Hidden beauties, the Paris edition

Continuing with my theme for this week of revisiting my Paris trip (which happened last September), I thought I’d highlight the hidden beauties special moments.

As someone who lives in a city that’s relatively young and has relatively few older or historic buildings, all of Paris felt like a big museum and art gallery. There’s a lot of really amazing things to see and a lot of beautifully ornate features everywhere you go (sculptures, architectural details, painted walls, etc.). But, there was also a lot of hidden beauty. Some of my favourite things were remnants that they hadn’t bothered to hide and some of my favourite moments where generic or things that you can can see and do anywhere: sunsets, plants, etc.

Here are some of my favourite moments and hidden beauties.

You can see where an old window or entrance wasThis is the Patheon. As we wandered around the building (waiting for it to open) I kept seeing evidence of old windows that had been bricked up. The giveaway is the vertical bricks – they would have been the top of the window. I’ve always been drawn to bricked up windows and doors. They spark my curiosity. What did the windows look like? Why did they get rid of them? If you go to Google Maps and use Street View to go around the building, you’ll see evidence of a lot of windows.

I also love the creamy colour of the bricks, the cobble stone road, and even the black grime building up on the walls (it adds character). It’s not a typical vacation photo, but it’s one of my favourites.

Grande Arche as seen from L'Arc de Triomphe

I love that L’Arc de Triomphe is mirrored by the Grande Arche down the road. It’s a minor detail, but it adds a bit of interest.

With so many people stopping for a snack on the steps, there were a lot of little birds looking for crumbsNo matter where I go, I love nature. The stairs of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica were full of people enjoying the view, soaking up the sun, listening to the busker, and eating. On the fenced-in lawns, birds rested in between trips to the stairs to find crumbs. It was lovely being surrounded by music, sun and birds.

There was a crow hanging around across from Chopin and making weird breathy noises.

While admiring Chopin’s grave, there was a crow hanging around making weird noises (certainly not ones I’d ever heard from crows). It was odd and I think that it would have been creepy if I was superstitious.  It made Chopin’s grave a little bit special for me.

Sunset, from L'Arc de Triomphe

It’s a sunset, but it’s a sunset seen from the top of L’Arc de Triomphe while most of the other tourists were glued to the other side waiting for the Eiffel Tower to light up. Seeing the Eiffel Tower light up was nice (especially as it was on the hour, so it sparkled), but my heart lies with sunsets.

I do love a good garden. This is at the Jardins des Plantes. Next time, I'd like to go to the botanical museum (it was closed today).I love gardens, especially when they’re a bit messy and slightly wild. Contrast in gardens is one of my favourite things and this image has stuck in my head as a reminder of the quiet afternoon when I walked to the Jardin des Plantes.

Versailles

Water is a prominent feature of fountains, but sometimes it’s nice to see the fountain’s design without the water in the way. All of the fountains were turned off when we were at Versailles. While this was disappointing for some fountains, I was really happy to get an unimpeded look at this one. Bonus points: all the birds hanging out on the men and beasts. It’s almost comical to see them resting on sculptures that are full of ferocity.

Cool at installation at the Conciergerie. I love the contrast of the modern straight lines and old arched lines.

Last, but not least, modern art in the Conciergerie. This might be one of my all time favourite things about my trip to Paris (one of several dozen, of course). I really love the contrast. There was also a lot of modern art in the Hotel de Ville, hung in the decorative halls and rooms. It was so wonderful to see old and new together.

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Paris chandeliers

As mentioned in my last post, I finally finished going through my photos from my Paris trip 5 months ago (!!). While in Paris, I became a little obsessed with chandeliers. Yes, those ornate light fixtures that I would almost definitely never have in my home because the glamorous look isn’t for me. I adore them. I looked for, admired, and took many pictures of them in every place we visited. They hung in art museums, castles, the city hall and pretty much any semi historic building (unless the era didn’t have chandeliers, like Chateau de Vincennes).

According to my vacation pictures, I have a thing for chandeliers. I have pictures of them from just about every building we visited. This one is from one of the buildings at Versailles (not the main palace; the Grande Trianon, if I remember correctly).
When I posted this on Instagram, I noted that I seemed to have an thing for chandeliers. Little did I know that I would find that I had a ridiculous number of chandelier pictures.

I loved them all: the golden ones, the crystal ones, the large ones, the small ones, the ornate ones, and even the so-simple-they-look-modern ones. My love for them is so vast that I felt a tinge of excitement when I saw a picture of painting and immediately recognized the chandelier. Is that Mozart being presented to Mme De Pompadour? Who cares! I have a picture of those chandeliers!

vicente-de-paredes-the-presentation-of-the-young-mozart-to-mme-de-pompadour-at-versailles-in-1763
A screen cap of “The Presentation of the Young Mozart to Mme De Pompadour at Versailles in 1763” by Vicente De Paredes
Chandelier
The same chandelier from below (maybe not the exact same one, but the same style and building). Isn’t it pretty!

Truth be told, half of the “pretty hall” photos I took were really “look at the chandeliers” photos.

Untitled
Halls, except I mostly just care about the chandeliers. These pictures are from Fontainebleau, Versailles, and Versailles.
Chandeliers
In Notre Dame

I just love them. I love the details and I love seeing how people updated them to use electricity (some add wired-in sockets for mini light bulbs, some add faux candle sticks, and some leave them as they are). The ones covered in crystal or ornate sculpted pieces (animals, cherubs, foliage, etc.) are my favourites, but I also really love the ones that are surprisingly simple.

I don’t know why I love them so much. It’s not like there weren’t a million other things to fall in love with: tapestries, painted ceilings, hand painted walls, velvet curtains, detailed flooring, etc. But, I guess we all have our oddities.

Here are some of my favourite chandelier pictures from my trip.

The chadeliers are almost boring compared to the rest of the room, but I love the panted details on the baubles
Sainte Chapelle
The chandeliers! I became a little obsessed with chandeliers, despite the fact that I wouldn't bother with one in my own home
At Chateau Fontainebleau
Chandelier
At the Hotel de Ville (city hall)
Floral chadeliers
These pretty floral ones are so lovely
Windows
Versailles (the same hall seen above, but focusing on the windows instead of the sculptures)
Chandeliers
Versailles, in the famous Grande Galerie or Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors)
Versailles chandelier
It’s possible that this variation is the chandelier in the painting. I would love to see it light with candles at night.
Chandelier
Versailles. I think at Grand Trianon, but we also visited Petit Trianon
Chandelier
Versailles. Again, I think at Grand Trianon, but maybe Petit Trianon
Of course, there had to be one fancy schmancy room in M'O
Salle des Fêtes is the Musée d’Orsay, which is the former ballroom of the Hôtel d’Orsay

 

Paris according to my Instagram account

Five months ago, I flew to Paris with a friend. Four months ago, I wrote a post about my experience. About a week ago, I finally finished going through my pictures. A few days ago, I finally finished labeling, compiling and sharing those pictures.

While I work on a few Paris related posts, here’s what I did in Paris, according to my Instagram account.

Bonjour! We can see the Eiffel tower! 🗼❤🗼
Day 1: The view from the hotel was pretty fantastic when you leaned out a bit
Busy day in Paris, including the Pantheon, Notre-Dame, and this amazing street-side veggie quiche that was SO FREAKING DELICIOUS!?
Day 2: Best quiche I have ever had
Sainte-Chapelle was stunning.
Day 2: Sainte Chapelle
After deciding we weren't that interested in the museums in the Hotel des Invalides, we stopped by the Eiffel Tower just to see it. This was taken a free minutes before an epic rain and wind storm that had us cowering under a shelter with a dozen other to
Day 2: Mere moments before a torrential downpour
Today we went to the Catacombs and Sacre-Coeur, which was (in my opinion) far more beautiful than Notre Dame. Unfortunately, I'm too inclined to follow rules and I saw a "no pictures" sign just as we walked in, so I didn't take any pictures of the inside.
Day 3: Sacré-Cœur Basilica, which is absolutely gorgeous on the inside
We spent ALL DAY at the Louvre, leaving only because my feet weren't having it anymore. We saw all the popular things, a few of my favourites, and I discovered some new favourites, like this: (detail of) Route de Grimsel, Canton de Bermé, a.k.a. Un orage
Day 4: The Louvre (detail of Route de Grimsel, Canton de Bermé, a.k.a. Un orage)
The only throne room on France with it's original furniture. N for Napoleon, of course. Fountainbleu was quite impressive and had some fabulous rooms.
Day 5: Château de Fontainebleau
When in Paris, visit a famous grave at Pere Lachaise. This is Chopin's, who's fans are classy and leave roses. We also saw Morrison's (super messy and covered in crap from fans), and Wilde's (covered in lipstick kisses). Mostly, we wandered around admirin
Day 6: Cimetière du Père-Lachaise (Chopin’s fans leave the loveliest tributes – all neatly placed flowers)
Château de Vicennes. Please note the people in the bottom right corner - they are dressed in period costume because a documentary was being filmed in the castle and church. I've decided that I'm a castle person. I love visiting them and take a ridiculous
Day 6: Château de Vincennes
One of two libraries we visited on the city hall (Hotel de Ville). We also saw the mayor's office and got to learn about some of the many trades the help maintain and preserve the building (it's their heritage weekend and they opened more of the building
Day 7: One of the Hôtel de Ville libraries
We had authentic ( and DELICIOUS) falafels from a place called Mi Va Mi.
Day 7: Best falafel ever!
Chantilly ❤🏰❤ This time we got audio guides. I highly recommend audio guides.
Day 8: Château de Chantilly
This is what happens when someone feeds you Chantilly creme (a thick, creamy whooped cream that had subtle hints of cream cheese and the perfect amount of sweetness). Or was divine!
Day 8: Chantilly cream covered desert
This pouch! It might be my favourite souvenir. It's the perfect size for my journal, Kobo, a few pens and some odds and ends. I have a few bum joints which haven't really recovered from the Louvre last week, so I'm taking the day off while my friend revi
Day 9: Rest Day (I took my books and sat in the hotel’s patio area)
I went somewhere. I bought some things. I now have an art print from a Parisian artist (the owner of the shop I was in, if I understood his friend correctly) and this cool little card, which I will frame as well. The print is an 11x17 piece with 3 image
Day 10: Art and a card from Mélodies Graphiques (thanks some recommendation from Holly)
I do love a good garden. This is at the Jardins des Plantes. Next time, I'd like to go to the botanical museum (it was closed today).
Day 10: Jardin des Plantes
Spent part of the morning hanging out on the steps below Sacré-Coeur basilica, listening to this harpist. We then headed over to Place du Tertre where I bought a lovely small painting of part of the Cité island (the Conciergerie, etc.). I loved it the mom
Day 11: Hanging out on the steps of Sacré-Cœur Basilica before heading over to Place du Tertre
We spent much of the afternoon people watching at Jardins du Luxembourg. Then we wandered up to the Seine to people watch on a bridge. Basically, we watched people all day.
Day 11: Jardin du Luxembourg
The Queen's room in Versailles was my favorite despite being far, far too opulent for me. It has a lot of very pretty stitched work.
Day 12: Château de Versailles
The fountains were turned off at Versailles (I think it was because of the high winds), but I still love this one.
Day 12: Château de Versailles
Musée d'Orsay ❤💛❤💛❤ Guess who got to see one of her favourite van Gogh's live and in person!?!
Day 13: Musée d’Orsay (so, so much love for this place)
I spent more money at Musée d'Orsay than I did anywhere else. That's a van Gogh canvas bag at the top 😍
Day 13: Musée d’Orsay souvenirs (most of which were for me)

We left early on Day 14.

Paris vacation 2015

I went to Paris with a friend for two weeks in September. It was lovely, exhausting, over-rated, under-rated, delicious, crowded, rainy, and busy. Since arriving back at home, I’ve been struggling with what to say about it, bouncing back and forth between everything and nothing, positive and negative. It’s been over a month since I flew there and I still haven’t even gone through all the pictures I took. I can’t figure out why I’m struggling with this so much.

The trip to Paris was not intended to be a trip to Paris. I had a lot of extra vacation days and asked my friend if she wanted to go on a trip, thinking we’d do something small, relatively close and inexpensive. Somehow it turned into two weeks and Paris. I was pretty excited. It was the only the second time I left the country. And, I knew a little bit of french, so I knew enough of the language to understand most things (though, not enough to speak it very well).

Most of the places we visited while in Paris (not included: castles that were outside of the city, like Chantilly and Versailles). The solid star near the middle is where we stayed.
Most of the places we visited while in Paris (not included: castles that were outside of the city, like Chantilly and Versailles). The solid star near the middle is where we stayed.

We stayed in a fairly basic hotel in the 6th “arrondissement” (administrative district), in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area, which was in the middle of most of the places we wanted to visit. We could even see the Eiffel Tower … if we leaned out the window.

Bonjour! We can see the Eiffel tower! 🗼❤🗼

We saw a lot of places in the two weeks: the Pantheon, Notre-Dame, the Conciergerie, Sainte-Chapelle, the Catacombs, Sacré-Coeur, the Louvre, Chateau de Fontainebleau, Pere Lachaise cemetery, Chateau de Vincennes, Hotel de Ville (City Hall), Champs-Élysées, L’Arc de Triomphe, Chateau de Chantilly, Jardins des Plantes, Mélodies Graphiques, Île Saint-Louis (the smaller of the two islands), Place du Tertre, the Jardin du Luxembourg, Versailles, and Musée d’Orsay. We also walked by, but didn’t actually visit, many other places, like Les Invalides, the Eiffel Tower, and Musée de Cluny.

It was a lot to see and I’m sure there were a million more things we could have seen but, two weeks was too long for me. I started getting tired of it after the first week. On the Tuesday of our second week, the Musée d’Orsay, which had been the one place I insisted we visit, was closed because of a strike (one which I supported, despite the fact that I was worried that it would continue all week). We split up for the day and I realized that I’d lost interest in Paris. I was tired. My bad joints were achy despite having rested the day before. I wanted to go home.

The Musée d'Orsay is closed today because of a strike, so my friend and I parted ways. After a wet walk along the river and through the neighborhood I'm staying in, I came back to the hotel to look up other things to do/see. But, I think I'm done. Other t
“… I think I’m done. Other than Musée d’Orsay, one or two places that are closed on Tuesdays, and Versailles (something my friend wants to do), I’m really not interested in seeing anything else. I’m not even taking pictures of anything anymore. I like Paris, but I think it might be a little overrated and I think a week or 10 days would have been enough for me.”

Thankfully, I wasn’t willing to just give up and mope around for the week. Someone on Instagram made a few suggestions that I decided to check out. In the end, I had a nice quiet day with lots of time to think about how lucky I was to be there, how I could make the most of the last few days, and what I want to do when I return in a few years. While I didn’t regain the excitement I’d had in the first few days, I’d at least made the decision to be grateful for the opportunity and enjoy the rest of the trip. Also, I bought my first piece of art and some much needed Advil.

I went somewhere. I bought some things. I now have an art print from a Parisian artist (the owner of the shop I was in, if I understood his friend correctly) and this cool little card, which I will frame as well. The print is an 11x17 piece with 3 image

In retrospect, I suspect part of my frustration was that this felt like my first really big trip and I felt a both disappointed and guilty for not loving Paris as much as “everyone else” seemed to. And, as much as I enjoy the company of the friend I travelled with, I don’t think that we make great travel buddies. At least, not for long trips. She wants to see all the famous things, I only want to see things that are special to me*. She wants to gogogo all day and everyday, I want to take breaks and have quiet evenings. She’s not much of a breakfast person, I struggled everyday because I didn’t have a proper breakfast. She liked to window shop or browse the kiosks, I was on the move with a mission**.

*Not that I wasn’t willing to compromise – in fact we saw a number of things I had no interest in and one that I had very clearly said I didn’t want to go to.

**I know this drove her nuts as she complained about me getting too far ahead, after which I tried to be more careful.

The last few days of the trip were done on automatic. I mostly just followed her around, making a point to find something I liked where ever we went while plotting out my dream Paris vacation in the moments when I was fed up with fellow tourists or bored of seeing yet another castle. Despite this fatigue (mental and physical), I still enjoyed myself. Even as I was being elbowed by pushy tourists in Versailles, I was still able to appreciate how lucky I was to be there.

I loved all the beautiful architecture and decorative elements, even if it did look like just a repeat of things we’d already seen several times before. The quiches and pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) were incredible. And, Musée d’Orsay was open on our last day. I was too exhausted to enjoy it fully, but I still loved it. That’s where I saw van Gogh’s La siesta and a self portrait from 1889. Seeing them in person was the highlight of my trip!

I spent more money at Musée d'Orsay than I did anywhere else. That's a van Gogh canvas bag at the top 😍

I will go back. Probably on my own so that I can focus on the art museums and not worry about accidentally getting ahead of people who want to browse.

As mentioned above, I haven’t sorted through my pictures, yet, but I did share a number of pictures via Instagram at the end of each day. You can see them here. I’m not sure if I’ll write much more about it, but I will share some more pictures eventually.

The world is a book …

onepage

I’ve been thinking about this quote. Yes, the world is a book, but is it really so bad if you only read one page? Yes, you have a limited scope of experiences if you don’t travel to other places, but with the ease of connecting to other places via books, movies and the web, I’m not convinced that “only” reading a page of our great book, Gaia, is such a bad thing.

I should note that I firmly believe that everyone should live somewhere completely different than what they’re used to for at least a year (if they have the means to do so). I think it was Joanne who suggested this to me, and I pushed myself to do so when I went to grad school: I went from the ocean-touched eclectic vibe of Halifax, NS to the prairie-bound theatrical cowboy vibe of Edmonton, AB. I’ve been here for 5 years or so, and, if nothing else, I’ve learned how very much I loved and cherished all that Halifax had to offer.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think that it’s about where you have or have not been – it’s about what you open yourself up to. If one place is one page, what if that one page is boring or part of a story you’re not terribly interested in? Are you going to dive in and read the whole page, or just have a cursory skim to get the basics? A single page can bring a lot into your life if you read it with intention, study it, read between the lines, digest it.

I’m suffering from reader’s blahs. In theory, Edmonton has a lot to offer, but very few of it’s words have grabbed me enough to draw me in. I know that we make our own adventures and I’m sure that I could find lots of treasures on this page, but it’s huge and poorly serviced by Page Transit. So, yes, I lived here and learned a great deal about myself while here, but it hasn’t done much to contribute to my world book. That’s what made me realize that it’s not about the number of pages you read (i.e., how much you travel). It’s about how you read that page.

So, yes, travel if you can, but travel with intent. Find pages that inspire you. Look for what pages can teach you, and if you find nothing to your liking, move on to another.

FYI: The creator has a whole series of inspirational quotes with his photography. You can browse his Flickr photostream or check out all his quotes on his website (where you can also buy digital copies).