Paris Baguettes and Croissants, a carb lovers tasty peek inside the boulangerie

Parisian Baguettes

Parisian Baguettes

My dad use to drive a truck and one of his more famous and anticipated stops was the local Amoroso bakery in Philly (a legendary bakery for rolls).  He would deliver boxes and in return the guys on the loading dock would give him bags of just out of the oven rolls.  He would then come home and my sister and I would slather butter on the warm bread to the dismay of my mom who was cooking dinner.  She knew that trying to feed us after we’ve ingested our body weight in bread was a no starter, so much of her hard work was relegated to the Tupperware container for leftovers the next day.  So my bread addiction started early and it wasn’t until I was old enough to travel that I discovered all the wonderful varieties of bread and pastries that the world had to offer. While I wish I had my Mom’s willpower and thin figure, I was always going to identify more with the Pillsbury Doughboy (yum, crescent rolls…..) and need to go to the gym a lot in the hopes of negating the bad (yummy) carbs.

The first time I visited Paris in the 90′s, I was overwhelmed by the choices – croissants,  pain au chocolate and baguettes everywhere.  People walked to the neighborhood boulangerie daily for their breads and pastries. Fresh baked bread was a wonderful discovery back then (sorry Strohmann, Wonder, Pillsbury and all the other breads of my youth). My bread addiction was elevated after that visit and bread would begin to seduce me around the world (along with wine too!) as I searched out the local bakery in every new city and port.

Boulangerie Paris

You must bake on premises to be called a Boulangerie

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Categories: Activities/Experiences, Paris, Travel, Travel With Children, Travel with Niece(s) | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Travel Bravery for Adrenaline Adventures in New Zealand (FriFotos)

The Remarkables Queenstown

The Remarkables Queenstown

It’s FriFotos and the word is “Adrenaline”. Playing word association, say “adrenaline” and I’ll reply “adventure”.  Say “adventure” and I’ll reply “New Zealand” with a smile on my face. Planning a trip to New Zealand generally ticks off many bucket list items that folks have.  For me, it was chock full of adventure –  all new to me and all scary exciting since my biggest adventure here at home is the morning commute into Philadelphia each day.

I spent only ten days (not enough!) on the South Island of New Zealand in December a few years ago but the memories, like the photos, are priceless reminders of the stunning beauty of the island and the travel bravery that enveloped me each day.  Travel bravery dares you to break out of your daily routine/box/image you have of yourself to try something new, be it food, sport, art or public transit (if you’ve navigated the London tube after a few pints at the pub and found your hotel without incident, well travel bravery my friend).

So what do you want to do today?  What will you cross off your list?  Do you want to hike, bike, bungee, jet boat ride, hang glide, jump from a mountain, kayak in a lake or act like a kid in a go cart on the side of the mountain?  Fly in a helicopter, hike on a glacier, ride a cable car or try a new food or wine? These are only a few of the many adventures to choose from on the South Island of New Zealand.  I mixed in a bit of adventure to my travels, some that many still question, but hey I have a photo to prove I did it!

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Paris: Arc de Triomphe…just 100 steps or so

Arc de Triomphe

In the middle of the Champs Elysees

After my niece ran out of her shopping money in Paris, her enthusiasm for touring the city was beginning to wane.  It was a bright sunny June day in the city and I was loving walking around taking it all in.  While I can walk for hours and hours, my niece not so much.  With her coveted Parisian purchases in hand, I said “Let’s go to the Arc de Triomphe” and was met with her now familiar shrug.  While I haven’t been to the top of the Arc de Triomphe since my first visit over twenty years ago. I still remember how cool the views were of the Champs Elysees and roads in all directions. As she was beginning to formulate reasons to skip it, I reminded her that she had chosen the Arc de Triomphe on her “things to see in Paris” list  so I  had to act fast.

I said “it’s only about 100 steps or so to the top”.  She was tired of walking the many metro stops/changes of the day and the prospect of only 100 steps seems to go over well as it was finite.  Now, you and I know just looking at the sheer size of the monument that it is more than 100 steps.  So I consider my “100 steps or so” a little white lie in the grand scheme of things.  I am sure under legal review the “or so” qualifies as a truthful statement.

We walked underground to the entrance and with my skip the line ticket (part of my Paris pass) we were able to walk past the short line.  I did, however, need to go to the ticket window for a free child ticket (everyone needs a ticket).  We then walked up the steps to the street level of the Arc de Triomphe and my “100 steps or so” lie was quickly unraveling when she realized how massive it really was (my niece is pretty smart).

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Categories: Europe, Paris, Travel, Travel With Children, Travel with Niece(s) | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hotel Atmospheres Paris, a boutique oasis in the 5th

Atmospheres Hotel

The front entrance to  Hotel Atmospheres

For me, Paris is about art, history, design and food.  I wanted to find a hotel that encompassed all of this – a boutique hotel that I could love – a new way to see and stay in Paris.  With the Paris Air show in town during our stay, all rates were higher than normal (June is already high season so they were higher than that!).  I wasn’t able to return to the Paris Westin on points, nor could I afford the rate during our visit.  I scoured the internet looking at blogs, reviews, TripAdvisor and every other booking site I could find.  I asked friends who live there, friends who visit on a regular basis and also sent a tweet to find help.  With so many hotels in the city, I narrowed it down to five small boutique hotels scattered in various neighborhoods in my price range before narrowing it down to two hotels.  I chose both (opting to hotel hop) and started our stay at Hotel Atmospheres Paris, a very cool boutique hotel marrying contemporary design, photography and a small number of bedrooms for an intimate hotel stay.



In the 5th arr, a few blocks from the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter with the Pantheon around the corner and Notre Dame a short walk away, this was a perfectly situated hotel to explore.  Even better was that there were many restaurants and cafes in the area with English menus that made my niece feel better as she wanted to be in control to choose her foods. We also had a small market across the street to buy fresh fruit, bottled water, juice, wine, etc.  You can walk to the Luxenbourg Gardens in about 15 minutes up the Boulevard St. Michel or alternatively go in the other direction toward Notre Dame.  If you didn’t want to walk then the metro line 10 was nearby (stop: Maubert Mutualite). At the metro stop, the fresh market stalls/shops were set up each day – the cheese store, meats, fish, breads, etc. – you didn’t need to travel far to eat amazingly fresh foods.

First Impressions

The 56 room hotel is unassuming outside,  just an awning with it’s name, Atmospheres Hotel Paris.  The large sliding entry door is the first sign that this is a contemporary hotel that focuses on design.  Once inside, this is confirmed as the interior design is just very cool.  It looks just like the website so there are no surprises.  With the photos of Thierry Des Ouches (warning: his website photos and music are stunning and you will be instantly lulled into wanting to find a French cafe or a ticket to Paris) throughout the lobby and in the rooms which are Paris themed – nature, monuments, by night, urban and macaron.  I instantly felt at home here (if only I could replicate the design at home!), it was a happy feeling.

Atmospheres Hotel lobby

Lobby area

Atmospheres Hotel Paris

The lobby and front desk at Hotel Atmospheres




The front desk is just a small area on the left.  Check-In was easy and we were given the radio key to the room on the 5th floor.






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Laduree Paris, Indulge your Inner Dessert Princess on the Champs Elysees

My initial intent was to show my niece, Aubrey, the magic of  dessert in all it’s tempting forms at  Laduree on the Champs Elysses in Paris.  My timing wasn’t quite so good as she hit “famished” on her internal food feeding barometer (she was eating 5xs a day!) right in front of Laduree.  I decided to ignore the exchange rate and just go with it – enjoy the whole experience of Laduree in Paris, something I’ve never done before.  For me, this was an equivalent of a Disney Princess experience, meaning that I was actually a bit excited I had an excuse to dine here.  Dessert, wine and a backdrop that seemed right out of a movie (or a wing of Versailles), doesn’t get better than that.

Laduree Paris desserts

How do you choose just one? These are only a small sample of what’s on the menu

It was too early for dinner and too late for lunch and while I can happily eat a dessert (or two) as a meal, Aubrey needed food.  Luckily, during the lull, they do have two options available – a club sandwich or salad.  Aubrey would opt for the club sandwich and dessert.  I would need a glass of wine to accompany my dessert as I would eat later at dinner time (as would she again!)

Laduree stairs

Feeling regal on the stairs at Laduree

Feeling special from the time we entered, we were shown a table upstairs in the small dining room.  Upstairs there are many small dining room areas, each highly decorated, intimate and giving an aura of exclusivity in my opinion (nevermind that it’s all tourists and tour groups). The place is just pretty just like the desserts (ok, men, I’m sure I’ve lost you in the princess pretty factor but think of all the bonus points you’ll get with your wives, girlfriends and daughters if you go here – just don’t think of the cost because that will be your downfall).

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Categories: Dessert, Paris, Restaurants, Travel, Travel with Niece(s) | Tags: , , | Leave a comment