Automatic Updates from New Blog

Hey, everyone! I’ve got some great news–I’ve finally figured out a way to give you guys access automatically to all of the posts showing up on the new Bythepathlesstraveled blog!

I know that it’s a pain to head on over there for new posts. But now, fear not! This is how it works:

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So click on the cog and you’ll see the five most recent posts from the new bythepathlesstraveled blog. Woohoo! In the cog there’s also the option to subscribe, and you can also view the archives if you don’t feel like scrolling all the way down. The magnifying glass is a search bar too, so feel free to search for a post if you are looking for something specific. 

I’m trying to make things a lot easier for you guys if I can, so if you have any suggestions, PLEASE let me know.

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So basically, I’m going to attempt to shortlink to some of my major post categories. Once you’re at the first post, you can use the navigation arrows on the vertical red bar to the left of the page to keep reading through chronologically. (Don’t worry, the arrows will be there!) 😀

To check out my China Series, click here:

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To check out my Europe/Hungary Series, click here:

Hungary 2

To check out my Flagship Niagara Series, click here:

Niagara

To check out my Things You Thought You Knew Series, click here:

Dice

To check out my Japan Series, click here:

Japan

(Cheap) Must-Eat Foods in Paris, France

To view recipes for all of the French food listed in this post, click here.

Being back in the States (for now, at least) is no excuse for me not to continue to blog about Europe, right? 😉  So who’s this blog, this bythepathlesstraveled thing, actually intended for? For my parents, friends, roommates? Not at all. While they are certainly a part of the audience, this blog has traveled the world right along with me, gathering readers from more than fifty countries (as of January 4, 2012) and viewers from every continent except Antarctica. Anyone and everyone, welcome!

While in Budapest, I put aside a short list of topics to discuss every now and then throughout interim and spring until this blog gets its new breath of life from my travels in Japan. The aim of these upcoming blogs, published a bit less frequently than the Budapest series, is to help travelers, both new and experienced — students studying abroad, new international travelers, temporary visitors, food critics, whoever.

Speaking of food, it’s one of my absolute favorite things about foreign countries. I believe that the food culture says quite a lot about its home culture; it only takes practice to read it. When asked to journal about culture in November, I jotted down this thought:

“I think that folks in Hungary view any food experience as a time of communication. The cook communicates with the eater through the food and the care he put into preparing it. The eater communicates with the cook by finishing the food with a smile on his face. People eating the same foods strike up friendly conversation solely on the basis that they enjoy the same things. A meal in Hungary, to me, is one person’s attempt at expressing himself to others. Eating is an activity in and of itself that is shared with friends and strangers alike, and good food is a goal unto itself rather than just sustenance. I think that, in America, we eat because we want to be full. It seems that, in Hungary, we eat because we want to eat, to savor, to enjoy, and to befriend or communicate with our community. I much prefer this Hungarian way of viewing food to the American rush and carry-away portions. This is why, in each and every European country I visit, I eat food as my souvenir rather than buying physical things like postcards, keychains, or trinkets. With an album of pictures and the memory of the taste of great food and good conversation with the people I shared it with (and got it from), I am much happier than I would ever be with just a bag of trinkets” (November 9, 2012).

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When traveling to Paris to experience this food culture that I’ve talked so much about, what should be on your list? While my list of foods certainly isn’t the end-all-be-all of Parisian food, I think that it can give new travelers to the City of Lights a good start. Keep in mind — I was able to find (and joyfully consume) this entire food list with less than 48 hours in Paris, only about 20 of which were spent actually wandering in the city.

First, I would suggest the cheap but delicious and notoriously French crêpe. Don’t panic — you can find them everywhere. It’s pretty hard to “mess up” a crêpe, so don’t be afraid to grab one from wherever you may be. Warm and delightfully portable, crêpes are a great snack for both adults and hungry kids. While I personally recommend chestnut-flavored crêpes, places which sell them will have a large selection of fillings, so choose based on your tastes, personality, and mood. It’s okay. You can go back for more.

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Second, I highly suggest that you compliment your time in Paris with pain au chocolat. Just do it. Bread with chocolate in it? Yes…and no. It’s a very popular pastry-like snack also famous because of its low cost. I personally recommend the pain au chocolat at a small cafe on the small streets outside the Louvre called “Tea by The.” The buttery, light and flaky pastry has delectable smidges of chocolate inside that, when the treat is prepared fresh, are still gloriously melted. If you’re planning a trip to the Louvre and want to get there before it opens to secure a spot in line, swing over to Tea by The to snag a freshly-baked pain au chocolat. 

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Third, I’m sure you’re well aware that you just can’t go to France without trying an éclair. Native to France, these filled desserts are cheap and will certainly satisfy a sweet tooth without being too overpowering. Although I did not get my éclair from the notorious Parisian restaurant Laduree, I strongly suggest that you go there for one. That place is rated as one of the top three in all of France for its éclairs. Knowing how great it is, why didn’t I go? Well, I tried. Stupid remodeling work! 😉 You can find Laduree down the main street in front of the Arch de Triomphe. It’s a straight shot. When you come out of the metro station, you’re already on the right street. Put your back to the Arch and find #75 for a scrumptious éclair break!

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Fourth, if you’re walking the streets of Paris (and especially if you’re thinking of climbing the steps of the Eiffel Tower!), you’ll get thirsty before you realize what hit you. If there’s one drink in Paris that you absolutely must try, it’s Orangina. You thought I’d recommend orange soda? Hardly. That’s because it’s not orange soda. It’s orange juice with gas shot into it to carbonate it; the pulp is still in it and everything. Delicious, refreshing, and quite interesting, Orangina is a great, cheap way to quench your thirst!

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Finally, you just can’t leave Paris without snatching up at least one (very addictive) macaron. But I’m begging you, for the love of all things food, do NOT confuse macarons with macaroons. They are two entirely different foods.

Ahem, anyway. Macarons are…well, it’s so difficult to describe them, so I just have to track back to yet another one of my food journal entries in which I described exactly what they’re like, saying:

“The two that I had were just basic vanilla and then a pistachio one. Both had an almond undertone that was barely noticeable (in fact, I’ve only been able to place the flavor in retrospect now that I know that macarons are made with almond flour). The “cake” part of the macaron was…well, “airy” isn’t the right word, as there were no pockets of air inside, and it wasn’t flaky or anything. I suppose “light” is better – you bite into it and the very outside shell gives way in uneven cracks before you get to the soft, almost nonexistent but very flavorful inside. Then, you come to the crème, which was smooth and refreshingly flavorful, having no taste of wax or anything that held it together. It all looks like a miniature cake with icing, but I can guarantee that is nothing of the sort. Not even comparable in texture, taste, or consistency” (October 7, 2012).

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Recipes for all of this food can be found here: http://www.squidoo.com/cheap-must-eat-foods-in-paris-france-with-recipes

 

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Food in foreign countries is a real treat, but you have to dedicate yourself to being immersed in it. None of this half-hearted “I guess I’ll try this one French dish, but there’s a McDonalds in front of our hotel for dinner” stuff. When you’re in a culture (and out of your element), go all-in. Go for it. You see this? —

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This is rooster testicle stew that I snatched from the Christmas market in Budapest. Yeah, you gotta go there.

In all honesty, I have only one warning for travelers, both new and seasoned: be afraid.

Be afraid that you will never return to this place.
Be afraid that you will never find this food again.
Be afraid that the cook whose food you just scorned has been looking for days for a simple smile because of a meal that he prepared.
Be afraid that you will return to wherever it is that you came from no different than when you stepped out the door, for that is the saddest end of all.

Commandeering French Credit Cards and Discovering Hungarian Horseback Archery

Wow, what a morning! But before we get to all that frenetic excitement, spare me just a moment of your time to tell you about last night’s dumb and dumber couple. After returning to Hotel des Boulevards, I immediately began work uploading all of the day’s pictures (more than 600!) and videos, since I knew that it would take a while and I wanted to be in bed a little early to catch the early flight on Saturday morning. I got back to the hotel at around 9.

I sit down, plug in my computer, and hear a few people coming up the steps. The hotel was not very soundproof, so I thought nothing of it. Until, of course, I found out that those people I heard were the people who were checking into the room next to me. And that they were really, really loud. That too.

I’m not just talking your run-of-the-mill loud talking, laughing, or whatever. No, these people made it sound like the building was falling down; actually, it sounded quite similar to moving every piece of furniture in a furniture shop from one end of the building to another. Picture what that sounds like? All night. All night. Until 5AM, when I got up.

Oh, and in addition to those people (or maybe it was those people) was a group singing some kind of ritual chant, also until the wee hours of the morning. Just not my night, I guess.

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So, that was Saturday morning. I was packed and ready to go at 6AM, so I went down to tell the owner that I was checking out. With a flight departing at 9, I was certainly ready to get going and make sure that I actually knew how to get back to Charles De Gaulle airport. The hotel owner was nowhere to be found. I hovered around for a bit, hoping that he’d just gone to the restroom or something. After a few minutes in the dark, quiet room, I was losing hope that he’d come out. Suddenly, wouldn’t you know it, that fantastic furniture-moving-loud couple came down the steps and stood next to me. I gave them a death glare and then walked further into the entryway.

They tried the door out, but it was locked from the inside, so we were locked into the hotel. With no bell or noisemaker of any kind to signal for the owner, we all stood there and waited some more. Finally, the guy standing next to me went behind the desk and found the buzzer that the owner uses to let us in. He hit it, expecting the door to open, but it was still locked. After a few more tries, though, the annoying buzzing got the attention of the owner. He had been asleep, and I can’t blame him – it was 6 in the morning and the only time you’re not allowed to check in or out of that hotel is between 11 and noon. When is he actually supposed to sleep?

He let us out, disgruntled at being woken up, and I walked speedily toward the Strasbourg-Saint-Denis metro to make up for the lost time waiting for him. I took a quick look at the maps inside to make sure I was heading the right direction, doubted myself, went back and looked again, saw I was right, and then got on for Gare du Nord. It was only when I actually arrived at du Nord that the problems really started.

I got off of the metro and was immediately swarmed (again), since Gare du Nord is such a big station. I followed the signs for RER B, and all was well. Only after I passed a closed information counter did it sink in fully – a ticket. I need a RER ticket.

Certainly I hadn’t forgotten that I needed one. However, I needed one from the information booths, as ticket machines in France don’t accept American cards since they don’t have magnetic chips. I had, obviously wrongly, assumed that the ticket booths would be open as soon as the metro itself opened. I need to stop making assumptions like that.

I didn’t panic, but I didn’t really know what to do either, so I went and tried a few ticket machines with predictable results. Nothing. I looked into a few ticket booths before giving in to the fact that they were probably all closed. Then I ran into a little newspaper shop and explained that I needed a RER ticket. The lady told me to use a machine and didn’t understand why it wasn’t working, so I went to a different newspaper stand and explained again. She told me there was a ticket booth to the left and up the stairs. Let’s just say that she was quite wrong – it was closed, like all the others – and I had to use a metro ticket to get out of the station toward it. If you know anything about the Parisian metro, once you’re out, you have to use a new ticket to get back in. What would happen if I ran out of metro tickets trying to buy more metro tickets and could only use machines that don’t work for Americans? Plain and simple – I’d be screwed.

At this point, I had been walking around for more than half an hour. It was 6:45, and I was stuck in the station with a flight whose gate closes at 8:30, and I’m looking at the prospect of around a 40 minute RER ride, security at the airport, and walking through the very large Charles De Gaulle airport to Terminal B, which is one of the furthest ones from the RER line. Everything I needed on a time constraint.

Finally, I went to another ticket machine and thought, “Okay, so it won’t take my card, so I’ll pay in cash.” Lo and behold, I turn on the machine and it says, in French, “This machine does not accept cash payment at this time.”

Of course.

Oh, and did I mention the construction work? No, we’ll get to that in a moment. It was obviously not my day.

At last, I found a lady at a ticket machine and asked if she spoke English. When I heard that she did, I begged her to help me buy a ticket, since she was using the machine just fine. At this point, I was willing to give her a 20 euro for a ticket that cost 10 euro and get no change rather than miss my flight and pay for a new flight. Thankfully, she had change and gave it back to me after she bought me a ticket. I couldn’t thank her enough, and with the ticket in my hand I dashed back to the RER stops. In the Paris metro, just because you’re getting on RER B in the correct direction doesn’t mean you’ll end up at the location that you want. So I had to run past a whole bunch of RER Bs before I found 43, the one to Charles de Gaulle. I get down there, and a beautiful marquee is running across the bottom of the screen which shows the stops.

“On October 6th and 7th, due to heavy construction, from 4AM parts of the RER B line will not be operating.” Then, in caps, “THERE IS NO AIRPORT TRAIN.”

Ah, just what I needed right at this moment.

Thankfully, the French are smart enough to help the people they strand. I rode the RER to its final operational stop and connected with a bus to the airport. The negative? The RER B that I rode from the airport upon my arrival was express (did not stop at every station) and took about 40 minutes. Due to the construction, this RER was no longer express. And it was 7AM. And my boarding gate closes at 8:30. And I still had to take a bus.

The RER ride was enjoyable and a good time to chill a bit, since I enjoy riding trains. The bus transfer also went off without a hitch, as airport and metro staff were standing in a line directing people right to the buses, of which there were plenty and no waiting was necessary. The bright side of being forced to ride the slower bus? A glimpse of the cheery pink Parisian sunrise.

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Once at the airport, I felt okay about the time situation, as it was a bit earlier than I had anticipated being there. I stopped at a boulangerie situated a few steps inside the entrance, saw that the prices were quite fair (not the slightest overcharged despite being in an airport), and quickly ordered a chausson aux pommes, or what we Americans would call an apple turnover. It was also on my list of things to eat in France, and it was cheap and quite delicious. Light, flaky, and filled with delicious apple that didn’t have gigantic, annoying whole chunks of apple.

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I ate it as I walked toward Terminal 2, which required a short ride on the airport train. Then, it was off to Terminal B, which was as far away from where I was as humanly possible. Literally.

I started the long walk, but as I got closer I saw an EasyJet representative and stopped him to show him my ticket. I wanted to make sure that, since I only had hand baggage, I didn’t have to check in. I was right, and I continued toward B21 and to security, which was a cinch since I never carry liquids or wear anything that I have to take off. So it was jacket, bag, and laptop in the bins and straight through. After that, I was at B21 with no problems and I sat down to catch my breath. Not a few moments after I sat down, boarding began.

Well that was a close one.

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Arrival in Budapest after that was a cinch. I worked on the blog while on the plane (much of Je Suis en Paris Part 2 was written then), and then it was the typical bus-metro-tram switchoff back to the dorm. I didn’t have much time to rest, though – Kelly and I had planned to meet up with Adri and visit her at her house outside Budapest just a short while after I got back. I unpacked a bit, rested for a while, and then we were off to catch the bus at Kosztolányi Dezső tér.

Once we got to the final stop for bus 272, we waited for Adri’s mom to come pick us up. Her house is somewhat of a drive from the bus stop, as I mentioned the last time that I went there and blogged about it. As soon as we got into the car, Adri turned around and, with a grin, told us that we’d better have brought our appetites because she and her family made a ton of traditional Hungarian dishes for us.

She wasn’t joking. There was a ton.

We chit-chatted for a while, and Kelly was introduced to Adri’s sister, Kinga, and her boyfriend. Both were home visiting from their university. I also had the chance to meet Adri’s and Kinga’s father this time, so now I know the whole family! We spent some time fiddling around with music CDs in the computer before dinner was ready, but boy did we eat like royalty! It was amazing.

The first thing to make its way to the table was the traditional Hungarian way of welcoming guests into the home – alcohol. For those of you who know me, you know that I never drink. It’s nothing against people who enjoy a glass of wine now and then, it’s just that I personally don’t like the taste of alcohol and don’t care for alcoholic drinks, no matter whether it’s beer, wine, or whatever. But the last thing I wanted to do was turn down the welcoming gesture of a wonderful Hungarian family, so I clinked my shot glass (egészségedre! [Cheers!]) with everyone else’s and took a gulp of the plum and apricot pálinka before me.

The burn of really strong alcohol slithered down my throat and fizzled into my head almost instantly, which didn’t surprise me. I coughed a couple times, but aside from the taste of alcohol, the drink itself was quite good. The flavor was very sweet and distinctive, especially since this particular pálinka was homemade – remember that Adri’s family has fruit trees?

So anyway, the alcohol itself was quite good (compliments to the Oravecz family there), but I chose not to do any more than that small sip, as I could still feel the crackling in my head. It went away after a few minutes anyway. After that, Adri and Kinga offered Kelly and I a non-alcoholic drink called traubi szóda, a carbonated beverage made from a special type of Hungarian grape called saszla grapes. It wasn’t sweet like American grape juice, but it certainly wasn’t bitter either. The small amount of carbonation (less than a soda) made it quite a nice drink.

The first dish we were served was pörkölt, a stew with boneless meat, paprika, and seasonings, but this has no potato (unlike goulash). Together with goulash and paprikás, these three soups are considered to be the national dishes of Hungary. The flavor was very delightful – not too much paprika, just enough to announce itself, and the meat was tender and juicy. The dumplings in the broth were small and tasted great, which is a nice contrast to bigger dumplings that can be bland and fill you up quickly. There was a bay leaf sitting merrily atop my hill of dumplings and meat, and as I spooned sour cream into the soup I left it there. Adri’s family looked at me, and Adri modestly reached over and picked it out of my soup for me.

Suddenly, the whole room burst into outrageous laughter led by Adri’s father, who was by far laughing the loudest. They weren’t really laughing at me for not taking out the bay leaf (I assumed it was a garnish and was going to eat around it); they were laughing because Adri stuck her fingers in my soup to pick it out. 🙂

We laughed for a couple minutes about that before I had the chance to finish the rest of the soup, which was delicious from first bite to last. Then, Kinga brought out a tray of túrógombóc, which are sweet balls of sugary cottage cheese and semolina or, as we might be prone to call them in America, sweet cottage cheese dumplings. They were also very good, and I tried them both by themselves and with plum jam and found that I particularly like them with jam. In fact, I just finished eating the leftovers that Adri sent home with us with some of my jam from the fridge!

By now, we were getting full, but dinner was just beginning in the Oravecz home! Kinga’s specialty, lángos, was up next on the menu. I’ve had one lángos before, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t excited about having one that was truly homemade. Lángos, for those of you wondering, is a type of friend dough that Americans might liken to an elephant ear at the fair, although this one is not coated in sugar (although it can be). Friend in lard, the light and fluffy dough was coated with sour cream and salt that we passed from person to person in a small mug. Kinga taught us the techniques necessary for eating a lángos like a real Hungarian – take a clove of garlic and rub it vigorously over the surface of the dough before you put your toppings onto it. Then, just eat it with your hands!

I managed two greasy (but oh so delicious) lángos before I decided that it may be a mistake to try for another one. Then, we took a break from the food to go out and talk with Kinga about her archery skills. She snatched her bow and quiver from her room and dashed outside to show us what she was made of.

She’s made of pretty intense stuff, in all honesty.

Apparently, she used to do horseback archery. Her bow is a lovely wooden one with a silk string, not a compound bow like we’d use hunting back in the States. No sight, no wall, no arrow rest, no pre-strung anything. In other words, a real bow.

The results of her training came across pretty much instantly, when she was able to go from a resting position to having fired three arrows in a row, lined up side by side in the target, in (literally) between five and six seconds. It takes me that long to notch an arrow back home, let alone fire three of them that accurately. She was also able to fire behind herself, which is a skill that comes directly from her ability to fire from horseback. She said that that technique was one commonly used by Magyar warriors.

After I’d shot a few arrows myself and it got a little too dark for archery, we headed back inside and took a sampling of the ishler that Adri and Kinga had prepared for us. Ishler are a type of cookie with jam inside – the cookie part is quite buttery and rich, the jam is scarce and doesn’t overpower the flavor while lending the sugar that the cookie doesn’t have a lot of, and a dollop of hardened chocolate cream on top adds the finishing touch. We had three or four of those before Adri’s mom packed some up for us to take back with us. I just finished those, too….

So all in all, we were quite pampered when we went to the Oravecz household. It was tons of fun, and I really enjoyed getting to spend some time with the whole family. I am so appreciative of all the fantastic food! I can honestly say that my meals back in the dorm today were boring and sad compared to what I was treated to last night!

For once, I do believe that that’s all I have to say. There will be a couple easy days in the coming week, but stay tuned for Thursday, when I’ll cross the Hungarian border yet again for another new adventure!

Sacré Bleu! Je suis en France! Part 2

My itinerary for my main day in Paris, Friday, wasn’t packed event-wise but was filled with only a few time-consuming things that I really wanted to do in Paris. I hopped on the metro to Palais-Royal and emerged to find a seemingly dreary part of town wet with rain and grey with nothing but blockish stones for architecture. I wasn’t entirely sure which direction to head in until I turned to my right and, would you look at that, a huge building with the engraving Musee du Louvre was staring back at me.

I like the way Paris puts all of its landmarks right next to metro stops.

However, I miscalculated the amount of time it would take me to get to the Louvre, so I arrived at 8 when it doesn’t open until 9. I walked toward the pyramids of the Louvre, took a couple pictures, and saw that there was only one person in line. An hour of free time? Perfect – breakfast.

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For those of you who haven’t figured this out yet, if you want real local cuisine but you’re only visiting for a little while, just walk away from where you are. Unless you’re some kind of peculiar tourist who doesn’t want to see any of the famous landmarks of your location, you’ll be standing next to a monument in a touristy area. Walk away. In the opposite direction. Doesn’t matter where, just as far away as you can get. That’s how you’ll find genuine local food.

So, that’s what I did. I walked away from the Louvre and down the side streets, hoping to find homey little cafes where I could get some breakfast foods on my must-eat list. I found a lot of cafes, but they were more just eggs-and-bacon kinds of places. I wanted more of a boulangerie, and I finally found one very near the Louvre but hidden so that its prices didn’t have to be touristy. Called “Tea by The,” it was a modern kind of café with eye-catching sweets under the glass counter.

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Fortunately for me, those sweets were exactly what I came for, and were a great price too – pain au chocolat, and one dessert I decided that I must add to my list right then and there, the tarte pommes.

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The pain au chocolat was even better than I expected, that’s for sure. I expected pretty much a chocolate chip croissant, but what I got was light, flaky, and freshly made so still warm. The chocolate inside was melty from the heat, and the buttery outside was so light that the wind blew away some of it (which greatly saddened me). The chocolate itself was delightful, strong and sweet compared to the Hungarian chocolate I am used to which is waxy and weaker, more like pudding than melted chocolate. As for the tarte pommes, yes, all of those are individual cinnamon-baked apple slices. I expected it to be a warm, pie-type dessert, but it was actually chilled and the crust was firmer and wetter, which was a treat. He gave me a spoon with a sharp tip to cut it with. The apples were cooked well, and I never had one of those moments where you bite in and it’s still a bit crunchy. The crust in particular was smooth and buttery and a pleasure to eat.

After I finished that small meal, I returned to the Louvre and got in line, which was now this “dauntingly” big –

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Oh no, there’s like thirty people now, *sarcasm.* Once inside the Louvre, I pushed past the people gawking around at nothing and got into the ticket line. I told the woman that I am a resident of Budapest (I did just apply for the residency visa, after all), told her I was 19, and she said to go in for free. Well isn’t that a treat that the 11 euros in my hand weren’t expecting!

The museum had just opened, so my first priority was to go to the places that would become busy the quickest; I’m sure we all know where in the Louvre that will be. La Joconde, right?

I booked it, following the signs and dashing into the room to be one of the first at the tape setting off the famous painting. Before it got too busy (which it really wasn’t at that time), I was able to snap this shot –

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With that done, I felt like I could take all the time in the world afterwards. That was the only piece of art on my list that I was concerned I might not get to see. And yes, I did have a list, or rather a map with about twelve things marked. Sure I saw a lot more than those twelve things (I’m bad when it comes to ignoring rooms in a museum), but you have to have some kind of plan or you’re never going to see what you want to see in the Louvre. So, starting a few weeks before I went, I picked out all the artwork that I really have always wanted to see in person. The rest would just be a pleasant addition. On the way to the Mona Lisa I stopped at one of my “Louvre Picks,” the Victory of Samonthrace.

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Then, it was over to the sculpture section for a glimpse of Cupid and Psyche, one of my favorite statues.

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In the same room, the Borghese Gladiator was recommended to me and so I paid him a short visit.

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In a different section of statues was the famous Venus De Milo, which was second in priority on my list of things to see early before the crowds really got going. I knew this one would be popular, and it certainly was even by the time I got there.

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I spent a long time looking for the Winged Bulls before realizing that I had already taken pictures of them much earlier, when I visited the Mesopotamia rooms. Stupid me. 🙂

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Also in that section, I spent quite a while searching for the Code of Hammurabi, which I’ve read. I wanted to see the original, not only because I have experience with the code itself but also because, as a linguist, that type of language fascinates me.

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After that, I ran into two unique statues that quickly became my favorites in the museum. I had not planned to visit either one, and in fact I don’t even know what they are called. But they greatly entertained or impressed me. The first was this awesome horse (perhaps a version of a hippogriff?). He’s got claws, dude!

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Then, in the section around Sumer and Mesopotamia, I got a glimpse of this guy. Maybe it’s his expression, I don’t know. He just cracks me up every time I see the picture – his face is like “NO. WAY.”

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I spent a short amount of time in the room dedicated to Rembrandt, whose painting skills I appreciate even if I wish he did a little more than portraits.

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Near Rembrandt was also The Lacemaker and, a ways away, the Battle of San Romano.

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It took a while to find, but I also stopped at The Turkish Bath.

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After that, things got complicated again. See, the Louvre is divided into three sections based upon which direction the hall is facing – Sully, Denon, and Richelieu. I was in Sully when I was just about done with the Louvre (having just finished the Egyptian catacombs and the Sphinx), and I needed to get to Richelieu for my final piece of artwork, the Horses of Marly. When I tried to enter the Richelieu wing, however, the lady stopped me and told me that I couldn’t enter – I wasn’t the only one. For a while after the catacombs, I got lost in the Sully wing and couldn’t get out of the Egyptian section. I wandered for about 30 minutes trying to find my way, so to be turned away when I finally found the Richelieu wing was very frustrating. She told me that I had to go back into the Sully (where I had just come from after having been lost) in order to get to Richelieu. The last thing I wanted to do at that point was to see any more of that Egyptian stuff – I was ready to be out of that section! Through a series of elevator lifts and stairs, I was able to walk over the problem area on the ground floor by using the first floor and then descend again (only to find that I had been standing right next to the Horses of Marly very early in my Louvre journey).

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With those found, I left the museum and grabbed a quick ride to the Arch De Triomphe, which I had decided that I would not be climbing for reasons I’ll mention later, when I talk about Notre Dame. Once again, coming out of the metro station put me in plain view of the Arch. This is a picture I took while standing a few steps out of the metro station.

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Once I’d had my fill of taking pictures of the arch, I was off to find Champs-Elysees in order to find Laduree, the one restaurant I had chosen as a must-visit during my trip. Accidentally turning down side streets has its share of benefits too, though.

I realized my mistake almost immediately, but as I was turning around I noticed a small “restaurant” (for lack of a better word) under an awning with a little old lady scurrying busily behind the counter. I hadn’t eaten lunch yet (that was originally intended to be Laduree), and I saw that her prices were quite fair since most tourists from the Arch de Triomphe would never come down the street I was on. She didn’t speak a single word of English, and I knew I had a winner – authentic French food. As I was considering whether to get a croque monsieur or a baguette hot dog (both of which were on my must-eat list yet knowing I wouldn’t have room for both), a man walked up to me and started speaking French. I could tell by his tone that he didn’t need anything serious, and I ignored him. He just kept talking. For a long time. The lady who was preparing my baguette looked at me and then looked at him and scowled. He kept talking. Now, I’m not good at French, but when someone says “Oh, she’s just a tourist after all” in another language, you bet I can understand. He wouldn’t shut up, and the lady preparing my food shook her head at him. I continued to ignore him. By now, it had been about five minutes of his incessant talking, and even the elderly lady was getting annoyed. She and I continued on as if nothing were happening. Finally, he gave up and left. After I got my food, I looked around to make sure that he wasn’t following me, but he had disappeared for good.

The baguette hot dog was so freshly prepared that I burnt my hand when I grabbed it. After she handed it to me, she made a gesture about the guy from before and twirled her finger around her temple, shaking her head and making a weird face as if to say, “Yeah, he was nuts.” We both laughed, and then before walking away, I asked, “Je cherche des Champs-Elysees,” and she pointed me back the way I came, which I was going to go back to anyway. Baguette in hand, I thanked her and walked off.

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As you can see, the baguette was huge. The hot dog was delicious, tender and juicy like all European hot dogs so far have been. The baguette had good flavor, and the cheese was typical French cheese with a deep, high-pitched flavor that is bitter enough for French taste but quite foreign to Americans. You know, unpasteurized cheese that they’re not allowed to sell in America. Not necessarily my favorite flavor, but the baguette was good nonetheless. I felt so bad that I couldn’t finish the last three or so bites.

After orienting myself at the Arch again, I easily found my street and made my way toward #75, Laduree, where I was intending to have some of their famous rose macarons and an equally famous éclair (said to be one of France’s top 3 best). When I finally reached 75, this is what I saw.

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Of course, down for maintenance. How unfortunate! But at least I was able to pick up the macarons and éclair later (and probably a bit cheaper too!). I turned back the way I came and got back on the metro, this time to visit the towering abode of Quasimodo – Notre Dame.

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In my personal opinion, although the movie is typical Disney fare, the soundtrack of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of the best that Disney has produced, most notably the song Hellfire which is scored differently throughout the movie including one solo by Frollo. If I were to judge, I would say that Hellfire is the best Disney song to come out of a movie from the classics or masterpiece collections. Very well written, both in lyrics and in accompaniment. Anyway, I had that song (as well as The Bells of Notre Dame) going through my head as I looked at the towering statues lining the front of church, remembering the bishop from Hunchback shouting, “You can lie to yourself and your minions, you can claim that you haven’t a qualm, but you never can run from nor hide what you’ve done from the eyes, the very eyes of Notre Dame.” Indeed, he was right, and it was very fascinating the way the eyes of the statues followed wherever I went.

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And yes, you literature nerds, I have also read Victor Hugo’s novel and not just seen the Disney movie. Once I went inside, I immediately got a nearly overwhelming glimpse of the world-famous stained glass of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Each pane had a different color and pattern or picture. I’m sure that you know that, because most churchgoers were illiterate, pictures on stained glass were used to convey stories rather than books.

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The way that the stained glass cast a rainbow of colors into such a dark and almost dreary church was ethereal but beautiful.

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After taking in the interior of the church, I exited and turned the corner of the cathedral to get in line for the towers and the belfry. The line was more than an hour wait. I couldn’t really tell, because I didn’t walk back to the end of the line. You snooze you lose, backpack boy.

And so I ended up with about a ten minute wait after some ninja moves. The stairway leading to the towers was very narrow, barely wide enough for my shoulders and I’m a small girl. If you have some extra pounds on you or aren’t an Olympic runner, climbing to the belfry may be a bit more work than  you’re willing to do. The steps themselves were also narrow in both length and width, and they spiral in such a tight circle that you actually do get dizzy very quickly. 402 steps later with no resting places on the steps, I was at the top of the tower.

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Notre Dame was my compromise for deciding whether to visit the Eiffel Tower during the day or at night. I decided that I can get a similar view of Paris during the day by climbing the tower, whereas doing Eiffel at night would really let me see the “city of lights” idea. And besides, we all know that the worst part of being at the top of the Eiffel Tower is that, in all of your pictures, the one thing missing from Paris is the Eiffel Tower! I solved that issue by taking similar wide-scale photos from Notre Dame rather than doing the Eiffel Tower twice. This was also the reason that I didn’t go up the Arch de Triomphe.

I was able to admire Notre Dame’s gargoyles up close, which was delightful as every single one of them was different and many had amusing facial expressions or were doing interesting things.

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If you’re willing to duck your head into a tiny wooden room, you can also pay a visit to Le Bourdon, the tower’s largest bell. Did you know that Notre Dame’s bells are baptized and given Christian names? The Christian name of le bourdon is Emmanuel, and I paid him a visit as well.

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After I descended back down the stairs of the tower, I quickly scoped out the nearby restaurants and found, not at all to my surprise, that they were radically overpriced. I desperately wanted my next must-eat item, Orangina, because climbing Notre Dame had stirred up quite a thirst! But for 3.5 euro a bottle, I knew I could find it cheaper. Just as I was turning around to stop looking at the restaurants, the bells of Notre Dame started up. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK0E6BKZL78

I found my way across the river to the Saint Michel Notre Dame RER stop and decided to make my way toward Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel to see the Eiffel Tower during the daylight hours. As soon as I came out of the metro and saw it, I immediately began heading the opposite direction for the same reason I mentioned earlier – authentic food. It was only 3PM, and my itinerary for the day was done. If I wanted to find Orangina at its real price, I knew that I’d have to evacuate the touristy areas. I didn’t care if I stayed on main streets or small alleys, as long as I was heading away from the tower I knew I was good. Imagine that, about half an hour’s walk away from the tower I came upon a little store where I just bought it from the shelves for, wouldn’t you know it, 1.5 euros. That was the price I knew it came in originally, and that was the price I had been trying to find. By now I was even thirstier than before, so I cracked that puppy open and enjoyed the moment I left the store.

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Orangina appears to be just an orange soft drink, but’s actually carbonated orange juice. That means that there’s much less sugar, so it’s a lot bitterer, and the pulp is still inside. It’s distinctively French, and I really enjoyed it.

After I’d found that, I had to think of other ways to spend my time until sunset, when the Eiffel Tower would light up again. Considering it wasn’t even 4 yet, I had quite a bit of time to kill, so I continued down the small local streets to try to find a patissier where I could buy macarons. The macarons near the tower were a whopping 4 euro a piece, but with some diligent searching I was able to get two of them for 1.70 euro. The owner of the small bake shop spoke zero English, so once again I knew I was in a good place.

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Not to be confused with macaroons, macarons are a unique little dessert that far surpassed my expectations. I have never had macaroons, so I wasn’t necessarily comparing with them, but I expected a macaron to be somewhat gummy, kind of like a mix of a no-bake cookie and a Suzie-Q. Real macarons are nothing of the sort – in fact, I’d say they’re the complete opposite of everything I just described.

The two that I had were just basic vanilla and then a pistachio one. Both had an almond undertone that was barely noticeable (in fact, I’ve only been able to place the flavor in retrospect now that I know that macarons are made with almond flour). The “cake” part of the macaron was…well, “airy” isn’t the right word, as there were no pockets of air inside, and it wasn’t flaky or anything. I suppose “light” is better – you bite into it and the very outside shell gives way in uneven cracks before you get to the soft, almost nonexistent but very flavorful inside. Then, you come to the crème, which was smooth refreshingly flavorful, having no taste of wax or anything that held it together. It all looks like a miniature cake with icing, but I can guarantee that is nothing of the sort. Not even comparable in texture, taste, or consistency.

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I was tempted to go back for more, but I restrained myself. It was now about 4PM, and I started to head back in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, still on the lookout for any of my must-eats that I may stumble upon. And stumble upon I did – the restaurant Le Pont de Seine.

I sat down outside and was greeted by a very nice French man whose English was very good – that, combined with its proximity to the tower, meant that I was back in the touristy area, but I was all right with that. I made an exception for this restaurant, which some people say has excellent crepes. But the crepes were not what I was there for.

So far, this was the only place in Paris that I had been able to find an a la carte selection of what I wanted, and so I ordered my soupe gratinée à l’oignon et ses croutons, or gratinated onion soup with cheese and croutons. What better dinner course to have than French onion soup?

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It arrived with a bowl of bread and a wine bottle of water, which was greatly appreciated after all that walking. Steaming hot and spread with oozing cheese, I was excited to dip into this meal.

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Unfortunately, the bread accompanying the meal was a little too heavy on the soda, and it had a back-of-the-mouth aftertaste that I wasn’t too fond of; a bland, almost chlorine taste from too much baking soda. Consequently, the croutons made from that bread permeated the soup with their taste, and the cheese on top was distinctively bitter and also had a deep aftertaste felt far back in the mouth. After eating a few bites, I pushed the croutons to the side and just ate the soup, which still faintly tasted of too much baking soda. The onions were weak, and I couldn’t tell that they were caramelized. In fact, their flavor had been cooked away, leaving only the stocky broth which tasted vaguely earthy and like vegetables despite the presence of any veggie besides the onions.

I’m not saying that French onion soup is bad by any means. But for me specifically, I didn’t particularly care for it. The broth had a faint taste that reminded me of green beans, which is perhaps the main reason that I didn’t like the soup – green beans are the only vegetable I can say without qualm that I hate. If you go to France, try the soup. But I’d had enough personally.

After I paid the tab and moved on, the Eiffel Tower was only a short walk away. I still had a lot of time to kill before it got dark, so I headed to a public restroom first. The line to get into the restroom was worse than the line for the Eiffel Tower!

I’m not kidding.

When it was finally my turn, I had been watching all of the people before and knew what to do. Or so I thought. See, when the person in front of you comes out, you can’t just go in. The door is automatic, and you have to let it slide shut again. The toilet will have a yellow light that says “occupied,” even when there is no one in it. So you have to wait for the blue light to come on, when the toilet is cleaning itself in between each use. Then, when the green light comes on, you can push the button to open the automatic door. I did this, then closed it again behind me with a similar button from inside. I figured out how to wash my hands just fine, but flushing the toilet was another matter entirely.

There were two buttons above the toilet. One had a single drop of water, and one had three drops of water. I assumed that one of them was a short flush and one of them a long flush, and this idea was only more confirmed when I saw a small sign in English that said, “To protect the environment, please choose the flush that best suits your needs.” So, I hit the one with one drop, and a voice came over a speaker in the toilet and said something in French, probably three or four sentences. Yes, there was a loudspeaker in the toilet. So I pressed the one with three drops, and the same thing happened. Pretty much, nothing worked.

After that little escapade, I took a back path around the Eiffel Tower through a cute little garden with a pond full of ducks.

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I traversed the long green field at the base of the tower and sat down, figuring I’d wait for it to get dark. It was just about 6PM. I still had a lot longer to wait than I had planned. After sitting for a while to rest my feet, I decided to go on another food hunt for some other items from my must-eat list that I still hadn’t gotten. I walked away from the Eiffel Tower, following my usual tactic to find good, authentic restaurants. Only this time, I was looking for a boulanger or patissier. Not far down a thin alley, I found one.

When I walked in, I saw the typical pain au chocolat and whatnot that I had either already tried or were too expensive for my tastes, so I was getting ready to leave when the glorious dessert caught my eye – an éclair. Originally, Laduree would have been my éclair place, but seeing as it was getting a makeover I had to find the éclair somewhere else. Once again, the woman spoke no English, and I knew I was in good hands for my sugary delight. The other reason I knew that the éclair would be authentically good? The small shop was swarming with a constantly moving line of Parisians with no tourists included.

I quickly snatched up the éclair so that the line could keep moving and then headed back to the Champ de Mars to await the sunset. The éclair I ordered came with me wrapped securely in a pastry paper and taped shut.

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After the first bite, I knew that I had to savor every moment of that thing. The chocolate filling was fantastic, smooth yet rich without being overwhelming and still allowing a substantial amount of taste to be devoted to the pastry breading and to the different, sweeter chocolate on top.

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As I savored the éclair and gradually sipped away at what remained of my Orangina from earlier, I found a spot on the lawn and sat down as darkness descended, ever so slowly.

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I waited until about 7:45PM in the chilly autumn wind, then I got up and headed as far back away from the tower on the Champ de Mars as I could get, all in preparation for what was to come. I continued to watch as the sky behind the tower grew ever darker.

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I stood at the edge of the Champs de Mars, securing my spot. Then, at 7:58, I flicked on my camera to record the spotlights from the tower as well as the main event. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhLdtX7lnCw

It was well worth the wait, although I am slightly disappointed that pictures couldn’t capture the sparkling tower very well. But I suppose it takes the pictures to realize that, in reality, only a few lights are ever going off at any one time.

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After the brilliant show had ended, I felt that my trip to Paris was complete. I had seen the tower sparkle, and now all was well. I returned to the hotel, and thus ended my final day in Paris.

Ah, I remember now. I promised you in part 1 the story about stabbing people in the back, didn’t I? On the way back from the shimmering Eiffel Tower, the metro line was somewhat crowded. However, it thinned out a station or two after I got on, and so there was plenty of room to stand. Despite that fact, a girl gossiping with her friends was leaning back on the pole in the middle of the train that I was holding on to, and she was leaning in such a way that she took up the entire pole and I had nowhere to grab. She kept leaning back and forth, and my hand grabbing the pole was the one with the papercut from the previous day, so she was grinding the course material of her trench coat back and forth over my paper cut. It really hurt, and I tried to move my hand around, but she just made it impossible to get away from her. Finally, I stretched out my finger so that, should she lean back, she’d get a nasty poke from my fingernail. That didn’t deter her. For the next few stops, I proceeded to continually stab her in the back with my nail until she finally backed off. The end. Wasn’t that a lovely story?

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, which will conclude the account of my trip to Paris with an exciting explanation of how not to get to the airport. In fact, if you want to learn how not to do a lot of things, make sure to check back tomorrow. Seriously though, don’t miss it. You’ll love it.

Sacré Bleu! Je suis en France! Part 1

The title pretty much sums up the only French vocabulary I have.

Okay, not really, but needless to say my French is a sorry comparison to the other languages I can speak. Heck, even tonal Chinese comes out of my mouth better. 😉 But we’ll get back to my French abilities later. Probably much later, because this is going to be long.

Okay, so I headed out to Ferihegy Airport around 12:30 for a flight that was scheduled to leave at 16:10. I stopped and grabbed a chocolate and vanilla cinnamon roll from Tesco and leisurely rode tram 47 to Kalvin ter, connected with the metro, then hit the bus. All was good…except that people were staring at me wondering why I was wearing a raincoat on a sunny 70 degree day. I was not about to try to fit that thing into my laptop bag, which is the only baggage I carry on short trips. That laptop bag, which is exactly the size of my laptop (15 inch screen, etc), carries — with some skillful packing — my laptop, a book to read, a pencil, power adaptors, an MP3 player, headphones, two thick fuzzy socks, a change of clothes/nightwear, a hairbrush, a belt, the cord and power pack for my laptop, two cameras, a camera case, a Sony block camera charger, a money pouch, a cell phone, and a folder containing boarding passes/etc. And it is still not over the size limits of even the most restrictive airline, WizzAir.

Anyway, I got to the airport earlier than planned due to being able to catch the bus immediately upon entering the station. Normally, the wait is about 20 minutes. But I got to the airport with a lot of extra time to spare, so I sat in the wifi lobby and charged my computer after I went through security, which was a breeze as always. On the way through the screeners, I helped out a foreign girl (as in not from Budapest) as she had never flown before. Finally, I sat down at gate A3, about an hour and half before the flight was scheduled to leave, which means about an hour before boarding.

Ah…I’m the only one here. Listen to this wonderful sound — the sound of nothing. Beautiful silence. Then, this happens:

http://youtu.be/yvc4CnArhVI

Okay, that would bother anyone, right? It went on for the whole hour. It was a jackhammer outside the window about ten feet from me. Sensitive ears or not, I’m sure you know how I felt:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDGQTHuKGJ8

Although I would have preferred that nice tropical music. 😉 So, once I’m finally on the bus that’s taking me to the plane, a guy walks up to me and points to his American passport. “Which state are you from?” And thus began a friendship that lasted past the airport and into Paris.

Eventually I discovered that his name was Zack (or Zach, he didn’t say how to spell it). His brother studies in Paris, and he was here for a visit. I didn’t say much to him on the bus, but of course irony would have it that I sit next to him on the plane. So we strike up a conversation about how he had just finished visiting Budapest, what he saw, where we’d like to go, travel itineraries, etc. Although he did fall asleep on the plane. In a not so…graceful…way. But I won’t bring it up in public. He probably doesn’t even know. 😉

So, after a pleasant EasyJet flight, we arrived in Charles De Gaulle airport. Zack and I went out together since we would also be taking the RER B and both needed tickets. Getting the tickets wasn’t as much of an issue as I thought it would be (we happened to hit the one ticket machine in the airport that accepted American Visa cards). After that, we just had to plan out how to get to where we were going. Let the fun begin.

He figured there was a shorter way to his destination than he originally planned, so he was going to ride the RER further than I. I had a sudden change of metro stops for my hotel right before the flight, so I suddenly had to find a way to Strasbourg-Saint-Denis instead of Bonne Nouvelle. No problem, as it appeared that they were both easily accessible by the same line. Or were they? Zack and I talked about it, and I suggested that I should probably get off at Gare du Nord and just wing it from there. As I reached to pull out my itinerary, a (literal) fountain of blood exploded from my finger before I felt the pain.

I swear, in all honesty, that that was the worst paper cut I have ever gotten. It would NOT stop bleeding, no matter what I did, and the blood was copious — down my finger, across my nail, everywhere. It looked like I stuck my finger in a cup of red food coloring. And it does kinda look a bit worse than a normal paper cut that you can’t really see.

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We had to catch the train and couldn’t hang around waiting for my hand to stop bleeding, so we headed out. And might I mention also that finding the RER B was infinitely easier than finding the Leonardo Da Vinci or Sabina-Fiumicino train in Rome. There were actually signs this time.

Once on the train, we got out our little pocket metro maps and verified our routes with each other one last time. By now, Zack and I had been working together for about four or five hours. A woman next to us (who later said that she had been on the same flight as us) saw our maps and asked, in a thick French accent, if we needed help. We verified our itineraries by her, too, and she said that we would be fine going the way we planned. She was quite talkative, but she was also very kind and helpful — most of it wasn’t just idle prattle. She visits Budapest every year and used to live in the French coutryside, apparently.

When my stop at Gare Du Nord came up, I said goodbye to Zack and the nice lady. Zack told me to be careful traveling alone and wished me an enjoyable trip. Then, it was doors open and into the mass of people at GDN, one of Paris’ busiest stations. Soon enough I found a sign for my metro, prayed it was going the right direction (I later learned that it is automatically, for reasons I will discuss soon), and got on.

Sidenote here to say that I rather enjoy the ticketing process in Paris. No ticket checkers — if you don’t have a ticket, you can’t get into the metro building. Or out. Period. And the little suction things that take your tickets are sweet.

So I arrived at Strasbourg-Saint-Denis with no problem, and finding the hotel was similarly easy. The roads were all very obvious, although the hotel itself appeared a little dubious at first — you had to be in the entryway before you could see Hotel des Boulevards. I knocked and was greeted by the friendly desk guy. I wish I could be around to eat any of the breakfast foods that he has, but sadly both breakfasts are too late for me. 😦

I quickly dropped my stuff in my room, gathered together what I needed to go back out, and zoomed back to the metro station. I wonder if I’ll know when I’m in the right place, I thought as I disembarked many stops (and transfers) later. By now, it was about 9:10PM. I was a little concerned that I might be out late enough that the metros would close, but I figured I’d cross that bridge if I came to it, which I was going to do my best to ensure that I didn’t. So, how would I know where I was once I exited the station? Maybe because I was greeted by this as soon as I came to the top of the steps.

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Needless to say that, when looking for the Eiffel Tower, this makes it remarkably easy to find.

I went in the general direction of the glimmering tower and found it quite easily. I took a few quick snapshots before dashing into the line, which was longer than I’d hoped it would be. Still, I was quite surprised at the speed with which it moved — at about 9:15 I got into line, and I was at the top of the tower by 10:15. That includes standing in the original line, buying a ticket, going through security, going up a slow loft with a line waiting for it, getting out at the second floor to change lofts with another wait, and going through another line. I’d say that’s pretty good considering that this is the Eiffel Tower that we’re talking about and that I bought tickets on the spot. I didn’t want to dilly-dally, though, not only because I’m not one of those kind of people in general but because I was concerned about how late I’d be out. I spent quite a bit of time at the tower, though! And it’s also where I did my Paris vlog, because there did end up being only one — mostly because I just didn’t have anything interesting to say at other places. The vlog intended for in front of the Eiffel Tower is…something else. Don’t worry, it’ll be posted, it’s just not a vlog any more.

Anyway, the view from the top was great. I’ll be honest, I debated for a long time about whether or not to go all the way to the top. It is significantly more money to go to the top than it is to go only to the second floor, and I’d heard many people say that the view from both the top and the second floors are virtually the same. After having experienced it, my personal opinion is this — what the heck are you talking about? I would have been so disappointed if I only went to the second floor! It looked like a city, nothing more. But from the top, it seemed more coherent. Let me show you. Second floor —

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That’s great. In fact, that’s beautiful. Until you get to see this from the top —

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To me, that’s so much better. You can really see why Paris is called the City of Lights. So if you asked my opinion, I would tell everyone to go all the way to the top. Another tip — if you go to the Eiffel Tower at all, ever, be a bully. If you’re not willing to, you’ll never get any pictures. Let me revise that — be a bully to the people who need it. There are a lot of teens that will be obnoxious and stupid, doing stupid things that keep you from enjoying your time. Try “pardon” or something, but don’t be afraid to body tackle through them. It works.

Thankfully, it wasn’t hard to get back to the hotel and the metros were still very much open and lively. It was around 11:30PM when I was heading back, and I hadn’t eaten anything since around 1PM. I was hungry! And wouldn’t you know it, a cute little crepe stand just appeared before me!

This trip to Paris is similar to the one to Rome in that it will be souvenir-less; the only souvenirs I’m collecting are food. There are multiple reasons for this, which I may blog about separately sometime in the future. For now, though, just know that crepes were on my list of foods I’d like to eat while in France. Cheap and convenient, I picked up a chestnut crepe and headed away with it. After the first bite, so many unique colors and ideas flooded my mind.

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I’ve never had anything with chestnut creme before, but it was delightful in a new sort of way. Smooth and earthy but with a small jolt of sweetness at the sides of the mouth, it’s difficult to describe. When I bit into it, I actually saw a color as the best way to understand it — the color amber. Warm, with a resonating timbre. I rather enjoyed that crepe.

Anyway, after arriving back in my  hotel, I didn’t get to bed until around 1AM! But that’s okay; the next day ended up going well as well. But ah, that’s a story for another time. For tomorrow, specifically. I can write it while I’m on the plane. 🙂

So yeah, stay tuned for tomorrow, since it’ll be way more exciting blog-wise than today was. You know, ninja-ing into lines, speaking French (for realisies!), stabbing people in the back (also for realsies), all the fun stuff. I need to sleep so I can get up early to catch my flight. Oh, and watch my vlog if you haven’t. The correct one, now that I’ve fixed that little blip in the radar. 😉

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The REAL Paris Vlog

Sorry to those of you who watched my “blog” last night when it was originally posted. I made a mistake and posted the wrong video. Here is the real one.

“It’s after midnight and I haven’t even started writing the blog. For now, you’ll just have to settle for the link to the vlog and wait until tomorrow when I delve into all the juicy goodness that is my trip to Paris.”