Thursday, 31 May 2012

Bucket listing in Paris

In the last couple days I did some hardcore, last minute, bucket listing. I went to the Bob Dylan expo at the museum of music (And ran through the rest of the 5 floors of the museum in under 10 minutes 'cause it was closing. Holy stairs.) and the Musee Marmotton (AH! Monet! Tears.) one day. Another day I did Saint Chapelle and the Conciergie with Emily. No photos from the first day cause both the Marmotton and the expo were camera free zones. But luckily for you, the centuries old stuffs were not! Photos!

Conciergie! Empty... crazy! Got in for free with my IYTCard and Visa, should have gotten the combo ticket with Saint Chapelle cause they were not as nice.

Weird displays to show what it was like. Mostly just weird.

Marie Antoinette's memorial thing with her last will and testament on it or something...

Directly ourside Marie's reconstructed cell situation.


Saint Chapelle!

Inside first floor. "Yea, it's pretty. Not prettier than Notre Dame though."

Upstairs. Jaw, meet floor. "... ... ..."

On the terrace of the top floor, looking in.

BAH! Mind = blown. Then we wandered over to a little cafe directly across the street from Notre Dame for a Diabolo Menthe and Grenadine (Thank you Michel for introducing us to these drinks!).

I meant to take a picture before we finished but...

Then a bunch of days went by, including an amazing trip to Euro Disneyland! I don't have photos because I didn't want to have to protect my camera on rides. Good thing, too. Space Mountain 2 is a lot more intense than the original Space Mountain. When it was over I was laughing so hard I could hardly stand. There are a lot of rides with countdowns that are super intimidating when you only realize that is what is happening at, "1!", because it's in french. "1" "Oh my g---" *Something very intense and fast happens*. We didn't get to any Alice in Wonderland rides, which makes me quite sad. But we did get on all the super intense ones. I will never get over how truly magical Disneyland is. It really feels like a magical place! Like, on the Crush rollercoaster I was gobsmacked by how beautiful everything is. Let alone how freakin fun it all was. Aw... must move to somewhere with a Disneyland.

One last item on my bucket list: I hadn't tried a religieuse pastry yet, because I didn't know how to pronounce it and I was embarassed. I figured I'll never have this opportunity again so I bit the bullet and OMG SO WORTH IT! The other two things are Flan Nature's which were my breakfast yesterday and today... dessert is breakfast... right?

SO PRETTY! Its about the size of your heart and it's full of chocolate pastry cream, like the eclairs. But like... gallons of it. Overflowing. I had to take a breather. I still didn't photograph the inside though because... well... I was distracted.

Anyways! This is my last time I'll have internet for sure, and likely the last time I'll have my laptop for blogging. I tried downloading the Blogger app, so we will see if that is for browsing alone, or also writing! Finger's crossed! Where am I off to? Well, we've booked hostels in Florence, Rome and Naples for the next two weeks and then we are headed east to Greece for a week or so. Then... up north for some Netherlands and the Red Hot Chili Peppers for me. Emily is doing some traveling of her own then, while Bradon and I head to Austria for a music festival (Tent villiage!) and then south again for a mediterranean 20 days of the Cinque Terra and Nice and all the way through to Barcelona! AMAZING! After that? August should move north again and hopefully hit up Switzerland, Germany and Sweden for a quick drive-through tourist extravaganza. Then a last week and a bit in Paris till I head back home for September. WOO! Wish me luck! Bisous and au revoir!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Groningen: Take 3 & AMSTERDAM!

It is getting harder and harder to keep track of these blog things, and come Thursday I might not have internet as regularly so there might be even LESS blogging! BUT! FOR NOW! Emily and I did one last trip to Groningen to use up my existing Eurail pass. In this trip we FINALLY saw Amsterdam on the hottest day EVER! It was awesome. But first! After three trips to Groningen, I know several routes you can take by train! Every city listed is a get-on-a-new-train point. Then each train goes through several other cities. 

Paris to Groningen:
Paris -- Roissy (CDG) -- Brussels -- Amsterdam -- Amersfoort -- Groningen = 9.25 RER + 5 euro reservation to Brussels, rest free with eurail (on a really lucky day)
Paris -- Roissy (CDG) -- Brussels -- ( detour: Dordrecht -- Roosendaal -- ) Rotterdam -- Amersfoort -- Groningen = 9.25 RER + 30 euro reservation to Brussels, rest free with eurail + 10 euro fine for putting the wrong date on your Eurail pass (on a really unlucky day)
Paris -- Lille -- Gent (?) -- Antwerp -- ( detour: ? -- ? --) Amsterdam -- ( detour: Utrecht [?] -- ) Amersfoort -- Groningen = 3 euro for reservation to Lille, rest free with eurail GONG SHOW DAY!

Groningen to Amsterdam:
Groningen -- Amsterdam Schiphol = free with eurail
Groningen -- Amersfoort -- Amsterdam Centraal = free with eurail
Groningen -- ( detour: Assen [?] -- ? -- ) Amersfoort -- Amsterdam Centraal = free with eurail

Groningen to Paris:
Groningen -- Amersfoort -- Amsterdam Centraal -- Paris = 40 euro reservation, rest "free" with eurail (eff you Thalys)
Groningen -- Amsterdam Schiphol -- Paris = 30 euro reservation, ""
Groningen -- Gouda -- Rotterdam -- Antwerp -- Lille -- Amiens -- Paris = FREE WITH EURAIL! SUCCESS!

Realization: Eurail for Benelux-France = not the best idea if you want to take direct trains. It's kinda fun when you're with someone cause then you can just sit back and chill. Also, beautiful weather helps. And lots of snacks. AND, especially, legit Belgian waffles along the way. And Starbucks (ashamed).

Anyways! So we DID eventually get to Groningen after our heck-of-a-lot-of-detours day. Had some fun on our brief visit, hung out with the amazing people. Is it just me, or are international students THE NICEST PEOPLE EVER? Honestly, never felt more welcomed by any group consistently than international students. Love love! Then we did out fun day trip to Amsterdam which had it's own ridiculous train route (including one bus because someone got hit by a train and everything stopped for a bit. Ah.). It took a lot longer than anticipated to get to Amsterdam, but once we did the sun was blazing and it was SO hot out but not crazy packed so it was nice. Pictures!

Cheese tasting AHHHHHHHH!

Candies that 'make you happy' but are three for a euro. They tasted like poopoo and nothing exciting happened. Not that we expected. We just wanted to have purchased something from a smart shop.

ME being touristy yay!

What this thing is... I sincerely hope you recognize it.

Went for drinks and fish and chips at an Irish bar... super authentic, I know. Look though! So cute! My cider was sighing!

Bradon's fancy pants beer.

So yea, walked around all day and opted out of going into Museums cause we only had like 6 or 7 hours. We went for sangria at one point in this quiet pub that had a resident cat and also (coincidence) a giant Canadian flag over the bar. We saw this after the fact = fate! The red light district was crazy, I kept wanting to walk by more ladies because it was just SO out of this world/foreign to me! It was so much less old-school than I had envisioned. In my mind there was a red incandescent light bulb and under it stood a bunch of ladies that you took your pick of, or something. Reality: Doorways with fluorescent red tube lighting over top of, each doorway had a lady in it and behind the lady was where you did the deed. The whole room was right there! Sometimes they stood in the window (curtained, I assume, when people have sex), but I imagine it was super hot out so it was better to have the door open. Man! I really couldn't get over it. Bradon was telling me a large majority of these ladies are  brought from other countries and forced into the profession and that's just so sad. The novelty kinda wore off then. I just assumed that in such a liberal city like Amsterdam that these ladies voluntarily took up prostitution... so naive. I am super saddened to hear all this bad stuff and the magic of that part of Amsterdam is definitely diminished. At first it was like, run down a passageway having ladies gaze on and I'd giggle and be like, "Oh how fun!" and now I'm like, "Oh my God! I am the worst human being ever! I laughed at them!". Super sad.

Anyways! We had our fun and took a much more efficient train ride home where we got all decked out in glam rock gear and went to a theme party. Next day I went to another class of Bradon's and then found my own way home through the city without a map! So proud! I didn't get lost! YAY! Then we made dindins (home cooked meal aaaaah <3) and went to a pub with the international students group of friends Bradon has. Then we said our bye bye's and headed home to sleep before taking the EPIC train ride back home. That one went pretty according-to-plan, but at one point the train delayed enough that the transfer we had to make involved booking it across the station just in time to JUMP onto the train after the whistle was blown, before the doors were shut. Epic James Bond moment. 

I tried to make this image not-sideways, but it won't let me. This is my map of Paris covered in stickers of all the areas I've been. I never double-stickered anything, and a lot of my trips was returns to favorite spots. I'm very sad to leave Paris, but these next three months are an even bigger adventure. You thought Paris was crazy? This is Epic Life Adventure: The Sequel. So far we're thinking Italy and Greece for most of August. Holy Moses I'm scared! I had SO MUCH knowledge of France before coming here and I still was so shocked. I have NO other languages under my belt in the least bit. Dear Lord. Also, packing up all my stuff from my apartment = super depressing. This is my first ever own place, and I have to bid adieu already? Also, WHY DO I HAVE SO MUCH STUFF ALREADY? I bought a giant suitcase and it's FULL. Luckily I have somewhere to store it but OMG!

Anywho, see the below map and be sad with me. In the meantime, I must enjoy my last days in Paris.

A bientot! Maybe :)

Ps. Did I tell you we're going to the Euro Disneyland tomorrow? Omg I could die. It says 26 degrees C and sunny on the forecast. WOOOOO!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Blind Food and Chocostory!

Holy crap I have not blogged in forever! So Kendra was on her last couple nights in Paris, so we went to Dand Le Noir, which is a blind restaurant where you go to 'experience' cuisine. So awesome. Scariest thing of my life: I'm trying to explain to my blind and french waiter that I cannot have shellfish, and that I am worried because the first bite I had of my plate was clearly fish and I was worried maybe I'd ended up with the wrong plate somehow in our seating adventure -- btw, finding your table in the dark is SO awful. His response was "there is no fish" and walked away into the blackness. I ended up eating primarily with my hands the whole evening. I admire anyone who actually managed to use a knife and fork in harmony because that is a serious test of coordination. Pouring water into glasses was fun too -- I basically had my gross, food-covered hand inside the glass to detect when I'd successfully poured any water. I don't think I ever poured more than a couple mouthfuls of water cause i was so paranoid a sudden rush of water would drench me and my unsuspecting table-mates. Also, the guy beside me stole my glass as a joke at one point which totally freaked me out and Kendra managed to place the bottle of water on my plate instead of the table. Adventure! Expensive, but fun. It was about an hour and a half of complete blackness and three courses. They don't tell you what you're getting so that there are no preconceptions of what it will be like, hense the allergy panic. The meal ended up being the following: A starter of tuna steak (octopus in provencal sauce for the non-allergenic folk [guess they knew what they were doing...]) and some fancy asparagus and sauce thing and a tomato herb soup thing with a crostini. Garlic-y! The main, since I panicked, became the vegetarian option for me. It was basically a giant plate of amazing ratatouille with epic tender eggplant slabs all buttery and wonderful. The normal people got their tuna steak here! Dessert was obviously the best part. It was a fancy greek tart thing of dark chocolate and pears (I think? Maybe peaches?) and some sort of buttery pastry. Then a orange cheesecake and a hazelnut gelato with amazing roasted peaches in raspberry chambord sauce. All warm and delicious. Try eating ice cream with your hands, by the way. Pretty epic dinner, we giggled a lot and played around with being in the dark (ie. Making faces, being very grown up). I think it would be a really awesome idea to offer to sell a video of the experience at the end to see what you really looked like. I would absolutely buy that!

After we swung by this dive bar because a live band who was singing in english was playing. Ended up having the self-proclaimed, "best mojito in the world". And it was. 

Ceiling covered in kisses! Take that Oscar Wilde!

And now, a bunch of pictures of the food Emily and I ate over a couple of our days together so far (This blog is certainly not organized....)

Om nom nom! That was at Chez Prune in St Denis where we met a musician whose concert we did intend to go to but it was Kendra's last night so that didn't happen. instead we went to Batofar... which was UNBELIEVABLE! Boat clubs along the canal, club part underwater. Unreal! But, the food was wicked delicious and hearty and we spend a good three hours just chilling in the cafe. I also got seriously hit on by a young gentleman named Adrian who gave me his number on a piece of newspaper in case I, "wanted a boy in Paris". No joke. It was adorable. That will go in my scrapbook. Which does not exist yet, but it will!

Brunch at Schwartz's.

Oreo Milkshake! Wasn't that good, but I had to try it. It was like drinking wet icing.

Somewhere in Montmartre! Stoked on Windmills.

Kendra's last night we watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle and my camera made this fun photo on accident.

Busiest Starbucks in the world on Champs Elysees! Probably quicker than any on I've been to in the mall I worked at... definitely. Just saying.

We got trapped in the middle of the road... photo op!

Cool crypt underneath Notre Dame Cathedral. Shows the old ruins of Ile De Cite!

Nicola Flamel! Yes, Harry Potter geeks, he is real and his name is ALL OVER Paris!!! So happy.

Notre Dame Treasury. Poo heads made us pay full price but it was cool.


Dude sitting in the exhibit. Yes he had white tennis shoes on. What a silly old man.

Arc de Carousel de Louvre or something! Completes the axis towards Arc de Triomphe and the Grande Arch La Defense.

See! Too cloudy to see Defense but it's right behind there!

Another day at the Louvre, observe.

Audio guides this time! Emily and I spent the 5 euro and, for me, not worth it. The only novelty was that I finally got to play with a Nintendo DS! Otherwise, it's just too much information for fun-facts-Mikaela. It would have been great for a rainy day spent learning, but I'm in vacation mode and that is not something I can handle.

More tower gazing. Always! Never gets old.

CHOCOSTORY! The chocolate museum. Yes. My dream! Favorite, would totally recommend it ONLY because of how ridiculous it was. It was interesting, but the real fun is in the fact it exists at all.

Lego-style diagrams. This one depicts how chocolate was used in sacrifice. Yea, the red isn't tomatoes. On the right, the one creepy mannequin-style display. So random. Old person worshipping something. So out of place!

This cup is designed to make sure your mustache doesn't get covered in chocolate. Just wait, in 6 months every hipster with have one of these. The girls will have them because it's 'ironic'.

Best Q&A questions. Right: HA! TOLD YOU MOM!

The three euro hot chocolate sample. Mediocre, better to just go to a real hot chocolate place where you  can sit down somewhere besides a dark coat room.

THE BEST THING EVER! Free tasting and demonstration every half hour. We were busy taking a little quiz to learn what kind of chocolate best suited our tastes (mine is Venezuelan!) and so we missed when the chocolatier ushered everyone into the demo room and shut the door exactly on time. We were like 10 seconds behind and missed it. So, naturally, we waited the half hour till the next one, expecting them to be just as punctual. The following is the story in photos! 

That is all you need to know.

More food! I tried felafel while guiding two of my visiting friends through the Marais Pletzel. Felafel King Palace (some combo of those words) was where we went and it was AMAZING! I didn't need food for a good 24 hours after. The thing is like a baseball glove chocked full of goodness! Also, only just over 5 euro! YAY!

This photo is terrible quality but when Emily and I were waiting to meet a friend for drinks outside the Moulin Rouge, a little trailer pulled up and six miniature ponies were lead out. SIX! It was like a Hatchback commercial! 

This blog entry is so random and confusing, but I was SO busy these last weeks with Kendra leaving, Emily coming into town, her Dad surprising her, two friends visiting from the south of France, another old classmate visiting from Edmonton and getting to Groningen one last time before the end of May. SO MUCH! Plus I had to show everyone a proper hot chocolate, so I've been busy! Anyways, I must go enjoy this amazing summer evening. A bientot!