Our Honeymoon: Normandie

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After enjoying Monet’s Garden in Giverny we continued our drive into Basse-Normandie. This was one of the busiest days on our honeymoon as we had several sites to hit before the day’s end.

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We temporarily returned to American soil at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

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At the cemetery there is a small chapel with a mosaic tile ceiling.

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From the cemetery, we drove to Pointe du Hoc which lies between Utah and Omaha beaches. Here I am looking out over the cliffs to the English Channel.

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The site is filled with bomb craters and ruins of German gun emplacements that were destroyed 70 years ago.

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After visiting the World World II historical sights, we arrived at the city of Bayeux, and explored the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux and the surrounding area.

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The light was coming through the stained glass just right to project dazzling colors on the interior walls.

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The crypt in the center of the cathedral dates back to the 11th century.

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In a nearby museum is the Tapisserie de Bayeux. Commissioned at the same time as the cathedral’s construction, it tells the story of how William the Conqueror won the throne of England. We were not able to take pictures of the actual embroidered cloth, but there were reproductions in the gift shop.

The cemetery and the tapestry were two sites I was able to visit ten years ago when I traveled to France on a school trip. It was wonderful not only to relive those memories, but to also have a deeper appreciation of their significance as an adult. James and I look forward to taking our future children to these locations someday, and share in those experiences with them as well.


Italian Wedding Soup

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Having just had a wedding, and having married an Italian, I thought it would be fitting to make Italian wedding soup for the first time. Italian wedding soup apparently has nothing to do with Italian weddings; it was mistranslated from the Italian ‘minestra maritata’ which means ‘married soup,’ because the ingredients all go so well together. I couldn’t agree more, and it has instantly become a favorite that I plan to make over and over again.

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James grew up having this soup made by his grandmother, and always called it ‘scarola soup’ in reference to the leafy green typically used, escarole. Many recipes note that you can substitute escarole with other greens, but I wanted to make sure to include it in my attempt to replicate the soup James remembered.

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For the broth:

2 quarts of chicken broth

2 sprigs dry thyme

1 small bay leaf

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 large bunch of escarole (about 3 cups chopped)

1/4 cup orzo (optional)

2 eggs

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

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For the meatballs:

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely minced

3/4 cup Italian parsley

1/2 white onion

1 garlic clove

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 egg

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons pepper

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Finely chop the onion, garlic, parsley, and oregano. I like to use a small food processor to get the ingredients really finely chopped so that you don’t have any large pieces in the meatballs. Add chopped ingredients to a bowl with ground meats, salt, pepper, cheese, egg, and breadcrumbs. Mix gently with your hands, incorporating well but not overworking the meat. Roll into small bite sized meatballs, set aside. Note: if you find you have too many meatballs you can freeze some and use for later.

In a large soup pot heat up the olive oil and add the garlic and onion, sauté until translucent and tender. Add the chicken stock, thyme, and bay leaf to the pot. Let the broth come to a boil and gently add the meatballs. Let the meatballs cook for about 10 minutes, they will begin to float when cooked through. If you would like to add orzo you can add it at this time. Once meatballs are mostly done add the chopped escarole and let simmer until it has wilted down.

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Whisk the two eggs and cheese in a small bowl and slowly pour into the hot soup, whisking constantly to form ribbons. Serve in a large bowl, because you’ll want a lot of it, and feel it warm up your insides with deliciousness.

 


Apartment Decor Details

Our apartment has gone through many changes, and that is not reduced to just new furniture over the past three and a half years. We constantly look for new decor pieces to add to our home to give it a more personal touch, while still making sure to compliment the charm of the Spanish Colonial influences that we love in this 1920′s building.

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Our home is filled with maps and atlases, but this is our only globe. James has said on numerous occasions that he would love to have another globe from the 1950s that has both East Germany and French West Africa, but we have yet to find the right one.

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One of our favorite things about Spanish Colonial Revival homes are the archways.

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We have a lot of books all around the apartment, these images don’t even show it all. Our books come from many sources such as our old homes, college years, used book store purchases, and some have been in the family for generations.

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Our bathroom is full of interesting bits of character such as the yellow and black tiles, and the artwork on our shower door.

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When we first moved in, this was what the handles and faucet looked like over our bathtub, but they have now been changed to very boring generic replacements after a necessary repair.

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This frame in our bedroom was once a mirror that we purchased at a flea market, but our mischievous kitties broke it. I attached a piece of patterned fabric to the frame so that we could still use it as decoration in our bedroom.

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I have loved anything with owls ever since I was a child, and there is certainly no shortage in our apartment.

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We have quite a few souvenirs from our trip to Guatemala hanging from the walls and ceiling. We chose items that felt authentic to the culture, and that would also add fun pieces of texture to the space.

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These shot glasses are more Guatemalan souvenirs, and the books are a collection of English translation dictionaries from 1957.

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Here is a wall plaque from Italy that once hung over James’ father’s bed when he was a child. It now hangs over our bed with two framed maps on each side of it.

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We found this hutch at a flea market and we use it to display ceramic kitchen items and to hold our cookbooks. When I first spotted it I knew that the colors would work very well with our kitchen table.

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This small table was a wonderful find. Currently we use it as a little bar, but we hope to find a bar cart someday when we have a bigger space to work with.

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We though that we would use lanterns similar to this one for our wedding centerpieces before finding larger ones for a reasonable price. This one is sitting on a doily made by my mother.

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This is what the hallway right outside of our door used to look like when I first saw it. Since then, all of the brown has been painted over with white, including the floor, and a sloppily cut rug was installed that demonstrates no understanding of the building’s characteristics. If I had first seen the hallway looking the way it does now, I may not have even chosen this building. At least the candelabra remains untouched.

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This painting is on the wall of the upstairs hallway. It is very difficult to read the date with the signature, but as best as I can make out, it says ’72.

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The greenery in our patio grows very quickly and sometimes it really feels like a jungle out there.

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The peephole on our door has certainly seen better days, but it is such a wonderful little detail.

There are many more little details strewn throughout our entire apartment that give each room its own character while maintaining stylistic cohesion from one room to another. With each item we not only take our current home into consideration, but also think about how we would integrate pieces into our future home someday. We strongly believe that although we do not have a house yet, apartment living should not feel temporary but should feel like a home. After all, this little space will forever be our first home together.


Our Honeymoon: Giverny

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After touring Versailles we drove from Île-de-France to Giverny in the Haute-Normandie region. This quaint little town is the home of Claude Monet’s Garden, which was my personal favorite tourist attraction from our twelve days in France. We spent an evening walking around exploring, and then toured the famous garden the next morning. Every single area of the enormous garden was filled with lush flowers and greenery, creating an ethereal atmosphere unique from anything we had ever experienced.

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Ever since James was a small boy he always wanted to visit Monet’s Garden and stand on the Japanese Bridge. It was pretty crowded, even in the early morning, but we were able to get a few photos.

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The water lilies were beautiful in the early morning light.

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A few months back, I bought this purse and James commented that it was very similar to the wallpaper in his grandmother’s bathroom. It was the perfect accessory for the gardens.

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We toured the house, but photos were not allowed inside. In the gift shop however, there were models of each of the rooms. Pictured above is the kitchen. We purchased a replica of one of the kitchen tiles to use for a coaster as a souvenir.

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Giverny is such a quiet romantic town. We took a walk down Rue Claude Monet admiring the scenery.

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Paris is often hailed as the city of love, but to us Giverny absolutely trumped Paris on that notion. The charming houses, gardens, pathways and surrounding farmland made for a lovely and romantic day.


Flower Pressing

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James and I flew out to France the day after our wedding, which meant we had no time to ship anything to ourselves from the wedding details and had to leave everything behind, including my flower bouquet. I left the bouquet in water with my parents so that they could enjoy the pretty flowers and their scent, but I did take a few little flowers from it before we departed. I placed the flowers I took from my bouquet and James’ boutonniere flower in some books so that they could press safely in our suitcase during our honeymoon. I also found a couple of loose flowers in Monet’s Garden during our travels that I decided to press as well. When we returned from our honeymoon I gently took out all of the flowers and decided to frame them all together as a sweet keepsake of our wedding day and honeymoon.

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I used a blush piece of paper to lay the flowers out flat, and then carefully positioned them in a small frame that we found at a dollar store.

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I wasn’t able to keep my entire bouquet, but am thrilled with this little project to commemorate our special day in a subtle and unique way in our home.


Our Honeymoon: Versailles

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After our two days at Disneyland Paris it was time to begin our planned tour of northern France. We rented a car at Gare de Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy at Disneyland and made our way to our first destination outside of Paris: Versailles. The palace was more lavish and grand then we could have ever expected. Walking through each room and hallway was more than just breathtaking, it was surreal.

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There’s certainly no shortage of gold at the palace. So much of the moulding and ornamentation is gilded, such as this representation of the sun god, Apollo.

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La Chapelle Royale is spectacular. We were not able to enter, so we had to settle for this view through the doorway.

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Some parts of the palace have not been recently restored, and the weathering of the chapel’s exterior roof adds a wonderful bit of character.

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There is a series of models showing the evolution of the palace over four building campaigns. We always love looking at models, especially ones as detailed as this.

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The Salon d’Hercule is filled with interesting textures including a very grand trompe-l’œil ceiling.

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These beautiful chairs are on display in the Grand cabinet de Madame Adélaïde.

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The bibliothèque de Madame Victoire is one of our favorite rooms in the palace. It was one of the few rooms with books, and the only one with this many books. It also has a certain intimacy that differentiates it from all the other rooms.

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Here is James climbing one of the King’s private staircases.

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The Galerie des Glaces is probably the most famous room in the château. James could hardly believe that he was walking through the room where the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

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Here is a reconstruction of Marie Antoinette’s bed hangings. The bed chamber has been beautifully restored and feels like something out of an opera.

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The Salon des Nobles is not so outlandish by comparison. I love the combination of the green wallpaper with the dark wood furniture and gilded trim.

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Another one of our favorite rooms is the Galerie des Batailles. The room is filled with large paintings depicting French military victories. I love the subtle color of the the ceiling paint and the way the light filters in through the skylights.

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The gallery was commissioned by King Louis-Philippe I, and his initials can be seen around the oculus.

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Once we ended the tour of the interiors of the palace we walked out to explore the gardens, but first we ate lunch at a restaurant right off of the Grand Canal called La Flotille.

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The gardens are quite a sight and they cover well over one thousand acres. We were short on time and could not fully explore them, but we did walk through a few sections.

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None of the fountains were turned on, so we could not get the full experience here at the Bosquet de la Colonnade.

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The entrance to the Bosquet de la Salle de Bal was closed, but we were fascinated by the tiers of sea shells that we could glimpse through the gate. We would have loved to have seen the water cascading over the shells.

There is so much more that we would like to see at Versailles, such as the Hameau de la Reine and Grand Trianon. We certainly plan returning to France again at some point in our lives, and Versailles and its gardens prove they are definitely worth another trip some day.


Thank You Cards

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The last piece of designing paper details for our wedding were the thank you cards. Like with our save the dates, wedding invitations, and wedding signage, we wanted to keep the colors and theme consistent with the overall design aesthetic.

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We decided to design one sided cards to write on the back of instead of foldable cards to keep them simple and clean.

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Finishing this component of the wedding experience came with a sigh of relief. It has been an exhausting year of planning and designing, and we have now finally reached the closing point. We are thrilled with everything we designed and most of all eternally grateful to all of our friends and family who contributed to our day.

 

 


Roasted Acorn Squash

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Autumn has arrived, and even though that only means a slight drop in temperature at night in Los Angeles, we’re seeing squash begin to pop-up in every super-market and in our bi-weekly produce deliveries. That means that over the next few months we will have a great variety of squashes delivered to our home from our local organic farms. I absolutely love many kinds of squash, but winter squashes often present the challenge of figuring out how to cook them. Most winter squashes are very firm and require quite a bit of cooking time, but it is all well worth the wait. My personal favorite method is roasting them in the oven, and as an added bonus having the oven on for long periods of time heats up our apartment for chilly autumn and winter nights.

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When working with the tough squashes, such as acorn squash, I typically use a rubber mallet and a knife to get through its thick surface.

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Once I have it open and cut into large pieces, I use a spoon to scoop out all of the seeds. If you would like, you can rinse the seeds and let them dry to roast for later.

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I like to try out different seasonings such as rosemary or paprika on squash, but our favorite has continuously been olive oil, brown sugar, and a dash of salt sprinkled and rubbed onto the inside surfaces.

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I have learned that lining an oven safe dish with aluminum foil greatly helps the roasting process. I pre-heat the oven to about 350 degrees fahrenheit and let them roast for about 45 minutes, until a fork can slide into the outer skin with relative ease. It’s a great side dish option to serve with comfort foods all winter long.

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Our Honeymoon: Disneyland Paris

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Naturally, James and I could not pass up the opportunity to visit Disneyland Paris on our honeymoon to France. Anyone who knows us knows we are absolute Disney theme park fans, and we were very excited to visit a Disney park in a foreign country. We spent two days there exploring the curious yet enchanting parks, filled with their own mysteries to discover. Being this was on our honeymoon we brought with us bride and groom Mickey ears featuring ‘Mr. Dastoli’ and ‘Mrs. Dastoli’ embroidery on the backs to celebrate our recent nuptials.

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The Disneyland Hotel is a breathtaking structure that creates a very different feel when entering the park compared to the other Magic Kingdoms. The rooftops of the hotel contribute to what we consider to be the most beautiful version of Main Street, USA.

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This stained glass ceiling inside of the Emporium is an example of the ornate details found throughout Main Street.

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There are two arcades that run parallel to Main Street. This one is the Discovery Arcade, which has artwork depicting futuristic projections of American cities from the late nineteenth century.

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Discoveryland is the Tomorrowland that Jules Verne would have envisioned. For me, all of the lands contained elements that were familiar, but with new subtleties and twists. It felt similar to when I visited Walt Disney World for the first time after having only gone to Disneyland.

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Here I am in front of the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the Columbiad cannon featured in From the Earth to the Moon as part of Space Mountain. Seeing the Nautilus was particularly nostalgic for James, since the Florida version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage was closed in 1994.

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Walking through the Nautilus was one of our favorite experiences in the park. The intricate details found throughout the submarine truly transports the guests imagination into the novel.

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Another nostalgic experience for James (but new to me) was riding the original version of Star Tours. Here he is in front of the attraction’s entrance wearing a Star Tours – The Adventures Continue shirt. It was very strange for him hearing Captain Rex’s voice in French, but fun and exciting nonetheless. I was thrilled to finally get the opportunity to ride the original version and meet Rex for the first time.

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Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant is an interesting take on other Magic Kingdom castles. The landscaping around the castle draws direct inspiration from the film Sleeping Beauty and the interior features a giant dragon animatronic.

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The story of Sleeping Beauty is told through stained glass windows inside the castle.

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From the balcony of the castle you can see the rooftops of Fantasyland. Similar to Main Street, Fantasyland in Disneyland Paris is a grander, more beautiful version than in other Magic Kingdoms. Meandering landscaped pathways take you from one attraction to another in a less linear fashion.

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One specific example that involves quite a bit of meandering is Alice’s Curious Labyrinth. Here the Cheshire Cat is overlooking the maze.

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We were able to experience seeing a dark ride with the lights on after it temporarily broke down. This was not the first time we have seen a ride with the lights on, but regardless it is always bizarre. This is the forest scene in Blanche Neige et les Sept Nains.

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Rather than housing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, there is a restaurant inside of Toad Hall. It certainly cannot fully replace the allure of the ride, but it’s an interesting and charming way to feature the story of The Wind in the Willows.

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Much of Adventureland is dedicated to Adventure Isle, a giant walkthrough area taking the spot that is usually occupied by Tom Sawyer Island in other Magic Kingdoms. There is another instance of going back in time through Disney history with Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship and Skull Rock, which have not existed at Disneyland for over 30 years.

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Frontierland has an elaborate backstory based around the town of Thunder Mesa that ties all of the attractions together.

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The story of Thunder Mesa culminates in Phantom Manor, which is our favorite ride in the entire park. The atmosphere is much more macabre than the American Haunted Mansions.

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We had a table service meal inside the opulent Silver Spur Steakhouse in Frontierland.

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We didn’t spend very much time at the Walt Disney Studios Park, but we did go on the recently opened Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy, and we also enjoyed our lunch at Le Bistrot Chez Rémy, a themed restaurant that scales everything so you feel the size of a rat.

We weren’t sure what to expect out of Disneyland Paris, but we can say that we were very pleasantly surprised by its charm and amused by its differences. I will always have an emotional and nostalgic connection to Disneyland USA, but look forward to visiting more of the international Disney resorts. After the wedding and honeymoon we likely will not be traveling internationally anytime soon, but hope to visit Tokyo and its Disney parks next.


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