Tag Archives: europe

Five on Friday: Paris Pleasures

Domokun and the Eiffel Tower | Canon PowerShot A80, 8mm, 1/160 f8, ISO ?

March 4, 2008, marked my fourth sojourn to Paris (you can peruse the journal notes from my inaugural trip here). Some globetrotters might balk at repeat visits to one destination, but sometimes I can’t help myself, just like when I’m compelled to listen to the same song over and over again or eat the same meal for days, if not weeks. I’ve come to believe that you can’t really get a sense of a place until you’ve scratched the main attractions off your to-do list and moved on to exploring–even getting lost–off the tourist track. Of course, you could simply skip the tourist itinerary altogether and jump to step 2, but I’ve done that before, too, and returned home feeling like I missed out on something.

It was during this fourth visit that I confirmed that, aside from the Bay Area, I could see myself living in the City of Light. Sure, the sidewalks are often dotted with landmines of poodle poo and sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re in the proximity of rank, unwashed feet or just a wedge of well-aged Camembert. But cinematic Robert Doisneau moments pop up everywhere (stylish couples still kiss in the middle of the street while entwined in a statuesque embrace!) and sinful patisseries grace virtually every block. The city is charming, inspiring, and infinitely photogenic. An Old World air endures despite its growing reputation as a “European city of the future.”

Patisseries galore | Canon 5D, 50mm, 1/60 f8, ISO 200

I’ll admit that there are quite a few touristy things I still haven’t tired of: Standing beneath the Eiffel Tower and craning my neck to see the tip. Inhaling the sweeping views from both the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triompe. Crossing the Seine onto Île de la Cité. Navigating around the sculptures and sepulchers in the various verdant cemeteries. Marveling the bony architecture of the Catacombs. Strolling through Jardin des Tuileries when the multicolor tulips are in bloom….I really could go on forever like a smitten schoolgirl.

View from Arc de Triomphe | Canon 5D, 28mm, 1/200 f8, ISO 100

Notre Dame de Paris interior | Canon 5D, 40mm, 1/20 f4, ISO 500

Surprises are wonderful, too, such as squeezing into a jam-packed, thimble-sized bar to see a raucous garage band from Montreal, Canada; discovering a vegetarian bistro with a thoughtfully prepared menu; playing video games in an opulent squat located in a crumbling fin de siècle building; and finding that you have a corner of the Louvre all to yourself.

Perhaps one day my rose-colored glasses will fade and I’ll no longer salivate at the thought of eating several pastries a day (future Five on Friday theme?), but until then, I’ll dream of Paris’s extraordinary combination of variety and familiarity as well as its efforts to sabotage my waistline.

Les Breastfeeders (Canada), La Feline Bar | Canon 5D, 24mm, 0.4sec f8, ISO 400

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Five on Friday: Spanish Breakfast

Hot chocolate and apple turnover, Granada | Canon 5D, 85mm, 1/30 f4, ISO 400

One year ago today, C + I were burning out the soles of our shoes in Barcelona, the first stop in a five-city trip around Spain. Had we not left the city a few days before it suffered its worst snowstorm in 25 years, today’s post might’ve featured something other than food. But we did, and it won’t. In fond remembrance, here’s a brief survey of the more-photogenic morning repasts we had during our snow-free adventure.

As you may know, European breakfasts aren’t an extravagant affair. Most natives grab café con leche (espresso with milk), maybe a doughy snack (churros, rolls), and hold out for a big gastronomic blowout at lunch. My delicate machine required surprisingly more fuel than that for our lengthy expeditions around town. Fortunately, I was usually able to make do with savory bocadillos (baguette sandwiches filled with omelet, sausage, cheese, etc.), sweet hot chocolate so thick it needed to be eaten with a spoon, or flaky powdered pastries. Sometimes I had them all in one sitting.

Bocadillo de tortilla (omelet), Figueres | Canon 5D, 84mm, 1/50 f5, ISO 200

Tuna bocadillo, tuna empanada, coffee, and cream puffs, Barcelona | Canon 5D, 32mm, 1/200 f7.1, ISO 100

We ventured into Barcelona’s Mercat de la Boqueria one morning, hoping to remedy the dearth of fresh (that is, not fried or drenched in oil) fruits and vegetables in our Spanish diet. I bought strawberry-coconut juice from the first stand I saw, partly because the technicolor straws and signage screamed “Photograph me!” and partly because I thought the mean-looking vendor might yell at me if I took a photo of her goods without buying anything. I thought I sensed an unspoken agreement between us when money exchanged hands–hey, she smiled!–and felt free to snap a photo shortly after. She yelled at me anyway and I scampered off, fearing reprisal from her broom.

I quickly discovered that hers was not the only juice stand at the market, and she was not the only one flaunting colorful straws. In fact, since she was situated right at the entrance, she charged more than the others for juice that was probably out of a can. I guess the lesson here is to not be enchanted by the first set of flashy doodads you see. Oh, and, if you’re in a non-English-speaking destination, beware anything signed in English. These are things I’ve know for a long time but, for some reason, juice caught me off guard. Can I blame it on jetlag?

Juice stand, Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona | Olympus PEN E-P2, 14mm, 1/100 f4, ISO 200

Breakfast with the dogs, Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona | Olympus PEN E-P2, 21mm, 1/60 f4.1, ISO 1250

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