Time to talk about Paris

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I’m sure many have been able to visit Paris at some point. For me though, the first time I was able to explore this famed city was last week.

On my first trip to Europe in 2000, I did go to the Paris airport. But that experience was only limited to eating a croque monsieur, buying Cuban cigars and finagling a customs officer to stamp my passport. Hardly the experience.

And even though I had been to Europe many times after, and spending the better part of a year throughout the continent, Paris never happened.

Maybe I was dissuaded by the tourism of cities like Paris, Rome and Venice. I much rather preferred smaller towns and cities with less cameras and tour buses.

But this is February, in the heart of Winter and not many people travel during this time (at least not to the Northern hemisphere.) I had a friend who had moved to Paris three years ago and I promised to him that when I was in Europe again, I would visit him. So to honor that promise and to finally check out Paris, I hopped on a ride to the City of love, arts and baguettes.

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From Maastrict, Netherlands to Paris I caught a ride share for 22 euros. A train would have cost close to 100 and a flight the same. I had used ride share in the US and am always happy to make new friends through the activity. While some people have an issue meeting and interacting with strangers, I have found it to be quite fun. I also promote the idea of renewing trust between people, so in a way I promote this through the action. If you do find yourself in Europe and want to find a ride, check out the website here.

I arrived in Paris and upon parking the car, I see an artist painting on his easel and hear a semi-pleasant voice singing opera from a 4th floor building. Ah, Paris. City of the arts! ­čÖé

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Upon my first walk, I saw the famous Notre Dame cathedral. From a distance it looked massive and the front was one of the most impressive facades I had seen.

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I got to a Metro and met my friend Jason Brown , whom I had been friends with since university days. It was nice to make his acquaintance again after a long 3 years. There was a lot of catching up to do and catch up we did.

The following day I met up with another friend Astra from the UK, who happened to be in Paris studying French. The funny thing about Astra besides her personality, is that we always seem to see each other every time I come to Europe. The past 5 times I have come to Europe, I have run into her. Sometime for just 15 minutes and sometimes for a few days. I have love for her and she’s a good friend.

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Together, we walked to the Eiffel tower and Wow, what an amazing structure. I mean, yes, it’s the Eiffel tower, but some monuments lack the awe upon seeing them (such as the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall for me) but the Eiffel tower really was a treat. We of course went up after waiting for only 15 minutes in line and saw some nice views.

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We walked to the Trocodero, to the Arc de Triomphe and finally to the Champs Elysees. It was sort of surreal day to me because, you are somewhat raised seeing these places and then you actually see them all in one day. It was a good day, I took the metro back to Jason’s and rested that night to prepare for the next couple of days of tourism for me.

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The next day Jason and I traversed around the city. We checked out some nice viewpoints, the front of the Opera house, a really nice Starbucks (you’ll see the photo below) and some art districts. One of the crazy highlights was the consuming of “Steak Tartare.” That’s straight up raw ground beef, mixed with a little soy sauce, tabasco and some other flavor. I don’t know why I did it, I guess Jason sort of “egged” me on. It was his first time trying it too. I didn’t get sick, but I definitely felt weird after and proceeded to eat a whole lemon and get drinking some beer real quick. What the @#@@ was I thinking?? Ah, this is what travel is all about ­čÖé

Ah, steak tartare...
Ah, steak tartare…

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Yes, this is a Starbucks
Yes, this is a Starbucks
Ah, Europe
Ah, Europe

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The day was nice and it ended with me of course going to a Couchsurfing meetup in Paris. The pub where it was held got seriously packed out with “CSer’s” and I met many people from all over the world as I always do. It’s always a great and fast way to make friends and get great local advice on the region you’re traveling to. If you’re in Paris, every Monday night at the Lions’ Pub at 8pm is the meetup. Good times~

My last day was spent visiting some museums. I decided to skip the Louvre for the next trip and went to the Musee D’Orsay and Musee Rodin. Together I saw some pieces of art I had wanted to see for a long time and Rodin is my favorite sculptor, so it was a treat to see some of his works. He truly had a gifted hand. I couldn’t take photos all the time of these works, so I’ll post which art I really enjoyed below.

Renoir
Renoir
Van Gogh
Van Gogh
Monet
Monet
Cabanel
Cabanel
Tiffany Vase
Tiffany Vase
Rodin
Rodin

I had an amazing time in Paris, there is so much to see. It was a wonderful 4 days, and I hope to spend more time there soon. Thanks for reading, and if you need tips on traveling there or anywhere, feel free to connect with me on my facebook.

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The Great What?

Well Day 4 here in Beijing, and it was time to see The GREAT WALL.

Wedding picture on Great Wall

Contrary to popular belief, the Wall cannot be seen from space. This was confirmed by Chinese Astronaut Yang Liwei in 2003.

The Wall stretches out for some 5000 kilometres, and kept most armies out from the North. Especially those barbaric Mongols. Now today, there are multiple areas one can visit the wall at. Yesterday, My sister and I decided to go to the Mutianyu location. We met at a local hostel, was provided with a choice of either Swiss or American breakfast, (we chose the swiss, which included muesli, toast, butter, jam and a cheese slice. some scrambled eggs too) and jumped on a chartered bus, capacity 20 to head to The GREAT WALL.

It was a pleasant drive for most of the way. Some horn honking, which is a bit more commonplace than say, New York city, traffic in this city is pretty all over the place. While it isn’t the most craziest driving I have participated in, it is not as linear and straight as the United States is. Lots of bike, taxis, buses, carts, bicycle carts, pedestrians, scooters. Go when you can, watch out.

I will post pictures, very soon, but the Wall was great. We hiked on and around it for a couple hours┬áand enjoyed reading about its history. The views were nice as we were in a mountainous area. I recommend each person to see this wall at least once in life, maybe twice like me. ­čÖé

Many many people from all over the world congregated here. I heard Portuguese, French, English, Aussie English, German, Dutch, Fillipino, Japanese, italian etc. It was neat to experience a unique part of the world with all these different cultures.

As I surveyed the wall again for the second time in life, I was reminded of what I truly find beautiful in this world. While visiting the Pyramids, Taj┬áMahal and Great wall were all a pleasure to see and to appreciate how humans built such structures at periods of our history, they don’t give me that feeling of Wow, this is amazing┬áas much as say, a waterfall, an ocean, mountain, forest or animals in the wild might.

It is something to visit this wall. To think that it was built over hundreds of years. For what? To keep others out. Many people died building this wall and i’m sure many died trying to scale this wall. It is an important part of history and how life was in this time.

In future travels, I see myself seeking out natural wonders of the world, and hopefully participating (from a┬ádistance)┬ásome of the unique migrations┬áof animals that take place. There is so much to see…

Pictures will come! I promise!

Sunrise on the Jinshanling Great Wall

Much Love, thank you for praying~

Louboutins and the Art of bargaining

Shoes shoes shoes, and purses, wallets, belts, shirts, more wallets, purses, shoes, shoes, shoes and some sunglasses. Welcome to the Silk Market!

Christian Louboutin shoes

Welcome to China, land of the “knock off” designer brands. The real stuff is made here, and so through the connections of people and so forth, very VERY similar styles are created. It is amazing how close they look, and for a fraction of the price (think 1/40) then you can score some very stylish get ups. My sister couldn’t wait, she jumped in and I assisted her as a good big brother experienced in the “art of bargaining.”

I’ve been to markets all over the world, my first experience in bargaining was found in Mazatlan, Mexico back in 1995. Since then I have bartered in the Caribbean, India, Egypt and China. This market for those who know bargaining I would rate on a scale as a 6.5~

The chinese weren’t overly aggressive and would be quiet if you weren’t interested and you can get a good bargain. I drove hard bargains all over, typing in numbers on calculators and playing the game. My sister, being a first timer to bargaining, was blown away at the whole escapade of the bargain and how crazy people can get. The Market!

We had a successful day of shopping, and picked up some purses and shoes. While I would of advised not to acquire so much in the beginning of a trip, it’s not too much of a hassle and it’s not like we’re backpacking around mountains or anything.

Today we go to the GREAT WALL. It’s a little after 6am and we’re off soon and then a train┬áto XI’AN.

Much love~

Shawn

New journal for Shawn Saleme, on the net!

China. The Overland route~

Welcome to the journal my friends. Thank you for your time to read and reflec and keep informed about where I am, what I write about. I am not writing this blog for my own self memory, though I have picked up a small journal for that purpose.

I write on this blog to tell stories to my friends and people around the world about the perspective I see, experiences encountered and people. Food and drinks, nature and transportation, intelligent discussion and social issues, may or may not be included in this blog. ­čÖé

I’m in a coffee shop in the states now. I enjoyed a cup of peppermint tea and some fruit and yogurt. Prior to travel and prior to a long flight (12-15 hours) it is good to prepare your body for changes and put healthy items before the flight. Yogurt provides good probiotics to the┬ábody and peppermint tea also assists and strengthens the immune system.

Just in case of stomach issues, I have acquired my own stash of amoxicillen. Anti-biotics when you travel internationally are good to have with you. You can go to the pharmacies in other countries, but they may or may not have been given the proper medical testing and trials that goes into making such drugs.

Alas, I need to pack. I fly out in about 9 hrs, and I have all my essentials. I just need to put it in the case. I picked up a fast dry towel, and a small medical kit yesterday. I also picked up a new suit. In China, dressing up is respectful and essential to beginning and maintaining good relationships. At least in business, governmental and medical arenas.

It’s a sunny day in Seattle, good omen for travel.

Thank you for reading and future reading. If you consider yourself a spiritual individual or family, I would ask for your prayers for protection as I go to China. And with my sister! We shall have a lovely time, no doubt.

Time to go,

Shawn