Friday Five

Remember the Pia Wallen Crux blanket I bought and was super excited about? It’s been living comfortably on the back a chair in our living room ever since, and has come in handy when I feel like lounging (read: always). Last night, after a great dinner at my mom’s house visiting with my aunt who had flown in from Australia, I came home to discover that Fitz, in his infinite jerkdom, had eaten a perfect hole in it. A HOLE. THE DUDE ATE MY BLANKET. I’m going to level with you, I was inconsolable. Boyfriend kept saying he’d buy me a new one, and while that is extra sweet and totally unnecessary, it isn’t the point. The point is my dog is a jerk and I now have one entire cross missing out of the blanket. Thankfully it’s near the bottom seam so by folding the blanket in half and tucking the back of it behind the chair cushion, the damage is completely invisible. But the moment someone tries to use it they’re going to see his handy work. UGH, FITZ.

(I don’t plan on calling my kids jerks when they do stuff like this later in life, I swear. Maybe just on my blog. Never to their faces.)

Aside from that, dinner was wonderful and my mom sent me home with far too many leftovers, including an entire cake I picked up on the way over since she went all domestic-goddess-y and made homemade ice cream and chocolate lava cakes. I’m honestly still full this morning, but luckily the increased sugar intake didn’t have any affect on my teeth; I had a dentist appointment this morning to kick off the weekend, and passed with flying colors (no cavities!). Tomorrow morning Boyfriend’s parents are coming in to visit their (jerk) grandpuppy and spending the weekend with us. In the meantime, here are five things tickling my fancy this week:

1. Duvet set / 2. Shampoo & Conditioner / 3. Tank top / 4. Macaron Soap / 5. Plates

I am perversely excited for the new IKEA PS 2012 line. This duvet set will be making an appearance in my home as soon as I can get my hands on it. The collection launches in Europe in May, and then in the states in August, but I’m already mapping out where the closest Belgian IKEA is. What? Going to IKEA on vacation is lame? Don’t judge me. If you’re going to pass judgment for anything, let it be that I spent $60 on the Kevin Murphy plum shampoo & conditioner at the hair salon on Tuesday after my haircut. It was more than the haircut itself! I got talked into it without knowing the price of either, and was too wrapped up in how shiny and delicious my hair looked and smelled (respectively) to put them back. I don’t know, I was high on endorphines or something. To be fair, the packaging is amazing and my hair really does feel way better, but that’s probably because this is the first non-drugstore hair product I’ve ever used. Yikes! Admitting that made it sound worse.

It’s no secret I’m a stripe-aholic, and this tank from H&M meets more than one nautical requirement, and comes in at under $13. What’s not to love? I have to run some errands in town today anyway, so it wouldn’t hurt to check the store to see if they have it in stock, right? Right. And while we’re on the subject of cute strips, can we take a look at the Daschund in the striped bathing suit? Or maybe the jaunty hat and drink with a straw? Or maybe the Daschund surfing? Come on. West Elm hits it out of the park yet again with these adorable plates. Their only downfall is that they might just be too cute to eat off of.

And I know, I know, macarons, again. God, I’m so predictable. But these aren’t just any macarons, no no. They’re bars of soap! You guys, I have at one time in my life asserted my love of macarons runs so deep that I’d rub them all over myself if I could. And now I get to without it being creepy and unhygienic! In fact, now it’s the exact opposite. Etsy has a million different kinds of macaron soap, which just goes to show you I’m not the only one obsessed with the French delicacies. It’s oddly comforting.

Alright lovelies, what are you up to this weekend? I said I’d make curtains last weekend but then I had really important naps to take and never got around to it. It likely won’t happen this weekend either, but I’ll keep you posted! So, tell me your plans. Anything fun going on? Have a good one, kiddos!

Like a Picture

I TOTALLY FORGOT TO TELL YOU yesterday, but guess what song came on during my haircut on Tuesday night?? “Africa” by Toto! The very song I said was one of my all time favorite 80s songs just earlier that morning. The stylist was in the middle of drying my hair and I could still hear that iconic drum beat over the blow dryer. “Is this Toto?!?” I asked him. “Um, I don’t know?” he replied, looking mildly terrified. “IT IS! IT’S TOTO “AFRICA!”,” I shrieked. And then proceeded to sing along, not just to the words, but to the drum and synth lines as well. Don’t worry, I tipped the stylist well for his trouble.

Anyway, the inspiration for this post was this picture, which I found during one of my many internet-scourings, and fell instantly in love with. It’s so moody and evocative. I wanted to incorporate it in some way into a post, and the idea came to me to find home decor elements that matched the color and tone of the image. But this post almost didn’t happen, because I couldn’t for the life of me capture the texture and warmth of her sweater in anything that I found.

And then last night, I was laying on the sofa in the den downstairs, and I pulled a blanket over me and snuggled up while Boyfriend and Fitz were playing on the floor. I made the same comment I make every time I use that blanket, which is that it is unbelievably soft. It’s an Assiro Herringbone throw, which I wrote about in a Friday Five here and which Boyfriend bought me for Christmas (yes, I received many presents that I’d written about on my blog, like these boots, this lens, watch, and book. This sets a bad precedent for next Christmas, and Boyfriend is totally aware of that fact). It is without a doubt the snuggliest and most luxuriously soft blanket I’ve ever felt. Unfortunately I can’t use it on the sofa in the upstairs living room or even on the bed because Fitz has claimed those areas for himself and I don’t want to have yet another blanket ruined with dog hair and dog stink. The downstairs den is generally an off-limits area; we keep the door closed when we’re not in there.

But that blanket reminded me of all the other colors it comes in, and I vaguely remembered a warm chestnut brown. Sure enough, it was a perfect match to the picture. And thus, a post was born. And once I finished one picture, I immediately wanted to do a second.

1. Blanket / 2. Candle

 1. Blanket / 2. Candle / Picture

I went with blankets and candles because, well, I’m a Crazy Candle lady and you can never have enough throw blankets. If you’re in the market for a new one, I cannot recommend the Herringbone throw enough. If my dog wasn’t such a (lovable) smelly jerk I’d have 3 of them, one for every sofa and chair in the house. I think I’ll make this a weekly feature, what do you say?

Getting Anxious

The other day, Rooth posted a drool-worthy picture of a box of Ladurée macarons, with a question on the pronunciation. Since I have dubbed myself the unofficial Queen of Macarons (evidenced by my many posts on the delicious subject here, here, here, and here), I decided to weigh in with the correct answer: it’s maca-ROHNS in French. And then, because I’m a total nut job and spend an embarrassing portion of my day googling macarons, I found this poster on Etsy which answers the debate even better than I could:

from here

If that just isn’t the most darling print I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is. I feel like I need one printed wallet sized so I can break it out whenever I run into the same debate, which is surprisingly frequently. Macaroons and macarons are not the same thing, and I get more than a little defensive when someone assumes they are. Mostly because I think macarons are Gods gift to cuisine and were put on this earth to make me happy. Yes.

Of course, all of this macaron talk is just getting me more and more excited for my trip to Paris & Belgium in May (6 weeks to go!!). In fact, I had a dream about Paris the other night and actually woke up crying. Happy tears, obviously. And it wasn’t like the dream was anything specifically magical, I was just walking around the city. That’s all. And my heart swelled so much that even dream Erin got all weepy. I’ll pause while you judge me.

Dream Erin is also as neurotic as Real Erin, so there was one part of the dream where I was freaking out because I hadn’t remembered to take a shirt-dress to the dry cleaners to be pressed in time for our flight, and oh my god what was I going to wear? My subconscious is finding ways to remind me of all the stuff I still have to do before we leave. I’ve made list after list of things to pack, things to see, outfits for each day with alternatives for weather, but I’m still super anxious that I’m going to forget something. I’ve been pretty good about sticking to a budget for this trip, made easier by the fact that we’ve only had to pay for 1 sleeping accommodation so far thanks to tons and tons of hotel points, but I’m sure all my brilliant planning is going to backfire somehow. Here are some things I still need:

1. Trench / 2. Train tickets / 3. Lipstick / 4. Ballet flats / 5. Chill Pill / 6. Outlet adapter

I’ve been waffling over whether or not to buy a trench coat, since I don’t know if the weather will warrant it, but after talking with my friend Aisling about it, she convinced me to buy one to have just in case. Neither of us are the type of people who can roll with the punches, so if I didn’t buy one and it was chilly in Brussels one day, I would have a nervous breakdown trying to find one to buy. It’s better to just save myself the stress and be prepared. Thanks, Aisling!

I’m not going anywhere, not even to Paris, unless I book train tickets soon. Thalys has a route-monopoly on the train from Brussels to Paris, but tickets are only €39 per person each way. Considering we’re staying in two luxurious hotels for free in Paris, I think I can handle the cost of the train. But I actually need to buy tickets, and I’m a nervous wreck about it for some reason. Obviously I need a chill pill, so that little ice cube tray set is meant to be a joke at my own expense.

I realized halfway through my packing list that remembering to bring my laptop/camera/iPod chargers was useless unless I had a way to plug them in. This inspired a crazy stint of research trying to figure out if the outlets in Belgium and France are the same, since I know UK outlets are totally different. This all-in-one outlet adapter is under $4, which is all well and good but the price is irrelevant until I actually buy one. Get on it!

And while things like an outlet adapter and train tickets are vitally important, there are also less vital but exceedingly vain items I still need, like black ballet flats and poppy lipstick for looking chic and European. I had forgotten all about Poppy King’s collaboration with J. Crew, and last I checked that signature lipstick had sold out. Not so! I hesitated last week on buying it and missed out on free shipping. Drat.

I’m not the only one who compulsively makes packing lists and still finds ways to get anxious over forgetting something, am I? What’s your travel-secret for making sure you pack everything? Anyone ever traveled to Belgium in May? Any weather tips you can throw my way would be greatly appreciated!

Friday Five

I got a phone call from my doctor yesterday, the results from the biopsy had come back. As I suspected (slash googled furiously in between Monday’s endoscopy and yesterday), I’ve been officially diagnosed with a condition called Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it either, but from what I’ve been able to find out online, EE is an allergic inflammatory condition in the esophagus that causes food impaction, difficulty swallowing, and heartburn-like symptoms (basically everything I’ve been experiencing). It’s common in children and people with asthma, but can be triggered by a food allergy or environmental allergy (my doctor thinks it is a gluten allergy). It’s often incorrectly diagnosed as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, and is therefore resistant to any sort of heartburn medication. Which explains why the prescription of Nexium he gave me leading up to the procedure didn’t do anything to help. It only gave me one more thing to be neurotic about Fitz finding and eating.

I’m happy it isn’t cancer or something and I’m happy to finally have a name for what I’m dealing with. Part of what was so tough about these episodes is that they made no sense. It was confusing to deal with and not be able to call it something other than “OH MY GOD MAKE IT STOP.” So there’s that. The downside is that the first line of treatment is to take an asthma inhaler and pump it twice into my hand and then LICK IT. Asthma inhalers are corticosteroids, and since you can’t apparently get a prescription for a liquid corticosteroid, this is how it has to be done. I had to have the doctor repeat that to me a few times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. “So you want me to take an inhaler, but not inhale it?” “Yes.” “You want me to pump it into my hand, twice, and then lick the liquid out of the palm of my hand?” “Yes. Oh, and you can’t eat or drink anything for an hour afterwards.” “Uh…” “And you have to do it twice a day.” “This sounds awesome.”

Ugh.

But, I’m looking at the positives, and hopefully this will treat my symptoms and I won’t have to spend any more nights arched in pain and unable to breath or swallow or vomiting reflexively. But I mean, come on. Who has ever even heard of Eosinophilic Esophagitis, let alone been diagnosed with it? Seriously.

Obviously I’m consoling myself with material things. But you probably could’ve guessed that. Without further random medical interruption, here are this week’s Friday Five:

1. Scarf / 2. Necklace / 3. Perfume / 4. Duvet / 5. Bag

It’s clear from this collection of things that I’m very happy it’s officially Spring. Lots of bright colors, lots of florals, a straw bag for wandering around farmers markets and carrying home peonies, and a perfume that smells like candy. I first sniffed this Prada scent in this month’s Vanity Fair and instantly fell in love. Usually I find those perfume ads in magazines olfactorily offensive, so this was a rare feat. Unfortunately the smallest size they sell is way more than I’d ever spend on perfume, but that hasn’t stopped me from huffing that one page of the magazine every morning on the subway like some big weirdo.

Between that gorgeous scarf by Ash & Anchor (totally bought it for myself as an “I’m sorry you have a stupid problem with your esophagus” present) and the floral duvet cover by Urban Outfitters, I’m really embracing florals so far this season. I didn’t really peg myself as the type of girl who would pine after a Grandma-style bedspread, but it’s just so pretty and colorful. It reminds me of the type of bouquet you’d carry home in that tote bag from J Crew. I see those straw bags everywhere in the summer, and they seem perfect for the beach or just for a stroll around the city.

I’m so sad that necklace from seller Son of a Sailor on Need Supply (still obsessed!) is sold out. I signed up to be notified if it comes back in stock. I love the color combination on it and I bet it would look great with any outfit. I’m also making an effort to be better with accessorizing, because as it stands I don’t accessorize at all.

Okay, dudettes. What are you up to this weekend? I think I’m making curtains! In between licking medicine out of my hand. IT’S STILL WEIRD. Have a good one, kiddos.

A Guide to the 17eme

Remember when I went on that super weepy spiel about how much I love blogging because it fostered this wonderful little community of incredible people? And how I can’t believe that a year ago I didn’t know anyone and know I have friends? Well, I’m totally justified in being so sappy and sentimental about the amazing world of blogging, because Süsk of Süsk & Banoo sent me an email a few days ago saying she had something for me for my upcoming trip to Paris. Me, being the greedy little turd that I am, totally gave her my mailing address in expectation of a physical package, and then had to back-pedal and hang my head in shame after she awkwardly confessed it was “just a pdf.” But you know what, she didn’t have to apologize at all. Because that thing she called “just a pdf” turned out to be this absolute gem:

 

What’s that, you ask? Oh, just a personalized, made-for-me map of the arrondissement we’re staying in with all of her favorite local shops and restaurants numbered, described with the cutest Süsk-isms (“NOMFEST!”) and sweet recommendations based on my likes (“Little quirky shop with lots of things with French writing on them – I know you love that stuff!”). YOU GUYS. I just about lost it. How thoughtful is that?? Süsk used to live in this neighborhood and will likely be returning at some point, after she and her math-genius husband sell their gorgeous cottage in London (go take a look!), so I trust her judgement when it comes to where to get the best boeuf tartare or cup of tea in Paris.

This sort of map is what tourists like me kill for. Not, um, literally. But you know what I mean. I now possess an insider’s guide to my favorite city in the world. Hopefully it makes me feel like less of a tourist, but I might be a lost cause because I will undoubtedly be hopping up and down and flapping my hands out front of Ladurée. Possibly shrieking. Who knows!

Thank you again, Süsk (ladies, if you aren’t reading her blog, you’re seriously missing out. but don’t expect her to make personalized Paris maps for just anyone, you know). Try though you might to feign modesty, your design-skillz are amazing. You made my dreams come true. I will now forever associate you with this beautiful ballad by Hall & Oates:

Two of a Kind

No, not like in poker. Although, side story, I am really good at poker. My dad taught me to play when I was younger (like, 9) when we were staying at his friend’s cabin on the Susquehanna river one winter and there was nothing to do but sit inside and enjoy the view. He even bought me a set of poker chips one year for Christmas. These days the most exposure to poker I have is when Boyfriend plays Texas Hold em down in AC while I treat myself to a manicure in the hotel spa. And okay, fine, occasionally I’ll throw $20 into the Wheel of Fortune slots.

Anyway. With as much time as I spend on the internet, certain things like colors and patterns show up repeatedly. I’ve been noticing a lot of similarities and common trends recently with clothing and accessories, especially with all of the spring and summer palates making their appearance. There are two of a kinds popping up everywhere, from sandals and bracelets, to t-shirts and clutch bags.

1. Bracelets / 2. Sandals / 3. Tee / 4. Bag / 5. Sandals / 6. Necklace

I don’t know how I hadn’t discovered web retailer Need Supply before, but I think I’m in love. It’s a hipper, more authentic Urban Outfitters, the models are covered in tattoos, and most stuff is reasonably priced. Also, I am beyond ready to wear sandals again, and thankfully with yesterday being the first day of spring and the temperature this week hovering in the 70s, I might get my chance soon enough. Mama needs a pedicure first, though. That’s just common courtesy.

Colorblock

This morning I’m undergoing an upper GI endoscopy as well as esophageal manometry (even I had to google it) at the same hospital I ended up in almost exactly one year ago when I fell down a flight of stairs and broke my big toe (that will never not be simultaneously humiliating and hilarious to me). I talked about the reason for today’s procedure briefly over here, but to make a long story short I’ve been having weird and debilitating pains in my chest caused by my esophagus spasming, which feels about as awesome as it sounds. Other symptoms include the inability to breathe or swallow and involuntary vomiting. I know all vomiting is pretty much involuntary unless you’re bulemic, but in my case it’s not like my stomach is upset or I’m even nauseated; my esophagus just forces food out of me in these super violent episodes where it feels like my chest is being hijacked by a really pissed-off, red-hot brick. Apparently endoscopies are super routine and common, but I’m 100% convinced I’m going to die today. This is probably just starvation talking; I wasn’t permitted to eat anything after 10pm last night, which is torture considering there is one last piece of Aero bar sitting my kitchen just taunting me. I’m looking forward to finding out wtf is going on with my esophagus, and also for the free day off from work, even if I will be loopy and sleepy from the sedation.

Obviously a welcome distraction has been all the outfit planning I’m doing for my upcoming trip to Belgium and Paris that I’m not going to live to see because I’m dying today. I bought this surprisingly chic red & pink colorblock top at Forever 21 for Brussels (and plan to wear it with simple black leggings and a black cardigan), and then I kept seeing examples of pink and red colorblock all over the place. Colorblocking seems to be a waning trend, but there are plenty of beautiful pieces that have caught my eye, especially in this color combo.

1. Top / 2. Bag / 3. Bra / 4. Socks / 5. Skirt / 6. Shoes / 7. Dress

It’s not like I even wear a ton of color, so making the leap from a monochrome wardrobe to a dress with three colors on it is a little more than I’m capable of. I’m impressed that I even bought the Forever 21 top; I’m really making an effort to give my wardrobe some POP for this trip. But how whimsical are those socks? They remind me of a Dr. Seuss character or something. And it goes without saying that Marc Jacobs bag is gorgeous.

Alright, kiddos. Happy Monday! What are you up to today? Feel free to regale me with stories about your own medical issues so I have something to read in bed today when I get home.

And in case my hypochondria is finally right and I do in fact drop dead, at least I can die happy and validated knowing that I was linked to on West Elm’s blog over the weekend. (Jennifer, you were too!)

Friday Five

You guys are the best. Thank you so much for your excitement over the past few days for my hotels in Paris and Brussels and Bruges. I don’t know how you guys are going to feign interest for the next two months, let alone when I come back from the trip and then bombard you with millions and millions of pictures.

I’ve been thinking about the week and a half I’ll be gone and how I’m going to manage posting for those days. I think I can commit to keeping up my 365 while we’re over there, since it’s something as simple as posting a single photo per day. But there are a full 7 weekdays when I know I won’t be able to post regularly. If I opened those days up to having guest bloggers, would any of you be interested? It wouldn’t have to be anything fancy or elaborate; I’m thinking maybe you tell us about your favorite vacation and include a few photos. I know it’s a long way away still, so I’m just trying to gauge interest. Let me know if that’s something you’d be up for, but no pressure if you’re not.

I’ll let you lovely ladies stew on that while we take a look at this week’s Friday Five.

1. Nail Polish  / 2. Shirt / 3. Alphabet Trays / 4. Lipstick / 5. Duvet

I went to Sephora after work yesterday with my friend Anna, and we found a giant display of brightly colored nail polishes, all named after streets in London. I went home and researched Nails Inc., and found that they’re a UK based shop, so the street names make sense. For someone that loves the UK as much as I do, this is positively delightful. With color names like “Portobello,” “Jermyn Street,” and “Sloan Square,” I’m itching to head back to Sephora and pick up a few bottles. The same can be said for this orange-poppy shade of NARS matte lipstick. I tried it on with Anna and loved it, even though it is slightly garish. I talked myself out of it since it’s $24 a tube, but I think all of the pictures of me in Belgium and Paris would be made even more chic if I was sporting a bright poppy lip.

We’ve already established that I’m a sucker for anything with French words printed on it, so this Zara t-shirt is just begging me to buy it. Zara finally started offering online shopping for the US, with free shipping both ways. The only thing that’s keeping me from buying it is the size; it’s only available in Medium and Large, and it might be too big. Can’t hurt to try it though, right?

While I was in West Elm last weekend scoring a sweet deal on a new chair, I came across these little monogram glass trays. They’re sort of like oversized coasters, but with enough of a dip that you can toss a necklace or ring on them. They’re only $8 each, too! I don’t even know where I would put them, but since when has toeing the line of hoarding ever stopped me?

In case you hadn’t caught on, these Friday Fives are going to bankrupt me. Especially if I give in and purchase the Draper striped duvet set from Dwell Studio I’ve been coveting for more than a year. But there is no justification I can find for spending almost $300 on a duvet cover, when my dog insists on sleeping sprawled out on his back at the bottom of the bed and sheds everywhere. Do you know how many lint-brush sheets I go through on a daily basis trying to stem the dog hair from overrunning the bed? Despite my best efforts to keep him out of the bedroom and off of the bed, he has weaseled his way in time and time again and hogs the entire thing. This is seriously how he sleeps:

What a weirdo.

And on that note, I wish you all a very lovely weekend. What are your plans for St. Patty’s Day? I’ll be spending the day trying to avoid it, personally. Despite my name actually meaning Ireland I am not even 1% Irish. Have a great one, kiddos!

Belgium Planning

I think I need to level the playing field a bit. While I’m obviously excited about going to Paris, the real purpose of the trip is to get to know Belgium, a country I love already without ever having been there just from my millions and millions of visits to Monk’s, a Belgian bar in the city that boasts an encyclopedic array of imported beers, serves authentic pots of mussels and frites served with their housemade spicy mayo, and even has their own Flemish sour ale brewed specifically for them in Ertvelde, Belgium. Also, I love waffles, chocolate, neo-gothic architecture, lambic, and capital cities whose biggest attraction is a whimsical, 700 year old statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain. What, you were unfamilar with the Manekken Pis? Sometimes he is even dressed up in jaunty costumes.

I am beyond thrilled to get to spend so much time exploring the country. We’re staying for two nights in Brussels, two nights in Bruges, a night in Ghent, and a night in the Belgian countryside, hopefully in an old castle. Thankfully, the rail system in Belgium (like most places in Europe) is convenient, fast, and cheap, so getting to and from each city should be a breeze.

For Brussels, just like our hotels in Paris, Boyfriend cashed in some points with Starwood Hotels to land us The Four Points by Sheraton (I’ll try to remember all of this when I complain the next time he goes out of town for work).

Brussels is far less expensive a city than Paris, so even if we hadn’t used points for this hotel, we still could have gotten a great deal on one. I’m already planning which trams to take where, and reading Rick Steves’ book on Brussels & Bruges manically, trying to soak up as much as I can. Just like Paris, Brussels is an extremely walkable city, but unlike Paris, it’s small enough so you can hit the majority of the sights in one day. We have two full days and a morning before we have to leave for the airport.

For our two nights in Bruges, we used airbnb to rent this amazing, furnished apartment in the center of town. I first heard about airbnb through Victoria of SFGirlbyBay, when she wrote about her stay in a beautiful apartment in Le Marais during her trip to Paris last year. Since then I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use the site, and Bruges provided the perfect opportunity. It was cheaper than staying in a hotel, the reviews are absolutely glowing, and Boyfriend is super excited to be able to cook dinner for us. He’s weird, I don’t know. It will be a nice change though, to stay in a house rather than a hotel, and we’ll end up feeling like locals even though we’re only in the city for two days.

There’s still a lot left to do and plan, but a big chunk of stress has been lifted off my shoulders. Once everything is finalized for Ghent and the countryside I’ll let you guys know! Have any of you ever been to Bruges or Brussels before?

Paris Planning

SO. About this grand European vacation I’m taking in May. We land in Brussels at 8am on a Monday morning, and are taking a train right to Paris from the airport for two days. Of course, because I’m me and I’m a total spaz about everything, I’m sweating bullets about the possibility of losing our luggage, missing our Thalys train, having the plane get sucked into some LOST-like mystery island, you know, the usual. But at least I can finally take a deep breath about our hotel accommodations, because as of Monday night we officially have a place to stay in Paris and Brussels. We still need to firm up a place in Ghent, Bruges, and the Belgian countryside (Boyfriend is dying to stay in an old castle, isn’t that adorable?), but we’re definitely on a roll.

I should mention that Boyfriend travels a lot for work. Sometimes to exotic places like India, and sometimes to snoozefests like Minneapolis (no offense, Minnesotans). His job requires him to travel, and since he’s been in the same job for the past 7 years, he’s racked up a fair amount of hotel points. Hotel points are magical little things. Did you know that if you have enough of them you can stay in a 4 or 5 star hotel in an expensive European city for FREE? I thought it was the stuff of lore. So imagine how excited I was when I found our Boyfriend had (officially past tense now) enough points with Marriott, Hilton, and Starwood to put us up in a 4 star hotel in two expensive European cities for $0. And not for one night, but for four. FOUR. I guess all those lame business trips he goes on are actually worth it!

Tomorrow I’ll do a separate post on our Brussels hotel as well as the charming apartment we’re renting in Bruges. Speaking of, have any of you seen the movie “In Bruges”? I watched it with Boyfriend this week because he hadn’t seen it before, and in the 4 years since I first watched it I’d forgotten nearly everything about the plot. It was like watching it for the first time again. That movie is so good. And Clémence Poésy is in it!

Okay, so Paris! After a ton of research and reading a million different hotel reviews, doing some fuzzy math to figure out which hotels would work with the points we had, we settled on our choices: The Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe, and the Hilton Arc de Triomphe. We have to change hotels for the two nights we’re there, but bfd. Both are four stars and both are otherwise prohibitively expensive per night. They’re only a few blocks from each other and both within eyesight of (in case you hadn’t guessed) the Arc de Triomphe. I’m soaking up the waves of jealousy radiating off you right now.

Because I am a neurotic over-planner, and in an effort to maximize the limited amount of time we’re spending in Paris, I’ve already mapped out which metro line we need to take once our train pulls into the city of light (M4 towards Porte de Clingancourt from Gare du Nord one stop to Barbès Rochechouart, switch to M2 towards Porte Dauphine, 9 stops to Ternes, walk 1.5 blocks) to get to the Marriott. And don’t think I didn’t use street view in Google Maps to “walk” to the Hilton so we’ll know where we’re going.

And as it turns out, where we’re going for our second night ain’t too shabby, either! And before you say anything, yes, I realize I’m staying at a Paris Hilton for my very own “one night in Paris.” I’m trying to not defile the purity and loveliness of this trip with that grossness.

I know which metros to take to get to the Louvre and Ladurée. So far, that is the extent of my planning. It’s going to be fun and interesting trying to squeeze in everything I want to see and show Boyfriend in the most beautiful city in the world in two short days, especially considering we’ll be jet-lagged the entire first day. I have a vision of us sitting outside at a bar after dinner on Monday night, giggling with delirium.

I know that I shouldn’t put so much emphasis on the hotels, since the only time I’ll be spending in them is when I’m unconscious in bed. Frankly, I could spend two nights in a cardboard box on the streets of Paris and I’d still post about it like it was the most fabulous thing in the world. But there is something to be said about getting almost €1000 in fancy hotels for free. I may have had some pretty impressive bargains before, but I do believe this takes the cake.

Tomorrow: Brussels and Bruges!