Paris By Numbers

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Last winter I spent a week in Paris with my husband that I’d planned months in advance. Each meal was chosen with care, and we found ourselves running from one side of Paris to another like the proverbial chickens without heads, and it was cold and rainy. I vowed that the next time I returned, I would do it differently; I would use math. Since I’m a writer and not a STEM girl when I say math, I mean numbers; specifically arrondissement or “districts.” I culled together all of my favorite “eating, drinking, shopping and seeing” lists from over the years and created a Google document to use as a roadmap so that I wouldn’t miss something fabulous just around the corner (a dreaded fear). I have to say, it worked like a charm, and I will continue to build on it and take it with me when I return in May with my daughters for Mother’s Day, and their first trip to Paris.

The trip began with a semi-stalker moment. One of my favorite bloggers, Sara Lieberman, is a NYC expat living her dream in Paris and writing about it. Her newsletter, Overthinking It is fabulous and one I look forward to reading when it arrives in my inbox on a bi-weekly basis. Many of my past Google searches about all things Paris have her name on the by-line, and now I understand why – she is a FONT of knowledge. More on Sara and her many talents in next week’s blog. Sara suggested we meet for wine at La Cave du Paul Bert. I have to thank my friend Syd for the personal introduction!

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Me and Sara only a few hours after arriving in Paris (my justification for how I look in this picture).

This is a picture of the special ladies that shared my week. Kylie (on the left) was in Paris working on the branding of her frozen yogurt shops, California Bliss , which help to fund her non-profit Global Glow an incredible organization that helps young girls in 27 countries around the world (and my school in the Bronx, The Bronx Academy of Letters) to find their voice and tell their stories. And Lisa, Efrot and I were there to eat and shop and TALK. We all accomplished what we set out to do!

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We ate at L’ami Jean Bistrot Belhara Les Philosophes Cafe Charlot Bofinger Ellsworth and La Societe where we were joined by Candice Kumai, a food and wellness influencer with a HUGE following.  We had yummy margaritas at Candelaria the speakeasy in the non-descript taco shop (thank you Tori B for the great rec).

And we sang into the wee Paris hours at Aux Trois Mailletz a past favorite from Maria. We took advantage of the twice-yearly sales, where almost everything was 50% off, (see Google doc mentioned above for names) and spent our last day together combing the stalls of the Vanves Flea Market.

This buyer’s paradise has always been on my Paris To Do list, but I was never able to get there. I’m thrilled with all my purchases, especially my new coupe glassware that I’ll use to make my current cocktail, the French 75 (thank you Jacqueline) and my cool coasters, from 1924 that say Liberte*Egalite*Fraternite.

There is no place like NYC, but Paris is my happy place. Every time I leave, I can’t wait until I can return. A tout de suite!

Amusez-vous soyez audacieux!

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What are your holiday traditions?

My friend and fellow blogger, Dina, talks about the origin of the tradition of Christmas trees in her newsletter, which got me thinking about the holiday traditions our family looks forward to each year, and how they have changed depending on demographics like the country we are living in and the age of the kids. We spent six Christmas holidays in Japan, and although the Japanese don’t celebrate Christmas, they have come up with some of the most interesting ways to put a Japanese spin on the festivities. The tradition I found the most hilarious is the eating of KFC on Christmas, and the need to place your order months in advance.

In the Jardine family, a tradition is simply something you do more than once, so we have a lot of them. Our oldest holiday pastime is the newspaper barrier my husband creates that blocks the kids from opening presents Christmas morning. When they were young, it made more sense. When two of your kids are 6’3″ and they can see above the few taped pages of newsprint, it doesn’t hold the same significance, however, we still do it every year. For the past five years, we all wear matching Christmas PJs on the 24th while we watch Love Actually and the Polar Express and drink hot chocolate. This year, we are reducing our carbon footprint, and we’ll wear matching fluffy socks. From our years living in Japan, we’ve incorporated the New Year Daruma wish. I buy the tiny ones at  Pearl River Mart. We color in the left eye of the Daruma, and we write our wish for the coming year on the bottom. We place them on a small altar in our apartment (aka book shelf), and then wait for them to come true! They almost never do, but this year we have two wish winners – Annie and Tom (Tom had two of his past year’s wishes come true this year). We will throw those in the fire at New Year’s to acknowledge their accomplishments. The rest sit on the altar waiting for their time to get thrown into the flames.

 

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And each December 23rd, we dress up and eat a massive amount of Chinese food at Mr. Chow, the place I celebrated special occasions with my family as a young girl, made even more special by the fact that Tom asked me to marry him after eating a meal there. We order exactly the same thing every year, never veering from our favorites, and we like it that way.

One of my most practical traditions started about five years ago when I realized that one day my kids are going to want to take their ornaments with them when they get married and have their own trees. So each year they receive an ornament representative of something big or small that happened to them that year. Here are a few examples:

I’m a lover of holiday traditions, so if your family celebrates in a fun or unusual way, please let me know. I’m always looking for new opportunities to have fun, make memories and bring meaning to celebrations.

Wednesday I planned a holiday lunch at Union Square Cafe. It’s the perfect place to celebrate with good friends as the food never disappoints, the service is on point, and the chance of a celebrity sighting is high (I see you Zach Braff and David Schwimmer). It also happens to be across the street from Union Square (natch), and it makes for an easy transition to the holiday market for shopping.

I started the weekend at a two hour breakfast at Buvette another one of my go-to spots. It is one of the original all-day dining restos that are now so popular, opening at 7 am and closing at 2 am. They don’t take reservations, but it’s worth the wait. To me, it’s the cheapest and fastest way to transport myself to Paris. The espresso steamed scrambled eggs with prosciutto and shaved parm is perfection.

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I’ve wanted to have brunch at Sadelle’s since it opened but I refuse to spend a large amount of my weekend standing in line, and it’s not easy to get a reservation during the prime brunch hours. Since it was the first Saturday in months without college football, I planned to seize the day and start very early. We had a table reserved for two at 8:45, and although it wasn’t brunch, it was still oh so awesome.

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We had enough time after breakfast to walk the semi-empty streets of Soho, window shopping and laughing at all of the ridiculous items for sale. For the person who has literally everything…

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A 10:20 am showing of Mary Queen of Scots at The Angelika Film Center, my favorite place to see a movie since it opened circa 1989, made the start to the day that much more enjoyable. I thought the movie was very entertaining as I am a huge fan of the early royal days and like nothing more than reading or watching anything to do with this historical fiction genre. I am team Saiorse since I first saw her in How I Live Now – the movie version of one of my favorite dystopian Young Adult books (same title).

Today, I spent the morning at the The Whitney Museum.

Thanks to my friend Lotte (who was the idea behind the emptynestnyc.blog btw) we had the good fortune of going “All Andy” with the supreme Whitney docent Debbie. I learned that Debbie has many talents and is the co-founder of an intimate art salon, EdelHaus Art Salon  If you are interested in attending one of her private events, please send me a note and I will connect you. My fascination with Andy began while a student at NYU in the early 80’s when Andy was still alive, and I had the good fortune of spying him at Area – one of my go-to clubs while in college. I was totally obsessed with him and his Factory crew after reading Edie: An American Biography. The show at the Whitney is fabulous, and I will go back as it requires more than the hour I spent this morning.

Tomorrow I am off to Napa to celebrate the holidays with my West Coast Tokyo ladies. The annual gift exchange started in Tokyo and continues each year in California. I cannot wait to arrive. Look for a fun post when I return – maybe even a co-blog post with one of my all-time favorite Tokyo transplanted friends and fellow blogger: Napanista!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

I Have A Lot On My Mind

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I imagine you do too. Not much happens on a typical Tuesday. It’s not the start of the work week or the Humpday, and it’s definitely not Thursday, which is almost Friday and then it’s not a weekend night or a gloomy Sunday. It really is the only meh day of the week. But not next week. Next week it’s THE only day that matters. And that’s why I have a lot on my mind.

This past week on Halloween, I attended a day-long conference on The Future of Work  hosted by The Atlantic magazine at the Park Hyatt in midtown. It ran from 9 until 3:30 and dispensed a whirlwind of information. Can you guess what the future of work involves? I’ll give you a big hint: it has four letters and rhymes with deck. There were many takeaways from the day, but here are my favorites:

“Today, technology is something that we use. Soon, technology will be something that we are.”

“Up until now, our lives were linear. We spent the first 22 years becoming educated, the next 40 years working, and the rest of our lives retiring until we died. Half of all ten- year-olds today will live until 104. That means that the work part of our lives will last at least six decades. In the future, after our first two jobs, we’ll circle back to education, retrain and then pivot in another direction. We might pivot a few times until the end of our careers.”

I’m sort of jealous that my life didn’t have as many loops as my kids’ lives will. I think this is one of the problems with empty nest women today who want to go back to work.  They have an incredible amount of life skills and perspective, but don’t have the current training to use them. Thankfully this won’t happen to our daughters. For more information check out Future Is Learning. I highly recommend checking out the upcoming conferences that the Atlantic hosts as they are super informative and FREE!

One of the things I love about Halloween in NYC is that you don’t have to plan anything and you can have an amazing time. The city is one big party, and everyone is invited, even fancy Mr. Eyeball.

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Tom is a mask guy. Unfortunately, with the crowds, it turned into more of a weapon.

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Thursday evening I went out of my go-to neighborhoods and had a drink with the poet (and my friend) Esther Cohen . Esther is a people poet. She talks to everyone, listens to their stories and then writes short poems about them. Even if you are not a “poetry” person, you will like reading Esther’s daily poems. She suggested Boulevard Bistro in Harlem on Lenox Avenue and 122nd street. I was so amazed to pop out of the subway on 125th and find one of the most beautiful boulevards I’ve seen in the city. I plan to return and walk the neighborhood. The small soul food restaurant is located in the basement of a brownstone. The staff couldn’t have been nicer and I look forwad to returning to try their food.

Living in Flatiron/Gramercy is a food lover’s paradise; however, there aren’t that many small local places that you can walk in and eat (please, if you are reading this and you feel differently, leave a comment and enlighten me). So I have tasked myself with noting small places that look interesting whenever I am out and about and Friday night we went to St. Tropez Winebar which really is a misnomer because it was so much more than a wine bar. The vibe is cool urban warmth, well lit with a tiny open kitchen that performs small miracles. We started with Moules Marinières, which immediately transported me back to Deauville circa 1986 and the best bucket of mussels I’ve ever eaten. Next we shared Daube Provençale (braised Black Angus beef stew in red wine) and truffle Mac and Cheese. For dessert, a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. It was all fantastic. They had a nice selection of wines by the glass too. So far, my little experiment was a success. If you have any local spots in your neighborhood, please let me know!

Have you read A Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata? It’s a tiny book that packs a punch. I lived in Japan for six years, and convenience stores (conbini) are the lifeblood of a Japanese person. The first one opened in the 70’s (a 7-11), but they are nothing like our convenience stores. The Japanese have a knack for taking ideas from other cultures and improving upon them in a very Japanese way.  I always tell tourists to make sure to visit several different ones while in Japan and buy things that they’ve never had before. On Saturday I went to hear the author talk about her book (and other books she’s written) at the Japan Society. Murata-san is an award-winning Japanese author, and she looks at life through a very interesting and unique lens. I guarantee you won’t be bored!

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Alas, Tom was adamant that we stay in Saturday night to watch Alabama vs. LSU (he is a big LSU fan) but the game was a huge disappointment. I guess no one can stop Tua Tagovailoa.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Fall Break

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As an empty nester, I try to make a big deal when one of my kids comes home for the weekend. Lucky for me, two of them live in NYC, so when we are joined by a third or a fourth, it’s cause for a bit of a celebration. This weekend, the youngest came home from college and, in an unusual turn of events, I had them mostly to myself. Tom was teaching at Columbia Thursday, Friday and Saturday and so there was time for serious #mombonding.

Thursday night we went to dinner at Bistro Pierre Lapin a new French bistro that was on my short list. Even though it opened only a few months ago, it has the ambiance of a favorite spot that’s been around forever. The first thing we noticed when we walked by were the real tapers on each table. It hit me that it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten by real candlelight and how much I miss it. The menu has all the French bistro favorites you’d expect and many unexpected choices as well. The ravier, an overflowing tray of small vegetable dishes served tableside is impressive, as are the Plats D’Accompagnement – five out of the nine are potato based. We chose the truffle fries and the pomme aligot – a potato puree with cheese, also served tableside.

It was divine and unlike anything I’ve ever had. The meal was over the top delicious and extremely high in calories, but it was worth it.

Friday night we celebrated Tom’s upcoming birthday at one of our favorite bars, Sel Rrose. I was able to reserve a large table and invite friends to join in the celebration. The cocktails and the oysters are the focus at this corner spot on Delancey and the Bowery. I also brought two boxes of doughnuts from Dough to blow out candles. It was the icing on the evening. Oh, and just in case you didn’t know, skin is in. IMG_3938

Saturday brunch was at Nur. I’ve been to Nur several times for dinner (it’s two doors down from my apartment and serves excellent middle eastern food), but they just started serving brunch. All three of my kids were recently in Israel and are now huge fans of the food. The brunch is prix fixe and begins with their sesame bagel (large enough for four) with varied mezzes, and then proceeds to shakshuka and an egg stuffed pita and ends with a small dessert. We rolled out of there in desperate need of a long walk.

Saturday night we were craving Asian and went to our new favorite sushi restaurant Kanoyama. It’s authentic and feels like a place you would find in Tokyo. The fish is very fresh, but the prices are very reasonable. It’s always packed, but they take reservations between 5:30 and 7. After that, it’s first come first wait. And because we were in the neighborhood, we stopped in at Sundaes and Cones our neighborhood ice cream paradise.

Tonight I’m cooking, and the smallest child’s request is for Bulgogi. I’m off to HMart to buy the ingredients for Korean “fire meat.”

Tomorrow we diet.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

Don’t Believe The Hype

Okay, I take that back. Don’t always believe the hype. Some things of course hold up, like the beautiful landscapes of the south fork of Long Island (see above), or the satisfaction of making salted watermelon juice fresh from the farm stand (see below). IMG_0936

But, this weekend, thanks to Resy Select, I was able to score two reservations to restaurants I’ve been trying to get into for months; Don Angie and Frenchette. Regarding hype, Don Angie hits the mark. However, I found it a challenge to dine at Don Angie with only two people, as I wanted to order everything on the menu. We started with the stuffed garlic flatbread, which was exceptional, as well as the cantaloupe, prosciutto, mint, tamarind, hazelnut, and feta cheese salad. It was summer on a plate; a recipe I will steal and make at home. For the main course, we shared the garganelli with broken meatball ragu (OMG) and the charred shell steak with preserved lemons, and a side of eggplant with pine nut brittle. Nothing on the dessert list tempted us, so we saved our calories for Twizzlers at the movies. The only thing we found a bit odd, was that there were several open tables. Knowing how hard it is to get a reservation, I couldn’t figure out how they were managing the room. Maybe they save tables for walk-ins? If so, I highly suggest you do that.

On the other hand, I know my experience at Frenchette is going against everything I’ve read, but I thought it was just okay, and expensive. The room had a great buzz, and unlike Don Angie was packed, with tables turning constantly. My first issue is that their wine list consists only of petnat wines, which are very trendy right now. I tried to like them, I really did. But I’m not a fan of wines with a tingly mouthfeel. When I drink champagne, I like bubbles. But when I drink wine, I don’t want anything buzzing on my tongue. We had several of the menu highlights, like the raw oysters served with sausages, the brouillade (softly scrambled eggs with escargot), and the duck frite. I think I would have enjoyed the brouillade more at brunch with toast. Speaking of toast, I was disapointed by their bread as well. The duck was overcooked and lacked taste. We also ordered the bistro cut steak and the clafoutis with cherries for dessert. The steak and frite were good, the dessert, not so much.

The highlight of the weekend was knocking off another item on my Summer To Do List – Coney Island. The weather was perfect – 75 degrees, overcast, and breezy. We took the Q train to the last stop and found ourselves in crazy town.

We had a blast riding go-karts, eating Nathan’s hotdogs, White Castle hamburgers, soft serve and Italian ices. The boardwalk is one of the best places for people watching. Grab a bench, and get a front row seat to a fascinating world.

Have fun. Be bold.

 

 

 

 

Cake and Ice Cream

IMG_0361It was my 53rd birthday last week, and more than any birthday in the past 25 years, I feel uncertain of what the future holds. It’s been exactly one year since we moved into the city as empty nesters and what an incredible year it’s been. But I can’t help thinking; what’s next? I spent the last few months trying to gain meaningful employment as well as find an agent for my middle-grade book. Both to no avail. I have re-learned how rejection feels, and it’s not great. However, I realize that no one is going to come and find me in my apartment. So if accomplishing my goals means additional rejection, then I’m sure there is more of that to come this year. The good thing is that I have so many friends in the same situation; looking for answers to what they want to do now that their kids are grown, and that helps.

As I said, it was my birthday, and there were lots of opportunities for celebration. A fun dinner at Eleven Madison Park (EMP) Summer House with old friends included cocktails on swings, and make your own sundaes (pictured above). IMG_0353

We used to have a home in Amagansett, and the town still holds a special place in my heart. But last weekend, I noticed that two of my favorite spots (the old Amagansett Market and Mary’s Marvelous) have been replaced with expensive gluten-free vegan health food. Sad!

On my actual birthday, Tom took the day off from work, and we had a lazy romantic lunch at Le Coucou my favorite restaurant in the city. We sipped pink champagne, and there was zero concern for calories.

Lunch was followed several hours later with a family dinner at Palma.

I’ve passed by this sweet little Italian restaurant many times while wandering in the West Village and it’s always packed. I booked a table in the back garden, and it was a perfect evening. Everything we ordered (and we ordered a lot) was wonderful. It would be an excellent place for a romantic date night.

Tuesday, Marybeth treated me to a great birthday by visiting The Met Cloisters to see the second part of the Costume Institute’s Heavenly Bodies. It was the perfect summer day, 75 degrees with no humidity. We couldn’t have timed it better!

Wednesday I scheduled a 90-minute birthday massage. My therapist came recommended, and when I arrived, I found out that he was visually impaired. This is something I was used to in Asia, as many of the best massage therapists are blind. And the first 45 minutes of the massage was great. And then he fell asleep. Yes, he did. I kept trying to wake him up by coughing or sniffing, and sometimes someone in the hall would drop something, and he would come back to life. It was a very odd 45-minute finish.

One of the best things about living in the city is that we get to see our Tokyo friends who are now scattered to various latitudes and longitudes around the globe. At some point, everyone makes their way to NYC. We met up with good friends who now live in Australia on the roof of Eataly at Serra by Birreria, which looks better than it eats. The bar is jammed after work with millennials drinking frose and aperol spritzes, and the food is just ok. But if you want to feel like you’ve been instantly transported to a terraced garden, it’s a good spot.

Friday night, I got an early reservation at Davelle a tiny Japanese restaurant on the Lower East Side that just received a great write up in the NY Times, and a high rating on The Infatuation. It has three small tables and a few seats at the bar, and that’s it. There was a line outside, and almost every seat was filled with Asians including a friend of our son’s from the American School in Japan. Having lived in Japan for many years, I am familiar with Oden, a main dish on the menu at Davelle, because it’s what they sell at every 7-11 counter in Japan. Small bowls of dashi broth with various ingredients like daikon radish, fried tofu, vegetables, etc… We ordered an assortment, as well as the best potato salad, and a delicious Japanese curry rice with shabu-shabu beef on top, and a crave-worthy spicy cod caviar spaghetti dish. Tom and I enjoyed the meal, but I wouldn’t suggest the place to the uninitiated. You need to really enjoy Japanese food to appreciate Davelle. It’s that authentic.

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6 pm dinner reservations scream for after dinner cocktails. We walked down Delancy to Sel Rrose one of our favorite cocktail bars (they also have the best truffle fries). The cocktails are divine, the bartenders are model-gorgeous, and it’s just a really fun place to people watch.

Late night, there was pie. And not just any pie – the best pie in NYC at Petee’s Pie . If you haven’t been, go – they are open until 1 am!!! Tom and I shared the strawberry rhubarb and bought a coconut custard to bring to friends tomorrow.

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Off to sweat it out at the Yankee/Red Sox game!

Have fun. Be bold.

 

Paris Unplanned

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I’m laughing as I type in the title to this post because anyone who knows me knows I would never go to Paris without planning. However, I kept the scheduled activities to a minimum. Tom and I had an entire week to ourselves in Paris, and I wanted it to be as spontaneous as possible. We’d been to Paris before, both on our own, and together, which meant this time around our trip would be less about checking things off and more about going with the flow.

What was great about the trip was sleeping late, without worrying about where we had to be, as any plans I’d made always started with a lunch reservation. Some of the gastronomic highlights included the crepe complete at Breizh Cafe, the onion soup at Le Philosophes the pistachio and chocolate escargot at Du Pain et des Idees  the steak frite at Le Severo the beef bourguignon at Le 6 Paul Bert the absolute beauty of Le Grand Coeur, the carrot veloute at The Clown Bar (the pigeon pictured below, not so much), the poached egg with shaved truffles at Bistrot Belhara and the warm fuzzy feeling we had at Gaspard de la Nuit.

Of course, besides eating, shopping and drinking champagne (there was a lot of the latter), we filled our days with long walks to nowhere, which ended up including Montmartre, Luxembourg Garden, St. Germain des Pres, La Tour Eiffel, The Louis Vuitton Foundation, The Musee Rodin, Saint Chapelle, Le Marais (many times), Canal St. Martin, the Musee D’Orsay, and Conciergerie. We even had drinks at Hotel Costes with our friend Saniya, who was in town for work. I love being an ex-expat, as I find my chances of finding friends wherever I go increases ten-fold.

*One of our best nights ended with the late show of Le Crazy Horse. I loved it, but not as much as Tom. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it.

About shopping, it felt like the entire city of Paris was on sale. Every store window had a “Soldes” display. If you want to come to Paris to shop, come in January/February. In addition to returning to Tom’s favorite spot to buy his funky shirts, he’s become “famous” for at Coton Doux I discovered City Pharma (aka the French Fountain of Youth). I think I am the last person on earth to learn of its treasures as it was by FAR the most crowded of any establishment Tom and I entered all week! I left with a bag full of goodies.

I truly enjoyed our unintentional week away, but…if I had to do it all again, with a little more organization (sorry, I just can’t help myself), I would create lists by arrondissement of places of interest, so that when we went to the far reaches of Paris for dinner or lunch (which we often did), I would have an idea of what I could see or do while there. In my experience, many of the new hot places to eat are not necessarily located in the most central of locations.

One of the things I like most about traveling is the research I do leading up to a trip. Of course, I ask friends who’ve been many times which is a great resource, but I also love me some boots on the ground. For that, I go to my favorite bloggers. For Paris, I’ll always ask my friend Dina for food advice. This time around, she recommended Le 6 Paul Bert and also was a big help in making a few hard to get reservations. You can follow her at www.worldfooddina.com She’s a fellow Tokyo expat, who lived in Paris before moving to New York a few years ago. She also has excellent tips for eating in NYC and Tokyo. I also love Lindsey Tramuta who blogs at www.lostincheeseland.com and is the author of the new book The New Paris a fantastic source for all things Paris. And lastly, I love reading Sara Leiberman’s newsletter Overthinking It.

Here are some snaps of our winter week in Paris. I’m sure people questioned our decision to go in winter, but Paris is beautiful any time of year, and there is nowhere more romantic to celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Merci beaucoup to D’anna for making the week possible.

Have fun. Be bold.