Sunday, August 17, 2014


London! :)

Arriving from Paris on the Chunnel

I had the amazing opportunity to go to Europe this summer with my husband. We first spend a few days in Paris, then a few days in London. (All about Paris in previous post). Now, about London.

London is such an incredible city, and I would say probably one of my favorites (although to be fair, I have a lot of favorites). The first thing I would say about London is that it is very clean. Amazingly so. For any city, but especially for such a large city, it is very well kept. There are also many wonderful museums and sights to see. We didn't have time for everything we wanted to see, but some of the highlights were:

Victoria and Albert Museum (biggest highlight of the trip)
The Original Bus Tour
The National Gallery
British Museum
Afternoon Tea

Victoria and Albert Museum:
This was by far my favorite museum I have ever been to. They have an amazing collection of craft pieces, including a huge jewelry collection and iron collection. We weren't allowed to take any photos of the jewelry (so sad), but it's the largest collection of jewelry I've seen at a museum (or anywhere for that matter), with work that ranged from thousands of years ago to contemporary work. I was able to get some photos of the iron collection though, which had some beautiful old locks and keys and tin pieces.

The Original Bus Tour is one of those double decker buses that drives you around the city with a tour guide explaining very quickly what you are driving by. It was a great way to see the whole city, especially when we were so tired from days of non stop walking. They also allow you to get off at different sights and hop back onto another bus that comes by. Here are some photos from the bus ride:

The National Gallery was a good museum to see, with work from some of my favorite artists, including Jan van Eyck (I got to see the Arnolfini Portrait!), Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Vincent van Gogh, and many others. We were not allowed to take any photos inside the gallery, so I'm including this one of a very large rooster just outside the gallery at Trafalgar Square. On the bus tour, they said something about it being a space where contemporary sculpture pieces get displayed for a limited period of time and then get changed out with another one. 

The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck has been one of my favorite paintings for several years because of all the intricate details in the piece, with the reflection in the mirror, the way the light hits the metal on the mirror and chandelier, and the folds in the fabric of the clothing. Incredible! 

The British Museum is a must see museum for anyone in London. They have an amazing collection of antiquities, particularly Egyptian artifacts. It was a lot of fun walking around seeing mummies and pieces from the Parthenon in Greece, but it was so crowded, we ended up leaving a little earlier than we had planned. We still saw quite a bit though.
The Rosetta Stone

I have always wondered what Afternoon Tea was. Isn't it just drinking tea in the afternoon? After listening to audio books by Agatha Christie, in which characters were eating all kinds of delicious sounding sandwiches and cakes during Afternoon Tea, I was very perplexed. So, I made it one of my main goals to find out while I was in London. We went to the National Cafe inside the National Museum and ordered Afternoon Tea. It was wonderful! We had to split one though, because it was huge!!! They bring out a pot of tea (of course) and a three tiered stand with sandwiches, little pastries, and a scone with butter and jam (probably the best I've ever had). I don't see how anyone could have this every day, but it was a fun treat.

Pubs are also a must when in London, and we went to several. We found one right away by our hotel when we first arrived in London, and it was very cozy and charming. 

London tradition, Fish and Chips

On our last day we went to one of the oldest pubs in London called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. It has been open since the 1600's, when it re-built after the Great Fire. So really, it's even older than that! It's such a cute little place and a great dining experience.

And of course it wouldn't be right to not include a photo of some red phone booths, so here you go!

I hope to be able to go back to London some day to see all the museums I missed, but I'm pretty happy with what I was able to see while there this time around.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Paris! Over the summer I was in Europe with my husband, and we had an amazing time! I wanted to share with you some of the incredible sights and art that we saw (and also the food). We spent about 5 days in Paris, and then went to London (which will be in the next blog post). 

It had been 8 years since I had been to Paris, and it was my husband's first time abroad, so it was quite a magical experience.

We didn't end up having time to go up the Eiffel Tower, but we had an incredible view from one of the bridges. At the top the hour, the lights shimmered in a beautiful light show for about 5 minutes.

Croissants and cafe creme. Perfect French breakfast.

Nutella and banana crepes. Yum.

Of course we had to see the Louvre! There was a huge line to get in. We probably waited about an hour or so, but it was worth the wait.

Some of my favorite paintings...

I saw some amazing jewelry at the Louvre from ancient Egypt and Greece.

One of the things I was most struck by in Paris was all the beautiful doors everywhere.

One of my favorite places on this earth. Such beautiful grandeur! Every inch of the palace is draped in detailed beauty. The photos above are in the chapel in Versailles.

The famous hall of mirrors.

When I was at Versailles eight years ago, I missed seeing the inside of the Petite Trianon, which is where Marie Antoinette spent a lot of her time away to get away from court. This time I got to see it!

I also wanted to see the Queen's Hamlet, which is where she pretended to be a milk maid and live the "simple" farm life, but I didn't realize how large the property was, and by the time we walked over there it was closed. :( It just means that I'll have to go back! Seriously, the Versailles gardens are so huge it would probably take a few days to see everything.

This is the Queen's Hamlet from the outside wall. It looks like it's from a fairy tale!

We had to run through the Musee d'Orsay before they closed, but I was really excited to see some plique-a-jour enamel!

We also went to the Notre Dame Cathedral while in Paris. Such beautiful detail!

And I saw enamel! This is a reliquary with enamel and gemstones.

There is also a really cool exhibition at Notre Dame on the jewels of the cathedral. We had to pay a few euros to get in, but was well worth it. I was hoping they had a book for sale with images from the show, but no such luck.

A really amazing book cover with metal and enamel.

A beautiful challis with enamel and gems.

Some of the amazing looking (and tasting) food...

While walking around, we happened upon this beautiful garden market. I so wanted to buy a Paris plant, but there was no way to take it home. :)

We also went to the flea market at Clignancourt, Le Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. It was amazing! We never would have found it without our Rick Steve's book, but once we did, it was so much fun to walk around and see all of the treasure. We didn't end up taking anything home because everything we wanted was either too big to fit on the plane, or too expensive. But it was still fun to see!

We also went to this crazy restaurant called Chez Louisette, where there are performers singing Edith Piaf songs, and supposedly a fake Toulouse-LauTrec (though I didn't see him). The food wasn't great, but it was a fun atmosphere with tacky Christmas decorations everywhere.

We also went to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It was raining almost the whole time we were in Paris, and on this day it was raining pretty hard. It was a pretty amazing experience walking through the rain with our umbrellas (something we don't experience too often in Arizona).

We also found this little flea market while walking around, and found some really cute things. 

Including this jeweler's bench! I wanted to take it home, but obviously I couldn't fit it in my suitcase. :)

Be sure to come back to read my blog post about my London visit! Coming soon!