Travel Series: La Bella Italia, Part 2

Check out Part 1 of La Bella Italia for more Italy adventures, such as Venice, Florence, and Pisa. Like my previous travel posts on London and Paris, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. But now onward to Part 2!

Rome

img_2709

“Rome – the city of visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.” –George Eliot

This quote perfectly captures the essence of Rome, the Eternal City. It’s like constantly walking through a museum because such vibrant history is literally at your fingertips.

When in Rome (pun intended!), of course a must-see is the Colosseum, the infamous arena of ancient sporting events, ceremonies, and the gladiators. We visited the Roman Forum and the Colosseum on a guided tour, so we got to enter through the group entrance (a far shorter line than the regular ticket entrance–or if a guided tour isn’t your thing, you can buy a Roma Pass or an Archeologia Card to avoid the chaos of purchasing at the door). A friend of mine who just visited there last week said that she stood in the regular ticket line at the Colosseum for two full hours, so we highly recommend purchasing your tickets or passes in advance!

img_7624

A detail that has stayed with me since visiting the Colosseum is how worn the narrow stone stairs are; it made me imagine all the millions of people who have travelled those same steps. After all, the arena is almost 2000 years old (completed in 80 AD) and has about 4 million tourists visit every year.

img_2717

The iconic Spanish Steps is a bustling tourist spot (pictured atop the Steps with my husband). But what was most meaningful for me about visiting this area was the chance to tour the Keats-Shelley House (as mentioned in an earlier post, the British poet John Keats is my all-time favorite!).

27269664_unknown27270144_unknown27270160_unknown

Keats resided in this very room overlooking the Spanish Steps in the final months of his life. He had contracted tuberculosis and sought the milder climate of Italy in hopes of regaining his health. However, he passed away in this very house at the young age of 25 and was buried in Rome in the Protestant Cemetery.

Vatican City

img_2710

We very much enjoyed visiting Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museum. The line to get into St. Peter’s was extremely long (if you look at the picture below you can see that the LONG line follows the half circle shape of St. Peter’s Square). My friend who is currently in Italy said that they avoided the long lines at St. Peter’s by arriving early in the morning, about 20 minutes before the church even opens. She said there were no lines at that time, and they got in right away.

As with many Italian churches, there is a strict dress code–no bare shoulders or cleavage, and knees must be covered. It was a warm, humid day when we visited, and my husband and I stayed comfortable (yet dress code compliant) in white, cotton tops and lightweight pants. You don’t have to dress up fancy–just keep in mind that they very much enforce their dress code and won’t let you enter if you’re not clothed accordingly.

27271456_unknown

To reach the roof level, you can take an elevator (or climb 231 stairs). But to reach the very top of Michelangelo’s dome (and this incredibly gorgeous view of Vatican City and Rome), you must climb an additional 320 stairs (no elevator option for this part!). I’m a bit claustrophobic, and I’ll admit that the small, winding staircase caused me some anxiety. However, when I made it to the top and saw the view, I was immensely glad I’d done it.

We also visited the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel (which is located inside the Museum). Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside the Sistine, but it was such a treat to gaze up at Michelangelo’s breathtaking ceiling.

27271184_unknown

Pompeii

27272272_unknown

The ruins of Pompeii are an archaeological marvel (cue the Bastille song! 😉). This is a great day excursion if you’re staying in nearby Naples or Sorrento (my husband and I personally love Sorrento!). This ancient site was so much bigger than I had ever imagined it to be and wandering these grounds in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius was a truly humbling experience.

To beat the crowds, we got there in the morning when it opens and were among the first groups to enter that day. Especially during the warmer months I highly recommend going earlier in the day because you spend much of the visit in direct sunlight.

img_073627272048_unknownimg_2712

What to Pack

28880128_unknown-1

Gray Lace Top: A Diva (similarStriped Shorts: Forever 21 (similarGraphic Tee: Gucci Museo (similar here and hereDenim Jacket: Levi’s (similarGray Striped Dress: One Clothing (similar here and herePanama Hat: J. Crew  White Button Up: Gap  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster

As I’ve mentioned in previous travel posts, staying within a cohesive color palette is how I prefer to pack for travel. For Italy, particular in the warmer months, I would recommend breathable, lightweight fabrics–and a great hat, like this Panama hat from J. Crew! Pictured is a sample of what I would bring, staying within a gray, white, and blue color scheme.

27270592_unknown

This gray, striped dress I wore in Rome with a classic, cotton button-up layered over it. We were on an all-day walking tour, and I wanted to protect my shoulders from the sun! I’ve linked similar striped options above.

Style Inspiration

28879488_unknown

Pinstripe Blazer: Halogen (similar here and hereGraphic Tee: Gucci Museo (similarJeans: Lucky Brand (similarHeels: Nine West (similarWatch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similarLip Color: Birthday Suit by Tarte

This navy, graphic tee I purchased at the Gucci Museo–when I travel I really enjoy buying items that evoke memories of that trip and location. I often see graphic tees styled on bloggers, influencers, and models all over Instagram and Pinterest (this other Gucci tee is particularly popular lately, but quite pricey!). As such, I wanted to share a polished way to style a fun, graphic tee, especially for those special shirts purchased on a trip or at an event.

This navy pinstripe blazer is by Halogen and is a recent sale purchase from Nordstrom (I found it still available in one size on Nordstrom Rack’s website, but I also linked some comparable options). My jeans are Lucky Brand, and my heels are Nine West.

img_2664

In honor of our 3rd wedding anniversary this week, I’ll be doing a special themed post on Friday (local vendor recommendations for the Portland area, wedding advice, and style inspiration for brides-to-be and guests!).

Wishing you all a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

Travel Series: La Bella Italia, Part 1

img_2707“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo.” Mark Twain

In the beautiful land of Italy, there is SO MUCH to see and do–and, of course, eat! Each region has its unique charm, with its own impressive history, culture, and landscape. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that. For the purposes of this post and the next one, I’m going to share several memorable highlights and recommendations.

Part 1: Venice, Florence, Pisa, and Lucca.

Part 2: Rome, Vatican City, and Pompeii (and also my usual “what to pack” feature)

Like my previous travel posts on London and Paris, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. Italy is truly a gorgeous country with such a rich, varied history, and this would be a HUGE post if I tried to include every city or site that I’ve visited there.

Venice

27267344_unknown

I’m starting with my favorite Italian city, which novelist Thomas Mann once called “half fairy tale and half tourist trap” (but don’t let the latter description dissuade you from visiting). There’s something inherently romantic about Venice, with its winding streets, narrow waterways, and complete lack of cars. My husband and I were newlyweds when we strolled through these ancient streets and floated in a gondola down the Grand Canal, so I will admit that it’s possible I’m a bit partial!

img_2708img_2706

We were so taken by the city’s irresistible charm, and our private gondola ride at sunset was worth every euro. The pastel buildings lining the canal matched the soft pinks and blues of the Venice sky, and the air was warm, with a comfortable breeze… Some would argue it’s not worth the steep price, as it’s around €100 for 50 minutes if you go in the evening after 7pm (which, in my opinion, is the perfect time to go, particularly in the summer months when it can get quite hot during the daytime). However, I couldn’t disagree more, as it was an iconic experience that we will never forget.

img_2720

27267536_unknown

27267168_unknown

We also very much enjoyed the sites at Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). From the opulence of the Doge’s Palace, to the intricate golden mosaics inside St. Mark’s Basilica, and the hustle and bustle of the Piazza itself, the grandeur and magnitude of this historic area is truly a sight to behold.

We loved the view of the Piazza from the Basilica’s balcony–the stairs are steep but I definitely recommend! The horses on the balcony are replicas of the Roman originals, which were first placed on the balcony in 1204 but are now on display inside the church to preserve the bronze material. The lion statue I’m sitting beside is located next to the Basilica, as the lion is a symbol of St. Mark.

img_2733

This giant canvas painting is Il Paradiso, and is one of the many exquisite works inside the Doge’s Palace. This particular oil painting is the largest of its kind in the world.

27267408_unknown

The above picture is the view through the tiny openings in the limestone windows on the Bridge of Sighs. This infamous bridge connects the Doge’s Palace and the prison. The idea behind the name is that the prisoners would breathe a sad sigh as they glimpsed their last views of Venice before being sentenced or imprisoned. Lord Byron, the English romantic poet, once wrote about this very site: “I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; a palace and a prison on each hand.”

img_2732

On a less somber note, we enjoyed lunch nearby in the Piazza at the famous Caffè Florian, which is Italy’s oldest cafe at nearly 300 years old. Casanova, Lord Byron, Dickens, and other noteworthy individuals all frequented here once upon a time, so you’re in historic company! The live music and view of the square is an idyllic locale for a nice lunch and people watching.

I adored the charming hotel we stayed at, Hotel Antiche Figure, whose building dates back to the 15th century. The lovely suite we were in was decorated in an elegant Venetian style. It had a balcony overlooking the Grand Canal, and one of the hotel’s employees told us the balcony itself was over 400 years old!

img_0737

People often refer to Venice as a maze, and indeed its narrow, winding streets and alleys certainly give it that feel and make it very easy to get lost! Give yourself ample time if you have to be somewhere by a particular hour.

For our guided tour of the Doge’s Palace first thing one morning, we left early (and we did indeed get turned around a couple times! Pictured above is my husband with his trusty map). Yet we were rewarded with the site of Piazza San Marco in the early morning light, nearly devoid of tourists. Losing yourself in this city and exploring its streets can truly be one of the most enjoyable and romantic things about it.

27266864_unknown

Florence

27267728_unknown

Michelangelo’s David is probably Florence’s most famous “resident,” and this seventeen-foot statue did not disappoint. From the exquisite detail of his face and body to his towering height, I completely understand why he’s one of Michelangelo’s most famous masterpieces.

27267616_unknown

img_2715

Florence’s Duomo is, of course, one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. This Gothic cathedral was completed in 1436, over a hundred years after construction first began. Its giant dome glows a vibrant orange when the sunlight hits it at dusk.

Nearby is the San Lorenzo Market, which gave us a great taste of the Italian market scene (Somehow I didn’t take any pictures! Too busy shopping!). Florence is known for its leather goods, so at the market I purchased a brown leather jacket that is extremely soft and comfortable. There were SO many to choose from that it was honestly a bit overwhelming.

img_2734

Pictured above is one of the oldest copies in existence of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Being an English major who also studied medieval lit in college, this was a really cool experience to visit Dante’s home and see this centuries-old text.

We also visited the Gucci Museo, as the Italian fashion house Gucci was founded in Florence in 1921. I love fashion history almost as much as I love seeing early editions of classic literature, so perusing this museum was a real treat (pictured above: a set of classic Gucci trunks and an old Gucci Cadillac!).

However, earlier this year the Gucci Museo was reopened as the Gucci Garden, after being renovated and transformed. They still have a museum and shop, but they also added the Gucci Osteria, a brand new restaurant run by a three-Michelin-starred chef. Next time I’m in Florence I definitely plan on stopping by to see what they’ve done to the place!

Pisa

img_2730

27268896_unknown

Visiting the iconic Leaning Tower was bucket list for me. It was particularly special because when I was a little girl my grandfather would tell me that a favorite memory of his travels with my grandma was when they ate pizza across from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (notice the alliteration there? 😉). The opportunity to do that was truly special, especially since it’s been about a decade since my grandparents both passed away.

img_2718

27269184_unknown

The Leaning Tower was originally built as the bell tower for the nearby cathedral, but because of flaws in the original architecture, its infamous tilt made it become the world-renowned landmark that it is today. There are roughly 300 stairs to get to the top, and it’s definitely a bit disorienting, as the tilt is quite noticeable as you climb. However, just look at that panoramic view!

Lucca

img_2736

I didn’t know much about the Tuscan city of Lucca before our visit, but it came highly recommended by our travel agent to do as a day trip while we were staying in nearby Pisa. And truth be told, our afternoon here remains among my favorite memories of Italy.

27268544_unknown

Lucca is noteworthy because of its large, intact walls that date back to the Renaissance (though its earliest walls were first built by the Romans, and then rebuilt and fortified multiple times in the many centuries since then). It’s unique that their walls still remain, since most cities in Tuscany removed their old fortifications long ago as the cities and populations grew over time.

We rented bikes at a local shop and rode them on the picturesque street that sits atop the wide walls. The view of the old town inside the walls and the beautiful greenery that lines the promenade makes this city feel like something out of a dream. If you’re staying in Pisa and have a spare day or afternoon, I encourage you to visit this lovely place.

27268352_unknown

I’m continuing my Travel Series with Part 2 of La Bella Italia on Sunday. I’ll be sharing Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii, and what to pack!

I would love to hear your favorite sites in Italy in the comments, or places there that you dream of visiting (our next Italy trip we hope to see the Cinque Terre and Capri!).

Happy Friday! I’ll leave you with two photos of my favorite Italian foods to take you into the holiday weekend (Gelato and spaghetti! YUM). Thank you for stopping by!

27266672_unknown27268032_unknown

Travel Series: London Town

27536080_unknown

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” –Samuel Johnson

London is definitely one of those cities I will visit as many times as I can in my life. From the lively theatre scene in the West End to the cultural significance of Westminster to the grand tradition of afternoon tea, the sights and sounds of this historic city captivated my heart. Being an English major and a lifelong fan of British lit, I was truly inspired.

Like last week’s travel post on Paris, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. Also, in honor of the Royal Wedding this weekend, I will be sharing our visit to Windsor Castle, which is where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be married.

Theatre

img_8799

First of all, it had always been bucket list for me to see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (pictured above). We saw Much Ado About Nothing and absolutely loved it (for more info on this play, check out my first blog post).

A bit of advice: I studied quite a bit of Shakespeare in college, whereas my husband, who majored in the sciences, hadn’t been exposed to any Shakespeare since high school. So in order to prepare for the play, we read it together before our trip and also watched the Kenneth Branagh film adaptation. Since Elizabethan English is quite different from modern English, I highly recommend doing this, unless you’re a Shakespeare expert or quite familiar with the play you’re going to see.

img_8890

We also saw Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre and Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Both musicals are longtime favorites of mine. I admit that I cried at the end of Les Mis, despite that I know the story and songs very well. And though I’d seen Phantom live in the US on four previous occasions, it was an entirely new experience to sit under the famous chandelier when it drops.

We would’ve loved to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well, and even though we tried to buy tickets months and months in advance, they are so hard to get! However, we did have a magical (pun intended!) Harry Potter experience at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

27800752_unknown

Growing up, I was a Harry Potter fanatic (hmmm where was my Hogwarts letter?). When each new installment was published, my parents would drive me at midnight to a nearby bookstore so I could be among the first to read the latest book (I would definitely be a Ravenclaw).

Anyway, visiting the gorgeous sets where the Harry Potter movies were filmed made me feel like I was ten years old again and seeing the movie for the very first time. They truly transport you to the Wizarding World and beautifully illustrate how the costumes, sets, and special effects make the magic come alive. Allow at least three hours here, especially because the line to get into the Great Hall, where the tour begins, can get quite long (even if you purchased tickets in advance like we did).

Pictured below is my husband staring up at the huge, intricate model of Hogwarts, which is what they used to film many of the panoramic shots of the castle.

27801248_unknown

27801040_unknownimg_8874

If you’re even a moderate fan of the Harry Potter universe, I still think you would enjoy this; if you’re like myself and are a Hermione-level expert of all things Harry Potter, then this is a must.

Westminster

27536768_unknown

The area of Westminster includes the famous sites of Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.

27801536_unknown

In addition to watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, we were able to tour inside the State Rooms (no photos allowed inside, unfortunately). From late July through September you can purchase tickets for this tour. I’ve heard that the dates can vary slightly from year-to-year, based on the Queen’s summer travel plans (since it’s available to tour when she’s on holiday elsewhere). For more up-to-date info visit the Royal Collection Trust’s website.

27536672_unknown

We purchased our Westminster Abbey tickets in advance and greatly enjoyed visiting this iconic church. When I was in college, Prince William and Kate Middleton were married there, and I remember staying up late to watch the beautiful ceremony and marvel at Kate’s stunning Alexander McQueen gown. I also very much enjoyed “Poet’s Corner,” where many renowned writers, poets, and playwrights have been buried or memorialized (Shakespeare, for example, has a monument there, though he was buried in his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon).

img_8846-2

The telephone booths in this area are also ideal for photo-ops!

Shopping at Harrods and Afternoon Tea

img_8882

Simply put, Harrods is shopping heaven. The exterior particularly dazzles at nighttime and beckons one inside to the opulent grandeur. Their gift shop is also a great spot to bring home souvenirs for yourself and for loved ones.

img_8891

My husband and I had afternoon tea at The Georgian, an elegant restaurant inside Harrods. I’ve always been more of a tea drinker than coffee, so this was a special treat for me (also: Pink champagne! Tea sandwiches! Pastries! Yay!). We booked our tea time on their website several days prior so we could get the exact time we wanted.

img_8887img_8889

Windsor

27802608_unknown

This 11th century castle feels like something out of a fairy tale, and is one of the Queen’s official residences. We visited first thing in the morning when it opens and really enjoyed wandering the beautiful grounds and touring the State Apartments.

This Saturday Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be married at Windsor inside St. George’s Chapel. I will definitely be staying up late to watch it on TV, and I can’t wait to see her wedding gown!

facetune_15-05-2018-01-53-0327802928_unknown

27802944_unknown

What to Pack

28877808_unknown

Red Top: Pleione (similar here and here) Black Ponte Pants: Jolt (similar)  Striped Shirt: H&M (similar)  Lace Top: Rose and Olive (similar here and here)  Trench Coat: Ellen Tracy (similar here and here)  Bag: Longchamp Small Le Pliage Tote  Scarf: Burberry (similarUmbrella: Burberry (same style, but in red)  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster

As I’ve mentioned in my previous travel posts, staying within a neutral color palette is my personal preference for packing versatile outfits. Adding a dash of color helps mix things up (red and maroon tones always look great with black, white, and beige, as illustrated above).

The other way to add interest to an outfit is with textures and prints (lace and stripes are classics). For London, I brought both my Burberry scarf and umbrella, as the iconic print evokes timeless British style. Given their cloudy, damp climate, a water-resistant trench coat is vital.

P.S. Just wanted to mention that I had such a wonderful time viewing the rare books and manuscripts at the British Library Treasures (they have a copy of the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare’s First Folio, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and many other historical texts). If you’re a bookworm like me, this was a real treat.

I didn’t discuss any of the London museums we’ve visited, but the British Museum and the National Gallery are especially stunning and overwhelming. If you enjoy history, give yourself as much time as you can at the British Museum in particular. It’s MASSIVE. Next time I would really like to spend longer there.

(The photo below was taken just a few blocks from the National Gallery. I couldn’t resist a picture with those beautiful flowers!)

Are you going to be tuning in to the Royal Wedding this weekend? Let me know in the comments! Hope you all have a great week!

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.

Travel Series: The Beauty of Barcelona

27804736_unknown

Tomorrow we will do beautiful things.” –Antoni Gaudí

It’s the first week of May, and, as promised, I’m starting my travel series. I’m kicking it off with one of my favorite cities in the world: Barcelona!

A little context first: with this series I plan on sharing my favorite cities and sites, recommendations from personal experiences, what to pack, and where I can’t wait to go back! Though I’ve checked quite a few places off my personal travel bucket list, there are still many places that I dream of going or places that I hope to visit again and again. I’m so grateful that my husband loves to travel as much as I do, and it’s something that we’ve made a priority in our life together.

Know that I’ll still be talking fashion, style, and some literature throughout this series, but within the parameters of that particular post’s travel destination. This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. For the month of May I plan on sharing some of my favorite spots in Europe. In June, I plan on doing a local travel guide of Portland and surrounding areas (such as coastal destinations and Mt. Hood), and I also plan on covering two additional US cities (more on that later).

So without further ado… Barcelona.

The picture above is of Gaudí’s stunning Park Güell, with its gingerbread-house-style buildings and panoramic views of the city and coastline. I loved Gaudí’s whimsical architecture (Catalan Modernism) and wandering through this truly unique park.

I recommend buying tickets for the park at least a day in advance. On our first day in Barcelona we stopped by the park (without tickets) and would have had to wait all afternoon to get in (they assign you a specific time slot based on availability). So we ended up rearranging our plans and buying tickets for the following day.

sltve8457img_9094

As much as I enjoyed the park, I was in awe of Gaudí’s lifelong project, the Sagrada Familia. We’ve been to St. Peter’s, Notre Dame, and Westminster Abbey–all of which are beautiful with their own styles and historical significances. However, that being said, the Sagrada Familia is my personal favorite. Despite that this church has been under construction since 1882 and has yet to be completed, this stunning basilica has this ethereal, dreamlike quality that quite simply captivated me. Even though there are cranes towering above the spires, I loved the intricate facades, the Gothic influences, and the immense stained glass.

I also was struck by the fact that in Gaudí’s own lifetime, not even one-quarter of the project was finished. It’s bittersweet that he could never see it completed, but also inspiring that he contributed to such a lasting legacy. Allegedly, the church will be completed by 2026, which would mark the 100-year anniversary of Gaudí’s death. We hope to return one day to see it in all its finished glory.

wfawe1226onrke1689

Something that was particularly special for my husband, who has played soccer since childhood and played in college as well, was the chance to see FC Barcelona play at the famous Camp Nou, which is Europe’s largest soccer stadium. This stadium is massive and the energy was truly electric; we also got to see Lionel Messi (one of the best players in the world!) score a hat trick.

img_9042

As for hotel accommodations, we stayed at the Hotel Jazz, a lovely modern hotel in the heart of the city. Our room was spacious and had a great balcony, with a gorgeous view of the Barcelona skyline (shown below). We also very much enjoyed the rooftop pool and bar!

img_e905027804192_unknown

The hotel is located just a few minutes’ walk from the Ramblas, a famous street that has restaurants, florists, shops, and is great for people-watching. One of my favorite drinks is Sangria (a Spanish classic!), and my husband and I enjoyed cocktails and tapas on the Ramblas and watching the hustle and bustle of this iconic promenade.

27804080_unknown

For each destination in this travel series, I want to provide a sample of what I packed. As illustrated below, I like to stay within a certain color palette when traveling because it maximizes outfit options without overpacking! Black, white, stripes, and a dash of red accents were perfect for our trip to Barcelona. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Longchamp Le Pliage totes are so convenient for travel. They’re durable, water-resistant, and fold flat if you need to pack them into a suitcase.

28874464_unknown

Floral Skirt: J. Crew Factory (similar here and hereBlack Top: Lush (similar here)  Red Top: Pleione (similar hereBlack Ponte Pants: Jolt (similar hereStriped Top: H&M (similar here)  Scarf: FC Barcelona (similar here)  Tote:Longchamp Small Le Pliage  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster

Barcelona is one of those places I instantly felt at home and truly can’t wait to return. Not only is the city very charming with its eclectic architecture and romantic atmosphere, the people themselves are so kind and welcoming.

Hope you all have a wonderful week!