Hearts Abound: Chance Favors the Prepared Mind

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”

–Louis Pasteur

At a University lecture in 1854 renowned scientist Louis Pasteur made this now-famous statement, and it’s one of our favorites. It has all the hallmarks that give a quotation staying power: it’s short, easy to remember, and has wide application. And one place it applies, we realize, is that it perfectly describes our process for finding Hearts From Around the World. 

Spying hearts on a crowded street in Vienna, Austria, while trying not to look like a stalker.

When traveling, we never plan on finding hearts, and honestly, we don’t look for them. But when they’re dialed into our “prepared minds” we stumble onto them just about everywhere.

We see them in architecture and art with symbolic and romantic meaning that varies from deeply sincere to casually frivolous.

And of course, advertisers use flashy red hearts to hawk everything from jewelry to jockey shorts.

We prefer unique and unusual hearts, but sometimes the low-hanging fruit has such great attitude that we can’t resist. 

There’s no question that this restaurant in Strasbourg, France is rocking those hearts.

A mixed message from the Maya – Temple of the Skull at the Palanque Ruins, Chiapas, Mexico.

Sometimes the hearts are subtle, requiring a keen eye or a good dose of blind luck.

Hearts in Harrod’s Food Hall.

Yep, chance favors the prepared mind, but luck counts too. This fortuitous photo of elegant peacocks was taken in one of Harrod’s famous food halls in London. 

We’d like to take credit for clever planning, but it was a matter of standing at exactly the right place, with the perfect angle, and just looking up. Amazing!

Artisans in 18th and 19th Century Alsace obviously appreciated a heartfelt touch on their everyday household items. The collection in the Alsatian Museum in Strasbourg was a treasure trove of hearts.

This antique corner cupboard in the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky is a masterwork of folkart inlay, and opening it took … wait for it … the key to someone’s heart!

In turn-of-the-century Vienna, Art Nouveau artist Franz von Matsch wouldn’t dare use boring arrows on The Anchor (Der Anker) Clock when golden hearts and hands added such a wonderful touch of panache and humor.

Palenque, Chiapas is one of the wettest areas in Mexico, and this elephant ear demonstrates precisely where the plant got its name.
A broken heart? Nope; a tree stump at the Uxmal Ruins – Yucatan, Mexico. What are the chances?

And those that think humans invented art need to think again. Mother nature’s evolution engine produced the heart shape long before man co-opted it.

And the next entries come from Terri’s sisters – see once you launch this craze, everyone starts seeing hearts! Susan was thrilled that her favorite frog had returned to her pond, only to realize he was sitting on a heart-shaped lily pad. And Ellen realized her philodendron was sending her a message: I ❤ you!

After a challenging trudge up one of Lisbon’s many steep hills, visitors are rewarded with a lineup of wrought iron hearts and a panoramic view of its cityscape in the distance. But back in lower-town Baixa, the heart-pattern cobblestone sidewalks (slippery when wet) mean attentive walking for all.   


This is our 7th year of Hearts from Around the World, and like previous years, it was a blast. Happy Valentine’s Day y’all! Don’t forget your sweetie. ❤ 

Happy Trails, 

James & Terri

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

50 thoughts

    1. Beth, this is a fun game for us and we too like the unexpected finds. The heart/tree stump we found at the Uxmal ruins may be one of our best ever in the unexpected category. ❤

  1. I look forward to this post each year. You make my Valentine’s Day special since your examples are diverse and from everywhere, or so it seems. My faves this year are the antique corner cupboard (I’m a sucker for old, well-made furniture) and the tree stump. Good eyes, my friends. And a Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

    1. Rusha, these are a couple of my favorites as well, but I must say that I’m particularly partial to the tree stump. It’s even better when you hear the backstory. We were walking the ruins and we saw a bit of shade for a break. I strolled up to sit on this stump and couldn’t believe my eyes. Pretty funny. Have a great V-day. ~James

  2. I always enjoy your Valentine’s Day post. It never fails to make me smile. Your post inspires me to develop a more “prepared mind” Thanks and I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

    1. Laura, this quote really is one of our favorites, and it’s amazing how often it applies to things going on in our lives. Sometimes if we look too hard, we miss things and then something hovering in the back of our minds just pops up. And these hearts are the perfect example. Have a great Valentine’s Day. ❤

    1. Amit, is that not the greatest video, and perfect for the day? We spent a week in Strasbourg, and can see that it would be a very pleasant place to live. The Christmas Market terrorism is troubling, but it obviously has nothing to do with the city per se, and sadly, could happen anywhere. Have a fun Valentine’s Day. ~James

      1. Amit, these are kind words indeed, and coming from you makes them especially meaningful. Hearing that our blog brings humor and joy to our readers is a wonderful reward. Thanks and all the best. ~James

  3. I truly ❤ your heart posts! And what a perfect quote for these quests around the world! I was going to write the peacock one is my favorite and then, the next photo, had the blow-up version. Now, that was a keen eye! And, how smart to put "slippery hearts" in place. Talk about giving them the attention needed. 🙂 Keep it up, you two! Happy Valentine's Day!

    1. Liesbet, this really is one of our favorite quotes, and as I said to someone else, and it’s amazing how often it applies to things going on in our lives. The Harrod’s peacock’s were one of my favorites as well, but the Uxmal tree stump had to be the best. I mean, what are the chances? Glad you enjoyed the post. These are always fun to put together. ~James

    1. Thanks Darlene. I’m glad you like this series of posts. It was Terri’s brainchild in the beginning, and we had no idea it would get to be an annual tradition. They’re great fun to put together, and it’s a fun travel game as well. ~James

  4. What a fun heart post! We are going to Mérida tomorrow and Uxmal probably Monday – I’m going to look for those hearts! I love the talavera tiles; they are quite different from any I’ve seen before.

    1. Marilyn, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Merida and Uxmal. I hope that Uxmal is as deserted as it was when we visited. I’m sure you know this, but Chichen Itza is relatively close to Merida as well. And while I think it’s a tad overrated, and I didn’t like it nearly as much as Uxmal, if you haven’t been and you have the time, it might be worth a quick trip. Enjoy and let me know how it goes. ~James

  5. I thought the peacocks in London beautiful and loved the elephant ears in Mexico but,I guess my favorite was the chicken heart, now that took some work Thanks for the smiles. Love.

    1. Joyce, I’m sure you’re wondering why you didn’t try this cool trick when you were a kid. Terri found this video and we both thought it was perfect for the post and really funny. We hope that all is going well in BG. Love to you both. JH

  6. You have assembled another fine collection of hearts from around the world. I also love the quote from Louis Pasteur. It is a good reminder for me to continue to be prepared and stay engaged during my travel years.

    1. Thanks Joe. Your comment about staying engaged is a good one. After so many years of travel it’s easy to get complacent or road-hardened and think things like: “Oh, another Medieval Cathedral.” I think that one of the ways to stay engaged is paying attention to details. And for me, one of the rewards of blogging is that it’s made me a more observant traveler; knowing that something may end up in a post sharpens my focus. ~James

  7. James and Teri this is a wonderful collection of hearts from around the world.

    Interestingly enough, while the heart may be a symbol that does keep re occurring, one of our sons is a strong adherent to the concept of synchronicity. Once you attune to anything, then it keeps coming up. This happens when we are with him and it can be anything from a shape to a number or a word and inevitably once launched, like a boomerang it comes back many folds illustrating that your quote is most valid.

    We also salute your observation above in your comments, that as a blog writer, ones mind is sharpened and the powers of observation are heightened knowing that there is a blog post to be written. As artists we know that by sketching something we see, it forces us to focus the beam of attention way more than one would if one took a photo and as a result, our experience is all the richer.

    Wonderful post and happy belated hearts day to you both.

    Peta & Ben

    1. Peta & Ben, this is certainly a thought-provoking commment. We both know of the concept of synchronicity, and if there’s proof of it’s existence in our lives it’s recurring hearts. As for the power of the blog to focus our minds, I agree wholeheartedly. I like the analogy of your art and the focusing of your attention. As you know, some eastern religions would call this “being in the moment” and “mindfulness” is a fashionable term that I see more and more these days. For me, this attention to detail is a catalyst for a delightful circular process where I’m looking for one thing and see something else which takes me (and the blog post subject) in an entirely different direction. It really does help keep things fresh. Thanks for an intriguing comment that all started with some mushy, romantic Valentines’ hearts. ~James

  8. I always enjoy your Valentine posts and bravo for the keen eyes, now apparently spreadign to family and friends! The most surprising one this year are the eyes of the freaky looking Temple of the Skull. Seems like a bit of irony there?

    1. Isn’t that photo a dandy Sue? This was one of my favorites for sure, and primarily because of the mixed message it sends. It was one of those photos where I said: “This is SO going to be in our hearts post!” And even funnier, according to the info on this carving it’s a rabbit! I guess bunnies are tougher in the Yucatan. 🙂 ~James

  9. I’m late to this party, but it was so worth attending!! You certainly have an eye for catching hearts, and the video at the end is priceless!!

    Hard to call a favourite out of this mix. What a great variety … but the skull with heart-shaped eyes is definitely memorable!!

    1. Hi Joanne, so sorry that we missed your comment. We didn’t realize the skull even had heart-shaped eyes until we loaded the photos to the computer – and there they were ❤ ❤ staring back at us! Thanks for dropping by. ~Terri

    1. Hi Anita, so sorry that we missed your comment. I’ve always grown elephant ears at home, but nothing approaching the beauty and size of these! I think they would rival REAL elephant ears. All the best, Terri

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