Prince Edward Island 2019

Oh, my beautiful Island, I simply cannot keep away from you…

In keeping with our tradition of spending time in Prince Edward Island at least every two years, Adam and I returned to my beloved, soul-awakening island this Summer. We went in July, which is later than we usually go and we were treated to an Island even more colorful than when the lupins are out in mid to late June. Lupins bring vivid splashes of color to the Island in late Spring but Summer blankets it in multiple shades of green, yellow and gold all mixed in with the blue of the ocean and the sky, the red of the cliffs and beaches and the lavender of the sunsets. I will admit that we weren’t planning on travelling this Summer but with the year we were having, Adam and I decided that a bit of time in a place so familiar and dear to us was needed. It helped us to ground ourselves and talk some things through. I have been struggling with isolation and solitude for months now, which are feelings quite common among women going through infertility and pregnancy loss, so while we were away, Adam and I began to talk about adding a dog to our family to help ease my loneliness. One thing led to another and our little golden retriever will be joining us in October. I am therefore very much looking forward to driving up to Prince Edward Island with her for our next visit and having her to frolick in the waves with. Because yes, Prince Edward Island is very dog friendly. The only beaches dogs are not allowed on are in the National Parks and even there the ban is only in place from May through October to allow Piping Plovers to nest. So perhaps the next time we go to the Island, we will give a Fall trip a try so I get discover more of my woundrous Island’s colors.

UpdateSince completing this post I have learned that 80% of the coastal forest in the western portion of the Cavendish sector of PEI National Park were lost due to the damage it sustained when the Island was struck by the remnants of Hurricane Dorian last weekend. The same area of the park also lost 2 meters to coastal erosion during the storm. I strive to keep this blog and my social media profiles as free of political discourse as possible, however in the name of my love for Prince Edward Island, a location that is extremely vulnerable to climate change due to the highly fragile nature of the red sandstone that it is formed of, I will ask this: please, vote in the upcoming election and when you do, vote with the climate in mind.

My most memorable moments in Ireland

 

The overwhelming sense of awe at the sight a smell of thousands upon thousands of ancient books in Trinity College’s old library.

The smell of roasting barley coming from the Guiness Brewery, which our apartment was down the street from.

The first sights, sounds and smells of true Spring we were treated to after a very long, hard winter.

The feeling of connecting with a huge swath of my ancestors when we arrived in Cork and saw my great-grandmother’s maiden name everywhere.

The kindness of the caretaker at Saint Fin Barr’s Cathedral who turned on the lights in the church when he saw me taking photo after photo of the place where my great-grandmother’s family more than likely spent time in prayer.

The endless views of impeccably kept famers fields and how green they were, even so early in the season.

The understanding I gained for the pain that my ancestors must have felt when they made the difficult decision to leave such a beautiful country.

How priveleged I felt to visit Newgrange and the Hill of Tara, sites of burial and worship that are more ancient than both Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt.

The hope I felt upon seeing a single, tiny purple flower growing out of the wall of the Elizabeth Fort in Cork. I saw myself in that flower.

The sense of belonging I felt, almost as soon as we arrived. I felt quite at home in magical, mystical, misty Ireland.

If you have Irish roots, I cannot encourage you enough to go visit Ireland, no matter how long ago your family came over. I had one Irish great-grandmother whose parents came over to Quebec in the late 19th Century. She was a Lynch and they were from Cork. I had another great-grandmother who was half Irish and half Scottish. Her father was a Malloy and we unfortunately know much less about her Irish ancestry. Regardless of this, I still felt a strong link to Ireland and its people, namely because for the first time in my life I found myself in country filled with short, pale-skinned, freckled folk with reddish, dirty blonde hair and blue eyes. I grew tearful when I realised just how Irish I actually look. Never lose your connection to your ancestry and if you can, visit the country your family has roots in. You will never be sorry you did.

 

Some of my favorite photos of 2018

As metioned in my previous post, 2018 definitely put a few roadblocks up on what was previously a pretty clear path in my life. It wasn’t all bad though, the year also saw me ticking a few destinations off my travel bucket list and gave me more than a few opportunities to take some pretty nice pictures. In celebration of my finally making it to Paris, Versailles, Windsor and Canada’s most Easterly province, here are a few of my favorite photos from 2018. Enjoy!

2018: a year of motherhood and loss

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Rarely has there been such a contrast between my feelings with regards to two years. Last year at this time, I was looking back on a year that had been filled with joy, celebration and positive change. This year, I am looking back on a year filled with loss. Loss of family members, loss of hope, loss of innocence. A year in which I have lost an uncle and a beloved grandmother. A year in which my husband have lost not one but two babies in the space of just under six months.

We named our fist baby Jasper when we found out we were expecting him. He brought us such joy and hope. We found out we were expecting him just after the loss of my uncle, so the happiness he infused our life with was felt all the more. He was a very laid back baby and I felt he was at his happiest when I took the time to sit down with a book and one of our cats would come to curl up and purr away beside me. We lost Jasper on my paternal grandmother’s 87th birthday, one day after we had planned to reveal our pregnancy to my family at her birthday dinner. Very few people knew we were expecting a baby, but we had to tell everyone when we lost him because I was so unwell after. My grandmother was exceptionally helpful to me in my grief because she experienced the tragic loss of her third child. She was one of the few people who I felt truly understood how keenly I felt the loss of my precious little baby even after having him with me for just a few weeks, even after never having been able to hold him in my arms, or look into his eyes. It made the sudden loss of my grandmother a mere six weeks after Adam and I lost Jasper all the more difficult to bear.

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When Adam and I found out we were expecting our second baby, we named him Chase. His name was short for ‘chanceux’, which is the french word for lucky and also a reference to the fact that we were fully aware that we would eventually end up chasing our little one away from trouble on a very regular basis. We found out Chase was on his way in mid-november and his pregnancy felt much more stable and healthy than Jasper’s had. Chase was a baby who liked it when I was on the move and particularly enjoyed it when I swayed to jazz music while listening to the radio and cooking on Friday nights. This may make it sound like my second pregnancy was active and bucolic and that I felt confident that all would be well, but let me tell you that second pregnancies after a miscarriage are nerve-wracking. You are perpetually afraid of finding blood in your panties or on the toilet paper or in the toilet when you go to the bathroom. You freak out if you feel fewer pregnancy symptoms on one day than you did the day before and you have to constantly repeat to yourself that recurrent early pregnancy loss is extremely rare (only about 1% of couples experience recurrent miscarriages). Throughout my pregnancy with Chase I had to constantly talk myself down from anxiety and worry. I even started pre-natal yoga at six weeks to help myself relax. Once I got through week seven, the week when we had lost Jasper, I relaxed a little and when I made it to week eight and a tiny little bump appeared in my midsection and I had experienced zero spotting and no cramping for two weeks, I finally began to believe everything would be well this time around. Then one day before week nine of my pregnancy I spotted at the end of the day. I called Adam in a panic and he came home from work. The next day when I was still spotting we went to the hospital and had an ultrasound. Chase had no visible heartbeat. Chase seemed like he hadn’t grown in two and a half weeks. The doctor was concerned and gave us a referral to a specialist who looks into cases of recurrent miscarriage. He told us he sincerely hoped we would not need to see the doctor and asked us to return to the hospital on Christmas Eve for another ultrasound, because sometimes babies can be surprising and a fetus with no visible heartbeat can have a good strong one a few days later. There was absolutely no change in our baby after two days. The little one we had been loving and cherishing for a bit over nine weeks had been dead for the last two and a half. I had a D&C on Christmas Eve, we came home, listened to Midnight Mass on the radio, went to bed and I cried myself to sleep. Being heartbroken and miserable when there is Christmas music playing on every single radio station just adds insult to injury, let me tell you.

It has been a week today since Adam and I said goodbye to our baby and we are, in some ways, more than ready to say goodbye to a year which has brought us so much pain and loss. In another way, we are moving into a year without those we have loved so much and lost. We are also moving out of a year where we were still filled with so much hope and confidence that what we had planned for our future would come about. We always knew I might not be able to become pregnant, we just never expected that I would be able to fall pregnant but not carry a baby to term or even to the point where we would be able to hear and see their heartbeat. I cannot put into words how utterly heartbreaking it is to stare at an ultrasound monitor, search for the tiniest sign of a heartbeat and then not see one.

2019 will be the first year Adam and I look to with no clear plan for our family. We know we are taking a break from growing our family but we do not know for how long. It will depend on when we see the specialist and then our decision will depend on what, if anything, he finds wrong with us. We are welcoming the break though, our hearts and my body need time to heal. We need time to live, time to be something other than a couple who is trying to build a family and not succeeding. We need time to grieve for our babies and all the hopes and dreams we had for them and finally, we need time to accept the fact that no matter what happens in the future, we will be okay. 2019 will be our year of healing.

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The Domaine of Versailles

When planning our time in France last Spring, I will not lie, Versailles was my main target. I wanted to make sure we had ample time to explore not just the palace but the entire Domaine and there was one thing I absolutely did not want to miss: the Grandes Eaux Musicales display. We planned our entire trip around this one event because if there was one fact I grasped as soon as I began studying the palace of Versailles in my architectural history classes, it was that while Louis XIV designed his palace to impress foreign dignitaries and royals, it was through his extensive mastery of the grounds surrounding his palace that he wanted to demonstrate his power. He wanted to show everyone that his power as absolute monarch was so great that he could even control nature. I felt as though if I didn’t make a thorough visit to Versailles, I was missing out on the whole point of the place.

Louis the XIV did not have an easy time setting up his vast gardens, especially when it came to the creation of his ornate fountains. Versailles is built on drained marshland, so you would think that would have made building all the fountains and keeping them running day and night easy, but nothing could be further from the truth. When we visited last March on the opening day of the Grandes Eaux Musicales, the event was capped off by a display of the Neptune Fountain. In order to run this fountain, which has ninety-nine jets, the palace fountaineers had to shut down almost all the other fountains in order to divert all their water into the Neptune Fountain. To read more about the trouble with providing water to all of Versailles’ fountains and the many ways in which Louis XIVs architects tried to alleviate the issue you can head to the last section of this article. To make a long story short though, the constant need for water led to a nearby pond drying up, the diversion of water from the Seine with limited success and an attempt to divert water from another, even more distant river. Nowadays, rainwater is collected to help and the fountains only run for part of the year on set days. If you do go to Versailles, try to make sure you go on a day when the fountains are running, seeing them is well worth the extra few Euros.

As for the Petit and Grand Trianon and the Hameau de la Reine, a small pleasure farm built for Marie-Antoinette, Adam and I set a day aside just for them. The Grand Trianon was built by Louis XIV as a hideaway for he and his most famous mistress, the Marquise de Montespan and the Petit Trianon was built by Louis XV for his mistress the Marquise de Pompadour and was later given as a gift to Marie-Antoinette by Louis XVI. These separate palaces were always designed to be escapes from the strict etiquette of Versailles for monarchs and their most intimate acquaintances and this is reflected in their size, design and decoration. Our favorite was by far the Petit Trianon which Marie-Antoinette had redecorated in a neo-classical fashion while she had the gardens surrounding the Trianon redone in the relaxed English style. Choose a day without rain to visit these sections of the Domaine and pack a picnic to take with you as they are quite a long walk from the main palace and fountains.

As you can see, we spent most of our time at Versailles outside of the main palace. The reason for this is that the palace is a victim of its fame and is seriously overcrowded. So visit it, by all means, but you should absolutely make sure you keep en entire day free if you want to see the essence of Versailles and how its inhabitants truly lived. No one wanted to spend their days in the chronically overcrowded palace (it was once home to over 7000 people), the many nobles and dignitaries who lived there spent great swathes of their time outside, enjoying the gardens or waiting for invitations to Trianon. Truly, without its gardens Versailles would not be the marvelous place it is.

Wild, Colorful, Newfoundland

 

 

It is no secret that Adam and I love the ocean, although for completely different reasons. Adam loves to lie on the beach and soak up the sun, while I love getting in the water regardless of how cold it might be. With this in mind along with the fact that Adam wanted to go someplace neither of us had ever been this year, we agreed to spend one week of our Summer vacation in Newfoundland.

Adam and I have now been to all three Maritime provinces and have enjoyed all of them immensely with Newfoundland, we discovered, being the most natural, untamed maritime province. It is the least densely populated with only 1.5 inhabitants per square kilometer. When you take into account the size of the province (405,212 sq. kms), you can get a bit of a feel for how rural a place it is, especially when you know that most of the island’s inhabitants live in the capital city of St. John’s. So if you are going to visit Newfoundland and want to see more than St. John’s and its immediate area, you need to enjoy driving. Adam and I rented an SUV for our one week stay and by the time we returned it I had driven a solid 2000 kilometers and we only visited the Avalon Peninsula, which is the Northeast and Southeast of the province.

How was the weather, you might be wondering? The weather in Newfoundland is notoriously difficult to predict and can change very suddenly no matter which part of the province you are in. Typically, if it is not nice in your neck of the woods, it will be sunny about an hour up the road. Just check the radar and head to where it is clear. We got a bit of everything while we were in Newfoundland, including some lovely, sunny, 30 degree (celsius) days where we went to the beach and got a tan. What we got the most though was, yes, fog, very, very dense fog. I can guarantee you will encounter fog several times a day, every day in Newfoundland and if it is a rainy day you will have to contend with that as well. If you want to learn more about the geography of Newfoundland and what makes it so foggy, you can read this Wikipedia article. Suffice it say, not only do you have to not mind driving if you want to have fun in Newfoundland, you also have to be a fairly relaxed driver, no matter the weather. I do not recommend driving at night if you can avoid it, regardless of how confident you are behind the wheel because on top of the dense fog, you may also encounter a moose. There are roughly 150 000 of them in the province and while we did not encounter a single one during our week-long vacation, there are on average 600 moose vs. car collisions in Newfoundland every year. Most of them are not fatal for humans, however the same cannot be said for their cars or the poor moose which is why many Newfoundlanders prefer not to drive at night. If you do have to drive at night and catch up to another driver, stay behind them as driving in groups is safer.

I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Newfoundland if you have the chance, it is an absolutely beautiful, peaceful province and Newfoundlanders are a very kind and welcoming bunch who will be happy to help you enjoy your stay in any way they can. If you want to get the most out of you trip to this unique province, I would recommend visiting as many wildlife and nature reserves as you can. I thoroughly enjoyed Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve and we both absolutely loved our whale and birdwatching tour with O’Brien’s Boat Tours. The historic town of Trinity was another of our favorites, we visited there twice and both times we ate at the Trinity Coffee Company and Mercantile. Trinity is also a fabulous place to shop for locally made arts and crafts for yourself or as a gift for friends and family. Finally, do not pass up on enjoying the view from the cliffs of Bonavista and keep an eye out for puffins of whales, we saw plenty of them!

Fields of lavender and loss

Two weeks ago Adam and I took a trip to La Maison Lavande in St-Eustache. It was a spur or of moment decision made over Sunday breakfast. I had seen a photo taken there go by on my Instagram feed the day before and felt inner peace just looking at the lavender flowers, so off we went.

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A nice, soothing experience was just what Adam and I were looking for that beautiful, sunny Sunday because the Saturday of the week before, I had suffered a miscarriage. I am not sharing this information to garner pity or to shock anyone. I am sharing it because I feel that pregnancy loss is not something that is spoken about enough in our society. I have spent nearly a month now mulling over how to write this post and why I have not come across more women who share their stories of loss publicly.

Pregnancy loss is a very painful experience both physically and emotionally, however it is a very atypical type of grief which comes with a fear of misunderstanding when it is shared. Often, miscarriages occur before the twelve week mark, so parents may not have even had the chance to hear their baby’s heartbeat or if they have heard their baby’s heartbeat before a miscarriage occurs, then they likely have not had the chance to feel their baby move since babies movements in the womb can only be felt by their mother for the first time anywhere between sixteen and twenty-five weeks of pregnancy. Adam and I did not have the chance to experience either of these things, but our hearts still shattered to pieces when we lost our baby because when he died, we lost the chance to ever get to know him. As soon as we found out we were expecting, we began to wonder whether our baby would be athletic or laid back or whether they would be musical since we both are. We speculated about the chances our child would be a creative dreamer like me or more of a rational thinker like Adam. How, though, can you hope that people will understand how deeply you are grieving for a little being you never really got to know? The fear of this misunderstanding pushed us to keep our pain largely to ourselves for the first few weeks after our loss.

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Don’t get me wrong, we did find a great deal of comfort and support from our family and friends, some of whom who had also experienced a miscarriage or if they hadn’t, they generally had another friend or relative who had. Despite all the kindness and understanding, I still ended up feeling quite isolated in my grief and going through a pretty bad bout of depression, particularly during the week following our loss when my ongoing physical healing process prevented me from being as active as I normally try to be when dealing with grief. To compensate for my inability to use endorphins to get me over the worst of my emotional pain, I tried to find books written to help parents through their grief following the loss of an unborn child. After searching through the online inventories of every single book store in Montreal, I found one book devoted to mothers grieving miscarriages and stillbirths at Indigo. I went down to the store, found the book and nearly burst into tears when I realised that it was not what I was hoping to find. The book had been written by a very conservative Christian and therefore addressed healing from a purely religious standpoint i.e.: read the bible and pray and you will feel better in no time once you have understood that God took your baby back into his loving arms for a reason. I respect the fact that this may be helpful to some but it was not helpful at all to me.

IMG_6927 I went back home empty-handed and spoke about my experience with Adam and that’s when it finally struck me that maybe families also do not share their stories of pregnancy loss because miscarriages are often referred to as failed pregnancies. Modern society is endemically afraid of failure. We try as much as possible to project an image of perfection, especially nowadays with social media. Anything less than perfection is of seen as not worth sharing. Some would even point out that we lost our baby because he was not perfect. I, for one, have not been afraid of failure for some time. I have had plenty of practice at it, I challenge you to find anyone who failed more math exams than I have. I failed both my theoretical and practical drivers exams the first time I took them and it took me an extra year to get through both high school and university. I don’t care that it took me longer to do these things, it just makes me prouder that I did eventually succeed at them. I also don’t care that science says that our baby more than likely died because he wasn’t perfect. To Adam and I he was exactly who and what he was meant to be and lived the life he was meant to. Our little one brought us such hope and joy while he was with us and we loved him so very deeply. Some might call that a failure and be ashamed and hide it, but not me, not us.

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Windsor Castle

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I know, I know, I promised I would be back with a post about Versailles next, but I figured that with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day tomorrow posting a few photos of Windsor Castle would be a nice treat.

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The town of Windsor was a lovely place to stay and is actually quite small. You can walk around the entire place in about an hour and when you’ve done that, I recommend crossing the bridge to Eton, which is lovely as well and less crowded and touristy than Windsor. When Adam and I were in Windsor in April there was already quite a bit of Royal Wedding hype going on with many souvenir shop windows filled with flags, mugs and tea towels with Harry and Meghan printed on them, not to mention bobble head figurines…

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Our flat was just around the corner from the main gates of Windsor Castle and its famous Long Walk. I took the above photo from about halfway along the walk and got quite muddy doing it. As you can see, it is normally a very quiet place, barring the sound of planes roaring in and out of Heathrow, which is only about a 20 minute drive away. Honestly though, if you don’t pay attention to the planes, you eventually forget about them, but this is coming from a girl who grew up in an area below a flight path so I tune planes out pretty easily.

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As for the castle and St. George’s Chapel, they are a real treat to visit. Access is easy, especially if you buy your tickets ahead of time and the security clearance process is very smooth. You cannot take any photos inside the castle or chapel in order to protect their contents and to keep people moving along. While we were disappointed by this at first, we honestly appreciated our visit far more without having to think of taking photos of everything. There are no limits to the photos you can take outside the buildings though and yes, I got some photos of the Queen’s famous guards. These soldiers are Irish Guards, you can tell by their buttons which are in groups of four and the blue plumes on the right hand side of their caps.

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All in all, we were thrilled by our two night stay in Windsor and are considering using the town as our base during our next visit to England since its location between Heathrow and London is so convenient. Also, rental rates for apartments and hotels are much more affordable in Windsor than they are in London. Do be aware though that if London is your main goal, it is at least a 45 minute to one hour train ride away depending on the time of day and I do not recommend renting a car and driving in and out of London every day as traffic and parking in central London are no joke, or so I have been told.

Did you know?

  • The oldest parts of Windsor Castle were built by William the Conqueror in 1066.
  • Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world.
  • It is the favorite residence of the queen, she spends most weekends there and lives at the castle full-time from March through April every year.
  • Windsor Castle was also the favorite residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Our Vacation to England and France

Last month Adam and I finally made it off on vacation for the first time since our honeymoon in June of last year. Let me tell you, it was a much-needed change of scenery and rhythm! Our chosen destinations were Paris, where we spent two nights in the Montmartre area followed by a week spent in an apartment in Versailles. From there we commuted back and forth to Paris, went on a day trip to Chartres, explored every nook and cranny of the Château and Domaine of Versailles and visited Malmaison, the home of Joséphine Bonaparte. After nine days in the Paris area, we hopped on the Eurostar and travelled across the English Channel for two nights in London and a final two nights in Windsor. Needless to say, I have plenty of travel tales to tell, so I will be breaking them down into three separate posts.

Let’s begin with Paris! This was my first visit to the City of Light which, at the age of 35, is a bit odd for an art and architectural historian but there you have it! I loved my Parisian experience however I must say that the image of Paris we see in popular culture is seriously glamorized. Paris is portrayed as a beautiful, romantic, chic city, the type of place you cannot help but fall in love with. I did not fall in love with Paris but I did fall in love with parts of it.

Paris is a surprisingly small city but extremely densely populated by both Parisians and tourists. Do not go to Paris on holiday if you are looking for peace and quiet, you will not get it. I was also surprised by how loud the city is. Paris is by far the loudest of all the European cities I have visited so far because of how heavy traffic can get. Also, a large portion of the vehicles in Paris are scooters and motorbikes which are louder than cars. Don’t get me wrong though, Paris is a beautiful city and despite all the people and noise, it is very easy to get some lovely photos of all the most famous landmarks thanks to the fact that central Paris was largely rebuilt by Georges-Eugène Haussmann in the mid-19th century.

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Thanks to Haussmann, Paris is very easy to explore on foot and it also has a very vast public transit system so if you do get tired of walking you are never more than one block from a metro station. However, there is a serious lack of concern for the comfort of visitors in the city’s attractions, namely in the availability of bathrooms. Notre-Dame-De-Paris? Stunning, I absolutely loved it but there are no washrooms inside the church. If you need to go, you have to leave the cathedral, go around to the back and pay .50 centimes to use the washroom there. When I wanted to go the bathroom, unfortunately the only one in the area, it was closed while the church was still very much open.

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And the Louvre? It is also, naturally, a must see. Do not expect to leave the museum feeling anything other than exhausted though. You will more than likely start your visit by standing in line. We spent forty-five to fifty minutes in line outside. We were lucky it was a cloudy day because the lineup for the Louvre is in the palaces courtyard and there is no shelter from the elements. I cannot begin to imagine how horrible it must be standing in line at the Louvre in the Summer heat with no shade and no water fountains. Be advised that there are no water fountains inside the Louvre either, so bring water! P.S.: There are no bathrooms in the vicinity of the Louvre, so plan accordingly or you will suffer like I did.

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Once you are inside the museum, be prepared for massive lineups for the washrooms. I suggest you go even if you don’t really need to, because bathrooms are few and far between in the galleries. Wear comfrotable shoes because there are very few places to sit and above all else, do not set out to visit the entire museum in one day, it simply cannot be done. Decide what you absolutely want to see and limit yourself to that. As for the Mona Lisa, she is indeed splendid and worth the crowds that surround her but be sure you pay attention to all the other stunning works of art that lead up to her and surround her. Also appreciate how incredibly amused she seems by being the center of so much attention.

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My favorite area of Paris was Montmartre where we stayed in a lovely little hotel for two nights. Montmartre was too far from the center of Paris to be touched by Haussmann’s overhaul, so it has kept its network of narrow, winding streets. Also, since far fewer tourists make it all the way to Montmartre, Parisians are much friendlier there. If you are lucky enough to visit Paris one day, make sure you set aside at least half a day for a thorough exploration of Montmartre and you will be charmed.

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To sum it up, I loved my first visit to Paris and while the city itself was a bit of a trial at times, I was thrilled to finally get to see so many places and monuments I had been dreaming of seeing; in some cases, since I was a little girl.

Here is a list of dos and don’ts to keep in mind if you are planning to visit Paris for the first time:

Do:

1-Carry toilet paper, hand sanitizer and .50 centime coins with you at all times. You cannot get into pay-to-go bathrooms in France that do not have an attendant with anything other than a .50 centime coin and be aware that they unfortunately frequently lack toilet paper, soap or both.

2-Keep your bag in front of you at all times when you are in crowded areas if you are a lady. Gents: keep your wallet in your front pocket.

3-Carry water, a hat and sunblock with you.

4-Walk as much as you can! Paris is best enjoyed on foot, if you try to drive in the city you will spend a lot of time in traffic. Adam and I walked an average of 10 kms a day during our entire vacation and wow, did it ever leave us feeling amazing!

5- If you are a foodie, enjoy the markets! France is very well know for its excellent food and the French love using fresh ingredients, so rent an apartment for your stay so you can do your own cooking and go for a walk in your neighborhood to learn where the local bakeries, cheese shops, butcher shops and fishmongers are. If you cannot find one of these within a few blocks of your place, ask a shopkeeper and they will more than likely be able to point you to the right place to find your missing ingredients.

Don’t:

1-Do not expect service with a smile. You may have heard that Parisians are not the friendliest of hosts. This is unfortunately true and I must admit, it really rubbed me the wrong way. Service with a scowl is more the Parisian way of dealing with tourists…

2- Do not bring your diet on vacation with you! French food completely lived up to my expectations. I did not have a single bad meal the entire time I was in France. We drank wine every night and ate all the cheese, baguettes, pastries and charcuterie we wanted and guess what? I actually lost weight while we were away. See point #4 of my ‘do’ list for probable cause but seriously, you will regret blowing off your diet while in Paris way less than you will sticking to it.

4- Do not eat right next door to a tourist attraction or within one no matter what. You will be the victim of inflated prices and low food quality. Walk a few blocks away from any major attraction before giving any serious consideration to eating.

5- Do not take public transit at rush hour if at all possible, especially not if you are even the slightest bit claustrophobic. The Parisian public transit system can get extremely crowded, so for your comfort, try getting on after peak commuting times.