Friday, October 31, 2008

Days 10, 11, and 12 - Paris: A Grande Finale!

Oct. 15 was spent in a train going from San Sebastian to Paris. I was still not feeling well, so we went straight to our hotel, which was located very close to the Arc de Triomphe. Then I took a long nap, but when I woke up, I was feeling better, and Hubs had brought me a piping hot baguette and a quiche lorraine, so life was pretty fabulous even though I didn't spend too much time seeing the sights that day.

Oct. 16, we hit the ground running. Hubs was awesome figuring out the metro. Even though I hated looking like tourists who didn't know where we were or what we were doing, Hubs totally took care of business and got us where we needed to go.  GO HUBS!

Our first stop was the Ile de la Cité where we ate a disgustingly expensive breakfast at this cute Cafe Brasserie. 

Then we went to gorgeous Notre Dame. I cannot describe to you how awe-inspiring this place is. People just stood there gawking at the beauty before them. I did the same.

Autumn was in the air, and it was a real treat to see the city as the leaves were starting to change color!

Next, we were off to the Louvre. Because our time there was short, we pretty much hit the biggies--

Winged Victory:

The Venus de Milo:

And don't forget Mona!  They're both smiling like they're up to something....

The sheer magnitude of this painting was something to behold:

I loved this angel:

Oh, and Mrs. G, there is plenty of Mancake for everyone at the Louvre!

Even though Hubs and I don't consider ourselves big museum people, we loved our time at the Louvre and could have easily enjoyed spending the whole day there.

That evening, we took the advice of a family friend and went on the Bateaux-Mouches, a river boat cruise on the Seine at dusk to see the City of Lights all lit up. It was beautiful.

There's just something about the Eiffel Tower that inspires kissing!

After our cruise, we walked over to the Eiffel Tower and took in its beauty beneath a full moon:

And then, all of a sudden, as if it needed to show off any more than it already was, the Eiffel Tower started sparkling with bright lights!  Everyone squealed with delight!

To end our day, we went to the Cafe Victor Hugo for a delicious dinner. 

Oct 17-

We returned to the Eiffel Tower to take the obligatory "We're in Paris!" photo. It was a gorgeous morning, and lots of people were there snapping away on their cameras.

That afternoon, we went to Montmatre to see the beautiful Sacré Coeur. I just loved being there--being with Hubs, taking the Paris skyline, and sniffing the scent of roasted chestnuts wafting through the air.

That night, I got to have a reunion with Caroline!  She is a French friend of mine, who I haven't seen for four years.  She is living and working in southern France, but she took the train up to Paris for the weekend to visit her sister and another friend, and to see me! It was so nice to sit and catch up a bit.

That's the end of our trip! It was a wonderful vacation that we are still just tickled that we got to take! I know we will relish these memories for years to come. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Days 8 and 9 - San Sebastian: Crown Jewel of Spain

Four years ago, my best friend Anne and I celebrated our 30th birthdays by going to San Sebastian. It is an adorable city on the Bay of Biscay. 

The charm just doesn't stop in this sweet town. San Sebastian is a horseshoe bay with an island out in the middle of it. 

While I wouldn't trade my 30th birthday celebration with my bestie for anything, the thought did occur to me those four years ago that San Sebastian is a bit like Venice or Paris...awesome to be there with your friend, but the city is meant for lovers. So ever since my first visit, I have had a little dream to return to San Sebastian one day with my husband, should I ever marry.

How lovely to have a dream come true! 

Oct. 13-14:  San Sebastian is in the Basque Country region of Spain, just across the border from France. So while it is a distinctly Basque/Spanish city, there is a fair amount of French influence.

Hubs and I had a great time wandering around the city, sitting at this outdoor cafe,

and seeing another beautiful cathedral...

...with stunning stained glass windows...

We also enjoyed wandering around the "Barrio Viejo", the old town section of the city, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner one night.

What is a charming seaside town without a charming boardwalk? I couldn't get over these beautiful street lamps that created the perfect setting for an evening stroll with my sweetie.

This is the fashion portion of the post. One day, we found ourselves out and about and nowhere near our hotel, and it got chilly, so Hubs bought this sporty blue hoody...

...and I bought this groovy striped sweater at H&M, one of my fave European stores (which is now in the US!).

One of my favorite moments of our entire trip was this dreary, drizzly morning. We woke up and decided to take a stroll on the beach. The misting rain didn't even matter. It was just a perfect moment with my love.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Day 7 - Zaragoza: Day of the Pilar

Oct. 12 - Day of the Pilar

This is the day in which Catholics come to the Pilar Cathedral to honor "Nuestra Señora del Pilar", the patron saint of Spain and Latin America. People dress in their native garb "traje baturro" and come to the Pilar to make an offering of flowers to the Virgin.

This is my friend Simona. She is from Romania and is one of SIXTEEN brothers and sisters. Can you even believe that? Eight of them have immigrated to Spain. Simona and I met when I lived there six years ago, and I think the fact that we were both outsiders in Spanish culture helped us to form a quick bond. She had Hubs and I over for lunch, and then the three of us headed over to the Pilar to check out the festivities.

Here, Hubs and I are standing inside of the Pilar Cathedral. Behind us, through the doors, you can see the massive floral offering outside in the square.

Since we are not Catholic, we didn't participate in the offering, but it is a sight to behold!

This unsuspecting family had no idea Hubs was clicking away at their awesome get-ups!

This is a video of a man singing a "jota" about the Virgin of the Pilar:

Here is a group doing a folkloric dance with beating sticks:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day 6-Zaragoza: Nothing brings friends together like a delicious paella cookout!

Oct. 11-

We were privileged to have one of our Spanish friends from the region of Valencia cook us a "Paella Valenciana". If you have never had the chance to eat paella, I highly recommend going to a Spanish restaurant straight away and crossing it off your list of "to dos in this life". There are different varieties of paella. The one constant is saffron rice with veggies. Then you can have whatever type of meat you prefer--paella often has seafood in it, but since my tummy reacts badly to seafood, ours had chicken and rabbit. That's right people, I ate rabbit!  Sorry to sound cliche, but it tasted like chicken.  

Part of what made this trip back to Spain so different was finding my group of friends (myself included) in new stages of life. When I lived there, the majority of us were single. Now, most of us are married, and many have kids. Our paella lunch had so many kids, there was even a kids' table (notice the princess and the ballerina seated at the head of the table).

There was a grown-up table too.  :) 

It was a lovely afternoon with friends. That evening, we went over to my former boss, Toti's house.  He and his wife Paloma are wonderful and warm people, and it was great to see them. Toti is an artistic kindred spirit to me. He is always so encouraging to me in my artistic endeavors, and he is an incredibly talented painter and poet himself.