These are always the absolute worst types of posts to write — because you’re basically “me-forming,” and while I’m admittedly a hugely selfish prick of an individual, I also struggle with the basic notion that anyone in the world would give even 0.25 shits what I did when I was in another country. Also, it sounds completely sanctimonious for some douchebag who grew up in Manhattan (that would be me) to start writing things like, “Well, when you visit the British Museum, you absolutely must …” I’d rather gag myself with a wooden cooking spoon than describe my life like that. I still get annoyed at bars who won’t let you in wearing sandals. I’m definitely not “that guy.” My jeans-to-khakis ratio in my closet is roughly 5 to 1.
So, all that said … I am going to recap some of what we did and include some photos and a little bit of commentary. If you’re interested, cool. If not, no biggie.
First things first: most of my photos are kind of crappy, because (a) I don’t generally take good photos and (b) this was the first time I visited either Paris or London, so a lot of times I was on some type of tour thing (i.e. a boat on the Seine or a bus around London), and if you’ve ever been on those types of things, they’re not always good for the highest-quality pictures. Phrased another way, I’m doing it wrong.
That said, here’s a photo of me from a boat taken artistically in front of the Eiffel Tower. Slick, right?
I look hella fat and off-task in that photo, but here’s why: I am hella fat and off-task, but I also had like three hats in my pocket and I had just flown across an ocean and slept maybe 1-2 hours. (When you’re hella fat and off-task, you should take more over-the-counter sleeping aids than the recommended total, I guess.)
Here’s an attempt to organize some thoughts:
I liked London more than Paris.
Some people think this is blasphemous, although in reality, everyone should be entitled to their own opinion on places they visit, right? London seems closer to the ethos of someone that has grown up in America and only left it 4-5 times: you walk around and do stuff, and then it’s pretty easy to duck into a bar and get pretty standard beer/food. In Paris, it feels glorious, but it also feels like you kind of need to know exactly what you’re doing and when you want to do it, and if you don’t know that, you might be shit out of luck. I also feel like, while London is more expensive overall, Paris would probably be even more awesome to do if you did it a higher price point. I don’t have that luxury, unfortunately. Both are world-class cities, though. I grew up in New York and I’d honestly say both (in very small sample sizes, of course) feel cooler to me than NYC does. I could be biased, though, because I also have a lot of bad experiences with New York City. (Here’s one such example.)
That said, the Paris museums might be better.
Got to the Louvre on Wednesday morning at 9am — right as it opens — and the line was already about 250 people deep. Of course, when the doors opened, almost everyone ran here:
I eventually ran there (hence that photo), but we ran to the Code of Hammurabi. (Part of this was probably having no idea what we were doing.) It was pretty interesting to be in the same room as something from 1754 BC and have absolutely no one else in the room. Like, everyone had run to Mona Lisa. So we’re standing there next to this thing from 4,000 years ago and it’s just us and this thing. No guards. It’s kind of surreal if you think about it. Or maybe I just don’t understand human emotion. Either is entirely plausible.
In that Code of Hammurabi room, I learned that I know almost nothing about world history. I literally had no idea the neo-Babylonian empire was a thing. I swear I learned that in school, but sheesh, I can push info out pretty quickly.
Here’s a cool video
“Cool” is a loose term here, but we went up to Sacre Coeur (church basically at the top of Paris) to see the sun rise. That sounds romantic on surface, and in theory and execution it was, but the real reason we went is because we couldn’t sleep so we just figured, “Eh, let’s go do something.” I made this video of, essentially, Paris awakening. It’s pretty if nothing else.
Saw this sign, seemed relevant
Pretty sure Kanye views himself the same as those who made Paris a global centerpiece in the 1800s and 1900s, so seeing this sign was pretty funny.
Another aspect of the London vs. Paris discussion
Here’s a picture of me playing on my phone and drinking coffee in some hipster place in London (Dalston neighborhood) while my wife drinks Japanese whiskey and takes photos of shit. This happened at about 4pm on Friday. With the time change, normally I’d be going to work back in the U.S. Moments like this are why you should take vacation days. After that coffee, I had a beer. This place was a little hole-in-the-wall next to a theater in Dalston that served Algerian food, craft beer, and coffee from all over South America. (Here’s a link to it.) You don’t see stuff like that in your everyday life running around doing all your deliverables. Or, if you do, it’s probably in wherever you live, which probably isn’t hipster London. (And hey, if it is, more power to you.)
That’s all a mostly facetious way of saying: Americans (especially) come up with a ton of reasons for not traveling. It’s doable. It exposes you to different things, different people, different experiences, all that. It’s important. Save up and go for it if you can. This trip took a lot of hits in other places in terms of saving, and we still managed to do it. There’s always a reason not to do something, or to do something else in front of travel (i.e. buy something shiny right then and there). But even though there were off-task moments and I basically fell asleep standing up on a boat on the Seine and I probably made a bunch of Parisians mutter “Fucking American…,” it was worth it. So, do it. Honestly.
I saw a Jeff Koons exhibit in Paris, including this guy:
But then at the Tate Modern in London, I saw a really cool exhibit called “Conflict Time Photography.” Point being: both cities have excellent museums and culture. You probably knew that before reading this post, however.
Like I said in an earlier post, this was my fourth time in Europe (fifth time leaving the country, if you count going to Montreal once). I’m 34. I’d hardly say that’s a lot, although two of the Europe are since October, so I’m doing something somewhat right. (I also work in the travel industry now, which definitely helps.) My wife and I got married in March 2013 and never took a honeymoon, in large part because I was in graduate school at the time; you can read a little bit more about that whole arc of my life here, if you want. So in a way, this was a honeymoon two years after the fact. Weird at some level, but also cool. My life is far from amazing or whatever — truth be told, my wife and I got in a fight (albeit not huge) on this trip — but I feel like the arc since my Minnesota, searching-for-a-job, posting-all-the-time-like-a-bitch-on-social-media, wondering-what-the-fuck-my-purpose-was days has been good. And if self-improvement is somewhat of a goal of life, that’s a good thing, right?