13 July 2018

A Parisian Layover

Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world. It was time to make a layover longer than the time it takes to run through Charles de Gaulle. Kiki was ready for a few days in the city and Dan and I were itching to get back to the City of Lights before heading to our final destination of Croatia.

Traveling from Boise to Paris requires a stop, usually in Salt Lake City, Seattle or Minneapolis, aboard a Delta/Air France flight. It's an enjoyable trip these days - only 9 hours from Seattle, flying mostly during the evening and nighttime hours. The time was easily occupied by meals and movies and a nap that lasted a couple of hours. This is in stark contrast to the first overseas flight with Kiki at 16 months old (see here), but I am so happy we have those journeys with which to compare.

The other fun part of this day was that we traveled on Dan's 40th birthday!

We decided on an apartment located in Le Marais or the 4th arrondissement of Paris. We knew we'd be jet lagged, had limited time and wanted to walk to see as much as possible. This neighborhood proved to be a great choice. It has all the charm, great restaurants, museums and shops.  The apartment was lovely - and the host was even lovelier. I have learned that utilizing a good host's knowledge can be an insight into a city you wouldn't get otherwise. 

Waiting to drop off our bags at our Airbnb. We always carry colors with us!

As with most accommodations, we couldn't technically have keys to our apartment until the previous guests had checked out and it had been cleaned. We had hours to wait...thankfully the host graciously allowed us to store our bags and change while they finished the cleaning. So we headed out to walk, get some food and see some sights before sleep overcame us.

Our first and only full day in Paris was perfect. Dan started off his day with a run by the Seine...Kiki and I manage to sleep so many luxurious hours. Just like that, we were on local time! This was our busiest day and we put on lots of steps.

I plotted out everything from sights to museums to shops to restaurants on Google Maps. Did you know you can make a map for a specific trip or city? You can save destinations (color coded by type...ice cream vs museum vs wine bar vs park) and have it downloaded to your phone? It's brilliant and I loved planning our trip this way and having the reference as we walked.

Screenshot from my phone of our Google Map

After eating breakfast at the corner crêpe restaurant, Breizh Café, we made our way across the Seine to the Left Bank. We passed Notre-Dame, thru bustling neighborhoods and soaked in the surroundings. Our first destination was Jardin du Luxembourg to rent a toy boat to sail around the fountain. These are the plans you make when you travel with little ones...it doesn't sound glamorous, but to me, this is quintessential Paris with kids. It was as much fun for us adults as it was for Kiki.

After sailing boats, we were all getting hot and thirsty. We had great plans of relaxing at the playground within the park with a glass of wine (by this time, wine seemed acceptable). However, the park was closed for cleaning and the line was long at the restaurant, so we took off for another location.

Living in Boise, we don't have the opportunity to walk in a city for hours on end. We can hike in foothills for miles, but I really love being surrounded by strangers in a city. It's entertainment enough for me. However, eventually one needs to stop and rest. It seems that on every street corner there are outdoor cafes, full of beautiful people drinking espressos or wine, smoking cigarettes and deep in conversation. People are enjoying life and the company of one another like it's an art.

This was so lovely to be a part of that we stayed for three (small) glasses of wine before merrily heading home.

But before home, we ate ice cream...and shopped.

That night, Kiki and I had a surprise for Dan. We booked a private boat cruise on the Seine. Dan and I have done the larger boat tours, so I wanted something more intimate and fun for Kiki. We met our driver, Axel, at the Suresnes marina, just outside of the Paris city limits. With a picnic in hand, we enjoyed 3 hours floating along, enjoying the sights such as the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Musée d'Orsay and the Louvre. The sunset was beautiful as we saw Paris from a very unique perspective - a highlight of our visit.

And that was it! We left at the crack of dawn the next morning to head back to CDG. I think we all would have stayed longer if travel plans had been flexible. Alas, Croatia awaits! And Paris, we shall return!

29 April 2018

The Ultimate Escape

Traveling puts me in my happy place. It is honestly where I feel my best - a little out of my comfort zone, exploring new places, and usually with people I love. There is the anticipation of travel: planning, researching, packing and excitement. There is the moments of actual travel: living out all those plans, flying by the seat of your pants, tasting the food, meeting the people and being away from day-to-day life. And lastly, there is the aftermath: looking at the photos, considering what you would have done differently or kept the same, and thinking about how that travel changes how you see your world.

Every time I travel, I think about how much there is to see in this world. How many places there are to live and be happy. Make stories, create lives. Explore and experience. But when it comes down to it, usually, we are driving through the North End of Boise, on our way from hours of travel, and I feel lucky to call this place my home. It's not a huge cosmopolitan city, full of fashion and bustle, which is sometimes what I crave. But it is home, it's easy and full of our friends and the life we have created. And it reminds me that we can truly be happy wherever we are, as long as we are present.

Travel has shaped so much of my life. From early days of meeting exchange students, to watching my sister travel abroad and finally crossing the ocean myself. I caught the bug at an early age. And I made it one of my missions as a parent, to give that bug to my child. And also, inspire others to travel with their children, near or far. It's the one of the greatest pleasures of my life.

This past week, Dan and I had the pleasure of traveling to San Francisco and wine country on a pretty dreamy getaway. It was primarily luxurious because it was an adult-only vacation. I love traveling with Kiki, but I also recognize the importance of getting away with my spouse. We traveled with two other couples, both of whom enjoy fine wine and dining as much as we do!

Two years ago, we found ourselves creatively coming up with ideas for a Ballet Idaho gala auction item. One of our friends was able to procure a private jet flight through a local company, Jackson Jet Center - they would donate a flight for the auction if we agreed to buy our own two-way trip. SOLD!

After seeing a New York Times article on Tartine, we decide that San Francisco would be our destination. From there, we created a 4-day trip to the city and Napa Valley. There were months of planning, mostly thanks to our friend Lee. The trip was born.

We left on a Wednesday morning from the Jackson Jet Center in Boise on a Pilatus. We lived up the 2.5 hour flight to say the least - when would we be doing this again? Our pilot's name was Phil and he ended up becoming a friend by the end of our trip. Phil floats us effortlessly into SFO. I was in the cockpit for the last 45 minutes of the flight and quickly understood the lure of flight. It was magical.

We stayed at the Fairmont Heritage Place in Ghirardelli Place. It was a perfect place for 3 couples to reside in the city. Our apartment had 3 bedrooms with en suite bathrooms and a kitchen. Included in our stay was a lovely breakfast, happy hour with wine and appetizers and a town car to deliver us/pick us up within a 2 mile radius around the city (that was worth so many Uber dollars). 

Wednesday was spent in the city. We explored the Ferry Building and ate lunch at Hog Island Oysters. We ate on the outside warf, sipped rosé and ate fresh seafood. It was too early for check-in at our hotel, so we all had pedicures. All six of us. It's true.

After consulting all of our sources, we decided on a dinner destination - Elephant Sushi. The place was tiny (we were warned) and we had a party of 6. So we dined early and scored their big table. The sushi was delicious and beautifully presented. We left full and stretched our legs by walking Lombard Street during the golden hour.

Thursday was a drinking day. A day of drinking many tastes of fine California wine. If you ever go to Napa and want to take the guess work out of which of the hundreds of wineries to visit, look no further than this guy: David Rasmussen of Eclectic Tour. He is knowledgeable, professional and a great person! He drove us around all day and arranged beautiful tastings, an alfresco lunch, and great conversation. We visited the following wineries: Caldwell Vineyards, Fisher Vineyards, Terra Valentine and a tasting room in Napa called Vintner's Collective.

I am currently waiting for a case (or two) of wines from Caldwell...I drool a little just thinking about those wines. And the port.

We decided to sober up with dinner at the Carneros Farm Restaurant. The food was delicious, but my palette was spent. I hope to go back someday to savor every bite and enjoy their beautiful spa and resort.

Friday morning was gorgeous. We had eagerly signed up for a spinning class at SoulCycle on Union Street a week before...we didn't make the 9:30am class (oops). But, I did lace up my running shoes and go for a nice run along Crissy Field with the Golden Gate Bridge as the backdrop. The sun, the smell of the ocean, the people out and about - it was a great start to another day of imbibing.

We had a special dinner planned for Friday night, so we decided to eat lunch a little early. We headed into Chinatown and found our way to City View Dim Sum. This was actually my first time eating dim sum and it was more than I ever expected. Our friend Maji held our hands and ordered for us...pointing at the carts full of steamed dumplings and rolls and steamed vegetables and other delicacies I had never tried before. It all happened so fast - the ultimate fast food!

As I write this blog post, I realize just why my pants didn't fit well when we returned home. There was a lot of eating and drinking. I can't deny it. And this next meal was one for a bucket list. Our calendars were marked for a date in January 2018 to make reservations for The French Laundry. It has been on many of our lists of restaurants we'd dream to dine in and we scored a tabletop for 6. We arrived in Yountville 30 minutes ahead of schedule so we sipped on a bottle of rosé at Bouchon just down the street (and maybe split a few chocolate cookie sandwiches). Gluttons!

The French Laundry experience was magical. I say experience because it really was about much more than the food plated so beautifully on ornamental china. From the moment we arrived until the parting with bags filled with shortbread and chocolates, we were treated to spectacular service. From the "Happy Birthday Lauren" typed at the top of our menus, to the sommelier that helped us pair our wines to the courses, to the simple white table cloth with a solitary candlestick, to the kitchen tour...we easily understood why this place has 3 Michelin stars. Many people have asked me if it was worth it. Yes, the whole experience was worth it! The food was delicious and beautiful, but I would argue that I have had food that rivals Thomas Keller's at State&Lemp in Boise. Enjoy the food, savor the wine and sit back (but up straight) dining at this icon of a restaurant.

Our last day in San Fransisco was 70 degrees and sunny. We didn't rush ourselves much as we reminisced about the French Laundry. My favorite part of the day was sitting at Crissy Field, watching the dogs play, the people bask in the sun and sitting by my friends next to the bay. Oh, and I can't forget the ride on the new electric scooters around town (when will Boise get these?). And a gaggle of naked men happily riding bikes!

Until next time San Fransisco!