Aligning Expectations

fountain Ferris wheel Louvre museum cloudy sky

I’ve discovered that, for me, the key to planning enjoyable and meaningful travel experiences is beginning with realistic expectations. There are many reasons to travel, styles and personalities of travelers, experiences each person wishes to have, and perhaps different physical needs. Acknowledging these factors and aligning my expectations allows me greater focus when planning an itinerary. I’ve learned to tailor the experience based upon who will be on the trip, our various needs, capabilities, and desires. Aligning expectations enables me to appreciate each experience for what it is meant...

A Winter Day in Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome river bridge angels ancient Roman building sunset

One night, I dreamed that I was alone in the darkened streets of Rome. Rounding a corner, there was the Pantheon, lit up in the night, its enormity and beauty breathtaking. Stunned, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to see it if only in a dream. What was I doing there? Why was I alone? It would be ten years before I knew. In December 1999, I traveled with artwork lent to an exhibition at the Chiostro del Bramante, my first trip to Europe alone. After a two-day...

The Marais: An unexpected meeting

Rue de Sevigne ©ruedevarenne.com

Many travelers love getting to know people wherever they go. However, when traveling alone I tend to keep to myself for safety’s sake. I have, however, been blessed to meet some incredible people, particularly colleagues, but also a small handful strangers. I once had an unusual experience in the Place des Vosges, in the Marais district of Paris, that reminded me not to close myself off altogether. In 2005, I was in Paris working on an exhibition of photographs at the Mémorial de la Shoah. Located in the Marais,...

Slow travel: A Nap in Paris

Slow travel: A nap in Paris ©ruedevarenne.com

Last summer, as we prepared for our fall trip to Paris, we decided to put the slow travel philosophy into practice. For the past couple of years, I’ve been reading and listening to podcasts about the slow living movement. It encompasses elements of mindfulness, inspiring you to be selective about how you spend your time, to take life at a more leisurely pace, and to focus on the present moment. Slow living leads to a less cluttered mind and feeling more connected to your life. A natural outgrowth, the slow travel...

Chocolatería San Ginés

Chocolatería San Ginés, Madrid ©ruedevarenne.com

Tucked in a pedestrian passage off of the Puerta del Sol and attached to Iglesia San Ginés, the Chocolatería San Ginés has served chocolate con churros since 1894. This interpretation may not be what many are used to, but the combination is divine. The hot chocolate is similar to a rich, dark pudding; rather than a beverage, it’s used as a dipping sauce for the long pieces of golden fried dough. The churros, an unembellished close relative of Mexican churros, are crisp on the outside and doughy on the...

Through the window of Rodin’s garden

Musée Rodin Paris through window onto garden

It’s been raining here for several days, an unusual occurrence in the desert. Last night, my husband and I spoke of that November in Paris, how lovely it was in the rain, how we missed it. I woke up thinking of this view from the top floor window of the Musée Rodin, one I often return to in my mind’s eye, appreciating the beauty of each season I’ve been lucky to see, from the lushness of spring to the sparseness of winter. Although I love the art in the...

The Sunday coin and stamp market in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor, Madrid coin and stamp market

On Sunday mornings a coin and stamp market overtakes the perimeter of Plaza Mayor in Madrid, El mercadillo numismático de la Plaza Mayor de Madrid. The first time I happened upon it I was on my way to El Rastro, the enormous flea market held in La Latina, the neighborhood south of the plaza. Tables overflowing with coins and stamps lined the colonnaded porticoes surrounding the plaza. The collectors were out in full force, most of them men in their fifties through eighties, although the crowd was peppered with...

Classical concert at Église Saint Paul-Saint Louis

Some of my most treasured memories of Paris are of the classical music concerts my husband and I have attended in churches. Vastly different from the concert halls and modern churches in the U.S., they offer a complete sensory experience. We treasure the intimacy of watching the musicians up close, the difference in acoustics as the notes bounce off of columns and through side chapels, and allow our minds to wander as we appreciate the beauty of their architecture, art, and stained glass. When the music and church are...

L’heure bleue in Paris

rue de Sévigné Paris dusk church

L’heure bleue, or the blue hour, is a French concept. It’s that magical time between the sun setting and nightfall, when the angle of the sun below the horizon line bathes everything in a suffused, bluish light, creating a dreamlike quality. It’s more specific than “evening” because it refers to the quality of light, not just the time of day. This magical time can last until well after 10:00 p.m. in the summer. It’s a surreal interval, suspended between night and day, when we notice more, our senses heightened....

Welcome to RUE DE VARENNE

wooden doors surrounded by stone arch

One Saturday in September, after a delicious brunch at JUDY cantine qualitarienne in the sixth arrondissement of Paris, my husband and I set off on our customary pilgrimage to the Musée Rodin in the seventh. The sky a deep blue punctuated by large white clouds with traces of gray, we hoped the weather would hold long enough for us to explore the museum’s garden, a favorite spot of ours. It was the first time we’d walked the entire length of rue de Varenne. Along the way we stopped often, pointing...

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