Last night’s episode of The Palace blew my mind. Princess Isabella (Izzy) decides to renounce her HRH (her royal highness) status at her well attended (and Web-cammed!) 18th birthday party. The speech, which is pretty damning for the Royal Family, is put online, and the British tabloids seize on the moment to make a real PR nightmare for her older brother, King Richard. What does a 24-year-old king do? Especially when he himself harbors doubts about the legitimacy of his throne. And speaking of legitimacy, there’s a sub-plot brewing about whether Richard is actually the bastard child of his mother’s secret lover, not his recently deceased father, the former King James. Meanwhile, Richard’s handler, Abi, continues to walk a tightrope – trying to keep it secret from King Richard, whom she now loves (and he loves her!) that she’d made a deal to write an expose on the Royal Family. The King’s older sister, Eleanor, now knows about the book and is blackmailing Abi, threatening to tell Richard unless Abi agrees to be her mole and report all of the king’s actions back to her. That bitch. I can’t believe we won’t be here for next week’s episode. Somebody please buy me this season on DVD for my birthday.
We absolutely loved Paris. We packed just the right amount into three days, basing our itinerary on advice from Rick Steves and a pursuit of places to rest over glasses of French wine. We were exhausted by the end of the weekend, but we’ve decided Paris is one of favorite places on Earth.
Our hotel, the Hotel du Cadran, was perfectly located near all the things we wanted to see over the weekend – right around the corner from the Rue Cler, where we ate breakfast ever morning; and a short walk from the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Rue de St. Germain, and Musee de Orsay. After finally checking in on Friday afternoon, we took a walk to The Hôtel des Invalides, built by Louis XIV as a home for disabled war veterans. The architecture, which includes the domed building below, is unbelievable.
After dinner Friday night, the Fry family trio took a ride up the Eiffel Tower to get some perspective on the city and see if had that certain Space Needle je ne sais quoi. Well, a little. We went to the second of three levels. Night time probably is the best time to go up; the tower has strobe lights strung all over it, and the entire thing sparkles every hour on the hour. Luckily, Kristine talked me out of buying a miniature Eiffel Tower for Henry on his 11-month birthday.
We started our Saturday with a great breakfast at Cafe du Marche on the Rue Cler just around the corner from our hotel. It was fun to people watch as we drank our coffee and read the paper. The Rue Cler has kind of an outdoor market feel – with about 3 blocks of fruit, cheese and wine shops, and cafes interspersed all along the way. After breakfast, we packed up the stroller and headed toward the Louvre, which included a nice walk along the Seine. By the time we got to the museum it was noon, so we had a little picnic by a fountain with a bunch of other Parisians. We had a little American moment when we realized we’d forgotten glasses for our wine, so we used Coca Cola cups from the drink stand nearby.
The Louvre was more amazing than either of us had imagined. Being able to see all those famous works of art is great in and of itself, but the building in which they are housed is just as impressive. We spent all afternoon checking out just part of the museum. Henry got a little cranky in the Great Hall, so we let him crawl around on the floor. I think some people were more interested taking pictures of the baby crawling all over the Louvre than the Mona Lisa or Raft of the Medusa. The wear-him-out strategy worked, and he slept through the rest of the museum.
After a long day appreciating art and architecture, we checked out one of Brian’s recommendations – Au Pied de Cochon (the Pig’s Foot Cafe) – so we could appreciate some good food and fine wine. It was the best meal we had in Paris, and Henry made some friends, as usual. The restaurant was full of people in town for the England-France rugby match later that night. A guy from Manchester at the table next to us gave Henry a little rugby ball, which made his night. After a full day of walking, a lot of raw meat (steak tartar) and delicious wine, the 9pm start time for the rugby match gave us an excellent excuse to head directly back to the hotel and watch TV (England beat France 24-13).
Sunday morning brought another breakfast on the Rue Cler, followed by more walking. We couldn’t have asked for better weather – perfect for a picnic lunch in the Luxembourg Palace Gardens. We sat in front of a little boat pond, where boys – big and little – were launching toy sail boats. Paris has so many excellent places for picnics and just chilling out. We could have stayed in those gardens all day, but we needed to make one last museum visit – the Musee d’Orsay, which houses all the impressionists’ art – from Monet to Van Gogh. We only had about an hour there, which was fine since all three of us were pooped (some of us literally) after a long day. We had a bite to eat in the museum cafe, and made our way back to the hotel, where we caught a taxi back to the train station.
Reviewing all we did makes me tired again. I’m so glad we made the trip to Paris. And I’m glad we did it near the end of our two-month stay. It’s probably not polite to say while we’re still living in the UK, but I think we like Paris better than London.
The Fry family trio has arrived on the continent. We took the Eurostar from London’s Saint Pancras station this morning, arriving in Paris at 11 AM local time. We weren’t able to check into our hotel right away, so we took a stroll to the Eiffel Tower. Now, of course, we’re sharing a bottle of wine outside of a little cafe near our hotel. Our French is laughable, but we’ve managed so far (because everybody we’ve encountered speaks English). Henry, who speaks the international language, is making friends, as usual.
I returned to London on Thursday afternoon, very happy to be greeted by Kristine, Henry, Amanda and Erin. Luckily, Henry remembered who I was, though I barely recognized him, as he had grown a foot in the past week. He and I hung out in the flat the rest of the evening while the girls went out to spend some non-baby time in a local Pimlico Pub, the St. George Tavern. Unfortunately, while they were there, a pick-pocket stole Erin’s wallet, with all her credit cards and cash. She’s ok, but man, what a bummer.
In other news, there was a gas explosion at an apartment in North London this morning. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7246290.stm Far away from the Fry Lodge in Pimlico. More updates later once we are more well rested.
I’m in Barcelona with Microsoft and Weber Shandwick for the 2008 Mobile World Congress. As busy as I’ve been, I miss Kristine and Henry like crazy. They’re back in London hosting Amanda Frank and Erin Roche, who flew over from Seattle and New York, respectively, to keep the London Frys company until I return on Thursday. Mobile World Congress is the Super Bowl of mobile industry trade shows, and Microsoft is making some big news, including its announcement today that Sony Ericsson will launch a series of Windows Mobile phones. It’s amazing how much work goes into putting on one of these shows, and I’m always impressed by the grace with which people do their jobs here.
Barcelona is beautiful. It has been sunny since I arrived on Saturday, making it easy to forget that it’s only mid-February. My room at the Hotel Catalonia overlooks a plaza, beyond which is the Fira, where the big MWC trade show is being held. Barcelona is very bicycle friendly. In addition to dedicated bike lanes that run parallel to all the roads, the city has a series of do-it-yourself bike rental stations situated all over town. Picture the luggage carts stacked up at airports that require a credit card to check out – but with bikes instead. Seems like a good option if you find yourself too drunk to drive when coming out of a bar (but not too drunk to ride?).
The next four days are going to be pretty intense. Maybe Kristine and Henry will blog about their London visitors. Adios for now.