Spring has finally come to the mountains. It messed with us quite a bit there for a while. Warm and sunny one day, snowy and blustery the next. However, I think Spring now has her hold, and I'm hoping she hangs on for dear life.
Warm-weather strolls and Cute Kid in cute dresses are about two of my favorite things in the world.
I finally did it.
I went to Paris four months ago, and I finally posted photos to my Facebook page. And, just to show how crazy-productive I can be, I also posted the few photos from Alt Summit that I left with.
Be sure to go check out all my business-y travel photos over at emmarie Designs on Facebook. I like comments, too.
As part of the Alt Summit awesomeness, we were all given lift passes for one day at Solitude Mountain Resort just outside of Salt Lake City. On Saturday after the conference, rides were available up the mountains to the resort to use said ski passes. I knew early on that I would forego a day of more design (design overload, anyone?) for some athleticism. I wanted to try something new, and be physical while doing it.
Yes, new. I had never done any sort of recreational winter sports, unless you count indoor ice skating, which I don't really.
I knew I wanted to snowboard, not ski. I realize that's a little weird in some circles, but it's just what I wanted, so I did it.
We were lucky enough to have a great guide of sorts give a mini lesson once we hit the slopes, and we were really lucky in that we got to meet the wonderfully friendly owner of Solitude, who was kind enough to offer us free official lessons.
I like to think that by the time we left that I was a pro. Just like I like to think that I'm really a 5'10" lovely Italian woman with the voice of an angel.
What I do know for sure is that I'm in love with snowboarding. I usually hate being cold, and the snow, but snowboarding is awesome. You're so busy having fun that you don't notice that your nose is frozen, and you're really working up so much of a sweat that the only thing that is cold is your nose, which you're not even noticing.
And what a workout! The days after snowboarding were fantastically painful. Serious ouch. The most painful part? My arms. Weird, huh? It's from picking yourself up all those gazillion times you fall down. Just goes to show you how often I fell.
Really though, I could not have imagined a more beautiful place to have my first snowboarding adventure. The video clip below was taken on our first ride up the slopes. So. Beautiful.
Now time to get myself to the ski resorts around home. I think I'm going to be a snowboarder now.
Last week I attended my first-ever Alt Summit. And I'm still on information and inspiration overload. I feel like I just need to have a Rip van Winkle sleep.
It was such an inspiring few days. So many inspirational and talented women! I sat through sessions about sponsorships, getting published, and getting press-ready. I talked to women about the creative online marketplace, marketing, and being code-nerds. It was amazing! And so overwhelming.
And the location? Beautiful. It was my first trip to Utah, and my first visit to the Rockies in about 15 years. The Grand America - the conference hotel - was over-the-top. Chandeliers like this were everywhere, and this was a baby one.
It was a great few days. I have so many things to implement around emmarie Designs to make my business life more effective and efficient. I'm really looking forward to beating jet lag and putting all my ideas to work.
I also met some amazing people, and it was great to finally put real faces to so many folks that I've been friends with online for years. Tomorrow I'll share some fun photos.
But until then, I've got some snuggling to do. I missed Cute Kid like craziness.
Over the past month I have spent a good bit of time in Chattanooga. When we sent Lily to her grandparents for a week Chattanooga was the drop off point. I spent two weekends in a row there, one with my assistant/pal and the next with David, my besty La (who lives in Chattanooga) and her boyfriend. Then, we spent New Year's Eve Eve in Chattanooga again with La.
Lots of time in Chatty.
Being in Chattanooga (if you've never been there, imagine what you know of Asheville, NC, and make it bigger - city in the Appalachians on a lake; gorgeous) has really had me feeling the usual pains about living up in the mountains. The town I live in is small. I don't do small well. And it's been wearing on me for some time.
So, David and I have decided on our next step. He has officially come to the conclusion that he wants to take at least a year off before going ahead with his PhD, and I refuse to live needlessly in the mountains. Our conclusion: move to Chattanooga.
Here's our reasoning:
The plan is to move out later this summer. This plan is hinged majorly on David finding some work in Chattanooga, though I think my design work can sustain us if needed. And who knows, maybe he'll prefer work over academia for a good while and we'll stick around for even longer.
Already such big changes ahead of us this year...
(all images taken by Laura)
I woke up on Tuesday morning sad that it was my last day in Paris, and unwilling to let a single moment of it go to waste. I got up and ready, had my usual breakfast at the café, and hopped on the metro heading for the Marché Raspail.
The food market on Raspail is supposedly the most expensive street food markets in Paris, and a favorite of the one and only Ina Garten. When planning my trip I knew I had to include this market on my list of things to do, as I had never bothered with going to a food market on either of my two previous trips. I wanted to see this.
And I was far from disappointed. There were the most fabulous fruits and vegetables I'd ever seen, fish, chickens (plucked, but with their claws still on, which weirded me out), cheese, seafood, jarred goods. I wanted to buy everything! And at that moment I wanted, more than anything, a tiny Parisian flat with a tiny Parisian kitchen to take a bag of fresh produce home to and dig in.
I strolled the market for a while, snapping lots of photos, and then headed out for some sightseeing on foot.
I strolled up to l'Église Saint-Sulpice on a whim, the same one made famous in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. It was so gorgeous. Much prettier than expected.
The area surrounding ended up also being a great shopping region, which is where I found a small Ladurée (where the invented macarons, I got a half dozen including rose petal and green apple, omg) and an Agatha store, where I continued to satisfy my jewelry obsession.
I walked on toward the center of Paris where my lunch-time plans waited.
I booked a cooking class with La Cuisine on a whim a few weeks before the trip, and it easily ended up being one of my favorite experiences during my trip. For a little over 2 hours we mingled and cooked, and then sipped wine and ate. Class had about 12 folks from around the US, except for a girl from Hong Kong who spoke better english than I do (I have to get Lily a foreign education, gees).
The menu included french onion soup, stuffed zucchini and tomatoes and madeleines. I can hardly think of three better French yummies to make. And the location was perfection. It was a small venue right on the Seine near l'île de la Cité. The "classroom" was a kitchen with a long counter that we worked around, with a perfect dining room setup with a view of the Seine. Per-fection.
After class I walked over for a quick sight-see of the Notre Dame Cathedral, where I got hit by an insane downpour (don't let those blue skies deceive you) which sent me immediately back to the hotel via metro to pour the water out of my boots.
After drying off and changing I headed out on foot again, but this time I headed northwest to the Sacré Cœur for a view of the city that I had fallen in love with all over again. When it started to get dark, I strolled down and hopped on the metro once more to the Eiffel Tower. I had to say goodbye.
It was the best way I could think of to spend my last night in Paris: sitting under the Eiffel Tower thinking about how the trip had exceeded my expectations. How I had exceeded my own expectations.
I met awesome people (I didn't even tell you about the motorcycle guy on one of my flights, the sweet lady at a jewelry store, or the friend I made at a bakery near my hotel), I had learned lots about Photoshop and met crazy-talented ladies at Blogshop, I had a "breakfast place" in Paris and made friends with it's owner. I traveled 5,000 miles from home all alone without throwing up from missing Cute Kid. I was on a business trip - a business that I own and run - in Paris.
Dude, I'm a grown up. (Well, except for the fact that I ate so many macarons that I gave myself a stomache, like a kid, and I totally overuse the word "dude.") What an odd thing to realize.
Monday morning - the morning of my 4th day, and the first day that was all about doing whatever I wanted - I woke up, got ready and began my day with my usual breakfast across the street. This day would be the day that I spent the whole day walking Paris. Sightseeing, shopping, sitting on a park bench. Whatever I wanted.
This was the first day that was all about doing whatever I wanted in almost 4 years. I was going to grab it by the horns.
My original plan was to spend that morning at the Louvre, but last minute lunch plans with Anna rearranged my day. Instead of the Louvre I would walk. Just walk. As far as I could.
I started at my hotel, just northwest of la République, and just went. There is a shopping area around my hotel, so I strolled it, just window shopping as nothing was open yet. I headed to la République, and went past it, walking through La Bastille and on to Isle St. Louis. I picked up some adorable French books for Lily, some postcards, and then found the shopping region of Isle St. Louis that almost did me in. I stumbled across Diwali, an Indian accessory shop with Bollywood-inspired jewelrly and magnificent silk scarves. It's my new favorite obsession. I stopped in Cacao et Chocolat for edible souvenirs. I strolled and looked.
While walking down the tree-lined streets surrounding Isle St. Louis a thought struck me: this had been one of the best mornings of my life.
I strolled back up to La Bastille to meet Anna and we headed towards La Marais for our lunch and shopping date. We stopped at a crêperie for lunch in the sun. We spent the next 2 hours or so heading toward the Pompidou, shopping (we even went to Mariage Frères - a tea house founded in 1854 - the green tea with almond and rose petals that I got from there is exquisite), stopping for the best lemon sorbet of my life, and finishing with a glass of wine and beer. Around 4 we split ways, and I continued walking.
I walked southwest to the Rue de Rivoli and walked/shopped all the way down. I stopped for a breather in front of the Louvre, walked around the Tuileries and stopped for a while at the Place de la Concorde. I continued east all the way up the Champs Élysee. Here I stopped at Kusmi for a hideous amount of tea shopping. Then I strolled on up to the Arc de Triomphe for a photo op.
I headed back down the Champs Élysee and stopped for a much-earned drink. I sat down outside, had an immature giggle at the bar's name - Unisex, and ordered the most expensive drink of my life: a cucumber gin collins, which easily lived up to it's price tag. I'm sure that the fact that I'd been walking all day with more than my fair share of shopping bags may have contributed.
I walked back east to Place de la Concorde where I finally gave in and hopped on a metro. It was getting dark and the bags were really getting to me. I had almost literally shopped 'til I dropped.
When I got back to my hotel I decided to do an easy dinner, not having the energy to stroll around searching for a chic restaurant. I headed to my usual café where Ari took care of me, making me my favorite French sandwich: a croque monsieur. We sat and chatted for a very long while, with a couple of glasses of wine helping my sore arms and feet.
How in the world was I supposed to leave Paris after a day like that?
Two months ago I posted about a decision to travel solo to Paris for Blogshop. I felt crazy and scared and excited. Mostly crazy. I mean, who does that?
Upon arriving in Paris last Friday morning, after a 10 hour flight where I had 2 seats all to myself, I felt lucky and exhilarated and still a little crazy. I was in Paris, a place I've always felt weirdly at home.
I met my car driver (definitely splurge and hire a car when arriving in Paris via plane, those taxi lines are horrendous) and got to my hotel. I was pleasantly surprised by the hotel. I booked this hotel near the Republique on a bit of a whim just so I'd quit obsessing over where I would stay back in August. The reviews weren't great, but I realized immediately upon arriving that it was probably mostly because most of the bad reviewers were more used to a Hampton Inn than a Parisian hotel room. It suited me perfectly.
It was perfectly pleasant, with a room larger than most Parisian hotel rooms, and even an unexpected elevator that kept me from carrying all my luggage up 5 flights of stairs. The room had a beautiful view (above), a balcony, was less than 50 feet from a metro station, and about 20 feet from a fabulous café. More on that later.
I cleaned up in the hotel and went for a walk, picking up a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) and chocolate beignet across the street from the hotel. I caught the metro to the Eiffel Tower - of course - where I spent the next few hours lounging on the Champs de Mars, strolling down the Seine and snapping more photos than is probably sane.
I hopped on a river boat from Bateaux Mouches around 6:30 and spent the next hour and a half seeing the city from the river. It was so cold, but so beautiful. Sunset on the Seine was fantastic.
Strolling around Paris that evening, I was so overwhelmed: culture shock, being away from home, being alone. I'm not going to lie and say that I was completely comfortable. I maybe have an hour a week when I'm actually completely alone, if that. The prospect of being alone for the next 5 days felt daunting, and the fact that I was 5,000 miles from home wasn't helping a lot.
I went to the hotel before dark without stopping for dinner. I had an early morning the next day and I kind of just wanted to go to bed. I hoped the next day would find me more comfortable.
I'm home from Paris, and missing that magical city so much.
Blogshop was a-maz-ing.
Shopping was killer.
Food was perfection.
I have hundreds of photos to process and sort, a gazillion blog and business ideas filling my head, but first - and most importantly - I have a Cute Kid in need of serious mommy time. And I need some serious Cute Kid time. So, Paris recap starts on Monday, but until then, have fun with the animation above, courtesy of Blogshop and Angela Kohler.
Vroom. (My sentiments of the last week, exactly.)
I am counting down the days (less than 40) until I leave for my trip. It's almost all I can think about. I'm being consumed by excitement, an overwhelming Type-A need to plan the hell out of this, and a little bit of worry. Just a healthy bit.
One thing I'm fretting about is my grasp on the French language, or the lack thereof. Or am I just being too hard on myself? Or am I really going to get terribly lost?
See. And I can't help it.
I have several years and an ok amount of French language experience under my belt. Three years of high school French (and I'm learning more and more that that old bat was a seriously wonderful teacher), four semesters of college French, including a summer in various regions of France. By the end of that trip, I was bafflingly proficient at understanding others, and getting better and better at using it myself, but that was years ago, so I dare say that doesn't much count anymore.
I have found in the past weeks, however, that I haven't completely lost it. I've been filling my head with, what is to me, French nonsense. And it's coming back really well. I'm fairly certain I can ask for and receive directions, order food, buy a ticket (to the Louvre, metro, etc), and scream for help. I feel as long as I have those down, that's a pretty solid foundation for just a week of culture shock.
I've been immersing myself in a couple of ways: French classics (think Edith Piaf - I've had La Vie en Rose in my head for weeks), Coffee Break French, streaming French radio programs, and Netflixing French movies. I'm considering ordering some French cartoons to watch with Lily, in hopes that she starts to pick it up too.
Side note: I love languages, though I don't speak any more than English (yea, really), some French and very basic Spanish. There was a short time in college where I actually considered becoming a Linguistic Anthropologist. I think I made a financially responsible decision there.
And there are videos like this that just make me want to shut it and leave now. Right. Now.
At the end of the day, what do I really need to know more than "je voudrais beaucoup de vin, s'il vous plaît."