Continental Breakfast

I’ve traveled a bit in my time (the image above is Sly and I standing below the Sacre Coeur in Paris, July 2014) and enjoyed my fair share of “continental breakfast” but I’m not sure I feel exactly the way this guy does.


I must admit a certain excitement when I get the chance to partake of something that reminds me of my travels.  Sometimes it’s something as simple as a continental breakfast which reminds me of my trip to Europe with Sly and the Bessons.

Sitting in the tiny dining area at the base of our small hotel(see below). Collecting the bits and pieces that go into the breakfast there: fresh croissant, yogurt, coffee, tea, real butter, muesli, fruit.  Seriously good stuff and all of it, seemingly, fresh from a market. Surrounded by other travelers, some from within France, some from without. Yes, the portions are smaller than I’m used to but there’s probably a reason I come back from vacation in Europe 20 pounds lighter after a month!

With this bounty spread out before you, a sense of preparation for a day of exploration and excitement unfurls in your mind! What will the day hold? What new things will you see? What experiences will occupy your day? Will you get lost on the Metro? Will you find a neat little ‘hole in the wall’ restaurant serving traditional French fare at a reasonable cost? Will you walk among the locals without giving away your status as a traveler? So much potential for new adventure!

So I can really appreciate the joi de vie he expresses over something so simple as a free breakfast. There’s plenty of things that remind me of my travels and the continental breakfast at some chain hotel is actually one of them.  The Shining twist at the end was something that my cinephile core can really appreciate.

The Hotel Modern, if you’re looking for a place to stay in the middle of Paris, was quite nice and is the memory I use when describing the breakfast above. Decent enough with some very nice people manning the desk. If you’re looking for a cheap two star in the middle of Montmarte you could do worse than book this hotel.

Back to the Real World

Edit: I never did post this. Not sure why. Perhaps too bitter? Fuck it. It’s going up.


We’re back home. yay.

Perhaps not the most interesting way to phrase it but there it is. Three weeks in Europe, bouncing around and seeing the sites, really makes you want to stay. Like seriously stay. I considered it for longer than I probably should have.

One negative aspect of living freely while traveling is seeing so many “possibilities”, and probably not valid possibilities at that. You look around at some location, the locals going about their daily business and think to yourself, “You know, I could do this. I could do this right here. I don’t have to go back.”

Of course, that’s bullshit. There’s so many things you’re not thinking about when romanticizing the possibility of sticking around in a foreign country: where are you going to sleep? How are you going to find work? What about health insurance while you’re in a country that’s not going to be happy if you fuck yourself up and need hospitalization? None of these things pop into mind when you’re gazing lovingly at that pretty bridge or amazing vista in the distance. No, you just want to  experience those things day in, day out while you live there.

Sure, the idea is great but the reality really sucks; trust me, I lived it. For almost a year I lived in London and during the time I was trying to survive, I didn’t see a goddamned thing that could be called a tourist attraction. And that’s what happens most of the time; you’re so busy working and commuting that you don’t make time to do the sightseeing you thought you’d do.

Another Zaal Trip Coming to a Close

We’ve only got another couple of days left in our summer vacation; time to return back to Canada where ‘real’ life prevails.

Back to work, at a job I’m not sure will fulfill my requirements for the future. Back to a shitty little apartment, that doesn’t fulfill anyone’s requirements. Back to a boring town that shuts down around 2200 unless you like going to the bars to drink your face off and deal with the Cro-Magnons which seem to live in those locations.  Don’t even get me started on the dearth of cultural opportunities we don’t have in Calgary. Wait… is that  a double negative?

To say that I don’t belong in Calgary sounds… disingenuous at best but it’s hard to argue that it makes for a decent ‘base’ of operations for travel. Not as good as, say, Toronto but that city has its own issues that I’m not sure I’d be happy with. It’s a central city with an International Airport with Oil and Gas money flowing through the streets. Good place to work but a great place to get away from.

As I get older, I realize that I am truly nomadic in temperament, always thinking forward to the next time I can be on the road, doing something new and interesting, seeing how different cultures deal with things so very differently that we do.

Here’s an example: this morning at breakfast, Sly pointed to the jam sitting on the plate of one other diner the next table over. It was in a small, glass container with a metal lid holding an individual portion. It was, actually, a very small jar of jam. Back in Canada, you would have received the same condiment in a plastic cup with a tear-away lid. I can only imagine someone from the UK showing up in Calgary, maybe Cora’s or Phil’s, and having these shitty little packages sitting on their table. How quaint, they would say, when in reality it’s probably bloody shocking to them.

I know I’m probably nit-picking, but I appreciate the ‘old’ societies. They have different worries than we do and they concern themselves with the small societal problems a whole hell of a lot less than we do. Want to put some boobs in your movie? PG! Want to show someone getting their head blown off? 18+! Seems sensible to me.

Their cities are more refined with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years to make themselves better. Transit systems work the way they are planned to. London Transport services the city with its population of eight million and they do it well. Calgary Transit can’t seem to service one million.

And here’s the rub: I KNOW it sounds like some silly traveler on a trip enamored with a city he’s only been in for a couple of weeks. Fuck that, I used to live here and know about this city, warts and all, and would still choose to emigrate here if I got the opportunity.

Right on schedule, I’m getting maudlin just before my return to Canada. This always happens so I am prepared. I want the rest of my trip to rock and make it home in one piece.

So I can do it all again next year. 😉

Dunkeld Falls @ Old Military Road
Dunkeld Falls @ Old Military Road

Leaving the City of Light

I’m typing this out on the Eurostar train headed from Paris to London but having some trouble with tethering to my phone’s hotspot so it’s going into Notepad++ with a transfer to the weblog at some point tonight (I have a whole other diatribe I’d like to post on the shit mobile environment we have going on in Canada compared to here but that will be for another time). Little plug for Notepad++: if you’re a software developer and don’t have it installed on the mobile devices you’re using, you’re doing it wrong. And by ‘it’ I mean life.

Paris has always been an enigma for me. I don’t know how to categorize it in my mind. So much history in so concentrated a location with so little time to get a real handle on it. This visit has been far too short.

I’d like to come back here again and spend a week visiting some of the locations I’ve never managed to visit. One being the Palace at Versailles which holds so much history, is so close to Paris but has never been part of any itinerary I’ve put together. Perhaps it was my youth that caused me to ignore this before, or on the last trip here for our honeymoon, just a lack of funds and a wish to leave the “expensive” countries. This time we just sort of lost track of time and got stuck spending two of our days at Disney.

As I get older the requirements for a “fun” vacation have definitely changed. Now I want to get shit-faced on expensive French wine instead of the cheap shit, enjoy a fancy meal instead of eating “street meat” from a hole in the wall, stay at hotels and not hostels. It’s not much to ask and can add so much to a trip and how you enjoy it. Sleeping in a dorm room with fourteen other people isn’t always conducive to a good night’s sleep.

Some of those changes revolve around the fact that I have the means, now, that these things are not out of reach. I’ve worked hard to change my economic status in life so that I may enjoy these experiences as I get the opportunity.  We’ve just passed the boundary into middle class which, I guess, is a step in the right direction.

My first recreational trip to Europe in 95 was very different as I didn’t have the means to enjoy the trip and I was stuck in the Eastern bloc countries which were cheaper than western countries. Hostels, doner kebaps, and shitty beer were all part of the trip with no other options available. Shit, I remember losing my wallet on Mykonos with $1000 CDN in it. That was a hard fucking day. That money was ear-marked to keep me alive for a month. (Yes, Virginia, you could do (cheap) Europe on 30$ per day back in the 90’s). Now it’s easy to blow the same amount of money on hotel rooms over a few weeks.

All told, Paris is a wonderful city that I’ll be returning to sooner rather than later.

Some Notes on Paris

We’ve been here for a few days and I had the opportunity to experience a few things and wanted to jot them down here. This is an itemized list of the activities that have occurred since our arrival on Thursday. By no means is this a complete list but it is still lengthy and may only be interesting to you if you read it in John Cleese’s voice. Just try it, you’ll see what I mean.

  • Long ass plane ride to France; no sleep for the duration
  • Arrive dumb, hot and tired
  • Didn’t get the SIM card I wanted but did manage to get one that most tourists would use. Fitting, I guess.
  • Had trouble getting tickets for RER train from CDG Airport to Paris proper. Eventually rectified.
  • Thirty minute ride into the city quite enjoyable.
  • Arrival at Gare du Nord for transfer to metro for rest of journey to hotel.
  • Misread ticket entrance gate and needed to buy a carnet of tickets (book of 10) to get on the metro.
  • Left baggage with travel partners and ventured to find a ticket dispenser with Sly.
  • Eventually found machine and realized they don’t take bills. Goddamnit.
  • Visited ticket counter with a human being and purchased tickets
  • Returned back to the entrance gate and AGAIN misread response from gate. One wasted ticket and embarrassed Zaal. Used another ticket to finally make it through.
  • 5 stations later we’re in our neighborhood.
  • Walk 1/2 click to our hotel. 2 stars and looks like it.
  • One room is ready, the other is not. Drop all bags in room. Dave an I head out to find a grocery or convenience store.
  • 15 minutes in one direction we find a grocery store, buy some water and fruit. Back to hotel.
  • It’s now hot in the room and we realize there is no AC. Two fucking stars indeed. Open windows and realize we’re in party central. During the World cup. With the matches mostly being played in late evening/early morning. Sleep is difficult in the heat and keeping the windows open is too noisy. My life just, you know, sucks.
  • Wake up at 3 AM to Parisians celebrating football. Loudly.
  • Up at 0830 for the included “continental” breakfast. Baguette, croissants, café au lait, yogurt. Not horrible.
  • Out of the hotel by 9, we’re in the metro and headed to Concorde station for the first day of our walkabout. First encounter with a young street urchin asking if I spoke English.
  • Wandered up the Champs Elyse checking out things that I probably couldn’t afford, like, ever.
  • Arc de Triomphe. Cool. Gendarmes show up and send the urchins fleeing to the four winds. Been a while since I’ve seen people scatter so quickly in fear.
  • Walk to the Eiffel Tour while attempting to find a public toilet. Eventually decided it might just be easier to get a picnic lunch and then use their facilities instead.
  • Get to the Eiffel Tour and get a few more urchins and French Africans touting their “5 for a Euro” tower replicas. Can only imagine them being filled with lead and mercury for such amazing prices.
  • Picnic lunch under the tower. Wonderful way to spend some time
  • Wander through the park on the way to the Rodin Museum.
  • Saw “The Thinker”. Art appreciation +5.
  • Train back to our hotel. Sardine conditions with people pressed up against me from all directions. Wish I’d dieted more before I left.
  • Discovered Flunch. Never knew that IKEA would lose it’s status in my mind as the top of the department store cafeteria category. When the people at IKEA finally get off their asses and start serving wine in glass decanters, I’ll consider changing that decision.
  • Some nameless Parisian man: “Football! Football! Football! Football! Football!”. All. Fucking. Night.
  • Middle of the night text conversation with my bro, Homer Sapient
  • Another great breakfast. Loving Cafe au Lait. Need to be making this shit at home.
  • Out the door and headed to the Sacre Coeur.
  • Stopped at some coffee shop for an extra jolt via a very large cappuccino.
  • Make it to the church on time. Wander up the 200+ steps. Had to shoo away several “friendship bracelet” hawkers. Reinforcement through volume is my chosen tactic. Embarrasses Sly but I have yet to need to do anything else to get them to make like a tree and fuck off.
  • Took many pictures.
  • Entered the church. Managed to stow my prejudices long enough to admire the stained glass and the main dome. Really beautiful. Even purchased a postcard from the gift shop. Hope funds won’t be used to relocate a priest accused of child abuse. Damnit, there’s that prejudice again.
  • Back outside and the short walk to the hotel.
  • It’s not time for lunch; it’s time for flunch!
  • Nap. Sweet, sweet nap.
  • Movie with my baby. “One Million Ways to Die in the West” is known in France as “Albert à l’Ouest”, which loosely translated means “Albert from the West”. I think.
  • Another wander around and then back for some note taking

Tomorrow is the Louvre. Going to visit with Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Monday and Tuesday will be Disney Paris. Wednesday we leave for London.