Friday, July 25, 2014

Paris Part Duex

Monday 26 May-Wednesday 28 May 2014
We returned to Paris and were terribly jetlagged when we arrived. It was a total nightmare arriving right when people were leaving to go to work. Trying to cram ourselves in the crowded metro with our huge bags was no easy feat. We found our Air Bnb apartment easily enough. This time we are staying in the 15th Arrondissement. Since it was only 9am, the apartment was not yet ready for us…so we walked around a bit and got a drink in a small café. We were SO tired. Paris is chilly and rainy.

Our host, Laurent, was kind enough to turn the apartment over to us early. The place is cute and modern with a (relatively) large bathroom and huge bathtub, a dining room/living room combo with a pull out bed, a separate room for a toilet (which is, apparently, quite common in Paris) and a small kitchen. Have I mentioned the kitchens before? I have no idea how Parisians can cook in these teeny spaces. We’ve yet to visit a Parisian kitchen with an oven. Most kitchens are (maybe) 4x3ft spaces with a hot plate or maybe a stove top, a toaster oven, a small fridge, and minimal counter space. It’s nuts!! I respect anyone’s ability to prepare any sort of meal in these small spaces!!

The best thing about this apartment is the balcony, which is a rare treat :D This balcony housed a small baby pigeon, which I compulsively checked on every few hours.

Ok there little one?

We've spent much of the last two days lying around and having trouble sleeping. Preston has been especially affected by jet lag. He’s not really experienced it before and it hit him really hard. I’d read once that jetlag is easier traveling west…and I’d have to agree. When you travel east…your body feels like it has had the bones removed or something :P We’ve spent this entire trip traveling west…until now, and boy are we feelin it!!

We discovered the show “True Detective”. It’s excellent if you’ve not seen it. Not much else to report…we have rarely ventured out. Preston went over to Mara’s one night while I stayed in with a terrid headache. The time alone was nice and I got to bed early :D

Thursday 29 May 2014 
We actually got moving today. We walked from our place over to the Eiffel Tower and through the park underneath the tower. There was a big screen playing the French Tennis Open. There were also clay courts set up with young girls playing in a tennis tournament. We stopped and watched a while, impressed with the athletic ability of these young kids.

Continuing across the river, we enjoyed the opposite vantage point of the beautiful landmark. It’s not raining, but it is still a bit chilly today. We took in the views and snapped some pics before venturing up into the streets.

We walked towards the Arc de Triomphe and got nutella crepes from a nearby vendor. We ran into a street scheme that we’d see repeated time and time again: a man bends down next to you while you are waiting to the cross the street and he picks up a gold ring and asks if it’s yours. When you say, “no”, he’ll tell you to keep it for luck. When you decline or take it…he’ll then ask you for money for the ring. I don’t even understand the point of this or why it’s successful…but we saw it happening a lot. Weird.

We walked down the busy Champs Elysees with its modern stores and movie theaters. This wide boulevard is a popular tourist destination in Paris.

From the Champs ;), we headed back towards the river and walked along the water before heading to the Tuileries garden and ending up back at the Louvre.

I guess this is how they trim the grass? :D

We crossed the river near the Musee d’Orsay and caught the metro home from St.Germain.

Stopping first back at the apartment, we hopped again on the nearby metro and headed to Mara’s.

Mara had invited us to go with her to a festival on the bank of the Seine.
We arrived at Mara’s cozy place and had some wine and tarmara (my favorite-PINK STUFF) before heading down the street to a busy area full of restaurants.

The three of us ordered huge and delicious salads for dinner and, of course, more wine :D Afterwards, we walked over to the river to enjoy the festivities.

It was about 11pm by this time. The river bank was full of people sitting and drinking. There was a big bar set up in a tent, but we had brought our own wine and so plopped down on the river to enjoy it.

Not long after sitting, a friendly French guy came and sat with us and immediately started drinking my wine :P

I’d had enough already at this point (though, so seemingly had he :D), so I didn’t mind too much, but I did insist he find me some water as payment.
He dutifully agreed and went off to find me a glass of water.

Making good on his effort, he returned with water for me and introduced himself as Remi.

Remi was hysterical…aided by the fact that he was QUITE drunk. When we told him that we were Americans, he kept bursting into songs from different showtunes. It was a riot.

Remi also kept pointing to Preston and saying “American Beefsteak!!”. Haha!! He said we were the only non-fat Americans he’d ever met. Dissed!!

When he asked our names, Preston (of course) said, “Preston” and Remi screamed…”OH MY GOD!! THAT IS SOOOOO AMERICAN!! BRANDON WALSH!!” lol :)

Remi was SUCH a character. We were soon introduced to some of his friends and were joined by a much more sober Benjamin.

We had such a great evening talking and laughing (mostly AT Remi).

By 2 am, we were ready to go home. Since the metro was closed, Mara kindly called us an Uber (a popular car service that we’ve used a few times in America too) and we returned back to our place.

Friday 30 May 2014
After being out so late last night, we slept till noon. I don’t know how the Parisians can keep up with this lifestyle of late dinners and late nights and still manage to make it to work the next day :D

We walked in the afternoon from the 15th through the 14th and 13th arrondissements. We passed a huge, old cemetery, but the gates were closed. We stumbled upon a charming street fair, so it made up for missing the cemetery.

We met Mara in Montparnasse-near Ernest Hemingway’s old haunts (which is cool because I’m currently reading “The Paris Wife” about Ernest’s first wife Hadley. It’s quite a good book and I’d recommend it). We had a glass of wine and went to see “Maleficent”.

We were made to line up and enter the theater as a group, which Mara said was typical in France.

Also…sidenote. MY FAVORITE movie theater go-to snack is: popcorn (more recently with jalapenos sprinkled on top. It’s something they do in California and let me tell you…don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I don’t even really like jalapenos, but this combination is MAGICAL), and PLAIN M&Ms. The world over…plain M&Ms are being phased out. I like peanut M&Ms as much as the next person, but it’s the PLAIN that must be mixed with popcorn…and these M&Ms exist NOWHERE in theaters anymore. Disappointing, I tell ya.

The theater was old and cramped, but the movie was in English, so I can’t complain :D The movie, itself, was OK, but I’m too much of a “Sleeping Beauty” loyalist to have really enjoyed it. Both Mara and Preston liked it a lot.

After the movie, we walked up to St. Germain for dinner. We passed groups of people on rollerblades and Mara told us that on Friday nights-hundreds of rollerbladers take to the streets of Paris. Their numbers are so great that it even stops traffic a while.

Even though rollerblading has lost its popularity at home in America, it looked like a fun way to spend a Friday night.

We had dinner outside in a packed café. It’s funny how close the tables are here. You literally sit elbows touching with the people next to you. Understandably, you can really get to know your neighbors at dinner.

The couple to my left was hardcore making out, while to our right we helped to console a teary eyed French girl over her recent break up.

We actually had a (HUGE) platter of cheese for dinner with bread and wine. Life in Paris is gooooooooooood. (I accidentally typed that: Life is Paris is good...which I sort of like better).

Saturday 31 May 2014
We got up today and took the train to the 20th to see the Cimetière du Pere Lachaise -where famous people such as Chopin, Proust, Gertrude Stein, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison are buried. It is apparently the world’s most visited cemetery.

In case you can’t tell-I find cemeteries extremely interesting. I just love the history to be found there.

It was easy to find the cemetery from the metro, since it was right across the street from the stop with the same name.

The cemetery was started in the early 1800s and has over 800,000 graves. It was pretty impressive and had handy maps to help visitors navigate the thousands of gravesites.

Quoth the Raven, Nevermore

Many of the graves are housed in tombs built like little rooms with an altar inside.

We found Jim Morrison’s grave. Neither of us are very big “Doors” fans, but it was cool to see all the same. There was a small crowd gathered around and lots of offerings of candles, flowers, notes, etc.

From the cemetery, we rushed south towards central Paris to meet Mara at an apartment she may buy in the Marais-a trendy area of Paris. (where we had falafel last time :D)

On the way, we wandered through a rambunctious crowd of soccer fans near the Bastille. It was easy to get caught up in their excitement, but we hurried on to meet Mara.

After checking my phone, I saw that Mara had texted me that the tenant had canceled, so we slowed our pace and meandered through the Marais and down to the river.

We crossed in front of Notre Dame and got some croque monsieur from a street vendor. Preston really enjoyed these hot ham and cheese sandwiches.

Near St. Germain, we again caught the metro home to rest up a bit before heading over to Mara’s again. (We’ve had SUCH a fun time hanging out so much with Mara…she is such a fun and genuine person :D)

We took our small, orange suitcase (that started as my original suitcase) to leave with her, since we are traveling south tomorrow. Rather stupidly, we repacked NOTHING in Chicago. For one, we were too lazy I guess? And for two, we’ve just gotten so comfortable with the clothes we have…that it was hard to imagine losing anything. Since we are headed to Scotland at the end of our trip, we were also reluctant to get rid of some of the warmer clothes that we have.  It would be a big regret that we didn’t leave more of these clothes with Mara…but we weren’t sure what we’d need in the next month of our travels.

We spent the evening with Mara talking and laughing with wine, snacks, and more sushi from the restaurant downstairs. It’s been our favorite way to spend time in Paris.

Hanging at Mara's

We said goodbye to Mara, since we won’t see her for 3 weeks. We are headed to the South of France and into Spain and Mara is headed to China!!

Tomorrow morning we catch a train to Nice :D

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Back in the good ol' US of A

Thursday 8 May-Sunday 25 May
For shame!! I am behind on this blog.

After Iceland, Preston and I headed back home to America for a couple weeks. When I envisioned this trip…I wanted to travel for f̶o̶r̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ at least six months. Be that as it may-we are at an age where many of our friends are getting married!! 

Preston was in a wedding in December of 2013 and scheduled to be in another wedding in May of 2014!! That didn’t give us the itinerary that I was hoping for, so we made the decision to travel around these weddings. It wasn’t the most financially smart decision, but some things are more important than money---such as good friends and milestones in their lives. I’d have done the same in Preston’s position, so I completely understood.

So, on 7 May we found ourselves in Maryland for about 18 hours. We landed at Dulles and were met by a customs line a mile long with ONE agent working the US Citizens side. Seriously America? I'm ashamed!! Indonesia has their stuff more together than this!! How can that ONE worker possibly be on his game?? It took forever, but we were finally home. 

I got to see my family and meet my brother and Nikki's (my brother's girlfriend and conveniently my BFF) new cat AND dog AND see their new house!! Lots of changes!! Also, Nikki made us guacamole on arrival. I think that guac may have been one of the top foods I've been craving since leaving California in January. I. inhaled. it.

*I forgot to take out my camera, so these pics are all from Nikki :P




And best of all!! (sorry, Baxter) I got to see my cousin Amanda’s baby, Madeline-who I met briefly when she was born over Christmas.

I want to eat her :D

On top of that, I got to meet my childhood BFF’s new baby to boot!! Everyone has a baby these days J

AND my dad took us all out to lunch!!

It was a whirlwind and I didn’t get to see everyone that I wanted to, but that’s often how it is when I’m home in Frederick.

From Frederick, we flew to Chicago where Preston was quickly emerged in wedding duties. I got to spend lots of time with my in-laws, relax, and work on the blog and pictures. I am lucky to always feel so comfortable in Preston’s parents house.

We got to spend time with Preston’s amazing group of friends. Seriously-he’s had the same friends his whole life and they are as tight and supportive as ever-it’s pretty awesome. Also, most of them seem to have children too!! :P

Rich had us over for lunch and to hang out with his adorable daughter Juliana.

Timmy and Lindsey hosted us many times and we had a great time hanging out with Avery :D They even cooked us crab legs one night!! Fancy.

My whited out face is a bit terrifying :P

Playing with Avery in the backyard

We got to see Timmy's mom's new lake house. Beautiful!!

Preston took over a bit of Daddy Daycare

We also went downtown to meet Jerry and Colleen's new baby (not pictured. fail.) and ended the night at an awesome blue's bar with Matt and Christina...and later Pam, Slavko, and Pam's sister Christina.

We even took a day to do a little sightseeing in Chicago :D

Oh...and it SNOWED one day. In MAY. 

Not the best pic, but I assure snowed. In May.

And, the wedding? AH-MAZING. It was one of the most extravagant weddings I've ever attended. For one, it was 500 people. There was SO much food and it was all delicious. Pam is Greek-American and Slavko is Serbian-American, so it was fascinating to see the mix of the two cultures. My favorite part of the wedding was when women in Pam's family kneeled in front of her while she danced around them. It was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. And, Pam's Aunts all brought little desserts-enough to fill my kitchen-in one of the most impressive dessert displays I've EVER seen. (Of course, I forgot to photograph it) This was in addition to cake and baked alaska. Oh. My. Gosh. They even had someone hand rolling cigars. Wedding of the year, for sure. Of course, I took almost no pics. Maybe I'm burned out on pics?? :P

Me and my beautiful Mother in Law

Unbelievable flower displays

Da guys getting ready to walk down the aisle

My fuzzy photo of Slav and Pam

My Chicago BFF <3
Nonetheless, while not having a job and traveling the world is > cool….not having a job and hanging around your parent’s house all day< cool, so we were excited to get back on the road and head to Europe on Memorial Day weekend.

I was lucky enough to have a TON (more than 100k) miles on American and pay for our return tickets using miles, but was unlucky to find that one must still pay the (outrageous) tax fees on these tickets. Womp wa. Either way it was worth it and we are off again to Paris!!