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Raleigh Sister Cities Exchange: Compiégne, France

22nd September 2015

Last week Nick and I had the opportunity once again to be a part of Sister Cities International at our local level in Raleigh and host our sister city of Compiégne, France for a golf exchange. Everyone I encounter seems to not know much about Sister Cities International and we have loved our experience being involved thus far and want to continue to spread the message of Sister Cities. The mission of the Sister City exchange is “promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation – one individual, one community at a time.”

Last year we had the opportunity to visit Compiégne, and this year we hosted Eric as part of the golf exchange. Eric arrived on Thursday evening and flew back on Tuesday evening. Being a host means you’re responsible for a place for them to stay, breakfast, dinner and all transportation. Our dinners were basically taken care of, as we had receptions and events every night with the entire group that was participating. There were 7 French people visiting and about 15 of us living in Raleigh that were involved every evening. Nick and Eric played golf almost everyday, and I joined once at Lonnie Poole. We also had the opportunity to take everyone to an NC State football game!

Here are a few glimpses of our time together!

Eric brought us a nice selection of French wines and of course, Champagne!

It was sad to see our visitors go but we will cherish the relationships we’ve made, we will stay in touch and hopefully we will see everyone again in September! Au Revoir!

Prepping for House Guests – International Edition

10th September 2015

As you might remember, Nick and I participated last year in Raleigh’s Sister City golf exchange program and had the amazing opportunity to go to France and play golf and immerse ourselves in the culture of our sister city of Compiegne, France. We loved every second so this year we are returning the favor and hosting a guest of our own! Last year, our dearest Guilhene and Jaq opened their homes to us and helped provide breakfast and dinner for us as well as all transportation from Paris to Compiegne and around town (See part 1 and part 2 here!). This year we will be doing the same for our guest, Eric! We welcome him tomorrow and we are SO excited! (We’ll follow up with a post on our activities after our time with him is over.)

house guests

We are so excited, but with hosting a guest for a week, there are some steps to prep your home for your guests arrival, especially in the South. You know, Southern Hospitality..

  1. Do a deep clean – clean the sheets, vacuum, clean the bathrooms, stock up on groceries and snacks and also toilet paper, paper towels etc. Do this a couple days ahead so that you won’t be rushing at the last minute.
  2. Make it feel like home – Although guest can obviously use the whole house, sometimes their room may be more of a retreat. Provide some fun reading material, books, magazines, etc. Little touches like bottles of water or snacks are always a good idea. We have some local candy we purchased to provide for our guest and magazines about the area.
  3. Fresh flowers – When you can it’s always nice to have fresh flowers in the guest room but also around the house. It’s an extra touch that goes a long way.
  4. Bathroom essentials – I like to have a stack of fresh towels and wash cloths for our guests to use. They’re in a tray and I place it on the bed upon arrival. I also make sure there are toiletries in the shower (soap, shampoo, conditioner) but I also make sure underneath the cabinet may have things our guest needs and I don’t want them to feel weird looking! I have neatly arranged extra items, more soap, lotions, toothbrushes, combs. We also have a small jar that I placed a razor, shaving cream, mouth wash and tooth brush and tooth paste for Eric.
  5. Wifi – In this day and age, it’s nice to have your Wifi information at the ready for your guests to use, think about framing the information next to the bed for easy access.
  6. Food – Provide extra bottles of water, fruit and healthy snacks that any one would be interested in eating after a long day of travel or in our instance, playing golf!
  7. Prep on your foreign language – If possible, it’s always wonderful to prepare yourself with helpful phrases in case your guest is not as fluent in English – and if nothing else, just to be respectful.
  8. Personal gifts – For our guest, we want to make him feel like home, so we’re helping provide a golf glove, golf balls and a shirt for him to remember his time and to not stress about flying with so much!
  9. Have fun – More importantly, enjoy experience and don’t sweat the small stuff too much! It’ll all work out in the end and you’ll have a great time!

Do you have any tips and tricks?! We’d love to hear them!


French Countryside Part 2

24th February 2015

Over the next few days in France, I traveled to many smaller towns outside of Compiegne. We were able to see centuries old churches and cathedrals, eat a lovely little restaurants and go shopping in some cute shops! I couldn’t get over all the adorable kids clothes in France!! Made me wish I had a little one to shop for, but I would’ve been broke after visiting.

Part of our group was lucky enough one evening to go to dinner at the home of Isabelle and Patrice. They had such a lovely home that was part built in the 1700’s and part built in the late 1800’s! It’s just amazing the history France has!

On our final evening we went to the town of Pierrefonds, in which there was an old chateau that had been renovated by Napoleon to look Medieval castle. Rumor had it, Michael Jackson saw the Chateau de Pierrefonds and offered to buy it but they refused to sell it to him. It’s also been featured in many movies, including the Man in the Iron Mask.

The gang celebrating our final night together..
Our lovely French mom, Guilhene!
We ate dinner on this pond overlooking the Chateau.
 Too much rose perhaps? That Tavel will make you happy!

The day we were flying out of France, hubs played golf at Chantilly, one of the best courses in France and the ladies were able to tour the Chateau de Chantilly. Yes, the home to Chantilly Cream and Chantilly lace! The Chateau was very remarkable. It wasn’t a busy day, and the Duke that had lived there had a private art collection that made it feel like we were in our own private Louvre! There was even original pieces by Rafael.


OH FRANCE, you were truly remarkable! All these experiences truly made us fall in love with everything France had to offer. From the small towns to the glamorous city of Paris, we truly cherished our entire time in France but it was also due to the amazing relationships we were able to build through the sister city program. We are so thankful for the opportunity and hope to keep taking part in these programs!

Do you want to visit the countryside now?! I sure hope so!!


The Fench Countryside Part 1

23rd February 2015

Between September 4 and September 9th hubs and I had the opportunity to travel to the French countryside and stay with an amazing host family in partnership with our sister city golf exchange program. We stayed outside of Compiegne in a small town called Rhotondes, in a beautiful country home on the river that connects the Seine to Belgium! It was just as you would imagine the countryside looking. We loved every second of our experience. Our hosts, Guilhene and Jaq, became like family to us. They helped teach us French, answered our questions about France, culture and etiquette, but they also took care of us by having pain au chocolates for us (me) every morning fresh from the bakery!! I didn’t take too many photos of our time because we were always busy doing something!

This is Guilhene and Jaq’s beautiful home in Rhotondes. It had a pool but the temperature was a little too cool to be enjoyed. We loved staying with them in their beautiful vacation home. They actually reside permanently in Paris!! (It couldn’t have been more meant to be that we stayed with them considering we rented our flat a few minutes away!)

Enjoying French cheese and wine on the beautiful porch. Cheers!
Our first day that we did arrive in Compiegne, we met with our group of Americans at the Chateau de Compiegne, to take a private tour of the Chateau that was built for Louis XV and restored by Napoleon and was one of three seats of government.
I wish that I could put on an elegant gown and just dance all night in this ballroom…
After our tour of the chateau we headed to Hotel de Ville, which always just stands for the town hall, it’s not actually a hotel. We were greeted by the mayor to welcome the American’s to Compiegne!! Such a fun experience! Like I mentioned in my previous post, I’d highly recommend everyone to look into their sister city program!
I still can’t get over how real wars are when you’re in Europe. To see the actual bullet holes from war in buildings is so surreal!! This was in the courtyard of the Compeigne Hotel de Ville. And speaking of wars, it was the 100th year anniversary of the beginning of World War I and there are monuments scattered about France and below is a photo of one in the center of town in Compeigne. It’s very touching..
We obviously had a busy first day, but it was still continuing! Luckily hubs and I had been in France for a couple of days so we weren’t tired but the other Americans were a little tired. Guilhene was hosting our dinner for everyone involved in the golf exchange program at our wonderful country home and we had to stop at the bakery and butcher and I just couldn’t help but snap a few pictures of how beautiful the meats, pates and pastries were!
We had such beautiful weather while we were in France and were able to enjoy our dinner outside in the yard. Such a wonderful treat!! Guilhene baked a beautiful quiche and we were able to pick up a BEAUTIFUL charcuterie board from the butcher that I was just obsessed with! I can’t get over how wonderful the meats truly are!
We enjoyed spending our time surrounded by the locals learning about the culture and learning key catch phrases but also enjoying fabulous wine and conversation!
The next couple of days included the boys playing golf at different golf courses around the countryside and the ladies touring small towns and seeing the sites. It was so fun to see different small towns, pop into local shops and even see the outdoor markets. It was so special and especially because we were with people that knew the area and could really educate us on our experience! I even picked up clubs one day and played on the Compiegne golf course! It was home to the only Olympics ever hosted for golf! How neat is that?! It’s also a working horse track. Below is the clubhouse of Raray, which they actually shot the 1960’s version of Beauty and the Beast! It was a hunting lodge for royalty as Compeigne surrounds one of the largest forests in France.
Hubs and the pull carts that golfers use in France. There are no golf carts!
This is our group that traveled to Compiegne. Mostly it’s the Americans with their spouses, but a few of our wonderful French hosts are pictured as well! Guilhene is at the bottom in the gray sweater next to hubs! <3 her!! Hubs looks so tiny here.. too bad we walked so much on our trip, we didn’t gain any of that wonderful Europe weight from pastries and wine at every meal!
I’ll be back tomorrow with part 2 of our trip to the countryside. Oh how I wish we could go back ASAP! It was so wonderful!

Traveling to Europe: Sister Cities & AirBNB

11th February 2015

This past August and September we had the privileged to travel to France and Italy for almost 3 weeks! It was the most amazing experience and I cannot wait to go back!! We were particularly fond of France but Italy was great too. We traveled from August 31 – September 17, flying into Paris and leaving out of Rome.

A little background on how our trip came about: In all cities there should be some type of “sister city” program with different cities around the world. The program was founded by President Eisenhower and is meant to promote “peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.”

One of Raleigh’s sister cities, is Compiegne, France. Raleigh and Compiegne are really trying to establish a great relationship between the two cities and this past year, Compiegne invited Raleigh golfers to take part in the exchange program where citizens of Raleigh are invited to play golf around Compiegne and vice versa each year. Different families in Compiegne invited families from Raleigh to stay with them in their home and then while in Compiegne, golf would ensue. Mostly the men took part in the golf and the ladies toured the area. It’s such a unique opportunity and I would encourage anyone to investigate what opportunities are available with sister cities in your town!

Since we were given the opportunity to take part in the exchange program we decide to extend the trip since we had never been to Europe. We decided to fly into Paris first, since I was DYING to go, and then travel around Italy for a week after the exchange program.

When we knew we wanted to go to Paris, I thought about a hotel, but they’re quite pricey in Paris so I began to research AirBNB and VRBO for possible apartment rentals. I asked a friend from  Paris what Arrondissement  she recommended and she advised the 7th, 6th and First. I decided to focus on those areas and really the 7th in particular because that’s where the Eiffel tower is and why not stay close to the Eiffel tower when in Paris?!

I ended up finding a lot more properties on AirBNB so I focused my search on apartments through their website. These are a few apartments we looked at and I would recommend someone visiting Paris to definitely look at these properties. Almost all are under $150 a night.

We ended up choosing this apartment on Rue Chevert, just around the corner from Rue Cler and a 5 minute walk to the Eiffel tower. It was a rather large apartment but also 4 stories up with no lift, so we definitely received our exercise everyday! I loved being so close to everything and one evening we took a blanket and walked to the Eiffel tower and watched it sparkle for two hours while drinking wine.. So Parisian!

The experience with AirBNB was rather smooth. I found our host a little difficult to get a hold of, which made me nervous, but it ended up working out just fine. The location really was sublime though, so close to the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Musee Rodan, the Siene, etc. We really walked everywhere! I’d say I’d recommend AirBNB to others for their international trips, but I have also read scary stories of scams, so just be very careful. I take reviews very seriously too and that’s my biggest piece of advice. Read the reviews and leave your own review, I find they go really far in this day and age. (This is not sponsored by AirBNB, these are just my own opinions, FYI.)

Here’s some photos of our apartment in Paris!

 We had the most amazing weather and were lucky enough to have the windows open and cute quintessential Parisian rooftops to stare at when they were open. At night you could see the Eiffel tower spot light going around as well! (Although we couldn’t quite see the tower itself!)

And that’s the cute little apartment we had. I’d love to hear your stories of AirBNB if you have them and any stories you have of Paris or if you’ve taken part in a sister city program too!!