This winter we're planning a week long road trip in Canada to hopefully play in the snow and get excited for Christmas! Let me start at the beginning.... I love fall. Fall is one of my favorite seasons. Winter is usually my least favorite time, so much so that we usually only travel to the Caribbean. We started out by planning a cruise to Cuba but with so much time being devoted to my sister's wedding we couldn't get our stuff in order so we cancelled the cruise. Greg and I started looking at alternatives for our vacation. We were hoping for some thing affordable, easy, and different than our norm. We looked at the Caribbean, Key West, Orlando, New Orleans, Austin, and a few other places. Nothing felt quite right. My mother suggested going to Canada. For some odd reason going up north and being cold but Christmassy felt good! Today we see we made the right choice but are crushed that some of the places we love and would have visited have been devastated by hurricanes. We've helped out and if you would like to as well here is where we donated:
Back to our plans for our trip to Canada. We're heading to all new cities for the both of us so this is very exciting!
We're planning stops in Charlevoix where we're hoping to do some snow shoeing or hiking (depending on weather). I'm looking at some wonderful restaurants right now that are making me reminisce about our trip to Paris. In Quebec City we'll hit the German style Christmas Market, tour old Quebec and maybe head to Montmorency Falls. Our third stop will be in Mont Tremblant where we'll try out a Nordic spa and hopefully some more outdoor activities. Our final stops were going to be in Toronto and Niagara Falls but our plans changed. We are sad we'll miss those two cities but we're excited to head back to New York City. We found out that there will be a multiple exhibits from Yayoi Kusama. We have been hoping to see her work for some time and were planning on visiting Toronto next year. When we combine getting to see her exhibits plus New York City at Christmas time we couldn't say no! Don't worry Toronto and Niagara falls we'll definitely get to you next time!!
I'm so excited for this trip that I need to stop trying to plan everything out or make reservations too early! Can't wait!
We left Boston around 6 in the morning after bringing Fred to grandma and grandpa's house. We were a little smarter than usual for this trip. We stopped at the first Starbucks that we saw! Sounds silly but after the Framingham plaza Starbucks are few and far between. We got our coffees (matcha lemonade for me) and some dairy free pumpkin bread and made our way to The Met Cloisters.
We arrived a little after opening time and luckily found a parking spot right out front. We wandered up the stairs and paid the suggested entry fee (If you have it why not support the arts). We opted for a map alone and began wandering the area. We went in and out of the various rooms, gardens, and courtyards. While we didn't spend a lot of time here we thoroughly enjoyed our visit. We loved the art, history, and the calm (even finding a small seating area where we relaxed and enjoyed the weather without being disturbed).
After our visit we headed into the city and made our way over to the Millennium Hilton One UN Plaza our home away from home for the night. For future reference the hotel address is 1 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017 however the valet and hotel entrance is on E 44th St. We had stayed at this property a few years ago when it was just the One UN Hotel and were happy that it's now a part of the Hilton family.
Once we parked we had a good time joking around with the Bell Service staff! We discussed my car and who has or hasn't been to Italy. Very humorous conversation. We headed inside to the check in desk and our room wasn't ready yet but we did get upgraded to a suite (yay Hilton Honors). We dropped off our luggage and decided to go to lunch.
We couldn't decide on where to go. Do we head to Bareburger and try an Impossible Burger (worried about how my body will react to it though), do we head to Chelsea Market right away and get sandwiches at Num Pang, or do we head back to Momosan Ramen for Ramen and Sake? Finally we decided on a savory and comforting bowl of Ramen.
The hostess welcomed us right away and sat us at the bar. Perfect for us! After perusing the menu we ordered the lunch specials of Tonkotsu with a small order of Guydon and Tonkotsu with a small order of curry. To accompany our meal we opted for the Morimoto Sake Flight. While the meal was slightly on the salty side it was very satisfying with the combination of flavors and textures. This was our 2nd visit and we can't wait to return again.
Once a year and only in New York I head to Desigual for some shopping. In previous years I have purchased a coat, jeans, and purse that I always get complimented on. This year I lucked out with 2 purses thanks to their buy one get 50% off sale! Purses and shoes are my favorite things to buy so this made me a very happy camper!
With bags in hand we walked on to Chelsea Market. At this point the temperature outside was pretty warm so our first stop was for some sorbetto from L'Arte del Gelato. Greg opted for the dark chocolate while I went with passion fruit. My passion fruit sorbetto was delicious and refreshing. Unfortunately, Greg wasn't impressed with his and wished we could head to Grom for theirs.
We continued our walking tour of NYC and headed back to the Millennium Hilton One UN Plaza. We checked in again and our keys were ready and waiting for us. We were in room 3343 a one bedroom suite. The room was bright, large and clean. The room was almost perfect except for a few large tears in the carpet in the living area. At this point we decided to cool down and relax in our room for a little while.
Around 6 we went to the 30th floor to the Sky Lounge. The snacks weren't to our liking so we opted to spend $10 on two glasses of red wine. At a small table we sat side by side and talked about our day while we sipped on our drinks.
We went back to the room and had time before our dinner reservations. Unfortunately I started feeling sick. I had previously been having some sinus pressure and a sore throat and I think the warm air caused me some more discomfort. My head was pounding, my throat scratchy, and my eyes were bloodshot. We decided it would be best for me to hang in tonight and try to get some rest.
We cancelled our reservations at Sake Bar Hagi 46 (we'll see you next time) and made our way to Shake Shack for some take out. We ordered burgers (mine gluten and dairy free), french fries, and strawberry mint lemonade.
A quick walk back to our hotel and we were enjoying our food before heading to bed.
On Sunday morning we knew check out time was 11:00 a.m. so we got up early grabbed some breakfast at Starbucks and walked 3 miles to Chinatown. We stopped along the way for some pictures of the skyline and some street art. Once in Chinatown we headed to Keki Modern Cakes. If I'm going to deal with the pain of my dairy allergy it should be for something amazing. Keki Modern Cakes makes wonderful Japanese bouncy cheesecakes. The cheesecakes are light, airy, and not overly sweet. We also purchased a fancy cheesecake for my parents. According to my father it was a piece of heaven!
Since we were running out of time we took a cab back to our hotel. We grabbed our luggage, called the valet, checked out of the hotel, and were outside only a few minutes before our car pulled up.
We hopped in the car, turned on Waze and made our way home. A short while after leaving Manhattan I have to admit I fell asleep. It could be part of the cold I have but I also have a bad habit of falling asleep during road trips. I don't know why but being in a car is relaxing to me (maybe the car was used to soothe me as a baby lol).
I had heard about a BBQ restaurant in Sturbridge MA and as we were about a mile away I mentioned it to Greg. We decided why not give it a try. We pulled into the full parking lot at BT's Smokehouse. We ended up parking behind the restaurant in a baseball field lot. Once we were inside the restaurant we were confronted with a very long line of people. Rather than stand in the crowded area we went back outside and ordered online. We got a confirmation email stating that it would be ready in 30-40 minutes. We decided to go across the way to a local coffee shop for refreshments and to just enjoy the wonderful weather while waiting for our order.
Finally our order was ready. We picked up our brisket, ribs, pulled pork, whole wings, cole slaw, beans, and carrot salad. On the counters you will find a variety of sauces to package up so we selected 4 different types. Hopping back in the car we made our way home where my parents would meet us with Fred so we can all enjoy the food we ordered.
The food from BT's Smokehouse was pretty good. I would say the restaurant is in my top 5 BBQ places we've tried so far. The meats were tender, and flavorful although a tad on the salty side. My favorite was the lean end of the brisket. Greg enjoyed the cole slaw while I loved the carrot salad. Unfortunately the sauces were too acidic for my taste. We both agreed we would venture back out to Sturbridge for a 2nd visit.
All in all it was a wonderful weekend getaway for the two of us!
Our experiences getting to, around, and home from France
I have mixed feelings about Air France. During the booking process we lost our paid seats due to an aircraft change. Luckily I consistently checked their website and seats eventually opened up for all of us. Apparently Air France doesn't offer an allergen free meal (like their website states). At the airport they didn't have our prepaid luggage listed. The biggest disappointment was that they don't participate in TSA pre-check. The flight attendants, the roominess, and the flight itself were all wonderful. Once we arrived at Charles de Gaul Airport we got jammed into a 3 hour customs line! The flight home was much easier! We checked in and delivered our luggage (this is actually self served with staff nearby to help), found the special assistance desk, got my mom in her wheelchair and ended up being the first people to board the plane. The flight home was similar although it was definitely a bumpier ride.
Tourisme Avenue Hotel
We booked the Tourisme Avenue Hotel for ourselves and suggested the hotel for the guests for my sister's wedding. In the end we had a total of 10 rooms reserved.
It was around 5 p.m. when my husband and I checked into Tourisme Avenue Hotel. The staff welcomed us right away, quickly checked us in and had notes about our group. Over the past few months I worked with Valerie to set up hair appointments for the wedding day, passing out welcome bags to our guests, and any other details needed. Valerie is a treasure!
Our room was a Family Suite on the 1st floor. Even though there were only 2 of us the room gave us a large king bed, medium sized bathroom with separate toilet (Japanese toilet), and another room made up of twin beds (we wished it had been a couch but this was just fine). Over the course of our 4 night stay we enjoyed an extremely clean room, a perfect location, and staff that truly go above and beyond (offering us beverages, space to get together in, and more). The only small complaint I could have is with the breakfast. The hotel offers a continental breakfast (for a cost). The breakfast includes breads, cereals, cold meats, boiled eggs, yogurt, and coffee. It would have been nice to have at least one warm dish.
The next morning when all other guests checked in it was obvious that the staff were professional, friendly, patient and welcoming!
Sadly 3 days before the tour Paris City Vision cancelled our booking due to a planned strike in Paris. Their offer of another tour didn't fit into our schedule and so I had to ask for a refund. Paris City Vision was very professional and I wouldn't hesitate to use them again. I found a savior in Daphne with L'Open Tour! Months ago I booked a private tour with another company for our large group. 3 days before our tour we received an email stating the tour would need to be cancelled due to a scheduled strike. I spent an afternoon emailing various companies to see if they could accommodate us. Daphne at L'Open Tour saved the day as far as I'm concerned! In addition to being extremely helpful, fast, and friendly, Daphne was able to secure a private bus for us at the original scheduled time we needed. Daphne listened to my needs and came up with a wonderful itinerary for our group. Finally I was able to select options, electronically sign, and pay for a private double-decker bus with 2 stops for our group. Phew!
On Friday morning we told all of our guests to meet at Tourisme Avenue Hotel before 10:00 am. L'Open tour's double-decker bus pulled up to our hotel right at 10! Perfect! Our very friendly driver didn't speak a lot of English and I didn't speak a lot of French but again thanks to both of our smart phones we did just fine!
Once we got everyone on board we were off for a nice drive through Paris on our way to Montmarte. In Montmarte we stopped and enjoyed a little more than a half hour in the area. Most of us walked up to Sacre Couer Basilica, some did a little shopping, and others played on the carousel. Once we were all back at the meeting spot we called our driver to pick us up. 5 minutes later and we were all back on board and ready to see more of Paris. From Montmarte we continued sightseeing on our way to our next stop at the Pantheon. We were scheduled to have a 10 minute stop at the Pantheon unfortunately it was 12:30 pm and we had to be in Trocadero Park around 1:00 pm. The group decided to forgo the stop and head to our scheduled picnic. Throughout our tour we did hit a fair amount of traffic sadly this caused us to miss the Pantheon, Champs Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe.
We made our way over to Trocadero Park and our driver helped everyone off the bus and helped make sure nothing was left behind. We all agreed this was a perfect tour for our group! We all highly recommend L'Open Tour.
The lovely staff from Paris Picnic were friendly whether it was via email, phone call, or in person. We arrived in Trocadero Park after our tour and found a large area set up plus extra supplies to expand.
Our picnic consisted of water, champagne, baguettes, chips, cheese, charcuterie, pate, a variety of salads, fruit, brownies, and macarons. We were also given champagne flutes, cups, utensils, and napkins. Everything was plentiful, delicious, and satisfying. The entire group was completely wowed! Whether you are a couple or a large group ordering from Paris Picnic is a must!
During our week stay in Paris we had a variety of needs when it came to car services. The entire staff at BT Transfer are friendly, honest, efficient, and respond quickly to any email or texts. Brian was incredibly helpful to us whenever we ran into problems. Brian helped us get in contact with our driver when we were stuck at customs for 3 hours, he moved our time for a trip to Versailles when we were unable to make it, and would problem solve any other issues.
BT Transfer took us from the airport to our hotel, on a trip to Versailles for 9 adults, on a full day trip to Burgundy for 7 adults, 3 shuttles and a car for 25 adults to and from a wedding, and back to the airport. The staff were extremely helpful when it came to dealing with traffic and offering suggestions. All of the drivers were professional, the cars clean, and we always felt safe. We couldn’t recommend BT Transfer enough!
On the wedding day we had plans to meet the hairstylist at noon. Valerie called to let us know of her arrival and showed her to my room. Unfortunately, she felt that our room didn't have enough space for her to work. Valerie generously offered us the breakfast room of the hotel for the afternoon.
There were 4 of us having are hair done. My mother was first and with damp hair the stylist set her in curlers and allowed her to relax. Amanda was next and she had a chignon done with beautiful loose curls. I was next and I had a blow out with soft curls. My sister (the bride) had a half up do with lots of curls. The stylist was very friendly and patient when my sisters hair wasn't just right. In the end we all were very happy and ready on time for dressing.
At the last minute we decided to have a bouquet created for my sister. Greg was selected as the go between. We asked for small white or pale pink and of course pretty. Greg made his way down the street to Fleurs d'Auteuil. The florist created a stunning arrangement that we all loved!
Yachts de Paris
We arrived very early to the yacht named Victoria. We had heard about horrible traffic due to several events happening in Paris. Our drivers arrived early and were very thoughtful in doing so. However there was hardly any traffic between our hotel and the yacht.
We had about a 10 minute wait until the staff graciously let us board (still early). We helped everyone get seated on the top deck of the yacht. I had the unfortunate task of walking back and forth along the cobblestones. First to the yacht, then to escort my mother and then to escort the bride. The ceremony was beautiful with the perfect mix of love and humor.
Once the ceremony ended we enjoyed cocktail hour along with family and couple photographs. The singer also performed during this time. At 8:30 pm we moved down into the dining room. We offered our guest a seating chart with their table numbers. We opted for a group of 5 tables perfect for our group.
Our starter was an Antipasti with Buffalo Mozzarella (Foie Gras for those with a dairy allergy). Our entree was Veal vegetables (Hake for dairy allergy). Next was a Cheese Course. For dessert we enjoyed the Power of Chocolate (Fruit Salad for dairy allergy). The food was elegantly presented, beautifully seasoned, and perfect portions. Guests raved about the food especially the veal.
In between the courses we enjoyed several speeches (even one from me which I'm petrified to do) and a couple of special dances. Isabelle and our wedding singer were very helpful in the timing of these events. Next came the incredible cake ceremony (with sparklers and all).
After dinner it was time to dance! We enjoyed music from a DJ as well as the talented singer. The evening was truly magical!
The next morning we finished packing and made our way to the airport with the bride and groom staying in Paris for another photoshoot. The entire week was filled with amazing moments, laughs and love. All of the time, effort, and planning was beyond worth it! We will cherish these memories for the rest of our lives.
For more about our time in Paris including restaurants, sightseeing, etc check out my select category France in my blog.
3 months before the wedding
Yachts de Paris was supposed to send us the information for any extra's when it comes to the reception. I contacted Jessica (no longer with the company) and asked about the information. Jessica emailed me back stating that the information wasn't quite ready yet and she would send it soon. It ended up being closer to 2 months before the wedding and we had a lot of choices to make for the ceremony and reception. I prepared another check list for the bride and groom along with my parents. The initial plan we chose with Yachts de Paris included:
A month before the wedding
I started working on welcome bags for our guests. My cousin Sarafina was a great help with ideas for this (she previously planned weddings). I selected simple bags with a thank you label on the front. Inside was a print out of our itinerary, a map of Paris including the metro system, Aleve, Altoids, Shout Wipes, a sewing kit, and once I was in Paris I purchased a box of 4 Macarons per bag.
We wanted to bring an extra thank you gift to the staff of Yachts de Paris along with Valerie at Tourisme Avenue Hotel. I again went with simple bags and a thank you note in French on the front. Inside was a bottle of Maple Syrup, Sea Salt, and Caramels all from Massachusetts. A little something from home.
Two weeks before the wedding
I began sending out emails to all of our vendors to reconfirm our bookings and details. Everyone from the hotel to the transfers got back to me right away and and confirmed we were all set. I was disappointed in Yachts de Paris though. I sent Jessica (our contact) an email and received an automated response saying that she was no longer with the company. What! The woman assisting in the planning of my sister's wedding was no longer there and no one let me know....stress! I sent an email to Anais (the new contact) and stated my concerns. In the end Anais was a wonderful help and the wedding went beautifully.
Next blog post is all about our actual experiences with our vendors.
A year before the wedding
Over a year ago my sister and her fiance came home from a vacation in Paris. With that they asked if we would be willing to go to Paris for their wedding! We were in! They knew they wanted a fall wedding and our hope was that September would be cooler than August but not as rainy as October. It turned out to be a beautiful and perfect day! Planning a destination wedding definitely takes time and strategic planning especially if there is a time/language difference. I don't know if I was nominated, volunteered, or just became the planner lol. I definitely love to plan trips, parties, and organize plans! My sister always harasses me that I love to create clipboards of family fun! It's so true!
14 months before the wedding
We started looking at ceremony and reception sites. Our first thought was to have a quick ceremony in a public area (hopefully near Notre Dame). You can find many planners in France who specialize in elopements in Paris. Unfortunately the logistics of a larger group wasn't working out. We needed a more traditional venue. We fell in love the idea of having the ceremony and reception on board a yacht along the Seine River. With that we reserved the day with Yachts de Paris. The packages offered by Yachts de Paris were wonderfully detailed and definitely within our budget.
The guest list was decidedly tricky! It's really hard to manage the bride and groom hopes, the wants of your parents, budget, and still maintain an intimate destination wedding. In the end we were a wonderful group of 25 adults and 1 infant.
10 months before the wedding
We had to pick a hotel for us and our guests. Our checklist including affordability, location, reviews, amenities, and responsiveness. We narrowed our list down to 6 hotels in and around Paris, Versailles, and the airport. We decided on the Tourisme Avenue Hotel. The hotel itself is boutique style, with breakfast included in some rates, a variety of room types and offers a great location. At this point the couple also created a Facebook page (closed group). We were able to share information with our guests like the hotel, when to book airfare, and tips for traveling.
8 months before the wedding
We booked our airfare right when it became available to get the best price possible. Most of the party chose American Airlines with a nonstop flight from Boston to Paris. We along with a few other guests chose Air France with a nonstop flight as well. The main reason for choosing Air France was the return flight time. American Airlines offered a flight around 10:30 a.m. Knowing that the wedding would end at midnight, we'd have to finish packing, and get to the airport early; the 3:30 p.m. Air France flight was more attractive. We also purchased travel insurance with our flights. To read about our past experience with travel insurance head over to our Travel Tips page.
If you're like most people, there is never enough time to research travel insurance companies. Reviews.com has created an un-biased article that researched 22 national insurance providers. Reviews.com not only compared prices but also inclusions, add ons and more. What I love in the article is that they also simplified things for us by breaking down the best policies for trip type. To read their reviews and book a quote visit here.
Paris is a good drive away from the airport and when comparing costs we decided to book a private transfer for 4 adults and a lot of luggage. We found BT- Transfer who already had a lot of positive reviews on Tripadvisor. We ended up booking a variety of rides with BT Transfer. During our week in France we all agreed we'd like to see a little more of France than just Paris. To maximize time and minimize stress we booked airport transfers, a trip to Versailles (9 people), a trip to Puligny Montrachet (7 people), and shuttles to take our guests (25 total) to and from the wedding.
We read up on destination weddings and while it's not required we thought it would be a nice touch to plan some group activities for our guests. Our first thought was a group tour of Paris. Booking a tour for our guests was probably the most troublesome part of planning the wedding. I provided the bride and groom with a couple of different options. One was a double decker private bus tour, one was a tour with stops for pictures, another was a bus tour with tickets to the Eiffel Tower. I presented these to the bride and groom and they picked their favorite. Easy enough! I originally booked our tour with Viator and I was very specific with our requests. Viator was not user friendly when it comes to group bookings. The only way to book a group is via email and fax. In the end Viator was not able to provide what we asked for us. The customer service representative ignored what I stated we needed and wasn't willing to pick us up from our hotel. It would have been ridiculous for me to try to organize a large group to meet at our hotel, take public transportation to Viator's office, and then go on a tour together. After complaining about the service I received a refund and booked directly with Paris City Vision (the provider Viator was going to use). Paris City Vision was wonderful with booking, requests, and answering any calls/emails. They offered us a private tour, pick up from our hotel, and was willing to let us bring breakfast and beverages with us.
After the bride and groom picked Paris for their wedding I noticed items about Paris everywhere! I read an article about Paris Picnic in a magazine. After reading reviews I knew Paris Picnic would be a perfect outing for our group. We chose their Le Chic menu which included champagne, foie gras, baguette tradition, assortment of cheeses, charcuterie (cured meats), fresh salad du jour, artisanal crisps, seasonal fruit salad, mineral water, macarons, and brownies.
When it came time to picking a photographer we looked at a couple in Paris and a couple who came recommended from Massachusetts. We all agreed on hiring a friend of my sister's, Eric Snyder. Eric takes stunning photographs that are present, emotional, and flattering.
At this point I had a binder for all of my paperwork and spreadsheets. I previously posted about their wedding shower and that information was the first section in my binder. To read about my French garden theme shower visit here. So far I had guest information, venue contracts, hotel confirmations, airfare confirmations, travel insurance confirmations, budget for wedding, budget for activities, and budget for travels.
Next blog post is details from 3 months before the wedding.
We had an early reservation at Ruka for 4 adults. We were seated right away and offered drink menus. We ordered a variety of drinks that were wonderful including an extensive Sake menu. The food menu consists of small plates (almost tapas style). It sounds like we ordered a lot through our meal but it was just right for the 4 of us. I should also point out that the restaurant had no problem modifying dishes for my dairy allergy! Love it!
We started our meal with Blackened Octopus, Baby Street Corn, Prime Ribeye Cap, Seared Tuna Tataki, Lima Style Fried Calamari, Octopus Lomo Saltado, and Crispy Lamb Belly Katsu. The first dish we tried was the Blackened Octopus and we all agreed that it was delicious and we would need a 2nd order. The dishes came out one or two at a time and we thoroughly enjoyed all of them. The Crispy Lamb Belly Katsu was another favorite dish and we ordered a 2nd one of it as well. Throughout the meal the dishes were a little on the salty side but they were bright, bold, and otherwise balanced.
To end the meal we ordered 3 desserts and a small dish of prickly pear sorbet. The desserts were 50/50. The prickly pear sorbet was a little too sweet and the "moon pie" was too dry and crumbly. The other two desserts (I wish I could remember their names) were unbelievable though!
We can't wait to return!
We made it into the Boston Opera House and to our seats with about 10 minutes until showtime. Our seats were wonderful with a perfect view of the stage and chandelier. The Phantom of the Opera is one of my favorite musicals and this was my 4th time seeing it. It was another wonderful performance.
After the show we had the pleasure of meeting some of the cast and got to listen to their experiences with the show and as performers in general. To finish off the night we were given little gift bags with programs and cups.
It was a wonderful night out with great friends, good food and the arts!
Sunday morning and thanks to Air France having an afternoon flight we get to sleep in again!! After some final packing (thankful we paid for 2 extra bags) we headed downstairs for some breakfast and to say bye to the bride and groom.
Greg and I went back up to our room and double checked everything while my parents walked up the street and found an open air market. They were hoping to purchase more but time ran out so naturally they came back with only bread. The bread however was delicious! Soft bread baked with bacon! Yummy!
Our final car from BT Transfers picked us up right on time. The luggage was loaded and we were off to the airport. We had heart nightmare stories about leaving from Paris as well so we decided to go extra early. While we were pulling into the airport we heard someone calling our name and friends (who weren't staying at the hotel) were arriving at the same time! We were on the same flight and didn't even know it! We checked into our flights, dropped off our luggage, and made our way over to the wheelchair assistance desk for my mother. Not that we want my mother to have to use a wheelchair but wow did it make things easier! We were able to bypass so many long lines! It made the process much less stressful.
In the terminal we found the duty free store! We purchased condiments, chocolates, cookies, alcohol, and foie gras for gifts and for our selves. Now we realized we only had about a half hour until boarding so we made our way over to the gate. I stopped along the way at a sandwich stand so that I could avoid any allergens with the Air France meal. At the gate we found our friends again and sat for a bit.
Once boarding began we were able to take mom and be the first group on board. Again this was so much less stressful for us! The flight home was fine although a little bumpier than I hoped (thankful for Lorazepam)!
We landed in Boston on time. Found moms wheelchair and headed to the Global Entry line! A few minutes later and we were through to go and gather our luggage. Sadly we got picked to have a 2nd look at our luggage for customs / agriculture. A short time later our bags were scanned again and we made our way to the limo lot and found our driver from Airport Limo Boston. Finally we were on our way home to catch up on sleep in our own beds!
Saturday morning and we finally get a little bit of a sleep in! We finally get out of bed and dressed and I hop downstairs to confirm with Valerie our information for our hairdresser. Greg and I went next door for some Starbucks for breakfast. Sadly the coffee machine in the hotel looks as though it contains milk so I was hoping to avoid any cross contamination.
After breakfast we walked up the street looking in around a few shops. I found an adorable children's clothing store for gifts for friends as well as a unique chocolatier for other gifts. It was close to noon so we headed back to the hotel and Greg went off on his own while 4 of us met with the hairdresser. The hairdresser felt she needed more space than the rooms provided so Valerie offered us the breakfast lounge. I really can't express our gratitude to Valerie and the Tourisme Avenue Hotel enough.
During our time in the "Salon" we were lucky that my dad went and purchased lunch for us. Even Valeri would stop in and see how we are doing, asked if we needed anything, etc. At the last minute it was decided we should get a small bouquet for the bride to carry. Greg was up! Even though there was a language barrier Greg and Fleurs d'Auteuil did an amazing job of creating a bridal bouquet.
Around 4:00 p.m. we were ready for makeup, pictures, and getting dressed. My sister and I headed to my room where I could help her with whatever she needed. Eric Snyder the photographer and friend from Massachusetts came up with us and took beautiful photos of the dress, accessories, and my sister getting ready.
Our guests were scheduled to meet at our hotel for 6:00 shuttle ride to the wedding destination of Yachts de Paris. We were told by our drivers that there was a concert, demonstration, and LGBTQ parade all happening at once during our scheduled time. With the suggestion to leave early we rushed around to finish getting ready, and contacted all the guests to rearrange the schedule. As you can imagine this became rather hectic. I literally got dressed in 5 minutes, helped my sister finish getting ready, brought Greg the thank you gifts for the yacht, and tried to gather everything else we needed.
Thankfully Greg and a few others helped usher the guests into the shuttles as they appeared. My aunt and uncle and I were the last shuttle to leave with my parents and sister in a sedan behind us.
Apparently all of the traffic was in getting to our hotel and not getting to the dock. We arrived very early and had to wait alongside the dock for a bit. The staff of Yachts de Paris were gracious in letting us on board a little early even though they were still setting up.
At 7:00 pm I helped bring my sister up onto the top deck of the yacht and watched her walk down the aisle to her future husband. Immediately after the ceremony we enjoyed cocktail hour with champagne, an open bar, and hor d' oeurves. We then watched as the couple had stunning photographs taken of them before taking group photos. It was incredible that we had perfect weather, a perfect sunset, and perfect views for the ceremony and photographs.
At 8:30 pm we went down into the dining room for a 4 course meal. Our starter was an Antipasti with Buffalo Mozzarella (Foie Gras for those with a dairy allergy). Our entree was Veal vegetables (Hake for dairy allergy). Next was a Cheese Course. For dessert we enjoyed the Power of Chocolate (Fruit Salad for dairy allergy). The food was elegantly presented, beautifully seasoned, and perfect portions. Guests raved about the food especially the veal.
In between the courses we enjoyed several speeches (even one from me which I'm petrified to do), a couple of special dances, and finally the incredible cake ceremony. The chef brought out the cake, turned down the lights, and had sparklers flaring. The talented singer sang Dream a little Dream in french (requested by the bride) while the couple cut the cake.
After dinner it was time to dance! We enjoyed music from a DJ as well as a female singer. The evening was truly magical! As a thank you for the staff I prepared a gratuity but also a thank you bag. I brought some gifts from Massachusetts that I hoped they would like. The first item was Maple Syrup, the 2nd was caramels, and the 3rd was sea salt.
At Midnight we disembarked the yacht and made our way over to the shuttles. When we arrived back at our hotel I helped the bride out of her gown and showed the groom what to do the next day for more photographs.
A group of us then made our way over to Le Zinc for a final get together! A perfect end to a wonderful week!
On Friday morning we told all of our guests to meet at Tourisme Avenue Hotel before 10:00 am. L'Open tour's double decker bus pulled up to our hotel right at 10! Perfect! Our very friendly driver didn't speak a lot of English and I didn't speak a lot of French but again thanks to our smart phones we did just fine!
Once we got everyone on board we were off for a nice drive through Paris hitting lots of sights on our way to Montmarte.
In Montmarte we stopped and enjoyed a little more than a half hour in the area. Most of us walked up to Sacre Couer Basilica, some did a little shopping, and others played on the carousel.
Once we were all back at the meeting spot we called our driver to pick us up. 5 minutes later and we were all back on board and ready to see more of Paris. Our driver made this transition very easy.
From Montmarte we continued sightseeing on our way to our next stop at the Pantheon.
We were scheduled to have a 10 minute stop at the Pantheon unfortunately it was 12:30 pm and we had to be in Trocadero Park around 1:00 pm. The group decided to forgo the stop and head to our scheduled picnic. Throughout our tour we did hit a fair amount of traffic sadly this caused us to miss the Pantheon, Champs Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe.
We made our way over to Trocadero Park and our driver helped everyone off the bus and helped make sure nothing was left behind. We all agreed that touring with L'Open Tour was perfect for our group! We crossed the street and just behind the carousel we found our picnic area set up by Paris Picnic.
The lovely staff from Paris Picnic were friendly whether it was via email, phone call, or in person. We had a large area set up plus extra supplies to expand. Our picnic consisted of water, champagne, baguettes, chips, cheese, charcuterie, pate, a variety of salads, fruit, brownies, and macarons. We were also given champagne flutes, cups, utensils, and napkins. Everything was plentiful, delicious, and satisfying. Whether you are a couple of a large group ordering from Paris Picnic is a must!
After the picnic everyone went their own ways. Greg and I walked back to our hotel and decided our time would be best spent by taking a nap! Boring yes but definitely needed!
Friday night I originally had plans to go to dinner with Greg, my parents, aunt, uncle, and cousins. Greg still continued with these plans but I headed out with the girls for a bachelorette night out.
There was 9 of us in total and we first went to dinner at Le Gavroche. We ordered Eggs with Mayonnaise, Jamon, Carrot Salad, and Foie Gras. For entrees I ordered the Calamari, a few people ordered Beef, and a couple people ordered what may or may not have been veal brains lol. Everything was simply cooked which was beautiful. The proteins were the star and the food was filling. We skipped dessert and made our way to Experimental Cocktail Club. Experimental Cocktail is basically a speakeasy (we missed the entrance on our first try). We ordered a round of drinks however the bar was very busy and very warm so we decided to move on.
We walked over to a bar that was glass walls with tons and tons of back lit alcohol bottles. The staff were just about ready to find us a table when I received a text from Greg. Apparently the bachelor night out didn't go as planned and they were all getting ready to head back to our hotel. We decided it would be fun to just meet up with all the guys and head over to Le Zinc for cocktails.
We found a regular taxi that was crazy enough to take all 9 of us. This meant lots of people squished onto two benches, my sister on the floor, and me in a booster seat inside of a car seat on the floor! Made of an interesting ride. We piled out of the taxi and headed over to the restaurant and enjoyed a round of drinks. At closing time we asked the hotel staff if we could enjoy a bottle of champagne in the breakfast room. Again the staff at Tourisme Avenue Hotel went above and beyond!
Finally it was time for bed so we are rested for the big day!
It's Thursday morning and luckily we brought most of our stuff to the hotel already! We're helping clean up from breakfast, gathering the trash, and helping my parents pack and catch a taxi. Thank goodness for smart phones for language barriers!
We arrived at the Tourisme Avenue Hotel and ran into our cousins from California! Yay! As people started to trickle in we helped bring in their stuff, store passports and purses in our room, and enjoyed seeing family and friends who just flew in.
My aunt and uncle made it to the hotel after a very long experience at customs (just like us). After checking in we went across the street to Le Primrose for some lunch. We ordered a variety of dishes French Onion Soup, Omelette, Beef Tartar, Spring Rolls, along with several glasses of wine. Our waitress was very patient with our limited French, very friendly, and didn't rush us.
After lunch we took my parents to tour Notre Dame Cathedral. When we arrived there was a pretty good size line but rest assured the line moves very quickly. My mother lit a candle and said a prayer before exploring the cathedral. Afterwards we walked along the river, enjoyed the garden area, and just relaxed.
My parents were getting pretty tired so we made our way back to the hotel which was good timing as other guests rooms were ready. We were just about to nap when our new friend Lindsay popped by and asked if we'd like to go for a drink. We ventured across the street to Le Zinc (which would become our late night hang out for the rest of the week).
For dinner we were meeting up with my parents and aunt and uncle at Les Cocottes. We walked in and found a table right away. To start our meal we ordered the Foie Gras, Lobster Bisque, Poached Egg and Rocket Salad, and the Pasta. For entrees we ordered Beef Check Stew, Caramelized Potatoes with Pig Feet, Risotto, and a couple of Roasted Chicken dishes. Dessert was shared so we ordered the Egg Flan and the Waffles. Of course this was all enjoyed with 2 bottles of wine.
We quickly found a taxi for my parents and aunt and uncle. Greg and I decided to walk back. We enjoyed walking past the Eiffel Tower, seeing a gourmet bus, and walking past stores and restaurants. Once back at the hotel we met up with the rest of the group (who dined out on Italian food) at Le Zinc for drinks and lots of laughs (let's just say the conversation included bidet etiquette and squatty potty's)!