Weekend in London

We spent last weekend in London, which was a total blast. I have to admit that it was nice to speak English and be able to say/order/request anything we wanted to, especially after 2 months of being embarrassed by our French/German/Czech skills. :) The trip started off a little rocky (forgot my debit card so had to have money wired, Lucas couldn't catch a flight, an AirBNB nightmare!), but it turned out to be an amazing weekend. Sadly Lucas had to go back to the US for a few days for a family emergency, so I took the Eurostar train from Paris to London alone on Friday and he met me Saturday morning. If you're traveling between France and England, the Eurostar is definitely the way to go. It's easy, inexpensive (especially if you book early!), connects directly to the tube/metro (think: no taxi from the airport), security is a breeze, and there are no bag limitations.
Luckily I had some amazing friends to hang out with on Friday, since I was flying solo. I worked from Google's London office on Friday and then went to a company happy hour with my friend, Rob. Afterwards, I met my friends, Gina and Regi, in SoHo, where we hit up a few pubs. The weather was amazing, so SoHo was bustling with people. We had a blast! 
On Saturday we spent the morning at Portobello Market, which is an outdoor antiques market and farmer's market. We had lunch from street vendors - empanadas and Cuban sandwiches - yum! London is such an international city, so you can get amazing cuisine ranging from Thai to Indian to Italian. After the market, we took the tube to Covent Garden, where we did a bit of shopping and then stopped for afternoon tea/coffee/cake at this cute little shop
On Saturday Night we went to a pub called The Hillgate, at my British friend Gemma's suggestion. We had pints (Stella for me!), fish & chips, and sausage rolls. We watched the Germany vs. Ghana World Cup game and just had an all around European evening. :) Afterwards we went to a cute bar called Prince Albert's to watch the 2nd match of the night. 
On Sunday we went for a run through Hyde Park (London's version of Central Park in NYC or Golden Gate Park in SF), which was really close to our hotel in Notting Hill. Check out our selfie fail at Kensington Palace - too sunny! My favorite part of Hyde Park was the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens and this gorgeous pond. 
We showered and then took the Tube to Shoreditch, which felt sort of like London's version of the Mission in SF or Brooklyn in NYC. It's a super vibrant neighborhood on the East side, with tons of young people. We stopped at Paper & Cup, which has amazing coffee and lattes. After spending the morning in Shoreditch, we went by Tube to Camden Town, which is a funky/alternative neighborhood in the Northern part of London. There is a market on the weekends, but it was super crowded. If you can visit Camden on a weekday instead, I think it'd be more enjoyable! Portobello Market is crowded, but they close down the street so there is a lot more room to walk. Camden has tiny sidewalks with a lot of people crammed in. Not for the claustrophobic at heart. :)
Sunday night we went to Pizza East on Portobello Road, which was hands down our favorite meal of the trip. It was one of those places where every single thing sounded good. We ultimately settled on sharing a green olive and almond appetizer (so good!), a butter lettuce and avocado salad, proscuitto and pea croquettes, and an amazing pesto, sundries tomato, artichoke, and basil pizza. I highly recommend hitting this place up if you're near one of the locations. 
We couldn't leave London without doing a bit of sightseeing. We managed to squeeze in a trip to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Parliament/Big Ben, and we took a ride on a double decker bus. Mostly, we just loved wandering the neighborhoods, trying new restaurants, and enjoying the culture. We kept saying over and over "we could totally live here!" but then again, the weather was great during our trip. Not sure how I'd feel after a month of clouds and rain. ;) 

Seine Run

Last Thursday, I got home from work sort of late, but the weather was gorgeous and I just felt like going on a run. Luckily, the sun doesn't set until around 10:30 pm, so I was able to squeeze in a late night jog around the Seine. There were a ton of people just hanging out by the river, drinking wine, and watching soccer on giant screens here. I can't believe we're leaving Paris in a week - ah I miss it already!

Prague Trip

I was lucky enough to go on a work trip to Prague last week, which is such a beautiful, old city in Eastern Europe. You could spend ages wandering the city, exploring the old neighborhoods, and traipsing over the bridges, but we made the most of the 3 days that we had in the city and tried to see as much as possible. 
Thanks to this little taxi strike in Paris, we barely arrived to CDG on time for our flight. It was a really crazy experience (think: exits to airport being physically blocked and eggs being thrown at taxi and Uber drivers who were breaking the strike). It was super stressful at the time, but being impacted by a labor strike made us feel like true Parisians. Luckily we made it - whew! Once we landed in Prague, we checked into our hotel and then I went into the Google office.
After work, the team organized a team dinner and city tour. We went to this Italian restaurant on the water with sweeping views of the Prague Castle. If you're traveling to Prague, I definitely recommend this restaurant - it's so tasty and the atmosphere is lovely. After dinner, we walked across the Charles Bridge, which was built in 1357 (!!!) and offers gorgeous views of the city in both directions. There are statues lined up along both sides of the bridge, including the statue of St. John of Nepomuk (above). There is a bronze star on the St. John statue that you can touch and make a wish -- of course I had to try it. :) It didn't seem possible, but Prague proved to be even prettier at night.
Lucas swung by the office for lunch and an office tour on Thursday. After work we went on a walk along the river and then stopped for a Staropramen at a beer garden on the water. Afterwards, we went to Kolkovna Olympia for a traditional Czech dinner of sausage, garlic bread, duck with sauerkraut and potatoes, and roast beef in cream sauce with dumplings. We also tried the other main Czech beer, Pilsner Urquell. Czech food is heavy but flavorful and delicious. It would definitely be hard to be a vegetarian in Prague. :)
We had one full day to see the city, so we got up early to fit in as much as possible. We started off by taking a taxi to the Prague Castle. The castle is really expansive and impressive - the largest in Europe. The views from the castle are sweeping and you can really see the entire city. Quick tip we learned from my co-workers: call a Tick Tack Taxi. Cabs in Prague are known for charging tourists abnormally high fares, but Tick Tack is a really amazing, trustworthy taxi company. The cars are really fancy (think: Audis and BMWs with leather seats!), you can order them ahead of time, there is free wi-fi onboard, they're surprisingly affordable, and they take credit cards. 
After visiting the castle, we walked down to see the Old Jewish Quarter and the astronomical clock. We ate a quick lunch at a traditional Czech restaurant and then walked to see the Old Town Square
We walked home along the river and admired the beautiful buildings. How gorgeous are the details on these apartments?
At my friend Sarah's recommendation, we ended our day with dinner at Osteria Da Clara. The restaurant is a bit off the beaten path, so we took a Tick Tack. Luckily we made reservations, because it's a teeny restaurant and they were turning so many people away. We shared salad, lentil soup (it was so delicious), prosciutto tortellini in a sage butter sauce, and seafood pasta with clams, shrimp, and mussels. Everything was amazing and the Tuscan cuisine reminded me of my last trip to Italy. It was really authentic and delicious. 

We love you, Prague. We can't wait to visit again! 

Versailles Visit

I went to Versailles ~7 years ago when I traveled to France with my girlfriends, but I don't remember much except just how grand and unbelievable it was. My mom was in Paris for the day last Sunday, so we decided to trek out to the palace for a visit. I highly recommend taking an Uber Pop (cheapest car sharing option in Paris) from Paris to Versailles. It will run you ~20-25 Euros, depending on what part of the city you start in, but taking the train is sort of pricy (~4 Euros per person + metro fare to get to the train), so it ends up costing around the same amount if there are 3-4 people. You likely can't take an Uber back, but it's the best and most efficient way to get there! :)
We had an amazing time (I recommend watching Marie Antoinette beforehand to get in the mood :), but it was so incredibly crowded. If you can avoid a weekend visit, do it! Last time I went during the week and it was much more laid back and we got to enjoy it more. The lines and crowds were pretty unbearable. Still, the palace is so ornate and a must see during your trip.
The best part of the day by far was our visit to the gardens. We brought our own picnic lunch (salami, cheese, grapes, cherries, strawberries, a baguette, and of course, wine!), found a bench, and entertained ourselves with some serious people watching. The gardens are impressive and expansive and we had fun wandering around for hours after lunch. Thanks for visiting, Mama! xo

French Pharmacy Beauty Products

French women are known for their classic style and beautiful skin, and it's totally true. There are so many chic women that wear very little makeup but somehow have glowing skin. In trying to crack the secret to French beauty, I asked a few chic co-workers what their go-to beauty products are, and surprisingly most of them can be picked up at the pharmacy, not Sephora (which is a Parisian store, of course). My mom also sent me this interesting read about French pharmacy buys. Apparently City Pharma in St. Germain is the largest drugstore and go-to place to shop for beauty products in Paris. We swung by last weekend and it was absolutely hectic - the store was packed with tons of Parisians and tourists alike. Here are a few of the products I picked up:
1. Bioderma Créaline - a gentle water-based makeup cleanser that is popular amongst models (well on my way, y'all). A huge bottle is around 10 Euros. Let me tell you, this is hands down the most gentle makeup remover I've ever used. It's water-based, so it's not greasy like other removers I've used. My skin has been super dry from traveling, so I've actually been using this in lieu of washing my face at night and it still feels really clean. 
2. Klorane Dry Shampoo - the most popular brand of dry shampoo in France. I received a travel version in my Birchbox a few months ago, but I wanted to give it another go. The jury is still out for me with this product. I am pretty fond of my Batiste Dry Shampoo and the smell of Klorane is pretty strong. I can smell it throughout the day, which I don't love. I'll use it throughout the rest of my time in Europe and see if I change my mind.
3. Embryolisse - a thick moisturizer that you can apply day and night. This comes in a few different sizes but the largest tube will run you about 16 Euros. From what I can tell, it will last you several months. I love this product. Again, my skin is on the dryer side, and Embryolisse is super moisturizing and my skin soaks it up. It was hesitant at first, because it sort of smells like an old lady lotion, but the smell doesn't stick around for long. Will be stockpiling this before leaving!
4. Eau Thermale Avène - water spray/mist to keep your skin hydrated during the day. I really like this product so far - it's really soothing. Also, I have red cheeks and it reduces the flare ups, so I try to apply it first thing when I get out of the shower before I moisturize. 

I'm looking forward to trying a few more products before leaving and bringing them back with me! :)

[Source of Marion Cotillard photo here].

Weekend in Germany

We are taking full advantage of the European bank holidays to travel. The office was closed yesterday, so we hopped on a plane and went to Germany to visit my friend Johan. We flew Germanwings, a discount airline subsidiary of Lufthansa. I must admit that I was sort of apprehensive to take an unfamiliar discount airline (can I take a bag onboard? how does boarding work?) but it was surprisingly easy and normal...imagine that. :) We flew from CDG to Hamburg, which took about 1 hour. From the airport, we took a 30 minute train into the Hamburg city center.
From there, we headed to the Google office in Hamburg. The cafe was amazing and the offices are so cool. Hamburg is known for its lakes and canals, so the entire office is lake themed. Check out Lucas hanging out in the cool work space. 
The weather was lovely on Friday - sunny and 75 degrees. We wanted to soak it up, so after work, we went to the Alster for a picnic with friends. We grilled würstchen (my favorite!), curry sausage, and bratwurst and had crusty bread and cheese -- it was a perfect German barbeque. The sun doesn't set until around 10:30 or 11:00 pm, so we got to hang out for quite a while.
The next morning, Lucas and I couldn't resist going for a run around the lake. They have shady paths, so it's just about the best running environment you could ask for. There are tons of cute cafes around the lake. I swear, Hamburg is the most underrated city. How gorgeous are the canals?
Johan is from Braunschweig, which is about 1.5 hours from Hamburg. I wanted to visit his parents, so we drove to Braunschweig on Saturday afternoon. They have this magical garden filled with peonies, garden roses, hydrangeas, and other flowers. The star of the garden is this authentic Italian brick oven that they make homemade pizzas in. Everytime we visit I look forward to making pizza and drinking white wine on their patio. Check out that spread of toppings, homemade dough, and sauce.
 Also, the Jünke family really has the gallery wall thing down. They're putting Pinterest to total shame!
On Sunday we went for a tour of Braunschweig in Johan's Dad's vintage car - how cool is that? We drove around town to show Lucas all of the landmarks - old churches, town hall, the theatre, etc. It's one of the most historic cities in Germany. We also went to a local farm to buy spargel, which is the white asparagus that Germany is famous for. Johan's mom made a delicious lunch of schnitzel, spargel, kartoffeln (potatoes) with hollandaise sauce.
We drove back to Hamburg on Sunday. We had the day off yesterday, so we had a barbecue at the beach on the Elbe and tried to soak up the last rays of the weekend. The clouds rolled in just as we were leaving for the airport. :) Thanks for a great weekend, Germany. I can't believe we're half way through our European adventure. Next up: Prague!