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Posts from the ‘Travels’ category

SOUTHWEST HARBOR – Mount Desert Island, Maine 
44.2797° N, 68.3256° W

This is the place, if you: need to unplug | lust for lobster | want to smell sea air and pine forests

Maine Coastline

Maine. Glorious Maine. This is the place to get back to basics for a week or two. Swim. Fish. Bike. Nap. Read. Stargaze. And by all means, unplug. People flock to Mount Desert Island for the stunning Acadia National Park, as well as for the biking, hiking, fishing, sea kayaking, sailing, and the lovely Asticou gardens. Biking the rustic carriage roads of Acadia was a highlight of the trip. We spent two weeks here in August. The first week we rented a house on Great Duck Island. The second week, we rented a little beach cottage in low-key Southwest Harbor (the quiet side of the island) and pretended to be Mainers for the week.

The Drive
If you’re driving up the twisty coastal route from Portland, look out for these Maine gems:

 – Sea Bags – unique, waterproof totes made from recycled sails.
6 Bow Street | Freeport, Maine

 – LL Bean – in case you forgot your Wellies.
95 Main Street | Freeport, Maine

 – Graffram Brother’s Seafood Shack
This place has the lobster roll of your dreams. Stop by this scenic shack for the freshest lobster rolls, beer-battered haddock sandwiches, and fried clams. Grab a colorful picnic table in the shade. We got so excited, we couldn’t finish everything we ordered. Open seasonally May – October.
211 Union Street | Rockport, Maine | 207.236.8391

 – Chase’s Daily
This farmstand/restaurant is a treasure. Vegetarian dishes incorporate food from the farm. Try the baked goods. Located in the quaintest historic downtown you ever did see. The kind of place you fantasize about moving to immediately.
96 Maine Street | Belfast, Maine | 207.338.0555


Once in Southwest Harbor
 – Sawyer’s Market  Grab a baguette and pack a picnic or provision a boat at Sawyer’s Market. Sample the local cheeses like the brie-like Pearl from Seal Cove Farm. (Pearl was a beloved, spunky goat from the farm.) Try Pearl with some Wild Maine Blueberry Jam.
344 Main St  | Southwest Harbor

 – Beal’s Lobster Pound  The place for your next lobster binge. It seems due to global warming, there is a surplus of lobsters. Smaller lobsters have sweeter meat, so choose two little ones from the tank and get cracking at this popular hangout (If you’re new to this, watch How to Crack a Lobster before you go.)
182 Clark Point Rd. | Southwest Harbor | 207.244.7178

 – XYZ Mexican in Maine? Hell yes. XYZ (standing for Xalapa, Yucatan, and Zacatecas) is the real thing – authentic regional recipes. Happy memories include costilla de res (beef short rib in adobo), chiles rellenos, and cochinta (pork in achiote). We visited three times. If it wasn’t a 10-hour drive from my house, I’d be there tonight for dinner. Reservations recommended.
80 Seawall Road | Southwest Harbor | 207.244.5221


Wellies, raincoat, sweaters, wool socks, bug spray. Unfortunately, my swimsuit didn’t get much wear. The water is cooold, even in mid-August. And that is coming from someone who learned to swim in Lake Michigan.

This was a back to nature trip, thus the outdoorsy inspired reading list:  I read:

– Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle (1839)– a vivid account of his second voyage and the natural world.
 – Stalking the Wild Asparagus (1962) by Euell Gibbons, renowned wild edibles advocate. This book made me want to go out and forage (I found rose hips and huckleberries!)
 – Passage (2004), a beautiful book by renowned nature sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. I then tried my hand at site-specific land-art – a memorable way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Been to Southwest Harbor? Know about any hidden gems? Things to explore off the beaten path?

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PARIS – France
48.8742° N, 2.3470° E

This is the place if you are: feeling romantic | celebrating | in love with love

placeLet it be known, there is nothing I like better than waking up in Paris. Especially waking up in my own apartment on the left bank of the River Seine. Last Spring I lived the Paris life for a week – I swapped a U.S. apartment for a Parisian one through HomeExchange. My thoughtful Parisian host left a plate of macaroons and a list of his favorite neighborhood (6th arrondissement) restaurants for me to discover. I listened to his classical music collection and steeped the delicate French tea leaves from the cupboard. I felt instantly at home. My host’s local knowledge paved the way for an unforgettable trip. Setting out for the day, I took my café crème downstairs at a lovely coffeeshop. The pace is different here. There’s no such thing as a “to go” cup. One must sip from small ceramic cups. One must be present. One is obliged to taste the coffee, to linger, to take in the surroundings.

Eric Kayser

Eric Kayser I often stopped by the corner pâtisserie for croissants. The closest spot happened to be Eric Kayser. (Kayser has the last word on pain au chocolat – caramelized flaky pastry + warm, melty, evenly distributed dark chocolate.) If buying an artisan baguette, I observed that one must twist off le quignon and devour it immediately. This pointy, dark nipple of bread is somehow irresistible to Parisians. 10 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie


 Café de Flore

Cafe de Flore

Perhaps the most famous café in Paris. Classique. Good enough for Jean-Paul Sartre, good enough pour moi. Exquisite people watching.
172 Boulevard Saint-Germain



Mariage Frères

The French have a way with tea. Our tea sommelier (yes, sommelier) indicated the Lapsang souchoung pairs perfectly with the smoked duck sandwiche. It was a poem. I watched a mother and daughter use a knife and fork to eat their pastries. They took petite bites, petite sips and it lasted over an hour. It was a lesson in appreciation just watching them. 
13 rue des Grand-Augustins


Shakespeare&CoShakespeare and Company
This place feels like home; I’ve been coming here for 18 years. This is the best English language used bookstore on the planet. Curl up with some poetry. Pet the cat. Talk to strangers. Look out the window at Notre Dame across the street. There are also some great book stalls along the Seine.   
37 Rue de la Bûcherie


MerengueLe Loir Dans La Théière
As my host said “Huge Lemon Tart; fabulous place.”  Besides the kilometre-high lemon merengue, I loved this place because it felt like a sunny, friendly, down-to-earth local hangout. Not a touriste in sight. 
3 rue des Roisers 



fromageLa Fermette 
This is the cheese shop of Madame Fromage’s dreams. Everything you could ever want, right in the center of Paris – from aged Comté to fresh chèvre. La Fermette offers a degustation of perfectly ripened cheeses (around five), which you can take home and serve immediately. Plate and all. How utterly civilized. 
86 rue Montorgueil



Colette  Named after the French novelist. This must be where the chic, trendy Parisians buy their clothes. The selection is highly curated, very fresh, always changing. I snapped a photo. Le oooops! C’est interdit! I then absconded upstairs to the Le Labo outpost and asked the perfumer to compose a scent (Another 13) while I waited. There’s a très chic Water Bar downstairs. 213 Rue Saint-Honore

gallerieZe Kitchen Gallerie 
This restaurant doubles as an art gallery. The highlight – roasted, grilled squab with rhubarb.  
4 rue des Grands Augustins


Chez Dumonet
Classic bistro. Duck confit. Boeuf bourguignon. Soufflé. The quintessential French meal. Stellar views of le Tour Eiffel around the corner. I rode a Vélib’ bike to Chez Dumonet and felt very French indeed. 
117 rue Cherche-Midi 


ComptoirLe Comptoir
A lovely bistro. Snagged a sunny sidewalk table for my last bite of fromage in Paris. Prime location for people watching.
9 Carrefour de l’Odeon


  • Pack comfortable flats for negotiating the cobblestones
  • Stock up on creative flatware from Sabre. I’m in love with the acrylic polka-dot ice tea spoons. Sabre items make great gifts – and they are lightweight.
  • Bring back salted caramel macarons from Ladurée for loved ones. (You can purchase a box for the return flight at Charles de Gaulle airport)



What are your secret places to see in Paris? Favorite experiences in the City of Light?

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