Currently: March 2024

There is much to say about March. This month has been a lot in so many ways. As some of you may know, my professional life has been fraught with complications related to the on-going problems related to the FAFSA. I have spent much of 2024 working on this with Congress, the Department of Ed, and, of course, with my staff, our students, and our families.

In most ways, I have approached this year with a determined and resolute resolve. I believe you have to be a part of the solution if you want to fix the problem. However, I also believe that you have to continue doing the things that bring you joy and find a way to balance the weight of the world. You can’t push back if you aren’t refilling your strength. While there is much to despair about, there is also much to enjoy and you must find ways to embrace both.

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links for tours and products I love at no additional cost to you.  You can read my full disclosure policy here.

Journey of Doing - Frankfurt at night


I haven’t read much historical fiction set in the Cold War era. In fact, I know little about the Cold War. It is not something that US spends a lot of time on in its history classes. When I studied international relations in college, much of what we read was about how the US was impacted by the Cold War – not what was happening in Berlin.

That said, I was immediately intrigued by plot of The Berlin Letters. I traveled to Berlin when I studied abroad, and I still recall seeing parts of the wall (and indeed the reconstruction that was still happening in East Berlin). Further, we were planning a trip to Germany this month. Though we were not planning to visit Berlin, I liked the idea of knowing more about the recent history of Germany post-World War II.

The Berlin Letters

Katherine Reay immediately deposits you into a family separated by necessity, as well as by generational and cultural barriers. The story moves along quickly and you get to know the main characters on a deep and intimate level within a few chapters. Through strong visuals and captivating language, you feel the pain, frustration, fear, and uncertainty throughout the book. There is powerful imagery of Haris navigating East Berlin, both personally, professionally, and visually, from the beginning until the end of the Cold War.

At times, the book seemed to move slowly, but with a smooth pivot, Reay immerses you in a race against the clock and the urgency of the characters involved. She gives away no secrets until it is time which I suspect is what many people in East Berlin found in the Stasi that surrounded them for so long. There are always secrets. Things are not always what they seem. When the story turns towards its conclusion, you are immersed in the feelings of fatigue, fear, and cautious triumph of the characters that you have followed throughout their journeys. Some for many years, some for only a short time.

The conclusion of this book came far too quickly. I was left with lingering questions about Haris and Luisa’s life, career, and relationship after the wall came down. I found myself wanting to immersed in those feelings and those details after they had shared so many of the complexity of their emotions and experiences throughout the book.

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of The Berlin Letters through Net Galley. All opinions are my own.

Journey of Doing - review of The Berlin Letters
From the Journey of Doing photo archives: a photo of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany in March 2022

Home Decorating:

Though we ended up cancelling our trip to Germany due to an Ed meeting that conflicted with our flights, we did end up traveling to Bordeaux and Paris for a week. While in Paris, we stayed on the Left Bank for the first time and spent a bit of time at museums and gallery hopping. True to form, we stopped in one of my favorite galleries in Paris to look at their large format paintings. In what felt like a snap decision, Tom decided that we needed to buy a piece by Alan Dessapt, a French painter whose work evoked feelings of the Impressionist painters that we both love.

We purchased a painting of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero at blue hour. For me, this reminded me of our honeymoon in Paris. One of the first things we did after arriving in Paris was walk from our hotel to Trocadero, and I insisted that we stay through blue hour and see the Eiffel Tower sparkle. Our experiences wandering Paris after dark led us to cancel the London itinerary for our honeymoon and stay in Paris a few extra nights. For Tom, the reflections on the painting remind him of our honeymoon photos taken in Paris, and how empty and beautiful Trocadero was in the early morning hours.

It was shipped via DHL on Monday, and by Friday, it was in our home. After a bit of careful contemplation and moving our art around, Paris en Féerie is officially home. It’s funny because I had no idea when I wrote my most recent post about some of my favorite splurges in Paris that we would be bringing art home. Art really is a lovely souvenir though. When I had everything off the walls, it was remarkable how empty our home felt. How we lived without art on the walls for so long is a marvel!

Journey of Doing - Eiffel Tower at blue hour
Throwing it back to the trip that started Tom’s love of Paris.
Journey of Doing - best Paris souvenir; Alan Dessapt painting
This doesn’t do it justice at all, but it’s the best I could do today!

Travel Planning:

At the end of February, I went to Syracuse for work. We had 4 seasons in 3 days, including my first experience with lake effect snow! It was wild. It was 67 degrees the day arrived and by the time I left, we had several inches of snow on the ground.

Last week, I was in DC (also for work). It was peak cherry blossom season. Though I didn’t get to enjoy them as much as I would have like, it was lovely. I wish I had more time to slow down. And, I wish I had taken more time to slow down. But, Capitol Hill doesn’t stop, and the DOE doesn’t wait.

We are currently working on a trip for places we haven’t been in Italy (yet). We also have Memorial Day weekend tickets on hold for London. I used to go to London all the time for Memorial Day weekend, so it feels a little like a throwback. And, of course, we’re still thinking about our summer in France. I have confirmed accommodations in Mont Saint Michel, Bordeaux, and Carcassonne… but that’s all for now. I really want to go new places, but I just haven’t had the time to do enough research.

Journey of Doing - cherry blossom season in Washington, DC


We went back to one of our favorite wine bars in Bordeaux this month. Tom found this incredible Pessac that we loved and proceeded to buy 8 bottles. (He carried them back to our hotel, which was about 30 minute walk. What a champ! We also booked our favorite wine tasting in Paris again. Erwan added a Bordeaux Margaux to the tasting, and we ended up bringing several bottles of that home. When I was in DC, I took my friend Christina to dinner for her birthday. They happened to have a Margaux on the menu, and it did not disappoint.

We brought home an assortment of red and white wines from France, and I started diving into trying them. We’ve started to get more adventurous and let Erwan recommend wines to us, which has been really fun. Tonight I had a Languedoc-Rousillon that was truly lovely.

Our allotment from Castiglion del Bosco arrived a few weeks ago, and we decided to pick up a bottle from wine storage to celebrate our 11-year engagement anniversary on Saturday. It was young and rowdy, but it didn’t disappoint. The 2019 Brunello di Montalcino is projected to be an amazing vintage year, so if you see one, grab one!

Journey of Doing - wine souvenirs from France and Italy

Photo Editing:

It’s funny because I started publishing Bordeaux content before I knew we would be returning so soon. I published my review of the FirstName Hotel in Bordeaux at the end of February. Little did I know that we would be back there and in the same room within two weeks! I’m working on publishing our itinerary for Bordeaux and Paris soon. Obviously, with the Olympics heading to Paris this year, I’ve been trying to publish more France content to be helpful to folks headed that way. I really want to encourage your to visit more than just Paris. Our trips to other regions in France have been incredible.

I contributed to Paul’s post on some of the best Christmas markets in Germany this month. I included one of my favorite underrated German Christmas markets in Frankfurt. While I realize Frankfurt is a major airport hub, I feel like most people don’t appreciate its Christmas markets in favor of some of the smaller German towns with magical Christmas markets like Rothenburg ob der Tauber or the most famous Nuremberg Christmas market.

I finished editing the photos from our last trip to Castiglion del Bosco. Wow, that was a glorious stay. Our 2019 Brunello allocation from CdB arrived a couple weeks ago, and we opened one this weekend. It did not disappoint. Tom is looking forward to going back for more meals at La Canonica. We’ve already booked our post-New Year’s stay for 2025, too. We are many things and creatures of habit is one of them.

Journey of Doing - spring in Bordeaux
Journey of Doing - Castiglion del Bosco Suite della Pieve
If I could, I would have Castiglion del Bosco redecorate my house. I find their rooms to be the epitome of elegant, casual, and comfortable luxury.

Follow along with Sara!

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