Friday, June 8, 2012

J'adore Paris!

How can one even do Paris justice with a blog post? It's impossible. The most I can do is flash pictures up and write a small blurb about my own experience but it truly does not capture the character and beauty of the city.

I admit that the day we arrived in Paris I had a little internal temper tantrum. I was flying in from Victoria, BC and felt like I wanted to spent a whole extra week (and the rest of my life) there! So fastforward several hours to Paris and combine that with sleep deprivation and you get Miss Crankypants. In hindsight my thought process was completely unreasonable but I hope my family forgives me if I gave off an air of sauciness!

In the end it was a fantastic trip! We visited the sights that most tourists do (how could we not?) and enjoyed much of the local cuisine ;). We took our time in that we tended to just visit one attraction per day. We still went pretty much nonstop and walked our feet off!

Our flight landed in the morning so we spent the day getting our bearings and figuring out the metro system. That led us to the Arc de Triomphe which was gigantic!! I was actually blown away by the thought that the Parisians get to see this monument everyday...nbd.

Sunday we headed to Notre Dame, hoping to catch a mass. Unfortunately we arrived a little late and the place was packed but it ended up that (at least for me), it was difficult to understand the priest because of the echoing in the building. That being said, it was absolutely stunning with long line ups to get inside.

I took MANY pictures of food while I was away but this was one of my favourite meals by far. It was a smoked salmon salad with avocado, tomato, and mozza balls and it was incredibly delicious! The greens are completely covered by the smoked salmon. Mmmmmm...

Monday we headed over to La Tour Eiffel!

There it the flesh! Haha. It was so strange to see it up close.

We ended up taking the stairs as high was we could (the second level) and then hopped on the elevator to take us to the top.

It gives a beautiful view of the city!

Tuesday was another beautiful day so we took the metro to the Palace of Versailles, home of Louis XIV. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip.

Words cannot describe the grandeur of the palace and the gardens. We spent an entire day there and didn't even get to see everything! We ended up paying a little extra to get the audioguide for the palace which was well worth it!

Wednesday took us to the Louvre which was also overwhelmingly huge. Again, we purchased the audioguide for 5 euros which gave a nice background to several of the paintings and sculptures. We arrived shortly after the Louvre opened and there was already a crazy line. Our strategy was to see the Mona Lisa first which worked well in our favour! When we finally found it there were no more than 30 people surrounding it to take pictures. But 15-20 minutes later there were over 100. I don't even want to think about the mad house it would have been later in the day!

Artemis was my favourite sculpture. Heck, any chick who can wield a bow and arrow is automatically a hero in my books!

We may have had a bit of fun outside the museum later in the day...

Mysterious hand from the sky...

Sarah: "Ok, one...two...three..."
Me: "'s soooo briiiiight!!!"

Thursday we decided to give our legs a bit of a break and leisurely strolled around the city, doing some shopping and going to Michel Cluizel - a local chocolatiers(best chocolate I have had in my life...hands down!)

And I may have indulged in a croissant across the street!

Later we headed to Chinatown to find bubble tea. It's a traveling tradition :).

On our final day we again took it easy and bought tickets for a "hop-on-hop-off ferry". It was lovely to be on the Seine River and extremely convenient to be dropped off at the major tourist attractions. At the end of the day we explored the Univeristy of Paris and the area around the Pantheon.

We even had a taste of home...The Great Canadian Pub! Didn't end up eating there though. Why have Canadian food on your last day in Paris? Haha.

So I ended up falling in love with Paris for the history, the culture and the food. I would love to visit again sometime...maybe even stay for an extended period of time to master my skills in the french language ;).

Paris, je t'aime!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Beautiful BC, Part 2 - Victoria

Have you ever visited a place that you felt like you could call home? That pretty much sums up my experience in Victoria, BC. It reminded me of Halifax in many ways - smaller city with everything you need, ocean right at your fingertips, friendly people. But what it has in addition are mountains and a Chinatown :P.

I can definitely see myself living in Victoria and am already thinking of when I can go back next!

So to sum up the Victoria/Vancouver Island experience, here are my top 10 highlights.

1. West Coast Waffles - this place knows how to make a good anytime of the day! I treated myself to the mango coconut waffle with yogurt for brekkie and it was a heavenly combination. Check out their menu. I definitely want to try the Johnny Mac waffle sometime (apple, bacon, and brie cheese? Oh yeah!!).

2. Hiking Mount Doug - this was an easier hike compared to Grouse Grind (it also wasn't raining) and had a gorgeous view of the city from the top.

3. Chinatown - this is the oldest Chinatown in Canada and has a very cute character to it. We took a trip down Fan Tan Alley and came out the other side to a bunch of Chinese restaurants and...bubble tea (of course)!

4. Cowichan Bay - this is practically a piece of Heaven on earth. If you are looking for a somewhere that is quaint and relaxing then this is the right place. I could have sat on the dock all day...

5. True Grain Bakery - located in Cowichan Bay. I ordered the almond croissant and a sesame cheese bread twist. I swear that my mouth waters when I still think about them! I have never eaten baked goods that were so delicious in my life!!

6. Qualicum Beach - a beautiful rugged beach where we left our mark ;). After a long day we came back here to relax on a patio for a late lunch, followed by ice cream!

7. Goats on the Roof @ Coombs - we stumbled upon this place completely by chance. And yes, my friends...there are actually goats on the roof of this market!

8. Cathedral Grove/Cameron Lake - words cannot describe how beautiful this area is. The forest houses giant redwood trees that are hundreds of years old. We made the forest our playground :).

9. Qualicum Falls - again, a beautiful spot! This was a random stop on our drive back to Victoria and I'm glad we made it!

10. Beacon Hill Park - what other park do you know that has peacocks roaming freely about? I can't think of any! This is the closest I've ever come to a peacock in my life (it was literally a few feet from me). At Beacon Hill Park you can see the Terry Fox Mile 0 monument and then cross the street to catch breathtaking views of mountains. We came just in time for an incredible sunset too!

11. Sushi (bonus) - Sorry, I just can't limit myself to 10 highlights because what trip is complete without sushi? In our late-night desperation my roomie and I stumbled upon Azuma sushi (all the other sushi restaurants weren't open at 9:30pm on a Thursday night) and had a meal that did not disappoint! Not as cheap as in Vancouver but still delicious!

Victoria, BC...thanks for an amazing 2 days!! I can't wait to come back!!