Final picture post from France!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We’re back in the Land of AZ.

We landed in Phoenix late on Saturday night after a weird layover in Washington D.C.; the power had gone out in the terminals at the Washington-Dulles airport. We waited on the plane until a bus came to take us to the main terminal… and by “us,” I mean not just everyone on our flight, but everyone on ALL the incoming flights… and from there, all of the connecting flights were delayed, also due to the ripple effect of the power outage. In the end, though, we were only two hours late getting home. Not bad!

So believe it or not, that was my sixth trip to Paris – seven if you count the Paris part of last week’s agenda as two separate trips (we stayed in the same hotel in Montmartre before and after the Côte d’Azur) – and I still haven’t visited Jim Morrison. It was my decision. At the last minute, I suggested skipping it because we had very little time, and I didn’t want to go to le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise just to see one grave. I would have wanted to also visit the likes of Chopin, Victor Hugo, Edith Piaf, etc., and for that we would need a good half-day, at least. But we’ll be back, and it’s really kind of funny… my Extreme First-World Problem is still my Extreme First-World Problem.

Since we didn’t go to le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, we were able to take our time moseying around Montmartre, where we were staying. It was the perfect way to spend the day. We had some errands to run, and it was great to just be relaxed and enjoy our favorite quartier in Paris without rushing around. (Montmartre is actually one of my favorite neighborhoods in the entire world.) We also got to enjoy having dinner with a friend of mine who lives there, and that was delightful.

Overall, our week in France was the opposite of relaxing, as we were generally crazy busy up until that last day in Paris. We averaged zero to three hours of sleep per night, and by the end, we were seeing double from sleep deprivation. But it was hella fun. Great times with family and friends!

One thing that struck us, though, was how the mood in France has grown even darker in the short time we’ve been gone… dark as in ominous, kind of, and spooky. The general feeling in the country is different than when we lived there, and we haven’t even been gone for two years. We saw a trio of heavily armed soldiers stalking the picturesque little streets of Vieux Nice, for instance… a surreal sight, and one I never would have imagined there before. We noticed police officers standing expectantly with their police dogs in the Metro stations in Paris. When we lived in France, I never saw police officers at all… just the random gendarmerie… now, they’re everywhere, their presence presumably connected to the “Je Suis Charlie” signs we also saw posted widely from Paris to Nice. And there are the new ebola information/warning posters prominently displayed at Charles de Gaulle airport.

On a lighter note, I’ll share another smattering of pics from our last days there….

From la Côte d’Azur:

 

A street in Châteauneuf de Grasse.

A street in Châteauneuf de Grasse.

 

Our favorite boulangerie in Nice. BEST PAN BAGNAT IN TOWN, hands-down.

Our favorite boulangerie in Nice. BEST PAN BAGNAT IN TOWN, hands-down.

 

Some of the bread inside the best boulangerie in Nice.

Some of the bread inside the best boulangerie in Nice.

 

An artist's gallery in le Vieux Nice.

An artist’s gallery in le Vieux Nice.

 

Socca - a traditional food in Nice.

Socca – a traditional food in Nice.

 

With friends at the Big Ben pub in Nice.

With friends at the Big Ben pub in Nice.

 

We had lunch with Callaghan's Grandparents and Dad in le Port de St. Laurent du Var.

We had lunch with Callaghan’s Grandparents and Dad in le Port de St. Laurent du Var.

 

And from Paris:

 

One of hundreds of  cafés...

One of hundreds of cafés…

 

Pointing the way to le Sacré-Coeur - my second-favorite monument (after la Tour Eiffel)

Pointing the way to le Sacré-Coeur – my second-favorite monument (after la Tour Eiffel)

 

Le Sacré-Coeur. Beautiful Roman-Byzantyne architecture on the hill of Montmartre.

Le Sacré-Coeur. Beautiful Roman-Byzantyne architecture on the hill of Montmartre.

 

Bronze sculpture on le Sacré-Coeur.

Bronze sculpture on le Sacré-Coeur.

 

Gargoyle on le Sacré-Coeur.

Gargoyle on le Sacré-Coeur.

 

More gargoyles on le Sacré-Coeur...

More gargoyles on le Sacré-Coeur…

 

View of Paris from the hill of Montmartre.

View of Paris from the hill of Montmartre.

 

Parisian street art like this is becoming more and more common. Love it!

Parisian street art like this is becoming more and more common. Love it!

 

Walking in Montmartre...

Walking in Montmartre…

 

French flag at the Metro station on Boulevard Barbès.

French flag at the Metro station on Boulevard Barbès.

 

Hot chocolate at café la Virgule in Montmartre.

Hot chocolate at café la Virgule in Montmartre.

 

And here’s a selection of some of our pastry indulgences (!!):

 

Galette des Rois... actually, a "Pithivier," according to Callaghan. The traditional King's Cakes are this, but thinner... quite different from the King Cakes Americans have at Mardi Gras.

Galette des Rois… actually, a “Pithivier,” according to Callaghan. The traditional King’s Cakes are this, but thinner… quite different from the King Cakes Americans have at Mardi Gras.

 

Une Madeleine au Nutella at the SNCF (train) station.

Une Madeleine au Nutella at the SNCF (train) station.

 

Tarte au citron

Tarte au citron

 

Chouquettes

Chouquettes

 

And then we went home. I took a picture of the signage that greeted us at baggage claim. Welcome to Phoenix!

 

It was 77 degrees when we landed at 10:20pm Saturday night... and it's going to be 90 today!

It was 77 degrees when we landed at 10:20pm Saturday night… and it’s going to be 90 today!

 

Happy Tuesday, All! =)

On Cameras, Instagram and Mardi Gras

Late last week, my camera departed for the great camera boneyard in the sky. Alas, my humble little Canon powershot is no more. (Cue the violins.)

It wasn’t old so much as pointed-and-clicked to death… I think it was sheer overuse that did it, and maybe the fact that I didn’t exactly keep it swaddled in bubble wrap every second of its life. I got it in 2011 right before we left the States; it did the rounds with me all over France and Berlin, Germany and Casablanca, Morocco. Then it photo-documented our five-month adventure in Texas before we came back to Arizona. I always had it with me.

Its demise on Friday morning happened quickly and without warning, and I had to do something fast, right? Because being without a camera is just weird in a not-good way. I was going to spend the weekend taking pictures of things for my February Favorites post, which obviously didn’t happen!

In the end, instead of getting a new camera, I decided to get a phone featuring a decent camera. This means three things:

–I no longer have to carry around a camera and a phone.

–I finally have instagram.

–Because of instagram, I predict that I’ll be taking more pictures than ever.

But before all that insanity begins – before I can start inundating my instagram with gratuitous selfies and pictures of what I’m wearing and the food I’m eating and the interesting people in Walmart and Arizona sunset after Arizona sunset and whatever other clichéd subjects you can think of – I need some time to acquaint myself with both my new camera and instagram, itself.

All of this to say that while my February Favorites post is going to be late, I do have an image to share with you today! I first saw this when it jumped out and tried to kill me as I scrolled through my blogroll last week (I’m looking at you, Junk Food Guy).

 

BECAUSE TODAY IS MARDI GRAS.

BECAUSE TODAY IS MARDI GRAS.

 

Yes, that would be a gigantic plastic baby whose bib reads I HEART KING CAKE.

This is nightmare fuel. Pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel on a basketball court.

You might recall that during Mardi Gras season last year, I wrote about the Mardi Gras king cakes here in the States and the French version (the Galette des Rois), and I mentioned the little plastic baby tucked inside that bestows royal status upon the person who finds it in their slice? Well, what you see in the image above is the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team’s nod to Mardi Gras, bringing that little plastic baby to life on their basketball court as a seasonal mascot to honor the occasion. I, for one, find this horrifying life-size plastic baby (Jesus?) to be one of the most awesome mascots to ever grace a basketball court. Good job, Pelicans!

On that note, I must run off now. Here’s a link to my fledgling instagram page for those who wish to follow: www.instagram.com/thatasianlookingchick

Happy Mardi Gras!

CAKE! (Now That I Have Your Attention)…

Happy February! Let us eat cake.

“It’s funny how much bigger Bruce Willis is than Ronnie James,” said Callaghan as he watched our cats play together. “They remind me of the Galette des Rois.”

Galette des Rois. Cats. I’m always intrigued by Callaghan’s mental leaps.

“Galette des Rois” translates to English literally as “Kings’ Cake.” In the States, we usually just call them “King Cakes.” They hit Louisiana bakery shelves on 6 January (the beginning of Epiphany) and roar on up to the Mardi Gras carnival celebration in the middle of February (the culmination of Epiphany, the last three days of which are known as the big Mardi Gras street bash after which hardly any of the carnival-goers remembers what happened because of the epic scale of the debauchery that took place). King Cakes are as heavily associated with the New Orleans Mardi Gras as beer, boobs and beads. They are not, as far as I know, associated with cats. Nor do they resemble cats, even remotely.

For one thing, cats are not ring-shaped twists of yeasty dough, and they are not sweetened with icing and dyed purple, green and yellow.

I guess some of the French patisseries in New Orleans also offer the solid round puff-pastry French version of the King Cake, but the traditional New Orleans garish rings are what come to mind when I think of King Cakes… so much so that when Callaghan first pointed out the Galette des Rois to me here in France, I didn’t even realize I was looking at the same thing.

“Like the ones we saw at Lili Croustille the other day?” Callaghan continued as he spoke of the cats. “I was looking at the Galette des Rois, you know, at the 8- and 6-part ones. Bruce Willis is the 8-part one.” I figured that by “part” he meant “serving.”

We’d actually bought one those cakes, an event I won’t likely forget because I’m human, and humans have a tendency to remember embarrassing moments for all eternity. Because when we got home from Lili Croustille and I went to cut that cake, I couldn’t do it.

I inserted a sharp knife blade into the buttery, flaky crust and hit resistance right away. I pressed harder, but the knife didn’t progress. I started sawing the knife back and forth, quickly checking over my shoulder first to make sure Callaghan didn’t see me struggling to slice the delicate dessert. No luck. Finally, feeling completely ridiculous, I added downward pressure to my sawing action. And then I gave up.

I’m sure Callaghan thought I was hopeless, but he gamely came over and looked down at the cake where it rested all innocent-like on its little round cardboard thing. The cake looked smug. It was grinning up at me. Yes, it was.

“What’s wrong?” Callaghan asked as he studied the cake.

“It doesn’t cut,” I said, accusingly.

I took hold of the knife again and made another attempt with Callaghan standing there, watching. Once again, the knife stopped half-way through. I kept the blade where it was and moved it slightly to the side and saw a small, hard figurine. A figurine! I made the connection. I guess King Cakes all over the world have a figurine or something equally menacing inside, poised to choke a person or foil her slicing attempts.

Callaghan never did elaborate on his thought process.

King Cake, French style (Galette des Rois)

King Cake, French style (Galette des Rois)

King Cake, New Orleans (Mardi Gras) style

King Cake, New Orleans (Mardi Gras) style

Bruce Willis (right) and Ronnie James (left)

Bruce Willis (right) and Ronnie James (left)

See a resemblance?