Thursday, June 17, 2010

food and Paris

As I spent months planing this trip, waiting for the end of school and counting down the weeks, I never really thought I would be leaving. Only as I waved to Mark out the back window of the taxi Wednesday morning, did I realized I was. After falling asleep on the bus to the airport, confusing the security guys with my camera battery and charger, and getting myself some euros and pounds I was getting on the plane. The exciting part of leaving from the Asian side of Istanbul to fly to Europe is that the plane has to go over the whole city, giving a view that looks remarkably like google maps satellite with a few clouds. With it's 18 million people, Istanbul's size never ceases to amaze me.

Three hours of sleep later, I landed in a city of four million. After Istanbul most cities seem small. Mom and William met me at the airport, and we took two suburban trains and a metro to arrive at the flat. The flat is amazing. I'm staying in the living room, and from my window on the 7th floor I can see a very large TV across the street which is perpetually turned to the world cup, a huge number of chimney pots, and Sacre Cour, one of the famous cathedrals of Paris. William thinks whoever owns the flat spent all their money buying it, and had nothing left to furnish it. It does indeed look like it was furnished from a flea market.

My mom had to finish writing her conference paper for tomorrow (the reason they are in Paris) so William and I left her with coffee and computer and headed out to look at the Hospital St. Louis and a canal. The Hospital St. Louis is where they quarantined plague victims back in the day, and it's still a working hospital with a very nice courtyard with the requisite football game as well as other children playing. The canal connects the Seine to another river some 100 kilometers away. It has 10 locks along the way. We watched one in action as a houseboat went down the lock and entered a tunnel at the very end of the journey to the Seine. We walked quite a way, past tall bridges with lots of stairs, a swinging bridge, a homeless tent settlement, ducklings and a canal boat. Walking back through the neighborhood we are staying in we found Cambodian, Brazilian, Turkish, Arab, Chinese, Thai, French and a multitude of other restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries and butchers. While I love Turkish food, I miss diversity in food in Istanbul.

In keeping with past blog entries, much of my travel is centered around, or at least related to food. And in France, how could it not be. Last night we ate Brazilian food. Today I woke up to fresh baked croissant. A foodgasm to be sure, along with eggs, melon and bacon (pork!!). I realized that while I've spent a good amount of time in France, apart from 24 hours in 2005, the last time I was in France was in 2000 after my Sophomore year in high school. Which happens to be the last time I was on stage in a musical. I had fond memories of French food, but I had forgotten how amazingly good it is.

Today was a very civilized day. William and I visited the Musee d'Orsay, a former train station which has many impressionist paintings and lots of incredible art nouveau furniture. We saw Monet and Manet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, and many other people I can't remember. Fully one third of the paintings feature naked women. And then there is a special exhibit entitled Crime and Punishment. Gory paintings of crime, more of the punishment. And then eye charts, photos of faces and diagrams of sculls trying to identify which physical features where most identified with criminals. A set of measuring tools to measure scull size etc. An actual prison door carved with inmate's names. A good exhibit to see and one I hope I don't see again.

To continue with our day we walked to Saint Germane de Prey, where we had lunch at Cafe Deax Margots, where the famous writers of the left bank drank their coffee. I had salad and wine. Followed by a walk on the Seine in the rain and a trip to a coffee rostery which had over twenty kinds of beans to choose from.

For mother's day William had given mom dinner at the restaurant Le Petit Zinc with one of her children. Luckily she picked me (sensibly too, as Ian is sadly in NC). The restaurant is complete Art Nouveau decoration and absolutely stunning. The food is incredible as well - fish soup, duckling with red fruits, and profiteroles. Paris really is a foodie's heaven.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Off again

I was asked a few days ago when I was going to update this blog again. I was surprised - I didn't know anyone read it, especially since I haven't posted in about a year and a half. But as I am leaving Istanbul (my home of the past three years) to begin a new adventure, it seemed like a good idea to start writing again.

The plan:
1 week in Paris
1 week in the UK - Manchester and Swansea
7 weeks in Turkey with Mark (the boy) attempting to see as much as possible
4 days back in Istanbul
10 hours on a plane with Mark and Greta (the cat) to NYC
3 days in NYC
5 days in Chapel Hill
16 hours driving a U-Haul with Mark and Greta to Ann Arbor, Michigan

I will then spend then next two and a half years completing two masters degrees - An MPH (masters of public health) in International Health and Epidemiology and an MA in Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Don't worry though, I'm not settling down, just staying in one place for a bit to get a degree which should allow me to be able to travel and work without teaching English.

And now, to pack!