Lost in London (again):
Before breakfast I decided to go for a half-hour walk for three reasons:
1) to work up an appetite for the buffet
2) to exercise and
3) to work out where we should have walked the other night to avoid a circuitous route to the hotel.
Scoring 2 out of 3, I certainly worked up an appetite during the hour-long walk and had plenty of exercise. On the 3rd point however I failed dismally. Around the Belgravia area are many Places and Squares and lots of buildings painted in the shade of magnolia called Queen Anne white. Therein lay the problem; they all look the same! My orienteering skills wouldn’t work because it was cloudy, I couldn’t see the sun and work out which was north, and besides, it’s probably different in the northern hemisphere anyway.
The New Do:
Not Sandi, as one might expect, but Dutchy spent an hour at Headmaster, the hairdressing salon around the corner. The top of his hair, (sides and fringe Dutchy adds, to prove to our friends who have less hair that he has enough to annoy him) was really irritating him, as we found out when we viewed some of our photos from Mme Tussaud’s. He likes to be neat, so off to Charlotte who did a great job on his hair. He even has some Redken mousse called “Rock Sculpt” which he is learning how to apply successfully. Having finally started and published this blog, my next step is to add photos and maybe redesign the setup, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The Hunt for Karaoke:
While I stayed in the hotel room to do some Body Balance (three times this week – and feeling really good for it), Dutchy was missing detective work so much that he sent himself on a mission to hunt out a karaoke venue for the evening. Armed with a map provided by the helpful reception staff, he wandered off to find JD’s Bar and Restaurant in Kennington Lane, Vauxhall. When he returned he said it would take us about 35 minutes to walk there, and assumed that it only opened in the evening.
Setting out, I put my high heel sandals in his backpack in case I wanted to upgrade my outfit once we got there. Down Vauxhall Bridge Road and over the Thames to the seedier side of town we went, arriving at JD’s to find it still closed. The bloke in the Royal Oak Hotel next door had no idea how long it had been closed (somebody needs to update these internet sites), but suggested there was another Royal Oak Hotel further down the road with karaoke on Saturdays. He had quite a thick accent so the name of the road was “Fitz-something Street” as I couldn’t ask him a 4th time to repeat it.
Glad I was wearing runners, on we ventured and came upon The Dog House (Dutchy wants me to add that it is a Pub, as if you couldn’t tell – what else would it be? Maybe a home for lost dogs who happen to speak human? A place where many men live? ) Directions were given to Fitzalan Street. By this time it was almost an hour after we had left, so I was quite hungry. Sorry, they don’t serve food at this Pub, but they have takeaway menus that you can order from local outlets. In the end we went for a walk and found Pizza Forno, where Dutchy had the Cod fish and chips and I had a Chicken Fillet Burger, both of which were very tasty.
Back to the pub at 7.30 to have a drink and wait for the karaoke guy, who hadn’t even arrived yet. I had a small bottle of a Cabernet Sauvignon, which I sat on for the whole evening, while Dutchy continued his beeralogue. Of course, one must buy “a pint” which is about the equivalent of 2 pots.
- John Smith’s Extra Smooth – cold, silky-smooth, full-flavoured Bitter – delicious.
- Stella Artois – standard – not quite as good as the Black from the other night.
- Kronenberg 1664 – a long-time favourite of Dutchy’s, which he can’t describe objectively at the moment because it is just one he likes and has never thought about it before, so next time he has one he will try to critique it.
A television was on at this quirky little pub, with the sound down. They have a trivia show tied in with the lottery. It reminded me a bit of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and I was having fun choosing the answers, many of which were right, to my delight. The sports questions though – forget about them, especially when they were specifically related to England.
By the time the karaoke was set up and actually started at 9.25pm, it was nearly time for us to leave, as we had a long walk ahead of us. Dutchy was called up first and sang “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel to a good crowd reaction, while they were all still reasonably sober. A bloke who sounded like Michael Caine asked me what I was going to sing. I said “Fever” to which he replied that it was some other bloke’s song. It’s funny how people get territorial at karaoke about “their” song, when it wasn’t theirs to begin with. I suggested that it was Michael Bublé’s and I was going to sing Peggy Lee’s version anyway.
Karaoke and Pub crowds – there are certain types and groups at all of them. The accents may change, but the demographics remain the same.
“Folsom Prison Blues” turned out to be double tempo, which meant less stage time for Dutchy. Mind you, the venue was elongated, with the karaoke down the back, a narrow walkway with barstools blocking the path somewhat, and we were near the window at the front. My second song was Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” but Dutchy said the sound wasn’t up enough for my voice. His last song was “Evil Woman” by ELO, so he gave them a wide variety of songs. We found a shorter way home, taking less than 40 minutes, ready for a good night’s sleep.
Eurostar is a star:
What a pleasant way to travel from London to Paris. No airports and associated check-in times. We only had to check in half an hour before leaving from London St. Pancras International Station. Meanwhile, I was able to get a photo going into Platform 9 3/4! We really are having a Harry Potter festival. Even though we only had to travel five stations from Victoria to Kings Cross, it cost us £4 each. In future, it would be advisable to get a day pass for £2 more and do a little travelling around first. Of course, this would then entail leaving luggage somewhere. It would be better to leave it at your hotel, because it would cost £8 per piece at the Left Luggage at the station.
Although our seats were facing the wrong way (I like to face the direction in which I’m going), I got used to it as time went on. Besides, after 30 minutes we entered the Chunnel; 24 minutes later we were on French terra firma in bright sunshine. 1 hour and 10 minutes after that we arrived safely at Paris Gare du Nord. Clocks had to be put forward 1 hour, so our actual arrival was 18:07 pm, to be met by Leslye, with whom we had dinner in Paris last year!
An apartment in Paris!
Our friends Hanis, Audrey and Leslye, organised accommodation for us here in Paris. We had psyched ourselves up for a studio with a sofa bed, kitchenette and not much else, so we were pleasantly surprised with this funkily furnished apartment with a separate comfortable bed and a lounge. Dutchy estimates it at 26 square metres. It would probably fit into our pergola area, particularly as it is U-shaped where the staircase goes. We’re on the 1st floor and Dutchy had to lug the cases up here. The best thing I discovered was a BATH! Small, but a bath nonetheless. I thought I was going to have to wait until we go to my cousin Amelia’s in Brighton on 1st September. We are in the 13th arrondissement near the Métro Station Place d’Italie.
Leslye stayed for awhile for a couple of drinks. We are looking forward to our “programme” devised by our friends to show us a different side to Paris, and also other areas of France.
Uh-oh! It’s a Bank Holiday:
Visited our first boulangerie ( bakery) today, where we bought a baguette, a cheese and bacon roll called Fiçelle Apero (or something similar), and some chouquettes, which are light choux pastries coated with sugar. The thermos I brought has proved fantastic, as in Paris a cup of tea or coffee in some areas is up to about $7. Planning to leave early to go to the Louvre is good, but actually doing it is another matter. Dutchy had promised that during this visit to Paris he would accompany me there, and actually go inside and get a bit of culture. However, we hadn’t known that if it is a Bank Holiday and all the shops are shut, what better activity would there be than to go to Le Louvre? We bought a carnet of 10 Métro tickets and made our way to Palais Royal Musée du Louvre. The 300 metre queues, after Madame Tussaud’s last week, left me cold. It was a beautiful sunny day so I suggested that maybe we could go tomorrow instead. He was only too happy to oblige, and we decided we could walk and meander as we liked, and even if we got lost we could just find the nearest station and make our way back fairly easily.
Because our plans changed and the weather fined up, I needed a hat, which I purchased from one of the many vendors who set up blanket shops (that’s what I call it when they spread their wares on the ground near tourist venues). It’s a cute black one with some silver studs around the band. Could be useful for karaoke too. He wanted me to pay €15 but I just said no thanks and walked away. He suddenly lowered the price to €10, but I declined. None of the others had nice ones, so I thought if he was prepared to come down so quickly I would see what change I had. I therefore offered him 7€50 which he begrudgingly accepted.
Roamed up the Champs Elysées, and then headed over for the obligatory photos of La Tour Eiffel. Needing supplies, we wanted to go to the supermarket, but Carrefour was closed. We couldn’t find it anyway, but eventually made it back to our current place of residence, where I enjoyed a lovely bath after some Body Balance. Nice hair wash here, as the water is much softer.
Beer at McDonald’s!
Crazily, since we only have it in Melbourne once every couple of years, we went to Macca’s for dinner. I often tell people we are from Australia so they don’t confuse us with the English, and Dutchy really noticed the change in attitude after I had said where we were from. I had fun ordering in French. With their meal deal “Best of” you can opt for 1664 beer – how bizarre. If you upgrade you get a sub-normal sized can instead of the baby 200ml one.
As we walked from the Louvre towards the Arc de Triomphe, we remembered how last year we were approached by a guy who pretended to have found a ring and offered it to us for the price of a meal (sandwich and drink). We went along with it, just for a bit of a laugh, but this time we wanted to show one of them a lesson. Bring it on I thought. We were sitting on a seat having a cup of tea from my thermos, when a guy came up to us and oh what a surprise, looked down and picked up a ring, showing it to us to ask if it was ours. I suggested he give it to the police, but he made signs for us to try it on, so Dutchy said he had something for him. He went into his pocket and took out his police ID and told the guy where to go. He ran off, tail between his legs. An American couple were laughing so we had a chat and apparently one of the team had grabbed his camera that was around his wrist, but he managed to shake him off. They were pleased that one of them had got some of what he deserved.
Aux Champs Elysées:
I feel a song coming on. Karaoke is not huge in France, malheureusement (unfortunately). Strolling down the Champs Elysées, I noticed that in some ways it is not as different as it used to be. Now that in Australia we have become a café culture, we are used to seeing people sitting outside venues drinking coffee. Again, as we become more global the differences between cultures are minimised. So why travel then? It’s still great being in another country, especially a foreign one where the language is something other than we are used to, seeing sights in person, particularly large ones e.g. temples, towers, natural wonders and so on.
The coffee here is not so enjoyable, especially at about $7 a cup, so my little trusty thermos helps save money with my Earl Grey tea. In our apartment (doesn’t that sound good?!) we have a coffee plunger where we can make coffee to suit our palates.
I looked in the Guerlain parfumerie, as our younger daughter loves “L’Instant de Guerlain” but the prices were outrageous.
La Tour Eiffel:
She is still beautiful, though this time we took our shots from a distance. I love the one we took of us in front of the tower last year, so this time we tried the one where I am holding the tower in my hand, thanks to Dutchy’s skilful photography.
Rest and Recuperation:
After all that walking the previous day, we decided on a go-slow. I also chose to delay the visit to the Louvre until our next visit to Paris. We have a program planned for us, so we want to be in tip-top shape. Dutchy’s idea of a “go-slow day” is to sit on his bum and do things on the computer, while of course mine is shopping!!!
Location, location, location – this apartment is directly opposite the doors to “Italie 2” which is a huge shopping mall containing a Carrefour supermarket, Go – a sports store (like Rebel), and 130 boutiques. I was in shopping heaven, and was close enough to “home” that I could pop back over here for a spot of lunch before heading back for some more. That’s how cultural I really am, choosing shopping over art at the Louvre.
On my return trip, Dutchy suggested I take one of our walkie-talkies that we will be taking on the cruise, kindly given to us by my sister and brother-in-law last Christmas. When I saw something he might be interested in, I was able to call him and he came over. I found a – wait for it – large pearl necklace suitable for a Rocky Horror outfit that Dutchy wants when he sings “Sweet Transvestite” at our planned Rocky Horror fancy dress night next year.
My purchases were a semi-quaver necklace and a treble clef brooch, plus a nice red cardigan and a little black and red bustier which will be handy for my own Rocky Horror Magenta outfit.
Sure, you can go out to fancy restaurants to eat, but sometimes the simple options can be just as, if not more satisfying. Imagine if you will, a fresh baguette, which is a beautifully crusty long bread roll, smothered in pâté with some Brie cheese on the top. The flavours merge into a delicious taste sensation.
Sometimes we visit the patisserie or boulangerie to add something sweet, but here you can even buy some quite good specialty cakes at the supermarket.
Chinatown, my Chinatown:
This can’t be the only Chinatown in Paris. If it is, I am disappointed. At least in Melbourne there is a grand entrance in Little Bourke Street, announcing that you are definitely in Chinatown. We ended up at a restaurant called Boeuf Grillé for a fairly ordinary buffet. We needed our weekly fix of Chinese after having been hosting the karaoke at the Ming for a year.