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Sketching in Paris

Whenever I attend or teach at a retreat, I love to spend a few days overcoming my jetlag and settling in before the retreat starts. 

I love to wander and soak in the beauty of wherever I am. I carry my iPhone for photos, a sketchbook, and a pen in my crossover bag, and then I walk without a destination.

Where did I go this time? 


Sketching in Montmartre, Place des Vosges, Friends Forever

Even though I was there last October, a piece of my heart is still in France, with all its history, culture, cuisine, and art.

I decided to teach for Perigord Retreats well over a year ago. It sold out quickly, and I was excited to see who would be coming on this amazing trip with me.

Lucky for me, one of my lifelong friends, Holly Stewart, signed up for my art retreat. My favorite thing about this kind of friend is that you may not see each other for years, but you can pick up exactly where you left off.

Sidenote: I met Holly in 1995 while working at an ad agency in Washington, DC. I hired her to work on a campaign for our client, Discovery Channel. She was one of the best commercial lifestyle photographers at that time. The job was in San Francisco, and we had such a good time working together that we soon became fast friends. I loved San Francisco so much that I left DC to work for Discovery Channel and lived a few blocks from Holly!

After ten years with Discovery, I moved to Santa Cruz, and even though Holly and I kept in touch a bit, I hadn’t seen her in 18 years! I know that seems crazy, but life happens. 

But here is the gem. If you put aside all the reasons you may have lost contact and the time that has passed, please remember what brought you together in the first place. It was probably connection, love, and laughter.

The first hug after 18 years!

Ok—getting back to Paris. Holly suggested we get an Airbnb together, and she found a fabulous one in the Marais district. Our flights arrived at different times, so we decided to meet in the city at one of the metros close to where we were staying.

You should have seen us, just like schoolgirls—hugs, giggles, and chatter. We snapped this selfie right away. 

We spent five days catching up, sharing stories, reminiscing, laughing, walking, and exploring. 

Holly loves beauty as I do. She also sees how the light changes and affects things as a photographer would. So, it was an incredible experience to wander through the streets of Paris with her.

Tea at Renoir's Garden Studio, Flea market exploring, Sketching near the Opera House

And here’s what's truly incredible: Holly is new to traditional “art.” She is not a sketcher or painter but a brand-new beginner.

None of that mattered as she was up for whatever came her way during this trip. She tried everything - acrylics, watercolor + mixed media, and by the end of the trip, she had become an amazing artist with a gift for watercolor sketching.

The highlight of my Paris trip was watching Holly get “lost” in her sketching at Pont Neuf on the Seine.

I’m not sure I'll do the story justice, but we almost peed our pants on the way home laughing so hard...


It was 8 p.m., the light still beautiful, and the evening warm. The sounds of Spring in the air were exhilarating. People were picnicking all along the Seine, with lots of laughter and people coming and going. We found a perfect spot on the bridge with a view of the Eiffel Tower. 

We pulled out our pocket-sized sketchbooks and just started to draw what we saw, looking at the details: the architecture, the tree-lined streets, riverboats cruising up and down, runners, and couples walking hand-in-hand. It was such a beautiful evening.

Sketching Tip: If you don't have time to get everything in, add a few lines and dots toward the edge like I did here. I also wrote the date and where I was to fill in that space.

About 30 minutes in, we were unaware of the comings and goings on the bridge (that’s what sketching does; you get lost in time—yes, please!).

I looked around, and the bridge seemed quieter except for six armed police officers looking at us and wondering if the big, black duffle bag left behind on the bench was ours.

Gulp. Of course, my mind goes right to “let’s get out of here,” “Is that a bomb,” “terror threat,” all that stuff.

But not for Holly, who was so happy and lost in her sketch of Paris. Oblivious, she asked one of the police officers to take our photo! She was just so proud of her drawing - and so happy.

I grabbed her sleeve and said, “Holly, we need to go now.” She laughed and said, “There are six of them and more than enough to do their job!” 

So this cute officer, who seemed a bit uncomfortable and wasn't too sure if he should do this or not, took our photo! 

Then I pulled her in the opposite direction of the officers, walked quickly off the bridge, and left them to figure out what to do about a black bag left on the bridge.

A story for the books and a lot of giggling all the way home!

I’ll share more about the South of France retreat I just taught with Perigord Retreats in upcoming blog posts—stay tuned.

If you are interested, no matter what level, and want to join me in Ireland or hop on the waitlist for future retreats, click here:

Let me know in the comments below where you'd like to travel, create and connect!



217 views2 comments


Andrea you are an inspiration your art and your ‘joie de vivre’!!! ❤️❤️❤️🇫🇷


The experience of a lifetime! Your sketches are truly magical!

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