Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stomach of Steel

I can usually eat anything and not feel a thing. When those around me are suffering from indigestion, gas, food poisoning, etc. I never feel the effects, even if I've eaten the exact same thing.

My Stomach of Steel failed me miserably this weekend.

We were invited to dinner by our friends P and M who just tied the knot in a private civil ceremony on Friday. They'll be holding their reception in the Fall but we joined them for a celebratory dinner at 162, the restaurant at the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Nigel. This place holds a special place in our hearts as that is where K and I spent our first night as a married couple two weeks ago. *swoon*

I ate clam chowder, filet mignon, and a strawberry shortcake dessert with strawberry sorbet, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream. K had: hamachi, new york steak, and no dessert. As all couples do, we shared and had a bit of each other's food except K - for some strange reason - refused to eat the dessert. No even one bite. Little did I know this would be his wise decision and my demise.

Almost immediately after I dove into the dessert, I started feeling a bit queasy. It got worse over time, but luckily it wasn't long before we hopped in the car to go home. I slept the entire hour it took to drive home and as soon as I walked in the door, I made a beeline for the bathroom. 

I proceeded to up chucked all the wonderful things I had eaten that night. 

Obviously, I suspect the strawberries to be the culprit. I had no idea that bad food took a toll on the body so quickly! My Stomach of Steel is, apparently, no more. Now I am a mere mortal at the mercy of dirty strawberries. *shakes fist*

Friday, March 28, 2008

The wedding hangover

"I'm not a bride anymore. I'm just someone's wife." - Monica, Friends

The post-wedding madness is nearly as crazy as the pre-wedding session. In a scrabble to get everything done before work on Monday, I went on a errand rampage today:
- Dropped off dry cleaning
- Picked up gown from cleaners
- Dropped off foam peanuts for recycling (Williams Sonoma/Pottery Barn: there HAS to be a better way.)
- Return duplicate items from registry. (The lady at PB gave me a bit of 'tude because I didn't have the packing slip with an item. Pul-lease lady. It's in your damn computer. Under registry.)
- Doctor's appointment.
- Deposited more wedding gifts at the bank

This was only my half. K had his own list.

We're also in a the transition of moving K into the house. This involves packing up years of stuff and deciding what to keep and what to toss. I've come to realize that my mother is a pack rat. We have enough household items for three families. Not to mention the clothes! We could probably dress a small nation of women in various sizes. Then I look into my own closet and boxes to see that in fact, I am my mother's daughter. Minus the beaded tunics and embroidered jeans.

The Salvation Army truck is coming on Monday. Wish us luck!

Paris Day 8

A trip to Paris simply would not be complete without a visit to Disneyland Paris.

Before you judge me, there are two things you must know:
1. I love Disneyland.
2. I get in for free.

Despite the awful reviews that Disneyland Paris has received, it was too tempting. Plus, they also opened a Walt Disney Studios Park next door and this was novel to me. We hopped on the train and an hour later, we were at the Happiest Place on Earth, Paris edition.

We hit up the Disney Studios first and hit my favorite ride, The Tower of Terror. The whole ride is exactly the same as the one in Disney's California but in French and the wait was shorter. This worked out nicely because it was so cold it started to snow. Just a light snow flurry, but snow nonetheless. (In case I had forgotten to mention, Paris was freakin' freezing while we were there.) The ride being narrated in French was also an issue because quite a few people in the ride with me did not speak French. So they decide to talk the entire time. Not just a couple of people, but over half of the cabin. This really killed the mood of the ride. It's good to know that Americans are the only annoying people in this world.

Overall, the Disney Studios is basically the Disney version of Universal Studios, complete with its own Backlot Tour tram ride. We checked out a few other attractions in the Studios, which mildly amused me, and headed over to Disneyland. This is where it sucks. Some of the rides differ from the Anaheim version and this would have been fabulous except the Paris rides were awful. Indiana Jones and Space Mountain, my favorites in Anaheim, were horrible in Paris. Indiana Jones becomes some crappy, kiddy roller-coaster and Space Mountain becomes a painful, headache inducing rough-and-tumble ride.

The highlight was, surprisingly, the Phantom Manor (Paris version of Haunted Mansion). The decor and scenery inside was unexpectedly different and so slightly scarier for me! Yes, I actually get slightly scared on that ride.

We only spent a handful of hours in the resort that day and I had no desire to stay longer. I had been told this would be the case time and time again before I visited. At least now I can say that I know this for a fact and will not be returning. The lesson is simple today: Don't go to Disneyland Paris!

Well, that's the end of the Paris trip as we headed home on Day 9. I hope I find other things to ramble on about from this point on.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Paris Day Uh...

In my excitement over Shopping Day, I actually skipped an entire day in my account of the trip. I believe this is the Real Day 4.

Real Day 4, we went to Versailles and again, Rick Steves audio tour was our guide. When we reached the palace, there was a sign posted stating, "Due to the strike, the opening of the palace has been delayed." It looked like there was some heavy duty construction going on and so I thought the palace wasn't open at all because construction was stalled. We spent nearly 2 hours walking in the garden and touring the smaller palaces on the premises. Frankly, I had expended on my entire energy reserve for the day on this garden.

It was pouring rain by the time we finished the gardens and my heart was set on goi
ng home when of course, we discover that the palace is open and we could go in and tour it.

I cursed.

I was slightly re-energized by a lunch break Chez Lazare. I had smoked salmon and lamb chops with fries, K had the escargot and beef stew that looked nothing like beef stew. More like huge meatballs in brown sauce.

Food coma took over and I almost asked K to go home and skip the palace altogether. Almost. Who knows when I'll get the chance to see Versailles again? So I pressed on.

The palace is gorgeous. Just the palace-y, baroque stuff you'd expect to see. Much of the furniture and decor was recreated because most of the real stuff was destroyed in the revolution. This pisses me off slightly. I almost feel like I'm looking at a model room in Ikea, only with baroque style stuff. But, the paintings on the ceiling are definitely worth taking a gander.

We went home and had dinner at a chain restaurant, Chez Clement. We didn't know it was a chain until we saw it everywhere we went after we dined there. Fabulous pineapple desserts here.

Shopping day really took place on Day 5 and the historical walk took place on Day 6. So now I'm on Day 7. If not ... oh well.

Day 7: Visited La Defense, a cubed office building in Downtown
Paris. Downtown Paris has skyscrapers and whatever else you may expect to see in a Downtown anywhere. It's so huge that we couldn't take a good picture of it from any perspective. Here's one borrowed from google images.

You can pay 7.50 Euros to take en elevator to the top and walk through a model gallery with an explanation of the building's creation and watch a video on the process. Then you can stand on the roof and look out at Paris.

Had lunch at a nearby cafe and then attempted to go do some more shopping on one of the monster department stores. Discovered that all stores were closed the Monday after Easter. Drowned our disappointment in ice cream and cafe at another cafe. Went back to the hotel to rest.

We took a dinner cruise that night on the Seine River. For 2.5 hours, you eat and watch the sights of Paris go by. For 125 euros, you get a very poor selection of food, but at least you can drink all the wine you want. I don't drink wine so I filled up on coke and mineral water (both very expensive commodities here in Paris).

K and I took this time to have the "So, now we're married..." conversation. Marriage allows you to have a type of conversation that doesn't take place when you're dating. Marriage allows you to talk about yourselves as a permanent unit. I made a personal point not to talk about breeding.

Also on this cruise, a girl got engaged and a group of high school students from America made loud, rambunctious fools of themselves. A lady from NY, who sat behind us, got completely wasted and embarrassed her daughter and husband. It was like dinner theater!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Paris Day 4 and 5

Day 4 was my favorite day of all! It was shopping day! We headed over to Rue Cler to check out the open air market and then over to the department stores and boutiques. The department stores wore me out and I consider myself to be a pretty strong shopping. They're at least 7 stories gigantic tall and sell everything from art supplies to groceries. Think the NYC Macy's. On crack.

Saturday is a horrible day to go to the department stores. Especially the Saturday before Easter. I was run over by Japanese tourists grabbing for LV bags (I saw a girl buy FOUR. At ONE time.) and shoved by locals doing their regular errands. I was utterly defeated. But I would stand victorious at the end of the day because my fabulous husband bought me this:

Gucci "Queen" large hobo! The prices are slightly lower here but with the
exchange rate (Boo to the weak dollar) and taxes/customs, the savings are minimal - but just enough to be an excuse to make the purchase.

**Lesson learned in Paris: You are suposed to get a 12% rebate if you make a purchase over 250 Euros. However, if you allow the store to fill out and process the paper work for you, they take 4% of that rebate. If you bring back souvenirs totaling over $800, you pay a 3% flat tax when you get home to the US. If you are claiming the 12% discount, you get the rebate at the airport so you must bring the item with you, unused. Moral of this lesson: These is no such thing as free money.**

I am so excited about the purse that I don't even remember what I ate that day. So moving on...

Day 5: We went on Rick Steves' historical walk of Paris using, again, his audio tour. We saw a tree planted in 1602, a replica of Marie Antoinette's cell, a bookstore frequented by some famous authors, etc. etc..

**Lesson learned in Paris: There is so much history here that it'll make you gag if you try to digest it too quickly. Take your time at the sites you choose to visit.***

We then went back to visit some of our favorite sites to take pictures. K is on a kick to take fabulous pictures so that he can frame and display them at the house. Here's one of them:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Paris Day 2 and 3

I didn't realize how long-winded I can be until I read my last post. Apologies. I'm going to combine some of our Paris days, as that's how they are starting to mush together in my brain.

Disclaimer: I realize that I'm leaving out many accent marks that should be in the French words. I don't know how to use them in blogger. Boo me. I also haven't gotten the hang of the layout so that my words don't run into my pictures. My ideal is to have my pictures in a nice, neat row and words above and under them, not next to. Boo #2.

On Day 2, we went to the Louvre. We tried our third Rick Steves' recommended restaurant, Le Nemours near the museum. It was good! I had the lasagna and K had the ham sandwich. Yes, I had lasagna.

After lunch, we set off for the Lourve. I won't post pictures of that here because y'all already know what the Lourve looks like. If not, google image it. To conquer this giant, we relied on Rick Steves' free audio tour. Just download into your iPod and you're set to go! I've never used the aud
io tours at museums prior to this and now, I will never visit another museum without it. It was that good. Rick Steves does a great job of editing the museum so that you see all the key (read: famous) pieces, and presents you with enough context to understand it without boring you.

It's true what they say:
the Lourve takes ALL DAY to visit. We didn't even see every part but by the time we were through, it was time for dinner. We went to La Terrasse near the Eiffle Tower and this has become one of our favorite places to eat in Paris. The food was great and the service was good. I had the escargot and sea bass, K had the steak and fries.


Day 3: We went to the Notre Dame and Musee de Orsay. Again, Rick Steves audio tour increased my enjoyment of both attractions by a bazillion fold.

For lunch we hit up a German influenced restaurant, La Brasserie de l'Isle de Saint Louis. I had the pig knuckle and K had the steak and fries. Again.

I appreciated the staff and the ambiance of the restaurant, and K loved his steak. It's hard to get your steak right here in Paris because their standard of medium is actually closer to our rare or medium rare. Sometimes they try to over-compensate when they see that you're an American and cook your steak to a crisp.

For dinner, we were so pooped that we just picked a place on Champs Elysees. So blah that it wasn't even worth photos.

**Lesson learned today: French portions are smaller than American portions (at most places). I can actually finish my entire order here.**

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Paris - Day 1

I'm documenting our honeymoon in Paris retrospectively (We arrived on 3/18) and have probably lost all of the initial feelings and reflections that would improve the quality of this blog. Please settle in for the bulleted version:

We arrived safely and took the Air France shuttle directly to the Arc de Triomphe.
We walked half way around the huge turnaround and down the famous Champs Elysees.

We stayed at the Hotel Warwick in a small room with a bedet and a cute patio. For this trip we followed the directions of Rick Steves via his guide book and Comptoir de L'Arc was the first restaurant we decided to check out. Here, we learned the first of many lessons about dining in Paris: Unless otherwise specifically directed to wait, you seat yourself.  The menu was entirely in French, but Rick Steves' book includes names of basic French dishes and that was helpful. I ended up having the carpaccio (didn't need the book to order that!) and K had the steak and potatoes, a dish served at many Parisian restaurants. The food was mediocre but the relief of getting through out first meal in Paris made it rate better in my mind. Rick Steves may know Paris inside and out, but he is definitely no foodie. This is coming from a person who'll pretty much each anything and be happy.

After the meal, we took a walk down Champs Elysees and headed for the Arc de Triomphe. We found out that we couldn't purchase a Paris Museum Pass after 5pm so instead of paying some ridiculous amount to get to the top of the Arc, we wandered around the base of the Arc listening to Rick Steves' audio tour. I highly suggest downloading these onto your iPod before heading out to Paris. They made our visits to the Lourve and Musee de Orsay much better than I anticipated. More on that in another post.

It was then time for another meal. I swear, much time has passed since our last meal. We saw Le Buses Rouge and hopped on. For $22, you can hop on and off these double decker buses that make frequent stops at many of the Paris tourist attractions all day. We thought this would turn out to be a good deal for us, but alas, it did not turn out to be so. Count us as Tourist Suckers #1 and #2. We took the bus down to the end of Champs Elysees and hopped off in front of the Grand Palais. After a hop, skip and a jump past Gucci, we hit up our second  Rick Steves suggested restaurant. The name of the restaurant escapes me and photo documentation but here, we learned lesson #2: Parisians eat late. At 7:30, we were the first and only patrons in the restaurants and people did not start to trickle in until about 8pm. Two old men. Senior early-bird specials, anyone?

The restaurant had a cozy and local feel but again, Rick Steves disappoints with his restaurant selections. I had the confit de canard (fried preserved duck) and vegetable soup. K had the grilled shrimp with mashed potatoes. The shrimp was good, but my duck was ridiculously fried to a crisp and I learned that I don't like French style soup with everything completely pureed.

You'd think by now we'd learn not to listen to Rick. But we don't. We will continue to eat at his restaurant suggestions for the duration of the trip. Don't worry, it does get better.