Christmas in Paris

I couldn’t resist posting this, which a friend passed on to me with the comment, “How I wish this were my dilemma—what’s open in Paris this week?

Holiday alert! The vast majority of Paris restaurants will be closed from before Christmas until after the New Year …

I’m the sort of gal who likes her cozy little family traditions on holidays. But I’m also the sort of gal who isn’t afraid to, say, fly to England for Christmas (because that’s when Jesse would be able to go). On that very trip, we also visited France (though not Paris), so we got a taste of small-town France at Christmas too. I’ve also spent a Christmas at Tybee Island, Georgia, with the whole family in a beach house, one in Honolulu, Hawaii, in the late ’60s (oh, there’s a post for you!), and a Christmas in Phoenix a couple years ago with my son, who had a lot of gigs and couldn’t leave town.*

So if you’re the sort of person who might be planning a special holiday trip to Paris, you’ll want to read up here. The website is called Paris by Mouth, and features—you will have guessed—Paris restaurants, wine bars, bakeries and pastry shops, wine shops, chocolate and candy shops, ice cream shops, craft cocktails, craft beer shops, craft beer bars, “decent coffee” (their term!), and specialty shops. In Paris. Did I say that already? 🙂

I’ve added it to my blogroll, just in case you need to refer back. I hear April in Paris is nice too. 🙂

* It was interesting to add that all up, I think. I wouldn’t have guessed I’d spent even four Christmases away from home. How about you? Have you ever had a destination Christmas? Tell me about it in the comments!

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An Expat Voice

I’m so excited to introduce you to my niece, Marisa Ryan, a girl-next-door American who grew up in Carson City, Nevada … and is now living the expat life in Vietnam with her husband, Tim, and their two young children. Here’s Marisa:

Everything Can Change

Tim and I were just going about our daily Las Vegas lives when we received a call from Tim’s boss, David, that would change everything! This was in mid-February 2012; I was six months pregnant and our dream house was just partially remodeled. We had a plan.

Oh, how that plan changed!

The next week at dinner, David told us about a fantastic career opportunity for Tim—to open a new casino resort on the beaches of Vietnam as director of food & beverage. At the time, I don’t think Tim or I could have pointed out on the map exactly where Ho Chi Minh City was, but we knew it was an opportunity we couldn’t turn down. We did a bit of research and quickly prepared to move across the world. This opportunity wasn’t going to wait.

We had no idea what was in store for us—nor could we even imagine what it would be like to live in Southeast Asia.

Six weeks later Tim, our two-year-old son, Conrad, and I boarded our flight. After twenty-four hours we landed in the hot, muggy weather at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. We were scared and excited all at the same time. Driving from the airport to our hotel we tried to take it all in—the traffic, the motorbikes, the hammocks, the street food, the people. It was like nothing we had ever seen.

The first three months brought many ups and downs. We welcomed our precious baby girl Simone Viét, struggled with culture shock, discovered the privileged life of being an expat, worried about how Conrad was adjusting, and dealt with lots of uncertainty that surrounded the opening of the resort and Tim’s job. We soon found our stride, met great friends, traveled to exotic locations, and fell in love with Vietnam.

The Ryan family — American expats in Vietnam. (Photo © Tim Ryan.)

The Ryan family — American expats in Vietnam. (Photo © Tim Ryan.)

It’s a great story, don’t you think? And while Tim’s been busy opening a luxury hotel (the Grand Ho Tram Beach Resort), Marisa—a fashion industry veteran—has started a small clothing company called Native Grace Fashion. Marisa and her business partner Brandy were often going to the fabric markets get things made for themselves, and thus another career opp suggested itself: it is very affordable to have manufacturing done in Vietnam. So Marisa and Brandy came up with the concept—resort wear, bathing suit cover-ups, and so on—scoured through markets for fabric, hired a pattern maker, made samples, and then went to factory. I’ll let Marisa tell you that story sometime.

So stick around! Marisa has a lot of fascinating stories about living in Vietnam … and visiting Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bali, Singapore, Bangkok, the Vietnam Central Coast, and other interesting locations I may never see. (Next up: a weekend trip to Cambodia.) Tạm biệt (good-bye) for now!

Destinations You Should Visit?

I ran across this article a few days ago. I love the way they headline it “10 U.S. Destinations You Should Visit in 2014.” Should? Next year? I mean, I’d love to take ten trips next year, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. 🙂

But the blurb caught my attention: “Whether quietly emerging destinations or perennial favorites, these places have new or timely angles that make them prime for visiting in 2014.” So let’s see what they’ve got.

1. Grand Rapids and Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast

2. Yosemite National Park

3. Boston, Mass

4. California’s Central Coast

5. The Jersey Shore

6. Kansas City, MO

7. Cumberland Island, GA

8. Las Vegas

9. Sun Valley, ID

10. Lana’i, Hawaii

It’s an eclectic list. And I’ll be honest—if you say Jersey Shore to me I immediately think of Snooki and her guidos and go from there straight to couldn’t possibly be less interested. Similarly, I’ve been to Grand Rapids a couple times (business) and was underwhelmed. But that big ol’ lake is lovely—I’ve always wanted to go to Mackinac Island at Christmas—and it’s been some years since I was in GR, so I’d reconsider.

I’ve never really done much in Las Vegas except have a meal and drive on through. Gambling has never appealed to me—why is it that some people think gambling’s fun and others just think gambling: meh?—so this has never been on my destination list. But my sister’s fam routinely goes to Las Vegas; they love the shows, particularly Cirque du Soleil. (And what’s not to love about Cirque du Soleil?) Kansas City is another place I’ve only driven through, though I researched it once for a travel article I was writing and thought I could enjoy this.

I grew up in California—about a ninety-minute drive from Yosemite—so I consider it “mine.” From the coastline to the mountains, California’s magnificent; I never grow tired of it. I’m very familiar with both locations mentioned here.

There are definitely some interesting items here.  I love Georgia’s coastal islands, for example. I was in Hawaii once as a teenager, but think I could really love it as an old-ager. Boston’s high on my list of desired destinations—I’m such a history buff—but I’ve never been there. Bottom line: even if you haven’t considered any of these destinations before, you could have a fine time with a spirit of adventure and an enquiring mind.

What do you think? I’m sure some travel is on my agenda for next year, but haven’t decided what or where yet. Where do you plan to go in 2014?