Enough about addiction recovery and clueless arsehole friends. Back in September I kept asking, begging, Blue Eyes to confirm, or not, whether we were going on a business trip to Europe in October. It was on, then off, then on, then off, finally on…. At the end of the month I ended up furiously booking travel arrangements for us to visit five European countries in about two weeks. Last minute air was so expensive I ended up scouring the internet for reasonable forms of transportation both to and from Europe and also within. I ended up booking us from NYC to Madrid (our first stop) on a red-eye leaving out of JFK on a Saturday night on Norwegian Airlines. An airline I had previously not heard of. I did not want to have to fly from Portland to New York and then New York to Europe all on one day. I was trying to protect myself from being miserable (at the least) to getting sick (at worst–foreshadowing, the worst happened anyway).
I decided to book myself to NYC on the Thursday prior so I could just relax for a couple days by myself. I had no plans other than I needed my roots colored before two weeks in Europe. Totally Caroline suggested I schedule my appointment at the tres chic Warren Tricomi Salon at the Plaza Hotel on Central Park. And I did. As it turned out, TC was planning a trip to NYC around the same time I would be there. Unfortunately she was arriving the day I was leaving. But, as fate would have it, she arrived in the morning and my flight out wasn’t until evening. So we were able to meet up on that Saturday. But first, I spent a really wonderful Friday by myself in The Big Apple. I scheduled my hair appointment for the morning, then caught an Uber to The New York Botanical Garden, in the Bronx. They had a Georgia O’Keeffe Hawaii Exhibit going on. Paintings at the Mertz Library and tropical plants (inspirations for a lot of the paintings) in the Haupt Conservatory. Fabulous!
I had, the night before, online, purchased myself a ticket for the Broadway musical, The Waitress. I had wanted to see the traveling version of The Waitress when it was here in the Pacific Northwest, but it just didn’t fit our schedule. I love musicals and music by Sara Bareilles-yes. After the gardens I decided to stop in to a Theatre District Italian restaurant for dinner. A lot of the restaurants in the Times Square/Theatre District are tourist traps, especially “American” and “Italian” restaurants. Expensive prices, mediocre food, and they shuttle you through dinner like cattle. I really wanted a nice big bowl of Ippudo Miso Ramen, but the line was outrageous. Next door to Ippudo on West 51st street is a cute little Italian restaurant called ViceVersa. I liked the looks of it and so ventured in without even looking up any reviews. The inside of the restaurant is lovely and the food was delicious. While I was waiting for my food, I briefly checked to make sure the food was going to match the decor. Yelp score is a solid 4. I would have given it even better. I enjoyed a lobster salad starter and the Verdi Garganelli pasta with prosciutto and grana padano. Yum Yum. No room for dessert as I hustled off to the theatre.
As luck would have it, that Friday night was Al Roker’s debut as Old Joe, the Diner owner (played by Andy Griffith in the movie). The audience was really wild for Al. Every time he came out on stage there was practically a standing ovation. All that excitement for Al Roker… who would have thought? Even Hoda and Kathie Lee were there. It was a PARTY! I loved it.
Saturday morning I met up with TC and she showed me some of her favorite places. We chose yummy Detroit Style Pizza from Emily in the West Village (TC actually chose the Emmy Burger on a pretzel bun–intense).
We also stopped into the Bleecker Street Grom for gelato topped with that whipped cream, of course. We both love it.
TC introduced me to C.O. Bigelow, the oldest apothecary in America, and Kalustyan’s on Lexington, the mother of all spice shops. So cool. We eventually ended up at Grand Central Station for a walking tour. After the tour TC wasn’t feeling so well, so we went back to her hotel and said good-bye. I headed off to JFK to meet up with Blue Eyes. He had flown in from Portland that afternoon.
Our first European stop was Madrid. I was pretty excited because I had not been to Madrid previously and also our oldest son is currently living and working in Madrid. We met up with The Pragmatist and his girlfriend for late dinner (Spain style). During dinner I could feel a sore throat coming on. I was hoping it was just allergies, or a bit of exhaustion from the red-eye flight.
The next morning I woke with a bad sore throat, and by the time I met my son at The Prado Museum, I had a cough. The more we wandered through that museum taking in painting after painting of Raphael, Rubens, and Goya, oh my! I felt like I would surely faint. We spent a few hours there. I did see my first Hieronymus Bosch Triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Creepy and yet mesmerizing all at the same time.
After the museum we stopped into a cafe for a snack before the kids had to head off to their evening Spanish lesson. I was totally burnt out. Blue Eyes and I ended up eating dinner at our hotel. The next morning my cold was worse. Blue Eyes had gone to the pharmacy across from our hotel to get me some cold medicine, met our son at our hotel for breakfast, and then he was off to a meeting, all while I was trying to get some rest. I really didn’t want to expose our son further (spoiler: he got sick anyway).
I wasn’t going to leave Madrid without going to a churreria. Yeah, they have little cafes with the sole purpose of providing hot churros and warm dipping chocolate. I was not going to miss that. There was a good one a few blocks from out hotel, so I set out. The place was jammed with Uni students grabbing a coffee & churro before class. By the time my churros came up, the place was deserted. I sat and ate in peace. In between my coughing spasms, that is.
Later that afternoon, we were in Paris. Thank you Iberia Airlines. Gotta love Europe! Hotels were pretty expensive in Paris at this time, especially our favorite, so I decided to book us a cute little one bedroom apartment in Saint Germain through One Fine Stay. The place was in a great spot and absolutely adorable. Good thing too because of our five days in Paris, three of those days were mostly spent in bed in that apartment.
I realized by the third day I had not stepped foot outside the apartment. Blue Eyes had been to meetings, to all the grocery stores in the area including the Epicerie at the Bon Marche, multiple pharmacies and a couple take out restaurants. He brought in tea, and croissants. and baguette with charcuterie and cheeses, and Chinese take away. I was really missing out on the best Paris has to offer, their FOOD! By afternoon the third day I realized I needed to dose up on the medicine (what we could find) and get the hell out of that apartment. We ventured out to our favorite Steak Frites restaurant and took a little stroll and then back to the apartment once again.
By day four Blue Eyes was done with his meetings and I had found a dosage of medicine that gave me about 3-4 hours reprieve from my horrendous cold symptoms. At this point I was on day five of the cold and was hoping it would start to die out. No such luck. While I was feeling well, however, we managed to do something that had been on my wish list from our three previous trips to Paris, a boat ride on the River Seine. Oh, I forgot to mention how beautiful the weather was during our time in Paris… 80 degrees and sunny pretty much every day. I really enjoyed the river cruise at dusk.
Saturday was spent eating traditional french foods and visiting the Rodin Museum. It was a beautiful day and I didn’t feel like I had totally missed out on Paris.
Sunday morning we caught a train for Turin that took us down through the French and Italian Alps.
I wasn’t really feeling up for much sightseeing, but who knows when I will next be in Turin, Italy. I spent that Monday walking from Piazza to Piazza, visiting the Cinema Museum, eating traditional pizza for lunch, and purchasing some chocolates for The Peacemaker. Turin is well known for its chocolate. Our hotel had a beautiful breakfast buffet each morning with fresh croissants filled with chocolate & hazelnut (think Nutella, but called Gianduja in Italy), a combination that originated in Turin in the late 1800’s when Turin was considered the chocolate capital of the world.
Tuesday we were off on Blue Air, A Romanian airline, to Sweden. I was really digging deep for reasonably priced flight segments on this trip. We arrived safe and sound to Stockholm and one of our all time favorite hotels, The Rival, owned by ABBA’s Benny Andersson, and situated on the beautiful Mariatorget (Park). This boutique hotel is funky and cool and really well located a short walk from the Gamla Stan. I was pretty worn out by the time we arrived the hotel. I wanted a bigger room than the one we had booked, but they said they had nothing available. We thanked them and I was about to crash on the big white bed when the manager called us to let us know they could upgrade us to the Penthouse Suite. It was lovely. Since I only left the hotel a couple times during our stay, it was really nice to have the extra space and the 7th floor view over the park.
When Blue Eyes put Stockholm on the list of cities we would be visiting, I was thrilled. The last time we were in Stockholm I had fallen in love with a particular artist named Asa Lindstrom and her gorgeous ceramic cups. I desperately wanted some of those cups for our beach house. On our last trip we had stopped into a little cafe/creperie and they were serving drinks in these most beautiful cups, with unique designs on the outside, bright solid colors on the inside, and each rimmed in gold. Unfortunately the artist’s shop was closed while we were there in 2015. This time I made sure the shop was open and I bundled myself up for the walk to the store. I must have looked quite a sight as, for the first time in months, I was wearing long pants. It was colder in Stockholm than anywhere we had been in a while and my linen dresses and slip on sandals were not going to cut it. I pulled out the one pair of paints I had, plus a lightweight cashmere sweater. Unfortunately, since my surgery I had not tried on the pants. Turns out they are a bit too big now. So here I was, wandering through Södermalm, using my phone for navigation in one hand, and with the other trying to keep my sweater closed for warmth and my pants pulled up. At one point in the middle of some church grounds, I thought my pants would slip down to my knees and as I quickly reached down to hike them up, my phone went flying, and then I went into a coughing spasm. I was a complete mess. But, I did get to the shop and I did purchase 12 of those amazing cups, plus a plain mint green cup with pink interior for my bedside at the beach house. By the time I returned to our room, I crashed. I held onto those cups like they were my babies, all the way home. They adorned our Thanksgiving table and honestly, they make me feel warm and fuzzy. Who knew a few cups could do that.
Blue Eyes and I ended up at a Swedish Interior Design store (Svenskt Tenn, recommended by my brother, GQ) the following day in the Östermalm area of Stockholm. Their tea room was really quaint and inviting and I was desperate for something warm and soothing on my throat. We decided to stop in for tea and an afternoon treat. I ordered scones with cream and fresh jam and Blue Eyes ordered their Matcha Swiss Roll Cake. I made the mistake of trying his cake, which was covered in matcha sugar, and some got caught in my throat. I went into a coughing fit and nothing helped, not even my herbal tea. I just kept coughing. Blue Eyes ended up eating all his cake and my scones. Damn, I could not understand why my “cold,” ten days in at this point, wasn’t getting any better.
The next day we were off to London, the final city of our whirlwind trip. Certainly all these planes weren’t helping me and my cold. Hot tea and cough drops were my very best friends for many days. After having just been in London in July for Wimbledon, we didn’t feel like we needed to run around too much. Blue Eyes had an evening event the first night and so I stayed in, ordered room service, and watched some British television. Very relaxing.
On Friday, the last full day of our trip, we took a long walk through London, lunch at Covent Garden and dinner at our favorite Korean Fusion Restaurant near Carnaby Street. It was a beautiful weather day and it was nice not having anything to do, no rush, just spending time with Blue Eyes.
After sixteen days away from home, I was ready to head back to Portland, to my son, to my own bed, to my pets, to my doctor, and hopefully to health, because in exactly one week I was getting on another plane, this time headed to Japan. OY!
My official diagnosis from the doctor was bronchial pneumonia and a sinus infection. After a few days with an inhaler and antibiotics I was feeling much better. Even with the illness, I loved our crazy European business trip.