French Inspiration

Marian Parsonsa slice of life, Artistic Endeavors, sketches102 Comments

Last week, I shared that I was heading to France and Italy in September.  In fact, it’s just under two weeks away now and I am positively giddy about it.  I find it hard to even focus on the things I need to work on now, because my mind keeps drifting to my upcoming trip and how much I want to soak it all in.  Instead of fighting the daydreaming, I’ve been allowing it in moderation and I will even admit to feeding it with books and Instagram feeds.  So, I thought I would share some of the inspiration I’ve found as well as some more details about my preparations and plans for the trip.

We will be spending the bulk of our time in Italy, but that is the “work” (if it can seriously even be called that) portion of the trip and we’re a part of a group retreat, so it is pretty much all planned out.  The Paris part of the trip, though, is on our own, so I needed to do some planning and research, so we had some sort of a game plan to fill our three days there.

Originally, I declared I didn’t want to plan anything, because I just wanted to sit in a cafe or take walks by the river.  I just want to enjoy being there without feeling like I have to fit a million things into each day.  I was finally coaxed into making some plans, so we are going to go to a flea market, take a tour on a river boat, and visit the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay.  I also have a few shops pinpointed to visit, including a 100 year old art supply shop – Sennelier.

I bought tickets for the Louvre and then found out that the impressionist paintings I really want to see are in a separate museum, so we’ll go there as well.  I know we could spend days in the Louvre and probably a full day in the Musee D’Orsay, but we’re going to limit the time and just see the highlights.


I found a couple of great books on the museums in the bargain section at Barnes & Noble, so I could review some of the paintings and works ahead of time.  I’m also excited to do some studies and copies of some of these master works.  That class is coming up in my online art course later this year, so I can start preparing for it by seeing some of these works in person.

Other than the scenery, art, and antiques, I am very excited about the food!  European food – Italian, French, German, etc. is completely my taste.  I am looking forward to eating at different cafes and restaurants and milling through markets to pick up a fresh mid-day snack.  I was so excited about it, that I decided to buy a couple of French cookbooks last week.  At this point, I’m just reading through them, but I plan to bookmark some recipes to make when I get back from the trip.

I love this book so far, The Cook’s Atelier

And look at them wearing linen dresses…

I actually follow this family on Instagram, but I didn’t know their story until I bought the book.  It’s very inspiring!  They dreamed of starting a culinary school in France, so they did!


Of course, I also got Mastering the Art of French Cooking, because it’s a classic…

Maybe I’ll do some recipe reviews in the future.

We’re going to a cookout on Sunday and I immediately offered to bring dessert, so I could try making a tart.  Anyway, you’ll hear a lot about food during and after my trip.

Another big component of this trip is taking time for art and gathering creative inspiration.  I shared these books that I’ve been reading to get ready for for art/travel journaling and I had to offer a mini review on one specifically.  The Artist’s Sketchbook is fantastic for just this sort of thing.  If you want to get into art journaling and sketching to practice and improve your art, this book is for you.  It has lots of great information and exercises and showcases sketchbooks in a variety of styles and mediums.  I’ve been eating this book up.


And it’s encouraged me to practice, so I’m warmed up for my trip.  Well, not only for that, but to really utilize my sketchbooks as a tool to improve my oil paintings.

I get a little overwhelmed when I’m sketching an entire scene, but I hope to do that while in France and Italy, so I’ve been practicing with pictures from books or ones I’ve taken over the years.

I’m trying to do them quickly, in under 10 minutes, so I will be able to sketch on the spot when time is limited and the light and scenery are changing.

It’s definitely going to take lots of practice!  It’s a challenge to draw/paint things quickly, but accurately.

I’m also exploring color combinations in my palette and recording them for later reference.

 A few people asked I could share which paints I’m bringing, so here they are…

I made two of my own palettes (using professional watercolors in tubes, put into empty pans affixed to vintage tins.)  This vintage Faber Castell watercolor tin is my favorite.  I make a color card and “laminate” it in clear packing tape.

The palette, in case you don’t understand my abbreviations is – Cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow, new gamboge, yellow ochre, alizarin crimson permanent, cadmium red, quinacridone gold, quinacridone rose, sepia, burnt sienna, viridian (which I always misspell), chromium oxide, cobalt teal, cerulean blue, cobalt, ultramarine blue, indigo, and payne’s gray.  I’ve been using a more limited color palette when painting with oil, but I have more time to fuss with color mixtures.  It’s nice to have more options for quick sketching, so I don’t have to take the time to mix quite as much.

I did want to bring some gouache as well, which is opaque watercolor, so I made a small palette in a nail tin that is about the size of an Altoid tin.  I’m just bringing indigo, viridian, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, cadmium yellow, alizarin crimson, and zinc white.

Gouache is better right out of the tube, because it cracks and can get powdery when left in a pan like this, but for traveling, this works much better.

I do plan to carry my art supplies around with me, so I am bringing a small backpack.  I purchased this one a few months ago and it’s perfect for this trip…

Not only is it cute, but the size and functionality of the bag are just right.  I can fit my art supplies, a water bottle, an umbrella, and my phone, wallet, etc. and I’ll also bring a light cloth bag for purchases.

As far as functionality, the design makes it a little bit time consuming to get in an out of, which is good to ward off pick-pockets.  To get inside the bag, you have to get past a leather drawstring…

…and a buckle…

…and there is even a deep zippered pocket on the back of the backpack for valuables.  And, just so I leave nothing to chance, I’m also bringing a slim neck wallet, so I’ll split up my cards and cash in case something does happen.

I hate that I even have to think of that sort of thing, but I have done enough traveling in cities to know that you have to be smart about how you carry your valuables.

Oh, and thanks for all of the tips and suggestions on my packing post.  You have talked me into bringing a little less along with me and I’m sure I’ll be thanking you for that.

And lastly, there are tons I could share, but here are a couple of my favorite feeds for French inspiration…





Now, I need to start looking for some good Italian feeds to follow.  Any suggestions?

French Inspiration

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102 Comments on “French Inspiration”

  1. Monet’s Garden at Giverny ( Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny – ) is not too far from Paris and so worth the trip. I visited it in late September and it was beautiful. Monet’s Giverny home is delightful as well. I think you would enjoy the visit.

  2. Hi, Marian,
    I am so happy for you that you get to make this trip! Takes me back to the one trip I made (so far) “across the pond”, to Scotland. Walked everywhere, many streets were cobblestone, the countryside and architecture was beautiful, interesting sights, sounds, people, and food. Snapped what seemed like a gazillion photos, and still didn’t take enough! I kept my cash, passport, etc. in a small “neck wallet”, and in a shirt with a kangaroo pocket that I always kept one hand in. Have you thought about wearing your backpack as a “front pack”?
    Will be praying for safe travels for you, your mom, and the group.

    1. We had cobblestone streets when we live in Germany and I sort of miss them (although they were terrible for roller skates and bikes!) I haven’t been to Scotland, but I’d love to go one day.

      Yes, I will turn my pack to the front when we’re on the metro or in any crowded situation.

  3. Your art has been so inspiring to me! Would you consider doing a post about how you practice color mixing? I’ve read some about it, but I’m struggling. I love to look at your cards and would like to learn the how and why of your color combination practice.

    1. agreed!
      how and why?
      do you have to make sure those tins lie flat or else they’ll spill? or do they just dry out and you add water when painting?
      can’t wait to see your travel art! you have a gift!!

      1. I leave the tins open for a few days after I fill them and allow the paint to dry out. Since both are watercolors, they turn back into liquid paint once water is added to them. That’s one reason why they travel so well!

    2. I certainly can, but honestly there are so many true art teachers who would tell you better than I could! I will share some of what I’ve learned, though, along with some of my favorite color mixings and reference books.

    1. We will see it on our river tour, but may take a little jaunt over there on as well. I don’t think we’re too far from it.

    1. That’s what I would’ve done, honestly! I already bought the Louvre tickets, though, so we’ll go in and just see the highlights. We’ll leave a bigger chunk of time for Musee D’Orsay, though!

  4. Ten years ago, I went to Italy, twice. I used Suzy Gersham’s Born to Shop books (unfortunately she passed away soon afterwards). One of my favorite places was The Mall, outside of Florence. I bought beautiful leather goods, Gucci, for such affordable prices (Gucci suitcase, $90). This is REAL merchandise, not knockoffs. Europeans only buy a few items a season, the rest go here. If you get a chance, check it out. You will love the Uffizi Museum in Florence. The Botticellis will make you cry. Have fun!

    1. I am hoping to buy something leather in Italy! I love real leather goods. I will be with my retreat group, so I’m not sure where we’re going, yet, but I’m sure some shopping will be included!

  5. One more thing, in Florence, I was caught in a group of businessmen, one of whom tried to pickpocket me. My uncle, a retired cop, lost his backpack to a group of thieves on the Metro (he set it down). Yes, this is real, but violence is extremely small.

    1. Yeah, it’s so unfortunate, but I know it happens! My grandpa’s wallet was stolen in Moscow and I got into a tug of war over my bag with a young woman. Thankfully, it was around my neck and shoulder, so I won that battle! I have learned to be very mindful of that sort of thing, but I know it can still happen even with careful planning.

  6. Hi,
    Don’t go to the Louvre unless you have just a few things you really want to see. It’s overwhelming and easy to spend all day and still not know what you saw. Go to St. Chapelle. The stained glass is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. So many things and so little time! Soak it up!

    1. It is overwhelming! There is no way I’ll even see a teeny tiny fraction of all of the beautiful things there are to see, but I’m hoping I’ll get to soak in enough and then plan a longer trip down the road.

      1. I loved loved the Louvre. I had been wanting to go since Jr. High and actually being there felt like the fulfillment of a dream. I believe the Orsay houses Whistles Mother which is really fun to see in person.

  7. HI Marion! France is my favorite place on the planet and have been fortunate enough to go a fair amount. I just went this summer and miss it already. Since you are going to Paris, I’d suggest you watch a great little show on Amazon Prime called “Alice in Paris”. They are super short episodes – literally like 2 minutes long. She highlights really unusual and interesting places to eat and shop. I think you’d really enjoy it – its really sweet. Have an awesome time! Its an incredible country! Bon voyage!

    1. I was actually contemplating that show last night, so I’ll check it out! I was telling Jeff that I already want to plan another trip and I haven’t even been there, yet! 🙂

  8. I suggest @eminchilli ; @romewise ; @girlinflorence and @theflorentine. You are going to love it all!

    1. Wonderful! I’m following them all now. Thank you for taking the time to compile that list. 🙂

  9. oh Yes the Sennelier shop is a must see, so stuffed with supplies and the Tight staircase, amazing to think Picasso shopped there. I highly recommend the Bus Tour ticket for a day ( or more), it will take you to all the Big attractions and share history and allow you to hop off and get on all day at any of their stops. I too did watercolor sketches – oh the cafes, oh the architecture, oh the patisseries oh the shops – I could go on and on You’ll have a blast.

    1. Awesome! I didn’t know about the bus tour, so I’ll check that out. So, you can just go to where you want? It’s not a scheduled thing?

  10. Hi Marian!
    I’m happy for you for your upcoming trip! Wish I could stow away in your suitcase! Here are a few instagram pages for you to peruse: (note they are not only France and Italy, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy the others, too…you’ll be able to see my bucket list destinations lol) @kardinalmelon @liejanneke @emmebi420 @cavotagoomykonos @canavesoia @rocabellasantorini Have a wonderful trip! Kathy

  11. Hi Marian – I’m so glad you discovered The Cook’s Atelier. I took a day-long class with Marjorie and Kendall last year in Beaune. It really was wonderful and in many ways changed the way I cook and entertain. Paris is magical for art lovers, but you must plan or risk spending too much time in line. I agree with the commenter who recommended Saint Chapelle. It is like a jewel box . Giverny will take too much time but you can see Monet’s Water Lilies a true the Orangerie in Paris in a gallery built for them. Get a Rick Steve’s book to navigate Paris and be sure to have hot chocolate at Angelina’s on Rue de Rivoli. We never miss that stop.

    1. Great information, thanks! I would love to take a class at Cooks Atelier now, so I’ll have to plan a longer trip next time I go to France. Yes, we have purchased Museum tickets and we’re getting river tour tickets as well, so I *think* we have all of the line stuff taken care of, hopefully!

  12. Have you ever come across the art work of Edward Lear? He’s mostly known to us as the writer of nonsense poems like “The Owl and the Pussycat” but he was known in his lifetime for his painting and drawing and spent large portions of his life roaming Europe and the Middle East, painting what he saw. I’m enjoying reading a new biography about him called “Mr. Lear: A Life or Art and Nonsense” and the descriptions of his tramping through wild and unknown places with his art supplies in hand make me think you would find him interesting!

    1. I have heard the name, but haven’t studied his work and I don’t know much about him, so I’ll have to look into it! Thanks for the suggestion.

  13. Hi Marian,

    I love love love your new leather backpack and have been looking for something similar. May I ask where you got it?

    1. Christine, the label in the backpack says “What Daisy Did”. It appears to be a British company and their Facebook page indicates they may be closing. Anyway, just Google “What Daisy Did” to find links.

      1. Yes, exactly. I bought it from a local store in Rochester, MN, but when I looked them up online, it did appear that they were closing. It’s too bad, because their stuff is very well made and it wasn’t crazy expensive.

  14. Hello Marian,
    I have been following your blog from France for years enjoying your creativity.
    Having lived 14 years in Paris , I agree with you on your determination to visit Sennelier , you will enjoy the place as much as the products . Since you are there would advise a visit to Notre Dame and La Conciergerie , the prison where Louis XVI and the royal family were imprisonned during the Revolution.
    If you have time walk up le faubourg Saint Michel to Le Jardin du
    Luxembourg , so many historic places await you .
    Lastly, if you look for authentic French recipes check on internet , there is an English version . For us French people it is a must , and 100% french .
    Enjoy your stay in Paris et bienvenue en France . Carole R.

    1. Oh, wonderful! Thank you for all of the information. I had looked at a couple of those places, so it’s nice to know they are worth the time. Time is going to be short there, so we have to be choosy! Thanks for the website tip, too!

  15. One last thing , if you haven’t seen it before , take the time to watch Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain before you leave for Paris . So french !

  16. I’m excited about your trip, too! You are so clever in to create miniature paint palettes. They are works of art in themselves. Your backpack is nice – very stylish.

    You might want to reconsider stowing your phone, wallet or anything of value in the backpack, because it might attract pickpockets. My boyfriend wore a backpack in Italy a few months ago. Thieves stole laptop out of it while he wore it! He didn’t realize it was missing till later.

    One alternative for carrying passports $$$ and other valuables is to use one or more SPI belts. I have the larger size and use it constantly. I’m sure there are lots of other products, too.

    1. Good to know! Wow, a laptop right out of the bag!! Brazen. I am bringing the neck wallet, so I can use that for anything I can’t live without.

  17. I so agree with Orsee, St. Chapelle, and Monet’s home & gardens. These were my absolute favorite places, along with Versailles. I would still do the must see items in the Louvre- you can do all this and more in your 3 days along with the other things you have planned. Hi you’re lucky you might see a recital in St, Chapelle, it is the most beautiful chapel with astonishing stained glass.

      1. Sainte Chapelle is exquisite! A must see. Doesn’t take much time. The bottom floor was where the “middle class” worshipped & the upstairs was for the “upper class.” Amazing! Sounds like you’re going on the Bateaux Mouche river boat which is great if you leave during daylight and return as the lights are turning on in the city. Perfect for photos and/or sketching. The Marais is fun for artist’s shops and cafes. Oh, you are going to fall in love with Paris!! Florence is just as wonderful in a different way. Bon Voyage!

  18. I just read Paris Letters and a Paris Year by Janice MacLeod~~you would LOVE it because the author is an artist and does watercolors of everything Paris. Both books are filled with little out of the way places only a resident would find….plus they are great reads before or during your trip.

    Safe travels~~cannot wait to see all the ideas you bring back!

    P.S. I did a blog post on both these books if you are interested in reading it ( for Paris

    1. First off, you have a beautiful blog! Wow! Thank you for sharing it. Second, the books look amazing. I just bought A Paris Year after she suggested a pen and ink shop in the Amazon preview. I will have to go there to get some dip pens! I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

  19. Try to stop by a Monoprix (there are many) it’s kind of the French Target. Pick up some French yogurt. It’s the best and comes in such cute little jars and pots. They have cute linens and cheap French soaps for gifts. Also try the Vanue Flea Market if you are there on a Sunday. You can find pop up brocantes in many public squares on the weekend. They are the best! Be prepared for heat too. I have found September to be very hot in Paris. If you have time a food tour is a great treat. We did Paris By Mouth and loved it! One more tip: when changing money try several moneychangers to get the best rate. We found out the hard way one had a huge difference in the exchange rate.

  20. Marian, have you read David Liebovitz’ blog and found his Instagram? He has lots of good info about Parisian flea markets/brocantes, and also luscious food photos and tips about little markets around Paris, where he lives.

  21. Get some carabiner locks for your back pack! You can unlock very quickly, but pick pockets cannot! Pick pockets are everywhere in Paris! Be mindful.

    I will never forget seeing the Mona Lisa. I started crying. But the biggest painting I have ever seen ‘The Coronation of Napoleon’. It is 20 FEET by 32 FEET is also memorable. Also the Louvre has the Nike winged Victory sculpture and sculptures by Michelangelo called ‘The Slaves’. Let me repeat, you are going to be seeing ORIGINAL MICHELANGELO sculptures. They’re just out in a hall. Unbelievable.

    Don’t over plan. Let those little moments come to you!

  22. You are going to have a fantastic trip. Sounds like you have the security problems under control, but let me add a few tips. My good leather messenger bag was sliced right through the strap while at Heathrow . Very luckily i felt it fall and grabbed it. At first I thought it just broke, but then noticed it was cleanly cut. Scary to think someone was that close to me with a sharp knife. Anyways, bought a leather backpack snd carried it up front like you have mentioned. You probably allready know this one too, but keep a copy of your id and passport at home, just in case. My friend was attacked in Paris recently and went to the US embassy to get help. Having another copy that was able to be faxed to the Embassy sped things along. Have a great time , I know you will.

  23. Headed to Barnes and Nonle,with some gift cards that were just collecting dust!
    Enjoying so much the turn that your art is taking the MMS blog!
    Travelling with you in spirit!

  24. Dear Marian,

    Well, I predict this is just the start of your addiction with your love affair of European travel! Once bitten, there will be no turning back. I myself, got bit about 12 yrs. ago with my 1st. cooking school to Tuscany and then the following year to France. Once I experienced France (the Provence area) I knew I had to visit yearly. I was so obsessed with anything French that I started my own tour business call JACKDAW JOURNEYS, LLC. We organize getaways for novice travelers to Provence. Through JACKDAW JOURNEYS, LLC. our guest realize their travel dreams can become a reality. So, twice yearly I travel to Provence with a small group of guest (6-10) to really explore the back roads of Provence. I wish you the best trip and can’t wait to hear all about your experiences.

    Dee Poquette

  25. My late very talented sister-in-law always said that there was one good recipe in each cookbook. Well I see that you have the art of French cooking. In that book there is a recipe for spiralized zucchini and cheese or something like that. I used to make it and use my food processor as the shredder. In Italy if you go into a little
    a little sidewalk food emporium and you just want a taste or little bit you ask for an “un etto.” Well in a years time I un ettoed myself up twenty five pounds. lol
    Have a wonderful time!!!!!

  26. For Paris, be sure to buy a museum pass in advance! You’ll be able to waltz past all the LONG lines of tourists and walk right in! That was the best advice we had for our entire trip.

  27. I have a friend who belongs to a cookbook book club. Members choose recipes from the chosen cookbook to prepare and share, a bit like a well-planned and adventurous pot luck! That might be a fun way to explore French cooking.
    I have not been to Paris in many years, but what I loved best was the dinner boat cruise on the Seine. Happy Trails!

  28. If you have time, go see Monet’s huge canvases from Givernay at the l’Orangerie by Place de la Concord. I was a Paris tour guide for the USO and this is my favorite art museum. Love the Louve and Orsay, but the story of Monet’s long journey to exhibit his masterpieces and the incredible canvases themselves just make it a true experience. Rue Royal is close by and is home to the original Laduree, of French macaroon fame. Have a ball!

  29. I am so envious! We are hoping to go to London and Paris in the fall of ’19, so I will be making note of all these great suggestions, and will be curious to read of your experience. Not that you have time to read it before you go, but your Julia Child cookbook reminded me of reading her autobiography “My Life in France”. I so enjoyed it, and I don’t even like to cook. I also enjoyed “As Always, Julia”, which is the correspondence between her and her Avis DeVoto, her American pen pal, and the person who was instrumental in getting “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” published. What a fascinating person Julia was!

  30. I was in Florence last fall and the options for buying leather goods are unbelievable! Leave plenty of space in your luggage, I wish I would have been able to fit more! For Paris, in May my daughter and I stayed at a Paris Perfect rental (fabulous, by the way) and they have an Instagram @Parisperfectrentals where, daily they walk around Paris and post in their stories.

  31. We were just in Paris in July and stayed a block from the Orsay – which is a couple of blocks from Sennelier! (and maybe more of a highlight than the museums although beyond the architecture and history it is just another art store!) The Orsay can easily be done in half a day and when we did the Louvre we followed a “Tour” from a guidebook – I think Frommers and it was invaluable. We were able to see a lot but it made sure we took the best route to get to all the “must-sees”. We loved the river tour – sunset is best so you can see them in the light and then lit up. And actually the double decker hop on hop off bus was a great overview of all the sites in the city and worth the money. Our favourite websites were David Lebovitz and Chocolate & Zucchini which both focus of food and Paris. ENJOY!

  32. Marian, your trip sounds so amazing….!!!!!
    really look forward to hearing and seeing all about it when you get nephew had his bank account drained in Europe by ppl that befriended him!!! hope you’re safe in all ways/have a blessed trip with your Mom!
    If you happen to see this is there any chance you can tell me what you used in your journaling of the black ink (?) and water color washes (?) or gouache? on paper of Rosemary plant, Brushes by the sink, and P. Egan with bicycle…I have tried different black inks with bad luck smears, etc. I love those pictures. Your artwork is so beautiful!

  33. Check out “SkyMcalpine” on Instagram. She’s just published a cookbook and has lovely shots from around Venice and occasionally other spots in Italy and Europe.

  34. I am so jealous! We made a fantastic trip in 2015-Scotland, London, and Paris, with our three children. The Paris bus tour is a hop on, hop off, and does stop at all the major attractions. D’Orsay was amazing! We, too, had very limited time, so we didn’t even try the Louvre. DO NOT use Uber! We got scammed-were charged double the rate of a regular taxi. MANY pickpockets at The Eiffel Tower, but otherwise we had a super time! Enjoy!!!

  35. We took a day trip from Paris out to Giverny to visit Monet’s home & garden – beautiful! I highly recommend it.
    It’s only about a 45 minutes train trip so easy to do in even half a day – and it’s a multi layered win for you for both the garden & the painting inspiration.

    I can still picture our day there clearly, it was so peaceful in the gardens, even with other tourists enjoying it the gardens had a serene quality about it. Maybe it was all the happy garden & painting lovers vibes! I brought home little ideas from it that I have implemented in my own gardens here on our farm.

    Hope you have a fabulous holiday.

  36. Since you’re going to the Louvre, save time for the gift shop…it is filled with amazing prints that you can’t find anywhere! You might pack a tube in your luggage to carry it home in without crumpling.

  37. You are going to have a fabulous time. I also agree that St. Chapelle is a must see. Spectacular! Also, you must go to the Louvre, in only to see the Mona Lisa! I mean, it’s the Mona Lisa! The most famous painting in the world!! It is worth standing in any line in order to see it.

  38. I also agree that you simply must keep your passport and wallet in the money belt. Paris is filled with pick pockets. We were in Paris, a year and a half ago, and someone attempted to steal my husband’s wallet. We had just gotten off the plane and my husband had not transferred our passports or wallet to his money belt yet. Thank the good Lord, he felt the man reaching into his front pocket. My husband slugged the thief, and thankfully, he was able to grab our stuff. Backpacks should definitely be worn in the front and clutched with both hands.

  39. I know everyone has been recommending places to visit on your trip and you can only do so much but I think you would really enjoy seeing the street artists in The Place du Tertre which is just a couple minutes away from Sacre Coeur. And the view from Sacre Coeur is absolutely amazing! My apologies if someone else has already mentioned these.

  40. Hi Marion! I’m excited for Your and Your mom’s trip to Europe. I’m absolutely certain you will have a wonderful time.

    I cannot improve on the wonderful suggestions made by the community except to encourage you to use a Faraday pouch / RFID-blocking card sleeves for all of your scannable items (phones, tablets, smart keys, credit cards, passport, and hotel key cards, etc). Not all thieves need to steal the item; they simply scan you / your bag at a distance and steal your identity from the unprotected ‘smart’ items. (I have included a link below as a reference of what type of bag I’m describing. Search for the individual RFID sleeves for credit cards and passports.) I developed a habit of using these bags and card sleeves while traveling for business in the States and abroad — I am retired from a 35yr career in a very large, global pharmaceutical company — that I continue using them in my daily life, too.

  41. I went to Scotland 2 summers ago. I highly recommend a couple of pieces of bubble wrap stowed in your checked bag on the trip over. It takes hardly any space/weight but was so useful getting home with a couple of “treasures” in my carry-on. Safe travels.

  42. Just a local’s tip – don’t queue at the Pyramid antrance to the Louvre, if it’s open (usually 10am) the Carousel entrance on rue de Rivoli gets you straight in through boutiques, displays etc – similar to what you call a mall. At the Musée d’Orsay take time for the salon du thé & enjoy the exquisite ceiling. Cake isn’t bad either. At Sennelier, (5th arrondisement) where I guarantee that you will be unable to breathe! , the Jardins du Luxembourg are just down the street & a perfect encapsulation of Paris if you are short of time. As are the book stalls along the quais on the Left Bank; les bouquinistes. Above all enjoy and have some time to stand and stare!

  43. Make sure you go to Angelina, near the louvre for the world famous hot chocolate (really like choc pudding), it’s a must!! btw I am loving my kitchen aid oven so much and owe you everything for recommending it to me(I emailed you),

    1. If you’re a chocolate lover — definitely stop at Angeline’s! There are a few of them now & you EAT the hot chocolate with a spoon!! yum.

  44. I too, follow you from our home in France and think of you everytime I’m at a French brocante! (You’ve definitely inspired my growing collection of ironstone serving dishes!!) Headed to a big sale in Montpellier the week after next! l’Orangerie took my breath away on my first visit as did St. Chapelle. I’ve been to St. Chapelle on a grey day and on a sunny day and there is simply no comparison! On a sunny day, it is pure magic! d’Orsay is my favorite museum of all time. A spectacular building that houses an incredible collection of famous paintings from the masters. On my first visit, I literally gasped as I moved from one famous painting to the other by the likes of Whistler, Renoir, Matisse, Degas, Cezanne, Monet! It’s simply a beautifully curated collection. VERY manageable and can be done in half a day easily. The Lourve is fabulous but it would quite literally take weeks to do properly. Definitely have a plan. Thanks to all of you fellow blog followers for some awesome tips!! Bon Voyage!

  45. My favorite church in Paris was Sainte Chappelle, it is small but incredible. All the stories of the Bible in stained glass. All of them. It’s beautiful.

  46. Forgot to say my fave lunch in Paris was a picnic in the Tuileries gardens after Sennelier and les bouquinistes..:)
    I know you will have fun..I see I am not the only one who has warned you about theft.Too bad..apparently so much has changed in Paris.
    You will enjoy Paris Breakfasts blog..her art and Paris:)
    Her name is her artists’ dream in Paris..her art was all over the metro last month:)
    That’s another thing..metros are known for theft..just never thought they would use our card when we bought the metro tickets..How on earth? No clue….but it was scanned or swiped for many hundreds of euros.
    Had we not been pickpocketed..and had to call our bank..we would not have known..

  47. Travelon has lots of antitheft bags and wallets. The straps have a steel cable inside to make them slash resistant. Pockets are RFID, bag panels have steel mesh inside and zippers lock or are constructed to be hard to open. They are lightweight, too. You can get them at Amazon or lots of local stores.

  48. Oh Sainte Chappell’s is a MUST! I guarantee your jaw will drop,when you walk in and it will leave a lasting impression. You can also go online and get a ticket to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The view is spectacular. Have a safe trip!

  49. It’s bizarre how many people have theft stories!

    Reply function wasn’t working but I wanted to encourage l’orangerie too. Plan for an hour just for the top floor with the Monet’s, as you’ll want to sit and truly appreciate the setting, but the downstairs has some good pieces too. You can get a combined ticket with the musee d’orsay. And at d’orsay you should make sure you see the ballroom. And the restaurant behind the clock.

    Look at tickets for the montparnasse tower too. It has a viewing platform up top (with champagne bar) and it is the best view of Paris as it includes the Eiffel Tower. Plan to be there to include sunset or early evening as the lights of les invalides etc are gorgeous in crepuscular light.

    Loved the Uffizi, we spent a whole day there. Wouldn’t bother with the academie as David is really the only thing there and I didn’t find it worth it. I actually preferred the copy in the main square!
    I don’t think you’re likely to go anywhere with bare shoulders but worth noting that churches, especially in Italy, won’t let you in unless covered.

    So excited for you! Lots of ideas and requirements from all of us, but just enjoy. Sometimes the unexpected is the best thing

  50. Hey Marian
    Your plan for Paris sounds perfect!
    I don’t know if you’ve picked a flea market yet but the Les Puces de Saint – Ouen was fabulous and HUGE!
    At the flea market there is a llittle café called The Voltaire, they had a quiche Lorraine that was to die for!
    Your idea to walk along The SEINE river is a good one! Check out the Parisian artists that have beautiful artwork displayed on their carts .
    Their watercolor and ink paintings remind me of your style that I saw on your post. They had paintings with Parisian architecture with such charming details.
    My wonderful son who took me for my birthday suggested that we buy our souvenirs at a French grocery store! The beautifully packaged spices, candy, cookies, etc were a delight to give as gifts when I got home. It was a trip of a lifetime that I will never forget!
    Enjoy every minute of it!
    I know you will!

    1. Sounds wonderful! Yes, that’s the flea market we have pinpointed to visit on Sunday. I’ve heard it’s a great one.

  51. Take seriously all the posts all those posts regarding pickpockets. You’re going to see children begging, don’t dilly dally looking at them, they’re Gypsies and there’s an adult accomplice close by! I saw these kids with babies and yes, it did break my heart but believe me, they’re not hurting.
    Keep everything you don’t want to loose next to your skin. I made a little pouch with a pretty long “strap” to wear under my couple of layers of clothes, a bra, shirt, and V-necked sweater. It was easy to reach under the top of the shirt to retrieve my stuff if or when needed. I like the idea that Deborah had @ 08/28 @10:06, her ideas are worth the investment. Above all, be discreet when handling money.
    Also, and you may not like this but I wouldn’t fool around trying to paint. Take a picture of what it is you want to paint and do that when you arrive home. For one thing, it’s taking your attention away from all those wonderful things you want to see…and pickpockets. There is so much to see and do that your head will be spinning. Just be aware and enjoy this wonderful time of your life. Oh, yes, I bought wonderful leather at the stalls in Florence.

  52. LOVE Sarah Midda’s book!! Bought it a million years ago and took pages out that i loved and framed them in those lucite box frames. I have had lots of different versions of them hung over the years – now just three on a big “travel art” wall in my bedroom. Have an amazing time!! The Rodin Museum is really great, too!

  53. I know right now you’re thinking all things French and Italian but I wanted to share an author and artist you might be interested in checking out If you aren’t already familiar with her and her work. I’ve been following Susan Branch for years. she works in watercolors but she has also written several books in addition to creating Several other different types of merchandise featuring her artwork. In particular one of her books was about her first trip to England. Like all of her books it is filled with photographs and artwork Of her trip. It’s a lovely read and I think you would enjoy her writing voice. It’s called A Fine Romance by Susan Branch and is actually one in a series of three books. she has a Blog, Twitter and what time you are in Barnes and Nobles you may want to open the book and see what you think. (Every year Santa brings me her calendar!)

  54. You won’t regret a single moment you spend in Musee d’Orsay. Just breathtaking. Hope you have a great time!

    If you love Monet as well as the other impressionists, this museum is unparalleled! I’ve been to Paris twice and each time I have searched this little museum out. It does not disappoint. It is out of the way, so you would need to take the subway or bus. I love the Louvre, and de Orsay,but this is my favorite for lots of Monet in one spot- including the “waterlilies” collection!

  56. I was just in Italy and noticed that our tour guide would carry her back pack in front of her when we were in a crowded area. We had no trouble while there. Enjoy!

    1. Oh yeah, I’ll definitely swing my bag around to my front when on the metro or in busy/touristy areas. I’ll keep the bulk of my valuables in a neck wallet that slips under my dress, though.

  57. I am so excited for you! You will love Paris! I am a retired French teacher and I lived in France for a while. I used to tell my students that if I could only take them to one place, it would be la Sainte-Chapelle. I actually took several groups to Paris and my favorite thing to do was watch my students’ faces when they went upstairs in the chapel. It’s a must. And…you will not be sorry you took the time to go to the Louvre. The Mona Lisa, Winged Victory and Venus de Milo are treasures everyone should see in person. Also check out Monet’s water lilies at the Orangerie, especially since you won’t be able to go to Giverny. It’s massive wall to wall paintings arranged in an oval as though you are in his garden. Enjoy your trip! Hugs…Debbie

  58. My favorite was the D’ Orsay and Musee de l’Orangerie. If you can make it to Giverny, it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. The Musee de l’Orangerie has huge panoramic paintings by Monet it is a must see. St. Chapelle gave me goose bumps. I know you will love France. Have a wonderful trip. The only place I worried about pick pockets was at the Eiffel Tower and on the metro.

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