Uncategorized

Welcome to New York (Part 2)

Welcome back to my blog chronicling the second part of my New York trip.

David and Brian got us wristbands for unlimited rides to Coney Island. For those of you who don’t know, Coney Island is a major tourist trap nice beach boardwalk…that might be on an island or something? I just know after sleeping for an hour on the subway from Manhattan, we arrived here. For us Californians, the closest equivalent we have are the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk or the Santa Monica Pier.

But here it is:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

The wristbands enabled us to ride rides like these:

alt text

Whee!

alt text

One weird drawback was that not all the rides were managed by the same company, so if you got a wristband, you had to be careful to ride only rides belonging to that company. For example, our wristband did not allow us to ride the famous Ferris wheel.

We did stop for lunch to get a Nathan’s (R) hot dog! Nathan’s! (R)

alt text

alt text

Nathan’s hot dogs, as you may know are the official hot dogs of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest each year, which celebrates gluttony and the waste of perfectly good food that could’ve gone to feed the poor the eating prowess of America. The current champion actually lives in my home town in California.

I usually don’t like taking pictures of my food, but in hindsight I should’ve taken one of my Nathan’s hot dog.and was kind of disappointed at the size. Especially after getting a massive sausage at the Chicago airport, I was disappointed that Nathan’s “famous” hot dog turned out to be the size of a finger. But they dressed it up with tons of onions and sauerkraut to make it appear larger. I mean, it tasted good, but…I was expecting bigger.

I didn’t have a picture so I’ll have to borrow one from Nick.:

alt text

Actually, now that I’m looking at Nick’s photos, I’m really impressed. Here’s one he took of the Coney Island subway:

alt text

Anyway, back to my photos.
After Coney Island we headed back into town in search of the 9/11 Memorial. Here’s a new shopping center called the Oculus:

alt text

Before we found the memorial, we saw 1 World Trade Center a.k.a. Freedom Tower. It reflected the sky and oh wow it’s just so beautiful…

alt text

Then we found the 9/11 Memorial. They are two big squares with flowing water…where the Twin Towers used to be. The names engraved on the sides are of those who died:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Then we walked to the heart of Wall Street to the site I had been wanting to see all day—Fearless Girl!

alt text

Then out of nowhere this little girl went up to hug Fearless Girl:

alt text

Also, I think that might be Brie Larsen in that photo too.

Of course, next to Fearless Girl was some dumb Charging Bull.

alt text

For some reason, a lot of people were in line to take a picture with the bull’s backside. I mean, just look at this asshole:

alt text

Oh and the bull’s one too.

And here is the New York Stock Exchange…with a giant Chinese ad over it:

alt text

Then we took the subway back. I know it’s stalkerish to take pictures of a stranger on a subway but this woman in the yellow shirt was so captivating…she was like something out of a modern art painting:

alt text

That night…or was it the previous night…I’m so confused…we went to see the Empire State Building. Like the Statue, there was also a long line to get through TSA-type security:

alt text

Here is the view from the 84th floor of the building. The views were amazing. I wish my camera could do the skyline justice:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Here is a shot of the famous Chrysler Building:

alt text

On our very last day in New York before we left for the airport, we had a bit of time to go see Central Park, since it was like…right there.

We caught the end of the Shape Women Half-Marathon. You go, ladies!

alt text

alt text

Here are a few photos of Central Park:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Oh look, Shakespeare in the Park. Literally:

alt text

We saw Strawberry Fields, which is a tribute to John Lennon. People were constantly walking on it and taking selfies on it. This was the one brief moment that it was free of feet:

alt text

Oh and here are two sights I found amusing during my time in New York. This horse and carriage was just going down the street outside our hotel:

alt text

And here is a trash can that says “No business trash”…and there’s a computer monitor in it:

alt text

And some pictures of the subway/metro. We paid $32 for a full-week pass. It was a great deal, considering we took it everywhere:

alt text

alt text

Well, until next time, New York…

alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Welcome to New York (Part 1)

So…I just got back from NYC. We tried to cram so many things into just a few days that I’m exhausted. So exhausted that the events I’m going to describe may not be in chronological order. But let’s get on with it, shall we? As the great philosopher and wordsmith Taylor Swift once said, “Welcome to New York!”

alt text

After looking at hostels and many sketchy AirBnB listings, Joe, Nick and I decided to stay at the Hudson Hotel, which offered a significant discount if we booked a 4+ day stay and paid in advance. David and Brian stayed at a different hotel. This was the view from our room. Isn’t it gorgeous and full of buildings?

alt text

This was our room by the way:

alt text

It was pretty close to Times Square. Once you ignore all the piles of garbage bags on the streets, Times Square is beautiful:

alt text

alt text

alt text

We rested for most of our first day, but on our first full day we visited the Statue of Liberty. For over a century, she has stood as the symbol to immigrants that says “Welcome to America.” To give us a more immersive experience of what it was like to be an immigrant, we were asked to wait in a long line, take off our hats and belts, and have our possessions searched through TSA-type security. Then voila! We were on a ferry to see Lady Liberty.

alt text

The first thing we saw once we arrived on the island was Lady Liberty with her back to us:

alt text

Please turn around, Lady. Ah there we go:

alt text

alt text

Unfortunately, to get to the top of the crown, we would have had to book many months in advance. So we settled for the pedestal…with views like these:

alt text

alt text

And here’s the famous Manhattan skyline:

alt text

alt text

That night we went to the famous Stonewall Inn, a bar and the site of the famous Stonewall riot, which according to Wikipedia, is “widely considered to be the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement.” Also this: “the Stonewall Inn was the first landmark in New York City to be recognized by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.” Cool beans.

Upstairs was a drag show hosted by Logan Hardcore, one of the funniest drag shows I’ve ever seen perform. And I’ve seen at least two or three drag shows.

alt text

The next day, we went to the Met, which most people know as the place where celebrities gather to show off hideous, unwearable outfits. On normal days there are art exhibitions at the Met as well.

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Some of the art seemed kind of wrong to me. Like these people were resting peacefully in their pyramids until somebody dug them (and their tombs) up and put them in a museum:

alt text

alt text

alt text

But I guess it’s important to have old artifacts on display so we can learn more about ancient civilization. For example, this one shows they had selfie sticks even back in the day. Wow:

alt text

Afterward we went in search of Rockefeller Center.

Here is Atlas, holding up the world on his shoulders:

alt text

Here’s the gold what’s-his-name:

alt text

Here’s the gold what’s-his-name zoomed out:

alt text

OK I looked up the gold guy. His name is Prometheus, or for people who lisp, that’s Prometheith.

Here is 30 Rock, which surprisingly is not where “30 Rock” was filmed:

alt text

But it’s where Saturday Night Live, which “30 Rock” is based on, is filmed. And here is Radio City Music Hall, where the Rockettes are. Rockettes are dancers who specialize in kicking perfectly in sync. I don’t know how they do it. That kind of pressure would drive me to madness.

alt text

Then that night (or was it the next night? I’ve lost all sense of space and time), we went to see “Chicago” on Broadway, which received mixed reviews…from us. Joe and Nick loved it, whereas David and I were disappointed by the lack of elaborate sets (the orchestra was on stage, which took up most of the “acting” space)

Here is a pic I borrowed from Nick:

alt text

That’s the end of Part 1. Come back tomorrow when I try to remember more events from our trip and have more beautiful pictures to show you.

 

alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Portland is Weird, Part 2 (with more pictures!)

Welcome to my second Portland entry.

First, I must credit the success of this trip to my friend Nick who is a walking GPS device and navigated us through the entire city while we just shouted out stuff like, “OMG let’s go to this thing we just heard about online!”

Nick is a transportation freak. He gets excited about bridges, planes, buses, trains, etc. Here we are on our first bus ride in Portland:

alt text

Which dropped us off at the light rail station near this beautiful bridge:

alt text

Where we walked to the aerial tram station and boarded an aerial tram:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

So that we could have amazing views like these:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Everyone, including other tourists, got really excited about the mountains. I didn’t really get the big deal. I guess one of them erupted in the last century or something? Here’s a mountain:

alt text

And another one:

alt text

Oh look, over there in the distance—there’s Mount Whatever.

alt text

OK I just looked it up, and Mt. St. Helens is a volcano that erupted in the ‘80s. So is it a mountain or a volcano? I’m still confused.

The tram took us up to the VA hospital/medical school. It had a very long, geometric corridor:

alt text

Before coming to Portland, a lot of people suggested that we visit Washington Park. So that’s what we did on two separate occasions—first to visit the Pittock Mansion and then the Japanese Garden.

alt text

Here are Nick (and Sean) looking at a map and figuring out directions at the park:

alt text

The park was so big…so many things to see:

alt text

So we chose the Pittock Mansion, which was owned by a rich family because well, duh.

alt text

We got to see special things like expensive furniture and plates.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Oh here’s an antique mirror. Let me take a selfie. This is how selfies looked 100 years ago:

alt text

This is a bust of James Pittock, of the famous Pittocks.

alt text

I was more excited about the view outside the mansion:

alt text

alt text

In Washington Park, we also went to the Japanese Garden. I’ve been to various Japanese Gardens…in California (San Jose, San Diego and San Francisco) but this one blew the others out of the water.

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

And whatever this is:

alt text

We were able to go to the famed Saturday market. The sections were organized into tchotckes and thingamabobs.

alt text

alt text

alt text

One of the things that made my eyes roll to the back of my head was a whole booth dedicated to jewelry made from used skateboards. Like…c’mon, that is ridiculously contrived even for Portland.

I saw this view outside the Saturday market:

alt text

By the way, let’s take a moment to admire the fall leaves in Portland…We don’t see this much where I live in California. Ooh! Ahh!

alt text

alt text

Oh and in the last entry I showed you some examples of Portland’s outdoor/public art. Here are a few more examples:

alt text

alt text

alt text

And this advertising campaign. We were just walking on the street when we saw free bags of chips on the wall:

alt text

alt text

On Saturday afternoon we were rushing to catch a brewery tour 7-8 blocks away from our bus stop when my phone fell out of my pocket at some point and I couldn’t find it. I was so distraught I couldn’t enjoy (and take pictures of) the brewery tour, the arcade, the pizza restaurant or the club where we were. So there’s a chunk of time missing here. However close to midnight, my brother called Nick’s phone and told me someone in Portland had found my phone and turned it in to a nearby mediterranean restaurant and the restaurant had looked through my contacts and called my brother. My God, thank the goodness of Portland’s people! The restaurant was now closed and is only open in the evening; luckily we were able to go back the next day before right before our flights home and picked it up.

Nick and his craft beer flights (I stole this one from his Facebook):

alt text

The first picture I snapped after I got my phone back…these are the bathrooms at Rogue Distillery. Can you guess which one is the men’s bathroom?

alt text

Here are a couple of photos of random things I liked:

alt text

alt text

Oh and vegan gluten-free cupcakes. Because of course.

alt text

We went to a video store/movie memorabilia museum. Here is the knife that was used in “Scream.” It had a blood trigger on one side that squirted blood:

alt text

Portland had a lot of “food pods” scattered around the city. A food pod is the term of a group of food carts/trucks. Because of course.

alt text

alt text

alt text

With all the food options around, we were really surprised that the majority of people in Portland were very fit. (There were notably a lot of gyms too.) There were very few overweight people. I’m glad to say that despite all of the pictures of food pods and restaurants, I was still able to somewhat stick to my diet. I only had one heavy meal per day, and on a couple of the nights, I had salad for dinner.

Some photos on our way home at night:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Oh Portland, until next time:

alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Portland is Weird, Part 1

So…Portland. They say the dream of the ‘90s lives here.

How do I describe Portland? Well, if you’ve ever been to San Francisco… Portland is just like San Francisco. Except it’s cleaner, quieter, more modern, has better public transportation, the people are nicer, and the city is just overall a lot more pleasant to be in. You know, just a few minor differences.

The first thing I noticed is how bike-friendly the city is. As a person who is clumsy and often crashes into things, I’m kind of iffy about bikes. But wow, bikes are everywhere in the city. I’ve lived in Denmark, the world capital of bikes, and still, coming to Portland, I’m like whoaaaa…bikes:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Wait, what? Yes.

alt text

And even when you only have a part of a bike, you can still turn it into art as well. Because why not.

alt text

Speaking of turning things into art, Portland is the city of repurposing stuff. I mean, good for them, turning old stuff into usable stuff. The city is one big life hack.

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Yes…a restaurant made from a school bus. Because why not.

alt text

And speaking of restaurants…wow, the show “Portlandia” was right. The city is full of trendy restaurants, with people lining up and down the street to eat at one.

alt text

This is the famous Voodoo Donuts by the way:

alt text

But seriously the lines. We waited an hour and 10 minutes for this brunch place where you can make your own pancakes:

alt text

We also waited in a long line for this biscuit place:

alt text

But the food was worth it. Portland had the most amazing food. Lines, lines, lines everywhere. There were also many lines of protests. To be honest, I often didn’t know if people were in line for a protest or a good new brunch place. For example, this one…protest or brunch?

alt text

Oh but not to make light of protests. If it were up to me, I’d spend a whole day protesting with the lot of them. But I didn’t want to ruin everyone’s vacation.
I’ve lived in San Francisco, the world capital of protests, and still, coming to Portland, I’m like whoaaaa…protests:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

We saw the same family at the park earlier:

alt text

I’m not sure what this guy is saying though:

alt text

You may have heard that the protests in Portland were violent and resulted in a shooting. We weren’t there for that part. But below are some of the night protests we witnessed. They were chanting things like “Say it loud! Say it clear! Immigrants are welcome here!”

alt text

alt text

And we saw several incidents of police in riot gear gearing up for a riot.

alt text

alt text

It stuck me as funny that less than a block away people were doing this:

alt text

Donuts!

OK on that note this entry ends here. Come back tomorrow for Part 2 where I discuss more Portlandish facts about Portland.

alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Say Yes” speech

So…I won the Humorous Speech Contest at Macintalkers Toastmasters last night. For sure I thought Josh had gotten first place. So when they announced the winners, I did the whole, “Oh my God, I won?!” Taylor Swift face.

Here is my speech transcript from last night. It is called “Say Yes”. It is a modified version of the speech I had written for our club’s Open House earlier in the year:

———————

Aaah! It’s already more than halfway through 2016. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions? Did you adhere to “New Year, New You”? Now not to brag… but I did. I had one simple resolution: Say Yes. Just say yes.

Now, when you look at me—Kory— you probably think, [in nasal voice]: “Oh Kory—he’s not that exciting…”

Well, sure, but did you know that once upon a time, I was even less exciting? I was the kind of person who would say [mimes phone call], “What? A Humorous Speech contest? Oh sorry, I can’t do it…, I’m uh washing my hair that night. Sorry. Bye!” [hangs up]

But then I realized that while my life was being stagnant, people were having wild adventures. I mean, it was obvious from their posts on Facebook, and those are always true to life, right? So I embarked on a journey of saying “Yes!” to every opportunity I could. I tried to say yes to party invitations, yes to offers to try out a new activity, yes to a certain someone here pushing me to run to be a Toastmasters officer…just Yes, yes, yes!

And I’ve had resounding success and my life changed. Now, I’m not here today to tell you which websites to visit or the more technical details on how to find activities, since judging from the way you managed to find this location at Apple, you probably don’t need help in that area.

My goal today is to convince you to push past your fear and anxiety of trying something new. One of my favorite Facebook memes is “A comfort zone is a wonderful place. But nothing ever grows there.”

So here are three reasons why you should say yes and get out of your comfort zone:

1) It will open you to new experiences. In the past two years my new activities have included joining Toastmasters, attending a large board game group, taking krav maga classes, going on hikes with a bunch of strangers, and… a few other activities that you don’t really need to know about. I am not saying you have to go out tomorrow and jump out of an airplane or go climbing up…say, Mt. Kilimanjaro. But, get out there and try something you’ve never done! You don’t want your gravestone to say, “She binge-watched ‘Orange is the New Black’.” You want it to say something like, “She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro!!!….and that’s why she died.”

Aside from experiencing things, here is my second reason:

  1. You will learn new things. For example, I learned to speak in front of you guys without running away. And to be slightly less socially awkward. You may learn a new musical instrument. You may learn a new language. You may learn how to knit. And of course you will also learn things about yourself. You may learn you enjoy being in small groups. You may learn you like the outdoors and fresh air. You may learn you are deathly allergic to a plant that grows on a trail you are hiking on. It’s never too late to learn new things.

And you know what else is never too late to do? Meeting new people. Which brings me to my next point:

  1. You will meet new people. I feel like my social circle has grown so much since I took the time to introduce myself to people. I would make a friend. Then that friend would introduce me to a new friend and that new friend would introduce me to a new friend and I’d end up being a friend of that friend’s friend. Your new hiking buddy could be your new best friend! He or she could even be your future husband or wife! The opposite is exciting too—you could make an arch nemesis! Trust me, your life is not exciting until you have an arch nemesis. Your new video game group member could be the person that you end up competing with and hating ’til the day you die. Either way—you’re meeting new people!

Now, there will of course be experiences where you will say, “Ahh, I don’t like this. This isn’t for me.” But that’s OK. Part of trying new things is figuring out what you like and don’t like.

And sure, you may think, “I have enough people in my life…why would I need to meet new people?” Well, you will always need people in your life. You never know when you might lose some friends—especially if they’re doing things like climbing Mt. Kilamanjaro.

And sure, some of you might say, “I don’t have time! I’ve already got three kids, a mortgage and Pokemon Go on my phone!” Well find time. Rearrange your schedule and plans and find time. Because in just a few months, it will be 2017, and you will have a new set of resolutions to worry about.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

California Monochromatic – My photo project

In 2009, a few months after my dad died, my sister’s husband’s family planned a beach trip. I went, but it felt odd. There I was, in one of the sunniest places, and all I could see was grief and gray. I snapped a photo and put it in black and white. And I liked how it turned out.

alt text

And from there my photo project was born—California Monochromatic—traveling from one end to the other, taking photos of the Golden State and stripping the sunniness out of them.

Here a small selection of photos from the project.

San Francisco:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Santa Cruz:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

L.A./Hollywood:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

And finally this was my dad’s grave. It seemed very peaceful then.

alt text

It looks really different now. The tree was cut down and there are new graves all around his now.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Happens in Vegas ends up here – Day 2 and 3

Welcome to my second day of Vegas. I can’t remember exactly how it started, so I will be using the order of the photos on my camera to piece the day together.

I believe we ate and then went to the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace.

Shut up, don’t judge us! We were bloated from eating!

alt text

alt text

And then the clock struck 2 o’clock and then wait…what’s this? What the hell?! The statues in the middle of Caesar’s Palace dropped down into trap doors and out popped moving animatronic figures. Aaahh! I told you in the last entry how I had a fear of mannequins, especially moving ones.

I couldn’t hear all the dialogue but from what I gathered, it’s about a king considering relinquishing his throne to an heir, and his two children fighting over it. The chick has the power of water, while the dude has the power of fire and they both they are better. They squabble for a while, then finally the king is like, “Ah, forget it, you buttholes. I’ll let this dragon behind me give me extra power and I’ll keep my throne.” Or something like that.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Then we went to Linq in search of this cupcake ATM everyone had been oohing and aahhing over.

Um, this was it:

alt text

Oh and we also saw this sign. Whoever made this has my sense of humor and needs to marry me:

alt text

Then I ditched the gang for a while to go have dinner with my friend, Chris, from high school who now lives in Vegas. We had amazing all-you-can-eat sushi and then gelato at a place called Gelatology.

Sorry, I just refuse to take pictures of my food now unless I’m in a foreign country. If you ever see me post photos of food on Facebook, I have been replaced by an imposter.

Then we went to the High Roller. It’s the Vegas version of the London Eye. The only main difference is that the High Roller lets you pay more to board one of the cars that has an open bar. We did not do that.

The High Roller:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

The views were gorgeous:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Here is Chris taking better photos than I did:

alt text

After that, Chris dropped me off so he could watch what remained of his Sharks game and I returned to this bunch who were apparently having a blast without me:

alt text

We then headed out for the Strip, starting with New York:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Inside the New York hotel were stereotypical NY Italian eateries:

alt text

Oh and what’s this right outside? The Brooklyn Bridge? Oh I’ve always wanted to visit New York.

alt text

My camera sucks, OK?

alt text

alt text

alt text

There was a kid dancing outside to songs like that Whip and Nae Nae whatever. He was impressive.

Then off to see more of The Strip.

alt text

Then one of my places, the Arboretum inside Bellagio. They change it every season:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Here’s Kevin:

alt text

I asked a random girl to take a picture of Kevin and me and she looked at me like “Wait, who are you again?…And why are there two each of you?”

Or maybe she didn’t understand English.

Wait a minute…what…what the hell is this?!

alt text

Then we headed to the Bellagio fountains after. It was gorgeous, even with my crappy camera…..skills.

alt text

alt text

Ooh, Paris. makes sign of the cross

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

The miniature Arc de Triomph… on first glance, being used to advertise some MMA fight? Oh wait, no, that’s Gordon Ramsay and whoever that is on the right.

alt text

Cover your eyes, kids:

alt text

Then we walked back out:

alt text

alt text

Now, the night ended there. Use your imagination. No, actually, you don’t need to. We actually didn’t go out or anything after that.

The next day we visited the Luxor:

alt text

Vegas, the ultimate culture appropriator. Look, there is a obelisk:

alt text

alt text

And then we had lunch and Kevin drove me to the airport. The end!

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What happens in Vegas ends up in my blog – Day 1

I will not post everything that happened here in this entry, partly to leave some mystery and partly in hopes that you’ll imagine I am more exciting than I actually am.

Let’s start at the beginning of this three-day-ish weekend trip, shall we?
On Thursday night, I was notified that my flight got delayed by 45 minutes. When I got to the airport, my flight was un-delayed for 10 minutes. And then the flight itself arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule, so early in fact that we had to wait until for the airport to prepare a terminal. But who cares about flights, right? It’s Vegas!

Well I got to Vegas and it took nearly half an hour to catch a shuttle and then my hotel, the Downtown Grand was the very last stop on the shuttle. So the day was pretty much gone.

So…Friday. Downtown Grand.

alt text

Downtown Vegas in the morning is as empty as…um…a…I haven’t thought this through. Anyway, I went with my friends, Kevin, Ron and Misti (they’re camera-shy but I’ll try to sneak some photos along the way).

Oh and please forgive if some photos are out of focus. I didn’t want to slow my friends down too much so I took most of these while walking at a brisk pace. And also, I’m a terrible photographer.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Oh look, here’s a Love Locks-ish thing:

alt text

And then here is a meerkat art piece created out of junk metal on the side of what looks like a school bus? Very Burning Man.

;-f493hf;;e;ot1lsi.jpg

Then we hopped on our Big Bus Tour, the first of many. They kept talking about that big phallic thing in the background. Evidently it costs $15 to climb up it. And more money to slide down it. And more money if you want to ride it round and round.

alt text

I can’t remember what’s happening here. Is she throwing gang signs?

alt text

This is the “World’s Largest Gift Shop.” We entered it and after 5 minutes minutes, we were like, ehhh.
(Also, that’s Ron in the foreground.)

alt text

alt text

Then we walked through the Wynn Hotel. They had an art exhibit. I hadn’t seen these before but I knew only one artist could be responsible for these kitschy giant glass-metal sculptures—Jeff Koons.

alt text

alt text

alt text

For the low-brow of you, he’s the artist that was mentioned in the Lady Gaga song. I first became familiar with his work when I saw his exhibit at the Château de Versailles in 2008:

alt text

Then we explored the Venetian. I have yet to ride one of these Gondola rides. I would like to, but I don’t want to force the gondolier to row and sing to a party of one.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Then we went to the Madame Tussaud’s. When I was a kid, I used to be so scared of wax figures. I’d imagine they come alive and…I don’t know, I didn’t really think it through.

Here’s Jessica Biels’s husband.

alt text

Here’s Daniel Craig and Lindsay Lohan, both in their better days.

alt text

Here is the power couple, Angiebrad:

alt text

Here’s…um, a model from “The Price is Right”?

alt text

Stop harassing the wax figures, Ron.

alt text

Show them some respect. And love. Like this:

alt text

alt text

Here’s Miley:

alt text

Here’s One Direction. Very kind of them to put Louis front and center.

alt text

Some chicks:

alt text

alt text

Here is me passed out in Bradley Cooper’s living room. I should’ve known better than to accept a drink from someone sharing the same initials as Bill Cosby.

alt text

Aw, Tim McGraw, one of my country music heroes:

alt text

And Celine, my pop music hero. Looks like she’s getting ready to do one of her famous one-handed claps:

alt text

Here’s Misti portraying a New Yorker being inconvenienced:

alt text

And then there are Siegfried and Roy and the tiger that—uh, was very nice and gentle and they all lived happily ever after.

alt text

We had lunch at Senor Frog’s, where the prices make about as much as sense as their name. I mean, $20 for a burger? Well, I guess they had to pay for these decorations:

alt text

Oh Celine! Someday I’ll have enough money to see you!

alt text

‘Murica!

alt text

Interestingly enough, they have an Ellis Island Hotel and Casino about 2 miles away from this.

Leo the Lion, the lion from the MGM Grand where…yawn…

alt text

Then we hopped on another Big Bus and got to see the famous royalty-free Las Vegas sign:

alt text

“Royalty-free”? See these facts I’m just spouting? I learned them all from our fantastic, funny, knowledgeable tour guide. He was the one who told us all about First Friday (more to come later). Too bad I forgot to take a picture of him.

Here’s the start of Wedding Chapel Lane, on Las Vegas Boulevard. The bus was moving too fast for me to take pictures of such important historical places such as the place where Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman got married.

alt text

Even though this was the traffic. OK, fine, I’m just a terrible photographer.

alt text

At night we went to First Friday, an event that takes place on the, well, first Friday of every month where they close down Fremont Street downtown so that only 21+ people can enter. They had live musical performances:

alt text

alt text

And lots of people participating in Las Vegas’s most popular activity—loitering:

alt text

alt text

At 10 p.m., the casinos nearby all turned off their lights and a big musical show was shown on the big screen:

alt text

alt text

alt text

We then dropped by the Golden Nugget to see their pool. I was told that there are some sharks in those tanks above. If that’s true, I’m not sure how I feel about them keeping those animals in captivity.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Then we walked around more downtown:

alt text

This was the first hotel owned/run by the mob:

alt text

Then there was Container Park. Some girl pulled me in to dance with her and I did dance a bit until I realized I wasn’t drunk enough not to realize I dance terribly.

alt text

There was this scary demon-like praying mantis thing that shot fire along to the rhythms of popular songs:

alt text

alt text

I don’t know why, but I’m just fascinated by this shoe spinning round and round:

alt text

alt text

Here’s the famous Heart Attack Grill, where the servers wear medical outfits, and the customers don hospital gowns and a heavy layer of shame.

alt text

Then it was back to where we started:

alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 3 & 4 in Denmark: København Kory (last entry)

This will be my last entry in Denmark. Even though I was in the country for 4.5 days, I didn’t really go out much because all my relatives had to go to work and I was too unfamiliar with the public transportation system in Skjern and Copenhagen (I previously lived in Aarhus) to really go off on my own.

But anyway, where did I leave off yesterday? Ah, Skjern. Skjern is a very small, quaint town. A lot of stores and shops have popped up since the last time I visited, but it’s still very peaceful and quiet. So peaceful and quiet that I have a hard time writ– yawn – sorry, where was I?

They really love their red bricks and roofs here:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

My uncle let me tag along while he went to get his computer fixed. Skjern is so small that we had to drive to the next town to get to that computer store. On the way we saw some scenery, and I have to warn you, they get pretty exciting…

Just look at this grass:

alt text

alt text

Ooh, a peek at the ocean:

alt text

Oh look, the famous Danish turbines:

alt text

Too much for ya?

Fun fact: The majority of the world’s wind turbines are produced by a Danish company, Vestas. I learned this last time when my journalism class assigned students to go to Copenhagen for a week and write an environmental story.

Funner fact: after that class trip, I was transcribing my interview, accidentally pressed something on the camcorder and recorded over most of my interview footage.

Edit: OK, because I didn’t really have a lot of photos this time around, and I’m feeling nostalgic, I’m going to add some old ones from 2008:

These are some photos of my classmates island-hopping from Aarhus to Copenhagen:

alt text

alt text

alt text

A photo of us sitting by the canal, eating our dinner.

alt text

Isn’t this gorgeous? Doesn’t this look like a beautiful scene right out of a Hans Christian Andersen story (you know, before all the usual tragic, gruesome and dismembering stuff happens)?

alt text

alt text

alt text

During the summer, they usually have outdoor movies. We watched “No Country For Old Men.”

alt text

alt text

Our orphanage-like hostel:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Anyway, enough about me. You’re here to learn about Skjern and its awesomeness:

alt text

alt text

alt text

This is the Skjern train station:

alt text

Here is a statue of a grumpy Viking in front of the train station:

alt text

Here is a Fakta grocery store. I have good memories because this is the chain that I relied on when I lived in Aarhus:

alt text

At around 4:40 in the afternoon, my mom and I (my brother had gone to Odense to visit my cousin) boarded the train to go back to Copenhagen. We had a one-hour layover in Esberj, and finally arrived in Copenhagen at 10 p.m. Quite of a journey for a country that has only 10 percent the land mass that California has. But as I said before: islands.

A restroom sign at the Copenhagen train station; ooh the Danes and their cheeky humor:

alt text

The next morning, I woke up with a slight cold. My other uncle and his girlfriend took us grocery shopping. I’ve previously noticed that the Danes love their fresh-squeezed orange juice a lot; they don’t really care for that pre-bottled “made from concentrate” stuff. (By the way, note to Americans: the comma and decimals work the opposite way in Europe. For example, 1,5 liter means 1 point 5 liters and 4.000 means 4 thousand. That mix-up caused me grief when I was paying my rent here).

I thought this was like the coolest thing ever:

alt text

Then there was this, a fish market on a truck. Say what?

alt text

alt text

alt text

Yes, I know these are not that exciting nor representative of a Danish vacation, but when you’ve been cooped up in the house all day, you take what you can get. At this point, you can show me an outhouse and I’ll post pictures of it.

That night my cousin threw a lovely dinner party with Danish food. My cousins made roast pork with potatoes and pesto/parsley sauce. My uncle’s girlfriend also made a bunch of food, including baking a cake. She’s a whiz with food and she doesn’t use shortcuts at all. She makes everything from scratch, including pasta (like she made the dough and everything). Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of those foods.

That night my cousins wanted to go out clubbing. Normally I would say “yes!” but 1) I was feeling sick and 2) our flight was the next morning and we still hadn’t packed yet.

So instead, I just said “yes…” without the exclamation mark. Luckily I had a long nap during the day because I was bored. After my brother and I finished packing at 1 a.m., my cousin drove us downtown:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

We waited in line for some club named Flamingo:

alt text

But my cousin, Vivi, was turned away from Flamingo because she’s not yet 21. Seriously, Denmark? In a country where people can legally drink at 16, where teachers brought us a keg as an orientation present, and where our college had a beer vending machine…going to a dance club is where you draw the line?

Luckily nearby was a club called Miami (I really don’t know how they pick these names) that was 18 and over:

alt text

My cousins got us a bunch of Jägerbombs:

alt text

I’m usually a beer and sometimes Long Island iced tea kind of guy, I’ve never had Jägerbombs before (especially since I once wrote an article about the dangers of mixing alcohol with energy drinks), but they were delicious. But I only had two because I was feeling sick and nauseated.

Then we headed to the dance floor. I took more pictures because at this point I feel I owe it to my amazing audience of 4 to 5 people who read these blog entries:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Some fire drink thing going on over here:

alt text

After that we went outside for some fresh air, and I felt my nose running. I wiped it and it was blood. I was bleeding, and I guess, sicker than I had thought. So at 3:30 a.m., my cousin the designated driver and I left the club to go home early, and the others stayed behind an hour more.

At 6:30 a.m. we all woke up and had breakfast, then we headed to the airport around 8 a.m. This time, to be safe, we weighed our carry-ons and my cousins helped us re-distribute the weight, and we paid for two extra check-in luggage, and what do you know, the airport staff didn’t even weigh our carry-ons.

At that point, I was full-blown sick. I had a fever and when you’re sick, your ear pressure changes, so during the short flight to Sweden–not going to sugarcoat it–my ears and brain felt like they were going to explode. My ears popped but wouldn’t unpop.

I tried to distract myself by taking some pictures through my window. This is the Øresund Bridge, the longest combined bridge in Europe, and at one point, the world:

alt text

alt text

Oh look, pretty clouds:

alt text

alt text

Then we had a four-hour layover, and during that whole time I was mostly deaf. I googled all the tricks, like yawning, to unpop my ears but none of them worked. Luckily on the long flight to Oakland, we boarded the Dreamliner, which has a high-tech artificial cabin pressure system, so my ears didn’t feel as bad. I was feverish with a bloody nose, and yet for some reason I was mostly worried about grossing out any other passengers.

Here are some nice photos I took from the window. You can’t tell from this perspective, but the engine was MASSIVE, like the size of a house:

alt text

alt text

We crossed over some amazing sights, including this frozen underwater mountain range:

alt text

alt text

And ah, back to Oakland.

alt text

This was my first time flying through the Oakland Airport. The Oakland Airport might be less pretty and popular than its glamorous sister, the San Francisco Airport, but I loved it for one reason: we just zoomed through customs! Usually at SFO, when I disembark an international flight, I have to spend at least an hour going through customs. But at the Oakland Airport, we American citizens got to stand in this short line that took probably 5-10 minutes and the customs agents were so nice and friendly to us and said “Welcome home!”, while all the non-U.S. citizens had to stand in this long, winding line so they can be asked stuff like “Are you a terrorist?”

Yay for being American! Normally I feel bad about privileged stuff like this, but hey I was so sick, I didn’t mind cutting in line.

Well…that ends my 2014 Eurotrip. I hope you have enjoyed reading my entries.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip first days in Denmark: Skjern-dalous!

Yes, I know this looks like a lot of reading, but just get through the first part and you’ll be rewarded with some kinda pretty pictures and my eternal gratitude.

On Tuesday morning, we left for the Paris – Charles de Gaulle airport (you know, the nice one). Our flight was at 7 a.m., so my uncle (who happens to be a Parisian taxi driver, which is also why he’s been too busy to hang out with us the past two weeks) picked us up at 5 a.m. We thought we would have plenty of time, but the drive to the airport took longer than we thought. Due to traffic and minor snafus, we got there at about 5:40 a.m.

By the way, I will never complain about L.A. drivers again. Parisian drivers are frightening! Everyone drives so closely, they’re always two inches from crashing into or maiming each other. On the other hand, I heard that drivers in Paris are a lot more forgiving and “meh” about scratches and dents. In California, a slight scratch, and the other driver is magically suddenly in a neck brace. On the first hand again, drivers in Paris get victimized all the time. Just the previous week, my uncle got his taxi rear windshield smashed into and his daughter’s bag was stolen–while he was driving the car.

And I will insert a random picture here just to break up the text and not make reading look so daunting. Not sure if I showed it yet, but this is banana Flambé we ate at a restaurant the previous week:

alt text

Anyway, back to the airport. We discovered each of our checked luggage was 1 or 2 kilos over the limit, so we had to take some things out and throw them away or put them in our carry-on. I am always careful about all my luggage and carry-on not being over the weight limit, but my mom had put some things into my suitcase. When it comes to flying rules, I am a stickler for them. I weigh my carry-ons, put all my liquids in a baggy, turn off my phone and everything. My mom and my brother both dismissed me and said, “Nah, just put everything in your carry-ons. No one ever weighs them.”

Well, weigh they did. Right before we got through the security gate, we were asked to weigh our carry-ons. And my brother had 3 carry-ons. Everyone’s stuff was overweight. So we got sent back to the check-in desk. We managed to condense most of our stuff into two new checked-in bags and it cost 140 Euros. Sure, it was expensive, but what could we do? We had bought too many souvenirs. We figured, “That’s fine. We just need to get on our flight.” So I pulled out 140 Euros from my wallet, but the Air France check-in desk lady said “Sorry, we don’t accept cash here. Only cards.” Seriously? We had used all the money on our international chip-and-pin Mastercard thinking we no longer needed it since we had plenty of Euros and Danish kroner left. My brother and I pulled out all our American credit and debit cards (all Visa), but all of them were declined. Like, WTF? I had told my bank twice that I was going to Europe and all the countries I would be visiting so that they wouldn’t freeze my accounts. “Visa…It’s everywhere you want to be.” Apparently Visa thinks we only want to be in the U.S. Arrgh. (Later Visa would call me to say “We stopped your transactions because they seemed suspicious.) The check-in desk lady said, “There is a way you can pay with cash, but you have to go to this special office and that will take a long time, and by then you’ll miss your flight.” Everything was going wrong.

We decided to just go through security and get to our gate and try to convince the employees to let us pay the excess baggage fee after we safely boarded our flight. But Air France wouldn’t have that. They scanned our boarding passes and “unpaid excess baggage fees” flashed on their screen. We tried to use all our credit cards again, and the employees tried to call our cards in to make it seem less suspicious to Visa, but this time the Air France credit card machines were down. There was also confusion over which bags we had already paid for; at one point they thought all our bags were unpaid. And our plane was starting to leave.

Finally they called two supervisors over. The whole time though, all of the Air France employees spoke amazingly calm, like they didn’t realize we were missing our freakin’ flight, and they spoke to each other in rapid French, so I could only make out a few words here and there. Finally about 20 minutes later, the woman in charge said “We’ll book you on the next flight, which is three hours from now. You can pay cash at that office” and they walked us to some special Air France lounge where we paid the fees in cash. It took forever, because there was a line of people, and only one lady at the desk. I think number one rule in the Air France employee handbook must be that employees are not allowed to show any sign of urgency at any time whatsoever. I don’t know what the lady was doing, but she spent like 15 minutes calmly typing stuff into her computer before our cash was finally accepted and our receipt was printed. After that, we went back through security for the *third* time. By then I was so stressed out and couldn’t even enjoy walking around the airport and taking pictures like I’d normally do at every airport. The airport provided free international copies of the New York Times so I picked one up to cheer me up.

alt text

Oh look, a cover story about poor people in third-world nations compelled into giving up their organs to rich people in first-world countries. Actually, that did make me feel better. I might’ve missed my flight, but I do have all my organs.

(By the way, we actually actually lucked. I found out that six days later, all Air France pilots went on a two-week strike and all flights were canceled.)

Our flight itself was pretty nice. The flight attendants were very nice. The cookies they gave us were very nice. We did lose power in one engine system and had to circle around the sky for another 20 minutes while the pilots tried to get the backup system online and save us from certain death, but other than that, our flight was pretty nice.

Then we arrived in Copenhagen. Ta da!:

alt text

Hej Denmark. It is indeed the world’s happiness nation. One thing I’ve noticed from living there: virtually all Danes I’ve met have a healthy sense of self-esteem and are very well-adjusted, even the extremely rare non-gorgeous ones. What’s up with that?

As with our flight to Paris, we arrived on a rainy day:

alt text

alt text

My uncle picked us up, dropped us at his place and then he had to go to work. So I didn’t get to take any pictures besides these two from our drive:

alt text

alt text

We didn’t do much for the rest of the day but eat. The next day we decided that since my relatives in Copenhagen were so busy with work, we’d go visit my other aunt and uncle in Skjern, a tiny town known mostly for being the last stop on the train.

I remember the first time I bought a train ticket to Skjern (in 2008), the ticket lady nearly giggled when I said with an overly American accent: “Ska-jurn.” It’s actually pronounced more like Sk-yenne, but fast so it sounds like one syllable.

We arrived at the Copenhagen train station. It was at this point that I realized I forgot to pack my camera in my overnight bag and it was still at my uncle’s home in Copenhagen. Oh well, luckily I had a backup camera (yes, I packed one). It was an old, low-definition one but I figured it’s perfect: a tiny, old camera for a tiny, old town.

Love the Danes and their bikes:

alt text

alt text

Fun fact: their love of riding bicycles is the reason most Danish men wear skinny jeans or capri pants. And by “fact,” I mean, well, I just put two and two together.

The first train was very nice:

alt text

alt text

My mom was already exclaiming, “Trains in Denmark are so nice, while the ones in France are so trashy.” I told her that other trains in Denmark are not so nice. The previous week we had gotten into a tiny argument because she would think one city is representative of the whole country, like “France is such a loud and busy and crowded and touristy country.” And I’d tell her, Mom, that’s only Paris. Each city is different.

Anyway, we passed by fields of grass and ocean. Grammatically I don’t mean fields of ocean. I mean fields of grass and some ocean.

alt text

alt text

Few people know this about Denmark, but it’s actually made up of several small islands (and my relatives live on 3 different islands), so traveling between them requires a plane, a train or a ferry. If you want to drive, you can park your car on the ferry and your car gets “shipped” over.

It was a very long train ride. I lost track of the hours. I kept myself entertained by reading this book by J.K. Rowling, which is very good, about an eccentric detective (is there any other kind?) investigating the death of a supermodel:

alt text

And I always get a kick out of passing by this town (because I’m, like, 12):

alt text

alt text

My aunt and uncle own a restaurant right across from the Skjern train station, called Chicken & Burger:

alt text

alt text

(I didn’t take pictures of the inside because I didn’t want to seem creepy to the other customers.)

Despite their already comprehensive-sounding name, Chicken & Burger has everything from pitas to milkshakes to Chinese chicken. They made me one of my favorite Danish dishes, pølse mix: a plate of deep-fried hot dogs and fries, covered with sweet condiments and onions.

alt text

Screw the diet. This was Heaven. Oh and they also gave me some of this too, it’s an orange sweet-salty powder that Danish restaurants sprinkle on their fries. It’s amazing. Last time, I had to bring a big bottle of it back to the U.S. with me:

alt text

I’ll end the entry here. We didn’t do much more that night and I’m tired. More tales in Skjern to come later. “Skjern” you believe it? I hope you can “Skjern” wait for the next entry! OK I’ll shut up.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip: Last day in Paris. A day of lasts.

On our last day in Paris, we went out for brunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. Yes, here we go again, food pictures.

alt text

alt text

By the way, did you know there are classes where people pay to learn how to take pictures of food with their phones? I first heard of this as a small footnote in a NYTimes article and I had to look it up and sure enough it was legit. Soon after, there arose some copycat classes. Even Whole Foods teaches one. Here’s their description:

“PSSSST! Our iPhone Food Photography class is almost sold out! Say goodbye to those blurry food and drink photos you’ve been posting after every meal. In this introductory workshop on iPhone food photography, you’ll learn the fundamentals of food styling, phone photography and photo editing with acclaimed food photographer Brian Samuels. The class will include a store tour, cooking demonstrations, snacks, drinks and, of course, plenty of time to practice your photography skills. Bring your fully-charged iPhone and a few friends we’ll provide everything else!”

Of all the niche classes one could take…Move over, underwater basket weaving, you’re outdated.

And yes, I know under your breath you’re probably saying “Uh, Kory, not to be rude, but judging from your photos, maybe you should take those classes.” Well to answer your question: I don’t have an iPhone.

And here is my last “funny” sign in Paris. Can fake eyelash fitting be something that is in that much demand? I don’t remember which high-end department store we saw this at, but, of all the niche services to advertise on your store directory…

alt text

Then we went souvenir shopping, which meant a lot of candy (this will come back to bite us later, I’ll talk about it in the next entry).

Then we split up. My mom and brother went thrift shop shopping and I took a short trip to the Eiffel Tower.

For fun, I took a different metro a mile away and walked a different way this time.

Ah, look at this. Eat your heart out, Zooey Deschanel, your sister is popular here and has a street named after her:

alt text

What’s that, you say? Your sister’s name is Emily, and not Émile, a man’s name? OK fair enough.

alt text

In case you haven’t had enough of my previous Eiffel Tower photos, here are a bunch of ones from different angles:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

For some reason I felt perv-y taking this under shot:

alt text

Look at these tourists spending lots of money and waiting in line for hours just to be crammed up there in that tower. Lucky.

alt text

alt text

Seriously, I am embarrassingly touristy. You name a semi- kind of maybe sorta landmark, and I’ll be there snapping pictures, buying keychains and trying to figure out the lowest denomination of coins I can politely drop in someone’s box.

alt text

alt text

My favorite one:

alt text

The Paris sky is just so blue. By the way, in case you didn’t know, some history about the tower: it was originally put up for the 1889’s World Fair, and initially a lot of French people hated it and thought it was ugly. Now they probably still do, but their economy benefits from foreigners who love it.

And yay, police, keeping us safe. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from movies, the two places that terrorists and evil mutants love to attack the most are the Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower.

alt text

My brother and I had planned to take the ride up the tower, but we didn’t have time and needed to pack. We weren’t too bummed about it. My brother reasoned that he needed something unaccomplished so he’d have something to look forward to next time he visits.

Here are some photos from when I last went up the tower with Bénédicte (the summit was closed and we could only go up halfway). It’s been quite a number of years but I think these hold up.

The observation deck, all around this room were measurements of how far this tower was from all the major cities and landmarks in the world:

alt text

alt text

The sun setting:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

This looked very Apocalyptic to me for some reason:

alt text

Looking up:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Paris is full of American tourists. The two guys in front of us in line were from San Francisco. Small world. At that time I used to be very shy and only learned that fact from eavesdropping on them.

This was the line to exit:

alt text

The river outside:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Here is a shot that Bénédicte snapped of me when I wasn’t paying attention. She is a very good photographer, especially with composition:

alt text

Anyway, sigh, enough of that blast to the past.

Back to present day:

alt text

Bye bye, Eiffel Tower. Don’t let those French people hurt your feelings, you are magnificent.

Here again is my shot from the previous week:

alt text

Here are some present-day river shots:

alt text

alt text

alt text

And my last few photos in Paris, of the fountain across from the Tower:

alt text

alt text

À plus tard, Paris. Bisou bisou.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 11 in Paris: Le Père Lachaise

I’m starting to question the wisdom of titling these entries “Eurotrip” considering that 80 percent of this trip takes place in Paris. Oh well, too late. It was a beautiful, clear Saturday and so Béné and I arranged to meet at the obvious place: the cemetery. I was determined not to be late this time. I often am late meeting up with Béné (who by the way, needs to change her name so I don’t have to spend so much time typing those accent marks) due to some unforeseen circumstance, so this time I memorized the directions and left early to make sure. But when I got there, I was like, “Crap, where were we supposed to meet, the cemetery entrance or one of these metro entrances?” And my phone didn’t work. I waited at the metro stop for about 5 minutes, then remembered there were several different metro entrances, so I figured it would probably be more logical to meet at the cemetery entrance. I walked all the way down the street to the cemetery entrance, waited 15 minutes there before I realized the other tourists thought I seemed like a creepy loner, then walked back to a metro stop and there was poor Béné, waiting for me again. Anyway, here it is, Père Lachaise, the Parisian cemetery where many famous French people are buried:

alt text alt text alt text Once we got in, there were no maps sold (some street vendors had sold unauthorized maps outside). The only thing we could do was take a picture of this directory of where the important graves are. If you die and your name isn’t on here, you are nobody.

alt text alt text There were so many random pathways, one could easily get lost here: alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text

It was a very surprising place. I’ve been into cemeteries since we buried my dad and I discovered cemeteries are full of beautiful monuments. But still, I was surprised at the level of creativity (and vast wealth spent) here. A lot of statues:

alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text This one startled me a bit:

alt text

This was my favorite one. Very beautifully sentimental: alt text alt text

There were several graves with a statue of the deceased person lying on top of it, just in case relatives forget who is inside: alt text alt text alt text

This one looks like he’s staring right at you, isn’t he? alt text

At first glance, Béné and I both thought this one was a puppy embracing the woman, but Béné was the only one who said it out loud. Shame on her. alt text

We couldn’t figure out who this grave belonged to, but yeah, super rich guy: alt text

Someone built an entire house mausoleum: alt text

And I like this piano one: alt text

You know how I mentioned before that my dad was a table tennis fanatic? To memorialize that, we engraved a picture of ping pong paddles on his stone. I wonder what I’d want on my tombstone. Maybe cheese and pepperoni? Ugh now I feel old just for telling that joke. – A lot of family members were buried together in the same plot. I don’t know the logistics of this. Do they stack them on top of one another? alt text alt text

By my count, this grave had at least 22 members buried together: alt text

Then there were the celebrity graves. The cemetery’s graves were all over the place, so we spent a lot of time trying to read the poorly-drawn directory and helping other strangers locate famous graves. Surprisingly a lot of the famous ones were very plain and understated: Novelist Marcel Proust: alt text alt text Singer Édith Piaf (whose real name was Édith Lamboukas): alt text alt text

Playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, also known by his stage name, Molière (I remember his works from high school): alt text alt text

The poet, Jean de La Fontaine: alt text The classical composer and pianist, Frédéric Chopin: alt text

Vivant Denon, who was an artist, writer, diplomat, and one of the first directors of the Louvre: alt text

Oh and this? This is the grave of famed writer Oscar Wilde. You might know him from the wrongly attributed quotes people are always posting on Facebook. Look at his grave. A bit of a diva, huh? Reminds me of his famous quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask why the caged bird sings.” alt text alt text alt text

This glass was put up due to all the assholes who were defacing it: alt text

Speaking of assholes who deface graves, ugh, look at this. I hope the dead people’s spirits follow them home and haunt the hell out of the people who did this: alt text

Oh and here is the grave of some dude named Jim Morrison who I guess was like in a band or something: alt text alt text alt text People made a gum tree for him, which is kind of disgusting, if you ask me. Very unsanitary. alt text alt text

Edit: I was hoping my sarcasm would come across, but in case it didn’t: ha, yes, I know who Jim Morrison was. One of the tour guides we came across told us that couples often sneak to have sex on top of his grave. Although that looks mighty uncomfortable.

There was a monument to a Holocaust labor camp victims: alt text alt text

Here is the crematorium: alt text alt text alt text

Anyway, we had enough of that, so we walked to the café (I need to think of a new name for these places so that I don’t have to type the accent marks) to get some dessert. Béné had the tiramasu: alt text I wanted the tiramasu too, but I figured I’m in France, I should get a French dessert so I ordered the crème brûlée (ugh, again with the accent marks). It was heaven. Like damn…I took one spoonful and I had to let it sit in my mouth. I don’t care if this was 2,000 calories and pure sugar. alt text

Afterward, we went to one of the malls at the train station. I thought it was funny that they had a Claire’s. Of all the American brands to import to France… Claire’s, really? alt text

Then we went to find a wallet I wanted and that was a nightmare chase. Let me explain: last week when Béné and I hung out near the Centre Pompidou (museum), we dropped by a nearby souvenir shop and there was a brown wallet I liked. But there was no price and the shopkeeper seemed busy and we figured I could always find the same wallet at any of the other hundred of souvenir shops in Paris, so I didn’t get it at the time. But a week went by and I didn’t see this wallet at any of the other stores, so we tried to go back to the original shop. It was like something out of the Twilight Zone. We both swore that the shop was right by the museum, but this time we walked back and just couldn’t find it. And we were so determined, we circled around the area for about maybe hours. I didn’t want the wallet that bad, but I wanted to prove that we weren’t crazy, that the shop did exist. We even looked through my camera for photographic evidence. It couldn’t have just disappeared like that. I was freaking out, like one of those kids in a horror movie telling his parents, “I swear it was there! I’m not crazy!” Finally I just gave up. Poor Béné, putting up with that for me. We did see some interesting sights while getting lost though. Like this Ferguson protest people were getting ready for: alt text alt text

And there’s this guy offering to write poetry for people on an old typewriter for money. This picture is blurry because I snapped it real quick and ran away before he got a chance to make eye contact with me, and thus obliging me into paying him. alt text

We then took the metro to La Défense, which I thought would be some militaristic area but it was just a nice business area with modern buildings. alt text alt text alt text alt text

Oh look, a bunch of random wires: alt text Oh wait, let me get in front of it. Ah, ok now it makes sense. alt text Wait, what is this, a crowd? OK, now we are obligated to join. alt text alt text

It looked like some kind of boxing ring, and then some announcer guy came out and gave a very dramatic-sounding speech in French. I could only make out 1/4 of the things he was saying. alt text alt text Then he unveiled some guy in a wrestling outfit and appeared to put a spell on him: alt text alt text alt text

Then they pretended to ask for a volunteer from the audience to fight the guy, and this guy in blue was “picked.” Then they proceeded to pretend fight. Every time they got close enough to “fight”, they would instead do flips, somersaults, and other gymnastics moves. alt text alt text alt text alt text

I don’t want to sound judgy… but this was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. Béné and I cut out early to get food. By that time, it was around 9 p.m. and the only places open nearby were a Chipotle (yes, they have Chipotle here) and McDonald’s. We chose McDonald’s. It turned out to be extremely crowded. Let me explain something about the McDonald’s restaurants in Paris: every McDonald’s has two ways to order: either order at the regular counter, or use one of the machines to order (oh and they all have multiple floors). I chose the machine because the lines seemed shorter compared to the counter, and the machines had an “English” option and I was too tired to think in French. Very poor decision. It took nearly 30 minutes to get our food. Poor Béné was getting frazzled and it was all my fault. But the food was good. I ordered a “Beef and Onions” sandwich, which was two burger patties in a bun with fried onions. Screw my diet. alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 10 in Paris: Cider and Andouille

On this Friday, my brother, my mom and I all split up for different cities in France (well, actually they left, and I stayed in Paris). In the morning, my brother took a train to Lyon to visit one of his classmates. That evening, my mom would take a train with my uncle to Lourdes, which is a super religious and difficult to pronounce city where many Catholics flock.

I’ve always wondered why Madonna’s daughter’s name was Lourdes. Mystery solved.

Before my mom left for the trip, I spent the day with her. She is really into thrift stores. I asked Béné for help, and she sent me a link to the Guerrida Guerrisol thrift store chain. Turns out they had a location two blocks from where we were staying, so we walked there.

I barely walked into the store when…oh my God, the smell, the smell. The worst B.O. ever. I don’t know if it came from the customers or the shopkeepers. But the smell was so strong, it permeated every part of the store. I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell so I had to exit the store and just waited for my mom to finish shopping.

For lunch we took the metro to Place D’Italie, the Asian district again.

Oh look, there was another Guerrida Guerrisol there. This one was better. Less B.O. Bigger selection of clothes. Just better.

alt text

alt text

This is what the Asian district looks like. Mostly Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Laotian restaurants, and pan-Asian grocery stores. Japanese food, especially sushi, is considered too mainstream to be here, I guess.

alt text

alt text

alt text

There were A LOT of pho places. Like a pho-ing number of pho places.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Even on a Friday morning, most of these restaurants were packed. The past two weeks, some of the restaurants we ate at were so packed that we sat down with strangers at tables where I could barely move my elbows for fear of knocking something over.

We finally chose this one below because it was crowded but not too crowded. If there’s anything that my mom and I have in common, we both hate to wait in line for food.

alt text

I ordered a bun bo hue, which is the spicy lemon-grass noodle I like. However at the place, it was pretty bland. I don’t know why I’m posting this picture. Probably because I feel this entry is lacking pictures.

alt text

By the way, some advice for Paris visitors: If you want free water, order a “carafe d’eau” and they’ll bring you a pitcher of tap water. Otherwise if you order “une eau,” they’ll bring you bottled water. Also, ice is not really a thing here. If you order a drink, it doesn’t come with ice. Yeah…just go with it. (The exception is iced tea.)

Also, in France you are not required to leave a tip. They might think you’re cheap since you’re in a touristy city and you have an American accent, but when in France, do as the French do. In most places it’s fine if you just round up your bill to the closest Euro. Servers actually earn a decent wage here. It’s not like in the U.S., where we are guilt tripped (guilt tipped?) into tipping everyone from a hotel doorman to the girl who weighs our yogurt.

We walked past a park.

alt text

Oh look, they’re playing table tennis here. I had seen these in Brussels as well. I don’t know how the balls bounce properly on cement though.

alt text

Little-known fact: I used to be pretty good at table tennis/ping pong when I was a kid. Belonged to a competitive club and everything. My dad was a table tennis fanatic.

That night, I went to dinner with Béné and her brothers, Edouard and Mayeul. The last time I met Edouard, he barely spoke English. This time, his English was good. So was Mayeul’s. And here I am, speaking poor French and understanding less. They all had to switch languages for me. Felt so bad. It was the Danish dorm roommate situation all over again.

Here is a picture of our nice crêperie. I swear, what is it about Parisian eateries and their stinginess with seating? At first they put the four of us at a tiny round table even though the place was virtually empty. A table that would fit two people, they somehow jammed four chairs into. I’m not French-sized, I need room for my elbows. (By the way, I already lost 7 pounds here, so maybe I will be French-sized after all.) After a while, we moved to a normal-sized table (that had six chairs) and the waitress didn’t protest.

That is Edouard in the photo, by the way. I think he looks a lot like Béné.

alt text

They ordered cider for me. I took a sip and…well, the cider here is not the spiced apple juice you get at the Cheesecake Factory. This one was fermented, like…really fermented. And it’s not like the alcoholic pear cider I’m used to, either. This was served room-temperature and had an unusual taste…I don’t want to say “unpleasant,” but it is something my palate would need time to get used to for me to enjoy.

alt text

alt text

Then we all ordered crepes. I ordered Andouille sausage, which all of them kept asking me, “Are you sure? It has a very strong, unusual taste,” probably they saw my adverse reaction to that cider. But I’m a big fan of sausages, and I’ve had Andouille before. It was delicious.

I forgot to take a picture of mine, but here is Béné’s salted caramel one. They all pretty much look the same on the outside…That’s what she said. Does that work? No? OK, sorry I’ll shut up.

alt text

By the way, Merci, Béné.

Afterward we walked around downtown, mostly to help Mayeul look for his car. We were about to cross the street when, oh what, what the hell? Suddenly out of nowhere a large mob appeared.

Hundreds of them.

alt text

My camera, however, was not quick enough to capture their fleeting majesty.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Yeah, not a terribly exciting or funny entry. I’ll do better next time, I promise.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 9 1/2 in Paris: More Versailles is more

So…continuing where I left off last time, we were now outside the palace and now into the gardens.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Oh look, they knew I was coming and had to announce it in advance:

alt text

OK I’m not Chinese, but still kind of funny.

Anyway, back in 2008 when I first came here, this place was beautiful, lively, and breath-taking. This time, it was more gloomy and disappointing. I’ll explain further below, but first let’s take a look at some of the nicer scenery. Notice the change in lighting just from the constantly-changing French weather:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

The disappointment was due mainly to the closure of two things. First, this one. They closed off guests to the entire lower courtyard because they’re building something here that looks to me like it’s for a celebrity wedding, fashion show or concert.

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Like, WTF? I paid 15 Euros for my ticket, not to mention the train costs. I expect to walk on EVERY… INCH…of these gardens. So pissed. I demand they take that whole thing down.

You can’t see it in the photos, but they had security guards blocking visitors from stepping foot anywhere in the lower courtyard. All my pictures are shot from above.

I thought I could be clever and sneak in by walking down this alternate pathway:

alt text

But the guards were there, so all it did was just cause me to walk back up this long set of steps:

alt text

And taking pictures off the sides of the steps:

alt text

alt text

alt text

The second disappointment…OK first I’ll show some of my old photos from 2008:

alt text

alt text

OK, isn’t that just magical and beautiful? Now look at it now:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Like, WTF is this? Why is everything I was looking forward to closed?

This was also closed too, but I stuck my arm through the gate and snapped a photo:

alt text

Oh well, there were a few new things.

Like this brilliant sculpture here, consisting of a wall between two rocks. I used to be a creatives arts major. I think this represents mankind’s modern struggle with paying 15 Euros to look at a wall between two rocks.

alt text

Oh and I guess there is this new arch thing too:

alt text

alt text

I think its primary purpose is so that douches like me can do this:

alt text

“Ugh, it is sooo heavy pushing the sides out, but not too heavy because I’m still smiling.” (Pay no attention to the belly or the unflattering jeans.)

OK I should stop complaining about the price. Kidding aside, 15 Euros is actually on the cheaper side of doing things in Paris. But still, it’s not every year that one gets to visit Paris. It would be nice if everything was accessible.

Speaking of accessibility, just think, many years ago this expensive place was designed for only kings and queens and other dignified royals to gracefully curtsy and traipse across the courtyards.
Now this is what is going on:

alt text

Progress.

Then we walked all the way down to the main lake. It was a lot of walking. By the way, in case you’re wondering, if you’re less active and more financially-secure, you have the option of renting a golf cart to rove your way across this land.

alt text

alt text

It took a while but we got closer.

alt text

Oh will you look at that? And by that, I mean the power of my zoom lens:

alt text

You could rent boats by the lake and sing to your lover.

alt text

This scene looked very familiar. I remembered a painting by one of my favorite artists, Georges Seurat:
alt text

Now here is the modern-day, slightly less sophisticated version:
alt text

By the way, I don’t mean this to offend, but… to the woman in the rowboat, it looks like one end of your boat is sinking deeper than the other. Just thought you might have it, erm…checked out, as a safety precaution…maybe you can put something on the other side to balance it out…just in case, because no one likes to fall into a lake… and uh you know what, I’ll just shut up.

They had really nice tree paths and walkways:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Well, goodbye Versailles.

alt text

alt text

alt text

That night we went to Paris’s Asian district, Place d’Italie (yes, I can’t get over the irony of the name even though I know the explanation for it) and ordered pho again. I swear, my mom is so Vietnamese, we travel all the way to France and all she wants to do all the time is try a Vietnamese restaurant.

alt text

At first glance, it looks like your regular bowl of pho. But it tastes very different. We’ve had pho in at least three different popular locations in the city already so I think it’s safe to say, the pho in Paris is weird. The soup doesn’t have the star anise smell and in some places the color was a dark caramel brown. The taste is not close to authentic pho, but more of some odd fusion. (And before you say, “How do you know what is authentic or not?”, I will remind you I visited Vietnam for three weeks a few years ago, so I’m like… totally a super expert on that country now)

And the hoisin sauce in Paris…maybe we’re just unaccustomed to it, but to me it tastes like death. It tastes like liquid black licorice that’s been fermented, with a lingering aftertaste, and I had to use lemon as a chaser. I mean, it’s cool if you’re into that, the places were crowded so they obviously have people who enjoy that kind of taste, but for me, it was not my cup of pho. (See what I did there?)

Afterward we visited the Asian grocery store. This brand is really popular:

alt text

alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 9 in Paris: Versailles part 1

On Thursday…? I think it was Thursday, it’s so hard to keep track of time when you’re on vacation. I tried to keep notes the first few days but after a while it just became a blur.

I will have to split this day up into two entries, or else your computer will crash with the large number of photos I want to show.

Well anyway, we took a train to the Château de Versailles, which is where all the French royalty lived, all the Henrys and Maries.

We woke up early, took the metro to the train station and then bought tickets for this train with the nasty worn-out seats:

alt text

But at least we had views of the beautiful French weather to look out to:

alt text

And this guy’s music:

alt text

Notice how people are trying to avoid eye contact with him. The unspoken rule on public transportation is that if you take pictures, make eye contact, or even show any hint that the performer exists in the same reality that you do, you must pay or you are a douche.
Needless to say, we often paid to street/train performers in France.

I have other pictures of performers (accordionists are especially commonplace here), but for some reason I can’t find them in the folders I’ve uploaded.

The train dropped us off near here, which reminds me of Fantasyland at Disneyland.

alt text

Then we walked several blocks to the Palace. It was magical.

alt text

alt text

What? We were there around 10 or 11 a.m. and people were already leaving? Oh, these people… so difficult to please.

It was a longer walk than expected.

alt text

alt text

Nice gate:

alt text

alt text

Wait, what? 15 Euros per adult to get in? OK, fine.

And we’re in:

alt text

OMG, we’re walking in, you guys…

alt text

And we’re in:

alt text

This was the official royal family tree. A lot of Maries. I guess they had to have a lot of them because they were always getting…never mind.

alt text

This was how the Palace first looked. And yes, I know there’s an elbow in the way. With the number of people visiting this palace, and how quickly my family was moving through the tour, it was hard taking a picture without somebody’s elbow, leg, neck, head, face, selfie stick, etc in the way.

alt text

Oh and I said before how I love archways:

alt text

This is just a random shot to show the kind of space we’re in:

alt text

And these royals, they will not leave any wall uncovered, will they? While their people are starving, they are sparing no expense on this place. “Let them eat cake, I must discuss my ceiling painting options.”

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Oh look, it’s the War Room. “I’m going to trample you with my horse, you deadbeats! That will show you.”

alt text

alt text

And here’s the dining hall (I think). Gah, it’s so crowded. Move out of the way, people. Don’t they know that I’m taking pictures for an amazing blog that is read by at least three people?

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Ah, some fresh air.

alt text

Oh look, here is the Peace Room. I’m not sure what they do here. Write up peace agreements? But did they really need a room just for that? “Let them eat cake. I must go discuss my peace room with the royal interior designer.”

alt text

alt text

And this is the queen’s bedroom. Marie Antoinette’s actual bed I think. This woman kind of liked florals, ya think?

alt text

alt text

alt text

This was the queen’s salon/waiting room. Guests would wait here until her servants finished doing her makeup for her, and spraying enough perfume to cover the stench of only taking a couple baths per year. “Let them eat cake. But preferably not in this waiting room. I don’t want a mess. Tell them to go to that big dining room.”

alt text

My mom said, “Quick! Take a picture of that, it’s Marie Antoinette!”

alt text

Another waiting room. Very exciting.

alt text

alt text

Regarding the following picture, my mom and my conversation went like this:

“Look, it’s Napoleon!”
“No, it’s not, mom. Napoleon is way short.”
“Well, you know how people liked to flatter themselves. He told the painter to make him look tall.”
“Mom, that’s not him.”
“Yes, it is.”
“No, look at the plaque.”

I’m now questioning if that was really Marie Antoinette.

alt text

And look at these princes. Is it just me, or does anyone else sense the privileged snottiness radiating through this photo?

alt text

More spiffy rooms:

alt text

“Ha, mom! THIS is Napoleon!”

alt text

Finally we walked out of the hall and faced a fork. One sign said “café,” the other said “restaurant.” Uh, come again? We just followed the crowd.

alt text

Ah, outside!

alt text

I will have to continue the “outside” part of Versailles in my next entry. So, I’ll stop here.

I will show you some old pictures of the time that Bénédicte and I went to Versailles years ago during a Jeff Koons exhibition (this is the artist Lady Gaga name-checked in her song). I know, these pictures are horrible. I blame it on my awful camera…skills.

The quality is even worse because these are grabs from my old Facebook albums (my hard drive and computer were stolen in the burglary as you know).

His famous metallic balloon sculptures:

alt text

alt text
alt text

alt text

And I’m still smarting from the burglary because I had not uploaded all my photos online and there was this topiary sculpture that looked like a toy horse that I liked but don’t have a photo of.

You can kind of see the back of it here:

alt text
Oh you know what, I’ll go online and borrow someone else’s photos. When I was a journalist, bloggers borrowed my stuff all the time. Might be fair to borrow stuff back. (The credit for the following goes to ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com)

This is Jeff Koons standing in front of that sculpture at Versailles.

alt text

alt text

Well, please come back tomorrow to see what the rest of Château de Versailles looks like.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 8 in Paris: Sacré bleu!

On the eighth day of Paris, my true love gave to me….just kidding. But you already knew that.

Well, my family and I went to the Sacré-Cœur, a church that sits on the highest point in France.

alt text

It was a nice trek up, but we had to avoid all the money. In Paris, at all the famous landmarks, people are always trying to get money off of tourists with varying schemes, including women who ask you to sign a generic petition and then demand a donation. No matter what, you have to avoid eye contact with them. If you give them a split-second glance, they will latch onto you and make it very difficult to walk away. The guy at the Sacré-Cœur grabbed my arm, and I tried to be polite but I finally had to just wrangle myself away.

Anyway, back to the basilica. According to Wikipedia, the Sacré-Cœur “is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city”:

alt text

alt text

alt text

I wonder how many people bring pot here just to say, “Look, I got high at the highest point in the city.”

More pictures are below. But first, let me take a selfie:

alt text

I don’t know what it is about my brother, but almost every photo I ask him to take of me comes out slightly crooked. Maybe after this vacation, I’ll take the time out to straighten them all on Photoshop, but for now, they’ll be crooked:

alt text

alt text

alt text

OK this is a bit better:

alt text

We then went inside the amazing, beautiful church. But cameras weren’t allowed in there, so here are some random, ugly pictures of the outside:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

You could also pay some Euros to climb to the top, and go through all the old hidden, creepy passageways. I didn’t this time, but here are some photos of Bénédicte and me in 2008 making that journey. So many stairs and such narrow spaces, one of the most claustrophobic experiences of my life:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

OK, now back to the present. Up on the hill there were the typical gift shops

alt text

but there was also a big fair with artists hawking their services and wares:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Oh look, another Asian bride and groom in Paris. I’m no master of body language but I think the bride is saying “Stop looking at the camera. Get the fuck over here and bring me my shoes!”

alt text

alt text

We then went inside a fancy chocolate shop. Oh look, the Notre Dame cathedral made entirely of chocolate:

alt text

alt text

As a bonus, here are a couple of signs around town:

If you’re going to advertise a class teaching English, you should make sure to use proper grammar, yes?

alt text

And this gross sign below, ugh. It gives the impression that American = white and that it’s something to aspire to. This is why people abroad often ask me (non-verbatim), “What, how can you be American? You don’t look like a WASP.”

alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 7 in Paris: Moving day!

On Tuesday, we had to move out of our Airbnb apartment and into another one. The apartments in Paris generally have narrow stairways, and very few had elevators. Ours had an elevator, but it was tiny, you could only fit a few people in it–possibly two Americans…or five French people.

So I always wondered how people brought huge furniture into their high-rise apartments. This is how:

alt text

alt text

All week I had been watching people in neighboring buildings do this. People would hire moving companies, which come with their own mini-lifts and then load it right through their huge windows, which are all– you guessed it–French doors. I had always wondered why glass double-doors were called “French doors.”

We moved to Marcadet – Poissonniers (I’m calling all these neighborhoods by their closest metro station), which was very different from our previous République. République had a mostly white, 20-30-something, mostly professional, well-dressed crowd. Everyone there looked like they were on break from working at an art gallery.

By comparison, Marcadet – Poissonniers has a very colorful and vibrant neighborhood. It is made up of a lot of African, Haitian, Indian and Middle Eastern immigrants. I wish I had my camera during one of the days of their street farmers’ market-type things, but here is what the neighborhood looks like on a regular day:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

The barbed wire above because there was a train pathway below it. If you climbed over, you’d probably fall to your death:

alt text

Every 40 feet or so was a guy selling corn on the cob grilled on a makeshift grill in a shopping cart:

alt text

alt text

I guess it’s pretty popular here, but we bought some and it was too unseasoned and dry for our taste. We Americans are used to corn being slathered in butter and salt, and then used as a side to our barbecue, amiright?

alt text

Our former place at République was…meh (or “bof” as the French say). That’s why I didn’t take any pictures of it. We lived on the fifth floor of an apartment/condo building that had four bedrooms with a family in each one and together we had to share one small kitchen and bathroom. It was old and smelly and the doorknobs were coming off. The only redeeming qualities about it were that it had a nice balcony, an elevator, and it was conveniently located near all the major metro stops in Paris. And we didn’t get robbed or murdered, which is always a plus.

When we moved to Marcadet – Poissonniers, we were not expecting much of the new place. It was located near the end of the metro lines and it had no elevator. That means we had to lug our luggage up to the third floor, and in Paris, the ground floor is always “0” instead of “1” so we had one extra floor. It looked old and there were cracks in the building.

alt text

Damn stairs:

alt text

And our door:

alt text

But then we flung the door open and it was like Heaven. I didn’t know such an amazing place existed in Paris unless you were a millionaire or a drug mule. And it was not expensive at all. Thank you, Airbnb! (For some reason I keep pronouncing it as “Airbender”)

alt text

alt text

alt text

We even had our own washer-dryer in the bathroom (located in the cupboard near our sink)

alt text

Screw the metro and the rest of Paris. I could spend the rest of our week in all day in our apartment.

Sidenote: I love that most websites now have a “click for U.S. version” button. When I lived in Denmark in 2008, I had to always try to see if a site had a UK flag (for English) or I would end every URL with .us instead of .com.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 6 in Paris: Blue and Perfect and Adjectives

I guess I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but throughout our first week, we spent almost all the “downtime” we had going shopping in search of a certain that my sister’s mother-in-law had asked us for her. So on days when we weren’t sightseeing or visiting people, we hit every Printemps, Galleries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché, and other shopping areas in the city.

Like this one:
alt text

alt text

Most of you probably know that unlike the U.S., every other country includes sales tax in the marked price. And for those of us who are not European citizens, you get refunded the tax if you make a purchase of more than 170 Euros at the same store on the same day. The only time we ever hit that amount was when we bought the scarf at Galleries Lafayette, and from there we had to walk through a labyrinth of departments to get our purchase verified, then all the way to the basement to get our tax money back, which turned out to be 20 Euros. There was a Vietnamese woman standing near us in the other line and she got more than 300 Euros back. I may be terrible at math, but I suspect she must have spent A LOT.

I can’t remember which mall this was, but I liked the criss-cross escalators:

alt text

alt text

There was this one pea coat I liked, but when I looked at the brand…well I don’t think I can wear a label named this:

alt text

alt text

At Le Bon Marché, we were looking for the big, fancy grocery store we had heard of, but instead ran into this random art exhibit at the mall:

alt text

alt text

It was then accompanied by a 9-minute self-indulgent documentary about a rich Japanese man who transformed a tiny island in the middle of nowhere into an art museum/exhibit/something. The video included snippets of English-speaking tourists providing powerful endorsements about it, using words like “surprising” and “unexpected.”

alt text

alt text

After searching everywhere, we finally found a skybridge or pathway that led us to the big fancy grocery store, La Grande Epicerie.

Every fine, fancy French food you’d fathom feeding on:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Just look at the selection of foie gras (which I personally dislike and cannot eat):

alt text

alt text

Even their ketchup was fancy and highbrow:

alt text

And all along I had thought I was so elitist and the sh*t for buying the organic, corn syrup-free Heinz ketchup back home.

Speaking of fancy, their chocolate aisles.

Here is chocolate so grand it comes with a mallet you use to break it with:

alt text

And afterward you can use the mallet to break all the plates that hadn’t been worthy of holding your chocolate.

On our way home before dinner we took a quick 5-minute look at the Eiffel Tower. I’ll try to go again before we leave Paris but here are some shots. I really love the sky. It had rained that morning, but now the sky was blue and perfect and heavenly and ethereal and adjectives.

alt text

alt text

After dinner we decided to take a boat ride around the river Seine, Vedettes du Pont Neuf (pro tip: buy your tickets online and save 4 Euros per person. Or better yet, don’t buy any tickets and save all your money). We took the last ride at 10:30 p.m.

alt text

alt text

And away we go! Whoosh!

alt text

alt text

Unfortunately this boat ride was disappointing. It was a 45-minute ride that took us to the Eiffel Tower and back, but it was way too fast, I could barely get any decent photos with my camera. I tried adjusting my ISO and shutter speed and other camera terms, but 90 percent of the photos still came out blurry. And honestly, with the exception of the Eiffel Tower and some bridges, most other things along the river looked kind of meh at night.

Also, our tour guide was nice as a person, but as a tour guide she was kind of terrible. Her English was very good when she was greeting people and answering questions. But as soon as the tour started she switched to this rapid and rehearsed speech where I couldn’t understand a thing. Shesoundedlikethisasiftherewerenopausebetweenanywordssoafterawhilewejusttunedherout. She could have a future as a voice actress reading those side effects disclaimers in anti-depressant commercials.

Here are a few of the photos that came out sort of OK:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Caught this candid photo of my mom and we were all amused by the pose:

alt text

We then drove past all these crowds of young people just hanging out, drinking and laughing, playing guitar by the water’s edge, while I was on a boring cruise. Well… maybe next time when I’m not traveling with family.

alt text

After the cruise, we saw these locks of love:

alt text

alt text

I was admiring Caleigh and Noah’s eternal love for each other as immortalized on their padlock when suddenly I heard a guy yell “Hey fuck you! Trying to take my wallet?! I’ll fuck you up!” and his girlfriend added, “Yeah, he’ll fuck you up! Fucker!” Even without me describing the accent, you could already tell the guy was American. America, fuck yeah. They were yelling at a pickpocket, who then went and hid in the shadows.

Pickpocketing is a very big problem here in Paris, and well actually most big, touristy European cities. I was (kind of) the victim of one back when I visited Brussels in 2008. We were on a crowded metro and thieves went through my backpack and luggage. Luckily they didn’t take anything because I’m such a messy packer so they couldn’t locate my passport or wallet. My classmates were not so lucky. But ever since that incident I’ve been super paranoid when traveling abroad and I never take my wallet with me. I only carry a bit of money and a few items with me and I put them in hard to reach pockets.

We then stopped to view the Eiffel Tower from afar and snapped a few more photos.

alt text

alt text

At the strike of midnight, there were more sparkly stuff:

alt text

alt text

alt text

I know sometimes the tower would also turn blue or red, but I don’t know when that happens. I remember on my first trip to Paris, the tower turned blue with stars, like the European Union flag. Here are some of my old Facebook photos:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Enough Eiffel Tower photos for you?

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 5 in Paris: A Day with Béné

This will be a very picture-heavy entry. But it is the most fun one yet I think.

Day 4 was boring, I spent a lot of time hunting souvenirs with my mom, so I’ll skip right over to Day 5: my day with my French friend, Bénédicte, one of my most favorite people in the world.

She first took me to Jaurès, one of the street arts-iest parts of Paris:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

It was right next to a canal, and it was green, my favorite color:

alt text

alt text

Aack! What are these vandals doing?! Someone notify the authorities.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Ah, OK, punks, I get it now. Carry on.

alt text

Even this subway station is graffiti art:

alt text

What I really like about Paris’s metro stations is that each one has its own theme, flavor or personality. They even have different chairs at each station. This one looks to me like a smiling face that just says “sit on me”:

alt text

We exited the subway and saw this angel just reaching into the sky:

alt text

We walked down one of the rues and saw a jewish wedding about to take place at a synagogue. A group of random American tourists including myself stop to take pictures:

alt text

alt text

Oh no, what’s this? A man comes out and yells at all of us in French to leave, to get the fuck out. In turn, some of the Americans yell back, “Fuck off!” Béné explains to us the man said there is a bomb. We Americans think it is just a silly ploy to get some privacy.

alt text

Oh no, now the police have arrived! It must be serious. Béné explains to us that the jewish folks found a suspicious, unattended bag.

alt text

alt text

One of the American tourists says, “Oh right, that makes sense, with all the antisemitism going on right now because of people’s views on Israel bombing Gaza.” This was a rather thoughtful comment from a guy who I think earlier said “fuck off.” I figured not a lot of Americans know about a lot of the world being anti-Israel right now.

Anyway, the police cleared the bag, determined it was not a bomb and the wedding went on:

alt text

We took a vote and think this guy was the groom:

alt text

We went down another street and…oh my! These ladies in reflective vests are serious about their biking. Get out of the way, old woman! These girls are ready to rock and roll!

alt text

alt text

OK, I can’t see an archway without photographing it (and funny enough, Wikipedia uses this very same archway for its entry on archways):

alt text

Then we went to the Hotel de Sully:

alt text

alt text

This is an optical illusion. I freaked out a bit because I thought this man was carrying a woman’s head in his backpack:

alt text

Oh wow, this lioness is just putting it out there, isn’t she?

alt text

This would be the first of many Asian brides and grooms in Paris I see casually cross the street over and over again to take a picture. Like, you know, no biggie.

alt text

Béné and I loved this car. It reminds me of those plain backpacks or shoes when I was a kid that came with permanent markers and you were encouraged to mark them all up to make it your own:

alt text

OK, now follow the rainbow poles…

alt text

…right to Le Marais. If Paris was San Francisco, Le Marais would be the Castro. You know, just sittin’ and chillin’ and cruisin’ and all facing forward:

alt text

This is Paris…bitch:

alt text

Then we walked to the something something plaza:

alt text

alt text

You know how sometimes I say I’m the king of inadvertent physical comedy? Well, on this day, I was trying to climb to the top of a three-tiered fountain thinking it would make a cool shot, and before I knew it, one of my worn-out shoe soles slipped, I lurched forward, windmilled, and nearly fell face-first into the dried up fountain. But somehow I caught my balance in time. If I hadn’t died of crushing my skull falling into that deep fountain, I nearly died of embarrassment. Luckily Béné was too distracted making adjustments to the camera (or so she claimed), and the crowd of tourists were facing the other way. But really, someone should put up a sign or something.

Béné and I wanted a stranger to take a photo of us, but we’re both kind of um…iffy about approaching strangers. We first asked a bubbly tourist girl to take our photo, and after she snapped five pictures, I gave her a thumbs up and thanked her because I was too shy to tell her those photos were terrible. We waited until after she and her group passed, then we asked a man with a camera strapped to his neck, thinking, oh he has a camera strapped to his neck, he must be really good at this. He said yes and quickly snapped only two photos of us, but yes, he was good at this:

alt text

Then we went to the Centre Pompidou courtyard and watched a group break dance.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Honestly, as usual with these street break dancing shows, I thought it was a lot of hype and only 5-10 seconds of actual break dancing from each of the break dancers. But a lot of the tourists were impressed and they made a lot of money.

Then we popped into a Starbucks. Ever since we’ve been in Paris, I’ve been all about the yogurt drink craze here.

alt text

Béné got me this due to her stamp card, and I loved it:

alt text

And we visited a metro station undergoing reconstruction.

alt text

I really like pictures with the juxtaposition of old/classic and modern:

alt text

This place is called Au Chien Qui Fume. Jeez, even the dogs smoke here.

alt text

Then we headed to the Louvre. Poor Béné, always having to wait for me because I want to take pictures of everything and anything.

alt text

alt text

alt text

But ta da, the Louvre!

alt text

alt text

Ouch, this Louvre thing sure is pointy.

alt text

We wanted to wait for the sun to set on the Louvre but it was taking forever so we took a walk.

alt text

This lady is just relaxing, sunbathing and enjoying her ice cream:

alt text

And everywhere we go, immigrants are always pushing their wares on us. And OK, I admit it works on me. I buy this kind of stuff:

alt text

alt text

I think this statue is having the same problem I’ve been having trying to find deodorant in Paris:

alt text

And OK, Paris is known for very homoerotic statues, but this, what exactly is happening here?:

alt text

alt text

Oh look, another Asian bride crossing the street:

alt text

We crossed the street too, mostly to get closer to this bewitching obelisk:

alt text

alt text

And closer…

alt text

And closer…

alt text

alt text

And closer.

alt text

alt text

Oh and we got a nice view of the Arc du Triomph and its place as the center of life in Paris:

alt text

Then we got back to the Louvre to see the sunset (but I don’t think these pictures do it justice. I think I took better photos last time).

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

And closer.

alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Eurotrip Day 3 in Paris: “Seven-Euro 30-cm long”

I might have to start taking fewer photos. It takes forever to write these entries now because I spend so much time sorting through the photos, let alone have time to edit any of them.

Traveler’s log: Day 3, Thursday.

My family members were off doing their own thing today, so I decided to conquer one of my fears: the Paris metro system. Six years ago when I visited Paris the first time, my friend Bénédicte led me all around the city using the metro. I was so overwhelmed, all I remembered were the levels of tunnels that stretched for miles and they were several stories deep underground so that if somebody wanted to murder me and hide my body…well the Paris metro would provide them a very pleasant ride for them to think of the various ways they could do that.

But this time around I’ve been paying attention to how it works and it’s pretty easy. Instead of like San Francisco’s muni metro system, where one main tunnel handles a bunch of different lines and you have to pay attention to which train you get on (before it splits off in different directions above ground), the Paris metro system is made up of numerous tunnels and pathways, all handling a different train line each.

So, sure, there is a lot more walking and climbing stairs, but there is less of a chance of getting lost or on the wrong train. And there is always a train leaving every 2 to 4 minutes. (So I would never experience the crap I experienced in SF: spending 50 minutes waiting for/riding the Muni just to travel 5 miles to my internship)

alt text

alt text

What I’ve been really confused/perplexed about is following the directional signs here. In Paris, the down arrow (↓) means to go forward, whereas I’m used to “forward” being indicated by the up arrow. So sometimes I’ve walked downstairs when I was supposed to go forward.

Anyway, on this particular Thursday I decided to be weird and walked a long distance, popped into a random metro station, took a random train, and got off at a random stop. This led me to getting off at the Cité stop.

Viva la France:

alt text

I’ve been meaning for a while to get a photo to illustrate the ubiquity of small cars in Paris and well, here it is:

alt text

I stopped by the river Seine and sat down where Bénédicte first took me six years ago.

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

I did what I usually like to do when I’m sitting next to a body of water, take a shot of my feet:

alt text

And I love how zen these people are, they just put their bags down, take off their shoes, and relax and watch the world go by:

alt text

alt text

Then I walked more, across sidewalks and… I must have walked like 10-12 blocks just to get immersed in the Parisian local culture.

alt text

alt text

Damn you, Subway, always ruining my immersion of the local culture with your foot-long sandwiches. Or as they call it in Europe: 30 cm-longs (technically 1 foot is 30.48 cm long but I guess the French shave off half a cm off their sandwiches, you know, to keep their slim figures).

alt text

Although I’d argue their theme song doesn’t quite have the same ring to it: ♫ Seven-Euro, Seven-Euro, Seven-Euro… 30 cm-longs… ♫

(sorry, that was a dumb joke for us Americans)

alt text

alt text

Then I looked and saw a fancy-looking building (they’re all fancy in Paris):

alt text

But ah, it was a school:

alt text

But not just any school. It was L’Université Sorbonne, which is a very, prestigious, fancy-sounding school (and one different syllable from a delicious frozen treat):

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Ooh look, sorbet at the Sorbonne:

alt text

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

I really love the architectures of these older buildings:

alt text

Here is the Le Panthéon, an a̶r̶t̶ ̶m̶u̶s̶e̶u̶m̶ mausoleum that holds the remains of famous French people. Pretty… but no thanks.

alt text

alt text

Ah, here’s a lovely statue/piece of art in front of Le Panthéon:

alt text

alt text

And well, I was going to write something witty about this boy sticking his head up the statue’s butthole, but I’m too tired, so please make up your own caption for this:

alt text

That night after dinner I took a walk around our current neighborhood, République, which is always full of well-dressed, attractive 20-30-somethings, sitting down outdoors sipping expensive cappuccinos or café au laits at all hours of the day.

I hate them.

Not really.

alt text

alt text

And if you can’t go out to socialize, well you can always call up one of these sushi delivery services, because apparently that’s a thing, a very popular thing:

alt text

alt text

By the way, I just discovered a little problem: my deodorant is running out, and the three grocery/health care stores I’ve visited only sell those hard natural ball crystal deodorant things. Does anybody know if those work? My only experience with them was like a decade ago when I used the rock crystal and it just left me with major B.O.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.