It’s been a rough 10 days, friends. On July 9 my husband Esteban woke up with shortness of breath and a tight chest. In a scene that was eerily reminiscent of his first heart attack six years ago, we piled into the car and sped to the emergency room.

The only photo I’ve taken in the past week.

“It doesn’t seem to be your heart,” concluded the attending physician after a plethora of needle pokes and x-rays. We were sent home, and I urged Esteban to schedule a stress test … just in case.

The stress test revealed that it was his heart, unfortunately — and the results were so alarming that he was scheduled for an angioplasty the very next morning.

Neither of us slept well that night: Just reading the risks could kill you. (“The device may accidentally pierce an artery. It may poke a hole in your heart. It may introduce bacteria and give you a fatal infection. In rare cases, it may cause embolism or a stroke …”)

Plus, there was a chance Esteban would have a heart attack overnight. I found myself waking up every few minutes to listen for his breathing.

We reported for his appointment at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday and spent almost 12 hours in the hospital. In spite of the long wait, it seemed miraculous to me that he could go home the same day — and that the only evidence of heart surgery was tiny puncture wound on Esteban’s wrist. He seemed remarkably chipper, too.

But on Saturday morning he awoke looking kind of grayish and again had the shortness of breath, so back we went to the emergency room. The same nurse from the previous week was there. Now the routine seemed familiar: Hook up the monitors. Put in an I.V. Test the blood. Wait for the doctor.

“We’re going to admit you,” said the doctor.

Coming home on Saturday night reminded me of that first heart attack, too: Once again we had strewn clothes about in our haste, and left the sink full of dirty dishes.

And once again the emptiness struck me. What if every night were like this? The silence and loneliness were unbearable.

Luckily, Esteban and I once again got a reprieve. I brought him home yesterday afternoon, tucked him into bed, and made a giant batch of his favorite heart-healthy soup.

Now I’m listening for the familiar sounds of a Monday: His alarm kicking in, the soft padding of his feet on the wood floor, the squeeeeaaak of the bedroom door opening …

And when he finally does emerge I’ll be extra-grateful to throw my arms around him and wish him a good morning.

Of all the Monday mornings I’ve seen so far, today is my hands-down favorite.

As an amateur photographer I have lots of bad habits, but by far the worst is not looking at my photos after I take them.

Over time, the weight of all those photos becomes oppressive, as it can take hours to sort through my mostly crappy snapshots to pick out a handful of favorites. Eventually the task feels so daunting that taking new photos seems pointless, since it will only add to the backlog on my hard drive.

But over the past month I’ve begun to chip away at that backlog, by sifting through 15 years’ worth of family snapshots and sending the highlights to my loved ones.

And last weekend I turned my attention back to Arles. (Remember the weekly market I described some six weeks ago?) Here is just a small appetizer of the Arles buffet to come.

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Roman ruins jut out of the ground all over town — like the remains of this enormous first-century B.C. arena, which could once seat 20,000 spectators.
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Thick fog only made this particular morning even more beautiful and peaceful.
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I loved how the famous Provençal sun found its way into even the narrowest of streets.
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This cat demanded to be pet — and then bit me. Ingrate! But I forgave him because he matched the scenery so perfectly.
Arles window 1700304 BLOGWhether it’s because of the sun-baked climate or economic downturns, much of the city seemed to be in a charming (but tidy) state of disrepair.

Well, there’s the appetizer I promised. Stay tuned for the full feast of sun-baked, Roman-ruined, cat-adorned photos, yet to come!

The sky at home is (yet again) drippy and dark, so I’m turning to my archives for some sunshine.

Esteban and I spent a few days in Arles last year. Because we’re both history buffs, we were keen to see the Roman ruins and the well-preserved medieval city.

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But mostly we came for the Provençal sun — and the bright colors it inspires. Those were on display at the huge Saturday market , which fills the length of the Boulevard des Lices every week.

The market has two sections: The first, on the eastern end of the boulevard, features durable goods from purses to pots and pants. We didn’t need upholstery fabric by the yard, however, so we kept our visit short.

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The other half of the market, on the western end of town, is all about flowers and food.

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I loved watching the locals interact with the vendors. Many knew each other, and shopping seemed to be as much a social occasion as a weekly errand.

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I especially loved the friendly butcher who pressed me into service as a (terrible) translator for some German tourists — although I found it a bit unnerving that he punctuated his conversation with a large knife.

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Still, his gourmet sausages were delicious. He told me the cattle were raised locally and gave me precise directions to the farm — you know, in case I wanted to visit the herd.

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There were dozens of other specialty booths, from pottery to spices and greens.

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My favorite booths featured the local specialties — such as these regional cheeses spiced with basil and pimento. When the shopkeeper asked for my order, I almost said “One of everything, please.”

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But sun-kissed Provence is most famous for its produce — and on that score, the market did not disappoint.

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I’m slowly sifting through the rest of my photos from Arles, so I’ll be back with more soon. (Especially if this dreary weather continues. Sigh.)

From its doorknobs to its house numbers, Paris is rich in architectural details. But it was the city’s iconic pavers that led me on my most recent historical adventure.

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In some streets the pavers are still arranged in beautiful fan-like patterns.

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The rue de l’Abreuvoir offers a nice view of the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre, above — if you can ignore the pavers.

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I was at one of my favorite spots along the Seine, on the Quai de Bourbon …

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… when I noticed a missing paver.

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I began poking at the hole with my foot to dislodge the cigarette butts, when a man approached. “You must not disturb the pavés,” he said, looking both stern and concerned.

My French is wobbly — and I’ve not yet been able to confirm the penalty — but I’m pretty sure he said “five years in jail” for removing a paver. I’d intended no such act, but still the encounter rattled me.

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Serious crimes in Paris get you a complimentary tour of the Palais de Justice (in the background). But I skipped it because none of my guidebooks recommended it.

But you know what they say about forbidden fruit: Soon I was obsessed with the idea of obtaining a paver. Legally, of course!

The city has been tearing out the pavers and replacing them with asphalt since the May 1968 riots, in which students turned the granite blocks into missiles aimed at the police. Surely City Hall might have saved a few?

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The Fontaine St. Michel, to the right in the frame above, is a favorite meeting spot for Parisians — and a traditional site for protests, too.

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Some of the 1968 riots took place near the Place St. Michel, so officials paved over this nearby crosswalk to prevent subsequent paver-hurlings.

That’s how I found this article — “Paris offrez-vous un pavé du Trocadéro.”  Translation: for €50 (plus €40 shipping to the U.S.) you can legally obtain a paver from the Place du Trocadéro, near the Eiffel Tower.

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The Place du Trocadéro — a great spot for spotting the Eiffel Tower.

Pavé de Paris also throws in a small wooden crate and a bilingual booklet of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said their website.

This made me curious: Why was Pavé de Paris enclosing a copy of the resolution France’s National Assembly drafted? Seeking the connection, I pondered some of the people and places from the 1789 revolution.

Was the paver somehow related to the cheering crowds that gathered at the Place de la Révolution to watch madame la guillotine claim her victims’ heads?

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The site of the guillotine was renamed Place de la Concorde in 1795.

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Or was it related to the Conciergerie, where so many doomed prisoners awaited their executions? I thought especially of Marie Antoinette, writing one last entry in her prayer book before two white horses carried her to her death:

This 16th of Oct. at 4:30 in the morning
My God, have mercy on me!
My eyes have no more tears
to weep for you my poor
children; farewell, farewell!

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Conciergerie 1080542 CLHL BW BLOGThe oldest portions of the Conciergerie go back to the 12th century. It was also in 1186 that Philippe-Auguste ordered the first paved Parisian streets.

Then my mind turned to Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, the physician and politician who opposed the death penalty, but who ironically gave the guillotine its name.

Outraged by the messy and often inhumane executions he was witnessing in Paris, Guillotin had hoped a more humane method of execution would at least be one step closer to ending the practice.

Supposedly the “instant decapitation machine” he proposed was tested on sheep at his office on the Cour du Commerce Saint-André. I wonder how the owners of Le Procope — the coffee shop next door — felt about all the bleating and bleeding.

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On the right side of the frame above, look for Le Procope’s overhead sign. The façade of the white building to the right of it has a plaque mentioning Dr. Guillotin. Also, notice the pavers!

Only in hindsight, as I sought a connection to the pavers, did I realize I’d visited all of these sites.

But my question remained unanswered: What did any of this have to do with the more modern Place du Trocadéro where Pavé de Paris obtained its pavers?

Trocadero Parvis des libertes 1090435 BW BLOGThe inscription in the foreground reads “Parvis des Libertés et des Droits de l’Homme.”

A more careful read of both the Parisien article and the Pavé de Paris website cleared up my confusion: The booklet didn’t contain the 1789 revolution Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, but rather the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the United Nations ratified at the Trocadéro in 1948.

Aaaah, I seeee …

Although I took a wrong turn in one sense, in another my mission was a success: I’d discovered the pavers’ omnipresence through centuries of history, and their starring role in many pivotal moments.

Anyway. Back to Pavé de Paris. My (totally legally obtained, nothing at all to see here, officer) paver arrived last week!

But I’ve decided not to keep it, because it’s the perfect gift for a certain young man named Noah, a fellow lover of Paris who will soon graduate from law school. I think he’ll enjoy using it as a bookend for his law books — but he’ll also have his first paver for storming the Bastille … just in case.

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Thank you for tagging along the past few days, and for all of your creative guesses. I will be back soon with more stories from the City of Light.

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The Cour du Commerce Saint-André in Paris’ sixth arrondissement is little more than a cobbled alley. Open only to pedestrians, it connects the tony and traffic-choked Boulevard Saint-Germain with the bustling little rue de Buci. But when you step onto its uneven paving stones, you’re stepping onto a spot where centuries of history converge. (Full disclosure: The Cour du Commerce was torn up for renovation during Esteban’s and my last visit, so these photos date from 2009 and 2010, respectively.)

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This is my fifth and penultimate clue in a series about how everything in Paris is connected. See the past four days’ posts for other hints — and please check back on Sunday for the full story.

This is my fourth post in series about the unexpected historical connections that abound in Paris. See the past three days’ posts for other clues — or tune in on Sunday for the full story.

The Place de la Concorde is not only Paris’ largest public square, but arguably its most historic. Its name changes alone — Place Louis XV, Place de la Révolution, and finally Place de la Concorde — hint at its role in France’s transition from a monarchy to a republic.

From its two fountains representing the rivers and seas to its Egyptian obelisk and its views of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel tower, it’s also among Paris’ more photogenic spots. But do I have any decent photos of what I’ve just described? Not really. So in this post I’ll attempt to make up for lack of quality with volume.

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Pro tip: The Pont de la Concorde is a great spot for enjoying sunsets.

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Thanks, as always, for stopping by. More tomorrow!

Although I missed the supermoon in Paris, seeing the moon set behind the Conciergerie was a lovely consolation. How many men and women have gazed at la lune from their prison cells over the centuries?

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This is my third post about the unexpected ties that bind Paris’ historical sites. See the past two days’ posts for other clues — or tune in on Sunday for the full story.

One of my favorite things about Paris is that everything is somehow connected. Here’s the second clue. What does it have to do with yesterday’s photo? I will reveal all on Sunday.

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Paris’ pavers come in a variety of sizes. You’ll find large ones like these mostly along the quays that line the Seine river.

One of my favorite things about Paris is that everything is somehow connected. Over the next week I’ll show you seven photos that at first glance may seem unrelated — and next Sunday I’ll reveal what they share in common.

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The Place du Trocadéro offers a great view of the Eiffel Tower, but it had never before occurred to me to include these gilded statues in my shots.

Street photography is my Parisian passion. But when I’m traveling with other people, it’s unreasonable to ask them to wait a half hour until the right person walks into the frame. That’s why on this last trip I concentrated instead on small architectural details I could snap on the run, almost without missing a stride.

Among Paris’ many architectural treasures, old doorknockers are my favorite. I like to imagine how many hands have touched them over the centuries — in anticipation, perhaps, of seeing a favorite mistress or meeting a new patron. How many times have they been rapped in urgency by a doctor, summoned in the middle of the night? Or with jubilation, to announce the end of a war?

I will leave you and your imagination to conjure these doorknockers’ stories.

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