Wednesday, December 19, 2012

You Are A Very Beautiful: England/Paris Day 8

Waking up in Stourhead, at the gates of heaven as it were, was magnificent. It started with an English breakfast as we continued to scare and baffle the staff, which now made us scared and baffled.  It was scrumptious and way more to eat than we should have ever eaten. We asked about all of the movies that had been shot there and there was a general stupor. We're not sure if it was still due to our unusual presence or if it was just an unanswerable question. One of the staff told us that she had never ventured further than an hour out of Stourhead in her whole life. A different world.

This place was ethereal, what dreams are made of, and it certainly must have been created with dreams in mind.


It was a very English day: overcast and about 50 degrees. We had the place to ourselves - literally- for about an hour and a half. And then the flood came in -- two people! Ugh.

We started our quiet, awestruck walk to the Temple of Apollo (it will/should seem familiar to any true cinephile or Austenite) but before we could do that, Tom had to say the silliest thing I'd ever heard that made me laugh until I cried for at least three more days.

Right before we were about to take this completely sketchy - pitch dark - looking cave/tunnel to the Temple of Apollo, I had a scaredy cat moment and said "Um,  I don't want to go in there" believing that the G'Mork (wolf) from The Neverending Story was about to confront me, which is probably my second worst fear.

Tom said "Oh come on! It's not that--" but when he saw that it truly was an abyss,  he grabbed my hand and walked me out saying "Nope, sorry Dragon." After which he made the sound of a dragon huffing, stopping prematurely, and whimpering. It was obviously a you-had-to-be-there and have-to-know-Tom moment, but I was in laughter-tears about it for the remainder of the trip.

We made friends with the cave/tunnel later and took it on our way back. It was still scary. 

The journey to the temple of Apollo was about as beautiful as the temple itself...


I loved the Alexander Pope poetry that littered the path...


And there it was. No disappointment here whatsoever....

We went overboard with pictures so I am going to keep it minimal. But you know how much we loved it by the sheer volume of photos taken.

Had to get my Keira shot...

We continued our walk around the lake and it was an out of body experience. We went to their mini-pantheon because everyone who's anybody has a pantheon in Europe. They were the ancient iPhone.

On our walk back around the extensive grounds we saw fishermen, except they weren't...they were lake leaf cleaners. That amused us greatly. No idea why now.

We saw Neptune in another cave...
 Came upon a real gothic cottage whose age is unknown...
 A gorgeous church on the property....
 Inside the church...
 Our dinner and breakfast spot in the day time...
 Another angle...

We were sad to go and would have gladly read a book under a tree for the rest of the day, but time was money on this trip and we had a train to Paris to catch in three hours. I know, not for the faint of heart. So we checked out of our B&B and were on our way...

 Sad to Leave

But we couldn't JUST go back to London yet. Nope. We had to make a quick stop to this big pile of stones...

Beautiful day and beautiful structures, but a total hoax in my opinion. If it is a hoax, it's a cool hoax. If it's not a hoax, then for sure Merlin did it. The only two logical explanations.


When we got back to London it was a quick bunch of maneuvering to get the rental car back in time and weave in and out of the busy city and then haul our bags all the way to St. Pancras (or Saint Pancreas, if using Courtney pronunciation) on foot...



...and then I got the most invasive pat-down of my life at Eurostar security,  marveled at how beautiful the train station and trains were, and decided that I wish America had more of the infrastructure to do train travel like this more often and in more places (and this fast). It was so peaceful and so luxurious (even in economy seats) and so fast.
Training it up

I blinked and we were suddenly in Paris.

I took a litle bit of French in both my high school and college years. I brushed up like crazy before we went on this trip. It only came in handy twice maybe, but it served for some nice eavesdropping for the rest of the time. It was fun, but I wish that I was fluent. Anyone want to teach me to be fluent in french? There are some crepes in it for you.

Anyway, getting into Paris was a good thing, but I'd be lying if I said that my first impressions out of the train station and into the metro stations weren't a little disappointing. It was late at night, and I was a little tired. It was a kind of crazy and varied day that started in the English country side and ended in Paris,  and then it was 15 degrees colder in Paris, and the metro stations were not immaculately clean and well-kept like the tube stations in London and their were beggars everywhere (compared to the 0 I saw in London). I even initially thought maybe Parisians don't dress as 'smart' as the English. However, I soon found out that all of this was half accurate and half just a first impression. Paris can be and is so much more. It was just a little bit of culture shock at first I suppose, coming from a week in London.

But then, as we looked for our hotel, standing next to a beautiful little Cafe, Tom told me to look up into the night sky. And there it was: the sparkling, lit, Eiffel Tower...

I'm sorry, but since it is so cliche, I think no one adequately prepared me for the enormity and grandeur of this structure, because it's not cool to discuss it anymore or something. It knocked me off my feet. I was beyond impressed and I never got tired of looking at it.

Tom took me on a walk to get closer and when we turned the corner - just like Big Ben - I had no idea it would be right there and that it would be that size. Magnificent. Mr. Eiffel, I'm your biggest fan.


We ate a delicious dinner that night. Boeuf Bourguignon for me and Boeuf Carpaccio for Tom. It was delicious, and served with French fries for some reason.


The most notable thing from that experience was that I made the expensive mistake of ordering a coke...a coke that came in a tiny bottle and ended up being more expensive than my dinner. It was an $12 coke after we did the conversion. Ouch.

Our hotel was very nearby and it was a nice - if small - room. Very Parisian. Unfortunately, our front desk agent was also very Parisian....in a bad way. He was my first impression of the French in France, and it was not a good one. I prayed that the next day would prove more friendly. It was, but it was also unbelievably beautiful and amazing.

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