Day 19: Food

A foodie is someone who had a particular interest in food, specifically in trying a variety of cuisines. I am a foodie.

Those of you who have been following along with our trip know that we’ve enjoyed some VERY good food over the past few weeks!

Sometimes, Dave and I plan out restaurants when we’re traveling. We knew months ahead of time that we would be eating at Nuria in Madrid.

They are the top rated Ethiopian restaurant in Madrid. Ethiopian is easily one of my top 3 cuisines.

Usually this planning goes well. Other times, we search for a while, looking at menu after menu for something interesting, but when we find it, it disappoints us.

We found a Georgian restaurant in Warsaw our second night there. It was pretty awful. The Georgian dumplings were full of soup, just like in Suzhou & Shanghai, but the dough was so thick it was basically flavourless

Still, I can say that in our 19 days of traveling, we’ve only had 1 or maybe 2 disappointing meals. Those are pretty good stats!

Our McDonald’s meal in Toulouse was also disappointing…

On our way to Krakow yesterday afternoon, we had our biggest surprise yet. We figured we’d be settling for a diner or fast food, but we were pretty hungry and ready to settle for anything. We rolled into Kielce, and drove to the only restaurant we saw listed.

Go ahead and try to pronounce it. We’re getting better… But still find Polish to be quite intimidating.

We were surprised by a few things. First, the place looked pretty high end, but the prices were significantly lower than we’d seen in Warsaw. Secondly, this was not a diner stop. It was an incredible restaurant experience… And we just happened to stumble upon it, simply because it was a quick drive off the main highway.

The city is actually much bigger than I expected. It didn’t seem very big, but we also didn’t go very far into town.

The food was unreal. I had mushroom stuffed ravioli on a bed of pumpkin and coconut milk. Dave had beef cheek with polish gnocchi and beets. The whole meal was fabulous.

A delicious meal!!
Nice restaurant with some pretty cool decor (Random slides in the middle of the room)
In the room right next to us, there was furniture made of cardboard. I thought that was pretty nifty!

It isn’t often we get that good of a meal while we’re on the road!

There were some interesting statues outside of the restaurant too.

Today was our first day in Krakow! I’ll be back soon with more on that!

Day 18: Music!

If you know me at all, you know how important music is to me. When I learned that everyone in the world doesn’t constantly have a song in their head… And that this was just a “Marie” thing…. I was completed flabbergasted. What do you mean everyone else isn’t always thinking of music!?

Living in China allows me to perform. It’s become a very important part of my life

Throughout my life, many different artists have influenced me, awed me and most importantly, gotten me through difficult times. I’ve always counted on music as a source of comfort and positivity.

When Chester Bennington of Linkin Park committed suicide last year, I was filled with such a profound sadness that it was hard to explain. It wasn’t just that one of my favourite musicians was gone forever…it was that his writing and vocals had gotten me through my difficult years as a teenager.

One of the bands that has been with me through it all has been Blue October. When I was a teenager, they were moody, emotional and full of angst. Now, they write about life with their families and how great life can be if you make the right choices. I connect with these guys. A lot.

Justin was sporting a whole lot of eyeliner back in the early 2000s
He’s toned it down since then. One of many similarities between he and I

When Dave told me that Blue October was playing in Europe while we were going to be there, I shrugged it off, thinking the dates wouldn’t work or it would be to expensive. But I forgot one thing: I married the most amazing human being on the planet. He isn’t much of a Blue October fan himself, but he made it happen.

He also got me Meet & Greet tickets so that I could meet the band, get an autograph and get a picture with them!

Now this is where our travels enters this post ….

Reminder: We’re in Warsaw, Poland!

The concert was better than I could have imagined. The band was incredible; that was no surprise…. But their Polish fans were amazing!!! It was like being at a concert with 500 people who “get” my love for this relatively unknown band!!!

I had expected a younger crowd (the concert was held at a university campus). All ages were there.

They sang along with every song. They jumped and danced and screamed with me. I was so worried that the concert would be too small and they’d end up canceling that stop… But Warsaw was an awesome crowd! Justin Furstenfeld mentioned several times that he was blown away by the passion and excitement in our tiny audience.

I love this shot of Matt (bassist) and Will (electric guitar), but I loved it even more when I realized I’d accidently included the arm of a superfan in the shot. The rose he has tattooed on his forearm is Blue October artwork!!

I managed to make it through the night without full out bursting into tears, but it was tough. Blue October has been like a friend to me through thick and thin. “I hope you’re Happy” has cheered me up after many bad days. “Sway” perfectly incapsulates what it feels to be so in love with someone that you just can’t wait for all the moments you get to spend with them. “I want it” is about always wanting better…. Wanting more.

Such a great show!!!

I love Warsaw and it will always stand out in my mind as a city that has great taste in music, incredible passion and an epic music scene!

A few more shots from the concert explained:

Blue October is so much more than just Justin Furstendeld. Their bassist Matt is a super nice guy and is CRAZY talented. Will, their guitarist, loves perogies and wasn’t shy about asking where to get the best stuff
Justin “throwing fireworks” into the crowd. This was during the song “Dance in Time”. The song is about staying in sync with your spouse. Learning to dance together.
A cool shot I like of Justin being sassy
He suffers from bi polar disorder and anxiety. This picture was taken during one of his throwback songs from an earlier album. It was fun to see him like he was 15 years ago
Another band shot. In addition to incredible lyrics, Blue October also has an INCREDIBLE sound. A lot of that is owed to Ryan Dalhoussay, the band violinist/violist/keyboardist/backup vocalist/guitarist. His diversity as musician adds so much to the band’s sound!!
The opening act. They were a local Polish band and pretty good! I wish I could have understood some of their stuff!!!

Day 17: For the Love of Coffee

Living in China can be tough for a coffee lover. Our best option as far as price and size goes is, sadly, Starbucks. Most coffee shops in China make watered down, tiny cups of something that resembles coffee but doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Luckin Coffee was suppose to revolutionize coffee in China… But their prices are higher than Starbucks and their coffee is weak. They also ONLY do delivery, so you don’t have the option of bringing your own reusable mug, which I dislike greatly.

In Europe, however, we’ve been spoiled for choice. We’ve had to change the way we drink coffee, of course. In Canada, I’d order myself a 20oz Large Double Double at McDonald’s twice a day. If they had a bigger size, I would probably order it!

Can you make that a double double?

In Europe, they don’t do drip coffee. They mostly do espresso, cappuccinos and cafe con leche. And their cups are small. But delicious.

I didn’t take pictures of EVERY cup of coffee I’ve had, but I did take one of my first cup in Madrid. T’was excellent

Price is also a factor in China. Starbucks is double the price in China as it is in Canada, but it’s STILL better value than any of the local chains! You can get a Venti (20oz) drip coffee for $5 Canadian at Starbucks, but anywhere else, you pay $7 for 12oz. It’s crazy.

To get my favourite specialty drink at Starbucks, I pay more than $8 Canadian!

In Europe, we’ve been enjoying our €1.50 coffees a couple of times a day and we’ve been loving it. Today we found a coffee shop in Warsaw that specialized in coffee from all around the world. For about $3.50, I enjoyed a perfect cup of Guatamalan coffee in a cozy atmosphere.

Seen here: Cozy atmosphere

I’m done rambling about coffee now.

Correction: FOR now….

For those of you who don’t know why we’re in Poland, my favourite band, Blue October, is playing here in Warsaw tomorrow night!!!! We added Poland to our spring festival itinerary, just so I could meet the band and see them perform live!

I’m guessing tomorrow’s post might be about that….

Day 16: Graffiti

As I mentioned in another post, we saw graffiti all over Spain, Andorra and France. On our way down to La Rambla last night (a popular tourist area in Barcelona), I decided to get some pictures.

Some are of it’s good… Some of it is ….. Well….

Some of the graffiti we saw was a collection of work from various “artists”

The colours really pop on the black door…

We noticed that a lot of the graffiti we were seeing was painted onto metal doors, not on the actual buildings.

I’m not sure of the reasons…

Some of what we saw could very well have been commissioned by known Street artists, from the look of it.

A lot of the best artwork is done on shop gates. When the stores close for the day, suddenly, there’s art!
This one was massive and stretched the entire length of a wall
We saw a few Vans like this. The art was obviously commissioned.

Once I made a point of photographing the graffiti I saw, I took more notice of the different styles and locations of the graffiti and even started to appreciate it.

Or, at the very least, I began to recognize the difference between street art and vandalism

There was graffiti on every pillar going down the boardwalk. Hundreds of scribbles.

So, through all this, I started to actually appreciate and learn about grafitti. When we walked to the post office this morning, before leaving Barcelona, we saw some of the best work yet.

This piece is a point of interest in Pokemon Go. The grafitti looked newer in the game, so I’m guessing this piece is a few years old now

Still….I’m left conflicted when I see things like this:

A mixture of “old/traditional” art with “new/abstract” art???

We’re in Poland now, and I’m officially caught up with blogging! I wonder what day 17 will bring!!!

Day 15: Markets

Although Dave would probably disagree with me, I consider markets to be a must-see whenever we travel. Our last night in Barcelona was spent on the tourist Street “La Rambla”, where we discovered one of these buzzing tourist hot spots.

People come to La Rambla to shop, eat and drink

The reason I like markets so much is not because I enjoy shopping. It’s more because I like seeing what different countries offer in their markets. While you’ll find wooden carvings of elephants in Thailand, you’ll find knotted bracelets in Indonesia. Even from city to city, you see differences. Luang Prabang, for example, is famous for its giant slippers!

People sell these slippers all over the place in Luang Prabang, but we didn’t see them anywhere else in Laos

In Spain, it was no surprise to see smoked meat, spices and olive oil for sale in the markets.

Of course, there were some surprises too. We didn’t think Spain was known for its candies but they were for sale everywhere in the market. I imagine locals also visit and stock up on their favourite sweets.

There were also a kiosk or two that really surprised me (and I don’t find many things surprising after living in China for nearly 6 years).

I think these are sheep heads. This kiosk also sold stomach and all sorts of other organs

I can never stay in these markets for long because they tend to be pretty crowded, but they’re usually an interesting and quick stop.

Compared to Asian markets, this one was downright empty!!!!

Day 16 will be up soon!

Day 14: Rest & Wind

Not every day can be exciting. It took two weeks, the forces of nature and shopping bylaws to slow us down, but we finally did. We finally took a chill day on our holiday.

It took me 3 weeks last year! Stupid wind is slowing me down in 2019!!

The drive from Montpellier to Barcelona is pretty long so we decided to split it up with a stopover in the small French town of Perpignan. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that everything is closed on Sundays in this sleepy French town, so we got there and had nothing to do!!

Even finding an open restaurant was difficult!
Even in touristy areas, no one was outside.
As we drove through, it felt a bit like a science fiction movie. I kept expecting zombies to appear!

Ok, it wasn’t that bad… But the wind WAS crazy yesterday, and with most businesses closed for Sunday, everyone was staying inside. So, we spent the day napping and catching up on the news as well. It was probably a good idea. We’ve been running on all cylinders since we arrived in Europe.

Day 14 steps
Day 15 Steps

We did drive around a bit in the evening to find some food. We ended up settling for some fast food (a truely lazy day!), and on our drive we saw the effects of the crazy strong winds that ripped through the region all day.

We saw lots of branches laying across the road
Plenty of garbage bins and patio furniture also got tossed around in the wind
It was like a prairie storm without the rain!

So that’s all I really have to say about day 14. Day 15 was much more exciting, so stay tuned for my post tomorrow!!

Day 13: Yellow Vests

Yesterday started out as a bummer of a day. We had missed our tour to the vineyards, and we didn’t really have anything else planned, so we headed to an aquarium instead.

I missed out on wine…. But I got to see Penguins!

Just outside the aquarium, there is a huge shopping complex, so Dave and I head in to find some laundry soap and other supplies we needed. Just before we got to the grocery store, I spotted some sweaters I liked, so I sent Dave in to get the groceries and I popped into the shop.

Once more, Geant Casino to the rescue!

It turned out the clothes were all very overpriced, so I went to join Dave. That’s when they started shutting the gates. I was trapped in the mall, and Dave was trapped in a store…. In a country where he doesn’t speak the language.

I was in the hallway between the big grocery store and the rest of the mall. Dave was on the other side of those gates

At first, I figured a child might be missing, but when I asked, I was told that the Gilets Jaunes protesters were going to be coming through. We were all being asked to get out of the store through a back door.

Gilets Jaunes or Yellow Vests

The protests have been going on for months. You can read more about it here, but the short version is that people in France are angry with their government for quite a few reasons. Mostly, the government has been lowering taxes for the rich, and bringing them up for the poor. A recipe for discontent.

Taxes on gas are what ‘fueled’ the protests.

It turned out the protestors organized a march in Montpellier on the very day we were in the city. Dave and I found ourselves separated and without any mode of communication (our Spanish sims didn’t work in France).

Then hundreds of these guys started pouring into the square….

I explained to the staff at Geant that my anglophone husband was in the store, so they let me stay there and wait for him to come out. People were allowed leaving the store … Just not allowed going in.

They weren’t armed, but they looked determined…

It turns out Dave didn’t even know anything happening because all the announcements had been in French. He came up to the cash registers to pay, laundry detergent and a bag of ice in hand, with no idea that I’d been waiting anxiously for him for 10 minutes while protesters marched by!

Seen here: Me, in a rare moment of non-worry. Dave: In an average moment.

Things luckily didn’t escalate at this particular protest, but many others have ended in riots. At the shopping center, a few people set off some fireworks, which definitely scared me, but were completely harmless. In other areas of the countries, fires were set, businesses were vandalized and tear gas was unleashed on rioters. It’s no wonder the mall closed up and everyone moved behind the safety of gates.

The police showed up just as we got to the car.

So that was our experience with the Gilets Jaunes. Long story short: basically nothing happened, but I worried anyway. In fairness, this could have escalated in a big way. You can watch a compilation of a protest that did not end so peacefully in Montpellier just 2 weeks ago here.

The square where the worst of that protest happened. We now understand all the broken windows and closed off ATMs that we saw while we searched for an open bank earlier that morning