The long awaited honeymoon! It's been a journey to get here. When we set our wedding date for October 8th we knew we would not be able to take a honeymoon right away. Not only is my husband a teacher, but this was his first year in a new district. Trying to take a week off at the beginning of the school year would not have been a good idea. So we made plans to take this honeymoon this summer.
Even before we got engaged we'd talked about doing something extravagant for a honeymoon and Paris had always been the original plan. Then, after the wedding, our focus shifted. We put honeymoon plans on the back burner because we decided to start house hunting. When that didn't work, we rekindled our vacation plans but this time were trying to keep it more low-key by going to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta. (FYI- it takes almost as long and costs almost as much to fly to Calgary as it does Paris).
The day before the Alberta trip, the plans came crashing down. Due to flight changes, inclement weather, and website malfunctions, we hit road block after road block in trying to make the trip work. Finally, around midnight we had to admit defeat. That trip was not going to happen.
We woke up the next day very upset, but immediately picked up the pieces and decided to plan a completely new trip. After checking various flights and accommodations we chose a brand new destination- we were going to Paris like we'd originally planned!
The Universe was looking out for us, because we just knew this was the trip we were supposed to take.
Normally I keep my blog posts on here business related, but we had such a great time I can't help but want to blog about the whole trip, so that's what I'm going to do! Plus it might help someone in the future if they are ever traveling and happen to come across it. I felt like many of the travel blogs and guidebooks I read let me down a bit on this trip, so I'm going to include some tips from what we learned.
Day 1 - We got in at 2pmish on August 16th. We'd been awake for almost 24 hours at that point but knew we'd need to push it a few more so we didn't end up jet-lagged.
We stayed in an AirBnb in the 16th District in an area called Auteuil. The apartment was SO cute, very Parisian. the 16th is a quieter, slightly affluent area, though still not far away from the center of the city. We could have walked to the Eiffel Tower in about 35 minutes if we'd wanted to. But the best part was that the apartment was only about a 3 minute walk to the nearest Metro station. We really ended up in an amazing location.
After settling in, we realized a major mistake we'd made- not planning for the electrical outlets! I had not come across this in any blog or guidebook, and I never even thought to check, but most places in Europe do not use the "Edison plug" that is common in North America. You need an adapter. Interestingly, I messaged both the owner of the apartment and the person who'd met us and unlocked the unit for us, to see if they could recommend a place to buy an adapter. If this were me at my home, and a European traveler need an adapter I would be able to to rattle off 10 stores rapid fire without having to even think! But they were not much help.
Luckily, on our way to a grocery store to see if they had what we needed, we passed an electronics store that did not come up on my Google searches. Because our phones both had USB plugs, we were able to find the right adapter for us. Crisis averted. But be warned, future travelers. Plan ahead.
We bought some groceries and pushed ourselves to stay up until it got dark so we could avoid jet lag, knowing we had a big day ahead of us!
Day 2 - When we woke up on the 17th we already knew where our first stop would be - the Eiffel Tower! After a great breakfast at a small place near us called Polo, we took the Metro from our apartment directly to Trocadero. (We were quite struck by how clean and orderly the Paris metro is!)
We had such a beautiful experience seeing the Tower for the first time! August is a busy tourist time, but on that morning it wasn't too crowded. There was a musician playing keyboard, everyone there was very calm and quiet. You round the corner when you get off the metro and *Bam* the tower is right there in front of you.
It was an emotional experience seeing it for the first time! All I can say is, I have seen a million pictures of it and not one does justice to what it looks like in person. It's such a beautiful piece of architecture, a welcoming beacon and a symbol of hope and human achievement.
We spent some time around the tower. One thing I should mention is we had decided that we were not going to pre-plan hardly anything. We made two dinner reservations and that was it. This was purposeful, because we wanted to keep the trip more relaxed, however we knew there were plenty of popular sites we may not get to see because of this. Going to the top of the tower, for example, was not going to happen unless we wanted to wait hours. We did not. Maybe for a future trip we'll get tickets, but this time we just wanted to experience as much as possible.
After finding a little food and getting weirdly familiar with Parisian public toilets, we got tickets for the Batobus so we could ride down the Seine to other sites instead of walking. (Tip: the public toilets go through a cleaning cycle after every use. Though this may seem nice, until you have a group of 20 people waiting and everyone has wait an additional 1-2 minutes for every person. This means the lines take forever. Instead, when you feel the urge to go, just go order a drink or snack from one of the billion cafes around. They all have their own restrooms. It's much better than waiting in line in the sun.)
We had made dinner reservations that night at a restaurant called Au Petit Riche. I'd heard they we well-known for their creme brulee, and let me tell you- it did not disappoint. We also enjoyed an old-fashioned dining experience there, where the staff and servers really wine and dine you. French dining and service is slow by design, they pop their heads regularly but instead of constantly bothering you they just look to see if your glasses are empty and plates are finished. If you're obviously still eating/drinking or in the middle of conversation, they rarely interrupt. We loved this!
Day 3 - We decided to check out The Louvre knowing we may not actually get inside, which we did not. Again, if we'd wanted to wait about 2 hours we could have but there were way too many other things to see and do to justify waiting. Also, this day was HOT! Very very hot and humid. So while we were able to awe at the iconic Pyramid and the architecture of the palace, we chose to move on from the museum and instead go visit Notre-Dame Cathedral.
This was one of my highlights! That cathedral is so beautiful. We were not able to go inside, as it is still under construction. But around the outside, they've created an amazing exhibit detailing the reconstruction efforts with photographs and quotes. It is so nice for them to recognize the powerful effect this building has on people, and allow them to get as close to it as they can, even if they can't go inside yet.
We then walked across the bridge to a famous bookstore called Shakespeare and Company. Here I'd hoped to find the book I wanted as my souvenir, and I was in luck! I bought a cookbook called Et Voila! by Manon LaGreve. I've already made a few things from it, this was a perfect souvenir.
That night we had dinner at a bistro called Astier, a recommendation from a friend. Here we started to notice some of the nuances of French cooking. Particularly, how they don't do much in the way of seasoning to whatever the "start" of the show is. For example, if you order a steak it will be a high quality cut and cooked to perfection, but won't have been heavily seasoned. Instead, they will serve it with a sauce or side that is more flavorful and complimentary.
I should also mention here - there is very little A/C used in Paris, probably most of France. Some days that was fine, but on a day as hot and humid as this one was, it was difficult to fully enjoy our food while we were melting.
Day 4 - The night before we had talked about going to Versailles. But for some reason, the idea wasn't sitting right with us. We knew the gardens were usually open even if you couldn't go inside the palace, but there were some differences on days that had special events so we weren't entirely sure if we'd be able to get in to anything without waiting for hours. Considering it was Saturday and probably super busy, we decided to stay in Paris.
We explored the super artsy and bohemian neighborhood of Montmartre. Even with throngs of people you can see why this would be an artist's haven. There's a charm here that is different from other areas of the city, and it's fun to walk around the cute cobblestone streets and watch artists paint their works.
Dinner that night was a River Cruise with Bateaux Parisien. While the food was good, and it was fun cruising along all the famous sites, we would probably not do this again. It was the most expensive meal we had, but certainly not the best. Plus, with a 6:15 start time, the sun was in our eyes the whole time.
We were going to stay in the city center and wait until the lights on the Tower came on, but after dinner we would have had almost 2 hours to kill until that happened, and we quickly realized that Saturday night is not a time you want to be near the Eiffel Tower. The beautiful, calm, serene vibe from Thursday morning has been changed into absolute chaos with swarms of people around from base of the tower over to Trocadero. Think Times Square times 100. Tip: Avoid the touristy areas on weekends!!!!
Day 5 - Our last full day. After being traumatized by the amount of people downtown the previous night, we decided to spend our last day exploring the 16th District, the area where we were staying. This ended up being one of the best day (although all the days were great).
I came across an amazing find that I had not seen in any guidebook- we were in walking distance of a museum called the Marmottan, which has a huge collection of Monet paintings. And guess who my favorite painter is? That's right.
We had a great time there (and it was the only building we'd been in for days that had air conditioning!). Even my husband, who isn't a huge art fan, is always moved by impressionism. He is a classically trained musician, and this era of art he can easily relate to the movement going on in music at that same time. Seeing these works was inspiring.
For dinner, we chose a newer restaurant called Mon Square. Near Invalides, so a little farther in that the crowds reached, this was a nice place to experience a more modern Paris that caters to a slightly younger crowd. It was very colorful and "grammable" inside, and the staff was extremely friendly and accommodating.
We noticed that because there are so many cafes and restaurants to chose from, not one place we went to was packed. This helps with being able to take your time and enjoy your food. You never feel like they are trying to rush you out the door. One other thing the guidebooks/blogs let me down on- I'd read that tipping was not customary because most restaurants automatically include a 15% gratuity in the bill. However, not one place we went included any kind of upcharge and it is not prompted when they charge your card. This meant, since we did not have cash, we really didn't end up tipping much. I feel guilty, and hope that is really isn't as customary as it is here, but in the future I will definitely take out some euros to leave on the table for a server just in case.
With our last full day coming to a close I admitted that the one thing I would be sad to have not done was see the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night. We were unsure whether we should try to brave the crowds, but after a few drinks we decided to go for it.
We ended up taking the metro from Invalides down to Champs du Mars, and by the time we got there it was already lit up in all it's glory! If you want to avoid crowds, we learned to stay at the far end of Champs du Mars. The vibe down there was similar to our first experience. Yes, a lot of people, but fairly quiet and chill. If you want to see the lights at night, this is the station and area to stick to.
I am so happy we made an effort to see the lights, it's just another amazing way of seeing this iconic landmark.
Day 6 - We had to check out of the AirBnb by 11 but our flight wasn't until pm. Luckily, Paris has plenty of places near busy hubs where you can store luggage. We chose a City Locker near Gare du Nord. This was a great thing to be able to do. You just reserve a locker ( we needed 2) for $15 each, you get emailed a code to get into the building and codes for your specific locker. It's really convenient and helped us be able to enjoy our last few hours in the city without carrying around 3 suitcases.
Our last stop was the Luxembourg Gardens. This was a nice place to relax and unwind after several magical but tiring days. There are plenty of tourists there, but quiet and respectful ones, as well as a lot of locals out for a picnic lunch. The Medici Fountain is a very romantic spot.
We got gelato from a place called Amarino's and it had the best chocolate hazelnut gelato you could ever imagine. That was our last taste in Paris and it did not disappoint.
We had such an amazing time and cannot wait to go back. Paris, for all it's luxury, is also a very accessible city. You can easily navigate the Metro and get anywhere you want for little cost. It is helpful to speak some French, like my husband does, but English will still get you everything you need. There are busy touristy spots, but also areas for respite from the crowds. And it can fit almost any budget, we found the prices for things were comparable to what they'd be in New York as far as food and drinks.
However, we will never go in August again! A cooler time of year would not only be better, but August us peak tourist season. And many locals leave for August so several shops and cafes were not open. A spring or fall trip would be amazing!
It was very much worth the stress of losing the original trip as well as the time it took to get to this point. As a little girl, you dream of honeymooning in Paris with your Prince Charming. My dream became reality!
Infertility- it's a confusing, frustrating, and heartbreaking condition. And even though it's something experienced by millions of people, that fact doesn't make one going through it feel any less alone.
There are many possible causes, and often the root of the problem involves several different factors. Diet, lifestyle, medications, pre-existing conditions, any or all of these can have an effect on your ability to conceive.
By the time I see women for fertility massage, they have usually been through it all- tests, procedures, surgeries, medications, you name it. Sometimes they have answers as to why they have been unable to conceive, but it is not uncommon for no known reason to have been discovered.
It is also common for first-time patients to have already been through several fertility treatments- anything from hormonal medications to IVF. If they have tried these treatments but are in for an appointment with me, it means that the treatments failed, and they have experienced the painful loss of what could have been.
I start this post by acknowledging this struggle because I believe that to ensure my patients the best results, I need to understand their struggle. It is important for any healthcare provider to listen to their patient and empathize, but especially so when the patient is in such a vulnerable state and has been through so many highs and lows.
When you come in for your fertility massage, the first thing I will do is spend a long time taking an in-depth health history. This is not a chart you are going to fill out. It's more of a discussion about yourself and your fertility journey so far. I will ask you A LOT of questions, some may even have you scratching your head, wondering why I'd need to know that- but they are all designed for me to build a good picture of your overall health. This consultation will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
They next part of your session is the actual massage. I will leave you to undress and get comfortable on the massage table where you will lay face up throughout the whole session. Along with the usual sheets and blankets, I will also provide you with a soft towel to place over your chest so you will feel comfortable and secure throughout the session once I undrape you. For the first few minutes of the massage, I will place a warm castor oil pack on your lower abdomen. I won't get in to the specifics here, but castor oil has long been used to help many abdominal related health issues, including infertilty. If interested, you can learn more about the science of castor oil here.
While the warmth of the castor oil pack relaxes and soothes your abdomen, I will massage your neck and shoulders. This does not have a direct effect on fertility, but it feels good and helps us ease in to the session, rather than going right for the belly. After 5 to 10 minutes, I will undrape your abdominals (this is why I provide the towel for your chest) and remove the warm pack. For the next 15 to 20 minutes I will perform various massage techniques on your abdominal and pelvic region. Your pelvis will never be exposed, it will remain draped with a sheet and blanket the entire session. The lowest point on your body I will touch is right over your ovaries, and during this part of the session, I will be massaging over the sheet. We will end the session with a few minutes of reflexology on both feet, where I will target specific acupressure points known to have an effect on the reproductive and endocrine systems.
After the massage, we will spend the last part of your session going over your "homework". You see, when you come in for a session, I'll be able to use my expertise to determine what needs focus and how to treat various areas, but to get the most out of fertility massage, you need frequent sessions- frequent enough that it would cost a small fortune if you came in to my office for every single one! Therefore, during your sessions will teach you the skills you need to perform fertility massage on yourself! We will go over everything you need to know, I will have information to give you so you don't forget any steps, and we will discuss when I want to see you next and how often you need in-office treatment versus at-home treatment.
Truthfully, I hope you DON'T need many in-office visits- because that will mean we were successful!
Now you know what a fertility massage session is like, but you might still be asking yourself- how does it work? Why would massage help me conceive? What does it do to my body?
I'm glad you asked.
The biggest reason why fertility massage can be effective is because it is holistic- meaning the massage improves overall health throughout your whole body- not just reproductive health!
By massaging the abdominals and pelvis, we will free up restricted tissue around several digestive and reproductive organs. These restrictions can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk all day, or even overworking the abdominals (yes, you CAN exercise too much!). Massage will also increase circulation to the area as well as reduce inflammation. This does have a direct effect on your reproductive organs- such as freeing blockages in the fallopian tubes- but it will also improve your digestion and liver function.
Massage also has a powerful effect on your endocrine system and helps to improve hormonal balance, something that is so important not only for increasing chances of conception, but for ensuring a healthy pregnancy, healthy baby, and healthy mom. By decreasing the stress response, we can help your body's over-taxed endocrine system so it can begin to function properly.
I do want every fertility patient of mine to keep something in mind- fertility massage is not meant to be a lone tool. It could be the deciding factor, the one thing missing from your healthcare routine, but on it's own fertility massage is unlikely to be effective. Remember- fertility massage is about improving overall health, and that's where your fertility journey should take you- down a road that leads to overall health. This means you should also be consulting with many healthcare providers including your doctor, your nutritionist, your endocrinologist, your chiropractor, your acupuncturist, even your yoga teacher! Put together a team of experts who work for you with the goal of improving your overall health. Although I want to be part of your team, I should not be the ONLY one on your team.
Ready to book? You can schedule your Initial Fertility Massage with me at Integrative Massage Associates of Albany by visiting the website here. Fertility massage is most effective during specific phases of your cycle, so once you book I will reach out to ensure the dates work for you. (Hint: Try to schedule your first visit right after your menstrual cycle ends).
I am honored to help you on your journey toward conception and motherhood.
Here's something I often tell newly licensed massage therapists- be humble and learn to respect the power of pain.
What do I mean by this?
Pain is one of the most powerful influences in this world. Whether physical or emotional, we go to great lengths to avoid it. Why do pharmaceutical companies rake in so much money? Because we will go bankrupt to eliminate pain.
I tell new licensees to respect pain because if they get over-confident and tell their patients that they can get rid of pain- they'll learn VERY quickly that they do not have that power.
Pain is sneaky, pain is deceptive. It hides for long periods of time and then comes back with a vengeance. It will respond to a treatment one time and then never react to it ever again. It will ebb and flow, sometimes with no distinct trigger. But- a good massage therapist learns to understand your specific pain. They determine what is causing it, where it's "roots" lie. They develop a relationship with it. Only then, can it be properly treated.
Often the root of the pain is not in the place where you feel the pain. Sciatica is a good example of this. Sciatic pain can travel all the way down the leg even into the foot, but with the root being in the low back or the glutes (or both!). Similarly, there are conditions that mimic carpal tunnel syndrome, where pain is felt in the wrist and hand, yet the true cause is in the shoulder, or even the neck. Trigger Points (aka "knots") can refer pain to strange regions that seem to have no connection to each other. In all of these cases, you can treat the spot where pain is felt for months and never get relief- because the wrong spot is being focused on.
This is why massage therapy can be so effective as a chronic pain treatment. By using a holistic approach, meaning you treat the body as a whole, massage can uncover the spots where pain is created and where it hides. Then, by treating the pain at it's source- freeing up restrictions, reducing inflammation, relaxing tense muscle tissue- long term healing can take place.
The process takes patience, it takes humility, and it takes a massage therapist who truly listens to you and your experiences. (Never settle for anything less from any of your healthcare practitioners!)
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.