Thanks, but no thanks, PAGirl.

I’m one of those next-generation soon-to-be-married guys. I met Caroline online. Although at the time I first tried it out, some of my friends thought that online dating was strange, I recognized it as a decent filter for meeting women in a city like LA where everyone, or at least most of the people in my circle, are on the make. Actors, musicians, entertainment careerists – they are all on the go and on the make all the time, so actually pinning someone down for a relationship, or rather even meeting them halfway for a fling even, was tough. Online was a community, not just an electronic version of a 70s sitcom episode about the personal classifieds. One friend told me he thought it was “desperate,” but my sense was that desperation was doing nothing, which most guys and girls I knew who were frustrated with the dating scene were doing.

So here I am, getting married to the girl I love, so I can’t think of a better endorsement than that.

This morning, I got a response to my online profile which I haven’t looked at in a year. She must have gotten to the bottom of the barrel, since the profile search results are returned most recently updated profiles first. I deleted it without reading it, but here’s to PAGirl and her deep hunt for the very best that online dating had to offer. I went in and deleted my profile, so she’s the last one who’ll find me. I guess I could have given her the courtesy of a response, and explained that I was getting married. Maybe she would have found it encouraging. In any case, I hope she finds what I was lucky enough to find.

Peace and love.

E3

Mostly lame collection of people who drink too much Mountain Dew.

While at a digital art party, Into the Pixel (or something like that), a guy walked by one of the very good-looking Spike TV girls who were presenting at the party, and said “Wow, ANOTHER hot girl!” to her face. As is typical, he didn’t actually have the balls to stop and chat her up. I was looking out for Caroline, but I couldn’t find her, so I just said hello and told her, “Next time you should say ‘Wow, another fat geek’” to which she smiled and replied, “these guys couldn’t get laid if they ever thought to actually try it.”

Tried to get into the Gamespot party at The Standard, but that was a cluster-f***, so we went to the Golden Gopher, the coolest bar downtown, which of course only had a few dozen people in it. Figures, but good thing the E3 dweebs haven’t found it yet. Then went to the IGN party where we saw some good friends, had a couple of drinks, and then got the hell home. Overall, it kinda sucked, but such is the interactive business.

Tonight is the last night in London and our last night on vacation. Damn.

Today we met up with Marilyn, a friend of mine back from the days of Paramount Pictures. She is now living in London running a bottled water company with a partner. The company, Belu, donates 100% of profits to programs to create clean water access and support environmental efforts to protect the water supply, especially in developing nations (I apologize if I don’t have this entirely correct, but you get the idea).

We met up in the Portobello Road to spend the afternoon at the weekend market. Caro picked up some cool gifts, I spent some time perusing old eighteenth century maps and prints, and also got myself some souvenir London Underground flip-flops to wear around the house.

For lunch we went to a restaurant in Notting Hill that carries Marilyn’s company brand, a really nice brunch place called Chair. Owned by a furniture dealer, the restaurant features different contemporary designed chairs at every table. It was my first opportunity to eat an actual steak, kidney & oyster pie. Last night I had calves liver for dinner, so I’m not sure why I’m gravitating to the organ meat, but I will say that either kidney or liver goes down marvelously with a good English or Scottish brew.

Tonight for our last night we are popping down to Soho to check out some pubs and to have dinner, and hopefully later we’ll meet up again with Ray, who was at a football match and couldn’t meet up with this afternoon.

So, I suppose the next post will be from Los Angeles. We have to get up early in the morning tomorrow as a mini-cab service is picking us up at 645am to drop us off at Paddington to catch the Heathrow Express. Then it’s back to Paris to change planes and the torturous flight east to California.

From what I’ve been told, the jet lag will be easier to cope with going home; just in time: we just recovered from the first bout of jet lag today, really. This morning was the first time that I’ve gotten up at a normal hour of the morning.

Such is life, such is travel, and such is the minor inconvenience after a truly spectacular trip that I shall never forget as long as I live.

Thanks to everyone who gave us their love and support, and to everyone who routinely keeps up with these ridiculous little blurbs.

I love you, Caroline. I love that you always check my blog to see what it was that we did together on this trip! :)

London Calling.

After arriving on Wednesday we just took it easy and went around the block to a local Indian and had a nice dinner with Henry and Rose. They had some great advice for us about the impending wedding planning, which was to take a break for a month or two before starting all the planning. She also said that it’s a load of rubbish that you have to take months and months to plan a wedding when you can do it in two weeks. Cheers to her!

We told Rose that we were going to the Special Forces Club to meet a friend of my father. Her parents know some top SAS guys (they live in Northern Ireland) and we thought maybe they would know Dad’s friends.

Thursday, which is Caro’s birthday, we spent shopping. I needed a tie to wear to the club, so I picked up a good stylish one at Selfridge’s, and also managed to pick up a silver bracelet for Caro since in all the engagement craziness I’d forgotten to get her a birthday present.

We were meeting Dad’s friends at 6pm at the Special Forces Club in Knightsbridge. We walked into the front foyer of the club and our host was waiting for us, and it didn’t take him but a splint second to recognize me. The club itself is a living memorial to those who’ve died in the service of freedom and the walls are lined with photographs and histories of those being honored. Most of them served in World War II, including, as we were told, little old ladies who were responsible for killing loads and loads of Nazis.

We headed to the club bar, and met some of Dad’s British friends, and Mrs. Rose, our host’s wife, who had met me years ago when I was just seven years old. We were told some great stories (yes, mostly about my father’s antics), but also some interesting historical stuff about Iran (it was the anniversary of the Iran embassy siege in London) and the Falkland Islands war. The amazing start of the evening was capped off when the Roses bought a bottle of champagne, sang Happy Birthday to Caroline and toasted our engagement.

And, of course, the Roses knew the Montgomerys, Rose Birch’s parents in Northern Ireland. Yet another small world experience to add to the list.

Everyone had dinner engagements, so we said goodbye and then went to the Charlotte Street Hotel where I’d planned a surprise birthday party for Caroline. I have a few friends from New York, LA and native Londoners, so I managed to get them together for a dinner at Oscar. After dinner, we continued drinking at a lounge and then at some point we ended up at Met Bar, but about that time we were so sloshed that neither of us remember a whole hell of a lot.

Yesterday was hangover day, but we did meet Henry in the City for lunch, climbed the dome of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, went to the Tate Modern across the river (Henry was kind enough to give us his member card and we definitely took advantage of the incredible views of London from the Member’s Floor), and then touristed out completely with a spin around the London Eye. The giant ferris wheel, built for the Millenium celebrations, was actually quite spectacular, and well worth the 25 pounds (in other words, fifty bucks!) for us to take the ride. By then we were absolutely exhausted, so we came back to Kensal Green and had a nice meal at a pub around the block.

Today we’re meeting my friend Marilyn at the Portobello Road market. It’s still very chilly and blustery, but it’s refreshing and we’re looking forward to a fun final day in Europe. Tomorrow we head back to Los Angeles, and I can already feel a tinge of melancholy at having our incredible vacation nearing its end.

It’s 13:40. Welcome to Britain.

It’s now 1630 and we’ve arrived at Henry and Rose Birch’s house in Kensal Green. Beautiful two story home north of Queen’s Park. Cloudy and cold today, though. Caro is on the phone with Henry figuring out what is going on for the evening. Really would like to chill out and do much of nothing today. She can’t wait to see the Henry in person to tell him we’re getting married (this still hasn’t sunk in entirely, to be honest).

It’s nice to be finally able to speak the language, too. Had a conversation with Henry’s neighbor about his VW being broken into and his girlfriend’s phone being stolen.

Caro decided to go for a walk as the sun has just come out through the clouds. All is well in love and life.

Versailles

As I write this, Caro and I are speeding through the French countryside on the Eurostar train about to head into the Chunnel and on to London’s Waterloo station.

Finally I think we’ve gotten a little bit of rest and relaxation. We checked out the Palace and the gardens, the gate to which is literally just outside the gate to our hotel. We wanted to rent bicycles to ride around the grounds, but it started to pour just as we got into the palace itself, so after touring the Chateau (yeah, huge beautiful, lots of regal looking stuff no surprises there – once you’ve seen 100 gilded frame mirrors you’ve seen them all) we went back to the hotel and Caro hit the spa. I just swam around the indoor pool (nicest hotel pool I’ve ever been in) with a bunch of elderly French ladies getting in their exercise.

The evening, however, turned out to be the best French meal we had. The hotel sent us to a restaurant on the town square. Le Beouf a la Mode (“beef with ice cream” as Caro jokingly called it – I referred to it as “Fashion Beef”) which couldn’t have looked more like a French restaurant. We asked to sit in the smoking section (duh – everyone in France who looks cool seems to smoke) and we got a cozy table for two near the front window on the first floor (in other words, the 2nd floor in American). The menu arrived and it was a list of some of the most classic dishes in French cuisine. I had a salad of green beans with various warm bacon-like meat and boiled egg, and Caro started with a liver terrine. For dinner, she had lamb and I had steak tartare, which truly was the best tasting beef I’ve ever had in my life. There was a little bit of confusion when ordering because I didn’t understand the waiter, who was trying to ask me if I wanted it with or without raw egg (with, of course!), but when it arrived, along with a bowl of thin sliced sautéed potatoes, it looked ruby red on the plate. It was incredible.

But then . . . the dessert. I’ve only read about Ile Flotant before – a classic French dessert – so when I saw it I decided to indulge. The waiter told me in French that it was the best dessert on the menu, and when it arrived I knew why. He set a bowl, a spoon, and a small china pitcher of crème anglais in front of me. A few moments later he returned with a large silver tray on which sat a monstrous mound of meringue with a beautiful brown crust. He marked off an enormous slice of meringue and I kept having to tell him “plus petite!” to get him to serve a smaller slice. After moving his serving knife a mere centimeter at a time, he finally pfff’d me and told me that I was supposed to have a giant piece so that’s what I was going to get. He placed the monster marshmallow on my plate and I poured the crème around it. Hence the dessert’s name: the floating island. Once I took a bite, I understood why the piece served was so large. It was so airy and fresh that it practically disappeared into the crème in your mouth. I ate the entire thing.

We’re heading into the Chunnel and I’m about to lose battery power on the laptop. When we get to Henry and Rose’s flat in London, hopefully I’ll be able to recharge and upload this post.

Yesterday was the haul ass around Paris day, as we managed to circumnavigate the Louvre, which is an amazing experience not just to see the Mona Lisa (yeah yeah, but it’s one of those things you tick off to do in life and Caro had never seen it), but because the galleries are full of those paintings that you always studied in art history, and you suddenly discover them in true form on a wall surrounded by hundreds of other amazing works.

We then headed down to St Germain des Pres, and checked out some late afternoon shopping. The Bon Marche market is an entire supermarket of gourmet food next to the department store of the same name. We were a little tired and hungry, which resulted in us roaming the store unable to actually decide on anything, which then made me cranky, which was making Caro cranky, so we started bickering. Just then, a man who was near us said in an American accent, “Please keep speaking English,” as he pushed past us with a e of cart and his kids. “Ha, well” I replied, “we’re having a bit of an argument, actually.” He stopped his cart and looked at us with a smile. “Hey, I don’t care if you’re a couple of child molesters, I just want to hear people speak American English so argue away!” That made everything light again (Caro did point out that it’s probably the first time in history that a child abuse joke alleviated a tense situation) and so we pulled it together, ended up with a basket of great food, and hung out in a park and had a picnic. The park was filled with rich Rive Gauche Moms and extremely well dressed kids, and a little three year old boy hung out near us and babbled in French and then was kind enough to bring me a piece of gravel to play with. Afterwards, Caro went to the Bon Marche department store and I walked around, and then together we hit the last hour or so of shops being open in St Germain des Pres, had a couple of coffees in a cafe, and then headed back to Alex’s place to “check out” and head to our hotel in Versailles.

The trip on the RER commuter train was a bit of a challenge. We got to Gare d’Austerlitz and made a train, but after two long stops, the conductor made an announcement in French and every single person got off the train but not before urgently telling us something in French. The experience was all the more confusing because not everyone got on the train on the opposite platform, so we went with our instinct, looked the next train arrivals on the board, and figured we only would have to wait 20 minutes for another train to Versailles, which turned out to be the case. By the time we got here, it was ten o’clock and it was only Caro and me, and a couple of Japanese tourists, on the train. We grabbed a taxi, checked into the hotel, had a couple of drinks in the bar ($100 worth, so guess how nice this place is . . .) and ended up sleeping until after noon.

This hotel is stunning – although we’ve yet to explore the surrounding 8 acres of gardens – and is in Trianon, the village created to support the Chateau, so it’s right next to the palace. Our room has a little balcony that overlooks the fields and gardens. It rained in the night, and we had the windows cracked open, and this morning the breeze was so fresh and clean and smelling of trees and flowers and grass – it made me recall this smell of my grandfather’s farm in Tennessee.

Today we are going to check out Versailles and then take it easy, swimming around in the monster indoor glass covered spa pool. Caro is going to see if she can get a spa treatment, although apparently they are fully booked up.

An update on Versailles later today.

La Jacobine

After we woke up from our Belgian beer induced nap/comas, Caro and I headed out to Odeon to check out Michael’s restaurant, La Jacobine. Tucked away in a narrow covered passage just north of Odeon, it’s classic French food with a little bit of tourist friendliness, which is why Michael is having such success with his venture. The food was fantastic, and even though I had a moment of escargot fumbling – Laurent thought I was going to send a snail flying across the table like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman – I recovered before I ended up slopping parsley butter all over the table. Laurent and I both had a lamb in a yellow curry, Moroccan style in a clay tangine, and we all drank a couple of bottles of good Rose, which Michael was kind enough to give Caroline and me gratis.

La Jacobine
59-61 Rue Saint-Andre des Arts
75006 PARIS
(130 Boulevard Saint-Germain)
01 46 34 15 95

Caro couldn’t wait to tell them we were engaged (remember: both Laurent and my girls are named Caroline) and they were both surprised and pleased. They are the first people we’ve been able to tell in person, and it was the first time I got that feeling of being high talking about it with someone (as opposed to speaking to family on the phone at four in the morning after drinking all evening!). They told us how they met, which was a hilarlious story of Caroline and her gay friends who work at Prada all trying to decide if the guy setting up the lighting for a party was gay or not, but Caroline was too shy to ask him, until she saw him again a year later at another party. She told him that night that there was a girl named Caroline who wanted to meet him, and when he asked who Caroline was, she said “uhh, me.” The rest is history, I guess. They were surprised to find out that Caro and I met on an internet site, but then she also has a friend who met at a speed dating night at a bar. The most important thing is that we all met, not so much the why and how. They are two beautiful people and have really helped make this trip extra special. We’re lucky to have friends like them, in Paris of all places.

Caroline and Laurent had been out at a water park taking kayak runs through a man-made whitewater river. Apparently there is some sort of contraption that allows one to be dragged around a lake wakeboarding as if you were behind a speedboat; he described it as like a ski-lift. He and Caro just recently returned from the Dominican Republic where they went kite surfing for two weeks. The kids are crazy for sports; that’s probably why Paris is decked out for the 2012 Olympic bid, which they should probably win just judging by the level of enthusiasm for the Games here.

The French are fun, polite, and frankly way more interesting to talk to than most Americans. Maybe because they don’t watch as much stupid television, and the news actually contains news. Go figure. This is my second trip to France and I honestly don’t understand the problem that some Americans seem to have relating to the French. Maybe that’s because my parents raised me to be well-mannered, and those years of French lessons are finally paying off.

Rain today, but the cool weather is a nice change. We’re going to do the museum thing today, so it was good that we stayed outside the past few days. Tonight we head to our hotel at Versaille.

Au revoir, Paris. Je t’aime.

Caroline and I are engaged!

Yesterday we went to meet Caroline & Laurent at her workplace (the Prada & Miu Miu department at Printemps department store). We had lunch on the roof terrace with beautiful views of the city.

Afterwards we decided to go up to Montmartre and Sacre Couer. We walked up the hill, stopping in a park in front of Ste Trinite church for a rest. I hadn’t “planned” anything per se, but I knew that I wanted to ask her soon so that we could enjoy the rest of the time in Paris being in love and me not worrying about (a) losing the damn ring or (b) being nervous and on edge the whole time. While making our way up through the narrow streets – Caroline gave me directions so we could avoid the Pigalle district – we stopped at a small wine shop and bought a demi bottle of Veuve Cliquot. I thought that she would think I was up to something, but instead she thought we would just sit in a park at the top of the hill and look at the view. We stopped to sit down for a moment at Eglise St-Pierre-de-Monmartre (one of the oldest churches in Paris) where there was a couple playing guitar and singing. There was no grand plan other than I decided at that second to go ahead and ask her. She was totally surprised, and immediately started crying, of course – AFTER she said “yes”! Once we both got over the shock, we walked around to a small garden next to Sacre Coeur and drank our bottle of champagne. We were still a little stunned from the whole experience, but we loosened up with a little champagne :) and then, well, made out and talked and made out a little more. Oh, I forgot . . . I did give her the ring when I asked her. The ring is a simple sapphire that belonged to my grandfather. When we get back to LA we’re going to get some diamonds to set with it to make the ring even more special, but I wanted to have something to give to her that was sentimental, and then she can help decide what style ring she wants.

Later that evening, we went to restaurant Les Jameux (the “twins”) run by twin brothers down near Bastille. It was incredible. We found it in our book Great Eats. Very contemporary and small, it had only ten tables. On a Saturday night it was filled with well heeled Parisians, and we had an amazing three course dinner. Foie Gras and Salmon Meille Feuille to start, a filet with scallop potatoes and rabbit with ratatouille. Then almond cake and a chocolate mousse for dessert. With dinner we had a 1er Cru Burgundy that was absolutely fantastic. Afterward we walked around and then headed to La Cannibale bar down the street from Alex’s apartment. We introduced ourselves to Linda, who is a friend of Alex’s that we were told to look up when we had a chance.

All in all it was a wonderful, special day that neither of us will ever forget.

This morning, we woke up at a decent hour – 1000am – which is still tough because of the massive time difference that we’re still not used to – it’s like waking up at one in the morning and pulling it together. Grabbed a couple of croissants at the boulangerie on the corner, and then some coffees at a cafe in Belleville before hopping on the Metro. We went down to Jardin du Lusembourg and hung out, walking around the park, watching toy sailboats in the pond and then sitting on a bench under the long promenade of chestnut trees which are all in full bloom. We checked out the Pantheon (which was closed we guessed because it’s May Day) and then ended up wandering into Rue Mouffard. This part of the Latin Quarter is where Hemingway and other writers lived (we found out from a plaque on a wall). In a small square, Place de la Contrescarpe, we had lunch at an outdoor cafe and listened to an American trio play old tunes. The streets around Mouffard are closed to traffic during the day and there were lots of people strolling about.

We then hopped back onto the Metro and headed across the river to Trocadero, which has stunning views of the Eiffel Tower across Pont D’Iena. We chilled out in a park and took a quick nap (along with all of Paris which seemed to be outside) and then headed along the Seine embankment to Grand Palais. After a brief detour up Champs Elysees to quickly spot the Arc de Triomphe, we headed back across the river to the Esplanade des Invalides where we again decided to stop and relax on the grass – again – and watch soccer players, frisbee players and people kissing. We talked about the wedding and where we might want to have it, but we’re both still reeling from the experience, in all honesty, so nothing is decided yet. Paris is so gorgeous and alive it’s hard to focus on just us right now.

On the way back to Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, we stopped to grab some beer and water to take back to the apartment so we could chill and relax. After fumbling with the remotes for the cable and television, Caroline put on some wacky French channel with Cirque du Soleil or something on it and passed out. I’m now just collecting my thoughts here, waiting for Laurent to call. Tonight we are all going to meet Michael, who we met back in LA when he was visiting Alex; he owns a restaurant in the center of the city called La Jacobine, and we’re looking forward to another cool night out on the town in Paris.

Tomorrow, we are probably going to check out the Louvre since Caro has never been, do a little shopping, and then head out to Versailles to a hotel spa there that we’ve booked for a couple of evenings.

Bon soir!