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...

Finding Satie in Paris

portico of 18th century Saint-Ephrem church Paris

On our second night in Paris, the piano concert program at Église Saint-Éphrem-le-Syriaque in the Latin Quarter included Satie, Chopin, and Beethoven. Almost exactly four years ago to the day, we’d attended our first classical concert in a Parisian church there, all six of Bach’s Cello Concertos, one of our most treasured memories. Filled with anticipation, we retraced our steps down Boulevard Saint-Germain and up the hill. Turning onto rue des Carmes, the brightly lit dome of the Pantheon beckoned. We easily found the church gate and walked into...

A Day in the Jardin du Luxembourg: Part 2

pink flowers urn park Jardin du Luxembourg

On the cusp between summer and fall, the Jardin du Luxembourg teemed with life enjoying the last days of mild weather, though dark clouds threatened impromptu showers. On the far side of the pond we settled into a couple chairs to watch the scenes of an idyllic Parisian Sunday afternoon play out before us. Students and young adults unencumbered by children lounged in the distance, soaking up the sun, laughing, and having picnics on the one lawn on which they allow people to tread. Couples of all ages and...

A Day in the Jardin du Luxembourg: Part 1

park pink petunias stone urns balustrade chairs trees Jardin du Luxembourg

We enjoyed another amazing brunch of avocado toast, bright green vegetable laden risotto, juice and coffee at Judy’s. Sitting next to the window we watched the Sunday rhythm of the street, people walking dogs, families on their way to a day of fun, people sunning themselves on the terrace across the street. As we left the restaurant the Jardin du Luxembourg, or Luxembourg Gardens, beckoned from the end of rue de Fleurus. We’d planned to spend the afternoon at the Musee d’Orsay, but it was too beautiful a day...

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...

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...

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