Coffee Travel Moments

           The words 'coffee' and 'travel' do not seem to fit together very well these days as we continue dealing with Covid-19. But as the pandemic continues, we can still sip our coffees and travel through our past vacation photos or delve into adventures abroad through books.                                         

         One thing we are learning is to appreciate what we have. And most of all, to appreciate the people we have in our lives. These are difficult times for sure, especially being limited as to who we can visit and spend time with. But things never stay the same for long, and good things are always on the horizon. 


          In the fall of 2019, I returned from a trip to London and Paris with my daughter.  I thought I’d share some Coffee Travel Moments, from that trip. I have about twenty coffee photos and with each I’ll add a few other photos of the place where we stopped, accompanied with a bit of story and history. Hope you will enjoy these! You will find these posts also on my  Facebook author page @kimlouiseclarkeauthor 


COFFEE TRAVEL MOMENTS #20                                  Back home outside, Calgary

        My daughter and I had a fantastic time in Europe! London and Paris have so much to offer in their culture, their history, and their people. It was wonderful to get to know those cities a little bit better.

        It was particularly interesting being there in October with the lovely colours—especially when the sun came out. We decided that walking in the sometimes heavy rain and managing our black umbrellas, added to our adventure.

        Now at home, the travelling continues, but on a much smaller scale. And so my last coffee photo is my travel mug. And travelling about the city with a hot coffee, although it cools much too quickly, brings a touch of warmth and comfort. Winter may not officially arrive until the December 21st winter solstice, but the snow-covered ground, trees, and roads say it’s already here.

        Despite the snow, ice, and cold, I appreciate the abundance of sunshine in our big prairie skies. And on that sunny note, I hope you have enjoyed my coffee travel posts. Thank you for following along and thank you for the comments and the ‘likes’.


COFFEE TRAVEL MOMENTS #19                                         

Back home, Calgary

          I am two Euro-posts shy of twenty, so these last two posts will have a local flavour to them.

          Part of visiting museums on our European vacation, always included time to browse the gift shops. The temptation often grew strong to purchase a coffee cup in many of the wonderfully colourful gift stores. But I remained disciplined and didn’t buy any. Had I given in, the cups would have added to an already full shelf back home.

          I bought one of my favourite coffee cups from previous travels in New York in 2005. Its’ colourful ‘M’s represent the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). I bought it as a gift for my ‘M’om. She passed away almost ten years ago, and the cup found its way back to me, where I now consider it ‘m’ine.

          The things I buy in my travels as souvenirs and gifts provide me with meaningful memories of people and places, but my memories from London and Paris won’t come from coffee cups this time. Instead, I returned with a few tea towels, bookmarks, and a tin of Harrods hot chocolate.



The Champs-Élysées, Paris

          It was early evening but the overcast skies made the walk along the Champs-Élysées seem so much later. If we walked the entire length from Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe we would cover almost two kilometres. But we didn’t. The metro station brought us up somewhere in the middle.

We began our walk up towards the Arc de Triomphe, passing by the luxury stores, restaurants, and nightclubs lining both sides of the street.

          As we walked, I couldn’t help but feel the power of words. Some words outside an impressive store seemed to shimmer like gold on glass with a touch of intimidation. Words such as Cartier, Giorgio Armani, Tiffany & Co., and Gucci.

          The words, Louis Vuitton, had people standing underneath them, in a growing lineup, waiting their turn to have their moment of time inside the store.

          Other words, like Marks & Spencer and Footlocker, gave me a sense of comfort, as if the words themselves were clothes that fit me a little bit better than others.

          We settled on the words, Bistro 25. There, at a little round table, we sat in navy and white diamond pattern chairs and enjoyed our coffees.

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COFFEE TRAVEL MOMENTS #17                                          The Bon Marche, Paris

      We neared the Cluny Museum, France’s National Museum of the Middle Ages, where years ago I had thoroughly enjoyed exploring on my own. Since I knew the place well, I felt like I was part owner, and I was very excited to show my daughter.

       But the museum had changed and I was exceedingly disappointed. A modernized entryway with increased security (implemented because of the recent Paris terrorists’ attacks) had replaced the quaint historic courtyard entry. Further disappointment came when we discovered the ancient Roman baths the museum was built around were closed for viewing.

       Afterwards, we headed for the Bon Marche, built in 1838 as the first department store in Paris. It too had changed. The only things familiar to me were the escalators. We searched for the café I had enjoyed on my first night in Paris years ago. It had all but vanished. Finding any other café and even a washroom became quite frustrating, as the store’s signage led us down busy aisles to cashier desks, merchandise displays, and mirrored pillars, but not where we wanted to be.

       With sore feet, we happened past the crowded open café we had tried before, but this time found an empty table which we quickly secured. I appreciated a framed signed on the table in English, which read, “NO LAPTOP on this table please. Listening to the music, talking to your neighbour, or reading is widely encouraged. Merci.“

       We obeyed the sign, during this much-needed break. We enjoyed coffee and a shared piece of cake, while we listened to the music, chatted, and read tourist pamphlets.   External link opens in new tab or window              External link opens in new tab or window


COFFEE TRAVEL MOMENTS #16                                          Les Deux Magots, Paris

          In 1873, a Parisian novelty shop relocated to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. The original shop contained two eastern figurines which were relocated as well. The word magots actually translates to figures from the east. The shop converted into a splendid café in 1885, and took the name Les Deux Magots.

          I had not done my research, and so I was unaware of the two eastern figures mounted high on a huge pillar, and their significance. Of course, I would have taken a photo so the one I am posting is from another source.

          Like most cafes in Paris, Les Deux Magots flows out the doors into a sidewalk bistro. It may be average in size but it is huge in other ways.

          It’s huge in history. Many of the patrons came from the literary and artistic communities, such as Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso. Eventually the café began to sponsor an annual literary prize and continues to do so today.

          It’s huge in popularity. Gifts and books related to the café are available for sale. I would often see Les Deux Magots featured on tourist sites. The café draws in the crowds. Fortunately we had no problem getting a table for lunch.   External link opens in new tab or window



Palace of Versailles, Versailles France

       The Palace of Versailles is a World Heritage Site, and was on our list of places to see. We easily spent a full day taking in, not only the palace itself, but also the surrounding gardens, groves, lawns, courtyards, chapels, pavilions, towers, amphitheatre, sculptures, fountains, pools, baths, and bridges.

       We stopped midway for lunch where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette once lived, again at an Angélina Restaurant.

       The palace didn’t begin with 2,300 rooms and acres of garden and ponds, but rather as a hunting pavilion for King Louis XIII. With each successive French king, came more embellishments to Versailles’ palace and grounds. In 1682, Louis XIV had his residence and the French government headquarters moved from Paris to Versailles.

      But in the late 18th Century this trend came to an end. The French Revolution with its revolt against the monarchy brought Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to the guillotines at Place de la Concorde in Paris, and brought an end to any further expansion to the Palace and its grounds.

      Over time, the Palace of Versailles and all its gardens evolved as a museum and became a place completely open to the public—a magnificent place for anyone to visit.

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COFFEE TRAVEL MOMENTS #14                                      Nouvel Hotel, Paris

        Once a boarding school for girls, Nouvel Hotel is now a clean, comfortable, family-run hotel. It is in the 12th arrondissement and close to a metro station, so we usually had only a few stops to reach major attractions.

        Over time, I have learned when travelling not to make assumptions. So, when we entered our hotel room, I was delighted to find a kettle, complete with packages of tea, sugar, creamers, and most importantly—coffee. It was instant coffee, but it was still a form of coffee.

        The first morning I discovered that one little packet of coffee is equivalent to an extremely strong espresso. In the following days, I more accurately judged the amount of instant coffee and came up with the best cup possible.

         Unlike the hotel views in the many movies filmed in Paris, I was not able to drink my coffee while looking out at the spectacular Eiffel Tower in the distance. Instead, from the narrow space between one of the beds and the window, I could look out at the walls of buildings and a roof directly below. Or I could sit on my bed and look at the flat screen TV attached to the wall and catch up on world events.

         During our five days in Paris, I came to look forward to my morning coffee in a small paper cup. I appreciated it for it’s simplicity. It was memorable. It was perfect.                              External link opens in new tab or window



Galeries Lafayette, Paris

        Across from the Paris Opera, we entered the Galeries Lafayette, advertised as a ‘department store’. In 1893, two cousins decided to open a small shop selling novelty items. Bit by bit they acquired more property and expanded into selling luxury merchandise.

        To describe it today as a ‘department store’ hardly does it justice. It is so much more than that. The building’s forty-three metre high neo-Byzantine colourful glass dome immediately convinced me that this was an astounding work of art. The six spacious floors, all architecturally beautiful, open out to the centre and the dome above.

         Of the more than a dozen places to stop for lunch, we chose Angélina, a tea-room and boutique complete with white marbled walls, gilding, and ornate chandeliers. As I fussed with my coffee cup, saucer, and spoon for the right photo, attempting to include a chandelier or two in the background, I was delighted to see a man a few tables over doing the same.

         The Galeries Lafayette began as a small idea that grew into something magnificent. I thought how important it is to seriously consider the ideas we conceive, rather than dismissing them. Who knows where God will lead us when we advance our ideas into plans and then take that first step to implement them?                                  External link opens in new tab or window 


COFFEE TRAVEL MOMENTS #12                                       

Palais Garnier, Paris

           Our day began on the metro to the Palais Garnier, Paris’s famous Opéra House built in the late 1800’s and designed by Charles Garnier. The Opéra House had yet to open, so we entered a café across the street, called le Relais Paris Opéra. Pairs of delicate ballet slippers made up part of the café’s chandelier. It’s not surprising that such a spectacular building has influenced nearby businesses.

           With views to the Opéra House, we enjoyed our café creme and cappuccino along with crêpes and petite pastries. Then just after 10:00 a.m., we entered into the splendour and opulence of the Palais Garnier. We wandered about freely viewing the magnificent central white marble staircase from various levels.

           Eventually, we came upon the Library-Museum where rows and rows of orderly books lined the walls. This museum houses thousands of documents that together provide a vast historical record of the operas and ballets of Paris going back three centuries.

           The pavilion that contained the library had originally been designed as the private entrance for Napoleon III, who had commissioned the building of the Opéra House. Sadly, he died before it’s completion in 1875.                                             External link opens in new tab or window


 COFFEE TRAVEL MOMENTS #11                                       Notre Dame, Paris

      The fenced-off Notre Dame Cathedral, built between the years 1163 and 1345, stands closed to worshippers and tourists, and will for some time. We walked by on the left bank, staring at the construction site, where rebuilding from the April 15, 2019 fire was well underway.

      It was sobering to see building cranes stationed at different angles and on all sides of this magnificent structure. The cloudiness of the Paris morning seemed to agree. Like so many historical buildings, fire, revolution, and conflict are part of their story and now Notre Dame can add another chapter. 

      Across the Seine from Notre Dame we found Café Panis and there enjoyed another petite dejeuner. The views to Notre Dame from the café’s windows reminded me that much of what we might view as strong and enduring is actually temporary and frail. Only in Christ can we discover what is eternal and indestructible.



Shakespeare and Company, Paris

       Is there anything more wonderful than coming upon a little bookstore? Well, perhaps there are more wonderful things – but for me, this is always a travel highlight. And coming upon little bookstores is becoming a rare thing in our world.

       On rue de la Bûcherie across the Seine from Notre Dame, you will find the quaint English-language bookstore, Shakespeare & Company, founded by American George Whitman. The bookstore opened in 1951 in what was once a 17th Century Monastery.

        "I created this bookstore like a man would write a novel, building each room like a chapter, and I like people to open the door the way they open a book, a book that leads into a magic world in their imaginations." —George Whitman     External link opens in new tab or window

        I’ve bought several books here before, and this time I bought a Ruth Rendell mystery. As a bonus, customers can receive the bookstore’s famous stamp on the title page.

         The new Café Shakespeare & Company opened in the fall of 2015 and sits right beside the bookstore. When we are sitting beside a 17th Century building, anything in 2015 is ‘new’. The few tables inside were occupied so we took our cappuccino and Americano to the tables outside, giving us a great place to slow down, enjoy a coffee, and enjoy the views.

         I would recommend on your travels, when you come upon that little bookstore, don’t just go in and browse around—support them, and come out having bought a book or two!



Palais de Chaillot and Trocadero Gardens, Paris

       When Paris hosted the 1878 World’s Fair, the first Palais de Chaillot was built on a low hill, across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. It was subsequently replaced for the 1937 World’s Fair, hosted again in Paris. It is this palace and its grounds that attract many tourists today.

       The Palais de Chaillot houses three museums and an aquarium. At the foot of the palace, the Trocadero gardens contain lovely green spaces, a pond with the largest fountain in Paris, sculptures, statues, and an ornate carousal.

       What impressed me was the expansiveness of the concrete plaza and its broad stairways which offer great views of the Eiffel Tower. There were dozens of tourists with their cameras on this chilly October morning, but they were also joined by a crew, filming a car advertisement.

        Near the Palace, we stopped at the café, Le Malakoff, and we both ordered petit déjeuner (coffee, orange juice, and croissant). Sitting with our morning coffee in the cool air, I thought about this particular place and the changes it has seen. What was once heavily occupied by the Nazis, and where Hitler had posed for a triumphal photo in front of the Eiffel Tower, is now a place of freedom.

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Ibis Styles London Gloucester Hotel, London

       Breakfast was included in our stay at the Ibis Styles London Gloucester Hotel but there was nothing straightforward about finding the breakfast room. A disruption caused by a broken lift, forced us to venture down a narrow corridor, take the stairs down and around the corner, follow the hallway to more stairs down, then turn the corner to a hallway that suddenly led us into a crowded breakfast room. 

        It was always worth the inconvenience, not only because of the good breakfast, but also because of the coffee machine. Each morning I could choose an instant and delicious: coffee, latte, cappuccino, macchiato, or hot chocolate.

        The hotel’s ‘theme’ was based on the London underground. The fun carpet showed subway lines and dots for subway stations, and the famous instruction of “Mind the gap”. In 1843 the world’s first tunnel was built underneath a river. This engineering marvel under the Thames River began what is now the London underground system, often referred to as the London tube.

         Today, small colourful tube maps are widely available at every station. I usually carried several, one in my purse, one in my pocket, and one in my hand. When on the tube, I’d often glance at maps posted up above my head for confirmation. Despite some of my mistakes, like exiting the train at the wrong station, we found it a simple matter getting  around the city as long as we remained attentive to the signs, stations, and stops - much like following the signs to get to our morning coffee.         


The Churchill Arms Pub, London

          After walking along the many blocks of the lively Portobello Road market, we rounded the corner and made our way along Kensington Church Street to the Churchill Arms Public House in Notting Hill. Built in 1750 it is one of London’s the most elaborately decorated pubs. Depending on the season, flowers, greenery, and lights decorate the exterior. Churchill’s grandparents frequented this pub in the 1800’s, and so the name was changed to Churchill Arms, after WWII. 

          We entered and found a lively place that I would describe simply as ‘full’. Not only did laughter, conversation, people, tables, and beer fill the place, but it was also filled with Churchill memorabilia (posters, signs, flags) on the walls, and counters, and hanging from the ceiling.

          Around a corner, we found an available table. We knew by now, that if we wanted any service, it was up to us to approach the bar and place our order. No one would be coming to our table. We ordered our coffees and enjoyed the lively atmosphere, taking in all there was to see in this historic building. 

          I didn’t need to ask staff about the washroom’s location. A large picture of Churchill sitting in an armchair, cigar in hand, hung on the dark wall near our table. Above the picture hung a small poster which read: “MEN to the left because WOMEN are always right.”

          If you are not acquainted with the quotes of Winston Churchill you are missing out on words of wit, humour, determination, and courage.  External link opens in new tab or window


COFFEE TRAVEL MOMENTS #6                                            St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London

          With tickets in hand for the “Downton Abbey” movie at the Empire Cinema on Haymarket, and an hour to wait, we walked around Piccadilly Circus and then Trafalgar Square. We knew we’d soon be munching on popcorn, so we looked for a place to simply sit for a while, but not eat. We noticed a church, St. Martins-in-the-Fields, on a corner of Trafalgar Square.

          The current church structure dates back to the early 1700’s, but as is often the case, the church site dates back to medieval times.      

          We entered hoping to view the sanctuary and perhaps sit down. Because a concert was underway, the man at the door said we were welcomed downstairs at the Café in the Crypt. The café offered a quiet spaciousness. We bought hot chocolates (too late at night for coffee!) and easily found a table, where worn engravings of the dead and buried lined the floor, and the brick vaulted ceilings curved up and around us.

          The dead may be there still, but the church’s focus is on the living. The staff and congregation work with the youth, the refugees, and the homeless. Approximately four thousand people are helped annually, attention given to their housing, medical, and educational needs. You don’t need to see the sanctuary to see the church. The real church are people in action, following Christ by serving others.

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Kensington Palace, London

           On our tour of Kensington Palace, it was of no surprise that we did not meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who reside in a portion of this immense palace. But in a way, I felt I ‘met’ Queen Victoria.  We toured the rooms where she lived as a child and enjoyed a dramatized conversation between the queen and one of her daughters. 

          Despite all her books, dollhouses, and toys, Victoria experienced great unhappiness in childhood. The extreme protection placed upon her felt like imprisonment. Victoria became Queen of Great Britain at the age of eighteen, when her uncle, King William IV, died. She immediately instigated numerous changes. She had her bed moved out of her mother’s room, and she forbade the practice of always being accompanied when going down a set of stairs.

          After our tour, we crossed a green space to a garden café. Here, I broke a self-imposed rule. We did not have coffee. Rather, we had tea, which seemed more appropriate having stepped into the Victorian Era at a Royal British Palace. Because it was past 3:00 in the afternoon, we missed High Tea. Still, we enjoyed our tea with exquisite desserts.

         Now, knowing more about Queen Victoria, I looked forward to reading more about her and watching the movies that portray her life.   External link opens in new tab or window 


Coffee Travel Moments #4
Caffé Concerto, London

          When we left Selfridge’s Department Store, we fought the wind that tried to turn our umbrellas inside out. Undeterred we ventured over to Carnaby Street: a popular, cool, colourful, and hip place of fashion, music, and just hanging out in the 1960’s.

          A bit wet and feet sore as always, we came out at Shaftesbury Avenue and began searching for a place to sit and have a break, maybe something to eat. The several pubs and cafés we passed looked ok, but did not have us stepping inside. Indecision, tired feet, and rain are never a good combination.

          We then noticed Caffé Concerto, a café with large windows showing people sitting comfortably at small round tables; a place lit up and distinguishing itself from the dull buildings, grey sidewalks, and bleak overcast sky. Once shown to our table we shed our raincoats and sat down. While waiting for our lattes and desert, I began to absorb the surrounding colours, textures, and feelings. So many words could describe the welcoming ambiance: warm, cozy, quaint, light, soft, velvety, pretty, dainty, comfortable, classy, and more or less affordable.

          Sometimes you arrive at a place that is seemingly perfect, a place that provides exactly what you need and want. It’s the kind of place, that if you purposely set out to find, you never would. You enter it only because you stumble upon it.

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St. Paul's Cathedral, London

          In AD 604 a cathedral to St. Paul was constructed in London. Over the next thousand years the cathedral endured a regular pattern of destruction (usually by fire) followed by re-construction. The St. Paul’s that stands today dates back to the late 1600’s thanks to the amazing architect, Christopher Wren.

          Daily worship services are open to anyone wanting to join. How wonderful to sit, listen, pray, and look around. But so much for sitting—we climbed 528 steps to the outside Golden Gallery for incredible views of the London skyline.

          But so much for the heights—we descended the 528 steps and another 38 as we ventured down into the crypt beneath the church. There in the depths, sitting among the living and the dead, we enjoyed cake and coffee at the cafe. Some of the nearby dead are: Arthur Wellesley. 1st Duke of Wellington, Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir Christopher Wren, with additional memorials to Florence Nightingale and William Blake.

          Many of the buried I knew nothing about such as Henry Venn, B.D. Engraved are the words: Prebendary of this Cathedral for Thirty Years, Born February 10, 1796, Died January 13, 1873. “Steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” I wondered about his life and I wondered what ‘prebendary’ meant. I imagined how interesting it would have been to have some of the dead join our table (just briefly for a coffee) to share more of their life story.

Note: ‘prebendary’ – a clergyman receiving a prebend (stipend) for their church work.                        External link opens in new tab or window



The Charles Dickens Museum, London


          At 48 Doughty Street in London, you will find the Charles Dickens Museum where Charles, his wife Catherine, and their children lived for a time in the 1830’s. The museum extends to #49 where, in the garden café, we enjoyed coffee, quiche, salad, and cake. Our tour of this five-level house took us into the kitchen, scullery, wine cellar, dining room, drawing room, morning room, and study.  

           In Dickens' study sits his writing desk and a large collection of books. Dickens maintained a strict schedule, writing every morning without interruption. Long walks, charity work, and visiting took up his afternoons. His writings among many others include Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Little Dorrit, and A Tale of Two Cities. How many of Dickens' works have you read? External link opens in new tab or window



The Churchill War Rooms Museum - London, England

       It’s easy to get lost in the maze of rooms and corridors that make up the Churchill War Rooms – the underground bunker where Winston Churchill spent much of his time with ministers, advisers, and chiefs of staff in strategizing and making decisions to win the war.

       Designated rooms provided organization and efficiency. Besides dormitories and private officers’ rooms, we walked past rooms for switchboard operators and typists. Rooms for meetings and for maps.

      Here, words remained in secrecy.

      Here, words were broadcast across the nation. Churchill’s addresses to the British people brought encouragement and inspiration.

       But here, other words came to my mind, an act of remembrance:

 “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

   Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

                                                        At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

                                                                  We will remember them.”      (Laurence Binyon)