Discover France, Outside of Paris!

I made my big announcement on Monday. In case you missed it, the time has come for Michael and me to pack our bags and move back to the US after three wonderful, full years of life in Paris. The specifics will come later, but know that it is a happy decision for us and we’re really looking forward to our next adventure in New York City -- and don’t worry: the traveling (and blogging) are not going to stop! 

Yet regardless that we are happily and willfully moving on, a big change like this doesn’t come without heartbreak and sadness. Our time in Paris has forever changed our lives for the better, and over these past few weeks I can’t help but reflect on all the happy memories we’ve shared.

One outcome of living in Paris is that we’ve had the opportunity to explore a decent amount of the country outside of its capital. France is very diverse, and I highly recommend to anyone to visit Paris (because it really is always a good idea) but then to get outside and explore other regions of France as well. In hopes to introduce you to a taste of what France has to offer, here’s a little photo montage of where we’ve been in France. I’ve roughly organized the post starting from the north and heading southward. I hope this produces a bit of curiosity to travel around this gorgeous country or motivates you to see more of it!

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2014 Recap: The Gift Year

I know that by this time, we've all stopped rehashing 2014 and have started looking ahead to 2015. But I can't just summarize last year with pretty photos of Paris and Europe - I need to pause and share my reflections of a special year.

21 Trains
19 Flights
5 Buses
5 Rental cars
14 Countries
21 houseguests
131 blog posts
2 camels 
And countless sheep

2014. I think of this year as my “gift year.” That’s not to say that every day we get on this earth isn't a gift, because it is. I mean it in the sense that when I think about 2014, I think “we shouldn't still be here.” Michael had a contract to work on an assignment in Paris for almost two years, ending in December 2013. Except by the end of that year, we had realized that Paris wasn't merely the home base for our travels throughout Europe. We had somehow built a life here, entered into community, and fell in love with life in the city. Things were looking bleak for a while and it seemed that we did in fact have to move back to the US as planned. Until things turned around and we were able to stay. We weren't supposed to still be hanging around the City of Light this year, but somehow in the end we were gifted with more time.

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Canvas-Worthy Europe, 2014 edition

Last Wednesday I shared my round-up of my favorite photos taken in Paris in 2014. Now it’s time to see the year in review through a collection of my canvas-worthy contenders from our European travels outside of Paris. Here’s where I traveled to during the year!

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Chartres en Lumières

Most people treat Chartres as a day trip or stop-over on the way to or from Paris. It’s star attraction, the Chartres Cathedral, can be toured in an hour (allow more time to really explore it thoroughly). There are a few other sites to see for those who want to extend their time in town. But beyond that, why did I choose to stay overnight (especially when I have housing in Paris)?

I couldn't pass up seeing the city lit up at night for Chartres en Lumières.

Between April and October, the town puts on a show at night. I first heard of this event from a post on Out and About in Paris and it stayed in the back of my mind, only to resurface when Michael mentioned he wanted to visit Chartres again. 29 historical buildings participate, and the highlight of the nightly event is the projected light show on the main facade of the Cathedral.

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Day trip from Paris: Chartres, France, Part II

10 Things to do in Chartres besides the Cathedral

Let’s be clear. If you are going to Chartres, you are making the trip to visit its incredible cathedral. It truly is something special and deserving of your time and focus while in town. It’s perfectly acceptable to treat Chartres as a stop to see the Cathedral and then move on. But should you choose to hang around longer, there is plenty more to do.

I spent the weekend (a full day and a half) in Chartres. With more than enough time to see the Cathedral, I had plenty of time to explore. Let’s follow my route around town so I can show you what else the city has to offer:

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Day Trip from Paris: Chartres, France, Part I

If you’ve heard of Chartres, you’ve most likely heard about it in the context of one famous building that lies in the center of town. The town of Chartres is a popular day trip from Paris because it is close (about an hour drive or via train) and it has one magnificent star-attraction that towers over the town: the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, or commonly referred to in English as the Chartres Cathedral.

You also must know if you've spent any amount of time in Europe that cathedrals and grand churches exist all throughout France and the rest of Europe. I’m at a point in my European travels that I have a bit of “cathedral fatigue.” I know, the three-years-ago-me would have rolled her eyes and be tempted to slap the present-me at even the thought of how that could be possible. Just think what she would do knowing that I admitted it. But the point is, after a while, one huge old church seems similar to the next and the novelty starts to wear off.

So hear me when I say that despite my church fatigue, Chartres Cathedral is something very special. Special enough to plan a weekend trip around it, even considering that we had seen this very cathedral three years ago.

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This Week: Chartres, France

Bon lundi!

If you've been following my adventures, you know that on the last weekend of August Michael and I went on a surprise trip. I am really bad at giving surprises because I’m that person who is just bursting with excitement. My Grammy is the same way, pulling me aside before my birthday to show me the gift that I would be open months later. We just can’t help but share the joy of gift giving. But this year for Michael’s birthday I held it together. I managed to surprise him with a weekend trip to a town nearby that he’s been wanting to return to: Chartres.

To be honest, as I was concocting my plan only a few days prior to the weekend I had a moment of panic. Most people do Chartres as a day-trip from Paris, seeing the famous Cathedral, stopping for lunch, and heading back out. Was it a mistake to go for a weekend? Would we run out of things to do?

Nope, not at all. This week is all about Chartres, how I fell in love with the magnificent cathedral all over again, and what lies beyond the town’s star sight. Oh, and there was a light show too. See, so much to share this week, I can barely hold it in!

Find out where to find a house decorated entirely in mosaics this week!  

Have you ever been to Chartres, France?

A Birthday Celebration Meets Famous Cathedral

Bon lundi!

You know how I was all “let’s have a staycation and stick it out while everyone else abandons Paris?” Well, I almost made it through the month staying put. But then I realized that Michael’s birthday was coming up. He has been wanting to go back to Chartres ever since our first trip there in 2011. They had recently started restoration work on the famous Chartres Cathedral and we've been interested to see the progress made. That was the inspiration behind my spur-of-the-moment, last minute decision to book a surprise weekend trip.

Besides, this little getaway would make me feel more "French." Let me explain. 

There’s a term in French for this time of year called la rentrée. It literally means “the return” in English, and the closest expression that I can think of that we would use is “back-to-school.” But la rentrée is more than just the start of a new school year. It’s a time of everything starting back up again. The shops and restaurants that were closed for a good month or so open their doors again, locals return from their month-long vacations, and everyone is rejuvenated to get back into the normal swing of things. It feels similar to New Year’s to me - a time to look forward to the year ahead and connect to friends who you haven’t seen for a while due to all the vacation disruptions. 

So, even though I stayed within an hour of Paris, our little trip to Chartres this past weekend makes me feel like I can rentrée with the best of them. Looking forward to a fabulous fall!

The front of the Chartres Cathedral, or its official French name, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres 

Anyone else coming back from summer vacation? Where did you go?