Happy Halloween!

Halloween window display at the Yonge St location of Secrets From Your Sister (specialty bra-fitting store).  She looks awesome!

I won’t be dressing up today and I won't be handing out candy, but I’m feeling evil, so does that count? ;)


The last day

We finished our vacation with a short day trip to Cambridge, where Will’s aunt and uncle live.  (This was two weeks ago today; it seems like a lifetime ago now.)  At this point, we were both exhausted (mainly from not sleeping very well on the floor of our friend’s flat, but still, not complaining about the price), and we were having sightseeing fatigue—although everything we were seeing was beautiful, it was starting to take on a sense of sameness.

Still, Cambridge was beautiful, even if it is all about the university (famous alumni include Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, members of Radiohead, Vladimir Nabokov, A.A. Milne, Nick Hornby, Sir Ian McKellan, Sir Derek Jacobi, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, John Cleese, Rachel Weisz, Sasha Baron Cohen). Colleges everywhere.

The River Cam.

Well-educated Cambridge ducks.

The crest at Magdalene College (pronounced Maudlin for some unknown reason, but I was getting used to nothing in Britain being pronounced as it’s spelled), Uncle Quentin’s alma mater.  Keep the faith, or alternatively, watch your liver. (In Quentin’s case, it was definitely watch your liver.)

King’s College.  I love this photo, it makes the college look even more Gothic.

See, not so impressive in brighter light.

Henry the Fat.

It’s a shame we were so tired at this point and we didn’t enjoy it as much as we could.  But as I kept saying throughout the trip, one day we’ll go back.

Our last night in London was spent having dinner at Great Eastern Dining Room in Shoreditch, literally around the corner from our friend’s flat.  It was painfully trendy, but the food was excellent.

I miss London now.  And Paris.  And Dublin.  The good mood/relaxed feeling has definitely worn off now.  But I guess it’s just time to plan the next vacation (New York City, maybe?) and look forward to that!


Anthro in London

So it’s not like I don’t have access to Anthropologie in Canada, but I had to visit Anthropologie in London.  Not to buy anything, since it’s even more expensive than Anthro in Canada (I feel bad about whining about Canadian prices—London prices have the same number value as American prices, but then you have to multiply by at least 1.5), just to see what the store looks like and see what they have (I definitely found that the London stores get stock faster than their Canadian counterparts).

I only had time to visit the Anthro on Regent Street.  The other location is on King’s Road, closer to Harrods, but I was in a hurry to flee that area after being completely turned off by Harrods.  Oh well, next time I’ll explore the posh area of Chelsea and maybe do my best imitation of a Sloane Ranger.


I really liked the wall of greenery in this store.

a £1800 sculpture—nice, but wouldn’t fit in my suitcase anyway


The view from the second floor, not too shabby

This outfit inspired me to try on the skirt, which I hadn’t seen in store in Toronto.

I know this is a recreation of a WWII poster, but to me it seemed very ironic for a retail clothing store whose purpose is to make you buy new things (sorry for the blurriness).

Since this store had stock that I hadn’t seen yet in at home, I tried a few things on:

Glowing Leaf Skirt by Floreat – gorgeous, definitely want this when I find it in Toronto, I love the orange and grey colour combination.

Puckered Plaid Trench by Elevenses – I thought this was very “English” and so I had to try it on in London.  It has a little too much volume for me (I thought it overwhelmed me), so it’s a no.

Liked it so much I tried it on twice, this time with the Volante Tee by Deletta.  I thought this top was ridiculous when I saw it in the catalogue, but it’s actually really nice on.  I’m definitely going to pick it up when I see it here.


London shopping

I didn’t shop at all in Paris.  Two days was not enough time to see all the sights and shop, and shockingly I didn’t want to, much like I didn’t want to have any baguette, croissant, or pain au chocolat (but such is the reality of gluten intolerance—I really didn’t want to get sick).  I’m surprised at my willpower, both on the shopping and food front.

I made up for the lack of shopping in London, where I walked Will into the ground.  We spent our time primarly in the Regent & Oxford Street areas.  The credit card did come out, after my uncharacteristic restraint in Dublin and Paris.

A view of Regent Street.  I’m in love with architecture and I wish Toronto looked more like this.

But the shopping didn’t happen until after we did what Will wanted to do.

I’m a football (soccer) widow on Saturday or Sunday mornings when Arsenal is playing.  So we had to visit the stadium and the gift shop, where I bought my two-year-old nephew a whole Arsenal outfit (jersey, shorts, and socks) so he and Will can be best friends.

With that out of the way, we went to Harrods in Knightsbridge.

I hated it.  Full of tourists (what department store has a gift shop?) and incredibly expensive.  The food hall was pretty cool, but in the produce section, one pomegranate cost £9.99 (roughly CAD$17.00). I know that it’s a store with a long history, but it felt so tacky.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

On Saville Row, I went to Duo Boots and was custom-fitted for a pair of boots.  My calves are not enormous but just slightly bigger than the boots found in most stores, so trying on boots that zipped up with no effort was a revelation.  I chose the Hawthorn, a great mid-heel knee-high tan boot for fall.  The store is lovely and the salespeople very helpful, so if in London and looking for boots that fit wide or very narrow calves, this is where to go.


I wandered around the Mayfair area where all the designer stores are, but I only bought tights from the Wolford Boutique London.

Vivienne Westwood’s window display

After my disappointment with Harrods, including the Food Hall, Will took me to Fortnum & Mason, which was much more satisfying.

Entrance hall of Fortnum’s

Unfortunately, my photos inside didn’t turn out very well, so I can’t capture the rows and rows of beautifully wrapped candy, chocolate, and preserves, or the staff dressed in formalwear (three-piece tuxes with tails!). 

I did buy Morello cherry preserves and Pink Grapefruit Marmalade.  Both a little sweet for my taste, but I like my fruit pretty tart.

My favourite store by far was Liberty of London, where sadly I was only able to spend about 15 min.  Next time I’m in London, I’m going back to spend more time.  Like Harrods, it has a long history, but unlike Harrods, it’s not tacky.  The Tudor building is gorgeous, and their graphic art prints are amazing.

Apologies for the blurriness.

If I could sew, this would be Mecca to me.

The blurriness is partly due to me rushing; we had theatre tickets for that evening.  I didn’t get a chance to buy anything either.  Next time, I know to skip Harrods and just go straight to Liberty.

It was worth it to see Les Misérables, my favourite musical—I’ve seen it about 10 times and I know literally every word—even if we were in nosebleed territory.

I can’t believe that all this was two weeks ago.  I’d do anything to be back on vacation again!


And when I promised my hand, he promised me back snow cherries from France

He didn’t, actually, although I love cherries.  He just gave me this:

(Not photographed on my finger because I’m in desperate need of a manicure and I sliced my ring finger open with newly-sharpened knives while trying to cut up some fruit. I have a gigantic bandage on my finger now, but I think I’ll live.)

The ring is white gold with diamonds, made by my favourite local jewellery designer.  Her studio is literally around the corner from where I live, but the ring travelled with Will from our neighbourhood to Dublin, London, and Paris, then finally to my finger.  I didn’t want a traditional ring.  I fell in love with this ring last year, told Will about it (gave him my ring size and specific details) and I’m thrilled that he got it for me.  But I’m even more thrilled that we will be spending our lives together.

The moment he gave it to me will not go down as the most romantic in history, and that’s okay because we are not a very romantic couple.  We love each other to pieces, but we’d rather laugh than be cheesy.  So while we were on top of Tour Montparnasse at 10 pm, standing in the freezing wind and pitch black on the helipad, looking at the Eiffel Tower’s light show, he pulled the ring out of his pocket.  But he didn’t put it on my finger there, because it was pitch black and he was afraid he would drop it and we’d never find it.  We laughed and got a little giddy.

He put it on my finger at the hotel. And we laughed some more.



Oh, Paris…

Why are you so beautiful? 

Why don’t I live there?

Why do I have a gluten intolerance that prevented me from partaking in your baguettes, croissants, and pain au chocolat?

Why did I have a cold when I was visiting?

Will always said he would take me to Paris, and he finally did after 11 years.  We were only there for two days, but I will definitely be back.

We took the Eurostar from St. Pancras station to Gare du Nord on the evening of a day of French national strike.  We didn’t have any problems getting a taxi to our hotel though.

Where our initials in (fake) rose petals were on the bed:
Awww.  After we stopped laughing, we took them off.

We were staying in the chambre à lettres room of the Apostrophe Hotel, a tiny 16-room boutique hotel in the Montparnasse area.  I was hoping for the music room, but hey, it was a great little hotel.
It doesn’t show in this photo, but the curtains were printed with the deaf-mute alphabet.

It was pretty late when we got there, but I went straight for the soaker tub.

I have serious tub envy.  I wanted to take it home, but sadly it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.

But we weren’t there to spend our time in a hotel.  The next day, despite my head cold, we went out to see the city.  The weather was beautiful again—we had sun and blue sky for two days.


In the Montparnasse area, near our hotel.


Notre-Dame de Paris.  Amazing that this has stood since the 13th century, when it was completed after 200 years.

In the Latin quarter

Musée des Beaux Arts, formerly a train station

La Seine (any morning cloud was completely gone by then)

“Oh man, not so fresh…”

Will’s favourite statue in the Tuileries Garden. “Oh crap, I forgot my pants and I have a tiny penis…”

I personally preferred the dogs running around the lawn at the Louvre.

The Louvre – we didn’t go in because we didn’t have time

For some reason, Will was taken by Paris streetlights.

We stumbled upon Canada Place.

General Lafayette

The back of Notre Dame, from the Bateau-Mouche.  It reminded me of the scene from Before Sunset where Céline and Jesse are sitting on a boat and Jesse tells the story about how German soldiers wired Notre Dame to explode, but the one who was charged with flipping the switch couldn’t do it because of how beautiful it was in there.  Every time I watch that movie on TV, Will comes in at that scene (and only that scene) and tells me that historically that’s not quite right.

Sitting by the Seine on a gorgeous fall day.  I’d personally be afraid of falling into the Seine, but what I wouldn’t give to be there right now…

Not a famous landmark by any means.

Under the Eiffel Tower

The traffic around “l’Étoile” at l’Arc du Triomphe – totally insane

l’Arc du Triomphe

Les Halles

Église Ste-Eustache

At Jardin du Luxembourg, where the flowers were still in full bloom.

Despite not being able to eat the food that Paris is famous for, I still ate well.  We had Vietnamese in the Latin Quarter one lunch (I sampled Vietnamese in my travels and found that my favourite is still here in Toronto), a late-night bistro, and thanks to a recommendation by pastry chef/cookbook author David Lebovitz living the sweet life in Paris, we ate at Le Louchébem in Les Halles where I had a half roasted black-footed chicken with delicious haricots verts and pommes sautés. (It was so much food, I ended up skipping dinner and having a container of pineapple from M&S Food back in London instead.)

I completely fell in love with the city.  Paris, I will see you again soon.  And I’ll spend more time.

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