Catacombs of Paris
On the third day we slept in a bit and then headed to our local bakery to pick out some pastries. Secco is located at 54 Rue de Sévres and had pretty tarts and yummy pain au chocolat. We had such a hard time choosing what we wanted!
After breakfast, we got dressed and headed to the Catacombs for a day of spook! We had visited the Catacombs on our first ever trip to Paris but P-man had never visited so we decided to have another go. Since we did not plan ahead, we ended up sitting in line for 3+ hours!!!! We highly recommend BOOKING AHEAD. On our first visit with our family, we booked ahead and had NO wait time which left us more time to enjoy other places in Paris. Waiting in line that long was a real bummer, but we think it was worth it. There is a small park that the line forms around and the line is great for people watching so all in all, it wasn't so bad.
Once we got into the Catacombs we were so glad we had waited in line. The tunnels below the city were originally made by the Romans quarrying stone for roads and buildings. In the 1700's The Cemetery of the Innocents in Les Halles became too full and was a source of disease for the surrounding neighborhood. In 1786, the city decided to transfer the bones from the cemetery to the abandoned tunnels. Nightly, the priests would cart bones from the city's cemeteries covered with a heavy black cloth and place them in these tunnels. The city continued to place bones in the Catacombs until 1814. When the bones were placed in the tunnels, they were piled up on either side of the tunnel, leaving a path in the center to walk. You can find designs made in the piles such as hearts made of skulls, crosses, and other interesting and certainly spooky patterns.
After the Catacombs, we were caught in a torrential downpour and decided to head back to the 6th Arrondissement to have some lunch and change our now soaking clothes. We had noticed a small wine and tapas bar near our house so we decided to check it out for lunch. Osaba specializes in Spanish cheeses, meats, and wines. The restaurant itself is very small with a few tables upstairs and a few outside on the street. Since the rain seemed to have stopped for a while, we took a chance and sat outside because when in Paris, live as the Parisians! Between the three of us we split a bottle of rosé and the large cheese and meat board with a never ending basket of sliced baguette. The rosé was wonderful, fruity, and dry (we liked it so much we we bought a bottle to go!) and the sliced meats were delicious. There were 6 different types served and each were unique and tasty! Our favorite part of the lunch was probably the spiced honey served with the cheese. We ended up fighting over who got the last bit of honey! We love this little place so much that we went back here again!
After lunch, we decided to take a bit of a break from running around and we relaxed at home. We think it is really important to take time to relax during vacation. When you visit such an exciting place like Paris it is easy to spend your whole time racing from place to place and its easy to get run down. We took this afternoon to read a bit, nap, and look at maps to plan the days ahead!
For dinner, P-man was feeling a little under the weather so he decided to take advantage of the enormous tub at our house and read. We decided to venture into the Saint Germain des Prés. We were in the mood for something off the beaten path and found just that at Au Pied de Fouet. Au Pied de Fouet is located two blocks north of Boulevard Saint Germain, where the wonderful yet touristy Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots are located. Au Pied de Fouet is a tiny restaurant which serves up classic country style French cooking. Ivy had fish in a basil cream sauce while Eve had the classic duck confit. We washed down our wonderful meal with a carafe of the house white wine which was really yummy, light, minerally, and dry. We had a chocolate cake with creme anglaise and the chestnut mouse for dessert. Both were so tasty that we forgot to photograph them! Both dishes were delicious and the atmosphere made the meal even more enjoyable! We both can't wait to come back here with our parents who would have loved this tiny gem.
Versailles Palace & Gardens
The next day, we rose bright and early and headed to Versailles! We had never been to Versailles because we thought it would be a long trip and hard to get to. Wow were we wrong! From Paris, the easiest way to get to Versialles is by the RER C train. We took the Metro from our house and transferred to the RER C at Saint Michel- Notre Dame Metro stop. Then you board the next RER C train to Versailles Rive Gauche. The train took about 30 minutes and then the walk to the palace was another 5-10 minutes.
Already at 9am the palace had a long winding line to get inside the doors. Since P-man has an EU passport and is under 26 years old, he could get into the palace for FREE! We still had to buy tickets so we had P-man stand in line while we went inside to buy tickets. Inside there was a long line for tickets. DO NOT stand in that line! On the far back of the building there is a small room with ticket machines, there was absolutely no lines. Maybe in the afternoon it would get busy but for some odd reason no one was in line at the machines. We bought "Passport" tickets for 25 euros which gained us access to the palace, the grounds, and Marie-Antoinette Estate. P-man being from England only needed his passport to get into the palace, however he did have to pay for the grounds ticket which was around 7 euros.
The palace was very beautiful and extravagant. The detail from the stone floors to the tapestries was perfection. The only downside was all the people! It was almost impossible to stand in one room more then a minute without being pushed out by the people trying to get inside. We agreed that we would be willing to pay more to be able to enjoy it with less people. The experience was not like most museums, where people are quiet, view things respectfully and take turns viewing the art. It was more like the Mona Lisa, where you have to literally fight your way to the front. Many people were completely oblivious to the other visitors and many people walked right in front of us with their cameras above their heads trying to take a photo. Despite this, it was still a great experience and the palace was worth the wait and crowds. Maybe in the winter it is less busy?
Not surprisingly, the grounds were Ivy's favorite part. They were HUGE! There is over 800 hectors of land surrounding the palace, all of which was designed and planted perfectly. We expected it to be big - but not THAT big. We walked for 20 minutes and were not even halfway through. The grounds are made up of manicured lawns, parterres of flowers, fountains, sculptures, wooded areas, and ponds. The areas by the ponds are perfect for summer picnics. And most of the grounds are free to visitors (if you use the garden entrances which are separate from the palace).
After we strolled the grounds and visited a few of the Estates, we headed back to the train station. On our way back to the train station, we stopped at the Grand Écurie (Royal Stables) since Eve couldn't bear to not see the pretty horses.
Once we were back in Paris we headed to Angelina, famous for their thick and creamy hot chocolate and pretty pastries. Eve picked out a tasty éclair while Ivy picked some macarons to nibble on. We then strolled around the local shops before heading home for a little rest. We sat in the garden having lattes and our sweet treats.
Once our legs recovered some from all the walking, we headed out for a evening drink at Les Deux Magots. This café is world famous and one of the oldest in Paris! It also has had numerous famed visitors over the years such as Ernest Hemingway, Elsa Triolet, Luis Aragon, and many others over the years. We each had a glass of rosé and it was accompanied by some olives and an assorted snack mix. We were delighted by the view of the Église Saint-Germain des Prés (one of the oldest churches in Paris) and by the Parisian man and his old dog enjoying an evening brew beside us.
After drinks we walked over to Le Marais for dinner. We picked to go to Restaurant L'Alivi because this was the restaurant we had stumbled upon with our Mom and Dad two years ago during Christmas. The restaurant is in a charming old building which looks like the rest of the neighborhood was built up around. We LOVE this place for its atmosphere and its food! Eve started with a lovely Corsican eggplant salad (hidden under a pretty sheet of pastry) and P-man had stuffed sardines and salad. Ivy ordered some steak she had been craving and it was seasoned and cooked perfectly. Eve had a pasta dish with slow roasted veal for the main course and P-man pork and grilled eggplant. For desert we ordered the Corsican cheesecake served with a shot of limoncello, the chocolate lava cake, and the strawberry tart with cream. Everything was delicious and exactly as we remembered.
After dinner, we strolled along the Seine enjoying the Paris evening and headed home for a good nights rest.
xxx Ivy & Eve
Bonjour from Paris!
Today is our last day in the wondrous land of baguettes, champagne, macaroons, Chanel, and too many more of our favorite things to list here (it would take years). We wanted to recap our first day in Paris for you all. We will post more later, but for now here is a taster of what we were up to!
First off was flying out of SFO at 7:00AM. We took the AirBus from out hometown to the airport and stayed overnight in a hotel. There was nothing special about the hotel, we pretty much picked the cheapest hotel with free airport shuttles. We were only going to end up spending a few hours in the room anyway.
We woke up bright (not so much, it was 4:00AM) and early an headed to the airport. We printed our boarding passes before we left home and packed only cary-ons so it was smooth sailing through security. (TIP: Always pick security lines with more men than women in them. Us girls usually have more things to put through security such as purses, scarves, fancy buckled shoes to take off etc.) Once we were on the other side, we headed to our favorite SFO food spot, Napa Farms Market. They have delicious pre-made foods, drinks, and gourmet gifts (and wine!). All of the food sold there is local to Northern California. We picked up our favorite on the go breakfast, Slingshots. Slingshots are yogurt based protein drinks with a tasty crunchy granola “shot” you pour into the bottle before you drink it. We also got a few Il Morso mocha flavored coffee bars. These things are delicious! They taste like chocolate covered coffee beans but look like a square of chocolate. the mocha flavor has 14mg of caffeine for a little kick. Ivy also tried a Project Juice Wellness Shot- Tummy Tonic. We had never had their juices before but this little drink was tasty and good for people with sensitive stomachs while traveling.
We flew through Chicago and had a quick layover before boarding our flight to Paris! During the layover Eve bought a pocket French Phrasebook and a pocket sized Paris Guidebook, both by Lonely Planet. We had a lot of guides at home for planning but none would fit in our day bags. The guide also had a pullout map which was SUPER helpful throughout our trip. (TIP: buy a map before you get to your destination and mark where you will be staying and a few key landmarks. This will help you navigate wherever you are.) We flew with American Airlines, honestly, it was the cheapest flight we could get by hundreds and we definitely noticed the difference. We usually fly with Virgin, AirFrance, or British Airlines, all of which have great inflight entertainment, food, and complementary drinks. American Airlines had NO personal entertainment consoles and TINY seats. This being said, The customer service was amazing. We booked two seats together but we could only pick center seats when we bought them. When we got to the gate though, we asked if there was any way we could get better seats. They took our boarding passes and gave us seats on the side and much closer to the front! When we boarded the plane, a lovely first class flight attendant chatted with us while we waited for the line to move. She ended up giving us glasses of free champagne AND a bottle of first class wine to enjoy in Paris! This was the nicest thing any flight crew has been to us. It goes to show that if you are nice to people, sometimes you get something unexpected in return!
Finally we landed in Paris! We took the RER train from the airport and then the Metro to our stop. We were so lucky to be able to stay at our Uncle’s family home in the 6th Arrondissement. The place was MAGICAL. To put the icing on the cake, the house even had its own garden and patio! After settling into the house, we took a quick nap while we waited for Eve’s boyfriend to arrive. P (he wants to be know on the blog as P-man [lol]) comes from Manchester. Eve met P-man on her first day of grad school at Durham University in the North of England. Once we are all together, we went out in search of our first Parisian meal!
We wandered a little bit away from the house and stumbled upon a wonderful café called Au Chai L’Abbage. We sat on the street patio and sipped wine, and ate a light lunch. We love that lunch is the most important meal in Paris. It is the meal that people tend to enjoy leisurely, starting off with drinks, starters, main courses, desserts, and finally a coffee. Paris is the perfect place for people watching and outdoor cafes are made for it! After lunch, we wandered over to Notre Dame and strolled along the river, getting our bearings on the city and just enjoying being there! Afterwards, we headed back towards our house and got a few groceries for breakfast and snacks.
For dinner, We headed to one of the Bistros our Uncle recommended, Petit Lutetia on Rue De Sevres. The restaurant was full of lots of locals, and DELICIOUS! For starters we all shared the burrata salad and escargot. The salad was super fresh, and the burrata was so creamy. Yum! The escargot may have been the best we have ever had (that is saying a lot because Eve orders escargot anytime she sees it on the menu). For the main course, Eve had the veal in a mushroom cream sauce, and P-man had the steak tartare. Ivy had the chicken cooked in a individual cast iron dish with a cream sauce with chanterelle mushrooms. All of the mains were delicious but Ivy’s definitely won which was surprising to us because usually chicken isn't the most exciting of dishes. Wow it was good! We didn't have room for dessert and we were all pretty sleepy from our travels so we headed home to bed.
Next up, Reims for a day of visiting some of our favorite Champagne Houses!
For now, au revoir!!!!!!
xxx Ivy & Eve
When traveling with only a carry-on suitcase the main goal is to try and pack as much as possible while still having enough room to shop while you are on the trip...or just buy a new suitcase for all your shopping and check one bag on your way back! As kids, we remember packing for two week trips using the biggest suitcase we could find, and even then they were never quite large enough for all the clothes we wanted to wear. Now that we're older, and travel on our own, we like to keep our luggage to a minimum (carrying/rolling around big suitcases inside trains/airports and buses just gets exhausting and annoying).
Traveling with a carry-on suitcase can be a daunting task. How do you to decide what to bring and what to leave at home?! We get it, and still struggle with this issue. The biggest thing to think about is trying to pick items that you can wear with multiple outfits, ie. jeans which you can wear with a basic white t-shirt and sandals or dress up with heels and a cute silk tank top. Scarves and statement jewelry don't take up much room and can transform an outfit. Being strategic about what you can wear multiple ways is key. Our saving grace for this packing "mission" is the Ziploc Space Bags! All you have to do is slip your clothes into the bag, seal the bag, and roll/press the air out! It shrinks the clothes to half the size they originally took up. Brilliant! Also keep in mind that all your liquids have to fit in a small Ziploc baggie and you can't bring liquids larger than 3oz. Here is a list of things we typically bring on our holidays....
Ivy's Beauty Essentials:
- CeraVe face wash and PM cream
- Makeup removing wipes
- Eyeshadow pallet
- Favorite red lipstick (Keep It Red)
- Travel toothbrush
Lexie's Beauty Essentials:
- Face powder
- Eyeshadow pallet
- Contouring/blush pallet (ISH Contour kit)
- Makeup brushes (eye shadow, blush, contour)
- Travel toothbrush
- Rollerball Parfum
- 1-2 lip glosses/ lip sticks
Things We Share:
- Medication (Advil, Advil cold and sinus, Emergen-C) Being sick on a trip is the worst! We pack only essential incase of emergencies. These are essential since in america we are given the luxury to have off the shelf drugs that actually work! We swear the drugs on European super markets shelves are just sugar.
Here is what we recommend for packing a carry-on suitcase:
- (2-3) Pairs of pants
- (5) Shirts
- (2-4) Dresses, rompers, skirts
- (1) Shorts (if needed)
- (3) Shoes (one pair of sandals, one good walking shoe, and one pair of heels)
- (2) Bras
- (10) Undies
- (5) Socks
- (1) Swimsuit (always bring one just in case!)
- (1) PJ's
- (2) Jackets (One jacket for warmth and one rain coat incase it rains)
- Jewelry- bring a few items that can be layered together or go alone
- (1) Sunglasses
- (1) Umbrella
- Chargers & International Converter if necessary
- Makeup/Beauty Bag
- (1-2) purses (one everyday and one fancier)
Keep in mind this is our recommended list for a trip similar to ours spanning 20 days or less. We will be doing our laundry abroad.
Remember to check with your airline to confirm your bag meets the required size limitations, and to make sure you can bring another "personal item". Ivy will be using a backpack to put her camera bag inside, laptop, and her airplane essentials this trip. While Eve uses a tote bag. Make sure to wear your heaviest/bulkiest clothes on the flight to limit the weight and save room in your bag for souvenirs.
We hope this helps you next time you have a weekend getaway or an extended vacation!
xxx Ivy & Eve
We have been traveling since before we can remember. Our mom use to take us back to the east coast to see family when Ivy was as little as three months old. With all our experience in traveling here in the USA and abroad we have learned some travel tips and tricks you can use on your next adventure!
Our upcoming trip is going to start with 6 fabulous nights in Paris. We plan to eat a lot of bread, cheese, macarons and of course drink LOTS of champagne! While we are there we will be taking a day trip to Reims, the champagne region of France and are looking forward to getting the chance to tour some of our favorite champagne houses! We are also traveling to Versailles - somewhere we've always wanted to go. After Paris, we will head off to London to visit some of our good friends before heading to Manchester for the remainder of our stay. While Manchester will be our "home base" we plan to take many day trips around England. We are so excited to be off on another adventure and we hope you check back often, as we will be posting updates while we are away!
xxx Ivy & Eve
Its always a good idea to book ahead. You usually can get better seats, deals, and options all together. Yes, waiting till the last minute could save you money once in a while, but you are running the risk of paying more, not getting the flight you really wanted, and having to sit in a dreaded middle seat. We recommend always booking ahead because the worst thing that can happen is you have more time to pack and repack your suitcase! Here are a few of our travel tips for booking ahead...
StudentUniverse: So not everyone can use this service but its really awesome for youth, students, and teachers. Its a travel booking service that gives those groups great deals on flights, tours, and hotels. We both used this a ton during school.
Gilt Travel: We just recently started using this site and its amazing! It gives you great discounts on some of the worlds most luxurious hotels and resorts around the world. All the hotels listed are 4 to 5 stars and unique to any other hotel where you have stayed. They have hotels from across the globe - from Mexico to Monaco. We cant wait to utilize this site more!
Gilt City: This is another great site to use when you are traveling (USA only). It is like a high-end Groupon where you can purchase deals for spas, restaurants, tours, shops, etc. We always check this out for deals before we head to San Francisco (or any city in the USA).
Picking Seats: Now this can apply to planes, trains, and ships. If you travel as a couple or like us with your BFF, pick one seat by the aisle and one by the window (leaving the middle seat open). Most likely, no one will book to be between you and if they do you can always ask if one of you can take their middle seat...and lets be honest no one ever wants the middle seat. We do this all the time and practically always get an extra seat between us!
Train Tickets- When traveling by train in Europe and the UK, always look into travel discount cards before you book. In the UK, if you are traveling a lot by train, there are several options for discounts. If you are a student or under 25, you can get a student rail card which will give you 33% off the regular ticket prices. They also have rail cards with the same discount for seniors, disabled people, people traveling with children, and people who always travel together (two-together card). Each of these cards are £30 and are valid for 1 year. If you are planning on traveling by train more than once, you will most likely save over £30 on your first round trip!
Virgin East Coast Rail: These are our favorite UK trains. These trains are beautiful, super fast, and have THE MOST AMAZING FIRST CLASS. First class includes cushy seats and tables, at least one meal, unlimited snacks (such as fruit, cakes, and crisps) and water, tea, and coffee. On weekdays, when you travel first class, they serve unlimited alcoholic beverages. You also get free wifi! They also have amazing First Class lounges at most train stations along the route. Many times, the cost of an upgrade to first class is less than the cost of a typical sandwich and drink on the standard class meal trolley. Definitely look into first class before booking!
Apps Worth Having:
MiFlight- This is awesome especially with all the crazy lines lately for security at the airports. This app gets its information in real-time from other users and tells you which security checkpoint has the shortest line so you don't have to guess and stress!
Uber- You probably know this one already, but now its available internationally! Its great because you don't have to worry about having enough change in your wallet for taxis, but be careful of surge prices (these are prices that can be drastically more depending on various reasons like - its a really busy time of day, or if their is an event going on) before booking a pickup.
Citymapper- This is a great app for travelers everywhere. It helps you navigate subways, trains, and busses so you don't have to do it on your own. Simply type in the destination and it will show you a few ways to get there. This is really helpful for navigating the metro in Paris or the tube in London. If you get any travel app, GET THIS ONE!!!
Phone Plans- When traveling to Europe, most people either decide to not use their cell phones or purchase an added international roaming plan for the time they are traveling. While this is good to use for emergencies and short trips, We recommend going to any mobile phone store when you land and purchasing a sim card and pay-as-you-go plan. These typically cost around $20 and you get data which you can use for looking things up online, iMessaging, etc. You can also top-up your phone plan at almost any ATM. And you can feel super cool having your own European phone number! When Eve lived in the UK, she used Virgin Mobile which has a great phone and data plan.
Google Street View- One thing we hate when we go to a new place is to not know where anything is! We recommend once you have booked your hotel, hop on Google maps (in street view) and take a look at what the surrounding block or two looks like. It only takes a few minutes but you will feel like you already know your way around before you even get there! Ivy has already saved locations of a bunch of patisseries around our neighborhood in Paris to visit...yummy!
Wallet- Yes, we know you were going to pack one but make sure to have one with a large coin pocket, or bring a separate coin purse with you because you will gather a ton of coins in Europe! (we recommend using your extra coins at self checkouts in markets and at the airport on your way home so you keep the weight down in your purse/wallet and you don't have to count them out in front of the cashier..just dump them in the change slot and voila!)
Copies of Passport & Itinerary- Make sure to have copies of your passport and even save a photo on your phone if you want, also have copies of your hotels and flights incase you do not have internet access.
Tipping the waiters- While in the USA, we always tip for meals out. In Europe, a lot of the times the waters are paid higher so you don't have to tip them as a consumer- however in the UK, we we tend to tip about 10% when dining out and round up to the nearest pound/euro when ordering drinks at the bar. In France, it is normal to tip a few euros at a casual restaurant, and 5% at fancier places.