Christmastime in Barcelona by Hannah Harley


It's crazy to think that we were strolling the streets of Barcelona a little over a month ago. The craziness of traveling from Barcelona to Paris to Indiana, PA and then moving back to Pittsburgh was an exhausting experience that delayed the publication of this post. But now that I've settled into my apartment in Pittsburgh, I'm able to reflect on the last trip of an amazing semester abroad. 3V2A4578smalledited

It was right before Christmas, and the streets were decorated with a Spanish flair. There weren't nearly as many natural Christmas trees, but there were many Christmas lights in the form of Christmas trees!

I traveled with my roommate and dear friend. We took separate paths to get there (I've mentioned how much I adore train travel), and we somehow managed to find one another in the midst of the Barcelona train station. We had no phones, no set time, no real idea when we would be meeting. We just had an vague understanding. By some miracle, we met up!


We spent our four days in Barcelona just roaming about since neither one of us are planners. We both are more fluid personalities, although Hanan did put in a bit more effort than I attempted.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in Barcelona. I knew I’d have fun. It is, after all, an adventure, but I had no idea what to expect. It seems to be a common theme in my travels.. A distinct lack of preplanning on my part.

But as it so happened, Barcelona blew me away. It was December 23rd and 70 degrees, and while I’m not normally a fan of heat, it was pleasant. The city had an atmosphere. It had this unique feeling that you normally get in cities, but I particularly liked Barcelona’s feeling. The people seemed like a hearty, loving people, but not quite the type to take any nonsense. I enjoyed it there.


We had only two preplanned events: We would visit La Sagrada Família and the Parc Güelle. Other than that, we roamed through the streets of Barcelona, discovering little shops and restaurants and getting a feel for the atmosphere.


La Sagrada Família was absolutely magnificent. It was awe inspiring. The columns are meant to look similar to tree trunks. (I believe that's called arboresque columns.) The architect was a Barcelona native and favorite, Antonio Gaudí. I was hoping to find a photograph of it not under construction, but as it turns out, it has been undergoing the construction since 1882. That’s a mere 133 years so far, but perhaps it will be completed before it breaks Notre Dame’s impressive 185 construction years. The anticipated completion is 2026 for La Sagrada Família, and yet it is already consider a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


It was a magnificent structure. It’s easily one of my favorite buildings in Europe now, and I had never heard of it beforehand! Ah, it's the unexpected surprises that end up being the most gratifying.


We traveled to another one of Gaudí’s more well known works, Parc Güell, located on Carmel Hill. The park was designed to be a continuation of the dream that Gaudí had for his beloved Barcelona. It was similar in many ways to the personality of Barcelona. The city was filled with vibrancy and uniqueness, just like its parks and cathedrals.


We watched the sun set from atop this little hill, and there is a quality to that evening that I don’t expect I’ll ever be able to quite explain.



When we were traveling down the hill, I adjusted my camera settings, put on auto focus, and walked down the hill. Images like this.. There’s an attempt to capture those moments of indescribable reality, but I wanted to make sure, above all, that I got to live those moments.


We found a spot where there was an abundance of people taking selfies. So naturally, I occupied my time by photographing people photographing themselves.. It was incredibly distracting trying to look at the stunning views of Barcelona, only to be interrupted by a couple trying to get the perfect shot. (Don’t lose sight of the moment just for the Instagram post)


And then, before we knew it, we were traveling back to Paris. We took a long bus ride through Spain and the French countryside, only to come home to the incredible Paris. We slept off the exhaustion from the journey, and then we had our last day in the amazing city that I learned to call home.

Four months came and went in the most spectacular fashion. I couldn't imagine a better experience in a better city. Thank you to every person, every museum, every experience that it made it so truly incredible. (And thank you, Barcelona, for a great final trip)


See you again soon!

Fondation Louis Vuitton by Hannah Harley

3V2A2586EDITEDMerry Christmas, Dad!!! I'm sure you thought I forgot that you told me to visit Fondation Louis Vuitton back in October and that I had passed my time in Paris without visiting Frank Gehry's newest building. But SURPRISE!


I could offer my thoughts on the building, but I'm certainly no expert in architecture. Nonetheless, since you haven't yet seen it in person, I'll do my best to try to bring it to you.


Obviously, the building is noticeably impressive. When comparing it to the typical Parisian architecture, it does tend to stand out. (Just a little bit..)



It sits between the Jardin d'Acclimation and the Bois de Boulogne. Since I arrived via metro, I walked through the Bois de Boulogne and found my entrance to be rather uninviting. The building, while impressive and dominating, isn't given the grand entrance one might expect of a $148 million museum. It just appears, almost randomly placed across from a sad patch of woods.








The rooms aren't incredibly remarkable inside, but personally, I don't think they should be. This is an art museum, and while you want a space to compliment the art, you certainly don't want anything to over power it. The rooms are massive, white spaces, ready for the next barrage of contemporary art.







I did manage to take a selfie while there.. (See above)



A Weekend of Delightful Mishaps (à Bern) by Hannah Harley



Thanks to the craziness of finals at the Sorbonne (and all the insanity that comes with that), this post comes to you a little late. On the 21st of November, my dear friend, Rachel, and I traveled to Bern, Switzerland.

We planned the trip with a sense of spontaneity, essentially looking through a list of cities in Switzerland, scrolling through a few pictures, and randomly selecting some small city nestled in the mountains of a beautiful country. I had never been to Switzerland, but Rachel had been once before. We were going on an adventure!


We took the train from Paris to Geneva then to Bern from there. It was in our 15 minute change in Geneva that we found out that Switzerland is not part of the European Union. This little tidbit of information means that they do not, in fact, do business in Euros. Our money had quickly become a little useless... But we were able to switch some before we ran to the train.

3V2A0378editedThe train took us through scene after scene of snow capped mountains and little towns, typically covered in a dense fog. It was spectacular. The views out the window were absolutely incredible. I had planned on catching up on some sleep on the train ride, but I was so immersed in the landscapes. Wow, Switzerland, well done.


When we arrived in Bern after the pleasant train trip, we proceeded to get quite lost while trying to find our hostel. We discovered the next day that it was a straight shot from the train station to the hostel, but we decided to walk up a couple big hills, stroll down the hill, walk back up it, wander a little bit here, meander a little bit longer. We became hungry and tired and quite confused. Eventually, we found it, our little hostel snuggled in between the river and the hill we spent the afternoon traipsing around.


Hungry and ready for a lunch/dinner at about 4:30 pm, we went into historic Bern to find a cafe or restaurant. What we found was astronomical prices. Wow! I have been continuously shocked by Paris' obnoxious prices, but Switzerland was giving Paris a run for its money. We went to a cafe with food options priced in the 20 Swiss francs range, around $27 or so. We decided to try to find a cheaper place. But even McDonald's was selling food for 23 Swiss francs... I was not expecting it to be so expensive, but there we were.. Spending double digits for a plate of sliced cheese and a tomato.


But what Bern lacks in cheap prices, it makes up in beauty. It was cold in Bern, not as cold as it was back in Pittsburgh, but it was significantly chillier than Paris' sunny 50 degrees. Not only was it chilly, but the mountain air consumed the city in a dense, quieting fog. It was like a little blanket of winter. Needless to say, I loved it.


The fog would last throughout the night, dissipating a little bit during sunny midday, but it was back by 5 pm without too much difficulty. It made the town feel quieter, smaller, cozier. What a town!

At night, we happened upon a light show that Bern puts on for its visitors and residents for two weeks, beginning at the end of November and lasting until early December. It was about 30 minutes long; the children loved it and the parents sipped their hot wine, delighting in the scenes splashed across their government buildings. I guess it's as good a use as any for government buildings.

The entirety of it was in Swiss German (with about two French phrases), so I missed the full meaning of it. But at one point, Einstein discovered e=mc2 (a formula he worked on while working in the patent office in Bern), but then he changed it to e=vivre l'instant! Live for the moment; enjoy life as it is. This now is important.

Not to be stupidly cheesy, but that seems like a great message as the holidays start to spring up and the craziness of December start. Live for the moment.


Oh! And in case you're curious, Bern speaks Swiss German, they do not speak any dialect of French. Maybe a little bit more research would've been useful. Perhaps.


These are also some of the oddest people I've encountered in my travels in Europe. They're hearty and incredibly odd. The number one reenforcement of their odd behavior has to be a trip to the Natural History Museum that is located in Bern. The above image is an picture of the Board of Directors with bird feathers sticking out of their heads, framed proudly in the Natural History Museum.


This glamourous ostrich sits across from a 1 story replica of a human uterus (yes, in fact, you can explore it! What?) and beside a walrus in his natural habitat, a wedding clothing shop. In the same room, there is a taxidermied storke carrying a baby and a blue orb that recites Woody Allen quotes.


Bet you thought I was kidding about the Woody Allen quotes, huh?

But the most hilariously ridiculous part of the entire trip had to be the exhibit on Barry. Barry was a dog that saved 40 people in the mountains nearby by. He was a hero at the turn of the century, and to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of his death, Bern centered the entire third floor of the museum to his memory. He was taxidermied, audio dialogues were created on his behalf, scenes created depicting his heroics, and best of all, a green screen was put in place entitled "Barry & Me". Zero self control at the ridiculousness of what was being offered, we jumped at the chance to get our photo shoddily photoshopped next to a taxidermied dog. I've bought a lot of things over the years, but this was, without any doubt in my mind, the best 2 swiss francs I've ever spent.

photo 2edited

Apologies to those of you who expected only high quality images on my photography blog. But this.... This is better.


In stark contrast to the museum my friend described as being only possible due to the probable excessive drug use of the curator, there was the fine art museum of Bern. It is the most spectacular museum I have ever been fortunate enough to spend time in. Despite the fact that it was laid out in such a way that the modern art sculptures were next to the 1200s paintings of Jesus Christ, it was the most spectacular museum. The pieces it had of artists both famous and unknown were incredible works of art. It was as if I got to pick my favorite styles and artists and pieces and put them in a museum just for me. We spent our entire Saturday roaming through this overwhelming haven. (The language I'm using here seems excessive, but I'm telling you that it was incredible)

Unfortunately, they did not allow pictures, but they did have almost every piece available in postcards. So... I may or may not have spent most of my money in Bern on the postcards.


It still surprises me that fall was still hanging on throughout Europe. There were leaves on the ground and on the trees a month after I expected them to disappear. It was a delightful treat.


We ended up spending a lot of time in the cafe located on the bottom level of our hostel. The food was cheap for Switzerland; the coffee was good. There was a steady flow of regulars each night, and we were able to read in the cozy atmosphere of our little hostel. It was truly a delight.


Again, the residents of Bern are a such an endearing form of odd.


One night, after a few coffees, we walked up to the top of the hill we had spent most of our time wandering on during our first day. Soft fog, cold air, and the glow of twinkling lights.. Bern, in all its weirdness, was full of these little moments.


Grateful, as always, for the opportunity to travel through Europe with great friends as my companions

Thank you, Bern, for a delightful yet odd weekend

Fall in Florence by Hannah Harley


  3V2A0014editedAfter our quick trip to Venice, we travelled to Florence by train (did I mention how much I adore trains?). We got into the city in the evening on Sunday, found our way to our hostel, which was conveniently located within 5 minutes of the train station (another excellent lodging choice!).

We got to meet up with Anastasia's boyfriend, Tim (and friends) since they ended up being in Florence at the same time as us. We got some incredible homemade pasta, drank Italian wine, walked up to the best view of Florence, enjoyed great conversation and laughed about the bad Polaroid the waiter took.. It was a lovely start to our time in Florence.

See "true love" below

3V2A9463EDITED We all went to our separate hostels and met up in the morning to explore Florence. We traveled to this crypt, which was impressive by itself, but the really impressive portion of this particular building is its current inhabitants.


We saw Galileo's grave, Michaelangelo's, DaVinci's, Machievilli's, Dante's, etc. It was mildly ridiculous. It was as if Paris' Pantheon challenged Florence to a "how many famous people can we fit in one place" contest. (And Florence won.)


On the floor of this building, there were sculptures indicating where other people are buried. I'd bet that these people aren't "nobodies". I'd reckon that they're each famous in their own right, and just cause I don't know who they were doesn't mean that they weren't important and significant. On the one hand, I wish I knew more about each person that was buried there, but there were probably hundreds of influential people. I need to be realistic about some things.


As per usual, the ceilings were beautiful. I have a slight obsession with the beauty of European ceilings. It's so often just the white top of a room in America, and it's so interesting to see the difference between white ceilings and these ornate works of art.


The wooden beams of the ceiling (in the photo below) are decorated with a light pattern comprised of blues, greens, and reds.


When transitioning from the crypt portion of this building, we got to walk through this courtyard, which was made even more beautiful by the steady stream of rain. It's not the kind of rain you'd expect in November. It wasn't particularly chilly or a nuisance. It was simply raining. (And I loved it)



The museum also had a modern art exhibit dedicated to the theme of Christianity. I haven't seen a wide array of religious modern art, but this place found them. They even commissioned a few! It was an interesting environment to go from the pre-Renaissance paintings to these modern art pieces.


The sun eventually came out and graced us with a rain free afternoon and evening. I love the rain, but I think my camera might like sunny days a little bit more than the steady water.


We went on a jaunt up to the location we had been at the night before to see it during the day. The walk there was lovely; the river water was brown. I know people in Pittsburgh (and Paris!) often complain about the ugly water of the river(s), but I think Florence gets to win that contest too.


I realized, while I was standing and looking at this amazing view, that the best things are a lot of work. This was not a small hill. It wasn't a huge mountain either, but it did leave you a little breathy afterwards. You have to work for the best views (or at least walk up a hill).


I thought that the couple pictured above was adorable until I realized about 10 minutes later that they were two gentlemen that appeared to not be romantically involved. They seemed to be business friends more so than the snuggling old couple I thought they were... Opps.


The view was incredible (I think I've mentioned that once or twice) and the colors of the end of fall really added to it. Florence is nestled at the foot of many small mountains, which gives it such a different feel from Paris or Venice.


But the water really makes the Seine look clean, doesn't it? A stark contrast from Venice's blue and green canals 3V2A9840edited

I love how obsessed Europeans are with their art. The French aren't alone in their adoration of masterpieces -- the Italians had a great sense of pride over their pieces. The above photo was taken from a free sculpture garden. I love free art even more than art.

We called it a day after another amazing meal, starting the next morning with a climb up the Bell Tower next to the Duomo.


This was a 414 step trip up the stairs, which I (foolishly) thought would be no problem. After all, I am a collegiate athlete in my early 20s! But after walking almost 10 miles a day for the duration of our fall break and carrying around a hefty camera, it was a little bit more taxing than I would've like to admit.


With the Duomo's Bell Tower completed and checked off the list, Michaelangelo's David was up next. I hadn't prepared myself quite for his size, but it was an impressive statue. The veins, the posture, the marble. Michaelangelo was a master, no doubt, and this is a masterpiece.


I've mentioned European ceilings, but the Baptism Cathedral in Florence takes the cake. We almost didn't get into see it because the outside is undergoing renovations, but we did get to see the spectacular gold mosaic ceiling in person.


My neck hurt afterwards, but it was SO worth it. I should've laid on the ground and just stared for days. It was breath taking. We had no idea that it would be so magnificent. What a pleasant surprise!


Now that I've wrapped up two cities and one incredible fall break in just two blog posts, I want to give the biggest thank you to these two ladies. I am continuously grateful for their friendship; they made this trip wonderful.

Travel companions are a special kind of friend. They've seen you after 15 hours on a train and dealt with you when you're hungry. They've seen you eat pasta in ink sauce, lent you money, and grudgingly put up with your request for one more photo. They've gone into museums with you, laughed about gondola rides, and crammed under an umbrella with you. Not only do they see you at your worst, travel companions get to take on the world with you, and I am so happy I got to take on Italy with these two.


Traipsing Around Venice by Hannah Harley


For a short fall break, a couple of my friends and I traveled to Venice and Florence the 7th through the 11th of November. If I could sum up our time in Venice, I think the verb "traipsing" fits it best. Perhaps "ambitious wandering" could epitomize it as well. When the sites are as beautiful as this, it's tough to want to do much more than traipse. 3V2A7559EDITED1

Venice is a beautiful city, but it is covered in tourism. I've found that my favorite parts of cities aren't the touristic parts; they're the hidden gems and tucked away treasures. For example, I've visited the Eiffel Tower 3 times since I arrived in Paris, but the little cafe nestled in the Montmartre Hill... I've been there at least 7 times. As for Venice, it seemed that even the back streets and less populated areas were still catering to tourists.



But that being said, it is a stunning city.


I knew that Venice was sinking, but I didn't know that it was sinking and flooding to the extent that it is! Each day when we were there, there was a midday high tide that cause large parts of the city to be unaccessible without rain boots (or the beautiful covers that go over your shoes.. They come in ridiculously bright primary colors.) The city puts up walkways each morning before the high tide and takes them down each afternoon. They were great for us, considering that we did not want to pay the 10 euros for a pair of plastic covers for our shoes and bottoms of our pants.


See below for examples of the shoe cover possibilities. San Marco was a little more underwater than I expected.




My one friend compare Venice to a large outlet mall with water, and that sounds like a pretty accurate summation of the city. It was absolutely beautiful, as I mentioned before, but they were lined with souvenir shops and gelato parlors and restaurants. Needless to say, it could get a little overwhelming, especially as someone who does not entirely love shopping.


We spent a lot of time wandering around Venice, typically searching for a particular place. We spent a lot of time confused, but we ended up happening into a couple amazing places this way. We found an incredible Italian restaurant that didn't even have a menu -- just daily specials. Amazing food for really cheap. I haven't had such cheap food since I left the States!

Another place we ran into was this museum. Museums in Italy were not free and often cost a hefty 15 euros or more. Coming from Paris, where almost all the museums are free for EU students (that's us!), we were a little put off by the prices. It's expensive (especially considering that there were problems with the bank on my end and problems with pickpockets on my friends end...). We were able to get into this museum for free though!


As you've probably noticed, I am so impressed by the European ceilings. In nearly every blog post, you'll find at least one that made it into the final draft. They've spent so much time decorating what Americans hardly ever consider to be an important piece of the decoration. I've been quite taken by them.


One of my companions is mildly obsessed with churches, so she made sure to stop at nearly every one and pay the 2 or 3 euros to get in. I was quickly put off by the entrance fee to a church. I thought the purpose of a church was to be free for the masses? (The bold is so that you don't miss the joke.) Apparently, in such a touristic area, churches are not free -- Unless there is a funeral going on. We walked in on a funeral.


We realized about two weeks before we departed that we did not have a Venice hostel. In a scrabbling effort for a hostel, me and my friend tossed up our hands and basically said, "Ugh, anywhere, Kasey. Just pick somewhere." She picked an amazing hostel with this view. I could go on and on about it, but I'm pretty sure you shouldn't write home about your lodging accommodations.


But let's give a grateful HOORAY to Kasey on her successful hostel booking!


Venice is an incredibly picturesque city. My sister saw one of my photos and thought she did a puzzle of a scene that was very similar. As it turns out, she did a puzzle of the exact same row of houses taken from the same bridge in Venice. Such a beautiful city.



Our second day there, we attempted to find this hidden bookstore and spent most of the day in a lost pursuit of it. It was an interesting book store, but fortunately, all the books were in Italian so I wasn't tempted! Without further adieu, the self proclaimed "the most beautiful bookshop in the world":






Thanks for letting us stay for a couple days, Venice, and for letting us eat all of your gelato.. Sorry if there's a shortage now.3V2A9174EDITED

Day Trip to Chantilly by Hannah Harley


On Sunday, November 2nd (I was going to say "last Sunday".. Can't believe it's been so long!), my friend and I decided to explore the countryside surrounding Paris, specifically the wonderful town of Chantilly. We originally planned on taking the train until the edge of the 5th zone, but when we leafed through a book I found, we discovered Chantilly. 3V2A7081UNEDITED

It was supposed to rain all day, but it ended up being a sunny fall day without even a hint of rain.


We had a bit of an interesting experience trying to get to the town and the chateau. Our train stopped a couple stops sooner than we thought it would. We ended up being dropped off at a small, relatively abandoned train station much further away than we had hoped to be.. But we figured it out and eventually made it to Chantilly, and it was well worth the difficulties of getting there.


The chateau was beautiful and ornate. I'm finding that the French love decadence, especially in their chateaux. I've still yet to find a chateau more decadent than Versailles, but this residence had a unique charm to it -- the owners adored art and they covered most of the rooms with Bodacelli, Delacroix, etc. It was a feast of excellent art works.

3V2A6846EDITEDThe previous residents also had a love of old and rare books. They had a small library, but the library was packed full of these books. Two stories of rare books... Unfortunately, they didn't let us borrow any of them. Maybe next time, we can convince them.


I love a beautiful chateau, but I was especially taken by the grounds. Maybe it was the romance of Fall, but Chantilly had a lovely country charm that the bustle of Versailles lacks.

3V2A7084EDITEDI confess that I sometimes don't take pictures of some really important things. For example, Chantilly is known for their whipped cream. I've had some pretty amazing whipped cream; I've even had Chantilly cream in Paris. I was expecting that. No, no, no. Chantilly makes the thickest and most impressively delicious whipped cream that it kind of boggled my mind. I was so excited to eat it and drink it in the best coffee I've had in Europe that I forgot to take a photograph to share with you. But a photograph would not do it justice. If you find yourself in Europe and you like good things, I'd recommend visiting Chantilly for the incredible cream and wonderful atmosphere. Maybe you can keep your composure long enough to photograph it..


We even got to see the sun set behind the trees as we strolled around the gardens. Not a bad Sunday in my opinion.

3V2A6606EDITEDBut wait -- We met a cat. We made a buddy in feline form. I saw him lingering on a fence and decided that I would pet him. I guess some things don't change over the years. Going up to animals I don't know has been a habit since I could walk. Either way, we spent 15 minutes or so snuggling this beauty. He was incredibly affectionate in a way that reminded me of the barn cats. He would paw us when we would stop petting him. It's tough being away from animals; they're a special kind of awesome.

3V2A7247EDITED"Wait -- we have to leave??"

3V2A7082EDITEDI'm continuously surprised by fall's staying power in France. It's November 16th, and the trees still have leaves. Most of them hadn't turned by November 2nd. I'm used to fall colors being muted and mostly gone by the beginning of November. Can't say that I mind the elongated season!


A spontaneous trip, good company, beautiful fall day.. What more could you ask for?

Forêt Noire and an Alsatian Vineyard by Hannah Harley


3V2A3898EDITED After Fribourg, we traveled to the Titisee Lake and the surrounding Forêt Noire (the Black Forest).



My friends and I wanted to venture into the forest, but our tour guide told us that we didn't have enough time. Our solutions was to book it into the forest. (Best choice) We ended up seeing the gorgeous Black Forest on one of the most beautiful days of the year -- not too cold or too hot.


As demonstrated in the above picture, it was awe inspiring.

My friend (pictured above) and I both hail from woodsy Western PA. It's amazing how similar the woods in this forest felt similar to our Western PA backyards. Maybe, in all actuality, it only has trees as its similarity, but it still felt a little bit like my childhood.


I love cities. I love nature. It's a constant conflict. I'm torn between wanting the constant hubbub of the city and my desire for the stillness of the woods. Maybe one day I'll figure out how to combine the two, but until then, I'm just traveling between them.



Also, I am friends with some really good people here. These two are two of my favorite people not only in our program but that I've met in the past year. They're both so kind, straightforward, smart, and accepting. I'm traveling with them to Italy in a week's time, and I'm so thrilled. I traveled with Kasey to Belgium, and it is the greatest compliment in the world to be invited to travel with someone again.

You're not at your best when you travel. You're tired and hungry and confused and frustrated and overwhelmed. To be able to still want to hang out with someone who is also at that level when you're at that level... That's a step above friendship. That's travel companionship. I consider my travel companions to be a very elite group of amazing people. (Love you all)


I will admit that I was a little disappointed that we didn't have more time to just soak in the forest, but I can't really complain when the trip is completely coordinated by my program. It was so overwhelmingly beautiful. I think I could spend the rest of my life in locations too beautiful for photographs.


After a hearty traditional lunch of potatoes and cream cheese, we picked up a couple gifts since everything was so cheap!! Then we traveled to a vineyard in Alsace. We went to Domaine Wohleber in the small town of Andlau.



We were there at golden hour, the most beautiful time of day for photographs. It was so beautifully romantic and interesting. Our tour guide was the owner of the vineyard and his son tagged along. Their family operation produced small batches of wine each year, but they took us through their sections of the hill in addition to telling us about the community. The community is built on wine production, and I got the vibe that they were a helpful and friendly people. In America, there is such a sense of competition, but I've noticed that businesses here help out other businesses without reserve.


It was another journey up a hill, but it was completely worth it. Acres upon acres of the slowly turning leaves of the grapevines... Problems seemed to drip away


Paris is a thriving city and a centre for art, culture, language, etc, but it is always a comfort to me to get out into the beautiful countryside. It's a small slice of heaven that I got to savor for a little moment.

Thanks for sharing, Alsace.

Bones, Bones, Bones in the Catacombs by Hannah Harley


WARNING: These are images of bones. If that's the kind of thing that upsets you, please don't feel like you should continue scrolling through these images. 3V2A1886EDITED

Translation: Stop! This here is the empire of the dead.


Paris' Catacombs require some preplanning, and we were able to get it together yesterday! I went with my two friends, Kasey and Hanan; I think I ended up with a very different reaction than either one of them.


When Paris' center cemeteries became over crowded and a health risk to those living around them, the city decided to move all of the dead into the abandoned mines under Paris. Without a care as to who these people were or their religious beliefs, they were unceremoniously tossed into these mines. Some of the dead hadn't been dead for even fifty years.

Half way through the project, one of the overseers thought that a little decoration with the bones would help ease the dead. Then, they placed the bones into the patterns you see pictured here. Some of the bones are placed according to cemetery.


And now, they get to be center subject in how many tourist's selfies. These bones have rubbed, taken, graffitied, broken.


To me, it felt like these individuals lost their voice when they died, and they became a tourist attraction.


I get that I might sound a little cynical, and I might be a little too grouchy about it. I think it just depends on your view of the afterlife. I found the whole arrangement to be considerably disrespectful, but I think, in that, I am in the minority. It is a beautiful display, and it was a necessary move for the health of Paris' citizens.


But in the efforts to create beauty, sometimes, bad things happen. The man who was in charge of the decorative sculptures below was killed about 4 feet from this spot when a portion of the mine collapsed.



Hallway after hallway after hallway... There are approximately six million people buried in the underground network under Paris.


The well for the miners to wash their feet -- the only color that deep below ground



In a way, I want to say, "they're just bones! Whatever", but I keep thinking, "but they're someone's bones"




Monet's Garden at Giverny by Hannah Harley


After many attempts, this past Sunday, me and my friends were finally able to make it Giverny, the location of Claude Monet's famous gardens. The morning began disastrously with plans falling apart left and right. Each effort to do something was hindered; it was not shaping up to be a good morning. Then I realized, halfway through the commute to the train state St. Laazare, that I had forgotten my SD card (the thing that saves the data from my pictures). I had to back track to my residence (a foyer in the 15th arrondisement), adding an hour to my trip. I said goodbye to my friend, encouraging her to not wait for me. I called the friends that were waiting at the train station, and a little cheeriness from Kasey brightened up my day. After nearly two hours in delays, I finally reached the train station, and fortunately for me, the next train wasn't until 11:50, so I would get to spend the rest of my day with my friends!

But why tell you this? (I acknowledge that it sounds like whining) I almost convinced myself to cancel the day, throw in the towel. Everything that went wrong did, until things just started to go right again. If I let that little voice in my head telling me to give up, this blog post wouldn't exist, I would've probably not seen Monet's gardens, and I certainly wouldn't have gotten to share the experience with my wonderful friends.


It's pretty amazing that I get to have these experiences with such top notch people. Paris is a city that encourages solitude, and yet, I find that I've been fortunate in some of the best friendships here.


Now, onto Monet's gardens! I will assume that most of you have seen one of his many waterlily paintings or something of the like. (There's a large canvas in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh if you haven't!) Despite having thousands of paintings to choose from, Monet said that his greatest masterpiece was his gardens.


I can see why he said that. It completely baffled me that the organization running Monet's gardens was able to have everything in bloom even in the fall. Even though it was a steady drizzly, the gardens were stunning.


Monet made these gardens with his wife, who was also a painter. He became a little hermit-like in his later years, rarely going into Paris; his friends adored making the trip to his home in Giverny.


There's a quote by Monet that has stuck with me: "Every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It's enough to drive one mad. I have such a desire to do everything, my head is bursting with it."


I'm realizing that this quote isn't exclusive to his gardens or even to Paris, but that it's all in your perspective. To some who dislikes nature, this place would not be inspirational. It's all in how you choose to look at something.


Sunday was such an unreal experience. My friend and I compared it to a religious experience, and after studying piece after piece of this talented artist, it really felt like it. It was sacred ground in a sense.


Thanks for sharing the beauty of your garden, Monet. It really is a masterpiece.



Fontainebleu Palace by Hannah Harley


Before delving into the amazing palace and grounds, I encourage you to check out my Indiegogo campaign! Get prints, books, calendars, Polaroids, and more by donating to this Paris Project I've been working on!! Thanks!! Link is:

And now, without further ado: After a leisurely stroll through the Fontainebleu Forest ( see post here: ) and an incredible lunch in the small town, we went to Fontainebleu's most famed house.


Unfortunately, we didn't get to spend all day in this stunning palace (since I tend to take more time in these types of places), but we did get to spend the majority of our afternoon with audioguides. While the inside was furnished and beautifully maintained, I found the outside and the gardens to be exceptionally pretty.


The day completely turned around from the down-pouring of rain we experienced that morning in Paris. It ended up being a perfect fall day!



I have to admit that I'm mildly obsessed with the impressive ceilings that the French adorn in their chapels, chateaux, and government buildings. They're ornate, and in my opinion, it's a little frilly to decorate the ceiling so intensely. But then again, it seems like a very French thing to do.







Ahhh the most important part of any house: The library


We ended up not leaving ourselves as much time to stroll through the gardens as we probably should've, but it was the perfect day to enjoy a few moments in the garden.


Seriously though ceilings here are amazing!





I must cut my narration on this particular post short because my roommate just walked in, and it sounds like we're going to a jazz club in the center of Paris tonight! I'm not one to pass on some free jazz and good company on a Monday night!

Bonsoir, my lovely readers!


Fontainebleu Forest by Hannah Harley


Thanks to the program I'm a part of, we are able to do excursions to amazing places for free! Our first excursion was to Honfleur (see the post here: ), a little port town on the Northern coast of France. This time, we ventured to Fontainebleu to visit the forest and the palace there.


We traveled by train, easily my favorite form of transportation. While I do love a good bus ride and I delight in plane rides, trains have a certain characteristic and ease to them. Train stations are incredibly lovely, and there's something romantic about going on a train ride. I'm hoping that I'll have a weekend free soon when I can just go on a train ride and get off the train wherever I think is the prettiest (this is available on the weekends since I bought a monthly navigo pass).

3V2A0453EDITEDWe were met by our forest guide and expert. He was incredibly knowledgable about the forest; my family has foresters and yet I've never seen anyone as excited about leaves as this gentleman. He seemed positively enthralled to share the forest with us.


As I had predicted, it was a very French hike. The path never got perilous or even muddy, despite the heavy amounts of rain the morning of our trip. It was a leisure stroll through the greenery.


My friend and I, both natives of Western PA, were reminiscing about the lush green forest and how much it reminded us of home. Paris feels like Pittsburgh in many ways, but this forest felt more like my childhood home in good, ol' Indiana, PA. It felt nice to get out of the city for a day and travel to the clean air of the country.


The biggest or at least most noticeable difference between this forest and the woods back in the States is the texture of the soil. The soil is, for the most part, sand. It's fine, soft, and white, and yet it still sustains these trees and moss like the dark brown dirt that I'm used to.



Our delightful stroll lead us to the top of a small hilltop. It had an excellent view of the town below and was a wonderful place to breath in and out. The air felt so good. I realize that I've touched on this before, but it was exceptional in the forest.


I am privileged to have shared the day with two of my dearest friends in my program. I traveled with one of them to Belgium, but I hadn't yet traveled with both of them. After a weekend spent in their company, I was thrilled to discover that they're excellent travel buddies, and I'm exceptionally excited to go to Italy with them for fall break!

Traveling with other people often reveals a lack of compatibility or even a tension in the friendship. People are not at their best when they're tired and hungry. It's how people interact when they're tired and hungry that matter the most when choosing your traveling companion.


But then, of course, there's the laughter. That's pretty important.


After the hilltop view, we made our way down and into the small town, where we met up with the other group for an amazing meal. It was one of the best meals I've had in France. Three courses, including an incredible salmon dish. My one instructor just gave me advice on where to get a decent frozen version of it... Might have to try my hand at the microwave cooking.


It seems paradoxical that I love the city and the lifestyle that goes with it while I also love dense forests with such fervor. I think I spent most of my childhood in the woods, so it's only natural.


I'll just mix the two for now, and delight in whichever one I happen to find myself in for the time being.



Sending lots of love your way!!

The Louvre (again) and Sainte-Chapelle by Hannah Harley


Wednesday night I partied hard. In typical turn down for what fashion, I went to the Louvre, which is open late on Wednesdays. The place was bumpin'.  In all seriousness, the Louvre is its quietest when it's open late, so I love to avoid the myriad of tourists. They're fun to watch, but when they get in my way of my view of the art while they're busy selfie-ing... It's not my favorite thing. But I got to enjoy a quiet Louvre.



Of course it was completely amazing. Let's face it: the Louvre is an excellent place to be on a Wednesday night.


I managed to meet up with my friend near the Artemis statue. It seems crazy that we're using the Artemis statue as a meeting point.




Some child left their rabbit behind at the Louvre. Aw, poor baby!


Might've been this child. He was dedicated to looking at the ceilings and rolling around on the ground. I could not figure out who he was there with. He was just rolling, having fun.

3V2A0077EDITEDPeople are always sketching in the Louvre, improving their artistic abilities and copying the masters.

Sainte- Chapelle 

This was one of my favorite sites when I traveled to Paris in January 2011. It was stunningly beautiful, even on the cloudy day in the middle of Paris' winter. We couldn't really see the outside of the magnificent 1200s since it was being restored, and as evidence of my Friday trip, the restoration is not yet done.

We waited in line for 1 and a half hours, and I was excitedly telling my friend about the amazing chapel. But they're still in the middle of this restoration.


It was scheduled to be completed in 2013, but they have reworked their timeline to hopefully have a November 2014 completion of the stained glass restoration. Seems like a pretty good birthday present to me.


There's dust all over due to the restoration work, and the rose window is covered for its completion. I was a little distraught about it, but my friend quickly encouraged me with promises of a November visit. Won't it be grand then?


Of course it was grand now; I was just moping. So just you wait until November! I'll get to see the amazing structure restored to its 1200s greatness!



The Redefinition of Success by Hannah Harley


Paris is a lovely city as I'm sure you've figure out from my many doting blog posts. While it remains of the most magnificent cities on earth, there are a lot of things in Paris that frustrate me. It's a product of the cultural differences. The fact that I was raised in American means that I have an entirely different way of thinking than my French compatriots. photo 1

Above: a very poor quality photo of a darkroom print of the Eiffel Tower, Feb 2014

My roommate and I were talking one night about the difficulties we've faced in Paris. One of the hardest things we've had to do is redefine what "success" is. Things that are simple or easy in the States can become quite complicated and frustrating in a different culture. The whole different language can further complicate these simple things.

To think -- neither one of us knew how to say 'how are you' or 'can we have the check please' or 'what time is it' or 'help me' when we first arrived!

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Take the task of getting a coffee. For example purposes, pretend it's Starbucks. (But don't actually go to Starbucks if you're in Paris...) What do I want? How do you say "Chai" in French? Did he ask me if I wanted soy milk with that? Opps, I think I accidentally ordered a large. Just go with it. "Quatre euros quatre vingt sept".... What does that translate to? Alright... Time to figure out the money. Oh can I pay in exact change?!? Wait, did he just ask how to spell my name? Oh, I guess not. He's looking at me strangely. Just pay. Where do I get my coffee? Oh, there! That's mine, right? Yeah, the barista is nodding. Okay, cool. Take a sip -- that's not what I thought I ordered. Must've mispronounced 'Chai'. Oh well. I paid in exact change. WHAT A SUCCESS!

This task of getting a small Chai latte, something all too basic in the States has become a difficult process. It's awkward trying to figure out the customs and the city. Sometimes, you just have to accept that paying in exact change is really successful. You should be proud that you used that 2 cent piece. That is not an easy piece to get rid of.

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Success is relative. Maybe it's using the right pronoun when talking about your baguette or maybe it's knowing the best place on the Seine to picnic with friends. Or maybe it's knowing how to spot the pickpockets. Maybe it's taking a new route to school or navigating to a place you haven't yet been -- without the assistance of Google Maps. Success could be finding a place to buy sheets or college ruled notebooks Sometimes, success is remembering your zipcode or the quickest entrance to a particular museum or figuring out where to buy batteries. Maybe it's signing a legal document that's entirely in French or knowing the difference between good bread and bad bread.

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Above: Tuileries on a rainy fall day

So here's to redefining success and blundering my way through the plethora of awkward cultural differences. Rejoice in the little victories.

photo 2Side note - if you'd like to support my adventures in Paris, you'll elidgible for prints, canvases, calendars and more!!! Please head to my Indiegogo campaign for more information! :) Link below!


As always, thanks for reading. Happy to share this wild journey with you all

Nuit Blanche - Art Trick or Treating by Hannah Harley


3V2A9926EDITED What a happy Sunday to recover from last night! While some of my peers are nursing hangovers, I am recovering from Paris' all night art event, Nuit Blanche!


I haven't updated the blog this week because blisters on the bottoms of my feet prevented me from my usual explorations of Paris. I am so thrilled that I healed before Nuit Blanche!!

Nuit Blanche is Paris' rendition of St. Petersburg's White Nights. St. Petersburg uses these art nights to help keep people entertained (and out of trouble) when the nights are still lit by sunlight. Paris doesn't have this light concern, but someone loved the idea and made it a HUGE deal.

I've been to art events in Pittsburgh (not nearly as many as I should, granted). This was nothing like those. It seemed that the entire city was delighting in Nuit Blanche. The lines were blocks long, but they moved quickly. People politely nudged their way through the crowds for a glimpse at the artwork. The streets were packed. The spaces had more people cramming to see the pieces than they had space.


Oh and the locations... The locations ranged from an unfinished train station (see above) to a 1200s church. The Pantheon and Hotel de Ville both had exhibits in front of and within them. It was amazing. (The above is a still of a magnificent light show)


Alot of the pieces had performance art aspects. The artists would be creating them all night (see above). Not only did we get to see the creation, but the artists would interact with one another. They'd each take turns grabbing alcohol or some new paint, then continue creating. The installation pieces were installed for just one night, and today, they're being disassembled.  Just like that.


Some of the pieces were so subtle that people walked (or biked..) on them without realizing what was below their feet. Most of them were more obvious.

It rained throughout the night, but that didn't dampen the Parisians' spirits. A lot of the cafes were open all night, selling hot chocolates, coffees, croissants, etc to the cold art lovers.



I had NO idea what to expect. I just knew I wanted to go. It ended up being a massive and amazing event. I told my friend that it was like art trick or treating. You walk and walk, stop at the proper places, get a treat (art), and then go to the next place. What a great way to ring in October!

We decided not to make it a full night (ending at 7 am) since we were both quite exhausted and wanted to get home before the metro stopped running.




While there were many amazing pieces, there was one that has really played with my mind.

I'm used to my camera and I agreeing. What I see, it photographs. It photographs what I see. Last night, one piece had a complete disconnect between me and my camera.

The light from this piece appeared to the eye (and the iPhone) to be completely white. I almost didn't photograph it because it wasn't a particularly moving piece. But I did. As it turns out, the light was not a pure white, but instead it was a combination of colors thrown together so quickly that they appeared white.


Pinks, reds, oranges, greens, blues.. All had blended to white. My camera picked up this alternative and completely accurate reality that I could not experience.

I understand that my camera is faster than my eyes, but to see bright colors where I only see white was unsettling and unnerving.


The colored light was just as real as the white light. I could experience both at the same time, but I couldn't observe both at the same time.

Needless to say, Nuit Blanche was amazing. I only wish it was more than one night a year, but I guess that's part of the magic of it.

Lille, Ghent, and Bruges by Hannah Harley


3V2A8090EDITED (Above: Ghent, Belgium)

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to travel to the charming cities of Lille, Ghent, and Bruges with one of my dear friends and an organization called Youth Events in Paris.

Our trip began last week with a 3 hour trek to the Youth Events in Paris office to pay for our tickets (we went to the right address, but there are two of those addresses in Paris..). We got our tickets and awaited our weekend in Northern France and Belgium!

Below: L'Alchimiste, Lille, France 3V2A7519EDITED

After a quick bus ride, we first visited Lille. It's a far cry from picturesque Paris, but I think I'm a little bias. Not bias in the sense that my love for Paris would effect my judgement.. But since I almost got the cops called on me in Lille, it wasn't my favorite place.

My friend and I decided to go into a Dia (a discount market). While there, I decided to grab a couple photos, specifically of the wine in its long rows and the long streaks of light on it. I wasn't being insane; I kept the camera around my waste with its ((nearly)) silent shutter ready. I only took two pictures until the manager came hustling toward me yelling in French. Granted, I don't know too much French, but I knew enough to understand that:

1) I was NOT allowed to take pictures in the store. 2) I had to delete the photos. 3) I had to leave the store NOW. Right now. 4) If I returned, he would call the police.

Despite my eagerness to follow his rules, the man made sure to watch us walk for the remainder of the street and treated me with such hostility. I've been told I can't take photographs in places, been told to delete photos, been told to leave the property -- it's all the nature of photographing in public. But I have never been treated with such hostility. (I don't think that it helped that he was yelling at me in a foreign language. It gets a little more frightening in such cases.)

Below: Not the man that yelled at me, Lille, France



Thankful to get out of Lille, we made our way to Ghent, Belgium.

Wow. Ghent is an incredibly perserved medieval town. It's quite magical, so I was disappointed that I couldn't spend the next week there. In the 2 hours we had, my friend and I wandered through an exhibit of Picasso mixed with Matisse, Rodin, Braques, and more artistic greats.

3V2A8018EDITED(Above: A Rodin sculpture)



Above: The view of the inner courtyard from inside the museum


Above: Picasso takes on finger painting..

The museum felt empty, except for the art. In contrast to the busy Louvre filled to the brim with tourists and their iPhones and selfie sticks.. this was an excellent breather. I don't think there is a better place to see art than alone. (But then again, great art makes it a private experience even when there are thousands of people surrounding you...)

Can you tell that I'm getting a fine art degree?



After the museum, we went to a couple of Ghent's famous churches in the hopes of seeing the Ghent Altar. Needless to say, there is a MASSIVE renovation (2012 - 2018) on that church and the Ghent Altar. So we didn't get to see it in all its glory, but the church was still magnificent. (We decided that it was prettier and grander than Notre Dame, but shhhh don't tell Notre Dame that)

I don't have any pictures from the inside of the church. While that might be disappointing to both you and me, there were signs in the church that clearly defined that no photos were to be taken inside. (A camera with a very large red X over it, so it couldn't be confused)

But whyyyyyyyyy. Because it's incredibly disrespectful to photograph in a house of worship in which people are actively worshipping -- particularly when you're told not to do so.

Some of the tourists thought it'd be best to ignore this kind suggestion. In fact, one couple thought that the stand in altar would be the perfect place to take selflies. When reviewing their photos, they dropped the camera, which broke the silence and everyone watched it slide across the ground for 30 glorious feet. My friend whispered in my ear, "Best example of God I've seen yet." And what a sense of humor he has!

Before we left, we both went to different sections of the church and silently bought candles and lit them. I'm not really sure what the candles represent in the Catholic faith, but I decided that I could just let it symbolize whatever I wanted it to.



After that, we wandered through the beautiful streets before making our way to the bus. (We got the wrong time, and they almost left without us....)

Just another short bus ride lead us to Bruges!


We arrived at night, got into our hostel. I've never shared a room with so many people since summer camp, but they were wonderful people. We shared the 6 person room with 3 au pairs, one from Wales, one from Austria, and one from Germany. They were very kind and interesting!

Unfortunately, I got a migraine for our only night there. My friend offered to walk back with me, which was so nice of her. We got lost -- and not the good kind of lost. We walked for 3 hours, completely confused. We realized that we shouldn't just follow the group, and maybe next time, we should learn the name of our hostel. Eventually, we caught a cab and were able to get back. It was overwhelming relief.


The next day began with a big breakfast - a GREAT way to start! I realized I hadn't had American style coffee in over a month. While it didn't quite taste like American coffee, it still was a happy way to start the day.

We walked into the city, explored a flea market (finally got a purse smaller than my satchel), bought chocolates (heavenly), ate waffles (I think I prefer crepes), drank Belgium beer (still don't like beer much), and got hot chocolate.




Also, did you know that they speak a dialect of Flemish in Bruges? It's certainly not French. (We kept talking to the people in French... At this point, it's more normal to converse with waiters, shop keepers, etc in French.)


The flea market we stumbled on was HUGE.



Needless to say, it was an amazing and exhausting weekend, filled with beauty, good company, and a new perspective. It's an entirely different atmosphere than Paris -- Belgians are much more vibrant and uproarious. It was actually quite shocking to me since I'm accustomed to Paris' emotional reservation.

What a charming town to visit for the weekend. They do have incredible chocolates and waffles, but their preservation of the past... That was easily my favorite part. Having buildings around from the 1600s like it's no big deal? Yeah, I'm impressed. Hoping to return to Bruges another time -- it was such a pleasant break from the hustle (and crammed metro trains) of the big city.


Sending my love from Paris

Centre Georges Pompidou and the Grand Palais Attempt by Hannah Harley


3V2A7107EDITED I've been LOVING Paris' museums (as evident by all the blog posts from the wide variety of them). I've been in Paris for 35 days, and I've gone to a museums or beautifully decorated church 20 times thus far. Most of Paris' museums are too big and overwhelming for just one visit, and I'm making sure to go back to them as frequently as possible.


This Wednesday, we traveled to the Grand Palais with great hopes of seeing an amazing collection, but we were met with Paris Fashion Week. Now, I'm no fashion-ista. I dress well enough, but Paris Fashion Week isn't something I was anxiously anticipating. Paris Fashion Week limited our access to the museum and made the wait well over two hours. Let's just say that I am no longer indifferent to Paris Fashion Week. As my sister lovingly said, "your museums will be open again next week". So perhaps I'll try for the Grand Palais next week.


Since plans are never really ruined in Paris (even with Fashion Week), my friend and I jaunted over to the Georges Pompidou Centre, one of modern art's most famous galleries. We spent our remaining 2 hours on one floor of the incredible museum. We'll be heading back to see the rest of it soon!


The outside of the Centre is quite different from the rest of Paris' typical 8 story white stone buildings. I'll be sure to take more photos of the outside during my next visit. I was focused on photographing a project you'll see within the next couple weeks!



As a whole, I LOVE modern art, but occasionally, there are pieces that I really struggle to like. But as my professor says, "Just because you like something doesn't mean it's good. And vice versa." I'm working on remembering that when staring at some of the pieces.


But most of them, I quite enjoyed. It was an excellent albeit eclectic exhibit of modern art.



Without a doubt, my favorite piece was Andreas Gursky's 99 cent. I've read about this in countless textbooks, and it has been in most of my professors' lectures. Since it's one of the highest selling photographs ever sold at $3.34 million, we've studied it. Believe me, we've questioned and stared at it and pondered whyyy. But standing in front of it was an entirely new experience and opened me up to a new view on Gursky's work. He has been at the forefront of Photoshop, and he's creating near photographs in my opinion. They're composites and altercations of photographs he's taken. He's also a whiz at large printing. His work is never small.

3V2A7196EDITEDMost people walked by it, not really taking in the 99 cent store or its significance. I'm sure I missed the significance and the importance of the balloon/ball chain on the right of this image, but at least I saw Gursky.


Up on the agenda for Friday: Buying a coat and a tour of the Catacombs! (One of those is way more exciting than the other, and based on my views on Paris Fashion Week... Which one do you think it is?)

Wait until you see what's on the agenda for this weekend!!




Notre Dame, Cluny, and Family by Hannah Harley

3V2A6500EDITED It's quite the challenge to return to a place you've already been to and attempt to photograph it better (or at least differently) than you did the time before. I got to meet my Dad's cousins (and my cousins once removed) outside of the historic church, and we quickly perused through the structure. I didn't spend nearly as much time in there as I have before as they were anxious to get to the next museum as well. But I did manage to grab a couple new shots of Notre Dame. I'm already excited to head back and try try again!




From there, we headed to the Cluny-Sorbonne Museum, even strolling along on of the many locks bridges in Paris. It's the Museum of the Middle Ages, and it was quite a grand structure. Inside, there were lots of ancient and beautiful works of art. Art from the Middle Ages isn't necessarily my favorite period of artistic creation, but it absolutely impressive what they were able to produce.


And yet another museum to check off of my list!!



After the museum, we got lunch at a corner cafe. Normally, I only see these folks in the back woods of West Virginia, all of us covered in hunter orange. What a change in scenery from our usual endeavors. I'm extremely bummed that I won't be able to be at the annual family Deer Camp (one of my favorite weekends of the entire year), but I'm thrilled I got to share a meal and a quick jaunt around a couple of Paris' landmarks with these two!!

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Old Friends, the Petit Palais, Arc de Triomphe by Hannah Harley

3V2A6369EDITEDDue to an unfortunate lack of internet, my blog posts have been sporadic this past week -- though much has happened! Monday and Tuesday were filled with classes as per usual, so I didn't make it to a museum either day. (But I did have my first falafel!)

Wednesday offered me the opportunity to go to the Petit Palais, one of Paris' free museums. The museum was originally built to display the works of art for the World's Fair at the turn of the century. It was supposed to be demolished after the event, but it ended up staying (just like its nearby buddy, the Eiffel Tower). It sits across from the Grand Palais, one of the museums on the agenda for this week!



My museum buddy, Rachel, and I will be doing a presentation inside the Petit Palais this upcoming month. It was quite a delightful trip to get close to the pieces we've been studying in class. What a GREAT place to be taking an art history class. 3V2A6243EDITED

Keep in mind that they were planning on tearing this down. I'm thrilled that France has a tendancy to keep this "impermanent" structures.3V2A6232EDITED

Later this week, in an attempt to find the Youth Events in Paris Office (you'll discover why I was there this weekend!!!!), my friend and I happened upon this beauty. We ended up having to scurry away, but to think... I just ran into the Arc de Triomphe while running errands. Ridiculous.3V2A6661EDITED

photo (2)EDITED

One of the highlights of this week was the delightful conversation, drink, and food (of course... we are in Paris!) I got to enjoy with my former boss and lifetime friend (but actually, this gentleman visited me in the hospital when I was born). As it turns out, he's been at nearly every big Harley family event since the early 90s. I was thrilled when he told me that he was taking his wife to Paris as a birthday present. Not only that, they decided to spend two evenings with me -- precious time in Paris. It ended up being one of my favorite nights in Paris thus far. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Gatti, for the excellent conversation and company!

Reflections - First Month by Hannah Harley

After what has been an insanely busy and amazing first month, it's time for a little reflection. I'm already a 1/4th of the way through this amazing journey -- WHAT.

So in the past month... What have I learned? No, that list would be too long. What's the REALLY important knowledge I've gained from a month in Paris?


  -- slow down (and stare) --

Sitting in a cafe for hours and hours is remarkably common in this city. These people have perfected the art of staring. Staring at a paintings, staring from their cozy seat in the cafe, staring at the other travelers on the metro. This isn't a society of people who are glued to their phones; they much prefer to take in the world around them. They watch; they observe.

I've found that in the United States I am so frequently juggling a busy schedule, rushing from one thing to another. I don't give myself the time to enjoy it. It's only in those moments before I fall asleep in total exhaustion that I got to think about how happy I am or how beautiful life is. From a rickety chair on the corner cafe, I get to watch the cars splash the puddles and recall in precise detail how overwhelmingly happy I am and how stunning life is. It feels like I'm given extra time here, when in all actuality, I'm just making time to do nothing. What a glorious concept.


(Above: Along the Seine)

-- don't feel guilty about recovery days --

Overall, I'm a pretty upbeat, positive person. But when you're in a different culture, everything can be a little more challenging. Some days, you're just not interested in figuring out how the washing machines work or what the difference between cafe and cafe espresso and cafe au lait is or how to turn on the shower. Some days, it's challenging, and it's uncomfortable. It's not necessarily that you miss the ease or the routine of life in the States, but you just want to curl up until it gets easier. So I've had "recovery days" in Paris. Days when I'm exhausted and the thought of trying to find an open marché seems quite daunting. And I'm learning that it's completely okay to have those kinds of days -- even in a city as beautiful as Paris. It's okay that you don't want to go to a museum today; you went to five museums this week. You can relax today. This has always been a difficult concept for me. Relax when you've earned it.

I don't need to do 67 things everyday. I'm not visiting Paris; I'm living here.


 -- love solitude --

Most of you are probably aware that I LOVE my me time. In Paris, it becomes increasingly easy to indulge in me time. Eating alone? That's completely acceptable. Go for it. Walking the cobblestone streets alone? Go for it; it's awesome. Picnic alone? Go for it.

Paris is an amazing city for people who are alone. (Not such a good city for those who are lonely -- PDA is completely okay and practiced regularly. Last weekend, I saw a couple on the floor of the metro showing the train a serious display of affection. Normally, it's mostly making out and giggling very close to your space on public transportation.)

I get to delight in a society where being alone is a wonderful and encouraged experience.


(Above: Pont Neuf)

-- get lost to find something --

"So I did what lost souls have been doing for centuries -- I fled to Paris."

The history surrounding this city is absolutely marvelous. I walk today on the same streets as Camus, Degas, Stein. I delight in the metro stations that Hemingway travelled through, the same museums in which Delacroix studied, the same squares that Monet walked through, the same bridges that Mary Cassatt and Marie Curie walked across. Here, Henri Cartier-Bresson stood to photograph this same site. There, Atget strolled through to find his empty, early morning street scene.

Ahhhhh, to think that each of them lived here, battled their critics here, bought their groceries here, got lost here... It feels like a personal history lesson every day.

In my day dreams of the past, I expect that all these greats got lost on occasion in the maze of the ancient streets, and I expect that they found a little piece of life each time. When I get lost in Paris, it feels like a lucky chance -- that I've stumbled upon a gift. Typically, I'll find a magnificent hidden park or old church or unknown museum. Paris is a city of gems, and typically, the best ones are the ones you find whenever you're not looking for them.


(These images are from a delightful evening with a very dear friend. The water was sparkling and beautiful. We both were silent for a few minutes to just think. It was incredibly powerful and moving to watch the twinkling ripples in the water.)

Versailles and the Tale of Two Love Stories by Hannah Harley

3V2A5561EDITEDYesterday, I was fortunate enough to return to Versailles. As I've hinted in past blog posts, Versailles was a completely life changing experience when I first visited. Let's rewind to January 2011. It was our second day in Paris, and my sister had it all planned out for us to visit Versailles. I was not handling the jet lag well, and I had fallen asleep in 7 different places our first day. I fell asleep on the train to Versailles and sleepily walked to the estate. But once we reached the grand palace, I was given new energy, and I started photographing every inch of that building.

I photographed the art, the sculptures, the ceilings, the mirrors. Each time my camera showed me the image I had just taken, I was shocked that I had taken it. It was such a stunning place that the photos continued to wow me. I remember my sister shaking her head and laughing at my enthusiasm in the first few rooms and saying, "This isn't even the best part."

She was right (as per usual). When we reached the Hall of Mirrors, I was completely overwhelmed. I continued photographing, loving each image more and more. My sister snapped this photo of me while I was standing in the Hall of Mirrors. I was so consumed with the beauty of the place that it wasn't until a couple months after our return that I even knew this photo was taken.


I've now returned to Versailles. I'm quite thrilled to have returned to where it all started for me. Versailles gave me the courage to pursue photography, which in turn caused me to select the university I did. I made some pretty "grown up" decisions based on my experience in Versailles.

When my sister and I went, it wasn't crowded. Tourists slow down during the winter months, so I didn't have to worry about the large crowds. This time around though, the crowds were thick, almost suffocating. I hurriedly escaped some rooms because large groups of people pushing into me isn't exactly how I wanted to take in Versailles.

So I might've gone through the palace a little quickly in an attempt to spend as much time as possible in the magnificent and extensive gardens.





The grounds at Versailles were absolutely breath taking. Since I had only ever been here in the winter, I was so taken with the beautiful blossoms and glistening statues.


3V2A5469EDITEDAlso, they had modern installation art on the grounds. I'm normally a big fan of modern art, but there wasn't much information concerning why the art was there (or even anything about the artist or the project). I love a good artist statement, and it just bothered me that there wasn't any information about why large sheets of metal and rocks were chilling on the walkways of the garden.


I went with a group, but in the madness of the palace, I ended up separated, wandering the gardens in pleasant solitude. My friend, who I ended up just seeing there, met up with me, and I had the pleasure of joining her and her boyfriend in a walk (and mini photo session). We spent most of the afternoon in each others' company, and I was so content.


I'm not a huge believer in "soulmates". I've seen lots of people my age compromise their hopes and dreams for love, and it's so disappointing to see the regret. In high school, many couples chose their school based on their significant other's choice. Seeing couple after couple break up, it's not always easy to find the couple that doesn't sacrifice everything for their love.

Tim and Anastasia are one of those couples.


From everything Anastasia's told me, Tim is one of the most supportive, loving people. She explained him to me before I met him, so I pieced together what I could. She had hearts over her eyes, but the cynic in me had a hard time believing it all.

While he seems like a good gentleman, what's so impressive about them is that they fit so well together. Granted, I just spent an afternoon with them, so it's hardly a detailed analysis into their relationship. But they have inside jokes, this way of looking at each other, these habits dedicated to one another.



3V2A6044EDITED(They're also one of the goofier and more sarcastic couples I've met. Absolutely fantastic.) 3V2A5850EDITED

It was a surreal experience for me because I got to do what felt like a photo session at VERSAILLES. I got to photograph people at VERSAILLES. How absolutely incredible is that! I am still blown away that these are images from my Saturday. What an unreal experience.




Also - anyone that can make you laugh to the point where you're crouched on the ground... Perhaps you should keep them around, but ehhh only maybe :)


Is this real life? It still feels like a delightful dream.