My European Fabric Shopping Adventure

All of my gorgeous European fabric 😍

Nathaniel and I knew that even though we went carry-on TO Europe, we were going to need to check bags coming back because he was planning on buying some Scotch. So I decided to pack my Vera Bradley duffel in my suitcase and give myself the freedom to buy fabric and not worry too much about how much space it was going to take up.

Before we went, I did a little research on fabric shops in Paris, London and Edinburgh. I figured I didn’t need to try to look for fabric in every single town (because we went to a lot!), but that Paris and London would definitely have fun options, and we wanted some tartan from Scotland. Also, doing research ahead of time meant we could go out with a mission, rather than aimlessly looking for shops.

Before I get to the shops we stopped through in the places I researched, we’ll get to my first fabric purchase of the trip!

Munich

I hadn’t been planning on buying any fabric in Munich, but as we were walking from our hotel to Old Town, we went right past a fabric shop, Orag Haus, so I had to stop in. The building also had windows with traditional German outfits, so we think that maybe you could also buy a custom outfit - I’m just guessing, though! When we went in, I asked if there was anything special that I could only get in Germany, but I don’t think the store clerk understood what I was really asking, so she showed me some fancy sequin fabric. While I love some sparkle, that wasn’t what I was looking for, and I gravitated toward some fabrics that reminded me of Dirndls. i ended up getting one meter of a dark blue fabric with white flowers. I’m not 100% sure what I’ll make with this, but possibly an apron, or a pair of shorts I could wear to Oktoberfest themed parties.

Paris

Our first stop in Paris was Anna Ka Bazaar, which was a very small shop that sells a handful of fabrics including the French brand Atelier Brunette (and as far as I can tell, the owner of the shop is also the owner of the fabric brand). I decided to get a couple meters of this pretty blue with paint splatter patterns, plus matching bias tape and piping - I love that they make it there and I don’t have to! Plus I’ll be able to have a couple pieces that go together if I use them separately! The woman who was working there was very friendly and helpful when I didn’t understand the French signs about what was on sale and what wasn’t. I thought the sign meant that you couldn’t buy the fabric, but it meant that it just was not discounted. Their website seems to imply that they are renovating soon - at least that’s what I gather from using Google Translate. 😉

The second stop in Paris was Malhia Kent. This is the kind of place you need to go to with no particular project in mind. Everything is sold as a specific length (a remnant), some things just a few inches, other things maybe a meter and half, so you can’t be too picky or need anything specific. The fabric is also very bold - lots of colors, patters, and textures. I think they use the fabric for actual fashion, then sell the leftovers. The salesperson there was not super friendly, unfortunately. She first asked me if I needed help and seemed kind of put-off when I said I just needed to look at what they had first, and when I finally needed help, she said that I made her lose her train of thought with the other task she was performing. I ended up buying two small cuts of decorative fabric (one for Nathaniel because he liked it), and one longer cut (close to a meter) of some shimmery pink sweater fabric. I have no idea what I’ll do with any of it, but it only cost me about 8 Euros!

London

We first went to the Berwick Street Cloth Shop. I decided to go here because one post I read about it said that some of the costumes in Game of Thrones were made with fabric from this shop! It’s in London’s West End, so this would be a great spot for a theatre’s costume designer to pop in. It was much smaller than I expected, but it was floor to ceiling in a deep, tall room, and had a large variety of fabrics, including faux furs (I see you, Jon Snow). I ended up buying a shimmery blue velvet knit (because I couldn’t stop looking at it or touching it), which will probably become a dress, and a floral woven fabric, which I still need to figure out what it will become.

Next was Liberty - this is actually a department store with several floors of clothes, accessories, dishes, furniture, etc., but they also sell fabrics. I’ve actually seen Liberty fabric before in small shops near me (Elfreide’s and Fancy Tiger Crafts), and I thought of them as small, intricate prints, usually florals, and they didn’t always really appeal to me. However, they had SO MUCH to choose from in London, including a new line with prints that weren’t what I would have expected with my limited knowledge of the company. I ended up getting two meters of a dark peacock print, one meter of a paisley print, and two meters of a sheer dog print, because some of the dogs look like Riker, and it was half off!

Edinburgh

For the last stop in this fabric adventure, my research pointed me toward Edinburgh Fabrics, and even before we walked in, I knew they’d have something fun since I could already see the plaid! Nathaniel’s family is descended from the Gunn clan, so we looked for some Gunn tartan, and lo and behold, they actually had a brand new bolt of midweight wool Gunn. We bought 8 meters! Hopefully I’ll be able to make him a kilt and maybe something for myself to match? This cut is by far the heaviest, most expensive piece of fabric I’ve ever bought 😂 I also bought 3 meters of a black, white and red plaid to make myself a skirt, but I bought polyester - much less expensive, plus I can more readily machine wash it!

I had a lot of fun fabric shopping in Europe, and I’m so glad we decided to bring an extra bag to put everything in so I didn’t feel limited by space. I’m not sure what I’ll make with everything I got, but it will be really fun to wear something and remember where I bought it and reminisce about this trip.

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P.S. This is what my basement looks like right now 🙈 Gotta prewash!

Three Weeks in Europe - Chamonix, Les Houches and Aosta through Food

Once again, here I am making myself hungry. While Boulder and our surrounding towns have a great array of delicious food to offer, there’s just something exciting about being someplace completely different, where you don’t know anything about the restaurants around you and can just be adventurous.

The view from the café in Saulieu

On our drive from Paris to the Alps, we had some “road trip snacks” of a fresh baguette, coffee and pastries from a shop near our hotel in Paris (which I mentioned here). This got us pretty far, but by mid-afternoon, we needed something more, and we needed to stretch our legs a bit! We ended up stopping in a town called Saulieu (which I only know because, even in airplane mode, somehow my phone was able to tell me!). Because it was off-season, we sat down at the first place we found, Café Parisien. The chalkboard folding sign out front made it seem like they had a full menu, but they ended up having one option for us (maybe because it was too early for dinner?). So we ordered the Croque Monsieur with a side salad and some coffee, ate, and got back on the road.

Since we opted to take the non-toll country roads, we ended up getting to our Airbnb in Les Houches around midnight, so we just finished the bread, made some tea (thanks to our Airbnb hosts!), ate some of our airplane/train snacks we brought, and went to bed.

The next morning, we made tea once we woke up, and then headed into Chamonix. We walked around for a bit, exploring the cute little town, grabbed a coffee (I’m an addict, I know), and ended up going to Le Bistrot, a Michelin star restaurant. I think that’s the first one I’ve ever been to! Nathaniel had done some Googling before we went, and he thought it sounded fun. We ended up each getting the lunch pre-fixe special and a glass of wine. Our lunch special started with delicious bread and butter, which was quickly followed by the first course of a pork biscuit, a peanut marshmallow, and watermelon gazpacho. The main course was perfectly cooked beef with cheesy crepes and mushrooms. Neither of us are big mushroom fans, but we figured if anyone knows how to cook them, a French Michelin Star chef does, and they were actually pretty good for mushrooms! We each got to choose a dessert, too! Nathaniel got a salted caramel chocolate cake with ice cream, and I got pistachio olive oil cake with frozen yogurt, white chocolate, fresh raspberries and vanilla bean. We let the sommelier pair the wine with our meal, and it was perfect.😋 Because it was lunchtime and we opted for the lunch special, the price was actually quite reasonable and the food was phenomenal. I’d imagine you could rack up quite the bill there, especially for a fancy dinner, but lunchtime worked perfectly for us!

Gorgeous view from La Terrasse😍

After lunch, we bummed around a bit more, and ended up grabbing drinks at La Terrasse, which had a lovely patio upstairs, with a great view of a little town square and the nearby mountains. After, we went to Chamonix’s main grocery store, Super U, to get wine and food for two nights’ worth of dinner, then headed back to Les Houches. And of course no meal is truly complete without dessert, so before dinner we found a little bakery called Jacquier Eric in Les Houches where we each got three macarons. Cooking and eating in was a pleasant, relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the big cities we’d been in so far (and a little easier on the wallet). The kitchen in our Airbnb was quite well equipped, and we were very comfortable eating our pasta, red sauce and zucchini there.

Quick breakfast... I forgot the name of the shop, but it was very close to the post office in Chamonix!

The next morning, after going up L'Aiguille du Midi, we stopped for pastries and coffee (breakfast, since we wanted to get up the mountain as quickly as possible to beat crowds), then it was time to drive to Italy! If you drive through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, you end up first in Courmayeur, where we thought about getting a bite, but driving through showed us it was deserted (again, off season in a small ski town), so we kept driving and made it into Aosta. We parked and started wandering, and eventually settled on lunch at Cafe Nazionale in the main piazza. We got a pizza, gnocchi, bread and beer, and my ego took a hit as I found my Italian to be unbearably rusty. 🙄 The food really hit the spot, and we even had a little birdie guest visit with us while we ate! And, of course, no stop in Italy is complete without gelato! We found a shop called Gelaty, where I got lavender and chocolate, and Nathaniel really enjoyed his balsamic peach flavor!

That evening was the same food as the night before, cooked at our Airbnb again, and the next morning we got up bright and early to drive to the airport in Lyon, which meant airport coffee and pastries for breakfast, and next stop…Madrid!

 

Three Weeks in Europe - Chamonix, Les Houches and Aosta Sights and Attractions

Napoleon planted trees for his troops who traveled across the country

Because we’re crazy, we decided to drive from Paris down to the Alps. When looking at other options, like trains, stops and layovers seemed to eat up more time than we’d like to spend just sitting in stations, and renting a car was about as expensive as train tickets would be, plus we’d get to look at the French countryside as we went on our way. We also knew we wanted to have a car while in the Alps, so this plan just sort of fell into place.

We decided to take the non-toll roads, which added a couple hours onto our drive, but we think was probably more picturesque. We did get a photo radar speeding ticket, though, which was a bummer (30 euro processing from the rental company + 45 euro for the actual ticket 🙄), but we quickly learned how to spot them when they were coming up.

Saulieu

We stopped for lunch in Saulieu. This little town felt practically dead - it must have been an off season for them (imagine going to a tiny ski town in the summer). It was cute, and we were able to eat and go along our way pretty quickly.

While going through the mountains, we hit some pretty intense fog on some crazy windy roads, but I think Nathaniel had fun whipping around those corners in that tiny French car 😉

We got to our destination in Les Houches SUPER late - around midnight. We had trouble finding the front door of our Airbnb since it was dark and Google Maps brought us to the back of the house, but once we found it, we got in easily, and munched on the rest of our baguette and went to bed.

When I woke up, the first thing I needed to do was see the mountains - we ended up having a lovely view of the town below as well. After taking it slow that morning, we drove into Chamonix - it’s a bigger ski town, and the home of the tallest Alp, Mont Blanc.

The view from our Airbnb 😍

We drove into Chamonix for lunch, and to explore the town a bit. Since it’s a ski town, it kind of felt like Vail here in Colorado. We were going to go up the cable car that day, but decided to put it off for (hopefully) clearer weather the next day. I was amazed at the color of the water running in the river! It's this whitish color because it's "Glacial Milk" - basically because of the minerals in glaciers and the erosion they cause, the melt from the glaciers makes the river this crazy color! 

After exploring for a bit, we decided to hit a grocery store so we could take it easy, be a little bit budget conscious, and cook dinner at our Airbnb. We drove back to Les Houches, put away the groceries, then decided to see this town on foot. There is a super cute little church square, and there were tulips blooming. We also followed the sound of cowbells and hung out with a herd in a field for some photos (I love cows!). We stopped at a bakery for some macarons, and walked back home to cook dinner, drink wine, and watch movies on Nathaniel’s iPad. 

Stepping into the Void!

The next morning we got an earlier start so we could go up to the top of Aiguille du Midi in a cable car! This was pricy, but worth it. It was also pretty cold, so I’m happy I brought my sweater, coat, hat, scarf and gloves. I would’ve been FREEZING otherwise. Even early there was already a pretty long line, but it moved relatively steadily, and we started ascending the snow-covered mountain. You stop halfway up to switch cars, and once you get to the top, there are walkways and an elevator as well! The views were spectacular, but due to a couple well placed clouds, we could not see the top of Mont Blanc. The Alps are a beautiful mountain range, though. They’re much younger than the Rockies (which I’m used to seeing) so they’re pointy and jagged. At the top of Aiguille du Midi, there is also something they call “Stepping into the void”, which is basically a strong plexiglass box that lets you stand above NOTHING. They make you wear slippers so you don’t scuff up the glass. It’s a really weird feeling, stepping out over nothing, even though you know you’re safe. There was a long line to this, but we figured we wouldn’t have the opportunity to go out there again any time soon, so we waited and had a great time! There was even a great staff member who took pictures for us with my phone (you’re not allowed to take your phone/camera, or any of your belongings) in with you, probably because they want to make sure nothing gets dropped or scratched against the glass. She was great, though, and took SO MANY pictures! We decided to start wrapping up, but stopped quickly in a glacier tunnel. I think that there were people there preparing to snowshoe down - but I just needed a selfie 😉 On our way down, we rode with a bunch of French schoolchildren, who squealed anytime the cable car went over a little dip or drop. It was pretty cute. 

Ruins in the modern world

Our next stop was ITALY! You can drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel for a hefty toll (just under 55 euro there and back) - It’s the longest tunnel under the tallest mountain, so they have strict rules on how fast you can drive and how far you must drive behind the person in front of you. Nathaniel said there was a pretty bad accident a few years ago, and they put a lot of restrictions (and a lot of photo radar) on the tunnel traffic to avoid it ever happening again. The people in front of us had their photo taken several times because they were following too closely behind the person in front of them. Their journey through the tunnel probably cost five times as much as ours did!

Once out of the tunnel, we tried to find a something in the small ski town on the other side, but since it was the off season, nearly everything was closed. We instead continued driving all the way to Aosta, which is a fairly big town. It used to be a walled city, and it was amazing driving through the ruins which have just been incorporated into the modern streets and structures of the city.

Castles on the side of the road!

We parked and started to explore, eventually coming to a piazza, where we sat down for lunch. We explored for a bit longer (just walking around, window shopping), then decided to drive back to France. One fun thing about this drive was how many castles there were along the road! Since we’re not used to seeing anything old in Boulder, it was wonderful to see remnants of old civilizations!

The next morning we had to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to Lyon for a flight to Spain. We made it in plenty of time (we took the toll roads this time, just in case, and it ended up being close to 20 euro total). The two full days in the Alps were probably the most relaxing we had of the whole trip. We got to take it slow and cook for ourselves, and still be honeymooning tourists. Everywhere else we went on our trip was a big capital city, so this was a lovely change of pace, and having it placed in the middle was perfect. 👌🏼

Our Airbnb, and our trusty steed - a Renault Twingo

Three Weeks in Europe - Disneyland Paris

I love Disney - and that’s an understatement. My bucket list contains a lot of fun travel, but getting to every Disney Park on the planet is high up there, and lucky for me, I got to cross another one off the list!

Disneyland Paris is actually in Marne-la-Vallée, about a half hour east of Paris. We had rented a car, so we drove, but there is also a train that takes you from the city to the Park. It was nice having the flexibility to not have to rush to make it to the train, or worry about when we left the park in the evening, (plus driving in under the “Disneyland” sign is SO EXCITING) but I might decide to take the train the next time, because parking a car in Paris proper can be expensive, and we also had to pay for parking in the park. It definitely would have been more budget conscious to take the train, and wait to rent the car until we actually left Paris the next day, but the flexibility it gave us was very nice. Driving in Paris is a little scary, though. We’re not used to their driving style, or those roundabouts!

Anyway - there are two parks in Paris - Disneyland Paris, which is similar to Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom, and Walt Disney Studios, which is a bit of a hybrid between Hollywood Studios in Orlando, and California Adventure in Anaheim. The day we went, both parks opened at 10. We had pre-purchased our tickets (this is great because we went during an off time, and they have different pricing depending on the time of year, if you purchase ahead of time online), and I was able to print them at home, so we headed straight to the entrance of Walt Disney Studios. A part of me wishes we had gotten the cute tickets they sell there - great souvenirs - but that’s a small price to pay for convenience. I had looked at the attractions in each park, and made a list of everything we (let’s be real - I) wanted to do, and since Walt Disney Studios closed first that evening and had fewer rides we wanted to hit, we decided starting there would be ideal. Also, by getting there early, we hoped the lines wouldn’t be too crazy. Our first stop was Crush’s Coaster, which was about a 50 minute wait already! It was worth it, though. You’re on a shell that holds four people, two-by-two, with you back-to-back with the other couple in the shell. It even spins a bit as you go through the ride, on the East Australian Current with Nemo, Crush and all their friends!

Our next stop was the Ratatouille ride, but when we got there, it was broken! We were getting hungry, so we walked back through the building you go through after entering - it was filled with restaurants and quick service options. We ended up each getting a sweet pastry with chocolate and nuts that was shaped like a pretzel 😋 Weirdly, they were playing the Harry Potter theme as we ordered our food…

I decided I wanted to try waiting to see if the Ratatouille ride would re-open, so we went to the Tower of Terror. This line was about 45 minutes, and was nearly identical to the Tower of Terror in California Adventure, except in French, which was fun! Plus, I do love seeing out over the park as the doors open while you’re dropping. I was amazed, though, that there were several people smoking in line! This is what really showed us we were in France and not America. Even though you’re still technically not allowed to, everyone smokes everywhere. We also noticed that, in general, it’s not as clean as American parks, especially the bathrooms. If you’re a super germaphobe, you might consider bringing hand sanitizer. Next we went on the Studio Tram Tour, which is similar to the one that Hollywood Studios used to have. You are guided through sets and props by a French actress and Jeremy Irons, the voice of Scar from The Lion King. They have the same canyon fire and water stunt as Orlando did, and they have a scene from a movie with dragons set in London. It was much shorter than the one from Orlando, and made me miss the original a lot!

After this, we headed back to Ratatouille, because the Disneyland Paris app said it was open! The line was an hour long, so we opted to stand in the Single Rider line. We ended up waiting about ten minutes, and even got to sit in the same car with a family of four! (You’re in two rows of three, so the family went two and two, and Nathaniel sat behind me). I’m SO glad this opened up, and the single rider option was definitely the right choice for us. It’s a really cool trackless ride with 3D glasses, so you feel like you’re one of the rats running around the kitchen.

There is also Toy Story Playland in Walt Disney Studios, but all the rides there were much more amusement-park like (they reminded me of rides that might be in Eliches in Denver), so we decided skip them. We also weren’t able to ride the Rock-n-Roller Coaster, because it was closed, being refurbished for Disneyland Paris’ 25th anniversary. 

We then headed over to Disneyland, which is easy to get to, similar to the parks in Anaheim. The entrance to Disneyland Paris goes underneath a beautiful, elaborate hotel. Maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to stay there. As we entered, I noticed it’s similarities to other parks. You walk down Main Street USA, which leads to Sleeping Beauty Castle. There is a beautiful gazebo, and some topiary all based on Mary Poppins. Through the gazebo you can see the Castle 😍 This castle is much smaller and pinker than the one in Disney World. In ways it’s similar to the one in Disneyland, but it’s more elegant.

They had egg shaped characters placed throughout the park - we were thinking maybe they were leftover Easter decorations, but we didn’t confirm. There are also a lot of topiaries. Just in front of the castle, they had scenes from several classics made out of colorful bushes. I guess the French are just fond of making sure their trees and bushes are perfectly trimmed.

We walked to Discoveryland, which is their version of Tomorrowland. One cool thing about Discoveryland that it doesn’t get as dated as the American Tomorrowlands do, by using a Jules Verne/Steampunk theme, and it is quite beautiful. Our first stop was Space Mountain, which we were surprised to just walk right on, there was practically no line! This is a much more intense coaster than either Space Mountain in the States, though, and even goes upside down! It made Nathaniel’s hair super crazy, and made me happy I wore braids!

They have a lot of walk-throughs in Disneyland Paris, so we walked through the Nautilus submarine after, and then grabbed fast passes for Buzz Lightyear (which was temporarily closed), and headed to Frontierland, where they have Phantom Manor, their version of the Haunted Mansion. Again, it’s very similar to it’s American counterparts, but it was fun to hear the opening monologue and all the narration in French. The ending graveyard scene was Western (like American cowboy) themed, too, since it was in Frontierland. Thunder Mountain was closed for refurbishment, and we could see it from the queue for Phantom Manor. The moat around it was drained, which was a cool sight. It’s interesting how the French don’t seem to care about hiding their construction. I feel like Disney World is extremely careful to hide as much as possible!

We then headed back to Buzz Lightyear, which was open again. It was fantastic hearing Buzz talk in French 😂 The laser guns aren’t attached to the ride vehicle, so you get to move them around a lot more. The cable on mine was not great, though, so I missed out on a lot of points.

Our next stop was Adventureland to go on their Indiana Jones coaster. This also had an upside down loop, but it lacks the story-feel that the ride in Anaheim has. Next was Pirates of the Caribbean, which is long, like the one in Anaheim, but they put the skeletons at the end (rather than the beginning), which actually makes a lot of sense!

We were getting hungry for dinner, and there’s a restaurant called the Blue Lagoon that overlooks part of the ride. We went in, but they said they didn’t have any room for walk-ins, so we went outside, and called them up (the SIM we got had 100 minutes of talk over Europe), and made a reservation about 30 minutes out, which worked out perfectly! While we waited, we walked back to Main Street to get coffee, and they have a nice little walkway behind the shops, which is a bit less off the beaten path than Main Street itself.

Dinner was yummy - I got veggie ravioli and Nathaniel got pork. We also got wine and more coffee, because we still had hours to go. It was fun watching the Pirate boats go by, too - we waved at the passengers!

After dinner we explored Fantasyland, where we rode Pinocchio, Snow White, the Storyboats, and the Casey Jr. Train, which are all nearly identical to their Anaheim counterparts. There is also Alice’s Labyrinth, which is a big walk-though maze, based on the Alice in Wonderland movie. The Queen of Hearts’ castle is in the middle, and has a great view of the park, too! Next we went on it’s a small world, which, again, is very similar, but is half in French, and has a lot of landmarks from the countries represented. It was fun to see what they chose to represent the US - they had the Statue of Liberty right next to the Hollywood Sign 😂

We then headed back to the castle - it was close to sunset, so I knew I had to get some more pictures. Under the castle is a dragon, which is actually pretty scary - it’s in a cave, and smoke comes out of it’s mouth and nose. The castle also has a walkthrough that shows stained glass of scenes from Sleeping Beauty, and a balcony with a beautiful view of the park. This is where we stayed for sunset 😍

We had gone on all the rides we wanted to at this point (a lot was closed because they’re preparing for their 25th anniversary), so I got to grab a few pins (they had Paris exclusives, and I needed a 2016 pin - I’ve got one from every year since I started pin collecting), and walk through the shops on Main Street. Before close, we decided to hit Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear and Pirates of the Caribbean (where we had a boat all to ourselves) before close at 11 PM - we basically walked onto all of them, and Discoveryland was EMPTY as we walked out of Space Mountain. This also gave me enough time to decide on my souvenirs - at 10:45 I got two scarves and a coffee mug (I have a couple dozen Disney mugs, and the scarves are practical and have hidden Mickeys!) At 11 sharp, I was done, and we walked onto Main Street right as the Nighttime Spectacular began. While the fireworks aspect was tiny compared to the American parks, they beautifully utilized the projection technology onto the castle that the other parks use. They played songs from a good selection of movies, both in English and French, and even included the Hunchback of Notre Dame, since that’s set in Paris! I LOVE that movie, and feel that it’s under-appreciated, so I was super excited when “Out There” came on!

As soon as it was over, we briskly walked to the car, and headed back to the hotel. Even though it was our first time to these parks, we felt pretty proud of how much we did - we went on every ride we wanted to (some twice), ate well, and got perfect souvenirs (just wish they took the Disney Dollars our Disney credit card racked up - those are only good in the US parks). One day was perfect for the amount of rides open, but maybe sometime Maddie and I will go, more things will be open, and we can spend a couple days. Plus she and I have to go to all the Asian parks! Maybe we could conclude in Paris, or something 😉

Ugh, just recounting this day (sorry, not sorry, it’s so long) is making me homesick for my second home, and I wish my next Disney trip weren’t so far away!