TRAVEL DIARY: Paris in July

Paris round four was a whirlwind of a weekend to say the least.

 Encapsulated within the span of two short days, I experienced both Bastille Day and France's winning of the World Cup in Paris, phenomenal food and great company, and to top it all off, the most stressful flight situation I've faced to the day. I'm planning to touch on this topic further in a future blog post, but if there's one thing a summer of living abroad solo and traveling has taught me, it is how to take the stress in stride and stay calm within the storm. 

I took the train from Milan to Rome the evening of Thursday, July 12th, with my fellow interns to visit the eternal city. However, it was only for the night, as I had already planned to meet my sweet Sacramento friend Sarah, in Paris for the weekend. So, the next day, I hopped on a flight into Charles de Gaulle and packed every touristy and instagrammy thing possible into the next two days. Here are a couple highlights:

Location 1: Season

Season is anything but a secret to Paris's tourists. It's an adorable little restaurant nestled in La Marais and decked out in neon, light and airy tile, and vegetative decor. The menu could have beem straight out of an L.A. cafe - complete with smoothies, avo toast, and Buddha bowls. Sarah and I had both heard rave reviews about the place from countless bloggers, so we decided to give it a try on out first night. It definitely lived up to its reputation! 

Location 2: Carette

Sarah and I woke up around sunrise on Saturday to beat the crowd (and, of course, get the best light for photos), and made our way to the Trocadero for the perfect Eiffel Tower view. After oohing and aahing at the crowdless view of the iconic tower, we stumbled upon Carette - an adorable little cafe for a quick breakfast of cappuccinos and croissants. The ambiance was lovely - I'm a sucker for mosaic-y tile floors! 

Location 3: Pont Alexandre III

A very iconic bridge for good reason. On our morning walk along the Seine, we were pleasantly surprised to see it completely crowdless and blocked off due to Bastille Day festivities. The morning light radiated the water beneath it - definitely one of my favorite moments in Paris to the date! 


Location 4: Palais Royal

Even though this was my fourth trip to Paris, I hadn't visited the Palais Royal before this time. It was at the top of Sarah's Paris bucket list, and I'm so glad we checked the box! Because we went in the mid morning of Bastille Day, we didn't have much of a crowd to compete with. It was peaceful and just as lovely as Instagram makes it out to be! ;) 

Location 5: Jardin de Luxenbourg

Yet another place I had yet to visit! We went to the gardens early Sunday morning (before the insanity of the World Cup), and were wholly charmed by it - between the trees, the statues, and the locals doing yoga on the lawn, it was truly a gem. 

Location 6: Sezane Apartment

A huge bucket list check-off for both Sarah and me. The place was perfect - every bit as lovely as I had suspected it would be. If I had had endless space in my suitcase (and, ahem, money), I would have bought out the entire store. The Sezane brand radiated throughout the entirety of the little "apartment," and I honestly wish I could've just moved in. 

Location 7: Our Airbnb

Okay, easily the prettiest/most aesthetic/coolest/best/most awesome/most artsy bnb I've ever ever ever stayed in. Sarah was an angel and found the place through various social media avenues, and thank God it was available during our chosen travel weekend! The wood-paneled floors and typical Parisian walls housed ceiling high bookshelves, records, and plants galore. We couldn't help photographing the entire thing (including the kitchen - with a view of Sacre Coeur!). 

Even though my travels have come to an end, I hope to return to Paris soon! I can never seem to stay away.  

As a notorious playlist-maker, I have a Parisian playlist that has been in the making since my first visit to Paris two years ago. I took the liberty of attaching it below - I tend to turn it on when I'm missing the city whilst back home in the States (like now, for instance ;) ). 

Marquel Plavan
TRAVEL DIARY: Cinque Terre

Note to self: I really need to branch out in terms of travel. I just keep going to places I've already been. But, come on, I can't help it - places like Venice, Paris, and (most recently) Cinque Terre are too magical to only see once. 

This past weekend, my mom and I decided to take a semi-spontaneous three hour train ride out to Cinque Terre. It was the first place that I traveled to during my semester abroad and it left a lasting impression, so I really campaigned to visit. As my mom hadn't seen it, I thought she deserved to experience such a beautiful and enchanting cluster of towns by the sea.

I noted in my Venice travel diary that the second time traveling to the city was a complete 180 from the first (little inside joke, I went YEARS saying "360," thinking it was the phrase, when it is actually 180 - something that no one pointed out until I started dating Paul. Now it has become quite the inside joke between us). The foggy and crowdless November visit in 2016 made the sweaty tourist-season return two weeks ago seem like it had taken place in a different city altogether; not complaining, though, both visits were special and enjoyable. 

This week, however, I knew just what to expect; my first time in Cinque was in August of 2016, and the heat, crowds, and tourist pricing was essentially the same as this last weekend's trip. 

My mom and I stayed in La Spezia (the same place I had stayed before), at the sweetest little Airbnb run by a lovely couple named Anna and Davide. They owned a little market next to the Bnb, and David even brought us fresh focaccia upon our arrival. I can't speak more highly of them and their hospitality! 

We were only there about 48 hours, so we did our best to pack as much as possible into those short two days. First, we went to the public beach at Monterosso, known for their bucket margaritas (oops). Anyone (ahem, college kids) who has been to the beach is well aware of that fact, and it likely became a symbolic vortex for many memories under the Cinque Terre sun.

Later, we were able to make it to the famous Riomaggiore for sunset - which lived up to the hype and then some. The view was unparalleled, the weather was perfect, and the ocean was peaceful. 

We had a later train on Sunday, so we decided to ride the sweaty and overcrowded (you'll notice a reoccurring fear of sweating on my page) train to Manarola - very much worth the clamminess and discomfort.

We hiked up along the side of the terrain (this is terrible phrasing, but I genuinely have no idea how to describe it?) to get a good view of the town. It was breathtaking to say the least - and a picture is worth a thousand words, right? 

Afterwards, we descended down several beaten and slightly precarious staircases into the harbor below and spent some time in my new favorite swimming hole ever. Given the fact that the Sunday forecast had originally doomed us to rain, the unexpected sunniness and cloudless sky was fantastic. 


We checked out of our lovely bnb around 2 pm and then spent the remaining two hours before our train hanging out in La Spezia, locating the Airbnb where I had stayed during my first visit (with the best company), and walking down along the port. 


Clothing details:

Polka dot pants - Faithfull the Brand
White off the shoulder top - Brandy Meville (like two years old)
Yellow dress - Hello Molly
Marquel Plavan

Ciao from Milano! (What a lame intro, anywhoo.) I just got back from my weekend trip to Venice, Italy, and it was the loveliest time I've had in a while. Even though it was a quick two-dayer and was sweltering hot, it was exceptionally enjoyable.

The last time I visited Venice, it was during its off season in November (during my semester abroad). Then, it was foggy, cold, and spooky - which, honestly, really added to the whole Merchant of Venice effect. I felt like I was in Phantom of the Opera, it was sick.

This time, it was in the middle of the summer (tourist season), so it was crowded and blistering. Despite the fact that I had what was probably the sweatiest day of my life (dragging around my suitcase over canals, trying to locate my hotel), I had wonderful company, great food and drink, and comfortable lodging. 

I was lucky enough to study abroad with my boyfriend, Paul, going on two years ago (wow, time flies), and I'm even more fortunate to be spending the summer in Italy with him. He's living in Rome while I'm in Milan, but we have been able to travel a bit with one another. This weekend, his lovely family was visiting Italy and we all met up in Venice for a day. 

Right photo courtesy of Beckley & Co.

The first night, we stayed on the main island in Venice and had dinner in Campo Santo Margherita, which was wonderful. Our hotel, the Colombina, was on a canal and walking distance from San Marco's Square. Would absolutely recommend the place - it looked like Alice in Wonderland and had an adorable little bar and breakfast room.

There were no shortages of Aperol Spritzes or pesto pizzas (or bread and olive oil, or truffle oils, or chocolate, etc., for that matter). 

The second night, we ventured out to Murano - the little island north of Venice known for making glass. Murano was a night-and-day difference from Venice; though it still kept the same vibe and aesthetic, it was essentially crowdless and quaint. 

There, we stayed at the LaGare Hotel Venezia, which was perfectly located, clean, and overall just comfortable. We shopped for colored glass bits and bobs, went for long walks along the canals, and watched the sunset over the ocean - basically all the makings for a true vacation. 

On Sunday, we had a mid afternoon train, so we decided to return to the main island for a final walk through (in the heat, with our bags no less), which was surprisingly fine, despite the sweating (anyone else have a weird fear/anxiety about sweating?). 

Fun fact - Paul and I started dating during a weekend trip to Paris in November of 2016!

Ah, the most glorious few days in Paris have come and gone in an instant. It was my third time in this lovely city (quite possibly my favorite in the world) and each time is a different experience. My boyfriend, Paul, was able to join me this time, and he let me schlep him all around the city and never complained once - even though I had packed out itinerary to its breaking point and the Parisian sun was quite unforgiving.  

We stayed in the loveliest bnb around Ternes - it was a 15 min walk from the Arc and close to a metro station, so it was easy to get around. The apartment was beautiful and maintained the spirit of a much older Paris. 

A few obligatory stops and such that we made:

Cafe de Flore

Of course; I'm only kind of embarrassed to be so touristy and Instagrammy - the overpriced coffee and croissants were worth it. 

Eiffel Tower

(we had a cute little picnic underneath the Tower as well!)


Thanks for the lovely time, Paris! You were short and sweet, (like always); I'll be back in July!


Beauty Bits & Bobs

In high school (and, ahem, into the first year of college), I was crazy about makeup. I was good at it, wore it constantly, and spent all my babysitting money on refills of Stila liquid eyeliner and the newest eyeshadow palettes. If you knew me between ages 15 and 19, you probably never saw me without excessive eye makeup. 

Now that I'm older and (hopefully) wiser (or maybe just lazier), I don't wear a lot of makeup. When I do it, it's simple, soft, and easy on my skin. If I'm going to do dramatic eye looks, I'm probably going out for dinner or to a work event. Also, I'm comfortable the days that I go to class without a scrap of makeup - something that would have been unheard of three years ago. 

Now, this might be the norm for most people, but for me it's taken years of lifestyle changes and gradual personal growth to have the makeup routine I have now. Sounds dramatic, but I used to be so completely reliant on makeup to feel pretty that I would be mortified if anyone (with the exception of close friends & family) saw me without makeup. 

That being said, I've turned a lot of my attention to healing my skin and committing time and energy to treating it as well as possible. I've found that if my skin is healthy, then my makeup (or lack thereof) will look good as well. 

Eminence Organics

I posted a boomerang on my Instagram the other day of a mini beauty haul (feat. Eminence Organics) and I got a few questions and comments about the products. While I'm generally lucky that I've never had bad acne on my cheeks or forehead, I do have routine cystic hormonal acne on my chin area. I have tried over the years to combat it - drinking water, cutting out lactose, taking various supplements, etc. - nothing seemed to truly remedy it. Even though I accepted that it was just how my hormones seemed to work, I started scarring and I worried that my skin might be severely damaged by the routine outbreaks.

My mom is an esthetician, which has been a miracle for me (before that she was a hairdresser - which makes me lucky but also completely unable to do my hair because she always did it for me. Oops). She works at a medispa and has access and first hand experience with various top notch beauty products. When she sent me a package filled with a collection of Eminence products and encouraged me to try them, I was hooked. The probiotic cleanser and moisturizer have made all the difference in the world for my skin and I haven't had a cystic outbreak since I started using them! 


I'm hesitant to call this a "beauty product," since it's literally deodorant, but it has been a Godsend for me. For as long as I can remember, my mom has been a stickler about deodorant. I think she read somewhere when I was a kid that deodorant that contains aluminum was terrible for the body, so since then, we've been on the hunt for a natural deodorant that actually works. 

I heard about this little jar by Sarah's Day (long time fan of hers), when she did a natural beauty haul a year or so ago, and she said that she absolutely swears by the stuff. I recently was browsing through Whole Foods and came across the brand and, since rose is without a doubt my favorite scent/flavor/everything, I picked up the Rose + Vanilla jar. The search is over! This stuff is natural, aluminum free, and non-greasy - all things the natural deodorant of my mother and my dreams should be (again, a little dramatic, but true nonetheless).

Babe Lash Liner

Okay, this one might be a slight negation from the beginning remarks of this post. I don't wear liner excessively, but I still like to wear it on occasion when I'm up for it! Another recommendation from my mom, Babe Lash Eyelash Growth Liner is smooth and easy to apply. I had since lost the art of liquid eyeliner - something I was a pro at before - so products like these make life simpler. And it stimulates lash growth!

xx Mark 

Two Days in San Francisco

“Think of the long trip home. Should we have stayed home and thought of here? Where should we be today?” - Elizabeth Bishop, "Questions of Travel"

There's a science for the perfect visit home - a formula, so to speak. A duration of 7-10 days, a bit of an itinerary (but not too much planning), visits to spots that are imprinted on your memory, but fading and slipping slowly (Wordsworthian, indeed), and the perfect in-between weather forecast. In my case, it was seven days, many visits around Sacramento and San Francisco alike, and a cold spring - an Elizabeth Bishop poem and a Stevens' ideal ("Motive for Metaphor").

The moody and melancholy photos above - inspired by a few Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand films - captured Sutro Baths, the Embarcadero, Sausalito, and the Ferry Building.

Now back to the books, some warmer Texas days and plans for the summer - with Easter on the horizon.

Coat: Calvin Klein ; Jeans (light wash): J Crew