Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Camping or Glamping?

 An ocean over, some things are very similar between the United States and Germany.  Other things...have a world of difference. For example, camping glamping. Have you heard of glamping?  It's an actual term in the World English Dictionary:
glamping  (ˈglæmpɪŋ) 
— n
a form of camping in which participants enjoy physical comforts associated with
more luxurious types of holiday

We had been talking for several months about taking a short camping trip.  After looking at a few "campgrounds" Husband was not interested.  His reason: "This is not camping."  The campgrounds in Germany are tightly filled with camp trailers, swimming pools, laundry rooms, billiards, playgrounds, food stores, beer gardens, and CLEAN updated bathrooms.  How can it be camping if you don't need shower shoes?

The worst part- No. Campfires. Allowed. HUH? What is the point of camping without a campfire? This could be a dealbreaker.

The Boy Scout was going to take some convincing.

Despite being described as the "Rolls Royce" of campgrounds, the place I found seemed to be the most secluded out of the 15 or so locations I looked at online.  Meaning, I could see forest in the background instead of a city or someone's farmland.  Husband called and asked if grilling was allowed.  They said yes. Camping was on.

All this for one night of camping...

With our new mini grill, marshmallows, and summer tent we loaded up the car and headed 3 hours west towards the Black Forest.  There we enjoyed two days getting back to nature.  Halfway into our hike through the forest Husband admitted he was glad I dragged him out camping.  While it might not have been as rustic and rugged as the days of scouting, this was as good as we were going to get.

 Back to Nature

Sitting under the night stars, roasting marshmallows over our campfire grill with the Black Forest behind us was just the type of relaxation we both needed.  

Man Make Fire

Oh and in the end, it wasn't so bad using bathrooms fully equipped with toilet paper and hand soap. I actually kind of enjoyed the top music hits playing softly out of the over head speakers. Maybe camping actually is for kids and glamping is for those who want to reminisce camping but with the luxuries of adulthood. 

Camping the Glamorous Life,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mainly Food: Paris

I have heard people before use the term "Foodie" as if it were a bad thing.  Husband and I will proudly proclaim to anyone that we are indeed foodies (most likely you can look at us and tell.)  We love to eat. Not cheap or fast but rather fresh, thoughtfully prepared, quality food items.

When it came time to start planning our trip to Paris, I looked to several resources for help in deciding where Husband and I should eat.  Paris is filled with thousands of restaurants and we only had roughly 12 meals to find the perfect places. Here are the places we found and I have rated them between 1 to 5 stars.

Saturday Dinner:
Le Bistrot d'Eustache ***
Reason for Choosing: The patio chairs looked more comfortable than the neighboring restaurant
Atmosphere: Quaint, truly French bistro, frequented by locals and a few tourists
Menu: We ordered off the Formula Menu which meant we got 2 courses for a set price.  For the main course I had pork because they were out of the mussels.  The pork came with potatoes au gratin and a small salad.  I was surprised that the potatoes were fairly bland and lacking in flavor. The dessert was a chocolate mousse so big and rich I could not finish it! We enjoyed this place and would go back again.

Sunday Dinner:
Cafe de l'Industrie ***
Reason for Choosing: Travel guide listing as one of the Top 10 Bistros in the Bastille district
Atmosphere: Young crowd, dark walls with French decor, vintage feel in this small bistro
Menu: Husband and I ordered Escargot as a starter.  It was our first time and we were hesitant if we even wanted to try snails!  When the dish was set on our table we were surprised to find out-of-shell Escargot smothered in pesto and butter.  They were delicious!  My main course was a bit of a let down.  I ordered "safe" and chose Penne au Gorgonzola.  I thought that the dish would at least have mushrooms but it was basically just mac 'n cheese.

Monday Dinner:
Taverne de l'Arbre ***
Reason for Choosing: Tired of walking and crowded patio seating
Atmosphere: Nice English speaking staff, we were pick pocketed here
Menu: I can't remember what I ordered... I was too upset to eat. The owner was very nice and wrote down directions to the nearest police station.  The bar tender recommend two electronic stores to buy our new camera. You can't be in Paris without a camera.

Tuesday Dinner:
Creperie Le Minos ***
Reason for Choosing:  We weren't too hunger after our Eiffel Tower picnic 
Atmosphere: Street food in the St.Germain/Latin district, a high tourist area
Menu: My crepe was so stuffed with Nutella and bananas that I could only eat half of it!  We stood watching street performers while eating our crepes.  He also had savory crepes but I can't resist Nutella.

Wednesday Dinner:
Les Grandes Marches ****
Reason for Choosing: It was a bit out of our daily price range but after walking so much Husband said "Who cares."
Atmosphere: Seafood galore, white table cloths on a closed in patio, attentive waitstaff
Menu: This was by far one of my favorite meals in Paris.  Our meal started out with a glass of fruity champagne, French Onion Soup with bread, and a bottle of white wine. Then for the main course I had a white fish with vegetables and a salad with a cheese board selection of two cheeses my choice. For dessert I had a massive creme brulee that Husband had to "help" me eat.  After dessert was cleared away the waiter then brought Husband an espresso and myself a cappuccino.  In all our meal took us about 3 hours from start to finish.  I LOVED this style of eating!  It's not just a meal, it is an experience to enjoy course after course.  While the set menu price was more than we wanted to spend on a meal, what we got for the price of under 70 Euros (total) was incredible. I highly recommend Les Grandes Marches if you are visiting Paris.

Thursday Lunch:
Léon de Bruxelles ****
Reason for Choosing: I had been craving mussels since we stepped foot in Paris.
Atmosphere: We broke our "No chain restaurants." rule, suckered in by their bright advertisements around town. We ate on their patio at the  Avenue des Champs Élysées location.
Menu:  Set menus are popular in Paris.  For 25 Euros (each) our meals included drinks, bread, mussels, a side dish, dessert, and cappuccinos.   I've become a pretty big fan of these set menus... The price was more than we would normally spend on lunch but it was our last day and again, it was mussels. I love mussels. I recommend this place for lunch in Paris and will go back next time.

Thursday Anniversary Dinner:
Bofinger *****
Reason for Choosing: Our Paris Walks guide recommended Bofinger and it was listed in our Top 10 Paris book.
Atmosphere: Opened in 1864 and considered one of the oldest brasseries in Paris, beautiful architectural details in the oval stain-glass ceiling, tiled floors, and paintings through out.
Menu: As you probably have guessed, another set menu! I had the best raw oysters I have ever had as my starter, salmon with potato puree as my main course, and ice cream with strawberry soup (not sure what else to call it!) for dessert. The wait staff were extremely classy and attentive to our needs.  I love when they use those little scoop files to clear the crumbs off your table.  If you decide to visit Bofinger, a reservation is a must and make sure you reserve a table in the main room.  This place is exactly what you envision when you think of local Parisian eateries. 

I wish we had spent more time planning where we would eat the first three days of our trip. I felt like I was missing that great Parisian place that I had imagined in my head until our second to last night when we ate at Les Grandes Marches. When you go to Paris plan out a few of your meals and then take a chance with the rest.
Husband and I are already talking about our next trip to Paris.  Our dream is to take a short two or three day trip to really explore the fine dining options in Paris.  I'm also interested in taking a wine or chocolate tour of the city!  The great thing about Paris is a lot of the cooking styles have now spread to many parts of the world.  You can find great dining options just about anywhere you plan to travel. 

Bon Appetit,

Monday, August 26, 2013

Red Pepper Relish

Many of my friends either went back to teaching today or sent their kids off to school.  Here in Germany we still have two more weeks of "summer". Let's face the facts, I'm wearing a fleece right now. In honor of Back to School I put together a blog entry that is school inspired really has nothing to do with the day.  I guess red peppers are red like apples....and students take apples to their teachers but that is a bit of a reach. Nonetheless, I hope everyone has a great first day back at school!
Husband and I went to a BBQ, German style, at the beginning of the summer with his colleagues and their wives.  I was really excited to go for two main reasons; 1. Speaking in German for longer than a minute and 2. Seeing what types of foods are brought to German Bar-B-Ques.

One dish that caught my attention was Red Pepper Coleslaw.  Husband and I eat red peppers just about daily.  Why has it never crossed my mind to shred red peppers?!  

Well this weekend something amazing happened.  I opened the fridge to find a jar of pickle juice just hanging out next to the red peppers. Who keeps random jars of pickle juice around? This girl. Badda bing, badda boom and the idea to pickle those red peppers was born. 

It was so easy AND resourceful! Grandma would be proud. Look:

This mini food processor has been one of my favorite wedding presents.  It's storage spot is down below in a cabinet but I have found that I am constantly pulling it out of the dishwasher.  I'm using it so often that the processor might just find a new spot on top of the counter. Be jealous other jealous.  

All you do is seed and cut four red peppers into chunks.  Chop in the processor for a few seconds until the peppers are a nice shredded consistency.  Don't over do it. Then scrape the shreds into the pickle juice.  Seriously, it is so easy it's almost embarrassing I'm blogging about this. The Red Pepper Relish stayed in the refrigerator for two days before I served it. 

Last night Husband and I had a side of our relished red peppers with dinner.  I drained the juice before putting the relish onto our plates.  The pickle juice gave a complementary flavor to the sweetness of red peppers. The red pepper relish was great alone but I think it also would make a delicious topping for hot dogs as well.  

Now go eat your pickles so you can make Red Pepper Relish.

Happy School Year,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shame On Me

or shame on you Paris?  After getting pick pocketed where can I point the blame; you, them, or me?

I spent about a month planning our anniversary trip to Paris.  Hours went into picking the perfect hotel, what day to go to what museums, which tours were the best, and where to find that quaint Parisian bistro you see in all the movies.  I read two travel guides front to back, talked to locals and experienced travelers, and watched several videos all of which warned Husband and I of the pick pocketers that threaten the streets of Paris. It still happened.

We were careful, we knew to avoid people trying to distract us, and we walked with a purpose everywhere. Husband kept his wallet in his front pocket, I carried an over-the-shoulder bag, and we never had over 100 Euros on us.  Our mistake was one that still had precautionary thoughts.  Sitting outside at a cafe we chose a table right next to the wall to avoid sitting in the middle of the sidewalk.  I set my purse under the table, against the wall, in front of my feet and Husband did the same but with our camera.  Both bags were within my eyesight and guarded by our legs. Not good enough.

A man sat down at a table directly behind Husband.  The waiter never took his order waiting for the customer to finish his phone call.  A different guy selling flowers came walking down the sidewalk offering Husband and I roses.  We looked at the flowers and politely declined his offer. Husband and I continued eating.   Two minutes later I looked down at our feet and noticed our camera gone.   At some point the man behind Husband had left the restaurant.  

This is a classic example of how pick pocketers work in teams, one to distract and the other to make the steal.  In the meantime, three cops were on a dark side street smoking cigarettes just around the corner as this was going on. Hmp.

After our ruined meal, Husband and I headed two blocks over to the neighborhood "police station." We walked in to find two policewomen (who only spoke French) sitting in a dimly lit, scuffed up, graffiti covered, disgustingly filthy, police station.  Through our broken French and their broken English we came to the realization that this police station does not have computers and we can not file a report at that location.  It is 2013, in the middle of Paris, and this police station DOES NOT HAVE COMPUTERS! 

The policewomen gave us directions to the next "police station." Husband and I briskly walked through the dark streets trying to find the next station.  We questioned which road to turn right down so we stepped over to a store window to use the light to look at our map. (Again, we know not to pull maps out in public)  A man came over and stood right next to Husband.  I gently tugged on Husband's arm moving him a foot and a half away from the man.  The man scooted a foot and a half back towards Husband.  At this point Husband and I just took off down the next road getting away from this guy.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

We luckily found the next police station.  The front door was locked but the police inside motioned us to go to the side of the building.  There in the dark Husband and I stood on the side of the police station talking through a window covered in burglar bars to a cop barely over the age of 16.  He told us that we could not file a police report at this station because it is closed. SERIOUSLY?! Who closes a police station in a high traffic area?! 

At this point Husband and I were pretty rattled.  We didn't feel safe.  If something else were to happen who would be there to help us?  We obviously couldn't count on the police based on the last two stations we visited.  As Husband and I made our way to the Metro station, a man stopped us to ask if we wanted to buy flowers.  I looked up at him and recognized him from the restaurant.  Husband quickly grabbed my arm and we kept walking.  As we briskly got away from that guy, I looked back over my shoulder and saw the man doing the same thing, looking back at us.  I told Husband I wanted to go back and kick this guy, who helped steal my camera, but according to the U.S. Embassy's website payback against a pick pocketer is a pretty serious crime. Um, what?!

In a country that has an obvious world wide known problem of pick pocketing why is more not being done?  Sure, we should have been smarter and kept our bags in our lap, but shouldn't a city be attempting to stop the excessive amounts of pick pocketing?  When your museum workers go on strike in protest of the pick pocketers inside the Louvre, THERE IS A PROBLEM.  Millions of people flock to Paris to see the glorious sights the city has to offer, spending billions of Euros a year in tourism.  Don't those people deserve to be protected against crime?  
Posted Signs in the Louvre

Overall I did not feel safe in Paris.  It was not just the pick pocketing.  My first clue was when we stepped off the airplane inside the airport and I saw signs warning us of scam artist cab drivers.  Then on the way to baggage claim, we passed by three military men carrying military rifles.  Uh............ I don't think we are in Kansas anymore.

On our fourth day in Paris, Husband and I saw a store owner chasing gypsy women down the street screaming at them.  These women go around and ask tourists to sign "petitions".  While you sign the petition, one stands at the side and picks your pocket.  You can read about it here. A few hours later they stopped us in front of a church.  We kept walking.

During our fifth day in Paris, Husband and I were followed through the Metro station by a solo man.  He wasn't going to pick pocket us, he was going to rob us if given the chance.  He watched us walk his way, then turned and took off after us.  We picked up our pace after quickly exchanging concerns and we got "lost" in a big group of Asians and a street band.  

In the end I don't blame myself, Husband, or Paris for getting pick pocketed.  I blame the criminal.  They made a choice to steal and we became victims. 

Paranoid on the Patio
Left Leg- Purse Strap
Right Leg- Camera Strap

The next morning we were able to go out and buy a new camera WITH insurance.  Husband and I now joke that my wedding present from Husband is also the same gift as my first anniversary present.  I told him next year, for our second anniversary, I would like to stick to just good old fashion jewelry, no cameras.  

We didn't let this experience ruin our trip.  Husband and I had an otherwise great time seeing things we had only read about in the history books.  Someday we do hope to go back and visit Paris again.  Maybe then I can buy something Chanel instead of something Canon.   

Au Revoir,