Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Rodeo!

This post is a month and a half overdue but I had too many other posts lined up and I didn't want to disturb the flow. Anyway, back in mid-June, while I was still working in North Dakota, my coworker and I got "kicked out" of our hotel for one night because they were overbooked. So, we decided to head to Bismarck for the evening. Lucky for us, the PBR Bull Riding Competition was in town that weekend so it wasn't a waste of a trip to town. I know what you're thinking, Pabst Blue Ribbon? No, no, it was the Professional Bull Riding competition.

I never, ever thought I'd go to a rodeo - though this was technically not a full rodeo, as rodeos feature several different components of cattle herding and related competitive activities, but you get the drift. Anyway, it turns out that when you're in this neck of the woods and there isn't much going on, you are easily persuaded into these things. General admission was only $18 and the Bismarck Civic Center was small enough that anywhere you sat was bound to be a decent seat.

The evening started with a prayer - which I found interesting but cool - and then a local girl sang the National Anthem. You know you're in the midwest when the singer is wearing fringe and she sings, "that the flag was still there..." and pronounces it "fleh-y-g."
The bulls were kept in their little pens and I thought they were so cute! I'm a big softy when it comes to animals so I can appreciate almost anything furry (except rodents, gross!). I've read about the controversial issues regarding animal welfare and cruelty associated with bull riding so I was pretty apprehensive about the whole thing but these little guys seemed to be okay with their lifestyle, especially considering the small scale of this event. I mean, I didn't personally interview every single bull, but they're being fed and cared for and no one's eating them for dinner, right?

Monday, July 28, 2014

DIY Beach Caftan

We're done with France posts. I feel like I could end that sentence with the word "finally" or "sadly" - I'm torn and I can't choose. It's kind of like, whoa dude, you managed to write 20+ posts about a weeklong trip, overkill. But at the same time, I'm sad it's over! I loved reliving the trip when I was writing the posts (I wrote them all over the course of a week or so and spread them out over the past two months because it's my blog and I do what I want) and I loved reliving the trip as I re-read the posts that I wrote. It's been a fun journey and I can't wait to do it again and again with every holiday I experience.

Anyway, now that we're done with France, we can move on to the other current happenings in my life. A few months ago, I went to JoAnn Fabrics to get some vinyl fabric for my DIY clutch. My sister was with me and we were both in crafty moods so we spent a little while walking around, digging through stacks upon stacks of fabrics to see if there was anything we wanted to grab for some other DIY projects. While I was browsing, I spotted the most glorious pink and gold fabric that I thought would be great for making a beach coverup. The bolt was practically empty but that leftover piece was the perfect size for my craft.

Inspired by a beautiful Marena y Sol caftan that I have, I decided to make a simple, functional, and chic caftan with my fabric. I was all set to make this prior to summertime but then I got sent to North Dakota so I had to put my DIY on hold for months. Well, a few weekends ago, I finally got around to making this durn thang, so here it is!
You'll need:
1.5 yards of fabric - my fabric was a mesh-type that doesn't require hemming and the bolt itself was 54" so my fabric was a perfect square piece
needle & thread (or sewing machine)
straight edge
measuring tape
Okay, so here's what you're trying to accomplish. You want to create a slit in the middle, which is where your head will go. Then, you'll fold it in half (with the slit parallel to the fold) and then sew two vertical lines that start from the open edge and go up about two-thirds of the way towards the folded edge. Your torso will go in between the two sewn lines, your head will poke up through the hole, and your arms will just jut out into the open sides.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jour 9 Paris: Ladurée & Au Revoir!

I have to mention this little story as a word of caution to those visiting Paris. There are several people who hang out near touristy areas clutching clipboards. They claim to be working for charitable organizations but in reality, they're scammers. They'll ask you if you want to help sick children or aid the blind and the deaf and present you with a petition to sign. They purposely approach people that aren't speaking French because at the top of their petition, it will say "People who sign this sheet must pay €500," or something similar in French and they're hoping you won't be able to understand it.

My sister and I were approached by two teenaged girls who said, "Hey, do you like animals? Sign this if you want to help animals." I said, "Merci, non," and we started to walk away. The two girls followed us down the block and one of the girls while saying, "Sign this!" simultaneously grabbed my arm so I yelled back, "Non! Don't touch me!" and jerked my arm away. That scared her and her little accomplice enough that they finally backed off. She was the most aggressive clipboard girl I'd ever come in contact with. I'd just like fellow travelers to be aware so that nothing happens to you that will ruin your trip. Just ignore these freaks and say no. They want to be lazy jerks who steal other people's hard earned money and it's not right. Get a job, losers.

That being said, today's post is all about our last day in Paris. What a segue, huh? Ha.
The weather was looking pretty cloudy and uggo for our last day, but it didn't really matter. We had two things on our mind: macarons and steak-frites. Our plan for the day was to go to Ladurée first thing in the morning, go back to our hotel for breakfast, pack our suitcases and relax until it was time to check out, grab lunch at Le Relais, do a bit of shopping, and then head to the airport.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jour 8 Paris: Hameau & Trianon

Tie for favorite post is between today's and the one about Marché Saint Antoine. Marie Antoinette's Hameau (hamlet) is one of the sweetest, most Alice-in-Wonderlandy, Secret-Gardeny, gorgeous places ever. It's so frickin' dreamy. If I ever own a house with lots of land, I'm converting my backyard into un hameau. I have to.
We were kind of dumb because we whizzed through the Palace to head to Marie Antoinette's retreat and it turns out, it doesn't even open until noon. Luckily for us, there was a little seating area associated with the café so we just sat down for 20 minutes.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jour 8 Paris: Château de Versailles

As many times as I'd been to Paris in the past, I hadn't made it to Versailles, not once. The first time I was there, I was too broke to go. The second trip we just didn't have enough time. The third time, I didn't even think about it. So, finally, I got my act together and booked a couple of tickets online. I went for the 'Passeport' package which allows you to visit the palace, trianon, and Marie-Antoinette's digs and it cost €18 per person. You've also got to get yourself a pair of metro tickets that get you out there, which will set you back €6.90 per person. Now, normally, I'm not really into paid attractions in general - I'm pretty sure everything I've shared so far has been free - but I make exceptions here and there. And certainly, a beautiful palace deserves an exception, right?

The train takes about 40 minutes.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jour 7 Paris: Coulée Vert & Tour Eiffel

Before heading back to Paris for the fourth time, I looked up "under the radar" types of activities and came up with a decent list. Unfortunately, a few of these were weather-dependent (like hopping in a giant tethered hot air balloon to get cool views of the city) so I had to cross a bunch off as infeasible. But, we did manage to hit up Coulée Vert, also known as Promenade Plantée, which was described by a few people as Paris' version of The Highline.
The park is all the way in the 12th, but it's easily accessible by Metro.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jour 7 Paris: Montmartre

Montmartre is the hip, cool, snazzy part of Paris. If I had to compare it to New York (the city I know the best), I'd liken Montmartre to the Village. It's where artists like Dali (pencil mustache, melting clocks), Picasso (cubism, blue period), Monet (impressionism, water lilies), Mondrian (primary colors, Dutch), Van Gogh (starry night, mutilated ear), and several other artists had studios. These days though, it's a bit more like Soho. It's got a French-hipster vibe, it's getting more and more expensive, and it's filled to the brim with tourists who think it's cool to be there. And honestly, it is cool to be there. It's beautiful, there's decent food (though it's expensive), and there's an undeniable charm about the cobbled streets and hills and art.

The worst part of Montmartre is trying to pronounce it when you've got an American accent. Mohn'-mart-tr. The "Montmar" part is easy enough. It's the gurgling "tre" you've got to tack on at the end. No worries though, because the first two syllables is enough to get your point across.
As soon as you get to this area, you'll notice a difference. It's just more quaint and sweet looking, at least in my eyes. It's a great area for just walking around in but we had a purpose. We wanted to go see the Love Wall and one of my favorite places ever, Sacre Coeur.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jour 6 Paris: Pompidou, Notre Dame, Louvre

We arrived at our hotel right around lunchtime so as soon as we unloaded our stuff and we enjoyed our little snack, we headed straight out into the city to grab some food. I was hoping we could have some raclette but the place we found on Yelp was only open for dinner. Luckily, we were in one of my favorite neighborhoods where we could grab delicious street paninis and crepes and see a bunch of Paris's well-known landmarks at the same time!
We were right in the neighborhood of Centre Pompidou - that's where the good street food is - so we took a gander at that weird looking building, got our grub, and walked around a bit.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jour 6 Paris: Hotel Renaissance Arc de Triomphe

We flew from Nice to Paris instead of taking the train to save some time and some money. We arrived in Paris just before lunchtime.
We flew via Easyjet for about $75 per person. The flight was just over one hour; it was nice and quick.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Jour 5 Nice: Monastère de Cimiez

By this point in our trip, we'd explored two and a half cities and we were tired. And after our climb up Colline du Château, we were really, really tired. But, since it was only midday, we wanted to explore some more and not waste the day. We decided to hop on the tram and head to the Monastère de Cimiez.
Before we headed there though, we decided to grab some lunch. We walked back towards the Promenade du Paillon and towards Place Garibaldi to look for a good spot to grab some food.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Jour 5 Nice: Colline du Château & La Plage

I love towns and cities with high points. You can climb on up and get amazing views. In Lyon, we did it at Basilisque Notre Dame de Fourvière. In Annecy, we did it at the Château. In Nice, we did it at Colline du Château. Besides the breathtaking panoramic views, you get a different perspective of the city, both literally and figuratively. I mean, for me, it's just cool to see tiny specks walking around, doing their own thing, recognizing streets from afar, and learning a little more about the layout of the town.
It's quite the hike up to the top. There's a "shortcut" with steeper stairs via Quai des Etas-Unis and there's a more roundabout way up via Montée du Château. We took the more roundabout way up so that it would be easier on our muscles (or lack thereof) which turned out to be lovely because it was much more scenic. We were able to pause to catch some pretty views (re: take breaks) at our leisure. Either way, I recommend you bring a bottle of water because hydration is important.

Come on! Take a little hike with me, will ya?
To get to the Montée du Château, you walk up a bit of a hill and then you encounter your first set of stairs.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy Fourth!

Happy birthday, America! Sort of... I think. Hm, I mean, Independence Day is when America became free from Colonial rule so can we consider that America's birthday? Or is it more analogous to when a kid files for emancipation from his/her parents? Whatever! Happy Fourth! Hope everyone celebrating has a great time. Hopefully you guys are grilling something and wearing red, white, and blue proudly.
I'm skipping a France-related blog post to have a grill out of my own and enjoy the long weekend.

Be safe!


Thursday, July 03, 2014

Jour 5 Nice: Marché Cours Saleya

Our third city, our third market. We hit up a market in every city (except Paris, as you will soon find out; wait, you just found out right now) and all of them were similarly charming. Lyon's market was full of amazing foods (duh, they're known for food). Annecy's market had a country-vibe. And Nice, well Nice's market is known for its flowers. So, if you're a flower-lover, you'd best head on over. But just to window shop, because this market is kind of stupidly expensive. It's a tourist trap, but probably one of the prettiest tourist traps ever.
Marché Cours Saleya is located on a street called Cours Saleya, funnily enough. It's open everyday at 6AM except Monday and they close up early on Sundays (13:30).

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Jour 4 Nice: Promenade du Paillon

The day we arrived in Nice (via train) the weather was dreary. It was overcast and gloomy but with our lucky weather streak, we were blessed with a lack of rain. So, after we checked into our hotel, we set to exploring.
We just kind of made our way towards the Vielle Ville. We didn't really have a destination in mind; we were just looking to check out the town a little and kill some time before dinner.
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