Feb 28, 2013

Oslo for 1 day

Yesterday on the taxi bus plane bus walk getting here I was ready to throw in the towel, feeling displaced, tired, fearful, unsure. However, that all changed when I met my airbnb hostess and arrived at her beautiful home. She chatted, provided all kinds of useful Information and recommendations based on my interests. Her home looks like it's right out of a magazine and feels like a "home".

Combining suggestions from my hostess and a friend I set out on my first look at Norway. I had a couple things on the list but for the most part it was a "choose your own adventure day". You remember those books if you turn left go to page 82 or if you choose to go right and try to slay the dragon turn to page 101.

So it starts with the view from the apartment. Yay pink and grey. Then to the Operaen house. Then to Pascal for pear almond tart and hot chocolate, then to the Norsk Arkitektur museum. Bonus time: I find out that my ticket gets me into some other museums.

Then I just wandered and found myself at the Akershus castle and fortress.

Now at this point I'm realizing that every single sidewalk is a thick layer of ice. And I'm watching other people just walk right on them as if its a summer day. I even saw someone jogging. What kind of shoes do these people wear?

So then I walk up a hill past some police on horse back (maybe they have better traction) and slip slide down the hill to the harbor with the Nobel peace center. Another bonus: entrance is free today.

Then trying on dresses for the first time in Europe. I think it's more depressing when you find out what your European size is. Then a store: Norway Designs (I would need a truck to get all the stuff home that I want). A bunch of other home stores (love love love). The sculpture garden. Walking all day. And then to the National Gallery where they have more security guards than works of art. I guess that's what happens when your key piece of art is stolen. But it (the Scream) is back now so I guess they want to keep it safe. I like some of his (Munch's) other works better anyway.

So how is that for a whirlwind day. Tomorrow "should" be more calm.

Feb 27, 2013

Bon Appetit

My coat still smells like duck fat. More about that in a moment.

My heart is pounding out of my chest as I sit here on the shuttle bus to Beauvais airport and the the bus turn signal which actually sounds like a failing heart monitor isn't helping. First, I just took a taxi ride through the roundabout of the Arc de Triomphe. The driver actually turned the car perpendicular to the rest of traffic at one point--talk about a once in a lifetime experience. Second, I'm on my next leg of the journey to an airport I've never been to (I eased myself into this adventure with London & Paris having been to both before), to a country I've never been to, speaking a language I don't even know how to say "hello" in, yet.

Back to the duck fat...last night we attended an evening market and cooking class taught by a professional chef, Constance. We received a lovely overview of French cheeses while standing in a fromage or cheese shop.

Did you know...
~Goat cheese from the south of France was rolled in ash to protect it from birds and humidity (now it's tradition).
~There are 2 traditional kinds of brie named for the towns where they are made. Meaux - produced in a large wheel so you find this in long skinny slices. Melun - a smaller wheel with a browner crust that has a stronger flavor.
~Double cream Brie is 70% fat as opposed to all other cheeses that are 45% fat.
~That cheese with a wet looking rind has been regularly washed or coated in wine or alcohol specific to the region.

So there is your little cheese lesson for the day. After visiting the butcher, the fish monger, the grocer and the boulangerie we went off to cook.

We shucked our own scallops, cleaned and seasoned duck breast, tried to put too much butter into the potato foam, turned a perfect circle of pastry into something resembling the USA, enjoyed wonderful company and ate like royalty.

Le Menu
Scallops with leeks and onions
Duck breast on potato foam with parsnips in orange sauce
Beautiful butter with beautiful bread
Cheese course (the one covered in black ash was the class favorite)
Chocolate tart

Voila! Tres Bon!

And now......I'm in Norway!

That is chef Constance next to me. She will soon be posting videos to YouTube with cooking demonstrations. I will so be watching. And I would recommend this company for Paris cooking classes. Small, great info and great food: cook'n with class.

Feb 26, 2013

Paris in the Sunshine

The sun came out for a wee bit this morning, just long enough for us to enjoy the gardens at the Rodin museum.

The sun disappeared again, but everything was rose colored as we ate a framboise macaron sitting on a park bench at Place des Vosges: a macaron with raspberries that taste like raspberries are supposed to taste and a fluffy raspberry cream filling.

And to round out the afternoon a few images from a ribbon store and Musee Carnavalet.

Up next our cooking adventures in the evening with a trained chef.

Feb 25, 2013

Fountainebleu to Bon Marche and a celebrity chef

First an apology. Now that I've had a few minutes to breathe I see many typos in recent posts, like the title "Nottingham hill" should be "Notting hill". Wading through html code is not my strong suit and I hope you forgive me as I adjust to editing and posting from my phone. Now to the fun stuff...

When looking for help with a train ticket to Chateau Fountainebleu I asked, "parlez-vous l'anglaise," to which the man replied, "do you speak any french". Touche!
I really wish I spoke more French along with some other languages. The pocketful of phrases I DO know usually fly out of my head the moment I need them. But I'm reminded that I need to spend more time learning, remembering and using the phrases first, out of respect for those whose country I am visiting. I am super grateful to those who have been truly helpful, like the girl at the ticket counter who asked questions to determine our trip needs and supplied us with timetables and information that proved to be extremely helpful throughout the day.

Later as my sister and I stood in line at Bon Marche--with our goodies for the next couple of meals (not a crumb is left of the baguette by the way)--I heard a woman apologetically say, "pardon pardon," and then laugh. Thinking "I know that laugh" I looked over and it dawned on me, that is the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. My sister Melissa introduced me to her cookbooks, I've cooked from those books to rave reviews, I've watched her show on TV. So Christy leaned over to her and said, "pardon, I love your recipes". To which she giggled and said, "thank you". That was the chantilly cream on my Paris food shopping excursion.

Feb 24, 2013


We arrived in Paris by Chunnel today. I didn't expect confetti or streamers to fly but I at least thought there would be an announcement when we emerged on the France side. It was a smooth ride but got a little crazy with all of the swindlers at the station on the Paris side. No worries they didn't fool us.

Our last hour in London was spent at Brompton Cemetery which seems quite appropriate because we've been homesick for London since leaving.

But never fear we enjoyed sweets at Laduree as well as the sparkling Eiffel Tower.

But my favorite moment in Paris so far was as we passed 2 Paris policeman walking on a quiet side street as they ate THEIR crepes with Nutella.

The English Countryside with Car and Map

Since arriving in Europe I've had wifi connectivity, battery draining, blog formatting issues (it makes my skin crawl when pictures and text are not aligned) and I'm about ready to throw my phone out the window and jump up and down on my iPad. Ok I'm done complaining--but now you know why we only had a map when leaving London.

We had one goal for the day: visit Jane Austen's house in Chawton about 1.5 hours outside London. It may take others less time to drive but we took a few "detours". Miss Austen is the author of my all time favorite book, Pride and Prejudice. So why not visit during the year of its 200th anniversary. It was lovely and quaint but this quote pretty much sums up the rest of the day's activities.

We totally had a spontaneous change of plans and it was a thrill. We had planned to visit a historic building (which i cannot rember the name of) when I saw a certain estate on the map about 30 minutes away. Ok I didn't know it was 30 minutes away, remember, the tech stuff is not working so well, it was about 6 inches away from our current location so that was a guess. We had really wanted to go to this estate but an all day trip was ruled out because it's closed. But we said, "if we are this close now we have to go and at least try to see Highclere Castle"!
We found it.
Yes we were giddy schoolgirls. All you Downton Abbey fans know exactly what I mean. Here we are facing a field of sheep hoping no one kicks us off the grounds.

Next random destination, Oxford. We had an hour before everything closed, wasting half of it because we didn't trust a certain map (no surprise why neither of us went to Oxford) but then we found this at Christchurch. Look familiar?

Now back to London in the dark...
Driving in central London on the WRONG side of the road, narrow one way streets, pedestrians, busses that don't fit, street signs either too low or too long to read unless you get out of the car and look. Taxi please! So when my iPad map started working during the trickiest part of the journey my sister and I both said, "this is a miracle", seriously.

Last but not least if you see a sign in the English countryside which reads "oncoming traffic may be in the middle of the road" then around the next bend oncoming traffic just may be in the middle of the road in the form of a red double decker tour bus. Ahh!

Feb 22, 2013

Notting Hill

Our first excursion this morning was to Notting Hill. As we were walking to Granger (a restaurant from Where Chefs Eat) we walked by a private park--the kind surrounded by a tall wrought iron fence, the kind where you have to peer through the wall of foliage to see the manicured lawns and walkways, the kind from the movie Notting Hill. And as we were oohing and awing (actually being voyeristic tourists) a sweet little man opened the gate and said, "would you like to come in?" Of course we said ,"yes". We walked in imagined for just a moment that we wandered these grounds as our own and then the nice little man let us out of the gate.

Then we enjoyed a full Australian breakfast, ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter an hot chocolate with callebaut chocolate melting into the foamy hot milk. In my sister's words this is the best toast I have ever had. Yes, the toast and everything else was that good. Darn that means I have to continue to carry that  brick of a book.

Next, to Kensington Palace. We didn't see Kate or Will, but we did see their faces embroidered on pillows along with 20 other royals. Funny thing, Diana had a pillow but Charles did not. Also at Kensington we had afternoon tea at the Orangery. Good thing we practiced our pinky exercises last week so we could enjoy our scones with good form while gazing out the windows to Kensington gardens. 

Last but not least, I can't stop smiling because we just returned from a stage performance of Singin' in the Rain. And I'm really grateful we did not buy the orchestra seats in the splash zone.

Feb 20, 2013


2 days in London and we (christy & I) have taken the wrong tube too many times to count (granted this was on an underground line with multiple ending points but with the same name) tried to pay for a ticket using euros instead of pounds, forgot to bring directions to the hotel (never been so happy to see the Golden Arches with free wifi) and we're having a blast.

Here are just a few highlights from day one because on day 2 my camera battery died).

Lauduree macaroons from Harrods. Not sure which I like more the macaroons or the hot guy in the background.

Westminster Abbey

Big Ben at the stroke of 6:00 sounds just like it does on Peter Pan.

Now, name that movie?

Feb 16, 2013

Miscellaneous land

It's all random stuff today because I leave in TWO DAYS! Welcome to my brain as I work through the chaos.

I'm not a fan of a certain store starting with "w" but I was very excited to find a last minute duffle bag  at "w" for $7. You know, to pack those emergency souvenirs.

I received all my phone/camera goodies: case is cute, strap fits and matches, but...the interchangeable lenses don't fit with the case on (and the case has a pretty sizable lense opening). So I will be making the most of the iPhone camera as is.

Yesterday an ATM machine ate my Visa card. That's right. 3 days before leaving. And when the owner of vicious ATM machine said they wouldn't be able to pry the card from the ATM claws until Tuesday--I leave Monday by the way--I almost took a hatchet to the thing myself. Fortunately, after expressing my panicked concern, I should be able to pick up my card today. This is supposed to be fun right.

Did I mention I leave in 2 days. You would think after 46 days without a job I would be meticulously organized and have at least basic phrases memorized for each country I'm planning to visit. Not the case. Instead I've become a Tinkerbell expert. Did you know fairies are born when a baby first laughs and that Tinkerbell has a sister?

Just heard a little knock at my door and a voice saying "licola licola". Sounds like I'm about to get another dose of fairy dust. Not such a bad way to spend my last Saturday morning in the states.

Feb 14, 2013

Option M (at least)

Remember that first itinerary I posted: Option A, as predicted it has changed. A lot. Imagine putting all the destinations in a box, adding a few more, shaking it real good and dumping it out. That's pretty much what it feels like and I couldn't be happier. I will continue to post changes to the itinerary page here. So with 4 more days to go here's the plan:


London England - new
Paris France - new
Oslo Norway - new

original itinerary: Portugal Spain Italy Switzerland


Norway - new
Sweden -new
Denmark -new
Prague Czech Republic
Vienna Austria -new

original itinerary: Croatia Hungary Czech Republic Scotland


Amsterdam Netherlands

original itinerary: Ireland Guernsey France Netherlands                                                                          


Lake District England 
Ireland (or June)
Central Asia

 original itinerary: Denmark Germany Central Asia (a "stan" or 2)


A couple stops in the US

Feb 13, 2013

Pinky Finger Excercises

our finger sandwiches at The Grand America Hotel-photos by Christy
I enjoy a lovely Tea and when a trip to England just isn't possible to satisfy a longing for scones and clotted cream I go here

The Grand America Hotel 
Salt Lake City, Utah 
The Afternoon Tea includes: 
a blossoming tea flower and a tower of
finger sandwiches,
scones, jam, clotted cream,
pastries and pate fruit 

Two a Tea 
Glendora, California 
The Royal High Tea and The Queen's Tea are served course by course including a spoon sized sphere of sorbet as a palate cleanser. The strawberry herbal tea is still one of my favorites.

Tea flower at The Grand America Hotel

The Rose Garden Team Room at the Huntingon Library
San Marino, California
Here everything is served buffet style so if your favorite tea sandwich is salmon and dill you can have 1 or 4 more.

Reservations are required for all three of these tea services. And they are all worth the wait.

Feb 9, 2013

A Camera Quandry

Since owning an iPhone I've completely stopped using a separate camera.  *before reading further please note I am no photography or tech buff

Sometimes the pictures turn out great, sometimes not so good, zooming compromises the quality, but photos are easily accessible to share or upload to a blog. So, deciding to continue with the iPhone as my multipurpose device for this trip I've been on the hunt for a few gadgets:
  • a cute case of course -- I just HAD to upgrade to an iPhone 5 because it is unlocked for international travel, which means I HAVE to get a new case
  • a case with a strap for security -- that doesn't look like I'm holding a wallet up to my head or talking into a handbag, even James Bond doesn't get away with that
  • accessories to "up" the wide angle and zoom functionality
I'm pleased to announce I've found all three two FINALLY

To keep it girly I ordered this case from The Joy Merryman store on Etsy. 
Monogrammed iPhone 5 Case, Peony Mint Green and Gold iPhone5

Then I found these on Photojojo! an online store with all kinds of photography gadgets.

That's right, a separate strap that fits with most cases! I went with the tan. 
And this lense set: fisheye, wide/macro and telephoto lenses that attach magnetically once you've installed the small metal ring to the back. All combined I could have bought a completely new camera, but I'm really happy to get everything in one, in a format that fits for me. Keeping my fingers crossed that it works as well as it sounds.

UPDATE: I received all my phone/camera goodies: case is cute, strap fits and matches, but...the interchangeable lenses don't fit with the case on (and the case has a pretty sizable lense opening). So I will be making the most of the iPhone camera as is.

 Now here's the awesome news . . . 
YOU get $5 off your first order
when you use this link


Feb 8, 2013

Visions of Sea Urchin Toast

I am really hoping that the grace of the foodie gods will shine down on me and grant me this wish: to dine at Noma. I just added my name to the reservation waitlist (like 6 times).

It has been named by many food critics as the best in the world, been on the list of The World's 50 Best Restaurants for 7 years, named The Best in 2012, and in Where Chefs Eat it is recommended by 31 chefs (most restaurants made it into the book with 1 recommendation).

Courses in a meal are in the double digits, locally sourced regional food with a modern twist. And for those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages you can select a juice menu rather than a wine pairing. We're not talking about juice of the generic orange, apple or grape variety. These are made in house and include flavors such as sea buckthorn, lingonberry, pine, elderflower, and pear-verbena.

Oh please, please, please Mr. Reservation Filler let me in . . . a girl like me doesn't make it to Denmark very often.

Strandgade 93 Copenhagen Denmark