I just returned from a week in Paris. Despite it being cold and gray the entire week that I was there, Paris is as beautiful and charming as I had hoped. It's a city I've been wanting to visit for years. I took French for 7 years when I was younger. The French did not quite come back to me but my Frenglish was excellent! I stayed at the Hotel La Belle Juliette, a lovely boutique hotel located in the St.-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris. The hotel was charming and stylish with many cute Parisian details. The view outside my window. Marche aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves (the flea market at Porte de Vanves). Oddities, curiosities, and antiques galore! The Notre Dame Cathedral--a masterpiece of solemn beauty. After climbing 400 steps of a spiral staircase--a breathtaking view from the top of the Notre Dame. Never having been to the Eiffel Tower before but having looked at an image of the Eiffel Tower many times because of a very popular illustration I created of Kiwi and Pear at the Eiffel Tower, it was a little surreal to finally be there. The Pont de Solférino, a footbridge over the River Seine. What was especially intriguing to me about this bridge were the thousands of love locks attached to the railings on the bridge. I had never seen anything like this before, however, it's apparently quite common to find love locks on bridges all over Europe and Asia and I read they are even starting to pop up on the Brooklyn Bridge. Couples inscribe their names on padlocks, attach them to the bridges, and then toss the keys into the river to symbolize everlasting love. Cute huh? Climbed more steps, 234 to be exact, at The Arc de Triomphe to behold beautiful night views of Champs-Élysées Avenue and the Eiffel Tower. A view from the underbelly of The Arc de Triomphe. Housed in a former railway station built in the late 19th century, the interior of The Musée d'Orsay was stunning. French impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh set against the backdrop of charming, old railway station details like big, beautiful clock windows. I was surely in art heaven. One of my favorite parts of the trip was a visit to Montmartre. Perched up high on a hill in the northern part of Paris, Montmartre was once the Bohemian artistic quarter of Paris where artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Dali, and Renoir once lived and worked. With its steep, winding cobblestone streets, ivy-covered buildings, and many cafes, Montmartre has retained a quaint and charming 'village' ambiance. Movies such as Amelie and Moulin Rouge are set in Montmartre. I didn't catch a show here but, as I was standing outside, it was fun to think what the Moulin Rouge must have been like in its heyday. The Musée du Louvre was spectacular. The building itself, a former royal palace, was incredibly ornate and massive with elaborately painted and plastered ceilings and walls. The Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo were just some of the many treasures I saw at the Louvre. Galeries Lafayette Haussman, must be one of the most stunning department stores I have ever been to. The center of the 10-story building is open and atrium-like, and it’s capped by a huge, gorgeous dome made of glass and steel which uses hundreds of lights in a dazzling display of multi-colored illumination. At the Bon Marche Grand Epicerie, an international food market, the food displays were a delight in their own way and it was such a fun place to browse. One thing I learned on this trip was that the French do sweets like nobody's business and they do things with chocolate that you would not believe! I had some of the best desserts I ever had in my life in Paris and, yes, that's a chocolate ape! For anyone with the faintest interest in desserts, Pierre Hermé is undoubtedly a must-visit when in Paris. Some highlights of French food. The crêpe in the lower left (chocolate with toasted almonds, salted butter caramel, vanilla ice cream, and fresh whipped cream) was the best I ever had and was from a place called Little Breizh. Yes, I know it's Paris - but I can't live without my Asian food! Above some highlights of Asian food in Paris. If you're looking for a nice and affordable meal around the Louvre (or a little reprieve from French food), I discovered a little gem right around the corner from the Rue de Rivoli side of the Louvre, a Japanese ramen (lamen in French) restaurant called Higuma. Can you tell how excited I was to be there? Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Gobble, gobble! xo Joyce ps. Photos were taken on an iPhone, edited with the app Camera+, and joined together using the app Pic Jointer. All edited and put together on the plane ride back from Paris. I LOVE technology!