Fall has arrived in Washington. It's not your typical fall - not your leaves ablaze, pumpkins strewn on every door step, CVS overflowing with Halloween Candy, jean jackets abound kind of fall... it's a secret fall - in cool evening breeze, the unnoticed crunch of leaves beneath your feet on sidewalks, the preparations of winter gardens, and the end of Honey Crisp apples at the Farmer's Market. Me, it's been busy - but no where as busy as summer and spring. Tonight, 9pm, I'm just settling in and the cool breeze through my open window is brings me back to the cool autumns of my college years - a more care-free time to be sure.
Sorry all to be so silent for so many months - you who didn't trust me and went straight to look at my Flickr images of Europe were right on the money. Blogging is hard for me - which is surprising, considering how reflective I am and how much I like to write about myself (and talk about myself - though, not so self-absorbed, I like to think). It's really a time-management thing - which I'm becoming all to aware of this fall - in a very strategic way. You see, when I get busy, blogging is the first thing to go - the very first. Not TV, not aimless (or even targeted) internet searching, not knitting - blogging is the first to go. Followed, somewhat distantly after by Yoga (which I missed this Sunday to try and get some work done - which I did get done). Following yoga is eating. No, I don't have an eating disorder (or, maybe I do - I don't know) - but in thinking about this, it's interesting to me that TV watching and aimless Internet surfing are still on the list - which is regrettable and an obvious sign that I need to do some re-organizing. So, I'm making a concerted effort to decrease both TV and A.I. before giving up numbers 1, 2, and 3... but, in the end, that won't necessarily mean more or less blogging.
Still, with all that said, I want to thank those of you who came up to me at the Yarn Harlot's soiree in Bailey's Crossroads (you, Virginians and non-Virginians alike, should know that Bailey's Crossroads and Potomac Yard are not the same shopping center - even though both have Targets nearby - as I learned) and said you missed me, missed my blog, and so enjoyed reading my blog. Secretly, I went to support Steph with the idea of being a no-body, of being unrecognized and just another knitter... but I was so thrilled (and felt so loved) when I got to talk to folks who read when I write and who have bought my book. I even heard one story of a friend, who, while waiting in line for Steph to sign her books, heard a woman say, "Don't tell anyone - but I heard Michael del Vecchio is here tonight" in a hushed voice (whomever you are, you made my day). Seriously - what fun - and it's always a treat to see Steph do her thing.
Onwards - Europe was amazing. It's been about a month since I got back - a bit more - and a quick month it was - and I keep looking back on the time like it was some crazy dream. It's odd - I keep looking at the pictures, and see myself in those pictures with my family, but it doesn't feel like it's me and though I clearly remember seeing all those things and visiting those places, it feels somewhat distant. That's not a bad thing - it's just a thing... It really was like a dream. We happened to take a Tauck Tour - which is a Connecticut-based tour company, and without a doubt, I'd take a tour again in a second with Tauck. Initially, I was kind of poo pooing the tour idea - we'd be in a group, we'd have to be HERE at THIS time, and we'd see the kinds of things you're supposed to see on a tour. Later, I came to hate being on a tour for different reasons (mainly that, being American and with a tour, I felt like we got shoved in back rooms because we were loud and obnoxious - which I really wish we weren't - and weren't with - but I digress). But, Tauck did an amazing job - our guide was amazing, we stayed in all the best hotels (The Westin Excelsior in Florence, the Grand Hotel Eden in Lugano, the Danieli in Venice, and the St Regis in Rome) - enjoyed a few expensive, private touristy perks... like wine tastings and leather demonstrations and silk demonstrations and all those things - plus the Gondola Ride, a boat cruise on Lake Como, and on and on.. AND, to top it all off - we spent less on the tour, then we would have, had we booked it ourselves and stayed in hotels half as exciting and wonderful. Thus, if you have any interest in travelling - and would consider a tour, start with Tauck. In two years, I'd love to go back to France - and would love to have the pleasure of travelling with them again.
But - moving on - I'd hoped to give an hour by hour tour of Europe, including a day by day look at our meals AND highlight some of Europe's most disgusting bathrooms - but in lieu of all that AND in the interest of holding your attention, I'll start with highlights and expound from there.
The highlight of the trip for me was most certainly Paris. I mean, I enjoyed Italy greatly - and I'd go back without a doubt - but, to be in a country where I understood the culture, knew how to get places, and above all, spoke the language, was an incredibly euphoric experience (speaking the language is a huge part of that - I'd learn more Italian before going back to Italy). In Paris, we stayed on Place des Vosges, which is in the heart of the Marais. Now, if you're anyone who's anyone, you'll know that the Marais is the up and coming neighborhood in Paris - in fact, it's already up and it's already come - but it is the new cultural center of Paris and was, well, perfect. If you go, I can highly recommend La Pavillion de la Reine for a hotel - it's right on la place, the staff is impeccable, and it has all the charm of an American Bed and Breakfast, without the absent staff and stale breakfast food.
On food, one night, we ate at Restaurant Le Marche - which, though I wasn't all that hungry, had the perfect feel of a neighborhood tavern - and was very "French" (whatever that means). The next night - we ate on the roof of le Centre Georges Pompidou - which, in the words of the staff at the Front Desk was "trop chic" for us - and in the end, I'd have to agree. I didn't eat here either - mainly because I was tired of eating out and was a little, uh, how you say, "backed up". Ahem. But, my parents tell me, they ate the most wonderful mashed potatoes in the restaurant and we did get to see them turn the lights on at the Eiffel Tower and see the amazing view of Paris at sunset. During the day - on our one day there - my parents decided they wanted to take a Bateau Mouche around the Seine, and go on a bus tour. I'd done both on an earlier trip to France, and lovingly ditched them after Breakfast -- to explore the Marais on my own.
The plan was to march through the Marais, into Les Halles - stop at La Droguerie and at an Anny Blatt yarnstore, then find my way over in Les Tuleries to see the new installation of the Water Lillies - and hike on back to the hotel to pick up a bottle of two of muscat de beaumes de venise and some The Caramel before dinner.
In reality, I marched through the Marais, and into Les Halles, and stopped at Anny Blatt - only to find it was closed for remodelling. From there, I marched to la drogurie - only to find it opened at 2! So, I found myself a little cafe, ordered a nice cup of tea, and sat and knitted for an hour. Knitting, in public, in Paris, was a curious activity - and a joyful one. Any of you public knitters - especially those who are male - can identify with that feeling you get - that people are watching you while you knit, but when you look back and catch their eyes, they pretend to be tying their shoes or picking their nose or whatever. In Paris, it starts out the same - but they don't look away. In fact, they're so curious - and they are totally striaghtforward about it - and I loved it. Everyone - from the waitress to the cook to the men driving the delivery truck to the woman walking down the street... they looked, they smiled, and they kept on looking. It was like they'd never seen a man knit before!
From the cafe, I walked around the Louvre a bit (and subsequently had to pee soooooo bad - I haven't had to pee so bad since I was a kid - only to find that all the public toilets were either absent, not working, or occupied), found a nice sandwich shop (where, I used the pissoir, thankfully) and picked up some beautiful goat cheese on ciabatta, and ate lunch in Les Halles until La Droguerie opened. Therein (and there was a line when I got there at 2pm - if you can believe it!), I thoroughly enjoyed myself. They didn't allow pictures inside the store (fair enough) but they sold everything from buttons, to yarn, to other craftiness and so on... I had a delightful exchange with a shopkeep - and picked up some precious sterling buttons and enough blue and grey to make a striped pullover - pictures forthcoming. On the way back, I picked up some great man-rings, and relaxed until dinner.
Interestingly, leaving Rome, going to Paris, I had this distinct "Man, it's been 10 days of travel and all I want to do is go home" feeling about me - but having been in Paris, even if just for 2 days, well, it was wonderful.
Coming - pictures of some purchases and notes on Switzerland - decidedly, my second most favorite locale of my sejour abroad - followed very closely by Venice, which holds a special place in my heart, but, also, was, uh, crowded.
Yes, to those who are wondering, I'll be at Stitches - on Friday and Saturday. I've got two classes, which I'm excited for - and I plan to not shop at all, save for a mistake I'm sure I'll make Chez Tess - and to walk the floor and make some contacts.