I still can’t believe this is a real place I really visited.
[Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon.]
I still can’t believe this is a real place I really visited.
[Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon.]
So day one – Eiffel tower, bridge over the Seine, Arc de Triomphe… great. LPQ lunch… meh. I’ve done better.
We decided to start our day by shopping in the little food mart by our apartment, packing a picnic brunch, and eating in the Jardin des Tuileries, right by the Louvre. And it won’t be Paris without cheese that smells god awful, right? I mean seriously. I couldn’t have eaten this in any other context, haha. The baguette was delicious though, and the people watching was top notch.
The garden itself is gorgeous. There are lots of places to relax in the shade, there was a giant ferris wheel and carnival just north of the garden, and the flowers were postcard perfect.
Because you can spend a whole week in the Louvre and not see everything, we decided not to tempt ourselves and stepped away from the pretty glass pyramid. True story, some lady from deep-south US of A tried to read me the riot act for taking a picture before her kids. Really I was waiting patiently in line (yes, there’s a line to do this) and had let someone go ahead of me, and she thought it was a new line, yada yada yada. Her friend told her to sit down and hush up. American stereotypes scare me because sometimes they’re so truuuuuuue. Myself included, but still.
Next – LA BASTILLE. This has literally no people visiting it, which I don’t understand at all. Storm the Bastille? Declaration of the Rights of… oh never mind. More Paris-for-two!
And then Place des Vosges for an ice cream break. Look at all the people here too!
PdV isn’t traditionally on the tourism radar, as far as I know, but there were lots of sweet little cafés there and a garden where people brought their kids to run around and eat. I’d go back there for lunch. We had an ice cream and shopping break, of course. Afterwards we made the decision to split up to visit museums that fit with our artistic tastes. To Museé d’Orsay! (What can I say, I’m a traditionalist.)
On the way I walked over the bridge where everyone and their lover locks a padlock as a symbol of their undying lurve. You toss the key in the Seine so there are no take backs.
Teeeechnically speaking there is no photo taking in Orsay, however I had a lovely gentleman that worked there give me the scoop. I was there within an hour of closing (oops), so I get a discounted ticket (awesome). Start at the top, all the impressionist pieces are up there (awesome). They’re going to start closing down from the top down (oops), so you can see everything on your way back down, when most people are already gone (awesome). The awesome wins. And no people meant two sneaky photos! The one from behind the clock on the top floor is one of my favorites from the whole trip.
The second one was on my phone so the quality is questionable but it was like a fairy tale. After the museum I tried to vain to find La Durée, maison de macarons. I was told not to leave before eating their macaroons, but guess what, they need to make it easier to find because I left without eating their macaroons. I asked for directions a few times but alas. No luck.
I met up with my lovely aunt and cousin and their friends who just-so-happened to be on a Paris trip of their own! They took me out for delicious dinner and due to a sad phone mishap I wasn’t able to reconnect with FP and get back to my apartment. Or apparently take any pictures. I felt terrible but luckily we both made it to our respective homes safely and I topped up my dumb phone. I met her with a chocolate croissant the next day to make up for it.
We decided to never go splitsies again, and spent our last day wandering Montmartre and visiting the Basilica de Sacré Coeur. Montmartre was beautiful, I loved the atmosphere and the houses. We found a boat load of tourists here though, no more personalized Paris.
Also, warning, it’s a HILL. Like, not the best thing to do on your last day when you have to, oh, carry all your baggage that you brought with you. I loved loved loved the basilica. It was also packed with visitors, and it was the kind of situation where people were getting elbowy to get in. It’s like, people. Church. What are you doing.
But look at how cool the effect is of the old gray stone church against the summer in Montmartre surroundings! It reminds of the Wizard of Oz, when things clearly go from black and white to colorful.
We saw the Lapin Agile, a famous cabaret where Picasso used to hang. Can someone please explain to me why on EARTH Eeyore was waiting in the garden? I thought he was going to pounce or scare someone or something. He didn’t even notice me taking pictures he was so focused on his hiding.
We ended our trip with souvenir shopping (I collect postcards!) and having a charcuterie plate near the metro.
Yesterday I mentioned how awesome iDBus was for helping me get into and out of Paris? Well that’s partly because our food was so late we had to take it with us, and we had to wait for the metro to get to the far corner of the (remember, huge-normous) city, and when we finally made it to Bercy we had to RUN to the bus. It was legit packed up and nearly pulling away, but they stopped and loaded us on. Merci!! We would have had to sit in the bus station for four hours and get home to Brussels after their metro was working. So I love ’em a little.
Here’s a random assortment of other favorites from our last few hours in the city of lights. Paris, you’re trop cool for me, but je t’aime just the same.
This whole trip could never have been organized on my own, and thank you to every little thing and person that made it possible! There are lots of things I still need to see (Moulin Rouge! Louvre! Notre Dame! those dang macaroons!)… til next time.
A couple months ago now, I posted on my blog about all the things I was/am grateful for. One of them was a surprise pair of tickets to Paris courtesy of CheeseWeb, a blog for English speaking expats living in Belgium, and iDbus. Besides the fact that they were making a nine-year dream come true, they were extremely courteous and gracious in every way… so thank you for all your help getting me to France! (And getting me back out…)
Thursday, August 15th
In addition to the miracle of free bus tickets, the friend I invited to come with me (Hi, FP!) had a friend-of-a-friend with an apartment in Paris with extra space for those days. (Thank you too, Anca!) We climbed on the bus at Garde du Midi and landed a few hours later by Bercy. It took us a hot minute to figure out the metro – I was completely unprepared for just how massive that city is. I mean really huge-normous.
After stopping off at the apartment to drop off our backpacks, we decided to waste no time and headed right for the Eiffel Tower. It felt like she became the third travel companion, she kept popping up whenever we least expected it since you can see her from pretty much everywhere on the west half of the city. Of course, a photo shoot ensued.
We wandered around for awhile, looking for a cafe for lunch. What we didn’t realize was that we showed up on a bank holiday, which means that evvvverything local is pretty much closed. We were a bit annoyed we had to go with Le Pain Quotidien (I could eat this in the US, boo), but we were very happily surprised that each country approaches LPQ differently. So our food was far better than expected, and the waitresses were very excited to hear they had edged out NYC for food quality and presentation, haha.
After lunch we hopped back on the metro and tried to see as many touristy things as possible before it got dark.
The metro signs themselves were heavily influenced by Art Nouveau. You can tell how old they are by how simple the signpost is. The one on the left, above, came before WWII, because it still has a hint of the 1920s artistic influence and it has a lamp post attached. The newer ones just have an M, or Metro with a blue circle. The oldest posts were all kinds of fancy (on the right), but a lot of them have been replaced over the years.
Next up was the Arc de Triomphe. It was actually a pretty good idea to visit all the big, don’t-have-to-worry-about-it-being-closed sites on the bank holiday, it wasn’t even a little crowded. Unless you’re talking about Champs Élysees, which had so many people I couldn’t stay longer than ten minutes, and I couldn’t afford to even walk in half of the stores. Not worth my time.
Our fourth travel companion became the Seine. We took a lot of pictures of her, too. 🙂 (Égalité means equality.)
But the best part of the day was the end, when we met up with a friend of FP’s who lives in the city (Hi Max!). We went all the way to the other side of Paris, near the library, where lots of people our age hang out on a bridge that goes over the Seine. There are lots of restaurants and bars lining the river, and people just bring their food and wine up to the bridge to share with new friends they make on the way. It was seriously adorable. I loved the wine I had so much I brought some home for my boyfriend for a Paris souvenir. That day someone had set up a projector and they were all watching a tv show (I think Breaking Bad, haha).
Side note, I found this hilarious. Apparently the architects responsible for the National Library of France didn’t really design the four buildings (meant to look like four open books facing each other) for actual… books. The glass outside was all wrong for its contents because books kept catching on fire when the sun was strong. What! So now the windows have something behind them to block out the sun, and the library has lost its beautiful view of the city. Wompwomp.
A couple other random parting shots for you, then I’ll save the second day for a new post… that won’t take two months I hope. 🙂
The last two weeks have been a blur. I had a birthday on Friday, and celebrated quietly… for four days straight, haha. Thursday night, my friends and I (including KB who was also celebrating her birthday!) went to the best restaurant around, Soleil d’Afrique in Matongé (I went earlier in the summer as well.)
On Friday, my actual birthday, I took care of business at work and then let myself catch up with my far-flung friends. I heard from some people I haven’t seen in ages and it made my day. I vaguely remember some of my college friends discussing buying our own retirement community when we’re old and have money and nothing else to do, I think that would be awesome. Can we make that happen?
Birthdays are like New Year’s Eve to me (my favorite holiday, BTW). They’re time for reflection and re-assessing and updating and changing habits, not just celebrating surviving another spin around the sun. I took myself for a long walk around my neighborhood and ended up finding a cozy little restaurant serving one of Belgian’s specialities – moules frites. It was everything I wanted and more, haha. I’d like to point out the mayonnaise in the corner, which is for the frites. Ketchup isn’t a thing.
I also needed to knock two more beers off my bucket list, so I tried I Chimay Rouge. (I had the ‘misfortune’ of finding my favorite beer on the first try, so I’ve had to force myself to branch out).
OEP kids, it wasn’t until I sat down that I noticed the name of the restaurant was Carpe Diem. I felt like it was an appropriate end to the year, hahaha.
JB took me out for drinks that night at L’Athenee because she’s a doll, and I tried a caipirinha? I’d never heard of it before but apparently it’s Brazil’s national cocktail. Olé indeed. The next day we met at Bruxelles Centrale and took the (crazy-€4-cheap) train to Antwerp. It was beautiful. Afterwards we sat outside in Parc Royal listening to the sweet jams of K’s choice and drinking margaritas outside the Brussels summer festival entrance.
Today was the last day of my internship (I’m really sad about this), but I need to pass in my thesis by… oh, tonight. ReadysetGO.
Also! Thank you to the newly-discovered-by-me blog Journeys of the Fabulist that gave me a shout out on her recent post about visiting New York and Boston. I hope I was helpful! 🙂
On Saturday I set off an adventure with my camera in the morning. I wanted to knock something off my bucket list, so the Museum of Musical Instruments it was. I wandered from West of the city center all the way to Parc Royale and the museum (Note, this long walk is important later.)
From MIM’s website: “Besides the well-known Scottish version, many more countries appear to have their own type of bagpipes, Tibetan monks make musical instruments out of the bones of their deceased colleagues, and African slit drums are the local form of Twitter.”
I don’t know what genius decided the concept for MIM but I’m kind of in love. You get a little transponder thing in your language of choice when you walk in, and there are markings on the floor that you stand on in front of most of the instrument displays. Once you’re in the right place, you hold the transponder to your ear, so you actually hear what the instrument sounds like! I mean really. That’s the point of an instrument right? It was so simple it was obvious, but it sort of blew my mind when I realized what the deal was, haha. So clever.
Many of the pieces were from Eastern Europe (lots of Romania), and most were instruments I’d never heard of. I apologize in advance for picture quality but lighting was definitely not conducive to picture taking, not with my little camera dude anyway. Let’s give out some superlatives, shall we?
Most BA to play (listen to it here):
Most difficult to play:
Most “what the?” moment:
I will say this though, I did enjoy the museum but it would be much better for you if you have a pretty deep-seated appreciation for classical music. I only appreciate it in small doses, usually when working, which is not something pleasant to think about on a free Saturday afternoon. That’s probably why the nature museum was the one for me. 🙂
On the walk back I took a few more pictures of the city. Isn’t she pretty?
So Sunday was designated write-your-damn-thesis day. It went, eh. Okay. I took a break go to the insanity that is Garde du Midi on a Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately as I was walking through the crowd my right knee just gave out for no reason at all. I’m like, hello old lady. I was able to put weight on it fine so I kept on keeping on. I actually got some delicious food today, look look! And aside from the provolone I didn’t spent more than… seven euro?
When I got back to my work space I tried to stretch my legs out to the chair on the other side of the table. OWWWW OWOW OW. So I can walk on it but I can’t straighten it. Gah. My several-knee-surgeries boyfriend suggested a strained tendon and PRICE – pressure, rest, ice, compression elevation. It’s not swollen or anything, and I’m sure it’s from walking so much in not-made-for-distance-walking shoes. Just PLEASE no crutches, they don’t have normal ones here. Everyone uses the hand ones and not the underarm ones and excuse the vanity but it would make me look all the more pitiful.
Sad face. I should probably wear my sneakers to work for a while. I’ll be the only one in BRUSSELS wearing running shoes, I think even the women who run wear cute flats at the very least, haha. Ah well. Body says slow down, you better darn well listen.
Happy August! 90% of my office left on holidays this week, so we’ve been trying to fit all the work in we need to do together into a very short time period. I’m going to miss the whole group. I baked some Italian almond cookies as a goodbye present/early happy-birthday-to-me last night. They’re goooood.
This goes out to all my friends who are on Pinterest, and have discovered for themselves that pins are never what they seem.
So the blog has gone from photography to travel to food, basically. I’m okay with it. (Funny, today’s daily prompt was about origins of your blog – she was all photography six months ago! See my about me, now en français aussi!) It’ll be back to travel and photography this weekend – thesis on one day and adventures on the other! And my poor neglected camera can come back out of hiding.
Some of you might have seen the post that went up earlier this week titled honesty & anxiety. It’s private now. It was a little too much to share, but it was cathartic to get off my chest. Mostly it had to do with the nerves surrounding the job search and flying home into unemployment. I’m not a girl who likes having a plan, I’m a girl who lives and dies by having a plan. It’s just my nature and I can’t do much about it. (On a related note, I could feel myself being annoying in Italy when I kept asking what the plan was. Sorry about that, E. haha)
I’ve got a whole pile of job applications out there. Some I like a lot more than others, some I think I’m much more qualified for than others. But it’s summer, so it seems like many orgs are dealing with the hiring process post holidays. One position that I really loved is listed alongside HR manager… so I’m not holding my breath there.
I was in a crap mood after work so I went to the food store to de-stress. Don’t laugh. It’s like clothes shopping but much more practical, haha. Right before I left I decided to wander down the wine aisle, and one of the bottles caught my eye: Plan de Dieu. I wasn’t 100% sure if plan was the same word in English and French but I thought, huh. God’s plan. (Turns out I was right.) My friend recently reminded me that I can only help my future so much, I’m not really the one in charge here. So I thought what the heck, it’s a good reminder. I bought it.
I came home and checked my phone, and there was an email for me requesting an interview. I literally leaped for joy. 😀
Since most of my colleagues are going on holidays within the next week, we had an ice cream send off party today. Here are some of the people that make work so darn enjoyable. 🙂
I really, really enjoy cooking. My living situation right now is not terribly conducive to doing so however (sharing a small fridge with 6 other people; no real oven; not much counter space), so I’m afraid my skills are heading downhill. I’ve been making lots of sandwiches for lunch (mozz/prosciutto/roma tomato/ciabatta) and lots of veggie things for dinner.
For example, last night:
Step 1, Cut your veggies. (Zucchini, onion, mushroom, tomato.)
Step 2, Heat in an oiled pan on the stove, in that order. Add spinach.
Step 3, Break a few eggs over the top. Curse yourself for not using the non-stick pans.
Step 4, Melt mozzarella into it. Eat the whole pan guilt free.
And I’m still not very used to the food shopping situation here. I talked about my first food shopping trip here; I think next time I go to Carrefour or DelHaize I’ll take more pictures to show you my progress. Or non-progress, since I discovered Tiramisu gelato, haha.
There have been a few times that I try something and say OH MAN that tastes just like ______. Or I was looking for something for a recipe, and I had to come up with the closest thing because graham crackers just plan don’t exist in Belgium. So of course these equivalents aren’t exact, but I’ve been trying to come up with a list of acceptable substitutes.
Spa Citron = Sprite
La Beurre crackers = graham crackers
Toast and cheese spread (la vache qui rit! translates to the laughing cow :)) = bagel and cream cheese
Nutella = peanut butter (of course)
I’ve also swapped in fresh mozzarella for pretty much every instance I eat cheese now here, shredded cheese is so expensive! And cheddar isn’t easy to find sadly.
Fortunately I’ve been trying to eat more veggies and less processed food here, which makes shopping easier as long as you know the french word for flaxseed is graines du lin and zucchini are courgettes and what not. I did get busted the other day for printing a price sticker for zucchini and sticking it on cucumber but in my defense concombre AND cucumber were not listed as options on the price-sticker-printing-machine. I didn’t think I could explain that quickly enough in French so I pretended I didn’t know my vegetables, haha.
Other food quirks I’ve noticed…
The loaves of bread are made on site, and not sliced. Most grocery stores worth their salt have a free machine you push the bread through and it slices it automatically. I haven’t tried this yet.
I wish I actually liked orange juice because some of the stores near me have a fresh juicing machine. It’s got a pile of oranges near the top and you have to crank the machine and hold a bottle at the bottom to catch all the fresh juice.
One of my coworkers puts cottage cheese in her soup. Which was orange. Sorry if you just ate. hah
It’s becoming progressively more difficult to avoid chocolate in my every day life. I have mixed feelings about this, haha.
Food packaging needs a major overhaul here. I thought we were bad, until the bananas and broccoli started coming shrink wrapped here. Or I’d open a package of crackers to find several small individually wrapped packages inside. Not necessary!
I never like to plead for forgiveness when I don’t get around to blogging regularly like I should. For one, I’m not getting paid to blog. (Is that the economics student in me? haha.) Second, that means I’m having too much fun to spend time in front of my computer. So don’t forgive me! 🙂
Here’s some speed blogging for you:
Italy Day 4: Perugia
On my last day in Italy, before my flight, my friend and I went to the town where she went to university. We stopped for lunch, where I tried some tomato-basil pesto pasta, then I had one more caffe gelato (I mean come on, it’s Italy) from GROM. She did that on purpose so if I really miss it I can actually go to NYC and grab some. Much cheaper than a flight to Italy, haha. Wasn’t that kind? We got some super last minute shopping in too. Yay presents!
The little bridge-looking thing is a Roman aqueduct through Perugia.
Back in Brussels
Since coming back from Italy, I’ve been trying to get a grip on writing the rest of my thesis. Today I found a place that was not only open on a Sunday but they sell BAGELS! I didn’t realize how hard they were to find until I looked. No picture necessary because you know what bagels look like. I knocked Chaochow City off my bucket list Saturday though. That would be 3,80 euro for lunch thank YOU.
Thursday was one of the intern’s last day, so we celebrated Friday night with a dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. (On the life bucket list, trying food from a new country. Check.) The whole process was so strange, but it was delicious!
I finally saw the little pissing dude. He’s really small for such a major symbol of the city, haha. Next on the list is zinneke pis, the peeing dog.
And pissing bees, which just cracks me up. I’ll never look at honey the same way. (Completely non-scientific judgement on my part of course.)
Otherwise, I have deadlines squared coming up at work, so back to work! Ciao ciao.
Oh ewwwwwww I just realized my flight is a month from today.
When it comes to the city versus the country, I definitely consider myself a country mouse. I like having so much to do and try and see in the city, but I much prefer the quieter sanctuary of living with more trees than people. Preferably palm trees.
Sunday in Italy was a whole new level of country mouse though.
My friend’s family owns a farmhouse in their hometown, perched on a hill far from the downtown area. In the early morning, her dad picked out squash, zucchini, and herbs from the garden, and her mom put together a stunningly elegant lunch to bring up to the country house (shocking, I know). There’s no kitchen quite yet, so everything was cooked at the main house and carted up there. This time, lunch was prosecco (cin cin!), olives, homemade spaghetti with truffles (…once again my favorite meal in life), squash sliced into strips and cooked with herbs and zucchini, only to be followed by the actual meal of duck breast (I don’t even know how it was cooked but it was unreal). I was so. full.
Nonno told me this was the “key to paradise,” isn’t he so adorable?
After lunch, my friend asked me if I wanted to take a walk around and see the area around the house. This was one ‘YEP’ I should have kept to myself… I was in a dress, work ballet flats, and a bathing suit, and sort of anticipated a ten minute walk at the most. Mmmm nope. I should have brought water, sunblock, and my inhaler at minimum, haha. I forgot that I had been silently praying on our drive to the house that the car could even make it uphill… thank the lord for manual transmissions. It was seriously a 50 degree gradient in some places. But it was all worth it, check our the scenery.
Those long things growing on stalks are onions, and sunflowers grow for miles around here… in addition to the Tuscan vineyards of course.
At the top of the hill, embedded in the stone wall around the house, is a statue of Mary. We both crossed ourselves and said thank you once we got back up, haha.
The rest of the afternoon we spent being lazy at the neighbor’s pool. It’s a big saltwater infinity pool overlooking the rolling hills and sunflower of Castillo. I felt weird taking pictures because they don’t know me, but this is basically what I was looking at from the float. 🙂
I couldn’t communicate well with most people there sadly, but I was able to tell them I was American. And I definitely understood when he told me that it’s okay, we can’t all be perfect. Haha
We took pictures on these stone benches on the top of a hill, and the neighbor came over to explain to me that they were actually placed there by Romans 2000 years ago, carried over from Africa. I can’t even take a sit without finding a piece of history, haha. While I was sitting there, my friend offered me a green bulb looking thing and told me to mangia. I’d never seen anything like it before, and it was a little oddly squishy. Her mom insisted I eat it too, and showed me how to tear into. I was like well. When in Rome? Literally? After one bite I said Ohhhhhhh my god. It was a fresh fig. The Italians thought it was hilarious…”haha! Americana! My got!”
Apparently one pool was not enough for us on Sunday though! Something else on my life bucket list was visiting hot springs, and wouldn’t you know it, those Romans loved a good hot spring bath. Again, not super conducive to taking pictures but this is from their website. We closed the place down (11pm), then went into town for dinner (pizza! quattro stagione is my favorite) and walked around the town. Look at these sweet little mandala-like things lining the streets – they were all made of dried flowers and leaves.
This should have been a two week long vacation, darn it.