My Paris | Cafe Loustic

The last time we moved to Paris for a few months for work, we found a great apartment to live in for the time right around from the Pompidou. Poor us, right? We had some great memories in that apartment: sunny weekend mornings cooking breakfast for all of our students, late nights working in the loft, making friends with the woman living in the apartment across from us and, over time, becoming a client of hers for shiatsu massages (I specialise in making the weirdest friendships, in case you were wondering), and so many days enjoying the natural light pouring through the windows that seem to be a part of the building code of all Parisian homes. 

It was a happy place for us, and we had some sweet memories as a family. In the mornings, Tyler & I would walk out the main door of the apartment onto the street and start our walk towards work. Luckily, right outside our door, was Cafe Loustic. A coffee shop that we thought was just a local gem, perfectly located out of our front door. Now that we have moved away, we see people and publications chatting about Cafe Loustic all the time, and we realise just how lucky we really were to have it so close by.

unnamed-12.jpg

Especially on the days they had their donuts in. Oh man, I loved those things.

But anyway, the coffee is great. The location is fun and cute- just tucked onto a quiet, normal street (“our street!”), and the tiny little tables make it the perfect little date spot to start your day. In fact, you can watch our walk to work that I made and see us there in the morning! I love those little videos. They’re like time capsules of our lives and I’m so glad to have them.

unnamed-11.jpg
unnamed-13.jpg
unnamed-16.jpg
unnamed-14.jpg
unnamed-15.jpg

So if/when you head to Paris, stop by Cafe Loustic for some REALLY GOOD coffee and one of our favourite places to start our day together in Paris. I recommend a messy top knot,  some drugstore red lipstick and a good oversized scarf to really set the scene.

CAFE LOUSTIC | 40 Rue Chapon, 75003 Paris | @cafeloustic


Find more of my favourite places to go in Paris in my Paris guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy by Noah Darnell

Posted on March 7, 2019 and filed under paris, my paris.

A Bear-y Happy Birthday!

This year, I told Tyler, was my year to take it easy and outsource birthday parties to a venue outside of our home. I just, you know, didn’t really know where to do it... until I saw our beloved, local, Icelandic-style ice cream shop, Bears, post on Instagram about hosting a party. Eureka! That was it, and after a quick email to the amazing owners, Phil & Vera- it was all booked. A text was sent with the appropriate emojis (🐻🍦🌸) to the moms of all the girls in her class, and it was a done deal. Party planning on 2019 is so fun!

Fast forward a few weeks, and the day of the party was here. At 11:30, our sweet tiny guests started to arrived and the party was on a roll. 

IMG_0433.JPG

The girls got to go behind the counter, pick their toppings and PULL THEIR OWN ICE CREAM. Needless to say, they felt pretty cool. Then they dotted their (massive) cones with all the goodies they had selected and acted with as much pride as Clark Griswold dressing the family tree.

IMG_0434.JPG
IMG_0432.JPG

Oh! And speaking of sugar, check out the amazing cake my friend Grace made for Viola. It looked perfect, and tasted even better!

AfterlightImage.JPG
AfterlightImage_5.JPG

Now, if you’ve been into Bears, you know... the place isn’t huge. So since they wouldn’t be doing a bounce house, we opted for making a little craft... which suits Viola perfectly at this age, as she often declares that “making things” is her favourite activity. 

So we made sweet little frames that have their cut out handprints on Liberty London fabric scraps and a little poem that says: 

This print will remind you 

when I have grown quite tall 

that once I was little 

and my hand was very small.

Then, my sweet friend, Chloe, was there and used her calligraphy talent to write the girls name on the top... you know, just to make it look extra gorgeous. Lucky them!

AfterlightImage_7.JPG

I really love how they turned out. My first grade teacher had us make a craft like that (but ours was a napkin holder) and it’s still something that I look at often on my parents table and hold up next to my own hand to compare how much smaller I actually was. I hope these become as treasured as that little napkin holder is. 

And if not, we’ll thats okay. Let’s be honest, one of the best treasures we can bring with us through life is the friendships we make when we are young. You really can’t make old friends.

You know the type... I’ve been spending the last few weeks really connecting with my friends from when I was young because of a tough time that someone is going through. There’s such a safeness there when you’re among friends that knew you- and loved you- then. You can’t hide from them because they’ve seen you for so long, they already know your backstory and your annoying traits... but they’re still there for you as life pulls you in different directions. 

So yeah, we made crafts. They danced like wild animals out in the garden to music that nobody could hear but themselves. They sang into their ice cream cones like there was no tomorrow, and they hugged and helped each other along the way.

And it’s these kind of days that happily get stuffed into the vault of life... and you start to feel really rich when you look back and remember. 

AfterlightImage_3.JPG

We love Bears Ice Cream and it was perfect for Viola’s party! In case you’re looking to host a great children’s party in West London, hiring the shop costs £150 for 1.5 hours for 12 children. You can bring whatever decorations and food you’d like, in addition to the ice cream they get to make. The place is fab, the kids have a blast, and you get to support a great local business. Huzzah!

If you’re looking for more of our favourite spaces for kids in London, check out my Little London series.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

The Adults-Only Club, Reykjavik Chapter

One of the perks of being an adult is getting to do things that you always suspected adults were up to as a kid, but never had any proof.

Friday, we got to Iceland really late- like 1:30 into our beds. When we woke up the next morning, before the kids knew what was going on as they slurped up their cereal, Tyler & I tucked out for about 45 minutes. We grabbed coffee and pastries from Sandholt Bakery (which Tyler boldly proclaimed his “favourite place to get pastries in the world!) and then walked back home by taking a little detour along some of our favourite shops.

AfterlightImage-9.jpg
AfterlightImage-1.jpg
AfterlightImage-6.jpg
AfterlightImage-2.jpg

It was short, sweet and our kids were none the wiser about the little adventure we had been on while they got dressed and played. You know, until we opened up the box of goodies from Sandholt.

AfterlightImage-5.jpg
AfterlightImage-8.jpg

For them, it was a little downtime with our au pair… but that little slice of time for us, well, those make the memories.

AfterlightImage-4.jpg

And it always makes me wonder, when I do that kind of sneaky double-life stuff on my kids, what all my parents were doing when I was bopping around as a kid. I guess I’ll never really know… but I do hope they had fun doing it!

*. * *

Oh! And read more about Sandholt Bakery here. That Danish is worth reading about, and tiny little Viola is really cute in the pictures, too. (Says her mother.)


FIND MORE OF OUR FAVOURITE THINGS IN ICELAND IN MY ICELAND TRAVEL GUIDE.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 21, 2019 and filed under tyler, travel, my reykjavik, marriage, iceland.

My Reykjavik | Kaktus EspressoBar

For a long time, the Icelandic coffee scene has been ruled by the hipster Mecca, Reykjavik Roasters. (And with good reason, it’s great coffee, a good setting and it’s close enough to Braud & Co’s addictive cinnamon rolls to make it an arranged marriage of the dream Icelandic mid-day treat.) While Reykjavik Roasters and it’s massive weekend queues aren’t leaving anytime soon, I have great news for anyone that is coming to Reykjavik and wants delicious coffee without the hassle of buying it from a coffee shop that nearly doubles as a tourist site. But despite this opening paragraph, this isn’t about Reykjavik Roasters… this is about something new and something really darling.

Just off Laugavegur, Kaktus Espressobar has quietly opened in the early days of 2019. The shop is bright with sunlight, even on the greyest of winter days like the one I’m hiding from now, and the atmosphere is perfect. With a solid background of Scandnivavian feel- clean lines, blond woods, a jar of homemade kleinur and candlesticks lit for each table- the places feels very much at home in Iceland. However, with the cute addition of cactus planters dotted around the space, Italian coffee beans, matcha lattes & homemade treats ranging from pistachio croissants to healthy date balls & chia pudding- it seems to have also rounded up the best parts of the rest of the globe, too.

AfterlightImage-1.jpg
AfterlightImage-3.jpg
AfterlightImage-4.jpg
AfterlightImage-6.jpg

But what makes the place especially adorable is the owner who can speak with confidence, pride and the sweetest smile as she talks about items on the menu. You can tell that she has made this place and is really proud of it. You see it in the way she arranges little cakes, the way she helps instruct the employees in the kitchen as they roll out scones in the kitchen, and it makes the feeling so lovely.

AfterlightImage-7.jpg
AfterlightImage-8.jpg
AfterlightImage-5.jpg

I have a feeling that while this place is a bit untouched now, it’s going to become a favourite spot soon. Though I think, from the looks of the crowds here today, it’s going to be claimed by the Icelanders first this time. It’s a local gem and feels like less of an attempt to become popular spot for tourists in the middle of Reykjavik and, rather, the manifestation of someone’s dream to create a great place for people to meet, share and return to week after week. 

AfterlightImage-2.jpg

And hey, even for tourists like me, it’s a great spot to get some cultural observation, that hygge feel, and some good wifi. 

KAKTUS ESPRESSOBAR | Vitastígur 12, Reykjavik, Iceland | Open Daily from 07:30 - 18:00 | Weekends from 09:00 -18:00


Find more of my favourite places to eat, sleep and see in my Iceland guide, or read more about the best places in the capital city in My Reykjavik posts.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 20, 2019 and filed under iceland, my reykjavik.

Little London | Richmond Park

AfterlightImage-1.jpg

Kids learn a lot from living in major cities, but the biggest thing I’ve noticed from my own children growing up in London is that they learn to be citizens of the world at a younger age than I ever did in suburban Texas. They see people and space in a more relaxed and peaceful way than I did. There’s very little concept of being territorial and there’s always an understanding as to why people constantly come and go. It’s a character trait that is hard to articulate, but a joy to watch be naturally cultivated in your children.

However, I often mourn the lack of space they have to explore. But Lauren, they have the entire city of London! Hah… yeah, right. Ask any parent in London and they can tell you that trips to the famous museums are few and far between. Why? Because kids are in school during the week, and when they are out, they’re way too crowded. The truth is, it’s just hard to give kids the joy of wandering around the backyard for hours on end doing weird things here. 

Tyler and I try to offset this by driving out to Richmond Park as often as we can on the weekend. Even if it’s just for an hour, it’s worth the 25 minutes in the car. Parking is typically easy enough, and we bring a thermos of tea, a packed lunch and the kids’ wellies so they can get as dirty as they possibly want. 

AfterlightImage-3.jpg
AfterlightImage-4.jpg

Richmond Park is a massive, 2,500-acre expanse of nature preserve that stretches through the western suburb of Richmond. It’s free to visit, it’s gorgeous and you’ll see deer. So. Many. Deer. Each time we go, we see at least 75-100. It’s so wonderful.

AfterlightImage-3.jpg

And it’s a place you can go in London and have endless space. You can make trails, you can build wooden houses, you can have a picnic, you can walk your dog, or you can practice riding your bike on paths without busy commuters rolling their eyes and dodging out of your path. You can have all the space you need for whatever, and it is so lovely.

AfterlightImage-2.jpg
AfterlightImage-4.jpg
AfterlightImage.jpg

Our family tradition is to head to Gail’s for cinnamon buns and coffee first and then cruise out for the late morning and a picnic lunch when the energy levels start to dip. Then we pack up and it’s nap time on the way back to the house. It’s actually one of my favourite little days out because it’s always so fun and everyone is always so happy. Definitely, a win-win for the whole family!

AfterlightImage-1.jpg

I would recommend going with a car. Honestly, without one you’ll walk for a long time and little legs would get very tired. (Maybe you could bring a scooter?) But if you live in London and are desperate for some time out… head to Richmond Park. I won’t say the idea bowled me over when we first moved over, but now with a full-fledged family: I get it. It’s a sanctuary in the middle of London, and it’s a great family day out!

AfterlightImage.jpg

RICHMOND PARK | OPEN 7:30-16:45

By Tube: Richmond Station, National Rail or District Line (then catch the 371 or 65 buses to the pedestrian gate at Petersham)


Find more of my favourite places to go with kids in London here in my Little London section.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 13, 2019 and filed under london with littles, london, kids.

Capital Thrill | Our Getaway to Washington, D.C.

Sometimes when you try to “escape from it all,” you actually just end up dealing with some of life’s hardest issues a million miles away from being able to do anything. I think that, after years of traveling, I’ve learned that you don’t really escape from anything when you go away. If you’re a parent and traveling with kids, you know as well I do that you still have to wake up early even if you’re in a hotel with kids and you’re still “on" for every waking second during the day. If you’ve got a high stress job, you often are followed to your remote destination by gentle pings of emails piling up throughout the day- either for you to muddle through upon return or hack away at as you sit on a beach chair. Life is life- sometimes you just get to face it with it with a prettier view.

Over the weekend, Tyler & I met my parents and siblings in Washington, D.C. for a long weekend. We found flights for $350 and my family jumped at the option of having a fun weekend away without the kids.

First things first, we had a GREAT time. While you can’t escape life’s problems when you travel, you can give yourself some amazing opportunities. Like having long dinners with people you love that aren’t interrupted or shadowed by the pile of dishes in a kitchen. We all saw stuff that both a bit familiar (we lived there for a year as kids) and new (nobody has really been back since we were teenagers)- and it was all in the backdrop of a snowy and wintery city. 

AfterlightImage-1.jpg
AfterlightImage-2.jpg
AfterlightImage-4.jpg
AfterlightImage-8.jpg
AfterlightImage-10.jpg

After a few days away, we woke up on our final morning to a phone call from a dear friend saying that Edie needed to go into see someone about her breathing. This, sadly, isn’t her first visit to the hospital for this… nor is it even her fifth or sixth. When it’s cold season, we split our time between our home in London and a paediatric unit of a local hospital. All is fine, but she’ll probably have some sweet asthma like her dad. So while it’s not terrifying, it is a horrible to be an ocean away on one of those days.

But, God was so kind, and put the two best people that I can think of in all of Europe to be there for her. My friend, Ruth, not only knows her so well… but is trained as a doctor and has a kid with similar breathing issues. The other person is our former au pair, Rebeca, who had flown in for the weekend to watch the kids. If you know her, you’ll know why I felt so okay with Edie being in the hospital without me, if Rebeca could be there with her. (She moved in with us when Edie was 5 weeks old, so she’s family!)

We spent the rest of the day feeling the knot in our stomachs tighten as she wasn’t getting better… and then, as we sat in a really awesome church, we got a text that she had stabilised a bit. After a few more hours, they decided she could go home and she was home before we had taken off on our (empty! Amazing!) Virgin Atlantic flight home.

After landing thirty minutes ahead of schedule, we made a mad dash to get home before the kids left for school. Our Uber rolled up just as the kids were about to leave. As we hopped out of the car, I saw Harrison had climbed up on the couch to peek out for his friends passing by. I went along the pavement and stood in front of him. He noticed the person standing below him, looked at me and just stared in my eyes for about 5 seconds in confusion. Then he yelled “MOM!” and hopped down to open the door. As we walked in, everyone inside cheered with excitement at our appearance before school. Including Edie- who was still in the same pyjamas from her day in the hospital, as she’d fallen asleep on the way home the night before. We got a big hands in the air scream and a big-diaper run to our legs. 

While traveling is great and one of the biggest loves of my life, I’m constantly reminded that if life at home isn’t pretty… there’s no special place anywhere that can make you forget. You can hide from the ugly even in the prettiest of places… but I’ll never stop trying to find them to make great new memories that are beautiful.

And I am also amazed at how tired you can be in just a few short hours after returning home to small children….


Our Favourite Things In D.C. Were…

LE DIPLOMATE: Great bistro that is so French, you’ll forget you’re not in Europe. The bread basket alone deserves a medal. The onion soup and cheeseburger are flipping delicious. And DON’T MISS THE PROFITEROLES.
1601 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 | (202) 332-3333

AfterlightImage-11.jpg

1789: There aren’t many restaurants that I would dub “Colonial Chic,” but this one is and it owns it. You’ll feel as if you might be a guest of George Washington for a formal dinner that Martha has organised. The food is fab, and the ambiance is perfect. 
1226 36th St NW, Washington, DC 20007 | (202) 965-1789

EL SOL: This was recommended to me via Instagram as a delicious hole-in-the-wall Mexican food restaurant, and it was exactly that. And we loved every second of it.
1227 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20001 | (202) 815-4789

FIOLA MARE: This is an upscale Italian restaurant on the water. It specialises in fish, but they have a killer pappardelle with bolognaise sauce that might have been my very favourite thing. Get some of the ceviche or hamachi for a fab starter. Reservations and a posh outfit needed.
3050 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007 | (202) 525-1402

RASIKA: We went here for great Indian food one night. My family all voted it as their favourite meal. (Tyler and I are spoiled by Dishoom in London, sorry, but not sorry that it holds the trophy in our hearts for best curry out on the town.) It was good though and I would totally recommend it! The crispy spinach is a total treat and I could eat that entirely for my entire meal! 
633 D St NW, Washington, DC 20004 | (202) 637-1222

BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE: This Georgetown coffee shop was light, airy and the happy staff made it feel even brighter. The style is Scandinavian and cool, and the brown butter blondies are a great little treat with a cup of coffee.
1046 Potomac St NW, Washington, DC 20007 | (510) 653-3394

AfterlightImage-7.jpg

DISTRICT DOUGHNUT: This is a chain with a few shops around town. It’s cute and the limited menu rotates seasonally. Look for items like creme brûlée- where they actually torch the top to make it crunchy! There are some good seasonal options, but I think the best walk away item for me was the cinnamon roll made out of donut dough. To be honest, I’ll never replace the classic American donut shop old-fashioned with any fancy donut shop find like these… but it was still a really great place to find yourself on a snowy Saturday morning in Georgetown.
3327 Cady's Alley NW, Washington, DC 20007 | (202) 333-2594

AfterlightImage-5.jpg

RITZ CARLTON GEORGETOWN: While the rooms feel a bit corporate, the staff and living room lounge add great character to this well-located Ritz. You’ll be able to walk around Georgetown’s best streets and spots within a couple of minutes… and the apothecary jars full of candy, fireside s’mores, and happy hours with free hot chocolate (and all the necessary trimmings) make it feel very fun.
3100 South Street NW, Washington, DC 20007 | (202) 912-4100

AfterlightImage-3.jpg


The things you recommended that sounded AMAZING (but we ran out of time to try):

OLD EBBITT GRILL: “Have the strawberry shortcake. Yes, for lunch. It’s that good.” (@vhiler)

LITTLE PEARL: “It’s the lunch spot owned by the Pinepple and Pearl, which is one of the best restaurants in DC. It’s also in a truly lovely little building. It’s a small menu, but everything is delicious.” (@stickynotes21)

FOUNDING FARMERS: “Fried Green Tomatoes and a burger!” (@eunamae)

IRON GATE: “Oldest restaurant in the city-bar is in an old carriage house. They have an outdoor patio with fire pits, blankets and a trellis. The restaurant itself is a 200 year old house. All the ambiance and great Greek tapas!” (@kahicks00)

FEDERALIST PIG: “I always get the veggie option, but it’s all amazing. The crispy spicy brussel sprouts!” (@elebusing)

TOKI UNDERGROUND: Recommended by two foodie friends. No quotes, but full confidence.

BLUE DUCK: Another name that was listed again and again!

BAKED AND WIRED: “Amazing cupcakes. Biscuits at breakfast are incredible. Great coffees, too.” (@kw4lsu)

TED’S BULLETIN: “The homemade poplars at Ted’s Bulletin are, quite possibly, the greatest American delicacy. 12/10.” (@sarayelichmiller)

CALL YOUR MOTHER: “Has the most amazing bagel breakfast sandwich or bacon-peanut butter-honey on a bagel or incredible pizza bagels or mind blowing latkes.” (@kcutright)



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 11, 2019 and filed under travel, family.

My Notting Hill | The Tin Shed

There’s a little street in Notting Hill that has long been one of my very favourite spots, All Saints Road. It’s not exactly like “a best kept secret,” as it’s well-known by the locals, but it does somehow get overlooked by tourists. It’s a sort little street with a few places to eat, several boutiques and a few design shops with luxe bathtubs and fabric swatches in the windows.

On Tuesday morning, I found myself with a few hours to myself. I wandered around my little Shepherds Bush loop for a moment and when I passed the underground station, decided to enjoy my momentary freedom and hopped on the train to Notting Hill. It’s funny how segmented London can be, when really, it's just a couple of minutes away to our old neighbourhood. 

I walked out of the tube station and decided to head to All Saints Road to have a quiet morning, rather than wander Portobello Road or Westbourne Grove. When I got there, there was a movie being quietly filmed (there’s always cool stuff happening in London!), a few other people on the road, and then a quiet buzz coming from The Tin Shed. I stumbled in and snagged a sunny table by the door, ordered up a Whole30 compliant breakfast (10 more days!) of a poached egg, mashed avocado with chilli oil & roasted tomatoes, and just melted in the sunshine for an hour.

AfterlightImage-2.jpg
IMG_7043.JPG

The atmosphere in The Tin Shed is exactly what I didn’t know I wanted when I left the house today. There were friends hugging after seeing each other since the holidays, patrons wandering in with tiny puppies at their feet, crusty bread loaves being sliced while the waitstaff laughed with each other, and the constant hum and clanging from the barista as she made coffee after coffee.

AfterlightImage.jpg
IMG_7135.JPG
AfterlightImage-1.jpg

After a while, I had read all the New York Times mobile articles my eyes could handle, so I paid the bill and shuffled out of the shop with a smile. These little places are the types of places that make me really love London. They’re places that I’ll always miss if we were to move away.  I always stare at the details here, as if I absorb them enough, I’d be able to recreate a place like it back in the States somewhere… until I start doubting the ability to get great sourdough loaves everyday like they can. Or if US health & safety allows for pastries to be sat along the counter in open air like they do here. And all the other questions that make me just nestle back into my chair and try to stop overthinking the experience and to enjoy this place in this moment. 

AfterlightImage-3.jpg

If you’re looking for a place to go in Notting Hill where Londoners actually go, go here. And go in the middle of the week when the timing feels unexceptional. That’s when you’ll get to really be a part of the daily grind and life of London, and that’s when it will be the most charming.

THE TIN SHED | 33 All Saints Rd, London W11 1HE | @thetinshednottinghill


Find more of my favourite places in Notting Hill in my Notting Hill travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 4, 2019 and filed under notting hill, my notting hill.

My Florence | Cafe Gilli

I, like many other people, spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy. It changed me. What can I say? I was one of those annoying girls who corrected their aunts pronunciation of bruschetta upon returning home, as if I, really did, absorb the entirety of the Italian language and culture during my three months away from home.

I go back now and the city is much the same. Though I realise that I am very different. For starters, I don’t feel excited at the prospect of waltzing around the cobblestone streets of the city in gold, glittery stilettos like I did then at all hours of the night. Now, I’m very happy to work around the city in normal people hours and wear very comfortable (but still very cute) shoes. 

unnamed.jpg

Another thing that has changed is the places that I go. Now, the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, Piazzale Michaelangelo… those are places for everyone. But the cute restaurants and hotels that I was far too grungy and young to wander into as a 19 year old student now draw me in like a moth to a flame. Gold-gilded cafes with doormen and fresh flowers? Say no more. I’m on my way! 

One of the places for me is Caffe Gilli- as a student I was terrified of the rumours I had heard of their “incredibly expensive coffee,” but as a well-traveled adult… well, I just saunter in and head straight to the bar to order one. (Also, because now as an adult, I know that an expresso basically anywhere isn’t going to bankrupt me. I’ve yet to see one over €6 anywhere in the world.) The restaurant is over 270 years, and is not only pretty- but a historical landmark perched in Florence’s prestigious Piazza della Republlcca. Just look for the famous carousel in Florence, then you’ll find Caffe Gilli beside it.

unnamed-4.jpg
unnamed-2.jpg

And why stop at a coffee when it’s warm out and you can get a crema caffe. Imagine if you will, a tiny, espresso sized cup of an espresso flavouried Frosty. It’s the smoothest drink that is frozen… and there aren’t any ice scales or chips to be found in it. Most often, they’ll also drizzle some dark chocolate around the inside of the glass before it’s poured in. Italy, you do me right. Everytime. It’s a perfect little treat on a hot day. Oh, and they’re cheap. So go on into the prettiest place you can find. If they have the crema caffe machine, lucky you. If not, grab a regular espresso and drink it like the well-groomed adult you are.

unnamed-3.jpg

And while you’re there, can you please pick me up some of their gorgeous gift bags of homemade biscotti and say hello to the cute waitstaff in their uniforms? Grazie mille.

CAFFE GILLI | Via Roma, 1r, 50123 Firenze FI | @caffegilli


Find more of my favourite places in Florence here in my Florence guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy by Grant Schol

Posted on January 28, 2019 and filed under florence.

My Paris | Peloton Coffee

unnamed-7.jpg

There’s not much more to make me remember how much I love Paris than watching Midnight in Paris. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. Like right now. I’m serious. Stop reading this and go watch it. We’ll understand each other so much better if you’ve seen it.

So here I am- watching Owen Wilson stumble through the twenties in Paris with Fitzgerald and Hemingway- and it makes me miss the city so much. Maybe it’s just warmer weather that I’m seeing in the movie that makes it seem especially exotic on this frigid January night in London sitting by my draughty window, but none the less, I’m seeing Paris through rose-tinted glasses.

And so, let’s take a little wander through Paris. Right off the Seine, just off Ile Saint Louis, and into the Right Bank… there you’ll find one of my favourite coffee shops, Peloton. It’s co-owned by the nicest group of guys, and they serve up some delicious coffee. And some killer homemade chocolate chip cookies.

unnamed-5.jpg
unnamed-3.jpg

I mean, seriously, look at those gorgeous little beauties.

unnamed-2.jpg

Even if it’s your first time in, the staff always makes you feel like you’re “in.” You’ll feel like a part of the fresh Paris scene that has cropped up over the City of Lights over the past few years, and all the while, sipping your cafe like Parisians have done for years. This isn’t the cafe you sat in with your parents when you came over in high school- this is the fresh face of the city that is taking over with hip coffee shops nestled nearby to classic corner bistros and bright and airy brunch spots alongside classic dark-paneled brasseries.

unnamed.jpg
unnamed-8.jpg
unnamed-4.jpg
unnamed-9.jpg

Peloton also offers bike tours that visitors to the city can join with local guides happily peddling your around the city. 

unnamed-1.jpg
unnamed-10.jpg

To be honest, the other reason that I love going to Peloton is because I can run over to Aux Merveilleux de Fred afterwards and get a loaf of their sugary-crusted brioche. Oh mama. It’s definitely one of my favourite streets in Paris.

PELOTON COFFEE | 17 Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, 75004 Paris | @lepeletoncafe


Find more of my favourite places in Paris in my Paris guide!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy by Noah Darnell

Posted on January 23, 2019 and filed under paris, my paris.

AK Girls Trip 2018 | The Highs & The... Even More Highs

AfterlightImage-9.jpg

I wanted to do a big year in review post like I used to do (I even rainbow-color-coded them! Oh the luxury of spare time!), but when it came down to doing it… all I keep wanting to talk about is the Girls Trip we did in December. Not that the rest of my year was meaningless - it was actually amazing- but the trip we took in December was so incredible to me.

The whole idea of the week was get people together that wanted to make new friendships and have a lot of fun together. And when the actual week arrived, I (nervously!) showed up to meet 31 other women who had, almost all, flown across the ocean for this trip. I felt so embarrassed and shy- just having everyone there was such an overwhelming compliment. But once we started talking, any awkwardness I was feeling was gone and the party had started. 

AfterlightImage-3.jpg

We spent the week adventuring around the Cotswolds, sleeping like princesses in the poshest manors & hotels, chatting and watching British holiday chick flicks as we drove around in a giant private coach, cozying up together and playing stupid games in pubs in York, closing down restaurants after dinners and making so many great memories. Everyone on the trip had a place- regardless of how different we might have been. We connected with people that came from where we did. We make friends with others who were in similar life stages. We just…. Well, we just all got along because it was a stress-free week doing awesome things with nice people.

AfterlightImage-4.jpg
AfterlightImage-7.jpg
AfterlightImage-8.jpg
AfterlightImage-10.jpg

So many people have written and asked if I plan to do another trip next Christmas. I hope so! I’m just taking these trips one at a time. If people are eager to come, I’ll keep doing them. I price them as cheap as I can do make it affordable for anyone that wants to come… though the price is built for comfort. We kinda live like royalty on those trips, because I think that is what a vacation should feel like. So the answer is, I’m doing the summer girls trip and the couples trip. Beyond that, I don’t know. I’m just enjoying this for what it is now.

But the dream? Well the dream would be to have both all three of these as yearly staples. Not only for people that want to come, but I’d love for it to be repeat people that come back year after year. How fun would it be to have your little group of people that you have a standing date with every year? I love traditions and I love the idea of that. So that is the dream I have. We’ll have to see how it goes… but I just have to tell you, if they all continue on like the first, I’m gonna feel pretty lucky.

But now on to the good stuff…. More pictures.

AfterlightImage-5.jpg
AfterlightImage-2.jpg

I mean, look at all of these happy people.

AfterlightImage-6.jpg
AfterlightImage-1.jpg
AfterlightImage.jpg

Come on and be one of them. Join the Southern France trip that we are doing this summer from June 15-21. All you have to do is meet us in Paris and we have the rest figured out. It’s going to be amazing, and I could sell you on the logistics of why… but the truth is, its going to be amazing because of the people. This community has nice/fun/lovely women that are behind it and being a part of it in person is too good to miss!

If you went on the trip, go ahead and sign the virtual yearbook below in the comments section. I want to hear the best moment of the trip for you and, duh, the best thing you ate!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 21, 2019 and filed under england, travel, trips, work.

The Turkey Trot to Christmas


The last few weeks, well, they’ve been a whirlwind of candy cane, train rides, happy faces, unruly inboxes, Christmas shopping & sick. Tis the holiday season!

In the midst of the madness, one of my nearest and dearest friends, Kyla, came to London and we got to celebrate a little Christmas in London with her. We had several friends over for lunch one Sunday after church, the kids played miraculously well doing trains and colouring, we set up a good Ratpack Christmas playlist on Spotify and the result of the whole experience was Christmas card perfection. It was such a nice start to the holiday season.

AfterlightImage-10.JPG

Also, my friend Rosie texted me an hour before lunch and asked if she should bring anything for pudding. She soon strolled in with a homemade flourless chocolate cake warm from the oven. I mean, come on, people. How are there actually people who can do things like this? She’s in her third trimester, too! I was mega-impressed and so happy to have stollen her healthy-ish recipe so that I can, too, look like a hero at some point in the future when I waltz into a gathering with one of the same cakes!

AfterlightImage-3.JPG
AfterlightImage-5.JPG
AfterlightImage-9.JPG

Now I feel like I need to make a little disclaimer:

I am not one of those people who can magically produce a lovely roast dinner from their oven without breaking a sweat. So the truth is: Donald Russell sent me a Christmas box on dry ice from Scotland (how fancy does that sound, I know?) stuffed with all their best for Christmas. The entire spread was sent on dry ice and arrived at our door ready to pop in the oven. How amazing is that? I felt like a queen… especially, because Donald Russell actually has a Royal Warrant and is a butcher for the Royal Family. (Again, how fancy, right?) Consider me a convert for the future of Knight family Thanksgivings + Christmas dinners.

AfterlightImage-6.JPG
AfterlightImage-8.JPG

Thanks Donald Russell for sending over such a delicious Christmas spread to us.

And thanks to Kyla for flying across the ocean to see us.

And thanks for Rosie for the chocolate cake that I’m still thinking about far too often.

AfterlightImage-7.JPG

Looking for more about the holidays in London? Places to go? Things to do? Food to eat? Check out my holiday section for more.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on December 20, 2018 and filed under Christmas, eat, friends, holiday, holidays, home, home style.

Get Out of Town | Isle of Wight

AfterlightImage-5.jpg

My childhood home back in Texas was one of those houses amongst my friends that we retreated to after many nights out. (And by nights out, I obviously and only mean awkwardly standing around our cars talking to guys in the Starbucks parking lot, wandering the grocery store in my mom’s giant poofy ballgowns from the 80’s, or wrapping/toilet papering someone’s house. Yes, I was super popular. Thanks for asking.) It wasn’t an especially grand home, but there was always a space for us to be there, no matter what else was going on, and there was always miraculously an endless supply of homemade treats mysteriously perched all over the kitchen. And the best part was, there was no unofficial barter that required us to hang out with my parents in return. (Though, being the late-blooming academic overachievers that we were, we actually did it anyway because nobody was gonna tell us that PaReNts~ArEnT~kEwL.) But there was something really special about coming home there as a student- both in high school and in college- with my friends…. Lucky me to have grown up in such a home.

Fast-forward a decade (or... two? Who’s counting), a few kids and a transatlantic move later… I no longer have that house to bring my friends back to here in London. And to be honest, I hadn’t really realised how far removed we were from that perk of life until we visited the Isle of Wight last weekend. 

My sweet friend Ruth invited us to visit her parents’ house with their family…. in April. So we finally found a date that worked in November (which I say less to brag and more to expose how regretfully overbooked our lives are) to celebrate Bonfire Night with them. 

AfterlightImage-9.jpg

When we arrived, I immediately melted into that cosy feeling of HOME. Okay, not my home, obviously- but just a home that you’re really welcome in. (And okay, being a charming 17th century house in the countryside doesn’t really hurt.) The kids got right to work playing in the garden and wandering around the playhouse under the apple trees, while the ladies got busy on the enormous homemade chocolate cake and a giant pot of Earl Grey tea that was awaiting us. 

AfterlightImage-1.jpg
AfterlightImage-2.jpg
AfterlightImage-11.jpg

Each bed had clean duvets and sheets puffed over the tops… and chocolates for us and wrapped presents for the kids. There were stacks of fresh towels, a baby monitor ready to use and baby gates that slid in and out of the wall to keep little ones from tumbling down steep stairs.

AfterlightImage-3.jpg
AfterlightImage-10.jpg
AfterlightImage.jpg

We spent the weekend living as if we were family. (Thanks to friends that treat you as warmly.) Our kids played great together, the adults stayed up late by the fire drinking tea and chatting about any random thought that are brains come come up with after big days and enormous homemade dinners. Breakfast was warm breads from the Aga and a rainbow of homemade jam jars filled with treasure from past seasons in the garden.

On Saturday, we headed out to the blustery Compton Bay, where we found a surfing competition in full-swing. The waves were crazy from the weather, but a crowd of RVs with friends and family perched out the backs turned it from ordinary to extraordinary. The scene was complete with kids with wellies on and giant mugs of tea cheering on their dads below, judges chatting and laughing in their chairs as dogs climbed in and out of their laps, and friendly locals coming up to chat about our kids and where we were from. (Definitely not in London anymore…) My kids just stared off at the surfers below in the awe of the unordinary. What may have felt as normal as anything to everyone else there, felt exotic to us. 

AfterlightImage-6.jpg
AfterlightImage-7.jpg

For lunch, we ate at The Cow. Like its name implies, the restaurant feels like a bit of a roadhouse and makes great burgers and beef dishes- like beef stew. (There are also veggie options, too. Actually, there’s just a lot to choose from!) I’d recommend doing the Burger Sharing Platter- where you get three of their smaller sized burgers and two sides. We shared between three people. In anticipation of a slice of chocolate cake back at the house when we returned, it was the perfect amount of food. We didn’t stay around for it, but there is a massive indoor/outdoor kids play centre. It’s got soft-play, giant jumping areas, and anything else that you need to occupy your kids and wear them out enough to fall straight asleep at bedtime. 

The next morning, after breakfast (warm, pain aux raisons from the oven, if you please) we headed to church in Ryde at St. James where they were having a special service for the 100th anniversary to the end of World War One. The church was really sweet and they were fabulous with the kids. (Viola walked out of Bible class with her own artistic rendering of a Leviathan, after they had talked about Job.) Afterwards, we had tea and custard creams in the church hall while we were chatted to by the regular members. 

The good thing abut going to the Isle of Wight from London is: it’s really an easy trip! Because our ferry wasn’t until 6 p.m., we had the whole day to linger over a homemade Sunday roast- complete with three roasted chickens, bacon-wrapped sausages, all the veggies… and a homemade cheesecake. The afternoon got drizzly, but that didn’t stop people from wandering out on a walk through the surrounding property, while others of us stayed back with babies, flicked through the endless cookbooks from the kitchen for recipes and ran loads of laundry with the main goal of getting to finish them off in their massive tumble dryer.

AfterlightImage-8.jpg

The ferry ride back was easy and uneventful- only 40 minutes- and then it’s a two-hour drive back from there to London. All in all, it’s three hours to get you from London to the Isle of Wight making it a perfect weekend getaway for anyone looking to do something a bit extraordinary… without an extraordinary amount of travel. White cliffs and rolling hills await you. (Though I can’t guarantee that you’ll be lucky enough to have one of Granny Ali’s pots of tea and cake waiting for you, too.)

Though you can book a stay in the part of the property that we stayed in- The Brew House. It’s all attached to the same property and is really cute and cosy. It has two bedrooms, and the second has two twins and a baby bed. (Dream scenario for us!) You’ll find books and toys and a kitchen with everything you need in it to really settle in for a few days. 

Not only can I not wait to come back someday, but it also ignited in me the desire to have a home that can be such a warm glow of hospitality someday. Places like that are such havens in my memory, and I’m so grateful for the people who not only open their homes to others… but do it so beautifully. 


LOOKING FOR MORE OF THE BEST WEEKEND TRIPS FROM LONDON? 

Check out my other posts here or browse my travel guide to England.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 19, 2018 and filed under get out of town, england, travel.

A Dirty Secret... and Other Confessions of 2 Weeks Alone at Home

A few weeks ago, after our great trip to Italy, Tyler promptly packed up and had to leave for over two weeks in Iceland. I was at home with the kids and feeling a bit daunted by the idea. But you know what, after a few days, it didn’t feel so overwhelming and we were all kind of in a little routine. And, I can’t believe it, but we were actually having fun! (Is that what it feels like to be moving out of the trenches of small children? If so, it’s all I hoped it could be!)

So here’s the point where I let you in on a private little nuance of our marriage: I don’t do laundry. It’s not because “I DO NOT DO LAUNDRY,” but it just kind of ended up being a division of labour we did when we were just married and have kept to it. We both have things we routinely tackle, and laundry is not on my radar. At all. Well, at least the cleaning of it. I’m very good at making things dirty. 

While he was away, the culmination of a month’s worth of summer clothes from holiday and the start of school collided. Laundry had to be done. And I was in that groove of being alone with the kids, so I decided to start my first load of laundry in our washing machine.

It was actually super simple. In fact, it was so simple, I went a little crazy. I did load after load- kinda feeling awesome as I got through another batch and put all the pieces away…. Except I wasn’t love the quality of the laundry.

Now laundry here in England is just different. We have one small machine that does both washing and drying. We don’t enjoy the luxurious fluff cycle that makes clothes super warm and wrinkle-free. We, more or less, have to hang every item on a giant old Victorian rack that hangs above our bathtub for at least half a day to get it fully dry. So I’m used to a bit of wrinkles, crunchiness to our clothes. It’s just the difference between what clothes feel like when I wash them in the US and when I wash them here.

IMG_1611.jpeg

But these clothes just seemed dingy. They smelled amazing but they didn’t seem to get washed better.

I spot treated some. I opted to put the detergent straight on the clothes. I kept washing and resigned the situation to just a small tariff to life in London.

Well, Tyler got home and life returned to normal, but I was still keen to keep the laundry moving through the house at a rate that would impress the Swiss military. 

One day as I sat perched on the little stairs leading down into the laundry room/tiny cupboard that is built out from the house- I moaned to Tyler that Viola’s school socks were still so gross looking and so dingy. He just shrugged it off and kept hanging up the recently washed items.

Then I asked him if he had a trick for keeping the detergent from building up in the dispenser. He replied, well it won’t ever do that because it’s the pods.

The pods? No, I was using the liquid detergent and I held up the bottle.

He looked at me with confusion. Then he explained to me that I was holding fabric softener. 

And then I explained to him that I had been washing every single load with fabric softener for the past two weeks because that was what I thought was detergent… along with an extra cup of the other brand of fabric softener. And in that moment, all the lovely smelly, dingy clothes that I had been folding and smugly putting away suddenly made so much more sense. (In my defence, Tyler agrees that it is really poorly marked on the outside and is pretty confusing. It says very small on the back that it is fabric softener, but you have to be looking for it.)

I tossed everything back in the wash, tucked a pod at the bottom and restarted the load and haven’t stopped rolling my eyes at myself since. But hopefully, it makes you laugh and realise that each and every one of you is probably better at laundry than I am.. and to let you know that the reason I haven’t posted in a while is because I’ve been so busy doing domestic skills at low-caliber.

IMG_1612.jpeg

Anyone else have a great story of totally missing the mark like this? I’m really hoping to get some other votes of over-confidence here, so I’m gonna make this a competition. The winner of the funniest story gets a $10 Starbucks gift card. (I’ll award it on Friday.) 

Don’t leave me out to dry (pun intended) on this one….



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | Honfleur, France

AfterlightImage-2.jpg

You know those faded posters that would hang in your high school classrooms of far away places that seemed to be from a different world? Distant locations like Mont St. Michel or Machu Picchu that felt as if they were in a world that you’d never actually see, but the picture just seemed… well, exotic. Or maybe just exotic in comparison to the topic you were learning about as a fourteen-year-old student who had just returned from their lunch period. I remember staring at those places every day and just noting all the tiny details of them.

Well, Honfleur is definitely one of those places that seems like it was made just for posters and impressionist paintings… but it actually is very much a real place you can visit in France. In fact, I’ll add that you really should go there. It makes for a perfect spot to see when you’re on your way to Normandy from Paris. In fact, can I just be a bit bossy and tell you exactly how I’d play out the day if I was planning a trip from Paris? Okay, then, I will... if you insist.

First, depart Paris in the morning. Give yourself enough time to get a rental car and hit the road. Drive to Giverny for an early morning visit- right when it opens, if you can time it. Then leave in time to Honfleur for a late lunch. You’ll arrive into town, park in the main lot by the famous harbour (you can easily do hourly parking there), and walk into for food. Don’t dawdle on the front side of your trip around the photographic harbour- all the restaurants stop serving lunch at 2pm, so you’ll want to be seated before then to avoid disappointment. (And by “disappointment,” I, of course, mean having to eat at some yucky spot selling stale sandwiches and fried chicken. 

My recommendation for a great spot for lunch is l’Atelier. It looks pretty standard from the front, but the interiors and the terrace is the perfect spot to spend a lunch. (Or an afternoon over tea/coffee & homemade baked goods.) The menu is really short for lunch- maybe 7-8 items to choose from- so it won’t be a great spot for the pickiest of eaters. However, if you’re an easy eater and want to eat amongst actual Honfleurais, this is the spot for you. The menu, while brief, is perfect. Think daily specials like a courgette (zucchini) and goat cheese tatin, a vegetable pasta with parmesan cream sauce, or vegetable soup served with goat cheese, honey & walnut tartines alongside it. And if you can, don’t skip dessert and coffee. It’s definitely worth the extra 30 minutes. 

AfterlightImage-6.jpg
AfterlightImage-7.jpg

This spot is also great for kids, as it has a big space alongside the restaurant for tired kids to wander around while the food is cooked. Plus, an adorable vintage high chair for your baby to sit in while you eat.

AfterlightImage.jpg

After you’ve finished lunch, head to the harbour for a photographic walk around the coloured buildings. If you’re with kids, take a few spins on the gorgeous Belle Epoque carousel sitting on the edge of the water. (We love to get a seat in one of the cool vintage airplanes up on the top level!)

IMG_1517.JPG
IMG_1516.JPG

Walk off the water into the main square in town. There you’ll see the famous Saint Catherine’s church that was built by ship-builders and has a distinct look from it. The inside of the church looks as if you’re standing underneath upside down boat as you walk inside. Admission is free and definitely worth a stop.

From there, well, the choice is yours, but I’d recommend doing a little bit of souvenir shopping in the form of salted-butter caramel hunting. (Normandy is the king of salted caramel. It’s the home of the famous salt from Isigny-sur-Mer and great cream from the cows, making it the perfect place for such a treat to be made.) There are several shops near the cathedral that sell it, but I’ll recommend the smaller the shop- the better their seemed to be. Look for shops that have homemade little wrappers and women working inside that actually made them. Those are the ones you’ll want to spend your money on and will haunt you until your next trip to the tiny town.

And at that point, well, you’ve probably seen it. It’s a beautiful town, but a small one. After you’ve done that, I’d hit the road and keep driving on deeper into Normandy. We’ve stayed in the town a couple of times and I’m not sure it’s worth the extra time there in comparison to some of the other nearby places you can get go. (Though I do dream of staying and eating at Ferme Saint Simeon someday…) If you’re staying in the famous town of Bayeaux, you’re about an hour away, or you could keep going another hour and stay at our very favourite stop, Chateau de Servigny

Have you been to Honfleur before? What was the best part of your day there? Or, more importantly, the best thing covered in salted-caramel you ate?


FIND MORE OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS IN NORMANDY HERE OR IN MY FRANCE GUIDE.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 29, 2018 and filed under normandy, france, travel.

To A Tea | The Dorchester Hotel

I remember when I was three, my mom came into the living room one afternoon and asked if any of us wanted to go boating with her. While my other siblings mumbled out “nah,” I looked around with horror and jumped at the opportunity. About ten minutes later, I was soon confused as to why we were standing under the yellow lamps of the nearby high school in a long line to reach a table of old women with highlighters and paperwork. When I asked her when we would actually be getting to get to the boats, she laughed and said, “No, we are going VOTING. Not boating.” I was, as you can imagine, let down at the miscommunication. However, I remember feeling really special that I got to go on this special trip out with my mom in the early evening hours. Just me and her- which, as the middle child, rarely happened. I saw her transcend her normal role as “mom” into a normal, everyday human doing something that was totally outside my normal realm of her duties. It’s funny that I remember that, but it was just the first time I remember her in a different role other than “mom."

IMG_1135.JPG

This week, Viola & I were invited for a special date at The Dorchester Hotel to have afternoon tea. Now, I love afternoon tea and I love the Dorchester, so I was really excited, but what made me even more excited was the chance to do it during their special half-term afternoon tea for little girls. The tea features all the wonderful goodness of their classic afternoon teas, but with the added bonus of REAL ballerinas from the English National Ballet coming to dance and perform a modified version of Sleeping Beauty for them. As if getting to socialise and swan around with real dancers wasn’t enough, they also had a pianist playing all the best songs (A Million Dreams, Disney classics and the like) and face painting. It was both a five-year-old’s dream…. and her mother’s.

IMG_1134.JPG
IMG_1133.JPG
IMG_1514.JPG

But the best part for moms? The amazing staff didn’t bat an eye at the overcharged excitement of the junior guests. Instead, they were being totally kind and welcoming to them. (Which is not always the case in fine hotels, if you know what I mean.) It felt so indulgent and, yet, so unstuffy. 

IMG_1132.JPG
IMG_1130.JPG
IMG_1129.JPG
IMG_1127.JPG

I’ve always loved the themed teas that the Dorchester offers- their Wimbledon tea in the summer is especially cute- but this was definitely a special treat. I mean, let’s be honest, it doesn’t have to be a fancy day out in London to make your children feel special. It could honestly just be a coffee date or a walk through the park with a sandwich on a bench... but this definitely is a great memory to be saved for a later day. One I know I’ll cherish, and I hope she will, too.

IMG_1515.JPG

Find more about the Dorchester’s Afternoon Teas here or browse my favourite spots for Afternoon Tea here.



*image original to Aspiring Kennedy

*this afternoon tea was gifted to us by the Dorchester

An American's Survival Guide to Autumn in London

There are a few things that I deeply understand as an American living in England. First, we give smiles and need to receive smiles from people in a way they don’t here. (Especially in London!) Second, their relationship with sweetcorn and inclination to add it to an endless amount of food dishes still shocks me. I’m looking at you, pizza with corn on top. Finally, an American’s love for fall festivities will never be matched here with the same enthusiasm as in the States. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it is the sad truth.

However, I have to say that there are a few things I’ve navigated to make the season a bit more, well, American, if I’m honest. If I want my kids to experience the joys of picking out pumpkins from patch, trick or treating & pumpkin pie, it took a bit of a learning curve. Here are the major pointers I’d give to anyone about what they do here in London (or don’t do), and how we make the experience feel a bit more like home.

IMG_0646.JPG


HALLOWEEN | When we first arrive to the UK, this holiday was nearly non-existent except for a depressing section of disgusting face paint and sexy costumes in the back of Clinton Cards. It seemed only to be celebrated by university students who wanted to get super drunk and be obnoxious that evening in public places. However, its slowly grown and, with the encouragement of American expats and the internet, become a bit more normal. However, not all neighbourhoods are created equal in trick or treating. Just like you knew the good neighbourhoods as a kid where they gave the best candy, it’s helpful to know where the concentrated areas are in London. We like Notting Hill and Holland Park. Both seem to have the best concentration of decorated houses with good traffic and fun costumes. Be warned: the kids costumes are a bit darker here, but that too is getting better each year. We have been a painter, a teddy bear, Paw Patrol and the like and the reactions been met with great response. It seems that more people are ditching the creepy mutilated faces and letting the kids choose fun costumes- which feels more like the US to me.

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 7.09.30 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 7.00.48 PM.png

If you don’t have kids, help out and decorate a bit for Halloween so people know you’re giving out candy to kids! It’s a fun and easy way to grow this fun night of the year, and give it a less creepy reputation. 

PUMPKIN PATCHES | While groceries stores like Waitrose and Tesco will set out a small box of pumpkins, it’s hard to find a good one to really carve in the local stores. If you’ve got a car, I’d really recommend heading out of London to a pumpkin patch. We love the one we go to: Crockford Bridge Farm. It’s about 45 minutes from West London.

IMG_0872.JPG
IMG_0871.JPG
IMG_0873.JPG
IMG_0867.JPG

It’s got all the essentials: loads of pumpkins to choose from, a great play area for the kids complete with a fort, tree swing and rope swing/zipline. You can visit the tea shack serving up snacks, a field you can wander (on select weekends) to choose your own pumpkin, a farm shop next door with great produce and a Lidgate butcher shop. It’s such a great day out!

IMG_0869.JPG
IMG_0868.JPG
IMG_0866.JPG

We always follow it up with dinner at The Cricketers pub nearby. It’s a few minutes drive, it’s not fancy, but it has a little playground for kids to play on while you sit at picnic benches beside it. 

THANKSGIVING | You’ll need to prepare yourself for this one a bit and realise that to the UK, this beloved holiday, is literally just another Thursday smooshed in the middle of a work week in the dark and dreary months. Plan in advance for a Thanksgiving dinner on the evening, or opt for a weekend lunch celebration in the days before/after. (You’re basically forcing it to happen out of nowhere, so you might as well pick a time that works best for you.) Luckily, the UK holiday season will have already been pushed off and you’ll have the benefit of shopping for ingredients from the available Christmas dinner shopping supplies. Turkeys, stuffing, cranberries, gravy, potatoes are all in his stock at this time. However, for the more American items (canned pumpkin, green beans, French’s fried onions, etc.), you’ll need to get a bit creative. Online shops though Ocado and Tesco can yield good results. I always make a run to Whole Foods for filling out the items I still lack or have little motivation to track down. There you can either order an entire pre-made dinner (that’s really good, but a bit pricy), or individual containers of items like turkey gravy, cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, roasted veggies, and ready made pies. 

If you opt for the ordered dinner, make sure to submit your order with a good lead time so you don’t miss out. They’re a popular option amongst expats!

You can get turkeys from any major store at that time. I prefer Waitrose for a full bird and Marks and Spencer for their boneless turkey crowns- less pretty on a table but such an easier cut to cook and eat! However, this year we were sent a turkey crown from Donald Russell and will forever be converted by their amazing quality, delivery on dry ice to keep things frozen and fresh, and amazing sides. (I mean, the Royal Family uses him for a reason!)

Also, a word of warning if you go with The Ginger Pig (also popular) for one of their organic turkeys: expect loads of quills to still be in the skin (gag) and most of the legs to still be attached. My dad had the horrible job of amputating our £75(!!!) turkey from them a few years ago and the screams from me and my mom as we opened the box still make my stomach lurch. Gross.

GUY FAWKES | Now this isn’t an American holiday (obviously), but for newcomers, it’s on a big celebration on the 5th of November where Guy Fawkes’ famous plot to blow up parliament with barrels of gunpowder was foiled. Look up options in TimeOut to see what local fireworks displays are on. Hopefully, it won’t be a soggy night out, but if not, expect a little bit of a State Fair atmosphere (food trucks, some rides, etc) at the bigger fireworks shows. Many will have two timings- one for families that is a bit earlier and a later one, too. It’s a fun celebration, so book in advance (required at most of the good shows, as they sell out!) and get into the holidays here, too. After all, we are Americans and never need a good excuse to enjoy a celebration.

*    *.   *

I guess the good news for all of us- no matter if we live in the US or the UK- is that there are still Snickers bars, toffee apples & hot chocolate in both countries. Phew.



Find out more about of what’s different about our expat life in the UK here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 24, 2018 and filed under holiday, life as an expat.

Tuscany Day Trip | Bonassola on the Italian Riviera

When I was 19, I was introduced to the Cinque Terre. After traveling to Italy several times before, something felt unique and untouched about this place. It was charming with tiny streets, dramatic beaches smashed on the Mediterranean, and the pesto… oh, baby. It was lush. Tyler and I would sit on the rocks in Vernazza with picnics at sunset and jump off the rocks of Manorola and feel like this was as good as cheap thrills can get.

Since that first time, I have to say (as many other would agree), it’s not really the same. It’s been blown up by tourism in a way that is both like winning the lottery for some locals and devastates a place of its natural charm. We visited Vernazza this summer and, literally, waddled along the main road trying to walk with so many other tourists alongside us. (To be fair, it was July and it was the day a cruise ship docked.) 

A few weeks later, we were at dinner with our friends, Grant, Georgette & Nico in Florence. I asked them where they went for a day out to the beach. Without skipping a beat, Georgette & Nico (who are married) said: "Bonassola!”

They explained that it was just beyond the top town of the Cinque Terre, just beyond Levanto. They said you could drive, you could rent chairs on the beach, that it was stuffed with Italians and, of course, pesto-covered focaccia. We were sold.

A few days later, we loaded up the kids for the 2+ hour drive there. We got takeaway cappuccinos (“a porta via”) and pastries from the best little spot, Laquale, near where we stay.

IMG_5682.JPG

We packed up the kids and a million other things (floaties, clean clothes,  water bottles, snacks, sun cream, laptop for Tyler, and, seemingly, every other random other thing we have ever owned.) As we started our mountainous decent from Levanto to Bonassola, we realised how special this place was. It’s a little bay where Italians come to spend August. You can tell that the people there are families that have come back to the same little apartments and beach clubs for years. There are friendships there that are so obvious and so charming. Yet, we still felt the perfect balance of being unnoticed outsiders and friendly experiences. 

IMG_7443.JPG
IMG_5855.JPG
IMG_7445.JPG

You can rent a beach chair for the day for about €15 per chair. I rented chairs for 6 of us, but it was honestly, a bit of a waste of money. I think for the 7 of us, I could have only rented 3, as for the most part, we were coming and going to the water. 

IMG_5848.JPG
IMG_5847.JPG

We grabbed pizzas from a tiny local spot that had a giant line snaking out of, which obviously meant I wanted to try it, too. We had a sandy little lunch eating pizzas and peaches from the local market what spills right out from the beach front. I met men from Burkino Faso selling gorgeous blankets and grabbed one as a souvenir from the day.

IMG_5844.JPG
IMG_5854.JPG
IMG_5852.JPG
IMG_5846.JPG

The water was clear and pretty- as you would expect the Italian Riviera to be. A dead jellyfish floated up and some kids pulled it ashore and played with it for hours. When Viola told me she had been playing with a jellyfish, I definitely didn’t believe her, but our au pair, Camino, laughed and said it was true. I wandered down to see it in person and found about ten kids squatting around it, playing with its tentacles. 

IMG_7442.JPG

As the sun started to set and the beach chairs started to gradually become empty, we packed up and wandered into town to find a place for dinner. The tables of the cafes were all filled with families and friends sipping aperitivos, eating pizzas and watching as their kids ran around the fountains by them.

IMG_5853.JPG

And as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans. So we sat down and ordered as our kids ran free. They climbed up on the steps, the climbed down, they made friends with the family playing by them and ended up eating the kids crackers, at their mom’s kind offering. It was nearly dream-like.

IMG_5845.JPG

I kinda love to keep places like this a secret, because it makes me nervous to think that one day, Bonassola will be just like the Cinque Terre. Overexposed and haggard, but I kinda think that maybe if we spread out a bit, took a chance on other places and tried something that wasn’t just listed in every single tour book//blog, maybe we’d just disperse the chaos a bit better than we currently are doing. Well, that’s my hope at least. Maybe there is actually enough of great spaces for all of us to enjoy, if we don’t feel the pressure to fight for a space in the well-known ones. Because let me tell you, this was not settling for a consolation prize. This day trip to Bonassola was the jewel in the crown of our time staying in Florence.

And if you go, look for me. I’ll be the one on a beach chair- buried under kid’s floaties and empty boxes of pizzas- with a very content look on my face.


Find more of my favourite easy day trips from Tuscany or browse my Italy travel guide to help plan your trip.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My Paris | Aux Merveilleux de Fred

unnamed.jpg

I can’t go to Paris and not stop by for a loaf of warm brioche at Fred’s, or, as it’s officially called “Aux Merveilleux de Fred.” Now, what made me initially fall in love with this place was it’s incredible delicate- and remarkably inexpensive- “merveilleux.” Imagine if you will, meringue cookies, topped with the lightest flavoured fillings, and rolled in chocolate shavings and toasted nuts. Oh baby, they are so good.

unnamed-11.jpg
unnamed-12.jpg

BUT… their brioche is actually better.

There, I said it. But it’s true. One day, I turned my gaze in the shop from the jewellery-box like display of tiny cakes and watched the bakers pulling warm loaves of brioche out of the oven. Then I noticed smart French women waiting, not for the pastries, but requesting “les cramiques,” or the loaves of brioche. I quickly swapped lines- because you ALWAYS follow the lead of smartly dressed French women- and bought a loaf.

unnamed-2.jpg
unnamed-8.jpg
unnamed-9.jpg

I brought it out to the street and sat down by Tyler. I looked at him and said something along the lines of, “I think this is about to blow us away. I just have a feeling about it.”

And the next thing you know, we took a bite of the warm bread and crunched down on the tiny sugar pearls that were candied over… and we blacked out with happiness. We ate the entire loaf in under thirty seconds- it was like a warm Krispy Kreme donut. Then we went in and bought a second loaf. I can’t remember if we ate the entire loaf then and there, too, but I’m not saying we didn’t.

unnamed-13.jpg
unnamed-14.jpg

This little chain is from Lille, but now there are a few locations in and around France, with a handful in Paris. Which makes it the absolute must-bring-back souvenir for us whenever one of us goes. Its always the last stop we make before the Eurostar- because the fresher the loaf, the happier the spouse.

Definitely don’t miss the chance to go. We like the location in the Marais- near the river, just a few minutes from the Saint Paul Metro station. Not only can you get a great treat, but you can also walk down to Peloton Coffee (about 50 yards away) and get a great coffee to drink with it. This is one of my very favourite place to go when I’m in Paris- whether I’m stopping to grab one for a snack on a quick day trip or lucky enough to pick up a loaf in the morning for breakfast during one of our longer stays.

unnamed-7.jpg

Oh! And a very important note: I know the chocolate loaf looks like it would be better. But it’s really not. Time and time again, we have strayed- but those crunchy, perfect sugar pearls always win. Don’t be fooled to step up, when your true love is waiting right in front of you.

AUX MERVEILLEUX DE FRED | 24 Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, Paris 75004 


Find more of my favourite places in Paris here or look at my travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 3, 2018 and filed under my paris, paris, eat.