Saturday, December 15, 2007

Europe in pictures: 1 - 40

At long last, we start the deluge of photos from Europe. Be happy you're reading a blog and not attending a slide presentation, because otherwise you'd be trapped here for a long, long time. Scroll freely up and down, take frequent bathroom and stretching breaks, and just enjoy the sights.

As you see below, Paris was gray and rainy on the 4th, but not particularly cold. I had brought along my new winter coat (thanks again, Mom and Dad), but the weather simply didn't warrant it.

Roissy, a.k.a. Charles de Gaulle Airport, seems to have undergone some radical changes since the last time I was in Europe, which was 2002. The changes I saw were all for the better. Instead of getting off at one of those infuriating Habitrail terminals, I found myself in a more rationally laid-out area. Passport control, baggage claim, and French Customs were all more or less painless.

The above photo shows the area where I waited for an Air France shuttle to take me down to la Gare de Montparnasse (i.e., Montparnasse Train Station). That was a mistake: had I remembered my French family's suggestions, I would have taken the TGV straight from Roissy to Nantes. As it was, I think I wasted almost two hours by going the long way, because I waited at least a half-hour for the shuttle, then took an hour to cross the city. Not that I was in a hurry, but I didn't want to force my family to pick me up at Nantes right at dinnertime. (This is, alas, what eventually happened. Désolé, Papa et Maman.)

While waiting at the bus stop, I was accosted by a very nice Middle Eastern gentleman who was traveling in France along with his family. He spoke nearly perfect American English (he and his brood live in California) and wanted some help finding the right bus stop. He had been directed to wait at my bus stop, but as it turned out, he was heading to a very different part of the city, so my bus would have been the wrong one for him. I know next to nothing of Parisian geography, so I was unable to tell him which bus stop would take him where he needed to go. His cart was overflowing with suitcases; I felt bad for him and for his wife and daughter, who looked tired and stressed out from the trip. I tried my best to help him, but when my own bus arrived, I had to cut everything short. The bus driver for my bus told us that the guy's best bet would be to take a taxi, a rather expensive option. "But it's more direct and more convenient, given all those bags," the bus driver said. I shrugged and apologized to my fellow tourist, then got on the bus for a 14-euro (about $20) trip. I can't even imagine how much that cab ride was going to cost the family. Paris isn't Seoul: having ridden in cabs once or twice in this city, I know they're not cheap.

My bus ride was fairly uneventful; Paris darkened quickly, and by 5PM it was pretty much night. When I got off the bus and made my way over to the train station, I discovered that my PNC check card didn't work in the automatic ticketing machine (later in the trip, my French brother Dominique explained that this might be because my card doesn't have une puce électronique in it-- a microchip (literally, "an electronic flea").

I got my TGV ticket from a human being (my card worked fine at the counter), and took the 6PM train down to Nantes. I met my French parents at the south side of la Gare de Nantes; we did the kisses-on-the-cheek thing, piled into the car, and headed home. The Ducoulombier family lives in the town of Carquefou, just outside of Nantes proper. What follows are some pics from inside my bedroom:

The next picture is a glimpse of ancient Gaul: one of the coolest features of French property is that people will occasionally have a menhir on their land, and most folks opt to preserve it-- to build around it or otherwise leave it alone. That stone, propped on its end and sitting in my family's yard, dates back who-knows-how-many thousands of years.

Here are some interior and exterior shots of the home I first visited in 1986. Some things had changed; some things hadn't. It was good to be back.

My first night in Europe went well. I slept quite comfortably, then woke up to the French breakfast I remembered as a high schooler: good bread (my family makes its own bread now, thanks to a bread-making machine), good butter, lovely jams, and a big bowl of hot chocolate. Later in the day, I had the chance to meet two of François' children: Hadrien and Philippine. François is the eldest son in the Ducoulombier family (you'll see him in a bit); the other three sons are Damien (whom I didn't see this time around; his family lives way down in Bordeaux), Xavier (whose family will be moving to Shanghai), and Dominique (one year younger than I am; he's out in Colmar, near Strasbourg, on the other side of the country).

Here are some pics of Hadrien and his sister Philippine being goofy:

There was a ton of demon-eye in the above pics; my new camera produces a lot of that, unfortunately. As a result, I've gotten well acquainted with Photoshop's "sponge" tool, which sucks the demon-eye right out. That, plus a few quick strokes of the blur tool, and the kids look downright human.

Below, l'arbre le Noël:

The afternoon of my first full day in France, my parents took me to Nantes to go shopping. We chatted in the car about this and that; I bought some goodies for a few folks back in Korea, and took some shots along the way.

Here's a cute dog I saw sitting inside a car while we were stopped at a traffic light:

Here's a shot of the parking lot of the Galeries LaFayette. The department store itself was pretty much the same as department stores in Korea and America, so I didn't want to bore you with shots of that. This exterior shot, though, strikes me as more explicitly French and strangely cool.

On the streets of Nantes, I caught sight of this cow and knew I had to get a shot. Following hard upon the heels of this image, a French pun popped into my head: La vache qui lit.

Below, a street shot and your first view of Papa and Maman:

In this next picture, which is again back at the house in Carquefou, we see a couple more kids. The Ducoulombier family is vast, let me tell you. Below, you see Philippine again, but instead of Hadrien we see Philippine's cousins (all Xavier's children, in this case): Quentin (seated, right), the adorable little Marie-Capucine (seated, left), and Barthélémie (standing, top; not sure if his name is spelled right). The latter apparently has an ear for English, but aside from a few deliberately exaggerated salutations, we spoke entirely in French.

More family pics follow! Below is Xavier, tired as hell after having just gotten back from Shanghai, which he visits every month. Xavier visited North America in the late 1980s; I don't think his experience was quite as positive as Dominique's was (Dominique came in 1987, the summer after high school graduation and before I started college), but he definitely got the travel bug. Like me, Xavier likes traveling independently. He used to work for his parents' clothing company (they're retired now; their brand name is Les Deux Ancres [the two anchors], which is still chugging along nicely), but now he's his own boss, working in textiles. Xavier loves Asia and is planning on moving there permanently.

Xavier and I spent a good bit of time comparing notes about Asia. He has, without my knowledge, popped into Korea on occasion, and says he'd like to meet up the next time he's in my corner of the world. I look forward to that, though he'll have to move quickly, seeing as I'll be leaving in late April next year.

The following two pics show the kids at their table (we adults had our own table in the living room):

Two moms: Sophie (François' wife) is on the left; Mathilde (Xavier's wife) is on the right.

The following two pics show Papa and Maman, at home in the midst of the family chaos:

The next picture was a sneaky shot: Barthélémie kept trying to avoid me, and when I accused him of being too shy, he shot back that he was simply too handsome to be photographed. Well, we'll see about that, kid.

Dinner that night (the 5th, my second night in France) was scalloped potatoes and fondue bourguignonne. For this fondue (which, despite the name, doesn't involve anything that melts), you basically chop up chunks of raw meat, skewer them on long metal fondue forks, and stick them into a pot of hot oil to deep-fry them. Once cooked to the desired doneness, you drag the meat through some sauce and munch that puppy while it's still piping hot.

Below, you see the adults' table. The Coke was set out in my honor, laughingly accorded equal dignity with the wine.

The following picture shows you the fondue bourguignonne in action:

[Note: that cylindrical thing, above, contains some sort of coarse salt.]

Here, at last, is a picture of François, the eldest son. He had to work late, so most of us had finished eating by the time he arrived. It was good to see him and Xavier, and good to meet all the kids, only one or two of whom I had seen long ago, back when they were toddlers (Quentin and Hadrien in particular).

That second night was, alas, my final night on the west coast of France. The plan was to move on to Switzerland the following day. Here, then, are some parting shots of my beloved French home:

More photos on the way. And movies, too!



Unknown said...

Welcome back and thanks for sharing your trip with us, Kevin. Looking forward to more pics.

Anonymous said...

Nice pics Kevin! I can't wait to see the ones of Switzerland, one of my most favorite countries on the planet.


Anonymous said...

Tu ne te souviens pas de l'effondrement du terminal 2E en 2004? C'est peut-etre pour ca que l'aeroport te semble avoir change.

J'adore la maison de tes amis. Elle est tres belle...Et en plus ils ont un menhir? (Durant ta visite, ils avaient aussi un Obelisque. J'espere qu'ils ont pu bien cacher la marmitte de potion magique. ;) )

(Pardon le manque d'accents).

Anonymous said...

I've just remembered that mom bought what was supposedly bulgogi sauce to eat with our fondue bourguignonne in the late 80's or early 90's. It was apparently made by a Korean owned company in British Columbia, so I thought back then that it was an authentic recipe. Boy was I wrong. I guess it was supposed to be a very mild bulgogi sauce like the kind used on deajji-bulgogi (but it had a cow on the label), because it tasted a bit like sweet chili sauce.

Kevin Kim said...


re: l'effondrement du terminal en 2004

J'aurais dû m'en souvenir.

Quant à la sauce "coréenne" pour la fondue bourguignonne... mieux vaut rester avec les trucs européens, à mon avis...