Michael’s Birthday Surprise: A Paris Recap

Life has been so so crazy. I am just now getting to write about our amazing 48 hours in Paris!! This trip was a total surprise for Michael’s birthday. He had zero idea that we were going.  I had “accidentally spilled the beans” about a restaurant in London that was supposedly his birthday surprise. So when I woke him up on his birthday at 5am he had no idea we were off to the train station! We loaded up on the Eurostar around 7am and arrived around 9am! (The train was surprisingly comfortable. It was such an easy way to travel and security took almost no time).

Once we got out of the station we grabbed a cab and headed to a hotel I had booked using (almost all) of our hotel points! It was the Intercontinental Paris.  Honestly, for such an expensive hotel, I was very disappointed.  However, the location was absolutely prime! It took us less than five minutes to walk over to the Arch de Triumph. We walked around the outside and then paid the fee to go to the top. First of all, I was not expecting to be so winded from those stairs! However, I was gasping for breath.  That walk is steep!! Secondly, the view was absolutely gorgeous.  You could see everything! It was a relatively clear day and we could see what felt like all of Paris. I could barely believe it was real!

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//Scarf: Target // Sweater: Lucky

Next we walked a few minutes over to the Av. des Champs Elysees. This is where some serious shopping was located. It was fun to see all the glamorous, giant stores. We stopped at a gorgeous Laduree tea room. It was so beautiful inside and the pastries were to die for! Of course, I ordered vanilla macarons. They were beyond fabulous, obviously the best I have ever had! (Also, they had the option to get a GIANT macaron, pictured below… seriously like triple the size I usually buy). Then we headed to the store I was the most excited to see- Tiffany & Co! The Champs Elysees location is the Flagship of Europe. It is so beautiful. As per tradition, we added another country to my collection of Tiffany & Co jewelry. Since Paris is so classic I went with an iconic Return To Tiffany charm bracelet.

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As we were leaving the sales woman recommended this fabulous Italian place round the corner. I wish I could remember the name of it, but the day is such a blur! After that we went back to our hotel, I was so tired. I took a quick nap and then we headed off to Michael’s surprise dinner… I had made reservations to eat dinner inside the Eiffel Tower!

Michael absolutely loved his dinner. I have the taste buds of a three year old, so I can admit I was a little overwhelmed. However, the dinner was fabulous.  I’m going to have to do a blog post exclusively on dinner to give it justice!!

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After eating we climbed halfway up the Eiffel Tower! Then I gave up and we bought lift tickets to get to the very very top! (There were A TON of stairs and it was FREEZING cold). The top was breathtaking. In more than one way too! The view was spectacular. You could see everything and by this point it was dark so everything was lit up. Also, breathtaking in the fact that it was slightly terrifying! From the top you could feel the entire structure swaying! It definitely was thrilling, if not nauseating. It was a windy night, but that high up it felt like a storm! After we got our fill we rode the lift down and grabbed a taxi back to the hotel.

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//Dress: Kate Spade // Necklace: Kate Spade // Shoes: Steve Maden

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The entire night was magical, but possibly the best part of all was once we got back to the hotel. We got a FaceTime call from Sophie… She had just found out that she was also pregnant!! What!?!? It took me hours to fall asleep I was so excited.

We slept in super late because I didn’t go to sleep until the early hours of the morning.  We packed up our duffle and headed over to Notre Dame. It was absolutely gorgeous!! From there we actually decided to split up. This was my first official day of morning sickness and I was definitely feeling it. I actually went to a nice restaurant for breakfast and then walked around for maybe fifteen minutes before settling into a cafe. Meanwhile I told Michael to go explore! He couldn’t waste a whole day in Paris just because I felt awful. He explored what he said felt like the whole city. He got to see the Louvre, eat street food, the works. Later that afternoon we met back up and walked round a different shopping district.  The stores were numerous and huge! This one department store was five stories tall and endless.  That night we took the last train back to London and then took the line back to Joey & Amy’s house.  Even though Paris was fun, it felt great to be back somewhere familiar. Overall, I feel comfortable saying I am the queen of birthday surprises this year!

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What to do with Eight Hours in Toronto

On our trip last month to London we had an eight hour layover in Toronto on the way out. I had never been, so we really wanted to get out and walk around. Here is how we got downtown with relative ease! 

After we landed in Toronto we took a little train over to terminal 1. From there we bought tickets to ride the UP Express. It’s a train that takes you right into downtown Toronto. It was $24 for two adults, round trip. (They also offer different rates for children and seniors). The train itself was clean and it only took us 25 minutes one way. They run a train every fifteen minutes so there is hardly any delay. We lucked out and walked up right as the train was loading both times. It was so easy to maneuver and to get there. Once we got out at Union Station (there are literally only like 4 stops total) we just walked straight out the main front doors and turned left. We stayed on that street for majority of our exploration! There were several restaurants and pubs along the way.  

One thing I loved was the sidewalks. It was relatively clean and I felt safe! We walked along one path until we decided to head back to one of T he first sports bars we saw, the Loose Moose. At first I was definitely intimidated by the noise. There was a Blue Jays game on, and they were winning. The whole room was a constant stream of screams, chants, and intricate clapping celebrations. It was actually pretty cool, once you got past the bleeding eardrums. 

We ordered Michael a dish of the Fully Loaded Poutine. It was composed of French fries, Cheddar cheese curds, and gravy. Then they topped it with sour cream, green onions, and bacon. He LOVED it. I order a Grilled Mac and Cheese Sandwich. The caramelized sourdough bread it came on was AMAZING. (After tip, drinking only lemon water, our total was $33.27. So not too bad!)

When we were done we slowly made our way back to the station. Then we just showed the attendant our ticket and got back on. The train dropped us back at the airport, we took an escalator, turned a corner, then just went back through security with our already printed tickets. It took us about thirty minutes to get through security and to the waiting area for our plane. It was totally simple. I am so glad we decided to try and explore a little! 

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London: Days Four, Five, and Six

 

 

Day four London had a very slow start.  We were extremely tired after the late night show the night before.  So we actually decided against getting up early and going to the Buckingham palace. We figured that will still be around next one we go! Instead we slept in and then I spent the morning reading books to Sabrina. Around noon our Uncle Dick and Aunt Masako arrived from the states. After they got settled the four of us headed down on the line to the Westminster stop. When you walk out of the station you are smack dab in front of parliament!! It was breathtaking as we walked up the stairs! I was so excited. We turned left and walked across the famous bridge. Then took another left to buy our tickets (we also went online so we could get the buy one get one free deal that comes with purchasing a train ticket).

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The London Eye was such a cool experience. I had heard a few people say it was over rated, but I disagree. I loved seeing everything and it was cool to look up the buildings we were seeing and to orient ourselves. We also lucked out and waited in no lines to buy our tickets, stood in line less then five minutes to get onto the Eye, and the skies were perfectly clear! It was so beautiful. After the Eye we walked over to Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately I did not read online that it closes at different times on different days! That was a let down, but it was still gorgeous to walk around the grounds. The four of us decided to walk around the corner and to go see the Churchill War Rooms. This was the one thing Michael said he really wanted to do! That was a really cool experience. I am not particularly interested in WWII history, but I still found it extremely interesting and interactive.

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//Scarf: Target // Jacket: J. Crew // Jeans: Lucky // Boots: Lucky // Michael’s Jacket: North Face // Michael’s shirt: J. Crew // Michael’s Jeans: Lucky // Michael’s Boots: Levi

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We spent probably a good two hours inside. Then we took our first black cab of the trip over to the Theater District! We ended up eating at some Italian place that had amazing food! I think we were all pleased. This is where we parted. Dick and Masako headed home and we started off to meet Andrew at the Cereal Killer Cafe. I had read so many great things about it, I couldn’t wait to go. Unfortunately… we got lost. Like super lost. We eventually tried to take a taxi, but arrived one minute before they closed. They wouldn’t let us in. The boys were both pretty frustrated. Luckily, there was this small little pizza place, Paradise Slice, around the corner. The building itself might have been small, but the pizza slices were HUGE. It lifted everyone spirits and we enjoyed wandering around. Andrew took us into a corner store and told us what candy we had to try, we want inside a little cafe, and then wandered our way home. It turned out to be a very eventful, but exciting day!

Our fifth day was just as fun! Wespent the morning playing with the girls. Then we headed over to the Warner Brother Studio Tour- The Making of Harry Potter. It was so cool! We ate lunch in the front cafe while we waited for Uncle Joey to join the rest of us. Then we all went in together. I was expecting it to be a lot like the Universal Harry Potter set up in Florida, but it was totally different. (I will admit, I did enjoy Florida more). This was less amusement park, more museum. It was really interesting seeing so many of the original props and the mechanics behind many of the tricks and tips.

One really exciting thing was we got to walk around the Great Hall… like the actual Great Hall that is in the movies! I am 100% a HP nerd so I was definitely geeking out. You also get to see the actual sets of many different scene. For example, the Gryffindor Commons, the boys dormitory, Hagrid’s actual hut, etc. Then we took a quick stop to get our Butterbeer. The last part of the “tour” (it’s self guided) leads you through makeup and special effects (like the mechanical Devil’s Snare plant!), past a giant and gorgeous replica of the Hogwarts castle, and to the gift shop. Where we of course bought a few keepsakes. The studio was a total win! Afterwards we headed home. That night we all cooked and ate dinner together. Then we sat around telling stories and playing with Sabrina. It was definitely a perfect last night.

Our last morning in London we woke up early and tried, once again, to go to the Cereal Killer Cafe. This time we headed over to their location in Camden. We got there five minutes after the website said they were open, but the workers had the doors shut and wouldn’t let people in! They said they would open up in thirty or forty minutes. So we (impatiently) stood outside. By the time the doors opened they had a huge, unhappy crowed that had woken up early just for this! The cafe itself was adorable! There were old school T.Vs playing episodes of Saved by the Bell (I have seen every episode, I love that show), cartoons, and old Disney movies. The walls were covered in vintage cereal box toys and other odds and ends, including a singing fish. Overall, I am glad we went because of the experience. However, it was the worst customer service we had the entire trip, the portions were outrageously small, and even when we paid extra for bigger sizes we  still received the same amount. I also found it a little embarrassing that the staff was talking about how “wasted” they were last night right infant of all of the customers who had to wait because they obviously overslept.

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// Jacket: Lucky // T Shirt: Lucky // Jeans: Lucky // Camera Bag: Nikon

Afterwards we raced off to the airport where Joey and Amy dropped us off. We were behind schedule so we said some quick goodbyes and ran through security. Luckily we did not have any trouble getting through and even had time to buy some snacks. The flight back to Toronto wasn’t bad, I was just worn out and feeling sick. So when we landed we went straight to our hotel. We ventured out for dinner, but not for long. Michael and I spent the night watching the Fresh Prince and cuddling. Originally we had great plans of exploring Toronto again, but honestly it was so nice to just sleep and move slowly! The next day we hopped on a tiny little plane back to Nashville. When we finally arrived home I was worn out!!

The cats came yowling around the corner when we walked in the door, of course melting my heart. Several days later and they will not leave our sides, possibly for fear that we will leave again. London was a great adventure, but it is good to be home with our little family.

Thanks to everyone that made our trip great and to my sister who kept the cats alive while we were gone! We love you!

London: Day Three

 

Monday, or day three of being in London, was a crazy day! My Fitbit said I walked over 21,000 steps! I usually average 12,000… so that is a lot!! We started the morning by heading down to Liecester square with Amy to buy tickets for Les Mis that night! If you buy them at the right booth the day of performances were a steal! We got center seats, row twelve for £45 a person. Not bad at all! Then we all walked around the seven points area, suggested by my uncle David. It was really cool! The best comparison I could make would be to our East Nashville. Definitely a little hipster. It was unique, fun, and really cute. We explored a few clothing shops, a record store, and a seriously cool board game store (Orcs Nest). If it wasn’t freezing we would have gone into the cutest ice cream shop I’ve ever seen! Instead we stopped into a Nero Cafe, which was still good.

// Shoes: Lucky 
After that we walked over to the rightly recommended Covent Gardens (thanks Susan)! It was a beautiful shopping area. We tried this one place called Ben’s cookies, the cookies were enormous! There were also street performers and venders, as well as tons of gorgeous shops. I loved that area, it was very clean and entertaining.


Next Amy headed home and we walked over to the National Gallery to see some paintings! The square right in front, trafalga square, was absolutely beautiful! So we took some time just sitting and admiring.


We would have stayed longer, but a protest was underway and the noise was a little irritating. So we headed into the museum. I knew I would spend the whole day in the museum if I were to let myself. So, (once again, great suggestion uncle David) I went online and looked up what rooms the painting I wanted to see most were in. I know I missed so many great prices, but I really wanted to hit some famous works. All of these artists were on level two and easy to find.

Room 8- Michael Angelo 

Room 24-Rembrandt 
Room 41- Monet 

Room 42- Renoir 

Room 43- Van Gogh 
Room 60  Raphael 

Room 66- Leonardo Da Vinci



After the museums we headed over to Old Bond Street. Well, better said, we wandered around completely lost until we stumbled upon it. Once there we walked by the beautiful shops, stopping at my personal favorite. That’s right, Tiffany & Co. That store definitely has a back story for Michael and I, but I will share that later. For this stops purposes I just have to say how sweet Michael is! He had worked a present into our travel budget. So we added another flag ship location to our goal of going to a T&Co in every country. He bought me the most beautiful bracelet!! I absolutely love it. I have wanted it for a while now, so it made it even better!


After that I was in a fabulous mood (no surprise there)! I didn’t even mind the somewhat confusing walk to out next stop, dinner. On two separate recommendations we decided to eat at Marsala Zone! It was WONDERFUL. I got a butter chicken and Michael ordered paneer lababdar. We also prefer garlic naan and, of course, samosas. It was all so delicious. I didn’t like the Samosa as much as the ones Bombay Palace makes, but everything else was really high quality (Bombay is my FAVORITE place to eat in downtown Nashville). Somehow we managed to eat all of our food, so we went back to the waking!
We were right next to an apparently famous fashion district of London, Carnaby Street. So we wandered round looking at all of the assorted shops. Some products we really loved, while others were bewildering! After about an hour we stopped by a Costa coffee shop so that Michael could grab a cup of coffee.
The Costa was directly in front of the Queen’s Theater, our last event of the night. Joey and Amy joined us for the 7:30 showing of Les Miserables. Overall the show was really entertaining! The John Val John was great. Also, the Thenardier actor was the funniest I have ever seen!! (That’s in comparison with three separate live shows and both movies).  The actor, Phil Daniels even had the perfect body, if you can say there is a perfect body for that character. He was lanky and thin, with a large nose and a fantastically animated face. Michael was absolutely dying with laughter! (This was his first live musical and he reports that besides the “stupid love drama” he liked it a lot.) The Fontaine, (though in comparison to myself, very talented) in my opinion, wasn’t great. I was really disappointed!! Also, I don’t know if this is okay to say, but I was also surprised with how unimpressive the building was. After all, the name says the QUEEN’S theater. I don’t think she would be very pleased. However, still a great experience and I am so glad we got to take Michael. (I’m happy to report he has been humming Les Mis ever since).


After the show we all jumped back on the central line and headed home. The night was perfectly ended with snacks and laughter. This was definitely a high contender for a perfect day!

London: Day Two

Sunday morning Michael and I slept straight in until noon! It felt so good to sleep. We have been going nine thousand miles an hour (kilometers?). Once we woke up I did some homework- gross- and we just took it easy with the family until we had an early dinner. Then we decided to take the tube downtown.
We headed first to St. Peter’s cathedral. We missed going inside by like thirty minutes, but honestly I didn’t mind. We spent a good hour walking around it admiring the gorgeous architecture. Then we jumped on a bus and headed down to the water front to see the Tower Bridge all lit up! It was so beautiful. I tried to take a picture, but honestly it couldn’t do it justice. We also walked by the Tower of London and Michael ordered his first sample of fish and chips from the Ted’s Fish and Chips across the street! He was, of course, absolutely delighted with it! He literally scarfed them down.

Then we just walked around with the family. It was really cute. Andrew put one of the girls on his shoulders and Michael had a different cousin on his. It made me feel all mushy!! It was so fun spending time with them.That night we stayed up late telling stories before heading to bed. Overall, a great day!

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London: Day One

Wow it has been a crazy past 48 hours! We took off Friday morning and about three hours later we were taking a train into downtown Toronto (But more about that later)! We finally landed in London at 9am local time Saturday morning. The flight was definitely rough, I was freezing cold and my stewart told me there were no blankets available. (There were enough blankets for the couple in front of us being helped by a different stewardress, but i’m sure he wasn’t just being lazy…)

Once we touched down my Aunt and Uncle picked us up and drove us back to their house. It is the cutest home ever! The house has five bedrooms, a gorgeous courtyard with a water fixture, and one of the best kitchens I have ever seen. I seriously wish I could live here! It is beyond amazing. We were greeted by a swarm of hugs (and squealing from Sabrina). After Michael and I had showered we set off with the whole family. We loaded up the oyster cards (a serious sightseeing must have) and took off! We started by going to the Natural History Museum of London. Michael was beyond thrilled with the dinosaur exhibit. We had a great time. I loved all of the exhibits, but what I really admired was the architecture of the older pat of the building, both inside and outside. It was absolutely beautiful. Once outside we shot a few pictures and then played a few rounds of tag and foot races with the girls.

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Next we walked about twenty minutes straight down Brompton Road to Harrods. Harrods was absolutely beautiful, as well as a little over stimulating! We explored the pastry and chocolate sections then headed up to the forth floor to have dinner with the kids at Disney’s Wild West Cafe. It was a Toy Story themed restaurant. The setting was actually really fun and we all enjoyed our food. Then we walked around the corner to the Disney Store. Then we went down a level to the giant Toy store- that is where it became completely chaotic! There were so many amazing toys and gadgets. We couldn’t decide where to look. I would say we spent at least in hour in there and did not notice. It is now one of my goals to bring my future children here. I loved seeing all of the kids in the store laughing and smiling. They were all totally enthralled! Finally, we grabbed dessert in Laduree. The macrons were so fresh! Michael got a coffee, a pistachio, and a chocolate flavored macron. I choose two coconut and one vanilla. The vanilla was absolutely breathtaking. However, I was incredibly fond of the coconut. Not because it was of poor quality, I just didn’t realize that it would have actual coconut shavings, a texture I really do not like.

After that we took a line down to the Piccadilly Circus area. It was absolutely crazy! There were street performers everywhere, hundreds of people swarming the streets, and lights every direction you could see. The architecture of some of the buildings was totally gorgeous. I loved looking at everything as we walked! We stopped in a few stores, including the M&Ms store. That was the most crowded experiences of London so far! We only stayed a few minutes because i literally could not move. We all were quickly separated and overwhelmed! Attis point the lack of sleep was kicking in so we took a train to our district then took another line back to the house. We decided to ride the “double layer” bus (as Sabrina calls it) home, even though we only rode for maybe four minutes, just so Sabrina could show me “how fun it is to sit at the top.”

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When we got home Sabrina put on a few dance performances with the help of her sisters, we ordered a pizza, and started to unwind. The night ended with Sabrina running around in her Queen of Hearts costume pointer her scepter at whomever was closest, yelling “off with your head!!” We soon got ready for bed, concluding our first day in London. What an awesome experience! I am so thankful we get to be here!!

** Just a small note. For people looking for fun things to do in London, but are on a budget, all the things we did toady were “free admission” as long as we didn’t purchase food or items (which we did, but you don’t have too)! So keep that in mind if you are looking for ideas! **

Taking Off for London 

Here we go! We are waiting to board the plan for the start of our epic trip to London, England! It’s been a whirl wind of a week and I am so beyond thrilled to get away from everything. I’m also excited to (hopefully) get some sleep. We will be staying with my fabulous aunt and uncle in their house for the next seven days and exploring the city. 
First we have an eight hour layover in Toronto, Canada. We are still debating whether or not we want to try and walk around for a minute! Then we will sleep our way over to England, landing in London 9am Saturday.  

We have a few great days planned. I also have planned the MOST AMAZING surprise for Michael’s birthday. (He’s turning 26 this year.) Michael is not going to believe it! I can’t wait I’ll I get to tell y’all about how much fun he has! 

If anyone has any last minute MUST DO sights, please comment below! (You don’t have to have a WordPress account). I would love to try and do them all! 

Looking forward to sharing all of our crazy fun adventures!! Prayers for a safe flight 💕