Day 10 - Emily’s Entry - October 4 - 11:09pm - Hotel du Quai Voltaire, Paris, France

It’s a little room with a slightly peeling blue wallpaper. The door man is distracted, the furniture old, there’s an old smell, the bathroom’s small, but I’ve never been in such a magical, foreign place that feels so much like home. In the car here, after passing the Notre Dame, I started crying. Every detail up to the room made me cry more. I started physically sobbing in the room. It’s the feeling of reuniting after long distance. I can’t shake the feeling that I know and love this city. I usually dislike cities. The thought of leaving Paris makes me homesick yet I've been here 2 hours.

When we were driving here in an Uber, I was talking (poorly) to the driver in French. The driver clapped when we were confused. These people are my people. At dinner, a group of rude, loud English-speaking tourists came in. I subtly shook my head at the waiters and they caught on. These are the weird personality things I do.

I’ve never connected with a place so much in my entire life. I feel like I’m coming home to a previous life. I love the weird, classic art on the walls. I love this small, magnificent room. Everything is perfect.

I don’t understand why I’m so emotional. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever felt, like when I thought there was a ghost of a child in my Savannah dorm. I don’t know. Life is weird, but one thing is for sure. I’m super happy.

Day 12 - Corey’s Entry - October 6 - 1:21 pm - Train from Paris to Lyon, France

40 hours in Paris. We made it count. What an incredible city full of inspiration, beauty, and love. We stayed in the in Hotel du Quai Voltaire, Room 22.

Yesterday was our four-year wedding anniversary and a hard anniversary to top. We started the day at the Smith’s Bakery. As we ate, we watched the street lined with bakeries and sidewalks packed with small tables and artisan chairs. Busy Parisians bustled around and lounged in cafes alone smoking.

In the Notre Dame we lit candles. The arches in the halls were larger than I thought. I’ve read about the exact height and length of these structures in textbooks, but standing there in the center of it all changed my perspective entirely. There is so much extravagance, symbolism, and master work in every detail of these buildings.

We found a great way to get around the city. Big. Red. Bus Tour. It’s touristy but swiftly we navigated Paris.

We strolled down the Champs-Élysées while constantly humming the song “Champs-Élysées.” We stopped in Ladurêe Paris for the world’s best macaroons. I’m not fan of the macaroon, but to see Emily so delighted was a treat.

We went to see an exhibit of Irving Penn, one of my favorite American photographers. I love his “lived in” style of still life. Not simply a nice plate with beautiful food. It’s scattered bits, lipstick on the glass, half eaten, and in the moment. Second, it’s inspired Emily and me to do more personal projects. Penn shot for Vogue who sent him on assignments just for inspiration. We should always be creating, sketching, and shooting. Hell, Penn photographed commercially till he was 91! Photographers and artists never really retire. We create until we die.

It started raining as we dined in a nearby cafe eating our croque monsieurs. Another espresso and we were off to the boat. Slowly, we cruised down the Seine, the clouds parted, and sun began to set. Golden hour on a boat tour through magical Paris.

Our night in Paris started off with a bottle of champagne at Le Caveau du Palais. It’s located on the same island as Sainte-Chapelle. Our waiter Youn and Emily decided that night he would speak English and she would speak French. It made for amusing dinner scenes. After the best risotto I’ve ever had, we downed some Irish coffee and stumbled to the Louvre courtyard. We danced, wandered around, and peered in the glass windows. The night became quiet. As we walked through a stone arched hallway holding hands, a lone cellist began to play a romantic tune. We slowly danced. I gave him several quid.

As we headed home, the Eiffel Tower lit up and sparkled like a firework. It does this every night for only five minutes. Perfect timing.

We wound down the night with two glasses of fine Cognac at the hotel. We discussed life, art, and ourselves. I absolutely love good conversation over fine liquor.

Day 12 - Emily’s Entry - October 6 - 1:28 pm - Train from Paris to Lyon, France

Paris was one of the best times ever. Yesterday was one of the best days of my life. After a restless sleep, we got ready and headed for a petit-dejeuner (breakfast). We went to the Smith Bakery. I savored my tarte de pomme with cappuccino, Corey his salmon quiche with espresso at the small sidewalk table.

Walking through the mysterious, artistic masterpiece of architecture that is the Notre Dame, I felt small but safe under the towering columns. Chapels, relics, masterpieces, tombs, and secrets run a lap around the main worship space.

We hopped on a double decker tour bus. I’m not a fan of seeing them, but in a huge city, tour busses really are a great way to see the city and get to the sites we want. Our ticket included a double decker boat tour too. We saw old buildings, people on bicycles, and street merchants selling things from antique books to antique junk.

We walked the infamous Champs-Élysées cheerfully eating colorful macarons and around L'arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile that Napoleon built as a focal point of huge parades.

We saw the Irving Penn exhibit at the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées. He was a NYC based fashion, still, and anthropological photographer. He shot for Vogue and himself in New York, Africa, and South America. We were inspired by his techniques and thought of ways to build our own studio better. We came up with a shoot idea about working people we will photograph in an homage reflective of his own style.

We got back on the bus until the Tour de Eiffel. France has a ton of security right now. We had our bags checked before the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the boat ride, Sainte Chapelle, and the Grand Palais. Soldiers walk around with full army tactical gear carrying machine guns. It’s a safe but uneasy feeling that reminds us of pre-World War II.

The Eiffel Tower took us high above Paris. We felt the tower sway a bit! Yesterday was also was our 4-year wedding anniversary. We drank champagne on top of the Eiffel Tower. Is there anything more romantic?

We ate a late dejeuner at a nearby cafe. Two croque madames with wine and the best espresso I’ve ever had. It began to rain as we ate. We really like each other.

We walked to the tour boat. When the rain stopped, we went to the open top deck. Bridge after bridge passed overhead. Paris has 37 bridges over seine. Crazy! The sun came out as we ended the ride back at the Eiffel Tower.

To the hotel, all dressed up, then out to dinner. I let the waiter order for me. A huge, delicious steak with potatoes and bearnaise sauce came out. I’ve adored the French people I’ve interacted with.

We walked back to the hotel slowly, through the courtyard of the Louvre as the full moon lit our path. We peered into rooms with large Roman statues. A cellist began to play in an ancient corridor. We danced and held each other. The Eiffel Tower shimmered, something it does for 5 minutes at full dark. I can’t believe we saw it happen. It made me think of French cinema, which is similar to American films, but there is always one surreal, magic thing.

This morning after breakfast, we fulfilled an art history dream of mine. We visited the mind-blowing Sainte-Chapelle royal chapel. It was the royal family’s secluded chapel walled from regular citizens. The windows are depictions of every book of the Bible in masterwork stained glass.

This was part of a 23 day journey through Iceland, France, and Spain. Didn't catch the rest? Click below to explore with us!