St. Chapelle Collage

Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel) is a medieval Gothic chapel.  Its construction began after 1239, and it was consecrated in 1248.  France’s King Louis IX commissioned it so that he would have a place to store his collection of passion relics.  The cathedral was damaged during the French Revolution and restored during the 19th century.  The cathedral is said to be a prime example of Rayonnant Gothic architecture.  It has one of the best collections of 13th century stained glass in the world.

We purchased our tickets for Sainte-Chapelle ahead of time to decrease the amount of time that we spent waiting in line.  I got pretty good at navigating websites in French in order to purchase tickets in advance.  We attempted to visit the chapel on our first day in France; however, we were turned away and notified that the chapel was closed because they were in the process of removing tarps from some of the windows that had just finished being restored.  The man that we spoke with told us that we should come back the next day because the work would be finished — talk about good timing!  We went to Sainte-Chapelle on the same day that we visited Musee d’Orsay.  The stained glass was beautiful, and we were provided with a guide so we were able read about the Bible stories the stained glass is depicting — it was nice to actually know what we were looking at for a change.

If you’re planning on taking photographs in Sainte-Chapelle, you may want to consider going on a day when there is lots of sunshine in the forecast, as the chapel is dimly lit.  If you want to get good photographs of the outside of the chapel, consider bringing a fish-eye lens; there are other buildings in close proximity to the chapel that make it difficult to get good photographs without a wide-angle lens.  Sadly, I did not have my fish-eye lens with me at the time.

Here’s a link to the Imgur photo album containing the photos in this post.

b2wh4hpCreepy Gargoyle

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Jardin du Luxembourg

France4Bryan and I had traveled to Europe twice before our trip to France, and both trips were during December.  I thoroughly enjoyed our December trips to Germany; however, it seemed to me that Paris would be perfect during spring, so we chose to visit France during May.

Prior to the trip, I researched parks and gardens in Paris and knew that I wanted to make time to visit Luxembourg Garden.  We went to Luxembourg Garden on our second day in Paris — the same day that we visited Musee d’Orsay and St. Chapelle.  Luxembourg Garden did not disappoint!  It was full of people, statues, flowers, and life!  We even got to watch a few rounds of pétanque (which I regret not taking any photos of), a game we read about before our trip.

Marie de’ Medici, a native of Florence and the wife of King Louis XIII, began creating Luxembourg Garden in 1612.  She wanted something to remind her of Florence.  Today the park is owned by the French Senate and occupies 60 acres.  It is home to 106 statues, of which I photographed a mere 17.  We spent a couple of hours at the park and didn’t even come close to seeing everything.

Statue of Marie de’ Medici

Here’s a link to the Imgur photo album containing the photos in this post. Continue reading

The Cliffs of Étretat


Étretat is a small town (population 1,461 + tons of tourists) in the Haute-Normandie region in the northwest part of France.  It is located on the English Channel along a portion of the coast called Côte d’Albâtre (Alabaster Coast).

During our planning stages we had discussed potentially visiting Étretat and had ultimately decided not to because we wanted to be able to spend more time in Bayeux.

We were sitting in the parking lot at Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, getting the GPS ready to go and made a rare, spur-of-the-moment decision to not follow our itinerary.  Instead of heading to Bayeux, as planned, we decided to drive to Étretat.  We had seen a couple of paintings featuring  Étretat (one by Claude Monet and another by Gustave Courbet) at the Musée d’Orsay, and the falaise d’Etretat (the cliffs of Étretat) were calling our name.  Visiting Étretat was the most spontaneous thing that my husband and I did during our very-well-planned-trip-to-France.

24iuvhcGustave Courbet (1870) – La falaise d’Étretat après l’orage
(The Étretat Cliffs After the Storm)

aba77apClaude Monet (1883) – Étretat: la plage et la porte d’Amont
(Etretat, the beach and the port of Amont)

Here’s a link to the Imgur photo album containing the photos from this post.

We arrived in Étretat and parked just outside of town.  The walk into the town was beautiful.  I was excited to see some wildflowers I had never seen before.  Flowers seem to grow everywhere in France.


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The Eiffel Tower

I haven’t been doing  a very good job of posting regularly to my blog but did want to go ahead and get at least one more post out before 2016.  The Eiffel Tower is definitely a site to behold!  The Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair; it was not supposed to be a permanent structure.  It was supposed to be demolished in 1909 but was turned into a radio tower and was saved.  It took 300 workers, 18,038 pieces of wrought iron and 2.5 million rivets to build the Eiffel Tower.  When the Eiffel Tower was built, it passed the Washington Monument as the tallest man-made structure.  At 1,063 feet tall, it was the tallest man-made structure until 1930 when the Chrysler Building was built.  During WWII, when Hitler visited Paris, the French cut the lift cables on the Eiffel Tower so that Hitler would have to climb the steps if he wanted to reach the top.  The Eiffel Tower Wikipedia article is worth reading.  The History Channel website also has a good article on the Eiffel Tower.

The first glimpse that I got of the Eiffel Tower as we were walking through the city was magical — it made being in Paris finally feel REAL.  It was neat to walk around the city and be able to see the Eiffel Tower peaking in and out between buildings.

We chose not to go up into the Eiffel Tower while we were in Paris for two reasons — the lines were very long (and our time was limited), and you can’t see the Eiffel Tower if you’re in it.  In order to make the best use of our time we chose to only “see the city from up high” from one place, and that was the towers at Notre Dame, which offered a great view of the Eiffel Tower.  If we had time to go up into another building/structure, we would have gone up into the Montparnasse Tower.

During our short stay in Paris we were able to see the Eiffel Tower against many backgrounds (stormy skies, sunset, night) and from many different perspectives.  Here are some of my favorite Eiffel Tower photographs.


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Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux


We drove from Paris to Bayeux.  We wanted to use Bayeux as the starting place for our day of Normandy WWII site-seeing. Bayeux was a beautiful city, and we were lucky enough to have a great view of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux from our hotel room window (we stayed at Churchill Hotel and highly recommend it). I photographed the cathedral two nights in a row – the first night was foggy, so I couldn’t resist taking more pictures of the cathedral against a dark, clear sky on our second night in Bayeux. On our way out of Bayeux we stopped at the cathedral so that we could walk around the inside of it – it was fairly early, so I was surprised and thankful that it was already open. I would have been sad had I not gotten to see the inside of the cathedral that I had thoroughly enjoyed photographing the exterior of the building.

The cathedral was consecrated on July 14, 1077, and was rebuilt following extensive damage during the 1100s.

The fog provided both a nice challenge and a beautiful, blue backdrop against which to photograph the cathedral.

Notre Dame Cathedral – Bayeux

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Beavers Bend State Park – Broken Bow, Oklahoma


Fall is upon us in the Texas panhandle!  The days are getting cooler and shorter, and I can’t help but look back on the trip we took to Beavers Bend State Park during the first weekend in November last year.  We went out of our way to take Talimena National Scenic Byway on our way to the park.  The byway was beautiful, but it wasn’t very conducive to stopping for photographs, which was a little disappointing.

Talimena National Scenic Byway

There were several areas to pull over and stop at scenic overlooks, but many of them were on the west side of the road, which meant that we were staring straight into the sun.  This overlook was on the east side of the road, so the sun was at our backs, and we were actually able to see the view.

Talimena National Scenic Byway

We arrived at Beavers Bend after dark and spent quite a bit of time searching for a campsite.  It would have been easier to find a campsite had we arrived when it was still light outside.  This was our first trip to Beavers Bend, and we weren’t familiar with how the campsites were set up (common parking lot, a parking area at each campsite, etc.).  It had been awhile since we had eaten, and I was getting hangry, so we finally gave up, got out of the car, and stumbled across an open campsite at the Dogwood Campground.  It was the only open campsite we had come across in our hour-plus search, and we just knew it was going to be a crummy campsite, but our chili was calling (actually…the ingredients for chili were calling).  We woke up in the morning, and Bryan got out of the tent first.  He ventured out, and then came back and told me that I had to get up because it was the most beautiful campground ever.  I initially thought that he had to be lying but got up anyways and was me with a gorgeous view.  The Mountain Fork River was a short (less than 1 minute) walk away from our tent.  We did quite a bit of hiking while we were there, but the trails were not marked very well, and we weren’t able to plan our hikes ahead of time because web-based-information for Oklahoma State Parks in general is…lacking.  Here’s a link to a site with some information on hiking trails at Beavers Bend.  I think we hiked several portions of the David Boren Hiking Trail, the Skyline Trail, and the Forest Heritage Tree Trail.

If you visit Beavers Bend and aren’t able to find a place to pay for your campsite, don’t worry about it.  We went to the headquarters office and asked where we were supposed to pay for our site.  They told us that someone walks around the campgrounds each day collecting fees from the people who are at their campsites at that time.  So….if you’re not at your campsite, then you ultimately don’t have to pay — not much of a way to run a business.

Fog Rolling Across Mountain Fork River (Dogwood Campground)

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Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris – Inside & Outside

Notre Dame Cathedral

Visiting Notre-Dame on the day that we landed in Paris was a great way to kick-off our trip to France…and a great place to take refuge from a brief rainstorm.  Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris in French) was every bit as beautiful inside as I had hoped it would be.  Notre-Dame is on the eastern half of Île de la Cité, and is a great example of French Gothic architecture.  Notre-Dame’s cornerstone was laid in 1163, and construction was completed during 1345, though it was damaged, restored, and updated many times throughout the years.  It was one of the first churches built with flying buttresses as supports.  It was designated a Monument Historique in 1862.  Fun fact: much of the outside of the cathedral, including the gargoyles and chimeras were painted in vivid colors at one point in time, though all of the paint has since worn off.

Rose Window

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Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris Towers

FranceWe got to our hotel in Paris around 10 AM, checked in to our room at Hotel du Cadran, grabbed our backpacks, and ventured out into the city.  Our first stop was Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral.  It started raining almost immediately when we got out of the metro station, so we went straight into the cathedral without spending any time outside.  The inside of the cathedral was beautiful, but I really wanted to go up into the towers.  Thanks to the rain shower (which passed quickly) the line for the Notre Dame Towers was fairly short, so we didn’t have to long to wait.

As I understand it, the gargoyles are used as water spouts to direct the flow of water off of the cathedral roof.  I assume that everything without a water spout is a chimera.  Chimeras are mythological fire-breathing creatures, most often portrayed as lions, though I did not see any lion-esque chimera at Notre Dame.

Being eye-level with the chimeras was amazing, and the views of Paris were spectacular.  The 387 step climb to the top of the South tower was well worth it!  I was amazed to see that each of the chimeras on the upper levels of the cathedral appeared to be unique.  So much thought and artistry went into the design of older buildings.  It always amazes me that mankind was able to accomplish so much with such little technology.  According to the cathedral’s website, the gargoyles and chimera were installed during the 17th and 19th centuries and were designed by Viollet-le-Duc and Emmanuel Bell.

For reference, I thought I’d include a photograph of the front of the cathedrals so that you can see where the towers are.  The South tower is on the right.

Notre Dame Cathedral Towers

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2015 Supermoon Total Lunar Eclipse

Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a pretty big nerd — it’s okay, I came to terms with it long ago and learned that it was way easier to embrace my nerdiness rather than try to hide it.  My husband and I were pretty excited about tonight’s supermoon total lunar eclipse.  We spent a good portion of the night in the alley behind our house…sitting in lawn chairs and observing (and photographing) the eclipse.

This is the first photograph that I took of the eclipse.  I took it with my 18-250mm lens and then quickly remembered that I own a 50-500mm lens, which I promptly switched to.

8:15 PM

The photographs that I took with my 50-500mm lens are much more zoomed-in.  I struggled to get decent photos as the eclipse progressed but wanted to include them in this post anyways in an attempt to show a decent progression of the eclipse.

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Somewhere in the Caribbean Sea…

Puerto Rico

During July 2012 my husband and I flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico, as the starting point for our week-long vacation in Vieques.  Every time we fly somewhere, I try to book a window seat so that I can stare out the window and maybe get a few good pictures or see something I’ve never seen.  On our way to San Juan, we flew over an incredibly magical looking place — the water was the most gorgeous shade of blue, and there were TONS of islands.  You could even see patterns in the water being caused by the current and the depth of the sea.  I was sitting next to an unusually clean/clear window and was able to get some great pictures.

I never would have imagined that I’d ever find out the identity of this magical land…until today.  I’m so excited that my fifth blog post is about a something that was a distant memory until I stumbled upon a photo someone posted from NASA’s Earth Observatory website on Reddit.  I immediately recognized the photograph because I, too, had taken pictures of it.  The area is called Exuma, and it’s part of The Bahamas.  Exuma is made up of over 365 islands, called cays.  Here’s a link to Exuma on Google Maps.

This photo is the one that immediately came to mind when I first saw NASA’s photos.

Hog Cay, Davy Cay, Tommy Young’s Cay, Hummingbird Cay, & Bowe Cay

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