Ahhhh, back to North America. Europe was amazing!!! I had a great time and I hope I get to do it all over again someday. Traveling overseas is not something I do very often. The last time I left North America was when I went to the Bahamas on the NKOTB cruise in 2013. I don’t know if that counts but I did have to get a passport to go there. And before that, I went to Paris in 2001 so it’s been a long long time.
My first stop was London. I was on a 10 hr flight to Frankfurt and then a 3 hr layover and then a 2 hr flight to London from there. Maybe I’m weird but good God, I love airplane food!! Of course, no matter where I go, I always order the vegetarian which got me an eggplant pasta dish but it was so good! Not sure what is wrong with me but I have an an affinity for pre-packaged food that has a partial hot pak and a partial cold pak. I think it has something to do with my daycamp days when they used to feed us government lunches.
Anyway, my first impression of London were of course, the hot men! So well-dressed, so well-mannered and god, that accent! Loved every second of London. The streets were clean, the sights were gorgeous, the weather was perfect. We went to British Museum, Kensington Palace (where Prince William and Kate live), Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, we ate Fish n Chips at Geale’s, visited the Tower Bridge, and ate all kinds of stuff. My goal on this trip was to try some form of Asian cuisine in each of the three countries I was visiting on this vacation. In London, we ate Chinese food at a place called Y Ming. Can’t say I was very impressed. We ordered Shanghai noodles, some kind of Empress pork dish, some steamed dumplings, and rice. Our bill came to $62.10!! I couldn’t believe how expensive it was! I had heard that British Chinese food was one of the best but if that is true, I would like to know which restaurant I should have gone to instead. My favorite place in London was Harrod’s. This was a gourmet superstore stacked with style, class & grace in a Vegas atmosphere! I wish I could have explored it longer but we were on our way to other places that day. I also got to eat breakfast at a place called The Breakfast Club with a friend who also happened to have gone to London the very same day I arrived. What a serendipitous event!
After London, it was off to Paris. We took a Eurostar train and just like an airport, we had to go through customs and everything. I wondered what it was that I would remember about being in Paris 14 years ago that would pop into my head. When I got off that train and got onto the underground RER, boom. It hit me. Major B.O. I don’t know if the locals are immune to it but the smell was horrendous. Like someone who was really angry with the world and wanted to punish society had figured out a way to bottle up their after workout scent and shoved it into a bottle and sprayed it onto the walls of the trains. It really traumatized me to the point where sometimes when I walk into a small street that reminds me of Paris, my brain can recall that scent and cause me to believe I can actually smell it and my face just goes sour. I mean, I would rather smell weed, which to me, also stinks; stinks like a skunk.
Other than that, we went to the Louvre, Notre Dame, Mont St. Michel, Palace of Versailles, Catacombes, Eiffel Tower, Musee de l’Orangerie, Fondation Louis Vuitton, and a shit ton of restaurants. We ate French food, baguettes, Japanese French food, ice cream, macarons, fancy dessert crepes, street crepes, savory crepes they call galettes, Indian French food, drinking chocolate, french snacks, sandwiches, and lots of European water. At Musee de l’Orangerie, I was introduced to the works of a Russian artist named Chaim Soutine. I was really moved by his paintings of tortured landscapes. They had a lot of expression in them. After going to so many museums and sights, I’ve found that it is really difficult to truly appreciate the magnificence of art when the place is crowded with tourists, cameras and cell phones surrounding you. I miss those days of old when no one had cell phones, you had to wait to find out if your photos came out good, people couldn’t find you unless you were home and you couldn’t change the plans halfway through through a text message. You actually had to follow through with when and where you said you would meet your other party. Imagine that.
My favorite place that we ate at was Breizh Cafe, as recommended by food critic David Lebovitz. We had to go through our hotel to make a reservation as we heard that they don’t like to make reservations for Americans. Sheesh! It was delicious though. I noticed in Paris that when people are unable to be seated and ask for suggestions for another restaurant, the workers are happy to direct them to another delicious place in the area to try whereas in America, it’s pretty much “Sorry, we’re full right now. But if you want to come back around 9:45 pm, we might be able to seat your then.”
My friend read that in Paris, they are very big on helping small businesses so big businesses are not allowed to have sales because that would take away from the smaller businesses. There are certain times of the year when a big sale will go on throughout the whole city and that is when you can find discounted items. I think it only happens 2 or 3 times a year. Unfortunately for us, it was happening June 24, the day after we were planning on traveling to Prague. It’s not that I wanted much but I’ve been searching for a round blue toile butter dish to replace the one I lost when I got evicted in 2003. I bought it in Paris and left it in the fridge. I completely forgot about it when I moved and have been searching for it ever since. It was beautiful. It was an off white color with blue floral designs around the dome, but not some much decoration that it covered up the entire dome. Just enough to let you know that it belonged in a place of elegance. I have been searching since 2003. I can’t give up now. Someday, I will find it. As a matter of fact, I think I will go searching for it today after I get a kouign amann for breakfast.
After 6 days in Paris, we flew off to Prague, barely missing the taxi strike on 6/25/15 that resulted in violence. I never liked Uber anyway. I’ve never taken any of these private rides but if I ever started, I would go with Lyft. They seem more down-to-earth and inclusive. Prague is a gorgeous city. We took a private airport transport service from the airport to our hotel and I got to see a lot of beautiful sights along the way. We stayed at Hotel Josef, which was a very modern hotel from the looks of the website. They offered a gym, sauna, free water everyday, slippers, bathrobes, coffee, we could cover our windows with an automatic woven shade, and the beds were nice and comfy. You can tell I don’t go to hotels like these very often. I’m more of a moderate hotel kind of gal. Just given me a bed and private bathroom and I’m happy.
In Prague, we visited the Charles bridge, Old Town Square, the Dancing House, Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, we saw the Astronomical Clock, the Powder Tower, and Prague Gardens. I also got to visit a Gastronomy museum which gave the history of cooking and kitchens from the Paleolithic Era all the way to modern times of today and even tomorrow! My favorite thing that I saw there was the kitchen faucet that had a blue light when the water was cold and then a red light when the water turned hot. The kitchen island also had a light that was turned on simply by brushing you hand along the side of the counter space. No switch, no indication at all that any kind of sensor was there to turn on the light. I’m so easily amazed.
We did a lot of walking on the cobblestone grounds which cause my feet to hurt a lot. I should have brought sneakers along. Not sure what I was thinking. The extra padding would have really helped. I spent a majority of the time looking for the butter dish in Prague but never found what I was looking for. It wasn’t really the cobblestone that hurt though. My feet hurt every day during the entire trip because we did so much walking throughout the whole day. I should have been more prepared. The things I loved most about the trip was seeing how beautiful all the cities were, the historic landmarks and architecture was jaw dropping. I also loved trying new food and comparing the Asian food over there to the Asian food over here. In London, I tried Chinese. In Paris, I tried Japanese. And in Prague, I tried Thai. London and Paris’ Asian food were pretty expensive but Prague’s Thai food prices were pretty similar to America’s, I would say. However, the taste is incomparable. I definitely love the Asian food in America much more than overseas. If I couldn’t have good Asian food in the city I lived in, then that is a deal breaker. I don’t care how hot the guys are over there.
My favorite part about this trip was just being in another environment with two of my best friends. One of them was good at planning out our trip, another was good at picking places to go, and I was good at directions so together, it was a perfect trip. I actually really enjoyed figuring out the subway system in each city although for Prague, it was such a small city that we did not end up using the public transit at all. London and Paris’ metro system was so efficient. We never waited more than 6 min for a train to come. Most of the time, they came within 1 or 2 minutes!! Amazing! Plus, the stations had stops everywhere in the city, unlike San Francisco which mainly only has 1 line going through the whole city. The rest of the way, you have to catch the bus and most of the time, you spent at least 20 min waiting for something to come. Another favorite part of the trip was our day trip to Mont St. Michel. This place is breathtaking. It was a 4 hour bus ride from Paris up North. I think we were in Normandy. Mont St. Michel is an island. We had a tour guide named Carine and I loved her. She was great. Her accent was so cute. She took us around at the castle up there and I honestly felt like I was on the set of The Hobbit, like that horrible scene in Desolation of Smaug where ugly Bolg fights with the beautiful Legolas in Laketown and causes his nose to bleed…
Imagine that place in the day time with bread shops and a blacksmith on the corner, or a fishmonger smoking outside his store, yelling out his daily catch. I took pictures and captioned them “Where’s Legolas?” That was fun to do. I also did it at the Prague Castle. It was funny because on my flight home, I actually did find Legolas as “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” was playing on the plane from Zurich back home. What d’ya know. The worst part of my trip would be when I lost my phone. I was sad because I lost all my contacts and info that was on there. The only thing I was able to save were the pictures. I learned my lesson from my last phone back in 2013 that died right before I went on vacation. So when I got my new phone, I set up all the pictures to automatically go to my dropbox folder. Too bad nothing else went there unfortunately. Fortunately, I was able to take pictures from my friends’ phone and email them to myself. Here is my album. Enjoy. :0)
P.S. I have to say that it was so great to come back on the BEST DAY when #LoveWins. Love is love.