Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Catch-up Blog #4 – Sammy risks life and limb by consuming a lifetime’s worth of bacteria in the City of Lights…


And a good evening to you from across the Pond – I’m BACK IN THE MOTHER COUNTRY AND BACK WITH WIFE MUFFIN!!!!!!!! I can’t believe that June has come and gone and tomorrow is the first day of July – that is just NUTS. But before we begin the July celebrations and turn our attention squarely to the last 6 months of our time here, I am pleased to give you the final catch-up blog that will return us to the present. It is a story of hard work, HOT weather, expat bars, great views…and a dance with death – courtesy of raw beef. And so we begin…

I arrived in the afternoon on Sunday and made the walk from Gare du Nord (the Eurostar station) down to the hotel. Two cool aspects to this – first off, the hotel in question was the Westin Paris, the same hotel that Jenny and I had passed during our time there in May and REALLY wanted to check out (and the Paul Harvey component to the story – I’d tried to book it on points before, but because they spotted me instantly as a poser who didn’t belong, it was politely explained to me that I couldn’t stay there using Starwood points. If I wanted into the courtyard, my redneck ass had to pay. Details…). Second, the walk to the hotel took me past some GREAT sights of Paris, including the Opera House (which, on a gorgeous day like Sunday, is BEAUTIFUL when light hits the gold on top) and the Vendrome, which was right beside the hotel.

On the walk to the hotel was a classic “Why on earth did they assign Sam Taylor to this project?” moment. Every bar and restaurant did have soccer on, but I noticed the letter abbreviations for the teams playing were “ANG” and “ALL.” I was pissed, and I actually said to myself, “I can’t believe they are so bitter about not making the knockout round that they are showing club soccer vs. the World Cup.” Only later did it occur to me that THEY SPEAK FRENCH IN FRANCE, and those WOULD BE the abbreviations in French for England and Germany. Yep, you can take the boy outta the country…

I met Brother Bill, and we caught the second half of the England – Germany match. Let’s just say I’m glad that I only had to endure the second half, as it was DONKEY TRASH. The highlight was the hotel bar, as it was STRAIGHT UP Old School French – red velvet wall paper, the classic crown molding. Posh, but “I’m on the Orient Express to catch my train before boarding the QE2 for Sydney” style posh. Just give me some peanuts and a sawdust floor and I’m good. Oh, and Fat Tire – can a brother please get some Fat Tire?

Dinner that night was at a local brasserie, and it was tasty. We then rolled over to the Oz Bar, and UBER-CHEESY French version of the Walkabout, to watch the Argentina-Mexico match. Dean – you would have been so proud. I walk up to the bar (drank Toohey’s, btw) to order and the Aussie gal behind the bar says to the other bartender, “It’s a @#$#ing Australian Bar – I’m GOING to speak English. If they don’t @#$#ing like it, they can go somewhere else.” Just promise me that won’t be Charlotte in 16 years…

On Monday I got up early and went for a run along the Seine. It was truly FANTASTIC, as the weather was great, and a 4.25 loop takes you past some INCREDIBLE sights. I ran through the Tulerie Gardens, past the Louvre, along the river (saw the Eiffel Tower on the run back), and the Notre Dame. It felt SO GOOD, and it was just GREAT to get out and stretch my legs. Unfortunately, my feet and tendons have been sore for the last 2 days, but honestly, - that run was worth it.

The work day was great (Hitman – check out Padre and I HARD at work – I realize you can’t see the clock, but it was like 11 PM – I promise - I mean, just LOOK at us in action!), and we got a real treat at lunch. We walked over to the Architecture Museum, where there is a café with an outdoor terrace. Let’s just say the picture below of a certain landmark pretty much tells you everything about the view…

Dinner that night was a O’Sullivans (YES, another expat bar). I know it sounds kitsch, but this place was GREAT. We had TV’s all around us, they had chicken wings (still not US style, but I’ve abandoned that crusade), the Carlsberg was cold, and all was right with the world.

Tuesday was another great day – I was VERY proud of all we knocked off during out time in Paris, but this day was definitely the best. As for lunch, here’s a laugh for all you cats in Gateway Village suffering with Bytes cafeteria. The following is what you can expect to find every day at the canteen of the French office:

WINE. BOTTLES AND BOTTLES OF WINE (and NO, I didn’t partake)
A Cheese bar. Seriously – I did get into this. It was all SO fresh and SO GUUUUD (super peppy cheekies).
6 different made-to-order stations. And this aren’t “scoop up your General’s chicken” kind of stations. These are “if it’s not fresh or prepared to your liking the rest of the folks in line can wait while I make it right” kind of stations. AWESOME. I highly recommend the Tuna…

After work, we celebrated by knocking off my final “foodie” must do in Paris – tartare. Okay, seriously, Puffin and I had tried this in London, and it was a small amount, fairly well spiced, and just enough. When you order it in France, however, YOU GET A CAN OF ALPO. Let me see if I can do this moment justice:

The plate comes out, and it’s a burger - we are talking at least half a pound of precooked weight.
There are enough peppers, onions, and even horseradish sauce to kill a small horse.
It is MARBLED with fat.
That @#$# is RAW. It is in the shape of a pattie, but you KNOW you are like Mad Max beyond Thunderdome and eating dog food.

I was able to get through about 2/3’s of it, but I didn’t feel right the rest of the night. In fact, I was lightheaded and pretty sure I wouldn’t see the sunrise. Perhaps that’s why I was awake until almost 3 AM last night.

Today was a good day, wrapping up the work and taking the Eurostar back. And now is the best part of the entire trip – BEING BACK HOME WITH WIFE MUFFIN!!!!!! No more work travel in the foreseeable future, and that is MUSIC TO MY EARS.

Okay, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. We’re caught up! Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

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