Saturday, 21 April 2012

______! There are so many days in this entry I can't summarize it!

Make way for the laziest blog entry EVER! This last week has been pretty low key. I did a couple bucket list items, but mostly I just hung around home playing with art stuff or going out doing necessities because the weather turned to poop about halfway through the week. I wasn't feeling so great either, and I was missing my friends who were either out of town or busy. Boo! So forgive this rather lackluster entry! Except for, of course, the PICTURES! Because, rain or shine, Paris is still Paris.
Invalides! During my quest to find the Musee Rodin I walk around this guy a couple times, so a picture was necessary. I ended up coming right back later so it's a little prophetic.

Thinker feet! I have a thing for sculpture feet. Read my tongue in cheek guest-blog entry detailing this fascination here.

Thinkin' thinkin' thinkin'...

Tada! The garden!

Fave sculpture in the museum. Took about a thousand pictures of it. Still couldn't tell you what it's called.

Hotel Invalides has a LOT of different museums in it, by the way. This one was the... Musee Armee I think? A lot of war history. ALL of the war history all condensed, actually. I wouldn't say it was exactly... exciting, but it had it's moments. Like, when I rounded a corner and was startled by these guys thinking they were real people.

Now, I find humor in kind of sad things too. There was a stuffed animal a pilot kept with him during the war and they found it in his plane after he'd crashed. Really sad. But the english translation is ... kind of funny -- "Cuddly toy, penguin mascot". As in, "Goodnight! Do you need anything, sweetie?" "Oh! Could you give me my cuddly toy, bear mascot?" "... You mean your teddy?" "Why, of course!" ... funny. Considering the extreme amount of depression I felt going through this museum (that would never end!!!), I get to keep my small sliver of humor.

Chair found in interrogation cell with the following inscription carved into the bottom -

Blah. I was seriously sniffling and dabbing my eyes for two hours going through this museum. War museums are NOT my thing. 

Invalides! UNBELIEVABLE inside. So worth getting a ticket just to gaze up, let alone seeing the crypt.

Ah! Napoleon!

There is a connected chapel of some kind through that glass window and there was a choir singing that was so beautiful and full and ... ah. 

Tea Salon! This place, La Deux Abielles, was in a tourist book listed as inexpensive AND authentic, so I had to check it out. It was so cute! Mind you, I could tell I really wasn't their priority and they seated me right by the door when I was clearly cold and sick. Oh well. I got to sit right in front of the dessert table! 

I got 'geisha tea' which was some sort of oolong concoction so I was happy and so was my cough-ravaged throat. The tart is raspberry and some kind of nut. It was delicious, but I wish I gotten that chocolate cake. Also, for all I know maybe the meals are cheap here, but I still spent 15 euro on a tea and slice of pie so that tourist book has a seriously distorted view on what is "cheap".

This is right by my house, some consular lives right around here. The garden is so beautiful, and it's finally started to bloom!

Bah! Could you imagine having that apartment?

Laurence and I went to this coffee shop called Merce and the Muse. It's an english-speaking establishment with pride in their coffee! AND the coffee makes sense if you're familiar with only north american versions. I forgot to take a picture of my itty bitty macchiato and my best-dessert-I've-had-in-France (yes, you read that right) banana cream pie/tart thing. Let me describe: Nutty, caramelly, crumble crust; stickey, warm, baked bananas with all sorts of homey flavors; chantillty creme with a mountain of coconut, real coconut. I almost cried. It was unbelievable. 

Look how cute this place is!

Dun dun duh! Shakespeare and Company! FINALLY!

I found a sign after that said not to take pictures... but I'd already taken them... so I feel like it's ok.

Mirror in the poetry cubby that said to write poems to it. Cute!

And so people sat down on the one little stool in this tiny, tiny room and did so!

Dins! I bought a lot of endive so I had this salad on several occasions.

And then I created the best bacon soup known to man. Seriously good when it's rainy and you have a stuffy nose. 

Lemon Tartelette! I bought this and some pastries for the next day (Sunday) and I was out one euro so my boulanger put me down to owe him a euro and let me go. So cute. I love him. When I went back to pay him back the other day he was like, "You teach me english and I'll get your french better". Stoked!

Then I started sculpting a foot because I was so stoked on feet from my Rodin visit. It's a little bitty foot, smaller than my hand. I love it.

That sunday I went to a Dimanche Rouge experimental theatre thing. I wasn't feeling so hot so I unfortunately could only stay for the first bit which means I missed all the people that people come to see. As in, I saw the people no one really wants to see. It wasn't that good. I'll accept it for what it was: experimentation. For that it was successful. But that doesn't mean I enjoyed watching it. I'll definitely go back next time, but later on in the day.

This chick was kind of cool.

Next day! Got lost trying to find one lunch spot and found this one. Schwartz's Deli in Trocadero. Americana food and english speaking people which, when you have no friends around for a bit, is really nice. Sometimes you just need to speak your own language. The food = EPIC. When it is absolutely miserable out, nothing is better than comfort food that you know isn't that good for you. This was my first hot dog in seven years. It was awesome because of that, but I'd definitely get a burger next time. I was so jealous of the guys beside me. The fries here are amazing.

The cappuccino was as big as my head, and cheaper than any creme I'd had in a while. Amazing.

Finally checked out Defense, albeit briefly, on the way to a wine tasting in the school underneath the Grande Arc. My sort-of stepsisters' sort-of cousin invited me along with him and his girlfriend, and, unbeknownst to us all, it was entirely in french. I tried really hard to understand and got some stuff out of it. Mostly I just drank wine. I did recognize the word pamplemousse (grapefruit) and got very excited. Funny word, pamplemousse. Pamplemousse. Heh.


Next day was one of those days where I just wanted to stay in bed. But! I went out to find Patissier Viennoise by the medical school. I've real about this place everywhere, most notably in blogs and books by David Lebovitz (who I love). This is the Chocolat Chaud Viennois (big size!) and it did not disappoint. It was perfect. The whipped cream was the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen. It was so thick, the hot chocolate was overflowing under it's weight. And it was real whipped cream. It was beautiful. I was so enchanted I left my umbrella there. Which, when I was caught in a downpour later on my way home, made me cry.

A couple photo-free days later Kendra and I are at this crazy restaurant by the Grand Boulavards. We called is 'the train restaurant' so I don't really know what it's called. It was an Italian place that was decently cheap that had one of those legit ovens. The super tacky decor is why we went though. We insisted on being in the back when they almost sat us up front by the windows. We wanted our mirror-filled booth experience. We had a blast.

There is a house wine option of a litre jug. It's cheaper than two glasses. We did it.

The waiter offered to take this picture of us. I like that the lamp is what is in focus.

My pizza! First pizza in seven years here too! Going off the gluten free diet for this little while is proving very beneficial to my happiness. It was amazing.

Banana split! This is us being authentically French... right?

This is the only picture I took yesterday. I spent a whole day out and about just shopping around and the one picture I took was of my dessert. This day I also found that lunch place I couldn't find earlier in the week, Escale 58, and had the best goat cheese, roasted tomato, cucumber and herb sandwich known to man. Then I grabbed the huge churros up by Trocadero. BUT! This chocolate tartelette stole my heart. It was so little but so rich I could easily have shared it. Or saved it for later. But I am a greedy, greedy, girl. So I ate it all. Slowly! Over like an hour! But I did it. And I liked it. All of it. The end.

Laziest blog entry ever. I will eventually get back into the swing of this. It's amazing what grumpy weather can do to your motivation. I spent a good four hours one night, instead of sleeping, looking at internet memes. Oh no!

Must get out into the sunshine today, au revoir!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Easter in Groningen and Designer Dessert!

I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the lack of photos, but I really didn't take my camera out of my backpack once in Groningen. I was too busy being overwhelmed and then spending time with the wonderful people. I did take some iPhone photos of a few fun sights on the first day but that was a total fluke. So much of my Groningen trip revolved around parties and food -- as dorms do, I would guess. I stayed in Bradon's dorm (with my own couch to sleep on!) and met loads of cool international student who I can now call my friends. 
The first night was pretty chill, I was so tired I don't remember much, but I do remember being so grateful for the couch-bed at the end of the night. The next morning we did some shopping in prep for Easter weekend (it was Good Friday) and then we headed out to the flower market (which Bradon had heard was a must-see). Little did we know, it was the biggest flower market in Holland (or, was it all of Europe?). All of Groningen was there (Including the boy I sat by on the train, ironically! I hid from him.), and then some. Here are a few crappy, walk-by photos i tried to grab in the madness. 
Looking pretty tame. Look at the cute buildings!

This was like... a weird automated music-box slash puppet show. So odd.

Flowers! EVERWHERE! At some point there were bunches of 50 tulips for 5 euro. I wish I had had a reason to buy them -- so beautiful.

See the guy in the blue shirt on stage in the background? That's who I was TRYING to photograph. This was the coolest thing ever. He was a dutch auctioneer, auctioning off flowers by the bucketful. Remember how funny I find the dutch language? Add light speed speech to that equation and you will understand my amusement.

There is a random look-out point/sitting area in the middle of the square so we climbed up and this was the view. The funny thing is, this is only one part of the market. It extends down the street, too, for quite some time, before turning into the produce market as well. It was pretty freakin' cool. 
The Good Friday evening Bradon and his group had a 'family dinner' which I got invited to. Two of the girls made most of the food, but everyone tried to bring something. Bradon and I baked a pretty epic cake. Everyone was happy and full by the end of the meal. We went out to some clubs that night which, despite being small, were still better outfitted than pretty much every Calgary club I've been to. There was a lot of glass on the ground though. I am starting to understand the importance of good shoes in Europe.
The next day was pretty relaxed, we did some egg colouring with a kit Bradon's mom had sent (SO MUCH FUN) and watched some goofy movies on netflix. I'm pretty sure we went to bed quite early. I recall laughing a lot this day.
Easter sunday we all went to the Sunday Afternoon Collective at the local warehouse club, Paradigm. In a nutshell: All-day rave from 2 pm till Midnight (actually, 3 am) where everyone is SO NICE and it's beautiful. My legs were so sore the next day from all that dancing, but it was definitely worth it. I swear, club dancing is the new workout regime for me. Alcohol was all priced by tokens, so you had to buy tokens at the coat check area. One token got you a shot or water or a balloon and 2 tokens got you a mixed drink or a beer. I thought the balloons thing was so cute, volleying them all over the dance floor brought about immense amounts of joy. I didn't realize that the balloons were actually used as receptacles for inhaling laughing gas until the next day when I was googling posts about the party. That shed a lot of light on the guys at the back with the compressed gas blowing up balloons. Originally I was like, "Jeez these people are too lazy to blow up their own balloons?!" But now it makes sense.
Anyways! We were dancing around at the rave till about midnight when we decided our bodies could handle it no more, and we wandered home. 
Next day my stuffy nose turned into a full-on sickness. I guess, dancing around with 100's of people in a smokey, poorly ventilated room for several hours can do that. Also, living in a dorm can probably do that too. I hope I didn't get absolutely everyone sick! Anyways, that put me out for basically the whole next day. We did go see the Hunger Games, though! AGAIN! This time with Dutch subtitles which, of course, are hilarious. I was pretty out of it the whole day due to my sickness and then I got feverish around night time when I was supposed to join Bradon on a skype call. I took some of Bradon's precious stash of Tylenol Cold and was konked right out for about 12 hours. 
Since I slept in so much, we basically had to get me ready to catch my train right away. Sad sad sad. It was such a short trip, but I made SO many friends. It also was short enough that I could really, really miss Bradon when I left. Boo! Anyways, said my goodbyes, somehow got looped into promising to come back for Queen's Day (More partying!) and Bradon walked me to the train station just on time for a quick goodbye, filled with tears on my end. I got my own little booth on the train because no one wanted to sit by the sick, blubbering girl. But there was this rather unnerving image for my whole ride. 
Phantom Foot! Anyways, it turns out bringing a wad of kleenex on trains is an excellent aversion tactic. Must try this out on the Metro!!! After a couple of hours and a less-stressful-than-the-first-time transfer in Amersfoort, I ended up in Amsterdam. I bought the exact same pastry I had had at that station the last time, but this time ate it a little more delicately. And in private. For some reason I forgot how trains work and I started panicking that my platform number wasn't on my ticket and I started doing the running-around-like-a-chicken-with-its-head-cut-off thing. Realization: I act really distressed, but never ask for help right away when I'm upset. It's like, "Look how stressed I am! Please come over and acknowledge me! ... No? Ok, I'll ask." Every! Time! So silly. Anyways, I started to ask about the train at the info desk and he immediately spouted a rehearsed shpeal about Thalys trains and their platform without even looking up. Not bad! So I followed his instructions and ended up here. 

Just in time to wait for forty-five minutes. I played Sneezies on my iPhone. 
I still don't know how you're supposed to figure out what train care to get on. I looked for numbers on the train, but this one didn't have them so I just kinda guessed and then followed the seat numbers till I found what I figured was my seat. No one was sitting in the joining seat so I set up comfort headquarters. I still didn't trust my choice though, so I didn't sleep. Just dribbled. Good thing too! Come Brussels these two meany men laughed at me, finger pointing and all, for being on the wrong train car. They also kicked me out of the seat without ceremony despite their being plenty of empty seats left on the train. Meany men. Just following this, the train stewardess (is that what they're called?) comes by to check tickets. I forgot to validate. I panic. I am in the wrong car. I panic more! She comes to me and I try to explain both with what little voice I have. She says it doesn't matter and moves on. I breathe a sigh of relief but then also cry for a while.
 I decide I'm going to find my rightful seat so I can chill a bit, so at the next stop I walk up through the cars guessing at what car is the right one based off of the number of the wrong car (according to meany mens' tickets). I find my seat, but someone is in it. I panic a little more, but start to ask if this seat is the one on my ticket. Tables are turned! HE panics, apologizes and gets up out of the seat, offering it to me. Then I feel really bad, because I understand his situation, and I feel really mean. In my defense I did not point and laugh. 
All is righted about 2/3 through the train ride. I sit down in my correct seat, with someone beside me in the other. It is a lot less comfy than my wrong seat before. I pretend I don't care, and precede to read my entire tourism book on France. The train ends up delayed a total of half an hour from, "children playing on the track" (I kid you not! They announced it!), and I finally arrive in Paris that Tuesday night JUST in time for all the grocery stores to be closed. Luckily, when I finally arrived back home, I have some uncooked pasta remaining, so I eat that with some tea for dinner, and promptly pass out.

Sick days follow.

Even though I was sick, I was still missing my friend Kendra, so we arranged to go to the Ralph Lauren Restaurant (swanky swank) in St. Germain and then check out the Montparnasse panoramic at night. Due to the crazy prices at this Ralph Lauren place, we were just getting dessert and coffee/hot chocolate for me.
Pictures! And, dinner first...
Look at how beautiful the strawberries are here! I mean, really! This was my dinner salad of strawberry, endive and blue cheese with some risotto. Home-made! 
I had a fun little experience while walking the two blocks or so from the metro station to the restaurant. Suddenly this man started running towards me, so I started running away, but then I felt conflicted: I didn't want to seem like I was assuming he was a thief and insult him! So I started more half-jogging and then realized he WAS running towards me so I started running again. It was weird, because the streets weren't empty, there were plenty of people around, why did he need me? So he starts yelling for my attention, and I try to politely brush him off. He starts speaking to me in english, so I'm more suspicious of him. I tell him to go away. He says something along the lines of, "Please come help me. My friend he needs... I DON'T WANT TO SEE ANYTHING!" That last comment freaked me right out because it came SO out of the blue, so I said, "I'm sorry. I am meeting someone right now." And I booked it out of there! I still have absolutely no idea what was going on. He didn't make any moves at my purse or anything... maybe he thought I was a prostitute! I was looking very cute that evening.

Met up with Kendra, stepped into the most charming courtyard EVER! All the waiters were of course delightful and spoke english -- which was nice after being out of practice with french. It felt like a luxury resort in a black and white movie, it was so cute! We ordered our drinks and dessert, I got the hot chocolate and a peanut butter and chocolate parfait with home-made banana ice cream. Kendra got a creme and the carrot cake. The drinks came with fresh caramel popcorn on the side -- heaven!

We scarfed our delicious things (42 euro combined!). Unfortunately being sick meant I had to discretely wipe my nose on occasion -- something I really didn't want to be doing in such a posh establishment. It also meant I couldn't fully enjoy the taste of this extremely pricey meal. The hot chocolate was good, but it didn't compare to the thick ooey, gooey goodness of Cafe De Flore (and it cost the same). It was a little more cocoa-y and less choco-y. I think it would have been amazing had I had a sense of smell. It also wasn't hot it was more warm...

Then we went atop Montparnasse! I suck at taking night time photos, so this is the Pompidou from a distance with a really long exposure and excited shakes. I had some that turned out better, but the 'better photo' didn't look as fun.

The tower, ah!

I am really stoked on this photo, too, because it could probably be used in some UFO forum somewhere. Photo cred: ME! Isn't that an amazing view though? It wasn't even that busy up top, and this was minutes before the breathtaking lights show. It was such a clear evening too, we could even see stars! Compared to the daytime visit to the top, I would say it was even more successful. We could see so far! We looked for the Arc la Defense, but it was hidden by... the rest of Defense. You could kind of see a white blob between some buildings but... alas.

After the tower experience, we went our separate ways at the Metro with Kendra, ironically, going to Amsterdam the next day. I got on the wrong metro and in my sick blur didn't realize till several stops down the line. I switched just in time to catch the last metro of the night, but I was still a grumpy lady when I got home. So much more to tell, but this blog entry is mighty long! Will try and write again soon!