So, Paris.

Trying to write about the enamor i now feel for Paris is like trying to make Michelangelo’s Pièta out of play-doh. What does a writer say about the City of L’amour that has not yet been said?

Paris has lived in my mind for so long; the rewinds and re-watches of my favorite Disney, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, instilled a love of the grandiose cathedral from a wee age. In eighth grade i enrolled in my first French class with the intent of being able to speak the language in African countries once colonized by the French. I didn’t expect to also fall madly in love with the idea of Paris, but suddenly i had three Eiffel Tower keychains and a calendar of photographs along the Seine.

In my tummy-knotted waiting for J, i had hardly stopped to consider the impending realization of my eighth-grade dreams. The guidebooks were tabbed, playlists made, but the reality wasn’t there.

Until i caught my first glimpse of Montmartre’s winding alleyways. Then, i was there. I was Audrey Hepburn in white sunglasses, strolling along the Seine. I was every line from Moulin Rouge! singing from a red windmill. I was my mother in her movie-star black coat, i was thirteen and practicing: Bonjour, ça va? I was every writer who’d been intoxicated by the river, every dreamer who had wished under the Parisian sky. It met and exceeded my every expectation.

J called it my "Paris Face," taken at our first meal upon our (late evening) arrival!

J called it my “Paris Face,” taken at our first meal upon our (late evening) arrival!

J and i are back in Edinburgh now, with his return ticket to the states looming over our vin du Paris grins with an increasingly ominous tune. There will (wayyy) be more blogging on and photos of Paris (and London and Edinburgh!) soon, but for now i’m going to embrace un joie de vivre and be present in the non-blogging real world. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Day one: first photo on the Seine riverbank!

Day one: first photo on the Seine riverbank!

current jam: ‘bells of notre dame’ hunchback of notre dame soundtrack; no shame.

best thing: paris!

Markets and More Eating (Amsterdam, Day 2!)

If the Albert Cuyp Market was a field, i was a plow.

I’ve never been surrounded by so many sumptuous and tempting things to try – from the wafels to the hot chocolate to the small bucket of olives i purchased. Plus, as a mayo-loving french-fries eater whose allergic to ketchup, i just adored the frites stand that sold paper cones stuffed with fries slathered in mayo. And the cheese, sweet Holy Mary the cheese! The displays were utterly intoxicating.

(Note the bicycle!)

(Note the bicycle!)

We’d decided, for our second day, to set aside the whole morning to explore the oldest street market in the Netherlands: the Albert Cuyp Market. Lining the block were some of the most eclectic stalls i’d ever beheld (including my experiences in pre-burned-down Owino Market in Kampala). There was an entire pharmacy spread wide under a tent and in the cold, more lingerie shoppes than i could count, a plethora of places to purchase scarves and the like, and a few stalls reserved for Amsterdam-themed souvenirs. Interspersed between the flower stalls (oh, the tulips!) and garter belts were the main attraction: street food.

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(Van Gogh had followed us, even here!)

(Van Gogh had followed us, even here!)

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It was as good as it looked!

It was as good as it looked!

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Making the famous frites!

Making the famous frites!

frites!

Frites!

I love street markets – the chaos, the food, the cool vintage things you can find, the food, and the experience of feeling like a local. As much as i may love doing silly tourist-y thing (see me in a large wooden shoe, below) i always try to find at least on thing per travel destination that gives me some sense of what it would be like to live there. Naturally, we were not the only tourists strolling about the market. But tourists were in a serious minority here, amongst the clamor of Dutch-speaking voices selling flowers and toothpaste and lingerie. I’d easily say this was one of my most-favorite things we did in Amsterdam!

Having sufficiently eaten our way through the market, we made our way over the Dam Square for more sightseeing. At the sight of THE LARGEST SHOE i have ever seen, there was a lot of squealing and leaping in to take pictures. So much for trying to blend in!

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About a block or so up from Dam Square is the (in)famous Red Light District. We chortled our way through all the funny little shops and such surrounding the red-lamped alleyways, but they definitely are not the reason i’d wanted to go to the city. And the whole district is clearly geared for people visiting the city, not the residents themselves. The gift shops are certainly amusing to visit, but once i’d cracked up at enough genitalia plastered on velvet hats (et cetera) i’d had my fill. Definitely would not say this was the family-friendly place to go on a holiday to the city, but as two young women walking around in the middle of the afternoon we felt pretty safe and took the whole thing in with a sense of humor.

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This is not the Red Light District, but it IS a picture of a red lit sign at night, so it metaphorically serves a purpose!

This is not the Red Light District, but it IS a picture of a red lit sign at night, so it metaphorically serves a purpose!

By then it was high time we ate, again. Utilizing a combination of my Lonely Planet guidebook and the MOST EXCELLENT TripAdvisor City Guide App, we arrived at the quirky and chic van Kerkwijk. With whitewashed, wood paneled walls and candles adorning the tables, we knew this promised to be a unique place to dine.

Turned out there’s no written menu at van Kerkwijk, so our gracious waitress just plopped right down at our table and talked us through the extensive list of their eclectic combinations. When asked what was a truly Dutch thing to try, she explained that the port-city-nature of Amsterdam meant all Dutch food was really a mash-up of European and Indonesian cuisine. We asked for an appetizer that involved bread and cheese, so she brought out a bleu cheese paté-type-thing that was incredible. For our entrées, Abby had steak with strawberry cream and goat cheese, and i had Indonesian chicken. We split a salad and (of course!) frites with glorified mayo.

The incredible cheese-and-bread combination!

The incredible cheese-and-bread combination!

It was an exquisite capping off to two days and three nights of fabulous dining. But, alas, the next morning we were whisked off to the airport leaving behind Amsterdam’s canals and bike lanes for a flight home to Edinburgh.

Though we’d only had an all-too-short time in Amsterdam, i was utterly entranced. It is a beautiful place (even in the cold!) and i am ever grateful for the opportunities i had to visit.

current jam: ‘day that i die’ zac brown band.

best thing: productivity. back to dale martin, for now.

of interest: i’ve added a new page at the top of the screen! it’s still a work in a progress, but have a look if you like!