Holland and Neumünster

Our last couple weeks in Europe were a whirlwind of visiting people we hadn’t seen in ages. It was tiring going from place to place so quickly but I’m glad we got to see so many friends and family.

June 18th – June 24th, 2016

We took the bus to Zwijndrect, Holland to visit Mirjam and Kees. Mirjam was my mom’s penpal for a long long time. I visited her 10 years before when I was on exchange in Maastricht too.

We did a big tourist day around their area. We went to Rotterdam and walked around a lot. We looked at the cube houses, ate raw herring at the new market building, had warm stroopwafels, took a boat cruise around the harbour, and more.

After dinner we went for another nice walk around Kinderdijk. It was nice to chat and get some pretty pictures.

The next day it rained so hard. We went to Den Haag so Scott could vote in the Australian election (it’s mandatory!) and watched a lot of English TV, a treat after many weeks of everything dubbed.

We went to the Escher museum the morning morning. I remembered loving it 10 years before. It was still awesome, but the virtual reality thingy wasn’t working!! Noooo, that was the best part!!

Then Scott’s uncle and aunt picked us up and we drove (across the country ;)) to Kampen to see their daughter who just had twins. Scott hadn’t seen his uncle Frank in like 20 years, so they had a lot to talk about! I heard lots of interesting stories, although it’s hard to keep track of who is who since the Jorna family is so large. The twins were mega cute, and it was cool hearing about Rhiannon and Johan’s life in the Caribbean (they were just in Holland for a few weeks to have the babies).

The next day we took the bus and train to Neumünster, Germany to see my aunt and uncle, and my cousin Isabel. The last time I saw Isabel she was 3, and now she is in university!! Everyone was so nice and they organized a very nice couple days for us. They showed us all around the area, including the outlet mall, the lake, an amazing cake cafe, and we went to my uncle’s brother’s house for a delicious German BBQ feast.

My aunt told us lots of stories about my mom, and gave me a bunch of old pictures of mom and all the sisters. It was really nice. We tried our best to convince Isabel to come to Australia on a working holiday visa some day!

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Paris

June 13th – June 18th, 2016

June 13: Very long bus ride from Bayonne to Paris. I was fine, I just played on my iPad the whole time. But Scott was not feeling very well at all. After barely making it to the AirBnb he went straight to bed. I spent the evening figuring out our travel insurance and finding an English-speaking doctor.

June 14: We spent the whole day bringing Scott to the doctors and tests. I have to say… thank goodness he got sick in France and not in Spain because at least I could speak enough French to figure out all the instructions and stuff. Nothing came back too remarkable so the doctor just said not to have any fat or alcohol to avoid anything else happening until our trip was over. Poor Scott, in France and not allowed to have cheese or wine. :(

A brief stroll through the Louvre property in between appointments.

June 15: Scott was already feeling a little better, so we decided to do a bit of walking around the city. What a trooper! We walked along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower, where they had the fan zone for the Euro. There were tons of groups of people everywhere dressed up in their countries colours. (That’s a giant soccer ball dangling off the tower.) We did one of those 1 hr river tours, and then walked up to the Arc de Triomph. I wanted to go up the Arc instead of the Eiffel because I wanted to be able to SEE the Eiffel Tower. The view was amazing! You can see everything!! I really liked how the panoramas turned out, flattening all the street spokes coming off the roundabout into a flat picture, it’s an interesting perspective.

June 16: Perhaps we walked a bit too much the day before, so this day we just stayed near our AirBnb in Montmartre. We took the little tourist train, which was actually great. Lots of info and cool things to look at, and in English!

This is MY favourite picture from the trip, I think. Poor Scott.

June 17: The night before I googled all the best food places in Paris and arranged them all into a big circuit by bus/metro/walking, also stopping by a few more Paris sights that we hadn’t seen yet.

The flakiest butteriest pain au chocolat of my life.

Laduree was doing a pop up shop that sold all white macarons. It was fun trying to figure out the flavours. Mine came with coconut, marshmallow, rose petal, lemon verbena, orange blossom, and tonka. I also got some other macarons from Pierre Hermé: chocolate passion fruit, yogurt lime, yogurt rose lychee raspberry, and passionfruit rhubarb strawberry.

I also got a slice of chocolate log, some chocolate truffle samples, and a really overpriced éclair that had glitter in the icing, for snacks for the next week.

We went to La Grande Épicerie de Paris, which was the fanciest grocery store I have ever seen. It had 1000s of incredible products, like glass jars filled with super thick hot chocolate, every variety of curd, dozens of types of foie gras, so many types of cheese and butter, and everything else you can think of. If only we had infinite money…

I have a lot of regrat for not buying this truffle and grilled hazelnut mustard that came in a super cool geometric jar.

For dinner I had baguette with paté, and a glass of wine in a very traditional brasserie. Great foodie day (for me).

I LOVED Paris. I want to go back so bad, for like… a month. We saw so much cool stuff and we didn’t even go inside any of the museums or anything!

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Carcassonne and Hossegor

June 8th – June 13th, 2016

After Barcelona we headed to Carcassonne, France. We may have picked the destination based on a certain family favourite board game. Coincidentally, Scott’s cousin Shaun (and Karen and baby Archie) were visiting there too at the same time. It’s always fun to hang out with some familiar faces in a foreign country.

The view of the fortified city of Carcassonne from our AirBnb.

Scott claiming a road.

Scott claiming a field.

He actually ended up with a super itchy rash that lasted for a couple days from lying in this grass. Worth it tho??

The castle was really cool. You can go into a lot of the buildings, and walk along the rampart. There are murder holes and draw bridges and all sorts of other medieval goodness. I had just finished reading Pillars of the Earth so everything was extra interesting to me.

After Carcassonne we went to Hossegor, a surfing town on the West coast of France. I had organized it to be a nice beach holiday weekend but never actually checked the weather report. It was like 10 degrees and/or raining the entire time we were there. Doh. Instead of swimming I spent a lot of time playing Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 on my iPad, and Scott watched a lot of the UEFA Euro.

Both Carcassonne and Hossegor had pretty good food. Salads with goat cheese. Duck cassoulet. Giant platters of mussels and fries. Woodfired thin crust pizzas. Giant hamburgers on the beach. CHEESE. Croque monsieurs. Baguettes with Nutella. Local strawberries. Sangria. Cheap tasty house wine.

Too bad it was the last yummy food that Scott would be able to eat…

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Spanish Market Food Porn

Sorry that last one is so offal.

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Valencia and Barcelona

June 4th – June 8th, 2016

After Elche we caught the bus to Valencia for one night. We did a nice DIY walking tour based on the recommendations from our hostel. We tried Valencian horchata, which is made from ground tigernuts. There was lots of cool street art. Scott tried Agua de Valencia (OJ, champagne, vodka and gin) and I had a mediocre mojito. Then we went to bed before the pub crawl group had even left because we are old and boring. :P

I love Barcelona. We crammed as much as possible into 3 days, but it totally wasn’t long enough. I think it would be very easy to spend 2 weeks there and not run out of stuff to do.

Day 1: Park Guell. I had been there before but I don’t think we climbed to the very back of the park last time. Spectacular views. The park is awesome as well, but it was filled with hordes of people. We still got some nice pictures though.

Day 2: Port Aventura. I love going to amusement parks in new countries. This one only had a few roller coasters, but the few that they had were good ones.

  • Khan: 8 loops. A bit violent on the ears. Standard. B+
  • Shambala: Giant up & down speed coaster. Fun! Painful in the rain (like needles to the face!). A-
  • Furious Baco: Super short, but SUPER INTENSE ACCELERATION & SPEED! It was especially fun the first time we rode it when we had no idea what to expect. My eyes watered and Scott drooled, hahaha. A+

Also amusing: Spanish bumper car culture is very different than Canadian. Everyone was just driving around avoiding the other people!! I felt super overly aggressive because most people were not trying to bump into each other. I may have traumatized some children.

We went out for a really nice dinner at La Vietnamita that evening back in Barcelona. We had banh mi, sticky shrimp rolls, and the most delicious ceviche ever: white fish, lime, cilantro, cabbage, tomato and PASSION FRUIT.

 

Day 3: Mega tourist day. We walked around for the whole day. We went to the Sagrada Familia, other Gaudi buildings, Las Ramblas, 2 markets, the cathedral, the city beach, the Picasso Museum, and much more that I am forgetting. We also went to a few of the remaining bars that still give out free tapas with drinks.

The Picasso Museum was great. We especially liked the temporary exhibition of 156 engravings. They were… interesting. Lots of boobs and buttholes, and most of them had a creepy Degas looking in from the corner/window. Very strange. Scott and I liked trying to guess what the titles of the pieces would be, since they were quite literal once you figured out what was happening in the picture. Ex. “Prostitute Eating Grapes”, or “Prostitute With Parrot with Degas as a Voyeur”. Ha.

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