Christmastime in London Town


So, what actually got me to Europe in the first place? In my previous post, I explain how – despite having already completed my Master’s degree with GWU – I opted to audit a course in global public advocacy, which included a week-long residency in London. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!  Continue reading

Christmastime in La Ville Lumière

img_6019_20161209075428Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Asia. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to explore a continent upon which I otherwise would have never set foot, given my limitations and priorities. But after 2.5 years of exploring the nooks and crannies of the Orient, I found myself craving Western Civilization. I needed to get back to Europe…

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American Bloat

While I was in France, I ate whatever I wanted. French food is heavy on all the currently “taboo” food groups in this country (depending on who you’re talking to these days), to include dairy, grains, meat, fats, and everything in between. And I have to tell ya – my digestive system never felt better while I was over there!

I returned to the U.S., and while I surely love American food in all its glory, I am back to being bloated, irregular, and less energized. It’s not because I eat bread… or because cheese is wrecking my digestive system…or because I enjoy red meat. I ate all those things in Europe. I know this is no secret, but it really is the fact that food in this country is SO overly processed. Even the packaged foods in Europe had smaller lists of ingredients, most of which I could actually pronounce. Everything is fresh and mostly local there. I ate raw eggs and beef for crying out loud (and lived to tell the tale.)

I’m not one to judge the U.S. based on what other countries are doing. I’ve never thought it’s a fair comparison – we are so much bigger and more diverse than most European countries. However, I do wish we could take at least SOMEWHAT of a hint from their dietary practices. Natural ingredients. A reduced reliance on corn. Cleaner, more humane livestock care. And perhaps the elimination of preservatives, dyes, and other miscellaneous ingredients that are banned everywhere else in the developed world except here! Of course, Americans could take a little personal responsibility and work on portion control, too…

I hate to be that Northern Virginia snobby white girl, and I probably won’t have this opportunity on a military base in Okinawa, but I may have to start shopping organic (it’s a start!)

EuroTrip Re-Cap!

EuroTrip Re-Cap!

Since I have the worst memory, I was going to record what I did each day in England and France. That was obviously a big fat failure (and now I don’t  feel like scrounging up that much detail), but I still want to share the highlights of our 10-day journey to see a slice of Western Europe…


This was my third trip to London, and I still don’t care for it much. However, it did have one major highlight: I saw my friend Beth for the first time in many years! She just got married this past December, and I was able to meet her delightful hubby James, as well. She hasn’t changed a bit 🙂


If I had to choose one other thing about London that I really liked, I’d have to say it was the spring blooms in Hyde Park. Beautiful!



I love Oxford. Always have, and I think I always will. I was happy that Chuck liked it too! I was able to visit my old campus at Pembroke College, and I was delighted to see that the Alice in Wonderland shop and Ben’s Cookies are still there. Seriously, if you are ever in Oxford, go get a Ben’s Cookie. Amazeballs.


Also, I can’t forget to include that Chuck and I enjoyed a pint at the pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien brainstormed some of the greatest stories ever told, the Eagle and Child. I’m not even a LOTR or Narnia fan, but it was still pretty cool 🙂



Oh my goodness! Where do I even start? I fell in love with Paris. Every positive stereotype is completely true, and every negative stereotype completely untrue. Highlights included:

  • The entire first day & night – walking the historic Ile de la Cite and Ile St. Louis, lunching at Au Bougnat around the corner from Notre-Dame, eating Berthillion ice cream for dessert, sipping evening cocktails on the roof of Maison Blanche (where staff called Chuck Captain America!), watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle, feasting on the giant wheel of cheese at Philippe et Jean-Pierre, and watching burlesque at the iconic Crazy Horse (even if I did drink too much champagne in the end.) It sounds cheesy, but the misty, ethereal haze that hovered over Champs-Elysees on our walk back to the hotel added to the magic of that first evening in Paris… But sigh… moving on…!
  • Meeting with friends at Versailles and being the first to hear of their engagement
  • The fact that art and beauty are EVERYWHERE.
  • Our poignant, emotional visit to Belleau Wood (where countless American Marines and soldiers lost their lives fighting the Germans in WWI).
  • Monet’s Water Lilies at L’Orangerie
  • THE FOOD. And trying beef tartare, even though I had no idea it’s a raw ground beef patty with a raw egg on it…


Provence & the South of France

Growing up, I used to watch Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence with my mom and sister. I’ve always romanticized the region, and have long wanted to visit. I was worried that between the film, things I’ve heard, and the copious amount of dreamy Provencal images I found on Pinterest, I was setting my expectations a bit too high. I shouldn’t have been so concerned – Provence exceeded every whimsical expectation!


We started our trip in Gordes, un village perché in the Luberon Valley, and enjoyed the luxury of one of our splurge hotels with a series of killer views. Gordes is full of adorable nooks and crannies, and I met THREE cats while I was there 🙂 Also, it must be noted that I had the most delicious chocolate dessert ever in Gordes, and I can’t stop obsessing over it. I only wish I had a photo, or its exact name. Oh man. So delish.

Over the next few days, we explored the villages of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, and Arles. Cassis and Arles were my favorites (after Gordes!) At Cassis, we took a boat tour of les Calanquesand dipped our feet in the Mediterranean under a warm, sunny sky. In Arles, we ate delicious quiche, eclairs, and brioche in the courtyard of the building where Van Gogh sliced off his ear, and then explored Roman ruins.  I did a few ballet spins and took a bow on the ancient stage at the amphitheatre… Chuck thought I was a fool 🙂 Honestly, I didn’t think I’d like Arles – I had heard it was a little “dirtier” than other Provencal towns – but I actually enjoyed its artsy, antique intrigue and mystique.

We ended the Provencal adventure with a visit to Glanum, an ancient archaeological Roman site near St. Remy. The history nerd in both of us was tickled pink, and I met my final French kitty snoozing in the middle of the museum…


Anyway. I heart France. And I have to give myself credit – I plan a good trip! It cost more than our honeymoon did, but I think it was worth it. Every night I have a dream about being back – sometimes in a spot we already visited, sometimes in a place I wish we could have seen. It’s kind of pathetic really…!


The only mementos I brought back (besides the memories and 1,587 photos) were a magnet for each city, a jar of lavender honey, and a little bottle of lavender liquor. I can’t wait to break into the latter two 😉

All in all, a very bon voyage!

EuroTrip 2014: An Update

I think Chuck and I have decided on how to divvy up my highly anticipated EuroTrip(s), now that I know we can’t pull off my original plan:

  • FRANCE, March 2014
  • ITALY, October 2015

It seems that Italy is the place to enjoy in the fall, when the heat of summer still lingers. It’s a more coastal, outdoorsy place than France, so I think we don’t want to “waste” Italy in early spring. Plus, October 2015 will be our 5-year wedding anniversary… and you can’t get much more romantic than a trip to Italy to celebrate 🙂

So! This means I’m currently focusing my energy on a 10-day trip to France. I think we will still include a brief visit to London at the beginning, which shouldn’t be too difficult or costly. Then we will EuroStar to Paris, then TGV to Provence, then consider a short side trip to the French Alps (Annecy) before heading back up to Paris.

Haven’t decided if we’ll explore Paris at the start, or at the finish, but that’s the plan for now!! I’d like Rosetta Stone as a (very) early birthday or Christmas present so I can learn the language, which I’ve always wanted to do anyway. I will have lots of free time in Georgia and will need something to do!

So excited.

Bummer, dude…

I’ve come to the realization that the EuroTrip I’ve been planning is a bit ambitious, particularly in terms of finances. I just completed a very generic summation of what it would cost to carry out my wonderful itinerary, and it was over $8k. Granted, I overestimated everything just to be safe, but it pretty much only included flights, hotels, and a few of the bigger train rides. Throw in meals and museum passes and other miscellany, and we’re probably looking at around (or even over) 10 grand, if we’re not careful! 

Unfortunately, we’re not quite in the position to go on a $10k vacation. …Yet 🙂

So now I have to decide where to cut. I could eliminate some portions of both France and Italy (but still get to see both countries), or just pick one country to see a little more thoroughly, and save the other for another time. I have anxiety that we won’t ever have such a great opportunity to fly over there again (until we’re old), but I need to stop being so paranoid about that. 

Maybe it’s boredom, but I am seriously on a roll planning my EuroTrip for next spring. The only problem is the more I read and research, the more I want to see and do…! #notime #nomoney #oyvey

Taking a Little Brain Break…

…to plan a EuroTrip with Chuck for 2014! I have been talking for ages about doing this, but of course, things happen and it’s hard to commit for all kinds of reasons. But it’s true what they say – there’s never a “good” time to drop that much money on something, so eventually you just have to go for it. It only gets harder to find the time to have an adventure, and we’ve been working really hard on saving money this year (weddings aside). Of course, ideally I’ll be gainfully employed in a real city in 2014 too! That would give me some confidence to move forward with it.

Anyway, my original thought was to go in the Fall. I’ve heard the Fall is best for travel, from cost to weather patterns – plus that’s our wedding anniversary! But Chuck graduates from his school billet in March, so I feel like that may be a good time to go instead. If we wait till October, we will both (hopefully) have started new jobs somewhere, and may not have the flexibility to take time off, and Lord knows what his schedule will be like to begin with.

Now I just need to decide where to go!! I’ve been to the UK twice, but I feel like it’s a must for someone who’s never been to Europe before (like Chuck, who requested we go wherever the castle is where Harry Potter went to school.) Plus I have long-lost friends there, so it would be fun to reunite with them. Then I was thinking of hitting the basics – France and Italy – but I get so distracted by the other countries too! Greece, Germany, Switzerland, Spain…and don’t get me started on other continents 🙂

Let’s hope we get more than one opportunity to go on a fun trip like that. I was hoping the military would take us there, but it’s not looking like that will happen. It’s always been one of the big things I want to do with my life – travel and see the world. It’s just so gosh darn expensive these days!

But like I always used to tell my dad when he’d give me money talks – I’ve never regretted a penny spent on a trip, foreign or domestic 🙂

Anyway – advice on how to go about planning a EuroTrip (flights, places to stay, and other essentials) would be great!