Nerds in Paris and England

Well…we made it through the week from hell. Again, thank you everyone who offered their encouragement. I don’t know if anyone’s ever needed a long weekend as much as the University of Calgary community’s needed this one. I’ve decided not to write about what happened last Tuesday. It’s not that I’m ignoring what happened, which we be both a, inhuman, and b, impossible for anyone living in Calgary, but rather that I’m so surrounded by it whenever I’m on campus that I basically spend my entire working day confronting its sheer magnitude. All I can do–all we can do–is keep on keeping on.

Anyway. A month ago yesterday my nerd lobster–Sam–and I embarked on a trip that we alternately referred to as “le nerd lobsterfest” and “Ye Jolly Ol’ Nerd Lobsterfest.” Sam finally sent me her pictures, which we’ll be posting on Facebook…but in the meantime here are seventeen things I’ll remember from our visit to Paris, London, Manchester, and Salisbury.

  1. Our first Parisian meal: a giant cheese platter, along with coffee so potent it’d strip the paint from ancient walls.
  2. Walking to the top of Sacré-Cœur. We walked because Sam didn’t want to wait for the funiculaire, which I’d wanted to use because of my structurally deficient left knee. As a result we were accosted not once but twice by the infamous Sacré-Cœur bracelet guys (seriously, there’s a TripAdvisor thread warning travellers about them) which resulted in me getting rope burn on my wrist. It was an unhappy welcome to our temporary neighbourhood–we stayed in an apartment at the base of the steps Sacré-Cœur–but at least it didn’t lead to a fight, which is actually where I thought it was headed.
  3. Seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time. You may recall that I tried seeing the Mona Lisa during my previous trip to Paris, only to find the Louvre closed. It was open this time, and in addition to the Mona Lisa we saw Venus de Milo–we tried, and failed, to get a picture, or rather a portrait, of me pretending to grab her ass–as well as The Raft of the Medusa, which has long been my favourite painting.
  4. Taking Sam to the Paris Opera House for the first time. If you’ve never been, I can assure you it’s not just a Phantom of the Opera thing where I’m concerned: the building’s a work of art, highlighted by the stunning Marc Chagall mural surrounding the famous chandelier. (Of course, the Phantom of the Opera thing’s part of the appeal. We’ll revisit this topic later.) Beforehand we ate baguettes on the front steps while listening to a group of teenagers singing Bob Marley and Oasis songs with a busker.
  5. Our boozy picnic lunch in front of Paroisse Saint-Eustache. Sam’s taste is impeccable, if I do say so myself, and Paris catered to some of the things she loves best about life–notably wine and cheese.
  6. The Musée d’Orsay, which both of us agreed was at least as impressive as the Louvre. The museum itself, which was carved out of the old Gare d’Orsay, is worth seeing on its own. And the collection, which features what’s surely the greatest gathering of Impressionist art on earth, is breathtaking. The paintings we saw included Renoir’s Young Girls at the Piano, a print of which used to hang next to our piano in Thunder Bay, and L’Absinthe by Edgar Degas, which featured on a birthday card my dad and I used to buy my mom every single year without fail.
  7. Exploring the Left Bank, which included a visit to the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Ironically, it sold a grand total of one French-language book: Le petit prince, which Sam duly bought. She did not, however, purchase The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, which is a bit of a sore point. Afterwards we tried finding an absinthe bar, an excursion that ended, somewhat predictably, with us back in our room failing to find an illegal stream of Moulin Rouge.
  8. Our visit to the Rodin Museum. To summarize: there were statues. We had a camera. Over sixty years’ collective experience on this earth and its presumptive, concomitant maturity is powerless in the face of such circumstances.
  9. Riding the Eurostar into St. Pancras. I mention this not because the trip itself was memorable–most of it happened in the dark–but because it makes my dad jealous.
  10. The Manchester derby. No, the result wasn’t what I wanted; I still can’t believe I paid actual money to watch Tom Cleverley play in an advanced midfield role against the putative best team in England and I still can’t believe Manchester United paid actual money for Marouane Fellaini. But the experience was special even if the game itself was forgettable. Sam, meanwhile, earned points for welcoming me back to the hotel with a bottle of wine and nary a word about the result.
  11. Taking Sam to see Phantom for the first time was one of the things I was most looking forward to about the trip. For me, it was a chance to see that the show, despite the inevitable malaise that comes with seeing something for a twenty-fifth time, is holding up very well (the current London cast, led by Gerónimo Rauch, is uniformly strong). For her, it was an opportunity to do something most of her peers had done twenty years ago. We also saw Matilda, which we loved, and which was highlighted by a total scenery meltdown during the final song that literally stopped the show.
  12. Bond In Motion. I’ve now seen an Aston Martin DB5 that was used in an actual Bond movie.
  13. Book-browsing in London. We spent hours in Foyles and Waterstones Piccadilly. Sam, meanwhile, bought Bob Dylan’s Chronicles in a Soho bookstore that doubled as a sex shop: rock n’ roll books out front, vibrators and other such devices along the back wall.
  14. Discovering that I’m dating someone who was amenable to travelling to Brixton just so we could take pictures of one another and post them to Facebook with the caption, “The Guns of Brixton.” In the end we didn’t make it there, but next time we visit London we’ll be doing a Clash tour (and using this to guide us). Also, if we had a dollar for every time we said the words “next time” while in London we’d be able to fund said trip.
  15. Introducing Sam to my friends and family–especially Nikki, who put up with us for four nights, and my aunts in Salisbury. Similarly, showing Sam Salisbury, which also included her first visits to Stonehenge and the cathedral and her first-ever Premier League match, Southampton’s 4-0 win over Newcastle that featured an absolute masterclass from Adam Lallana (“HE’S GOING TO BRAZIL! HE’S GOING TO BRAZILLLLL!” ADAM LALLANA, HE’S GOING TO BRAZIL!”).
  16. Climbing the Eiffel Tower to celebrate thirty years cancer-free and getting the pictures to prove it.
  17. “I’m not a tool!”

Look for the pictures on Facebook soon! In the meantime, here’s my favourite:

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