Friday, July 31, 2015

7 Things That Define My Summer 2015

During my college days, I used to work at a summer camp in Texas. For the record, it's probably my favorite job I've ever had or ever will have. Is that sad? Maybe, but honestly, there is nothing quite like the work I did at camp. I just loved facilitating groups of kids, counseling staff members, being intensely tanned and covered in chigger bites. I loved letting thirteen-year-old girls know that it's okay to be weird, or pimpled, or bookish, or to go swimming while you're on your period. I loved working alongside the best people in the world and regularly making a fool of myself to the delight of children.

See? Sheer delight on these kids' faces.
For most of my life, camp was summer. Especially during those four years that I was on staff, that place and those people were my definitive picture of summer each year. It quickly became my favorite season.

But you can't be a camp counselor forever (wait, but can you?), and when I left Texas three years ago, suddenly I started having these completely different summer experiences. Summer 2012 was all about getting my feet wet in NYC. When I think back to that year, I think of hot dogs at Grey's Papaya, trips to Coney Island, and lots of job interviews. Summer 2013 was improv classes, block parties, and Prospect Park. And last year, my summer was defined by writing deadlines, beach days, and rooftop drinks.

Now that this summer is well underway (and almost over, what?!), I can definitely spot some reoccurring themes over the last few months. Here are the things that define this summer for me:

1. Big Brother

Is anyone else watching this show?! Because if so, we should talk. This is the first season I've ever watched after YEARS of avoiding it. If you've never seen Big Brother and you're totally unfamiliar with the trope of this kind of summer reality programming, the basic idea is that 16 people live in a house for 90 days, compete in competitions, and vote each other out until one person is left standing. And while I'm typically not a fan of shows in which a bunch of sexy people live in a house together (hence my initial avoidance), I have been struck by how much actual strategy exists in Big Brother.

Like, no joke, I fantasize about playing this game, guys. That being said, here is my new life plan: I go on Big Brother, lay low for the first 30 days, build a really strong alliance called like #HottiesWithBodies, betray my alliance and ultimately win. My husband, Daniel, goes on Survivor and does the same thing. Then, we play as a team on The Amazing Race, we of course win, and together we receive the reality competition triple crown. I mean, it's a fool proof plan, right? So if anyone knows anyone at CBS, be sure to give them my number.

2. Ramen

Guys, I've been eating ramen like it's my job. I'm not talking cup-o-noodles. I'm talking legit fancy ass ramen from the best ramen shops in NYC. It's the food of my summer. In fact, the above picture was taken by my waitress at a restaurant called Ramen Ya. It was posted to their Instagram account, which by the way, if you ever want to know if you have a ramen problem, being Instagrammed by a reputable ramen restaurant is a good way to find out. At least she didn't include the following hashtags in her description: #eatingalone #sadwoman #ramenaddiction #pleasehelpher

3. Berg'n


This has become my favorite summer haunt. Berg'n is a beer hall in Crown Heights with lots of unique food and really cold air conditioning. I played trivia there the other night with some friends under the team name "Titty Titty Bang Bang" and while we definitely did not win, I'd like to think we came in 1st in Immaturity.

4. Family

My mom, dad, and five-year-old niece came into town, and it was legitimately one of my favorite visits ever. It was the first time I've ever really been able to see this city through the eyes of a child. The above picture is my niece throwing herself into the water at the beach at Coney Island. I wish I could love anything as much as she loves flailing around in the ocean.

5. This crop top

This is my summer outfit. I wear it basically every other day. All hail the small sliver of skin that is my midriff.

6. Being a nerd

I've been up to some nerdy stuff lately, guys. I mean, besides playing trivia and obsessing over Big Brother, that is. Specifically, I've been to not one but TWO live podcast events in the last month. I know, Nerd City over here. Having taken a survey of the people who read this blog, I know that most of my readers don't even listen to podcasts, so it's likely that you don't super care about these events I went to, but whatever, I'm going to tell you anyway.

The first was a live performance from The Gilmore Guys, which if you aren't listening to the Gilmore Guys podcast, you should probably get on that. It's exactly what it sounds like: just two guys gabbing about Gilmore Girls, and as I'm sure you can imagine, it's everything. The second podcast event I attended was called Cast Party. It was a night featuring live performances by some of my favorite podcast superstars, the hosts of Reply All, Invisibilia, With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus, The Truth, and Radio Lab. Again, I know you don't care, but there you have it.

7. Goodbyes

This picture was actually taken last summer, but whatever, you get the idea -- I like these people.

This last week, I said goodbye to one of my very dearest friends, Clint, who is moving to LA because he's a crazy talented musician and that's where crazy talented musicians go, I guess. Actually, this month, I'll be saying goodbye to a few more close friends, and it's honestly a strange feeling. We twenty-somethings are a transient group of people, so I'm certainly no stranger to having to bid adieu to friends in this city. But this particular season of friends moving has left me questioning what the remainder of my NYC journey looks like.

Daniel and I have never been people with a five-year-plan. We've always said that when we're ready to leave, we'll know. While I'm not feeling the push to get out of New York any time soon, I have to admit that I'm a little curious what the next step will be. Seeing my friends step out into new adventures in new cities has me wondering what our next new adventure is going to look like. Will it be a career shift? Will there be a baby involved? (AAAHHH!) I don't know, but in the meantime, we'll just keep on crushing it in the best city in the world.

What are the things that define your summer?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Best Deals I Found On Amazon Prime Day

I spent a good part of yesterday in a state of temporary insanity. Probably the best evidence of this fact is a series of about a gagillion text messages I sent to my husband even though I knew for certain he was in a meeting. Here are just a few of them:

Are we the kind of people who could use a record player that looks like a briefcase? Yes, right?

Daniel! Daniel! Daniel! A memory foam mattress for JUST $300!!!

Do we need moscow mule mugs? There isn't much time! THE CLOCK IS TICKING!

The reason behind my momentary madness stemmed from the fact that yesterday marked the much-anticipated Amazon Prime Day. Surely, you've already heard all about this historic day. It was the 24-hour sale put on by the folks at in celebration of their 20 year anniversary. In the weeks leading up to it, it was rumored that this sale would be so big, with savings so astronomical that it would rival -- nay -- obliterate any of their Black Friday deals. The confidence and bravado with which Amazon hyped up this event sent savvy shoppers such as myself into a wild frenzy of speculation. What would be on sale? How low would these prices actually be? The world began anticipating this day as though it were the second coming of Christ, or at the very least, a grand opening of a Chick fil A.

But come the day of this momentous sale, many were left with shattered expectations. By now you've certainly seen all of the #PrimeDayFail posts on Twitter and you've read the corresponding Buzzfeed listicles that detailed the general sense of consumer dissatisfaction. By and large, shoppers were less than impressed by what Amazon had to offer. Many likened Prime Day to the clearance shelf at a Ross Dress For Less.

But personally, I think that's a little unfair. I mean, first off, what were you expecting? It's AMAZON, the same place where you can buy chairs shaped like high-heeled shoes and 113 different varieties of bubba teeth. They have never once claimed to be the tastemakers of this great nation.

Second, friends, don't pretend like you didn't buy shit on Prime Day because you SO did. Someone had to because how else do you explain the fact that I was waitlisted for two garment steamers and a neti pot?!

And third, I'm just not sure I agree with the premise that Amazon was only selling a bunch of junk yesterday. I actually found a lot of useful items. For instance, here are some of the best deals I found during my Amazon Prime Day shopping spree:

1. This incredibly necessary crystal ball:

For when you enroll in Professor Trelawney's Divination class. Duh. 

2. This pizza oven which makes the impossible possible:

Pizza? Made in the great outdoors? AND IT'S PORTABLE? I'll take 12!

3. This educational program that DEFINITELY doesn't not work:

If I'd had this eight years ago, I wouldn't have wasted literally thousands of dollars studying Vocal Performance at the Baylor School of Music. 

4. This Public Service Announcement of a t-shirt:

Even though the title of this listing and the actual slogan of the shirt don't seem to agree, I still sympathize with this intensely muscled creature for his inability to keep his clothing intact. Must be rough.

5. This fulfillment of all of my childhood dreams:

I mean, seriously! It only costs $400 to live out every ambition of my eight-year-old self (and by every ambition, I mean only ambition because, as far as I was concerned at that age, owning a personal snow cone machine was the definitive definition of success).

6. Whatever the hell this is:

This purchase probably made someone extremely happy. Not sure who exactly, but still, I'm sure they were jazzed.

7. This sexy lingerie:

For whatever reason, I feel like I saw this image roughly 900 times while sifting through Amazon's Prime Day lightning deals. Not sure why it was never 100% claimed, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that these bras look like they have been worn by 10,000 different women to the point that they resemble the deflated skins of a twice baked potato. But still, $17, what a steal!

8. These exact replicas of the cast of Twilight:

The designers of these dolls perfectly captured Kristen Stewart's coiffed hair, classic pencil skirt ensemble, and trademark ear-to-ear smile. 

9. This claustrophobic death trap: 

Because $800 is a small price to pay when it comes to sitting in a hot, tiny sweatbox with someone you love.

10. This perfectly marketed set of tube tops:

I can tell that these tube tops come in a pack of 2 because they are being modeled by twins. How else would I have known? HOW?!

11. This majestic work of art:

No joke: I am kicking myself for not buying this. I genuinely think it's amazing. 

12. This tantalizing night gown:

For those inevitable times in life when you need to dress up as a ghost or Ophelia in Act IV of Hamlet.

13: This cup of urine: 

JK. It's just a cup. The urine is sold separately.

So there you have it, folks. In my book, Amazon Prime Day was a total success and absolutely DID NOT cause me to waste 4 hours of my life that I will never get back.

Did you score any Prime Day deals? Tell me all about it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I've Found My Name-Song

While I'm happy for him, I have to admit, I've always been jealous of the fact that Elton John wrote a song about my husband, Daniel. And you know what, while we're making confessions here, I've got to say I've often felt a slight tinge of envy over the fact that Bob Dylan composed a seven-minute ballad for my sister, Johanna. Even my college roommate, Kelsey, had a band called Metro Station singing her praises on the radio a few years back.

And look, while in reality I understand that these songs weren't actually written in honor of these people I know, I still can't help but think of them every time I hear their corresponding name-songs.

♫ Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane.... ♫

♫ These visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn... ♫

♫ I'd swim the ocean for you, oh, Kelsey... ♫

I've heard somewhere that everyone's favorite word is their own name, and if that narcissistic factoid is true, it explains why I got so excited when I found out that there is a song out there called "Christy". Before this, the closest I'd ever come to the whole "this song is about me!" front is probably Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl." But let's be honest, isn't that song basically about all of us? I mean, if over half of the population has brown eyes, and half of the population is made up of women, doesn't that mean that the description applies to roughly a quarter of the entire world's population? (Is that how math works?)

Anyway, as of this week, it seems as though my luck has changed in the name-song department. My sister, Johanna (the one Bob Dylan was having all of those visions about) introduced me to a track by Natalie Prass called "Christy", and folks, it's perfect. It's this hauntingly beautiful melody set to baroque, orchestral sounds, and well, I'm just in love with it. And it's not because it has my name in it (but guys, it totally has my name in it).

Take a listen:

♫ Christy, a name that isn't too short or too sweet...

♫ There's a shadow of a smile in your eyes, Christy...♫ 

If you pay close attention, you'll note that the Christy that Prass is singing about here exactly an awesome person. It's kind of like a Jolene situation -- you know, the one where Dolly Parton pleads with a woman named Jolene: "I'm begging you, please don't take my man." (Damn, I love that song so much).

But while that characterization is not necessarily on-brand for me, I still dig my new name-song. After listening to and falling in love with it, I wanted to see if there were by chance any other Christy songs out there that I'd missed. And oh my, YouTube delivered.

♫ Christy, yeah, she's gonna break your heart again♫ 

Apparently, Christy is a name that is associated with heartbreak. Who knew? But anyway, this poppy, punky anthem from 2001 is by a group called Tina & The Total Babes, which...hang on...IS THAT NOT THE BEST BAND NAME EVER? I Wikipedia'd them and it turns out they ultimately changed their name to Trashwomen, which in my opinion, is a total downgrade, but whatever. I still dig this song. The Christy in this tune is less of a seductress with ill-intent and more of a bad ass lady who doesn't trust men, applies red lipstick at midnight, and is "too cool to care" about her torn stockings. Plus, it seems she's also a total Hottie McHotHot, so of course, this song gets my stamp of approval.

I'm sure there are other songs out there called "Christy", but as you can see, I'm quite satisfied with the ones I've got right here. I'll probably play them while giving myself positive affirmations in the mirror each morning. Kidding, I don't do that (but if I did, it would probably look a lot like this).

And since I found my name-songs, I figured I might as well pay it forward. Here's all of the songs that I can think of off the top of my head that invoke a woman's name, so if any of these apply to you, you're welcome:

If your name is April... try April by Simon & Garfunkel.

If your name is Amanda... try Amanda by Boston.

If your name is Julia... try Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard by Simon & Garfunkel, and just pretend he's just mispronouncing your name.

If your name is Maria... try Maria from West Side Story, OR if you're feeling a bit down on yourself, try How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? from The Sound of Music. Or I guess you could try Ave Maria, but you know, don't be weird.

If your name is Beyoncé...try Yonce by Queen Bey.

If your name is Monica, Erica, Rita, Tina, Sandra, Mary, Jessica, Angela, or Pamela...obviously you should try Mambo Number 5 by Lou Bega, and then you can proceed to curse the day that you ever heard that song because it's the worst and it stays in your head forever.

Meh, I've run out of steam on this charitable endeavor. Sorry about that. But still, I'm dying to know...

What's your name-song?

Friday, June 19, 2015

How to Use Airbnb Like A Pro

If you frequent this blog, you may know that I have a well-documented love for Airbnb. Through this wondrous network of home-away-from-homes, I've been able to snuggle up in cabins in upstate New York, attend Alt Summit without having to share a room with five other women, and even find affordable accommodations for my recent trip to Europe. I've also regularly used Airbnb for when I have visitors here in NYC because, for some reason, my parents don't want to sleep on my IKEA sectional couch (I mean, seriously, what's that about?).

If you ask me, Airbnb is the best way to go when it comes to finding the right place to stay. It's cheaper, it's homier, the hosts are wonderful, and it's just a convenient, solid system for making travel easier. I use it so regularly that I actually can't remember the last time I stayed in a hotel.

That being said, since I've been around the Airbnb block a few times, I thought I'd share with you today some of my tips and tricks for booking the best possible experience. Let's do this.

Know what you want

Do you want the whole place to yourself? Is it important for you to have a washer/dryer? Would you like to stay in a treehouse or a riverboat? If you have specific requests, Airbnb does a good job of helping you sort out the listings that just aren't going to work for you. After entering in your dates and location, you can always choose the More Filters option. From there, you can click through a series of checkboxes or even plug in a keyword (e.g. king size bed, beachfront, movie theater on site). Pro tip: If you are traveling somewhere woodsy, wifi is not a given, so filter your search to make sure that you don't end up in a cabin somewhere without any access to Orange Is The New Black.

Don't dismiss private rooms

In terms of room type, you probably know that you have three options to choose from: Entire Place (you get the whole kit-n-kaboodle to yourself), Private Room (you stay in a room where your host will be on site), and Shared Room (you share a room with another human being). As a certified introvert, I always swore that I would never choose any option besides Entire Place. I just didn't like the idea of someone else being around while I hung out in their digs. But while booking a trip to Salt Lake City, I noticed that there were a lot of private rooms available for crazy cheap (like $30 a night) that looked really great. I booked one, and man oh man, it was fabulous. My host was a dream. She didn't ask overly personal questions, walk in on me in the bathroom, or hover over my bed a la The Exorcist. She just chilled and answered my questions whenever I had them. I had a private entrance, so it was basically like staying in a hotel room, only super cheap and actually much nicer. All of that to say: even if you're a total loner, a private room might still be a good deal for you.

Read the fine print

Some hosts go to great lengths to describe their listing. Some don't. I often steer clear of the ones that don't because I like to be well-informed of what I'm getting into. But I also look for certain red flags, too. For instance, when a host says, "We LOVE making new friends and we hope you will take some time during your visit to sit down with us, have a scone, and tell us your story" -- that's a big ole NOPE for me. If you're into that sort of thing, go for it, but for me, that's just not my bag. Instead, I look for a host that says, "We enjoy hosting our guests, and while we are always available to answer questions, our aim is to respect your privacy." Sign me up for that. Also, be aware of their cancelation policy or if they have weird house rules (A curfew? Am I 17?).

If your dates are flexible, be flexible

Just like a hotel, Airbnb listings often have a high and a low season, so rates are subject to change depending on the month or even the day of the week. Take a look at the calendar on listings to see the availability and cost of each day. You know, be smart.

Read reviews

Reviews are at the heart of what makes Airbnb great. For one, they hold hosts and guests accountable. Knowing that you are subject to a review process makes you far more likely to be on your best behavior. But for another, they give great insight into what's really going on. A host description could be like, "I have the best house in the world. Two bedrooms. Two bathrooms. Close to shops. No ghosts or ghouls of any kind, I swear" but then you read the reviews and they are like, "The toilet was broken the entire time I was there, and dude, there were SO. MANY. GHOSTS. If that's an issue for you, don't stay here." (For the record, this is just an example, but man, I kind of wish it were real). Take interest in what a host says about their place, but put your trust in reviews.

Introduce yourself

When you've found a place you love, reach out to the host to say "hello" and make sure they have availability. Be nice, complementary, say what your travels plans are, use proper grammar -- just be a decent human being. Many hosts run their Airbnb listing as a business, but at the same time, they are also welcoming perfect strangers into their home which can be a vulnerable position to be in. Put their mind at ease by showing them you are a considerate person, and you will be far more likely to be approved.

Be a superstar guest

Hosts aren't the only ones who receive a review on Airbnb. Guests do too. Think about that before you clog someone's toilet or crank Metallica at 3 AM. In my most recent experience, my hosts only approved people with one or more reviews, and they said they were most impressed with the ones I had received. Not to brag, but I'm kind of the perfect guest. I tidy up, I say please and thank you, I don't scream in my sleep. I basically just act like a decent human being and all seems to go fairly well. Do the same thing and hosts will be far more likely to trust you to take care of their homes.

Have you used Airbnb? What are some of your tips for having the best possible experience?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

It's Been Three Years

Three years ago, my husband and I arrived in New York City, our Ford Focus packed and overflowing with things that only very young married couples own – plastic drawers from The Container Store, old camp T-shirts, a Swiffer Wet Jet. Since we only had one month to prepare for our move, we were starting off our New York life in a unique living situation. The plan was to sublease an apartment for the summer while the owner was away at a yoga retreat, and in exchange for caring for her three cats, we would pay a reduced rent of $1,000. It was the best deal we could find by a mile.

However, that day as we circled the block looking for a parking spot in Ditmas Park, our new Brooklyn neighborhood, I remember feeling a deep sense of uneasiness. What if this was all some sort of scam? What if we got to the apartment and no one was there to greet us? What if there was no apartment at all? Or worse, what if there was an apartment but inside it lived an ax murderer waiting to chop us to bits and steal our Swiffer Wet Jet refills? Maybe we had been too hasty in deciding to sign on to a Craigslist sublease. Maybe we had been too hasty in deciding to move at all.

But as we walked into what would be our new home for the next three months, my fears subsided. The apartment was real and as far I could tell there was not a murderer in sight. Every inch of the place positively reeked of cat urine. It was a cluttered mess, but it was real. This was going to work, at least for a little while.

As I look back on these past three years, that hoarder’s nest of an apartment stands out as a metaphor for my life here. New York is a place that always feels like a sublease. You can’t quite own it no matter how hard you try. Even though my husband and I have since bought an apartment here in Brooklyn, there is still this sense that it doesn’t quite belong to us. Everything here belongs to history, to the millions of people who have come together over hundreds of years and collectively declared, “Let’s all live on top of each other on this tiny island! Let’s spend way too much money, work way too hard, and get our asses handed to us on an almost daily basis! Let’s deplete our savings accounts, question all of our major life decisions, but still, let’s somehow find beauty in the small threads of hope this city dangles in front of us.” Just like that cat-filled subleased apartment, New York often fills with me anxiety, it smells vaguely of pee, but dammit, it’s home.

Daniel and I in front of our second NY apartment, but just pretend it's our first.

And for better or for worse, this place has changed me, irreversibly so. It’s made me tougher, more vulnerable, more suspicious, more appreciative of small kindnesses. It’s made me a better sharer, a more intent listener, a faster walker. At times, this city has made me radiate positivity and hopefulness. Other times, it’s made me a petulant child crying on the B train. I have been my best and worst self in this place, as in BEST-best and worst-worst-worst-worst.

And I’ve got to say, through it all, despite how Carrie Bradshaw-esque this is of me to say, I’m still in love with this city. After all, it’s the one I chose. In my life, I’ve had three important relationships with cities: my hometown of Helotes, my college town, Waco, and now New York. I look at my hometown as though it were a dear family member whose quirks I cherish and whose cooking makes me feel safe. I look at my college town like I would a friend who makes me laugh hysterically every time I see them. But I look at New York with romance. I see New York as the one I pursued, the one I decided on even though it continually rebuffed my advances. I’m stupidly, crazily in love with this city.

And it’s been that way from the beginning. For proof of this, please enjoy this excerpt taken from my journal the first week I moved here, dated May 28, 2012:

Every day here is like a small battle, but I’m kind of falling in love with it. New York summer is going to be uncomfortable, possibly more so than Texas. I get sticky everywhere I go. My feet are already hideous. Today is the first day I’ve worn eyeliner since I got here. I feel like I am getting tough, and I adore this.

And if that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.

Now, look, folks -- I have no idea what my future here entails. I’ve already told you that, and don’t press the issue any further because I’ll get all sweaty and develop hives on my neck and it won’t look all that dignified. But in the meantime, while I'm unsure of everything, I’m taking this time to look back. It's been three years since I moved to this weird, wonderful town. My life was one thing back then, and now it’s something else, and maybe that’s all I need to know to move forward.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Adventures in London and Paris

This week, I'm back from a beautiful, lengthy, and probably totally undeserved European vacation. Did you miss me? It's cool if you didn't. You had a lot going on, I'm sure.

But in case you happen to care even a little bit, just know that my hubs and I had a crazy good time. It truly was the best trip of my life, unforgettable in so many ways, and yet now that we are back, it feels like it was all a dream. Did we really just spend eleven days drinking wine, eating cheese, and putting our eyeballs on some of the most beautiful architecture and art this world has ever known? Did we really walk over 100 miles across Europe in shoes from Payless? Did we really eat pig's feet and LOVE it?

We really did, folks.

Going into this trip, we really had no expectations because -- and don't be mad at us for this -- we didn't exactly make any plans. Besides booking the sites of our AirBnb residences in London and Paris, we really didn't come in with any sense of what we were going to see. We didn't learn French. We didn't buy a guidebook. We just sort of...winged it.

Wait, sorry, that's not entirely true. We had a lot of helpful suggestions from our friends. Like, A LOT actually. Shout out to Jess, Jo, and Aaron (who made us an interactive MAP! I mean, are you kidding me, bro? Talk about generosity). We basically would have mistakenly wandered into brothels had it not been for you three. Instead, we knowingly wandered into places like this:

But apart from our friend's suggestions, we wanted a sense of spontaneity to our trip. Here's how things went down: we flew into London (Gatwick Airport, to be specific), stayed there for about three days, took a train to Paris, stuck around there for about four days (plus a quick jaunt to Versailles), and then traveled back to London where we stayed for another three days. We lived in AirBnbs, sometimes with hosts, sometimes without. We did some touristy things. We did some less touristy things. We consumed a hearty English breakfast, various cheeses, onion soup, crepes, croissants, baguettes, wine (SO. MUCH. WINE.), beer, tea, fish, chips, curry, crumpets, finger sandwiches -- every expected Parisian/English dish imaginable (along with several unexpected ones). We went to museums, parks, cathedrals, and gardens. We saw famous paintings, landmarks, and places where famous dead people are buried.

Anyway, you get the idea, folks -- we did the damn thing.

And now that it's all over, I'm left with the daunting task of detailing the wild tales of our European adventure. In fact, the first thing one of my friends asked me upon our return was, "Did anything crazy happen to you?"

And the honest answer, and potentially disappointing depending on what you're expecting, is that nothing all that crazy happened to us. Things went smoothly (save for one tense moment upon our arrival at the London Bridge station when we couldn't figure out which train to take and the wind was whipping us around and I wondered if the weather in London was always like this Mars hellscape nightmare and if we would ever make it out alive). Really, we just enjoyed ourselves. And each other. And all of the locals. And ALL of their food.

But while I can't offer you a thrilling account of us scaling the side of the Eiffel Tower with our bare hands or meeting Mr. Bean at a nightclub, what I can provide is categorical observations of things we loved throughout our trip. Think of it as an awards ceremony for our vacation. Here goes:

Most jaw-dropping view (London): Sky Garden

Sky Garden is located at the top of 20 Fenchurch, which sorry London, but that building looks like a giant melting toaster oven. At the top, however, it's absolutely breathtaking. I mean, hello, it's a the sky. But actually, don't get too excited about the garden portion of it. It's basically filled with a bunch of nondescript plants that you could find in any mall in America. BUT the views are seriously top notch. Just magical, really. Thanks to our London-based friend, Jo, who gave us the heads up about this place (aaaand who basically planned the last half of our trip for us)!

Most jaw-dropping view (Paris): Pompidou Center

Of course, the Sacré Coeur, which is clearly visible in this photo taken from Centre Pompidou, also has some insane views. Basically, there are plenty of places to get high in Paris.

Tastiest dish (London): Okra Fries at Dishoom

I haven't been able to get these out of my head, and I WILL have them again.

Tastiest dish (Paris): Quiche at L'Eté en Pente Douce

I didn't take a picture of this because I ate it. Quickly. After walking the steps up to the Sacré-Coeur on our first night in Paris, I was famished, hangry, and ready to eat my own thumb. Then I was served this quiche, and who even knows if it was actually any good, but at the time it was the best thing I'd ever eaten.

Favorite area (London): Shoreditch

When we told our AirBnb host that we were going to spend the day in Shoreditch, she laughed. She said that she typically has two types of guests: people who go to Piccadilly Circus and people who go to Shoreditch. For the uninitiated, Piccadilly Circus could be compared to a place like Times Square and Shoreditch could be compared to some trendy neighborhood like Williamsburg. But man, this place kicked it up a notch, hipness-wise. Every single storefront we passed was just so. damn. cute. We especially loved coming upon the above bookstore on a BOAT!

Favorite area (Paris): St. Martin Canal

This was our hood in Paris, and man, I'm so glad it was. Definitely off-the-beaten path, away from tourists and full of beauty and local flavor. Also, restaurants on boats. I'm finding that I really like when businesses are on boats.

Happiest surprise (London): The availability of prawns

First, a linguistics lesson: in England, they call shrimp "prawns." In retrospect, I have no idea what word they use for our version of prawns. Probably "wigglies" or something similarly whimsical. But anyway, you can straight up buy precooked prawns (or shrimp, AKA my favorite food) as a snack for next to nothing. It's like getting a small container of grapes or celery sticks or crackers only it's SHRIMP, and it's delicious. This was the first thing I ate at Gatwick Airport upon arrival at an establishment reminiscent of a CVS, and my brain basically exploded. I feel like Americans need to get over our unwarranted fears of expired shellfish.

Happiest surprise (Paris): The people

Whenever I've heard people accuse the French of being rude, I have always rolled my eyes. I am of the belief that shitty people and wonderful people exist EVERYWHERE (I've met both wherever I've lived) and that they are not simply relegated to certain areas. That being said, as a person of pride, I must confess that I was a bit worried that my theory wouldn't hold up. Rest assured, though, that the people of France were positively lovely to us. As I fumbled through limited French, no one ever made me feel like a jerk. I received smiles and help whenever I needed it. Lay off the French, guys.

Best overall metro system: Paris

It was hard to go back to the freaking MTA here in NYC after my experience in both Paris and London. But I've got to give it up to Paris for its ease, comfort, and lack of a rush hour.

Best overall goats: These goats just looking for some shade at Luxembourg Gardens

Sorry, London. Paris won this one too.

Best best BEST thing overall: Versailles

I mean, look at that, guys. This place was heaven. I won't even try to dignify the experience of Versailles with fruitless words. Here's more pictures instead:

City I would choose to live in: up...

Probably neither, honestly. I'd miss drip coffee too much. But man, it's fun to dream.

I honestly haven't even begun to scratch the surface here, and perhaps this warrants a future blog post, but you get the picture: we had fun. Copious amounts of fun. And now I'm home, and I just wish I could go to my local deli and pick up some prawns.

Are you dreaming of a big, fat vacation?
Where would you go if you could travel anywhere right now?


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