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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4 Hours in Paris

Or eating morning pastries in Marrakech, doing laundry in Paris, and going to sleep in Zurich

Bon lundi!

Have you ever had a moment of disorientation while traveling? Like you wake up in a haze, expecting to be in your own bed, and then realize that you are hundreds of miles away from home?

This month, I had that happen to me - except I wasn’t dreaming.  Sometimes planning trips back-to-back can be messy, and when an already-booked vacation collided with a business trip for my husband, I found myself holding a boarding pass for Marrakech to Paris for the morning, and a train ticket from Paris to Zurich that very evening, with only 4 hours between.

We went from this, the famous market square of Djema el-Fna in Marrakesh...

As anyone who has traveled knows, walking in the door of your home after a long trip has a comforting feel -- knowing that after all that change, and possibly turbulence, you’re back to the familiar.  But when I walked in the door, knowing I was just passing through, it felt a bit like one of those dreams.

...to this, a Christmas market in Zurich with a magnificent tree decked out in Swarovski crystal ornaments.

So what did we do with 4 hours back in Paris? Entirely mundane things: laundry, a quick lunch, and a re-pack of our bags for another week of travel.  However, let’s have fun with this and imagine what you can do in Paris with only 4 hours to spare:

  • See an opera at Palais Garnier or Opera Bastille.
  • Indulge in a proper French dinner, all the way from apero to an espresso finish.
  • See 0.005% of the Louvre’s collection.
  • Take a cooking class and then savor the fruits of your hard work.
  • Walk straight across town from the Bois de Vincennes to Bois de Boulogne.  And still have an hour to spare for a break at a café to refuel and re-energize!
  • Take a boat ride from Bastille up the Canal St. Martin to Parc de la Villette, with 1.5 hours left to explore the park or visit the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie museum (huge interactive science museum with an Imax theater and Planetarium).
  • Wait in line for, and climb, the Eiffel Tower - then have a picnic on the Champs de Mars.
  • Enjoy 4 expertly made cocktails at Red House.
  • Ride a bike through Paris on a guided tour.
  • And last but not least, Michael’s contribution: Ride his favorite bus, the 30, between Trocadero and Pigalle continuously for the entire 4 hours.  You’ll pass through the Arc De Triomphe traffic circle 10 times!

What would you do with 4 hours in Paris?