Mona Lisa Mystery

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What is it about the Mona Lisa that makes her the media sensation she’s been for centuries? R.A. Scotti’s book, titled Vanished Smile: The Mystery of the Mona Lisa, attempts to answer that question.

The book centers on the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, and Scotti uses her crime-writer skills to build a past, present, and future for perhaps the most famous smile in the world. Pretty much everyone in the art world got involved, including an attempt to pin the theft on Pablo Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire, who were both considered anti-establishment artists and possibly revolutionaries in pre-war Paris.

In our book club, people sometimes bewail the contemporary practice of skipping around from time period to time period and from character to character without a lot of notice. This book, however, is not one of those. Scotti tells the story of the theft and the attempts to recover the painting in a pretty linear fashion, but also includes the history of the painting and its artist, Leonardo da Vinci. It’s a fascinating read by a master storyteller.

Reading this book brought back our visit to The Louvre in 2010. Of course, we had to see the Mona Lisa on our first trip to Paris. We had no idea what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t this. Continue reading

Baguette du France Vignette

Becoming part of the tablescaping community has been really inspirational for me, as I have been treated to home decor genius by many creative ladies (and a few gentlemen). I’ve always been a person who “set the table” and created tablescapes, but I was never particularly good at creating vignettes around my house.

I just don’t seem to have the vignette gene.

Continue reading

Eiffel Tower at Night: Travel Photo of the Day

GotMyReservations -- Eiffel Tower at Night

The Eiffel Tower is lit up at night on the hour and twinkles merrily for about five minutes. It’s worth the wait.

I’m linking up with Travel Photo Monday” at Travel Photo Discovery, Wordless Wednesday at Moving Through Life, and “Travel Photo Thursday” at Budget Travelers Sandbox, so stop by and get some more inspiration for your travel bucket list!

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford. 
Like a child in wild anticipation, 
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”

Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)

Montmartre in the Sun — Photo of the Day

If you haven’t climbed up to Sacré Cœur in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris, you haven’t actually lived Paris.

GotMyReservations -- Montmartre in the Sun

Walking in the footsteps of the artists and performers, ladies of the night, and now millions of tourists, the narrow winding streets of Montmartre take you back to another time. Because its architecture and character is protected by a historic district designation, Montmartre doesn’t change much.

I recommend getting Rick Steves’s Montmartre Walk on Kindle for your smartphone or iPad and follow the tour up the hill. We did this on a sleepy July morning and by the time we got to the top, we were ready to enjoy the quiet reverence of Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre. And the views from the top are worth every step!


GotMyReservations -- Sacre Coeur view

View from the top of the Sacre Coeur Basilica.

I’m linking up with The Tablescaper for “Oh, The Places I’ve Been”, Travel Photo Monday” at Travel Photo Discovery, and “Travel Photo Thursday” at Budget Travelers Sandbox, so stop by and get some more inspiration for your travel bucket list!

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford. 
Like a child in wild anticipation, 
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”

Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)



Le Pouce – Photo of the Day

GotMyReservations - Le Pouce Thumb Sculpture in Paris

Sculptor César Baldaccini’s sculpture Le Pouce (The Thumb) stands in direct contrast to the modern office buildings in the La Défense section of Paris. Built in 1965, it literally puts a finger on the pulse of Paris’s business district. You can read more about César Baldaccini here.

Eiffel Tower — Photo of the Day

GotMyReservations --Eiffel TowerI was able to snap this photo of the Eiffel Tower while we were on the open-air bus tour. Sometimes you just get lucky…

I’m linking up today with The Tablescaper for “Oh, The Places I’ve Been” and Budget Travelers Sandbox, so stop by and get some more inspiration for your travel bucket list!


The Sunday Review: The Greater Journey — Americans in Paris

After choosing this book for our Book Club, I had high expectations. David McCullough is a wonderful storyteller and has a knack for turning even the driest factoids into a compelling story. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris is no exception to this writing style.

While listening to The Greater Journey in the car, I kept thinking back on the photos I took from the top of the Arc de Triomphe in 2010. Sometimes people skip going up into the Arc (an easy climb and short lines) and choose the Eiffel Tower instead, but I found the view from the top of the Arc to be breathtaking.

McCullough has chosen a representative group of Americans who went to Paris between 1830 and 1900, where their experiences helped to make them better statesmen, artists, musicians, and writers. He sets their very personal and sometimes mundane lives on the stage that was Paris in the 19th century, a turbulent and fascinating city.

As McCullough says in his author interview on, Americans in Paris is a kind of guidebook to Paris and the history of Americans in the City of Light. It’s an accessible and intimate look at a different set of American roots.

The audiobook on The Greater Journey is voiced by Edward Herrman and is easy to listen to, but I also ended up buying a book as there were many photos and references I wanted to come back to. I’m struggling with whether to keep this one in my library or to pass it on to Paris-loving friends!



If you are interested in getting out of your reading chair and actually visiting the City of Light, please feel free to contact me to help you with your travel plans.

Welcome Winter

With the onset of cold weather in Chicago — FINALLY!– I decided to feature some of my favorite places covered with snow.

Lake Michigan at Evanston, Illinois


It’s hard to believe that I will be seeing those hills in Provence in just a few months — and they won’t have snow on them then. I’m also pretty excited about planning a trip to Edinburgh and northern England for a tour group; you’ll be hearing more about that as the plans progress.

Happy New Year (and make your reservations!)

January Header Images Credits: Provence, Lamb in snow, Stonehenge, Paris


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