Venice of the North: Bruges

Brugge3Bruges (Brugge) is a quiet town in Northern Belgium.  It is easily accessed from Brussels, which makes it possible to visit if you are staying in Paris.  Bruges is physically possible in a day trip, but it is well worth an overnight stay or longer.

Getting to Bruges

If you are coming from Paris, you will want to take the Thalys high speed train from Paris Gare du Nord to Brussels Midi, and connect to a train that will take you to Bruges.  You should book your Thalys tickets ahead of time because you can save money.  I booked directly through their website and was able to get a deal for 44 Euros round trip.  You cannot reserve seats on the train from Brussels to Bruges, so it is easiest just to get the tickets at the station.  The journey is just under 2.5 hours and cost me under 75 Euros total.  If I would have gone through Rail Europe, I would have spent over 100 Euros.

*Tip: I received a better deal when I switched the language to Belgium/English.  Be sure to test this out if you are purchasing a ticket.

Sights in Bruges

The town itself is a sight to see.  It offers crow-stepped gables architecture lining the canals.  I highly recommend that you get lost wandering around the town.  You are surrounded by a large canal, so you can’t get too lost as long as you don’t cross over it.  I struggled to ever take a direct route to where I wanted to go, but the quiet backstreets and canals offered a view past the touristy center.  Here were my top five favorite sites:

1. Markt Square-Belfort Tower-City Hall-Although this area is touristy and a bit pricey, it is the main square in Bruges.

2. Burg-This square is the neighbor of the Markt Square.  The variety of architecture provides a unique collage of Renaissance, Baroque, and more.

3. Church of Our LadyThis church holds the only Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime.  The church is undergoing restoration, but your visit will help support their efforts.

4. Begijnhof-Stroll past the peaceful homes and courtyard for nuns and quiet visitors.

5. Canal Cruise-Seeing Bruges from the water is just as important as seeing Venice from the canals.  Float past the major sites as you glide on the water with the swans.

*This short list provides some highlights, but there is much more to see.  For more ideas about sites to visit, check out the Bruges Official Tourism Website.

Eating/Drinking in Bruges

Belgians are known for chocolate, beer, waffles, and fries (along with many other specialties).  Plan on walking around a lot to burn off all these calories.  If you order fries, don’t forget to order it the way they like them: with mayonnaise.

Staying in Bruges

I think my favorite part about Bruges was the bed and breakfast we stayed at.  It was one of the most unique, comforting places I’ve ever been to.  The husband is an architect and the wife is a retired teacher.  Their creative style creates an environment that is welcoming.  If you are looking for an affordable place to stay with lots of charm, stay at B&B Marie Rose Debruyne.  I will share more about my experience with them in a post tomorrow.

*If you like the photos you see here, check out my portfolio.




Indianapolis: A City Full of Surprises

Day 281I love Indianapolis.  I love it so much that I tried to move there a couple years back.  Although the city is more like a big town, there seems to be so much to do.  One of my favorite moments is turning onto Meridian Street and seeing the range of architecture with the houses/mansions.  I always feel like I am somewhere completely different.

If you’ve ever thought about visiting, here are some of my favorite sites with links for more information.  By the way, all the amazing places are not listed here.  These are just some of the many things you can do in Indy.

Sights to See:

Indianapolis Museum of Art-Meet many artists you’ve heard of before.

Crown Hill Cemetery-Go on a tour or just drive by to visit some famous dead.

Broad Ripple-Great for food or hanging out with a young crowd at the bar.  I like Chumley’s on Thrusdays because it is schooner night!

Speedway-Stop by if you feel the need, the need for speed.

Indiana State Museum-I went many years ago, but still enjoyed it.  I had no idea Indiana could be so cool.

Fountain Square-This up and coming area is pretty hip with shops and restaurants.  There is even a cultural trail you can hop on.

Canal-Feel like a venetian as you cruise down the canal in a gondola.

Children’s Museum-This has got to be one of the coolest children’s museums in the US.  I actually want to go back even though I am far from being a child anymore.

Antique Malls-I own several items from the antique malls in this area.

Garfield Park-Visit the tropics at the conservatory.

City Market-Stop by the Smith Winery stand and talk to Mr. Smith.  He has an amazing personality.  Your mouth will be watering as he describes how different forms of barbeque will go well with each wine.

Goose the Market-If you like artsy delis/markets, you should stop by.

Butler University-Great grounds for walking or biking.

Circle Center-Get your shopping fix.

Charming Towns Outside of Indy:

Zionsville-My favorite!  I love this town.  Be sure to visit Brown’s Antiques.  I own a pair of great shutters from there that bring back great memories of this area.

Noblesville-This is a cute town square great for more antique shopping.

Nashville-This is further outside of the city, but a fantastic day trip.

Paris by Métro: Place Monge


Place Monge at a Glance



Sights Within 1 Kilometer:


Arénes de Lutéce-130m

Arab World Institute-800m

Île Saint Louis-1km


Grande Mosque of Paris-300m

Jardin des Plantes-700m



Place Monge Market-38m


Rue Mouffetard-230m

Hemingway’s Home-270m

Philippe Auguste Wall-450m



Sorbonne/Latin Quarter-1km

Jardin de Luxembourg-1km

Sight Details


Arénes de Lutéce: There is not much left from this Roman Arena, but it is a unique sight to visit.  As you stand in the center, imagine you were a gladiator waiting for his fate to be revealed.

Arab World Institute: The goal of the institute is to build an understanding between different cultures.  The unique architecture holds art, history, and a library to bring people together by banishing the lack of knowledge about the culture.

Île St. Louis: This island is home to the best ice cream in Paris: Berthillon.  Walking the streets, you feel like you are in a village making it is easy to forget that you are in the city center.  Hear the accordion player in the background as you window shop with your glacé in hand.


Grande Mosque of Paris: Inside the mosque you will find a charming café.  The pastries are 2 euros and the tea is 2.50 Euros.  The tea is a nice combination of mint and chai.  Look around and you will feel like you are in Morocco.  The mosque has a lush garden area with blue tiles that appear to be meditative waters.  This is a place perfect for reflection and thought.

Jardin des Plantes: Greenery surrounds you in this escape from the city.  The garden has a nice combination of trees, flowers, and other activities.  Take a walk through the zoo, or visit the natural history museum.  Maybe you can even join those practicing tai chi.

Seine/Quais: If you walk north, you will eventually run into the Seine.  Find a good spot on the Pont de Sully and watch the ebb and flow of people travel down the river.  The quays along the Seine are perfect for strolling or a picnic.  Life is good watching the world go by on water.


Place Monge Market: Markets look so inviting in the rain with their covered roofs and warm lights.  I find this market to be one of my favorites in Paris.  It is small enough not to be overwhelming, but it was bustling, so I knew the produce was good quality.  The smell of roasted chicken permeates the little enclosures until you walk past a cheese stand. Then, a new odor takes over.  Visit this market on Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday.


Rue Mouffetard: The street is lined with fromageries, boulangeries, and every other “geries” you could wish for.  The restaurants have character whether it is German style or a true French bistro.  You could also consider grabbing a sandwich and finding a nice park bench to hold you as you chomp on your baguette.  I would not recommend visiting this street on Monday since most shops are closed up.

Hemingway’s Home: If you are fan of Hemingway or have read A Moveable Feast, stop by 74 Rue Cardinal Lemoine to see where he lived with Hadley.  Step back in time as you imagine an apartment without heat or a toilet.  Hemingway even used a slop bucket at times.  Close your eyes and hear the noise of the drunkards stumbling around after their cheap brandies back in the 20s.  Can you smell the odor?

Philippe Auguste Wall: If you want to see a peak into historical Paris, continue down the street to see a glimpse of the old Paris wall.  The Louvre was a fortress and its wall protected it from invasion.  This segment of the wall is part of what is left from the original.

Saint Étienne du Mont: The church is closed on Mondays, but open every other day.  If you look above the door you will see Saint Etienne being stoned, hence being the patron saint for headaches and migraines.  Although the church is named after Saint Etienne, it contains the relics of Saint Genevieve.  She is the patron saint of Paris. You may also recognize this sight from Midnight in Paris.  Perhaps a stop on the steps at midnight will take you back to the 1920s.

Panthéon: The Panthéon is the resting place for many famous French such as Voltaire, Marie Curie ,and Victor Hugo.

Sorbonne/Latin Quarter: The Latin Quarter is best known for the two major boulevards: St. Michel and St. Germain des Prés which are a little beyond the Sorbonne.  There is plenty of shopping and eating to be done on these streets, but sneaking in and out of the side streets reveals a picturesque, hidden side of the Latin Quarter.  The area gets its name from the Latin-speaking students of the Sorbonne.

Jardin de Luxembourg: The gardens flowing out from the palace are one of the many living rooms for the Parisians.  While pacing through the gardens you may come across a group of older men playing pétanque, a little tike riding a pony, children chasing their sailboats on the pond with their sticks, or a fountain revealing danger for two lovers.

Suggested Walk:

This walk is a bit long, but it gives you a variety of sights in a loop.  I suggest going on this route the day the Place Monge Market is open, otherwise, I would not walk back to Place Monge.

French Market in Chicago

French MarketVisiting markets is one of my favorite activities whether I’m traveling or at home.  Chicago has a wonderful little French market for the public.  The “French” title may be a little misleading.  Yes there are cheeses, wines, macarons, and more, but there is also lobster, falafel, and bahn mis.

If you are in the area, and you’re looking for something a little different, check out the market.  If you spend $20 or more, parking is free!  Check out the vendor websites ahead of time to see what tugs at your curiosity.




Prepared Meals

 Bread & Pasta


 Baked Goods and Sweets

 Ice Cream/Gelato

 Specialty Coffee/Smoothies/Health Drinks

 Special Essentials

Beer, Wine, and Spirits

On a side note, word on the street is that the current ESPN Center in Chi Town will be turned into a giant indoor market.  This is all rumor, so don’t take my word for it, but if it is true, then my dreams are coming becoming a reality!

Paris by Metro: École Militaire

Rue Cler 2École Militaire at a Glance



Tip=This metro stop involves more walking.  The metro stops seem to be fewer and far between in the 7th.  École Militaire is the most centrally located exit for exploring this area.  Wear your walking shoes if you plan on seeing most of these sights.

Sights Within 1 Kilometer (Well, almost):


Rue Cler- 240m

American University of Paris-650m


Hôtel des Invalides– 1km


Saxe-Breteuil Market-1km


École Militaire-500m

American Library of Paris-850m

Champ de Mars-900m*

Eiffel Tower-1.1km

Quai Branly-1.2km

Sights Details:


Rue Cler: This gem of a market street is quintessential Paris.  The mostly pedestrian street is full of sights, sounds, and smells to overload your senses.  If you need supplies for a picnic or dinner, this is a great street to get all the goods.  If you’d rather eat out, there are several cafés worth parking yourself at.  Rue Cler may be the best people-watching location.  You will see some tourists, but you will also see the people that live in the neighborhood (and their dogs).  Walking around this area is a treat.

American University of Paris: Although you may be trying to escape America while in Paris, this can be a useful resource if you are looking for a lecture or conference to attend while visiting.


Hôtel des Invalides: Under the gold-leafed dome you will find the tomb of Napoleon.  Inside the building you will also find the army museum which mostly covers World War I and II, but you can find exhibits on other military history as well.


Saxe-Breutil Market: The market with the Eiffel Tower peaking through is one of my favorites in Paris.  I found the people to be very kind, and the produce to be the definition of fresh.  I found some of the juiciest, sweetest cherries ever at this market.


École Militaire: The military school is the kind of place you acknowledge as you pass, but you can’t really visit it.  If you are in Paris on Bastille Day, you may notice some commotion as they all get ready for the parade.

American Library of Paris: If you are interested in used book sales or author visits, you may want to keep the library in the back of your mind.  Check the events calendar before you go if you’re looking for a little literature inspiration.

Champ de Mars: The sprawling greens are the red carpet for the Eiffel Tower.  Typically this area is filled with people.  Some areas are fenced off, so you may not be able to walk on the grass.

Eiffel Tower: You’ve probably heard of this sight before (at least I hope).  Some consider this landmark to be an eyesore.  Personally, I love it.  I don’t love it so much coming up the Champ de Mars or the Trocadero.  There is a side view that captures my favorite perspective.  You can find out how to get there on the map below.

If climbing the Eiffel Tower is on your list, be sure to reserve tickets ahead of time to save yourself from the never-ending lines.  After going to the top, I still think it looks best from the ground.  My favorite moments are when I’m walking around Paris, and all of a sudden the Eiffel Tower peaks through at me.

Quai Branly: Primitive art is the centerpiece for this museum.  Even if you aren’t interested in what can be found inside, the landscaping is worth seeing.  Plants growing up the walls and a garden surrounds the museum.  It is a unique sight in the 7th.

Marche Aux Puces

Marche6No, I did not just call you a bad name.  Marche aux puces translates to flea market in English.  There are several across Paris, but one of the largest in Europe can be found at Porte de Clignancourt in St. Ouen.  St. Ouen is on the outskirts of Paris, and a little rougher around the edges than the city center.

I’d visited the flea market a couple of times in the past, but I thought I’d return to get some gifts for friends and family.  What I didn’t realize is that I only peaked into the market in the past.  I had no idea of the passageways and maze of little dealers.

After rising form the metro, you can see some white tents in the distance.  If you walk that way, you will find cheap items such as jewelry, clothing, and every souvenir imaginable.  This is the only area I’ve really explored before.  I read that if you continue past that to Rue des Rosiers, you can find the antique dealers on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.

Rue des Rosiers?  That sounds familiar.  I’m pretty sure we tried looking for falafel one time in this area, but were unsuccessful considering the Rue des Rosiers that has falafel is in the Marais.

Once on this street, you will see signs for passages.  They all have different themes and price ranges.  The first one I entered, Vernaison, was my favorite because it was like the best garage sale: interesting items for affordable prices.  The next was elegant and beyond my budget.  Unfortunately, I had to leave early, so I didn’t get to see a couple of things I wanted to show on here, but at least you get the idea.

Market of the Red Children

FlowersSometimes the early bird does not catch the worm.  I was desperate for more cherries and some other produce, so I looked up markets in my area open on Tuesday.  I found Marche de Enfants Rouge which I remembered reading about in my Markets of Paris book.  I saw that they opened at 8:30, and around 10:00 I started walking in that direction.  This is the second time that arriving in the morning has not been beneficial.  There was one produce guy setting up his stock, and a couple restaurants open.  Things were starting to move, but I could tell that most places wouldn’t open until later.

Although I was discouraged not to find my cherries, I did get a couple photos.  I also met a man that “knew” Jim Morrison.  He pointed out where he used to live and told stories of the female photographer coming over.  He also mentioned that he has a good friend who is a photographer in Chicago.  Small world.  His trade is taking books and making holders and designs out of them.  He folds the pages to so they expand like an accordion.  You can place postcards, photos, or whatever else you like in there.  He must have seen my hesitation at the thought of trying to fit something else in my suitcase because he showed me how compact it could be.  I didn’t purchase one, but I may return.

Determined to find the fresh goodies I needed, I went back towards the Bastille area.  I found a shop with only produce and the price was right, so I selected some items for lunch.  I chopped up the celery salad that we made in the cooking class, and I sauteed some type of pork I got at a market the other day.  I’m considering taking another cooking class because when I look back on this trip, I think that will be what I remember most.

Not many pictures, but I will have more later today after visiting the exhibit at the Petit Palais and a secret garden.

Bastille Arts and Crafts Market in Paris

Place des Vosges in the MorningMy title for this post is a bit misleading because my intentions were to post about a wonderful Marche in the Bastille with many artisans.  Unfortunately, the market was a bit of a bust.  The book said it began at 9, but it began at 10.  I didn’t mind the wait as I grabbed un cafe.  When I returned after 10, there were still only a small handful of stalls open.  C’est la vie.  I’ll try again later on a Saturday to see if it is any better another time.

What originally began as a walk to the market turned out to be a walk of discovery.  I strolled past the Place des Vosges, which is not even a block away.  To my fortune, I uncovered the running path of the nearby firemen.  Not a bad start to my walk.  The Bastille is just a couple blocks away from where I am staying, so I felt like I was exploring a new area in my neighborhood.

I found some treasures.  First, I saw a boulangerie that was posted on Facebook to be the best.  C’est magnifique!  I purchased a baguette (which may be gone before the end of the night) and some macaroons (which are already gone).  As I continued, I found a restaurant that I have heard about over and over: Frenchie.  This will have to be a treat to myself for dinner one night so I can share what is so fantastic about it.  The responsibilities of writing a travel blog are heavy.  Then, I found a wonderful shopping street with many famous stores, but not near the congestion of Rue de Rivoli.

Besides my general voyage around the area, I found my inner photographer voice screaming out at me.  The weather was blah, but the streets were beautiful.  I realized I need to spend some more time in my own vicinity to better understand my home in Paris.  Please tell me what you think of the photos.  I have recently discovered Adobe Lightroom and I’d like to know what you think about the images I am creating.  Merci beaucoup!

Place Monge Market and a Meal

Place-Monge-Marche-1The mist that hung in the air did not deter me from opening the door, and setting out to the market.  I shuffled down to Ile St. Louis, past Hemingway’s home, and through Rue Mouffetard to Place Monge where the market can be found.  Markets look so inviting in the rain with their covered roofs and warm lights.  The smell of roasted chicken permeates the little enclosures until you walk past a cheese stand. Then, a new odor takes over.

A young woman assisted me with the necessary produce for the day.  I asked her what was fresh, and she replied that the apricots were sweet as she offered a hand-sliced piece.  I showed my approval with a purchase to bring home.  We then had a language lesson on garlic.  I taught her the English pronunciation, and she taught me the French word: ail.  I knew that this was the French word for garlic, but I’m so afraid to butcher the language when I speak.  She was kind enough to let me photograph some of her produce.  Be careful with photography at markets.  Some will have signs prohibiting it.  Support the local farmers by purchasing something, even if it is small, and kindly ask to take photos.  Otherwise, be discreet, and try not to get in the way of their business.

I brought my goodies home to place in the refrigerator.  Just as my apartment door was closing, I opened it again to go to my next destination.  I was very fortunate to have good company for lunch.  My tour guide from last year is finishing a tour, so we met up for a bite to eat.  It was such a refreshment to talk with someone I know, in a language I understand.  She is a kind, supportive person, and I enjoyed catching up.

There was a question she asked me about what future I see with travel, writing, and photography.  As I write this post I can’t help but be excited about the prospect of having a future in one of these areas.  I believe in the very cliche statement that everything happens for a reason.  It is interesting to think of the steps that have led me to where I am, and how future steps will lead me further.  How electrifying to think of the possible path ahead.

Does anyone else get excited thinking about the possible future?

Raspail Marche in Paris

Marche-5Visiting a market in Paris is both a good idea, and fairly easy to do since they are all over the place.  Before departing from the states I picked up the 2nd edition of Markets of Paris to see what was out there.  One of the top rated ones to visit is the Raspail Marche.  The open air market is located on the left bank near the Rennes metro exit.  This is mostly a food market, but there were some stalls with Provence tablecloths (20 Euros! not bad) and accessories.

One of the highlights of this market if you visit on the right day, is stopping by a food truck for lunch.  I first heard about Cantine California on Anthony Bourdain’s show.  Always ready for a good burger, I planned to visit the market on a day they would be there.  The owner is from San Francisco, and his been a hit since opening up about 15 months ago.  He works with a diverse group of men with different backgrounds.  I was eavesdropping as the new hire was introduced to men from Sweden and France.  I got there right when they opened and only had to wait for my food to be prepared.

They are known for their burgers and tacos.  The burgers are like the kind my dad used to make; a minimum of one inch thick and juicy.  I think mine put me in a food coma because shortly after eating it I walked home and took a nap.  Check out the pictures below to trigger mouth watering (if you are into that sort of thing).

I’m trying to avoid using the metro by walking everywhere I want to go.  Here is the little hike I did today.  I needed it after the calories I ingested for lunch.