vendredi 14 mars 2008

west end girls: london day 4.

Monday: Last Day

Woke up kind of early thinking we were going to go to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. Didn't happen. On the way to the Tube, we both felt hungry, so we stopped at a cute patisserie. The owner was definitely French. It felt like a movie set. Nothing is this cute!I got tea (rose petal, as suggested by the owner), an almond croissant, and orange juice. Lucia got coffee, almond croissant, and juice too. We sat at a big wooden table, the kind I'd like in my home one day. It was so good. Everything, from the plates to the teacups to the shop decor was dainty and girly. Loved it.It started to pour, and Lucia didn't want to be outside, so we decided to do what most girls do when they feel like doing something...We went shopping.

Took Lucia back to Covent Garden where there are loads of shops. Beeline straight to H&M because we're always wondering if the stuff is different in each country.

Being In Love Rule of Shopping

I've developed this a while back when trying to shop on my modest college budget that was funded by my part time job. When shopping, if I fell in love with an article of clothing, if it fit me well, if I needed it, if I couldn't walk away--I bought it. It was that simple. I mentioned this to Lucia while she was debating over a faux leather jacket at H&M that looked absolutely stunning on her, complimented her skin tone, and foresaw totally adding to her wardrobe with the pieces of clothing she already had without being some piece that she had to "build on". She still wasn't sure. I asked her if she was in love with it, if she couldn't walk away without totally regretting it.

She bought it.

I've added to my rules of shopping since college in particularly since coming to France. In particularly, quality goes a really, really long way. I think I'm more willing now to hold out on something if I know it's going to last a long time, especially for something important like a wool jacket. With basics, H&M is decent and not pricey. I bought 2 hoodies, one zippered another plain just because the 2 I brought here are already dying. I've had them for a while anyway. Also, pieces that have history or even just a story to them like the Johnstons scarf are nice because they're more than the article, they mean something, have sentimental value.

Lucia bought some other essentials to her wardrobe while I just replaced what was dying. We walked some more, peeking into shops and windows. Went to an accessories store where Lucia got sunglasses, and I got my own big umbrella which I love. It's black, white, and splashes of bright green flowers. It's easy to open and close as well, easier than my pocket umbrella. We got fish and chips and a pint at a pub--most tasty.

We then headed home to pack. Stopped at a Marks and Spencers to get some traditional British dessert to eat at home. I suggested sticky toffee pudding which I had last time. God, I love Marks and Spencers and their ready to eat meals. They're quality and really tasty. Got home and packed then ate our dessert. Maek and Loz got home right before we left, and Maek gave us a ride to the Tube station.

Before leaving, we told Maek about our next trip to Italy. He was really happy for us since he really loves Rome. He really stressed how important it was for us to travel while we're young and still here. There's still the stress about where's the money going to come from, how am I going to plan this? I really think it's worth it even if it means not eating out for a while or not buying anything unneeded. I mean, even that for a couple of weeks can mean a nice weekend somewhere like Greece or Amsterdam. We're all so close to everything; we have to take advantage. Once we're back in California, a plane ticket alone to Europe can be pricey. And where will we find the time when we're not working or going to school? It's hard.

I think I did good though, as far as traveling goes. I didn't do the whole "backpack across Europe" deal, but I got to live in Paris, visit family in London, do Amsterdam, and now two weeks traveling up Italy for spring break...That's pretty good.

The train ride back was nice. I kept thinking about my own bed and going back to living alone. I was coughing up a lung the whole time and annoying loads of passengers, and Lucia was nice and got me tea. Lovely girl. I didn't even ask her to, she just offered and did. She brought back tea and a sandwich to share with me. Oh the goodness of good people.

Got home late and beat, but I got to sleep in the next day.

west end girls: london day 3.


Maek let me check my mail on his laptoppy, and Mom sent me an email saying how proud she was to see my essay on Why We Write. She printed it out for Dad and Grandma to read too. That made me happy. Sometimes I can get embarrassed about writing real personal stuff, even on this blog, but it ended up being a good thing. Mom also said that she bought my ticket for home. I officially go home July 3rd on a flight and airline different from my parents. I'm glad they got me a ticket different from theirs, and a ticket home in general. There will be a lot to think about on the flight back to the states.Went to the Columbia Road Flower market, which Maek and Loz suggested for a Sunday morning. It's always nice to do local things and really mingle with citizens of this amazing city. We basically followed people who where coming towards us with flowers. Maek and Loz also told us about this photographer, Seamus Ryan, who does these free themed photo sessions. They went with Jaiya and got the cutest photos. He posts them up on his website, and if you like them you can order them.

But first we went down the road walking through flower stall after stall and hearing the lovely Brits yelling, "Two for a tenner! Come spend your pocket money!" We ducked into little tiny shops that sold cute things. Both Lucia and I got these amazing Scottish scarves made by a company called Johnstons that's been making scarves since 1797. I have this thing for getting special things that have history, like my Frye boots and a story to it ("I got this Scottish scarf at a flower market in London!"). Plus, I just really liked the scarf a lot. It has a unique pattern.

After much wandering around, we found the studio. Today's theme was "The Signing". Seamus took photos of people walking to a white board, signing their name, posing in front of the board, and then walking off camera. He's going to make it into a film too. Lucia and I were really excited. Firstly--it's free. Secondly, how cool is this?!

I went first, then Lucia went, and I took pics of her going. Lucia signed her name "L. Angel"--with her last name, and Seamus said, "Is your name Angus?" Everyone in the room laughed, but not at Lucia, just regular laughing at the moment. Lucia laughed too, which I think helped her photo because she has this smile that remains after you laugh a bit. Very cute. You can see me and Lucia's photo on Seamus Ryan's site.After, Lucia and I took photos in their Photobooth that prints out amazing pictures. It also has a wind machine inside. That was fun.After the flower market, it started to rain a bit, so we decided to do something indoors. I suggested Harrods since Lucia mentioned wanting to buy an English umbrella, something well made to withstand harsh weather. I ended up getting a quintessential Harrods bag, something I always get on each trip to London. They're so cute, and durable since they're made with PVC and laminated. The umbrellas were pretty expensive so we walked down the street a bit and hopped into a luggage store where Lucia found the perfect umbrella: it's black and long with a wooden handle. Lucia also was looking at some luggage since the one she brought here was in bad shape. I too was looking at the carry-on bags that were on sale. Lucia got a duffel with wheels and a Samsonite carry-on in khaki. I got the same carry-on weekend bag in purple.

We figured, what the hell, why not? It was something that would last a long time, we could use it for Italy, and I definitely needed mine since I'm coming home with more than I brought. The luggage guy was super nice and took 20 pounds off the sale price. Nice!Then I did something really stupid that I'm just too embarrassed to even write about it: I left my wallet at the store.

I had no idea. We left the store and were walking towards the metro station, about a block away. The luggage guy comes running up behind us, holding my wallet. I was stunned. I never do this crap. He had this sort of mad face, kind of like the face your Dad makes when you do something really stupid and careless. I was so embarrassed. Lesson learned. I was just so stupidly excited about my new purchase that I didn't even think about the other stuff going on around me. Felt like an idiot for a couple hours afterward and rightly so.

Went home to drop off our purchases. We couldn't think of anything else to do, and I think Lucia was kind of getting tired of "touristy" things. You can only have so much of museums, Maek had said. So we decided to see a movie! I mentioned that Covent Garden as a lot of great cinemas, so I chose the Odeon at Covent Garden to see There Will Be Blood, which I wanted to see for a while.

It wasn't a full house or anything for There Will Be Blood, just a lot of kids our age, which is nice. Before the title credit showed up on the screen some guy said, "Gonorrhea!" which was pretty funny and stupid at the same time. The film itself was pretty good, and everyone laughed at all the right parts ("I drink your milkshake!"). It was a good time. Headed home around midnight pretty beat.

jeudi 13 mars 2008

west end girls: london day 2


Woke up a little late, guess we were pretty tired. Loz was nice enough to make us some toast even though Lucia and I previously agreed we would not bum food off my cousin's fam. They were letting us stay here for free after all. We gave them some French wine as a thank you beforehand. They gave us two thick slices of wheat toast, butter, and honey--delicious. Also some coffee to wake us up.

Lucia met Jaiya, who was totally enthusiastic about her new visitors. Showed us the backyard, her bike, Mr. Nicky (her stuffed monkey) all the while having a cookie stuck to her arm. So cute. Lucia bought tickets for us for the London Eye, which I have never done before in all my trips to London (totaling 4 now!).We copied down the "Millennium Walk" from my Let's Go book and decided to do only parts of it. We first went to the Globe Theatre and had the tour. There was a hot Brit guy on the stage rehearsing too so that was exciting. Wish we could have seen a play, but they start doing those in the spring and summer. Then walked down the Thames toward the London Eye. Unfortunately it started to drizzle so the pods were a bit wet. Saw a pretty awesome view of everything down the Thames: Big Ben, all the bridges, House of Parliament. For some weird reason I was more interested in the pod itself as well as the whole apparatus of the wheel and just kept staring at the other pods full of people in them.After the Eye, we were both pretty hungry, I mentioned that we passed this restaurant my cousin took us too when I first came to England except I went to the Covent Garden one. It's a noodle chain called Wagamama. I'm not usually pushy about where or what to eat, but I got a bit nostalgic and said, "Can we eat here? I haven't been here in a long time. It's really good." Lucia agreed.
Walk into this large room, almost like a mess hall. Very modern and minimalist. You sit right next to strangers and catch all their interesting conversations. Thankfully, Lucia and I got to sit at the end of a table so it's easier to talk. We got green tea, gyoza to start, and Lucia got spicy noodles, and I got ramen soup to battle my cold. I wrote down on the paper placemat with my Lamy what we did so far and we discussed what else to do in this part of town.

Lucia had remarked, while looking around the restaurant, "There are definitely some wows in this room." She meant the British guys. Lots of cute British guys everywhere we go. In Clapham too. Maek said that Clapham (where we were staying) has the largest concentration of under 30s in western Europe. If I could, I would just move there, buy Maek and Loz's house, and just hope to God I meet my next boyfriend/husband there. Heaven. Lucia spotted a blond guy ("And I don't even really like blonds!") that was super cute with a green shirt and jeans.

What I love about the guys here, more so than even the French guys, is that they dress more casual here and still look good. They know what size jeans to wear, they all have different and nice hair--they're like the middle ground between California casual and Parisian chic. And it's the same with the girls here too--more casual. I'm feeling that I'd be more at ease in London when I'm out and about in my jeans and hoodie than I am in Paris. I practically wished I chose to study Cinema in London than French in Paris, but c'est la vie.

Our food came, first the gyoza then the noodles, and boy was it DELICIOUS! I could go here once a week, I swear. If this was in SF or even in LA, it would totally take off. Lucia loved her spicy noodles--finally something spicy. Not a lot of spicy things in France. We ate slowly like we're accustomed to in France and then our table was totally empty, so I took this photo: Then we got ice cream, coconut with some citron sauce and coconut flakes. Tasty. Our lovely server came by and saw my camera on the table and actually asked us if we wanted our photo taken. How sweet. See how nice people are? After lovely late lunch, we went back to the Globe Theatre to see the exposition. Got a call from Keisha who was also in London with her mom asking us if we wanted to eat Indian food now instead of that night around 8. Lucia and I were both pretty full, so we had to decline which sucks. Then Lucia and I took a random bus around London and got off when it stopped at a Tube station near Tower Bridge. We walked across it--so beautiful at night!--and then took the Tube home.We were greeted by Maek who was working in front of the tv. Oh God, to have a job that allows you to sit in front of a tv on a comfy couch with a laptop on your lap--that's the life. He designs websites. We were a bit hungry so he gave us some delivery menus. We chose pizza. We ordered in and he also let us buy a movie through his satellite tv. He let us sit on the couch that he was sitting on that's "perfect for vegetating" and that he'd just passively sit and watch with us while working.

So for our second night in London, we ate pizza and watched the Edith Piaf movie with Marion Cotillard, which was very good, and I've always liked her anyway. Funny to watch this in England of all places.

mardi 11 mars 2008

west end girls: london day 1.

Another long weekend in London, how lovely! C. left at the same time as me. I literally watched her drive away in the taxi then headed straight off to Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar train with Lucia.

Still felt sick and crappy, but I didn't really care, I was going to London. Boarded the train, no problem. We got into St. Pancras around 11, but neither Maek nor Lorraine would be home until 1pm to receive us. I got lunch at the station since I was hungry, but Lucia ate on the train. Got a tasty Caesar salad, and after could not stop coughing for the life of me. I couldn't even talk, either. It would just make me cough more and my throat all itchy.

While Lucia watched our stuff, I went to a tea and coffee place. Wrote down what I wanted in my Moleskine and showed it to the server. It read: "Peppermint tea, please. Sorry, I can't talk." The server was super nice, almost abnormally nice. Drank my tea and for an hour or so, Lucia and I sat at the station, which is super nice, by the by, and planned out our weekend. We brought my Let's Go book to help us. We wrote down possible itineraries, the metro stations for each place we planned to visit, and just all the things we wanted to do.

Afterwards, headed toward the Tube station. We talked to one of the Underground tube guys, and he was helping us decided whether we should get a week pass or 4 daily passes. He was super nice. He did the math all for us, and we ended up gatting 4 daily passes straightaway. From there, we headed towards Maek's, only changing trains once.

Got out of the station, and a nice newspaper vendor asked us if we needed help, "Don't be shy, girls! What street do you need?" He ended up not knowing where we should go, so we bought a map at a little corner market, the "A to Zed" map. To say the letter "Z", they say "zed", and not "zee". God love the Brits. The guy kept saying, "Ay to Zed? Ay to Zed?" And Lucia and I kept looking at each other with this same look like, "What the hell is this guy saying?!" And then when I saw the map, I finally understood.

We found Maek and Loz's easily, and Maek was home and we got to rest and he made some tea for us. Then we headed back into the city. Went to Trafalgar Square and into the National Gallery, which is free. Saw "Sunflowers" and some Saurat. Got some fish and chips at a small little restaurant. So good.Took the Tube Went to nearby the River Thames and walked across Millennium Bridge to go to the Tate Modern, also free. Passed some protesters in front of the Scientology building wearing V for Vendetta masks, and they were actually really nice, not threatening at all. Asked us if we wanted some propaganda, and we kindly declined although now I wish I took some of it. Saw some modern arts which I'm starting to appreciate.

We took lots of pics throughout the weekend, which is great, and not the stand in front of this monument and just smile kind, which I'm kind of getting tired of. I mean, we did take some of those, but not a lot. Luckily, Lucia didn't think me weird of asking her to take a certain kind of photo, to frame it in such a way or that I didn't look into the camera. Took lots of silly ones as well.

Went home totally beat. Slept like babies that night.

Hotel Chevalier

Decided to focus "Catherine Week"--which is what I've been calling all the weeks my friends are visiting me (Stacy Week is next)--to one post on one particularly interesting evening.

As I had written before, C. booked a night at Hotel Raphael where Wes Anderson filmed "Hotel Chevalier", a short film featuring characters from The Darjeeling Limited. C. sometimes books a room for one night at luxurious hotel. This one was special since it was in Paris and we both share a love for Wes Anderson.

Walked in instantly greeted by a nice man in a longcoat. Hey grabbed our bags off us, we weren't even 5 steps in. We walked straight to the check-in. I hung back, observing the decor and the hotel inhabitants--very luxurious and a couple of businessmen at the bar.

Room 403. C. had asked for a "girly" room. The same guy that took our bags, I forgot his name, but a nice fellow, took us to our room. It was...It's hard to describe with words.It was like walking into a palace. Or a museum. He set our bags down in the bedroom area, and showed us all the features of the room and the bathroom. He had a sense of humor: "That is a blow dryer, not a phone, hahaha" when he showed us the dryer in the bathroom. It did look like a phone. He left us to our complimentary fruit basket. C. asked for champagne flutes and a bucket of ice since we bought some cheap champagne on the way.This was to be ours for one night.

We sat on the couch and vegged for a bit. We were tired from our morning trip to Versailles which was somewhat spoiled by bad weather. We poured champagne and toasted to ourselves and to "Mr. and Mrs. Catherine Fernandez" as the card in the fruit basket read. I took a bubble bath for the first time in a long time and had champagne next to me. It was wonderful. It's funny how simple things can make you feel so good.

Changed into pajamas. C. begged that I buy some matching pajamas so I can match with her, so I got some on the way to the hotel at Brooks Brothers where C. gets hers. Around 8 or 9, we both just fell right asleep on the most comfiest bed ever. I woke up at 10pm to hear C. ordering room service. She got us sandwiches.

I brought my laptop, and we played music from The Darjeeling Limited. When the server came with the tray of food, he didn't know where to put it since all the tables had something on it. C. just said, "Put it on the floor."

"On the floor?" he said incredulously. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah." I stood by the door, trying not to laugh. The server bent down and said, "Very well" and put the tray on the floor. We sat on the floor eating the sandwiches. At one point, C. had grabbed mine accidentally and took a bite out of it. "Is that my sandwich?" I said, while she was holding it. "Oh. Yeah." She put it down and picked up hers. What a night.

We drank more champagne and talked aimlessly while music was playing. We put on our bathrobes and put the chairs out on the balcony and drank from there. We saw the searchlight from the Eiffel, but not the tower itself but we didn't mind it. C. lit match after match trying to light her cigarette until I finally lit it for her, cupping the light away from the cold wind.We talked about film, future, philosophy, and boys. While bundled in our robes and slippers, she said something very sweet that also broke my heart in a way: "You're a sweet girl. Please don't let anyone walk all over you." I was speechless. Not because it was true for my past, but because I could see it all happening in the future like it was supposed to happen.

We put the music on louder and danced in the room, drunk from champagne. At least I didn't have to worry about going home. We danced and danced, and then we lied down on the floor staring at the chandelier. Went to sleep around 3.

Woke up early and sat on the balcony in my robe and wrote some things I learned during C.'s stay here. Don't think I'll write about here, some things I get to keep to myself. We said goodbye to the room and checked out at noon. I'll never forget the night of luxury that I got to spend thanks to C.

lundi 10 mars 2008

west end girls

Back from London!!! What a great long weekend. Thanks to Maek, Lorraine, and Jaiya for putting us up again for the second time this year!

Had a wonderful splendid time despite my sickness and coughing. Cheers to Lucia for putting up with this harbinger of disease. A real sport. We got to do touristy things as well as do what the locals do. Will re-cap each day like always. Maybe do a post on Catherine's week in between each London re-cap.


National Gallery. Hot British men saying funny things and asking questions. London Eye. 2 films watched. British food. Shopping. Free photography session with Seamus Ryan for his Sunday Shoots (thanks Maek!). Wagamama revisited. Super nice British peoples (compared to France). The "being in love" rule of shopping created by yours truly. Mr. Nicky (Jaiya's stuffed monkey).