Riverside, California is located in the Inland Empire about 55 miles East of Los Angeles. Downtown Riverside is home to the University of Riverside, the famous Mission Inn, and Mount Rubidoux. There is plenty of street parking and parking garages or there is a Metro Stop that offers shuttles to local downtown areas.
Mount Rubidoux has been designated as a park and a landmark. At one point the land was purchased by the owners of the Mission Inn. The land is now owned by the city of Riverside. Mountain Rubidoux is known for its Easter Sunday services. In 1909 the first non-denominational outdoor Easter Sunrise Service in the United States was held at the top of Mount Rubidoux.
Parking at Mount Rubidoux
It is easiest to park your car at Ryan Bonaminio Park. The address is 5000 Tequesquite Ave, Riverside, CA 92506. Ryan Bonaminio is a sports park and it has a lot of parking spaces. From the park, there is easy access to the mountain. Head up the street about a quarter-mile from the parking lot, and you will reach the start of the trail. There are no bathrooms at Mount Rubidoux, but there is one at Ryan Bonaminio Park. At the beginning of the trail at Mount Rubidoux, there is a place to fill your water bottles and there are trash cans along the trail.
Hiking in the City
Mount Rubidoux boasts over 3 miles of hiking trails. There is a 2.7-mile round-trip trail. The trail is paved which makes it a great choice for days when your normal trails are covered with mud. The trail only gains a little of 350 feet in incline, so it is rated as easy. I have seen numerous people pushing baby strollers up to the top. When you get to the top there are a few areas to explore. The World Peace Bridge is a beautiful place to stop for a photo.
The Top of Mount Rubidoux
Once you reach the top of Mount Rubidoux there are plenty of places to stop and take in the view. There is built-in seating in the rocks for the sunrise services. We climbed up to the stairs to the base of the cross. The cross is dedicated to Father Serra. According to some old newspaper articles there was some controversy about the separation of church and state and now the small plot of land that holds the cross is owned by a conservancy that is responsible for its upkeep.
Lunch at Tio’s Tacos in Riverside
After hiking back to our car we decided to drive over to Tio’s Tacos. I had driven past Tios when I was on the way to The Mission Inn and the large art out in front of the restaurant piqued my interest. The restaurant is located at 3948 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501
Eclectic Art in Riverside
We found street parking across the street from Tio’s Tacos. We wandered around the entire outside before we ordered out lunch. The art is all made from upcycled materials. One of my favorite pieces of art at Tio’s is a Christmas tree made from recycled Dos Equis beer bottles. There is a little chapel complete with an altar and pews. I could have spent hours wandering around looking at all the little details.
After hiking and walking around Tio’s looking at the art we were hungry. There is both seating inside and outside at Tio’s and the day we were there it was chilly and extremely windy so we opted for inside.
We went to the counter to order and although it was after 1 pm, I asked if I could order breakfast. The good news is they serve breakfast all day. I ordered Chilaquiles with green sauce. Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish with fried corn tortillas simmering with green or red sauce topped with an over-easy egg, sour cream, and cheese. I was happy to see an Aqua Fresca Bar at the front counter therfore I ordered a Mango Agua Fresca and it was very sweet but tasty. After ordering they give you a number and you seat yourself. I am a Chilaquiles connoisseur and my lunch was good, but definitely not the best Chilaquiles I’ve eaten. I would go back to Tio’s again just to see the art and maybe I’ll try a taco next time.
We had a good morning exploring Riverside. Mount Rubidoux was a scenic place for a hike and we all enjoyed the art and our lunch at Tio’s Tacos. We will have to plan another day to see some of the other things Riverside has to offer.
When visiting Paris it is easy to get caught up in the feeling that you have to rush around and see everything. You can not visit Paris without waiting 3 hours to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, right? Wrong, although I did wait a long time even with prepurchased tickets to go to the top of the Eifel Tower my favorite memories are of the little things that Nicole and did that did not involve long lines or huge crowds. Picnicking on the Siene and at Luxingburg Gardens were the perfect Parsian experince.
Our first full day in Paris we took a food tour in the Montremarte area. Our tour guide was fun and knowledgeable. On our tour we walked around Montremarte collecting items for a large feast that we eventually ate in the wine cellar of their building. Along the way we learned how to pick out chocolates, cheese, meats, bread and wine. We used Secret Food Tour and I highly recommend them. We tasted things we might not have found on our own (like the truffle chesse that I’m still dreaming about) and we had a enjoyable family stlye meal with wine and lively conversation.
Wine that we tasted during our food tour.
The next day with our new found knowledge from the food tour we decided to collect items and have a picnic on the banks of the Seine looking at Notre Dame. I brought a small packable blanket with me from the United States just for such an occasion.
Butter, Butter, Oh Salted French Butter….
We learned on the food tour that most Parisians buy their butter from the local cheese shop. The magic occurs from the addition of the salt crystals. Parisians use butter in recipes for both savory and sweet dishes. They also use it for slathering onto bread.
French butter with salt crystals is delicious. I never appreciated butter until I visited Paris. Our first morning in Paris we walked up the street to the neighborhood bakery. We went inside and the sweetest guy took our order. Our French was rusty and he did not speak English, but we were able to order two croissants. The first bite was pure heaven, light and flaky and we could taste the butter. We stopped in every morning that we were in Paris and tried all of their different croissants and pastries. He became one of our favorite people we encountered in Paris.
Bread is baked fresh every morning. Ask any Parisianer and they will tell you their favorite boulangerie to buy a fresh baguette. We bought two baguettes. One traditional and one La Rustique. The La Rustique has multiple seeds and grains mixed in and is darker than the tradional baguette.
Our favorite Boulangerie
A baguette to go.
We of course had to buy some salted butter to slather on our baguette and we also bought some spreadable cheese. It was good, but it did not come close to the truffle cheese we had on our food tour.
We passed by a farmers market. We bought a basket of strawberries. They were so sweet and ripe that the bees were hovering above the fruit like a cloud. I am allergic to bees so I had to stand back and have Nicole pick out and purchase our berries.
Perfect berries from the Farmer’s Market.
We stopped by the boucher and bought some sliced prosciutto. We figured that would be okay to carry around in our bag without being refridgerated.
Wine & Utensils
In Paris like in the United States there are little convience stores mixed inbetween the adorable shops. We stop at a Franprix. They sell a little bit of everything. We picked out a bottle of wine. We did not have a wine opener with us. I asked the lady at the register if she could open our wine and she did without a problem. I was also able to purchase from her plastic utensils and two plastic cups. The price was equivalent of 10 cents each. I have heard that you can also ask waiters on the sidewalk to open your wine for you. There is not a law about drinking in public in Paris.
The Ultimate Picnic Locations
Our first day of picnicking was on the banks of the Seine overlooking Notre Dame. We spread out our blanket and sat down with our legs hanging over the edge of the wall. We watched the passing boats. We had multiple conversations with people in our broken French. People were either strolling by or having pinics or cocktails along the banks as well.
Another evening we had a picnic in front of Notre Dame. We had everything spread out and we were enjoying our wine when a one eyed rat jumped out of the bushes and tried to ambush us. He was too much for us and we had to pack up and relocate.
Cheers in front of Notre Dame.
Our last night in Paris we had a picnic in Luxemburg Gardens and it was beautiful. We were sitting in chairs looking at the garden and the fountain. We watched a man wrangle his ponies from the pony ride and countless couples on dates. We had been at Versaille the day before and this was 1,000 times more peaceful and it was so pretty. I’m sure we would have stayed in the gardens longer, but at sunset guards came around and rounded everybody up. The garden is closed at night. This was the perfect way to end our trip to Paris. I am so glad that we took the time to do the small things in Paris, because those are the memories I am going to cherish.
We had our last picnic at Jardin du Luxembourg and this was our view.
Just mention to family or friends that you are planning a trip to Paris and you will get a long list of must-try food and drinks. My daughter Nicole and I spent 10 days in Paris and we tried to eat our way through a long list of hyped foods.
Bread and Croissants
We found the perfect way to start our morning was with a croissant and an Espresso from Alexine. Alexine was down the street from the hotel we stayed in and it quickly became one of our favorite places. The staff was extremely kind, patient and welcoming to us. Their croissants are fabulous. My favorite was the chocolate croissant and Nicole’s favorite was the almond croissant. Throughout our 10 day stay, we tried many different pastries and they were all amazing. For lunch, we loved to have a picnic with a baguette, butter or cheese, fruit and a bottle of wine. Viva la France.
A Croque Madame is basically a fancy grilled cheese. It is the perfect remedy after a late night of drinking lots of French wine. Nicole and I stopped in Le Vrai Paris. It is an adorable French bistro in Montmarte. We were able to sit outside on the sidewalk. I ordered the Croque Madame and a Cappucino. The cappuccino had a perfect froth of foam and was dusted with powdered chocolate. We had been drinking Esspresso on the run while we were in Paris, so this was a nice treat. A Croque Madame is a large slice of bread covered with gruyere and parmesan cheese, and a slice of ham. The whole sandwich is then put under the broiler. After the broiler, a cooked egg is added to the top. The Croque Madame lived up to the hype and Le Vrai is a lovely place to spend the morning in Montmarte.
Macarons are one of the most decadent and delicious desserts in Paris. Nicole and I sampled our fair share of Macarons during our trip, but we found the perfect Macarons at Christophe Roussel in Monmarte. French macarons are a meringue-based cookie that is surrounding a sweet filling. Each Macaron cost 1.60 euros. Nicole’s favorite flavor is the Passion- Fruit Tarragon. This is a special combination of bold and sweet. My favorite is Lemon because of the combination of sweet and tart. I don’t think they have a flavor that we didn’t like and we tried most of them. Christophe Roussel is where we stopped to buy macarons to take home to our family before we left Paris. Service at Roussel was on point. The ladies that work at Roussel were sweet about our choppy French, they spoke English and they packed up our macarons to survive the long flight home.
French Onion Soup
I was sure that I couldn’t visit France without trying French Onion Soup, but there was one big problem with that plan. We visited Paris in August, not the best month for soup. On the last day of our trip, the weather cooperated with our quest and we set out to find some soup. Nicole and I chose Le Consulat in Montmartre. Le Consult is historic – and there is something so magical about dining in this tiny restaurant where some of the world’s greatest artists found themselves often. Some of the greats hung out at Le Consult like Van Gough, Monet, and Picasso. Nicole and I both ordered the french onions soup and when it arrived it was piping hot and the cheese was melted perfectly. The broth was rich and delicious and didn’t taste like the french onion soup I have eaten in the United States. We sat in front of the restaurant and had a perfect view of everything that was happening in Montmarte.
Escargot, Rosé, Risotto & Créme Brulée
I have tried Escargot before, but this was Nicole’s first time. Escargot is really just an excuse to eat butter and garlic on bread. We chose to eat at Les Antiquaires for an early dinner. We ordered Escargot and the shells were served on a slice of bread. The waiter brought us a basket of bread that we used to dip and scoop the Escargot. Each bite was a perfect combination of butter and garlic. I wouldn’t want to eat Escargot every day, but it really was delicious. At Les Antiquaires we were able to eat outside at a bistro table. Nicole and I had found out that we like the dark red wines of France, but we looked around and all the other tables were drinking Rosé so we ordered a bottle of Rosé. It was lighter and fruiter and I see why Rosé is considered the summer wine in France. For my main course, I ordered mushroom risotto and it was amazing! The risotto was creamy with large mushrooms and freshly shaved parmesan. We shared a Créme Brulée for dessert. The top was a layer of hardened caramelized sugar. Underneath was a rich custard base. We loved this dessert and highly recommend Les Antiquaires.
Chocolat Chaud is Parisian hot chocolate and Angelina is the place to try it. Angelina is a beautiful Parisian tea parlor and it is extremely popular, however, they do take reservations. We arrived early and were able to get a table for two without waiting too long. Nicole and I both ordered Le Petite Déjeuner. Our breakfast came with Chocolat Chaud, a mini croissant, a roll with jams and fresh juice. The Chocolat Chaud was thick and rich. It was not overly sweet and it came with freshly whipped cream. This hot chocolate is the best, hands down. What can be said about this rich, thick, intensely chocolate sip of heaven that has not already been said? Words do not do it justice and the hype is justified this is one stop you won’t want to miss on your next trip to Paris!
Our first night in Paris we stopped at Au Rendez-Vous des Amis. We sat outside and ordered beers, a Charcuterie board, and French Fries. Nicole ordered a Picon Biére and she loved the way it tastes. A few days later we later found out that Picon Biére is the French version of a German Shandy. Picon is a French bitter orange liquor and it is added to the beer. The Charcuterie board arrived at our table with a variety of shaved and cured meats and pickles and it was served with a basket of fresh bread and butter. Our fries were thick and similar to steak fries in the United States. Au Rendez-vous des Amis translates as a place for friends to gather and it is located down the hill from Sacre Coeur. Furthermore, it is a little less touristy than eating in the square by the Sacre Coeur. Our dinner was simple and not fussy and it was perfect after a long day of traveling.
Nicole and I wanted to try both sweet and savory crepes while we were in Paris. French crepes are made without leveling powder, this makes them light and delicate. In Montmartre, we went on a food tour and one of our stops was a crepe stand. I tried butter and lemon and the crepe was served folded and wrapped in a waxed paper square. In between the folds were butter, sugar, and fresh lemon juice. Nicole had butter and fresh raspberry jam crepe and she loved hers too. After tasting a regular crepe our food tour guide suggested that before we leave Paris that we should try a buckwheat crepe as well.
One night while walking around in the 4th arrondissement we stopped at La Ciderie du Marais for crepes and Cidre. I ordered La Bergere. It is a buckwheat crepe with warmed goat cheese, nuts, honey, greens, and balsamic vinegar. Le Bergere was served on a plate with everything piled on top and unlike, the street crepe I needed to use a fork and knife to eat it. This crepe was large enough that it was a whole meal. The buckwheat flavor stood up to the strong flavors of the goat cheese and balsamic vinegar. It was tasty and in addition to the crepe, the Cidre we had was great, unlike the ciders I have tried in the United States this Cidre wasn’t sweet it tasted crisp and clean and paired perfectly with the crepe.
When I think of France, I think of fussy and complicated food, however, after my visit, I now know I was wrong. I’m sure there is plenty of fussy food in France, but everything we ate was uncomplicated and fresh with the emphasize on fresh. The fruits and vegetables were in seasons and amazing. Paris and the food we ate there lived up to all the hype and I can’t wait for my next visit to the city of lights.
Some restaurants are worth the wait and Momofuku Noodle Bar falls into that category. During my many trips to New York City I have passed by Momofuku Noodle Bar. I always wanted to try it, but the line was always out the door. The East Village location does not take reservations. Momofuku was started by David Chang in 2004. The New York Times credits him with the rise of Asian-American. Bon Appetit Magazine named Momofuku the most important restaurant in the United States. Momofuku means lucky peach.
Avoid The Crowd, Get There When They Open.
One summer evening, my daughter Nicole and I were in the area. It was before the dinner rush and we were able to grab two seats at the bar top for dinner without waiting in line. We started with drinks. Nicole had a Hibiscus Yuzu Iced Tea and I had a Tiger Lager from Singapore. It was a typical hot and humid evening in NYC, so both drinks were refreshing. We decided that we had to try the famous buns. As an appetizer we shared an order of the pork bellys buns. It comes with hoisin sauce, scallions and cucumbers. The buns were light and airy and the meat was a nice mix of sweet and savory.
For dinner Nicole ordered the Ginger Scallion Noodles. It comes with Momofuku barley noodles, pickled shiitake, cucumber and wakame. I ordered the Spicy Hozon Ramen. This ramen also comes with the Momofuku barley noodles and instead of meat it has chickpeas, scallion, and bok choy. I wasn’t sure if it would be too spicy, but it had a nice level of heat. The combination of the chickpeas and the ramen made this a very filling dish. Both ramens tasted fresh, they had depth of flavor and they didn’t taste overly salty.
Go Ahead And Try Dessert
Although we were both stuffed from dinner we decided to split a dessert. We ordered the soft-serve with puffed rice. The puffed rice added a pop to the creaminess to the soft-serve and it was a good way to end our meal. Overall, the services was amazing. Our water was continuously refilled and the wait staff was very attentive. Momofuku is a small restaurant so you will be in tight quarters. It doesn’t look like they can accommodate parties larger than 6. After walking past this restaurant so many times, I’m happy that we finally got a chance to try it and I wouldn’t hesitate to eat there again.
I landed at JFK on a gorgeous spring day in April. After dropping my suitcase at my daughter’s apartment in Brooklyn we set off on a walking tour of Bushwick. I wanted to see the graffiti and street art that is part of The Bushwick Collective.
The Bushwick Collective
The Bushwick Collective is located off of Flushing Ave. in Bushwick. There are blocks and blocks of murals that you can visit by just walking around the neighborhood. There really is something for everyone. We saw both portraits and cartoon type murals. It appears that this area of Bushwick is up and coming. We walked past fancy new coffee shops that we were next to functioning machine shops. We were also able to peruse a couple of eclectic vintage shops.
Finding a Lunch Spot in Bushwick
After walking around we decided it was time to eat. I had heard about a restaurant in Bushwick Called Dock. We weren’t sure they would be open because we were there during the weird hours after lunch and before dinner, however, when we go there we found that they were still serving lunch specials for another 40 minutes. Dock is a busy restaurant and reservations are usually a must, but this was the perfect time to try it. Dock was started by three chefs that have different backgrounds. They have combined their talents into one fabulous restaurant. Dock has 3 different head chefs one for sushi, one for Thai cuisine and one for ramen.
Our lunch special was $10.95 and included a soup, egg roll, or salad and one entree. I had the Oyster Soup and Pad See Ew. Nicole had an egg roll and Ramen. We split a Kyoto Matcha IPA . I’ll start with the Matcha IPA. I’m not a fan of IPAs they are usually too bitter for me, however, this one was great. I could taste the bitter hops, but it was balanced out by the matcha. The color was fantastic. It was a deep grassy, green. My oyster soup was delicious. It had the perfect amount of heat and sourness mixed together. It lots of fresh oyster mushrooms and fresh vegetables. My Pad See Ew was also good. I had it with tofu. It wasn’t overly spiced and that allowed me to add my favorite chili oil to enhance the flavors. Nicole’s egg roll was ok. Probably not the star of our meal, however, she liked her Ramen. I give The Dock 5 stars out of 5 and I will be going back to try something else on their extensive menu next time I’m in the area.
Exploring Cobble Hill
After lunch, we headed to the subway and went to the Cobble Hill area of Brooklyn. I wanted to go to an independent bookstore that I follow online called Books Are Magic. Of course, I loved it. They have the cutest mural painted outside and inside is filled with books. Their staff has curated sections and titles that they recommend and they have an amazing section for children’s books. We spent a long time looking at books and I had to buy a Books Are Magic t-shirt before I left so that I can wear it at home in my library.
Heading to Dumbo, Brooklyn
After the bookstore, we hopped back on the subway and head to Dumbo. For those not familiar with Dumbo it is an acronym for down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass. It is one of my favorite areas of Brooklyn because of the amazing views of Manhattan. We went to the Empire Store on the waterfront. We walked up the stairs to the top and had an amazing view of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and the Manhattan skyline.
Perfect Views in Brooklyn
Walking along the waterfront is always entertaining. The views are amazing. There are always lots of photoshoots going on. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops to stop at. Because it was April as soon as the sun went down it got very chilly. We decided that it was time to get back on the subway and head back to Nicole’s apartment. We had an amazing day wandering around Brooklyn.
You might think that while visiting New York the only round food you should try is a bagel, but then you will be missing out on some tasty donuts. While visiting NYC in April, my daughter and I decided to try out some of the specialty doughnuts the city has to offer.
First Stop: Dough
First stop was Dough in Brooklyn. Dough now has a few other locations throughout the city, but the Clinton Hill location in Brooklyn is the original. Dough makes traditional yeast doughnuts with untraditional glazes and toppings. Inside their storefront, you can take a peak and seem them making their fresh doughnuts. There is not enough room to eat inside, so plan on taking your doughnuts to go. I decided on the Lemon Poppy Seed. The lemony glaze had the perfect ratio of tartness and sweetness. The poppy seeds were more for aesthetics than taste. The donut had a nice rise from the yeast and wasn’t greasy or heavy. Overall, a very satisfying donut. Dough makes their doughnuts daily and they have seasonal as well as daily varieties to choose from.
Second Stop: Doughnut Plant
Day number 2 and our second stop for our donut tour was Doughnut Plant in Chelsea. Like Dough, they have other locations throughout Manhattan, but their Chelsea location was their first. We decided to order coffee and sit down and eat our doughnut inside because there are tables and chairs. We both order coffee of the day and I ordered a Peanut Butter & Blackberry Jam Doughnut. Nicole ordered the Hazelnut Chocolate Filling covered with Roasted Hazelnut Glaze. The first thing to notice is Doughnut Plant is home of the square doughnuts. They have been in business since 1994 and they make their doughnuts without preservatives, eggs, or trans fats. The peanut butter & blackberry doughnut tasted just like mom’s peanut butter & jam sandwich. It is a square donut filled with jam and covered with the peanut butter glaze and because of its square shape you get jam with every bite. It was yummy and super filling. The hazelnut doughnut was round, rich and delicious. The Doughnut Plant has a nice mix of yeast and cake doughnuts to choose from. In addition to their delectable doughnuts, they also have some amazing stuffed doughnuts decorating their walls. There is a stuffed doughnut to represent each one of their doughnuts that they serve.
Third Stop: The Donut Pub
Stop number 3 on our doughnut tour was at The Donut Pub in the West Village. The Donut Pub is known for their doughnuts, pastries, and cookies. They are open 24 hours a day. Inside the Donut Pub is a small counter to sit at and also a few tables. We tried the French Cruller and the Croissant Donut. The Cruller was a fancy, twisted design. It was light and had sugar glaze over the top. We sat at the counter and they served it to me on a paper plate and I need lots of napkins. It wasn’t greasy, but the glaze stuck to my fingers. The Croissant Donut was served warmed up on a small paper plate. After the first bite, you could tell that butter had to be one of the main ingredients in this doughnut. Out of all the doughnuts that we tasted this one was definitely the richest and most filling. It had so much butter in it that it left a buttered ring on the paper plate. We were happy we tasted the cronut, but I don’t think either of us needs to eat one again. I would go back for a cruller and maybe try one of their other flavors. I would also like to try their Black & White cookie. It’s been rumored to be the best in New York City.
Fourth Stop: The Doughnuttery
Our 4th stop was The Doughnuttery in the Chelsea Market. While our other doughnuts were regular size, the Doughnuttery makes their doughnuts in a small bite-size version. We ordered 6 minis for $6.00. We watched the small cake doughnuts plop into the fryer. They are then scooped out and covered with your choice of a sugar and spice topping. With the minis, you can pick two toppings. We choose House of Cardamon which was cardamon, orange zest and star anise and Paris Time which was lavender, vanilla, and pistachio. I liked the House of Cardamon best. The orange zest gave it a fresh taste. Nicole liked the Paris Time, because of the pistachio. The mix of sugar and spices coating the doughnuts made them flavorful without being too sweet, however, out of all the doughnuts we tasted these tasted the most fried. I would order them again to try a different topping, but these were not my favorite.
Fifth Stop: The Doughnut Project
Our 5th and final stop was The Doughnut Project in the West Village. They are now for their unique and seasonal doughnuts. I had previously been to the Doughnut Project and ordered their famous Everything Doughnut, so this time I wanted to try something different. I ordered The Black Gold AKA Brownie Batter and Nicole ordered the Bronx (Olive Oil and Black Pepper.) They have a few bar stools to sit at, but they were all occupied so we took out doughnuts to Washington Square Park to eat them. The Black Gold had an extra dark chocolate glaze with house-made chocolate cookie crumbles and sea salt. It was like biting into a light and airy brownie. If you are a chocolate lover then I say this is a must-try. Nicole’s Bronx was also light and airy. You could taste the olive oil and you got a little zing from the black pepper.
Overall, we have gone back and forth about which doughnut was our favorite and we can’t come to a conclusion. All 5 locations were good and they all offer something a little different. I think it all comes down to what you are in the mood for.
A trip to Paris does not have to break the bank. With a little research and some careful planning good deals can be found. My daughter, Nicole and I chose to visit Paris in August for our birthdays and we found August is a less expensive time to visit. August is when most of Europe takes a vacation. It is often hot in Paris in August, so Parisians head for the coast. Furthermore, business travel slows way down in August. This means that it is possible to score great deals on hotel rooms.
Choose Your Airline Carefully.
We first booked our airline tickets. I was traveling from Los Angeles to New York first. After a week in New York, Nicole and I both flew to Paris. Nicole’s round trip from JFK to CDG on Virgin Atlantic was $400 round trip. My ticket cost a little more because my flights were considered one way tickets because I flew from JFK to CDG to LAX. I paid $470 on XL Airlines. The old saying, you get what you pay for is very true with XL Airlines. Nicole had a great flight on Virgin with food and drink service and plenty of movies to choose from. I on the other hand had a flight that was delayed for 6 hours and did not depart JFK until 3:00 a.m. Not only did my plane not have movies to watch, it did not even have individual screens in the seats. It had the old drop down from the ceiling screen that was impossible to see. That being said, I will still fly on XL Airlines, because they have great deals. Because we flew different airlines and my flight was delayed we landed in Paris at different times. We each made our way to the hotel using the Metro. It cost 10.30€ and only took about 40 minutes.
The 18th Arrondissement is Magical
We chose to stay in the 18th Arrondissement, Montmarte. Looking online I found a great deal at Hotel de Flore. We stayed for 8 nights and our room was $650.00. The room was small, but comfortable. We had 2 twin beds and our own bathroom. The hotel was extremely clean and every staff member we talked to was nice and welcoming. They offer breakfast downstairs each day for an additional charge, but we choose to grab croissants at the local boulangerie. The hotel offered restaurant recommendations and Paris maps. The hotel is a very short walk to the Lamarck Metro Stop. It is about a 10 minute walk to all of the major sites in Montmarte.
A Parisian Breakfast
For breakfast each morning we went to the boulangerie down the street. The man working the counter did not speak English and he was very patient with our basic French. We each ordered a croissant and one extra pastry to try. Croissants were 1.25 euro. They were heavenly, flaky, buttery and delicious. We tried the regular, chocolate, and the almond. At the end of our trip after stopping in every morning we were treated like regulars. On our way out the door he always wished us, “Passez une bonne journee.”
Using The Metro Is The Easiest Way To Navigate Around Paris.
To get around Paris either walked or we took the Metro. We had a 5 day unlimited pass that came with our Paris Pass. The Metro was quick and easy to figure out. Like in most big cities after you figure out your stop, you look to see the end of the line on the train you are taking and then you head in that direction. We were able to change change trains and get around with no problems. The one big to remember about the Metro in Paris is that it does not run 24 hours, so be sure to check the hours if you plan to ride it after 1:00 a.m. Paris is very walkable city. Some of the best parts of our days were just wandering around neighborhoods.
Should You Buy A Paris Pass?
Because it was our first time in Paris and we were staying for over a week, we bought the 7 day Paris Pass. It gave us entrance to the museums that we wanted to visit. One of the huge benefits of the pass is it allows you to skip the lines at most museums. Most being the key word, not at the Palace of Versailles (where we stood in line for two hours.) The pass also includes a 5 day Metro Pass, a one day hop on hop off bus tour and wine tasting at the Les Caves du Louvre. We rode on the bus and listened to the guided narration for one loop around the city. It was a nice break from all the walking. We made reservations for the wine tasting. We did not have high hopes, but we were wrong. The sommelier was extremely knowledgeable. We learned a lot about French wines, tasted some excellent wines and had a good time.
Picknicking In Paris.
Our favorite activity in Paris was picnicking. We brought a little blanket from home. We would buy a loaf of bread from the boulangerie, fruit from the farmer’s market and cheese or salted butter from the Magasin de fromage (the cheese store.) In Paris, you can buy wine Picknickinhand Champagne from little convenience stores such as Franprix. If you ask them nicely they will even uncork your bottle for you. We were also able to buy cups and knives from them for 10 cents each. With our picnic supplies ready we would scout out a perfect location. One of our favorite locations was on the bank of the Seine look at Notre Dame.
We met a variety of Parisians picnicking and it is a popular summertime activity. Another beautiful location to picnic in was Luxembourg Gardens. The grounds are beautiful and there are plenty of chairs and tables to sit around.
Save Money And Visit Paris In August.
Paris is a very expensive city, but if you are on budget there are plenty of ways to enjoy the city and not feel as though you are missing out. We were worried that it would be too hot in August, but the weather was actually very nice. There were a few small stores that we wanted to visit that were closed for their August vacation, but all in all August is a very budget friendly time to visit the City of Lights.
French street artist know as Invader has returned to Los Angeles. Invader is know for his rogue tile art that is hidden in plain sight in large, urban cities. His pieces are based on the old school video game, Space Invaders. There are approximately 200 pieces of his art in Los Angeles. Over the Influence Gallery in Los Angeles is currently hosting an exhibition, Invader, “Into the White Cube.”
The show runs through December 23, 2018 and it is free to the public. Invader has reproductions of his pixelated art hanging on the walls along with photos of his art in cities across the world. In addition to the art there is a continuous video that was playing about how Invader sent a “space invader” to space in Florida in 2012. FYI: It was a success. I took pictures of my favorites like the invader with the avocado and I Love L.A. There is a store front next door that sells kitschy and very expensive knickknacks.
Invader also has his own app that you can download from the Apple Store. It is called Flash Invaders. Basically, you take a picture of an invader that you find in the wild and if it is one that has been authenticated you receive points as if you were playing the video game. The app has a leader board and you can see other people’s pictures and what city that they found the invader in. It is along the same vein as Pokemon GO. I am pretty bummed that I did not know about this app when I was in Paris, because we saw lots of Invaders while we were walking around there.
The Best Ramen in Town at Daikokuya Little Toyko
After visiting the gallery we walked to Little Tokyo to get some Ramen. Dylan knew of a place that he had been to with his friends, Daikokuya Little Toyko. When we turned down the street we knew it must be really good, because there was a long line waiting for a table.
We went in and added our name to the list which was on an iPad. This system is genius, because it allows you to use your phone to check back in and see how many people are ahead of you in line. There were 29 tables ahead of us, so we went across the street to Tokyo Plaza and went shopping. It took a little over an hour for our table to be ready. The inside of the restaurant is small and no thrills. We were starving. We ordered iced Oolong Tea and a Spicy Tuna Role as an appetizer. Nicole and I both ordered their #1 best seller the Daikokuya Ramen with tonkotsu soup base infused with their secret blended soy sauce. Dylan ordered a teriyaki chicken bowl. The broth in the ramen tasted rich and full bodied. The ramen was delicious and definitely worth the wait. I googled Daikokuya after we ate there and found that they have won a ton of awards and we all agreed they deserve the accolades.
Shopping at Tokyo Plaza
After dinner we went back to Tokyo plaza for a little more shopping. We stopped to take a picture by the Christmas Tree and got sucked into watching karaoke. We watched a guy that was so bad, he was good. He was having such a good time it was contagious.
Ice Cream at Bae
We decided that we would get some ice cream before headed back home. We settled on bae. baeis a new soft serve ice cream shop on 2nd street. The inside is swanky, chandeliers, leather seating and a black wall with a cute saying that is Instagram ready.
They are know for their activated charcoal pineapple flavor which is pure black. I had the Earl Coco, a swirl of Earl Grey & Coco Puffs. Dylan had the Matcha Chocolate, a swirl of Matcha & Chocolate. Nicole had the Heartbreak which is the Activated Charcoal Pineapple with a charcoal sugar cone. The heartbreak taste very similar to the Dole Whipped at Disneyland. The Matcha was not sweet and paired nicely with the chocolate. The Earl Coco was a nice combination because the tea flavor kept the coco puff flavor from being too sweet. Ice cream is $6.00 in a cup or for $1.50 extra you can get it in a cone. They have a red sugar cone, a black activated charcoal cone, and a green Matcha cone. Street parking is available or you can find a parking garage attached to the Tokyo Plaza. Both the art district and Little Tokyo are accessible to the Gold Line as well.
I love Top Chef and I am always excited to eat in a contestant’s restaurant. One hot and humid Saturday in August Nicole and I decided to spend the day in Brooklyn. We took the subway to the Prospect Park area. I wanted to eat at Butterfunk Kitchen. Butterfunk Kitchen is owned by Chef Chris Scott. He is know for his soulful take on southern food. Unfortunately, we got there in the afternoon and they do not open until 5:30 p.m.
We were starving and decided that we would try his new smaller restaurant next door. Sumner’s Luncheonette is also owned by Chef Chris Scott and they are open for breakfast and lunch.
We were there at 1:00 p.m. so I am assuming we missed the crowds. There was only one other couple eating inside when we were seated. The inside reminded me of having lunch at my grandma’s house. The decor is unpretentious and comfy. I really wanted to try his fried chicken, but it is not on the menu at Sumner’s. I decided on the next best thing a fried chicken sandwich with Old Bay and coleslaw. Nicole ordered the corn-meal crushed catfish with jalapeno jelly and southern aioli. We decided we would cut our sandwiches in half and split them. The fried chicken sandwich was moist and the chicken had a good crust. The coleslaw was fresh and tasty, however, the star of the lunch was the catfish sandwich. The jalapeno jelly added a nice spice along with the creaminess of the aioli. Both of our plates came with a side of potato salad and a pickle. The potato salad had a spicy mustard base instead of mayonnaise.
Fried chicken sandwich
Both sandwiches left us wanting to come back and try Butterfunk Kitchen.
Uncle Louie G’s
After lunch we started walking towards Prospect Park. Walking down a residential street we walked past Uncle Louie G’s.
Uncle Louie G’s
It had signboards out on the sidewalk that were advertising the best Italian Ice. I did not know what Italian Ice was, so I figured I better try it. I ordered creamsicle. Italian ice is a sweet frozen dessert made with fruit juice and ice. It has a similar texture to sorbet. I found out that is a popular treat for New Yorkers in the summer. I liked it. We took our across the street and went and started walking through Prospect Park.
Prospect Park is 526 acres. There are hiking, biking, and running trails. There are also small lakes with boat rentals, lots of sports fields and band shells where they hold concerts. We finished eating our Italian Ice while we watched some turtles sunning themselves on a log on the water’s edge.
A turtle sunning himself.
We brought a blanket and had plans of finding the perfect place to sit by the lake. Nicole was going to draw and I was going to read a book. We never found that spot. It had rained the night before so all the grass was way too wet. We kept walking. We walked on one trail that made it hard to believe that we were in a city, let alone Brooklyn.
A canopy of trees in the middle of the city.
He walked through a canopy of trees, we saw patches of mushrooms, crayfish in a stream, and lots of wild flowers.
A stream in the park.
So many mushrooms.
We were having a great time, until the mosquitoes started eating us alive. The combination of the heat and the mosquitoes was enough to convince us that it was time to find the subway and head back to Nicole’s apartment.
Nicole under one of the many bridges.
We met a couple picking these berries. I asked them what they were, but they didn’t speak English.
In August I stayed in Brooklyn with my daughter. One night after she got off work I met her in Manhattan for ramen. Never mind that it was 95 degrees outside and the humidity was about 70%. Nicole promised that this was the best ramen she had ever tried. Bassanova is located on the edge of Chinatown. The window fronts are street level, but the actual restaurant is down some stairs.
There is a big sign letting customers know that they are cash only. Bassanova is a transplant from Tokyo. I decided on a half order of the Tondaku Wadashi Lime Tonyum Goong Ramen. It was shrimp, mixed green onion, okra, red pepper and lime. The broth was a perfect mixture of sour and and spice. The noodles, shrimp and vegetables were perfect.
Tondaku Wadashi Lime Tonym Goong Ramen
We both decided that next time we would order a full order. We paid our bill and decided to walk around.
Little Italy and Chinatown run into each other. We wandered around Little Italy and looked at street graffiti.
It was a warm night and we decided to walk over to the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. I had a cup of coconut and green tea. Their store is barely wide enough for two people to stand side by side, so we took our ice cream to go.
We walked down a street that the asphalt was freshly painted. It looked like we were stepping into a painting.
This street looked like a movie set.
We did a little window shopping and then bought some Dragonfruit and an egg custard to take home with us.
Egg Custard Tart
We walked back through Little Italy to get to the Metro.
A flying Horse
We rode the train back to Brooklyn and called it a night.