When in England, do as the Brits do and drink lots and lots of tea, then try a British accent, throw in words like “drop, splash, dribble” and eat everything in sight until your stomach hurts!
It was going to be hard to swing a trip back to the States for Christmas so I spent my first holidays away from home at Jenni’s in Droitwich, England. It was hard being away from my family over the holidays (especially my mom’s amazing cooking) but they made me feel like a long lost American cousin. haha!
Obligatory Red Phone Box England Picture… I want to be an honorary Brit!
My journey started with last minute pretrip planning with the Frenchman over gingerbread men with missing legs and heads, and the very important decision of how I would get to the airport. Very important in the fact that I’ve missed my fair share of flights. Going on 5-6 perhaps, maybe more? I’ve conveniently lost track. So in this case we decided the best plan since my flight was at 8:30 and the metro would get me there at 7:30 was to take a taxi.
I think I double checked that I had my passport about 10 times. But around 1am, I was ready!
Day 1: Up at 4:30am… The taxi arrived at 5:15am, the driver did a double take bahahahaha, loaded up my suitcase and I was on my way listening to Louis Armstrong watching a sleepy Paris wake up. Good morning! :)
The airport looked dead until we got to my terminal. I could see lines of people through the glass windows. I called ahead the day before after trying to check-in online and getting a warning message that my booking didn’t exist. I swear. Something always happens! haha!
I had booked through flybe but because of their merger, I was actually flying with AirFrance and there was some sort of disconnect taking place. The customer service though assured me that I was on the flight and just needed to check-in at the airport.
But at the airport, the electronic check-in machine wasn’t finding my ticket either… hmm I was kinda glad that I was a little more than two hours early. I was soon ushered to the longgggg bag check-in line and ended up twiddling my thumbs and inching forward for an hour.
At the counter, the lady asked for my reservation details and gave me a weird look, she wasn’t finding my reservation either. A long chat with headquarters and I was good to go! Thank god she didn’t weigh my bag though. hahaha! I’d repacked about 6 times the night before to get to the size requirements and there was absolutely no way I was meeting the weight requirement. I whizzed through security and was left with about 30 minutes to spare before boarding where I watched not 1 but 6 people run up to a gate that had just closed. ugh!!
A short hour plane ride later and I was in England where they say crumbly and nom nom and twissels (ok I made the last one up).
It was rainy, cold, windy, and oh so Englandy. haha! Jenni assured me about 3 times that it was not normally rainy (I naturally didn’t believe her) and it proceeded to rain for about 4 of the 7 days I was there. tehehe!
Jenni’s dad, the most awesome dry stylish British man I’ve ever met carried my bag to the car, and after the usual amount of laughing in the car with Jenni in the backseat he turned around and said “Now we are not going to have this giggling all week are we?” tehehe And then we proceeded to hear about the history of Droitwich, Birmingham (not pronounced like the one in Alabama) and Worcester for the next 30 minutes, complete with a driving tour of the itty bitty town that took two minutes, a description of a French chateau that was built for someone’s French wife on the outskirts of town years ago and the man-made (emphasis on man-made) landscaping to go along with it.
Highstreet in Droitwich with slanted buildings because the salt from the ground was removed causing the buildings to sink a bit and slant!
First order of business after a tour of the house, TEA! How did I take my tea? Well I learned to drink tea from Jenni so I insisted- you are the experts!
Sitting at the ridiculously cute Cath Kidston tablecloth I was brought British specialties to go along with my tea for breakfast. Each came complete with the same question- Do you have this in America! No? Try it! Which I enthusiastically replied- Yesssss!!!! Which meant a mini mince pie, two types of biscuits (aka. cookies- one chocolate marshmallow and one ginger…or multiple ginger), toast (after a debate on which bread I should have), and chocolate for breakfast. My tummy was happy!! tehehe
For the ginger cookie, I was given a demonstration for how long to dunk it in my tea and warned that this was not the correct tea for this biscuit which meant that the flavor of the tea would probably change. :-D Zut! I didn’t find out what tea the gingersnap cookies go best with though!!! You totally should try this!
An amazing lunch, some apartment drama, and the two pastry chefs were in the house (Jenni had told me her dad was looking for a lot of baking this week)! It was time to make a log cake!
But first… more tea!
With tea there was always two choices, regular tea (Breakfast- the tea maker gets to choose the type) or green tea. Pick green tea and choose from three options (vanilla, almond, lemon).
I thought log cakes were more of a French Christmas tradition (Buche de Noel) but we had three log cakes that week and ours was by far the best. bahahaha! Just wait for the final picture. You would be impressed at our pastry skills and patisserie diploma. ;-)
Jenni and her sister Jo had decided to snaze up the usual log cake this year and instead of the normal chocolate and vanilla roll, ours was going to be black forest. yummm!
Folding! I did not wake up at 4:30am! Tea is re-energizing!
Baked! and Filled with whipped cream and cherries!
It’s a wrap! or a roll! Or a log!
That chocolate ganache is not flowing over the sides! I told you, we’re professionals! hahaha
Then we were off to the first of what would be four massive Christmas dinners… Christmas Eve Eve at Jenni’s friends house! Ah they were so cute! The four of them have been doing this for almost 10 years now!
and oh my gosh Sara is one heck of a cook!! Three or four types of canapes then turkey, roasted veg, mashed potatoes, pigs in a blanket! Cocktails! oh and Uno! :D tehehe We might have left before her parents got back home, but we were party animals!
Day 2: Christmas Eve!!!
I think I slept in a bit? haha because by the time I got downstairs all of Jenni’s family had already had breakfast. But what did I get? A choice of two different kinds of butter and 5 possible jams! So of course I tried them all on one piece of toast! with tea. Loved the lemon curd and honey. :-D
Then we went to Stratford Upon Avon – Shakespeare’s birthplace because you just have too! and the town is crazy cute. We took ridiculous photos in front of Shakespeare’s family home (well I did) and then strolled about the cute streets doing a bit of shopping!
When we got back to Jenni’s house, Christmas Eve dinner was in full prep mode! Gammon, potatoes, green beans…! Whoever said British cooking was not good, has not tried Jenni’s moms cooking! whoa! Now I could never say it was better than my mom’s cooking (the blasphemy!) but wow! so delicious. I think I was in a food coma the entire trip.
Then we drank mulled wine and watched Christmas Vacation… :-D
Day 3: Christmas Day!! I think Jenni and I were the last ones up again. oopss!! Jenni’s dad was playing Christmas songs on the piano, Jo was super excited about opening presents, Jenni was rotating spectacular Christmas jumpers, and of course there was tea out of the cutest teacup.
Jenni’s parents were so sweet and had put together a stocking for me! and then it was round and round as each family member opened a present~ such a great tradition! There were tons of British TV DVD sets that I’d never heard of but that cracked me up.
A bit of a break and it was time for Christmas lunch!! The third massive meal in a row. Jenni had prepared me before I left and I think my stomach had stretched because I was starving at this point! haha! Jenni and I’s stomachs had started making super weird noises every night at this point.
Turkey, potatoes, green peas, yorkshire pudding (this was taken pre-gravy), brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, and of course Jenni’s British stuffing! I’d never had Yorkshire pudding but I LOVED it!! It’s a light batter (almost like pancake or waffle batter) baked in a bowl shape, and then filled with gravy. Jenni’s dad is from Yorkshire so they are absolutely necessary at Christmas dinner. :-D
oh and did I mention the torte I’d heard about every day since arriving in England? oh ya… that good! There was mince pie of as well.
A late night present opening with the fam via Skype :-D then, Doctor Who and Downton Abbey Christmas Special watching at Laura’s with Snowballs and mulled wine!
Please note my older sister’s hairband. haha!
Day 4: Boxing Day!! I forgot to ask Jenni’s dad were this came from, especially after being told that I was absolutely not allowed to ask him while any siblings were in the room, pending a very long story. So I looked it up. And of course the American in me first thought boxing, as in two guys in a ring boxing. oops It comes from a tradition with a box. There are a couple of different possible meanings but essentially a Christmas present in England can be called a “Christmas Box.” It possibly came from when servants were given the day off after Christmas to go home to their families to open “Christmas Boxes” or it could have to do with sailors who for good luck put money in a box on board which would be opened on Christmas and the money inside given to the poor if the voyage was a success. The other possibility is a box put in churches on Christmas to collect money for the poor which was then opened the next day.
Jenni and I ran to the store to get veggies in the morning and just missed a hunt going through the village. Yes.. a hunt! Like red coats, hounds, horses, possibly chasing a fox? Everyone was in wellies, outdoor coats, and those crazy cute flat plaid hats the older men in the UK always wear that I love so much.
In England, Boxing Day is a time to spend with family, so that’s what we did complete with more tea, and more amazing food (chicken curry and rice~nom!) and stories about an Aunt’s chickens called Betty and Doris.
Now might be a great time to say that even though I speak English and love to speak in a British accent when I’m around Jenni to prove that yes I should have been invited to see the Duchess of Cambridge with her, I was struggling sometimes with understanding the Brits. Particularly funny was learning new words like toddle.
Before I left, Jenni and I discussed the different meanings of pants in England and America. America=trousers, England=undies bahahaha So I made sure I said “pants” as many times as possible while I was there.
The night ended with me looking at maps of England with Jenni’s dad and pictures of a sword designed by Jenni’s grandparents. Oh and getting a history lesson on several different small villages near them that we would be visiting the next day. tehe
Day 5: A Trip to the Cotswolds~ My parents were SO jealous! They are huge Britophiles and before I’d left had looked up where Droitwich was and told me you have to go to the Cotswolds!!! The Cotswolds are small oh so British looking villages in west-central England. Umbrella in hand Jo, Jenni, and I set out. ps- I had to say all of the town names multiple times in a British accent.
Up first Bourton on the Water, known for it’s canals through cute little houses and often called the “Venice of Cotswolds” as I learned last night. It is also the home of the Model Village, an exact replica of the town at 1/9th the size that was even visited by the Queen.
Next up! Stow on the Wold - Say it with me in your best posh British accent. tehehe
We stopped and had tea and lunch. I had a pasties (which I still think I’m pronouncing wrong- haha!). So good!!
Then we decided to see a castle, which was really a tower, but I’m calling it a castle because castles are cool.
It was really windy, and cold, and wet, and we almost got blown away.
And there were sheep and English countryside. :-)
Then on to Broadway which ended up being my favorite village we visited with stone mushroom stools, horses, and houses covered in vines.
Later that night we met up with Sara, Laura, and Vickie at a pub, drank three bottles of white wine, and then went into Worcester and well it was a typical night out if you know my nights out… somehow I passed as a Brit for a bit? hahaha
Which lead to Day 6 and a very late start. j’ai mal a la tété! Jenni’s dad, sister, and brother headed to a rugby match to root for the Worcester Warriors (rah rah rah) decked out in multiple layers and carrying hand warmers. Jenni and I tagged along to do some shopping in Worcester.
This is how Worcester looked to me.
Lots of fresh air, lots of stores, and we wandered into the Worcester Cathedral where Christmas trees sponsored and decorated by different companies lined the atrium.
erm I think we easily shopped for five hours and probably could have stayed longer.
Back at home we made some cupcakes in our PJs! Ate leftovers and watched British comedies.
Fish & chips for dinner with every imaginable sauce. :-D So much better and greasier than the Sunken Chip in Paris (I do love that name though!!).
Day 7 and it was off to do more shopping and visit family in a nearby town. Jenni and I managed to buy the same shoes, after buying the same bed sheets the day before, and almost the same dress. We could have had matching outfits! On the way to her relatives, I had a driving tour by Jenni’s dad of nearby sites and an explanation of where the word “football” came from which I took notes on but now I can’t make sense of them. I thought every church was a castle, there was a homestead, and lots of hedgerows. We saw the cutest niece and nephew and cousins and then I was on a plane to head home to Paris!
It was a brilliant trip!!! I hope to be back soon!!
I think most, no let’s say all of my issues living abroad have coincided with apartments. I’ve moved now four times, and soon to be a fifth in the span of ten months. A quick recap of my living situation is this: when I moved here I roomed with a friend from work for four months then we decided to part ways and find our own places. Thus commenced the month and a half search, 14+ apartment visits, and two moves in the span of a month and a half. I found an amazing place in the Madeline/Opera area for August with five windows (so nice for those crazy hot days) and a beautiful view but there was a bee and bathroom problem (luckily the two didn’t go hand in hand). Then I moved to what I thought would be my last place to live in Paris. A cute (but ridiculously messy upon arrival) flat right off the Champ de Mars. I loved the location. Things were good, and I had made it my own complete with new shower curtain, glasses, and a large assortment of cleaning materials.
Then there was the closet.
A closet located in the hallway with a red door and old fashioned lock.
Sounds innocent enough- what could a little ole 5m square storage closet do?
Drive me absolutely crazy for three months.
The girl I was renting from was storing some clothes in the closet. They happened to be winter clothes that she would like to get out because it’s well, cold. No biggie. Until you realize that the apartment concierge has the key. And the girl you’re renting from refuses to come by the apartment to take care of it herself, and instead asks you, yes me, to ask the concierge to open the closet.
I asked the concierge about 5 times to open the closet in horribly embarrassing French, to the point where my day brightened and darkened with the opening and closing of the closet door (pretty good analogy, eh?), especially when I realized the girl hadn’t come by to get her things which means I have to ask for the key again.
It kept getting worse and worse until three weeks ago it came to a crux, a ditch in the road so to say, lots of things lead to it but I was suddenly left with a message… I think I might take my apartment back.
I’ve had my heart completely drop three times while I’ve been in Paris. The first was several months ago, the second after getting this message and the next just one week after that.
I don’t like things being up in the air. I love spontaneity (sure! let’s go on a trip next weekend!) but when it has to do with basic needs like where I’ll be living in a week, I’m terrified. I like stability.
I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and to trust and believe that things will work out.
A call to my parents on Skype had us problem solving from three angles for 40 minutes. Then immediately after, a teary call with a dear friend. Midnight and another call from a friend who knows me so well that she knew I would still be awake.
I had countless offerings of places to stay and I’m so thankful for the support of my friends and family.
I didn’t want to move again but the stress of the apartment wasn’t healthy. I loved the location, the apartment wasn’t bad, but the drama was making my skin crawl.
And all because of a closet. un placard. I will forever remember that word with not so fond feelings.
Soon it was two days until I was to leave for England for the next two weeks for Christmas and New Years and I was flying on cloud nine. I’d had an amazing time meeting up with friends, shopping, and going to Christmas markets and Tina and I had decided to rent a place together for the last two months that I’m here, starting in mid-January when she returned to France. We’d found an incredible apartment with roof access and all that was left to do was tell my current apartment person that I was moving out.
The night before, I was packing and knew I couldn’t procrastinate anymore. With lots of help from Jenni and the Frenchman, we crafted a message for me to send her explaining that I had visa problems and had to return to the US mid-January when really I would be secretly moving to my next place. bahaha!
I sent it to her that night and didn’t hear from her. The next morning I was up at 4:30am to catch my 8am flight to Birmingham. Later that afternoon after tea and multiple “Do you have this in America? You should try it!” tastings, I checked my phone and saw a text from her.
The message- well this is an embarrassing situation. I might have to ask you to leave if I find someone to take the apartment on January 1st.
That would leave me homeless until the 11th and I had told her I would be moving out on the 13th. But thinking there was absolutely no way with just two days until Christmas that she would find someone, I didn’t respond.
It took just three hours and she had found someone. I was now stuck with 10 days without an apartment. Not to mention, I wasn’t supposed to be back in Paris until the 3rd. Jenni started texting her in French so there was nothing lost in translation and there was no leeway. I had to be out of the apartment by the 31st. If you hadn’t guessed, this was heart drop #3. And soon I was on the phone with my family sobbing and making those horrible gasping noises. My mom tried a true and tested mom-tactic, quickly changing the subject to try to calm me down and we talked about England and the ridiculously cute town I was staying in with Jenni and her family. Then it was back to the apartment, with a one hour strategizing session with ideas from every family member that started with my mom laughing, trying to lift my spirits, saying “You didn’t think it would be easy did you!” Well well! I guess I had? And I had been soo so wrong.
The first solution: I looked online and the apartment I was moving into next was actually available starting the 3rd. Perfect! And I could stay in Jenni’s place until she was back on the 4th. But it also involved me cutting my trip to London short and buying a last minute plane ticket to come back to Paris on the 29th. I’d somehow move all my things up four flights of slanting stairs into Jenni’s itty bitty (but mind you, ridiculously cute) apartment for a couple of days and then move into my new place before she got back. As I told Jenni, it would be like a little fairy had come and gone from her flat.
Sounds pretty horrible, right? Well it wasn’t meant to be. The next day I’d bought my plane ticket and was about to reach out to the apartment to ask if I could move in on the 3rd and it was now booked from the 2nd until the 10th. Which meant I was yet again homeless for 10 days. Noooo! It’s cold outside!!
Over tea, we had a lot of tea, I had an idea.
The second solution: I’d be missing a trip to London, but why couldn’t I take a impromptu trip from the 4th to the 7th? I would stay in Jenni’s flat until the 3rd when she got back from the trip I’d be missing in London. I’d be out of Jenni’s hair for a couple of days when she came home (a really good thing when we’re talking small studio apartment) and I’d be back in time for my internship that started on the 8th. Jenni and I would be sharing a single twin sized bed for four nights though but she assured me that we would make it work. Thanks Jenni!!!!!!
A couple blissful stomach aching from all the amazing food days later and I was on a plane back to Paris. I stayed up till 2am that night packing and listening to music as loudly as possible in hopes to annoy the neighbors a bit before I left. I ended up with two massive suitcases, two small suitcases, an oven, and several grocery bags of kitchen stuff I wasn’t parting with for the next two months. A message to Beatrice and I had a home for them for 10 days. yay!! :-D I just had to figure out how to get them there especially because she was leaving the next day. A short chat with two French guy friends, Davy and Florian, and I suddenly had movers that had a car (super super exciting!). The next day I slept till 10 and then packed for a solid four hours. The guys reached out asking how much we were moving. A quick picture later and the storage location for my things had changed to one of their apartments. It’d just be easier they assured me. At two on the dot the easiest move in my Paris life commenced. The itty bitty elevator that fit two people was packed to the brim, Flo and I took the seven flights of stairs down with a couple of bags, loaded up his car and I ran upstairs to lock my apartment and grab my purse. Downstairs Flo tells me- why did you go get your purse! You don’t have to come, Davy and I will take care of it. What?! And who said the French weren’t nice? haha! I did get a message later than evening though telling me they had found a buyer for my things and would 300 euros be a fair price. haha!
The next day I was out of the apartment by 2 and after two trips lugging last minute bags (this always happens to me!) I was settled into Jenni’s. The next three days I spent holed up watching French TV and planning a super last minute trip. I can never make up my mind sometimes so the location changed about 5 times. Two days before I was set to leave I’d decided.
Hoping that Belgium chocolate and beer with a side of frites would cure my spinning head and aching back before move #5. :-)
Just a couple of pictures of Christmas in Paris that I took over the last couple of weeks! Right now I’m celebrating it with Jenni and her fam in England!
A late night visit to a Christmas Market by La Defense. Tartiflette and Vin Chaud :-)
Christmas trees for sale on Rue Cler.
Frost along the Seine on an early morning run.
Store windows and Christmas Lights! :-D
Christmas lights on the Champs Elysees!
Joyeux Noel!! Hope you have a Merry merry Christmas! :-)
… but ends in me walking down the street grinning like an idiot.
This all started with an innocent enough text to Jenni and the Frenchman on Saturday morning when I woke up around 11am (or maybe 11:30, nah 11) to see when post offices normally closed on Saturday. It was December 14th and in order to get my box of Christmas presents to the States in time I was determined to mail it out today. But not determined enough to wake up early. :-D
Their answers.. well it depends.
I wasn’t surprised.
And then a helpful text from the Frenchman with an app for the postal service. yay!
There were three post offices near me: One at the Eiffel Tower that closed at 1pm but put super cool Eiffel Tower stamps on every parcel, one down the street from the Eiffel tower that closed at 1pm as well, and another one at the opposite end of the Champ de Mars that closed at 5pm. Lots of options! And so little time, because well, because it’s me.
I’d been taking my time waking up and by the time I looked at the clock I had about 50 minutes to make it to the post office and… pick up a last minute gift request by Place de la Concorde.
12:10 – I caught the metro at Ecole Militaire.
12:20 – J’arrive a Concorde. Dashed into a shop and back on the metro by 12:30
12:40 – Back at my apartment to pick up the items for the box
12:55 – After a sprint down the entire length of the Champ de Mars (let’s say the equivalent of 3-4 big blocks) I made it to the post office right before it closed and was met with a not so helpful but trying to be helpful post office lady. There was a discussion about the stamps fitting on my cards in French and then we decided that we would try and see especially because I had been there a week ago and mailed the same cards just fine!
1:00 – After successfully mailing three letters, I realize there are no boxes to put the massive amount of things I’d brought to the post office to mail home.
1:02 – My postal app stops working but zut! I round a corner and see a friendly post office sign.
1:03 – Get nearer to the friendly, now hinging on teasing post office sign, to see the postal workers closing and locking the doors.
1:05 – A wide breath of a block to get back to where I started because I refuse to stop and turn around if I’m going the wrong direction by myself. No matter- I had now 4 hours to find the next post office and a general area that it was in.
Did I mention that I decided to wear heels? And that I was sore for three days after?
1:10 – My app starts working again. ah ha! It’s back at the end of the Champ de Mars. Blast.
1:20 – I’m starting to realize that all I have to do for exercise that day is hike to the top of the Champs again.
1:25 – I’m standing on the dot. Where is the post office? Two rounds of the block where it should be and no sign. I’m very glad that I decided not to wear a coat.
1:30 – Well! I decide that this will be happening on Monday. I give up French postal system! and grudgingly walk back to my apartment. Where I decide to take the stairs, up 7 flights. Why????
1:33 – Legs are screaming.
1:45 – I vow to try again. This is happening! I have three hours to mail this package and it will be in the system today!
1:50 – Decide to hit the possible postal location from another angle and notice a little sign.
ok maybe it wasn’t all that little, and it might have been bright yellow… but….!!
1:52 – I’m following the yellow brick uh hm arrows down an alley?
There’s an old lady I’m following that keeps looking back at me..
1:53 – I FOUND IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
1:54 – French French and more French. All day long and loving it. I find the box I need! I ask for the box! The nice postal worker finds the box but then he asks, if I want the one with the Christmas designs?! Yes! ok! I’ll look for it! An awesome box and a complete run down on the instructions and woohoo I’m feeling victorious! Like the lady on the box.
2:10 – I realize that my “detour” earlier will not fit in the box. I duct tape everything else into said box and stroll to the post office that I now know the location for. :-D
Shut your eyes family! It’s a surprise! ssh!
2:15 – Back at the post office. “No madame, you cannot tape the box shut.” Defeat! no! but then! “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” the same postal worker that searched for a fun box then offered. Success!
2:16 – VICTORY!!!!!!! Commence grinning + walking.
Later that day, after recapping my story the Frenchman says- but Molly, it is easy to visit the post office! Ouais Ouais, c’est facil! mais It’s just getting there that’s a challenge! ;-) haha!
Now fingers crossed that it gets there by Christmas and isn’t held hostage by customs.