Don't waste a long layover! Here's how to spend 12 hours in NYC!

How to spend a layover in NYC

This post is part of our month-long European trip from last August. Check here for our whole trip! 

In planning our adventure, we found ourselves with a 14 hour layover at JFK. Rather than spend our first day of vacation bumming around an airport, we grabbed our bags and headed into New York City for a day of exploring!

Don't waste a long layover! Here's how to spend 12 hours in NYC!

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Spend a few days in the idyllic town of Chinon in the Loire Valley- its the perfect way to relax!!

Relaxing in the Loire Valley

This post is part of our month-long European trip from last August. Check here for our whole trip! 

Our stay in Chinon felt like a retreat into another era. Time slowed down, life got quieter. The biggest question we answered each day was, “where should we eat dinner?” The necessary logistics that go into a multi-stop trip faded as we relaxed.

Tucked away in the heart of the Loire Valley, Chinon is a tiny town in a region of small towns. Fields, vineyards, and dairy farms cover the landscape dotted with idyllic villages. When I asked a friend about the Loire Valley, she summed it up with “Wine and castles. That’s why you should go.” Yes, please.

The big event of Chinon was less an activity and more the place itself. We splurged and stayed in a castle! A château, to be exact. Chateau de Marcay is an old rambling property, complete with horses and a tree-lined entryway. From the lobby full of velvet couches to the attentive staff quick to address you by name, the hotel exudes a feeling of aged European grandeur.

Spend a few days in the idyllic town of Chinon in the Loire Valley- its the perfect way to relax!!

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Getting work done in the local coffeeshop!

Goals: June

Welcome to summer! Here in Oklahoma we’ve moved into the days of 90+ degree days already, so I don’t care what the official calendar says. We filled our long weekend with time with friends, lake time, and even got a surprise invitation to try out the C-17 flight simulator! That was incredibly cool. Now I can say I’ve flown a plane, right?

German Shepherd Cute sleeping puppy

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Penne with summer veggies is perfect for a summertime side: it can be served hot or cold, it's light enough to go with a burger but has enough veggies to be a meal on its own!

Penne with Summer Vegetables

Today I want to share with you a summery pasta salad that I’m addicted to!

It can be eaten hot or cold, so it’s a great make-ahead option. And no mayonnaise means you don’t have to be too worried if it sits outside at the pool for a bit before you can eat it!

Penne with summer veggies is perfect for a summertime side: it can be served hot or cold, it's light enough to go with a burger but has enough veggies to be a meal on its own!

I love it so much that I can treat it as a main dish – perfect for a no-brainer lunch. For those who can’t imagine meatless meals, just add some diced chicken on top, easy!

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Paris is 100% worth the hype. Here's some of my favorite things to do in Paris!

My guide to Paris

On our month-long trip to Europe last summer, we used Paris as our home base. The cheapest flights from the States went through Paris, and it worked well for combining our budget airline portion of the trip with renting a car for the continental Europe explorations. So our time in Paris was chopped into two pieces, bookending our travels. Here’s a few of our favorite things to do and see in Paris!

The two most obvious merited posts of their own: make sure you visit the Louvre and climb the Eiffel Tower. Click the previous links for more on our experiences and some tips for planning your time!

Paris is 100% worth the hype. Here's some of my favorite things to do in Paris!

Paris is 100% worth the hype. Here's some of my favorite things to do in Paris!

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A visit to Paris is incomplete without climbing the Eiffel Tower!

The Most Iconic Spot in Paris: The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is unlike anything else. It’s the thing people think of when they think of Paris, one of the most iconic things in all of Europe. So when I planned our trip  last summer, I wanted to end it with visiting the Eiffel Tower.

On a cloudy August day, we lingered over our last cappuccino and croissants. We weren’t quite ready to go back to real life and giving up our daily espresso-and-pastry lifestyle.

A visit to Paris is incomplete without climbing the Eiffel Tower!

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The Louvre should be at the top of any Paris list!

The One Thing You Must Do in Paris

If you do only one thing in Paris, see the Louvre.

I know many may disagree. The Eiffel Tower is more iconic, and not everyone gets into history and art. But hear me out.

Musee du Louvre offers a practically unparalleled amount of beauty in one building. The palace itself is so full of French history that it teaches you without you even noticing. The whole thing also feels very French: beautiful, put together, yet so layered you can’t take it all in at once. The Tuileries Gardens count as an extension of the Louvre and display the French love for beauty in a natural dimension as well.

The Louvre should be at the top of any Paris list!

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A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

The best of Chamonix

In the midst of a history-laden trip, we tried to balance out the intellectual stimulation and big cities with small towns and active, nature-oriented fun! Enter: Chamonix.

Chamonix is largely a sleepy little ski town, giving it a bit of an alpine resort feel. For some reason, I adore ski towns in the off season. They’re always cute! I love seeing them snow- and tourist-free. Anybody with me on this?

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

We went to Chamonix with an agenda: paragliding. It was one of the most ridiculously amazing things I’ve ever done! We flew. Flew. Along the Alps. It’s a truly unbelievable experience, and I highly recommend it even if adrenaline sports aren’t your deal. To hear me gush more specifically, click here.

Culturally, Chamonix offered a different taste of France: being so close to Switzerland meant there was as much Swiss influence on the town as French. It’s nestled into a valley between two mountains. On one side are the craggy, snow-capped rocks so characteristic of the Alps, frozen even in the hottest point of the year. On the other side stands the more rolling, graceful variety, with snow in winter but now crisscrossed with pine trees and hiking trails. The sun set quickly behind the mountains, casting everything in a gorgeous purple golden light before disappearing.

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

We actually stayed in the next town over, Les Houches. I had trouble finding accommodation in Chamonix proper, but Les Houches turned out to be a hidden gem! Where Chamonix strikes the ski tourism chord, Les Houches felt much more local. One main road went through everything, with small shops, a few restaurants, and a tiny chapel along it. The occasional side roads were dotted with homes and the odd inn, complete with a walking path parallel (but not quite alongside) the street.

The homes were quaint little chalets, brimming with rustic charm and wildflowers. Both evenings after dinner we meandered along paths crisscrossing the valley, soaking up the glorious sunset glow. Streams bubbled and flowers grew along log fences. It felt like the perfect place to catch your breath and let yourself decompress.

 

Since we spent so little time in Switzerland itself, I wanted to make sure to eat some authentic Swiss food. I was ready to hunt down some fondue, but Logan convinced me to try something a little less familiar: raclette.

If you’re like me and had never heard of this, get ready to have your world rocked. Raclette is a massive wedge of cheese on a spike that you melt on your own personal grill. As it begins to drip off, you scrape it onto your plate and eat over bread, potatoes, and thin-slice meat. Along with a salad (throwing in veggies somewhere!), it’s possibly the best form of  cheese I’ve ever eaten. And the potatoes! The potatoes were the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted. As far as carbs go, potatoes are probably my least favorite. They’re great, I agree, but not usually better than pasta or pastry. Stiff competition. But these small yellow baked potatoes were the single best potatoes I’ve ever put in my mouth. And add melty cheese? Ohhhh yes.

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

I cannot overstate this: it was heavenly. We gorged ourselves until we didn’t know if we could walk home!

If you’re in Chamonix, go to La Ferme Des Agapes. They’ve got a full menu as well as fondue, but you should DEFINITELY not skip the raclette.

I mentioned accommodation was scarce in Chamonix. That’s unusual. We’d unintentionally planned our trip for the same time as the area’s biggest tourism week of the year! The UTMB, or Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc, is one of the biggest ultramarathons in the world. At 166 km, it climbs height after height as it winds through the Alps, crossing three national borders in the process! It’s a pretty impressive race. AND it happened to be finishing up in Chamonix while we were there. 

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

If you’re headed to the Alps, you should definitely spend some time in Chamonix. There’s so much to do there even in the offseason!

Where are your favorite places to visit off-season?

The links above contain affiliate links, which means I get a few cents (at no extra cost to you) if you book or buy something via that link. This helps me keep costs down and posts up! All images copyright Teaspoon of Nose.

A few of my favorite things about Chamonix!

Jumping off the Alps in Chamonix

My whole life I’ve wanted to fly.

As a kid, that was the superpower I wanted. I still regularly have dreams where I’m flying.

I love the adrenaline-pumping parts of it, like you feel with bungee jumping. But I also crave the floating sensation, of being lighter than air with sweeping views below you.

Which is why we went to Chamonix. In Chamonix, you can fly.

Paragliding in the Alps is the BEST thing to do in Chamonix!

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Florence river view

The best things to see in Florence!

When I asked friends where to visit in Italy, they universally said Florence.

Firenze (doesn’t everything sound more beautiful in Italian?) holds some of the best art and architecture in Italy, arguably in the world. It raised Dante, Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Brunelleschi, and the Medici family. A city with that much history, that much art that much culture, creates some high expectations.

Florence doesn’t disappoint. We loved our time there and didn’t even scratch the surface on what the city has to offer. Here’s our take on the best things to do in Florence, particularly if it’s your first time here!

Florence city gate perspective

Logan for scale: the city gates are huge!!

The number one thing (in my book, at least) to see in Florence is the Duomo. Climbing the dome and exploring the connected buildings can easily take a whole day, so don’t skip that. You can see more about our time in the Duomo here.

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