With so much to write about, I really shouldn’t be taking the time to gloat over all the food we had in France, but I feel much less like making responsible, detailed entries about how impressive Scotland is and much more like writing about something frivolous… like French desserts! Steve tends to be rather Puritan about food, or about the pleasures of eating, in any case. In his view, food as a way to make yourself happy is probably one of the worst approaches possible. This is a stark difference between us, as I am far too attuned to the pleasures of food to abstain. Well, I’ll see how many people read this entry and decide which side you guys are on!
French desserts are pretty much legendary. Everyone knows and loves croissants, pain au chocolats, the crème brulées… we sampled a lot of sweets in our two and a half months in France, and while some of them were very well-known to us, some were completely novel! Here goes an attempt at a rundown. Continue reading Death by chocolate.→
Written on the East Coast Line King’s Cross, London, England to Waverley Station, Edinburgh, Scotland Monday, July 14, 13h40
Two days ago in Paris, Steve and I embarked on the last leg of our trip, little knowing that it was going to take a good 36 hours longer than we had bargained for… since we’ve been traveling for about 10 months now, I had thought we were justified in giving ourselves a few pats on the back, being old hands at this travel gig, and getting ourselves from one place to another with a minimum of fuss. Well, hubris never pays. Travel mistakes this half of the world are more expensive to boot!
Our plan was to take a carsharing trip from Paris to London (Eurostar trains making the same trip costing well over 250 euro for the same privilege), and then catch a train in the evening heading up to Edinburgh, which would take us about 5 hours. This covoiturage (or BlaBlaCar as it’s called in other countries) deal is usually pretty good. You pay a pittance to travel in a carpool with other people, and go distances that would usually cost hundreds of euro on a train for less than 50. Our covoiturage trip was amusing enough, as we packed in 7 people in one minivan, and received strange glances from both the French and English authorities, but man if it wasn’t a circus show when we tried to make the Channel crossing. Continue reading Planes, trains, and automobiles.→
When we arrived in Normandy, Murray and Julie half-apologetically told us that there was really very little in this part of the country except agriculture and dairy. And by agriculture, they meant apples. So cows and apples, for short. There are not really any vineyards (Burgandy) or chateaus (the Loire Valley) or skiing (Alps) or even glamorous beaches (Marseilles)… but that was fine with me. Having grown up in New England, I have a healthy respect for apples and cows and otherwise fairly austere pursuits. On the last day of our stay, Murray indulged us in what Normandy had to offer by taking us to a cidery, a small picturesque town, and getting us some of the stinkiest cheese in the world. Continue reading When life gives you apples and cows, make cider and stinky cheese.→
Steve and I arrived back in Lyon this afternoon, and were more than grateful to climb back into our apartment, open all the windows, and let in the wonderful summer breezes. It’ll be a day or two before I recover sufficiently to start writing about our time in Barcelona and Paris, though, so here’s something of our time in Paris to keep you occupied until more stories and photos go up!
On Sunday, we hung out with our friend Dan from Chicago and Olivia, who is one of my longtime high school friends. The four of us had dinner at Père Louis, a great restaurant close to the Panthéon. It also happened to show a World Cup game with France, which we were able to watch parts of, and then stayed to see the end after we had finished our delicious meal. The World Cup generates of course much more excitement than it does in the US, because soccer (or rather, football) is pretty much the biggest sport in all of these countries here. The enthusiasm is truly infectious! That evening, we watched France vs. Honduras, which was so overwhelmingly one-sided that the crowd felt inclined to cheer Honduras’s futile attempts. The French were victorious, 3-0, amidst excited cheers. I took a quick video of the French singing their national anthem, the Marseillaise, so enjoy! Allez les bleus!
I’m writing a very quick post from the magical land of Paris before I blast off for one more day here. Why is it magical? It must be because there is a roosting pigeon not one meter away from me. Outside the tiny balcony of my friend Dan’s apartment in the north of Paris, in the small sheltered space formed by the corner of the wall and the opened shutters of the balcony doors, a pigeon whom Dan has nicknamed Madame Verdurin is currently roosting with her two (or more) white eggs. Madame Verdurin herself is a character from Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, a doorstopper of a novel which I’ve not had the honor to read yet, and this avian namesake of hers is one of the small things about Paris that is charming.
Magical it is in other realms as well — I have liked this city much better than I thought I was going to. Many nations’ capitals are busy, dirty, frustrating, expensive, and too big for comfort. Paris is quite a few of those things, and most definitely expensive, but at the same time, it is really quite beautiful too. We have been roaming, walking, eating, and seeing things non-stop. Steve and I are practically asleep on our poor feet these days, and fatigue sets in so easily. If I lived in a novel of the late 1800s, my acquaintances would say that I had a run-down constitution and needed to go out to the countryside for a few weeks’ rest and recuperation. Luckily, neither of us have gotten sick, but we are certainly heading back to Lyon tomorrow with a sense of relief. Continue reading A roosting pigeon.→
Well I woke up in mid afternoon cause that’s when it all hurts the most I dream I never know anyone at the party and I’m always the host If dreams are like movies then memories are films about ghosts You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast
– “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” by Counting Crows
Counting Crows is one of my favorite bands from the ’90s, which is also to say one of my favorite bands ever. I thought of this song because tomorrow, we’re moving south down to the coast of the Mediterranean. Tomorrow, we’re picking up our friend Lele from Chicago at the train station in a nifty little Renault Clio or whatever the Europcar office sees fit to bestow upon us, and Steve will get to try out his manual transmission driving skills which have been rusting for about a decade. And we will be on our way to the Pont du Gard and eventually to Rivesaltes, a little town right outside of Perpignan, the biggest city in the very southwestern corner of France, within sight of the Pyrenees and Spain. Continue reading you can never escape/ you can only move south down the coast→
Written on the road Terminal 2, Charles-de-Gaulle Airport
Thursday, May 1, 2014
We have hours and hours to kill on our first day in France. We left Croatia before the dawn had roused anyone into the streets, but still there was an incredibly taxing line at the airport. However, a mere hour and a half later, we landed in Paris at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Terminal 1. Though old, it is very picturesque, a circular concrete structure four stories tall, hollow in its very center and transfixed through by two or three elevators which are encased in large plastic tubes.
Our train on the TGV to Lyon is at the deplorably late hour of 5:58 pm or 17h58, as I may well get into the habit of thinking. We arrived in Paris at 10:30 am. Even after going through immigration (which took a blessedly brief 15 seconds) and getting our luggage, it was barely 11 am, and we lounged around in comfortable white armchairs for an hour or so before exiting to take a shuttle to Terminal 2, where the TGV station is also located. We also paused to exchange the bulk of the rest of our kuna. The currency exchange was buying our kuna at the soul-crushing price of 8.68 kuna to the euro, which meant that our formidable looking 880 kuna came back to us just short of 100 euro, given the 6.5% commission rate they charged. Rats. Looking at the change in our hand and well aware of how much things were going to start costing us in France, we trudged onward. Continue reading Enfin, la France!→