Saturday, February 25, 2017

Paris & London 2017

Our first day. Selfie on the balcony
I'm back from my 2017 girls' trip (and a long blogging hiatus)!

This year we again went to Paris, with 2 days in London.  The timing was perfect- we escaped from another (predicted) snow storm and the doldrums of February.  I also needed to get away- the political news since January 20 has sent me in a downward spiral of depression, and getting away from constant internet access helped me get back into living again.

My mom and I left Philadelphia on Wednesday, February 8- we were scheduled to leave the 9th, but predicted snow had us leaving a day early. Of course I had to cancel all the clients I had scheduled, but we got out ahead of any trouble.  We each had 4 seats to ourselves, and we each managed not to sleep at all.  I am the WORST sleeper on planes.

We got to Paris on a cloudy Thursday morning.  After our adventure last year with the crazy taxi driver who my mom was convinced wanted to kill us, we decided to take the train into the city.  Everything was fine until the train just stopped moving.  They made various announcements about why, but of course I couldn't understand, and we just sat on the tracks, tired and hungry. We had a good laugh about how we were convinced we would get it right by taking the train but were wrong yet again.
Mandatory picture of the view of the Pompidou Center
At the apartment we tried to nap, but had no luck, so we went out shopping.  The shopping this year wasn't as good as the prior year, probably because we were later in the sales, and we didn't find anything.  We walked around the neighborhood before going to dinner and then home to collapse.
Probably the best coffee we had
Friday had some pretty yucky weather- in the morning it was just cold, and in the afternoon we had a mix of rain and snow.  We spent the morning at a new market my mom had found out about.  We found all kinds of food that was a much better price than the market my mom usually goes to, and a little coffee shop with delicious coffees. Then we carted all of our food to a tiny hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant for lunch, which was delicious! We went back to the apartment to put the food away, and had trouble getting going again when it started to snow.  I did an exercise video on the floor of the living room while my mom sat on the couch and watched and made fun of me.  Then we finally went out again in time for dinner at Le Cerisaie- it was traditional French food, warm and delicious.

We got up early on Saturday morning to catch the Eurostar to London.  It was an easy process, and we got settled on the train without a problem.  Until, 2 minutes into the journey, a little boy sitting across the aisle from us started throwing up. I have a major vomit phobia and so we packed up and left our seats. The first seats I found were in first class, but since no one seemed to be checking tickets, we thought that would be ok. And it was, until they checked tickets. Fortunately we weren't charged extra, but had to flee to find other seats, preferably not anywhere near a vomiting passenger.

In London, we found our hotel- my mom had booked a room with bunk beds! What an ingenious idea for two adults who aren't romantically involved. We each had our own bed and some space to ourselves.  I took the top bunk.  The only down side was that every time my mom went to pick something up off her bed, she bumped her head on the bunk!  It became comical.

Our first day in London was a great deal of wandering. After finding a nice Korean place for lunch, we decided to walk to the Victoria & Albert Museum.  We turned left out of the restaurant and began our walk.  After over half a mile, and approximately 5 or 6 ambulances roaring by, we noticed we weren't getting closer to what seemed like a touristy part of town.  In fact, there were some subsidized housing units right across the road... We stopped to look at the map and what do you know, we had wandered almost out of town!  So we hopped on a bus.  As we got to the V&A stop, my mom took one look at the line winding around the museum and said, "forget it! We are going to Harrod's!"  We spent the rest of the day going in and out of shops, but without any real sales, we weren't motivated to buy.  We went back to the hotel for some wine, cheese, and crackers before dinner.
Eric is a Dr Who fan
Dinner that night was at the fanciest Indian restaurant I have ever visited.  White table cloths, chandeliers, a piano...  We had unbelievably delicious Indian food and planned out our next day in town.  After dinner we walked back to our hotel again.  One thing that struck me about London is how cute it is- the streets wind around and are filled with town houses, there are blocks that are nothing but a gated park. I wish I had taken more pictures of it while we were there, but the weather was so miserable that we just hurried from one place to the next.
Not adequate at capturing the cuteness
The following day we went back to the V&A at opening, with tickets for an exhibit called "you say you want a revolution? 1966-1970." I think my mom was skeptical about buying tickets to it, but it was truly an engrossing exhibit, all about music, fashion, and the politics of the time.  Both my mom (who was a teenager during that time) and I felt a great nostalgia for it.  I have always wished I had been at Woodstock in 1969, but the older I get, the less appealing a weekend in the mud actually seems.

After our 2 hours there, we stopped for a light lunch and retrieved our bags from the hotel. We planned to go to the Transit Museum, but my mom decided she didn't want to pay for the tickets, so we walked around Covent Garden for a while, then decided to pass time at a bookstore before going to Fortnum and Mason for tea.
At Fortnum & Mason with delicacies behind me
Tea was wonderful- they delivered a ton of food to our table, but I wasn't daunted- I was going to eat it all!  And I did.  Tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, desserts, and then more desserts!  From there we went back to the train station to catch the last train to Paris.

Monday morning, my sister arrived at the apartment just as I was waking up. We had breakfast, and then she decided to take a nap while my mom and I went and got our hair cut.  After that, we all went out for lunch, and more walking and shopping.  That night, we cooked dinner at the apartment and had a quiet evening in.
We love Scottish Folds. In case you can't tell, Elana is a cat, too.
On Tuesday, the day began with lousy weather.  We did MORE SHOPPING (when I say shopping, this is walking down the street and going in and out of stores. It doesn't actually mean buying things.  There were things I was looking for and didn't necessarily find, but had to look), then met a friend of my mom's for lunch.  After a long and chatty lunch, we wandered over to the Seine, and my sister and I walked up and down by the river while my mom went home to take a nap.  The weather cleared and it was a beautiful afternoon.
That evening, my cousins Henri and Charlotte came over for dinner at our apartment.  We had good food, good conversation, and good wine.  Henri is engaged and plans to marry at a castle in France in 2018- we decided we will take the kids for a week!  We are excited- for Henri and for the kids' first international trip.

Wednesday was my last day in Paris. We decided it was finally time for some culture, so we went to see an exhibit of Frédéric Bazille at the Musée d'Orsay.  When we emerged from the museum, the weather was beautiful! We went to get some lunch, and then walked over to the Canal St Martin to wander some more.  We stopped to sit in a park and enjoy the sun- the grass had signs all over it saying the grass was "en repose" for the winter and please don't walk on it, but everyone was spread out all over the place.

From there we walked home past a bakery with a line down the block, and then, just when we were determined to be home, I saw the purse of my dreams in the window of a store.  Then we went in, and we all had to buy bags!  I love my bag- it is exactly what I wanted and was "bon marché," which is French for a good deal.
Canal St Martin
The enormous bakery line. No sugar-free, gluten-free here!
That night we had dinner at a place called Fulgurances, which has a rotation of visiting up-and-coming chefs. It was a 5-course tasting menu, and everything was delicious!  My sister's friend Jeff had taken the train in from Geneva so it was 4 of us at dinner.  After our large meal, we walked home, and then it was time to pack (Yes, at 11 pm when I had to be up to leave at 7!).

On Thursday I got to the airport no problem, then turned in our detaxe forms.  Heaven knows if we will actually get our money back, but it is worth a try. I won't hold my breath. Anyway, then on to get my boarding pass and check my bag- but the kiosk said, in big red letters, SEE A TICKET AGENT, THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH YOUR RESERVATION.  After much standing around and waiting, the first agent who helped me got a very odd look on her face and told me I had to go see someone else.  I then waited some more, and then the someone else started tapping on her computer, and again her face didn't convey good news.  "Hold on," she said, "I have to call the US to try to get you a ticket."  Then she was placed on hold with the US after telling them, "the flight closes in 15 minutes!"  I knew I could spend another day in Paris, but I kind of wanted to get home to my family.  Then Eric started texting me- but it was 3:30 am in the US.  Why was he up? Benjamin had woken up and vomited all over our upstairs hallway.  Well, maybe I didn't want to get home so badly after all...

At the last minute, I was issued a ticket, given a priority pass through security, and made my way to the plane.  I had 4 seats to myself again (love it), and as soon as we took off, I lay down to sleep.  Unlike on my way over, I had no trouble sleeping and slept through the entire movie "You've Got Mail."  I watched La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, and started watching a TV show that is available on Netflix in Europe but not the US.  It was a pleasant, quiet flight.

Asher and Eric picked me up at the airport, and I was so happy to see them!  I came home and got right into the swing of things- I went for a run, picked up Charlotte from school, went grocery shopping, cooked dinner, and stayed up till 10 pm without feeling at all tired.  It felt good to be home.

While I was gone, Eric's mom came to help with the kids. And she painted our dining room, and she and Eric put a powder room in our basement!  The house was spotlessly clean when I returned. Eric is sad because I don't maintain the house nearly as well.

Going away in and of itself was a treat, but the benefits continued after I got home.  I missed Eric, and had much more gratitude for all he does.  It was also nice to take a break from work. And it didn't hurt that when I got back, we had a weekend of spring-like weather, which really shakes up my winter depression.  Now it is back to real life- plenty of time spent working, trying to keep up with cleaning, laundry, cooking. And time to start planning my next getaway!

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