Daytrip: Astoria, OR Photo Diary

My mother is currently visiting us so today we decided to take her out to see the Oregon coast since she’s never been before.

About a 2-hour drive away is Astoria, OR: a quaint old coastal fishing town that is bustling with tourists and locals alike on a Sunday.  We went to the Sunday market, rode the trolley, had fantastic strawberry French toast at an organic cafe with an extremely chatty server and a fridge that had broken and spoiled their hand-made pizza dough, visited “Mikey’s house” from The Goonies movie, stared longingly at the too-cold-to-even-think-about-a-swim Pacific Ocean, saw purses with dogs’ faces quilted onto them, people with corn hats, and works of art rendered in coffee, and gazed on the grave of Ranald MacDonald (no, that’s not a typo – he was a missionary who visited Japan in 1848, believing that the Japanese and Native Americans were one and the same people, and was believed to be the first-ever English teacher in Japan).  I poked in an architectural salvage shop and found a pile of glass door pulls and a crib with peeling (possibly lead-filled?) paint, and my mother bought a book of mazes for Lil Tot at The Purple Cow toy store.  All in all, a good day.



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Back from Camping: Silver Falls, OR Photo Diary

Myself, Hub, and Lil Tot went on an impromptu camping trip yesterday (well, we had only started planning it on Friday) to Silver Falls, Oregon.  We only stayed about a day but it was the first time we had gone camping together as a family (if you don’t count the dry run we tried last summer in the backyard where the dog barked all night since we had brought her into the tent with us).

We managed to erect the tent without throwing out our backs, managed to sleep the night without defaulting to sleeping in the car (though Lil Tot has been sniffling today; I think he caught a cold from not wearing a hat while sleeping); managed to cook both dinner and breakfast on the fire (though there were some very burnt blueberry pancakes), and managed two hikes while we stayed there.

I had no idea, but apparently this area is classified as “temperate rainforest”…I always had this image of rainforests being warm.  It was overcast and chilly (in the 50’s to mid-60’s); a typical Oregon August.

We saw multiple mini-tornados (are they called dervishes or something else??  I have no idea.) springing up on farmland on the drive in; and on the hikes, an anthill seething with ants; orange raspberries; tons of foxgloves; a slug longer than my hand; and a 93-foot waterfall.  It was the perfect length for a little mini-vacation, and everybody enjoyed themselves.

Maybe next time, we’ll even bring the dog.


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At the Ryokan and Onsen

Last Saturday we [my father- and mother-in-law, Hub, myself, and Lil Tot] set out to Ito (in Shizuoka prefecture), west of Tokyo, to spend a day at a ryokan [traditional Japanese inn] and onsen [hot springs].  (I was trying to see how many parentheses I could fit into one sentence;-)


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Photos from My Trip to France: France Photo Diary 2

Thanks to everyone for being so patient with me and my lack of posts recently!  We got back from France late Friday, but I’ve been super jetlagged…waking up at 3:30 AM every morning and unable to go back to sleep afterwards, and super, super-sick with a head cold and hacking cough that hasn’t been getting any better.  Plus a mountain of laundry, no food in the pantry, a pile of mail to go through…you all know how it is when you go out of town!  So finally I’ve gotten around to editing all the photos I took…and here is a brief selection of them.

First off, the architecture in Paris was beautiful, and wherever we turned, even down the smallest street or cul-de-sac, hid the most breathtaking buildings, statues, and structures.  I must have taken about 200 photos of buildings alone.

Plus, there was an art gallery on every corner.  I’ve never been in a place where people respected and appreciated art so much!

 Lil Tot at the Musee d’Orsay, viewing the scale model of Paris below the floor.

Me attempting in my pathetic French to buy lunch for everyone at a local market.  We certainly did not buy a lot – but the total came to 74 Euros – $103!!

Secondly, the food was delicious – especially anything wrapped in pastry, desserts, french fries (or should I say frites?), and the macarons.  I had never had a macaron before!  Now I know what everyone’s raving about.

Thai lime-flavored.

We spent the first 3 nights in Paris, then the next 2 in the Burgundy region, then the last 2 nights in Paris again.  We stayed in 4 hotels over 7 days!  That was a few too many for my liking, though we did get to see quite a few different areas because of it.

 We visited Euro Disney.  I cannot really recommend it – Tokyo Disneyland is much, much better!  (I’ve never been to the Disneys in the US, so that’s my only basis for comparison.:-/)

Entering the Trianon Gardens.

In the center of Marie Antonette’s Hamlet.

A building in the Hamlet, peppered with pigeons.
The Seine river.

One of the few stores I really wanted to go to – Kiliwatch, a huge vintage store.  The prices were highly disappointing and the front half of the store was filled with furs and leathers and animal bits, which I found disturbing due to the sheer amount of it, regardless of it all being secondhand.  Perhaps I’m a little more militant than I thought when it comes to animal byproduct in fashion items??

 Another disappointment: the largest flea market in the world [apparently], the Marches Aux Puces de Saint-Ouen.  Surprisingly tiny (were we in the right place? we wondered a few times), and populated with vaguely menacing, catcalling men shouting “Rolex!  Rolex!” and selling Gucci knockoff purses and polyester clothing for 5 Euro apiece.  Like the streets of New York with all the sidewalk sellers hawking their illegally-obtained goods in one place.  Okay, I don’t know if any of it actually was illegally obtained, but it didn’t feel exactly…kosher, and the goods didn’t look particularly high-quality either.

Where we stayed
(and the caveat to the below is that my in-laws footed the bill for these hotels, as well as choosing them)

 A very unusual hotel situated in Paris’ left bank, with each guest room in its cylindrical tower filled to bursting with gilt ornaments, chintz lamps, lithographs, figurines, and embroidered wallpaper.  It felt very old and very crowded, and if Liberace were still alive, I’m sure he’d love to stay there.  (The bedframe in my in-laws room was constructed entirely of mirrors!)

The lobby of L’Hotel.  Gawd, why is Blogger so #$@%%@’in slow???!

The center of the hallway is open and you can see all the way up to the top.

 The room where we stayed.  The decorated wallpaper/3D painting of the peacocks was unbelievable.

The breakfast buffet consisted of fresh juices, fresh figs, passionfruit, pineapple, and other fruits, salted and smoked hams, and a variety of croissants.  The butter was sliced like a Ruffle potato chip.;-)

An 800-year-old (really!) chateau, with an old, falling-down tower they called “The Dungeon,” surrounded by a moat with fish in it, and on a beautiful 100 acre-spanse of land in the middle of a forest.

The moat.

“The Dungeon.”

A shot from inside.

The people at the hotel raised their own vegetables, and kept a menagerie of ducks, geese, quail, chickens, turkeys, and white peacocks wandering about the yard.

Plus they had a dog (not sure what kind of dog it was, but it was curly-haired and about the size of a standard poodle), who had been trained to find truffles on the property – and so all the meals in the dining room were filled with black truffles that the dog would snuffle out even when not specifically directed to do so.

Risotto with shaved black truffles found by the Truffle Dog.

Each place-setting at dinner had a pewter-cast knife-rest in the shape of what looked like some starving animal.  Apparently each one cost more than $120 in the hotel gift shop!  Lil Tot lined them all up with his birthday present, a replica Nissan GTR.

And then the animals all had to go through a tunnel in order to ride in the car.

Dessert was more of the delicious Thai lime macarons, hazelnut cream puffs, and strawberry wafers.

And of course the cheese-basket!


An old suit of armor on display.

The Chateau was so beautiful, the air was so clean, the setting s
o charming and the food so good…I would recommend this place highest out of every place we stayed – and it’s probably the best place I have stayed ever!

Just a building en route.
Then we went to Vezelay for a day since my father-in-law wanted to visit the Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene, which is rumored to be Mary Magdalene’s tomb, as featured in The DaVinci Code.

We stayed at the Hotel de la Cote in Vezelay (I think it was in Vezelay) for one night.  (Sorry there’s no accents on my vowels for the place-names…I’m not sure what the shortcut keys are for them.)

 The cobblestone streets of Vezelay.

 Then we returned to Paris.

 Proof: I really was there!

It was bitterly cold and rainy for a lot of our trip.

 In front of – yes – Chanel headquarters.

The infamous staircase on which Coco Chanel herself used to sit and watch her models present the Collections.

The Ritz Paris

 We definitely felt out of place here.  Though the hotel staff was accommodating, we felt very underdressed, and attracted a lot of attention with a young child in tow.  Everything was so ornate and elaborate, the lobby reeked of a Lush store (I’m not sure what fragrance it was but it was wafting throughout in copious amounts), and we slept under a chandelier at night.  It was quite convenient to lots of shopping…none of which we could afford.😛

They called this the “Hall of Temptation:” a hall lined with displays stuffed with product from Cartier, Miki House, Dior, Chanel…  The name had me ROFL’ing because there was not the slightest bit of temptation felt on my part!;-)

 A courtyard at the Ritz.

The room in which we stayed.

 Macarons and delicious, soft caramels awaited us upon check-in.

They also provided a cake for Lil Tot’s birthday.  Happy 5th, Lil Tot!

I have come to the conclusion that French people are obsessed with concealing their doors…as all the closet/bathroom/mini-bar doors in the rooms at every hotel we stayed at were wallpapered over and virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding walls…no obvious doorknobs (or doorknobs made to look like wall decorations that were randomly pasted on the walls thr
oughout the room, even on things that didn’t open), no hinges, no doorframes, doors concealed by velveteen screens that hinged outwards to reveal halls and more rooms…it was all very James Bond-ish.

 I’m going to sound very ethnocentric for a moment and write that I had issues with the toilet paper – which, in many toilets throughout Burgundy and Paris – were tiny folded tissue-like sheets out of a dispenser.  The toilet paper – even at the Ritz! – was uncommonly rough, too.

 Plus about 99% of the toilets had the flush button on the wall.  Is this something common in Europe?

The shower doors folded into the tub area when you wanted to take a shower!
Pushing a stroller through the streets of Paris is like competing in a cross-country roller derby without any rollerskates. Frightening at crosswalks (since the traffic waits for no one) and murder on your back with all the cobblestones and tiny, jaggedy sidewalks.
Many signs in Paris change every few moments.  Watch the sign in front of the Louis Vuitton store – now you see it…

Now you don’t!
 The window at Valentino.

 We were all taken with how cars were towed – their back wheels hefted onto trolleys and then they were swung sideways out of their parallel parking spots!

We went to a restaurant – Flotille – it was the only restaurant where the staff was actually nice to us during our entire visit to France – and I ordered the marrow bone.  I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, but this is what came!  (sorry, vegetarians – don’t look)  A huge thigh-bone with gray sea-salt-sprinkled marrow, which one had to scoop out and spread on toasted bread.  I felt guilty for liking it so much!

I sprained my right foot while we were at Disneyland, so my in-laws visited the Louvre while I was resting it back at the hotel.

I think though, we would have enjoyed our trip more if we were smokers, drinkers, did not have a young child with us, were more acquainted with the layout of the city, the mannerisms and attitudes, and the language.  As it was we had a lot of difficulties and unfortunately a number of negative experiences in regards to those areas.  Plus the exchange rate was abysmal – everything was about twice as expensive as in the U.S. – so we were unable to do any shopping and just buying meals was so significant there was nothing left over to really splurge.  (My mother-in-law treated me to a couple Petit Bateau t-shirts which I had been wanting for awhile, though!:-)  At least we missed the riots – but did have to wait in long, long lines for gasoline – and had more than one station tell us they were all out of gas and we had to go somewhere else!

 Just before we left I bought some macarons at Pierre Herme.  The top one is passionfruit mango, the one on the bottom left is dulce de leche, and the one on the right is rose.

I’m very glad to have had the wonderful opportunity to go and experience France, though a week was certainly not enough to see everything we wanted to!  Au Revoir,


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Hi from France: France Photo Diary 1

So I am still in France…experiencing internet withdrawal since I’ve barely been able to use it since arriving…just a few minutes here and there when I’m able to catch the hotel’s wireless signal and falling into bed exhausted every night.

It’s been pretty bad weather on and off since we’ve been here…bitterly cold and rainy, so walking around  (especially with a cranky, overtired 5-year-old with a sinus infection and no stroller), and me with a sprained foot, hasn’t been all that possible.

The macarons and cakes are delicious (but I’m super-tired of pastries, butter, and croissants!) and can’t wait until we’re back in Paris tomorrow celebrating Lil Tot’s 5th birthday.  (Right now we’re somewhere near Vezelay in Burgundy.)  I’m dying to look in the clothing stores in Paris!

And then we’ll back late Friday, and I’ll be back blogging regularly soon, with waaaaay more DIY’s to come!  Til then, Au Revoir!


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