A Travellerspoint blog

Ciao Wiedersehen

British Airways still recommends that you get the airport three hours prior to your flight. This meant that I needed to get to Heathrow by 12:10 p.m. However, my hotel basically kicked me out at 11:00 a.m., which meant that I couldn't avoid getting the 11:25 express train to Heathrow, which meant that I was done at the self-check-in kiosk by 11:50. Unfortunately, there were no desks open for checking my suitcase until 1:10, which meant sitting land-side for over an hour. This is incredibly boring because there's NOTHING to do except wait. And the big advertising screens kept showing the exact same ad over and over and over and over till I wanted to scream. At least I managed to get a seat -- there aren't that many available. I sat next to a couple of Scottish women who were in the same boat as far as not being able to check their bags and move air-side. They were on their way to Las Vegas but because of the strike had been rerouted to Heathrow from Gatwick. Originally, they were only going to have a two-hour layover but now they had a five-hour layover. They weren't terribly happy, but they weren't complaining because at least BA was flying.

When I finally made it air-side (having for once not set off the security scanner), I got a Frappuccino and a chocolate chip shortbread cookie and then amused myself watching other travelers. The guy sitting across from me had the BIGGEST belly I think I've ever seen. He looked like a pretty big guy anyway -- large wrists -- but he was fairly proportionate except for his stomach. He must have to have his shirts specially made.

Then there was a father and son who I had originally seen in the ticket hall and then saw again when I was drinking my Frapp. When I saw them earlier, I thought they looked very upper class and like they'd be flying in First. But the fact that they were sitting near a gate and not in an airline lounge made me wonder. Dad was wearing loafers and bright yellow socks, a blue Oxford shirt with white pinstripes, a light grey sportcoat, and a straw trilby. Oh, and blue Bermuda shorts with a pink-and-yellow lining. At least, I think it was a lining. Maybe they were reversible. Sonny, who looked like Patrick Dennis in "Auntie Mame," looked pretty similar, though his shoes were more "street," and his hat was more of a fedora. Neither of them seemed to be carrying much of anything, which made me wonder just how far they were flying.

And there's always the women who make you think, "Really? Out of all the things in your wardrobe, you chose that to fly in?" I'm all for comfort over fashion but, if you're roughly 70 years old, are black leggings, open-toed heels, and a tight t-shirt with something spelled out in sequins really the best option?

My gate finally popped up on the big board, so I ran into W.H. Smith and bought four books (buy two, get one half off; gotta like that!), including two new ones by Bill Bryson. The guy was out of carrier bags, which meant doing a little rejiggering with the contents of my bags. And then the big board was saying "Go to Gate A10," which freaked me out a little even though there was still an hour till flight time. So I went to Gate A10, which was tiny and cramped and about a third of the people there had to stand. I sat across from an elderly British lady who was chatting with a couple who had British accents but American passports. They looked to be in the mid-60s. I noticed the man's boarding pass, and his seat was right next to mine. I thought, "Oh, good. They look nice."

It was cattle-call boarding and there were buses to take us to the plane, which was parked roughly halfway back to London. Because it was way out on some remote stand, the plane was hot and airless while we were boarding. The British-American couple arrived maybe ten minutes after I did and made no attempt to get themselves organized and seated quickly. In fact, they must have put stuff in the overhead bin and removed it again at least three times, and the man would stand on my seat each time to do this. Now, it's not my furniture, so I don't really care where he stands, but it's not like he was doing it in his stocking feet. So when I was finally able to sit down, I brushed the seat and then sat. The man saw me do this (I promise I did not do it ostentatiously) and muttered, "Sorry." But there was a definite "What's your problem?" undertone.

Almost immediately, the wife started moaning about how hot it was. I took my flight safety info card out of the seat pocket and used it as a fan. The man copied me, but the wife insisted on continuing to complain. The man finally looked at me and asked if I was having fun yet, and I replied that I was just happy that BA was flying and that I would be getting home. He hastily agreed. And apart from a couple of excuse mes during the flight, that was the last we spoke.

Funny thing about him. He was not a big guy at all: shorter than I am and slim. But when he sat down, he somehow expanded in his seat. I don't mind giving over the armrest to the person in the middle seat, but I do mind when that person's arm touches mine during the entire flight. I think he was leaning on the armrest between us instead of leaning the other way toward his wife. So, while I was annoyed, I can forgive him because I wouldn't want to get too close to his wife either. She was most unpleasant and determined to be a martyr. Not too far into the flight, she discovered that her seat wouldn't recline. And then she discovered that her tray table wouldn't lie perfectly flat. Both she and he were wearing noise-canceling headphones, so they kept having to shout in order to be heard. Which is why I heard her shout (re her seat and tray), "Piece of f----ing s--t!" I wondered briefly if it would be possible to change seats.

A little while later, we all discovered that our individual reading lights didn't work. Since this seemed to be something that affected the whole cabin, I figured there must be a central switch that needed to be turned on somewhere. I asked the flight attendant about it when she came around with drinks, and she said she'd look into it. Meanwhile, wifey is having kittens over by the window. I suggested she open the window shade, but the light that came in made me wonder if we were flying next to the sun. She closed the shade.

Behind our row were an older man on the aisle, an Indian woman complete with sari and bindi and no English in the middle, and her little girl who looked about five but who cried exactly like an infant at the window. Their row was total chaos. At one point the man got up to use the restroom or something, and the Indian woman pulled all of her things out of the overhead bin and took over the entire row. The flight attendant, who was very firm and no-nonsense, couldn't reason with her, and so she ended up finding the poor man another seat. And every time the Indian woman decided to move around, and every time the little girl cried or started fidgeting, the couple next to me would turn around sharply and shoot death-glares. I just watched sitcoms on TV and tried to ignore it all.

When our lights started working, the man leaned over toward his wife, and I think his elbow must have hit her control panel because her light suddenly flashed. "What the f--- did you just do?" she shouted at him. When he went to the restroom and then returned, he tried to get her to switch seats with him because his reclined but he wasn't planning to sleep. She was having none of that, being clearly much happier when she could complain. When I came back from the restroom about halfway through the flight, I found that she had put her legs across his legs, so her feet were in my area. Because I didn't need access to my seat pocket, and because she was so obviously unhappy and uncomfortable, I decided to put up with it. But a little while later, my leg fell asleep so I moved it and bumped the bottom of her foot. She slowly slinked her legs back and sat up in her seat, and I could see her out of the corner of my eye glaring at me. But I ignored her and recited silent Hail Marys. I do wonder if she'll fire off a nasty e-mail to BA.

Apart from all that and some bumpiness over Hudson Bay, the flight was essentially uneventful: my favorite kind of flight. We landed only a couple of minutes later than scheduled, and I got through passport control right away. Customs took forever because my bag was one of the last ones off, but at least the Customs agent barely looked at my declaration and sent me right on through. John was at Baggage Claim to pick me up, and I was so happy to see him.

The drive home was a little strange because when you've been gone for so long, you feel like there should have been drastic changes back home. But there never are, so suddenly it seems like you were never really gone at all. Chloe was outside to greet me, and -- best of all -- Gracie was inside. I had myself all prepared for her not to be around, so it was a lovely surprise. She, of course, didn't seem to care at all that I was home.

Despite the uncooperative weather, and despite the cold I had earlier in the month, I had a terrific time on the tour, and I had fun on my own as well. I learned that the bamboo nightie I bought for the trip was a terrific purchase, and that people who have been married for 51 years can be awfully cute. I also learned that there is no such thing as too much gelato, but that there is such a thing as too much wine. And most importantly: There's no place like home.

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Are you my mummy?

I wonder if this hotel backs onto a block of flats. I was awakened at 2:00 a.m. because someone was kind of banging around in a room behind my head ... and singing. Fortunately, he shut up fairly quickly and I fell asleep again.

I went down to Lancaster Gate station this morning and my Oyster card wouldn't let me through the barrier and, of course, there was a long line for tickets. But I was able to top off my card with five pounds and finally got onto a train to the British Museum. When I got to Tottenham Court Road, I was distracted by a Starbucks and since it was hot I felt I should at least try an iced mocha. Verdict? Aaahhhh!

I hadn't been to the British Museum since 1996, so I had never seen the new Great Court. It's pretty impressive with its lovely glass roof. I started out in King George's Library and then followed the tour in my Rick Steves book, beginning with the Egyptian wing. Mummies galore! Mummies of men, women, children, cats, kittens and other animals; not to mention sarcophagi, statuary, funerary paintings, coffins, and the Rosetta Stone. Next were the Assyrians, who apparently loved a good beard and “canned” lion hunts. They were not very nice people. But then along came Greece, who seemed to have enjoyed beauty and fun more than the warring Assyrians. One vase is painted to show a group of satyrs drinking and having a party. One satyr appears to be balancing a cup on his naughty bits, while his friends are egging him on. You can just hear them chanting, “Chug! Chug! Chug!” (or whatever the ancient Greek equivalent was). It's a total frat party. I finished up my visit with lunch in one of the cafes, and then a quick visit to Lindow Man (a man preserved for 2,000 years in a peat bog) and the Sutton Hoo treasure.

Then I went to Holborn station to take a tour with London Walks called “Legal London.” We had a good guide who must be an actor when he's not leading tours, and he had one of those voices that should be doing voice-over work. He walked us around the various Inns of Court and fields, past a shop where barristers buy their robes and wigs, and to the Temple Church, once owned by the Knights Templar and also featured in The DaVinci Code. He also told us some juicy little tidbits about a barrister called F.E. Smith who spoke his mind and didn't care if he was insulting a judge in open court. I really must look him up. One exchange went like this:

Judge: Mr. Smith, after having heard your argument, I am none the wiser. Smith: Perhaps not, my lord; but you are are least better informed.

After the walk, which lasted a little more than 90 minutes, I Tubed to Bond Street and went to Selfridge's. I always make the mistake of thinking that Selfridge's is the Macy's of London department stores, but it's actually very upscale and swish. In fact, as I was looking for a cafe on the second floor, I noticed all the extraordinarily fashionable (labels, labels, labels) young women shopping, and then I saw a woman of about 55 walking toward me. She was a bit short, a bit squat, and wearing a decidedly unstylish brown peasant skirt and a tank top. (Yes, I know I'm the last person who should be judging someone else's fashion choices.) As I was about to pass by her, she hesitantly asked me if I lived in the area. I told her I didn't but asked her what she was looking for (I had just been to the loos, so I figured I could at least tell her where they were if that was what she needed). She said, “I was just wondering where Marks & Spencer is. I don't think this store is really for the likes of me!” I had to giggle, and then I told her where she could find M&S, which is exactly where I went about 15 minutes later to get some dinner.

I know that British Airways cabin crew started their strike at 12:00 a.m. today, so I'm wondering whether I should bother to pack for tomorrow. It's been such a long trip – good, but long – and I'm ready to go home. If only I had some ruby slippers and the help of a good witch.

The Lion of Knidos in the Great Court

The Lion of Knidos in the Great Court


Kitty retriever

Kitty retriever


Dead guy

Dead guy


Totems in the Great Court, British Museum

Totems in the Great Court, British Museum


Assyrian guard, British Museum

Assyrian guard, British Museum


Cat mummies

Cat mummies


Sutton Hoo Treasure, British Museum

Sutton Hoo Treasure, British Museum


Big giant head

Big giant head


Frat party

Frat party


Tower behind the Old Bailey

Tower behind the Old Bailey

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Nightmare Material

Breakfast this morning – in the charming basement breakfast room – consisted of a fried egg, British bacon, and a sausage. I declined the tomato and mushrooms. There was also toast complete with toast rack, and tea. The only thing missing was fried bread.

I didn't really make an effort to get out early this morning. The wi-fi isn't really working in my room today, so I sat out in the lobby in a comfy leather chair to look at e-mail and post my latest Travelpod entry. There was a steady stream of people checking out, and I heard all kinds of accents. There was a group of four ladies who sounded Polish, but one of their group spoke English like an American. There were some pretty impenetrable British accents too. I wonder if they were in London for “the football” yesterday.

I set off just before 10:00 to walk across Hyde Park. I walked on the other side of the Serpentine, a side I had never walked before. Whereas the side that faces Kensington Gardens is all manicured and lovely, the other side is more wild and heath-y. I saw squirrels playing in the trees, geese sunning themselves on the banks, and a German shepherd playing frisbee. It was also already quite hot, but there were still plenty of masochists out jogging. Freaks.

I crossed over the Serpentine so that I could see the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. It's quite pleasant, and there were loads of kids (and some adults) wading through it and having a terrific time.

I eventually ended up at the Natural History Museum. I've been there before (in 1996?), but last year I read a book by a former curator of one of the fossil galleries, and I decided I'd like to see it again. I ended up spending close to five hours inside, which I hadn't exactly planned on. The building itself is worth the price of admission (er ... the museum is actually free): there are pillars covered in vine-like carvings or climbing monkeys, fabulous staircases, different colors of bricks, and leaded glass windows. The entry hall is dominated by a diplodocus skeleton, and above it all at the top of the stairs is a section of Giant Sequoia that was cut down in California in the late 1800s.

I did go into the Creepy Crawlies gallery. I'm going to have such nightmares tonight.

I didn't get hungry till close to 2:00, thanks to my big breakfast. I went to the cafe in the museum and got a small egg sandwich, some water, and a brownie. I also discovered that my Rick Steves' London book was missing. I knew I had it at the breakfast table, but I couldn't figure out what I might have done with it after that. Surely a pickpocket (pickpurse?) wouldn't lift a guidebook, right?

It was finally time for the museum shop. I bought a slice of purple agate from Brazil (it's got a magnet on the back) and a penguin magnet. I really, really have to lay off the magnets. I dithered over a peridot bracelet and then decided I'd never wear it, so why buy it?

I had meant to go to the V&A after the NHM, but it was so late in the day that I decided not to. Plus, I didn't have my book with the guided tour in it. Instead, I walked up Cromwell Road and popped into the Brompton Oratory, the biggest Catholic church in Britain. I've never been inside before, and it's really beautiful. There was some sort of service going on, so I stayed toward the back of the church so as not to disturb anyone. The choir was singing, the smell of incense was in the air, and there were sunbeams streaming through the clerestory windows. I only stayed for maybe five minutes, but it was an awfully nice little break.

I went into Harrods to get my favo(u)rite cocoa-dusted almonds and to just walk through the Food Halls. Apparently, Harrods has been sold by al Fayed. No one thought he would ever give up Harrods, as it's sort of the jewel in his crown. I wonder what will happen to the tacky shrine to Princess Di and Dodi.

I took the Tube to Green Park and walked up Piccadilly to ... Starbucks. Not my original intent, but there it was. I got a caramel Frappuccino and was amused to see a “Seattle Latte” in the cold case. I've no idea what made it Seattle-ish, other than the label that showed a photo of the Seattle skyline.

Then I got back on track and went to Hatchards, my favorite bookstore. It was already 5:00, and they were closing at 6:00 so I had to rush about a bit. Also? No AC in Hatchards. It was at least ten degrees hotter inside than it was outside. I bought a bunch of books and am having them shipped to the office. I must remember to look up the author Jo Nesbo (one of those Os has a diagonal line through it). Because of Stieg Larsson, there's a fad for Swedish crime fiction; Nesbo is supposed to be one of the best.

I walked up Regent Street to Oxford Circus. Hot, hot, hot, and all of the stores were about to close so there was no going inside to revel in the air-conditioning. Fortunately, the Tube was running properly, and I got to Lancaster Gate and walked up to Paddington to get a sandwich and some crisps at the Whistlestop. The chicken and sweet corn sandwich was tasty; the sausage flavored crisps bordered on disgusting.

I found an episode of Top Gear on TV that ... well, I can't really tell if I've seen it or not. The Star in a Reasonably Priced Car was Brian Johnson from AC/DC, and I'm sure I've seen him before. And James, Richard and Jeremy are going on a time-trial in Mallorca, which I know I've seen. I guess BBC America cuts an awful lot of stuff when they broadcast the shows, because there's an awful lot of stuff in this program that I'm sure I've never seen.

And my Rick Steves' London book was sitting on top of a small chest of drawers in my room.

Princess Di's Memorial Fountain

Princess Di's Memorial Fountain


Creepy Crawlies Gallery

Creepy Crawlies Gallery


Inside the Creepy Crawlies Gallery

Inside the Creepy Crawlies Gallery


Nice kitty.

Nice kitty.


T-Rex

T-Rex


Staircase detail

Staircase detail


Inside the Natural History Museum

Inside the Natural History Museum


Staircase detail

Staircase detail

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

You can't get there from here.

I did not get enough sleep last night. Breakfast was fairly subdued as we all realized that it was our last breakfast together. Not that we were exactly all together, mind you; the breakfast room was super-teeny, so we were instructed to essentially eat it and beat it. Still, at least I was able to say goodbye to a few people.

I left my room at 9:30 and stored my bags with reception. Sandy and Shiree and ... I can't think who else were still in the breakfast room talking to Reid, so I got to say goodbye to all of them. Reid even gave me a hug, and all I could think was, “Damn. He's a lot skinnier than he looks.”

I walked over to Napoleon's Tomb and watched a couple of soldiers in ceremonial dress take pictures of each other in front of the ginormous gilded doors. And then Jesse and Kelly showed up, Jesse looking like an American tourist in an Izod shirt and shorts. So many people on the Rick Steves Helpline (myself included) are worried about what to wear in Europe so that they blend in or at least don't stick out. So you've got to hand it to someone who's completely unapologetic about being American and dressing like one. Even the ones who are trying to blend in are easy to spot: 90% of us seem to have clothing made of fabric that washes well in the sink and dries in five minutes, as well as those zip-off pants. Kelly blended in pretty well. All she needed was a scarf and a gigantic purse.

We went to a cafe near the Rodin Museum and sat outside drinking cappuccino. At the tables next to us were a bunch of those ceremonially dressed soldiers. With swords. You know, it takes a real man to wear a uniform that involves a hat with a plume on it. Later, a friendly labrador came by to have his tail scratched and beg a treat from the cafe staff.

We finished our drinks and walked around to the front of Les Invalides, down the esplanade and across the Pont Alexandre. Kelly made fun of the way Jesse veers all over the place when he walks, usually stepping right in front of her. Then we walked (and veered) along the Seine till we got to the bridge that crosses over to the Eiffel Tower. Along the way, I tried to give them the guided tour (“That's the Grand Palais ...” “That's where Princess Diana's crash was ...”), but I still don't think I would want to be a tour guide. Far too much responsibility.

The grounds under the Eiffel Tower were absolutely jam-packed with people. Even the line for people who had reserved was long. J & K decided they'd give the Tower a miss for today and try to book online. I had to get back to the hotel, so they walked with me and we separated at rue Cler. I picked up my bags at the hotel and said goodbye yet again to a bunch of fellow tour members (several were staying extra days at the hotel, and they had congregated in the lobby so they could all go out to Versailles together) and then headed to the Metro. And who did I run into along the way? Jesse and Kelly, of course. I'm wondering if they hit the wall around 2:00 p.m. like I predicted.

I got to the Eurostar lounge at around 1:00 for my 2:13 train. Taking the Eurostar is a lot like taking an airplane. First, I had to validate my ticket and fill out a landing card. Then I had to present my passport to French border control, who stamped me out of the country, and then present it again ten feet later to British border control, who stamped me again. Then there's the X-ray conveyor belt and security screen. At least I didn't have to take off my shoes or pull out my laptop.

I got a ham and cheese baguette in one of the cafes in the lounge and actually got a table as well. By the time I had finished that and found the loo, it was time to board the train. “Take the Eurostar,” I thought. “It will be so much quicker than a plane,” I thought. My 2:13 train left Gare du Nord 103 minutes late. Apparently, there was an “incident” on the line about 80 miles out of Paris. Once we got close to that section, we had to reduce speed to only 30 km per hour. In the end, we were 2 hours and 20 minutes late getting to St. Pancras. The one nice thing was that I was able to buy an Oyster Card (London's transit pass) on board and so didn't have to stand in a ticket line when we got to London.

I found the Tube and was planning to take the Hammersmith & City line directly to Paddington. However, a sign says that I can't do that because of works on the line, but that I can take a train to Baker Street and transfer to the Bakerloo line, which also goes to Paddington. So I do. But the train stops at the station prior to Baker Street and a voice says that everybody has to get off and change trains because something something “the football.” Sigh .... So I get the next train to Baker Street, change to the Bakerloo line, and the train is absolutely packed. Meantime, I've got my rolly bag, my purse, and that new Longchamp knockoff I bought in Paris, and I'm taking up all kinds of room on the train. And this whole time, I'm getting anxious because I'm supposed to meet Alan at Covent Garden Tube station at 7:00, and it's going past 6:30.

Finally arrive at Paddington and walk to my hotel, which is about seven minutes away (The Darlington Hotel in Sussex Gardens). Thank heaven the Russian lady at the front desk was nice. I had booked a single room, but they upgraded me to a double. But I barely had time to appreciate it because the first thing I did was turn on my netbook and go to my e-mail so that I could get Alan's cell phone number. By this time, it's 6:50. But the way Alan gave me his cell number was as if I would be calling from outside the UK. I got the lady at the front desk to help me (I needed to dial a zero in front of the number), and I got in touch with Alan and we agreed to meet at 7:30.

So I walk down to Lancaster Gate, use my Oyster Card, change lines at Holborn, and make it to Covent Garden at 7:40. Phew! What a slog! To top it off, it's about 75 degrees out. Met Alan right outside the Tube station, and I recognized him straight off, even though he's certainly older than he was the last time I saw him (in 1998) and he's got less hair.

We went to a swishy pizza place called (if I remember right) Fire and Stone. I had a Leffe and a margarita with olives, and he had a strawberry cider (!) and a veggie pizza. It was really loud in there, but we managed to talk about politics and television, and he promised not to tell me what was happening on Lost. He had brought three photos of when Didi and I met up with him in July 1998; we both looked so young! I mentioned that I was still 29 at the time, and he said, “I'm 29 now!” Eucch. I feel so old. (Actually, Jesse made me feel old earlier in the day. He said that he'd seen signs saying that it was the 25th anniversary of Les Miserables, which he had originally seen when he was seven. Sigh ....)

After pizza, we went to The Nags Head (no apostrophe ... grrr!) and stood outside with our incredibly large bottle of cider (him) and pint of shandy (me). There were loads of people out. Alan said it was the first really nice day London has had and, of course, everyone goes nuts and gets outdoors when that happens. There were people drinking and smoking and laughing and talking, and we saw several hen parties and lots of people dressed either in orange or purple (something to do with “the football,” though I swear the purple shirts said “rugby”).

We walked through Leicester Square (again, simply tons of people out) to Piccadilly Circus and into HMV. I got the new Eurovision album, the new Keane album, the new a-ha album, and they were doing a two-for-ten deal, so I got a John Barrowman compilation and the Noisettes. Turns out, Alan went to school with the lead singer. He now wishes he'd kept in touch with her.

We parted outside Piccadilly Circus Tube station (“This is ... Piccadilly Circus. Change here for ... the Piccadilly line.”) and I went down to get the Bakerloo line back to Paddington. There was a train in the station, so I hopped on only to find that the train had been stood there for several minutes, and it wasn't going anywhere. Another train had gotten stuck up ahead, and the announcements said that there was no telling how long my train would be held in the station. So I re-routed myself and ended up taking a train back to Covent Garden (where Alan and I started out) and then transferring to the Central line to get back to Lancaster Gate. The trains were pretty full and absolutely stifling. I was so glad to get back above-ground, even though I then realized that I wasn't completely sure about retracing my steps to the hotel in the dark. But I made it.

My room is nice, and I've got free wi-fi. And the lighting in the bathroom doesn't suck. At every hotel on this trip, the bathrooms have had this weird indirect lighting that makes it impossible to tell if you've put on too much powder and eyeliner. I've probably been walking around Europe looking like Norma Desmond, but I sure wouldn't know it from the bathroom mirror!

Off to bed now. It's very quiet here ... maybe a little too quiet. But I do occasionally hear a faraway rumbling, which I suppose is a Tube train running somewhere deep beneath the hotel.

Men in Hats

Men in Hats


Napoleon's Tomb

Napoleon's Tomb


Kelly and Jesse doing the Parisian thing

Kelly and Jesse doing the Parisian thing


Darlington Hotel

Darlington Hotel

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Don't hate me because I love the 'Bux

Well, they say rehab takes 28 days. I didn't even make it quite 21 days. When the rest of the group left for the Louvre this morning, I went up to the rue St-Dominique to the Starbucks that supposedly closes at 8:00 p.m. but actually closes at 7:50 p.m. and got a mocha. It wasn't quite as good as one from the 40th floor Starbucks, but still ... ahhhh! And if you frown at me for going to Starbucks while in Paris, all I can say in my defense is that at least I didn't go to the one in the Louvre this time!

After the wine tasting in Beaune I bought a bottle of vin rouge for Jesse and Kelly, who arrived in Paris this morning. (I had been feeling a momentary flash of niceness ... or possibly brown-nosiness.) So when I was done sucking every last bit of cream from my Starbucks cup, I took the Metro to the 6th arrondissement and walked down the Boul' Mich (which is what all the cool kids call the Boulevard St-Michel) to their hotel and left the wine at reception. The lady at the desk was awfully nice and promised to leave it in their room; I hope she did. Actually, she seemed a little disappointed that it wasn't champagne.

And then I walked back up the Boulevard St-Michel (just realized that I'm not one of the cool kids) and stopped in a store called Six to buy some sunglasses. They're super-cheap, but I only need them to last for a few days. Again it was quite warm out, and the sun was really beating down. I expect to look in the mirror tomorrow morning and see a red nose and cheeks. I have also been brave enough to put my umbrella in my suitcase!

I went over to the Ile St-Louis and walked up the main drag, stopping in the Pylones shop to buy the guy who is doing my filing while I'm gone a thank-you (and I got something for myself as well). I really am trying to use my French, and for the most part I am understood. But then the Frenchies have to go and reply and then I get the deer in the headlights look. So I end up begging them to speak English; quite embarrassing.

I had lunch at my favorite restaurant on the Ile St-Louis: Cafe Med. (Confession: It's my favorite restaurant on the Ile St-Louis because it's the only restaurant I've eaten at on the Ile St-Louis. But it is good.) I had the cheap menu: green salad with walnuts (my INR is going to be so messed up the next time I go for a blood draw), penne with gorgonzola, and a butter-and-sugar crepe. Everything was good, the two ladies working there were friendly, and it cost less than €15. What more can you ask for in Paris? I had planned to go to Amorino Gelato afterwards, but I figured I'd had the crepe so .... I'm very proud of my self-restraint. ;-)

Got on the Metro again to go to the Musée Jacquemart-André on Boulevard Haussmann. Nélie Jacquemart and Edouard André lived in the 19th and early part of the 20th century. They were wealthy and loved art, and they built a beautiful mansion and decorated it with pieces that any regular art museum would drool over. There are Canalettos, Fragonards, Rembrandts, Botticellis, and all sorts of amazing Greco-Roman statuary and beautiful furniture. Also, there are several ceilings that were brought from elsewhere, some painted by Tiepolo. I love going through stately homes: it makes me want a music room and an antechamber and a library, not to mention a sweeping staircase.

Boulevard Haussmann isn't far from the Champs-Elysées, so I walked down there to the Virgin Megastore. It was very, very mega, I must say. I had been hoping to find the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest album, but it wasn't available yet. Boo.

Took the Metro back to the hotel, where I am typing this and resting before our last supper tonight. We are going to La Terrasse, and then we are supposed to go on a Seine cruise. My wi-fi time is about to run out, so I will post this as is and then update it in London with a report on dinner and the cruise.

UPDATE: Dinner was pretty good. We had about half of the second floor of the restaurant, so we didn't bother anyone too badly. I had a caprese salad, chicken skewers with basmati rice, and one of those chocolate cakes that has molten chocolate lava inside. We were all very jovial and laughed a lot, and we were all hopping up and down taking pictures of everyone else.

After we were done eating, we went up to the restaurant's roof garden and we each said what the highlight of the tour had been for us. Jim (beer drinker) nearly started to cry, which of course got several of the women going too (yes, including me). My highlight was our Neuschwanstein day; I could have done the luge again and again and again, and I wish I had put myself in the speed demon group.

When the Eiffel Tower started to sparkle, we left and went to the bateaux-mouches for our cruise. Everything is pretty when it's all lit up, but my camera is too simplistic to capture it all. There were tons of people along the quays picnicking and drinking and generally having fun. Every now and then there would be a little band of drummers, and it started to remind me of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland.

After the cruise, Reid took us over to the Pont de l'Alma to where the “memorial to Princess Diana” is. He gave everyone a little Eiffel Tower, told us what his highlights were (us, of course), and pulled out cups and two bottles of champagne for a final toast. We were going to go to the Champs de Mars afterwards, but it was already midnight so we all trooped back to the hotel. It's 12:45 now, and I've set my alarm for 6:30. I might have to rethink that.

My room

My room


View from my window

View from my window


View from my window 2

View from my window 2


Musee Jacquemart-Andre

Musee Jacquemart-Andre

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

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