Travel As An Addiction

Does travel give an illusion of such glorious freedom that intimacy is discarded along the way? Is this the vibe I give and why the old man on the bench at the beach said to me, “Ah, you are a very independent woman.” When I travel (and I’m talking solo travel) I find myself feeling freer and happier than when I am home in the town where I live. When I travel, I walk with more confidence. When I am home, I feel like there is no passion in my step. I walk with a resigned sense of doing all the normal day-to-day tedious chores. I walk without seeing any wonderous cultural differences, unless you count the occasional wedding party outside the local Ethiopian church. They look so beautiful in their flowing white clothing.

The town where I live is lovely and I am so fortunate and grateful, don’t get me wrong. But I get so easily bored here. There are no splendid cathedrals as in fast-paced Italy. No fantastic tiled buildings as in friendly Portugal. There are no random processions popping up to celebrate fasting during Lent is over, as in colorful Spain. I see no love-locks on the bridges as there are in gorgeous Paris.

What is the soul of the traveler? What motivates those of us who must explore inward and onward to the next destination? Are we fearful of getting too close to the people around us or are we just too easily bored with rote routine and abhor the monotony so keenly we would sell our first born for that next plane ticket? Kidding. I would sell the family jewels first. If I had family jewels. Last I heard, my great-grandfather buried them under a tree somewhere in flippin’ Russia before fleeing the country during the Bolshevik uprisings. There goes that.

I looked for some guidance which would explain this phenomenon of what can only be called “travel addiction.” Would a support group be the cure. Do I want a cure? Do I really want to deaden that part of my soul which longs for the open roads allowing my determined meanderings and fruitful explorations? Do I really want to live out my last few productive years making sure my couch cover is clean, the dust is wiped away, the carpets are vacuumed, and the travel and grandkids photos are backed up properly? Do I really want to live out my life according to the expectations of others? Sure, my grandson misses me when I’m gone, but not enough to make any huge dent in his full young boy’s life. I am only a weekly diversion between now and the next new video game published.

Soon after I stopped working I told someone I didn’t “fit” anywhere. I used to have a career where I knew that my days would be overfilled whether I liked it or not. When some of us stop working, it is a huge difference in lifestyle. We get up when we want. Eat, watch movies whenever. Go online for hours, search for the best fares or research a new place we want to travel internationally, all to our heart’s desire without the worry of being on company or family time.

It’s easy to feel restless without another trip planned. I like looking forward to those plans. There is an exhilaration to cleaning out the fridge of items which will expire while I am gone. I know my trip is imminent when the expiration date on the milk jug is after I have boarded the plane for my next destination.

Travel addiction? It could be worse…

One Door Closes, and Another Door Opens: Doors

It wasn’t until I wrote about seeing the grave of Jim Morrison, singer and songwriter of The Doors, that I thought about how I take a lot of photos of doors. Even when taking a photo of a building, I am looking at the door.

Door with ceiling bell leading out of Alfriston, England cafe IMG_5635 IMG_5956 IMG_5972 IMG_6025 IMG_6044 IMG_6140 IMG_6141 IMG_6146 IMG_6157 IMG_6181 IMG_6235 IMG_6301 IMG_6402 IMG_6422 The building of this Crypt was finished in 1050 IMG_6477 IMG_6482 Doorknocker in Uzerch, France IMG_6511 IMG_6552 Statue on balcony IMG_6690 IMG_6717 What a doorway! Cluny Museum, Paris IMG_6977 IMG_7000 IMG_7198 IMG_8873 IMG_8918 IMG_9028 IMG_9127


There some cool doors in this world.

And, If you think about it, our lives are filled with metaphorical doors.

We go into places with a door and we leave places through a door. There are front doors, back doors, side doors.

Attic doors. Barn doors. Prison doors. Church doors.

We open doors, close doors, and some of us slam doors when we’re angry.

There are metaphorical doors like Doors to Heaven and Doors to Hell. We open doors to our future. Close doors on our past.

Close one door, and another door opens.

William Blake wrote that “if the doors of perception were cleansed then everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern”. When he wrote of London giving a foretaste of infinity, Machen expressed the same thought.

Knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be.
Albert Einstein

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
Johnny Cash

When one door is closed, don’t you know, another is open.

Bob Marley

Reality is a sliding door.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.

Coco Chanel

AEducation is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.

George Washington Carver

He who opens a school door, closes a prison.
Victor Hugo
Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.
Alexander Graham Bell



A Little Bit of Animal Planet Thrills Without Leaving Town

The beach in Edmonds and one of the several ferry terminals in the area, are both about 3 miles from where I live.

Last Friday I made plans to pick up Gabriel, my 7-year-old grandson, from school so we could have a picnic at the beach.  The weather was sheer gorgeousness and I needed the beach like I used to need a cigarette.  It was my first time at the beach since before winter.  The Seattle area was having an unusually splendid warm streak for this early in May.

We settled in among the big driftwood logs, Gabriel played around in the water and I sat and watched the beach action of kids, parents, teenagers, grandparents, grandchildren.  Just the normal Friday afternoon at the beach during an unusual heat wave.  Bliss.


I brought a couple of felt pens with me so we could draw on rocks.  It was an idea I got from a photo on Facebook of painted peace signs on rocks and since I’m an old hippie who likes stuff like this, we painted rocks.  Naturally, I drew suns and peace signs, and Gabriel drew interesting primitive looking hieroglyphics on his rocks.

Rock Show

About two hours later, Gabriel and I tossed the painted rocks in random spots on the sand and into the water, we packed up the cooler, my chair, and started to head to the parking lot.  There are huge driftwood logs on the beach so we were walking slowly as I carefully stepped over the logs.

Suddenly, you know how people yell “FIRE!!”?  Well, that is what I heard from a man very close to us, except he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “WHALE!”

I turned around to look at the water and sure enough, I saw the back of a whale dive back into the water.  The whale was to the left side of this sign post in the photo shown below.


  Several of us were like little kids so excited to see if it would surface again.  We ran closer to shore, we watched…and watched…and then….we all yelled “THERE IT IS!”  In fact, the adults may have been more excited than the kids.

The whale, a humpback I learned the next day, was about a quarter-mile out in the water and spouting water.  Gabriel had the camera and we had the video going but I hadn’t hit zoom before handing the camera to him.

He filmed a speck of black in the distance.  We can see the speck of black spout water and then a speck of black which is the whale tail disappear back into the water.  It was our ‘whale of a moment’ and…

IT WAS AWESOME.  Everyone was just so elated.  Just to see a whale.  Just happy to see a whale.  Beautifully simple in an extraordinary way.  Humpbacks don’t come into the Sound all that often. 

Satiated by the experience, we picked up our things, again, to head back to the car.  But…wait…there was a crowd forming nearby.

We walked over to see that people were looking at this family.


Which included six little goslings.


O. M. G. 

So, we stayed to watch this new beach story unfold.  Mother and Father Goose were taking their six little goslings for an evening walk by the sea.

They walked over to the logs, we followed, and I took photos along the way.  We were all keeping a respectable distance from the little family.  At one point a little girl went too close and Mother Goose hissed at her, at which time I gently removed the child explaining why.


Then, Mother and Father climbed over the log to the other side and stood there.  Waiting…and waiting…

Trouble in Paradise

…while the baby goslings stood staring, on the other side, just staring at this huge obstruction in front of them.  They probably wondered, “Where are our parents? They disappeared into this log!”



Mama and Papa realize that they are not going to be joined by the kids and then changed tactics.

They climbed back over the logs to the kids and decided to walk back to right where they started.




Right back where they started from, and eventhough their evening stroll didn’t quite work out like they planned, they were seemingly as happy as geese can be while living at the beach, which is a very wonderful place to land and have babies, in my opinion.

It was just about the sweetest picnic at the beach I’ve ever had.  Except for that time in my cowgirl outfit at the beach in San Francisco when I was about 4…that was pretty sweet, too.


Death and Doors in Paris

On my last day in Paris, the only thing left on my ‘doables’ list was the Cimetiere Du Pere-Lachaise which is on the edge of town in the 20th Androssiment.  This cemetery is where many notable writers, musicians, and persons of the arts are buried.  I was on a quest to see where Jim Morrison, of The Doors music group from the 60s, was buried.  Just one of those things which some people would never even think of doing nor be remotely interested.

It was in 1968 when I saw Jim Morrison and The Doors in concert at an outdoor concert south of San Francisco. A few of us piled into Donnie’s VW bus and made the drive. Sue had a crush on Donnie and I was with Donnie’s friend, Peter, who would, unbeknownst to me at the time, become the father of my first-born child. A ‘love-child’ is what some would say; my son is what I say. 20130509-092008.jpg

Anyway, back to Paris.  These are some photos I took from the bus.IMG_7178 It wasn’t until later that I saw the little boy peering from the window; my eye had only caught the animal heads attached to female bodies which I thought was a bit weird.

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What’s this? Who knows…

In Rick Steves’ Paris handbook, he suggests taking the #69 bus which can be caught over on the Louvre side of the bridges, aka the Right Bank. It was easy to find the bus stop and a pleasant ride through an area of Paris I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Several quaint neighborhoods, vegetable stands, and monuments which, unfortunately, meant nothing to me since I no inkling to the monument’s significance. Ignorance is not bliss; I actually do like to know what I’m seeing.  Guess this is a time when a guide on an organized tour would be helpful.  Other than for tips such as these, I stay clear of those tours.  Most of the time, I am a very independent traveler.  Maybe too independent at times as I know I miss a lot, but I also gain an extraordinary amount of insight into a country just by wandering and accidentally finding nooks and crannies I would have missed if I had been on a tour bus.  Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

Just inside the gates of the cemetery there was a booth where I picked up two sheets of paper filled with names, numbers, and maps with instructions in French. The cemetery is huge and trying to figure out the locations of the cemetery plots was challenging. I did what I could and asked people directions when it looked like they knew where they were going and that they maybe spoke English.  Unfortunately, for me, I didn’t read this list very thoroughly otherwise I would have also looked for Isadora Duncan while looking for Jim Morrison.

Entry to cemetery IMG_7185 IMG_7186 IMG_7187 Tree growing from grave There is something very creepy about a tree growing out of a tomb. IMG_7189  Someone’s little Scotty is perched on top of their tomb giving a little whimsy to the somber nature of a cemetery.

Marcel Proust 1871-1922 IMG_7192

Marcel Proust is in 30/Div. 85. It was not easy to find the divisions even with the sporadic signs.

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IMG_7198 IMG_7199 IMG_7201 There were beautiful intricate tombs here; so many doors to death. It was a great cemetery but there were many hills and switchbacks. Getting lost was easy. IMG_7202 IMG_7204 IMG_7205

Seeing this view of the acreage was one of my “OMG, you’ve got to be kidding.” moments.

Chopin was well-loved with all the flowers beside his tomb below. Chopin IMG_7208 There was this interesting totem pole-type headstone with inscriptions (I couldn’t read) which I’m curious about, as well. .


The Division marker for the area of Jim Morrison’s grave.

James Douglas Morrison, 1943-1971, Kata Tom Aimona Batoy IMG_7211 IMG_7212 IMG_7213 Jim Morrison's grave in Paris IMG_7215 Jim R.I.P. 15-2-13 Mourners to Jim Morrison's grave in Paris

Several more Morrison mourners appeared during the short time I was taking photos.

Following is an excerpt from one of Rick Steves’ guides: “Enclosed by a massive wall and lined with 5,000 trees, the peaceful, car-free lanes and dirt paths of Père Lachaise cemetery (Cimetière du Père Lachaise) encourage parklike meandering. Named for Father (Père) La Chaise, whose job was listening to Louis XIV’s sins, the cemetery is relatively new, having opened in 1804 to accommodate Paris’ expansion. Today, this city of the dead (pop. 70,000) still accepts new residents, but real estate prices are very high. The 100-acre cemetery is big and confusing, with thousands of graves and tombs crammed every which way, and only a few pedestrian pathways to navigate by.

The maps available from any of the nearby florists help guide your way. But better still, take my tour and save lots of time as you play grave-hunt with the cemetery’s other visitors. This walk takes you on a one-way tour between two convenient Métro/bus stops (Gambetta and Père Lachaise), connecting a handful of graves from some of this necropolis’ best-known residents.

Jim Morrison (1943–1971) An American rock star has perhaps the most visited tomb in the cemetery. An iconic, funky bust of the rocker, which was stolen by fans, was replaced with a more toned-down headstone. Even so, his faithful still gather here at all hours. The headstone’s Greek inscription reads: “To the spirit (or demon) within.” Graffiti-ing nearby tombs, fans write: “You still Light My Fire” (referring to Jim’s biggest hit), “Ring my bell at the Dead Rock Star Hotel,” and “Mister Mojo Risin'” (referring to the legend that Jim faked his death and still lives today, age 66). Jim Morrison — singer for the popular rock band The Doors (named for the “Doors of Perception” they aimed to open) — arrived in Paris in the winter of 1971. He was famous; notorious for his erotic onstage antics; alcoholic; and burned-out. Paris was to be his chance to leave celebrity behind, get healthy, and get serious as a writer.

Living under an assumed name in a nondescript sublet apartment near place Bastille (head west down rue St. Antoine, and turn left to 17 rue Beautrellis), he spent his days as a carefree artist. He scribbled in notebooks at Le Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, watched the sun set from the steps of Sacré-Cœur, visited Baudelaire’s house, and jammed with street musicians. He drank a lot, took other drugs, gained weight, and his health declined. In the wee hours of July 3, he died in his bathtub at age 27, officially of a heart attack, but likely from an overdose. (Any police investigation was thwarted by Morrison’s social circle of heroin users, leading to wild rumors surrounding his death.)

Jim’s friends approached Père Lachaise Cemetery about burying the famous rock star there, in accordance with his wishes. The director refused to admit him, until they mentioned that Jim was a writer. ‘A writer?’ he said, and found a spot.

‘This is the end, my only friend, the end.’ — Jim Morrison”

by Rick Steves

Leaving the cemetery from Morrison’s grave was easy, especially in comparison to the hour and a half it took to walk there. After stopping for lunch, I took the Metro subway (for the first time while in Paris) to get back to my hotel.  Although it was somewhat confusing, the women in the information booths at both stations were very helpful, so it wasn’t as hard as I had conjured up in my mind.  Most things are easier than what we imagine, aren’t they?  We can work our minds up into such tizzies, at least I can, thinking of all the “what if” scenarios, when it would be much less stressful to flow with it and “Just Do It.”

That’s how I feel about travel. Be prepared, of course, but don’t over think it; just do it.  Get your passport.  Make the reservation. Do some homework.  Pack your suitcase.  And just go.  Easy.

One of my new cousins wrote recently saying his wife (whom I think may have never left the county she was born in) was amazed by my courage to travel alone.  I told him I wasn’t courageous, it was all a matter of determination and paying attention to what you’re doing so you get on the right flights/trains/buses and get to the right place.  The rest is pretty easy.

Do your homework and have information at your fingertips, or at least know where to get the information.  Be informed.  Travel smart.  You can’t be too shy, and if you are, you need to get over it.  Pronto.

Join frequent flyer programs.  If you use credit cards, use the ones that give you miles on your favorite airline. Sign up for surveys that give you frequent flyer miles, too.  I’ve earned hundreds of miles doing silly time-waster surveys.  Those miles add up.

Say you CAN, rather than you CAN’T.   Believe in your own ability to get around on your own, or, travel with someone you know and whom you get along with very, very well.  Someone who doesn’t nitpick and complain.  Someone with a sense of humor. Do a test run with that person.

Or, go solo.  Just do it.  You will learn more about yourself and about the world than you can imagine.  And, you will feel good that you managed a trip well and have lifelong memories. It’s an accomplishment to make you proud of yourself and instill confidence whether you are 23 or 63.

Make online or hard copy albums and/or photo books of your adventures so that when you are old you can easily reminisce and be reminded of your lifetime of travels.

The end of my 3 weeks of traveling throughout England and France arrived and I was actually looking forward to being home again.  That is until I book the next journey.  It takes me about 6 weeks of being back home before I get itchy feet again.  What’s Bali like, I wonder?  Are there really rats running around everywhere?  Should I go back to Costa Rica? When is the next trip with my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter?  Where shall we go?

Travel is the journey into ourselves; the world opens its doors to our life lessons only if we are open to listening to those whispers in our ears.  No learning=no growth.

Jim Morrison sings, “People are strange, when you’re a stranger…”  We are all so very different and interesting.  Yet we are the same, really, and there are no strangers.  A smile, or even tears, are common denominators in every language.  Walk through the door and travel.


Downton Abbey Protocol

Photos now included of inside the House of Lords chamber.

Grammie Travels





It was an effort, but I managed to dress up enough to be passable as a visitor to the House of Lords at Westminster Palace. Doreen, Les, and I arrived by cab to the back entrance of the palace and after passing through armed guards at security, I had my photo taken and was issued a photo ID badge. We hung our coats on Doreen’s labeled hook in a low ceiling and dimly lit ‘coat closet’ which was larger in size than my condo. I was advised that no photographs were allowed within the House of Lords and it would only be at the tail-end of the day when I would be granted permission to photograph in the Great Hall, which is the medieval portion of the palace that survived a great fire. I knew that in this situation, it would behoove me to follow the rules and not try…

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Speeding up the Pace in Paris

Map in hand, it was time to ramp up my speed seeing Paris before flying home on Monday. Cluny, Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower were on my list, and since it was Saturday, it might be crowded. Being March, perhaps it would be less busy with tourists.

Ending up back on St. Germaine I actually went into a Starbucks which, in my real world, I rarely do. I would rather patronize small business owners than major corporations. So since I had to get a move on and didn’t have time to tarry, I grabbed a cup to go and started walking to find the Cluny, a medieval museum.

Not wanting to waste time being lost,  I paid close attention to where I was going.  However, instead of being lost, I wasted time taking photos of store windows, storefronts, buildings, street signs, etc. Photographing everything in sight appears (no pun intended) to be an addiction for which, in my case, there is no cure.  Which reminds me of a story of walking with a friend in Venice who left me ‘in the dust’ when I was pausing and taking photos, as we walked back to the apartment where we rented rooms from her friends, several years ago.

I had recently been diagnosed with the autoimmune thyroid disease called Graves Disease, and had not yet been diagnosed with another bothersome disease called Fibromyalgia. My meds weren’t properly adjusted yet so being stressed out elevated my hormone levels amplifying my frustration at being lost, abandoned, and exhausted for a couple of hours all the while trying to find the apartment.  This was the only time I have ever felt so close to tears from being lost when traveling.  I kept going in circles and seeing the same North African guys selling scarves near a bridge.  This girl went through life always in a hurry so I still think if she had just slowed down a little, while walking with me, would have been kinder.  Yet its events like this which tell you who your friends really are….or aren’t.  Traveling with others can be difficult, especially if you don’t know them well, or, if you’re lucky, it can be memorable – in a good way.  But, I digress….

IMG_6843 Boutique hotel - good reviews - pricey

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Slowing down when traveling lets you see places like this shop with all the different dolls in the windows.  Is it a ‘doll hospital’, I wondered.  And in a real estate office, there is a listing for a studio apartment for sale at “only” 640,000€ or $843,456. Yikes. Paris is far from being inexpensive.  And in a recent article it said this is a great city to retire, which I believe would be true, but I presume that means for people who have suitable incomes affording them the ability to live a comfortable lifestyle.

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I came across this building with a number of kids, looking like students, out in front. Later I learned it was the College of France, established in 1530 by King Francis I of France. The college leans toward Humanist inspiration, as an alternative to the Sorbonne, to promote disciplines such as Hebrew, Greek, and Mathmatics. The motto is “Docet Omnia” which translates to “It teaches everything.” “Not preconceived notions but the idea of free thought.” (Quote by Maurice Merleau-Ponty.) There are no degrees distributed here and, if you’re interested, they have podcasts available.

Across the street from the College of France is a wide street (see photo with red awnings) called the Sorbonne Square (Place de la Sorbonne) which looked like a great place for lunch or a coffee. The Sorbonne is one of the first universities in the world and is in the 5th Arrondissement of Paris, also known as the Latin Quarter.

From the Sorbonne’s website:

Paris Sorbonne University is the main inheritor of the old Sorbonne, which dates back to the 13th century. It was one of the first universities in the world.

The biggest complex in France, dedicated to Literature, Languages, Civilizations, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, is located on the original medieval foundations, and now extends to the Latin Quarter and to other areas in Paris.

The University has two characteristics : rich culture and tradition, with top-quality researchers, and therefore an excellent scientific reputation shown through publications and international exchanges; its concern to constantly adapt to present day social and technological changes and to encourage as many students as possible to study at Paris-Sorbonne while preparing for their future careers. The Sorbonne incites its students to think freely, to construct their own judgment, so that they can become responsible and inventive citizens who can promote dignity and peace culture.


According to the map, it looked like I was getting close to the Cluny. I am always so proud of myself when I actually find the place I am looking for while travelling in a foreign city. As I walked along the side of the Sorbonne, I could see a medieval-looking building ahead and was very pleased to find out it was the Cluny.

The Cluny is a Gothic building with vines, turrets, gargoyles and dormers with seashell motifs. It was originally the mansion of a wealthy 15th century abbot, built on top of and next to the ruins of a Roman bath. By 1515, it was the residence of Mary Tudor, widow of Louis XII and daughter of Henry VII. After Alexandre du Sommerard died in 1842, the government bought the building and his collection of medieval artworks. The tapestry of the Lady and the Unicorn is the most acclaimed tapestries of their kind. These were discovered only a century ago in Limousin’s Chateau de Boussac. The five floor to ceiling wall tapestries tell the story of the five senses with the unicorn a focal figure in the company of “The Lady.” These were beautiful and housed in a room with special low lighting and temperature to preserve the tapestries.

Other exhibits range from Flemish to 14th century Sienese John the Baptist, sculptures, statues from Sainte-Chapelle (1243-48); 12th-13th century crosses, chalices, manuscripts, carvings, vestments, leatherwork, jewelry, and coins; a 13th century Adam; and recently discovered heads and fragments of statues from Notre-Damn de Paris. Also stained glass and some of the earliest panes of painted glass.

The admission price was reasonable; the line was short. I felt like a kid in a candy store looking around at the building, the exhibits, the beauty of the tapestries.

Following are just images of this cool museum for those of you going to Paris and may want to check it out. And for those of you who may never get to Paris, enjoy the viewing of The Lady and the Unicorn and so much more.

Cluny Museum

IMG_6865 IMG_6867 IMG_6868 IMG_6870 IMG_6871 IMG_6873 painted glass IMG_6875 IMG_6876 IMG_6877 IMG_6878 IMG_6879 IMG_6880 IMG_6881 IMG_6882 IMG_6883 IMG_6884 IMG_6885 IMG_6887 IMG_6889 IMG_6890 IMG_6891 IMG_6892 IMG_6893 IMG_6894 IMG_6897 IMG_6900 IMG_6903 IMG_6907 IMG_6909 IMG_6910 IMG_6911 IMG_6912 IMG_6913 IMG_6914 IMG_6915 IMG_6916 IMG_6917 IMG_6918 IMG_6919 IMG_6920 IMG_6921 IMG_6922 IMG_6923 IMG_6924 IMG_6925 IMG_6927 IMG_6928 IMG_6930 IMG_6932 IMG_6933 IMG_6934 IMG_6935 IMG_6936 IMG_6937 IMG_6938 IMG_6939 using a mirror to reflect the underside IMG_6944 IMG_6945 IMG_6948 IMG_6949 IMG_6950 IMG_6951 IMG_6952 IMG_6953 IMG_6954 IMG_6955 IMG_6958 IMG_6961 IMG_6962 IMG_6963 IMG_6964 IMG_6965

Before continuing on to the Louvre, I sat in the courtyard of the Cluny and watched a grandmother show her grandchildren how to play chess using the life-size set.  The children were darling.

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After leaving Cluny, I found a Vietnamese restaurant close by for lunch. Soup and a chocolate dessert. Just enough to warm a girl’s heart on a brisk and chilly March day. When paying for the meal, this was another one of the rare times my debit card would not work in Europe. But the woman behind the counter put my card in a plastic baggie, smoothed it out, and ran the card through the machine again which actually made it work. Interesting technique.


IMG_6978 IMG_6979 Lunch at 3 IMG_6981 Restaurant Laperouse - George Sand and Victor Hugo used to hang out here IMG_6985 IMG_6986 IMG_6987 IMG_6988 IMG_6989 IMG_6991 IMG_6992

Heading over the river again, and not knowing of the short-cut at the time, I walked the long block next to the Seine taking some photos of the exterior of this very large building which seemed to go on and on. It was 4:30 p.m. and time was tight to get inside the museum before it closed.

IMG_6993 IMG_6994 The Louvre stretches on forever... Louvre Walking into the Louvre courtyard (the long way around) IMG_6999 IMG_7000 IMG_7001 Across from the Louvre pyramid IMG_7003 IMG_7004

But I made it, along with several other people, inside to see the museum for 45 very short minutes. I sprinted through as many exhibits as I could but certain rooms, such as Napoleon’s, were closing as I got to their doorway. I managed to see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, though. Plus I saw some wonderful statutes, amazing paintings, and, yes, I thought it was very cool that I could take as many photos as I pleased.

View out of pyramid in Louvre from escalator Angel buns in the Louvre IMG_7007 Man in the Shadows of Antiquity IMG_7011 IMG_7012 IMG_7013 IMG_7014 IMG_7015 IMG_7017 Ceiling in Louvre IMG_7020 DaVinci - St. John the Baptiste IMG_7022 Ouch IMG_7024 IMG_7025 There she is IMG_7029 IMG_7030 IMG_7031 Oops. IMG_7034 IMG_7038 IMG_7039 IMG_7040 Osiris Ex Antinoo (and Vivian) View from window of Louvre Raphael - Ceiling IMG_7045 The Headless One at the top of the stairs in the Louvre Ceililng in the Louvre IMG_7048 End of the day, time to go home View from a windowin the Louvre Venus de Milo Venus de Milo IMG_7054 IMG_7056 La Pailas de Velletri La Pailas de Velletri IMG_7059 IMG_7060 IMG_7061 IMG_7062 IMG_7063 IMG_7064 Diane IMG_7066 IMG_7068 Centaure IMG_7071 Hermaphrodite IMG_7073 Nymphe IMG_7075 IMG_7076 IMG_7084

I  sprinted through almost empty corridors of  The Louvre in a silence I bet most people don’t experience in this massive and popular museum. Even though I wasn’t able to see so many of the exhibits, I did enjoy the fact I was able to see so much without having to tiptoe to peer over other people’s shoulders. I had Venus de Milo all to myself (she is thought to be Aphrodite – Goddess of Love and Beauty – and from between 130-100 BC.) There were not many people around the Mona Lisa, either.  My near-solitude even made me fantasize what it would be like to be locked inside this place for the night.  I would love that!

It was time to get over to the Eiffel Tower so I could see it light up at 7:00 p.m. but I certainly had no intention of walking there. I asked one cabbie how much to the Eiffel and he quoted me 25 euros. I think not. Then I saw this guy with a funny black and white checkered bicycle cab. He quoted 15 euros and I went for it. I knew this would be a one of a kind experience. A bit like when I rode a horse and buggy around the pyramids in Cairo. And, the ‘driver’ was a sweetheart. He said he was from Greece and that I should go there sometime. Apparently he comes to Paris every few years, works hard riding his buggy around, and then goes back home to Greece until it’s time to head back to Paris to make some more money. He would stop and point out sights like the Champs-Elysees (which I knew would be the only time I’d see it on this trip), and Napoleon’s tomb housed behind a bridge with gold posts and entombed in a building with a gold dome looking more like a state capital building in the states rather than a tomb.

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IMG_7121 IMG_7120 IMG_7119 IMG_7123 IMG_7108 IMG_7110 IMG_7118 IMG_7114 IMG_7092 IMG_7095 IMG_7097 Leaviing the Louvre

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The line for tickets to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower was too long and it just wasn’t important enough to me to wait. So I bought a snack and sat talking with a guy who was a counselor on a field trip with a school from San Diego.

Opposite the Eiffel Tower IMG_7157 IMG_7159 IMG_7161

It was a bit of a walk from one end of the plaza to the other but fun to people watch along the way.  There was romance in the air as I saw many couples strolling hand-in-hand.

One drawback to solo travel is asking strangers to photograph you although everyone I have ever asked has always been so incredibly kind and willing.  However, things happen like the top of the Eiffel Tower gets cut off in your photo. Nonetheless, at least it documents that I was actually there.

At 7:00 p.m. the tower lit up and then every hour there is a light show of sparkling white lights racing up and down the tower. After watching awhile, I decided to start making my way back to the hotel. By now it was 8 p.m. and dark. I had walked all the way to the other end of where I came in so this was a new road and one which seemed a bit less traveled. I tried to flag down a cab whenever I would see one but not one stopped. I walked and walked. Then I thought that if I was mugged, I should take a couple of photos of where I was walking so I would know where to tell the police it happened.

Walking from the Eiffel Tower IMG_8616

Weird thoughts cross the mind on dark Parisian streets when you have no clue where you are. Finally I got to a wide boulevard and saw a young couple walking. I asked them where we were and which direction was the West Bank. This was very poor planning on my part. First, I have night blindness so I couldn’t read my map and my little flashlight broke back in England so that wasn’t an option. I told this couple how cabs weren’t stopping for me and the young woman said they pick and choose their customers. Great. That did not give me a lot of confidence since no one had stopped so far. Using her iPhone’s mapping app, she figured out where I should catch a bus to get to my hotel.  The bus stop was right across the street so I walked over and stood next to the shelter.  However, I kept trying with the cabs, too. Finally a cabbie stopped and I got to the Hotel Bonaparte tired but unscathed.

Walking from the Eiffel Tower

The next day the plan was to go to the cemetery and look for Jim Morrison’s grave. I have always been curious what it would be like to visit this old Paris cemetery.  My last day in Paris, and in Europe, was one night’s sleep away.

Notre Dame has Quasimodo; Shakespeare has Hemingway

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These were my first glimpses of Notre Dame.  At first I was a little ‘underwhelmed’ to tell the truth, but only because I have been to all 3 of the world’s largest cathedrals: St. Peter’s in Vatican City, Italy; Cathedral of Sevilla in Spain; and St. Paul’s in London, UK, and this one was, well, not as large as those three.  But, as the afternoon progressed, I warmed up to Notre Dame as it is considered one of the best examples of Gothic architecture. One friend of mine called Notre Dame ‘dark and creepy.’  It is a bit darker than some, I agree, but I wasn’t feeling creeped out at all.

I was visiting during the 850th celebration year and they had just installed new bells  which was a big deal.  Good timing.  Plus, this was Lent with only a week to go before Easter.  And, it was a Friday in Lent.  All these things came into play as I understood more and the day went on.  More good timing.

Outside Notre Dame

Statue of Charlemagne (Charles the Great), created in 1886

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From this vantage point, I was standing at the top of several tiers of bleachers which were filled with people sitting and viewing the cathedral’s façade.  I joined the line forming on the right side of this photo.  Since entry was free, the line moved pretty fast.

“In 1450 a pack of man-eating wolves broke through the city walls and mauled 40 hapless civilians to death.  An angry mob eventually cornered the wolves by the doors and stoned them to death.” (This was from an article published by Lonely Planet and BBC Travel.)  My goodness.  Luckily there are only gargoyles now-a-days.

I also learned via this same article that during the French Revolution, they turned the cathedral into  “a temple to the Cult of Reason.” They removed all crosses, statues, and turned it into a warehouse for a time.  (Which is funny to hear since I saw some alcoves with statues and/or paintings hanging which are still warehousing storage items!)

Lastly, who remembers the high-wire artist Phillippe Petit who at the age of 21, broke into the cathedral at dawn in 1971 and shuffled between the two towers on a wire.  Then in 1974, he crossed between the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  Interesting little known facts which happened to pop up on my Facebook page this morning.

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The intricacy of  the façade was amazing.


Churches began building on this site in the 5th or 6th century but when you walk in now, it is the 12th century you are seeing, such as the stained glass.

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After entering and inhaling the beauty, I noticed people were sitting in pews toward the front of the altar, and, since I was tired, I figured I’d grab a seat.  I noticed there were high and low priests scurrying about in preparation for something, which I was assumed was a mass.  But, it did seem weird as it was 3:30 on a Friday afternoon.  I asked the woman next to me and in halting English she told me yes, a mass at 4:00 p.m.  So I waited.  I had nothing else pressing on my schedule.

Upon entering the cathedral, I bought a book on the cathedral, as I had done at St. Paul’s.  So, I started reading while sitting in the pew, looking around (mostly up), and taking photos.  I read that during Lent, they bring out something very special only on Fridays leading up to Easter.  Apparently I was in the right place at the right time.

I then noticed the pews were filling up quickly and becoming full.  I had a seat only about 10  from the altar, which was pretty close.

Notre Dame apparently has a special treasure – Christ’s holy Crown of Thorns. Per the book, “It’s documented history dates back to the 4th century.  Physically, the relic consists of a ring of plaited rushes to which the thorns are attached to form the mock crown. The relic was acquired by King Saint Louis who humbly carried it to Notre Dame on 18th of August 1239……”  It is brought out on the first Friday of every month, every Friday during Lent, and Good Friday.


The mass began and there was  a bit of hymn singing which sounded wonderful with the acoustics in the cathedral.  The priests then started acting like security guards and taking their places (after meeting in dark corners talking about it, which I was watching closely) in various aisles and watching everything and everyone very closely.

Then a procession began on the right of where I was sitting with the priests carrying the crown of thorns in a magnificent gold cradle as the priests and nuns walked through the nave, and came down the center aisle.  My Catholic background came back to me as I remembered all the pomp and circumstance the Catholics perform in their ceremonies.  That is what I always liked about the church.  The incense, the repetitive praying, the robes, drama, etc.    But that was still not enough to keep me as a practicing Catholic.  However, here I was witnessing one of the holiest ceremonies of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.


Curiously, I then watched each row start filing out of the pews with every person walking up to the altar to kiss or touch the Crown of Thorns.  Whoa.  Well, I figured since I was there….yes, I did it too.  Just to be part of this ceremony was pretty cool and if any of my prayers were answered by participating, then awesome.

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Instead of going back to my pew, however, and waiting through the next hour for all the other participants to get their turn, I took off and wandered around the cathedral and took photos.

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Above are two photos of practitioners paying their respects to the crown.

IMG_6766 IMG_6767 IMG_6768 IMG_6769 IMG_6770 former chandelier

This was one of the old chandeliers with candles.

IMG_6774 IMG_6775 a diorama the building of Notre Dame

Here is a diorama of workers building the cathedral.

IMG_6778 IMG_6779 behind the altar

These photos are taken from behind the altar.

the altar from behind IMG_6783 a crypt in Notre Dame IMG_6785

Have to admit the Angel of Death and the fellow spilling out of the coffin was a bit on the ‘scale of creepy.’

nooks and crannies in Notre Dame (see hangers....changing room!) IMG_6787 IMG_6788 IMG_6789 IMG_6790 Joan of Arc

St. Joan of Arc


I have to admit, I had a few scandalous thoughts passing across my mind when looking at these priests.  In light of all the awful crimes involving sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church, were any of these priests guilty?

another 'storage room' in Notre Dame

Open panel in stained glass

Here’s an example of a stained glass window which actually has panels that open to bring in fresh air.

There were areas of worship in alcoves which were also being used as storage rooms.  I found that interesting.  A cathedral has no storage areas?

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Outside were of course the flying buttresses (this was one of the first churches to use this design) and the gargoyles.

The "Red Door"

IMG_6802 IMG_6804 IMG_6805 "Love Locks"

This is where I saw what looked to be a man giving a love lock to his significant other (see the woman in white on the left).

IMG_6807 "Love Locks" in Paris on Pont de L'Archeveche

Those are a lot of locks.

Bridge in background Full view of Notre Dame



If I ever return to Paris, I will take the Batobus.  This is public transportation on the Seine River and would be an interesting way to see the city – without the guide speaking through a megaphone.

IMG_6817 Finally, flowers! IMG_6830


I was thrilled to unexpectedly come upon Shakespeare & Company made famous by mentions by Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Woody Allen movies, and so many others.  What a great bookstore!  It just oozed with the energy of the hundreds of authors and readers wandering those cramped aisles.  If I lived in Paris, I would spend time just people watching in this bookstore while purchasing books every time I visited.

Opened in 1919 and moved to this location in 1922 A gathering place for Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce. IMG_6834 This was hung on a wall above a doorway IMG_6836

This photo of an Isadora Duncan type, was above a doorway.  This bookshop was filled with treasures tucked in the nooks and crannies.

One of the original Art Deco Age Metro Stations in Paris

Not far I came across this Metro stop which is one of the well-known stations they have kept in its original Art Deco style.


I was now hitting rush hour and people starting to gather around this statue.  Seems to be a popular meeting place as another time I saw hundreds of young people hanging around the entire perimeter and sitting on the steps.

IMG_6839 Well-coiffed in Paris What a doorway!

This doorway struck me as being absolutely amazing.

Back end of St. Sulpice

I realized there was another way to get back to my hotel.  This is the back of St. Sulpice  Church and to top it off, I found a street with restaurants.


ONeil’s was a brew pub and since I have been in many of these with my son and daughter-in-law, I figured it would be a comfortable and reasonably priced place to have dinner.

IMG_9662 Dinner = flammekuche

This was when I was introduced to flammekueche!  (The lights in here were red, hence the photos are red, too.)  This dish is a pizza of sorts only the crust is very thin.  The topping I chose as onions and mushrooms with cheese, too.  It is something I hope I can figure out how to make for myself at home one day.  Great meal to end my day.

Paris is Eye Candy















Train station in Limoges.



The train station in Limoges is beautiful. It was easy to wander around taking photos of the station before my train arrived taking me to my virginal Parisian experience.








My seat ticket assigned me to the rear of the car (which is good for someone like me who can be too nonchalant about getting off a train in time) next to a young man who had been sleeping, until I woke him up, and behind a seemingly eccentric woman, around my age, who kept standing up watching us and occasionally saying something in French or broken English. I just wanted to quietly enjoy the 2 1/2 hour ride. Soon after the train left the station, I saw the singular seat next to a window across the aisle was empty. I nabbed it and enjoyed the peace of the ride while occasionally taking a photo of a depot we were passing.


It was cold enough outside for my camera to catch the exhalation of

smoke from this girl’s cigarette.


As the train pulled into Paris I was the first one at the door. The train stopped and I waited for the doors to open, for what seemed like a split second, when “eccentric woman” (who had more train smarts than I did) leaned over my luggage, nudged me out of the way, and opened the door. On every train ride I seem to learn something new. On this ride I learned: a) the train doors do not automatically open like a subway or bus, and b) next time be the 2nd person in line, not the first.

The Austerlitz train depot in Paris is huge, noisy, and confusing. I had no sense of what direction the street was to even leave the station; I stopped into the ‘i’ (Information) office to ask. I have absolutely no problem asking ANYONE for directions as the City of Paris would find out. (Note: When I was growing up in San Francisco, as a child, we would always get dressed up with hats and gloves to shop in downtown S.F. My favorite department store was called “City of Paris.” It was an architecturally beautiful store with the most beautiful feminine things.)






Exterior of Austerlitz Train Station in Paris


My first glimpse of the outdoor cafes in Paris.

The cab driver wasn’t sure where it was that I wanted to go, so luckily I had written the name and address of my hotel on the notepad I carry in my crossover handbag. (This was the first Euro trip when I didn’t use my crossover Rick Steves’ front pack. I miss the light weight of that pack especially in comparison to this heavy leather number I bought in the US. I thought it would look so-called “sophisticated” for London and Paris. I don’t think it worked; no matter what, I will still look like an old hippie. I’m going back to ‘the comfort look’ and to hell with sophistication.)


The Hotel Bonaparte.

One thing about traveling solo is we can count on being given the one restaurant table, with one chair, near the toilets, or, we can also be given, what I call, “The Nun’s Room” in a hotel. I really wasn’t expecting a single bed when I registered as a “single” traveler, but that’s what I got.


Other than the bed, the room was clean, it had a small refrigerator, and it was on the third floor facing an interior courtyard, so it was quiet. I had arrived in Paris.

I found this hotel listed in Rick Steves’ small handbook version of his Paris guidebook. Eventhough I do have several of his books, daypacks, luggage, live in the same town, and have been attending his free lectures for many years, I am not a “groupie.” Whatever I have bought has been usually at special discounts; for instance, attending the free lecture on France, there was a 20% discount off any book on France in the Europe Through the Back Door Travel Center. This place, and the lectures, are in the town where I live: Edmonds, Washington. Early last year, day packs were on sale for $5 ea via a special online sale, and I could pick them up at the Travel Center, so there were no shipping charges. I love a bargain and I am not a groupie. Even in San Francisco at the height of the music scene in the 60s, I would see several bands over and over but I was never a music groupie either. I am so independent that I find even joining a book club too limiting for me!

Most places Steves’ books recommend are higher in price than what I can get on my own, but Hotel Bonaparte was an exception. Every place in Paris seemed expensive to me. I tried finding an apartment at first, but there was not going to be much of a price break this time, especially since I wanted to be on the Left Bank or at least close enough to the River Seine, Notre Dame, etc. If I ever go back and stay longer than 3-4 days, an apartment would be the way to do it. Last year my family and I rented apartments in several places throughout Spain and Portugal which was perfect, especially when traveling with kids.

Since some hotels say there would be a discount if you mention Rick’s name, when I asked the concierge if that was the case here, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. He said people keep asking that and when Mssr Steves last stayed there, they asked him if he had mistakenly advertised a discount for this hotel, he told them, “Non!” I told him that was correct, but I wanted to ask anyway – just in case. Poor guy. Maybe he was a member of the 4th generation family who owned the hotel all these years (I later learned he wasn’t, but obviously he was a dedicated employee.)

When driving in from the railway station, the cab driver (who became friendly and chatty after he heard it was my first time in Paris) pointed out that the Luxembourg Gardens were a block from the Hotel Bonaparte. I decided that since it was 3 p.m., although I would rather take a nap, I could go for a walk to check the gardens off the list of things to see in my 4 nights, and 3 short days.

When booking the room, I noticed that breakfasts were not included in the price of the room but were available for €10. That was too steep a price for me to spend for breakfast every day, so in my first walk in Paris, I would hit the Luxembourg Gardens and a supermarket. I had a fridge so this was one way to save a few euros.

What I saw first, around the corner from the hotel, was St. Sulpice church and my first Parisian fountain. I spent almost an hour wandering around the church and fountain area.


View from St. Sulpice church to the corner where

my hotel was located


The first fountain I saw in Paris, located in front of St. Sulpice Church.


An art installation in front of St. Sulpice.




Another art installation in front of St. Sulpice


Girl on cell phone texting as her mom lights a candle.


Photocopy of the famous Shroud of Turin



This obelisk was featured in one of Dan Brown’s books. There is supposed to be a pinhole in the wall opposite which points sunlight on the obelisk telling time.

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Confessions are now heard inside plexiglass ‘confessionals.’




Entering this church, by the front doors was the familiar sight of beggars, as seen in most metropolitan cities in Europe. I saw a woman (men rarely beg) who appeared to be with her daughter at the front door of the church. When I left and proceeded to the other end of the columns, there was a little girl, dressed in black, veil included, on her knees, hands folded in prayer, furtively praying and crying and pleading for money (since she was speaking French, this is an assumption on my part). She was so dramatic that I paused, as well as a man nearby, and we just watched her theatrics. Was it real or was she part of a family scam? I walked away and will never know, but her face and the sound of her voice still haunts me. I hope it was all an act…

Luxembourg Gardens was a huge area which I couldn’t possibly cover this late in the day without expending more energy than I had. It was also bare because of the time of year. It must be beautiful in spring when the trees are full and the flowers have bloomed.

Even with the cold gray weather, it seemed everywhere I looked there was something extraordinary to capture on camera. Paris was like eye candy for me.

In my supermarket quest, I took photos along the way, while asking people, mostly women with children, where the closest market was located.



Chess games continue even if it is cold outside


An empty area of the Luxembourg Gardens






Even the balconies of buildings have statues


School is out


Two days later I found out this is the top of the building

holding Napoleon’s tomb

It took me a very long time and a lot of walking to finally find the supermarket, even with several people telling me the direction. I totally missed it the first time because it looked like a clothing store. Finally another mom told me the market was down the escalator BENEATH the clothing store. Then she continued on with her cute little daughter singing songs while they walked (hearing her made me remember that I used to sing with my own kids when we walked, so it brought back good memories).

When I finally got downstairs to the supermarket, I picked out the easiest things like yogurt for the morning, pre-made salad for dinner, some bread to go with the cheese I brought from Limoges, dessert, and a bottle of wine. When I returned to the hotel, it was already getting dark. I asked the desk clerk for utensils and a corkscrew which he very nicely provided along with a plate. Perfect. It was a good ending to the first afternoon and evening I was spending in Paris. Three full days ahead…


A ‘touch of the old world’ in my hotel room










Paris II: Bridges of Love

It was late morning before I ventured out. I decided to take my time, avoiding schedules and rushing, unlike the last 2 1/2 weeks which, although a wonderful time, had entailed a lot of scheduling and rushing.

I had to slow it all down for myself. That’s the beauty of solo travel; establishing your own pace. Today my goal was Notre Dame and whatever else came along was a bonus.  Plus I had to pluck my eyebrows…

I ate my yogurt in my room over repetitive BBC specials on television (everything else was in French), read the current news online, and got ready for the quest to find cappuccino somewhere towards the Seine River.

Ending up on Blvd St. Germaine, I saw two cafes on opposite corners which both looked crowded and upscale. I decided on the Cafe de Flore’ since it reminded me of being the Paris version of Churchill Downs in London (the pub with all the flowers growing on the outside and the hanging memorabilia on the inside, shown and mentioned in an earlier post).


I walked into a frenzy of activity and saw it was packed to the gills. I knew this place was famous, just wasn’t sure why…maybe a movie. Going into the atrium, I managed to find a seat as I felt an almost electric charge of activity in the air. It was a Friday morning, almost lunch time, and the “It People” of Paris were carrying on business meetings, girlfriends were catching up, and solo traveler Me was just wanting an espresso. I looked at the menu, saw the price of €8 for a cappuccino, saw how busy the server was, and left the cafe. I later discovered that Cafe’ de Flore has its own Wiki page and a history dating back to the late 1800s. Too bad I wasn’t in the mood to linger; some other time it would be fun. Kind of like paying a fortune for a drink in Venice‘s Cafe’ Florian, which is actually older that Paris’ Flore, and just as expensive. One night, on my 2nd visit to Venice, I sat with an acquaintance in the Florian, sipping overpriced drinks (this is where I fell in love with Limoncello) for about 3 hours and having a very memorable time.

Same deal on another visit to Venice when having a couple of drinks at Harry’s Bar (Famous for creating the Bellini, but not as much fun as the Florian. However there was a ‘Duke’ loosely involved during that visit which is another story altogether.). It’s the ‘experience’ of these places which stick in the mind. I feel it’s worth at least one coffee or one drink in an overpriced historical establishment for the memory alone. But, on this particular morning, it wasn’t worth it.

Just down the street was a clean and colorful looking fast food cafe where a coffee would cost me less than half of what Cafe’ de Flore was charging. It was quiet as I sat and had my first cappuccino and Pain au Chocolat in Paris.


20130415-043515.jpg Coffee and a pastry here was reasonably priced and tasted just fine.

 As I continued walking toward the river, I figured out that the street Rue de Seine would be a logical choice to get me to the river Seine (Also confirmed this with the small laminated walking map which was included in Steves’ Paris Handbook which, I must say without sounding like a ‘groupie’, came in very handy on this trip.).


20130415-044840.jpg I followed the building signs reading Rue de Seine


These forks and spoons caught my eye. Very cool design.






Old city water cistern


I had no idea what the front of this building would look like which makes travel all the more interesting

The storefronts in Paris have colorful personalities and people just go about their business like everywhere else in the world. I never felt uneasy, as some cities can make you feel. It was an easy flow to just “Be There Now”, so to speak. However, by the time I got to the little city park with the statues (who was “Carolina” and why was she naked?) I had to also wonder, “WTH was the river?” Not sure whether to take a hard right or a soft meander going forward, I chose the latter. After going through a portico, I was astounded. I had indeed reached the River Seine…among other things. These buildings were massive. I don’t recall seeing buildings this enormous before. Maybe I have, somewhere in other places in Europe, but maybe it was the setting which made these particular buildings in Paris pop out. Wow.


20130415-050222.jpgThe Institut de France manages approx. 1,000 foundations as well as museums and chateaux open for visits.


Institut de France, 1795, it also awards prizes and subsidies and in 2012 it amounted to over 5 million euros, many recommended by academies


This building on the other end of the Pont des Arts is the central square of the Palais du Louvre


It surprised me how much I was enjoying Paris. There is an element of artistic freedom, beauty, intellectualism, nonchalance, and anonymity. I like that. An attitude of “Que sera sera.” My mother used to sing that song. “Whatever shall be, shall be.” As I write this, the US is still reeling from the bombing in Boston and I think about how all the cities I’ve just visited, London, Manchester, and now Paris have endured terrible tragedies like this over the years but they carry on. There is nothing most of us can do but hope and pray the madness will stop.

Institut des France

Institut de France

Crossing Pont des Arts (Bridge of Art, I assume), I see all the ‘love locks’ and remember how I come from a family of romantics. My mother, father, grandmother, and even the grandfather, whom I never met, were all romantics. My grandfather’s 1930s letters to my grandmother are filled with the heartbreak and angst of losing her.

‘Love Locks’ are carved with the initials of the lovers, locked on the railing of a bridge, and the key tossed into the river. There were a few in Porto, Portugal I saw last year, too. But there were thousands here and I have read that Paris is trying to figure out what to do about the situation.

Pont Des Art

Pont Des Art




What I didn’t know, the next day, was that if I went through that center portico in the above building, I would have gone into the Palais de Louvre and it would have been an easier way to get to “The Louvre.” This was not the way I walked the following day, instead walking the long way around.


From this vantage point, I could see the island where the Notre Dame is located.


Getting closer.


The Pont Neuf, meaning New Bridge, is the oldest and most historical of bridges in Paris. The first stone was laid by King Henry III of France in 1578 (son of Catherine de’Medici), and apparently he was in tears because his two most loyal friends had died in a duel the night before. Hence, it was called “Bridge of Tears.” I’ve been on the “Bridge of Sighs” and now the “Bridge of Tears.” That’s what I love about Europe, it makes no excuses for all the melodrama and romance. (This bridge looks cool at night according to a photo I saw.)

. Europe is like an aristocratic old woman who, sadly and passionately, recalls her life experiences and lost loves as her eyes well and spill with tears.


The Samaritaine building (meaning Samaritan Woman) was once a well-known 11 story department store opened in 1869 and renovated in the art deco style in the 30s . It closed in 2005 due to loss of profits and safety issues. A Japanese firm has bought it now turning it into offices, apartments, and a hotel opening sometime during this year, 2013.

It had been also well-known for its rooftop café. Sitting up there with a view of the river and the city would have been worth an €8 coffee to me.


Finally I saw the Eiffel Tower!


Lovely place to sit awhile for a rest.


Now I can see what this side of the island looked like.


Paris has such style.



Henry IV graces the Pont Neuf. The original was melted down for cannons in 1792 during the French Revolution but was recast in 1818 on the same spot.

Bike program: Paris

Wonder if all these bikes are rented during tourist season. As I walked along toward the cathedral, I was drawn to a window with lovely clothes in earthy pastel tones. A woman came to the door and told me I could come in as this was a

pop up shop, or something like that. Designers showcase their clothing in an empty storefront for a long weekend offering their clothes at discounts. The designer came out to talk to me about her line. The only thing I could justify spending money on was a scarf but then reconsidered while thinking I should be more budget conscious and not blow 35 euros on a scarf. But they were lovely, one-of-a-kind scarves and I should have just bought one. Instead of ‘buyer’s remorse’, I am having ‘budget conscious remorse.’

Spring on the Seine in Paris

At one point, I looked over the ledge of the bridge and saw these two young women talking by the river’s edge and sharing a bottle of wine. The buds of spring are just arriving in Paris.




I rounded a corner and saw this ‘official’ looking building, which I believe might be the equivalent of a Department of Justice, along with some guards as well as the news crew. I didn’t want to be arrested for taking too many photos so I clicked quick. I recall seeing something in the news about Sarkozy, former president of France, being in some trouble and having to go to court, so maybe…

Rounding the next corner and oh my! The Gendarme were having a slow day apparently….




View of one of two bridges connecting the Ile de a Cite’ island with the mainland.


This bridge, Pont Saint Michel, connects the Left Bank with this island Notre Dame sits on. There are two bridges to the island of Ile de a Cite’. There is the Pont Neuf starting from the Right Bank (the side where the Louvre is located) and the other, Pont Saint Michel, which connects the Left Bank (the side where my hotel was located). The island is one of two natural islands on the Seine. Before this visit, I didn’t quite understand the island but now know it has a history going back to 52 BC when a small Gallic tribe, the Parisii, lived here. It was a safe harbor when there were invasions but was also prone to flooding.

I had arrived on the island and Notre Dame Cathedral was next…somewhere around another corner. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but one thing I didn’t expect was that the cathedral was celebrating its’ 850th birthday. Nor did I expect a set of bleachers set up facing the entrance and all the people waiting to go inside.

Next chapter: Inside Notre Dame and an Unusual Reminder of My Previous Catholic Life

I See London, I See France, I See Life and Take a Chance


We arrived at the Liverpool John Lennon airport with time to spare so while John and Denise were dealing with parking their car, I changed my £ to € and then totally missed the Ryan Air baggage check-in until I was halfway up the escalator. Getting off the escalator, I couldn’t find the elevator, so went up another level . I was nervous by then that I would now have to go down 3 flights of stairs with my luggage, until I walked around a corner, where I thought there should be an elevator shaft (no signs), and found the elevator door. This is when I know I’m tired.

The flight to Limoges was packed. Apparently many British folks have bought homes in this part of France due to the affordability factor as well as the ease of travel with inexpensive direct flights on Ryan Air from Manchester to Limoges. It was an uneventful and quick flight over the English Channel.


You know that saying how sometimes we are our own worse enemy? I do not always listen to my gut feelings, which is another way to say, “Listen to your intuition.” Many times I don’t trust my intuition and instead think it’s fear taking over. As recent as last November, my feeling was to cancel a trip to Mexico, but I went anyway. Probably could have lived without that experience as the heat was too extreme and I wasn’t staying anywhere with a pool on site or a good swimming beach. So, we live and maybe we learn, and maybe we don’t.

Ever since I was diagnosed a little over two years ago, with both a lifelong disease and a chronic illness, I still tend to push my limits until I melt into a puddle of pain and exhaustion. I think just one more step, one more mile, one more flight of stairs, then I’ll stop and rest. You know, the old adage of “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Idioto.

When I received and accepted this gracious invitation to visit J and D’s cottage in the Limosin area of France for a few days, it seemed like a great opportunity to see their place and an area of France I hadn’t been to, and, since I was there, I could also do a solo trip to Paris afterwards (which would be my first time in Paris). What my intuition had told me before even leaving the USA, was to go home from Manchester. But, I had to see whatever the experience had to offer.

On our first morning we were off to a village market day which was held only once a month at this time of year, and we hit it at the right time. All the market folks were totally warm and friendly, unlike the image people may have of the French. We also stopped at memorials from WWII along the way and in other various places during these four days. This area is teeming with history of espionage, heroic acts of courage, and memorials to the slain men and women who fought for their country.

At the market there were fish in a tank on the back of a truck, a beautiful young French boy in his father’s food truck eating a croissant whose smile I just missed on camera, cheese shaped into hearts, snails tucked into various concoctions (which I am sure, for the escargot connoisseur, were delicious), cooked sausages, beautiful garlic, and pointy-breasted aprons blowing in the breeze. This was the small village feel which I love to experience when traveling. It’s real and there is no pretense.














I had asked if I could take this woman’s photo; I think she was telling me to buy one of her sausages, while I’m at it. (I didn’t.)




A number of Dutch folks have bought places in the Limousin area, hence the wooden clogs.

We spent time on another day in the medieval town of “Uzerche which is called ‘The Pearl of the Limousin’ because of the picturesque setting. It was a center of influence and an important crossroads fortress under Pepin the Short, as well as the seat of a powerful abbey and later a Seneschal. This legacy means that Uzerche features castles, hotels, and other buildings marked by turrets that were built by uzerchoise nobility. ” (Wikipedia)




We had espresso in a café with this poster.





An art installation with the ‘metal man’ crouching at the top of this waterway.







John and Denise wait patiently for me to finish meandering and shooting photos.




When I saw the door to this crypt, I thought for sure the door would be locked…it wasn’t. I called out to J and D to come join me in a new adventure.



John found a light switch!



We were walking back in time to the 11th century.








I loved this sculpture of the girl with her apple in the church courtyard.




The River Vezere


Check out the construction of this wall and the three

wooden beams built into the rockery to support the building on the

other side.






On the right of this lovely doorway

was an off white panel of ugly apartment doorbell buttons.


Off to Rapunzel’s tower with sweeping views. This was built in 1954 as a cross between a water tower and on a lark. I’ve read that you can go to the reception desk at the hotel across the way for the key and then climb the sturdy spiral staircase to the top for even more expansive views of the Limousin area.



Marcel Champeix was active in the Resistance during WWII; he died in Limoges.


Masseret Tower. The Hotel de la Tour is right across the quiet road in this former hilltop marketplace. (Reviews are good and rates are great.)




We went to a grocery store where I was drawn to take photos of quail eggs and orange soup.


On our last day we went to Eymoutiers. Because I did not have Internet access during these 4 days, I felt a bit untethered which is not necessarily a good thing for two reasons, 1) cut off from my family and friends, and 2) I couldn’t easily look up a place and research its history. As I am writing these posts, after-the-fact, I am learning about where we went.

For instance, this village of Eymoutiers is known for the tanning trade from the 16-18th century and the tanners were known as “skin-peelers.” There were as many as 20 tanneries along the banks of the river.

Back in the 7th century there was a hermit who lived here. When he was a boy, he lived in Scotland and was born to a royal family. Legend has it that he fell asleep on a beach, in a raft, surrounded by friends, when a huge wave washed the boy out to sea (Atlantic) where he drifted for 3 days praying for divine intervention. It is told that an island appeared, rising from the sea, and he was saved. Later, someone convinced him to move to this area of France and some cleric convinced him to become a hermit which led him to live in a small cell in the forest. He is called St. Psalmodias because it is said he was well-known for singing psalms all the time. He also performed miracles (in order to be a saint, that is a requirement) such as giving sight to a blind woman, rescued a man swallowed by a snake, and after a wolf killed his donkey, he made the wolf carry his burdens. Oh my!

Inside the church, there are wooden sculptures on the walls which are quite unique to the time period along with lovely stained glass. The town has an annual festival called “The Earth Blowers” which looks like fun and totally transforms this town. When I saw the town it was in the very early spring, and very cold, and from what I’ve seen online, the town certainly becomes colorful and crowded in the summer.























The next day it was time to say “Au Revoir” to my gracious hosts: my cousin John, and his wife, Denise. They were headed back to England and I was getting on a train to Paris. Man-oh-man, I was tired but I had to do this. Four more days to go before I head home to my own bed. But first, it was one more step, one more hill, and several more miles to experience the City of Light. Ooo-la-la!!