Meet Me in Saint Louis, Louis… Meet Me at the Fair…

A road trip and a weekend in St. Louis!  Kris and I drove the 5-hour drive southwest of Chicago to spend the weekend in St. Louis.  It was a fun trip and really warm weather for December – 70+ degrees each day!  On the way down, we stopped in Lincoln, Illinois to see the world’s largest covered wagon.  Haha.  Yes, this WAS a destination spot. Image

 

Once we arrived to St. Louis, we had a fantastic dinner at a little farm-to-table restaurant.  We were able to try duck prosciutto and lamb pate – so tasty!  After dinner, we went to the famous Broadway Oyster Bar to catch some live music.  The Oyster Bar was bumpin’ and it seemed to attract all sorts of folks.  Very fun.  Image

The next day, we spent most of the afternoon at the football game.  The San Francisco 49ers were playing the St. Louis Rams.  We had amazing seats, the game went into overtime, but the 49ers lost.  Boooo!  Image

Below, Coach Jim Harbaugh (in the black shirt and khaki pants) walking off the field after the loss.  QB Colin Kaepernick is just to the right to him (#7). Image

And, a couple more photos of the players walking off the field after a loss.ImageImage

That evening, we took a drive around the city and stopped at the St. Louis Zoo for its Wild Lights event.  ImageImageImage

The next morning, we headed back up north on I-55 to Chicago.  Thanks for the good time, St. Louis! 

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A long, thankful weekend

This Thanksgiving weekend has been a great mini-vacation and didn’t even seem to go by too fast.  Some highlights…

Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade over a breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes and bacon.  Video chatting with the Scott family.  Cooking mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberries to bring to Thanksgiving dinner with some friends.

Our friends Sarah (far left) and Tim (far right) hosted us for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

Wearing our Thanksgiving sweaters. 😉

The day after Thanksgiving, we went out and bought our Christmas tree first thing in the morning.  As this was the first time we had put up a tree on our own, it was quite an ordeal.  We carried the tree for the 6 block walk home.  Then, we didn’t have the right size tree stand and spent time trying to shave down the trunk of the tree (with a kitchen knife as neither of us owns a saw.  Hilarious.).  After that didn’t work, we went back to the store and bought a bigger stand.  After all of that work, we finally got it up and it looks perfect.  I think we learned some lessons.  🙂

Decorating the tree while having a party of meats, cheeses, and champagne. And listening to Motown Christmas.

The finished product!

During the day on Friday, we met up with friends at the Chicago Christkindl Market, an old-world German Christmas market with plenty of delicious food and drink.  I love the Christkindl, but it was freezing cold.

Gluhwein in a boot. Hot and tasty on a cold day.

On Saturday, we ran the 5K Ugly Holiday Sweater run in Lincoln Park.  It was 27 degrees outside, but we did it!  It didn’t hurt that the race organizers plied us with free Sam Adams Winter Lager before and after the race.

Lining up to start the run.

Wish I had thought about getting a fleece onesie.

Gorgeous holiday sweaters.

So many activities in one weekend and it’s not over yet!  Today, we’re going to a movie and making salmon-crab cakes for dinner.  And maybe, Kris might even let me watch another Christmas movie.  😉  Happy Thanksgiving to all of our family and friends!

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Our million dollar masterpiece

Our walls need art. Since we moved to our new place over a year ago, we have slowly been accumulating items to hang on our walls but we were missing the hero painting that would light up our apt. We have been searching for months trying to find the best painting until we realized that we should just make it ourselves.

Kelly found this cool apt DIY blog that gave us an idea what we should make.

Below is the visual progression of it all coming together.

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We love the orange and how it stands out on our blue wall. Yay for DIY projects and saving hundreds of dollars!

Kris

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My first half century and Cleveland rocks!

A couple weeks back my friend and I accomplished one of the most grueling events of my life – half century charity bike ride through the Berkshires of MA. It all started while drinking at our favorite brewpub Goose Island. My friend, knowing I have wanted to do a bike race, asked if I wanted to go.

When he mentioned MA, I mapped it and when I saw below my first reaction was heck no. He wanted to drive to MA from Chicago!!!!

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But after thinking about if for a few days, something clicked where I said you know what, it’s for a great cause so let’s do it and I signed up! My friend and I decided to make a long weekend of it, taking Friday off (We drove straight leaving chi town at 5am) and to break up the drive coming back from MA to stop in Cleveland Ohio for the night. To reward ourselves we would go to the Cleveland Browns vs. Buffalo Bills football game and tailgate properly prior with all the well renowned Cleveland hooligan fans in the Muni Lot.

Start of the race

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Few pics of the ride on the bike:

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They had a few checkpoints along the path to refuel with food and energy. After the second checkpoint and the last before the finish we were already 30 miles in and were feeling the burn. But we hadn’t even hit the major hills until this last leg. We powered through it and after around 4:30hrs we crossed the finish line exhausted yet quite happy to achieve our goal!

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I am happy that we did this and it’s such a good cause that my friend and I have decided to do more of these rides locally but also plan to make this one big trip every year for the MS ride in the Berkshires. Maybe we can recruit more to come along next year!

We left for Cleveland and had a fun time tailgating the next day at the Muni lot.

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We got a lot of weird looks with our bikes on the top of the car but people were very nice want to hear our crazy story. It was a good that we bought the American Flag. It elevated the tailgate 🙂

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Overall what a crazy random weekend with great stories and experiences. Even though I was exhausted for the next week it was well worth it!

Kris

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Sur Le pont D’Avignon, on y danse on y danse, sur Le pont d’Avignon, on y danse tous en road!

After having such a wonderful weekend in Beaune with our friend Sophie, we were on the train and off tour last destination of our amazing European vacation – Avignon in the highly popular Provence region. We were a little apprehensive about going without Sophie since we got so used to her speaking for us In Beaune and knowing we were going deeper into the French countryside where less English is spoken. I guess those 8 years of French in elementary school really didn’t pay off (if I only I could go back in time and tell my younger self to take French classes more seriously 😉 )

Anyways, the train ride was relatively easy. Our entire train experience in fact has been super smooth, with trains being on time and getting to our destinations in one piece. Avignon is famous for the nursery rhyme you see in the title- Sur Le pont d’Avignon – which I learned in school. Avignon is an intriguing blend of medieval history (with still has its mighty walls surrounding the entire city center), youthful energy (large student populations) and urban sophistication (main street shopping existed – H&M, Zara).

Kelly and I were really impressed with its outside ambience, being able to walk around most of the city center in about a day. Some highlights were the Place du Palais which consisted of the palace of the Popes (another grand Palace close to the main square), a Petit Palace and an impressive Cathedral which had a golden statue of Mother Mary overlooking the city. We hiked up the hill towards the Jardin du Rochers des Doms, a beautiful garden with 360 views of Avignon, the Phone River Valley and the surrounding villages/vineyards. It was absolutely spectacular and it did help being a nice sunny afternoon. We had a nice view of the St. Benezet Bridge, inspiring the Nursery song and the pride and joy of the Avignon region. The bridge was the only bridge that crossed the might Rhone river in the Middle Ages but it was damaged by several floods and the town decided not to rebuild it. After taking in the sights, we had a chill afternoon at a cafe at the top of the hill, reflecting on our experiences from the entire trip. We ended the night with a wonderful dinner at Fou de Fafa.

Our itinerary for our last full day in Avignon and in France was our wine tasting tour. We had a lazy morning in the town doing some souvenir shopping ( bought lots of herbs de Provence and tapenades both specialities in the region), trying to kill time until our wine tour.

The wine tour was something I was looking forward to for the entire one of the winery stops was Chateuaneuf du Pape, one of my favorites wines in the world. Our group consisted of interesting characters: a quiet couple from Canada (who mainly spoke French but chose opportune times to speak English to us), two sassy older ladies from the States (who were quite entertaining and were interested in Kelly and my travels) and an Aussie couple ( who literally bought out the wineries we went to with the amount of wine cases he bought). Our guide took us to various wineries in the region ( Beaune de Venise and Girondas) but the main attraction was Chateauneuf du Pape , which she took us to two different wineries. What we learned on this trip is that the French classify their wines based on the region and not the grape. So the French would call the wines Chateauneuf du Pape but each winery in the region has its different blends. But in order to be classified as a Chateauneuf du Pape the wine has to have at least the following 4 grapes: grenache, syrah, cinsault, and mourvedre. From there other wineries mix in other grapes to make their distinctive wines. It was safe to say we bought a good amount of wine; we ended up packing 7 bottles between our bags on the plane and shipping another 6 to the states. Wow!

Despite being such a short and quick stay, Avignon was a beautiful town and is worth visiting if you end up in the south of France.

Some of what we saw there:

Place du Palais- you can see the Palace of the Popes (right) and the cathedral (left) that look down upon the square. There is a close up of the cathedral and of the golden statue of Mary overlooking the city.

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A nice walkway next to the Palace.

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Sweeping views of the Rhone River Valley. The second picture shows the famous St. Benezet Bridge.

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This is where we had a nice break in the Garden watching the ducks play in the water.

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An interesting statue we saw on our wine tour

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Great way to end the trip and we were ready to go back home. What a nice relaxing vacation overall!

Kris

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Beaune Vivants!

After the rush of two major European cities, arriving in a sunny, warm, small town in the Burgundy region of France was such a nice change of pace. Our time in Beaune was the highlight of the trip for me for many reasons. First, it was absolutely beautiful. The town and the surrounding areas were all stunning. Second, we were finally able to spend time with Sophie in France! And, finally, because Sophie spoke French on our behalf the whole weekend, we totally relaxed.

We had some of the best food in Beaune. We had long, four course dinners complete with aperitifs, wine, cheese plates, and dessert. One of the restaurants was just outside of town, on top of a hill overlooking the town. It was the perfect atmosphere. Kris and I were able to try specialties of the region including escargot, coq au vin, boeuf borgogne and an aperitif called kir.

The best day of the trip for me was renting bicycles Saturday morning in town and biking all day through gorgeous vineyards, through different small villages, tasting wine, and enjoying a long, delicious lunch together with Sophie. We had so much fun in the sun that day that we picked up cheeses and bread once we got back to Beaune and sat in the town square with a bottle of wine that we bought earlier in the day. It was the best.

Right before leaving Beaune, Sophie drove us out to La Rochepot castle which was a medieval castle situated high atop a hill. We had to enter the castle via drawbridge and then knock on the castle door three times before being let in. Ha! It was so fun to hang out with Sophie and it was just a perfect weekend. We were all sad to say goodbye, but hopefully it won’t be too long before we get to see her again.

On the outside of Beaune

In the city center

ESCARGOTS! They were delicious – helps with lots of butter and pesto!

Lots of cheese

Beaune Vineyards!

Bike riding in the vineyards was so much fun. One of the prettiest rides I have ever done.

Close up of the grapes. We stopped and tried some straight off the vine. Sweetest grapes I have ever had!

Mersault Wine Cave – endless barrels of wine

Impromptu picnic in the middle of Beaune city center – cheese, bread and wine. Delicious!

La Rochepot Castle. Beautiful – we def. dont have these in America! They seem to be everywhere in France!

-Kelly

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Fou de Fa Fa

Ah, oui, c’est l’amour… One of the few sentences I can manage to pull together in French, haha. Well, we arrived in Paris from London via the “Chunnel”, the train that travels under the English Channel and only takes 2.5 hours. Our friend Sophie, who lives in Paris, was kind enough to let us stay in her apartment while she was working outside of the city. It was so great to feel like we had our own Parisian apartment!

Kris and I both agree that we have not walked so much in quite a while as we did in Paris. But, we also had a good amount of time to relax and enjoy life just as the French do. Besides seeing the big sights like the Eiffel Tower, Arc du Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, Palaces at Versailles, and the Louvre, we also did some less touristy things. We took a picnic of wine, cheese, and pate to the Jardin du Luxemborg and sat amongst the teenagers who were all smoking and gossiping, we sat along the banks of the Seine and just relaxed, and we took a bike ride all around the grounds of Versailles. Those were my favorite times in Paris.

One of the cooler, more informative things we did was to take a culinary tour around the Montmartre neighborhood on our last day in Paris. Besides eat and drink different foods, we also learned a lot about the area and saw Van Gogh’s house, an apartment where Picasso lived, and the cafe Le Moulin dela Galette which was the scene of a famous Renoir painting. After the tour, we walked to the church Sacre Couer where we had a view of all of Paris.

I really enjoyed all the walking we did where we didn’t have a destination in mind. It was great to get lost on the streets and find unexpected cafes or parks or shops. I loved sitting outside of cafes for a glass of wine and watching the action on the street. I loved eating croissant every day from a boulangerie near Sophie’s apartment. I loved that the metro comes at least every 5 minutes!

I think we both arrived in Paris just a bit intimated by the city. Our lack of French language skills probably did not help. But, we were fine. Parisians were very nice and it was such a cool city. At the end of our stay we were both ready to visit the countryside, but also wanting to go back again one day.

Paris on the Seine.

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The beautiful Eiffel Tower at night.

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The Arc du Triomphe.

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Our beautiful picnic at the Luxembourg Gardens, taking a break from sightseeing and hanging out with all the high school kiddos. We really felt Parisian. There is also a picture of the beautiful gardens.

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The famous Palaces of Versailles, the Hall of Mirrors and the outside garden. Also bike riding the vast gardens of the Palace.

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Our trip to the Louvre. It was a bit crowded and the crowd to see the Mona Lisa was more astonishing than viewing the actual painting.

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Our food tour in Montmatre. The Sacre C'ouer church.
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And one more pic of the Arc de Triomphe at night. We took a nice romantic walk up the Champs-Élysées on our last night in Paris.

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-Kelly

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