Okay, the title of this post is actually just a joke. There is no way you can actually compare the two without sticking your nose up at one (you can guess which one gets the cold shoulder).

I bought the macarons from McDonald’s simply so I would be able to tell what a bad macaron would taste like. In short, it tastes like crap.

The macaron was cold (from being kept in a refrigerated case), which made the shells thick and extremely chewy. I got chocolate and pistachio flavours and neither of them were any good. The chocolate tasted very artificial while the pistachio was just atrocious.

On the other hand, La Duree is a world-renowned patisserie where you can expect to wait in line for 20-30 minutes and you are absolutely forbidden to take any pictures. So, by my definition, this place was legit.

A friend of mine had specifically told me to go to this patisserie in Paris the minute I got there, but I completely blanked on the name until I just happened to pass by it on the Champs-Elysees. It was a lucky day, I suppose.

I got 6 flavors: Rose, Lavender, Black Forest, Chocolate, Vanilla and Lemon Thyme. And also a chocolate éclair that practically called out my name.

I shared my macarons with my trip mates and we each were able to take a bite out of each delicate pastry. The egg white shells were perfectly airy with just the right balance of crunch and chewy texture, so you didn’t feel like you were chewing gum by accident. Each flavor was even better than the next. You could tell that all the ingredients were fresh and real. If you can believe, the best one was actually Vanilla, which had flecks of real vanilla beans in it.

If heaven can be found in a single bite, then I found 6 tiny pieces of it right here.

 

 

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So, while I was in Paris, I had the chance to sample some of the delicacies that French cuisine is known for. Here were my impressions:

Escargot

Escargot in Paris, France

My first experience with escargot was on a Royal Caribbean cruise to Mexico five years ago. I pretty much almost threw up the minute the slimy gastropod hit my tongue. I like to think that my palette has gotten a little more refined since then and was excited to try these suckers out (pun intended).

The escargot was served warm with a garlic pesto sauce. The sauce was delicious and actually served as the main flavor for the dish. The snails had the texture of mushrooms and, as long as I didn’t think that I had actually stuffed a garden insect into my mouth, I actually enjoyed escargot this time around.

Frog Legs

Frog legs in Paris, France

This was my first time trying these and as much as I told myself, “It’s just like chicken. It’s just like chicken!!”… it really wasn’t. The meat had a texture similar to chicken, but it was much drier. And there was a pronounced fishy taste that was unlike any fish I’ve ever had, so all I could think was that I was seriously eating a dead frog’s appendages. Plus, the aftermath doesn’t look all too pleasant either:

Frog legs after they're eaten

Chocolate Éclairs

Chocolate eclair from La Duree

This was from the infamous La Duree patisserie on the Champs-Elysees (which sadly suffered a fire last week). It was the most perfect, delicious éclair I’ve ever had. The milk chocolate filling was sweet, rich and almost made me cry. The pate a choux pastry itself was soft to bite into, but also very buttery. The chocolate ganache on top was the pièce de résistance.

Beef Carpaccio with Rocket Greens and Feta Cheese

Most people would squirm at the thought of eating raw meat, but I absolutely loved this dish. The meat was lightly seasoned with pepper and herbs like basil, then topped with fresh spicy rocket salad and crumbly, salty feta cheese. The dish was drizzled with a good quality olive oil.

Champagne

Of course, I couldn’t have a post about French cuisine without mentioning champagne. Did you know that the Champagne region of France actually has a trademark on the use of the word “Champagne”? Only real Champagne grapes get turned into Champagne. Anything else is called “sparkling wine.”

There’s really nothing bad you can say about French champagne. It’s refreshing, bubbly and wonderful!

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A red bike lock is shaped into a heart and surrounded by other Love Padlocks on the Pont D'Arts bridge in Paris, France

I was making my way from the Louvre to Notre Dame in Paris when I came by a curious little bridge. There were all these padlocks attached to the railings and even more strange, was that the padlocks had writing all over them.

Little did I know that I had ended up on the Pont Des Arts, a bridge where couples come to attach padlocks with their names written on them, perpetuating the tradition of the “Love Padlocks.”

These locks are symbols of the couples’ everlasting love- quite literally “locking” down their love for all eternity. Locks ranged from simple with Sharpie’d writing to extravagant locks with engraving. It’s a really sweet gesture, especially when you read the things that the couples have written on them. This one made me smile: 

A Love Padlock in Paris, France that has "Susan and Steve Tanner 40 years" written on it in black sharpie

There are bridges all throughout Europe where locks like these can be found (I saw ones in Rome, Italy and Berlin, Germany). There’s even one found along a hiking trail in Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

Passing by this bridge definitely puts a smile on my face though as it reminded me that millions of people out there still believe in true love. 

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Let me start by saying that if you have more than one day to spend in Paris, don’t do what we did. Seriously, DON’T. This was an incredibly unplanned, on the fly kind of day for us and while it was fun, it really doesn’t give you the best experience in Paris. Also, it was absolutely exhausting.

Kaylah, Kayla, Rhia and I decided to explore together since we were all pretty chill about where we wanted to go and when we wanted to see it. None of us felt like lining up for any museums either, which meant we’d be able to see a lot more sights, and we had a Seine River Boat Cruise later that day together, so it worked out perfectly. We grabbed a map from the lobby and decided on this plan of attack:

  1. Louvre
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Napoleon’s Tomb
  4. Champs-Élysées
  5. Arc De Triomphe
  6. Trocadero
  7. Eiffel Tower

It all looked very doable based on the map. Nothing looked too far apart and I reckoned we’d even have time to go up the Eiffel Tower before dinner at 7pm. But see the thing we didn’t realize, and as you’ll soon read, is that things on the map aren’t exactly as close together as they seem. Pia and Sarah (my Paris roomates with Rhia) and Brett also decided to come along on our adventure.

 

We got through the Louvre and Notre Dame quite easily. The real trouble began with the gold-topped Napoleon’s Tomb.

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a map expert. I use Google Maps all the time at home, but let’s be honest, it really does all the work of figuring out routes for you. From the physical map I held in my hands, it looked like it was about 10-12 blocks away. No problem, right? WRONG.

Streets in Paris are remarkably long in real life. So long that we didn’t get there in 15 minutes at a leisurely pace like I’d hoped- instead it took an hour. We practically crashed on to the steps when we got there since we were so exhausted. At this point, we didn’t even want to go in anymore. I managed to sneak a peek through the door and while it looked spectacular, it wasn’t worth standing in a line for and wasting time in. 

We were hungry now, so we tried to make our way out of the gardens, but found our way blocked by a 20-foot drop into a pit. It took us over 20 minutes to get find the way out (luckily there was a Tourist Information booth beside Napoleon’s Tomb). Our frustrations started to mount and in our hurry to get away we almost didn’t realize that we had ended up in the nearby Hotel Des Invalides, which was like a war museum. This ended up being great because it gave us a direct route over the spectacular Pont Alexandre.

After a short stop for lunch and a quick picture at “Canada Place,” we hopped on our Bateaux Mouches Seine River tour of Paris. This ended up being a nice 1.5 hour rest for us and thankfully the weather was gorgeous, but not a very interesting cruise as we’d already seen everything up close and personal. 

We made our way to the shop-lined Champs-Elysees afterwards, which led us directly to the mighty Arc De Triomphe. The thing about the Arc is that while it is an amazing sight, the fact that it is in the middle of one of the busiest and largest roundabouts in Paris, makes you look more at the traffic than at the actual attraction before you. We probably stood there for a good 10 minutes, just watching people try to get out of this seemingly dangerous piece of land. A taxi driver even almost caused an accident when he blocked two lanes of traffic in an attempt to get out of the madness. We were mesmerized as we watched 2 police officers yell at him for being a traffic hazard.

There is an underground pedestrian crossing that takes you to the Arc, but we only had less than an hour left to get to the Eiffel Tower and take pictures before our picnic dinner.

So as you can see, we saw a lot of sights based on what we did, but we also missed out on a lot of things. I didn’t get to see Trocadero or go up the Eiffel Tower, but it’s definitely incentive to come back to Paris someday with a better gameplan…and maybe a Metro ticket.

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Karra standing atop the Gloriette in Vienna Austria with Schonbrunn Palace in the background

That’s me standing in front of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, on the first trip I’ve ever taken by myself.

I have never travelled by myself. By that I also mean, I’ve never travelled to a place where I didn’t end up staying with relatives or packing myself into a hotel room with friends. I’ve always wanted to do it, but I never had the motivation to really go for it (that and I have Filipino mother who worries about me constantly).

But then, like all great adventures, it started with a significant, heartbreaking event, and all of a sudden the next path in my life was clear.

I was going to go to Europe for one month, from September 18-October 18. And I was going to go there by myself.

Okay, well not completely by myself. While I was there I stayed with relatives in London and North Brussels, joined a 14-day group tour, travelled with a friend in Berlin, and stayed with a friend in Mattighofen, Austria. But I did stay for two days in Vienna by myself, spent a few hours in Salzburg with my lonesome, and explored most of London alone.

And I have to say that those times when I was alone were blissful.

I could wake up whenever I wanted, eat wherever I wanted and walk as fast or as slow as I wanted. I only had my time, my needs and my wants to deal with. I absolutely loved getting to explore a new city with no one to care about but myself.

Of course there are times I wish I had a friend to share moments with, especially when I found a really cool monument or sight that I wanted to take a picture with but didn’t trust any of the shady characters around me with my camera. (Funny, yes, but true story). 

As this is my ode, an open love letter to solo travel, if you will, I only have one more thing to say and that is, if you’ve never travelled alone, even just to a city over your border for one night, do it.

Don’t wait for something heartbreaking to happen or for that “right moment.” There is no right moment. There’s only the gift of the present. It’s cheesy, but it’s true. It’s when there’s no one else to talk to but yourself that you really discover who you are and what you’re made of.

And that’s worth the price of a plane ticket alone.

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