A Little More Paris

The day after my delicious French dinner in great company was all about getting to Sacré Coeur because travel buddy Jess was set on seeing it. No objections from me though because it really is a beautiful cathedral.

However, we did need to get a little fruit breakfast in us, so we first checked out one of France’s infamous produce/street markets. Fruit was eaten, earrings were bought and a new “friend” was made

Why hello there Mrs. Potato Head – fancy finding you amongst all those fella potatoes (;

Sunflowers are my favorite (:

Showing off how good their melons are

Jessica’s new friend. He saw me taking pictures of the stalls and wanted his picture taken with Jess

Love all of it!

It is France after all…

We spent a decent amount of time taking in the Cathedral. From the inside to the outside and all the views around it.

Too funny to not take a picture

After touring around the cathedral I bought a local band’s cd “Les Presteej” – I was smitten when listening to them playing on the side of Cathedral. They were pretty great and now they are forever a part of my music collection. Let’s not talk about how I don’t understand anything that they are singing about in French, but I feel that I am more cultured just by listening to it and maybe one day the language won’t frighten me anymore.

Les Presteej (not my video, but am thankful someone else uploaded a video of them)

The Carousel in Montmarte

Then it was off to take a glimpse of Moulin Rouge – interesting stop over. Along the way I got a Pain Au Chocolat (just for you Whitney and your continuous search throughout Illinois for one). Besides I think it is a cardinal sin to go to Paris and not have one.

Jess and I finally made it back to Notre Dame for about the 10th time but THIS time we actually went inside. Definitely worth the trip halfway across town for it. I still stand by my opinion that the outside (specifically the sides with all the gargoyles) is the best feature of the cathedral, but I still got some good shots of inside the cathedral.

Your neck hurts from craning it to see all of the details

Stain Glass

My favorite picture from inside Notre Dame

Of course I requested we stroll the exterior once more so that I could get a few more shots of the amazing gargoyles! Get there before they are all weathered away – they are incredible. I will blame my parents for the weird gargoyle obsession since we have one at our house.

The challenge is in the hunt for a gargoyle still in good condition – this guy was a top finisher

These guys made carrying around my telescopic lens worth it

The backside of Notre Dame with the Garden

One last photo of Notre Dame

By then our hours were dwindling before we were to board our flight to Lisbon – the next recap of my travels – stay tuned!



A Parisian Evening: Dinner and a Stroll

Following our bike tour my friend Jess and I met up with my friend Allyce for dinner. Allyce’s co-worker recommended her a restaurant which was absolutely delicious. The name of the restaurant was Les Cocottes which we learned a cocottes is a pot – see the photo below for an illustration. The waitress was super nice in explaining it all too us. Before I go any further though I need to mention how my friend Allyce is super modest about her French skills – she went rapid fire with the waitress with asking and answering questions. I was super impressed


A close up of the wine chiller bag

Allyce and I decided to be dates for the night and split an appetizer, our main courses and our desserts. This was definitely the most splurged on meal that I had while on vacation but it was absolutely worth it.

Allyce and I –> She is an amazing person to go halfsies with on meals – I am sure destruction will ensue next semester when we live together (:

Our wine for the night

Our appetizer – the chef’s special Pate

Main Course #1 – Steak

Main Course #2 – Lobster ravioli – yes under all that froth was actual substance (;

Dessert #1 – Waffle with Chantilly Cream and to-die for caramel sauce

Dessert #2 – A custard type dish with plums in it – super good but also it had a super French name that I am drawing a huge blank on

Now the pictures are a tad dark – this I know, but you weren’t suppose to use flash in the restaurant. In fact, at the table next to us was a group of people that had a local (or someone who knew French and had possibly been in Paris for awhile) and her friends who were visiting. When her friend took a picture with flash she kept saying “no flash, no flash”. Not to mention there was a pretty significant line forming outside the restaurant during our meal and it only seemed to get longer with every ticking minute. Definitely glad we got there as early as we did.

After dinner we went and watched the Eifel Tower “Sparkle Show” – not sure the appropriate name for it, but saw all of its lights flash for about 5 minutes on the hour. Pretty cool – was able to get a video of it too – but I will share this more EU inspired video with you instead that someone else has graciously posted.

Eifel at night

Eifel from underneath

We then decided to go and see the pyramid. Yes I went to Paris and I didn’t go inside the Louvre but I know I will be back one day and figure I have to leave some things unseen for my next trip to Paris. Thus, we had more fun walking from the Eifel Tower to the Pyramid late and night and then taking pictures by the lit up pyramid. Which I must say looks super cool at night.

It was then back to our box size hotel room, where you couldn’t even open the windows all the way because the bed was in the way. You just gotta love Paris and its small size everything. Stay tuned for a photo of my other room in Paris which somehow was even smaller (sneak peak – the toilet was at the foot of the bed)

Cheers from the city of small rooms (in spirit)



Paris by Bike

I started my first full day in Paris with a beautiful 4 mile morning run along the River Seine. Oh yes, it was sublime and I think I saw more joggers/runners that morning than I did my whole time in Ankara – maybe a tad of an exaggeration but I for once didn’t feel alone or feel like I was the daily entertainment. Lots of people had gotten up early to do the same thing I did – except they probably knew where they were going, versus I who was just running along trying to remember my way back to my friends. I made it though.

I continued to embrace the theme of covering lots of ground because my friend and I decided that a bike tour would be ideal to see the most of what Paris has to offer. Not to mention she needed something to keep her going since she flew into Paris from Chicago that morning. Now before setting off on a 3 hour bike tour, be sure to stock up on your energy. We found the perfect place in Paris. Well actually I researched it before hand and I sure am glad I did because it was the best gosh darn falafel sandwich I have ever had, and may just be the best on the planet – surely it has that title in Paris already.

L’as Du Falafel was heaven in chickpea form

The bomb-diggity

Huge food baby that would have to be biked off

After lunch we set off to our meeting spot for our bike tour. We had a fantastic guide – Billy the Scottish man who was a Yankee’s fan. We immediately bonded. He took us all over the city. We drove by everything – didn’t go into anything, but the weather was gorgeous so we were definitely happy to spend the day outside. Not only did I bike in a dress, but I managed to snap photos while biking too (and not crash..there were a few close calls) – that is skill though. Billy almost got me run over though when he summoned me through a red light – sheer terror was etched into my face and had him laughing for the rest of the tour. No big deal – it wasn’t like I saw my life flash before my eyes as a crazed Parisian driver was slamming on their accelerator.

Biking through Paris (Mind you my friend is on the go, there are cars present and I too am biking when I took this)

Loved all the little decor/architecture throughout the city

Elephant sign – just for you Kimber

How quaint are those windows?

Bike Fun – note the cheesy grin on Billy’s Face (in the red shirt) behind my friend Jess

The burial place of Descartes

The Towers don’t match – the church that is now infamous from Da Vinci Code because it is where the bad guy smashed up the floor – super descriptive, right?

The Peace Memorial – One of the most graffitied and vandalized monuments in Paris – Ironic?

Arc De Triumph from a distance – we didn’t bike too it – one of the most accident prone sights in Paris – no car insurance company insures accidents that happen in its round-about – aka excellent reason to not bike near it

Paris Opera – the home of The Phantom of the Opera. Interesting fact – it was built on top of a lake – yeah I am still perplexed by that little snip-bit

A fun lamp post

Me at the Eifel Tower. Wearing my running watch proudly with my dress – classy

Looks like a blown up version of all the mini ones I’ve seen throughout life (;

The Modern Museum – built inside out – not very pleasing too look at, but definitely an interesting concept

This guy gives hula-hooping a whole new meaning

One of the most original street entertainers I have ever seen

Our tour started and ended at Notre Dame – more so a parking garage under the church

One of the many stalls that line the Seine

At the end of our bike tour it started to rain (talk about perfect timing) so we took up shelter for a bit in this famous bookstore (:

My tip to you if you plan a trip to Paris – definitely do a bike tour – you won’t regret it. They are rejuvenating and you dont feel like you need to soak your feet at the end of it. A round of applause to my friend and I for not injuring ourselves during the tour and for taking no casualties.



Night in Paris

Paris started off my 2 week European backpacking travels on a high note. The city was wonderful, but reuniting with 2 close friends was way more rewarding. As mentioned numerous times before, my friend Allyce spent her summer in the city of love and my visit was just in the pinch of time since she would soon be leaving for her continued adventures in Bologna, Italy for the semester.

It took me awhile to get to her apartment and it involved asking for directions, at which I intermittently spoke Turkish because of course the French understand Turkish…not the first time I have used the wrong language and it surely won’t be the last…by the time I made it to her apartment I was elated and so happy to see her. The night was spent eating dinner that she so very graciously prepared, chit-chatting at rapid speed and a midnight walk through Paris. Really putting meaning to the movie “Midnight in Paris”.

Phenomenal Cheeses, Jams, Light Spinach Salad and Salami with Mushrooms

Demonstrating the small size of Allyce’s Apartment

Her hundred plus old staircase – it was wider than I expected

Allyce being a goof in the stairwell

Walking around her neighborhood – she lived right near the Seine – super lucky

First time seeing Notre Dame – she is a beauty

Reminds me of a haunted house

My first night in Paris was perfect – great memories were made with a great friend. After that night I knew my time in Paris would be a good one.

Cheers “in spirit” from the 8X8 Parisian apartment


The Move and En Route to Paris

So my journey from Ankara to Istanbul and on to Paris has definitely be a fine one. I write to you from my plane ride from Zurich to Paris (so I guess I have yet to make it to my final destination of my friend Allyce’s 8×8 Parisian apartment) but nonetheless I think I can manage the streets of Paris – or so I hope. All the French I am surrounded by I am a tad intimidated. My Turkish will get me nowhere in the city of love.

But first things first, the whirlwind that was my last day in Ankara followed by my move west. I woke up around 6am to get my mind in Turkish mode. I had 4 huge Turkish Level exams to pass for my certificate and while the practices went smoothly, I knew the real deal was gonna be rough – and I was not wrong. They were super rough. While I passed I wasn’t so happy with my grades, even though I was third in the class and yes there were more than three people in my class. Close to 17 for this past month. Anyhow I know my placement amongst my peers because the school posts your grades outside the building – name and all! No number identification or anything. I think I prefer the US system that follows the privacy act. Anyhow, then it was off to a lunch with my roommate Azusa to wait out our teacher grading our exams. Around 1:30 we headed back and the grades were up which meant I needed to get some documents and my certificate. Long story short, the school system crashed right before they could print me my last document. WTF!!! Last day in Ankara people and they don’t have an email service – I thought this was the 21st century. So there I am with two teachers talking rapid Turkish at me and somehow I understand it all but still find myself sitting because I realize that something that was so close at my fingertips is now gonna be a massive hassle when I get back to Turkey. However, I thankfully know the manager of the Istanbul language school (she just so happens to be the second host sister – met her in Bodrum) so hopefully I can pull what few strings I have and get the Ankara branch to fax it to the Istanbul branch. Oy vey – I will be on an adventure when I get back.

So there I am walking down the street home one last time complaining – in Turkish to my Japanese roommate who is trying to calm me. If you know me and things don’t go near what I plan I can get a little hot headed – me hot headed in Turkish basically is me on repeat – wait – no me hot headed in any English is me on repeat. Finally got home, through the last of my belongings into my suitcases and Azusa and I headed out together – her to Kapadokya (the hot air balloon spot) and I to Istanbul. I went to hail a taxi and lets just say that saying “hey I need a taxi, but not here over there” sounds just as ridiculous in Turkish as it does in English but nonetheless I got the classic “buyurun” which means like please, come, here, etc etc. and I jumped in the back seat to show my taxi guy the way. Once at the bus stop I thought I was golden, but nope. There was mass confusion over the buses because there were two going to Istanbul by the same company and people were all mixed up over which one to get on. I waited patiently for the bus boy to finally come to my aid and after loading up my luggage I got comfortable for my 6 hour ride cross country. Funny thing about the buses – like airplanes they give you luggage tags. Do they do this in the US? I have no clue – I try to avoid bus travel in the US – bad experience as a freshman in college.

Anyhow, finally got to my stop in Istanbul which meant I was a 20 min taxi ride from my apartment that I hoped I remembered what it looked like. Granted I saw it in the daytime and by now it was close to 11 at night. I found a taxi driver and off we went. Now this guy was a joker. Ali was his name and well I kinda felt like I was in the Turkish version of “Cash Cab”. He would rattle a whole bunch of stuff of in Turkish about American pop culture and I would find myself trying to put it all together to figure out what he was talking about/help him remember something.

I give you some examples translated into English:

Film + War + Hawaii = Pearl Harbor

Film + War + not Tom Hanks = Braveheart

Film + Indiana Jones + Paris = Taken for me to later state that the actor is Lian Neeson)

And so that went on for a good five minutes until he decided that discussing adult libations would be a better topic. So there we were discussing spirits and liquors as he haphazardly drove through the dark streets of what I was hoping was the right neighborhood. What a ride, what a ride. Although I must say I would rather talk about alcohol than have my taxi driver pull over so that he can welcome me to Turkey by buying me a beer (true story).

Once I got to the apartment I was still unsure if it was the right place and the fear in my stomach didn’t subside until my roommate stuck her head out the window and yelled down to me. Hallelujah – I made it. I have moved a lot in my 23 years, but usually I am just a tag-a-long and my parents are the ones having to worry about it all. I should travel with yall more often (;

Quick side note since I mentioned the lovely parentals: HAPPY 29TH ANNIVERSARY! You two make it look easy. Kimber and I are so blessed to have you two wonderful people as our parents! I am super excited to be your tour guide in Istanbul in 2 weeks time!!!!

Ok back to travels.

So I hastily unpacked and got somewhat settled into my new digs and then realized that I was dead tired and would rather just wake up early to pack for my trip. Splendid idea. Now the night I arrived the hot water worked and so did the internet. When I woke up my roommate had just left and I was then left with cold water and no internet – I think my apartment is out to get me. But I made the best of it – remember I am an sort of an expert at cold showers. I then headed to the ATM to make a cash deposit for my rent – funny thing is you need a Turkish Identity # to do such a transaction – something I don’t have. So there I am in the bank trying to explain my situation to the bank clerk who knows no English and I certainly don’t know the proper vocabulary but somehow she figures out my problem and just uses the cop on duty’s Turkish identity number (not sure if that is legal but he is the law) so I went with it and all said and done my rent was paid and the receipt gave me confidence in the transaction. Now that surely delayed my travels but I was confident I could get to the airport in time. So I raced to the bus station and that went well. Once I got to the tram I needed to reload my card and naturally the machine was broken. Really? So I ran a good 1/3 of a mile (backpacking bag and all) to the nearest Bufe (Kiosk) that could reload my card for me. Raced back to the tram and naturally missed it by a 2 clicks – grrr, but finally was on board and arrived at the airport. Went through a security before the check-in desk where I was stopped for my Kindle – and that took a good ten minutes of unloading and reloading everything. Afterwards Check-in went super smooth, passport control – yeah not so much.  Here comes my little passport control story for you…

In my world I am officially a resident of İstanbul having paid my first month’s rent, but in the eyes of Turkey I am still a resident of Ankara and not for much longer as my residence permit is on its last 15 days. Uh oh. I knew I would have to apply for a second residence permit, but wanted to forget that on my Euro Holiday. However, in going through passport control in Istanbul, the passport police man got all clicky tongue with me and was saying that I better be quick in my return. My response “Anladim” or I understand and at that he laughed. Only for me to race on to get to my gate. Really cutting it close Nat…seemed to be the trend of my day.

Boarded and sat next to a friendly Turkish lady – we ate some Turkish delight together and chit-chatted. Arrived in Switzerland and I must say it is quite a fancy airport. There are glass doors everywhere that just seem to open up to longer and longer corridors. At first you are not sure where the sign is directing you and then magically glass sliding doors reveal your way. This wasn’t my first time through the Zurich airport it, but my last time there surely made for a top three all time travel story for me and I am pretty sure any of my fellow travelers will tell you that I definitely was not conscious.  To save you the gory details, flying back from India sick is something I would never ever wish upon my worst enemy. It is cruel and unusual punishment and Switzerland just happened to be part of my excruciatingly long journey back what with a 6-hour layover.

This time I did some exploring though since I had 2 hours to kill and I found a really cool fresh market restaurant/café. I enjoyed some fruit and was working on my Turkish composition when I realized that I had 15 min to get my gate before it closes. I set off on yet another mad dash. Let me just say that naturally when you are in a rush your gate will be the farthest away – no joke. My day was a rollercoaster of ups and downs and it wasn’t over yet. Little did I know that while I had three currencies on me, I had haphazardly left my envelope of Euros in my apartment – real smart Nat. I realized this in Switzerland but naturally the only currency that is getting spit out there is CHF à that took me up to my third currency. So there I was in angst of finding an ATM in the airport train station and to my bad luck I had to run another good 1/3 mile to find one and pull some Euros. So I can say that I am safely on the RER Train into Paris with 4 currencies on me so I hopefully won’t run into anymore currency issues along the way and hopefully all machines will be on my side. In 30 min I should be with my good friend Allyce and by then I will have forgotten about all of this or at least will be re-telling it over a nice bottle of French wine. Until my next travels from Europe. Look for a post on Friday (hopefully) recapping my adventures in Paris.

And I just realized that this is super long….wow but pictures will be forthcoming so hang tight.

Do you have a favorite memory, restaurant, or activity to do in Paris?

Cheers from a Swiss Airplane and a Paris Train