Category Archives: Travel: Europe

Paris: the middle part

I was doing pretty well for the first part. But being in Paris with a person who has never been there before and wanting to show them ALL THE THINGS takes a toll on your feet. Especially at the Louvre. Never again!

Although… it did amuse me to catch Magikarp by the pyramid fountain there. Maybe I’ll make an exception.

By the fourth day, I was sort of museumed out, but we still had more to cover. I had fond memories of the Picasso museum from the 90’s, though it didn’t seem to impress my hubby. He did, however, have a transcendent experience over Monet’s water lily paintings.

The Musée D’Orsay was the only museum that I really required us to go to, so I was completely exhausted but very happy to be there.

I tromped all over the museum until I found my favorite painting by Henri Rousseau. I was exhausted but I was not going to miss this painting.

Despite the fact that we were there for 10 days, it really felt like a whirlwind tour of Paris. I felt more like a tourist than I was used to feeling. I lived there for a while during school, so I was kind of accustomed to being more of a resident, enjoying la vie quitodienne. I don’t even know if I can recommend little out-of-the-way places in Paris at this point. We basically staggered home each night, ate in one of the little restaurants on the way to the hotel from the metro station, and then passed out in bed till we got up in the morning to do it all over again.

Oh wait! I do have one kind of an interesting fact to share; it seems that the iconic surly waiters of Paris have been replaced by adorable hipster waiters who laugh with you, make jokes, generally seem happy to be alive and help you with the menu. That was kind of cool.

But I really missed going to little grocery stores and looking at weird food packaging, sitting in cafés and sketching (as trite as that sounds I actually am an artist so I art a bit here and there ;)… also, COFFEE) and having random people talk to me about what I was sketching. The French are dear, lovely folks with a different set of priorities than North Americans. They won’t tell you their life story in the first 20 minutes that you meet them (like my happy Texan cohorts) or chatter aimlessly about life. They will ask you about your politics and expect you to be able to back up your thoughts and feelings with the reasons you think so. I understand that and can more or less do so in French, but I also find it super adorable when they get happy chatty about me sketching AND being able to speak French (despite the fact that I am an American who learned the bulk of my French in Texas.) It’s the little things in life, you see.

It was just going by too fast.

Oh well. I suppose I’ll just have to go back.

I thought it was going to be cold in October, but I was in short sleeves every day, which was really nice walking around the parks and made for some fairly striking pictures of the sculptures there, but seriously half the clothes I brought I couldn’t wear because they were too warm. I was frankly a little disappointed not to be able to wear my scarves. I’d worked so hard during my time in France to master the art of wearing a scarf all for it to be too sweaty to do so! C’est la vie!

And finally we ended up at the Eiffel Tower at night.

Beautiful… and still, to this day, startles me with how big it really is when you walk up to it.

Also new, and saddening, is all the security that they have around the base of the Eiffel Tower. The last time I went there in 1999 it was free and open, there were hotdog vendors who sold amazing hotdogs with the mustard that their grandmother made that morning (holy cow, so good) and now you have to go through a long line, a gate, and an inspection of your bags and generally cranky security folks who would much rather be drinking wine in a cafe enjoying the atypically beautiful October weather thankyouverymuch.

Dear human race,
Can we please get our acts together and be nice to each other so that we don’t have to go through this crap? Thanks ever so.
Love,
fredlet

Again, we got back to the hotel about 2 in the morning, so I was rather looking forward to parking my weary butt on the Eurostar for a few hours to get to London for a sneaky little trip-in-a-trip. 20k steps a day (according to my FitBit) can wear you out.

J’❤ Paris.

Also, J’ ❤ this bunny.


Next up, those London parts… stay tuned.

WowAir Basic Fare Packing

I used to go to Green Bay, Wisconsin in February and March (sometimes as early as January) and, as you might realize, it can get a little nippy there. But after doing this for about 10 years, the panic over “OMG I’m going to freeze to death!” calmed down to “Why is it so freaking hot inside?”

Most of the time I ended up in a long sleeve layering shirt with a snarky T-shirt on top of that and yoga pants. When I did go outside, I had a Patagonia down sweater, and for the occasional sleigh ride (it was a vacation) I just put on snow pants over my yoga pants or leggings; whatever I happen to be wearing that day.


Special guest star: barn kitteh at the Rock K Ranch

I have it on good authority from a Green Bay resident that Iceland is lovely and now I really want to try Wow Air and their basic fare (here are a couple of people who have done this: Pam Yang and Dariadaria) and I want to use my BoardingBlue bag which meets the free carry-on requirement for Wow Air.

I’m pretty sure it will carry all I need since I won’t be camping, I’ll probably just take a day tour to see some waterfalls, do the Blue Lagoon-natch, and noodle around town taking pictures. If I can manage it, I’d like to see the black sand beach – but that is negotiable. I also really, really want to see the northern lights, but I hear that can be tricky. Well, we’ll give it a shot.
(Suggestions for fun? Leave those tips in the comments!)

I have a comfy pair of Sorel winter boots (the Waterfall model from a few years ago – tested in GB) I can wear on the plane, my snow pants, I have a thin smartwool sweater for another layer, my Marmot rain/wind layer packs up super flat and I can carry my down jacket with hat and mittens stored in the pocket. I think this will be fairly easy to accomplish.

Here’s the BoardingBlue with my snow pants snuggled in:


And then my standard packing cube o’ stuff tucked in:

I’ll bring other stuff like flip flops and a swimsuit, my travel towel, packable daypack, etc, but there’s lots of room left in my bag… though not enough for the 40 Icelandic sweaters I want to buy, but that is another issue all together 😉

Excitement. I haz it. 😉

Paris; the first bit

I haven’t been to Paris since 1999 and I really, really missed it. I wasn’t certain how much had changed, a city that large and that cosmopolitan clearly has to have changed greatly since almost 20 years ago. But then again we’re talking about a city that has been kicking around before the Romans decided to put their mark on it.

The architecture, the layout, the parks, and the museums of course were still there, but Paris has always found a way to reinvent itself. The citizens have become more diverse, things have evolved, and, of course, it reflects the outside world while still retaining its own self.

Also there are push scooters EVERYWHERE. It’s pretty hilarious to see such stylish people scooting their way down the sidewalks towards a metro station.

I’m still also giggling at the happily surprised expression on Parisian faces when I respond in French, and then they ask if I speak French and I say yes. I’m not certain why this is so atypical. I guess having aged a bit since I was there last I don’t look like the Irish person that I used resemble. (The Irish tend to speak lots of languages; I’m kind of in awe of them.) they used to not be so surprised that I spoke French and would inevitably ask me if I was Irish. But then they were actually astounded when I said I am from Texas.

The one thing I did miss this trip was being able to snoop around grocery stores like Monoprix or just the little local fruit & veg market and find an adorable grocer to visit every day for my white peaches or tomatoes.

We spent so much time in museums catching my husband up on basic Paris and it’s fabulous collection of art that by the end of the day my feet were in active revolt and it was all I could do to catch the metro home, find a little restaurant to eat at, then manage to get back to the hotel room and pass out.

I think I bruised my feet. Poor feet, I’m so sorry!

Note to self: bring the whole bottle of Tylenol next time. Speaking of Tylenol, that was fun; trying to remember paracetamol and conveying sore feet to the French pharmacist.

We managed to walk about 8 miles the first day just excited to be out and about in the weather that was pretty glorious for October. We spent the next day in the Louvre though we only saw two of the wings… and only 7 miles of walking. Had dinner at the café (Café Marly) that wasn’t there when I was there last – I really should stop comparing to last time because there’s too many things to list. Sigh.

I’ve actually taken several people to Paris for their first visits. There’s several things that I teach them that make being in Paris much easier. The first one is how to use the metro. It’s really not that difficult, but getting oriented takes a couple of rides. Another learning experience is to survive eating in a restaurant (ordering, asking for water, the bill, etc. Mostly the waiters now are younger and are pretty mellow and also they tend to speak at least smattering of English, so really not too much of an issue). Though my favorite food to eat is the street carts full of sandwiches jambon et fromage, crèpes Nutella, pain au chocolat and all of the other heavenly things that I seem to live on while I’m there. Not to mention Kinder eggs; I’m pretty sure they have medicinal properties…

Given my druthers I’d walk around with a shopping bag full of sammiches and white peaches to eat gazing wistfully into the french cooking supply stores and quite happily skip most of the major museums now.

Worst art degree holder ever!

The third day was another long walking day; the Orangerie and the Orsay. Said hello to some of my favorite paintings by Henri Rousseau etc and marveled at how much the museum space has evolved.

Why am I so astounded by this change? I guess because when I am there it is such a place out of time and cemented so thoroughly in my consciousness that I want to keep it the way it is. Guess I better make sure I can visit it in the real world instead this time and keep up with the evolution. They say you can’t go back again but happily Paris keeps evolving into a slightly new place while keeping true to itself. I’m very pleased about this.

Good job, Paris.

Though I did have plenty of things to revisit, I still needed to go see some new things myself. I had never been to Versailles so we took a day trip out to the palace.

To be honest I was not exactly excited about going there. It isn’t my favorite time period, the decorations to me don’t seem beautiful; but gaudy. I really prefer the medieval period. If we are going to get down to brass tacks, the Cluny museum would’ve been my first choice, but the request was for castles and art just so we went Versailles.

Full disclosure, I also have a French degree. So I have a little more background in French history than most of your casual tourists there. I was a little bit predisposed not to be excited about the palace but I put on my best happy face and we went through and had a good day nonetheless. Wasn’t my favorite, so I don’t think I’ll go back unless it is to spend the entire day in the gardens; it was a lovely day and they are really beautiful and so very huge you need an entire day to see them.

If I’m going to do more palaces, we’ll probably just head down to the Loire Valley – I’ll demand more cheese and wine on the tour.

Favorite things on my trip

You try and try to get the perfect travel items; some work well and some you end up, well, handing to random people on the street because you just can’t even…
These are the things I gravitated toward (just about) every day on my trip.

The EYN case for iPhone 6+
EYN.jpgI put my metro tickets in there, my current museum pass/ticket, sometimes a few € and I always had my phone in my hand. I also attached a quick release lanyard for the few times I needed to hang the phone around my neck to do something. I pretty much use this anytime I fly (especially on domestic flights where I keep my passport card in it in combo with my e-boarding pass) and on most trips. | Buy at Amazon

…and I carried the EYN with this Lanyard
This has a round attachment point on the end so I sometimes put my finger through it to keep from dropping my phone during picture taking times. I can’t vouch that it is any sturdier than other lanyards with different release clips, but I prefer this style. | Buy at Amazon

Tom Bihn wallet
Clear-Organizer-Wallet-D01_1024x1024Nicely slim, ID window shows my passport card, second little slot has whatever other card is relevant to my day for easy access (a carnet of metro tickets or my Paris pass card for this last trip) then my credit cards in RFID blocking sleeves at the back. I use a clip to keep it anchored to my coin pouch and then clipped into my day bag so I don’t run the risk of it falling out of my purse inadvertantly. | Buy at TomBihn.com

Tom Bihn pouch(es)
So many sizes available! I use a small one for coins and bills of 1 currency (I had one for € and one for £ – very necessary since they tend to work with many heavy coins that would otherwise overburden most wallets) and finally, one medium sized to keep used metro tickets, museum passes and the inevitable business cards the restaurants hand out now. (Someday I will be minimalist enough to recycle these bits of paper, but I like to paste them into my written journal so, clearly, today is not that day 😉 | Buy at TomBihn.com

4 port USB intl kit
Oh I was so very pleasantly surprised by this! It has the base 4 port USB charger but then it has ends for worldwide use that just slide over the power prongs to make it useful in whatever country you are in. I’m almost to the point where I can get away with USB only charging so this is super handy.  Perfect for phone charging at the end of a full day along with the several phone batteries I kept in my day bag.| Buy at Amazon

Smartwool t’s/Merino t’s
Good thing I love these shirts! I tested the anti-smelly properties by wearing one to Versailles, then letting it air out for a day then bringing it as my only shirt for the quick London overnight (2 days of sightseeing and two Eurostar trips) then another day of airing then the 24 hour travel day back to the states. I sanity checked this by asking my hubby if he could smell me, he said no. Note: I did bathe each day! I promise. Highly recommended for travel. (Invest, and also get a wool wash if you are neurotic and want to keep them forever like I do…) | Buy at Amazon

Leggings

I knew that I had a ton of museum hours in front of me with a new Paris person in tow. I was not wrong.

The only way I survived 9 freaking hours in the Louvre (and that was just 1 day of a 10 day trip) that I needed to be soooooper comfortable. I also was quite certain that I would be kicked out of Paris if I wore yoga pants everyday. So I brought a variety of leggings in addition to my jeans, my favorite pair being from Torrid. Pretty pattern, sturdy fabric (alas, no pocket but it is leggings after all) and made it mostly tolerable. My feet were whining greatly at this point!

What is your go to travel accessory? Let me know in the comments…