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10.23.2014

Honeymoon: France | Palace of Versailles

After a few days in Normandy, we hopped on the train to go to our final destination in Paris. We had a romantic stroll around the Eiffel Tower & indulged in freshly made crepes (one of my all time favorite desserts!). 

The following day, we hopped on the train to visit the Palace of Versailles -- roughly an hour away from Paris. Palace of Versailles was in one word, grand. The ground has a lot to cover in a day, from the Palace itself to the Trianon Palaces and my favorite, Marie Antoinette's Estate. In between all of that, there are beautiful fountains and manicured gardens as well.

The street leading up to the Palace of Versailles
Outside the Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles housed the French government, including its royalty, in the reigns of Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI. After the French Revolution in 1789, the Palace ceased to be a permanent royal residence.





Hall of Mirrors
the Palace



The walk from the Palace to Marie Antoinette's Estate, roughly 35 to 45 minutes.
Marie Antoinette was an Austrian princess and wife to Louis XVI. Often tired of the pomp and etiquette of  the Palace, Louis XVI gifted her the Petit Trianon, a small chateau on the grounds of Versailles, as a wedding gift. It became a place for the Queen to retreat to with friends.

Marie Antoinette's Estate



the Billiard Room with Marie Antoinette's painting


In the Trianon garden, Marie Antoinette requested that a fake peasant village (hamlet) be constructed. Although the hamlet itself was fake, a real, functional farm was tended to here by a family named Brussard (as a side note -- we saw animals ranging from goats to peacocks to muskrats here). Although it struct the wrong chord with the general public for the Queen to spend state funds to build an elaborate and fake hamlet in the comfort of her Estate, it was seen by some as an attempt for Marie Antoinette to get in touch with with a simpler life -- something she may actually have preferred to compared to the extravagant lifestyle as a royal in the Palace of Versailles.



The ground was a lot to cover in a day, but well worth it! Again, so much history in Europe! :)

10.14.2014

Honeymoon: Normandy | Mont Saint-Michel Abbey

So one might imagine that we were sick and tired of seeing castles and churches in Europe...but nope, not us!! Each one has their similarities, but they were also vastly different in terms of history, and we loved learning about them. Out of all the churches and castles we experienced during our honeymoon, La Sagrada in Barcelona was probably my favorite, but a close second goes to the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey in Normandy, France. In fact, one of the biggest reasons that I wanted to visit France was so that my hubby and I can visit the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey.



After several scorching hot days spent in Madrid, we looked forward to a little cooler weather in Normandy. Madrid  was a city bustling with busy people, so we were also looking forward to a bit of a slower pace as well -- Normandy felt familiar to us although it was our first time there. It reminded us of Marina del Rey in Southern California -- a small town of sailors with some boutique shops. The main difference of course, was the language barrier! Haha.

We spent a day at the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey -- but in all honesty, we could've probably spent another day there! It would have been interesting to see the tides rise up and down at different times of the day. The Mont Saint-Michel Abbey is situated on a small rocky tidal island, surrounded by the bay. During high tides, the road leading up to the Abbey can literally be underneath the water.



According to legend, in A.D. 708, Archangel Michael told the local bishop to "Build here and build high." It became a place for Roman Catholic monks to find solitude, and many of them paid pilgrimage. During the course of history, the Abbey shifted into a prison during the French Revolution (1791~1863).  Stone cells were built where prisoners couldn't stand nor sit. A giant tread wheel was also built so that a half dozen prisoners would power it like a hamster would run on the wheel and haul two ton loads of supplies from the landing below. The prison was finally closed in 1863, and the Abbey was declared a historical monument in 1874. Today, millions of visitors come to the Abbey every year to set foot on the UNESCO World Heritage monument.

The walk to the Abbey is a one-way route. There are so many narrow and steep steps to get to the top -- so be prepared to wear your most comfortable shoes if you plan to visit :) You can also stroll by the small town and buy souvenirs, nosh on a crepe, or if you're lucky enough and reserved far in advance -- stay at some of the bed and breakfasts there. Once inside the structure of the Abbey, you'll go through a series of bare, Gothic rooms.





It was such an amazing experience -- I had always admired the Abbey from photographs on the internet, but experiencing it in person was so much better! It is a unique experience that my husband and I will always remember.




10.13.2014

Honeymoon: Madrid

Although Barcelona and Madrid is only several hours away via the train, their ambiance is completely different. Whereas Barcelona is a bohemian beach city, Madrid is a lively metropolis. To be honest, out of the two cities in Spain, Barcelona fit our lifestyle better. But I am very glad that we got to see and experience Madrid too. We enjoyed authentic churros with chocolate, nice strolls around various parks and markets, and even had a little taste of Egypt (!) while in Madrid. 

We started off our day with fresh fruits & croissants for breakfast :)
& we strolled upon various parks...
....and more parks...

& stopped by San Gines Chocolateria for their world famous churros & chocolate.  

YUM :)
A view of the city from Parque del Cuartel de la Montana
Temple of Debod - an authentic Egyptian temple dating from the 2nd century B.C.!!

Our favorite sight in Madrid was definitely the Temple of Debod. The temple originally stood in Debod in the Nile Valley (dating from the 2nd century B.C.), but the Egyptian government gifted this monument to Spain in 1968 because the temple was close to a dam that was being constructed, and it would have been destroyed otherwise. In 1969, it was dismantled stone by stone and was reconstructed to be open to the public by 1972. It was so neat to see a piece of history from another country being well preserved and looked after by another country!

10.07.2014

Honeymoon: Barcelona | Cook & Taste

Have you ever traveled and thought, "I wish I could learn to cook from the locals!"? 

I have. On multiple occasions. So for our honeymoon, I asked my hubby if he would join me for a cooking class in Barcelona. He wasn't as thrilled as I was, but he thought it would be a fun experience for the both of us. And I'm happy to report...it was!

Cook & Taste Barcelona
Recipes
Demo station
Prep station
We learned how to cook one appetizer (tomato gazpacho), one entree (traditional chicken paella), and one dessert (crema catalana) via a live demo from our instructor. We noshed on some tapas (iberico jamon & olives) and sipped on chilled white wine, and ate the 3 course dinner later with 6 other participants -- we were all tourists: a pair of ladies from Australia, a couple from the Netherlands, a young lady from Scotland, a woman from South Korea, and us from the United States! I guess locals wouldn't have to take a cooking class in their hometown to learn to cook their authentic dishes if it's passed down from their families.

The instructor whisking away.
What the consistency of the crema should look like.
A taste of the crema before it was chilled in the fridge.
One thing that our instructor warned us -- she said we can improvise the ingredients in a paella based on what we have in our home country-- but that we should never, ever use chorizo as a substitute for meat or peas in a paella. When she mentioned chorizo, I knew she was saying it for our benefit, because all of the other participants were like "What's that?" Haha. Chorizo is a very common meat product from Mexico that is common to us Angelenos. The reason she said not to use chorizo is because it is too strong of a flavor profile and it would no longer be a "Spanish" dish. The reason not to include peas is because it is very sweet, and it would no longer be considered a paella {this all according to our instructor}.

Fresh ingredients for the paella.
I don't know why the thought never crossed my mind to grate tomatoes for a fresh tomato puree -- brilliant!

Don't forget the saffron!

Crispy edges of the rice is the best part of a paella.
Cover until ready to serve to maintain the moisture.           



Time to dig in! My favorite part of dinner. It was all delicious :)

Appetizer: tomato gazpacho
Entree: paella
Dessert: Crema Catalana
Yum! I'm hoping to recreate these dishes for my friends and family soon. Maybe for Thanksgiving? :)