Saturday, March 30, 2013

Paris {the first day}

Our big trip for 2013 was back in February - kinda sad it's already over! We spent a whole week in Paris and then four days in Dubai. Almost everyone has asked why we chose those two destinations in one trip, and I can definitely say it's not your typical vacation, especially in February. About a year ago, we were beginning to plan a trip to Vietnam. Amy and John soon convinced us to go to Dubai instead, since they won't be living there forever. So we then booked a trip to the Middle East to visit Israel and Jordan before heading to Dubai. Just two weeks after we booked everything, we had to change plans since the Gaza Strip launched rockets into Israel that were landing near our hotel in Tel Aviv! No thanks. So, after hours of stalking flights and staring at world maps, we decided on Paris. Third time's a charm, right? Even though we aren't hopeless romantics by any stretch of the mind, Bo suggested we spend Valentine's Day in Paris and I was hooked on the idea. Delta had zero sympathy and wouldn't even waive the airfare change fee even though they just announced a travel advisory against Israel...(don't get me started), but thankfully flights to Paris in February are pretty cheap since it's the dead of winter and therefore the travel low season. So that is how we ended up going to Paris and Dubai on the same trip.

We took a red-eye flight getting into Paris mid-day. We made zero plans for the day other than to get settled in our hotel and check out the city. We cashed in some Marriott points and stayed at the Renaissance Paris Vendome Hotel, just a few blocks from the Tuileries Garden. It was a fantastic location, and we were able to walk everywhere we wanted to go in the city. We were welcomed with wine, fruits, and chocolates... I am really going to miss having Platinum status whenever I get downgraded.




We spent the afternoon walking around and stopping in cafés to reading and drink wine. Our first stop was to grab a late lunch at an outdoor café in the Tuileries. Had it been a little bit warmer, we could have hung out in the park all day.

the Louvre





We walked along the Seine River for quite a while, loving the bridges (as usual) and admiring the architecture. It was absolutely gorgeous, even with a somewhat overcast sky.



the Louvre


Hotel de Ville



For our first dinner in Paris, we found a very traditional French restaurant, Au Bourguignon du Marais, which was delicious. I got the Beef Bourgignon, which was (as expected) even better than the version we made just a few days before that.



After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and walked through the courtyard of the Louvre. So pretty all lit up at night!

 



It was still pretty early, so even though we were exhausted we forced ourselves to stay up just a little longer to get adjusted to the time difference. We hung out at the pub across the street from our hotel - I think these were our only beers in Paris, after that it was all wine! :)





Monday, March 25, 2013

The Viking Cooking School

A few months ago, I attended several all-day training courses to get my required CPE credits in before the end of the year. They were all pretty much the same material and I was bored to tears - until one course that offered give-aways throughout the day. I *love* free stuff, so of course I entered. And I WON! I got the grand prize at the end of the day - a free cooking class at the Viking Cooking School! Totally worth staying the entire day. Not that I would ever skip out of class early...

 


Our schedules were too hectic to use it right away, so we eventually found a French cooking class just two days before we left for Paris. Kinda crazy timing but it worked out and we are so glad we chose this class. Coincidentally, we had also just gotten a French/Dutch oven and Julia Child's cookbook for Christmas so we are excited to know a little bit more about what the heck we are doing with both of those :)


wish I had this kind of kitchen at home!


Our menu for the evening was inspired by the movie Julie & Julia - everything was delicious!



This was my first ever cooking class and it. was. awesome.  I obviously had nothing to compare it to, but Bo took several cooking classes when he was younger - so grateful for that by the way, every boy mom should take note! We both really enjoyed it and learned a few good everyday tricks around the kitchen as well as specific cooking techniques that we have actually used back at home - here I am poaching an egg for the first time, and Bo was a quick pro at separating egg whites.




We had a really good instructor and such a fun group. It was just over 3 hours long and there were 10 people in the class. Everyone got to do a little bit of everything and we made one big meal that fed all of us. We were surprised how good it turned out. And as a bonus: free-flowing wine all night! :)



Some of our finished products! Seriously. It was soo good. We got to take the recipe booklet home with us, so hopefully we can create it just as well on our own.



It was such a great date night. Plus it got us super pumped for our trip a few days later, and all the French food we were about to devour. Vacation posts (finally) coming soon!




Sunday, March 17, 2013

Birthday Weekend in Chicago

Adrienne's birthday is exactly one week after mine, and we have celebrated every single birthday of our twenties together so it was only fitting that we close them out together. For many years we have shared a joint birthday party, and after we graduated college, she has always traveled to Atlanta for the celebration. She has also visited one or two other times throughout the year, every year, so needless to say - I was looong overdue to visit her in Chicago. I mentioned it to her a while back in the fall, and when I got a fare discount email from Delta on the same day I got a winter coat sale email from Bloomingdale's, I took it as a sign from the email sale gods that I must book a trip to Chicago. So I did :)

I got in town late on the Thursday after my birthday, and we stayed up talking until the wee hours of the night morning. I had already planned out all of my PTO days for the entire year, so to avoid having to use vacation days, I worked from my company's Chicago office on Friday and the following Monday. It worked out perfectly and I definitely plan on doing it again. I got there just in time, too - it snowed overnight! It was so pretty Friday morning.



I even took the train into work like a local. Compared to my daily 20-30 minute commute, riding the train to work was a dream. I loved it.


awesome view on my way to work




After work that night we had dinner and a few beers at Hopleaf in Uptown. Such a cool place and an overwhelming amount of beers to choose from. That last one required two hands to drink!




We spent the next day walking around Andersonville and Old Town to do some shopping and get our nails done. I was extremely skeptical about getting a pedicure and then putting on my two pairs of socks and boots. How crazy is this - they douse your feet in oil, wrap them up in sandwich baggies, and then you put on socks and boots, and it doesn't smudge at all!! So fascinating, and I wish they would do that all the time so I don't ever ruin my nails :)  I'm sure the lady thought I was nuts for taking a picture of this, but I was so fascinated.





Saturday night I got to meet some of Adrienne's friends, and we all had such a good time together. We started the birthday celebration at Violet Hour in Wicker Park. It was a really cool speak easy with an amazing drink menu. Though it was rather well hidden - this was the entrance which didn't have a sign for me to take a picture of, so this was the best I could do!


It was also a good place for everyone to hang out while we waited for dinner at Big Star, which was just across the street but had an insane line - nearly 2 hours! We spent the rest of the evening at Piece and enjoyed their live band karaoke. We made a pit stop at Ollie's on our way home - a total dive bar that was closing for the night but Adrienne convinced them to let us in for her birthday :)












I had to have Chicago-style pizza, so for lunch on Sunday we went to Lou Malnati's. Loved it! I thought it was even better than Giordano's, which I had last time I was up there.





That night we went to see A Chicago Revue at The Second City. We had front row seats and it was such a hilarious show! I was glad we went towards the end of my trip, since Adrienne had taken me all over Chicago and gave me some background info, I was able to follow most of the jokes. I saved my program so that hopefully I can look back in 10 years and say I saw someone famous from way back when ;)





Adrienne, thanks again for such an amazing weekend!! Love you and can't wait to come visit you again soon!




Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My 29th Birthday

I am sure that most people would consider 29 to be a rather insignificant birthday, especially with the big 3-0 looming out there the following year. But for me, it turned into a nice week-long celebration which is just my style.

My sister, Leslie, came to visit the weekend before my birthday and we had the best time together. She must really love me, considering every other year she's visited has been the coldest weekend of winter, yet she keeps coming back. We spent the entire weekend doing what we do best - eating, drinking, and shopping! There were a ton of great deals over MLK weekend, so we found all kinds of stuff for her wedding, which was our main mission. We had our requisite burger at Flip, and went to two of my nearby favorites: Family Dog and Noche. Saturday night, we even ventured out to the bars in Edgewood for the first time, to Noni's and Church. They were both...interesting. Definitely a different crowd and I'm doubtful we'll go back, but we all had a good time and it made for some entertaining stories. Leslie, thank you so much for coming to visit! It was a terrific start to my birthday week :)



My actual birthday fell on a Tuesday, and Bo took me to dinner at Aria in Buckhead. We both had a great meal - gnocchi, filet, pork, cheesecake, pumpkin bread pudding, and wine of course (and cognac for Bo).






Throughout the week I had several lunch dates with friends and co-workers, and a girls dinner at Nuevo Laredo. Thanks to everyone who celebrated with me!



My favorite and most thoughtful gift - flowers and a balloon from Kim! When we were college roommates we decorated the apartment for each others' birthdays, and decided that our birthdays would last as long as the balloons were still alive. Which turned out to be a really long time. True to tradition, my birthday balloon is still going strong to this day, over a month and a half later :)



Coming up next... for the grand finale of my birthday week, I flew up to Chicago to spend the following weekend with Adrienne!



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Staycation

So I know you are all dying to hear about our trip, but as usual you'll have to wait :)

First up, our stay-cation! A few months ago, I got a free night reward from Marriott, which expired before we were able to use it for any of the upcoming trips we had planned. So we decided to book ourselves a weekend in our own city. We stayed at the Glenn Hotel downtown, and got upgraded to a suite overlooking the park with an awesome view of the city. To top it off, we were welcomed with free wine and cheese. They know the way to my heart.






We had planned to spend the afternoon ice skating at Centennial Olympic Park, which has been on our Atlanta bucket list for forever. Well, about a thousand small children all had the same idea to have their birthday parties there that afternoon. Not exactly how we wanted to spend the day. Instead, we grabbed some hot chocolate and walked around the park and the nearby downtown area for a while. So until next year, ice skating will remain on our bucket list.

from the outside you'd never guess this was an ice skating rink...
 


Olympic Fountain

191 Peachtree - Bo's old office building



We had sushi for dinner at Rise, and it was just okay. Compared to some of our favorite places, it was more expensive and not as good, so we won't be going back. But it did satisfy our sushi craving for the night.





After dinner we walked over to the CNN Center and then to the Philips Arena for the Hawks vs Celtics basketball game. We really enjoy being Hawks fans since one of their star players, Al Horford, is also a Gator grad, and played on our back-to-back National Championship team when Bo and I were students at UF. So fun to watch him play! We aren't die-hard fans by any stretch of the mind, which is a good thing since the Hawks blew a huge lead and ended up losing 89-81. Not a good week in sports for us since we had just seen our Gators lose in the Sugar Bowl a few days before that.











Skyhawk & the Sky Squad halftime show!



The next morning we had breakfast at West Egg Cafe, which we had never been to (practically a crime in this city). Since we were there so early, it was only a 10 minute wait compared to the usual 1-2 hour line. The food was amazing and very reasonably priced for what you get. We both loved it and will definitely be going back!



It was such a fun and spontaneous weekend. Definitely a good reminder that as much as we love to travel, we need to start spending more time here in Atlanta! :)  ...well, maybe in a few months, anyway!