Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dad and Drag

One of the last things you ever think you're going to do with your dad is attend a drag show. I mean, this is 2015 it's true, but unless you are Chandler Bing it's not an every day occurrence. My dad is certainly typical when it comes to dads in many ways. He had a regular job, knows every bit of history ever, had practical information on all manner of topic, likes sports and the news, tells bad jokes, and all the rest. But he also supported three children who all wanted to be theatre majors, went to their concerts and shows and gracefully handled their crazy life whims like running theatre companies in New York or moving to foreign countries. He opened my mind to the idea of travel, seeing the world, and experiencing other cultures. Whether he knew it or not, he participated actively in me having an open mind and an open spirit.

That being said, it wasn't as a much of a surprise as you might think when my dad said that one of the top things he would like to do this time in Paris was to go to a famous old drag club. Well then, ok dad! In his head, it is one of the things you do as a tourist and a traveler. You see the local sights and engage in the cultural experiences, good or bad. So, off to Cabaret Michou we went! Coincidentally, it happens to be located in Montmarte, the neighborhood my dad and stepmom were staying in. We grabbed a quick dinner and went to the club, having read that we could get cheaper seats at the bar the night of. This was apparently true, but because we weren't partaking in the dinner, we couldn't enter until 10pm. Off we went back to their apartment for some pre-show drinks before heading back again at the appropriate time.

Unfortunately, while there were indeed bar seats, the bar itself was about three seats in total, so we were quite crammed in the corner, desperately trying not to trip anyone as they passed by. The bartender was a portly chap, decked out in traditional French barwear, but with the added touch of severe black eyeliner circling his voir visage. The entire staff seemed appropriately flamboyant but only in the way an old school French garçon could be. Right before the show began, they actually informed us there were two vacant seats in the audience, so my stepmother and I were transplanted from the bar to the ground floor. In hindsight, we sort of thought the bar seats may have made for a better view, but it was still an entertaining sight. 

All in French, sans a few American pop songs ranging from Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance", the crowd really loved the show. Some of the men were young, muscle-bound masterpieces while others were older vintage starlits, wearing the mantle of such renowned European performers as Edith Piaf or Dalida. I truly felt the glitter touch when the curtain finally went down a mural of beautifully dressed men were taking their curtain call. Aside from being rather exhausted by the show's end, I am definitely glad I experienced such a spectacle... especially with my dearest daddy.

Happy Father's Day!!!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Floating and Feasting

One of my favorite days with my father and stepmother during there visit was on a lovely sunday afternoon. The weather was perfect, blue skies, fluffy white clouds, and dry warmth enveloping us all in the breeze. Our primary objective for the afternoon was a hot air balloon ride at Parc André-Citroën, a beautiful spot in south western Paris. The park is so called because it is on the sight of what was once the Citroën automobile manufacturing plant. There is certainly some lingering industrial architecture, but for the most part the green lawn is a perfect picnicking spot, fountains and canals surrounding the green, and right in the center is a very large hot air balloon. I have never been in a hot air balloon, and while this one is tethered to the ground, it is still a thrilling experience to fly up above Paris. I was surprised at how few people were queued up to enjoy this satisfying spectacle, particularly on such a stunning day. However, since not many people can be taken up at once, I was quite content not to have to wait in line too long. Once we set off into the blue sky, I was amazed at how glorious the view was. We could see the Seine, the Eiffel Tower, pretty much all that Paris has to offer for what seemed like miles. For the reasonable price of only €12, I would absolutely recommend this experience to any Parisian traveler. 

After the grand event, we headed back up to Montmartre to wander a bit and eventually make dinner in their cute little airbnb. Over the past two years, I have developed what I consider to be a rather scrumptious way of cooking salmon and I volunteered to prepare a meal for my dear guests. Since I also don't have anything resembling a real kitchen in my own apartment, I take every opportunity to relish in a full-sized stove, sink, and various accoutrements. I made my salmon over a bed of basmati rice, we also cooked up some delicious chicken sausages, I sautéed some crisp asparagus and we had rather a feast of flavors with our daily dose of wine. The two parentals had picked up some exquisite Parisian pastries for dessert, and we all ended the day in a happy haze of post-balloon euphoria and effective food coma.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Chocolate, Waffles, Frites, and Beer

One of the top reasons to travel involves an acute interest in the culinary arts. In other words, food food food, nom nom nom, gimme gimme gimme mooooore... Jim Henson certainly did it right with the likes of Animal and Cookie Monster making a play for all things necessary in life. And so, we hop from city to city, country to country, seeing the sights, learning the languages, hearing the history, and yes... ferociously feeding on the food.

This was definitely our main agenda when my dad, stepmom and myself took a train to Belgium the Saturday after their arrival in Paris. I have never been to Belgium, and was thoroughly excited to see what I have often heard referred to as a quite a magical fairy tale little village. This was, of course, one of the things my dad planned several months in advance, constantly harassing me for dates and times and all that jazz. I respect this initiative because train prices are not always as cheap as you would like, and my schedule tends to have a mind of its own these days. We therefore set the date, and I was up at the bright and early hour of 6am in order to book my Uber transport and make my way to Gare du Nord.

To get to Bruges from Paris, you must take a train to Brussels first, then transfer. I was a bit hungry and cranky in the morning, so the fact that a swarm of various school groups seemed to be heading the same direction did very little to improve my mood. However, I had all of the riches of Bruges to look forward to... namely, chocolate, waffles, frites, and beer. Quite a merrymaking quartet in my opinion, and the culinary feast we planned our entire day around.

Not surprisingly, Bruges is a rather small little hamlet, wrapped in the charming architecture I would absolutely expect looking out from a holiday Christmas card. I have in fact been told that if you visit this picturesque town during winter, you will be met with ice covered canals on which the locals ice skate from place to place rather than walk. I truly hope that they wear classic fur-line capes and caps to boot. Aside from the 4 most important stops in our day, the main touristy thing we did was to take a boat ride through the canals so we could really get a glimpse of Bruges at its best. This was of course post-waffle but pre-frites. And for dessert, a stop in a chocolate shop that claims the rockstars of Rolling Stone as some of its patrons.

It was a little cloudy with threatening rain here and there, so we were happy to never had gotten poured on, and the few minutes the rains did fall we were quite cozily ensconced at a table sipping our Belgian beer. Filled with tasty treats and ready to conquer another train journey back across the border, we finally made our way home to dear France where of course, the food is only so-so. Well, aside from the pastries and bread and cheese and wine and everything else.