Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday July 30, 2016

So it's Saturday morning and I have to hustle to make it on two metro lines to get to the tour beginning point today.  I decided since we were going to be outdoors at both Versailles and at Monet's home/gardens in Giverny that I would wear the cool wide brimmed hat I found at Kohls.

I grabbed the leftover baguette from the tasting yesterday and hoped I'd find someplace to grab a coffee and croissant once I got close, if I had time.  By the time I did arrive, and check in, I didn't have time to find a place, so I settled for a few pieces of stale baguette and figured I'd find something to eat at Versailles, somewhere.  I got a good seat with plenty of leg room and settled back for the ride.  We rode along Rue de Tivoli and the Champs de Lysee and I recognized both places from my visit 20 years ago.  I had spent maybe an hour or two in the Louvre and decided that was more than enough.  I went and got a soda in the Tuilleries Gardens and it was a hot day.  When I finished I walked up the Champs de Lysee and spotted some really cool Doc Martin looking ankle boots with a hole in the sole to string a leather lace through before wrapping the ankle with the same lace.  I went into the shop to find out how much it was, and ended up buying $2500 worth of clothes and shoes.  It was gorgeous stuff, a couple of scarves,  2 hand knit delicate lightweight open weave sweaters and a really cool dress with an underskirt.  I also bought a cool black wrap skirt with a bustle in gorgeous fabric.  Wait, that was 20 years ago, not this trip. Back to today.

We arrived at Versailles and had 2 hours and 45 minutes before we headed back to Paris.  We were within the first 50 people in line this day and the doors opened and we got in quickly (when we left the wait time was over an hour to enter the building)   Guards quickly visually looked in our bags, and then inside we had to put them in an x-ray machine.  The tour included an audio guide to the buildings, but I skipped that since our time here was so short, and I'm more a visual person than a history buff.  I made quick work of the entire building, lots of paintings and statues.  My favorite gallery had at least a dozen beautiful chandeliers and since I love glass and crystal, I thought it was beautiful.  My only other thought inside the building was that the beds were so high, and in those days the people were so tiny, I couldn't for the life of me figure out how they got into bed.

Coming down the last set of stairs I headed outside into the gardens.  You were able from inside (upstairs) to catch glimpses of gardens, but the scale of them was not obvious until you were on the ground.

By now I was starving, so I asked the guards where in the gardens I could get a coffee and something to eat and they gave me two locations.  I headed out into the gardens and down to a lower level and kept looking till I found a café.  Since Versailles only opened at 9am, many people were still ooouuuing and ahhhing inside the building and so the gardens were virtually mine. A cute young red haired boy waiter seated me and brought me water and the café crème I ordered.  I asked for a Croque Monsieur (ham & cheese) for breakfast so he turned the ticket into the kitchen.  A few moments later he came over with a basket of strawberries and although I didn't order fruit, he insisted I try 4 of them because they had just come in for the day.  Despite my insistence I was not hungry he persisted, coming back a few minutes later with a basket of raspberries- and honestly they were the best raspberries I have ever had. My sandwich arrived, and I almost wolfed it down.

I headed back out into the gardens.  I had my jambu's on today, and they are great for walking but today there was a lot of gravel so lots of times they were not the best choice and I was walking gingerly.  This time of year they have a "fountain show" along with music several times a day.  at 11:00am the show started and it was spectacular.  All of the fountains in the garden  are on continuously during the show, so no matter where you are, you are seeing it.  There is something very special about ancient buildings, gardens, and classical music.  It transports you to another deeper place. I get very emotional for no logical reason.  Today it was Vivaldi.  Beautiful.  There is absolutely no way I could walk the entire garden.  I don't even know how big it is, but I can see it on the horizon.  Parts of it reminded me of Marrakech.  Other parts of England or Ireland.  It is a very special place, but the 2-1/2 hours were perfect for me.

I went out the gates and got on the bus, back to Paris.  The guide mentioned, as we were going through a tunnel, that this was the tunnel Princess Diana had died in. YUCK!  I could have lived without that knowledge.  It did make me think of how her life was cut short, and I got a little emotional again. 

We got back to the tourism office, and I had an hour to kill.  I walked around the closest corner and kept walking eventually seeing a Sephora and thinking that perhaps it was time to start cleaning up my act and looking more feminine.  I hate the pic of me with the Chef at Arpege.  I look, I don't know, ugly.  So I slipped in to buy some lipstick, and maybe some mascara and found what I was looking for with the aide of a knowledgeable associate.

I headed back to the tourism office to check in for the Giverny Tour.  There were only maybe 16 of us headed that way, so we actually got going on time.  It took approximately 1-1/2 hours to get to the tiny village. We passed though beautiful countryside and farms, with lovely vintage houses, but some newer ugly ones also along the highway.  We finally arrived and walked from the bus a block or two from the entrance.  The roads and paths leading from the parking log to the entrance , and all over the little town of Giverny are absolutely beautiful and landscaped to fit the vibe.

Our guide suggested we visit the Japanese Garden, then the Flower Garden, then Monet's house to maximize our time.  It wasn't until I finished up the flower garden that I remembered there was a Japanese garden somewhere and started looking for it.  The entrance is down some stairs just to the right of the gate where you come in.  I missed it entirely until I backtracked.

I walked down the stairs down the hallway and back up.  Here was Monet's lily pond, with view points, a bridge and pathways around the pond.  I walked around and soaked up the beauty, taking a few photos along the way.  Finished just as it was getting crowded, I headed back into the flower garden and to the home entryway.  The house is two story with lots of small rooms.  Monet had tons of kids so it must have been crowded.  Now paintings line the walls, and there is nothing really special about the house.  I zoomed through it, as the crowds were now growing and I'm not a big fan of crowds.

I went through the gift shop quickly, glancing at the offerings, finally deciding I'd buy a coated reusable bag for my dirty laundry, and it was only 3 euros.  I stepped out of the exit and spotted a charming looking hotel and restaurant, so I walked down there and ordered a Soupe de Poissant (Fish Soup and a beer shandy. I grabbed the two pieces of baguette to take with me to finish up the cheese leftover from the tasting yesterday and the last of the figs I bought for dinner tonite.
So here I am, the end of my third day on the ground here, and ready for tomorrow.

Friday July 29, 2016

Be sure to click on the flickr photos link on the right side of my blog (on a pc or laptop anyway) and look for my camera roll if you haven't spotted the 3 million photos I've posted on facebook lol.

Got up around 7:30am and got ready to face the day.  I had signed up for two 1/2 day tours through the tourism bureau for Saturday and they required that I print out the vouchers in order to get on the bus.  I found a place to do this, but got a little turned around and after 20 minutes I finally spotted it, just as it started raining.  Got on the metro, and off at Chatelet, but construction closed the train I needed to get on- in my direction.  Up the stairs and down others to take the train to Gare de Nord, then get out and up and over to St. Germaine.  When I came up the stairs, there were a few people standing inside under cover, it had started raining and they were trying to stay dry.  An older man chuckled as I continued up into the rainy morning; "It's good for your skin and good for your hair" I said. 

I crossed the street and darted into a McDonalds to check my bearings and figure out which way to walk,  That app is pretty great, and I saw I was headed in the right direction and pretty close to my destination.  I was meeting a small group in  front of Café Renard at 10:00am for a Taste of the Left Bank conducted by Paris by Mouth.  Since I was early I went inside the café and ordered a cappuccino and a croissant.

I still had time so I got a coffee and gazed out at the slippery streets and daydreamed.  It is so beautiful here.  I feel so calm.

Around the time the tour started I saw two ladies standing in front of the café and asked them if they were doing the tour.  They were Americans, but no, they were just trying to decide which way to go.  I hung out a few minutes more until I saw a lady with a bag full of water bottles.  She saw me at the same time and walked up and introduced herself- Sarah-  originally from LA, became sushi chef in Japan and NYC, now living here 6 years I think she said and working as a restaurant consultant, and doing these Paris by Mouth Tours a couple days a week.  She's great!  She is dying to go down to TJ and Valle de Guadalupe so she is now my FB friend so she can see who's who and what is happening through my adventures.

The rest of our group showed up.  A family with two boys from Aruba.  I think he is originally from the Netherlands and the wife is from cuba.  The oldest boy is 15-1/2.  The other couple are from Vancouver and the Philippines.  He runs a family business in the Philippines as his parents are older and need his help.  So he visits his family when he can.  They are off to visit family in Spain, and have been staying with their daughter who is living in Paris.  This was a great group and the size of the group was perfect for my taste. 

We started out at the original Eric Kayser Bakery on Rue de L'Ancienne Comedie where we picked up a baguette monge for our tasting later in the tour.  We had a taste of plie chocolate and almond croissants just outside.  I learned that these flavored croissants were a way to use up leftovers from the day before.  We also learned that every Eric Kayser bakery has the same yeasty mother starter that he has had since he started his business.  I am not really a chocolate croissant fan, but OMG I took several pieces-  perhaps it has to do with the chocolate he uses- only the best.  And he couldn't find the almonds of the quality he wanted, so he grows his own.

The next place we visited was Laurent Dubois Fromagerie on Boulevard St. Germain. What do they sell?  Cheese, cheese, and more cheese.  Every kind of cheese you would want, whether or not you had any idea it existed!  She encouraged us to try the unpasteurized cheese that we can't bring into the states -  and we weren't sorry.  She suggested that if you buy cheese here (the kind that is legal to bring home of course) that you ask that it be vacuum packed and put it in your checked luggage so it will stay cold and will remain good during the flight.  when you get home however, you should take it out of the vacuum pack and wrap it in paper, never plastic or a zip lock like (I'll admit it" ) I always do.  Or should I say, I have always done prior to this tour, and I promise not to do it again.  I also believe I'm going to have to stop buying supermarket cheese and visit Venissimo more regularly. 

Next we went to Patrick Roger chocolate on Boulevard Saint-Germain.  He has carved chocolate animals (see my pics of the gorilla currently on display) in every one of his shops.  The shop is like a gallery and the chocolates are the art.  Sarah bought several for us to try at our tasting.  I bought some hot chocolate for my friends from Clermont Ferrand as a hostess gift.  It comes in a cool gift bag too.

On our way again, we went to Autre Chose Charcuterie & Traiteure on Rue de Buci and bought pate de lapin, rosete de lyon, jambon de bayone.  They also had some truffles in jars for big bucks, and I thought of TJ Cox who told me at Stand Down with Julie Darling's JCUV that I should bring a truffle home for her.  I should have taken a picture at least to give to her, but I was really intimidated by the price tag.  Sorry TJ, i'll find some small thing since you asked lol.

We headed around a few corners and ended up at La Demiere Goutte wine shop on Rue Bourbon le Chateau.  It is owned by an American guy who is a friend of Sarah's and we were having our tasting in the back, along with wine from his shop.  We trailed into the back.  The young boys tried a taste of wine but didn't really like it.  The older one wanted to combine the cheese and salami in a sandwich but mom said no.  The younger one would not touch the cheese at all.  The rest of us had a great time chatting and eating and drinking.  Our guide Sarah gave us lots of great information about each taste and things to watch for in each category.

The wines we drank were 2015 Sancerre, Domaine Sauterau and a 2014 Saint-Joseph Yves Cuilleron, Les Pierres Seches.

The cheeses, oh those cheeses were:
Goat :
1. Saint Nicolas de la Dalmerie (3 weeks, Languedoc)
2. Selles-sur-Cher (10-21 days, Loire)
Brie de Meaux with truffles AOC (6-8 weeks Ile-de-France)
Palet de Bourgogne (4-6 weeks, /Burgundy)
Ossau Iraty (Basque Pyrenees 8-17 months)
Bleu de Laqueville (3 months Auvergne)

We got up and trailed out of the store, ready to say our good-byes but Sarah lead us around the block to La Maison de Chou Pastry Shop on Rue de Furtenberg.  We each got a small chou with our choice in flavored fromage blanc individually injected as ordered.  Once this was over, we left the tiny shop and were about to disperse and go our separate ways when we spotted two young girls with 3 Italian greyhounds, so of course we had to go over to pet them. 
When it was time to leave, we all wished each other happy travels, and I headed back to my airbnb.  I had looked up steak houses and wanted to do steak frites for dinner.  I got home and collapsed once again in a heavy nap in the hot humid afternoon, after sending an email requesting a reservation to a place nearby.

I woke up around 5:30 got dressed and headed out.  I found the restaurant easily but they were just opening at 7:30 so I couldn't get in yet.  The ladies behind the bar told me to go across the street to another place by the same owner that was attracting an afterwork happy hour crowd.  I sat at the bar and had a glass of wine and people watched, as always a fun thing to do. 

When it was time for my reservation I headed back across the street. The restaurant has a small bar, two love seats in the front, small tables against the other wall, and another sofa seating area near the back.  I chose to sit at the bar.  They had lots of choices of beef, with a few other things.  They were offering foie gras as an appetizer so I dove write in.  I ordered a filet with mixed vegetables and frites.  It was served with a blue cheese and a mustard house made sauce.  I ate it all , along with a few pieces of bread.

After I was finished I headed back to my airbnb and went to sleep, making sure my alarm was set for 6:30 as I needed to be at the Louvre-Rivoli station to go to Versailles and Giverny tomorrow morning at 8:00 am.

Just another yummy day!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Day 2 Paris 7/28/16

Good Morning.  It was a bit overcast today, and I booked a trip to Giverny and Versailles on Saturday and needed to print out the voucher so I had to go to a Copy Top and have them do it for me.  It began to sprinkle as I walked over, and I got a little lost, but with the app I have on my phone with GPS I eventually found it.  It's called next stop paris, and you can figure out how to get just about anywhere in the city by metro and walking. 

I realized as I walked there that the partner bank for Bank of America is right around the corner, so I could use the ATM without foreign transaction fees.  There is also a drug store if necessary.  I bought two umbrellas before I left the states, but decided to leave them at home.  It didn't rain enough to make it necessary today, just made it muggy.  I realized that I had left my earrings in my airbnb, so I thought I'd see if I could pick something up before lunch.

I headed via the metro to Bastille area and had a quick breakfast of baguette, croissant, fresh squeezed OJ and a cappuccino at Indiana right across the street from the Bastille Thursday markets.  After breakfast I walked through the markets, and would have bought tons of things if I was going directly back to the room, but I had lunch reservations at Chef Alain Passard's Arpege at 12:30 so I skipped buying fish or anything perishable.  I did however buy a cotton scarf- I guess I should share that I am addicted to scarves- I have so many and only wear a few of them.  But since I left them all at home I really needed this one (LOL).  I also bought a beautiful French tomato, and a basket of figs for later.

Around 11:00am I headed back to the metro and went to St. Germaine du Pres station, and it was supposed to be a 6 minute walk to Arpege so I stopped at the Café deux magots and had a Sancerre as a reward for my pending walk to the restaurant.  After I finished, I crossed the street and began my walk. I walked and walked and walked.  I was in an area where there were very high end shops and a few embassies. There were police everywhere.  I walked and walked and finally, sweaty, with no more lipstick, messy hair that had been sprinkled on, and no jewelry, I walked in.

They seated me right near the front door, but behind a divider facing into the room.  It was perfect being tucked in a corner, where I could see all the guests, and everything coming out of the kitchen across the room.  I was the second table for the lunch seating but it soon filled up. The acoustics were great in there, you really were not bothered by talking at all.  It was really fun watching the orchestration of service, and people's faces as they tried each new dish that appeared.  I was taking pictures and attempting to get descriptions of each dish, but jet lag made remembering what they said even in the moment an impossible task so I just did the best I could, and probably got some of the descriptions wrong.  That's OK- no one will die.  I had sparkling water throughout, and the bread and butter (both a hunk of butter, or a melted butter) were great and never ending.  I started with a glass of champagne, and because I had also had that glass of wine before I walked in, I mostly drank the sparkling water until near the end when I indulged in one more.

Every single course was amazing.  All together I believe there were 14 courses, and not one that I disliked even a tiny bit.  Even the soft boiled egg with sherry vinegar "hot and cold egg" was delicious and I pushed past my distaste for eggs that are runny or separated to take advantage of this unique experience.  I am so glad I did.

When it was all over, I waited for my check to appear and by that time I was really woozy, and almost falling asleep in my chair.  I finally expedited it, and since I paid cash I was able to depart.  I started walking back to the metro station, but it was hot and humid, and I was so tired and woozy I decided to take a cab back to the apartment.  I saw a taxi rank up ahead and headed back.

When we arrived at the airbnb, I paid and hopped out of the cab.  I headed towards the door and mistakenly discovered I thought I had left one of my bags in the taxi- the one with my passport, my money, my credit cards.  I walked back towards the street in hopes that that taxi would reappear.  I kept looking in my larger bag and my grocery bag.  I couldn't believe it.  I tried not to panic and to figure out what I was going to do.  Then I looked down and saw that I had put the strap over my head and the bag was right there.  An old man on a bench motioned that I should close up all the zippers.  I tried to explain what he had just observed, but he just motioned to zip up the bags, so I headed back and inside, took everything out of both bags, opened the windows, and went to sleep. 

Waking up at 11:00pm I decided to eat the tomato and figs along with some chocolate pudding I bought last night, upload my photos to flickr and continue with the blog for today.  I am a little hot right now, but going to take a sleeping aid/pill and get some rest so I feel a little more grounded tomorrow for my Taste of the Left Bank small group tour with Paris by Mouth.  Catt White and Kalisa Wells have given me some great leads on  other places to visit after the tour ends at 1 or 2. 

Good night for now!  To see my pics, if you aren't on FB, you can click on the flickr link on the right and it will take you to my page.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Day One Paris and the Journey

It's 4am on Tuesday, July 27, 2016.  My alarm just went off.  I quietly slipped into the bathroom for a refresher shower closing the door so the dogs would hopefully stay asleep in their crates.  Getting dressed I decided I needed to hug them, and let them pee since I would be walking right by their crates and I could see them watching me.

I moved my luggage out to the garage last night, but I know my older pup Punkita (Pumpkyn) knows something is up.  I had brought it inside a month ago, for the same reason- to fool the dogs.  I managed to get everything into a carry on bag plus a pushing-the-size-limits "personal item.

Luring the dogs back into their crates with a treat, I turned on the radio for them as I normally do when I am leaving the house, and closed the door into the house then opened the garage door to move outside and keep an eye out for the shuttle. 

Great timing!  It was already coming up the street so we were on the road by 4:30 headed for Lindbergh field.  I was on a standby list to fly out to Chicago at 6:45am then on to CDG Paris.  I got to the airport and had a Phil's BBQ shredded pork burrito for breakfast, then into Peet's for a latte wake up.

I had managed to get a reservation for lunch at the Michelin Star rated #25 restaurant in the world "Arpege" in Paris on Wednesday July 28th- so I had to get to Paris on the 27th to settle in and actually arrive for  the reservation.  They charge $200 euros for no show or cancellations -  which increased my stress level in the San Diego airport and my need to be on my way to Europe (anywhere) on the 26th.

The airport was packed, and every United flight heading out was fully booked, and most overbooked.  My decision to not check luggage, and to obtain a Global Entry pass got me into the TSA Precheck line, and quickly to the gates.  By 5am, it was obvious that my free pass didn't get me close enough to actually board the 6 or 7 flights I booked, then cancelled as seats disappeared from the load and passholders with higher priority than me were doing the same thing on every single flight through 10 am.  Around 10am  I "bit the bullet" and paid for a first class seat on a flight to Houston- only 3 revenue seats were left, and the standby list showed I was #10.  I still couldn't get to Chicago for my overseas flight- or to any of the other US airports that had flights to Paris today- so Houston seemed to be my best bet to get out of the US to somewhere relatively close to Paris, and then I'd have a day to figure out how to get to the city of lights from wherever I landed.

Of course with all the chaos at the airport, my online purchase was "in the queue" and I still didn't have a boarding pass as boarding began.  But luck was with me and I got the OK a few minutes later and boarded.  I was in the front row on the aisle seat.  Right now I couldn't tell you a thing other than that since I was so stressed out changing my flights at least 10 times since arrival at the airport.  My app was full of boarding passes and reminder alerts  for flights I had to cancel to try to get on another one where the odds were greater I would actually make it on the plane.

Well, maybe one or two more things.  I did get a free glass of red wine at 11:00am once I was in my seat.  The young girl next to me was talking on the phone or texting for the last 30-40 minutes before we took off. I also remember they fed us something, but it was forgettable.   That same young girl had at least 5 more wines during the flight- which I probably might have done also if I was her age- but I needed my wits about me.  A lady around my age put on her compression socks, which reminded me to do the same so my ankles upon arrival in Paris wouldn't look like I had elephantitis.

Once we got to Houston, it was easy.  I was #8 on the standby list for Frankfurt and there were 6 first class seats and something like 18 business first class seats so I knew the odds looked great.  My phone battery was pretty strained after the last few hours, so I found a plug high up on the wall, and spent my last hour on the ground entertaining everyone who passed and say me sitting with my phone in the air to keep the cord attached. 

15 minutes before boarding I got by boarding pass, thanked my friend via text who has given me air priveleges by air this year, and I was first in the queue to board.  Met a nice couple headed for Prague in line.  Finally into the plane and into my large comfy padded Business 1st class seat that turns into a bed!  The flight attendant got me a glass of wine, and a "Olympic tin can" full of amenities like toothbrush/paste, moisturizer, lip balm, socks, etc.  I did manage to shove it in my carryon, but won't bring it home.  Takes up too much room.

Just before we took off, my seat partner on the other side of the divider arrived and we chatted for a few minutes.  Steve is the CEO of Rand McNally.  He asked me if I knew who they were and I said "Maps" which was my only frame of reference.  Steve has been with them for 3 years after other jobs at HP and Apple.  He told me all about what they are doing now, and that they have products for long haul truckers and are developing noise cancelling earphones.  I told him what my plan for this trip was and that I would be visiting friends from Clermont Ferrand I hadn't seen in 20 years.  I explained I had met the husband on a flight between Sydney Australia and Noumea New Caledonia during my working residency in Sydnay 1989-94.  He was a young man heading there to teach for a year as an alternative to mandatory service in the French military.  We had exchanged contact info at the end of the flight, and then we parted ways-  me on my way to a Club Med (lol) and he to his new job.  A year or so later when he was headed back to France, he wrote that he was passing through Sydney.  I picked him up and brought him back to the house I was living at in Lane Cove, and we went to a party with all of my girlfriends who adored him!  Then he was off, and headed back to France.

Steve has never been to Australia but really wants to go.  He showed me that whenever he can't sleep he listens to Bill Bryson's Sunburnt Country audio book to get to sleep.  I encourage him to go, and told stories of my five year stay there and how much I loved it. I also mentioned to him the Map & Atlas Museum of LaJolla where the SD Press Club had an event a few years ago, and he is going to try to visit on his next business trip to San Diego. He also made a note to read "A Fortunate Life" by Fahey- that I recommended which is an awesome book about Aussies and Australia.

When my working visa was up in Australia, I decided to use up all of my savings and travel for 4 months.  I bought a "round the world" air ticket and took off.  Before I left however, I knew I was going to England and France for sure, so I wrote to this young French guy and said, hey I'm passing through on my way to Spain- would be fun to catch up.  He responded letting me know he was now married, but "come on down".  When I arrived in Clermont Ferrand in 1994 I had an amazing time with Didier and Anne, her sister, their friends and I was there I think for maybe two weeks. They took me all over and I had so much fun and met so many people.

Over the years since, we lost touch, but I reconnected through facebook with Anne a few years ago, and Didier & Anne invited me to join them on their holidays this year.  I was overwhelmed that they extended this invitation, and decided to take them up on the invite.  They gave me the choice how long I would stay- from one to six weeks, and I told them I would come for two weeks.  I am old enough to know that was long enough to catch up and still be welcome.  They said we would meet in Lyon and stay at a relative's home for a few days, then to their country home, and eventually to their home in Clermont Ferrand.  A few days before I flew out however, they added two nights in a 2 bedroom apartment in a castle through airbnb near Chateau de Chambord!  I said "oh yeah!" and so we have added this to the trip.

Finally arrived at Charles de Gaulle around 2pm Paris time.  Stopped to buy and install a sim card in my phone and text my friends I was in the country, and Arpege confirming my lunch reservation.  Got my ticket and on the train to the city, getting off at Gare du Nord.  Of course, being really tired didn't help and I walked up and down stairs hauling my very heavy carry on and my personal bag, and couldn't find the exit for at least 15 minutes. Eek, was I tired or what.  Made my way to the taxi rank, texted my airbnb host, and relaxed for the 10 minutes it took to get a cab, and the 10 minutes to the airbnb. 

After checking in, I let all my friends at home, including my dog sitter, and got organized.  Around 5pm I finally took a shower, changed my clothes and went to the supermarket next door and looked at my choices for some food- deciding on chocolate pudding and raisin bread since I had been eating constantly during travel and wasn't really hungry. I crashed out by 8:30 after screwing up the cable TV in the airbnb so I get no reception, and finally accessing the wifi here.  I was just brain dead and needed rest.

Thursday AM
Woke at 3:30am EU time, but laid quietly till around 4:30.  Decided to get up and write about my trip so far before I lose more of the details.  This morning I'll make a nespresso in a few minutes, and make reservations for the train to Lyon on Sunday so I can let my friends know when I will arrive to meet them.  I'll get dressed and face the day- after figuring out how to get to the restaurant by 12:30 for lunch and head out for breakfast, and maybe the Bastille Market before I head for lunch.  After lunch I may check out the Marais neighborhood.  I got some great tips from San Diego's own Catt White via email yesterday, and I'm going to try to fit them in around my planned activities in the city.
More later.....


Friday, July 15, 2016

A Mid-week daycation in Tijuana

It's easy for me to blog when I am traveling, and I am going to try hard to update this every day, and to upload photos to flickr with links in the posts. 

I just checked on my foreign currency order and oops it didn't go through on a major bank's website.  Scary that.

I've had an interesting week.  On Wednesday I joined some people on a trip to Tijuana MX for a food and wine tour and a party at The Kitchen Project by Josue Castro celebrating Vinos Maga  and Chefs Dona Esthela and La Guerrerense Sabina Bandera.

We met up at the Old Town transit center around 3:00pm and were picked up by Rogue TJ's own Fernando Gaxiola.  Four of us, and Fernando headed down the road to TJ, cracking open a bottle of white (I don't think any of us paid attention to what it was) wine for the transit across the border.  Kind of like christening a ship.  I joked "Maybe we should wait until we get through here before we open it up" and laughed along with everyone else.

Our first stop was a favorite of several guests (basically everyone but me since I had never been there and would never had "happened upon it" on my own.  Mariscos el Mazateno Tijuana-  located "on the hill" across from a soccer field near the corner of Technologico & Popotla.  The sign on the building says "Enchiladas" so you wouldn't know you were in the right place until you see the building that is like a "V" and is right on the corner.  I'll upload photos later to make it easier.

Fernando ordered for us, and we all had "broth" to start which was the broth the seafood was cooked in.  We had the crunchy shrimp and pulpo (octopus) taco which was something that was so great it will be a must have every time I pass over the border from here on in.  It was soooo yummy.  We also had a second taco of chiccarones & a fish in batter that was fried.  It was great too, but the shrimp and pulpo is exceptional.

We hopped back in the car and headed to stop 2, for a drink.  I'm not quite sure where we went, but it was a series of alleys with craft beer places on either side.  We walked one way and made a right and passed several places stopping at Fernando's favorite  Border Psycho Brewery.  I neglected to note that between getting out of the car and entering the maze of pathways we stopped to take a picture of one of the guests in front of a sex shop. LOL.

I shared a "sampler" of 5 x 4oz brews with another guest -  (1) FAUNA  Penelope Coffee Porter 6.2% (2) Belga Sicotica Black Saison 7% (3) Muneca Prieta Peanut Butter 6.3% (4) Brutal c/café Nitro 10.5% and (5) Guera Prieta Caffe Cream w/vanilla. 

#1 was good, but ordinary
#2 we both liked this alot.
#3 this was really interesting and the peanut butter scent seemed to grow stronger with each taste.
#4 was the winner of these 5 (and also the largest alcohol content lol)
#5 was a "white" beer which seemed odd because of the coffee, but was interesting and tasty.

Time to pick up a latecomer at the border, so we hopped back in the SUV and drove to pick her up.  We then headed for a restaurant since she hadn't had anything to eat yet, called La Corriente Cevicheria Nais.  Some of us had a bite to eat, some didn't.  I have been reading about Aguachile and asked Fernando what the difference between a ceviche traditional and Aguachile was.  He told me that ceviche is usually chopped up seafood mixed with vegetables.  Aguachile is a lime and chile marinated seafood  that may be butterflied, but is not chopped up, and it is made with different types of chiles.  He told me where he grew up, in Sinaloa, there was a place where they give a prize for whoever can eat Aguachile with the greatest number of chiles.  He showed me the latest winner at one restaurant who had over 300 chiles in the dish.  Yowza!!!  I ordered the Micha y micha aguachile which was Shrimp & Sea Scallops and cucumbers in piquin chile sauce. It was spicy but not too much and really light, refreshing and yummy. 

We went back to the car, and figured out it was still too early to go to the party at The Kitchen Project so we voted, and ended up at Telefonica park -  a place with many food trucks and tasting rooms.  I had read about this place in Scott Koenig's blog "A Gringo in Mexico" in 2015 when a friend and I slipped down to TJ to do a day long food and drink tour on our own.  We hadn't had time to get there so I was very excited.  It wasn't at all what I had pictured in my mind.  It was a very cool group of trucks and wood buildings  serving all sorts of food and drink, with comfortable tables outdoors and under shade cloth -  this evening, just after dark they have "Movie Night" and a movie was projected onto the wall outside of the wine/beer place that we spent a bit of time in. 

I had a glass of a merlot/cab blend selected by Fernando from the offerings at that place.  It was good, but I couldn't tell you what it was.  Later in our visit I shared tastes of a couple of beers made with "volcano water" (whatever that is) that was fun and tasty.

We headed out again arriving at The Kitchen Project at somewhere around 8:30 or so.  There is no signage on the street, just a street number.  It is within a block or two from the southern end of the Jai Alai palace and would be easy to find again.  We walked up the stairs, and made a left into the open loft studio "The Kitchen Project by Josue Castro".  The space has an open loft visible from the ground floor, a small side room and full bathroom.  There is a great outdoor balcony that allowed you to move away from the crowd for a few minutes.  The two guest chefs and their staff prepared several yummy dishes and we all tried a selection of Sabina's salsas.  Vino's Maga's owner spoke to us for a few minutes, and during the event we all sipped on his wines while making new friends and chatting.  Lots of local TJ natives in the crowd along with a few Americans - everyone was really friendly and welcoming- it was a very fun evening. 

I'm guessing it was around 11:30PM when we headed back for the border.  One guest didn't have the Sentri/Global entry card so we used the "Ready Lane".  I'm guessing that only took us maybe 45 minutes or so to pass across - with the excitement of a young lady getting busted for something two cars in front of us.  All the border lanes shut down for maybe 5t minutes while the border guards descended on our lane, got her out of her car and into the building, and then we were back in business.

Fernando dropped me off at my car and headed back for Old Town parking lot with the rest of our crew.  I got home around 1:00am on Thursday morning safely and ready for bed.  I'd do this again in a heartbeat.  Fun people, great food wine and beer.