French Life, Wanderlust

Returning To France: Staying In The Loire Valley

Every year, during my birthday in February, I’d return to Europe. However, for the past five years, work has kept me from being able to do this. In fact, I’ve only been back to Europe for pleasure twice since then (once in the Spring of 2011 and once in the summer of 2013). So I was long overdue.

I’d been going back to London and Dublin last year for work but didn’t have extra time off for holiday. But this month, when I had to go back for work, it was the week before my birthday so I decided to tag on an extra week for France.

Winter travel has it’s advantages and disadvantages for sure. The negatives? It’s very cold and often rainy which can make walking around sometimes seem impossible. Days are shorter (less light, things close early), grey and not everything ‘tourist’ is open. But the positives are always so worth it – hardly any ‘tourists’ and the locals have the patience for you.

When travelling outside of Paris, I always use a gite or an Airbnb. I actually like being able to feel at home in a cosy place when it’s cold, dark or rainy outside. I love being out all day then cooking and relaxing inside at night, and these types of places allow for me to do that.

My itinerary for the Loire? Day one: Chambord, Blois. Day Two: Chenonceau, Amboise. Day Three: Chinon, Saumar.

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Packing for Paris France

Packing for Europe in Winter

My job requires that I travel a lot and, since October, have been travelling long-haul flights every month, primarily to Europe. And winter travel on long-haul flights with just carry on’s can be tricky simply because of the bulk that winter clothing has and also because long-haul flights have stricter carry-on sizes. Boots take up more room than flats and heavy knits take up more space than light tops.

Determined to keep everything to carry-on, I’ve learned a lot about what does and doesn’t work for travelling. Here are my some of my tips on Packing for winter travel. (And if you missed it, I’ve also written about a href=”http://hyggehouse.com/wanderlust/packing-for-summer-travels-to-europe”>packing for travel in Europe during Summer).

The best investment I made last year was my Rimowa Salsa Air carry on. You will not believe how weightless this is – huge when spending lots of time in airports or filling it to the brim. It maneuvers so effortlessly as well – I literally had to run through a huge crowd in the Hong Kong Airport to catch a flight and if i had any other suitcase, I honestly don’t think I could have moved as well. I love that each side has it’s own zipped pockets – I no longer use packs whilst travelling and can fit everything neatly into each side. It’s so, so, so worth the money – trust me, I’ve used it heavily on 8 international trips in the past 6 months!

The second best investment was my Will Canvas Bag. I use this as my “purse” whilst travelling. I keep my computer, my actual purse, make up, toiletries, wrap, and snacks in this. It’s held up really well and the thick strap makes it comfortable for carrying. Although because the Rimowa has 3 different handle heights, I usually sit this on top of it and roll it around on top.

For clothing, I’m often working when I travel although I just returned yesterday from a week in London (for work) and a week in France (Loire & Paris for pleasure). So I needed to pack clothing that could work for both and also from day to night events.

Here’s what made the list:

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Living room view
My Hygge House

My San Francisco Flat

In July 2014 I moved to a city I had resisted moving to for 15 years: San Francisco.

Despite having a lot of friends in the city and it being ripe with job opportunities for the type of work I do, I’ve never wanted to actually live here. The weather, the streets, the lack of feeling safe are just a few of the reasons. But the biggest? Cost of living.

I’ve heard horror story upon horror story of trying to find a home in the city and paying far too much for it. And after having lived in houses for the past 8 years I couldn’t imagine going into a tiny little flat with no outdoor space, garage or my own washer/dryer (#FirstWorldProblems, I know).

But when Airbnb called with an opportunity to lead their content and social media efforts, I knew I couldn’t say no to them and would have to say yes to San Francisco. I prepped myself for a difficult road ahead of flat hunting.

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Train Station Clock on Hygge House
Everyday Hygge

Time for change

There are two reasons why I’ve hesitated in writing this post for so long. One, I’m not a huge fan of these big cliche posts where people go on about the changes that need to happen in there lives and two, I wasn’t entirely clear what the change was that needed to happen to help me fall in-love again with this space and online sharing in general.

Since 1995 I’ve had a blog and HyggeHouse.com since 2002. As you can imagine, I’ve seen all the changes that have happened to the online communities. And honestly, I’ve felt really lost in the space and frankly saddened by a lot of the direction that sharing/creating has taken. I recognize that I will sound like a grumpy old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn, so I think an explanation is needed. It used to be that it was hard to share online – there wasn’t the ease producing a blog. WordPress and Blogger were in their infancy and unless you could code and design and had the money for hosting, you were kind of out of luck. So those who really loved sharing and connecting worked through all the challenges. The content and concepts were just that important to get out.

Over the past few years, blogging has become an industry. I’ve seen so many bloggers who had a POV change their whole voice because they basically just became cheap ad agencies for brands. And having worked on the brand side of things, I’ve seen the blogger greed and lack of return and wondering how this industry will survive if it’s just ad after ad after ad.

Instead of talking about life and helping each other discover new things or talk about ideas, we are selling to each other or feeling like we have to be like those we see “making it” (and feeling like a failure if we aren’t). It’s the online Martha Stewart syndrome for a new generation.

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This past August I made my way to Amsterdam for the first time. It was a quick weekend trip where I spent half of it in one of my new favourite hotels and the other half at a friend’s who was living right on one of the canals.

For a city I had never had the desire to visit, I came away from it completely smitten. Perhaps it was because the weather was picture perfect or because the city was in pure celebration mode (400 years of the canals and 100th anniversary of the symphony). Whatever it was, I was inspired, relaxed and very content during the trip.

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Everyday Hygge

A house of possibilities

In 2009, I got offered a dream gig for one of my favourite companies in a city that I had always dreamed about visiting – Philadelphia. Despite not knowing anything really about the city, I had somehow known that I was meant to live there.

I remember my first day in Philadelphia, my first drive to Chestnut Hill, the first time I saw my house that was everything I’d wanted in a dream home (historic, stone, fireplace, big windows, garden). I’d arrived at the end of summer and then fall hit – the colours of the trees, the crispness of the air, girls in tights. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I belonged somewhere. I began to think out all of the things I could do and who I’d be. It was heaven.

On my first fall weekend I began what would become a regular occurrence – a drive out into the country side. I’d spend all day getting lost on country roads and visiting historic landmarks. One day I’d been out since sunrise and when the sun began to set I knew it was time to get home. And on my way back to the city is when I first saw the feral home above and fell instantly in love.

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Danish Life, Wanderlust

Copenhagen Scene

If a city could feel both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time to me, it would be Copenhagen. I know the city so well from so much time spent there yet I’ve despite all the connections, I’ve never lived there. And while I run a site called, Hygge House, and am half-Danish, truthfully, there’s a lot to Danish life and life in Copenhagen that still feels completely foreign to me. What makes sense? The cycling everywhere and in every day clothes (including dresses), coffee, candles, hygge, white walls, city parks, babies in prams, being able to walk everywhere, cosy weather. What doesn’t? Teak furniture, the food (although it’s getting better), the weather in winter, the cost of living, sometimes the attitudes (feels stuck). I know I both romanticize and am harsh on the city (and country) all at once.

This past trip was the most different one I’ve taken. Usually in the city with family and usually in a hotel, I instead rented an Airbnb in the Vesterboro neighbourhood. It’s an area I wasn’t very familiar with, and instead of a few days I had a week. I also went with someone who had never been to Copenhagen but was also working in the city, so it was really interesting to see their point of view and see Copenhagen in fresher ways. I also met up with friends who were starting new businesses (that make literally hygge candles!) or were in school so again, different points of view were heard and seen. I also spent a lot of time by myself just walking the streets and having coffee like a verb. So while I don’t think I could move to Copenhagen, I think I fell for it more than I ever have and even felt like I was even just a little bit at home.

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