Happy Valentine’s Day

Last year, I was CRAZY!  I admit it. It was our 1st Valentine’s Day as a married couple. I asked for it all. I asked for everything from flowers, cupcakes, chocolates, etc… and my husband delivered. I’ll never do that again.

This year, I actually told him, “no flowers” on one of the most anticipated flower filled holidays of the year. We’re not making reservations for any kind of fancy dinners, nor have I requested any chocolates or cupcakes this year.

I don’t know why last year, I got so caught up in the hoopla of it all. Perhaps, because it was our first year as Mr & Mrs. Whatever it was, I’m over it this year. The truth of it all, we celebrate our love often. We don’t have children, therefore, date nights are pretty normal for us. My husband does a wonderful job at surprising me with sweet treats and flowers regularly. I’m well taken care of and appreciated, as is he throughout the year.

I’ve always enjoyed Valentine’s Day because it’s a wonderful way to show and share my love with friends, family, and my significant other.  It’s an actual holiday dedicated to love, how wonderful! This Valentine’s Day, I’m actually thinking about keeping it low key. We’re going to visit a friend in the hospital. Then, we have brunch plans with a new group of friends.

I’m a bit more realistic this year than last. I’d really like it to be about what we can give to others this year. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, expensive, or even in a heart shaped box. Maybe, call an old friend and wish them well. Donate a little more to a local church. Donate clothing, food, or even blood. Perhaps, offer to babysit for friends who don’t get to get out as much. Volunteer for your favorite charity or animal shelter. There’s plenty of ways to celebrate and share the love this Valentine’s Day. The world needs more of everyone’s love. As always, I wish you love, peace, and continued blessings. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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Je t’aime Paris!

In early 2012, my husband (then boyfriend) invited me to Europe for the first time. He asked if I wanted to go to Paris? We were in the early stages of falling in love and I think he was surprised I didn’t want to go. Who doesn’t want Paris in the Springtime with their lover? Isn’t it the most romantic place on Earth? Isn’t it the city of love?
Truth be told, I never bought into all that Paris mumbo jumbo. I didn’t dream of going to Paris as a little girl, teenager, or adult. You would think, me, of all people would. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. Because of all of my hopelessness in all things romance, the idea of Paris seemed so cliché and cheesy, for our first trip together.
Fast forward to 2015.
We were trying to decide where to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. After traveling to several other European countries and South America together, I told my husband: I think I’m ready for Paris now. Our decision was made. I didn’t want just Paris, though. I wanted to experience more of France. Half of our time was spent in Paris, but we also ventured to Versailles, Reims, Lyon, and Strasbourg.

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These 3 books helped us plan our Team JP Tour de France. The Lonely Planet book has the best pull out map of Paris, that we’ve found. Highly recommend.

However, for this blog, I’m strictly going to focus on Paris and some of the things I learned along the way.

I’m happy I waited for Paris with my husband because she does not disappoint. She is an antique city filled with culture, history, and mouth watering food. Her architecture is gothic and at times surreal. What I did appreciate there, is that people take their food and dining experiences seriously, almost religiously, which is fine by me, because so do we.

Which reminds me of where we spent our first-anniversary dinner at L’atelier Saint-Germain de Joël Robuchon,

Anniversary celebration dinner at L'atelier Saint-Germain de Joël Rubuchon.

Anniversary celebration dinner at L’atelier Saint-Germain de Joël Rubuchon.

which at the time was a 2 Michelin starred and #31 ranked restaurant in the world. Amazing! Only 2 other restaurants voted above it in Paris, which were 3 Michelin starred and booked way in advance. If you’re going to have some of the most spectacular food experiences, make sure you book your date(s) way ahead of time.

TIP # 1 While Paris is full of Michelin star restaurants, where you can dine like royalty and have foodgasm after foodgasm, I suggest finding the local spots, as well. Ask someone on the street or at your hotel what they recommend. Don’t be surprised how close you will be sitting next to your neighbor. The best way to experience a new country is through their food.

My breakfast everyday was either a croissant or pain au chocolat. Yum!

My breakfast every day was either a croissant or pain au chocolat. Yum!

Although, no matter where you go in Paris, you’ll find delicious croissants, pain au chocolat, and macaroons on every corner.

For the Best Macaroons, Laduree, is a must. You'll find macaroons, but so many other beautiful desserts.

For the Best Macaroons, Laduree, is a must. You’ll find macaroons, but so many other beautiful desserts, as well.

TIP # 2 When you think of Paris you think of the Eiffel Tower. Yes, it’s a Must!

And this right here is what you come to Paris for, Eiffel Tower, built in 1889. No matter what angle you look, it's Spectacular!

And this right here is what you come to Paris for, Eiffel Tower, built in 1889. No matter what angle you look, it’s Spectacular!

You can buy your tickets ahead of time. If the winds are too high you won’t be able to go to the very top. Which is fine, because the Best views are on the 2nd level. Do yourself a favor and experience the Eiffel Tower at night, if you can. Starting at 8pm and for 5 minutes each hour after that, it lights up and sparkles. It’s definitely worth the show and crowds it gathers.

Eiffel Tower at night is stunning! Do use flash on your camera, unlike what we did.

Eiffel Tower at night is stunning! It’s just as magical, if not more at night.

TIP # 3 My favorite thing we did in Paris, the Bateau Mouche Cruise. What an absolutely gorgeous way to see this beautiful city than on the Seine River. It doesn’t matter where you sit, because you’ll get the same views on either side, upstairs or downstairs.

If you get the opportunity to view Paris from the Siene River, do it! Boards daily between Pont Des Invalides and Pont de L' Alma. Cruise lasts about 1.5hrs.

If you get the opportunity to view Paris from the Seine River, do it! Boards daily between Pont Des Invalides and Pont de L’ Alma. The cruise lasts about 1.5hrs.

TIP # 4 If you’re not interested in spending hours amongst the crowds inside the Musée du Louvre, go on a Tuesday. It’s closed this day. Outside of the Louvre and Palais-Royal is open. It’s a great way to explore and take pictures up close and personal, while not being surrounded by a ton of other tourists.

Look at the crowd on a Tuesday! Perfect way to see the Louvre and Palais-Royal without the crowds.

Look at the crowd on a Tuesday! It’s the perfect way to see the Louvre and Palais-Royal without the crowds.

TIP # 5 If you plan on experiencing a show at the Moulin Rouge, buy your tickets ahead of time. This is a must. You can buy online or during the day at the ticket window. These shows are almost always sold out in advance.

Ahhh... the way this lights up at night! You just know you're in for a great time!

Ahhh… the way this lights up at night! You know you’re in for a great time!

They have two shows a night. We went to the earlier show, which for us, was a normal time. The later show was sold out. Arrive as early as possible to get into line, as there are no assigned seats. I also suggest skipping dinner, only go to the show. Do buy a bottle of wine, sit back and get ready to enjoy the night!

TIP # 6 Do walk through my favorite neighborhood, Montmartre, to get to the Bisilique du Sacré-Coeur aka Sacred Heart. You’ll bypass all the steps and walk through a real Parisian neighborhood, where the likes of famous artists such as Picasso, Monet, and Dali frequented.

Monmartre is my favorite by far! You'll find 2 remaining original windmills made famous by the painters, Renoir and Van Gogh.

Monmartre is my favorite by far! You’ll find 2 remaining original windmills made famous by the painters, Renoir and Van Gogh.

Enjoy the historic and 2 remaining windmills left in Paris located in Monmartre. Don’t forget to enjoy some of the yummy treats below the steps of Sacré-Coeur or while walking back enjoy the gelato, as I did. Also, please be respectful when they ask for no pictures inside of Sacré-Coeur.

Basilique du Sacré-Coeur completed in 1914. Is majestic and considered holy ground. They also ask that you please don't take pictures while inside, please be respectful.

Basilique du Sacré-Coeur completed in 1914. Is majestic and considered holy ground. They also ask that you please don’t take pictures while inside, please be respectful.

TIP # 7 Want to visit the Arc de Triomphe? Please don’t try to cross the street to get to it. There is an underground walkway which will get you there safely. Do I think it’s worth spending the extra money to go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe? No.

Arc de Triomphe. Napoleon I's triumphant Arc to commemorate France's victory in battle.

Arc de Triomphe. Napoleon I’s triumphant Arc to commemorate France’s victory in battle.

You’ll still get to see the Arc up close from the ground.

TIP # 8 While you’ll be lucky to find most people or waiters can speak English, please try to speak a little bit of French. I used Duolingo to help me prepare best for France. Here are some of the words I lived by in France:
Yes = Oui
No = Non
Excuse me = Excusez – Moi
Hello = Bonjour
Goodbye = Au revoir
Please = S’il vous plaît
Thank you = Merci
Good night/evening = Bonsoir
Sorry = Pardon
Do you have a bathroom? = Avez – vous une salle de bain?
Where are the restrooms? = Où sont les toilettes?
A table for two please = Une table pour deux, s’il vous plaît
The check/bill please = L’addition, s’il vous plaît
Do you speak English/Spanish? Parlez-vous anglais/ Espagnol?
I love you = Je t’aime

TIP # 9 Many times wine is cheaper to drink than H2O. My tip to avoid dehydration while you’re getting your wine life fulfilled, buy water at a local market or store. You’ll need plenty of it while you’re wandering around Paris. After all, this is the best way to see the city. Don’t be afraid to get lost. Go off the map, just don’t forget to drink water.

TIP # 10 The most Important tip, is to wear good walking shoes.

I went with these Clarks Wave Walk shoes. Great purchase on my behalf.

I went with these Clarks Wave Walk shoes. Great purchase on my behalf.

It’s easy to walk up to 5 miles a day in Paris. Women in Paris do not wear heels. Flats are completely acceptable anywhere and everywhere you go in Paris. My best advice, break in your walking shoes before you go. Having comfortable shoes will make all the difference in determining how much you can or can’t see in one day. Keep your feet happy and the rest of your trip will be happy.

Maybe it's because it's, The Flame of Liberty, which sits above where Princess Diana tragically died. Maybe, it's because of the view of the Eiffel Tower from here. Maybe, it's because of the lovers in the picture, but it was a beautiful day and moment to be captured.

Maybe it’s because it’s, The Flame of Liberty, which sits above where Princess Diana tragically died. Maybe, it’s because of the view of the Eiffel Tower from here. Maybe, it’s because of the lovers in the picture, but it was a beautiful day and moment to be captured.

Paris means something different for each person who goes there for the first time or tenth time. While my husband has been going to Paris, since he was a teenager, even he discovers something new each time he goes. One thing I know, while, this may have been my first Parisian experience, I’m certain it won’t be my last. As my darling, Audrey Hepburn said, “Paris is always a good idea.”

Our 1st fight

I have a confession to make. Two weeks after becoming married, I stopped wearing my engagement ring. Well, this caused me and my newlywed husband, to have our 1st marital disagreement.

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My engagement ring on our wedding day. Photo by: Melissa Mercado Photography

Let me explain. I love love my engagement ring. I also love my wedding band. While my engagement ring is perfect and beautiful, I didn’t feel the need to wear it, everyday. I spend most of my days at home cooking, cleaning, and writing. I usually only leave our place to go shopping.

I always take my rings off when cleaning, working out, or going into the pool/ocean. I take great care of them, because they do mean so much to me.

One day, at dinner, two weeks after becoming married, I pointed out to my husband I wasn’t wearing my ring. This wasn’t the first time I had gone without my engagement ring, since we had become married. I honestly didn’t think it was a big deal. I was still wearing my wedding band. His reaction was unexpected. I figured he wouldn’t care, but I was wrong. He cared a great deal. He was offended.

I never before thought what the ring meant to him. He put time, love, and effort into picking out the best ring for me. After a woman is gifted her engagement ring it all becomes about her, and the wedding day.

I don’t know how to explain this, but it’s never been about the ring for me. After we became engaged, I wasn’t that girl posting pictures of my ring on social media. I never wanted anyone to think it was about getting that ring, it never was for me. It has always been about the love and the promise of a lifetime with this Incredible man. I wanted the focus to be on that, and not the Bling.

I’ve always said, I would be happy with a nice gold band. I never told my husband about diamonds. We never went looking at diamond rings. My husband gifted me with a beautiful diamond engagement ring from Tiffany and Co. Of course, when he proposed, I immediately fell in love with it. I continue to receive lovely compliments about it, which I sincerely appreciate. Like most newly engaged women, I would immediately stick my hand out after we told someone we had gotten engaged.

About a month after being engaged, we went to a restaurant. My husband knew the waitress. He told her we recently became engaged, because he was also a proud fiancé. I did the normal “here look at my ring” hand gesture.  She had also recently become engaged. She showed us her ring, and her diamond was tiny. In that moment, she showed me, reminded me, no matter the size, it’s about the love. She was just as excited about her engagement. She was just as in love with her fiancé. That’s when I decided to stop showing off my ring to people when we told them about our engagement. I never want to be the kind of woman that would unintentionally make another woman feel bad about what she was gifted. Everyone’s love deserves to be celebrated, not just the ring.

Back to our 1st newlywed disagreement. I never stopped to think about what my engagement ring meant to my husband. He looked for months at different places. He asked friends opinions about rings he was looking at for me. He had to sneak around and find time when we weren’t together. He even downloaded the Tiffany and Co. application on his phone. He made people promise not to tell me he was looking at rings, because he wanted it to be a true surprise, which it was. This ring not only meant an eternal promise, but also his pride on picking out the most perfect ring for me. Finally, I had to put myself in his shoes. I had to take into account how special it really was to the man who has loved and supported me. After dinner, I went and put my engagement ring back on. I always make sure to wear my rings together.

I Love this man. Our wedding day with both my rings and hands around him. Photo by: Melissa Mercado Photography

I Love this man. Our wedding day with both my rings and hands around him. Photo by: Melissa Mercado Photography

The best part of marriage is learning how to have those disagreements, and being able to see something from someone else’s perspective. I think that’s called growth, right? In our 1st disagreement, I’ll admit it, my husband was right.