9.15.2009

An A through Z list of everything we encountered in France (and Finland!)

Alien bites?
I mean, a week is not complete if I don't get attacked by some insect, right? (For more on attacks, see H). On our fourth day, I noticed that I had giant bites all over my arms and back. Not mosquito. Chris had none. They itched like hell until the end of the trip until they faded to the freaky shadows they are today. French spiders? Fleas? Now considering buying mosquito netting and wearing it daily.

Brits
The incredibly lovely Maddy and Katie came to Paris to visit with us during the weekend, and I dare say that Chris was so influenced by them that he spent the rest of the trip speaking about how many pounds something cost. "Whoah, that coke is 9 pounds in this cafe." "...." "I mean Euros!!"

Celine
Celine and I worked at the same high school in Clermont in 2003-04. Since then, I've visited her a bunch of times in France and she's come over to New York. She is always an incredible host and we have the best conversations about France and America and the world.

Dramatic Vistas
View from Pompidou? From Montmartre? From the Eiffel Tower? Most of our time spent in Paris was based on trying to get as high above the city as possible, only to look back down at it.

Erica and Damien
You know you have good friends when they loan you a cell phone for your trip. Also when they let you taste their pistachio pie during a picnic in the park. Erica, you will never know how much I dreamed of that pie for the rest of the trip and sought it out in every patisserie we passed...

French
Awesome realization: lots of people complimented my French, even after being away for a year. Sad realization: I never use it in New York.

Les Granges
I found this B&B online and instantly the second half of our trip was planned. We decided to rent a car to get there and explore Normandy a bit, while relaxing after a hectic few days in Paris. I cannot recommend Madame's cooking enough; if you go, you should definitely eat in one night!

Homeless Man Beatings
Although we can all laugh about it now, our scariest moment of the trip was when a random homeless man ruined our party on the Pont des Arts by trying to get our wine and then kicking me across the picnic blanket. What!? Yes. When Chris tried to get up to defend my honor, he got his face pushed... thus ensued a stand-off with said homeless man who had since grabbed a bottle. The cops came, I was shaken and a little bruised, but we carried on with our party down the Seine. Nothing stops Middlebury alumni from partying. Not even homeless violence.

Iceland
Hey! Look down there! It's Iceland!

Jetlag
The closest I came to being annoyed at Chris this whole vacation was how quickly the damn guy fell asleep. "Gee, I'm a little sleepy," I'd say. "Not me," he'd reply. Five seconds later: "zzzzzzzzz." Jetlag is irritating when you have to do it alone.

King Louis
I've been to Versailles about 10 times now (ok, probably more like 5), but I never tire of the gardens. The Hamlet where Marie Antoinette used to play house is adorable and it's always fun to get ice cream along the side of the canal.

Louvre
The Louvre is impressive. The Louvre is also a stressful pain in the ass. Obviously I was not going to deprive Chris of his chance to see the Mona Lisa in person, though, so we joined the crowds and made awkward Mona Lisa smiles.

Moutons and Moutard
Ahh mustard. Even though I hate it, I always end up at the Maille store in Paris, chosing exotic flavors of mustard and vinegar and oil as gifts. And we did see some sheep while we were at Versailles... prompting the obvious new insult for sheep: YOU MOUTARD.

Nympheas
Monet's water-lilies and the gardens around his house were just... crazy beautiful. I wanted to live in that house in Giverny and become a painter. Badly.

Orangina
I do not care what the food is. I will always love Orangina as my accompanying drink.

Parks
Have I mentioned that I love sitting in parks? That sometimes the mere fact that the parks in New York are cold and uninviting ruin my day? I got my annual fill of flower beds and fountains, pony rides and picnics this year as we hit up the Tuileries, Jardins de Luxembourg and Parc Monceau, among others in Versailles and Honfleur.

Questionable Highway Signs
We had a laugh with our dinner companions at the B&B as we asked a bunch of questions about the road signs we'd encountered. "What the heck is a blue circle with a red slash through it?" "Oh, that means no parking." Oh. Duh.

Reindeer
From down the terminal, we could smell it. "MMM what is that??" Chris asked. It was, of course, Reindeer Jerky. On our trip back, we planned to stop and buy some for the office, however found ourselves on the wrong side of Passport Control. Long story short, we now each have four stamps from Helsinki in our passports... nothing could stop us from buying that jerky. Not even border security.

Soupe
One day we walked about 68 miles. We were supposed to do a fancy dinner that night. Instead, we opted for giant bowls of delicious French Onion Soup at a nearby Brasserie. We do not regret this choice.

Talks
Halfway through the trip, I thought: "Shit. I have not had conversations like this since last year." Friendships based on scarce meetings are like that, aren't they? You know you don't have a lot of time together, so you jump in the deep end. My foreign buddies are nothing if not curious and talkative, inquisitive and open-minded.

Unexpected Pepper
You know what sucks about Finnish pastries that are labeled "Buttercream"? They don't mention that they are TEEMING with chunks of black pepper. Blech. Thanks for nothing, Finland.

Vivienne, Hotel
Guys, this hotel was killer. Free Internet, clean rooms, showers that hang up on the wall. Real pillows. French TV. A cat named Romero in the lobby. And wait, 90 euros per night. IN CENTRAL PARIS. Honestly, I don't know why you're not staying there right now.

Wine
I had a lovely Brouilly during our extravagant dinner near Evreux, followed by a glass of Sancerre. Before which was a Champagne. Drinking wine often during meals is one of my favorite things about France.

Xcellent food
I know, this is cheating. But the food was crazy good, especially Madame's veal at the B&B. Ham and cheese crepes, Raclette, gelato. These are the good foods. Non-good? Maybe the baby cow brain I ate without realizing it. Gahh.

Yep, frog legs too
Frog legs taste like a mixture of chicken and fish. It was an odd tasting experience; on the one hand, butter and garlic. On the other... frog. Ribbit.

Ze French
"What did you think of French people, anyway?" "You know, everyone was super-nice!" Nice job, France. Le boyfriend approves.

2 comments:

Erica said...

Glad you enjoyed the pistachio pie! I'll have to learn how to make it for you (oooh another culinary adventure).

So happy to have met Chris. He's really cool! I'm kinda sad that you two live so far away. Hope I get to hang out with the two of you again soon !!

ev said...

omg. that is my favorite alphabet ever. i'm glad you had such a great time!!