There’s something super charming about renting an apartment when visiting Europe. To live like a local for a few days or even a few weeks really helps you indulge in the culture and lets you see the city in a different light. Paris is MY city… I mean, it’s not literally mine but I just have this connection with it. The city, the people, the food…. the buildings! The buildings and architectures are this perfect blend of Gothic style and elegance. I have been to Paris twice now and both times have stayed at a rental property. Each so different yet both exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend renting a place in one of these beautiful buildings when visiting. These are a few of my favorite apartments that can be found through Cobblestone Paris Rentals.

  1. Balcon Notre Dame – This is the apartment I rented on my last visit to Paris just a few weeks ago. First of all, it’s located in the Latin Quarter (5th & 6th arrondissements) which happens to be my favorite part of Paris to stay in. It literally is located in the middle of everything and the ideal location for walking to many of the landmarks. The apartment itself fits 4 guest very comfortably between its 2 bedrooms and has a modern kitchen with a spacious livingroom area. My favorite part of the apartment is the walk out balcony that overlooks the Seine River and Notre Dame Cathedral. 1 2 3 4
  2. La Charme Du Marais – This rental is super dreamy and where I want to stay for my next visit to Paris. It is an elegantly furnished 1 bedroom apartment that can accommodate 4 guests with a large open-style living/dining space with a full kitchen. It’s located on the border of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Arrondissements so you will have the pleasure of enjoying 3 wonderful neighborhoods of Paris. The small walk out balcony with chairs is a charming addition. 1 2 3 4
  3. Le Triomphe Elysees – This apartment is on the border of the 8th & 17th arrondissement where some of the most famous shops, five-star hotels and Michelin gourmet restaurants are located. You are steps from the famous Arc de Triomphe and from the “Place De L’Etoile” where you can check out views of Champs Elysees Boulevard and the Eiffel Tower. This one bedroom apartment is filled with historic Parisian charm. 1 23
  4. Terrasse Du Sorbonne – This 2 bedroom apartment is located in one of the most desirable neighborhoods, the Latin Quarter, right beside the Sorbonne University. It is a large, 2 bedroom apartment that fits up to 5 guests. From this apartment you will have an easy walk to many central sights such as Saint Germain Des Pres, The River Seine, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Musee D’Orsay, Musee Du Louvre and the Jardin Luxembourg. It’s truly in the true center of it all and best of all – has a private terrace! 1 2 3
  5. Le Grand En Isle – This one bedroom apartment can accommodate up to 4 Guests. It’s located on exclusive Ile Saint Louis which is steps from Notre-Dame Cathedral. it is renovated with high-end fittings and furnishings and is stylishly decorated in a historic style to accentuate the original 17th century architectural. 1 2 3 4

 

Don’t these rentals make you just want to hop on the next flight to Paris?! Make sure to check out Cobblestone Paris as they have many more rentals all over the city.

If you guys have any more questions on where to stay when visiting – feel free to shoot me over an email.

Iceland has been the ultimate hot spot the last few years with tourism up by 40% from 2015 to 2016. I’ve dreamt about visiting a destination where I might have the opportunity of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights for as long as I can remember. Literally on a whim, I found myself booking a trip to Reykjavik for the beginning of February 2017. What lead me to taking the plunge was finding a really awesome deal with WOW Airlines. Here’s a glimpse at where we stayed, what we did and some of my recommendations for while visiting.

While I love hotels because of the amenities, there’s nothing like a rental property when away – especially now that I travel with my toddler. I found the perfect rental in Reykjavik via VRBO.com and booked instantly. This apt had 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 separate living room areas, washer/dryer, full kitchen + dining room and had enough space for us (a group of 5 adults/1 child) and for Victor to run around after a long day out in the city. The location was also perfect and that is KEY!

Click HERE to view our rental.

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Since we were visiting in the heart of the winter season, I decided to book tours vs. rent a car and go on our own. While I have heard great things about exploring on your own, I was little nervous about Iceland’s frequently changing weather while traveling with a 17 month old. We booked all of our tours and transfers through BusTravel Iceland. Click HERE to check out some of their top tours! They were so helpful in assisting me book everything as well as super accommodating that we were traveling with a child and even offered a car seat for each tour.

Day 1:

Blue Lagoon + Northern Lights Tour 

A lot of people will go on and on about how the Blue Lagoon is “touristy” and you know what – it is, but in the BEST way possible. While there are a ton of natural lagoons all over Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is a must when visiting. I could have spent hours here! It was so beautiful, relaxing and exactly what we needed after that overnight flight and time change.

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Chasing the Northern Lights will always be a hit or miss but I was still super excited to do so. I’m so happy to say that we totally lucked out and were able to see them during our tour even though the activity wasn’t super strong.

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Day 2:

Golden Circle 

For Day 2, we went with the Afternoon Golden Circle Tour. This worked out perfectly because it allowed us to get a good nights rest since we weren’t picked up until about 10am. With this tour we were able to visit and explore the Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall, Þingvellir National Park and Kerið volcanic crater. All of these locations were simply breathtaking! It started to snow these huge flakes while we were at Kerið for about 5 minutes and then a beautiful rainbow came out and it was sunny. This was the perfect example of the Icelandic saying “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.”

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Day 3:

Southern Iceland

This was our last full day in Iceland and we spent it exploring Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Skógafoss Waterfall, Sólheimajökull Glacier and Black Sand Beach. The Southern part of Iceland was amazing and I feel like it is a must see when visiting. I look forward to spending more time there when I return.

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Our flight home the following day wasn’t until the late afternoon so we spent the morning walking around Reykjavik and checking out a few landmarks. We came across some really awesome shops, cafes, street art and hot dog carts (which are super popular in Iceland!)

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A few tips I would give anyone planning a visit to Iceland would be the following:

Book early! Because of the booming tourism, hotels + apartment rentals sell out quickly.

Plan ahead! Regardless if you plan to explore on your own or book tours, there’s nothing like being prepared before arriving and having a list of what you want to do and see. This is key if you have a short visit.

It’s all about the layers! Seriously, I was so surprised how not cold Iceland was. OK… I take that back. The night we chased the Northern Lights it was FREEZING but during the day, I was actually hot in my down coat. The weather is unpredictable so make sure to check the weather forecast before heading out there and remember to pack layers (long sleeves, leggings, snow pants etc.) These items will be easy to put on + take off  depending on how the weather turns out.

Budget wisely! I always try to save a little more than what I originally budget for spending money while away  because… well, you just never know. Iceland is expensive!! I’m talking like $20 for a burger and $15 for a mixed drink expensive. And gas…. it’s $7.50 a gallon!

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To say that I am in love with Iceland would be an understatement. Visually – it is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. The people were so friendly and helpful and I felt safe the entire time. Waterfalls are everywhere and the scenery will leave you breathless. I plan to visit again…. and hopefully soon.

If you have any questions about Iceland – don’t hesitate to reach out!

Iceland is completely magical! With only 3 nights in this city I wanted to make the most of my time and so for me, that meant booking tours that would bring me to everywhere on my MUST VISIT list. I did a lot of research and compared doing it on our own vs. tours and tour companies and ended up booking with BusTravel Iceland. They were reasonable priced, had a wide variety of tours to chose from and had great customer service. They also were very accommodating that we were traveling with a toddler and even provided a car seat for every tour and transfer we booked.

These are the top 5 tours that I highly recommend not missing on your trip to Iceland.

1. Blue Lagoon 1The Blue Lagoon spa is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland, its natural geothermal water is rich of minerals, excellent to rejuvenate your body and soul. There are a ton of add on services like spa amenities and in-water massages that you can include or you can just pick up a drink from the swim up bar and relax in the warm water. While you have to purchase your entrance ticket in advance from the Blue Lagoon website, you can book your transfer from BusTravel Iceland to be picked up right outside your hotel.

2. Northern Lights Tour

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Catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights is a big reason why a lot of people venture out to Iceland but seeing them isn’t guaranteed. A guided Northern Lights tour is a great way to try to see them because your guide has so much experience chasing the lights that they know exactly where to go to maximize your chance of seeing them. They take you out of the hustle and bustle of the city and head into the quiet darkness of the countryside to enjoy the natural spectacle of the aurora borealis.

3. Golden Circle Tour 

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The Grand Golden Circle is a compact tour that takes you to a series of remarkable and diverse sites in the Southwest of Iceland. On this tour you will visit:

-Geysir geothermal area

-Gullfoss waterfall-

Þingvellir National Park

-Kerið volcanic crater

-Faxi waterfall

4. Southern Iceland Tour

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This tour takes you to various natural pearls along the enchanting south coast of Iceland. The landscape is characterized by strong contrasts, where grown plains meet coarse mountains and fire meets ice. On this tour you will visit:

-Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

-Skógafoss Waterfall

-Sólheimajökull Glacier

-Black Sand Beach

5. Fjords & Into the Glacier

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This tour will take your breath away at each stop! You get to explore the man-made ice caves dug into Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjökull. From Husafell, you hop on the special glacier vehicles and dive inside the surreal entrails of the Ice Cap Glacier. There, you will witness the effects of global warming as well as Iceland’s seismic history. On this tour you will visit:

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-Hraunfossar waterfall

-Husafell

-Langjökull glacier

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While these may be my top 5 tour recommendations, BusTravel Iceland offers many more tours including premium options that have a max of 15 people per tour which provides a more intimate experience, more flexibility, more free time and more spontaneous encounters than travelling in big groups. They also have special offers which bundles multiple tours to save you money.

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Barcelona is where my love affair with Europe began.

I remember my excitement from the time I planned and booked everything to stepping foot off the plane. There’s something so liberating about your first international trip. You tend to want to learn more about everything you’re seeing and know the history of it all. Till this day, I carry that desire to learn and see it all during my travels.

I actually took a cruise while in Barcelona (more about that in a later post) so I stood at 2 separate hotels, one prior to my cruise and then one when I returned and we also mixed up price points by doing a budget and then a luxury hotel. Even though they were opposite, we had incredible experiences at both and I highly recommend them.

Check them out — Hotel Curious // Hotel 1898

There is no shortage of great restaurants in this vibrant city but if I had to chose one to recommend, I would say book (far in advance) a reservation at Tickets Bar. I can’t really put into words the experience you get from this place. The food is literally a work of art. I promise you that your dining experience here will be the best visual and delicious 2 hours ever! Click HERE to see my review on TripAdvisor.

While in Barcelona you will want to see it all. I highly recommend focusing on Guadi. The Sagrada Familia is an absolute MUST! Do not leave Barcelona without going inside of this masterpiece. Park Guell is another major Guadi work that is not to be missed. Explore Las Ramblas, La Boqueria, the Magic Fountain, eat tapas until you can’t walk, drink a ton of wine and just get lost (while keeping alert because those pickpocketers are no joke in Barcelona) – sometimes you discover the most amazing things by just walking around town and exploring.

Here’s a look at my trip through my photos:

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If you have any specific questions – feel free to send me an email // pearlsandparis@yahoo.com

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I had the amazing opportunity to visit a few different countries in Europe a few months back – Barcelona being one of them. Even though my visit was short, I fell in love with this vibrant city and all that it has to offer. Spain is known to have some of the best food in the world so I did some research to find out where I should eat while there. I came across numerous 5 star reviews on a place called: Tickets. With a reservation waitlist that is as long as 2 months, I knew I had to get in to this Tapas Bar. Long story short – we got a reservation and this place is all that it was hyped up to be and more. It was hands down one of the most memorable stops on the whole vacation and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Barcelona. The owner of Tickets, Albert Adria, was interviewed by Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations: Spain

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The Entrance

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Chefs hard at work

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Watermelon “impregnated” with Sangria

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the famous El Bulli “olives”

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The Living Forest

I hope to someday return to Barcelona and when I do – I will definitely be heading back to this place. Have you ever been to Barcelona? If so, what other restaurants do you recommend?

My Review on Trip Advisor

Tickets Website