Seas the Day, Part 2

We cruised in the Caribbean aboard the beautiful Carnival Vista, one of Carnival’s newest and largest ships. It was my third cruise with Carnival, and it was my best one yet! I’ve always had a positive experience with Carnival, and our 6-night voyage on the Vista was exceptional. Everything felt new and modern, and the staff was so gracious and helpful.

This was the first time we decided to get a balcony room, and honestly, I’ll never cruise again without one! My husband and I enjoyed it immensely–we loved reading outside in the warm ocean breeze or watching the vibrant sunsets with a cold glass of champagne. Pictured above is one of the most colorful sunsets that we witnessed at sea.

I think there’s a certain stigma that exists around cruise line food–some love it, some hate it. I’ve honestly never had a bad food experience on any of Carnival’s ships, and the Vista’s food even exceeded my expectations.

For example, Guy Fieri has two restaurants aboard the Vista: Guy’s Burger Joint and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse. We didn’t have a chance to dine at the burger option, but that’s probably because we ate at the Smokehouse twice! My husband and I love barbecue food, and the pork was excellent (also the mac and cheese!).

Coincidentally, Guy Fieri himself was aboard the Vista the same week as us (if you’re a fan, he has pics of his trip on Instagram). My husband saw him at the casino several nights, but didn’t want to bug him for a photo (pics or it didn’t happen? 😉).

One evening we paid extra to eat at the ship’s steakhouse, and it was worth every penny! The four-course meal was elegant and well-prepared, from the flavorful French onion soup to my medium rare filet mignon.

Dessert was especially theatrical and unlike anything I’d ever seen. I included the video above of the dessert we shared, which they called “Art at the Table.” This tableside masterpiece mixed such a variety of tastes and textures, from the “drawings” made of tart passionfruit syrup to the sweet, white chocolate ball. My husband likened the white chocolate ball to an artistic, adult version of those Wonder Ball candies he ate as a kid.

Sunflower Bikini: Forever 21 (similar)

On our days at sea we lounged in the Serenity, the adults-only area of the ship. It was definitely serene, and the cabana-like pods were a cozy spot for two!

Dress: Spense (similar here and here) Heels: Nine West (similar) Clutch: Halogen Watch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similar)

I wore this fabulous red dress for the ship’s formal night. There was definitely a variety of attire amongst the passengers–some wore full suits and long gowns, though I would say most women wore cocktail dresses and most men opted for a collared shirt, slacks, and no blazer or jacket.

This A-line dress was a TJ Maxx find from last year, so I linked similar silhouettes above!

Bikini Top: Cupshe Wrap Skirt: Band of Gypsies (similar here and here)

Our first stop was in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We had this be our casual, beach day, so we didn’t book any excursions.

My floral wrap skirt from Band of Gypsies was a breezy and effortless cover-up. The lightweight crepe fabric was such a practical choice for the humidity and strolling on the beach.

We had lunch at Margaritaville and really enjoyed the Jamaican jerk chicken and jerk pork tacos. The Jamaicans we met were so friendly and outgoing, and I would definitely love to come back here in the future to spend more time on this beautiful island.

Our next stop was the island of Grand Cayman. We booked an excursion through Carnival to the Cayman Crystal Caves. Our tour guide was so energetic and knowledgeable, and we had a wonderful morning trekking through the caves and learning about all the rock formations. Do you see the skull shape that the stalactites and stalagmites make in the picture above? 💀

There were bats in some of the caves, but our guide told us they were fruit bats, not vampire bats. Nevertheless, I definitely walked quickly through the cave they called “the bat cave” because I get pretty squirmy and uncomfortable around bats!

Hands down our favorite was the one they call “the lake cave” (shown above). Look at all those stunning shades of blue in the water! And please excuse how sweaty we look, but between the hiking and the humidity we were definitely glistening (hah 😉).

Our last port of call was the island of Cozumel, Mexico. We booked an excursion called “La Casa en La Playa” through Carnival’s website, and this peaceful, ocean-side retreat more than lived up to the amazing reviews we read online.

They keep the group small for this excursion, which makes this perfect for those who want a relaxing day in paradise. A private chef cooks you an authentic, Mexican lunch, and whether you’re hanging out in the ocean or the pool, the staff brings you tasty drinks and fruity cocktails at your leisure (lunch and drinks are included in the price of the excursion).

My husband and I love tropical vacations where we can swim in the warm ocean and lounge on the beach, so this was truly an idyllic day for us.

Hat: BP (similar options) Bikini Top: Target (similar) Swimsuit Bottoms: Cupshe

This hat I found at Nordstrom Rack earlier this year, and I love these playful styles with sayings embroidered on! I found on Amazon a large selection of similar hats with a variety of sayings and puns.

I enjoy mixing and matching swimwear, and I especially like strapless, bandeau-style bikinis to avoid tanlines.

Jumpsuit: Monteau (similar here, here, and here) Earrings: Nordstrom Rack (similar)

This striped jumpsuit is one of my favorite looks from the trip. It was a recent TJ Maxx find, and I’ve linked comparable black-and-white options above. I’ve been loving jumpsuits the last few years (they’re so cool and chic!). I’ve seen tons of different prints and silhouettes recently, from so many brands at various price points.

I hope you got some inspiration for your next tropical getaway! Thank you so much for stopping by, and please comment if you have any questions about our cruise. What are your favorite vacation spots? 🌴

Travel Series: Paris, Je T’aime

bsrre3484

All trains are going to Paris! My favorite sign in all the world is located in the train station near Versailles. As Audrey Hepburn famously once said, “Paris is always a good idea,” and I’m inclined to agree. The City of Light has a certain irresistible magic, from the historic sights and art, to the incomparable fashion and exquisite cuisine.

Paris has so much to offer–countless books, films, and songs have been written about this iconic city, and it would be near-impossible to cover it all in a single blog post. As I mentioned in my previous travel post, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. Since there is so much to see and do in Paris, I’ll be breaking this post into two sections: sights and shopping/fashion.

Sights

img_9743

It’s hard to capture in words or even pictures what it’s like to stand underneath the Eiffel Tower. Though it’s one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, I was always a bit afraid that once I finally saw it with my own eyes, it would somehow be less than I imagined it to be. But truthfully, my fears were quite unfounded. I felt blissfully overwhelmed beneath the massive structure, as it stood tall and proud against the vibrant blue sky.

58 Tour Eiffel

img_9137

River Cruise on the Seine

facetune_08-05-2018-22-03-12

Our first day in Paris was my birthday and my darling husband surprised me with dinner on the Tower at 58 Tour Eiffel, followed by a river cruise on the Seine. I highly recommend both–though make sure you give yourself plenty of time for dinner, as it’s multiple courses.

We hit it off with the sweet couple at the table next to us, who was celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. Somewhere between the champagne and dessert and coffee, we completely lost track of time and missed our boat! Thankfully we could just wait half an hour and go on the next one–though I must admit there was something kind of romantic about dashing from the Tower to the Seine at sunset in a desperate attempt to catch our boat!

Arc de Triomphe

img_232127807456_unknown

One blustery afternoon we climbed the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and were greeted with a gorgeous, panoramic view of Paris. It was also the perfect vantage point to see the roundabout within which the Arc is located and the twelve streets that sprawl from it.

Sainte-Chapelle

27806256_unknown27806272_unknown

There were several things in Paris that surprised me. The first is that I preferred Sainte-Chapelle to Notre Dame. Of course they’re dramatically different in size and style, yet we visited these churches back to back on the same day. As such, it was impossible for me not to compare them. Though far smaller than Notre Dame, I fell in love with the elaborate stained glass and gilded grandeur of Sainte-Chapelle.

The Louvre

The second thing I was a bit surprised by is how underwhelmed I was by the Mona Lisa. Though I don’t consider myself an expert, I’ve seen quite a bit of art over the years on our travels. Masses of people are crowded in the room to see the Mona Lisa because it’s such a famous work, and honestly? It was just okay. It’s a must-see if you’ve never been, of course, but there were so many other pieces in the Louvre that I enjoyed far more (such as Raphael’s La Belle Jardinière, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Apollo Gallery–all pictured above).

27810192_unknown

We visited the Louvre on a Wednesday, during their extended evening hours, which I definitely recommend because it’s way less crowded (and look how the lights of the pyramids glow during twilight!). You can actually get close to the more popular works without having to wait very long. I loved wandering through the Louvre and can’t wait to go back, as it’s one of those gigantic museums that you could truly spend days and days in.

Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie

tgyge3007fukhe6778

The third thing is something that I was very pleasantly surprised by: how much I adored Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie. Monet spent the last thirty years of his life painting this exquisite work, and he designed the curved rooms that they’re housed in himself. I could’ve spent hours sitting before these tranquil, ethereal images.

Versailles

27808384_unknown

27809104_unknown

27809184_unknown-1

Simply put, the palace of Versailles was beyond my wildest dreams. I had never quite fathomed how truly vast the palace and grounds are until we tried to walk it all in the pouring rain!

After the beautiful palace tour, it was unfortunately raining buckets when we exited to explore the expansive grounds. Despite being Oregonians who are quite accustomed to the rain, once our boots and “water-proof” jackets were soaked through, we decided to call it a day. I was pretty disappointed that we didn’t make it out to the Petit Trianon (Marie Antoinette often resided there), but we were sopping wet and quite miserable.

On our next trip we will be a little more flexible with our schedule and hopefully be able to visit Versailles on the sunniest day that we’re there. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from travel, it’s that something will invariably happen that is out of your control (inclement weather, holiday closures, strikes, renovations, etc.), but you have to make the most of it and do the best you can. As the French say, “C’est la vie!”

Shopping and Fashion

Chanel

img_9097

Something that was bucket list for me was shopping at the Chanel Flagship boutique on 31 Rue Cambon. Gabrielle Chanel first opened this location in 1918, and it had long been my dream to purchase the Chanel classic flap in the black caviar leather. Fun fact: this location is the only Chanel boutique in the world whose shopping bags are white with a black font (normally it’s the opposite: black shopping bag with white font).

Champs-Élysées

We also enjoyed perusing the Champs-Élysées. We had lunch at Fouquet’s next door to Louis Vuitton (by far the biggest Vuitton store I’ve ever seen!). The food here was excellent (I had the steak-frites), and the terrace seating was an ideal spot for people-watching on this famous boulevard.

Ladurée

27808032_unknown

We also stopped at Ladurée for tea and dessert; not only were the macarons incredible, this famous sweet shop was absolutely beautiful. If you like macarons and pastries, this decadent place is a must (they also have multiple locations in the US!).

Christian Dior Exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

img_9397

Another fashion highlight for me was visiting the Christian Dior Exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs that celebrated the 70 years since the renowned fashion house began. Seeing the evolution of Dior over the years was incredible; being so close to some of these elaborate dresses, you truly could see the immense craftsmanship and detail that goes into making couture designs. Unfortunately this exhibition was for a limited time and ended in January of 2018.

img_9437

What to Pack

28876144_unknown

Beret: H&M  (similar) Striped Shirt: H&M (similarGray Topcoat: Zara (similar here and here)  Bag: Chanel (similar here and here)  Striped Dress: Monteau (similar here and here)  Lace Top: Rose and Olive (similar here and hereSunglasses: Chanel (similarWatch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similar)

Of course this would vary depending what time of year you visit, but above is a sample of what I would pack (most of these items I did in fact bring on our trip). As I’ve said before, it’s easier when traveling to stick with a neutral color palette. Choosing pieces that have a variety of textures or prints helps add interest and detail (such as lace and stripes), yet staying within a classic palette makes it easy to mix and match.

The gray wool beret in the top left corner I recently purchased from H&M–I definitely regret not buying one in Paris! I saw so many girls wearing berets there, and I wish I had purchased one. Ah well–next time!

The Chanel classic flap pictured above is my beloved purchase from Paris. I linked some lovely similar options that have a comparable structure and shape.

This Friday I’ll be wearing some of these same pieces and doing a special post for Mother’s Day Weekend: outfit ideas for brunch with the moms in your life, great last-minute gifts, Paris-themed book recommendations, and a selection of my favorite black-and-white striped dresses that are currently on sale.

Thank you so much for stopping by! I would love to hear in the comments what you guys enjoy doing in Paris or what you hope to one day do there!

img_9763

P.S. One of our favorite restaurants was Au Père Louis. It was close to our hotel in the Latin Quarter, and if you’re ever in that area I highly recommend it! It’s a charming little place with AMAZING food.