The Last of 2013: Van City, NYC & Paris

I think this might finally be my last 2013 blog post. LOL. Thanks for bearing with me. πŸ™‚

Last year we took a couple of long weekend trips to Vancouver & NYC and also traveled to Paris for a half day at the tail end of our Disneyland Paris trip. I wanted to share a few fun photos before I officially bid adieu to 2013.

We took our annual trip to Vancouver back in May. Fourth year in a row!

One of our very favorite shows, Psych, filmed in Vancouver (*sniff*) so we decided to drive south to the city of White Rock BC, which the show used for many of its location shoots.

The Psych office!!! SQUEE. Ok ok, in real life it’s the White Rock Museum & Archives.

Rob doing a Shawn Spencer impression. LOL.

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Paris Trip Report: Disneyland

Of all ten Disney theme parks I’ve visited so far, Disneyland Paris is the most gorgeous. The park is lush, rich in detail, and is expansive without feeling too big or losing its charm. I’d rank it as my third favorite park behind the original Disneyland in Anaheim and Tokyo DisneySea.

Random note – during the planning of this trip, I read reports online about rude cast members, maintenance problems, and issues with attractions/entertainment closures. I did notice more ride closures than usual (easily attributed to the off-season) and the parks aren’t as immaculate as their American counterparts but the cast members were nothing but friendly. Anyway.

We’re here!

Disneyland Hotel is situated above the entrance turnstiles to the park.

The park’s 20th anniversary was actually in 2012 but they were still celebrating while we visited in 2013.

You can walk down Main Street outdoors as you would normally do but as a compromise due to rainy weather, Main Street was also built with covered walkways known as arcades on either side. You can access all the stores with the advantage of shelter.

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Paris Trip Report: Walt Disney Studios Park

I pretty much spent most of January sick. UGGGHHHH. WHY?! I went to the doctor for antibiotics last week and I think I’m finally on the mend. Just in time for February.

Anyway, I think everyone knows I’m a huge Disney fan. πŸ™‚ Visiting each of the 5 Disney resorts across the globe is on my bucket list and so far I’ve made it to 3 of the 5 (Walt Disney World in 2011, Tokyo Disneyland in 2012 and Disneyland all the time). After our Mediterranean cruise last year, Rob & I flew to Paris and checked off Disneyland Paris. !!! WOOHOO.

We spent 2.5 days at the resort, which was the perfect amount of time. I really wanted to stay at the Disneyland Hotel since it’s located at the entrance to the park but it was ridiculously expensive. So we opted for Sequoia Lodge. It’s a charming hotel that’s inspired by American national parks and I loved it because it reminded me of the Wilderness Lodge, which is where we stayed at Walt Disney World. It made a great home base for us!

The hotel exterior.

We booked a Golden Forest Club room which entitled us to a continental breakfast in the mornings and snacks in the afternoon. Guests visit the Golden Forest Lounge for these perks.

You never know who you’ll see at breakfast!

We loved coming back from a day at parks and hanging out here with snacks and coffee or soda.

It’s an easy 10-15 minute walk from Sequoia Lodge through Disney Village (basically Downtown Disney) over to the entrance to the parks.

There are two theme parks within the Paris resort — Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Park.

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paris, je t’aime

I watched Paris, Je T’aime a few weeks back and absolutely adored it. It’s a compilation of 20 5-minute films set in each of the 20 neighborhoods (arrondissements) of Paris. Each film is directed by a different filmmaker and tells a tale of love and life in the city of lights. My personal favorite is Quais de Seine, which is directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham). It’s about a young man hanging out with his 2 friends who try to (unsuccessfully) pick up on women as they walk by. When a Muslim girl trips and others laugh at her expense, he goes to help her and they strike up a conversation. I love it because their connection is so organic and natural.

I also love the mini-films Le Marais, Bastille, Parc Monceau, PΓ¨re-Lachaise, Faubourg Saint-Denis… a good summary article about the project can be found here on Wikipedia. Highly recommended. πŸ™‚

Mmmm. I adore Paris. I think my trip with Rob last year kick-started the obsession. I jokingly (or maybe not so) told him that I would LOVE to celebrate my 30th birthday there. That would be awesome.

Hey, a girl can dream.

paris day 3

I want to go to Disneyland. I have absolutely no idea why. I just do. So just a minute ago, I took a look at the ticket prices online. HOLY MOLY. When did it get so expensive?!? $63! And that’s just for 1 day and 1 park. If you want to park hop or whatever, it’s $83 for 1 day. Oh well, I’d still love to go. Maybe when I’m in Southern CA for the holidays…

Had an okay weekend. I got a stomachache on Saturday so I spent a good part of the day in bed. Ugh. I caught up on The OC (really, really liking this season so far) and I watched The Break-Up. HATED IT. There were some funny moments and Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn were good but the whole storyline was… EH. I also went to see Borat today, which was pretty hilarious. I wouldn’t say I *liked* it, though. The highlight of my weekend was getting an iPod nano! Rob got me a 4gb red one as a belated birthday present. I’m going to use this one for the gym. πŸ˜€

More Paris…
Sun, October 15: Day 3
After our Parisian breakfast of croissants and coffee (I must have gained about 10 pounds from all the bread I ate!), we were off to Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur. (Montmartre is the northern part of the city where many artists reside). We took the Metro (we’re total pros now) and got off at Anvers. I was actually hoping the Abesses stop would be open by now (it’s been closed for renovations). That was the Metro stop featured in the movie Amelie and I just wanted to see it! Maybe next time. πŸ˜€ We walked up a hill (huffing and puffing the whole time) that took us to the bottom of the steps leading to Sacre Coeur. We took a breather by the carousel and prepared ourselves for the stairs. I guess we could have taken the funicular up but we were feeling adventurous. As we headed over to the stairs, we were approached by the men who try and stop you to tie a bracelet around your wrist. If they happen to get you, you’re tied to them and have to give them money to be released. They try to convince you to take the bracelet by saying it’s free. We walked away from them quickly (though one of them totally grabbed Rob’s arm) and started the hike up the stairs. It took us a little while (we stopped every time there was a bit of platform) but it was worth it when we arrived at the top. The basilica is absolutely gorgeous and the view from up there was wonderful. We were overlooking all of Paris! We went inside and lit a candle for my mom and walked around admiring the statues and sculptures. As we exited, I noticed that they had those machines that make impressions on coins for souvenirs. Is it just me or is that the *last* thing you’d expect to see in a church? I’ve made them before but at an amusement park!

We walked down to Place du Tertre to check out the artists’ square. There were some absolutely gorgeous watercolor paintings of the Arc and the Eiffel Tower and I was incredibly tempted to purchase one but I decided against it since they were pricey (between 25-50 Euros) and I didn’t know how the heck I was going to take it with me on the plane. We continued our walk through Montmartre and into the Pigalle area (Red Light District) on the way to the Moulin Rouge. Since it was Sunday, most of the shops were closed (so weird to me!) but we did find one sex shop that happened to be open. We went in but there was nothing exciting. LOL. Just a few more steps down was the Moulin Rouge! It was so fun to see the famous dance hall and its iconic windmill.

Our next stop for the day was the Marais. We made our way there via the Metro. As we walked up to the street level, we found ourselves at the Place de la Bastille. There’s nothing left of the prison at all so there’s nothing to see. Across the street, though, stood the Colonne de Juillet (memorial to commemorate the deaths in the street battles of 1830) and also the Opera National de Paris Bastille. The Opera completely stood out because it’s made of glass… I actually didn’t like it at all. We continued walking over to Place des Vosges. It’s a beautiful park that’s perfectly symmetrical (nine houses on each side of the square). I just loved all the parks/gardens in Paris. They’re so well-maintained, gorgeous and peaceful.

By this time, we were so hungry. We spotted a Quick fast food restaurant (like the McDonald’s of France) and ordered Supreme Cheese burgers meals. It wasn’t really a very good burger (my all time favorite fast food burger is from In-n-Out) but it came with Coke! And it didn’t cost us $5! Heh. After lunch, we walked along the Rue de Rivoli down to Ile de la Cite. We sat in the Square du Jean XIII, which is a beautiful garden behind Notre Dame. I think I love the back of Notre Dame even more than the front. The flying buttresses are spectacular. Guh.

I wanted to pick up a book to read for the plane ride home so we looked for the English bookstore Shakespeare & Co, which I knew was nearby. What a great little store! It’s TINY. It felt so homey and the employees are really friendly and give you recommendations on books and things to do in the area. I picked up The Time Traveler’s Wife, which a good friend had suggested to me. (I finished the book on the plane and didn’t like it :/).

By this time, we were absolutely exhausted from all the walking so we bought tickets for a 1 hr. sightseeing cruise on the Seine. We sat on top of the boat for a good vantage point of all the sights. The boat passed many of the monuments (D’Orsay, Conciergerie, Notre Dame, etc) but once we got to the Eiffel Tower, our camera battery died after just a few photos! GRRR. I was a bit surprised to see that the homeless population of Paris have tents set up all along the river banks. Some of them looked pretty permanent too. Looking back, though, I’m not sure why I was so shocked. Paris is a big city and all big cities have homeless problems. Still, it was a nice trip down the river and we got to rest our poor feet. After the cruise, we picked up gyros and banana/nutella crepes for dinner and headed back to the hotel for the night.

Up next: the Louvre!

paris day 2

Why didn’t I find out about this sooner?!? JOSH JACKSON is doing a Q&A session in Berkeley tonight!!! Maybe I can find a way in…

Work is kicking my butt. And I’ve only been there 2 weeks! The hours are long and when I get home, I don’t have much energy to do anything besides watch TV before heading to bed. So I’m tired. But I’m loving it… I’m learning a lot (media buying is very different from the sales side), I’m working on some great accounts, and maybe best of all, I get to be back in San Francisco. I just wish that I didn’t have to wait so long for my first paycheck, lol. I have another week and a half to wait, which seems like forever from now. Especially since I spent a good portion of my last paycheck while I was in Paris. EEEK.

I officially dropped Las Vegas and Six Degrees from my regular TV schedule. I’m still not completely caught up with TV after missing a week and a half worth of shows while I was in Paris. And I just have no desire to figure out what’s going on with these 2 shows. Plus, I’m very tempted to catch Day Break (Taye Diggs!!!) when it premieres so I figured I had to get rid of something if I was going to get invested in another show.

I read that The CW cancelled Runaway. HAHAHAHA. I bet they’re wishing they renewed Everwood. I’m still a little bitter. I don’t let go of things very easily. :/

So anyway, more Paris stories, anyone?

Sat, October 14: Day 2
We woke up at 7:30am after a really restless night. I kept waking up in the middle of the night and would stare at the ceiling before drifting off to sleep again. Damn jet lag! Anyway, after showering (OMG, the shower is about as small as the elevator!) and getting ready, we went down to the breakfast room. There was a beautiful spread of baguettes, croissants (so flaky and buttery, YUM), hard-boiled eggs, milk, coffee, and orange juice. I’m usually too rushed in the mornings to eat breakfast so it was a pleasant change to sit down and eat before heading out for the day.

It was time to conquer the Metro. We somehow figured out how to buy a carnet of tickets but then we almost got on the RER instead of the Metro train. OOPS. After that first mix-up, we got on the correct train, even managed to transfer trains, and ended up at the Eiffel Tower, which was the meeting point for the tour. We spotted our tour guide as he rode up to the base of the Tower on a segway. Hee! We went over to introduce ourselves and we found out that his name’s Mike and he was originally from Sacramento. Small world!

As soon as the rest of our group arrived (2 other couples from CA and South Africa), we walked over to the City Walks Headquarters to practice on the segways. Mike showed us how to go forward and backward, turn and stop. I WAS AWFUL. At first. To go forward, you have to lean forward just slightly. I was totally overdoing it. I would lean forward too much, which, of course, propelled me forward *really* fast. Plus, I was also pretty bad at stopping. To stop, you have to shift your weight backwards quickly, by leaning back or kind of sticking your butt out. I almost hit Mike because I couldn’t stop and I was going too fast. Hehe. But after a few more minutes of practice, though, I got the hang of it and I loved it! πŸ™‚ Once Mike deemed all of us competent, we were off for about 3 hours of riding around the city. I had 1 “moment” at the beginning of the tour — I think I was getting *too* comfortable with the segway and I started going faster and faster. I didn’t realize that Mike had stopped at Les Invalides to talk a little bit about it and I ran right into one of my fellow tour mates. OMG. It was one of those situations where your mind is telling you to do something (in my case, STOP!) but my body couldn’t react quickly enough. Neither of us fell off our segways or got hurt so it was more embarrassing for me than anything else. We had a good laugh. Anyway, the tour took us from the Eiffel Tower, through the Les Invalides area, along the Seine and to the Louvre, where we took a much-needed lunch break. It’s much more tiring than it looks! I guess because you’re putting so much pressure on your toes and heels. We had lunch at a cafe in the Tuileries Gardens. I had a ham and cheese quiche (amazing!) and Rob had a hot dog. It sounds strange since you know, we’re in France and he’s having a hot dog. But surprisingly, they’re really popular there. And they do serve them differently — the hot dog is in a baguette with melted cheese on top. YUM.

We were tired after the Segway tour so we went back to our hotel to get some rest before going out for dinner. It’s funny because Rob and I have completely different travelling styles. I like to be out all day and see as much as possible while Rob needs to have a break in the afternoon so he can rest and take a nap. We definitely had to make compromises in the way we spent our days! After Rob’s nap, we took a walk down Boulevard St. Germain and went to Pizza Vesuvio for dinner (I was craving Italian food). I had Spaghettie alla carbonara and Rob had a pizza. He also ordered a Coke, which cost 3.60 euros. That’s like $5!!! I was forewarned that sodas were expensive in Paris but that blew us away, lol. The food was excellent, though. And I was so proud because we managed to order everything and ask for the check all in French. Following dinner, we headed down to the Seine and strolled along the river for a bit. Paris is so beautiful at night! *sigh* Then we grabbed Haagen Dazs ice cream (strawberry for me, cappucino caramel truffle for Rob) on the way back to the hotel.

Up next: More walking!

paris day 1

I’m finally getting around to blogging about my trip… I kept a written travel journal but I also want to have kind of a “recap” here on my site. It’ll probably take me months to finish it up though, lol. I guess you’ll just have to bear with me. πŸ˜€ Anyway, here goes…

Thurs/Fri, October 12-13: Day 1
Waking up early to get to the airport was hard. Security was easy. Probably because we were heading out of the US instead of coming in. Though Rob was asked to take off his flip flops when we were going through security at SFO. Weird, right? Speaking of weird, I saw the craziest thing at the Chicago O’Hare airport (we changed planes there and it is a NICE airport!). I had to use the restroom so I walked into a stall and immediately noticed that there weren’t any toilet seat covers. Then I noticed some sort of sign on the wall with instructions. It said to wave your hand in front of the sensor and a plastic toilet seat cover would be dispensed directly onto the seat. When you’re finished, you wave your hand again and the toilet flushes along with the cover. OMG. Has anyone ever seen this?!?
Flights were uneventful. But uncomfortable. It’s so hard to sleep on a plane when you have no legroom. I barely got any sleep. One day I’m going to fly first class, damn it. πŸ˜› We landed, picked up our luggage, and found the taxi line with no problems. Unfortunately, the jet lag was setting in. UGH. We left San Francisco at 9:30 on Thurs morning and arrived in Paris at 8:30 on Fri morning. It seriously felt like I had been awake for 24 hours even though technically our flights were only a total of 13 hours. The taxi ride was looooong. We were heading into Paris during the morning rush so it took a little over an hour cause of the traffic. As we got closer to the city, I started to see glimpses of the Eiffel Tower. SQUEEEEE. That’s when it hit me. I was in Paris!!! I had been looking forward to and planning the trip for months and it was finally here. πŸ˜€ Our taxi driver took us around the turnabout at the Arc de Triomphe… that was INSANE. Twelve streets feed into the turnabout and it’s pretty much every driver for himself. Anyway, we finally arrived in the Latin Quarter at Hotel Claude Bernard, our home base for the week. It’s a really small and charming hotel, centrally-located and has all the basics, including free internet access in the lobby! That was a pleasant surprise. When we checked in, our room wasn’t ready (it was only about 10:30am) so we left our bags and headed out to get familiar with our arrondissement. And find some food (airplane food was horrible)!
After walking around aimlessly for awhile, we finally walked into a boulangerie to get a sandwich. We managed to order a Croque Monsieur (a ham sandwich with cheese on top, so good) but it was tough. We know almost no French and coupled with the jet lag, we just weren’t very sharp, hehe. After some more walking (this really helped us stay awake and adjust to the time change), we decided we needed coffee and happened to stumble upon the all too familiar Starbucks sign. We HAD to go in, LOL. I got a Tall (Moyen) Mocha, which was completely different than the mochas they serve here in the US. It’s not as sweet and chocolate-y so it tastes more like coffee. It was to die for. Too bad it was about twice the cost!
We went back to our hotel since our room was supposed to be ready by this time. It was so we grabbed our luggage and headed to the elevator. WOW. I have *never* seen a smaller elevator. It only fits 2 people at a time. So with our huge suitcases, Rob and I had to take it up to the 5th floor one by one. We arrived at our room, opened the door and found that it wasn’t much bigger than the elevator. LOL. We freshened up and unpacked and then decided to do some more walking so we wouldn’t be tempted to fall asleep. According to the trusty street map, the Luxembourg Gardens are just a few streets away so we headed in that direction. As we approached, we grabbed a mozarella, tomato, and cheese panini to enjoy in the gardens (YUM — the bread was so soft and the cheese so flavorful). The flowers were still in bloom so the garden and its fountains were absolutely breathtaking.

We then set out for Boulevard St. Germain to find Monoprix, which is a store that carries grocery and household items. We purchased bottled water, orange juice (I was still a little sick at this point), and miscellaneous snacks for the week. It was now 5pm and we were *exhausted* so we went back to the hotel. We watched CNN for awhile (it was the only channel in English!) and finally went to sleep at 8pm.

Up next: Segway Tour!

more paris

Ok, so the answer to the “Guess the Truth” meme below is #2. πŸ˜€

Yes, I did audition for a dancing role in the movie Toys. It was when I was in elementary school and I was training at a ballet school in Santa Monica. We used to get information about casting calls all the time and I happened to go to this one. I was so excited because I got to miss a day of school and everything! I also got paid just for auditioning. A measly $10 and, of course, with taxes taken out, I think I ended up with $5. Heh. Sadly, I did not get a role but I did get to meet Barry Levinson. That was cool.

As for the other lies…
I was actually a Mass Communications major in college.
I was born in California.
I am an only child.
My favorite Harry Potter book is Goblet of Fire.
I have not vacationed in Greece. But I want to!!! Someday.

Speaking of trips, I am SO INCREDIBLY excited for my vacation to Paris. Not even the thought of getting to the airport hours ahead of time and being extra careful not to pack liquids in my carry-on can get me down. πŸ˜€ Rob and I are leaving on 10/12 (the day after my birthday!) and come back on 10/20, so we’ll have 7 full days there. (Or well, I guess you could say 6 days since that first day we probably won’t have too much energy what with the jet lag and all). I spent a good portion of the weekend checking out the forums on Fodors and Trip Advisor to get information on things to see, costs, transportation, weather, etc. I visited Paris in 1997 for a short amount of time (my family did one of those whirlwind tours where you see 7 cities in 3 weeks) so all I’ve seen up close is the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Catacombs and Versailles. Can’t wait to see other sites I missed, especially the Musee D’Orsay. The Degas pieces are calling me!

Off to do more research. πŸ™‚