The joyful part is pretty obvious - the beat just goes. The personal part is Caroline's voice imploring, “Close enough to you, I can't get, close enough, close enough." I'm think the gooey thing is that I can't get it out of my head. Maybe I'm pushing this too far?
When we last spoke, Joe and I had boarded a Eurostar to head through the Chunnel to Paris. We went to Paris back in 2012, and we thought it would be fun to recreate our trip, this time as a married couple.
That's what I imagined when I booked our flight and romantic hotel in the 6th arrondissement. What I couldn't imagine was the act of unspeakable evil that happened 10 days before we arrived in the City of Light. How could this happen to innocent people? Should we still go? Joe said we couldn't let terrorists change the way we live our lives and that Paris needed tourists. So we went.
My parents said that I should call my Nana's brother who lives in Paris when I arrived, just in case anything happened. Uncle Louis was so kind and suggested that we meet while Joe and I were in town. Had we been to the Louvre? Versailles? He kept naming tourist sites, and Joe and I were incredibly efficient on our last trip and had visited them all.
"I know," he said. "Let's go for lunch." He sent the address to the front desk of the hotel. Right before Joe and I were about to leave, I decided to google the name of the restaurant.
Le Grand Véfour. Four Euro signs! Located in the Palais Royal!
"I need to not wear jeans! Joe, you need to shave!" We flew into a frenzy of activity and still managed to get there right on time.
Napoleon Bonaparte dined here, and now the O'Chapins. This was one of those pinch me moments, because Joe and I usually limit our dining to falafel places and hipster diners. We would no way ever ever been able to manage to do this without the generosity of Louis and Francoise!
First of all, this was the cheese plate. There must be 40 different cheeses on that tray. We deferred to Louis on all our picks.
The meal was three hours long, maybe more, and we had an amuse bouche, appetizer, main course, cheese, pre-dessert, dessert, and then a random post-dessert slice of cake. It was prix fixe for lunch, and Louis, Francoise, and the waiter all agreed that one of the options was "very special." It was veal brain. "Maybe not for Americans," Francoise said. Joe and I didn't order it but we tried it! Not bad, very rich and airy.
I didn't want to be the American girl who photographed all her courses. Actually, I wanted to that badly but I didn't lose my inhibitions and whip out my camera until our second bottle of Champagne.
I was semi-terrified the whole time that I would spill a glass of wine or water or some other disaster. It was the kind of dining experience where seven waiters surround your table and each put down a plate like synchronized swimmers, and where they then come back to re-sauce your entree. Not the kind of service we usually get at Arby's.
Joe did have an incident. He was cutting up a carrot and it shot off the plate, leaving an unsightly splotch on the white tablecloth. Thinking quickly, he covered it up with his bread plate, which worked out fine until the waiters cleared the table.
They then returned with a sort of tourniquet, laying another piece of tablecloth over the green stain and practically ironing it place. It was a big production. I was desperately trying not to laugh.
Over lunch, Louis told us all about his adventures in America in the 1960s on business and he took so much pride in explaining his culture. What a culture it is!
This was in the upstairs area near the bathroom. Oh, you know, just an original Chagall scribbled on the back of a menu.
Needless to say, this was a magical experience. "Get your fill, Adele, because we are never coming back," is what Joe said. I tried my best to soak it all in.
But hey, I like the high and low: I got obsessed with this fast-casual pizza place in our neighborhood called Mamma Roma and I made Joe take me there twice over our five-day stay.
BTW, Carmela Soprano to Le Grand Vefour on her trip to Paris! We watched the episode when we got home and I couldn't believe it.
Like I said, we managed to hit a ton of tourist attractions last time, and Le Grand Vefour was basically an entire day for us because we were too full to move afterwards (that was basically our Thanksgiving 2015).
So we mainly lounged about in Paris and went for walks and did a few touristy things.
I worried about the catacombs because I do have a nervous disposition, but it was totally fascinating and bizarre. The audioguide is very much worth it. We shared one so it took us double the time, and the underground catacombs stretch on forever.
I wanted to make a pilgrimage to Colette, which I mainly knew about because of the Apple Watch. Did not purchase anything, but what a magical store. The designer clothes felt so alive here, more than I've ever seen at any other shop. One day maybe I will save my pennies to afford a scrap of something from Colette.
On the other hand, just because these sneakers are Chanel, it doesn't make them cute.
We made a reservation to return to Au Passage, where we had a lovely lunch in 2012. It was dinner time, and I missed the prix fixe menu to be honest. They sat us in the American section, where we spoke with a nice couple from San Francisco. The waitress was aloof until we started chatting about Parisian tipping custom, and then she was there in a blink of an eye to explain it to us that we really should be leaving generous tips.
On the way home, we turned the corner and there was one of the site of the shootings. We hadn't looked for it at all. The most heartbreaking part was that there were memorials on so many corners, you just imagine all those people having a nice night out and living their lives and everything changes.
I pray that we can figure out how to stop ISIS and the hatred in people's hearts that leads them to murder in cold blood. Joe and I spent a lot more time on our honeymoon talking about ISIS than I ever imagined. I don't know if this was advisable, but I bought Michel Houellebecq’s Submission in the Shakespeare and Company bookshop and read it in about a day.
We saw police everywhere. One street was completely blocked off and pedestrians had to show their IDs to get through. I noticed French flags on so many buildings, and a woman at Maison Kitsune told us that for the first time since she'd worked there, French people were actually buying T-shirts with "Parisienne" logos. Maybe American girls like me were the only people buying them before.
We took the bullet train for a day trip to the Champagne region in Reims. All inspired by this Netflix documentary. I watched Trainwreck on the flight home and I have to say "Crazy Amy" is a better title. "I didn't love it," I told Joe. "Well, you sure were laughing an awful lot."
Here's the Champagne house we went to, Pommery!
So beautiful, right? I can't tell you anything about it (except the cellars are in Roman chalk pits) because our tour guide was incomprehensible. He was speaking English, but I couldn't understand and I've never been on a tour where no one asked a single question. We all knew it was a lost cause. So let's go with beautiful.
Why didn't buy a puffer coat for my champagne bottles?!?!
We watched these dogs play in a churchyard for a very long time.
The cathedral here is stunning, what a masterpiece! Joe grew up wanting to be the Pope (even though he wasn't Catholic) and being obsessed with flying buttresses so I'm happy he got to see this.
On our last day in Paris, we went to Père Lachaise Cemetery. I forgot how in disrepair so many of the tombs are. You can't kiss Oscar Wilde's tombstone anymore, they put a big piece of glass over it.
That morning, I had a very dreamy idea. What if we went to the Sacré-Cœur really early in the morning and watched the sun rise? We got there at 6:30am (accidentally ran into a guy shooting up in the metro) and it was freezing up there in Montmatre, but it was magical. The city hadn't woken up. Just as the sun was supposed to rise, a bank of fog rolled in and all the sights disappeared from view.
I was about to chalk up 2015 as a lost year for music, until Kate Miss released her 2015 "Best of" music playlist. Yess!! It's amazing. This song is stuck in my head most of the time, the harmonies are so pretty. This lyric is also particularly sweet: "Tell me now what do I have to do to make you hold my hand."
I haven't written for so long! Somewhere along the line I turned this blog into a burden when it was only ever a joy. To catch you up to speed, Joe and I got married!! Best news ever. I planned a wedding and it all came together.
But I'm going to skip that for now and tell you about our "Grand European Tour" of a honeymoon. Technically, I don't know if you can call it a Grand Tour if you only go to two countries but that was our working title. Around Thanksgiving, we flew to London and stayed for about five days and then took the Eurostar to Paris. Joe had never been to London and I wanted to show him the city I fell in love with when I studied abroad there in 2005. It's kind of amazing how much I'd forgotten but hopefully he got the gist of it.
I picked out an Airbnb in Brick Lane/Shoreditch because I remember thinking that was such a darn cool area. When we arrived, rolly bags in tow, I thought perhaps this was too cool for us now for where I'm at in my life now.
Here's the door of our place, located on the very last square before our tourist map of London cut off. Looks much grittier than the fake yuppie block that is our DC street yet in actuality this London street is probably way safer.
We signed up to take a graffiti tour of Shoreditch but it got canceled at the last minute so I just took some photos of interesting graffiti as we wandered around the neighborhood. All Joe wanted to do in London is see a Banksy but that was a washout, alas.
Our Euro Tour went at a leisurely pace. We woke up and would amble over to a cafe on Brick Lane for an involved breakfast. Of particular interest was this Full Stop cafe which was decorated like someone's great aunt's living room. Cream cheese on avocado toast, it's a revelation.
While at said cafes, we read the free reading material. London seems to be awash in glossy, high-quality neighborhood magazines, which is surprising and intriguing. They were all devoted to gentrification and the effect the insane rents are having on culture and life in general.
Which is how I learned that the Cereal Killer Cafe on the same street was the site of a 200-person anti-gentrification riot when it opened this past year. The employees cowered in the fancy chocolate shop next door while the crowd raged against £4.40 bowls of cereal and “Russian oligarchs, Saudi sheiks, Israeli scumbag property developers, Texan oil-money twats and our own home-grown Eton toffs," as the Facebook event page put it.
We did not eat at Cereal Killer, although I have to wonder if avocado toast is any better, really. I had to laugh a bit this past week while reading about this fancy Brooklyn cereal bar with $5 cereal in Racked. Come on, New York, no cereal bar riot for you? You're just going to let this happen and enjoy it, eh?
Loved the graffiti and the feel of the yuppie/vintage shops, but the Sunday Up Market at Brick Lane was so fantastic, the scope of food was just incredible. That's when it clicked, of course, people are fighting for this neighborhood, who wouldn't want to live here? But just because you want to live here, should the government make it possible even if you don't have the money? Do we all deserve and declare that it's our birthright to live in trendy neighborhoods adjacent to the city center, market forces be damned.
We were supposed to go to a museum but instead we wandered until we found this wide open green space with a zipline that I would've made a major impression on me when I was a kid.
Heck, it did now.
The community garden was just like our community gardens, except it had a cow.
I never thought I would have to check the "Have you interacted with livestock" box on the custom form for this this trip. Just kidding, I totally didn't check it. To be fair, I observed the cows, chickens, and sheep from a respectful distance and didn't really interact with them.
Over a perfect cappuccino at Monmouth Coffee, we met a fellow American who happened to share a booth with us. He'd lived in London for 10 years and he was so nice to chat with us. I wanted to know what from our election season had filtered over to the UK and were they laughing at us? (Yes).
We told Russell that we were going to the British Museum and he had pitch-perfect recall of the galleries. We took his advice on what to see and where to go for lunch and a pint — the Museum Pub across the street, which was in no way as touristy as you'd imagine.
I demanded we go to the Tate Modern, and what you are seeing here is an exhibit that is entirely piles of dirt. The artist hopes you'll throw seed bombs to complete his vision.
I loved the Calder exhibit, maybe a large part of that is the fun of an art exhibit where you spend all your time looking up at the ceiling. We also were transfixed by a video about the painstaking process of restoring a vandalized Rothko.
I thought Joe might enjoy the Churchill War Rooms but I ended up loving it. It was so well done, and I didn't realized how many acts Churchill's life had, how remarkable.
We did make one fancy honeymoon reservation, lunch at the River Cafe. April Bloomfield is so charming and real in Mind of a Chef, my dream was to go there and see where her career kicked off. It looked so inviting on the show.
We made the reservation, but we didn't quite realize how far from the city center the restaurant was and ended up an hour late for our noon table. Oh dear! We had been touristing at Saint Paul's and lost track of time. We tried to take a cab, but he said it would be quicker on the tube. The only problem that it was raining, and a bus splashed us from head to toe on the walk, just like in the movies, with a tidal wave of water. We were already dressed down but now we were drenched. And one hour late.
River Cafe was very gracious about it all! "Of course we have a table for you," the hostess said. And that was that. Thank you, River Cafe! I read a free magazine later (notice a trend) and the US Ambassador said River Cafe was his favorite restaurant. Been there, I thought smugly. Haha. Afterwards, we walked along the Thames and read signs about the Olympic rowing teams that practice along the river.
Here's the area on the way to the Airbnb, Spitalfields market. I did a little window shopping at Whistles and I wanted to buy everything. Later I went to the gigantic Oxford Street Topshop with its four stories, tattoo shop, hair salon, cupcake shop, and restaurant (that's where Joe hung out for hours). I wanted to buy something so bad, with every fiber of my being. But I couldn't find anything I wanted to wear. Am I getting old??? Nothing from the Kendall + Kylie collection appealed to me. Everything in the store was all fuzzy fuzzy faux fur coats and overtly '90s wear. I felt so old. I got the plainest Grandma sweater and a Krusty the Clown iPhone case.
I feel like we just scratched the surface of what to do, and that's after five days of vacation and six months of living there back in study abroad days. I met up with one of my friends from the University of Westminster who stayed in London since then, so amazed/kudos to her for making that happen! It was so nice to catch up with her.
This was something I totally didn't remember from when I lived there, but Joe just couldn't believe that there was no standard for who walks on what side of the sidewalk in the UK. They don't walk on the right or left, it's just absolute chaos! “The British are ambulatory anarchists,” according to the BBC, which seems very odd.
Joe didn't have many requests for sightseeing, but he inexplicably wanted to see a "plague pit" from the Middle Ages. On our very last day, we looked down in Spitalfields Market and saw this medieval hospital preserved under glass. Close enough?
The exchange rate in London for this trip was better than when I lived there, but things were still crushingly expensive, especially the Tube. So I felt alright when it was time to say goodbye to London and head to Paris via the Eurostar. Next time!
It was said in the YouTube comments, but Aurora is a mini-Sia. Maybe a mini-Sia crossed with Robyn, since Aurora is a 19-year-old Norwegian blonde? Anyway, she is so cute and charming in this NPR Tiny Desk concert, asking the audience if it's ok if she sings loudly. What she really sounds like in this song is a new incarnation of First Aid Kit.