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Geysir, Golden Circle, Gulfoss, Iceland, Reykjavik, Travel

The (Frozen) Golden Circle & Our Return to Reykjavik

Gulfoss at sunrise

We wake early in Selfoss, forfeit a shower in order to make sunrise, make a quick cup of coffee and get on the road. We head towards Gulfoss, which is a 72 kilometer drive, and in good conditions should take us about an hour. The winds are still high, but after being very cautious for the first part of the drive, we realize the road conditions have improved dramatically. And for this, we are thankful.

We head to Gulfoss and arrive with plenty of extra time. We’re the only ones about, and when the sun slowly begins to creep up into the sky, showing little slivers of pink, we’re still the only ones about. The winds are just as fierce as yesterday, and they’re cutting through us. Add to this the fact that the winds are blowing a steady mist off the waterfalls and onto us and our camera lenses, and it seems like we’re fighting a losing battle. It’s a white, winter wonderland all around the falls, and the surrounding pathways are closed, seeing as they’ve frozen into sheets of ice.

Geysir

Geysir

We attempt a few shots, but decide that we may have better light and angles at Geysir, so we hop into the car and drive the 10 minutes down the road. I take this opportunity to dig my long johns out of my backpack and slip them on under my jeans. The temperature is hovering around 0°C, but it’s about -4° with the windchill. Despite the cold temps, Geysir is just beautiful, and we’re blessed with a golden sunrise as a backdrop to every eruption. However, today, we’re finding it more difficult to stand outside for long periods of time. My body isn’t that cold, but my hands actually hurt from holding my camera up waiting to capture the geysir’s eruption. I tell Bill to take his time, but I need to head back to the car. He agrees it’s too cold to stay out much longer, so we head over to the visitor’s center across the road and warm up with some soup.

Gulfoss

Conditions on the drive back to Reykjavik

We decide to make one more trip back to Gulfoss to see if we have any luck with better conditions. We arrive to hoards of tour buses, but manage to get a spot to shoot overlooking the falls. The light is better, but there’s still a mist rising. However, now because we have brighter light now, a rainbow is forming and hanging over the middle of the falls. We’re not here long though, because today, it seems as if the cold has got in our bones and we just can’t shake it. We decide to call it a day and head to Reykjavik, where we will spend our last night.

 

Our Suzuki Swift

Reykjavik’s OK Hotel

It’s just over an hours drive to Reykjavik, but we take our time, seeing as the winds seem to be just a fierce as yesterday’s. And at times, the wind is whipping so much snow across the road, it’s like we’re driving through white out conditions. When we finally clear the worst of it, we’re about 30 minutes from downtown Reykjavik.
When we do arrive, we find a parking garage near the OK Hotel and make our way to check in. Instead of a normal hotel, we have rented a studio apartment for the night. It’s small and cozy, but the decor is trendy and unique, and we manage to get a sense of what it would be like to be a Reykjavik resident. I dive right under the duvet with my jacket and hat on and proceed to power nap for about 30 minutes. We have nothing on the agenda for the afternoon. Our only plans are to go out and treat ourselves to a nice dinner seeing as it’s our last night and we’ve had one sit down dinner so far this week.

Scallop App at Old Iceland Restaurant

Delicious Icelandic Lamb at Old Iceland Restaurant

We head out around 7pm and venture two doors down to the Old Iceland Restaurant. This place received awesome reviews on TripAdvisor, but what sealed the deal was how close it is to where we’re staying.

Considering alcohol is taxed at 26% in Iceland, we haven’t had a drink all week, so we decide since it’s our last night, we’ll split a bottle of wine with our meal. We indulge in scallop appetizers and Icelandic Lamb for dinner. It’s a treat from start to finish, and worth every bit of the $200 it costs us!

As I do at the end of any journey, I look back and wonder how these five days passed so quickly. This has been an epic journey, and Bill and I toast to our incredible adventures.  Despite being my second time here, I am still as awed by the natural beauty found here. It truly is unlike any other country I’ve visited. And even though we had fewer hours of daylight, some incredibly cold conditions, two near car crashes and a very very bad waterfall hiking experience, in my mind I’m already plotting as to when I can get back here for a third visit. There’s just something so special about this island country! Tak, Iceland!

 

Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland, Jon Gunnar Arnason, Kalfafellstadur, Reykjavik, Ring Road, Sjellandfoss, Travel, WOW Airlines

Ice Driving to Kalfafellstadur & When Not to Hike Behind a Waterfall

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Frosty window panes

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Our morning drive back to Reykjavik

I wake rested, with no signs of jet lag (thankfully), have a long overdue shower and pack up. Laura has brought breakfast over to our apartment – a spread of breads, jams, meats, cereal, yogurt, coffee and juice. It’s nice to not have to go outside just yet, seeing as the wind and rain have picked up again, and a frost has gathered on the outside window panes.

Over breakfast, we decide to head to the easternmost point on our itinerary, Jokulsarlon, and we will spend the rest of our time this week making our way back to Reykjavik. So, today, we have some driving to do. We decide to break the drive in Reykjavik, tour the city a bit and then head on.

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Wild Icelandic horses

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Hallgrímskirkja

The weather forecast calls for 100% precipitation again today, and we leave Arnarstapi around 10:30 a.m. and begin a snowy drive to the capital city. The sunrise is taking its time and a beautiful scene unfolds. Fjords are glowing pink ahead – the early morning sunlight illuminating the snow that covers them. To our right are fields of wild horses. Needless to say, there are quite a few photo stops.

We arrive in Reykjavik around 1pm and find free street parking behind Hallgrimskirkja, which is a perfect place to begin our city tour.

Hallgrimskirkja is a Lutheran Church and one of the tallest structures in Iceland. Construction on the church began in 1945, but it would take over 40 years to complete it. It is truly one of the most unique structures I have ever seen. The outside columns, which grow in height as they reach the main tower, remind me of the basalt rock formations found around many of Iceland’s waterfalls, and the inside is starkly beautiful, just like Iceland itself. It’s simple and puritan in style, but still stunning.

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The view from Hallgrímskirkja’s tower

We take the lift up 240 feet to the top of the tower for panoramic views of Reykjavik. Clouds are parting, providing us with perfect afternoon light.

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Jon Gunnar Arnason’s ‘Sun Voyager’

From here, we walk down the main street, grabbing a hot chocolate to go from one of the many cafes, and head to the harbor area. The Sun Voyager, a stainless steel structure, resembling a viking ship, sits on Reykjavik’s waterfront. Constructed by Jon Gunnar Arnason in 1990, he calls it an ‘ode to the sun.’ On a plaque nearby, he offers his own interpretation of the structure: “We all have our fantasy boats, vessels that we dream of sailing away in, into the dream. In my ships, I unite my own fantasy, precision and the knowledge that boat builders have developed throughout the ages. The sun ship gives us a promise of a primeval land.”

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Harpa, Reykjavik’s Fine Art’s Center

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Goofing off at Harpa

From here, we walk along the waterfront to Harpa, Reykjavik’s fine art center. This beautiful structure looks like a combination of various colored panes of glass – highlights of green, blue and purple catch my eye, depending on how the light is hitting the building. The inside is even more interesting, and we spend about 30 minutes taking pictures (and thawing out).

Time is marching on though, and we’re aware of a long drive to Jokulsarlon, so we decide to head back to the car and begin the journey. We pick up S1 – Iceland’s ring road, and immediately notice that conditions have worsened throughout the day. A strip of ice lines the middle of our lane, and our tires are positioned either side of it. At any time we ascend, the conditions worsen, and at one point while trying to change lanes, we hit ice and skid out. Bill is driving and fortunately rights the car and we continue on…. very carefully!

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Sjellandsfoss

Conditions improve briefly and just outside of Hella, we see a waterfall lit up in the distance. As we get closer, we learn that this is Sjellandsfoss, the waterfall I’ve been wanting to photograph since my last visit here four years ago. The neat thing is, you can actually hike behind the falls and photograph from a completely unique viewpoint. We decide to pull off and do some night shooting, and we’re getting some pretty good shots, but we debate hiking up behind the falls. Another guy has just returned and told us the spray isn’t too bad, despite the high winds, so we decide to give it a try.

Moments before we reach the first set of stairs, we realize this is a terrible mistake! It’s as if someone is standing in front of us with a hose, spraying us down. Half way up, and we are drenched, but we keep going hoping to clear the spray. The path has turned muddy now and I look up to see Bill turning around, his camera tripod coming inches from my face as he does.

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Evidence of a waterfall hike fail

As we make a quick descent, I realize that the tops of my legs are burning from the cold. We hightail it to the car and see two public restrooms in the parking lot. We grab our backpacks, pray that the bathrooms are open and head in to change into dry clothes, hoping that our jackets and boots will dry overnight. We get back in the car and check our gear. Not surprising, my camera is acting up from the cold and damp. I try not to think about this as we drive the last three hours to Kalfafellstadur. Conditions have improved, but only slightly, and Bill has a death grip on the wheel.

We arrive at Kalfafellstadur B&B by 11pm, and Thora has waited up to greet us. She shows us to our room downstairs, which she says is warmer and asks when we’d like breakfast. We settle in and hang our wet clothes over the radiator and read the note she has left in the room. It advises us to sleep like Icelanders, with the radiator off and the windows cracked, to prevent them from “crying.” We leave the radiator on in hopes our clothes will dry, but we crack the window and crawl into bed. Despite the long day, we’re wired from the drive and excited for sunrise at Jokulsarlon… sleep feels a long ways away.

 

Arnarstapi, Backpacking, Dritvik, Gatklettur, Grundafjordur, Guesthouse Höff, Iceland, Kirkjufellfoss, Mount Kirkjufell, Olafsvik, Snæfellsnes, Travel, WOW Airlines

Iceland Take Two – No Sleep til Snæfellsnes

When I found a roundtrip ticket on WOW Airlines from Boston to Reykjavik for $250, I didn’t hesitate. I grabbed my wallet, pulled out my Chase Sapphire Preferred card and quickly snagged the deal with little deliberation. I had been wanting to return to this stunningly beautiful country since my first trip in October, 2012, and the opportunity had just landed in my lap. I quickly texted my photographer friend Bill to let him know about the deal, as we had talked about the possibility of a trip together, and he booked the same flights that day. Fast forward two months, and we were on a boat leaving Nantucket, with a tentative plan to see southern and western Iceland in 5 days. The only thing reserved was a BUDGET rental car, which was waiting to be picked up upon our arrival in Reykjavik.

8:30 a.m. en route to Arnarstapi

We arrived this morning at 4am. After little sleep on the flight, you would think we would be hightailing it to a hotel for a power nap, but instead we grab a couple of coffees at Reykjavik’s Keflavik airport, change some money and make our way to pick up our rental car. We are given the keys to a gray Suzuki Swift and purchase an internet dongle for $13 a day. This will keep us connected and provide us with wifi for GPS. A good investment to make although I tell Bill that we are not allowed to be on our phones the entire time! By the time we take care of all this, it’s about 5:30 and we head out into a 4-degree early morning to look for our car. Only four hours left until sunrise.

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Gatklettur

We leave Keflavik and decided to make our way north of Reykjavik to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. I have never explored this area of Iceland before, but from what I’ve seen through photos, it looks gorgeous. We decide to catch sunrise in Arnarstapi and hope there will be one. The forecast for today is 100% precipitation. We drive for a solid two hours and stop for a gas station breakfast of sandwiches and pringles. When we get back on the road, it’s close to 8am and it’s still pitch black. There’s no sign on sunlight for hours! I start to fade a bit and Bill puts on some trance music. After about 30 minutes, I have been hypnotized by the music and the fatigue, but I start to see a sliver of light in the skies to the left of us. With the signs of daylight, we also see heavy clouds and we run into the occasional downpour of rain and snow. It doesn’t look promising.

We arrive in Arnarstapi for sunrise. A car of photographers pulls in ahead of us, an15078781_10154659788378168_2423780937552035329_nd two car loads of photographers pull in behind us… we must have found a good spot! As we walk down to the ocean, we take in the scene around us. Behind us are fjords not yet covered in snow, to the left of us is the popular and often-photographed white house that sits near the entrance to the harbor, and in front of us is a craggy, rocky coast where waves break below on a pebble beach and on a rock archway nearby, called Gatklettur. Dotted here and there are small cottages and homes with moss-covered roofs.14993356_10154659788238168_6516393847014661980_n

We spend some time photographing the rocky beach, trying to catch a little bit of the pink sky that’s slowly unveiling, but rain wins and eventually forces us back to the car, and the rest of the morning goes a bit like this. Luckily, the showers are short and we manage to wait them out at most of the sights along the peninsula. We take a small hike out to the black sand beach at Dritvik and photograph crazy rock formations that are the Lóndrangar cliffs and stop in at the Visitor’s Center to check out a map. We decide we have plenty of time to drive the full peninsula and end up at Kirksfellfoss for sunset.

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Dritvik

Our next stop is the little village of Olafsvik. Blink and you will miss it, but we pull over to get pictures of the modern Ólafsvíkurkirkja (church) which is set to a backdrop of fjords and waterfalls. We find a bakery and get a couple of hot chocolates and some baked goods and drive to the outskirts of town where we find a picnic table that overlooks another black sand beach. The wind is whipping, but we insist on sitting on the table soaking in the view of perfect waves breaking hundreds of yards out in front of us.

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The coastline near Olafsvik

The afternoon drive to Grundafjordur leads us around winding roads that hug steep fjords on our right. To the left is a sheer drop to the ocean below. Waterfalls dot the landscape, which is a golden, amber hue at this time of year, and wild horses roam near the waters’ edge.

We arrive in Grundafjordur around 3:00, but debate when to actually hike up to the falls. The weather is officially iffy and I want to spend as little time exposed to the elements as is necessary. Bill suggest we go immediately, seeing as we may not get a sunset at all, so we gather our gear and make the short hike up and around to the iconic, often photographed scene of Kirkjufellfoss in the foreground and Mount Kirkjufell in the background.

Fortunately, the weather has kept many people away, so we almost have this scene

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Bill photographing Kirkjufellfoss

to ourselves. Conditions maintain, and while we don’t get much color from sunset, we do get some shots that we’re both happy with. An hour passes quickly and we forget any feelings of cold, and by 4:30, we’re back in the car and making our way to Guesthouse Höff by way of a precarious, snow-covered fjord crossing.

We have been going non-stop for close to 30 hours now with gas station food breaks and no sleep, and we’re oficially cold and tired! We have no radio reception, so Bill scours through the very limited collection of music on my iPhone and finds Prince’s Greatest Hits… Little Red Corvette blasts from the speakers of our Suzuki Swift as we ascend and descend the fjord roads of Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Along with playing the role of DJ, Bill is navigating and continually updating me on how far we have left to go. When sleep is almost winning and I feel my eyes beginning to close, he says, “You’ve got this, 10K left, just over 6 minutes.” I want to pull over and ask him to drive the last 6 minutes…but moments later, we pull into the driveway of the Guesthouse. At the back of a gravel road is a bright yellow longhouse, with a grassy roof.

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Guesthouse Hoff

Laura meets us at reception and gives us our key to 4B, tells us where we can find dinner and asks if we’d like breakfast in the morning. She walks us over to our little apartment which consists of three bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and living room, and a loft area above with three extra beds. Our room is small and cozy and very simplistic – a bed, duvet, pillow and wall light. I immediately lie down and despite having had very little to eat today, I know sleep will win over seeking out food. We decide to opt in for the $13 breakfast and I bundle up and venture out to find Laura to let her know our plans. Instead, I find the owner’s children, a teenage girl and a young boy of about 5 years old. They seem to be immune to the cold in their sweatpants and tee shirts and chat with me for a bit while I wait for Laura. I think they take pity on me and tell me, “It’s cold. We’ll tell Laura so you can go home.” I thank them, and by 7:45pm, I’m warm and snug under my duvet…

Backpacking, Bucket List, Chile, Patagonia, South America, The W Trek, Torres del Paine, Travel

Patagonia – How This Journey Came To Be

The desire to see this part of the world started long ago, just before my nomadic life began in 2009, but I guess you could say that despite it taking me eight years to finally make it here, Patagonia was the impetus for me setting off on my travels.

Back in my Sunnyside, Queens apartment in December of 2008, I was celebrating finishing my master’s degree and looking to plan a little get away between Christmas and New Year. Patagonia was where I wanted to go. Something about the raw beauty at the opposite end of the world intrigued me. Just the pictures alone made me want to jump on a plane.

After checking with my other broke friends in NYC and looking at the points in my Delta frequent flyer account, we quickly decided Rio was more feasible and affordable, so Patagonia took a back seat and there it sat for the next eight years.

Over these years, my travels would take me to Southeast Asia, Australia, India, Eastern Europe, Central America, Canada and even North Africa. The large continent of South America was somewhere I knew I wanted to go, but somewhere I wanted to go with the right amount of time and the right budget.

Over the years, the intrigue and desire to see Patagonia would grow… almost to the point where the thought of this trip took on a larger than life persona. I treasured the place before I visited and it became a dream trip… one I became hesitant to take, simply for the fact that I wouldn’t have it to look forward to anymore. I told everyone for years that Patagonia was the number one place on my bucket list, yet I was in no hurry to get here.

However, in January, I found myself with 4 ½ months before I had to return to work, some extra cash stashed away from my seasonal work, and the desire for a longer adventure… the time was right for South America, and the main reason for the trip was to finally visit Patagonia.

 

Europe, Food Porn, France, global cuisine, Paris, Travel, Uncategorized

Food Porn : Three Days of Gourmet Decadence In The City Of Light

After Iceland, I head to England for a few days to visit family and decompress. I am Morocco-bound next, so some time with family and friends, hot showers and clean beds are all welcomed. Back in the Summer I had found a “too good to pass up” flight from London to Paris, so I decided then to make a pit stop in Paris en route to Morocco. Paris is one of those cities that draws me back again and again, and I have a good travel buddy I owe a visit to. Ticket in hand, I am dropped off at Luton airport by a friend, and make my way to check in. Less than two hours later, I arrive at Charles d e Gaulle airport. My dear friend Marty is there to meet me, and we head straight to the city center.

We arrive at Bar Rota in the 11th arrondissement around 7:30 and plant ourselves, and my two backpacks, at a table next to floor to ceiling windows. The ambiance is so quintessentially Paris, you couldn’t script it better. Tea lights flicker on each of the six wooden tables, worn wooden bar stools line a dusty floor, effortlessly stylish friends sip their after work wine, and a couple so crazy about each other can’t keep their tongues out of each other’s mouths. Ah, Paris… it’s just so romantic.

The spread at Rota Bar

Marty ventures to the bar to take care of the business at hand. He comes back and informs me wine, cheese, charcuterie and bread are all on their way to us. It is a Wednesday night, and the crowd thickens as we lose track of time, catching up on the events of the two years that have passed since we traveled Southeast Asia together. Another hour passes, another bottle of wine is ordered. We run out of bread and a kind older patron who overhears us asking for more, brings a box of crackers over to our table. The restaurant has run out.

The next thing we know, it is 2 am, and Bar Rota is shutting down for the night. The only people left are us and the kissing couple. They bid us farewell, as we put on our coats and clumsily heave my bags from the floor. It is time to make the journey home.

One thing Paris is not known for is an efficient after-hours public transport system. We have to make it to Orgeval, a good 30 kilometers from Paris’ city center. A taxi is out of the question due to cost, so we make our way to the bus station at Les Halles, and take a bus headed to Orgeval. Marty informs me that we have a trek the other end, but that he will try to convince the driver to let us off at an unofficial stop en-route. That would mean a 20-minute walk as opposed to having to hitch hike from a farther stop. Luckily, Marty’s kind disposition wins the bus driver over, and he shakes me awake at 3:45 a.m. saying, “Hurry! He’s going to stop for us.” We walk the next 20 minutes in a comatose state to his home.  I never curse staying for the second bottle of wine. In fact, in hindsight, the walk may have been easier because of it. We crawl into bed around 4:15am.

I awake early and will myself to go back to sleep, but I am not winning this game, so I head down to the kitchen for a coffee. It feels like we are ages away from the bustling city streets we had walked last night. The view outside Marty’s kitchen window is of an apple orchard, and farm land that stretches on for miles. I let out a deep breath and think I would be okay soaking in this view for the next few days, and I’m not worried if we make it back to Paris or not.

Confit de Canard

Marty joins me in the kitchen about an hour later, fires up the espresso machine, aka the “George Clooney” (thank you, French advertising) and we make plans for the day. Since it is already late morning, we decide to save Paris for another day. What we need now is some grease to soak up the excess red wine still lingering in our systems. Marty decides the best cure is Confit de Canard with Salardaises (translation- duck cooked in its own fat, with thinly sliced potatoes, also fried in the duck fat). I sit watching as he chops potatoes and removes the duck from a tin of hardened fat. I think of how sinful it seems to be eating something so rich for…breakfast? If there’s one thing the French know and do well, it’s indulgence. Especially when it comes to food.

Marty lays two places at the table and presents my confit de canard, and then, oh so, absentmindedly reaches for a box of red wine sitting nearby. He says nothing, but just looks at me and raises an eyebrow, as if to say, “Are you in?” My initial reaction is “God, no.” But I am eating duck for breakfast after all, so to hell with it. “Yes, please,” comes out my mouth. I ask Marty if he likes to cook. He says, “No,” quickly and affirmatively. I tell him he is good at it regardless. He looks at me and replies, “I’m French.” I have to laugh at this arrogant comment coming from my far from arrogant friend.

Marty’s father stops in on his lunch break and has a quick espresso, comments on the smell of duck that has permeated the house and asks us our plans for the afternoon. Marty explains our plans to go mountain biking through the farmland behind his house. His father looks at me and says in English, but with a thick French accent, “Thees is very ambiteuse, eespecially after confit du canard.” I couldn’t agree more.

But it is what we do… We bike through apple orchards, protected forests, winding village lanes, circling back to the center of town to pick up some things for dinner. This consists of three slabs of cheese. I am beginning to panic. (At least there was a bike ride?)

We head home and set out cheese, bread and a salad, pour wine and relax. Tomorrow, we hit Paris.

The second morning starts much like the first, with espresso, but no Confit de Canard. We head to Paris and have a cafe au lait and croissant near Notre Dame. We circle the cathedral, and dodge the hoards of tourists. I think back to my first trip to Paris- 1997, 16 years old, high-school spring break. It was most likely at this precise moment and physical place that I discovered I love to travel, that I knew I connected with something deep inside my heart that made me want to go, learn, and see more beyond my familiar world… yes, it was on this same gravel, outside Notre Dame Cathedral, 15 years prior, in Gap jeans, a white long john tee shirt and Adidas running shoes.  I have a moment where I feel like I’ve come full circle. (Except, I hope I dress better now.)

Pont des Arts

We walk up the Seine to Pont Des Arts, a bridge famous for its legend surrounding everlasting love. Apparently, the rumor used to be that if you thought of the person you loved as you crossed the bridge, or sailed beneath it, you would be with that person forever. I remember, at 16, thinking of Laurent, the lovely tour guide we had during our week-long trip, as we sailed below the bridge on our bateaux-mouche. Today the legend remains the same, but the bridge has been made even more famous by the thousands of locks that adorn the fences on either side, put there by lovers, partners, husbands, wives and best friends over the years.

From Pont des Arts, we head towards St. Germain and the Latin Quarter. Marty is in search of a famous macaroon shop. I’m wondering how I will eat any more food without dire consequences and am more preoccupied with finding the school where I studied French Art & Literature during my junior year abroad. We find the macaroon shop and debate for ages about which flavors we will buy. Each macaroon is like a little piece of art, and there are too many to choose from. We settle on pistachio, creme caramel, coffee and hazelnut. We walk parallel to Les Jardins de Luxembourg, and in the distance, I see the Foyer des Etudiants International, 93 Boulevard St Germain. Next door is the same cafe that was there in 2000, our meeting point before class. Memories of Matisse, Picasso and Camus come flooding back.

We walk over to the gardens, pull up two green chairs in front of the fountain and begin our macaroon sampling. We’re selective in the order in which we enjoy these treats, starting with the ones we think we’ll like least– as if it’s even possible to dislike any of them. We savor each bite and force each other to take the last nibble. Most of the time, it’s smaller than a crumb. Marty drops part of the creme caramel one on the ground, and quickly retrieves it (the 5-second rule is in effect.) I have no words to describe how decadent and rich these treats are. To say I’m glad we sought out the macaroon shop is an understatement.

Le Village’s charcuterie plate

We sit in silence soaking in the warmth of the sun before finding the motivation to begin walking again. When we do, we loop back to Pont des Arts and head northwest to The Louvre and The Tuileries Garden. The Eifel Tower sits in the distance, but we bypass La Tour and hop on the metro to Montmartre. When we arrive, it’s pouring, so we decide it’s late enough in the day to duck into a cafe for a glass of wine. We find Le Village, and decide we should probably have something to eat as well. Marty’s friends are coming to the house for dinner later, so we settle on splitting a light charcuterie plate !

We while away a couple of hours here, sipping red wine, people watching and letting the rain pass. I imagine what life would be like if I lived in Paris, what I would do for work, which arrondissement I would live in, where my local cafe would be. My daydreaming is cut short. We have to catch a train back to Orgeval. We settle up at Le Village, and make our way back to the train station. We miss our train, but find a local cafe for a quick espresso while we wait for the next one.

Raclette, chez Marty.

Back in Orgeval, we are collected at the station by Marty’s friends. We head to his home and begin preparing Raclette. Now, I know Raclette is a type of cheese, but I do not know about the elaborate dish prepared using this cheese. Again, I am about to be schooled in French cuisine. Drinks are poured, and water is boiled for the potatoes. Charcuterie is arranged on platters- prosciutto, pepperoni, salami, parma, just to name a few. And the Raclette is sliced. A grill-like contraption is placed in the middle of the table, and each person is given a metal spatula to heat their cheese on. We dig in, and don’t stop. Boiled potatoes are mashed or sliced, depending on your preference, and warm Raclette is drizzled over the potatoes and charcuterie. When anyone slows down or shows signs of filling up, guests at the table take turns feigning dismay and make comments like, “you are not giving up yet, are you?” I am surely entering a food coma, although at this point in time, I’m not sure if I have even managed to escape one since arriving in Paris.

My thoughts return to Iceland- a beautiful place, but one which lacked any major culinary highlights. I convince myself three days of pure indulgence here will only make up for the lack of food consumed during my week there. I think ahead to Morocco- tagines, couscous, olives, lamb, pastilla, BREAD. And then I justify it all, by remembering what a wise person once told me, “As a traveler, you never know where you will get your next meal.” I’m thankfully full when the plates are cleared, and I’m profoundly more thankful that everyone seems to have forgotten about the flan we were supposed to have for dessert. I cannot eat another bite.

Marty and his friends have been such gracious hosts. I am sad this short trip has come to an end, but I’m thinking if I stay any longer, I’ll have to start spending my dwindling travel budget on Moroccan palazzos. Still, if there is one way to truly understand a culture, it’s to immerse yourself in the cuisine and the traditions surrounding it. These three days in Paris have been a success in that regard. But how can you fail in France? If anyone knows how to celebrate and enjoy food, it’s the French.

At the end of the evening, I pack up my things and prepare for an early morning jaunt back to Charles de Gaulle… I am full, happily reacquainted with a dear friend, and now, bound for Morocco.