Pink Trash Travels

Tater Tot Casserole Remixed

As my good friend Robert says, "You can take the boy out of Kansas, but you can't take Kansas out of the boy." Sometimes, you just crave dishes from back home. However, there's a big problem with trying to recreate favorites like tuna casserole in Paris - some ingredients don't exist. One is forced to improvise. So, tonight while Chris was away on a business dinner, I remixed tater tot casserole.

The dish is fairly simple. Mix together a can of grean beans, some hamburger, a bit of cream of mushroom soup and top with tater tots. France has the grean beans (but ironically not the french style I prefer). They don't, however, sell condensed soup - nor do they consider offering tater tots. But as I've learned over the past few weeks, you can convert fromage blanc (consider it whipped cottage cheese) and a little bit of milk into a base for cream of mushroom soup (as well as the essential ingredient for those packets of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing that make a delicious white trash salad). Switch whipped potatoes for the crunchy taters on top and you have yourself tater tot casserole a la Francais.

Chris suggested I begin capturing my creations for a "White Trash in Paris" cookbook. Not a bad idea. Somebody needs to teach the French how to cook.

Case of the Uglies

Now that everyone has returned from their month long holidays, our club de sport has a newfound case of the "uglies." At one time, L'usine had eye candy. Now, it just burns the pupils.

"Where have all the lookers gone?" I ask myself. There's something to be said for training with attractive people with hot bodies. It motivates you. Now, I'm encouraged to run the other direction - away from the old homosexuals with money who can afford the higher price facility (but apparently don't have enough money to wash their sour gym clothes).

Maybe that's the problem - the gays not only scared away their own kind but the few hotties that were straight. If so, c'est triste!

Paris in Paris

Looks like Paris Hilton was in Paris, France today. Fans hounded the "I want to be famous" Hilton as she walked down Rue de Richelieu. From the looks of her Hermes bags, she apparently had a shopping spree down Rue St. Honoré. She must have been on a break from promoting her new CD - one that she says, "Is so good it makes me cry."

Of course, I didn't see her, Chris did. I never see anybody. From Britney to the Rock to Paris, they avoid me like the plague. But why should I care? She's absolutely annoying - and everybody seems to think so. Yet, people buy into her act. I don't. I'm just jealous.

It did give me an idea however. The rush I felt from the "possibility" of chasing her down sparked the budding paparazzi in me. I may start hanging out on Rue St. Honoré, outside Hermes, to snap shots of the Hollywood jetsetters. Just think if I would have been there for the infamous "Oprah" moment - the most embarassing of her life? I'd be rich! Wa Wa. Maybe next time.

The Little Things in Berlin

After arriving in Berlin on Friday and initiating our tour through the city, I asked, “Where’s all the old stuff” I found myself mostly surrounded by newer construction dating from the mid-century. It all made sense after I read in Paddy’s book that most of Berlin was destroyed during WWII. With my newfound knowledge, what I saw made much more sense – with a few special items peaking my interest.

I miss eating Mexican food at Uncle Julio’s and burritos at Chipotle. So, when Chris stumbled across a notation in one of his cooking magazines about the “best burrito in Europe” being in Berlin, we had to give it a try. As a result, Friday for lunch, we headed to Delores California Style Gourmet Burritos.

After a short walk from our hotel (the fabulous Ritz Carlton located in Potsdamer Platz), we landed at Delores. Its location was a bit odd - surrounded by construction (though, as we noticed, the entire city seemed to be under construction). The interior was extremely hot so fortunately we could sit outside. Similar to Chipotle, you chose a meat option, followed by bean selection, topped off with cheese or sour cream. The staff was friendly as they assisted us to better understand the difference between beef options. As I chomped my way through my steak burrito with pinto beans, corn salsa, cheese and sour cream, I agreed with the magazine’s review. The burrito was solid, tasty and filling. If only they would have had ice to accompany my soda I could have given the restaurant a superior rating. But with the omission of the cold necessity, Delores strolls away with a “great.”

As we made our way back to the hotel, I noticed something about the stoplights. Forget the clicking noise that emits from the signal – notifying you of how much time you have to move from one side of the street to the other. Rather, it was the little green men that illuminates when it’s time to cross. They aren’t the standard blockhead figures seen in American and throughout Europe. Rather, the green icon wears a hat. I appreciated the subtle difference.

The crosswalk fashionista wasn’t the only small article that caught my attention. While enjoying a German specialty from the Rine provinces at a restaurant on Friday night, I found myself constantly in the restroom blowing my noise (I caught a cold after Ibiza that continued through the weekend). When I tossed my used tissues into the toilet, I was treated to a rotating display of modern technology.

Berlin Toilet
Click on the Quicktime movie above to watch the toilet in action!

Rather than having a paper seat cover that rotated around after one use, the German variety cleaned itself with a liquid that emulated from a mechanical arm at the back of the toilet. Though having to do “number two” wasn’t on my agenda, it was good to know that for the next hour or so, if I had to, I would be treated to sanitized toilet seat Mr. Clean would appreciate.

After having seen most of the city on Friday including the Berlin wall (much smaller and thinner than I imagined) and Checkpoint Charlie (and interesting sight where I had a history lesson on the occupation of Germany), we spent Saturday visiting only one museum with the remainder of the day watching Paddy and Chris drink liters of German beer. The Jewish museum was an amazing adventure into modern day architecture significance with the eerie ability to move you - literally. Built by Daniel Libeskind in 2001, the museum is a multi-angled masterpiece that, with it’s construction on varying degrees, affects your equilibrium. At times, a queasy feeling overcomes you – purposely designed to remind you of the tortures those being memorialized how to endure. Surprisingly, I was fine, so was Chris. Paddy, on the other hand, began to get nauseas. So, we quickly ended our Jewish history lesson and headed to a bar.

We love Paddy. But drunk Paddy is even more fun. He constantly smiles, giggles, and entertains you with his inebriated charm. So for two days in Berlin, watched as he enjoyed liter after liter of liquid barley delight. Chris would also drink, but only one or two. Paddy would drink three or four. I, of course, drank Diet Coke. “BOO!” some would say (as shouted by Grace on the Will & Grace episode where she meets Leo's parents). But with my frat days ruining my taste for beer, I’ve become a spectator when it comes to drinking. Which makes me wonder what I’ll do in September when I return to Germany for Oktoberfest?

Our trip to Berlin was a wonderful way to cap a busy summer of traveling through Europe – beginning with the South of France, encompassing Stockholm, Madrid, London and Ibiza. And the time spent with Paddy over the past two weeks was priceless. Museums are nice, but friendships are better. Combine that with cannonballs into the pool, mechanical toilets, scary gay bar visits, drinks at outdoor cafes and tasty burritos, you have yourself a photo album full of memories – ones I’ve promised myself I’m starting this week.

Out of Gas in Ibiza

When one mentions Ibiza, images of hedonism come to mind. It’s an island famous for parties. But with it less than two hours away from Paris, Chris and I thought it was one stop on our European adventure we had to make. But once we got there, I quickly realized my party train is running out of gas.

We partied only once in Ibiza. Saturday morning around 11 we went to Space. With three distinct terraces, the club is internationally known for its dance events. We settled into one of two sun terraces (with the third resembling a dark cave packed with sketchy leftovers from the night before). The music varied between progressive, house and circuit. The change was nice, but we would have preferred the genre to remain in place for a bit longer before jumping to the next. When we arrived, the dance floor was mostly filled with a heterosexual crowd – and fully dressed. After a few hours, the gays took control. Shirtless men infiltrated the space by 3 p.m. By then, however, we were preparing our exit.

We danced for a few more hours before deciding to leave. After cooling off in an area between terraces, we were ready to go. Paddy and I decided to exit through a nearby door. What we soon found out was it was a fire exit. Our realization came to late however. With a push out the door and a “Vamos” to boot, I felt as though my mother had scolded me.

We tried to venture out a second time – to DC 10 on Monday afternoon. But what we found was a tin trailer parked in a dusty field with a crowd full of teenage clubbers unmindful of the blowing dirt clogging their pores. We had been warned it was a trashy crowd – but with good music. We all agreed with the trashy crowd summary. But we found no redeeming quality in the venue or the beats. As a result, we quickly hopped back in our taxi and returned to the hotel. So with partying no longer the main attraction in Ibiza, other elements took center stage. It became more about companionship and the experience of enjoying the island together – whether good or bad.

While most venture outside Ibiza Town for fun in the sun, we remained inside the city’s center at our hotel’s pool. Sure, the Royal Palace Ibiza is stuck in 1983 with its paneled walls, gold bedding and mauve carpet. But the rooftop pool is its saving grace. We discussed numerous times the possibility of exploring the island's beaches – especially the gay one. But after admitting and accepting the fact that we all hate the sand, the cement pond won by a landslide. Besides that, it made it easy to shower and head into town for dinner.

Our hotel was a short 10-minute walk to Dalt Vila – Ibiza’s old town (as compared to the new town where our hotel was located). Most of the restaurants are located in Dalt Vila along a strip strategically placed to attract and capture tourists looking for an adequate meal for a pretty penny. On Friday night, we ate French cuisine at La Oliva. I didn’t enjoy my Skate fish but others seemed to take pleasure in their dining decision. Then again, I don’t like fish – except if it’s shaped like a finger and called a fish stick.

On Saturday, Patrick and Chris succumbed to my desire for Italian. Though, after eating at Tomato and Company, they probably should ignored me. Patrick’s pasta, as described by Patrick, “tasted like the smell of a petting zoo.” Chris’ ravioli had no redeeming qualities. And my spaghetti and meatballs plate was a bit reminiscent of Furrs cafeteria.

Sunday night, we decided to eat somewhere along the gay strip on Calle de Virgin. After walking up and down the alleyway filled with restaurants, trash stores and Kitty square where cats ran amuck, we chose a small restaurant whose name escapes me. The mixture of salads, Italian dishes and pizzas won us over. Patrick and I shared a four-cheese pizza that was surprisingly tasty. Justin enjoyed his mushroom cream tortellini and Chris sampled all of the above. And, as a result of our pleasant dining experience, we returned the following night for round two (and yet I still don't remember).

In between pool time and eating, we spent our time drinking. – Chris, Patrick and Justin consumed alcoholic beverages while I sipped on Diet Cokes. Our favorite spot was Angelo’s on Sunday night. We of course arrived early (around 11 o’clock). But our premature sitting time allowed us to secure a table with ample views of the surrounding palm trees, fortress wall and incoming boys from all directions. Though, we were somewhat distracted by the older gentleman nestled in the corner across from our table who looked as though he stuffed a potato down his pants.

Bliss, a bohemian bar in the corner of Placa de Park located at the foot of Dalt Vila was a runner up for favorite drinking establishment. With 2-euro beers and foot traffic galore, Bliss was the perfect solution to our quest for entertainment on Monday afternoon.

As we head back to Paris, I’m already preparing myself for an onslaught of comments targeting our time in Ibiza. How could we ignore the traditional means of self-indulgent amusement for quiet dinners, peaceful pool time and repeat visits to the ice cream shop along the harbor’s edge? It’s simple: we’ve been there, done that. Not to say we won’t want to do it again. But most likely, the next time will be as a side dish to the main course of exploring a city’s history and cultural relevancies with good friends – as we plan to do in Berlin with Patrick next weekend.

So let the kids revel in their constant fanatical behavior. For us, it’s more about finding and sharing adventures with close friends outside the club environment. As a result, my party train doesn’t need refueling. It just needs a different track to run on.

PTT Travel Tips: Ibiza
1) Stay a week. Gives you ample time to sample parties.
2) Rent a villa. It's more relaxing.
3) Rent a car. The beaches and clubs are outside city center.
4) Excluding Space on Saturday, nightlife begins around 1 or 2 a.m.
5) Check for direct flights from Ibiza to Paris, etc. They exist.

Paris Plages

For the fifth year in a row, a portion along the right bank of the Seine becomes beachfront property. Since Paris is unfortunately not located on near any major body of water, they get creative and convert approximately a mile of pavement into Coney Island for one month – beginning this year on July 20 and running through August 20.

For some reason, when I first heard of the Parisian beach, I thought they just throw down some sand along the river’s edge and call it a day. But after walking through the boardwalk this afternoon, I realized it’s so much more.

Sure, there’s sand. But if you’re walking from the West to the East end of the strip, you don’t find it until three-quarters of the way down. I was talking to Chris on the phone and I said, “I don’t see any sand.” I opened my mouth too soon. There indeed is sand along with lawn chairs, palm trees, kids building sand castles, and ladies wearing bikinis (and men too) who shouldn’t be.

Last year, from what I’m told, the theme was a celebration of Brazil. This year, based on the lanterns, tiki huts and abundant bamboo, I’m assuming it has something to do with Asia.

There are play areas for kids, cafes for the adults, sprinklers for cooling and street performers for entertaining. It’s unfortunate this event only takes place for one month. I can imagine it being quite popular all summer long. I’m sure the homeless people who live under the bridges nearby probably don’t appreciate the mob scene. But then again, it’s good for them to experience a different change of pace. Because like Chris and I, it makes you appreciate the varying degrees of city life.

Back in Paris

I'm home - safe and sound. There was no plane crash. I was a bit concerned since it was my grandpa's birthday yesterday. All I could think about before my departure was my plane deep diving into the Atlantic on the same day my grandpa would be enjoying his birthday sponge cake.

When I arrived in Paris, it seemed a bit like fall. The temperature was only 65 degrees and cloudy. This was a stark contrast to the 100 degree weather I endured in Chicago - especially along the lake Monday morning for my run (or should I say, lady walk). I had originally planned to take the Roissybus home to save money (since I have $150 to account for because of the unfortunate car towing incident), but with over 150 lbs. of luggage, this clearly wasn't an option. So I hopped in a cab and was on my way.

Maddie greeted me with her trademark happy dance. And luckily, Chris suprised me by walking through the door around 10 a.m. His training session at the gym ran long and he was on his way to work. With a haircut, new pair of jeans and shoes from A.P.C., Chris looked very handsome. That, or the long three weeks of pent of frustration finally had an outlet.

I spent the next hour unpacking chocolate chips, flax seed oil, Orbit gum, protein powder, Balance Bars, Betty Crocker frosting and melatonin for our friend Peter's dog (?). And after a quick shower, I began inspecting the flat to ensure everything was in place. Fortunately, Alyse came yesterday so it was clean and in shape. Now, if I could only do something about my severly heat stressed geraniums hanging outside our front windows.

It was good to be back in Paris. I ,of course, already miss my friends in Chicago, but I think the almost three weeks stateside served me well. The first week I was on a honeymoon. The second week I began to settle. And by the third, I realized it was time to go. Besides, I don't think I could handle another Fat Girl "Sunday." With Ibiza just 10 days away, I now have some "slimming" to do. Thanks Chicago!