Chamonix: Day 9

I’ve fallen a little behind in blogging, so I’ll have to go back later and fill in the other two missing days from when we were in Chamonix.

Today was the day that we have to check out of our Airbnb. Before we left Dallas, we’d booked paragliding for one of the earlier full days in Chamonix. However, earlier in our trip (when we were still in Paris), our pilot called us to let us know that the weather was going to be bad on the day that we booked. In fact, both full days in Chamonix were either raining or snowing, and the visibility was so poor that you couldn’t even see the mountains.

We were fortunate enough that we had time the morning when we were scheduled to leave to experience this. And the weather couldn’t have been more perfect!

Afterwards, we had our last lunch in Chamonix and made the three hour drive back to Lyon where we’re waiting for our train to take us back to Paris. Tomorrow morning, we’ll fly back to Dallas.


Chamonix: Day 6

No Europe vacation is complete without trains 😁

Today, we traveled by TGV from Paris to Lyon where we rented a car and drove to Chamonix (at least that was the initial plan). There’s so much that’s happened on this trip that I’m going to have to come back to the blog and fill in the details. But I want to try and capture the highlights as best I can to make the process easier later.

Raphael says that no vacation is complete without an unexpected field trip. Today’s field trip started by getting an upgrade with the rental car: We got a BMW X5 which was very nice for the 2.5 hour drive from Lyon to Chamonix. Since we were going to be arriving a little earlier than when our Airbnb was scheduled to be ready, we decided to drive through the Mont Blanc Tunnel so that we could say we experienced Italy during this trip!

The Mont Blanc Tunnel is an amazing engineering feat. It’s over 8,000 feet beneath the surface of the mountain and is almost directly under the Aiguille du Midi (one of the tallest points). The tunnel is 7.2 miles long and is the longest tunnel that I’ve ever driven though.

Gelato in Courmayeur, Italy

On the Italian side, we stopped in Courmayeur, which is another ski village. We got gelato (of course) and I purchased a Patagonia duffel bag that I’ve been eyeing. Once we were done with that, we drove back through the tunnel to France and checked in to our Airbnb. Our place is so central (it’s in the middle of the village) and everything is within walking distance once you park.

Accidentally Wes Anderson?

For dinner tonight, we ate at a really cute (Wes Anderson cute) restaurant. Over dinner, we were talking with another American from New Jersey who had a really good perspective on a lot of current and historical events. He’s actually taking a month to go snowboarding in the various mountain resorts here in Europe, and he gave us some good advice on what to do with our time here.

Tomorrow, we’ll explore the town some more and take some photos. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.


Paris: Day 5

Our Paris visit is coming to an end. Today, we hired a local photographer for a morning photo shoot. We also walked around and took our own photos this evening before coming back to the room to pack.

Tonight’s post is going to be a short one. Tomorrow morning, we’re traveling by TGV (train) to Lyon where we’ll rent a car and drive to Chamonix.


Paris: Day 4

We were supposed to wake up at 6am this morning to take photos at golden hour, but for some reason my alarm did not go off. Instead, we slept in and didn’t make it out until around lunchtime.

Because of the late start, we decided instead to go to another department store/shopping mall and have breakfast (and shop later, of course). This store (Printemps) had a beautiful restaurant up on the roof! It made me feel very good when one of the sales persons told us that he was glad to start seeing more Americans traveling. It really is good to see that we’re (hopefully) starting to move past COVID.

Us at the terrace restaurant at Printemps

Dinner tonight was at Le George, a Michelin Star restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel. The chef is Italian, so there were a lot of Italian influences on the menu. This has probably been one of our favorite meals for the entire trip!

Ronnie and Raphael at the Four Seasons
Arc de Triomphe

After dinner, we walked a little bit along the Champs-Élysées. It really is a beautiful boulevard and I was able to take this photo with my iPhone.

Tomorrow, our alarm better work because we’ve booked a sunrise photo shoot with a local photographer!


Paris: Day 3

Today was another beautiful, excellent day! The weather here has been colder than usual for this time of year, but at least it’s been sunny. It’s actually not bad during the daytime when you’re walking around (and it’s not windy). But when the sun goes down, it’s time to retreat to the warmth and comfort indoors.

We’re going to try and go to bed earlier than what we’ve done so far (10:30pm versus midnight), so this will be a short post for now. Don’t worry, I’ll come back here later and fill in the rest.

Tomorrow, we’re going to (hopefully) wake up at 6am, which will be the earliest so far for this trip, to take photos during golden hour (the hour around sunrise).


Day 2: Paris

Today was our first full-day in Paris, and the highlight was having brunch at The Ritz. Not only was the food amazing, but the service was impeccable.

Our last trip didn’t afford us much time to shop, so we also took advantage of the beautiful weather today to go shopping. We love to seek out local fashion trends and designers when we travel, because it’s great being able to come back home and wear clothes that are unique and not easily found in the United States. While high-end department stores are just about dead at home, abroad the experience is alive and well.

Shopping mall
Galleries Lafayette

Galleries Lafayette (above) is probably one of the most beautiful shopping malls that I’ve been to. It’s actually more like a department store with individual departments–everything from men’s and women’s wear to infant to toys and souvenirs. And restaurants too!

For dinner, we went to Trocadéro and had dinner at a café. Since it was Sunday and getting late, our options were a little more limited, but the food (and dessert) was good. Afterwards, I took some night time photos with my big camera, but those will take some time to edit so I will have to post them later.

It’s getting late here (past midnight). Tomorrow, we have lunch reservations and then we have a four-hour private tour of the city in the afternoon.


Day 1: Paris

After leaving Dallas at 9pm, we arrived in Paris the next day at 1pm local time. One of the things that I’ve found helpful on long, international flights is an app called Timeshifter. You give it your flight details about 3 days in advance, and it builds a plan for you to shift your sleeping and waking hours in order to beat jet lag. For the most part, it works. Usually, I have trouble sleeping on planes, but I was able to get at least 4 hours of sleep on this flight. And while I wasn’t 100% on this first day in Paris, I was still able to function well enough to enjoy dinner.

La Maison Rose restaurant
Tonight’s dinner location

For dinner tonight, Raphael got us reservations at La Maison Rose. Raphael can probably tell you more about the history of this place–the artists and such that used to frequent it. But for me, it was probably the first, proper French restaurant in France that we’ve been to. You see, on our 2018 France trip, Raphael was all about maximizing the time for sight-seeing and we did not make any dinner reservations. That’s changed on this trip: Tomorrow we’re going to The Ritz for brunch!

After dinner, we walked through the Montmartre neighborhood where the restaurant is located. On a Saturday night, I would have expected to see a little bit more activity, but you can see that it is a little desolate at 8:30-9pm when these photos where taken.

It’s about 10pm now as I write this. We’re going to bed and will wake up in the morning when our bodies tell us it’s time. Goodnight.


2022 France Vacation

Eiffel Tower
Photo from our 2018 visit to Paris

Vacation time is almost here! For those that don’t know, we’re leaving this Friday, April 1 for 9 days in France! The last time we were in France was back in 2018. The 2018 trip was very compressed as we visited Paris, Milan, and Amsterdam on that trip. This time, we’re going to be spending the whole 9 days in France, and we’ll have an opportunity to explore more and savor all of the food and culture.

So why France? Well, Raphael loves everything French. Also, with COVID we did not want to complicate things by trying to visit multiple countries (it’s hard enough knowing the COVID protocols for one country). On our last trip to France, we managed to see a lot in the three or four days that were were there, but because Raphael prioritized sightseeing, we didn’t really get the experience the food or have the time to really just take everything in.

So here’s a rundown of our trip:

Days 1-5: Paris

So far, we don’t have a lot planned (other than some nice dinners), and that is by design. We visited all the sights that most people see on our last trip. This trip will be more wandering and exploring.

Days 6-9: Chamonix

For the remainder of our trip, we decided to explore the French Alps and Mont Blanc. Raphael let me choose which region to visit outside of Paris, and I chose the mountains. Ever since our first trip to Europe when we visited Austria, we’ve been amazed at the beauty of the Alps.

To get there, we will take the TGV from Paris to Lyon, where we’ll rent a car and drive about 2.5 hours from there to Chamonix, which is in the valley beneath Mont Blanc.

Looking forward

I’m going to try and blog every day about our adventures for that day, so keep checking back here!

Business Travel

First extended business trip since COVID

It’s been almost two years to the day since my last extended business trip. I’ve done other trips, but they were much shorter (one or two nights) and much closer to home. This time, I’m back in Seattle for a week-long visit to my company’s corporate HQ.

Things have somewhat returned to normal, but the signs of COVID are still around. Probably the most noticeable signs are the staffing shortages. Even in my 4-star hotel, they are still only doing room service every-other-day. Seattle is also different from back home in Texas in that they check your COVID vaccination status at some indoor restaurants.

Back in September, 2021, I joined a new team at work so I haven’t met at least half of my team in-person as our team is geographically dispersed. In fact, about half of my team was hired during COVID, so it was their first time to meet a lot of the team in person as well.

Going into the Amazon HQ in Seattle and getting to be with the team I was working on in person was such a surreal experience. The Seattle offices still haven’t returned to pre-COVID occupancy levels. In fact, you could see some of the effects in the form of closed restaurants that used to mainly cater to office workers. However, after two years it really feels like society is ready to move past COVID.

Day 1

I left Dallas Monday afternoon and arrived in Seattle in time to join my co-workers who were already there for drinks and dinner. One thing that I’ve learned about business travel is to always try and travel on company time.

The first thing worth mentioning is that the flights are just as full as from before COVID. In fact, American Airlines was offering $450 to take another flight, but I didn’t want to get to Seattle any later than I already was.

Day 2

View from the office with at least two other Amazon offices in the background.

Tuesday was my first day in the Seattle offices. After our day of meetings, we had a team event (bowling, of course). Fun fact: I took bowling as a PE elective in college. Somehow, I’ve managed to forget all that I learned because my score was pretty bad. Afterwards, we had a team dinner.

Team bowling event.
First team dinner.

Day 3

Wednesday was day two of our meetings. We also got to take a field trip to visit The Spheres. Even thought these have been open for some time, this was actually my first opportunity to go inside.

The best way to describe the experience is like walking through a living, breathing work of art. It’s really a shame that Raphael couldn’t be here because he would freak out at the variety of beautiful plants.

Day 4

Thursday was the last day of our meetings. We wrapped up a little early so that some folks could take the red-eye flight back home, but I opted to spend an extra night to meet a co-worker that I’ve only known from online meetings. He took me to a Malaysian restaurant that was amazing! I’ve never had Malaysian food, so this was a treat.

Day 5

On Friday, I had to wake up early to head to the airport to go back to Dallas. Overall, it was a great trip and felt good to travel for work again. I’m looking forward to (hopefully) more travel in 2022.


What are we doing here?

Ronnie here. After our last vacation to Greece, Raphael and I were talking about how I’ve been journaling for awhile about our vacation experiences. Up to this point, the journal has just been a way to preserve the memories of our travels. Raphael asked me why I haven’t published anything publicly about our travels. He also reminded me that I’m a good writer (and I actually enjoy the creative process), so that gave me the motivation to register and here we are!

What can you look forward to?

We plan to post more here about our travels—content that is more long-form and too long for our short Instagram posts and videos. We plan for this to be an extension to our existing Instagram, so we hope that you’ll keep following that and check in here as well.

We’re also planning to reboot our podcast after a long hiatus, so this site will also help to serve as an extension of that as well! As always, if there’s anything you want to hear about or know more of, let us know!