Bonjour Paris

French food is the best. And I’m not saying that subjectively. Honestly, if I had my choice, I’d eat tacos every day of the week over a Croque Monsieur or a plate of steak tartare. And I’m sure I’m offending MANY people by stating this, but French food is the best. You see, UNESCO has actually declared French cuisine as a “world intangible heritage” and the gastronomy of French cooking is protected, just like any other UNESCO world heritage site on Earth. I didn’t even know intangible world heritages were a thing! But apparently, French food made the cut, and so I can’t argue that it is considered the best. So in light of this new fun fact, Jodon and I have spent the past four days eating baguettes, cheese, saucisson, pâté, and moules frites – And loving it.

Jodon loves microwave meals. His freezer is chocked full of 5-min Michelina dinners and ice cream sandwiches. And yet, despite his love for blue-menu cuisine, he has a pretty phenomenal palate. However, Jodon eats to survive. He eats because he HAS to eat, not because his mouth has been salivating over the thought of a creamy brie or a crusty baguette for the past three hours.  

I love everything food. Except raisins, obviously. Who would ruin a perfectly good grape like that? Otherwise, my entire day revolves around when, where and what I’m going to eat next. I could be stuffed to the brim at breakfast while still dreaming of that new restaurant to try for dinner later on. It’s a problem.  

So four days in Paris we’ve had to learn to balance our interests. I keep Jodon on a strict eating-every-four-hours-or-else rule, and he drags me around to museums and monuments and walking tours so that I actually come out of the city learning more than just what pate is made of. If I spend two hours admiring art at the Pompidou, Jodon will allow me to go wild at the local market and have a picnic in the park. If we visit the Louvre, we can then have some icy beers in monmartre with a charcuterie plate. And so long as the meals are never more than four hours apart, I am happy! So that’s what we’ve done.

We learned that the Pompidou is much more wonderful on the inside than the monstrosity of a building suggests. We listened to anecdotes about the city during our walking tour. And we lost ourselves in the art exhibits of the Louvre (albeit mixing up the closing times and missing the Mona Lisa. Jodon says I’m too hip to see such mainstream art anyways). 

By day three we finally made our way to the Eiffel Tower. I had gasped like a giddy high-school girl every time I caught a glimpse of it as we walked the streets. Eight years of travelling and I have never set eyes on the Eiffel Tower before. How is this possible? But even with my high expectations, the tower didn’t disappoint. We wandered the area, catching the views from all angles before heading to the Seine for our evening river cruise. Right as we were about to take off, the clouds broke and the sun turned the Eiffel Tower a shimmering gold. It was perfect. 

The boat then took off on an hour long cruise through the historic district of Paris. Classical music played softly as we rode away from the sunset, catching photos of the riverside, the old bridges and the Notre Dame. At our half way point, the sun set and the lights of Paris turned on. We came back to a glowing Eiffel Tower, sparkling on the city skyline: lit up in all its glory. It was disgustingly romantic, and also my favourite part of our time in Paris.

Some mandatory late night drinks and cheese along the river summed up the evening and was the perfect ending to our evening in the city of lights.

After three hectic days in Paris and a full day trip to the Palace of Versailles, our final day in Paris was spent relaxing. We sipped on ice coffees by the Sacre Coeur, wandered the streets in the Centre-ville and met up with my friend Megan for some bar hopping in the Latin Quarter. It’s always fun seeing friends from home across the world, and even more fun when those times are spent drinking French wine, eating Moules Frites and singing away the evening in a grungy Piano bar. Oh Paris, I will miss you!

Welcome to France

I’ve always been a little afraid of visiting France. Not because I don’t speak the language, or heard the people are sometimes standoffish, or because I was worried I wasn’t going to enjoy it. I have been afraid of visiting France because I expected to love it SO much, that I never wanted to come home. That life in Canada would never compare after living the wonderful lifestyle of the French.
For those of you that know me even a little, you’ll know I have a strange obsession over cheese. All kinds of cheese. It’s by far my favourite food in the world. Followed closely by baguettes and wine… I wonder how France and I are going to get along.
I’ve been in France for exactly one week as I write this post, and I completely adore the country. But with a few hiccups to begin my trip, it took me a couple days to warm up to the place I was so looking forward to.
Actually, at first, I didn’t even know I was in France. I left San Sebastián in a thunderstorm with 12€ in my pocket. I stopped at 7 banks along the way to try to get money from one of the ATM’s. Nothing. My bank card just refused to work, after a month of no issues. Great.
So I hopped on the train in the direction I needed to go, in hopes I would figure the problem out later. With the purchase of a couple oranges and my first metro ticket I was down to 9€.
The end of the metro line dropped me off at Hendaye: apparently a town in France. The signs were in Spanish, the people spoke to me in French and the cafe across the street was called Cafe Jose. I knew this was a border town, but assumed the locals were speaking to me in French because I looked more French than Spanish. Turns out, after having to google where I was, I had made it to France!
I was trying to get to Toulouse. Originally I had wanted to go to Bordeaux, but turns out there are no hostels in Bordeaux. The cheapest hotel I could find was close to 70€/night for one person. Way beyond my budget. Toulouse was all booked up for hostels as well. Luckily, I found a place in a suburb called Colomiers that would take me in for the night, and so I was headed in that direction.
My transfer train to Bayonne didn’t run that day. So I was told my only route would be via Bordeaux, then onwards to Toulouse, then I could change trains again to Colomiers. It was going to cost me 80€. I put it on my credit card… Next train to Bordeaux: 5 hours.
5 hours in the tiny town of Hendaye. 5 hours in a thunderstorm with no where to go. The only place open was Cafe Jose across the street, which charged me 6€ for a sandwich so I could connect to the wifi to reach my bank.
I now had 3€ in my pocket.
The whole day was like this for me. Rain. Rain. Rain. I was freezing. My bank was closed with the time change. The train to Bordeaux was 25 minutes late which made me 5 minutes late for my connecting train to Toulouse. I had a 50 minute wait between my arrival in Toulouse and my train to Colomiers. The line to get tickets took me 40 minutes… I almost burst with anger as I waited in line, thinking I was going to miss my last train. With the ticket price, I now had 1.50€ in my pocket.
When I arrived in Colomier it was pitch black. The directions through the abandoned suburb were atrocious. Through side streets, under the highway, along streets with no name. I walked and walked, with no map. It took me a half hour to reach the hostel in the cold and dark.
The drive from San Sebastián to Colomiers is a little more than 3 hours. I arrived at the hostel at 9:40pm, 12 hours and 40 minutes after I’d left. I was cold, I was hungry, I was cranky, and I was poor. The small sandwich in Hendaye and two oranges were all I ate all day.
I called my bank from the hostel once I’d checked in. The internet cut out on all three phone calls I made to them. I finally gave up and went downstairs to ask if there was some place around the hostel for some cheap take out.
The young man behind the counter looked at me and scoffed.
“There is nothing. It is too late. There is nothing to eat now. You checked in a half hour ago. You should have thought about eating then, because now there is nothing!” He was sitting at the bar of the attached restaurant, eating and drinking wine with his wife. They looked at eachother with a “how stupid is this girl” look. In my hangriness I almost reached over and punched him for being so rude. A simple “sorry, I think everything is closed now” would have sufficed.
Then they started talking in French to each other.
I walked away. “Thanks anyways” I said.
“No, stop” he said. “I will make you a salad if you have to eat. With salmon. Ok?”
I almost didn’t want to eat his salad out of spite, but I was so hungry.
“Ok. Thank you” I said.
I sat down at a table and a salad was put in front of me almost instantly. Clearly it had already been made. I thanked him as he set it down, but he just turned and walked away. I felt sad and tired and cranky as I ate my little salad. But I have to admit, the salmon was the best salmon I have ever eaten.
I took a deep breath when I’d finished eating and told myself to suck it up. I could feel a cold coming on with the damp weather I’d been in all day. I just needed to go to bed, and tomorrow, everything would be better. So I watched the end of the movie that the hostel was playing and crawled into bed early. So much for my instant love affair with France. So far, it had been nothing but expensive and stressful.