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France

By now, I know more than well that you shouldn’t expect anything to be open on Sunday’s in Europe. Luckily I have a friend who lives in Paris that was able to give me an insider’s scoop (thanks Jessica!). The only place really buzzing with life Sunday mornings? The district of La Marais.

We came here on a mission. To get the best fallafel in town. In La Maris is a restaurant called L’as Du Fallafel–it was hard to miss because it had a queue of maybe 75 people. It was a long wait, but luckily the street is filled with cute (albeit pricey) boutiques, bakeries, and cafes that kept me well-entertained.

I won’t say that the fallafel is the best street food I’ve had in Europe (my heart is loyal to the döner kebaps in Berlin), but it sure is the best fallafel that I’ve ever had. Rich in flavors of curry and various spices, but not overly-salted or fried to death like others that I’ve tried. They were pretty generous with their fallafel in the pita sandwiches, topped with red and white cabbage, sweet eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic and/or spicy sauce. 5,50€ is a cheap price to pay for how full you get off of one of these.

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Walked off that fallafel pita sandwich by exploring the La Marais neighborhood and other surrounding neighborhoods.

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Tucked away on a small street to the east of Champ de Mars, far away from the much busier ones surrounding the Eiffel Tower, is a little Paris gem–Rue Cler. Along this street, you’ll find plenty of fromageries (cheese shop), boulangeries (bread shop), patisseries (pastry shop) charcuteries (deli/sausage meats), and boucheries (butcher meats). There are also little cafes, restaurants, and produce markets.

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This is where all your picnic-ing dreams come true.

We took a stroll along Rue Cler, stopped at shops that looked interesting, and picked up small things here and there–jambon de bayonne, jambon italien, camembert, comté de noël (a delicious, local French hard cheese), a peach, some muscat grapes, a baguette, and some rotisserie chicken.

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What was supposed to be a 4 hour train ride turned into be a full-day venture because of some complications with routine maintenance with the French rail system. Also, apparently one of employees on the train slapped a female passenger right across the face–which as you can imagine, caused quite a delay at the following stop. That’ll wake you up.

Because we had arrived so late into Paris, we really did not get to do anything that night. We are staying with a very reserved Russian man who has been living in France for the past 20 years. He lives in on the 6th floor of an apartment building on the very outskirts of Paris. It’s essentially an attic. My room is quite small; even someone my size has to duck around the house to avoid hitting my head against various beams (which unfortunately has happened a couple of times already). I feel like I’m living a real-life Hey Arnold series, but French.

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Got an early start to our day the next morning and had brunch at this lovely little restaurant called Eggs&Co. tucked right at the corner of Rue Bernard Palissy off the Saint-Sulpice metro station. My first impression of this place was less than expected–the host ignored me because I did not greet him in French upon entering. In the midst of trying to figure out if they were even taking customers or not and why the host looked like I had just blurt out something offensive, I tried a weak “bonjour” and he replied “yes, first Bonjour. Then hello, good morning, whatever.” Okay, always start in French–lesson learned.

Once I got past the initial awkward couple of minutes in this place, I was completely charmed. It’s a small, cozy bistro-like place, with most of the seating upstairs. Quaintly-decorated and sort of Anthropologie-esque.

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We had: œufs Bénédicte (with bacon), œufs Norvégiens (with salmon), and cappuccinos. Everything was delicious. The bacon wasn’t like American bacon, but rather more of a hearty slice of thick, smoked ham. I was kind of missing the morning brunches kind of lifestyle in La Jolla and this brought me right back home.

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It was a long and exhausting 13 hour journey to Nice. From Barcelona to Cerbère, to Montpellier, to Marseille, until finally arriving to Nice just right before midnight. Though we’d really only be there for a little more than 24 hours, I did not want to bear the amount of regret I’d feel for missing out on the Côte d’Azur (Azur Coast, or French Riviera). I’m glad I made that decision.

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