Bring That Aston Down, Girl

Let me tell you. I am pretty damn proud of myself. No, I didn’t find a cure for cancer (i wish) and no, I didn’t figure out the answer for ridding the world of racism and terror (i really wish) BUT I did drive an amazingly kick-ass car down from Germany to Mallorca all by myself. Yep. Just lil ole me.

That car would be an Aston Martin and it costs a bit more than my old Ford Probe did (God, I loved that car – even had a sunroof). I won’t bore you too much with the drive because it can get a bit tiresome driving 8ish hours for two days straight. But I can also comment on two hotels, the ferry and some good tunes. Let’s hit the road!

First, I gotta fly to Germany. That’s Port d’Alcúdia you can see down there.

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Headed out on a rainy Saturday around 10 a.m. and took a sweet road which took me through twists and turns of a deep and dark German forest. Gosh, the forest can get dark so quick. I kept an eye out for deer that might jump in front of the car but only saw two of those majestic creatures in one of the farmland pastures: along with many cows, horses and some birds. I had to get on my phone navigation once before I hit the A44, then to the A7, then A5, then A63, then A6 and THEN A31. And then I would be getting into Dijon, France.

I made a few roadtrip CDs, a mash-up of songs that are new and old. One of my favorite new bands is Portugal. The Man. Have you heard of them? They seriously rock. Check out “Feel It Still”.

“Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now I been feeling it since 1966, now Might be over now, but I feel it still.” I rocked out man. The. Man.

The drive to Dijon was a lot of highway. And France has a lot of tolls. But you roll with it. When choosing a hotel I looked for a place that wasn’t too far off the highway and of course a good price. I wasn’t sure what time I would arrive and I definitely wasn’t going to be doing any sight seeing on this road trip. My hotel was in Arc-Sur-Tille, which is only 20 minutes from Dijon. And my hotel was L’Hotel D’Arc (naturally). It was super cute, good price of 95 euro for the night and the hotel dude was friendly and spoke English (thank you). The room with a view!

No restaurant at the hotel so they recommended a restaurant down the street next to the supermarket – La Table d’Arc. It was okay. There were lots of French people there eating and drinking and having a good time so it must be the place to hang out. I did find a piece of plastic wrapping in my chicken caesar salad which I did not like, they didn’t speak any English (which is okay, I AM in their country) and I had to flag down the waiter for everything after ordering my food – some water, a glass of wine, the bill. So, yeah, only okay.

Alright, it’s Sunday morning I must get myself and the car to Girona. We will be taking the A6, then the A7, then A9 and then AP-7. There was MUCHO MUCHO traffico on the roads! I had a lot of traffic jams around Lyon. And I had to drive through it, but it looked like a cool city to check out someday. Interesting architecture and the Rhone river runs through it. Also on the drive were loads of vineyards, next time defo stopping at one for some wine tasting. Starting in Narbonne and on the way down to Perpignan (I love saying all the French towns with a hard French accent). Try it – Perpignan, Montpellier, Lyon, Bordeaux. Fun, no?

I didn’t stay in the heart of Girona, remember I wanted to stay right off the highway. I stayed at Hotel Costabella. This place was a bit difficult to find (for me) and the room was really crappy, the sink wouldn’t drain and the room smelled cigarette smoke – even though they said no smoking and you would be fined if you did. I asked for a different room but they were completely booked for the night. The good things – very friendly staff, the dinner was excellent (i had gazpacho and then salmon for my entree) and I enjoyed the sauna. I always enjoy a sauna. Also, a big parking area which another thing I looked for in my hotel choices with such an expensive sports car.

Alright, finally Monday and the day to get home. Yipppeeee! I miss Felix and my kitties. I drove to the port in Barcelona in about an hour and a half from Girona. Got my Trasmediterranea boarding ticket for me and for the car (I reserved online about two weeks before), headed to the car area and we had to wait about 30 minutes before they let the cars on the ferry. Parked it here:

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Then headed upstairs for the eight hour journey from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca. I didn’t have a seat or cabin reserved so it was a bit difficult to find a spot at first. But after about 20 minutes after boarding they opened the “restaurant” area and I dashed in for a seat next to the window with a table and set up camp. Got bored with that after an hour or so but enjoyed watching us pull out from the port and head into the open sea.

I read my book, cleaned up my desktop on my computer, read a little more and then ventured outside. They had this tiki bar area set up at the top so that was kinda fun but again you can only sit for so long before getting bored of that too. It overlooked other car parking and then finally we started to see Mallorca show up on the left hand side.

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And finally I was home.

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Paris Rue des Rosiers aka Falafel Street

I had some hours to kill in Paris before my plane back to Mallorca in the evening. I had done a bit of research (like always, hello!) to find something cool, different to do. And like always, it usually ends up with food. We all gotta eat! And to quote Anna Lösegeld directly – “Isn’t it funny how we have to eat?”. And true that Anna, we do. She is one smart cookie.

My search brought me to Rue des Rosiers. A divine street with hip, cool shops but is also known for its delicious Middle Eastern and Eastern European specialties, as well as some of the best restaurants in the area. I went to L’as du Fallafel, which claims (rightfully) to have the world’s best falafel.  This sandwich comes with grilled eggplant, cabbage, tahini, hummus, and hot sauce. But don’t think that nobody else knows about it. Prepare to wait. But they were decently fast about it. You can also sit inside but the place seemed quite crowded and you must wait for a seat. The outside line moved pretty quickly.

I’m at the end of the line and just ordered my falafel. Some dude is standing by the line taking orders, very proficient!

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Almost there!!

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Competition directly across the street.

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Sooooooo close now, I can taste it.

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HALLELUJAH!!

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It was all it was cracked up to be and more. And apparently, Lenny Kravitz is a fan of L’as du Fallafel. Hey, you never know who you might run into. After you eat, continue exploring the bookshops, boulangeries, and trendy boutiques. This is one cool street, peeps. And this was on a Sunday! So get thyself over to Rue des Rosiers. You won’t be disappointed.

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I like Paris in the springtime …

I like Paris in the fall. Or should I say autumn? I like Paris pretty much any season of the year. And I was there this spring, always lovely. Merci Paris! You can check out my other post about Paris HERE.

This time meeting Jeannie there, we had done a lot of the tourist things and we decided to just stroll. Not have an agenda. Let’s just walk around, see what trouble we can find and violà! We did. Of course!

Can we enjoy this view from our hotel room? The Haussmann-Saint Lazare station on the Paris RER.

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Then we walked around. And if this picture isn’t Paris then I don’t know what is. Where else in the world would have this kind of dog at their shop? He is a REAL dog! I. LOVE. PARIS.

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First stop was my favourite chill-out place which just happens to be along La Seine. How fabulous, right? FLOW is a bar situated just upstream of Pont Alexandre III on the Left Bank. You can hang out, people watch (my favourite), watch the boats float by and of course, stare across La Seine at the gorgeous Pont Alexandre III bridge, the Grand Palais which to the left of it is the Jardin de la Nouvelle France. If you are lucky maybe you will see some pestacles! Sorry, I have a bit of strange humor but see picture below. What exactly are pestacles?

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This picture was taken off their website – it wasn’t this crowded at all! And actually the day was a bit cold and rainy and they closed early. So FYI – it is possible if there isn’t enough business, they close. C’est la vie! But they did have blankets which was very nice and the chairs are loungy, not regular chairs. Just go already.

Our view while drinking our beers at FLOW. Not to shabby, eh? But then again, what is shabby in Paris?

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Pestacles sign in a Paris garden. I have tried to no avail to find out what Pestacles means!! I think it is some sort of festival with music and dancing but I still don’t know. If anyone knows, PLEASE tell me! I’m dying here to find out.

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I know I said we wouldn’t get touristy but we both love the movie Amélie and I read you could go to the bar that was in the film, so that is exactly what we did. The lovely art deco cafe where Amélie works, which is, surprisingly, real. It’s Café des Deux Moulins, 15 rue Lepic at rue Cauchois.

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Us and Amélie, the best of friends. I think next time we should have the same look on our faces as Amélie has.

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Across the street from Cafe des 2 Moulins. This picture seems so … PARIS. Oui?

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Enough Amelie. Time to walk to Montmarte – up the stairs, up the stairs, more stairs!! MORE UP!

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Finally made it to the top with some interesting sightings on the way.

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And then we had to head back down the stairs. We are goofs! We know – but ADORABLE goofs! And we were hungry…..

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Next up, cheese raclette. Do you know cheese raclette? It so super delicioso. The Raclette cheese round is heated, either in front of a fire or by a special machine, then scraped onto diners’ plates; the term raclette derives from the French word racler, meaning “to scrape,” a reference to the fact that the melted cheese must be scraped from the unmelted part of the cheese onto the plate. Our humungous hunk of cheese (just reminded of that PSA Time for Timer! I hanker for a hunka cheese song. ~ When I’m dancin’ the hoedown and my boots kinda slow down, Or anytime I’m week in the knees, I hanker for a hunk of, A slab, a slice, a chunk of, A snack that is a winner, And yet won’t spoil my dinner! I hanker for a hunk of cheese! Ya-hoo!) … ah, sorry, where was I…. Right! A huge hunk of cheese with a table-top grill, was served with small potatoes, slices of sausages and pickles. Just what we had been wanting. The table next to us had meat raclette which looked amazing as well. 

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Stuffed full and so very happy, we meandered back to our hotel for the night. BUT before the hotel we found this super fun bar with really great tunes. When my boyfriend called we serenaded him. 🙂 He didn’t say so, but I know he loved it. I can’t tell you the bar’s name because then I would have to kill you. Just kidding, I have no idea where we were. Somewhere between Montmarte and the Haussmann-Saint Lazare station. Sometimes you have to find your own fun. I know you can!

You can tell we had fun by this last pic. Until next time mi amigos (or shall I say mes amis)!

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La Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower is an iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris.  It was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair,  it has become both a global and cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; 7.1 million people ascended it in 2011. The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.

The tower stands 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-story building. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to assume the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. Because of the addition of the antenna atop the Eiffel Tower in 1957, it is now taller than the Chrysler Building by 17 feet (5.2 m).

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The tower has three levels for visitors. The third level observatory’s upper platform is at 279.11 m (915.7 ft) the highest accessible to the public in the EU. Tickets can be purchased to ascend, by stairs or lift (that means elevator to all you non British speaking folks), to the first and second levels. The walk from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. Although there are stairs to the third and highest level, these are usually closed to the public and it is usually accessible only by lift.

The line for the elevators was too long for our liking so we bought a ticket to walk the stairs. I can’t remember how much it was but no more than 10 euros. And the climb began! Up and round and up and round we went. Finally we made it to the first level! It was much higher than I thought it would be. Like everyone else, we snapped some pics.

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You can see Sacré-Coeur in the background

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And a lovely picture of us! I have this new habit of sticking my tongue under my teeth for some reason. But aren’t we adorable!?

We decided to keep going. Up to the second level. Yeah, we’re cool like that. That was about another 300 steps and we were getting high! As in elevation, my friends. I am usually fine with heights but I was getting a little dizzy and trying not to look down. Possibly it was being more claustrophobic with the people climbing the stairs up and down alongside me but the stomach was starting to do some flip-flops here and there. We arrived at the second level and took a quick walk around. Snapped some more pics …

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.I took this one leaning back as far as I could. After that, vertigo kicked in and we had to GO! On the walk back down 600+ steps, Jeannette joked that we should start telling everyone, “Sorry, it’s closed.” I laughed the entire way down. Miss my Jeannie!

So there you have it. Maybe next time we will go to the top but maybe I will chicken out. Or maybe we will just hang out at the restaurant for hours and have several beers – will that make vertigo better or worse? Whatever the fact, time for you to climb the TOWER.

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City of Lights

Man, things have been a bit crazy here. Three weeks ago I was in Paris and then my cousin was here for two weeks. All of that being most excellent but busy busy. Plus I was teaching my English classes (which I must blog about soon) in midst of all of that.

Let’s recap PARIS, shall we? I landed at the Paris – ORLY airport and was determined to try out the metro instead of just catching a cab. It was so easy! (And I must admit I was quite proud of myself; just ask Jeannie as I mentioned the fact just a few hundred times) But then I chickened out doing it the way back – mostly from time constraints!

I met Jeannie at the Mercure Paris Opera hotel (not bad but absolutely nothing fancy) and we headed out for some food. After ditching two restaurants because they didn’t have exactly what we were looking for, we found the perfect one. We ordered two croque madams (pretty much a grilled ham and cheese with an egg on top – DELICIOUS), two beers and caught up on each other’s lives. Which sadly we never have enough time to do, we might need a few weeks at a quiet lake house for that.

Next up, the ferris wheel! Here are a few things we saw:

Can you see the reflection from the ferris wheel carriage?

The Louvre! So cool.

For the next two days we ate more croque madams (somehow that doesn’t sound right) and began our search for the best steak tartare. And my favorite of the three was at the Hotel Amour. We sat in their cute courtyard, were served bread with butter and almost licked the butter bowl clean. The steak tartare was spiced perfectly and came with a side order of steak frites. What’s there not to like!?

When we weren’t on our quest for the perfect food, I took photos. One thing to mention about Paris is that everything is so BIG! The buildings, the monuments, the churches = HUGE. I like things a bit more petite. How about that for using a french word in my post? By the way, I graduated college (Oklahoma State University WOOT!) with a minor in French, and now, I can speak n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Although I did come back to Spain saying Merci and Bonjour to everyone.

I have always been in love with the metro signs of Paris.

I love this one.

On our last night we headed up to Montmarte where many famous artists lived and worked – Picasso, Dali, Monet, van Gogh. How cool to walk the streets where they had walked, to look over the city like they did every day. And what a view it is!

The breathtaking Sacré Coeur.

 

And to end the post with things that made me laugh. I might have a bit of a strange sense of humor but I found these completely hilarious.

Pestacles or coque anyone!? Go to Paris now and tell me about your favorite croque madame and steak tartare!

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Trippin’

So it started off pretty uneventful. Caught the 8 a.m. flight to Paderborn, made a quick stop in Detmold to eat a brötchen with meerrettich (horseradish) Miree and I was off.

Felix bought me a fancy schmancy navigation thing (Navigon) and it was perfect! No worries on where to turn, was I supposed to take the A1 or was it the A5?? As I settled into the new car I jammed out to my CD mix of country and new downloads from iTunes, plus Felix downloaded the new Beastie Boys – yeah yeah right right. Okay! Just buy it already.

The ride was sweeeet! Nice car. I drove from 2 p.m. until about 10:30 when I spotted a hotel sign around the French town of Dommartin les Cuiseaux. Just look for the huge chicken statue (at the Aire du Poulet de Bresse) and you can’t miss it. It was a highway area with hotel (Etap), cafeteria, gift store, etc. I went to see if they had vacancy for lil ole me and the sign at the “front desk” directed me to go to the sandwich store. Even late at night there were three people waiting to get a sandwich, when it was my turn I asked for a room. “Oui, follow me.” An inexpensive 40 euros later and I was in my room.

I wasn’t expecting anything much, there were two doors in my room. One was for my port -o- potty looking toilet and the other with the similar look and feel, my shower. But my room!! Oh my gosh, much excitement to be held.

Are you KIDDING ME!?!? A bed AND a bunk bed!? I couldn’t decide, the bed seemed nice and comfy but how cool to sleep in a bunk bed, in France. Hmmm, I wonder what bunk bed is in french? Moment ~ lits superposés. Okay, I will never remember that. Next time in France, pardon, do you have una chambre avec les lits superposés? Ah yeah, that minor in french is really working for me now.  I was so overwhelmed with my sleeping arrangement choices that I switched every 15 minutes. (That is a joke my friends)

The next day I was up early and back on the road by 9:30. I was wanting to get to Barcelona at a decent hour to do a little shopping on Paseo de Gracia. I really needed a new bikini for the summer and a stop at Kiehl’s (LOVE) was in order.

I was in France for most of the day. The tolls! Don’t even get me started. For one, totally outrageous. I think I spent about 60 euros on tolls in France. But my most embarrassing (not to mention frustrating) moment was when I pulled into the line where I could pay with a credit card. When I got up there I put in my Visa. Spit it out. No toll gate going up. My other card. Nope. Then I see VISA and MASTERCARD with a line going through them. How is it possible they don’t accept Visa or MC? What is WTF in french? I pushed the help button. Nothing. I motioned to the people behind me (because of course there was a line forming) that I needed to back up. Or something. Did they have a gun? Not for me, for the machine.

This cute lil old man from the car behind me walked up to try to help. He spoke French to me, I spoke Spanish to him. (I was having a meltdown). FINALLY the gate raised. The gate controllers must have had a really nice laugh. You are welcome. The lil man said, “C’est bon!” I said “Gracias!” and I was back on my way. Note to all foreign travelers at all tolls – just go to the person in the booth.

Spain couldn’t get there fast enough. And then I was in Barcelona with billions of cars and 18 streets going off each round-about. Finally, I made it to the hotel, the Gran Torre Catalunya. From the outside it looks very uninviting, but it was a good price and for an extra charge of 10 euros I was bumped up to the 12th floor. I would have liked the view of Montjuic better but I didn’t mind what I had.

There is a restaurant on the top floor that overlooks Barcelona and a main transit station is almost next door. It is at a very busy area and I thought it would be louder but maybe since I was up on the 12th floor (instead of originally on the 3rd) it was quiet. Of course the occasional taxi horn here and there but you will get that almost anywhere in Barcelona. I tried to motivate myself to go to Paseo Gracia. I opened the minibar, had an Estrella beer, changed into my new maxi dress, sandles and left. I decided a brisk walk would be just what I needed, but after 20 min of walking I realized I still had at least an hour more to go and I changed my plans.

Plaza Espanya was close by so I headed back in that direction. Once I got there I realized the old bullfighting arena was there (no more bull fights in BCN) and I heard it was turned into apartments but there were people going in and out, so, I ventured in. It was … a MALL – Las Arenas. A really nice mall, lots of bright stores, a 12-screen cinema and at the very top was the rooftop terrace. From the terrace you could overlook Fira Montjuic and the Palau Reial while eating sushi or burgers or chinese. The view with my bowl of Miso soup:

I was up early again to find my way to the port. I won’t bore you with my frustration but this time Navigon was not helping, at least not at the minute necessary moments… But I made it! The last time I was on the ferry it was from Palma to BCN and it was in November. I figured it would be the same, no seating outside, just hanging out for eight hours wandering the expanse of the boat. But I was wrong! After my much needed late breakfast of salad, chicken and french fries all doused with vinegar I walked outside and at the end I found people sunbathing on cheap plastic white lounge chairs. There weren’t any chairs available by the time I discovered where everyone was but after watching two abandoned chairs I finally took one when nobody came back to claim them in 34.7 minutes.

It was me in my tanktop and rolled up pants surrounded by people in bathing suits (apparently I missed that memo), and naturally, the car convention.

And then finally after eight hours on the ferry, a sight for my sore, traveling tired eyes. Le Seu, the cathedral in Palma.

I was home.

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