November 3, 2016

Paris Flashbacks & Travel Tips

Paris

I have dreamt of visiting Paris since I was a little girl. yes, originally it was because of the Eiffel Tower. And that didn’t change, as I got older I also wanted to visit all the places, eat the food, immerse myself in the culture and just travel. I mean, for an aspiring chef, how can you not want to go to France? I was there for three days. It would have been nice to stay longer, but I was easing myself into it as I was hitting two major cities and this was my FIRST trip to Europe. Heck, my first trip out of North America. And I’m glad I did it.

I went with a guy that I have been seeing since mid May. His name is William. (I will be calling him W in most cases.) W and I left on a Sunday, our flight left Seattle at 4:30pm and we flew to Iceland, switched planes and then continued onto Paris, arriving Monday around 1:30pm. It’s a 9 hour time difference and boy did it pack a punch! I officially got my passport stamped when we landed in Iceland AND managed to see (very faintly) green wisps of the Northern Lights while flying into Iceland. Someday, I want to go back and actually stay in Iceland. I couldn’t get pictures of the aurora, way too faint for that, but I captured a beautiful sunrise as we left. By the time we got into Paris, we had been travelling for almost 12 hours and still had to get to our hotel, so we grabbed a taxi and took off. We also managed to swing by the Eiffel Tower in the process which made me so happy.

Sunrise over Iceland Tour Eiffel

As soon as we got to the hotel, we were done. We crashed HARD. I figured we’d lose Monday, and I was right. We woke up around 9pm though and were pretty hungry even if we were still tired. We dressed and decided to go see the Eiffel Tower in person. Our hotel was less than 11 minutes from it and when we got there, we were gobsmacked. It’s just so beautiful and so awe-inspiring. It’s lit at night and we just gazed in wonder, as long as we could. I also took a picture, which I later discovered is a no-no. Oops. (Night pictures of the tower is actually ILLEGAL). We ended up being silly tourists and buying a bottle of wine and drinking (some of) it right there. But after that, we knew we had to get some food and fast. Neither of us were up for a restaurant so we wandered into a market, grabbed sandwiches and drinks, ate at the hotel and crashed again.

Our hotel was pretty amazing. I didn’t remember to take pictures of the room, but it was quite lovely and in the basement was a kitchen and dining area where they served breakfast every morning. Breakfast actually came free with our room (I’m smart) and we took advantage of it. We ate our share of pain au chocolat, croissants with jam, chunks of baguettes filled with brie and sopressata and steaming mugs of espresso (un petit cafe) before heading out to explore.

Le Jules Verne Le Jules Verne

I splurged on this trip a couple times. It’s been a dream of mine to eat in a Michelin star restaurant. Well, the Le Jules Verne just happens to be one. And it’s located in the freaking Eiffel Tower. So I made a reservation for two for the three course lunch meal and while it was certainly the most expensive meal I have ever eaten (and probably will ever eat) it was delectable and worth every penny. The menu I chose is as follows:

Amuse Bouche: seared whitefish on a seaweed and black rice paper
Starter: Wild mushroom ravioli with a delicate chicken broth
Entree: Hen pheasant pithiviers with a Pèrigeaux sauce. It came with a fresh greens salad with tiny grapes.
Dessert: Chestnut soufflè with a blackcurrant sorbet. Along with our desserts, they gave us a dish of tiny orange blossom marshmallows, tiny chocolate ganache truffles and a mini assortment of desserts topped with edible gold leaf and there were tiny vanilla bean macarons!

Paris from the Eiffel Tower Arc de Triomphe

After our wonderful lunch, complete with champagne and a complimentary package of madeleines, we walked around the Eiffel Tower and purchased some gifts before walking streets near our hotel and picking up chocolate boxes and all the macarons. I ended up not feeling too well so we headed back and slept more. It turned out that I had actually gotten sick which is why I was so exhausted. I ended up fighting it for most of the trip. That coupled with the amazing meal means that neither of us actually again until Wednesday morning.

Wednesday was a whirlwind of activity. Walked through the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower, crossed the River Seine, down to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. We went into the Arc and walked up the spiral staircase inside, out to the observation deck for lots of pictures of Paris and down another spiral staircase. We walked past the Grand Palais and around Place de la Concorde. We stopped for lemon and sugar crepes from a little crepe cart in a park and discovered how to use the sanisettes. They are self-contained, self-cleaning unisex toilets that you find on the streets. We stopped for an early dinner where I had the Croque-monsieur and he had the Croque-madame (has a fried egg on top). We napped and the got dressed up again because we were on our way to the Moulin Rouge! This is the other thing I splurged on and I’m glad I did. So very glad. the show was 2 hours of beautiful costumes, wonderful singing and lots of nudity. Scandalous! But seriously, it was worth it. And we had a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Oh, how I love champagne!

The Moulin Rouge A stroll along the River Seine

Thursday was our last day. We actually slept in a bit, had breakfast and then packed, checked out and stored our stuff in the hotel’s baggage room. We had a few hours before taking a night train to Rome so we set off and saw Musée d’Orsay, The Louvre, Palais Garnier (the Paris Opera House) and tried to go to Notre Dame but we started to run out of time and there was a lot of police activity headed in that direction so we decided to head back. We stopped at a Patisserie to stock up on sandwiches, pain au chocolat and Mojito 7-Up that W fell in love with while in Paris, grabbed our bags and headed for the train station. Which was a good thing because that was the night that my cold decided to kick my ass. I spent the entirety of the night train a feverish, snotting and aching mess. It was bad.

Moulin Rouge

Despite my illness, Paris was amazing. It was beautiful even when it rained, the food was everything you would expect and more, and we learned some pretty useful things too. Here’s some tips:

Hotel – We stayed at the Hotel du Cadran. Cannot recommend it enough. It was safe and secure with a comfortable bed and a simple yet amazing breakfast and has a freaking chocolate shop attached to it. Yep. And it was in a great location for walking to major sites. I booked through Expedia and paid $5 more to get the breakfast included. Which I’m glad I did because otherwise it’s 13 euros per person.

Shoes – This should be a no-brainer but I’ll say it anyway. Bring comfortable sneakers or boots. We walked about 10-15 miles a DAY. The streets often have cobblestone type roads and they are pretty slick. They get even more slick in the rain so where non-skid or non-slip shoes if you can.

Misconceptions – The stereotype is that the French or rude, especially to Americans. We found this to be incorrect. No one was rude. I read about this before leaving and it’s explained by ignorance on the culture. In France when you walk into a store, you say Bonjour/Bonsoir (depending on the time of day) and Merci or Au Revoir when leaving. It’s customary. When people don’t, it’s seen as rude which is often why the shop owner won’t be as nice. They do this everywhere and everyone of all ages does it. I don’t speak French. But I learned a couple phrases, including “Do you speak English.” Everyone we talked to spoke English but were happy that we at least attempted.

Taxi’s – Taxi’s are everywhere and while not super cheap, they aren’t THAT expensive. However. Make sure what you use is a legit cab company and not a “luxury car service.” A real cab will cost about 20 euros to get most places that normally take an hour to walk. It’s a good distance. A luxury car will double, is not close to triple that. Taxi’s have an actual taxi sign on top of the car and when it’s green it is available and red is occupied or on the way to get someone.

Scams/Peddlers – There are scams and peddlers everywhere in Europe and Paris is a breeding ground for both. Do NOT sign anything when (usually) women come up to you with a clipboard. Don’t worry about appearing rude, because otherwise they will tell you that the petition you just signed means you now have to pay 20-30 euros and while trying to pay them, they will try and take whatever is in your wallet. We saw this happen and it’s awful. Another popular scam is for people to walk near you, pretend they found a ring or something on the ground and tell you you lost it. When you deny that, they tell you to just take it. If you do, they will tell you to pay. The peddlers are relentless too. They will come up to you and try and make you a bracelet or sell you wine or roses and say just a couple euros. If you try to offer them a few euro coins like they ask for, they then try and demand 20-30 euros. We had a couple people try that on us. I simply said no and ignored them, continued walking. Both the scammers and the peddlers will try and convince you to pay if you talk to them at all, so your best bet really is to just keep walking. Yes it’s rude. It’s also the cheapest way out.

The Louvre – We actually never made it in. We didn’t even try because we knew it would be crazy. Even if you buy tickets ahead of time, lines of up to 2.5 hours are normal. So we walked by it but didn’t go in. The line was out the door and around the building. If you are going for a few days, skip going inside. You will lose the whole day there. Stay outside. There are sculptures and gardens outside that are gorgeous enough. Save the museum itself for a longer trip.

Food – Restaurants are EVERYWHERE in Paris. They vary in kinds and have specific rules. If you just want a casual meal that won’t cost a ton, stick with brasseries which are open all the time (most actual restaurants in Paris open about 11-1 for lunch and then again 5-9 for dinner), serve alcohol and regular drinks and sandwiches, entree’s, etc. A cafe in Paris generally only serves coffee and simple food items. If you choose a “real” restaurant, bring your appetite and be prepared to spend some time there. They will not be happy if you don’t order multiple courses or if you rush through your meal. And never, ever ask for the check before finishing your meal. That doesn’t happen there. Definitely visit a patisserie. There’s nothing like it.

I think that about covers it! Have you ever been to Paris? What was your trip like? Any tips that you would like to share? I’d love to hear all about your experiences in the comments!

November 1, 2016

Three Things

If you’ve been following for any length of time you’ll know that I love lists. Hell, it’s even a blog tag here. So when I saw this list on both Steph’s and Kristin’s blogs, I knew I had to play along. So without further adieu:

Three things I’d never give up
Travel, journaling and yep, sticking with Steph and Kristin here. My independence. It drives me crazy to have to depend on anyone for anything. I’m stubborn.

Three favorite vegetables
Cucumbers, spinach and jicama.

Three shows I watched faithfully from beginning to end
Full House, Boy Meets World and The L Word.

Three places I want to visit inside the US
New Orleans, Boston and Chicago.

Three places I want to visit outside the US
Iceland is pretty high on my list, Venice and Morocco.

Three things I always have with me
Chapstick, camera (usually phone but it’s better than most cameras) and a pen.

Three things that are always in my car
I don’t have a car. But when I have one it will probably be napkins, a book and an umbrella.

Three most recent phone calls were to/from
W (the newest beau), my friend Marcus and my bank.

Three books I read and loved in college
I only went to college for a short time but: Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman, Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block, Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Three most often used makeup products
Urban Decay Primer Potion, Covergirl Super Sizer Mascara (Star Wars of course), Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Honey or Smitten.

Three things that make me laugh
My own hiccup Tourettes (It’s freaking funny sometimes!), cats eating ice cream, babies smelling their own farts.

Three things that make me cry
Thinking about my mom and how much I miss her or just thinking of the past before everything spun out of control, thinking of losing my cat Adonis, dreams of anyone I care about dying.

And there you have it! What would your answers be to this challenge? Leave your answers in a comment and please go visit the lovely women I got this from (if you haven’t already) and give them some love!

October 30, 2016

Oh, how time flies!

To be completely honest, I’m not even sure how to start. There has been a ridiculous amount of things going on within the last 6 months. So many changes – good ones! If anyone reading this follows me on any type of social media platform, you may already know some of things, but probably not everything. So much to discuss. So let’s just jump in!

Silversun Pickups, up close and personal! Blonde! Inked again! Astoria Column

– In late April/early May, I made a drastic change and went BLONDE. Very, very blonde. I loved it, but unfortunately my hair also hasn’t been the same since.

– In mid May I met a guy on a dating site (W) and we hit it off immediately. We started off a friends and well, fast forward 5 months and we’re still seeing one another. Exclusively. He’s become a good friend as well as a potential SO. We’re talking about that, anyway. We’ve both been hurt so we’re taking it slow. But he’s a wonderful person, even if he’s young. Yeah, yeah. I know. Cougar. Oops. I think we’re pretty cute together. But I’ll let you judge for yourself.

– In June I got to go see one of my favorite bands of all time. Silversun Pickups came to Seattle and I wasn’t about to miss that for any reason, considering that I have missed them THREE other times before. But not only did I make the concert, I ended up right in the front and also discovered the amazingness that was the opening band, Joywave. I got some fantastic shots too!

– In late June, I got my third and largest tattoo. One I had been wanting for over two years. Cherry blossoms on my arm with a line from my favorite band, Nine Inch Nails. The lyric is “Nothing can stop me now.” If that isn’t positive, I don’t know what is.

– In mid July, I FINALLY quit my job. Apparently I shocked most of upper management. I’m not sure how that is since almost everyone knew that a) I was beyond exhausted all the time and b) I had started to truly hate my job. I’ve been unemployed for about 3.5 months now and have enjoyed it. I start looking for a new temporary job tomorrow and then am hoping to break into the restaurant jobs after the new year. As I have always wanted. Don’t worry. I’m financially okay. I won’t talk about finances, but yes. I am secure.

Perfection This House! mini golf with these nerds! Hodor!

– To celebrate my unemployment, I bought something I have always wanted. An infinity ring from Tiffany & Co. And yes. I kept my box.

– I finally got my passport. Previously I’d only had a passport card.

– I bought a brand new bed! Completely brand new, and the first bed I’ve ever gotten for myself that wasn’t used. It’s like sleeping on a cloud. Best investment ever.

– I decided it was high time I go to an actual salon and get my hair done properly for the first time ever, and I did. He worked magic. Beautiful cut, all over evened out my blonde and then finally I added some fun streaks of fantasy color. Something I’d never done before and I chose a beautiful fuchsia shade, which he mixed just for me.

– I visited Astoria, Oregon with my male best friend and he showed me the wreckage of the Peter Iredale, the Astoria Column, the Goonies house and the bay parts of Free Willy were filmed at. Then later I went to Seabrook and Ocean Shores, Washington with my BFF and always and ate amazing food, stepped into the water, bought WAY too much salt water taffy and fell in love with the perfect houses.

– I contacted an ex-boyfriend. One that I had loved with all my heart and was treated not very nicely by him. He had once been my best friend and my partner. Now we’re nothing and haven’t been for almost 4 years. So it was really hard. But I did only because I owed him money and could finally pay him back. So. I contacted him. Paid him back. Said what I needed to say. And FINALLY got the closure I desperately needed. And I did it all on my own. If someone won’t/can’t give you closure? Get it for yourself. It helps.

– In August I went to The Rave of Thrones in Seattle with W and a couple friends where we got to watch Hodor (Game of Thrones) spin, because he’s an actual DJ. Was a blast! W and I stayed in Seattle and decided to explore together the next day. For someone who grew up only a couple hours from Seattle, he hasn’t been there much and it was a blast showing him the best parts.

All the braids Nerd Alert! Birthday Shenanigans! marshmallows

– Finally visited the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire! I actually went for a whole weekend. First with my friend Cera and then with W. I, of course, had my hair braided. All the braids! We ate a lot, drank a ton of mead, listened to all the bawdy jokes and bought way to many wonderful things. I managed to start on my Christmas shopping.

– NERD ALERT! W and I joined our local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism. If you’re not familiar with the SCA, it’s an international organization, divided up into “kingdoms,” that researches and recreates pre-17th Century (generally) European history. It’s a ton of fun and we’ve met some truly wonderful people through it.

– I celebrated my 36th birthday first with a night alone with W. We went shopping, had dinner together, stayed in a local hotel and indulged in some night swimming and drinks and then saw a movie (the new Blair Witch – not impressed) all before having a small party with close friends the next night. I actually dressed up and wore a dress! I curled my hair, we had Italian food at a local restaurant and then went back to my house for Cards Against Humanity, many drinks and tons of laughter. The following day after that, my friend Cera and I went and had a birthday breakfast on my actual birthday and I got teddy pear pancakes. Later in the week, my BFF and I got together for dinner and fun times. She’s currently going back to school – I’m SOOOOOO damn proud of her! But quality time with her can be difficult to get. School comes first! I cherish it whenever I can get it.

– I booked my first trip to Europe! And W came with me!

– I started baking\cooking again. Basil garlic hummus, tomato basil soup, lemon curd, chai scones, cinnamon honey butter, pumpkin butter, maple bacon marshmallows, chai spiced baked doughnuts, stout beer bread, all sorts of goodies!

– W and I spent more time checking out some local sites. I introduced him to Port Gamble and we ventured into Poulsbo together and spent a fun day in metaphysical shops and eating ice cream.

Dark again! Dreams come true. History. European Vacation

– Went camping for the first time since I was a teenager with W. It was local and for an SCA event but it counts. It was still 2 nights in a tent, under the stars. And we had a blast. Need to do it again!

– I dyed my hair again and went back to being a brunette. The blonde, as much as I loved it, was too much upkeep. It was supposed to be a light brown. My hair just really loves dark hair dye. But I still added my fantasy color. This time, streaks of purple.

– I bought myself an Xbox One and a ton of games and got lost gaming for awhile. Something I hadn’t done since the PS2 was still a hot system.

– I also finally got a Keurig and started drinking ALL OF THE COFFEES.

– My trip finally arrived! I got to travel outside of North America for the first time in my life. We flew to Paris for three days and then took the night train to Rome for another three days before coming back home.

– I saw the Eiffel Tower! I had lunch at Le Jules Verne, the Michelin Star restaurant inside the Eiffel Tower. I saw the Arc de Triomphe and walked along the River Seine and down the Champs-Élysées. I walked around the outside of the Louvre and ate pain au chocolat and croque monsieur and all the macarons. I went to the Moulin Rouge! I slept in bed on a train. I went to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus and stepped on roads that had once been walked by Julius Caesar. I ate gelato near the Trevi Fountain and made my wish. I ate all the gnocchi and drank all the Espresso. I went to the Vatican City and took a forbidden photo of the Sistine Chapel. I got stopped by the Italian military police and had my wits scared. I ate German sausages in an airport in Frankfurt and had my first pat down by TSA. And I had my passport stamped twice! Dreams do come true!

– And I caught a wicked bug during my trip but refused to let it get me down. And as soon as I came home, I succumbed and lost 3 days to sleeping. Whoops!

– But the biggest and most important thing of all? I’m almost 100% debt free. I never thought that would happen. But it’s true. Student loans, medical debt, it’s almost all gone. My credit score has gone up almost 50 points and I now have two store cards to try and fix my credit. I’m doing it right this time!

And that, my dear followers, is why I disappeared. It’s truly been a crazy 6 months. But I wouldn’t change any of it for anything in the world! What have you all been up to?! Please leave a comment telling me all of your antics and I’ll come by and check things out for myself!