Sainte-Chapelle, Jardins du Trocadéro and A Goodbye- Paris, France

A paradise of color, an ecstasy of diffused light all encased in a gothic masterpiece over 750 years old- that is the marvel of Sainte-Chapelle.

I’m getting ahead of myself though, because the day actually started at another church, Notre-Dame. The plan had been to wake up early enough to make it there before the crowds descended but we woke up rather late and by the time we had taken the metro line down, there was a line that snaked from the entrance over a bridge and then possibly even further beyond. It was honestly the longest line for an attraction/point of interest I had ever seen and though we weren’t exactly pressed for time, neither the bf or I really felt that it would be worth the wait when there were so many other places to see. We also really doubted this would be our last visit to Paris so, we trundled off a bit chagrined sure, but not with too heavy a heart.

The next destination on that days list was Sainte-Chapelle, a church the bf had picked out and I knew absolutely nothing about( this would be key later) and luckily it was situated only a short walk away from Notre-Dame. We were a bit smarter here and the bf managed to buy us skip the line tickets and we were inside and through security in less than 10 minutes.

We stayed on the first floor of the chapel for a while, because again I hadn’t researched ahead and didn’t know what there was to see here. But then I noticed off to the side, people going up a very narrow dimly lit staircase almost hidden into the wall. We figured why not go check it out?

It’s unspeakable hard to put into words what it was like stepping into that room and having absolutely no idea what you were going to find. Think of it almost like getting a crowbar upside the head- I think my heart actually paused it’s rhythm for a few seconds while my eyes tried to take it all in.

A stained glass gothic marvel is a good one sentence descriptor probably.

I think overall, from start to finish, we probably spent an hour here and we might have stayed just a little bit longer but then a tour group came up the stairs and we knew it was time to head back out into the busy streets of Paris and onto our next stop.

And where was our next stop? Why the Eiffel Tower of course. Well, lunch at a nice little bistro tucked into the street just near by first though.

A picture perfect way to say goodbye to Paris wouldn’t you say?

After spending about 2 hours in the area- sitting on the lawn directly in front of the Eiffel Tower and then leisurely making our way across the street to the overlook provided by the Trocadero square gardens, we took one last metro ride to catch sight of the famous Arc de Triomphe – it’s up to you personally if you would like to go up to the overlook it provides but we really weren’t enthused by the idea of waiting in the underground line when we’d already gotten some pretty amazing views already. Plenty of other people had the same idea we had too, and we even helped a couple take a nice photograph of themselves with it in the background from across the street.

After this, with the weather turning a bit gloomy and potentially rainy, we headed back to our hotel and the promise of ice cream and relaxation before we had to begin repacking everything for the next day’s journey back home. It was an easy and relaxed day to end our whirlwind European adventure and later as we lay in bed eating French chocolates and thumbing through all the postcards and souvenirs we’d picked up, it was incredibly hard to believe we’d actually been to all these incredible places. (It was also very hard to accept we had to go back home to Dallas- which for all its charms can’t honestly compare, at least to us.)

We know we’ll back though- actually we’ve already bought tickets for our next trip in December! There is a lot that’s happened since I began posting about this trip- both because I began back in April and also because of my severe wanderlust that’s only been fueled more these past few months. I usually do an outtakes post at the end of a long series like this one but I think I may skip it this once in favor of a short updates post in the coming week.

Either way a sincere and happy thanks to everyone who’s been reading from the start, popping in here and there and those that just recently joined. This is my very small and personal way to share my love of photography and exploration with people (and hopefully inspire them to explore themselves) and it’s genuinely nice to have a place to come to and recount my stories.

Not drowning in my coffee cups yet,

~ m

To the Louvre Once More- Paris, France

I visited the Louvre for the first time in 2017 last October, and it was at the tail end of a whirl wind two week first time trip ever to Europe. It was a dream come true and I have yet to go to a museum that could surpass it but, there was definetly still a lot to be seen . People asked, “Did you see the Mona Lisa?” to which I would reply no, and i’m quite alright not seeing it that up close and person with 200+ people thank you. The idea that there are greater works of art of be appreciated here was, is and will probably always remain my steadfast opinion.

After a trip that had included a visit to Michelangelo’s David, not to mention the almost countless other works of art housed in the museums and palaces we had visited, there was almost a bit of trepidation that morning that we woke up to head to the Louvre. I was excited to get a chance to see the whole other section of the museum I had missed last time, namely the Egyptian and Mesopotamian artifacts but I was worried the bf might suffer a bit of art fatigue within the first hour.

Thankfully, this proved to not be the case and it was actually me who ended up sitting down just shortly after taking a walk through the newest department at the Louvre, the department of Islamic Art. After a short break to rest my slightly weary feet though, I was up and happily exploring and learning about the beautiful Islamic art, mosaics and artifacts curated in this section. It actually turned out to be one of the highlights of the visit.

I think in total we spent about 6 hours here, and once again I still feel there is so much left to be seen and marveled over and while I don’t think i’ll be back again anything soon (as in, next year or so) I do very much want to come back, possibly when my French is much better.

We headed back to our hotel to rest up- trust me when is say spending the day walking around a gigantic gorgeous museum and just trying to absorb everything around you can really take it out of you- and relaxed out until night had fallen. At that point, we got our walking clothes out and headed back to the Louvre to catch the illuminated pyramids and enjoy a short evening walk around the area. Off in the distance, before we headed back, we caught sight of the Eiffel Tower illuminated as well and we were almost tempted to take the metro there but, in the end, the fact that a light drizzle had started decided us against it and our very tired feet were happy to head back to rest for the next days adventures.

~m

OutTakes- EuroTrip Edition (Includes video clips, for once!)

This post was meant to be done about a month ago- or at the very least not right after i’ve come back from my latest travel adventure (I went to Italy but obviously thats for another set of posts) but life has a funny way of kicking plans straight to the curb and here we are: back home, still unpacking and finishing up the last set of posts. And truth time- while I was more than happy to just quietly move on to writing about this last trip and forget about my customary Outtakes post, a couple of friends and readers have been insistent about it so, here we go. (Porcsha, this ones for you.)

For those that have followed this blog for a while, I’m sure you’re used to my “Outtakes” post by now but for any new readers, here’s we go-

I’m a horribly procrastination prone writer/blogger and I like to travel. Those two things tend to intersect badly when I’m trying to post about recent travels while also trying to plan upcoming trips and it’s the reason why sometimes I forget to talk about the hotels I stayed at or the tours I took. And so, we get outtakes posts with photographs I forgot to include in other posts as well as the side stories and misadventures I got up to that didn’t fit that well in the general posts I was writing. Like I say to friends when I arrive at their homes or crash land into their lives – hope you enjoy the meds!

Dallas —> Edinburgh 

I did actually manage to cover this part of the trip pretty extensively and accurately- sharing how I lost one of my credit cards on the flight from Paris that first day (because of course I did). On the plus side I must have looked so stressed and tired on this part of the trip that the counter agent for that flight waved the weight overage fee on my checked bag, so I guess you win some and lose some (sometimes literally). 

The hotel I stayed at was the Best Western Braid Hills and I had a couple of reasons to pick it. First, the reviews on it were some of the best in the area and that’s pretty important to me when I’m traveling somewhere I’ve never been before by myself. My friend Rob who I met up with there berated me a bit (gently) as it’s located outside the city center but in general I tend to pick the quieter places where I can come back and unwind. Also I ended up choosing Edinburgh as my first stop almost in a whim, because at first I had been planning of visiting London instead and so by the time I started trying to book a room, pickings were getting slim. I definetly don’t regret staying at this hotel though, and though I plan to come back to Edinburgh in the future with my bf and probably stay in the city center, I’d still recommend this hotel for anyone looking for some relaxation with their stay and great views.

Like I said, this part of the trip was pretty faithfully covered in my original posts but here’s a video clip from the day trip my friend Rob and I took up to Loch Lomond (this would be after we mutually agreed it would be best for him to continue the hike on his own as I was probably gonna die if I tried to complete it with him and I headed back down to the lake )

(This goes without saying but I’m not sponsored by any of the hotels, restaurants, tour companies or anything else I mention in this post- it would be hella sweet if I was but that’s just not the case currently)

Post From this Part of the Trip :  My visit to the Scottish National Gallery
My visit to The National Museum of Scotland
My visit to Loch Lomond and the Last Night in Edinburgh

Edinburg –> Amsterdam 

How to start writing about this part of the trip…. Don’t choose connecting flights that have less than 3 hours of a layover in Dublin because going through customs there is like getting popped in the face by a giant time stealer? That’s probably good advice. Anyways, long story short, I missed my connecting flight to Amsterdam, ended up having to go through some odd airport backrooms to get back to the right side and get my luggage and then had to buy another ticket. Thankfully it wasn’t pricy and finally I made it to my hotel and though I had meant to maybe walk around that evening and explore a little the reality is I shot off an email to a friend I hadn’t talked to in almost a year who lives in the city, ordered delivery and then promptly crashed.

I stayed at the Quentin England Hotel, mainly because of the location which is right by all the museums I wanted to see and just a couple of blocks away from the Vondelpark which just seemed like a good idea.  Amsterdam is a pretty walkable city (at least as long as you don’t fear getting run over by the overwhelming multitude of bike riders) and I don’t know that there’s a “bad” place to stay, so at least to me it’s relative to what you’d like to visit and i’d definetly stay in the area again- though perhaps not at this hotel because my room ended up actually being in the -1 floor which was unexpected.

My first day here I made my way to Dam Square where I was meeting up with the group that would be doing the historical walking tour I had signed up for. I had never done one of these before but it was genuinely fun and I even met a cool girl to walk around with afterwards. During our lunch I got an answer back from the friend who I had emailed the day before letting me know he would be available to meet up either that day or the next- honestly I was a bit shocked he had even responded given how crappy of a friend I had been lately but we made plans to meet up the next day as I had plans to spend as much time as possible at the Rijksmuseum (I made two posts on this visit and could easily have done 3 more.)

The next day was a jam packed adventure- I woke up early to make it to the Van Gogh museum, then walked to the Albert Cuyp Market to meet up with Elsa before she headed off to Geneva and then took a break in the form of getting lost on my way back to the hotel to drop off my bounty of accidentally acquired souvenirs before meeting up with my friend Dennis that afternoon for a good couple of hours. He took me to an excellent music shop where I made a couple of purchases, namely this Toto greatest hits CD which I think he’s still befuddled by to this day. But really, it was such a good deal, I love Toto and the look on his face when he realized I was seriously gonna buy it was priceless.

Post From this Part of the Trip: 

First Day in Amsterdam
Rijksmuseum pt 1
Rijksmuseum Pt 2
Last Day in Amsterdam

Amsterdam –> Munich 

The longest part of the trip, the time I spent in Germany with my good friend, Bavarian native (and fantastic human being all around), Julia. I made the 8 hour journey from Amsterdam to Munich via train and while it wasn’t always comfy or easy, it was still an experience worth having if only so I know what to do the next time. So technically my first day in Germany was spent traveling to Munich, navigating the train-station with Julia, being stuck in rushhour traffic for a bit before she took me on a picturesque side road to get to her apartment (she lives outside of Munich thankfully, in a charming smaller town and I have never been so tempted to want to switch lives with someone then when we drove into it). 

My second day in Germany was actually not spent in Germany. Julia and I had agreed on doing a day trip to Salzburg since I had picked up a travel guide book to Bavaria that listed it as a possible day trip option and when am I ever not swayed by suggestions in guidebooks? It was honestly the highlight of the trip since it was the day we were blessed with perfect weather, bountiful energy and a beautiful city full of winding streets, beautiful churches and grand squares to explore.

We ended that day by her driving us out of Salzburg and then to find one of her favorite churches in Ramsau which we made it to right as the sun was setting and it was a perfect end to the day. On the drive home we got a bit turned around and ended up having to bust out the google maps to find the way but we were still laughing and happy by the time we stumbled up the stairs to her apartment and after a small dinner and fresh fruit we dropped off to sleep so we could wake up relatively early for the next days adventure.

A day exploring Neues Schloss Herrenchiemsee and then crossing the lake by ferry to wander on the Fraueninsel and take a look at the Benedictine abbey of Frauenwörth. The day ended with us driving in after dusk to her hometown of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and us stopping in at a Burger King to grab a quick dinner. The experience was surreal for us both but the fries were hot, crispy and delicious.  Afterwards, Julia dropping me off at the Biohotel Garmischer Hof (I booked it last minute but would definetly recommend if staying in the area).

The next day involved waking up somewhat early, checking out of the hotel since I had only booked it for one night (and booking another one for that next night as our plans changed a bit) and then taking a Julia guided tour around Garmisch-Partenkirchen before heading on our way towards Neuschwanstein Castle. I covered this extensively it’s own post but we ended up skipping the tour of Neuschwanstein and instead hopped on over to the town of Füssen to grab lunch and some Schneeball. We finished up the day at a Linderhof Palace and then drove back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen so she could introduce me to her bunnies (and her family to off course).

My final day in Germany involved heading over to her family’s house again to see her bunnie’s (Tinki, the white one, looked like she wanted to prove she wasn’t scared of strangers and would fight me- I love her) after which we grabbed a quick breakfast at a local cafe and then headed off to the town of Mittenwald. It was rainy but the colorful town was incredibly beautiful and charming nonetheless and by the time we made it back to her apartment and I started packing, I knew I would want to be back to explore more of what this region of Germany had to offer. (And of course it doesn’t hurt that Julia gifted me a fantastic book full of beautiful photos of the region as a welcoming present, or that her family put together a parting gift for me that included a little cow because of course their daughter made friends with a weird American girl who loves cows).

That last night was meant to be a quiet and relaxing one and Julia and I both needed to go to sleep early so she could help me catch my early train the next morning but, unexpectedly, I got a call from work. I mentioned in my Loch Lomond post that I had been dealing with stress from waiting to hear back for a job I interviewed for just a couple of days before I left on the trip, and I had resigned myself at this point that I hadn’t gotten it, as they had said they would be contacting candidates the next week (which would have been when I was still in Amsterdam).  So there I was, 9pm Germany time trying to go to sleep by listening to soothing music in Julias living room and thinking about my Paris plans when my phone starts to go off and I just stare at it because who could be calling me from Texas right now? Turns out, I got the job and even though I was still on vacation and would be till the following week, they would be retroactively bumping up my pay-grade from that last Sunday if I accepted the job offer. I accepted happily, told a sleepy Julia what had happened and decided to stress less about all the money I had been spending on souvenirs.

Post From this Part of the Trip: 

Salzburg, Austria pt1
Salzburg, Austria pt2 (the Churches post)
Salzburg, Austria (Finalpost)
Ramsau , Germany
Herrenchiemsee, Germany
Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany
Neuschwanstien, Germany
Fussen, Germany
Schloss Linderhof, Germany
Mittenwald, Germany (Last Post)

Munich –> Paris 

By the time I got to Paris, I was somewhat tired. Just kidding I was mother-frikin exhausted and ready to ooze onto the hotel bed. But I only had 2 full days left, so I found some extra energy reserves, called it an early the night the day I made it there and woke up the next day bright and early so I could go meet up with the tour that would take me to Versailles. I stayed at the Hotel Minerve, located in the Latin quarter in the 5th district of Paris and about 10 minutes walking distance from Notre Dame on the recommendation from Rachid for the area and because the reviews were pretty great. I don’t think i’d stay there again as the rooms where a bit cramped but, the view from my small balcony was pretty excellent and I did actually love the neighborhood a lot.

So about the tour to Versailles. I had signed up for a tour through Viator because 1. I didn’t really want to deal with getting to Versailles by myself either through the metro or by cab and 2. there was a tour that provided skip the line tickets without being an actual guided tour- they just gave you a map and audio guide and set you loose for the next 8 hours. Perfect for me. It’s operated by the PARISCityVISION Agency and they actually run a whole bunch of tours all over Paris and the surrounding area, plus their office is located just blocks from the Louvre so its super easy to find. If you’re looking to take a tour, i’d definetly recommend them.

I finished up that first day in Paris by meeting up with my friend Rachid and us taking a really wonderful night walk over some bridges and unexpected to the exterior area of Louvre which was open to us to walk through. It was a surreal experience for both of us in the best way and by the time I made it back to my hotel that night it was almost 11 but even though my feet ached I still fell asleep feeling happy and just a teensy bit enamored by the city.

I took it easy the last day of the trip, spending pretty much the whole morning repacking my mess of souvenirs and clothes and everything so that I would hopefully not end up having to pay a weight overage charge (I succeeded!) and finding a little present Julia had slipped into my backpack when I wasn’t looking apparently. I then spent the rest of the late morning and afternoon at the Louvre and I didn’t even see a third of it, which was honestly kinda fantastic. Rachid and I met up outside by Pyramid entrance and we went off to see Sacré Cœur and a beautiful sunset there was the perfect goodbye to the city.

The next morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4am to get ready and head off to CDG and headed home, determined to come back to Europe again soon (though after a lot of rest.)

Post From this Part of the Trip: 
Versailles, Pt1
Versailles Pt 2
Musée du Louvre pt 1
Musée du Louvre pt 2
Sacré Cœur (last post)

Misc: 

(Cappuccinos in Germany and inside Versailles- also cappuccinos were had in literally every other country I went to, hence the video below )

So thats it, finally. There so many other stories, anecdotes, videos and photos I haven’t shared here but at least you can trust I shared the best ones, the good stuff if you will. I’m working on possibly doing a whole video edit of clips from all the videos I took on this trip but 1. still need to find the perfect music for it and 2. the whole point of this post is what a horrible procrastinator I am so obviously it will be about a year before that gets put together probably. I had an absolute blast on this trip though, and hopefully if you’ve been following this adventure or even if you just read this one post, you had some fun reading it as well.

Will post sometime in the next week (no, really I will!) about this most recent trip I took to Italy and all the sundry adventures therein.

Not drowning in my coffee cups yet,
~m

A Sunset at Sacré Cœur – Paris, France

After finishing up my visit to the Louvre with a quick trip to the gift shop to grab some postcards for friends and coworkers, I headed outside to meet up with my friend Rachid and embark on the last adventure of the trip. Being a resident Parisian, he offered me two choices for the evenings activities- we could either take the métro to the Eiffel Tower or we could go to Sacré-Cœur, another lesser known although still famous landmark. Having never been to Paris before, I was tempted to pick the Eiffel Tour choice, but then I thought, “Ok, you never do things as expected so why start now?”, besides which, I thought it would be good motivation to come back, and bring my bf with me so we could see the Eiffel Tower together. Also, why not visit yet another church?

Choice made, we set out on a walk through the Jardin des Tuileries to find the nearest métro station.

A short while later found us looking up at the tallest hill in all of Paris, Montmartre- at the top of which was my chosen destination. Given I had just spent the day walking around a very immense museum and hadn’t stopped to grab lunch in between, this was probably not the best idea but, onward and up we went. The climb was a bit of a huff and puff for me, though of course Rachid did it easily and I could only side eye him with a bit of probably not so well concealed fitness envy. It was at least a fun climb as it was made with a friend and if I had been alone I might have just plonked myself down at the bottom and enjoyed the crisp weather instead.

The view when we finally made it to the top though, that was worth the climb a hundred times over.

We didn’t attempt to go inside the basilica as the crowds were rather large and tour group after tour group seemed to be lining up already, but I made a mental note to come back for this as well in a later trip. What we did instead was take a walk in the neighborhood behind the church, which Rachid stated was one of this most favorite areas in all of Paris. After turning the corner onto the cobblestone charmingly crooked streets, I could easily see why it had captured a spot in his heart and it grabbed a corner of mine as well.

The smell of good food wafted to us in the cool breeze, artists painted portraits and landscapes on almost every street and beautiful houses and shops lined up one after another on the winding streets and I feel like if I had been less tired (and feeling the impending stress of the next day’s journey back home) I would have liked to have stayed here well into the night.

Eventually though, the fading light from the sunset brought us back to Sacré-Cœur and I took the chance to take a couple of photographs of it’s exterior during a moment when the crowds lessened a little.

While I would never advise someone who’s never been to Paris to not take the chance to see the Eiffel Tour, for me at least, choosing instead to pick another landmark as my last visit of the trip, it was well worth it and a choice I don’t regret at all. Yes the climb is steep (though I’m pretty sure there’s a cable car type deal you can take up as well) and you couldn’t quite call this a hidden gem given the number of tour groups I saw and the accompanying souvenir hawkers posted everywhere, but. Just one full minute of gazing out at Paris laid out in front of you and everything else just fades into the background.

By the time got down the hill and had made our way to yet another métro station, I was ready to call it a day. It was still relatively early and a Friday night to boot, but I had some last minute packing to do, not to mention I had to be up tat 4am the next morning to catch my shuttle to CDG airport. And so, my last night in Paris concluded with a fiercely tight hug to Rachid and about a dozen thanks for having made the city feel that much more fun and lovely and wishes that we would get the chance to meet again soon.

Upstairs in my hotel room, I opened the balcony windows and let the noise of the city float over to me on the cool breeze and while I felt bone achingly tired and ready to head home finally, there was a part of me that would have been happy to stay another night, another week even. That’s the magic of Paris though, that even when your heart longs for home and the familiar, there’s a part of you that’s captured by the city and won’t ever be let go of.

~ m

This is my last full post about my 2017 EuroTrip adventures but my at this point tradition “outtakes post” is still coming up later in the week and in it I’ll talk about where all hotels I stayed at, give some tips about traveling in multiple countries throughout Europe and also give mention to my upcoming travel plans. Thank you for everyone that stuck with me and read along even when it seemed like procrastination was gonna make it a year before I finished!

The Musée du Louvre, pt 2- Paris, France

A continuation of my previous post, photos from my visit to the Louvre.

I know I usually write words upon words for my posts but the thing is, not to cop out or anything, it’s just that words really don’t do this museum justice and even my photos can’t quite touch on how magical it was to get to explore this building all the treasures it holds.

In total I spent around 5 hours here, just walking from hall to hall, and the further I got from the main central exhibition area the less people I saw, until I was sitting down somewhere reading an info placard and realized I hadn’t seen anyone at all in the last 20 minutes, unless you counted the museum attendants. Eventually though, I had to start making my way back to the main area as the time was approaching when I would be due to meet up with Rachid for whatever that evenings adventures would hold.

Of course I got a little sidetracked when I passed a section with Mesopotamian artifacts, because I mean come on,  how could I resist? And then of course I pass through what I think is the loveliest section in the whole museum, where it’s just sculpture after sculpture and you can’t help but lean in closer to catch all the details carved into the stone.

Eventually though, I got a msg from Rachid saying he was on his way so I knew I had to tear myself away from it all if I wanted to have time to hit up the gift shop (you know I had to). 

I exited the museum with a head and heart almost to bursting with all the beauty I had seen and a slightly lighter wallet, breathing in fresh air and getting hit right in the gut with the realization that I would be leaving Paris the next day and I wouldn’t be able to come back to this museum any time soon. But I shook that feeling off, promising myself I would come back as soon as I got the next chance and went off to find Rachid amid the crowds outside the Louvre and then finish up the day with a visit to the Sacré-Cœur basilica.

~m