Browsing Tag

Summer 2015


Chanel Les Beiges Glossimers and Healthy Glow Hydrating Lip Balm

July 10, 2015

Chanel launched a Les Beiges Collection earlier this summer. I picked up the items from the collection a couple months ago before I left for Europe, took photos and swatches but didn’t have time to edit (by now fall beauty has already started to hit counters!). I thought I’d share some quick thoughts on the lips and nails from the collection (nail polish swatches to be posted soon). There are three new lip items in this year’s Les Beiges:

All three are light in color without shimmer. Pigment and coverage is sheer to medium – not so sheer that they are invisible on the lips, but still pretty light. I’m in love with all three colors. They give the lips the perfect wash of effortless color. Polished and natural.

For the glossimers, you may find similar colors or dupes. I’m a sucker for the lush glossy sheen Chanel Glossimers give the lips. Beige Star is very pretty – it’s a your lips but better kind of gloss and covers the lip entirely. Rose Tendre is a sheer milky pink that goes on smoothly – many milky pinks tend to settle into my lip lines and are chalky looking (I have pigmented lips) but Rose Tendre goes on perfectly. It’s my favorite milky pink gloss to date. Right now it appears both are permanent, but I’m not 100% sure.

For the Healthy Glow Hydrating Lip Balm, I expected it to be transparent on the lips. On the back of my hand it looks really pale and usually pale lip balms wash out once they go on my lips. No. 10 however gives sheer to medium even coverage. It is lighter than my natural lip color so I find when it fades I have a pale rim on the outer portion and a darker middle. Lasting power can be extended by lining the lips and filling them in with a beige lipliner (I’ll have swatches below of some good light ones). In terms of hydration – it moisturizes the lips, but similar to the way Rouge Coco Shines do. It’s emollient, glossy and feels nice without sliding off – I’m not sure I can really tell if there are true moisturizing properties in it. The good thing is it doesn’t make my lips peel.

Two sets of swatch comparisons below, first to other glosses and then a few lipliners.

Bobbi Brown Illuminating Nudes Gloss in Almost Nude
NARS Lip Gloss in Guyane swatched here
Chanel Rose Reve Glossimer swatched here (discontinued)
NARS Christopher Kane Gloss in Nucleus review here
Zelens Lip Glaze in Rose swatched here (c/o)
Chanel Glossimer in Sweet Beige lip swatch here
Marc Jacobs Enamored Hi Shine in Pretty Thing review here (c/o)
NARS Lip Gloss in Belize

Chanel Precision Lip Liners in Natural, Beige Satin and Beige Innocent
Marc Jacobs (P)Outliner in Honeybun (swatched) (c/o)

If you’re a neutral lip lover, I think you will adore the Glossimers. The Lip Balm is lovely but given the size and pigment, I think it’s overpriced. That being said I don’t have anything like it in terms of the lightness of color but smooth coverage. Your mileage may vary depending on your skin tone and natural lip color. I was surprised at how much I liked it on the lips, but I don’t love it enough to feel the need to buy a backup.

You can find the Les Beiges Collection at Chanel counters now. Online at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and


Diptyque South Coast Plaza + SEVI Towel Event, Saturday July 11

July 10, 2015

This Saturday July 11th from 1 to 4 pm, there will be a summer event at Diptyque South Coast Plaza.  They’ve teamed up with SEVI Towel to host a Trunk Show featuring showcase SEVI’s Turkish Beach Towels and fresh summer scents from the Diptyque Les Eaux Collection. There will be Sugarfina treats, Teavana teas served, along with wine and champagne. At the event you’ll be able to meet SEVI’s founder Jennifer Soliman (you can read her story on the Tory Burch Blog).

There will be a Diptyque gift with purchase available and a step up. With any $150 purchase you will receive:
A canvas Diptyque Tote
One mini candle
One sampler fragrance set
A Sugarfina $10 gift card

With a $200 purchase you will get both candles and fragrance sampler sets (while supplies last).

Below, a sneak peek of the SEVI Linen Turkish Towels and the gift in the middle. SEVI will be launching a brand new towel at the store as well. I haven’t seen it yet in person but she’s posted a sneak peek on her instagram @sevitowel.

I was lucky to get a first hand sneak peek of one the SEVI Linen Towels – it has a lightweight soft and fluid texture. I wish I had this for my Europe trip. It rolls up into a compact roll and makes the perfect coverup for the beach.

To recap:
Event Saturday July 11
1 to 4 pm
Drinks and treats will be served

Call the store (714) 850-9995 to RSVP 
I will be stopping by on Saturday, if you are attending – let me know! 
Christian Louboutin

Christian Louboutin Beauté Scarabée

July 9, 2015

Christian Louboutin Beauté released a new limited-edition Scarabée Collection inspired by Louboutin’s love of Egypt. There are three colors ($50 each) that have a soft shimmery multi-dimensional chrome effect. I saw the preview of these while I was in Europe. On our last day in Paris one of the Louvre Carousel Shops had the three new colors on display. I didn’t purchase them there but ordered them online and they arrived at my home the same day I came back to the US. Below you can see the three new colors at the top of the display along with all the nudes, pops and noirs. (For reference all the nudes reviewed and swatched here.)

All three come cased in a pretty brown carton embossed with a gold
scarab motif on the outside. The handles are lacquered with a coat of
warm gold colored caps. Each color flashes different colors as you move
your hand and the lacquer reflects with the light. In the bottles they
look duo-chrome which can look sharp once you apply them on the nails.
On the hands the color softens because the shimmer is very fine and all
the colors blend together beautifully. All are metallics but brush
strokes aren’t visible and the application is very smooth. Colors are sheer with the first coat with a jelly finish. Two coats gives full coverage but three coats will make the color deeper and richer. I’ve swatched each color with two coats.

Scarabée I is described as a soft metallic flecked with shades of rose and gold
Scarabée II is described as a deep blue with flashes of purple, emerald and gold
Scarabée II is described as a bronze with highlights of green and blue

Louboutin shot a few fun collage images for each shade. I’ll include one for each color along with a close up and swatches. Scarabée I is a warm rose gold. It’s iridescent and flashes a tiny bit of gold and olive depending on how the light hits the nails. On the fingers it’s like a pink red sunset.

Scarabée II is a metallic teal blue. I thought it would be similar to Chanel Azure or Bel-Argus. It has a similar vibe but it’s more of a cross between the two with less visible brush strokes. I’m wearing this right now on the toes and it’s a fun color for summer. It has a teal base with flashes of purple and deep blue and some silver.

Scarabée III is a stunning warm bronze gold with hints of olive shimmer. I thought it would be a dupe for Chanel Peridot, but it’s actually noticeably different. (Comparison swatches below.) I have a hard time pulling off anything with green or yellow undertones on my nails because it makes my olive skin look sallow or yellow. Scarabée III is quite pretty.

Comparison swatches below:

Louboutin Scarabée I
Rescue Beauty Lounge Elvis in the Cloud (swatched here)
Rescue Beauty Lounge Bonne Journée (swatched here)
Louboutin Scarabée II
Chanel Azure and Bel-Argus (discontinued, reviewed here)
Louboutin Scarabée III
Chanel Peridot (discontinued)
Chanel Alchimie (reviewed here)

At $50 each, Louboutin Polishes are a luxurious splurge. They are extremely pricey but I am really happy and pleased with all three shades I purchased. I found each of the three colors unique with a really smooth easy to apply formula. The texture is the perfect density for thin coats that are easy to layer. The dry time is fairly quick and two to three coats gives the nails a lush glossy lacquered look. I can’t pick a favorite out of the three although the teal blue Scarabée II keeps catching my eye (I have it on my toes and keep staring at them). All three are limited-edition colors and I suspect they will sell out (a quick search shows some have already sold out on a few sites). You can find them at Louboutin Beaute retailers. Online while supplies last at Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Christian Louboutin.

Have you checked out the Scarabée Collection yet? What did you think? Did you splurge on any?

Mediterranean Travel

Traveling Through the Mediterranean: Greece and Turkey

July 8, 2015

The last part of our Europe trip was through the Mediterranean. We took a seven day cruise from Athens through the Greek Isles to Istanbul. This was the first time I have experienced a cruise – we booked our trip with Celebrity Cruises on the Equinox. We boarded the ship in Athens, spent a day at sea, and then had day stops in Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini, Kusadasi and Istanbul and were at sea each evening. The Equinox was an impressive ship – standing at the port and looking up it was hard to believe the entire structure was floating in the water (there were 16 decks). The ship was well maintained and the staff kept it extremely clean. It was nice to be able to relax and unwind each night after our day trips. I do think in terms of having time to explore, cruises can be limiting since your time in each city is limited from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Still it was a nice way to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. All the islands we stopped at were beautiful. The water was so bright and clear. Beaches were so beautiful – I loved how they were all organized. I wish I could be on a permanent vacation in Mykonos, I hope to visit again someday. My heart goes out to all who live in Greece due to the financial crisis!

We spent one day in Athens before we boarded our cruise which was enough time to walk around the city, visit the Acropolis and enjoy some delicious Greek food. I stopped in a few pharmacies to see how they compared to those in Paris and Rome. There are a lot of similarities in the setup, but the pharmacies in Athens carry different brands and sometimes items more similar to American drugstores rather than just health and beauty products. We took a hop-on-hop-off bus through Athens. A few photos from our day there.

Rhodes was our first stop. We didn’t plan anything in advance and taking any buses or tours to Lindos would take up a significant amount of time. We decided to walk around the port area and enjoy the beaches nearby. We stopped by the Palace of the Grand Master and walked around the streets. I wish we could have spent an extra day here to see more.

Above with my Longchamp Small Tote which I carried around with me for our vacation. It was the perfect size to carry essentials including my camera, wallet, tickets. It was lightweight but roomy. At times I was able to fit in a sweater, my husband’s jacket and a water bottle inside. The zip top closure was perfect to keep everything tucked away and safe. I didn’t have to worry about pickpockets with it zipped closed.

Mykonos was my favorite place out of all the islands we visited. We took a local bus to Elia Beach which was only 4 euros each for a round trip (compared to the cruise beach transfers priced at $50 each). It was approximately a 20 minute drive from the port to the beach. I hope to go back again to visit and spend more time here. We only had enough time to visit the beach for about 4 hours and have lunch before we had to head back to the ship.

Santorini was the place I was most excited to visit. My feelings about our trip were mixed though (scroll down and you will see why). The day we visited there were four other cruise ships in port at the same time making everything extremely packed and busy. We went to the Perivolos Beach which is a black sand beach. It was really hot and the sand felt like it burned the feet but the water was nice and warm. Santorini is such a beautiful place – one day is not enough to see much of anything but we had a lot of fun at the beach.

To reach the town, they ferried us to a dock where buses go up a steep,
windy and narrow road up the cliffs. To get back down to the ship, there
are cable cars and also steps down the cliff where they have donkeys.
By 3:45 pm, the lines for the cable cars were extremely long. After
waiting 30 minutes, the line didn’t seem like it was moving so my
husband decided we should just walk down. I read about the steps ahead
of time and insisted on waiting in line for the cars. My husband left
for a few minutes to check it out, came back and said “they aren’t bad at all and the steps are really wide” so I said ok. If you google “Santorini donkey steps” you will see that the steps are wide, but extremely steep, slippery and dangerous. We were almost run over by donkeys multiple times. My husband insists that he saw 3 year olds and 60+ year olds going down the hill with no problem. For me it was 500+ steps of pure terror as I have a fear of heights. It took us over an hour to walk down because I was so slow. We heard later from others on our ship that the cable car line was up to 3 hours for some people. If you visit Santorini – I do not recommend walking down the hill.

Above to the right, if you click on the image you might be able to see the cable cars. The arrow points to the steep zigzag cliff we walked down. I seriously thought I was going to die.

Our last stops were in Turkey. We stopped by Kusadasi, Ephesus and Istanbul. My husband is in love with Turkish Coffee. I was amazed to see wild cats and dogs everywhere. I wanted to take some of the cats home with me. At one of the restaurants there was a black kitten under our table. We fed him some of our kebabs.

Below: Kusadasi, Blue Mosque, Ephesus, Turkish Coffee + Cafe Latte

Sailing into the port at Istanbul

Hagia Sophia

 Parrots in the Topkapi Gardens

 Topkapi Palace Gardens

A few more shots from our cruise:

Above: Havaianas, Rayban Aviators, Marc by Marc Jacobs Rimless Aviators, Longchamp Small Tote, Gray Malin iPhone 5 case (discontinued, but 6 cases here), Dior Sundown, Korres Sunscreen

My favorite bronzer Edward Bess Daydream

I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to travel to Europe and visit so many beautiful places. I haven’t visited Europe since 2001 – this trip was long overdue. Out of all the places we visited, my top two favorites were Paris and Mykonos. I can’t wait to visit again – I am hoping we will be able to do another trip somewhere in Europe next spring.

Have you been to Greece or Turkey? What should I add to my travel wish list?


His and Hers Travel Essentials: Skincare and Fragrance

July 6, 2015
I’ve been working on a three-part series focusing on travel and packing. I’ll be sharing what I packed for a three week trip through Europe – all of which I fit into a travel backpack and a medium-sized nylon tote. I would say about 1/4 to 1/3 of my luggage contents consisted of beauty products (primarily skincare and sunscreen). Part one is going to cover skincare, bodycare and fragrance. Part two will focus on makeup. Part three will cover a full list of all the items I fit inside my bags and thoughts on surviving three weeks in Europe with a carry-on.
Up first is skincare, body care and fragrance in a his and hers overview. For me packing skincare is a challenge with the liquid restrictions for carry-on bags. I almost always do a carry-on because I find it easier and less stressful compared to lugging large suitcases or waiting for items at the baggage claim. Most US airlines allow for slightly larger carry-on suitcases compared to the airlines in Europe. I tried to keep my list of beauty products as edited as possible. Thankfully my husband didn’t have a lot he had to pack in terms of liquids so I borrowed some of his space.
First some quick thoughts and options on how to pack your liquids. I’ve done several travel features in the past. Most of my trips have been around 1 week long so I usually just pack liquids in a traditional ziploc bag. You can see how I fit everything in this post here and also this one here. Ziplocs vary in durability depending on what kind you have. I’ve had several break on me so I usually try to bring a backup although some airports have disposable ones at the security gate. This round I knew that a ziploc wouldn’t last 3 weeks so I looked for some more durable options that are flight approved. I found a good option on Amazon from Flight001 and also a few from Muji.
Muji has two flight-approved options called the TPU Clear Case which measures W11 x D18.5 x H4 cm. Another options is a flat zip pouch called the TPU Clear Case S which measures 19.5 x 16 cm. For other items like passports, cards, currency etc. we really liked the EVA Zip Pouches from Muji. They have ones that are a bit frosted but clear and then others that are completely clear. The one at the Top/Middle is the EVA Zip Case B4 which my husband and I really liked for currency and passports. We used some of the others for tour or bus tickets. Having things separated in a few pouches for day trips makes it easy to find things quickly.

I also ordered a bunch of the travel-sized containers from Muji – there are a lot of different options and sizes. I filled mine with moisturizer, foundation and other creams (I threw a few away on the trip as the products were used up).

The bottom right case is the Flight001 Clear Carry-On Quart Bag which says “carry-on approved.” It does seem to fit a lot more than a flat ziploc because of the depth (it measures 2 x 5 x 7.1 inches; 2.1 ounces). It’s very sturdy and durable. For flying within the US you should be completely ok using this. In Europe your mileage may vary depending on security. I had one upset agent at the airport security when flying from Paris to Rome. One agent didn’t want to let it through. There was a mini discussion between three agents about the liquids, two of them inspected the labels on all the bottles to make sure they were under the 100ml limit and let me through although the first one was still visibly upset about it. 

Different bags side by side for size comparison. We used the Muji case in the middle and Flight001 at the bottom for our liquids. The others were used for non-liquid travel items. Ziploc included below for size reference only.
Note, the bottom left zip Muji pouch is sold empty, the above featured pouch was filled with cotton and q-tips from my own collection for size reference

Onto the travel products we brought with us. I brought three sheet masks with me including one Tatcha Deep Hydration Mask and two SK-II Facial Treatment Masks. I used all three. Since it was very hot and warm in Paris, Rome and all through Greece, I could have skipped these as my skin did not need any additional moisture. They were still nice to have but for summer I would say they aren’t must-haves. For body/fragrance, I brought along the Lavanila Pure Vanilla Deoderant which lasts all day long and doesn’t leave any white or sticky residue. (There is a mini travel-size option available too in one scent.)

For body sunscreen, I fell in love with the Korres Suncreen Spray with SPF 50 that we found in a pharmacy in Athens. It is easy to apply and helped tremendously – we didn’t get any sunburns when we used this although we did still get quite a bit darker (some areas it was impossible to avoid the sun). I wish Korres would bring back their full line to the US – I always loved their body lotions and shower gels which were really good for my super sensitive skin. You can find the SPF 30 version at Asos, otherwise it seems pretty impossible to find in the US.

Another sunscreen I tried on our trip was the Supergoop! Sun-Defying Sunscreen Oil Broad Spectrum SPF 50 in the mini size from Sephora. I am extremely sensitive to body sunscreens – I get an allergic reaction to most and end up with red bumps all over my arms and legs with most. This one from Supergoop! proved to be gentle enough for me for the body (I can’t say how it works on the face). It’s lightweight and absorbs quickly into the skin. You don’t feel greasy or oily after applying it. The scent is very light unlike other sunscreens. I like that they have a small travel size option – even though it worked for me, I recommend you patch test first before applying all over.

For other body and fragrance items, I packed my By Terry Baume de Rose Crystal Gloss for my daily lip balm treatment. In Paris I picked up a cute Hand and Lip Duo from Nuxe (also available online, on sale in July). I had a mini Huile Prodigieuse from an online order that I brought with me although one of the hotels in Paris that we stayed at had these as toiletries. I brought the Tatcha Indigo Hand Cream mini with me as it’s one of my top picks for hand creams – it’s a must if you get dry skin from flights. For perfume I picked up a roll-on L’Artisan La Chasse Aux Papillons Rollerball in Paris although it looks like they just started carrying it in the US too. I brought one mini L’Artisan Mûre et Musc Extrême with me for the trip – so after the end of the first week, I had two perfumes to alternate.
For face skincare and other liquids, I probably could have skipped all the foundation. Most of the days it was very warm and too hot for any makeup. I think I wore makeup on only 1/2 of the trip. I did not bring any concealer with me and didn’t miss it at all. Left to right includes: Tatcha One-Step Cleansing Oil (travel size), Chanel UV Essential SPF 50, Chanel Sublimage SPF 50 (exclusive to Europe right now, I picked this up in Paris), Chanel CC Cream in 40 Beige (swatches here), NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer Travel Size in St. Moritz, MAC Prep +  Prime Blemish Control Gel, Muji Containers filled with moisturizer and toner, minis of Chanel Hydra Beauty Micro Sérum and Makeup Remover, Tatcha Indigo Rice Enzyme Powder travel size, First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser mini size (from Sephora Beauty Insider points).

For my husband’s skincare and fragrance, he brought a few staples. He packed his L’Occitane Cade Plisson Razor and Shaving Cream Duo. The L’Occitane Shaving Cream is one of the few he can use. Most other creams won’t prevent razor burn. Chanel Bleu de Chanel is his go-to cologne, he loves the travel size versions because you can refill them. (Refills are available at, travel options also come in the Allure Homme Sport Eau Extreme and Allure Homme Sport scents). We shared sunscreens throughout the trip to see which one was sweat proof and water proof. We found it too hot for anything to be truly sweat proof although he really liked the Korres Sunscreen because of the dry down. Most others felt oily to him.

Also in his packed bag included the L’Occitane Cedrat Stick Deodorant (c/o). He rarely tries new ones because they often make his skin peel, this one from L’Occitane is non-sticky and free of alcohol or aluminum salts and dried quickly. It lasted all day on him even in the hot summer heat. Other staples he brought in his bag included a tube of the small travel-sized Jack Black Turbo Wash, Dream Team Duo which has a small Face Moisturizer with SPF 20 and Deep Dive Glycolic Face Cleanser. At our local Target he picked up a travel tube of Banana Boat Sport Sunscreen (I can’t use this because it make my skin blow up, his skin is tougher though and it works just fine for him).
Last but not least, he brought his pot of the Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Heavy Lifting Eye Repair eye cream. He’s almost finished with this one (it’s his second pot) and likes it enough to repurchase a third time. Although if you have any good eye cream recommendations for men, he says he would really appreciate any recs.

Items we skipped and bought and threw out along the way included shampoo, body soap, toothpaste, mouthwash and other things you can find in hotels. So how did it all last for us during our three week trip? I ran out of my face cleanser and makeup remover by Day 8 (when we were in Rome). Luckily I had a few extra minis from Paris that sales associates threw in from the Chanel counter so I could take off eye makeup. For face cleanser, after I ran out, I used my husband’s Jack Black Deep Dive. I found out that he somehow managed to pack two, one in the clear bag, one buried somewhere in his clothing. I could have limited myself to one foundation product – the CC cream offered good coverage with high SPF but it felt a bit thick in super hot weather. During the trip we were exposed to a lot of sun – there was no avoiding it. I wore long sleeved lightweight tees to protect my arms but most of the time it was too hot for anything but tank tops or short sleeved tees.
What I missed: I missed a lot of my face masks, especially the purifying ones. I had a few minis I thought about bringing with me but decided against it because of the limited packing space. I also missed my nail polishes. I did buy one polish on my trip (Dior Sundown) and had a manicure refresh half way through our trip. I also missed all of the shower gels I alternate between at home. I am more of a shower gel person versus bar soap, but most of the hotels had nice ones to try out. One last thing I missed included hair products. I skipped bringing all gels, creams and pomades. 
Do you have any packing tips for liquid skincare/bodycare and fragrance products? Any other tips or advice you want to share for carry-on travelers?
The L’Occitane Cedrat Deodorant was provided for review consideration. Post also includes mini gift with purchase items from various events or retail point programs including the Chanel minis, First Aid Beauty cleanser and Nuxe mini oil. All other items purchased by me.
Italy Travel

Four Days in Italy: Rome, Vatican and Pompeii

July 2, 2015

Italy was our next stop in Europe during our June vacation. We took a quick 2 hour flight from Paris to Rome via Vueling. I’m always amazed at how easy it is travel within Europe via air. We spent four days in Rome in a hotel near the Spanish Steps. Our first day there we my husband downloaded an audio walking tour onto his phone and we set out to explore Rome on foot on our own. It was a very relaxing way to see a lot of things in Rome at our own pace. The week we visited Rome it was very hot and sunny during the day at 28 to 31 ºC (82 to 87 ºF). Three of the four days it was too hot to wear any makeup – I only wore sunscreen on my face. It rained on and off in warm showers but it was more of a light sprinkle.

Walking through Rome felt like we stepped back in time. Ruins and monuments were everywhere and it felt like the entire city was almost like an outdoor museum. Many of the buildings were going through renovations and construction and partially covered, but it was still beautiful to see everything. Most of the Trevi Fountain was covered with scaffolding and the entire area was fenced off.

Our week in Rome was planned more for adventure versus relaxation. Two of the four days were spent hiking and biking outside the city. The areas and sites we visited included the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, Appian Way, Roman Forums, Trevi Fountain, Palatine Hill, and the Pantheon. We also took a day trip to Naples to visit Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius.


It was really interesting seeing the differences in architecture in Rome after visiting Paris. There are similarities in the classic style that you see throughout the city. The streets in Rome are small and narrow. I was surprised to see that the alleys in between buildings were actually roads – I was seriously impressed to see cars and vans maneuver their way through the tiny roads without hitting motorcycles, other cars, or pedestrians. Many of the cafe tables and chairs were laid out right along the alley – cars would drive up right next to them as they went through the streets.

Beautiful colorful buildings

Some snapshots of Rome

 Roman Forum


Entry to our hotel on Via Vittoria

We used the iRooms which are more like floors rented out in apartment buildings throughout the city in different buildings. This one is the one near the Spanish Steps. We had a pleasant stay and the rooms were clean with good air conditioning. WiFi was pretty good but we were too tired each night to do any work or internet surfing. Service was excellent but I personally prefer traditional hotels. Our room was used just mainly for sleeping since we spent most of our days outside walking or touring, otherwise I would have felt better if our room had usable windows. (More reviews via TripAdvisor.)

Across the street was the cutest cafe called La Buvette. We ate breakfast here and they had the best café latte that I’ve had in my entire life. Both my husband and I enjoyed breakfast Italian style where you order a drink and pastry at the counter and eat/drink standing up. Note if you’re new to visiting Europe, an American Latte isn’t the same in Europe. If you order a “latte” in Rome, you will only get milk. Ask for a Café Latte. The ones in Rome are truly amazing. My husband enjoyed the cappuccinos.

Food in Rome was pure heaven for me as Italian food is my favorite. I could live off pasta and pizza 24/7. The Italians know how to cook pasta perfectly al dente which is firm but still fully cooked. I wish I took more pictures or note of the restaurants we visited. This pizzeria called La Montecarlo was recommended by our tour guide. She said it was the best pizza in Rome. Both my husband and I really enjoyed the food here. I would go back in a heartbeat.

My favorite place out of all the places we went to in Rome was this restaurant called Gusto. There are several variations of the restaurant all within the same block. There is a cafe for drinks and desserts, an outdoor casual cafe, an area just for pizza and a more formal dining area (although the dress isn’t formal). We ate here twice for dinner – it was that good.

My favorite place was this gelato and candy store called Venchi. I wish I had bought more candy at this store, best chocolates I’ve ever had. This was a rare moment when it wasn’t packed. It was close to our hotel room and every time we walked by there was a line out the door.

In terms of shopping, we didn’t do much. I took a few snapshots of the Valentino windows. I purchased some bath cubes from L’Occitane because I thought they were mini soaps. Oops! Zara seemed very popular – I wish I had stopped inside a few but it was so hot we were in no mood to do any clothes shopping.

For tours we booked three with City Wonders. In general we were happy with the tours. They were easy to find, tour guides were friendly, One was a day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius which we both really enjoyed. We had three different guides all of which were excellent. The day we went was extremely hot but we both had a lot of fun. Pompeii was incredible. Mount Vesuvius was the highlight of the trip for my husband. I was ok climbing up the hill. It took about 45 minutes to walk to the third gift shop which is the farthest they will let you walk without a special guide. Walking down the hill was another story – to say I have a fear of heights is an understatement – my husband had to hold my hand the entire way down (yes, I’m a big chicken).


Mount Vesuvius

Another tour we booked was the Vatican City and Colosseum Duo. We were happy to be able to see both but given the crowds and heat, the tour guides moved us at a fast pace. The heat was unbearable, we almost gave up in the middle of one to skip it, but we stuck with it to walk through the Roman Forum. If you are planning a visit to Rome in the summer, I would recommend checking the weather patterns first before visiting. If it’s in the middle of summer, you might want to consider a night tour where it’s not as hot. St. Peter’s Basilica is amazing – we wanted to visit the catacombs but the tours were booked.

Below is St Peter’s Basilica

Last but not least is the highlight of our trip which was biking through the Appian Way with Top Bike Rentals. This was in the top two of my husband’s list and although I’m not a fan of biking I decided to try it anyways. I gave a sneak preview in my overview post but to recap, there are a number of bike tours through Rome. We both picked the E-bikes which I highly recommend – they don’t have motors but are basically assisted bikes which make it really easy to bike up hills. The tours are very well organized. We took a group tour which had about 10-12 people in it. We biked from center city Rome about 20 minutes to the Appian Way. Before you start biking everything is fitted and adjusted for you and then they take you to a small area to practice as a group. We took the Ancient Appian Way tour that takes you through the Aqueducts Park and St. Callisto Catacombs.

A few more snapshots of Rome

We both fell in love with Rome. June is the beginning of tourist season though so every place we visited was extremely busy and packed (although it was expected for the tourist spots). We considered spending another week in Venice at the end of our trip to be our vacation from our vacation but were concerned about planning too much for one trip so it’s been added to our wishlist for upcoming years.

I have my packing post coming up soon but some have asked what shoes I ended up taking with me on the trip. I had two pairs I narrowed down my picks to: these Nike Pre-Montreal shoes and these Puma Suede sneakers. Both are very comfortable – I think hands down Nike is almost always a good pick because of comfort (I usually go up 1/2 a size). Pumas are true to size for me. I brought the Pumas and it took about 2 days to break in. They do run narrow but I have really narrow feet so if yours are normal to wide you probably will want to try something different. The Pumas worked well for street walking, biking, hiking up the dirt and gravel paths and also walking on slippery cobblestone roads. I would have liked to wear prettier shoes (like nice flats) but they wouldn’t have survived in Rome. I saw a lot of women (both Italians and tourists) wearing ankle-strap sandals that looked similar in style to like these Franco Sarto, these Steve Maddens and these Sam Edelmans. I considered taking those kinds of styles with me on the trip but given the activities I planned I don’t think they would have worked for 1/2 of the things we did. If you have any shoe recommendations for travel in Europe I’m all ears for future trips.

Have you been to Rome before? Any favorites? For Italy any other favorite cities you visited and loved that I should add to my travel wishlist?

France Travel

Paris Photo Diary

June 30, 2015

Here are snapshots from my week in Paris. In the time I visited in June I tried make an effort to put my camera down to make sure I was able to just enjoy the sights, walks, food, people watching and soak in all the beauty that is in France. There are so many places I wish I had taken more pictures of but there are beautiful images in my mind that I will never forget. I’ve split these into different categories and some overview thoughts on Paris at the end.


We started and ended our trip in Paris. The first round we stayed in the Latin Quarter at Select Hotel. We picked hotels based on location, price and reviews. There were a few friends recommended but they were booked for the dates we planned on being in Paris. The hotel rooms were very small but it is something we expected and we thought it was actually really cute. Service was good and the rooms were very clean with good lighting. My husband requested a room that looked into the courtyard, we were on the third floor and right above several cafés but it wasn’t too noisy and we were able to sleep easily at night. Our room had a small tub with a shower handle. We liked that it seemed like it was updated and modern inside. You might find the reviews and photos on Trip Advisor helpful. We had a pleasant stay and liked that it was within walking distance to the Notre Dame Cathedral and several restaurants on our list. However most of the items on my Paris list were far – we walked a lot and this one was sometimes a 35 minute walk back to the hotel. It was nice to explore Paris by foot, but the first couple of days we had really sore feet.

Select Hotel at 1 Place de la Sorbonne

View from our room at the Select Hotel

On our trip back to the US we spent one night at Hotel Brighton on Rue de Rivoli right across from the Tuileries Garden. It’s also within close walking distance to a number of shops, minutes away from Angelina and the Louvre. I browsed through the Louis Vuitton Paris City Guide (which I really liked but my husband did not because it doesn’t have any pictures) and found this one. It seemed reasonable in price and also mentioned they stocked Nuxe toiletries and I was sold. Our room itself and the bathroom were both very spacious for Paris standards. The concierge and staff were all extremely friendly, helpful and polite. Location and service is excellent. We didn’t try the breakfast since Angelina was down the street. I would definitely consider going back to this one because of the location.

Paris stops
We stopped at a number of touristy places including the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Tuileries Garden, Jardin du Luxembourg, Sacré-Cœur. In our two trips we took two different hop-on-hop-off buses. We took them mainly as a means of getting around the city easily, at our own pace without having to worry about finding the metro stops or getting lost on different lines. For the tours, both have pre-recorded narration which isn’t great, but it’s a nice way to relax and see Paris from the second level of the bus. We used Big Bus Paris and Open Tour Paris. We preferred the routes of the Open Tour Bus because it seemed to have more variety. We also wanted to try the night tour but there was a musical festival so all the night routes were cancelled.

Arc de Triomphe

Eiffel Tower

 Louvre at night

 Louvre during the day – I recommend buying tickets ahead of time, also note there is more than one entrance to the Louvre, this blog post has them mapped out. We didn’t buy our tickets ahead of time but used the Carousel Entrance and wait time was only about 20 minutes.

Somewhere around the corner from Jardin du Luxembourg
Notre Dame Cathedral at night

Moulin Rouge

View from Sacre Coeur

Our favorite place to sit and relax in Paris, Tuileries Garden

A rare sight to see any empty chairs the days we were in Paris, it was sunny and hot the first week of June and the gardens were packed with people in the chairs, on some lawns, in the park cafes and along all the fountains.

We really liked the mini Paul kiosk in the middle of the Tuileries Garden/Louvre, the chocolate croissants were soooo good. I just about died after seeing the tiny cups. So cute!

Fashion and Accessories

The larger department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette both have a large selection of luxury clothing and accessories. I saw several Zara stores scattered around the city. Le Bon Marche shopping bags also seemed to be carried all around the city. I stopped by a few stores. Chanel on Rue Cambon and Hermes on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré were both extremely busy. I have never seen a Chanel store so packed. I quickly stopped inside the Goyard store on Rue Saint Honoré but it was very small and only one person appeared to be on the floor with the several customers waiting so I decided to skip it entirely since items can be purchased in the US.

 Tom Ford on Rue Saint Honoré

 Hermes Paris was so amazing, it’s like heaven inside, but there was a very long line for the purses. Still other areas had associates that were very helpful, patient and friendly.

 Fauré Le Page Boutique on Rue Cambon (there is also a store in Galeries Lafayette Haussmann), for more on this brand, check out The Purse Forum Fauré Le Page Thread or some posts on Feather Factor).

Louis Vuitton window in the 5th arrondisment

Trying new food, desserts and the coffee in Paris was probably the highlight of our vacation. We were surprised we didn’t gain weight while in Paris – it was probably a mix of lots of walking, healthier food and smaller portions compared to the US. Here are some of our favorite eats, macarons and cafes.


I’ve been dreaming about Angelina for years ever since I first saw pictures. I tried the hot chocolate based on recommendations – it’s truly out of this world. The tea is quite good too. We ate breakfast here twice. I think their butter croissants are the best I’ve ever had. I bought some of the hazelnut spread and jellies. After reading reviews of long lines we decided to try these early. On both occasions we did not have any wait time (as in maybe 5 minutes max from the time we walked in, looked around, were greeted and then seated) and we were really happy since we read about 45 minute lines.

Below is Pierre Hermé. Macaron lovers each have their favorite. I only tried two brands while in Paris. Pierre Hermé are truly very special. They have unique flavors and pretty patterns. They are super soft and moist. I bought a box of seven to take home to the US with me – they lasted only 1 hour on the airplane before I ate them all without realizing it. I can’t say whether or not they are better than Laduree, they are simply different. 

Bread and Roses was a cute little breakfast café within walking distance from our first hotel (Select Hotel). My husband picked this based on reviews from Trip Advisor. Everything was fresh and delicious. I had the quiche and it was to die for. They made him a mix of juice which had grapefruit, lemon and orange juice, I’m not sure if there is a specific name for it, but it was really really good. It’s located on 7 Rue de Fleurus (by the Luxembourg Garden).

Café Madeleine is a restaurant we stopped by because it was just around the corner from one of the bus stops. This one is on 1 Rue Tronchet. Our lunch here was phenomenal. They had the best lasagne I’ve ever had (it was on special). The potatoes were also really interesting – they were cut in a curved way so they were perfectly crisp on the outside but thick and fluffy in the middle. I joked with my husband once we finished lunch that we should come back in 30 minutes for dinner because it was so good. In the interest of exploring and trying as much as we could we didn’t go back.

Les Deux Magots (6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés) came highly recommended by a long-time friend. We both enjoyed dinner here. 

Right across from Les Deux Magots is Brasserie Lipp (151 Boulevard Saint-Germain), another phenomenal restaurant. We sat in the front on the covered patio. Reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp have all been mixed, we had a really good experience here. My favorite part was dessert. Also close by is Cafe de Flore which I was hoping to try but we never made it back to the area.

Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées was really fun. Trying the macarons was at the top of my list. We had breakfast there which was delicious. I fell in love with the Ladurée tea and bought two boxes to bring home with me and a couple of the chocolate bars (wish I had bought more than just tea!). Service was excellent and the ambiance was amazing. We sat in the front area inside the restaurant and had so much fun people watching. The macarons are very good. I was in heaven here.

On the nails, Dior Sunkissed (reviewed + swatched here)

Some more random pictures of Paris. I was completely head over heels in love with all the balconies.

We had a lovely time in Paris. In the 7 days we spent in total we felt like we saw a lot but paced ourselves well after the first day. You can get lost in the beauty of Paris – on the first day we lost track of time and walked everywhere and didn’t realize until 12 hours later we had walked too much. Our favorite place in Paris was the Tuileries Garden – it’s such a beautiful place to walk through. We liked the chairs scattered around and the trees offered shade on the really hot days.

On my wish list of places to see and visit, I didn’t get to all on my shopping list but it was something I expected. Paris was our first stop (out of a dozen) and I planned on window shopping or seeing things in person. As you can see from my overview post, we had a lot of flights and cities on our itinerary so I didn’t want to have to carry things all over Europe, plus our carry-on only situation limited what I decided to purchase. For the touristy spots, we skipped going up the Eiffel Tower – the lines were just too long and we opted for the Arc de Triomphe, Trocadero Square and Sacre Coeur all have really good views of Paris (some will argue better views compared to the Eiffel Tower). If your time in Paris is limited, I would say skip the Louvre and opt for one of the other museums if you want to do a 1/4-1/2 day in a museum. We walked through a few small ones that were beautiful. I do think the Louvre is must at least once, but it can get very crowded and busy.

For planning your trip to Paris, I do recommend mapping out all the sights, museums, shops and restaurants first before picking a hotel. We really enjoyed walking so it’s nice to have a hotel within close walking distance. I’ve been told the metro is easy to navigate once you figure it out. Both my husband and I are familiar with underground subways in a number of cities (both in the US and internationally) but we preferred to walk above ground. Subways can get very crowded and we wanted to avoid any possible pickpocket situations.

In terms of planning in general this trip was kind of last minute. We did a couple months of research about hotels and flights about 2 months before we left, but didn’t finalize our plans until 2 weeks before we left and didn’t book our flight or hotel until 8 days before we left. We had a long list of places to visit and kept trying to figure out how to make everything work in a month’s time. We cut out a stay in London, New York and Venice which is why we waited so long to pull the trigger to book our tickets. For planning I think every one is different. Even with our last minute planning everything worked out just fine. Of all the cities Paris is the one where I think you can go without any plans and enjoy the city everyday just simply by picking a place on the map and going there whether it’s by foot, taxi or metro.

If there is one thing I regret not doing, it’s not waiting to buy a few pairs of Repetto flats in one of the stores. It was very busy and associates were helping multiple customers. After waiting about 15 minutes I realized it would probably be at least another 15 minutes before someone was free to assist. It was one of those moments where I thought to myself, “I’ll just come back later.” But there is always next time. 

Three blogs I found really helpful and fun to read while planning my Paris trip include World of Wanderlust, Café Makeup, Feather Factor. I highly recommend all three.

Hope you enjoyed these snapshots of Paris. I’ve received a number of questions about my carry-on, what specific items I brought with me for the trip, what I brought back to the US from Europe and hauls. All will be covered in upcoming posts. I’m organizing topics into different posts to make the reading easier to follow by category. Up next – Rome, stay tuned!