A Day in Madrid: El Rastro and La Latina neighborhood

archway steps street hill stone buildings

European open-air flea markets hold a special allure. They offer the tantalizing promise of discovery among objects once held dear and abandoned as families dissolved, tastes changed, or new technologies emerged. They illuminate the old ways and values of a culture; which, being from a young and often rootless country, we Americans often romanticize. I happened upon my first open-air flea market, El Rastro, years ago during my first trip to Madrid. The largest flea market in Spain and perhaps in all of Europe is held every Sunday and...

The Sibyls, Santa Maria della Pace, Rome

round portico of a stone church Santa Maria dell Pace Rome

Tucked between the Piazza Navona and via dei Coronari, in my favorite area of Rome, sit Santa Maria della Pace and the Chiostro del Bramante. After visiting these two gems, my slow travel itinerary would include meandering through the lanes, visiting antique shops on via dei Coronari, and enjoying lunch at an outdoor table while admiring Renaissance and Baroque architecture and watching locals go about their day. Italy is full of surprises and below is one of my most treasured memories of Rome. My father was a poet and...

45 rue des Archives

red door in stone facade Parisfa

Unbeknownst to me, I was following in the footsteps of Eugene Atget yet again when this lovely red door at 45 rue des Archives caught my eye. I love the deep yet vibrant red lacquered door contrasted with the weathered stone archway and worn cobblestones. Where does this door lead? Who has walked by and through it over the years? I decided to learn more and discovered a rich and varied history that led me to current events in Paris. In the 13th century, the area now known as the...

A Day Trip to Arles

cobblestone street pastel houses and shutters Arles

As the train pulled into the station at Arles on a mild November morning, I found myself entirely unprepared. I’d set off for a day trip to Arles from Montpellier on a whim, intending to go where the wind blew me, finding joy in discovering things for myself, a true flâneur. Usually, I do more planning, but it had been an extremely difficult few months, and I was exhausted. I knew Van Gogh had lived in Arles for a time, had painted prolifically, cut off his ear, and was...

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...

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...

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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