Monday, June 29, 2009

Almost adios, Barcelona

My, time flies, doesn't it? It is hard to believe that we already have to leave Barcelona tomorrow. We really are ready to make it to Estepona though (last leg of our trip) and do absolutely NOTHING. However, one more stop tomorrow in Granada to see the Alhambra and Leon will test his driving skills in Spain.

Until then, we have crammed in as much as we could in Barcelona, starting yesterday with...

Park Gruell. Apparently, artist/architect Guadi seems to have designed much of everything here in Barcelona. what is impressive is that it is so modern, whimsical, etc. Park Gruell is one of those places.

After climbing to the very top of the highest point in the park on this rock-building-thingy, Leon and I put on our best "scared of heights" face...except Leon may have been half-acting.

Then on to another Guadi creation, La Sagrada Familia, which is a church that has been under construction for over 80 years...and STILL under construction. It was like nothing I had ever seen - gothic, modern, but yet, still old. See for yourself below...

After a short lunch break of tapas, we headed to the Picasso museum. We waited in a very long line (see pic below) and after getting in, the lady asked us what country we were from. Leon told her, and I jokingly asked "So...does that mean we get a discount?"...then she said "It is free". Wow! When did Americans get into foreign museums for free? In Espana I guess :) No pics inside the museum, so you only get us walking there and waiting in line.

Today we hung around the famous street called La Rambla, known for it's street performers and shopping. one guy inparticular looked like a gold spray-painted version of Seth really, check it out for yourself below.

The highlight of La Rambla, however, is the big market known as Mercat La Boqueria. Was pretty cool, and I bought some candy for our plane ride tomorrow because they had a lot of interesting gummy candies which included tennis balls, sunny-side-up eggs, cobra snakes, and many more things. We were also sorry that we ate a sandwich before coming to the market as they had bars inside serving up fresh seafood...DAMN, I know! We did manage to get a fresh fruit bowl and fresh smoothies though...yum.

Before I sign off, this next set of pictures is dedicated to Brett P. upon request :)

Tomorrow, adios Barcelona and hola Granada.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Buenos dias Barcelona, Espana!

Made it to Barcelona. So hard to believe that we were in Paris this morning at a patisserie, and this evening we had some great Catalonia food.

No exploring yet, but went to a local restaurant recommended by the trusted Lonely Planet. So basically, this blog entry will be a breakdown of our meal (which was way too big because we wanted to try everything!)

Leon starts with a beer he called "hoppy"...I called it yellow-looking foamy

I had some fancy water

This is a tuna dish with herbs in a spicy sauce you put on "toast"

the "toast" with tomato sauce baked on top

cod, zucchini, and parmesan cheese with some oil and spices

fatty beef dish with mushrooms

We also had a chorizo tapa dish that was marinated in red wine...but it did not look appetizing and those reading this blog would think it was something else. It tasted great though!

Now came dessert and we got a surprise...

We ordered lemon sorbet and it came...soaked in tequila (that's the liquid you see)! WTF? I did taste good though. Would never have thought of that as a combination.

My coffee...which in Spain seems to translate to espresso

We have only two full days here in Barcelona so we plan on tackling alot tomorrow.

For now, buenos noches.

Au Revoir Paris!

A quick post before we head off to Barcelona. We ended up getting to the Eiffel tower last night just before closing to get to the top. It was quite a view and quite the crowd. Certainly can see why it is a top proposal spot, but with the crowds there, maybe not as romantic as you envision. Leon did well, even with his fear of heights - but no looking straight down for him.

Here's some pics from last night...

This is our feet while waiting in line

And that line was VERY long

Beautiful view from the top

This morning we had our last breakfast at our hotel. Did I ever mentioned that when we ordered coffee here, they bring a whole pitcher of perfectly frothed milk? I will miss that.

Since we didn't really get to try any patisserie's while here (well, one chocolate beignet yesterday), we decided to get some goods to go at a patisserie right down the street. much to choose from

We took two of those giant macarons

These are called choquettes, a popular french pastry...I tried mastering these at home, but still working on perfecting them. It is hard to find the pearl sugar that goes on top (found some at Ikea of all places!). Very yummy and airy.

We will miss Paris...

Now on to Barcelona!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Paris - Days 4 & 5

I was so tired yesterday, I couldn't muster up the strength to post. But alas, today was easy breezy and time for catching up.

Yesterday, we headed by train to the village of Giverny to see Monet's home and gardens in person. What a sight to see! So unreal to see the home and the famous 'Water Lilies" pond, along with the "poppy field" we have seen in his great paintings. It was a truly beautiful place.

Skipped the nap and headed off to dinner on the metro. It was raining, but we wanted to brave the rain to head to a place we read about that quoted best value for your dinner. Can you believe the photos below were from 10:30pm? Still so light out, it tricks you.

Well another night and another wonderful dinner. Yum! I started with a crab served with avocado mousse, while Leon started with a sundried tomato, goat cheese, egg concoction. I had duck and Leon had lamb. Last but not least there was dessert. I had a homemade chocolate mousse and Leon had a mango and rasberry crumble...heaven, ALL of it. We rolled out of there and had to unbutton our pants.

Today was a kickback day. Since we are in France, we were determined to find a crepe place. Well, apparently, Paris isn't known for it, but the internet is our friend and helped us to find a wonderful crepe place best known for it's buckwheat crepes. after stuffing ourselves again, we headed over to the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, known for many a famous author to frequent. Did a little bit of shopping too, but decided to head back here to the hotel.

We are up in the air about heading to the Eiffel tower again tonight to try and make it to the top, but thinking we may try and find a lovely sweet crepe tonight.

Paris has been wonderful and I can't believe that this is our last night. Certainly, it is a city I may come visit again.

P.S. just have to mention a R.I.P. for Michael Jackson. We've been hearing his music EVERYWHERE today in Paris.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Paris - Day 3

Another busy day. Much warmer weather but still so nice and breezy.

We started out today tackling the Louvre. It is quite alot to see, but we (like many) made a beeline for the famous Mona Lisa and got to see a few other works we knew, like Venus de Milo.

After a short ice-cream break, we made our way to the next museum not too far away called Musee de l'Orangerie. It housed a few Picasso's and some of the famous "Water Lilies" paintings of Monet.

We then visited the Arc de Triomphe again to make our way to the top. Another exhausting climb in a skinny stairwell, but the views made it worth it.

Took another short break at a cafe where I enjoyed a soy and cherry smoothie (surprisingly good) and Leon enjoyed a beer while we snacked on a club sandwich and frites. The we headed to the Sacre Coeur basilica. No climbing this time, we decided on the tram up the mountain to spare our tired soles. Another amazing view of Paris.

We headed back to our hotel and proceeded to sleep for the next couple hours. We then had dinner at a local cafe. I chose the beef tartare and Leon had a salmon dish. And as we have been used too, we always have wine and dessert with coffee, yum!

Still waiting to run into the "rude" Paris folks people have told me about. Thus far everyone has been very nice. They put up with our little known French in which most of the time we are asking if they speak English. I also have eaten like a king, but was told by some that portions are so small...not so my friends! I've been very full the entire time I have been here.

We have decided to move up our trip out to Giverny to tomorrow as it is suppose to rain on Friday - which wouldn't make for a pleasant trip to see Monet's home and gardens.

On a random note, Leon and I have been seeing advertisements all over the subways for the movie "The Hangover", which in France seems to translate to "Very Bad Trip". Funny how translations work, but not as funny as in Asia I must admit.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Paris - day 2

Wow, we have had quite the day. I do credit us for squeezing alot in, without feeling like we rushed it. Day 2 and I am liking Paris even more.

We started the day with a visit to Musee d'Orsay which had quite the impressionist collection. I was geeking out at all the art I had only seen in books, but now got to witness in person. Recognize any below? The Monets and Van Gogh blew me away. I am getting very excited about our trip this Friday to Monet's home in Giverny.

Next stop, the Musee Rodin - which as you can guess, houses alot of Rodin's work...including his most famous, The Thinker! I saved Leon from the "copy this statue" pose.

By this time we were ready to use our Metro skills. With Leon as navigator, we ventured into the subways of Paris. Next stop was Notre Dame. I am sorry to report that there was not a hunchback in the tower ringing a bell. It was a beautiful site inside and out to see, however.

And since we were at Notre Dame, it was time to test out this famous Berhillon ice cream everyone kept telling us about. Verdict: very good, but we've had better. Just bein' honest!

A short nap and 2 hours later, we are back on the town to try out Le Ralais de Venice, which came highly reccomended by friends. That crowd you see in the photo below was the line to get in! This was a popular spot, and at 24 euro for all you can eat steak and frites, it's not surprising to see why. I was only able to put down 1 1/2 servings, but squeezed in some chocolate cake and cafe au lait for dessert.

To cap off the night, we headed over to the famous Arc de Triomphe. Unfortunately, we got there right at 11pm and could nto head to the top. However, we were quite spent for the day, so maybe it was for the better.

It has been unreal to see these things in person and photos certainly do not do justice. Although I never had a real deep desire to see Paris, I must say that I am really glad we took the trip.

Tomorrow, big plans for the Louvre and whatever other museums we can squeeze in on our two-day pass.

It's about 2:50am and I am obviously still getting used to the jet lag. Better get some shut-eye.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bonjour! Comment allez-vous? didn't happen upon someone else's blog, I just happen to be in Paris! Yeah, it's been a long time since posting I know, but it has been VERY busy:

We sold our house
We moved temporarily while looking for another house
Leon graduated from Stanford GSB
We went to a wedding on Saturday
On Sunday we left on vacation

This all happened in the same week...really I wasn't kidding about being busy! :)

Here's a quick pic from the wedding. It was Nick and Lorianne who got married at St. Patrick's Church followed by a reception at the St. Regis hotel which was AWESOME. We had so much fun, and get this...the biggest dessert bar...EVER.

It was almost a bittersweet time as our friends Brett & Annika and Brad & Heather will be making a permanent move down to SoCal. Having all that fun at the wedding makes us miss them already! Good luck on the move guys and we really hope to visit..not just say it!

So cut to Sunday and here we are in lovely Paris. What is good about taking a laptop on the trip? Well, I'll get to blog about it. After a four hour nap due to jet lag, and taking a final online, we roamed around our hotel and elsewhere. We ate a very yummy dinner which consisted of a salad with melted brie, followed by chicken & potatoes for me, while Leon had skirt steak and frites. Washed it down with a carafe of wine. Then dessert was this sort of french toast concoction with vanilla ice cream, followed by espresso....whoo hoo. Can't wait to see what the rest of our meals are gonna' look like. The waiter was super nice, and patient with us Americans who were clearly underdressed for the affair.

We then headed over to the Eiffel Tower and took the stairs up to the first viewing point (elevator was closed). It was quite beautiful to see in person and at night.

postcard perfection

up close and personal

ok...this scared the crap out of me. doesn't he look creepy even though he was not real? here we are taking a romantic stroll on the viewing point and this guy is staring at me.

Tomorrow is more wandering around museums and monuments. Until then, au revoir!