Tag: tour leader Phil Cousineau

Top 10 Things To Do & See in Paris: Discover its Literary, Cultural & Epicurean Soul

Looking for the best literary and cultural icons to visit in Paris? On the hunt for deliciously simple local food? We’ve rounded up 10 of the best things to do and see in Paris that will nourish your mind, body and soul.

1. Montmartre

For les flâneurs or those wanting to immerse themselves in the artistic and cultural ambiance of bygone Paris Montmartre is hard to beat. Here, you will find narrow lanes, winding hills, dazzling nightlife, and memories of the greatest artists, singers, writers and poets nostalgically embedded in the cobblestone. You can almost hear la môme Piaf’s gritty realism as you step out from the Abbesses metro into the heart of Montmartre with the glorious Sacré-Coeur Cathedral inviting you to pause, reflect and breathe in the magnificent views of the City of Lights. Wander down the rue du Chevalier de la Barre, used by Woody Allen in Midnight in Paris, and drop into Au Lapin Agile to hear accordion players whisk you back to the heyday of the la chanson française.

Montmartre Paris
Montmartre and its funicular circa 1900

2. Latin Quarter

Take a walking tour through the bohemian Latin Quarter, home to historic landmarks, medieval streets, riverside book sellers, universities as well as the enduring traces of some of France’s most important artistic and literary figures. Pause at the Beat Hotel, 9, rue Git-le-Coeur, where Kerouac and Ginsberg stayed, browse the quaint stores along Rue Mouffetard, then explore the impressive Panthéon where Voltaire and Victor Hugo, among others, are buried.

3. Shakespeare and Company

Within the Latin Quarter you will also find the iconic bookstore Shakespeare and Company. Founded by George Whitman in 1951, and originally called Le Mistral, it quickly became a meeting place for Anglophone writers and readers, and is now firmly considered a “Left Bank literary institution”. (1) In 2006, George posted a sign letting customers know that his daughter Sylvia would be taking the reigns: “Each monastery had a frère lampier whose duty was to light the lamps at nightfall. I have been doing this for fifty years. Now it is my daughter’s turn.” (1) No visit to Paris would be complete without a stop at this atmospheric bookstore.

shakespeare and co paris
Founder George Whitman at Shakespeare and Company

4. Louvre

One of the most famous art galleries in the world, the Louvre is well worth a leisurely visit as there is always something new to appreciate here. Walk through the beautifully formal Tuileries gardens to arrive at the gallery. Visit the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, then wind your way through the permanent collections and touring exhibits, marvelling at the architecture of the late 12th century “grand palace” that houses the museum.

5. Père Lachaise Cemetery

Visit the resting place of Jim Morrison and quietly explore this 44-hectare Parisian cemetery that contains 70,000 burial plots. (2) Other famous literary and cultural figures laid to rest here include Oscar Wilde, Molière, Edith Piaf and Guillaume Apollinaire, and you will find a wide variety of architectural styles represented in the graves and burial chambers.

pere lachaise cemetery
Père Lachaise Cemetery – the resting place of Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and many others

6. Alma Market

The bustling marché du Pont de l’Alma takes place on Wednesday and Saturday mornings and is a wonderful place to spot the best chefs in Paris as well as to pick up some delicious produce for a picnic lunch. As well as an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables you will also find perfectly crisp baguettes, a wide variety of cheese, fresh fish, olives, flowers and much more. Experience simple French food at its absolute best here.

7. Le Marais

The historic Marais district, once a marshland (hence its name) is renowned for its architectural heritage with landmarks such as Place de la Bastille, Place de la République and the Hôtel de Ville as well as the elegant Place des Vosges. (3) The Rue des Rosiers is also home to the Jewish quarter. On Sundays Le Marais is one of the busiest and most vibrant areas of Paris to explore, with its unique stores and array of delis, bakeries and delicious Jewish restaurants.

8. Sainte Chapelle

Take in a concert at the breathtaking Sainte Chapelle. Built in just 7 years, the Sainte Chapelle was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns. (4) Famous for its stained glass which spans 15 windows and depicts 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments, the Saint Chapelle now also offers unforgettable concerts on the weekends.

chartres cathedral
The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral – only 1 of 3 remaining Labyrinths in France

9. Chartres Cathedral

Located outside of Paris, Chartres is well worth the train ride. An excellent example of French Gothic Art, the Cathedral is on the Unesco World Heritage List, and is well known for both its architecture and its Labyrinth – one of only 3 remaining Labyrinths in France. It’s a popular pilgrimage destination and sacred site that complements any journey to Paris.

10. Le 61

This bar and cultural meeting hub at 3, rue de l’Oise rarely makes the list of top tourist destinations in Paris, but is a fascinating place to visit for those interested in journalism and current affairs. Run by a former Le Monde journalist, it is the place to find the top war correspondents and journalists taking a break between assignments.

If you would like to visit these inspirational locations in Paris and become truly immersed in Parisian culture reserve your spot our 2018 journey: Passion for Paris with Phil Cousineau: An 8-Day Adventure in the City of Light and Lights with Special Guest Host Mort Rosenblum. This is an incredible opportunity to visit Paris with 2 prolific authors whose combined knowledge of the City of Lights is astonishing. The thoughtfully designed itinerary takes in all the above destinations and more! Not to be missed!

Phil Cousineau Mort Rosenblum
Authors Phil Cousineau and Mort Rosenblum

~ Sacred Earth Journeys


(1) https://shakespeareandcompany.com/35/history/36/a-brief-history-of-a-parisian-bookstore
(2) https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71470/Cimetiere-du-Pere-Lachaise
(3) https://en.parisinfo.com/transport/73274/Quartier-du-Marais
(4) http://www.sainte-chapelle.fr/en/
(5) https://www.timeout.fr/paris/boire-et-manger/le-61

Discover the Heart and Soul of Cuba

Cuba is a kaleidoscopic land on the verge of the most dramatic changes in its history. As travel opportunities open up, you may be wondering about the best way to visit this dynamic Caribbean island before it’s too late to witness its authentic soul. A People-to-People itinerary grants access for US citizens, and its travel benefits stretch far beyond legal entry.

Now is the time to plan a journey to Cuba before it changes forever!

Cuba Old Havana
Old Havana in Cuba. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gildemax)

In April 2017 best-selling author, filmmaker, and TV host Phil Cousineau will be leading an exciting journey into the heart of Cuba for Sacred Earth Journeys, exploring the cultural, historical, and sacred sites of this impressive land.

The customized People-to-People itinerary will allow participants to explore the gritty genuineness of Cuba’s cultural carnival and enjoy personal encounters with working artists, writers, teachers, filmmakers, coffee and tobacco farmers, and ballplayers, which will reveal just how eager they are to share the heart and soul of their culture.

baseball in cuba
Take in a ball game in Cuba.

The tour will take participants around the whole island, from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, with many fascinating destinations in between. Most importantly, participants will get a chance to see Cuban sites and culture that are off the tourist trail. In the UNESCO World Heritage site of Havana, for example, as well as a walking tour to take in the city’s glorious mélange of architecture, participants will also travel to Callejon de Hammel in the Cayo Hueso neighbourhood – one of the most exciting living arts neighbourhoods imaginable. The Callejon is the work of local artist Salvador González who uses funds from the sales of his artwork to support art & cultural projects in this lively working-class neighbourhood. There will be an opportunity to meet with Salvador González and also enjoy the famous Afro-Cuban rumbas that take place every Sunday afternoon here.

hemingway in cuba
Ernest Hemingway and sons Patrick (left) and Gregory, with cats Good Will, Princessa, and Boise. Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba.

Another highlight of this journey will be a literary pilgrimage to Finca Vigia, the “Lookout Farm”, Hemingway’s home in San Francisco de Paula, now restored as a museum. Cuba is also filled with natural wonders and exotic landscapes, such as the Viñales valley, a magnificent region of biosphere reserves, splashing waterfalls, spectacular mogotes (carsic formations), and some of the world’s finest beaches and dive sites. The journey will, of course, offer plenty of time to enjoy Cuba’s lush beaches including Playa Larga and Playa Girón, where the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion took place in 1962.

bay of pigs in cuba
The stunning Playa Girón in Cuba. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gorup de Besanez)

If you’re looking for a unique way to visit Cuba and truly appreciate its rich history and modern-day culture, a People-to-People itinerary is essential. For more information about our April 2017 journey to Cuba with Phil Cousineau visit our website and read our beautifully-detailed itinerary. Our Flickr album also contains many stunning images of this vibrant island if you’re craving some travel inspiration!

We hope you can join us as we explore the heart and soul of Cuba before the island nation changes forever. In a future blog post we’ll feature an interview with tour leader Phil Cousineau to hear what makes Cuba such a fascinating destination for him!


Stoking the Creative Fires: Reflections on a Writer’s Retreat in Ireland

The Connemara Writer’s Retreat with Phil Cousineau took place early last month, and we’ve been delighted to read the wonderful testimonials from participants about Phil’s skills as both tour leader and writing coach, and how the retreat ignited or rekindled a joy for writing. We’re grateful to participants Ana Mozol, Stephanie Bennett, and Karle Dickerson for taking the time to share their retreat experiences with us here! Enjoy!


Tell us a little about yourself.

Ana Mozol: I am a professor of psychology at the Adler University in Vancouver and Pacifica Graduate Institute in California. In my teaching and private practice, I specialize in working from a depth psychological perspective with dreams, the creative process, and the mythology of love and sexuality. I currently reside in Vancouver, BC.

Stephanie Bennett: I am a filmmaker. I am from England but have lived in the USA and New Zealand for many years. I currently live in New Zealand.

Karle Dickerson: I am a published author, former editor/writer for young women’s fashion and beauty magazines, now raising a family and involved in horses (my son is an equestrian athlete).

Ireland writing retreat
Our group on Inishbofin dock

What made you decide to participate in this retreat?

Stephanie: I have been wanting to write a memoir for a long time and have been too busy. Just the idea of going there inspired me to start.

Karle: Having enjoyed Phil’s books for years, I knew he was a mindful traveller and a skilled writer. My sister has travelled on several of his trips. So when my sister told me that he was conducting a writer’s retreat in Ireland, I decided to sign up. I had always wanted to go to Ireland and decided after the retreat, I could tack on a trip to Ireland’s horse breeding farm, the Irish National Stud, a place I’ve always wanted to see. A traveller’s senses are always opened and it seemed perfect for tapping into that openness to nourish creativity as well.

Ana: I had been working on a book project on and off for over 10 years (mostly off). I knew, based on some dreams and synchronistic events that it was time to bring the project to completion. I took a leave of absence from my full-time faculty position to devote my time to writing, only to find that I was facing some real inner and outer challenges with regards to publication and giving my voice to the larger community. I recognized I needed to reach out for some external help.

I googled upcoming writer’s retreats and after a fair amount of research, felt the one that most called me was this particular retreat in Ireland. My maternal grandfather was from Ireland and I had never been. Only later did I come to understand the wisdom of my decision and the thinly veiled degrees of separation shared with Phil and other participants through mutual connections.

Ireland Phil Cousineau
Our inspirational tour leader Phil Cousineau

What were the highlights and activities?

Karle: Attended writers workshops, visited interesting sites, such as Kylemore Abbey with extensive gardens, the ruins of Clifden Castle, literary sites, including Yeats’ grave, travelled through the Western part of Ireland, spending time at the beach in reverie and writing. Visited local bookshops and heard from numerous authors, drum/bodhran makers, festival organizers, and historian speakers. We visited local cultural centres, like small pubs where we enjoyed “trad” music and dancing. We had free time to wander around Connemara, where we could write or hike. Highlights: Kylemore Abbey and writer workshops.

Stephanie: Our guide, Phil Cousineau was extraordinary and inspiring and the other writers were also. It was a beautiful venue and perfect for a retreat.

Ana: Highlights of the trip included: a private consultation with Phil, among the ruins of Clifden Castle, where I felt my passion for writing revitalized; reading poetry at the gravesite of W.B. Yeats; a day of integration, solitude, quiet reflection and writing on Inishbofin Island, the power and beauty of which can only be captured in poetry (which some participants managed to do); and the inn-keeper at Renvyle House offering the group a talk on rich literary history of the place complete with appetizers and bubbles!

Ireland Yeats Grave
Phil talking at the gravesite of W.B. Yeats

How, if at all, did the retreat change you? What were the benefits?

Ana: I felt a mystical connection to the landscape of Ireland and my soul has lingered there. I woke the first mornings after being back and felt a sense of being blessed by the country and its spirits. Through my interactions with Phil, I felt a deep soul mirroring that has been a catalyst to the creative fire moving through me again. The writing has been flowing since I returned due to a complex combination of things.

The first being the strong intention I took to Ireland with me. The second was being inspired by how Phil is in the world. What he modelled opened me to understand that writing can be so much more than a set schedule of two-three times a week. Writing can be alive, like breathing and can be done anywhere, anytime. It can ritualize life as it is lived.

One of the great benefits of such a retreat is the opportunity to be with a community of deeply creative individuals. I felt the individuals on this retreat intuitively understood what one of my mentors, Marie-Louise von Franz, affirmed in her writing, that there is nothing more destructive than unlived, unexpressed creative potential.

Karle: The writing workshops were life changing for me. I have returned home with more fire to write, I tap into my more extensive vocabulary because I am reminded that it’s there and appreciated by reading audiences. A funny thing that helped me too: I saw that Phil used a leather manuscript journal. I’ve used smaller ones for years and tiny field notes Moleskine sized notebooks. But I saw his full-sized manuscript leather covered journal and realized it really appealed to me. So I researched and found one when I got home. I love the rich leather feel of the cover and the touch of the handmade paper, so I carry it with me everywhere and write more than ever before, capturing ideas and allowing for flow. That’s really jumpstarted my writing.

Stephanie: I have been writing and certainly now have a structure I am comfortable with. I just wish I had more time between moving and other work. I guess we were lucky (I was there with my husband who loved it) because our fellow retreaters were highly intelligent, interesting and pleasant to be with. I would participate in another retreat!

Ireland Spiritual Journeys
Enjoying some downtime after a day of writing on Inishbofin!

Any tips or advice for someone considering a similar retreat?

Stephanie: I think it’s important to make sure it has what you are looking for and if not, that it is a place you would want to visit. Ask questions about the program and read other people’s comments about the retreat and whether it is guided by someone who has led it before.

Ana: I would say if you feel called to a particular place or retreat, let yourself follow it. Remember that things can truly change when you travel with a clear intention at the right time and give yourself over to the experience. You can experience a slowing down, a different relationship to time, an eternal sense of time out of the chronologically pressured order. In this relationship to time, life has the opportunity to make sense again. Such a pilgrimage can gently remind you to say yes to life again.

Karle: Be flexible as travel is always a fluid situation and things change. Some participants were rattled at not having a daily itinerary handed to them each morning and didn’t like not knowing exactly what was going to happen. But things did change a little on the fly, so I’d advise people to be ready to embrace the delicious “not knowing” and unexpected things that come up and altered plans at times.

Ireland writing retreat
Ana Mozol enjoying discussions with Phil Cousineau about writing & publishing

For more photos from this inspirational retreat, please visit our Flickr set – we thank Stephanie Bennett and Jo Beaton for sharing their photos with us. If these stories have inspired you to consider participating in a writer’s retreat, visit our website to browse our current journeys with Phil and our other wonderful tour leaders. Details of a Writer’s Retreat in Greece with Phil in 2016 will be announced soon on our website! Sign up for our newsletter to ensure you’re the first to hear about this retreat! 

Ana and Stephanie’s travel stories first appeared on the blog site Pink Pangea