Don’t worry, I’ll be blogging about my entire trip after I get back, but this morning I’m having some quiet time while YP tackles the Louvre (which I visited my first time in Paris so I’m not missing out).
It’s been a great two weeks. The last time I was away for this long (outside of six months in China in the late ’90s) was in June 2009. I went to London for a library school class. We had lectures all day, Monday through Friday, plus site visits in London and day trips to Oxford and Cambridge. After class, I’d run off and visit all the museums (which are all free in London) and try to find cheap food. Although I got homesick toward the end, I had a wonderful time.
I might have mentioned that YP had a surprise planned for this trip. I had no idea what it was, except that it would last more than one day, I’d have to dress up, and it was something we’ve done before. I assumed it was a musical or play, and it was.
YP: “We’re seeing a musical version of The Bodyguard.”
Me: “Oh cool! Will it be in English?”
YP: “It will be in London.”
What?!? I was really excited to hear that. I love London and was glad we’d be taking a break from Paris and not being able to understand or communicate with people.
As expected London was lovely. We took the Eurostar, which while rather crowded was so fast, it didn’t matter. We sat across the aisle from two British ladies and a Ukrainian-American couple who jabbered the entire way. Luckily I had brought my noise-canceling headphones; YP wasn’t so lucky.
London was a bit warmer than Paris and didn’t rain at all (it has rained almost every day in Paris). And oh yeah, English! Plus we were able to find a lot more vegetarian options for YP and just a wider diversity of food. (I’ve seen more than enough brasseries to last a lifetime.)
The afternoon we arrived we took a walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.
I noticed the “jardins” I saw in Paris were more sand than grass, while the parks in London are lush and green. I guess that’s what you get with all the rain.
After our walk, we grabbed some Indian food, which was mediocre but after nearly a week of mostly bread and cheese, was delicious. The show was also so-so. While the musical numbers were great – who can resist a Whitney Houston song? – the dialogue was really cheesy. Plus it couldn’t seem to make up its mind about its style. Was it all hip hop and urban, or gumshoe detective? But it was still totally enjoyable, even with technical glitches that literally stopped the show twice.
The next morning we got up early to go ride the London Eye. I’ve done it before but it’s always fun. After that we walked back across the Thames, passing Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, and stopped in Pret for a quick lunch.
I know it’s pretty silly to go all the way to London and eat at Pret, which is in New York. However, 1) Pret is not in the Bay Area, and I miss it, 2) it’s quick, 3) it’s not too expensive, 4) the food is good, 5) London Pret food is different, and 6) London Pret has free wifi. As far as I’m concerned, Pret rules.
That afternoon we each had our own agendas: YP went shopping while I visited the Tate Britain, which I didn’t have a chance to see during my last visit. And it was only a 10 minute walk from where we were.
The Tate Britain is billed as “500 years of British art.” And indeed it was. The rooms were set up chronologically in 30 to 50 year increments. There was no audio tour but the placards gave good explanations (in English yay!). I was there for almost four hours and really freaking enjoyed myself. Of course I had to be immature and take this photo:
That night we met up with one of YP’s coworkers for a drink in a nice, relaxed bar and then a delicious dinner at a cute Thai place. After dinner, his friend, who had to work the next day, begged off, while we got another drink at a gay bar, which looked more like a traditional English pub.
We talked about if we liked Paris or London better, and we both agreed it was hard to say. London was a relief because of the language and culinary diversity. But of course Paris is an amazing city. YP said he probably has more of a natural affinity for Spanish culture (he lived in Spain during a high school summer), which made me realize I have more of a natural affinity for British culture. It makes sense: I love the language. It’s what I’m all about. I studied English literature and love lots of British stuff. Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, other British shows and movies.
Plus London seems more similar to New York. We saw lots of people in suits, and people were still getting off work long into the night. Not that working more is better, but it’s familiar. It’s what I do. In Paris I guess the work days are shorter.
I also feel less like a slob in London. In Paris everyone seems to dress well. It’s a city of hipsters. In London it seems to be more of a mix. YP’s friend C who we got to hang out with quite a bit in Paris put it really well: in Paris, there’s a certain way to do things, and if you don’t do it the way everyone else is, you’re crazy. Everyone has lunch between one and two for like two hours; everyone has their pre-dinner apertif at 7 and dinner at 9 (again for two hours); everyone carries home a fucking baguette every day.
It’s funny: while I found all the baguette carrying charming the first time I was here, this time I got sick of it. Look at me, I’m French and I have my fucking baguette.
(Bracing myself for the hate comments.)
Anyway, you’ll hear lots more about my trip over the next several days. Now I suppose I should battle the French rain and all these French people speaking French and get out of the apartment.