Our second and third day in Paris

We woke up leisurely to catch up on sleep and had a fabulous hotel breakfast on Monday. I only had one free hour before my conference started, so we went to the Arc du triomphe for more up close pictures and then my number one priority was to get macarons from the highly recommended Pierre Herme!

The conference was dynamic, small and fun. It was full of lively discussion. After 5:30, I met Mr F for a walk to the Eiffel Tower and we arrived in time to see the lights turn on! We then walked to meet my team at L’Atelier Renault. There were about 30 of us!

Tuesday was much more work oriented and jam packed with discussion and LEAN training. It was an intense day that started at 8am and went until 6pm! Fortunately, Mr F made reservations at a Michelin starred restaurant nearby based on a colleague’s suggestion and it was an amazing end to the day. We went to L’atelier de Joel Robuchon near on Champs-élysées which was a quick 15 minute walk. Mr F met me in lobby at 6:15 and we went straight to dinner. Since I was dragging due to jet lag, it was fantastic to walk outside and immediately eat dinner. We arrived before the typical Parisian dinner hour so we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. The amuse bouche before the 3 course prix fix menu was a foamy foie gras that was utterly delightful with fresh bread. We loved our appetizers of chicken tartine and sole carpaccio.  Our entrees were also fantastic of steak and grilled fish. The presentation was stunning and tasty!  Mr F and I both agreed to get the passion fruit soufflé  so we didn’t have to share and it was a stunning and lovely displayed dessert. The soufflé was light and fluffy and served with passion fruit sorbet! The best part was we were done eating by 8:30 and asleep by 10! It was so nice to go to bed to early after a long day. While I was in the conference, Mr F walked over 10 miles! We were exhausted!

My first day in Paris!

I arrived in Paris at 9:30am this Sunday morning. I tried sleeping the entire flight but didn’t get any deep sleep. Fortunately customs were a breeze and my conference had a driver waiting for me outside of baggage claim. It took me less than 20 minutes to get off the place and into the car!

My hotel was super busy when I arrived and of course, the room was not ready. Fortunately I heard Americans talking about site monitoring in the lobby and I knew I had found my people. I met several directors and we walked to the arc du triomphe near our hotel. It was windy and rainy today so we walked back to the hotel quickly to see if the rooms were ready. My room was still not at noon, so I walked to the Repetto shoe store while also in search of lunch.

The Repetto store was gorgeous with their shoe displays, tutus, stained glass and merchandise. I did not see any sale signs and their ballet flats were even more expensive than online, however I’m glad I went to their boutique. I walked by the Vendome column and Laduree, but I wasn’t hungry enough for 5-10 euro macarons yet. It started pouring as I walked towards Jardin des Tuileries plus I was starving so I got an Uber back to the hotel.

The room still wasn’t ready so I went to a nearby market and got muffins, cheese and pistachios. I guess most places are closed on Sunday and the Pariseans don’t wake up early. Fortunately, my room was finally ready at 3pm, so I took a nap before Mr. F flew in.

The concierge recommended a close by French bistro called Les Oreilles et la Queue. I’m so glad we asked for this recommendation. Dinner was très magnifique!  We loved the steak frites and the lemon tart dessert was even more phenomenal!  We walked down the Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt to get a better view of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night!  We’ll explore more tomorrow after a good night’s sleep before my conference starts at noon!

My Paris Prep and Packing List!

I’m so excited. My work is sending me to Paris for a week long conference, NEXT WEEK! I’ve never been to Paris, or France, and Mr. F gets to join me, thanks to all the frequent flyer miles I’ve accrued in the last few years!

We’re staying in a lovely Art Deco hotel within walking distance of the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe.   I’m also taking all restaurant and site-seeing suggestions, at this point! I’m really excited to check out all the restaurants that Eater suggestions too. (http://www.eater.com/2016/10/19/13311808/paris-eating-twenty-four-hours-septime-verjus)

This next week, I’m working on basic French phrases and my packing list. I’m hoping to learn phrases that help me order and get around easily. I generally travel pretty minimalist but I’m also going to pack a few more stylish things than normal.

So far I have the following things in mind,

*3 pairs of shoes, flipflops for the hotel, comfortable walking shoes,  or  and black ballet flats

*3-4 work dresses, like this one 

*1-2 dress for nights out

*dress pants

*2 work shirts/tunics

*black leggings

*swimsuit

*undergarments

*7 pairs of socks

I’m hoping during the evenings and the weekend after the conference that Mr. F and I can check out the Louvre (especially if it’s raining), Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the catacombs, and generally enjoy walking around town eating croissants and drinking cappuccinos.

Any other suggestions? Along with the photos on this post, I’m gathering ideas on my Pinterest Board, Paris Prep!

Two weeks ago, we left Lucca, Tuscany!

We got back from Italy two weeks ago and it’s hard to believe it! Our favorite meals and part of our trip was in Lucca.

On our last day of vacation, we explored more of Lucca. We had a wonderful breakfast buffet in our bed and breakfast, La Romea14463168_805680962212_8088265215643267060_n made by the host’s mother. Our host suggested another great restaurant for lunch too.

First, we went up the nearby Torre Guinigi (a tower with trees on top) to see Lucca from up above before 14479632_805681860412_1504338499767170563_n  touring the Cathedral of San Martino and walking the walls around the town.  14440935_805684574972_8415438116148072558_n Inside San Martino, there’s the “Sleeping Beauty” tomb that is so beautiful, there’s an urban legend that single ladies rub the nose for good luck, and in hopes of meeting their future husbands. 14462890_805684684752_7313612262319336910_n I liked the painted ceilings, especially over the altar. 14370101_805684704712_8797992724567790587_n 14390710_805684859402_3542697954917504580_n

For lunch, we had an amazing Tuscan feast at Trattoria da Ubaldo. In this goth, rock and roll styled restaurant, 14469682_805685792532_1404321614716240668_n we had delectable chick peas 14457289_805685897322_559927644705074898_n and peppers, as well as the traditional Lucchesi dish, tordelli, 14470436_805685852412_7526009934855775682_n which is similar to ravioli. The owner looked exactly as he does on the menu and 14484656_805685847422_6275614827224872831_n the wine bottle label! He totally looked like a gothic biker, pirate!

14469472_805837857792_6017284883593105659_n On our circuit around the town, we saw a beautiful botanical garden 14448882_805837897712_3162007815470796516_n and decided to walk in.  14462967_805838207092_4551838483463686280_n Inside, there were many local plants, greenhouses with succulents, and ponds with lily pads. 14440614_805685567982_4622342709753261333_n

In the late afternoon, we left Lucca, by bus back to Pisa, to fly home. It was a great way to see more of the countryside! 14470548_805838935632_2705827509478271328_n We arrived in London after 9pm so we decided to get a good night’s rest instead of going into the city, since we had been on our feet all day around Lucca.

14492353_805839150202_7879508549621896522_n Our flight from London to Seattle went smoothly, including having global entry and making customs a breeze. We bypassed nearly a thousand people in line, with our global entry pass and got in a super short three person line. The whole process from getting off the plane to getting my parent’s car, took only 10 minutes. Global entry was the best purchase we made on our vacation. I highly recommend it to everyone and it also includes TSA pre-check!

The most comical part on our return, is that we had to hike into our neighborhood, when my parents dropped us off! The city was resurfacing our street, so my parents had to drop us off two blocks from our house. It was a rather fun and ironic way to end our vacation!

Lucca!

It’s hard to believe that we got home from Italy a week ago!

After several days in Cinque Terre, we took the train for a short stay in Tuscany before flying home. 14462915_805550922812_4149721723144403262_n We changed trains in La Spezia and Viareggio before arriving on the outside of the walled town of Lucca.

Fun fact: the walls around Lucca are 4km, or approximately 2.5 miles, and are now used as a promenade around the town. Seattlites may compare this to the 2.8 mile path around Green Lake.

Mr F and I loved spending a day and night in Lucca. Our accommodations, at the La Romea Bed and Breakfast14469476_805593362762_5528839897463212748_n were fun and spacious, and the host, Giulio, was super helpful. We enjoyed his restaurant recommendations immensely and thanks to him, had our some of our best meals in Italy. We had the Blue Room, which had frescos on the ceiling 14359166_805551446762_399185931823395807_n and a huge bathroom overlooking a church. Giulio told us there were 99 churches in Lucca!

Our first order of business in Lucca was to try the local food. Cecina is a garbanzo bean crepe 14359197_805551661332_752449757416269427_n and a Lucchesi specialty, plus the best place to try it (Pizzeria Da Felice) was a few doors down from our room! It was the perfect snack and healthy too!

We spent the afternoon in Lucca wandering inside the city walls, through Napoleon’s sister’s (the Princess of Lucca’s) palace grounds, 14368621_805592664162_1336268666550091615_n viewing neat statues, and the town amphitheater. My favorite place was the Basilica of San Frediano, with its beautiful golden mosaic. 14440633_805592828832_7423556768817275320_n

Later as we walked to dinner, we heard a Puccini concert from a nearby church!  14469453_805592584322_384505747300321730_n   (Side note: Puccini, the Italian composer of Madame Butterfly, and other opera standards, was born and raised in Lucca!)

Our best meal in Italy was in Lucca, at Ristorante Giglio. (Giglio means lily, which reminded us of our cat!) 14390671_805593452582_6328259852912207912_n We had a lovely table in the courtyard and had a phenomenal bottle of Chianti with our first course, 14358878_805593437612_2632651674644493852_n  of Polpo croccante, melanzane e dragoncello. 14448944_805593472542_5825665313623417660_n The plating was striking and the octopus was perfectly cooked! We also found out that eggplant puree and basil pairs excellently with octopus. 14222315_805593542402_5926433826901611910_n The restaurant had the best service and when I asked if we could move inside, since I was getting bug bites, they moved our actual table inside, because all the other tables were taken! 14448882_805593517452_917601373914837587_n The frescos and chandeliers inside were amazing, in addition to the mouthwatering primi course of 14449843_805593537412_4449029045634717651_n tortelli au ragu (stuffed pasta similar to ravioli) and the spectacular secondi course of Bistecca alla fiorentina. 14358832_805593632222_6017758406892763565_n  Steak florentine is a wood-fired porterhouse steak that they only serve rare, or mid rare. We typically like cotto or well done, but this was the Italian experience and it was delectable. We also found out that our last name of Fette, means slices in Italian!

To top off a wonderful, last official dinner in Italy, we had the Panna cotta al sesamo, caramello salato, mela verde, avena e lapsang souchong. 14449028_805593657172_1507902341629036708_n The sesame flavored panna cotta with caramel, green apple, oats, and tea syrup was easily the best panna cotta I’ve ever had, but also the most complex flavored dessert that I’ve ever appreciated.

It was amazing being in a smaller city where the service and presentation are at a very high level of excellence. All of our dishes were beautiful as well as delicious, very reasonably priced, plus the sommelier was incredibly helpful and helped us find the best wine of our trip! We enjoyed the Chianti with dinner and tried a bottle of Brunello Risvera for the next day!brunello We’d love to return to Tuscany and spend more time in small towns, like Lucca. I highly recommend this town to anyone who’d like to visit Italy.

Top 10 Cinque Terre Tips

1. Visit each of the 5 towns and note the differences! My recommended order is Monterusso, Vernazza, Riomaggore, Manarola then Corneglia, going from busiest to most relaxed towns. The train and water taxi are priced similarly, so I recommend both options.

Riomaggiore from the water taxi

Riomaggiore from the water taxi

2. Move base camps, staying a few nights in each town, in addition to day tripping to Portoverne, by water taxi. We adored our Aria di Mare room with a patio in Manarola. 14390675_804617398602_7290652896719854642_n I highly recommend staying here. 14364723_804614519372_425347319447043177_n

3. All the vino bianco (house white wine) is shockingly good, but consider  14448808_805287730252_6734439248593193465_n    splurging on the single vineyard Cinque Terre white wines, to try the difference. img_7183 While in Vernazza, try the Vineria Santa Marta. They have 3 Cinque Terre wines in their tasting and the brushchetta is wonderful too!

4. Try the fresh anchovies, since it’s a regional specialty, however, it’s unlikely to win you over canned anchovies, if you’re not a fish person.

5. At most restaurants, pasta is the supreme choice and secondi (entrees) are not given as much priority or presentation. You must try the spaghetti al pesto 14370356_805020231322_3483084539749973574_n and if you’re adventurous, try the spaghetti nero (squid ink black pasta with seafood!) img_6934  We thought the best presentation was at Trattoria dal Billy in Manarola.

(Side note: it would be very difficult to be gluten free and eat well in Cinque Terre, unless you exclusively ate seafood and only had coffee for breakfast.14333730_805277545662_769157491905239618_n I rarely saw fruit and yogurt as an option for breakfast. Eggs are not an Italian thing.) 14364803_805277500752_5380460152359192664_n

6. Always try restaurants off the beaten path and with more Italians than tourists eating inside. We had a great experience at Osteria Baracco, near Cinque Terre in Portoverne, and were super happy we ordered in Italian! 14354896_805287680352_4137932634649450375_n

7. Try stuffed mussels and all the fresh seafood that you can! 14441082_805288848012_2342129749336324368_n

8. Swim in the Ligurian Sea especially in Monterusso and Manarola! Bonus points for swimming in all 5 towns! We swam in 4 of the 5 since Corneglia isn’t directly on the water but one could swim near the train station.

9. Hike between at least two towns. We hiked between Manarola, Volestra and Corneglia and it was a vigorous hike for us, with our 35-40 lb backpacks. 14292251_805018390012_6046303426147600117_n Via Della Amore between the towns was closed but I hear this is a less strenuous hike and shorter too!

10. If you’re busy and you want lunch on the go, the Ligurian region is the birth place of focaccia. It’s thinner and more varied than anything I’ve had in the US! We frequently grabbed a focaccia with different toppings, or piece of pizza mid-day, or for a snack! 14390937_804614788832_5608074694926474075_n

 

 

Monterusso is a must!

Wow, Monterosso is our favorite Cinque Terre town and we wish we had visited it sooner! We took the water taxi from Vernazza to Monterusso OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfor the day and it was so much fun. We walked through the markets, windy cobblestone streets that were surprising not has steep as the other Cinque Terre towns,  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and got pizza before going to the West side of town and renting an umbrella and chairs. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was totally worth paying for the space because there were very few people and a spectacular view. The warm was perfect and we could swim along the shoreline for 40 minutes end to end without obstruction! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We highly recommend that anyone wanting to vacation in Cinque Terre get a room in this town, especially if they’re interested in beach time!

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This is the perfect beach setting and the weather was equally as nice!

On the South end of the beach, there was a World War II bunk in the rocks OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA that also had a great view, especially from the top!

We didn’t want our amazing beach day to end, but when we ran out of water, we decided to go back to Vernazza, to change for dinner.

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On the water taxi back from Monterusso

img_7635 Before dinner, Mr. F and I had fun taking pictures of the main piazza of Vernazza from our room! It was like playing, Where’s Waldo?

My college room mate, Emily, recommended this place!

For dinner, we returned to the lovely Ristorante di Castello for a great table and excellent service. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This time we tried the pesto lasagna and the frutti di mare! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My absolute favorite things on the menu is the dessert. We had the tiramisu last time as well as the pistachio mousse, so this time we got the coffee cake and the mousse again! This is one of top favorite desserts of the trip! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Dinner at Ristorante di Castello one more time!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our last sunset in Vernazza was beautiful and we couldn’t be happier!