Pet · Travel

Bretagne, FR

There’s nothing more dreamy than the idea of the European countryside, especially in France. After living here for almost a year and a half, I figured it would be best to take the chance to visit more of France itself rather than bound of to another country close by.

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Since the month of May is flooded with holidays (thank you, France!), I jumped at the opportunity to check out Bretagne. What better a vacation than eating Norman oysters and enjoying the salty ocean air.  Of course, having Casey in France makes it difficult to plan trips, but sometimes you gotta just say fuck it and bring the dog — which is what we did. My boyfriend and I got a rental car and booked a pet friendly hotel in Dinard, right across the bay from St. Malo.

 

Hotel Barriere Dinard may possibly one of my favorite places I’ve every stayed. It oozes of nostalgia and warm family memories in the small beach town. Not only were the staff exceptionally accommodating to us, but they loved Casey. On the first day we were out they brought Casey a bone, dog toy, and dog bed. Literally, the cutest. They’re room service menu even has meals for your dogs (a little bougie…but also amazing.)

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Bretagne (or as we say in America, Brittany), is full of very history and small towns. Dinard is a cute welcoming little town with many restaurants on the main street and has a cute little casino. One that is not overwhelming and overstimulating but fun nonetheless. Right across the bay, there is Saint-Malo, which is amazing. Saint Malo is a historic town snuggled inside a fort.

Another day trip we made while in Bretagne to Mont St. Michel. If you’re looking into going to Normandy, you’ll already know a little bit about it. Mont. St. Michel is another walled in city but on an island. While you can get there by walking, I’d recommend taking the shuttle. Unfortunately we couldn’t take the shuttle because we had Casey. Walking takes about 30-45 minutes while the bus takes way less than that. Nonetheless, the town has very tight walking streets and has a magical historic feel to it. Try to go there when its not the peak of tourist season though, as it does get crazy!

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Travel

Brussels, Belgium

While Brussels is only a few hours away from Paris, I don’t recommend you make a day trip of it… however becuase we have Casey here, thats exactly what we did. Around 8am we hopped in a rental car and headed a good 3.5 hrs to Belgium.

I have to say – I LOVE Brussels. It’s an understated city that has a lot of charm… and of course, great beer! While we only had a few short hours in, we were able to try all the noms that we could. Including the infamous waffle with nutella and frites with mayonnaise. Not to knock the French, but theres something extra delicious that the Belges have added to their mayonnaise to top their neighboring country.

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The Grand Place as touristy as it may be is my favorite. The square is lined with outdoor “beer gardens” to help absorb the little sun that does peer through ever-so-often. All the buildings in the square are gilded in gold with incredible detail and topped with figurines.

Though we didn’t get to spend much time away from the square – I look forward to going back!

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Food

Marcello

While I seem to have an Italian theme going on as of recent, I can’t help but mention Marcello. This cute Italian restaurant opened up this past year in the 6th and became hugely popular in the summer becuase of its impressive terrace.

With an extensive menu, Marcello’s options can be a little overwhelming, but is accommodating  all types of diets. The main attraction of the menu is are the “bento” option where you can get an array of the top products, including avocado, prosciutto, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and a couple ravioli!

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Along with the traditional Italian staples of mozzarella and arancini options, Marcello offers pastas, meats, and fish. Last but not least, like many new Parisian restaurants, the drinks are incredible and there are a wide array of mixed drinks. Last but not least, as an American here in Paris I do get weird hankerings for bites and nibbles around 2 or 3 and Marcello is open all day!

 

Marcello 

8 Rue Mabillon,

75006 Paris

Food

Big Mamma Group

Big Mamma Group owns a slew of restaurants in Paris starting with East Mamma, which they first opened in 2015. What makes the Big Mamma Group standout amongst the hundreds of Italian restaurants in Paris is that everything about them is 100% Italian (and in my opinion its the best). Not only is the food imported directly from Italy, but many of the Back -of-House & Front-of-House are also Italian, ensuring that all food is Italian certified.

Aside from their pure Italian-ness, the food is always exceptional even their Gluten-Free pizza’s! Of the six restaurants in Paris, I’ve only been to three, Pink Mamma, Ober Mamma, and Big Love Caffe. While each restaurant has its own interior design elements creating a cohesive “in Italy” ambiance with varying menus, there are some staple items of the Big Mamma Group that you can find at all locations, including the amazing Truffle Pasta – truffle lovers:  it’s a must.

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Margherita Pizza – Ober Mamma

The Big Mamma Group has not only mastered the quintessential Pizza Neapolitan, but they have developed a creative cocktail list that boasts a mixologist aspect to the Italian house. They, of course, have the traditional Italian Apérol Spritz as well as a number of refreshing drinks ranging from Sangrias to soul-warming whiskey drinks.

Recently, having had a Gluten-Free friend visit, we opted for Big Love Caffe, which has a variety of Gluten-Free pizzas. Knowing that typically gluten-free meals inherently have something lacking (delicious carbs), we were skeptical that a delicious GF pizza could be delivered – and much to our surprise it actually was some of the best pizza we’d ever had. 

*DISCLAIMER: None of the restaurants take reservations, so you’ll have to arrive right when they open or just before so you can get in the queue, otherwise you could be waiting up to 2 hrs!

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Ober Mamma

Big Mamma

107 Boulevard Richard Lenoir

75011 Paris

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Big Love Caffe

30 Rue Debelleyme

75003 Paris

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Pink Mamma

20bis Rue de Douai

75009 Paris

 

Food

Finding your Boulangerie(s)

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Finding your local boulangerie may seem to be the most simple accomplishment at first, however all is not as it may seem to be.

What’s closest to you? Of course getting a croissant that is 10 feet from where you reside may seem like the most dubious reason for settling for a local go-to, but just becuase you have a boulangerie that is nearby, it does not mean this boulangerie is the boulangerie for you!

First off. What is your necessity: croissants, un baguette tradicione, un sandwiche, or of course friendliness (AKA warmth towards les Americaines)? To warn everyone and anyone — if you’re ordering anywhere in Paris, its best to know exactly what it is that you’re going to order before your asked about what it is your getting, especially as the day creeps to noon, where lunch lines will be out the door.

Finding your ideal place for each need will take time. My favorite baguette place, croissant place, and sandwich place happen to be in the same place, but there are 3 other boulangeries in the same radius so again, it depends on preference. Recently, I was on an hour french lesson/tour of the 6eme (my favorite arrondissement) – and my teacher reluctantly informed me that about 89% of boulangeries do not make their own croissants. This number was startling, becuase… France… but as I’ve digested this information for a few weeks, it makes sense. Many other croissants that I’ll try from other boulangeries are a little more cooked together and sticky (?) rather than my crispy, fall apart, but still buttery Nelly Julien croissant. You’ll also get a sense of this by the place itself. If the place looks “american”, for lack of better terms, or “modern”, and overly clean, they may not be making their own croissants. So keep a sharp eye out.

 

Baguette Tradition vs Baguette Normal

You’re getting a baguette one way or another. Typically, a baguette tradition is about ~20cents more than a baguette normal, becuase much more time goes into the creation of this baguette.  A baguette tradition is a heartier, crunchier on the outside, but softer on the inside and is also typically a little shorter than a baguette normal. Nonetheless, try both but for extra local points get un baguette tradicione.

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Food

Sylvestre – Hotel Thoumieux

Paris is a city that is sprinkled with Michelin starred restaurants – especially in the 7th! Sylvestre, located right on picturesque Rue st-dominique, is named after Chef Sylvestre Wahid and is situated on the second floor of Hotel Thoumieux.

For my twenty-fifth birthday – yes, it’s true, I’m a quarter of a century old 😦  – I wanted to dine via Michelin and around the corner and just down the block… Sylvestre was the way to go. The vibe of the restaurant was almost a modern twist on a 1950’s cozy apartment and there were only about 6ish tables. Each table was hugged by the most comfortable velour couches. The dining experience included an extensive wine list and 3 main tasting menus with the a-la-carte option as well.

I opted for the Signatures Du Moment menu, which BTW — the Variation autour de la betterave, is a MUST try. I personally am not  fan of foi gras, but this was utterly phenomenal. Every bite of the tasting menu had a flourishing flavor and the service was top tier, classically orchestrated, and friendly.

Restaurant Sylvestre

Thoumieux

79 rue Saint-Dominique

 75007

Tel: 01 47 05 79 00

 

 

Bar · Food · Travel

Zürich, Switzerland

Zürich was an unexpected treasure for me. Prior to visiting, I had only been to the more Western European cities, so seeing the vastly different architecture was odd at first, but also intriguing. While I was there it was their Carnival, so the city was bustling with activity and the different “clans” chanting their songs. What many people may not know is that Zürich is the home of Dada, the art movement that progressed into Paris. Zürich is relatively small so its very walker friendly. I stayed downtown just a stones throw away from Bahnhofstrasse which is the main shopping street. While the area I stayed in was clean, quiet, and very peaceful, I was enchanted with the area on the other side of the Limmat river.

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The area was nestled with cute little walkways and packed with personality and restaurants. A MUST to do is to go to the Grossmünster church and climb to the top  where you’ll get the most incredible view of the city. Basically all the food is tasty, from the street food to the French inspired restaurants!

 

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Brasserie Louis

To Eat: 

One place we checked out was Brasserie Louis, located on one of those tiny little streets I mentioned above. We were so hungry and had been walking around all day – luckily their outdoor seating area (SUPER cute!) was open so we sat outside and basked in the March sun that peaked through. Above, is a picture of the octopus, which was amazing!

Brasserie Louis

Niederdorfstrasse 10,

8001 Zürich, Switzerland

 

Food

Marlon

Oh Marlon, Marlon! You are the Southern Californian dream come true. Avo-toast, frozen margs, açai bowls galore, can you envision anything more So-Cal than this? Perhaps throw in a beach, but this is the closest you’ll get a whole continent away.

Marlon is a brand new Southern Californian themed restaurant located in the subtle seventh. Yes, it is more pricey than you may expect, but please remember, you are in the 7th – where everything and anything is more expensive than your non ‘touristy’ arrondissement. 

Fan Favorites?  You have to get the avocado toast.

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Food

Wild & The Moon

Juice bars/vegan restaurants have been all the rage in California, which of course spread way to the East Coast and now even Paris has juice bars popping up — however Wild & The Moon is not your average juice bar. With past juice bars that I’ve encountered they can feel a bit sterile, but Wild & The Moon, located in the haute Marais, incorporates an warm earthly aesthetic to their decor. Being in the Marais and being a hip juice bar with coffeeshop vibes, it is flooded with Anglophones so have no fear if you do not speak French.

 

A few fan favorites are:

  • The Açai bowl — of course.  How can you go to any juice bar and not get one? They’ve mastered their granola topping too so its hearty enough to keep you full all day!
  • Matcha Mylk — I’m not really sure what matcha even is, but I do know that on first try this was going to be a natural go-to.
  • Any of their to-go salad bowls: After days of baguettes and cheese this is surely a nutritious treat.

Wild & The Moon

55 Rue Charlot

75003

Greece · Travel

Santorini, Greece

As a last vacation of the summer — and absolute necessity as Paris is indeed shutdown for the month of August — I packed up my things and headed for Santorini. P.S. there are now direct flights from Paris right to the island for a 3 hour trip. Santorini is a small island that you can get from one side to the other in under an hour.

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While Santorini may be small, Santorini is loaded with things to do — of course you can also just lay out in the sun if you prefer, but you can do that anywhere.

Things To Do:

  1. Rent a scooter: I may be adventurous, but this was a little stressful/totally freaked me out. Renting a scooter is a fun (?!), easy, and inexpensive way to get around the island without having to worry about parking. However the roads can be windy, so brace yourself. ALSO, contrary to popular belief, we had many tour guides who mentioned ATV’s are actually more dangers and any deaths that do occur are from ATVers — so steer clear of ATVS!
  2. Winery Tours:  We simply booked a sunset winery tour through Tripadvisor. We visited about 4 different wineries which ended with a dinner that overlooked the sunset. There were a total of 10 people in our group which was just enough to create a fun little group!
  3. Sunset Catamaran: Amazing food, great people, perfect sunset. 

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  4. A little pricey, but if you can swing it, a private speed boat for a half day (we did this through rent24hr.gr, but you can probably ask your concierge for help finding one). As we were on the island of Santorini for a full week, we wanted to make sure we were able to also get off the island and explore a bit.The speed boat took us out to the island of Koufonisia (which, BTW, get you major points if you tell locals you visited Koufonisia) — a place where the water is the color of pool water. Along with that we popped over to a few other small islands and swam within the caves and we also had a prepared lunch on the boat.

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Where We Stayed:

We only booked our vacation about a week in advance so the best deal happened to be renting an apartment at Casa Santantonio right in Thira. This hotel is brand new and was converted from a private estate to three vacation apartments. This actually was the best choice we could’ve opted for last minute or not. The concierge, Dionysus, was basically available at any time to help us figure out what to do and the cheapest way to do it!

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