Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chapter Nine: Adventures in Barcelona and Paris

Anita and Michelle came to visit me, and I'm still amazed at how much we were able to jam pack into those 8 days!

Sunday: I emailed Michelle and Anita step-by-step instructions on how to get from CDG to my metro stop and I even emailed them a PDF of the Paris metro system, but I was still anxious about whether they would be able to find their way around without any problems. Fortunately, everything worked out, and we had a joyful reunion in front of the McDonald's at the Parmentier metro stop. I was so glad that they had made it in one piece, I even gave them each a hug.

The streets lit up for Christmas.

Good ol' Arc de Triomphe.

Bedazzled Eiffel Tower.

The view from Trocadero.

These are the goodies that Anita picked up for me/Amy sent to me from home. Some are things that are impossible to find here, or are very expensive, such as dental floss and contact lens solution. Others are things that I was whining to Amy about having left at home because of luggage weight issues, such as zit cream and face wipes. And some things are things that Amy sent to me because she is a mother - gummy Disney vitamins and Emergen-C.

Monday: I've noticed that the weather is amazing, or at least decent, in the morning and afternoon here, and then starts to rain in the evening.

Notre Dame and its ginormous Christmas tree in all of its glory.

The stained glass windows inside.

And then it was onto BHV, where I managed to spend over $200 on dishtowels, cloth napkins, napkin rings, a huge clothbound journal, tea, soaps and I'm not even sure what else. Now, you may be asking yourself, how does Julie plan to take all of this back home without having to pay $500 in overweight baggage fees? Answer: Anita, Michelle and my parents, aka my mules. I sent Anita and Michelle home with all of my paper goods and household items, including 5 different travel books and Moleskine city books. When my parents travel, they have a tendency to share one bag between them. When I called my mom the other day to finalize logistics, I specifically told her that she and my dad have to bring two separate bags, because I need them to take back all of the lightweight clothes I brought for Italy, as well as the three new coats/jackets I have purchased here.

Our plan was to go to Printemps after BHV, but we didn't wake up until 12:30 and didn't get out the door until around 1:30, so we had to shift our plans a bit.


Eglise de la Madeleine (Madeleine church), where we went for a classical music concert. Pachelbel's Canon in D has never sounded more amazing to me! The concert was great and the inside of the church was beautiful, but I would have enjoyed it a bit more if I wasn't so tired from a) only having slept for 3 hours in the past 2 days and b) the marathon day we had had, that took us from the Musee d'Orsay at 10am, over to St-Germain for shopping, and then up to Printemps for more shopping.

Wednesday: Onto Barcelona!

Our flight was at 10:30am, but at a small airport about 90 minutes outside of Paris called Beauvais. Our options were either to take the metro across town to catch a shuttle bus to the airport, or call a shuttle. We went with option #2. Our pick-up time was 6:15am, which was bad enough, but the combination of stick shift van lurching through the streets, exhaustion plus not having been inside a motor vehicle for over a month made me so carsick that I had to sit in the front with the driver, and even though it was 30 degrees outside, I had to crack the window for some fresh air. Later on, I found out that Anita and Michelle were literally freezing in the back. They thought that it was a drafty van, but I had to tell them that it was because I had opened the window. (Sorry guys!)

After some minor hiccups in the airport, related to not realizing that there were multiple terminals, we were on our way to Barcelona.

There are no photos for Wednesday, because when we got to the flat, I was so exhausted even after having slept on the shuttle and the entire plane ride, that I had to send Anita and Michelle off on their own while I slept more. And let the yelling commence...


Pinotxo (Pinocchio) for tapas and coffee for lunch.

Sardines and mushrooms. We didn't get the sardines, but we did get the mushrooms, as well as fried cod, steak and chickpeas. Delicious!

La Sagrada Familia, designed by Gaudi. From the outside, it looks like a castle from Mordor. But the inside..

These pictures do not do justice to the sheer amazing-ness of the church. I have been to quite a few beautiful churches and buildings in Europe, but the inside of this one blew them all away.

We walked about 30 minutes to another Gaudi building, Casa Mila.

Then we spent some time at the Mercat de la Boqueria, where we found the most amazing candied almonds. They were so good, we finished the bag in one night, and then went back the next day and bought two more bags.

Las Ramblas at night

We hadn't researched dinner options, so we figured we would just wander around until we found a place that looked good. But as we were browsing in a bookstore, Michelle had the genius idea to look up dinner options in a travel book! Thanks to Lonely Planet, we found this place that is known for their seafood. This is their version of risotto, aka "juicy rice." Right after I took this picture, I gave all of my shrimp to Anita to de-head for me.

Friday: Last day in Barcelona. We meant to wake up early, but failed miserably in the attempt, so instead of the 4 hours we meant to spent at Park Guell, a huge park in the city with more Gaudi buildings, we only were able to spend about 2 hours there.

Mosaics on the benches.

View of Barcelona from the park.

Another Gaudi creation.

Michelle tucked herself into a hole on the side of the cave.

The front door to our flat. I think wringing a wet towel would have more water pressure than the shower in this place, there was no soap to be found anywhere so we used face soap or dish soap to wash our hands, the wind howled through the walls so hard that it threw a window open in the middle of the night, the walls were so thin that we could hear our neighbor blowing his nose every night, and the kitchen smelled like eggs. EGGS! However, the location was great, it was a big space and we each only paid $70 for two nights.


Sacre Coeur on a beautiful day. I half expected to see Amelie running down the steps.

View of the city from the steps of Sacre Coeur.

Huge salad from Le Relais Gascon. Underneath the mound of potatoes were smoked salmon, lettuce, tomatoes and creme fraiche. Delicious.

Flea market time!

Afternoon pick-me-up from Laduree.

In case you're wondering what a 1.50 euro public bathroom stall looks like. I tried to hold it in so that I wouldn't have to pay to use the toilet, but I had had too much water and coffee that day.

Paris during Christmas is lovely.

Even though it was FREEZING that night, we decided to brave the elements so that we could do a mini night tour of Paris.

Pont des Arts, my favorite bridge in Paris, which links the Institut de France with the Louvre over the Seine.

The DaVinci code.

Sunday: While Anita and Michelle went to Versailles, I ran some errands and stopped by the Bastille market to buy food for dinner.

This is the Chicken Lady. I found out about the Chicken Lady through David Lebovitz's blog, when I googled "best roast chicken Paris." He raved about her chicken, and if's good enough for him, it's good enough for me. But he didn't say how to find the Chicken Lady at the Bastille Market, since there are about 6 different roast chicken stalls at the market. So then, I googled "David Lebovitz chicken lady" and some dear soul wrote step-by-step instructions on how to find the Chicken Lady from the metro stop. Last week when I went to the market, I thought I had found the Chicken Lady and bought a roast chicken (or poulet roti), but then realized that I had gotten too excited and didn't follow the instructions like I should have. So this week, I went straight to the Chicken Lady and bought a whole chicken, stuffed with stuffing and olives. The Chicken Lady's helper guy asked me if I wanted chicken juice poured over the chicken. How is that even a question? Of course I wanted chicken juice poured over the chicken. This was probably the best chicken I've had in my life, and I've had a lot of chicken.

Our feast - the Chicken Lady's chicken (I like typing "Chicken Lady"), tomatoes on the vine drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, blanched green beans, brie and fresh bread, all from the Bastille Market. This was essentially the exact same dinner that I served Anita and Michelle on their first day, so it was nice symmetry that their last meal was the same thing.

Most shops are either closed or close early on Sundays in Paris. But for the month of December, many of the shops are doing "ouverture exceptionelle" (exceptional opening) for Sundays. Since it was the girls' last day in Paris, we decided to wander down to the Marais for some last minute shopping.

On the way to the Marais, we stopped by Merci, one of my favorite stores in Paris. Why wouldn't it make sense to sell books, paper goods, clothes and accessories, beauty products, household goods and knickknacks all in one store? It's like a grown-up Parisian version of Urban Outfitters.

On the way home, we stopped by Berthillon for ice cream. Berthillon is huge in Paris, and is known for homemade ice cream with zero preservatives or artificial sweeteners. According to the night bike tour guy from a few weeks ago and verified by Wikipedia, Berthillon ice cream is ade fresh every day. We had our own two scoops in a cone (peach and vanilla for me) and then brought home a 1/2 liter of hazelnut. It's like Nutella-y goodness without the chocolate in frozen form.

The ladies in the middle of their packing frenzy. See the "Bobo" bag on the left side? That's a chocolate shop in Barcelona. Anita and Michelle went crazy in that store and brought back, I'm not even exaggerating, at least 30 tins between the two of them to take back home as gifts. Most of the pile under the Bobo bag is my stuff - travel book, about 5 different Moleskine city guides, mounds of dish towels and cloth napkins, boxes of tea and I'm not even sure what else that the girls were gracious enough to take back for me. The pink plastic bag is a jacket that I bought online and had shipped to Joy in Philly, who brought it with her to Paris. It was not what I thought it would be, so I had to send it back with Michelle to have her send it back to the vendor. Thanks mules/couriers, I mean friends!

I am currently ending day 2 with my parents in Paris. It's been an equal mix of suffocating + fun. A post about that experience will be forthcoming soon.

Location:Rue Saint-Maur,Paris,France