An Open Apology

I meant to write a post four days ago (December 20, 2013). I really did. I wanted to point out that we’ve been home a whopping six months. I wanted to remember how a year ago we thought we were tough because we’d passed the halfway mark. I wanted to say how good it is to have a real, 12-foot Noble fir Christmas tree instead of a plastic tree my height.

But I didn’t. And I’m sorry. So I’ll do one now.

We’re at home, not in Cape Town. The view out our dining room window is of our dying grass instead of the promenade and the Atlantic Ocean. We have large presents under (beside, rather) our tree in place of the very small ones last Christmas. The best difference of all, though, is that my grandparents are going to spend Christmas with us.

In the last year, we touched thirteen countries on four continents. In the last six months, we’ve adjusted to “normal” life and lost our tans (that was a big tragedy). We didn’t go camping in the summer (silent rejoicing) but Ethan and I did go to camp. We may not have used our canoe at all but we hiked to multiple lakes.

Cupcakes and gelato have become dietary staples, and pizza drowned in vinegar has become the norm (at least for me).

 

The second half of the trip was probably more stressful for us, between worrying about jobs and cars and school when we returned, to the Amazon trip, Morocco, and our house in Semur-en-Auxois being flooded.

But who’s to say it wasn’t the better half?

Ciao!

A Week Worth Wanting

With only one week left on our trip (if there isn’t a strike at the Athens airport), here is my Week Worth Wanting list of seven things for Europe (France, Switzerland, and Greece).

  1. THE PASTRIES. In all three countries we’ve visited, the pastries have been to die for. From the chocolate chip twists in Semur-en-Auxois to the chocolate-coated baklava in Rethymno, and everything in between (including pain au chocolat, giant cinnamon rolls, apple pastries, Chocolate Kiss Brownies, chocolate porcupines, and a giant pretzel), we’ve enjoyed just about every mouthful of pastry that we’ve swallowed.
  2. THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING-NESS. Although the language barrier proved almost too much in Semur-en-Auxois, in Greece, Switzerland, and Paris we’ve found plenty of people who speak English, the closest language to our vernacular (which is American).
  3. THE HISTORY. Greek civilization goes way, way back—especially when compared to that of the United States. France is also home to many historical sites, and played a role in many key European happenings, including the French Revolution and World War Two. Notre Dame (the Parisian one), the Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe are, in my opinion, the most notable French monuments. The Parthenon and Acropolis, as well as Knossos Palace on Crete, are the famous Greek sites that have been patronized by this family.
  4. THE SCENERY. In Switzerland, we woke up to the sight of Staubbachfall pouring down a cliff every morning and seeing glacier-covered mountains just down the Lauterbrunnen Valley. In Greece, when eating supper in a restaurant, we see beautiful sunsets. And France’s mustard fields are not to be overlooked.
  5. THE CATS. Seriously. In Morocco, the cats were, well, quite mangy- and rabid-looking, but in Europe they all seem quite sane (if not tame). They are very social and don’t mind being petted in the least. Actually, they mind if you don’t pet them.
  6. THE FOOD. France’s food may not have lived up to expectations, but our first night can never be forgotten: we had pizza for the first time in over a month. In Switzerland, the Bombay Chicken Pizza at Hotel Oberland was the best pizza I’ve ever had, barring frozen pizza (seriously) at home. Greece’s food has continued to amaze and fatten us.
  7. THE WIFI. Every place we’ve stayed in Europe has had wi-fi. This, of course, was planned, but you don’t know if it’s actually going to work until you get there. It’s worked in every place so far and will hopefully work on Crete until June 18, the day we fly to Athens.

 

Au revoir, auf wiedersehen, αντίο, and

Ciao!

It’s All Greek to Me: Day One

Moment of the day: Flying over the expansive and expensive beachside villas with pristine blue swimming pools to the Athens airport.

Discovery of the day: The bakery that sells the yummiest-looking stuff I’ve ever seen (I always say that)—and ice cream!

Food of the day: Soft zucchini patties that accompanied our delicious and filling supper.

Treat of the day: My wonderful ½-slice of chocolate pie from the bakery in the Athens airport. Also, I enjoyed my quarter of the ‘traditional walnut cake’ from the same place. These two items made up half of my breakfast.

Person of the day: The charming receptionist for our apartment building. She just might speak better English than me.

Place of the day: Our flat in the center of Athens on a bougainvillea-lined street.

Disappointment of the day: There is no swimming pool in this apartment building!

Ciao!

Chicken Chow

Now we can add another country to our ever-growing list: Germany.

We’ve been there before, but we were not expecting our GPS to take us through the country on our way to Paris from Lauterbrunnen. So now we can say we’ve been to—counting the U.S. and Portugal—seventeen countries on this trip (Thailand, Laos, India, Australia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, the UAE, Argentina, Chile, Peru, USA, Portugal, Morocco, France, Switzerland, and Germany). Tomorrow we’ll add yet another, as we wake up super early to fly to Athens, Greece.

After a relatively uneventful but rather stressful drive from Lauterbrunnen to Paris, Dad checked into the Hilton. Then he and Ethan went to Hertz to return our rental car.

In the meantime, I took two backpacks and three bags up the parents’ room on the sixth floor (Ethan and I are just across the hall). The key card was in my coat pocket. It was hot after struggling with the bags in the elevator, so I tossed my coat on the floor and walked out the door.

I made it to the elevator before I realized my mistake.

Downstairs, Mom asked for a new key while I sat anxiously on a black sofa. We took the suitcases and hats up to the room and waited for Dad and Ethan to return. When they finally did, we got in a van to the airport and had supper there. Mom and I shared a chicken salad and chicken penne. Dad ate the chicken penne, and Ethan had a chicken sandwich.

What wimps!

Ciao!

Spar Swiss Cheese

Holding your breath for 1.8 kilometers would be more impressive if you were walking (or running), but doing it for 1.5 minutes seems pretty impressive to me. Which is good, since I did that. We drove through four or five tunnels after crossing the France-Switzerland border on our way to Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen means ‘loud fountain’ in German. Although Switzerland has four official languages (Italian, German, French, and Romansh), two languages are primarily spoken in the touristy Lauterbrunnen: English and German.

We arrived in the town at about four in the afternoon after buying groceries from Spar in the town of Interlaken. Along with salad dressing, green beans, lettuce, bread, milk, yogurt, and eggs, I was sure to add Swiss cheese to the basket. Once the organizing was done, we went out on a walk. It wasn’t sunny today, so we couldn’t see anything that beautiful. However, we could still see about six of the seventy-two waterfalls in the valley. The main one is Staubbachfall, which is right behind the town. It is 297 meters (974 feet) in height and was first measured in 1776. Then, it was recorded as being the height of ‘900 Bern shoes’—Bern being the capital of Switzerland.

For supper, we ate dinner while seated on chairs swathed in soft sheep skins at Hotel Oberland (‘top country’ in German). Mom and I shared a green salad with French dressing and the Bombay pizza. The Bombay pizza came with sour cream, a raisin-y chutney, pine nuts, and chicken on top of mozzarella, tomato sauce, and a wonderfully thin crust. It was surprisingly delicious.

Ciao!

Finished in France (For Now) On a Friday

Unless we don’t have our visas to Switzerland (and visas aren’t needed), we’re good to go tomorrow. We get to wake up earlier than usual to drive to Lauterbrunnen.

 

In the meantime, today was our last Friday in France. It started off the way it normally does: with Ethan going up to the boulangerie and buying a baguette, pain cereal (healthful bread), and braided pastries with lots of chocolate chips. For breakfast, I ate a boiled egg, a pastry, a slice of baguette, and an orange. No one else in the house ate an egg, and Dad and Ethan had pasta from last night’s supper to go with their other carbs.

Mom reviewed me on my math while Ethan read Finding Waldo. In the background, Dad was working on the computer. Eventually I got to work on my last persuasive essay of the year on the computer.

That was pretty much our day—right after that we left for supper at the ice cream place. It was only 4:15 p.m., but we wanted an early supper.

Mom and I shared a chicken tart and a green salad with asparagus, mustard, boiled egg, and tomato. Ethan had the cheese sandwich and Dad had some toast with pesto on it and the same salad as Mom and me. For dessert Mom and Ethan had ice cream, Dad had two creeps, and I had a gaufre.

“What’s a gaufre?” Mom asked.

“It’s a rodent with long teeth that likes to dig holes” was, more or less, all the response she received from Dad and me. When my waffle came and I frowned in disappointment, Mom asked if it was like I expected.

“No,” I said sadly. “It was supposed to be a soft waffle, not a crunchy one.”

 

Oh, well. Next time!

Ciao!

The Delightful Death March

We walked 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) today around Lac de Pont (Bridge Lake). After arriving at the parking lot, we walked down the beach and across the dam and, under a red bridge, saw the overflow area, which had obviously been used recently.

It only took us three hours and we were going at a fairly slow pace. Ethan talked about Minecraft the whole way, and I, after yammering on about skiing for the first hour, walked ahead of the others.

We didn’t see any animals or anything particularly interesting. It was what we didn’t see that was interesting: where there was supposed to be a bridge and an island, there was just lake.

We also saw a flour mill that had been drowned in the 19th century when the dam was created.

After the walk, we stopped at the Intermarche and bought butter, lettuce, tomatoes, chocolate bars, oranges, cookies, and dryer sheets. We had supper at home again, and I thought everything needed more vinegar.

Ciao!

D-O-W-N D-A-Y– What’s That Spell?

Doing the breakfast dishes—scraping off egg shells and orange peels

Other chores (such as reading Baby Blues) go by

Winning Scrabble—against Mom and then myself

Nagged to do schoolwork—the ‘happy days’ of the 1950s

Dishing up the chocolate cake with crème anglaise

All enjoy the (super yummy) treat

Yesterday the weather was better—it rained today

 

 

Ciao!

Biking in Burgundy, or Failing & Falling: A Short How-To

As I sit in this chair typing my post, I’m trying hard not to wince. Despite the fact that this chair has a cushion, it is painful to sit because the bicycle seat on which I sat for seventeen kilometers (about 10.6 miles). We drove to the tourist information center in Montbard only to find it closed for lunch, so we sat on a bench in the sun for an hour.

Riding the yellow bikes along the Burgundy Canal was Ethan’s idea, so he must have enjoyed it the most. I would say the most exciting part of the whole ride was on the way back after we had watched a boat go through a lock.

“You should learn how to mount a bike,” Dad said, and continued by showing me how: stand with your left foot on the left pedal and then swing your right leg over to the right pedal. Easy-peasy… right?

-Some people are rather challenged when it comes to things like this (I am one of them).-

So I stuck my left foot on my left pedal and swung my leg over.

Except I didn’t.

Instead, I hit the back wheel with my foot because I was stressed out because Dad and Ethan were really close and I didn’t want to hit them. So I fell down against my bike and now have a lovely bruise on my leg.

After another failed attempt, I did manage it—although who knows if I can now perform the skill consistently?

Ciao!

Aural Stimulation

Mom convinced us to go on an hour-long walk in the area around Semur-en-Auxois, so we went outside to enjoy the green and the sun and the lowering waters.

After the walk, Mom made supper (pizza, rice and zucchini, broccoli) and at 7:30 we left for Notre Dame de Semur-en-Auxois for the organ concert, which was a fundraiser for the organ in Notre Dame de Paris. We also went to a fundraiser/organ concert for the organ in Notre Dame de Paris itself.

This one was more uncomfortable in the long run since it was twice as long (an hour and a half verses forty-five minutes) and the music was, I think, less interesting. However, it was warmer inside this cathedral.

Ethan was the youngest attendee. Almost everyone else appeared to be older than my parents (and that’s pretty old). Almost everyone also smiled at the organist’s apparent mistake: when playing in the high notes, he randomly hit a lower note, which sounded like a fart.

Ciao!

Barricaded Because of Beyond

Everyone, write this date (May 5, 2013) down: for the first time in over two-and-a-half months, I wore something besides pants and a shirt in public. It was one of my Dijonian dresses, and it was very exciting. For me, at least.

We walked across Pont de las Minimes and into town, where there was supposed to be a farmers’ market. Mom declined to buy anything, so we kept going to a shop where we bought a newspaper. Although news of the flood (the water’s gone down about five feet already) was splashed across the first four pages, Semur-en-Auxois didn’t make any of the pictures—or the article, for that matter.

Oh, well.

After chilling in the house for a while and getting diesel for the car, we walked down the river to a barricade because the road beyond it was in a state of disrepair.

“So much for our walk,” Mom said.

Back at the house, Mom prepared a supper of pizza, salad, and zucchini. None of it had enough vinegar.

Ciao!

An Amazeing Adventure

It was so sunny today that we couldn’t decide what we wanted to do until after noon. That was a good thing, too, since Chateau de Bussy-Rabutin closes at 11 a.m. and re-opens at 2. We arrived in the town at 2:15.

On our survey (“it’ll only take two minutes”) over which we slaved for five minutes after our tour, we said that, overall, the place was satisfactory. It would have been nice to have a speaking guide who spoke English, but the brochure was okay. Ethan and I enjoyed the maze, even though there was only one way. Someone had cut a hole and made a shortcut that cut the time in eight. Ethan and I didn’t notice this until we were done. We went out that way, too.

Also on our survey was the question “What could have made the shop better?” Options included more kids’ products and more books. I added a new box and checked it off.

What did it say?

 

Gelato.

Ciao!

Foul Weather Friday

There are a lot of tourists on Pont de las Minimes taking pictures of the quickly-rising river. I’m not one of them—I prefer to stay inside and on the top floor. This house on the river is interesting: the kitchen, living room, dining room, master bedroom with ensuite bathroom, and another bathroom are upstairs. Out of the front door and down some stairs is the entrance to the bedroom for Ethan and me, which has its own bathroom.

It also has several inches of water.

Earlier this morning, after schoolwork, Mom made us get our clothes and luggage off the floor in case it flooded. Within an hour, we were back downstairs and packing up all our things. I will be sleeping on the fold-out couch in the living room tonight; Ethan’s thinking the floor looks pretty good. (“I like my mattress hard.”) We went to the grocery store “between evacuations,” as Mom called it, and we bought tortillas, refrigerated pizzas, tomato sauce, pasta, oranges, asparagus, chicken, and some other food.

Mom called it “between evacuations” because after we came back, the property managers (Jackie and Ian) showed up on our doorstep. Dad helped them move the beds and some other pieces of furniture into the storage room. Two police men came by shortly thereafter and, through Jackie, said that there would probably be a siren, and, if we hear it, we are to get into the car with our stuff and drive to the Intermarche. So we packed up everything and stuck it in the car. Dad, Ethan, and I have our backpacks inside right now. If we’re still in the house by morning, we’re unpacking (except Ethan and I will stay upstairs).

In other news, I landed on Ethan’s Coventry Street in Monopoly. He had a hotel on it, and I had £5, plus properties. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to lose (a.k.a. be done with the game). I wasn’t quite done, though—Ethan and Mom had me stay as the banker until Ethan’s victory. Later, I played Scrabble: one game with Ethan and one with Mom. I beat both of them, only because of my awesome words ‘quay’ and ‘quilts’ and ‘adze’ and ‘zee.’ Together those earned me about 100 points.

Ciao!

Day de Dijon

Today we visited Dijon of mustard fame. Yes, we did buy mustard. Later we saw it at the supermarket Intermarche and realized how overpriced it was in Dijon. Oh, well—we know for sure that it was Dijonian.

We started our Dijon day off at Notre Dame, which is home to two bells: Jacquemart, which has run since the church was finished in the fourteenth century, and its counterpart: Jacqueline, Jacquelinet, and, finally, Jacquelinette.

After a stop at the tourist office, we continued our stroll towards the garden. On the way, we stopped at the mustard shop and then a patisserie/boulangerie, where Mom and I got pain au chocolat and Ethan chose a guacamole-chicken sandwich. We ate at the park. Shortly after we were done eating, it started raining, so we packed up and headed on to the next cathedral. Outdoors always seems so much warmer after being inside cathedrals.

On our way back to our car, Mom and I dropped by H&M where we actually found some awesome inexpensive clothes. We came out with our wares and headed home. We stopped at the Intermarche in Semur-en-Auxois on the way and had stir-fry for dinner.

Ciao!

Picture Perfect (That’s Me!)

There was no funeral in Notre Dame today, so we went in for forty-five minutes. After

looking at a stained-glass window, I ran to my dad.

“Did you see what that window said?”

“No.”

I dragged him back to the window and pointed out the truck that read “rican Red Cross” (a.k.a. American Red Cross). The top part of the window showed a French flag and an American flag. Below the window was a plaque which read:

In Memory

Of the dead of the 310th Infantry 78th Division

United States Army who fell in the Great War

1917—1918

And of whom the greater part rest in France

A la Memoire

Des morts du 310th Reciment d’Infanterie 78th Division

De l’Armee Americaine qui tomberent durant

La Grande Guerre en 1917 et 1918

Et dont la plupart reposent en terre Française

 

On the way home, we stopped at a patisserie and I bought myself the chocolate mousse Louvre. I ate it slowly, savoring every bite, while I read about the Cold War for school. Once that was done, I went back to the living room and sat on the couch in front of the 1,000-piece puzzle. I had filled in all but the largest of the holes earlier, and I had tucked a piece in my pocket so I could definitely put the last piece in. Dad came over and put in a few pieces, and we were eventually left with the one piece missing.

I put it in.

 

For supper, we went to L’Entract for the third time. We got there at 6:20 p.m. after trying to take a picture like that of the puzzle. They didn’t open for forty minutes. So Mom wandered off to see why all the fire trucks were in the area and I took pictures.

Eryn Leaps Into the Air In Front of Notre Dame Cathedral

Eryn Leaps Into the Air In Front of Notre Dame Cathedral

Ethan Jumps In Semur-en-Auxois

Ethan Jumps In Semur-en-Auxois

Ciao!

Periodic Table of the Elements (Rain)

Today’s weather element: rain.

We were planning on visiting Notre Dame (the church of Semur-en-Auxois) after eating ice cream, but a funeral was in progress. Instead we headed home and Mom, Ethan, and I started a new Monopoly game. We halted the game after an hour so Ethan and I could do our favorite task.

In school, Ethan and I are “enjoying” working out of a workbook on the Periodic Table of the Elements. Besides learning about uses (such as fluorine in toothpaste and erbium in pink glass) and origins of names (Curium was named after Pierre and Marie Curie, Francium was named after France, and Einsteinium was named after Albert Einstein), Ethan and I are also memorizing the Table. Actually, the memorization started in Morocco, and I know from hydrogen up to cadmium (atomic number 48). Ethan only knows up to ruthenium (atomic number 44)—we’re separated by rhodium, palladium, and silver. Ethan’s favorite element is arsenic, naturally, but I prefer oxygen.

Ciao!

Monopoly

We visited the Fontenaye Abbey this morning, where we viewed the areas we couldn’t go (such as most of the area) and admired the fountains.

Once we got home, Mom, Ethan, and I resumed our Monopoly game. It didn’t take long for Ethan to go out after he landed on Mayfair (the British version of Boardwalk) and gave me everything (the cost for rent was 2,000 pounds).

We went back into town shortly thereafter, planning on getting ice cream. The ice-creamery was closed, so we went to a patisserie where I chose a dessert called “Louvre.” It’s shaped like the infamous pyramid and tasted better than the similar chocolate dessert we had in the Louvre. This one had chocolate mousse with a dark chocolate shell. The base was a thin layer of white cake. In the mousse were four delicious raspberries.

Back at the house, after schoolwork, Mom and I continued Monopoly. With my monopolies on one-and-a-half sides of the board, as well as the railways, she knew it was going to be hard. I had one orange, one green, one yellow, and one red card and I wasn’t going to give them to her so she could have more monopolies. Slowly her £8,000 was dropped into my bank account. By the end of the game, which I won (she lost by £12—she needed to pay £2,000 and ended up with £1,988 after mortgaging and selling everything), I had over £23,000.

You want to know my way of winning?

Ending with the most money.

Ciao!

Parisian Paragraph (Plural)

After a week in Paris, we did not, according to TripAdvisor, hit up the top three main attractions, including the Musée d’Orsay (#1) which was very close to our flat. We crossed #4, Pont Alexandre III, once and also paid a visit to #7, the Louvre, and #8, Jardin Luxembourg. Ten and eleven, Saint-Chapelle and Notre Dame, respectively, were visited. Since Notre Dame was just a few minutes’ walk and across the Seine from our apartment, we visited it several times: for an organ concert, free Sunday tour, the chance to go the towers and be like Quasimodo, and at night.

The Eiffel Tower is #15, and we saw it every day and were in its general vicinity four or five times. My favorite part was seeing it at night when it was lit up with blinking white lights. The Seine, #17, was crossed multiple times every day. On our way to the Louvre, we were crossing Pont Neuf (the Ninth Bridge) and were told to hurry along in our crossing because they were filming a movie and we mere peasants were in the way.

We visited numbers 21 through 23: Arc de Triomphe, the towers of Notre Dame, and Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, one of the few (and the only one we found) English bookstores in the city. We visited it on a whim because it was only a few blocks from our house.

In terms of food, our breakfasts were boiled eggs, oranges (sometimes clementines or bananas), Kellogg’s Special K, cheese, baguettes, and some pastry that Ethan would bring home along with the baguette. Snacks were usually high in sugar, such as ice cream and chocolate bars. We had plenty of variety in our suppers, but I think we were all very excited for that of our first night: we had pizza for the first time in a month! (Morocco is not a pizza country.) And there was vinegar! (You probably don’t know, but I love vinegar. And pizza dipped in vinegar is wonderful.) Later, we would enjoy salads at a vegetarian restaurant, two meals from Subway because we had to have a quick supper, another meal of pizza (that wasn’t as good), and mushroom risotto.

Oh, I’m feeling hungry already…

Ciao!

A Definite Down Day

I had the last doxycycline pill today!

For some reason, we had 4x+1, and since I happen to be the snottiest person right now, I got the one.

 

In other news, it rained today so we just stayed inside and worked on our puzzle, which is a picture of this town/village. Also, Dad deleted pictures (!!!) and Ethan and I forced ourselves through some schoolwork. I texted the most I’ve ever texted in my life on our little green Nokia phone: it was just things to my parents like ‘Algebra 2 workbook’ and ‘Done with question 44’ and ‘Is everyone else going too?’ and ‘Hey wheat thin.’ (That last part was to Ethan.)

Ciao!

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom!

We visited four towns besides Semur-en-Auxois, as well as one special site, today:

  1. Salmaise– This was the biggest town, and we parked by the church. We looked for the patisserie, as advertised on the tourist map, but we didn’t find it. The lavarie, which was a bathing area, was deserted but Ethan and I posed for pictures anyway.
  2. Sources de la Seine– At the source of the Seine River, the French have built a fountain and a concrete grotto. We stood at the top of the first bridge over the little stream while Dad took a picture.
  3. Frôlois– We looked for the chateau at the next little town, and we found it: a large castle-like structure on the hill above. Once at the top, we could hear someone practicing songs on a piano and the bees humming, but we couldn’t admire the view since some people had built houses in the way.
  4. Flavigny-sur-Ozerain– The anise factory in the next little town sold candy, and we were sure to get some. Mom, Ethan, and I took a much-needed stop at the toilettes, which were purple. Then a woman came in and said something quite loudly while gesturing at Ethan: there’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom.
  5. Fouilles d’Alesia– This was not intended to be our last stop, but, because of the late hour, it was. We walked around a Gaul-Roman town, admiring the rather short and deteriorated structures. Ethan and I worked on the activity booklets that we’d been given since we’re just so young.

Ciao!

Supper After (And In) Semur

After a rather rough and early start this morning, we set out to visit the tourism office. There, Mom re-stocked her supply of brochures while Dad asked about restaurants and how to pronounce the name of Semur-en-Auxois. We walked around the town before stopping at a patisserie, where Dad chose one chocolate éclair, one pain au chocolat, one apple pastry, and one raisin pastry. Returning home, we sat around our table on the river eating our goods. Dad eventually got up to feed the ducks, which came up to our feet.

We went back out for the museum, where we saw statues, paintings, lots of rocks, dead snakes, and a human skeleton and where Ethan and I practiced our drawing-the-string-on-a-bow-back skills.

To get to Intermarche, the supermarket, we piled into the car. After 1.5 kilometers, we passed the store and kept going to get a feel for the town. Back inside the Intermarche, I helped Mom buy tomatoes, cheese, kiwi, milk, chocolate, cereal, eggs, oranges, serviettes, and dryer sheets.

For supper, I had ravioli with the special cheese of the region called Époisses. Dad had chicken with the same.

Ciao!

Not Going In-Seine

This morning we vacated our flat near the Seine and Notre Dame, realizing we’d never gone in-Seine.

After picking up our Hertz Ford, Dad maneuvered the car through the Paris traffic before we hit the countryside. We stopped at a gas station after Ethan nearly peed his pants. Along with the necessary business, we also bought… Magnums! Ethan and I had a “new” type of Magnum that was a lot smaller than the normal ones.

At around five p.m. we reached our “cute” little cottage, and, after nesting, we walked around the deserted little town. After several false leads, we found a restaurant that served fish, pizza, salad, and pasta. Dad enjoyed his ravioli, Mom and Ethan shared a salad and pizza, and I loved my salmon filet with rice, a creamy sauce, and lots of lemon.

Ciao!

Sewerman or Eau No!

In case you want to know what the Cusco Disaster smelled like, you can visit Paris’s Sewer Museum. Eau de no!

We were behind a school group of little fifth graders, and we caught up with them in the souvenir shop while they were watching a video: it started with a woman peeking into a drain and saying, in French and English, since they did the video twice, “Oh, no, I dropped my keys! What am I going to do?”

She ran to a phone booth. We expected her to come out as Superman, but the booth was clear and she just called… Sewerman!!!!!

He came and got her car keys for her, and she kissed him. In what genre would you put this film—comedy? Action? Sci-fi? Romance?

Our next stop was the mall around the inverted pyramid near the Louvre. Dad checked up on our Hertz rental before he and Ethan went to chill in the Apple store. Mom and I, meanwhile, paid a visit to the totally amazing store of Pylones—it is awesome! My favorite things were probably the porcupine toothpick holder (you put toothpicks in the holes in the porcupine’s back so it looks more porcupine-ish) and the pink and orange trashcan with a face painted on and plastic fins, like a fish.

We stopped at Jardin de Luxembourg on our way up to the Pantheon, where we saw murals of Joan of Arc and Saint Genevieve and the tombs of Pierre and Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and others.

After supper, we got ice cream at our favorite place, Amorino, and Dad and I shared a grande cup of cinnamon, chocolate Amorino, and banana flavors.

Ciao!

Concierge, Carnavalet, and Crepes, OR Desserts and Death

We actually went to four different tourist places today: Sainte-Chapelle, where we admired the stained-glass windows, the Concierge, where we read the names of over 2,500 French citizens, including the likes of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, who had been killed by the guillotine after spending the night in the Concierge, Musée Carnavalet, where we went on a whim from Baroness Orczy’s I Will Repay, the second book the Scarlet Pimpernel series, and the towers of Notre Dame, where we went all the way to the top and pretended we were Quasimodo.

At Notre Dame, we also learned that the only gargoyles on the towers are the pipes that take the rainwater down from the roof, not all the other animals, which are chimera. One female chimera, who looked like a cat, was eating a stone deer. Yummy.

Speaking of yummy, we were originally going to visit an Italian restaurant for supper, but it was closed. So we went across two bridges to the second island, where we found a little restaurant with a table. So we sat. While we were perusing the menu, a group of four older American ladies came in and sat down next to us.

We ordered the set menu, and by the time we were done with our main courses (chicken curry for Dad and Ethan and mushroom risotto for Mom and me), they hadn’t even finished their salads. Our desserts finally arrived: chocolate-covered crepes for the three of them, and a chocolate cake in cream for me.

“That looks good!” all the ladies exclaimed.

“Yes, it does,” I said, half to myself. Mortifrying.

Everyone started laughing, while I stared at my plate red-faced. Oh, well—it was really, really good. Ethan and I finished quickly, and the ladies looked over and nearly screamed.

“You’re so fast!”

 

Ciao!

Not Disney’s Notre Dame

At Notre Dame, our English-speaking guide was named Fredérique. She was one of the two English guides. The choice was simple: did you want to go up the bleachers with Fredérique, or did you want to stay on solid ground with the other woman? We chose Fredérique.

At the top of the bleachers, she talked for a long time about Notre Dame’s history. Notre Dame, which means ‘our lady,’ referring to the Virgin Mary, used to be painted in bright colors. During the French Revolution, the kings from the Old Testament, who were portrayed on the front of the building, had their stone heads cut off because the revolutionaries didn’t like kings. Later, twenty brightly painted heads were found under a bank.

On solid ground in front of the giant Gothic doors, Fredérique discussed all the symbolism, such as the square shape of the front of the building representing Creation and the circular window representing eternity, since it has no end or corner. Statues of the prophets, gargoyles, apostles, angels, devils, and saints, as well as Jesus, decorate the front of the cathedral. One of the most interesting was Saint Denis, the first patron saint of Paris. He was an evangelist in 200 A.D., and he was popular, which the Romans in Paris didn’t like. So they killed him, and legend has it that he walked over to his head, picked it up, cleaned it, and then walked over to the spot of a present-day church, where he died “for real.”

Inside the cathedral, Fredérique talked about the architecture while we admired the stained-glass windows. Once we were sufficiently rested, she took us over to a pillar and showed us the workers’ signatures on the stone. In this way, the boss could tell how many pieces of stone a man had shaped and/or affixed in a day.

There were several Joan of Arc statues inside, as well as the Notre Dame. Notre Dame Cathedral was the place where it was decided that Joan of Arc’s reputation should be rehabilitated. It is also the location of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore on the cross. Napoleon gave it back to the church after he was crowned king in the cathedral. It had been M.I.A. because Notre Dame had been used as a temple of the goddess of reason during the French Revolution. Later on, the general public had seemed to have given up on the cathedral until Victor Hugo wrote Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was hugely popular and later made into a Disney movie, which I’ve seen.

2013-04-20_Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hunchback of Notre Dame- Disney version

Ciao!

With Laura and the Louvre

If you’ve read Life of Pi, or watched the new movie, you know that Piscine Patel came from the little French town of Pondicherry. We went to the Indian restaurant Krishna Bhavan for dinner tonight. The waitron who welcomed and served us knows French, Hindi, and English and comes from Pondicherry.

“She’s going in my post,” I told Dad. (She did!)

We toured the Louvre today. It was slightly like déjà vu after the British Museum in London. There were sphinxes, mummies, and multiple sarcophagus, as well as the Italian and Greek nude statues and paintings (the paintings were French, too). The sole mummy we saw was wrapped much better than the ones Dad and I saw in London, though, and we had a guide (the British Laura) to make things slightly more interesting.

Louvre Table-Holders

The Stone Men Who Used to Hold Up a Table (Or Something)

Our tour ended after three hours, and we hunted down the café, where Dad and I shared a chicken sandwich and a chocolate cake modeled after the Louvre Pyramid designed by I. M. Pei, which does not have 666 pieces of glass—it has 673: 603 that are rhombus-shaped and 70 that are triangular.

We walked around some more. I wanted to take a picture by a stone boar we’d seen earlier, which I thought would be representative of the museum since it was rather boar-ing. (Rather—after the tour it got more interesting because we could be on our own and wonder over some of the rather queer paintings and sculptures.) We couldn’t find the boar, so instead I posed next to a piece of stone that had a cow with its tongue sticking out on it.

Ciao!

We & Willamette Are Famous!

After touring the catacombs this morning in between tour groups and piles of bones, we returned home to rest and anticipate ice cream. Shortly thereafter we were on our way to Sacré-Cœur, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. We weren’t able to climb to the top—instead, we just got to the bottom of the dome. Oh, well—there was still a good view of the Eiffel Tower.

Back on terra firma, we watched a man kick a soccer ball [football] while standing on a wide post on the staircase. Then he climbed the light post, still kicking the ball, and returned to his original position. After that he took off his vest, then his button-up shirt, and then his long-sleeved undershirt. And then he took off his tank top. That was the part of his act that got the most cheers.

We went to the gardens and fountain across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. There we took pictures and watched the skateboarders and rollerbladers. We returned to our flat to rest a short while before dinner, which was 15 and 30 centimeter sandwiches from Subway (Sub15 and Sub30). We ate in a park until around 8 p.m., only twenty minutes in, at which point we were kicked out. (The sun sets quite late here.) Dad extracted money from the ATM, and we went back down to the metro to go to the Eiffel Tower.

Sitting in the same gardens as earlier, we all got excited when first the big central fountain went on. We were even more thrilled when the guy with the tripod standing in the dead center moved out of our pictures. After that, the tower was lit up with its golden lights, and then the flashing lights started flashing.

I chose pistachio, coffee, and cinnamon flavors for my ice cream near our flat after the Tower. While waiting for Mom to finish ordering her ice cream, Dad pointed out the sign for one of the flavors:

FRAMBOISE

Willamette

That’s exciting, since we’re from the Willamette Valley like those raspberries!

Ciao!

French Staircases

Today we went to a major attraction in Paris. That major attraction was proved to be major by the large line that was already forming by the time that it opened. The attraction was the catacombs. The catacombs of Paris are large and extensive, and they used to serve as a quarry for limestone up until after the French Revolution.

Now, after climbing down flights upon flights of stairs, a visitor can see that there are bones galore stacked on top of each other for about six feet above the floor. There are what we think are femurs stacked for about two and a half feet, before a row of skulls, and then another set of femur stacks and another set of skulls. On the top are assorted bones, mainly mislaid skulls. There is an estimated 6,000,000 bones in all of the catacombs, unlike the catacombs in Rome, in which Eryn and I only saw a single bone.

Eventually, we left the catacombs and rode the rails to a basilica that overlooks the whole city. After going inside, we climbed up to the dome. From there, we could see the Eiffel Tower. When we got back down, we watched a guy play with a soccer ball, including making it spin on a stick, putting that in his mouth, and then climbing a lightpost.

That’s all for now, Folks!

The Big Three

Today we were surprisingly busy: we saw Paris’s three key sights in the space of an hour. First, we saw Notre Dame right across the Seine from our flat. Then we went down the elevator that’s in our apartment building to the RATP station. Dad bought the tickets, and we rode the underground train to the Champs-Elysees station.

“You know what’s missing?” Dad asked as we got off the train.

“‘Mind the gap’?” I guessed.

“Yep.”

That’s true—of course, we wouldn’t know what avis la vide means if we saw it, but we could guess.

We climbed to the top of our second big monument, the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, counting the stairs (259, as my count went) as we went. At the top, we saw our third, final, and most recognizable Paris monument: the Eiffel Tower.

From the top, we saw, apart from the Tower, Notre Dame, the American church, Invalides, and an opera house, among others. Dad took more pictures when we got back to the bottom of the arch. Our next stop was Place de la Concorde, and Dad was thrilled to stand on the Concorde bridge because it reminded him of good, old (well, quite young relatively) USA.

Mom, Ethan, and Dad had ice cream from a man whose family has been making ice cream for three generations (he’s the third). He asked us where we were from, naturally, and Mom replied, “The United States.”

“What part?”

“Oregon.”

“Oh, really? In Salem?”

I was rather surprised that this man knew anything about Oregon, but he said that some of his relatives live in Rhode Island.

“The smallest state, but the most corrupt—that’s what they say.”

 

Within two hours, we were standing at the base of the Eiffel Tower, debating whether to take the stairs or the elevator. We chose the elevator and went straight up to the top, where we admired the breath-taking view through the chain-link fence with holes larger than my head but still small enough to dissuade would-be committers of suicide.

Mom and I rode the elevator all the way down, but Dad and Ethan took the stairs from the middle. It took them about half an hour.

We ate supper at a vegetarian restaurant, and I enjoyed palm hearts for the first time in a month. Yes! Then we had ice cream while admiring Notre Dame, the river Seine, and the fire-jugglers. I had my favorite combo: chocolate, banana, and cinnamon. It was the first time I’ve had that combination since Valparaiso, Chile—two-and-a-half months ago. *swoon*

Ciao!

From Fez to France

We woke up (ridiculously early) this morning in balmy Fez, Morocco. On our way out of the medina with our luggage we actually saw a dog. And not just one—three!

Once at the post office, Majid met us and we piled into his van. We arrived at Fez’s small international airport half an hour later. About two hours later, we boarded our Paris-bound flight. After that I don’t remember much, since I slept for most of the flight, but I do remember crossing the Mediterranean.

Now we’re in Europe, where it’s safe to drink tap water and it’s okay to flush toilet paper down the toilet. (I also have some slight knowledge of the French Revolution, thanks to The Scarlet Pimpernel.)

At four p.m. (two in the afternoon by Fassi standards), we were outside our apartment, which is on the Seine about a hundred meters from Notre Dame. Our landlord is Italian, but he spoke in English. Our experience at dinner was totally different: six different languages were spoken: Japanese, Afrikaans, English, Italian, Spanish, and French. On our way home, we stopped at a chocolate shop. Then we stopped to check out the gelateria, which happens to be three stories down from our living room. Yes!

Ciao!

Food in Fez Makes Me Ready for France

In a couple days we’ll be in France, which is a good thing since I don’t think I can stand couscous and vegetable tagine (vegetables cooked in a funny-looking pot)all day, every day, much longer.

In other news, we decided to go to Borj Nord today after pancakes and scrambled eggs at Café Clock. Mom decided we would take the shortcut up the hill, so we did. The hill was actually a lot steeper than it looked like from the medina, and Mom was worried we would fall down the cliff into the bus terminal’s trash.

We didn’t.

Instead, we arrived at the front door of Borj Nord, now a museum, at 12:08. We were informed that it closes at noon.

So.

That’s how it goes.

 

We wandered around, admiring the view and taking pictures and talking about Lake Okeechobee, for a while before we returned to the medina and resumed our normal hiding-from-the-sun-inside-our-house lives until supper, which was—you guessed it!—couscous.

Ciao!