Montmartre

French Word of the Day: Montmartre (mon-mar-truh)- the area of Paris with Sacre Coeur, Amelie and large amounts of sex shops

As you probably know, I went to Paris as a “you made it through chemo!” thing.  I get the same amount of joy from going there that a child gets from going to Disney World.  (Coincidentally, I also feel this way about Disney. See posts 1, 2 and 3. I found even more than that, but this entry is not about Disney.)

Joining me on my adventures were my twin sister Caitlin and my friend Grace.

When I started chemo, I set a picture of myself in Monmartre as the background on my phone.  It was to remind myself of what was to come.  When I finally got to Paris, I had Caitlin take a picture of me in the exact same spot.  It was a bit windier this time, and it looks as though someone has since taken a piece of the lamppost off:

Split image

Grace is the person who introduced me to French films (namely Amelie), and we’ve been planning our trip together ever since.

Grace and I in the cafe featured in one of our favorite films.  I don't want to discuss what my hair is doing.

Grace and I in the cafe featured in one of our favorite films. I don’t want to discuss what my hair is doing.

Montmartre is one of my favorite areas in Paris.  I’ve been there many times.  We met up with our friend Sam, who gives tours there regularly.  It was like he was hanging out with friends only he had to work at the same time.  And we didn’t pay him.  So really, not a great time for Sam.  He was a good sport, though!

Sam telling us about a place where someone famous and dead used to live.
Sam telling us about a place where someone famous and dead used to live.

It rained off and on, but it was still much warmer than Chicago!

Feerie IMG_3750IMG_3749wine sccarousel cafe des 2 moulins

Many of these photos were stolen from Caitlin.  She was by far the most avid photographer of the day!  (As evidenced by the fact that she took about 2,000 more photos than I did and that her phone usually died by the middle of the day.)

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A Very Merry Disney Halloween Christmas

French Word(s) of the Day: Tout ce que je veux pour Noël c’est toi (too sah kah jah voo pour no-el say twah)- All I want for Christmas is you

My phone’s been acting up lately, so I am terrified that all my pictures are going to die.  This means tons of backlogged posts that I hadn’t gotten to yet will be appearing in the next few weeks.

We’ve got a lot to catch up on, folks!

I visited my sister, Alyssa, in California earlier this year.  She’s been living there for work.  She started a blog that she updates every so often (read: never).  I believe the last post was from October 5th.   See?  There are people worse at updating than me.

Disneyland was necessary during my visit as it’s my life goal to make it to every single Disney park at some point in my life.

This castle is Disney’s smallest and is Sleeping Beauty’s.  She has 3: this one, Paris, and Hong Kong.  If you’re going to be a true royal, you must bankrupt your subjects by using their tax dollars for castle upkeep.

We went to Disneyland when it was all spiffed up for Halloween.

They completely changed the Haunted House into Nightmare Before Christmas… it was like Christmas AND Halloween (and therefore appropriate for right now 😉 )

I’m glad that it now looks like I planned putting off this entry all along so that we could get some Christmas love here.

We also bought tiaras because why wouldn’t you?  All the park people bowed to us and said “Your highnesses.”  I wish people would do this to me in real life instead of staring at me like I’m crazy when I wear a tiara in public.

Mine fell off during Splash Mountain, but never fear!  A purple tiara found its way back to me by the end of the day…

The tiara is currently on my night stand waiting for an excuse to be worn again.  The 3D glasses I gave back to Disney.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Halloween!

(Ok, more like a day left.  But I am close!)

New York, New York

French Word of the Day: meuble (mwa-ebleh)- furniture

I’m going to keep up the French Word of the Day.  I’m going to bet I still have a few (thousand) to learn, and who doesn’t want a little bit more French in their life?

My employer sent me to New York to help with a conference.  I’ve never traveled for a job before, so having someone else pay for all my expenses was AWESOME.  I wish work paid for all my vacations.

The first day, I got free reign of the city.  I went to see a little-known museum that some people call “The Met.”  You’ve probably never heard of it.

It was raining.  I have that effect on New York.

Someday, we will all find out why museums feel the need to charge half a year’s salary as admission.  It seems to me that more people would come if it was cheaper, but what do I know about business?

The museum had distinct signs that forebode food, drink, and photos.  I ignored them all.  So did everyone else in the museum.  I think they were there for decoration.

The lovely thing about going to a museums by yourself is that you can see whatever you want for as long as you want.  I hung out by the Egyptians for an hour, taking clandestine photos of really old jewelry.

I also found this sarcophagus of an Egyptian queen who died when she was only 21.  I never thought a thousand-year-old sarcophagus would make me feel old.

And the ever-popular Temple of Dendur (which sounds like a video game), gifted to America by the Egyptians.  It’s from around 15 BC.  No big deal.  Just a few millennia older than our government.

I believe they built a moat around it to keep tourists away, but if there’s anything I’ve learned about tourists, it’s that they will never stop trying to climb on ancient buildings in order to take pictures for their Facebook profiles.  Seriously, the FBI could learn a few things from tourists.

The next section I went to was the American section.  The Met has decided to capitalize on our fascination with HGTV and recreate homes from every century in our governmental history.  It’s like “International House Hunters 1600’s-style.”  (For the record, I would watch that show.)

I got a picture of this 18th-century dining room:

I also stumbled upon the medieval section.  I’m writing this visit off as “research” for my future historical romance novel.

I will take name suggestions for all four knights.

After my tiring day wandering through the museum, I stumbled upon an overpriced cupcake stand.

You all know my love for cake dictates that I cannot turn down cupcakes, no matter how overpriced.

It started to rain 5 seconds after my cupcake purchase.  I attempted to eat the cupcake while simultaneously walking and holding an umbrella.  Any of you who have ever seen me walk before (I’m not very good at it) know that this was a poor decision.  Part of the cupcake dropped into my purse.

The purse is still recovering.

I had dinner with my coworkers and found out that one also works for a literary agent for…. ROMANCE NOVELS.  I’ve already warned her that I’m going to send her a really, really sappy story.  Well, i will whenever I actually get an idea for it/ write it.  In other words, I’ll send her a story next century.

I took a picture of the New York Library, even though I never got the chance to go into it.  Next time!  I shall return.

The next day, I actually had to work.  Life can’t be all cupcakes and furniture.  Well, unless you own a store that exclusively sells said objects.

If anyone decides to open that store, I’d love to go into business with you.

The Great London Adventure

French Word(s) of the Day: le marriage (leh marr-e-ah-geh)- the wedding

I did very well in the UK.  Will and Kate’s wedding ended up being the perfect vacation.

Vanessa and I went to Stonehenge and Bath on Tuesday.  I won’t describe Stonehenge; you’ve all seen it in photos.  It’s pretty much the same in person, except bigger.  They stopped letting people touch the rocks in the 70’s due to erosion.  I didn’t get to touch it, so it’s uninteresting.

Bath had the Jane Austen Center.  Clearly, the only Austen character any female has ever cared about is Mr. Darcy, because there are about 8,000 photographs of Colin Firth in his Darcy gear gracing the walls.

Wednesday was our official celebrity sighting day.  We stumbled upon Natasha Bedingfield singing at the London Tower.  She was singing for a tv special.

When we got back to the hostel, my new Swiss-Italian friend, Diego, informed me that he knew where Keira Knightley would be singing autographs.  As a celebrity enthusiast, I decided that would be agreeable, and we joined him.

She was speed signing.  I couldn’t even get a good shot of her face, but still it IS her.

Thursday, we filled my Shakespeare love and went to the reproduction of the Globe Theatre.  We bought standing seats (very cheap and the best “seats” in the house) and saw “All’s Well that Ends Well.”  Vanessa and I had to explain some of it to Diego, but he did well considering.  (Shakespeare is confusing enough if English is your first language.)  Thankfully, it didn’t rain, as the standing seats aren’t covered…

We then walked around and stared at all the people in tents outside Westminster Abbey.  Some of them had been camping out for an entire week.  Personally, I like a more comfortable setting with a bed, running water, and heating, but their devotion to the Royals cannot be denied.

I’m not hardcore enough.

Friday, we woke up really early and headed to Hyde Park to watch from the screens.  We were considering lining the streets, but after seeing the people in tents, we knew we’d never get a good spot.  Also, Hyde Park’s screens would show us more of the event.

Luckily, this is where most of the real British people were.  They were sporting a collection of the ugliest hats I’ve ever seen.  Those Brits sure have awful taste in head wear.  I was considering bringing hats back until I saw them.  Now, I think we should be very afraid of them.

My friend, James, came in on Friday night to see me.  He’s in the British Air Force, but they got Friday and they’ll get tomorrow off, so he had/has some free time.  He turned out to be a font of knowledge of the Princes.  They’re both in the Air Force, so he’s had drinks with them and some of his instructors have taught them.  I got to hear a few stories, and am uber jealous.  Although, I guess I would rather not have Prince Harry think of me as a drinking buddy and more as someone who could possibly join him in Holy Matrimony whilest wearing Alexander McQueen.

Posh Spice would absolutely be there.  And Sir Elton.

I’d been seeing “mushy peas” on the menu everywhere.  James said, “They’re even worse than they sound” but insisted I try them at least once.

They’re definitely worse than they sound.  Which really, you have to admit is quite tough to do.  Anything “mushy” already is unappetizing.

They don’t even look like they would taste good.  The fish and mashed potatoes more than made up for them, but why does this exist?

On a related side note, I bought heartburn medication in London.  It was needed.

James then took me on a pub crawl of all his favorites.  I became addicted to this fabulous drink called Pimm’s, which I believe is gin and lemonade.  Much like sangria, they put fruit in it.  I had James pose with it.

(His is the more manly-looking beer in the foreground.  He didn’t join me in the deliciousness that is Pimm’s.)  Check out all the fruit!  I’m pretty sure that counts as a daily serving of fruit.  Five glasses of Pimm’s, and you’re good for the day.

James and I were going to meet the next night because we’d had such a successful and fun bar crawl, but he was still recovering (he even missed his stop on the way home).  Poor kid.  I guess the British just aren’t as skilled at drinking as those of us with Irish in our blood.

Also, Pimm’s probably has less alcohol than beer.  A lot less.  It’s the fruit.

I walked around St. James’ Park on Saturday and saw Buckingham Palace the day after the wedding… not as exciting as the day of.  But I did see this:

Today at the train station, I met another writer!  I had two hours to kill, so I bought a coffee and was writing stories in my notebook at one of those huge, collective, meant-for-6-people tables.  He joined me when the other spaces ran out, and asked for some help on dialogue with a play he’s been writing.  After he found out I was also a writer, he asked me to read the entire play.  He’s going to send the final version to me when it’s finished.

Yeah, I’m expanding my literary connections!  I’m going to have writer friends in all parts of the globe.

I’ve never tried writing at a cafe like that before.  Must make it a habit.

I’ve convinced the members of the group I have to do a speech with on Thursday that the Royal Wedding should be our topic.  OOOOOH YEAH.

Pain au chocolat count: 77

Lisbon!!!!

French Word of the Day: Lisbonne (liz-bon)- Lisbon

Before my trip, I had never considered Portugal.  Quite frankly, very few people I knew had been there or discussed it.  I had met one Portuguese guy who sang Lisbon’s praises, but I just took it as national pride.

Dude, he wasn’t kidding.  Portugal rocks.

Shelley had told us to go to Sintra, a town outside of Lisbon.  We decided to take a day trip there and climb the mountain.  Ou first stop was just before the mountain.  It looked like this:

I know what you’re thinking: that’s absolutely the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen.

Wait, it gets worse:

And who would ever want to see something as uncool as this?:

And that was just what we saw before the mountain. (It’s called Quinta da Regaleira, and it’s quite possibly my favorite place ever created by man with help from the big guy upstairs.)

I’m by no means a mountain woman.  Considering I had already walked three miles that day and several more the day before that, the prospect of climbing a huge mountain was a bit daunting.  Fear not, I conquered the mountain!

That’s such a lie.  The mountain conquered me.  I’m still sore two days later.

But at least I got to be greeted by this:

Moral of the story?  Go to Portugal.

This post is going to be short.  I have to somehow translate my CV into French.  This should take roughly a week, so of course, they gave me one day in which to complete it.  Maybe I should strike in protest?

Oh dear, the French are rubbing off on me.

Pain au chocolat count: 25!!! (courtesy of Théo encore and eaten fresh out of the oven)

Barcelona!!!!

French Word of the Day: Barcelone (bar-say-lone)- Barcelona

My facebook account has been steadily gaining friends.  As Dustin (one of the only guys in our program who is traveling with us for break) put it, “This is perfect.  We’re making friends with people I probably won’t see again.  That’s a much easier friendship to maintain.”

We booked a really great hostel here.  I told the others that they’re completely spoiled because normally hostels aren’t this nice.  This one is clean and spacious and well-run.  Other hostels are… not.

Everyone’s been really friendly.  We’ve been going out with new people every night.  English-speakers mostly.  We still manage to have a wide range.  It’s normally several Australians, Englanders (I don’t know if that’s a word), and South Africans.  For some reason, the three other people I’m traveling with and I are the only Americans.  Maybe we scare other Americans away?  We know they’re here.

One of the English guys is in the British Air Force.  He’s going to meet us in London at the end of November.  He’s got some good restaurants for us to go to.  I think Dustin just might be wrong about never seeing everyone again…

The English guys have just made everyone an English breakfast which has been Spanish-ified because the Spanish don’t do baked beans well or have “proper English sausage.”  I suppose the Spanish aren’t in the habit of having English breakfasts.  I’m actually not really sure what a Spanish breakfast looks like.  We don’t normally wake up early enough to go out for breakfast.

We have seen several gorgeous parks.  I really enjoyed the park designed by Gaudi.  His designs remind me of the elves in the Lord of the Rings.  We also saw the Picasso Museum.  I was impressed by his earlier work and (I’m totally going to offend the art history majors here) unimpressed by his later work.  Mainly because most of the later works were comparable to art pieces I created in grammar school.  One of the paintings was almost identical to something I made in kindergarten.  Perhaps he was trying to make a statement about youth or something.  I’m not really sure.  Of course, maybe I was just a very prolific artist at age 6 and it just took Picasso longer to catch up.

I’ve been able to use French here!  I gave directions to a Spanish guy in French (he didn’t speak English) and last night I made friends with two Belgian girls.  They were a bit tipsy and kept insisting that I get in all their photos.  Let’s hope they were sober enough to remember me or they’re going to be confused by the random girl in their pictures.

Off to Lisbon today!  Wish us luck!

Pain au chocolat count: 23