Sunday, January 22, 2017

T is for Troy in NW Turkey

After reading Homer's “Iliad” as teenager, I had high hopes to see the ruins of Troy in person.

So, on our drive to the Turkish wine island of Bozcaada five years ago, we stopped to see the UNESCO historical site of Troy, located along the Aegean Sea on the Çanakkale peninsula.

Sadly, due to earthquakes and archeological lootings over the years, Troy is not as impressive as I had hoped – piles of random stones here and there. If you want to be impressed, head to Pergamon or Aphrodisias instead. Still, Troy is impressive for its age as the oldest ruins date from 3000 BC.
At least you can still see part of the ancient theatre in Troy.
The fact that Troy even exists as a real city also is impressive. Until the 19th century, many people assumed that Homer's Iliad was fiction. In 1863 a British expatriate named Frank Calvert discovered ancient ruins at a place in western Turkey called Hisarlık and was convinced they were Troy. German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann showed up in 1868, provided money for more digging, and took all the credit for discovering Troy. From what I understand, Schliemann took many of the Troy artefacts, including the “Treasure of Priam” back to Germany, which the Russians stole after WWII. Today, the treasure is still hidden somewhere in Moscow. It seems history is often filled with lots of drama.

Anyway, if you love a good Greek tragedy, it’s worth stopping by to visit Troy. But you’ll have to visit museums in Russia or Germany to see many of the valuable artefacts.

I’m linking this post to the monthly travel guide link up organized by Fiona, a fellow Australian blogger, at Tiffin Bite Sized Food Adventures. Each month features a new letter of the alphabet. This month is the letter “T.” Please pop on over to Fiona’s blog to read more travel stories or feel free to link up your own!

TIFFIN - bite sized food adventures -
My Traveling Joys

Saturday, January 21, 2017

On a Parisian street that’s been in use for approximately 2,000 years, you’ll find dozens of boucheries, boulangeries, fromageries, pâtisseriespoissonneries and just about any other kind of -erie shop relating to food.

Arriving from the Right Bank in Paris, you’ll find the narrow cobblestone street of Rue Mouffetard as it snakes its way downhill to a small plaza and an outdoor fruit and veggie market. Much of this small street is closed to traffic, so you’re free to leisurely stroll from the butcher to the baker to the pastry maker (sorry, no candlestick makers here). Lining this foodie street are several cafés and plenty of shops to buy the fixings for a wonderful French picnic or a delicious dinner.

As my fellow foodie friend showed me Rue Mouffetard for the first-time last summer, I wondered, how had I missed this fabulous foodie street? The delightful thing is that Paris is filled with sooo many good places to eat. Every visit, I come armed with a new list of places I want to dine at in the City of Lights.
 I can't resist French cheese!
Even Ernest Hemingway described it as a “wonderful, narrow crowded market street” in “A Moveable Feast.” 
But the Romans opened the road some 2,000 years ago to connect Antic Lutetia (what officially became Paris in 360 AD) to Italy via a southern road. The street ran through the small village of Bourg Saint-Médard that became the home of winegrowers and wealthy Parisians’ country houses as it was located on a sunny hill. In the 14th century, the area became undesirable as the butchers, skinners and tanners workshops appeared on the river banks. They dumped their waste into the river turning it into a stinking sewer. The offending odours produced were commonly called moffettes so the street became known as Rue des Moffettes eventually evolved into Rue Mouffetard.

Fortunately, the only butchers you’ll find here now are ones selling delicious types of saucissons and fresh meat if you fancy a homecooked meal.
The prime time for visiting is Saturday and Sunday morning. Remember: everything is closed by Sunday afternoon and remains closed until Tuesday morning. My visits were on a Wednesday and on a Saturday in the summer, with the weekend being the busiest.

Besides gazing into all the shops with food envy, my friends and I decided to grab the fixings for a picnic. We went from shop to shop buying different bits of cheese, bread, wine (that came with disposable glasses), macarons, pastries and just about anything edible. It’s difficult not to buy one of everything!
My girlfriend and I settled down on a picnic bench in a small park next to the 15th-century St. Medard church. Or if you are willing to walk a couple minutes farther – the Jardin des Plantes, next to the Natural History Museum, is a gorgeous oasis for a picnic. The French cops didn’t seem to mind that we were drinking wine in the park. How tres French!
A picnic for two in Paris! 
Or for five!
Good friends and picnics in Paris are a match made in heaven! ;)
As you can see from my photos if you want a one-stop foodie shopping experience, then head to Rue Mouffetard when you visit Paris. I know I’ll be heading back here again…and hopefully soon!
My Traveling Joys

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Paris is known for the Eiffel Tower, its fabulous French food and beautiful buildings. However, did you know that the City of Light is also home to some of the most famed street art artists in the world?

After only knowing about Banksy until we moved abroad in 2010, I didn’t know or pay much attention to street art. Since living in Europe and Melbourne now, I’ve developed a huge appreciation and fascination with street art. In fact, before we travel to a new destination, I look up where the best neighborhoods are to find street art or which street artists to look out for as we walk around.

Last year, I fortunately visited Paris twice – once with a girlfriend and the latter time meeting with a group of friends from Germany. Living in London now makes travel to Paris and elsewhere in Europe so much easier than before! On these trips, I simply focused on food, exploring new neighborhoods and looking for street art. The photos below reflect what I found on these new trips. Enjoy!

Space Invader Street Art
One of the cheekier street artists is known as Invader or Space Invader, a French artist originally based in Paris. He attaches weather-resistant tiles in the form of mosaic images inspired from the 1970s-video game “Space Invaders” in cities around the world. Invader started these installations in Paris in 1998, where you find more than 1,200 of his creations, and has continued to “invade” other cities in France, Europe, the United States, Canada, Asia and Australia.

When visiting Paris, spotting an Invader becomes a sort of game. My friends and I had a blast this past summer looking for and taking photos of the Invaders around Paris.
WRDSMTH in Paris
Labeled as “a writer doing time in LA,” WRDSMTH is another cheeky street artist that is known for his poignant messages flowing from a vintage typewriter or written in a typewriter-type font. The anonymous artist uses a unique combination of stencil/spray painting and wheatpasting for his street art. LA is still home to most of WRDSMITH’s creations, but you’ll find his work in New Orleans, New York, London and Paris.

Earlier in 2016, WRDSMTH’s pithy “The only lie” piece found a new home in Paris! I couldn’t resist taking a photo with this 6-foot version located on Rue de la Lune in Porte Saint Martin.

A photo posted by My Traveling Joys (@mytravelingjoys) on

Street Art in the 13th Arrondissement
On both trips, I visited a new-to-me neighborhood on the Left Bank – the city’s 13th arrondissement, which has in recent years become a renowned neighborhood for a number of large-scale artworks by both French and international graffiti-street artists.

Unlike other Parisian districts, the 13th contains many more modern high-rise apartment blocks – which are perfect for large-scale murals. In recent years, the local townhall officials have been working with Galerie Itinerrance and other art groups to commission artists to go ‘big’ on the sides of its buildings. We used the Galerie’s map to try and find as many murals and other street art that we could. Or you could try one of the local street art tours like this one.
Cat by French street artist C215 located at 141 Boulevard Vincent Auriole.
“Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” by Shepard Fairey at 186 rue Nationale (above the Cat on the Boulevard Vincent Auriole.)Right: “Rise Above Rebel” by American graffiti artist Shepard Fairey (also known as Obey), located at 93 Rue Jeanne d'Arc.
Blue mural by church called “Delicate Balance” by Shepard Fairey at 60 Rue Jeanne d'Arc.

Ecole cité Dorée, corner of Vincent Auriol & rue Jenner.

This one is my favorite!“La Madre Seculaire” by Chilean artist INTI, at 85 Boulevard Vincent Auriole. You also can find INTI’s murals in Łódź, Poland.
Other murals we found in the 13th:
Another anonymous street artist is one known for his signed works “Kraken Je t’aime” which feature a legendary but mythical sea monster. We found a few Krakens around the city, but this one is one of my favorites.
When you visit Paris, enjoy the food, but don’t forget to look up and down the side streets for unique street art as well!

My Traveling Joys

Thursday, January 5, 2017

After skiing three mornings in a row during our Christmas break, we decided to call it quits early one afternoon so we could get a hike in before sunset.

Let me tell you, that hike sounded like a fabulous idea until we reached a steep path up the mountainside. My calves were barking after all that skiing, which I’m still not that good at. Oh well! We had blue skies and really couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon!
We hiked up behind our small village of Servoz, about 1 hour from the Geneva Airport, located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in southeastern France. This village, population 935, has long been part of France’s mountaineering and mining heritage and is familiar to climbers everywhere. You’ll find the most darling historical water fountains that horses, hikers and mountaineers have used for perhaps a few hundred years.

Once we had hiked up behind Servoz and another tiny hamlet, we were greeted with a near 360° view of the Fiz Mountains, the Pormenaz, Le Prarion and the magnificent 'Big Brother', Mont Blanc – the tallest mountain in Europe! The views are always worth it!

Atop an empty, grassy hill, we plunked our tired bodies down and settled in for a pre-sunset snack of French fromage, sliced saucisson and crackers. The late afternoon sun cast a warm glow throughout what is known as the “sunniest village in the Chamonix valley.” I reflected on what a perfect day it really was. Earlier I skied the best I’ve ever done, without falling once, and with the help of my husband who normally has the patience the size of gnat! He had been such a good sport as he would probably have preferred to be skiing on the more advanced black runs. We were gazing at a beautiful view and we were on vacation! 
But I said, “You know what would make this day even better, if a herd of goats went walking by right now.” After all, we were in the French Alps.

The afternoon winter light was fading fast so we quickly made our way back down the mountain. Lo and behold, we both started hearing bells in the distance. I started almost jogging down the hill to find the source of the bells. I couldn’t believe my luck! A herd of sheep, each animal adorned with a tinkling bell, were grazing in an open pasture.

I guess sometimes your wishes really do come true!
A magical moment with sheep grazing in the French Alps!

My Traveling Joys