Archive for the roadtrip Category

Wacky French Swag

Posted in food, France, humor, Paris, roadtrip, soda with tags , , , on April 2, 2007 by Paxton

ParisBoy, howdy, is it good to be back in the good ‘ol US of A. My wife and I got back from France last weekend around 10pm on Saturday. Crazy, crazy adventures, let me tell you, and most of them were in the airport on the way back. That’s another tale for another time, though.

Paris itself, though was awesome. Great food, great sites to see, unbelievable. However, it was a little colder than this thin-blooded Floridian would have liked. 36 degrees was like the HIGH. Seriously. I mean, penguins don’t live in that kind of craziness. BRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

Anywho, The Eiffel Tower and the Louve museum are both immensely more impressive in person than anything you would expect. But there are many other, less well-known things to check out while you are in Paris. How about their version of fast food restaurants? Seeing the French version of a McDonald’s Happy Meal…how can that NOT put a smile on your face? How about crazy French supermarkets? They have so much cool crap we don’t get. This is what I’ll show to you in today’s article, a few things that maybe you wouldn’t notice while bopping around the City of Lights.

Ayez l’amusement!

Foreign SodasThe first cool place I’ll talk about is the French Supermarket. When we went there, a place called Mona Prix, I found a kaleidescope of items that I’d never seen before. Alot of those items being cheese, but not all. Check out the lovely ladies in the picture to the left. Pretty little maids (i.e. foreign sodas) all in a row. As you can see, Diet Coke is called Coca-Cola Light outside the US. I’ve talked about this phenomena before. In the picture on the far right you can see Coke Light with Lime, which is still available in the US (but not for long). Second from the left you can see Coke Light Sango. It’s orange flavored Diet Coke and it was just released in France. The idea of an orangy aftertaste in Diet Coke is actually orders of magnitude cooler than the actual taste. Have you tried Listerine’s Natural Citrus flavor? That’s what this tastes like. Imagine grabbing a big bottle of Coke Light Sango after walking all over Paris. It’s hot, your thirsty, this orange flavored Diet Coke is gonna taste gooooooooooooooood…until you up-end the bottle and it comes cascading down your throat. It will take a few seconds, then you’re brain will register that you are chugging citrus-y listerine and start gagging and you begin spit-coughing the drink all over yourself. At least, this is what happened to me.

You can also see Pepsi Max and Pepsi Max Citron in the picture. Pepsi Max is just the foreign version of Pepsi One. Pepsi Max Citron is a lemon lime flavored Pepsi Max (obviously). Not bad, but not great.

Pomme de PainOur first evening there we were walking down one of the more popular streets, Champs Elysees, looking at the sites and wondering where to eat our first meal. We weren’t ready to sit down in a cafe and order as we were still jet-lagged and unsure of ourselves in our new surroundings. So, we decided to walk into a little pre-made sandwich place called Pomme de Pain and get something quick. Even though this place probably amounted to the French version of Subway, we thought it was cool. Let me tell you, in France, they love their Jambon/Fromage sandwiches (Ham & Cheese). That’s almost all they had on the menu, so we got it. When I bit into my sandwich, though, I had to do a double take because my mind detected something else in my sandwich besides ham and cheese. WHAT WAS THAT, I asked myself? I DON’T KNOW, I answered. So I opened up the bread and I could see that they put butter on the bread. WHAT?! BUTTER?! Let me pause for a moment to let that last statement sink in. Mull it around, consider the implications, CSI-style. Are you finished? Good. That’s right, I said BUTTER was on my ham & cheese sandwich. Why didn’t I think of this? Buttering my ham sandwich? Holy crap, this is GENIUS! Like Edison inventing the electric light or Einstein tinkering with the equation for energy, this is something that can change the course of recorded history. It rocked my totally American face right off my body. If I took a picture of my head right now, you wouldn’t see a face because it was ROCKED clean off my body. For reals.

The next cool thing I noticed was France’s version of a McDonald’s. It’s called…..wait for it……….wait for it…………..Quality Burger Restaurant. Yes, you read that correctly, the Quality Burger Restaurant. See a pic here This particular location in the picture sits right next door to the infamous Moulin Rouge. The coolest thing they have on the menu? Sandwiches they like to call the Double Effect! (see pic to the left) These sandwiches are like two burgers fused together into one. It looks like two burgers french kissing (awww, how appropriate). And you can get different versions, like the Chicken/Fish sandwich, the grilled/fried Chicken, Burger/Chicken sandwich and many other variations. Those French are nothing if not clever.

I really wanted to eat at a Quality Burger restaurant but I had to question the logic in flying to France in order to eat at a fast food burger place. Speaking of, at the French McDonald’s, they had a breakfast menu item called the McCafe. It’s a cup of hot coffee with a raisin pastry rod on the side. Very American-French, like a beret, or French dressing, which, by the way, is just called Dressing in France. haha…just kidding.

Stay tuned, I’ll have more France themed posts in the future.

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Friday night before Paris

Posted in France, Paris, personal, roadtrip with tags , , on March 17, 2007 by Paxton

Paris by Night

Well, it’s about 10:40pm EST. My wife is dozing on the couch. We just finished watching the movie French Kiss. Sounds like a typical Friday night, and it would be, except when we get up Saturday morning we are going to the airport to fly to Paris, France. I. CAN’T. WAIT. We’ve been planning this trip for over a year, I can’t believe it’s finally here. Since I’m going to be a little busy, I’m probably not going to get an article out next week. I’ll try to post some pictures or something, but I guarantee nothing.

Hope everyone has a good weekend and week. I’ll see you on the other side.

My Trip to Houston, TX: Part II

Posted in Houston, NASA, personal, roadtrip, Texas with tags , , , on June 15, 2006 by Paxton

Check out Part 1 of my trip to Houston right here

So, after the trip to NASA Space Center in Houston, Steve & Jackie took me to a really cool area called Kemah Boardwalk.

We put our names in at a cool restaurant called Aquarium (more on that in a second) and Jackie practically sprinted next door to Stingray Reef. “The Reef”, as I like to call it, had a large, shallow tank containing dozens of different sized stingrays. You could buy “food” (i.e. dead fish) that you feed the stingrays with. If you get there before feeding time, the stingrays are practically jumping out of the tank trying to get the fishy goodness. At first, it’s startling to see these wide, flat creatures sliding up the sides of the tanks and jumping out of the water. Once you get used to it, it’s pretty cool. They are very soft and slimy to the touch and very playful. It was very fun.

Sooner than expected we were called by the restaurant to be seated. The name of the restaurant was Aquarium. It is owned by the same people that own Landry’s and Joe’s Crab Shack. Actually, the entire boardwalk seems to be owned by these people. The restaurant is surrounded by giant aquariums with real fish swimming around inside. I saw grouper, nurse sharks, leopard sharks, angel fish, eels and many other cool to look at species just swimming around in circles. Naturally, I had to get a seafood dish, but was disappointed that I didn’t get to point at a fish in the aquarium and say, “I’ll take that one, he amuses me” like some over-indulged king preparing for a feast in his honor. Nevertheless, the food was delicious and the environment was very cool and the company (as usual) was wonderful.

By the time dinner was over the boardwalk was, for the most part, shut down. I got to walk past “The Beast”, which is a high powered rainbow-colored boat used to take people on tours of the bay. Hopefully when my wife and I return to Houston to visit the Dupuys, we’ll get a longer look at the boardwalk because it was really cool. After returning home we stayed up late into the night talking and watching Jason Collier’s DVD journal of his adventures as Access Hollywood’s Ultimate Star Wars Fan.

The next afternoon, we had a Houston Astros game to go to. We got a little lost on the way down, but finally made it to Minute Maid Park. That park is AMAZING. So nice, so clean. There’s a retractable roof that they mercifully shut because it was over 90 degrees outside. With the roof closed, it was very pleasant inside. We had pretty good seats looking down on the field. The game started out as a blowout with the Braves running up the score but the ‘Stros made a late run only to lose at the very end. This was easily one of my favorite, if not THE favorite, baseball game I’ve been to. As for the Park’s concessions, they were better than expected, but ridiculously expensive. I had a burger, a bucket of popcorn and 2 sodas and I probably spent 30 bucks. Like I said, a LITTLE pricey.

After a good day at the park, Steve & Jackie wanted to take me for dessert at a Sno-Ball hut. For those that don’t know, Sno-Balls are cups of shaved ice drowning in one of a hundred or so flavors. They have everything from Cherry to Wedding Cake.

We went to this place right by their house called The Chill Spot. They had tons of flavors and I had trouble choosing. Jackie got the aforementioned Wedding Cake. It rocked as hard as you think it does, tasting exactly like, surprise-surprise, a wedding cake. Steve changed it up a bit and got a flavor called Popeye. It was one of the greenest things I have ever seen in my life and I asked him if it tasted like spinach. It, apparently, does not. I went old school and got sugar-free Cherry. It was the classic choice (some would say boring….but I say, nay, it’s genius in it’s simplicity) and it was AWESOME. So good. I’m glad I got a medium because I might have eaten myself sick on a large or Xtra Large.

After the Chill Spot, we headed back to the crib to rest before planning the evening’s activities. What happened was, we all were pretty wiped from the long day at the game and we decided to get Mexican take-out, lots of beer and liquor and drink ourselves silly at the house while we watched their wedding video. It was a blast being able to catch up with my boy, Steve, and his lovely wife Jackie. We had so much fun that I hated to get up on Sunday and leave.

Visiting Houston was awesome and I can’t wait to go back with my wife for another visit and hang out with the Dupuys.

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Visiting LBJ Space Center in Houston, TXpe

Posted in Houston, NASA, personal, roadtrip, Texas with tags , , , , , on June 15, 2006 by Paxton

I arrived in Houston, TX on Friday afternoon around 12:50pm. FYI…That was about 30min earlier than our scheduled arrival (thank you Southwest). I ate lunch with Steve and his wife, Jackie, at a really good cajun place called Floyd’s. In case you were wondering….or care at all….I got the half crawfish etoufee/half fried crawfish tails plate. Like that old cajun Justin Wilson used to say, “It’s Wondermous!”

Anyway, Steve and I decided to visit the Lyndon B Johnson Space Center (JSC). Steve and I grew up in Birmingham, AL. We were only 45 minutes away from the Huntsville Space & Rocket Center which is home to NASA’s SpaceCamp (popularized in the 1986 movie of the same name). Steve and I have both taken school and family trips to see the Huntsville Space & Rocket Center and I’ve always thought it was cool. Because of this, I really liked the idea of seeing the main headquarters of NASA located in Houston. JSC is historic in that Mission Control for NASA shuttle launches was held here from 1965 all the way up until 1996. I love NASA and the whole nostalgia/patriotism that comes with dreamy recollections of space travel in the ’50s and ’60s (as portrayed in movies, because I don’t personally remember the ’50s and ’60s despite what my brother says about my age).

So we get there and immediately walk into a movie about building and living on the International Space Station. It was a very cool movie that went into the logistics of building the space station and what the astronoauts living and working on it have to endure. It was created by the discovery channel so I believe you might be able to catch it on cable. If not, click on the image to the left and it’ll take you to the Amazon page where you can buy it. It’s fascinating what goes into the designing and then training of the astronauts for such a large endeavor (16 countries are cooperating to build the Space Station).

Next, we decided to hit the money shot for the Space Center, its Tram Tour. This is where you tour the grounds and enter a few of the buildings that house NASA facilities, past and present. The tram was like any other you’d see at Universal Studios or Disney. The driver, though, must have been from New York because she took a few of the turns on two wheels. The place was kinda dead because it was after 5pm but she was driving like we were being chased by the cops. While clinging to whatever we could get our hands on with a death grip, the tram speakers played scratchy audio from astronauts and other people about NASA. The grounds are pretty unassuming. The buildings are labeled with a giant number and everything looks like some small college campus in the Midwest. Personally, I think that adds to the charm. Our first building stop was #30 – Historic Mission Control.

From 1965 to 1996 this was the heart of NASA. All the shuttle launches were monitored from this location, including the first moon landing (Apollo 11) along with the events depicted in the movie Apollo 13. They even showed us the booth where Jim Lovell’s wife talked to him over a comm link before they thought he could make it back. Pretty powerful stuff. I was amazed at how small the whole room is. We sat in an observation room looking down on Mission Control and it just seemed tiny. Another fascinating aspect is the technology in the room. There are rotary dial telephones on the consoles. Since this was before widespread email, they used pneumatic tubes (like The Shadow!) to send messages to other buildings. I didn’t know this, but there is also a sister room to this Mission Control and it’s located on the floor below it. It’s just amazing the history you can feel walking around this building.

After our too short time at Mission Control we headed over to the Space Station Training and Mockup Facility. It is in this building that astronauts train on hardware used in an actual shuttle launch. There is a full scale model of the space shuttle (without wings) for astronauts to train with. They also have mockups of different shuttle sections for specific training exercises. Also in this facility is a full scale mockup of completed sections of the International Space Station. Astronauts train extensively in the tight quarters becoming familiar with hardware and the station’s orientation. Very, very cool. Check out this link to see pictures from the training facility. It was a big as two football fields.

We were told about, but, unfortunately, not shown, the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL). Click here to see a pic of it. It’s a large water tank used for submersing astronauts to train them in a near-weightless environment. This lab was featured prominently during a scene in the movie Armageddon. This, along with several other buildings, are toured on a special VIP tour called the Level 9 tour. When I come back to Houston with my wife we are going back and doing the Level 9 tour. It’s a little pricey, but I’ve read it’s completely worth it.

After this the tour was pretty much over. The Space Center was closing in a bout 20 minutes so I mosied around the gift shop and got a cool shirt (image is at the start of this article) with the NASA logo. I also found a Space Pen. Behold the magnificent glory of the Space Pen.


As soon as I saw the Fisher Space Pen, I knew I had to buy it. If you’ve ever seen the episode of Seinfeld where Jack Klumpus gives Jerry his space pen, then you know whut I’m talkin’ Bout.

All in all, this was a kick ass activity. I’m glad we did it. Like I said earlier, when I come back to visit Steve & Jackie with my wife, we are going on the Level 9 tour. Period. You hear me, Steph? I HAVE SPOKEN. Anywho, if you ever make it to H-Town, check out the Houston Space Center. It’s awesome.

I’ll put up some more stuff we are doing in the next few days. We went to a cool area called the Kemah Boardwalk that is just kick ass so look for that. I’ll be at a Houston Astros game on Saturday and then Saturday night we will do something, I’m not sure yet. Keep your eyes peeled.

Click here for Part 2 of my trip to Houston, TX

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Goin’ to H-Town!

Posted in Houston, personal, roadtrip, Texas with tags , , , on June 8, 2006 by Paxton

Houston, TX

 

Well, Friday morning I leave for my trip to Houston, Texas to visit my best friend since 1st grade, Stephen Dupuy. I’m sure I’ll have a few stories for you when I get back…maybe even some good pics.If, by the end, I haven’t been arrested or thrown out of Houston and asked never to return, then the trip just wasn’t worth it. See you on the other side.

Peace!!!