end of france…

sheez, it´s been a couple of days since i posted. i dont have hellza time to
post now either.. but i´ll try to throw some stuff together..


i was still a little sick that day, but since i was feeling at least somewhat
better, i decided to try to go out anyways. we didnt go see a bunch of stuff,
but just kind of walked around near the latin quarter. for dinner that night,
we finally went to the “on the back of the whale” restauarnt. it´s the
restaurant that natasha lived over when she lived in paris back in the day, and
it was hella good. the place was kinda fancy, and luckily dinner was paid for
as a birthday present from natasha (thanks!). the food was really super good,
although being a bit sick, i wasn´t able to taste it as well as i would have
liked to.


i had really wanted to go to the loire, and even though we had bought train tix
to go, ´we had to not use the tix since i got sick… *sigh*… but i came up
w/ a new idea. this morning we got up early and rented a car to get to the
loire. having our own little car was such a blast! but really scary too!
driving around paris isn´t easy… it´s totally crazy here. first off, there
are no lanes. cars just squich into the road as much as they can and you never
know how many cras across it´ll be. second, the street signs are not any place
where they would ever be able to be seen by the people driving. they are tiny
little blue signs on the sides of buildings, and they definitely make the city
look nice…. but they are absolutely impracticasl and worthless when driving.
thank god i had caryn navigating or else i would have never mad it out of

but soon we were on the road, and it was such a rush! we have our own car! and
we´re driving it through the french countryside at a 130 km per hour (whatever
that is)!! we have no idea what a lot of the traffic signs mean! it was like
throwing all caution to the wind and playing a new video game where you didnt
read the instruction booklet before. so fun!

in the loire valley, we checked out two cities: blois and chambord. blois was
ok, but really nothing spectacular. a town that was… i dunno… just too
city-like for me…. i had come with the vision of a castle in the middle of
nowhere with maybe a few small picturesque homes near it, but instead it was a
small city like any other. the chateau itself was nothing to write home about
either. but chambord… was a different story entirely. the town (described
as a “tiny pin-prick sized village” in LP) was really quaint and had tiny
narrow streets w/ cute houses.

the chateau itself was absoilutely incredible. just like the castles you see in
the movies… except maybe even *more* impressive. the cahteau was based on
italian architecture that the king of france had admired, and thus was really
intricate and crazy. walking around inside, all the rooms were decorated
really cool, and there was this insane “double helix” staircase designed by
leonardo da vinci in the middle of it. it´s basically two staircases that wind
around a central axis for 4 sories, but never meet at any point. sooo cool!!

after that, we drove some more to the town of orleans for dinner. we went to this small restaurant where they served “regional” food. caryn got a cock in a pot (coque a vin), which ended up being super good. i got some french oninon soup which rocked, but my main course was only so-so. afterwards, the place served us a “magic potion” (this raspberry liquer w/ a respberry in it) that was hella good.

getting back through france was hella difficult. we barely were able to find our place, and then… we had no idea how to figurte out if where we parked the car was ok. we ended up walking to a police station and trying to ask them if we had to pay for parkinbg where we parked. they barely understood english, but luckily, i was able to get my point across in borken-ass french. next thing we know, the cops motion us to get in the back of their police car…. WHAT?? we were a bit nervous now… were we in trouble?? were they gonna try to get a bribe from us? in the end, it ended up nothing bad… they just drove us to the place where we were parked and then told us that we probably didnt have to pay for parking. phew!! it´s pretty crazy that we got to drive in the back of a police car though!!

the police were really nice to us… and really, so was everyone else. it´s odd to me that people in the US think that the french are rude, or mean, or hate americans… cause everyone that we ever asked *anything* was super nice to us. in fact, practically everyone that we interacted w/ in france was very friendly and helpful.

when we finally got back to the apt that night, it was kinda sad that it was our last night in paris. we happened to getb in right around 1am-ish, which is right about when the lñast sparkly thing happens at the eiffel tower. i dont think i mentioned this before, but at 1am, it´s the best sparkle show at the eiffel ever. they turn off all the regular eiffel tower lights, and all there is left is the sparkles. it´s extra nice, and only happens once a night. for the next 10 minutes, caryn and i just chilled in the apartment viewing the best, and last, sparklevision ever…




i’m gonna have to keep this kinda short since i’m sick :(.

went to the louvre. the place is sooo huge and intimidating. even after several hours, caryn and i only saw a fraction of what there was to see. it was funny to watch all the other museum patrons and see how they handle the museum. everyone is rushing around trying to photograph everything left and right. it was like this huge free-for-all. people were literally running around the museum. too funny.

after the museum, we did the 3km li sasaki shuffle in reverse. we took in the jardin tulliares (sp?), place de la concorde, champs elysee, and ended at the arch de trioumphe.

arche de triumphe

afterwards, we had a chill dinner at a random cafe. i just love the cafes here!! it sucks, we stopped by the restaurant that my cousin recommended but it was closed! i’m starting to doubt that i’ll actually be able to go there on this trip!!

we bought our plane tickets to barcelona today!! although i’ll definitely be sad to leave france, i’m really psyched on barcelona!! during my last trip to europe, it was definitely my favorite city in europe. also, we’re meeting up w/ erica, kevin, yan, and natasha there so it’ll be a crazy amount of fun!! we also bought tickets to go to the loire valley on the 29th… but now i’ve caught a cold, so i’m not sure if i’m still down to go. it would have been fun, but i doubt i’d enjoy walking aroun d and exploring chateaus while sick :(.


spent all day sick. pretty much didn’t leave the apt :(. luckily for me, caryn took good care of me by getting me soup, oj, cough drops, medicine etc. she was a bit nervous braving the shops w/out speaking any french, but she got everything in the end!! heh, although she did accidentally buy half and half instead of milk!


you win some you lose some


after my last post, we went out to try to find something to do at night. we looked through the listings in lonely planet, and decided to check out the Buddha Bar, since i’ve heard of it before. well, unfortunately it didn’t work out. upon arrival, the guy at the door wouldn’t let us in, probably because we weren’t dressed cool enough or whatnot. so lame. we really dont have room in our packs to have nice clothes or anything, and it sucks that we have to be turned away from stuff because of that. after the buddha bar, we just went to this other bar listed in the guide which turned out to be nothing special. *sigh*.

it’s crazy though, in this this town, famous sights pop up absolutely everywhere. just in transit to the two bars, we exited the metro and ended up next to this huge obilisk thing that was in front of an enormous greek-styled temple building. it’s amazing just how much stuff this town has. no matter which way you turn, you can’t go anywhere without running into something interesting.



this morning, when we went out to search for breakfast, we were greeted w/ a nice surprise… there was a huge farmer’s market going on. seriously, this market was nuts, they had so much stuff! they sold every food imagineable: various cheeses of all kinds, fresh yougurts and creams, all sorts of meats, seafood, fruit, vegetables. this place had every cool kind of french food you can imagine… and some french food that was pretty freaky: cow tongues that were literally 2 feet long, freaky chickens that still had their heads and feet on, and even brains. yes, brains for sale in little boxes. EW.


after buying some stuff at the market (no, not brains) we went back to the apt and enjoyed the food. it’s funny, in all the other times i’ve been to france, i’ve never really shopped for food at all the little shops like i’ve been doing daily here. in the past, i’ve pretty much stuck to eating crepes and paninis non-stop.

anyways, our first stop today was sacre-coeur, a church on top of a hill. this place had incredible views of paris since it was so high up, and the church itself was really cool. on the way up the hill, i got stopped by some guy who pretty much forced me to buy a bracelet off of him. he kept putting it on me and wouldn’t really take no for an answer, even when i said i didnt really have any money… “this bracelet, very good, yes? it ancient jamaican secret. it give you jiggy jiggy. you know jiggy jiggy (this was accompanied by a hand gesture, that i wont try to explain here!)? it give you good jiggy jiggy, and you make girlfriend very happy! it help your jiggy jiggy!” errr…. yeah, nice. so now, i ended up w/ this dorky bracelet which marked me as a dumb-ass tourist. heh.


so sacre-coeur was really cool, and you are allowed to climb this never-ending staircase to the top of the dome for an even better view of the city.

after sacre-coeur, we took a quick ride to the outskirts of paris to see the skyscraper area. they have this dope looking office building called the grande arche.

after trying to figure out our travel plans for the future, we hopped on the metro to go to dinner. we decided to try out yet another semi-nice restaurant. byt the time we were almost there, i was totally starving. a lady next to me on the metro had a baguette that she was holding about head height, and i started wondering just what would happen if i turned my head and took a bite out of it. would she hit me? or would she yell at me? i decided not to chance it ;). afew stops later, a lady got on w/ two rabbits in a cage. it’s funny that people here have bunnies for pets, cause the next restaurant we passed by had bunnies on the *menu*.

at the restaurant, we once again forgot our pocket translater. doh! so reading down the menu, i pretty much didn’t know what almost anything was. i ended up ordering escargots for my appetizer, and something random for the main course. i literally had no clue what i was gonna get: beef, chicken, seafood, deer? who knows!? it was pretty fun to have a mystery meal coming. in the end, it turned out to be a fish. a whole fish with what looked like really sharp teeth that could tear the hell out of me, but luckily, the fish was both dead and fried, so it didnt do much other than just lie there.

unfortunately, the dinner ended up not being all that great. the fish was so-so, the escargot was so-so, and the food caryn got was literally inedible. to end it all, a cockroach climbed up the wall and kind of hung out next to me for a while. nice. never going back there again, that’s for sure.

we cruised by notre dame, and it looked really really cool all lit up at night. the cathedral from the back had a very eerie almost sinister feel in the dark, almost like it was a castle in transylvania or something. we also, went inside it, and the really dark corners were just damn creepy, especially w/ all the candles lit up inside.

we also went to go see the eiffel tower at night. we just hung out and laid down on our backs in the park and stared up at it for a bit. it looked really cool especialy when it did it’s sparkly thing that it does every hour. laying there, i kept thinking how crazy it was that i was taking a whole year off from work, and that i was here in paris w/ my girlfriend staring up at the eiffel tower. so nice….


another chill day

we woke up today and tried out some new shops for our breakfast. we went to a boulangerie that seemed pretty popular (there was a line out the door) to buy bread and some desserts, a fromagerie that had an insanely huge and intimidating selection, and a charcuterie (deli) for some saucissons (salami-esque sausages). it’s still pretty hard to figure out what we want to buy. i mean, i wouldnt even know what to buy if i was in an american cheese shop, much less a shop here where everything is in another language!

about halfway through the day i remembered that today is yom kippur. DOH! yom kipur is probably *the* most important jewish holiday and you’re supposed to fast all day from sunset to sunset. i’ve fasted on yom kippur for as long as i can remember, ever since i was a little kid. i was kinda bummed that i totally messed up this year… but i’m used to celebrating it in the US where my whole family is fasting and thus i always know exactly which day is yom kipur. a big part of this holiday is thinking about your religion etc, so i took some time out today, metro’d to a remote stop and sat around thiking. it’s not celebrating in full by any means, but i’m glad i did at least something!

after that, i met up w/ caryn at the rodin gardens. we read in our guidebook that this is a lot of people’s favorite place in paris, and we could totally tell why. the gardens are really chill and peaceful, and rodin’s sculptures are really amazing. a lot of the sculptures are instantly recognizeable as they are extremely famous, but there were also a lot of smaller works that were cool as well.

well, it’s saturday night here and we’re gonna try and go out tonight. we haven’t realy experienced any nightlife here yet, so it’ll be a fun change…


did i mention how much i like france?


i woke up this morning w/ the eiffel tower in my window as usual, and while caryn took the frigid shower of doom, i went out to go hunt for breakfast armed w/ my usual handul of french words. it was so fun! first i went to the local boulangerie and bought some piping hot crunchy bread. next i went (after much searching) to a local fromagerie (cheese shop). it was really hard for me to decipher what kind of cheese they had here since i barely know french, but i ended up w/ some camambert and a mystery cheese nicely wrapped. next i went to
a local flower shop to buy some flowers for caryn, followed by a small market to buy fresh tomatoes and orange juice.

yeah, i know, shoppping isn’t some crazy wild adventure, but i really really enjoyed this morning. it was really nice to get food from all the local shops, it was cool that each thing was sold separately by people who specialize in it, and it was fun to try to convey what i wanted in my broken french. i hope to have many more such breakfasts. btw, the breakfast, other than the mystery cheese which was bland, was really delicious!

after breakfast, caryn and i went to go up the eiffel tower. we got a bit worried when, halfway though the line, we were told that the top of the tower was closed, but luckily, they re-opened it before we got out of line. so, the eiffel tower is tall… really tall… 1052 feet tall which is over 2 times as tall as the london eye. and i’m afraid of heights. yikes! but i had a good time anyways, and enjoyed the views. did you know that eiffel actually had an apartment on top of the tower where he would entertain famous guests? could you imagine?? what a dope place to have an apartment.

after the tower, caryn and i wandered past a few more things (hotel invalides, ecole militaire, grande palais) and then went to go get dinner. we went to this place that we found in the guide book that was a bit on the pricier side (50$ for the two of us), but we wanted to try some good french cuisine. once we got inside and opened the menus, i realized that not only do i know very little french, but i really really dont know any of the words for food. uh-oh. most of the stuff listed on the menu, i had no clue what it was. so here we were, at a fancy restaurant, and staring at these undecipherable menus. there were a couple things we could kind of make out, so we decided to go w/ those. then it turned out that they did have english menus, but we decided to stick w/ the food from before.

dude, the food was sooooo good!! did i mention i love france?? so, i started w/ fois gras on toast. it was insanely good and came w/ a mystery sauce that complimented it really well. my main course was beef tartare. i had expected it to be thinly sliced, but it turned out to be a large steak sized raw patty
of ground beef. to be honest, i was a bit intimidated by it at first, but once i tried it, i realized that it was damn delicious.

for dessert we had creme brulee w/ coffee. the coffee came w/ cubed sugar, and it took me back to when i was a little kid: when we were younger, my dad banked at this bank that had coffee for its customers while they waited. the coffee had cubed sugar, and i was always really excited to go w/ my dad to the bank because of that. whenever he went to the bank, i would really hope that he’d take me along, and i’d go and crunch on sugar cubes while he waited. i guess i’ve always been easily amused…

anyways, the whole dinner experience was so nice. great food, the ambience was nice, and the service was good w/ them pouring our wine for us etc. since we’re saving $$ on an apt, i guess we can afford to eat like this fairly often while wer’re here!

i’m enjoying paris so much, and i’m really glad that we have a whole week here. we *might* take a side trip somewhere else, but it could be nice to just spend the whole week here.

other notes on paris:

it’s interesting how different the fashion is here form london. so many sweaters!

it’s definitely cheaper than london. not super cheap by any means, but not as expensive as last week! but, the internet is crazy expensive here. about 5$ an hour!!

they’re using the euro now which is really cool. when we go on to spain, we wont have to change all of our money!

it’s interesting just how cheap it is to go from here (or london) to other countries in europe. from london to amsterdam, it’s only like 60$!! i wonder if that’s a big reason why people in america are so isolationist and dont understand other cultures. people here can so easily jump from one country to another, and probably witness life in other countries form a very early age, but if you’re form the us, the only countries nearby are mexico and canada (which is similar to the us anyways). i’ve seen stats that say that like 55% of americans dont even own a passport!!


a new pace


we woke up and went to another local cafe to get breakfast. there are millions of these small cafes on every street in paris, and they are all fairly similar: a few tables serving the ususal cafe fare and a bar. one of the standard cafe entrees here is the croque monsieur, a grilled ham and cheese sandwhich… actually, i wasn’t aware that it had ham in it till i ordered it… good thing i’m eating meat again!! people here just spend days hanging out in these cafes, having coffee, smoking, and chatting. it’s really nice!! the pace of life here is just so much slower and more relaxed, and i’m really psyched to be adjusting to it. caryn and i have decided to not try to pack in too many sights per day and to just spend time lounging, strolling, hitting cafes, and just enjoying the city.

we took the metro to our first sight of the day, Notre Dame. the metro here is really nice, probably even nicer than the metro in london. there seems to be more stops here, pretty much any spot in the city is withing 2 or 3 blocks from the metro. also, the metro here isn’t as deep underground, so we dont have to spend forever on escalators as we did in london. i was thinking today about how the metro must be really nice for old people. back in san jo, if you’re old and no longer have a license, how do you get around if you dont have someone to drive you?? the bus system sucks, and probably you end up just stranded at home. here, no matter what age you are, you can zip around the city… it’s probably really nice for people too young to drive too.

anyways, back to notre dame. checking out notre dame was pretty cool (even though i’ve seen it the last 3 times i’ve been to paris). one thing that really frustrates me is not being able to take photos in the churches. obviously, i understand why it’s not allowed, and i would never break that rule, but there’s so much cool stuff inside that i always want photos of!!

after checking out the church, we got a crepe (yummmmmm) and hung out in the park behind the church. there was part of me that for a second wondered if we should rush on to the next tourist attraction, but i was able to banish that thought. instead we just kicked it in the park. dude, the pigeons here are *huge*, much huger than the sad scrawny pigeons in london… i guess people here are nice enough to feed them.

aftre notre dame we went to go check out another church, saint-chappelle. the church looked kinda cool from the outside, but from the inside, it was just incredible. i’ve come to realize that i’m really into stained glass windows, and this place had some of the most amazing windows i’ve ever seen. this is my 4th time in paris now (or is it my 5th?) and i honestly think that the inside of this church is probably the coolest sight i’ve seen here. i can’t believe i’ve never gone inside there before!!

once again, the photo doesn’t do it justice!

we kept walking after saint-chappelle, and went to the center pompidou. well, actually we weren’t planning on going to any museums today, but we ended up right in front of it, so we just went on in. yet another really cool modern art museum. sheez, the more modern art museums i see, the more i realize just how unimpressed i was by the tate museum in london. oh, one other thing i’m not really impressed with is video art. sure, i admit that it’s possible for video art to be profound and interesting, but 95% of the stuff i see in museums is utterly boring and, in my eyes, pointless.

after dinner (indian food, yummmm), caryn and and i got a dessert crepe and went back to the apt. i didn’t mention in my last post that nowadays the eiffel tower does this really cool thing where every hour all of a sudden the whole thing gets all sparkly and crazy for about 10 minutes!

oh one other thing i forgot to mention: we have no hot water. none. yesterday we tried to turn the shower on, but couldnt get the water to be warm. huh? after messing w/ it for a bit, we decided to call my aunt for help. now, the problem w/ that, is that before we left, my younger couisin spent like half an hour going off about how the shower is *so* easy to use, and only a real idiot wouldn’t be able to figure it out. now we had to call and let everyone know that we were idiots. *sigh*. luckily, in the end, we didnt have to call. we noticed a note in the elevator, and with my crappy french i was able to decipher that the hot water was off in the building for *3* days! so i had to take the coldest shower ever. take your breath away cold!!


on to france


today we woke up and went to fly to france from luton airport. luton is the SJC of san francisco. hella far out from the city and a bit of a pain to get to. oh well. after a brief flight (where you had to pay for even soft drinks), we landed in paris. we spent the next several hours taking a shuttle into town, and arrived eventually at my aunt’s apartment which she was kind enough to let us stay in.

oh man… this place is *dope*. no, not just dope, but really really dope. it’s on the tenth floor of an apartment building and two of it’s wall have a huge sweeping view of the city. not only that, but that view just happens to be pointed straight at the eiffel tower!! seriously, this view is so nice, the photos i have really dont do it justice.

not only is the view nice, but just having an apartment is really cool. it’s really nice to not be staying in a hostel, and it’s really fun to have our own place that’s not shared by people. this apartment is really cozy, and after eating at a local cafe, we spent the rest of the night just hanging out in the apartment, checking out the sunset, looking at the eiffel tower, and enjoying the champagne my aunt gave me w/ a fresh baguette from the local boulangerie.

i’m really excited to be in a new non-english speaking country. there’s something excitting about being surrounded by people speaking a different language, and i love the confusion and adventure of trying to communicate w/ people. i took some french in high school, but hardly remember any of it, so it’s definitely a challenge to speak w/ people, but i actually really really enjoy that part.