Wednesday, March 15, 2017


European Appetizer Sampler Part II: PARIS DAY 1

Let's talk a moment about Paris.  Throughout my entire life through movies, literature, music Paris has been named the most romantic city ever, the most wonderful city, the place where dreams come true.  Audrey Hepburn and Carrie Bradshaw found love in Paris.  This city has art, culture, fashion, food, it probably has the most hype of any city....EVER!  So when venturing to Paris I had high expectations.  Oh and the city she did not disappoint!  I found love there too and it was with the city itself!  I love you Paris and if I was able I would visit you every year or if I was really lucky I would just call you home!

I loved every minute we were in Paris!  Part of my enthusiasm was that I was finally able to find Advil Cold and Sinus so I was feeling better, but also Paris is pretty great.  VA and I arrived and had our one moment of unwise traveler scams.  A guy offered to take us to our hotel and he didn't have a taxi meter in his car and we were overcharged.  It wasn't terrible and we got to our location safe, but we knew better and our gut told us not to go with him, but we did anyway and paid for it...literally!  We both talk about it after and if that was the worst thing that happened to us, we were doing pretty good!  We got to our cute hotel, had dinner and then headed to see the lovely lady herself - the Eiffel Tower.  

Let me back up and talk about dinner.  We both had the best French Onion Soup ever at this small cafe near our hotel.  I think VA was more taken with it then I was, but that soup was damn good!  Then we saw the Eiffel Tower at night lit up in all her glory! 
I probably took 200 pictures of the Eiffel Tower.   That is not an exaggeration at all.  I know it's cliche, I know I fell into the tourist trap, I don't care!  I think she's beautiful and I love her! After we gawked at her for a while VA and I headed back to our hotel, we had a very big day ahead of us.  That is after I stopped and bought a croissant.  I had 18 croissants on this trip.  Many of them were very small, but my philosophy is no croissant left behind!  At a little shop near our hotel and the Eiffel Tower they made the best croissants.  I visited there so much the man behind the counter proposed marriage to me!  I considered it based on his pastry skills alone...I could love a man just for that I think!

The next morning we got on our hop on hop off bus so we didn't have to figure out how to get around and began checking out the Paris sites!  The architecture was stunning everywhere you turn.  Here's some highlights.
Gorgeous Parisian street and at the end is the Comédie-Française their national theatre. 
Parts of the Louvre. It's enormous!  After doing more gawking at the gorgeous architecture we were headed to Notre Dame.  
It was a gloomy day, but the cathedral was stunning.  The detail in the stonework was incredible.  So interesting to compare this carving to the Viking Ship carving we had just seen a couple days earlier. 

The detail in one archway alone and then across the front were individually carved statues of saints all unique and probably 6 feet tall, but looking like tiny figures agains the massive facade.  And then once inside it was a lesson in architecture!  

These were my two favorite pictures from inside. The massive scale was evident when you walk in, but then you find several different layers and levels and all were lit to highlight the architecture.  Several years ago I read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet.  It essentially is about building a cathedral.  Along with my decor class I took in grad school these two things have given me such appreciation for architecture and specifically the innovations of cathedrals.  Thanks DP for that Decor class!
Look at those arches!

After Notre Dame we had lunch (another croissant) and then headed to Saint Chapelle. This was the one place friends of VA and mine had both (separately) told us we HAVE to see. Guess what? Our friends are smart - it was incredible!
The color was incredible, especially compared to the lack of color at Notre Dame.  Saint Chapelle was much smaller then Notre Dame, but equally as impressive. The upstairs room was nothing but a wall of colorful stained glass that told the entire story of the Bible through pictures.  
Also this is the alter.
It was incredible.  I feel that when I write my blog posts I should have a thesaurus near because I realize I'm using incredible, amazing, wonderful, etc over and over again, but I can't help myself.  The sites are so spectacular in person!  

After Saint Chapelle I was on a mission...a mission for French beauty products!  I read about a place called City Pharma in the Saint Germain district that was like a Black Friday sale every day on skincare, make up, etc.  I did not need any more information, I knew I needed to make a pilgrimage.  

Saint Germain is a very charming district and VA and I enjoyed wandering through the streets...and then we found it! We walked in and it was packed and overwhelming.  I went to the first woman I saw who worked there and asked her what she recommended for me and then I just started shoving things into my basket.  Whatever she recommended I bought then VA got in on the action.  We came away with two huge bags of French beauty products and after using them for a few weeks I'm sure I look 20 pounds thinner and 10 years younger!  

After our beauty excursion we headed off to our final stop of the night the Musee d'Orsay.  I know the Louvre is The Big museum in Paris, but ever since I learned the difference between the Louvre and the Orsay I've wanted to go to the Orsay.  It is housed in an old train station so it has a different feel then other museums and the art indescribable.  
The ceiling of the train station, now world class museum.  
I attempted to paint this with water colors in Ms. Jenkins art class in 8th grade.  The real Monet was better then my teenage attempt.  It's a good thing I switched to theatre. 
This has always been one of my favorite Monet paintings. Its so haunting and beautiful. 

And after the museum we took and obligatory tourist photo by the Seine River.
The first full day in Paris did not disappoint.  We spent it like tourists, but were able to see some of the greatest architecture and paintings in the world so I'd say we it was a successful day! 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

European Appetizer Sampler - Oslo, Stockholm, & Amsterdam

This is the insatiable Virginia!  She came to visit me when I had a week off of school for Winter Break and we attempted to take Europe by storm!  We titled our trip the European Appetizer Sampler and we hit five countries in ten days.  We both ended up sick, but I'd do it again in a heart beat.  She is an excellent travel partner and friend.  Where's our next adventure Virginia?

Naturally the first thing we had to do when VA arrived in Oslo was get a hot dog with potato salad and crispy onions.  If you come to visit me and think your first meal is not going to be that you are incorrect.  It's delicious and perfect and everything a hotdog should be.  Since we needed to cover so much ground in such a short amount of time we headed to the Viking Ship museum as soon as our hotdog was finished.  

We asked the woman who checked us in at the hotel if she would recommend the Viking Ship museum and she asked us why?  We explained our good friend Tami said it is the one thing you must see in Oslo, the hotel woman replied, "Well, do you trust Tami?"  We half-heartedly replied yes, taken aback from her question and proceeded on to the museum.  After some small complications getting on the correct bus we made it to the museum and our conclusion was we ABSOLUTELY trust Tami!  It was very impressive.  

They had an entire Viking Ship in the museum and two other partial ships.  The carving detail was incredible, and it was of course all done by hand.  

I can imagine how intimidating it must have been for people on land seeing these ships approach their shore.  The Vikings were not known for their kindness, however their craftsmanship should not go unnoticed.  

After that VA and I did some shopping in Oslo and called it an early night.  We were due in Stockholm the next day for less then 24 hours and had to get our beauty sleep.

I must pause here for a brief moment to talk about what happened at the airport in Oslo on the way to Sweden.  Virginia fell in love.  We made it to the airport and bought lunch at a bakery in the airport.  Here VA met her perfect sandwich and fell in love.  

She loved this hearty baguette filled with pesto, huge chunks of brie, and thinly sliced tomatoes more than she had loved any sandwich in all her life.  She named the sandwich - une sandwich.  (She was practicing her French in preparation for Paris so everything was French.) Une sandwich was the love of her life and also a source of panic.  What if she had peaked with food and the trip was only beginning?  I assured her that Paris would not disappoint and we headed to Stockholm.

Stockholm was an experience!  First we toured a good portion of Stockholm with luggage in hand just trying to find our hotel.  On this adventure we did find a cute bakery and eventually made our way back there.  Once we found our hotel we went exploring for real and found....nachos.  We had TexMex in Stockholm.  It left several things to be desired, but sometimes you just need a taste of home...or the closest proximity.  We then found that cute bakery and I got a piece of Princess Cake!

I've wanted to try Princess Cake since I saw it on the Great British Bake Off and it did not disappoint.  Layers of light sponge with soft cream and soaked rasperries on the bottom all covered in a lovely green fondant. Mary Berry would be proud.  We then made it to the Stockholm Ice Bar!
I'm so glad we went, but I don't think I'm going to make it my life's goal to see all the Ice Bars in the world.  I think once you've seen once you've seen them all.  There was a drink included and it was pretty good.  

We did have a lot of fun and the ponchos were warm!

Next on to Amsterdam!!!

Amsterdam unfortunately doesn't have a ton of pictures because it was raining the entire time and I was sick so I wasn't as contentiously taking pictures.   We did arrive in Amsterdam that night and sought out Ristafel, an Indonesian dish our friend Cari recommended.  As I did more reading many people encourage travelers to try the Indonesian food in Amsterdam and I'm so glad we did.  
Ristafel is a rice dish with about 10 - 20 sides that accompany it and the heat level goes up as you eat.  It was incredible.  I think I could have eaten that every day we were in Amsterdam.  At the restaurant we shared a table with an Australian, living in Brussels, visiting Amsterdam.  He was full of helpful information, and to be perfectly honest VA and I just kept nodding and smiling because he was so cute! (

The next day we had a full day of sightseeing.  We had tickets to the Anne Frank museum at 9:15 and then the Van Gogh museum at 11:30.  There are no pictures allowed at the Anne Frank museum, but that was such an overwhelming experience.  By the end VA and I were both in tears and in awe of the power of this young girl's words.  I bought a postcard and it was my favorite picture I saw in the museum.  It is a picture of Anne's father returning to the house where they were in hiding after the war and after his entire family died.  His body and face has so much weight to it.  

After the museum we had Dutch pancakes.  I had poffertjes, which are small Dutch puffy pancakes served with jam.  The picture is not good, but they were delicious. 

Off to the Van Gogh Museum!  Here I thought of my mother, a woman who not only appreciates art, but teaches it to her preschoolers (that is more patiences then I would EVER have!) and my middle and high school art teacher Ms. Jenkins.  She taught me who Van Gogh was and to appreciate his style.  Thank you Ms. Jenkins!
Photographs weren't allowed, so don't call the museum on me! This is of Van Gogh's pallet.

After the museum VA and I headed back to our hotel for a quick break before heading to the red light district later that night...when in Amsterdam!  On the tram VA got of, the doors closed and I couldn't get off!  I waived and prayed that we would find each other again!  She didn't have cell service so we had no way of contacting each other and I couldn't get off the tram!  Two stops later I hopped off and followed the tracks back to VA where I left her, after the panic of losing your travel buddy in a foreign city subsided we both fell over laughing!  Those trams can be tricky!

After a quick nap we headed to the Red Light District.  There are no photographs allowed here, in fact we read that your phone could be taken and thrown in the cannel!  The red light district was a tourist trap with sadness. Things there felt sterile and dirty at the same time and it wasn't my favorite place.  I'm glad we went, but I think the cheese I bought was the highlight of the evening.  

Also the rumors are true Amsterdam loves bikes and canals are beautiful.  I can just imagine how gorgeous they are when the tulips are in bloom!

The next day we got on a plane for Paris....but Paris deserves its own blog post all to herself!