Thursday, January 1, 2015

London and Paris

I sit in front of a computer screen wondering where to start. At the beginning, when we caught a bus to Seattle, then a non-stop international flight to London?  At the fourth day of our trip when I started getting sick? At the day before Christmas Eve in Paris where we had to find a doctor? Maybe Christmas day when I finally got a prescription for antibiotics filled.

The Rosetta Stone; a good symbol
for this trip
I guess I'll start right here: sitting in front of my computer screen with a hot cup of sinus soother tea, still coughing out the bronchitis that invaded my lungs and which will take another month to really clear out. I'm tired. I've had insomnia for almost 2 years now but these last few days paired with jet lag, I've gotten either 4 hours of sleep or I go to bed for a few hours, get up for 4, then sleep a few more.

It almost seems incompatible to say how much I enjoyed the trip, given how sick I got. G has been to Paris before, but neither of us had been to London and we greatly anticipated this trip. Those first few days were really great. I mean, we lost an entire day in travel, but the London Eye, the Tate Museum, the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, and high tea were great. That was just the first day. There was the Trafalgar Square,Tower of London, the British Museum, and an incredibly yummy meal at a place called Dishoom. At Dishoom, they added some magic, a black olive and green tea holy crap to Gs old fashioned; he reported it being one of the best drinks he's ever had. We got to figure out the metro system (thanks entirely to my husband's excellent research), and took a double decker bus for a bit.  Just as an aside, all museums in London are free.  Isn't that cool?! We also visited the Cathedral of St. Peter; it's quiet and huge and is a working church. We climbed to the whispering gallery where you can supposedly whisper on one side and hear it on the other. That didn't work for us but it was an amazing view.  Then we climbed even higher- to the very top- and were rewarded with breathtaking views of all of London.
This is all he packed
Along the Queens Walk, Thames

A Barbados Lion (extinct) in Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square 

London Eye

A View from the Eye

Westminster Abbey

This was a County Administration building. Now it's an aquarium

Westminster Abbey

Guards at a government building

This is how you enter the Ministry of Magic

I took this in St. Peter's before I realized that no photos were allowed

A View from the top of St. Peters

St. Peters

Evening in London

Isn't it beautiful?

That was quite a climb

We took the Eurostar to Paris, from St. Pancras International to Paris Gare de Nord. The trip was just over 2 hours since the train goes under the water and travels at an average rate of about 215 miles per hour.

Let me pause here to say that not everything was peachy keen. I got sick, but I also have a different travel style than G. He's a planner, thank goodness. He does research and plans meals and activities. He'd even planned a day where we visited Shakespeare's Globe Theater and took a boat to Greenwich for some shopping. We didn't get to do that day because I got sick. He even makes lists of possible yummy places to eat. This is for the most part the reason our trip was so fun. He doesn't like shopping for trinkets; I do. My travel style is much different from his. I'm a "not planner".  That's a polite way to say "squirrel on crack".  I like to go see what we feel like doing that day and then do it. I like vague plans. The advantage is that two people can give input and then decide from there.  The disadvantage is that it's impossible to make reservations. Let me reiterate: I didn't buy a museum pass for Paris in advance.  The downside is that we spent almost 2 hours waiting in line, outside in the cold, while I had bronchitis and G had a slight fever, just waiting to get inside to buy the museum pass.  The upside of that is that since we had both gotten sick, we wouldn't have been able to use a 4-day pass and saved a lot of money. It took some doing for us to get used to each other's style.  I mean, we're in our 40s, and neither of us really wants to change that much since we've purposely evolved our styles. I appreciate the value of what he does and I know he derives pleasure from planning. I derive pleasure from discovering along the way. One of the many things we have in common, however, is our mutual love for and fascination with museums. We were like "Hello Europe. We've come to look at your dusty old stuff". This really united us in our travel excursions and made for an exciting trip. I think wandering around the Louvre and discovering all the beauty inherent with G was one of the best things I've done in a long time.

In Paris, instead of the 7 days we thought we'd have, we both got sick and we ended up with 3 pretty good days at the end. I learned how to navigate Paris pharmacies and even to talk to medical professionals in French.  One of my Facebook friends remarked that if I had to get really sick, there were worse places to be. In some ways I agree; it was only 23  to see a doctor and the pharmacist didn't need to see my prescription for the cough medicine in order to give me a refill.  And the cough medicine- sans sucre (without sugar)- tasted like cake batter.  Liquid cake batter. On the other hand, my french speaking doctor didn't understand about my history of bronchitis and was reluctant to give me an antibiotic, so I suffered an extra two days. When you're in a hotel room in Paris, nobody brings you food or water. We ended up going next door to the bed and breakfast in the mornings to the Starbucks for two liters of Evian, some yogurt, and coffee. I also ended up way over-taking the antibiotic. As in I doubled the dosage because I don't actually speak french and she didn't write anything down. 

One of the fellows from Easter Island
There were some really neat things about London that I observed.  Our bed and breakfast, The Ridgemount, was really fun. I enjoyed the staff and the breakfast every morning was delicious. They even offered things like beans for breakfast and sometimes, broiled tomatoes. Our room had it's own bathroom with shower, something of a rarity in European traditional hotels. And it was centrally located; we were half a mile from the British Museum. The new "Night at the Museum" movie is set there and part of their promotional advertising was inviting children to enter a contest to spend a night in the museum.  I was really tempted to sign up. Wish I wasn't so old.  Sigh. My favorite part of that was the Assyrian exhibitions. I'll post some photos. 
This is an optical illusion. From the front he has two legs, from the side- 4. In total, he has 5 legs!




Unrealistic beauty standards

By the British Museum. Marx used to drink here after a day
of writing in the Reading Room at the Museum.

I think my other favorite part of London was the Tower of London.  We spent all day there. I'll post a ton of photos, but one I didn't get was of the crisps (potato chips) in the coffee shop. They were called  Real brand, and the salt and vinegar was the best I've ever had. G concurs. 
A Beefeater at the Traitor's Gate

Amazing tour guide and royal guard
at the palace

Tower and the Tower Bridge

Three queens were beheaded on this spot

Graffiti from the prison

More graffiti

Check out the date on that


Pretty intricate graffiti

I guess when you have time on your hands..

One of the original walls in 1100.

The Tower Bridge

Outside of the Traitor's Gate

One of the 8 royal ravens. For good luck. 

The original tower, the White Tower

Part of the outer walls 

One of the guarded entrances

The blue door on the right is the chaplain; the left is the village doctor

Inner structures. We walked the entire wall

Some goofy person

The Crown Jewels are kept at the Tower. Here is a guard

This hasn't been used in 150 years

Another shot of the White Tower

A schematic of the Tower

In Paris, one of the first things we were able to do was to visit Les Deux Magots
Best Chocolat Chaud in Paris! 
We ordered in French - my first time with major props to G- and I had my first real hot chocolate. I mean melted chocolate with some sort of magic creamy chocolatey stuff in it.  I don't think I'll ever have chocolate that good again.  Mostly because I don't like chocolate very much. It was lovely and the server was also really kind. In fact, most of the people we encountered in Paris were really nice. Since it was off season, and the tourists weren't crazy, I think everyone was pretty relaxed.  We tried our best not to be obnoxious tourists and for the most part, were successful. We even hit up a movie, An American In Paris, and shopped at a local grocery store where we found paprika flavored Pringles. Here are some highlights: 

We hit up the Eiffel Tower: 

Paris is HUGE

It's a long way down

This is the Seine

Another of the Seine

The Louvre
The wait was closer to 2 hours

Do you hear the people singing?

Crossing the Seine on the way 

Part of the palace

An older part, I think

It's a big place

Over by the pyramid. In that building is a
cafe called Cafe Marly; good food

Cat worship was for the Assyrians too!

The Flying Victorie

The pyramid at night

Under the great pyramid!

Venus de Milo

The Code of Hammurabi

Even ancient kitties didn't want to be petted

Palace grounds

and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. 



An alcove dedicated to the Pope 
I do love this pope

One of the Rose windows


flying buttresses

Side entrance 
I love this photo

A View from the South

Finally, the day before we were to leave, we hit a restaurant on Gs Great Paris Restaurants list.  Angelinas is supposed to rival LaDuree for macaroons.  We ate macaroons from LaDuree. There is no contest so we didn't even try! Angelinas is amazing though. Since we had week-long Navigo passes (the metro system in Paris), we just hopped along for brunch on Sunday. It was amazing.  I was too tired to even really try to order in French; the server kindly switched to flawless English and delivered one of the best meals I've eaten in a year.  There was hot chocolate too, though not quite as perfect as Les Deux Magots. Every other restaurant we'd been to didn't bring us water. In fact, you have to ask for and often pay for water at restaurants. At Angelinas, I know it's a small thing, but there was water at the table for us. Perhaps the silliest realization I had from this whole trip is that I have a favorite restaurant in Paris.
Thank you very much; I'll be back!

Now, I'm sure I've complained about airline service before.  American Airlines is on my list of companies never to patronize again. But Delta, on the other hand, was awesome for international flights.  I didn't even need the customary Dramamine in order to fly with them. Comfy seats and lots and lots of beverage service. Their partner from Paris to Seattle is AirFrance and that was a fantastic flight too. We ended up at Seattle in good time and caught the shuttle bus two hours home within 2 hours of landing. I was so tired from not having slept in 22 hours that when we were dropped off at Starbucks in Ellensburg, I ordered a coffee like I had been doing for the last week at the Starbucks in Paris- and had to stop myself from using the french words.  It was an odd linguistic situation. In an American company in France I had to come up with new words to get what I needed; in the same company at home I had trouble switching back. 

I know what you're thinking, and what you've probably been thinking all along: what about the cat? 
Eleanor went to stay with my friend Joy and her husband and little girl. She did great; she loved them and they cared for her so well. Eleanor even put on a little weight when we were gone and I'm glad for it.  I'm so grateful to have friends whom I can trust to pill her twice daily and spoil love her like I do. 

I'm glad to be home. G went to work the day after we got back, and we passed a very quiet New Year's Eve at home last night. I still have jet lag; I'm tired but I have to stay up a few more hours, else I'll wake up halfway through the night. 
Not ready to come home

On the other hand, I feel ready for a new quarter at the university. I love the bracing winter winds, the snow, the shortened daylight hours. Once my lungs recover, in about a month, I'll be back to running. This next year, 2015, will be a good one. That's my only real prediction. I know I'll spend time in front of a computer screen, wondering what to reveal and what how to reconcile the life I think I live in my head with what I know is probably closer to reality. Thanks for staying around while I sort it out. 

1 comment:

  1. Soooooo much here to look at. Very good pics and I'm sorry you were sick. It isn't hat much fun traveling when you're sick, but it appears you managed very well. We were in London and Paris in late May and I remember London was surprisingly cold for that time of year. We weren't ready for that and especially the cold rain. Glad you had such a nice trip. I had flu and pneumonia over the holidays and was very thankful to be home and able to get to my doctor.