Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day 6 Disney Paris

Today we decided to go to Disneyland Paris. It was quite interesting. There was a variety of different languages the entire day. The majority was French however. I did run into two little girls from the UK who looked at me as if I was strange because I didn’t have their accent. It was sorta funny.

Anyway, when we first arrived we were under the impression that Belle’s castle was in France.. of course we were wrong and it was Sleeping Beauty. The castle was so neat! You could go inside and see all the stained glass etc. It was pretty neat.

We went on a lot of different rides, most of which were the same as the US. One that was AMAZINGLY different was Space Mountain. I got on the ride thinking it was going to be like Disneyworld or Disneyland (since I have been on both). However, it was like neither… I got on the ride and the shoulder harnesses came down and I looked at Ivan and asked “does this go upside down???” and he said “YES! Didn’t you see the sign!” HAHA.. so I was in for a surprise.. a good one! It was like the hulk ride from Islands of Adventure but better as it was inside and completely dark with stars and planets. It was so cool. Best ride of the park in my opinion!

We also went on another unique ride… Indiana Jones. Now I know there is an Indiana Jones in Disneyland Anaheim BUT this was a rollercoaster and it was outside. It was quite different and REALLY short I might add!

We also went on it’s a small world and found it funny that the US was depicted by Cowboys, Hollywood, and American football…  Ivan and I both laughed.

We thought it was even more funny when we excited the park and went to the Disney Village right outside and found three main restaurants, a Planet Hollywood, a Cowboy restaurant, and a NY sports bar… very funny! We ate at Planet Hollywood because the French restaurant in the Fantasy Land was all booked up L.

I have a few general comments regarding our experience to Disneyland Paris:

-       I have NEVER seen a park so crowded. Even on the most crowded day at Disneyworld.. it has never been this bad. Many times we couldn’t even walk because there were so many people. It was like coming out of a concert after it ends… that packed!!!
-       There is some gap in ethics between France and US… people cut in line all the time.. and let their kids go out of control and bump into you and. . I am sure I am making a generalization but this has been our experience. Every time we are in a crowded area there always seems to be a sign saying “beware of pick pockets”!
-       People smoke EVERYWHERE… I mean seriously we did not wait in ONE line where someone did not light up. I mean it is ridiculous!!!... This also goes along with the ethics comment as well. There are DESIGNATED SPOTS for smoking in Disney but they are COMPLETELY ignored… people are smoking ALL over the place.. it is seriously disgusting… It was the worst part of the day
-       People are a BIT thinner than the US.. HOWEVER with all the smoking I can see why! I find that Americans tend to think Parisians are healthier because they are thinner… but the smoking is ridiculous.. that is all I have to say. Again, these are generalization (not referring to you Marina or Moussa if you happen to read this)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Paris Days 4 and 5 (Thursday and Friday)

The 4th and 5th days of Paris were somewhat interesting.

Day 4 Thursday
On Thursday (the 4th day), we went to see Notre Dame. It was very beautiful inside but it has this really sad vibe which is so depressing for a church. They also were CHARGING for these prayers with candles.. just seemed wrong.

We went up the towers… which was by stairs. They didn’t warn anyone that you have to climb to the top… but we did it.. (it was a lot!). The view was great from the top…

After that we went go this other church in what seemed like a bad area of town. This church sits high on a hill and over looks the whole city. It was pretty neat as well. The inside was similar to Notre Dame (in the sad feeling). They were still having mass in this church too. Then we walked down like a side ally and came to a square with all these artists. There were a few painting Paris and others who painted real life photos of you… Ivan and I almost got the self-portraits but decided against it. We wanted a painting of Paris but they were soooo expensive.

There were many different crepe places in this area so we got nutella crepes.. before leaving to come back and have a great dinner..

Day 5 Friday
This day Ivan and I went off on our own. We first stopped by the bakery and got a baguette to share. Then we bought metro day passes and while we waited for the RER train, we ate the baguette with some brie cheese we bought earlier.

The train we originally got on confused us… it deviated from the metro map. Luckily a nice French lady saw that we were confused in the train and explained that the particular train we got on… was a train deviating from the map… whew so confusing.

We finally got to our destination (after a few transfers)… Versailles… It was very amazing.. we walked through the whole thing with our audio guides in English… which was really nice to have. It was very gorgeous inside. We have plenty of video from the inside… no pictures though since it was obviously forbidden.

After Versailles we went to this place called the Grande Arche.. it is basically a big arche and huge nearby shopping center. We were only here for a little bit since we didn’t really want to shop. We were also tired from walking everywhere.. therefore, we headed back to the house. (Of course on the way back, we stopped by the bakery again for some yummy treats.. and a quiche).  Oh and btw.. at the shopping center.. we were looking at the map of the area (because there were multiple buildings).. and sure enough one of them was KPMG.. sorta cool

Again... please see the facebook and Ivan's youtube (link below) for more..

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

First Three Days in France (Monday-Wednesday)

Ok so I am going to break this into parts. Most of my photos are on facebook but I will also post some here.

Day 1 Sunday-Monday
This day was long... and that is an understatement. Ivan and I got up early to pack even though our flight did not leave until 6:30 at night. Since we watched Percy Jackson and the Lightening thief. I thought it was ok, but not "amazing".

Since you are supposed to arrive 3 hours before an international flight, we did so. We however made it through security in less than an hour and had to wait around. It was someone funny going through security though. We brought a gift to Lenia (the relative we were staying with). The gift was farinha (which is a type of flour used to make a brazilian condiment). Of course, they drug tested it in the airport.. somewhat funny.

We ate at the Green Turtle in the airport and then ended up eating on the plane as well. I found it funny that we go through security and then get a metal knife and fork at the Green Turtle.. makes sense right? The plane had a good mix of people speaking French and people speaking English. We had two legs of our flight but the first flight to Philly wasn't memorable. The flight to Paris was long... and my TV was broken (which was an awful bummer). 

We arrived in Paris at 10:30 Paris time, it took forever to get our luggage. We walked out of the airport and saw Lenia waiting with a sign saying "Brasil". Next, we got some money out of the ATM 320 Euros which was about $450 dollars.. UG. Lenia drove us to her house and I have a few comments on the driving in France. 

Driving is crazy!!!! and I can't tell you how many times Lenia slammed on the brakes.. it was just.. not pleasant.  All the cars look like bubbles.. like imagine a million smart cars and cars that look like the Yaris. Even the trucks have a "rounded" look. Also, all the cars are SMALL, even mini-vans are small... somehow.

Our first stop on the way to the house was a bakery (Ronde Des Paines). We got some baguettes which looked really good

We dropped our stuff off at the house and had some cheese and bread. Paris next. Lenia drove us around the city just to see it, then she took us to a mall and we had a croissant and hot chocolate. The place was called Paul... it is like a french Panera (kind of).

That night we met Elodie and Emilie, Lenia's twin daughters (who are 23). We went to a local restaurant near their house called Le Grange. We had these really good crepes. Mine was a crepe with mushrooms, a wine sauce, and potatoes. Ivan's was a crepe with salmon and cheese.

Altogether our first day was good... a few interesting things we noticed on the first day, the speedometer is in kilometers, and the clocks run on american military time.

Day 2 Tuesday
We woke up around 9am in Paris. Our breakfast was at home and consisted of an eclair, bread, cheese, and butter. We drove to Paris and on the way learned some interesting facts about Paris... a PT Cruiser car in France cost about 30K euros equivalent to 45K dollars... which is WAY more than the states... Lenia's house which is extremely old and not that big.. is valued at 1 million dollars. It is crazy!!! Also, if you are over 60, banks won't give you a loan for a house.. and if you are "older" you have to have a 10-12 year mortgage only.

Our first stop of the day was the Eiffel tower. As we were standing in line there were a few interesting things. First, there were a million vendors. Second, there were police walking around with assault rifles, it was really odd!!! Also, Ivan and I had this girl walk up to us and ask us if we spoke English. Ivan and I were like "ya!" and Lenia was like "no no no... keep walking".. so we did. Lenia explained that these people (kind of dressed like gypsies) were from Romania and pretended to be homeless and they walk around saying "do you speak English?". Not only are they begging but they will also steal from you... pickpockets and thieves are very common in Paris.

Anyway, we took pictures in front of the tower and then we went up to the top. It was an amazing view. I couldn't believe how just.. rude people are though. I mean we had people cutting in line and trying to cut in line.. it was just so.. disorderly.. and unbelievable.

We then went and saw the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees. Around the Arc, it is a free for all... for cars.. literally. 

There are no lines and you just better watch out. How crazy is that? We walked all the way down the Champs Elysees and went to eat at Chez Clement. 
This place was GREAT! I had scallops and mushroom risotto (which was amazing) and Ivan had chicken fricassee. Both were great!! We also went to Zara, NafNaf, Disney Baby, and Starbucks. We also went to Swarovski...and they had this staircase MADE with Swarovski crystals. It was soooo gorgeous. We couldn't get a great pic of it.. but we tried.

Then we went to the Seine River to go on a boat.

 We parked in a parking garage near the boat dock. This was pretty fun, we got to see Paris lit up at night. We also saw the Eiffel tower sparkle on the hour.

After the boat ride... things went downhill. We went to a restaurant with the WORST service. Lenia was even disappointed. The food was not good either. Also, when we went to pay the server never gave us our change, he thought he was being tipped. (Note: you don't really tip in France because 15% gratuity is built into the price of the food). Then to top it ALL off.... when we went down the stairs to the parking garage.. someone had peed all over the stairs. I asked Lenia who would do that?  She said... just a rude person. I was shocked because in the US.. the only people who may do that.. are like homeless people.
We got home around midnight and crashed!!!

Day 3 Wednesday
This day.. started off bad for me. I bought this beautiful dress for the trip and it didn't fit well when I put it on. I couldn't sit in it. Therefore, I was very bummed... we decided to return it when I get home. Anyway, Wednesday we were going with a friend of Lenia's names Marilese. She used to be a tour guide and still does a few tours now and then. She took us around the Latin quarter a bit and then to the Louvre. The Louvre was huge but we managed to see quite a few things, with her as our guide. I have barely any pictures because you are not "supposed" to take pictures inside (despite the multitudes of people breaking the rules). For EVERYTHING that was seen.. see Ivan's videos on Youtube at Ivan's Youtube

Here are some things we saw:
The Lacemaker- by Vermeer
Rembrandt paintings (and all his self-portraits)
Some Norwegian paintings
Napoleon III apartment in the Louvre
The Winged Victory of Samothrace statue
The Coronation crowns of Louis XV
Mona Lisa, by De Vinci
The Wedding Feast at Cana, Veronese
Aphrodite, known as Venus de Milo
Sarcophagus of a Married Couple
Medieval Moat
Horses of Marly
And multitudes of other paintings and sculptures.

We then visited the Tuileries gardens right outside the Louvre. During the summer they have more flowers... but it was still nice to see. After, we bought some chocolate and went to Paul (again) for something to drink. We met up with Elodie, got some quiche lorreine and took the RER (public transportation) home to Villiers Sur Marne (we ate on the metro.. which is so different then the US). We ate dinner at Lenia's home since eating out has become so expensive. It was a great 4 course typical french meal, with homemade creme brulee. The appetizer however was duck pate (spelling?).... basically a spread made of duck liver.. I did NOT try it.. UG.. however Ivan did.. and he liked it!!!

PLEASE see the rest of the pictures on my facebook.. there are MANY more. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Update on Everything... and getting ready for France

I realized today that I probably should write another blog since it has been awhile since any updates have been made (and so much has happened in that amount of time). Again, I think I am going to break this into sections:

After all the anticipation, I finally am going to Texas. KPMG Houston accepted my transfer request and Ivan and I are moving in May. My official start date is May 17th so we will be moving the week before then. Ivan and I really feel like God finally opened this door. We had idea whether we were going to even go to Texas (and we hadn’t decided between Houston or Dallas). I had put in the transfer request but with the way the economy is going, it wasn’t a sure thing by any means. I am getting a small decrease in salary because of the move but Ivan and I feel like it is worth it. The great thing about Houston is that we have relatives there. My Uncle Russell and Aunt Reba live near there and I am excited about getting to spend time with them. Additionally, I met a KPMG colleague from the Houston office at my training last Spring and we have stayed in touch. Him and his wife are excited about getting together. That is great for Ivan and I since we will have friends there before we even move. We are taking a trip to Houston in a few weeks to determine where we will live (basically we will be apartment shopping). We are both so excited. We hope to be able to buy a house once we live there for about a year.

Ivan and I a booked  a trip to Brazil and our visa applications got denied. Long story short, after a ton of hassle, we got our flights changed and we are now going to France. Of course, being the type A high stress individual that I am... this trip is causing a lot of stress for me. If I had had more time than a week to plan for it.. I probably wouldn't feel this way. Either way, I think I will enjoy myself as long as I can figure out a plan for the currency exchange and getting around. Being in a foreign country where you don't know the language is always scary I assume. I won't have my cell phone either since stupid Verizon doesn't have GSM phones.. ERG!!

Bible Study:
So I have been chugging along with my Beth Moore Revelation study. It is really crazy. We aren’t into anything too complicated yet but I know it is coming. I am excited to learn more but I have this feeling that I can’t learn fast enough! Anyway, I will be working through this during the move more than likely, it will be interesting. I have a whole lot more to say regarding this study and my own personal thoughts but I will save that for a separate post.

So the next few blogs will probably be about Franch. I plan on posting a blog for every day there. However, they may be posted a one bulk time since I don't know what Internet capabilities I will have.

Thats all for now..