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Musée d’Orsay and The Galeries Lafayette Haussmann

Musee d'Orsay

This was by and far my favorite museum. The building is a reclaimed train station and the architecture is as stunning as the art. It’s beautifully restored. This is one of the things that makes Paris, Paris. Why can’t this be done more often? Why does the past have to be torn down and replaced by the new?

My husband and I both love impressionism so the Musée d’Orsay was high on our list of things to do in Paris. The impressionist collection is, of course, world class. The setting is perfectly intimate. It’s upstairs, tucked away. It’s not overwhelming or intimidating like the collection at the Louvre.

Our Apartment

I also promised that I would show pictures of our apartment, however I should first warn you that these pictures were taken a few days into the trip and we had really made ourselves at home. It really was nice I promise. It had everything we needed, including a washer and dryer in the bathroom. I don’t think we ever got the TV to work but it didn’t matter anyway because we just watched Netflix on our iPads.

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Galeries Lafayette Haussmann

Even if you have no interest in shopping (Though I don’t know how you couldn’t, it’s Paris after all), you have to visit the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. To call it a department store doesn’t do it justice. It’s not only beautiful inside you’re also allowed to go up to the roof which has fabulous views of the city.

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Off to London and Paris

Ready for some picture overload? I’ll try not to bore you too much and give only the most pertinent of details.

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This is a picture of our stopover in Iceland. Not only do I recommend stopping in Reykjavik (It was nice to get out of the plane and stretch our legs a bit) but I wish we had taken a few days to explore Iceland. Icelandic Air does a fantastic job of selling its tourism industry. They have Hot Springs, volcanos that you can climb into, and of course a good shot at seeing the Aurora Borealis. Iceland really sounds like a fascinating country.

I also highly recommend Icelandic Air, they were the cheapest flight and they also were a great airline. I made a mistake imputing my passenger info, I got confused with the European way of recoding dates and put my birthdate in wrong, They do day/month/year while we here in the States do month/day/year. I was afraid this would somehow mess me up if someone noticed the discrepancy, I contacted the airline and they quickly fixed it for me without any hassle at all.

Here’s some of the souvenirs and snacks at the Reykjavik Airport. I kind of regret not getting the dried fish.

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Dried Fish Snacks
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Icelandic Gnomes

Next up: Landing in London

(Other side note; I’m glad we didn’t fly on the Irish airline, when their announcements were made at the various airports I had no idea what they were saying! Their accents were great, just too thick for me to understand over a PA system.)

Music from another age

Matchbox Twenty album

A post from another blog (Write me a book, John!) got me thinking of how important music has been in my life. I’ve been going through my music collection downloading some of it to my new computer. It’s funny to look back at what I’ve collected over the years, it’s very much like a scrapbook, you can remember what was going on in your life when you downloaded that song. Remember napster? Those were the good old days.

One of the most prolific bands in my music library has always been Matchbox Twenty. I got to see Matchbox Twenty and Goo Goo Dolls at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) last summer and it was the best concert I’ve ever been. It was all ages, though it was those of us in our late to mid twenties who were obviously the die hard fans. It was funny to see the teens and tweens whip out their iPhones to look up lyrics to songs that were popular before they were even born. It really made me better appreciate the staying power of the two bands and made me feel a little old.

What about you? What music will you always carry with you? What’s your favorite music memory?

Book of the Week 4/11/14

Book of the Week 4/11/14

I know this book is a few years old but I never got around to reading even though I really wanted to. So I decided to read this as part of Bookish Bingo! hoping that it qualifies for the book told by a child category. I loved this book from the moment I picked it up, the main character Lily is fourteen and has such a genuine honest voice when telling her story. I found the catalyst of the story, the event that set off Lily’s running away with her friend and caretaker Rosaleen a bit far-fetched in an otherwise great story, but then again I didn’t live in the south in the 1960’s so who am I to say Rosaleen wouldn’t have reacted the way she did to the three racist men which got her is so much trouble. This is one of those stories that you just want to sit outside on a sunny day and slowly meander through as you drink a glass of lemonade. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Letting an Apartment on vacation

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I love that phrase “letting an apartment”, it always reminds me of Pride and Prejudice, in American English it translates to renting an apartment.

Why rent an apartment on vacation?

Why NOT? When I first started researching hotels in both Paris and London, the few hotels in our price range were a bit old and wilted in my opinion, especially London with it’s leftover olympic village feel hotel dorms. I figured why not save the money and stay in a hostel, they seemed to be of the same quality, but hubby refused. Stupid horror movies giving hostels a bad name.

Then I stumbled across a website called homeaway.com and a few others offering all sorts of options with nice, clean, homey feeling places to stay. Yes, some are just a room where you are staying with your host family but there are also plenty of apartments that are completely yours for however long you stay, complete with your own bathroom, kitchen facilities and sometimes even a washer. Hubby was still a little leery of giving quite a bit of money to some random person and then traveling to a foreign country just to discover the place didn’t even exist, so I did a lot of checking and found only good things about such reputable sites as Homeaway.com or Flipkey.com (Which is run by trip advisor) I would be a lot more hesitant to risk my vacation with craigslist or other less monitored sites, they seem to have more of a horror story potential.

I booked both our Paris and London apartments through homeaway.com. Their website was very helpful with tips and suggestions for people trying vacation renting for the first time. I have been in contact with the apartment’s owners and feel pretty confident about our upcoming stay. Both required half of the money upfront, one went through paypal and the owners of the second apartments is more of a rental company and only took credit card which was fine. Obviously NEVER give out your bank account information or send a money order if you’re going to book an apartment.

I’m really hoping all goes according to plan because another benefit of staying in an apartment is you get to live like a local, which is one of my goals in traveling, I don’t want to be a tourist! I want to blend in I want to soak up the culture and the surroundings. How about you, do you have an experience with staying in a vacation rental or do you prefer a traditional hotel stay?

Headed to the Gilded Age

 

Ventford Hall
Ventford Hall

I guess you don’t particularly think of folk music when you think of the gilded age, however sitting in this beautiful old house in front of the crackling fireplace listening to the mesmerizing music of Oakes and Smith, it felt perfect.

Ventfort Hall in Lenox, Massachusetts is hosting free folk music events every Wednesday night in April 5:30-7:00. It makes for a great date night.

Oakes and Smith were a great start to this performance series. They performed a mix of original and cover songs and I have to say I enjoyed their original songs the best. Flowers in a fountain and Giant were by far my favorite. I loved hearing the stories behind the songs. Katherine Smith is the singer and she has a voice that is absolutely enchanting, it makes you put down what ever you were doing and just listen. Check them out if you get the chance. Oakesandsmith.net

Also for more information about Ventfort Hall click here

Baby Gift shopping in the Berkshires

I might be considered strange but I actually enjoy baby showers. Yes the oohing and awing over the baby clothes and toys might get a little old and the games are  as stale and moldy as the three week old bread stuffed in the back of my cupboard. This baby’s going to be a Berkshire baby and I knew  we needed to get her started off right. So, after consulting the gift registry for a good idea of our co-worker’s taste and what others had already bought, we checked yelp for baby stores in our area. There were also a couple baby clothing stores at the Lenox Premium Outlets however they didn’t keep with our objective of keeping it local. We started at Persnickety Toys, because, well it was the closest.

Persnickety Toys

Persnickety Toys 137 N St Pittsfield, MA 01201 Phone number (413) 236-8697 Mon Closed Tue – Fri 10:00 am – 6:00 pm Sat 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Sun 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

Persnickey toys Stuffed Animals

Knowing it’s essentially just a toy store we really weren’t expecting much, however it did have some great options, including a great selection of stuffed animal. We chose not to purchase anything there but decided to check out what the other stores offered and then come back if need be.

Our next stop was a little unorthodox because this wasn’t listed on yelp as a baby store but Museum facsimiles Outlet Store is just down the street from Persnickety toys was one of my favorite stores. They have a small selection of baby items if you’re looking for something unique. They have some beautiful baby blankets that are handmade in Pittsfield for around $40.

museum facsimiles

Museum facsimiles

 

We still hadn’t found exactly what we were looking for so we decided to take a trip up to North Adams to see what Shima had to offer.

Shima North Adams

Shima 65 Main St North Adams, MA 01247 Phone number (413) 346-1055 Hours: CLOSED Tuesdays & Sundays | Mondays 12-4pm | Wed.-Sat. 10:00am – 5:30pm

Shima at first glance was a little intimidating because of it’s very earthy, organic vibe, I’m still just wading into the shallow end of the organic, natural lifestyle. My fears were totally unfounded, it’s a great little shop with a lot of great options and the woman behind the counter was friendly without being invasive. This place has a lot of inexpensive, gently used baby clothes. I bought a Pride and Prejudice board book. It’s so cute! Check out their website Click Here

The Gifted Child Lenox Massachusetts

The Gifted Child 72 Church St Lenox, MA 01240 Phone number (413) 637-1191 Hours- Monday-Saturday 10:00am-5:30pm     Sunday 11:00am-4:00pm

Wow! Turns out this should have been our first stop. The Gifted Child had everything a person could ever want for not only babies but every gift throughout a kid’s life. We will definitely start here next time we’re looking for a gift and highly recommend that you do the same, this store will not let you down.

Any other suggestions? Where do you shop for baby gifts in the berkshires?

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

Violets of March by Sarah Jio

This is my first book review for the book challenge Bookish Bingo created by the Great-Imaginations blog. <a href=”http://www.great-imaginations.com/2014/03/introducing-bookish-bingo.html?showComment=1396290942495#c1022760793288408976″&gt; Click Here</a>.

I really wanted to like this book, it is very well written and the mystery of the diary that the main character finds was interesting enough to keep me intrigued until the very end. However, I guess I’m just not a fan of romance novels, especially those that are based around the premise that the characters in love just never get the timing right.  So it’s not the author’s fault, she did a great job with this book, I’ll just know from now on to shy away from Nicholas Sparks-esque romance novels.

I picked it up because it had flowers on the cover and in the title, I can now cross that square off on my bingo board. I’m now one book down! Who’s with me?