Vacation Recap Part Trois: Paris

Jet lag is thoroughly kicking my single and fabulous bum this evening, dear readers, but I wanted to finish out the vacation trilogy so that I can begin to return to our regularly scheduled programming.  Plus, I suppose going to sleep at 8:20 pm wouldn’t help me get over the jet lag, would it?

So after my whirlwind tour of London, RL and I set out for Paris by train.  I highly recommend that way of getting from London to Paris or vice versa – it only costs about $100 if you buy ahead (it might have been even cheaper but I procrastinated) and took less than 2 1/2 hours and was a pleasant journey.  Our arrival in Paris was somewhat less than smooth.  We needed to buy Metro tickets to get to our hotel (way cheaper than taxi), but the ticket machine only took Euro coins (not bills) or credit cards.  We didn’t have any coins, and our credit cards didn’t work, and the ticket window with a live human was closed (it was about 9 pm), and the currency exchange place wouldn’t give us change.  I ended up having to hit up the ATM for Euro bills, then ask a woman at the bakery to take pity on me and give me change, so it worked out, but only after we’d shlepped around the train station for a good 20 minutes.

Other than that sorry welcome, I adored Paris as always.  The last time I was there, when I studied abroad in Madrid and spent a weekend there, it was a week before Christmas and was bitterly cold (but still beautiful).  I recall being up on the Eiffel Tower and hearing my teeth literally chattering.  But this time around, the weather was perfect — sunny and breezy and lovely.

The first night we were exhausted so we just shared a pizza and some wine at a local restaurant and hit the sack early.  The next day, we set out to explore Paris.  First up was the important task of finding breakfast, and we both had our little hearts set on crepes.  We walked around our neighborhood to no avail, including a cool open air market, and ended up walking across to Ile St. Louis, where we first got suckered into sitting down at a tourist trap restaurant.  We fled quickly when we saw that the only crepe on the menu was a dessert crepe for NINE euros!  (Aka, like 12 dollars.  Holy crap.)  We wandered down a nearby side street and were fortunate enough to stumble on a perfect little crepe stand where the crepes were a much more doable 4 euros and they were made up hot and to-go: Nutella and banana for me, cheese and egg for RL.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Satisfied by our meal, we then strolled over to Notre Dame:

We then walked along checking out the various bridges.  Once it got to be lunchtime, we decided that we were going to do it up right and get our own little picnic.  We hit up a wine store, a cheese shop, a bakery, and a fruit stand and ended up with this:

 

 

First we sat on a nice grass lawn, but before we could even open the wine bottle, the police swooped down on us and tsk-tsked that we couldn’t drink in that particular area.  To add insult to injury, they looked at our bottle of wine and laughed at us!  (Ok, so it cost 3 Euro, but it was a 2003 Bordeaux and it tasted good to me – not like that says much…)  We relocated to a bench but we dubbed them the “wine police” and we kept seeing them throughout the afternoon:

I will elaborate more on this in another post because it will take longer to explain adequately, but in my time in Paris I was just loving the language and the city and the ambience and I told RL that my biggest regret in college was that even though I studied French, I never studied in France so I never really got comfortable with it or good at it.  I told her that I would love to live in Paris for a year and get fluent in French so I could be trilingual (I also speak Spanish).  And I said that if I were to do something like that, the time would be right now, before I have anything else tying me down.

And since I got back I have been researching what it would take to make this kind of leap.  It is daunting and seems very challenging, but not impossible.  Since I believe that where there is a will, there’s a way, I have all my feelers out, and we’ll see what happens!  It’s fun to keep my mind and heart open to these exciting possibilities, and to think about returning to something that I loved so many years ago and let fall by the wayside.

But I digress.  That night after walking all over and picnicking, RL and I met up for dinner with her friend S.  He is French but he lived in San Francisco for a while a few years ago, and they were roommates for a year.  He turned out to be a great guy – and yes, the very same fetching French boy I mentioned a couple of posts ago.  He was a little bit shy at first, but sweet and funny and cute and of course, the accent is absolutely adorable.  He sort of has a Penn Badgley look about him.  He took us to a traditional French brasserie and he and I shared a giant steak and fries – delicious!  We had a good time talking and laughing – luckily his English is amazingly good, because my French is embarrassing at this point.  We hung out with him two nights in a row, but I hate to disappoint my readers that it never became more than platonic.  (Nope – I didn’t smooch a single European man.  Sorry, all!)  There was a definite vibe between us, but as I said, he is shy and plus, RL was there the whole time so it wasn’t exactly conducive to makeout time.  The second night he showed us his apartment, and it was a tiny place (makes some studio apts i’ve seen in Hollywood look large by comparison) but it also had the most gorgeous view I’ve ever seen — a 180 degree view of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower.  So anyway, we said our goodbyes and he had asked for my info, so I gave him my card, and he told me that if I ever came back to Paris he would show me more of the city and other parts of France.  Yesterday he wrote me a totally cute email, saying that he had a really good time hanging out with RL and me, and that my visit was too short.

Wouldn’t it figure that this happens with a guy who lives on a different continent?  Oh well – I guess there is no harm in crushing, is there?

I will leave you, dear readers, with a couple more photos – can’t go to Paris without seeing these, after all.

Au revoir until next time!

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Vacation Recap Part Two: London

So I left off my story, dear readers, in the gorgeous Lakes District with M.’s wedding celebration.  On Monday, we had to check out of the house, so the party was officially over and we had to each go our separate ways.  We had lots of goodbyes, lots of hugs and well wishing and exchanging of email addresses.  And then I was off to London!

In London I stayed with RL, my roommate from freshman year of college who I had been dear friends with throughout college but had fallen out of touch with a few years ago, for no reason other than laziness.  Last I saw her, she was living in San Francisco.  So I was plenty surprised when earlier this year I found her on Facebook and discovered she was living in London!  It worked out perfectly and it was great to see her.  She’s one of those people who I can always pick up with as though no time had passed.

She met me at the train station and we chatted as we walked along.  I knew vaguely from what she had told me that she was living with two guys, but I didn’t know much more than that.  It wasn’t till I got there that she revealed one of the guys was her boyfriend.  And better yet, they had been roomies for more than 9 mos before starting to date.  Craziness!  Things became more than a bit awkward because as soon as we arrived, they went in the other room and started having a heated argument.  About?  None other than the fact that he refuses to put “in a relationship” on Facebook.  Just another reason that Facebook, despite its awesomeness in rekindling old friendships, can be the devil, my friends!  (Btw, I have to take her side on this one.  He kept saying “it’s childish.”  Well, I can understand not being on board with Facebook to begin with, but if you’re in, you’re in.  Don’t be all Shady McShaderson about it.)  Anyway, the BF didn’t come out to dinner with us either night, so we ended up speaking all of 5 sentences to each other that left me underwhelmed.  But on to other things.

The day after I arrived, RL had to work a full day, so I headed out to explore the city by myself, armed with my camera and my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook (a tourist?  who, moi?)  I had a lovely walk all along the South Bank of the Thames from across the river from Westminster Abbey to Tower Bridge.  I went to the Tate and saw an exhibit on surrealist art, which I loved.  I also checked out Piccadilly, St James Park, Buckingham Palace (from the outside) and Trafalgar Square.  All in all, I was totally enchanted by London– such a vibrant city, fantastic architecture, so much history.  Here are a few photos:

That night, RL and I met up to go out for some (much-anticipated) curry.  She took me to a street in London that is famous for its many Indian restaurants.  She told me as we were walking from the tube that the many restaurant guys would try to convince us to eat there, and that we should look for whoever gave us the best deal.

The guy in the doorway of the very 1st restaurant told us he would give us 25% off, and make us free drinks.  Tempting, except that there was not a soul in the place!  Um..yeah.  Moving on.  But just as we moved on down the road, the heavens opened up and started pouring buckets down on us.  We were half soaked before we even got the umbrella open!  At the next place, the guy offered 10% off.  RL, ever the bargain hunter, told him we had gotten a 25% offer at the other place.  He was dismissive and not too eager to earn our business.  As we were turning away, another guy came out from the same restaurant to play “good cop.”  “I’ll give you 20% off, but don’t tell my friend there,” he said conspiratorially.  We were wet and starving, so we shrugged and decided to eat there.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, we got our food and chowed down.  (The food was definitely good, but not better than what I have had in LA.  Oh well!)  We only managed to eat about half of it, so we politely asked the “bad cop” for a takeaway box.

“We don’t do takeaway,” he said rudely.  “Just finish your food here.”

RL and I were stunned by this.  First of all, who doesn’t do takeaway?  Second of all, we had just seen  someone pick up a takeaway order.  So we waited until bad cop went out for a smoke and asked good cop for a takeaway box and the check.  Sure enough, we were soon leaving with our leftovers, which we couldn’t help but wave in front of bad cop’s face as we left.  Score!

We didn’t really check out London’s nightlife because RL was tired from work both nights (and, I suspect, wanted to finish the Facebook battle before we left for Paris — but didn’t).   So, no smooching of any Brits to report.  But overall, I loved the city, only with the exception of the rude Indian restaurant guy and the small matter of the dollar being so weak I could cry.

Next, on to Paris on the Eurostar!  But seeing as how it is 2:30 am and I need to actually make an effort to fight my jetlag (I went to bed at 9:30 and woke up at 1:30) it will have to wait till tomorrow!  Part Trois coming up…

Vacation Recap Part I – Lakes District

Hello my dear readers!  I arrived back home yesterday night and am fairly jetlagged, but not as bad as I have been in the past – I swear I recall, when coming back from studying abroad in Madrid in college (eight years ago!  scary), crawling into my bed at my parents’ house and sleeping for a week.  So this feels like a piece of cake.   And it was such a fabulous trip, it was totally worth it!  I took about 300 photos on my trip, but I’ll just choose the highlights for you.  Also, (surprise surprise), I brought my little journal with me but I only wrote in it while waiting in London-Heathrow on the way there and the way back.  Oops.

Anyway, it really was the perfect trip.  I began my trip in the Lakes District of England — Keswick, to be exact — for my best friend M.’s wedding celebration.  Anyone who is a fan of hiking nd other outdoorsy pursuits (and doesn’t mind rainy weather) should plan a trip there immediately.  It is so gorgeous and lush and green, and the towns are darling and cobblestone-street-filled.  I was so inspired by the scenery, and by my desire to both see as much of M. as I could and to make the most of my vacation that I went hiking 3 days in a row, and despite some huffing and puffing on my part (which has now made me resolve to get in shape again), I really enjoyed it. 

Here are some photos from the first hike:

It was the only truly sunny day of my stay in Keswick, and it was perfect temperature on the trail.  There was one setback, however — the hiking boots I borrowed from a friend waited until we were 2 – 2 1/2 hours into the hike, then the soles began to just peel off!!  We were about 2/5 of the way through the hike, so we turned back, but not before we created the following temporary fix out of the wrist straps for our walking poles, some string we found lying around, and some athletic tape:

And I made it back down the mountain in one piece – though the hiking boots ended up in the rubbish bin and I switched to M.’s trail runners for the rest of the weekend – luckily we wear the same size!

The day after that first hike it was pouring rain, and that was the day of the mountaintop ring exchange.  We all trekked up there in full rain gear (which I had to borrow — I think I had been overly optimistic about the weather when I packed!).  Despite the weather, it couldn’t have been more perfect.  M.’s husband, CC, gave a really heartwarming (and tear-inducing) speech about how much he loves her and how he wanted a chance to declare his love in front of their friends and family.  We were all there, huddled in the rain, watching my dearest friend and her husband, two people who are so in love — it was beautiful. 

Later that evening, we changed into our party clothes and got down to the business of eating and drinking.  M.’s brother is now a chef, so he cooked up a fabulous meal — salmon, sundried tomato risotto and salad, followed by chai tea creme brulee:

And of course, wedding cake — Irish fruitcake homemade by the groom’s mom:

The rest of the night was mellow, caused by food/wine/champagne induced coma!

All in all, it’s hard to convey just what a wonderful few days it was: such a great group of people, such a wonderful celebration, so much joy and laughter.

More on London and Paris, including photos, in upcoming posts.  Stay tuned for tales of a fetching French boy and some restaurant misadventures with my friend RL!

So Much to Say

Open up my head and let me out…

I have a lot I could blog about but I haven’t had the time or energy in between my adventures to do so, and so…it will just have to wait until I return!  That’s right, in a few short hours I will be whisked by car down to LAX and will be flying across the pond to touch down in lovely England.  I can’t wait!!!  I think this is the ideal time for me to be getting out of the city, out of my everyday life, and off to do some adventuring.  I will do my best to photo-document it (better than Vegas, anyway)!

First up, Keswick (in the Lake District) for my friend M’s wedding celebration, where I will be staying in this quaint house.  Then to London, then Paris.   Squeeaaaall!!!  I would be even more excited if I wasn’t so sleep deprived.  I hope I can sleep on the flight tonight…

I somehow managed to pack all my stuff into the large backpack on wheels (though I had to omit some of the clothes I wanted to bring to make way for the hiking boots.  Oh well.  🙂 )  I then had a comedy of errors this morning trying to wrangle poor Noodles into the cat carrier to take him to the vet where he will be boarded.  At one point I was on my stomach on my bedroom floor, in my work clothes, trying to coax him from under the bed with my shoe (he has a bit of a shoe/foot fetish).  When that didn’t work, I was forced to resort to his nemesis, the vacuum, which always scares the bejesus out of him. Sure enough, the instant I turned it on, he went peeling out from under the bed where I was able to tackle him with a blanket and shove him into the carrier.

….Whew.

And now, just tying up a few loose ends at work before I head home to do the final packing (aka, zipping the suitcase).  Have a great couple of weeks, dear readers, and I promise some big ol’ posts when I get back!

xoxo, SF

Vegas, Baby, Vegas

It’s Sunday night and I am completely exhausted but also sort of wired.  This weekend was tons of fun, but you know the old saying about Vegas so I can’t disclose too much.  Mostly, it was just really great to spend the weekend with my college girlfriends.  These days, with us all spread out in different places (LA, Orange County and Boston), the times that we can be together for almost 48 consecutive hours are few and far between.  They are such fun girls and we always have a blast and laugh a lot together.  It made me think that I really want to have a weekend like that with my law school girlfriends — we are now spread out in LA, San Diego and Ohio, and even the LA girls I don’t see as often as I’d like because we are all so busy.  My friend T. is the next in line to get married, next June, so I guess we’ll have to wait for her bachelorette party to get our next turn at Vegas!

As it turns out, since I have been to Vegas so many times I ended up not taking any real photos of the “scenery” in favor of lots of people photos.  Of course I must preserve the anonymity of this blog, but here is our group, edited to protect identities.  (I am 3rd from the left):

And in less than 48 hours I am off for my next adventure!  I had better get to sleep since I am running on fumes, but more later…

In the meantime, I have a killer tension headache.  Anyone want to give me a neck massage?

Getting Away

In a few hours, I will be flying out of L.A. and touching down here:

There has never been a better time for me to get away, let loose and just have a really fun, relaxing time with my girlfriends.  Here are some of the things we will be doing:

Pigging out – luckily these girls like a good buffet just as much as I do!

The world’s best raspberry martini, at Caramel at the Bellagio.

Vegging by the pool and working on evening out the funky tan I acquired last weekend.  (Note to self, the bikini-with-a-tiny-skirt is not so good for sunning unless you enjoy the tiny-skirt line.)

Playing this game – yes, the groom is a fireman!

Going dancing – it’s been way too long!

I will be taking my brand new camera with me and be acting as the official paparazzo, so I will share real photos with you when I get back.  Happy weekend, everyone!

Countdown to vacation!

In a mere 5 days, I will be in Las Vegas with some of my favorite people in the world, celebrating the last days of bachelorette-hood of my friend S.  And in a mere 9 days, I will be on a Virgin Atlantic flight en route to London!!!!  I will be attending the wedding celebration festivities of my oldest friend M. (we have been BFFs since we were 7) and then seeing my college roommate who lives in London.  I can’t wait!!!

Two things need to happen before then, though.

First, I need to figure out what in the world I am going to pack!!  Vegas is easy — cute going-out outfits, my new bikini (yes, I bought the Jcrew one and it is cute!), check and check.  But for the Europe trip I am totally baffled.  I will be gone for 12 days.  I will be visiting Keswick (Lake District, England), London, and Paris.  I will be doing all of the following: kayaking/canoeing; hiking (M. and her hubby are doing the ring exchange atop a mountain – more on that later); attending a fancy wedding dinner party; traveling by plane and train; sightseeing all over London and Paris; and hopefully enjoying some London/Paris nightlife.  The only things so far that I know I am bringing are hiking boots, my new digital camera, and my dress for M.’s wedding celebration:

(By the way, obtaining this dress was no easy feat.  I went to many stores — Nordstrom, Macy’s, BCBG, etc, and endured one very pushy gay salesman at BCBG who wanted to dress me in something that looked straight out of Star Trek, before finally discovering this dress at Ann Taylor.)

Anyway, I want to make sure I have everything I need for my trip, but I also want to bring the smallest suitcase possible so it’s not too rough on all the trains I’ll be taking.  Therefore, I don’t have the luxury of bringing my entire closet or shoe collection.  And I am very indecisive.  And the hiking boots will take up 1/2 the suitcase.  Gah!  Help!

The second and even more troubling thing that needs to happen is that my knee needs to heal.   I really can’t explain what happened, but during my Friday night barhopping adventure, my knee started to hurt.  I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but when I awoke yesterday I found that I was still hobbling and limping around and my knee felt like I had twisted it.  I have spent the remainder of the weekend, when I am home, intermittently icing and elevating the knee.  (That frozen Kung Pao Chicken meal from Trader Joe’s is really coming in handy.)  Today it feels a bit better, and in any other week I wouldn’t really care, because I’m sure it will heal relatively soon.  But I am going to (hopefully!) be doing lots of walking/hiking over the next 2 1/2 weeks, and I can’t afford to be impaired in any way.  Especially since I am not exaggerating when I say that I am one of the least athletic people I know, so I am already worried about keeping up with everyone while hiking in England.  (Note – the hiking boots are borrowed bc I don’t own any myself!)**  Oy.  And I can’t miss the ring exchange, so even if it hurts I WILL be hobbling up that mountain.

Okay, when I say that “out loud” it doesn’t sound like the smartest idea.  We’ll see…

**It has been suggested by a matchmaking fellow blogger that GeekHiker and I should go out.  To which I have to respond that GeekHiker clearly needs a girl who, you know, likes to hike.  🙂