I really love this picture, so I want to post it.

So, although I’m not recapping my actual Parisian adventures just yet, I took a picture of Notre Dame at night and I love it!

Here it is:

Notre Dame at Night!

Notre Dame at Night!

Funny story: when we were walking by this, a guy was speaking another language (I think German?) and in the middle of his unintelligible jabber (since I didn’t know his language) I heard him say “Notre Dame” as it is pronounced when referring to the American university/football team (he said “no-ter dayme” but the pronunciation of the cathedral should be “no-truh dahm”). It’s probably only funny to me, but I definitely got a good laugh out of it.

To see the rest of my photos of this round of the Paris trip, click here.

(Note: I actually took about 300 photos, but since I’d already uploaded about 5 albums from my prior Paris trip, I limited my uploading to the maximum 60 photos per album and tried to just upload most of my favorites)

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Paris Will Have to Wait…

So, I haven’t been able to even try to think about recapping my Parisian adventures with Becky because my schedule this “week” (ie the 4 days I’m actually in town) is crazy busy… but hopefully I’ll get around to that soon because the trip was AMAZING! At first when Becky told me she wanted to go to Paris I kind of had this “…Again?” feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED it the first time. However, since I had never really traveled before coming to London, now when I have a chance to get out of town I want to go somewhere new. I want to see everything, and then think about repeats 😉

But, nonetheless, I booked a trip to Paris with Becky, and it was amazing. I don’t regret going back a second time at all, and it just made me want to go back more! More on that later…. but in the meantime, my current schedule issues:

The main thing is that on top of all the normal things that cram my schedule Tuesday-Thursday (I’m in class all day on Tuesday and Thursday, and have to fit in all the readings, laundry, groceries, etc. in between before heading out to travel again on Thursday night or Friday.. I know, hard life ;)), this week I’m preparing for a moot court competition on Friday. Alexander and I are a team and we will be arguing a fake British case in front of fake House of Lords judges (like the Supreme Court of England). Although the facts of our case are made up, we have to use real British cases and British law to argue for our imaginary clients. British cases are super dense and they are not like American cases in that instead of a majority and minority opinion (which makes it very clear what the law is), each judge writes their own opinion and they are all listed. Also, the cases seem to be heavily weighted in the other direction (supporting the other side). From the looks of it so far, we’ve basically got a dissent in one case (not binding) and we’ll have to analogize humans at a concert to “wild beasts” to make a policy argument. Basically, our argument is “I know you guys have already totally settled this issue and are very clear that we’re supposed to lose here, but um.. how about you completely change your mind and let us win? Eh?”

So, I should really get back to trying to read the cases and figure out what to say on Friday morning at 8:30am when it’s time for Alexander and I to argue this mess.

Also, Becky and I will be leaving on Saturday morning for a quick trip to Barcelona, Spain… so it may be a bit before I’m able to recap Paris or Barcelona. We’ll see!

Day 4- Strasbourg + Road Trip to Brussels.

In the morning I woke up, met Alexander in the lobby for breakfast, but then decided to take my food on the go because we wanted to run to catch the 9:30 boat tour (first tour of the day). They have a 70 minute boat tour through Strasbourg for less than 4 euros if you’re a student, and there are headsets that you can tune to English to learn all kinds of interesting things about Strasbourg. The english version was in an Irish accent and I imagined it was Colin Farrell the entire time, and he made some pretty entertaining jokes. Sadly, it’s been several days now and so much has happened that I can’t really remember much about the tour besides how pretty it was.

On the Boat Tour

On the Boat Tour

For the rest of the pictures I took on the boat tour, click here.

After the tour, we went to the Museum of the history of Strasbourg, which turned out to be free on weekends, and sadly we only had time to get through the 1600s before we had to leave to get lunch before boarding the bus back to Brussels. Interesting fact learned: the first newspaper ever was in Strasbourg! That explains the international journalism school on the boat tour 😉

For lunch I bought Tarte Flambee (on the recommendation of an undergrad friend- Justin Miracle). It’s kind of like a mini-pizza but a thinner/flatbread kind of crust.. and… very uniquely delicious? I was slightly disturbed by the ingredients. I just got the classic one and it was in french but it included a cream sauce, cheese, onions, and … lard? I hope lard means some kind of meat because it looked kind of like little pieces of bacon. Even if it was just pure fat, it was pretty delicious. I also bought a banana and dark chocolate crepe…. one bite was like HEAVEN. I used to not like Dark Chocolate but the digestives in London have converted me and now I’m obsessed with Dark– I’ve “come over to the dark side” so to speak 😉 I had some milk chocolate the other day (which I used to love) and it was bleh. Mmmm talking about this makes me want more dark chocolate now!

Tarte Flambee (and the crepe to the right)

Tarte Flambee (and the crepe to the right)

Anyway, so I took all that food on the bus, and we began our 7 hour journey to Brussels on the bus with no bathroom. We did stop for a 45 minute break in Bastogne, Belgium… but that was already like 4+ hours into the trip.. AH! Also, we had to pay .40 euros to use the WC, and the woman working the bathroom was playing that “Kissed a Girl” Katie Perry song on a little radio. So random! The stop was also another USA memorial which was actually pretty cool to see. (Although, we drove through the cute town of Bastogne through all the nice shops and PLACES WITH FOOD to the isolated memorial where I ended up buying a big bag of sour gummy bears to hold me over until we could get real food. I wish we could have stopped in the town, but there aren’t many places to park large tour buses in tiny europe towns).

The Memorial in Bastogne

The Memorial in Bastogne

I think we made it to the hotel somewhere around 8ish, quickly unloaded our belongings and headed to the City Center for our food. Super nice hotel, slightly not so nice walk down to the city center… when you’re starving and it’s late at night and you are walking through a kind of run down neighborhood in a foreign country and sticking out like a sore thumb… kind of adds to the creepiness. But we made it and the city center was very cool. There was a big festival going on so it was packed down there. Alexander and I found a cute (and very expensive) place for dinner. I was so exhausted and so hungry, and when I opened the menu and saw the prices after we’d already got our drinks hot tears started running down my face. I had been looking at all the menus as we walked down the street trying to find a cheap place and we ended up at the most expensive one. However, the food ended up being good, and it was a nice, relaxing dinner so I managed to suck up my tears and feel ok about it 🙂

Next we ran into some fellow students and went on an adventure to find this famous statue which is basically a little boy peeing. Apparently, the original statue in the 1600s got smashed, and the guy who smashed it went to jail for LIFE. Can you imagine? “Yeah.. I killed a bunch of people.” “Yeah… I smashed a statue of a little boy peeing.” Seeing it was like seeing the Mona Lisa… it’s this tiny little unassuming thing that if you just saw it and didn’t know it was famous, you’d probably just walk on by.

Manneken Pis

Manneken Pis

After that, I think we got waffles from a stand (amazing!), some Leonidas chocolates (because they are a lot cheaper in Belgium- where they are actually from- than in Santa Monica), and headed back to the hotel.

That’s the end of Day 4!

Day 3- Strasbourg.

When I woke up the morning of Day 3, I actually woke up on time because my alarm actually went off at the appropriate moment. “Time to get up! The time is.. 6:30.” I love getting awoken by a voice alarm rather than a loud, disturbing beep!

I packed up and had another delicious breakfast in our Luxembourg hotel, and braced myself for the freezing cold wait on the street corner because surprise, surprise… at 7:58, when we were supposed to be leaving at 8:00, less than 10 people were in the lobby. However, Dean Gash printed off a list of the next 5 trains to Strasbourg and went over to warn everyone that they were getting left behind if they didn’t get outside promptly, and miraculously everyone started trailing outside. We were on the road to Strasbourg by 8:30. A lot of the countryside between Luxembourg and Strasbourg actually looked a lot like driving in the Northwest or maybe even parts of the east coast. It was only when we passed small towns and the buildings were obviously a lot older than anything in the States that I would remember we weren’t in the USA.

A Little French Countryside

A Little French Countryside

Amazingly Huge Grapes from Luxembourg

Amazingly Huge Grapes from Luxembourg

Our first stop in Strasbourg was the Human Rights court. Everyone was exhausted from getting up so early and the long bus ride, and again it was warm in the room, so we were all fighting to stay awake while a lawyer from Turkey tried to explain the Human Rights court system. I found the talk very interesting but it was definitely a struggle keeping my eyes open. I’m sure it was the vending machine coffee for .50 euros (which was DELICIOUS!) that kept me going! Honestly, my favorite part of this stop was the cheap vending machine coffee and the photo op with a chunk of the Berlin Wall outside the building.

Human Rights Court

Human Rights Court

Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall

Then we were off to our hotel and free until dinner. I had a really cute room with (dangerously low hanging) wood beams overlooking the street. If I leaned out my window I could see the Cathedral. Alexander and I quickly left to go try to find a crepe for me (I really wanted one with chicken and tomatoes and cheese like I’d had in Paris) but sadly the one place that gave us hope was closed until dinner by the time we got there. Ultimately, I bought what I thought was a chicken panini that turned out to be a 3 cheese panini. One of the cheeses looked a lot like chicken! It was still tasty, but I was really craving chicken!

The View

The View

Then we met up with Adam and Krissi, and Dean Gash and his family, at the Cathedral and found out you could pay 2.30 Euros if you were a student to go to the top. 325 tight, winding steps later… We were at the top with the best view of Strasbourg. It was absolutely amazing, but we all got super dizzy walking down. I really expected my legs to be super sore at some point after that, but it’s been several days now and I still haven’t felt any soreness.

Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg

Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg

For all of the pics I took inside and on top of the Cathedral, click here.

After that we basically walked around the town with Adam and Krissi for the rest of the afternoon. I saw a giraffe bowl inside a coffee shop and went in and bought it on a spur of the moment thing, and inside this man was holding the cutest little puppy I’ve ever seen– a little miniature something, I couldn’t understand the breed in French, but his name was Charlie which made him even cuter. The owner let me hold him and I did not want to give him back afterwards. When we had to leave I said “I feel like the love of my life just walked away” and Alexander was like “It’s ok, I know I can’t compete with that.” Haha.

Charlie! 3

Charlie! ❤

We had dinner in a restaurant that looked like a cave and served “Alsace-style” food (Alsace is the region of France where Strasbourg is). It consisted of “Alsace Onion Pie” and salad, then what looked like a ripped in half chicken with some pasta, and then what looked like a tarte flambee with some kind of cooked fruit on top (I didn’t taste it, but it was either apples or pears). If you know me at all, you probably know that (1) I can’t handle meat that still looks like an animal on my plate (this has nothing to do with me feeling bad about eating animals), and (2) I don’t like cooked fruit in desserts. So, not my favorite meal, but the restaurant and atmosphere were cool and many people liked the food so it was all good 🙂

After dinner, we ended wandering around trying to find a dessert place, ending up in a slightly sketchy area, and then returning from the area we originally came from and just getting some ice cream at a pizza place. A lot of people were going out after that, but I decided to just go back to my room and sleep because it was already pretty late by then, and I like sleep!

Days 4 and 5 to come later!

The Best Thing Ever = The Eiffel Tower at Night!

Yesterday (Saturday) was our second full day in Paris. We started off the day by taking the metro over to the Tour Montparnesse (a skyscraper in Paris with a viewing deck at the top so you can go up and see the whole city, including the Eiffel Tower–if you go up the Eiffel Tower you don’t get to see that in the skyline!). The view was amazing but it was pretty hot (around 90F) and bright and we both forgot our sunglasses back in London. We didn’t stay up on the top deck very long (floor 59), but there is also an observation deck on floor 56 which is inside and air conditioned, so we hung out there for awhile as well.

Right before we went to the Tour, we stopped at what some friends jokingly call “the American Embassy” aka McDonalds 🙂 I feel like a bit of a lame-o for eating McDonalds when I’m in PARIS, but I just wanted something quick and cheap, and everything else around were sit-down cafes. It was yummy, except in France they apparently put the nutrition facts right on the wrapper so there is no blissful ignorance in eating McDonalds here. Ouch.

Then we headed to the Louvre. Sadly, my camera was near dead at that point so I had to switch to the 5 megapixel setting to try to save power and I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked to. The Louvre is filled with so much art, but what really struck me was how crazy it was that it used to be a palace. I just couldn’t stop thinking, “this was someone’s HOUSE?” King, sure, but even for a King the Louvre is crazy big. And I also kept imagining people back in the day walking through there when it was the King’s place, and having no idea that a couple hundred years later all these tourists from around the world in their sandals and fanny packs with their digital cameras and cell phones would be strolling through the place in masses. So that is what I was thinking about most of the time– oh, and also about how TINY and insignificant the Mona Lisa seems compared to all of the other art. There was a painting of Napoleon’s carnation (?) that was bigger than the square footage of many peoples homes, and it wasn’t the only big painting… but the tiny Mona Lisa is the one people are fascinated with. It hangs alone on a huge wall… which kind of exaggerates how tiny it is… and is roped off and hoards of people stand around taking photos of it (we got one too… although I wish instead of zooming in I had taken a picture from a distance so you all could see how huge the wall is, and how tiny the painting is). So there you have it– the world is fascinated by Mona Lisa, and I am fascinated by how big the King’s house was. The things we think about 😉

After the Louvre we were exhausted–both from the heat, and all the walking and stairs. Besides all the walking here (both Paris and London), there are rarely elevators. The stairs can be KILLER. When we were flat hunting in London after the first couple days my legs were so dead I had to physically lift them with my hands to get up the stairs. The bright side is– no need for a gym when Europe is my stair-stepper? 🙂 So we headed back to the hotel to rest for awhile. We had planned to visit Notre Dame but the service was at 6:30 and we knew we couldn’t make it back in a hour so we decided to go Sunday instead.

After relaxing for a bit we got dressed up and headed out for dinner near the Eiffel Tower. Alexander had two places in mind (affordable for the area and recommended by a travel book). We got to the first one and the only people in the place were two separate tables with a couple older women at each table, and they were talking very loudly in English to each other across the restaurant. Not appealing. So we walked to the other one–Le Bosque–and it turned out to be very nice. Apparently we were really early for dinner, because the only other people eating when we first got there had full heads of gray hair 😉 But quickly a younger crowd came in as well. However, that also brought our one annoyance with the restaurant. For some reason, still unknown to us, the service to our table (and our table only) was extremely, extremely slow. People who arrived more than 45 minutes after us were getting their food before us, and Alexander’s lamb never came. We ultimately asked them to just bring us the check without the lamb on it, and paid so we could leave because I was getting really tired just sitting there waiting and waiting, and we had other things we wanted to see! Despite the slowness, our food was delicious and the place was so much nicer than option #1!

Next, we hopped on the metro up to the Eiffel Tower. We had planned on walking–it’s a nice walk–but dinner took too long and we wanted to get over there. I am so, so, so glad we went back to see it at night too! It’s so pretty! It’s currently lighted blue with a circle of stars resembling the European Union because France’s President (Sarkozy) is currently the president of the EU as well. It twinkles for 8 or 10 minutes every hour on the hour and Alexander knew the perfect spot to see it from! He also knew about Cafe De L’Homme (a very expensive restaurant with amazing views of the tower) which is in a Museum right there, and he convinced the hostess to let us have a table with a view just for drinks and dessert (she couldn’t let us sit outside if we weren’t buying dinner, but she gave us an AMAZING table inside!) I love, love, LOVED it! Then this morning when I uploaded the pictures I got all excited again. Definitely one of the coolest things I’ve seen/done, and ranks right up there at the top of “Best Nights Ever.”

Our Table at Cafe De LHomme!

Our Table at Cafe De L'Homme!

Today has been a very relaxing day. Sadly, I woke up with (sorry for the TMI male readers) really bad cramps. I still managed to get myself in a dress and make it to the “international mass” at Notre Dame with Alexander, and we went to a nearby sidewalk cafe for lunch. Alexander had to find a pharmacy to get medicine for me, and came back with a pink box that says “regles douloureuses” which I think means something to do with periods 😉 I just asked him for ibuprofen but he told the pharmacist exactly what I needed! Also, it turns out “limonade” is not lemonade, but 7UP. In my desperate-pained state, lemonade sounded good so I ordered it. Not only did it turn out to be 7UP, it also cost 7 EUROS!!! (aka $10 US DOLLARS!! FOR A GLASS OF 7UP!!). So, no more ordering a beverage without (1) knowing what it actually is, and (2) knowing the price! The cheapest I’ve seen here for a diet coke is 2 euros (which is 3 U.S. dollars and I thought that was expensive!) but that is way cheaper than 10!

Anyway, now we’re at the hotel watching rented movies on iTunes because when I have cramps this bad the best I can do for myself is take lots of meds and take it easy. Luckily its today that this happened, a day we planned on taking easy anyway. And today is also the only day it has rained while we’ve been here. So perfect both ways. Hopefully I feel better soon because it’s my last night in Paris! I need to see more of the city!!