Archive of ‘France’ category

Mona madness/

Have you ever seen the real Mona Lisa? A small painting behind glass and rope protecting her from her entourage. She was nice and all but I got much greater enjoyment taking pictures of what SHE gets to look at all day.

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This is my favorite picture of all times…this lady saw what I was seeing.

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The "last" pictures of day one.

For convenience sake I left my laptop at home and decided to travel with our new tablet. The tablet is great; it has a keyboard, plays movies, has the full version Microsoft Office, and the whole Internet but the keyboard is tiny and awkward, the volume only goes up to a whisper, I don’t really need Word right now, give me Photoshop, Lightroom and Live Writer for my blog…the internet keeps defaulting to Bing (ew).

SOOOOOO, poor spoiled Amalia had to upload 4 pictures at a time using the web based editor (5-10 minutes per transaction), unedited and landscape mode only.

I’ve reserved some of my favorite shots for when I get home and have proper editing tools and I guess I’ll make a big post with all the “portrait” photos I can’t seem to rotate on the tablet.

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Marché Montorgueil.

Marché Montorgueil is another Anthony Bourdain recommended hot spot. We truly didn’t go out looking for it but we were fortunate enough to find it. This Taksim (Istanbul) type street has hundreds of cafes, restaurants and markets. Everyone is so happy and pretty, it’s good spot to enjoy life.

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I spent a good 10 minutes drooling over the seafood selection while mom chatted with the young fish monger. He told us to absolutely wait until Saturday before buying our treats because the neighborhood is having a huge party and there will be twice as much to see and choose from. Saturday is our last day so I’m thinking : oysters, tuna, prawns the size of my cats, scallops and champagne.

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Marche des Enfants Rouges

I found something special, really special. On our way home from a long day walking, exploring and taking pictures we stumbled upon Marche des Enfants Rouges, a covered market selling local fruit and vegetables side by side with restaurant stalls cooking street foods from around the world and dozens of plastic tables and chairs lining the halls. It’s so busy and vibrant you have a hard time knowing where to look. Mom and I are going to eat lunch with the locals (mainly Hipsters) and take lots of pictures, I hope it tastes as amazing as Anthony Bourdain promises in his Paris episode of the layover.

Side note: do you think the Wikipedia write up is so short and lame because they want to keep this place a secret??

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In a hurry to meet mom.

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The day has finally come. After months of planning and getting excited, today is the day I meet my mother in Paris for a 6 day girls only trip before her Bulgarian visit. My 5 AM flight started in Burgas and my wonderful husband drove me to the airport even after a sleepless night of cat related attacks and disruptions. The local airport is very small and it only took 5 minutes to check in and go through security (3 of those minutes were taken up by a full body massage from a woman officer making sure my underwire bra didn’t conceal deadly weapons). With a few minutes to spare I ordered an espresso and a miniature bottle of soda water setting me back a shocking 5 whole dollars, 3 times the price I’ve become accustomed to living in Bulgaria.

The first leg of the flight was great. I sat in a window seat in a Bulgarian Air Airbus, the German man next to me was very pleasant and I was happy to discover that the runway had ZERO potholes, an astonishing fact for a Bulgarian made road. Our Airbus got rerouted 2 weeks back and we were now obligated to do the milk run and pick up more passengers in Varna (spit), adding an extra 30 minutes to my schedule. It took about 15 minutes to fly to Varna (spit) in pitch black, the sky was so clear I could see the Big Dipper right outside my passenger window.  The moment we were back in the air the plane started to descend. I was convinced something had gone wrong and that we needed to do an emergency landing in Plovdiv but no, I was wrong, we had already arrived in Sofia.

As I make my way off the plane I notice the boarding time for my next flight is 6:35 AM and that my cellphone reads 6:32 AM, SHIT! Now I’m running around like a mad woman, Gate B, Gate B, where the hell is Gate B, ok found it! I turn the corner and BAM, 150 people waiting in queue for the security check. I have no time for this, I deck under the barrier and budge right in front of the line like I owned the place. A few people follow my lead and shit hits the fan, people are yelling but I don’t care, I tear off my boots and don’t look back. My bra sets off the sprinklers again, quick massage and I’m in front of the Bulgarian customs lady. I’m panting, red faced and sweating, trying to compose myself for the officer. She reads my colorful passport with an inquisitive look “Are you staying in Bulgaria for 6 days?” “No, I’m going to Paris for 6 days then return to Bulgaria” “Do you live in Bulgaria?” “I have a summer home there. I have a campervan and have travelled through Europe, that’s why there are so many stamps” She looked unsure what to do next so I sealed the deal with my best asset, my sweetness. “I’m meeting my mom in Paris, I’m so excited” I said in a soft voice. She looks up at me with a warm smile, CLUNK! Passport stamped, on I go. Running at high speed now, I almost crash into the check-in counter.  Pant, pant, “did I miss it!?!” pant, pant. “No mam, we haven’t boarded yet”. Oh dear…

Now I’m the airport jerk. I go as far away from the crowd as I can and take pictures of the sunrise, anyway it’s probably best I’m removed from the crowd, I have a feeling that I’ve worked up a sweat. I will never truly know what happened but I think my boarding pass (and probably everyone else’s waiting in that long line) was typed out wrong, boarding commenced at 7:35AM.

I truly believe in karma, as I take my seat on the Embraer 190 (made in Brazil my plane enthusiast husband informed me this morning) I am surrounded by not one, not two but THREE crying babies, one baby is even equipped with an insanely loud audio book singing annoying songs about a farm. OK, fair enough, let me get comfortable in my seat and take off my brand new knee high boots, this is going to be a long ride. Ewwwwww, what is that? That, that smellllll. Seaweed? Wet dog? Garbage? Nope, that’s anchovy paste. Who the heck travels with anchovy paste? Then it clicks, I bend down and sure enough, my brand new “pleather” boots have a factory coating that smells like anchovy paste. Great, aren’t I miss popular today?

The rest of the flight went without a hitch with the exception of lunch. Every single person on board got a mini baguette with lettuce, cheese and ham, I on the other hand somehow managed to get a day old baguette brick with a huge slab of sheep’s cheese, no ham, no lettuce, just a dry ball of glue in my mouth insulting my taste buds. Yuppie!

To conclude and gloat a bit, I’ll be spending 6 glorious days in Paris with my wonderful mother eating my weight in cheese and foie gras while washing it down with wine from the Gods.

Pooooor Amalia.

Part DEUX tomorrow…

On our way back to Poland.

We’ve been on the road for 5 weeks now and have visited a total of 9 countries. Since we will be back in Poland (our starting point) tomorrow, I wanted to do a quick overview of each country we have seen.

 

Poland:

Northern Poland has beautiful beaches with white sand not too dissimilar to beaches I have seen in Mexico. People are young, tall, skinny, attractive, friendly, helpful and most of them speak English. The cost of living in Poland is about half as much as it would be in Canada.  We managed to eat and drink like kings for about $15 a day between the two of us. Krakow has a stunning city centre with tall old buildings painted in a way that reminds me of Venice. We visited a tiny town at the southern border of Poland called Zakopane, by far my favorite place. The hills were intense green and populated by goats. The houses, with their sloped roofs, had a “Swiss Alps” look to them. The entire time I was there I wanted to take up yodeling.

Poland has a ridiculous amount of grocery stores. You think Starbucks is bad in Canada, Poland has a Walmart type store beside a SuperStore with a Safeway kiddy corner and 3 Mom & Pop stores down the street. I obviously loved having so much food at my disposal but what puzzled me was the produce. There is no variety, well variety in brands but no variety in produce. A huge store would have a 25 foot long isle selling strictly onions. Another sells 600 variations of butter, next isle is devoted to 50 slightly different types of Gouda, undistinguishable to even my cheesy pallet. And every store sells the same things, how do they make money? Which store do you choose?

Slovakia:

We only spent a night and 2 days there. We found it to be even cheaper than Poland and a lot less attractive. The country side is really pretty and green but the city we stayed in, Zilina, lacked charm. The people were a little haggard looking but very friendly.

Czech Republic:

Go to Prague, it’s ridiculously  pretty. Every street looks like a fancy opera house with ornate cast iron balconies and plaster cornices molded into cherubs and flowers. Unfortunately the city is very Americanized and The Gap and other big name stores dominate the city centre. Happily, food and drinks in the grocery store are just as reasonable as Poland. Have cash on you at all times, no one takes credit cards except large grocery stores and gas stations. A little shady in my opinion.

Germany:

Expensive!  Most cities wouldn’t even take our Visa card because they have their own credit cards and do not except foreign cards. Too bizarre.  Everyone we met spoke perfect English and were very helpful. Germany was nice, especially our random trip to Berlin, but it’s rather large and boring to drive thru.

The Netherlands:

Amsterdam was our only stop there but it was completely worth it.  The canals and cobblestone streets are extremely romantic. Everyone in Amsterdam is 6 feet tall, beautiful, trilingual +, healthy and ride an old school bike. Like Germany, it was rather expensive but if you find a good supermarket you can buy the best caviar for $1.50 and beers for $0.50

Belgium:

To be honest I didn’t know much about the country apart from it’s beer and fries, what a pleasant surprise. The city of Bruges is a must see. Old buildings on the water with ivy growing up it’s sides and a maze of cobblestone streets, lined with cute houses with window boxes full of bright red flowers. Matt and I ate about 5 gallons of fries dipped in mayo during our stay and probably drank  the same amount of their world famous strong beers. Belgium wasn’t terribly expensive but not cheap either.

Coat of arms containing shield and crown in centre, flanked by lion and unicornEngland:

If you are taking the boat to England remember to book your sailing a few days before you leave. The cost triples the day of the sailing and it’s damn expensive. Hell, everything in England is expensive,  even public transportation. Matt and I got to see our best friends and had a wonderful time bowling and karaokeing for Jenner’s birthday. The trip was really fun and I would love to see everyone again but maybe next time we could meet in a less expensive country like Poland.

France:

France! I love France. Not one person will admit that they speak English, yet I know very well that they all do. I was happy to practice my French and the differnces between Quebec French and Parisian French kept me on my toes. Some of their expressions had me rolling on the floor with laughter and/or rolling my eyes. No one was particularly helpful, yet no one was particularly rude. For example, at lunch time there was a huge lineup to go up the Eiffel tower so I asked the guard, in French,” usually what time is the best time to come to avoid the long wait. Is night time better?” He responded, “I do nut know, I finish zee work in t’urty minutez, I know nutting about zee nightz.” Ok, fair enough.

The food in France is amazing. I’m extremely sad that we had run out of propane and could not cook hot meals when we were there. Each country only exchanges it’s own propane and our tank is from Poland, shitty luck, live and learn.  Out of everything that we ate, thing that probably stood out the most was a duck mousse terrine that we bought in Reims. It sang in our mouths, light and airy with loads of flavor plus it went well with our $1.99 sparkling wine. France is expensive but if you buy local things like cheeses and meats it can be really affordable.

Luxembourg:

We drove thru it in a few hours. We really wanted to walk down the streets of the city of Luxemburg because it looked so lovely from our car windows but it was raining cats and dogs, again.

General notes:

Parking lots: Big box stores have great parking lots to stay in over night. They are well lit and safe because they are usually away from the city and not too far from the highway. The only issue is getting in and out. They usually only have one unmarked entrance and if you miss it you might have to drive 1-2 kilometers to circle the block to get back in. Hello people, more entrances please! Once you’re in and are ready to get out, you must unnecessarily weave your way thru a maze of barriers. Not cool.

Round abouts: They are everywhere, even on highways, learn to use the Canada because they really work (though they are not very good for our van).

Health: Europeans love to be outside, they socialized, they eat and drink heavily and everyone looks great. There is considerably less obesity than Canada and the U.S. What are they doing right?

Weather: OH MY GOD could it please stop raining! The weather sucks, it’s cold and it rains a few times a day regardless which country we are in. I think the weather is getting to us, we will be much happier campers when we get a few days of sun.

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Reims, France. Champagne country.

A super fancy Champagne house, they probably have kilometers of caves under this building filled with Champagne.

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The cathedral. That night we watched a light show of projected images and colours on the cathedral’s facade , timed to music. It was breathtaking.

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Champagne region

I’m in Reims for the second time in my life. Apart from the torrential downpour, this visit to Reims is just as magical as the last. All I can say is; beautiful and cheap booze. Hooray!

 

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