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?


  1. *heart eye emoji* this entire post! I cannot wait to hear all about it on Wednesday :D

    1. Yes yes! Can't wait to see you! And thanks again for filling in while I was away, you well traveled thing, you.

  2. This is such a cute way to do a travel recap post! Thoroughly entertaining as always and I love the silly photos of you rowing and ummm... gazing? lol ;)

    1. Thanks, Danielle! And HA, looking back on my trip photos, I have no idea what I'm doing in most of the pictures.

  3. Looks like you had a blast!
    And I am almost a tidbit jealous that you can just go there without plans and wing it. I feel I sometimes over plan and we rush through stuff. On the other hand not planning I stand in the middle idol don and don't know what else to do...
    My next big vacation?! USA. Always for me :-) I think east coast or Chicago but then there are so many places... Iceland, Australia, New Zealand ... Ohhh for vacation!
    Looking forward reading more.
    Happy weekend, Tobia

    1. Oh, there are definitely downsides to not planning, don't you worry! Whatever works for you to feel confident on your trip, do it. And by the way, New York would be happy to have you :)

  4. Oh my gosh, I can't begin to tell you how much I love this post. I desperately want to go to England and France, and got a twinge in my heart when I saw your pictures of Versailles (Marie Antoinette is one of my favourite historical figures, so the associations that popped into my mind were quite vivid). I'd also love to go to Australia, as I have a good friend in Sydney and my partner is in Melbourne. All of those places are on the agenda for the next few years :) In the meantime I'll just live vicariously through posts like yours ...

    1. You would LOVE Versailles! I so hope you get to go there. And Melbourne is on my list too!

  5. Aw - looks like you had a lovley time!

    Cant believe I live in England and have never heard of the sky garden! I will never need to go abroad again, discovering new places like this in the UK ;) haha.

    1. Sky Garden was a pro tip from a dear friend of mine who lives in London, but I actually got the sense that most people didn't know about it either! I definitely recommend it. And by the way, I LOVED visiting your country :)

  6. That's how I feel with all my travels, like a dream. Haha! You sure went to a lot of places. My favorite is the Sky Garden. I think that's awesome. I've never really been to Europe, in fact never been outside Asia, but hoping to someday because I want to see the world.

    Stay Wonderful Always,
    Kintsugi of Life

  7. Ahhh. Sounds like you had an amazing trip!! I really want to go one day!

  8. Lol we have drip coffee, we call it filter coffee and it's never on menus ('cos it's cheap and they don't want you to order it) but you just have to ask :-)

    1. Oh man! Well then, there's no reason I should have any trouble moving to London. I miss it so so much. Thanks for the tip :)


Popular Posts