|This is hella long, so read only if you really love me.
||[21 Jul 2009|06:42pm]
I'm sure that the two, maybe three of you who read this thought I'd never write in it again. I've been waiting for exactly the right time to update about the past week - Thursday in Oxford, Friday in London, Saturday and Sunday in Paris - and here, after a hot shower and "Intolerably Cruelty" with a good friend, cozy pajamas, and the sounds of my drunken Oxford peers drifting in through my open eight-foot windows, I feel ready.
Thursday of last week was an adventure. A typical day of class, followed by a dinner with the entire Birmingham-Southern group including our faculty sponsor for the summer, Dr. Lester. I have close friends who adore Lester (almost to the point of unhealthiness) and so I was really excited to get to know him, seeing that our first introduction was here at St. John's. He tried to take the group to a really charming former pub (or it had been when he was studying here years ago) turned swanky restaurant that had been booked for Thursday night all week. After being turned away there, we jetted off to another restaurant: a much more suitable, in both atmosphere and cost, Italian place down Gloucester Green. Dinner was great, wine was delicious, but the company was definitely the star of the evening. V. Markham Lester is a gem of a professor and and as cool a man as I've ever met. He regaled us with stories about his campaign efforts as President of the Arkansas Young Democrats for President Kennedy, and other incredibly entertaining stories. As the dinner drew to a close, a birthday cake, which Dr. Lester's wife had ensured made it via the backpack of one of my classmates, was presented, candles and all. It was a really special moment to celebrate the 58th birthday of a man who is the prototype for what college professors should be like: relatable, but not a pushover; full of interesting things to say but also interested in your thoughts. Really a great night.
After the dinner, a few of us went to a pub down Cornmarket St. called the Purple Turtle. The American girls who were there definitely got the party started on the dance floor, and before long it was a multi-cultural extravaganza. It was particularly interesting to see how the room reacted when Michael Jackson's "Beat It" was played.
The next day, my friends Elizabeth, Guv (short for Gouvanear and pronounced /GOO-vah-near/...holy pretentious names, right?) took a bus to London for the day. Although rainy (surprise, surprise), we managed to cover a pretty good bit of the city on foot, just stumbling upon whatever we decided we wanted to do. While we were in Harod's, in the midst of a dress purchase (Elizabeth's), I brought up that I was going to Paris for the weekend and had a hotel room that she was more than welcome to stay in. Thus, our trip to Paris was born. We were giddy about our weekend plans and Guv, although not invited because of his sex, was excited for us too. We found a great lunch place where the service was fabulous and the conversation was as good as the food - the perfect amount of sustenance without being overbearing. I had a goat cheese salad. And a tea to go (or "take away" here). Many funny and fun stories from that day that I'll save for the next time you and I are in person.
Saw "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" on Friday night as well. Underwhelmed, but still cried when Dumbledore died.
Saturday morning began our adventure. We caught a train to London, and from there took the Eurostar/chunnel to Paris Nord. Might I add, two twenty-year-olds navigated the European transportation system completely independent of anyone's help and very efficiently. It sounds small, but it was a giant victory for the two of us considering we had to use trains, subways, taxis, and Eurostars. One giant step for womankind.
When we got to Paris, we immediately crashed in the hotel room for about an hour, and watched American cartoons in French. Hilarious. Although I'd taken four years of French prior to the trip, I was reeeeeally nervous about using it in conversation. So nervous that when we took our first taxi ride, I wrote down the address of the place and kind of caveman-grunted it to the driver. Classy. After we got settled, we put on our newly purchased pretty dresses and taxi-d past the Arc de Triomphe and to the Eiffel Tower for the evening. We got there when it was still light out, and got to watch the sun set on the lit and sparkling Eiffel Tower. A moment I will never forget. Made me cry. We had dinner in a cafe across the river, overlooking the Tower in all its glittery-ness. Cheese plate, glasses of champagne, spaghetti, salad, and the best, most wonderful chocolate dessert I've ever had. By the way, Paris knows how to do food. The portions are exactly right, and the meals LAST. We sat at dinner for two and a half hours, and the restaurant was still rocking when we left at 12:30. Took the only glorious shower so far and had the first real, solid night's rest of my stay in Europe. Thank you, Dad.
Sunday we got up, got dressed, and immediately found a breakfast bar on our way to see the Arc in daylight. Two fried eggs each and a banana crepe for me. Thank you and goodnight, I could have died. Delicious. We stayed at the Arc and photographed it from every possible angle between the two of us - there's a giant, translucent French flag tethered in the center for the Tour de France, and it was mesmerizing. After that, we walked the length of the Champs Elysee to the Louvre, where we saw the Winged Victory, Mona Lisa, and Venus de Milo. I'm giving you highlights - of course there was much more beauty and fabulousness. Took a cab to Notre Dame and walked in and around the cathedral for a couple of hours. Just beautiful. The architecture, for its time and ours, is something to marvel over.
That's all I can muster to type at the moment. My fingers are tired, but tomorrow or Thursday I'll definitely write about today at the Globe and seeing Ethan Hawke. Totally cool.
Am deliriously happy, in case you were curious. If I could move you all here with me, I would.