Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer 2015 Bucket List

The other day, I was thinking about how I couldn't wait for summertime. Then, of course, I realized that it's been summer for awhile here in Richmond. I guess I've been too busy to notice.

Before the season slips away, I thought it might be wise to give myself some goals with a Summer Bucket List. I'm already looking forward to this fall, but I don't want to miss out on everything that I love about summer. Without further ado, my hopes and dreams for Summer 2015:

  • Bike to a Flying Squirrels game, drink local beer, and watch fireworks.
  • Spend an afternoon lounging on the rocks by the river on Belle Isle.
  • Host a wine and cheese night on the front porch.
  • Take a tour of the Brew Ridge Trail
  • Make at least one full meal from the veggies in our garden.
  • Learn to use the manual settings on my camera.
  • Become a regular at the neighborhood pool during adult swim time.
  • Actually use the tennis courts down the street.
  • Take the nephews to D.C. for the day.
  • Perfect three new summer cocktail recipes (starting with this).
  • Hike Old Rag Mountain.
  • And, in direct opposition to most of the above goals, I'm also planning to do the Whole 30 at some point. Wish me luck.
What's on your summer bucket list? 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

7 Affordable Airbnbs in Paris

I know that I've shared my love of Airbnb before. Some people may be scared off by the idea of staying in someone else's apartment, but I think it's one of the best—and most affordable—ways to get a feel for what it's really like to live in a city. What many people don't realize is that you can often find Airbnb rentals that aren't the owner's primary residence—I tend to look for these types of properties.

We are beginning and ending an upcoming trip to Europe in Paris, and spending just over a week there. Wanting our time in the city to be absolutement parfait, I've spent hours sifting through hundreds of rentals throughout the city, and a few really stood out. My criteria:

  • Under $110(ish)
  • In a typical Parisian neighborhood (walkable, near metro, with nearby shops and cafes)
  • Real bed (I'm way past my pull-out couch days)
  • Wi-Fi
  • Good ratings from Airbnb guests
  • Bonus points for washing machine, nice kitchen, balcony, and a view

Thinking of planning your own trip to Paris? Here are my top seven picks!

This sweet little spot is in one of Paris' hippest neighborhoods, Le Marais, and boasts an incredible view of the rooftops. Plus, it has an espresso machine.

It doesn't get much more central than Ile St. Louis, a little island in the middle of the Seine. This apartment is just a three minute walk from Notre Dame.

At $139/night, this apartment was pushing my budget, but I love its colorful, funky style. 

This Montmarte apartment is where we're spending our last two nights in Paris. It looks a lot like a hotel room, non? Except it has a kitchen, a sweet spiral staircase, and it's $87/night.

This one has a fabulous view of Sacre Coeur. Mon dieu!

I love the details of this little flat

We booked this one for the first leg of our trip. It may be basic, but it's smack dab in the middle of the bustling Latin Quarter. Just look at the street view!

One last tip: If you're not sure which neighborhood you want to stay in, Airbnb has a really helpful guide for that, too. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Eurotrip 2015: Itinerary Whittling

I've started planning for a trip to Europe this fall, and as always at the beginning of the planning process, I'm overwhelmed by the possibilities. I'm tempted to return to Spain and Portugal because I loved our last trip so much, but I'm also drawn to the idea of going somewhere brand new. Here are a few of the options I'm considering:

Paris is the only definite on my list right now. Although I've been before, it was only for a day or two and at the tail end of a long trip, so T. and I were both worn out. I want to give the city the time and attention it deserves, and stay for at least four or five days. I've even found an Airbnb in Montmarte with a view of the Eiffel Tower for under $100! Who says Paris is expensive?

Brussels is just a two-hour train ride from Paris, which makes it perfect for a beer- and chocolate-fueled day trip. But the more I read about Belgium—including places like Brugge, Ghent, and the Foret des Soignes—the more I think the country might deserve a trip in itself.

After a few days of city living, I think we'd be ready for the slower pace of Provence. Avignon is a three-hour ride to Paris via high-speed rail, and from there we could rent a car and village-hop. There's so much to see in Provence, I don't know where to begin planning. First off, we'll need a place to stay—recommendations are welcome.

Now comes the hard part: Deciding what comes after France. I've always wanted to go to Venice, but the more I read about it, the more it sounds like it's been overrun by cruise ship tourists and souvenir shops. Is it worth it?

A more low-key option may be the Italian Riviera, including Portofino. I'd also love to return to Cinque Terre.

On the other hand, Croatia seems magical (and cheap)...

...and Prague has been on my list for years.

Then again I just can't shake the idea of returning to Portugal.

I'm thinking we might need more than two weeks for this trip.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Walking Richmond's Floodwall

One of my favorite things about Richmond is how it's so tied in with its natural surroundings. The James River winds right through the city, offering some of the only Class IV rapids you'll find in an urban setting. The James River Park extends for miles along the river, through meadows and forests, and past a historic cemetery and Civil War POW camp. Last weekend we took a stroll along the Floodwall, which has some of the best views of the city I've seen. With Legend Brewing and Blue Bee Cider just up the street, it's got everything you need for a lazy summer afternoon.