Paradise Perfected: Paris, Provence and Positano

Like what I did with the alliteration? In all seriousness, vacations don’t get better than this. A bucket list trip for me has been Provence and Positano, and of course, Paris is the cherry on top of any vacation and always a must when flying through Europe. I can smell it now, the windows of our Fiat rolled down, smells of lavender wafting through the air, the starchy salt of the Mediterranean on my bathing suit as I licked a gelato cone, and the thrill of standing on the bus, feeling as if I was on skis going around each tight corner of the Amalfi Coasts winding roads. Below is my itinerary for the pictorial summer vacation.

Here we go:

Day 1 – Read my post about a perfect day in Paris here. Get ready for Eating, Blisters, More Eating, and Loving Paris more than you thought was possible.

Day 2 – Take the early TGV from Gare du Lyon to Avignon. From the train station, there are car rental offices nearby where you will pick up your (likely tiny) vessel and set off to the one of the most beautiful destinations. Re-acclimate yourself with stick shift as you find your way to your first Provencal town of Gordes. This Roman city is guaranteed to take your breath away. It’s most likely lunchtime, so wander and find La Trinquette. A bowl of local olives will hold you over until you can order the most heavenly lunch you’ve had in a while. Make sure to order wine with your lunch – they’re all local!  When you’re finished, I recommend shopping in the town and picking up souvenirs such as straw bags, olive wood cutting boards and lavender essential oils. Time to get back on the road. As you make your way through the tree lined streets, driving through quaint Provençal towns, something starts to change. The straw fields of gold turn into lavender and sunflower fields. All the goosebumps. Before heading on to the hotel, stop at Abysses de Gordon to have a reality check of where you are. Continue on your way (about an hour drive) before checking in to Relais & Chateaux, Le Couvent des Minimes. Revel in the beautiful lobby before heading down to the pool surrounded by Hermes orange umbrellas. Slim Aarons, is that you? Dinner is available at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Cloitre or their more-casual, but equally amazing, Le Pesquier Bistro. Get the Bandol rosé. You’re welcome. Enjoy your night under the stars and on terracotta rooftops.

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Day 3 – After having an espresso on your porch, and one last dip in the pool, it’s time to hop back in that Fiat and continue onwards (not before taking a photo in the property’s sunflower or lavender fields!) Stop in town and pick up items for a road trip snack. Drive about 1.5 hours through lavender heaven in the Luberon to Gorges du Verdon and prepare your senses to be delighted. The water is the most piercing, yet rich turquoise you’ve ever seen – guaranteed. You have time to either drive to a vantage point to look down on the gorges, or to take a dip in the water, rent a paddleboard or kayak. Bert and I opted to take a dip. If you haven’t caught on quite yet, the French really know how to live. Get back in the car and make your way to the French Riviera: Nice! We arrived to Nice in the early evening, dropped our bags at a hotel that was perfect for our purposes — clean, cheap and convenient to downtown and the airport. I took B to the ocean, showed him around the Old City and then stopped for moules et frites and some house red wine. Tomorrow it’s time for a new adventure.

Day 4 – It’s time for pasta, pizza and aperol spritzes: Take an early flight from Nice to Naples, Italy. If you have a lot of luggage, pre-arrange a car service before arriving to Naples – the taxi lines are quite long and the drivers make up a price on the spot. There is also the option to take a bus to a ferry, but since Bert had his entire suitcase from his month in Rome, we opted for a car service. We chose to stay in Positano because of our accommodations at the lovely bed & Montepertuso, Cole dell’ara. Cole dell’ara is actually the hilltop town above Positano, called Montepertuso. It is a lovely B&B run by Italian brothers Giacomo, Marco, and Pasquale with views so incredible you will need your travel companion to pinch you. Take in the incredible views of the city while drinking an aperol spritz and playing with the many cats that live on property. We were quite happy to coincidentally find that some of the cities highest-reviewed restaurants were in Montepertuso, just a quick walk from our accommodations. Tonight, dine at La Terra, a rustic family-owned restaurant with views that rival the hotels.

Day 5 – Hope you’re hydrated! Today is about to be a trip highlight. If you don’t speak perfect Italian, and don’t have connections, don’t even bother trying to call Da Adolfo. Instead wake up early(ish), throw on your sexiest Italian swimsuit and head down to the port. You are looking for a boat with a red fish. Tell the driver you don’t have a reservation. He will tell you they have no chairs. You say that’s ok. If you plan ahead (unlike us) bring towels for the rocky beach with hot stones, if you forget, don’t worry – you’ll be just fine. Da Adolfo is something you just must experience – run by tan, leathery skinned, attractive Italian men, Da Adolfo is something you will remember the rest of your life. This is the beach club of all beach clubs. Get a bottle of crisp wine, an ice bucket, and a reservation for the second seating at lunch (there are only two settings, and those with chairs aka that made a reservation in Italian, have the first seating). Enjoy jumping off cliffs into the clear turquoise waters before sitting at lunch (and getting attitude that you oddly enjoy) from the waiters. Order everything. They specialize in fresh grilled seafood. It’s hard to describe the experience here, but it’s basically like being at the best fraternity party of your life, but replace the men with sassy tanned Italians, the kegs with aperol spritz and painted-pottery carafes of wine. The crowd will make you feel like you’re in the Hamptons. Get to know the neighboring table, and pretty soon you’ll be a bottle of wine deep with them.

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Day 6 – Today is all about Italian cooking. After enjoying the breakfast spread of fresh fruits, lemon and plum cakes, hard boiled eggs, and the most delectable bruschetta, sign up for the foraging class at Cole dell’ara. The first half of the day you will spend with the eldest son, walking around Montepertuso and learning the history of what ingredients are indigenous to the region and the art of Slow Food. After gathering arugula (rocket, for the rest of the world) from the sidewalk, pumpkin flowers from a vine near the handrail, and fennel from the ground – make your way back to the B&B where you make a meal with all the ingredients you just foraged – and trust me there are a lot. I discovered my favorite Italian delicacy on this day – more than gelato – drumroll please…. mozzarella broiled on top of a lemon leaf. Never have I had a more delectable flavor grace my tongue. We also learned how to make orecchiette pasta, a vegetable quiche, apricot preserves and a fresh tomato salad, all from ingredients that we foraged during our hike. That evening we went down to the beaches in Positano and took a well-deserved nap on the pebbles.

If you’re hungry, back on top of the mountain, treat yourself to a family-style dinner, at La Tagliata. This two-storied restaurant is a crowd pleaser. Each person gets their own bottle of wine (unlimited) followed by never ending plates of appetizers, pastas and meats, all for 30 euros per person. A steal and so delicious.

Day 7 – Enjoy soaking up the sun at another popular Positano Beach Club – Bagni d’Arienzo. You know the drill now, you take a boat from the main port in Positano, and spend all day soaking up the sun and swimming in the ocean. This beach club is more family friendly and all around more mellow. It’s lovely.

 

Day 8 – This day was a toss-up for us – take an expensive ferry to Capri or explore the rest of the popular seaside towns via ferry. We heard mixed reviews about Capri in its peak season and while people raved about the beauty – they prepared us to be ready for lines. It was the end of the trip, and we were running out of $$$, so we decided to explore the other seaside towns. Side note: the ferry to Capri was approximately 60 euro RT, whereas our transportation to the seaside towns in total was about 30 euro. We took the high-speed ferry to Amalfi. Amalfi is a small town – quite touristy but incredibly charming. You can walk the entire city square in about 20 minutes. Buy your hand-painted pottery and limoncello here. Our favorite seaside town, was quiet hilltop Ravello. This medieval town has winding streets that are asking to be explored. Ravello boasts big inviting piazzas intersected by store-lined side streets. It has its own magic. If we had more time, I would’ve visited Portofino and Capri, but I guess I’ll just need to come back. The entire coast feels like make-believe, a beautiful dream. It’s time to make your way to Naples for your morning flight.

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I didn’t know cities like Naples existed in Italy. To be honest, the only thing I appreciated about it was the pizza – other than that, it’s dirty, a bit rough, and a bit seedy, but the pizza is worth the trip. Bert and I waited in line for Naples “best pizza”, established in 1870, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. There is guaranteed to be about 100 people in the street waiting in line for this pizza – pro tip: go in and order and your Neapolitan pizza will be ready in a few minutes. They only serve two kinds, classic margarita (basil, tomato sauce and mozzarella) and sauce pizza. The pies are only 5 euro and I recommend drinking a Peroni while waiting in line. After all, it’s your last night in Italy.

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Corianna’s City Guide: Paris

For those of you lucky enough to have an upcoming trip to Paris, or for those of you would like an excuse to daydream about time spent in Paris – I invite you to take a trip with me down the grand boulevards, the boat-lined Seine river, the quiet parks, the marble bridges and the noisy street café lined sidewalks, I’d like you take a trip with me to Paris.

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I spent five short months living in Paris during the spring of my junior year in college, and those months continue to fill me with some of the most warming thoughts and memories. Memories of petite children riding scooters to school, speaking French in high pitched voices; memories of quiet, dewy mornings in the park; memories of my bookshelf-lined attic apartment; smells of toasty baguettes and fresh flowers from a nearby stand, of dazzling lights and historical relics from a time of exuberance. If you’ve been to Paris, you love it. It’s impossible not to be infatuated with its metropolitan beauty. Paris is a place you go to fall in love, with a person, with yourself, with a rue, with a café, with a piece of art, with a city.

EAT

Let’s just say I wasn’t living like Marie Antoinette during my time in Paris. My money that would normally be reserved for eating out in the states was reserved for traveling throughout Europe on weekends (though there is no reason to leave Paris). It’s overwhelming to know that although you are in a city with some of the world’s greatest chefs, you won’t be able to make it to to even half of the great restaurants, or even a handful. Do not fret. You’ll be able to get a good meal anywhere in Paris. However, my recommendations for what to not miss are below.

Corianna recommends not missing the following in Paris:

Moules Mariniere
Mousse au chocolat
Pain aux raisins
Emmental cheese crepe
Steak Frites
Cheese, cheese and more cheese
Salted caramel from Normandy
Omelette au fromage
A baguette, fresh from the oven
Kinder Bars
Croque Madame

The list goes on and on…

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L’As du Fallafel | If you find yourself in the Marais, do not miss out on this falafel shop. Chewy pita, crispy falafel and all the fixings bring the lines to this joint. Stand in line or take a seat inside.

Au Rêve | …or a dream. If you are enjoying the historic Montmartre district, be sure to eat at this hilltop café. Serving up delicious specialties such as canard (duck) and homemade glace au chocolat (chocolate ice cream) there is nothing better than sitting outside and watching the day pass by.

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Berthillon | The line is worth it – the ice cream doesn’t get better than this. If you can’t wait in the line, go to any of the cafes on Île de-la-Cité, they all serve it. My favorite flavor was fig.

Ladurée tea salon | Ladurée is worth the fuss. They serve macarons so delicate that they melt in your mouth and keep the people lining up. My favorite flavor? Rose.

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Have access to a kitchen? Nothing will make you feel more like an American in Paris than buying summer vegetables at a local market and pulling together ratatouille. Julia Child would be proud.

DRINK

Get used to saying “une caraffe de vin (rouge/blanc), s’il vous plait,” to this, you will be given a carafe of the house white or red wine – and trust me…I was never disappointed.

Le Baron Rouge | A small neighborhood wine bar, that is seemingly always packed and serves up delicious wine for 3 euro a glass. There isn’t much room to sit, so people often stand, often overflowing into the street – it’s really one big party.

Les Closeries des Lilas | Ernest Hemmingway’s haunt is nestled in the neighborhood I resided in during my time in Paris. Come here to dance as you scarf down olives, listening to live piano jazz in the background, while drinking an American cocktail with a French twist.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway

DO

Museums

Musée de l’Orangerie | My favorite art museum in Paris. There is just the right amount of art from the impressionist period that makes you feel as if you’ve seen a good amount, yet doesn’t overwhelm you. This is where Monet’s water lilies or nymphs are.

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Musée D’Orsay | Another wonderful collection of art. You could easily spend the entire day here.

Catacombs | The Catacombs ran underneath the house I lived in during my time in Paris. They are one-of-a-kind & not for the faint of heart.

Parks

Jardin des Tuileries | Walk from the east to the west of the garden to end your walk with wonderful views of the Tour Eiffel and Place de la Concorde. If it’s nice, bring a picnic (including wine!)

Luxembourg Gardens | Perfect place to get lost. Take your time soaking in the wonderful gardens, moss covered fountains and bronze statues. If it’s warm out, watch children sail their homemade boats in the fountain. If it’s cold, sit at one of several cafes and enjoy a latte.

Parc Montsouris | My neighborhood park. Come here to snack on cheese, get an ice cream cone, read a book or people watch.

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See

La Tour Eiffel | I don’t care who you are, when the Eiffel Tower glitters and sparkles on the hour mark, everything is right in the world.

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Louvre | Though not my favorite art collections, the Louvre is not to be missed. Look for the Mona Lisa, and Venus de Milo among many other famous pieces.

Montmartre | Make your way to the north of Paris for spectacular views, and old-Parisian charm. If you get a chance, sneak to the cabaret… I recommend Au Lappin.

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Notre Dame | Enjoy scenic views of the marvelous cathedral from the banks of the Seine.

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The Marais | Touted as the hip neighborhood of Paris, the Marais has a lot to offer – from fun nightlife, to fabulous shops, and Musse Carnavalet. If you find yourself in the Marais, make a stop at L’as du Falafel mentioned above.

Saint-Germain-des-Prés | My favorite neighborhood in Paris. I’m definitely a left bank kind of girl. This is where Paris feels the most like Paris to me. With open air markets, famous cafes, and beaucoup de charm, the 6th arrondissement is not to be missed.

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Markets | Do not leave Paris without stopping by a market, if only to inhale the blue cheeses or get a glimpse of fresh rabbit. I urge you to pick up one thing you haven’t had before.

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This list is really just a beginning. On one of my first nights in Paris, my French cousin urged me to “get lost and enter,” and that is what I urge all of you to do as you find your own way through Paris.


I enlisted the help of my Parisian girlfriends that I studied abroad with to lend me their one favorite thing about Paris…the thing is, their one favorite thing turned into a bit more, because no one can decipher that one thing that made them fall in love in the City of Light.

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Brigitte | Eating bread and drinking wine.

Kate | My dear! You ask me my one favorite thing to do in Paris? Ce n’est pas possible! All things to do, eat, smell and see in Paris are my favorite. And since I hear you already stole away my hidden gem restaurant, Au Rêve, with the best canard in the city, I’ll have to say walking through Montmartre of course. While many tourists say “oh of course,” I don’t mean just sitting with great Nutella ice cream on the steps of the Sacre Coeur. I mean the elegant “other side” of the hill itself. While of course I’m bias, strolls passing famous artists’ such as Piacasso hot spots, seeing young French children play soccer in the street, and the Normandy style homes…It’s my oasis. Just that stroll. On my peaceful walk I would stop in my favorite crêperie in the city, Brocéliande. I don’t mean any crepe, one for those gluten free readers, traveling is hard enough eh? And forget those crêpes on the street , step inside this treasure in the corner of Montmarte and discover wonderful crêpes. Not just the sweet ones, but with eggs, fresh veggies and a cider to top it off. The buckwheat gluten free crêpes were my go to. All in all, taking a stroll is my favorite thing, in Montmartre or getting lost in the rest of the city. That was my favorite thing and still is my favorite thing to do in the whole world.

Kathryn | Waking up early & walking the empty streets as the sun rises from the rive droite to the rive gauche, stopping to get pain au chocolat & taking a bite out of a fresh/hot pastry. Admiring cute, drunken boys on my way to the Marché Raspail just returning home from a night of clubbing. Really taking time to notice people’s expressions & “Je ne sais quoi” — let’s be honest – drinking wine at 11am, drawing & journaling at cafe tables, being leisurely, still, quiet & sexy, wearing cashmere & pretending to be french, smirking at boys from across the café …


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Be sure to check out my Paris tab for more of my favorite things & feel free to ask questions in the comments section below!

La Vie en Rose

My days of croissants for breakfast, lunches in Luxembourg gardens, cocktails in the Saint Germain des près, and dinners in Madames house are coming to an end. I haven’t been updating my blog as frequently because I’ve really been trying to absorb as much as I can as my great experience comes to an end. My friends that I have met abroad are all on their way back to the states, and I will soon be joining them after a final two week trip to Italy and Greece.

I have been asked the question many times, “are you ready to go home”? The answer: no. Paris is a captivating city; it’s dynamic, it’s romantic, it’s intense, it’s charming, and it’s uniquely mine. The monuments, the limestone apartment buildings, the cobblestone streets and cafe crèmes are all seen differently through different people’s eyes.

It really is the little things that made me fall in love with Paris: the same old man setting up his book stand on my walk to school, how no dogs walk on leashes and follow their owners loyally through the city streets, children scootering down the sidewalks, sitting down and enjoying a small café-instead of rushing around with a massive to-go cup. It is the small details that I will miss most.

This is not goodbye though. This has only fueled my fire for my love of travel, wanderlust and Paris.

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It’s finally here, springtime in Paris. We’ve waited long enough for it and it is time to truly take advantage of what this city has to offer, starting with a trip to the outdoor sculpture garden of the Rodin Museum. 

I wasn’t very excited about going, as I couldn’t appreciate sculpture as a form of art, but Rodin changed my views. Glad I didn’t close that door. The garden is absolutely lovely and if you aren’t interested in visiting the museum, you are able to pay a euro and sit in the garden (where most of the sculptures are anyways).

The same person, in three different positions

The Thinker(s)

My french professor had us meet at St. Sulpice the other day and from there, she gave us a list of directions in French. It was a scavenger hunt throughout the St. Germain-des-près area that required us to go into to cafes and ask waiters, look into store windows for certain books etc. The hunt lead us to Luxembourg Gardens, which was in full bloom and alive with people. 

Meeting point: St. SulpiceKind garçon helping on the hunt! Jardin du Luxembourg 

Today, I woke up and visited a petit cafe near my home to get some work done for my classes. The vibe you get at Parisian cafes is so unique, they really give the city character. 

“Je voudrais un café crème s’il vous plait!”

When my paper was finished, I started walking in the direction of the right bank with an agenda in mind: Shakespeare and Co. bookstore and Victor Hugo’s home…oh and because the weather is so fabulous an ice cream cone from Berthillion. 

Shakespeare and Co. BookstoreFrequenters of the bookstore (Fitzgerald, Stein and Hemingway just to name a few)Reading my new book of French poems by the SeineWalking to Ile-de-la-Cite for my ice cream

Banan et ChocolatHome of Victor Hugo

Feeling inspired to finish “A Moveable Feast” by Hemingway, I went to the local park to do so. Parks in Paris are just so much better, more crowded, happier, and livelier. America we just don’t do it like Paris.

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As you can see from the title, I was all around Paris this weekend. As my weekends in the “City of Light” are dwindling down, I had a lot of things to cross off my list, and the nice weather this weekend gave me the perfect opportunity to put a satisfying check mark next to those items on my list.

The first thing on my list was to hike the stairs to the top of the L’Arc de Triomphe to get a panoramic view of Paris. This view is said to be the best in Paris, better than from the top of the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame. It’s true. It was great to see all different neighborhoods or “cartiers” as they say in French. 

View of the Champs Elysées

After taking in the sights of Paris, I was inspired to take the fastest metro to the original Chanel and make a purchase. Don’t get too excited, I got the least expensive thing in the store, a lipstick (Bonheur). Nevertheless, I got the Chanel treatment—I even got walked out the door! They sure know how to woe me. 

I forgot to tell you, I also splurged and got an Angelina hot chocolate. It is literally like you are drinking chocolate fondue. 

Filling full of rich chocolate, we took the metro to the end of our line, where there is the biggest flea market in the world “Port de Clingancourt.” If you are looking for something or not, you are bound to find something because of the variety that is offered; paintings, vintage chandeliers, cell phone cases, shoes, smoking pieces etc. 

Sunday forecast was 75 degrees. It was time to run to the market and collect all items necessary for a picnic in the Tuilerie Gardens.

Grabbing necessities (baguette and cheese) for picnic in Tuileries 

Picnic in Tuileries

 Another item to cross off my list was visiting Père Lachaise cemetery. It is absolutely vast. After getting completely lost, and taking a break in the 77 degree weather to tan, we finally came across the tombs we were looking for: James Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Chopin. It was, of course beautiful and serene to walk through the cemetery and see loved ones remembered.

Grave of ChopinOscar Wilde’s grave. Once masked by kiss lips, the grave has been restored because of decay caused by the lipstick. Explanation can be found here.

Jim Morrison’s grave

Cinq Choses

Quite frankly, I’m becoming a Francophile. Every day, there is something that I find myself more in love with in this diverse city.

This is my first weekend in Paris in a month, and the forecast is actually boasting spring weather.

1. Taking a day trip to the Normand country side to visit the home of Claude Monet. Even though the water lilies weren’t out because of the unusually cold and long winter, it was still a sight.

2. The trash system in Paris is incredible. I am absolutely fascinated by it. Trash is picked up around the city, small side streets and all, daily.

3. Reading the novel, A Moveable Feast by Earnest Hemingway and being able to recognize almost every location and restaurant that he talks about. Also, visiting his favorite bar, Closerie des Lilas and getting a cocktail.

4. Walking around Montmartre during the day and at night. You get a completely feel at both times of day.

Fountains which you can use to fill your water bottle, found all around Paris.

Home of Vincent Van Gogh

5. The boulangerie near my school that spews out smells that make you consider getting one of everything on display and has a line of french collegiate students to match. I normally go for a the classic sandwich with ham and cheese on a toasted baguette.