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Postcards From Paris

Warning Paris picture overload!

Ah Paris, one of my favorite cities. Not only did I get to return to Paris last week, I also got to spend time with family, which was wonderful after being away for six months. This trip was a great mix of old and new. My cousins/siblings (we are technically cousins, but we feel like siblings) had never been to Paris before, so it was nice to show them all of the major sights. But I also had some days to myself where I could sneak away and explore new places.

My family only had five days in Paris so we made the most of it, making sure they saw all of the major stuff -- Versailles, Louvre, Musee D'Orsay, Eiffel Tower, Paris Opera, Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Laduree (naturally this belongs on this list), Notre Dame, and the Tuileries. Of course, there was so much more I wanted to show them, but with only five four days, we had to prioritize.

Unlike me, my family loves Disney. So they also wanted to reserve a day to visit Disney Paris. I decided to stay behind and have a day of just wandering the city. I visited my favorite cafes and stores (hello, Repetto), took tons of pictures of doors, and was even able to meet up with Shannon! I just adore her and think it is so serendipitous that we have been able to connect twice now overseas.

I had another day and a half to myself after my family left, which I used to visit a couple new places, take more door pics, and try some new cafes. I was also able to meet up with Ashley of the fabulous blog Quaintrelle. If you don't follow Ashley, you should! She is living in Paris and traveling around Europe for the next six months... so jealous!

Despite the mixed weather -- we had some surprisingly grey and chilly days for June -- it was a great trip. I am always happy to have an excuse to go to Paris!

What is your favorite thing about Paris?

Ashley B
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Outfit: Gingham Style

dress // bag // sandals // sunnies // earrings (old, but love these) // denim jacket

Nothing feels more like summer than a bright navy gingham dress and a lemon purse! Am I right?

My incredible friend Jen made this adorable navy gingham dress for me just before I left for Paris. She made the mistake of taking me along with her to the fabric store one day. I spotted this fabric and knew I needed a gingham dress in my life! After a little begging, she said she had just the design for it. I love the cut outs on the shoulders, which are perfect for summer (although Paris was unseasonable chilly). We also have plans to add bows to the shoulders, but ran out of time before I left.

I am really into gingham right now, as is evident here and here. It is a timeless, yet fresh and fun, pattern that mixes easily with solids, florals, and other patterns (if you dare!). And don't even get me started on this lemon bag, I am obsessed. My lovely family brought it to me from home after I scored it in the last Kate Spade surprise sale, along with matching earrings of course.

More gingham to love:

Ashley B
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10 Tips for Traveling With Style

Traveling with style is not nearly as much work as people think it is. It is surprisingly simple to look put-togehter, fashionable, and still be comfortable while exploring a new destination. You don't need to pack a million bags or spend days agonizing over what to pack (unless you are into that). You just need to know the secrets to looking chic while still wearing function and comfortable clothing, shoes, and accessories. So I thought I would share some of my easy "rules" for traveling with style.

1) Don't Shy Away From Color
I see all of these capsule wardrobes on Pinterest that are nothing but dull and drab neutrals. You don't have to wear all neutrals for your clothing to match. It is boring and washes so many people out. Furthermore, wearing color looks great in photos. So embrace the color!

2) Low Profile Sneakers
I love low-profle sneakers, they are my go-to travel shoe. They are sleek enough to go with dresses, but still functional enough to conquer a new city. And since they are on trend at the moment, there are so many options to choose from (I'm currently wearing these, wanting these, and lusting over these). I also love ballet flats for travel, just make sure they are well worn beforehand to avoid blisters.

3) Fit and Flare Dresses
This is more of a life rule than a travel rule for me. I promise you, you can never go wrong with a fit and flare dress. They are flattering, can be dressed up or down (depending of fabric and pattern of course), and are comfortable. There's a reason why it is considered a timeless silhouette. And remember, dresses are much more versatile than you think.

4) Add a Hat
Not only does a hat protect your hair and face from the sun, it adds instant drama. Hats definitely make a statement. I am currently loving the boater hat trend (here and here). Hats are also great for when you don't want to do/wash your hair.

5) Statement Sunglasses
Nothing adds instant glamor like large statement sunnies. I love traveling with a great pair of sunglasses because they camouflage everything and mean that you can still look great even if you don't feel like wearing makeup... I mean you're on vacation right?

6) Mix Prints
Another more general life rule I abide by. Mixing prints can double the outfits one suitcase can hold. It also adds a level of interest and sophistication to even the most basic look. You can read more about my guidelines for mixing prints here.

7) Focus on Functional Fabrics
I am all about the functional fabrics when I am traveling. I want wrinkle and stain resistant fabrics that can stand up to the heat (or cold in the winter) and resist the grimy nature of major cities. Wool blends are great for colder weather because they are durable and warm, and don't wrinkle. I am also a huge fan of ponte fabric in the summer and any fabric with a bit of spandex.

8) Pick Items based on Fit and Proportion
Since photos can be unforgiving (you are after all rendering a 3-D person on a 2-D surface), you will want clothing that not only fits well but is well proportioned for your body. I also abide by the skirt-length to heel-height ratio rule. If your skirt is to the knees or longer wear a heel or wedge. But if your skirt is above the knee, wear flats. Honestly one of the biggest keys to looking great in a photo is clothing proportion!

9) Visualize (or Layout) Every Outfit
I swear by this! Yes, it is an extra step and can be time consuming (I actually think it is fun), but it always keeps me from overpacking and helps me be more creative with what I do pack. It also solves the "what am I going to wear today?" question. You can see some examples of how I outfit plan for trips here and here.

10) Add Accessories 
Accessories are a great way to jazz up an outfit. I don't believe in a lot of accessories, however, when you travel. No need to overpack jewelry and bags, which take up space and add extra weight. Instead I prefer to pick statement accessories, like a mini beret or whimsical bag.

Do you have any tips or tricks for traveling with style?

Ashley B
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Where to Eat in Rome

I think Rome and Venice are the trickiest cities in Italy to eat well in. Meals in these cities are either amazing or terrible, I rarely find anything in between. If you do your research before visiting, you can read lots of reviews and have specific restaurants in mind to try. What I find when I am traveling, however, is that I am often no where near the restaurant I found online (and it isn't convenient to get to), or I find the restaurant I'm looking for, but I have no reservation and they are booked. What then? In this case I have some tried and tested rules for selecting restaurants in Rome. I also thought I would share some of my favorite places around the city, should you find yourself nearby.

How to Pick A Restaurant in Rome (this method works in all major Italian cities):

1) Walk away from major tourists sights and squares. 
You will typically pay double the price for half the quality. If you want to people watch from a cafe in the Piazza Navona or in front of the Pantheon, I recommend enjoying a coffee, wine, or cocktail instead of a full meal.

2) Take a look at the posted menu outside (always do this first, never sit then look).
Unlike restaurants in the states, you want to see a small menu with seasonal selections. And if the menu is hand-written, even better! This means it changes daily based on what is fresh and available. IF THERE ARE PICTURES OF THE FOOD, WALK AWAY! I am serious, this usually indicates the restaurant is very touristy and the quality is poor.

3) Make sure the restaurant has posted the "coperto" or table charge. 
Not all restaurants have this, but if they do, they are legally obligated to post how much it is per person. If one is not listed, make sure you ask. In the past, restaurants would scam tourists by tacking on outlandish table charges. The authorities have cracked down on this in recent years, but it is always best to ask. This is also true for bread charges. If you are brought bread, there is no harm in confirming that it is free of charge, especially if you don't plan on eating it.

4) Look for (and order) the specialties of the region. 
Each region in Italy has its own cuisine. And for the best culinary experience, you want to stick to these local specialties. So in Rome I recommend trying the Calcio e Pepe, Carbonara, and Amatriciana. I also love the food in the Jewish Ghetto, especially the fried artichokes and zucchini flowers!

A note on selecting gelato - Like picking a good restaurant, you want to avoid gelato shops that focus on display -- i.e. brightly-colored mounds of gelato. While this looks pretty, it doesn't equal quality gelato. In fact, the best gelato places keep their concoctions covered in metal canisters to preserve flavor and constancy. My favorite gelato in Rome is San Crispino, just east of the Pantheon. 

Where to Eat in Rome
Now on to the good stuff, my favorite places to eat in Rome:

Sant’Eustachio Il Caffé
 (Piazza Sant’Eustachio 82)
Hands down, home of the best coffee and almond pastries in Rome! If you go, you must try their signature coffee, the "gran cafe." They take a special homemade cream and top it with fresh espresso and cinnamon (pictured above). It's amazing!

Pasta Love (Via Palermo, 63)
I have been going to Pasta Love for years, so long that they always remember me. Pasta Love has a good selection of traditional Roman dishes and some more modern concoctions. I love the pear and gorgonzola risotto. The quality, service, and prices are all excellent.

I Vascellari (Via dei Vascellari, 21)
My favorite restaurant in Rome and (in my opinion) home of the best carbonara in town! Located in the charming neighborhood of Trastevere, this quaint little restaurant is perfect for a romantic dinner for two or a small group of friends. The best part is you can walk off all of that rich carbonara along the river or through the medieval streets of Trastevere after dinner.

Roscioli (Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22)
I recently discovered this delicious salumeria, wine bar, and restaurant on my last trip to Rome. They specialize in local wines and regional cheeses and meats, but their calcio è pepe is the best in town!

Flavio al Velavevodetto (Via di Monte Testaccio, 97)
True foodies will want to head over to Rome's emerging food scene in Monte Testaccio (which is an ancient mound of Roman trash - discarded terra-cotta jars), where restaurants like Flavio al Velavevodetto serve seasonal Roman classics with modern twists.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Rome? Please share!

Ashley B
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I Have This Thing With Parisian Doors

So you may have noticed on Instagram that I have this thing with Parisian doors. I love them! I think they are just absolutely stunning and one of my favorite pastimes in Paris is just roaming the city admiring all of the beautiful doors. In fact, when my family headed to Paris Disney last Friday, I stayed in the city and headed out to explore for new doors.

Each door is just so special with intricate details and gorgeous hues that pop from the beige boulevards and grey walls that surround them. My family made fun of me because I basically walk around Paris like this:

Me (stops dead in my tracks): "Oh my gosh! Look at that one! I have to take a picture."
Family: "Yes, very pretty."
Me: (walks a few more steps and gasps): "No this one is even prettier! I need a picture of this one."
Family: (eye rolls)
Me: (walks to the next block, stops and sighs): "Oh, the color on this one!"

Repeat all day.

I especially love the shiny, heavily lacquered doors. I am curious how this tradition started. How long have Parisians been painting their ornate doors these beautiful hues?

You can find gorgeous colored doors throughout the city, mainly away from the big tourist sights. But once you start exploring some neighborhoods, you will find they are everywhere. My favorite areas for door strolling are Le Marais and the area around the Blvd. Staint-Germain and the Luxembourg Gardens.

If you want to know exactly where to find the city's best and brightest doors, check out my Google map guide of Paris!

Please tell me I am not alone in this obsession! And if anyone knows the history of these doors, do tell!
Ashley B
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Outfit: Dress Colorfully

dress (on sale!) // purse (also on sale!)  // sunnies // wedges

I (insert expletive) love this dress. I apologize in advance for the number of times you are going to see it on Instagram and here on the blog. I have already photographed it twice, the photos above and again while in Paris (#sorrynotsorry). There is nothing better than a dress that makes you feel amazing and perfectly captures your aesthetic.

I fell in love with this print last fall when Kate Spade presented it at fashion week. I dreamed about it all winter, and when it was finally released this spring, I contemplated selling a kidney to buy it right away. But my wise friend Jen advised me to wait for it to go on sale, plus Kate Spade offers no international shipping so it takes some maneuvering to even get it over here.

Then one day the stars aligned. Not only did the dress go on sale (with an additional percentage off, which Nordstrom always matches FYI), but it did so at exactly the moment Jen was traveling back home to New York. Being the good friend that she is, she let me ship it to her in New York and brought it back with her to Florence.

I am so glad I waited. This dress fits me perfectly and makes me oh-so happy. It was a great purchase and I can't wait to wear it for years to come. And I definitely need a fun Suite escape coat to pair with it for the fall!

I definitely stand out in Florence wearing this, but who cares, I love to dress colorfully!

Ashley B
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Outfit: A Popsicle in Pompeii

shorts // top // purse // hat // sunnies // shoes (my favorite shoes for travel)

While I am enjoying Paris with my family, I thought I would share another outfit from my trip to the Amalfi Coast two weeks ago. Don't worry, there will be lots of Paris pics once I return!

If I could describe Pompeii in one word, it would be HOT. In my opinion, there is nothing hotter and more uncomfortable than touring ancient ruins in the summer. This is especially true for the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, since there is nothing but un-shaded ruins. So when touring Pompeii comfort and sun protection are my two priorities. You'll want good shoes (closed toe since there are a lot of rocks and dust, especially if you climb Vesuvius), a comfy and cool outfit, a hat, and a ton of sunscreen! I also added my adorable popsicle purse to keep me cool, well thinking of cold things anyway.

Despite the high temps and unforgiving sun, Pompeii really is an amazing place to explore. Frozen in time by the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius, it is one of the best preserved ancient Roman sites.

Have you ever been to Pompeii?

Ashley B
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Packing for 7 Days in Paris

As you read this I am probably arriving in, or already exploring, Paris! I am so excited to not only spend some much needed time with family (who is meeting me there), but to return to one of my favorite cities in the world. I mean who doesn't love Paris?

My family has never been, so I am really just along for the ride. I plan on tagging along and enjoy being with them as they experience this magical city for the first time. I am also excited to have some free time in the city to just stroll and shop... and eat lots of macarons of course. Unlike my last trip in March, the weather is forecasted to be fantastic. Paris here I come!

Naturally, I methodically planned out each outfit for the trip prior to departure. I swear this keeps me from overpacking and forgetting things. I find the formula above provides enough variety to meet all occasions/travel situations, while still allowing you to look stylish and put together. You can find my more general packing for Europe in the summer guide here.

Shop the post: 
tee // blouse (similar) // button-up (similar) // peasant top
denim jacket // shorts // floral skirt (old) // striped skirt

And don't forget, you can follow all of my adventures in real time on Instagram

Ashley B
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Where to Stay in Rome

D.O.M Hotel, Rome

Finding comfortable accommodations in Rome at a reasonable price is a daunting task. Like Paris, you are going to pay an arm and a leg for even the most basic amenities, and don’t even get me started on the size of the rooms. For years I roughed it, but staying in a tiny hotel room with no air conditioning at the peek of summer in Rome is no bueno.

After discovering this secret gem in Paris, I started hunting for something similar in Rome. I have realized that boutique hotels are exactly what I am looking for. They are smaller, less expressive, but still pack a lot of personality and the basic amenities I am looking for. I’ve recently found a couple great ones in Rome that I thought I would share.

Two weeks ago in Rome, I stayed in the adorable L’antica Locanda Dell’Orso. This little boutique hotel is located in one of my favorite areas of Rome (just north of Piazza Navona) on a charming and quite little street. It was incredibly clean with a modern white and black décor scheme. Although small, the rooms had air conditioning, modern appliances and bathrooms, and comfortable beds. The staff, though limited, was helpful and friendly. Overall, I really enjoyed my stay and the price was great for peak season in Rome. So far this little hotel is the best value for your money I have found in Rome.

While in Rome, I also checked out a couple other boutique hotels in person that I had uncovered online through diligent research.

Don’t let the name fool you; Mama's Home Rome is a very chic and modern boutique hotel near Campo di Fiori. This is next on my list to stay at in Rome. One of the rooms even has an old clawfoot tub in the room! Like the previous hotel, there are very few rooms, but what rooms they do have are pretty spacious and offer all of the modern conveniences. They even told me extra soundproofing was added to the rooms to muffle the noises from the bustling square below. Not only is this hotel a great value, its location can’t be beat!

Just a bit outside the center of town towards the Vatican is the Nova - Casa 901. Although this hotel lacks the charm of the Laconda and individuality of Mama’s, Nova – Casa 901 offers minimally designed, spacious, and clean rooms. The location might seem removed, but it is near a metro stop, which means you can quickly get to all of the important sights. The neighborhood around the Vatican tends to be more residential and much less chaotic, making it a relaxing area to stay in.

D.O.M. is a Renaissance convent, turned aristocratic palace, turned hotel. It’s very chic with a modern design that seamlessly incorporates the building’s historical past with contemporary flairs. It has 18 unique rooms and a very nice rooftop terrace. Not only is the hotel gorgeous, it is located in the center of Rome, on one of the city’s most iconic streets – the Via Giulia. It is a bit too pricey for me to justify for a quick work/research trip, but perfect for a nice family or romantic vacation.

Hotel Raphael is another gorgeous and fancy boutique hotel with a fabulous rooftop terrace, not to mention the front of the hotel is encased in the thickest and most gorgeous flowering ivy. This hotel is definitely luxurious, I mean each elegant bathroom features a bathrobe, slippers, and courtesy set by Bulgari. I have never stayed here (again, out of my price-range) but I often frequent the terrace and they were more than happy to show me around when I inquired about the rooms. Save this experience for a special occasion, maybe a big anniversary, honeymoon, or, heck, when you want to really treat yourself.

On the other end of the luxury boutique hotel spectrum is the new Generator Hostel in Rome. However, don’t dismiss the Generator because of the word hostel. The Generator is part of a wave of new-age hostels popping up all over major European cities. These modern and well-designed “hostels” offer a variety of private and shared rooms. A private room at the new Rome Generator will cost you less than 80 euros even in the high season. Gone are the days of dirty and sketchy hostels. Generator hostels offer a clean and safe environment and cater to young travelers who are looking to socialize or simply enjoy all the modern amenities as a reasonable price.

Whether it’s a quick trip to Rome or a more relaxing getaway, I hope this helps you plan your next trip to Rome! 

PS - I love! It is my favorite website for finding great hotels at the best price. I've used it all over Europe and I have yet to be disappointed!

Ashley B
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Outfit: Life's a Beach

what I'm wearing: hat // tunic // sandals

Take me back to Positano... please! This past week was a bit stressful and, as I was writing this post, all I could think about was how much I missed relaxing in Positano (you can read my "10 Things You Must Do in Positano" here). 

Monday morning I discovered that my wallet had been stolen. All of my years of traveling and living Italy and I had finally fallen victim. Maybe I got overly confident or just encountered someone who was really good, either way I had to spend the week cleaning up that mess! On top of that, my laptop, which is my everything when I am abroad, started acting up. Fortunately through the magic of Skype, I was able to spend hours on the phone with Apple support rebooting my computer and reinstalling my operating system. Fingers crossed! But if I go radio silent at some point, you will know why.

But back to Positano and this adorable beach coverup-dress combo. As a Florida girl the beach coverup is a wardrobe staple. But I really love when I find pieces, like the one above, that can function as a beach coverup and an easy breezy summer dress. I practically live in dresses like this on hot summer weekends in both Florence and Florida (and let me tell you, it has been hot in Florence). 

I instantly fell in love with the colors of this Nanette Lepore tunic. Not only are the colors vibrant and perfect for summer, the tunic is long and opaque enough to double as a casual dress. I also loved the v-neck and fitted elastic seams on the side, which give it a flowy caftan look that is still flattering. Nanette Lepore has definitely mastered this genre of weekend/beach dress.

While last week may have been stressful, this week is definitely looking up. Just three days until I am back in Paris!

Ashley B
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