Paris: My 2.5 Day Struggle

The last time I was in Paris I was 21. I had gone to the city of love for my birthday with my long distance “boyfriend” at the time. Unfortunately for him, I broke up with him there. We had even done the whole love locks bridge thing beforehand. Super cringeworthy.

Anyway, despite these uncomfortable memories, I still love Paris and was excited to go back.  Little did I know, Paris still had a bone to pick with me.

Paris day 1

The flight to Paris was great. Leon and I arrived 15 minutes before boarding, the plane was on time and I slept for the majority of it. After landing we hopped on the train. Unfortunately the ticket lady failed to mention that the railway station was on strike. We ended up having to get off at a very sketchy train station and either A) walk for 40 minutes in 30 degree weather to our destination or B) Uber. We chose to walk and poor Leon had to carry both our luggages; neither of which had wheels.

After a very sweaty walk we finally got to our Airbnb (Click here for our Airbnb). Luckily our shoebox of an Airbnb (which was expected) was in an amazing area between the 1st and 2nd district. It was all things Parisian. Trendy, clean and adorned with people watchers sipping their afternoon beverages with a cigarette in hand. I swear you could even smell freshly baked bread wafting through the air.

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We figured we would clean ourselves up and start exploring right away. I reached into my pocket for the 50 euro I had slid in there after purchasing our train tickets and low and behold, my pocket was empty.

After searching the Airbnb and every pocket in sight, we bid farewell to the money and headed out the door for some much needed food.

We walked to Miznon which is located between the 4th and 3rd district. The area itself is very cute with busy little shops lining the small cobble stone windy streets.  When we got to Minzon, there was a pretty big line but we decided to stick it out. It was well worth it. The pita wraps were warm and fresh and we got seated on a cute little couch in the back. Funny story, we also ordered a big artichoke (ugh this is so embarrassing) and were gnawing on the extremely tough and chewy leaves. It wasn’t until we were half way through (and a couple stares later) that we realized that the leaves weren’t actually edible, we were just supposed to eat the artichoke heart. I think I’m still waiting to digest those leaves.

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After walking around a bit, we decided to try and drink away our jet lag with a bottle of rose (I know, worst idea ever). We lasted all 1 hour before we zombie walked back to our Airbnb.

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After a 5 hour “nap” on our pull out couch (there was no actual bed), we dressed ourselves and headed out to hunt for some dinner. Our first destination was a small Mexican restaurant that was highly recommended via the web. However, once we arrived, we were disappointed to see a small run down restaurant with inappropriately bright florescent lighting. Still curious, we knew there was a hidden bar at the back so we walked through an unmarked door which essentially opened up to the dance floor. While it looked like a good time, we weren’t up for a liquid dinner.  A couple of Google searches later we decided to go to the extremely popular Chez Janou.  Fortunately for us, we were able to get get a table quite quickly. We had an amazing meal and a delishious bottle of French wine in the cozy old-school authentic Parisian restaurant.

Around 12am we took our full bellies and went back to the district we were staying at for a night-cap. We actually picked a restaurant almost directly adjacent from where we were staying and had two FANTASTIC Parisian beers. After this, we happily hopped across the street to our pull-out couch.

Paris day 2

Our couch/bed sunk in the centre so it was impossible for Leon and I to not be awkwardly mashed in the middle. This was actually fine because we needed to wake up early to grab seat at a breakfast spot called Holybelly that I desperately wanted to eat at. I wanted to get there at 9 when they opened so Leon and I started our morning extra early. When we got to Holybelly and walked up to the little white piece of paper tacked on the door I literally wanted to cry. It was closed for 3 weeks. Our second pick wasn’t open until 10:00 a.m. so we had some time to kill. We grabbed a coffee to go and slowly made our way to our second pick, Buvette. But not before stopping at three bakeries on the way. When in Paris ammirighhtt.

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From the fresh squeezed orange juice, to the classy rustic Parisian décor, Buvette was amazing! And because we got there so early we basically had the place to ourselves.

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The clouds started to look angry so we popped into La Compagnie du Café with our laptops in tow.  Leon had a little work to catch up on and I can always tinker around with my blog so we perched up for 2 hours at this spacious cafe while the weather did it’s thing.

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IMG_5058-1.jpgWhen the sun started to peak out, we headed to the nearest market to get a bottle of wine, some cheese and a baguette for a relaxing Eiffel tower picnic. I ended up buying some nasty artichoke brie by accident. Worst. Weirdly enough, it was SWELTERING hot outside by the time we exited the market. We had our picnic on the grassy area underneath the Eiffel tower then headed to Laduree for some macaroons for the road (if you didn’t eat macaroons in Paris, did you even go to Paris?).

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IMG_5008-1.jpgAfter an entire morning and afternoon of walking I had developed two massive blisters on the bottoms of my feet. We came up with the amazing idea of renting public bikes. After paying 10 euro for the bike sign-up fee and standing at a bike kiosk puzzling over the machines for a good half an hour, we realized none of the bikes actually worked.  We decided to try our luck at a second station which I limped to.  We plunked in our sign-up code into all 4 of the bikes stationed there and NOPE, NOTHING WORKED.

We asked a teenage boy who looked like he worked for the company why none of the bikes worked. He looked at us and shrugged his shoulders and said that the bikes haven’t been working for at least 5 months. So we left, 2 hours of our life wasted and me, practically bleeding at this point.

Feeling pretty defeated, we walked to park to drink our warming cherry beers and rest my feet. After relaxing at the park, we decided to head home as a nap was in order.

After another 5 hour nap (jetlag was kicking our butts) we woke up around 10pm and debated on sleeping until our early morning flight the next day.  After a small pep talk, we got ready and headed out for some late night dinner. We ended up at a place close by called Comptoir de la Gastronomie.  We sat outside, shared a bottle of wine, a French onion soup and the best ravioli I’ve ever tasted in my life. Our moods had completely done a 180 and we were feeling much more optimistic about the end of our Paris stint.

After dinner we weren’t quite ready to call it a night so after exploring a bit, we sat down at a speakeasy which we promptly left after being jammed between two couples making out. We then made our way back to sit outside of the same restaurant we drank at the night before.  The people watching was much more fun at this time of night and before we knew it, the bottle of wine we ordered was empty.

The next morning we almost didn’t make it on our bus to the airport because one of our ticket barcodes wouldn’t scan. The man wouldn’t let us on because HIS scanning machine wasn’t working. I swear I made him scan it 50 times before it finally worked.  I was so thankful to finally get on the plane to Portugal.

Zadar, Zrče Beach and Plitvice Lakes

A couple days of a lot of ocean and the most beautiful Lakes I have ever seen.

This trek of the journey was eventful, to say the least.

Where we stayed

We stayed in MY FAVORITE Airbnb of the trip right in the center of the city.  However, It was pretty loud in the room at night (until about 1am) because of an open-air bar right outside the windows.  Luckily we didn’t get home much sooner than 1 a.m each night!

Parking can be tricky, but luckily our Airbnb host showed us where there was free parking right outside the city (about a 7 minute walk away from our Airbnb).  The free parking was at the back of a paid parking lot on a gravel area, so it was a little tricky to find.

this was our Airbnb.

Zadar

Zadar has some “must see’s”.  The infamous Sea Organ is one of them.  You can sit on long broad steps that descend into the ocean, watch the sunset, and listen to the Sea Organ.   The Sea Organ is powered by the waves. The stronger the waves, the louder the Sea Organ is.  I suggest you go half an hour before the sunset to grab a spot.

Another must see in this area is “The Greeting to the Sun”.  It’s an outdoor light-up dance floor which is located steps away from the Sea Organ  (you can kill two birds with one stone).  Please don’t do as the tourists do and lay on the dance floor, that’s gross :).

We had drinks and breakfast smoothies (on different days) at The Garden; an outdoor garden club on top of the city walls.  At night it has a really cool relaxed slightly bourgeois vibe; they have beds in the center of the lounge and white couches surrounding the bar area.  During the day you can sit in a airy white cabana to eat your healthy meal.  They have fresh squeezed juice, fruit smoothies and healthy breakfasts.  It’s really stunning.  I don’t have any photos because I forgot to put the battery in my camera that day (this was the day after Zrče beach, you’ll put the pieces together shortly).

Zadar The Garden Lounge Menu

We went for dinner on the patio of Restaurant Bruschetta for a nibble to eat. We ended up getting a bottle of wine and a couple appetizers and only really liked the truffle bruschetta.  The pizza looked really good though (yes we messed up).  We sat beside a table of around 10 local women and watched them chain-smoke for 2 hours. HOW DO YOU EVEN TASTE YOUR FOOD.  I was almost impressed.

We rented a boat and it may have been the best decision we made our whole trip Well, other than bringing a ton of booze and one small container of warm yogurt.  Yes I did lose an entire toenail that day… luckily this mishap happened after the alcohol consumption..

Boating cost around 170 Euro for the whole day, including the gas.  Leon got his boat license the week before just in case he would need to rent one of the boats. According to the boat rental website they do require a boat license if you’re renting a bigger boat, but, no one asked to see it the day of.

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Views from our boat in Zadar Croatia

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Plitvice Lakes National Park

We actually stopped at the Plitvice Lakes on our way to Zadar from Zagrab and JUST barley got in before they stopped letting people through.  I recommend planning on spending at least 4 hours there (before 7pm) and wear your walking shoes because that’s what you’ll be doing the entire time.  This national park was magical and there is a lot to see.

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Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park

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Zrče Beach for the day..

Getting to the island of Pag is really quite beautiful.  As you drive upwards the land gets very brown and desert-like until you eventually start descending back down to lush landscape and civilization.  Zrče is a party beach on the island of Pag with a bunch of massive day clubs where people quite literally get obliterated and make out with each other.  BUT, we were a teeny bit early in the season for all of the inappropriate festivities (the clubs weren’t packed to the brim).  We started off at Euphoria Club which was my favorite; we sat in nice loungers, jumped off of the club deck into the ocean when we got too hot and sipped on (really strong) drinks.  Somewhere between this club and our 3rd? I got tipsy and lost both of our drivers licenses and Leon’s Visa (Okay fine, I was wasted out of my little tree).  To be fair, this one club, Aquarius, was promoting a buy one JUG of mojito, get one JUG free. Anyway, Zrče is really cool and the beaches are beautiful and sandy.  Expect to see some boobs.

Here’s a sober video of myself dancing in a “pool” about 2 feet deep…

If you do go in July or August, please please please be safe. It’s surprisingly easy for things to get out of hand due to the scorching sun and the aggressively strong drinks. Things can get unsafe very quickly If you don’t have a 200 pound boyfriend following you around everywhere.  Also note that the ratio from guys to girls was 5:1 – ladies watch  yo-selves.

Don’t skip Zagreb!

I’ve come across some travel blogs telling people to skip Zagreb which BOGGLES MY MIND.  One person even said it lacked History… sorry, what?

Where we stayed

We stayed at Leon’s parents cute little apartment just outside of the old town and drove into the old city center.  side note –  There are blue and white and yellow lined parking spots on the street, only park within the white lines with the big ‘P’ sign above – yes I know this because we got a parking ticket.

What we Did

We got the heck out of the new city (yes, yes it’s not very pretty – i can agree with that), parked, and then walked to the breathtaking Zagreb Cathedral of Assumption.  Remember, like most churches, if you want to be able to step inside, you must have something to cover your shoulders.  Me being “scantily” clad, I could only poke my head in.

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A 10 minutes walk away from the Cathedral you will find Strossmayer Promenade.  Here you get great views of the multicoloured rooftops of the Old Town (also known as Gornji Grad). The surrounding area is adorable too; we even happened upon a interesting festival while we were soaking in the scenery.

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Also located in Upper Town is the unique St. Mark’s Church.  This church is distinctive because of it’s vibrantly colored tile roof which bears the coats of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, Slavonia, and Zagreb.  This area is the oldest in the city and possesses countless stunning historic buildings and museums.

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I had an extremely interesting experience while walking to our dinner spot in the center of the city.  Before I explain, a little history – Back in 1731, legend has it that all of the houses and surrounding area around the eastern wooden gate, Kamenita Vrata or also known as Stone Gate, were burnt to the ground.  However Stone Gate, which was embedded with a painting of Jesus and Mary inexplicably remained untouched.  Today you can find the painting  in a shrine, protected by a metal enclosure.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, around dusk people gather in and around the tunnel to light candles and pray.  We’re talking hundreds of people crammed around this tunnel.  I was very inclined to find a way around, BUT, nothing gets in the way of Leon and his dinner so he grabbed my hand and we started walking down tiny center isle.  The sea of people split down the middle as we slowly made our way through the crowd and I could feel everyone’s gaze on us as they loudly chanted their prayers.

This all lasted for about 2 minutes (felt like an eternity) and I definitely felt like I was about to be sacrificed.

We came back later to take a look at the religious site and noticed the dozens of marble bricks surrounding the shrine.   The small bricks generally say “Thank you Mother”.

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Not too far from the Stone Gate is the pedestrian-only Tkalciceva StreetThis is a must see in Zagreb.  Not only is this street full of history and beauty as you will find old houses that are now turned into cafés; Tkalciceva Street is quite lively at night because of the bars and restaurants with outdoor seating.  This long street screams people watching potential and is probably so popular because of it.  Croatians love to see and be seen.

We settled on a cozy spot on the patio of Pivnica Mali Medo to have some Istrian beer.  Their lager was very large, very tasty and reasonably priced.

Going along with our ever prevalent patio theme, we ate dinner on the terrace at  Restaurant Agava located on Tkalciceva Street.  I suggest making a reservation if you are planning on dining during the weekend because this spot was very busy.  To eat, we opted to share a salad and the entrée chicken (which was phenomenal).  Dinner was scrumptious and the venue is extremely romantic (if you’re looking to go on a hot date).

All in all I really enjoyed Zagreb.  Don’t skip it, visit and form your own opinion about it (and learn about the history)!

5 Hours in Venice

If you’re spending a hot minute in Venice, it’s all about time management and efficiency. So basically learn from our mistakes.

If you’re spending a hot minute in Venice, it’s all about time management and efficiency.  So basically learn from our mistakes.

Getting there

Leon and I rented a Car from the airport ended up parking at Park San Giuliano because we were under the impression that we could catch a boat into Venice from the pier. We thought wrong. After walking around for an hour we ended up taking the bus into Venice – not a huge deal, but time was of the essence as we weren’t planning on spending the night.
Side note – I have no clue how the bus works – we jumped on and tried to pay but the bus driver didn’t take our money (you probably had to buy a pass from a grocery store). Anyway, we accidentally fair evaded both ways.

What you should do – From the airport, walk 5-10 minutes to the docks. Here, you can catch a €15 boat/ferry into Venice. The views as you approach Venice are supposed to be spectacular. Tickets can be bought on the boat or in advance at the main tourist office. You can also get a private boat or water taxi into the city (If you’re a baller $$$).

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Getting around

We chose to attempt to walk off our jet-lag and explore Venice by foot. I knew If I sat down it would be game over for me. I was EXHASTED.  A less strenuous way to get around is by the Vaporetto (the Venetian water bus).  I suggest if you don’t have a GPS to rely heavily on, take the Vaporetto.  Each ride of the Vaporetto costs €7, but you can buy a TravelCard, which offer unlimited travel from anywhere between 12 hours to 7 days.

What to do

The best thing to do in Venezia is to wander along the canals and admire the majestic views, or perhaps hop on a romantic canal ride (if that’s your cup of tea).  We opted to skip out on the canal ride because it looked a little boring.

Visit the famous Piazza San Marco! It’s crowded and you might have to dodge a couple hungry pigeons, however, despite this, it is still a magnificent place.

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Climb up the Campanile Bell tower for arguably the best views of the clustered roofs of Venice.

To escape the crowds, take a walk down a staircase of encyclopedias to Libreria Acqua Alta. Located in the Cannaregio area, this bookstore is a hidden gem littered with friendly cats and bathtubs filled with books.  The Cannaregio neighborhood is in a quiet, mostly residential area, however, it is also home to many local hot-spots.

The 16 hour flight really worked us up an appetite so we indulged in pastries at Pasticceria Tonolo . Trust me, they were to DIE FOR.

While you’re in Cannaregio, eat at L’Anice Stellato or somewhere in this area instead of the overpriced restaurants near the Rialto Bridge or St. Mark’sWe had our heart set on eating here but to our surprise L’Anice Stellato didn’t open up until 7pm (someone PLEASE go and tell me how it is)!  We now know Its very common for places in Italy to shut down after lunch and re-open around 7:00 p.m.