Saturday, February 6, 2010

France 2010

How do I describe a trip of a lifetime? I could talk about it for days and wish I had endless hours and computer access at the end of each day to describe it instead of recalling it in one large chunk now as I bask in the glow of it all. Writing in my journal while traveling on the train was all I had time for.

I do have to share that I believe France to be a fun and generous place. I have heard how rude the French can be and I do not believe it. I am struck by the kindness I experience there. As I traveled alone, people not only went out of their way to help me when asked, folks would approach me when it just looked like I needed something.

The food was absolutely amazing. With a pastry shop and bakery on every corner, how do you choose? The lines out the door definitely help. One day I decided to try a pain au chocolat at every boulangerie I came to from the front door of my hostel on my way to the Seine. After three blocks and three pain au chocolat, I decided that was enough....the top pick was the one fresh out of the ovens, still warm, so buttery it actually felt like it melted in my mouth, a texture of puff pastry that I haven't ever experienced before....

I couldn't have possibly eaten any more cheese and bread, I would stop for a baguette for later but if it was warm, fresh out of the ovens.....half would disappear because it would never taste quite the same later.....There are open air markets to be found everyday (but Monday) to discover local artisan cheeses, fruits, meats, boulangers, seafood of ALL kinds....I went on a honey spree....I actually only sat down to a restaurant meal twice. The self catering options from the open air markets were such a daily adventure. I tried to try everything.

After arriving in Paris, I took the train the following day to Rouen, on my pilgrimage to enjoy the delights that changed Julia Child's life forever. I LOVED Rouen, what a charming city. I had the meal and experience of a lifetime at La Couronne. The oldest restaurant in France, starting in 1345. I was in gastronomic bliss for just under three hours, not only was my meal spectacular, I was able to see everything else on the menu prepared for the other diners around me. Very intimate, eight tables, an enormous fireplace and table set up near the fireplace with bottles to mix beverages.

From Rouen I caught the train to Nice. I stayed in the hostel Villa Saint Exupery which is rated the nicest hostel in Europe. This hostel is amazing, the services they provide are above what hotels would offer. I took the bus to Grasse to discover the capitol of fragrance....aromatherapy being a passion of mine, I was drawn to this place. I had an amazing crepe salees that redefined crepes for me. Not only are the fillings endless in either savory (salé) or sweet (sucré), you can find them light and crispy or chewy, soft and made from buckwheat.

The Côte d'Azur is filled with kind folks and sunshine. Nice is beautiful, as a friend has shared with me, the light is so unique there....she is right, it truly is....

Then a train back to PARIS!!!! I LOVE PARIS!! I walked all the daylight hours of almost each day. When my aching feet felt as if they could take no more and I found a metro....the sights beckoned me on, I just couldn't miss a corner or the next block. The architecture and history is astounding. I walked around in awe with a huge grin on my face the whole time, a tear in my eye while I walked around the last morning bidding adieu to this grand city.

Everything happened in a handful of days....visiting the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Rodin's museum, Notre Dame, evening boat trip down La Seine, Moulin Rouge (all I can say about this is **WOW** A must see!!), finding my temporarily lost wallet with EVERYTHING intact (yes, I do realize this is a miracle), being interviewed by two adorable French college students, being conned by a gypsy (who was blessing me in the start but I am sure was cursing me by the end....), meeting amazing folks, finding treasures every moment in every possible way, navigating the on strike train station back to the airport with two other folks who if you saw us would be the most unlikely trio, yet it was the most amazing and funniest encounter as we stuck together.....Paris is my absolute favorite city and I don't even like cities. Yes, the holiday of holidays. I could do it all over again each year and it never seem dull.

That being said, being back here in Hamburg has me filled with joy playing again with Maks and quality time with my sister. I am truly blessed to have this opportunity~

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