Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快乐! 恭喜发财! 万事如意! 狗年吉祥! I hope the Year of the Dog brings you happiness and prosperity.
I have been very off my resolutions as a result of those health issues I had been dealing with earlier this month, so the Lunar New Year is another shot at a fresh slate to get my life back on track. Valentine’s Day was also Lent, but I don’t know what bad habit I really need to completely abstain from this year. I may try to add something instead of eliminating something, maybe meditation, but we shall see! I’ll be mostly focusing on my resolutions from earlier in the year. For example, I still haven’t purchased stamps for all that snail mail I said I would start sending. BUT I have started collecting mailing addresses and sending eCards in the meantime?
Anyhow, this is very delayed but here’s a 1SecondEveryday compilation from when I celebrated the new year most recently in Hong Kong 🇭🇰
I had so much fun in Hong Kong and it feels so familiar even though I only visited once before, 15 years ago. It’s a city like no other and one of my favorites, despite the frustrations of seeing Chinese and English everywhere but being unable to communicate with Cantonese-speaking-only folks. The city is super vibrant and has an incredible energy that I absolutely love. The food scene is so good that I only remembered to get an eating video right before we left, as the rest of the time I was too busy cramming the food in my mouth.
I hope you are having a great 2018 so far, for those observing, I hope Lent is going well, and I hope the Year of the Dog brings nothing but good things to you!
Prior to visiting Paris, I got a lot of shopping suggestions. Since I am not quite with it on the French luxury brands game, I basically disregarded all advice to stock up on Chanel, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, etc. I don’t have much of a taste for luxury goods, just thinking about the potential prices (which I learned were still lower than the actual prices!)
What did I plan to purchase? French skincare products.
I care about taking care of skin, and the French really set the bar for the quality with which people should be treating their skin. French skincare is part of the charm of the chic French woman, whose skin is so good that she is able to spend minimal time on her makeup routine and, instead, go for that je ne sais quoi look.
The number one spot recommended to me? CityPharma. I knew that all French pharmacies would carry a much wider range of French skincare products than American drugstores do, but CityPharma is the spot to get great deals on excellent products.
Confession? I was really scared to go here. I read a few testimonies online that the store would be overrun by tourists, a chaotic war scene where shelves would get cleared out before my eyes if I didn’t gird my loins and fight my way through.
Reality? It was so calm and quiet and orderly. I’ll be really honest with you: I’ve never seen a place with so many Asian tourists carrying so much merchandise to bring home be so quiet and orderly, real talk. There were so many staff members answering questions, not rushing people, taking time to explain what products are best for what skin, not pushing to try to make a commission because it’s a pharmacy and not that kind of retailer. Honestly, this was still the most stunning thing about this place, even more stunning to me than the prices.
Anyway, without further ado, here are the products that I panicked and threw into my basket. I didn’t want to come away with so much, and definitely didn’t think I would quality for a VAT refund (more on that later), but Ben was enabling me once he learned what the discount was compared to back in the States.
Tip: Go to the checkout area for a basket, since all the baskets wind up there and NOT at the little basket area near the entrance. You will need a basket. Don’t fool yourself. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll just be casually walking around this store with an armful of products.
HAIR // I had been meaning to try the Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk for a while, so when I saw this 2-pack for less than one bottle would cost back home, I snatched it up. I don’t exactly need more dry shampoo (I have a dry shampoo round-up coming at you soon though!) but it doesn’t go bad and I will need it eventually.
Also, since I have colored hair and was already in the Klorane section, I picked up the Klorane Color-Safe Shampoo + Conditioner + Leave-In Cream with Pomegranate to round out my hair-care routine. I don’t love these, as I find my hair doesn’t feel as clean when I rinse them out as with my other color-safe stuff, but my color has been holding on.
FACIAL SPRAYS // I can’t believe this is its own category. You know, a year ago, I thought face mists were a scam. Do people really need to be misting their faces? Can’t you just splash water on and then apply more moisturizer? Well, I’m not really sure what changed between then and September, because I left Paris with not one, not two, but THREE different kinds of face mists, most of which are small enough for me to carry on planes so I can, in theory, mist mid-flight. (In practice, I feel a little too obnoxious to spray my face while sitting next to someone.)
The Caudalie Beauty Elixir is something I already have a sample of from the location in DC and enjoy using, and may be the product that led to me having so many face sprays in my arsenal now. The Caudalie Grape Water was a special deal because it’s a limited edition bottle? (I don’t believe the usual bottle design is that fuschia color.) So I wound up with a few of those to give as gifts. And the Avène Thermal Spring Water has such clout that I found it necessary to buy travel-sized and full-sized bottles of it. This is just who I am now, apparently. I just have to get over the perceived weirdness of spraying my face around other people because it’s winter and my face is dry, folks!
OTHER FACE PRODUCTS // I started panicking as I realized how heavy my basket was getting, but I wanted a La Roche-Posay sunscreen. I wound up with one that was a lot heavier than I was hoping, even for the winter, but may be a good option as a heavy-duty sunscreen when I do things in the summer? I also picked up a teeny travel-sized bottle of the famous Bioderma Micellar Water because the giant bottles intimidated me and I don’t use micellar water that frequently. (That being said, there was an insane deal for 2 big bottles of Bioderma for folks that are fans!)
POCKET-SIZED PRODUCTS // As I was leaving, there were these little shelves of products that were bundled for easy gifting and just to get you to buy more products, to be honest, because as I later looked they weren’t buy-one get-one free, more like buy-one get-one 50% sometimes. I got a Nuxe Lip Balm Stick, which is apparently not as good as the potted lip balm and I can see how, and the Caudalie Hand Cream, which smells kind of strange and has a texture I don’t love.
What would I do differently?
I think I would research more products and be more prepared going in. I didn’t know about a lot of these products so I panicked and grabbed things I recognized and ran. But that evening I thought about how I’ve been looking for an eye cream and something with more retinol for anti-wrinkle or just some other serums. I wish I had known about the Nuxe lip balm, for example. It helps to be prepared, especially if you don’t want to have one of the store assistants hold your hand through the entire process. (Which they would still be happy to do!)
Tip: One thing to make sure you do is bring your passport! A lot of other blogs and websites have talked about this at length, but if you spend over €175 you qualify for a VAT tax refund. This was so easy to do at CityPharma. When you are checking out, you just ask if you can apply for the tax refund. They pull out the forms, start filing for you, ask for your passport. Then, you can either have your refund applied to your credit card, if you used one, or you can get a thing to take to the airport when you go back home. I opted to have my refund applied to my credit card, minus the processing fee, because it wasn’t going to be big enough for me to justify waiting in a line at the airport. (The lines can get long, so make sure the factor time for that if this is your plan.)
All in all, we had a really positive experience at CityPharma and will definitely go back to load up on French skincare for ourselves and for others.
What are your favorite French pharmacy products? I love Caudalie as a brand and am glad I have great access to them because they have one of their spa locations in DC. I do like the Klorane dry shampoo, so I have to explore their other products.
I have had the amazing opportunity to do a fair bit of travel in my time, and a lot of it has been very international-focused and thinking about what places abroad I’d like to visit. For the past few years, I’ve been thinking about the amazing American cities that I haven’t yet visited, and at the top of that list has been New Orleans. So imagine when, at the end of RubyConf last year, I learned that this year’s conference would be held in NOLA! While I spent most of my time at the conference, I was still able to explore part of the city and Ben was able to join me for the weekend to explore as well.
Based on my short time in the Crescent City, here is little guide to how I enjoyed New Orleans on this particular trip!Read More »
New Orleans has been at the top of my list of American cities to visit for quite some time now, so when I learned last year at RubyConf that the conference would be going back to the Crescent City, I was thrilled.
My time in NOLA was a bit of a whirlwind but I enjoyed the rich culture of the Big Easy. It is a city that everyone says lives up the hype, so here’s my 1 Second Everyday video recap of my time!
I have the wonderful opportunity to do a fair bit of travel but there are a lot of American cities I still have yet to visit and I hope I get the chance to see them. I’m excited to share my little slice of New Orleans soon!
Previously on Paris 2017, we wrapped our last day in Paris with a highly-anticipated engagement photoshoot, stocking up on French skincare items, and exploring Montmartre, mainly the Sacré-Cœur and Moulin Rouge.
TL;DR Disneyland Paris is a fun park to visit for fans, especially European ones, but not particularly impressive for folks who have visited American parks in the past. (I can’t speak to the Asian parks.)
Disney park tip: If possible, book your stay at a Disney property so you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours and get into the park before it opens to the general public. This is definitely worthwhile if you want to maximize hours spent at the park and want to visit something that has a long line.
Disney day was upon us! Disneyland Paris is the only Disney park in Europe and consists of two parks: Walt Disney Studios Park and Disneyland Park. Disneyland Paris is currently celebrating it’s 25th anniversary, so the decorations have been updated for the occasion and some shows have been changed as well!
By the way, remember how it’s been rainy most days of our Paris trip? We experienced the heaviest rain on our Disney day and were greeted with this view of the castle when we walked into the park.
First stop, Sleeping Beauty’s castle itself in Disneyland Park!
I heard that one of the highlights of DLP (Disneyland Paris) is there is a dragon sleeping under the castle! We were on such a rush mission to see the dragon before a crowd grew around it and woke it up.
We walked around a bit and saw on the DLP app that Pirates of the Caribbean actually had nearly no line, so we hopped on to see if the ride was any different in France. It wasn’t, and I was slightly let down because some people cited this ride as a highlight of the park. Because of the glowing reviews of this ride (by people who’ve been to at least one American park), I started getting worried that this park didn’t really have a lot of novelty to offer.
Afterwards, we grabbed some quick bites via a crepe (Ben loves his crepes) and a star-shaped doughnuts (you know me and doughnuts) (and star-shaped things…) and then actually ran back to the hotel because it looked like it was going to rain and we needed to get more rain protection. We took a fairly leisurely walk back to explore the park but a lot of areas seemed closed (it was off-peak season) and we learned that in a French theme park, even a Disney one, there will be a smoking area. (The French are still pretty strong smokers, judging from the large crowds engulfed in smoke I saw outside of bars and cafes back in Paris.)
We decided to go into Walt Disney Studios Park from the hotel because it was open to the public (no magic hours there) and we learned that there was a French food festival happening!
Each region of France was represented with its signature foods. Basically, it was the perfect little tour of French cuisine for us, and it may have been the highlight of our entire park visit.
We tried a little bit from most regions, aside from Bretagne (thanks Breizh Café) and Savoie (with long lines for raclette, which we had zero interest in because we’re not cheese fans), and had a pretty positive experience with this, despite the fact that they did have to microwave a lot of the food for us. It was still some of the better food we ate in the parks. (The rumors are true: DLP does not have good food despite being in France, a country known for its great cuisine… as evidenced by this food festival.)
We weren’t able to try food from everywhere, but I’m really grateful that this food festival happened during our visit because we really did learn a lot about the different regional cuisines of France!
In addition to Hyperspace Mountain, we rode the really fun Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, featuring Aerosmith and a lot of really cool rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia and history. There is also a very random (and not very good) ride based on the 1998 Armageddon movie, which I think Disney thought would be a longer-lasting hit than it was. From there, we hustled back to catch a Star Wars stage show that ended up being kind of disappointing… it wasn’t interactive, there was no story…? It was just a parade of characters and then it was over.
It was around this time that I learned that maybe European Disney guests are pretty different from American ones. For example, I didn’t see many Disneybounders at all. (The few I saw… I’m pretty sure were American.) Also, I would see great photo opportunities with no wait for them at all and then watch as a line formed behind Ben while he took photos of me. Apparently, the behavior I learned from American Disney fans on Instagram (specifically, posing in front of Disney’s plentiful photo-ready walls) made me something of a trendsetter that day in Disneyland Paris?
I don’t know why Toy Stor[e]y is misspelled here
We were really excited for our dinner reservation at Chez Rémy, the Ratatouille-themed restaurant that is modeled like Remy’s little rat-sized restaurant in the movie. The concept is very cute, decor-wise, but this was one of the most disappointing experiences we had at DLP.
The food was extremely meh-to-bad tasting, and a lot of it didn’t even photograph well? I expect Disney to at least value style over substance, but never did I imagine they would execute neither well. The MOST disappointing thing was when our waitress recommended the chocolate cake to us and it came out looking like a literal mug cake that got dumped on a plate, with a cloying yet not sweet enough sauce. It was mushy and also cloying but not sweet enough and just terrible and ugly. I don’t know why the waitress recommended it to us. Maybe she hated us, she didn’t seem very happy.
Walt Disney Studios Park actually closes at 6pm, and with our dinner going over, we had to wait for every party to finish dining so that we could be escorted out the empty park by a park employee. It was a super surreal experience, walking through an empty park!
We went back to Disneyland Park as the sun was setting, aka my favorite time of day anyway but especially in a Disney park.
We rode Haunted Mansion, as I had heard that it’s a bit different here and very special and unique but… it… was not? After that really disappointing meal, I was starting to feel really jaded about all the tips we got for things to do at DLP…
Nothing could really ruin golden hour, though, so we headed over to what has become my favorite Disney place during golden hour: the Tomorrowland/Discovery Land/whatever has the Astro Orbiter.
I like that Paris has a Jules Verne-theme instead of a what-the-future-looked-like-in-the-50s theme, it did add a unique spin and didn’t seem as dated since it is not a prediction of the future but a projection of a specific vision of the future.
We revisited the classic Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast (I finally beat Ben!!!!!!!!) and also toured the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. (I fear this is the kind of attraction that will get replaced by something from a more recent movie someday soon.) From there, it was time to get ready for the evening fireworks show in front of the castle! I told myself I would just enjoy it and not take photos but… it was just so gorgeous. I would put the camera away and then find myself frantically getting it out to capture a shot.
Despite feeling a bit let down by the overall experience (and how salty I was that the castle show featured all these classic Disney animation clips and then a clip of live action Beauty and the Beast………….), it was really hard to not walk away from DLP feeling a bit of magic. I cry during the castle show every dang time.
That’s it! That was our last day in France! We were kept awake by a crack in the window, which led to a screeching howl every time the wind gusted by (aka every 5 minutes since it was storming out) and then waited until 3AM for a maintenance person to come by and basically… tape it shut.
Needless to say, we left France a little tired and cranky but really grateful for all the adventures that we had.
I can’t believe I’ve somehow managed to visit a different Disney park every year for the past few years! I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunities to visit and compare these theme parks in a fairly short span of time.
What are your favorite things about Disneyland Paris? What’s your favorite Disney park? I’ve heard some good things about the Asia parks, although I believe they are also not run directly by the Walt Disney Company, right? That might be why their merchandise game is so different… and adorable!
What did we miss out on while we were in France? I think it’s really likely that we’ll return, so I’ll try not to ignore my Duolingo and practice that French so I can do even better with it the next time I go!
I’ll also try to get vlogs up because I have been diligently recording videos but… well, I have a lot of vlogs to get up and I take a long time with them… But I’ll do my best!
Can you believe it’s December already? Do you have any posts you’d like to see in particular? I am aiming to get my New Orleans recap up soon and maybe a gift guide or two so that you have someplace to start brainstorming as we get into gift exchange season!