Those who really know me will tell you I am a homebody. I gravitate toward familiar places, people and routines. However, becoming a photographer has forced me to push my boundaries and, over the years, has taught me to appreciate and now even crave new travel experiences. Though even with all the incredible destinations my work takes me, I’m still always eager to return home.
This spring, during a Mariners game with my friends at Alaska Air, I mentioned how their airline has always been a version of home to me. Growing up in Washington I found comfort in having an airline that I could trust the same way I do the rest of my cozy world — especially with the uncertainties that come with traveling to new places. Just as a quick note: no, Alaska Air is not paying me to gush about them, they asked to hear my honest thoughts and share any insight.
Home. I know there are very obvious, literal versions of home, but this time, home was a close friend and a listening ear.
One of my best friends, Andrea, is staying in France this summer. Usually visiting her means taking a quick flight on Alaska Air from Seattle to Kalispell, MT, near Whitefish, where she lives. But during the summer, she travels back to France to see her family so I had not seen her for quite some time.
This year has been a heavy one for me personally, a lot of heartache, death and sadness in my family, and I really needed quality time with a friend. I gravitate to the familiar and people who I feel most at home with. I decided I needed to book a trip to France to see Andrea.
I arrived in Paris after a reasonably quick flight from NYC. I was feeling confident and happy to be back in a place I loved. It won’t be a surprise to hear that within an hour of landing in the morning that I was already running into problems. I had taken one train to a bigger train station to head toward Poitiers (and Andrea), only to arrive and be told the train was cancelled. Now, Andrea swears that this never happens… so of course it happened that day. ;) I took a train *back* to the airport and bought a late evening ticket to Andrea, and sat for a couple hours with some Pellegrino and Pringles. The flights were a breeze, the trains… well –– lets just say they need to earn my trust back. Thankfully, the trip got a *lot* better from there.
We spent the week exploring her old stomping grounds, catching up over home cooked meals, visiting the local markets, and obviously indulging in all the cheese and pastries we could find. We met with some local friends of hers, and drove to the coast to Biarritz… a dreamy beach town full of charm, tasty treats and beautiful people. We swam in a warm ocean –– and later found sand in every corner and crevasse of our clothes and bags. I forgot to put sunblock on my bum, drove for the first time in a European country, pushed myself creatively with our photoshoots, and had some real, honest conversations. We laughed to tears, talked about our futures, and put away our cameras for a good dose of the trip to simply savor the moments. It's a funny feeling, how you can be across the world, but with the right people, you still feel right at home.
Some of my favorite spots we visited:
La Flotte in Île de Ré
This place. Ask Andrea, I was running around like a puppy who’s happy tail wags its entire body. Street after street we would stumble upon tiny gardens, beautiful windows and doors and cobblestone paths. Because folks in France go on holiday during the summer, we enjoyed a really quiet afternoon wandering the streets.
A truly special city. We arrived after a long drive through traffic- Andrea couldn’t stop talking about Biarritz and all the special memories it held. She grew up visiting her grandparents, who live just down the road from the beach. The weather got a little crummy, but it didn’t take away from the experience. We had lunch at Miremont, a tea house established in 1872. Don’t even get me started on the pastries. Let’s just say I’m leaving a little more round than when I arrived and it was worth every bite.
The beaches near Biarritz
If I close my eyes I can still feel the soft breeze and salty mist on my skin. The ocean has forever been deeply rooted in my heart; so many memories with the people I love most. But swimming in a warm salt water –– that I don’t get to do very often, so this was a special treat.
Some of the spots we visited were Les Casernes, La Grande Plage, Miramar and Les cult Nuls, the last one translates to “bare butts beach”. I don’t have any photos from the last one, but yes, I felt extremely overdressed in my little bikini. ;)
The place where we spent most of our time, and where Andrea’s parents live. The thing that drew me in most about Poitiers is its warm, lived-in feeling. Like a familiar chair, that over the years retains its shape and holds its timeless style, but feels cozy and comfortable. Andrea practiced her patience while I insisted on taking another lap around the block (for the 4th time), or searched for the quaint cheese shop I was adamant about finding. (We did find it on the last day, and it did NOT disappoint.)
I’ll forever be giddy about Paris. Though it comes with its tourists and occasional chaos, it still has a magic it’ll never shake. The moment you watch the sun disappear over La Seine and the golden historical buildings fade to blue–– the street lights pop up and the hustle and bustle of the evening slowly comes to life. It’s painfully romantic, and lives up to every mushy stereotype, but in a sweet, honest way. I spent a day wandering the streets before my flight home, and I’m certain I had a stupid grin plastered on my face for most of it.
When flying to France, I completely trusted Andrea’s judgment about places to visit, where to eat, what to do. In the same way, I trust Alaska Air to get me to where I need to go. Though they do not fly directly to France, I was able to fly them to NYC and nicely break up my long travel time. The rest of the way I used my Alaska Air points to book with one of their partner airlines, all that I had saved up by using my Alaska Air credit card. Even though not all the flights were on Alaska Air, the entire itinerary still lives on my Alaska Air app, so I don't have to hunt around looking for flight details while en route.
My trip was not at all what I expected it to be, while being exactly what I hoped it would be. I felt at home in a new place, because of the people involved. Turns out home often has very little to do with an exact, physical location, but everything to do with the ones you share your moments with.
In Collaboration with Alaska Air. #sponsored