It’s not life changing, but it’s life affirming. This trip to Europe. For background, I’ve never had a lot of money. Growing up, my parents didn’t travel much. We drove down to Florida once. I only went to college because I had a high school art teacher who highly suggested I apply to art school. Going to Europe felt like I had won a contest. Like it was a prize I had won and I owe someone hugs and thank you letters. Part of me still doesn’t believe I paid for it on my own. That I worked for it and I got there.

I drifted on a lake on a rowboat in Versailles, I took naps on the cold rocky beaches in northern France, had waffles stumbling around a concert in Brugges at midnight, I took trains through the Netherlands, Belgium, and rode into Paris with a week of traveling already under my belt. And I paid for the places I stayed, for the food I ate, for the few items I returned home with that would fit in my tiny yellow backpack.

It all sounds normal and fine, I know. It makes sense. You work hard, save, prioritize, spend money according to the things you want to do… but to live it. To see fireworks exploding behind the Eiffel Tower, to wake up in a medieval town with nothing to do but explore, to fumble through broken French ordering pastries at a patisserie because everything you’ve done (the crying over work not being good enough, editing at 2 a.m. because you just want to finish, answering emails sitting on the floor of airport hallways to have access to power adapters) has gotten you there.

The end result of my travel isn’t bragging rights, because it’s something a lot of people get to do. It’s not a pin in a personal map, and, truthfully, it isn’t even the photos.

With all the pictures I’ve taken, I will be the first to admit that the photos are not the reward. However, they’re the best part of it all because they are proof of the experience. All photos are expressions of ideas and events. They’re meant to encapsulate how it felt to take naps in grassy fields with three other amazing people. To take you back to each one of those moments and for you to feel their glory. And I’m so glad I get to share them with you now.

I posted my photos from Amsterdam and Brugges a bit earlier. It was beautiful and a bit poetic, but that was Bruges. This… is Paris.

Dylan, SaraSam and I arrived by train in Paris and walked our way through the city to our small place in Montemarte. We stay in the most amazing apartment. I wonder about the girl that owns it. She’s pretty and married. I like the way she decorates.

(I could give details of my trip, but since there a lot of photos to go through, here are the Cliff’s notes:)

On the first day, Sara and I went to buy desserts, explore, and shop a little. I spent an evening watching Perriot le Fou alone in the bedroom of the apartment. And Versailles! Versailles is amazing. Lying in the grass in the gardens with royal music playing, renting a boat for 13€ and taking turns rowing and taking photos on the water. In July Paris was hot, but not sticky and we laid in the grass and sat on steps and benches more times than I can count. We had dinner with Parisian photographer (Texan native) Stacy Reeves and her husband a few times. They took us to Bastille Day and we sat on their blankets to watch the fireworks, had us taste rose macarons at Ladurée on a rooftop, then took us to Marais for more exploring.

And this is how I remember Paris.

[audio:http://www.nessakphotography.com//audio/_Tous les garçons et les filles.mp3]

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All Paris, Montmartre, and Versailles photographs by wedding photographer Nessa K