Paris Anniversary Adventure

Nicole and Paul wanted to celebrate their 10th anniversary somewhere romantic, iconic and international. With amazing architecture, food, and one of Paul’s favorite soccer teams playing- Paris was the perfect destination! We sent them on a week long adventure in the city of light. Here’s how it went:


We absolutely LOVED our trip – the weather was gorgeous with the exception of one afternoon we got rained on. Everything was GORGEOUS – in awe of the history and architecture.

Here are some quick notes:

Flight

So awesome to travel internationally again. They give you food, don’t charge for alcohol, and have plenty of in-flight entertainment to keep you busy. The first-class area looked really nice too (if anyone wanted to pay for that).

Transportation

The car service that picked us up was decent. The driver said he almost left bc it took us almost an hour to get our bags and go through customs. He said he tried to call me but I didn’t have international calling or decent wifi to accept calls. Luckily he waited but they should know that it can take over an hour to get through everything.

Paris Food & Drink Tour

It was the perfect tour to “ease” us into Paris. Due to the timing of our flights, we did not feel much jet lag which was nice.

Joshua, our tour guide was AWESOME! He gave us the right info at each place and was personable with everyone. The small group was nice. It was nice to visit local shops and to learn about how the different cheeses and wines are made. Paul is now a Chablis fan! The tour ended at an Absinthe bar which made Paul very happy. 🙂

At the end of the tour, Joshua gave some recommendations on where to eat for dinner. We took his recommendation and went to Chez Nicos for crepes!

Hotel

We really loved the boutique hotel. [Hotel Pont Royal] The staff was very nice and spoke English! We were thrilled breakfast was included as it was one less meal we had to worry about. We absolutely LOVED our balcony – it was perfect.

The room itself was nice (a bit small) and there was nowhere to put our luggage but we made do. The bathroom didn’t have much shelving for our stuff so we just had it on the floor…maybe that’s a Euro thing.

Friday – Walking Everywhere in Paris

We walked an INSANE amount of steps: 26K and walked all over the place. We saw Moulin Rouge, Paul found the cafe from the movie Amelie that we really liked, we went to the I Love You wall, took some cool photos of the metro signs, and ended with the catacombs

Saturday – Photo Shoot, Notre Dame & the Louvre

I was able to find a last-minute photographer through a referral from another photographer and made Paul get up at 5 AM so we could meet the photographer at 7:15 and take photos with the least amount of people in the background. Now THAT is love. The photos came out really well and the photographer was great!

[Photo Credit: Jordan with The Parisian Photographers]

Afterward, we enjoyed a croissant and cappuccino at Patisserie where we met the photographer (it was delish) and headed back to the hotel to change. From there we walked to Notre Dame which was breathtaking even though we could not go inside. They had these cool exhibits showcasing different photographers and how they documented the fire and showed the plans to put everything back together.

a couple celebrating their anniversary with the Mona Lisa in Paris

That afternoon we toured the Louvre which was really cool and HUGE. Seeing the Mona Lisa was neat after seeing it in so many art history books. Our tour guide was really passionate about art history so we lucked out.

Soccer Sunday

Sunday was our Paris Saint-Germain soccer game. THAT WAS EPIC – Paul was in soccer heaven. Such a cool experience, so glad we splurged on the seats – we were about 7 rows from the field and the players were RIGHT THERE. PSG didn’t play well and lost but we were thrilled with our experience.

a couple celebrating their anniversary at a PSG football/soccer match in Paris

Monday- Eiffel Tower and Shopping

looking up at the Eiffel Tower in Paris

Monday was our Eiffel Tower and shopping day. Eiffel Tower was VERY BUSY. Cool views but very crowded. We witnessed a proposal! Afterward we walked to the Arc de Triomphe. You could not go up because it was their Labor Day in Paris and was closed. All the shops on Avenue des Champs-Elysees were also closed for Labor Day. We did find an Italian place to eat lunch and that’s when it poured on and off.

We continued to stroll to Alexander III Bridge and luckily no one was on it due to the heavy rains so we captured some nice shots.

Pont Alexander in Paris

Tuesday – Giverny Day Trip

Giverny was sooo pretty and it was nice to see the France Countryside. Our tour guide was very nice. Lunch was really good and Chateau de Versailles was beautiful. Could see where Newport got its inspiration from. Versaille was VERY CROWDED and we did not have much time to explore the grounds. Inside was fairly quick but VERY crowded. Like navigating through a crowded concert.


While we were sad to leave, if we stayed I am not sure where else we would have walked bc we confidently walked everywhere in Paris! LOL

Ann’s Tuscany Adventure

I’ve been to Tuscany before, but always with Florence as my home base. Doing day trips to Siena or Lucca, or heading out into the countryside for a day of winetasting before retreating back to the city. When the opportunity arose to spend a whole week in Tuscany, I jumped at it! 

The focus for this trip was romance travel (destination weddings and honeymoons). We had the opportunity to tour some gorgeous properties and meet some fantastic local business owners (florists, caterers, event planners, and photographers). And, of course, eat and drink some amazing local food and wine.

If you’ve ever dreamed of getting married in Tuscany, we can absolutely hook you up!

[Photo: The dining hall of Corte dei Papi villa in Cortona]

But I am really excited about Tuscany in general, and what a different experience it offers vacationers when compared to the big cities.  

Accommodations

We stayed at the Buccelletti Casali and Cantina, in Castiglion Fiorentina. It’s a charming property that has been in the Buccelletti family since 1625. They’ve been growing olives and making olive oil for generations, and they now make wine as well.

They have converted the old farm workers’ houses into clusters of villas and apartments. Plus, they’ve turned the olive oil mill into a stunning event space. It was the perfect home base for a week spent exploring the surrounding countryside.

[Photo: Buccelletti Casale and Cantina]

The accommodations themselves were the first big difference from previous trips to Italy. I was in a cute little house with two bedrooms and bathrooms, a living/dining area and small kitchen, and a private yard/garden.

We could prepare our own breakfasts of farm-fresh eggs, homemade bread, and locally produced yogurt, jams, honey, and fruit. We had bottles of wine and olive oil produced right there on site. And the cuisine could not have been more “farm to table”. So different from staying in a hotel! 

When you’re out in the country at an agriturismo like this, it does help to have a car, so that you can get out to the local shops and markets. But at the Buccelletti Casali, we had a basket of provisions (replenished mid-week) and it was more than enough for breakfasts and snacks.  

The Countryside

We were a group, with a very organized itinerary (and drivers/guides), but I would highly encourage clients to rent a car and enjoy a more independent stay in Tuscany. The roads are great, the traffic is light, and they drive on the right side of the road. It’s very manageable for American drivers.

[Photo Credit: MIP Studios via Shared Adventures – a road in Cortona]

While we were there, we had a busy itinerary filled with site inspections at hotels/inns/B&Bs, guided tours of Tuscan hill towns, tastings at local vineyards, and many lengthy multi-course meals with wine pairings. Brutal, I know.

We learned how cheese is made. We met mayors, hoteliers, restauranteurs, and the fascinating couple who purchased and renovated the villa featured in “Under the Tuscan Sun”.

[Photo: Ann & Kristy at Villa Laura]

Highlights

Some of the highlights, for me, included: 

  • Cortona – a town of steep streets, gorgeous views, Etruscan history, and tempting shops.
  •  Pici – traditional hand-rolled Tuscan pasta, made from just the “poorest” of ingredients (flour and water).  
  • Podere il Casale – a pecorino cheese producer, organic farm, and farm-to-table restaurant outside of Pienza, where we enjoyed a fabulous meal completely sourced from right there onsite. (So delicious that I purchased and carried home their very heavy hardbound cookbook in the hopes of recreating that magic
  • Brunello di Montalcino wines – made with 100% Sangiovese, bold and fruity, one of the best Italian reds!

The Tuscany Takeaway

Tuscany is all about the slow food movement, slowing down to take it all in, and enjoying the views.

There’s no long list of “must-sees”. You can while away an afternoon (guilt-free) sitting by the pool sipping wine and snacking on prosciutto. Or riding an e-bike through the countryside. Or rolling up your sleeves for a cooking class.  

I realize now that I was doing it all wrong when I visited Tuscany as a quick side trip from Florence. Tuscany invites you to stop, linger, indulge, experience, and enjoy. And I can’t wait to come back and do it all again! 

[Photo: Villa Le Prata in Montalcino]

A “delicious” honeymoon on the Spice Island

Honeymooners Kyle and Keith just returned from a romantic honeymoon at the newest of Sandals’ fifteen couples-only all-inclusive Caribbean resorts — the Sandals LaSource GrenadaThe island is not the easiest to get to, but the resort is well worth the effort, as you can see from their trip report 🙂

Hi Ann –

Words cannot describe how grateful we are for your advice in helping us choose the perfect honeymoon! Grenada was absolutely amazing!!! The resort was beautiful and the service was amazing from start to finish. Upon arrival we were treated like royalty and that feeling never left.

Honeymoon couple arm in arm on the beach at sunset in Grenada

They started by checking us in separately from everyone else on our shuttle, by bringing us to the Club Sandals room for a cocktail and to meet our butlers Hassan and Jaime. Hassan then brought us to our room to complete the check in process, which took maybe 10 minutes. They had champagne, a cheese plate, and fruit waiting for us. We took a look around the room and realized they had upgraded us to a rondaval suite- complete with our own patio, hot tub, and private pool!! The room was absolutely amazing and the perfect retreat for us.

CIG_IMG005 private jacuzzi in a bungalow in Grenada two towels folded to look like swans forming a heart in the honeymoon suite in Grenada a hotel bed with two towles folded like bunnies and bamboo spelling out two hearts of love in Grenada

I will say that Grenada is about as hot as it gets for us. The sun was scorching, so much so that even the natives were saying how unbelievably hot it was for the time of year. The beach was perfect for us, though some said it was small. We thought it was a great size, and never overcrowded. The butlers reserved loungers for us each day with a cooler of water on ice for us. We didn’t go to the pools, as we had our own in the room, and why travel so far to just sit by the pool. We returned to a clean room each day, with a fully restocked bar and fridge, and each day the butlers brought us some kind of afternoon snack. One day they drew us a bubble bath with roses all around, another they had breakfast set up for us on the patio.

a private bath with flowers and flower petals in Grenada a hotel bed with a towl foleded into heart. the words true love in the middle in Grenada

We ate at every single restaurant. The food was simply amazing- the best of any all-inclusive we have ever been to. I would say the French, Hibachi, and Italian were our favorites, but you honestly couldn’t go wrong with any of it. The butlers made all of our reservations for us and gave us our schedule at the beginning of the week, met us at the room each night to escort us to our tables, and made sure our first drinks were at our seats before we went. Everything was as fresh as it gets, and this was the first trip that neither of us ended up with any stomach issues at all. The service was impeccable, and we couldn’t have asked for better.

The resort was fairly quiet, there were things to do each night from trivia to dance parties, to casino night and a chocolate banquet and beach party, but if you chose not to do those things our room seemed to be far away from everything and not noisy at all.

rays of light spilling through rain clouds over the ocean in Grenada a dock leading along the ocean towards a perfect sky with fluffy clouds and the green forest mountains of Grenada

We only left the resort once to go on the sunset cruise- which also happened to be the only time it downpoured. They were great with transporting us, and the cruise was great- though Keith said if it hadn’t been free for us- we would have been disappointed. We spoke to other couples who did some of the other excursions, and one loved the jeep tour, the other thought that the half day shopping and tour excursion was kind of a waste, but loved the driving your own scuba tour.

beautiful deep blue waters and a green cliff next to the beach in Grenada

Honestly, this was a trip that will be hard to top for us, between the service and the resort itself. It was unbelievable and more than what we could have imagined!!

So grateful to you and for you. We never would have taken this trip without you and the memories we made will be with us forever!

Kyle and Keith

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)