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Paris: the day of Diana

Here is a look at the Seine river from our hotel room window.  We rose on the morning of day 2 to find it quite overcast.  Not to be deterred by the gloomy weather, we got all gussied up, me in a skirt and sandals and him in shorts and a tee, and headed out for our first full day in Paris.  The moment we headed out the exit we were shocked with a chilly breeze (the day before it had been sweltering), and I turned tail and headed back up to our room to change into jeans.

The first stop of the day was this cute little Boulangerie a couple of blocks from our hotel.  So cute, in fact, that we proceeded to eat there every single morning for the rest of our trip.  I dare anyone to try and stroll past a Boulangerie window and not be swooned by the sweet Parisian atmosphere and the aroma of fresh baked breads and pastries.

Because it was getting close to lunchtime, we split this savory french bread dressed in melted cheese and tomato slices.

Next, we headed to the Louvre.

This glass pyramid was constructed in 1989 due to some problems with the main entrance of the museum.  It is now used as the entrance – visitors enter the structure, then immediately descend down by way of escalator to the lobby of the museum.  When plans were made to build the pyramid, there was much controversy as many people believed the modernity detracted from the beauty of the Louvre’s architecture.  While Jon loved it and thought it was brilliant, I was, at first a bit more skeptical; however, it didn’t take long for it to really grow on me and by the time we left I found the contrast of styles quite charming.

This sculpture of the Greek Goddess Nike owns the top of the front entry staircase.

Gotta love the peacefully quiet ambiance.  lol.

Speaking of peacefulness, poor Mona Lisa will never have peace in her life again.  This room was a madhouse.  It was rather surreal to see The Mona Lisa in person, but by the end of the experience I wondered if it was worth it!  These people were crazy.  We got pushed, pulled, elbowed, stepped on, and even harshly reprimanded by another museum goer for taking pictures, when there is no rule about using cameras as long as there is no flash.

As I said, however, it was still quite novel.

And of course we both had to have our picture taken.  If nothing else to make all the work of getting to the front of the mob worthwhile! ha.

On our way out.

We stopped for a snack at this little place – and the owner was a bit crazy!  He even looks crazy.

I ended up with the only thing they had outside the realm of ham and hotdogs – a baguette with cheese and tomatoes.  Very similar to what I had for breakfast a few hours earlier.  Cheese and bread actually made quite a presence in my life while in Paris.  All my hopes for veggies and legumes were crushed as we encountered cafe after cafe, serving jambon (ham), and fromage (cheese).  And bread of course.  I made due, though, and tried to enjoy the cheesefest.

Next up, we visited this Cultural Center.  It was built with all the electrical wires on the outside.  Nestled in among the charming French architecture, it is seen as an eyesore by many people and was also very controversial when it was built.

While I personally didn’t see much culture inside, I did find a couple of wonderful things – this clock, which is the exact same cuckoo clock we have hanging in our living room (random much?) and this….

The Mini Diana camera.  It is a smaller version of the Diana F+ camera – but even better because it uses 35 mm film and has the unique ability to shoot half frame or square frame photos.  Throughout our last days in Paris, I used two rolls of film in this gal and got some really amazing pictures out of them.  If you stop back by tonight, I’ll be putting them up on the blog.  It’s my new baby.

Don’t worry, Olive, you’re still my favorite:)

I’m not sure which one of us is more excited about the new addition to our family:)

Okay, okay.  We’ll start taking pictures with Diana rather than of Diana;)

How about if we bike over and get some food??

Enter the Canal Saint Martin, Paris’ lesser known waterway (next to the Seine) that runs through old parts of the city and is lined with beautiful trees, cafes and locals living it up in their own Parisian way.  We strolled by the water for awhile before stumbling on this perfect little cafe.

Cheese Ravioli with a cream and tomato sauce

And Spinach Ravioli with cheese on top

We shared these two dishes, and it was the best meal this side of heaven.  Regardless of the fact that it was technically still cheese and bread (my third of the day), it was so delicious it didn’t matter.  The cheese was French, and it had just a hint of sweetness.  I die.

And the bread, of course.

We worked off dinner by biking home the long way back to our hotel.  Hands down, the best part of the trip.

Did you know that every hour for ten minutes the Eiffel Tower illuminates with these tiny flashing bulbs that make it appear as if it is glittering?  I didn’t know that beforehand, but it was so beautiful.  We would often stop at it’s feet on our way home at night and linger for just a few extra minutes to catch the show.

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our first look at Paris

We rose early in the morning to make our 10am flight to Paris.  I had planned meticulously for what I would eat on our flight from the states to Europe (see this post); however, it is a little bit harder to plan for travel in the middle of a trip.  So, I found myself scouring the airport for a decent breakfast option, and all I could come up with was this:

That’s right, a big hot bowl of spaghetti with marinara.  When McDonalds is the only other option, spaghetti at 9am starts to look decently appealing.  I have to admit, it was tasty:)

I ended up being thankful that I ate a heavy breakfast because once we arrived in Paris, it was about 7 hours before we ate again.  If you know me at all, you know that doesn’t fly.

We had decided instead of taking a cab from the airport to our hotel, we would take the train and then connect to the subway.  In theory this was a brilliant idea, and I can’t say we wouldn’t do it again, but it was rough.  We were on that train for over an hour, it was sweltering hot, and we went through really sketchy parts of the city.  Picture us crammed on this train with our suitcases and some questionable looking characters in 95 degree heat.  Not a happy Candice.  Then when we came up out of the subway, we had no idea where we were and spent another half hour at least trying to get to our hotel.   With two suitcases in tow.  Not a glamorous arrival for sure.

It ended up okay though, and at least we saved a lot of money….which we readily spent a week later taking a cab back to the airport;)  This girl can only “rough it” so much.  lol.

Once we got cleaned up at the hotel, our first stop was of course, the Eiffel Tower.

Hours later we finally made it to this cute little cafe.  Notice my “I’m smiling for the camera but I’m going to kill someone if I don’t get some food asap” smile.  It was definitely worth the wait, though.

I ordered this vegetarian plate which included a bagel, cream cheese, pesto, onions, pickles, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes and oil soaked eggplant, bell pepper and zucchini.  With a side of fries.  This plate was really phenomenal.  Or maybe I was just so hungry that anything would have been appetizing.  The only dilemma was how to go about eating this beautiful meal (the French put so much care into the presentation of food).  I ended up putting the cream cheese on the bagel, open faced, and then adding the veggies and a drizzle of pesto.  The next picture I’m showing not because it looks so mouthwatering, but so you can see why the waiter looked at me quite strangely the next time he came to our table.

I completely ruined the presentation, but at this point I was so famished I could have cared less.

Jon ordered a club sandwich with fries, and was happy as a clam.  By the way, did you know that in Paris a soda costs between 7 and 8 dollars if you order it from a restaurant?  Wine is cheaper than soda.

In case you haven’t noticed from my vacation recaps so far, Jon and I love to wander around new cities.  We almost always walk rather than take the subway if at all possible.  And we never take a cab.  We just want to see as much of the city as possible, and there’s no better way to do that than hoofing it everywhere we go!  The only downside is that we always end up walking at least 7 or 8 miles throughout the course of the day, and after day one of that our feet are screaming.  This trip was no different.  There were moments when I compared the pain to how my feet felt at the end of our marathon last spring. The upside is that it often makes for great photo ops!

Doesn’t this look like a backdrop?

And finally the Parisian Arc de Triomphe.  We’ve seen the Laotian version, we’ve seen the Spanish version.  And now we’ve seen the real deal.  As expected, it was the biggest, and quite possibly the most beautiful.

After our visit to the Arc, we continued walking along the Champs Elysee, which is one of the most famous streets in world and is the most expensive strip of real estate in Paris.  It’s saturated with high end shops and restaurants, and also serves as the final stretch of the Tour de France.  We splurged on a Starbucks drink, but wisely waited until a little later to grab a snack because it’s also one of the most expensive areas in Paris.

We didn’t wait long, however, before grabbing this delicious crepe.  We honestly aren’t big crepe people (probaby not many Americans are I guess:), but they are so popular in Europe, and we couldn’t resist having this cultural experience.  Obviously.

We passed by this extravagant government building that sat alongside the Seine river on our the way to our ultimate and final destination for the day.

The Louvre Museum.

Please stop back by later for the daily post and then tomorrow for a look inside the Louvre!

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Barcelona: dia tres

Our third lovely day in Barcelona started off with a little breakfast at this sweet Boulangerie.  We loved these little corner pastry and bread shops and stopped in often.

We ordered a quiche…

…and a sinfully delicious pastry to share.  Normally I would cringe at the thought of such a buttery, chocolaty, indulgent breakfast, but something about the charm of this city wiped clear my conscience and I enjoyed every little morsel.  Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be on vacation in another culture?  All bets are off when it comes to experiencing something new, right?

After breakfast, we strolled over to this work of art, La Sagrada Familia.  This Roman Catholic church is nestled in the middle of the busy streets of Barcelona.  Construction on it began in 1886 under the instruction of a famous architect, Antoni Gaudi.  Construction is expected to go on until 2026.  It was incredible!

The opposite side, where we entered.

Close up of the front entrance

and the inside

there is something novel to me about this incredible church with equipment and workmen filling the inside

Next up was a trek to the Mediterranean.  The beach was beautiful as was the water.  Not having worn our swimsuits, we marveled at the scenery for a few minutes, then moved on to get some pizza!  We were starved!

My little vegetarian eyes lit up as soon as they spotted the sign reading “vegetarian pizza,” but this pie left something many things to be desired.  I think it had been sitting out a little longer than I’d like to imagine.  Regardless, we ate most of it in an effort to tame our hunger and then headed back toward our hotel for some pool time.

Along the way we enjoyed the endless quaintness of the Spanish architecture…

and somehow couldn’t resist joining in on some good ole’ fashioned tourist fun:)  While Jon and I typically shy away from overtly touristy attractions, I couldn’t stay away from the fruit man!  Who could?

We denied our itch to keep exploring the city, surrendering instead to the luxurious rooftop pool of our hotel. I think this was the most relaxing part of the entire trip for me.

After lounging at the pool, we were off again.  This time to an area of town which features more work of Gaudi.  Among the quaint, Spanish buildings lining the streets, you’ll find random modern architecture mixed in.  These buildings were insane and interesting to say the least.

Not modern, yet too beautiful to be left uncaptured.

Stopping at this Croissantery to get a bite to tide us over until dinner.  The Spanish way – a big baguette!

And a couple of hours later…time to eat again!

Sangria to start with…obvs.

Next, a dish found on many a Spanish menu – Patatas Bravas.  Aka fried potatoes.  With spicy sauce of course.  Delish.

And for our main dish, an entree that is seemingly quite popular on the streets of Barcelona – vegetable Paella.  I still can’t pronounce it.  It was really very tasty.  It basically consisted of rice, and vegetables, sauteed in a savory sauce served in a skillet.  Nothing to get too worked up over, but pretty good nonetheless.

To end our last night in Spain, we were lucky enough to stumble upon this light show that was going on at the National Museum.  There were droves of people there, and for good reason.  It was beautiful and entertaining to say the least.  The perfect, romantic evening to end our days in Espanya.

This fountain “danced” and lit up in an array of colors in beat with music that played out over the city.

Next stop: the City of Lights.

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Barcelona: dia dos

From eating bikinis to holding the hand of a giant, day 2 in Barcelona was one to remember.  Here’s our day in pictures:

We hunted down this restaurant that was built in 1786 – it is the oldest restaurant in Barcelona.  Sadly, it was closed, so we didn’t actually get to eat there.  It made for a cute picture, though.

Instead we opted for this cute little cafe – Cafe de L’Opera.  We saw it the day before while strolling down La Rambla, one of the busiest and most interesting streets in the city.

I ordered a bikini – hold the ham:)  A bikini is a staple menu item at most restaurants here.  It is essentially a ham and cheese sandwich – so you can see exactly how exciting my lunch really was.  It actually was quite tasty, though.  Jon went with the full bikini.  He’s crazy like that.

Jon had scouted out this quaint little herb shop in our guidebook called L”Herboristeria. Del Rei.  It really was just a little hole-in-the-wall shop that was cute as it could be. It even had this giant guestbook for us to sign, leaving our mark on this little place forever.

Adorable, right?  And guess what else…

…chia seeds!  It was the most random moment when I spotted them.  This sweet little lady is the owner of the shop, and she didn’t even know what chia seeds are.  Jon nearly brought her to tears by showing her the picture of her shop in our guidebook.  Sweet.

The building on the left is an old government building where the royal family used to live.  Inside you find these absurdly large statues of royalty. Kind of creepy…yet fun!

And moving on…

Sweet little nuns.

I love this little girl – from a distance of course:)

Beautiful church – even though it’s under construction.  That is another quirk about Barcelona  – there is construction everywhere!

Remember yesterday when I mentioned pick pockets being a serious problem here?  We found this sign in Starbucks.

Arc de Triomf – when Jon and I were in Laos, the main (and only) sight to see was the Arc de Triumph, which was built by the French in Laos.  This was my favorite part of day 2 in Barcelona because it was so beautiful.  There was a huge park that backed up to the Arc and we spent some time just laying in the grass and walking around.  The weather was beautiful and there were a lot of Spaniards out just hanging with friends, sun bathing, playing games etc.

Jon and I in front of the Laotian Arc de Triumph two years ago.  I have to say I’m pretty excited to actually get to visit the Parisian one in the next few days.

Jon chillin’ on the Arc de Triomf

lovin’ on each other:)

Next on our path was this group of yoginis.  I seriously wanted to join them, but I resisted.  We still had sights to see!

Cascada in Parc de la Ciutadella – Okay, honestly that is all I know about this place.  We saw it, climbed it, took pictures of it…just because it was so dang pretty.

Another beautiful church.  I have to say, though, that if you’re into this sort of thing you must stop back by tomorrow because there will be an insanely gorgeous and amazing church in tomorrow’s post.

Mid-afternoon snack – a veggie pastry

and the precious little shop we bought it from

One of our last stops for the day was this Mediterranean port – there was a mall at the end of the pier and we did a little shopping at H & M.

And of course to top off the day Jon and I found our Mexican food.  This guacamole was some of the best I’ve ever tasted!  I also ordered a vegetarian burrito that was to die for. It was filled with veggies, refried beans, avocado, lettuce and some kind of unidentified sauce that was the key ingredient.  Delish.

That’s all for day 2 (I’m blogging a day behind)!  Tomorrow morning we leave for Paris.  I’m going to try to keep posting, but our Paris hotel doesn’t have internet, so I’m going to try to track down an internet cafe.  If you don’t hear from me, I’ll post recaps once we’re back in the States!

I miss you all, and I hope you’re all having a great week!

P.S.  I love my husband.

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hola Barcelona

Hola!  We arrived in  Barcelona yesterday morning after getting only a couple hours of sleep on the red eye.  By the time we caught a bus to our hotel and showered, it was about 1pm.  Despite our tiredness, we decided to get out and explore this beautiful city.

Here is our day in pictures:

First stop on our exploration was the National Art Museum.  We didn’t go in, opting to enjoy the beauty from the outside instead:)

The pictures are a bit dark because it was overcast.  The weather is amazing, though, 70 degrees during the day and 60′s at night.

Looking back toward Plaza Espanya (where our hotel is) from the museum

where the 1992 Olympic Games were held

We went to La Boqueria (the main outdoor market)  and I couldn’t resist snapping photos of the beautiful fruits and vegetables

the architecture and structure of Barcelona is absolutely quaint and breathtaking.  I love it – it has stolen my heart.

there are many horses and carriages

the front of our hotel – we love this big wooden door that slides open

the Torre Agbar building – or as the guidebook calls it “Barcelona’s own cucumber shaped building”

We are spending plenty of time on the subway where pick pocketing is supposedly the worst.  We keep getting warned by complete strangers to be careful.  Today a security guard walked up to us on the subway and told us to put our camera, which was around Jon’s neck, in our bag.  They are serious.

We finished off yesterday with dinner at a quaint little restaurant on the side of the street.

I ordered the vegetarian plate – hummus, pita, falafel balls, grape leaves stuffed with rice and a salad.  It was delish!  I haven’t had any problem avoiding meet whatsoever.  I just say “soy vegetariano” and they know exactly what I want….or don’t want:)

Jon ordered this chicken dish with hummus, falafel and salad

That’s day one in a nutshell.  We are loving Spain and the people here are wonderful.  The things that really stand out to me so far are that pickpocketing is a really big deal (but people are being so kind to try and warn us), this should be called the “city of love” because everyone is always kissing each other, the weather is perfect and the streets and alleyways are adorable, and Spaniards are very laid back and friendly.  I don’t want to ever leave!  I guess I’ll let Jon peel me away, so we can go to Paris;)

Stay tuned for day 2 and to find out what I found in a little hole in the wall shop that is very dear to my heart.  Adios!

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