I wrote some of the best ones down, for posterity. (As Andrea will attest to, Mary also has many incredible stories, and she is hysterically funny when sharing them.) Along with those stories, she spouts out some great quotables:
(After I’d taken a picture a little too early)
“Oops! Premature ejaculation!”
“Equestrians just like to have something between their legs.”
“I sometimes think I went into the wrong profession. I should’ve been a hooker.”
“Sometimes I wonder when I’ll go into grandma mode, where I retire and start putting photos into albums.”
“But then you wouldn’t be Mary anymore.”
“Oh, you’re damn right.”
(Hanging out with her and her friend, laughing and drinking wine)
“As you can tell, we really haven’t gained all that much wisdom. Being wise is overrated anyway. I’d rather be funny.”
“There are not enough songs about middle-aged women. I’m going to start a pop group and call it Menopausal Mommas.”
I miss her already, as if you couldn’t tell.
I don’t recommend going to see Enron, a play about corporate corruption in America, two days before returning to the scene of the crime. I made that mistake tonight.
I oscillate almost daily between wanting to leave the U.S. the moment my Tarheel blue mortarboard leaves my head and wanting to stay and fight the very issues that often make me feel like a stranger in my own country.
Fortunately, if anything, as much disgust as I experienced witnessing conniving executives equivocating to their hapless employees, I experienced even more of a desire to go back and incite change. I have to. I must. I cannot stand to live in a place that inspires award-winning, critically-acclaimed plays about its depravity.
So I suppose I’ll come back simultaneously feeling really loved and really irritated. But take it or leave it, that’s me at my best.
Our last day in France, we went to Reims to visit the Clicquot factory and tour the local cathedral. Like I said, my camera batteries were dead at this point. So sad. Alas, these two lonely pictures were stolen from a dear friend. That’s all I have.
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Factory. I have spoiled taste buds.
Cathedrale de Reims
Perhaps it’s better, anyway, to end this series with fewer pictures and more words. Because the shivers I get whenever I think about this trip surely deserve more than pictures and captions as recognition. Yet it’s so difficult to describe the magic we all certainly felt throughout our journey, but particularly in its denouement as we realized how very close we were to that magic potentially ending.
Early flights and early train rides meant the following morning was a rush of rolling our suitcases out the door, so that night in Paris was it for most of us. And I’m so sorry I couldn’t walk around after our jaunt to the Louvre for a few last pictures. I could feel the joy of the trip draining from me with every tear, and trust me, there were lots of tears. I wanted so badly to remember the happy moments, the spontaneous laughter, the long dinners that grew into early breakfasts, the late-night chats aided by wine and acknowledging our own vulnerability–like we could share anything with one another. And we did. That’s what I wanted to remember, not the goodbyes punctuated with choked sobs.
Of course, for those of us prone to writing sappy entries like this one, choked sobs are never far from the surface, always threatening to burst from our throats at the thought of a that last Perfect Day or, more solemnly, a life cut short.
So here I am, two weeks after the trip’s end, reflective and still a little sad. But it’s not leaving France that hurt so much as leaving them, those people with whom I’ve shared so much.
Again: I miss you all and I love you so much. I’ll see you soon, but in the meantime… Don’t forget to toast to Tuesdays.
Another day in pictures. Can you tell I’m too busy to write more than a few hundred words? Well, I am. Soaking up my last few days in London requires little talking and lots of walking.
Radcliffe Camera--this place is still a library
Bodleian Library. These libraries are brilliant because they actually inspire studying.
Gardens outside of Christ Church College
Lewis Carroll attended Oxford and based Alice on the dean's daughter, so there's a big Alice theme here!
Lunch at the King's Arms
Chicken & bacon pie with veggies and chips. I'll miss how the Brits top everything with a flaky pastry.
THE GREAT HALL FROM HARRY POTTER. MY FACE DOES NOT EVEN BEGIN TO REVEAL MY EXCITEMENT, NOR DOES ALL-CAPS.
Outside of The Great Hall, where Ludivine is being studious. Duh.
The Great Staircase from Harry Potter. Swoon.
A boat ride along the Isis was tempting, but not for 23 pounds.
A sweet ending at the sweet shop, which kept playing songs from Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. Another childhood fantasy realized.
So, I’ve done the Oxford thing. What else should I do in my last ten days? Any suggestions? Any questions about my experience abroad that you want answered?
We took an early morning train to Paris, our last stop on the trip of a lifetime. Day seven also marked the death of my last AA batteries, meaning that tomorrow’s post will be tragically void of images.
Cafe de Flore for lunch. It's never too early for bubbly.
Cold chicken with mayo and a side salad (not pictured). After all the snails and cream sauces, I was craving simplicity!
Chocolate Opera, singing not included
Remember that chocolate river in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory? This hot chocolate tasted like the pre-Augustus-Gloop-entry liquid chocolate in that river. AKA liquid heaven.
Our hotel room next to Saint Sulpice
Ivy-covered courtyard in the hotel
More lovely Louvre
Just a quick encounter with Mona
Recalling my childhood obsession with ancient Egyptian culture
A perfect Parisian day
A perfect Parisian view
Dinner at Le Dome, where I had the most amazing lobster
We went to the Musee Jacquemart Andre first thing (the French equivalent of Biltmore Estate, with more art), followed by lunch and a relaxing afternoon touring around Paris. Sometimes, those kind of days are the best.
I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.
I’ve been to Hampton Court, on the outskirts of London, twice in the last month. First, to see Henry VIII’s palace, where actors play out the day of Henry’s last marriage, which was to Catherine Parr. We got to wear robes as though we were members of the royal court and witnessed the many secrets hidden by the palace walls. It reminded me of going to Colonial Williamsburg as a child, but I continue to enjoy playing pretend as a quasi-adult.
Also, historical re-enactments always make me wonder how our society will be portrayed in 300 or so years. How will our generation be presented many years from now? Any ideas? I guess all the actors will have to check their computers/iPods/iPhones/Blackberries often, for starters.
The palace looking particularly ominous
Idyllic gardens, even on a yucky day
More perfectly-manicured gardens
Henry and Catherine
Another day, another English maze solved
Today, we went to Hampton Court for the Foodies Festival. I don’t suppose further description is really necessary, but I would like to add that the weather was gorgeous for an outdoor festival and an impromptu picnic/photoshoot.
Pig pickin', Portuguese style
Picnic, London style
Pork (with fennel and rosemary) + rocket + homemade applesauce + ciabatta
Eaten in five minutes flat
Followed by a garden jaunt
And some laying-in-the-grass-taking-photos
Sheer bliss. I have a whole lot of updating to do about how I’ve spent my last few days, but I’m headed to Oxford tomorrow and must mentally prepare for the giddiness I’ll experience when I see places where Harry Potter was filmed.