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On Craving Solitude

Overlook on the Pacific Coast Highway Towards Manzanita

I’ve read somewhere that there are two kinds of people. The first kind gains energy by being social and spending time around other people. The second kind makes their own energy, but needs to recharge by being alone, often in pursuit of things they enjoy. I am definitely the latter. While I enjoy an occasional get-together, I know that I NEED time to myself.

It is hard to believe, but this Sunday was the first time in four and a half years that I had a full day completely to myself.

Why had it taken me so long? Maybe guilt. Maybe always feeling like I needed to be there for the kids. Or make family time happen on the weekend days that David is home and not out fishing. I told myself that doing what was good for my family was the same as doing what was good for me. But over time I’ve realized that is not right. What is good for me is what is good for me.

haystack rock, cannon beach, OregonHaystack Rock, Cannon Beach

So, on Sunday, David took the kids to the zoo in the morning, and I packed myself for a day trip doing whatever I wanted (after I ran a couple errands, of course). I packed an extra jacket, a pair of sandals, my camera, a book, and the dog and headed to the beach.

Oh. My. Goodness. I felt positively giddy knowing I could do whatever I wanted! I could take my time, listen to whatever music I wanted, sing at the top of my lungs. I could stop anywhere to look around and take photos (which I did). I could eat wherever I chose for lunch, not worrying if it was kid friendly. I never felt rushed, or impatient, or worn down. I felt carefree and unburdened. Like being fully alive again after being only half-alive for a while.

Giant Driftwood, Manzanita

Needless to say, it was very good for me (and for Barkley. He doesn’t get many opportunities to wander off-leash like this). We were so happy, the two of us.

Eventually the day ended and we returned. And we were fine with that. Glad to be back, feeling refreshed. That was a couple days ago, but the effect of that time still lingers. I can tell in the way I have gone back to doing the same old things – making meals, changing diapers, interacting with the kids. I have more patience, more energy, and a better attitude.

bruce's candy kitchen, cannon beach, oregon coastA shot from inside Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, Cannon Beach. I treated myself to a piece of dark chocolate-covered seafoam and some haribo gummi cola bottles.

It is true that I don’t have the proverbial “village.” My generation is increasingly spread far and wide from what used to be traditional extended-family units. Its unfortunate. But it doesn’t mean I can’t have days like this when I need them. I don’t like the idea of leaving my children and husband behind, but in the end we all benefit.

What I need to do is make this a priority for myself. Hopefully, with practice, it will get easier.

The photos above are ones I instagrammed during my day. Do you use instagram? I finally decided to join the tide couple weeks ago. You can find paperseed on instagram here.


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Christmas 2012 Recap

I am so proud of myself! I just realized that I had remembered to “lock” some photos to my camera before I downloaded and deleted the memory card in Colorado! I had transferred them to an SD card, but they weren’t there when I got home. Luckily, copies are still on my father-in-law’s computer, and he will send me a CD. Until then, I still have some of my favorites!

I often think how Chloe and Leo have no idea how lucky they are. After all, Santa and Mrs. Claus have come to visit them at their grandparent’s house for two years in a row. Can you imagine?! You can see Chloe’s expression when they came to the door here (if there is a next time, I’ll have to get it on video!). Leo, naturally, wasn’t quite as enthusiastic. However, it was great fun, and that night we had an amazing Osso Bucco dinner made by Grandma Sandy. And, as if on cue, we were surprised by the biggest group of neighborhood carolers I have ever seen later that night!

We also did some other fun “firsts” during our week in Colorado, including attending the children’s Christmas mass at the local Catholic church, had a very exciting visit to the North Pole Santa’s Workshop, a storybook-like theme park not far from Colorado Springs, AND went on our very first horse-drawn sleigh ride! Wow! It was crazy to get to play in the snow and go sledding one day and then turn around and hop a flight to Cancun the next.

It is tempting to think the rest of this year will be very boring in comparison, but somehow, I don’t think so…

More photos from this trip are on Flickr.


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Happy New Year from Cancun!

We just returned from an amazing two week adventure – first in snowy Colorado for sledding, sleigh rides and Christmastime, followed by a five-day once-in-a-lifetime stay at a resort in Cancun! Looking back, it almost seems too good to be true, but we all lived it and I have photos, too!

Since my card-reader is acting up, all I have right now are iPhone photos from Cancun to share. Here are some of my favorites with more on Flickr. We stayed at Barcelo Maya Palace which is an all-inclusive resort on the Riviera Maya, where we met up with David’s parents, his brothers and their families.

Chloe loved getting to spend time with everyone, especially her cousin Paolo. Leo, on the other hand, wanted to pretty much stick to me like a barnacle, although he loved the water and the sand every bit as much as his sister. For New Year’s Eve, grandma and grandpa watched the kids so the three couples could enjoy a peaceful five-course dinner and then ring in the New Year right on the beach.

There were a ton of activities available on the resort for both adults and kids, and because Chloe and Leo are still so young we stayed on the resort the entire time. My hope is that we”ll come back one day when the kids are older and see the famous sites like Tulum and Xel-ha and swim in a cenote (the third photo above is a tiny cenote they had on the property).

My very favorite thing, besides the sunshine, was holding hands while snorkeling with David. My least favorite thing was dining with the kids at the buffet, since neither could sit still for very long and Leo always seemed to make a mess. The food was incredible though. I tried a little bit of everything – duck, quail, rabbit, giant crayfish, crab, lobster and so many other fish and specialty dishes. And the desserts! More choices at one time than I’ll probably every see again in my life. Truly a vacation of a lifetime!

P.S. If you happen to choose a stay at any section of the Barceló Maya resort, we found this unnofficial web site to be really helpful.

 


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Camping with the kids

This past weekend we took the kids camping at Nehalem Bay State Park. It was… challenging. Not that it wasn’t worth it… it just… took a lot of effort. There were times we had to remind ourselves that home was less than two hours away and we could leave at any time. But hey, we did it! The kids had a great time playing on the beach both days – soaking up the sun, splashing in the water, flying the kite, and generally getting sand everywhere. The hardest part was in the evening, I think. Of course the kids couldn’t get to sleep on time, were occasionally loud which I worried bothered our fellow campers, and then there were “incidences” – like when Leo jabbed himself in the eye with a fork and I feared that we’d have to rush to the hospital, or when Chloe fell face first into the fire pit, scraping her face, bloodying her nose and getting soot all over herself. And sleeping, well… we only have 3 sleeping bags, so I shared mine with Leo, which was kind of awkward, and I kept waking up all night wondering if he or Chloe was cold.

Anyways, it was a good learning experience (and exercise in patience!). Next time we are going to do what our neighbors are doing this week, and getting a yurt. 🙂
More photos can be seen here.


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Hello

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Hello from Washington DC! The kids and I are here visiting my parents and sister, and yesterday we spent an incredible 80 degree day admiring the cherry blossoms.

Packing for this trip was a major challenge. All of our things had to fit into a single piece of luggage. Snacks, baby items, necessities, and kid entertainment for the 5+ hour trip were contained in the carry on. And then there was a stroller and infant car seat (thank goodness my dad already had one for Chloe!). Quite a lot to handle. Luckily David helped us through ticketing and my parents were waiting for us when we arrived.

One of the hardest things to leave behind was my dSLR camera. It had been a year since we last visited, plus it was the first time my dad and sister would get to meet Leo. But in the end It was too bulky. So I just have my iPhone camera with me. This would be a good time to learn how to use some of the photography apps i’ve downloaded and never used. The one I have used is Photoshop Express. The top photo has been enhanced using the “vibrant” effect.

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Bainbridge Island

Last week was full of adventures. At the beginning of the week David took a few days off and we rented a tiny beach cottage on Bainbridge Island on Puget Sound (that is Chloe above, playing right out front). We hung out, played by the water, checked out the parks and sampled a few local eateries (our picks: Treehouse Cafe, Blackbird Cafe, Pegasus Coffee House, Sawadty Thai, and not to be missed Mora’s Ice Cream. If we had a bigger budget and a baby sitter we totally would have tried Cafe Nola. Just reading their menu – bacon wrapped peaches! – made me salivate).


That chunky peach pecan muffin at Pegasus Cafe was super-yummy, and the ivy that covered the building was like out of a fairytale. There was a lively group of what looked to be local old men just chatting away. Maybe they get together and hang out there every morning.


The waterfront marina behind the cafe.


Chloe had a blast exploring this huge play structure at Battle Point Park.


Chloe and David at Fay Bainbridge State Park.


Chloe’s first ferry ride, Bainbridge Island to Seattle on the “Tacoma.”


Getting a rare photo of Leo and I while watching the islands go by from the ferry.

Later in the week we packed up again and headed to the Oregon coast for a family gathering with David’s work. They generously put us up in a plush 2-bedroom beach house just steps from the sand. At one point David took Chloe to play on the beach and, for the first time in a long while, I was able to browse the little shops in Manzanita at my own pace, with Leo sleeping peacefully on my chest in his carrier. I really enjoyed that dose of solitude. How different life is now from just a few short years ago. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

(More photos of our Bainbridge Island trip are here).


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The neglected toddler

These photos were taken at Rainbow Trout Farm a few weeks ago where Chloe got her first “real” fishing experience. David insists that Chloe will be a champion fly-fisher one day, so he is starting her down the path to success. Leo was only 2 weeks old then. He mostly slept through the whole experience.

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In the case of a toddler versus newborn scenario, it is almost certain to be the toddler who gets shafted. I feel like I’m always asking Chloe to “hold on” while I see to Leo’s needs first (feeding, diaper changing, whatever) before I can get Chloe what she wants (anything from setting her up with a project, getting her a snack or putting on a video). Very rarely do I let Leo really cry while I see to Chloe’s needs, although sometimes there has been no choice in the matter.

One of the reasons I am grateful for David’s paternity leave is the time he’s been able to devote to Chloe. Yes, I’ve needed a little help with the newborn, but at this point I have the skills to take care of him on my own. Knowing Chloe is getting attention from Daddy (and grandma while she was here) really helps assuage the guilt I feel for not spending more quality time with her. It also leaves me more free time to focus on Leo. This newborn period flies by, and I am trying to savor it the best I can, knowing it will be gone all too soon.


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The Land

Grandpa & Chloe @ Quail Hollow
(Grandpa playing in the stream with Chloe, just like when I was a girl)

When I was a little kid growing up in Virginia, my father bought 20 acres of land in the mountains not far from the Shenandoah River. He built a small one room cabin wired for electricity, but no running water, and uses it as a refuge from the city, as well as private property for hunting. Mostly there is only deer and very small game, but I once remember seeing a black bear, too.

For my part, I have always had a love/hate relationship with the place. Things I hated: the long, boring drive, the warm weather mosquitos, ticks (my dad actually got Lyme Disease a few years back) and and other insects, thorns, brambles and poison ivy, squatting in the woods to pee, and generally being stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. On the other hand, I have some good memories, too – of wading in the little stream that crosses the propery, throwing rocks and catching minnows and crayfish, climbing my dad’s tree stand, learning to load and shoot a rifle, wandering the nearby abandoned factory, swimming in the Shenendoah, and getting a Nehi soda and a coleslaw-topped pulled-pork sandwich from the old country store.

Anyway, I hadn’t been back there in probably over a decade and my dad specifically asked to take a trip there during our visit so he could get some photos of him with Chloe. Of course I agreed, and we all ventured up there for the day. This time, the drive went much faster than I remembered and I actually enjoyed seeing Chloe doing a little exploring of her own. I got some great shots using my good camera, too, and look forward to sending them back to my Dad.

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On the way home, after a brief stop at Skyline Caverns so Chloe could ride on it’s miniature train, we decided on an early dinner at the newly built Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. I only mention this because, besides the perfectly fried catfish, it was the first time I had ever tried chocolate fudge Coca-cola cake. I had heard about this old-timey southern specialty, and the moist richness of this cake did not disappoint. As a fan of Classic Coke, I think I may have to find this recipe and make it myself (although it will likely take a few experiments to find the right one – a google search turns up a wild amount of variations). But I think I’m up for that challenge. 🙂


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Kids show at the planetarium

Happy in DC

Sometimes coincidences are quite a pleasant surprise. Take for instance Chloe’s friend Anjali, who not only shares Chloe’s exact birthday, but also happens to be visiting DC from back home at the same time we are. Her and her mom invited us to the Sesame Street “One World, One Sky” show at the National Air & Space Museum’s Planetarium. I think it was quite an experience for both girls, and just the right length for their 2-year old attention spans. Afterwards, they shared a little snack and outdoor playtime (an amazingly sunny 75 degrees for March!) on the mall before parting for naptime.

Thanks Gabriella and Anjali for such a nice playdate in our nation’s capital!

Sharing a snack

Chloe & I in the cockpit


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Weekend Camping

We went camping this weekend in celebration of a friend’s 40th birthday. Once upon a time, 40 seemed so far away, but now that I am creeping up there myself, I can’t say I feel like I thought I’d feel. While I do feel like a grown-up (especially after the baby was born), I don’t feel as “grown-up” as I thought I’d feel by this point. I’m guessing it is true for most people, that though we live our adult lives every day, being grown-up doesn’t feel like we thought it would feel when we were kids thinking about being grown-up. Does that make sense?

Anyway, the highlight of this trip for me was the 2.2 mile hike to the Blue Pool, also known as Tamolitch Falls. The “Falls” actually no longer exists here. What used to be the upper section of the McKenzie river has been diverted, and now the water that fills this pool comes from an underground source. This is my favorite kind of hike -  with a destination, or “reward” at the end, and this one did not disappoint. As a matter of fact, the pool contained the bluest water I’ve ever seen in my life, more like a really deep turquoise. The photo does not do the color justice, nor does it even hint at it’s incredible depth.  Let me tell you, it was hard to resist the pull of all that glistening water on a summer day, but a quick temperature check with a dipped hand into the freezing cold instantly warned us that would not be a good idea.

And did I mention that I carried Chloe on my back on the hike up? I was pretty proud of myself. I think it actually made the experience more fun, hiking with friends with our babies on our backs. We brought the Beco carrier instead of the framed Kelty carrier because it packs down so much smaller in an already full car (Barkley was also with us). I’m happy to say the Beco continues to be worth every penny, although we use it less now than when Chloe was a newborn. And although camping with a toddler is quite challenging at times, I think it was still a good experience.


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Kalaloch


Ruby Beach

After writing that post about Bree Tanner, I thought of some photos I took of Kalaloch during our memorial weekend camping trip. What does Kalaloch have to do with the Twilight series? Nothing, except that it is just 30 minutes south of Forks, Washington. For being so close in proximity to this popular Twilight fan destination, Kalaloch was no busier than I’d expect for this area of the Olympic National Park. No surprise, but it was cloudy the entire time we visited, and no, we didn’t see any vampires. 🙂


Big Western Red Cedar. Click here to see view from inside tree.

BTW – A friend of mine wrote an interesting post about visiting Forks as a Twilight fan, including great photos. You can read it here.


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Camping at Lake Quinault, Olympic National Forest

I hope everyone had a happy Memorial Day weekend!

We decided to go on a rare camping trip to the Lake Quinault area of the Olympic National Forest. It was cloudy, wet, and very cold (Hello! Rain forest!), but we did enjoy a brief break when the sun made an appearance on the second evening. I was finally able to pull out my camera and once I started I could hardly stop taking pictures. Everything was just so verdant and sparkling.

We pitched our tent in a beautiful spot, surrounded by lush vegetation and old-growth trees, right beside the lake. With Chloe in her framed backpack carrier, we explored the nearby rainforest trails, including one leading to the largest Sitka spruce in the world. The Lake Quinault Lodge was also picturesque and charming with it’s rough, weathered facade and stately presence.

Overall, the weather proved to be our biggest challenge, and sadly, our air mattress sprung a leak the very first night. We had bought a new REI Kingdom 4 “family” tent on sale just a few days earlier, and although roomy, it had a poorly designed fly that didn’t keep out the rain. Luckily David played it safe and packed our old Mountain Hardware tent, too, which was much more suited to the wet and cold environment.

I think I was the one who enjoyed our trip the most. Chloe wasn’t thrilled about the long car ride, or sleeping in her coat, but she did remarkably well and had a good time. I’m also proud to say we packed everything we needed, including food for delicious and easy camp-friendly meals. Our last night we enjoyed a special dinner at the Salmon House Restaurant in the Rainforest Resort Village while we watched the sun go down behind the mountains. It was a moment of perfection for me. I can’t wait until next time (when hopefully it will be just a little bit warmer!)


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Time


(Lincoln Memorial via iphone)

Has it really been a week since we arrived in DC? We’re enjoying ourselves so much! I keep meaning to write, but I never seem to sit down long enough (that, and my folks don’t have internet access)! I’ll have more to share soon once I finally download some of my photos.

Oh, and all that worry I had about how Chloe would act during the long, cross-country flight? Well, I shouldn’t have, because she was AMAZING! It was pretty much our easiest flight yet. I only gave her one of the many toys I brought to keep her entertained. Regardless, all that worry helped me pack a top-notch, toddler-friendly carry-on, which I hope to share soon!


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Never say never

Once upon a time I thought if I ever had a child, I would never (literally) put a leash on her. Well, fast forward to the present. Our cross-county flight in a couple days with an active toddler is making me very nervous. This 2-in-1 Monkey Harness is just one more tool+toy in my arsenal to help make the best of whatever situation I find myself in. I actually think it’s kinda cute!


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A weekend away

We had a wonderful weekend visiting friends north of Seattle. The weather was sunny and perfect, and for the first time I could see the entire skyline of Seattle, including the Puget Sound and distant mountain ranges. I would love to live so close to the water. We arrived late, but with enough sunlight left to visit Hayworth Park and let the dog have some off-leash time.

On Sunday morning our families took the ferry to Whidbey Island, to the picturesque town of Langley. The toddlers tossed stones by the waters edge and we all peeked into the various shops until lunchtime. Unexpected treasures were found at the Chocolate Flower Farm where I bought up an envelope of the richest hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted and David found Chloe a like-new Little Tikes Tambourine for only $1 at the Good Cheer Thrift Store. Lunch was very tasty at the French Bistro, Prima (I’m always up for a good croque madame). The girls were getting tired though, so we parted ways soon after, but David, Chloe and I hung around just a little longer, to soak up as much of the island atmosphere as we could before the long drive ahead.

Greta and Ava picking up rocks
David and Chloe dropping rocks into the water
The gorgeous view from Langley

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Seattle, Birthday Weekend 2010

This weekend I thought it would be nice to explore north into Washington State for a change. Even though we live only three hours from Seattle, we’ve hardly spend any time there in the almost ten years I’ve lived here.


A shot of the falls taken with the iphone

On Saturday we drove up to see the 270ft Snoqualmie Falls. It was wet and rainy, so we didn’t hike down to the river, but satisfied ourselves with a good view from the overlook. Even better, we ate a truly memorable lunch in The Attic of the adjacent Salish Lodge, and literally had the best seat in the house, right next to the window above the falls. (If you go, we’d highly recommend the Northwest Charcuterie and Cheese Plate, the Duck Confit And Kobe Beef Sliders and the Spiced Northwest Fish Tacos).

Saturday night we stayed at the friendly Pensione Nichols bed & breakfast, just a block away from Pike’s Place Market in downtown Seattle. I saw it listed in DeliciousBaby, and chose it because they allow both children and pets. The room with shared bath suited our budget, and it turns out we were the only ones there that night! Breakfast in the morning was lovely and Chloe got to gorge herself on handfuls of her favorite, fresh blueberries.


An early evening stroll through pike’s place market

View from the pensione

On Sunday we did a little exploring in the Ballard Neighborhood, stopping first at the highly recommended Cafe Besalu for a bite of the best leek gruyere quiche I’ve ever tasted. After that it was an engaging experience at the Ballard Locks, watching the water level drop to let the boats pass through. While we were there we also witnessed a bizarre occurance of a boat getting wedged sideways in the lock, but it wasn’t long until the workers freed it and sent it on its way.

By noon we had stopped at the Honore Artisan Bakery where I ordered a French Macaron in every flavor as a decadent birthday treat for us to share. Then it was on to the Farmer’s Market, a little (mostly) window shopping, and a late lunch at the nearby India Bistro before it was time to head home during Chloe’s afternoon nap.


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A visit to Chesapeake Beach, MD

A couple days ago my dad suggested we take a ride to Chesapeake Beach, a small, charming bayside town a little over an hour from Washington, DC. I hardly remember, but Dad said I had been here before to deep sea fish a long time ago.

It was a perfect day to be out. Sunny blue skies, with barely a hint of crisp October breeze. We started off walking the boardwalk and pier in North Beach. Lots of seagulls and ducks, and a few fisherman throwing there lines into the ocean. Afterward we sat in the shade in front of Sweet Sues, sharing a “To Die For” Brownie (brownie topped with chunky peanut butter and fudge frosting) and sipping coffee. We took our time browsing the gift and souvenir shops until lunchtime, when we headed a little south to Chesapeake Beach.

Someone we had met earlier suggested Abner’s Sea Side Crab House for lunch. Nothing fancy, but the perfect place for tasty deep fried crab balls, crab cakes, hush puppies, and onion rings. Several patrons were doing the all-you-can-eat fresh crab option and it was interesting to see the piles of atlantic blue crabs on their butcher paper covered tables. Later we wandered the wharf, admiring the boats before browsing the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum. Overall, it was a lovely family outing for a lazy and peaceful autumn afternoon.

Side note: These photos were taken with the iPhone and this was my first attempt at blogging with it, too!


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2009 Solar Decathlon, Washington DC

This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to check out the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, a competition between 20 colleges and universities to design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house. Honestly, while it is interesting to learn about new and energy-efficient technology, mostly I go to admire the modern architecture.

This year, there were a lot more people turning out to tour the homes, so we only had time to tour three: Rice University’s , Penn State’s, and the University of Minnesota’s. Personally, I liked the design and layout of Penn State’s the best, except for the amount of plants inside (a little too messy). Our guide said that it was originally designed for “DINKS” which apparently stands for “double income no kids,” so I guess I won’t be living in one any time soon.

Event goes through October 18th, and I would highly recommend visiting it if you get a chance.


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Photographs from France

Looking back at our France photos (to find one for this post), I was reminded of how many good ones there were. Here are a few of my faves. But really, is there such thing as a bad photo of Paris?


Fountain at the Place du Concorde, Paris

Daily Menu, Au Vieux Châtelet, Paris

Château de Chenonceau

Mont Saint Michel, detail

Arc de Triomphe, Paris

From Marie Antoinette’s Hameau,Versailles

Skyline view, Paris

Eiffel Tower at night
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