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11.13.2014

Honeymoon: Paris | La Ville-Lumière



Oh, Paris! Paris is a city that just oozes with romance and wonderment. You can enjoy Paris via train, via cab, and/or via walking. Each one offers a different perspective of the city. Our top choice was to stroll hand-in-hand, as we were able to leisurely go from point A to point B and detour to point C through various streets easily.


We hit up the usual attractions -- the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame Cathedral, love lock bridge (we didn't participate but were amazed by the amount of locks, despite the recent concerns), the Louvre, etc.

a view of the Eiffel Tower from the Seine River
the Eiffel Tower
looking up the Eiffel Tower

"Paris is always a good idea" - Audrey Hepburn

Arc de Triomphe
love locks
love lock bridge

"Hold me close and hold me fast/ This magic spell that you cast/ This is la vie en rose." - Louis Armstrong

Notre-Dame Cathedral
the Louvre


On our last night in Paris, we went on the Seine River sunset cruise. It was a very relaxing and memorable way to end our trip. It felt bittersweet, because we loved our European honeymoon, but we were also getting pretty homesick too (especially being without Louie...! But it turns out she was totally fine without us, and loved being pampered by grandma and grandpa). We will always look back on this trip & although our memories may fade as we grow older, our photographs will be our forever souvenirs. This post concludes our honeymoon series; thank you for reading :) xx



Our previous posts can be seen here:


10.31.2014

Halloween 2014

I'm taking a short break from the honeymoon series to wish you all a safe and happy Halloween! To celebrate the Halloween spirit, I'm going to share a few photos of Louie in her various costumes this year. Enjoy :)


Our groomer gave her a festive bandana!

The makings of a Tina Belcher (from Bob's Burgers) costume.

Louie as Tina Belcher ( > v < )


Louie as the friendly triceratops.

Louie as an owl :)

Yesterday, my husband took our camera to his Halloween office party. He let his co-worker go through several of the photos (because she is also a Bobs Burgers fan), and she said him "Oh my gosh, so cute!! ...So is this what your wife does during her spare time?" Haha. I'm quite embarrassed, but yes...it's true. I'm very lucky Louie is a good sport about it all!


10.27.2014

Honeymoon: Paris | Catacombs

Halloween is only five days away! Do you have any fun plans or are you enjoying the festivities quietly in the comfort of your home like my hubby and I are? We really enjoy the Halloween ambiance and decor (but don't care too much about going wild with adult costume parties and the like. I know, B-O-R-I-N-G. But I love seeing kids and pets in their costumes, and we've managed to get a few shots of Louie in her costumes this year).

Speaking of Halloween decor, as some of you may already know, we are big fans of museum quality skeletons. We only have a handful that we've managed to collect over the past few years (as a side note: we only collect oddities that have been sourced ethically -- from animals that were already found dead, usually via natural death or via road kill -- and the legal ones). I am very squeamish when it comes to blood and flesh (one of the fundamental reasons I could never be a professional in the health field and why I faint every time I have to have my blood drawn!), but I find that skeletons offer the purest form, and you can learn so much about the animal from it (e.g. what types of food they ate, decay from illness, etc.).

Which brings us to today's post -- our experience from the Paris Catacombs. The Paris Catacombs is an underground ossuary which holds the remains of nearly six million individuals. In the 18th century, the city was experiencing an overcrowding in cemeteries and came up with a solution to transfer the bones to the catacombs.


The tunnel is nearly 20 meters beneath the city -- 130 steps to go down on a spiral staircase and 83 steps to go up. Only a small portion of the catacombs (2km) is open to the public, but there are dozens of secret entrances around Paris (it's illegal to travel in these secret passages).

This wall indicates that it was built on January 5, 1847.


The ossuary entry mark: Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la Mort ('Stop! Here lies the Empire of Death")

Inside the ossuary, the bones are grouped by the cemeteries that they came from.

 Some are neatly stacked along the corridors...
...and others arranged in patterns, like hearts and crosses.

I apologize for the blurry photos; once you are inside the ossuary there are no flashes allowed and the camera we took on this trip is not stellar in the dark. Which brings me to share another fun tidbit-- the tunnel is still dim today, but at least there are several lights that are hung up. Until the 80s, visitors had to carry around candles as a source of light! Which begs the question...Can you imagine how difficult (and spooky) it must have been for the building crew in the 18th century to transport and arrange bones in the dark?!

Visiting the catacombs was definitely a treat for us, but I wouldn't say it's for everyone -- especially if you suffer from claustrophobia. If you plan to visit, try to get there as early as possible and be prepared to wait in line for at least an hour to two hours -- the catacombs only allows up to 200 people to visit at once. We decided to pay a little bit more and purchased a group tour in advance. The advantage of traveling in a group tour is that your tour guides will wait in line for you while you walk around the neighborhood and grab a cup of coffee (or whatever you fancy), and they will give you the low-down on the history and provide interesting facts, and will also try to answer most questions you may have. If you decide to go through a group tour, you'll need to plan ahead as they tend to book up far in advance.

10.23.2014

Honeymoon: France | Palace of Versailles

After a few days in Normandy, we hopped on the train to go to our final destination in Paris. We had a romantic stroll around the Eiffel Tower & indulged in freshly made crepes (one of my all time favorite desserts!). 

The following day, we hopped on the train to visit the Palace of Versailles -- roughly an hour away from Paris. Palace of Versailles was in one word, grand. The ground has a lot to cover in a day, from the Palace itself to the Trianon Palaces and my favorite, Marie Antoinette's Estate. In between all of that, there are beautiful fountains and manicured gardens as well.

The street leading up to the Palace of Versailles
Outside the Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles housed the French government, including its royalty, in the reigns of Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI. After the French Revolution in 1789, the Palace ceased to be a permanent royal residence.





Hall of Mirrors
the Palace



The walk from the Palace to Marie Antoinette's Estate, roughly 35 to 45 minutes.
Marie Antoinette was an Austrian princess and wife to Louis XVI. Often tired of the pomp and etiquette of  the Palace, Louis XVI gifted her the Petit Trianon, a small chateau on the grounds of Versailles, as a wedding gift. It became a place for the Queen to retreat to with friends.

Marie Antoinette's Estate



the Billiard Room with Marie Antoinette's painting


In the Trianon garden, Marie Antoinette requested that a fake peasant village (hamlet) be constructed. Although the hamlet itself was fake, a real, functional farm was tended to here by a family named Brussard (as a side note -- we saw animals ranging from goats to peacocks to muskrats here). Although it struck the wrong chord with the general public for the Queen to spend state funds to build an elaborate and fake hamlet in the comfort of her Estate, it was seen by some as an attempt for Marie Antoinette to get in touch with with a simpler life -- something she may actually have preferred to compared to the extravagant lifestyle as a royal in the Palace of Versailles.



The ground was a lot to cover in a day, but well worth it! Again, so much history in Europe! :)

10.14.2014

Honeymoon: Normandy | Mont Saint-Michel Abbey

So one might imagine that we were sick and tired of seeing castles and churches in Europe...but nope, not us!! Each one has their similarities, but they were also vastly different in terms of history, and we loved learning about them. Out of all the churches and castles we experienced during our honeymoon, La Sagrada in Barcelona was probably my favorite, but a close second goes to the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey in Normandy, France. In fact, one of the biggest reasons that I wanted to visit France was so that my hubby and I can visit the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey.



After several scorching hot days spent in Madrid, we looked forward to a little cooler weather in Normandy. Madrid  was a city bustling with busy people, so we were also looking forward to a bit of a slower pace as well -- Normandy felt familiar to us although it was our first time there. It reminded us of Marina del Rey in Southern California -- a small town of sailors with some boutique shops. The main difference of course, was the language barrier! Haha.

We spent a day at the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey -- but in all honesty, we could've probably spent another day there! It would have been interesting to see the tides rise up and down at different times of the day. The Mont Saint-Michel Abbey is situated on a small rocky tidal island, surrounded by the bay. During high tides, the road leading up to the Abbey can literally be underneath the water.



According to legend, in A.D. 708, Archangel Michael told the local bishop to "Build here and build high." It became a place for Roman Catholic monks to find solitude, and many of them paid pilgrimage. During the course of history, the Abbey shifted into a prison during the French Revolution (1791~1863).  Stone cells were built where prisoners couldn't stand nor sit. A giant tread wheel was also built so that a half dozen prisoners would power it like a hamster would run on the wheel and haul two ton loads of supplies from the landing below. The prison was finally closed in 1863, and the Abbey was declared a historical monument in 1874. Today, millions of visitors come to the Abbey every year to set foot on the UNESCO World Heritage monument.

The walk to the Abbey is a one-way route. There are so many narrow and steep steps to get to the top -- so be prepared to wear your most comfortable shoes if you plan to visit :) You can also stroll by the small town and buy souvenirs, nosh on a crepe, or if you're lucky enough and reserved far in advance -- stay at some of the bed and breakfasts there. Once inside the structure of the Abbey, you'll go through a series of bare, Gothic rooms.





It was such an amazing experience -- I had always admired the Abbey from photographs on the internet, but experiencing it in person was so much better! It is a unique experience that my husband and I will always remember.