Saturday, November 12, 2011

oui, paris

Paris. Of all the places I've been to and through.... the only one that did not surpass my expectations is Paris. You always hear terrible things about France in general. Some of the things I have heard regarded rude Parisians, bad body odor along with other problems with hygiene, and expensive food. I actually loved the people. They were so incredibly friendly, even though I obviously didn't know a lick of the French language. I seriously did not even know how to count past 3 prior to my trip there. And when it comes to body odor, it wasn't just France that is an offender... I sat between incredibly smelly men on the train to Germany and considered the whole way what would be the most appropriate way to ask them to not sit next to me. When I arrived in Germany, I noticed the trend continue. At our hostel in Berlin, I almost could not sit in the dining area due to the overwhelming, unbearable fragrance.

On to more my exciting day in Paris... my first stop was the Notre Dame Cathedral. This may possibly have been my favorite site. This is actually the only picture I took inside of the Cathedral, simply because I could not bring myself to take pictures of sacred religious art. Once you walk into the sculpture of a church, you are overwhelmed with awe at the size and awesomeness of it.

I love the Louvre! This place was ginormous. Several people have told me prior to going how large the place is, but I just was not prepared for a place this incredibly large. Words can not describe how big this place is. It's intensity at it's most inconceivable. I only walked through half of it, where I saw the French and Italian paintings and sculptures, including the Mona Lisa, along with the Egyptian and African art. This was one of my favorites, where the people in the pictures are completely made of fruit. You are what you eat, pictured at it's best!

After visiting to the Louvre, I took a quick peek at the Opera house then walked the 3 miles to Des Si & Des Mets for lunch. The restaurant is devoted to gluten free food and is apparently quite delicious according to reviews. As you can see, I walked all the way uphill for 3 miles to get to that restaurant that is now closed down. Wonderful. I walked down a couple blocks to an Italian restaurant where there was a chalkboard posted with the specials of which included Risotto Frutti Di Mare. This is a dish that I was sure didn't contain gluten, as it is simply seafood, tomato sauce, and rice. I walked into the restaurant and handed the manager my GF dining cards and he told me to go to a French restaurant, even after I explained the risotto shouldn't have gluten. He obviously did not know any English and did not even know what gluten was. So I walked down to the creperie next door, handed the guy my dining card and asked if he had crepes de serazza, and he said if I have a problem with gluten, I would have no problem dining there. I could have kissed that awesome server. I enjoyed every single bite of my very large buckwheat crepe filled with goat cheese, peppers, and mushrooms. The restaurant, by the way, was called Creperie Lepic Assiette. Delicious.

After making it over to the Eiffel tower, another 3.5 miles or so later, I found a bakery on my way back home. Macaron is a cookie-like dessert made from Almond flour. I got one chocolate and one caramel, and they were delicious! Totally loved them.

At the end of the day, I figured I walked about 15 miles, if not more. I didn't take a single train, simply because I would rather see all of the sites and not miss any by being underground. Paris is a really good city when it comes to sites... the entire city is full of awesome looking buildings with no in-betweeners. All in all, Paris is a city I'm glad I had the opportunity to visit, and I now really want to learn French. However, it is not a city I would want to spend a long period of time in. I would miss the trees, ocean and good quality food at a good price. One thing I will say is that French people have no concept of temperature, it seems, unless I am an old lady with hot flashes. I was wearing a tank top and sweating waterfalls (keep in mind that I rarely ever sweat outside of doing Crossfit WODS), while everyone else was clothed in thick wool coats, furry boots, scarves, and hats. I felt the need to cover up simply because I felt so naked in comparison.... but then I figured I would brave my outfit to keep myself from dying of a heat stroke.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Scotland the Brave

Oh Scotland... a country I have always wanted to see. Actually, the only European countries I have ever been interested in visiting were Scotland and Germany. My grandparents have roots in Scotland and Ireland while I have just never had the chance (outside of America) to actively involve myself in German conversation. My grandmother visited Scotland years ago and her pictures were so lovely. I will pick the fresh air and open fields of the country side over a gasoline-smelling, sun-shielded city any day. Scotland was just that for me. Everywhere you look, for the most part, you could see the hills and cliffs, seas and fields, and smiling faces everywhere. I mean you literally see smiling faces everywhere. That may have been my favorite part about Scotland.

I don't travel to eat different food or buy souvenirs or even see their national monuments. I travel to talk to different people and live in their culture. Scotland was so incredibly welcoming and happy. Every person you pass by seems to be smiling or humming... the only people with grim looks on their faces were British. Every server who waited on me in a restaurant appeared so incredibly happy to please me, even with my diet limitations, and would even direct me to places where food or coffee could be enjoyed.

I stayed in Helensborough, a small town in Scotland made up of mom and pops shops (my favorite) and incredibly friendly faces. It wasn't bustling like Glasgow which is pictured at the top of the page, but it was relaxing and exactly what I expected from a small Scotland town. I loved it.

Edinburgh was one of my favorite places to visit in Scotland. Although most of the architecture in Scotland makes you think you're in a land of castles, the Edinburgh castle is truly something amazing. The views from the castle itself are spectacular, as well as seeing all of the imagery inside that portray the story of Scotland from the 1300s and whatnot. After hours of walking throughout the castle, Jake, who met up with me for a couple of days during my trip, wanted to go on a Scotch whiskey tour. The tour started off with a barrel ride that taught us all about the whiskey making process, and ended with us choosing the type of Scotch we wanted to taste by smelling different scents depicting each area of the country in which the whiskey was made. Seeing as the region I chose smelled like pineapple and honey, I thought maybe for once I would actually slightly like the taste of that whiskey. As you can see in the picture, Jake ended up tasting both of them since the taste was definitely not the same as the smell in the region.

Scotland's got another little piece of my heart :) It's awesome, I love the people, and absolutely love the fresh air Scotland has to offer. The food.... not so much, but like I said, I don't visit anywhere to eat their food. I feel like anything any country has to offer, I can make much more tasteful in my own home. I had to run to the store and buy a bottle of hot sauce and a jar of cayenne pepper to actually add flavor to my food. And wine with every meal wasn't a bad thing either. My new love I took away from my restaurant experiences in Scotland? Sangiovese. It's my new favorite wine.

Monday, November 7, 2011

who goes to canada?

I went to Canada with the sole purpose of visiting my cousin and her fiance. I had no idea I would be so incredibly busy taking part in every Canadian activity I thought I might do to keep myself busy while there, and actually enjoy being in Canada. A cousin asked me the night before my flight mockingly, "who goes to Canada?" Out of all the other awesome places one could go, the only reason I could think of is to visit family.

Museums, national monuments, historic landmarks and big cities are not my thing. Considering my trip to Toronto would be a big city with Niagara Falls off to the side as well as art museums and what not, I really didn't care much for doing anything but spending time with my cousin and getting to know her groom-to-be. Little did I know that Toronto would acquire some of my love and the groom-to-be would totally strike out. Just kidding, he's a winner, and I'm not even being sarcastic.

Museums and what not might not be my thing, but sports and watching people beat one another with sticks definitely qualifies as my thing. The first thing my two wonderful sibling-ish people took me to do was watch a hockey game at a huge Maple Leaf bar. I was able to partake in the whole experience, cider, gluten free nachos, huge screens that covered all of the walls, fan shirts and all. By the way, this was Jisoo's first hockey game and she's been in Canada for several months. I got on to her. And the only reason we didn't go to an actual game was due to the fact there were no home games while I was there. We also went to FC Toronto's final match where we had third row seats, after celebrating Jisoo's old woman birthday the night before. We went to the top of the CN tower, the highest standing tower in the world. It was quite awesome.... beautiful. Jisoo and I who aren't afraid of heights, were so afraid we held hands to hold ourselves together as we tip-toed across the glass floor.

And to finish off my stay in Canada, Jisoo and I went on my favorite thing in the world to do.. a wine tour. We went to Niagara Falls then toured the wineries in the region. First of all, I don't enjoy visiting national monuments. I wasn't prepared to be so amazed by the beauty of Niagara Falls. The Falls are incredible to say the least. We then went on to the wineries where I tried ice wine for the first time, which I have been dying to try for years now. It was amazing. I am not a fan of sweet wine, but this stuff was better than dessert. Then there was a winery that served their ice wine in chocolate cups, which was an experience everyone should have at least once. It's absolutely fantastic and I can't wait to serve this up for the family back in the states.

Canada was fabulous. I can't wait until my next visit to Toronto. I'm definitely looking forward to taking my Jake to Niagara so we can run along the awesome trails stretching aside Lake Erie and Ontario, and check out the beautiful little towns as well as the wine. The other thing that truly impressed me in Canada, was the people. The people in Toronto were the nicest of any group as a whole I have ever come across in my life. At no point in my trip did I feel like a tourist or an outsider. Everyone is accepting and welcoming. Toronto is definitely a place I can not wait to get back to.