Day Three: Does This Bus Go to the Cemetery?

Have I mentioned my husband planned our trip and each day before we left the hotel, in addition to patching my heels with moleskin, I was asked, “Do you have the itinerary?”

Today’s itinerary would take us on the ten cent tour of Paris via bus 69. Bus 69 has no A/C and we still opted to take it, because Rick Steves said it’s an inexpensive way to see a lot of tourist destinations without taking cabs or the metro. Rick is made of sterner stuff than I, that’s for sure.

img_8863

I was seriously miserable and frantically fanning myself with the itinerary. (What do ya’ know? It IS totally useful!)  We’d almost get moving fast enough to feel a breeze through the barely open windows when the bus stopped again to do what buses do – let people off and on.

I will admit, driving through the narrow streets of the little neighborhoods was a different perspective than I’d experienced in the past via cabs. Unfortunately, I think our tour was less successful than Rick’s because we didn’t know where we were exactly and were having to refer to the book (via smart phone) to determine if we were passing anything of interest or not.

Robert took pity on me in the early afternoon and we hopped off to eat at a cafe on a busy street. When is doubt – feed and drink Ann. That’s our motto. Cafe D’arsenal was exactly what I needed. We took our time, ate croque monsieur and had a glass of rosé while watching the world go by on a lazy Friday.

img_9376

Oops. Wait. Remember the yellow jacket from Day One?  It found me again. Landing all over my plate and wine glass. Lazy time = over. We jumped back on the bus to reach our destination – Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

We fumbled with the trusty (cough)  Rick Steves app after entering the cemetery. Quite a few other people were there obviously looking for Jim Morrison. I was so distracted by everything else I saw, namely tombs, open tombs, collapsed tombs, tombs with opens doors, tomb doors with so many cobwebs I didn’t stop having invisible spider heeby-jeebies for the next 6 hours – I didn’t care if we found Jim or not. I was more concerned about what might find us.  Why were all these open? Had the inhabitants flown the coop? Robert and I couldn’t resist edging close to a large crack in one concrete structure and peering into it to see if there was anything to see. There wasn’t. Probably all for the best, as I would definitely not have been able to outrun anyone that day.

img_9373

img_9370

img_9371

img_9372
(Jim Morrison)

We made our way over to say hello to Oscar Wilde. I was sad to see they’d enclosed his tomb and cleaned the lipstick kisses off of it.  (Although I’m sure the family having to pay to have it cleaned all the time was probably a pain.)

img_9374

img_9375

Back on the bus – and to our new favorite cafe – D’aresenal. It was nearly 5:00 on Friday evening so we made ourselves comfortable and had another glass of rosé. Or two. Then, for some reason, possibly because we scrunched together to open up an additional table for the host, he brought us our check and another glass each. Hiccup.

At this point we decided we were too worn out to go to the Louvre (which was open until 9:45 that night and the next item on the itinerary) and decided we’d better  just get some dinner. We entered Chez Denise – a loud, crowded restaurant and bar and were squeezed in at the end of a long table. Here we experienced our first truly French waiter. We also learned that, unlike in the states, the customer DOES NOT always know best. Robert ordered beef jowl and I ordered cod. I took one bite of that cod and pushed the plate away. It was what I technically call, “Icky.” When the waiter eventually ran out of other people to serve, he returned and looked at my full plate with one raised eyebrow. Robert told him it wasn’t fresh.

The waiter said, “Yes. It’s fresh.”

“No. It is not,” Robert chuckled a bit.

“Yes it is,” Monsieur Waiter snapped. “Where are you from?”

“Texas,” Robert responded. I knew we’d just lost.

“Texas. Harrumph.”

Told you.

He whisked the plated fish away, still proclaiming its freshness. When our l’addition arrived the full price of the week-old cod was proudly displayed. He’s lucky I’d had those three glasses of relaxing, mellow rosé before coming to dinner. And those two glasses with dinner. I’m surprised I didn’t hug him. That would’ve been the final insult, I’m sure.

Day 4 (when Amy (the Countess Magnificent-Joy) & Dave join us for fun and games) AND possibly Day 5 up next!

 

 

 

 

LONDON OBSERVATIONS

It has been almost three weeks since I’ve been back from London. It took me one week to recover from jet lag, which I’ve been told is ridiculous and abnormal. Meh. I’ve been called worse.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reflecting on the many things we experienced whether on purpose or accidentally. There were some things I didn’t share at the time because 1) I was too worn out in the evening to remember everything and 2) I was seriously trying to go to bed at a decent hour and not stay up until after midnight like we did in Wales. See, our routine was, walk, sight-see, eat, sight-see, walk, eat, walk, sight-see, drink, walk, walk, eat, sight-see, drink. As you may have noticed, there wasn’t NEARLY an appropriate level of drinking involved. However, the lack of adult beverages was hardly noticed as the sight-seeing was intoxicating enough. (See what I did there?)

IMG_2376

After the last sight-seeing of the day, Sandy goes to the room to download photos around 9:00 p.m. while I trip into the hotel bar, order a LARGE glass of wine and take it outside where I sit with my iPad and enjoy the 70 degree weather and British accents. It never fails to take until midnight to finish our personally assigned tasks. Why don’t we just put our tasks aside and enjoy ourselves? Because we are insane. Not “diagnostically” insane, but just bad enough to be detectable under close observation. For instance: Sandy was taking a picture of me, yet SOMEHOW the picture appears to be one of clotted cream and jam with me in the background. She apologized profusely while laughing hysterically.

IMG_27782

Since I am predisposed to point out adorable flaws everywhere I visit, I’ll begin with the inability of anyone in London to agree which side of the sidewalk to walk on. It should follow the rules of driving, I would think, but instead, it’s just random. Masses of people coming at you from every direction, determined to not move one inch to the left or right. It was like cattle. Dumb cattle. Dumb cattle that move in groups and suddenly stop in front of you, making everyone behind them smack right into each other so they can look at a map. Amy tells me this is because everyone in London (especially while we were there) was from a different country, so they just walk wherever they want.

Listen up touristy people: Walk or drive in the traffic pattern of the country you’re in. Not where you came from. My toes were so sore from releve-ing and contretemps-ing around people I felt like I’d danced the lead in Swan Lake while simultaneously participating in the Snake River salmon run.

Also, while I’m at it… STOP LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE. (Not you, the people walking down the street in London.)

You’d think the darn thing was a slot machine about to pay off. I’m from the U.S. and even WE do not have that many people walking the streets paying no attention to anything but their phones. We save that sort of undivided attention to electronic devices until it’s safe. Like when we’re driving 70 miles per hour in our cars and eating a Whopper. Walking around with your face in your cell phone is just dangerous. Possibly because it makes me want to punch you.

Another observation. The service at lunch and dinner was great. Mostly. In some cases, the pre-established addition of 12.5% as the tip included on a diner’s check MAY have discouraged the wait staff from exceeding expectations. Bad choice, considering they had two Americans who are used to tipping 20% just to keep U.S. wait staff from spitting in their drinks.

Last observation: YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO WANTS YOUR PICTURE TAKEN IN FRONT OF SOMETHING. Take your picture. Take two. Then, for the love of GOD and all that’s holy, MOVE!!!!

IMG_2546

That is all. For now.

LONDON DAY SEVEN: THE DISAPPEARING POST

Oh my GOODNESS! I was just glancing back through the London posts to try to remember what we did when. There is NO POST FOR DAY SEVEN! WTF?? I KNOW I wrote about Day 7. It was all about Hampton Court. The all day adventure. Then, the return to the pub (our home away from home) and the late night stroll to Westminster Bridge. This is totally ringing a bell for me, but I see no trace of it on the iPad, or on my laptop. If you read it and it somehow became deleted, then please ignore. Then again, this version may be vastly different from the original. After all, it’s been weeks since we did whatever it was we did.

IMG_2646

Let’s see. Since we were obviously on the Royal Tour, what with all the castles we’d been in, we HAD to hit Hampton Court. Plus, it’s where Henry VIII lived and where he ordered Catherine Howard’s head to be removed from her body. Like those Barbie doll heads little girls have that you can apply make-up and hairstyles to.

Anywhoo, this was about a 45 minute trip to Hampton Court via Tube and train. We had NO IDEA Hampton Court was as large as it was. OR that it had way too many people living in it at different times. Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII, William and Mary… There would have been plenty of room for all of them at once, really. The tour was possibly my favorite. No doubt due to Henry. Being in his chapel and knowing that people still worship there today was mind-blowing. Seeing the painting of his family I’d only seen in books was pretty amazing as well. Although if I had been his current wife at the time (which I THINK was Catherine?) I’d have been pretty ticked off that he put his late wife in the painting instead of me.)

IMG_2669

Throughout the tour, in my head, I kept saying, “Henry? Henry? Are you here? Come on, just one little sign. Pretty please?” He is obviously STILL not an accommodating monarch. I had zero goosebumps or shadow visions.

The gardens were gorgeous as well, but my feet weighed about 20 pounds each so I shuffled more than sauntered. Too late, we saw a horse-drawn carriage circling ahead of us as it took the SMART people on a tour of the garden.

IMG_2715

IMG_2734

In the evening, we became desperate and daring as time was running out. Sandy wanted photos of Westminster Abbey at night and had convinced me that a ride on the Eye might be the perfect ending to Day 7. One out of two. She took some beautiful shots of Westminster from across the bridge. I took some iPhone images so as to not feel left out.

IMG_2744

We approached the EYE after that, but it was not accepting riders. It must have been under repair because lots of men were standing around looking at it and scratching their chins. Hey, I may be from out-of-town, but I know what it looks like when a man is hard at work. No matter where he’s from.

And thus ended Day 7. At least, as far as I can remember. I’m sure it also involved a glass of wine, a struggle with the iPad and a feeble attempt to stream photos from my iPhone to the iPad.

Someday I’ll figure out all this technology that is supposed to save us so much time but keeps me awake until after midnight while on vacation. (And then loses my post somehow.)

Now, back to real life and temperatures of 105 degrees.

LONDON DAY EIGHT: THE SHOPPING CURSE

On our last day, we really felt the pressure to accomplish some of the things we hadn’t yet. Therefore, we set off to the Borough Market, which was closed the first time we tried, in order to get the infamous grilled cheese sandwich.

And oh, what a sandwich it was. The cook dumped in mounds of cheese into a container, then would take the bread and scoop huge amounts onto it, and press it in a panini type grill. At one point, he would add the combination of red onion and leeks. He eventually wrapped it in tissue paper and handed to us, as our eyes bulged from their sockets. Heart attack on bread.

20130816-232127.jpg

We had to take pictures, because that’s the kind of dorks we are. Plus, we wanted to make everyone crave our sandwiches. Success.

20130816-232237.jpg

We browsed the market, which is amazing. It’s crowded, but smells and tastes like heaven.

20130816-232340.jpg

20130816-232347.jpg

Luckily, Sandy spotted a Prosecco booth and I was able to take a bubblicious time out.

20130816-233845.jpg

Afterward, we hopped on the Tube and arrived at Selfridge’s. Because we like the TV Show, and Jeremy Piven. After purchasing some surprises for my husband, we hopped back on the subway for Harrod’s. There we purchased more surprises and fought through crowds that make the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade look tame. These excursions cost me dearly. Not financially, but mentally. I despise crowds AND shopping, so it was the perfect storm for me to totally lose it. Somehow, I managed to not freak out and Sandy realized the imperative was to get me to the hotel for a drink to calm my nerves. Sandy is very smart.

After a small glass of wine, we decided to knock out one more item on the to-do list and hit Trafalgar Square. Guess what? A million people were there.

20130816-232505.jpg

I became punch drunk and decided you all needed this joke.

Guess what?

20130816-232701.jpg

Chicken butt.

Sorry.

We ate a scrumptious dinner and retired to our rooms where we began packing for our return trip. Our greatest regret is that we never made it into a museum. Sandy wanted to see the Rosetta Stone. I guess another trip is in the future, with less of the Royal Tour, as Sandy calls it, and more theatre and museums.

We shall return.

Thanks, London. It was incredible!

P.S. We overheard two different women today shout, “S#!t!!” And neither of them was me!!!

Win.

See y’all soon!

LONDON DAY SIX: WAR AND PEACE

20130814-233309.jpg

I’m proud to say we once again braved the Tube and ended up exactly where we were going. Kensington Palace. This was the childhood home of Queen Victoria and the home of William and Mary. Currently, it also plays host to the Fashion Rules exhibit, which traces the history of the clothing worn by Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana.

The presentations are beautifully arranged and when we arrived around 11:30, there was not but a small crowd in the rooms. Following are some of my favorite pieces. All I need is a World War to eliminate bread and sugar from my diet and I might achieve a waist this size as well. If I remove a rib or two.

20130814-222150.jpg

20130814-222210.jpg

20130814-222230.jpg

20130814-222322.jpg

20130814-222416.jpg

Meanwhile, the other rooms are dedicated to two sad stories. One is that of Queen Anne, who lost 17 babies. She finally gave birth to a boy, William, who though rumored to be quite frail, danced and danced at his 11th birthday party. Hours later, he went into a troubled sleep from which he never awoke. Anne was broken hearted and went to her death years later knowing the monarchy would pass into the hands of a distant relative. It landed (after much passing of laws to surpass approximately 50 others) with her second cousin George I. He was 41 when he discovered he was in line for the throne.

20130814-222546.jpg

This exhibit was titled Anne’s 18 hopes.

The second tragic story is that of Queen Victoria. She was madly in love with Albert. They were married and had a veritable gaggle of children (9)! Unfortunately, Albert died rather young, at 42, leaving Victoria mourning for the rest of her life. There were even calls for her to abdicate the throne if she couldn’t snap out of it. She wore official mourning until she passed away 40 years later. They appear to be the first royals to be truly in love.

We stepped out of the gloomy story and into the garden where we were nearly blinded by the beautiful flowers. A couple of photos are below.

20130814-222825.jpg

20130814-222841.jpg

After a short trip back to the hotel to catch our breath, we decided to fast forward to World War II. The Churchill War Rooms were a startling look at underground headquarters for the core of the the British Government during WWII. How these people lived and worked, day in and day out without sunlight, without knowledge of what exactly was going on outside, is astonishing. It’s like a land-locked submarine. There were signs announcing the weather. Warm and fine, etc. We became completely enthralled with the history of Churchill and had to rush the last of the War Museum before closing. The map room is on view, complete with a graffiti version of Hitler drawn on one map, and Churchill’s bedroom, where he reportedly spent only three nights, aside from his daily hour long naps that broke up his 18-hour work days.

We may have to return to the gift shops, where I found wartime slogan magnets and posters with helpful hints like, Eat Less Bread. There was also a modern take on the Keep Calm theme that directed, Sod Calm and Get Angry.

Strange. that’s exactly my tourism philosophy.

Meanwhile, strange spottings today: one was apparently what UK buddy, Dave, refers to as a hen party. The other is a look-alike of the week. A muscular Ben Kingsley.

20130814-223410.jpg

20130814-223428.jpg

LONDON DAY FIVE: THE WORLD’S A STAGE

UPDATE 1:

Sorry – I am updating with photos and more details as I get a chance. This is going to be short and sweet. I’ll add details later as it is WAY past my bedtime and we have a huge day tomorrow.

This morning, or more like noonish, we went to Buckingham Palace. State Rooms, Mews, and Gallery. Photography was only allowed outside the palace and in the gallery, so I don’t have a LOT to share, but here are a few. Loved the mews. I intend to travel by carriage from now on. My favorite was the Scottish carriage, although the Aussie version has automatic windows and a heater.

20130814-095816.jpg20130814-095836.jpg20130814-095857.jpg

20130814-095944.jpg

After fighting our way through the gift shop, (chaos), we grabbed a bite to eat near The Globe and went to see The Tempest. It was absolutely breathtaking! We leaned our sore bodies against the back wall and got swept away. I’d have been even MORE swept away if the 12-year-old boy next to me wasn’t texting and tossing his plastic water bottle up in the air.

20130814-100804.jpg

20130814-100825.jpg

Overall, the day was marked by the fact that Sandy was even more short-tempered than I with other tourists. New candidates for most obnoxious? Russia.

We even managed to find our way back to the Tube and to our hotel without incident. Thanks, Amy and Dave for that!

Cheers!