Monthly Archives: August 2014

Eurotrip Day 2 in Paris: “Je prends deux baguettes”

A little warning: this entry is more text-heavy than usual.

Aside from the first day spending more than 100 Euros on dinner, every other meal we’ve had since then have been meals we prepared ourselves by shopping at Monoprix (which is like our Lucky’s or Safeway). They even have a rewards card, like a Safeway rewards card, which is the only way we can get the sale price. And just like at Safeway, we had to register ourselves to get the card, so that they can track and judge us based on our purchases.

Also, I’ve been using my chip-and-pin debit card; you know, the un-hackable card with a microchip that the rest of the world have been making fun of Americans for not having. Last month my brother got his American debit card cloned at one of the French ATMs and the thieves wiped out his bank account. So I figured it was a good idea to get the chip-and-pin card. I just had to pay $5 for it. And it’s a lot safer than carrying cash.

Every morning we’ve been eating salami and fried eggs with our baguettes. Baguettes! Baguettes! Bagggguetttes!

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I was very proud of myself. I entered a crowded bakery and ordered two baguettes in French without making a fool of myself (but who knows, the crowd might have exploded in laughter after I exited). I calmly said to the bread-rista, “Bonjour. Je prends deux baguettes, s’il vous plâit.”

(Is that grammatically correct, or should I have said “je vais prendre”?)

But I do need to put down the baguettes. I’ve been trying to only eat 1.5 meals a day so I can avoid the usual vacation weight gain, but so far I still feel really bloated every day, especially in my face. I think it’s from all those carbs.

By the way, the 400-or-so vocabulary words my West Valley teacher made us memorize have really come in handy here. I can read most signs and instructions in French and I could somewhat maybe sorta sometimes not really ask questions in French. (I’ve been trying to avoid using English because I heard French people are hostile toward English-reliant speakers, but so far Parisians have been accommodating, probably because they’re used to all the tourists).

The trouble comes when I try to listen to their answers. Their speech sounds like one big blur to me. My brother has been living here the past two months for school, and can easily interact with people in French now, so we’ve been using him to ask all our questions.

Then we went to do more shopping. I visited an H&M and couldn’t find anything decent. Then we saw a C&A, which is Dutch for H&M, or like the IKEA of clothing. It was a big department store that had decent clothes, and the prices were cheap (by European standards).

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Then on the way home, we had a quick meal at McDonald’s. Their McCafe in Paris is actually a cafe. My mom wanted coffee and we had to order at a separate counter with the macaroons:

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And cheesecake!

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My brother ordered a “Maxi” size meal and it looked like a regular medium-size in the U.S.

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Guys, I might have a clue why we’re fat.

My brother usually has sweet and sour sauce with his fries. Over here it’s called “chinois” (Chinese) sauce. They also had pomme-frites (fries) sauce, which I can only describe as a sweet kind of tartar sauce.

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Oh and speaking of fat earlier, the young Parisians are anything but. I’m not speaking of the backpack-wearing tourists. I’m speaking of the many, many Parisians in their 20s and 30s I see occupy the street cafes and walk down the sidewalks. They generally have the same thin frame. I don’t want to use the word, “malnourished” because they’re probably not, and they’d probably be offended if I suggested such a thing. But they are very thin. Stocky, curvy, beefy, or muscular body types are almost non-existent here. And they smoke A LOT. I’m constantly inhaling second-hand smoke and have been asked for a lighter so many times. Désolé, je ne fume pas.

On the way home, we walked past the Centre Pompidou, the museum of modern art:

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There were also street chalk artists who let you photograph their work for a donation. I love these:

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The view from our balcony when we got home was amazing. Here’s my mom (although I do take a slight objection to her putting bare feet on the table):

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And here’s me trying to look pensive and staring up at the sky, but just looking rather stupid or demonic:

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And here’s a photo without us blocking the view:

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Oh by the way, I found my laptop charger. It was in a hidden compartment in my suitcase. I knew I had packed it. Thank goodness too, because it was taking forever to sort through photos on my brother’s Macbook. Unless I’m wrong, Macbooks don’t have the ability to quickly scroll through photos in a folder and delete the ones we don’t like. (I use Macs regularly, but Macbooks are a little different.)

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Eurotrip Day 1 in Paris: “Une explosion de fraîcheur!”

We woke up to rain. I hadn’t expected this weather so I didn’t really pack for it. The thickest thing I brought was a light jacket because I’m from the Bay Area.

My brother rented us a place off Airbnb. The place itself is well, it’s not that nice so I won’t show pictures of it. But I love the view from our balcony so I snapped a few photos:

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After breakfast, we took the Metro to the Notre Dame Cathedral. You might remember from your history books that this was the site of where that hunchback killed himself and the gargoyles sang to attack the angry villagers:

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We got into a line to enter the cathedral and a security guard on his cell phone was angrily gesturing at me. Then he pointed to a sign saying “no hats” and I realized I had to take off my trusty gray baseball cap.

I love me some stained glass windows:

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They were also holding mass as well (don’t worry, I was discreet about this photo):

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Then we headed out. I just wanted to point out the ubiquity of these stores with green plus/cross signs. They are on almost every block, sometimes there are two right across the street from each other. In California, we have tons of them as well, but of course they mean something completely different to us. In Paris, it just means “pharmacy” (I think). But honestly I don’t know why there are so many pharmacies. Do Parisians run out of medications mid-block and panic if they have to travel another three blocks to get some?

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Then we went to the Gardens of Luxembourg. After five minutes, I was like ehhh…let’s leave. I think I’m spoiled from having visited the gardens at the Chateau de Versailles before.

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Then we took the Metro to des Champs-Élysées. I love the Metro stops here often have a theme. There’s one where the walls are covered with crude graffiti, and this one was like was a word search puzzle:

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If I had time, I’d probably want to crudely graffiti all over that word search puzzle.

We saw the Arc du Triomphe. By the way, if my pictures seem often out of focus, it is not only because I’m a bad photographer; it is also because I’m often rushed because my family does not want to wait for me to cross the street or I am hampered by things like incoming traffic. I took this photo while stopping in the crosswalk:

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And there it is:

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Then for the life of me, I just could not figure out how to cross over to the actual Arc. I considered running across traffic, but I didn’t want to die. Then who would write these blog entries for you?

Then we realized you could cross under by using the tunnels (very poor signage by the way, not self-explanatory at all). But ta-da. Or in this case, voilà:

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If anyone can help me figure out how to get rid of the dust stuck under my lens, that would be great.

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Then we went shopping at the Champs-Élysées, which honestly if you’ve been to Union Square in San Francisco or NY, this was like those. So I didn’t take pictures. I did take a photo of this sad panda that I found while searching for a restroom (by the way, no free restrooms here, you have to pay, even at the park):

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Then we headed back to our place, rested a bit, then went to the famous Asian part of the city, which was named Place D’Italie. Makes total sense.

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera and was unable to take our pictures of our food (we had some strange lukewarm Pho with caramel-brown colored soup) and my favorite things: unintentionally comically named products in Asian grocery stores.

But to make up for that, I did find this in our communal bathroom:

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At first I was like, “White Now”? For men? “An Explosion of Freshness”? Then I looked closer and I can see the French words for teeth and brushing. But why is it just for men?

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Eurotrip: Day 0.5: Oh Orly, you’re so silly

I am currently typing this on my brother’s Mac. I could’ve sworn I packed my laptop’s charger but when I got over here, it wasn’t in my luggage. And laptop chargers at the stores in Paris cost 49-69 Euros. No thanks. So I’ll try to make do and use my brother’s computer when he’s not using it. I know you’re all dying for me to overshare my adventures, but the lack of my laptop will mean I won’t write or upload photos that much.

Anyway, this entry won’t be that funny either. I blame it on jetlag.

Well, so begins my least favorite part of any international trip: the plane ride. I was on a Norwegian Airlines flight, which meant blond, blond, and more blond, as far as the eye can see:

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The lady collecting the tickets said “tak” (thank you in Norwegian/Danish) to everyone but when she got to me, she was hesitant and paused not knowing what to say. I said “tak.”

I was not looking forward to a 10-hour first leg. But…we got the Dreamliner! The Boeing 787. It was amazing. Power outlets. Nice air conditioning. Leg room. Techy bathrooms. A hundred movies and music albums to choose from. Yes, there is the slight fear of our plane battery catching on fire, but I allayed those fears by listening to Katy Perry’s new album on repeat:

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I also played solitaire and watched “Frozen.” There were regular movies too, but I can’t watch a grownup movie thinking that I might have missed a scene due to the overzealous editing/censoring in airplane movies.

At first I was cursing myself because I forgot my iPod and headphones at home (but for some reason I brought my iPod charger. This is truly a case of the Gift of the Magi-type). But luckily I could just turn on my TV screen and order headphones among other things from this helpful menu:

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I selected “headphones”, ran my credit card through, and immediately a stewardess arrived with the headphones. It was like room service, even for us plebes in the economy section.

Oh and I had the whole middle row to myself so I did this:

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Don’t worry, I wasn’t a total douche about it. I know others were suffering in their seats, so I mostly only did this during the night so I wouldn’t make other people jealous and fly into a rage.

Then we arrived at Oslo Airport to take the next leg to Paris. The plane was tiny, but I passed the time by reading “The Fault in Our Stars.” FYI: I think the movie is a lot better than the book. I keep reading and thinking, “No teenager talks like that! All three main teens just happen to be extra smart, with deep souls, and have the vocabulary/vernacular of a tenured college professor.”

Then we arrived at the Paris-Orly airport, which is the smaller, snaggle-toothed (but fully capable) sister to the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport that the fancier airlines at. The baggage carousel hummed and moved ever so slowly, and had harsh reddish purple lighting so that everyone could have fun guessing which bag was theirs. Oh Orly, you’re so silly.

When we got outside, it was raining. After all the California drought we’ve been having, I forgot what it was like to rain:

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When we got there, we were picked up by my uncle, who is a taxi driver there. Good thing too, because the taxi situation there looked crowded and crazy. And I’ve watched enough “Taken” movies to know that if a stranger offers to share a cab with you in Paris, you’ll probably end up being sold to human traffickers. Even the male, non-pretty ones like me.

Then we went a too expensive, unremarkable Chinese restaurant where the only thing I really liked is this ice cream in a coconut:

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