Dear friend

I miss this lady.

When I was in Ohio in September-which, whoa, how was that seriously nearly 2 months ago now?- this beautiful woman was totally down for hangouts at the drop of a hat. We’ve got the sort of friendship thing going at this period of life where I know that nothing important will change between us because I’m away, and that we can pick up where we’ve left off, no matter how long it’s been since our last face to face. And at this time in my existence, and with the whole “up and moved sticks to the UK” thing, it’s also nice knowing that she is one of my few friends who isn’t completely devoted to a landlocked American life (aka, you can bet your ass we’ll be seeing each other not just in Ohio during this lifetime). I would never deign to only be friends with people who travel (never never), but it’s so reassuringly wonderful to know when you’ve got a few comrades that you can be counted on to meet here and there around the way-and it’s not all on my shoulders to keep friendships alive. I really appreciate that. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Anyway, with a busy week nearly behind me, I found myself looking at photos tonight from that visit. September seems far away. And I just have to say I miss my friend.

In January we will drink drinks and have talks and do alllll the thrifting. I am thinking of you.

Ohio flashback: Kingwood Center in Mansfield, Ohio

I can’t believe this was so long ago now, but looking back at these pictures of our visit to Kingwood Center in Ohio I’m reminded of a lovely day wandering amid late summer greenery with my husband and my mom, and that’s pretty cool. In comparison, today Brighton was blanketed in the thickest fog you’ve ever seen. It was eerie and seasonally appropriate and summer could not feel further away.

Jon made friends with all sorts of birds, strangely enough. Ducks and peacocks, and a goose or two. Even though he usually doesn’t have the best luck with birds…true story. He has multiple “attacked by avian beings” stories, and it’s weird. Apparently Ohio birds don’t hate him.

Ahhh romance…

Hi mom!

Nearly ten years ago I actually had some of my high school senior pictures taken here (non-American readers, those are pictures you take before graduating from high school. Everyone has them and they are cheesy yet awesome and soooo good to hold on to and show your incredulous future husband at some point). Another thing I can’t believe was as long ago as it was (whoa, that’s a messy sentence!)-high school, man. Ten years ago I finished it. What? Anyway, I had to recreate (sort of, ha) one of my senior pics in the actual spot it was taken. See?

Week 2 of CELTA is proving to be as exhausting as the first, with more and more piling on. One of the women in our class dropped out today. Gotta keep on powering through though….chug chug chug. And now, back to lesson planning…

Firepits and friends

We spent not one, but two nights last week soaking up the smokey goodness that is a solid backyard firepit. Both Nia and her dude, and Evie and her dude have this little slice of backyard heaven in their respective abodes, and Jon and I were more than happy to join them for drinks and s’mores and all that good stuff. Two nights in a row! Woo! Thanks you guys!

At Nia and Jeff’s we made s’mores with hershey’s kisses because that’s what we had on hand. They have a crazy cute puppy that is 3/4 English bulldog and 1/4 something else not bulldog but still totally adorable. And that little dog is a freak, and loves beer so much that she jumped on Jon’s lap to grab his bottle with her tiny paws and have at it.

Nothing like a good fuzzy picture via manual settings in the dark with a DSLR.

Evie and Nick had us over for dinner the following night. Homegirl can make a hella good chili/cornbread combo, and I will never stop swooning over her exposed-bricked mid-century awesome house, coupled with her ability to always have her hair up in interesting and fabulous ways (coming from my long hippy-haired self, I wish I took the time to cultivate such skill). Reading that back it sounds incredibly superficial, but um…it’s not? It’s not. I wish we had Evie and Nick doppelgangers in Brighton to hang out with. They are wonderful people.

Ghost-face Evie.

Not to be a broken record-I’m totally a broken record-but it’s thinking over nights like these that at once make me so homesick for a life in Ohio with evening hang outs and chit-chat, and at the same time so fucking grateful for friends that will invite my transient ass over to their beautiful homes when I am in town. I am so lucky and thankful for their love and conversation and presence.

Home again, Safe and Sound

Where to start? I am sitting on my couch, watching the 7 o’clock news while Jon does the post-dinner dishes. Everything is utterly, completely normal now that we’re back home. It is darker here, earlier than expected. England is colder and rainier than it was when we left. It feels like autumn. It feels like home. The split is something I’m coming to terms with; I don’t ever know if I’ll feel fully, only at home here. It’s strange enough to take my vacations to Ohio now. When I touch down there, when I see my friends and family and jump right back into the same old conversations at the same old places, it all feels normal. Long drives out to the middle of nowhere to see my parents in their respective houses. The usual. So leaving is the weird, hard part. I don’t want it to ever NOT be hard to leave-that’s when I’ll know I don’t belong there anymore, and I always want to belong there.

Ohio skies

A Parisian Visit, part 4.

We had originally planned to take the train out to Versailles on Saturday morning, but the weather forecast called for more rain and I did not feel like wandering around those grounds for hours in a downpour! So instead we stayed in the city and decided to check out the Catacombs. Creepy tour of the skeleton-ridden sewers of Paris? Yes please! However, we took the metro, got in line under a forboding sky, and just…stood there for a long time. The line was really slow going. So after about 40 minutes (and a big ‘ol rainstorm, the skies opening up and pouring down on us) we decided to ditch that line and move along with our Saturday. Oh well, there’s always another time to visit some macabre Parisian historical site.

The rain didn’t seem like it would let up anytime soon, so we headed to the Musee Rodin. Rodin was known for his sculpture (The Thinker being his most well-known work, as far as I know), and the museum itself is in fact his own former property, the Hôtel Biron. The exhibition is really well done and is undergoing renovations right now to bring it up to date. Rodin himself lobbied the French government to turn his home into a museum, although he didn’t live to see this become a reality, with the museum opening in 1919, two years after his death in 1917. He had formerly lodged at the Hôtel Biron in his younger days, then as he became more successful gradually bought up the rooms of the place until he owned it all, inviting his artist friends to stay and join him. A separate spaces houses his marble sculptures, his later painting and multiple busts are in the rooms of the Hotel, along with some of the work of his friends (Van Gogh!) and the spacious gardens are interspersed with his large bronze works, including the Thinker. Even though it kept spitting rain while we were in the gardens, it was still an exceptionally beautiful place. The hotel is so old! I can’t wait to see what it’s like with some renovations. On a side note, Rodin loved himself some vagina. Seriously, there are so many extremely, extremely pornographic works of high art. Made me giggle! Oh Rodin, you old pervy perv. You just loved the “feminine lines”, I’m sure.

He’s thinkin’!

After the museum we headed to a bistro across the street. It was still chilly, but not raining as much. And the maitre’d was so rude and hilarious. He didn’t speak English, and didn’t not give two shits about anyone, even though it was a really busy place. He would hustle up to each table and yell “I’m listening” with his little pad out. The food was nice though. I indulged in a croque monsieur (fancy French ham and cheese) , while Jon got one of the specials, a beef lasagne.

It seemed to have stopped raining by the time we finished eating, so we metro’d over to the Champs Elysee for a little stroll down the road (Jon kept singing the song). Also, Arc du Triomphe, ici.

Ladurée. There was no way we were waiting in line to pay 40 Euros for a small box of artisinal macarons. The French love their treats, apparently. But the shop is so pretty, not surprisingly.

We went in the Renault show room and they had the TINIEST CARS EVER. The new electric ones! And I want one, I really do now. You can seriously buy them for 50 pounds a month, plus insurance. We can legitimately afford that. And you can park anywhere! And they’re SO TINY.

On the left bank there is a bookstore called Shakespeare and Company that was opened by an American expat after the war. It’s an amazing place where great literary artists of the past century have gathered and worked, including Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzegerald, and Getrude Stein. And artists can still come and stay there, free of charge! It’s sort of a bohemian epicenter. I fan-girled a little bit, and was so glad we finally found it (we’d searched and missed it when Lindsey was still there).

After buying a copy of “A Moveable Feast” (seemed fitting) and bilingual poems by E.E. Cummings, who I love, we sat and drank some kick ass artisanal beers next door. The sun had come out. It was warm and the breeze was blowing. It was perfect in every way.

Okay, we may have sat in front of Notre-Dame for awhile again too. I told you, I love it. With all my heart.

Happy tourist folk!

We wanted to make another attempt at finding an intimate little place for our last dinner. Jon had read something somewhere (super specific!) that led us to a little place on a perfect side street. Seriously, we were smitten. It was just hidden enough that it was tourist free-I mean, besides us, ha-and quiet with tiny shops dotting the lane, and church bells ringing out into the evening.

The restaurant was unassuming and simple, adorned with tiny chairs on the walls, which I believe is an Alice in Wonderland reference. It was called L’Auberge de la Reine Blanche (Inn of the White Queen), after all.

We ate all the goat cheese and Jon’s lamb stew came in a tiny stew pot to the table. Swoon. Afterwards we decided to buy some cheap beers from a corner shop and spend our last night watching the sunset and drinking with the crowds that gather along the banks of the Seine. Fabulous idea.

Makin’ friends! There we are!

After the sun set and it started to get a little cold we rambled off to find a metro station and eventually, our hotel. On the way we passed the Hôtel de Ville and stopped to take a night time photo or two. That place is gorgeous, and the government still meets there now.

The next morning we woke to the most perfect, hot day. I was so sad to be leaving! We just had time to take the metro to the Pere-Lachaise cemetery, which was a slightly macabre but gorgeous way to spend our last morning-wandering amongst the mausoleums in the largest cemetery in France, where some great minds now rest. I wish we’d had more time, but we had to make our train back to England at a little past noon.

And that was it. Our little Parisian vacation, 2012. I applaud anyone who read all of these posts, but I’m glad I recorded these memories for myself. It was nice to practice my French and be pleasantly surprised that I still have that ability. On our last night we talked about how wonderful it would be if we could make a visit to Paris a yearly thing that Jon and I do together. I think that as long as we’re residents of the UK, it’s really something that could happen annually-can’t really argue with a nominally priced 2 hour train ride, and there will never be a time that Paris is boring or lacking in things to amuse oneself. And with nearly guaranteed visits to the USA for us as long as we’re living in England, that means we’ll continue to accumulate air miles (and hopefully be able to do it all on the cheap). One can dream, right? Au revoir,  Paris. Je t’aime toujours!

A Parisian visit, part 3.

Friday morning Monsieur Norris and I were all by our lonesome, and with not-superb weather predicted, we decided to have a museum day. We wanted to do the Louvre, then have a long French-style lunch (read: booze and and baguettes at a tiny round table on the street whilst people watching), then cross the Seine and go to the Musee d’Orsay. Solid plan!

I love the Louvre. I don’t care how popular and crowded it is. It’s wonderful in every possible way. My favorite sections are the sculpture on the 1st and ground floors and the Renaissance paintings on the second floor, in the Richelieu wing. Not the Dutch or Flemish painters though-crazy boring and religious and so, so dark (in my completely uneducated opinion, that is, I am no art critic). Also, Napoleon’s recreated apartments are beyond decadent and amazing. So worth the visit, all on their own.

Napoleon’s chambers. We saw bunny slippers. Made of bunnies. WHAT. Napoleon, you crazy.

I love this hall. I believe these are all Flemish paintings, and they’re so huge and interesting. I could sit in there for hours. (We did sit in there for…a long time)

We also went into the worst room in the whole place, with the Mona Lisa and its ensuing crazy crowd. The painting has to be in a room almost by itself, on a wall in the middle, behind plate glass. And still, people crowd around to take pictures of it/in front of it. Jon took this picture to illustrate that silliness. La Jaconde, indeed. You can’t see anything!

By this time we’d been in the museum for many hours and were ready to get a move on. Outdoors, picture, baguette, wine, yes, yes yes.

Charming, I know.

Let me just say, I would prefer a brie baguette to an orange sauccison any day. Truth. That red wine was great though. We sat for a few hours, sipping our wine and enjoying the people watching. And dog watching. Because there are a ton of great dogs in Paris. And everywhere in the world. Dogs are the best.

The Musee d’Orsay is another of my favorite museums. It boasts some amazing architecture, as it used to be a train station and has only been a museum since the 1970s. It holds impressionist and post-impressionist works-Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Manet, Monet, and on and on. Strangely enough, and in contrast to the Louvre, they forbid photos inside. Which is nice, because even though I’d rather be focusing on looking around, I can’t help but take pictures if I’m allowed, because I’m dumb. So this is a nice way of fixing that problem. Thanks Musee d’Orsay!

The fabulous giant clock on the top floor, leftover from its days as a station.

So by the time we finished at d’Orsay, we’d been on our feet for what seemed like infinite hours. I was maybe dying a little inside. And no lie, at some point I’d picked up a crazy swollen left foot from two and a half days of walking in flats (I will never go the tourist in tennis shoes route, in any country, ever. Mark my words!) It was time to go back to the hotel. We sat in the Tuileries Gardens for a few minutes for a chill chat and that was just… nice.

I could hang out in the Tuileries every day. Can you imagine going for a run and having this be your backdrop? Lucky ducks.

Dinner was not that impressive, in my opinion. We ended up at an Alsacian place, which meant it was a sort of French/German fusion. Not my favorite-too heavy. Also, fusion is probably not the best word for food from a region of the world that had border issues between the countries for decades, therefore causing the melding of cuisines. Anyway. I loved my starter, which was a yummy pastry with seasonal veggies. Jon had duck pate, which he loves, always. And the mains were forgettable. But dessert! Oh, dessert. Creme brulee for me, puff pastry with whipped cream for Jon. Delicious.

Please notice the terribly ugly wine glasses. What is going on there?

 

Alright! Only one more post about Paris left. Which could be good for anyone getting tired of this trip down recent-holiday lane for me:) Rodin, La Seine at night,  my favorite cult bookstore in Paris, and the Pere-Lachaise cemetery.

A Parisian visit, part 2

On Thursday night Jon and I tagged along once again with Lindsey’s tour group for a boat ride down the Seine. I took a lot of pictures and most of them were terrible, so shame on me. Better to be in the moment anyway, right? The tour guide on the boat peppered the ride with bits of information as we leisurely made our way down and back, in both French and English. She was lovely! It’s pretty great that so much of the best bits of architecture in the city are all concentrated along the river. The same can be said for all the boats, most of which are incredibly ugly, but serve the purpose of lugging people up and down the river-some for fancy private parties, some for a dinner cruise, and some for sightseeing.

After the tour we made our way to Montparnasse, another ugly building (there really aren’t that many, that’s why it stands out so much!) whose sole redeeming quality is that when one goes to the top viewing room one has an amazing view of Paris. And that’s why we went-to watch the sunset at dusk, and watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle away They turn on the sparkle every night at 10 pm for 5 minutes and it’s pretty impressive, not to mention magical.

Sparkle sparkle!

I was kind of dreading leaving Montparnasse because we’d have to bid Lindsey adieu. Her group’s tour guide was such a nice guy, and he offered to let Jon and I ride around on a little night time drive around Paris, dropping us off at a place that would be closer to our hotel before they made their way back to their hotel outside of the city to catch an early flight the next morning. The bus stopped a few times to allow the kids time to take some nighttime photos of things-the Place de la Conchord, the Eiffel Tower, etc.

(This next picture took a million shots to get all three of us in there!)

When the bus pulled up to drop us off, I found myself getting unexpectedly choked up. Lindsey’s kids all chimed in with “awwwwww” while we hugged and said our goodbyes. And then they drove away and Jon and I started walking and I cried, a lot, on the streets of Paris. And it was pathetic.

But at least on the walk home we saw a kimchi truck, and that made me laugh. What’s a kimchi truck, you ask? I assume it has been commissioned on a world tour to sell the wonders of kimchi to the west, but I could be wrong.

Kimchi baguette, anyone? I seriously don’t see the French people in general taking to kimchi, delicious as it may be.

(Next time-Museums of the Louvre, d’Orsay, and Rodin variety, and a lot of food, so come back if you’re into any of that. And no more Eiffel Tower pictures, I promise).