The second part of our trip to Europe in February took place in Zermatt, Switzerland. For years we have dreamed of visiting the Alps and to finally get the chance to visit was magical! We’ve always planned to go in the Summer and do a lot of hiking but because of our wedding schedules every year we just haven’t been able to go during warmer months. But going in the dead of winter was so worth it! Growing up in the South, neither of us have experienced the copious amounts of snow that would be awaiting us in Zermatt!
While researching places to visit in Switzerland I stumbled across Zermatt and fell in love with the little town! I had no clue that it would be listed on the Times 100 places to visit list for 2017 when we booked our trip in December. As soon as we stepped off the train we instantly knew why it was on the list! The town is nestled at the end of a valley and near the boarder of Italy, France, and Switzerland, can only be accessed by train or helicopter, and sits at the base of the Matterhorn. The town is completely car free (except full electric carts) and you can walk the length of the town in about 20 minutes… but it is the pinnacle of Swiss ski towns! If you have seen the show, The Night Manager, several episodes have scenes in Zermatt and what you see in the show is what you can expect in real life!
We intentionally picked just one town to visit because we knew we needed to fully soak it in and also we wanted to relax fully! Philip has longed to photograph the Alps for his landscape portfolio and with 28 peaks over 4,000 meters in the surrounding area, Zermatt was the perfect place for us! We spent 5 days there and could have stayed for so much longer! Since we’ve only skied a few times in our lives and alpine skying is a beast, we decided to focus our time on hiking, landscape photography, and a little tobogganing.
We took the train from Paris to Zermatt and it was absolutely perfect! We entered Switzerland at Lausanne and we only saw it from the train but we know we will go back and visit that city! Seeing the Alps for the first time across Lake Geneva will bring tears to your eyes! We enjoyed the view so much we didn’t take a single photograph at that moment but don’t worry we both other train views of the countryside. Here is a look at our time in Switerland, as scene from our “big camera” and Iphones.
The vast views left us awestruck!
And this explains why we didn’t ski. Savannah is not very good at winter sport 🙂
The photograph below is in full color but shot during a whiteout. Within minutes of taking this photograph I couldn’t even see Philip from where I was standing!
Matterhorn Glacier lookout, over 12,000 ft high and temps at -15 C… the coldest weather we experienced and we were thankful for the sun!
One of our favorite parts of Zermatt is the river that runs through the town. Walking along the river is pretty stinking magical!
We fell in love with all the adorable little chalets! Each one had such beautiful character!
The hiking houses that dotted the mountain sides were amazing. They each would have a huge patio with sweeping views of the Alps. Nothing beats having a meal on one of these patios and soaking in the view.
We ate our weight in bread, cheeses, chocolates, and wine on this trip. One of my favorite meals we shared together was a little picnic we had on our hotel rooftop. We sat for hours, just the two of us, enjoying our view and conversation together. So much of every day life is spent in these simple moments with each other and to be enjoying our favorite past time while sitting in the Alps was priceless.
This was the view of the Matterhorn from our hotel room. Nothing beats looking out the window and seeing the majestic Matterhorn.
Oh Zermatt, you will always have a place in our hearts!!
Savannah and Philip
As the days passed in Paris we started to understand more of the culture. The Parisians do not live to work, they work to live. We have always had this attitude towards our own work life, we love what we do but we do not allow work to consume our life. We want to experience culture, see the world, eat good food, and have time with friends and family. At the end of each day we would talk over what we had experienced and we both would mention that being surrounded by Parisians who shared our views on work and life made us feel alive.
Hands down Philip and I both agreed that Musee D’Orangerie was one of our favorites. D’Orangerie is home to eight panels of Monet’s Water Lilies. The two rooms that permanently house the panels were designed by Monet himself for the pieces. The oval rooms, with diffused natural light that is to die for, perfectly present the paintings in a seamless fashion. We couldn’t tear ourselves away from these rooms!
A close second for favorite museum would be Musee Gustave Moreau. The museum is Moreau’s former dwelling in the 9th arrondissement and the art work takes up all three floors. Neither of us were extremely familiar with his work but from the few pieces I had seen I knew it would be worth the trek out of city center. We both were blown away not only by his work and the level of detail that went into each piece but also by the volume of work he put out. In this museum alone there were over 1,000 pieces! The staircase leading up to his 3rd story studio was a piece of art in an of itself!
As a little travel note, many people recommend getting the Museum Pass for Paris if you plan on visiting multiple museums. We opted to not get the pass since we didn’t know how many we would end up going to. One thing I would recommend is to get the Musee d’Orsay/ Musee de l’Orangerie combined ticket. This ticket is 16€ a person and you have up to 3 months to visit both and it also give you a discounted rate for Musee Gustave Moreau, 4€ a person. So for 20€ a person we got into three museums and the only other art museum we went to was the Louvre which was 20€ a person. While the museum pass gets you into over 60 places, for a 4 day pass it is 90€ a person… We prefer to linger in museums so the pass wouldn’t have been to our advantage.
One of the best meals we had while in Paris was at La Rôtisserie d’Argent. We didn’t take in photos of this meal because we devoured it as soon as it came! We had a view of the river and as the evening progressed, the full moon rose over the right bank. We originally went for their Demi-poulet but they were already out for the evening. Instead we got Caneton a l’orange en duex services (roasted duck in an orange sauce, served in two parts). This meal… worth a trip to Paris just for this meal.
We ended the evening by walking the Seine and visiting Notre Dame. The light of the full moon made the city extra magical.
When the sun comes out in Paris, the city looks completely different!
This was the church that was right in front of our hotel. Nothing sets the tone for the day more than walking outside and immediately seeing a majestic gothic building
The area of Montmartre was one I was greatly looking forward to. Montmartre is the highest point in Paris and the area is full of staircases leading you higher and higher. The Sacre Coeur Basilica sits at the peak of Montmartre and if you climb to the top of the dome you get a 360 view of Paris so make sure you go on a clear day! Also the stain glass inside the Basilica is something else and when the sun shines through, it is breathtakingly blinding.
There are carousels all over Paris!! Turning a corner and finding one is like finding a little treasure from your childhood.
We decided against going up to the top of the Eiffel since we had seen views of the city from Sacre Coeur and the lines were ridiculously long. You can get off at several metro stops to view the Eiffel and we chose the Trocadero. Because it was winter the fountains were not on but you get a stunning view from the top of the staircase. We went at sunset and enjoyed sitting in the Champs de Mars drinking coffee as we waited for the tower to light up for the night. The night view of the tower is by far my favorite way to see it!
Philip and I are both creatures of habit and this became our daily breakfast. Cafe au lait with crescents and the best jams! Thankfully we walked miles and miles ever day so we didn’t gain a millions pounds 🙂
Valentine’s Day in Paris was… well it was like a dream! We didn’t preplan many days for this trip but this day had been planned for weeks in advance and it was everything we dreamed it would be. We started the day at a special exhibit of Henri Cartier Bresson’s work, one of our favorite photographers. There were multiple times were we both were moved deeply by seeing his work in person and getting the chance to study the original prints up close.
This photograph of Henri was taken by his wife and I love that I got Philip’s reflection in framed in the scene. It is a simple photograph of Bresson but he reminds me so much of Philip and having them both captured in one photograph is deeply meaningful for me.
When we were dating we used to visit a local old cemetery to practice our photography so older cemeteries have an odd special meaning to us. We sort of stumbled on the Montparnasse Cemetery and as we walked through I remembered that it was the final resting place to a decent amount of famous people. A highlight was finding the grave of Jean Paul Satre and Simone Beauvoir. I heavily studied both of these philosophers during undergrad and we visited several places they frequented while in Paris. To visit their final resting place was my way of paying tribute to all their influence in my studies.
After savoring the most amazing chocolates and champagne in our hotel we prepared for an evening that will forever go down as one of my favorites. As soon as we knew we would be in Paris on Valentine’s Day Philip arranged for us to go to the ballet at the Palais Garnier (Paris Opera House) and with a dinner at Cafe de la Paix, a famous cafe next to the Palais Garnier. We saved viewing the Palais until this evening and as the car pulled up to the circle in front of the building I found myself with tears in my eyes. It is simply breathtaking. While many don’t dress up for the Ballet, we did! Dinner was out of this world and the architecture of Cafe de la Paix is splendid!
The grand staircase in the Palais Garnier. Walking through this building in evening wear was a dream come true! I love fashion and I look for any excuse to wear a gown. Philip had always made sure that I felt like a queen in life and this evening he went over and beyond!
The ballet we saw was Tree of Codes and it had us on the edge of our seats the entire performance! If you have the chance to ever see it, go!!
Philip knew I wanted a photograph inside the Palais without anyone around. We waited until it was almost cleared out and he got lucky in the photograph below. I could have stayed here for days exploring the building!
With our hotel being close to the Louvre we had our car drop us off at the front and we practically had to place to ourselves. We danced together under the lights of the Louvre and pretended we were living in the 1800s… The Louvre is by far the most magical in the evening.
And in our next post we head to Switzerland for a completely different type of adventure!
Savannah and Philip
There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris
– Hemingway –
I dare say that within a few hours of arriving in Paris, we fell deeply and madly in love with the city! We’ve spent a decent about of time in major cities around the world and never before have we so instantly felt like we were home. Every street had so much character and history; every building begged for you to come inside; every bakery made you stop, close your eyes, and take in all the smells; every restaurant left you perfectly satiated and longing to learn to cook like the chefs… Oh Paris, you are absolutely perfect in every way!
We do want to share our journey with you all and show you how we saw this amazing city! I’m going to try and be brief with my thoughts but also share places that we really think are worth highlighting. I’ll also split up the posts to spread out all the beauty. When we were preparing for our trip, we quickly realized that you can’t fully prepare for Paris. Paris begs for you to simply explore and fully immerse yourself in the city. You can have a list of must sees/dos but the best advice for visiting Paris is to shed your agenda and get lost in the soul of the city. At the end of this post I’ll share a few tid bits of logistical travel advice on later posts, but first photos. These are a mixture of photographs we took with our “real” camera and our Iphones, cause even we are guilty of not taking out the real camera while traveling.
We got really lucky and our flight landed in Paris at 6 AM so that meant that after dropping our bags off at the hotel we had a full day to explore Paris for the first time. For the first leg of our trip our hotel was located in the 1st arrondissement and when you walked out of the hotel the back of the Louvre was about 200 feet away. This was a perfect location since we were in the heart of the city center and could walk to almost anything! We also had several metro stations around our hotel and this was perfect for visiting Montmartre and a few museums that were outside of city center.
Within our first day we tried to go ahead and see a few of the more iconic places as a way to get used to the city, adjust our internal clocks, and feel ok with being touristy for a day. First up was a visit to St. Germain with coffee at Cafe de Flore. We fell in love as a couple discussing philosophy and we are big fans of Sarte and Beauvoir, so it was pretty fun to sit in the cafe that they frequented. It is the oldest coffeehouse in the Paris and from that aspect it is neat but beware, the waitstaff aren’t eager to let you linger. Most cafes will not rush you but this one is clearly visited by many tourist and they want a high turn over.
After being caffeinated (which Parisian coffee, hello so good! I’m not a coffee snob but the coffee there is personally a favorite of mine!) we headed to Saint Chapelle. I have to be honest, I’m a crier when I’m happy and at this point the happy tears started… and pretty much didn’t stop for the 15 days. The stain glass in this cathedral will literally take your breath away! It is a smaller cathedral but so worth your time!! I wish I had taken more detail shots of the individual panels in the room. On my list of must sees, Saint Chapelle is number one.
Saint Chapelle sort of set the tone for our trip, to completely immerse in the full experience of where we were. As we honed in to all of our sense, we found ourselves lost in our environment. I remember sitting and staring at the stain glass for a long time and feeling overwhelmed by how intricate all the panels were. I closed my eyes, took in the smells, the cold of the stone, heard the footsteps on the stone and simply imagined the first time Louis IX walked through the finished chapel… this was part of the reason we didn’t take as many photographs as we thought we would. You just can’t capture the essence of Paris..
After Saint Chapelle we went and saw the outside of Notre Dame. We chose not to go in because of lines and also we were still overwhelmed by Saint Chapelle. Personally we preferred the backside of Notre Dame to the front, from an architecture standpoint, and while the front was crowded, no one was on the backside! Also this day was extremely cold and I was digging Philip’s scarf head wrap 🙂
Being near the Seine is magical. The bridges that take you from the left to the right bank are out of this world! Each one is so unique.
The buildings. Oh my goodness! Every. Single. Building. Is. FABULOUS! I could have photographed them all! This was one of my favorite corners of the Louvre.
We knew that we would be hitting up a lot of art museums. As photographers, paintings have always been a huge influence in our work and we both thrive as artists when we are surrounded by art. Knowing that the Louvre is so incredibly massive, we picked only one small section that we wanted to visit and study (most the art we wanted to see is housed in other museums). The Louvre is one hundred perfect worth visiting, even though it is always packed and is massive. The copious amount of art housed in one place helps you to realized just how important art was to culture and that it needs to return to the forefront of our culture!!
Our first dinner in Paris was at Le Fumoir. Food is really important to us, in that we love French food! I was so looking forward to all our meals in Paris and we were not disappointed! There are over 16,000 restaurants on Trip Advisor for Paris and a good friend of ours recommended that if you pick from the top 500 you can’t go wrong! He was so right! Heading into the trip we had a list of restaurants that was knew wanted to go to but we also left ourselves open to being spontaneous and to finding great places. Le Fumoir was directly across from our hotel and I would have eaten there every night! The library room gave an extra special feel to the place and complimented the food perfectly.
Day two took us to Musee D’Orsay, one of our favorite museums! The statues that line the great hallway set the perfect tone for the museum. We allowed ourselves to slowly take in every room and look at each piece of art and also enjoy the views from the upper rooms.
For good reasons Paris is La Ville Lumière, the city of light. In the evenings, we simply could not believe the copious amount of lights on each building. The Parisians truly understand how to use light to showcase their buildings. There were days when I longed for nightfall so that the city would become illuminated!
Standing so close to the Louvre allowed for us to wonder around the promenade right before the gates were closed. There is simply nothing better than being in this space all by yourself.
We also really enjoyed walking along the Seine alone at night. The river is so incredibly peaceful and sitting with your lover on a bench, watching the river, is the perfect way to end and evening.
Well I wrote more than I thought… I hope to be a little bit briefer on the future posts! Hope you enjoyed!
Savannah and Philip
The last leg of our journey. We were really sad to see our journey coming to an end but we were not sad to leave the rain. We decided last minute to go to the Giant’s Causeway on our last day in Ireland and we are really glad we did! While we were on the train the sun was shining and we thought we would have a chance to hike without rain. Nope. When we finally arrived at the Causeway the rain came down and we spent another day getting wet. But thankfully the view was worth it.
We left Northern Ireland and headed to Amsterdam for 22 hours. We thought it would be enough time to see a little bit of the city but we were so exhausted from all our traveling and we didn’t read Dutch and we had no clue that it would be so hard to get Euros (ummm pretty sure there are no ATMs in Amsterdam). So Amsterdam ended up being a mad dash quickly around and a short canal tour of the city. Our experience in Amsterdam wasn’t that hot but we wouldn’t mind going back again and having more than time as well as a better knowledge of the city 🙂
The Causeway is known for its hexagonal rocks formations. This is the only place in the world they are found and are very interesting to see and climb on.
It was super sad to leave Ricky and Laura behind but they are planning to move back to the states soon so we will get to see plenty of them!
Little bit of Amsterdam:
Hope you enjoyed seeing Northern Ireland through our eyes.
Savannah and Philip
Portrush might have been one of our favorite cities but the best memories came from our weekend in Bangor, Newcastle, and the Mourne Mountains. This weekend really wouldn’t have been possibly without the whole Graham family and we are forever grateful for their kind open hearts. They took us in and treated us just like family and we will always treasure our memories with them.
On Friday afternoon we all took the train to the little city of Bangor where Ricky’s parents (Davy and Bernie) live. This town is known more as a retirement town and the laid back nature of it was perfect! We went to the marina for part of the afternoon then headed back to the Graham’s home for a fabulous dinner and a night full of music. Sitting in the Graham’s home that even made us feel like we were in our own home and Northern Ireland ceased to feel like a place we had never been before, it was a place we could say we really got to know. The stories told that night will be some that we always take with us and treasure.
Later that evening we went to the pub that Davy plays in every Friday evening. A bunch of his friends get together every weekend and play traditional Irish music till the wee hours of the night. The music we heard that night was like none we have ever heard before! We all sat back and soaked it all in, not wanting to miss a single note.
The next day we headed up to Newcastle via bus. This bus ride was by far the bumpiest and at times we all felt like we might lose our stomachs but the journey was well worth it! In Newcastle we went to the Tollymore Forest and hiked for a couple hours. This hike lead to some of our favorite images from the trip and it also lead to us getting completely drenched the entire hike. I’m pretty sure none of really minded the rain, the scenery was beyond breathtaking! Tollymore is in the County Down and it has been said that C.S. Lewis use County Down as his inspiration for Narnia. One step into the forest and you expect to see a lamp post, the White Witch, or Aslan. The fact that it rained the whole day actually added to the adventure and we all said that we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Following the hiking in the forest we headed to the Graham’s cottage in the Mournes. The cottage was originally built in the 1700s and Davy personally rebuilt the entire cottage by hand. When they first bought the cottage and the land that it is on all that was left was the basic stone framework for the cottage. Davy rebuilt the main room and added on a bathroom and a kitchen/sitting room. Only the add on had electricity (powered by generator) and the rest of the cottage was lit and heated by coal burning fireplaces. Staying at the cottage was by far the best memory we have from the trip. Davy cooked us a fabulous dinner from vegetables that he grew in the garden out back and we played board games till the late night while all our clothes dries out by the fires. Something was magical about the cottage. As we went up to the loft to sleep we had to carry candle lit lanterns to see. The simplicity of living in a cottage that is completely isolated from most of society is something that all need to experience. It makes you stop and really enjoy the little things in life.
The next day lead us on the most incredible trek through the Mournes. Again it was pouring rain and within minutes we were all soaked. Hours later when we got back to the cottage Davy laughed at us and congratulated us for being so hard core. Apparently the rain we were experiencing was falling a lot harder than normal and we kept asking him to take us further and further. What can we say, we love a good adventure and nothing is going to stop us 🙂
So now onto the images:
The seaside homes are the best! They are full of color and make the shore so appealing.
Traditional music in the pub. For the life of me I can’t remember the pub’s name!
From the bus ride to Newcastle
The coast of Newcastle.
Some of the best fish and chips was had at this pub! Irish food is seriously amazing. We couldn’t get enough of it, especially the breads and cheeses!
The Mournes. Sadly both days that we were there the tops were in a white out and visibility was pretty minimum.
This is how we found this tree. We really aren’t sure how it stood out so much since it was raining and absolutely no sun light was coming through!
Good ole Ben showcasing how wet we were getting.
Trekking in the Mournes. We followed a sheep path most of the way up to the top. The hardest part was keeping your feet from getting stuck in the mud! But being on a sheep path was pretty cool since we found a couple stray sheep and Ben and I chased them down the mountain.
Our sheep we chased! Sadly they got away and we weren’t able to take one home… This was close to the top of where we hiked and it shows how thick the white out was. At some points we were only able to see about 50 feet in front of us.
Probably the least flattering image of us but it holds so many good memories.
Preparing for the trip we knew to take rain covers for our cameras and we are so glad we did! It was raining so hard though that our camera could barely focus and it constantly was fogging up. That was probably the only downside of the trip.
This is the view of the Mournes from the cottage. We hiked to the top of this one but we were white out the whole time so we did get much of a view from the top.
And the cottage! Seriously our favorite memory of the whole trip! Isn’t it so cute!!!
Savannah and Philip
The little seaside city of Portrush quickly turned into one of our favorite places in Northern Ireland. It also was the only day we had sun shine while in Ireland. If there was one day to have sun, this was the day that we needed it. This was the one city where Philip and Ben did their own then and I went off to explore on my own. While some might be nervous about exploring a new city all on their own I was excited to get out and see the land and have my own personal adventure. Boy was it an adventure! We got Philip and Ben off to their golf game (more on that in a minute) and I grabbed a cab to go to Dunlace Castle. I had been looking forward to seeing the castle for weeks and figured it would be a fun experience but I had no clue just how amazing this day would be.
When I got to the castle (which was about 3.5 miles from where Philip and Ben were playing golf) my breath was instantly taken away. A quick look around showed that I was the only one at the castle so for a couple hours it was just me and this bad boy that was built in the 13th century. The image above shows the path that I took to walk down to the coast and view the castle from below. This day I took a full backpack of gear with me and the weight of it plus the steep nature of the walk way plus winds gusting at speeds I’ve never felt before made me almost bust several times. It was a little scary but became hysterical and I learned to just roll with it.
A beautiful thing happened while I was at the castle. A gorgeous rainbow appeared as I was taking one look back at the coast and the castle. As you will see below it was perfectly placed between the castle and the cliffs. While Ireland is known for its rainbows you actually don’t see them that much (or so our friends who live there told us). To have one appear at the castle was a perfect end to my adventures there.
Yes perfection. Right after I grabbed this image it started hailing golf ball sized hail. Thankfully it was a short hail storm cause I had no where to really hide from the storm.
So instead of taking a cab back to town I decided to walk back. The road to the castle was right on the coast and on the drive up I knew I had to walk back so I could enjoy the view slowly. Deciding to walk back was one of the best decisions I made. And also one of the worst. The view was the best I had the entire trip and I had some great time alone with my thoughts. What was bad is I thought the whole trip would be down hill since the drive appeared up hill. Yeah I was wrong. Some how the walk turned into an uphill battle of me against the wind. But as you can see, the view was totally worth it!
Headed back into town and looking at the golf course on the coast.
The castle can be seen in the right side of the image. Can you image having this view all the time!
Little did I know that this would be the only sun we saw on this trip. 🙂 The grasses are so lush and soft. You can lay down in the grass and it feels like a soft bed. Trust me I was tempted.
I got to experience an overhead view of the golf course the guys played at and I am so glad I wasn’t trying to play here. It is an amazing course though and one that is played by some of the best golfers.
These little guys were begging to go home with me. Come on aren’t they so cute!!
So while I was experiencing the rainbow at the castle Philip and Ben got to see it from the golf course (The guys played at the Royal Portrush Golf Club , they played the Vally Links course). Not a bad view while golfing. 🙂
Savannah and Philip