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The Europe trip continues, with this second page finally bringing a hint of the actual work that got me here in the first place. Read on to be riveted.

 

DAY 5: Did I Mention the Dinners?
June 3
A Pile of Pillows

 
Will you LOOK at how many pillows this "French" hotel gives you on your bed? Six! Six fluffy, comfy down pillows. Insane. It's great and dangerous all at once. Imagine going to sleep inside a puffy fort of your own creation, then smothering to death in the middle of the night because there is simply too much down to remain stable in any architectural fashion. Like Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2E!

 
Crampy Booth

 
After not much sleep, thanks to this zany Web endeavo(u)r, I had to go to Disney's Hammersmith offices to set up for tomorrow's presentations. While Richard and I generally like to set up in the actual auditorium, this one is too small, so we'll be crammed in the projection booth. Believe it or not, this is bigger than some booths we've worked in.

 
My Techie Area

This is where I'll work the show. I had to include this pic so you can see that I do not work solely on a crappy PC laptop, but also a beautiful 17-inch PowerBook!

 
After rehearsal, it was night two of Dinners on the Town. Tonight we supped at a low-key but pricey restaurant called Pied á Terre. Yes, FRENCH! And it was prix fixe... FRENCH! The menu consisted of the kinds of foods a picky guy like me panics over: scallops, halibut, pâté, fois gras, veal, and so forth. Looking at this selection, I could only ask, under my breath, "What the hell can I eat here?" I buckled down and tried some stuff. I tried the fois gras (French) and the pâté (French) and the rib of veal (French?). They were all scary and beautiful. I tried them. I ate them. And guess what?

IT WAS ALL MIGHTY TASTY!

There, I said it. I enjoyed my meal. If I had a choice, I would stay away from the pâté and the fois gras, thanks to disconcerting texture. But I know now, if in a pinch, I will eat it. This was quality food, so I was lucky. Bad veal? No thanks! And even after the palate cleansers, the tiny pre-appetizers, and the miniscule but delicious post-desserts, I came away satiated, but not stuffed. That is a quality meal. Oh, and it lasted 3½ hours. That's a Dinner on the Town for sure!

 

The Gluttons

 
This is the gang after dinner, minus Sharon, pres of Disney Toon Studios, who had to leave for a meeting. The gluttons are Kathy, Charlie (our British host), Dion (sp?), Joel, Michael, Richard, and Quinn the Eskimo.

 

Tiny EUs

 

DAY 6: Showtime (and Chow Time)
June 4
Richard Running the Show

 
Finally, show day. Here's Richard during the show in the booth...

 

...and here's me during the show. Notice that I concentrate very hard, though not so hard as to miss the opportunity to take pictures of myself.

Me Kinda Running Part of the Show
 

There were two shows during the day and one screening of Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas. I know I should review the movie, but I'm busy doing this update! Summary: It was cute, though the CG animation was very crude by current standards. There. Said it.
 

Yoga DeVil

 
After a long day of shows and sweaty equipment re-packing in the woefully under-air-conditioned Disney Hammersmith offices (an epidemic problem in all of London), nothing can soothe the body and mind like a bit of yoga. This being only my second yoga session ever, I was nevertheless capable of being dubious of my instructor's methods.

After a short stint at the hotel to shower and retrieve my brand new shirt whose buttons the hotel pressing service shattered (oy, I say, OY!), it was back to The Retro Bar for a too-quick meeting with Bryon and NADINE!

 

Bryon and Nadine

 
I was so glad I got to see Nadine, if even for an hour. I had to thank her in person for being nice enough to let me use her room in West Dulwich, and it would not have been a trip to London without seeing her. I will ignore her rude comments about Hershey's milk chocolate tasting like vomit, as I know she was just trying to be helpful.

Following the brief howdy-do, it was time for another Dinner on the Town. Tonight, dim sum at Hakkasan, a Japanese word that I surmise to mean "restaurant so trendy, you're limited to two hours at your table." Literally. To the minute. There was a miscommunication with the reservation, and I myself got there late thanks to the eatery being located in a basement just off a hard-to-find alleyway (Oooo! Trendy!). Because of these circumstances, I had no more than 45 minutes there, I think. As our time limit drew near, the wait staff just started removing plates and glasses and making the atmosphere around our table so uncomfortable that we had no choice but to leave. Can you believe it? Ridiculous!

Sadly, despite the rude behavior, I have to say the food was amazing, and the place looked incredibly, cooly cool. Reportedly, Madonna had her last birthday (her 56th) there, but who can ever peel truth from rumor?

(Oh, and Marcy, I did pass by the St. Martin in the Fields Crypt restaurant on the way to Hakkasan, but it'll have to wait for another trip. "Wah," I say. "Wah, indeed," you say. "Yes, wah indeed," I conclude.)

 

Tiny EUs

 

DAY 7: Almost D-Day
June 5

Big day! Off to France! G.W. Asshole arrives in Paris for D-Day celebrations! Ronald Reagan dies! Yes, big day.

There are a lot of pictures today, and even a little movie! So hang on, 'cause we're off like a TGV...
 

Waiting to Travel Fast

First step in leaving London: Waiting to board the Eurostar. We got to invade the first class lounge! Here's Richard, Joel, Sharon, and Michael.

 

The lounge was a mix of Eurochic and Star Trek plastic paneling. Many orange Dr. Evil chairs were present, allowing us all to sit and nosh on free refreshments using the little attached swivel table. There was also a massage chair, which I only got to enjoy for 5 minutes.

Chair of Intimidation
 
Riding Backwards in Comfort

From the chair of intimidation to the chair of speed. We got to travel first class on the Eurostar, so we got lots of space, a nice table, and a meal! I had the filet, but it was not so good. Quel suprise.

 

Richard, Sharon, and Joel enjoy the kind of cameraderie that can only come from riding in the lap of luxury. Poor people are just too cramped and poor to enjoy witty banter like this. (Sarcasm courtesy Bartold & Hughes, fine purveyors of sarcasm to The Crown since 1724.)

First Class Chums
 
French Countryside

 
This is the best view I could get from the train, so sorry 'bout the reflections. This is after passing through the Chunnel and arriving in the gorgeous French countryside. To make up for the bad picture, I will instead post a short movie, showing here:

 

The Eurostar, a TGV-type train, can travel at 200–220 km/hr (125–135 mph). Seemed faster to me. Here's a little movie (2.2MB) where you can see the speed for yourself and enjoy a little of the French landscape.

 

Et, enfin, voici les locomotives TGV après le voyage. Ours is on the right, resting in the French station.

The Cool TGV Engines
 

After the train, it was time to settle in our Paris hotel, L'Hôtel Balzac, just a block from les Champs Elysées. Nicer hotel than London, though it looks cheaper, like a typical European hotel. I'm liking it so far. The one bad thing: no broadband! I have to use a dial-up somehow to get this stuff up tonight. Le sigh.

 
Le Centre Georges Pompidou

A brief rest later, it was off to Le Centre Georges Pompidou, the ugly (it really kinda is) museum and library that raised controversy when it was built.

Why were we here? For a Dinner on the Town, of course!

 

Last time I was in Paris in 1984, the Centre was closed. This time, there was no time to see the museum or anything cultural. But on the way up to the 6th-floor, we got to see some spectacular views.

Pompidou View
 
Georges Restaurant Patio

The restaurant was on the top floor of the Centre, and it had a great outdoor patio. From up here, the view was, to use Joel's theme word for the trip, "stunning."

What was the name of this trendy place? Georges! Those clever French.

 
Restaurant? Or soylent green production center?

 
The inside of Georges was bizarre, but great fun. There was an open restaurant area, but other rooms were like gutted pods. The bar was yellow (above left), and a red pod led to a semi-private area (above right). The restrooms were in a green pod. The outside of the pods, as you can see, were metalic, and caught the sun in interesting ways as it moved toward setting or was obscured by clouds.

Georges had two great restaurants to live up to from the previous nights. How did it fare? Okay. It was definitely the coolest (though Hakkasan was the most stylishly cool). The appetizers were great, the main course was delicious but not awesome, and the desserts were very yummy. I rank it third of this group.

MORE COINCIDENCE! On the Georges menu was a dish called Silver Cod, which they attributed to—drumroll, s'il vous plaît—HAKKASAN OF LONDON! Wow! We told the waitress that we had dined there just the previous evening, but she seemed not to understand, giving us only a pleasant "I don't get you so I will laugh to remove us both from the spectre of embarrassment" laugh.

 
An Evening View

The sun set as we ate, and it sets late here! This is Joel and I after din-din, posing in front of La Tour Eiffel. For some reason, there's a lighthouse-type spotlight that rotates from the top of the Tour at night. D-Day reference? Je ne sais pas!

 

I end this day's posting with this stupid picture of me making a dumb-ass-American dumb ass of myself in front of an incredibly beautiful and historic building. I was told it was city hall, but am not sure for sure. I'll have to figure out later on. LATER ON: It is l'Hôtel de Ville. Voilà!

The Little Emperor

 

Tiny EUs

 

DAY 8: Pastries and Skulls
June 6
Arc in the Distance

 
Our hotel is one block away from l'Arc de Triomphe, and today we had breakfast (at noon) at a little place a bit farther down the Champs Elysées.

 
Pastry Heaven

We ate outdoors, just beside the avenue, watching the people and enjoying omelettes. But the real excitement began when the waiter brought out a menu of desserts. Just look at this selection! Look at this decadence! This is why we saved France in WWII. This is why we do not hate France, but embrace it. THIS!

 

Here's what I chose: A layered yumminess consisting of chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, mint cake, and mint cream on the top, all wrapped around with a very thin white cake with chocolate chips. Add thick, awesome chocolat chaud and... Hey, why did I even bother with the omelette?

My Pastry Choice
 
Silent Tunnel

Next was a visit to the Parisian Catacombs. This dark, narrow tunnel winds a good ways down beneath the streets of Montparnasse, leading to the catacombs themselves.

The catacombs were filled from 1786 to almost 1860 with the remains of an estimated 6 million anonymous Parisian citizens, all moved from other, overcrowded cemeteries. So you can guess what's at the end of this hallway...

 

Amazing. Walls and walls of neatly, even artfully-stacked human bones. The date on the sign is 1786.

Human Wall
 
Bones Around the Well

 
Being in the cold, meandering tunnels with the remains of so many people is disconcerting and sobering. To imagine someone you love ending up in such a place is horrible. That history ever allowed for such a gruesome end is almost incomprehensible. And then to imagine people had to move these remains, stack the bones... Chilling.

 
Notre (ou Ma) Dame

From creepy to majestic! We next joined the Sunday throngs at Notre Dame, famous for its football team.

 

Glowing votives are ever-present in these cathedrals, and always beautiful.

Candles in the Foyer
 
Stained Glassness

Needless to type, the stained glass windows were spectacular on this sunny day.

 

Michael, unfortunately, talked us all into posing behind Notre Dame with berets he bought from a nearby vendor. Grudgingly, we obeyed his enthusiastic request, locals laughing the whole time. One older man, after the pictures were taken, said that all we were missing were the baguettes. And, I think, bicycles and tight, striped shirts.

Humiliating Hatwear
 
Fancy Lounge

Time for Dinner on the Town! Tonight we snarfed at another trendy spot (did you doubt we would?) at the hotel Costes. In this picture is Melinda, always a joy to be with. This was taken in the very fancy lounge before dinner.

 

Our table was in the outdoor courtyard, which was the most relaxing and inviting place yet in our Dinner on the Towns. Hakkasan may have been stylish, but this had a spot-on elegance. Sharon and Richard basked in the excellence of it all.

The Great Courtyard
 

As we perused the menu, we noticed some similarities to last night's dinner at Georges. Then we saw food being served to other tables that looked exactly the same. The wait staff was all gorgeous, just like at Georges, and the waitresses carried little purses for their pens and money, just like Georges. Holy crap. Unbelievably, this place was owned by the same people. The waitress confirmed it. Another coincidence. Out of all the restaurants in Paris...

Following dinner (another 3-hour affair), which was exactly the same quality as last night's, of course, we decided to skip dessert here and go back to the place where we began our day, since Melinda hadn't been with us. It was delicious, of course. And now I'm so full of chocolate I wonder if I'll get to sleep at all. Well, finishing up here made a nice circle of our day. Of course.

 
Luxury, I Embrace You

I close with this: Joel hugging the teat of opulence, a huge rivet on a huge valise disguising the scaffolding used for the renovation of the Louis Vuiton store on the Champs Elysées. The camouflage is the size of the building itself. With a case that size, Joel could travel with half his shoes!

 

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Let's Hobble Back to the Library The Ranting Wren

Trip: May 30 to June 12, 2004
Last Update: June 13, 2004