Monday, October 26, 2009


After being in France for five days I think I visited 10-15 patisseries/boulangeries (bakeries). The French have one on every corner, and then some. They are to France as pubs are to Ireland. I’d also like to say that I never had a problem with any French, they are very nice people. Rudeness was not an issue, but I at least tried to speak French. Sometimes it was with a heavy Spanish/Italian accent. Sadly, my time around my friends produced an impediment in my use of the French language, but I was able to correct the pronunciations if I realized it. Ryan on the other hand was thrilled at my use of Spanish, often encouraging me to use it.

Monday 10/12
So much traveling! Woke up at 6ish to catch a 7am bus to Shannon airport. We barely made the bus. Some running was involved at 6:55am in order to make it on time. That was my exercise for the day. After a plane, another bus, metro, and train we finally arrived in Strasbourg. Thankfully like the good traveler that he is, Ryan had all the necessary steps for easy travel planned out. Including metro navigation. We arrived in Strasbourg that evening, but in time to eat dinner at La Stub, which included a Quiche Lorraine and lasagna for me as well as a really good salad all for 12 Euro….I love France! After dinner, we walked through Le Petit France. It is the old part of the city famous for its timbered houses, which was once the tanner district

Tuesday 10/13
First order of business was obtaining the Strasbourg pass. Haha, just kidding…I’m in France…first order of business was a patisserie or a boulangerie for breakfast (petit dejeuner). After obtaining a pretzel with lard, which I later discovered to be bacon, we went to the tourist information to get the pass. The pass was the nest deal including in the 12 Euro price the climb to the top of the Cathedral...

as well as the viewing of the astrological clock (6 Euro). It also included a half day bike rental (10 E value) which we did from 2-7. Once on the bikes we headed out to the European Parliament. It proved to be an awesome bike ride, but there was not much to do around the Parliament. Just look at the large modern buildings. I was surprised to find we could get up very close to them without going through any security. From there we headed to the botanical gardens…fail. The season was not yielding anything special except a mushroom exhibit. I did find out that the crazy tree at Granville with the lime green brain-like fruit is called a Maclura.

It was a late lunch, but we finally stopped at a patisserie/boulangerie on the way to the Naviscope. We picked out a pizza which she made chaud (hot) for us and a Kougelhopf (traditional Alsacienne pastry representing a pattern of stars the Three Kings saw on their journey to Christ). We ate our lunch by the river at the entrance to the Naviscope, an exhibit that would have been a fail if it had not been so amusing in its quirkiness and the people were so nice.

On route back to the bike return we located the cave historique Hospices Strasbourg wine cellar (in the bottom of the hospital). We were allowed to go on a self-guided tour through the casks of fermenting grapes and to top it off we made a purchase of Gewurztraminer – a German wine that had been grown in France since were so close to the border of Germany.

Le Petit France was also on our way back and this time I got some pictures during the day with the famous covered bridge.

One more stop at the marche( grocery) for dinner. It was exciting to have my little bike basket filled with tasty French food, which we used to cook dinner at the hostel that evening - bread, cheese, the wine, cheesy tomato pasta with onions and chicken, and some kind of green French potato soup. It was quite a feast. We even had a little pyramid for dessert.

Wednesday 10/14
We had decided that at least one day needed to be spent in the countryside, so we’d asked around about the best town to visit. The answer was a little town about an hour South of Strasbourg on the wine road called Obernai. Before getting out there we had some things to take care of in Strasbourg. First was the boat tour (included in the pass value at 8 Euro, so you see it has well exceeded the price of the pass). The boat was a long glass covered vessel that glided through the water while giving a narration of the structures on the banks of the River Ill.

Part of the tour included the use of locks which raise and lower boats to varying water levels. As far as I know, I had not experienced this before and although it was a slow process it was rather ingenious. The pass also included free admission to one of the museums and we chose the Alsacian museum, since it was unique. We were both amazed at how extensive the house was. It was a museum set up to represent life in the region, which has a distinct culture and heritage set apart from other regions in France.
When the train arrived at Obernai I was beginning to question the pick over Colmar or Saverne (other towns with good reputations). However, my doubts we soon put to rest when we arrived at the centre ville. After casing out the town, we stopped at the tourist information for maps and answers. We were pointed in the direction of the various wineries for free wine tasting. We visited Robert Blanck, Annie Strub, and Marcel Weibel. The second was the place we liked the best, after all it had Sally the dog. The wine tasting in general was very personal and enjoyable, but all white, sweet and rose wines. Alsace has no red wines. After completing more than enough tastings, we hiked up through vineyards for the panoramic view. The view was worth the hike.

It was about 6:20 when we arrived back in the center and had to wait around for dinner to open up at 7. It was getting cold, but we found ourselves in a neither time where the shops had closed at 6, but restaurants didn’t open till 7, so we took a siesta on a bench in the square. I did find one little shop open where I bought a Christmas ornament in the shape of reindeer with wiggly legs. He was the most Alsacian looking one that I liked. For dinner I had the traditional tarte flambee or Flammekueche. It is a thin crust pizza/pastry traditionally with cream, cheese and meat, but there are sweet versions. We caught the 8:30 train back to Strasbourg. It had been a long day and I ended up falling asleep on the train ride back.

Thursday 10/15
Paris was a whirlwind. We hit the ground running when the train pulled in. We walked the Champs-Elysées from the Arc de Triumph to the Tulleries gardens (maybe my favorite place)

then we took the metro to Montmartre where we had a beautiful view of Sacre Coeur and Paris.

I saw the market stand where eight years ago mom and dad commissioned a small painting of man, woman, child and dog walking the streets of Paris. That makes me think about Frisbee and that makes me a little sad.

Next on the agenda was the Eiffel Tower just in time for sunset. It was freezing on top of the Tower with the wind blowing.

I discovered for the first time that people can actually go up on top of the Arc de Triumph, so that was to be next, but got scratched after we grabbed some sandwiches and spent the fee on goodies at the Super Marche instead.

Friday 10/16
So much traveling! The weather in Paris was overcast and rainy. Thankfully, our whirlwind of the city the day before had left little to do the next morning. We spent most of the morning in the big conference center across from the bus station. I was able to find an almond pastry and a chicken pastry…two things I had been craving! My trip to France was complete after that. The bus was about 1hr15min. When we arrived at the airport in Beauvais the line for security was backed up to the check-in booth. I’d never seen one that long, but we got through everything on time and boarded the hour and half flight back to Shannon airport. From there we had 2 hours to kill (playing dot to dot and reading magazines) before our hour and half bus back to Galway. So yea, lots of traveling. It was 9:30 when we finally arrived in Galway and all we had been thinking about for the last 3 hours was wishing for the Chinese take out place across from my apartment to be open. Amazingly, it was! Chinese food in an English speaking country is acceptable, but anywhere else in Europe – buyer beware (I don’t actually know about China itself…Sarah?).

Saturday 10/17
Ryan and I browsed through the more bustling Saturday market and O’Connor’s bakery to sample an éclair before I had to start work at 12. I stayed on till 3:30 when Erynn picked up the last half of the shift for me. I was glad she was able to help me out, so I could have a little more time with Ryan before he left. We walked down to Tesco looking for a pumpkin to carve, but pumpkins in Ireland are small and expensive – like most things here – inadequate and over priced. One ‘large’ pumpkin is 5-7 Euro. The size equals that of a cantaloupe – not good for carving. Sadly, I decided to postpone the pumpkin purchase. We went to McSwiggans in celebration of Ryan’s upcoming birthday before joining the rest of the group at Marta’s birthday party. Again, Jordi and Demelsa had prepared a bountiful spread, while Roberto and Paula kept Marta occupied in the city. The company was delightful as always and the evening’s events even included a game for Marta similar to a scavenger hunt, but for little presents hidden all over the apartment. Ellen from Cork was there too. She had made her way to Galway and had spent some time with Monica the previous week where she had also met the rest of the group, hence her presence at the party. It was good to see her again, but I said a final goodbye there because she was leaving to go back to Australia the next day. Marta’s cake was a delicious strawberry mousse cheesecake smothered in fruit from Griffin’s bakery. Since the last I had heard from Erika was that she would arrive at 11pm Saturday, I said goodbye, but not before Marta handed over the Irish girl broach I had had my eye on (to use as an ornament from Ireland). I asked her how much and she insisted it was a gift. I tried to pay her saying I should not be the one to have a gift on her birthday, but she wouldn’t hear of it. After the traditional kiss on each cheek goodbye, Ryan and I left to see if Erika was waiting at the door. I half expected a girl to be sitting on her luggage when we got there, but nothing. We waited around and watched sponge creatures grow and unfold from capsules in the sink (an exciting little trinket he had brought me for all the puddles Ireland has to offer!). There was never a phone call or knock at the door until Zach came back and then we all just went to bed hoping Erika was not out in the cold somewhere.

Sunday 10/18
Ryan left at 5am to catch his bus to Dublin airport, and it was a very rainy day - so rainy in fact that Eddie Rockets called it quits after only 2 hours. Our working was pointless. I spent the day tidying and typing while waiting for Erika to call me. At 7 Zach and I joined the rest of the group for a ballet at the Town Hall Theater. I was excited to get to see a cultural event while here because most things are too expensive. It turned out to be an hour long ballet divided into two parts. It was part of Baboo, the children’s festival (the reason it was so short). The first scene was comprised of seven teenage girls performing a ballet that resembled the hassle of waiting while in transit. It was very appropriate to be held in between the two weeks I was doing a lot of traveling. Each girl was in different colors of the same outfit and each had a suitcase and a chair used as props for the enactment. After seeing the ballet I had hope for the youth of Ireland. Not all of them seem to be the delinquents I encounter the majority of my time here. The second act was a mix of fairy tale characters parading by two young children reading a bedtime story. It was also done well.

After the show the group of us went to The Skeff (Skeffington). I had not been inside this pub yet, but it was gorgeous. All dark carved wood, fireplaces, two stories, banisters, candlelight. I was impressed. We stayed longer than we might have wanted waiting on Roberto’s food but the company was still nice as usual, I just wanted to get in bed for another early morning of travel.

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