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Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart (At Least to My Mother’s)

Bonjour! For those unaware, the title is a reference to the fact that my mother is a bonafide Francophile, and secondly, to the song pinpointing Anastasia and Dimitri’s repressed feelings for each other in our favorite 90’s film that Rach and I still watch repeatedly (and probably will this week), Anastasia. I’m so excited that they’ve finally made it into a Broadway show (the same composer/lyricist team who brought us Ragtime) that’s premiering in 2017!!! Have to try and make my way to New York to see it somehow. Don’t know if it’ll happen, but maybe summer? Just maybe????????? Ah well, I’ll see it eventually.

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Back to the main point of this post, my fam is here! My fam is here! My fam is finally here!!!! We’re driving each other insane as usual, but despite it all we obviously love each other dearly and are happy to be together (at least I should say so).

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At least Borough is ready for Halloween!


Thursday was such a blast preparing for Rachel’s birthday surprise (the giant “Comptoir Gourmand” chocolate chip cookies from Borough that she has not stopped asking for since my mom showed them to her on my blog).

In between classes, Mel, Just, and Claud came with me to scope out my fave hang to see if they had the stall on Thursdays!! They  were so sweet to tag along and help me plan 🙂 Luckily, the set-up with the big meringues on the end was where they always are and always will be, and I got a cookie for each of my fam members and one for myself and Claud to share, of course!!

I also stopped by the “Le Marché du Quartier” stall on the edge of Borough that I’d seen before and had been

wanting to try. Their duck confit salad (with MUSTARD chutney–who is Europe turning me into?) was SO GOOD. Definitely helped to put me in the ~French mindset~. But wow it was so yummy. I totally thought of how much my mom would’ve loved it too.

Mel and I also discovered that apple cider in England indeed is not sparkling apple juice, but rather, alcohol, as a vendor so brazenly informed us that “this isn’t America or Canada anymore, ladies!” Obviously our accents betrayed us.

We made it back just in time for class (weekly ritual? Just wishful thinking?) and right after it ended, I “made my way downtown,” well, to Covent Garden, really, without letting my

parents know I was on my way (even though they definitely knew what time my class let out). They sent me their room number, so I knocked on their door and heard my dad’s voice right away. As soon as my mother opened the door, we squeezed each other so tight. My eyes welled up, but no crocodile tears. Simply joy at reuniting.

Seeing Rachel squish was the GREATEST!!! It’s been so long since we’ve been able to hug and sing together! Ugh and it was her BIRTHDAY! What a fab 18th birthday present! Visiting your sister in London and then going to Paris for the weekend?! Okay, what a life. Also can we please pause on the fact that Rachel is EIGHTEEN?!?! She is an adult. No, she is my baby, and she always will be. End of.

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We went off to dinner and saved presents for later. Got some pumpkin goodies and kept it casual (so proud of them for not napping as I was SO jet-lagged and cranky my first night in London).

When we got back, she was amused by the flower puzzle I brought her back from the Tulip Museum in Amsterdam. But when I brought out the cookies, oh no. Game over. She was the happiest kid alive.

Think opening a chocolate bar and finding a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory inside. Think King Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone. This was Rachel pulling her humongous cookie from the take-away bag. PURE JOY. And pure joy on my face from seeing her so happy. It was awesome (even though my mom totally figured it out when I eschewed the waiter from bringing out dessert menus at dinner).


We then all hugged and sang together and I was SO happy to be with them (and steal all the hotel’s free shampoos and toiletries, obviously). We

walked back to my flat across Waterloo Bridge to grab some things, and the OG squad met my new squad for a few minutes. They all joked about how often I make baked sweet potatoes. Hey, I freely admit to my affinity for autumn produce–sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash? Yes, please! What would I do if Urth didn’t make pumpkin pie year-round? Ooh starting to get excited for that when I return to the States….

The next day we strolled along the South Bank on our way to Borough! (twice in 2 days! What could be better? Aside from every day, certainly).

My parents were amused by the rather large English muffins, although Rach was bummed she couldn’t find her sought-after chocolate chip scone. She did get a brownie though, so I think that

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Last few morsels of pumpkin heaven!


sufficed. I ate some home-made pumpkin tortelloni from “La Tua Pasta.” Ridiculously good. Mmmmm.

As is typical of us, we had some hiccups on our way home, but we all got it together by the time dinner rolled around. We ate in

Covent Garden, and Claud and Just came along!! We had such a nice time chatting about our travels. They had excellent arancini–Italian fried rice balls that my mom has loved all her life but only learned the name of Friday night!! They were all over Venice, and I’d been yearning to have them since then. Yum!!! I was so happy to have my family get to know more of my friends–they’d already met Claudia, but just to paint more of a picture of my life here these past few months and the

friendships I’ve made. I’m so glad we all went to dinner together!

Saturday morning we were up bright and early ready for the Eurostar! We arrived in Paris around mid-day, and I can’t even describe how in awe of our hotel I was. It was BEAUTIFUL. The flower arrangements?? Ok put every attempt I’ve ever made at maintaining

horticulture in my home to shame.

We were super hungry so we ventured over to our favorite café (that the hotel apparently recommends for everything because it’s so good and happens to be the one we went to on our first night in Paris last time we came!) called “Le Belle Ferronnière.” Madre and I had SUCH amazing croque madame’s. Ooh yes yes yes!

When we returned to our lodgings, the hotel had brought up a NUTELLA AND RASPBERRY cake with chocolate macarons on top along with

champagne in celebration of Rachel’s birthday!!!! WHAT a hotel! What a world! What a life! Rach and I couldn’t help ourselves from eating the macarons first–they were too tempting!!!

Dad and Rach worked out (because that’s the story of our lives), so Mom and I decided to go for a stroll along the Seine. We were on a bridge at just the perfect moment in the golden hour to see the light hit the back of the Eiffel Tower so beautifully that at least 5 couples were taking their wedding photos. The mise-en-scène was so reminiscent of Before Sunset (that would be the movie I’m reminded of while strolling through Paris), as Jesse and Cèline’s whole meeting takes place just before the sun sets on the City of Lights (and boy, does the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night! Literally!! It twinkles and glitters and is so, so pretty!!!!).

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For dinner, we returned to Les Champs-Élysées for some authentic Parisian fare–escargot (SNAILS! You DID read that right!) and

French onion soup (holla atcha, Claud xx). I’d never tried either, and I liked both of them!!! I’ve become much more adventurous with food since being abroad. Haggis. Snails. MUSTARD?! I wasn’t sure how to get the snail out of the shell at first, so the waiter came over to help and he ended up feeding it to me! My father was bemused (but my mother and I thought it was good fun!).

That night (and the next), my mother and I took up the second-leg of Rachel’s birthday present: compiling a playlist of all her favorite songs (Swan Princess and TSwizz included) for her new red iPod!! Just put it together how perfect it is that the device is red

because that’s her favorite color!! Awww good going, Mom! 🙂

Anyway, we’d play songs we knew she liked and went through all of Taylor Swift’s albums I had on my computer, and whichever song Rachel got up and danced too (or in her case, galloped to), we knew it was a keeper for the new iPod. It was so cute, and my mom said it was even better when I’d make comments or sing along to the words because then the song had a memory attached to it. We’re all very sentimental, us Varvaro-Bitran girls.

The next day we woke up and headed to the Parisian flea market!!! And boy oh boy were Rachel and I in for a treat–STREET FOOD CREPES!!!!!!! CREPES! Street food

in Europe is phenomenal. She got nutella;  I got nutella AND banana (she hates the latter). I wanted another one as soon as I finished it. The crepe was light and not too buttery and the nutella and banana put together–no better combo except for peanut butter and banana (Amsterdam throwback!!!).

My fam sticks to the diet of two square-meals per day and relaxing in between meals, so once our tour of boutique tables was over (my parents were looking for a funky table for the resting place of my sister’s prized “Guitar Hero” guitar), we returned to our hotel for a respite (and working out, to be sure).

We headed over to Chez André for artisanal cheese platters, bread, and crème brûlée! French and Italian food in a span of two weekends–

both known for wine, cheese, and extraordinary desserts (among other things, certainly). Sorry for how food-heavy these last two posts have been–our main activities in these locales of culinary prominence have been sight-seeing and eating. Must say though, I really do dislike Roquefort cheese–tastes way too much like blue cheese!! (Ew!) Love the color, not the dairy product.

Post-dinner, we strolled past St. Honoré (feeling a bit like Andy in The Devil Wears Prada) and went to the Something’s Gotta Give climactic bridge where Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson finally reunite (spoiler alert!). Mom was thrilled. All we needed was “La Vie on Rose” playing in the background!

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Monday was our last day. Got kicked off to quite a rocky start at Ladurée of all places. Perhaps it’s true that Disneyland is indeed the happiest

place on earth rather than the birthplace of the famous macaron chain? The pastries, including the pain au chocolat that undoubtedly reminded me of Lizzy, and the cookies, certainly, were delicious though! But my mom is right about some things–the rose flavor did leave a certain “soap” aftertaste! Ick!

My mother and I walked to the shop she’s been dreaming of returning to since we planned our Paris holiday–Maud Frizon! We stopped by and returned later in the day for her to purchase some gorgeous

grey-purple boots that she was so excited about!! I complimented the tote bag the woman helping us put the boots in, so she gave me one as a gift!

And the owner of the store, a very chic, elegant, French woman who had such a certain je ne sais quoi that one could only hope to emulate some day, bonded with me over our proclivity for wearing black leather gloves. Hers were 1000x

more fabulous than mine with these beautiful golden balls lining the veins on her hands just before reaching her fingers and the cuffs around her wrists, but we both shared how our hands are always cold, and neither of us know why! Both she and the clerk wanted me to learn French (don’t know if that’ll deter my prospects of learning Italian though).

We left for the Eurostar later that evening and made our way home to King’s Cross Station. Some of us enjoyed the train ride more than others (sorry Rachie baby), BUT we all were so excited by the fact that our hotel offers FREE BREAKFAST. I get to live life like Zack and Cody for the next week having breakfast in my room! What IS this?! Yesterday morning was so fun–I had an omelette, ~black pudding~, OJ, and coffee!! And it was at my door at 8:30am in time for

me to leave for class. Ugh, what a world!!!

Tuesday wasn’t an ordinary class day, however. We went on a field trip to the BBC Birmingham studios!! It was so fun reuniting with all my friends at Euston station in the morning (it felt like it had been so long that we’d been apart, even though it was just one weekend!). Claud’s friend from home, Scarlett, is in town, so she came along with us! So easy to see how they’re friends. Um, and she brought coffee and hot chocolate. How could you NOT love her?! And we’ve been interjec

ting Spanish and Italian into all of our convos. Perfection.

We toured around the studio (inside a shopping mall complex) and saw news sets and radio drama stages–this location is the home of the longest-running radio drama, The Archers! 66 years now, I believe!

The news sets and control rooms totally reminded me of Trojan Vision (what’s up, CU??? You’d better be holding down the fort, Megs <3). I spotted a poster of La Dolce Vita and a “Route 66” neon sign that Sue, one of our tour guides (the other one named Emma looked JUST like Natalie from Love

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Actually!) told us used to be an American-themed diner for the staff, but is no longer. However, they still kept the decorations. Totally support their taste.

The best part of the tour was the end bit where they had Justin, Mel, Claud, Kris, and a French student record a funny play where a few kids made the sound effects (shoes stomping on gravel, popping open a champagne bottle, you catch my drift) for a “haunted dinner party” scenario. The latter four had their car break down and had to find shelter in the scary house up the road, where the creepy butler (and Justin, in an oh-so-creepy voice), answered the door–only to prov

ide food for his “feather-y master” upstairs! It was all very Rocky Horror-esque, but hilarious. Our train took so long to return home, so I immediately met back up with my fam and got sushi for the first time in what feels like eons. I have to give it up to LA though–superior sushi, although tonight’s was pretty scrumptious!

Today was day 2 of pretending I live at the Tipton (don’t worry Kris, you’ll always be the London to my Maddie xx),

and I headed off to class after having some breakfast with my madre.

Post-class, we toured around the Piccadilly Circus area of London. I’ve been around here a little bit, but I’m glad I have this chance to grow more familiar with the area around Hyde Park! We went by some huge department stores–Harrod’s, Harvey Nichols (saw a dress that looked JUST like the one Cher stops to

buy on Rodeo when she’s reconciling herself with her feelings for Josh in Clueless) and then went to Fortnum & Mason for afternoon tea!! It was such a nice space, and they gave us extra scones (you wonder where I get my scone obsession from) and a bunch of jams to take home! The whole meal was excellent and all, but if you ever go, GET THE CARROT CAKE. I PROMISE YOU. YOU’LL BE

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Songs of praise for Jane Eyre–how could I NOT love this place?


MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE. Ugh, divine. I’m turning into my mother.

We then walked around the whole store (basically another Harrod’s) to stumble upon their CHRISTMAS SHOP. Apparently they open up on August 4th–so early! I could go for Christmas year-round, but wow, it’s not even Halloween yet! We still loved it all the same and then went on to peruse some millinery. Rachie could’ve stood guard at Buckingham Palace in hers. Such a cutie.

All on the same street (yay Piccadilly!), we then went to Hatchard’s (the UK’s oldest bookshop!!!) and I was practically floating as I went up and down all the floors. SO. MANY.

BOOKS. What could be better?! My mom suggested I work there. I replied that I wasn’t permitted a work visa.

Only a few doors down was Maison Assouline, a literary-themed bar that Alison told me to visit!! Knocked out so many places I wanted to see today. Who knew they were all so close together?! And just before that was the

headquarters for BAFTA!!! This part of London is so cool. I’m so happy I’m able to explore it, let alone have my sister swinging my hand back and forth as we walk down every street!

My fam is only here for a few more days (think we’re doing fish and chips tomorrow, London Eye on Friday), and despite all of our crazy, tumultuous times we spend together, I love them so much and am so glad they came. I know I’ll miss them once they leave, but it’s only a little while longer until Christmas in Laguna!

Plus, Halloween is this weekend! Have to prepare my oh-so-deceptive disguise as Céline from the Before series, which basically consists of wearing some of my own clothes–for as Sam describes, my style apparently is “90’s meets Coachella.” Think I could work with that.

Bonsoir for now! I leave you with one last pic of my squish and me ❤

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Cheers, Tara xx
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