Thursday, July 26, 2012

La nourriture parisienne (Parisian food)!

Food, glorious food! The French are known worldwide for their fabulous cuisine, and I got to taste plenty of it on my trip. Of course, I don't want you to feel left out, so here's a rundown of the amazing things we ate during our three days in Paris. 

If you're one of those people who just hates food pictures, then skip this post and come back tomorrow for more travel photos :)

Airplane breakfast 

Airport breakfast
Pain au chocolat, which is basically a croissant with chocolate filling. My favorite kind of breakfast.

Lunch at Le Bourbon
We ordered off the lunch special menu,

which meant I got all this for 12€:
Salade jardinère/garden salad
Poulet rôti frites/roast chicken with fries
Crêpe au chocolat/crêpe with chocolate filling

Ice cream at Berthillon
Une boule de chocolat blanc/one scoop of white chocolate

Café when Lauren got caught trying to sneak into the bathroom
Shane: unknown sort of French beer recommended by bartender

Dinner at Chez Papa
Salad with bread and cheese
Duck thigh with potatoes
Profiteroles a.k.a. cream puffs with chocolate sauce. 
Not my photo, just wanted you to see how delicious these things are. 

Macarons! These things come in the most amazing flavors, and the most gorgeous colors. I had a chocolate one and a "fruits rouges"/red fruit one. This was my first time trying a macaron and I am hooked.

Breakfast at the Holiday Inn Montparnasse
This hotel had a really nice Continental breakfast
scrambled eggs
 croissant with strawberry jelly
pain au chocolat
and apple juice!

Lunch at Pommes de Pain and McDonalds/McDo
Me: veggie lasagna at Pommes de Pain
french fries at McDo (couldn't help myself)
Shane and Mom: sandwiches
Hannah: Le Royal Cheese/quarter pounder 
with a medium fry and medium drink. 
Look how small those portions are! 
Mom also had a piece of chocolate cake at McDo. 
Can you imagine getting something that fancy looking here in the US?

Wasting time at an Irish café
Me: hard cider
Shane: Kronenbourg 1664 (best-selling French beer)
Mom and Hannah: 7€ ($8.50!) bottles of Coke and Coca-Light/Diet Coke

Dinner at Pépone's
Usually on these trips, dinner is planned out and everyone eats the same thing. This time, several nights we were given vouchers called "Tickets-restaurant" worth 17€ each and allowed to order whatever we wanted at any restaurant that accepts them. I tried to look these things up online and as far as I can tell, if you work somewhere without a cafeteria, your employer gives you one of these vouchers for each day you work (but not necessarily worth that much, they're usually around 10€). Interesting.
Tomato and mozzarella salad
Me: Pâte quatre fromages/four cheese pasta
Mom: some sort of lasagna (bottom photo)
Shane: pizza Bolognese
Hannah: cheese pizza

Snack at the Eiffel Tower
Crêpe with Nutella! Yum!

Breakfast at the Holiday Inn Montparnasse
same as Wednesday

Lunch at McDo Versailles
I know, I know, I do a post about wonderful French food and here we are at McDonalds for the second day in a row. Just call me a hypocrite and blasphemer and get it over with.
Me: Le Royal Cheese/quarter pounder with wrong-tasting fries and tiny Coke. 
Shane: McBaguette, which is a baguette with hamburger patties, lettuce, Emmental cheese and strong mustard.

Dessert at Darras Versailles bakery
Shane: raspberry éclair
Mom: raspberry tartelette
Me: Trianon! Raspberry macaron with vanilla cream filling and fresh raspberries

Dinner at Chez Clement
Potato (?) quiche
Chicken with some sort of red sauce andmashed potatoes
Crème brûlée
Shane: 3 glasses of red wine

With all this food, it's a wonder we didn't each gain 10 pounds by the end of the trip! I guess we have the zillion miles we walked to thank for that :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Paris and Nice: Part 3

Continuing with my France trip...don't forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2

Day 4: Thursday, May 31st
(written at 12:14 a.m., technically already Friday!)

Today was our last day in Paris! We did a lot of awesome stuff, but I think I'm going to have to catch you up on it in the morning on the train. Oh wait, Shane is trying to FaceTime with his mom, so I'll just go for it now. 

On top of the Eiffel Tower!
This morning we got up early to be (almost) first in line to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower! It was a wonderful idea for Angélique to take us so early because by the time it closed opened (sorry, late, tired!), the line was ridiculously long. In fact, one kid with our group accepted 50€ from a family to let them cut line and stand with him. They even took pictures together in case the someone questioned it. Madame was not pleased when she found out. Going to the top was a teensy bit scary but Shane was there so that made it better, plus the view was absolutely beautiful. A bit hazy, but still great. 

Shane enjoying a McBaguette
(don't worry, I'm planning a full post just on the food!)
After the Eiffel Tower we took the train down to Versailles for a visit. Before we went to the palace we went to a little market for lunch. We walked all around to try to find a sandwich stand so Shane could get a hot dog on a baguette but no luck. For some reason we only find them when we're in a rush and have already eaten, not when we're really looking for them. They had a bunch of cafés and a huge selection of fresh fruits and veggies and meats, but no quick little stands. In the end, we spent so much of our free time hunting down a hot dog baguette that we ran out of time and ended up at...McDo. I know, I know, it's blasphemy. But we were in a hurry, and if Madame asks, we ate a ham and cheese sandwich from the cutest little shop. Plus Hannah wasn't feeling that great from the day before and she wanted something (somewhat) familiar. At lunch, Shane had a "McBaguette", which is basically a baguette filled with several small hamburger patties, cheese, lettuce, and a special mustard sauce. French people also eat tartar sauce with their fries and the medium drink there is the size of a kid's small. Oh, and they sell really fancy pastries and coffees there too. 

It was a very raspberry day. Also, macarons are
my new favorite thing! (bottom right corner)
After lunch, Hannah snuck into a store and bought me a wrap Swatch watch that I had been looking at. She's so sweet :) (Sidenote: I collect Swatch watches, which started on my first trip to France with an Eiffel Tower souvenir swatch purchased at the Louvre. Since then, I always buy one to commemorate a trip to somewhere awesome). Then, while waiting for the rest of our group to meet up (we might've had time for a slow lunch after all), we went to the bakery for dessert. I must say that I have fallen in love with macarons on this trip, they're everywhere, even McDo! I had a Trianon (aptly named for Versailles), which was a raspberry macaron with vanilla cream inside and fresh raspberries all around. Shane went for a raspberry éclair and Mom got a raspberry tartelette. Yum!

Finally it was time to go visit the palace! This was the part of the trip I have been most excited about. I have an obsession with Marie Antoinette. We didn't get the little guided tour headphones, but don't worry, my obsession paid off. Shane, Hannah, and Mom were all joking that I should apply to be a tour guide from all the stories I was telling! It was a really nice day to visit too, didn't seem too crowded. Usually you're packed in there like sardines! We didn't have time to visit the Petit Trianon today (I swear I'll make it someday!), but I did buy a little Marie Antoinette figurine in the gift shop, so I guess that makes up for it. 

Shane's wine. Two down, one to go.
We finally all made it back to the hotel safe and sound and actually got to take an hour to rest and recuperate before dinner (Unless you've been on one of Madame's trips before, you don't realize that free time is few and far between. You learn to cherish every minute you actually get to sit/lay down). Shane regretted the nap though, he said it only made him more sleepy.

Dinner was at Chez Clement, which is a really fun restaurant because all the decor is kitchen stuff. They have copper pots hanging from the ceiling and the light fixtures are made out of silverware. It makes me think of "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast, or that someone's kitchen has exploded. They gave us red wine with dinner, but Mom, Hannah and I don't like wine. Shane drank three glasses and was giggly the whole way out of the restaurant, which was entertaining.

La Musée d'Orsay
The Musée d'Orsay came next. The museum is housed in the old Paris-Orléans train station and it is filled to the brim with impressionist artwork like Degas, Renoir, Chagall, VanGogh, etc. Shane was most excited about seeing all of the sculptures. I most enjoyed seeing that VanGogh church painting from that episode of Doctor Who.

Our last stop for the night (and for Paris!) was the Louvre. We didn't get to go inside to see the Mona Lisa or any of the other eight gazillion works of art they have, but we did get to see the amazing building itself. Did you know the Louvre was home to the kings of France before Louis XIV built Versailles? Two awesome palaces in one day. 

Finally we took the bus home (Madame insisted on the bus, since we'd already experienced the other types of Parisian public transit), which used up the last of our Métro tickets. I was so exhausted that I fell asleep on the back of the bus! I will miss Paris, but I'm ready for some relaxation in Nice. 

La Musée du Louvre

Monday, July 23, 2012

Paris and Nice: Part 2

I know, I know...I'm really behind. But don't worry, I am making up for it with a new France trip post every day this week!

Make sure you check out Part 1 first if you haven't seen it already so you can know what a whirlwind the first two days of our trip were. Also, I've added links to this post, so if you're interested in learning more about something, click away! (and click pictures for a closer look!) I apologize for any weird formatting issues, Blogger and I are having a disagreement today. I promise it looks exactly right on my end, but not so great on yours. I tried!

Day 3:  Wednesday, May 30th
(written at 11:50 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Montparnasse)

Wow. Today was only our second day of sightseeing and I am exhausted. Hopefully I'll make it through the rest of the week! 

We were in the early breakfast group this morning, which came a lot earlier than it seemed. Madame actually had to come knock on our door to wake us up. I didn't feel like I'd even slept a wink.

Our first thing this morning was  a bus tour of the city. Our guide's name was Amal and she was wonderful. She told us a lot of fun and entertaining stories about Parisian culture and architecture. We also got to see sights like the Louvre, the Place de la Concorde, and the Eiffel Tower.

Mom and Hannah at L'Hôtel des Invalides.
Not pictured: me crying on the bus over
my stupid camera.

When we stopped at L'Hôtel des Invalides, disaster struck. I realized at that point that the memory card in my camera was damaged. All the pictures from the first two days...gone. And not just the memory card was damaged, it seemed that there was a problem with my camera. Not surprising as it had been on the fritz before the trip, but infuriating none the less. All the pictures were replaced with little blue squares with question marks in them. No more Arc de Triomphe, no more Notre Dame. Even my food photojournal (which I was so excited about, because France has some interesting food), gone. Even though Shane and Hannah and Mom took pictures of most all of the same things, it's just not the same :(

*Sidenote: I had something similar happen once on a trip to New York city in high school, through a weird memory card error two-thirds of my pictures got deleted and the remaining one-third was repeated three times. So that means all the awesome pictures I took at the Museum of Natural History went missing but I still had the picture of the guy dressed as Spiderman in Times Square. I apparently have horrible luck with digital cameras on trips.*

Galeries Lafayette. Can you believe this
is a department store?!?

The tour ended at L'Opera Garnier, which was Shane's must-see for the trip (he's obsessed with Phantom of the Opera). Before we actually went for the tour, we had a free period for lunch and shopping. I opted for eggplant lasagna at a French sandwich chain but Hannah couldn't find anything she liked there so we had to look around for other options. We tried Pizza Hut but were quickly reminded that pepperoni pizza does not exist in France (and really no American-style pizzas at all) and so off we went to McDo! (McDonalds, just don't tell Madame!) We made a quick stop in the Galeries Lafayette (GIANT department store) after lunch, where Shane bought a new Swatch and Mom couldn't decide on a Longchamps bag. Hannah added to the Swatch collection when we hit up the Swatch store outside the Opera house. 

At the Opéra. I have no words.

Finally it was time for a tour of the Opera and see where the Phantom lives! Even if he's not real, it is still a fabulous place to visit. The whole building is stunning inside and out. I can only imagine how it would be to dance there in the ballet (primary usage for the Opera house today), especially because the stage has an incline of 14% from front to back. Dancing downhill on pointe would be terrifying.

Stairs on the left, tram on the right. I know it doesn't
look like it from here, but trust me, that's too many

Our next stop was up the hill to Montmartre. Shane and I were two of the three people who decided to walk up the stairs rather than take the tram up the hill. Yes, there are that many stairs that the city of Paris had to build an incline tram to take people up instead. And of course Shane wanted to walk, as if we hadn't walked enough yesterday. I think he's trying to kill me. (Halfway up I was contemplating jumping the tracks and holding on to the outside of the tram car for dear life, but by some miracle I made it to the top without passing out).

While on Montmartre, we saw the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, which is the only church in Paris dedicated to Jesus instead of Mary. Then we had some free time to explore. Unfortunately, a majority of the shops on Montmartre are Gatlinburg-esque junk stores. There's always the option of getting your portrait or caricature done by some of Montmartre's famous portrait artists, but Shane and I weren't in the mood. We decided to try and walk to the Moulin Rouge but couldn't find it, so we gave up and went to a street cafe. While Mom was sipping her 7€ Coca-Light (Diet Coke, and approx. $8.50 US), we watched another American family get scammed by two portrait artists. Let me just say that the "real" artists hang out mostly on the square and have a set-up and let you come to them. Then there are those who walk around and swarm tourists like flies. They're relentless. Their work is questionable, their prices are high, and they try anything to trick you into paying more than you should. This family wanted one picture drawn of their two kids together, and negotiated the price down to 20€. They ended up paying 40€ for two separate, ugly pictures from two separate artists (because artist no.1 said he wanted to give his friend artist no.2 some work too). After that they were talking to yet another artist, who promised his work was better than no.1 and no.2. Hopefully they came out of that with a decent drawing and didn't blow their whole vacation budget.

Fun fact: I got to see the show at the Moulin Rouge in
2006 as a graduation gift from my mom! It was awesome.
Next came dinner. We walked down the hill to Pigalle and saw the Moulin Rouge (no wonder I couldn't find it, I was looking in all the wrong places), although briefly, because the Moulin Rouge is conveniently situated in the Red Light district and Madame was about to have a heart attack with so many students in an area with neon lights blinking some very inappropriate things. 

After dinner we rode the Métro down to the base of the Eiffel Tower to take a ride on the Seine river on a bateau mouche (fly boat). The sights were spectacular, seeing Paris all lit up at night like that. It had been raining so I tried sitting down inside the boat for a while but had to get up because I started falling asleep (like a lot of other people on the trip). I know it's hard to imagine falling asleep surrounded by so many sights, but I was so exhausted I just couldn't help it. 

Of course, it's not Paris at night without stopping to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle. For five minutes every hour, hundreds of strobe lights make the tower that much more magical. Of course, enjoying a crêpe with Nutella helps the effect :) 

Don't forget to check out my video with more pictures from day 3!