The ONE Thing You Should NOT Do When Traveling ( I did it )

May 22, 2014

Day 5- Paris

We were left wanting more of Paris, to spend the night awake roaming its streets but it was not an option. The hotel was miles away. There were no metro stations nearby and a cab ride would cost about thirty euros, one way.

With nothing to do, we settled on exploring all the drinks the hotel bar could prepare which turned into a great way to get to know one another. We knew each others' names but we were still shy and didn’t know more than two things about each other. Nothing like a few cocktails to get someone to tell you their life story.

The drinks kept coming and the hunger began to grumble. This presented a bigger problem than expected. We were in an unknown town and it was passed 11 pm. All restaurants nearby were closed and we had no transportation, much less any sense of direction. If we did happen to have any, that fourth vodka and cranberry juice had obliterated it.

In our semi-inebriated and full hunger state, Mark and I agreed to commit the cardinal sin of traveling: we decided to go to McDonald’s -the only place nearby we remembered on our bus ride back.

Everybody wanted hot French fries but nobody wanted to walk the mile and a half. It was only Mark, me and another girl. We were sickened with the choice we had succumbed to because of our late night munchies. But it was the only place opened this late. It was either this or a hangover. This was about survival.

Lost, tipsy and delirious with hunger, it felt as if we walked forever through a quiet and apparently desolated neighborhood. There was no sign of activity except for the busy local pub. We could have asked any of the people there for directions but that would be too embarrassing. Lost tourists looking for McDonald’s? Never.

Eventually we found it and the staff didn’t let us in. It seemed like the restaurant area was closed but we were allowed to order from the drive-through. At least that’s what we gathered by all the hand gestures.

We felt like idiots ordering on foot, trying to comprehend the fast speaking French person through the intercom. Four years of French classes, all to travel to France and order three large fries. Not my proudest moment. Quelle honte!

However, the look of the McDonald’s lady as she handed a bag full of large sized fries to three vagabond tourists was pretty priceless. No language is needed when the French judge you.

On the walk back we shoved the salty hot pommes frites in our mouths and what we experienced was a type of masochism that couldn’t be blamed on anybody but ourselves. It can never be taken back or not enjoyed. They were divine.

And for that enjoyment I apologize to all my fellow travelers. Mea culpa. Je suis desolée.

The thing about Paris | EUROPE TRIP

May 14, 2014

Day 5-
Even as we went underground to the metro station in order to get to L’Arc de Triumph, I still couldn’t believe it. “You’re telling me you can actually go inside the arc and climb all the way to the top?” was what I kept asking. And the answer was always yes, every time more irritable sounding than the last.

Champs Elysees was busy that Friday afternoon, traffic flowing constantly down its wide streets and pedestrian going in and out of the high end stores with their shopping bags. After a long day of crossing the English Channel on the Eurostar, finding out our hotel would be an hour away from the city and cancelling half of the day’s activities, just being on the avenue was rewarding enough. 

The first and last time I saw the Arc de Triumph was in 2004 at the end of Le Tour de France, the time Lance Armstrong won for the seventh time. However, to me, the arc was always an icon you admired from afar like a famous sculpture you are not allowed to get close to. So imagine my surprise, and slight embarrassment, when I found out you could actually go inside the monument and enjoy the Parisian view from the top.

We had to cross Place de Charles de Gaulle, the famous road junction where twelve avenues meet, through an underground passage. I was finally only a few feet away from the arc, for the first time noticing all the details carved on the marble. The monument honors the ones who fought during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The names of their victories and generals are inscribed all around. Beneath the arc, an eternal flame burns for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the memory of those who died at war and were never identified. It suddenly didn’t feel like such a coincidence that the biggest avenues in the city met at such a centric and historic site.

We found the secret entrance, at least it felt secret and magical to me, paid our fee and made our way up. Midway we stopped at mid level where we found the gift shop and all sorts of illustrations explaining the history and construction of the monument.

We moved on after a quick glance and before long we were at the top just as the sun set over Paris casting a warm light over the white buildings.

Even though we were not at the highest point of the city, we were able to see everything. We were high up enough that we were able to see as far as Montmartre and the Grande Arche but still low enough that we got to appreciate the details of the roads, the landmarks and the vibrancy of a city that was just starting its activities at sunset.

There is something unique about Paris, that je ne sais quoi you can’t put into words. You can only feel. I can’t help hearing in my mind an accordion’s melody even if it has been implemented in me from years of watching movies set in this city. I know it sounds cheesy or cliché but that is only because it’s been said a million times. And yet, it hasn’t come close to accurately describing this feeling.

It’s not just the influence of movies that sets her apart. When you are there, witnessing everything as it has always been described, you understand the world has not defined Paris. Paris just is and all of her travelers have exposed fragments of her but never a complete picture.

If you ask me, I can tell you Paris is the art of café au lait. It is history and complexity, a collection of incredible minds and the most indulging cuisine. But even as I stood there and walked the streets, I could not tell you in a single sentence all that is Paris. It is a few fleeting seconds of awe, of losing yourself completely in her and later it will fizzle when attempting to add logic to it.

Only if you manage to piece together everything Balzac, Hemingway, Maupassant, Hugo and Van Gogh have said about Paris can you begin to understand what it’s like to actually be in Paris.

I understand how centuries of literature, art and iconic movies have set the highest standards for the first timers in this city but for me Paris has never been disappointing. And people who say they get bored in Paris will always be a mystery to me.

Looking for India in London

May 06, 2014

This post is a continuation to my previous story of spending a day in London. Click here for that whole story.

The rest of the day was spent wandering at Oxford street and, unfortunately, ruining everyone’s afternoon when I made it my life’s mission to find a fantastic Indian restaurant. It was a recipe for failure from the start. I didn’t know any good restaurants in London, but my craving needed to be satisfied and I was hellbent on Mom loving Indian food once and for all. In retrospect, I was the one who betrayed the ‘go with the flow’ plan of the day.

When we were told there was an incredible Indian restaurant very close to Oxford street, I followed blindly and by blindly I mean I got us completely lost. We walked far more than we needed to and had to ask for directions constantly. But I couldn’t stop now. I had made everyone skip our scheduled meal with the group so we could have a nirvana-like experience with Indian cuisine. I had to find the place and an hour later I did. 
Tired, thirsty and starving we arrived at the place, but the embarrassment had only begun. The restaurant was beyond fancy with a narrow hall with an elevator in the end took us to the restaurant on the second floor. Everybody stared as we were seated and given steamed towels to clean our hands. One look at the menu and I began having a mini nervous breakdown. No plate on the menu was cheaper than 30 quid. Not even the appetizers.

This was the furthest thing from the idea I had in mind. I thought we could enjoy some curry and naan bread accompanied by acceptable customer service, not break our wallets at a high end place where the waiters have immaculate detailed uniforms. My breakdown led to frustration tears in the bathroom and me making everybody uncomfortable, even the maitre'd.

 My family continued to reassure me, telling me we didn't have to stay at all, and to my utter embarrassment we did leave but not before several waiters, even what appeared the manager asked us if we had found something wrong with the service. From their perspective, it did seem we became quite unsatisfied in a matter of a nanosecond. What was I suppose to say, though? 'You are too good for us?' No, no. We conjured up some sort of excuse and the apologized once again on our way out.

Still feeling defeated and utterly stupid, Mark tried his best to cheer me up and so did everyone else. We ended up eating in an Argentinian restaurant nearby and while it wasn’t Indian, it was still really good. With every bite, I felt better and got over my obsessive, highly dramatic moment.

I do hope someone out there read, who has tried a great bowl of curry, will understand that my reactions were not uncalled for. Sometimes you just have to have curry. And instantly. We all payed the price.

Back at the hotel, my roommate asked me why I had missed dinner with them. I told her we were in the search for some restaurant and it ended strange to say the least. I asked her how her evening had been and she said the food had been surprisingly delicious. They had stuffed their faces with curry and naan bread at a very cozy Indian restaurant.

If you have ever wondered what irony is, that day it slapped me square in the face.

My Favorite Things | APRIL

May 01, 2014

I am officially on the band wagon of monthly favorites. Looking out for the little bits and bobs that have perked up my mood during the month is so much fun and I find myself trying new things. I also like that it helps me remember my days better and it’s a great way to create memories that might have otherwise passed me by.

Wolf of Wall Street Soundtrack - House of Cards

1. I saw WoWS when it came out and I even recorded a review about it. While the movie wasn’t my favorite I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack. It is rich and varied and a fantastic listen when you are hours on your laptop working on a project. It’s got everything, from Etta James to Simon and Garfunkel. My favorite has to be the trailer’s track, 7Horse by Meth Lab Zoso Sticker. If you don’t feel like a badass after you’ve heard it, listen to it one more time.

2. I know, I know. I am a little late with Netflix’s House of Cards and I don’t even know why it took me so long to watch it. I have a secret crush on Kevin Spacey because, let’s admit it, Kevin Spacey is the man! The series about corruption and thirst for power in Washington DC is sophisticated and addictive and you can’t wait to see who will be the next to rise and the next to fall. Frank Underwood, Spacey’s character, is the biggest shark of them all yet you can’t help but be completely enthralled by him. The different shades of manipulation and ways of maintaining control make this a very dangerous game you can’t stop watching. I highly recommend it.

Essiebutton- Paris vs. NYC

3. I went over to my friend’s new apartment for a little housewarming dinner and I discovered this incredible book Paris versus New York: A Tally of Two Cities. It is all illustrations of iconic images from both Paris and New York City, showing what makes them fascinating yet so incredibly different from one another. Are you a New Yorker or Parisienne? As for me, I still can’t decide.

4. Estee (aka Essiebutton) is my new favorite Youtuber, Beauty Blogger, Canadian and overall favorite person. Based in London but originally from Canada, Essiebutton has a great beauty channel and a quirky sense of humor. Her videos range from tutorials, Cosmetic line reviews (like Bobbi Brown and Tarte) and recently a spring related series called #Springology. If that weren’t enough, I am hooked to her vlog channel as well. I watch it in the mornings over coffee. In this channel, Estee and her boyfriend Aslan document weekly their outings, travels and walks in the park with their greyhound Reggie. Can’t you tell I’m obsessed?

Estee, if you ever read this, you are the best! Also, let’s be friends (not creepy at all).

Toasted Coconut Margarita – San Francisco

5. I mentioned A Beautiful Mess in my previous monthly favorites because there is simply no better website for inspiration and DIY projects. Their recipes category, however, is not just inspirational. It is pure temptation. Their cocktail recipe for Toasted Coconut Margarita is delicious and refreshing, perfect for the following warm months. Next time, I might make a frozen version of this tasty drink.

6. While I am a big fan of the East Coast (NYC, Miami), I find myself day dreaming about the West Coast. Maybe it’s because summer is around the corner, but lately my day dream city has been San Francisco. It is my goal to live in a big energetic city, even if for a few months of my life. I’ve always aimed for New York City but there is something about San Fran’s mellower vibe and its artistic neighborhoods that might persuade me to change my mind. I’m planning to make San Francisco one of my travel destinations for the next year, fingers crossed.

Those have been some of my April favorites. What have you been loving for the past month? I would love to know.

I hope you have a great weekend!

M xox