From Paris to Rome is a two hour flight but are worlds apart. The cool weather was replaced by warm humid air that seemed a little less put together. At the airport the backpackers seemed to put number the locals and that trend would follow us for the rest of our journey through Italy.
Upon exiting the plane we hit with the warmth and humidity of Italy straight in our faces. The process of getting from the plane terminal to train station was a bit of mess with confusing signage and when we got there we decided to skip out on the train to termini station and just took a shuttle straight to our B&B. Too bad when we got there it started to rain and our host was no where to be found. We then had to stop by the McDonald’s on the corner to get out of the rain and figure out a way to contact him by phone (fail) or internet (fail). Eventually he showed up and let us in to our place which was a little sparse for what i thought a B&B was going to be.
After getting settled we took a walk in the rain exploring randomly. We were at least prepared for the rain by bringing our own umbrellas, and it was kind of fun to see the city in a different sort of light. We even saw some poor bike group having to make their way through the city getting soaked by the rain.
We were pretty tired from our two full days of walking in Paris so we didn’t spend too much time in the rain and soon headed back for a bite to eat near our place. We chose this place mainly because they took credit card, and i knew at least that they cooked their pizza in a wood burning oven and weren’t going to microwave some left over food. The glasses of Peroni were cheap, and the people sitting next to us got a kick out of taking pictures of our food and our beer.
After two days of constantly running around Paris going from site to site it was nice to take a night and meet up with an old college friend Tony who got married to a French girl and moved over seas. We started off hanging out at one of his late night spots which he compared to Denny’s, Le Tambour where we snacked on some various pig meat, and a few pints of beers. While Tony ate a steak frites, Joy and I shared a French Onion soup which had half the amount of onions and twice the amount of cheese in the soup.
After we had filled up with some food we took a stroll down the street for some whiskey and continue out discussion about the differences in the mindset between the French and Americans, and how there’s so much possibilities to get all sorts of clients but its so difficult to run in a business because of all the social services built in to the work society. (If you get laid off, you get a year’s salary).
With a flight to catch in the morning, we had to cut the night a little shorter than i probably could’ve gone. Since we had such a light dinner we were hungry walking back to our apartment and figured that we haven’t had a crepe yet, so we headed to a corner shop with a line down the street. We ordered a Nutella, and Coconut crepe which was HUGE, and warm and gooey. After scarfing down the crepe we headed back to our place but stumbled upon a fry shop and got one last snack to eat back at home.
The strangest thing i found about Paris was that there is nothing open at 7am in the city. While waiting for our cab to the airport i tried to find a boulangerie to find a croissant and coffee to snack on, but as i was walking around the city the only thing open were the bars still. There weren’t a lot of people in them, but there were people still up from the night before still drinking, people peeing in the streets, couples fighting, and this one girl stumbling around who eventually just decided to take a nap in the middle of the street.
Macarons are kind of a big deal in Paris, and one of the great debates of the city is LadurÃ©e vs. Pierre HermÃ©. We luckily were able to try a sampling from both places and in my opinion both were great. Joy said that she preferred Pierre, but i really couldn’t differentiate much difference. I guess it didn’t help since we got 3 different flavors from each place so there was no real baseline to compare, but Joy said that the texture from Pierre was better and it was also true that my favorite flavor was the Mosaic : Pistache, Cannelle de Ceylan & Griottine (Pistachio, Cinnamon & Cherry).
With a good foundation of how the French make their macarons, we took a class on how to make them at La Cuisine Paris. The two hour class had us go into group and go step by step of the baking process from measuring the ingredients, to making the chocolate ganche, mixing the meringue batter, piping, baking and finally filling them. After the cooking was done each person had a dozen or so personally made macaron to take home.
A few notes that we learned from our class is that there are two methods of making the meringue, an Italian (Pierre Herme & the one we were taught) and a French (Laduree) method. The guy who opened Pierre actually once worked for Laduree, and always opens a shop nearby any Laduree. The shells typically don’t have a difference in taste, and the color is purely for for identification of what type of macaron it is. It was a very fun class that we’ll try at home.
The second morning in Paris was a little more relaxed with no reservation time to meet and a little more knowledge of the city we took our time walking from our flat to the Louvre. On the way there we stopped by a bakery and picked up another freshly baked croissant and snacked on it for the rest of our walk.
We got to the museum before it opened and there was a good lined formed already, and i had planned to go through the mall as all the guidebooks say, but i had no idea where the mall was in relation to the quad of the main entrance. We gave up and stood and line, and it wasn’t really that bad once they started letting people in, and it just happened to be the bag check that took a long time and once you were down stairs there were plenty of machines to buy your ticket and just walk into the galleries.
Once inside we headed straight to the Mona Lisa since again all the guidebooks said that the Mona Lisa would be busy. The Mona Lisa is pretty deep inside of the Museum and on the way there we passed by one of the other Big 3 of the museum that was on my list to see, the Winged Victory of Samothrace which was probably my favorite of the 3.
After a few more turns and another long hallway of paintings we made it to the Mona Lisa. It was nice being there early with only one row of people in front of the painting. It only took a second to make it to the very front and center to take a picture and i even went back to the side to actually really look at it more closely.
I was surprised by a few things once we got there. First the room where the painting lives is HUGE, basically the size of a small warehouse, and most pictures of the crowds i see seem like the painting is in a hallway with no where to move. To get a sense of the size of the room, this painting sits on the opposite wall of the Mona Lisa. The second this is that the painting was bigger than i expected. My sister made it out to me that it was like 8×11, but really its a typically poster size.
The major piece of the Louvre that we needed to see was the Venus De Milo. Unfortunately multiple Asian tour groups got there before us and were swarming around it like obnoxious bees talking loudly and trying take self shot pictures with it. We didn’t want to get associated with them so we looked, shot and moved on.
We lingered around another 30 minutes or so mainly around the other greek sculptures but decided to skip some of the other wings of the museum for another trip to Paris.
After months of waiting after my fateful morning of calling France to make a dinner reservation the day had come. Of course it did not come without a little trepidation that they actually wrote down my correct information and that it would still be there after all that time. After coming back home from the day of walking around the city i received a voicemail message email from my google voice account confirming my rsvp for the night, but unfortunately there was no phone in the apartment and all pay phones in the city use a calling card so what was i to do. So of course we just walked on down to confirm in person. With some time to kill we walked along the Rue Montorgueil which has a bunch of local type cafes, boulangeries, fromageries, and did a little shopping and snacking.
Once it was time for our reservation we found a line of people waiting for the Frenchie wine bar to open up across the street, and a few people seeing if there were any cancellations for the main restaurant (which there weren’t). It felt pretty special to come to such a exclusive type place that didn’t cost an arm and a leg to eat at. There are only two seating times 7pm and 9pm, and which i learned the 7pm is basically the seating for the Americans as we got to know our table neighbors were from Philadelphia and the other from somewhere from the midwest.
They offer up basically two different choices for each course along with a Foie Gras supplemental. We ordered once of each dish, along with the Foie Gras and a bottle of wine for our meal. The meal was paced out nicely and every dish was delicious. The stand out dish for me was the Foie Gras and its typically hit or miss for me, but i really enjoyed it with the fig compote. The Foie itself was smooth and not gritty and along with the sweet fig and toasted bread was delicious. The horseradish on the smoked trout kept surprising me, which made me go back again for another taste.
Foie gras torchon, figs
Mushrooms, speck, chestnut
Smoked trout, horseradish, fennel, Granny Smith
Royal sea bream, Swiss chard, sorrel, pine nuts
Quail, celery, raisins
Napolean sheep’s milk cheese, summer truffle honey
Mirabelle plums, lemon curd, aromatic herbs ice cream
After our meal Joy made me go take a picture with the Chef Greg Marchand. Probably the only thing that i wouldn’t have had would be the espresso after the meal because in the middle of the night i was buzzing and couldn’t go back to sleep. That stuff is crazy strong.
I woke up Friday morning which happened to be my birthday, and we started it off with our first croissant that our host left for us, and a nice cup of coffee to get us ready. Our first event of the day was a trip to the Eiffel Tower to some of the first people up to the top for the day. We headed out to the metro stop and purchased a two day pass which we would be using to get around the city for most of the time besides walking.
The metro is by far not the nicest that we’ve been on, and the doors have a manual doors which have be used quite often, but one thing good is that there are plenty of useful routes, and cars so there’s not much waiting once you get under. There was definitely a fear of pickpockets when the car gets crowded, but i think everyone else on the train is pretty paranoid so it felt safer than normal.
Once our ticket was bought, we hopped onto the 9 and headed to the Palais de Chaillot which dropped us off just to the west of the Eiffel Tower. Once we exited the metro and turned the corner the Eiffel Tower presented itself in all its glory. We took some pictures, and saw a wedding couple getting some pictures taken.
We got there a few minutes before the opening and it was pretty cool to be the first people to take the elevator all the way to top and have the entire top to ourselves for a few minutes before everyone else was let up.
It was a great 360° view of the entire city and it really made me realize how winding the streets are and how lost you can get if you’re not careful. We spent a good amount of time taking in the views and did the same on the second level as well. We then exited and took a stroll through the park on the east side of the tower.
On the way to the metro to take to Champs-Ã‰lysÃ©es and happened upon a market, so we stopped in and found that cheese and meats were so cheap that we stocked up on some comte cheese, jambon, a baguette, apple and a small bottle of wine and had a little picnic in the park. It was all so tasty and all for under 10‚¬.
Feeling good after a refuel and wine we took our time walking down the Champs-Ã‰lysÃ©es checking out some of the stores quickly until we happened upon the Louis Vuitton where we’ve been told has a line to get in, but when we got there we just walked on in. Joy was planning on replacing her old wallet and definitely had her fun rubbing elbows with the elite who were buying multiple purses and walked out a happy lady.
Once we reached the end of the Champs-Ã‰lysÃ©es it conveniently led us to the Arc de Triomphe which is an impressive structure. Its so small from a distance, but when you walk right up to it, it was really impressive to see all the carvings and sculptures that surround the entire structure. After a few laps around it we were pretty tired already from all the walking and headed back to our apartment to get a rest before dinner.
On Wednesday September 26 at 9pm we took Air France to fly 10 hours to Paris France. The flight was pretty smooth except for a little turbulence, slept a few hours, and finally got to watch Brave, and The Lorax. Our arrival time was at 5pm Thursday September 27 but took two hours to get through customs and get our baggage.
Once we gathered all our belongings we waited for the Roissey Bus to take us into the city. We had our first issue with using our credit cards in Europe (they use sim cards instead of magnet strips) buying tickets at the kiosk but thankfully the bus driver would also accept cash. It took 30 minutes to get into the city and on the bus we got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.
We finally got dropped off at the Opera House and then had to use our maps to figure out where we were and which way to our Apartment Rental. Once we arrived our Host Fredrick lived in the apartment next door and showed us our stay for the next three nights. It was an awesomely modern place with IKEA furniture and a real nice standup shower and separate toilet. He gave us some maps and brochures and showed us the best ways to get to all the attractions. It was all pretty helpful.
The second great thing about the place is that its located in what was called an Arcade of different shops, restaurants and businesses. So since it was night out we headed downstairs to pick our first French meal of the trip. We chose L’Ami Marco which had a menu option of a App and Plate, or Plate and Dessert (which is quite common for Paris) for 12,50 ‚¬.
There were actual two menus, once written in French and one in English, but since we eat out so much i could actually understand the French menu, which happened to be different from the English one. Of course we wanted things on the French menu and ordered the Duck Terrine, Risotto with Shrimp, Beef Bourguignon, Chocolate Fondant for dessert, and course a few glasses of wine.
After dinner the night was still young, so we took a stroll down to the Seine River and i was a little giddy inside when i saw places that reminded me of various things i’ve seen in movies or pictures. The weather was very refreshing after an unusually hot September and it was nice to have the cold weather to put on a coat.
All our bags are packed, itineraries all printed out, and all is left is to finish today’s work and i’m outta here! Its been a long wait and of course these past couple days at work have been pretty hectic with Jonathan also out on vacation.
I’m kind of feeling anxious now that i see how the weather is going to be like for both legs of our trips. I knew that Paris had a good chance that it would be wet, while Italy was suppose to be super warm. Now it looks like we’re going to be getting sunshine while in Paris and Thunderstorms while in Rome. I’m not sure if i have the right clothes and shoes to deal with such weather but here’s crossing my fingers that everything will be ok once we get out there.
Since i’m headed to Paris for my birthday, Nina decided to fly down this weekend to celebrate, but somehow this became a secret from my dad. I had been in communication with Nina for the month knowing that she was coming down, and my mom knew too, but somehow it never got around to my dad (awfully strange in my family).
I picked up Nina, Jesse and Kaylee (aka Janie, Kumquat, Fatty,) from the Long Beach Airport, swung by chic-fil-a for some food, and popped into my parents house with my sister scaring the crap out of my dad. There was about a second of panic from my dad not knowing what was going on, but soon he realized that who was here. He had been talking earlier to my mom about driving up north to visit kumquat but now he doesn’t have to.
I’ve never seen my parents more excited for visitors and they quickly scooped up Kumquat, and took her away to play with her. It was pretty late already so she was getting really pooped, and she pooped and then it was off to bed.
I typically don’t make it a point to watch football on Sundays, but if i’ve got a free morning there’s nothing better than waking up, making a cup of coffee and lounging on the couch watching fantasy analysis on which players are in and who are out, and making last minute adjustments to my fantasy teams.
This Sunday Joy had a Seminar to go to so i had the morning to myself on the couch so turned on ESPN, and logged onto the Yahoo! fantasy chat to check out the days events. Once the clock hit 10am the rosters got locked in and i was ready to watch some football. Too bad the only two games on basic TV was the Raiders vs. Dolphins and Giants vs. Bucs, and of course the four teams which i had no players on.
For lunch i headed over to my cousin Pish’s house since his parents were in town and for some reason i had a feeling he would have something better to watch, and of course he did, NFL Red Zone. I promptly sat right in front of the TV eating lunch on the kiddie table while having conversations with people all around me, but with my eyes transfixed of the madness that NFL Red Zone brings. Every second there’s a game changing play being broadcasts and lots of cheering and yelling for certain players to score. Alas it was another disappointing Sunday with none of my players (except Brees) scoring a TD and today i sit with a small lead against my opponent. Looks like i’m going 0-2 to start the season.
Basketball isn’t of course the only reason for going to LVI, but getting the chance to hangout is the other reason. I rented a car from Alamo, and after some searching through all the American cars i found a Hyundai Sonata which i promptly snapped up because it had all the bells and whistles that i need for the long drive out to the desert. With the iPhone all hooked up and the car packed up with picked up another friend in Temple City and left the city by 10pm and got to the Cal by 2am.
Joy and I checked in, threw all our bags into the room and headed down to the Market Cafe for some Oxtail Soup. Even though i know that there are boiled peanuts floating in the soup, i actually ate quite a bit of the meat off the bones, and even some soup with no ill effect. Afterwards we headed back up to turn in for the night. Up until i got hit up on an instagram image i took of the food, and found out my high school friend was getting married the same weekend and a group was at the restaurant that very moment. So i put my shorts back on and went down to catch up for a few minutes.
The next day after the breakfast buffet at Market Cafe again, a group of teammates headed over to the Forum Shops to do some shopping. We spent a lot of time in the Nike Store, and H&M doing some shopping then headed over to Palace Station to check out the Oyster Bar for some Cajun style cooking. While waiting for a seat Joy and I hopped onto the penny slots to get some free beers, and Joy ended up winning $35. The food was really good and spicy and many were left a sweaty mess. Probably not the best thing to eat with a basketball game later that evening but we still managed to win.
After Saturday’s disappointing losses the team gathered up for another Steak Buffet at the Fremont Hotel rather than going to SW Steakhouse at the Wynn which we planned to go eat at if we had won the whole thing.
Joy’s co-workers also just so happened to be in Vegas the same weekend so we decided to meet up with them at Planet Hollywood after dinner and hit the dance floor at Gallery. We had a few drinks, danced a few songs and enjoyed our last night in Vegas more than i expected. Once we were done, it gathered up everyone to go to the Secret Pizza Place at the Cosmopolitan Hotel to soak up the booze before heading back to the room. The whole trip besides the Basketball losses turned out to be a really fun trip with seeing old friends, and trying to places to eat.
The 2012 Las Vegas Invitational occurred once again this past weekend in Las Vegas, and I couldn’t wait to improve on our 3rd place finish from last year. Things were looking up as we won our first game against a bigger, more physical team in LGN Busy Bees 31-28.
Our second round game was the next morning, and things couldn’t have been worse. Our opponent Black Gatos wasn’t as intimidating as the previous night but knew how to play as a team. At the beginning of the game i got fouled on a 3pt attempt, and promptly missed all 3 free throws, and that went on to become a theme for the game as we entered half time trailing 8-24. We started off the second half with a more aggressive defensive scheme and got the game closer but couldn’t overcome the huge hole and loss 24-37.
The consolation round was a let down, and with a few of our players nursing injuries we couldn’t finish strong against Slowbreak. The game was close throughout but we still loss 37-42 for a disappointing 4th place. Time to start training for next year, like right now.