An American in Paris: Day 4

Lizzie does Paris

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Travel Journal Continued…

“It’s officially 2018. My word for this year is BRIGHT and I think I’m off to a really great start!

I’m off to “L’endroit le plus heureux sur terre.” Which according to Google translate mean, “the happiest place on Earth.”

Oh, hey! Bonus! All the subways and trains are free on New Year’s Eve and most of New Year’s Day too. What a lovely New Year’s gift! Thanks Paris!

Lizzie does Paris - walking shoes

I’m eternally grateful that today and tomorrow include lengthy train rides in my schedule. My feet are in dire need of a rest after last night. Plus, I always did like train rides out of big cities and then back again. I used to love the train rides I’d take up to Bedford in New York. There’s something so soothing about watching the world fly by you.

I debated about including Disneyland Paris in my itinerary. Should I…shouldn’t I? Is it really how I want to spend one of my precious days in Paris? But the answer kept coming back as a resounding…YES!!! After all, this trip isn’t about the Eiffel Tower (though she was just what I needed last night.) It’s not even really about Paris itself (thought she is a dream I want to live in always.) This trip is about me! Letting go of things. Discovering new things. And ultimately…being incandescently happy for as long as humanly possible.

Lizzie does Disneyland Paris - rose gold ears
I think this face tells you all you need to know about my day at Disneyland Paris!!

 

My rose gold ears…the coveted ears of the year, come from @michelleashleyhoughton and @desirae_jae on Instagram. I won them from those beautiful Instagram ladies and they added extra magic sparkle to my day!! Thanks ladies!!

And may I just say…as I walk up Main Street and see that big, bright, pink castle waiting for me….this was the best decision for today!!

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You guys!!! This place is amazing! They have Sleeping Beauty’s Castle instead of Cinderella’s and…IT’S PINK!!! Could there be anything more lovely about today?!!

Lizzie Does Disneyland Paris

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Lizzie Does Disneyland Paris - Sleeping Beauty's Castle

What I loving about Disneyland Paris are the similarities and differences between this park and Disney World back home. The park retains that familiar Disney flavor, but it also has it’s own spice to offer. Plus…I have a new FAVORITE RIDE OF ALL TIME. Hyperspace Mountain. It’s Space Mountain, but with Star Wars (and without the crick in the neck when you get off.)

Lizzie Does Disneyland Paris - Hyperspace Mountain

Lizzie Does Disneyland Paris - Hyperspace Mountain
I was WAY more excited about this ride than the little kid next to me.

Couldn’t leave without getting a pic with little Annie!

Lizzie Does Disneyland Paris - Darth Vader meet and greet

One thing that is different here is their “Haunted Mansion.” In Paris they have “Phantom Manor.” Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue…”Phantom Manor.” You can’t help but say it with an accent. Or maybe that’s just me!

Lizzie does Disneyland Paris - Phantom Manor

I picked the perfect day to go to the park because #1: Everything in Paris is closed on New Year’s Day…says so in my guide book. And #2: This is the grossest, soggiest, most dreary day. And because I’m at the happy place, the rain and the cold…they just don’t bother me at all!

Lizzie Does Disneyland Paris - happy place
Everything about being here today has me feeling that wonderful sense of wide-eyed wonder!

I’ve also discovered a new life goal to add to my list…make it to every single Disney park in the WHOLE WORLD!!! A lofty goal to be sure! But in 2018, I’m already going to be seeing 3 different Disney’s in one year. Obviously Disneyland Paris, Disney World back home, AND…Disneyland California in June with my friends Erin and Cristina! I love how a plan comes together!!

Lizzie does Disneyland Paris

Lizzie does Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris has 2 parks to experience. And since this is my big trip…why skimp now! I bought a park hopper and it has been TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!

Lizzie Does Disneyland Paris

Ok, something I’ve discovered over here. The meals are amazing! In Paris, they believe in a balanced meal. So every meal comes with a side salad or veggies, a dessert and a drink. And it’s more affordable than I would have imagined a complete and balanced meal at Disney to be.

Lizzie does Disneyland Paris -

I couldn’t resist a meet and greet with Mickey Mouse. Even though I meet and greet him all the time back in Orlando. Doesn’t matter! Every time you meet Mickey Mouse, it’s like being a kid all over again!

Lizzie does Disneyland Paris - Mickey Mouse selfie

And guys…Mickey LOVED my bright green hair! How cute is that!

Lizzie Dies Disneyland Paris - Mickey Mouse

I miss the big hat that used to be at MGM (Hollywood Studios) back in the day. But look what Paris has…

Lizzie does disneyland Paris

The day just got better and better as it passed by. The weather went from dreary to almost sunny, back to dreary, then there was a break around sundown and the evening was perfection.

Lizzie does Disneyland Paris - Mike Wazowski Monsters Inc

I wandered back and forth between parks, doing as many rides as I could, watching both fireworks shows and just generally being the very happiest version of myself!

Lizzie does Disneyalnd Paris

Best thing about going to Disney alone…delicious Mickey-shaped cakes for ONE!!

Lizzie does Disneland Paris

Lizzie does Disneyland Paris

First fireworks show of the night was at Studios…

Lizzie does Disneyland paris

And then it was back over to the pink castle for their fireworks show!!

Lizzie does disneyland Paris

Lizzie does Disneyland Paris

Lizzie does Disneyland Paris

Lizzie Does Disneyland paris - Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Lizzie Does Disneyland Paris

It was fantastic, stupendous, majestic, unforgettable, just what I needed…what’s the word…oh yeah…MAGICAL!”

An American in Paris: Day 1

Ok, now you know how I made it to Paris.

Lizzie does Paris

Friday, December 29th, 2017

But I’ll bet you’re wondering what I got up to when I finally made it over there.

Before I even left for Paris, I created a very tentative list of things I wanted to do, along with a vague outline of when I might cross each thing off my list. Traveling with a strict schedule is just not how I do things. I wanted to leave a lot of space to change my mind, add new things to the list and choose days I thought would be best for each item.

Here’s the Master List:

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I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport at about 1:30pm on Friday afternoon, December 29th. I opted to rely on wifi in places and turn my phone on airport mode to avoid roaming charges while in Paris. This meant that simple tools like my GPS and the internet were not available to me, except when I was in my hotel or at a cafe that had wifi. It also meant that I had to rely on my scrappy travel skills (of which I have many!)

An excerpt from my travel journal upon arriving in Paris after finding my way to my hotel:

“Finding my bearings in Paris makes me feel like it’s my first time in New York City all over again. There’s a feeling that I truly have no clue where I’m going or what I’m doing. I don’t speak this language and maybe I’ve been out of the big city game for too long.

But, there’s also the absolute knowledge and confidence that I am capable of mastering this. Flying solo can be a little scary initially, but also exciting and energizing! I’d forgotten that feeling. It’s not something I feel very often in Winter Park, Florida.

On the plane, I sat next to Max, a very kind, young guy, probably a bit younger than me in age if not in spirit. He gave me some recommendations and we shared laughs throughout the flight. I was reminded that there are new friends waiting around every corner, if you’re open enough to look for them. Brave enough to talk to them.”

Interjection: This was the start of a flood of writing that began the moment I landed in Paris and has not stopped since I’ve returned home! And I was certainly grateful to be reintroduced to the writer in me, all over again!

“My hotel, Libertel Gare du Nord Suede on Boulevard Magenta in the 10th Arrondissement, is so charming and tiny. It’s the absolute perfect size for me and my solo adventures! It’s cozy and has the right number of hangars for the Paris wardrobe I brought with me. More than just coincidence, I think!

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I laid down to take a quick 30 minute cat nap, here on Day 1 of my adventure, and woke up an hour and a half later than anticipated. Apparently my body had other plans. Once I finally woke up, I felt rested and ready to walk and see and EAT. Above all…EAT!!

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Interjection: I just sat down to my first dinner in Paris and I’m implementing a new rule…wine and dessert will be ordered at every meal! No exceptions!

My neighborhood is charming! I think I’ll be using that word a lot in Paris. There’s a lot to see. Plenty of hustle and bustle and I find it surprisingly easy to navigate, given the language barrier. As I took the opportunity to get the lay of the land in my Arrondissement, I passed my hotel 3 separate times without meaning to. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble finding my way around. It really does feel somehow like I’m back in New York, but maybe all big cities have this energy and I’ve just forgotten what it felt like.

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Also…I feel like I’ve found a familiar part of myself, long forgotten and abandoned.

Continue reading

Bon Appétit…Literally!!

One year ago, almost to the day, I gave up weighing myself. It was as much a gift to my mind as it was to my body. Contrary to what you might think, the devil does not live in the details. He lives in the numbers! Especially when it comes to a woman’s weight.

Lizzie does Paris - travel blog

And as vigilant as I try to be on a daily basis, when I was in Paris I said “Screw it!” This trip was about enjoyment and about celebration. Joy has no patience for calorie counting in a foreign country and a modern day fairytale of my own making.

So weights and scales and eating “right” was not on my radar at all. Imagine my surprise, when I weighed myself on a whim at my parent’s house, after returning from Paris and finding out I’d lost 5 pounds. How could this be? I ate foods that were heavy in cream and cheese. I ate a plentiful amount of bread every single day. And dessert? I had that after every single meal, not to mention a generous amount of wine to go with it.

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The way I ate in France was not indicative of someone who had lost weight. Sure, I’d averaged about 20,000 steps a day in Paris and that had to account for some of it. But believe me when I say, I ATE while I was over there. I assumed it would all even out. I never thought it would leave me with a pleasant amount of lost weight.

But here’s the secret…bon appétit, in French, means “enjoy your meal.” And that’s just what the French people do. Other European countries like Spain and Italy subscribe to this notion of enjoyment as well! Food is not something to be scarfed down as we run from thing to thing, never stopping to savor. It is literally meant to be enjoyed to the fullest.

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As I sat in a little cafe for dinner, my first night in Paris, I looked around and noticed people taking their time with their meals. Bills weren’t brought to rush people out. Waiters gave each table the space needed to truly savor the moments in between bites. And I absorbed this tempo immediately upon my arrival. I indulged in 3 course meals and stayed an extra 30, 40, 50 minutes sometimes. I read my book while I ate and I wrote in my journal. Every waiter knew at least 3 things about my life by the time my meal had ended and we parted ways better for having shared a little company.

I wish I could say this would continue in me forever! I know that it won’t. Because I do move from thing to thing with the frantic nature of an American dreamer. But…from now on, when I sit down to a true meal, I will truly strive to inject the French spirit of “bon appétit” into dinner time and breakfast and the occasional lunch (that happens to be the meal I most often rush through in order to get things done.)

I think that food eaten out of pure enjoyment and true contentment gets digested very differently than food consumed out of utter necessity or carelessness. I’m no scientist, I only know what my body tells me. And it told me quite a story when I returned home from Paris, down 5 pounds and feeling happier and lighter than I have in years.

Some things are meant to be felt with our hearts, to the tips of our fingers and our crafty, analytical little minds only manage to get in the way. Trust your body. Trust your instincts! And pick one meal this week and add an extra 30 minutes onto the time you spend with it. Eat out of pure joy and see if it makes a difference! Take a little France into your mealtimes…I brought some back just for you!

Lizzie does Paris - Lunch time

Bon Appétit!

Money Matters: How I got to Paris

Up until this very moment, this very day, even…if you asked me about money matters I would have told you: “Go ask someone else…I’m very bad at money.” And it would have been true. I have been bad at money my whole life. From the day I opened a Star Wars credit card when I first moved to New York City (the rewards earned were what one might expect from a Star Wars Mastercard), to the $10,000 I quickly racked up on it because…free money to the countless times I’ve overdrawn my checking account.

If you’re about to recommend Dave Ramsey’s books to me, don’t bother. I read them in college and again in New York and again and again and again. I have done his workbooks and always kept the concept of the “debt snowball” in the back of my mind. Sometimes I chant the words “gazelle-like intensity” to myself. But it’s one thing to read about something and another to apply it.

Flash forward to August of 2017. My Granny had just passed away and had left me with, what she called “squirrel money.” Basically, a sum of money that she’d been squirreling away just for me. It was a turning point for me, because I was being given a shot and I did not want to throw it away.

Some of the squirrel money went to debt. Some went to fun. Some went to savings and some…well, that went to a special travel savings account. Something I thought my Granny would appreciate me doing with the money she gave me. (The money I used on a tattoo was something she wouldn’t have approved of, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!)

My very first trip abroad was a trip to England with my Granny. When me, my brother and my cousin all turned 16, she made it her mission to get us abroad. That was her promise to us. And as the eldest grandchild, my trip was first.

She and I went on a group tour with a pastor she had known for years. He was preaching his way across London in Minsters, Abbeys, Churches, Cathedrals…and we were to join the bus tour accompanying him. It was my first taste of the travel bug. It was my first taste of another country. And from the moment I saw the chopping block and the crown jewels in the Tower of London, I was hooked on absorbing other places and their culture.

When I first entertained the idea of going to Paris, it was on a whim. One night, in the middle of the night, I was up and unable to sleep and I started searching the internet for whatever magical treasures I could find. Something I do often when I have bouts of insomnia. Etsy treasures, Pinterest ideas, cat videos on You Tube and then I wandered over to a flight search and randomly typed in “Paris.” It’s a place I’ve always dreamed of visiting.

Talk about finding treasures…I found a flight for $175, one way to Paris on Norwegian Airlines. And that night, I bought it. I thought to myself “Even if you don’t end up making it there, $175 is a bargain price for a big dream!”

I was still bad at money. But even being bad at money, I knew a $175 one way ticket was a good idea! I also knew that Paris was a city where I’d want to have money to spare for things like sight-seeing, eating and shopping. Enter, what I thought was going to be, an uphill battle.

I read an article on the The Penny Hoarder about ways to save and came across an app called Stash. It’s basically an easy way to set up a savings account with different low risk, or high risk if that’s your bag, stock options. You buy the stocks you want. They accumulate interest or lose it as the market dictates and then when you want your money back, you sell the stock and transfer the funds back into your bank account.

Savings accounts that I’ve used in the past have not worked for me, no matter how hard I’ve tried. And believe me, I’ve tried.

I tried the kind where it rounds up your spending and puts that rounded up sum into a savings account. But it’s linked to your checking, so when my balance got low it was very easy to transfer those extra monies right back into ground zero.

I tried an account that charged me every time I withdrew money prematurely…yeah, I lost a lot of stupid money that year on withdrawing money prematurely.

I tried an account with a completely different bank. But as with all my other attempts, I’d watch the number rise as I watched my checking dwindle and once again it was too easy to transfer it right back into the danger zone.

I tried and I tried and I tried. So I didn’t have high hopes that Stash would make a difference in the way I handled my savings. How would it be any different? Would I just end up abusing it the way I did every other savings account?

But something changed. I didn’t abuse it. In fact, I didn’t even touch it. I started out by transferring $5 every Friday into my Stash. A small enough amount that I could spare it. A big enough amount monthly that it would mean actually creating some savings. Gradually, as I realized this was working for me, I upped the ante to $10 a week, then $15 a week and finally $20 a week.

$20 a week is not a great amount of money. It’s modest at best. But for me, it was a king’s sum. From August to December, I faithfully added to my savings. When I had extra money come in, I’d add more.

I started teaching an Art Class for Preschoolers to make extra money, my side hustle, and I put part of that money in there too. Before I knew it, I had over $1000. I have NEVER had $1000 in a savings account. I’ve rarely seen that amount in my checking account, to be honest. All of a sudden I was like…

You guys…I had done it. I changed the narrative of my relationship to money.

Days before leaving for my big trip to Paris, a trip that now seemed much more of a triumph and a celebration than it did back in August when I’d initially made the decision to dream, I was recounting how  all this had come about to my father.

I told him about the article in the Penny Hoarder, about the app Stash, about my $1000, about how I actually accomplished what I never thought I could. And I finished with “And you know how bad I am at money, dad!” He looked at me, rather intently, and said “I don’t think you can say you’re bad at money anymore.”

woah…

Woah…

WOAH!!!

Wake up call! Have you ever really had a wake up call? Do you know this feeling?

It’s amazing!

It’s life changing!

It’s a miracle!!

Not only did I afford to fly myself to Paris, but I could afford to actually stay in Paris and do everything on my bucket list and eat a fancy French meal every night and fully immerse myself in the Paris I wanted to see most. And yes…even fly home from Paris.

I have a lot of blogs coming your way in the New Year about my experiences in Paris and other things like  travel tips, how to get great photos when traveling alone, all kinds of things that came to me when the flood gates of my love for writing were opened up again because of this trip.

But none of those posts will be as important as this one right here.

No matter who you were in 2017, no matter what you thought you couldn’t do or what you think is beyond your reach…it isn’t. You can do that thing. You can change your narrative, like I did.

Guys…I’m good at money now. I’m paying off debt and starting new enterprises. I don’t have a credit card anymore because I know that I can’t trust myself with one. I have a checking account for paying off bills and a checking account for my spending and the rest, well you know where that goes! Right into my Stash for safe keeping. And I’m going the extra mile and adding Acorns to my portfolio. Another app that will help with savings. It’s always a good idea to hedge your bets!

I don’t think I’ve ever truly been this proud of myself in my whole life and it’s a great feeling! The confidence I have in my abilities, the knowledge that all it takes to climb a mountain is the proper training and the right equipment! You want Everest…you can have it. You just have to do the work. You just have to show up for your dream!

What a way to start the New Year!!