A Workshop Tour of Europe: France (Part 2)

Ah, Paris. The most charming city in the world–the city that never gets old–the city that I fell in love with almost a decade ago, and haven’t stopped dreaming about since. This was my third time visiting Paris, and I was just as excited to be there as the first time I went.

When my friend Brooke suggested we go to Paris before I head back to the US, I didn’t even have to think twice about it. I booked my tickets that day, and had an Airbnb set up an hour later. I couldn’t wait to explore more of this city that had shaped European history, fashion, art, and so much more.

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Our first day in the city was spent navigating train stations and subway lines, dragging bags through tunnels and across cobblestone streets. Very quickly, we found our airbnb, settled in, and then headed out into the warm sunny afternoon. Brooke and I wanted to see the “typical tourist sights” first, as you do, and so we headed first to the Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower. I don’t care how many times I see both of those places; I still feel so in awe of their construction, history, and beauty.

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The Tour de France was heading through Paris that same weekend we were in town–which meant there were crowds and bicyclists everywhere. The Champs Elysees is the landmark last stop on the tour, and so we decided we would head there the day before the final haul of riders came through.

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The next day, Brooke and I decided to go somewhere neither of us had been before in Paris: Père Lachaise Cemetery. This is the cemetery that is known for its gigantic and elaborate tombstones and mausoleums, as well as being the resting place of several famous individuals, including Chopin, Molière, Jim Morrison, Théodore Géricault, and Oscar Wilde.

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This cemetery was one of the most incredible places I had ever seen, and stretched on for miles. Each tombstone was unique in its own way, offering little hints about the deceased individuals who inhabited its grounds. I was amazed at each turn in Pére Lachaise, and I wondered what it would be like to have the honor of being buried in such a beautiful place. I also thought about what my tombstone would look like if I rested my own bones here; would I have a simple grave marker–no frills or vanity? A miniature chapel, complete with a nave and decorated façade, and a crypt below for my body? Would I want a statue of myself to stand guard at my grave for all eternity, in bronze or granite or marble? I think I’m pretty certain I would opt for the first option.

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In the afternoon, we came out of the subway to find the city drenched in newly fallen rain. We weren’t going to let the weather stop us though–besides, Paris is always the best on a rainy day. So we grabbed our umbrellas and headed in the direction of Sainte-Chapelle. I went to this cathedral last time I was in Paris, but it had been under construction that time, and I wanted to see it in all its glory. Plus, Brooke had never been. It was the perfect day to go cathedral hopping anyways.

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I’m pretty sure nothing is more beautiful than this basilica. The light through the stained glass dances across every corner of this gorgeous place, making everything purple and blue and pink. Crowded and stuffed with tourists as it was, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a separate world of my own as I stared in awe at the beauty all around me. It is definitely an experience I won’t ever forget.

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After we had spent a good amount of time exploring the area near Sainte-Chapelle, Brooke and I wandered in the direction of Notre Dame. (I told you it was the perfect day for Cathedral hopping). First, however, we decided to check out the Latin Quarter, which was so beautifully shimmery in the rain.

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Oh, isn’t Paris wonderful? Everything is so easy to photograph because it’s just so romantic and pretty everywhere. I could explore and take pictures of this city forever.

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We eventually made our way to Notre Dame, which is obviously the most recognizable place in Paris…besides the Eiffel Tower, of course. I’ve also been to this cathedral multiple times, but I never get bored of it. In fact, below is a photo of myself I’ve gotten every time I’ve visited Notre Dame. It’s nice to see that some things change (my awkward gangliness) and other things stay the same (you know, Notre Dame).

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Now that we’ve all had a laugh at my 15 year old self, let’s continue on…

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I always make it a point to light a candle every time I visit a cathedral in Europe–or just anywhere, really. It’s a little tradition I started way back in 2006 and have carried on ever since.

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There is truly so much to do and see in Paris, and I feel like, once again, I only scratched the surface. A few years ago, I decided that if all else failed, I would move into a little flat above a boulangerie in Paris. Maybe I will still have to do that someday 😉

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And what’s a trip to Paris without stopping at Shakespeare and Co.? I wanted to buy ALL the books.

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What a beautiful way to end our time in Paris. The next morning, I dragged my bags across several blocks of Paris, passing the Louvre as I chased my bus, boarded my plane, and headed back to the US. With a last view of the Eiffel Tower far below me in the sprawling city of Paris, I said goodbye to the country and continent I love so much.

This completes my documenting of this particular European holiday, but I know there will be many more trips to come. I really feel so incredibly appreciative of everyone who made this trip such a wonderful experience for me, including Joel Robison, Brooke Henshall, Devin Schiro, Rosie Hardy, Jen Brook, Rona Keller, Regina Leah, Moritz Aust, Ana Santl, Erica Coburn, Christian Watson, Noukka Signe, Maeva and Frank Eickhoff, and every one of our wonderful students on the workshop tour. It truly would not have been the wonderful trip it was without their company and friendship. I am also so thankful for the support of my parents and family, always encouraging me to chase after my dreams and make beautiful things happen. Last but not least, thank you for everyone who continues to follow along at a distance through all of my travels and adventures, supporting me and giving me an audience to share my life and joys with.

I am so endlessly grateful. Thank you all.

Until next time, xoxo

-Whitney

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