Monday, February 27, 2012

I may be down, but I'm not out!

Bonjour, hobo readers!
I have had a wonderful, yet rough week last week. Last Saturday I arrived in London with a bit of a sore throat...and since then it has been a full-on cold. Thankfully, no fevers or hospital stays (knock on wood)...but it has put a damper on my enthusiastically geekish (yet endearing) tourist demeanor. Though I may not have seen absolutely everything in these two cities, I definitely gave it the ol' Whiteside "participation before pride." (Pride being a coughing fit in Westminster Abbey.) I figure, I may feel like crap...but I feel like crap in EUROPE! I'm not good at math, but I calculate that as WAY better :) So here we go, here is London and Paris! (Thank god this internet cafe has "American" keyboards where I am used to where the keys are)

 When I arrived in London on Saturday night, I met Luke who is a co-worker of Pete (Bristol Pete) and his two friends Owen, and Tom. They were filming a music video for a song they have been working on. It is very experimental electronica and they were filming Luke's hands as he created the music on the soundboard (disclaimer: I don't know the technical phrases for this, so just go with it). It was awesome to watch. Then we headed out for Mexican food at the restaurant listed above. I was thoroughly entertained by this. Also, the patrons are all preppy looking college kids in their Saturday night best fashion outfits. Hilarious. I shared my thoughts with the guys, and they became entertained as well. Success. Because it was a cluster____ in the restaurant, we went elsewhere to a posh pub for lukewarm English beers, and then to a gourmet pizza place that uses only cornmeal dough...DELISH! Two enthusiastic thumbs up!
This is Luke's street.
Ah, Kensington Gardens! It is a beautiful park with a man made pond in the middle. It was a little piece of paradise with galloping dogs and children a'frolic!
Hey Kate and Will! Just stopped by to say hi...I don't know if you got my messages...I bet you're busy...ok, call meeee!!! (Kensington Palace pictured above behind statue)
This is the Victoria and Albert Museum. I spent two hours wondering around this massive place. It has a bit of everything. God bless Royals and their sense of world history.
So the big deal around all of the UK is the Diamond Jubilee to celebrate QE2's (Queen Elizabeth the II) 60th year as Queen. 
It was really interesting to see how her life was documented from a very early age. Imagine if you knew you're entire life would ultimately lead to one very public role.

Gorgeous glass sculpture...and I forget the famous artist. I know! Whoever figures out the artist is owed one beer from me :)
Jesus praying over his mother Mary's body

St. Claire!!
Santa Chiara (St. Claire's) chapel

Very cool depiction of Adam and Eve with the serpent in the tree.

This statue is entitled "The Quack" Doctor. Though well respected, he was considered eccentric and loved to try unorthodox yet safe treatments.
Yeah, I could take a nap there...if that security guard wouldn't taze me.
I love the evolution of clothes throughout all of history. This will become more apparent as I publish more blogs. Garments have always had many purposes based upon social, cultural, economical, practical and impractical ideas.
My mom will love this frame :)
Again, historical dress. It was made so that the tapestry could be shown off; sometimes it depicted a particular pastoral scene or familial symbols. With this dress, women had to move sideways through doors. It would definitely make storming out of a room less effective.
Ol' Billy Shakes

MECCA! Here I found the luxurious high end mall... Harrod's. As I walked along the beautifully crafted pieces of couture, Whitney Houston came streaming through the speakers. This uber-fan had a little moment of silence for our fallen member of musical royalty.
The next day I strolled through Hyde Park. It is also a wonderful park in the middle of London (of which there are several). I enjoyed watching all of the well-fed geese act like street urchins begging for baguettes!

I would love to see the Rose Garden in spring. It looks like some early birds are coming up for a little look-see.

I was only able to get this close to the guards at Buckingham palace...merde!

The gates of Buckingham Palace...honestly, I was expecting something more fabulous. Wah WAH WAAAAAAAAH.
The balcony where the royals come out and give their weird backwards wave/open-handed fist pump.
Westminster Abbey. Absolutely breathtaking. Wish I could've been here for the pomp and flare of the royal wedding.
Parliament. I tried to keep from thinking about the Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. - it didn't work. Like the rest of my family, I relate to things through ze cinema :)
 Tower of London where all of the crown jewels are kept. Luke explained to me that the jewels belong to the Crown and not the Queen. He explained many many things about British royal history that I was not aware of.
*Correction 2/28/12: Oops! This is Big Ben, unfortunately my picture of the Tower of London is MIA. Never type blogs late at night. (Thanks to Patrick for pointing that out to me!)

Hey look! It's your fave euro hobo with the London Eye! WAY too expensive to actually ride the contraption, so I just closed mein eyes and imagined it.
Foreigners felt bad for asking me to take their picture. Here you see a forced pity picture since I was all by my lonesome :-/
The Tate Britain art museum, not the Tate Modern.
Side note: Before this trip, I felt extremely burned out. I had lost a bit of my "Claire-esque" quality of being positive, hopeful, and whimsical...of which I have always felt very proud of. I even told my mother that I wanted to ONLY read non-fiction books, not even fiction based on non-fiction time periods and circumstances. I have wanted to see everything as it is, and prove all things unexplainable through scientific reasoning...snooze cruise. I waltzed into this exhibition on The Romantics (artists of an ideological and nostalgic practice) and made myself live in a pretty, light, non-agenda world of color and light.

Brits on the tube...why so serious??
Luke took me to a traditional English pub located in Oxford Circus. It was perfectly authentic.
So long London! Good luck hosting the Olympics!
SANCTUARRRYYYYYYY!! Seriously, that's the first thing I said after I pulled my jaw up from the cobblestone.

Craftsmanship! I am still baffled and amazed by craftsmanship.
One of these things is not like the otherrr...
Yes, I love my Euro Hobo escapade, but my "wifey" (aka Tess) was getting married while I was abroad. There is truly no where else I would rather be (even Paris) than watching and supporting my wifey marry the love of her life. So in honor of them, I lit some special candles for Tess, Brian, and Baby Sorenson. I pictured my love and support zooming across the ocean and into their hearts in Vegas :)
Here is the wide shot of the chapel within Notre Dame where the candles were lit.

Blessing for the Sorensons.
I'm such a sucker for stained glass.

This was a cool photo I took from behind the altar and are looking through towards the back of the cathedral (click on the picture for a larger view). I get artsy fartsy sometimes, it's in my blood.
How Notre Dame came to be.

Proud moment: I ordered food AND conversed ALL in French. It felt so gratifying! This is a croque monsieur...the best cheese covered ham (jambon) and cheese (fromage) you will ever have.
A new trend has erupted on one of the bridges in Paris! About two years ago, people in love would come to this bridge and lock it together to the bridge and write their name on it. Even some Parisians didn't know that this was going on or why they were locking things to the bridge. Yuckie love stuff, I say :)
Hey, another portrait taken by moi! Near this entrance to the Louvre my mother bit it (aka ate dirt, biffed it, head over heels, fell) in front of a lot of tourists and French people. There should be a special tourist map of Europe and the US to document where Kathy Whiteside has "bitten it."

Jardin de Tuileries
mini arc
Place de la Concorde
The staircase I walked with my backpack thighs are basically invisible now when I turn sideways...slight exaggeration.
I had a wonderful first night with new friends. Virginie (far right) was my wonderful, generous, extremely delightful host! She met my brother in 2001 when they were both on a trip to Barcelona. They kept in touch and met up again later in Amsterdam. When my brother wrote her that I would be visiting Paris, she was (thankfully) delighted to have me! Fellow travelers, UNITE!
Beautiful mini-park at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower.
Das a biiig tower, main!
Underneath the giant
Armed guards? Claire doesn't feel very safe all of a sudden. Is there something they know that I don't? Do they need my espionage services??
A group of recruits from other parts of France seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Patriotism :)
The top was closed, but we were able to go up the east pillar to the second floor which is still pretty high.
Hopefully I can post the video of the elevator taking us up!

Artsy fartsy, yes. But listen people, I am by myself A LOT. You have to engage your brain somehow.

Oh hi, sunshine! Thanks for coming out after that dreary I have to squint in my pictures.
They have holes in the floor where you can look down. My mother would pass out and glue herself to a well supported beam.
Craftsmanship and civil engineering = mind blown
Cool posters of different events surrounding the structure.

Who doesn't love sepia tone :)
I came, I saw, I ate a doughnut on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower :)

For the Rochs: love and miss you all!
On the street where my idol lived...
Coco Chanel was a true innovator. When other designers approached fashion as a continuance of popular style, Coco designed an effortless and simplistic chic. Coco made clothes for the liberated women that, like her, were wanting to stand out as individuals rather than glorified arm candy.
She used to walk these streets, mull over design ideas, and meet her Nazi boyfriend across the street. I personally believe that with Coco's personality, she would not even participate in conversations about stupid men and their lust for power. Unfortunately, her career would always somehow be controlled by men.
This is the illegal photo I took (and fake-deleted). After I perused through Chanel's latest ready to wear collection, I snuck into the entrance of her apartment. On these legendary mirrored staircases, Coco would preview her collections. Once I tried to go up the stairs I heard "No! Si vous plait, NO!" I was asked very calmly and sternly to leave the store after I "deleted the picture." I did try to apologize and tell him how much she means to me. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how I got kicked out of Chanel :) Priceless.
Other favorite innovative designers.

Not innovative per se...but classic Paris.

My favorite little white flowers. Does any one know what they are?
I strolled down the Champs Elysees, and was disappointed. I had pictured the scene in Gigi, but now it has nothing but franchise shops like Gap and Quiksilver. But the treat was arriving at the Arc de Triomphe!
It's ginormous!! Also, there are tons and TONS of people in there BUYING things. What the hell? Who are these people? Helloooo, the economy called and wanted to remind you that we are in a recession and there are people foreclosing on their houses! I saw 10 different women with the exact same purse. I have no place to judge...but if I had the money, I would want to stand out like Coco!
This is animal friend in Virginie's apartment. No story here, I just liked the picture.
Video of going up the elevator!!

So those were a lot of the cool things I've seen/done. But like I said in the beginning, I'm not out...but I've been pretty down. I knew there would be tough times in traveling, and I was looking forward to a new challenge. But being sick just kind of makes everything a little bit more difficult. 

Whine-y section: when I go to the pharmacy for meds everything is in French and the pharmacists diagnose you, food doesn't taste as good IF I happen to have an appetite. Usually I recharge my Claire battery by conversing with random strangers and their kids or dogs (those that have hung out with me know I am hard to walk around city streets with because I am constantly petting dogs and playing with kids). But when you can't speak the language well, and everyone else has their own's hard to get that human connection. Also, I stand out. I am bright and puffy and smiley. People tend to look at me for an odd amount of time as if they were trying to figure out where I came from. Then, the creepers in the bad neighborhoods that cat call at me because I am bright and stand out make disgusting faces or comments. Luckily, I have never been shy about letting anyone know what I think about their gestures or offensive actions... that's the Jimmy Whiteside in my blood.

But this is why I am here! I am here to experience the ultimate recharge and embrace this once in a lifetime opportunity. This is definitely NOT the toughest thing I have taken on in life, but it has definitely shown me what I'm made of. I want to share a song that I became obsessed with several months ago by Florence and the Machine and it has empowered me since. 

"And I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't
So here's to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I'm ready to suffer and I'm ready to hope
It's a shot in the dark and right at my throat"

All of this to say, I think we should all welcome the chaotic, unexpected, and damaging with the same energy that we greet a glorious surprise. Head on. There is only one person to make you happy, and it's the same person that is going to get you through the muck and the mire, so treat you well.

I've arrived safely in Belgium, and the whole country smells of waffles and hops...I may not leave. Until next time :)

With great hobo vigor comes great hobo responsibility,