Disclaimer: This essay has nothing to do with the Romanov dynasty or any subsequent fictionalizations of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, animated or otherwise. Sorry.
I went to Europe for the first time when I was fifteen. My family decided to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in London and Paris, respectively. It was my first time abroad, my first time anywhere really. At that point, the only place I had been via airplane was Florida. On that first transatlantic flight, my parents used years of hoarded AmEx points to upgrade our tickets to first class. My brother and I sat behind my eighth grade Latin teacher, who was British and flying home for Christmas. This was a nice coincidence that became a lot less nice once my brother filled up on the overly decadent free food and, after a bit of turbulence, proceeded to vomit on the back of my teacher’s seat. When I returned to school in January, my math teacher told me she heard my brother had an interesting flight to London.
What I remember about my first time in London: high tea in The English Tea Room at Brown’s and afternoon tea at Claridge’s; dinner at the Ritz, where the waiter asked if we wanted our water with or without gas, a question that, in a painfully American moment, made us snicker like five-year-olds; a wonderful West End production of My Fair Lady (if you’re going to see My Fair Lady, you should really see it in London, don’t you think?); a less than stellar adaptation of the 1980 film Fame (a movie chronicling the lives of the underprivileged students at New York City’s premier performing arts high school in the late 1970s is probably as un-British as a West End production can be); a trip to the National Portrait Gallery followed by lunch in the Portrait Restaurant and Bar, which boasts spectacular views of the London skyline, and is the setting for a disturbingly misogynistic scene between Julia Roberts and Clive Owen in the 2004 film Closer; and, almost missing the EuroStar to Paris.
What I’m about to write reveals a bit about why I often worry that I act or sound clichéd, but here goes: I love Paris. I think I probably fell in love with Paris before I set foot in Paris. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t gravitate to black and white toile or fleurs-de-lis or croissants or Amélie.