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Continental 0054 – Newark to Paris/Charles de Gaulle

“When good Americans die, they go to Paris.” - Oscar Wilde

If A = Newark, B = Paris

 

We’ve been planning for a while, but now we’re here! Newark Airport – gate C83 – waiting to board flight 0054 to Paris/Charles de Gaulle airport.  Dragging my Japanese suitcase that looks like an orange jellybean. Having to climb over the lady in the seat next to us, because she’s already asleep.

 

Jellybean and New York City

 

On the plane, seat 24C,  preparing for takeoff. The flight was going to be about 7 hours. Thankfully, the entertainment system was HUGE. Loads of films, shows, games, and music. I couldn’t decide between starting off with Glee 3D, or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2. When we were up in the air, I started watching Harry Potter. About 30 minutes into the flight, the entertainment system shut off. They tried re-booting it three times, but it was broken. Now I just had 6 and a half hours to sit around and do nothing. About 15 minutes later, dinner came. It was beef that tasted like dog food, and gross green beans. Disappointing. I had no choice but to sleep through the rest of the flight. So I woke up 4 hours later to someone offering me a damp croissant. Soon after, we landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport, and the Captain said, ‘Welcome to Paris’ in french, or rather ‘Bienvenue vers Paris’.

 

Monitor and Wing

 

So, Charles de Gaulle Airport looks like some kind of Star Wars headquarters. We got off the plane and straight on the RER Metro train that took us into the center of Paris. It was freezing outside, and we wandered around for a while before we figured out that we had got off a stop too early. We soon, with help of Google Maps, found our hotel, on Ile Saint-Louis, a little island in the middle of the Seine right next to Notre Dame Cathedral. Parisian hotel rooms are known for being small, but this one was insanely small. But whatever, we weren’t going to spend much time in the hotel anyway.

 

Baguette and Notre Dame

The center of Paris is divided up into 20 different areas known as arrondissements. The 1st. is in the very center of Paris and the rest spiral off from that. Our hotel, Hotel Saint-Louis en l’Ile, was in the 4th. On our journey through Paris, we visited places in:

 

La Grande Roue & Rue Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre

 

Paris is obsessed with chocolate. There is something chocolate around every turn. They have chocolate fountains, different variations of chocolate, and many stores devoted just to chocolate. They love to eat little chocolate macaroons too. I had many different types of chocolate while I was there, including: Nutella and banana crepes, Berthillon ice cream (which was made just along the street from our hotel) and chocolate macaroons. The most famous place to eat all things chocolate, especially Chocolat L’Africain, is Angelina, in the 1st arrondissement near the Jardin des Tuileries. We were taken there by our friend, TaylorChocolat L’Africain is a sort of very thick, dark, hot chocolate. It is served with a pot of whipped cream, and is traditionally eaten with a cake called a Mont Blanc. A Mont Blanc is a combination of meringue, light whipped cream and chestnut cream vermicelli. Angelina sells about 600 of these cakes every day.

 

Chocolat L'Africain & Mont Blanc

 

Many restaurants and shops in Paris have become touristy, but you can still find some that are old and traditional. On our second night, we wanted to have a traditional French dinner. We walked across the river to Bastille and found a classic French restaurant called Chez Paul. It was very small and dusty. It seemed like it hadn’t changed in about 50 years. All the paintings on the walls were old and crooked. The waiters and waitresses only spoke French and were old and grumpy. The menu also looked like it was the same one they had used 50 years before: hand-written with a fountain pen, in somebody’s cursive handwriting. The paper was old and yellow, and the entire thing was in French. No English translations. But it was a nice place to eat. They had very traditional French dishes. We ordered the Confit de Canard Gras des Landes, which is a leg of duck, preserved with salt, garlic and herbs, slowly cooked in its own fat. We also ordered the Steak au poivre flambé cognac. This is filet mignon steak, cooked in cracked pepper corns, covered in cognac and set on fire! These were both served with pommes Dauphinoise (potatoes cooked in butter and cream). After the meal we had a tiny dish of chocolate sorbet for dessert.

 

 

On our last day in Paris, we visited The Bridge of Locks. This is just a little bridge – Pont de l’Archevêché - connecting the island that Notre Dame is on to the Left Bank of the Seine. The bridge is covered entirely in locks. Lovers come here to place a lock on the bridge which supposedly locks their love in place. They then throw the key into the Seine. These bridge locks started appearing in the early 2000′s, not only in Paris but all over Europe, and have taken over many bridges since. We have some friends from Brooklyn – Lila and Katherine Chew – who are coming to Paris in May. They asked us to get a lock for them and attach it to the Lock Bridge. We went and bought a tiny little one covered with bright colored flowers, so they could find it easily. If anyone’s curious, the lock is nine rails in from the side nearest Notre Dame, at the very bottom. The combination to open it is 5-2-5 – their birthday.

 

Our Lock / The Lock Bridge

 

After the Lock Bridge, we had just enough time to grab our luggage from the hotel, have a quick snack at the train station, Gare de Lyon, and dash off to catch the sleeper train to Venice.

 

2nd Floor, Reunification Palace, Ho Chin Minh City, Vietnam

Decor/style
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What I did #1

Miss World Contestants Visit the Independence Palace, 2009

Miss World Contestants Visit the Independence Palace, 2009

On 30th April 1975, the lead tank of Liberation Army 390 flattened the front gate of the Independence Palace in Saigon, and Lieutenant Bui Quang Than was able to hoist the flag of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of The People of Vietnam over the building, bringing 30 years of brutal conflict to an end. President Duong Van Minh and the government of South Vietnam were forced out of the Palace, leaving behind this toilet.

Toilet, The Palace of Independence, Saigon

Toilet, The Palace of Independence, Saigon

The first thing to note is that for a palace, the toilet was not very palatial. The entrance was not guarded by life-sized golden lions, nor formidable men in armour, but by dangly strips of colored plastic. The interior was really quite small, with only two urinals and one sitting down/bowl type facility. There were no jewel encrusted flush-handles, nor ermine lined lavatory-seats.

Twin Urinals

Twin Urinals

However, what the room lacked in size, it amply made up for in light and airiness, with a huge open window that looked out onto the palace lawn (and presumably let the people on the lawn look in). This window was flanked by heavy, brocaded curtains, held in place by knots of golden rope; really the only clue that we were dealing with the toilet of an actual palace here, as opposed to say, the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Large Window onto Palace Lawn

Large Window onto Palace Lawn

Overall, the whole room looked a bit bruised and unhappy, like it really hadn’t seen any action (or the business end of a toilet brush) since April 1975. It also smelled as though a few of the valiant soldiers of Liberation Army 390 had liberated themselves there, and (caught up in the atmosphere of revolutionary zeal) neglected to flush. In the corner beneath one of the urinals there was an unsavory looking drain with a grate in it that had become dislodged and was sitting suspended in slime. It looked like something might pop its head out if you took the time to watch and wait.

Dislodged Grate and Possible Creature Habitat

Dislodged Grate and Possible Creature Habitat

(In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that this post was composed not by Winnie herself, but by her father, channelling her spirit from several thousand miles away; this is in general not to be encouraged, but it’s not every day you get to poke about in a bathroom of such éclat and historical significance).

Suite 35034, The Four Seasons, Las Vegas, Nevada

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Flush Type (ordinary)
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What I did #2

Four Seasons Elegant Carpeting

Four Seasons Elegant Carpeting

We took a long drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas through a desert that was covered with snow; I didn’t think it snowed in the desert but now I know it does. We checked into a fancy hotel called The Four Seasons, which is inside the Mandalay Bay. We don’t usually do places as grown-up as that, but we got some crazy credit card deal, which gave us free food and a suite and stuff. Trouble is, all the fancy pools were shut because it was cold; and all I really care about is the pools. And the toilets. The bathroom was really fancy, and it was in two parts; the toilet room and the sink/shower/bathtub room. It had a really big, fancy mirror.

Big Fancy Mirror

Big Fancy Mirror

The whole thing looked like something that would be in a really rich person’s house. It had a circular see-through scale. Each time I stood on it, it gave me a different weight, even when there was only a few seconds in between. Either that means it wasn’t accurate or I get heavier and lighter very quickly.

Inaccurate Scale

Inaccurate Scale

It had loads of fancy products and we took them with us.

Fancy Soap Product

Fancy Soap Product

All in all, it was kind of boring. Which just goes to show that even though a bathroom is fancy, it doesn’t make it interesting.

The Lobby Toilet, The Standard, Hollywood, California

Decor/style
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Flush Type (tiny Japanese button)
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What I did #1

Mirrors on the Ceiling (Eagles)

Mirrors on the Ceiling (Eagles)

To the left of the glass box with the bored lady checking her email in it, there’s an umbrella vending machine, which is weird because it never rains in LA. Well actually that’s not true, because it rained the whole time we were there, except for a few minutes when I actually managed to get in the pool. It really wasn’t all that cold. Anyhow, the the left of the umbrella machine there’s a boring corridor with a business office and a unisex bathroom.

When you open the door you are immediately engulfed by an enormous planet earth hovering over the toilet bowl. So when you pee, you are sort of peeing under the protection of Mother Earth.

Mother Earth Toilet

Mother Earth Toilet

They had a mirror on the back wall, a mirror on the front wall and a mirror on the ceiling. So not only can you see yourself going to the bathroom from every angle, but you can also see yourself for infinity getting progressively smaller and smaller.

The Infinity Mirrors

The Infinity Mirrors

The faucets were bright pink, which maybe was supposed to be cool but actually looked kind of cheap.

Hot Pink Retro Sink

Hot Pink Retro Sink

The toilet itself was made by some fancy Japanese company called Toto. I always thought he was the dog from The Wizard of Oz.

Japanese Toilet

Japanese Toilet

 

The Restaurant at The Standard, Hollywood, California

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What I did #1

The Standard Hotel

The Standard Hotel

We came to the Standard in Hollywood for a winter break. A lot of people who had been here before said this was a great place to stay, because it was fun, so we tried it out. Apparently it used to be an old people’s home, and it kind of feels like that except there’s a lady wearing pajamas sitting in a glass box checking her email above the check-in desk.

This was the bathroom in the Standard Restaurant in the lobby of the hotel.

The Ladies'

The Ladies'

It was a very dim, sort of strange bathroom. And it had very old looking Peter Pan wallpaper.

Peter Pan Theme

Peter Pan Theme

Peter Pan Himself

Peter Pan Himself

There was a weird thing with vents on it on the wall. We decided it was either:

a. A smoke detector
b. An air freshener
c. A strange lightbulb

air freshener/smoke detector/lightbulb

air freshener/smoke detector/lightbulb

The toilet was the modern type without a lid or a tank, but it was surrounded by hand-rails. This seemed a little odd for a hipster’s hotel; maybe it was left over from the old people’s home?

Modern Toilet with Hand Rails

Modern Toilet with Hand Rails

Tokyo Japanese, Main Street, Oneonta, New York

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What I did #1

Tokyo Coat Hooks

Went to Tokyo Japanese after Wednesday evening class at the Decker School of Ballet as a last minute idea instead of tofu and broccoli at home. Me and Papa had a Bento Box each and a bowl of edamame. They definitely tried to make the bathroom super clean and orderly. Papa says that’s like a Japanese thing.

Black, White, Clean

Had a really strong smelling air freshener – Glade Hawaiian Breeze. It reminded me of my friend Lynn’s house.

A Hawaiian Breeze in the Toilet

The walls were black and there were rubber gloves under the sink. Everything was super clean except for the underside of the bowl, which was kind of gross looking.

The Dark Side

The Hand of the Author

TGI Friday’s, Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany NY

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What I did #1

Awesome

Awe

We came to Albany on a long weekend for a night out, just me and Papa. Took a long drive to TGI Friday’s and got lost lots of times; it was in a big shopping mall on the outskirts of town. But we kept trying because we went to a TGI Friday’s in Miami a couple of years ago and it was awesome. The bathroom was very plain, I definitely expected a little more from it, I don’t know why. Maybe a little theme, like stars and stripes? The music in the actual bathroom was very cheesy, some sort of TV pop. There was foamy blue soap that nobody had cleared up (it was still open).

Foamy Leftovers

There was a USO on the wall. Looked like if you got close up it might spritz you in the face, like one of those motion-sensor air fresheners that Grandma Molly has in Yorkshire.

USO/Spritzer

Garbage Theme Beside The Toilet

The bathroom light had a greenish tint so it gave everything a weird alienated green feeling. There was also a random exit sign.

In Case You Get Lost

Kids' Menu Exciting Octopus

The Holiday Inn, Nott Terrace, Schenectady NY

Decor/style
Odor
Facilities
Flush Type (mega-sucker)
Overall Experience
What I did #1

Papa and I took a night away in glamorous Schenectady. The Holiday Inn.

Nott A Holiday Inn?

This was the bathroom by the insanely cold pool. There was only one stall, but it was kind of a bathroom inside a bathroom, with it’s own sink, shower stall, American Standard toilet and a baby changing table that folded out of the wall with cool cartoon changing instructions.

How to Abuse Your Baby

An American Classic

There was a strange light fixture that looked the face of Sid from Ice Age.

Sid

The soap was awesome, all foamy and blue and I could make sculptures out of it. First I made a mini-giraffe but I forgot to take a picture. Then I made some smeary art that didn’t look like anything but it was cool. Papa sent me back afterwards to wash it away.

Modern Soap Art

Another electronic USO on the wall. Also a metallic tampon machine with different brands and a huge curly framed mirror.

Don't Mistake These for Candy

The Author, Reflecting

Lots going on in this toilet, spent a long time in there.

Luke & India’s Wedding, Chuck’s House, Conway, Massachusetts

Decor/style
Odor (early)  (late)
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Flush Type (none)
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What I did #0 – didn’t risk it

Came to Luke and India’s second wedding at Luke’s dad Chuck’s house in Western Mass. There were lots of people and four Portajohns.

The Four Johns

John

India definitely did her best to make them as nice as possible. She put in Black-Eyed Susans with incense and maple leaves …

Susan and Twiggy

… as well as scented candles.

Lavender

But after a long night of dancing and eating, there’s only so much you can do. At the end of the night (or the following morning)  you end up with a blue lake with toilet paper and poo bobbing about in it.

Pooh

Bar Ristorante La Pergola, Cefalu, Sicily

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What I did  #1

We visited La Pergola on yet another of our trips into Cefalu (for groceries and a swim) with Marc and Ian, the twins. The bathroom was very dark when I went in, even when I turned the light on it was so dim I could barely see! But inside the stall was a little bit lighter. It looked like it might of used to be a shower in there, because on the ground there was a little drain and a shower thing on the wall.

Shower in the Toilet?

All over the walls there were little switches and knobs and things with the words “si” or “no” by them, and arrows too, written in blue Sharpie. Almost like instructions. I didn’t try any of them.

Yes? No?

No! No!

There was also a piece of paper stuck next to the sink, telling people to “close water” in lots of languages.

Please Zippem the Wasa

It was a very stinky bathroom. And, as always in Italy, no toilet seat.