Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Taste of Europe: Oslo, Paris, Vers Veille sur Mer

My apologies for neglecting my blog. Work has been just really busy lately, and I'm trying to make the most of summer before it passes by. (Summer in Canada is only about 2 weeks!)

I met up with LeBlanc in Oslo July 25th, which started our 2 week vacation together. We spent about 3 days in Oslo, then we flew to Paris and spent 4 days there, then we took a train to the small, small town of Ver Veille sur Mer, where we had rented an apartment by the beach for 7 days, then I returned to Toronto, and him to Oslo.

Europe was beautiful. And I loved the way we sauntered through our vacation. We spent a lot of time just walking around the cities and towns we visisted. That's my favourite way to enjoy any new place I visit. We would walk, and then find a place to sit and read. Continue walking, stop for a snack. People watch. Continue walking. This is me in Oslo.

Some highlights of our trip:

LeBlanc and I walked to the famous Vigeland Park where the artist, Gustav Vigeland made almost 180 statues. The statues are all completely naked, except for the one of himself. In the statues along the walkway to the rose gardens, the statues depicted movement whereas the statues at the end of the park were more serene, and depicted more emotion. On our way back to our hotel, we stop for dinner at a really good Indian restaurant and had Duck Korma and Pilack Paneer for dinner. Delicous!!! (This was to be a foreshadow of the rest of the food on our trip!)

On our last night in Oslo, we walked to the fortress surrounding a castle at the high point of the harbour. It was beautiful. I love looking at old buildings, and imagining how life might have existed behind these walls centuries ago. After our explorations, we went out for dinner at a beautiful seafood restaurant on the harbour. The food was delicous, and have now set a new bar for seafood standard. We both order fish, and it was so fresh, and tender.

Having been blessed with the oppurtunity to have done some traveling during my undergraduate year, every time I go on a new trip, I want to enjoy it in a different way. Instead of trying to see all the high points of a new city or country, I prefer to be a tourist who is part of the culture. I try to imagine how I can enjoy the city the way a local would. So even though, I would like to see a few important sights, I want to linger and enjoy each one, instead of rushing to the next.

These are a couple of my favourite shots of Oslo.

I loved the architecture and detail with the play of lights.

A shot from city hall across the harbor.

LeBlanc and I sauntered and lingered through our 4 short days in Paris. We walked everywhere! We sat along the river and read, or had little picnics with baguettes (French bread stick) with cheese and ham. Sometimes, we would wave to the tourists looking out at us from their boats!

Our hotel was in central Paris, across from the Louvre. We would walk to the Louvre, and the park around there. They have such beautiful statues everywhere. We walked to the Arc De Triomphe, and to the Eiffel Tower. We didn't go up the Eiffel Tower, but we did go up to the Arc, and the view was amazing! Paris is not a skyscraper type of city, and since the Arc is at a high point, you can look out and see all of Paris. Paris is a radial city, and you can see all the roads leading below where we were standing.

Like many people, I thought of Paris as the most romantic city in the world. Walking along the cobble stone paths hand in hand with LeBlanc, between our picnics and people watching, I couldn't agree more. Maybe it had to do with the colonial buildings, or maybe it was the river which ran through the city. Maybe it was the elegant bridges. Or maybe it was the beautiful churchs which seemed to hold some sort of key to Paris's history. Or maybe it was the simple elegance of their fashion. Or maybe it was the couples making out on the park benches. Even the stench of urine while walking under the bridges, though revulting, reminded me that Paris was not perfect. Which made it even more romantic.

LeBlanc and I took the subway for the first time when heading to Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart Church) which was perched on a hill to the north west of central Paris. We were planning to watch the sunset along the Paris horizon. We enjoyed an evening of admiring another view of Paris, while sipping beer and huddled together on our little blanket. Lots of people were out, and the hills were packed with couples, friends, families, all out to enjoy summer in the city. Afterwards, we make our way to the Eiffel Tower to watch the lights. The tower was even more beautiful at night, and we set down our blanket, and I fall asleep, tired, as LeBlanc enthusiastically snaps photo's for the next hour.

Our last part of the journey is spent in the little town of Vers Veille sur Mer. The town is just up the shore from Omaha Beach, which played a very important role in World War II when the Allies were to regain power in Europe from the Germans. An ambitous feat by the Allies to capture Normandy via the English Channel. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost on the beaches of Omaha, Utah and Juno.

We visited some Memorials along the beach, and a museum in the neighboring town of Caen. LeBlanc had also started watching the mini-seris Band of Brothers, and we re-watched some episodes together. It is very difficult to imagine this peaceful little town was once surrounded with war.

LeBlanc and I spent many lazy days sleeping in. When one of us would finally wake up, we'd go down to the kitchen and make coffee and breakfast. Then, we'd head down the beach for some sun bathing or more reading. Or walk along the shoreline, until we hit the next town. Sometimes, we'd stop for a snack. One time we stopped and tried the "Fruites de Mer" (fruits of the sea), and it was more than either of us could stomache. It is a platter of raw and cooked shellfish, and although I like the prawn and crayfish, I was not a big fan of the small brown shrimps, or the snails.

After a day of exploring, we would visit our local grocery store, and buy enough ingredients for a feast. We loved to cook, and cooking we did!!! French cooking to be exact. We made French Onion Soup, Garlic Cream Soup, Salad Nicoise, Porkchops, Roasted Beef, Curry Spinach, and even baked a cake from scratch. After we were stuffed from dinner, we would take a walk before heading to bed. Sometimes we'd walk to the beach, sometimes we walked along the road.

Now, it's back to reality, and I miss our carefree days. Work has been so hectic for the past two weeks, that I really miss our vacation, and seeing LeBlanc. It's his last week abroad, as his project is wrapping up, and I'm really looking forward to when he comes back next week! I've missed him.


Greears said...

OK, this trip sounds AMAZING! Good for you! Great pictures, and you know I love seeing the food...

ps Did your parents know you were going?

Andy said...

Wow, it seems like an AMAZING time.

And I have to admit Paris IS a romantic city, but in general, all that ambient you'll get it everywhere in Frace. And even more in small towns.

Glad you had fun [in my soon to be homeland]!

Des said...

Greears - My parents did know we were going. They didn't try to stop me after we had the talk, though I could tell they weren't completely pleased with the idea. That's OK, we're all adults, and we know adults don't always agree, but we still respect each others' decisions.

Andy - I hope you post lots of pictures when you go there. It will be amazing!!! Loved it there! :)