#WorkingLunch: The Oval Room in Washington, DC

Since I started my own business, the world is my office.

"Won't you feel isolated, working by yourself," people said to me. But, the reality is, I meet at my client's offices or events. On any given day, I might be live tweeting a television broadcast from The National Mall or advising a CMO in a board room. But, it's rare that I'm just chilling on my sofa in pajamas (though, I'd be lying if I said I didn't relish those days.)

One thing that I've come to value is the mobile office. Whether it's on a different continent, in the middle of the ocean or just down the street, a place that combines a good view or good lunch with a strong wifi signal and access to electricity makes a great spot to settle in.

One of my clients is located steps from The White House. And, in our weeks hunkered together, I've become a big fan of The Oval Room as a haven for a working lunch. Not the kind I recently spotted Rahm Emanuel having there, but the kind where I break open my laptop and get work done right there. Each seat at The Oval Room's five-seat bar has a double set of plugs. That means you can charge your laptop and phone, while simultaneously perusing the menu.

If you sit at the bar during lunch, you get a special menu and exclusive deal: $20 for a glass of wine (red, white or sparkling), a lunch entree and a dessert.

Today, I had the crispy skin-on salmon with red beets and ruby red grapefruit for lunch. I paired it with a tart Sauvignon Blanc.
Crispy Salmon with red beets and ruby red grapefruit at The Oval Room 

As the kitchen team prepared my meal, I knocked out emails by the dozens, read the news and scheduled another round of meetings for my next project.

The salmon arrived, perfectly cooked. Despite my decades-old jihad against roasted beets, I loved these.

In past meals, I've had the roast pork Cuban sandwich, the roasted chicken salad and the gnocchi. So, far, I haven't had a bad meal at the bar for the lunch deal. It does change seasonally, so feel free to consult with the talented staff if you have questions.

One of my favorite parts of The Oval Room's lunch deal is the closer: dessert. You can get fresh-baked cookies to take back to the office (today they were chocolate chip or ginger molasses.) If you've got time and appetite, they will turn those fresh baked cookies into an ice cream sandwich. Their daily offerings range from quirky flavors like black garlic, salted caramel, coffee, and also your more traditional strawberry.

Today, I got the chocolate chip cookies and stuffed them with the strawberry ice cream. (I also recommend the ginger molasses cookies stuffed with salted caramel.)
Ice Cream Sandwich at The Oval Room

Perfect amount of food, time and electricity to keep me going for the next round of meetings.

Where should I take #WorkingLunch to next?

The Oval Room is located at 800 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC. It is near both Farragut West (orange/blue) and Farragut North (red) metro stations. It's close to the White House, just across from Lafayette Park. For tables, reservations are recommended in advance. For the bar, just pop by. Lunch special is only available at the bar.


My Favorite Places to Eat in Marseille

Even though it's been a few months since I stayed in the South of France, I wanted to write this post to ensure I remembered all of my favorite spots in Marseille.

Marseille isn't an easy city to figure out, restaurant-wise. There aren't a ton of recommendations or stories from the food writers and bloggers that I follow, so I did a lot of Googling. I ended up with a big, unwieldy, and not well-sourced list.

What I ended up loving were places I passed on my morning runs, adorable storefronts, Michelin reviews I found, or simply the incredible smells that drove me to the door step.

Ya Gotta Try the Bouillabaisse: Le Miramar
Marseille is the birthplace of bouillabaisse and you have to try it while you're here. But, there's an etiquette to this. You need to call the restaurant (or email, stop by) at least 24 hours in advance if you're going to order bouillabaisse. The restaurant literally shops for the seafood daily based on the orders they know are coming. It is also usually prepared for two or more. I emailed my hosts and asked them whether or not it was considered a faux pas to order it solo and they told me not to be silly. They also took the scariness out of this for me by reaching out to their favorite neighborhood spot, Le Miramar and making me a reservation.
Le Miramar
Side note: I came to Marseille solo and thought I would just explore restaurants through their bars. I found very few no restaurants that had bars where it was considered appropriate to sit and have dinner. I'm not sure why, but it is what it is. Lunches were ok to drop in, but dinner required a reservation (even if they had open tables.) This means that it takes some Googling to figure out what online reservation system each restaurant uses - if they use one at all. I'm going to include links for reservations with each recommendation, where I found them. 

Ok, back to bouillabaisse: Le Miramar treats you well. Even as a solo diner, I was flattered with the attentive service, wine recommendations, and gentle reminders about how to eat this dish. In the United States, when I've had it, it all comes in one dish, almost as a seafood stew/soup. In Marseille, this is a multi-step process. First, they present you with the seafood. Ooh and ahh and get excited. The broth comes next and you eat it like soup, paired with garlicy crostini. Then the seafood comes separately
Le Miramar is located at 12 Quai du Port in Marseille. There are indoor and outdoor tables. If it's a nice day, you'll want to choose outside and enjoy the gorgeous scenery and people watching. Their website is available in English, as well as French and offers online booking.

My Favorite Croissants in Marseille: Patisserie Sylvain Depuichaffray
I'll own up to the fact that I found this one on Yelp. It got me to a new neighborhood, just off the Port. This whole street is really cute and loaded with boutique stores. It's also on the way to the Cathedral if you walk up from the Port.

There are a ton of baked goods, cakes and sandwiches, as well as these flaky, pillowy croissants.

Croissants in the window of Patisserie Sylvain Depuichaffray
Patisserie Sylvain Depuichaffray is located at 66 Rue Grignan in Marseille.

My Quest to Get Into: Bistrot L'Horloge
I was smitten with Bistrot L'Horloge from the first time I walked past. It was spilling out into the street and filled with people that looked fun. I had seen on Trip Advisor that it was ranked high for food, but it was also just cool. I fumbled with my French and asked for a table. In return, I was told by the glance inside the busy space, that they were full.

I went online to find out if I could make a reservation. No website. I circled it on my daily runs around town, trying to crack the code.

In my last week there, I put on a cute outfit and (prepped with my Google Translate script), stopped in for lunch when it was less busy. I landed this great table with a view. I ordered a glass of rosé and my favorite salad. It was such a good moment. I loved the food, the vibe and the fact that I finally made it there. If I lived here, I think this would be a spot I would regularly visit.

Bistro L'Horloge
Bistro L'Horloge is located at 11 Cours Honoré d'Estinenne d'Orves in Marseille.

Italian in Marseille: Le Table de Casimir
I wrote about this one in the moment. It was so welcoming. Like a bear hug. Which I needed after feeling a bit isolated after a solo week in Marseille. The food was also fantastic.

Le Table de Casimir
Le Table de Casimir is located at 21 Rue d'Italie. You can make reservations on Trip Advisor.

Exploring Le Panier: Bar des 13 Coins
If you go down an internet rabbit hole looking for traveler advice on Le Panier, you'll find a lot of warnings. I was both fascinated and freaked out. I kept dipping a block or two in and then popping out. One of my final days, I came up a few steps from the Cathedral de Major side and found Bar des 13 Coins. It was so cute, but I needed to wander a bit and get comfortable. I loved that day. So much street art. Great cafes. Neighborhood vibe.

I came back to Bar des 13 Coins after getting lost on side streets for an hour. I ordered a glass of wine and started thinking about what on the chalkboard menu I wanted for lunch. At this point in my stay, I was trying to speak in French. But, the knew I was American (duh) and were ok with English.

I ordered this crostini thinking it would be a small snack and it was huge. Fresh ingredients, beautiful day on a patio in the South of France... that was a good day to be alive.
Bar des 13 Coins
Bar des 13 Coins is located at 45 Rue Saint-Francoise in Marseille. For lunch, reservations are not needed, but you can make them on their website. 

My Favorite Coffee Shop: Maison Geney
Listen, Starbucks got me through the first week. But once I found Maison Geney, I was done. It's adorable and family-owned with a neighborhood vibe and fantastic coffee and food.
Maison Geney
While I was still in Marseille, I wrote a post about it.
Cake and Latte at Maison Geney
Maison Geney is located at 38 Rue Caisserie in Marseille. 

I'm So Glad I Tried: Le Sardine
I had this built in anti-sardine thing going. But this spot kept luring me in. Le Sardine was on the ground level of my building. It always had a steady flow of customers. They were everyone from stylish neighborhood friends to old men. I wasn't sure how I felt about a menu based around sardines, but it's a staple of the Marseille diet.

Well, I loved it. Maybe I wussed out by getting them fried, but they were delicious. And, came with this fantastic tomato compote and thin sliced fried potatoes. Pair it with a bottle of wine and a patio table.

Le Sardine
Le Sardine is located at 2 Boulevard de la Libération in Marseille.

My Favorite Neighborhood Bar: La Caravelle
La Caravelle is old school and cool. Great cocktails, balcony seating, music and this view of Vieux Port:

La Caravelle is located at 34 Quai du Port in Marseille.

Casual Cool Bistro for Dinner: Malthazar
Malthazar was another one I tried to visit multiple times. It was only open for dinner and didn't seem interested in a drop by guest. Beg a friend who speaks French to make you a reservation or book your table online via Michelin Guide. I don't think I have a good photo, but I had a fantastic steak tartare and chocolate dessert with a lovely bottle of wine and good service. But, you definitely need a reservation.

Malthazar is located at 19 Rue Fortua in Marseilles.

I also have a long list of places that I wasn't able to make it to. Next time, but here's a list:

NOTE: You may also want to check out my post on working from France.


My Favorite Spots to Eat and Drink in St. Martin - Sint Maarten

I've been meaning to write this post for weeks. But, you know, when you get back from a great vacation... you just want to wallow in it for a bit. And, then life takes over.

But, I didn't want to forget to share with you my favorite places to eat and drink in St. Martin and Sint Maarten.

First of all, everyone will ask you, are you staying on the Dutch or French side? I was staying in Orient Beach, on the French side. And, mon dieu, was that the right move. The first place we went was the grocery and it was as if the markets filled with rosé from southern France had been transported to the Caribbean! Walls of rosé. Rosé in the refrigerators next to the sodas. Rosé at all of the beachside bars. And, good rosé. Pale rosé. Provence rosé.
Orient Beach
I know, I have a problem. I'll wean myself off of it in the the fall.

But, back to food and drink... Orient Beach was a great spot to stay. The neighborhood was quaint, fairly quiet. The condo we were staying at was walking distance to the beach and an array of good restaurants. The beach is lined with open air beach bars and bistros that are fun to hop between.

We also loved that you can rent two beach chairs, with an umbrella, all day for twenty Euro (dollars were also accepted almost everywhere) which also got you wifi and restroom access. We found that you could negotiate a bit, and often got four chairs for our group for thirty Euro. Each place also serves out on the beach, so cocktails and food come to you.

Where to Eat for Breakfast
Our regular became Coco Beach while in Orient Bay. Their staff was incredibly sweet, the view amazing and their breakfasts delicious and abundant. We ate at Coco Beach for breakfast three times, and even stayed and rented chairs with them one day. They are on the quieter end of the beach, so it was nice to relax and unwind on that end one day.

Breakfast View from Coco Beach
We had heard Sunday was the day everything closed. Luckily, Le Noon was open. We had espresso drinks and Nutella crepes. It's definitely an awesome little local haunt where you eat outside on the patio tables. Nothing fancy, but solid and friendly.
Le Noon at Orient Beach (OPEN SUNDAY)
Where to Drink Rosé on the Beach
One of my favorite moments of the week was watching the Euro Cup Finals (which France lost) amid a slew of French folks. Here's why I love French people. I know they have a reputation for rudeness... and I mean... if you're just randomly speaking English to them, I get it.  My experience has always been that if you attempt French and smile, you're likely to get a decent reception.
Sunset at KaKao

KaKao was slammed. Every table and every seat were taken. We jammed up to the bar and ordered a bottle of rosé. People were tossing back magnums like they were Bud Lights on college football night in the US. It was amazing. The French lost. A glass shattered. Everyone went back to their wine and spilled out on to the beach. An American football was tossed around. Stray dogs were loved on. We sipped our wine out of plastic cups smuggled out of the White House. It was an epic day. What I'm trying to tell you is... KaKao was fun. It's also hilarious to say over and over after way too much wine.

To the immediate left is Bikini Beach. I ended up going there for my last sunset - on an evening where I was flying solo. I brought a book. I listened to Frenchmen and tried to understand a word or two. I watched a breathtaking sunset go down in the books. And, I Googled how to say "One more rosé, si vous plait." It was wonderful.
Sunset at Bikini Beach
There were probably a dozen other places we should have checked out. They will have to wait for the return trip, because I. Will. Be. Back.

Where to Eat a Healthy Lunch
After a week carousing with my friends, I found myself adventuring solo and craving some serious greens. I set my Google Map to go to Joga which promised healthy eats and yoga. It's a little hard to find and is set off the road, but worse... it was closed. Maybe for the season? There was no sign. And, I was on the opposite side of the island with no plan.

I ended up driving a little bit up the road and happily stumbled upon Top Carrot in Simpson Bay.  I was revived by green juices and fresh salads. And, then took a walk around the cute neighborhood.
Salad at Top Carrot

Where to Watch Planes Land with Cheap Coronas and Average Nachos
Sunset Bar & Grill. It's cool. You have to do it once. But, this is a food and drink post, so let's move on.
Sunset Bar & Grill watching planes land
Where to Find the Best Macarons
Oddly, my favorite French bakery was on the Dutch side. I found cute little waterfront La Suciere right after my health Top Carrot lunch. Naturally, I proceeded to eat four of their macarons while taking a conference call back in the States. It was one of my favorite moments. A life is really, really good moment. I picked up chocolate almond croissants to eat on the way to the airport the next day.
Macarons at La Suciere
Where to Have a Romantic Dinner
I was having a girls weekend. But we drank and ate at a few spots that would have made a pretty epic date location. Two come to mind in the Grand Case neighborhood - Sunset Cafe and Le Tastevin. Both had jaw-dropping sunset views, fantastic wine lists and fresh seafood (amongst other choices.) Staff at both places were friendly and shared recommendations that made our meals memorable. Both were also sweet about plugging in our dying iPhones.
Sunset Cafe rosé with the fabulous Jennifer Keene
Where to Have a Casual Dinner on the Dutch Side
Sint Maarten Yacht Club. Gorgeous view. Solid food. Great staff. Awesome t-shirts and gear to take home. Bar full of amusing randoms.

Where to Avoid Like the Plague
We landed late Saturday night, so our first big meal choice was a Sunday. I had read online that most places close on Sundays and found that to be largely true. One that it said was always open and serving brunch was the Westin Dawn Beach. I'm a fairly active Starwood SPG member, so I was wanting to check out the brunch, the hotel and the beach for future trips. We planned to rent a cabana until we were ready for the brunch and then make that home base for the day. Well, PSA: If you are not staying at the hotel, do not try to go there. Staff swarmed down on us and told us we were not allowed on the beach or in the pool. We were not allowed to rent cabanas or sit at tables. The only place we could sit was at the six seat pool bar on the bar stools. Well, that was tacky and awkward to sit in the shade with our beach bags and such. We ended up bailing and decided to just eat brunch before leaving. Bigger mistake. It's an all you can eat, flat price deal... which should have been a red flag... but we were there and hungry. The seafood was watery at best and questionable at worst. Service was glacial (and I don't mean temperatures.) The sushi rice was dyed purple and green. The ice cream bar had melted. The chocolate fountain was out of things to dip in it. The best thing I ate out of the whole experience was the potato gratin. Yeah. Skip that spot.

Best Non-Food and Drink Tip
Rent a Jeep (mine came from Avis). The weather was perfection and we took the top off for the entire week. It made the visit so much more fun to have an open view and the wind in our hair.
On SXM, we Jeep
NOTE: I also wrote a post on how I worked from the island - get my tips here.


Seven Tips on Working from Saint Martin - Sint Maarten

You might recall that back in March, I worked for a couple weeks from Marseille. Well, another Home Exchange came up that I couldn't resist - and it was in Saint Martin.
First look at Orient Beach. Please note, I'm carrying a baguette, grocery bag of rosé and a bag of chargers.
I had just finished the biggest month of my growing business. Now was both a great time for a mini-break to take stock of where I was, where I was going, and what changes I needed to make for the second half of the year. All while still managing my workload and ensuring I was accessible to my clients.

As I prepare to depart island life, here are the things that really helped make this week a success - and the things I would do differently.

1. Scale You.
One of the reasons I was able to do this was because I have really found an amazing tribe of talented, business-savvy women to work with me. Before I left, I met with each of them and we talked through the client needs for the week, when they would be there in person or on the phone (because I would be mid-air), and being my back-up. I can not overstate how wonderful it is when you are starting a business to have someone that you trust to do great work and to make sure your clients remain happy if you are not there in person.

This does not mean you walk away for a week, lay on beaches drinking rum drinks and letting the business happen. When you are starting your own business, you are never off. Use your talent to scale you. Determine when you need to be present. And, be there for them when they have questions.

2. Proximity Matters
Where you are staying plays a big role in crafting your work day. The Home Exchange that I had was just a few blocks from Orient Beach. This meant that I could get up early, work in the morning and then go have breakfast and reply to morning emails from the beach. At lunch - I needed a sun break anyway - I would come in and get more work done. Once the mid-day rush was done, I would return to the beach through sunset and then handle anything else that had arisen in the day.
Closest beach chair to my house.
3. Plan Ahead for Calls
Let me assure you that you think you can take that conference call from the beach - you should not take that call from the beach. There are so many factors that can go wrong, from wind, to loud people, to just a bad connection. If you have a scheduled client call, plan to take it from your house. (Trust me, I made this mistake for you.)

Depending where you are on the island, a wifi-connected Skype or Google Hangout may work better than a phone call. Learn your surroundings and what works best - before your client call.

That said, sometimes you can't plan ahead. My friends were shocked when I got a 9pm call and took it. Business comes fast and when you are the principal, that means taking an emergency call from a Jeep whizzing across the island after dinner. I communicated quickly that I was in a bad location, but would be back home shortly and could respond to the need.

4. Pack Sunscreen and Bug Spray
This doesn't seem like business advice, but packing sunscreen and bug spray means that if you find a great spot to work from outside, that mosquitos or sunburn won't mess up your day. Sometimes sitting by a beach and letting your mind wander is a great way to come up with inspiration for your clients or new business. Don't cut that short because you didn't plan.

5. Double Down on Chargers
Island wifi and data is rough on the phone battery. I found that even a fully charged phone drained multiple times a day if I was working. I was constantly keeping backup chargers plugged in and in my bag. You can never run out of battery. That means business is at a full stop. Charge. Charge. Charge.

6. Activate Your International Data Plan
If you think you can come to Saint Martin and work with wifi alone, think again. It will save you money, for sure, but you will be limited to working wifi at home and at bars. And, let's face it, bars are probably not the best place to do business.

I was just there for five days, so I didn't settle into daily life and office hours the way I did in France. But, this still worked really well. I managed to get in a little rest and relaxation, explored a beautiful island - and stayed on top of business. Don't be afraid to try it. It just takes planning and discipline.

7. Find the Best Spots for Wifi in Saint Martin (or Your Island)
These spots will become your anchors when you are away from home base. In Saint Martin, I stayed in Orient Bay. My favorite wifi spot was CoCo Beach, which had great breakfast, friendly service, a beautiful view, and wifi that reached the beach chairs.

Watching planes land from Sunset Bar & Grill is kind of a rite of passage on this island. The bonus - the wifi password is posted behind the bar and is strong enough to support everything from you checking email to a livestream of the planes landing.
Me broadcasting a Facebook Live of the plane landing. 
TasteVin in Grand Case saved me from being the one to ask by clearly placing their wifi password on their menu. The benefit for them - lots of people post views of the stunning view along with their delicious meals. I had the gazapacho, sea bass and a great bottle of Provence rosé that our server recommended. All while being there in case my team or my clients needed me.

I don't have much desire to be a full-time digital nomad. I'm building a business and a life in the States that I love.  But, it is so nice that as I break away from a traditional 9-to-5 job environment, that I can still find ways to make an escape affordable and compatible with my business needs.

I've got Home Exchange offers in my mailbox for Italy, Iceland, Croatia - and more locally in Asheville, NC and Captiva Island. Maybe if I keep growing the business, I'll be able to make one of those happen by the end of 2016 or early 2017!

Let me know if you have any questions - in the comments below or on Twitter at @tammy.

NOTE: I also wrote a post on my favorite places to eat and drink on island - get my tips here

If the islands aren't your scene, here are my tips on working from the South of France.


My French Grocery Store Latte Hack

Once I started grocery shopping for the day to day, I knew I needed to devise a way to get caffeine without taking off my pajamas.

After much experimentation, the perfect formula for a home French "latte" (short of an espresso machine) is 1/3 Nescafe Cafe Crema to 2/3 Nescafe Cappuccino.

If you're feeling randy, stir with a spoon that's been dredged in Nutella. You're welcome.

Side note: I've missed the easy morning convenience of my Keurig. And, I should have packed my AeroPress.  Those conveniences will be awesome to get back to in my own home. And, I'm also looking forward to my first Wydown Coffee visit back in DC. 


Finding My Favorite Coffee Shop in Marseille: Maison Geney

The first week in Marseille, I pretty much stuck with the Starbucks on Rue de Republique in Vieux Port. The latte was consistently what I expected from a Starbucks in the States. My baristas were lovely and patient with my French. (Hint: "Grande latte, si vous plait?" goes a long way.) And, the wifi worked like a charm.

By week two, I had finally found a few local options that satisfied my morning latte routine. Green Bear Coffee and My Garden (loved the Bob Marley playlist) both have solid espresso drinks and pretty good food.

But the place that really captured my heart was Maison Geney. First rate croissants, pain perdu and almond cakes paired with a legitimately creamy perfect latte. And, all served in a space that just screams happiness.

There is beautiful light streaking through the windows, friendly owners and staff, and the countertops are covered in so many baked goods. You'll want to come back to work your way through all of them. Don't miss the little sofa nook in the back of the shop, where newspapers and fashion magazines provide you with ample time wasters as you sip your coffee.

Also, it is usually preferred to get your coffee in one location and then your croissant or pastry in another. Masion Geney is a great combination of both, a rare find.

And, if you're lucky, you just might get approached by a handsome young man, like I did.

I've only got three days left, but I just may spend them becoming a regular.

Maison Geney is located at 38 Rue Caisserie in Marseille, France.

Seven Things I've Learned About Working Abroad

I'm finishing up a wonderful two week home exchange in France, and I wouldn't have been able to do it without continuing to work. I just launched a consulting practice in January, so there are new clients to serve, new business proposals to develop and move forward, and invoices to send (yay!.)

I've been proud of how I've been able to make this happen and what I've learned along the way. Here are a few things you should know if you're thinking about working abroad:

1) Stay Long Enough to Live, Not Vacation
One of the things that has made this experience work for me personally and professionally is the amount of time I've had to be here. When you do an extended stay, you don't have to rush to see the sights or cram in everything. I've gotten to visit Aix-en-Provence, Paris and Cassis... but I've also gotten a hell of a lot of work done while sitting at the little table on my balcony in Marseille.
A day trip to taste wine in Provence

2) Confirm The Home Wifi
None of this would be possible without a great wifi (pronounced "wee-fee" in France) connection. In fact, the wifi has worked better than the phone, despite my international plan with Verizon. Before you go, confirm that the hotel, home or apartment that you are staying at has wifi. Get the log in information, before you leave America. You're not a backpacker, you're a business person - the last thing you want to rely on is sitting at some sketchy Internet cafe.

3) Set Office Hours
If at all possible, keep office hours the same as your clients, no matter where they are. For me, that means that I'm six hours ahead of the East Coast United States. When I wake up, I relax into the morning. I visit my new favorite barista, pick up a croissant or just read on my balcony in sweats. I take the morning to mid-day time to explore, visit cathedrals, museums and have lunch at a bistro. But afternoon time is work time. Get your deliverables in on your clients deadline time. Host Google Hangouts, Skype calls and chats during their time. For me that means, sometimes I'm working around midnight... because it's the end of the work day in Washington. But, in the morning, I've got a jump on them to respond to any overnight emails.

All of this is not to say that you should work the entire time you are away. It's that you set your office hours. Make sure your clients or office have clear expectations of when you will be online and working and when you will be away.

4) Don't Rely on The Phone
One thing has consistently failed me that I didn't expect, and that's the phone. I know it works functionally, because I can have video chats on Hangout, Skype and Snapchat. But, I've had at least one crucial meeting have to reschedule because I couldn't get a call out and they couldn't get a call in. Do some research on where you are staying and what is the most stable communications form. For me, all of the meetings I'm setting up and doing are via Google Hangout which has worked perfectly - and given me good face-to-face time with clients, potential clients and partners... all while I'm a half block from the Mediterranean.

5) Can't Stop, Won't Stop
I made sure before I left that I did a ton of in person meetings. I knew I had billable work and new business proposals to write while I was here. And, while I've been here, I've started scheduling and booking myself over the next two to three weeks while I land. Again, this is life, not vacation. You can't afford to go away for a few weeks and have your funding or client pool dry up.

6) MeetUp.com, Yes, MeetUp.com
Some of the best advice my Parisian ex-pat pal, Tanisha Townsend gave me was to explore MeetUp.com. I don't think I had seriously used Meet Up since the Dean campaign, but she was right. I found local Marseille co-working space, SPARK, plus language sharing events, yoga and pilates. I wish I had found this on the front end of my stay. I would definitely have met more locals and ex-pats.

7) Learn New Things About Yourself
One thing that has been made very clear is the difference between my American work ethic and the Southern Europe sense of life and timing. As you can see by this post, I'm a bit type A... I have designed a life of intensity... a busy trap. Being here has forced me to find more balance. Times and appointments are more of suggestion here. That ex-pat yoga MeetUp that you scrambled to make? Eh. No one was there. Were you early? Did it move? Eh... just have a great day... explore a new neighborhood... eat new foods... practice your French.

The importance of living in the moment, rather than being controlled by the clock is a totally different way of life for me. And, immersing in it for two weeks has allowed me to learn language, write more, take more photos and generally expand my worldview.

I'm so glad I took the leap. But, steps one through five will allow me to have a thriving business to return home to.

Message me in the comments, Snap me (@floridagirlindc) or tweet me (@tammy) if you have questions about working abroad and how you might be able to do it.


Where to Eat in Marseille: La Table de Casimir

Tonight, I decided to broaden my little French world by going out for Italian - at La Table de Casimir. After all, one third of the population of Marseille can trace their roots back to Italy.
La Table de Casimir
Entering the restaurant was like walking into a full bear hug. The proprietor belted out "Buonasera!" with a huge smile when I walked in. I was the first person in for dinner and my natural instinct was that in France, that was wrong. But, he waived my anxiety off, sat me and said with a laugh, "You Americain?!? Only Americains eat at 7:30!"
I instantly relaxed and ordered a Provence rosé to start. (I've committed to a rose every day and have been streaming live tastings on Snapchat at "floridagirlindc".)
For dinner, I was torn... There was eggplant Parmesan and I'd seen fresh eggplant in the daily markets. There was a veal orecchiette with artichokes and... Yum. And there was a braised beef with polenta.
I asked my host his opinion. "Orecchiette is a very good pasta, but it is pasta with veal." He pointed to the braised beef and said, "I brought two recipes with me from Italy. This is one."
Braised Beef and Polenta
It was delicious. Hearty polenta, steaming gravy, falling apart on the fork beef comfort food. And just what I needed at the moment when I was missing home a bit.

After I had dredged baguette across every bit of gravy, my plate was removed and we started to talk dessert. There was a chocolate fondant cake, tiramisu and a ricotta cake. Again, I put myself in the hands of the owner.
Him: "You like chocolate?"
Me: *gives him a look*
Him: "Fondant. It is an aphrodisiac."
Me: "I'll have that." *glares inward at self that I didn't bring my boyfriend here*
Him: "Seven minutes."
Me: "It is all good."
Chocolate Fondant Cake
After all, time is relative here. I leaned back to slowly finish my second rosé.
La Table de Casimir is located at 21 Rue d’Italie 13006 Marseille, France.


Don't Believe What People Tell You About Marseille. It's Wonderful.

My biggest fear in planning two weeks in Marseille wasn't that I would be traveling alone. It was that it would be legitimately scary.

When you tell people that you're planning a vacation to Marseille, you'll get a look. Or maybe, someone will say, "Be careful." I even read somewhere online that it was the least safe city in Europe. (Meanwhile, Brussels was attacked while I was here.)

I'm here to tell you, Marseille is getting a bad rap.

Yes, it's a port town with thousands of years of nefarious history. It's at the intersection of France, Italy and North Africa. So, some mafia legend and racial/religious bias may play into current day fears. And, like many port cities, it may, just by it's nature, attract pirates and pirate loving people.

Maybe I'm one. Here's what I've experienced:

Marseille has been welcoming, sunny, multicultural and charming. Each time I've tackled something scary to me, I have been met with smiles, attempts at English, chivalry and wonderful food and drink. And, yes, I still have my wallet.

You have to be safe and watch out for pickpockets... just like you do in Paris or London or many of the most fantastic places in the world.

But, you'll be rewarded with amazing sunsets on the Old Port.

Restaurant staff will graciously still make you a bouillabaisse for one, even though the menu says that it is only prepared for two or more people. (At least at La Miramar.)

Walks in the evening along the Old Port and main streets are very well lit, teeming with people and gorgeous. Especially when there is a full moon.

I took the train to Aix-en-Provence yesterday for lunch. For lunch. It only took 15 minutes to get there. And the train round trip was only 15 Euro. (The taxi from the TGV station to the Apple store was 30 Euro each way, so I clearly need to learn the bus/shuttle system.)

If you've been looking into visiting the South of France and have been scared away from Marseille, I'm telling you, you're missing out.


A Dispatch from the Marseille Office

When I decided to leave AARP at the end of last year, I left a seven week sabbatical on the table. I know, I know, I should have taken it while I was there. But, social kept growing. I was constantly making the business case, fighting for budget and staff, and turning wins into case studies to garner additional investment. And then, I had the opportunity to turn our legacy television and radio operation into a first class, brand multimedia studio.

The reasons why I didn't take that sabbatical were important to me at the time. But, now...

In the first few months of 2016, I launched Verified Strategy and packed my calendar with prospecting and proposals. I've got a few clients now and feel like we are growing at a steady pace.
My desk in Marseile
One day, I got a notication in my  HomeExchange.com mailbox asking if I would be open to a spring house swap in Marseille (I had listed my place on a whim,) so I jumped at the chance. For two weeks, I would live in the South of France, servicing my existing clients, writing communications audits, developing new proposals and sending invoices. I purposefully took care of my in person meetings before I left and set up a couple of weeks worth for when I return.

As I write this, I'm three days in. It's working. I've been using Skype and FaceTime for meetings. The wifi at my apartment is fantastic, so the work isn't suffering. In fact, it might be improving as I allow my brain time to learn new things. And, thanks to a quick dash up to the Apple store in Aix-en-Provence, my power supply is working great. [NOTE: If you're heading out of the country, it's worth getting the Mac adaptor set.]
The Apple store in Aix-en-Provence
Since it's life, not just vacation, I'm continuing to keep American office hours. I wake up and go on long walks, exploring cathedrals, markets and patisseries. I'm on a quest to find the best almond croissant in France. But then, mid-Marseille day, I'm back at the laptop.

My French improves daily. The Starbucks barista remembers my name. I can wander the winding streets, grocery shop like a local, make dinner at home and explore nearby towns.
The Old Port of Marseille, a half block from my apartment.
Fear not, I'm headed back to Washington soon enough. The East Coast is where business, friends, families and love are. But, it's nice to know that this life is possible. It was very difficult to see how I could step away from the busy trap I was caught in for a decade or longer.

It does, indeed, get better.

In the coming days, I'll share my working abroad experience, plus my usual restaurant and travel favorites. Many thanks to those of you who have already sent me recommendations.