Maman poule.

The most irritating part of my day is when the Mediterranean sun wakes me up every morning a full hour and a half before my alarm goes up.

If you are the attentive reader, you should now be gagging quietly and swearing off all future readings of this blog because I just did the backhanded complaint to highlight that a) I am soaking up some Mediterranean sun in southern France b) I sleep in to a shameful hour and c) somehow these two things combine to bring about the only really negative moment of my day.

In other words, life as maman poule in Montpellier is not too shabby. As the French would say in their understated way, it is pas mal. Which is to say, awesome. The only thing missing from my fun as mother hen to 12 of the best French students there ever were, is obviously this awesome sweatshirt declaring my proud status to the world. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure you are only allowed to wear that if you are a hip mommy blogger who aspires to growing all their own food and having capsule wardrobes in perfect neutrals for each of your trendily-named flock. Also… it’s summer and hot. But still! I love my task of coordinating culture experiences and conversation opportunities for my brood here in France.

My days, while starting late and ending in a decadent sea of me eating baguettes slathered generously in salted butter, are nevertheless full. I spend a lot of time camped out at the tourist bureau, planning outings and pestering the tourism officials with my endless questions. I leave with my greedy fists crammed full of sleek brochures and glossy maps. Yes, the Internet exists, but it does not excite me like a stack of pamphlets. I have unending love for attractive brochures. They prompt me to do things like BOOK HORSEBACK RIDES ON THE BEACH for my troop, or DECIDE TO TAKE A BUS TO THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE because of a glossy three-page fold out spread.

After my brochure fangirling, I make predictable stops to the train ticket-seller, the language institute receptionist (where my students are actually taking classes during the morning), and then devote myself to my other all-encompassing occupation: finding places that can happily and easily facilitate a pack of 13 for a meal/snack. Not easy. Yet it does mean that I wander narrow streets and read so many menus that I finally collapse into a pile of excitement and pastries. Not bad. Plus, I get a special thrill out of reading menus. All those options! In the afternoons, my maman poule duties include picnic administration, sunscreen reminders, bus ticket distribution, and taking pictures of my pack with true momish enthusiasm. Oh, and French correction… as that is kind of the point.

What’s that? The bile is rising and now you just want photos? Ok. Over and out. Montpellier-1 Montpellier-2 Montpellier-6 Montpellier-10 Montpellier-11Montpellier-12 Montpellier-19 Montpellier-21/Y’all, that water is BLUE. And cold. But it hasn’t rained yet, and isn’t predicted to rain our whole visit, so we are soaking up the sun and sand on as many free afternoons as we can snag./Montpellier-23 Montpellier-31 Montpellier-32 Montpellier-33/And then I plunged into that teal water OF ICY DEATH and made the world’s most terrifying face when I emerged. I spared you that one. But imagine the Loch Ness monster rising from the water in a blaze of fury, and you will have succeeded in imaging what maman poule looked like surging forth from the waters./ Montpellier-42 Montpellier-52 Montpellier-53 Montpellier-59/”Frolic students! Frolic HIGHER! FROLIC FOR THE PHOTO!” This group needs very little convincing to frolic. / Montpellier-66 Montpellier-67 Montpellier-70/A wine tasting lesson! I swirl and sniff with the best of them… but truly I have no clue what I’m doing. Gelato tasting? Maybe more of my thing./ Montpellier-74 Montpellier-75 Montpellier-77/Last weekend we went and toured the Roquefort caves, home of the beloved stinky cheese. The students did lots of noble tasting and slightly less noble gagging… but this maman poule snuck through the sample time… more times than should be reported./ Montpellier-84/Millau Viaduc, or “Very high and long bridge that seemed out of place, as my American brain doesn’t expect to come across modern marvels in Always-Old France.”/ Montpellier-96/See? My picnic skills are on fleek. And yes, I am aware that this is probably not the correct usage of fleek. Maman poule does not care./

 If you are really starved for glimpses of southern France, hop on over to my instagram, @hannahkatherinew . Blog posts are a little sparse these days, as I’m using most of my internet time for either work or reading The Bachelorette recaps. #priorities  But there are far more pictures than you ever needed/wanted over on the grams!

PPS: What are the best books available on KindleUnlimited? I devoured The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, and you all had so many other recommendations, but I am especially interested on any you know of for freesies… any top pics?

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2 Days of Paris Moments

Paris-29 Paris-31 Paris-37 Paris-55 Paris-59 Paris-71 Paris-77 Paris-80 Paris-83 Paris-84The first time I came to Paris, I was 14 and on a trip with a group from my school. The week should be a total blur, as I was jetlagged and 14, but so many moments stand out in perfect clarity. The way a crêpe tasted as it dripped nutella down my chin. Ordering in (pretty terrible but mostly coherent) French at a bakery. The first site of the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night. A woman singing opera in the Palais Royal as the wind picked up and it started to rain. Those moments are the ones that launched me on a path of loving and studying French. They are the ones that lured my back to study and live in Paris, to be replaced by so many more like them. I know that lives can be changed forever by moments in Paris.

I am not naive enough to think that ALL of the 11 students I dragged through Paris last weekend will forever devote their lives to the pursuit and mastery of French. I am not even naive enough to believe that all of them were awake for all/ most of the weekend. I saw some drowsy heads on that Seine boat tour, and I know that not all students who took a quiet minute in the pews at Notre Dame were praying.

But still.

I could see it on their faces, the Paris magic. I could hear it in their questions and excitement, in spite of the jet-lag, exhaustion, and weary feet. And the fact that I got to help give them that… it’s pretty much the best thing ever.

14 years have passed since 14 year old Hannah went to Paris, and I feel like I closed a circle this past weekend.  A wonderful, magical, indescribable circle that has this city as its center.

And should any of you be interested in how to see as much as possible in two days in the city (the first of which started at noon due to lengthy airport runs and French airport officials insisting that the plane carrying my last student did not exist), here’s what we did. You will notice a special interest in things that were free, as well as notes on clean and free bathrooms, as those are of prime importance when traveling with students. Pretty sure that my best-selling Paris guide will someday be called “What to see, where to pee, and lots for free.”


  • Walked from Bastille to the Place des Vosges, where we had a picnic.
  • Walked through Le Marais, Ile Saint-Louis.
  • Toured Notre Dame.
  • Crossed to see Shakespeare and Company, then walked along the river down to the Pont des Arts for some love-locking.
  • Walked through the (exterior) Louvre, Tuileries, Place Vendôme, by the Opéra Garnier, and climbed to the top floor of Galleries Lafayette for the (free!) panoramic view…at which point most of my crew passed out for a couple minutes on the roof (But at least there were free and clean restrooms! That is a constant struggle in Paris.).
  • Took the metro back to Pont Neuf for a boat tour of the Seine on the Vedettes de Pont Neuf.
  • Grabbed crêpes for dinner en route to the Louvre.
  • Did the “Hannah’s Highlights” version of a Louvre tour as it is free and open late on Friday nights (and has restrooms).


  • Spent a couple hours at the Musée d’Orsay (using our letters describing our art history student status for both free entry and line skipping… because French language and culture includes art history, right?).
  • Took the metro to Montmartre, toured Sacre-Coeur, explored the area behind it, ate lunch.
  • Headed to the Arc de Triomphe, where we walked around the base, and then some shopped, some walked around, and some had over-priced sweets and tea at Ladurée. (I’m sure you all know which group I was in… but hey – free clean restrooms!)
  • Toured Saint-Chappelle, which happened to be open late and for free the weekend we were there to celebrate the end of the renovations.
  • Walked through the Luxembourg gardens before having dinner at Polidor, the toilet from which my students may never recover (but after being hitherto spoiled, they needed some shocking bathroom experiences).
  • Ended with the Eiffel Tower sparkling above us.

I’m pretty sure that despite the packed schedule and endless walking, some magic moments were made all the same.

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Paris by the colors.

One time I told James that I wanted to make a giant color wheel, made entirely of photos of the colorful doors all over DC. He calmly replied that he can only muster the appropriate enthusiasm for so many of my ideas, and I needed to decide if that one was where I wanted to invest my capital.

I’m still thinking it might be worth it, because I love color. As I walked around Paris this week, I found myself entranced afresh by this bright city of many colors. Yes, the average Parisian only wears the the trinity of black, grey, and beige, but the city itself — she puts on a show.

I dragged my big camera around with me the first day or two, but after a couple days I left it at home. Let’s be honest – I have a lot of pictures of Paris. I will whip it out again when my students role into town tomorrow, but I don’t really need tons more photos of this city. Instead, I found myself enjoying the ease of pulling out my phone to capture all the beautiful and colorful bits of this city. And one night, when I returned home after a day of wanderings, I was scrolling through my photos and it came to me…

…I can arrange them all in a giant color grid.



Done. You’re welcome. I may have cried a little bit when I looked at the finished product. Because COLOR. And ORDER. And THAT TINY CAT WITH ITS HEAD OUT THE WINDOW.

Anyways, all this to say that this city never ceases to amaze me. Looking forward to sharing it with my students when they roll in tomorrow morning!

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Paris: Taking Stock

Paris-10 Paris-11 Paris-12Paris-13 Paris-14 Paris-15Paris-16 Paris-17Paris-19Paris-20Paris-21 Paris-18Making : plans for the group of students I have arriving on Friday.
Cooking : soft boiled eggs over spinach creamed with goat cheese – my favorite French meal, and one I ate for dinner every night for several weeks when my paper work was messed up and I didn’t get paid for months.
Drinking : as much chocolat viennois (straight up melted chocolate mixed with cream and served with fresh whipped cream)  as I can get my hands on.
Reading: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry for fun, Language and Silence for my dissertation, Pardon my French because I love reading books about the French while in France, and All the Light we Cannot See on audiobook when I take long walks around Paris.
Wanting: all of my students’ flights to be on-time Friday morning so that I can get started taking them around Paris.
Looking: out the window of the apartment where I am staying, across the garden to the sloped Parisian rooftops and rows of chimneys.
Playing: classical music on the radio.
Wasting: the end of the baguette I bought last night, as it’s already stale and I just don’t understand the saving of stale baguettes.
Sewing: still no, forever no.
Wishing: that I could keep plants alive, because Paris courtyards always inspire me to take up urban gardening.
Enjoying: these couple lazy days in Paris without an agenda before my students arrive and it becomes work, albeit fun work.
Waiting: to be reunited with James.
Liking: walking everywhere instead of taking the metro so I can get the most out of the city.
Wondering: how I can stream The Bachelorette while I’m over here, because I am sure that this will be THE MOST DRAMATIC SEASON YET, right Chris H? (#teamKaitlyn forever and ever)
Loving: sketching again, soaking up hours in the museums with charcoal in my hands.
Hoping: that I can continue a perfect streak of eating a croque madame every day this week for lunch.
Marveling: at the new streets and sites I still find to fall in love with in this city where I have already explored so much.
Needing: to maybe invest some stomach space in some veggies after this week’s impressive croque madame and chocolat viennois run.
Wearing: variations on almost the same outfit – thank you carry-on suitcase for 5 1/2 weeks!
Following: different streets around Paris every day, ignoring the map and going where they take me.
Noticing: how easy it is to get ready when all your outfits are a variation on the same thing.
Knowing:  that this might be the last time in a long while that I get to be in Paris like this, carefree and open to anything.
Thinking: about how sad that is, because I love this place so much, and yet how it also means that I am deeply and happily rooted in a life elsewhere.
Feeling: thankful for a job and career that will allow stolen moments back here from time to time.
Bookmarking: things to do around Montpellier, where I will be coordinating my students’ study abroad outings for three weeks starting Sunday.

What about you all — anyone else taken stock lately?

Photos: kouignettes of all flavors / boulangerie window in Montmartre / La Maison Rose café on the backside of Montmartre / beside Moulin de la Galette where Renoir painted this / peonies everywhere / pretty street / the apartment stairs that made me thankful I only packed a carry-on sized suitcase / buildings near Bourse / rue Crémieux (all three pretty colorful house pics / subtle primary color bike shot

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It doesn’t get easier.

James: “If you could go back in time, what would you do?”

Hannah:  “I think it would be cool to hang out with my parents before they had kids.”

“Wait- what? Seriously?”

“No wait- I want to go to their wedding, and my grandparents’ wedding, and their parents’ wedding, and –“


“Well what would you do?”

“Kill Hitler.”

“Oh. Well I didn’t know that we could do that. I thought we had to do things in the realm of possibility.”

“Hannah. It’s time travel. You seriously do not understand how this works.”

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It doesn’t get easier, saying goodbye to him, even though we have done it so, so, so many times before.

It doesn’t get easier, saying goodbye to him, even though I will see him again in one month, and it will be in Italy, and we will be on an adventure.

It doesn’t get easier, saying goodbye to him, even though we have had the best past week of dates — like convenience store ice cream cones and grocery shopping.

It doesn’t get easier, saying goodbye to him, even when I am getting to go to one of my favorite cities.

And I guess I would be sad if it did get easier.

PS: Not sure what time and internet will look like for blog posts over the next six weeks, but you can be sure I will be overgramming up a storm. Follow along @hannahkatherinew I can promise alllllll sorts of gratuitous pastry shots .

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Taking that “Y” right out of DIY: a bunny tea with The Little Palette.

Thelittlepalette-1There is a constant dilemma plaguing the modern woman: To DIY or to do what I like to think of as the PIY- Pay it Yourself. The world (cough… Pinterest… cough) convinces us that we MUST do ALL OF THE ITS ourselves, that we must be accomplished in every domain. Truly, we have not evolved as far past a Jane Austen novel as we like to think.Yet luckily, there is a gleaming beam of hope on the horizon, a true miracle of capitalism in which we can let those who are crafty, craft. And those who are not, can pretend and support the endeavors of the crafty. A place that lets us take the “Y” right out of the DIY and still let homemade artistic beauty grace our lives.

Hello Etsy, I’m looking at you.Thelittlepalette-3I recently organized a tea party/ baby shower for a colleague. I have learned a thing or two in my party planning years, and so instead of trying to everything myself, I outsourced.  We went to Lady Camellia Tea Room in Georgetown, letting them make all the food and do the cleanup. Yet I still wanted a special artistic touch… and I absolutely did not want to do all the work myself.

Thelittlepalette-4Luckily, my amazing sister-in-law Laura recently opened an Etsy shop with custom watercolor paintings and prints. Laura is insanely talented, and I have been begging her to sell her stuff for years, and now that she gets time home with my precious butterball nephew, she decided to open her own Etsy shop, The Little Palette.

Thelittlepalette-5All her stuff is adorable, but I especially love her animal watercolors. That blue elephant? I NEED HIM. My coworker mentioned that she was doing a garden/ bunny theme for her daughter’s nursery, prompting me to text Laura and beg for her to do a custom bunny print for the baby. She did, and made me those precious bunny place cards.Thelittlepalette-13The result?  A perfect tea party with personal touches for which I did very little work. Yes please. I mean, just look at those cute bunnies hoping all over the table. The only thing better would be REAL BABY BUNNIES EVERYWHERE.. but Etsy maybe hasn’t evolved that far. Yet. We can dream.littlepaletteteaCheck out Laura’s shop, follow her on Instagram (pictures of my nephew are a bonus!), and don’t hesitate to contact her about custom work! She’s the greatest, and you too can have custom artistic details for your next party without lifting a finger past you keyboard.

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He says it can’t be done.

3d6b143e9e3ff9f105aaa124de6bb276A couple months ago, I announced to James that I intended to spend my 5 weeks in Europe this summer living out of a carry-on sized suitcase.

And then he erupted in snort-laughter and declared this impossible.

His scoffing is justified, as I am not exactly known for packing light. I like options, I fear being unprepared, and I have great difficulty making simple decisions about what to wear weeks in advance. Yet my winter closet purge and subsequent freedom in fewer clothes has me feeling bold and inspired. I too can conquer Europe on six perfect shirts and a fine pair of trousers. I too can dash to catch trains in Italy because my diminutive suitcase will just pull behind me. I too can think ahead and plan.

[Cue more laughter from James.]

To achieve my goal (and prove that skeptical husband of mine wrong), I have a couple strategies:

  • Every top must match every bottom. Hello chambray and neutrals, let’s get comfy with each other. This will hopefully avoid packing lots of clothes that I don’t wear.
  • Packing cubes. I am pretty sure that these will change my life, and my savvy packing friends swear by them.
  • Only two pairs of shoes. Last summer I took five pairs… and wore one. This time around I am only taking two and I am fully devoted to both.
  • Ditch the books. I can’t believe I am admitting this…. but I sold my soul and got a Kindle. I feel paper-book loving self dying a little as I type that, but I can’t travel with books… and I can’t travel without them. FORGIVE ME.

But beyond that, I would love some tips as I pack this week for my flight to Paris on Friday. Any tips for actually managing to plan for five weeks, three countries, and multiple climates in one carry-on sized suitcase?  More importantly, any good ebook recommendations? Let’s put that Kindle to use!


Photos : 1 / 2

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