July 23, 2011

Scotland pt. 2

On our first afternoon in Scotland, Mark and I drove to Dundee and visited his old school, the High School of Dundee. Most famous alumni: William Wallace. (Fun fact: Mark was in Wallace House.)

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After a quick tour of Dundee, we made our way through the Kingdom of Fife and Angus. We stopped to see Glamis Castle, where the Queen Mum lived as a girl. I could see her sending her page to fetch Dubonnet and gin for a picnic under this tree. Well, maybe not as a girl...

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The grounds are dotted with Highland cattle ("Heeland coos"), and I was obsessed with getting one to approach me so I could take a close-up shot. My attempts were not successful.


Lady, I am not remotely interested.

The drive through the Kingdom of Fife and Angus was amazing! Dramatic skies, lots of sheep and lambs (though not in this picture). We stopped to visit the house that Mark and his family used to live in.


In Arbroath, we hiked along the coast and took a walk through the ruins of Arbroath Abbey. Before we left, I found a seafood shop, where I bought my souvenir of Arbroath: an Arbroath smokie, aka smoked haddock. When we got back to Paris, my sister and I tried it; we agreed it wasn't that great straight up, but it was tasty when made into a pot of Cullen skink.

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That evening, we drove to Glasgow, where we met up with Mark's old friend Fharhad, his sister Emma, her husband Stefan and their two adorable boys. We had a fantastic curry dinner (I WAS DYING for spicy food) at Mother India's and then stayed up late having hilarious conversations. I didn't take any pictures, which is evidence that it was super fun.

After a huge breakfast the next morning, Mark/Fharhad and I drove to Anstruther, a fishing village in the East Neuk.

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Anstruther is famous for its fish and chip shop. Stefan told us not to get our hopes up too high, because "at the end of the day, it's still just fish and chips." But! They were fantastic. The haddock was sweet, the batter was crisp and shattery and not at all greasy.

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After lunch, we drove to Crail, another tiny village in the Neuk. We walked down to the coast, which was super beautiful. We were lucky with the weather that day, right?

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On the drive to Saint Andrews, we passed this ridiculously charming church on a bluff overlooking the ocean.

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It was Saint Andrews graduation weekend, so we got to see lots of graduates decked out in kilts. We also walked through the ruins of the cathedral, ate ice cream, and strolled through the golf course and onto the beach.

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After spending the afternoon in Saint Andrews, we drove back through Dundee to visit with Fharhad's dad. It was his day off, so he offered to whip up his famous onion pakoras with tomato chutney and a lovely chicken curry. He gently admonished Fharhad for giving him only 30 minutes notice or he could have made us something "really good," which made me laugh. If 3 hungry people showed at my house, I would probably be forced to suggest going out for tacos.

And later that evening, Mark had a mini-reunion in Edinburgh with his best friends from the High School of Dundee, David and Fharhad.

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And this is the three musketeers, last time they got together (on film!):

Mountford, Fharhad, and me

Next post: a road trip to the Isle of Skye and the Highlands.

July 22, 2011

Scotland pt. 1

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As I mentioned before, we had a most excellent trip to Scotland a few weeks ago. It was one of the loveliest trips we've taken in a long time, mostly because of all the good company we shared. We road tripped with  Mike and Megan and were lucky enough to stay with with some generous, amazing hosts in Edinburgh and Glasgow --thank you Jared/Cora, Emma/Stefan/Fharhad, and David/Sarah!

I'll be recapping our trip in the next few posts, but I thought I'd start with photos from a morning Megan and I spent in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.








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Being someone who is somewhat obsessed with green spaces in cities, I wanted to visit all the parks in Edinburgh. I found out that access to the gated Queens Street Gardens is limited to those who live nearby (fine, be that way) but Princes Street is open to the public. My favorite was the Botanic Gardens, which were quiet, empty and super lush.

July 13, 2011

it's mid-July

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I'm missing our quiet little cottage, garden and backyard back in California. For every minute I spend pushing my way through crowds on the metro, or hearing our neighbors chatter in the courtyard all evening (misanthrope much?), I find myself longing for calm and quiet. In Paris, that means parks, cemeteries and little-visited museums. Above: John's photos from our stroll through Pere LaChaise cemetery and visit to the courtyard of the Musee Carnavalet (an excellent, free, little-touristed museum). Pretty, huh?

(But -- I'll be setting aside my desire for calm tonight and tomorrow, so we can properly celebrate la Fete Nationale! Bals des pompiers, all night dance parties, fireworks by the Tour Eiffel, the works. Can't wait.)

Eiffel Tower 120th Anniversary
[photo attribution: Dwinton]

summer drinking

This summer, I've been on very good terms with our neighborhood wine vendor. I walk in, he gives me a big smile and immediately asks what we're cooking that night. Based on my response, he asks a few follow up questions -- do we prefer dry or sweet? light or something with un peu de caractere? what is our budget? He is always urging us to try something new, which I like, and the bottles he recommends have been great every single time. So helpful.

After sampling a few bottles of Breton cider when Julia and John came to visit, I asked our vendor to recommend more ciders for us to try. So far, our favorite is an organic cider that costs a whopping 3,85 euros. It's just the kind of drink I want on a warm summer night. I also like the Manoir de Kinkiz brut cider (not to mention every last thing on the menu, actually) at West Country Girl, in the 11eme arrondissement (6 passage Sainte-Ambroise).

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July 11, 2011

Les Papilles

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A highlight of our visit with Julia and John was a delicious, incredibly fun dinner at Bistroy Les Papilles. The restaurant is small, bright and relaxed, full of people oohing and ahhing over their food and buzzing about the wine.

They offer a 4-course set menu unique for 32 euro, which is hard to beat in Paris. Les Papilles doubles as a wine shop, and the owner instructed us to walk around and choose from the dozens of bottles lining the walls for a 7 euro corkage fee. I felt awkward about this, as it meant standing thisclose to the other guests' tables and apologetically interrupting their conversation to grab a bottle from the shelf. Most were good-natured about it, though, so it ended up being okay.

The food is sophisticated French bistro, not super ambitious, but tasty and well done. Julia was especially taken with the pea soup garnished with crispy bacon, raw radishes, whole peas, and sauteed leeks. After her first spoonful, her eyes nearly popped out of her head. I was a fan of the second course, a platter of braised pork belly and white beans -- the upmarket version of franks and beans, we joked -- with an intensely green, garlicky pesto. And we drank a nice bottle of red wine from the Loire Valley, though the name totally escapes me now. Throw in a cheese course and a pineapple panna cotta, and we were feeling full and buzzy.

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We tumbled out of the restaurant around 12:30am and decided to prolong our evening by walking home. We walked along the Seine, where John took some excellent shots of Notre Dame. All in all, it was a beautiful way to spend an evening. Thanks Julia and John, for your friendship and a wonderful 2 weeks!

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July 10, 2011

Sunday afternoons

I am so incredibly behind on posting. Luckily I have all my pictures to jog my memory about things we've done. Meanwhile, in the present day, Julia and John have left (SOB), my sister is here (HOORAY), Mark and I spent a fantastic week in Scotland, Mark/Lynh/I just came back from a week long jaunt to Budapest, and now we're back in Paris. I never thought I'd say it, but I'm tired of traveling (mostly, taking the crowded/hot/smelly RER train to the airport) and am looking forward to enjoying our last 3 weeks in Paris.

Now, for some pictures from a recent (perfect) Sunday afternoon. It was the first Sunday of the month, which meant all the museums were free. We started with a visit to Pompidou, where the modern art is great and the contemporary art is baffling.

After a quick picnic lunch (we got really into picnic lunches on this trip!), we strolled over to the Musee Rodin, my favorite museum in Paris. The art and sculpture in the Hotel Biron are nice, but the most enjoyable part of the Musee is the gardens. They are gated and feel totally tucked away from the rest of the city, which means you and your friends (and all the other Parisians who come there on Sundays) have a nice time roaming around or sitting on a park bench chatting.







On this particular Sunday afternoon, we also saw about a thousand rollerbladers making their way through the 7th arrondissement. Rollerbladers never look as cool as they think they do, but when they are en masse like this, I have to admit it's a formidable sight.


We also took a walk along the Seine as the sun was setting. The light was insane. Do you see this light?! And this gorgeous friend of mine?! Seriously.