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Au Revoir, Paris

Sunday, April 29th, 2007


Hi all! Here’s an excerpt of a telephone exchange I had with my sister Janet today:
Me: Can you die from eating too many pastries? I think I’m having a heart attack!
Janet: It’s probably heartburn. Go take some Pepto.
Me: No, seriously, I can’t even stand up, my chest hurts so bad!
Janet: Put down the pastry and back away. Go take some Pepto.
Me: But I’m standing in a phone booth right across from a boulangerie! I can hear them calling to me from here. I can’t stop the voices, Janet!
Janet: You are insane.
Me: Maybe I better get a backup pain au chocolat for after I eat the one in my hostel room.
Janet: Goodbye, crazy.

And so it goes in Paris. I’ve made good on my intention to eat a wide swath across this city, and my tummy hurts. Thank God I leave tomorrow, because I don’t think my cholesterol count can handle it. This morning I took the Metro to a boulangerie I visited yesterday, found it closed, and had to eat the stupid emergency banana I had in my bag.

Well, let’s see, I got here on Thursday, made my way to my hostel in Montmartre, a very hilly area. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the secret shortcut and had to haul myself and my bag up about 100 stairs to get to it. Poor me. Went out for dinner on Thursday night at a lovely restaurant called L’Epi Dupin, which I tried to add a link to, but it didn’t work…

On Friday morning I went to the pastry school I was thinking of attending, though I couldn’t get a hold of the admissions lady. The dude in charge of the bakery program was nice enough to show me around though, and let me sit in on a class, where the students fed me ice cream, profiteroles, and French macaroons, which are little disks of meringue, usually filled with frosting, but in this case filled with sorbet. Me = in heaven.

The school is great, but it’s also mega-expensive. I think I was more in love with the idea of coming to Paris to study pastry than the reality of it, because while it’s a beautiful city, it’s also dirty, smoggy and very expensive. It’s such a romanticized place, but I’m telling you, I’ve never seen more cigarette butts and dog crap in one place. Plus it’s full of French people. JK!

Wandered around most of the day, as the weather was, and continues to be, absolutely beautiful. Went to the Luxembourg Gardens, the Latin Quarter, and generally walked till I felt like my bouncy castle leg was going to fall off. I think I’ve underestimated the strain all this walking would put on a cripple. Oh well, Kilimanjaro is out. Some pastry school dudes invited me to join them for drinkies and some jazz at a club near the Moulin Rouge; I should have taken a picture of the tourists standing in the traffic circle taking a picture of it. Anyway, a good time was had by all, and I think French beer = stronger than American beer, because I woke up on Friday with a splitting headache.

Not enough to keep me from my lunch reservation though; I even managed to have a glass of wine with the meal. Such a trouper, this one. There are many, many buskers on the Paris subway, who get on the trains and just go car to car, playing the accordion, violin, guitar, etc. On the way to lunch, a black man, wearing a suit and with hair dyed Tang orange, got on with his guitar and sang ”Hotel California” and ”My Way.” I gave him my change, but once again failed to snap a picture. You’ll just have to take my word for it – hilarious. (Guess which one of below posters I bought?)


Today I’ve done the culture thing and spent the morning at the Musee d’Orsay, which is jam-packed with Impressionist masterpieces, then wandered over to Notre Dame and asked some retard to take my picture, which he did – horizontally – and cut off half the cathedral. Foreigners. Managed to find an open boulangerie (one of the ‘must-visits’ on my list, no less), which helped ease the disappointment of the one this morning being closed. Dinner was a baguette with ham. I leave for Greece early tomorrow morning, but not before I eat the backup pain au chocolate (chockie croissant) that I have upstairs. Maybe I better get a backup backup for the road.


London Calling

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007


Hi all! Finally, a post! I don’t think “toot” means the same thing here, BTW. Week one has almost come and gone here in jolly old England. I arrived at Gatwick airport about two hours late and then waited in a customs line for another 1 and 1/2 hours. As I exited the international arrivals gate, what should I hear but “Becky Strauss, please come to the information desk.” Uh-oh, I thought, maybe Toni is waiting in a café somewhere since I’m so late. Turns out there was a slight communications snafu: me = at Gatwick, she = at Heathrow. Oopsie. Never mind, I took the train. First though, I changed some money. $500 = £3.00. Well, not quite that bad, but almost. The exchange rate is 2 to 1 right now, yet all the numbers look just right to my American eyes. For example, two Coronas (why not drink local, I say?) cost £6.70. That, dear readers, is $13.40 for two beers in a bar. I mean “pub.” Are you f-ing kidding me?? Because $6.70 in DOLLARS sounds a little pricey for two beers. Lunch today was £10.00. Thank god I have my peeps to stay with. Anyway, I’m not going to think about it.

So, I took the train (£13.75 one way) and met Toni in Victoria Station. I think it’s named for some famous British lady. Then we caught the tube to her flat. (I’m like a local now.) Our friend Suzie came over shortly after, and the drinking began! Any concerns I had that it would be at all awkward having not seen them for three years were dispelled immediately as it was like I just saw them yesterday.

Day 2: Woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Not really. Jet lag wasn’t bad though, and I managed to power through the day in Brighton, a seaside town that Suzie and Toni took me to. We investigated the bottoms of three wine bottles during the day, walked by the ocean, and ate fish and chips. Toni also gave me her back-up cell phone, I mean “mobile,” so I could call my homies with my itinerary when they were working. That evening Toni and I went out with some of her friends (the infamous Corona incident mentioned above) and out to a late dinner at a pub called “The Fish in the Tie.” Hmmm, whatev.

Day 3: Another hot and sunny day. Who says England is gray and drizzly all the time? Toni’s boyfriend Sam cooked the three of us an English breakie — sausage, bacon (which is what we Yanks call Canadian bacon), eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms. After our light meal, we packed ourselves up and headed over to Casa de Suzie and Alex, in a leafy London suburb called West Dulwich, for a barbecue, where we whiled away the afternoon and evening. I won’t lay out the menu for that one, but let’s just say that this was a day of eating. All day. Hooray! We’re mid-meal below.

Suzie, Toni and I in Suzie's garden.

Day 4: Sunday began with tea in Covent Garden with Suzie, Alex, her parents and some friends of theirs. We had a lovely time and then her parents and friends walked us over to the Savoy Hotel, where Suzie had planned a surprise brunch for me with some of her friends. A surprise champagne brunch. With unlimited champagne. Yes, please, I’ll have another glass. Not to mention the entire room of desserts — including a chocolate fountain. Yes, dear readers, I almost lost my shit entirely. The London Marathon was run that day, and our table overlooked the race — ha ha suckers! It was the hottest race on record, and later as we made our way through the swarms of runners in Trafalgar Square (on our way to another bar), they looked hot, hot, hot. Day 4 didn’t come to a close until the wee hours of the night, as the group made its way to Soho, where my sister Karen and her friend Tim joined us at a bar, as she was in town for the night with her study abroad group, en route to Berlin the next day.

Day 5: I’m not hung over at all! Hung out with Toni all day, walked her neighborhood of Balham and then Clapham, and made a big circle through surrounding areas. We ate lunch at a little French bistro — practice for the Paris glutton-a-thon to come. I haven’t gotten this much exercise in months! Back to Suzie’s for the night.

Day 6: I decided I’d better see some culture and stuff, since I came all this way and everything. So off I went to St. Paul’s Cathedral, though it was £9.80 to get in. Um, no thanks; I’ll just look around the entrance. I’ve already been in there years ago anyway. I walked over to the Millenium Bridge, a foot bridge over the Thames and then checked out the new Tate Modern museum. Cool building, retarded art. Sorry if any of you are big modern art fans. I just don’t see how some rope nailed to a wall is art, but I could just be small-minded. Then, I wandered, had lunch, had some coffee, and eventually met Suzie and Toni for a glass of wine at a cool cave-like bar, which also had some outdoor seating so that we could take advantage of yet another gorgeous day. Suzie, however, has sworn off wine, and stuck to it. Out to a local pub that night with Toni and Sam.

Day 6: My last day, and I’m in Toni’s flat, my butt going numb from sitting on the couch trying to figure out how to size these stupid images for this blog, and it’s all for you, readers, all for you. My bouncy castle leg is very, very sore from all the walking, so I’ll probably only leave the flat today to go on a Cadbury-collecting mission (haven’t eaten even one piece yet, BTW) and to visit Toni at the coffee shop where she works. Ah, vacation! All five of us will have dinner here tonight and then tomorrow afternoon, it’s off to Paris, where I’ll have to rent a Little Rascal to cart my ass from bistro to bistro. C’est la vie! (Already talking like a Parisian, clearly). Also, if anyone wants a few more photos, check out the link on this page to Flickr. That’s it for London, folks — see you in Paris! xxx

Just the FAQs, please.

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007
Here they are, readers, the answers to the questions that have been keeping you up nights. Where is she going again? How in the world can she afford this? How many pairs of underwear is she bringing? All of these ... [Continue reading this entry]

Let’s Get Out Of This Country

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007
Before I get to the FAQs, here’s a little map to illustrate the wide swath of destruction I’ll cut across the planet. JK! (Props to Scott M. for creating this map!) beckysmap.jpg

The Story of My Life So Far

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007
blucrush2.jpg Hi, everyone! This is me, Becky, sitting at my desk at work last summer. I had a fine job with fine people, great friends, a full social calendar, a nice apartment and a generally cushy existence: ... [Continue reading this entry]