Viva la France! Road-trip Foolishness Pt. 6: Chamonix

The crowning jewel of our trip to France was Chamonix.

Chamonix, located near where the borders of France, Switzerland, and Italy meet, is a resort-town. We drove in mid-afternoon and spent the evening wandering around finding dinner before heading to bed for an early night.

In the morning I woke up, made some coffee, and bundled up to go sit on the balcony and enjoy the view of Mont-Blanc, the highest summit in France. Once everyone was up, a few of us walked over to the cable-car that would take us up the mountain. The cable car was cheaper than was listed on the website, and ended up costing us only 15 euros round trip.

If you’re making the hike up to Lac Blanc, I highly suggest taking the cable car to cut time off of your trip up the mountain. The hike up (sans cable car,) is barren, boring, difficult, and quite frankly, a waste of time. You would have to wake up hella hella early to even make it to the Lac Blanc refuge at the end of the hike, and even then you may get there after dark. So, be smart, and take the cable car.

Our early-morning hike was pretty interesting, as it was extremely cloudy. I didn’t mind, and neither did my companions, as the higher we went, the thinner the clouds became and leT ME TELL YOU, there are fewer things as sublime as hiking the side of a mountain and looking over your shoulder to see a break in the clouds and THERE THEY ARE, THE MIGHTY AND MAJESTIC ALPS. It was like peek-a-boo, only epic instead of weird.

The hike up to Lac Blanc Refuge wasn’t too difficult, the hardest part being the incline at the beginning. Now, I’m not the most active person, as I’m just mostly on my feet all day and I run some mornings (I’m not a marathon runner–hell, I’m not even a mile runner,) so when I say it is do-able, I really mean it. There is a part of the hike where you have to rock scramble up, but as long as you have the proper shoes the worst that will happen is you get a nice leg workout.

When we reached the refuge, the cloud cover pretty much cleared up, and we were able to take in panoramic views with our own eyes and cameras.

We hung out at the refuge for a while, ate some granola bars and apples, and took lots and lots of selfies. Eventually we knew we had to hike back down to the cable car, as it stops running at a certain time and we did not want to be stranded in the French Alps. The hike down took a while, as we had to be careful coming back down the rocks, and that incline from the start of our hike became the craziest decline– I definitely slipped on my ass a few times, and I wasn’t alone.

We ended up having to wait in line for about 45 minutes to catch the cable car down, mais c’est la vie. My group and I kept taking turns to hold our place in line to take pictures, and when you’re in the company of friends, 45 minutes waiting for a cable car in one of the most beautiful places in the world isn’t bad at all.

When we got back down to the bottom of the mountain, we walked back to town to meet up with the rest of our group. As we debated our dinner choices, we stopped and saw an aerial performance mother-daughter duo, who were using bungees to do stunts in the spaces between buildings. It was a little thing that made an already special day that much more excellent.

We all stayed up talking before we went to bed that evening, and the next morning we woke up to explore the town some more and do some last minute souvenir shopping. We came across an older gentleman who was selling dog key chains, except they were made out of pipe-cleaners and the man made them himself. I practiced my French a little because I wanted to get his photograph, and I opened the conversation with “Hello, how are you today?” and he just responded with “No, don’t ask me that!” I laughed and he let me take his picture when I asked. Not the best quality image, but still one of my favorites from the trip.

After our shopping trip we had to leave this gorgeous place and make the drive to Lyon. We were genuinely sad to leave and most of us shared that we would definitely make an effort to return and spend more time in the area.  So, if you’re ever in the east of France, check out Chamonix. There are hikes for everyone, skiing, and a charming town with an old guy making awesome key chains.

Safe Travels, and Happy Shooting!

Viva la France! Roadtrip Foolishness Pt. 3: Mont Saint Michel

After a long, thoughtful, and educational day at the D-Day Beaches, my crew and I drove the two hours to Mont Saint Michel. We arrived at our AirBnB outside of the actual Mont, in a small sleepy town. We chose to stay outside of the area to cut on costs, and honestly, it was an excellent choice because we met our outstanding host, Christophe.

Christophe was incredibly kind and showed us his garden, let us play with his cats, drank beer with us, and showed us fantastic sunset views of the area. We were sitting on the back patio, drinking beer and listening to his record player and commenting on how lovely it must be to live in such a beautiful area, when he offered to drive us around and show us an incredible sunset view.

We’re adventurous types, so we all agreed and Christophe drove us to the top of a hill where we saw the sun setting behind the distant Mont St. Michel Abbey. I could not get a good photo and I admittedly did not try very hard, because it was one of those views that I wanted to hold dear to my heart and experience without a camera in my face (I know, SHOCKING.)

Christophe also drove us to an old windmill where we appreciated the rest of the sunset and I ran about a quarter mile down the road to get a good shot (see? I’m still crazy about photography.) It was one of the most perfect evenings I have ever had.

The next morning we woke up bright and early to drive to the Mont Saint Michel visitor center/large parking lot. There is a free shuttle that will take you to the abbey, and it is also one of the only ways to get there since cars are not allowed. You can also take a horse-and-carriage, but that’s not free so the crew and I did not even consider it (plus, SLOW.)

We arrived around 9AM during low tide, so we went straight to the surrounding bay and took obnoxious tourist pictures. We then walked the entire circumference of the Mont, taking pictures, shit-talking each other, and climbing over rocks. Later we found out that when people used to make the pilgrimage to the Mont, they would walk around its entirety, like we had done. So that was a pretty cool coincidence!

After our pilgrimage we entered the Mont, ate breakfast at one of the little cafes, and hiked up to the Abbey. It was, expectedly, very crowded, with souvenir shops lining the narrow streets. I LOVED it. I understand some people turn their nose up to “touristy” destinations, but my view of it is obviously a unique place like Mont St. Michel is going to be packed, so instead of getting irritated by the crowds I let myself get swept away and enjoyed the experience. I was in a place I had dreamed of traveling to, and nothing was going to bring me down from it.

We arrived at the abbey and bought our tickets and got to exploring. The abbey itself was gorgeous, ancient, and had spectacular views. We were able to reach the top in time for high-tide and it was so cool watching the water rush in. I think we spent about 30 minutes just watching the water merge and swirl and rise. The inside of the abbey was dark and cool and had many places to sit and soak in the memory of the place.

When it was time to go, I was a bit sad. Visiting Mont Saint Michel is something I’ve been longing to do for years and it was everything I hoped it would be. I know that should the opportunity arise, I will be back.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!

 

Viva la France! Road-trip Foolishness Pt. 1: Paris

This past month was my third time in France, in the beautiful city of Paris. The first time I went was with family, and I had just taken my first color photography course and was a huge newbie. The second time I went was on a weekend from my study abroad program, and I forgot my camera battery and I ran out of camera film. This time, I was prepared!

My friends and I all met up in Paris for the start of what would be a long road-trip through France. We spent three full days in Paris, checking out the usual sites like the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, and the Champs Elysees. We walked around Montemarte, got lost a few times, ate breakfast from a cafe and were just a couple of tourists.

And I took excellent photos, at last.

 

For this trip to France I brought 4 cameras (which may seem excessive to some, but hear me out, and mind you, when I studied in England back in 2014, I brought like 9 cameras so this was light!) I brought my Canon Powershot (more on that later,) my Fuji Natura Classica (whose beautiful film has been discontinued UGH,) my iPhone, and a Fuji Instax.

The Powershot was okay. It was compact and light, and I brought it with me on my adventure to Asia in 2017, but as a professional photographer I was dying inside. Home girl really needs to invest in a full frame DSLR. Between the Powershot and my iPhone, I took a TON of photos of mediocre quality but awesome content.

 

One of the many magical things about Paris is, no matter how many times I have been, it is always exciting and new. This time when I went to the Louvre, I was able to see it in a new way– the last two times I had visited, I was focused on the arts and antiquities (I mean, as I should,) but this time I was able to focus on the architecture and the sheer madness that is the Mona Lisa gallery. (When my friends were hesitant on whether or not to dive into the fray, I was like YOLO FUCK IT LETS ROLL and man I regretted it but then again I got that fun shot of being totally crushed in the crowd so whatever haha am I right?)

There is something magical about wandering around Paris with good friends. I know Paris isn’t for everyone; some feel it is too dirty, too touristy, too busy. But that’s what I love about it. I got to see street artists making knock-off Disney princesses in the street, and I went into the Centre du Pompidou without knowing it was a library, of all things. I was a total creeper and photographed people unapologetically for probably the first time in my life (and my one friend, Sean, kept saying “oh my God ur such a crEEP”)

Most importantly, when visiting my absolute favorite place in the entire world, Notre Dame de Paris, the bell tower was open! It had not been open the last two times I visited, and I 100% cried.

 

So, I love Paris, with all of it’s tourism and charm. We did a lot of walking because honestly, that’s how you see the quirkiness of the city. We got lost looking for the Metra, found a playground in excellent golden hour light, and by our hostel there were the remnants of a carnival that looked straight-up terrifying and therefore photogenic af. If it weren’t for dragging my less-than-willing friends around the city, I wonder if I would have enjoyed Paris the third time around.

Nah, who am I kidding? I would have loved it regardless. It is the City of Love, after all.

 

I’ve noticed that the more I travel, the more my style as a travel photographer is realized. I’ve noticed I’m keen on patterns of light and shadow and people looking involved in whatever it is they are doing (was that a long way of saying I enjoy candids of strangers? Yes.) I sometimes worry if my work is becoming formulaic, but maybe that’s a silly thing to worry about when traveling around the world making photos. Honestly, just take the damn picture if you want to.

Happy Shooting and Safe Travels!

 

Vincent van Gogh’s Ear Goes on Vacation

My hobby of making fun narratives while globe trotting has continued! For my two-week road trip through France, I decided to make a reference to the famous and widely-adored painter, Vincent van Gogh.

Van Gogh, though Dutch by birth, spent a lot of time in France. A strange yet well-known fact about him was that during one of his depressive episodes, he cut off his own ear.

And, because I think I’m hilarious, I decided to take his detached ear, name it Vinny, and took it around France for a much-needed vacation.

Naturally, the ear needed a straw hat, like the real Vincent, and a painting palette and brush because inspiration can hit anywhere.

I am a very goofy person. The biggest challenge was finding the small paint palette and straw hat, and I refused to do without. I eventually found both at the craft store, and the glasses were something I just came across and decided “YES PERFECT” without much thought.

I required the straw hat for a reason, and that reason was this self-portrait of my muse:

Image result for vincent vangogh hat

Traveling with a cardboard-ear-on-a-stick certainly got me some strange looks, but honestly this travel narrative is one of my favorites so far. You can find some of my others below:

The Girl From Bath (Bath, England)

Colors of London

Before the Cliff’s Edge (Cliffs of Dover)

Fell into a Faerie Portal (Ireland)

Memento Mori (Western USA)

Thanks for reading, and safe travels and happy shooting!