TRAVEL AND TRANQUILITY:

This month I took a solo trip to Washington DC to attend the Tranquility du Jour Soiree, AKA #TDJSoiree, and I still can't stop thinking about it!  Tranquility du Jour is a lifestyle created by the fabulous Kimberly Wilson.  Kimberly grew a huge yoga following from humble beginnings in her living room, way back when, to building Tranquil Space,  named  one of the top 25 yoga studios in the world, according to Travel and Leisure.  She recently sold Tranquil Space to Yoga Works, that's pretty huge, and moved on to a private therapy practice, also huge.  All the while continuing to inspire her followers, like me, with her blog posts, love notes, her eco-friendly fashion line TranquiliT, not to mention her charitable events including her recent Pigs & Pugs Project.  She hosts retreats around the globe and is the author of nine books.  And I'm probably forgetting something.  I'm tired now.

Just a little background ~ It all started at Barnes & Noble one summer night about, oh my gosh maybe 15 years ago.  I spied a book binder of pink and leopard.  Hello ~ have we met?!  Like a fly to honey I made a bee line, (haha, get it), across the floor and grabbed that book and I was hooked.  All my life I had been told "you do too much" and here was someone who was doing more, and encouraging others to do more.  Over achievers unite! The Tranquility du Jour Tenants inspire me daily to live my best and most tranquil life, even among it's daily chaos.

Then one day she came to LA and did a book talk at a store in Hollywood, of course I had to go. We met, she signed my book.  Then completely at random Mike and I were in San Antonio when she posted she was going to be at a book store in San Antonio, what are the odds?  It was the day we were leaving so we left early, hopped in a cab and found our way to this remote bookstore and met again.  But wait there's more!  In 2013, (I cannot believe it was that long ago!), Kimberly, her partner Tim and their fur baby Louis the Pug rolled up into our driveway in their vintage camper, Ms. Lillie, for their LA stop of the cross country Tranquility Tour.  When they were looking for volunteers to host in LA I was all Ooo Ooo Ooooo, you know, like when you had the right answer in 6th grade, or if you were Horshack, and were busting out of your seat, can I host? Can I, can I???  Yes, I hosted and we had a blast.  You can read about it here in an old post.

Jump ahead a few years and Kimberly announced a Soiree.  Soiree, I just love that word.  Who wouldn't want to go to a Soiree?  And the description got me right in the gut.  I'm going!  Was my first reaction.  The idea of being with the TDJ community in person, spending the day with like minded women, many of whom I have interacted with on social media and in Kimberly's chat boxes during on line events, having an inspiring day of creativity in a beautiful venue, learning, creating, eating world famous vegan food, sharing, and so much more, would be incredibly nurturing for my soul and it was!  My theme this year has been all about me saying yes to what inspires my personal growth, sense of adventure and fun.  And this had all of that!  I was going! No matter what! I did mention the Soiree was in Washington DC and I live in LA right?  Minor details.  Plane tickets, hotel room, schedules, and could I survive two red eyes in one weekend?  Yes, I could.

I arrived off a red eye at 7:00 AM into Baltimore. For whatever reason there were no red eyes out of LA Friday night that would put me into Dulles Airport so I flew into Maryland.  Oddly, I had made a shuttle reservation for my return to the airport but not for my arrival, I thought I'd wing it.  I had googled getting to DC from Baltimore and there is a free shuttle from the airport to the Amtrak Station which also had the Marc train, both trains take you to Union Station in DC.  I met three other women, at the shuttle stop, all traveling solo.  They were all taking Amtrak so I did that too, it took about half an hour.

Once I arrived in Union Station the instructions were to take the Metro.  DC has a great transit system and Union Station was beautiful and reminded me of Grand Central in NY.  As I was about to walk to the metro I noticed all the exit doors and one said Massachusetts Avenue.  Hmmm my hotel is on Massachusetts Avenue.  But how far?  I called the hotel.  The concierge said about a fifteen minute drive.  Well, I thought, that's probably a 45 minute walk and after all check in time wasn't until 3 PM and it was only 8 AM so I wasn't in a rush.  Also, I love to walk and I love to walk in a city where I have never been.  Yes, I have never been to Washington DC, and yes, I'm from New York, and yes, that's weird!  Growing up all our vacations were spent in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and the Amish Country, is that the same thing?  And why do they call them Countries?  Or the Host Farm upstate NY, the kind of hotel where you'd find comics like Don Rickels.  Yes, my sister and I were prisoners of our parents antique hunting habit.
Happy with my decision and excited to get out onto the street the first thing I saw when I exited Union Station was the white top of the Capital Building.  That was kind of exciting.  I started walking up Massachusetts Avenue.  The next thing I saw was the address on the first building I passed to my right.  It said 0, zero, ZERO Massachusetts avenue.  My hotel was 2200 Massachusetts Avenue.  Maybe I should re-think my decision to walk, I thought, maybe I should go back inside and take the metro.  No, I decided to walk, it's a city right, I could always catch a cab.
So I walked and walked and walked and walked.  Somewhere around the 100 addresses I spied a cute cafe, time to get some breakfast.  The neighborhoods were interesting and changed as I walked and it was a beautiful day.  But once I got into the 1,000's it started to get hot and humid and I was running out of steam, time for another ice tea.  I thought the walk was a straight shot but to my surprise there were a few times when Massachusetts Ave. disappeared and I had to ask someone where it went!  Even my phone map was confused.  Then finally, after some other circles, which gave me false hope, I finally arrived at my destination, DuPont Circle, a very cool neighborhood.
My hotel was on Embassy Row and the Embassy's, one after another, were all in beautiful historic old buildings.  Then finally, hoping it wasn't a mirage, sweaty and frizzing up, I arrived at the Fairfax Embassy Row.  It was 11 AM.   I miscalculated my walk by a mere 2 hrs and 15 mins.  I went up to the women at the desk and told her I had gotten off a red eye at 7AM and walked from Union Station, asking if I could possibly check in early.  She gasped "you walked here from Union Station?!" She upgraded my room and handed me the key cards.

The room was very Edwardian and looked like it should have had a plaque "George and Martha Slept Here".  I changed my clothes, freshened up and checked my phone tracker, I had walked 4.5 miles.

It was also Gay Pride weekend and the streets were buzzing with people and activities and I decided to go back out.  Always time to nap later.  And what does a naturally curly haired girl do in a new (humid) city?  Find a Dry Bar what else!  If you're not familiar with Dry Bar, it's a place to get your hair washed and blown, that's all they do is wash and blow, it's a genius concept created by a now very wealthy millennial.  And they are always booked, in advance.  There was one in the neighborhood, I knew it was a long shot but I thought I'd try.  Even my red eye walked from Union Station story could not get me in.  Eh, no big deal, on to lunch.  I wanted to try a Kimberly recommendation called Teaism but I decided to just scope out something within 10 feet of where I was standing.  I found a very cute Greek cafe where I could sit outside with a Greek salad, a spinacopita and a big ice tea and people watch.
Before my trip I had been looking for white leggings.  Please don't try this at home!  White legging should be prohibited by any woman over the age of five but this was an exception to the rule because  I bought a new dress for the Soiree, a Calvin Klein (via TJMaxx) pin stripe cotton dress which was a little sheer in the skirt and I also thought we might be sitting on the floor at some point so I wanted leggings under the dress.  I could not find white leggings anywhere in LA, why would they have them in DC?  But I walked into this cute little boutique and asked and what do you know they had one pair of white leggings.  Sold.  I also stopped into Krammer Books another Kimberly recommendation, and strolled the sides streets full of beautiful brownstones.
Then I headed back in my room (with a view) I decided to take a nap and I set my alarm to give myself plenty of time to get ready and get to Kimberly's office for a meet up at 6PM.  I knew where it was and I knew it was only a 5 minute walk but I would give myself a half hour to get there.  Good thing because I stepped out of my hotel and right smack into the Pride Parade.  And I mean smack-dab into the parade.  For some reason I thought it had been in the morning, but no it was now.  I ran across the street and started walking in the opposite direction to go around it.  I thought I was pretty slick until I circled back and then it was even worse.  I had walked blocks out of my way only to find that metal barricades were up and there was no way to get across to where I had to go!  I asked a police officer for help and he told me it would be at least an hour before I could cross, I walked back and forth, I was trapped in a parade not to mention a cloud of weed that spanned for miles! 
Finally, in my desperation, I noticed a 20 something girl who looked like she was looking for a place to get through.  I asked her, she said she lived on the other side and had to get home.  That was where I had to go, the other side!  She said she was going climb over.  WHaaaa! Climb over, well I hadn't thought of that. I think I'm passed the age range to have thought that, can I do that?  Will I get arrested???  Those are the things that were going through my mind, what came out of my mouth was, "Wait for me!"  She was in work out clothes and sneakers, I was in wide slacks and heels.  I threw my camera and purse around my neck and followed her over the first barricade.  My thought bubble ~ please don't get arrested, please don't fall! I did it!  Then we ran across the street and climbed another one.  Another one, why not? We made it to the other side, I ran down the street to Kimberly's office.  I was late, sweaty and I smelled like weed but I made it. You may call me Ninja.  Bell Star and Gizmo were hosting.
By the end of this very full day I had walked 8 miles.  I woke up early and excited Sunday morning and took a cab, luggage and all, to Elizabeth's Gone Raw. This time I wouldn't arrive sweaty and smelling like weed.  Elizabeth's is a beautiful venue and one of the top 10 vegan restaurants in the world.  And I can see why, the food was incredible!  We were greeted with warm vegan beignets and if you've never had a beignets please, please find one.  There was the most adorable TranquiliT pop up shop, green juice and the most amazing kale chips I've ever had.  How can kale chips be amazing you ask, I don't know, but these were amazing and we ate a garden full at our table.  After a little mingle and another beignet Kimberly started the day with a rundown of what our five modules would be for this master class.  We all got to go through our amazing goodie bags full of lush treats.  There was a self care station with goodies to refresh our minds and bodies throughout the day, the most delicious food, dreaming, growing, sharing, planning, creating, art journaling, a TranquiliT fashion show and at the end Kimberly and her partner Tim hosted a live podcast.  Then it was cocktail hour for mingling and the most beautiful delicious hors d'oeuvres that I've ever had.  From the crystal chandeliers to the creative power in the room it was a magical day.
The next group of photos are not from my camera, credit goes to the creative eye of Marie Maroun. Find her on instagram @_grabacup_
I had a great time, can you tell?  I was sad to leave.  Then I schlepped my stuff to a hotel around the corner to catch a cab to go back to my original hotel as the Shuttle would not pick me up at another location errrrr.  It was now raining.  When I got back to The Fairfax I completely changed from Soiree look to sleep on a plane look.  As I walked out of the lobby restroom the shuttle pulled up.  Perfect, but then there was an accident on the highway and I literally made it to the gate just as my flight was lining up to board.  Whew, I'd be home by 1 AM.

For anyone who has never traveled alone, I highly recommend it.  It really gives you a sense of your own resourcefulness.  (Like barricade climbing).  Seriously, venturing out on your own even only for a day or a few hours is extremely restorative.  And of course if you're lucky enough to get the change to go to a Soiree, grab it!


TWO AMERICAN GIRLS IN PARIS:


Paris est magnifique! 

I could just leave it at that, but I won't because I have SO many pictures and SO much to say about Paris!  Every time I carved out some time to finish this post I'd get so caught up in the pictures and the memories that I'd get tired and go to sleep.  And because my travel posts are always so long I usually do them in two parts.  But no, you're getting this one all at once, because I'm just exhausted from traveling back and forth to Paris, in my mind.  So please be advised that this is the longest blog post in history.

I'll start with our arrival and some logistics.  We decided on a taxi from the airport to our hotel. They do have Lyft and Uber in Paris but we felt more comfortable going with a licensed taxi, and there was a taxi line right outside the airport, very easy.

Before we left the airport we exchanged some money at an ATM.  That felt weird but I had checked rates all over and believe it or not the airport was pretty good and definitely convenient and noted as a safe place to exchange with no hidden fees.  Also we needed euros asap to pay for the taxi and the first French Baguette that crossed my path.

You need euros immediately upon arrival. Some foreign countries take American dollars, France is not one of them.  You can order Euros from most banks in America before you go but at my bank the fee's were higher, also it was too late when I thought of it because the bank has to order the money as well and I'm just not that organized.  Economically speaking, for traveling outside the US, try and have a credit card with no foreign service fee's and then use it for everything, much easier then counting your change with currency you're not used to.  And if you have a card that gives you points you'll be saving for your next adventure!

It was raining slightly as we drove from the airport to our hotel, Hotel Alexandrine Opera.  It was a 20 min ride but there was some traffic because of the weather and that was OK with us as we were already sightseeing and snapping away pics out the window.  Here are some shots from the taxi.  It was a gray day but who the hell cared, it was Paris!
Paris is divided up by 20 Arrondissements, (Rs), also called districts, similar to what we call a neighborhood, only they each have their own elected officials.  We planned by which R was next to which, sounds easy but the city is shaped like a snail so not all the Rs were in order. Tricky but not impossible to figure out.  (I'll share all the links to our favorites at the bottom of the post).

The hotel was a real charmer and our room was quintessential Paris. The Juliette balcony is what dreams are made of.  And it was all about that balcony, and the view was the end.  The rest of the room, what there was of it, was teeeeeny tiny.  I am not exaggerating when I say I had to sit sideways on the toilet so my knees wouldn't hit the wall and I'm only 5'2!  Even the shower was tiny.  I laughed at the thought of my 6'1" husband, had he been with us, he would probably have gotten stuck trying to turn around in the bathroom!  But again, the view, the charm and that amazing balcony completely made up for the lack of space in the room.  It was perfect for the two of us.

When my daughter was twelve I started taking her on mother/daughter trips every year for her birthday.  I wanted her to develop a sense of adventure and to learn that making memories and sharing experiences was more important than material gifts.  This year, (as a successful young woman that I'm so proud of), she turned the tables on me and surprised me with this trip for both our birthdays making this years girl trip extra special!  
When it comes to planning trips, (I did know about my surprise a few weeks in advance), I'm kind of a planner fanatic. (This is the exception to my aforementioned not being organized).  Of course there's always room for surprises and spontaneity but I have to have a list of everything we want to do and see so there's never a moment lost.  We were about to cram a lot of Paris into a little bit of days.  We had our list divided by the Rs and my daughter had hearted them on the google map app on her phone so wherever we where we could pull up a cafe or sight from our list.  It worked great.  But FYI that does not mean you won't get lost.  We mostly walked everywhere, clocking in 20 miles on foot on our first full day!  The one time we did take the metro we went 9 stops in the wrong direction before we noticed.
Our first nights dinner was at Bouillon Cartier.  This place had such a great Euro vibe it was a perfect choice for our first Paris dinner.  My daughter eats snails...EW... I wanted a clothespin for my nose, not that they smelled but because of Lucy.  Also, I cannot bring myself to eat something I battle with in the garden.
Image result for I love lucy clothespin snails
There were two men on the other side of the partition at the next table, we thought it odd that they were not talking to each other, one was buried in his phone, the other started a conversation with us when we were trying to decipher the menu.  He told us to ask for one in English.  Duhhh.  Then he told us about his family and how they spend half the year in Boston and half in Paris.  When he got up to leave the other man didn't.  Ah Ha they weren't together.  Then we realized that people fill up seats wherever, next to strangers, no seat left unfilled, it's a thing.  Not like us spoiled Americans that sat down at a table for 4 so we'd have a place to spread out with the purses, the tote bags and the umbrellas. Our first French Faux Pas.
                 
On our first full day we were off bright and early to find the Eiffel Tower, on foot.  It's located in the  7th R.  It was a long walk and it was windy.  I loved the neighborhoods we went through on our way.  Some reminded me of NY, the upper East side on a quiet Sunday morning, only with better architecture.  And then out of no where we turned a corner and there it was, the Eiffel Tower.  It was such a thrill, a truly magnificent sight.  Our plan was to have a picnic on the lawn in front but it was too cold from the wind off the beautiful Seine, we could barley walk.  Taking pictures was also a challenge with the wind.  Didn't get a lot but I do love the ones we got.  Then we were off to find our first recommend cafe in the area.
And here I am, trying not to look like a tourist, looking like a tourist.  I brought the Barrett with me, I didn't get it in Paris.  It was my Moms and she use to say it was the only hat that wouldn't ruin her hair in the winter.  Turns out she was right, it was cold and I wore it a lot and it didn't ruin my hair.   Sadly, my Mom is in the final stages of dementia and she never saw Paris.  The Barrett was my way of having a little bit of her with us.  My Mom was afraid to fly over water and from the time I was about 12 I knew I wanted to see the world and that meant there would be a lot of water I'd have to fly over.  She once told me she wished she would have been as brave as me when she was young and I realized that it was her fears that taught me how to be brave and when not feeling so brave, she taught me to do it anyway.  And I'm very grateful for that.
Near our hotel we passed what appeared to be a big indoor mall.  Why would we go inside a mall in Paris you ask?  Well, because it looks like this.   We had no idea though, we just wandered in.  I had not read about this or seen pictures of it on instagram but there it was, that ceiling!  Our mouths hung open. Then we saw a sign for a roof deck!  We took the escalator up several floors to the top passing designer shops all the way.

The entire top floor was one big modern chic cafeteria, a hang out to eat, drink, maybe wait for a friend.  This was the cafe at the top of the Galaries Layfayette.  We headed straight to the fresh orange juice squeeze machine. By the way, these machines are everywhere in Paris, every market has an orange juicer and a basket full of fresh oranges, you pop them in and squeeze them yourself.  And of course a girl needs something to wash down with her juice so I had my all time favorite cookie, which happen to be a French Madeleine.  Now keep in mind that my only comparison to my favorite cookie is the three pack chocolate dipped Madeleine's they sell at Starbucks.  Yes, this one was better.  Then we went outside onto the deck.  It was an amazing 360 degree view of Paris.  The rain had stopped, we swapped photo ops with a bunch of girls from Sweden, and all was right with the world.

Every cafe was wonderful and every bakery was a treat to the senses.  We even found gluten free crepes in the Marais, my daughter was so happy and that made the owner so happy.  They bonded.  The Marais was one of my favorite Rs, we went back twice. The Picasso museum is there so we squeezed that in too.
I contemplated the meaning of this painting. Then I covered my eyes ;)
Favorite brunch at Le Deux Magots.
Odette, how adorable it this building, a must for tea and treats.
I'm now obsessed with toast sticks!
All the sidewalk cafe chairs in Paris face the street so you're usually not sitting across from the person you're with when you're sitting outside, you're always next to them.  People watching at its finest.
These two bonding over gluten free crepes.
Apologies in advance fellow animals lovers and please close your eyes if you're a vegan for this next story.  We went to this beautiful cafe recommend by a friend and we were very excited to order our first French Charcuterie Board.  In America, if you're not familiar with a Charcuterie Board, it's cheese, fruit, nuts, crackers and maybe a little meat.  But it's not this!  We ordered the house Charcuterie Board and learned that in France that means meat, lots and lots of meat, fatty, gross, raw ugly meat.  If you want cheese you have to order a Fromage Board. Who new?

Although we are not full out vegetarians we eat very little meat and believe me it's not raw!  This was just, what do you do with it?  We sat there staring at it mortified for several minutes.  Then we thought, well, at least there's one piece of cheese on the plate, we'll split it.  It turned out to be butter!  Butter and meat, I thought the only one who ate that was my husband from Minnesota because he eats butter with everything!

We weren't sure if it was appropriate to ask for a doggy bag in Paris but we asked anyway and after about 20 minutes the waiter came back with a little shopping bag full of meat.  When we left we saw a homeless woman and her dog sitting on the ground, I gave her the bag, $28 dollars worth of meat. That was about to be one happy doggy.  We were then on the hunt for another cafe with a Fromage Board on the menu. We found one in the Marais, how hard can it be to find cheese in Paris?
Our birthday dinner was in Montmartre at Le Consulat.  We loved this neighborhood on a hill in the 18th R.  It was about a 20 minute walk from the hotel on a cold night but we had such a fun time.  And she had snails... again! 
It's known that gluten isn't an issue in Europe because they don't poison their food with chemicals like we do in America and people that are gluten sensitive can eat bread in Paris.  I'm happy to report that it's true and so we ate our weight in baguettes.  So. Many. Bakeries.  And still there will never be enough baguettes in my life.
I'm a sucker for doors! And the doors in Paris did not disappoint.  They're huge!  I love colored, carved wood, over sized beautiful doors, and door hardware. The doors themselves as art and also what's behind them.  I always want to see what's behind them.  In Paris these gorgeous oversized doors lead to beautiful courtyards and through the courtyards are buildings, homes, schools, offices, it's secret doors to beautiful spaces.  We were lucky enough to be walking passed several when they opened to allow someone in or out :)
I had brought a little bendable tripod with me, not for my camera, but to put my phone on so we could take pics together without having them be selfies.  We had it sitting on a wide window ledge of a building and it wasn't working very well.  A family came around the corner, walked by and then the man, around 30ish, stopped and walked back to us.  He said "let me take your picture" Dana, my daughter, said jokingly "I know, this thing is ridiculous, I'm sorry" he said, also jokingly, "you should be" then she said "at least it's not a selfie stick" to which he said "I should apologize for my people for inventing that".  He was Chinese, it was hilarious.  He took a few pictures of us while his family waited, it was so nice of him.  We didn't like any of pictures and took this one after he walked away,  right before the tripod fell off the ledge, along with my phone.
The Abby Bookshop, the sweetest little shop over flowing with vintage books.  I brought home their burlap tote bag and it's my new favorite thing.  There's something about the smell of old books.
    
Places in Passing.
The Louvre Museum, they say (whoever they are), that you should spend at least 4 hours here and better yet an entire day.  And even then you will not make a dent, and you'd still have to wait in line to get up close and personal with Mona Lisa herself.  It's huge, like it's own city.  We chose not to go in, yup you heard me, our time was limited and there was so many things we wanted to see.  Saving it for the next trip along with the South of France. Very excited to go back.  But of course we got the obligatory juxtaposition picture of the modern glass pyramid against the ancient structure. Pretty spectacular.
This next picture is Notre Dame about a 2 weeks before it burned and that Spire fell.  So glad I go this picture to remember it by.
Took this picture of Dana at Luxembourg Gardens, not much was blooming yet, but still a beautiful place.  Reminded me of a smaller Central Park.
Lots of surprises along the way.

Favorite Arrondissements (R's)
  • 18th R Montmartre - Built on a hill in the 18th Arrondissement
  • 3rd R Le Marais - It spreads across the 3rd and 4th Arrondissements
  • The 7th Arrondissement - this one doesn't have a neighborhood name but is the area surrounding the Eiffel Tower
AR 1
AR 2
    AR 4
    AR 8 - 9
    AR 11
    AR 17 / 18th
    Happy Travels!