Sunday, March 22, 2009

Forgot Paris

Not forgot really, just too damn busy to blog at the moment.

Paris was beautiful. Gorgeous. And I mean beautiful in the truest sense of the term, that the city planners and architects and residents took or take pleasure and pride in making things of an aesthetically pleasing nature simply because they can. Because it looks good.

Paris is also a place of expectation, especially if you're not from there. Are Parisians rude? No, no more so than people in any other large city. Are French people arrogant? Maybe, but no more so than anyone else I've encountered. The stereotypes are worthless. A gaggle of mimes isn't going to assault an American the second you step off the Eurostar. And a waiter isn't going to insult your wife in French (sorry Chevy.) Unless you do something to insult him or her first, I suppose.

It is undeniably romantic and there is more to see there than you could hope to see in four days. I probably could have spent the entire time in the Louvre and still not seen the entire thing.

Pictures are on my Paris set on my Flickr page, or helpfully embedded here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Night at the Symphony

On Friday night we went to the London Symphony Orchestra's performance of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony. A double-dose of Russian romanticism, if you will. It was the first LSO performance I'd heard that wasn't on a CD and the musical selection and the venue were both damn near perfect.

It's hard to describe what a sublime pleasure it is to hear a professional orchestra play amazing music in a venue that's as acoustically perfect as you could want. It may be as close as you can possibly come to an original performance directed by the composer himself; and it doesn't hurt to have such great musical selections, either. Rachmaninoff is a fucking genius and his third concerto is like listening to a 45-minute story about love and loss and madness.

And I get to go again in a few weeks!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why So Serious: A Commuting Tip

Like many Londoners, I both love and hate various aspects of the public transport here. I love how efficient it is (most of the time), the helpfulness of the staff, the general cleanliness of the trains and buses (again, most of the time) and the fact that I can get just about anywhere in the city within an hour.

I don't like how crowded it can get, especially during rush hour. The Victoria line is my worst offender. It's not only packed solid but air circulation is abysmal, meaning the line is not only crowded but stuffy and beyond claustrophobic. It is at its worst in the morning when everyone from North London is packed into the trains, and I intentionally avoid it by taking the Picadilly line and changing to the Victoria at the last possible moment, even though it probably adds about 5 minutes to my trip.

This morning though I found an excellent solution to the overcrowding problem. Like all amazing scientific breakthroughs this came about by accident but I'm going to use it anytime I don't want my face shoved in some Russian's stinky armpit between Holloway Road and Green Park.

1. Find a comedy CD that you haven't heard in a couple of years. Say, Lewis Black or Dave Attell.
2. Put the comedy CD on your iPod or portable music device and crank it when you're on the Tube.
3. Look like a normal commuter, dour-faced and avoiding eye contact with everyone, closely examining either the adverts or the floor.
4. Laugh to yourself at the jokes only you can hear.
5. Laugh out loud when appropriate. But continue to avoid eye contact and otherwise act normally.
6. Watch as the people around you slowly move so you have a nice little 3-foot circle all to yourself.
7. Enjoy your commute.

Coming Attractions

We've been booking some holidays and planning out the rest of the year. Here's what we've got so far:

Confirmed: Long weekend in Paris, long weekend in Amsterdam (heh), long hiking weekend in Wales.

Strongly considering: Beach holiday in Egypt, a couple of weeks in Italy.

Would still like to do: Long weekend in remote Scotland, something else.

Any suggestions? If this is indeed our last year in the UK, we want to make it a memorable one!