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In June I had the good fortune to be invited to spend a week in Paris. A friend's sister-in-law has a small apartment she lets relatives use. With no hotel costs it was an affordable trip. My friend invited two of us to come over so I also had a traveling companion, which is always fun.

I don't normally bother to post an image of the physical journal on my website, but the journal I made for the Paris trip was one I adored the moment I finished it. It is covered with sail cloth and the front cover has decorative paper I made with 140 lb. watercolor paper and black and gold inks. It shimmers, but it is understated. (And yes, people with sharp eyes can see the Canada Goose design I made for t-shirts sitting on the table in the background.)

Construction went without a hitch and it was a perfect, if rather thick, book. It's 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches. There were 8 signatures, but before I left I cut some pages out (to make room for collage I'd be doing in Paris and the papers I pasted in before I left). When I'd finished fitting it out it contained 100 usuable pages, all of which were used.

I made a slipcase out of board for the book, but this was tossed a day into the trip. It was too difficult to dig into my pack, get out the journal, remove it from the case, etc. As it was, this thick a book really did take a lot of room in the fanny pack I used (also as a shoulder bag some days). I had a thin 6 x 9 inch or so pamphlet notebook from Moleskine with gridded paper that I kept in an outside flap of the pack for easy access. Sometimes I simply worked in that book and then glued those pages into my journal.

I also did a lot of collage. I wanted to have text and graphics from Paris to help me recall what I was seeing.

A week is not long enough in Paris. I had made the decision before going that I wouldn't go to any museums, or at least I wouldn't be counting on visiting any. My two traveling friends had both been to Paris before. Our host would have three weeks before the pair of us arrived to see all the museums she wanted. Since there are pieces of art in Paris that I could stand in front for whole days it seemed the best use of limited time to keep moving.

And move we did. We purchased metro passes which paid for themselves in a day. We would plot a course to some desired location, ride the metro, walk all around for several hours, get on the metro again, and walk around at a new destination for several hours. I feel that I definitely have a sense of how the city is laid out and where I want to go on a return visit (to see those museums!)

What follows are some excerpts from the Paris Journal. I did a lot of writing, so many pages are simply two columns of my smallest printing, trying to fit in all the sights we saw and couldn't stop to sketch; impressions, conversations, and jokes which really mean nothing except to the people who were there. What follows are pages I think might be of general interest or entertainment, which still capture a feel for how I was working in this journal.

I had 9 years of French when I was in school. I was never good speaking it since my Australian classmates made me rather self-conscious about my American accented French. My reading abilities were always pretty good. Since one of my traveling friends had excellent skills with French I coasted a bit. I did find myself trying to work out how to say things, but usually on too much of a delay. As the week progressed, however, I found myself understanding conversations overheard on the metro and in shops. I read signs everywhere with more and more ease. I realized that my comfort level with making myself understood, and understanding, was such that if I could have stayed another week I would still have been embarrassed by my accent, but happy with my communication skills. This, and the fact that every French person we met was wonderful to us, make me eager to return some day.

I really can't recommend it enough, if only for the bread, which is like no bread available in this country and must be tasted to be believed. Go for art and architecture and language and whatever else you want, but be sure to have bread, lots of it!

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Photograph © 2006 Roz Stendahl; All Rights Reserved