Monday, December 27, 2010


True Story from Today: (I don't know why I feel like it's necessary to disclaim that this is a story that actually happened today, wouldn't that be assumed if I'm blogging about it TODAY? I digress.)

*Ahem* Once again, TRUE STORY FROM TODAY:
Mom and I were about to do something, I don't remember what, and we both decided to we needed to go to the bathroom before we did said mystery activity. So we start walking down the hall towards our respective bathrooms and we come upon a dark, small, poop-looking object on the floor. (It's amazing how often poop seems to come up on this blog) I had seen it there for a while, but I had just disregarded it at a black fluff or a leaf or something. But mom stoops over, looks at it, and this is the conversation that followed:
Mom: "Ugh will you get me some toilet paper to pick this up?"
Katie: "Eeeeew, really? Did she (the dog) really just do that one little poop right in the middle of the floor? Why would she go here? Doesn't she normally find a good hiding spot or something?"
Mom: "Well I think it was one of those clinger types from when she went outside"
Katie: "Like a dinglehopper????"
Mom: "Yeah."

Now this is where the conversation ended on the outside, but on the inside my mind was still thinking about what I had just said. If you're the type that is well versed in colloquialisms then you know that the term that I just used was totally incorrect. Fortunately, I kind of sensed that that wasn't the right word, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what it would be... Now if you're the type that is well versed in useless Disney trivia, like myself for example, then you will also know that a "dinglehopper" is the term that Scuttle from the Little Mermaid used to refer to a fork...

So, as I was pondering what the right word was for the situation that had just ensued, it only took me a minute to remember that what I had actually meant was "dingleBERRY" not "dinglehopper"....but then I remembered what a dinglehopper actually was ("actually" being relative considering this term that is used in the Little Mermaid is still totally fictional) and broke into hysterics. I don't know why, but for some reason the fact that I had used dinglehopper instead of dingleberry really hit my funny bone. I explained my blunder to my mom but she failed to see how funny it was...

Oh well, I guess my only child-ness made an appearance today.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Well that was unexpected...

Well, I said I would let you know how the Mousse Chocolat went didn't I?

So this morning (WOO CHRISTMAS DAY!), after appropriate Christmas morning festivities, I remembered the mousse and got pumped to try it. I went in the fridge and took a few bites, and it was good!! I little on the pudding-y side, but still tasted good and wasn't nearly as bad as pudding. (I'm not a fan of pudding) So I was like, great! Good job Katie on the awesome mousse! Rock on! But alas, it wasn't to be....

About an hour later, I started to feel a little funny. My head started hurting and I really needed to lay down. Then a few minutes later, I felt REALLY nauseous...and a LOVELY couple hours later, I, do I say this nicely...lost my cookies you might say. So then of course, a nap was necessary since it had been an exhausting few hours and after wards I felt a lot better. Therefore, while the mousse chocolat tasted delicious, I will be going nowhere near it for a while...or at least until I make a different recipe that the final product doesn't include raw eggs. Although, to be fair we did make soup last night from a mix that was kind of old, so who knows what made me feel so terrible. Either way, I'm not taking my chances...

The first time chocolate mousse has let me down...also the first time that I made it. I guess I'll leave it to the professionals from now on...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mousse Chocolat

So after reading my France posts and then the title of THIS post, you're all probably out there going "ENOUGH WITH THE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE ALREADY FOR THE LOVE OF PIZZA!!" Well I'm about to write more about Chocolate Mousse. So cry about it!

So SINCE mom and I are now hard core connoisseurs of fine chocolate mousse, I decided I wanted to try and make some for our Christmas dinner tomorrow. I found tons of recipes, but all the reviews for them said that were more like pudding and less like mousse. Pass. What was so awesome about the french chocolate mousse was the texture and how light and fluffy it was. So I was determined to find a recipe that wasn't going to be like pudding.

(This feels so Julie and Julia right now...maybe I should stuff a duck or something tomorrow too)

FINALLY I think I found one. Notice my word choice there... I "think" I found one. I used said verbiage because of the following:

It's Christmas eve (duh), ergo I figured it would be good to make the mousse tonight so it had enough time to set in the fridge. So I started melting the chocolate and whipping the egg whites, but the chocolate never fully melts. There's little lumps in it. The recipe said to add a few tablespoons of water to help the chocolate melt...hmm. So mom and I decide to not worry about it and press on. So I "fold" the egg whites into the chocolate (that is now mixed with egg yolks as well) and what we end up with is a light brown splotchy mess that looks kinda like nasty poop. (sorry for the blunt delivery there, but there's really no other way to explain it without going into full detail. No one wants that.) Nonetheless, in our typical fashion we decide to pour it into glasses and put it in the fridge anyway. We both tried it pre-chill/set and it tasted good, so we'll just have to wait and see.

I'll be sure to update you tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010


WE MADE IT HOME!!! HURRAY!!! I am currently laying in MY bed writing this blog entry. It's glorious to the extreme. So. Happy.

So yesterday and today were filled with airports. Well only like 3 or 4, some for much longer than others. So yesterday morning we left our hotel on a shuttle for the airport that we had booked the previous night. After picking up some other people at other hotels, we made our way to the airport where we had been hearing people were stuck for days waiting to get out of Paris. But we were keeping a good thought about the whole thing, however what we arrived to was chaos. There were gillions of people EVERYWHERE. I had to leave mom and the luggage and go find someone to ask where the heck we were supposed to go, since we were in France and there weren't any signs.
French attitude (with heavy accent): SIGNS?! HOHN! (nasally sound) We are too good for signs! You figure it out on your own you stupid Americans! Ohn hohn hohn!!
My response: I kill you!

Anyway, after finding someone we realized we were actually in the wrong terminal, so once we got to the right one things went much smoother. There were fewer people where we were, so we checked in and made it through security without a hitch. Our flight had been delayed by 2 hours right off the bat, which was annoying but not exactly surprising. But our flight had also not yet been assigned a gate, which I found to be rather odd but Mom said that happened to her at Heathrow over the summer, so we just had to wait and watch the TV monitor. So we shopped and ate lunch and watched the screen with no avail. FINALLY after probably 2 hours or so, we decide this is just getting ridiculous and we go up to a worker-man who just finished sending off a flight to Seattle at one of the gates, and he actually said that our flight to Boston was going to be leaving from that very gate! Perfect! Then, not 30 seconds later he looks at his computer screen and goes, "Oh wow, they JUST changed it and now it's in another terminal. You have to go out past security, take the train and go back through security to the other side of this building/terminal/thing." I'm sorry.....WHAT?!? We have to LEAVE security and go through it AGAIN?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!?!? IS THIS ANY WAY TO RUN A HUGE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT??!!? I tell ya. If I ran the world, things would run so much smoother...

So basically I was pissed. Mom can vouch for the angry and racist (would we consider France it's own race? I feel like not, but then what would the correct term be for hating only the French? Frenchist? I have no idea) remarks that I was muttering under my breath the entire walk to the other terminal. Short version: France and I were not friends right then.

Anyway, we went through security AGAIN and found our gate and it turns out that a flight to Washington DC had just been canceled so there were a million people all trying to get on our flight to Boston. So it was a little hectic. Then we sat around and waited as our flight was delayed yet ANOTHER hour, so now we were going on 3 hours late. Then the time approached when we were supposed to be boarding, so people just started gathering and getting in lines (more like mobs, the french don't really do lines. I think they might actually not know what a line is because they're always trying to get ahead of each other) but they never even announced over the speaker that they were boarding! They just started taking people and you had better figure it out or you were gonna miss it! It boggled my mind, yet again. Also, I will never understand why people push to get onto a plane. If it's Southwest, I kind of understand since it's open seating. But if not, you're essentially pushing and shoving to sit and wait in a seat that you will be sitting in the for the next 7 hours. Why are you trying to crush everyone in your path to get a jump start on that? Those seats are NOT comfortable...but I digress.

Anyway, we made it onto the plane, took off, and landed in Boston. PRAISE HEAVEN. I watched 3 movies. It was sweet :) Actually, this is was a huge achievement because we had actually made it out of Paris on the day we had planned to leave Paris. There were people that had been trying to get from Europe to the States for DAYS. One woman we talked to had been traveling all over Europe for 4 days just trying to get to Boston, she started in Germany and had been to Zurich, London, and now Paris in 4 days. So we were incredibly grateful to have gotten out on the first try, even if we did miss our connection to Atlanta and then home last night. We just stayed with my aunt and uncle in Boston, no sweat.

So today, we got up and went BACK to the airport. Weeeeeeee......I love airports....not. So we're waiting in the security line and there's a woman in front of us drinking coffee. As we get closer, one of the workers tells her she's going to have to throw away her coffee before she goes through. Now, we've been talking and she says she's flown to Europe and all over the country, but what is her response to this worker? Wait I can't take my coffee through? What about this unopened bottle of water I just bought????

Um, Hello???! Have you ever been to the airport before? What a dope...

So today was chock full of flying and impatience with the general population of this world. Some people just aren't the brightest crayons in the box my friends. Another funny story: We arrived in Atlanta and were waiting in line for the Ladies' room (since there's ALWAYS a line) and this was a hefty line. Quite long, and definitely going out the door. But what happens? A woman just comes walking in and starts passing people in line and then goes, "oh wait, is there a line?" No, didn't you know? Standing in hallways at the airport is the new thing! It's the greatest hobby and you even lose weight too! BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE! Join now and you'll get a free bathroom break! OF COURSE THIS IS THE LINE YOU MORON!!!! I tell ya....I even had a girl tap me on the shoulder whilst we were in line and ask if this was the line for the bathroom!! No, I'm waiting in line to look in the mirror....WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE WOMAN?!?! Sweet heavenly porkchops...

So anyway, we finally got to St. Louis, got in the car, grabbed some delicious pizza on the way home, and now we're here. Laundry. Shower. Bed. It's so good to be home. :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Today we got up and left Tours (HURRAY! We didn't really like it there..) and got on the road back to Paris. Mom has finally gotten the hang of driving in France, as she now doesn't care if she cuts people off, gets in the way, or basically does whatever she wants. This is how all French drivers drive, so it takes some getting used to. But today, as we were leaving Tours, we realized our turn was on the left and we were on the right side of the road. So we had to make our way across 2 lanes of traffic rather quickly. Fortunately, Mom just went for it and responded to the honks with "EHH we're tourists, leave us alone!!" It was AWESOME. I died laughing naturally...There were also some cuss words strewn in there that I will spare you for the sake of the children. However, we were discussing how we could avoid using cuss words in our email/blog updates, and I told her about how at camp we have a song that goes "Brown squirrel, brown squirrel, shake your bushy tail. Take a peanut in your hands and SHOVE IT UP YOUR NOSE!!" So I told her that some of the counselors at camp would avoid cussing in front of the campers by saying "OH SHOVE IT UP YOUR NOSE!!" So that was the phrase of the day today, and it was HILARious...

Also on the road today we saw SNOW PLOWS. Now if you read my previous post from when we were in Paris last week and my comments on how they don't plow or shovel, this will make more sense. But we saw like 3 or 4 snow plows today plowing the other side of the highway! We both saw them at the same time and were like, "Oh my gosh..PLOWS!!" It was incredible.

So now it's time for some gratitude. The closer we got to Paris today, the more snow we saw. Apparently, the snow up here, and the rest of Northern Europe, as been creating a bit of mayhem for travelers the past couple days. However, we are determined to keep a positive attitude and know that we will have safe and harmonious travels today and tomorrow! So as we got closer to Paris and saw more snow, we started saying out loud that everything was going to work out and that we would be provided with everything we needed. Our plan was to go to our hotel first, check in and drop off our bags, then go fill up the gas tank and take the car back to the rental car place. Now parking in Paris is...interesting. Spots are non-existent and most people just make up their own spot by parking on the sidewalk or just double parking and wreaking havoc. So if necessary, we were prepared to do this just to unload, check in real fast, and then be on our way. So we made our way through the traffic, found our hotel, and there was a parking spot RIGHT IN FRONT of the hotel!! It was PERFECT!! We were super grateful!! So God in action #1. Now to #2. Find a gas station. If you haven't figured out, there is zero extra space in the city, therefore we thought we would have to go out of the city to find a gas station. So we looked on the GPS and there happened to be one less than a Kilometer away! We made it over there, filled up and payed without a hitch! Gratitude moment #2. Then we had to get back to the rental car place, which is in a much more populated part of the city, about 10 minutes from where we were. Also, since there's no space, the rental car office is in a different location than the cars. Now, the GPS knew where the office was, but didn't direct us to the parking garage where the cars were stored, which is where we needed to go. But once we made it to the office, we were able to find the garage without a hitch and returned the car no sweat. Gratitude moment #3. At this point, we were planning to take the metro back to our hotel, and I had been looking ahead of time to find where the closest stops were to where we were, and where out hotel was. But the station we were going to was a big station with lots of different lines all crossing each other, which can be pretty confusing. But in the snowy slush, we made it to the metro and found the right line with ease. We made it back to our hotel without a problem and were dancing in the elevator because we were SO HAPPY about how it all worked out!! It really couldn't have been any more perfect and we are SO GRATEFUL!! What could have been a pretty stressful situation turned out to be such a smooth transition. HURRAY!! So now we are knowing that everything tomorrow with our flight will just be a continuation of the smoothness that we have experienced today! DONE. :)

I also wanted to comment on the car that we rented this past week. It was a Peugeot something-er-other, some kind of station wagon type with a hatch back. Basically it was the smallest thing we could get that had an automatic transmission, and for France it was still a good size car. We definitely wouldn't have wanted anything bigger. But as for this car's transmission, technically mom didn't have to manually shift, but boy oh boy you could feel the car shifting. It was just like mom was actually shifting, the same lull for the clutch and the jolt into the next gear. So when we would be speeding up to merge on the highway, it took WAY longer than a US automatic car because you had to wait for the car to awkwardly shift. Anyway, we started calling it by name saying "C'MON BESSIE!! YOU CAN DO IT!! GO! GO!" Oh man, it was so funny. So the car was officially dubbed "Bessie". We loved that car, but mom was ecstatic to give it back today because that meant no more driving in France! Well, I think she was more grateful to not be driving in Paris more than just France in general.

So anyway, we're off to the airport tomorrow to head back to the States! It's been a fantastic 2 weeks and we have had a blast, but we are definitely ready to be home. But everything will work out tomorrow with the weather and the plane! Keep a good thought for us! :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bathroom Nemesis

Bonsoir! Today was our second to last day in France! And what a lovely day it was...

Since we were on a schedule yesterday with the tour, we decided to take our time and do whatever we wanted today with no rules. So we woke up late, ate breakfast late, and got going late. *Sigh*...delightful.

So yesterday on our tour we stopped for lunch in the town of Amboise, naturally where the Amboise castle was...the logic is astounding. Whilst stopped for lunch, we discovered an amazing little creperie/restaurant that not only had fantastic food and was inexpensive, but they spoke ENGLISH!! HUZZAH!! So especially after our little dinner fiasco last night, we decided we would make it easy on ourselves and go back to this cute little town and restaurant. However, we had eaten breakfast right before we left, and the only two things on our agenda for the day were lunch at this place and then there was one other castle I wanted to see, but in the opposite direction. So, to kill time before lunch we just started driving down little winding roads outside of Amboise and it was so pretty! Cute little farm houses, vineyards (brown since it's winter, but still cool), pretty farm fields, and all kinds of pretty stuff. Mom and I found out that we both really love just driving around and seeing what's around, so that's what we did and loved it all. Then we headed back to lunch, which was DELICIOUS, and then made our way back towards Tours and then on to the other castle.

This other castle, Usse as they call it, was the inspiration for the story "Sleeping Beauty," and being the Disney connoisseur that I am, I really wanted to see it. So an hour later, after lots of adorable towns and pretty countryside, we made it to the castle only to find out that it was closed!! BUMMER! I mean, I didn't really need to go inside anyway, after yesterday and all the castles I've realized that most of them look pretty much the same on the inside. So I wasn't all that distraught about not getting inside the place, but I would've liked some access to the grounds to get better pictures! But oh well, we could still see it outside the gated area that was closed, so I still got SOME pictures...just not as many as I would've liked. However, there was another problem with the place being closed...

I REALLY needed to go to the bathroom. Great.

Now, the town that Chateau Usse is in is not a bustling metropolis. There was a public bathroom that is probably used quite often in the summer when there are hordes of tourists. However, today I think we saw a total of 10 or 15 people, so when we found the public bathroom is was padlocked shut. Perfect. Then we saw a super market. But alas, the woman wouldn't let me use it. Mom was annoyed, "SHE has to go to the bathroom somewhere! It's not like she doesn't go all day, why won't she just let us use hers for god's sake!" I would've found this a lot funnier if I wasn't about to burst. Then we came upon a church, I figured that at least the people of God would have mercy on a poor, full-bladdered soul and let me use their facilities. But alas again, the doors were locked and God didn't open a window...curses. I even walked to what looked like a port-a-potty, only to find out is a was a recycling collection bin-thingy. FOILED AGAIN! So, I decided that I thought I could make it to the next town, about 10 minutes away. My soul was dying slowly on the inside, but I didn't really see what choice I had unless I wanted to join someone's cow out in the pasture. Pass. So we started driving and in the next town we saw another public bathroom. PRAISE THE HEAVENS!! We stop and walk over and see an open room with urinals, but the two doors apparently holding the toilets were LOCKED!!! At this point I was about to just "go" all over the locked doors and be like "YOU BROUGHT THIS UPON YOURSELVES!!!!" But then we saw a bar across the street and Mom was like, I will buy some tea or something, and they will HAVE to let us use their bathroom. So we went inside and a lovely French gentleman provided us with a bathroom and tea. And it was blissful....

Apparently France is my arch nemesis when it comes to bathrooms. Now I know.

So after our bathroom debacle, we kept driving and saw some more countryside and some more castles along the side of the road (yes, really. Castles just spring up on the side of the road, pretty awesome) and then decided to head back to Tours. We've been jones-ing for some Italian food so earlier today we made a mental note of where the Italian restaurants were so we could drive there, and then drive back to our hotel to park for the night. However, we needed to stop by the hotel first for some reason that I can't actually remember. But upon our arrival in town, we discovered that the traffic was HORRENDOUS. And traffic in French towns/cities isn't like traffic in the States. It's like cramming an interstate during rush hour into the tiny confines of a back alleyway, and then throwing in every pedestrian in Manhattan with a dash of mystery since we still don't know the town all that well. Basically I think mom would have curled up into the fetal position, started rocking back and forth and muttering to herself had the steering wheel not been in the way. So it was a little stressful. Although her cussing was hilarious. Anyway, so we decided to go straight to the parking garage and not venture forth to the Italian restaurant. Instead we went and got some sandwich stuff from the grocery store and retreated to our hotel room for a movie on my computer. It was kind of like when a woodland animal gets freaked out and retreats into it's cave never to be seen again..only the cave has wifi. Pretty sweet.

So that was our day, we both highly enjoyed it. Tomorrow we head back to Paris for one night and then Monday we head home! So tomorrow will probably be my last France blog post, but don't worry I will keep blogging even AFTER I get back from France! I know, I know, it's almost too much. Don't hyperventilate or anything from the excitement, just STAY CALM!

Ok, now to end on a quick funny story that I forgot to tell about last night's "dinner in english" hunt. So hopefully you read last night's blog post about our meal issues, if not I encourage you to go read it before reading this one. It will make more sense. So anyway, we're tired, hungry, frustrated beyond all reason, and ready to kill some french people if we see one more menu with no english descriptions. Did I mention we're frustrated? Because we were really frustrated. So anyway, as I said last night, there were only two restaurants we found that DID have english "subtitles" if you will, and one just had some really weird food on the menu, and the other was a Lebanese restaurant. Now, I don't really know Lebanese food very well and I've never been to a Lebanese restaurant before, so we kind of ruled that one out at the beginning. Then we found this other place that had the really weird food that didn't sound appetizing at all. So we were stuck between something that just sounded terrible and something that I wasn't all that familiar with. So we were standing outside the Lebanese place re-looking at the menu and the owner opens the door and goes "Bonsoir!" We look at this man, with all of the previously mentioned emotions written all over our faces. I can't manage any response right away, and all Mom can say is "Does anyone speak english in there?????" To which the man replies, "Yes, with pleasure!" then my mom goes "PRAISE GOD!!!!" and we walk right in. I found this HILARious... Because 1. if you don't know my mom, that's a really weird reaction to the answer to that question, plus it's just so American of her. 2. My mom is just weird, so it was funny. Anyway, we had a good laugh about that at dinner, which was DELICIOUS, and carried on our merry way. So that's my funny story du jour, I hope you all enjoyed it. Stay tuned for tomorrow's final France post!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rule #1


Today was the day of our Loire Valley chateaux tour!! It was really fun and all the castles were super cool. It was a long day though (9am-6pm) and we are tired once again. The castles we went to were:



and Chambord

They were pretty incredible. Although after the first couple, the insides of them all start to look pretty similar. Over the top tapestries, furnishings, portraits, and the like. I just loved the diversity of the exteriors. The contrasting architectural styles were amazing and I loved when two or three different styles were used in the same building. I sound like such a nerd, but whatever. I thought it was cool :)

What was really crazy was the size of these places. The first three were all similar in size, big but not insanely huge. Kind of like those HUGE houses you see in really rich areas of the country. Maybe like some of the houses you might see in the Hamptons where you look at them and you're like, "how could those people POSSIBLY use all that space? That house is HUGE!!!" That's kind of house big the smaller castles were. But Chambord, the last one, was just beyond comprehension. It's the largest castle in France next to Versailles. But with Versailles, the style of the building just makes it look big because the whole thing is kind of square and normal looking. Chambord looks just as big, but actually looks like a real castle. This place is just MASSIVE! The grounds of this castle are the size of Paris proper. The grounds are the size of the CITY OF PARIS!!! Ridiculous. It's just so, so big, and guess what it's purpose was? A hunting lodge. It wasn't even a permanent residence!! As we heard today, it's amazing the French Revolution didn't come sooner than it did. The amount of money that was put into this place is just crazy and then the king that built it only spent 29 nights there in his entire life. What a WASTE! I mean it's beautiful, don't get me wrong. But good gravy, just thinking about all the people he could've helped with that money instead! Like I said, the French Revolution could have come much sooner...

Funny story from Castle hopping today:

So I decided before we came on this trip that if anyone ever offered to take mom and my picture together while we were at some tourist attraction, that I would definitely say no. I have heard too many horror stories about theft to let someone else be holding my camera. No one would touch it except mom or myself. End of discussion. This was going to be Rule #1.

So today, at the first castle we visited (Chenonceau) mom and I were walking through the gardens and she went one way and I went the other. I wanted to go to one corner of the garden to get a better pictures of the castle (funny how most of my blog is about going random places so I can pictures...) and this guy has been walking behind us, and was now walking behind me. These are pretty big gardens (I mean it is a castle.) so it feels kinda weird that he's just walking behind me for a really long time. There are a couple other people around, so I'm not completely freaked out, but it just feels weird. So I get to the other corner and get some good pictures, and then I look around a little bit and start to head back. Right as I start walking, this same guy comes up and asks if I would be so kind as to take his picture in front of the castle. This has happened to us a lot over our time here so I oblige without hesitation. I take one shot (it's obviously a good one:)) and then hand his camera back to him, ready to take off. Then he asks, "Would you like me to take your picture? You know, to return the favor?"


"Oh no this is rule number one I am NOT supposed to let anyone touch my camera I decided this before we even got here but he's going to think I'm totally rude if I say no I mean what type of person doesn't want their picture in front of a castle well I did just look around that direction is gated off so he couldn't run that way and this way is a really narrow little bridge and he's wearing a backpack so I could probably grab him if he made a run for it and this third way is back towards everyone else and they would totally notice him sprinting away from a girl screaming and running after him plus I just learned a ton of self defense moves so after I caught him (since he'll be slow from his backpack) I could totally take him down but if I DID take him down what if he fell on my camera and broke it then I'd be PISSED."

"Sure!" I told him. I handed him my camera and explained how to use it (it's amazing how many people have no idea how to use a camera with a view finder these days, it's like cameras have always had LED screens...) and take a few steps back. Then he fumbles with it, takes a picture or two and says something about it not focusing. I'm like, oh I KNOW it's focusing pal. I can hear it and see it rotating around, what are you playing at? So I go over and take a look and the pictures are totally in focus so I tell him it's fine, and I start to take my camera away. Then he asks if I want a picture in front of the garden too "It's so beautiful with all the snow!" Yeah. right. Me: "No thanks! It's fine with just the castle, thanks anyway!" Him: "Ok, well see ya" Me: "BYE!" And I hoof it outta there. Whew...crisis averted. Although he DID have an Australian accent. At least he had THAT going for him..

So anyway, have I mentioned that Tours isn't that great? Because Tours really isn't that great. I like Paris way better than Tours, and I like the country better than Paris, so you can see where that puts Tours. At the bottom of the happy list. The castle tour today was fantastic, but the city pretty much stinks. Although this is only from the perspective of a tourist. If you lived here as a French person it would probably be just fine, but they make ZERO effort to accommodate tourists here. ZERO. Now, you'd think that for a town within the limits of a region that has the most castles concentrated in one area in all of Europe, that you'd be used to, and ready for, a good amount of tourists. Apparently not. Yesterday when we got here we walked around for probably a good 20 minutes trying to find a restaurant with an english menu. (Meaning that there are english descriptions under the french descriptions of each item on the menu) None to be found. But we figured we just didn't know the area well enough yet, and that we were probably looking in the wrong spot. False. Tonight, after getting back from our castle tour, we walked around for 45 MINUTES, in the area of the city that is filled with restaurants, and only found 2 places that had an english menu. Also, it wasn't like we just ran across one restaurant every 4 minutes or something, there were restaurants EVERYWHERE. We probably looked at like 30 restaurants and none of them had english menus. We were about to go insane. We even walked into an Irish pub-looking place just because we saw the word "Irish" in english and hoped for the best. But alas, the bartender spoke great english, but they didn't serve dinner. Foiled. Basically we're just tired of this town and we're ready to head back to Paris where they at least speak a LITTLE english...good gravy.

So anyway, tomorrow we're on our own and were planning on roaming around the countryside as much as possible and staying out of Tours if we can. But it's supposed to snow so we'll see if the roads are passable. Since they don't plow anywhere, things could be messy. We'll see what happens! Btw, is anyone still reading this? I feel like people have gotten bored and stopped reading...if you're still out there gimme a shout! (Pal I know you are, don't worry) :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Je ne sais pas francais!

Mer. That's how I'm feeling right now. Also, I miss Mont Saint Michel.

We drove to Tours today. Left MSM without a hitch, got on the road and just cruised. Have I mentioned that the countryside is beautiful? Because it is BEAUTIFUL!! Today it was even rainy and cloudy, but it was still gorgeous. I can't even imagine what it must be like in the spring and summer when the weather is nice.....crowded that's what. Mom and I have decided we are happy to trade the warm weather for less people. There are enough people here without the hordes off tourists that come for the summer months. Pass.

So we drive, and we love it. Then we get to Tours, and I don't know why but for some reason I was expecting kind of a smaller, touristy town. WRONG. This is basically like a mini-Paris. Busy, crowded, and even less English. Perfect. Fortunately, we will spend most of the day tomorrow on our guided tour of the castles (Yay!) and then we will just have Saturday to look around and see what we want to see. But yet again, we were both overwhelmed upon arrival, and this time we had a car to find a park for too. Oy.

Fortunately, once we parked the car and got some food in us (awful as the food was, and I'm not being a pansy this time. We both ordered steak, "medium", and it came out almost entirely raw and I think I heard a couple of "moo's" out of was pretty gross. But our waitress spoke like 3 words of english so I didn't think it was worth trying to send it back...oh well.) we felt a lot better. We walked around a little bit, bought some chocolate, and we're still a little confused about where we are in the grand scheme of this place but we're getting there. Now we're back at our hotel safe and sound. Exhausted, but better.

I think I've realized why the french get the reputation of being rude, because most of the people we have come across have been very nice and willing to work with us even though we speak very little french. I think it's because they are totally and completely unaware of anything that is going on around them. They are just entirely oblivious to anyone or anything outside of themselves. Now this usually isn't in a rude, selfish, or egotistical way (I mean sometimes obviously) but they're just plain oblivious. And when someone is oblivious to you, it is easy to think they're just being rude. Oh and french people are just as loud and noisy as Americans. Done.

Not too many funny stories today, sorry folks. It was a pretty run of the mill day, no hysterics or wreaking havoc amongst the throngs of people. Although we did stop to buy some fruit at a super market on our drive, but we didn't realize that we had to print off the little sticker with the bar code on it whilst we were in the produce section. So we brought our bags of fruit to the counter, hoping to just hand it to the woman, pay, and leave with as little communication as possible since it was a small town and we assumed they spoke zero english. However, since we didn't print off this sticker, she starts talking to us in french at a zillion miles an hour and we just have "deer-in-the-headlights" face on, and my mom is able to sputter out "je ne sais pas francais!"(I don't know french) And then the woman's like "OOOOOH d'accord" (ok) and then runs off to the produce aisle to print the little stickers for us. PHEW! That was a terrifying 5 that was a good time. :)

Also, there are cows everywhere here. I mean they're in the pasture, it's not like India where they're all just run amuck around the road and such. But you can't go 10 minutes without seeing another small herd of cattle, and they're HUGE!! I'm convinced that french cows are way bigger than American cows, which I find to be ironic. You'd think that if the American people are generally physically larger than French people, than American cows would be bigger to feed all the big American people. Apparently not. I probably ate one of those fat cows for dinner tonight, maybe they caught one that we saw on the way into town. That explains why they didn't have time to cook it! ZING!

Oh and one little funny moment from last night at dinner. When we asked for water to drink, the waitress asked "Gas or no gas?" In my head I was like "Really? That's how we're gonna do this? Ok then..." "NO GAS!" As soon as she left our table mom and I broke into guffaws. Thus far we've had the epic "bubbles, or no bubbles?" "flat or fizzy?" and now "gas or no gas?" I think the later is now fighting for first place on the leader board of hilarity, but "bubbles or no bubbles" in a french accent still takes the cake. That was amazing..

Ahh well, beaucoup de Chateaux demain! A bientot!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All for the sake of adventure...


Seriously. If you can go to France and only see one thing, come HERE!!! Although definitely stay the night because during the day, everywhere is full of tourists. But once the tour buses leave, PEACE!! It's lovely.

So we went on an ENGLISH guided tour today! It was delightful. AND we were the only people that came so it was basically a private tour! We felt so special. So I know that yesterday I said this place is huge. But this place is flaming HUGE!!!! The little nooks and alleys and passageways go all over the place, and the rooms themselves are just enormous! Did you know it took 1300 years to finish the whole church and abbey? 1300 YEARS!!! As in ONE THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED. Good sweet honey mustard....mind blowing you might say. So we went through with the guide, which was great. But then I wanted to go through again and just meander on our own so I could take pictures and not feel rushed. Unfortunately, the lady taking tickets wasn't too keen on letting us through a second time. "Your ticket is only good for one! ONE!" Yes, I understand that. BUT I WANT TO GO AGAIN! I think I pulled the "ugly American tourist" card and she finally let us through, it was awesome :) So we went through again and I got TONS of pictures. Since it was built over such a long period of time, the architectural styles vary from section to section. Like at one point, part of the apse collapsed and had to be rebuilt. So instead of rebuilding it in the original style, they rebuilt it in the modern style of the time, which was Gothic. So the Apse of the main sanctuary area is Gothic, and the rest of it is Romanesque or something. That kind of stuff can be seen all over the place. Pretty cool.

Also, the abbey is still a working abbey! There are 14 religious men and women living there, but since the tourists make it such a loud and crazy place, they don't last very long. So they are replaced on a regular basis. Still, what a cool place to live as a nun or monk! On our second time around the church, we heard them singing during Mass through one of the wooden doors, talk about a time warp. To be standing in a building that was majorly built during the middle ages, and then hearing monks and nuns singing/chanting a mass, WOW. It was pretty mind boggling.

So that was cool. :)

After lunch, which was abysmal and RIDICULOUSLY expensive, more to come on that later, we decided we would take the afternoon to look through the shops on the main street. WRONG. What a load of garbage. They all sold the same CRAP, and it was cheap and dumb. NEXT. We then decided to go for a drive. I wanted some pictures of MSM from far away so I could get the whole island in, and we also wanted to get a few groceries. So off we went.

After photo ops and shopping, we decided to keep driving and we found this really cute little windmill just hanging out on top of this hill!! So pretty! So of course I got out and took some pics, then we kept going and found this little town. PROBLEM: They were doing construction on the road to get into the town. My first inclination: Well that was a good try, let's turn around and go find another town that looks just like this one (like sand on the beach in these parts). Mom's reaction: Let's keep going and potentially end all international peace between the US and France by driving through their construction site. PERFECT! So since mom was driving we kept going (argh) and then this HUGE machine CARRYING A TREE starts driving towards us! Mom stops, but the machine just keeps going and I start having a small seizure in the passenger seat as I see my life flash before my eyes. It was terrifying!! No I didn't actually have a seizure, and yes after we started backing up, the tree-carrying machine finally pulled over and we passed him. Ay chi chi. After driving around the cute little town we realized we had to go out the same way we came in. Awesome. So then, the big machine is now facing away from us so it has no idea we're there, but there's a construction worker working behind it, so he motions for us to pass it. So we start moving and the machine starts BACKING UP TOWARDS US!! AAAAAAHHHH!!! I'm pretty sure I started to go "oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh" and Mom just guns it and we get around the machine before being turned into human pate. Needless to say I'm pretty sure I shaved a few years off my life. But hey, all for the sake of adventure!!!! Oy.

Ok, food time:

So I have made it clear that I have been unimpressed with French food. The only exception to this has been the chocolate mousse (which I have also made quite clear), the bread (phenomenal), and last night's dinner. It was a restaurant here on the mount and I had roasted chicken, potatoes, salad, and you guessed it, chocolate mousse. It was DELICIOUS!!! The chicken just fell off the bone, and I have never been a huge potato person but I gobbled these up. They were SO GOOD!! Besides this meal and the aforementioned foods, I fail to see what all the hype is about. Most of the food I have had the opportunity to partake of has been decent at the beginning, and then it just starts to get boring the more I eat of it. Now maybe I just don't have an advanced palate or something. I pretty much just like the basics, so all this fancy stuff is wasted on me. I'm sure that for some people, prawns and mayonnaise with duck's foot pate is just life changing, but it kinda makes me want to gag.. and while yes I over dramatized duck's foot pate, prawns with mayonnaise was ACTUALLY on the menu last night. Barf. So if anyone has suggestions on what I SHOULD be ordering, please fill me in because I would love to know why everyone is so pumped about French food. Now one thing I will say is that the quality of the food here does seem to be much better. Sure it doesn't taste all that special, but the ingredients have been of excellent quality. Good salad fixings, bread, meat, cheese, all that stuff. So good ingredients, just the combination skills seem to be lacking in my opinion. Think what you will.

So we're off to Tours tomorrow in the Loire valley! Castle tour on Friday, and then back to Paris on Sunday and home on Monday. This will be the last leg of our trip! I can't believe we're starting to wind down, it's gone by fast! Although I won't lie, I'm looking forward to things being in English again...

Au Revoir!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Today was a good day...

We have internet! Huzzah! We have to pay for it, but it's like 10 Euros for 24 hours, not a terrible deal...

Today was a good day. Not that the others have been bad days in the slightest, but today was just plain fun.

We packed up our stuff at the apartment. I was a little sad to leave, just because it had been such a lovely oasis for us against the hordes of people outside it's walls. But nonetheless, I was so excited about going to Mont Saint Michel! MSM, as I will now call it, has been on my list of things to see forever. It's my favorite part of the France movie at Epcot, the France movie is one of my favorite attractions at Epcot, Epcot is my favorite Disneyworld park, and Disneyworld is one of my favorite places ever. So there you go, now you understand.

Anyway, we packed up, got a taxi to the rental car place, got in our car, and headed out! Mom was pretty nervous about driving in Paris, and I can't blame her. Paris drivers are out of their flaming minds. Almost as bad as Boston...almost. So I tried to be really patient, nice, and optimistic once we got in the car, trying to avoid anything that could possibly add to her anxiety. I think it worked for the most part.

So once we got out of Paris, we both could relax a little. Fortunately, it only took about 20 minutes or so to get out, and once we did we were both loving the countryside! The farther away from Paris we got, the more beautiful the country seemed to become! It was really amazing because there were a bunch of little villages all over the place, and each consisted of a few buildings, houses, and a church. I loved seeing all the steeples jutting upwards across the landscape, very cool. The buildings were beautiful too! It looked exactly like the houses from Pride & Prejudice or Chocolat, very 1800's-ish. It was super cool.

Funny rest stop story:

So we're driving along and Mom has said she needs to stop for the bathroom, so we keep passing these rest stops that afterwards I'm like, aww we should've stopped there! So finally I see a sign that looks like all the other signs that came right before the rest stops that we should've stopped at, so I'm like "Hey! Let's stop here!" So we pull of the road, park, and walk into the women's side and all we see are partitions between holes in the floor. I kid you not, there were treaded places to put your feet and a drain. That's it. Now, I realize we're kind of arrogant and over the top in the US, I mean I get that whole point of view. But for the love of God, it's almost 2011 people. Can we not put TOILETS in the BATHROOM?!?! I felt like I was in a time warp back to the middle ages, except it was like modern french construction crews came in and were like "Eh that's good enough. Let's just put tiles on the floor and fibreglass walls between the drains! Doors and toilets are for wusses. Ohn Hohn Hohn!" So naturally my first reaction was "You have got to be kidding me..." I'm pretty sure I actually said this out loud, to which Mom responded "Well, I guess we'll be going to the next one!" Ridiculous. Needless to say at the next gas station, we found toilets...Praise the lord.

Ok back to our day. So we drive and drive, and like I said, the countryside was gorgeous. It was so refreshing to be out of the busyness of Paris. So about 4 or 4.5 hours later we spot Mont Saint Michel!! SO. COOL. I encourage all of you to look at pictures on google or something because spotting it in the distance was amazing. The closer we got, the more in awe I became. It was just incredible. The surrounding area is pretty flat, so MSM just looks HUGE. Which it is...but it just makes it stand out even more. The church on top is just awesome too. That's what MSM is by the way, a massive church. For some reason I always thought it was a castle, but I have since found out otherwise. So we got here, still in awe. Made our way into the little village that winds it's way around the base of the mount, and move into our hotel room. As the receptionist shows us to our room, she also shows us this little door that opens to this stone walkway that goes at least halfway around the island. SUPER COOL.

So we immediately venture forth (camera in hand on my end) and just start exploring. This place is seriously one of the most magical places I have ever been in my life. It's so old and so full of history, but it's just really amazing because of all the fun little places to explore. This walkway is way up above the main street, kind of like a parapet or a rampart that was used for watchmen back in the day maybe. It's just like stepping back into a village in the middle ages. Tons of really old stone buildings, old wooden fences, slits in the stone wall probably used by bowmen to guard the place. It's just beautiful. The church isn't too bad to look at either. :) The whole thing is just HUGE!!!!! Anyway, I won't get too carried away with all this, but seriously this is definitely my favorite place so far and probably will be my favorite of the whole trip. Wicked awesome.

Funny story from dinner:
We were just chatting away at dinner and we started talking about how mom always used to make spaghetti for us when I was a kid. She said of the 3 or 4 days I would be at her house, we would probably have spaghetti 2 nights. Awesome! But I thought since I still love spaghetti that it must have been pretty good if I didn't get sick of it! Then I remembered that we also used to eat this delicious meal on TV trays whilst watching Wheel of Fortune! It was awesome! Her response: "Ugh, I was a terrible mother.." HAAAHAHAHA!!!! But then she decided that since we've now had life-changing chocolate mousse four times on this trip that she has officially made up for all her mistakes. Well that was easy...

On our way home from the restaurant as we walked back to our hotel, I made some smart alleck comment about something she'd said or done earlier, which I usually do because it's so fun, which made me laugh naturally. Then she went to get me a big push as a reprimand and didn't realize that I was about a full step behind her, so she totally just keep going with her arm out across the entire street. It was HILARIOUS!! It was just like her momentum kept her going for a full 3 or 4 steps before she was able to pull hers arm back in and realize that I wasn't there for her to push. We immediately both fell into hysterics in the middle of this quiet street/village, thus creating a huge scene as we so frequently do. It was awesome.

Like I said, today was a good day. :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bubbles, or no bubbles?

Bonsoir mes amis!

Well, today was our last day in Paris!! *tear* But mom and I are super pumped about getting out into the countryside tomorrow! I can't WAIT to see Mont-Saint-Michel and castles in the Loire valley!!! YAY!!

So today, (thanks to Jen, and initially Lizzy) we went to Sacre Coeur, which is a church for those who don't know. We were both a little tired and sore from all our walking yesterday, so we were psyched to find out that there were these little tram things called "funiculars" that took us up this massive hill to the church. Praise the lord because that was a HUGE hill with a million stairs that we weren't exactly pumped about walking up.

So we got up there and this church is brilliantly white. It's SO PRETTY! So the outside was just really cool, and then there were these mosaics inside that were awesome! They were golden and huge and covered most of the altar area. So those were pretty sweet. Then after we went through Sacre Coeur, I spotted this other cute little church that I wanted to go into, which was BEAUTIFUL. It was kinda small and sort of off the beaten path, so there were very few people in there, which made it almost completely silent. Actually the loudest noise was my camera! I wish it had a silencer!! But the stained glass windows inside were really pretty and it was cool to see a more personable church, if that makes sense. Meaning I found it was easier to picture people actually come here for church on a Sunday, rather than the huge, ornate cathedrals like Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur. So that was fun. :)

Then we just started walking around and we found this little courtyard area where all these artists were selling their work, and we ended up coming back after lunch and buying a painting! It's pretty small so we can put it in our suitcase, but both mom and I really love it. It's just a cityscape of Paris, but it's all in blue and then Sacre Coeur is up on a hill in white. It's pretty, I'll have to take a picture of it or something when we get home.

So anyway, after that we hopped over to the Arc de Triomphe again so I could get some more pictures of it in the daylight, which was fun. Then we came back to the apartment early so we could start packing up!! Crazy that it's already time to leave, but at the same time I feel like our first trip to the Louvre was FOREVER ago!! But I'm ready for something new and I'm getting a little tired of all the people here!! There's SO MANY!

Funny story du jour:
Actually there will be two. Both are pretty short, one from today and one from yesterday, both during mealtimes. Apparently this is the time when most of our hilarities happen...

So yesterday, we were sitting at lunch across from Saint Chapelle, and our waiter (who probably had the best english of all our waiters) was taking our order and after wards he asked what we wanted to drink and I said water. So he asked me something that I totally didn't understand, it wasn't in french but I just didn't catch it at all. So I stare blankly at him, and then he says "bubbles or no bubbles?" But in his little french accent it sounded EXACTLY the same as that fish in Finding Nemo who was obsessed with the bubbles!!! IT WAS HILARIOUS!! I started cracking up to myself after I told him No bubbles. It was awesome.

In case you need to jog your memory:

The next story was tonight at dinner, we went back to the place with awesome chocolate mousse (which is still fantastic the third time around, don't you worry) and we had a waiter who spoke hardly any english. He was very sweet though and was very nice to us even though we had a hard time ordering, and then we got the wrong thing. But it was fine and we muscled through our lamb sausage...that's right. Lamb sausage. (Blog post on french food to come later. Moral of the story: I've been unimpressed.) ANYway, we finished our fantastic chocolate mousse and we were trying to get his attention to get our bill, and I look over at him and he has TOTALLY zoned out looking at a chair nearby. But his face was PRICELESS. He had a totally dazed look in his eye, but his mouth had sort of made this dumb expression. Like his bottom lip was caught right under his top teeth, not making it pouch out or anything, but his lip was just kind of stuck there. Anyway, I don't know if you can picture it or not, but it was HILARIOUS!! I started cracking up and mom had to try and get his attention on her own because I was a goner. Thankfully, he had no idea I was laughing hysterically at him when he came over with our check, but holy crow it was awesome.

Last night in Paris!! I have no idea what kind of internet access I will have in Mont-Saint-Michel and then Tours, but I will try and get another update in as soon as I can!! Au Revoir! Thanks for reading these everyone!


Ok, usually I don't write a blog in the morning since most of my posts have been about what we've done that day, ergo it is logical to write at night. Der.


So almost every morning last week and now this morning there has been construction of some sort going on in the apartment either right above us or right next to us. Fortunately, they ceased over the weekend. PRAISE THE LORD. But today it just started right up again with the strength of a thousand suns and I'm about ready to cut someone. THE POUNDING. THE SCREECHING. THE OTHER SOUNDS OF MACHINERY. IT'S SO LOUD!!!! AAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Oh and it starts promptly at 9am everyday. Someone kill me.

Now, Katie (you might say) you could just leave the apartment and get your day started early! I mean you're in Paris, hello?! Get out there and enjoy the city!! Well, (I would say back to you) Mom and I aren't really the "get out there and conquer the world at 8am!" type of people...especially when our sleep patterns have been so screwed up since the flight over here. So we take our time in the morning and we don't feel guilty about it.

So basically these stupid people constructing whatever they're constructing need to SHUT THE HECK UP because they're driving me crazy!!!!

Funny conversation that just happened:

Katie: I don't know how much more of this I can take.
Cindy: Shall I go get in the shower so we can go?
Cindy: Well I'm almost finished with my book..
Katie: Ok finish your book.
Cindy: And I wanted to get online for just a second...
Cindy: SHUT UP!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Walking...and walking....and walking....and walking....

Holy crow. I am EXHAUSTED.

Today we decided we wanted to go back to Notre Dame, we both really loved it but felt rushed before because we had to make it back in time to get the last boat back to the Eiffel Tower. So we took the Metro and walked around the Ile-de-la-Cite, which is the little island on the Seine river where Notre Dame is. We had also heard that Saint Chapelle was a really pretty church that we should see, which is also located on this island. However, when we got there, the line to get in was pretty long so we decided to walk around, get some lunch, and try again. So this time, the line was a little shorter so we decided to go for it. We waited and waited, probs close to about 30 minutes or so, and we get to the door for the security checkpoint and all of a sudden this HUGE group of Asian kids comes along with their little tour guide dude and cuts the line. UGH. Turns out the monument/city/museum pass thing gets you to the front of all the lines, and ALL of them had one. So we had to wait another 15 minutes while they all went through security.. So. Annoying.

So we finally make it inside, after 13 euros total to get in, and the place is TINY. Seriously, like one room..or sanctuary as they like to call them. Don't get me wrong, the stained glass was pretty darned cool. But all that waiting and frustration and money for one ding-dang room?!? Needless to say, I was mildly annoyed and mom was REALLY annoyed. Which just turned out to be funny for me :)

Funny story whilst at the Saint-Chapelle. So we walk into the lobby area, which at first I thought was the whole thing and I would've been REALLY mad had that been the case, but it turns out (with no help from signage, naturally) that you had to go through this little door in the corner of the room, up a very narrow, steep, and spiral staircase. So we're walking up this staircase and I trip on one of the steps and almost eat it, but fortunately I catch myself. But right behind me is Mom, who sees me trip, gasps BIG time, and then says "Katie!!" in kind of an annoyed-at-your-toddler voice, sorta like "How Dare You!!!!" Of course I start CRACKING UP in the middle of this stairway, which makes mom start laughing obviously, and then I'm like "well jeez, I wasn't TRYING to trip and potentially hurt myself while taking you and whoever's behind you with me to our doom at the bottom of these god forsaken stairs!! SHEESH!" So then we're both just losing it in the middle of this dumb little church that was a total waste of time and money, and of COURSE there was a sign that I had seen as we entered that said, Please be quiet in the church! Or something along those lines, which naturally just made it that much more those were good times.

So after our little fiasco at Saint Chapelle, we went back to Notre Dame and found out there was going to be a concert pretty soon, so we waited around inside and it was way more crowded than the other day. But eventually the concert started and it was really cool!! It was organ music, although after a while I got a little tired of it, but I just kept thinking about the fact that I was inside NOTRE DAME listening to an organ that was probably like a million years old!! Ok not really, but it was still cool to realize where I was and the music made it even cooler. I just love Notre Dame, it's definitely my favorite place we've been this week!!

Earlier in the day, we decided that we wanted to go to the Champs-Elysees at night so I could take pictures of the pretty lights. I also wanted some pictures of the Arc de Triomphe all lit up. So as I was looking at the map, it really didn't look like it was that far from where we were, at Notre Dame, to the Obelisk, which is the beginning of the Champs-Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe is at the end. I figured we could walk there, grab some dinner, walk to the Arc and then head home. I thought about taking the metro, but neither mom nor I wanted to waste the ticket. So we figured it could be fun to walk and see the city, and it really didn't look THAT far.....oy vey.

We start walking. And walking. And walking. And walking. Keep in mind that the sun was down at this point, so it's FREEZING, and we've already been walking all day, so we're not exactly just taking a Sunday stroll for the heck of it here. So we're still walking, and FINALLY we make it to the Obelisk. Then as we make our way up the Champs-Elysees, there are MOBS, even HORDES of people...then we see that there is some kind of Christmas festival thing going on and there are all kinds of tents and things with vendors selling all kinds of stuff. So basically it was PACKED, which meant it was VERY slow moving...finally we grab dinner, and after wards we both feel infinitely better. So we keep walking...and walking...and walking...and finally we make it to the fancy-schmancy part of the street where Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss and all the ritzy places are, and we're still not even there yet!!

FINALLY...we make it to the Arc. I snap some pictures, take a couple of mom and me, and we are both SO TIRED. We hoof it back to the Metro station, make it back to the apartment, and just collapse onto our beds...

I decided to google map how far it was from Notre Dame to the Arc de Triomphe by foot, and it's 5 kilometers. Which, in American, is a little over 3 MILES...after already walking ALL DAY!!!! WHY DID WE (mostly me) DO THAT TO OURSELVES?!?!? SO FAR AWAY.....Here's the visual.

Moral of the story. Don't trust maps. And maybe check the legend/key to see what the distance ratio is. FOR THE LOVE OF PIZZA JUST DO IT!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Little Neige, Big Neige!

Bonjour mes amis! Or Bonsoir I guess I should say, because while it's almost 1:30pm in St. Louis right now, it's almost 8:30pm here...bonkers.

Anyway, mom and I decided to stick close to home today. We've both been pretty worn out by all the hoofing around we've been doing the past few days, and we needed to recharge the batteries a bit. So I was looking on our map and found that the Mosquee de Paris is just a short walk from our apartment, so we decided to head over there. We got there, and I wasn't really sure about what the boundaries were about us going inside or whatnot, but when we looked in the door we saw that there was this huge cafe right inside the mosque!! Strange...but I was a little freaked out and didn't really want to stay just because I was really unsure about how to behave in such a place. So mom allowed us to walk around the block of the mosque and look at all the cool architecture before making me go back and have tea :) Fortunately, THIS time she was right. The tea was DELICIOUS and the little cafe was pretty cool. Definitely a highlight. Then we came back and just walked around our neighborhood for a while, bought some chocolate (never a bad idea), grabbed dinner and more mousse chocolat (again, never bad my friends) and came home. Oh there's also this really cool catholic church/cathedral right in the middle of our neighborhood that we were able to go into and walk around. It was no Notre Dame but it was still really pretty.

So now I will go into the hilarity that is my mother's attempts at speaking french. Or frenglish as we like to call it. Today we were at this cafe/bistro for lunch and our waitress' english wasn't very good so we were both trying to work with each other to figure out what was on the menu and then what we wanted to order. So we got our food, which was pretty good, and after we were done the waitress came over to clear our plates and asked how it was. So my mom says "Very good! Tres Bien! Perfectiment! oh and we're ready for our ticket" Oy vey. So then I started laughing at her, duh. To which she responded as she normally does, "shut up!!"

We will now break down the pronunciation of her frenglish. For those of you who don't speak french, "perfectiment" isn't a word. At least not to my knowledge. And apparently it is pronounced perfect-i-mon, with a little nasal action there at the end. So apparently you can just add "i-mon" to any english word and it's automatically french. Well I wish I had known that before I took 7 years of french!! Also, "ticket" was pronounced ti-ket, ket like the beginning of "kettle". Now, to her credit, ticket is a word I believe, but not the right one for your bill after a meal. So at least she hit A target whilst shooting in the dark. Either way, I had a good laugh about it, which meant she had a good laugh about it too. :)

Also, I realized today that I never wrote on here about our hilarious encounter with one of our waiters a few nights ago. This was the night that it snowed and wreaked havoc all over the place, meaning there were sirens galore. Now, I had noticed that there were a plethora of sirens anyway regardless of the snow, but I had attributed this to a hospital that I thought was nearby after looking at the map. So we were chatting with our waiter (who also didn't speak very good english, but enough to get by) and we were commenting on all the sirens. Then we asked if it was because of the hospital nearby, to which he said that there was no hospital nearby. Thoroughly confused, I decided to just drop it and not worry about it, since it really didn't matter. But then he decided it was really important for us to understand why there were so many sirens, so he said it was because of all the neige. (Neige means snow, but only I knew that. Mom was totally clueless, which made it even more hysterical later.) Then he goes, "when there is a little neige, lots of sirens (this was complete with hand gestures to communicate small and then large) When there is big neige, no sirens, no police or ambulance, they don't want to go out!" Now I, who had actually understood what he was trying to say, verbally agreed with him and kind of laughed/smiled my acceptance. Mom just kind of smiled and nodded and I totally forgot that she would have had no idea what neige was. So right after he left, she goes "What the hell is neige??" For some reason this just hit my funny bone and I started cracking up, then I told her it was snow and she seriously went BONKERS she was laughing SO HARD!! We created a major scene in that poor cafe. I really hope the waiter didn't think we were laughing at him. My mom then explained, after composing herself after her fit of hysterics, that for some reason she had thought he meant Santa Claus because there was a little Santa doll behind me that he had been pointing at, when really he had been pointing out the window at the snow. Also she thought maybe neige was somehow related to "St. Nick"....who knows. Either way we were both crying and I felt really bad about disturbing the entire restaurant, but it was too hilarious to pass up.

So now, whenever one of us screws up our french, the other one says "little neige, big neige!" and we die all over again...great times.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Un Tour de Versailles

I actually slept through the night last night! HUZZAH!! First time that's happened since we arrived! The jet lag and time difference haven't had much of an effect on me (minus the day we got here) except for sleeping business. It's been kind of weird, but hopefully I'm adjusted now.

So today we journeyed to Versailles! It was cloudy, yet again, so the pictures weren't quite as pretty. If you're not taking pictures of a subject against the sky, then cloudy is actually better for colors, but when you're looking up at a building, the gray background isn't very attractive. Oh well.

So Versailles was HUGE!!! Holy crow, I had no idea it was that big! I can't even come close to imagining living there. You could live there your whole lie and never see the whole thing! Good gravy....But the rooms were really cool, especially the Hall of Mirrors! Gorgeous!! So we did the audio tour through there and it was great, and then we headed back home. Apparently, taking the stairs to the first level of the Eiffel Tower yesterday made our legs pretty tired and sore so we didn't last long walking around today.

So since nothing especially hilarious happened today, I will now go into a topic that totally befuddles me about Paris and Parisians.... Snow.

Now, my impression is that Paris gets snow a lot during the winter. Now maybe that isn't accurate, but it's freezing here so it makes sense in my head. So it snowed fairly heavily on Wednesday, probably around 2-3 inches. So that's a fair amount of snow right? So it would be logical to get out the snow shovel or pull out the snow plow and get at it..Well apparently not. There wasn't a single plow or shovel to be seen. Street vendors and shop owners were out with brooms and squeegees trying to get 3 inches of snow cleared from the front of their store. Hmm...good luck with that. And the streets were a total slush mess, SO GLAD we didn't rent a car and try to get our way through THAT nightmare...geez. Even when some of it melted and then froze again on the sidewalk, creating an uneven ice rink that was just a lawsuit waiting to happen, they still did nothing! At one point, I was trying to cross over a huge watery slush puddle between the curb and the ground level and I slipped and almost did the full splits. Fortunately, I saved myself, or that would have been painful and not nearly as hilarious after wards. I felt so bad for the little old ladies and men trying to hobble around, but there were too many of them to try and help them ALL cross the street...

So yesterday when we were at the Eiffel Tower, I DID see one, single, lone snow shovel. But how was it being used? The guy had turned it over, so that the scoop was now perpendicular to the ground, and he was pushing it around like a broom, or hitting the ground with it to break the ice!!! But was he clearing the broken ice/slush he had just created?? HO HO NO! He just wanted to break it up and leave it there, I guess so we poor pedestrians could have some semblance of traction. Ridiculous.

Someone needs to come help these poor people...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tour Eiffel et Notre Dame

Today the sun came out!! Yaaayy!!! It was a beautiful sunny day and I decided I wanted to get pictures of the Eiffel tower when there was blue sky, so we headed on over there. After a packed metro ride, we arrived to street hawkers about every 10 feet (and I'm really not exaggerating), hordes of people, and it was freezing cold. Now it really wasn't that big of a deal, just avoid the 10 million hawkers all trying to sell you 5 mini Eiffel Towers for a euro and you're fine. So I was super stoked about seeing the Eiffel Tower and going to the top to take pictures, but then we found out that the top two decks were closed because of the ice (it snowed all day yesterday), so we resorted to climbing the stairs (shorter line) to the first level. Holy moses that was a long hike...but we made it and the view was still awesome. I took tons of pictures and the bright blue sky was great!! Plus, I mean let's be serious. The Eiffel Tower isn't bad to look at either, regardless of how high they will let you go...

So we headed back down and decided to go to lunch, but here was the problem: We had yet to attain a good map of Paris (we have a couple crappy ones) and still even a map isn't going to tell you where the restaurants are. That's right, it's the freaking Eiffel Tower, tourist mecca, and there wasn't a restaurant is sight. I was sort of at a loss, so we started walking and decided that instead we wanted to go on a boat tour of the Seine. I know, logical progression right? (although we DID get a chocolate crepe before we got on the boat, we had to eat something or we were gonna get REALLY crepe we've ever had. Oh yes, we discussed and came to a unanimous decision.)

So we wait forever for the boat to get there and it turns out that it's sort of like a water metro! Ok well not really, but basically it stopped at 8 major monuments/attractions and you could get on and off as many times as you wanted all day! It was awesome!! So once we got on the boat we decided we wanted to get off and find something to eat at Notre Dame. I had been really excited to see it, since I love churches of any sort. So we get off the boat and turn the corner and there it is. WOW. Seriously, one of the most beautiful churches/cathedrals/religious places I have ever seen. It was truly breathtaking. So we find a crepe stand, scarf down a couple of chicken crepes (DELICIOUS by the way!) and go inside. Man, it was SO beautiful. The stained glass was phenomenal, and everyone was pretty quiet and there was music of monks singing so it was a pretty moving experience. I love places of worship and this is such a significant one, it was just really, really cool. So then we made our way out, did a little shopping, got back on the boat, and headed back to the Eiffel tower. Then we waited for the light show that is on the tower itself, which was pretty cool too, just a bunch of sparkly lights. By this point, we were freezing. And I mean FREEZING. I was wearing long underwear, jeans, wool socks, a wool sweater, my winter coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, and I was frozen. I was definitely ready to go and get warm. So we finally got back to the metro, came back to our neighborhood, ate dinner, had more delicious chocolate mousse (currently standing at number one edible delight of this trip), stopped by our favorite grocer (seriously the cutest man alive, he always says "ariverderci!" or "astalavista" or some other cute goodbye, which is awesome because he hardly speaks any english but he's so nice!!! Tonight we bought some bottled water and milk and he pretended to unscrew the cap and pour them into our shopping bag and then pretended to throw our eggs in one at a time. It sounds weird but really it was hilarious and adorable. He's awesome) and now we are home and exhausted.

I'm starting to think I prefer Paris at night, I think it's just because I like the lights. Everything is prettier when it's all lit up.

An awesome day 2 my friends. And tomorrow, Versailles!!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Paris, Je t'aime!

Je suis en Paris!!! *nose up* unh hohn hohn!! (that was a sort of nasaly scoff in case that didn't come across)

Wow. It's uber surreal to be here. I mean we went to the Louvre today, the freaking LOUVRE!!! I SAW IT with my own eyes!!! It was so cool...Although SO FRUSTRATING to try and navigate!! Holy crow, I mean it was amazing to see all the of the famous artwork like the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo, but I will have no problem never going there again. SO MANY PEOPLE who either go about 1 mile an hour in front of you for no reason, or just stop and you have to get around them or they're constantly pushing you.. BAHH it drove me insane. And the map system is totally wacked out. It was bonkers. Totally awesome in theory and once we found the pieces we were looking for, but totally bonkers...

Anyway, we arrived yesterday morning in a fit of exhaustion, jet lag, and anxiety. Ok, well I think the anxiety was really only on my end, my mom seemed to be doing just fine. See, whenever I go to a new place that's a lot different than what I'm used to, I kind of get super stressed and on edge until I get my bearings. Fortunately, I know this is how I am so I can sort of mentally prepare for it. Unfortunately, knowing that it will eventually get better doesn't really help me at the time...bummer.

So we get to the apartment we're staying in and crash for a few hours before heading out for food. I'm still pretty tired and pretty stressed/nervous about what to expect in the surrounding area. I've heard all types of stories about the french and how they are rude/selfish/will laugh in your face/etc. So the fact that my french is tres sub-par and my mom knows zero has me on a bit on edge you might say. But man was I wrong!! Everyone we came in contact with was so nice!! I was shocked! People were smiling, wanting to please, and those who didn't speak very good english were almost apologetic about it! I was so amazed. So that issue was totally squelched in my book. Stress gone. Katie=happy camper.

Now for a hilarious story from traveling yesterday, the humor may or may not translate so just bear with me: So we were advised to take the metro from the airport to the apartment for financial reasons, as taxis are super expensive. So we get on the train and it gets pretty crowded. It was about 7am and the morning rush was in full effect. Now my mom and I tried to pack light, but it's freezing here so we have a ton of warm clothes. We have two huge suitcases and one other small roller bag (briefcase size). So we make it through the metro and we got off and are going through the turnstiles to get out of the station. Now, my experience with subways/metros is limited to the Washington DC metro system from our 8th grade field trip, so A. that was quite some time ago and B. That was only one city's version of a subway system. Therefore, it didn't even occur to me that I would need to insert my ticket in the machine to get through the turnstile on the way out. I don't recall this being the way it went in DC anyway... So here I am, still paranoid about being seen for what I truly am: an American tourist who speaks hardly any french and is terrified of making a fool of herself in front of a seemingly surly nation of people.

See if you can picture this situation. So I have this huge bag, right? And a backpack. I am now trying to force my way through an unmoving turnstile with all this stuff. Greatest fear: achieved. There were two guys waiting on the other side just watching me, CLEARLY trying to suppress their laughter. Awesome. So I make it through a locked turnstile which probably makes me a fugitive or something. BUT it turns out it's a good thing I didn't use my ticket to go through because then it's my mom's turn. She also has a humongous bag plus her little roller bag plus herself. So her advantage: she knows she needs her ticket to get through. Her disadvantage: she ends up needing both her and my ticket because of all her crap. That's right. One ticket for her bags, and one ticket for herself. Even better. It was hilarious about 5 minutes after we were out of the metro station.

So I think that story was a lot funnier if you could have seen it happening, but hopefully you can visualize it enough to see the hilarity of it all. Needless to say I was mortified for about 10 seconds and then I was just like, well screw it. Who cares...

So that's all for now! Oh, ps after dinner tonight I had Mousse Chocolat (chocolate mousse for those who can't put two and two together) and it was seriously the most amazing thing I've ever eaten. UGGGHH SO GOOD!! And the bread's not too shabby here either if I do say so myself.. :) Au Revoir!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fiery Furnace

Currently I am in Boston visiting some family and prepping for a ROCKIN' trip to Paris starting tomorrow night!!! WAHOO! So, this afternoon we were all in the kitchen and some people had been frying bacon for BLT's but I didn't want the whole sandwich I just wanted the bacon. Naturally.

Now, the way this thing is set up is that there is a griddle-type utensil that sits on top of two burners, and these burners are actual flames not just red hot coils. So as I'm frying this delicious pig (sorry Palice), I notice that the flames are sort of reaching up and around the sides of the front of the griddle, basically right next to my stomach as I stand next to the stove. Slightly unnerved at this observation, I try to turn the burner down but I discover if I turn it down any more it will just turn off. So I just make a mental note to be careful and keep myself away from the burner. This is the crucial point in time when I also should have taken off the scarf I was wearing. But alas, no such logic occurred to me. Not a proud moment for me, let's just leave it at can see where this is leading.

Ok, so I'm frying bacon, la la la, and all of a sudden I look down and there are sparks and flames coming from my abdomen area. FLAMES!!!! MY SCARF WAS ON FIRE!!!!!! I had a flaming piece of cloth wrapped around my neck that was right next to all of my HAIR which lord knows would have gone up in flames, which is then next to my HEAD!!!! So practically my head was on fire, if you want to look at it more dramatically...which I do for the sake of this blog.

So naturally I FREAK OUT and hit myself until the sparks and flames are gone, and then proceed to compose myself after having just survived a life threatening situation. And what do I come face to face with?? My mother, WHO HAS GONE INTO FITS OF HYSTERICS!!!! That's right. I was on fire and what does my mom do?? She laughs!!! Unbelievable.

Ok to be fair, all of this fire business took place in a matter of milliseconds, I mean there really wasn't time for her to react before I had the "fire" out. But her response to my accusations of sitting idly by whilst I burn a fiery death? "Well I would've thrown this glass of milk on you if you hadn't gotten it out!" Great mom. You're a regular Smokey the Bear....