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Peasantly Cool

c/o top // hat // sunnies // bag (similar) // shorts (old, love these) // c/o sandals

It is about this time every summer that I start complaining about Florence's relentless, sticky heat. To be fair, this summer has been extremely mild compared to previous summers, especially last year. Of course, mild is still 95 degrees, 100% humidity, and virtually zero air conditioning. Hence the complaining.

Fortunately, I have a go-to look for such weather -- airy peasant top and shorts. I am sure you have heard people advise not to pack shorts for Europe. They have half a point. If you are touring churches and sightseeing, shorts can be tricky. But if you are just sweating your way through a Saturday in Florence (like me), they are perfectly acceptable.

I received this peasant top and these pompom sandals from Goodnight Macaroon. I have to say I was pleasantly (or should I say peasantly) surprised by the quality of both. I did receive two dresses that I wasn't so impressed by (this one is cute but the fabric is very thin, and this one was a polyester sack on me), but it seems most of the items actually exceed my expectations (I love this dress). Especially these pompom sandals. Italy is rough on shoes but these have held up very well and are shockingly comfortable.

If you follow me on Snapchat (HinHH) and Instagram, then you know that I actually left Florence yesterday. *wipes tear*

As bitter sweet as it is to leave, I have to admit I was ready this year. I was not getting a lot of writing done in my cave-like, moldy apartment. I am ready to get home and be productive (I found a couple pretty amazing documents in the archive that I am pumped to include in my dissertation). But first, I am heading to Barcelona to meet up with my mom for a cruise. We haven't seen each other in a while and I am looking forward to some quality time together, that is if we don't kill each other trapped on a boat together lol.


Ashley B
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Updated Paris Map Guide

After frolicking through lavender fields and chateau hopping for six days, Emily and I ended our French road trip with two days in Paris. Paris will always be one of my favorite cities and I use any excuse to go. I like trying new cafes and restaurants and discovering different places within the city.

Since both Emily and I had been to Paris numerous times before, we allowed ourselves to enjoy a couple carefree days. We visited some old favorites, like the Luxembourg Gardens, the Palais Royal, the Marais and the Tuileries Gardens, while trying some new places to eat along the way. It was nice to relax and take in the beauty of Paris.

It has been a while since I updated my custom Google Map of Paris. After this last trip (and two recent trips here and here), I decided it was time to add some new cafes, restaurants, colorful doors, and picture spots.

You can access my updated Google Map Guide of Paris here!

I have also received some requests to share our full itinerary... So here you go:

Day 1 - Arrive in Paris, pick up rental car from airport (to avoid city driving), and drive to Provence. We drove pretty much straight there, only stopping for food/bathroom/coffee breaks. It is also easy to take the high speed train from Paris to Avignon. We stayed south of Avignon in the adorable town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in a delightful B&B (another luxury of having the car).

Day 2 - Road trip through Provence

Day 3 - Avignon and Orange (evening in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence)

Day 4 - Drive to Blois with a quick stop in Chateauneuf en Auxois for lunch. (If I had to do this trip again, I might stay in Amboise over Blois, or somewhere quainter outside the city.)

Day 5 - Explore the chateaus of Blois, Chambord, and Cheverny

Day 6 - Explore Villandry, Chenonceau, and Amboise (make sure to stop at a cave winery for a tasting!)

Day 7 - Drive to Paris (we dropped the rental at the airport and Ubered to our hotel in the city).

Day 8 - Enjoy Paris!

Day 9 - Half day in Paris before departing

This itinerary ended up working perfectly for us. We never felt like we had too little or too much time in one place. It doesn't allow for a lot of R&R but that can easily be worked in, or you can go by our motto, that we will sleep when we are dead!

Ashley B
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Parisian Pink and Peonies

sunnies // lip // collar (and sweater) // top (similar) // skirt (also love this one) // bag // sandals

How many blogger-in-Paris cliches can I fit into one photoshoot? With the help of Emily, basically all of them lol! Peonies? Check. Pink? Check. Iconic/basic location (the Palais Royal)? Check. Over the top outfit? Check. All I am missing is a door picture and maybe a baguette.

But in all seriousness, sometimes there is nothing wrong with indulging in some tried and true cliches, like picking up pink peonies or a fresh baguette in Paris. Why are we as individuals more and more concerned with feeling special and/or unique? I think in many cases, the search for more unique or "authentic" travel adventures can actually take away from your overall experience (you can read more about my issues with the notion of authentic travel here). Even Daphne (a fabulous Parisian blogger we met up with in Paris and who you should follow) laughed that she buys a baguette everyday and never grows tired of navy stripes or pink peonies.

Don't get me wrong, I definitely love trying new things, researching atypical destinations, and thinking outside the box. But, if posing with pink peonies in Paris makes me happy, I am going to do that too!

I also love getting dressed up for Paris. Paris is an elegant city and is the type of place you can have a bit of fun with your look. You might recognize this skirt (I picked it up in Florence), but instead of pairing it with the matching sweater and collar, I detached the collar and wore it with an off-the-shoulder top. I thought it was a fun addition that created a completely different look with virtually the same pieces. You can to get creative when you travel and typically at this point in my summer abroad, I am dying for something new to wear!

After driving through Provence, Burgundy, and the Loire Valley, Emily and I were happy to ditch the car and enjoy a couple low key days in Paris. We basically just took a ton of photos, visited our favorite places, and ate our body weights in cheese. And as I mentioned earlier, we also met up with Daphne for brunch at a great little place called Claus.

Paris with Emily was the perfect ending to a perfect trip! Emily and I (not surprisingly) turned out to be perfect travel partners and we have already starting planning our next adventure!


Ashley B
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Villandry, Chenonceau, and Amboise

dress (also here) // hat (similar) // sunnies // clutch // sandals

For our second day of chateau hopping, Emily and I headed to Villandry, Chenonceau, and Amboise. If I had to pick a day, I preferred this day of chateaus slightly over the first (you can read about our first day of chateau hopping here). Don't get me wrong, all were gorgeous and interesting, but Villandry and Chenonceau were really stunning.

We began our day exploring the incredible gardens of Villandry. While the chateau itself is beautiful, it's the gardens that take center stage at Villandry. The art of gardening and the formal Renaissance garden were brought to France from Italy during the 16th century. The gardens you see today are a careful early-20th century recreation of the original Renaissance gardens.

From Villandry we headed to our next stop, Chenonceau. I am not sure why I was not more excited for Chenonceau, but the estate really surprised me and it turned out to be my favorite of the entire trip. Not only was the architecture stunning, but it had a pink rose garden, formal renaissance gardens, and a fascinating female-centered history.

For most of its history, Chenonceau was home to some pretty remarkable, and formidable, women. It began with the original builder who was the Chamberlain to King Charles VIII in the early 16th century. Most of the construction was actually overseen by his wife, Katherine, who loved to host and entertain the French court. In 1535 the chateau became property of the crown and King Henry II gave the estate to his powerful mistress Diane de Poitiers (if you watch Reign this should ring a bell). Diane loved the estate and expanded the gardens and agricultural production of the estate.

When Henry II died unexpectedly, his wife, and Queen of France, Catherine de Medici, seized the opportunity to get rid of Diane and confiscate the estate. Like Diane, Catherine loved Chenonceau and expanded the structure of the chateau across the river. As regent, Catherine became one of the most powerful people, let alone woman, in France.

After Catherine died, the chateau passed to her daughter-in-law, Louise de Lorraine. It was at the chateau that Louise learned of her husbands assassination. She painted her rooms black and spent the rest of her days enclosed in the estate wandering aimlessly in a state of mourning.

Almost 100 years later, the estate would once again belong to a powerful women. This time it was educated and inquisitive Louise Dupin. She turned Chenonceau into an Enlightenment literary salon that hosted the likes of Montesquieu and Voltaire. Louise also single-handedly saved the chateau from destruction during the French Revolution. Both Emily and I loved Chenonceau so much we spent much of our day there. Eventually we realized that we had to leave if we wanted to make our last stop, Amboise.

Amboise, like Blois, was one of the main royal residences. In fact, it was where Henry II and Catherine de Medici raised their son (and future king) Francis and his betrothed, Mary Queen of Scotts. It was also where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years and where he remains buried today. Unfortunately, because Amboise was a very functional royal residence, the fortifications make it more enclosed and much less picturesque.

All in all it was another fabulous day of chateau hopping. A girl could really get used to chateau life!


Ashley B
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Blois, Chambord, and Cheverny

After three days in Provence, Emily and I drove to Blois (stopping in the cutest medieval castle-town on our way). From Blois we explored the Loire Valley, which is famous for its gorgeous chateaus.

This region is brimming with renaissance chateaus, most of which were royal residences. Throughout the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries the French monarchs built and expanded on a series of chateaus in this region. The entire court would travel, moving from one chateau to the other throughout the year.

Emily and I had three days in the Loire Valley. We dedicated our first day to driving and exploring Blois, and split six chateaus we wanted to visit between the two remaining days. Our first full day of chateau hopping included the royal chateaus of Blois and Chambord, and Cheverny.

Blois was one of the primary residences of the French kings from Francis I to Henry IV. As someone who studies the Medici, it was pretty interesting to see the apartments of Catherine de Medici, which included the very room she died in. You might recognize her name from the popular show Reign, which depicts Catherine, her son Francis, and his wife Mary Queen of Scotts. The show is, of course, quite fictionalized, but it's a good introduction to these historical characters (and no shame, highly entertaining).

From Blois we headed to Chambord. Chambord might be one of the most famous royal French chateaus (it is certainly the largest). Unlike Blois, however, Chambord was rarely lived in. In fact it was built to be a hunting lodge for the king (it is good to be king). Its excessive size meant it was hard to heat and notoriously uncomfortable to live in. Both Blois and Chambord epitomize the ideals of French Renaissance architecture under Francis I and it is rumored that Leonardo da Vinci had a hand in Chambord's design. My favorite were the intricate spiral marble staircases.

While Chambord is the one of the most famous French chateaus, Emily and I were a little disappointed. The entire estate felt cold. It was large and gorgeous, but felt abandoned and lacked formal gardens. I think we were most excited to see this chateau (I mean, it is gorgeous online), but were surprised that we actually preferred some of the smaller chateaus.

One such smaller chateau was Cheverny. Although at one point it was briefly property of the crown, Cheverny was never an official royal residence. It has, however, been passed down through the same noble family for almost six centuries! And unlike Chambord, Cheverny was constantly lived in until it was opened to the public in 1922. The property is an easy 10 minute drive from Chambord and there is a great wine tasting shop just off the property... just saying, wine is an important part of French culture.

Exploring all three chateaus in one day is easy to do. Although I would not advise trying to see more than three a day (chateau fatigue is real).

Have you visited any French chateaus? Which was your favorite?


Ashley B
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Fairytale Chateauneuf en Auxois

I have never seen anything like Chateauneuf en Auxois. Yes, I have seen some pretty unbelievable and picturesque places (the Trinity Library in Dublin, the Island of Burano near Venice, and Cappadocia Turkey come to mind), but Chateauneuf was truly something out of a fairytale or Disney movie.

Emily and I decided to stop at this provincial walled hill town, complete with castle and moat, on our drive from Provence to the Loire Valley. After three days in stunning Provence we were skeptical if anything could live up to our exceptions. But this tiny little village, basically frozen in time, was the perfect place to stop for lunch and stretch our legs.

As we walked through the town, Emily and I just kept asking each other if this place was actually real. We must have taken a thousand photos each, but we both lamented that we just could not capture the essence or charm of it in a photo (this of course didn't stop us from trying).

The town does not boast a lot of sights. It does, however, have several delicious little places for lunch and one pretty adorable medieval castle you can explore. The castle, or Chateau de Chateauneuf, was originally built in the 12th century. As fairytale castles go, it has everything from a moat and towers to a drawbridge. Sadly the last heiress of the castle, Catherine de Chateauneuf, was convicted of poisoning her second husband and burnt alive for the crime. I have tried to find more on this story, but there does not seem to be much available online. Perhaps a future research project... But I digress. After Catherine, the chateau passed from noble family to noble family. Today it is owned by the state and is a protected historical site.

While I would not devote a ton of time to this town, it is certainly worth a stop to grab lunch and explore the castle.

Ashley B
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Avignon, Orange, and Sunflowers

top // skirt (new pattern) // hat (similar) // sunnies (love these) // sandals (similar) // bag

Provence isn't just sipping rosé and frolicking through fields of lavender. There are so many amazing and historical towns to explore... oh and fields of sunflowers too. After our road trip through the lavender fields and tiny hilltop towns of the region, Emily and I headed out to explore the cities of Avignon and Orange (you can see our road trip map here).

The history nerd in me has always wanted to visit Avignon. What can I say, I have a soft spot for papal history. I will be honest though, the town as a whole didn't wow me. Exploring the papal palace was so interesting, but the city felt a little dingy and full of tourist. So, after we had seen the papal palace, bridge, and old city walls, Em and I decided to head to Orange for lunch.

Orange had all of the color and charm Avignon seemed to be missing. So many colorful buildings, bustling squares, and interesting cafes. The city was a Roman town and still has an ancient theater, which is well worth a visit.

After exploring Orange for the afternoon, we hopped back in our rental car and decided to head south to see the wild horses of Camargue. Sadly we did not do enough research beforehand (we did it on a whim) and the excursion was a bust. We saw just a couple of not-so-wild Camargue horses in a pasture. But, on our way to the nature preserve, we stumbled on the most glorious fields of sunflowers. Accessing them required some off roading and a bit of trespassing, but as you can see it was totally worth it.

This day was one of the hottest of our trip. So I opted for this amazingly breezing and super comfortable Club Monaco top, which is now on sale and an extra 40% off (with code KEEPCOOL)! And since I am always trying to get the most out of my clothing when I travel, I had some fun with a bit of pattern play and mixed the gingham top with my favorite floral skirt (here are some tips for mastering pattern play here). This skirt is another amazing find and it has been on repeat all summer. The brand is Lush from Nordstrom (many Lush items are included in the Anniversary Sale). It is lightweight, comfortable, and cute. It is no longer available, but a newer version for fall is here (and would look super cute with this top)!

Have you visited Provence? What was your favorite city?


Ashley B
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