london to paris

June 4, 2007

it was my first full day in paris today, but before i get into that, i want to just finish writing about the rest of my stay in london.

london, i think, is a bit too fast for me.  while i’m all for public transit, i like having options.  i can’t imagine driving or cycling in that city.  though i like the small cars that are conducive to parking, the price of a spot is outrageously expensive, let alone truly ever grasping the right-sided driving.  plus, while i like that there are many designated cycling lanes, i think i’d slow the flow of others who appear to be speed demons with superb skills.  instead, i walked and now my feet are paying the price (see backpacking tips).

the speed is also related to heavily trafficked areas.  i now understand why they call certain areas “circuses” (e.g. picadilly circus, oxford circus, etc.).  it’s far too rammed of ppl with no direction and thus, i found it frustrating – even on vacation, with no direction in particular of my own. 

we opted for indian food in an area called “brick lane”, which i’d relate to toronto’s “little india” – but much cleaner and more diversely attended.  quirkily enough, one of her co-workers tells pinger that “aside from india, london is the only place to get real indian”.  *we both roll our eyes*  this street is quiet busy and there are plain-clothes ppl hanging out of doors that try to “entice” or “encourage” walkbys to come in by saying, “table for two?”.  It’s as though they’ve made the street outside their door into the entrance of their restaurant.  We end up at The Standard Balti House, for Bangladeshi cuisine, and it was good – but to be honest, the name says it all… it was standard.

yesterday morning, pinger led us in a 50 minute jog around the river.  i really needed it since i was feeling the bloated for the last couple of days.  afterwards we headed on foot to chinatown and an area, near a street populated mostly by middle eastern shops and restaurants.  these cultural alcoves remind me of other ‘multicultural’ cities and i’m only slightly surprised that the chinatown is so small, especially since i noticed the chinese ppl here all seem to be tourists (or students, pinger said).  anyhow, we’re in londo-mideast for pinger to get a brazillion wax in a salon known for the best aesthetician and hair-stylist in london.  the shop and ppl are surprisingly small and unpretentious.

after quickly packing, we were on our way to metro station, which thankfully is close since my feet were screaming from the blisters i’d developed.  pinger and i made short of our goodbyes (just as they were in toronto after mj’s wedding), since it will be only a little while before she and i see each other again.  the ride was really short and soon i was aboard my train to paris.  since i’d been a bit confused and booked late, the only ticket option was first class and cost a fair chunk.  but at least i was comfy (no one beside me and the car was mostly empty), had a great snack with 2 glasses of red wine (included with my fare), and a long nap (much needed).

immediately when i arrived at the gare du nord station, i remembered that i really hadn’t considered “the language” thing.  it’s not that i thought everything would also be in English, i guess i just had not even thought about it at all.  no problem though.  i found my way to the bathroom, which was called “McClean” – haha – and cost 1 Euro per use.   the attendants couldn’t break a 50, so they let me in for free.  then, some random person gave me their metro ticket!  i half-guessed which route to take and off i went!  it all went without a hitch and i met matty under the statue at Odeon station.

i completely, utterly, absolutely LOVE david’s place.  it’s in the centre of paris, which is quite busy, but down a back alley and very quiet.  it’s like a safe-haven in the middle of chaos…i’m not sure how else to describe it.  the doorknob downstairs (and upstairs) is in the centre of the door; just inside there is somewhat of a cobblestone foyer, a courtyard surrounded by the units above, and between them there’s a spiral staircase made of wood.  david and matty live on the 3rd floor.  inside, the open area is large enough for a dining room and living room (which is doubling as my bedroom).  the space is used wisely for sleeping and entertaining, while the kitchen and bathroom are very compact.  it’s amazing how much fits in the kitchen though, and david has already served two great meals from it!

when i arrived, david and matty had dinner guests.  one couple live in paris and had been together for 37 years! and the other guy was visiting enroute to a conference.  the conversation was lively, entertaining, and interesting.  i’ve always tended to like talking with older people, and this group seemed to come from lifestyles i could only imagine learning about. 

david served confit du canard with a compote or something apple-y and brown bread to start.  as our entree, we had duck that’s prepared in duck fat (i can’t remember what it’s called now), roasted parisienne potatoes, and green beans.  four different cheeses and baguettes followed, and finally a cake called, “frivolous heart” which had 3 layers of chocolate mousse hidden beneath a thin chocolate glaze.  the bakery at which david purchased this cake serves celine dion, and asked david to “say hi!” next time he was there 🙂

the next day (today), i was feeling extremely full still and ventured out for a walk and coffee on my own.  we hadn’t gone to bed until 3am’ish, and so they were both still asleep.  when i returned they were on their way to brunch and i decided to stay back since now i was tired and needed a nap.  i probably should have gone since one person they were meeting, an ex of david’s, is extremely familiar and well-connected to uChicago (for which making living arrangements for september is now stressing me out).  anyhow, i napped and went for a decent jog around the seine, saw an important gov’t building, the eiffel tower, some street wide rollerblading event, etc.

afterwards, i saw the same things on a walk with matty.  we also went into the louvre (which had free admission today only) and saw all of the obligatory things (mona lisa, stuff i remember vaguely from grade 12 art class, etc.), which i’ll do again (a bit better) with calvin.   when we returned, david had prepared for us another fabulous meal.  this one was a bit lighter (thankfully).  we had springrolls and salad (more or less, but better than how i’ve just described it), cheese and baguettes, and fruit.

i’ve just finished an entire bag of wasabi peas and realize that this post is getting far too long! 

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