Friday, July 29, 2011

Being a Tourist in Your Hometown - Pittsburgh

After touring France for 6-weeks, it was a little hard, and a little weird, coming out of tourist-mode. What do I mean by that? Well, I mean the feeling where you wake up each morning hungry to see new things and appreciate them. At home, we generally just glaze over everything we normally see and never really appreciate it.

Double Sun
Source: knobil

My mom and sister decided to come up to Pittsburgh for a visit and I thought it was the perfect time to do some of the touristy things here in Pittsburgh that I've never done.

Arming myself with a few online guides (Iris' at BYOV, and Design Sponge's awesome guide) I made up an easy itinerary with plenty of downtime.

On Wednesday night when they arrived, we went to Point Brugges ("The Best Restaurant in Pittsburgh" according to Urbanspoon) for a late and delicious dinner.

On Thursday, we planned to stay around in the Oakland area with a quick tour of the Cathedral of Learning (aka, Hogwarts), the Heinz Chapel, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, with lunch at Ali Baba and dessert at Razzy Fresh.

It was a really fun day!

Source: brunkfordbraun / Curtis McCormick

The Cathedral of Learning is always interesting to visitors because it is so church-like and yet it isn't a church. The themed rooms are particularly interesting as well as the fact that they still have classes in them!

Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel
Source: zachstern

The Heinz Chapel is right next to the Cathedral of Learning so it's easy to stop in for a quick peek. The chapel is beautiful, and almost everyone I've ever met who has been married in Pittsburgh was married here.

Across the street is the gigantic structure of the Carnegie Museums - I believe there are four? I never knew that all the buildings were actually connected! After visiting so many amazing museums in Europe, I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the art collection, but I was actually impressed! They had a lot of great pieces, and it was a well-curated collection.


My mom was really interested in the Hand Made exhibit and I really enjoyed the crazy sculptures that were in there.

Paul Signac - Place des Lices, St. Tropez

However, by far my favorite painting was the one above. When I saw it, it was only numbered, and I thought to myself how much it reminded me of the crazy trees I saw in the square in Saint Tropez. When I looked in the book to find out the artist and name, I was surprised to find it actually is a painting of that square in Saint Tropez!!

Today we plan on going to Falling Water and Mt. Washington, so I'll be updating with that soon!

Do you do tourist things in your hometown? 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

All About Argan Oil {Product Picks}

Probably by now you've heard about the fantastic argan oil everyone has been raving about. I came across it several months ago by way of first researching Moroccan Oil for your hair (it's the important ingredient there - the Moroccan part), then through Josie Maran's products, and finally through recommendations all over Garance's post about beauty products and procedures readers recommend.

La Tourangelle Argan Oil

I have been trying to slowly clean up my body and face products (although there are some things I might never be able to give up - they just work!) so that I am putting less chemicals on my skin. One of the easiest ways of doing this is by replacing moisturizers with pure oils, which are great applied to wet skin right after a shower, or added to a bath. I had been doing this for years with Neutrogena's Body Oil or Booth's, so it was an easy switch to Jojoba oil (found at Trader Joe's!!) with nothing else added.

However, putting oil on my face or in my hair seemed a little scary.

While shopping in France, I noticed there were a large amount of argan products available, so I took the plunge and popped a bottle of organic 100% huille d'argan into my basket.

I thought why not? I'll just follow the instructions and put it all over my face and hair and see how it goes. I mean, if I ended up looking like an oily pimply mess, I didn't know anyone in France anyway! And argan oil is edible, so there is no harm at all in putting it on your skin.

Well, that was at the beginning of my trip and now, my skin and hair are looking better than ever. I haven't been eating healthfully (Hello, wine and cheese and bread for every meal!), I've been kinda stressed and not sleeping well from all the traveling, and I've been out in the sun, sweating and getting grimey, which are all recipes for a skin/hair disaster.

Since using the argan oil, my skin has started to glow and I feel like some of my discolorations and fine lines are fading away.

Not only is it producing amazing results, but it's a great multi-tasker. I only need a tiny drop for my face, and two drops for all my hair, and it replaces several other products.

You should check it out if you've been thinking about trying it! Also, you may want to check different sources as prices can vary greatly and other than being organic and cold pressed, it is just oil so there are no formula variations. For example, Josie Maran's 1.7 oz branded version (50 ml) is $48, but the La Tourangelle version I bought was about $20 for 250 ml.

Some cool things you can do with it:

  • Add it to your favorite moisturizers, sunscreen, or hair product for an extra moisture boost
  • Add essential oils like tea tree or apricot (my fave) for additional skin benefits and scent!

Some other articles and reviews on the benefits of argan oil:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beating the Heat {Outfit Post}

When it is this hot outside, picking clothes can be so difficult. I don't want anything fussy or confining.

I end up sticking to the same three or four outfits, and this is one of my go-tos.

Beating the Heat Outfit
Gap Cardigan, F21 Dress, American Eagle Belt, Diba Shoes, Longchamp Bag, Ray Bans

I like having a really lightweight and loose cardigan even on the hottest days because it can shield me from the sun, but I don't always wear it. Also, while I love heels, when it is as hot as it is now, my feet swell and heels are just plain uncomfortable - so flip flops are just great.

For hair, I have been experimenting with sea salt spray, but I haven't found anything that works well for this weather. I'm not going to put the effort into it, because I know no matter what I do it's just going to end up being a frizzy, wavy mess. My go-to is the small poof (keeps it off my face!) and just letting it do it's thing - keeping a pony tail holder close by.

What about you? What do you wear when it's way too hot to be outside?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Trending in Europe - Summer 2011

When I am out-and-about traveling, one of my favorite things to do is people-watch. I like to look at how other people talk to each other, how they act, what they eat, and most definitely, what they wear. Working in the fashion industry can make you particularly aware of just what everyone else is wearing and what the cool things seem to be.

I thought it would be interesting to share the top 3 big trends I've noticed here:

1. Birkenstock Mules

This trend was particularly big in Nice where it seemed like both women and men alike were wearing these shoes exclusively. Maybe it's the beachy thing to do? Kinda like Rainbow flip-flops back home?

2. Longchamp Le Pliage Bags

Now I know a lot of people in the States have these as well, but in Paris, I think at least half of the women I saw had one of these bags. And men carried them too! I saw a lot of pretty color variations and patterns too!

3. Marshall T-shirts

This trend really puzzled me. In Nice, Paris, and Barcelona I've seen men wearing t-shirts that say variations of things all related to "Marshall." US Marshall, Franklin and Marshall, Marshall College, and so on. One of the shops near where I live in Nice was even selling these t-shirts. I was very confused. Enter Google. I discovered that this is an Italian brand aimed at emulating the style of US college t-shirts. I've also seen a lot of people wearing Abercrombie so I guess this fits? It's a strange trend for sure.

Any trends you've noticed happening where you live recently? Or how about trends you've seen on your travels? I love seeing what is popular where!

This is one of my posts about my travels through France.
To read more about my amazing experience please check
out my France Wanderlust Page!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Do You Saint Tropez?

This morning I got up much earlier than I wanted and headed down to Nice's port. Did I mention it was too early? I would have really liked to have slept some more. I think I'm still sleep deprived from my hostel stays.

St Tropez

I got on the cruise ship with many other tourists and headed out onto the open waters. The views were, as always here, spectacular. The water is such an amazing color of deep cerulean blue in some spaces, glowing navy in others, and in the shallow parts, milky aquamarine. I've been to a lot of world class beaches (the Maldives, St. John, Bali, Phuket...), and I think the Mediterrenean here on the Cote d'Azur has the most striking color of all.

The way the rocky coast meets the water and then quickly rises into mountains upon mountains, slowly becoming more purple as they get farther away, then connecting with the bright crystal blue sky punctuated with perfectly puffy crisp white clouds, is just so big. Maybe I don't know the word to explain it - it's amazing, humbling, beautiful, everywhere around you, and also a feeling of being so lucky to be able to see it - is there a word that encompasses all that? The pictures don't do it justice.

St Tropez

I was trying my best not to be upset, just like I am now.

The cruise went down the coast stopping in Sainte Marguerite (where the man in the iron mask was kept I think?), Cannes, and finally St. Tropez. When we pulled into the harbor they played a little song about St. Tropez - so that was stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

St Tropez

I began by walking around the city and stopping into a Casino to pick up some picnic supplies. I then hiked around on the Sentier du Littoral trail, but only for a little of it. The total trail takes about 4 hours to hike (not including the return journey), so that would have been something good to do if you were staying in St. Tropez and didn't have to return to the ship after 4 hours. And you like hiking and seeing beautiful views like me.

After hiking a bit, I was starting to feel a bit woozy and getting dehydrated from too much sun and not enough water. That's something that it is really hard to be careful about here. You never know if there is going to be a water fountain available, which today there wasn't.

I parked myself in a shady spot with a pretty view and read some. I feel so silly reading on my computer - it's like I'm technology dependent. Which I guess I am...

St Tropez

Then I headed back, picked up some water, and got some ice cream. By this point I was feeling totally nauseous with a huge headache and I was just trying to hold it together. The ice cream didn't really help.

I boarded the cruise ship again, hoping not to be made even more sick, made a wiser seating choice in the lower inside level, and felt better, although the cruise was not the awesome experience that I had in mind. I actually think that's how I feel about pretty much every boat thing I do.

St Tropez

After I arrived back in Nice, I finished up gift shopping, and returned home to procrastinate packing and cleaning. Which is what I'm doing now :)

When you read this post tomorrow, I will be up in the air flying home! How sad! I am planning on writing at least one reflection type post tomorrow on the plane so I think I may put those up next week. See you on the flip side - of the globe that is! (dork alert)

A few more pictures are on Flickr - but I wasn't in a huge picture taking mood today, especially when I wasn't feeling well on the boat!

This is one of my posts about my travels through France.
To read more about my amazing experience please check
out my France Wanderlust Page!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Eze La Village

Today was a wonderful, yet bittersweet day. I went to Eze and took in the views as well as touring the Fragonard Parfumerie. I also went to Vieux Nice and the Promenade for a bit and picked up some gifts for myself and others.

This morning I slept in a bit and missed going down to the cruise for St. Tropez, so instead I decided to do my last day activities today, and my cruise tomorrow.

I took the bus to Eze which like all the other buses I've taken to that area was very scenic and also car sickness inducing.


Once in the village, I walked around a bit and made my way to the Jardin Exotique at the top.


It had all typs of different cacti, as well as sculptures of female figures, winding paths, hidden sitting areas, and stunning views. It was absolute perfection and definitely one of the best places I've been. But I am also a sucker for pretty gardens with views.


Totally gorgeous.

I spent about an hour and a half sitting on a modern chaise in the contemplation area over a pond looking out over the ocean and it was just so wonderful and relaxing. All I needed was a pool and a frozen drink. Actually, I didn't need either of those things. It was perfect.


Then I walked around the village which was quite quaint. I would have loved to stay in one of the hotels there (I believe Chateau Eza and La Chevre D'or - pictured above) because they both looked very luxe.

Source: Paolo Piccoli

Next, I went to the Parfumerie Fragonard in Eze which is one of only 2, the other in is nearby Grasse. They make extremely high quality perfume, some of the best in the world. I toured the factory and then smelled a bunch of different perfumes. It was a cool experience!

Avocado Ice Cream!

Took the bus back and stopped in Vieux Nice to wander and get some more amazing ice cream from Fennochios. This time I got avocado - it was definitely different! Not bad either - just not normal!!

Promenade des Anglais

Walked on the Promenade and ran some errands (top secret gift buying!) and returned to my apartment to get ready for my cruise tomorrow!! And my flight on Friday...

And more pics on Flickr! (Including some kinda goofy ones of me trying to take pictures of myself not looking totally silly... by actually looking at the thing that the picture is of? Does that even make sense. I mean look how cool this one is (2nd one from the top of the ever-cool Sarah Von's about page)!! Oh, and also, strangers totally don't get it when you want them to take pictures of you doing un-picture like things.)

This is one of my posts about my travels through France.
To read more about my amazing experience please check
out my France Wanderlust Page!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Local Flavor: Monoprix!

Finally! The long awaited post on the lovely French grocery store: Monoprix!


I talked about this a little before, but I believe Monoprix is more of a specialty grocery store compared to many others in France like Franprix or Casino. Also in France (and a lot of Europe), there are markets everyday or weekly for fresh produce and fish, as well as other specialty items to the region. And of course, there are the specialty bakeries, pastry shops, cheese stores, and meat stores.

Monoprix is great though because it is all these things in one place!

When I am in a new country, it is always fun to browse the local grocery store for interesting food items. Monoprix was no different! However, I ended up shopping at Monoprix almost everyday so I have been getting used to it!

The first thing that I fell in love with about Monoprix was the many different cheese sections:



Gourmet cheeses supervised and cut by an attendent.


The next step down - good cheeses but already pre-cut. This is where I bought the bulk of my cheeses.


Of course, then there's the fresh mozzarella section complete with tomatoes and rose wine.


Next is the two end-caps of primarily goat cheeses - one of them is brand names while the other is Monoprix brand.


Finally on one long aisle we have the bries along with the pre-packaged brands.

Phew! That's a lot of cheese!

The section rivaling the cheeses would be the wines.


They are almost all French, with a gigantic rose section in the front. Really reasonable prices; almost all under 10 euros a bottle, and every single one I had has been delicious!


There's also all the typical grocery store stuff: produce, packaged goods, canned goods, frozen, bakery, etc - but I thought I would show some of the weirder things...

Like the (insert adjective here) meat section!




So. Yeah. About those. I haven't actually looked at them that hard because they make me a little nauseous. I will let you decide for yourself what they are.

And then, we have the unrefrigerated milk section. (This picture doesn't do it justice - it was hard to show it all. This is only about a third of it.)


And finally, we will end with one of my favorite products:


Nutella! French peanut butter? Except more like dessert? I don't know, but they sure don't have peanut butter here. That's one thing I'm really missing!!

I hope you enjoyed my quick tour of Monoprix!! I apologize for the photo quality - I wish these pictures were better but it is really quite embarrassing to be snapping photos in the grocery when there are a lot of people just trying to get there stuff and get out.

As always, more pictures over on Flickr!

This is one of my posts about my travels through France.
To read more about my amazing experience please check
out my France Wanderlust Page!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Last Day in Barcelona

Today was a much better day than yesterday, as expected. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just to slow down, rest, and relax.

I began my day at Park Guell with some amazing views.

Park Guell

It was very beautiful, but also pretty crowded. It was cool seeing all of Gaudi's tiled work and the home he lived in, but I felt like pretty much everything that was there I had already seen in pictures.


Afterwards, I headed to the Maritime Museum, but it was closed. So then I walked up La Rambla (where I was yesterday), got some ice cream, and checked out the Mercat de la Boqueria market.

Mercat de la Boqueria

But that was pretty quick because it was super crowded and there were a lot of meat vendors (ick!).

Then I walked (and got lost, thanks again Lonely Planet maps) over to the Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar church.


It was very beautiful!

Afterwards I was really tired out (again! I just need a real night of sleep!!) and came back to the hostel and promptly napped.

Barcelona has been a lot of fun, but I also think I over-scheduled myself by doing Paris and Barcelona back-to-back. Also, I think that this is more of a lively hanging out with friends kind of a city, which has made me wish I wasn't here alone. However, it has been really nice to be able to rest when I need to :)

Catalan Flag

Tomorrow morning I am headed back to Nice on the train!!

For more Barcelona pictures, check out Flickr!

This is one of my posts about my travels through France.
To read more about my amazing experience please check
out my France Wanderlust Page!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Barcelona (or) Bust

Today was kind of a bust. Kind of.

As you may or may not know, I try to keep any complaining, whining, and negativity off the blog, off of twitter, and for the most part, out of my life. However, sometimes things just aren't great, and I wanted to let you all know that traveling, especially on the cheap, isn't all roses.


Last night two groups of girls staying in my room woke up around 4 and around 6am, and packed up a left. I did not sleep well. Hostel sleeping is just difficult.

I was feeling really sluggish, my knees and feet were hurting, and I just wanted to let my time be sucked away by the internet (you know how that happens, right?), but I went out and tried to get some sight-seeing done.

Falfel Yum

As I exited the metro and went on to Las Ramblas, all kinds of pollen, leaves, dirt, and who knows what else were blowing in my face. I was sneezing and feeling sick to my stomach and I just wanted to go home and curl up in my comfy bed. Not at the hostel. Instead I got a falafel.


But I proceeded forward following my walk and I saw the Cathedral.


And then it started raining. And the next thing I wanted to see wouldn't open for an hour. And I really had to go to the bathroom. So instead, I just went back to the hostel.

I feel like I totally wimped out but I'm hoping that tomorrow I will feel much better. I did have a really full day yesterday.

And nothing like some Boston(?!?) Pizza to cheer me up right? haha

Boston Pizza, in Barcelona

This is one of my posts about my travels through France.
To read more about my amazing experience please check
out my France Wanderlust Page!

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