Nice, France

Ever heard the saying, ‘Nice is nice’? Welp, it’s true.

Last May, Josh and I went on a two-week trip to Iceland, Paris, and Nice. Ending our trip in Nice was the perfect decision because it has a great mix of sight-seeing, yummy food, and beach time. We had been on the go for 9 days and were ready to soak up being engaged [and not having a day-by-day itinerary like we did in Iceland]. We didn’t even go in with anything in mind – no known places to see, restaurants in which to dine, or things to do.

Since this was Josh’s first time to Europe, we decided to take the scenic route and booked 2 first class seats on the TGV, France’s high-speed train. The journey from Gare de Lyon to Nice Ville took us about 6 hours. We were able to check out France’s countryside – something we definitely wouldn’t have been able to do from 30,000 feet up.

For our 3 days in Nice, we stayed in an AirBnb on Rue Paradis, right off of a cute pedestrian-only route, Rue Massena. The apartment was right near le Jardin d’Albert and was a super quick walk to Place Massena, their version of a town square. Our place was so central that we didn’t need to grab a cab for the duration of our stay, which is always clutch.

Here are some of the things we did:

  • Visited the #ILoveNice sign – A must-do in Nice in the age of Instagram. If you don’t get a picture with the sign, were you even in Nice?! How would anyone know?!
  • Walked around Place Massena
  • Checked out the Monument Aux Morts de NiceMonument_Nice
  • Walked along La Promenade des Anglais/Quai des Etats-Unis
    • The best views of the water, lots of restaurants, tons of shops & beach clubs

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  • Spent a half day laying out by the water at Plage Beau Rivage . One thing to note: the beaches in Nice are very pebbly and are uncomfortable to lay on without a beach chair. Since we didn’t bring beach towels, we opted to pay to hang out at Beau Rivage, where we had reserved beach chairs, towels, and had wait service right at our chairs. They even had burlap down as walkways to help with the heat and ouchies from walkingon stones.
    Beach 2_Nice
  • Wandered through the pedestrian streets and popped into the tiny shops. It’s so fun to get lost in the tiny foot-traffic-only alleys in European cities (more on this to come in my Greece notes) and to stumble upon some really great restaurants.

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  • Most importantly, ate a lot of charcuterie and macarons.

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    Have you ever been to Southern France? Which cities did you go to? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a note below or on ATG’s Instagram to share and stay tuned for more itineraries/city guides in the weeks to come!

 

Paris

As I mentioned in my Iceland post, I LOVE planning trips. Last May, Josh and I went on a 13-day trip to Iceland, Paris, and Nice. 

After 6 days in cold, wet, and windy Iceland, we were MORE than ready to get into sunny and warm France. Plus – anyone who knows me knows I’m OBSESSED with Paris and that it’s probably my favorite city in the entire world. Needless to say, I was beaming the second we got off the plane at Charles de Gaulle International Airport. 

I’ve been to Paris quite a few times now, so check out my tips and tricks, by Parisian arrondissement, below. Heads up: it’s another lengthy one so brace yourself.

 

Best places to stay:

  • We stayed all the way out at the Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile and it wasn’t a problem at all. We would walk toward l’Arc de Triomphe and hop on the metro from there. If you don’t do the hop on-hop off red bus tours, you’ll use the metro a lot.
  • Anywhere near l’Eglise de la Madeleine is going to be really nice and pretty expensive.
  • Stick near la Seine. I’d say 8, 7, 2, 5 ish would be your best bet to be near the most attractions and museums if you’re a first time visitor.

Must-see things to do:

  • 1st ARR:
    • The Louvre (La Louvre) – no need to go in and walk around because it would take you weeks (seriously) to see everything good. Take a peek with the pyramid out front and call it a day. Louvre
    • Musee d’Orsay – In my opinion, if you’re going to actually walk around a museum, this is the one to go to. It’s filled with Degas ballet dancers and other famous Frenchie artists. I remember really liking this one but haven’t been since I studied abroad in college.
  • 2nd ARR:
    • Les Halles – I’m pretty sure this is a mall? I’ve never been. Not important enough IMO.
  • 3rd ARR:
    • Skip this area or see it on the hop on-hop off tour
  • 4th ARR:
    • Ile de la Cite & Ile Saint-Louis
      • Ile de la Cite has Notre Dame and Pont Neuf. Really cool to see via boat tour, but definitely worth seeing up close. IF you have time and if you feel like throwing down at least 20 euros a piece, go to the top of the Notre Dame – great view of the city, if not the best. IMG_0159
    • 5th ARR [aka le Quartier Latin]
      • Trendy home of la Sorbonne (bougie college) and has lots of good cafes and shops. Good for people watching too.
    • 6th ARR:
      • Le Jardin du Luxembourg. Lots of walking but lots of benches, too. Ponds, fountains, flowers, etc. Grab yourself a jambon et fromage sandwich and post up on a bench for the afternoon to soak it all in.
      • Le Palais du Luxembourg. I think you have to pay, but it’s pretty cool. If you don’t take a day trip to see the castles, this is your next best thing.
    • 7th ARR:
      • Les Invalides. Pretty sure you drive past this on the hop on hop off. Nothing that you need to get off to see up close.
      • Musee Rodin. I went here but I can’t remember much about it. Apparently The Thinker is here…?
    • 8th ARR:
      • L’arc de Triomphe. Take the time to actually walk under the street to pop up under the arch because the walls have pretty cool pictures engraved in them. Plus, this is the beginning of the Champs Elysee and at the other end of the street (la rue) you can see La Place de la Concorde, which is this tall obelisk thing in the Jardins du Tuileries et Jardin des Champs Elysee. If you feel like walking a lot, you can walk the entire Champs Elysee all the way to the Louvre. I don’t recommend doing it because it’s farther than it looks and most of the paths are gravely. Under Arc de Triomphe
    • 9th/18th (Not sure which one they’re in technically):
      • Take the metro or hop on-hop off up here because it’s far.
      • Moulin Rouge isn’t in the best area and is actually on a street well known for having a bunch of X-rated shops, but it’s cool to see. Go, take a pic of it, then walk north toward the cutesy area of Montmatre.Moulin Rouge
      • Walk around the pedestrian area of Montmatre. Lots of touristy type shops to get some souvenirs. Fun fact: this is where Josh bought me the umbrella before he proposed because he knew I’d be upset if I had wet hair in the proposal pics… He wasn’t wrong.
      • Sacre-Coeur Basilica. My favorite favorite favorite place in Paris and you’ll see why. Breathe before taking the stairs because there are a lot of them. Go all the way up, turn around, and then take it in.  Awesome view of the city and the church is seriously stunning.
        • If you’ve gotten this far, 1) nice work, 2) thank you! and 3) it’s story time. On our second day in Paris (day 7 overall), we woke up to what I was assuming was going to be a normal day. Looking back, there were quite a few things that should have tipped me off, but I hadn’t had coffee yet so cut me some slack. Should-have-been-a-giveaway #1: Josh was the one telling ME to hurry up. Should-have-been-a-giveaway #2: He said he’d help pick out my outfit while I was doing my hair and strategically chose my white Madewell dress. Should-have-been-a-giveaway #3: He kept checking his phone and texting someone, although I just assumed he was texting his friends since he made sure he had cell service while we were abroad. Anywho, I knew we were going to le Sacre Coeur and Montmartre because we had talked about it the night before. After we had gotten to the top of the mountain of stairs, I turned and started left to go toward the entrance of the church. Josh pulled me to the right, toward the other side of the church. I turned and pointed left toward the entrance and by the time I turned back around to check on Josh, he was down on one knee saying, “Yes, this is happening” before asking me to marry him. So, that’s how it happened. Thanks for listening to story time. Back to the rest of Paris…Proposal_Sacre CoeurIMG_0028
    • 10th ARR:
      • Your hop on-hop off bus should take you past la Gare du Nord (North train station) and la Gare de l’Est (train station of the East). They’re right next to each other which is super weird, but your tour guide will tell you all about it.
    • 16th ARR:
      • La Tour Eiffel (basically the only notable thing to see in the 16th)
        • No need to go to the top. First of all, you have to climb stairs to get to the halfway point, which is exhausting. Then, you have to pay an additional fee to take the elevator up to the top. If you’re pressed for time, don’t climb the stairs. If you have more than a couple of days in the city, do it. You’ll have great panoramic views.
        • For an awesome picture of la Tour Eiffel, get dropped off at les Jardins du Trocadero – perfect unobstructed view of the tower from across la Seine.
        • The Champs de Mars is a good place to plop and rest your feet. Also, it’s a good place to sit and watch the tower twinkle at night – it lights up every hour, on the hour starting at sunset.

 

Places to eat:                                                               

  • Le Hide. 2 blocks away from l’arc de Triomphe. It’s super small and you NEED a reservation. They speak English so you can call and make a rez. Can’t recommend more, you guys. The stew is to die for and you MUST get it… I mean look at this and try not to drool.
  • La Duree for macarons because #obviously
  • Brasseries are basically cafes/sandwiches/cheese plates/wine. Stop at these, grab a charcuterie board and a glass of rose and then sit outside facing the streets to people watch.

Where to shop:

  • Galleries Lafayette is basically their Nordstrom on steroids. Printemps is another good one.
  • Naf Naf is kind of a Forever 21.
  • Carrefour is their Wal-Mart and is one of the largest retailers in Europe. I believe there are some city Carrefours if you need something in a pinch.
  • FNACs are like Best Buys sort of? Lots of techie things.
  • Check out the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysee. You may have to wait in line to get inside, but it’s part of the experience.

Doable day trip options:

  • Versailles – Pretty sure this is a 45 min (if that) TGV ride from one of the gares in Paris. Big old castle that’s pretty neat. UNESCO World Heritage site. Castle and gardens.
  • Loire Valley. Home of Chambord, Chenonceau, and Amboise castles. This is where I studied abroad. All of these castles are really cool, but my fave was Chenonceau because I’m pretty sure we rented row boats and got to go under the castle’s arches. Also, it has a cool garden.
    • I THINK there are tours where you can hop from castle to castle, but this would take up a solid day of your trip. They’re cool to see, but I wouldn’t make this first priority. This would be a good 2nd trip to Paris option.

Words and phrases to know and their pronunciations:

  • Gare: train station
    • Pronounce like car with a hard G
  • Excusez-moi, mais ou sont les toilets?: Excuse me, where are the toilets?
    • Ex-sku-say-mwah, may ooo sohn lez twa-lets
  • Pont: bridge
    • Poh
  • S’il vous plait: please
    • Sea voo play
  • Bonjour: hello
    • Bohn-zjohr
  • Oui: yes
    • We
  • Non: no
    • Noh
  • Parlez-vous anglais?: Do you speak English?
    • Par-lay voo ah-glay
  • L’addition, s’il vous plait: The check, please
    • La dees-y-ohn sea voo play
  • Merci beaucoup: Thank you very much
    • Mare-see boo-coo
  • Je ne peux pas manger les cacahuetes: I can’t eat peanuts
    • Zje nuh puh pah mah-zjay lay cah-cah-hoo-ettes
    • This one was for my bestie, who traveled to Paris for her babymoon!

 

I know this is a lot, but I hope you find it helpful if and WHEN you visit Paris. If you have any favorite spots, please let me know so I can check them out the next time I’m there. Also, if you’re going to visit Paris soon, let me know!! I’d love to chit chat and tell you more about the best places to go in and around the city. Either way, I want to hear from you! 

Iceland in May

Heads up: this is a pretty long post – enjoy! 

Let me start off this new addition to the blog with an important fact about me: I am not a very organized person except for when it comes to work and planning events. Outside of my 8-5, I leave a trail of chaos in my wake – piles of clothes (I separate clean from dirty, I’m not a savage), and have no idea how to effectively load a dishwasher. Don’t get me wrong, I can clean up my mess every once in a while, but I’m definitely not the type of person who needs to have my home sparkling clean at all times. Glad we got that out of the way.

Now, back to when I am organized: planning events – more specifically, planning trips and creating itineraries. I don’t need my trips planned down to the minute because I think that takes the fun out of your trip, but I do love the process of booking travel and finding fun and meaningful things to do while abroad to make the most out of my journey. I get this fun little trait from my dad.

Almost a year ago to the day, Josh and I took the trip of a lifetime to Iceland, Paris, and Nice. We were gone for 13 days, but it felt like so much longer. We (read: I) planned for so long, meticulously researched what to pack for “springtime” (read: cold and rainy AF season) in Iceland, and pored over Lonely Island’s Iceland Travel Guide for months, so when we were finally on our way to DTW, it felt surreal.

Here’s what we did:

  • Day 1
    • Flew WOW Airlines (RIP) into Keflavik International Airport. Pretty sure the airline that was the next closest in price was IcelandAir, but it probably depends on what time of the year you go.
    • Rented a car (this is a must if you plan on going anywhere outside of Reykjavik) – Get insurance and be prepared to spend quite a bit on gas.
    • Drove 3 hours to Vik and stayed at Guesthouse Carina, which was set on a hill overlooking the village of Vik and the sea.
      • *Note: The only place you’ll actually find a true hotel is in Reykjavik. If you’re venturing outside of the city, expect to stay in guesthouses with shared bathrooms.
    • We explored Seljalandfoss waterfall, Skogafoss waterfall, Reyniksfjara (the black sand beach), Myrdalsjokull Glacier, and the Vik church.
      • *Note: “foss” means waterfall, so anytime you see that on a map, you’re bound to see something awesome.
    • Places to eat:
      • Halldorskaffi

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Day 1 Iceland

  • Day 2
    • Before we drove 2 hours to Hof, we doubled back by a half hour and went to see the crashed DC-3 plane on Sólheimasandur. This was something I was dying to see because all of pictures I had seen were out of this world. The sand on the beach is too soft for vehicles, so you have to park on the side of the road (there’s a small parking lot) and walk the distance to see the plane. The walk was surprisingly long (I think close to 2 or 3 miles) and in true Iceland fashion, we walked through a rain storm, a bit of sunshine, and then more rain. Finally, when we got to the plane, the sky cleared and we were able to enjoy the sight.
    • After we saw the plane, we hiked about a mile to see Svartifoss, a pretty waterfall tucked back into the national park. The view of the snow-covered mountains was amazing from here.
    • On the way to Hof, we also checked out the Svinafellsjokull Glacier, Dverghamrar (translated to ‘The Dwarf Cliffs’), and Foss a Sidu.
    • In Hof, we stayed in the main building at the Hof 1 Hotel, another shared-bathroom guesthouse.
    • Places to eat:
      • Fosshotel Glacier

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Day 2 Iceland

  • Day 3
    • Drove an hour and a half from Hof to Hofn (confusing, I know) and stayed at House on the Hill.
    • En route to Hofn, we stopped to see the famous Glacier Lagoon, held mini icebergs on the Diamond Beach, and saw some remarkable glacier formations at Skaftafell National Park.
    • Places to eat:
      • Hotel Hofn
      • Pakkhus
      • Kaffi Hornio

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Day 3 Iceland

  • Day 4
    • This day was a doozy. We drove almost 6 hours (back west) to Gullfoss, where we stayed at Hotel Gullfoss. Complimentary breakfast was clutch.
    • The nice thing about it being light for so long is that we were still able to make it to see the huge Gullfoss waterfall. Hands down one of the coolest things I’ve seen. There’s also a really nice welcome center that has food and [very expensive] souvenirs.
    • We also went to check out the Geysir (pronounced gay-zeer) hot springs area, which was really neat. Geysir was actually inactive while we were there, but we were able to witness a smaller neighbor geyser, Strokkur, erupt.
    • Places to eat:
      • Efstidalur II – Kaffihús/ísbúð – Literally farm to table. If you eat upstairs, get a seat by the windows and look down at your new cow friends. Really great ice cream, too.

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Day 4 Iceland

  • Days 5 & 6
    • This is when I tell you that if you choose to visit the same towns that we did, you only need 5 days. I repeat: you do not need 6 days. Days 5 and 6 were spent in Reykjavik, where we were able to fully explore the city in a couple of hours and found ourselves wondering what to do next. We were so tired from traveling the previous days that we actually went back to our hotel (gasp!) and caught up on season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, which had just came out. At this point, we were also so ready for normal food (I was mostly living off of RxBars #notsponsored) and actually wound up eating at Joe and the Juice twice because they were 1) cheap compared to other places and 2) had gluten free bread for mmm… turkey & pesto paninis.
    • While in Reykjavik, we explored the Hallgrimskirkja church, wandered around the famous Harpa concert hall, and checked out the Sun Voyager sculpture.
    • The last thing we did while in Iceland was visit the Blue Lagoon. Honestly, the lagoon was my favorite part of the Iceland portion of our trip. We chose the comfort-level package, which gave us a towel, one free drink of our choice, and a silica mud mask. Once you enter the lagoon, you’re able to stay for as long as you like. We wandered around the lagoon, which is massive BTW, in search of hot spots since the majority of the water is like a slightly cooled down bath temperature.
      • Fun fact: the lagoon contains 9 million liters of geothermal seawater and it renews itself every 40 hours.
      • Pro tip: Like we did, make the lagoon the last thing you do on your trip. Our scheduled time slot was around 9pm and it was the perfect way to wind down after a travel-packed adventure before we jetted off to Paris.
    • We stayed at Reykjavik Treasure B&B and it was great. The mother & daughter duo are so nice and really go out of their way to make your stay the best. We had left our camera there (technically we left it in our rental car that was locked in a parking garage, but that’s a story for another time) and they shipped it all the way back to us – no questions asked. Breakfast included (obviously, since it’s a bed and breakfast) that was top notch.

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A few tips and tricks:

  • Busy season for Iceland tourism is “summer”, which is June through early September. Booking in shoulder season (May and end of September/early October) will yield slightly lower rates.
  • Book everything VERY far in advance! Can’t stress this one enough. Since there aren’t mainstream hotels outside of Reykjavik, guesthouses book up quickly. I started researching around October/November for our May trip and was surprised to see that only a few rooms were left at some of the guesthouses.
  • Basically everywhere took credit card, which was great – no need to bring cash or deal with the exchange booth at the airport.
  • When renting a car, get an SUV (the only truly paved road is the Ring Road) and make sure you get insurance. Some friends of mine had their car door ripped off from high winds and didn’t have insurance – not good. Also, go in with the mentality that you’ll be spending quite a bit on gas. I’m pretty sure that we spent around $500 over the course of 6 days.
  • When driving, check the signs and tune into the local radio stations to listen out for closed roads. The Ring Road almost never closes, but the smaller roads tend to shut down suddenly due to high winds or wet conditions. Keep a map with you at all times and be prepared to change course.
  • Unless you’re eating lamb or beef, everything is imported and as a result, expensive. The airlines get you there for less so they can promote tourism, but the Icelandic businesses obviously need to charge a healthy chunk of change to be profitable. No joke, I paid around $25 for a “Caesar salad” that I’m pretty sure was iceberg lettuce with ranch.
  • Speaking of food… Their gas stations had some of the best food. The highest rated restaurants on Yelp were ones that had fuel tanks out front.
  • Icelandic horses have better hair than Fabio. Pull over on the side of the road to snag a pic with them – you won’t regret it.

IMG_0877

What I packed:

  • Rain pants! I wore these a lot and was so thankful that I bought them because it rained basically every day and the combination of cold, rain, and wind made it pretty rough some days.
  • My LLBean boots – the perfect mix of waterproof boot and “hiking” boot. We didn’t go on any extreme hikes, so these were perfect for me. Honestly, these were the only shoes I wore while we were in Iceland.
    • Pro tip: Wear them on the plane so you don’t have the extra lbs. in your luggage.
  • Patagonia Snap-T Pullover – I wish I packed 5 of these.
  • Turtlenecks – My favorites are the tissue turtlenecks from J.Crew since they’re relatively lightweight and make a great base layer.
  • Sweaters!
  • LLBean boot socks
  • A bathing suit that I didn’t mind getting dirty – We planned on going to one of the hot springs in the side of the mountain, but didn’t wind up making it. We did; however, get to enjoy the Blue Lagoon and wound up needing our suits for that.
  • RxBars and Lara Bars for quick GF fixes during the road trips

 

Overall, we had such a good time in Iceland. Would I go back tomorrow? Nah. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely – it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

Have you been to Iceland? Was your experience similar to ours? I’d love to hear from you!