Solo Female Travel: Insights and Tips

woman in garden reading under trees statue of a queen

There is no shame in women going places alone and enjoying their thoughts in Paris. I’ve often noticed women of all ages sitting alone at sidewalk cafes, lingering over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in the late afternoon while contemplating life, or resting under a tree in a park or garden with a good book. On my first trip to Paris, my boss hosted a small, late dinner at Brasserie Lipp. Around 11:00 p.m. a dignified older woman who looked close to eighty walked in...

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...

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,...

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...

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....

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