This next post was going to be my Top 10 of Glasgow, however, Mr. Niff thinks I should share the babymoon post first. I wrote this back in October, about a week after we returned and the day after my mom left us to go back to the USA (so not my happiest hour).
This year for my birthday, in addition to her usual generous gift giving, my mom included the best gift of all. She arrived Oct 1st for a month-long visit, so that Mike could focus on work without worrying about me, and I could focus on the business-end of setting up our lives here (i.e. doctors, dentists, toddler activities, house-stuff). Furthermore, my mom offered to watch Aviana for us so that Mike and I would be able to get away for a MUCH-needed vacation after what had been an extremely stressful past few months of moving overseas. We knew in advance of her visit that Mike had a big event for work in London the week of his birthday, so we decided to combine that trip with our own vacation. I would be in the middle of my pregnancy (the glorious second trimester), and we could celebrate birthdays/babymooning without a toddler tagging along (no offense, Avi).
London was always on the trip-agenda due to Mike’s work obligation, however we debated on a second location. Paris came up fairly early due to it being an ideal place to visit without young children, but I was a bit hesitant as I would be missing out on the amazing wine and cheese that help make the city famous. To be honest, there were many other places in France that I wanted to visit more than Paris, but as we had never been to Paris, we felt we needed to experience that city first. As such, we officially decided to make Paris the second half of our trip.
As is the case for many people when going on vacation, I was super giddy on our drive to the airport, however it was more than being excited about seeing new places. Let me start by saying the obligatory “of course I adore my child,” but we had spent the better part of the past 3 months with each other 24/7. I could be wrong, but I think she was actually relieved to see me leave. Between quitting my job and moving to a place where we had no friends, family, or childcare, I was quickly losing my mind. Stay-at-home moms everywhere will understand the particular type of madness that can set in when being left alone with a tiny human non-stop. Add to that the unpredictable preggo hormones, and I didn’t even want to be alone with myself, anymore. So, needless to say, but I will anyways, I was EXTREMELY happy to be going to the airport.
First stop: London
Night 1 of our trip was Mike’s work-related black-tie event, and as much as I wanted to spend our trip together, it was nice to have the freedom to use that first afternoon and evening to do whatever I wanted. As stated previously, I hadn’t been alone much in a while. We were staying at this Semi-famous hotel, known as an old WWII spy base and due to its proximity to parliament, a place to see parliament members (wouldn’t know one if I saw one, but cool!).
Decided to spend my afternoon doing what anyone would do while visiting a city full of history and culture for the first time: booked my gigantic pregnant-self a half-day at a spa. That’s right. Literally walked right past Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and a few undoubtably famous landmarks, threw them a wave, and continued to the best freaking massage and body treatment of my life. I have no regrets. I’ll just leave it at that, and if anyone happens to have downtime and money to blow while in London, I HIGHLY recommend the Lanesborough. Skipping ahead to day 2, we spent the morning being sort-of tourists and watching the changing of the guard and Buckingham Palace (wasn’t impressed).
We walked around Westminster and snapped pics of a particularly beautiful area of London. The highlight, however, was Mike’s bday lunch at Quilon, a Michelin star Indian restaurant. We both agreed it was the best Indian food we have ever tasted, and that happens to be cuisine we eat frequently. We both love spicy food and are often disappointed when the spiciest dishes on a menu taste bland to us. This was not the case at Quilon. There are plenty of fabulous hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurants, particularly around the UK, but for a special occasion, this place is worth every penny. That afternoon/evening, we ventured out around Hyde Park and went to Harrods per recommendations from many people. I was hesitant to spend our time at a department store, but OMG that “store” is insane! It even has its own mini art gallery! It was a bit of a sensory overload, but I will definitely be revisiting on our next trip to London.
As we had only the next morning before our Eurostar to Paris, Mike and I spent that time looking around and getting brunch in Fitztrovia, a super trendy area of London, not far from Kings Cross Station. This would have definitely been our hang-out pre-kids, but this time it was more fun to view during the daytime.
Overall, our first visit as a couple to London exceeded my expectations. I was surprised how closely the city (or at least the parts that we saw) matched the panoramic views first shown to me in the Parent Trap (Lohan version, and yes I am embarrassed by this). I was surprised how residential much of the city is, and I definitely could envision our family living there sometime in the future.
Having never been to Paris, and knowing that we probably wouldn’t be back for a while, Mike and I had an unapologetically touristy first Parisian experience. We knew that we wanted to hit the high points (literally in the case of Eifel Tower) and experience everything we knew the city to be famous for based mostly off of movies. My all-time favorite movie, “Charade”, takes place in Paris, so poor Mike had to listen to me humming the Henry Mancini soundtrack the entire time we were there. First impressions of the city: I was blown away by its color… literally. I am not sure if it was the timing of our arrival or perhaps that it was October, but the entire architecture of the city looked like it was being highlighted by a sunset. There is definitely an old-world feel to the city, despite how cosmopolitan it is. I found that traffic with the motorcycles everywhere to be intimidating, but the actual walkability and access to public transport was impressive. Mike found our hotel via Chase Visa (so not exactly tripadvisor), but we lucked out with a gem. We had the corner room with the Eifel Tower perfectly in our view, despite not staying near the actual Eifel Tower. Almost every popular destination in Paris was within walking distance and there was a wide selection of cafes nearby, which was the first stop we made. Nothing like arriving in the mid-afternoon on a weekend to have a perfect people-watching experience. Minus the smoking (this sounds so American, but ugh gross, I just don’t understand), the café was delicious and helped us feel like Parisians for a little while.
I won’t go into everything we ate in Paris, but I will say that it was probably our #1 priority while there. To be fair, it is my priority on most trips and especially when I’m pregnant. We spent most of our time searching out the best pastries, chocolate, crepes, and macaroons in between seeing the big ticket places. Angelinas was a recommended to us by several people, and despite being a tourist destination, it didn’t disappoint. Known for its hot chocolate, we actually enjoyed the dessert pastries the most and even considered making a return visit on our short stay.
As far as culture, we spent a good half-day (not nearly enough time… could spend a week) at the Louvre, which I was surprised to find appealed significantly to Mike. I never realized before this trip how much he enjoyed art, and it is always nice to find out something new about someone with whom you spend most of your time. We also spent an evening at the Eifel Tower, which included dinner and a cruise down the Seine. SUCH tourists, but it was worth it! We had amazing sunset views from the Tower and the riverboat cruise was the perfect way to see the city of Paris at night. Also, an Italian couple that was in our tour group got engaged, which always makes for a nice story.
Overall, my thoughts on Paris are something like this: I absolutely LOVED the architecture of the buildings, the boutiques, and the food lived up to the hype. I definitely felt a sort of magic at certain times of the day, while walking around the city. The people, who often get a bad rep for being unfriendly, did not appear that way to us. We found most everyone to be very accommodating, and it was far friendlier than the average day walking down the streets of Philadelphia (still love you, Philly). As happens on most of his trips around Europe, people mistook Mike for being French/European, and it was highly entertaining to see his look of confusion when they would strike up conversations with him. My biggest disappointment with the city was the amount of rats we saw everywhere we went. I appreciate that we spent most of our time around tourist spots, which attract a large rodent population. I also recognize that I have a rodent-phobia, so this is probably not something that would bother most people. But, I saw more rats in the 3 days we were in Paris than I have ever seen in my life. More than I ever saw in NYC or Philly. My theory is that the Parisians and possibly tourists treat them more like pets than pests, thus they have no fear of humans. Paris is a beautiful city with more to offer than most, but for me, the rats we saw everywhere diminished the romance of the place.
And finally, back to Glasgow! Such a great feeling to arrive “home” and see our daughter again. Nothing like a little bit of distance to make the heart grow fonder, and I don’t think missing our children is a bad thing every once in a while. 🙂