This is a photo of me at a cafe in Montmartre, just last year. I’m 41 years old.
When I was 30 years old, I purchased this huge black and white poster of the park (Champ de Mars) that sits at the base of the Eiffel Tower. The poster was framed in a simple black frame and it always had a place of prominence in any room I hung it in, even if I had purchased it in the dormitory section of Meijer. It was priceless to me. I think the photo must have been taken in the early morning, as the scene evokes somewhat of a pastoral feel. I would not know it until several years later when I actually walked through that park, that the photo does not radiate the energy that lives in the park at the base of the tower, let alone the energy of the city of lights.
I had taken 6 years of French class growing up and my teacher Madame Lowe brought Paris to life for me as much as she could. We didn’t just learn the language, we learned about french culture, and I even had a French name in class (Anne – I felt so sophisticated). We tried french foods and listened to vintage French albums on her record player on special days like right before the holidays. I knew as a kid back then that I wanted to eat real pain du chocolat, in Paris. I wanted to spend time at the tower, and I wanted to walk the same streets Hemingway walked when he lived there, and later wrote about in his love story to Paris, A Moveable Feast. I wanted to eat at Amelie’s cafe, and I wanted to sing Champs-Elysees just as we had in French class, but while strolling down the tree-lined sidewalks of the actual Champs Elysees.
At 30 years old it seemed like making it to Paris would never happen, but buying and hanging that poster was my quiet way of not giving up. I had resolve. I didn’t have the first idea of how to plan a trip to Paris and my partner at the time had no interest in going whatsoever, it was my dream, not his. I certainly had no idea how to pay for a trip like that. And then, it happened! I will dedicate an entire post or more to Paris, as I’ve now visited Paris 3 times since my 30th birthday. But I wanted to note that I first caught wanderlust in French class, like a fever, and wanting to see Paris was the unrelenting virus I could not brush off for more than 15 years. I’m so glad that I was not able to brush it off because ultimately it led to my romance with travel. I would have never known that the beautiful poster of the Champ de Mars was not truly representative of the park, had I never traveled there to experience it for myself.
Hi travel friends. This is a photo of me reading a Lonely Planet review of Kaffi Krus in Selfoss, Iceland in 2016. I am standing along the river Olfusa using the last rays of the day to read the review of a cafe that my husband was pretty pumped about. I was about 20 feet away from said Kaffi (cafe) at the time and my husband snapped the shot of me as he patiently waited for me to come around. I was jet lagged and exhausted and questioned my husband on if we were sure we wanted our first meal in Iceland to be here, in a cafe. “Is it just coffee or will they have real food?” My husband handed me the Iceland LP (Lonely Planet) book and did not chide me for not reading ahead on each planned stop, as he had done for our trip. (He’s so good.) He was also pleased he went ahead and packed this very book that I had flippantly said a few weeks before, I wanted to just download onto our kindle, (which had no battery at that point) to save on packing space. Not taking the Lonely Planet book would have deserted a decade long tradition, and I’m glad he stuck to his guns or I would not have been reading our book at sunset, but walking into dinner with no facts and feeling even more exhausted.
That night we had a lovely dinner of cod with a rich cream sauce and fresh vegetables, and as the sun set and I enjoyed the fresh delicious home cooked food, I noticed all of the locals wore beautiful handmade wool sweaters with various colors and designs. Mothers, viking-looking husbands (with long red beards) and babies alike all adorned various patterns, colors and sizes of them. There was also a group of 4 French students sitting at a table next to us, who had clearly been staying in Iceland for some time, and they all wore these same beautiful wool knitted sweaters over their flannels and les jeans. I was mesmerized. Iceland felt enchanted to me. LP also mentioned a grocery store in the small town, and this was another magical encounter for me. After we finished eating we headed to the store which had everything from fresh jam to homemade woolen socks made by locals from this very small town. The socks proved most handy on our hike up alongside Skogafoss waterfall the next day.
Today I wanted to give a shout out to the Lonely Planet books. And to get things off on the right foot, I receive no money for any endorsements. I am writing this blog because it makes me happy to ponder and share on all things travel, and to share what works for us. Now that that’s out-of-the-way, let me get real about The Lonely Planet books, and how they have helped my partner and me with planning trips on a budget.
Literally 5 minutes ago, as I was working on this blog, wondering what I will write on next, my husband says, “Hey, here is a hotel that Lonely Planet recommends and that is totally affordable for our second night in Iceland.” He is researching our upcoming two-week trip to Iceland. And so we will have many conversations based around what he finds in our latest Lonely Planet book, which then determines what he finds online for us. We use other resources, but we use The Lonely Planet books the most.
Here are the top 3 things that make the Lonely Planet invaluable as you plan your next big travel adventure. Pricing is included with every review, and offers a range of options for:
3. Site seeing
This is huge! Outside of seeing family which always involves an x factor of some sort, (more on that in another post) what else is there for a big adventure? That’s it friends…so let’s get into why I love these books so much. For one, we have never read a review that was not spot on. We also have been able to budget what we will need once we decide what sites we want to see.
Now, here is where I might lose a few of you, but that’s okay, this is my truth. Do you remember encyclopedias and dictionaries? Remember how they would need to get updated every few years, so your parents may have a set of encyclopedias that are completely out of date at this point, especially with google and Wikipedia, etc??? Well, we enjoy that Lonely Planet publishes revised editions every few years.
With each trip we take our Lonely Planet book with us, as our guide (there are always maps and public transit information in the books as well) and we usually inadvertently house several keepsakes from each trip, in each of our books. For instance, we probably have 3 versions of the France Lonely Planet, and in each one there are treasures of sorts. In our books there are photos from photo booths in various metro stops in Paris, and a Chestnut leaf or two pressed into the middle of the book from a stroll down the Champs-Elysees. There are metro tickets and museum ticket stubs as bookmarks for the next day’s adventure. All in all they are a sort of diary or time capsule full of moments and guides all in one!
I am a student of minimalism these days, and I have donated more than 500 books in the last few years to corral our collection, but, I am happy to report that I made my peace with hanging on to our collection of Lonely Planet books. Berlin is our home away from home, and visiting that up and coming global city over the years has been nothing but a beautiful evolution, witnessed only by our various Berlin Lonely Planet editions and our experiences each time we visit.
Here is a snap of my husband in 2014 looking up a few sites in the LP that we wanted to see along the Champs-Elysees, while also fulfilling one of my childhood dreams of singing Champs-Elysees while strolling down the very avenue. And true to Paris, it was raining the entire afternoon, which made it that much more Paris and I loved every minute of it.
Welcome to Sunflower Travels, for the curious wanderer. Whether you are here for a few minutes taking a break in your work day, or you are looking for travel tips and inspiration, stay as long as you like. Here is a little bench just for you to sit, relax, and ponder the breathtaking view, along the south coast of Iceland at Jokulsarlon…I know I did. Thanks for stopping by!