Wednesday, April 23, 2014


More laziness. I uploaded these this weekend and didn't feel like sitting down to type until now, also I got home from work/working out super the past few nights and didn't have any energy beyond showering and throwing some food down my throat before passing out. 

A few weekends ago I headed up to Caltagirone with a few other peeps. If I recall correctly we had gone out dancing the night before so no one was moving very quickly in the morning. We finally headed out around 11 and get there just in time for lunch. Thanks to trip advisor we found a really well rated seafood place, and they had mussels (always a crowd pleaser)!!

It was not the prettiest of days with on and off rain showers so after our meal we took advantage of a short deprive to explore a little bit. The city is known for their exceptional pottery. I ended up picking up a small bowl for rings and such and a tile I plan to use as a trivet. I wanted to get more stuff but 1. I'm not moved into my permanent house yet and buying a bunch of breakables seemed like a horrible idea and 2. I was a dummy and had next to no euro so I was leeching and didn't want to overstep that tenuous friendship boundary. 

I will definitely have to return to get a nice plate or bowl. I very much like the pomegranate theme of the small bowl I got, I might have to get more to match. One of the coolest things was the artistry. Each of the shops had different patterns and themes and everything is hand-painted. As someone with no artistic skill, I was very impressed. 

Another trip is definitely in my future. 

The tile work is everywhere!

No idea how many steps there were to the top, but each set was decorated with tile, and there were a lot of them. This is the rest of the group headed up. 

I clearly stopped a few times to take pictures. Remember, all hand-painted!

Winning poses at the top. 

Me hurrying up to join them. 

Tile mural at the top of the stairs. 

Church at the top of the stairs. 

I think this was on that church, I can't remember. 

View from the top. After we got to the summit, we walked back down stopping at probably EVERY shop on our way. But everyone found something they liked. 

I loved this imaginative stonework. I think this is on the town's museum. 


Another church probably. 

Probably the best thing about cities on hills, the view. Worst thing? Climbing. 

Another church I suppose. I really liked the look of the old bell tower. 

Next time I'm going to seriously get my shop on. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014


This is so overdue, and duper out of order, but I've run out of patience and want to write everything down before I forget what it was I saw while I was in Paris. 

This was a whirlwind trip with my friend Emily. I flew in Friday night, landing around 9 pm, and flew out Sunday evening around 5 pm. Less than 48 hours, but we saw sooo much, I was seriously exhausted by the end. And there is so much more to see in Paris. I never realized just how large it is. And for as many things as I knocked off the list, I added probably twice as many to see next time. 

Saturday morning started off with a croissant, because who comes to France and doesn't have a croissant? 

Next we headed for the metro to head for the center of the city. We stayed a little bit out at an adorable boutique hotel and it was about 15 minutes by metro to get to the center. I have to say, the metro had all sorts of character. Firstly, the beautiful tiling, then once we were on the train we got some entertainment. About two stops after we got on a trio of two accordionists and a bass player hopped on and struck up some music. Totally unexpected and it felt like a caricature of Paris, something you would see in a Disney movie. I loved it. 

We got off the metro at the Louvre and walked through the galleria below the museum, I was busy window shopping when Emily grabbed my arm and made me start paying attention, and this was what I got to see. 

Pretty flipping cool. 

First thing you see when you exit the metro at the Louvre.

Panorama that didn't even capture all of it. 

I knew we didn't have time to see too much, I just wanted to get a taste so our plan was to go in the back entrance (yay traveling with an insider!) but when we got there we were informed that the policy had changed and now you had to wait in line for a ticket at the main entrance in order to get in the super secret entrance. 

Screw you Lion entrance, you are a liar!

We decided instead of waiting in the massively long line we'd move on, we are far to busy and important to be bothered with lines like commoners. So next stop was the Pont de l'Archeveche, more commonly known as the "Love Locks" bridge. It was really quite a sight to see. Had to get the typical tourist picture. The most interesting thing about the bridge is it was the first in Paris to be designed for anything other than strictly pedestrian traffic. 

From there we continued on to Notre Dame, and again, points to Emily for giving the appearance some flair, we turned a corner and there it was. Huge and beautiful and intimidating in all it's Gothic glory. Flying buttresses and stained glass windows and gargoyles. I was a big fan. We took a walk around (again to avoid the line) and when we came back around it was short enough that we were willing to to put up with the wait. The inside was filled with super old marble statues (apparently some were carved by Michaelangelo) and gold leaf, and overall super impressive. But I liked the outside even better so photo break for that. 

Flying buttresses.

Stained glass window from the outside. 

Stained glass window from the inside. 

Depiction of heaven and hell above the main door. 

Sweet gargoyles and stuff. 

Got a little bit of nature in there too. 

As neat as Notre Dame was there was still tons more for us to do. Next was something that I didn't even know I would want to see, but Emily did. Shakespeare and Company is an English bookstore where greats such as Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound have hung out. The bottom floor is new books and the top floor is used books and a cool reading room. Just something really neat to see. 

I think we wandered around for a bit after that, seeing part of the Latin Quarter, got some ice cream, walked through a few shops. Then we decided it was time for lunch. Instead of trying to get someplace we knew we just picked a place close to where we already were, I spotted a place that looked like it had atmosphere, and it sure did. A cute little Mediterranean place where we shared a plate of delicious staples like tabbouleh and grape leaves. It hit the spot and fueled us for more shopping. 

Emily in the cute little restaurant. I want to say it was called "Sophie's Place" or something like that. 

Emily is basically my personal shopper so we had to get some serious shopping in. We hit up Monoprix, which she described as "French Target" and I would say it's a pretty accurate description. We made out like bandits, a couple dresses, some pants, a top, a cute scarf. Winning. 

We headed across the street to Laduree for some famous macarons and tea. I also decided to try a chocolate cake/mousse combo that sounded divine. 

What would life be like without tea and some dessert? I don't want to know. 

Our next stop was the Lafayette Galleries, which was more for effect than for actual shopping. This place was ridiculous. So huge and beautiful, and most impressively, designed to be a department store. No malls like this in America, that's for sure. I gawked at all the amazing designer clothes for a while then we headed up to the roof to get a panoramic view. 

View from the inside. 

View from the roof, that's the opera house. Where the Phantom of the Opera takes place.

Since we were so close we popped over to the Opera House, but it had just closed for tours for the day. So it got added to the "next time" list. The outside it very nice though. 

Part of the Opera House from the front. 

Our next stop was something I had been looking forward to the whole time.

Holy crap it's the Eiffel tower!

Though we didn't go to the top (next time) just seeing it up close was amazing, such a neat structure and definitely a must see if you're in Paris. 

It had been a super long day so we headed for the bus and back to the hotel to change for dinner. We went to Le Grand Cafe and had some amazing French food including oysters, foie gras, and creme brûlée. The decor was adorable, very Art Deco, and I had to be a dork and take pictures. 

After dinner we grabbed a drink and a place that was clearly too hip for us, the Experimental Cocktail Club. The drinks were good and the clientele made for great people watching. 

Clear plastic chandelier. Obviously. 

After one drink we headed back to the hotel to crash, and sadly our visit was cut another hour shorter by stupid daylight savings time. But we decided not to push ourselves and got up and out the door around 8 the next morning for a traditional Parisian breakfast complete with people watching. I think it's so funny that all the seats at the sidewalk tables face out so you can overtly stare at and judge everyone walking by. I'm a fan. There was tons of judging going on. 

We made our way next to the Musee Dorsey, which is housed across the Seine from the Louvre, with a much smaller collection in an old train station. They have some stupid rule about not taking pictures of the artwork, so much less picture taking the second day. I think we saw nearly the entire museum in about an hour and a half, my favorites were the Art Deco furniture collection and the impressionist floor. So cool to stand a foot away from a Monet. They also had an impressive selection of Rodin sculptures.  

Only picture I got inside the museum looking out from the clock tower. 

Same clock from the outside. 

Since we were so close to the Louvre we decided to give it another shot and snuck in the underground entrance. 

Mega nerd selfie under the pyramid. 

Actual good photo from under the pyramid. 

So we ran in, got tickets from one of the automated machines, headed up to the Italian Masters, saw the Mona Lisa (decided not to take a picture because it's barely larger than a postcard and there were about three hundred people between it and me and saying I've seen it is enough), then left. Probably the quickest trip ever but we were running short on time. So we metroed back to the hotel, grabbed our stuff and headed to the airport. 

It was a great trip and a great friend, without whom I could not have seen or enjoyed the city nearly as much as I did. 

Here's where the photo narrative ends, the rest of the pictures I just liked. 

Arch at the Louvre, celebrating Napoleon and all sorts of victories I think. 

Louis the 14th. 

Super cool pyramid and stuff. 

More of the Louvre. 

Bikes that I thought looked cool and exactly what you'd expect from Paris. 

Emily admiring Notre Dame. 

Inside of Notre Dame.

Parisian drinking fountain. They are winning in that department. 

Notre Dame from afar. 

Also from the top of the Lafayette Galleries. 

It's just so big!

Don't even remember where this was, but I like it. 

To see next time in Paris: view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, inside of the Opera House, Versailles, and the catacombs.