Sunday, August 12, 2012

European Adventure Part 2

Last week I brought you the first leg of my European Adventure, and left off with our contemplative cab ride to St. Pancras Station. And, thanks to a 5:30am wake up call, we actually managed to get to the train with plenty of time to spare!

I know you are all on the edge of your seats, waiting to see what happens next ;), so lets get started. Paris, here we come!

Sightseeing and Settling In


One thing I quickly learned on our trip is that travel days are almost entirely useless for getting in any sightseeing (unless, of course, the traveling is part of the sightseeing!). We planned to arrive in Paris around noon and expected to have plenty of time to leisurely stroll through the streets and visit the sights, maybe stopping here or there for a cafe creme or fresh croissant - WRONG! A 5:30am wakeup call, mixed with the long day of sightseeing the day before, and a 2 hour, lulling train ride from London to Paris created a nice little nap-time cocktail that unintentionally took out half the day. When I woke up around 2...okay 3pm, I was eager to at least get out and visit the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore.

Being a big Hemingway fan, I was excited to see the little shop, which was named and established after the first Shakespeare and Company Bookstore where he and other famous writers of his time congregated during the 1920's. According to Jo Lennon in an article for Time Travel, the first bookstore was closed during World War II. 

Although not the original, it certainly had plenty of charm and lots of little idiosyncrasies that were both reminiscent of times gone by and still delightfully contemporary (dinosaurs and gnomes?! Oui, s'il vous plait!). It's tiny spaces were filled to the brim and often overflowing; conversations in both French and English filled the space left over, along with open ended lines from practicing theatrical types. Starving writers, veraciously reading and scribbling notes, spilled out from copious book-laden nooks. In many ways it reminded me of my college days when I dreamed of writing eloquent novels that would appeal to the masses - alas, dreams have a way of changing and adapting into cooking blogs sometimes!

Along with my nostalgia, a blend of passion and reverence for the art of writing hung in the air. Where space and comfort were sacrificed for book space in this cramped little shop, it was definitely hard not to feel connected with all those artists tucked away on the shelves, and, perhaps, to feel the renewal of a dream forgotten.

After my sentimental trip to the bookstore, we at last had a chance to stroll through the streets. Notre Dame peaked it's head over the trees, but we were enjoying our stroll too much to go in. We finished the night at a little restaurant, drinking wine and listening to the occasional street performances that wafted our way. We managed to get back to our hotel room with just enough energy to topple into bed and go to sleep.

The Louvre and Tired Feet


The next morning, well rested and equipped with comfy shoes, we headed off to see the Louvre. I had heard about it's massive size from several people who had visited before, but was not prepared for just how large it is! Someone told me that their friend took a two week trip to Paris JUST to visit the Louvre - I thought they were exaggerating, but it really is THAT big. We were there all day and saw maybe a 10th of what there is to see there - probably less.

We walked the cavernous halls for hours trying to take in everything around us. Around each new corner or thoughtfully lit hallway stood immensely beautiful artifacts and works of art. Some astounding in their grandeur, others their complexity, and still others in their shear  will to survive. We saw beautifully detailed paintings the size of my apartment, intricate religious wood paintings from the 14th and 15th century, and a bounty of ancient Egyptian artifacts. Perhaps some of the most impressive sights, however, were the neolithic tools, some dating back an estimated 200,000 years...200,000!!!

When our aching feet finally led us toward the exit signs, it was hard not to stop at each new something around the corner - one more glass case filled with brilliantly carved jewelry, or one more elaborately painted sarcophagus! At last we had to force ourselves to walk past the rows and rows of ancient artifacts, knowing that we would never be able to leave otherwise. I would love to go back some day when I have more than a day to visit...and maybe a portable foot massager!

The Eiffel Tower

We saved the Eiffel Tower for our last day in Paris. Partly because we didn't have time to fit it in the other two days, and partly because we knew that 3 of the 4 lifts taking visitors to the top were broken and we would have to climb the stairs. I have to say we were a little daunted by the reported 674 stair climb to the second platform, but it was actually not that bad! I envisioned an embarrassing display of heavy breathing and beads of sweat, reminiscent of those hellish stair climbing machines at the gym, but I was pleasantly surprised. The climb was actually quite enjoyable - and this is coming from someone who hates climbing the 3 flights of stairs to my office because I can't talk to anyone for 10 minutes afterward!

Of course, the view from the top was amazing. From the ground the tower didn't actually seem that tall, but standing up there, looking out over the city and the ant size people, feeling the heavy iron sway with the wind occasionally, it was quite impressive.

Favorite Food (and Drink)!

Okay, here's the deal. I have three pictures of croissants down there because I once again failed to take pictures of most of the food I ate. I know, it's a shame. I found, however, that the food I ate while in Paris was either so delicious it was gone before my brain even remembered there is a such thing as a camera, or it was terrible and not picture worthy. That last part may surprise some of you, because France is known for it's delicious food, but as a vegetarian I found it difficult. Many times the food would sound really great on the menu, and then would be lacking in both presentation and flavor when it finally arrived. I have to take some of the blame in this regard, though, because I did not do any research into vegetarian restaurants before leaving - I'm sure there are plenty of places that would have been outstanding. Maybe next time!

I really wish I would have gotten pictures of the things I did like, but I guess you'll just have to use your imagination! The hands-down, favorite thing I ate was a fresh waffle with apricot jam from a street vendor - yum! It was warm and squishy, and the jam filled in all the nooks and crannies and threatened to spill out onto your shirt when you took a bite. I also really enjoyed the banana nutella crepe I had one evening after a long day of sightseeing. I did my best to share with Dustin on both accounts, but it wasn't easy!

My favorite drink was champagne on the top of the Eiffel Tower. It may be a little touristy, but it was fun nonetheless!

Wrapping it Up:
I had such an amazing time in Paris, and if you have been or are going anytime soon, I would love to hear your stories! If anyone can get a picture of those delicious waffles, send it and I'll post it!

Coming up next is the last leg of my journey and then back to recipes. Hope you'll stay tuned!

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  1. Great pictures and travelogue!
    Anne F.

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