Hey all, episode #8 is out! This week we’re discussing why people go abroad. Last week, it was how people end up abroad!
As always, please let us know what you think, ask us questions andeave us feedback! We want to improve as best we can!
Hey all, episode #8 is out! This week we’re discussing why people go abroad. Last week, it was how people end up abroad!
As always, please let us know what you think, ask us questions andeave us feedback! We want to improve as best we can!
So this past spring break, our first in Saudi, we had a chance to check out the season opener for Formula 1 in Bahrain.
Admittedly, Ana is a bigger fan of Formula 1 than I am, though she’s certainly managed to change my opinion. This also wasn’t our first Formula 1 event. We went once back when we were living in Shanghai. For some reason, however this one felt real while the Shanghai one did not. I think perhaps it’s because we went to all three days this time from the pit lane walk to practice and qualifying to the actual race.
It was also our first time in Bahrain! Let’s start with Bahrain before we delve into the race as the race was our main reason for being there.
Bahrain was a lovely little escape for us. We chose to stay at the Le Meridien Hotel and found it to be fantastic (as a side note, the Aston Martin Mercedes Team was also there), which was attached to a nice mall and another hotel, the Westin.
We didn’t explore the city too much, but found a few places we did like. First, the Westin Hotel had a lovely hotel bar where we get to meet a lovely waitress by the name of Mary. The drinks were pretty reasonably priced (Bahrain overall was far more expensive than we had expected), all things considered, and quite delicious!
We also ended up on a Friday night in a much more lively area with plenty of restaurants and places to hang out. We had some lovely Thai food and found ourselves beat and called it an early night. The area was hopping and we definitely plan on going back.
We also treated ourselves to a nice Friday morning brunch at the Ritz-Carlton. It happened to be Mother’s Day, which we did not realize, so Ana was gifted a lovely rose and cookie from the hotel. It was a wonderful experience and we look forward to going back to Brunch soon and trying somewhere new.
We’re planning another short trip to Bahrain soon and want to take some time to get see a few sites around the city, like the main Mosque and the Fortress.
As mentioned, Formula 1 was our main reason for being in Bahrain and we had an awesome time!
The track was approximately 30 minutes from the city center and an easy drive for us from the hotel. Parking was easy, getting in and out was easy, and the race…perfect!
We started the first day with the pit lane walk where we got to see some of the drivers and most of the crews prepping the cars for practices on Friday. None of the big name drivers were there like Hamilton, Verstappen, or Leclerc (we kind of got to glimpse Sergio Perez), but overall, we got to see the cars up close and it was a really fun experience.
Friday and Saturday are the practice runs and the qualifier to determine pole position for the actual race. We were sitting in the grandstands near the start/finish line. This gave us a chance to see a few overtakes and see drivers use their DRS (a term I had to look up). We wandered around the track area, bought a few small goodies, and had a few Heinekens, which was essentially the Netherlands group hang spot.
Sunday brought race day and it was an exciting race! It saw both Red Bull cars (Verstappen and Perez) not finish while giving Leclerc and the Ferrari team a chance to get out to an early leadthis season. It was an amazing experience and one we had hope to repeat next year.
Overall, it was short break, but a new country, new city, and a new experience!
Cameron had been to the Louvre before and hadn’t seen the whole thing…with a three day pass.
We went first thing on our trip to Paris this past winter, spent six whole hours (since our entrance time at 11:30am until closing at around six thirty) and barely scratched the surface. I’m not entirely sure we even saw a whole wing.
I think we did, but every time we turned a corner, we found a new thing we hadn’t seen, so who knows.
The Louvre was at the top of my list of places to see in Paris. There are way too many things that are pictured in history books that are housed in the Louvre and I’ve wanted to see in person since I was a kid. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a history person, or an art person. You may spend less time in there and look at artifacts and paintings more closely, but the Louvre is a must. It is, so save at least half a day for it. But I would suggest being prepared to get sucked in for a lot longer that you plan to be there for.
Let’s start breaking this down, including how to get your tickets, getting to the Louvre, eating and drinking inside the museum or around it.
There are two ways to get tickets to the Louvre:
* Free entry days – there’s always the chance that you may be in Paris for a day when you get free entry. When it comes to the Louvre, entrance is free on July 14 (Bastille Day; France’s national holiday) unless it falls on a Tuesday, in which case the museum is closed. You can see more information about admission policies on the museum’s website. For all museums, we recommend checking the museums’ websites to make sure you’re aware of any restrictions or new rules in place.
2. Buy tickets on the museum website. This portal also gives you access to book audio guides and guided tours.
So you know the iconic pyramid you see in travel photos all the time? That’s the museum entrance. I didn’t actually know this before. I probably saw it somewhere before, but I didn’t realize it for some reason until we got in line. Make sure you come at night when the pyramid is lit up. It’s beautiful.
There are other entrances you may be able to use (check the museum map), but the Pyramid is the main entrance and gives you access to all the museum wings.
The Louvre is divided in wings. All the wings gave different names, and house different permanent collections. So definitely pick up a map before you start. It may not necessarily be the most helpful in finding your bearings, but here is what I love about the map:
The map shows you which big ticket items are in which wings. If you go to the Louvre JUST to see the big-ticket items, the map can help you find them easily without wandering aimlessly for what could be hours. This could also help you plan what you want to see first, as the crowd levels do fluctuate during the day.
Except for the Mona Lisa, probably.
There is a LINE for that one, like an actual line with ropes. We went to see it mid-day, and were in line for maybe 20 minutes or so.
Personally, I wouldn’t say the Mona Lisa is the most impressive piece in the museum. I wouldn’t even say it’s the most impressive painting in the museum. But that’s entirely relative.
To further find your way in and around the museum, we recommend checking out the museum map ahead of time. This will show you the highlights of each of the wings, and help you find your way around the museum (you would not believe how tricky it can be to get to a restroom). Once again, the Louvre website comes to the rescue, with a copy of the museum map available for download, an interactive map you can check out online, and suggested itineraries, including some celebrity-curated ones.
There is a cafeteria with some set menu options for breakfast and lunch. We got some sandwich options for lunch and ate at the museum. We ate in the area nearby; it was unclear to us how far from there we could go to eat, or, if in a non-COVID world, you’re allowed to pack your own lunch.
Fun note, though: you can buy wine inside the museum and be super Parisian by having a glass of wine with your lunch.
There is only food and drink available in one of the museum wings, so again, this is one of the reasons why it’s important to plan your day out. It’s tough to speak about the way things may be when there are little or no Covid restrictions in place, but we were not allowed to take food or water inside when we went.
I don’t really know what to say about all of these incredibly beautiful artifacts, paintings, and sculptures. It’s all impressive. It’s all laid out in a way that is bound to either take your breath away, or at least make you think. You may be tempted to think “oh, I’m seeing the pictures here, and I can see more online. I don’t need to go to the Louvre”.
You’re wrong. Yes, you do. And don’t rush either. Really.
Also, there are things in the museum that are FAR more impressive than the Mona Lisa. I’m still glad I made the line and saw it about as close as I could. In many ways, it was the painting that changed everything. Or at least, so much, of how people saw themselves in regards to divine forces. History buffs shouldn’t miss it. In the end, it was really the only real line we had to make, other than the lunch line and the line to go in.
I’m only going to mention a few of these impressive things:
I don’t really know what else to say. The Louvre houses some of the most impactful artifacts describing the history of mankind. It’s all impressive. It’s all beautiful. Go see it for yourself. We sure will go again when we go back to Paris, which of course we will. We may be talking about our Paris trip for a while here. Is there anything you’d like to know? Leave a comment and we’d be happy to answer it as well as we can!
Episode #7 of our podcast is now up on Youtube and available on Spotify!
This episode we look at some of the many ways people become expats. Let us know what you think, what questions you have, or what we can do better. Thanks!
We’ve got one post up about Paris, but I thought it time for another. I do know, however, that Ana has more in the works as it was her first time to Paris.
It was the first time I’d been back to Paris in, well I’m not sure how long, but over a decade. And boy was it both the same and even better!
Traveling on a shoestring as a college kid has lots of appeal and it can be exciting, but I gotta say I enjoyed even more being in Paris as an adult with a job and the ability to afford decent Parisian food (read: wine) and all the museums I wanted!
All in all, we spent approximately 10 days in Paris this time around opting for an Airbnb instead of a hotel/hostel to help with social distancing. While I do enjoy hostels, mostly because you get to meet such interesting people, I’m also a fan of having a private bathroom and not sleeping in a dorm (though private rooms are often available in hostels for extra $$$).
We ended up in an Airbnb in the 11th Arrondissment near the Place de la Bastille.
We were near to plenty of wonderful cafes and restaurants, but became particularly fond of one just outside our place called Bar de la Fontaine (Ana does a great job of talking about in here post – Winter Break 2021 – Our Paris Home base, Bastille). If you’re in Paris, definitely check it out!
As I said, traveling as an adult (by adult I simply mean not being a broke college student) meant we got to do more of what we wanted to do!
Let’s start with some of the bucket list items we had set out. Since Ana had never been to Paris, we of course wanted to see and visit a few place.
You can’t really go to Paris and NOT go to the Louvre. Having been there before, I was really excited to go again and while Ana and I had a few different tastes in what interested us, we found some pretty awesome common ground.
I won’t get too much into detail here, but we spent an entire day at the Louvre, essentially from opening to closing. The sore feet were absolutely worth it!
Highlights included, as you might expect:
I’m sure Ana has others, but these were my top takeaways. I did not realize the first time I was there that Hammurabi’s code was present. I tend (and so does Ana) to gravitate towards historical artifacts over artwork and Hammurabi did not disappoint. Having seen the Ishtar Gate in Berlin and the Rosetta Stone in London, I was ecstatic to be able to see this as well. Not sure if Hammurabi had a code for doing good deeds in there somewhere, but if so, then I owe him something as it was a sight to behold.
Next on our list of top sights to see?
This is such a gorgeous building and has a long history in Paris as a mausoleum and a church (once or twice). As a mausoleum, it serves as the resting place for many of France’s most influential people (Rousseau, Hugo, Voltaire, Madam Curie, etc.).
We also visited as Josephine Baker was being (or had just been) given a spot in the crypt making her the first Black woman to be interred. The had her whole life story around the outside of the pantheon which was incredible to read through.
Another bucket list item? Le Jardin des Tuileries and the Arc de Triomphe.
The gardens were a spot Ana did not want to miss and we made sure she did not. Unfortunately, as is to be expected, December/January isn’t the best time of year to see gardens flourishing. Still, we strolled through on a lovely afternoon that was neither hot nor cold. We took in the tourists and Parisians alike enjoying their day. We got great views of the Louvre and I think we maybe even picked up some churros? (There was a carnival just next door).
From the gardens, we strolled up the Champs-Elysees, looking at all the stores we couldn’t afford, until we reached the Arc de Triomphe. There was a time you could go up inside and to the top (if I’m remembering correctly), but you could not this time around and so we chose to walk around and get the best views we could.
A beautiful monument, the Arc de Triomphe is probably the second or third best recognized monument in Paris, after the…..
Along with Big Ben, the Statue of Liberty, Christ the Redeemer, the Eiffel Tower is perhaps the world’s best know piece of architecture, instantly recognizable in virtually every part of the world.
We hadn’t initially planned to go up the Eiffel Tower (lit up in blue as France…Macron) became the President of the EU. The colors offered amazing unique photos of the Eiffel Tower and we decided at the last minute to make the trek up the stairs.
It’s not the most stairs we’ve ever climbed (I think that particular award goes to the Fushimi Imari Shrine in Kyoto), but it was still quite a few. It was worth it though! Seeing how it was January and not warm and after dark, it was emptier than I expected. Not empty, but…emptier.
You can see so much of the city from the Eiffel Tower including our next location.
This Gothic church is something I missed the first time round, but knew I wanted to make it to on my second trip. Sainte Chappelle is a small church (in terms of space indoors compared to say Notre Dame) of light with stained glass windows adorning all sides. It was originally built to house Christian relics, specifically Christ’s Crown of Thorns (now part of Notre Dame), but also, apparently, bits of the cross.
It is one the most stunningly beautiful edifices I have ever seen, inside and out. My words will not do it justice, so please see for yourself.
Lastly, at least for me, was an opportunity to see the Paris Catacombs. Built in the late 18th century to make room for the overflowing cemeteries, these catacombs cover 11,000 sq. meters and house the remains of over 6 million people. It is a sight to behold and it’s easy to see how someone who enters the catacombs at unofficial entrances, could easily get lost and stuck forever. The catacombs were certainly eerie, but also a cause for reflection.
There were many other sites to see that I won’t list here, from museums (like the Musee d’Orsay) to churches and historic landmarks. You’ll notice I notably left off Notre Dame de Paris, but as it’s currently under construction, you can’t see much aside from the outside facade and Rose window. The sites in Paris are seemingly endless and when you feel you’ve run out of things to do or see, it’s simple enough to find yourself just wandering down a side street, getting lost in the architecture, the food, or stumbling upon some overlooked piece of history.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this post and keep an eye as we’ll slowly start to issue some city guides of must sees and short itineraries!
The 6th episode of our podcast is now available on YouTube and Spotify.
In this episode, the last in our three parter, of what it’s like to be an expat.
It’s been a bit since I posted about this, but this post I’ll be writing about some the tasks that I’m currently in middle of or have recently started and may or may not finish. This will be a quick, no pics post.
One of goals was to reread Harry Potter. I know there’s a lot of controversy around J.K. Rowling and her views and some on the books as well, but I’m not here to get into that (though I’d like it to be known disagree with her stances). From a pure story perspective I’ve loved these books for many years and have read through all seven books twice I believe. It’s been probably 9 years since I’ve done so, so I found myself embarking on doing just that.
Recently, I finished the first book – The Philosopher’s Stone and am currently about halfway through Chamber of Secrets. What I don’t remember, however, is how absolutely boring the initial parts of these first books are. I find myself literally trudging through Harry’s story at the Dursley’s and wanting to stop reading. I’ll continue to though as I know what lies ahead and it is one of my goals!
I’m in the middle of trying to improve my baking skills and began 2022 with trying out a sourdough starter. To be blunt…it did not start. Well, I shouldn’t say that, it did to some extent, but the two loaves I made were underwhelming to say the least. I’ve decided to put a hold on that for the time being as we’ll be away for the summer and no one will be around to feed the starter for a couple of months.
As such, I’ve returned to Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread. It’s quick, simple and tastes amazing! It’s easy prep and even easier to bake and since there’s no real kneading necessary, making sure the dough is just right isn’t overly difficult. The hardest part of this was making sure I had the right kind of baking tools, in this case a Dutch Oven. Luckily, we found a very nice one at Marks & Spencers and it’s done the job quite nicely.
My goal is to make a loaf of bread at least once a month for six months. I’ll have to finish up this summer, but I don’t think anyone back in the US, will mind!
If you’ve seen any of our YouTube videos, you’ll know I’m in the process of trying to put together a 1000 piece puzzle of Hong Kong. Finishing a 1000 piece puzzle was on my list so I scooped up one not too long ago. It initially moved very quickly as finding the pieces for all the buildings was not overly difficult. As I have transitioned to the evening sky, however, with its nice oranges, purples, blues, reds, and pinks, I am struggling considerably more.
What took me perhaps three weeks for ¾ of the puzzle, has been another 2 weeks without doing much at all. It takes much more patience to sit down and stare and formless puzzle pieces with just color than it did with the cityscape. But I’ll keep going! My goal is to finish before the end of the school year. I’m also upset as there seems to be a piece missing so technically it’ll end up being a 999 piece puzzle, which is beyond frustrating, but I’m not sure if the piece didn’t come with the puzzle or if I’ve just managed to lose it. Either way…argh.
Well, that’s all for this short post, I hope you enjoy!
Is there truly anything that hasn’t been said about Paris?
Maybe not, but again, no one’s experience is ours, so let’s talk about our nine days in Paris last December.
Paris was a new experience for one of us but not the other, so there were definitely things that Cam wanted to do with more time and other things that I wanted to do based on what I knew about Paris from books and movies and learning French. Before we arrived, he asked me to come up with my “must-dos”, so we could prioritize those things first. That way, we could have structured and unstructured days.
Given that we were traveling while France still had COVID-related restrictions, there was some prep required in terms of scheduling tests to return to Saudi Arabia, and getting a health passport to be able to move around in France. We were traveling during a wave so some places heightened restrictions. We kept checking if we would need a test before we left Ireland in order to enter France, but it never happened. Thankfully! Cases in Ireland went up quite a bit while we were there, and it was about impossible to book a test in Ireland for the few days before we were scheduled to leave Ireland. In the end, everything we needed to do, we could do once we arrived in France.
Getting into Paris
We were not sure about taking the train in and whether we wanted to get in a crowded compartment, so we took Uber. As we were driving in, I was not really impressed with what I saw, so I was concerned that we were going to go into a part of the city that wasn’t as nice.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
Our home base, Bastille
We decided to stay in Bastille, which extends through the 4th, 11th, and 12th arrondissement of Paris. The reviews of some of the Airbnbs we looked at described Bastille as a “real Paris” neighborhood, and you can definitely see why. It’s quieter than the areas closer to the better known landmarks, but not for that lacking in amenities. Within short steps of our apartment, e could find small grocery stores, cafes and bistros, bars, shops (including some smaller French designers of both clothing and furniture), bakeries, and truly, anything else you could think of.
Train access, once our feet could not really take going everywhere by foot, is easy to figure out, as the Bastille station provides access to multiple lines that make transferring to the rest of the Paris metro system a breeze. When you go to restaurants, you will see and hear mostly locals. Seeing the regulars at the corner bistro (Bar de La Fontaine, for reference, at 1 Rue de Charonne) and kind of being regulars for a tiny bit of time was really fun! We love going to places where we run into regulars. It speaks to the permanence of places and to an extent, their place in the community.
Bar de La Fontaine doesn’t have a proper menu; it’s just the day’s offering, like in most great places with a European influence. Breakfast is a set menu of a couple of options of coffee, cocoa, and orange juice, with a pastry (pain au chocolate, croissant, or toast with butter and jam). When they run out of a pastry, they run out of a pastry. Which honestly, it’s kind of refreshing. I feel like this doesn’t happen as much in the US. Maybe it’s knowing that food isn’t going to waste that I appreciate.
Lunch and dinner are the daily specials. There is usually some variation of croque monsieur or croque madame, salads, sometimes stews and steaks and that kind of thing, and of course, drinks! When you’re visiting a city and you’re there for a few days, it’s always nice to find a place that is close by and you know that you can go to and get good food without making it too complicated.
It was a part of the city that felt like going home, it was very easy to feel settled in. Our amazing Airbnb and our host, Aurélie, of course helped (her apartment is beautiful and very comfortable).
I didn’t take as many pictures around Bastille as I thought I did…but here are some. Enjoy!
Can Paris look any more Paris? I don’t know that it can. Next time we talk about Paris, we’ll talk about me walking around Paris finally seeing a bunch of historical landmarks that I had only seen in books with a really goofy grin on my face.
Until next time!
Hey all, episode#5 is out and we’re discussing some of the daily expectations and encounters you might have when moving to a new country. Enjoy and ask us any questions you might have!
Living in Saudi Arabia means we live in a dry country. We are not accustomed to this, though we’re learning to enjoy the better nights’ sleep we often get, but miss the “I had a shitty day of teaching, I need a whiskey or a glass of wine” kind of drinking. Anyways, when we do leave the KSA, one of the first things we do is find a place to have a nice drink.
Well friends, let me tell you…Ireland is the place for that! At least for me. As a lover of good whiskey (I’m particular to the Scottish Islays – Laphroaig and Lagavulin to be more specific), Ireland offers some amazing whiskey of their own. No doubt you’ve heard of Jameson, which even in its most basic form, makes a delightful glass of Irish Whiskey, yet there are varieties unimagined!
One of the last activities we had planned in Dublin was a trip to the Jameson Distillery/Museum. It’s no longer in use, but you can take a tour or do any number of other items. Instead of the tour (I mistakenly booked something else), we had a private tasting. Normally, reserved for about 40 people, due to Covid there was just four of us, which meant a very tailored tasting with good conversation.
We started off by heading to John Jameson’s office in their originally distillery, now bar/showroom. It was a beautiful set up and you were even able to sit at his desk and take an overly touristy photo!
We were on the tasting with another couple, who happened to be Irish and the woman had worked for Jameson and moved onto Bacardi, which doesn’t really fit into our tasting, I just find it an interesting side note.
Anyways, our host had been through a few programs and knew her stuff when it came to Jameson. We were presented with a flight of 5 different Jameson Whiskeys, of which I cannot remember their names (I’ll try to look it up and see if I can add it back in). We learned about the processes involved with distilling different types of whiskeys, the barrels used (Jameson actually uses old barrels from the US as I believe there is a restriction in place preventing them from using/creating new ones). Like wine, we learned about the viscosity, smelled for different fragrances in the whiskey, and sloshed it about to discover the different tastes. It was a truly enjoyable experience.
Overall, they were all amazing whiskeys. Some I enjoyed more than others, some Ana enjoyed more than others, but on the whole…great set of whiskey. Jameson has never been my go to, but for its price point, its certainly something I can see myself going after with more frequency.
Guinness! You’ve seen it all three of my previous posts, but here it is! We were able to take a tour (not fully because part was shut down to tours due to Covid) of the Guinness Storehouse (and see the St. James Gate!) and learn about the history of and process of brewing Guinness.
As I mentioned in another post, Guinness began using the Harp long before the Republic of Ireland did and it, like many other neat artifacts, was on display in the Storehouse. The process of brewing Guinness was interesting, though I find it to be so of all alcohols, though I particularly enjoyed learning about cask making. They had short videos running on how the cask makers used to create them and it was so interesting to watch as none of the barrels use any nails or adhesives.
It was also fun to see the history of Guinness. For example, when Arthur Guinness leased the land for his first brewery (the Storehouse) in Dublin, he signed a 9,000 year lease. Guinness holds themselves to this today, in that they hope to be there 9,000 years into the future (I hope so too!).
One of the most interesting aspects of the tour (self-guided) was looking at the Guinness advertising campaign through the years. Today, we often think of the Harp, but the Toucan was a prominent feature for a long time. They also had plenty of exceptionally odd ads that I am not entirely sure I understood the purpose.
Guinness has been my favorite beer since…forever and this opportunity was a dream come true. They had all kinds of fun little trinkets and things to buy in the gift shop as well. We ended up with a few magnets and overall, had a great time! We got a few drinks at the end of it all and just enjoyed the entire process.