her children in there,
and went to the toilet in there...
and had audiences for all of it.

 Apparently, she really hated it.

Can't say that I blame her.

{Apparently, Louis XIV really enjoyed people watching him go the bathroom. 
Wonder if that is where "loo" came from. Hmm...}

After you're done with the palace,
the grounds have some great options for lunch.

One half of the restaurant is pre-made food, ready to grab & go.

There are tables in the adjoining rooms where you can eat....
and bathrooms for those who anyone needing to pull a Louis.

The other half is a chic modern dining room
where you can order a three course lunch for €22...
for this, you can make reservations.

It was delicious... though all three courses were served at the same time on a giant plate.

It was really fun to feel a bit swanky while eating at Versailles...
but then again, it was free for me to dine there since I was on the job.

If (& when) we go back and foot our own bill,
 I'll probably pack a picnic 
to enjoy somewhere in the gorgeous gardens....

And I'll love it just as much.

After your belly is full,
walk down the back steps of the palace
and out to the large pond.

Turn right here and you'll see two things:

On one side of the road,
the cafe La Flotille.

On the other, a little stand 
with bicycles everywhere.

Walk to the bike stand,
leave a form of identification as a deposit with the man,
and choose a bike.

It may be the best money you'll ever spend.

Now, ride to the Hamlet & the Grand Trianon,
and as you ride, realize how spoiled you are
to be frolicking around Versailles like this.

Deeply consider that if, in this moment, you can't be happy...
you might have some serious issues.

The Hamlet & Trianon (Grand & Petit) are fun side visits to the main palace,
but the Hamlet is especially amazing.

It was Marie's personal peasant farm...
you'll find it complete with farm animals and cottages.

*If you go to the Hamlet in the off-season (Nov-Mar 1),
you can only access the Hamlet through the back of the Grand Trianon
& not the main entrance to the Hamlet.

After all that peddling, you've earned snack!

Versailles has done an amazing job
of putting great places to eat in the property.

Two famously known are Angelina's, which is located by the Grand Trianon, 
& Laduree, which is located at the end of the tour of the main palace.

I love both of these places... but opt for the brasserie-style, La Flottile,
which is conveniently located across from the bike stand.

Go in for a cappuccino or hot chocolate and relish the moment.

You have just had a day in Versailles...
and it was awesome.

When you're done exploring Versailles,
head back to the train station.

You'll need that return ticket now to get through the gate.

Hop on the RER,
which will confusingly say to another Versailles destination 
because it makes a large loop. 

It is the right one...
but I'd recommend double-checking the monitor 
or a staff member if you feel unsure.


You are headed back into Paris...
albeit, a bit more educated & a bit more spoilt.

Have you been to Versailles? What was your favorite thing about your day?

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Today I'm....

My computer is overweight.

With too many high-res pics
and tasty videos around Europe...
it was getting really slow.

I decided to give a detox 
and move some files to the old external hard drive.

When I did,
I found this little ditty.

It's a little video I made around Christmas
for a contest American Airlines was doing...

Except, after about three hours after uploading it to the site...
I realized I couldn't actually use the prize,
a conference in LA and flights to NYC & Dallas,
because I would be starting my job in France that week.

So I took it down,
and forgot about it...
but after watching it today and clipping out a segment,
I kinda think it's cute.

And you can just consider it a 49 second distraction from your job.

I Louvre You.

Yesterday I had to go to the Louvre for eight hours.

I know, it's a tough life.

While it was an exhausting day,
it was also a sweet day thinking back on past visits.

I had memories flood back 
from special days spent there 
with so many special people...

Whether is was posing by statues as kids...
napping in the seats of the Italian Renaissance wing when backpacking in college...
posing by the winged victory with cousins...
or having photo shoots with pyramids outside with friends...

the Louvre is a place that I cherish for a lot of reasons.

Beyond jogging my nostalgia & inspiring me with gorgeous works of art,
this visit was great because it reminded me of a few tricks
 that make it easier to visit the Louvre.

Here are a few tips to make your trip to the Louvre perfect...
and worthy of many good memories of your own!


Take the Metro stop one stop past the instinctive Louvre-Rivoli stop
and, instead, alight at the Palais Du Louvre- Musee Louvre.

This will bring you to Rue Rivoli.

When you arrive at street level,
look down the street about 50 meters
until you see a red awning.

It will say Carrousel Du Louvre.

Take this entrance, go down the escalators,
pass the Apple Store & Starbucks
and opt for the shorter line into the foyer of the Louvre.

This will save you about 30 minutes from the typical security line 
that wraps around the fountains for the main entrance at the Pyramids...

You can always take your Pyramid pictures later.


If you are going all the way to France,
all the way through the lines,
the least you can do
is make your time at the Louvre informative.

First,  the audio guide is €6, but can offer some great tours and information...
though, if it's not working- swap it out at any booth. I have had to do that multiple times.

You can buy your audio guide ticket at the kiosks, or at the desks. Then you take the ticket to the audio guide desk... be prepared to leave an ID/credit card as a deposit until the guide is returned.

Second, download a Louvre app on your iPad before you head overseas.

 There are some great apps available
that can give you some amazing info on the art you are seeing.

Finally, if you have 3G or wifi,
you MUST try Google Googles

Take a picture with you phone/iPad,
use the Google Goggles app to scan it... and voila!
You have a google search result based off the picture (instead of a keyword).



There is a food court in the Carousel du Louvre 
(and, yes, you can leave the main area and return with your ticket),
and there are some crowded cafes in the main foyer...
but if you go early enough
(like at around 11:45)
you can snag a table at Cafe Mollien.

Find it at the far end of the Denon Wing.

After the Delacroix hall...
right past the Mona Lisa,
and at the edge of the ornate stairwell.

It's pleasantly decent food
(well, except for the sandwiches, which are pre-wrapped!!)...

The soups & quiches are quite nice,
while the teas & coffee are great.

But beyond the acceptable food,
is the place to recharge & rest
in a non-hectic setting
with a view of the Pyramids & Tuileries 
that is totally incredible.

Also, be on the lookout for the cleverly placed seating in the Louvre.

Most of these nooks are sun-light, cozy 
& perfect for letting your eyes & brain rest.

While you're resting & wandering, 
don't forget to look up.

The artwork hung along these walls might be amazing, 
but this former palace is a true masterpiece.


You know what?

I've seen the Mona Lisa a bunch, 
and, yeah, it's nice...

But I always laugh when I enter the room 
that this famous painting is displayed in.

At one end, the Mona Lisa end,
 you will see this....

and, mainly overlooked, on the other end of the room, is this.

The largest painting in the Louvre...

The Feast of Cana.

It's amazing...
and while hoards of people shove and push to take their picture by Mona
 they are miss an amazing moment by something really grand.

Don't just hit the highlights to check them off your list...
find something that you connect with.

Even if it's not on a postcard
or in history books.

Find a piece that makes you stop,
stare, and feel wistful....
that's when you know you've found an artist you connect with.


Are you planning on visiting the Louvre again this year?
If you are under the age of 26, you can go down towards the Carousel Du Louvre
and stop by the members office.

There you can, rather quickly, fill our a form
pay €15 for "la carte Louvre jeunes", and become a member for a year.

You'll get free entrance & 30% off gift stores & cafes...
and with ticket prices being €10 a visit,
this is a heck of a deal.

If you are 26-30 or a professional,
you can get a year membership for €35.

All it takes is 15 minutes & a valid proof of identification.

Enjoy your visit to the Louvre...
please add your thoughts below!


I'm off to Versailles tomorrow...
and of course, I'll be blogging & tweeting my way through the day.

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags: Nice, France

Everyone should go to Southern France at some point in their life...
because the French Riviera, 
in all it's sparkling blue glory,
 is pretty fabulous.

And in the middle of the cities dotting the coast sits Nice.

Nice is the largest, most affordable, and easily accessed city along the Riviera.

This famous city has loads to do for every interest & age,
and for practical purposes-
it is my recommended city for where one should stay
when visiting the French Riviera.

Read below for my recommendations for a great trip.

The water is amazingly blue
{hello, Côte D'Azure!}
and the backdrop is perfect,
but I've repeatedly tried (four different times) to visit in late winter months
with hopes of lounging on the beach...
and each time, I realize how ridiculous I am.

So if it's the beach you want, come at the right time.

{Which, by the way, is May-October.}

Be warned though-
the beaches are not sandy,
they are rocky.

Bring comfortable & padded mats to lay on.

And, if you have kids, be prepared to explain 
why the woman next to you is topless.


This chickpea crepe is the speciality of Nice.
It's cheap, it's light & it's quite common.

Try Renee Socca or Lou Pilha Leva for the favorite local choice.

Grab a socca for the road for around €2.50,
or, if you're feeling adventurous,
 sit down and try a huge plate of local fare (including a socca) for €10.

*To be honest, I could have been happy with just the socca.


While the new town is lined with promenades and high-street chains,
the old town is a small labyrinth of winding streets & small cafes.

They have some great salt & soap shops...
and if you walk out just a bit to the new town,
you'll find yourself in the famous flower market of Nice.

The flower market has two long aisles of brightly colored booths
welcoming those passing by with buckets of local flowers...
which are better than reasonably priced.

For those wanting to indulge more than just their senses of smell & sight,
there are also a smattering of stalls filled with sugar-drenched confections mixed in the scene.

Old Nice is the eastern part of the city that is closest to the hill.
(Basically, if you're looking at the water- it's all the way to the left.)

Head up a bit North of the old city to the Chagall Museum
where permanent pieces hang yera-round in giant, oversized grandeur.


Oh, and that hill? The big one at the end of the city?

It's called Colline Du Chateau- which means, the "Castle Hill," 
though the Roman castle for which it was named has been long removed.

Today it is simply a great (not-too-difficult) walk up to the top
 that rewards you with a sweeping view of the Riviera,
cool sea breezes, & a giant park full of locals.

The next time we visit Nice,
I foresee a picnic & lazy afternoon of reading up there.


My group stayed at the Citadines in Nice.
Good rates (about €60 pp), good location, 
free internet, free coffee & tea available all day...
and if you want to save some money,
the rooms have small kitchenettes.

However, if I was going to splurge...
I'd stay at the Hotel Negresco.
The famous hotel 20th century hotel 
sitting prominently along the Promenade.

The eclectic interiors are for everyone, 
but I think I could be up for it for a couple of nights.

Oh, and one more perk of visiting Nice?

With Nice's quirky history of being it's own province nestled between Italy & France
until only 150 years ago when it chose to be a part of the latter...
makes Nice one of the only places in France where you can get a good cappuccino.


While Nice may be nice
{couldn't make it an entire post without that joke},
it'd be a shame to miss the other gems of the area.

I'll post more on my favorite surrounding cities later.

What are your favorite spots in Nice?

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...