first day feels: a revisit to Paris.

we floated into France at the break of day, the sunrise reflecting on the fog rising from the warm earth.  a queue and a stamp and a taxi ride later, we witnessed beautiful views of Paris at dawn, the tourists already up and about snapping photos and inhaling croissants from boulangeries.  

we walked the streets of Saint Germain, meandered through the Sunday Marche, bought scarves and strawberries and mandarins you could smell from feet away.  a few church bells rang, but even more noticeable were the putter patter of French feet on the ground as runners swiftly passed us by. Luxembourg Gardens was full of them- packs of runners following each other around the perimeter of the large green space. 

swaths of bouncing tennis balls and fallen leaves, yellow, brown, and red, dotted the landscape of the public garden.  grandfathers with their grandchildren, women reading in chairs, toddlers exploring the statues and fountains and earth.  one woman was walking with a gym bag smoking a cigarette.  and then I remembered- so many cigarettes! maybe one in every three passersby’s. 

we snacked on baguettes, churned butter, and fresh fruit, then napped into the day. I awoke and walked towards the Seine, the sun bright between the buildings.  I arrived at the Orsay mid afternoon, with a timed ticket there is not much of a queue. 

romanticism, realism, symbolism… beautiful canvases strewn on walls.  most struggling artists in life, yet glorified in death.  a concept not foreign to just France, yet seems to overwhelmingly be riddled with truth for those who have lived here though time.  the impressionist hall was the most crowded, and my favorite.  enough Renoir and Manet to keep my heart full.  one post impressionist  room had tourists on top of each other, struggling for photographs: Van Gogh’s self portrait- not my favorite but famous I suppose.  

a walk down to the Seine to meet the sommelier and away we went, one door in front of the other, deep into the Latin Quarter.  we stopped for a pint at a cafe, then walked some more.  we landed at a quaint seafood restaurant with a list carved out by famous wine nerds who have a penchant for Burgundy.  Champagne, tiny mussels, local oysters, razor clams, salmon, Meursault, cod, and skate wing filled our tummies, followed by bress pastry and cognac.  the room started to feel sleepy. 

the city of lights is never dark, and walking the half hour back to our apartment felt necessary.  snug and warm off rue du cherche de midi, we crumpled into slumber. a lovely first day in the city of artists, light, and love. 

cobblestone hills and vino: our first moments in Zagreb

we arrived in Zagreb early evening, the rain pelting the windshield of our taxi as we meandered through country roads towards the city.  

on the outskirts of town, long before we could see the red tiled rooftops of the old city, remnants of communism began to emerge.  old factories and public housing coupled together with new sleek office buildings. the result a hot display of freshly washed worn sneakers. 

the hotel, built for patrons of the orient express, is truly a historical gem in this growing economy.  completed in 1912, the popular meeting place was a celebrated monument to the culture of Croatia, a gateway  to Europe from the Middle East.

occupied by Nazis during WWII, and surviving the Yugoslavic occupation thereafter, the Esplanade has stood as a Zagreb icon over time. 

not a bad view from the honeymoon suite, either. 

the walk to old town isn’t long, but steep on cobblestone streets.  a windy path through closed merchant shops and youth filled pubs led us to Ban Jelacic Square, the night light intensifying our senses.  

up the wooden steps to the by now empty open air market, through small alleyways towards the towering cathedral steeples, then just a few steps north, and we found ourselves at the oldest wine bar in Zagreb, Bornstein’s Vinoteka.  

the sommelier worked his magic and ordered a wine tasting for two, three reds, three whites.  inhabited by the Romans and the Italians, Croatia is one of the oldest wine making countries in the world.

  my favorites so far are the whites: crispy, acidic, with high minerality.  refreshing after a long stroll up the hill.  

after 18 hours of travel and 6 glasses of wine (okay 8!) we tuckered out for a good nights sleep.  two more days to explore Zagreb, eat all the things, and spend some moments together.