Archive for the 'Travels' Category

The Land of Downton Abbey and the Beatles

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

London.is.very.very.English. I’m not trying to be funny here but I mean, you wake up in London and you KNOW you’re there.

Today, if you showed up in London, you will see an elderly woman sipping her tea, wearing a hat with a feather (or a net). She is wearing a powder blue, polyester dress with flat dowdy shoes. She’s licensed to look like the Queen Mother or Violet from Downton Abbey….except she’s sitting right next to you, in real life. Bizarre.

The red double-decker buses don’t disappoint. It actually zooms past you screaming at your senses, “You Are In London!” Combined with the yellow stripe marking a pedestrian lane, I feel like the Beatles will be crossing Abbey Road any second.

Fish and chip pubs. Everywhere. It is cloudy; it will likely rain in the afternoon.

I say it’s very very English because sometimes you wonder if a City looks just a little bit from how they have been showcased  in Frommer’s but walk away a block or two and its disappointing. Or maybe it just looks like it in travel magazines for only a few square blocks (but not really). No. They were right. Those pictures were accurate. You will know you’re in the land of David Beckham and the Spice Girls.

Our bed and breakfast had Victorian-style wallpaper. I turned on the ‘telly’ and watched the BBC. You should try that…same news, but different take on issues….oh and America is like Topic Number 11, after talks about France, Greece, the Euro and other things important to that side of the world. I also watched a show called “Balls of Steel.” Hilarious. I was trying so hard to understand the accent and whatever it was they were doing was extremely funny and entertaining in the Benny-Hill-kinda-way.

I woke up and our English breakfast was plenty. Sausage came with uhm, a whole skinned & blanched tomato. Toast came in a toast holder. A toast holder! Who needs that? The Brits do.  

The Queen’s guard doesn’t laugh. Believe me. I tried… damn fuddy duddies.

Walking Picadilly Square on a drizzly evening made it feel like I was going to meet up with Lilly Allen for drinks.

In Victoria Station, it was so tempting to run into one of the subway columns just like Harry Potter did, to see if it would take me to Hogwarts. Tom stopped me. I’m glad. I don’t want tabloid paparazzi to see that. It wouldn’t be pretty.

When you’ve switched from finding a UDF or 7-Eleven to looking for Sainbury’s and Tony The Tiger’s Frosted Flakes are relabeled to “Frosties”, you know you’re not in Ohio. Of course it was also a shock that clothes retailer Marks and Spencer was now hawking high-end, grab-n-go, healthy snacks. Score!

There is one thing that took my breath away. How Londoners must love books & the theatre. Here in this city, books thrive and even the dirtiest alley might promote whatever is showing on the West End. It’s exhilarating and makes me feel so hopeful. When you go down the tube, there are life-size posters promoting novels, book releases, author signing events and the latest musical. There are neon billboard signs promoting books, for heavens sake — never mind that it’s for Danielle Steel, it’s still literature right?

It was wonderful.

Oh, and Mind The Gap.

Oui Paris!

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

You fall in love in Paris because you are surrounded by extremely good looking people who speak lyrical words you don’t understand.

In the middle of the busy subway station, someone plays the violin, the harp, even a cello — making time stand still even just for a song.

Surrounding you are buildings that have lived for centuries. They serve as a landmark to men that have lived before us. If you stood still and stared, you sense that hundred-year-old soul in them yearning to reach out to you with stories to share.

Napoleon re-drew Paris and they never touched it since. He had good taste. Today any renovation can only be done to the interiors of a building. Nothing touched outside. No wonder movers use windows to hurl furniture up to apartments.

I sat on a bench along Les Champs Elysees. This beautiful avenue witnessed horror as Nazis marched in during those dark days. But of course it was also there to greet Lance Armstrong at the end of each Tour de France, especially the one he won right after battling cancer. What a historic site. Today it is lined with high end stores – Cartier, Peugeot and of course, there is a Starbucks. I feel like it should have been kept the way it is but such is life….even avenues move on.

Food Porn? It’s there. Coffee and Coffee Houses, everywhere. It was ironic to me that Starbucks thrives but they do… courtesy of young Parisians that find it trendier than the traditional coffee shop on the corner. Guess where I chose to sip my latte.

So yes, Paris is all they say it is…and more. I will be back someday.