Fall Foyer Decor

Sep 28, 2021

Fall started making its way into my house over the weekend. It's amazing how we felt cooler temperatures on the first day of fall this year. It inspired me to get working on decorating. I kept it simple in here since we aren't living in this space. A few pretty pumpkins and the candlelight from the lanterns is enough to welcome guests. Plus, the front porch is loaded up with fall decor! 



















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Favorite Fall Florals

Sep 14, 2021

I shop online almost every week for florals when finishing a client design. I like fresh flowers as much as the next person, but I've found that you need faux florals for those times when you didn't make it to the store or just don't feel like dealing with a floral arrangement. I couldn't help but notice all the pretty fall florals and leaves. Here are my favorites!





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My Trip to France Part 2: Paris

Aug 25, 2021

I hope you enjoyed The French Riviera with me! Now, let's go to Paris!


When I was planning this trip I thought it would be more economical and easier to travel by train to Paris from Nice. Nope! It was six hours and $200 a person. We flew on Easy Jet instead for $33 a person and it only took 90 minutes. We landed in Paris and hit the ground running. Actually, we took an uber everywhere. I wasn't doing the whole train thing again. It made it so much faster to get to the places we wanted to see. 

First, we checked into our hotel to drop our bags. We stayed in the Le Bon Marche shopping area of Saint Germain. We had stayed in the more touristy Champs de Elysees when we were here ten years ago. It was nice, but when we crossed over to the Left Bank into Saint Germain I completely fell in love with it. It felt like the Paris I had imagined with the smaller streets and more quaint atmosphere. I knew that's where we would stay when we returned. It's also where you will find the famous Cafe de Fiore and Les Deux Magots. Actually, our first meal on this trip was lunch at Cafe de Fiore. I had the quiche and it was great. The French onion soup looked amazing too.

SIAMO ANDATI A FARE COLAZIONE AL CAFE' DE FLORE A PARIGI, BOULEVARD  SAINT-GERMAIN 17 — UNA LUNGA COLAZIONE — | Nel delirio non ero mai sola

Honestly, my favorite thing to do in Paris is to sit in a cute cafe. They usually ask if we're eating because many people come in just to have a drink. We started to going for breakfast, lunch, a snack, dinner and after dinner. It's odd because I don't love to go out to eat much at home, but it's just so easy here. You're already walking by the chairs outside so it's easy just to plop down and have a cheese tray and a glass of wine.

We had Eiffel Tower tickets late that afternoon. The lines were so long my last trip to Paris to go up in it that we decided to skip it. I bought tickets in advance this time, and the lines were much shorter because of covid restrictions. I actually like see it from the ground better, but now I can at least say I did it. My son thought it was really cool. 








Then we did my favorite thing, which is to go to a cafe. We had the nicest waiter, and he insisted on taking photos of us. I'm sure part of it was for a tip, and we definitely tipped him well!









The drinking age is 18 and my son is 19 so we let him try wine and beer. He didn't like either so he stuck to sodas or water. That was until one of our last nights when he tried a sip of Jason's tequila. He ordered one, and after the first few sips he looked like he was enjoying it too much so we took it back lol. It's all fun and games until he likes it! 

I can't remember much about the order of things after the first day. We stopped taking so many photos and just enjoyed our time. I'll focus on the highlights.

Seine River Cruise:

I think one of the my favorite things we did was a Seine river cruise. I scheduled it at dusk so we could see the city in daylight on the way up the river and then at night on the way back. It really is so beautiful. Dylan was really impressed.



Notre Dame









I was hoping so much that I timed it right and the Eiffel Tower would be lit up on our way back. It wasn't at first, but as we got closer it finally lit up. It's seriously magical. This is a must do if you go to Paris!




Versailles:

I can't believe I never went to Versailles when we were here last. Well, I guess I can because I think we were only in Paris two or three nights. You'll spend most of the day there between the palace and the gardens. It's almost like a small city. We took an uber again to get there. I think it was about a 30-45 minute drive.






The famous Hall of Mirrors






The gardens









These are just a few of the photos I took. My favorite part of the garden was the musical fountains. I wish we had time to go rowing on the lake too. I think if I were to come back I would skip the palace now that I've seen it, and spend the afternoon in the gardens. They had people stationed at different areas to buy food and drinks.

The Louvre:

I knew my son would only want a quick tour of the Louvre so we focused on just a few things-Mona, mummies and Napoleon. I got distracted by jewelry and crowns for a minute. 










I swear she's looking at me. 




I think Dylan liked the history of The Louvre the most. He's a history buff so it's not surprising.



Mummy and Mummy


I didn't take photos of Napoleon's apartments, but don't miss it if you go. We were in and out of there in just a few hours, but only because we had been there before. Wear comfortable shoes and plan to spend most of the day there. We were ready to get out and have our daily wine lunch.

Now to the fun stuff...shopping and champagne!

Galeries Lafayette




Here's the lowdown on shopping in Paris and saving!

I didn't think I would buy a thing because of the exchange rate. Everything is about 18% more. However, if you buy merchandise over $100 you get 12% back. The countries in the European Union (EU) charge 20% tax that's already added in the price. If you are not an EU resident you get 12% back. Plus, merchandise made in France doesn't have the import tax we have in the United States. So here's an example.My husband bought a wallet for 325 euros that cost $495 plus tax in the US. That's $383 in Paris with the exchange rate compared to $535.84 (including 8.25% tax at home). Then we get 12% back so it is $337.04 in Paris. That's $337 compared to $535.84. If you're brained turned to mush just now, we saved $152.84!

I had been eyeing a Chanel handbag when we were out shopping that was insanely expensive. Aren't they all?! I kept thinking about it, but thought there was no way I'd spend that much money. I did the math and realized it was a great deal if I bought it. I would save over $1000! I was still on the fence. Then I had some champagne, realized I only lived once and would regret it if I didn't buy it. I'm getting to know myself after all of these years! I've been kicking myself for not buying one years ago when they were almost half the price they are now. They really do hold their value.

Is it the pink or the black one?



My husband was on board for the whole experience. He asked for champagne while we waited lol. Everyone turned around to look at us since it wasn't something they had offered. He said you won't get it if you don't ask. He's right! The sales lady didn't mind. She kept telling me, "You're so nice!" That made me a little sad. What kind of people do they get in here?



It's the pink one! I always thought I would get a classic black flap bag, but it just didn't grab me like this one. I also already have two black bags I love so that would be impractical. I know, the whole thing is impractical! I have been wanting a pink bag for a while. The hardware is hard to see, but it's gold. 



So what started this whole shopping thing? Champagne!

Remember in my last post when I gave the tip to spend your time at a fancy hotel bar instead of staying there? 

We did just that at Plaza Athenee. It's a beautiful hotel, but the clientele was a little odd. I felt the same way in Monte Carlo at Cafe de Paris. There was just an odd under current I couldn't explain. Well, I was convinced the guy at the table by himself next to me in Monte Carlo was an assassin. He had the vibe. I probably read too many spy books. 




We also checked out the George V. I felt much more comfortable here and it's just as upscale. 










The wine was good, but they really need to work on their cheese tray. Those napkins are real linen. I could almost forgive the cheese shavings.



Disneyland Paris:

I can't say I was on board with this, but Jason and Dylan really wanted to go. There are two parks there and you can do them in just a few hours. I would have rather been in Champagne. Dylan would have probably refused to leave his room if we went there. Next time, Moet!



Takeaways from the trip:

Very important shopping information! Do not carry your fancy shopping bags through the airport on the way home unless you want to pay a duty tax. I knew this was a thing, but somehow it slipped my mind. Newark doesn't play! We got stopped twice and for some reason they did not charge us. Maybe we looked nervous and they felt bad? Maybe it was our honesty? Southern charm? I don't know. I'm not saying conceal your bags and not pay your tax, but everyone else is!

Don't spend a lot on a hotel. You won't be doing much but sleeping there. 

Take advantage of Uber drivers so you can get the attractions out of the way. 

The best part of Paris is adding just a bit of historical fun in with the shopping, eating and drinking. 

Visit Amorino for gelato. I just discovered they have one in Houston!

Don't worry about what you wear unless you're doing it for yourself. Athleisure wear is the second pandemic of Paris. Ten years ago I couldn't imagine Parisians dressing like American rappers (or my kids), but here we are. However, always dress for your feet first.

The food has turned from traditional French to American to appeal to more people. I'm disappointed. I wanted the traditional beef bourginon, coq au vin, etc that I had on my last trip. It's either hamburgers, pizza, or cow brain. Sad. The wine is still the best ever. 

I've always felt safe in Paris, but even more so ten years later. It actually feels much safer than Houston or other big American cities I've been to in the last few years.















































My Trip to France: The French Riviera

Aug 21, 2021

If you follow me on Instagram you know we just got back from France a couple of weeks ago. It was an amazing trip! We took our 19 year old son along for his high school graduation present. I would have taken our younger two boys if they wanted to go as well, but they don't like to travel. I know, they are weird!

I promised a few of you that I would write about how to travel on a budget. It's not my first time in Paris so I had a little insight this trip on where to spend and where to save. We wanted a new experience and a little beach time so we decided to go to the south of France and then head up to Paris. This started to get a little long so I'm dividing this up into two parts, The French Riviera and Paris.

So our first leg of travel was the French Riviera! We decided to stay in Nice. I chose this location because it is in between Monaco and Cannes. It's also a larger city and I wanted to make sure there was enough to do. 

We semi-splurged on a hotel room here so we could have a balcony overlooking the ocean. The room was just okay, but the location and view were perfect. We were right on the Promenade, which is the main thoroughfare along the ocean.







My son wasn't happy when he saw our view and the size of the room compared to his. Sorry, dude!



Nice is very close to Italy so there is a heavy Italian influence. Almost all of the cafes served pizza and there is gelato everywhere. That's great if you have a picky eater like my son. 

TIP: Ask for a carafe of water, which is free of charge. When they ask you if you want sparkling or still water, they will bring you a bottle of water that can be pricey. You have to be clear that you want a carafe.

TIP: Waiters will not come by your table to take your order if you are still looking at the menu. Be prepared to order your wine and dinner all at once. This gives you time to pair your wine with dinner. That's so smart! Sometimes I regret ordering a glass of red when my dinner would pair better with a white.




We stayed just a block away from the fanciest hotel in Nice, Hotel Negresco. We walked by the bar area and decided to go in because it looked so nice. We were blown away! It's not cheap, but the wine is really good and they give you little extras to accompany your wine or champagne. I've never been much of a champagne fan because it's a little too rough on my stomach, but I discovered that's not the case with Moet & Chandon. 




We actually went here two nights it was so nice!






















TIP: Don't stay at the fancy hotels, just have a drink or dinner there. I love a great hotel if I actually have time to enjoy it, but in Europe the goal is to just sleep there!

Nice is fun to walk around and there is a small shopping avenue with all of the high end stores. Most people are there to go to the beach, eat and walk around in the evening. The Ruhl Plage behind me is one of many beach clubs on the French Riviera. You can eat, go to the bar or rent a sun bed. They aren't cheap, but it's worth it. The biggest downside is the beach is rocky instead of sandy in Nice. 






We took two side trips from Nice. The first was to Cannes to eat lunch and rent a sunbed at a beach club since they have sandy beaches. The Carlton is the most famous. It's where Grace Kelly filmed To Catch a Thief. It's also extremely expensive so we went to what I thought was the second nicest beach club, Plage du Festival. Everyone else must have thought so too because they were booked for the next two days. We went next door to Long Beach and they said they might have sun beds after we finished lunch since people would be leaving. We had a long lunch with a bottle of rosé, which is what everyone drinks since we were in Provence. The waitress told us this wine was the most popular in France. We did continue to see it on menus throughout our trip and it was really good. 

TIP: Make reservations at the beach clubs.

My son asked me why everyone was so thin the first night we were in Nice. I started to pay attention to what everyone was eating at the cafes and it wasn't hard to figure out. 

TIP: The reason why French women are really thin is because they only eat salads. I'm okay with that if my salad looks like this!



Thankfully, after we had lunch there were sun beds available. My son had trouble adjusting to the time change and went right to sleep. My husband and I enjoyed the turquoise water, people watching and the beach service. I vowed to only eat salads sitting on that beach. Update: I've had only a few salads since being home. 






Cannes or Nice? Cannes is more upscale, has better shopping and sandy beaches. It's also a lot quieter. Nice has more restaurants and is more lively, particularly at night. I prefer Cannes and knew that would be the case going on this trip, but I still chose Nice because it is in the middle of Monaco and Cannes. Another factor is that the closest major airport is in Nice. We had a short stay of only three nights so I didn't want to be traveling half my trip.

Monaco/Monte Carlo was our next day trip. It is beautiful! It is an extremely clean and well kept city. This is the famous harbor where all of the yachts dock.



It's a mix of historic and contemporary buildings all set on the cliffs. 



I was excited to see Casino Royale. This is our view from the famous Cafe de Paris. It's the perfect place to people watch. 



Not the best photo because of the heat. We also had to hurry because Monaco requires masks even outside. 


The back of the casino is just as impressive. We considered going in the evening so we could check it out, but none of us really wanted to get dressed up and hire a car service. We took the train and walked around the city instead. 


There's not a lot of sightseeing to do in Monaco. It's great for the traveler who is more interested in gambling, fine dining and high end shopping. One to two nights here is all you need. I've heard that a lot of people will have a short stay here and then hire a car service to take them to Saint Tropez. Unfortunately, we just couldn't fit Saint Tropez into our trip. It's very difficult to get to because of traffic. If we get to go back we will focus on Saint Tropez and the wine region of Provence.

TIP-Don't stay anywhere more than two nights in Europe if you haven't been there before. That way you get to experience the city, but aren't stuck if there isn't much to do. Exceptions would be large cities like Paris or London. You can still hit the highlights in 2-3 days. Plus there's so much to see in Europe!

Travel Information:

Trains-I didn't love traveling by train for short trips. It's a 30 minute walk from the Promenade in Nice to the train station, especially in the summer when it's really hot. Then there's the waiting for tickets and the train. In retrospect, we should have bought our tickets online and hired a car to take us to the train station. The trains took a lot longer than what's stated on the ticket. It took about an hour to Cannes and Monaco each. About four hours of our day were taken up by traveling. It really wore us out. I made sure on our way back to the Nice airport we had a driver instead of taking the train. It was so much nicer! It might be more economical to travel by train, but it's worth it to splurge on a driver or a rental car.

Flights-We fly to Europe for free! It takes about three years to save enough credit card points to have first class or business class seats round trip. We charge everything we can to our United credit card and pay it off at the end of the month. One benefit of having a United card is the access to airport lounges (depending on the credit card), extra free bags and priority check-ins. Those lines can get long sometimes at the ticket counter. We always get to board first as a 1k member too. It's important if the flight is full and you need to make sure there's enough room for your carry-on in the overhead compartment. 

If you don't want to go that route, one tip I learned from a travel book was to view the best rates on flights at google.com/flights. It gives you all of the carriers and prices in one place. 

I hope this gave you insight if you are looking to travel to the French Riviera. Paris is coming up next!