Paris, London, and What’s Next

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It’s been a while since I wrote last and I do want to cover the places I saw and where I ate in Paris and London. The last two and half days of my trip were quite entertaining…

I took some time off “exercise” in Paris and London… With so much to see, I couldn’t really plan it steadily into the beginning or end of each day. So I took breaks during all the walking tours and sightseeing to be mindful, meditate, stretch, and do the occasional lunges, air squats, push ups. I walked pretty much everywhere and logged ~30k steps most days. I did listen to Tara Brach and Tim Ferriss podcasts while I meandered through the cities for meditation and personal growth.

Anyways, Jump around!

Let’s talk food…

Tourist traps I visited in…

My epic last three days in London/Europe

What I Learned

What’s next?

 

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Paris Food

Paris was the least impressive city I visited in terms of culinary experiences. Perhaps because I didn’t make reservations anywhere and the places I had heard were good were so full they were turning away guests for the rest of the evening by 7pm. Culinary highlights of Paris:

  • Foie gras, steak with more foie gras, and bread pudding at Le Basilic
  • Macarons and coffee at the Louvre café

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Other than that, it was a lot of Caesar salads, chicken, steak, and french fries; large portions of food, small glasses of wine, and all of it too expensive compared to Lyon, Dijon and Nice!

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London Food

London offered more delicious food than I expected, considering how much people say that English food is nothing but fish, chips and mushy peas. That said, the first item I ordered when I arrived in London was fish, chips and mushy peas. I thought they were delicious! The peas were sweet with a texture like corn-starch thickened mashed potatoes. Malt vinegar was available to splash on the chips and the tartar sauce was the perfect combination of acid and cream. Culinary highlights of London:

  • Fish n Chips

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  • Fortnum and Mason – duck liver mousse and cheeses before Phantom of the Opera 🙂
  • Southbank Center Food Market – too many delicious looking options I was overwhelmed! I went with a Takorean-like kimchi bowl with marinated beef, cabbage, kimchi, veggies and rice

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  • The Riding House Cafe in the West End – Cauliflower hummus, egg and chorizo scramble with kale and potatoes, and a “cheesecake” for dessert. I quite enjoyed the espresso cheesecake but would compare it more to a meringue pie
  • East End Street Food Market (can’t remember which one): Lithuanian food. Payed a little homage to my homeland (I’m 50% Lithuanian) and purchased lunch from the fine people at this fantastic booth! Dumplings and salad and potatoes and a yogurt-like sauce were comfort food on this rainy day, and the smiling, friendly faces serving me were the perfect amount of sunshine
  • Borough Market – I enjoyed a very nice pie of short ribs, potatoes after circling the whole market three times before finally deciding that I should have at least one meat pie in England. If I can find pics, I’ll post them. I think the London Bridge selfie was the last photo backed up to the cloud…
  • Indian food at a place near Kensington Palace, which I shared with a friend from the hostel. It was delicious though I can’t remember what all we had. Naan (regular and sweet), tandoori chicken, and a few other plates. There are no pictures to refresh my memory … read below to find out why!

Paris Touristy Things

  • Notre Dame
  • The Louvre
  • Shakespeare bookstore
  • Bastille
  • The Ferris Wheel
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Luxembourg Palace
  • Museum D’Orsay – a letdown that there was no Starry Night by Van Gogh, as it was being borrowed by Canada, but still a wonderful museum for those who enjoy Impressionist era paintings

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London Touristy Things

Still looking for pictures from some of these 🙂

  • Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre – the best of the six productions I have seen! Ben Forrester was AMAZING at the Phantom, really bringing the character to life in a sadistic and sociopathic sort of way, plus his voice was just phenomenal.

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  • Bookstores – Hatchards, for one, among many others
  • Walking tour which covered Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, a few other palaces, Westminster and Big Ben
  • Southbank Center – PHENOMENAL FOOD MARKET. This street food market was AMAZING! There were way too many scrumptious options. After perusing all the booths, it was between the duck burger topped with foie gras honey and served with duck fat fries (hello, heart attack) or a Takorean type stall that served Korean tacos and kimchi bowls. You already know which one I picked
  • Camden neighborhood and Regent’s Park
  • Kensington Palace

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  • Notting Hill
  • Symphony performance at Southbank Centre
  • Sunday Markets, Borough Market
  • East Side + Art Tour
  • Tower of London
  • London Bridge

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  • Millenium Bridge
  • Fortnum and Mason (again… I’m a sucker for cute kitchen décor and delicious tea, snacks and wine)

On to the EPIC LAST THREE DAYS of my journey:

Saturday night

After the symphony, I was walking towards the Savoy hotel to have a drink at the bar, as suggested by a friend. Google Maps told me to walk through Victoria Embankment Gardens, the park between Victoria Embankment and Savoy Place. The gate was closed and a sign on the fence told me the park was shut for the evening. As my eyes wandered up towards the hotel and to scope a route around the park, they caught the gaze of a man standing in the middle of the park near the fountain, facing me. We looked at each other for a moment before I headed on down the sidewalk to circumvent the park. Then I looked back because I thought I might say something like, “You are aware the park is closed?” And when I did look back, not only did I notice that the man had followed in my direction, but that he wasn’t wearing any pants. He wasn’t wearing anything from the waist down and had on what looked like a letter jacket. I stared for a moment more, then walked on. When I reached the other side of the park a few minutes later, I gazed in to see if he was still there. He was, standing by the fountain with his hands over his man parts. He looked at me again, as if I were a strange foreign object, then he ducked into the bushes. There was a group of people smoking outside the Savoy and theatre-goers strolling all over the place. I flagged down a city worker wearing a yellow reflective vest and told him about the man in the park and he laughed it off saying, “oh it’s just the homeless kids.” Homeless kid or not, I was still concerned that the man might either be a threat to the people on the sidewalk, had been played a joke on by his friends, or was on drugs and scared. I relayed this story to the concierge at the Savoy and he seemed concerned and said he would call the police to check the park, I can only hope that he actually did.

Sunday

Before the East End tour, I wanted to check out some of the Sunday markets that London is famous for. Perusing the different booths at the various markets was just splendid and I picked up some tea as well as a handmade leather purse. I was checking out a unique looking clothing store when the proprietor said to me, “Girl, look at those cheekbones, let me cut your hair!” Upon learning that this man was actually a barber with a chair in the other room, I said “ok!” He sat me down in the big chair and pumped up the height, then grabbed a mask off the wall which, when he put it on, made him look like a member of the Black Eyed Peas. Then he cranked the rap music, looked at me and said, “oh yeah, this is kind of a show,” then began to spray my head with water, dance and twerk on the chair, then do some sort of Michael Jackson twist ending with a grab-and-cut of a section of my beautiful hair! But, he’d already started so I just took some deep breathes, noticed the crowd standing at the door with their phones out taking pictures and videos, and closed my eyes to remind myself, “It’s just hair, it will grow out, at least it’s a story.”

Here he is on YouTube!

It didn’t turn out so bad, but I wasn’t ready for it to be so short and because it’s asymmetrical, I have to wear it the same way or it just looks weird and terrible. We’re almost to the point where I can have a stylist here take a look at sorting it out.

Besides that, the rest of Sunday was great. I met some wonderful Americans on the walking tour and we spent the evening together with a few pints and a drizzly trip up to Regents Park for the evening view overlooking the city.

Monday

What a way to end a three-month long journey. As I prepared to leave for the tower of London, my Aussie roommate asked if I wanted to meet for a cup of tea later. I said sure, and after some discussion agreed on Fortnum and Mason at 4pm. He was on his first trip away from Australia at the age of 34 and suffered terrible jetlag, so he had been sleeping and relaxing for the previous five days and was ready to finally do some exploring. He said that he would be staying in London for at least 18 months, so didn’t mind wasting his first few days in bed. Moving on.

As I exited the Tube and began to walk towards the Tower of London, I was suddenly trapped on the sidewalk by a man pushing a large garbage can on my left, and a man in front of me who was looking down at his cell phone and swerving all over the place. I decided to wait til he stepped back to the left then I passed him on the right / street side part of the sidewalk. As luck would have it, he stepped back over just in time to push me into the street, and a van coming up nearly ran over me but was just close enough to hit my right shoulder with it’s rear-view mirror. This spun me around and I stepped back up to the sidewalk. The man in the van asked if I was ok and the man on his phone just looked at me, stunned like I had appeared out of thin air. With a raised voice, I withheld how angry I really was and said, “Get off your fucking phone!” Then I popped into the nearest Starbucks to calm down.

The Tower of London was wonderful. I’m a huge fan of Henry the 8th and to see where all these people were executed was a dark delight. I spent a few hours there, then crossed the Thames and adventured through the Borough Market. After a lunch of mincemeat pie and my last couple cash-pounds spent, I started towards the Millennium Bridge. I stopped at an Irish pub to steal their wifi and ended up talking at length with the bartender about Henry the 8th and his actual home at Hampton Court. The bartender then enlightened me with the stories about how Harrod’s sold wild animals like alligators and lions until 2014!

I took a screen shot of the directions on google maps for how to get to Fortnum and Mason from there, then headed out to cross the Millennium Bridge. While I walked towards said bridge, the break-wall dipped down to reveal some stairs going down to the water. I chose to hop up on the wall at this point and continue walking towards the bridge. It crossed my mind that I could fall into the river. Once I got into a place where I was happy with the view, I took out my phone and snapped a picture of the bridge. I usually take two or three then edit or delete them later on. As I pressed my finger to the capture button a second time, I lost grip of the phone and watched it tumble slow motion into the water. Before it even hit, I thought about jumping in after it. The following thoughts ran through my head in those 3-5 seconds:

“Jump in after it!”

“Don’t do that, it’s dirty, and cold, and you’ll be wet and gross all day!”

“Besides, you wouldn’t be able to find it, the impact would just send it down further.”

“Fuck.”

I looked around to see if anyone even noticed what happened, and no one had. I jumped to the sidewalk and took a few deep breaths and just started laughing.

Meandering my way to Fortnum and Mason from memory, I arrived in time to find the Aussie walking out the front door. He said, “You’re late.” I asked, “What time is it?” He replied, “3:15.” I suggested, “Well then I’m early, because we said 4pm.” He said, “Oh yeah.” I then went on to tell him about my day, and informed him I would be relaxing with a glass of wine at the bar downstairs before our tea-time. He was hesitant and said he might just go back to the hostel since he’d looked around and didn’t find much that interested him. I said, “cool, well I’ll see you later because I’ll be back early to pack.” So I was surprised when he showed up at the bar a few minutes later. After ordering and taking his first sip from a glass of wine, he indulged me with the information that he had not had a drink in two years. I told him he didn’t have to have one and I would be happy to finish mine and go to tea. He assured me it was not an issue, then ordered a second one when the bartender asked if we’d like another round. The manager on duty had seen me there before I went to Phantom, and came over to chat. After about 10 minutes, the Aussie went to the restroom and manager offered to take us out that night to show us around the city. While I was tempted, I had an early flight, no phone, and didn’t want to encourage the Aussie to drink more. So instead, the manager brought us another glass of wine each!

My Aussie friend was about 5’10”-6’ tall and maybe 150lb. Three glasses of wine… and he was pretty tipsy. We got on the Tube and went back to the hostel. For dinner, we stopped at an Indian place nearby. It looked like a hole in the wall so we figured it would be good. With water and food ordered, the server came back to give us plates when the Aussie ordered two beers. Over dinner, he told me that he was speaking with his mum earlier in the day and had told her he was meeting an American girl for tea, and that she was excited he was making friends already.

Upon getting back to the hostel, the Aussie passed out and I packed and set an alarm on my computer to wake me up in the morning. Because I didn’t trust the alarm, I barely slept. I wrote my name and IG account on a post it note and left it on his bed. Then made my way to the airport, which is easy enough to navigate to with no phone. Homeward bound.

In summary, I encountered a naked man, was hit by a car and nearly run over, threw $300 into the Thames, and pushed a sober Australian off the wagon. Clearly it was time to go back to America 😛

What I Learned

So everyone keeps asking me, “What did you learn?” Three months traveling solo through Europe, in the winter, with only a carry-on bag… Obviously I learned that you don’t need more than what fits in a carry on bag to survive three months in the winter. I had traveled before, but never alone for so long (I did do Portugal for three weeks solo in 2014). I consider myself to be an aware individual, and some of the lessons I learned I had learned from reading and discussions with other. So the top five things I learned or was reminded of during my travels were, in no particular order:

  • There are kind, wonderful people all over the world who will share their light, their lives, their wisdom, and even their food with you and expect nothing in return
  • Everyone struggles and at some point, fails at something. Failure, heartbreak and difficult experiences help us grow and become better people at what we do and who we are
  • Even when it seems like everything is falling apart, a few deep breaths and letting go of negativity or reactivity will help remind you that everything will be ok
  • Travel forces you to face the reality that there is more to this world than yourself and your “problems”… I understand that as a middle class white woman from America, I have things much easier than others around the world
  • I never want to stop traveling; but I also want to have a solid home and help make a difference in my community

What did I learn about myself?

I don’t need much to be happy, because I find more value in talking to others and being outdoors than any material possession could give me. I love reading so it was easy enough to stay entertained on trains and buses. I journaled at least three times per week and really focused on positivity, so I found losing my phone at the end of trip a funny test of what I had been practicing. When I lost my phone and walked across the Millennium bridge, I was only thinking about how it’s just a phone and it could be a lot worse. If anything, traveling helps me be more light-hearted and to not sweat the small stuff.

What’s Next

After hiding from reality for roughly two weeks upon my return to the US, I started to readjust. I have been working on getting an LLC together for my private practice, Cultivate Health, in beta operation under:

www.courtneypuidk.com

While I get the ball rolling on that, I have also been perusing other opportunities, teaching Pilates around the city, and working part time at Athleta (gotta love that discount)! If you know persons or businesses who may be interested in dietitian services, please send them my way!

In the coming months, I will be blogging weekly on Thursdays and sharing these posts with my personal website, as well as promoting + marketing my services, and planning travel and other writing projects. Recently, I have acquired a VegTrug and will be documenting my experiences with growing vegetables in it. I continue to serve as the Public Policy Chair for both the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (HEN) and the DC Metro Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (DCMAND). On top of that, in February I was sworn in as a Commissioner on the Mayor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Nutrition. So, my plate is full. My heart is full. And I can’t wait to see more of the world, meet new people, eat new foods, and share it all with you.

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