Christmas in Strasbourg (& Metz)

pretavoyager-placekleberEvery December my life seems to get quite hectic, so I don’t have much time, or energy, to plan for the holidays. I don’t travel internationally because it’s too expensive, and too many delays. This year with one day notice I booked a train to Strasbourg – near the France/Germany border – to check out the Capitale de Noël (Capital of Christmas) famous for their marché de Noël – there are 11 Christmas markets in Strasbourg alone! Lucky for me, my friend Alison has been living in Strasbourg and working as a teaching assistant (the same program I did years ago, but in Paris), and she was my awesome insider guide pointing out things like the popularity of the stork in the region, the best vin chaud (mulled wine), best crêpe, best hand made ornament stand, and things I probably wouldn’t have noticed, like they also serve vin chaud blanc, because the region of Alsace is known for white wine. Alison wrote a great post herself about Christmas in Alsace, so be sure to check that out too!

The one downside in my lack of ability to plan ahead is that the price of train tickets was much higher than desired (it also is peak season). It was one of the pricier tickets I’ve paid to go a mere 2 hours from Paris, yet, still it was completely worth it. (Note: I find Capitaine Train much nicer to use to buy train tickets than SNCF). I also would have saved a bit of money had I not missed my return train because I went to the wrong train station (the trains to Paris leave out of  “Gare Centrale” not “Gare Strasbourg” as I mistakenly looked up on my Google map — the ticket just says Strasbourg). On my train to Strasbourg it was slightly cheaper to change trains in Metz. I had never been, so I thought the ~1.5 hour layover would be a good excuse to scope out the city. The Pompidou–Metz is in easy walking distance of the train station, however, it did not open until 11am, and my train left around 11:20. So instead I explored the old city and happened upon their holiday market, which was delightful. I definitely will go back. In fact, I think Metz will be more appealing in years to come because it doesn’t have quite the hype of the Strasbourg Christmas markets as a tourist destination.
pretavoyager-metz-christmas-4Christmas market in Metz. 11am before crowds (but generally much calmer than Strasbourg).

Overall, I was away from Paris for less than 24 hours, but my “day trip” (I did stay the night, but left very early the following day) was exactly what I needed to get in the festive mood from decorations to lights and vin chaud. Also, both Metz and Strasbourg had far superior Christmas markets than Paris, which even tourists have told me they’ve been disappointed by during their visits. For more about Christmas in Paris, see this post. Maybe next year I’ll try to venture to an even smaller city – I think the less publicized markets are probably the best!


pretavoyager-strasbourg-christmas6pretavoyager-strasbourg-christmas7pretavoyager-strasbourg-christmas3Strasbourg Christmas market near the cathedral

pretavoyager-strasbourg-christmas9Christmas lights in Strasbourg

pretavoyager-strasbourg-christmas4Vin chaud blanc d’Alcase

pretavoyager-strasbourg-christmas5Bread ornaments

pretavoyager-strasbourg-panoPlace Kleber

pretavoyager-strasbourg-snowflakeLit streets in Strasbourg

pretavoyager-strasbourg-christmas14Typical architecture in Strasbourg

pretavoyager-strasbourg-oranmentsHandmade ornaments in Strasbourg

More after the jump!


Read The Rest

Christmas in Paris

pretavoyager-christmas-in-parisAlthough Christmas has come and gone, it will inevitably come again next year, so I wanted to compile some of my favorite links for future reference. And most of the decorations won’t come down until mid-January, so it’s not too late to catch the festive spirit. This year I stayed in town, and had several tours, so I really got in the spirit – or at least knew what was going on.

Every year the holiday windows at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps along Blvd Haussman in the 9th arrondissement are a huge draw, and every year the crowds get crazier and crazier. I either recommend going early in the day, or late in the evening after the stores are closed (the downside there is that you can’t visit the 6 story Christmas tree inside Galeries Lafayette — this year it was upside down! [opening image]). Ever year the windows have themes, and this year Galeries Lafayette was “Noël Monstre” and Printemps was a voyage with Burberry. I visited on several occasions, and almost got trampled each time. Visiting on Christmas Eve was the calmest time I experienced. If you’re traveling with kids, realize that the crowds can be very overwhelming, and try to avoid strollers and big bags. If you cross the street it is much calmer, but the catch is you can’t see the moving window displays up front.

Ice skating in front of Hotel de Ville (city hall for Paris) is another tradition, and for the second year the impressive Grand Palais off of the Champs-Elysées has become an ice rink (buy tickets online – every year it picks up momentum after Christmas and is super crowded the final days; late night is more of a club vibe). The later you get into the season expect longer lines. A couple years ago skating at Hôtel de Ville was a bit overwhelming with a few teenagers who had brought their skates (it’s free entry that way) and were pretty aggressive. This year it was much calmer when I passed.

Rue Montorgeuil (2nd)

If you love to walk like I do, dozens of streets around the city are decorated with lights through ~20th of January. Some of my favorites are Place Vendôme (1st arr), Rue Cler (7th arr), Rue des Martyrs (9th), Rue Lepic (18th), and Rue Montorgueil (2nd). The city kindly put together a map marking all the illuminated streets for 2014, which doesn’t change much from year to year. The “grande roule” giant ferris wheel also gets set up at Place de Concorde (and the base of the cringe worthy Christmas markets along the Champs).  

pretavoyager-christmas-paris-vivienne Galerie Vivienne (2nd) pretavoyager-christmas-paris-marais Rue Francs-Bourgeois (4th) pretavoyager-christmas-vendome Place Vendôme (1st)

Christmas day most museums are closed, but the Centre Pompidou remains open. This year we were happy to visit right when it opened as it only got more crowded. It was very cool being able to get a bit of culture – Jeff Koons, Marcel Duchamp, and Frank Gehry exhibits are currently on. Even if you don’t like modern art, the views from the Pompidou are stunning! pretavoyager-pompidou-koonspretavoyager-pompidou-christmasMy friend Alison was in town and we were surprised how much was open on Christmas day, particularly in the Marais. Yes, it is the Jewish quarter so falafel was open, but we even enjoyed lunch at Le Loir dans la Théière. We had way more options than we expected. I think Christmas dinner is probably a bit harder in terms of what is open. Every year Paris by Mouth compiles a handy list of restaurants open around Christmas and New Years. pretavoyager-strasbourg-christmasmarketStrasbourg market

When it comes to Christmas markets in Paris, many tourists I showed them were a bit overwhelmed. Over time they’ve definitely become more commercial and have lost much of their spark. The marché de Noël at St. Germain is probably your best bet for finding anything handmade. There are also markets along the Champs-Elysées and Abbesses, amongst others. The locations may change slightly from year to year. Also, the Marie (Mayor’s Office) of every arrondissement is always festivally lit up.

For a more “authentic” market plan a trip to Strasbourg (I finally did this year, and highly recommend it) which is known as the “Capital of Christmas” were there are 12 Christmas markets in a very walkable city, or other small towns in France (such as Metz), or cross the border to Germany. For me the best part of the Christmas markets is vin chaud (mulled wine)! UPDATE: See post here.

pretavoyager-christmas-paris-vinchaudAnother treat during Christmas season are the “bûche de Noël” and every year boulangeries seem to get more and more creative with this log-like cake. This year Picard the frozen food store even created ice cream igloos and trees that were creatively packaged. Aux Merveilleux de Fred a delight to see being made (see below).

The further you get away from city center the less crowded/crazy many of these places will be. It’s also the perfect excuse to explore a different side of Paris. One place not to miss is the Festival du Merveilleux at Musée des Arts Forains in the 12th arrondissement . I visited last year and it was truly magical. The museum is closed most of the year except if you book a private tour, but the Festival des Merveilleux is so fun when all the old amusement rides and games come alive again. Once again, I recommend going when it opens, as it will only get more crowded throughout the day.

Here are some more links for planning to spend the holidays in Paris:

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable!


pretavoyager-pariscontactsheet-studyabroadLast week I was reading my Twitter feed when I came across a couple travel bloggers I follow using the hashtag #WHtravelbloggers. Drawn to the tweets, I immediately switched over to read all the responses to the hashtag to realize that 100+ travel bloggers had been invited to the White House for a Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship. The next day I watched the entire 4 hour summit that had aired on livestream (unfortunately, the full video link seems to have been replaced by this 45 minute one). Headed up by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs one of the exciting announcements was that the State Department will be opening a new U.S. Office of Study Abroad, which has developed into the hashtag #StudyAbroadBecause.

You can read more about the U.S. Study Abroad initiative on Mashable and Upworthy, and from the travel blogger perspective here. I may not have been at the event, but I decided to use this White House announcement as the perfect excuse to publish my first article on Medium: My Best Piece of Advice: Study Abroad.

My Best Piece of Advice: Study Abroad




Contact sheet above was created in 2009 while I studied abroad in Paris. Learn more about it here.

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable!

Fly Porter

pretavoyager-porterairlines-bienvenue Porter Airlines, what air travel used to be! Back in 2009 Grace of Design*Sponge posted this interview about the branding of Porter Airlines. Ever since the day I read that post I’ve been aspiring to fly Porter. The catch is that they’re a Toronto based airline and I don’t have the excuse to go to Canada much. So when the opportunity came up for me to attend the RGD Design Thinkers conference (awesome, BTW!) and see family, I jumped on the chance to fly Porter (who also happened to be a sponsor for the conference, not for this post, which is entirely my own love affair with the airline). The irony was that I may have been able to find a cheaper flight, but I didn’t even bother to search my typical cross-checking websites. When it comes to good design, and a great experience, I don’t mind if it’s not the lowest fare (it was still reasonable!). Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to since my trip to Toronto has heard me rave about my experience on Porter so I thought I’d share it here. While nothing I’m about to say is all that novel, it’s amazing how much of a hassle air travel has become. Porter is what all air travel should be! He’s also a pretty rad raccoon who knows how to travel and have fun!

pretavoyager-porterairlines-porterraccoonStep 1: Airport arrival. I have sadly been conditioned to always arrive at the airport 2 hours in advance, because often I get there and I’m standing in some horrible line despite having checked in online and end up rolling up to my gate not too long before my flight boards. Both flying out of Newark and Toronto there were only 2 people in front of me in security. It reminded me of how we used to just stroll up directly to the gate before security was implemented after 9-11. In short, it was easy and pleasant.

pretavoyager-porterairlines-loungeStep 2: Hang out in the lounge and enjoy free wi-fi. I must admit that I didn’t realize Porter even had a lounge, because these days I rarely see lounges, and you have to fly a million miles a year on the same airline (or have a hefty airline credit card!) to even be considered in. But then I heard a voice asking about sandwiches [not included in the lounge], and I look up and I’m like, ‘Hey that was Martin Short!’ (Think crazy wedding planner in ‘Father of the Bride’). Yes, he was on my flight, and I have him to thank for pulling me away from the horrible CNN election coverage on in the main waiting area. But yes, even celebrities fly Porter. In addition to the free wi-fi (my phone is French so I live for free wi-fi while I travel, and MrPortersLounge is the coolest network name!). I also enjoyed complimentary Tazo tea, with the options of Starbucks coffee, a range of sodas, bottled water, biscuits and almonds. It was a so civilized!

Step 3: Board the plane. Now if you fly Porter you need to realize these are prop planes (the wheels come out of the wings), and not 747 jumbo jets. There are luggage limitations, but they’re up front about them. I did carry-on, but it was super easy to gate check. I admit, it was a strange feeling to board the plane and find my seat and not feel like being in a herd of cattle! Pleasant.

pretavoyager-porterairlines-planeStep 4: For awhile I’ve said that airline inflight magazines are my some of my favorite, and it’s the one time when you actually have time to read it cover to cover. I had my row to myself, but had anyone seen me pick up the Re:porter magazine for the first time, I think they would have thought something was wrong with me. It was so beautiful! Atypical paper size. Beautiful, thicker matte feel. Clean and simple design. Cute illustrations of Porter. And it was all in French and English (perk of Canada!). And how perfect is that name!?! As a bonus there were also multiple spreads with maps. My complimentary copy definitely came home with me!

pretavoyager-porterairlines-reporterpretavoyager-porterairlines-reporter-routesStep 5: Enjoy the ride. I’d heard from my relatives that Porter serves their beverages in glasses. Yes, glasses, with the name Porter etched in them. They’re so cute!! If you’ve ever flown international you know how cringeworthy it is how many tiny cups get tossed during that flight. Granted Newark to Toronto was something like an hour and a half flight, and a different kind of international, but still it is the simplest detail that becomes memorable. Oh, and they serve free beer and wine on their flights! WIN! (For the record, that’s ginger ale pictured below).

pretavoyager-porterairlines-glassI am however sad to report that they no longer do the adorable Porter snack boxes. Yes, I specifically asked because I remembered the design from this post. Apparently, they stopped earlier this year. It makes sense, it’s an expense, and it’s a short flight. I was quite pleased with my snack of Terra chips to tide me over. And the flight attendants were a pure delight––not to mention stylishly dressed––in addition to answering silly questions about snack boxes. I was very happy to share with them my story of my first flight.

Step 6: Arrival. By the time I finished my inflight magazine we had landed. Getting through the airport was super easy (but a bit slower for me as I stopped to photograph every poster of Porter around, despite poor to photograph lightboxes. Porter goes to Chicago and Washington Dulles, ya know!).

pretavoyager-porter-postersCanadian customs was a bit intimidating, but I passed! (Don’t forget your passport. It may still be North America, but it’s a different country!). When you fly into Toronto, you land on an island, so everyone gets transported via the ferry that leaves every 15 minutes or so. Public transportation in Toronto is a whole other story, which I won’t rave about the same way I just did about Porter Airlines, but I ultimately got to where I needed to be with the help of the kindness of strangers : )

Learn more about the backstory of Porter on this Design*Sponge post. London-based Winkcreative is the agency behind Porter’s inception (see their take on Porter here). If Re:porter inflight magazine seems slightly familiar, Winkreative also works on Monocle. Neal Whittington who Grace interviewed and worked on the development of Porter while at Winkreative, but now runs his own fabulous paperwares shop in London – and online! – called Present & Correct (he also keeps an awesome Instagram feed!). I visit every time I’m in town! . . . And if you want to book a flight on Porter you can do it here!

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Vine! I teach MAPS, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable!

Life in France: Cinema Pass

pretavoyager-pariscinemapassWhen was the last time you saw a movie in a theater? I’ve been 3 times in the past 4 days. Typically I don’t go quite that often, but I needed to make up for the 3 weeks when I was too busy to use it. In my mind the cinema pass is one of the best French inventions ever. For 20€ / month I can see as many movies as I want in the theater. I have the UGC/MK2 illimité, which gives me access to all of their cinemas around town – and there are a lot: over 500 in France – as well as La Pagode (a cinema in an old pagoda) and Luxor (an Egyptian cinema). For UGC theaters I can book through the app, and pick up my ticket an hour before the show, or for MK2 I just show up. I’ve started using the pass an excuse to see different parts of Paris by visiting different cinemas. Another perk is when I see a bad movie, it’s not much of a loss, and I still got a language lesson out of it! While I may look somewhat miserable on my cinema card, fret not, that’s just one of my non-smiling official French passport sized photos one needs to survive life here. One of my favorite past-times is just strolling up to a theater and seeing whatever the next show is that is playing. Not only does my French get better the more movies I see, but having French subtitles on American films is also a learning experience (VO = version originale). I also become an unofficial PR agent for the films I see, and several of my friends have the pass as well, so the cinema becomes our inexpensive social outing. Here are some of my favorite films I’ve seen in the past couple month (I try to go once a week).

Les Vacances du Petit Nicolas is a fun summer vacation story based on the French book by Goscinny and illustrated by Sempé.

Qu’est ce qu’on a fait au bon dieu? is a hilarious French movie about devout parents whose only wish in life is to have their 4 daughters marry good Catholic men. With daught #4 they get closer… I think the film would be funny to anyone, but living in France, I found so many of the stereotypes extra funny because I’ve observed moments in real life. The movie has been in theaters for 22 weeks so far, so it’s a hit!

Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater, who was behind Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight (each filmed 9 years apart), Boyhood is a coming of age story filmed with the same actors over 12 years. It’s almost 3 hours, but doesn’t feel that long. Also, I had no idea his daughter was the young girl in the film. I thought she was fantastic!

Searching for Vivian Maier is a documentary about a mysterious nanny who had a secret life as a photographer. Funny because an Irish said it was a “very American” telling of the story, which I can see.

Playtime by Jacques Tati is a film from 1967 that was digitally restored. It’s a quirky story of American tourists coming to Paris, but see more of a trade show than Paris.

Je Voyage Seule is an Italian movie (here with a French title) which is an interesting story about travel in the world of 5-star luxury.

The Fault in Our Stars is translated into French as Nos Étoiles Contraires (oddly enough, I often don’t know the actual titles of some films I see in France, as I only know the French title; other times American movies are given titles that are new “translations” that are still in English) is an American film based on the book by John Green. You won’t leave the theater with dry eyes, but it’s a touching story.

The Love Punch with Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson is only on this list because 3 summers ago I was an extra in the movie. I didn’t make the final cut, but it’s fascinating to see how much we filmed in 2 days and what actually made it into the movie.

One of my other favorite things about seeing movies in Paris is watching films that have scenes in Paris. I find I can recognize most locations, but this map compiled by Rue 89 has over 600 locations of films in Paris.

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Vine!
I teach MAPS, InDesign, and Designing Professional Documents on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable!

How I spent my summer vacation: Boisbuchet

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-welcometoEvery summer I have the same conversation with my French friends. Them: “Anne, where are you going in August?” Me: “I’m staying in Paris. I was just traveling in July. I’m happy to stay in Paris.” Them: [strange looks]. So this year, despite my travels to Italy and the U.S. in July, I decided to appease my friends at the last minute by signing up for a week-long creative workshop at Boisbuchet, between Poitiers and Limoges, in central Lessac, France. I first learned about Boisbuchet, a place where internationally recognized artists and designers are invited to teach workshops in Lessac, France – about 7 years ago from my architect friend Lisa. She raved about her experience, and the idea of going has been engrained in my head since. I remember her advice was to take a class outside what you’d normally do. I’ve been following Boisbuchet on social media, and signed up for their newsletters a year ago, and then in late July a newsletter arrived in my inbox, and something I never had considered was signing up for a workshop last minute on a whim.
Boisbuchet summer workshops have been running for over 20 years. This summer’s theme was ‘the natural and the artificial’ and the 3 workshops available during the August session when I could attend were Survival Food with Dutch food designer Katja Gruijters, Process as Spectacle with London-based Studio Glithero, and Fantastic Reality with Austrian designers Mischer’Traxler. I spent a week in “Fantastic Reality,” but all our days revolved around waking up around 8am, heading to breakfast at 8:30, then going into the workshop or meeting with our group, lunch at 1pm, more making things, tea time at 4:30, more making things, dinner at 8, followed by presentations by the visiting designer/instructors. Not only was I surrounded by people with all sorts of creative backgrounds, from all sorts of places – the staff alone consisted of 15 different nationalities – but it was so refreshing to be making things with my hands. From time to time I’d stroll into the field in front of the chateau to get enough of a 3G signal to post a photo or two on Instagram, but in a connected world, it was awesome to sit at a table and have a conversation with someone from half-way around the world. All workshops are conducted in English, but it was such a treat to hear a myriad of languages around me at any given time. It’s an experience I’d recommend for anybody, even if you’re not a designer per se . Below is just a taste of my experience. My full photo album is on Flickr, but the Boisbuchet staff does an incredible job documenting each session too. pretavoyager-boisbuchet-vitradesignmuseum-chairsBoisbuchet’s workshops are offered in cooperation with Vitra Design Museum and Centre Pompidou. Alexander von Vegesack established the Vitra Design Museum before founding Domaine de Boisbuchet, which has been offering creative workshops for 20+ years. This chair collection is in the foyer of the ‘Dependence’ where I was housed for the week. pretavoyager-boisbuchet-domaineThe Dependence, my home for the week. Everything is walkable on the estate, but some staffers staying by the lake would bike to breakfast. pretavoyager-boisbuchet-housing_pairThe room I shared with roommates from Dubai and Taiwan. I was one of two Americans participating in the workshops that week. pretavoyager-boisbuchet-floatingpicnicThroughout the domaine [estate] there are projects from past participants that live on, such as the floating picnic bench in the middle of the lake, and the pyramid structure. Some projects have a longer lifespan than others. pretavoyager-boisbuchet-workshop-libraryThere is a workshop with all the tools you need to make what your imagination holds. (The building on the right will become the design library). pretavoyager-boisbuchet-workshop-makeProcess as Spectacle and Fantastic Reality participants in the early stages of exploration. pretavoyager-boisbuchet-workshop-atworkParticipants are a mix of all ages, although I found all the “students” were all more advanced at making things than me, as many were industrial designers. (Note: the workshop also served for great late night ping pong!) pretavoyager-boisbuchet-toolsworkshopTools consist of anything other than a computer or a screen.

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-canoeMy workshop partner and I decided to make a boat, so we took out a canoe for a brainstorming session.

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-mealtimeMeals were initiated by the strike of a gong. It was a great way to come together and talk to the other workshops and see how they were progressing. Every meal was communal, and the staff members take shifts in the kitchen. (And yes, there is wine with dinner– this is France after all!)

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-dinnerinsideRainy day meals were spent in the barn attached to the workshop, and every evening we’d gather here for a presentation by a designer. Karaoke also happened here the last night, with fake microphones made out of bamboo shoots with tin foil tops!

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-2designerpresentThe evening presentations were my favorite part of the day to get insights into how the invited designers go about their practice. Even though I wasn’t in a workshop with either of these designers, meals were a good way to get to know them better.

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-chateau-tentEvery Friday each workshop presents to the other groups. Every week the result is completely different.

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-chateau-expoThe chateau is in need of extensive renovations, but is opened from time to time for exhibitions, and in this case the presentation of the final work of one of the workshops.

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-marblerunIt’s not every day you see a marble run in a chateau.

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-survivalfood-plantsResearch by the Survival Food group of everything edible and available for scavenging on the estate.

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-survivalfood1The Survival Food group presented their work in a secret “restaurant” in the forest by the lake. We were all happy to indulge, as we learned about what was edible around us. Minutes after this presentation was complete, a downpour came down.

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-survivalfood-grasshopperEvery detail of the presentation was impeccable. Even the presentation of the grasshoppers… Gisele posted about her experience in this workshop on Medium.

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-downtimeOverall a lot of time was spent like this, and I had some really interesting conversations that way.

pretavoyager-boisbuchet-presentation1So much was about the process, and not always the final product, and the importance of sharing and talking it through along the way.

Read The Rest

Love Learning: Getting the Word Out

pretavoyager-Skillshare-lovelearningAs many of you already know, one of the many hats I wear is as an instructor on the online learning community, Skillshare. Skillshare has been instrumental in my success as a freelancer, helping me get my feet on the ground. Education is a subject I’m very passionate about, and Skillshare makes amazing classes and instructors accessible, at a very affordable price. I am incredibly thankful at the success of all three of my classes, and am very aware that none of them would have been as successful as they have been without my wonderful blog readers and friends of the internet.

I’m running a special “back to school” promotion between August 15 – September 15th, where I’ll be providing daily feedback on project boards in the Skillshare classroom. (Note: I’ll only be commenting on projects shared on Skillshare so that everyone can benefit from seeing the feedback from others). I also have created a special discount code that will give you $5 off when you use the links below.

In the coming weeks and months, I’m also doing my best to spread the word about my classes to recruiters, career offices, libraries, universities, unemployment offices, students, and anyone eager to learn. I’ve compiled this post to have all the information in one place, which is easy to share, but I’m also happy to send it to you in email form to forward, if you have any contacts you think can help. I’ve also linked to PDF printable posters for each class which you can download. Everything in online education is a bit of an experiment, and I’m be happy to hear any other ideas you have for creative outreach.

Thank you in advance for any assistance! The internet rocks!!
Skillshare-DesignProfessionalDocumentsMaking Boring Documents Beautiful aka Designing Professional Documents examines documents we see in everyday life and how design can be used as a tool for communication. The class project is to redesign your résumé (or any “boring” document), and the skills learned in this class can be applied to any future document you work on. Code BCK2SCH for $5 off with the link above! [download the printable PDF poster]
Skillshare-LearnInDesignLearn Basic InDesign is a beginner level course, which is also perfect for someone looking to refresh their skills or needs to work with marketing materials. The class project is to design a simple portfolio, photo essay or look book using text and images in a multi-page document. Code BCK2SCH for $5 off with the link above! [download the printable PDF poster]
Skillshare-MapMakingMap Making is a class designed to help you think creatively about the world around you through both hand drawn and digital mapping. The class project is to make your own map! The online classroom is full of resources compiled with the help of students from all 5 continents and over 50 countries around the world. Code BCK2SCH for $5 off with the link above! [download the printable PDF poster]

Skillshare is an online learning community offering affordable classes by industry professionals. Most classes are $20 for lifetime access, or you can sign up for their $9.95/month plan for access to tons of classes. Everything is online, so you can be anywhere in the world – as long as you have internet!

Anne Ditmeyer is an American designer/editor based in Paris, France. She also goes by Prêt à Voyager (or @pretavoyager).

****UPDATE: As of Sept 20, 2014, all Skillshare classes will only be available under the $9.95/mo membership model (which gives you access to all Skillshare classes). At that time the discount codes mentioned above will no longer be valid, however, please continue to use the referral links when signing up or sharing these classes.****

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Vine!

24 Hours in Paris (tale of a map by Libby VanderPloeg)

Paris_map_libbyvanderploeg-500x500Recently I wrote a 24 Hours in Paris guide for Design*Sponge that highlights many of my favorite design shops in the 3rd and 10th arrondissements (it’s a more focused guide than the overall D*S Paris Design Guide I wrote a few years ago). And while I teach Map Making on Skillshare, I can’t claim credit for the fabulous map the accompanied my guide. All that credit goes to Brooklyn based illustrator Libby VanderPloeg. I love learning how designers and illustrators work, as well as their process. Libby was kind enough to answer a few questions to see how the map commissioned by D*S came to be.

27ef868543abf9c4e16439c1aeb8f0bdBut first, how cute is this gif from the about page of her website!?!

mapcollection_libbyvanderploegMaps Libby has collected on her travels over the years

How is travel connected to your work?
My interest in maps is directly tied into to my passion for travel. Some of my most memorable journeys have taken me to Nicaragua, Scandinavia, Paris, Greece, England, The northwest United States (Washington, Oregon), and West Texas. What I love about traveling is getting the opportunity to observe things you’ve never seen before, eat new foods, snap a million pictures unselfconsciously, and sketch little observations at quiet cafés with abandon. There’s nothing more bittersweet than that plane ride home, flipping through pages of sketches and snapshots as you lift up and away.

libbyvanderploeg_copenhagenLibby eating a pastry in Copenhagen

What is the first thing you do when you get an illustration commission to create a map?
The first thing I do is a little dance, because I love making maps, and then let out a teeny defeated sigh that I probably won’t actually be getting on a plane tomorrow to go study my destination. Immediately after that, I start researching my map’s landmarks online, so that I can get a sense of the particularities of a place (sprawl vs. density, bodies of water, taco shops, dog runs, beloved emu sanctuaries). If I see any gaping wholes in the composition, I might do a little more research to find out what’s happening in the quieter parts of town. Once I know where the white space is on the map, I can start sketching up some lettering for the header.

london_fleamarket_libbyvanderploegSnapshot of a collection of pretty things from a flea market in London

Do you uses actual maps (ie. Google Map) to create your illustrations?
I almost always use Google Maps to plot my map’s points, and then once I’ve built and saved that custom map, I can always refer back to it as I’m drawing.  I love using that tool because all the research is there at your fingertips (linked urls, images of the buildings), and you can zoom in and get a street view as well if your needing to know what the architecture of a place is like. And now, the next time I visit any of the places I’ve drawn, I have this indispensable interactive list of places to check out. I’ll never miss another amazing housewares boutique.

How much do you do on the computer vs. by hand? Do you sketch first?
With the maps, I’d say that it depends.  If the turn-around time for a project is super quick, then I might only work digitally.  But in the best-case scenario, I always start with a pencil sketch, plan things out as much as possible, and then move to the computer, where I’ll work up the final art, which is often a mix of hand painted/drawn elements collaged with pure pixel paint. I almost always do the location headers (i.e. Asheville, Pais) by hand with brush and ink. I just love the crispy edges you can get with an actual brush, and I think it adds a lot to the finished work.

mapsketches_libbyvanderploegSome map and lettering sketches

Can you explain your approach/process? How do you decide what text or illustrations to include?
When an assignment comes in, I read the document, highlight the places to feature on the map, and then think of the best way to communicate what that place serves/offers with the least amount of line work.  It’s not that I’m lazy :) I just want the finished piece to look uncluttered.  So if I’m, say, putting a coffee shop on the map, I’ll probably just use an espresso cup to keep things simple, rather than draw a detailed rendition of that particular shop’s facade.  And I almost always label major highways and rivers because they’re so helpful as navigation tools for the viewer. And then to keep it from falling into the realm of non-specifity, I like to throw some funny stuff in there too.  When I did Ginny Branch’s 24 Hours in Atlanta, I showed her zooming through the map in her old white Chevy minivan.

How do you know when a map is done?
A map is never done.  A map is only due :)

I could happily spend 3 times as long making my maps as the time I’m given to make a map. The Paris map for instance…It was basically finished, but then I saw this lovely little French woman in my head, running around the city, so I couldn’t help but add that in.

grenada_chickenbus_libbyvanderploegSnapshot of a public (chicken) bus in Granada Nicaragua

How long do you think this map took you to make?
The Paris map took me about 10 hours to make, err…dix heures.

libbyvanderploeg_swedenwindwillLibby waving from a windmill in Sweden

Don’t miss the full 24 Hours in Paris guide on Design*Sponge! You can find all the 24 hours in, and full city guides too! All my favorite Paris resources can be found here. And of course, check out more of Libby’s amazing work!

Speaking of maps, I’m running a special promotion in my Map Making class where I’ll be giving daily feedback from Aug 15 – Sept 15th. If you sign up for this class, you’ll have lifetime access to the videos and resources for $20 (but wait, code BCK2SCH will get you $5 when you use the link in this post!), or the class is included in the $9.95/month membership model for as many classes as you’d like to take.

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Vine!
I teach MAPS, InDesign, and Designing Professional Documents on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable!

A Mini Guide to Puglia

pretavoyager-puglia-visitWhen I first landed in Puglia I had a basic itinerary provided for me, but didn’t know where my trip would take me (nor did I have time to research in advance), but having no expectations meant I completely exceeded them. Thankfully, I had amazing hosts and guides who showed me so much in just a few days, but if I were you, I’d stay longer than a couple days and take it at a slower pace. Italy is one of those places where you’ll really benefit from hiring a local guide. I never would have eaten so well if I didn’t know what to eat thanks to my local Italian hosts! It’s the simple things you come to appreciate more when you’re with someone who knows the place. There is so much history in this place, one guide even mentioned she could give an entire underground tour – we’re talking archaeology, not public transportation – of the cities. No matter the time, you have the sense you are somewhere special, and a place rich in history.

To get to Puglia – the heel of the boot of Italy – there are 2 major airports: Bari (where I flew into) and Brindisi, and there are many connecting flights through Milan and Rome (I flew Alitalia from Paris). Unlike most major cities in Europe, this region of Italy is not a place to rely on public transportation, although there is a nice bus into old Bari from the airport. Renting a car or hiring a driver will be much nicer and help control your own pace, most places we visited were ~1.5 hour apart. The rhythm of cities can change due to temperature, particularly in the afternoon when its hot and many shops close for siesta (also plan on eating late for the same reason). Rather than trying to fit in a couple stops per day, spend at least or day or two in each city. The region is very diverse and surrounded by coastlines bordering the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, meaning there are lots of beaches, but also mountains in the north. All of the bloggers who participated in the #WeAreInPuglia campaign had different itineraries during their trips, so it was a great way to see the diversity of what the region offers (I’ve linked to their posts at their the bottom, but I also recommend checking out the hashtag on Instagram for tons of beautiful visuals).  Below I give you a sense of where I visited (images are below the city name). I debated doing separate posts for each, but I thought it was nice to keep them all together to give you a flavor of Puglia, along with my impressions of each place and things to look for.


Bari is an old historic city with layers upon layers of history resulting in a style that is a mix of Medieval, Byzantine, Romanesque and Baroque styles. The old city feels like a maze of winding streets, which reminded me of the medinas in Morocco, with religious reliquaries around every corner (the ones devoted to Mary have blue ceilings with stars). The building colors are warm, reminiscent of the south of France, and look up to see laundry drying. Many families have been living in these homes for generations, and you can tell just by strolling the streets that everyone is friends with their neighbors. Expect to see older women making orecchiette [see video], the traditional pasta of the region, on the street. There are even public ovens for baking your own bread without having to make your home too warm. It’s fascinating to think that not long ago this city was considered to be dangerous – I never would have guessed from my visit, and clearly the city has come a long way!

Other noteworthy sites include Basilica da San Nicolas (there are two annual festivals to celebrate St. Nicolas) and Cattedrale di San Sabino. I’ve visited many churches in my life, but the ceilings of the churches in Puglia were nothing like I’d ever seen. You can also visit the crypts where you will likely see pilgrims paying homage.

Click for photos of Bari, Ostuni, Torre Guaceto, Martina Franca, Cisternino, and Poliagnano a Mare after the jump!

Read The Rest

Everything I Ate in Puglia

pretavoyager-puglia-eat4Earlier this summer I headed to Puglia, Italy for 4 days as part of the #WeAreInPuglia campaign. I learned so much about the region (the heel of the boot of Italy), but only saw a fraction of what there is to do. Food is such a key aspect of travel anywhere, but in Italy especially. Italian hospitality is incredible and I ate VERY well this trip. What I loved most about what I was eating in Puglia is that the dishes that really made me go “wow” were all made of relatively simple, and often just a couple ingredients. I’ve had pasta, cheese and gelato many times in my life, but never have they been as good as they are in Italy! This post will just give you a taste of some of the local specialties.

On my 1st day in the old city of Bari my tour guide Sonia took me down a small street with older women making orecchiette pasta by hand. The pasta is actually really easy to make and consists of two ingredients: semolina flour and water. The rest is left to the magic of the hands, and a simple knife. (See video above). The pasta can be made into different sizes easily, but a different sized knife is used to achieve this.

pretavoyager-puglia-eat35The shot on the left is the street in old Bari where the pasta makers were at work outside their homes. Later, I was able to give it a go as well. I was not very fast and you can tell which ones were mine, as they all have holes in them! A new signature style?

pretavoyager-puglia-eat3I visited Spessite Restaurant [official website] which was the first restaurant in historic Ostuni when it opened back in 1972 in a building where they used to make olive oil. This also happened to be the first place I got to try making orecchiette myself, and eat orecchiette as well thanks to Chef Stefan and his lovely wife. If you’re walking up narrow hillside stairs you’re headed in the right direction: Via Brancasi, 43, 72017 Ostuni.
pretavoyager-puglia-eat24The dish was prepared in two different ways: tomato, basil and ricotta, and turnip flower, anchovy, and pepper. Both were delicious!

pretavoyager-puglia-eat25At Gaonas Restaurant in Martina Franca, I learned that by using a simple metal rod, the pasta dough could be made into a longer tube shape. There they served it with a more oil based sauce, and fresh tomatoes. Also delicious! Gaonas is located at Bia Arco Valente, 17, 74015 Martina Franca.

Baked goods in Italy are very different than those in France.  While French pastries tend to be flakey, I really enjoyed that Italian pastries were the perfect snack because they didn’t leave as many crumbs! I also never realized that foccacia was made with potatoes!

pretavoyager-puglia-eat26How amazing is this bakery – Sant’Antonio Bakery – that has been family run since the 1960s! I hope it never changes (although their daughter isn’t looking to continue in the family’s footsteps, I’m trying to convince her she must!).

pretavoyager-puglia-eat27I loved that many of the machines they’ve clearly had for years – rather than working with the newest technology – but have very specific purposes for what they’re making. It also happens to be far more interesting than new machinery to photograph (and better typography for sure!). Timeless, yet functional. This is me with the husband and wife (she runs the front of the shop) and their daughter Stefania. I thought they were so wonderful!

They kindly sent me home with loads of treats which were even better than I remembered. My favorite were the tortellini looking ‘tarallini’! Panificio S.Antonio Bakery is located at 21, Via Diaz Armando 72017 Ostuni.

pretavoyager-puglia-eat28At Torre Guaceto I got to meet with Marcello Longo [left], who brought Slow Food Italy to Puglia (read about the Slow Food movement in English). Thankfully I had my host Carlo there to help translate, because his story was fascinating. Torre Guaceto is a nature reserve aimed ad biodiversity and sustainability in tourism and daily life, so this was the perfect – and most picturesque – place to meet.

pretavoyager-puglia-eat30A key goal is to keep the environment as it was intended and return it to its origin, and one of the ways to do this is through organic farming. Longo is a true ambassador and his passion and patience in his storytelling came through as he told us how back in 2005 he worked to convince local farmers that despite being a more expensive practice, organic farming would be worth the investment. There were three very difficult years and the farmers were very reluctant, but with time gained their trust and investments.

The project started by looking at organic farming with oil; there are olive trees for miles in the region (one for each person in Italy!). Then the farmers expanded to different products, namely tomatoes. He described the ones on the right as a sweet tomato, more like eating chocolate than a fruit. They were amazing! The grains in the salad were so fresh. The cheese is also part of these endeavors to farm more sustainably.

pretavoyager-puglia-eat29And the amazing thing is that all this healthy, organic food is sold at the snack hut on the beach! You definitely don’t see that everyday! Even the cups are biodegradable, in case they accidentally don’t end up in the trash.

pretavoyager-puglia-eat31These icey frappicino-esque drinks appeared for us when we were at the Torre Guaceto beach. Also amazing and refreshing!

Coffee break! I don’t even like/drink coffee, but I absolutely adored this espressino fredo, a summer specialty with ice cream and chocolate. Once it arrived on the table in front of my Italian hosts, I knew I must try one too! Even better was we had it under these giant umbrellas facing the old cathedral [not pictured, photo is taken from the steps] in historic Ostuni. I think if I lived in Italy, I’d drink a lot more coffee! They make it right here.

When I was on my tour of old Bari with my guide I got hungry after I saw two teenagers eating ice cream in a square. She suggested we go around the corner to a different place. Having a local is priceless, as this gets filed under most amazing gelato of my life. Also, note that each cone gets a quick dive under the chocolate fountain to encase the inside with a thin layer of chocolate. The gelato in this photo is the smallest ‘piccolo’ size, for a whopping 2€! So good. Don’t miss Martinucci (est 1950) at Piazza Mercantile, 81 70121, Bari.

pretavoyager-puglia-eat5Almost every meal I ate in Puglia started with appetizers that included marinated vegetables such as eggplant, artichoke or peppers. This couple who we happened by in this historic city of Ostuni seemed to have their own business canning olives, capers and more.

One of joys of seeing how – and where – your food is made, it makes it even more fun to eat. Enoteca Divino wine bar hosted us for a lovely apéro (sorry, that’s French!) of rosé. I really enjoyed all the Italian wines I tasted. Here I learned that you’re supposed to dip those really dry, bagel looking breads in a bowl of water before adding the tomato/basil topping (unless you want a really dry bite; the catch is you can’t prepare it in advance or it will become soggy). I also truly fell in love with both mozarella and burrata cheese, especially when they’re soft inside! Located at Via Gaetano Tanzarella Vitale 35 Sig Vito, Ostuni.

My first dinner in Puglia was with my host Carlo at Osteri Le Travi in Bari. I probably would have been set after the appetizers, which are served buffet style and you serve yourself. Then came the pasta course. Then came the fish! I thought I was going to explode, but thankfully watermelon was for dessert which seemed to lighten things up. Word of warning when it comes to food in Italy: pace yourself! :) Located at Largo Ignazio, Chiurlia, 12, Bari.

pretavoyager-puglia-eat22Did I mention that of the 4 days I was technically in Puglia, I was technically only there for 2 full days! Can you tell I ate well!?!

pretavoyager-puglia-eat9Thankfully I had lovely new friends so I didn’t have to eat it all myself!

We ate outside, but really I loved the inside of Mezzofanti! It had a cool vibe, even with the employees, and just my style. There were a bunch of rooms and it extended out into the back terrace. I didn’t get to stay long in Cisternino – known for its meat shops – but would love to explore more. Mezzofanti is located at Piazza Pellegrino Rossi 20, Cisternino.

pretavoyager-puglia-eat8By 7pm we arrived in Polignano a Mare and determined it was beer-o-clock, and picked up these two Peroni beers at a little “sandwhich” shop. Living in Paris where it’s nearly impossible to find a beer for less than 5€, I was amazed together these two beers only cost 3€! See, travel can save you money! Even better was taking the beers and hanging out in the plaza and watching the crowd outside an open air restaurant cheering on a World Cup game.

pretavoyager-puglia-eat33In Puglia you can easily assume a restaurant is not popular because it is empty, but the reality is everyone eats late (they siesta between 1pm-3/4pm). By the time we finally sat down to eat on my last night it was closer to 9pm, and not long after the terrace seating was completely packed! After all my amazing eats, I had to opt for a margarita pizza as my last meal to “spice” things up a bit. Cuccundeo is at Piazza Aldo Moro, 14, 70044 Polignano a Mare. (Some famous show/movie was filmed on this square, but it’s slipping my mind now).

pretavoyager-puglia-eat7But even when you are stuffed in Italy, it’s really important to make room to try new things. My life would be incomplete had I not tried this watermelon and cream granita that completely rocked my world. Mario Campanella Il Super Mago del Gelo (since 1935) was a completely awesome place that felt like the blast from the past in a different culture. The long lines of people waiting for gelato and granitas made me believe this is the place to go in Poliagno a Mare: Piazza Guiseppe Garibaldi, 22.

Watermelon was clearly a theme of this trip. Interestingly enough, always in dessert form.

Being stuffed didn’t stop me from getting one last gelato, conveniently located between gates during my short connection! Gelato is good, but gelato in Italy is even better!

This is just a taste of Puglia, but follow the hashtag #WeAreInPuglia on social media to get a better idea of all there is to experience in this region. You can find the official Puglia channels: at,,, and by following @WeAreInPuglia on Twitter, @viaggiarepuglia on Instagram, and We Are in Puglia on Facebook. I’m very excited I got to be included on this trip thanks to iAmbassador! Stay tuned for my next post which will give you a better sense of the architecture.

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Vine!
I teach MAPS, InDesign, and Designing Professional Documents on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable!

« Older Entries Newer Entries »

Back to top