When you talk about dreams coming true, do you ever think about having a photoshoot at THE Eiffel Tower in Paris?  Because, granted I am a photographer, but it was definitely on the top of my list when I visited!!  Last week, I met up with my beautiful friend, wife, and momma to four, Nellie and her family for exactly that – a photoshoot in front of the iconic Eiffel Tower!!

Originally, Nellie contacted me to schedule a shoot for Christmas card photos.  However, the rainy season in Sicily this fall was too crazy, so we ended up having to postpone.  When we chatted about when to reschedule, she mentioned she was going to Paris for her 30th birthday and wished I could come for an Eiffel Tower shoot.  And just like that, the plan was born, tickets were purchased, and we started getting excited for the big day!!

As I mentioned previously, the photoshoot took place the morning of Nellie’s 30th birthday.  What an unforgettable way to ring in 30, right?!  What’s more is that Nellie and her husband Joe had been to Paris together before when they were dating. It was incredibly special for them to return years later with their four children. I loved hearing their story, meeting their incredibly well behaved and ADORABLE children, and spending time with their crew on such a special day for Nellie.

I have to say, Nellie, Joe, and their family are some of the kindest people I have ever met.  It’s so infectious.  Thank you guys so much for letting me crash your vacation! I hope you had fun and love the photos!


Simoneau Family | Paris 30th Birthday Photoshoot

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Needless to say, 2018 was a HUGE year for us that was full of exciting change!  The moment that topped it all off was our move overseas from Virginia to Sicily, Italy in February.  So much has happened over the last 12 months, I thought it would be fun to relive the best of 2018!

I really loved going back through all of my photographs from this year and reliving so many memories!  So, without further ado, here is a recap of my 2018 including some of my favorite memories:


The Best of 2018

The BIG Move

  • 2018 started off with a BIG announcement that were moving overseas! The next month was completely insane as we shipped off all of our things, sold my car and our home, and made arrangements for our new digs in Sicily!  Once we arrived, we immediately moved into our Americanized-Sicilian townhome and patiently awaited the arrival of our car and household goods. That period of time was truly crazy!


Exploring Our New Home – Sicily

  • We began our time in Sicily with some trips around the island. I (sadly) didn’t get around to blogging most of them, but here are a few of my favorites:
  • Agrigento (photos below)
  • Catania
  • Taormina
  • Syracuse & Ortigia Island
  • San Vito Lo Capo & Erice
  • Enna
  • Caltigerone
  • Noto
  • and Cefalú

You can find “highlights” of all of these trips over on my Instagram, if you are interested: click here.

Exploring Europe

  • Our first trip off-island was fast-paced, fun, and exciting! We ventured to Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast (Positano) during Easter weekend.  It was a quick trip FULL of hilarious stories.  From visiting catacomb after catacomb, to our friends’ car getting locked in a parking garage before our trip to the airport.  Our Naples trip was one we will never forget!


  • Malta was GORGEOUS and a literal dream of mine. We traveled all over the main island, but would still really like to go to Gozo and Comino if we go back.


  • Lyon, France (blog post coming soon!) for a long weekend was ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS!! In particular, I enjoyed the shopping and the food, but I never got around to blogging this one. Whoops!

  • In the heat of summer, we visited one of my old faves – Berlin. Berlin is always amazing, the food is always delicious, and the weather is HOT in the summer.  Nevertheless, it was refreshing to hang out with my friends Pauline and Michele again, and meet Pauline’s boyfriend, Ben.


  • For our week long “vacation,” we flew to London for 24-hours (STAAAAAP, London, I love you!!!!!) and then to Dublin, Ireland, where we embarked on a 5-day road trip around southern Ireland. This was my favorite trip of 2018 for sure – the nature was just breathtaking and the people, so kind.   If you have ONE trip you could take to Europe, I’d recommend this one, hands down. See why I’m so in love here and here.


  • For my birthday, we jetsetted off to Sofia, Bulgaria – a country I’ve wanted to visit for a long time!! I got to visit with my college buddy, Rashko while I was there, and my best friend Ashley’s college buddy, Niya kindly picked us up from the airport and sent me lots of information about things to do. It was a cool experience and I’m so glad we went.  Blog post on this one is TBD!


  • In September, we flew to Munich to meet up with Ashley, John, Maddie, and Justin for OKTOBERFEST!!! I personally was not that excited about the actual festival before we went (I know, I’m so weird), but I actually enjoyed it and had a fabulous time!  The city of Munich was clean and beautiful, and the people were seriously, so kind.  Also, Bavarian food!!!!


  • TWO DAYS after our Munich trip, we boarded another plane for Paris, France. What a romantic dream trip Paris was!! From sunrise at the Eiffel Tower to strolls around the Louvre, Paris was everything I thought it would be!! Unfortunately, I did acquire some unknown “life-threatening bacterium” (words of my doctor) at some point during this trip and spent nearly three weeks recovering.  As I’ve said before, the bacterial infection (as horrible as it was – truly effing horrible), won’t stop me from returning.  As a matter of fact, I’ve already booked my next trip!


  • After Paris, we embarked on Barcelona, Spain (blog post coming soon!) for some R&R and more incredible food! We spent the majority of one day at the hotel spa (no regrets!) and the remainder of our trip jaunting around the city!  We also got to meet up with our friends Rachel and AJ and their parents for my first international photoshoot!!


  • CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN GERMANY was another item on my “bucket list” that I got to cross off this year! We flew to Berlin for a quick weekend trip to visit Pauline and Ben and THREE of Berlin’s MANY markets.  It was a dream trip and we can’t wait to visit more next year 😉


We are heading to one more place before 2019, but I’ll wait to post about this one until we have actually returned!

Volcanic Eruptions

  • We visited some of the other islands around Sicily. Stromboli (one of the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily), was our first island hop.  We ventured there for one night and a SEVEN, yes SEVEN, hour hike to the top of Stromboli volcano at night.  It was as exhausting and strenuous as it was enchanting!! We got to watch the volcano erupt many times, so it was worth it!!


  • We got to witness not just one but TWO volcanic eruptions!! On Christmas Eve, Mount Etna erupted with plumes of smoke, over 130 earthquakes and two fresh new craters spouting LAVA! It was an unexpected Christmas surprise that has kept many native islanders on edge!

Time with Family

  • Despite ALL of the above, my favorite moments of 2018 were with those I love. Being at home with Jordan, Birdee, and Chalupa was by far my favorite thing I did this year.  As all military families know, time (and holidays) together are not guaranteed.  I think this makes me appreciate every moment with them so much more.


My life has changed in so many ways over this past year, reflecting back on it all is really actually quite surreal. I think my biggest takeaway from this past year is that you never know where life is going to take you.  As a person who was extremely “type-A” for so long, stepping back and allowing life to take over a little bit has helped me to realize that sometimes the best things that happen to us are the unplanned ones.  I’ve also developed an even greater sense of YOLO (you only live once, right?!), that I’m a little bit overwhelmed with the fact that I will never get to see or do all the things I want to. So, for 2019, I aim to be more present in everyday life; to enjoy the little moments just as much as the big ones!

I know, I know – My last travel update was for our trip to San Vito Lo Capo in August, but what can I say?  We have been crazy busy with our travels and photo sessions, but I’m finally sitting down and doin’ this thang!

When I saw a great deal on airfare for Paris over a four-day weekend, I knew we had to go! Paris is one of those iconic cities that I have dreamed of visiting since I was a kid. We had such a wonderful time there; it was every bit of a romantic weekend getaway that I thought it would be. Jordan and I also had the pleasure of meeting up with a friend I met at Longwood, Christelle. We had an amazing time wandering the city with her and her boyfriend JB. Too bad we didn’t have more time with them!

Our little weekend getaway happened to fall right after our five-day vacation to Munich for Oktoberfest, so needless to say, we were pretty tired. The day we returned home, I started feeling ill, which I thought was just because of all of the traveling. However, it turned out to be a nice bacterial infection that caused me to be bedridden for over a week. Luckily, I’m on some heavy-duty antibiotics and almost feeling back to normal.

Either way, we loved Paris and would definitely not hesitate to visit again!


We stayed at Hotel Tourville , which was very close to the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to stay close to the iconic monument so we could easily walk there for sunrise. The hotel was really nice and even had a little free bar stocked with beers, waters, juices, and little finger food snacks. There are so many places to stay in Paris, it was definitely very hard to decide! Hotel Tourville did not have a direct view of the monument, but like I said, it was pretty close! I’d recommend it to a friend.

Day 1

We began our trip with an early sunrise trip to the Eiffel Tower. Luckily for us, sunrise was at 8AM, so we didn’t have to get up too early bird! I’d highly recommend going at this time. There were very few people there and it was a gorgeous sunrise over the tower and the city.


We also visited at night, since it was so close to our hotel.

After our sunrise visit to the Eiffel Tower, we enjoyed an amazing brunch at Kozy and then took the metro to Notre Dame Cathedral to start the rest of the day from there.

Needless to say, by the time we arrived around noon, it Notre Dame was PACKED. And, by packed, I mean the line wrapped around the block. I am not a line person, so we just took it in from the outside. If we return to Paris, we will prioritize this and go early 🙂


From there, we shopped at some little boutiques nearby, and then walked to the Louvre. As you probably already know, the Louvre is the world’s largest art museum and quite a historic part of Paris. Of course, I wanted to go in, but we opted not to because of timing and line. Next time, we will visit in the inside of the museum, but for this time, we just spent some time marveling at the outside and strolling though the nearby gardens.

We also met a sweet man who was offering Polaroids for 15€.  Of course, I personally sought him out for this service and I absolutely loved the shots he took!


After exploring around the Louvre, we walked to Champs-Élysées for some real shopping! Just kidding, I didn’t buy a single thing. But, I did marvel at all of the stores. At the end of the shopping area, is the Arc de Triomphe. The traffic surrounding it was incredibly busy, so we got a good look and proceeded on our way.


At this point, we were super exhausted and decided to grab some quick food and call it a night.

Day 2

On day two we got up super early and caught the train to the Palace of Versailles. We planned ahead and bought tickets online because I hate lines! After reading online that you should pre-purchase your ticket AND be there at 9am, when they open, we made sure not to be late.  However, it wasn’t enough and the line was still 1.5 hours. Since the Palace is a decent train ride away from the city center, we stayed and waited out the line. My error here was that I didn’t buy the most expensive ticket to reserve a time because I only wanted to see the Palace. If you plan to visit the Palace while you are in Paris, buy the expensive time reserved ticket. There is simply no other way to visit.


The inside of the Palace was BREATHTAKING and completely worth the wait (although, like I said, I would pay more next time to avoid it).


After our Palace visit, we stopped for crepes at a nearby crêperie (Le Blé Noir). They were amazing and we were SO FULL for our train ride back into the city.

Once we returned to the city, we met up with Christelle and JB! We met up at the National Academy of Music and after walking around for a bit, JB headed off to watch a soccer game and Christelle took us to see Sacré-Cœur, The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris.


The city views of Paris from this hilltop church were stunning.



Before heading back for the night, Jordan and I went to check out Moulin Rouge. We considered seeing a show there, but time – and money (shows run ~$200/ticket).


Day 3

For our last day in Paris, we mainly stayed close to the hotel. I was starting to feel poorly, so we just took it easy. We visited the Dôme des Invalides and Tomb of Napoleon I at the Musée de l’Armée. This was one of the most interesting churches I’ve been in, as it held flags of those conquered and spoils of war. I’ve never visited any other church that was similar.


Overall, we had a wonderful stay in Paris, but three days simply were not enough.  For a return trip, I’ve love to visit the inside of the Louvre, Norte Dame, and the Catacombs (they are closed on Mondays). Use of the trains was extremely easy and affordable, although I’m told that buying passes in advance is a huge money saver. We just don’t ever plan ahead that far 🙂


Shortly after we returned from Malta a few weeks ago, Jordan and I spent a long weekend in Lyon, France.   We had debated for awhile if we should visit Lyon, or just go to Paris, affectionally known as the city of love.  We chose Lyon, and as we found out, Lyon and “the city of love” might be one and the same.

Jordan and I had planned to just explore the city by foot, but eventually caved and decided to take a car to Parc de la Tête d’or, a 19th century park, which was supposed to be lovely and was a bit too far to walk from our airbnb.

It turned out to be very hot that day, but we enjoyed our time there anyway. The park was beautiful with a few rose gardens, statues, a lake in the middle, and luckily, tons of trees. We spent a few hours there, mostly on the side of the park near where we entered, but I decided that we needed to walk around the WHOLE thing. So, we did.

I’m so glad we did because we just happened to run into Natalie and Rob… the cutest couple, who had just gotten engaged!!!

I honestly have no idea HOW it happened. All I know is that Jordan saw a “really cool” weeping willow that formed a cave right by the water and had to go in to check it out. Once we entered the cave, we overheard Rob telling Natalie how nervous he was trying to hide the ring while packing for the trip.  And that’s when we knew… he had JUST popped the question!!

So, of course I asked them if I could snap a couple of photos to mark the occasion.  And, then we left them to enjoy their engagement day!!

Natalie and Rob, congratulations again!! It was such a pleasure running in to you and we hope you are having tons of fun planning for the big day!

P.S. Check out Natalie’s ring!! (It’s was Rob’s grandmother’s – what an honor!)



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France Engagement

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