Sunday, October 28, 2007

foods of the journey

the first picture....the most delicious pizza we've ever had...on a recommendation from tony on our nyc-charlotte-nashville flight...he said, you have to go to lombardi's in little italy, on the corner of mott and spring, for the first pizzaria in the united states. over a hundred years old, old coal fired oven, amazing. fresh bufalo mozzarela, tomatoes imported from italy, thin crust, homemade meatballs, fresh basil....!

the next two are our first meal in ireland, after traveling overnight and being so hungry and wandering around cork and settling on this great little cafe with one of the greatest salads we've ever had.

a huge crepe from a street-like vendor on rue moufftard, only 3euro70 for the enormous crepe with oeuf (egg) fromage (emmental cheese) salade, tomate, moutard, champingons (mushrooms) and salt and pepper....we couldn't even finish it that time, we had one another time too, and about four nutella/banana crepes, and too many pain au chocolats to count (chocolate croissants) and many baguette sandwiches....the last picture is our made it yourself picnic dinner at the gloriously grotesque (not quite, but not quite great either) hotel richard....$3 a bottle bordeaux wine (wine is so cheap in france, at our homestay right now we're drinking great bottles that are only 1 euro a bottle!), a fresh baguette, guyere cheese, and vegetables.

somehow carson, i and another one of our helpx friends here at the homestay are becoming known as "the piglets" because of how much we like to eat and snack. i'm becoming quite in love with the baguette while i'm here, i've never been one for white bread, but in france it is so good...we are eating lots of goat cheese and cantal and other french cheeses and i make salads for lunch and dinner and the bread truck comes by every day but wednesdays and honks loudly, it's a woman in a little white van, and we buy un pain and yesterday she even had chocolate croissants, which were so delicous! we discovered that peanut butter is an oddity (and sometimes even considered gross!) by europeans, at least the scottish people we're staying with, but they bought us a jar and we've been eating it on ricecakes and toast and the like. gosh i didn't prepare to write a whole post about food, but i am such a little foodie it makes perfect sense. i have not tried anything exotic here like haggis or some of the strange french pates or sausages. i am enjoying the cheeses and breads for sure though!

the moon is full, carson and leah and i just went for a walk through the quiet corn fields and tilled fields, with the fog lightly resting and the cows sleeping in their pasture. we're in france!







paris, and into berthegon

sacre coeur, british elvises for england (the day of the world cup in paris), the notre dame on a sunday, and mhairi, the cutest little girl we're living with right now






paris in the falltime





more ireland





ireland





pictures from our trip!





Wednesday, October 24, 2007

a ride in the loire valley

How did i get to this place?
i am currently sipping on a scotch whiskey, sitting in an old converted train station that is now a four bedroom, three story very old house that the Young family from scotland lives in. i am here with mel and two other american girls. we are in rural france, the kind that i always thought about being in my dreams but never really imagined it would happen. today i took a bikeride with mel and we rode along the old train path which is now a bike path stretching in either direction from the house. we rode 10 kilometeres to the nearest decent sized town...small intersections seperated by wooden fences showed up occasionally, but it didn't really matter if we slowed down, there are hardly any cars around this area. the trees loomed up on either side, old decidious trees that are just beginning to turn with the cold weather. it is rural here, and the fields stretch far and wide, with the sun turning them stark white in the late afternoon light. it seems poetic because it is! we rode along with our pain au chocolates stuck in our pockets from the bakery in town and local yogurt stuffed in our packs that is bottled in smal ceramic containers. it's just so special. this is the 45th parralel, the same as just south of portland, and some things are very similar that we come across, and then there is the oldness that just sticks out in the form of castles and old stone walls and greetings of bonjour! i could never have imagined that my travels would lead me to this place but being here now it's hard to imagine them not leading to right where i am. after weeks of being on the road and travelling to big city after big city, we are now living in a town of 300 people, on the outskirts, where a bread truck comes daily, the cheese truck comes on thursdays and the veggie and meat truck also come once a week to the gate of the house to deliver all of the fresh locally made products. we trade work for about four/five hours a day in exchange for food and board, and today found me working in the yard plucking out ivy from an overgrown field and getting my hands dirty and in the earth. i realized today that ivy is the bane of my existence in its relentless pursuit to strange trees and tangle of the root systems, and i had visions of saving the world from ivy, specifically priest point park in olympia!(i might get a plaque)... tomorrow will proabably be something of the same kind of work. it is an adventure unlike any i've done, and it's just so perfect and mellow and speical.i tell myself every day how lucky i am, which is true, and then i correct myself because it isn't just luck, i've gotten myself here. and i appreciate that even more because it puts myself in gratitude of myself. i also am privelaged to spend this time with mel, and on our ride today i said to her how lucky we are to travel at this age and get this experience, where all we have to do is have a great time and love each other. i am getting more and more how important that is to me as a way to be in the world.
 
much love to you all!
i miss you family!
carson

Monday, October 22, 2007

barren trees and frigid nights

hello everyone!
 
melissa is writing the main blog about what we are up to, and so i'm just going to wish you all a happy fall/winter. i hope everyone is enjoying it full out-- taking advantage of every moment, they are all so so special!
 
cheers and love, carson!

ah, paris!

the internet place is closing soon....five days in paris!  what can i say!  well to top it off, we just ran into the man who's house we sat for in march in the middle of paris....by one of our new favorite bakeries...how random and perfect!  we had tea with him al fresca....it has been just what i thought paris could be and more...we've probably walked at least 20 miles in all, or more, meandering through the streets, our favorite rue moufftard with it's fresh produce, fromageries, fresh sausages and pates and breads, baguettes everywhere, yummy baguette sandwiches, sweet and savory crepes (i finally get why nutella is so good!)....we saw the eiffel tower, the arch de triompe, went into the notre dame twice, once at night on our first night, and once today for mass to experience that tradition...we went to the top of the montmarse hill, to the sacre coeur cathedral, winding up the stairs like in amelie, with a view of the beautiful city...we've eaten loads of pa in au chocolate, finding our favorite one, and other delicious croissants and tartes....journeyed to the stade du france last night to stand outside while the world cup played, looking at the litter of empty beer cups all over the grounds, hearing the cheers inside as we watched through a bar window at the game...kissed in romantic places in romantic moments all over paris, ridden the metro (and walked all over when we could not), finding new neighborhoods and exhausting our feet...oh there's so much i could say and our time is running out on the compputer, we are going to say hi one more time to phil and paula who we housesitted for (what a small world!) and then head back to the sweetest place we've stayed here yet, the hotel camilla in the place de nation area, so charming....much better than the hotel richard, though i'm happy to report, it wasn't "grotesque" just run down. 
     much love to everyone!
 
 

Friday, October 19, 2007

bonjour!
we are in paris, the city of lights, and the city with french keyboards! because of that, we are blogging short. the crepes are great, the wine flows aplenty, the city is on a transport strike and so we walk everywhere, the world cup for rugby is tomorrow and the city is a-buzz with excitement! much love to all!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ireland to paris

there's so much swimming around in my head that i'd like to share about the last few days...the last four weeks! we left portland four weeks ago today, and tomorrow morning we are leaving this country for our second one, france! the last time i wrote we were in a crossroads of not knowing where to go next...we found a great website called helpx.net which is kindof like WOOOFing but not under that umbrella, where you volunteer and help out at people's houses/farms in exchange for free room and board. an amazing opportunity to learn a different way of life, new skills, and to meet some amazing people! we are set up with a 3 week opportunity in northwestern rural france that begins next week! it is very exciting, unknown, new, and amazing. we are flying out of galway tomorrow for paris, where we will be for 5 days. because of our last minute planning, most of the hostels were booked for the weekend in paris already....in a twist of fate, one became available last night online called the hotel richard, which has been reviewed by past visitors in the range of "grotesque," "a strange smell coming out of the drains," and "weird, but for some reason i'm coming back." i don't think it will be the best place we'll stay on our trip, but at least it is a roof over our heads i guess....the location of it is pretty good i think. for the first two nights we're staying at a hostel called "oops" that just opened last month! i think that one will be nicer!

we finally changed hostels in galway, actually. we were staying at the galway hostel for 5 nights total, it's billed as "the happiest hostel in galway," and it is very cheerful, especially the 5 front desk guys we got to know. there were a few long term hostelers that were there all the time, it seemed, and it was nice to develop some familiar faces we'd see around there or around town. but we were always in 8 bed dorms, in small narrow bunkbeds where we couldn't sleep together, and that got a bit hard, especially with drunk dormmates coming in late into the night or the occasional snorer... :) yesterday carson found the great place we're staying now, the claddagh hostel, just down the road, and we have our own (little) room with a bunkbed mattress wide enough for both of us! it is yellow-walled and has no windows but a tall skylight, with a little fresh air, and cozy blankets...a nice big kitchen, a beautiful sitting room with free internet and cozy couches, etc. it's been a great blessing (it's so nice to have our own room!!!!!!)

we feel quite at home in galway, i think we've spent most of our ireland time in this sweet town. on saturday and sunday we found the market on a side street, and bought some fresh produce. there were many handmade and imported goods, baked goods, and some yummy food stands, like fresh crepes or these DELICIOUS handmade falafel salads where he fried the falafels right in front of us and it was like we'd never eaten before, we got two they were so good! on sunday we kept running into people around town that we recognized, one australian girl was in three different places we went! we found our little coffee shop, java's, it's french themed and open until at least 3am every night, and we had a large cappuccino with cocoa sprinkled on top. they give you little french chocolates for free with every drink you order, it's very nice. a girl came in and started playing amelie songs on the piano, it was beautiful.

carson and i have been doing our pages every day, which has been a great committment, and rewarding too. we'll have a lot to share of our experience when we come back. we are addicted to the tart co., where they have incredible little tarts for only 2euro each, we get the rhubarb one....today we went in twice, and the second time she gave us a free tart for the road, so sweet! the new yummy local irish foods have been my favorite...today we calculated that we're on our 7th little block of cheese in 11 days :) the irish cheddar is so delicious. we've cooked most of our meals and ate out a couple of times, but we've eaten really well. it's very easy to find fresh produce, organic foods, high quality dairy, even kombucha.

tonight we walked along galway bay to watch the sunset. there is so much more we could've seen of ireland; we didn't even make it to the cliffs of moher, which is unfortunate because they are supposed to be so amazing, but i guess it's good to leave things for next time too. it's been great to settle here for a few days after all that moving around we did in the US and all the flying up and down. we're excited for a little change of pace in paris too, it will be a whole new world there! i've been trying to remember little bits of french, conversational...of course i know all the food words, i can always read a french menu very well :)

well i'm sure there's lots i've forgotten to mention, and i might be writing again tonight....i've been inspiring carson to write his first blog since vermont, and i think he might do it tonight, so hopefully you'll hear from him too! we've both got a little cold, but i think we're going out to the quays tonight for one last guinness and to hear that band we heard last tuesday night, they were amazing. love to everyone we know and love, feel free to comment and write to us to let us know how you are doing!
love,
melissa

Friday, October 12, 2007

peaceful inishmore


we've been having a lovely time on inishmore island, off the coast of western ireland. we're staying at the kilronan hostel right by the ferry dock. only 800 people live on this island year round, so it is quite quaint and quiet, with thousands of stone fences everywhere, weaving through the property, housing cows and some horses and some donkeys. in the summer, as many as 1000-2000 tourists come here per day, but now it is slow (which is nice!) yesterday we rented bikes and rode along the coastline to don aonghasa, a 2000 year old irish stone fort that is built in semi-circles on the edge of a cliff. we laid down on the rock with our heads peaking over, so far to the windy ocean below! the land here is so full of limestone and rock, interspersed with the irish green grass, some little dandelions and daisies. the weather has been cloudy, but the fog lifted when we were at the cliffs and we could see across the island.

last night we went out to a hotel pub nearby with our new friends brian from indiana and maren from germany. two men were playing music (accordian and bouzouki) and singing traditional irish tunes. on this island, many people still speak irish as their first language, and some of the songs were in gaelic. we drank more guinness and brian brought his fiddle, which he played with the other guys. it was so much fun! two irish men, who were also visitors, kept us entertained....one tapped his fingers and opened his arms wide to a recognized song, or played two spoons on his lap, or sang along with the song or in between songs. the other, our new friend toddy, shared some beautiful and heart wrenching poetry with carson and i at the end, and told us about his life and how he wants to move to this island to learn his language and stay here until he does. it was such an honor to be in this cozy warm place with community here, even if many are visiting americans (like in our hostel, so many americans!) we are heading back to galway on the 5:00 ferry tonight....we are at a bit of a standstill on our trip, as europe is so expensive....even as we try to live frugally, it's still adding up much more quickly than we'd thought. so we are not quite sure what's next. we'll be in galway for a couple more nights....on tuesday we went to the quays, and saw AMAZING irish music, guitar/fiddle/mandolin/bodhran drum. we also ended up in a corner with two other people from portland, randomly!


my mom posted some more photos from our trip to nashville, of the city and the wedding and such, they can be found at:
http://picasaweb.google.com/mcconnr/NashvilleTrip

meanwhile, we'll be figuring out where we are going to next, and trying to apply for an india visa while we're abroad (something, we now realize, we should've figured out when we were back in the US! oh well....the adventure continues!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

seagulls and swans and rhubarb tart!

we are in galway for our second night. we took the bus yesterday from cork, a long ride through the beautiful green hills, spotted with black-faced sheep, old castle ruins, and two rainbows. the bus was making weird sounds after we left limerick, and as soon as we got on the road from the shannon stop the engine blew! both carson and i were immersed in our books (me, finally reading harry potter, and he finishing eat pray love) so the hour wait wasn't too bad, though we were tired once we got to galway. luckily our hostel is right across from the bus station, the aptly named galway hostel. it is smaller than the last one, the kitchen and eating area cozy and intimate. we are sitting in there now, it is loud and wild with people playing cards, laughing, cooking dinner and drinking vodka and cokes. last night we walked around the town for a bit and went to a charming little irish pub....home of traditional music seven nights a week. last night was a duo, a pennywhistler and a violinist. they played traditional tunes for all the two hours we were there, interspersed with little breaks to drink from their endless supply of pints of guinness. we both had our first pints of the thick yummy creamy drink last night too, it was delicious! the foam was almost like a whipped topping, and it goes down so smooth, i can see how people can get very into drinking them every night :) we were very charmed by the yellow walled, black and white photo-of musicians-studded pub. right before we left an older irish man asked us where we were from, and when we said the US, he went off on his frustrations and anger about what our country has done around the world, especially in iraq. i agreed with him completely, and felt uncomfortable in the interaction too, as just because i am from the US does not mean i agree with what has happened, and yet i represent it because it is my country. i was not suprised by the interaction, i was almost expecting it. i wonder what my nationality automatically brings up for people i meet, even if they know nothing more of who i am.

today we had a lazy morning squeezed together napping on our top bunk...we were so tired, i think still catching up from our travels (three weeks long today!) we awoke at around 1 and went for a great walk around galway...it is so charming here, very alive and active through the smaller town center....we found a market with the most delicious yoghurt i've ever had, in a little glass jar, fresh from this county, with rhubarb compote on the bottom! wow was it good. we walked to the river emptying out into the bay, and saw hundreds of seagulls fighting over a piece of bread a man had thrown...we also saw dozens of white swans, graceful in their movements. we sat on a beach for a long time scattered with hundreds of multicolored snail shells and pearly luminescent mussell shells churned by the sea. we walked in the wind and through the back streets and along the river's channels through the city. (we also ate a delicous rhubarb tart along the way!) :) tomorrow we are taking a ferry to the aran islands and staying at the kilronan house hostel on inishmore....it will be nice to be out of the cities and into more of the wild, countryside, water, seashore, etc.

we think of all of you and love you very much!!!!
love,
melissa & cars

Monday, October 8, 2007

look left, then right

 
there is a tobin street where we are now, in cork.  we haven't found it yet, as all the streets are winding and old and there aren't many street signs.  we had a long travel day (24 hours!) and were so tired, falling asleep intermittently on the bus yesterday as we left dublin and drove through the beautiful countryside.  we got to cork and found our hostel, the kinlay house, up on a hill....last night we shared a room with 6 others which was a first for me, but worked out well...we went to sleep early after finding a great cafe where we had a yummy green salad with warm figs, goat cheese, hazelnuts...a great fresh pasta dish...and kombucha!  today we reserved a private room for a little more $ but it was worth it, we took a 4 hour nap this afternoon and then wandered around the city a bit, found a beautiful old church/cathedral, walked across a pedestrian bridge....most of the city is closed on sundays, inculding the co-op, but we'll go there tomorrow, i g uess it's a nice one!  we are going to hang out here in thje morning time and then take a bus to galway, which is on the western coast, a much smaller town with a good music scene and easy access to the coast where the cilffs of moher and the aran islands are.  we finally feel more rested and are adjusting to being in a completely new place!  to being foreigners, for once.  the little irish kids are so cute, we saw a pack of irish boys walking by us...the accents.  flying down to ireland was so beautiful, the sun rose and we coudl see little parcels of green land illuminated, all shades of green, little cows eating their breakfast, little bales of hay rolled into cylinders. 
we are still sometimes shocked seeing cars riding down the road on the opposite sides, and we look left and right and centre several times before crossing. 
 
so far my favorite new word is rocket, which is their way of saying mesculun greens!
 
love,
melissa & carson
 
--
how
do I
listen to others?
as if everyone were my Master
speaking to me
his
cherished
last
words.

-hafiz-

Thursday, October 4, 2007

new york, new york


an epic day in nyc....
waking to take the Q train in, a walk around chinatown and little italy, meeting jocelyn in union square to discover the amazing nyc farmer's market, apple cider, cookies, spinach, squash, apples, gourds, cacti, mint tea sweetened with fresh maple syrup, raspberries from new jersey, such abundance and color and freshness for the middle of the city....went to lombardi's (upon our friend tony's recommendation, we sat next to him on the way to nashville on the airplane)....lombardi's on the corner of mott and spring, the oldest pizza place inthe country, original italian recipe in the family for generations, fresh mozzarella, a dough recipe perfect, a 100 year old oven to cook it in....i think the best pizza we've all ever had, amazing.....we found a volunteer-run book store and bought holy cow, a book about traveling in india recommended by nishkama and nicole....we said goodbye to jocelyn and wandered around bleecker street into greenwich village, went to bakeries and cheese shops and walked by little cafes....met carson's cousin juniper and walked down to tribeca (the TRIangle BElow CAnal, i learned) and had a drink at her boyfriend's bar, where i met joe, a very wonderful man originally from italy (all these italy connections...) who is going to go back there in november to buy the house he was born in....he spoke of returning to his roots and listening to one's inner voice and how he wants to go back to the place that god originally placed him...it felt so perfect to hear him speak of his home in that way, i am very excited to go to italy.

we all walked down to the world trade center site after that, such a big place of open space in the middle of tight packed manhattan, i felt the heaviness of the event and the intensity, connected so much more with the impact of that experience on that land, for this city, for the people there then, all the names on the wall, the plans for the new building and the monument they will erect, the sadness, the loss. we took a train up to chelsea and ate at the oldest spanish restaurant in nyc on 23rd with carson's cousin, in the charming back room, walls decorated, my salad was so cute, it came with big bowls of three different dressings to choose from. we ordered the 45 minute chicken and had so much fun just talking and listening to the music and the ambiance, watching whole lobsters go by to other tables. juniper lives in the chelsea hotel, a classic ny place that was at one time the tallest buidling in ny, even though it's only 10 stories! it has housed many famous writers and artists and musicians in it's days...we walked up the 9 flights of stairs which are packed with art from various tenants throughout the years, i assume...many of the pieces are somewhat chilling and penetrative painted pictures of figures gazing off of the canvas, beautiful and unsettling too....the whole place feels so full of history and energy and memories and is thick with that. we left and walked up 7th into times square which is a world in itself, reminding me of las vegas and burning man at night and just new york, in it's crazy tall advertising screens on every corner and mtv and the m&m's shop which we went into, all things m & m's memorabilia, you can buy them bulk by the pound in any color you want, and they have an M&M personalized reader to choose your m&m mood. it was truly a crazy store! we didn't buy anything but it was fun to experience. we took a long detoured subway home to sarah & devin's in brooklyn and are now are going to go to sleep....13 hours in the city! we love it. it's intense. it's full. it's beautiful and so overwhelming and inspiring and scary and amazing, everything rolled into one.