Friday, October 28, 2016

Whole 30 Week One : Starting Whole30, Creating a Plan and Tackling Social Outings

Like I said in my previous post, this is my second round of Whole30. I found last time week 1-2 were the worst for me, roughly about the first 9 days. Once I passed that threshold, I was in the clear for an easier time. I purchased the rest of my groceries and meal prepped and planned Sunday night to ensure the first rough week would be a much smoother one.

Pre-Whole30: Sunday. Okay. So, like last time I am doing a before/after photo and changes that will happen. My next photo will be on day 31. I went kayaking today, and was excited to wear my new motivational tank. For my pre-whole30 meal, i had a cafe latte, smoothie from tropical smoothie, roasted chicken with herb rice and a berry tart for dessert.

FitBit: I made my 10K steps today. I walked a lot, did an hour of kayaking, an hour walk this evening around my neighborhood, slept over 8 hours last night and ate fairly well today. I weighed 135.6 lbs and I am 5'4".
Before Starting Whole30
Day 1: Monday. No one likes Monday. I found the last go round that the first two days seemed easiest and then it was all downhill from there. So far, Monday has proven to be the same as before. The first day in my opinion is one where you are most hopeful. Everything always seems to go smoothly on day 1. Willpower is at the all time high and you have a renewed sense of energy on the program. Breakfast was an omelet with salt, pepper and spinach, cooked in coconut oil. I had a side of sweet potato hash (seasoned with salt and pepper). Seltzer water to drink. Lunch was salad mix, guacamole and paprika chicken (rotisserie chicken pieces cooked in coconut oil with fine herbs, paprika, and garlic powder). Seltzer to drink. Dinner was salmon with a tomato and capers sauce with seltzer to drink.
FitBit: Sleep was really restful. I got 8 hrs and 53 mins of total rest. I did 50 mins of yoga tonight. I was not as active as I wanted to be as far as step count (1,256 steps), but I still felt like I was very active - even with my super busy desk job on a Monday. I am hoping to pick up my step count throughout the week. I learned I need to strengthen my hands for some of these yoga poses. I will work on that. I only made 3/10 flights of stairs, so I will need to boost that to hit my goal.

Day 2: Tuesday. So, this was a high stress day at work. And to think I always Monday was that way. Anyway, I am still feeling good for the second day. I have not had any cravings or withdrawal at this point. So, compared to last go round, that is a bonus. Breakfast was two hardboiled eggs with salt, pepper and nutritional yeast with a cup of green tea. Lunch was detox soup with a little bit of chicken. This particular recipe I did not follow exactly. I added veggie broth, carrot, celery, onion, spinach, cauliflower, rainbow chard stalk, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. This recipe works well if you have a bunch of scraps and want to find a budget way of reusing them. Besides, it tasted really good. Afternoon snack (not pictured) was my date balls - I had a slight low energy lull around 330p, so a quick snack was good to hold me over until dinner. And, Dinner was acorn squash stuffed with apples and sausage. The recipe was really great- I just skipped the panko and parmesan cheese and opted to increase the apple instead.
FitBit: I was happy to get 8 hrs and 14 mins of rest. It was much needed after a busy Monday. I hit over the 10 flights of stairs goal I made. Additionally, I did my 30 mins of yoga. It was a little more challenging than the prior day but exactly what I needed before bedtime. As far as step count, with a few errands I ran, I hit 3,500 steps. Progress. I am hoping to hit the gym Wednesday night and up that count.

Day 3: Wednesday. Half way through the work week. It has been a busy one for sure. Breakfast was a  2 egg spinach omelet. Lunch was egg salad. I was impressed with how easy it was to make a makeshift version. I used 2 hardboiled eggs, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, homemade Whole30 mayo, garlic powder and chopped celery. I put it on a rainbow chard leaf and it was pretty good. Dinner is ground lamb meatballs on salad, which I really loved. And, it didn't take hardly any time at all to make.
FitBit: 8 hours and 4 mins of sleep and it felt good. I am impressed my sleep has been over the 8 hour mark- since some days I just do not get the rest I need. I did get a good workout at the gym tonight. I did a good mix of cardio with an abs and arms workout. I could tell the last couple of days of yoga, I need a bit more emphasis on my arm strength to help with my balance and strength. 4,500 steps was a good boost but I still need to work more on that front. And, I met my flights of stairs goal: I made 12 flights of stairs, so I surpassed my 10 flights of stairs goal. Yahoo!

Day 4: Thursday. Thankfully, this first week is almost done. I had struggled with a few headaches last night that were not fun but let's hope that is just from not drinking enough water. So far, other than that I have not had any withdrawal symptoms. Breakfast was almond butter and a granny smith apple. Lunch was a chicken salad with sauteed zucchini and onions. I mixed it all together. Dinner was steak and squash. I went a bit too heavy on the ghee but otherwise a good dinner.
FitBit: Well, I just missed my 8 hour sleep mark by 1 minute! One! 7 hours and 59 mins of total sleep. But, that is okay considering I upped my step count and hit 5,100 steps! A small victory considering my desk job really does not allow me to get much walking in. I did not meet my flights of stairs goal- but I made 5/10 so it is progress.

Day 5: Friday. A busy day at work and I almost forgot to make myself some breakfast. Breakfast was chopped granny smith apples with coconut oil, nutmeg, cinnamon and star anise; topped with walnuts. It was a warm apple pie type breakfast and was really good. Lunch was my homemade asian cashew chicken with salad topped with guacamole. The asian chicken is simply coconut oil, coconut aminos, garlic, nutritional yeast and chopped cashews sauteed in a pan; then topped with cashew halves. This was a favorite and super filling. Next up was date night at the comedy club. I made the mistake of not eating prior to the show (really, time was not on my side) and got quite hangry for dinner post-show. It ended up being a rough night for sure. Dinner was Chipotle. And, I had to pass two locations since they didn't have any carnitas left. Fast food is not an easy option on Whole30. Next time, I am going to eat before an event.
FitBit: I kicked butt on sleep this time. A total of 9 hours and 13 mins of sleep. Yahoo! I failed on making my steps shine sadly. I only got 2,200 steps. I was not able to get my yoga in, so I am going to need to boost that in the next couple of days. I find weekends tend to ruin my good flow I have during the week. That is something I am going to have to work on. I did make my 10 flights of stairs goal, so that did make me feel somewhat productive.

Day 6: Saturday. This was a sleep in kinda day. One of my favorite types of days. And, with the changing of the leaves, it was a perfect time to sleep in. Breakfast was a homemade sausage patty. I didn't take a picture simply because I was so hungry I did not even think about it until after I had eaten it. Major fail for me. Lunch ended up being these oven roasted wings I made with avocado oil, ghee, salt and pepper; topped with fine herbs. They were good but a tad drier than I prefer. (I will need a sauce next time.) I had a co-ed bachelor/bachelorette party to attend that evening. Dinner was the most challenging meal, as I was not able to prepare it myself. Ordering out is always the most difficult thing to do on Whole30. If you can review a menu ahead of time, as I did, it will allow you to narrow your choices down so the questions you have for the waiter can be at a minimum. Dinner out was limited, so I opted for the salad (minus cheese and croutons-  oil and vinegar dressing). It was hard to not have a drink with friends, but I am okay with it. Other than my stomach having to adjust to this new change (this is stage 2 where your digestive track pretty much starts cleaning out all the bad foods and resets itself), it has been quite smooth sailing. Overall, a decent day.
FitBit: Rocking my sleep at 8 hrs and 27 mins of total sleep. Win! Steps wise, I killed it this day. Since we had gone on a haunted walking tour after dinner, I got a ton of steps and stair climbs in today. I had a total of 14,400 steps and 31 flights of stairs. Double win! While I may not have done my yoga or hit the gym, the walking tour and errands ran during the day was more than enough to get me over my 10K step goal.

Day 7: Sunday. Sunday is always meal prep day in the Whole30 household. Not only do I plan my menu out for the week, but I do as much prep work as I can for those meals- it just helps keep me on track when I do my best to find ways to help myself out when I may feel like caving during the week. Breakfast started out strong. I had run out of my previous almond butter, so I went out yesterday and picked up a jar for the rest of Whole30. I had it with chopped apple and coconut flakes. Lunch time came around and I was in the mood for cooking. I made zucchini and sweet potato latkes and they were amazing. Topped with my homemade guacamole and it was really one of those 'meatless monday' meals that do not make you feel hungry later; super filling. I didn't make my Whole30 bacon that morning so I will have to make this again and sprinkle a bit on top for that salty element i feel this missed. Dinner time came around and I was invited over to friends houses for a cookout and sunday night football. My girlfriend, who was so inspired by my Whole30 journey she did it herself, knew about my second round and was more than accommodating. Since she had made a few changes in her life as well, it was easy to come over for dinner. We had steaks on the grill, I brought a foil packet of asparagus. It was so good and I was so hungry I completely forgot to take a picture of dinner. Ugh.
FitBit: Well, Since I went to bed late Saturday night, I did not get nearly enough sleep. Only 5hrs & 44 mins of total sleep. I was just short of making my flight of stairs goal; I only made 8/10 floors. And, to top it off, I only walked 4,900 steps. I will have to kick it in gear next week to help improve that. The good news is that the first half of this upcoming week I am dog sitting, so that should help my step goals while I am helping out a friend.

End of Week 1: After thoughts. Okay, so the first week is done. I did well on sleep; my average was 8 hrs and 30 mins of total sleep so that is well over my 8 hour goal. And, I did 5 days of exercise last week (a total of 130 active minutes- an average of 16.25mins/day - something I need to improve on), which is a good start, and I hit 80 flights of stairs. Despite a few social outings, I did well in keeping to my goals. My only struggle is when it comes to fitting in my exercise routine on the weekends. While I do not always get dedicated time to exercise, I do get in walking time instead. I am optimistic that this upcoming week will be better than this one. The good side to all of this is in comparison to my prior Whole30, I have physically not felt any withdrawal from any of the items nor felt cravings for them. I think that is a major improvement upon last time. It is my hope that will continue.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

DIY Project: Homemade Body Wash

Homemade Body Wash!
I actually did two versions: the no-grate and the semi-grate version to see which one I preferred. I did try one for frog legs and one for myself...and for the semi-grate version, I did not purchase the glycerin (it did not make a difference in the finished product).

NO-GRATE: 3 Bars of Soap, 6 Cups water
For the no-grate version, I chose to do Irish Spring, since I had some spare bars. I wanted to see if it would make a great body wash. I am not a big of soap bars over body wash and I really am not a fan of this soap anyway, so I figured why not give it a go.
Irish Spring Soap
**This part you must watch closely** You are going to take the bars of soap and microwave them, until they melt. 
Ready to nuke 'em
While they soap is in the microwave, you are going to need to get a large pot, and slowly boil the 6 cups of water. 
Once the bars have melted, you are okay to place them in the boiling water.
Once the soap is mixed with the water, ensure that you continue to stir until the "melted" soap is fully dissolved in with the water. **You do not want the water to boil too much, or you will lose too much water for the body wash. If you do, just slowly add water in 1 cup at a time until you get a body wash consistency**
Making Soap
Once the soap is fully dissolved, you are ready to place it in the storage container. **It should be cooled down enough for pouring.** Ensure the container you will place the liquid in can handle the slight heat from the mixture. 
Semi-Grate: 3 bars of soap & 6 cups of water
**I found the semi-grate to be a better overall dissolvable mixture, and it did take less time. However, it does provide a larger mess!
For my body wash, and the semi-grate version, I chose Oil of Olay, since my skin needs a lot more moisturizing than frog legs does. 
3 bars of Oil of Olay soap
You will need to grate the soap to a fine consistency, to ensure it will dissolve quickly. I use the same side that I would for nutmeg or laundry detergent, as it works great.  
Fine powder-like mix
Once done, you will need a large saucepan and start boiling the water. I did one bar at a time, but it went quickly. 
Hot water...
Add the soap and still until dissolved. This should not take nearly as long as the other version did.
Cooking soap
And, once it looks like a milky liquid, you are ready to pour into your container. Again, ensure your container can handle a slightly warm liquid. 

And, that is how you make at-home body wash!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

DIY Project: Placemat Pillows

Hey Guys! Happy Fall!  I have been wanting to check some great DIY projects off of my DIY To-Do list. This past weekend I completed my first project and I am so excited to share with you all the results.
All you need!!!
My inspiration came directly from Something Like That Designs and I could not have been more thrilled to complete this for my new bedding (pictures to come!). 

For this project, you will need 
  1. Placemat (one for each pillow, this is mine, i got two)
  2. Polyester fiberfill (one bag per pillow - this link is the lg. bag. i got the small one)
  3. Sewing Machine or this!
  4. Seam ripper
First thing you will do, using your seam ripper and placemat, create a small hole in the placemat (remember, just big enough to stuff in the filler. You will most likely use the entire bag of filler for one placemat pillow. Next, using your sewing machine (or liquid stitch), seal up the hole created. **Note, if you use liquid stitch, you will need to wait 24 hours before pillow is ready for use**
 I am very happy with the overall look of the pillows. They really do look store bought!! What do you think? Are you ready for a pillow upgrade??

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Quick and Healthy Meals (from Trader Joe's)

After watching this YouTube video, I was inspired to create healthy and quick meals that my Nutritionists would approve of if she was pushed for time and on a budget. I think Trader Joe's is a great place to shop for healthy items and some meals they have really are healthy. If you know what to look for and can add a bit of creativity, you can have a healthy meal within minutes (and skip the fast-food pickup).

My Nutritionists has mentioned a few things to keep in mind when choosing a meal:
  • Under 500 calories (you really should not go too far past that per meal)- it needs to be healthy!
  • Keep the sugar low (most processed foods add a lot of fake sugars)
    • Women are only supposed to have 100 calories of sugar a day (25g= 6 tsp).
    • Men are only supposed to have 150 calories of sugar a day (37.5g= 9 tsp).
  •  At least one vegetable per meal - she prefers more but at least 1 is mandatory!
Flatbread Pizza *Individual size*
  1. Frozen Garlic Naan
  2. Arugula
  3. Goat Cheese
  4. EVOO (or pizza sauce)
  5. Prosciutto (optional) 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place frozen Naan piece on oven rack and cook each side 5-7 mins per side. Remove. Lightly coat top of Naan with EVOO. Top with Goat Cheese, Arugula and Prosciutto. Place back in oven for additional 5-7 mins, or until cheese is melted. Remove, Cut and Serve. 

Detox Soup
  1. Cauliflower Florets
  2. Vegetable Broth
  3. Kale
  4. Carrots
  5. Onion
Heat broth in large pot on Medium. Chop vegetables into small pieces. When broth is on a light boil, add all ingredients, except kale, into pot. Allow to cook on medium heat for 5-9 minutes. Before serving, add Kale and allow to cook for 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Tex-Mex Tortillas
This recipe is so simple and quick, especially if you have most of it already prepped (like chopping tomatoes, leftover chicken breasts from this recipe, and chopping up avocado). Lay the tortilla on a cookie sheet and place shredded cheese on top. Place in oven on BROIL for 3 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Once removed from oven, assemble all ingredients on top and serve immediately. 

Fast StirFry
  1. Stir Fry mix (sauce is included)
  2. frozen jasmine rice
  3. grilled chicken
Microwave jasmine rice for 3 mins. Meanwhile, place skillet on stove and cook stir fry mix according to bag. Once mix is completed, add grilled chicken to mixture and place over rice onto place. Serve. *Hint: You can reduce the amount of sodium and calories by substituting the sauce mix for coconut aminos.

I hope you like these and they are as enjoyable to you as they are to me. Also, Trader Joe's does have a section of their website dedicated to creating meals (and desserts) around their items. You can go under Recipes from their site and even search for various options. They will even let you know if they are GF or Vegan.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The 7 Hills of Richmond, VA: Chimborazo Hill

This is Part 4 of Blog Series: The Seven Hills of Richmond, VA. Find the Intro here. Chimborazo Hill

Chimborazo Hill has a long history in the roots of Richmond and her ties to war- and beer. Famous explorer Alexander von Humboldt attempted to scale Chimborazo, a volcanic mountain in Ecuador. After his unsuccessful attempt, he dubbed the Richmond hill as Chimborazo in 1802, due to its likeness to the Ecuadorian volcano. A local brewery, The James River Steam Brewery,  used the hill  as a cellar to store beer. At the top of the cellars was a hole that acted as a chimney. A local newspaper reported any fire in the cellar would case "billows of smoke (to come) through making the hill look like a miniature volcano."
Prior to the Civil War, Chimborazo Hill was use to organize militia coming into Richmond. When the war started, several large regiments camped out and on the Hill and built extensive wooden barracks for shelter. As they went into battle, they left behind these buildings where were commandeered by Samuel Moore, the Surgeon General of the Confederate States of America for the establishment of a hospital - Chimborazo Hospital. At the time the hospital was being established, besides the barracks, only two buildings were located on the hill; a large house owned by Richard Laughton and a small office building.
Chimborazo Hospital, known as the "hospital on the hill', was one of the first functioning military hospitals, serving over 76,000 patients from 1862 to 1865. It achieved a 9 percent mortality rate, higher than the hospitals we have today, thanks to Chief Surgeon and local Richmonder, Dr. James Brown McCaw. He had received his medical degree from the University of New York in 1844 and was a professor at the Medical College of Virginia (currently VCU Medical Center) when was called upon to work for the confederate hospital. While medical regulation and supplies were limited, the proficient Chimborazo staff was innovative in providing quality of care for their patients. McCaw acquired a canal boat, named Chimborazo, to trade other cities, like Lexington, for provisions needed for the hospital. Unfortunately, not all patients survived treatment, and those who perished were received by Oakwood Cemetery. By 1865, Oakwood had received over 16,000 patients who perished. In April 1865, Union officers overtook Petersburg, forcing Confederates to retreat and General Robert E. Lee ordered the evacuation of Richmond, including those at Chimborazo Hospital. Those that were not able to leave before Union officers arrived the next day, were transferred to other quarters for care while Union officers were to be treated primarily. By summer, the hospital was closed and transitioned into a Freedman's Bureau school for over 200 freed slaves.
After the Civil War, Chimborazo Hill became the site of a refugee camp - overseen by Freedman's Bureau. Many of the buildings were used as schools, but were eventually torn down to use as firewood. The community, however, did not last long and the camp was closed and in March of 1866, The Freedman's Bureau ordered the people to vacate by early April. In 1874, the city of Richmond purchased the 35 acres of land of Chimborazo Hill at a cost of $35,000. The city of council of Richmond began purchasing most of the land from the Freedman community and auctioned off the last remaining homes in 1880. The last structure disappeared around 1900. The only history remains is Chimborazo Medical Museum, owned by the National Park System on the original grounds of Chimborazo Hospital.
Chimborazo Hill is rooted deep within Richmond's history of war and change. As a mecca for those who were ill during the war, Chimborazo is as full of history as a battlefield. Her steadfast beauty is only a foreshadowing thought following her past. As Chimborazo holds a key to Richmond's past, and her history is preserved in the land we stand on today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Another Round of Whole30

If you have been following me for awhile, you already know last November post-birthday, I made the decision to go on Whole30. It was a big change to my lifestyle and after the 30 days were up, I realized it had forever changed me. To date, I still cannot eat nearly the amount of sweet foods as I used to and I could tell with the mental changes it was a change that was for the better. I have made the decision to go back and do it again. And, I am taking you with me on my journey again. I am excited to be able to share with you my journey this next go round.
Last time, I wrote about my tips for grocery shopping for Whole30, a task that does greatly help you prepare for the journey and what you will need to stay on task. I took the time this past week to do all of that same shopping again. And, after a few stops to the local stores for a lot of great organic produce and products, I am ready to go. 
I have to say my biggest realization last time I went through Whole30, and my biggest tip for you, is to meal prep beforehand. I cannot emphasize how much this will help you during the "stress" of having to figure out dinner. When you have a list of meals planned, and prepped, it makes the process that much easier. I made sure to cut up sweet potatoes, divide up portions for steaks, and prepare my sauces/snacks before starting to ensure I had everything easily ready and "pre-made" for those days and moments when I really was not going to be in the mood to cook or spend a great deal of time cooking. Overall, my 30 days was a relatively smooth one.
Like last time, I realize 30 days is only the beginning. The post-30 day reintroduction of the "NO" list back into your daily life is one that is of choice. I never reintroduced soy back into my diet after realizing what a problematic item it was for me personally. Also, I continued to keep my sugar intake quite low and kept my grains to a minimum. Whole30 taught me what easily triggered foggy brain, lethargy, and discomfort. Unlike last time, I am planning on getting more exercise in than last time. With my FitBit, I will be tracking my eating, sleeping, and activity as well.
So, for the next 30 days, I will be without the following items: Sugar, Dairy, Grains, Legumes/Peanuts, MSG/Sulfites/Preservatives, and Alcohol. Additionally, I am not allowed to weigh myself for the next 30 days. The whole point of Whole30 is not to worry about weight; it is about feeling better. Whole30 is not a cleanse. However, it will teach you what 'trigger' foods you may have and what foods may bother your system/digestive track. It allows you to have better control of what you take in, as you are now responsible for reading every label to ensure the items removed are not ingested during the 30 days. It is about being cognizant of what is in your food and being in control of what you eat. It aids you in portion control, but still allows you to be full and content. You will not be hungry, but there will be a time of 'withdrawal', where your body is adjusting to the items that are removed. And, overall, it does not allow you to start eating the "No" list on the 31st day; those items will be reintroduced once item at a time, so as to not throw off your system.
So, join me on my second Whole30 journey as I navigate through and see if it is something you might be interested in doing with me. And, if you have any recipes to share, I would love to hear from you. Whole30 is all about expanding your horizons, and being open to new things is what it is all about. A new way to try squash, sign me up. If you would like to see my full Whole30 journey the first go round, click here to see how it went the first time. Also, if you are looking for my famous Date Ball recipe, look no further than right here!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Weekend in Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC was such a really amazing town and I am so excited I was able to visit. It is visitor-friendly and lends itself well for self-travel or family entertaining. There is something for everyone. I flew down by private plane, so my getting there was quite easy. However, I realize that option may not be available for others. Any way you can get there, it should not be too pricey.

Having two days in Asheville can truly limit what you can do. And, I say that since there are a lot of outdoor activities you can do that are really close to town. If you are into rock climbing, hiking or zip-lining, you may want to find a way to add in an extra day or so into your plans to accommodate those activities on top of going around the town.
My first stop was for breakfast. I am not a big breakfast person- a quick bite and a cup of coffee suit me just fine. But, knowing this was one of the places to go, mentioned by Bon Appetit magazine, I just had to go. Welcome to Biscuit Head. These folks are known for their massive over the top southern biscuits. And, they have a jelly bar to match. Each biscuit is unique and the chef puts his own spin on each masterpiece. I was a big fan of the mimosa fried chicken biscuit. Trust me, it is heavenly. I was a big fan of their signature mocha hot milk chocolate and their selection of house made hot sauces.
First thing I did when I got into the main part of downtown was to go to the Visitor's Center. I wanted to get a map of the walking trail. The Urban Trail is a 1.7 mile walk around the city of Asheville, via foot, where you can get a historical and artistic tour of the city. It includes facts and events that happened at those places as well as the significance of its impact on the town. Tip: If you decide to do the walking tour, park for free at the visitors center- it is open for parking until sunset. The trail really lends itself to take you all around the downtown portion of the city, and gives you a quick view of everything. The artistic sculptures blend in well with the surroundings of the city as if they were meant to be there, each one unique and with its own story to tell.
While along the trail, I stopped to grab a quick drink at one of the oldest buildings in the city, Packs Tavern. Built in 1907, it was originally the Hopson Building, a lumber, a BBQ joint and automotive shop. However, in its hayday, it was one of the biggest distribution buildings for moonshine during prohibition. Once prohibition was over, it was renovated for more 'legitimate business'. Today, it is a great spot for a quick drink and a burger. I rather enjoyed my old fashioned among some of the more eclectic decor.
If you have a spare moment along your trail walk, there is one of the most famous coffee shops in town not that far from Packs Tavern. And, you will not be able to miss Double D's Coffee. This unique coffee shop is a double-decker bus. You heard that right. With its serene courtyard to its top level seating, this is one coffee shop you are not going to want to miss. The barista that runs this little spot is nestled in the back lower half of the bus, and she is serving up some of the best local coffee and sweet treats from nearby shops. This is one of the more unique stops on the list.
Once you have done the walking tour, its time to hop back in the car towards the The Art District. Along the riverside, is one of the most art-dense neighborhoods in Asheville. This area is prime real estate to artist studios, breweries and restaurants. It also lends itself well to pedestrian traffic looking to admire a few pieces of art sculptures that line the walkways of these warehouse turned art studios. Take time to stroll through this part of town and see the artist work right in their studios. They have metal works, glass blowing classes, painters and various mediums for their masterpieces.
The final stop of the day was to Farm Burger for dinner. Literally one of my favorite stops in town was this particular favorite joint in town. Asheville is known for being a town with killer food and Farm Burger delivers favorites to the locals and visitors alike. This place was hopping for dinner, but I was able to get immediate seating at the bar - and took it. They have a great selection of beers on tap as well as amazing milkshakes and ciders. This place has the best burgers in town. Regardless if you would like to build your own, or try one of their signature burgers, you will not be disappointed. I opted for the Farm Burger and added some of the largest pieces of bacon I have ever had on a burger. However, it was the BYOB that won in my book. IF you have the opportunity, get the bone marrow added to your burger for a savory treat. But, don't forget the loaded garlic parmesan herb fries - a Farm Burger favorite. Farm Burger is family friendly and offers options for kids - as well as a play area for kids to play while the parents can stop and enjoy dinner.

It was finally to bed and the first day of the trip had come to a close. It was filled with food and excitement for the city life. Bedtime was early this night, especially considering the next day was going to be a full day of hiking with an early departure.
If you have the opportunity and the ability, take the time to go see Grandfather Mountain State Park. It is about $15 per person, but the trip will be worth it. If you have difficulty walking and traveling distances, this park is very accommodating. First, once you have paid the entrance fee, you are given a CD to listen to along your drive up to the top of the mountain. The CD explains the history and significance of each part of the trip up to the top, so stay tuned in! Once you reach the top, if you have limitations on stairs, they have an elevator that will take you to the top of the swinging bridge. And, it does swing. If you plan on hiking, park at the lower parking lot (Hiker's Parking Lot) and take the 0.4mi trail to the swinging bridge. It is well worth the hike to the bridge, as you get a better view and perspective of the climb from underneath where the bridge is erected.
Once you have seen the overview of the swinging bridge, you can continue you hike onward to Grandfather Mountain (Blue blazed - McRae Peak). It is a long 2.9 mile hike, well over 2 hours round trip, but well worth the time. My suggestion is to go as earliest as possible. Not only will the swinging bridge be less crowded, but the trails to the top of Grandfather Mountain will be less traveled as well. The first half of the trek up to the top of Grandfather has various climbing challenges, from a quick rock scramble, a couple of ladders, and even a cable tugs you have to use to literally rock climb up to the top. I do not suggest this trail for those who have issues with heights or who are not somewhat capable of rock climbing easily. However, after 7 ladders, quite a few switchbacks, and a rock climb, you reach a final ladder to the top. And the views are stellar!
Once you have reached the top of Grandfather Mountain (McRae Peak), be aware it is quite slippery to return to the ladder to get down. However, at the summit, you can see the swinging bridge in front of you and the trail to the attic window behind you. It is breathtaking and gives a beautiful 360 view of the area, including downtown Asheville in the distance, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you wish to return to the parking area, continue back on the same path you took up.
However, if you wish to continue to the Attic Window (about 1.2 mile trip), you will need to continue onward to the trail. It will take an additional 30-45 minutes to get to the Attic Window from Grandfather Mountain summit. Tip: I recommend only wearing hiking boots if you plan on doing this section. If you continue on the trail, there are very rocky trails, "the subway", including another cable tug, a rock scramble called 'the chute' and additionally, a few more ladder to climb to the top. If you enjoyed the game "Chutes and Ladders" as a child, this is the hike for you. The "chute" part of this climb is the most difficult to get your footing, especially going down. Once you are at the top of Attic Window, you are at the highest point of Grandfather Mountain in the private nature reserve. If you wish to camp here, you will need a permit. There is a camping site at the top of Attic Window. The hike down will take roughly 1-2 hours, depending on the route you take.
Once you have made it back to the car, and congratulate yourself. It is a long and strenuous hike. To celebrate, hop onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and drive to the Linn Cove Viaduct, one of the most famous views along the parkway. If you have the chance afterward, head to Mount Mitchell State Park for more incredible views and overlooks. Then, head back into town to fill that big appetite. I went to Little Bee Thai for a big bowl of pad thai to fill your hunger after a long hike. Believe me, it will be worth the wait.
I hope you will take the time to visit Asheville. The town has so much to offer. It has something for everyone. All the local shops and restaurants are what make this town so magical. So, stop in and see how nice people really are in Asheville, NC.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The 7 Hills of Richmond, VA: Oregon Hill

This is Part 5 of Blog Series: The Seven Hills of Richmond, VA. Find the Intro here. Oregon Hill
Oregon Hill began as a blue collar working class neighborhood in the northern portion of downtown Richmond. Began as a plateau between two ravines, the post-Civil War neighborhood was constructed of rowhouses to accommodate industrial workers in a grid-like manner. The land, once owned by William Byrd,  named the hill Belvidere (or "beautiful view") as it overlooked the James River as well as Shockoe and Church Hill. Its name refers to the quip that employees moving there to be closer to their workplace might as well be moving westward to Oregon.
William Byrd II
What we know today as Oregon Hill, was once owned by William Byrd, was passed down to his son William Byrd II (who is known as the Founder of Richmond- and the man whom Byrd Park is named after today). Born in Charles City County, Byrd II had high interests in land development, both public and private. In 1733, he began planning and establishing the cities of Petersburg, VA and Richmond, VA, a project his father had began. In April 1737, Richmond was established at the falls of the James River, after William Byrd announces it in the Virginia Gazette. Once areas of Oregon Hill was inherited by Byrd's son, William Byrd III, a notorious gambler who was in great debt), sold the land of Belvidere (their country home sitting on Oregon Hill), along with its surrounding hundred acres, in a lottery.  Won by the Hylton family, who passed the land onto Colonel John Harvie. The Harvie family consolidated to 500 acres and passed along to his daughter Jacqueline Harvie, after his accidental death in 1807. This land was later transitioned to an ambitious development, called the Town of Sydney.
The Town of Sydney, which is what we know today as Oregon Hill & portions of the Fan District, created a street grid to begin the neighborhood of homes. Along with George Winston, a master builder and brick layer, aided the construction. His share of land, what we know today as Cary Street), known as Westham Turnpike, is where the first townhouses in the Town of Sydney was built. Winston, along with his black apprentices, helped build the Virginia State Capitol and the Penitentiary (that once sat in Oregon Hill, to the south of Belvidere, demolished in 1991). One of the most famous model home of the Town of Sydney, is the Jacob House, and owned by John Jacob, who is considered to be one of the first residents of Oregon Hill.
As the neighborhood expanded, so did the residents of Oregon Hill. Once Tredegar Iron Works and Albemarle Paper Company were built, they became major employers in the 1850's. Most of the workers who were employed by these companies resided in the nearby neigbborood of Oregon Hill. During the reconstruction post- Civil War, where most office buildings were replaced with single-family homes we see today. The land where Riverside Park stands today was acquired by the state in 1869.  Oregon Hill went through many transformations as the factory jobs dwindled. Today, the historically working-class neighborhood is now home to a mix of old and new; it includes an eclectic mix of locals, artists, musician and students who attend VCU.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Part 1: What to Do & See in Paris! Days 1-4

Paris is so exciting. It truly is a beautiful city and I fell in love the moment I laid eyes on her soil. I cannot stress enough how much I love traveling, but most importantly, I love being immersed into a new culture. The city is as exciting as you would believe and the people there just seem to have that je ne sais quoi. Their aura is just as chic as their cafes. It is magic.

I left DC on my flight around 5p East Coast Time (about 11pm Paris time) and arrived at 6am Paris Time. I did not sleep on the flight, except for maybe about an hour's worth; I was told to get at least a nap or so in if I could). When we arrived, most Parisians were not even awake and I was thankful we were the first flight that morning. I was really fortunate to have found a non-stop flight, as there were not many of those available. First thing upon arrival was to get my metro tickets- as that was going to not only be my main mode of transportation around Paris, it was the only budget-friendly option leaving the airport. The metro arrived fairly quickly and within 30 minutes, I was disembarking right in front of Notre-Dame.
The mornings in Paris are a hustle and bustle for sure, just like any busy workday morning. However, most Parisians stopped to at least enjoy their coffee, sitting in a nearby cafe to get a quick cup in before rolling onward to work. I took it upon myself to stop at Cafe Panis about 2 blocks from my place for a bite of breakfast. I enjoyed my first taste of paris with a cafe creme and croissant. It was nice to get the front window spot to watch as people passed by - it is a great place to people watch and it became my favorite cafe.
After dropping off my bags at my AirBNB studio apartment, my first stop was Notre-Dame. Since the line was looping around, and nearly impossible to get in within the hour, I opted for the Crypte Archeology (on the same grounds). These crypts of roman ruins were not discovered until the 20th century, and quickly turned into a museum for those to see ruins preserved underground. If you have time, I truly recommend visiting as these roman baths are quite old and can easily be seen. It is a self-guided tour but there is a lot of divulge into.
Next, was a quick run to Saint Jacques Tower. Described as one of the best views in Paris, the tower is remains from a church that once stood at the location. The remains of the tower allow visitors to go to the top. They only allow a max of 17 people up every hour. It is 10 euros/person but the view at the top are killer and give a panoramic view of Paris, so long as you can walk the 16 flights of narrow stairs up to the top. The guides only speak French, but they have pamphlets you can use as a self-guide.
Since I had not eaten since my quick trip to the cafe for breakfast, it was time to go enjoy cocktails before dinner. I headed up to the rooftop bar at La Paillote (a swanky and fun rooftop bar on top of the famous Galeries Lafayette, a big indoor mall in Paris). As there was a storm rolling in, there was not much time to sit and enjoy the view, however, I got my first glace at the Eiffel Tower from the top. I really enjoyed sipping my red wine and seeing the Opera across the way from my table. As the weather began to turn, I went back into the mall and did a quick trip to grab a pair of shoes. One of the most interesting things about Galeries Lafayette is they separated their mall into two halves - one side for women and the other side for me. It was quite a new concept, but I really liked their innovative idea. So, it was onto the men's side for dinner!
Big Fernand is not just any burger joint smacked in the middle of the men's department store, it is a burger mecca. These burgers are so delicious, they rival the best burgers I have had here in the states. No joke! They have a small menu, but trust me when I say they do not need to have a big menu to make a big impact! I got the Bartholome - and this burger is huge! It is a big as my face- and twice as thick as any burger I have ever had. I ordered a water a side of fries, but I could have easily had just the burger and have been stuffed. It truly is big enough to share. Each burger is made to order and they are fresh- never frozen. And, the staff are super friendly so it is a win-win all around.
Next up was The Louvre. I was really going back and forth as to when to hit up the museum, but Friday Nights the museum is open later so it was the perfect opportunity to go and see all the wonderful art. The great news was when I arrived the security line was basically non-existent. Once I got into the museum, I went to one of the kiosks and purchased my ticket to go in. The Louvre is HUGE! It has so much artwork you really need more than a day to enjoy it full. Otherwise, you will do like I did and just get through as much as you can. Every corner of the museum boasts art, from the ceilings to the hallways and even the "basement", there is so much it is overwhelming. I loved it. Most of the artworks at The Louvre are quite old - so do not expect any more modern art in its halls, other museums in Paris house those. Stop and see Napoleon's apartment as well as the Roman Ruins in the "basement" - remains from the walls that once surrounded paris are below. If you have the time, take a day to enjoy all this museum has to offer- there is much more than just the Mona Lisa within her walls.
One of my favorite times of day in Paris is the morning - and Parisians do it right. They love their bakeries and cafes. And, I do not blame them one bit! Breakfast on day two was at this famous bakery called Maison Kayser, one of the many locations for Eric Kayser and his delicious treats! It is hard to decide what to order, but once you walk up to the cases, your eye will catch some tart or bread for your first meal of the day. One of my favorite things about this particular location, is they have a secondary store next door for coffee and sandwiches where you can actually sit and enjoy your meal. I enjoyed a cafe creme and chocolate tarte for breakfast (yes, dessert first please). I also grabbed a madeline and a kougloff. Each sweet treat was even more amazing than the previous one.
Off to explore and walk around the 5th Arrondissement, I stumbled upon these amazing roman ruins (now a public park) called Arenes de Lutece. It was amazing to see an old coliseum snuggled right in a quiet neighborhood. Kids were playing a quick game of soccer while others sat and had conversations among friends. It was overwhelming to see. Nearby was the small pedestrian area that has a growing green wall. Another beautiful site near the coliseum. One thing about Paris I enjoyed doing is going down a street to see where it took me. Often I would end up in small areas, like this one, where they the city had cleaned it up and made it into an area people wanted to venture toward. Shortly after, to get my energy back up, I stopped in Berthillon for a cone of raspberry sorbet - and it was phenomenal. If you have the opportunity to go, do so. Their sorbet is fresh and mine tasted like fresh raspberries. Amazing! Beats any gelato I have had in the states.
Continuing along the walk around the Arrondissement, I noticed long rows of shops and merchants; everything from wine sellers to cheese sellers. They had a butcher who had the latest cuts in his case and large roasters rotisserie-style stand for to-go orders. A lof of speciality shops aligned the small streets and scatter amongst them were cafes and small restaurants preparing for the day. I ended up at this small corner cafe, called La Fountaine de la Mouffe, after admiring their lunch menu. The service was excellent and my three course meal consisted of herb and garlic escargot, duck confit and goat cheese salad. It was by far one of the best meals I had thus far. Paired with their house red wine, a local favorite and truly delicious, it paired well with my meal. It was heavenly.
Next, was quite a long hike uphill to the Place du Pantheon and onward to Jardin du Luxembourg. Granted, I did not venture into either majestic buildings (i opted not to and just enjoy the exteriors of both), the gardens were truly magical. I loved the beautiful flowers growing everywhere and even the children playing with the rental boats in the fountain. My favorite, by far, was the pirate ship! It was breathtaking. During the particular weekend I was visiting, they were having European Heritage Weekend, which had a great deal of museums opened to the public (which are normally closed) were free to enter and view. One of the places opened were the botanical garden at Luxembourg. It was wonderful to see the nurseries and seedlings growing.
One must-do on my paris list was to go to Pierre Herme, a famous chocolatier, and go to the flagship store and grab a sweet treat to enjoy! It is nothing short of amazing. So many different flavors of macarons, tartes, pastries and mini cakes. I made sure to snag a tarte for dessert later. There may be a line, but it goes by quite fast. The ladies that work there are efficient and really have their flow for getting people their orders. Go by and grab a treat for a picnic! You will not be disappointed.
Onto my favorite time of day, coffee hour- my new happy hour in Paris. This cafe had some killer cafe creme. Au Vieux Colombier was one of those local cafes in Paris you think of when you read books or see a parisian film. It just felt like home. I had such a great experience here. The staff are super kind and always seem to check up on you. I contemplated staying for dinner, but decided it was time to explore more of the city, so that thought was put on hold.
Instead, I went back to my studio rental to change for dinner. After running around all day with morning rain showers and then sunny afternoon, I freshened up and decided to roam down Rue de la Huchette (a big walking area for restaurants and stores near Notre-Dame. Known for some of the best little food joints in the 5th arrondissement, it became a go-to for figuring out a meal on the fly. Just walk down the street until a menu catches your eye, or in my case, the owner begging you to come in for dinner. After a few attempts, and an order of free drinks on the house, I was in for dinner at Le Fil D'ariane. This little greek joint is hustling and bustling with live music and an active waitstaff that dance and truly enjoy serving people. In all honestly, what drove me into this little place was the rotisserie chicken, potatoes, pig and lamb that were on spits in the window. Bonus points for great advertising! I had the lamb with potatoes and a side salad. And, my free greek cocktail was quite delicious as well!
Walking back from dinner was magical. Walking along The Seine and seeing Notre-Dame lit up at night was romantic. There is something mysteriously loving about Paris lit up at night. Not only is it less crowded, but the mood seems to be more laid back and relaxing. It is nice to stroll and see the city lit up in all her majestic glory. It is as if time stands still. And, it quickly prompted me to go see the Eiffel Tower. I had read before leaving that you can watch her as she lights up at night and I did not want to miss it. So, I took the Metro over to the Eiffel Tower.
Let me tell you she lit up like a christmas tree. And, I caught her right on time to grab a video of her sparking, right at 9pm! It was magical. Paris is truly the city of love. It was this moment I knew tomorrow morning was the big day to greet her finally! It has been on my bucket list forever to not only see the Eiffel Tower, but to climb her stairs as far as I could and Day 3 in Paris would be it!
So, I went back and hopped in bed, since going to the Eiffel Tower is an early-morning activity (avoid long lines and go early morning). Oh, but I did not forget my tarte from Pierre Hermes. It was a perfect way to end such a long day.

Breakfast is always important, no matter how early you get up. Day three i enjoyed a cafe creme to go with a pain au chocolat from La Boulangerie St Michel. This bakery is amazing and I was glad to discover it the night before. It became a quick breakfast spot.
With any major monument in Paris, if you want to avoid lines, you go early. And, the earlier the better. Also, particularly with the Eiffel Tower, if you take the stairs over the elevator, not only will you save a few bucks, but you will have a shorter line. Guaranteed! However, 674 steps tends to deter people from wanting to take the budget-friendly alternative. I know you may not want to, but DO IT! Trust me. You can take the elevator from the 2nd floor to the very top, but how many times will you really get to climb the Eiffel Tower? It does have these really great facts/boards to read along the way, so you can take your time.
When I reached the top, it was quite foggy and chilly but well worth the time spent. It was amazing! Truly worth it. Keep in mind that they only allow so many people to the top. And until a set number of people come down, others cannot come back up. Same with the lower levels as well. Lines were just as long getting down to the lower levels as it was to get to the top (mainly since that is the only method of transport). One gift I gave to some family members was a post card stamped and sent from the Eiffel Tower. If you have a few euros to spare, this makes for a great gift for those who are far away from you.
Once you finally decide to get down, if you have time (and weather allows), having a picnic right by the Eiffel Tower can truly be a wonderful way to spend lunch. Most parisians at lunch (or running nearby) enjoyed the large grassy areas for relaxing and taking in the day. There are plenty of benches to sit and enjoy the views from all aspects around the tower, so take time to sit and enjoy the views! As the weather was not ideal for a picnic on the Sunday I went (it was still very muddy from the prior two rainy days), I headed back to find lunch.
And, it was time for street food! Rue de la Huchette again is a great place to find food vendors for a budget-friendly meal. I had not had the opportunity to really have 'to-go' food yet in Paris, so it was no better time than lunch! I found Creperie Chez Suzette and made a ham and cheese crepe my lunch (they had actual gluten-free crepes!)! It was delicious and they make it right in front of you. This particular place had seating indoors, but I took mine to The Seine to enjoy lunch on the steps. (If you are looking for a gyro, I recommend Maison du Gyros-  I grabbed one of their lamb gyros, and they are HUGE! includes fries on your gyro in the price).
While I didn't have any pictures from my next adventure, I did come across Free Walking Tours and I found a guide who took me around the neighborhood telling me the history of the area, historically significant locations and tidbits about the area that make it unique. I truly recommend doing one of these if you can find one that fits in your schedule. (Also, if you want a fun experience, try their sister company, VizEats, for an authentic dining experience. I could not get one during my time but these are awesome opportunities to eat with locals at their home and have a true cultural experience). By that evening, I was exhausted and tired of really walking around. Thankfully, there was a mini food festival on The Seine. I stumbled around until I found makings of a meal fit for a queen! It was a great mix of goat's milk cheese, croissants, wine, baguettes, red wines, and foie gras. It was so delicious and filling! I recommend if there is a festival, go to it. I was able to try a lot of different cheeses and wines and they gave me great ideas for pairing them together.
Breakfast was again a cafe creme and a pain au chocolat from La Boulangerie St Michel. Even with early morning rain, it was a wonderful morning to sit outside on their patio. They also had a unique grilled cheese that was quite delicious- the cheese was also melted on the top outer slice.
Next, was a quick metro ride to the Fontaine du Jardin des Tuileries. This is similar to what I would consider a small section of Central Park in NYC. The gardens are designed in parisian-style near Place de la Concorde, the end of the Champs-Elysees, (you get a great view of Luxor Obelisk in the middle of the square) and a great place to start your walk toward the Arc de Triomphe. However, before making the long walk, The Musee de l'Orangerie is a great stop if you like artists like Picasso, Monet, Renoir, and Modigilani. Monet's Water Lilies are in full display in two circular rooms that truly show the beauty as the artists intended. This was by far my favorite exhibit of Monet's I had ever seen. As I knew this trip would not include a day trip out to see Giverny, this was as close as I would get to seeing the beauty of Monet and it did not disappoint!
The Champs-Elysees is a long walk, but well worth the efforts. It has so many high-end shops to admire, all the high end fashion you can feast your eyes upon and dealerships that look like boutiques. And for the guys, if you want to rent a Ferrari, all you needed was $80 for a 20 minute drive. Along the way, I stopped for lunch at Leon de Bruxelles, a great Belgium chain of Paris, that was actually quite delicious. As a side note, I had looked at a side day trip to Brussels (Belgium) but opted to not go, as the 2 hour travel would not allow much exploring with the current train schedules, so this meal was as close as I got. And, it was pretty good. First course was a salad, followed by the mussels and fries and creme brulee for dessert. Their herb blend on the mussels was amazing. For a chain, they make these to order and they tasted fresh - just as fresh as if they were a part of the morning catch. Highly recommended.
Strolling along and I finally came to the Arc de Triomphe. And, she is huge. I reminded myself the tour de france ended their race here not that many weeks prior to my visit. It is a very beautiful monument and has been around since Napoleon's reign, and was completed in 1836. While I didn't take any time to climb to the top, I did spend time near the torch of the Unknown Soldier, and actual remains of a fallen soldier were buried in that location (transferred from another spot) in November 1920. If you have a moment, it is a beautiful memorial to see. The only route to get to the Arc de Triomphe is via the tunnel access that will lead you right to the side of the monument - I would not dare attempt to cross the street above ground.
Next on the route for the day was a walk to Cafe du Trocadero for a quick drink and snack. If you have ever seen Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, then you already know this little cafe from the opening shot of the movie. While it was not on my actual list of things "to see", it was a great coincidence to stop and admire the view of the Eiffel Tower from their outdoor seating. Their selections are a bit steep compared to other places I enjoyed my wine and coffee, however, you just cannot beat the location.
Across the street was the Trocadero. If there is one place you may not have on your list of places to see, make sure you have this one on your list. The Jardins du Trocadero are a fantastic way to get one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower. And, if you are big into fashion, you already have seen the "courtyard" in many shoots. While I opted to not go in and explore Trocadero, I found the grounds much more appealing. And, it was time to enjoy a crepe with my stellar view! Like a scene from a movie, the Eiffel Tower was very picturesque and perfect for those "selfie" moments. If you happen to go during the summer, the fountains and flowers will be in full display.
Returning toward my mini home away from home, it was time to stroll along The Seine. After you cross Pont d'lena, continue your stroll down the steps along the riverwalk. I rather enjoyed stumbling upon the Jardin Flottants Rive Gauche, a floating barge that doubles as a mini park, perfect for walking, sitting and enjoying the views of the city. I found it a great place to enjoy a quick stop to people watch. As the dinner cruise boats floated along The Seine, you could see children playing and runners jogging down the pathway. Even couples sitting along the makeshift benches, grabbed a spot to play checkers at one of the painted side benches and tables.
I decided to take a slight detour off of The Seine to head down toward Pont des Arts (aka the love lock bridge). It was disappointing to have missed all the wonderful locks (mostly because I wanted to add my own to it), but instead found these glass panels in its place. I can see why there was so many Parisians unhappy with the the weight of the bridge, it was so heavily relying upon those supports, which were no longer holding. If you didn't know, Pont des Arts bridge is one of the few all wooden bridges that remain in Paris proper (the slats are separated enough you could lose your phone in The Seine if you dropped it between the wooden board slats), and it is quite an unsteady bridge. While I miss the beauty of the locks, those who wish to place locks on another bridge have done so in other locations and on other bridges. So, the tradition continues in the city, just not in its place of origin. In lieu of placing a padlock on a bridge or structure that would eventually be removed, I instead I locked a kiss on my man.
After a stroll back to the 5th arrondissement, it was time for dinner. I really was indecisive this particular day and had a tough time deciding what I wanted for dinner. Honestly, with so many great options, I find it hard to choose. However, this particular night I went to Le Lutece. This was really one of my favorite places in Paris to eat dinner. I really enjoyed the great service as well as the variety of options on the menu. I started with pate and baguette for my first course, rabbit with mushrooms and mustard and potato gratin for main course with a mini salad on the side, and dessert was pear tart with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I really enjoyed the rabbit and was impressed by the pear tart.
En route home, I decided to stop into Shakespeare & Co for a quick look around for a novel or two. This legendary bookstore in Paris has a lot of history (even if this stop is not its original location, it is still ideal real estate). So many great writers, like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound, spent many a night there writing/sleeping there. It is a haven for both writers and readers alike and its walls are covered every inch with books from all over. It is a sight to admire. After going to the second floor to look through the books, I found this mini writers cubby, with the most iconic red typewriter I had ever seen. Sitting down in the little nook, I began reading the quotes and musings of people who left notes from all over the world. I left my favorite quote from Elizabeth Browning. It says "Light Tomorrow with Today."

Stay tuned for Days 5-8, Coming soon!