How We Spent 3 Days in Paris

How We Spent 3 Days in Paris

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This year my mom & I’s big summer trip was to Paris! She had never been to Europe and I had never been to Paris.  We decided what time was better to give it a whirl than now!  Keep in mind, between the two of us we know maybe 10 French words.  We had a short & sweet trip that was filled with things straight out of postcards and movies.  I’m going to share our jam packed 3-day itinerary and how we made the most of our time there, so let’s get started!  



DAY 1–
Our flight landed mid day at Charles de Gaule airport, we hit the ground running by taking “Le Bus Direct” from the airport to our hotel.  It was a very convenient and easy experience, the bus arrives every 15 minutes in Terminal 1 and you can buy your tickets with a card at the kiosk or pay the driver in Euros.  It cost us 36,00 Euros one way for 2 adults.  The bus itself was air conditioned, clean, and not crowded.  We took the direct 2 toward Eiffel Tower and got off at the Champs Elysees stop.  In all it was about an hour bus ride to that stop.  I highly recommend this transport option if your hotel is near any of the stops because it saves you the trouble of hauling luggage up and down the metro steps!  I did hear that at times there can be delays due to traffic and later in the day it can become more crowded.  



Our hotel, The Royal Hotel, was perfectly located just 2 blocks the Arc de Triomphe, a must-see landmark, and 1 block from Champs de Elysees, a street filled with restaurants and shops.  The room itself was nice with two windows that opened to view the street, though it was small it worked perfectly for the two of us.  



It was also only a 20 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower and after we checked in we headed there!  Our first stop was the American Cathedral since it was on the way, it was incredibly beautiful inside and completely free to enter!  After about 10 minutes further of walking we reached the Eiffel Tower area.  It was so grand to walk up and see the Eiffel Tower up close and in person.  There is a water feature called the Trocadero that we walked to in order to get full photos and honestly it was less crowded than I expected!  I was able to get quite a few photos without many other tourists in them.  When we were there the water fountains were all on, but I read that early in the morning around sunrise the Tower reflects across the pool area.  


Jumpsuit is old TopShop | Tee | Shoes | Sunnies | Barrette   


On our way home we at at Bistro Des Champs right on Champs de Elysees.  They had a lovely outdoor seating option that seemed to be common for the restaurants around and allowed for great people watching!  We both ordered Croque-Monsieurs, which are basically ham & cheese sandwiches, and a glass of champagne.  It came to about 25,00 Euros each in total and the atmosphere of being right on Champs de Elysees was well worth it!  



DAY 2–
On our second day we got up and went to breakfast around 7am.  The selection was very nice with kiwis, cheeses, fresh bread, pastries, meats, eggs, cereal and yogurt.  



Our plan for this day was to see EVERYTHING.  From what I researched we could see almost all the major landmarks in the city by walking down both sides of the Seine River.  We first came to the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais.  They have exhibits inside, but we just visited the outdoor area.  On the opposite side of them is a beautiful park too.  We looped around them toward the Pont Alexandre III bridge.  This bridge allows for foot traffic as well as cars.  It has incredibly ornate gold accents all across it and is definitely the most ornate of the bridges we saw.  


Top (similar) | Shoes are old Jeffrey Campbell | Jeans 
Some of the foot bridges have vendors with locks you can purchase and attach!

We crossed here and moved forward toward the Louvre Museum.  This area was more crowded than the others we had been in thus far and we did not go inside the museum.  I read this museum alone could take an entire day so we just stuck to seeing the pyramids to save time.  


  

The last stop before we headed back down the Seine toward our hotel was Notre Dame Cathedral.  We weren’t sure what to expect to see since the fire occurred, when we got close you could still see the cathedral and it was stunning, but there was a massive crane working and large fencing around the entirety of it.  Though it was not like it was previously access wise, it was still a sight to see.  



The way back was much quicker for us since we didn’t need to stop as much, the two exceptions being lunch and the Musee d Orsay.  We stopped at Paradis de Fruits st Michel between Notre Dame and the Louvre.  This is a great option if you’re craving something healthy, I ordered a “detox salad” and carrot, ginger, apple pressed juice.  It was such a refreshing meal after having eaten mostly airport and bready meals the past couple days.  


  

The museum had an intimidating line, but it moved pretty quickly totaling about 45 minutes of waiting.  2 adult tickets cost 28,00 Euros.  We were on the hunt to find a clock window that made for a beautiful silhouette photo that even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have taken advantage of!  However, once we were inside we were able to appreciate so much more than just the clock.  There were two levels of sculptures, my favorite being the Ernest Barrias’s Les Chasseurs d’alligators ou Les Nubiens, Monet paintings, a temporary Van Gogh exhibit that featured his famous self portrait, along with many other beautiful works of art.  To find the clock you have to go to the top level and past the first clock located in the cafe area, the one accessible for photos is in the last exhibit wing of that floor.  We spent 45 minutes inside because we were getting tired, but we estimated you could do the whole museum in 3-4 hours. 


   
  

On our way home we couldn’t resist stopping in to Ladurée to taste the famous macarons in the actual place where they originated.  There was a short 4 person line to eat in the cafe, versus a 15 person line to buy the macarons to-go.  I had been on the hunt for lemon sorbet since I read that it was very good in Paris so I jumped at the opportunity to have it here, along with a lemon macaron of course. 



DAY 3–
The first two days were very exhausting, with day 2 totaling up about 25,000 steps according to my health app!! So the third day we opted to take the metro rather than walk.  We took metro 2 from Port Dauphine at Charles de Gaule Eteloie to Blanche station.  One-way tickets cost 1,90 Euros each, this machine was much like the machine for “Le Bus” and was super easy to use.  



In total it took about 30 minutes and we arrived just a few steps from the famous Moulin Rouge in the red light district of Paris.  We thought we might check out one of the shows, but sadly tickets were around 150,00-200,00 Euros each!  I think it would definitely be a fun experience and something worth budgeting for next time.  

Since we had made it all the way to this area we decided to walk over to Montemarte, a neighborhood well known for the Sacre Couer Basilica.  It’s an easy walk through town to the bottom of Montemarte, but a bit of a trek up multiple flights of steps to the top.  This being are rest day we chose the tram ride up for 1,90 Euros each.  This Basilica completely exceeded my expectations, yes there were a lot of tourists around but it rivals Notre Dame in beauty.  




They offer an option to walk up 300 steps to the very top of the building for panoramic views of the city.  Us always being on the hunt for the best photos thought this was a great idea!  I will be very honest; this was not a great idea for me whatsoever.  You walk all the way to the basement area of the building, walk through a ticket booth, and enter a small (think 1 person wide) staircase with small rectangular windows only every 10 steps.  


  

This is just the first half of stairs.  I made it this far with some deep breathing, then we came out to an open walkway and stunning views.  I was thinking okay if this is halfway then it’s definitely going to be worth it at the top!  



So we embark on the second half and about 10 steps in I realize there’s no window.  Looking up and seeing only walls and concrete and looking down to see only walls and concrete was too much for me.  I immediately told my mom to turn around and basically had a panic attack in the open walkway.  I wouldn’t normally consider myself claustrophobic but in this situation I think the lack of windows and distance in the that tiny stairwell was just too much for me.  You might be thinking okay cool you don’t want to go up, just go back, right?  Well, the fun part about that is the stairs are one way up and one way down on the other side of the viewing area.  I knew there was a 0% chance of me not only making it up the last half, but also back down the whole thing, so we started back down the wrong direction.  With the exception of one guide telling us it was one way, people were very nice and let us go through.  Once back at the ticket booth we had to get across the gate and finally I was back in open air.  I googled the view from the top and it did look spectacular, but I definitely would caution you if small spaces aren’t your friend this might not be the view to go for.  

There is good news for people like me though!  Our last sight planned for the day was the Arc de Triomphe, my mom wanted to see the view from the top (we just hadn’t learned our less had we?). We took the metro back to our station and walked the few blocks to the underground tunnel below the street to the Arc de Triomphe.  This tunnel was huge and well lit, not a concern for me at all.  Then we bought our tickets for 12,00 Euros each and I convinced myself that this staircase wouldn’t be as traumatizing.  



I’m glad my mom pushed that we go because it wasn’t nearly as bad to climb up!  The stairwell area is open, the stairs are metal, and there are 2 areas to stop in and walk around  along the way.  A few times I still had to just look straight ahead and follow my mom or the group ahead of us, but it was a significantly better experience.  I would say that getting up to the top, even with stopping on both floors between, took only about 15 minutes.  



At the top you can see all of Paris in every direction; the Eiffel Tower, Montemarte, the business area, everything!  At the beginning and end of the stairs outside you can see the underneath of the Arc and all the details up close, plus there is an eternal flame burning in remembrance of the unknown soldier that we had no idea was there.  If you’re hesitant about going into these stairwells now, I would highly recommend starting with this one!  The view is very worth it and if I can do it right after my Sacre Couer experience, you totally can too!  



To celebrate the fact I made it up to the top we got French crepes from one of the carts on the corner of Champs Elysees, they seem to always be there in the evenings.  I ordered Nutella with strawberries, my mom got Nutella with bananas.  It was so cool because he actually makes them right in front of you and they tasted incredible!  



Since this was our last night in Paris we wanted o have a glass of champagne to end the trip.  We chose Le Balzac on Champs Elysees and also ordered French onion soup to share.  The soup was delicious with big pieces of bread and so much melted cheese.  



The one thing we couldn’t seem to make happen was staying up long enough to see the sights lit up.  We snuck out at a time we thought was late to snap some pictures at the Arc de Triomphe in a dress I brought with me, but it still wasn't even close to sunset!  It got dark at around 10pm and we were already so tired by 8pm every night.  I think it would be worth it next trip to take a mid day nap and go back out later in the evening.  


Skirt (similar) | Shoes | Top

HEADING HOME—
I don’t have much to say about our trip home since it was much less exciting, but I’ll give you the basics.  We asked the hotel the night before to call us a car in the morning so we didn’t have to drag our bags around to the bus or metro that early.  It cost 60,00 Euros and took about 1 hour.  We arrived around 7am and there were literally no lines anyway which was fantastic!  If you have the chance, book a morning flight!  The one downside is we had no idea about there rule for liquids in carryons since we have TSA Precheck and never have to really pay attention to bag requirements.  In Charles de Gaule airport you are allowed only one 1 quart bag filled with travel size liquids per person.  To put this into perspective I had about one a half bags worth of stuff since all my makeup and toiletries were in my carryon.  They are not lenient with this rule, so between my mom and I we had to throw away about 5 items.  If you take one thing away from this whole post, remember to pay attention to your liquids because we all know most of that stuff is way too pricey to just be throwing away!  

Have any of you been to Paris?  Let me know anything we might have missed to add to our list for next time!
XOXO, Cierra 

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How to Get the Perfect Manicure at Home

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How does the saying go? "New Year, New Me".  A very popular motto for this time of year and I'll admit, I too am a sucker for it.  This year, however, I'm going more with "New Year, New Nails".  In undergrad I began my love affair with gel manicures and growing my nails out.  I thought this was the best option out there because they didn't chip that quickly, but even with strong nails and gel on them I still struggled with breaking one or two a month.  It was such a bummer to have these beautiful nails and then one stubby, chipped one that broke.  Or even worse, for the gel to peel up.   

Flash forward to December and I finally gave in and tried out dip manicures.  I was shocked by the whole process; there's no drying time, they literally roughly buff the top of your nails after all the work of perfecting them, and my nails felt SO strong at the end.  The manicure lasted about two weeks and I took it off to change the color, not because it was flawed.  I was obsessed immediately because I didn't have to worry about breaking my nails for the first time ever.  At this point you may be asking yourself why I'm sharing a good mani with you, well it's not just about that.  There was one huge downside to my new obsession: the cost.  I'm on a student's budget at ~$45 every 2-3 weeks to have my nails done was just not feasible.  

Luckily, this story has a happy ending!  My mom fell in love with dip manicures at the same time as me so she did some research and found Revel Nail Dip Powders allowing people to do their own dip manicures at home.  I know what you're thinking, "there's no way I can do that as good as a nail salon".  We thought the same thing, but figured it was worth a shot.

With some inspiration from a Revel Nail Facebook group, we ordered starter kits.  There were two options; one with 4 small color jars ($33) and one with a single large color jar ($69.99).  Both of them came with all the liquid polishes needed (probase, activator & finish gel).  I ordered the second kit and my mom ordered the first.  They came relatively quickly and we went ahead and started our first attempt.

Attempt 1: Color is Revel Nail Hush 

The first step was to remove our current dip manicures.  I'll be honest, this is the worst step by far.  We've tried two different methods now and one seems to work fairly well.  Before both of them it's necessary to use a nail drill or rough file to break through the top layer of each nail.  The first, which did not work great, was just putting acetone soaked cotton pads into nail clips and leaving them on for 10-20 minutes.  The second method was to put acetone soaked cotton pads on the nails, then rubber tips over the pads on each finger, then putting your hands into a ziploc bag and putting the bag into a container with hot water for 10-20 minutes.  I did this for 18 minutes then just pushed off the residue with a wooden cuticle stick.  

If you can endure the removal and figure out a method that works for you, the rest is really easy!  We watched a demo video Revel posted and took notes of the steps they followed, but the kits do come with instructions.  I'll share what we've been doing, but everyone's nails are different so definitely read the instructions before starting!  

We keep the jars in cupcake liners so when we take our fingers out of the dip and tap off the extra we can save any that misses the jar

1. Shake the powder jars & wipes nails with alcohol pads
2. Do a thin/light layer of probase not all the way to cuticle then dip your nail into the clear dip if you purchased it or just the color dip, tap excess off nail over jar, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before putting back in bottle, gently brush off excess powder
3. Do a thin probase layer almost to cuticle, dip nail into color dip, tap excess off nail over jar, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before putting back in bottle, gently brush off excess powder
4. Do a thin probase layer all the way to cuticle, cap edges, dip nail in color dip, tap excess off nail over jar, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before putting back in bottle, gently brush off excess powder
5. If doing glitter: Do a thin probase layer then dip nail in glitter dip, tap excess off nail over jar, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle, gently brush off excess powder
6. If doing glitter: Add a thin probase layer then dip nail in clear dip, tap excess off nail over jar, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle, gently brush off excess powder 
7. Do a layer of activator all over, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle 
8. File edges and tops, buff, clean cuticle area, gently brush off dust
8. Do a layer of activator all over, cap tips, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle, let dry 10-15 seconds
9. Wipe each nail with a lint-free paper towel or wipe alcohol pads over all nails 
10. Do a thin layer of finish gel (1-2 strokes), WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle
11. Do a final, detailed layer of finish gel, cap tips, WIPE LIQUID BRUSH before returning to bottle
12. Apply cuticle oil & lotion after finishing both hands   
***It is super important to wipe the liquid brushes before putting it back into the bottle every time because if the chemicals mix the brushes can harden. 

Attempt 2: Color is Anne with Phoebe accents

That's it and I swear it's so easy to get the hang of.  In total it took about 2 hours, including removing my old dip color.  I was very satisfied with my first attempt and with each attempt you get better and better!  Investing in a kit may seem daunting but it is totally worth it.  I now can do my nails whenever I want and with the huge availability of over 280 colors and samples I can get any color I want without breaking the bank.  If you're interested in giving it a try, check out Revel's website to order your kit!

XOXO, Cierra
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Holiday Gift Guide: Student Edition

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With the holidays right around the corner I'm sure you all are working on your shopping lists and I know that can be such a challenge sometimes!  If you have a student in your life you're shopping for I hope this guide will help alleviate some of the work for you.  I've taken my top picks and what I see my classmates use day-to-day, so I promise these are a good go-to items!  

1. The PackIt lunch box is the absolute best lunch box I have found.  It is roomy enough for lunch and snacks, plus the entire bag can go in the freezer and acts as an ice pack!  I use mine everyday; it doesn't get messy once the ice starts melting and it keeps things super cold for the whole day.  They come in basic colors and fun patterns ( I have the tie-dye), which makes them perfect for any situation.  I also love that I can fold it up once I'm finished eating.



Freezable Lunch Bag  



2. Water bottles are essential in class.  Most schools have refill stations so bringing your own saves money and is good for the environment.  My personal favorite are the S'well bottles, but Hydro Flasks are another great option.  Both are good for hot or cold beverages and keep them at their starting temperature for 6+ hours.  Also, I've never had an issue with leaking in mine, unlike a lot of other bottles I've had.  


Hydro Flask 21 oz Standard Mouth w/ Sport Cap - BlackHydro Flask 16 oz Wide Mouth - Lava



3. Apple AirPods wireless headphones are a great option for walking to classes, working out, or while studying.  They're super convenient since there's no wires so you can easily charge your device while still listening to lectures or listen to music with your phone in your pocket while you workout.  






4. A portable power bank is always handy in case you end up sitting far away from outlets (or in my case the lecture room has no outlets in the seats :( ).  They can charge any hand held devices and easily fit into backpacks or totes.





5. Pocket notebooks are literally always a good idea.  I have so many little ones that I keep in my purses, backpack, and white coat to jot notes down on.  Even though a lot of students take notes on their computers or tablets now, sometimes paper is just easier.





6. The Amazon Echo Dot is a good home item for any young professional whether they're in school or out working.  It can set alarms, reminders, play music, tell you the weather, and control other smart home devices!  I plan on using mine to turn on my lamps and set back up alarms for important days in case my phone acts up.  






7. The Amazon FireStick is another great home option, if they don't already have one.  I love mine because I replaced cable TV with it to save money!  It keeps all the different viewing programs (Netlfix, Hulu, Showtime, etc.) in one place and has a ton of apps available to watch specific channels.  It also has all the shows, movies, and documentaries available on Amazon available to stream to the TV.   






8. A meal subscription plan would be a really fun gift to send students!  It's well known that we don't always have time or money to eat as healthy as we should and this makes it so simple.  I tried HelloFresh and liked every meal I received, plus they were very simple to make even though I never would have made them on my own.  





9. Umbrellas are a necessity that often gets forgotten until you need it.  There's nothing worse than trying to get to class for an important presentation only to be soaked my the rain.


Slimline Travel Umbrella



10. If all else fails gift cards are still a good option.  Some of the places I shop from the most are Target and Amazon, but gas cards and restaurant cards work great too.  





Happy shopping!!!
XOXO, Cierra
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