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    The happiest place in France

    June 25th, 2008 by steve

    After almost a week of waiting out the overcast skies, we finally made it to Euro Disney last week. And oddly enough, it’s a lot like Disneyland. Except all the lands are moved around and it’s just ‘Main Street’, not ‘Main Street USA’. I expected to find some interesting localizations, but there really weren’t any. Although there is no Matterhorn!

    Space Mountain here has a few new twists and is by far the best ride. My next favorites were the tea cups and the Buzz Lightyear kiddie ride. Good stuff.

    Posted in paris | 1 Comment »

    Music in the Streets

    June 22nd, 2008 by steve

    Along with a few other cities in Europe, Paris celebrates the summer solstice every year with a music festival. Paris packs the streets with dozens of free concerts on street corners, courtyards and in the street all over town. Our neighborhood had a band playing ever couple of blocks, sometimes close enough to be in competition. Not a fair fight when it’s an amplified rock band versus the acoustic gay choir, but such is life. Even Notre Dame chimed in with a choir and organ concert playing to a packed house.

    Posted in paris | No Comments »

    Lost in the Translation

    June 18th, 2008 by mary

    We’ve become fans of the ballet and opera so when we get a chance to score some cheap tickets we take advantage of it. Our latest slice of culture was the final performance of Les Capulets et les Montaigus at the Opera Bastille in Paris. In the early 1800s Bellini wrote this translation of the famed Shakespearan tale Romeo and Juliet. So basically it’s the Italian version of a British romantic tragedy, sung in Italian, with French supertitles, and to add to the confusion Romeo was played in the classic tradition by a woman. We may not have understood everything that was said but it was actually quite good. And it feels less silly to yell ‘Bravo!’ and ‘Encore!’ when you’re in France.

    Posted in art, paris | No Comments »

    We qualify for the French Open

    June 17th, 2008 by steve

    We forgot our tennis raquets, so we couldn’t play.  We lost the ticket lottery, so we couldn’t see the finals in person. Instead, we watched some of the qualifying rounds. The Roland Garros tennis park in Paris has 20 or so courts and there were 30-some matches to watch during the day.

    I’ve never really watched tennis, but it’s actually good fun in person. The personalities make up for any lull in play. Our favorite was a Spanish player who grunted “WWWAAAAAAHHHhhhhhhh“(click to listen) with every hit and “Ole!” for his good points.

    Victory

    Other stereotypes were rampant. The prissy European player who asked for permission to use the restroom in thAmerican Angste middle of play and then disappeared for 15 minutes – in a new outfit! He lost to the patient and affable Argentinan, Schwank.

    The American women are great entertainment. They’re so big and so mean. I wouldn’t want to meat any of them on a dark street. And we didn’t even see the Williams sisters.  But the only smashed racquet we saw belonged to a charming American.

    The big deal about this tournament is that it’s on clay, not hard court like we’re all used to. The clay is very solid, but ‘sandy’ on top, so there is a lot of sliding around. That makes it a very difficult surface for many people to play on. Federer has been the #1 player in the world for like 6 years now, but Nadal has beat him in the French Open 4 years in a row now. It’s all about the surface.

    Some had real trouble with it. This guy went down about 10 minutes into his match – and didn’t get up. Such a violent sport…

    Defeat

    Of the players we watched, there were only a couple that made it very far in the tournament. Schwank looked like the best player to us, and he made it to the 3rd round of finals (the Federer-Nadal final match was the 7th round). In the womens, Suarez-Navarro made it to the quarter finals (5th round).

    In the end, the true joy of tennis is watching the terrified ball boys and girls scream across the court to pickup balls and thee address the players with toy soldier-like salutes. 

    Posted in paris | No Comments »

    A Question of Etiquette

    June 15th, 2008 by mary

    You’re standing two feet away from a priceless masterpiece surrounded by other admirers when an urge to sneeze wells up within.

    Do you sneeze on the person next to you or the unshielded Van Gogh?

    Posted in art, paris | No Comments »

    We get into modern art

    June 12th, 2008 by steve

    A few of the pieces at the Pompideau Centre (museum of modern art) next to our apartment in Paris.

    Posted in art, paris | No Comments »

    Dude, where’s my camel?

    June 12th, 2008 by steve

    It was just like the movies. I wake up from a heat-induced nap under the high desert sun and…my camel is gone.

    Actually, it was a bit funnier than that. We’re out in the middle no nowhere in the Moroccan Sahara, taking our high-noon siesta, and the guide is rounding up and saddling our camels. Mine starts to walk slowly away.

    Then he starts to run.


    Then he’s gone.

    My camel had such desire to be free that even with his front two legs tied, he managed to outwit and outrun his captor. That meant I got a free 2 hour walk through the desert. Which I enjoyedtremendously…not being on a camel!

    He was easily corralled later in the day by a nomad on an ATV, but was a bit sad to see that the ropes burned through his ankles. Rough life, that of a desert camel.

    Posted in morocco | No Comments »

    Trials and Tribulations of Tapas to Tajine

    June 12th, 2008 by mary

    Valencia to Granada

    My brother and mother were coming out to visit us and we were going to take them on a two week whirlwind circuit through Spain, Morocco, and Paris. It all sounded good but started off with a missed flight. After a half day delay everyone was happily reunited in Valencia. The second problem was lost baggage. I knew John looked like he was traveling a little light. Of course the airline had no clue where the bag was or when it’d get to Valencia or whether or not they could forward it to Granada before we left the country. All we could do was file a claim, hope against hope, and dress John in our extra clothes. Then we were off in the rental car on our long drive to Granada. Directions was the next challenge. It was 8:30pm when we got to Granada but thanks to MapQuest it was 11pm when we found the hotel though it was only 5 minutes from the freeway exit. Our printed instructions basically told us the hotel was right in front of us. The problem was the 200foot vertical cliff separating our bumper and the hotel lobby.

    Granada, the Alhambra and TAPAS!

    Our first sight seeing was the palace of Alhambra positioned on a hilltop over Granada. We had a picturesque day exploring the Andalucian style of living. Granada itself is a scenic city with an attractive old town.


    But our strongest and most cherished memory are the tapas. It took us a couple of tries before hitting upon a gem of a place. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, you must eat at Bodega Castaneda. They serve the type of food that makes you giddy and is complete with festive, friendly ambience making it hard not to eat into the night.The last night in Granada, and Spain, was topped off by receiving John’s lost backpack. Now he could finally change his underwear.

    Fez, Morocco

    In Algeciras we took the ferry across to Tangier in Morocco. We had a couple of hours to waste away in the medina before picking up the next rental car. We drove directly to Fes, arriving in the dark. During the day a guide took us through the medina but quickly lost interest in us when he realized we weren’t the souvenir crazy type of tourists.

    Back Roads of Morocco

    During our two day drive to the Sahara we took a touristique scenic route that was only supposed to add 1 hour to our drive but ended up being a 7hr loop, half of which was on windy piste roads. I say loop because we actually arrived back at our starting point without trying to. We were happy to put our heads down that night even if it was hostel style living with in room sink and shower.

    Back in the Sahara

    The dunes of the Sahara appeared as a thin line of yellow in the horizon and quickly crescendoed to mountains of sand as far as the eye could see. The first evening’s 1.5hr camel ride was fun with the wind ushering us forward. When it started raining all the berber guides yelled in jubilation. It only rains 20 days each year in the dunes so each time is worth celebrating. I joined in the festivities by busting out my umbrella. A girl scout’s motto is ‘Be Prepared.’

    Before sunrise we toiled up Erg Chebbi, fighting against the cold and harsh wind threatening to toss us over the dark side of the massive dune. Sand was blasting us in the face but we endured to see the sunrise over the Sahara. We were signed up for a two night desert camel trek so we got back onto the hump and rode off toward the Algerian border. By this second day our rumps were tender but it was the sun beating down that really wore us down. After lunch Steve had to walk because his camel, though bound with roped feet, ran away over the dunes. We had dinner with a berber family before mom tossed in the towel and opted to be transported by a four wheeled vehicle back to the hotel. The remaining three of us rode back to camp in the pitch dark gripping onto our camels as we couldn’t see the terrain any more.

    Morocco’s Many Landscapes

    The next day, we rode for another couple hours to meet mom back at the hotel and continue our drive to the Todras and Dades Gorges and top it all off with a visit to the famed Ait Benhaddou kasbah outside of Ouarzazate.

    But wait! there’s one MORE day in Morocco

    We were ready to leave Morocco by now and a short walk through Marrakech’s medina was enough to satiate our curiosity. Thinking we were at the airport an hour too early to check in we settled into the cushy seats and let time passed. An hour and a half before our flight we make our way to the counter only to find out that Morocco had moved it’s clock an hour forward three days ago. Funny how no one mentioned that though we had on numerous occasions reason for them to. This meant the flight was within half an hour and check-in was closed. There was nothing we could do but cough up more money to change to the next day’s flight. It was more than we paid for the original tickets. Well, we made use of the extra night and day in Marrakech by buying crappy souvenirs. Take that! Of course our flight the following day was delayed by 2hrs. But at least we were leaving Morocco.

    Home Sweet Paris

    We took in the normal sites like Notre Dame, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, the Marais, and watched the French Open on the big screen in front of Hotel de Ville since we were foiled at every turn when we tried to get tickets. Food, of course, was a highlight. The French know how to roast their duck. Gelato was good and the chocolate is quite possibly the best in the world, though your wallet will ache from the indulgence while your belly sings.

     

    Posted in morocco, spain | No Comments »

    Too much time on my hands

    June 11th, 2008 by steve

    Welcome to the new website. It’s impressive what a bit of caffeine and a few college-style late nights can do for you.  These days I’m showing my age by drinking more tea than coke, though.

    On the left, you can jump directly to photo albums and now you can move directly from country to country to follow the trip in order. The new-and-improved video collection is hosted by Youtube, so you don’t need to download the clips. Much nicer. There’s even a few previously unreleased gems hidden in there.

    There’s plenty to do still, so let me know if you find any egregious mistakes or bad links and I’ll add them to my todo list.

    Enjoy.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »