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...

Happy Birthday, RUE DE VARENNE

view from window light iron scroll work autumn trees

A year ago today I published my first post on RUE DE VARENNE. Suddenly, my reflections, travel tips, and photographs had a place to come together and be shared with others. As a child writing poems and stories in my bedroom, and a creative writing major in college just before the internet became widely available, I never imagined I’d reach so many people from all over the world. Thank you for reading and for your support! I hope RUE DE VARENNE not only provides useful travel tips but also...

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...

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...

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