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Out of all the cathedrals and churches in France that The Husband and I have been to throughout the years, I definitely think Chartres has the most beautiful grounds.  What made the grounds even more magical was the free baguette that we ate for lunch on the grounds!

Funny story — The Husband and I spent probably a half an hour walking around the little side streets, looking for the perfect place to eat lunch.  As we were just about to give up and go to a place neither one of us wanted to go, a nice looking lady stopped us on the street and asked if we eat baguettes.  Um, YES!  Only like 2 a day.  Turns out she was from the office of tourism and they were doing a baguette survey — we took ten minutes to taste test baguettes for the city and we got our favorite one for free as a thank you gift.  Pretty good deal, right?  This is why we love France and we love being able to speak French.  If we had only spoken English we would have been a no go!  God bless those baguette loving people.

Chartres
Chartres
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Chartres

The Husband hates when I’m in charge of planning our visitors schedules….  Something about me scheduling every moment of every day until they’re so tired that they can’t function???  Ludacris.

So, when MK got a tiny bit sick while she was here, The Husband jumped on the opportunity to laugh and blame it on me.  And now every once in a while, just to rub it in, he’ll say “Remember that one time you went so crazy with scheduling that you made MK sick?  Have you learned your lesson about vacation planning?”  Meanie….

Anyways, while MK was here she had a mixed bag of good and bad luck.  Like I said, she had awesome metro juju, especially for the line 13, and she was lucky enough to see the first few days of the sales, meaning that of course we had to hit up some normally extremely expensive shops that just for those few weeks count as mostly expensive shops.  Shown here:

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We also, of course, had to hit up the Catacombes, since MK is a nurse and loves dead things.  But don’t worry if she is ever your nurse, she usually doesn’t kill people and is quite good at her job!  Sadly, we went to visit one of my favorite museums here, the Musée Rodin, and the house was closed for restoration.  Awesome news, mainly because the inside was falling apart (I’ve done multiple photo essays for myself on photos of the cracks in the walls and foundation of that house….), but also sad news since then we only got to see the sculptures in the gardens, which were also partly closed for a party for the Indian Embassy that they would be having later that night.

Highlights included getting hit on by construction workers, one of said construction workers thinking I was Québécoise (at least its some kind of native speaker!), and finding a Thinker phone case for my ancient phone for €1 at the gift shop.  All in all, a win!  Oh, and don’t forget the delicious chocolate/almond/pistachio pastry we had at the end….

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Oh yeah, and of course we had to throw up the single ladies pose… Especially since neither of us are single ladies…. Such is life.

One of the great things about France is stellar weather we have pretty regularly.  Everything here is pretty middle of the road as far as temperatures go, even if we do get more rain than normal.  Lucky for MK, while she was here she magically brought a week long respite from the rain, leading to the perfect opportunity for us to spend as much time outside as possible!

Not to be outdone by The Husband’s and my picnic along the banks of the Seine in early March last year ( I was just so antsy for picnic weather!!!!), MK and I left for Fontainebleau with picnic in two — two delicious baguette sandwiches loaded up with all the veggies that would fit!  And of course, some tasty treats.  What would a picnic be without great scenery and tasty treats?

Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau

Recently one of my best friends from college came to visit — MK.  MK is one of the kindest, happiest, most amazing girls out there, and I’m lucky to count her as a friend.  I can’t even explain my excitement when she told me she was coming.

You see, as magical as living in Paris is, sometimes it gets lonely.  Being far away from all of your family and friends is hard, as well as not having lots of time to socialize and make new friends because of school and work.  Luckily for me, I have really awesome friends that have been great about staying in touch with me through the internet, but sometimes it just isn’t the same as having someone physically there for you.

The last time MK and I were together before last week was the day The Husband and I got married — she was my only friend from college to fly half way across the country to the wedding (understandably), and she even brought on a picture of our other friend, Cougar, so that we could have pictures of the three of us on my wedding day.

Thank you, MK for coming to visit and reminding me what it is like to have a friend in person there for you — someone you can touch, talk to while walking around the city and taking the metro, take actual photos with, eat too much galette with, drive for hours with, the list goes on.

Like any good tourists, we started out MK’s trip with a bang — a scooter ride from our place, around the Arc de Triomphe, then around the Eiffel Tower and back to the Champs-Élysées where we shopped our hearts away for a few hours while taking in the last of the Christmas decorations.  We love Paris!

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Oh, and don’t forget the pastries… SO MUCH GOODNESS. And the trips to Picard...

Right before Christmas The Husband and I met up with two other couples and had a double date to the Christmas markets at La Défense.  I have to say, I like these ones so much more than the Marché on the Champs-Élysées!  It’s less crowded and theres more cool stuff to look at!  Win win!

Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of it, but when we went back on Christmas eve there was a man in lederhosen playing one of those long instruments from Ricola commercials.  Someday I’ll be that cool….

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ParisOh yeah, and The Husband finally got some poutine.  This was probably the single greatest day of his life.  Vive la poutine!

We split up our Chicago portion of the trip into two two day blocks (we bookended the trip to Florida with Chicago since it was cheaper to fly in and out of the city than Miami), so our visit felt even shorter than our time in Florida!

We jammed everything possible that we could into our four days — we started off with deep dish pizza at Lous, went to a Cubs game, spent some quality time at Costco and Target, a trip to Little Caesars, family photos, dinner with some of our closest friends from when we lived in the city, multiple doctors visits, and a visit to the Shedd Aquarium, where I volunteered with my father as a teenager.  And don’t forget getting to meet my brothers first child for the first time.

America, it was great.  Someday we’ll be back.  Until then we’ll have to make do with all the delicious foods we brought back to remind us of home!

 Elijah 2013
Chicago 2013
Chicago 2013


Chicago 2013
Chicago 2013
Chicago 2013
Cubs 2013
Katherine and Elijah 2013
Cubs 2013
Cubs 2013
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Cubs 2013

The Husband and I discovered something horrible while we were in England.  Taco Bell exists outside of America.  It exists, and it is magnificent.  And we may or may not have drove an hour from our hotel to get Taco Bell and stuff ourselves with American goodness.  I’m not going to lie to you, this was probably the greatest decision we made all summer — The Husband was basically crying because it tasted so much like home.

So, without further explanation, heres some photos that are in no way creative or beautiful, but definitely chronicle one of the best parts about England.  Oh yeah, and theres like three other photos in there, just for funsies!  Tune in later for LONDON!!!!

 England 2013
England 2013


England 2013


England 2013


England 2013
England 2013


England 2013


England 2013

Of course, a trip to the château that shares the same name as fancy whipped cream wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the hameau — now turned into a tiny, expensive restaurant where you can buy a glass full of crême chantilly for 6 euro. As our two year wedding anniversary was earlier in the week (and we had spent a big fat 0 on gifts and foods, preferring to make our own Indian feast rather than going somewhere), The Husband and I felt okay about spending 10 euro for him to get a taste of the famous crême with some gingerbread. Lets be honest, I totally threw my allergies to the side and tried a bit as well and it was to-die-for.

If I were ever going to go back in time, move to France, and then marry The Husband, I would definitely want to have a wedding reception on the grounds here — basically for the fact that instead of a cake, I would just have them supply a huge sculpted pile of this stuff, along with a ton of cups, and everyone would just eat crême chantilly instead of cake — not to mention the copious amounts of fruit that I would have available for dipping.

Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly


Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly

As the sun started to set, the crowds came to the Champ de Mars en masse.  Those crowds included two of my favorite memories from the experience: a group of Americans directly in front of us, and four teenage French boys to the right of us.

First, the Americans.  We heard them speaking English as they came to sit down, and I was insanely excited about it.  I LOVE FINDING AMERICANS IN PARIS!  I make a point to always introduce myself on the metro and ask for someones story if I hear them speaking English.  Anyways, this group of about 15 sat down and started pulling out the ultimate American feast.  Ribs, chicken wings, bratwurst, potato salad, macaroni salad, cheesecake, oreos, and lays with dip!  Now, if you’ve ever spent any time in France, you’ll know that none of these except for oreos are exactly easy to find.  To be honest, we were probably creeping them out with how hard core we were drooling over their food.  Oh well, I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been away from your homeland for a year…  Fast forward a few hours (which we spent speculating where exactly they had gotten all this American goodness from, since it was clearly in grocery store packaging) and the group started cracking jokes about flight attendants and pilots.  Cue us noticing that they were all sitting on Delta blankets.  The light bulb turned on.  They were pilots and flight attendants who had set up their day off so they could spend it in France for the 14th under the Eiffel Tower!  Not only were they that cool, but they had gone to Publix grocery store before leaving the states, bought all their picnic food, stuffed it in the fridge on the plane, and then made it through customs!  How brilliant is that?  I now aspire to be these people.  I also tried to convince The Husband to take a photo with a publix chicken wing in front of the Eiffel Tower (a. I’m sure the group would have let him borrow one for a photo. b. his family loves chicken wings.  Possibly more than they love him….).  He didn’t go for it…

The French teens were another story…  They showed up, lay down, and immediately began doing suspicious rolling in their backpacks…  Then pulled out (seriously) the biggest joint ever and started smoking it like it was no biggie.  This continued for the whole 9 hours of them sitting next to us.  Needless to say, we were all exceptionally hungry by the end of the night from the large amounts of second hand smoke we had consumed (they were definitely not the only ones taking advantage of the night so to speak…).  The funniest part, though, is that they kept on asking the Americans in front of us if they could try their food, and the Americans kept on sharing!  Psh, if we had gotten food all the way from the states there’s no way we would have shared with a group of stoned teens!

Now imagine both these stories set to the backdrop of a classical music concert and there you have our evening.  Fun, huh?

 
14 juillet 2013
14 juillet 2013
14 juillet 2013


14 juillet 2013

It’s been raining pretty non-stop here in Paris for the past month and a half, so when we saw that the day of my graduation was supposed to be sunny and semi-warm, I immediately knew that I wanted to do a picnic under the Eiffel Tower for my graduation meal rather than going out somewhere fancy.  Granted, we did buy a 30 euro pastry cake to eat as celebration (okay…  so maybe we could have gone out to eat…), but this was an experience that one can only have while living here, and I wanted to do something memorable and strictly Parisian.

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The food was incredible, the scenery breathtaking, and the company the best I could ask for.  I can’t think of any other way that would be better to celebrate my fake graduation!