London Calling

Every year we take the kids on vacation the week of my husband Joe’s birthday. We pack our bags in the middle of a warm and muggy July and usually head somewhere even warmer and muggier. We’ve hit every all inclusive you can think of – Mexico, Jamaica, The Dominican. We go, Joe gets his Irish tan on – the kids have the run of the place – and I sit under an umbrella with my burka on – it’s great. 

We decided to do something different this year. The kids will turn 17 and 12 this fall. Gulp. 17 and 12. 17 and 12…sorry. Where was I? 

Anyway we took them on our very own Griswold adventure! It was fantastic. Usually I’m very loosy goosy about planning in my civilian life. At work things are planned out to the minute, so winging it is the order of the day with my family. But not on this trip. We had 2 travel days and 5 short vacation days to fit it all in. It was the Amazing Race of vacations – except no Phil at the markers.

Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye, The Tate Modern Museum and Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards was day one. I think I let them stop to breath a couple of times. We opted not to do a big red tour bus because my husband and I like to ride the local subways in Europe. So we grabbed a few Oyster cards for the Tube and pretended like we knew what we were doing. And for the most part we did – there was the usual  going east when we should have gone west goof up but that was to be expected. I can’t people watch and navigate at the same time now can I? 

The next day was a bit lighter, we ventured out of the city to see the Harry Potter tour at Warner Brother Studios. It was AMAZING. The actual sets, costumes and props used in the films. We geeked out big time (except for my hubby who has only watched about 15 minutes of each movie and then napped through the rest. This is also how he watched the Lord of the Rings series). After that we hit Camden Market, Abbey Road (of course) and the London Bridge. 

In the following days we squeezed in Picadilly Circus, Stonehenge, Bath, Windsor Castle, dinner at the oldest pub on the river Thames (which we now know to pronounce without the H), lunch at the first Hard Rock Cafe ever opened and a couple of good Indian curries. 

I’d give myself a solid B in planning – I would have given myself an A but there were some pretty nice flubs. I didn’t put together that our flight landed at 6am and the flat that we stayed in (we used Air BnB) wouldn’t be ready until 2. So when we showed up we were a bit, actually a lot, unexpected. The owner was gracious and sent over the cleaners to prep early. We waited outside while he cleaned one of the bedrooms and then all four of us, exhausted from the flight, fell asleep on one bed while he cleaned the rest of the place. 

We got up a few hours later, got dressed to hit the town and I immediately locked us out by grabbing the wrong set of keys. I blame jet lag. And Obama.

Then there was the visit to the Tate Modern, which was right next to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater – which I was dying to see. But we turned right instead of left and missed it completely. As the Brits say…bullocks. Or as Homer Simpson says, “doh!”.

But it was all fun. Even the flubs. The kids were troopers – even when we walked for 7 hours straight (and forgot to feed them lunch now and then). My husband earns a prize for the rainy day (the only rain we had all week) in Bath and hearing me talk about how Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth was filmed in the town (omg it’s the Red Lion Inn!). The English country side isn’t exactly what the kids wanted to stare at for a day – but they did it for me. I had to get my Jane Austen on. 

The other big difference between our vacations in the past and this year was the weather. We went from a 90 degree heatwave at home to a crisp 75 degrees or less a day (one of the days only got to 65). One of the guards in front of Parliament told us that London has four seasons a day. It can be warm, cold, wet and sunny at any given time. Except my son – who loves a good heatwave- we all loved LOVED the weather. I was perfectly fine wearing flip flops and a warm sweater every day. 

What wasn’t different about this trip was what my husband calls,”the unit”. The four of us. We know we have a small window left when we can still force our kiddies to spend this much time with us – and we’re milking it for all it’s worth. Cheers everyone.

(I took one billion photos – here’s just a few)

 Knock knock! I know you don’t expect us for another 6 hours but here we are!  
  
    
    
   

The London Eye

  

  

    
 All you Potter fans will understand just how freaking cool this was!   
    
    
 Abbey Road was smaller then expected and really really busy.    

    Kera having a proper tea. 
    Bath – wet and certainly not wild, but beautiful. On a side note we saw the “castle” that Nicolas Cage bought and then sold off because he owed so many taxes in England. Thought you’d like to know.


Me and my baby – and some rocks from 3,000 years B.C.   
  

5 Star Problems but a **** ain’t one

I have a problem.

A Tripadvisor problem.

It happens every year.

At about this time, my mind and body starts craving/dreaming/needing a vacation. Somewhere different. Preferably to a place where trains are called metros and where you can stay in a flat instead of an apartment. Or maybe a tropical turquoise retreat where I can drink from a coconut and lay on beach.

A place where I can be Vacation Mom and Vacation Wife. The one that doesn’t worry and nag and yell and order. The one that lets you buy obscenely pricey gum from the gift shop and stay up until you feel like falling asleep. The one that doesn’t care if anyone has brushed their teeth or combed their hair. She’s awesome. I miss her.

But in order to transform into this groovy, go-with-the-flow chick we need to get the hell out of dodge first.

And in order to do that we need to find a place to go.

And every time we find a place I am compelled to that damn website to check out the reviews.

It never ends well for me.

Everyone has an opinion, and I read every last one.

MaryS from Wichita thinks the rooms at a certain resort in Puerto Rico aren’t clean enough.

George from New Jersey didn’t like any of the restaurants but loved the pool at his hotel in Hawaii.

clevergirl8 from Texas loved Peru but had a horrible time with customs at the airport.

I try to focus on just the positive. You can’t make everyone happy, I say to myself.

But then I toss and turn and doubt. And doubt.

Are people just really really picky?

I realize that I could never have been one of those people backpacking through Europe or Asia or Idaho. I need research. Data. Background. I need to know that others have gone before me and had a good time. Or not.

So we’ll make our plans for vacation and it’ll be very exciting, but deep down I’ll be thinking about MikeP from Albany, who thought Dublin was beautiful except for the hotel concierge who was a bit grumpy the whole time.

I give Tripadvisor.com 3 out of 5 stars. Lots of consumer information which usually results in the firm knowledge that no matter where you are going or what you are doing – it could have been better somewhere else.

Paris to Brussels to Paris

You thought I was done talking about the trip? Silly.

We took a day trip to Belgium. ‘Cause that’s how we roll in Europe. Wanna go to England for tea, should we drive to Italy for the week end? Just normal Parisian stuff you think about when having your double espresso and chocolate crepe. Actually if you’re a real Parisian you have your espresso with a cigarette.

So we hopped a Metro, and then hopped a train, and got another stamp on our passport.  It’s what you do on a Wednesday. Sorry, got carried away.

We realized a few things quickly when we got to Brussels.

1st – everyone that lives there looks like they stepped out of a young, hip music video

2nd – all those Belgium left on the first train to Paris, no worries, plenty of Japanese tourists around to show us the way

3rd – it only takes 11.6 minutes to run smack into the Manneken Pis and grab a waffle

4th – even in its home country, I don’t like Belgium beer. zo en zo

Here’s a few more pics from our adventure. Tomorrow I’ll start talking about normal shit again. Maybe.

 

 

 

Back to life….back to reality

Back to work.

Back to errands.

Back to dishes, laundry, cooking, cleaning, homework, picking-up/dropping-off, conference calls, deadlines, bills.

Back to being behind on sending out birthday cards, birthday gifts, calling my mom, touching base with friends, making the kids practice piano, eating right, calling my mom, cleaning out my closet.

Back to fake butter, fake cream, the opposite of a flaky croissant, coffee without espresso, no crepes in sight.

I’m going to bed.

Here’s some pictures of my happy place.

parlez-vous anglais?

No. Most of the Parisians we ran into did not speak English. But who needs the international language of business and entertainment when you have this…

That is not a postcard – that is photo taken on my prehistoric iPhone.  Notre Dame. I swear to you that it was cloudy and rainy that day when we left our hotel. By the time we hoofed it to the cathedral the clouds opened up and the sun came out. On cue. That happened a lot there. Even the cloudy days seemed staged and moody.

We had heard all the cranky Parisian legends – “they hate Americans, they are completely unfriendly, etc.”

We didn’t get that. This may be because I’ve lived in NYC and my husband was raised there. People are busy. They live in a city overrun by tourists. Everyday they have to go to work, make a living, have a life, while we wander around the city with our cameras out asking for directions to the Louvre. Are  waiters super nice and helpful? No. So what. Once you realize that it’s not directed at you – it’s directed at everybody – you’re fine.

I’ve told you before that my husband isn’t exactly a social butterfly, so he felt right at home with the frowning faces. No one running over to you in a store, no one trying to make small talk with you in the hotel lobby – it was like his dream country. Leave them alone. They leave you alone.

Don’t get me wrong, we met plenty of friendly people, most of them traveling to Paris like us.

But who needs chit chat when you live in a place this beautiful?

Notre Dame, circa 9/23/12, it turns 850 years old next year. Doesn’t look a day over 721.

Shots from outside and around the Louvre – and we didn’t ask one single Parisian for directions.

The Mona Lisa madness I wrote about earlier…Sacré bleu! J’en ai marre!

Merci Paris

That was a fun 6 days. I’m sorry about the blog silence – but I was distracted.

It’s hard not to churn out clichés and cheesy narrative when you talk about Paris.  Every little street is picture worthy – every cafe looks like you’ve seen it in a movie.  We stayed at a small boutique hotel in the 6th district and took the Metro everywhere.  Sometimes having a husband who grew up with the New York City transit system really helps.  We did all the usual touristy things – went to all the museums, all the monuments (although every building looks like a monument) – we ate all the decadent food and drank some amazing wine.  I would kill for one of the corner shops that liters the city in my neighborhood – one that looks like a Bodega but sells fresh bread and cheap (but good) wine.

And the people. Oh the people. Everyone looks chic and sophisticated – even the kids. The people watching is well worth the transatlantic trip – and to my husband’s credit – he let me go crazy.

I can’t go through the whole trip in one post – so I’ll take a few days to let it all out.

Here’s some of the 780 (yikes) photos we took! Can you say “un touriste”.  Apologies for the A typical photos of the Eiffel Tower and the Arch – but in person, standing underneath them – it was a surreal, dream-like experience.

This was our district – our arrondissement – in St. Germain-des-Pres

On the Batobus (boat on the Seine) – hopping on and off to see the sites

Below needs no explanation – although it did need 300 pictures.  I’ll only share one with you. You’re welcome.

In the Metro (the 4) – pretending to be a Parisian (except for the constant photo taking)

Arch de Triumph at 7pm. We also have 7:15pm, 7:19pm, 7:22pm, etc.

To be continued….

Vacation all I ever wanted

20120924-011149.jpg

This blog ran away to Paris.
This blog is trying not to smile like a lunatic as she walks around the arrondissements.
This blog has eaten croissants and crepes 24/7 since she landed.
This blog will weigh 300 pounds by the end of the week .
Maybe 400.
This blog is taking the metro and pretending she’s not lost.
This blog is sleeping in and having dinner at 10pm.
This blog is happy.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 499 other followers