Travel Diary – Paris, France

by Sarah


Have you ever wanted to go somewhere so badly that whenever you think about it, you get giddy with excitement? That’s me with Paris.

I have had a love for Paris since I was a little girl. The language, the culture, the art, the design and the incredible beauty and history of the city have captured my imagination forever.


Yesterday, I arrived in Paris for the first time with my family. We will be visiting relatives that live here and exploring all week and I will be sharing a few of my favorite design spots, neighborhoods and of course food!

We began our day with a quick trip down one of the side streets in the 7th arrondissement (which is the neighborhood surrounding the Eiffel Tower and where we will call home for the week) It was lined with bakeries, cheese shops, fish shops, cafes, flower shops and even a tiny French bookstore. From there, we wandered through a weekend market on Boulevard de Grenelle that had fresh fruit, veges, baked goods, candy, butchers and more and more flowers.


We stopped for lunch a little cafe on Place Joffre before heading on to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. After wandering around the Eiffel Tower we ended our day back at the hotel and settled in for the night. With a room view like this out the window, I definitely feel at home and even more excited to explore what this incredible city has to offer.

Au revoir from Paris…


Where I’ve Been

by Sarah

I have just returned from Kauai after a week long vacation with family and friends….I will be posting a Kauai Favorites in the next few days….in the meantime enjoy the beach at the St. Regis-Kauai in Princeville(no I did not stay there but we had access to this incredible beach) Have a great Monday everyone….

2 days in San Francisco – part two

by Sarah

Part two of 2 days in San Francisco–Hayes Valley

Last week, you will remember we left lunch at Nopalito and headed over to Hayes Valley for an afternoon of exploring and shopping. this has become my new favorite neighborhood for walking and discovering. Great shops, restaurants, off the beaten path favorites and some really cool design shops.

The easiest thing for me to do is list everything we visited and provide links for you so that you can decide on your own explorations…..

Our favorite stops:

patxispizza– Hayes at Octavia (511 Hayes St.-415-558-9991)–awesome Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza…Being a Chicagoan I can truly say pretty darn authentic…It is hard to find a good pizza on the west coast but when you do it is memorable

Miette (449 Octavia Street-415-626-6221)an awesome candy shop shown in the first 4 photos above…This store reminds me of my childhood as my grandmother had a friend that owned a lollie shop in Canberra, Australia that we would frequent as children and the owner would let us pick out whatever we wanted….It is also just a beautiful, stimulating display of color and texture the moment you walk through the doors. A must….

Fiddlesticks (540 Hayes Street-415.565.0508)this is hands down the best children’s clothing store we have been in for a long time…they carry Tea Collection which is a wonderful San Francisco based designer… and the staff was exceptionally helpful in selecting a few cute spring outfits for my daughter.

Timbuk2 (506 Hayes Street-415.252.9860) a stop here for my teenage son and his birthday gift-a messenger bag to carry a his computer. These guys were extremely helpful and the shop was really cool to explore…..

birch (564 Hayes Street-415.626.6860) a very beautiful flower shop and also the product of the last three photos above…the design of this shop and the flower arranging was spectacular…I especially loved the little bouquets created for the front stoop of the store. They were charming….

Lotus Bleu(325 hayes street) a great source of colorful fabrics, rugs and design accessories are available here..a really enjoyable and stimulating for anyone that has an interest in design….all products are also very affordable

Zonal (568 hayes street-415.255.9307) this is also another great design shop especially if you are on the lookout for architectural details, primitive furniture or turn of the century iron products. A lot of local artists are featured in the shop.

Lili Merveille (552 hayes street) a beautiful french boutique that carries babies and children’s clothes, women’s jewelry and french candy.

Once you are done with all of these fabulous shops it is time for what one local told us was the best cup of coffee in San Francisco. One block south on a little street called linden street you will find a coffee kiosk:

Blue Bottle Coffee (315 linden street) awesome stop for a quick cup of Joe…

a few steps down from blue bottle is another amazing interiors shop:

Tazi Designs, Inc. (333 linden street) is a showroom filled with imported Moroccan goods including furniture, accessories, mirrors, lighting and of course leather poufs. I could have spent hours exploring but kids were tired and it was time for us to head back to our hotel.

That evening we stayed within walking distance because if you know San Francisco, you know when it rains it is impossible to get a cab. Coming from Chicago this has always frustrated me but we went with the flow and headed out for Italian.

Ristorante Umbria (198 second street-415.546.6985) loud, authentic Italian cuisine. The restaurant was packed but the wait staff very accommodating for our group.

After filling up on great pasta we headed back to the hotel for rest and discussed all our finds for the day. Full tummies on board we slept and woke for day two in the city….

Union Square and the Mission District

The next day we woke early eager to explore before heading back to Reno. A huge snow storm was hitting the Sierras as we woke so the decision to head back was on hold as I80 was closed due to the weather. A brisk walk up towards China Town for breakfast and some Union Square shopping held us over….

Another favorite for breakfast:

Cafe de la Presse (342 grant avenue-415.398.2690) definitely a tourist spot but what I enjoy about it is the cafe au lait, the international design magazines and the international stream of customers heading in and out of the restaurant. We have had great conversations with New Zealanders, Australians and many others arriving in the States to start their travels.

After breakfast, we usually like to explore the city. On this particular visit we took my sister for some “American” clothing and window shopping. Part of what we enjoy is just getting out and walking. We have no particular destination in mind but for us that is part of the fun. We are not scheduled or rushed we just take in the city sites and vibe and enjoy everything it has to offer. After hours of exploring, we headed back to check out of the hotel and still not able to make it over the pass decided to head to the Mission District for a late lunch and a little more exploration.

Our lunch:

Tartine Bakery (600 guerrerro street-415 487 2600) I can’t even begin to explain to you how good this restaurant and bakery is…it is a must on your next visit to the city. The sandwiches, drinks and desserts are incredible and there was a line the entire time we ate our lunch. We decided to bring home dessert (a couple of chocolate eclairs and a chocolate pudding to share) and headed down the block to one of the areas best ice creameries…

Bi-Rite Creamery (3692 18th St-415. 626.5600) small batch, organic ice cream and soft serve…my favorite flavor of the day: salted caramel…..awesome treat

In addition to the ice cream shop, Bi-Rite Market has been serving the community since 1940 and supports local growers and organic farmers. We picked up some miniature mandarins for the ride home and decided to head back to Reno.

All in all a fantastic two days of exploring in San Francisco. We have been coming to this city since we moved west 11 years ago and I would have to say it honestly takes that many years of visiting to even start to uncover neighborhoods, restaurants, walks, art galleries etc.. If you have any favorite spots in this wonderful city please share them in the comments as I will be creating a city guide for the blog and would love to include your spots…Hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into a fabulous west coast destination…..



2 days in san francisco-part one

by Sarah

People are always asking what I do when I travel. So I thought it would be really fun to start sharing pieces of my trips from a “design” perspective. I love food, flowers, neighborhoods, art, design, and shopping when I go away. We have lived on the west coast for 11 years now and having come originally from Chicago I need neighborhoods when I travel so this most recent trip was to San Francisco to pick up my sister who was flying in from Australia. Basically, two days in the city…What should you do when a trip to the International Terminal at the San Francisco Airport is part of that trip? Well sit back, get your beverage of choice and let me share two days in the city with you.

First of all, we drive to San Francisco, so we travel over the Sierras and Donner Summit, through Sacramento, Davis, Vacaville, Fairfield and the outer suburbs of the East Bay and then cross the Bay Bridge and come to the city where we like to stay in the SOMA District (or South of Market as it is called) There are plenty of great stops along the way which I will devote another post to but for today I will focus on SOMA, Hayes Valley, The Airport and part of the Mission District.

Day One: We are going to be picking up my sister from the airport. She lives in Melbourne, Australia and I have spoken of her many times on the blog. So before heading to pick her up we need breakfast. If you ask any hotel concierge in the SoMa District they will probably direct you to Denny’s or some other very touristy spot. We however, like to go to The Grove– 690 Mission Street. There are several of them in the city, with the original being on Fremont Street (It is awesome but very crowded) so we were excited to see a new location just steps away from our hotel. Upon entering the restaurant, you automatically get a welcoming feeling. Amira greets you and stops and chats with you so you feel right at home. The food is second to none and I highly recommend the cafe au lait shown in the photo above (and I am not usually a coffee drinker-except when I travel) My kids ordered french toast which is made with thick bread and my husband and I ordered eggs. This was a great beginning to a busy day at the airport and beyond.

So what exactly do you do at San Francisco International Airport when you are picking up an international traveler. the first thing is to know that the arrival time posted on the arrivals board is the time the plane lands but not the time that your guest will walk through the doors of customs….Allow about 1-1/2 hours after the arrival time for that to occur. Not knowing that as I am usually a passenger arriving (not picking up) you will need a couple of kid distractions to keep you going unless you pre-plan to arrive later. The great thing about this airport is the architecture and the artwork displays on the main departure level aptly called the SFO Museum. At either end of the terminal are pottery and ceramic displays and in the middle there is a rotating display ( I have seen ballet costumes from the San Francisco Ballet and on this visit their were ancient masks from Mexico and the Pacific) The coolest display I think though is at the back of the terminal and was created by Ik-Joong Kang and is called Gateway. Each piece is a 3×3 painting, wood carving, tile or acrylic cube and each were created on long commutes to and from school and work. The size was perfect to fit into his bag and the time long enough that he could create a piece while he traveled. You could take hours looking at the different pieces and it is surprising how many little details can occur in a 3×3 space. In addition to the museum, there is a satellite shop for SFMOMA that has a great selection of design and art related items (not your usual airport gift pick up here). So after a fun morning looking at art, my sister finally arrived. Hungry for lunch, we headed to one of our new favorites in San Francisco-Nopalito.

Nopalito sits at the base of Haight-Ashbury or Lower Haight- 306 Broderick at Fell. (415)437-0303. This was our second visit here. The last time was with good friends that introduced us to it at Christmas time for dinner. This time we arrived in early afternoon, so we chose from the lunch menu. The staff here is extraordinarily accommodating for food allergies-gluten, shellfish, nuts etc. and everything on the menu is made from organic and sustainable ingredients. Our favorite dish-Enchiladas de Mole con Pollo (aka chicken enchiladas with mole sauce) and to share: Empanada con Deshebrada de Ros- beef in a masa pastry. Note: they do not take reservations here but are accommodating to large parties so call ahead. Great food, just writing about it makes me want to go back…..

After lunch, exploring Hayes Valley was at the top of our list…..But I will leave you there for now..stop by again tomorrow for 2 days in San Francisco-part two where we will explore Hayes Valley…..have a great Monday everyone…