I look a little sour, but that was because I stayed out late, drank wine, had a late dinner and then got up early for my trip out to the country. I was deliriously happy. After years of just existing and being depressed, I had the time, energy and credit available to go to Paris and finally see Versailles. I also got to wear a fun floral dress from my metro haul. I can’t even describe the satisfaction. Also, this place is massive. As you walk across the cobblestones it gets bigger and shinier and it is easy to imagine the ringing clip clop of horse drawn carriages full of silk clad nobles.
Can you believe these clouds? Big, puffy, startlingly white cotton ball clouds make the place look like some fairy tale land. They are 3D, and there’s an ever present feeling that something will pop out of them. Not in a bad way? But some lovely creature will float down with champagne, macarons and quiche for a fashionable repast.
Maybe that’s just me.
I took a tour through viator and they took care of everything. We had a great tour guide, Isabel, who led us through the very crowded palace and then we got to wander the gardens for about an hour. In spite of the tragic history of the former inhabitants, it was a magical afternoon.
So, back in Paris. Woke up on a gorgeous Sunday morning and figured out the public transit route to meet with a group to go to the countryside for a tour of Giverny and Versailles. I went to art school, and like most of the world have a continuing love for impressionism. When I was obsessively planning my trtip, I flashed back to going to MOMA as soon as it opened and seeing Monet’s waterlily paintings and feeling restored by them. Also, two birds one trip, since we would also be going on to Versailles. For $250! Quelle bargain!
I was a little groggy and scared of missing my train/bus connections, then got turned around for the walking portion of the trip, and I forgot to record more of the process of getting to the meeting location and getting out on the road. In spite of the fact that I had two cameras, my iphone and a portable charger, I was also paranoid about filling up on photos and wasting precious battery before getting to the sights that I’d paid to see. It was a fun ride, though. Our tour guide, Isabel, was telling us about pretty much everything we passed, and letting us know about all the fun we had in store on the trip. The best part was that we literally had to do nothing but chill, ask questions and enjoy the scenery.
details of the gardens…look at the light!
As soon as we pulled into Giverny I was snapping pics. The town is lovely, but I admit to focusing mainly on the gardens and home, because I could really feel how someone could see a house from the train, run to buy it and then set up artistic shop for the rest of their lives. If you’re a visual artist (or a content creator, since influencers do noting but take pics all day long), you could live in this place and never take the same photo twice. The light, the angles, the variety of flora, the lovely little ponds, the bridges, the waterlilies, all breathtaking. I got caught up. It got a little dicey when other tour groups arrived, but I was still so fascinated, and the morning light was glorious.
After winding my way along the garden paths twice, I started remembering that there was more and headed off to the house, which was PACKED to the rafters with tourists. Everyone wore masks and a nice man at the door sprayed your palms with sanitizing solution before entering, but it was still crowded. However, I had to mosey in and see how Claude was living. It’s one thing to see country French decor in magazines and another to see it up close.
I kind of ran through the place, because the crowd behind pushes you forward, but I adored the sunny yellow dining room and the cool blue and white tiles in the kitchen. Everything placed just so, lots of colors and life. It’s wild to see so many strangers tromping through it, when it was probably super quiet when the painter lived there.
After leaving the house I wandered out onto the road but, to be honest, I just got a sandwich and a cup of cider and chilled until it was time to leave. We still had another stop before Versailles, so I wanted to save my energy. But I did manage to get some shots off in the car as we sped deeper into the French countryside.
Next time we;’re going to hang out at Versailles. You’ll love it.
I’m kind of shocked at how much I stuffed into a four day visit. But when you only have a few days, it makes sense to stuff them full of activities and adventures. Its also about staying up late on the internet, stewing over only having a few days and looking for things to do. I didn’t want to fly all that way just to sit in a hotel room alone. Friday afternoon I went to the Louvre , Saturday morning I went to Porte de Montreuil, and Saturday evening I went on a four hour bike tour in the streets of Paris with Fat Tire Tours.
I don’t have a helmet cam, and I’m too anxious of a rider to film on the bike, but trust me… it was incredible. I would not have covered so much ground just walking, and taking the metro is just burrowing through tunnels. Biking on my own was not going to happen, either. The bike tour was a genius idea.
One little travel tidbit? Google works everywhere. If it weren’t for google maps I would have been SOL finding places. So one ongoing adventure was just following google directions all over Paris. Finding the Rue Edgar Faure successfully, was literally the hardest part of taking this tour. Once there we got outfitted with vests, helmets and big, muscular bike. After a quick instruction, we lined up and headed out after our (AMERICAN!) tour guide into the warm Parisian sunset.
But, for real, it was actually sunset.
We rode through traffic and through crowds, along the streets and along the banks of the Seine. We stopped along the way to learn about French architecture, culture and history. Then we stopped for ice cream.
We stopped at the oldest ice cream maker in Paris, Berthillon, for a quick round of cones while listening to a piano player as the sun left streaks of light across the sky. I had roasted pineapple with basil and it was heaven. Then the lights that city is famous for started coming on.
We were supposed to end the night with a boat cruise but that got canceled and we ended up drinking wine in front of the Eiffel Tower, which was better. I bought a mess of keychains and a lightup tower toy to take home. As if it couldn’t get any better, the whole tower sparkled like champagne for about five minutes. All this magic cost me $55.
So, if you don’t know this, I have a reselling side hustle and I’m always looking for new ways to get inventory. I wanted to go to Paris, which is known for croissants, the Eiffel Tower (which they didn’t even want and Eiffel had to pay for it himself), and flea markets. The first time I visited, I dragged my ex-husband to the Port de Vanves open air market, happily haggling over a silver piggy bank. This time around, after doing some research, I decided on the lesser known Porte de Montreuil marche aux puces.
I’m gonna be honest, I was lost for about 45 minutes trying to find this place. First mistake was getting off at the wrong station. There are two Montreuil stops and I had forgotten to screen shot the metró directions before leaving the hotel (no free wifi in the subway there). After realizing that I should have trusted my instinct to get out at PORTE DE MONTREUIL, the literal name of the market. Then I managed to walk in every direction but the right one. Why? Just wild. If you go, just walk towards the highway when you leave the station. Towards the big glass buildings.
I took euros with me, but some vendors will take cards. It’s just all manner of stuff in there. I was laser focused on vintage and clothing, but there was so much more! I could have happily stayed in there browsing and shopping.
I ended up tagging out after about 20 minutes. I filled my bag, even after rolling everything to make as much room as possible it was still full. I left with some good vintage, a raincoat that I’m keeping, and a still fat wad of euros.
I photographed every piece as soon as I got back to the hotel.
Wrong station, great photo. This is not the flea market station. Just trying to save you time.
Next time? The story of a bike ride through Paris.
OK, we’re back in Paris. My first stop, after dropping my stuff off at the hotel, was the Louvre Museum. I’ve wanted to go there for years, and a museum seemed like the perfect place to start my vacation. Not too stressful, lots of art, maybe a little meal. Nothing too crazy. Meanwhile the place is 8 miles long, I had no map and I was late to pick up my audioguide. They were nice and gave me one anyway? But for the life of me I could not figure it out. So I just walked around, headphones around my neck, completely lost. I don’t think was the only one, a lot of people were wandering around with the headphones off.
After getting lost in the Egyptian section, then finding myself in the basement viewing the medieval stones that are the museum’s foundation, I finally found my way to the painting galleries. The walls are filled with landscapes and religious iconography. There are small canvasses tiled on walls and paintings so large that they fully occupy walls that are longer than my studio apartment. It is an onslaught of artistic endeavor. I tried to find the Mona Lisa, but I got turned around and found a hall of Objets d’Art and from there I somehow found Napoleon Bonaparte’s apartments.
Red velvet and gold everywhere. Crystal chandeliers, and paintings of cherubs on the ceiling. It’s garish and unbelievably tacky, but also sumptuous, luxurious and outlandishly royal. What’s wild is now understanding what was in my mom’s head when she decorated. A lot of people are copying this oplulent style unconsciously. I remember going to the homes of relatives and seeing elements of this and now here it was in front of me. The whole thing made me sad about my lack of pillars and corniches and gilded flourishes. Don’t get me started about the dining room.
I got there at about 4pm and they close at six, so it was a sprint. Next time I’m downloading a map and prepping before I get there, but for a first time I feel good with how much I saw. It definitely lived up to the hype. It was also the first time that I used my Nikon dslr since I bought it two years ago, and I got some lovely images. It was my first time going to the little Maxim’s shop in the lower level and my first cannelle. My first day in Paris and I ended up sitting on a bench with the sun beaming down on me just being grateful for being there.
I started planning my trip back in July. I booked the airline, hotel and tours then went about my business, praying every day that there wouldn’t be another lockdown. Luckily there was just a travel restriction, but I got vaccinated earlier this year and I have consistently tested negative. I was still nervous that the whole thing would fall through. Once it got down to the last 7 days before the trip, I could get excited. I had a whole plan and now it was coming true.
I decided to pack a capsule wardrobe in black, with a white maxidress to go to the country in. I took my new plaid shacket for cold airports and to use as a blanket. My wardrobe consisted of:
I ended up adding the 10 euro floral maxidress on the way to the hotel, so I wore the white dress on an evening excursion.
This was how I did luggage. To travel I packed a Rebecca Minkoff tote bag ($40, sample sale) with a folded L.L. Bean camo duffel bag that I got free from another blogger at an event 6 years ago. The tiny wardrobe was packed in a ziplock bag, and I painted a little Street Level handbag (I think it was $20, I got it from C21) to use for my camera and plug adaptors, hand sanitizer, etc. I don’t like having to check anything. I was only staying four days, and I knew I was going to shop so had an empty bag ready.
Unfortunately the Minkoff bag gave up on the way to the hotel. The strap couldn’t handle the pressure. I swapped it out for a cheap tan faux leather bag that I bought in the metro with the dress. Tbh, I bought five dresses and this bag for 50 euro!
I will admit to a lot of toiletries, though. But I have a two Le Sac pouches from a blogger event at Caravan Style Studio ages ago. I took Herbivore Botanicals bakuchiol and Phoenix face oil. I bought Mario Badescu skincare and deodorant from Nordstrom Rack (I love NR), two amazing Bastide fragrances, and the new MAC items from my makeover. I got all the way there and realized that I’d forgotten toothbrush and toothpaste, do I got this awesome Botot brand at a Parisian pharmacy. I also got some Weleda body wash, which was confiscated on the way home.
I was reckless for buying it, and I only got to use it twice🤷🏿♀️
The finishing touch was getting faux locs. I love my hair, but I wanted a completely new, no stress, look. I bought a bonnet to protect them at night, and I admit to using Mario Badescu rosewater facial spray and a few drops of face oil to moisturize my scalp. I got new black and gold framed glasses from Zeelol, with fun costume jewelry from my favorite place (Nordstrom Rack), plus my fave Timex watch.
Oh, and these sweet Converse CX low tops, $70, with clear rubber toe detail and orange rubber soles. It turns out that Converse all stars are pretty popular in Paris. I saw so many different iterations! And they were comfortable for all the stair climbing and walking that I did for my whole trip. I didn’t stop moving from the moment I left my apartment in New York. It was a whole marathon.
Three days back and still a mess. I am still not properly unpacked, my bed is half made. I didn’t get it together to make a proper dinner until yesterday, and now I will be eating jollof inspired saucy rice with chicken deep into next year because guess who used three cups of rice for no reason?
Me. I made a massive pot of rice.
Anyway, I didn’t want to leave my blog empty until next Saturday, so here are some photos from my day tour to Giverny to see the home and gardens of Claude Monet.
But first, this is the first floral dress that I’ve ever liked enough to wear. Long dresses are commonplace on the stylish streets of Paris, and the floral was to honor the theme of this viator booked tour of the countryside. I loved wearing this dress. It felt very fresh and feminine.
I’m going to work on an outline for next week’s post and actually post it on Saturday. I learned a lot, every day was a revelation.
Last January I went on a ski trip to Vermont. I’ve never been skiing in my life. I really just wanted to know once and for all what people do in these lodges. What even is skiing? Is it fun and can I actually do it? This was the first time in years that I had a clump of disposable income, so I signed up for a group trip, bought goggles, snow pants and gloves, and took off for a powdery weekend.
We left the snow free streets of Manhattan and rolled into -35 degree weather and snowdrifts as high as your hips. It was colder than Chicago, where I remember slowly becoming acclimated to freezing cold weather over the course of the 8 years that I spent there. This was a whole new ballgame. I became very grateful for the big gloves that I bought online from Dick’s Sporting Goods.
I have never seen so much snow in my life.
I spent the weekend realizing that I don’t like skiing. I took a lesson, and there was a point where it was starting to click. I managed to ski down a hill with my classmates and even executed what felt like a graceful turn around a corner. But the experience was nerve wracking for me. I went on a ski lift for the first and last time, hating the fact that I was on a little seat dangling in the breeze with nothing holding me in. Then you have to steel your nerves when you jump off at the end.
A guy in my group tried to help me, but tbh, I really just wanted to stop before I broke something. The final straw was getting a good speed going then panicking because kids were skiing in front of me, falling down, but landing in such a way that my feet remained clipped to my skis as I slid down a mountain on my back getting snow up my nose.
The next day I went souvenir shopping.I was not about to risk dying just because sliding down a hill in an inner tube sounds fun. And I wasn’t going snowshoeing, either. The whole adventure was kind of fizzling out simply because I realized pretty quickly that this type of thing is better if you’ve been raised doing it, so that you feel excited about hitting the slopes rather than annoyed and frightened.
The takeaway is that I went somewhere new and tried something that I had no familiarity with. I finally learned how it feels to ski, and now I know that those ski boots make you feel like a transformer. I know what it feels like to take the Moover by myself into town because I was the only black woman in the group and I didn’t really click with the other women. I know what it’s like to possibly be the only black woman on a bigass hill surrounded by mostly white people zipping around with sticks on their feet. A different person might have thrown themselves in and made friends, but then this would be a post about the friends I met while skiing.
Was it horrible? No! I definitely got my money’s worth. Tons of snow, I went through the whole ski boot fitting and ski renting procedure, and now my jacket has a crumpled ski lift ticket dangling from it. I tromped around in the freezing cold and didn’t die. And I have officially been to Vermont.
2020 is coming in a few hours, and I’m mostly satisfied with how the year went, even though it took a sudden hard turn in the middle. I am not living the same life that I was when I went on this trip. I think I had some growth and got some clarity, but I still have a list of things that I want to learn and do. Right now I’m chilling at home with some candles,thinking about my goals and intentions for the year and being grateful that everything ended up ok.
Here’s to a happy and healthy new year to anyone reading this.Take good care of yourself and do everything you can to make good decisions in the coming months. Make realistic resolutions, and be flexible about them.
One time, last summer, I saw an ad on meetup for someone looking to go to the Hamptons. I met with the person for drinks, made a whole plan…and they bailed. Supposedly you can only go to the Hamptons when it’s sunny. Apparently I was supposed to change my plan because things weren’t perfect for her.
But I had my jitney ticket , so… I went. Welcome to my solo trip to Montauk.
This is the beach. It was basically empty because the lightest rain was falling. Not even a real rainshower, just barely a mist. So I got to finally experience the beach in Montauk without a massive crowd. Introvert paradise.
I had some food. I enjoyed not having to wait on a long line, fight for a table or wait a long time for my meal. I just sat there eating and watching boats go by with no stress.
You know what this is. You’ve watched Kid Gorgeous. You know the joke.
Then I took the LIRR home.
The thing I hate the most about people is when they just leave you hanging after gassing you up. At the end of the day, it’s not up to anyone to decide how your time is going to be spent. If someone bails on your plans, don’t stay home and sulk. Go out and do what you were planning (unless you desperately need two people, but most plans can shrink to a solo capacity if needed).
This wasn’t easy for me at all. I’ve never been to Montauk and as a black woman, it can be seriously intimidating traveling alone. But I went and I lived.