Saturday the 1st we woke up in London, checked out of our hotel, and took the subway to King’s Cross, then walked over to Halfcup King’s Cross where we stood in line (only time we had to queue all vacation) for a very tasty brunch. It was Jill’s birthday, and she said this: “Today I am 44. I am so extremely grateful for the life I am living today. K, N, and I have been enjoying some much needed family time here in Europe. We had a lovely train journey from London to Paris via the Eurostar. We just enjoyed an amazing meal at Beitna; a charming Lebanese restaurant with incredible food – we all cleared our plates! We have a whole week here in a lovely suite to relax after a whirlwind 3 city tour of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London; we’re excited to unpack and stay in one spot. Thank you to all for birthday wishes and looking forward to the next year ahead!”
Sunday we had nothing planned, and subsequently did nothing. I slept in, then everyone went grocery shopping at Franprix and napped, got takeout from La Route des Indes and we went to sleep early. That was a good decision, as the notice we had from the Royal Regency Paris Vincennes where we were staying was that our balcony would not be available during our stay. What it actually meant was there was scaffolding all over the front of the building, and every day at 8AM the hammering would start.
So with an early start to our Monday, we were off to see Tim Burton’s Labyrinth, with life size recreations of his characters plus original artwork. Next up was Sacre Couer (we took the funicular up), then we had lunch at the nearby Breizh and Nina found some boots at Maje, just down the street. Back to the subway again to go over to O’CD (used CDs and DVDs) and Lil Weasel yarn shop, except the yarn shop was closed that day, so Jill and Nina got a snack while I browsed. We stopped at FNAC on the way to the subway to get another charger (and a couple CDs) as the room didn’t have any USB ports as our previous hotels had. The two of them had plenty of leftovers for dinner; I got some sushi from Saga Sushi.
Tuesday the 4th we took a train to get to Vernon and a shuttle bus to get to Giverny, home of Claude Monet. Sunday night we’d planned out our week, buying museum tickets and the like, and realized we had an extra day. We had been toying with Paris Disneyland, but didn’t seem to be a lot different than Disney World. Jill suggested going to Brussels, but it would have been too expensive because it was last minute. I had a guidebook to Paris and it mentioned day trips, and Jill was taken with the idea of visiting Giverny. We had timed entry tickets so we went in and went straight under the street to see Monet’s pond, then saw his garden and home. We had lunch at Brasserie des Artistes, next to the Musée des Impressionnismes (which was closed). With time to kill, we returned to Vernon (having read the shuttle buses fill quickly before train departures) and shopped. Hôtel du Nord ended up having a purse Nina liked, Cash Express was a pawn shop with Funko Pops and cheap CDs, and Barney’s Grooves had a nice CD single section. After we got back, we had pizza for dinner from Villa Capri.
Wednesday we hadn’t planned on visiting the Arc de Triomphe, but we had to change from the subway to a bus there. Nina was more interested in the street dancing. Next it time for the iconic Eiffel Tower (only halfway), then Nina bought a selfie stick from a street vendor as the rain started. We had to walk for a while to get to the subway, then we did the overcrowded and hot Musée de l’illusion. Jill finally got to visit the Lil Weasel yarn shop while Nina and I got boba tea, then we spent some time at Ground Control where they had a bar and a nice selection of pinball machines. Jill wanted to visit a French restaurant for dinner, but they didn’t mess around with closing times at the one she wanted (wouldn’t let us order when they closed in 40 minutes), so we ended up at Brasserie 967 for a fancy dinner (I had a Brenne single malt whisky to start).
Thursday we took the train and a bus to Versailles to visit the palace. It mostly went ok, but it got very crowded in some of the galleries and we sped up to get out. We also walked around the gardens for a while before leaving. We managed to just miss a train while going across Paris, and ended up sitting in a station for 20 minutes – our longest wait (and how great is Google Maps, showing which subway routes are fastest). We got to our destination of La Seine Musicale in the middle of the Seine, but we had a delicious dinner at Café Renaud before we crossed the river (great beef tartare). We got a little lost looking for Grande Seine (the venue), but if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have discovered that La Seine Musicale is built into the hill like Terraset. Mavis Staples was great and so was Norah Jones, but I was so happy that Norah brought Mavis out to sing their song. Based on the time Norah had Mavis on her podcast, I thought she might bring her out again for an encore since Mavis hadn’t sung “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” or “I’ll Take You There” so we stayed until the bitter end. As we left, someone was putting on a display of drones. Jill wanted to get a taxi, but none were available, so we took the subway to the nearest taxi stand.
Friday the 7th it was museum day. We started with the Musée d’Orsay we’d loved so much on our last trip. Monet’s works in particular had a new meaning after our visit to his house. After we finished, we were taking the subway and a connection let us out near Notre Dame, so we got a picture. Nina was hungry and wanted crepes, so we found Le Minos nearby and ate upstairs in a charming space. Then we made it to La Bagagerie where Jill got a fancy bag. Unfortunately Nina took a tumble on the sidewalk just before we got there and skinned both knees, but happily La Bagagerie gave bandaged and supplies to clean. Next I wanted to go to Crocodisc, but the others didn’t, instead finding a Starbucks with blistering cold air conditioning and Wi-Fi (it was a very hot day).
Next we went to the Louvre. We were early and had talked about ice cream, so we walked over to Les Glaces to get some. Then we got in line and got into the museum, where we did not do the dash we did last time. Jill wanted a picture of herself knitting in a quiet room with a bench she’d read about, that proved harder to find than we thought at first. The crown jewels and the Mona Lisa were hits, of course. We found Pylones, a cool quirky shop after we exited through the underground. We went back to the hotel where I cooked up the rest of the food (with a little extra chicken and naan from La Route des Indes). We discovered Jill had the most steps of any day of our trip with over 25,000.
We said goodbye to Vincennes as we took a taxi to the airport. We were glad for the early start as both the line to check bags and security were very long. Our plane was a little late taking off, and in Reykjavik we had to hustle through the airport to get to our plane on time. The flights themselves were pretty good, and we were arrived at Dulles right on time. A couple months earlier we’d applied for Global Entry, and it’s very hard to make appointments. But TSA had a simple solution: do the interview when you come back through the passport line. Luckily, it was literally only our flight coming through passports at that time, so it was a very quick process.
We got home and relaxed.
I’d seen there were still tickets available for emmet swimming that night at the Tally Ho Theater, so decided to just drive there and avoid service fees. That was a mistake, as they were sold out. I waited outside and was surprised no one came up with extras. Finally I thought about going to StubHub, and bought one and headed in. The show was a benefit for Andy Waldeck, so they had 3 bands with emmet going on last, doing a shorter set. That was good news for me, as I hadn’t been able to sleep on the plane and I was exhausted by the time they finished.
Sunday I slept in but didn’t sleep great, felt like I was going to puke at one point. I’d had an upset stomach the night before and wrote it off to travel. I didn’t eat most of the day Sunday, but had a small dinner and felt better Monday. Sunday Nina started catsitting, then Monday started Girl Scouts Camp Summer Magic – Aides in Training. That was at Algonquin Park and was my longest commute of the summer. Happily one of her friends from Girl Scouts was there and we managed to do some carpooling. We also had to do some doctor appointments as she wouldn’t be able to the next three weeks. Speaking of medical issue, Jill managed to take her to one appointment Tuesday morning, then went down for the count, in bed the next two days with what turned out to be norovirus. We’d masked on the planes on the way to Europe, but as almost no one was masking over there, had let down our guard and didn’t mask on the flights back. That meant I was patient zero.
Sue and Dave came down on the train Thursday the 13th in time for Sue to join me at The Anthem Friday night to see First Aid Kit. She really loved them, and she asked about seeing them the previous year and I told her next time they toured, we’d go. Saturday we found out that Todd & Ryan Wright were playing at Summer Jams in Leesburg, the concert series formerly known as Acoustic on the Green. Nina wasn’t feeling great (she threw up on the way to her flute lesson that afternoon, but she has gotten carsick on that trip before so I didn’t think much of it), so Jill, Dave and I went. The rain came after hour causing the concert to end, but we would have left anyway, as Sue had taken Nina to Cold Stone and she threw up again.
Sue and Dave had asked for airline tickets to Florida as an early Christmas gift to see her aunt Kelley, but after Nina showed she got the norovirus as well, postponed their trip as they didn’t want to get Kelley or her boyfriend sick. Ironically, Kelley was happy about it, telling them they were crazy to want to visit Florida in August as she didn’t leave her house after 9am. Jill and Sue got in some garden visits while they were here.
Nina had a second round of catsitting the next week, along with Road Rulz Camp, a different field trip every day. She did skip Monday, due to still feeling under the weather, but enjoyed the rest of the week. She said the illusion museum in Philly was her least favorite on so far, and she liked the pirate themed waterpark. Sue and Dave hung out, I took Dave fishing several nights on the boat.
I was not expecting metal watching reggae-jam band Dispatch performing with the National Symphony Orchestra Friday the 21st at Wolf Trap, but damn if the first encore song wasn’t “Crazy Train”. And they did it justice, too. Saturday Jill dropped Sue, Dave and Nina at Union Station to take the train to Connecticut as Nina would be staying with them and Jill’s sisters.
Sunday I posted “Don’t tell us we don’t know how to act when our daughter’s gone for the week. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Saturday night at Reston Town Center (and you can walk around with their overpriced beers), then most of the day yesterday at Wolf Trap with Nickel Creek as we bought Celebrants Club passes and we had Encore Circle Lounge passes. We also got a chance to finally meet the lovely voiced Aoife O’Donovan after 18 years.”
The following week while Nina bounced between Massachusetts and Connecticut, Jill and I mostly had a quiet week and worked a lot. However, I’d bought a cheap ticket for Matt Nathanson (opening for Matchbox Twenty) at Jiffy Lube Live Thursday the 27th, then Jill got out of work early that day and also wanted to go. We tried out the I66 express lanes and got dinner at Wawa before going to the show. After Matt played, we found our friend Linda and talked to her between sets, then listened to Matchbox Twenty for about 30 minutes before leaving. They were better than expected (and I really liked this song), but…
We got up to hit the road at 4:30am Friday, and it was a pretty pleasant trip. We avoided NYC and stopped for lunch at a Sonic. We got to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival around noon. Our friend AJ was the only one of Shantytowne camping on site this year, so we met up with her. After a grocery run to Stop & Shop in Litchfield (and stopped at Arethusa Farm for ice cream cones via a recommendation from our friend Chris), we tried to set up our tent and realized we only brought 3 of 7 poles, so tied and staked the tent’s rainfly on top of the popup shelter we also had. Jill got dinner from the vendors, while I had snacks we’d bought. First up was Richard Thompson. When we first came to the festival in 2003, we missed him by a day and Stuart always used to remind me of it. But he was great, breaking out all his classics and a Fairport Convention song. Next up was Joe Jencks, Lucy Kaplansky, Stephen Kellogg & Tracy Grammer, doing what we felt was the finest Summer’s Eve Song Swap ever (it doesn’t hurt that Lucy and Stephen are 2 of our must sees). Jill and I slept on our air mattress cot and anything exposed got bitten by mosquitos.
Saturday morning Jill took off to Robin’s house. AJ made breakfast and I gratefully combined some of her eggs with my sourdough and Swiss cheese. We went to the main stage at 11 to see Joe Jencks. I’d seen him there with his group Brother Sun, but I’d really enjoyed him on Friday and his solo set was nice too. I was back at camp for an hour, the went to the hot workshop stage for “Our Roots Are Showing” with Stephen Kellogg, Tracy Grammer & The Ebony Hillbillies. Stephen Kellogg played two songs and left soon after as he had a main stage set next, Tracy was good as usual and The Ebony Hillbillies were great. I’d seen Amy the night before, but Andrea, Jim and Nate showed up to hangout at the camp after that. We knew rain was in the forecast, but we got one of those classic Falcon Ridge storms around 5. Nate saw what was coming and left, but AJ and Jodi had returned and the 5 of us kept AJ’s shelter from blowing away as we huddled under it.
I could had survived another night at Falcon Ridge except for one thing – I only had one pair of shoes and they were drenched. I’d wanted to see Lucy Kaplansky and Tony Trischka’s EarlJam, but it just wasn’t worth it. Andrea and Jim offered to put me up for the night and I accepted, and they helped me pack everything up and lug it to their car. Once at their house, they ordered pizza for delivery and we sat on the couch while 3 of their 5 cats showed up and demanded attention.
Sunday morning the 30th Jill picked me up in the morning and we stopped at a drugstore (in addition to flip flops, I’d also left my toiletry bag at home. When we got to Robin and Mike’s house, we put everything wet out in backyard to dry off. It sounded like Nina had a great week hanging out with her cousins. Soon after the McElroys and the Cannons came over. Josh and Finn hadn’t seen each other since they were babies and went off to play, and Nina and Penny hung out, then almost everyone went in the pool. Sharon ordered sandwiches from Hot Table for everyone, and we were planning a round of pizza later, but the Cannons had to leave as their oldest was having problems at home, and the McElroys left not too long after. Monday we didn’t have plans, and I said I wouldn’t mind seeing the Berkshires if Jill was serious about living in that area. Plus AJ had talked up The Clark and that sounded like a good outing. We drove up to the Clark and saw all their art, then drove over to Water Street Grill and had lunch. Then we went to Stockbridge where I shopped at 7 Arts and Jill and Nina shopped in the Stockbridge General Store.
Also at the end of this month, If you read this article, you can help trans folks travel and gets the vote they need by donating here: https://www.pointofpride.org/donate. And on a lighter note, here’s a Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 spoiler: