Blogging vs. Real Life: Sometimes Real Life Wins

Things have been busy around here! Between wrapping up the last two weeks of teaching the 6-week summer program, day trips and weekend activities, and a girls’ trip to Nashville, I got a little behind on my blog. I really try to stay on top of the posts, but sometimes real life gets in the way, whether it’s in the form of a grading marathon, or a relaxing afternoon at a winery, or endless lesson planning. All three, plus many more, present good reasons to put the little ol’ blog on the back burner until more time opens up. Don’t fret: next week I will return with the next coffee shop post on Slipstream near Logan Circle. But this week, I am planning and gathering my materials for the Fall semester, which starts on the 31st.

The whole planning process takes a lot more time than expected. There are so many layers. First, you have to decide what’s due when. Then what reading to do on certain days. Then what overarching activities and objectives you want to accomplish. Then what you will actually do to accomplish those activities and objectives. It’s borderline overwhelming. In many respects, it feels exactly like this:

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At the same time, I love organizational tasks, so I don’t really mind.

With summer drawing to a close, I’m sad about the impending coldness and weekends full of grading, but glad that I was able to make the most of my summer over the past few weeks. Also, there are fall leaves already. WTF?!?!

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Having Rahul here PERMANENTLY is amazing, because we not only get to see each other every day, but we can enjoy our weekends together. We’ve explored our city a bit more, drunk wine and “listened” to a 90s cover band with friends (the band was far away and mostly illegible), visited the beach for our engagiversary, celebrated multiple friends moving away (with joyfulness and sadness), saw “The Book of Mormon” at the Kennedy Center (so funny!), and much more. In doing so, I’ve marked off a few things from my DC area to-do list, which included going to the beach in Maryland, going wine tasting in Virginia, and seeing as many plays as possible at The Kennedy Center.

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I also enjoyed a fabulous weekend with some of my dearest friends in Nashville. The weekend officially kicked off our wedding countdown–less than 100 days to go! It was amazing to spend some quality time with my best gals, while also dancing it up all over Nashville. Country music everywhere! We stayed in a house for the weekend, which I highly recommend to anyone visiting the Nashville area. We were in East Nashville, which is an easy and cheap Uber ride to the city. Plus, we had space to spread out and hang during downtime.

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Now that I’ve entertained you with details about my fabulous life, I promise to return to my regularly scheduled programming next week.

 

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2014: A Year in Review

I know we are already seven days into 2015, and that more responsible bloggers had their 2014 blogposts up when it was still, you know, 2014, but what can I say? Sometimes it’s more fun to be lazy. Which, if you were wondering, was exactly how I spent the last few days of 2014: being lazy. After a marathon grading session and a 12-hour drive home (in which Rahul did most of the driving and I did the listening to Serial), a BREAK (in all caps) was exactly what I needed. I watched TV, ate lots (and lots) of food, enjoyed Christmas celebrations, read Wild, saw three movies (Night at the Museum, Unbroken, & Wild), and just generally did nothing responsible for the whole break. In fact, I shut my brain off so well that when I got back to the grind yesterday, I realized I hadn’t checked my work email in about a week. Huzzah!

Now that we are well into 2015, and I am missing Rahul (he returned to India to finish up his internships, after which he will back here FOREVER!), I want to take some time to reflect on 2014 and the great year that it was. All around, it was an AMAZING year, full of fun trips, exciting news, and personal victories. Find the highlights below:

2014: A Year in Review

1. The top of this list is, without question, that Rahul and I got ENGAGED IN PARIS. After talking about it for a long time, and anticipating when it would happen, Rahul surprised me by dropping to one knee and popping the question in front of the Eiffel Tower. It was the perfect moment.

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Celebrating our engagement with photos!

2. Speaking of Paris, visiting Paris added a new city to my travel log. We spent ten days wandering around this beautiful city, during which we mastered the art of eating delicious French cuisine (read=EVERYTHING), drinking red wine, and understanding one out of every seven words in French.

3. After working on my MFA in Fiction Writing for three years, I graduated and immediately became a MASTER WRITER. Just kidding about the latter part, but I did graduate. I didn’t walk, but my overwhelming feeling of accomplishment was achieved after my hour-long thesis review, in which I got to spend focused time with three accomplished writers and receive advice on the project I had worked on for a year and a half.

4. I moved out of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity house, which had been my home for three years. Working as their House Mom was one of my top favorite life experiences, and definitely something I never thought I would do. I was sad to move out of a house with 30 boys, where there was always someone to talk to, but also SO EXCITED to have my own apartment again, complete with real-sized closets, a KITCHEN, and actual carpet.

5. For the first time EVER, I started a Fall semester solely as an employee, and not a student/employee. I taught a total of five classes at three different colleges and, while I enjoyed each of them, I’m scaling down to four classes/two colleges in the spring. Additionally, I was able to stay at UMD as a lecturer, which is great, because I love teaching composition and I love the Terps!

6.  I ran two races in the spring, the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler and the Iron Girl Half Marathon, and beasted both of them! My 10-mile race time didn’t change much from the year before, but I upped my half-marathon time by about 16 minutes! This was a huge personal high for me. At my first half-marathon in 2011, I was determined that I wasn’t going to walk. In my mind, I didn’t train for months to walk. Well, of course, my knee started aching around mile 9, slowing me down considerably. If I taken about 5 minutes to walk to let it rest, I would have done much better–which is what I did this time! I walked during a few of the water stations, and once to take off my jacket, but that was enough to refresh me and push me through the race. Plus, I ran it with my friend Cassie, and my dad there supporting me, which was awesome.

7. In addition to visiting Paris, I saw a lot of cool places in America as well: New York City at Christmastime, the White House Garden Tour, New Orleans for a friend’s bachelorette, Minnesota to visit a bestie, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting. In addition, I saw many friends get married, start new jobs, graduate college or graduate school, and move to new places (including my sister, who is also a friend), which was exciting.

8. Rahul lived with me for a few months, which was AH-MAZING. I loved seeing his face everyday and finding fun things to do together on the weekend. My favorite? Our “Batman with Flowers” painting we created at a paint-and-wine class.

Duh Na Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh BATMAN!

Duh Na Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh BATMAN!

9. After being a TN resident for all my life, I officially became a MD resident. I expected it to feel more life-changing, but really it was just as simple as someone at the MVA taking my TN license and giving me a MD license in return.

10. I can’t think of a 10th event, but I’ll say that this year definitely marked the beginning of my transition from being a young adult to a full-fledged adult. Being employed, engaged, and having my own place to live has made me feel more like an adult than anything else. That doesn’t mean that I still won’t watch “Friends” on Netflix for hours on end, which is what I was just doing while working on this. But hey, in my defense, it’s snowy outside and I’m kind of sick.

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The furthest I’m traveling today is to the grocery store across the street to buy more cough medicine and tea.

I hope everyone had a successful and exciting 2014 as well. Here’s to 2015, or, as I like to call it, OUR WEDDING YEAR!

A Tourist’s Guide to Christmas in NYC

There are a lot of places on my travel wish list. Greece, Instanbul, Rio De Janeiro, the Great Wall, Texas (one of the 12 states I haven’t visited), London at Christmastime, Spain, etc etc. Some of the places on my travel wish list are conveniently located in America, like NYC at Christmastime, which happens to be only 4 hours away from where I live. So this past Saturday, Rahul and I loaded up my car (if you count packing banana bread, nutri-grain bars, water, and an apple as “loading up”) and drove up to NYC for the day.

We hit the major Christmas spots: Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Macy’s, Central Park (Home Alone bridge), and more. We oohed and ahhed at the pretty Christmas lights, window shopped at Saks Fifth Avenue, and bought some delicious treats at Chelsea Market. We also mastered the subway, only getting turned around once. All-in-all, it was a fantastic day, full of Christmas cheer and enormous crowds.

I’m minimally familiar with NYC, in the sense that I know what direction the major tourist attractions are. I can tell you how to find Central Park and am really good at pointing at the big buildings in the sky (and how to differentiate between the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building). That being said, I figured there are other people like us (aka non New Yorkers) who are venturing to NYC for a Christmas day-trip and might appreciate a little advice from another tourist POV.

A Tourist’s Guide to NYC 

1. If you only have time to see the Rockefeller tree once, then do it at night. It’s so much prettier because the lights hide how droopy the tree is (and it was kind of disappointing during the day). Plus, the lights make everything look magical. Be prepared to overhear fun things like “YOU like the crowd, I don’t like the crowd” and a child responding “I hope I get lost!” after a mom said “Stay close, you don’t want to get lost.” Put your fight face on to maneuver through the crowd.

In case you need more convincing to go at night…

2. Don’t wait in the line to ice skate at Rockefeller Center. Not only is the ice skating rink tiny tiny, you’ll be standing in a line in the cold. Rahul and I chose to watch the skaters from above instead. Plus, we got our ice skating fix in at the Sculpture Garden Ice Rink a few weeks ago. Plus plus, there are tons of other rinks in the city (we saw at least 5, and we definitely only visited about 5-10 % of the city).

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3. Take cash. I know this seems so obvious (and I can hear my parents’ voices in my head admonishing me for never having cash on me), but some of the subway stops accept cash only. Plus, toll roads.

4. Speaking of toll roads, if you are driving, be prepared to pay. Also, don’t pull a Katherine of 2012 and get so overwhelmed by the honking drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike that you speed right through the “EZPass only” lane. They will find you and send you a notice with the money you owe. If you enter the “no toll roads” option on Google maps, pay attention to the map, or you might end up stuck in immobile traffic for an hour (that didn’t happen to us or anything…).

5. Paying attention to the map is a good rule in general. Have a general idea of what leads where, and don’t go down roads that lead away from the island if you are trying to stay on it. It’s like the rule my family and I created when we visited DC when I was in high school: DON’T GO IN THE TUNNELS. They lead you somewhere completely different than where you were trying to go.

6. Except for the Rockefeller tree, hit the major attractions early: the Empire State Building, Macy’s, FAO Schwartz. Save “easy” attractions, like Central Park, for empty spaces during the day, as Central Park is huge and, unless you are wanting to use the ice skating rink, there are no lines.

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Central Park ice skating rink.

With the Home Alone bridge (except you can't really see the bridge).

With the Home Alone bridge (except you can’t really see the bridge).

7. Speaking of lines, DON’T wait in line at Grand Central Terminal to use the bathroom. This is where Rahul and I had lunch (Shake Shack!) and there was a ridiculous line for the ladies bathroom. Go over a few blocks and use the bathroom at the NY Public Library, which has a much smaller line and allows you to reenact scenes from The Day After Tomorrow.

8. Speaking of the NY Public Library, it’s beautiful inside! Plus, it backs up against Bryant Park, which features a Christmas market, skating rink, and a Christmas tree. This tree was much less disappointing during the day (the ornaments help).

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9. The decorations at Macy’s and Saks were beautiful, but save your shopping for elsewhere. You can buy a Kate Spade purse anywhere. Personally, I liked Chelsea Market. There were tons of small shops inside, including an Etsy pop-up shop, where local Etsy sellers were selling their stuff in person, an Anthropologie, and a flea market with several individual boutiques, including Pamela Barsky. I’m set on my Christmas shopping, so I didn’t buy anything, but we did have lobster straight from a fish market (new experience for both of us) and delicious mini doughnuts that I probably overpaid for….

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Macy’s.

10. Speaking of the “money” factor, I’m a big supporter of using your money for food and drink over shopping. I know many of you probably have a vision in your mind of shopping on 5th avenue being fabulous, but if you’ve never been to NYC before, let me break it to you: each store on 5th Ave. is overwhelmingly packed with tourists, even the fancy ones. Most people are walking around and taking pictures (especially in places like Macy’s), and you don’t get much space to breathe. If you must buy something, buy something representative of the place, not a shirt that you could probably buy at home. Instead, spend your money on food! There are tons and tons of restaurants and food trucks and other food places (like the Doughnuttery in Chelsea Market that I probably overpaid for) that are delicious and will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

That’s it! Many of these are probably no-brainers but if you’re like me and google “what to see in NYC at Christmas,” you might also appreciate a list of tips from a NYC outsider. Saturday was, of course, busy because it’s Saturday, but we aren’t able to go during the week. Plus, it was amusing (at first) to see all the Santas dressed up for Santacon (which I didn’t know was a thing until we saw a bunch of them at Grand Central), then annoying after a while. Once you’ve heard one drunk idiot yelling about how drunk they are, you’ve heard them all. Plus, it was nerve-wracking watching some of them try to catch taxis.

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Grand Central was our first Santacon sighting. At first, I thought it was some charity thing (which I think it technically does raise money), but then I heard “selfie!!!”

Stay safe, kids, and remember this:

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A (Long Overdue) Thanksgiving Recap

Thanksgiving break is one of those tricky holidays that gives the allusion of SO MUCH FREE TIME, but then it goes by in a blur. It felt like we had just landed in Nashville when we were going back through security to fly back to MD. Where did the time go?

I had grand plans to grade papers and get a head start on the grading and general teacher things that’s about to smack me in the face over the next few weeks. With final grade deadlines fast approaching, I’m tickled with anticipation of some free time, but also have to constantly remind myself to finish the grading.

However, not grading papers, not checking my school emails (hey, it’s called a break for a reason!), and not worrying about my classes for a few days was a nice break. Of course, I felt kind of bad when I met with students bright & early Monday morning to discuss their last assignment for the class, as many of them said “My break was good, but I had the paper to write.” Then I also accidentally kept saying “only two more weeks!” only to be reminded that it’s 2 more weeks of classes and teaching, but 3 more weeks of classes & exams for them. OH WELL. LIFE IS HARD, KIDS.

But back to Thanksgiving festivities! On Thanksgiving day, I saw many family members, Rahul and I shared our engagement story and photos, and we participated in the 5th installment of the Kipp History Family Play.

On Friday, Rahul and I looked at WEDDING VENUES, added to the wedding notebook of ideas we’ve started (we’re using the Sugar Paper planner & notebook from Target, as it has space to write notes in a monthly calendar but also regular notes), and had some focused wedding discussion.

The result? WE HAVE A DATE AND A VENUE! Now we are just counting down the calendar to November of next year. We’re getting married in our hometown, and I am fully immersing myself in researching all things wedding. You can follow my Wedding Ideas Pinterest board to see what strikes my fancy.

On Saturday, Rahul’s parents hosted an engagement party for us. The party was a fun celebration of us, our families, and our impending intertwining as one. There was great conversation, delicious food, many, many engagement gifts (ranging from a lehenga to multiple wedding magazines to clothes and jewelry) and just fun and laughter all around. I was welcomed into Rahul’s family (see pictures below), made some fun slow-motion videos with Rahul and my sister, Molly, and talked wedding, my most recent favorite topic.

Paris Favorites

I have been wanting to sit down and write this blog post for about two weeks now, but the last two weeks have been rough. Since we went on vacation in early August, I came back and had less than two weeks to prepare for the start of Fall classes. On top of that, since I am teaching four classes at three different colleges, this meant I had to prepare three completely different syllabi and course schedules. Don’t get me wrong, the organization I got to do because of this was amazing–hello, detailed planer and wall calendar. Hello, IKEA mini file cabinet that fits perfectly into my room divider. But the actual class planning was a bit overwhelming and left little time for anything else. I’m just now going through all of our vacation photos.

That being said, since Rahul and I had such a fun time writing the last blog post together, we thought we’d do so again! We’ve compiled a list of all our favorite things from our Paris adventure and are excited to share that list with you–in two parts, because I wrote a ridiculously long post. Sorry, guys. Our favorite is obviously Trocadéro, where we got engaged and also now forever known as our Paris spot. Beyond that, we have many other favorites to share. Rahul’s segment will be featured in the next blog post, so be sure to come back for his! Jouir!

PART 1: KATHERINE

1. Eating chocolate croissants at a random café near the Louvre followed by walking along the riverfront. This is probably on everyone’s list of things to do in Paris, and for a good reason. Not only are croissants a staple breakfast/snack item, but the chocolate ones were ultra delicious, mostly because they were a SURPRISE. Rahul bit into one and had a childlike moment of “holy crap this is amazing,” which I, of course, thought was super cute. We then followed the croissant-eating with a walk along the Seine, which was lovely and perfect. I’ll add that this was also right after our ENGAGEMENT, which is why this was one of my favorite moments from the trip. It was earlyish, so the city was still waking up. It was nice to stroll around before the hoards of tourists took over.

2. Picnicking in front of the Eiffel Tower. Again, probably on everyone’s to-do list and, again, for a good reason. We had already seen the Eiffel Tower sparkle a few times at this point, but watching the Eiffel Tower change from an iron structure (and still totally impressive) to a beautiful, sparkling thing over the span of a few hours was amazing. The sun set behind the Eiffel Tower while we were there, which made for some good photos and lovely views. Plus, we had cheese, crackers & wine purchased at France’s version of Target, Monoprix, which allowed us the chance to picnic while Tower-watching which, HELLO, how many times will we ever get to do that?

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Paris by day.

3. Speaking of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, having dinner inside the Eiffel Tower was definitely one of them. On Engagement Day, we ate dinner on the 1st floor of the Eiffel Tower, which was beautiful and surreal. The food was delicious and was followed by several hours trekking to the top of the Tower, where we had a champagne toast and watched the city sparkle. Walking up to the 2nd level was probably one of my favorite parts. Since you are walking inside an open structure, you experience the wind and terrifying moments of “WHAT IF I FALL” all while watching the city grow smaller and smaller beneath you. There was an elevator for the 2nd to top floor though, obvi. We stayed at the top for a good while, and were surprised by the large amount of people still climbing to the top at 11:30 at night!

4. The Louvre…oh, the Louvre. The Louvre naturally belongs on this list because it’s the world’s largest museum, but OH MY GOD is it overwhelming. If I never have to stand in a room with that many people again, I will be a happy camper. I’m talking about the room where the Mona Lisa is housed, of course, because that’s the first place people dash to upon entering the museum, including us. We figured we might as well get it out of the way before moving on to the rest. And while I was impressed by the Mona Lisa, and loved seeing it in person (not so much the shoving to take pictures and get to the front of the crowd, people can be vicious), my favorite part was actually the Egyptian floor, which housed hundreds of artifacts from the Pharanoic Egyptian era. Not only were those floors much less crowded, but it was a part of history I am actually interested in. Plus, they had a SPHINX there. I mean, come on.
I will say, I was also depressed and saddened after visiting the Louvre by the amount of people taking photos of the paintings/sculptures, etc without actually looking at them. So many people just clicked photos of paintings and moved on without ever taking their eyes away from the camera. Maybe the museum should institute a no-camera day, yes? Because otherwise it’s freaking annoying.

5. I also loved Monet’s waterlilies in the Musée de l’Orangerie and the Renior/Monet paintings in the Musée d’Orsay, which also took the prize for most beautiful museum structure, in my mind. The museum is built out of an old train station, which provides it a unique look. It was here I discovered I’m apparently a fan of Renoir, as I have several paintings of his in my apartment, including “Young Girls at the Piano.”

6. After Louvre Day, we trekked to the Arc De Triomphe and had beers in a random restaurant with a view of the Arc. This was one of my favorite things about Paris: eating meals in places with good views. We did the same at Moulin Rouge, by Notre Dame, and alongside the river, as mentioned before.

(photo cred for all of these goes to Rahul)

7. One night, we were wondering around and found Paris’s beachfront. At one point along the Seine, the city had poured tons of fake sand to create a long, fake beach, complete with lounge chairs and umbrella. There was also a beachfront restaurant and performers—err, I mean an awkward mix of tourists and exercisers practicing Zumba, which was fun to watch. We sat in the sand and made various sand creations, including giant shoes. We also watched the performers for a while and enjoyed some beachy drinks (coffee and beer are beachy, right?).

8. Our day trip to Épernay was one of my favorite parts of the trip. A friend of mine suggested visiting champagne country, and we went with only Wikipedia knowledge of champagne and came back as experts! Okay, maybe not experts, but we thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Moët & Chandon, despite the obnoxious people in our tour group who looked at the price of a bottle of Dom Pérignon in the gift shop and said, “oh, it’s not that bad.” The tour entailed wondering through sprawling tunnels that housed thousands of bottles of champagne, where we learned all about the process of making and storing champagne, which was actually fascinating. Plus, the tunnels were a treasure in and of themselves, and totally a place Charlie from It’s Always Sunny would live if the show was based in France. Afterwards, we had lunch and walked to the edge of the town, where we got a gorgeous view of not only the champagne vineyards, but also the town itself. It was beautiful and a nice change from the city streets of Paris.
This was also the day I purchased an emergency sweater and pair of boots because WHOA was France unexpectedly cold. My little Southern heart was not prepared.

9. THE FOOD!! How could I not include the food? I don’t think we had one meal that was just okay. Every meal, from the petit déjeuner (a breakfast of croissant, bread & coffee) to the croque monsieur to the CREPES to the mussels to the wine to the macarons to the okay let me stop before I get out hand…it was all amazing. I love food and Paris, dear Paris, you reaffirmed my belief that IT IS OKAY TO LOVE FOOD. In a society where body-shaming and avoiding carbs are part of the daily routine, it was nice to relax and eat all of the bread in sight.

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A collection of many of the delicious foods we had in Paris. Photo cred to Rahul.

10. To piggyback off of food, we did a lot of walking in Paris. While this may not seem like it deserves its own category, it was one of my favorite parts of the city. In Paris, it feels as if every single street has something different to offer, and it was nice to explore the city via foot to see what we could find. One of my favorite walks, other than the river, was from Moulin Rouge through Montmartre to Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Even though we didn’t spend a lot of time there, this part of the city featured winding streets that seemed to continually incline. Other than the sex shops (which, let’s be real, about half of those are put there to make the tourists stop and take photos), this part of the city was lovely.

11. On our last day, we visited Promenade plantée, which is a park built literally on old train tracks. We strolled through for a while, enjoying the mix of park forestry and flowers + the city below. It was beautiful & QUIET. While the other parks we visited were lovely also, this one holds a special place in my heart. Plus, afterward, we had Subway for lunch and Pizza Hut for dinner because if you don’t eat at at least one American establishment abroad, you’re not doing it right. JK, we were tired and needed to pack.

12. Even though this isn’t in France, I really enjoyed our day trip to Manchester, England to see a Manchester United game. Rahul is a HUGE Manchester United fan, and when he realized it would work out with our schedule to fly up for the day to see them play, we jumped on the opportunity. Excuse me, once in a lifetime opportunity. Even though I know next to nothing about football, and had to suppress my urge to ask constantly “why did they do that? What’s that mean again? etc etc,” being with Rahul as he got SO SO EXCITED seeing the stadium, entering the stadium, watching the game, seeing them score a goal, and so on, was awesome. Even though football is not really my thing, getting to watch Rahul as he enjoyed one of his favorite things made my day. Plus, afterward, we saw a few players and other important people, including Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, the latter of whom made eye contact with Rahul while driving away. He said I had to remember this because no one would believe him.

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Happy Fan!

13. Versailles was another overwhelmingly crowded place, but the gardens were lovely. The palace itself was crowded and consisted of people pushing you along to get to the next room. Plus, the tourists that take photos without actually looking at what they’re photographing were back. But the Hall of Mirrors was amazing and the gardens were spacious, not as crowded, and gorgeous. It rained early in the day while we waited in a ridiculous line and laughed at the people who tried to skip line and got in trouble with the guards, but was luckily sunny by the time we got to the gardens.

14. It goes without saying, but Notre Dame and Sacré-Cœur Basilica were two favorites. Notre Dame was, by far, more beautiful inside–plus, we visited during a mass, which was cool–but I thought Sacré-Cœur’s exterior was more impressive. Plus, the grounds of the church are surrounded by people lounging on the grass, amateur performers, and tourists tired from climbing the bajillion steps (no, not us. Of course not).

15. Our dinner riverboat cruise on the first night was, of course, fantastic. I was still getting used to being in Paris (I kept having to remind myself YOU ARE IN PARIS, DUMMY!), but seeing the Eiffel Tower fully (not just the top half, as we had seen other parts of the day, like from the view at the Galleries Lafayette) snapped me into reality, giving me a moment of “Oh shit! I’m actually in Paris.” In fact, I jumped and gasped in genuine surprise when the Eiffel Tower started sparkling at 10–I had read before to expect that, but had totally forgotten and was kind of glad I had because it was unexpected and beautiful. Plus, the cruise itself had yummy food and provided a good introduction to the city.

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Parisian Sunset.

Bonus: Our hotel and the surrounding area. We stayed in the 13th arrondissement, which is a little more removed from the touristy center and, therefore, quieter and not as overwhelming. We found a small market there which became a staple for late night beer, sandwiches & chips (because what else is there in life, really?), a Cafe Jules, which so happens to be my mom’s nickname, and a delicious boulangerie. This is also where we had our first meal in Paris, which featured the ever-so-delicious aligot. OMG. brb while I salivate just thinking of these.

Okay, I told myself I would cap the list at 15 and I have (sort of). There are so many other things I could include: the Palais Garnier, the Champs-Élysées (and the saga of finding the perfect boots in Zara and only finding one shoe–not pair, but shoe–in my size), Flame of Liberty, mini STATUE OF LIBERTY, Harry’s New York Bar (overpriced but still interesting bar which apparently used to feature the likes of Fitzgerald and Hemingway and claims to have invented the Bloody Mary), Shakespeare & Company bookstore, randomly meeting this couple from Memphis at a restaurant (and then learning the wife went to my alma mater), street performers, mussels & beer, the Latin Quarter, the chunnel ride, etc etc etc. But I will stop and leave you with a few helpful tips for those thinking of traveling to Paris in the near future:

Read up on the city beforehand! This is something I wished I had thought of before I left. Since it’s Paris, I assumed I knew enough to appreciate the city, but I was able to really appreciate the city 1000 x more once I learned the history of Paris. Sorry, Modern European history high school class, it’s been a while so Wikipedia was my go-to for this.

Check times for museums, train stations, etc. This was something Rahul took care of beforehand, which was super helpful.

Don’t worry about restaurant reservations. My guidebook said 1,000 times to MAKE SURE YOU RESERVE DINNER TIMES, which put me into a panic that we were not going to eat in Paris unless we reserved all our meals. But, really, that’s only if you are planning at eating at the super fancy, well-known, super expensive restaurants. So other than our first two meals (the cruise & Eiffel Tower), we just winged it, which worked out great.

Bring comfy shoes. I know this seems like a very DUH suggestion, but I saw so many women wearing ridiculous high heels and struggling to walk. Like, really, you don’t need to wear your studded high heels in the Louvre. Even if this is the fashion capital, no one will judge you for wearing comfortable shoes. Plus, from all the people-watching I did, I noticed many Parisian locals wearing boots, Chucks, ballet slippers, and other practical shoes. I wasn’t thinking when I packed my Toms instead of my boat shoes. Oh well, you live you learn.

LAYERS! Even in August, it was chilly. I was not prepared.

Lastly, enjoy yourself. If you’re like me, then traveling can almost become as stressful as real life because you are pressuring yourself to make sure you see everything, do everything, experience everything. I constantly find myself thinking “okay, this is great, but what’s next? what’s next after that?” I reminded myself to just let go and enjoy where I was in the moment. Leave the crazy worrying for work and real life!

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For those of you remember my month-long old post on packing for Paris, I’ve collected some pictures to show how many of the outfits actually turned out. Since it was a bit colder than expected, you’ll notice how I got creative with my layering based on what was available to me.

Instagramming India

Last time I was in India, I failed to update my blog on a regular basis with updates and pictures about our adventures. I promised this time that I would be better about updating and, well, you know how those … Continue reading

Swanson’s Got Swagger the Size of Big Ben Clock

This past Thursday, I was able to spend ten glorious hours in good ol’ London town. My last flight to India was direct, but this one had a layover in London. And I have to say, I give a big … Continue reading

#lastminutenycadventure

I love living near D.C. In fact, when I found out I was going to be going to school right outside of D.C., I told people I was moving to D.C. instead of Maryland because 1) it’s more recognizable and … Continue reading

India, Here I Come!

The countdown is on. I leave for India in 15 days. Actually, the countdown has been on for quite a while, I just haven’t gotten around to sitting down and writing this post. I meant to do it a month … Continue reading

Eating Whatever the Hell I Want: Cherry Blossom Ten Miler Recap

Gathering at the starting/finishing line, the Washington Monument.

Gathering at the starting/finishing line, the Washington Monument.

I ran the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler on Sunday, and since then my biggest question has been how long can I use that as an excuse to eat whatever the hell I want? Pre-race pizza? Yum. Post race muffins? Necessary. Next day spaghetti? Sure. Next next day Indian food for lunch? Delicious. Next next day ice cream? Okay, now it’s getting a little out of hand.
To be fair, the ice cream was from Ben & Jerry’s free scoop day. So I feel like that shouldn’t even really count.

Rachel and I looking confident before the race started. Post race: confidence still there??

Rachel and I looking confident before the race started. Post race: confidence still there??

The race itself wasn’t as terrible as I thought it was going to be. In fact, it was actually great—although my face in some of the official race photos will try to tell you a different story. After waiting in the longest bathroom line ever—don’t think I’ve ever waited so long to use a Porta Potty—Rachel and I were able to start the race in the same corral. We were in the 10:30-minute mile one, which meant we passed the elite runners looking ever-so-cool at around their mile five right after we started. A fellow green-miler yelled, “whoo hoo fast runners!” to which her friend told her to stop focusing on the real runners and on her own running.

Love the costumes.

Love the costumes.

That was probably one of the best parts of the race, and what made it feel like not 10 miles. Since I was running with about 15,000 of my closest friends, there were always people around me. That’s a huge motivating factor. It’s even more motivating when you have fun things to look at, like the guy dressed up as a flower, or the America-themed couple. This was my first large race, and I was honestly expecting a madhouse. And while there were people EVERYWHERE—someone needs to teach those tourists to cross the road with conviction. If you’re going to cross the road with hundreds of runners coming toward you at a much faster pace, commit to it. Don’t stop and look at us—it was a good kind of crowd, as the crowd was a big reason to keep moving forward. That and the awesome signs passed along the way, two of my favorites being “This is the worst parade ever” and “Run like Phoebe!” Oh, and I definitely couldn’t have done miles 6-8 without Rachel running beside me, as my legs were absolutely ready to quit. But that makes sense when the longest I ran in training was six miles. Like a dummy.

Run run run! Run like walkers are out to get you!

Run run run! Run like walkers are out to get you!

This is my longest race since my half marathon two years ago, which was a much different scene. The night after the race (like we’re talking 8 hours later), I was helping myself to a generous serving of cake at an event I attended with my parents when a woman said, “Slow down, remember it was only 13 miles.” Yeah, it was ONLY 13 miles. I feel like that equals out to at least several pieces of cake.

I’m going to walk home today from the metro instead of using the bus, as a half-assed attempt at equaling out the ice cream consumption. But really, I can’t help but still operate under the fact that yeah, I ran 10 miles on Sunday. ONLY ten. So pass the snacks.