Monthly Archives: November 2010

Amsterdam in Numbers

One of the things I loved most about Amsterdam were all of the unique numbers marking store fronts, homes, museums, restaurants and everything else imaginable. Here are some of my favorites…

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Amsterdam. Day 42. 43. 44.

After skillfully maneuvering and strapping my FULLY packed bags to my body, I took one last glance into my little apartment completing an incredibly surreal experience. The only thing preventing me from having a tearful breakdown was Rachel’s encouragement to think “I’ll be back someday,” this is “NOT goodbye forever.” Attempting to take her advice, I didn’t even take a last scan of Rue de Rivoli before plummeting myself, and my excessively heavy belongings, deep into the metro.

As I sit here in Gare du Nord watching the departure board frantically flip numbers and letters, tears fall from my face as I realize that my Paris trip that I’d waited so long for is all done, all over. I loved EVERY second of my time in this city and will hopefully always carry a piece of Paris with me everywhere I go…

After a three hour train ride and nap that was abruptly cut short, we arrived in Amsterdam just as the morning rush began. Now when I say rush I should mention that I am not referring to automobiles. Traffic jams in this city equal up to massive amounts of bikes crowding the sidewalks, the streets, the alleys, and ever other crevice of space occupying this city. There are bikes EVERYWHERE! There are big bikes, little bikes, red bikes, yellow bikes, flower bikes, bikes with seats on the front AND the back, bikes with baskets, bikes with horns, and every other bike you can even imagine!

Along with bikes, one of the things that intrigued me the most about Amsterdam is the canals. Canals weave their way between tall, skinny, anything but “cookie-cutter” appearing little houses, while quaint little bridges run over the tops of the canals to allow passer-bys to cross over. There are also paddles of large white swans that swim up and down the canals, giving the city an even more “fairytale like” appearance. Along with bikes and canals, I also didn’t have the slightest clue before arriving just how big Amsterdam actually is! In the 3 days we were here I feel like we only saw a small glimpse of how amazingly intricate, beautiful and full of character this city actually is.

On our first day in Amsterdam we settled in on our boat hostel. Yes, you heard me correctly…a boat hostel! Cool right?! Rach and I jammed all our belongings and our bodies into a room the size of the queen bed back in Paris. Super tiny!!! Good thing Rach and I are comfortable enough with each other, because it was like a game of Twister trying to maneuver around each other to sort our bags, and rest for a moment before heading out for the day.

After chuckling over our hostel on water, we set out to explore Amsterdam. Despite the hostel guy marking big X’s through the areas of town we should avoid, Rachel and I ended up smack dab in the middle of the Red Light District within about 5 minutes. Clueless, frantic to escape, and in complete shock of what we were witnessing, we did everything in our power to haul ass outta there. It didn’t help matters that every street in this city ends with a gracht or straat, and is at least 20 letters long. So confusing!

After finally escaping the rows of red lights, we landed in a charming coffee shop (a real one) that reminded us of our favorite coffee shops in Seattle. Ignited by our ease in speaking English with the locals, we sat comfortably in the café while flipping through fashion magazines, which were dropped in our laps by the adorable kid behind the counter. We spent the rest of our afternoon snapping photos and aimlessly wandering the streets of Amsterdam before settling into bed at 7:45pm…don’t ask.

Our quarters on water…Vita Nova.

Another view of Vita Nova with Amsterdam in the background.

The life.

Amsterdam in all its beauty.

The entrances in this city were impeccable! So gorgeous!

Reinforced my love for the color yellow…


Adorable.

See the swans! Beautiful!

Red Light District…

Dutch shutters.

One of many pancake houses.

The red bike.

Even tie-dye!

3 seats!

L-O-V-E.

Simple beauty.

Just a stunning place.

No sidewalks!

The last of the leaves clinging to the trees.

On Day 43 we woke for breakfast on the boat complete with cheese, cold deli meats, cucumbers, tomatoes, yogurt, museli, a variety of cereals, various juices, and bread for toast including icing and sprinkles for toppings! We lazily ate our breakfast while planning out our day.

I suggested that we head to Amsterdam Central first to attempt to get our train tickets out of Amsterdam all settled. What was supposed to be a “quick trip” to the train station turned into 3 hours of me trying to obtain a ticket that didn’t cost be 200 buckaroos. Destined to save a few bucks by using the internet to purchase my ticket, I ran from the train station, to the library, back to the train station, to the boat hostel, to the train station, and back to the library in my ballet flats all while juggling my purse and camera bag.

Feeling horrible that I had wasted so much of our morning with my train ticket fiasco, I vowed to Rachel that the rest of the day was all hers. We contemplated taking a bike tour, but instead decided to wander around Amsterdam, including a visit to Dam Square, and the Anne Frank Museum. After an incredibly moving and surreal experience in the hiding place of the Frank and Van Pels families, we settled down for a cozy dinner (mushroom soup, a goat cheese Panini, and pancakes soaked in syrup for dessert) quite stunned by what we had just experienced. Having read The Diary of Anne Frank as a young girl, it was quite unimaginable to see such a monumental and gut wrenching piece of history right in front of my very own eyes…

More fries! But these ones are covered in mayonnaise and you eat them with a little fork. So cool and super yummy!

A “coffeshop”.

What one of those “coffeshops” will do to ya!

For whatever reason I couldn’t escape the protests on this trip. This one on our walk around town…we literally had to run to move out of the way of this one. Here’s Rach just steps ahead.

One of my favorite pics of my time in Amsterdam. This was a quiet little corner that I would have missed if I hadn’t stop to take a breath and take in the moment…

I’m obsessed with doors after this trip!

Outdoor seating area at a little bar on a random street corner…so cute.

Another one of my favorites…just quintessential Amsterdam.

The Anne Frank House.

Nighttime in Holland.

Rach as Santa. It was just a tad cold.

A little pub we found for dinner. So yummy.

Rachel’s beer.

My hot chocolate.

The holiday decorations did not help my homesickness. They were everywhere! So pretty : )

On Thursday, our final day in Amsterdam, we set our sights on a full day’s agenda. We started with a trip to the Bloomenmarket – a floating market full of bulbs for every flower you could ever imagine. We gathered little knickknacks to take home as souvenirs, while soaking in all of the bright colors of the tulips (tulips are ingrained in Netherlands culture). After absorbing all the bright colors of the market, we less than gracefully found our way (I’m not kidding you…it is practically impossible to find your way around this place!) to the Museum of Bags and Purses. Okay. Okay. It may not sound like the most intellectually stimulating place on the planet, but this place was AMAZING! It was incredibly interesting to see how the bag/purse has evolved from the early 16th century to now. It also helped that the glitzy little cupcake bag that Carrie Bradshaw carried in the Sex and the City movie was also on display…too cool!

Being a wee bit exhausted from our busy morning, I decided to chill at a coffee shop and attempt to make contact with Adam, while Rachel headed on to the Rembrandt House. One of the things that I have struggled with most during my time in Amsterdam is the sporadic internet service. It doesn’t matter if I’m on the boat, at the library, or in a wifi-connected coffeshop, I have the worst time getting a good connection (hence, why these posts are being published many days behind). Having ten, 30 second conversations with your hubby is quite frustrating I tell you.

Rachel returned to pick me up, and after a quick bite we set off to explore the Van Gogh Museum before dark. Van Gogh is probably my favorite artist in the whole world. I have knockoffs of his beautiful oil paintings all over our home, and I was all too excited to see more of his works of art in person. I almost fell over when I got the chance to see his real Almond Blossom painting (a bright turquoise, ivory and light pink painting that Van Gogh painted in 1890 as a gift to his nephew). Despite my burning desire to snap a picture of the real thing, I was scowled for attempting to take a picture, and had to settle for a postcard from the gift shop before leaving the building : (

After Van Gogh and in search of our last meal in Amsterdam, we gravitated towards some brightly lit Christmas bulbs hanging above the streets, in what appeared to be a swanky area of town. Rachel, having known that I had eaten Indian food on my last night in London and in Paris, suggested that we eat Indian for our last night in Amsterdam as well. It took us only a few minutes to begin nibbling on some delicious servings of chicken curry and spicy chickpea goodness, after finding a little Indian restaurant tucked under a fantastic old building.

As I guided us home in the dark, I felt a pang of sorrow that we didn’t have more time in Amsterdam. It is such a splendidly gorgeous city, and even with our jam packed days, our trip to Holland felt cut short. Nonetheless, I had a total blast and wickedly wild time with Rachel. We ended the night with Dutch cookies in our room, while packing our bags, and all the while toppling over each other in our tiny quarters.

Trying to navigate our way around Amsterdam.

There were the most amazing window displays for the holidays…this one a little bear village…everything moved! So neat!

Dam Square.

Bloomenmarket. Floating on water.

There were so many bulbs!

Wooden tulips.

Cheese!!! The pesto cheese was AMAZING!

Taking a break.

Museum of Bags and Purses.

Even the bathroom had purses! This one behind the toilet in the stall!


Pretty stained glass in the museum.

Adorable chocolates with purses on them!

More hot chocolate…I should seriously become a “hot chocolate spokesperson!”

Pretty light.

Trolley lane.

How I spent my afternoon. Not too shabby I might add.

Colorful roadblock.

The only pic I could snag in the museum…Van Gogh himself.

Bike bells.

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Paris. Day 38. 39. 40. 41.

On Friday, Day 38, I peeled my eyes open to the blinding light peeking between the window curtains, and watched as my Mom gathered the last of her things before heading off for the airport. Sadly, I wrapped up and bagged all of the used linens in my apartment, took the handle of my Mom’s suitcase, strategically opened the apartment door, and guided her towards her RER B train back to CDG. I teared up after I said “did you get one last look?” and noticed that she’d already been crying even before our entry into the metro. As I lifted her bag onto the train’s platform and encouraged her to sit in the direction of travel, I thanked her for coming to Paris. I was so proud of her for taking the time, the energy, the finances, and the mother-daughter bonding opportunity, to come to a place as special as this. I waved one last good-bye through a glistening, blurry eyed state and turned back towards the city to once again turnover the apartment for my next guest.

Rachel arrived just a few hours later just as she always does: grinning from ear to ear, upbeat, and bubbly. After climbing the stairs to my apartment I suggested she place her suitcase in the bedroom corner stating “Hey Rach, there is a ton of room in the corner on the right.” She responded with an immediate “Oh my gosh Jenn. You’ve clearly been here awhile if you think that’s a lot of space!” I cackled at the top of my lungs like a hyena upon realizing that she was totally right! When did 2 square meters become miles of space? Was I transforming into a full fledged Parisian right before my very own eyes?! Oh I wish! Despite the change in space luxury and awareness, this girl will always be an American girl: fast food guilty pleasures, spicy food addictions, blond highlights, bright colored attire, reality show watching, cupcake lovin’, exercise conscious, and J.Crew wearing gal. 50 weeks in Paris wouldn’t change any of that : )

We caught up for what seemed like hours in the apartment before heading out for French onion soup and frites (one thing this trip has surely taught me is that I am one creature of habit!). I giggled, then rolled my eyes, then shifted in my seat, then let out huge sighs of frustration, and finally griped as our waitress at Rendez-vous des Amis (the waitress who has NEVER been friendly to me, and always corrects my pronunciation) took 45 minutes to bring our hot chocolate and cappuccino – instead reading her email, fighting with the cook, and throwing dishes against the sink. I mouthed to the back of her head that if she didn’t have the best French onion soup in town we’d be outta here!

As I watched Rachel soak up her soup, and I inhaled a plate of frites once again, we reminisced about all the things we loved most about Paris. Rachel has been to Paris 3 times before, so she had no intention of seeing the common sights, but instead stated after our meal “show me around your neighborhood.” My neighborhood?!?! Seriously! I actually have a neighborhood in Paris. My Paris?! Yippee I thought as I skipped, and pointed, and showed Rach all of the little corner boutiques, boulangeries, restaurants, and gelatories that I had frequented during my stay.

After a quick change into something a bit more “glam” we headed off to a little bar midway between the Marais and Republique called Andy Wahloo. Promised to be “a postmodern place with eye-popping, tutti-frutti décor and ear splinting music” with an Andy Warhol twist, we sat on bright red Coco-Cola crates layered with Louis-Vuitton seat cushions (Paris, you do it for me every time!) and watched the dressed to perfection Parisians nibble off appetizers, sip on colorful cocktails, and move with a grace only found in the City of Light.

Eager to have a drink, we ordered Kir Royal (a popular French champagne cocktail) with the assumption that they rang in at a whopping 6 Euro price tag. After a fantastically relaxing, music swaying, people watching, yummy food and cocktail tasting time, we requested “l’addition s’il vous plait.” The waitress abruptly returned, credit card machine in hand (one of the things I most frequently notice as being different in bars and restaurants here vs. the U.S.) and handed us the bill. WHAT?!!? 11 Euros each for our Kir Royals?! My brain refused to process the fact that we had ordered 4 of these excessively expensive bubbly concoctions. I frantically asked the waitress in Frenglish why I was purchasing a Ferrari meal on a Honda budget. With no apologies, she said the colored fruit flavoring added to each glass of champagne ran us another 5 Euros. OMG. 8 dollars for food coloring. Perfect. Half snickering, half stiffened from the shock of our bill, we pranced home in our heels still thrilled by our girls’ night out in Paris.

Pretty home address.

One of the many splendid buildings in “my” neighborhood of the Marais.

Beautiful boutiques are plentiful in Paris!

Le Marais.

Rach is here!

There was this adorable boutique that had a bunch of little chalkboards hanging in the window with French phrases (this one “here and elsewhere”)…I just had to snap a shot.

Gelato!

Again, as a result of the extremely dimly lit apartment we slept in til’ 11am on Day 39. After my daily croissant with jam, Swiss like cheese, and turkey, and Rachel’s chicory coffee, yogurt, and muesli, we headed out for a day of market browsing. Once again the Bastille food market had been overtaken by an art expo, but we took advantage and surveyed the available art displays. Eager to duck inside for a bit and escape the drizzles, we hurried around Place de la Bastille towards the antique fair/market/showcase a.k.a. a little slice of heaven.

And ohhhhh was this antique filled afternoon TOTALLY worth it. After being shooed away only once by a stuffy Parisian after I touched her colored tassels strewn in a bowl, we headed to the outside of the market to find antiques that were a bit more affordable and more of our taste. We spent an hour rummaging through pages and boxes of vintage postcards, old sheet music, and magazines before I set my heart on a classic, gorgeous, lime green, black and crisp white, 1936 piece of sheet music titled “le p’tit chien blanc et la dame in noir” (the petite white dog and the lady in black). The sheet not only listed Paris and the 4th arrondissement clear as day at the bottom (a perfect souvenir for my time in this fantastic part of the city) but the illustration reminded me of all the grumpy waiters I had encountered during my time here (minus Bubba of course), and the woman in black I felt symbolized my time here alone.

Contemplating whether I could actually bring myself to spend another 20 Euros on paper, we continued to stroll along the market snapping photos and picking up material goods dating to gosh only knows how many hundreds of years ago. Even after purchasing a souvenir for my husband, a Napoleon coin dating back to the 1800’s as my new “lucky penny,” and another hot chocolate, I couldn’t get that 1936 print out of my mind. The shopaholic deep inside of me didn’t let the fantastically appropriate purchase pass me by. As I waved goodbye to the vendor pleased with her sell, I was delighted to know that I would forever have a piece of Parisian history framed and on a wall in my home. The perfect memory for a day-trip to heaven.

Before dinner, I hummed to the French/American music video station that I watched daily, as Rach and I chatted over wine, diced bananas, and spoonfuls of Nutella. We joked about Rachel’s recent dating horror stories, with me throwing in a story here or there from my own dating nightmares. I love Rachel for the mere fact that she is a free spirit. She’s not afraid to share her fears, or her aspirations with me, or me with her. Being both nurses there is also this ease of body awareness, where a slipped burp, or an upset tummy only results in a burst of laughter and a friendly diagnosis between the two of us.

After running through the list of possible food options for dinner, we settled on croque-monsieurs (surprise!). Pretty sure that everyone at this particular restaurant would think I was a tour guide with the amount of visitors I had brought through their door, Rach and I sat across from one another sipping on wine, gobbling up our sophisticated ham and cheese, and sitting wide eyed after a dashing French man approached our table and said “bon appétit”. After I jokingly encouraged Rachel to shuffle off after him, we once again listed all the reasons we loved Paris so much.

Being that this was most certainly my last night for croque-monsieurs, I thanked my waiter friend Bubba for his hospitability and suggested he someday visit Seattle. He gave that all too familiar grin and laugh and said in his French accent “yes, next I will come to Seattle and you will show me around.” He then gave us two chocolates each vs. the normal one and said “here girls, this is my gift to you!” Too cute Bubba.

Before heading to bed, we stopped in for one final drink of the night at a bar I’d brushed past for weeks. We were offered a table covered in the previous patrons wears, but with immense comic wit the waiter stated “sit here, but of course I will clean off the table because, humph, we aren’t animals here.” Wondering if he was interpreting my “American-ness” for French despise, or if he was genuinely joking, I told him I enjoyed his sense of humor and we ordered our wine. We finished our night with Rachel showing off her dance moves from Bollywood class, as we swayed to the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack that blared from the speakers of the bar.

Place de la Bastille.

Art Expo in Bastille.

Vintage knobs at the antique fair.

A box of silver goodies.

Spices of one of the vendors.

View of the canal from the market. You can see that the market runs on both sides of the canal as marked by the white tents…it was HUGE!

My new Napoleon coin.

Two cute teddies.

Huge antique mirror.

Beautiful book.

Vintage Louis Vuitton trunk…yum.

My new sheet music circa 1936.

On Sunday, Rach and I woke up with wicked wine headaches and nursed ourselves back to a baseline state with coffee, aspirin, and a croissant for me.  Rach left for an afternoon of museum ogling, while I stayed back to do one last load of laundry, contemplate the continuation of my trip after Amsterdam, and to take a lazy stroll along my favorite paths in Paris. It took everything in me not to breakdown and sob, as I avoided the realization that tomorrow was my last day in Paris. I inhaled as much of the culture, weather, fashion, and food as I could (including my very first chocolate noir Éclair) before heading back to the apartment to meet back up with Rach.

My prayers were answered, when the sun came out to play for my last full day in Paris. I started the morning hoping that my rental deposit would return to me safe and sound, and after I quick sweep of the apartment by the guy from My Paris Visit, my massively large deposit was returned…thank gosh! After completing check out, I headed outside to wander my neighborhood one last time in the light of day. With the sun shining and the presence of speckled blue sky that I hadn’t seen for days, I cheerfully, yet remorsefully, purchased my last baguette and chomped on it as I walked along the cobblestone sidewalks. With my camera as my constant memory sustainer, I captured the last pictures of all the things I had fallen so in love with during my time here: rooftops that outlined the sky, intricately designed door knobs and entrances, store front windows with Parisian treasures, and the seasons changing. Each corner I crossed reminded me of a moment that I spent either alone, or with a family member, or with a friend, and each moment brought a little pang of sadness but also an overall sense of nostalgia for this time in Paris.

I’ve been in Paris long enough to watch all of the leaves disappear from the trees!

Paris is full of random little parks tucked between rows of buildings, and all with perfectly situated benches. This one if particular I was able to enjoy my baguette and absorb some sunlight.

Stacked cafe chairs.

I want one of these elegant doors at my house!

Worn in.

Lime green gate with peach colored rust.

One of the many alleyways intertwining the city.

Gorgeous cherry red.

Shutters, shutters, everywhere!

My love.

Paper boutique.

The Seine in the afternoon

A view of Notre Dame over St. Louise Island.

Books along the Seine.

The backside of Hotel de Ville. Down the street from my apartment.

A view of Rue des Archives, just a few doors down from the apartment.

A view of Notre Dame from the street I go to buy groceries on.

Le Marais.

At 2pm Rach and I met each other back at the apartment so we take our last afternoon to explore Montmartre together. Again, being one of my most favorite areas of Paris, I was all too excited to spend my last evening in the area. We visited Café du Moulin a little café featured in the movie Amelie. It was super cute seeing Rachel so excited about being in the restaurant as Amelie is one of her most favorite movies. We were so fortunate to get a decent photo of the two of us taken by our sweet waiter vs. a half crooked self portrait an arm’s length away.

After another yummy bowl of French onion soup we headed up the hill to grab a tart and do a little shopping. To my utter dismay we realized that one store after another was closed; gate pulled down, lights off, no patrons. Oh no! After asking around we found out that because Montmartre is open on Sundays, they use Monday as their day off…boo!

Despite my disappointment around missing out on another one of those yummy tiny little tarts, and not seeing Montmartre one last time fully alive, we headed towards the Sacre-Coeur even stopping in a few adorable jewelry shops along the way to pick up souvenirs. I once again experienced the thrill of showing off Montmartre…too much fun!!!

After a bit of a shady experience on the metro (a few girls began following us, eyeing our purses and pushing up against us) we headed back towards the center of Paris to spend our last night in the city. Eager to catch one last glimpse of Paris at night, we headed towards the area of St-Germain des Pres to go to a café once frequented by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. It was surreal sitting in the dimly lit ambience of the café while sipping my hot chocolate and imagining the presence of such influential classic figures here so long before my arrival.

We continued on in search of a spot from dinner, but abruptly and quite eagerly bolted across the street, and then over a bridge of the Seine after I suggested we catch one last glimpse of the Louvre. Seeing the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre in one fell swoop from Jardin des Tuileries was the perfect ending to my time in Paris. While waiting for Rachel to snap some shots of the glistening triangle in front of the Louvre, I took a moment to breathe in the crisp night air and take a mental snapshot of the moment.

Not a moment later, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure that Rachel was still safely behind me, and noticed a figure standing next to her. As I quickly trotted towards her I noticed that she was speaking to the male figure.  Completely ignoring the guy, I shoved myself between him and Rach to catch a glimpse of her face to see if she was alarmed, frightened, relieved by my presence, or totally ok. Seeing a half ok expression I allowed him to introduce himself to me with his French accent and a handshake. “Nour” stated that he had been waiting for a friend at the Louvre but had been stood up.

After some small talk about our travels and his mention that he often does home exchange (something Rach and I found super fascinating), we allowed him to convince us to have dinner with him. I actually knew I didn’t mind the guy when we saw a Frenchie sprinting across the front of the Louvre and I asked “what do you call that type of dog?” He replied “Bulldog Francais.” How awesome is that?!??!

Still quite cautious, yet enticed by his ability to speak fluent English, we prodded him with a million questions about Paris and the French, as we followed him into the metro and toward Gare de l’Est. We had agreed to Indian food (completely bizarre as that was also my last meal in London before leaving) and caught the 7 train towards the 5th arrondissement.

Over spicy legumes and naan fromage (YUMMY!), our conversation rambled on for hours; we discussed family backgrounds, friends, current/past relationships, the healthcare and governmental systems of our respective countries, our language levels, and multiple philosophies on life and everything in between. It was a blast to laugh out loud with a full fledged Parisian, and I left our evening with Nour wondering why I couldn’t have met the guy 5 weeks earlier. Could have been fluent in French by now!

Montmartre all shutdown.

Cafe des Deux Moulins. Home to the movie Amelie.

Rach and I.

One of my favorite things to do when exploring Paris is to catch the reflections of the buildings off of windows, mirrors, etc. So beautiful!

Colorful cafe.

Rach capturing a pic of the Eiffel Tower from the hill that is Montmartre.

After weeks of attempting to live up to Mo’s quick photography lesson before my departure, I was able to do something I’ve never done before with these two pics…can you see the difference?! I was pretty proud : )

A massive bubble against the dusk sky.

Montmartre at night.


Back in the city.

The tower from Jardin des Tuileries.

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Paris in Detail

A very dear friend of mine once told me: “love is in the details.” I thought I had known what she meant at the time, but it wasn’t until this fairytale trip to Paris that I truly understood what it could really mean.

Paris is one of those magical places where every little piece that makes up its whole is utterly fantastic. From a worn Parisian chair, to the gargoyles that line the cathedrals, to lampposts decorated with leaves and vines, to the cheese that oozes over those oh so tasty croque-monsieurs, Paris is all about the details.

I wanted to take a moment to share some of the pics that I will forever hold close to my heart. These pictures of Paris are a timeless representation of the uniqueness, charm, and whimsical personality that makes up this city that I love oh so much. Enjoy.

34 photographs  for 34 days in Paris from top to bottom: 1. Perfection in a cup: a floral shaped layer of chocolate with warm milk to pour on top 2. A chair many times loved. If I could lug this thing home I would in a heartbeat 3. The Euro 4. Locks of undying love along the Seine 5. Cobblestone 6. Apple red shutters in Le Marais 7. Les velos 8. Worn in signage 9. Place of residence 10. The door to open a home 11. Chipped fence around Square du Temple 12. Random cafe stairs 13. Perfectly worn French shutters 14. The street I called “home” during my time in Paris 15. A secret courtyard 16. A fancy menu 17. Light peeking through an intricate door 18. Wall art 19. An adorned window at Jim Morrison’s former residence 20. A decorated lamp-post 21. The wood beams lining my teeny tiny home away from home 22. A sweet treat off the street 23. A personal obsession 24. A front entrance flooring that always greeted me so warmly 25. A storefront bench tattered by rainfall 26. No parking 27. A stonewall in Montmartre 28. Door handle 29. Years of use 30. Sacre-Coeur 31. Ornate craftsmanship 32. Language 33. Lonely gate 34. The tower.

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Paris. Day 36. 37.

Fall in Paris is hard to describe. It is no different from home in that the leaves fall from the trees in vibrant colors of yellow, red, orange, and speckled green; the wind blows with a chill that makes you grab a pair of gloves, a hat and a scarf on your way out the door; you are forced to put those oh so cute sandals that you wore all summer away to hibernate for the upcoming winter; you reach for a warm cup of Joe rather than a refreshing cold beverage to quench your thirst; the smell of a wood burning fireplace lingers in your nostrils; holiday decorations begin to peek their heads out of their 10 month slumber; and there is a quite hush that takes over the city in the blustery evenings. But (actually a HUGE but), there is just something different about Paris.

Maybe it’s the way those ornate terraces catch the shadows of the overcast fall sky when the sun peeks through for that split moment. Or how the lights flicker along the Seine and those monstrous monuments when the sun lays down to rest along the horizon. Or how the cobblestone streets become even more vibrant and lustrous when they contrast against the bright leaves piled on top of them…

All I know is that there is a serene darkness that is cast over this city in the fall weeks that I cannot quite describe. It’s not a darkness in one of those creepy Edgar Allan Poe sorts of ways, but rather a darkness with a warmth that seems familiar, comfortable, even calming. You just feel, hmm. At peace. It is a peace so relevant that I well up with tears when I take a moment to stand still and listen to the sounds of the leaves whoosh in the wind, or the footsteps of the Parisians bustling around me, or the French language as it glides off the tongue, or the toots and beep, beeps from the cars as they swerve around pedestrians who cross in their path. Fall in Paris has most certainly and quite quickly become my favorite season of all.

Lucky enough for me this year, this fall, in this moment in my lifetime, I get a chance to spend over a month in Paris during the onset of fall. As I sit here in this full of commotion Starbucks (of all places…really?!) listening to the holiday sounds of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, and Tony Bennett while writing, and waiting for Rachel to arrive, I watch passers-by out the window, and I am over run with emotion. Tears cling to the edges of my lower eyelids, as I take a moment to once again reflect on the magnitude of the past 5 weeks. It is hard to describe what a moment you’ve waited your whole life for feels like. It is overwhelming. It is joyous. It is eccentric. It is bewildering. It is precious.

Never in my life will I EVER regret this moment. I will forever be grateful for all those who supported me in getting here, and I will forever remember the strength that overtook me to take this leap of faith. Thank you Paris…

And now for the post…

On Wednesday the sun broke long enough for my Mom and I to take a stroll along the winding paths at the base of La Tour Eiffel. We gawked over the last of the leaves as they desperately clung to their branches before falling to their final resting place. We sat in stillness with our necks kinked awkwardly and upwards, just long enough to catch the tip top of the tower before the clouds swirling around it gobbled it up once more. We caught an hour long boat ride along the Seine, floating by centuries of history that had once captivated the minds and hearts of so many before us. We clung to our coats with gloved hands, and braced the crisp, chilly wind while we stood on the outer deck, outside the comforts of the warm boat to catch an even more perfect view of all that passed us by. I clicked my camera feverishly not wanting to miss a single passing tree, or wake, or speck of history.

After our boat ride, we continued on, sipping a chocolate chaud and café while waiting for the metro to whisk us towards the opera house off Place d’l Opera. After explaining to my Mom a few days prior, that the Palais Garnier opera house was in fact home to the mythological Phantom of the Opera it became a “must see” on her list of sights. As we stood in awe of the gold trim and sea green domes of Palais Garnier, we caught the lights of the Galeries Lafayette that I had visited a week earlier. Eager to show my Mom the massive shopping haven, we headed inside and up the 6 floor escalator towards the top. Upon noticing that the rooftop deck that had been closed on my last visit was now open, we continued up the final staircase hoping to catch a glimpse of the spectacular city view that had been promised in all the guide books.

Spectacular does not even come close to describing a view such as this…it was literally breath-taking, so much so that we were silenced (not something that happens too often for two gals like us!). Miles and miles of lights, shadows, and rooftops filled my senses as we gazed out over Paris.

Not wanting to miss a thing, I climbed atop the edge of the massive building (much to my Mom’s disliking) hoping to catch a peek of the Sacre-Coeur on its hilltop. Yep.There it was. Paris was all there: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, the Arc de Triomphe…the list goes on. I had never seen anything like this. EVER. We stood in shock as we watched the sun set and both agreed that this view was one of the most amazing things either of us had ever had the opportunity to witness. I still have chills and total goosies just thinking about it!

We ended the day with a discounted trip (on Wednesday nights the museum stays open til’ 9:45pm and offers a few Euros off the normal ticket price) to the Louvre. The Louvre is another one of those places in Paris that just seems to come alive in the night. Everything is more vibrant; more dashing; more daring; more impressive. As we climbed the massive staircases, lifted our eyes towards the intricately painted ceilings, stood in complete awe of the “older than dirt” (literally) sculptures and artwork, and crossed the marble floors, my brain once again became overwhelmed by the immensity of something as well know, and historical such as this. What a day it was…

A perfect fall day in Paris.

The view during our boat ride along the Seine. Can you see the rainbow?

Check out that relection off the boat window. J’adore.

Mom trying to listen to the boat commentary while avoiding the soaking wet seats.

The back alley’s of St-Germain des Pres.

Paris by afternoon…ahhhh.

Palais Garnier.

One of the many gorgeous views from the top of Galleries Lafayette at dusk.

The moon and the opera house.

The City of Light.

Me and the Eiffel Tower!

Can you say tourist?

The Louvre.

The Arc du Carrousel looking onto the Louvre.

Mona.

Venus de Milo.

Just shadows in the dark.

Lace and pearls of stone. Magnificant.

On Thursday we woke with plans to spend the day at Versailles (Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette’s masterpiece of living – a 30 minute RER train outside of Paris), but immediately became disgruntled when we noticed the massive sized raindrops falling from the dark sky. Umbrellas in hand, we dug our heels in and made our way towards the golden gates of Chateau de Versailles.

After beginning the audio guided tour throughout the chateau, I abruptly became confused by the hideousness of what I saw. In the midst of the most beautifully elaborate drapings, chairs, armoires, clocks, chandeliers, and beddings there was uber modern art. Ick. No. Double ick. Ok, no. Triple ick! It was awful! And downright frustrating! I mean, are you kidding me?! 16.50 Euro and I have to stare at a hideous piece of Asian Pokémon art while trying to imagine a room dating back from the 17th century in its original condition?! No way! And never mind the fact that half of the paintings and room décor mentioned in the audio guide have been removed to make room for the retched exposition…what a sham! Oh, and by the way…I refused to take a single picture of the colorful and horrible juxtaposition just to prove a point! Blah!

Trying to make the best of the situation, we gazed past the eyesores, and imagined ourselves in the presence of the royal family from so many centuries ago. After the chateau, we attacked the high winds, and dodged puddles, just long enough to check out the impeccable gardens of Versailles before the rain came down on us once again.

On our train ride back to Paris towards the Eiffel Tower, I contemplated what was to come after my return home from this trip and whether I was even quite ready for my homecoming. Undoubtedly homesick, feverishly exhausted from the same rotating wardrobe, and quite empty pocketed, I swooned over the conversation of the twenty something’s behind me. They spoke of their most recent travels, once again making me restless and anxious to visit more, more, and more. As I watched my Mom gaze out the rain dripping windows, I made every attempt to keep from drifting off into travel dreamland. Did I have it in me to continue on for a few more countries? Could I manage lugging my 50 pound pack and all of my gathered souvenirs along with me for another week or so? Oh boy, oh boy…only time will tell…

The front gates of Versailles.

Louis’ chapel.

One of the many works of ceiling art.

I immediately became obsessed with the chandeliers in this place! So many different ones!

The hall of mirrors.

A HUGE painting (spanned the entire room’s left wall) of Napoleon crowing his Josephine. We learned that Napoleon’s mother refused to be present for the crowning, so he later had her painted into the picture!

The Gardens of Versailles.

Mom.

Our last meal together in Paris. Ironically it was a Mexican tapas place…we were craving guacamole and enchiladas!

Mom’s final glimpses of the Eiffel Tower. Perfect night.

Raindrops on my lens.

Puddle reflection.

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Paris. Day 34. 35.

It’s quite interesting to ponder what a full day’s agenda, a visit overseas with a Mom you don’t get to see but a few times a year, a “must have got up on the wrong side of the bed” Mother Nature, a crappy pair of boots (Steve Madden I officially despise you), and an ever expanding waistline will do to a girl. I am exhausted. No joke! Pooped in ways I haven’t felt, well, maybe ever. My brain is fried. And not in one of those “oh so yummy!” crab wonton sorts of ways, but in one of those charred, coal black hot dog sorts of ways…burnt to a crisp.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This utter exhaustion is damn well worth it! I mean come on! I’m in Paris with my Mom for crying out loud. But as a result, my ability to adequately, and efficiently (in my mind) capture the immensity of the last couple of days has been quite the struggle. I’ve sat down 6 times to write this particular post, and each time have reached the point of wondering why I started this blog in the first place. Was it to reflect? Was it to remember? Was it to prevent sheer boredom, or heart wrenching homesickness? Not quite sure. Either way, I continue to write on, but this time I let my photos and the days agenda speak a bit more for themselves…

Day 34 Agenda:

  1. Stay dry – this is no small feat I might add.
  2. Master the art of juggling: 1 purse, 1 metro pass, 1 camera bag, 1 camera and lens cap, 1 dollar store umbrella, a flaky buttery croissant, a currency that uses way too many coins, 32 used Kleenex’s, 1 scarf, another new hat, 1 guide book, 1 French phrase book, a metro map, and 1 Mom.
  3. Centre Pompidou and the crazy Musee National d’Art Moderne with its bright yellow, blue, green and red encasing.
  4. Frites (French fries) at a minimum of 2 out of my 5 meals. Period.
  5. Avoid looking anything like a tourist. Harder said than done with a camera hanging around your neck.
  6. A yummy lunch – failed. Ended up with a half dressed baguette and a “vegetable” soup that looked more like its split pea cousin.
  7. Arc De Triomphe.
  8. Chant “rain, rain, go away, come again another day” until it actually takes effect.
  9. Avoid crying happy tears when eating the most magnificent chocolate pistachio croissant you could ever imagine possible.
  10. French macaroons of every color at Laduree.
  11. Maneuver the incredibly slippery sidewalks of the Champs Elysees without taking a digger.
  12. Ignore the ice cubes I have for toes.
  13. The Eiffel Tower before AND after dark.
  14. Mass at Notre Dame.
  15. Cheesy croque-monsieurs from a waiter named Bubba.
  16. Gelato (I mean Gelat-ie as pronounced by Mom).
  17. Avoid crying sad tears after the realization that today marks the beginning of the last week in Paris.

Musee National d’Art Moderne is super unique in that all the structures insides are on the outside: the offices, the stairs, the plumbing (green), the climate control (blue), the electrical stuff (yellow) and the circulation stuff (red).

Napoleon’s generals on the Arc.

A neon pink raspberry macaroon outside of Laduree’s: The House of Macaroons.

A little dose of heaven.

A wave home.

Peering through a window.

Ummm. Can I live here please?

Sparkling.

Notre Dame in the night. Quasimodo where are you?

Day 35 Agenda:

  1. Wake up before 11am – we failed. This apartment tends to literally suck the life out of you.
  2. Souvenir for Dad.
  3. Montmartre.
  4. Use umbrellas 60.7% less than yesterday.
  5. Hike to the dome of the Sacre-Coeur. 300 steps in all.
  6. Finally purchase those fantastically adorable kitchen accessories I’ve been eyeing for days.
  7. A restful lunch for Mom and I. Even if it falls an hour short of the standard two hour French lunch duration.
  8. Be inspired.
  9. Replace that fantastic blueberry colored dress that I cant’ afford back on the hanger at BHV for the 15th time.
  10. Find a restroom every 41 minutes for Mom.
  11. At least 3 windmill sightings including the Moulin Rouge all lit up.
  12. Sample. Sample. And sample some more. Mission accomplished: 2 vegetable egg roles, almond and cinnamon biscuits, pecan and white chocolate raspberry tarts, a ganache looking brownie, a pizza tasting baguette, dark chocolate covered “olives”, a pain au chocolate, a veggie covered jambon et fromage baguette, French fries dunked in ketchup, and hot chocolates in Place du Tertre.
  13. Avoid brining up anything that scarred me in my childhood to the woman who was responsible…totally joking Mom ; )
  14. The Sacre-Coeur glowing by night.
  15. Meet a Doxen named Eloise, and a Frenchie named Amee.
  16. Coerce my camera into doing some justice of the 360 degree view from the sky high dome of the basilica.
  17. Do not run out of Kleenex before returning home.
  18. Fabric, button, and ribbon shopping on the streets of “craft heaven” in Montmartre.
  19. Eggplant parmesan and too much bread in St. Michele.
  20. Send out postcards that I’ve had in my apartment for 16+ days….ooops, failed again.
  21. Complete today’s blog post before 3am.

Mom in front of our first windmill sighting of the day : )

French tarts in every flavor…yummy!

Adorable lights in the patisserie.

L-O-V-E.

Ridiculous…right?! I mean you just don’t see this at home!

In front of La Maison Rose. This fantastic bright pink restuarant that Adam and I had a romantic dinner at during our honeymoon. Nevermind that we first hiked the hills of Montmartre for over an hour searching for this gem.

Beautiful art in Montmartre.

Steps of rue Foyatier behind the Sacre-Coeur. 234 steps.

On the climb to the top of the Sacre-Coeur.

The City of Lights from the dome.

Sortie = Exit.

The beginning of the 300 stairs down the Sacre-Coeur back to the street.

Our view of Place de Tertre during lunch.

Oh how I love Montmartre.

The colors on Day 35 were STUNNING.

There is a 4 block radius in Montmartre where they sell every color, pattern, and shape of buttons, fabric and ribbon. A crafter’s dream!

Need a zipper?

My dream office. A little nook in Shakespeare and Co.

History in a bookstore.

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Paris. Day 31. 32. 33.

Ever since I was little I’d always imagined being able to go to some far off place with my Mom and spend some time seeing things both unfamiliar and enchanting. For years, we’d talked about taking a trip together, and every time I’d travel away from home, I’d have a pang of guilt wishing she could come along for the ride. My Mom has always expressed a desire to travel, but unselfishly spent her time and money on her family or other more “responsible” ventures. I’d originally asked her to come to Paris with me when I first contemplated this trip, and was pleasantly surprised when she actually answered “yeah, I’ll come along!” Unfortunately for me and fortunately for her, she obtained a new job right before my trip and had felt that her travel plans were dashed. After a few conversations with a new boss, my Dad, me, and some friends and family who told her she was down right crazy not to come along with me, she bought her ticket. And voila! Here she is!

I prepped for her arrival on Day 31 with a bit of juggling: lugging dirty linens to the apartment services and lugging clean linens home; finally replacing light bulbs that had been burnt out since the day I arrived; plopping fresh roses into recycled spaghetti sauce jars I’d collected in the apartment; gathering dust that lingered behind this and that with a sweep of a teeny broom, and combing the mess on top of my head (can’t let Mom know I’m getting lazy right?!).

I headed to the airport knowing that I’d prepared myself well (flight information in hand, a previous conversation mapping out where we would meet, as well as a second meeting spot if we didn’t find each other at the first, and a full awareness of which route to take to get to Charles de Gaulle airport). Naively thinking we’d find each other “no problem” I was abruptly overrun by sheer panic as the train approached the airport, and I realized I’d forgotten just how large CDG actually was. After a quick rendition of  “eeny meeny miny mo” I jumped onto the platform of the 1st and 3rd terminals and glanced around. Realizing that nothing even remotely resembled an airport at all, I immediately returned to the train and headed for terminal 2.

I stared at the arrival boards for what felt like hours, seeing nothing that equaled up to a Continental Airlines flight from Frankfurt…perfect. As I watched suitcases go to and fro, and passengers rush frantically around me, I took a big deep breath and headed for the shuttle train to take me back towards terminal 1…again. As I waited for the shuttle, I saw a flash of color that I recognized: olive green. As my eyes followed the color of the sweater up to the face of the person wearing it, I had to blink a few times before realizing that it was none other than my Mom! There she was, on the shuttle, heading in the opposite direction as me…phew! I breathed a big sigh of relief as we hugged, appreciating the pure luck of running smack into each other.

I settled my Mom into her first night in Paris with some super duper yummy French onion soup from a local restaurant called “Rendez vous des Amis” and some frites with ketchup. I felt goose bumps as I sat across from my Mom and watched her peer out of the window of the restaurant onto the street. I could see in her eyes how excited she was to be here, and I couldn’t wait to show her all over the city. I tried to impress her with my not even close to fluent in anyway phrases of French as I spoke with the waiter, and shared all the details I’d learned of Paris thus far. After our bowls of soup we headed out into the pleasantly warm weather and caught a glimpse of Notre Dame, the Seine and the top of the Eiffel Tower before dark. Mapping out the rest of the week’s agenda (such a Mom thing to do) before bed, I knew we had a full schedule ahead of us.

Ma mere catching a glimpse of the Seine.

The Seine in the night.

On our way out on Day 32 I threw an umbrella in my bag “just in case,” knowing that rain was scheduled for the rest of the week. It wasn’t long, before I realized that rain was DEFINITELY in the forecast. Not an hour into our morning we were soaked through and through. I referred to my feet as raisins (wrinkled and purple from the wet and cold) for the rest of the day, as we wandered for hours in the surroundings of my neighborhood. We hit up the Bastille market, the Marche aux Enfants Rouges market, Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise (no, I am not obsessed with cemeteries, but this place is just that awesomely gorgeous), Victor Hugo’s maison, and adorable shops filled with antique clocks, kitchen gadgets and adorable little tea sets along Rue Saint Antoine.

After purchasing another umbrella, and getting lost for the 300th time, I became a bit agitated and snappy (not a good combination when I’m supposed to be showing someone around town – sorry Mom). Realizing it must be time to regroup and dry off a bit, I decided to lead us in the direction of my favorite café: Café Panis with its perfect view of Notre Dame. I’d taken Kate and Dinah there the week before and had even gotten to know the waiter Matthew by first name. As I excitedly told my Mom all about how fabulous and adorable their hot chocolate was, my eyes almost fell out of my head. As I peered across the street and into the window of Café Panis I was in total shock. The place had been gutted. No tables, no waiters in black and white, no French menus, no clouds of smoke, nothing. The place was empty and CLOSED. Feeling as if I’d been punched in the gut, I squished around in my soaking wet ballet flats, and cursed the heavens. No adorable hot chocolate!!! Quel dommage!!!

Trying to not let it ruffle my feathers too much, I put on a smile and dragged our tired rears to another café behind Notre Dame. We were greeted by an incredibly rude waiter, but warmed by the hot chocolate and frites that we were provided (I’m beginning to see a pattern here with these French fries….). We laughed under the awning at our grumpy waiter, and watched the rain trickle down on the green, yellow and red fall leaves in Square Jean XXIII. After a quick dry off back at the apartment, we finished our day with pizza, wine, and gelato, before prepping for the next day of sights.

Market flowers…pretty : )

The Cimetieres du Monde (Cemetery’s of the World) Exposition at Pere Lachaise was quite stunning in the dark light of the overcast sky.

Pere Lachaise in the rain.

Square Jean XXIII behind Cathedral de Notre Dame de Paris.

Purple pansies gazing up at Notre Dame.

Day 33 was MUSEUM DAY! Lucky enough for us, it was the first Sunday of the month and all throughout Paris the museums were free!  And what a perfect day for the museums it was! Day 33 was cloudy, overcast, windy, wet, and freezing. We set an ambitious goal of visiting: Musee d’Orsay, Musee de l’Orangerie, Musee National d’Art Moderne in the Centre Pompidou, and finishing off with a quick glance of the Louvre. We arrived at our first destination (Musee d’Orsay, a large and massively beautiful museum in a former train station with the most beautiful clocks on both the outside and inside of its walls) and were immediately greeted with loads of rain, a flood of umbrellas, and a line that went on forever. We made small talk with a German dude in line, until we finally headed into the warmness of the museum. Totally bummed that it was a “no picture day” I pouted as we surveyed the amazing paintings in their golden frames.

After more French onion soup for lunch, we made our way through Jardin des Tullieries towards Musee de l’Orangerie. I laughed hysterically at my Mom as she tried to maneuver my camera while snapping a few pictures of me. My Mom is classic for taking those: hand in the way of the lens, foreheads cut off, crooked, lopsided, half of the people included in the photo types of pictures. I congratulated her on her “artsy” photography as we took pics here and there before making it to our second museum stop. As we stood in line for the Musee de l’Orangerie, we were able to see Place de Concorde (remember the scene in Devil Wears Prada where Anne Hathaway throws her cell phone into the fountain before heading home from Paris?? That’s Place de Concorde) and the Eiffel Tower across the Seine. I snapped my Mom’s very first shot with the Eiffel Tower, which immediately became another one those pinch yourself types of moments.

After sitting in silence with Monet’s water lilies and realizing that it was already 4pm in the afternoon, we quickly hopped back on the metro towards the modern museum. While scanning my guide book I remembered that the Marche des Fleurs turned into a bird market on Sundays. Figuring a bird market was a “must see” we made a detour, both excited to see what it was all about. We were greeted by rows and rows of colorful, squawking birds, and ornate bird cages. We shopped for Christmas ornaments in the little shops tucked in between the bird vendors, while breathing in the wintery smells of Christmas that oozed from the shops. We then chomped down on warm crepes after finally deciding that the day was done, and we were a bit too late (and tired), for another museum sighting. We headed home feeling exhausted and fried from all the visual stimulation, but feeling accomplished in the many hours we had spent filling our brains with art history.

The leaves of Jardin des Tuileries.

Me in the Jardin du Carrousel. Quite impressive photography by my Mom I might add!

The line of umbrella’s at Musee d’Orsay.

The only pic I was brave enough to snag at Musee d’Orsay. The beautiful clock in the entrance of what used to be a train station.

Raindrops at lunch.

Our frizzy rain hair : )

A view of Musee d’Orsay to the right and Notre Dame in the distance.

What I call “artsy” Mom photography.

Mom’s first pic with the Eiffel Tower, as seen from Place de la Concorde.

Monet’s waterlilies in Musee de l’Orangerie.

Place de la Concorde.

Birdies at the bird market that takes place at Marche aux Fleurs (the flower market – and oldest market of any kind in Paris) on Sundays.

Birdie food.

A “banane et Nutella” crepe to wrap up the day.

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