Friday, June 27, 2008

London, or Why There Will Be Bumper Cars at My Wedding if I Have Anything to Say About It

Thanks to a 2-hour delay on the Eurostar on the way in and the free one-way ticket offered as compensation, what would have been a whirlwind weekend for Jack's ('10) 21st birthday turned into a 5-day (Harvard in the) UK fest.

Before Elsa and I realized we could extend our trip, we designed the ultimate 24-hour tour.

How to Visit London in a Day:
1. Sleep in
2. Borough Market for Lunch. (Imagine olive stands, wheels of cheese under a flame and toasted bread to catch the run-off, artisanal tomato farmers, organic produce vendors, lines 50 people deep for chorizo sandwiches, freshly grilled coquilles st. jacques--and samples of everything.)
3. Walk along the South Bank, past the Globe Theater, above the Thames on the Millenium Bridge, towards St. Paul's Cathedral.
4. Tube it to Kensington to stroll through Hyde Park.
5. Run into an old high school friend (named Emily, perhaps) at the Goethe Institute for a Fete de la Musique Concert.
5. A hearty London curry for dinner.
6. Night on the town on Savile Row to fulfill the undying Annie in you.

That was day one. For the next 24 hours, after remarkably authentic dim sum in London's chinatown--beef tripe and chicken feet? no problem--real life disappeared for a while. Picture Romeo and Juliet meets Disney Land all to yourself meets the British royal treatment. (Side note: Actually all of this summer has been pretty surreal, so I guess that would make last weekend the mid-epic dream sequence.)

Elsa and I bought our tickets for the Stratford-upon-Avon line (Shakespeare reference #3, I know) and as we turned the corner to wait for the train, we stumbled upon the entire troupe of the Din and Tonics. They were on the floor waiting to head to the party as well. Apparently Jack's parents secretly arranged for them to fly out from Luxembourg where their worldwide tour had brought them so they could perform at the party. Surprise! Ridiculous.

An entire entourage of Harvard in Europe kids eventually piled onto the train with us. After about an hour and a half, we arrived at Notley Abbey, the former home of Sir Laurence Olivier that dates back to the 12th century.... Basically a place that seemed as accessible two years ago to a girl from Briarwood, Queens as Buckingham Palace.

The party itself was no big deal. It only set the highest precedent for my (hypothetical) wedding and no fĂȘte will ever live up. Thanks, Jack.

There was a giant chess set in the lawn, cricket set up in the garden, cocktails in the courtyard. A ballgown or a tux and an elaborate Venetian mask was the norm. (The giant part of the fancy mask memo failed to make it across the Atlantic.) The Dins performed to a mostly Oxford, Cambridge, Eaton and Harvard crowd. Fireworks were the equivalent of the seventh inning stretch between courses 6 and 7 of our seven-course dinner. Afterward, there was dancing with a live band; coffee, tea and chocolate truffles; and BUMPER CARS. Bumper. Cars.

I will never get over it.

The next morning, after sleeping on an airbed in the refectory (and hearing the word "duvet" more times than I'd ever heard theretofore in my life) and enjoying a tasty croissant breakfast buffet spread, I headed back to London with Elsa, Jack, Brian '09, Zander '07/08, Xandra '08, and Tali '10. Instead of returning to Paris that afternoon, Elsa and I cashed in on our Eurostar vouchers since my boss had intensely overestimated how much time I needed off for a "weekend" in London and her elusive internship in the ministry of foreign affairs still had yet to start. We pubbed it with everyone and crashed at Jack's.

The last full day in London was spent on a day trip to Oxford. The transportation was ridiculously convenient. 12 pounds roundtrip on the Oxford Tube bus that leaves every 15 minutes and got us there in under two hours. Very reminscent of my beloved Chinatown Bus to New York.

Oxford felt like home plus more tradition, more history, and more of an accent. The late Toscanini's of Harvard Square even met its match: The Queens Lane Coffeeshop that claims to be the oldest coffee house in Europe, est. 1654. The visit furthered my conviction that studying abroad post-grad rather than studying in Paris next spring is what I should do. The longer and longer I spend in Paris, the more I realize that this city will be here forever and ever (it's not like Prague or Berlin whose intrigue derives largely from its transcient limbo status), while Harvard's only around for two more years. I do love Paris, but I also really miss Harvard and its quirks. (We'll see though. There's something about taking my French Lit courses in Paris. Something like common sense. [Wow, I really love parentheses.])

Wednesday morning, I became one of those people who commute into work in Paris from London--although I'm not even entirely sure that breed of people exists. Elsa and I took the 6:55 back and I ran straight to the office only to find out there that the slideshow training had been canceled at the last minute. I asked if there was anything that I could do since I was already in the office but the boss said I should just go home. Great.

Today I finally restarted at the IHT, and they moved me to my new post in the Editorial and Business Newsroom. Now, instead of organizing the different editions for the day and moderating user comments (ethically and morally draining), I'm responsible for constructing slideshows, publishing articles on the business page of the IHT website, finding appropriate pictures for the text, etc etc. It's not exactly the most hands-on internship, but there's definitely a ton to pick up from the job directly or indirectly. Ex: My trainer is a student at the American University in Paris and I got a gig freelancing restaurant reviews for the AUP school newspaper. Chouette. Probably going to head back to the Basque restaurant in the 11th that I've been dreaming of for two years.

The weeks ahead bring the arrival of Alina '10, Andres '10, and Sanders '10; Giuli's birthday dinner at Le Racing tomorrow night; a weekend at Elsa's house in the 17th; a Mika concert on the 4th; hopefully Globespotters article #2; and Corsica from the 11th to the 14th. Magic.