Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Viva viva Las Vegas

I just returned from a weekend trip to Las Vegas to visit my good friends Lisa Toms and Katie Spangler. I was able to avoid the Strip almost entirely, except for a visit to the Wynn (where Lisa works) and we ate lunch at Bobby Flay's restaurant Mesa Grill.

Lisa is 10 weeks pregnant with twins, so we kept the partying to a minimum.

Lisa and I went hiking at Red Rock Canyon- or near it and it was amazing. The cacti and all the neat colored rocks were beautiful.

We had drinks with Katie at a tiki bar (Lisa had seltzer) and then went to the Wynn for dinner.

It was a nice trip- too bad I forgot my camera :(

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day 4

Today Mark and I woke up and decided that we wanted another baguette, 100_4303pain du raisin and pain du chocolate. We headed over to the supermarche to pick up more fromage et une coke that we accidentally drank last night out of the mini bar. 100_4300Mark had asked for a beer and I handed him a diet coke. It was gross, and we felt obligated to drink it because it was 3.50€. We went to the store and replaced it, so hopefully they don’t notice!!!

We had planned to go up the Eiffel Tower today, but decided that it was over rated. Why go up the tower, and see the city… without the tower?? We went to the Montmartre district of Paris, and more specifically to the Sacré Cœur (Sacred Heart) church. 100_4311This church is the second highest view of Paris after the Eiffel Tower, and you can see the tower from the church. 100_4313The church was amazing. 100_4316It had the single most beautiful picture of Jesus I have ever seen above the altar. The church also had little altars on each side, each with a huge mosaic of a beautiful biblical scene on both sides... They were just lovely. I wasn’t able to take pictures because they asked us not to- but they had a gift shop and I bought a book. We decided that we wanted to see the crypt of the church, and followed the signs labeled “To the Crypt” thinking it would lead us to the crypt. We saw that the crypt and the tower had the same staircase, so we paid the 5€ and walked 300 stairs straight up into the tower. We were perplexed as to how our trek to the crypt led us into the tower. 100_4333100_4336We met a nice couple from Boston at the top of the church who had just gotten engaged the day before, right near our hotel. 100_4354They were very nice, and we joked and laughed about the crypt, because they wanted to find it also. Long story short, after wandering around, taking in the lovely view, and going back down a gazillion stairs, we found the crypt at the very bottom of the stairs… and it was closed. Ugh!

We walked around the Montmartre district and saw a ton of artists at work. 100_4361It was really fun to see that. We stopped at a bakery and got our first French chocolate éclair… it was superb. It was amazingly delicious. 100_4358We walked over to the Salvador Dali museum and took in all of his insanity. It was pretty neat, but none of his famous paintings were in it.100_4377 We then ate our lunch of bread and cheese on a bench overlooking Paris. 100_4393We walked down the hill (Montmartre is on a huge hill) and ran into the Moulin Rouge, it was neat, but nothing special. 100_4400We keep running into a place called Flunch, and it makes us laugh. We also saw a place called Chicken Corner, that had fried chicken. From there we hopped on a train home from the Metro station.

Once at home we broke down and paid the 15€ for internet at our hotel because our computer broke, and found a new hotel for tomorrow night. It’s in the area we keep finding ourselves in, and we love the Latin Quarter. (Mark)After that was taken care of, we headed out to find something to eat. We thought we’d check out our neighborhood to see if there was anything we missed out on, but it was only 6 or 6:30, and since the French generally don’t eat until after 7:00…nobody was serving dinner. It was nice explore another part of Paris, but we were hungry, so we moved on back to our favorite neighborhood. Everyone we talked to about Paris said they kept going back to the same place and we are finding this to be true too. The Latin Quarter is the coolest area we’ve found so far. There are young people walking around, eating and hanging out. It’s kind of like some place we’d hang out back home…if something like it existed. After a little walking we found a place that had some outside seating and sat down. It was a great location right on the corner so is was excellent for people watching. It was neat to see so many different cultures all in the same place. Rachel and I enjoyed checking out the different fashions as people walked by. The difference between French style and American style is striking. Everyone here seems to dress nice, or “appropriately” as Rachel said. Nobody was wearing sweats because they weren’t at home or at the gym and nobody was wearing Ugg boots because it wasn’t snowing or whatever you wear Ugg boots for. Those are just a couple examples, but it was nice to see people actually put some thought into their clothing. Anyway, the food at the restaurant was pretty good. Not as great as the restaurant last Tuesday, but it was still tasty. I ordered a medium beer and Rachel had another glass of Beaujolais which was really good. We sat and talked for quite a while and then shared another glass of wine. After that we got up and did some exploring. I still don’t really know my way around, so it was fun to get lost and then figure out where we needed to go. We stopped at a creperie and each got a crepe. Mine was chocolate and banana and Rachel had one filled with honey. I don’t know how we managed to make room for them, but we did and it was awesome. The crepe guy is close to the RER station, so we got on and headed back to the hotel. Our bodies are really taking a toll from all the walking and stair climbing, so there will definitely be some bathtub soaking tonight.

Rachel again- I had to note that fashion here is so incredibly different. Everyone puts some thought into their appearance, and nobody is fat. Not everyone is wicked skinny, like I expected, but I am heavier than most French women. Its nice to see people take some control of their lives, most people walk everywhere they go, and ride public transit- which is something we should be pushing for in all of the metro areas of the US. The ladies all had nice hair, and they didn’t go overboard with makeup- none of that pancake make up that chicks wear back home. Also, we noticed that everyone here is brunette. It’s a strange thing, especially coming from California and Kansas City, where everyone is bottle blonde. There was no “in” hair style and I noticed that the older ladies just let their hair do whatever it did naturally without fighting it. If someone had windblown frizzy hair, they rocked it and made it look good. I saw a couple teenagers with flat ironed hair and blonde highlights, they were American- which became more obvious when they were all yelling at each other in line for a crepe. Not to be so down on Americans, but it was nice to see women especially, embrace who they are and work with it instead of against it. None of the older women were fighting the aging process, and looked amazing in the process.

Also, we have been truly enjoying the dogs here. I stepped in poop, but other than that, its been really fun. We saw a baby English bulldog, a few French bull dogs, a bull terrier, and lots of little dogs. The French love their dogs, and take them on the Metro, into stores, and out to eat with them. I think we have a lot to learn about dog culture from the French. Tonight Mark and I saw an off leash Doberman pincher run into a bar. The owner soon followed and took his seat in the bar with the dog. It was pretty neat seeing the dog just go to its destination. It was rush hour and a dobie was running off leash, down the side walk and nobody cared!
Tomorrow we sleep in, change hotels and maybe make it out to the catacombs!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 3

What a day! We woke up around 9:30 am and got moving quickly. We got out of bed, decided to test our new found wine skills and go to the supermarche to pick up some vin. We went in, bought some camembert cheese for 1.20 €, two bottles of wine both around 2€, a corkscrew to open the wine 5€, a 6 pack of huge water bottles 2.20 € and some more yogurt for 1.20€. The good food here is so amazingly cheap. We ended up with some wine from Beaujolais, which so far is my favorite wine region in France, even though our teacher said it was “meh.”

We then walked back and dropped off our food, saving a bottle of wine, a bottle of water and half the cheese for our trek to Versailles. We walked to the Boulanger and I got a pain au raisin, and Mark got a pain au chocolate. We got two café au lait and a baguette and headed off for the RER. We were able to get right on a train straight to Versailles. We are right on the Versailles route, so it was just a hop, skip and a jump. 100_4054

Once we reached Versailles, we walked to the palace, which is amazingly wonderful. The building itself is spectacular and our museum pass allowed us entrance without the line.100_4061 We saw everything, including Marie Antionette’s bedroom (or the queen’s chambers- she was just the last queen to occupy the room)100_4102, the Hall of Mirrors, and the grounds of the palace. It was pretty neat, the Hall of Mirrors was amazingly beautiful and it’s neat to walk where such historical figures once walked. 100_4109100_4111We had a snack at one of the snack bars before returning to get our bag. We then sat in a park people watching, ate our baguette & cheese and drank our wine. It was fun. We saw lots of fun dogs running around.

100_4122Marie Antoinette's bedroom

We took the RER back towards Paris, and stopped at the Musee D’Orsay which has the impressionist paintings from the mid 19th- early 20th century. This museum was the highlight of my trip, I saw many pictures that I remember seeing from childhood, including paintings by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh and many others. We spent a long time in this museum, and really enjoyed all of the sections.

We then took the trek to the Champs Élyesées to see the Arc de Triomphe. Our museum pass allowed us free entrance to the top of the Arc, and we walked up the stairwell that was round and seemed to last forever. 100_4241Once at the top, we had a really great view of the city, the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré Cœur. We made it in time for the beginning of a military ceremony for the unknown soldier. We continued onto the Champs Élyesées and stopped in a few of the stores.100_4223100_4227100_4231

We went into the McDonalds on the Champs Élyesées because we wanted to get a Royal with Cheese, which Mark got. I like to see McDonald’s in foreign countries, because they’re hilarious. Our frittes we’re not as crispy as the ones in the US, which we were glad that we were not consuming trans fat. 100_4255

We walked from the Champs Élyesées to the Invalides, back to the Trocodero, to the Eiffel Tower. We walked around 10 miles today, probably. Once we got to the Eiffel Tower, it was dark out. The tower was wonderfully lit. We approached it and as we got close the entire thing began to sparkle. I have seen this on videos and online, but I had never seen the tower do this since we have been there. It sparkled and was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. We spend some time around the tower and began our 3 km. walk home. Mark stopped for a chocolate and banana crepe and we headed back. We stopped at the supermarche and picked up some crackers, macaroons, and candy bars and headed home. 100_4262100_4290

We got home, ate the remaining cheese, drank some beers, and now we’re seriously watching Hulk Hogan fight Andre the Giant… Mark is really into it… I'm married to a 10 year old boy.

Day 2

Mark and I started our day out by sleeping through half of it. We didn’t wake up until around noon- That went our plan of getting to the Louvre early. We decided to go to the Invalides first, because it’s an easy RER stop for us, and see Napoleon’s tomb. It was pretty neat. We got quite a few pictures, which we will post later. Mark loved all of the military stuff, because it matched his video game about WW2.


100_3929Napolean's Tomb

We took the Metro from the Invalides and went to the Louvre area. We hadn’t taken the Metro yet, because it’s not quite as close to our hotel as the RER. The RER is like BART, the Metro is like Muni and the bus lines are like our bus lines. It’s so similar to San Francisco, I was surprised. They also have a ton of musicians in the Metros!


We got out at the Louvre carousel, which is a shopping center underground. We ate at the restaurant area, and got sandwiches from a vendor. I got a chicken and cheese sandwich, and Mark got a ham and goat cheese sandwich that was amazing, to say the least. Who knew you could go to a mall in France and get amazing homemade bread with delicious toppings? Both of our sandwiches had vinaigrette on them rather than mayo or mustard, it was amazingly better. I think I hate mustard now, and I always hated mayo.


We had our wine tasting tonight with O Chateau wine tasting. It was in the old wine caves from the King who lived in the Palace that is now the Louvre. Pretty neat! We tasted 6 different wines, including a Champagne, which were really good. We also learned how to read a French wine label, so we will be doing some wine shopping tomorrow. Wine here is between 1 and about 9€- Our sommelier said that the average cost of a bottle of wine in France is 3.5€. He said that California wine is good, but that a $45 bottle of wine in the US would run about 7€ in France. No wonder we don’t drink so much wine. He said that production is really cheap for wine because it’s only fermented grape juice, which makes sense- why is that nasty Welch’s grape juice so cheap?


After wine tasting we went to the Louvre, it was open late on Wednesday until 9:45. 100_4005100_4009It was practically empty from what I have heard it usually is like. We got as close to the Mona Lisa as possible100_4017, the Venus De Milo100_4035 and quite a few other masterpieces. It’s pretty neat- We were just in awe of how many paintings were on each wall. The intricacies were mind blowing- The palace itself was so big, we got tired, before we ran out of things to see. I have heard it takes months to even see everything in this place and I understand why.

From the Louvre we got back on the Metro and went back to our favorite neighborhood near the Notre Dame and the Hotel DeVille. We walked around again, and saw some breakdancers. They were pretty neat, and put on a good show. We found a gyro place that sold chicken and lamb gyros. I have to say, I have never had a chicken gyro in my life, but this was an amazing sandwich. Mark liked mine better, but liked his nonetheless. We then walked back to Mark’s favorite crepe place and got a chocolate crepe. The RER station was just down the street and we hopped on and went home.

We have a 2 day museum pass that we plan on using a lot tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Paris- Day 1

Day 1 in Paris-
Mark and I arrived in Paris at 6:20 a.m. this morning. By the time we got on the RER (its like BART or a Subway) it was rush hour. We got crammed into our seat by a crazy train full of Parisians on their way to work and school. Luckily we were able to get off at our stop (which was wrong- oops) and it was pouring rain. We followed our correct directions from the wrong train station in the rain and couldn’t find our hotel. Luckily, I knew the area pretty well on paper, because I was doing my research we ended up in the right area, we found the correct RER station and our hotel immediately following that.
We got to our room, its decent. Small, but we have a king sized bed, and its clean. We cleaned up a little, dried off and walked to the boulangier (bakery) for a delicious croissant. Mark panicked and ended up with a croissant too because he couldn’t pronounce what he really wanted. Tomorrow, we will have a little more confidence and actually order correctly.
We walked along the Seine river to the Eiffel Tower, which is more majestic and beautiful in real life than I could ever imagine. Its HUGE! We will probably go up it on a clearer day, the thought of standing at the top with rain pummeling us, just wasn’t what we had in mind. Also, in the flurry of getting soaked and not finding our hotel, we left the camera back at the room, so we couldn’t go to the top without the camera. We then decided to go to the Musee de Orsay and walk around. We got to the musee and both decided that after being awake for 23 hours straight that we weren’t in the proper mind set to appreciate fine art.
We went back to the room, and took a 4 hour nap. It was wonderful. It woke us both up. We decided to go see a band in a cave (as someone recommended). It was near the Notre Dame cathedral so we decided to kill two birds with one stone and go. We got to the Notre Dame and we’re awe struck. It was huge, and the entire thing is carved into amazingly sculptural things. The front has everything, people, animals, gargoyles- it was incredible the amount of skill involved. We went inside just in time for Mass. We watched most of it, and it was truly amazing. The ritual, the beauty, the history, were all just amazing.
After Mass we stumbled into another cool area with a hotel that was renovated into a department store. It was pretty neat the Hotel De Ville was really pretty, with tons of amazing statues and fountains near by. We went inside and it was a regular old department store- but the outside was neat. We ended up eating at a little restaurant called Le Cavalier in that area. I had a glass of wine with a piece of chicken and pomme frites, Mark had a ham, cheese and tomato sandwich that he claims was like “nothing I have ever had before.” Ill agree to that, I had a couple bites and it was great. We wandered into a different area near the Notre Dame where Mark had his first crepe ever. He got a crepe with strawberry jam. Then about 10 minutes later he got his second crepe with nutella and banana. He is taking a break from crepes for a while.
We walked over to the jazz club in the cave, and looked at how packed it was and decided to just call it a night. We are now back in the hotel room after a nice long foot soak, and we’re going to watch some Flight of the Conchords-

The people have been nothing but nice and accommodating to us. My French is very very basic, and they tend to know I don’t speak French the minute I say “bonjour” so they speak English to us! I don’t think that the French are any worse than most San Franciscans- its not that they’re rude, its that they don’t care about you- like all bigger city people. I respect that, it’s a model I lived by while growing up and living in the bay area. I'm not going to smile and say ‘hi’ to everyone that passes me, and if someone asks me a question, I'm always a lot more helpful if they at least make the effort to communicate efficiently with me.
So far, so good!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Paris... take 2!

Mark and I began our travels yesterday with bright eyes and bushy tails, but we were grounded by bad weather in Chicago... Why, I ask, is Chicago a hub for any sort of international travel? That has to be the single most problematic airport (aside from Denver, but don't get me started on Denver) I have ever encountered.

Mark says they have a lot of TV stations here... (random flight of the conchords quote)

Anyway, today we're at MCI again, waiting to leave for Paris a day later, but just as hopeful. We were re-routed through DC this time, and we will arrive in Paris (hopefully) around 6:45 am on Tuesday morning. Just in time to experience the lovely Parisian rush hour.

Mark has plans to just run around saying "bonjour" in a high pitched accent. And he just asked me if I wanted to gamble once we hit international waters... I was confused but he clarified that he meant to gamble with him "for money." So its official, he has lost it. Just ignore his sections of the blog until we reach France at least.

Until next time. A bientot!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sassy Issues

Originally uploaded by runaroundrachel
We're having some aggression issues with Sassy and Slappy. It stinks because Slappy is one of the most mellow, easy to get along with dogs in the world, and yet somehow Sassy is having issues with her. Just last night Sassy went after Slappy for showing interest in a toy that was sitting on the ground.

We're not sure what to do, but we're keeping them separated for the time being because it makes it a lot easier on us :(