City of…snails

After just a few more posts I’ll be all caught up on our European adventures and can get on with more current activities – it’s bittersweet.

As our time in Germany got short we felt pressure to do, see, eat, etc. everything. But at the same time, traveling is really tiring (I know, I know – it’s a First World Problem if ever there was one.)

I spent a lot of time conducting research before each trip so that we knew exactly where to go, how to get there, and what to do once we arrived. Most of our trips had a specific goal and usually a corresponding schedule. I think we selected this destination because as snotty as it sounds, traveling to Paris was easy. We knew where to stay, how to maneuver the city, what we wanted to eat, and come on: it’s Paris for goodness sake!

Cafe Central
We checked in to our hotel and then practically sprinted to Cafe Central for their fantastic hamburger sauce.

We stayed just off the Rue Cler and I love everything about that little street:
Rue Cler

Flower shop on Rue Cler

We spent the first day wandering aimlessly from landmark to landmark, stopping for wine along the way.

We're here!

Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile
Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile

Louis Vuitton on Champs-Elysées
Louis Vuitton

Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées
Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées

Les Invalides
Les Invalides

The next day we ventured to Versailles and toured casually – we used the audio guides but really just stopped whenever something seemed interesting rather than trying to see every single thing (which isn’t possible anyway, right?)
Château de Versailles

Château de Versailles

Château de Versailles

Jardins du château de Versailles

And when we got hungry? We decided maybe someday we’d return…and we left. Here’s to us for being carefree! We ate at Helio’s Pub, a cute little place that let Big D order items not on the menu. I had my first of many escargot servings:
They were so delicious I ate mine and most of D's.

That evening we wandered around the Latin Quarter and unintentionally strolled all the way back to our hotel – about four miles.

Art Nouveau Metro sign

Musée du Louvre
Musée du Louvre

Musée d'Orsay
Musée d’Orsay

Big D and the Tour Eiffel

We decided to spend Sunday morning at the Les Puces de Saint-Ouen – a flea market we briefly visited on a previous trip – and the afternoon/evening at the Orsay. I even bought tickets for the museum online so we wouldn’t have to wait in line. It turned out we only saw a tiny fraction of the market on our first visit and had no idea the maze of stores and stalls is HUGE. We spent most of the day there and rather than rushing, we never did use those museum tickets. They’re valid for a year so if you’re headed to Paris, I’ll send them to you! (Photography is generally prohibited at the market, so all I have is what’s in my mind’s eye.)

We filled the free time that afternoon with… escargot of course! And wine. And cheese. And whatever these are.
Big Ds "snack."

And then we roamed around the First Arrondissement with a stop at my personal mecca, Goyard – closed on Sunday.

my Mecca

This guy got a ticket from policemen on Rollerblades. How embarrassing!
Definition of embarrassing: Getting a ticket in your Smart Car from policemen on rollerblades!!

Tour Eiffel

Monday brought our trip to a close. We checked out of our tiny hotel and dragged our bags to the Trocadéro just so I could try to get the photo below, which required sneaking my glass out of the restaurant, across a few busy lanes of traffic, and into the center of a roundabout. Big D said I looked like I was playing a game of human Frogger.

not exactly what I was aiming for

This photo didn’t turn out exactly as I hoped. But really, I can not complain.

More photos from our final trip to Paris are over on Flickr.

Merci pour les souvenirs, Paris!

Paris? Oui, s’il vous plaît!

Before we even knew if we were really moving to Europe, I got up in the middle of the night (Florida time) to IM with my pal Ally (who lives in LA) so we could buy tickets to see U2 in Paris the moment they went on sale. That shizz isn’t easy, even when it’s not in French! But it all worked out and in September 2010 I set out on my first trip to the City of Lights.

When I first arrived I stowed my bags at the hotel, grabbed my map and headed to the Champs-Élysées. My first stop? The Virgin Megastore. But that was a happy accident. I strolled to along the Champs, had lunch, and climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. And it was there that I had my first ever glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. And I burst into tears. Because, really!?

Suffice it to say, I am really appreciative of the experiences I’m lucky enough to have here in Europe.

atop the Arc

I took a Fat Tire Bike Tour that afternoon, which was fantastic. If you’re ever in Paris, Berlin, London (or Barcelona, which I haven’t visited yet) take one of these tours!! Each has just the right amount of history, architecture, lightheartedness, and beer or wine.

Jardin des Tuileries

Did you know that the tower freaking SPARKLES at the top of every hour? I did not. Imagine my surprise and glee when I was laying in bed, smiling about the day I’d just enjoyed and excited for what was still to come when lo, out of the French Doors (or are they just ‘doors’ if you’re in France?) I saw sparkling and twinkling. I couldn’t believe it!


a video by elysia1 on Flickr.

Basically, the whole trip was magical.

Double rainbow over La Seine

And that’s without evening mentioning crazy things like seeing Roman Polanski pick someone up in his Smart Car. Or you know, the actual reason we were there: U2.

Roman Polanski and Emmanuelle Seigner

reunited and it feels so good

360° - Paris

We walked miles and miles over the course of the next two days and saw more things than I could even begin to try to detail here. After we parted ways, my traditional Post Concert Letdown (which I had at Gare de l’Est) was monumental. So big in fact, that I got in my car and drove to Brussels a week later to see U2 with Ally one more time. But that’s a story for another day.

I was THRILLED when Jen & Gary planned New Years in Paris last year. Because of course this meant Big D and I could invite ourselves along – and Angie flew from the States to join, too!! I was able to do things I hadn’t the first time around including touring the Louvre and enjoying a fun night at the Moulin Rouge (where we saw Karl Rove and Harry Whittington, more commonly known as The Guy Dick Cheney Shot in the Face.)

Karl Rove at the Moulin Rouge
You’ll just have to trust us. It really was Karl Rove.

Moulin Rouge

We took the Fat Tire Bike Tour:
me at the Pyramide du Louvre

Eiffel Tower

We turned into the Griswolds:
Griswold family vacation

And we quietly rang in the new year:
hmmm...
Bonne année!

And in March of this year? When I just had to see Snow Patrol on their last European tour date and made a the spur of the moment decision to jump on another train with Tricia? Yep. Paris was the destination. A few years ago, I’d never dream that I’d go to Paris, yet here I was, enjoying a third visit. I still can’t believe it all.

Untitled

I’ll make at least one more trip there – I haven’t toured the Musée d’Orsay yet, I’d like to see the catacombs… and I’ve never met an escargot (or a glass of champagne) that I didn’t love.

Tons of photos from adventures in Paris on on Flickr.

Adventures with Angie: Everything Else

One of the reasons Angie visited during August was to attend Rheingauer Weinwoche – the annual Wiesbaden Wine Festival. And attend we did!

Our first visit on Saturday, August 11th, was with a heap of friends – some old, some we met as the night progressed. It goes without saying, but for the record: We had a great time, lots of food and a ton of wine.

Wiesbaden Wine Fest

The Rheingau Wine Festival has turns the centre of Wiesbaden into the “longest wine bar in the world” – and represents an attraction for more than ten thousand visitors. At about 100 stands, winegrowers present their wines and bubbly sparkling wines.

Angie & Christian

All of the travel and wine caught up with us and Sunday, August 12th marked the start of our new preferred schedule: We’d sleep until about 11:00am, play too many rounds of Scramble With Friends on our iPhones, drink coffee, (maybe have an Advil or two?) and watch Downton Abbey before getting on with our day (i.e. more wine.)

The two of us hit the fest that afternoon (and spent most of our time people watching. We texted Jen: “We are at the corner of Snarky McStrasse and Passing Judgement Weg. This is better people watching than an airport!) and were home in time to watch the Olympic Closing Ceremony, which ended much later than we anticipated. Staying up late helped cement that new schedule, by which I mean I turned off the alarm and slept much later than we planned the next morning.

So… Monday, August 13th had us revising our itinerary. After we finally rallied, we took the train to Frankfurt to tour, shop, and… you guessed it: enjoy a glass of wine on the river banks before returning home for more Downton Abbey.

Frankfurt

Frankfurt

We were finally rested (sober?) and got up early Tuesday, August 14th, to head to Soufflenheim, France to shop for pottery, have lunch, and visit a Cora “hypermarket.” Think SuperTarget, but rather than regular grocery items, it’s full of French wines, cheeses, baked goods, etc. YUM.

And now that I think of it… in the non-YUM department: A guy seated at the table next to us ordered a tartare dish including an elaborate table-side display of beating a raw egg and mixing it with raw ground beef and herbs, which was mounded into a giant patty and served to him with a big spoon. We were equally intrigued and grossed out, and I’ll spare you the photos. Your mental image is probably accurate, though.

Soufflenheim, France

On the way home that afternoon, we wondered just why Angie would leave on Thursday, since I was convinced she wouldn’t be productive at work on Friday. She agreed and after a few phone calls to her office and the airline, she changed her ticket and extended her visit. I was thrilled!!

We were back to our regular sleep in / coffee / Downton schedule on Wednesday, August 15th. We visited Schloss Johannisberg for a late lunch where the scenery, food and wine (yes, more wine) were all equally fantastic.

Schloss Johannisberg

lunch view at Schloss Johannisberg

Schloss Johannisberg vineyard

That evening, we grilled out with Jen & Gary, who had just returned from Ireland.

And speaking of Jen & Gary: Wine Fest visit number three was with them on Thursday, August 16th.

Guess where we are...

Wiesbaden Marktkirche

One of the factors weighing into Angie’s decision to stay longer was that Big D arrived home from a few months in the States on Friday, August 17th. He napped to get over the jet lag while Ang and I… you guessed it: drank coffee and watched Downton Abbey. And that evening, we hit the fest a fourth and final time.

It’s particularly rare for Big D and Gary to be in town at the same time. And apparently, even rarer still for them to both smile in the same photo.

Wiesbaden Wine Fest

Wiesbaden Wine Fest

Big D & me

But after the drinks flowed, the jokes were told, and general craziness ensued, the whole night looked like this in our fuzzy brains:

final night at the Wine Fest

And I loved every minute of it.

I was so sad when it was time to take Angie to the airport the next morning. Thankfully, as soon as Jen & Gary have New Years plans inked in, we’ll crash them. Or we’ll figure out something to do on our own. And I’m positive more great times are in store.

We’re in France!

When the aforementioned Tricia invited me to dinner for the first time, somehow the evening featured my suggested viewing: Laser Cats. Then, she and her husband, Lee, introduced me to Bunny with a Pancake on its Head. And if that’s not the start of a beautiful friendship, I don’t know what is.

Later that same week, Tricia took me to Soufflenheim, France – a town so idyllic it feels like a movie set. We shopped and photographed our way through the day, unable to determine which of us is the bigger “Polly Polaroid.”

Throughout the adventure, I frequently announced “We’re in France!” excited, since it was my first trip outside of Germany .

Soufflenheim, France

our first stop of the day

One potter invited us into her garden where we both fell in love with some crazy ostrich heads which were mounted on rebar. We regretted not buying them as soon as we drove away that afternoon.

I loved these chicken heads

What really cemented our newfound friendship was an unfortunate situation during lunch at a very quiet crêperie.  Somehow, I flung a glass of red wine all over Tricia’s crisp white shirt and brand new pants. I apologized profusely, the waitress scolded me for attempting to mop up the mess with a cloth napkin, and Tricia brushed off the whole incident without making me feel awful. Later, while we were replaying the mess in a conversation, I wondered what my alternatives were to using the napkin and supposed that if nothing else, I could have offered to suck the wine out of her pants…

And now, it’s all part of our vernacular.

We’ve Polly Polaroided our way around Europe, offering to suck wine from each others pants, announcing “We’re in Poland!” “We’re in Ireland!” “We’re in Italy!” and “We’re in the Netherlands!” together with giddy excitement on countless occasions. In fact, since neither of us takes it for granted, we still pinch each other and say, “We’re in Germany!”  It’s always an adventure when we’re together.

I managed to secretly buy a string of pottery hearts Tricia was admiring that day and surprised her with it on her birthday that year. And on my birthday last year? You guessed it. My very own rebar ostrich head.

More pictures from our first outing, and a return trip are on Flickr.