The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris

Sacré-Cœur has had my heart since before I saw it. I have a strange love of churches. I’m not a religious person and yet churches feel like a second home. They’re as easy to be in as a library or bookstore for me.

I felt incredibly at peace within Sacré-Cœur. I wrote while I was within the church, trying to capture as much of what was going through my head at the time. Re-reading my journal entries of the visit, I still don’t feel like I wrote enough, or got it across as well as I wanted to.

You aren’t quite allowed to take photos inside of the basilica, by the way, but enough people were breaking the rules that… okay, my excuse is shoddy. I really wanted to remember this day.

Oh, and happy (slightly belated) Christmas / joyeoux noel / sretan božić !

 

2015.06 - Paris
2015.06 - Paris
2015.06 - Paris 2015.06 - Paris
2015.06 - Paris 2015.06 - Paris
2015.06 - Paris 2015.06 - Paris

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Arc De Triomphe

I had every intention of renting a tiny studio in Paris. But when I mentioned the idea to my friend Yves, he offered to let me stay with him. I said yes. And thank you.

I arrived in Paris on a Monday morning, itching to see everything despite the jetlag. Standing in line, waiting to get through customs and actually step foot into the city.

I had the luck to get a chatty taxi driver, who told me all about the places he had travelled in this world and how he had fallen in love with the city and stayed. He wanted to know what my plans were, recommending places that were already on my list. But I was grateful for his energy, his enthusiasm because it mirrored mine.

He dropped me off at Yves’ place, where I was floored by the beautiful apartment, ambiance and warm smile of my friend. He gave me some time to adjust and to shower. Then he took me to the Champs-Élysées. Since it was a work-day, he went to work and pointed me to the Arc de Triomphe.

I walked around in awe, taking close-ups, then portrait photos, then landscape photos then zoomed out and took shots of every detail on the arc. Inside, I was screaming ARE YOU SEEING THIS!? to myself at every turn.

I had the luck (or misfortune) to be in Paris during a heatwave. Did you know that you have to climb a very long spiral staircase to get up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe? I didn’t either.

2015.06 - Paris

Thankfully, I packed a half litre of water in my Fjallraven bag and took it one step at a time. I wasn’t the only one cursing the stairs as I walked them, but we all cursed and laughed at the same time. My first impression of Paris was one of entirely welcoming locals and tourists.

2015.06 - Paris

You can walk around the entire top of the Triomphe, seeing the Eiffel Tower, the lush green parks and busy streets. It whets your appetite for the city, the things you haven’t yet seen.

When I walked back down the spiral staircase, I sat in a shady section of the Arc and took it all in – the heat, the tourists, the eternal flame. And I wrote for what felt like hours in my journal.

(And nibbled on macarons from Pierre Herme. I mean. It is Paris.)

Paris Je T’Adore

I prefer to write about things in chronological order, so I haven’t been able to write about anything else until I could write this. Where do I start?

I went to Paris in June.

I know I’m not alone when I say that Paris was my ultimate destination – the place at the top of my travel list.


Paris was the first time I felt free.

I had never previously traveled by myself. Why had I never travelled by myself, with myself, in 26 years? When I was able to be honest with myself, I realized that I feared traveling alone, being alone, because I feared the quiet, stuck with myself with nothing but time to think. Having company distracted me from harsh truths I needed to face about how I wanted to be living.

The year had been a challenge for me. I had ended a 7 year relationship, put the steps into motion to get a divorce and moved into my own very tiny apartment. It meant that many bridges were burned, some beyond repair. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right one.

It meant I would face the fear of being alone. It meant I had the time to figure out who I was in that moment. And to remember who I wanted to be, hoped to be. Did I still have the same aspirations and dreams? Could I trust myself to make big decisions and heal after a large loss? I felt like I had a lot to answer for, to myself, and even more to prove.

The entire trip to Paris was spontaneous. I was supposed to leave St. Petersburg with my friends and come straight home. But it felt like a waste to be in Paris without stepping outside of an airport – I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, partly because it seemed so uncharacteristic of me. The old me would have gone straight home, no questions asked.

Right before the trip to Paris, I had practical things on my mind – brushing up on common French phrases, figuring out how to not get lost, writing and re-writing my itinerary. The biggest fears I felt about the trip were in getting lost and not seeing everything I wanted to see. There was no self-doubt to hold me back and no negative voice in my head detailing all of the ways the trip could go sideways.

But most importantly, I looked forward to the alone time and the wandering around. It took months, but I was no longer afraid to be alone with myself.

Running Outta Pages In Your Passport

I’ve got a few hours before my flight to Tokyo starts boarding. Which means I’m sitting at the airport, dealing with the, at-best, intermittent wifi and watching the other flights board and depart. The S gates at Seatac Airport know me well – I’m here every few months though generally just in the nick of time. Today I’m here early (or late, if you consider that I missed a flight for the first time in my life).

Rather than being upset about missing my flight – I’m looking at the positives:

  • I have enough time in Tokyo for a few hours of fun before I have to fly to Seoul
  • The only seats they had were business class! This means I get champagne, right?
  • Bad wifi means uninterrupted work-time
    • And if that doesn’t work out, reading time!
  • 4 pages away from a full passport

On a more serious note, the day has been quiet and calm. I’ve been sitting at Gate S2, supposedly my gate, and watching the flow of this airport unfold – the angry customer that needs a few managers to calm them down because they missed their flight/lost their bag/didn’t get a seat upgrade, the people scrambling to grab food before their flight, the people sleeping between flights, buying forgotten things at the Hudson News store or scrambling to get near one of the rare and mythical charging port stations at Seatac.

99% of the people I’ve seen walk by and spoken to at the airport today are people I will never see again, whose paths will lead away from mine. The same goes for those who will fly with me to Tokyo. But I have so much faith that their paths and my own will be wonderful, even if things don’t go as planned here and there.

Russia is An Ocean Away

When I was in Iceland, I got a text from a friend telling me that we should go to St. Petersburg and that I needed to book my tickets. So I did. That night. A few days in Russia sounded perfect.

From the airport, we immediately went to the hotel. Another trip with an outstanding hotel choice (thanks Julia!). We stayed at the Solos Sokos Palace Bridge Hotel, across the bridge from the Hermitage Museum.

2015 Saint Petersburg Trip

Nothing beats time zone differences like vodka? Our first stop was the vodka museum where we drank authentic Russian vodka with authentic Russian appetizers. Though the food and drinking weren’t my favourite – seeing the old school shot glasses, glass decanters and intricately carved stoppers was fun and felt like part of the ‘Russian culture’ that I wanted to take in.

Russian Vodka Museum

The weather was so beautiful that we mostly walked to take in the sights. Even the mundane buildings were beautiful.

2015 Saint Petersburg Trip
2015 Saint Petersburg Trip

I couldn’t get this thought out of my head that there was so much history in the city. The cobblestone streets and gorgeous bridges had stories. I felt very small and insignificant – but in a strangely warm-fuzzy way.

This wasn’t Anna’s first trip to St. Pete and she seemed to feel the same, echoing my awe and wonder. There’s something special within the city that’s hard to find elsewhere.

2015 Saint Petersburg Trip
2015 Saint Petersburg Trip
2015 Saint Petersburg Trip

We left Russia in a hurry and in the middle of the night. Though our flight was at 7 AM, we left the beautiful hotel at 3 AM to get around the bridge – which goes up and stays up, preventing us from getting to the airport quickly. I went back and forth between my phone and my camera – taking blurry photos and videos of St. Petersburg so I’d remember it until I could come back to it.

2015 Saint Petersburg Trip
2015 Saint Petersburg Trip
2015 Saint Petersburg Trip
2015 Saint Petersburg Trip

We boarded our flight to Paris and split up – most of the group went home to Seattle, one went to Barcelona with his girlfriend and I decided to stay in Paris. I believe the cliched (but not in any way incorrect) quote is that Paris is always a good idea.

Geysir

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We stood in the cold, scouting out the best view to capture Geysir erupting. I had both my phone and my Canon out to try to get the action on both of them. We stood in silence with ten or twelve people around us even after the first eruption. Then we waited for the second and the third.

Eruption! #iceland #geyser #stokkur #100danasreće #100daysofhappiness

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It felt very quiet and somber, like we were saving our energy bracing ourselves against the wind. Then all of a sudden, after the third eruption, my best friend says “giant fog penis” in reference to the fog slowly drifting away from Geysir. While I was trying to record the eruption. And then the three of us lose ourselves in laughter. It was a blessing that I got it on camera, even though at the time I joked that I’d find a way to dub over his commentary.

Geysir Blooper

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Vik

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The drive here was one of the longest we had undertaken on this trip. It was going to take us a good few hours to come here. We woke up early, made breakfast for one another and prepared snacks and sandwiches for the ride there. The boys made sure we had enough food and water to last us days, just in case. I focused on making sure we had our chargers and music-devices.

Vik is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And it’s the first black sand beach I’ve seen in real life. Bonus, it is home to a large amount of puffins! I’m super excited about puffins.

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We saw so many of them – but we kept our distance – and focused on taking photos and walking through the rocky beach. I remember reading that you aren’t really meant to interact with the puffin populations, but the temptation was there.

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And on the drive back, we drove through a town called Hella. And listened to “Hella Good” because what else do you do in that situation?

feelin' Hella good so lets just keep on dancin' #hella #iceland #hellaselfie

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