Our hometown of Russia (Roo-shee) and the neighboring town of Versailles (ver SALES) were settled by the French in Ohio. Therefore, we grew up with a strong connection to our French roots. Exploring the Parisian culture as sisters had always been a dream of ours – and boy, the “city of love” certainly did not disappoint!
Tour de Paris //Our Airbnb was on the north end of the city, between Gare du Nord and Montmartre. We fell in love with exploring this less-touristy area of the city and getting a true feel for how Parisians really do life. Since K had been here before, getting around was MUCH less confusing. We actually got asked for directions a few times by people speaking French, so we fulfilled our goal of not sticking out as tourists!
Sacré Coeur – A hike up the stairs for a beautiful view of Paris on one side and the basilica on the other. Inside, we said some prayers and lit a candle for our family’s health and safety. Since this was near our Airbnb, we returned here with some wine to watch the sunset from the lawn out front. Lo fell down the hill when we left and gave some onlookers a good laugh!
Montmartre – Pure charm. We did a free walking tour of this area of the city and loved learning more about its history before wandering through its cobblestone streets on our own. A break from the crowds of tourists, this quaint area has been home to artists such as Picasso and Van Gogh. Those living in Montmartre still get their groceries from the local shops on “the hill” – with stores specific to bread (boulangerie), cheese (fromagerie), meats (charcuterie), etc. Our foodie side geeked out over how fresh and locally sourced everything was.
Les Mur des Je t’aime – “Wall of Love” in Montmartre; a mural with love written in many languages.
Eiffel Tower – The best way to enjoy this remarkable tower is to picnic in front of it with a bottle of wine, chevre cheese, baguette, tomatoes, and berries all purchased from shops along a market street a few blocks away. Go see some more sights, then return for a sunset view of the tower with more wine. And a Nutella crepe. Pure joy.
Champs Elysees & Arc de Triumph – Worth walking down this iconic street to see the Arch, but prepare yourself for loads of people! We don’t recommend eating along here nor buying souvenirs, as prices are heightened for all the tourists that stream to this central spot.
Notre Dame – We went in the morning, and there was literally no line to enter [free admission]. A priest was hearing confession in an enclosed glass room [he spoke English, Spanish, French & Italian]! It was neat to participate in the sacrament of reconciliation in such a historical cathedral. We also lit a candle here for our family.
Louvre – Took some necessary glass pyramid pictures. Didn’t have time to go inside since we were only in Paris for 2 days. [Note – K recommends Musée d’Orsay over the Louvre if you want to do an art museum and are pressed for time in Paris!]
Jardin des Tuileries – Beautiful manicured garden just west of the Louvre. Lo saw it as a perfect place to nap!
The Seine – Walked along the iconic river as we strolled from one area of the city to another.
Jardin du Luxembourg – Near the Pantheon, this garden offers another oasis to relax and take a break from walking around the city. We got macaroons aferwards.
Manger à Paris // We are seriously in love with the French food scene. Check out our delectable food & wine recommendations below:
La Maisson Bleu – Darling spot for some petit dejeuner after our flight in from Barcelona! Fresh OJ, café con lait, yogurt & house-made granola did not disappoint.
Chez Francis – So we didn’t actually eat here, but we had to swing by for a picture at our family namesake! K stumbled across it the last time she was in Paris and took a picture in the same spot. Came to find out our Aunt and Uncle ate dinner here a few years back!
Marcelle – Adorable spot for breakfast or lunch. Egg in a hole w/freshly baked bread topped w/ avo & pared carrot for K; granola w/dried coconut & bananas w/housemade almond milk for Lo. Café con lait for each of us, as well as some fresh OJ!
Berthillon – Near Notre Dame, this ice cream shop offered a cold treat that was a savior on our hot day of adventuring!
Cellars du Pantheon – Listed by Food&Wine magazine as one of the 10 best wine stores in the world! The rating proved to be correct, as it was a wine lover’s dream. It’s known for its selection of organic wines from smaller French wineries, with surprisingly affordable prices. We bought a bottle to enjoy while watching the sunset from the steps of Sacre Coeur later that evening.
Chez Marie – We saw this restaurant in a painting while browsing artwork to bring home; it stood out to us because K’s middle name is Marie! While wandering through Montmartre to find a spot to eat dinner that same evening, we came across the exact restaurant we had viewed on canvas earlier in the day! We took this as a sign to eat dinner there, and enjoyed a traditional French dinner with the ‘menu du jour’. Lo tried escargot and cassis for the first time – some must-haves of traditional French cuisine. Locals were playing tunes on the stairwell directly across from the restaurant, which provided a great ambiance for our dinner.
Nightlife in Montmartre: We loved walking through the streets on Montmartre after dinner. The locals were hanging out on the streets/staircases and drink wine & eat local food. Local musicians were be playing on many of the streets. Pure charm everywhere!
Le Grenier à Pain – Awarded “Best Baguette in Paris”, this boulangerie had us drooling. We bought a baguette, pain au chocolat, and pain au chèvre et figues. All delish. & don’t forget all that fruit from the markets!
Au bientot, Paris! We adore you and cannot wait to return with our men someday in the future 🙂
When K came home from studying abroad in France 6 years ago we made a pact that the next time either of us went to Europe, it would be together. This summer proved to be the perfect timing for us to fulfill this promise. K just graduated with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy, and Lo received her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. Before entering the real-world as working adults, we decided to create memories abroad.
First stop: Madrid
We stayed in the CUTEST hostel (The Hat Madrid – highly recommend!) where our beds were ready early & fresh lemon water welcomed us in the lobby. There was even a rooftop bar with tons of plants, where we spent some time relaxing and catching up on wifi when needed.
Madrid Eats //Leka Leka was recommended to us by The Hat front desk, & it certainly did not disappoint. Fresh veggies were being delivered as we arrived, and we knew it was the perfect spot for our first prix-fix* menu together. We each got a coffee, then split tuna croquettes & smashed plantains topped with shredded chicken mixed with avocado. **We ALWAYS ordered one ‘menu of the day’, which was typically priced at 10-15 euro, & would split it. This deal typically comes with the equivalent of an appetizer, main entree, coffee or dessert, & wine or beer. Great way to try a variety of platters and not spend a ton!
Madrid Sites // K pre-planned a self-guided walking tour to hit the main city sites. We also took detours off our main route to explore whatever caught our eye. Here’s the main spots we hit up:
Plaza Mayor, a lively city center area.
Mercado de San Miguel – near Plaza Mayor, this market offers a variety of tapas & beverages, as well as fresh fruits and desserts. Sure to satisfy any foodie cravings!
Restaurant Botin – the oldest restaurant in the world!
Puerta del Sol – center of Madrid & Spain; point from which all roads in Spain branch
Palacio Real & its gardens – here we ran into a fellow Buckeye who attended the same church as K in Grandview! It’s a small world, indeed 🙂
Templo de Debod: this was a hike to get to & honestly not really worth it. The view behind it though was pretty neat!
Gran Via – tree-lined shopping street, good stores though a bit crowded & touristy for our liking. A positive: the prices at Zara are much better abroad than they are in the US – yes, that’s even with the exchange rate!
Casa Hernandez – tiny shop that makes espadrilles in-house. There was consistently a long line, which we decided to wait in it to see what all the buzz was about. Ordering shoes in Spanish in European sizing was NOT an easy task – but we each happily came away with a cute pair that fits us!
Dinner in Madrid // K’s friend Christine now lives in Madrid with her BF, Angel, who was born & raised there. They were generous enough to show us the Spanish way of life for a night out in Madrid! First stop – tapas & sunset view of the city atop El Corte Ingles rooftop terrace. Angel ordered olives stuffed with sundried tomatoes, sliced baguette, jamon, cheese, & a bottle of vino tinto (red wine). Amazing. Next they brought us to Meson de Champignon, their favorite spot for stuffed mushrooms (stuffing of chorizo w/ olive oil & balsamic sauce) & roasted green peppers. The restaurant had a cave-like feel, built to keep cool back in the 1800’s. Angel ordered 2 carafes of vino, which each came in a cool ceramic pitcher. Third stop – La Casa Del Abuelo for freshly boiled shrimp in a garlic & olive oil sauce with mini peppers… & more vino tinto… & more baguette (still drooling thinking about dipping the bread in the shrimp’s garlic sauce). The progressive dinner ended around midnight, and they walked us back to our hostel. It was a perfect night of great food & interesting conversations about the difference between American & Spanish culture with two people who have lived in both countries.
We missed our train to Madrid the next morning [note: trains are displayed by their final destination and NOT your destination]. However, this gave us more time to explore Madrid! Our extra time was spent in le Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena and any other old, beautiful churches that we stumbled upon during our walk.
Second stop: Seville [or Sevilla as the locals say]
A quaint, bright, warm & charming city. This is the perfect city to wander through without a set walking path. The true beauty was found in meandering down narrow streets and finding another plaza or unique restaurants around the corner. We stayed at an Airbnb and had a great experience there!
Seville Sites //We took a free walking tour to get our bearings, then spent more time at the areas we wanted to explore on our own.
Real Alcazar – A MUST VISIT. Buy your tickets online in advance, as there was always quite a line to get in. Student discount available – bring your college ID & passport to obtain. This is a castle that was built in 3 different centuries – the earliest of which was 913. Also the setting for Dorne in the Game of Thrones.
Catedral de Sevilla – Absolutely stunning! Go up the Giralda Tower, attached to the cathedral. The tower is a remnant of the Muslim mosque that used to occupy where the cathedral now stands. Barrio de los naranjos viewable in the courtyard of the cathedral – a courtyard of orange trees!
Metropol Parasol – Modern pedestrian walkway above the old city. Free wine and postcard with 3 Euro entry fee!
Plaza de España – A MUST SEE. Incredible mosaic work.
Casa de Pilatos – Beautiful mansion
Universidad de Sevilla – Very lux and home of the old royal tobacco company.
Plaza del Salvador – Area filled with locals drinking beers & eating tapas. We had dinner here one night; very lively!
Plaza de la Jesus de Passion – Our walking tour guide brought us to a private chapel with a unique statue of Jesus and ornate gold altar.
La Carboneria – Bar with Flamenco dancing, a MUST SEE in Sevilla since this form of dance originated there.
Santa Ana Neighborhood – Wandered through its adorable streets! Frequently saw statues or mosaics of Saints mounted outside on the walls of homes and facing the narrow streets. So neat to see an outward portrayal of the people’s religious beliefs!
Seville Eats //We literally ate like queens in this city and were particularly obsessed with these meals:
Laraza – Fun fact: the restaurant occupies where Don Miguel Cervants was imprisoned and wrote part of Don Quijote! Went with the waiter’s recommendations. Started with a fresh salad. Next came chicken w/peanuts, cashews, raisins, & fries in a curry sauce. Finally, dessert of flan and café con leche. The waiter then brought us behind the bar and the bartender served us cervesas from the tap in front of us! We talked with some local customers for a while in a mix of Spanish and English. It was such a great time and an exact representation of the culture in Sevilla – welcoming & generous!
La Sacristia – A cozy tapas restaurant with delicious house wine and a wonderful atmosphere. Fried eggplants w/ balsamic & honey glaze and seafood paella with fresh baguette.
Freiduria El Salvador – Located on the lively plaza filled with locals, we enjoyed the Friday evening atmosphere here. Ordered fresh sliced tomatoes with tuna, sea salt, EVOO & parsley on top.
Stop 3: Barcelona
An early RyanAir flight brought us into lively Barcelona! We stayed at another Airbnb here, this time with a less than great experience.
Touring Barcelona //A free walking tour again helped us gain our bearings in the city before exploring on our own. Sites that stood out to us:
Gothic Quarter – old, historical buildings that will take you back in time. Highly recommend a tour of this area to gain historical insights about all that has happened over the years there.
Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia – MUST SEE; free entry certain times of day – check their website! (make sure your dress is around your knees & shoulders are covered. (Lo’s dress was to short & she got kicked out!). We sat outside of the cathedral and listened to a local play music! Such a neat atmosphere! Interestedly, most musician played popular american songs on the squares. Fine by us! 🙂
La Sagrada Familia – MUST SEE; order your tickets online ahead of time! We went right away in the morning, which was less crowded than later in the day. It was Sunday, so we stayed for mass in the chapel located beneath the main alter of the basilica. This was a truly remarkable experience!
Park Guell – More of Gaudi’s work, this park is out of the way and we could have gone without making the trek. Especially considering we didn’t buy tickets ahead of time and couldn’t get into the park…so buy ahead of time if you choose to go! Very beautiful, though.
Casa Mila & Casa Batlo – More of Gaudi’s stunning work. Again, could have gone without seeing since we trekked out of the way and were getting hangry by the time we made it there.
Mercat de la Boqueria – Any fresh food you may desire! Started our day here with some fresh-squeezed fruit juice & some fruit to-go for the beach.
Barcelona Beach – Took a break from touring for some R&R along the mediterranean. Got some mad sunburns that afternoon!
Bike Tour // Rode up Montjuic on electronic bikes during a 4-hour tour through areas just outside of the main city center. Highly recommend this tour to see areas of the city we otherwise would not have had time to make it to on foot! Another small-world connection: a couple who live in Columbus and graduated from OSU were on our tour!
Barca Eats //Absolutely loved the continuation of tapas and the introduction of pinchos (toppings held onto a slice of bread via a toothpick). Our favorites:
Vegetaria – Located in a plaza that is often frequented by locals, this meal gave us our much-needed fix of greens!
El Chigre – Ordered a bottle of cider and a cheese plate. Such a fun experience and we highly recommend checking this place out!
Quimet & Quimet – Just down the street from our Airbnb, this foodie destination is a small bar with the most AMAZING tapas. Just be ready for a bit of a wait and crowded dining. The most dream tapas: bread topped with yogurt, raw salmon, honey, & balsamic; bread topped with cheese, sautéed mushrooms, & truffle oil; white asparagus topped w/ raw salmon, mini spiraled squash & white wine sauce.
The laid-back way of life was a pleasant change from the fast-paced lives we live in America. It was a blessing to step into the Spanish culture and bring back some of their customs with us to our lives in Ohio!
There is nothing better than quality time spent with loved ones. Each year, our family makes it a priority to find time to get-away and spend some uninterrupted time with one another. As our schedules become more varied and crazy, it has become harder to find time where all 6 [soon to be 7!] of us can vacation. Prioritizing this time to focus on our family is of the upmost importance, and this is a tradition we hope can continue for many years to come.
This year’s trip took us to Folly Beach, SC – a small beach town about 20 minutes south of Charleston. Unfortunately, we had some rainy weather the first couple days. This required us to be creative and make the most of our non-beach time… which we certainly did!
Rainy Day Activities in Charleston // Ventured into Charleston and had dinner at Oyster House. The menu was delicious — we each chose a small plate/appetizer and shared so we could get a little taste of everything. Dad surprised us with oyster shots – can’t say either of us enjoyed those! Our next rainy-night activity was Escape in 60 – we escaped from the Davy Jones Locker room with 25 minutes to spare. Board games in our beach-front condo provided some more entertainment, with some particularly good laughs from telestrations. Another afternoon we went into Charleston and walked through the large market downtown. It was pretty touristy, but was covered and provided some entertainment. Next we went into shops around the market, always asking for a praline sample at each candy shop!
Girl’s Day in Charleston // While the boys went fishing on the intercoastal waters, us girls headed into Charleston. The Daily had a yummy brunch spread that we wish was part of our daily eats. They are owned by the same people as Butcher & Bee [which we did not make it to but have heard great things!]. Next up was a self-guided walking tour along back alleys and hidden gardens that took us through unpopulated nooks of the city. We followed this walking path. On to Rainbow Row for some fun pictures, then King’s Street for shopping. Finished our day with frozen rosé on the rooftop of Skinny Dip Charleston.
Folly Beach Eats // We all were obsessed with Lost Dog Café’s incredible brunch selections. Everything was delicious and came with large portions. Black Magic Coffee had great selections of sandwiches and wraps for breakfast or lunch, with great smoothie and coffee choices as well. A personal favorite was the Honey Lavender Latte, which was on special. Loggerhead’s has a wonderful rooftop patio with live music (when it’s not raining!). A good spot for beers and a casual lunch or dinner. Washout provided killer live tunes and a great setting to watch sports rain or shine, as they have many TV’s viewable from the covered patio. We all loved their wings, particularly the garlic parmesan ones. Folly Beach Crab Shack had more live music and some incredible sea food. We all enjoyed cracking open some crab legs, mussels, oysters and clams. Surf Bar was reccommend to us for their onion rings – and boy, were they gooooood! Banana Dulce provided some frozen yogurt to ease our sweet cravings. Taco Boy came in clutch for delish guac and tacos. Woody’s Pizza satisfied the boys’ pizza needs. Finally, Rita’s rounded out our foodie tour of Folly Beach with some yummy fresh seafood, HUGE rack ‘o ribs, southern grits, refreshing margaritas, and more live music on the patio.
There is something about baking on a rainy day while semi- watching Grey’s Anatomy that makes for the perfect Sunday. I experimented with combining some of my favorite natural sweeteners + whole wheat flour to create a perfect morning muffin or afternoon snack. When I pulled these beauties out of the oven, I was in love with their fluffiness and flavor. Turn on Netflix, pour some coffee, and start baking my friends.
Place chopped apples in 8×8 or 9×9 pan then top with cinnamon; mix until the cinnamon is evenly spread over the apple chunks
In a mixing bowl, combine the topping ingredients.
Pour the topping over the filling and place in oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown.
This evening for snack/dessert I topped my clutter-free apple crisp with a spoonful of Crazy Richard’s Crunchy PB, and kept going back for more. Thankfully I can treat myself to more in the a.m. for breakfast 🙂