Category Archives: France

Departing Nice and my first couple days in Barcelona, Spain with friends!

Christine&Elaine&Moi

Nice was lovely, even in the rain, however I will have to return another time to fully appreciate the beauty of Nice and take a visit to Cannes and Monaco.  Unfortunately, I was sick for most of my time in Nice, but luckily, I had a bed, and access to good food to recover.  When I wasn’t trying to sleep the head and chest congestion away, it was raining torrentially.  I walked around town a bit, but often felt like I was swimming in the streets.
Thursday came around, my last day in Nice, and the sun finally made its appearance.  I ran around town soaking in the sun, searching for the post office to mail a post card, and some condolence cards, and grabbing some food for my trip to Barcelona.  It was a mad dash to get this all done before I had to get back to the flat to get my bag, and make my way to the airport.
I’m glad I left when I did, as I learned that even Nice has its own version of “traffic”.  I had hopped the 98 bus, which has several pick-ups along the way to T2 of Nice airport.  I had already checked in online, and thus made my way to the security checkpoint.  There was only one person ahead of me, which was wonderful!  The flight from Nice to Barcelona is brief – only about an hour.  It took longer to get to the Barceloneta flat from the Barcelona airport.  Not bad, but I had landed at about 8:30pm, and got to the flat about 10:15pm.
I have a love/hate relationship with Siri & the Maps function.  Siri usually can get me to the general area, but often the orientation of the map does not match the direction I’m facing, so there is sometimes much retracing of steps.  She got me to the general area, and the Airbnb fella stuck his head out the door, half way down the block, and called my name, so at least she got me to the right street.  There were no door numbers as far as I could see, at that time of night.
The flat is quite basic, but has two whole rooms, and a bathroom.  The whole place is cold and damp, but it is only 2 blocks from the beach.  The flat also has a space heater, that shines with the light of a million burning suns – so if I want to sleep warm, or have any laundry dry, I will be sleeping in the light of high noon. Once I got myself settled, I was asleep in mere moments!
I slept in on Friday, then roamed around to find my bearings, and a tourist office.  Earlier that day, two friends, Christine and Elaine,  who have been living in Barcelona for the past two years, invited me out for tapas, so I freshened up and met them at a wonderful spot about 7:30pm.  They introduced me to some delicious wine – Locomotiva – the first red wine that I’ve found delicious right away at the first sip, and some yummy tapas.  We talked about their experiences in Barcelona, and after dinner they took me on a night walk around the city.  We saw the eternal flame, which burns to memorialize the people who lost their lives during the Catalan battle to separate from Spain – which they lost.  Later that evening we saw a light and video show that is shown on the face of a white stone building – awesome shows!  Once I get the short video’s I shot loaded on Youtube, I’ll post links to them here.
This morning we met again, this time for brunch, another wonderful walk around town, and then a late lunch tapas at Tapas 24.  We were super lucky to get there when there was only a short line – this place is in high demand, and is first come, first served.  They introduced me to Cava, a wonderful sparkling white wine, and more fabulous tapas, including an absolutely delicious ham that has a nutty flavor, from the pigs being fed on a diet of acorns and hazelnuts.  The meat melted in my mouth!  We also “tried” some fried calamari – it was prepared in a way that neither Elaine, nor I, expected.  I ate one, and Elaine made a heroic attack on the rest of the plate, and got through about half of the critters.  Brave woman.  We were both expecting breaded and fried calamari.  These were tiny, but absolutely whole, including ink and I’m assuming beak (I think that was what the crunch was…and why I only ate one).

fried-calamari

Desert was dollops of chocolate ganache, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, served with a small piece of toast.  Olive oil and chocolate?  OMG – yes, it was rich and a perfect way to end that little meal.

choc-oo-sel

I travel so much on my own, and alone.  I enjoy it, but I’ve really appreciated having friends in a place I’m visiting, and getting to see the city through their eyes.  I’ll always be grateful to Christine and Elaine for sharing their Barcelona with me!
I have to get to bed shortly, as there are a couple of sights I want to see tomorrow – I’ll let you all know what I go to see!

 

Leaving Paris, and the first few days in Nice, France

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My last day in Paris found me in a tiny bit more of a rush than I was originally planning.  My original flight from Paris to Nice was supposed to be later in the day, but because of a ATC strike called just the day before, that only affected the afternoon’s flights, I had to reschedule to an earlier flight.  So, I scrambled to make sure the trash was removed, linens in washer, and all my belongings were in my still far too full bag. Then hastily finished some post cards, before I dashed out the door, dropped off the key, posted the post cards and hopped onto the metro to make my way to Orly Airport.  All this done with a bit of a limp – I had twisted my ankle a couple of days before.

The day before I had requested “assistance” for when I arrived at the airport.  It was my first time doing this, and it didn’t work out super well.  I was able to go through the shorter check-in line, the woman at the counter said she called for a wheel chair, but I had to go to another area to get it.  I went there, and they said no wheel chair was requested for me, and that I should have requested one.  I had, the woman who checked me in did, but at the assistance desk, there was no assistance to be had, other than being walked to the head of the security line.  Then I eventually make my way to the gate – got there just in time to have an intense discussion with the gate agent.  I went through the whole wacky story, smiled through some awful customer service, explaining that I can make it down the jetway as long as I don’t have to stand for a long period of time.  The gate agent finally understood, and let me board before the general boarding call.  Whew!

The actual flight was unremarkable, other than this was the first time I actually bought something on a flight, other than a snack.  EasyJet has a sky catalog, just like other airlines, but the difference is that EasyJet stocks most of the items on the plane.  I’ve been bemoaning the fact that my iPhone’s battery drains far too fast when I am using the map and directions function – which is often.  I bought a device that will charge my phone three times over, on each one of the full charges of the thumbsUP device.  That is pretty handy.  I paid 38 euro for it.  A bit pricy, but I knew I wasn’t going to find one in Nice, and I didn’t want to wait till Barcelona.  So far the thing works like a dream.  Hopefully it will hold up.

Once the plane landed, I got out to the bus platform to take bus 98 into downtown Nice.  It was raining like crazy. I really think the rain followed me, but perhaps that was just because I was tired, sore and had a cold coming on. My host told me to take the “Port” stop, but the driver passed it without stoping.  I ended up one stop away, in the pouring rain.

My Airbnb host, Laurent, texted me and asked if I needed help finding his place.  I responded that I was trying to find him, but had to backtrack to the stop, so I could follow his directions.  He told me to stay where I was, he was coming to get me.  That was extremely wonderful of him! At that point my mobile phone died, and I was in the process of hooking it up to the charger, when he found me and escorted me back to his flat. He showed me the room, and gave me the internet key.  I got myself settled, then collapsed on the bed to charge my phone before I went out to find some food.

The next day I just roamed around, found lunch at a cafe, then walked some more.  I think I was starting to come down with the cold then – I was kind of in a  fog.

That night I awoke at 1:30am and was thinking about my ongoing itinerary, and checked my flights.  I realized that the last flight I booked earlier that day to Malta was made on the right day, but wrong month.  Argh!  Luckily, the flight was inexpensive, but I was aggravated with myself for the waste of money.  That’s what I get for booking the flight on a site that had no English option!  The next day I booked myself a new flight, for the correct date, and prepared my bags so I could move to my new flat closer to the ocean.  By that time in the morning I was officially sick with a cold, and just wanted to get myself into the flat and sleep for the day.  Alas, that was not to happen.  When I arrived with my bags, the host said I could leave them, but I couldn’t come back until 5:30pm when the flat was cleaned.

I roamed a bit more, my head a cloud of sinus congestion, trying to find food, and then figure which museum I was going to see, to pass the time.  I remembered a cafe I read about that was known for its Socca, a kind of chickpea crepe.  Once I found it, I realized it was the same cafe I had had a cafe creme at the day before, and had seen a few people lined up for their serving of socca.   So I made my order of socca and a rose, and sat to enjoy both and fortify myself for my visit to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, which was directly across the way.  It was a great museum, well laid out, and has fabulous views from the rooftop.

After the museum, I stopped at the Monoprix to pick up some provisions, and made my way back to the flat.  My cold had progressed through the day, and it took me a few moments to figure out how to open the fold out sofa, and get it made up.  That was about it for me for the next couple of days, which I spent mostly in bed.

Tomorrow, I’m planning on taking the hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Nice, and the next day of Monaco.  Stay tuned for updates!

A Sunday in Paris…street art, les soldes, and yes, the caged birds sing.

 

Mural found on Jan 12th walk around the Marais in Paris
Mural found on Jan 12th walk around the Marais in Paris

Shhh!
I’m still adjusting to my current time zone, so woke early, but didn’t climb down from my nest till noon.

I ran out of baguette and greens, so figured I’d have to hunt for an open market, since it is Sunday, and most of Paris is closed. Luckily, my flat is very close to Le Marais district, which is the one place in Paris that has many shops open.

I was very close to le Marais, much closer than I expected.

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This was the first day I explored in the direction of the Seine and Notre Dame. I got distracted by the “Soldes” signs.

 This is the season of the winter sales in Paris. They only have sales twice a year. Once in the winter and once in the summer, for about 3-6 weeks each. Sales are city-wide, including the national/international chains like H&M, and the large super expensive Galleries Lafayette.  I’m going to explore the smaller boutiques in the Marais over the next few days, a little at a time.

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After taking a quick look at the shop sales, I made my way towards Notre Dame. Along the way I found a little market that sold caged birds, some “pet” rodents, lovely orchids, and other garden plants and decorations. While the bird/rodent market wouldn’t fly, pardon the pun, in the USA, the lovely birdsong certainly brightened up a dreary day.

Once I took a peek at the cathedral, I had my fill of damp cold, and made my way back home to find bread and other supplemental food stuffs. Along the way, I found the slightly seedier side of Paris. An actual “Love Hotel” and “Sex shops” sprinkled among the other shops and felafel stands. Mostly closed.

I finally found my baguette, as well as a pastry I’ve seen around, but had no idea what it was. They were selling like crazy, so I decided to go with a small one, just to see what it was all about. It was a “Kings Cake” Usually sold around January 6th. There is a small charm hidden inside puff pastry filled with a sweet almond paste. De-Licious!!!

The past few days I spent appreciating bread and pastries. I’ve found the grocery stores, and will be doing my best to commit to eating clean. I’m going to have to build in allowed cheat days, because otherwise I will snap like a dry brittle twig. Wish me luck!

Internet is spotty, so I will try to post some cool photos again later.

Personal tour of the Port de Vanves Flea Market & A day in the life

I do not own this photo:  By Demeester (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I do not own this photo:
By Demeester (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I got moving early for a personal tour of the Porte de Vanves Flea Market. This flea is focused on antiques. Claude, the gentleman who is letting the flat to me, is quite the expert on who has what, and the quality. Things are generally inexpensive if shown on the ground, and pricier if on a table.  Can you believe I didn’t take ANY photos of this!?! I’d be shocked at myself, but I remember being mesmerized by the stuff on display. The photo above is a creative commons photo of the market.

Claude also took me down a short side street/walkway that he said was all black-market. We had to take a quick look, because if the police come, the vendors have to grab their things and run.

There were so many fun things to look at, but I really didn’t need any of it, and couldn’t justify the postage home. We got there about 10 am, and the vendors started closing up shop at noon.

I grabbed a sandwich to go from a nearby shop, and made my way back to my neighborhood. Before I went back up to my flat, I stopped at the Monoprix for some veggies.

I do not own this.  This is public domain
I do not own this. This is public domain

Monoprix is a mix between a super Walmart and super Target, but really small, a little jumbled, with food on one floor, and personal items, clothing and housewares on another.

I just happened to see a silk scarf on sale. It was 50% off, aubergine and gold dots, 7 euro 50, so now it is mine. Silk takes no room in my bag.

I returned to the flat to straighten out my mobile phone situation.  When I was state-side, I asked the people at the mall kiosk if I had the plan that would give me what I needed.  They were very wrong. It took about an hour, some quiet cussing, some tears and begging, and talking to ten people, no exaggeration. Also, lost some $ in the deal, but now I have free texting and data, and .20 cents a minute calling while outside of the USA.

  Really, in reviewing this past paragraph….I was so much more frustrated in this process than I can apparently convey.

About 4pm some kind of peaceful protest went down my street. It was loud shouting over a PA system, and followed by lots of traffic. I think they timed it for rush hour. Once it passed, I made a quick run to get a baguette and some cheese. Oh, some macarons, too. I have found I love them.

Now I am going to settle in with some more tea, and work on my travel plans into February. Time is flying!