A Few of My Favorite Things 2015

Another year, another list of favorites. Here are my favorite things of 2015:

Favorite Movie: Mad Max: Fury Road. Come on, this had to seem obvious, right? Yes, yes, because Tom Hardy is in it. But really what made it my favorite of the year wasn’t just getting that warm fuzzy feeling from Tom on the big screen. It was the strong, ass kicking, feminist character, Imperator Furiosa. The movie is truly about Furiosa, and then about Max who, for all intents and purpose, is her sidekick. I could go deeper into this, about how the film itself is a study in how women are treated now, how would women be treated in the apocalypse, but, to put it simply, Mad Max is my favorite movie of the year because damn do I love to watch a woman take the lead in an action movie and not have to use her sexuality, to truly just kick ass using nothing more than physical and mental strength, wit, and resourcefulness.

Some runners up are Trainwreck, Jurassic World, The Martian, and Fifty Shades of Grey (because sometimes train wrecks are just REALLY hard to look away from). It should also be noted, I slacked in the movie department in 2015. There are many that still need to be seen, and will likely be better than any I’ve listed here.

Favorite Album: You know me, I can never have just one! Last year I was lucky enough to see my top two artists live (and will get to see them again this year) and their performances only solidified my love for both of their new albums. At Bonnaroo during both Florence and Mumford’s sets I was brought to tears because both albums brought out so many emotions in me throughout a turbulent Spring. But, despite having both How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful and Wilder Mind on repeat, I once again had 20 albums I just couldn’t get enough of…

spotify:user:thalia58:playlist:6XdCfWwzUPLb9gnlOT1Xlk

Favorite Book: Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling was by far my favorite new release. Partly because I didn’t read a lot of recent releases in 2015 (I found myself reading a lot of murder mystery series… don’t ask me why. I just can’t seem to get enough of serial killers as of late.) and, mostly, because Kaling has this voice I cannot get enough of. She is easy to relate to, open, and whenever I read her I’m always fairly certain we should probably be best friends.

My non-2015 runners up were Yes Please by Amy Poehler (also on my list of imaginary best friends) and the Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell series by Chelsea Cain (like I said, allll the serial killers, please!).

Favorite TV Show: Laugh if you must, but my favorite TV show last year was the amazing (and awful) The Only Way is Essex. This is a British reality show (slightly akin to Jersey Shore- think lots of plastic surgery, make up, and tanning, but less partying and physical fights) I discovered by chance three years ago. The reason it became my favorite this year is because as I was catching up with the 15th season, yes FIFTEEN SEASONS, Mr. T caught me watching it and instead of being embarrassed by my terrible taste I told him he had to watch it with me from the beginning. It began as a joke, but now it’s something we love to laugh at together, something that, early on in our relationship, truly showed me that he was the type of man who could laugh at the absurd with me. Also? I just truly am an anglophile. Give me more Brits, dammit!

Runner up: Jessica Jones. Yes to all female ass kickers. YES.

Favorite Concert: If I thought the 150 shows in 2014 were hard to choose between, the nearly 250 shows I saw in 2015 are even more impossible. This was the year of amazing music for me. This was a year unlike any other, and a year I will probably never get to repeat again. Tiny ten people shows, arena classic rock tours, Coachella, Bonnaroo, local music fests… all of it made for a year that was, quite literally, music to my ears. But the best shows have to be the nights I got to see women who have influenced my life. From childhood to adulthood there have been a handful of strong, vulnerable, beautiful, romantic women who have shaped me through their music. Heart, Blondie, Florence and the Machine, and Fleetwood Mac have been the soundtrack to my life throughout the years. I have cried and loved and danced my way through happiness and heartbreak to the Wilson sisters, Debbie Harry, Florence Welch, and, more than anyone, Stevie Nicks and each of their shows surpassed everything I hoped they’d be.

Favorite Purchase: Pearl! My 2012 Hyundai Accent. It was a sad day when I finally had to give in and put ol’ Ruby, the first car I had every truly owned, out to pasture. But driving home in a new (to me) car that I knew wouldn’t break down every month (literally. Every. Single. Month. I’m looking at you, Ruby…) gave me such a feeling of comfort and relief. In the 367 days that I’ve owned Pearl I’ve put 10,800 miles on her. Two trips to Denver, one to Mobile, Alabama, and soon, a quick trip to Omaha. Yep, it’s great to find a gal that loves to travel as much as I do.

Favorite Meal: Having a meal made for you is always a treat. Having the best steak you’ve ever eaten (literally. This is not a joke, people. Buttery, medium rare, mouthwatering steak.) made for you is even better. In our relationship, I am more often than not the one cooking for Mr. T, and I very much enjoy it. But one night, for no special reason, he grilled up a steak on his salt block (look it up. Buy it. You’ll thank me.), sauteed me some veggies, and baked me a potato. It was not only a sweet gesture, it was absolutely delicious.

Great. And now I want steak…

Favorite Date: This is by far the hardest for me to determine. For possibly the first time in my life I had SO MANY good dates, I’m having a hard time just choosing one. Mr. T has surprised me with concert tickets (to shows he definitely would not have wanted to go to, but I definitely did), taken me to the drive in, out for my favorite comfort foods when I’m needing it, out to breweries, on road trips, taken me home to meet his friends and family, and even out for sunset walks on the beach in the Gulf Shores, so trust me, it’s really hard to choose just one date. But, if forced, I guess there is one day that always sticks out in my mind.

Our first mini-road trip together was to Omaha, where we will soon celebrating our six month anniversary (yes, because I’m cheesy). The week prior to the trip over Labor Day we both had been battling summer cold/tummy sickness and overall, just not feeling the best. This was still lingering on our second day there and I was worried this would put a damper on our brunch and brewery tour plans. By the time we were halfway through brunch though, I knew we had nothing to worry about. Our food was amazing and we both ended up feeling better than we had in days. We found some of our new favorite beers, we talked and laughed all day, and even when the rain started to roll in and we both had a few too many to really want to hit anymore breweries, the date continued back in the hotel room with pizza and HGTV. (Seriously, if you haven’t made fun of the people on House Hunters, you really haven’t lived. Go, do it now.) In a way, the actual date was nothing special, just a day exploring the city. But in another way, it was and always will be one of the most special to me. At this point I was already crazy about Mr. T, happy and in love, but being in a different city where it really is just the two of us I fully felt the certainty that if it was always just the two of us, no matter where we were or what we were doing, we would always find a way to have fun.

Favorite Guy: I think this one may possibly, just maaaay be a given…

Almost six months ago (5 months, 26 days, and about 8 and a half hours ago if you want to get specific) Mr. T met me at the shitty dive bar I mentioned I’d be at and my life has been infinitely happier ever since. He is this caring, giving, cute, loving, goofy, sincere, loyal, committed, sexy, appreciative, happy, serious, music loving, crazy about me guy I have spent years dreaming of. At times I still find myself questioning us, like after all the years of struggling with bad relationships things can’t go this smoothly and feel this right, can they? But every time that inkling of doubt even creeps it’s way in my mind something comes along to remind me yes, sometimes things can be this easy. That’s not to say it’s always easy and it’s perfect, but that does mean that there is finally a person there fighting for me as much as I am fighting for them when things aren’t easy. There is finally someone who makes believe that maybe all these years I haven’t just been a hopeless romantic believing that someone was out there who would compliment and also challenge me in ways I’ve always wanted and ways I didn’t even know I needed until I felt. It wasn’t me just being a hopeless romantic, it was just me waiting patiently, and more often that not, impatiently, on the two of us being at the right place and the right times in our lives to finally have this love. There is finally someone who makes me fully believe in the phrase ‘when you know, you know.’ And I very much know. He is my favorite guy of 2015, and will be for many more years to come.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things 2014

Another year, another list of favorites. Here are my favorite things of 2014:

Favorite Movie

Gone Girl. Hands down one of the best book to screen adaptations I’ve seen. I know not everyone agrees with me on this, but seeing as how I saw it in August and still find myself thinking back on it, it was pretty damn good for me. Some runners up: Locke. Tom Hardy at his best. Seriously, only someone on his level can pull off a movie that’s only action is him driving for two hours and still leave viewers totally engrossed. Obvious Child. Jenny Slate is climbing her way up my Girl Crush list reeeeeal fast.

Favorite Album

Zaba by Glass Animals. Clearly if you see a band four times in about five months, you’ve got a bit of a thing for them. It doesn’t matter where I am, what I’m feeling, I could listen to that album all the way through and enjoy the shit out of it every time. A close runner up: Singles by Future Islands. This band seems to be a love ‘em or hate ‘em for a lot of people with no middle ground and I am firmly planted on the love ‘em side. I get why people are turned off by them, they are a bit weird and don’t quite fit into one solid genre, but that’s probably what I love the most. That and they are fantastic live. I actually have about 20 albums I was pretty obsessed with this year, so instead of listing them all here, I’ll leave you with this…  

Favorite Book

I’m an absolute crap book nerd. It was such a busy year I maybe ready a dozen books at best. I have at least another dozen I’m about halfway through, and damnit, I will finish them! And of the dozen I actually finished, none of them were published this year. So, my favorite book this year was Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and Other Concerns by my favorite lady crush, Mindy Kaling. Yes, this was a re-read, but it was just as perfect the second time around. It was most definitely the best thing I could have read post-breakup, and it also doesn’t hurt that she mentions the name Thalia and in my mind, that basically means we are best friends now.

Favorite TV Show

Sons of Anarchy. Seriously. What will I do with myself now that my favorite show is over? Sigh. I guess I’ll rely on the Mindy Project to keep me company on Tuesday nights.

Favorite Concert

If you read my previous blog you know this will be nearly impossible for me to choose. Basically all I did in 2014 was go to concerts. It would seem like an easy choice, Coachella. And yes, totally amazing. But, I also got the chance to see some of my favorite bands in really small venues and that’s kind of hard to top. So for favorite concert I’m going to just go ahead and say all of 2014 was my favorite concert. I have no idea how I’ll top it in 2015, but I can’t wait to try.

Favorite Purchase

A trip to Cancun! What do you when you have a ton of frequent flyer miles you were planning to use for a long distance relationship that ends up going kaput? You use them miles to go on an awesome mini-break with a great friend. In less than three weeks my life will be all sand, sunshine, and all you can drink margaritas!

Favorite Meal

Dear Margaritas in Palm Springs: You are my favorite place in the whole wide world and I dream of your sushi/Mexican/brunch buffet daily. Please stay open forever and ever. Just knowing there’s a place out there where I can get all three of my favorite foods in all you can eat quantities gets me through all the nights of kale salads I intend on eating after the new year.

Favorite Date

This year I, sadly, had the best date of my life. I say sadly because clearly I’m not with the person I had this date with anymore, but, regardless, it really was my favorite date of all time. Long Distance Ex was still working night shifts at the time, so we decided to meet for dinner up by his work. Unfortunately we picked a place that just happened to have two locations on the same street about 10 miles apart, and, unfortunately, OF COURSE I went to the wrong location. I felt like a giant moron, but it was actually kind of great because our relationship was still new and it totally set the tone for us, always able to laugh about anything. Eventually I got to the right location and we had a really great dinner. I mean, the food was fine, basic chain restaurant food, but being together made it great. And that wasn’t even the best part of the date. The best part comes later when he decided to leave work early because he didn’t want our date to be over. It was a perfect night in the beginning of July. Not too hot, not too humid, perfect porch night weather. So that’s exactly what we did. We sat on my back porch, under white Christmas lights and lavender citronella candlelight, listening to music, drinking, and talking for hours. It was almost 1 a.m. before we even noticed how long we had been out there. True, it kind of kills me to write about it now, because looking back, I know that was the night I fell in love with him, but I try not to let that take away from now knowing that every once and awhile perfect nights can happen. Maybe they won’t lead to perfect relationships, but you can always have those perfect nights.

Favorite Guy

None. Despite that perfect night I just described and a lot of really other great times, Long Distance Ex is not my favorite guy of the year. I will forever love what we had together, and probably, in some way, forever love him, but I guess I’m just not willing to give neither he nor any of the other guys I dated this year that title. But, you know who does get it? My friends. Because, in the words of the great Leslie Knope, ovaries before brovaries! Who needs a guy when you have great friends who truly take care of you when you need it? If you’re a frequent reader, you know I’ve been through some shit with men, and this recent break up was no different. What was different was the support I received from my friends, and never once did I have to ask for it. I broke down probably a million and ten times and never once did they do anything but support me. If I were them I would have been really tempted to leave me in my sad-sack state to wallow, but instead they showed up with ice cream and tissues in hand and endless hugs. And, even when they may have pushed a little too hard to get me out of my funk, I knew it was because they cared. So to all my friends, THANK YOU for being my favorite people of 2014. Well, you and Tom Hardy and Charlie Hunnam because… Well, come on. You know why…tumblr_mct2z5kjgz1rvjbdjo1_5002lw9nqdjpg

How Coachella Changed My Life

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. But, looking back on what I now fondly refer to as ‘the best weekend ever’, I find myself much improved after my tryst in the desert. Sure, many people give Coachella shit and think it’s filled with trust fund kids and sweaty, smelly hippies and overpriced beer. And sure, there are plenty of trust fund kids and smelly hippies and grossly overpriced Heinekens, but so what? Yeah, that’s right, I said it. SO WHAT? And this my dear readers, is how Coachella changed my life. A weekend at Coachella helped me say so the fuck what to so many things.

For as much as I’ve learned and grown over the years, I’m still guilty of over analyzing way too much and, at times, it has really kept me from fully enjoying life. Need some proof that Coachella did anything to change that? Fine, here’s your proof, you non-believers!

When I first won tickets to the festival I VERY quickly went from extreme excitement into panic mode. What will I wear?! Coachella is full of celebrities and trust fund babies with adorably chic desert attire. I don’t have adorably chic desert attire! And furthermore, even if I find this adorably chic desert attire, my body is far from looking desert attire ready! THIS IS TERRIBLE. Yeah, y’all. I was up in my head FOREVER. I shopped and shopped and dieted (kinda) and worked out tons (some) and shopped more and I still hated everything I had packed for the weekend. I felt like I would look like a frumpy bag lady in a sea of waify, designer clothes clad chicks. But then… I actually got to Coachella. And a ton of people DID look adorably chic and I kinda didn’t, but it really didn’t matter because I was too damn busy dancing and running from stage to stage to have all these amazing bands melt my face off with awesomeness to even really be concerned with what I was wearing or what I looked like because at the end of the day if I’m not rockin’ the crocheted top and flower headband and shorty shorts (which my friend actually was rockin’ and was adorable in) SO WHAT? Did my fashion or lack thereof make the music any less great? Nope. Did it make me enjoy my weekend any less? NOPE.

And speaking of all the face melting music… Sometimes when I go to shows, which I do often, if I haven’t had proper boozy lubricant, I find that I don’t enjoy myself quite as much as if I had. Probably because when I’m totally sober I feel a little silly dancing and singing at the top of my lungs around so many people. I don’t know why, because those are pretty much two of my favorite things to do ever- oh wait, of course I know why! Because, like a good chunk of the population, I am self-conscious. Always have been and always will be. Or so I thought. I hated the idea of enjoying myself so much that, god forbid, I might make a spectacle of myself. Well, for 98% of the weekend I was pretty damn sober (y’all, not that I didn’t try, but it’s real hard to get drunk when you aren’t particularly fond of Heineken and you’re also pounding a shitload of water as to not die from desert heat) and towards the beginning I was my usual sober self at concerts. Dancing a little, maybe singing along, but nothing too crazy. No spectacles being made. But then on the second night Snoop Dogg popped out on stage with Pharrell and I LOST MY SHIT. From then on it was like, whoa good luck reigning in my inner party monster! I nearly broke my old lady body I danced so damn hard. Oh, and when Calvin Harris ended his set with Sweet Nothing? Yeah, I don’t think I’ve screamed so loudly from happiness. Ever. Did I make a bit of a spectacle of myself in the process? Probably. But, SO WHAT?! I was happy.

I was happy nearly the whole damn weekend. It was impossible not to be. Despite the heat and the sandstorm and major lack of sleep and aching legs and feet, I was pretty dang happy. I was even happy to run into an ex-boyfriend. And his new girlfriend. Yeah, leave it to me to go to a music fest over a thousand miles away and one of my ex-boyfriends is there. But, it was fine! We had fun and it was one of those hey it’s so crazy, I can’t believe we are here at the same time situations and it really didn’t bother me at all. Until it did. Something about seeing him treat her in a way I almost never got treated in the five years we dated and being all nice and boyfriend-y to her just hit me on the last night. And, okay, so maybe it could have been that it was also the 2% of the weekend that I was kind of drunk, but as I said adios to them for the last time and he wrapped his arm around her as they walked off I got sad. Not like falling to the ground in the fetal position sad, but sad enough that a few fat little tears rolled down my face while Arcade Fire was playing in the background. I had spent PLENTY of time crying about spending so much of my life with that particular ex and never being treated the way I should have been (or really, allowing myself to spend so much time with someone who did not treat me as I deserved. Shame on me.) that I REALLY didn’t want to go back down that road. I’ve been over it for a good long time and I did not want to go back there. But then, like magic, Debbie Harry appeared on stage. DEBBIE. HARRY. Suddenly I was crying for a whole different reason, because, guys… DEBBIE HARRY. It was like she was my magical, blonde, never aging angel showing me all that is right in the world. (Yeah, I love her that much.) So what that a person who wasn’t particularly great to me is now good to someone else? So what that I spent too much of my time in the past worrying about that? SO WHAT? So what that I don’t look like a waify desert chic chick? So what that I sometimes make spectacles of myself? So what that I have given my heart away a little too much in the past? So what that at this moment my life is not perfect? SO WHAT?

And that is exactly how Coachella changed my life. You go through all these self-doubts and insecurities and hard times in your life, because yeah, often life just sucks. But peppered throughout those shitty times are the these perfect weekends. These perfect days, perfect minutes, perfect experiences that put all that shit into perspective and just allow you to say even if it isn’t always good, sometimes life really is great.

Image

Eat, Drink, Love

Image

My worst fear about traveling abroad solo was being stuck in an airport where I don’t speak the language and not knowing how in hell I am going to get where I’m trying to go, so imagine my joy when I’m stuck in Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport without cell service and absolutely no idea how I am going to get home after having my flight back to the US canceled. JOY. Just pure joy. But, more on that later…

Dear readers, how can I even begin to write about my trip abroad? I was gone for only two weeks and came back with over 60 pages written in a journal about it – about what I did, what I saw, what I ate and drank, what I felt. There’s just more than I could fit about all of it in even ten posts, much less one, so I will try and capture what I can about the whole experience in a few highlights. I know this won’t come close to doing my time abroad justice, but almost nothing I can say, even what was written in my journal, can do what I experienced justice.

If you’ve read past posts, you know how much I have been craving something. Something I still can’t quite put into words, but something like change, excitement, adventure. Just something that made life worth anticipating. Two weeks in the UK and Paris pretty much covered everything I had been craving. The night before I was set to take off, I was this cluster of nerves. Aside from flying and road tripping to places in the US, I’d never traveled anywhere by myself and doing so internationally kind of terrified me. All the security and customs and plane transfers can really put a person off leaving the country, that’s for sure. But the next day came and the nerves morphed into excitement as I made it from KC to Philly and was on my way to London. I smartly booked an overnight flight. I figured I would sleep all night and wake up refreshed and ready to begin my great adventure! And I, of course, figured this all wrong. The seats were comfy enough, and the wine mixed with a quarter of a muscle relaxer (I’m a baby and can’t handle more than that if I hope to function the next day) was in my system just waiting to knock me out…but that damn excitement was too much for my body to handle. That and the free movies US Airways was offering. How can a person sleep when London awaits them and Marky Mark is on their tiny personal screen entertaining them in a crime drama? Needless to say, I did not arrive in London refreshed, but still, I was ready to go and thus the adventure began…

Traveling.

Here’s a tip – when traveling and feeling uncertain of what to do and where to go, follow people. 90% of the time you will get to where you need to be. I made it through airports and train stations and metros all by following signs, but mostly people. Getting off a plane and not sure of what to do next? Follow the people who get off before you and you will find yourself at customs! Using the tube to go to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and not sure how to get there from the Charing Cross tube station? Scope out some touristy looking folks (trust me, you will find some) and follow them out the exit because chances are, they are going for that main attraction as well.

I must have spent HOURS planning and researching how to get to and from destinations and how to navigate the airports I’d be in, the train stations I’d be departing from, etc, and I can tell you, most of that research was all for naught. I’m not saying it wasn’t handy to have as back up, but the main thing that got me from point A to point B day after day was just following other travelers.

Arriving at Heathrow, after customs (which was a breeze there) I immediately caught a bus to Brighton. And that bus immediately broke down. OMG, I thought to myself, is this a sign of misadventures to come?! Not really. If anything, it was my first glimpse into how truly friendly English people are. I often boast about the kindness of Midwesterners, but we really have nothing on these Brits. The bus driver could probably see the fear in my eyes and see my thoughts on being stranded at Heathrow with no clue how to make it down to the coast brewing in my head because he immediately made sure I knew exactly where to go and what to do so I could make it down to the beach side town in one piece. He even gave me a pair of gloves because it was darn right nippy and In a moment of brilliance packed nothing resembling chilly Spring weather appropriate attire. Which leads me to another tip…

Packing.

Do it. And then take out about half of what you have packed. Trust me on this one. Maybe this won’t apply to guys as much as us ladies, but I literally could have packed two outfits instead of about eight and been totally fine, because the first thing I did when I got to Brighton? Shopped. I know, I know, how very typical, but I do have a bit of an excuse since I was in desperate need of a jacket, or at least a sweater or two, so I wouldn’t be uncomfortably cold while out and about for hours at a time. I shopped in every place I went too. Brighton, London, Brentwood, Camden, Paris, Sancerre…I mean it. Every. Single. Place. And by the time I put my backpack on my back and made the trip to CDG I was ruing the day I decided to pack as many clothes as I did (especially since I didn’t wear nearly half of them!). But, fashion can be painful, right? Totally worth it when I get to say “Oh, this old thing? I got it in Paris.” when someone compliments my new LBD.

Shopping in Brighton was fun and a great way to see the main part of the city. It was a chilly Tuesday afternoon, but it was still bustling. I made my purchases so my warmth for the rest of the trip would be assured, but I had an even bigger worry looming over me. Meal time. Yes, the dreaded solo meal. Now, I’ve had dinner alone before. Once. And only because I was waiting for my phone to get fixed and a Chilis just happened to be next to the Verizon store. But, when you are vacationing solo, eating solo is bound to happen. I was well prepared though, I brought my Kindle and my journal with me everywhere just in case I needed the distraction. I found a quaint looking pub called Fishbowl and decided to just dive right in. And as it turns out, eating alone? Not too bad. When you’re absolutely starving and just want to grub down, you don’t have to worry about not being rude to a dining partner and making conversation instead of tearing into a piping hot plate of fish and chips. Also, the thing about being in restaurants, cafes, pubs, etc, is everyone else is so busy doing their own thing, no one is paying you over there sitting alone any mind (unless they are attempting to make eyes at you and want you to no longer be eating, drinking, etc, alone. More on those adventures later.).

After this first meal much of my vacation centered around what I was going to eat and drink that day (of course, when is my life not centered around that?). I didn’t really give myself a budget for while I was away. My thoughts were, I was making myself stay everywhere rather cheaply, instead of more luxuriously, and in return I was allowed to spend what I wanted every day (within reason. Obviously I didn’t come back with that 750 Euro black leather jacket…). Much of that is because while I was in France and the UK I really wanted to be able to eat and drink to my heart’s content. I wanted to be able to spend hours at a sidewalk cafe drinking $9 glasses of wine (a price I would RARELY ever pay here at home) and just soak in the atmosphere and feel all sorts of romantic feelings towards the cities I was in. And that is precisely what I did. Although I spent hours upon hours of the days sightseeing and on the go, I always carved out at least a few hours for meals and wine (lots and lots of wine).

Calories Don’t Count Abroad.

But, Thalia – what about all that hard work you did at the gym prior to this trip. Aren’t you worried about re-gaining those pounds you spent hours and hours working off? NO.

Okay, so of course I was! It was really hard losing the 11 pounds that I did, and it sucks gaining any of it back, but between quitting my job and turning 30 and moving, I had already put a few back on due to stress. It sucks gaining weight because of stress, but regaining weight because you’re in fuckin’ France?! Not too terrible. If anyone, including myself, comments on my slightly rounder face, how cool is it that I get to say, “Oh yeah, well it’s because I found this restaurant in Paris that serves this amazing cheese course and this to die for chocolate mousse desert…”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I was sitting around eating and drinking wine like a gluttonous Roman emperor. Most days I enjoyed one small meal and one larger meal, and yes, okay, most days I did do up the wine more like said fat emperor, but I also walked. And walked. And walked. Never in my life have I walked SO MUCH. I almost wished I would have thought to get a pedometer, but I easily covered about 50 miles in my two week trip. All that wine was necessary to cure my aching feet and make them feel walkable and ready for the next day’s adventures. On my third day in London I walked a little over ten miles covering Trafalgar Square, Picadilly, Oxford Circus, Hyde Park, the Albert and Victoria Museum and back and let’s just say by the end of the day I was nearly crawling I was so tired (the fact that it was raining like mad probably didn’t make the stroll seem much easier either). But, it was worth it. Sure, it’s easy to grab a bus or take the tube from stop to stop, both are very easy to navigate once you get the hang of them, but you get to see so much while you’re out getting somewhat lost on the bizarrely laid out streets that it makes every blister and achy ankles worth it.

Victim of Fashion.

I’m somewhat of a snob. I freely admit it. No way was I going to go to London and Paris, where the women just reek of effortless style, and be walking around in tennis shoes. Would I have been smarter to do so? Yes, 100%. Would I have looked totally American and touristy and felt tre un-chic? Yes, 200% so. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it! Even though I would have rethought my clothing options, I wouldn’t have chose my footwear any differently. What I would have told my eager to walk everywhere self is this: bring a lot of super cushion-y shoe inserts, drink insane amounts of water, and take Advil, or something along those lines, every morning and every night and your feet will be forever grateful and your style snobbery will remain unharmed by being able to wear simple and chic tan flats everywhere. But, back to the actual trip…

I’m not sure why I ever ended up loving Brighton so much. I read an article in a magazine about it once, saw pictures of the city and was sold. It was a place I have always wanted to go. So starting my trip out there was a no brainer. Aside from the shopping being awesome, my hotel was directly across from the boardwalk, above a really fun bar, next to a casino, and within walking distance of like 20 restaurants. I was in heaven. I was only in Brighton for two days, but could have stayed for ten. There is never a lack of things to do since many young Brits use the city as a mini holiday party location. The bar below our hotel was packed until at least 2am every night (and mind you, this was on a Wednesday and Thursday) and good grief do people in that city know how to throw a few back. But, despite all this revelry, I think the thing I enjoyed most about the city was the time I spent away from the hotels and bars and boardwalk and in the actual city where people lived. I was obsessed with the colorful row homes and how everyone seemed to keep their trash out in the front yards, yet the whole city still smelled great. How was this possible?! I walked around neighborhoods for two hours trying to figure that out. I also spent a decent amount of time at a coffee shop near one of the universities people watching. The way kids (okay, well not kid-kids, but people younger than me) dress in the UK was of constant fascination to me. Hell, not even just kids, people my age as well. One would think, knowing how picky I can be about how men dress, that I would be rather put off by the trendiness of English boys. Well, one would be wrong…

Men.

So many men, so little time. That seemed to be the motto of my trip. While anticipating my trip I had imagined that I would be head over heels for French men. That I would swoon over their accents and the general debonair-ness, and don’t get me wrong, I did encounter more than a few beautiful French men, but it turns out I had been imagining the men I’d be swooning over all wrong.

You know that little thing I have for Tom Hardy? Well, turns out his being British may play a bigger role in that than I had originally thought because good lord do I have a thing for British boys. I still can’t even lock down what it is that I loved so much, maybe the way they dressed, or how almost every guy I encountered smelled of sandalwood-y deliciousness, or maybe it was just their friendly and good natured personalities. Whatever it was, I seriously caught myself falling in love like every ten minutes. Y’all, I even found myself crushing on a man I talked with at a pub who was wearing jorts. JORTS Y’ALL. Trendy ones, but nevertheless, jean shorts. It defies all logic and reason, but all I know is, if (when) I move to London, I will fall for a boy and be all loved up in about five minutes flat.

Now, I feel I should give French men their props too. Most I encountered were very lovely and almost more of what I typically call my type. Whereas English boys were definitely more laid back and shy to approach a girl, the Frenchies are very assertive. I quickly realized if you make eye contact with almost any French guy not with a woman (and a few times even with women) for more than a minute they would come and chat you up. They are quick to lay on some game, and lay it on thick. I am fairly certain every French man who approached me was quick to say how beautiful my voice was and would note something about my outfit. Ummm, okay. We all know this is a line because hello! French women have some of the sexiest voices and styles known to mankind!! Regardless, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy all the male related sightseeing I did while I was there, even if those Brit boys have now spoiled me for life.

London had more going for it than just men though. As I said earlier, I found the Brits to be some of the nicest people I have ever met. The city is crazy fast paced and people are definitely in that go, go, go mentality, but they still manage to have this politeness to them. On my last day in London I didn’t really have anything planned so I decided to walk to the Tower of London and just go get lost in a nearby neighborhood. It was a Sunday, and in both cities I went to, many things are closed on Sundays, so once I was away from the tourist attractions the city was quiet. I spent a good hour walking around the Aldgate neighborhood before deciding to find a tube station and make my way back to the Waterloo area for some dinner. Maybe two minutes after I pulled out my map to see where the nearest station was, a woman walking by me stopped and asked if I’d like any help. I can hardly imagine someone in my own neighborhood doing that much less in a giant city with a very obvious looking tourist! Not only did she point me to the tube, she gave me dining recommendations for the night since so many places were closed for the day. Something similar happened in Brighton and Brentwood, all just random strangers who saw another random stranger who might need a little help. I think that and the bawdy and charming English sense of humor were the two things that sold me the most on knowing I could full well live in that city for the rest of my life. (Okay, and the men. I can lie, it was the men that did it for me too.)

Now, after being stunned by the English friendliness, I was honestly dreading the French rudeness. I’ve been to Paris once before. I was 16, I was lost, I was freaking out, and not one person there was kind about helping some teenage kids find their way back to their tour group. This was the experience I was dreading reliving. And as soon as I got off the Eurostar and successfully got the tube I needed to the Republique area I was once again totally lost and freaking out. If the streets in London were confusing, Paris was ten times so. I had my google map directions, they seemed simple enough – only three different streets and less than a mile from the station, but after 20 mins I was no closer to my hotel and about to call it a day and just sleep out on the sidewalk. I was terrified to stop someone and ask for directions since I speak no French and feared being laughed at in a stereotypical French laugh and mocked relentlessly for being a dumb American. Well, after another five minutes of walking and my bag on the verge of breaking my back, I decided I had no choice. I had to bite the bullet. And thank god I did, otherwise I may have never known how nice (most) French people are! The woman I asked in no way made me feel like an asshat for asking her in English where the fuck I was and where I was supposed to be going. Same with the people who worked at my hotel and the cafes and museums, pretty much everywhere (except CDG. More later.). As long as you approach the situation with good humor and politeness, you will most likely be met with the same in return.

French Tips.

A few things that make your interactions with the French a little smoother: Always start the conversation with ‘bonjour.’ It seems that this is customary and I found it refreshing. So many times I can think of people here in the US starting their interactions with other people by saying what they want or need and the simple act of greeting a person is overlooked. Also, add a ‘merci’ in there as well. Even if you don’t speak a lick of French, have those two words ready to go and your interaction will be infinitely more pleasant. I found that while I was in restaurants many people did speak some English, but if they didn’t, pointing at items on a menu was totally acceptable, as long as you had a good smile to go along with your pointing. Although I’ve heard French people do not customarily smile at each other while having business transactions, I found that a smile still seemed to go a long way when overcoming the language barrier.

Another good thing to note when you are in a cafe or anywhere with waiters, is that most always, that is the person’s profession. It’s not just a job between jobs or something they do on the side, it is their work and it is taken very seriously. I’d assume most Americans are used to the overly friendly ‘how y’all doing today, I’m Candy and I’m gonna take real good care of you, can I get you water/chicken tenders/a heaping load of fake smiles so I can get a fat tip from you at the end of this?!’ Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, just don’t mistake a French waiter’s all muss, no fuss businesslike demeanor for rudeness. They are there to do their jobs, and truthfully they do them quite well. At most meals I had multiple courses, and my courses were never brought out on top of each other. Although the waiter never seemed to be hovering around, they always seemed to know when to take one course away and when to bring another. My food was always hot and freshly cooked, so you could tell it hadn’t been sitting under a heat lamp. A good waiter notices when you are nearing the end of a course and only then puts in the next order to the cook so it will be fresh and ready to go when you are. Though they never stopped by for idle chit chat, every waiter I had there, even just for a glass of wine or a cappuccino, was attentive. It made it very hard for me not to leave the customary (to us) 20% tip I’m so used to leaving. In both the UK and France, tip was already included in the bill, so it is not necessarily expected. It never hurts to throw down an extra euro or two, but like I said, most people aren’t waiters there for the tips. It’s all very strange, but in the end, I greatly enjoyed every part of the dining experience in Paris, because it is just that, an experience. No waiter ever rushes your food or your bill out to you just so they can refill the table with another patron, instead you are welcomed to sit for hours on end, even if it is just one glass of wine, so it can be savored.

My very favorite meal of the whole trip was at Restaurant Astier, and I will recommend it thirty times over for any person planning a trip to Paris. It is probably the nicest restaurant I’ve ever been to, and by far the most I’ve ever spent for a meal on myself, but it was worth every penny. Not only were they kind enough to find me a table for one with no reservations, the owner of the restaurant ended up taking my order and stopping by to talk with me about the food and different wines several times. I felt so freakin fancy! Most restaurants in Paris have prix fixe menus, and this was no exception. Only, in this menu, before the desert course you have the option of having a cheese course. And what a cheese course it is. A huge platter of ten or 12 cheeses is placed in front of you and you are welcome to take as much or as little as you want. And if there isn’t enough of the kind you like? They will bring you more! It is possible I have never had a smile on my face so large as when that cheese tray was placed in front of me. It was heaven. (In fact, it was so large I still can’t quite fathom why one of the three French gentlemen sitting next to me took such a shine to me. Yes, he could have been my French silver fox – like offered to buy my dinner and everything {I politely refused, but settled for him ordering me another glass of wine} – but I was just so wrapped up in my cheese I had no attention to spare on silver foxes!)

Speaking of glasses of wine…

Wine. Glorious Wine.

I love wine. Okay, well before this trip I had great affection for wine. I enjoyed drinking it, but knew nothing about it other than that. Now? Now I love wine. Especially, and most surprising to me as I really used to not enjoy it, white wine. Getting to spend a day in wine country was just so beyond romantic to me. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen more beautiful country side than in the Loire Valley. I visited two vineyards, had a delightful meal, walked around a charming town filled with cobblestone streets and 18th century buildings, and drank the most delicious wines (so delicious that I carried two bottles all the way through CDG while trying to get home. More later.). I learned a ton about wine, nothing I’ll bore you with here, but needless to say I now have a huge affinity for French wines and have already seen how this can become a problem because what costs only six euros there is more like $40 here! Even if the trip out to the countryside hadn’t involved wine I still would have been in love with the valley. I firmly believe that once I get moved to London and find my lovely London lad, we will definitely be buying a summer home in Sancerre. (I know, terrible sounding plan I’ve set up for myself, right?) But, despite the beauty of wine country and the leisurely strolls down Saint Germain Blvd and the newfound love of foie gras, my time in Paris was quick to pass.

As the end started to near for my adventures abroad I became truly sad that I had to return to the US. Not sad like ‘oh I hate my country, this place is so much better, yada yada’, just sad. Sad that I had such a confusion of feelings about returning “home” because I didn’t really feel like I had a home. Before I took off for this trip, I packed up all my belongings in Denver and stuck them in a storage unit in Kansas City. I was excited to be moving and starting over fresh and all that jazz, but I was also so incredibly sad that this was the first time I was flying back from a trip, and wasn’t flying back to Denver. I wasn’t going to be able to call up my friends for a brunch and tell them all about these British boys and French wines. I was going to have to deal with that weird feeling that comes with not quite being settled in a new place, and that just sounded so much less appealing than how I’d been living for these last two weeks. I have some savings I thought to myself, I could just keep going… I could stay here, or I could try out Barcelona or Belgium. I should just keep going… This thought lingered in my head all the way til the night before my flight back home was due. As I began packing my bag, still somewhat looking at train tickets to Spain, I decided that I was ready to leave this fantasy world behind and start the long, and probably not always easy, journey of starting my life over in Kansas City. Sure, it would not be as romantic as my life the past few weeks, but it would be real. And then I woke up in the morning to an email saying my flight back to the US had been canceled…

Misadventures in Traveling.

I’ve never had a flight canceled before! I can’t use my cell phone. It’s 1am back home! WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO?!? I was frantic. I was trying to hold it together on the outside, but inside I was absolutely frantic. I had no idea what to do in this situation. US Airways had an 800 number to call to get a flight rescheduled, but what good does that do you when your phone instantly lost service (despite Verizon’s assurances that it wouldn’t) the second you landed on foreign ground? For lack of a better idea, I did what I was planning to do before the dreaded email popped up in my phone, and started my journey to the airport.

The train ride should have been simple enough. In terms of making it home, getting to CDG was the least of my worries because everyone assured me all you had to do was take the tube to Chatlet station, then catch the train to CDG. Easy peasy! Unless of course the train you are supposed to get on is having issues and will only take you to Gare du Nord before turning right back around to the Chatlet station. What the fuck? Now what? After about 20 minutes of trying to figure out why every single train was going to Gare du Nord and ONLY Gare du Nord I finally tracked down some fellow Americans and asked if they knew what was up. We put our collective French reading skills together and ascertained that we needed to catch another train once this one took us to Gare du Nord, and from there we should be on track to CDG. Again, sounds easy peasy. Except when I get to the Nord station the train is not on the platform it’s supposed to be on. WHAT THE FUCK?! Now what? I find an information agent and she does not speak a lick of English, but eventually a young French girl comes by and helps translates enough to get me to another platform…across the station and two flights up. Lord ohmighty is my bag killin me at this point. Damnit if I hadn’t of had my own packing advice beforehand! Eventually though, I make it to the train I need, and of course, since it’s only running from this station, it’s jam packed and I’m forced to stand, with my bag on my back, for the whole 35 minute commute. I very nearly bust out one of the bottles of wine I am schlepping back and drink it out of frustration and back pains, but I manage to hold myself off since it is only 9am…and because I don’t have a wine opener.

Almost two hours after beginning what should have been a 45 minute commute, I finally make it to CDG. CDG is now my least favorite airport in the whole world. To me, there is no rhyme or reason to it. No signs telling you how to get to specific airline counters, so I end up walking around the first terminal for about ten minutes before I find the US Airways counter. The line for the canceled flight is already over 100 people deep. A woman working for US once again gives me the 800 number I can call instead of standing in line and I once again am so thrilled by my lack of cell device. Instead, I stand in line and wait. And wait. And wait. And this is the first time I truly hate that I’ve traveled here alone. At this point I’ve been up for nearly six hours and have yet to have anything to eat or drink and can’t dip out of the line for a snack, or I will lose my place. One can only imagine how hangry (yes, hungry and angry) I was by the time I made it to the customer service counter…

And here begins my first encounter with that stereotypical French rudeness. I get that the US workers had been dealing with people trying to get home for hours at this point, but in no way does that give you the right to be flat out rude to me while on the phone with another airline. I may not speak French, buddy, but I do speak the internationally known body language and am fully aware that you are calling me dumb because I am totally clueless as to how to get home. This is the point where frantic turns into all out despair and I come VERY close to crying. I worry I will not make it home anytime today. I worry that I won’t be able to pick up the keys to my new place or go to the xx concert the next night because I will still be in the process of traveling home. This person “helping” me clearly cares less if I make it home today, tomorrow, or never, and not sure how much longer I can keep the franticness on the inside. I keep telling myself I have handled this whole trip on my own and I can handle this as well, but I’m getting less assured of that as the minutes tick by and Mr. French Asshat is chatting away with whoever on the other line, perhaps talking about going out later in their matching berets, who knows. But alas, he finally decides to act like a decent human being and do his job and gets me on a flight to Detroit. But not before telling me I’ll be lucky if I make it to that flight in time. ASSHAT.

I rush two terminals over and pray to baby Jesus that I make it on this flight. Checking in and dropping off my bag is time consuming but nowhere near as painful as the two different security/clearance lines I have to make it through. I rue the day you were created, CDG airport! The praying must have worked though because I make it to my gate with all of three minutes to spare and, miracle of all miracles, there is no one sitting in between me and the man on the other end of the row!

Once again, my nerves are so shot I can’t sleep and before I actually make it all the way back to Kansas City and into a bed, I have been awake for more than 35 hours. I get only a few hours of sleep that night and am exhausted and it is raining and miserable out, so I have no idea how I will make it through moving my stuff out of storage and into my new place. But then I think back on the day before. My worst fear was being stuck in a foreign airport and having no idea how I was getting out of it, and I made it through that exact situation without totally losing my cool. If I can make it through that surely I can make it through hauling heavy boxes in the muggy rain and up slick stairs. And make it I do.

I’m almost totally unpacked in my new place, still adjusting to living alone again and being in a new city and not around the comfort of my friends and my mom. It varies between feeling like a struggle and feeling exciting from hour to hour, but the one thing that is getting me through are all the pictures and memories of this amazing experience I am so happy I pushed myself to take.
Image