I’m ho-ome! For those who haven’t been following on Instagram or Facebook, I spent two weeks in Europe and arrived back in the States yesterday. I didn’t want to work on blog posts during my trip. Instead, I took lots of pictures and kept a detailed journal, so I could share it all with you when I got back…and, boy, I have a lot to share! I filled my entire journal and then had to turn it over and start writing on the backs of the pages because I ran out of paper. (I’m a one-sided page writer. It’s just tidier to me.)
Anyway, before we dive into the trip, I wanted to let you know that this will be a series since I have so much to share. I couldn’t possibly fit it all in one or two posts. I’ll share the posts in chronological order and try to group things together that make sense. I hope there will be something entertaining, informative, or inspirational for everyone.
I also want to apologize for some blurry photos. I planned to use my iPhone for pictures when we were walking a lot, but I discovered halfway through my trip that my camera wasn’t focusing properly. I am fastidious about focus, so this was such a bummer to me! All of the Paris pictures taken on my iPhone aren’t as clear as they should be. (It was a hardware issue and the lenses were replaced today.) The photos will be perfectly clear starting on the Italy leg, but some blurry pictures in Paris will be mixed in with clear ones taken by my mom or Wendy (who was traveling with us) or those that I took on my DSLR. Some of the blurry pictures were still too good to not share because they show my perspective of a particular place or experience.
My first mission on day one of our trip was to get a France stamp in my passport. For some reason, I only had a stamp from Amsterdam last year and I was in that airport for less than an hour. It’s a small thing, but I wanted stamps in my passport this year.
And, without even asking, my passport was stamped enthusiastically after waiting in the long line for passport control at Charles de Gaulle airport.
We arranged a car through Paris Perfect to pick us up at the airport and take us to our apartment. We didn’t get to see the Arc de Triomphe last year, but we drove right by it on our way through the streets of Paris. Of course, the arch itself is magnificent, but I love thinking about the historic moments that happened near this arch and here we are driving around it…just on our way somewhere.
Even though we landed in the morning, we were able to check into our Paris Perfect apartment right when we arrived. Neither of us was able to sleep on the plane and the prospect of walking around the city while we waited for check-in time was not appealing. One of the Paris Perfect reps met us at the apartment to let us in, give us the keys, and show us all of the basics of the home.
This year, we stayed in the Chateau Latour just a couple of blocks away from the Eiffel Tower. (Disclosure: I partnered with Paris Perfect again this year to share about the experience of staying in one of their apartments.)
Of course, the view was amazing. Even though I experienced a beautiful view when we stayed in the Margaux Apartment last year, the novelty was not gone. The tower was breathtakingly close and I sat out on that balcony every chance I had.
(Apartment photos courtesy of Paris Perfect.)
The balcony is off of a beautiful living room with comfortable seating and an Eiffel tower view from the sofa. I sat there a few times when it was too chilly to sit on the balcony or the seats were wet after a light rain.
The living room is connected to a dining room and functional kitchen. We loved having a full kitchen, so we could make a quick breakfast before leaving for a tour or put together a spread of bread, cheeses, meats, etc. when we wanted to eat in at night.
Wendy of Front Porch Mercantile (who also works for me) and her husband, John, stayed with us in the apartment, so I offered them the master bedroom. It is a gorgeous room and, I assure you, I lingered in there and took in the ambiance and their view before they occupied the space!
My mom and I stayed in the back bedroom, which was equally charming. I was smitten with the antique headboards that looked even narrower than a traditional twin. The beds were the most comfortable beds we had while we were in Europe and I love their sheets. I’ll tell you more about those later, but they do actually sell them from their website. They were asked about them so much by guests that they made them available for purchase. You can buy sheet & pillowcase sets HERE.
My favorite part of the room, though, was the nook with the slanted window and the Eiffel Tower view. When we first arrived, I sat in there on a cushion with my knees pulled up. I was weary from traveling and the time change, but I wanted to take it in for a moment. I took a deep breath and just enjoyed where I was. I smiled when I realized the little nook reminded me of the movie Ratatouille and Linguini’s view of the Eiffel tower from his tiny apartment.
So, everyone tells you to not nap when you’re experiencing jet lag. Whatever you do, don’t sleep! Well, mom and I threw that conventional advice out the window and we collapsed on our twin beds and took a two-hour nap. Honestly, we had to. We would not have been able to function or enjoy the day if we hadn’t. And, we had a tour scheduled for that evening at the Louvre.
It didn’t take long for sleep to claim me. I was out for the full two hours until the antique phone ring of my alarm sounded. Happily, I wasn’t groggy, but I felt refreshed and ready to be reacquainted with Paris. The clear sky and sunshine helped, fooling my body’s clock. While waiting for John & Wendy to join us, I sat out on the balcony and sketched and journaled.
I was great about writing last year but terrible about sketching. I completely wimped out, convincing myself that it would be embarrassing and not worth the time. This trip, I was going to sketch. It was okay if it didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted. It would be more about the experience, about really looking at things, seeing them, and recording them, and less about the end result. That’s the entire point of a sketchbook, anyway!
The entire skyline was overwhelming, especially on two hours of sleep, so I selected an interesting egg-shaped detail on the corner of the neighboring building and sketched that. It was topped with a copula of sorts with a little star on top that looked almost like a magic wand. There was something in that little detail that caught my attention.
Here is the excerpt from my journal…
“We arrived in Paris early this morning on the most glorious fall day. The sky is a clear blue with the exception of a few wispy clouds and some low purple clouds low on the horizon. I’m sitting on the balcony of Chateau Latour, looking over the rooftops with the Eiffel Tower as the centerpiece. It’s amazing that the Eiffel Tower is just over 100 years old and is such a fixture in Paris. It was quite gutsy given how obtrusive it is.
The most heavenly smell wafted up from the streets below. I want to find that smell and eat it! I want to eat in all of Paris, with the exception of the snails and duck and other delicacies. Give me all of the bread and pastries. Now that we’ve taken a nap, we are going to go get some groceries and run some errands (get cash & subway tickets.)
Mmmmmm…there’s that smell again. I think it’s a pizza place just below us.”
We picked up some groceries, so we could eat breakfast at the apartment, took out some Euros at a local ATM, and headed back to the apartment to drop everything off and make plans for where we wanted to go before our 5:00 pm tour of the Louvre.
We decided to find a pen shop I read about in the book A Paris Year – Melodies Graphiques. Janice, the author, shared about her experience purchasing a pen there and, since I wanted to buy a fountain pen in Paris, I figured that would be a good destination. My mom and I took the metro over to the shop and then walked the rest of the way. I learned last year that having a few places picked out to visit helps you explore the city with purpose and you find a lot of other cool things by accident. It’s also a bit of a hunt, which I enjoy.
The shop, I must admit, was not what I hoped. They did have some cool things, but not a master calligrapher sitting behind the counter, picking out the best pen for me as Janice described in her book. The pens available for sale were new dip pens that are similar to ones I already own or can easily buy in the US. There were pretty papers and journals, but not the selection of fountain pens I was looking for.
I did buy a reproduction of an antique French handwriting primer and they did have sweet packaging…
Here is the primer I bought…
I tucked the slim bag in my backpack and we set off for the Louvre. Since we had plenty of time and the day was lovely, we decided to walk. The walk was supposed to take 20 minutes according to City Mapper, but we took pictures and took our time meandering through the streets. There was also quite a bit of construction we had to navigate around to find a safe place to cross the street.
We even came across a small flea market that was packing up for the day. The vendors were packing up their goods on wooden wagons to cart them away.
We also saw a movie being filmed in front of an old church.
And, of course, I appreciated all of the doors, hardware, aged paint finishes, and colors.
We then met our Localers guide for the Louvre tour at the appointed spot. The tour was called an “after hours” tour, so we assumed the tour happened after the Louvre closed, but it was still opened for extended hours. What we did learn, though, is that the evening is the best time to visit the museum. It is substantially less crowded than it is during the day.
We toured the Louvre during the day on our own last year and touring it in the evening with a guide was an entirely different experience. Our guide clearly loved the Louvre, history, and art, and was passionate about sharing it all with us. He first told us about the building itself and showed us the remains of the original structure.
He pointed out numerous stones with hearts on them. Apparently, the teams were paid by the number of bricks they made each day, so each team had a mark to identify their bricks. These were made by the heart crew!
He then shared the progression of art through the centuries and it was fascinating. I was particularly interested in how photography changed art. I knew it changed art in the sense that now people, places, and things could be studied from a photograph, but it also meant that people, places, and things could be realistically represented by photographs. This freed artist to explore their interpretation of what they observed.
It was inspiring to me as an artist and as someone who enjoys history.
Towards the end of the tour, mom and I were withering. The nap could only carry us so far, but we were both glad we decided to fit this tour in on the only day it was available during our trip. We were able to see the Louvre in a new way.
Mom and I took the metro back to the apartment and enjoyed watching the sunset from our balcony. We had a walking tour scheduled for the morning, so we had to get a full night of sleep to be rested for it.
Day one of Paris was in the books…