Sunday, July 27, 2014

Off the Beaten Path: Paris, France

I’ve shared photos of some major sights in Paris here and here, but I truly enjoyed some less famous spots in town. For example, Sacre Coeur and surrounding streets are well worth the time to wander around and travel to. We used the hop-on-hop off bus for our short trip, in order to see as much above ground as possible, and would recommend Sacre Coeur. This is not to say that Notre Dame can or should be omitted from the itinerary; simply that they are different and uniquely majestic. Here is a view of the Arc de Triomph from the Eiffel Tower. 
I did not need to see the Louvre again, but Mr. Spice wanted to see the Mona Lisa. To tell the truth, I much preferred the Musee d’Orsay, but didn’t take a photo of the outside because it was a rainy day. The artwork and restaurant at d’Orsay were terrific, and the neighborhood across the Seine from the Louvre is neat. Did you know that there is a museum specializing in tapestries? Why yes, there is (Cluny)! And other interesting historical items/ architecture, complete with gardens.
Many tourists consider a visit to Versailles mandatory. We like train rides, so didn't hesitate going there, but felt overwhelmed by the massive gilt chambers (and the entrance fee!). Classical music is fine, but I found it odd that the shrubs in the garden had hidden speakers that blasted it. A local restaurant outside the gates provided a tasty meal, and small side streets showed the architecture of the people, not royalty.
All in all, you can’t go wrong in Paris. But there is more to be seen around the corner from the main tourist locations.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Off the Beaten Path: Barcelona, Spain

When Mr. Spice was deployed a few years ago, my Mom and I went to Barcelona between Christmas and New Year’s. There was an internet cafĂ© across the street from the hotel, so I could check e-mail twice per day for updates from my soldier in Iraq.
The architecture in Barcelona was eye-popping, and this building is not particularly off the beaten path- but it sure is unique. We are both good at reading street maps, so we wandered around somewhat aimlessly, feasting on tapas (small snack-sized dishes) every so often. How I wish I had photographed those plates! The BEST calamari on the planet…not sure if Barcelona is an ideal destinations for vegetarians/vegans, as I noticed- and ordered- an astounding array of meats on the menus. I'm sure there are vegetables to choose from in restaurants, but I'd wonder if they're cooked in without any meat products?
We took a day trip out of town, to Montserrat and the Abbey. I would recommend getting away from the hustle and bustle if you have time. The quiet moments outside the city were refreshing. I’ve benefitted tremendously over the years from the forum on Tripadvisor, where I can learn the answers to many of my questions, and can post new ones (after researching what’s already on the forum first)!
Finally, we loved the market, and breathed deeply the fragrances of fruits, meats, flowers, and more. Be savvy of your surroundings, and don’t leave your wallet in your back pocket, or in a bag without a zipper. We never felt unsafe, though we weren’t partying into the wee hours of the morning. We did play cards in the hotel lounge, though! Kanasta, anyone?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The great paleo experiment

My neighbor wrote a book, which helped me to understand one person’s transition from a vegetarian diet to an “ancestral” way of eating. I don’t tend to jump on the latest diet bandwagon, but after attending a discussion group about the book, I decided to learn more about grain free eating. Websites and library books helped me to gain an understanding of the philosophy, and I’ve tried a few recipes.
The first one is adapted from “Practical Paleo” by Diane Sanfilippo. I could not bring myself to use a dozen eggs in one dish, because I’ve worked so hard over the past decade to lower my cholesterol without medication. I used 6 eggs and 6 servings of liquid egg substitute. Do any of you have experience with paleo-style eating while keeping cholesterol levels under control? Many recipes I’ve seen so far include bacon (which I love!), butter, and lots of eggs. 
In the two and a half years I’ve been blogging here, I rarely rave about kitchen tools, but I’m gaga about my new julienne gadget! Wahoo, that was fun! Here is the recipe with my modifications: beat 6 eggs in a large bowl. Add 1 and ½ cups liquid egg substitute, 1 zuccini (shredded or julienned- about 1 and ¼ cups), 2 large carrots (1 cup shredded/julienned),  ½ teaspoon rosemary, ½ teaspoon sage, ½ teaspoon salt. Stir and pour into well greased* 9x13 pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. * don’t be like me and try to use “I can’t believe it’s not butter” to grease the pan. No photos of a pretty serving of this dish because it stuck to the pan…though it tasted fine. Use real butter to grease the baking dish.
I’ve enjoyed this crustless quiche, and look forward to new flavor combinations (mushrooms, caramelized onion, etc.). What is your favorite Paleo cookbook, website, or recipe?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Off the Beaten Path: San Diego

Our vacation began in the city, which we explored for a few days before heading north. I realize that San Siego is a major city, and of itself, is not considered off the beaten path. However, some people go to see LA or San Francisco first, while we enjoyed San Diego and surrounding areas. Sea World is probably not “off the beaten path” either, but I’d like to recommend the starfish pool there!
Some tourists may skip one or more naval vessels open to the public, but we appreciated the exposure to military culture. Mr. Spice decided that he was glad to be in the Army, preferring to sleep in a tent than the cramped quarters below-deck! Thanks to all our military members, veterans, and their families. Shortly after this vacation several years ago, Mr. Spice deployed to Iraq.
We breathed deeply of the salty air on the way to La Jolla, and strolled along this beach, as well as Coronado. I noticed that the Pacific Ocean smells different from the Atlantic, and seems to have a different “personality” in southern California than what I’m used to in New England.
If you have time to drive north through Carlsbad, we'd recommend the Museum of Making Music (so enthralled there, no photos!). What are your favorite "off the beaten path" locales in the San Diego area?