We left Edinburgh first thing in the morning and drove about 45 minutes west of town to Linlithgow Palace, situated about a block up the street from the main downtown of the small town of Linlithgow. This palace is definitely one of the top highlights of our trip. After our stop there, we visited a fascinating living history museum as we entered Cairngorms National Park.
Since we wanted to get an early start for our first and only full day in the city and to make it to Edinburgh Castle in time for our timed entry, we had picked up some breakfast supplies at Sainsbury’s the evening before. Still on a kick of croissants, a remnant from our trip to Paris a few months prior, we had picked some up along with yogurt, and ate in our apartment.
We arrived at Edinburgh Airport around 11:30am after an overnight flight from Washington-Dulles. After picking up a rental car from Hertz, we terrifyingly adjusted to driving on the left side as we left the airport for downtown Edinburgh, about 25 minutes away. The roads leaving the airport were strewn with signs reminding tired, weary travelers that they should drive on the left side, and I can only imagine how prone to accidents areas like that must be. Dustin ended up being the sole driver for the entire trip. As you can already tell – we survived!
As a couple who enjoy the outdoors, historic spots and places (Lindsey in particular really loves castles), and interesting geology, Scotland has long been on our list of places to visit. We also both have ancestors from the country, which always piques our interest in checking out a place.
France has long produced a steady stream of talented writers, thinkers, and philosophers and has served as a beacon luring expats to its literary center.
From the romance of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers to Victor Hugo’s woeful, colorful characters of Les Miserables to France-at-war tales like Sabastien Japrisot’s A Very Long Engagement or Romain Gary’s The Kites to more stylistically unique works like Albert Camus’ existentialist novels and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s noveau roman novels in the 1960s, Paris has played a substantial role in the literary world.
Paris is a popular destination with a long list of spots on most travelers’ must-see lists from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre. If you’re looking to go a little off the beaten path and see some great but less well known spots, which are also usually less crowded, these are some places that may be of interest to you. From a unique art museum to underground early Paris city ruins to the northernmost Roman ruins and more, find a spot in Paris of interest to you!
*Guest post*: Our first 58 minute long documentary, ‘Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty’ is a slightly odd entrance into travel documentary making in that it was never originally intended to be a documentary when we set out. I’m going to be discussing some of the ‘making of’ here, so it is time for you to decide whether you go and watch it now, or whether you would prefer to read on and watch it later. Either way is fine with me – if you want to watch it now then please go ahead – I’ll just wait here for you.
Crypte archéologique is a fascinating underground museum that holds the ruins of the early city center of Paris. Found on site and displayed in the museum are coins that show the breadth of early trade routes. The museum shows the evolution of buildings and the city’s development over time. Visiting this site helped broaden our view of the city and its residents over the centuries.
You will find yourself dwarfed by over 1100 stained glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle. With windows depicting religious scenes and rising to epic heights in astonishing proportions, this 13th century chapel was built by King Louis IX to house religious relics and enhance his political stature. Of all the churches we have visited in our travels, this one definitely stands out among the most beautiful.
We had the good fortune to visit Notre-Dame de Paris about a week before the April 15, 2019 fire engulfed its roof. During our week-long trip in Paris, our apartment was basically right across the Seine from the cathedral and just a few minutes’ walk. We could hear the tolling of the bells that rang out at what appeared to be random intervals, and we walked by the cathedral multiple times a day.
We both took French in school - Dustin took it in high school, and I took it in middle school - and neither of us were particularly good or successful at it. I have always said foreign language was my weakest subject in school and so I hopped from French in middle school to Latin for the four years of high school to two years of Italian in college (my political science degree required foreign language or else I would never have voluntarily taken more language courses!). That’s right, I hopped from language to language hoping to find one that would click with me, but not a one! It was not all for naught, as I came away with a love of etymology and Roman history from my Latin classes and just enough comprehension to be able to halfheartedly translate the occasional foray into any Romance language in a novel. I also walked away with some basics of other languages that are foreign to English-only speakers like the idea of gendered nouns.
This 110-acre, cobblestone- and tree-lined homage to many of Paris’ important historic figures is a change of pace from the rest of the city of Paris. Spend your time exploring interesting mausoleums and tombs and searching for specific graves.
These tips from our week in Paris will hopefully help you know what to expect and how to plan for your best Paris experience! Included in this blog are tips for getting around the city, money tips, some basic French language guidance, apps you may want to download, safety awareness tips, and some clothing recommendations.
We decided to visit Musée de Cluny, the National Museum of the Middle Ages, because I have always been particularly fascinated by that time period and wanted to see the famous tapestry housed at this museum, the Lady and the Unicorn, that I had studied and fallen in love with in an art history class in college. The museum is located in the vicinity of the Latin Quarter of Paris nearby the Pantheon, so if you plan on visiting both, you should do so back-to-back.
The Louvre is usually one of the main Paris landmarks people plan on visiting while in the city. The building has a fascinating place in French history well beyond its current life as an art museum. In this blog, we’ll share with you all things Louvre - from fun facts to our personal experience to tips for your own visit. Have you been? For a museum as large as this one, I expect no two visits are alike. We would love to hear your own tips and experiences in our comments section!
First, when most people hear Pantheon, they are generally thinking about the famous Pantheon in Rome. (Not to be confused with the Parthenon in Athens.) But still, we were curious about the Pantheon in Paris and thought it would be worth checking out. A ‘pantheon’ by definition is a group of important people or gods. Paris’ Pantheon is currently a secular, state-run mausoleum that began life as a cathedral and houses the remains of some of the city’s most important historical residents.
The creativity and unexpectedly universal themes and elements that show up in street art always make for an interesting lens through which to view a city. Paris did not disappoint. The majority of these images were captured in the 3rd, 4th, and 11th arrondissements during a day where we spent a lot of time walking through the city.
Ireland has a long-standing literary tradition and is a country that values its writers and poets. Over the years, I have read many inspiring novels by the likes of Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and others. But recently, I have found myself on a kick of reading contemporary Irish novelists without even realizing it! These newer-on-the-scene Irish female writers are making their mark in the literary world.
The final day of a trip is always bittersweet: bitter that it is coming to an end and for the upcoming return flight home and sweet for the new memories and experiences. I often get to the end of a trip having not done things I thought I would do but having done other things that led to unexpected surprises.
With different itineraries, we parted ways with our traveling companions for the day. The first stop on the list for us was Musée de Cluny, the National Museum of the Middle Ages. I have always been particularly fascinated by that time period and wanted to see the famous tapestry housed at this museum, the Lady and the Unicorn, that I had studied and fallen in love with in an art history class in college.
Our day started with what had become our Paris norm: flaky goodness of croissants. Adding some excitement to the mix, Dustin added a ham and cheese croissant, whereas I stuck with my you-can’t-go-wrong choices of croissant au beurre and pain au chocolat. Hey, if you can’t have chocolate for breakfast on vacation, when can you? (Never is not an option!).
After long days of walking around Paris, our feet were sore and some blisters were starting to rear their ugly heads. So, we planned our fourth day perfectly: a bike tour of Versailles to give our feet a rest and use some other muscles for the day!
While we are pretty active travelers, we are not over-active travelers; we know when to go-go-go and when to go slow! With a full week in Paris staying at one place, it was a perfect excuse to explore the city at just the right pace. What that meant is we whiled away some mornings over croissants, coffee, and conversation. Bonus: the day was able to warm up a little before we ventured out. Our April in Paris was a tad on the nippy side!
If you like wandering without a goal in mind, Paris is a great city for absentminded discoveries. Our first full day in the city can be summed up in that sentence. Along the way we explored a huge section of the city on foot, wandered much of the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery, lunched in the oldest planned square in the city at Place des Vosges, which dates to the 17th century, and dined casually along the Seine.
We arrived in Paris by way of Reykjavik after departing from Washington-Dulles airport late in the evening. It was an odd feeling to land in familiar Reykjavik, having just been on our Iceland Ring Road trip last June/July (check that trip out here), and wished we could stay in Iceland but also still go to Paris. The more we travel, the more frequent the feeling of familiarity in different airports, cities, or countries occurs, making the world feel very small.
We talked about going to France for several years before we actually took this trip. When we finally booked it, we weighed whether to spend a handful of days in Paris and then head out to the French countryside or to just stick with Paris. I can’t think of another trip we have taken where we stayed in one city the entire week but we knew Paris had so much to offer and didn’t want to feel like we were rushing to jet off to the next spot. We easily filled our 7 days in Paris and didn’t even get to every spot on our list! Don’t worry, we feel other regions of France deserve the same dedicated focus, so we will be back to France at some point!
In Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, Unsheltered, she tells the stories of two families living in the same spot but separated by about 150 years. Add to the mix: winds of societal changes, family obligations, a fascinating female scientist, an eccentric town founder, and many characters trying to figure out if they have shelter over their heads - literally and figuratively.
Since James Madison died at his home, Montpelier, in 1836, the home has gone through renovations and updates - most notoriously by the DuPont family. In more recent years, time has been unraveled as archaeologists and historians have sought to remove the more modern updates and return the home to the most accurate version of James and Dolley Madison’s home.