I sort of feel like we’re about to embark on one of those slideshows your great aunt made you come over and watch. She’d lure you in with the promise of something delicious and then before she fed you there were slides of her latest vacation. The beauty of the Internet is you can go right on and scroll through the slathering of photos I’m about to share and jump right into the recipe.
If you are about to do that sort of thing let me first get you excited about the sandwich that tastes of a spring-flecked field. I’m not even sure what that means but I do know that one bite in and I was whisked completely out of winter and well into spring where things taste of green, of new life, of subtle sweetness, of timidity and a bubbling hope of things to come. All through my travels in London and Paris there were faint hints of spring; flower stands showing off their pastel hued wares on every corner, little buds breaking free from their cocoons and dotting the bare branches with signs of life, plump white and green asparagus, small strawberries with ruby flesh all the way to their core, peppery radishes and green peas that pop in your mouth like the sweetest candy.
As I often do with travel inspiration I took bits and pieces from our experiences throughout the trip and turned it into one dish. But I have to say that it was a simple radish salad from Spring that really set me on the path that led here. It wasn’t even my salad, it was Ashlae’s vegan option that she so kindly let me sneak a bite. It was the frilly pile of chartreuse lime zest on top of quartered radishes that lured me in. Radish and lime? Yes.
A few days before the trip I recounted the itinerary to some of my closest friends. I skimmed over a few words and places quickly moving passed just how amazing the following week was to be because frankly, it sounded too good to be true.
“I want to see you scream ‘I’m going to Paris!'” My dear friend told me. She wanted my face to light up and to acknowledge the crazy goodness that was this trip. I wanted to scream it too because of course I was ridiculously excited but vulnerability held me back.
Brené Brown talks about joy being the hardest emotion to experience. Seriously. I didn’t believe her at first but I totally get it because I do it; I always mask joy. If you have children I’m sure you’ve exhaustedly put them to bed only to wander back into their room to watch them sleep about 20 minutes later. You look down at their face; angelic and still, and your whole body feels tingly and on fire with love that overwhelms. That joy is abruptly halted when you play through all the horrific scenarios in which you could lose that love. Okay, moving right along before I puddle onto my keyboard at the thought.
Brené (I feel like we’re on a first name basis at this point) says, “We try to dress rehearse tragedy so we can beat vulnerability to the punch.”
I thought so often of my friend’s comment throughout the trip and I thought why I minimize my joy. In part I think I do it to protect those around me. I mean, my girlfriends that following week were all going to be home taking care of their babes while I was off prancing around Europe – that didn’t seem fair. But hiding my joy in the trip, I realize now, doesn’t protect them.
There’s another story Brené shares about a 60 year-old man who spent his whole life trying to beat his expectations to the punch. He said he was just going to stay right in the middle, that way if things didn’t work out he wasn’t devastated and if things went better than expected he was pleasantly surprised. And then his wife died and his immediate regret was that he didn’t live into his joy during their life together. Curbing his expectations and living in the middle did not protect him from the pain he felt at the loss of his wife of forty years.
I’m terrified when things are going so well because then I’m just waiting around knowing that at any moment somethings gotta give. At any moment I’m going to experience great pain or loss because life simply cannot be this great. You know what? That’s kind of true. Life is hard and things break and people we love die and we experience pain. That’s the truth. But the other truth is that numbing the joy in moments of happiness will not save us from experiencing great loss. Never fully experiencing joy will not keep us from suffering.
Knowing that truth and walking into this trip with that reminder helped me to experience it with utter gratitude. It was such an amazing gift and even the whispers of fear that creep in as I’m typing this: “They’re going to hate you for gushing so much about how much fun you had. Why rub it in? The moment you hit publish on this post something’s gonna give but at least you wrote down the happy moments so you will always have that. Live it up now, girl because imminent doom is approaching quickly.” I want to actively practice gratitude and feel the joy because that is just the sort of life I want to live.
So having said all of that let me tell you a bit about my crazy, wonderful trip.
I told my kids I was going on this trip to go make sure London and Paris was ready for our family trip in June. They all had a bit of nerves about the idea of a train going under the water so I assured them that I’d go check it out and make sure everything was up to snuff. I thought at this age they would pick up on the sarcasm but they didn’t. In fact it was that high speed under water train, Eurostar, that took me on this trip. London to Paris in just over two hours! I was a bit disappointed when the train didn’t dive into the water and flip its tail like a dolphin but I got over that the moment we arrived in Paris. Well, I think I actually was over it when we were drinking champagne on the way there.
Right before leaving another friend had texted, “Don’t worry about curbing your expectations because Paris is going to blow you away.” My friends know me so well. She knew that I was terrified of being disappointed by my first trip to Paris and she knew that that was such a silly fear. The moment I walked out of the train station I knew it too. Every where I looked beauty overwhelmed me. Butter colored buildings with black cast iron details that outline the windows and balconies and the smell of sizzling butter as we walked passed the waffles on the street. Cobble stone streets pave the way for market stands selling perfectly plump red currants. Every sense was open and I was taking it all in.
Look at that, somehow I skipped right passed London and am already talking about Paris. I love London. We toured the streets of Portobello and ate everything along the way, made traditional English scones and shortbread in a flat in Notting Hill , bought and sampled tea at Borough Market, and ate some of the best Indian food I’ve ever tried at Dishoom. On top of all of that Ashlae, Bev and myself took an epic walk all over the city taking in all the sites one must see when in London (hello, Big Ben!) We ate breakfast on top of the city at the Sky Garden before getting on to the train and heading to Paris.
In Paris we took another food tour all through Montemarte learning how to shop and chose the right places for baguettes, cheese, and chocolate (those stickers on the window? They actually mean something – like how many awards they’ve won. The French take that seriously). We had a private lunch/cooking class at Spring (remember the radishes?!), saw the waterlilies at the Museé de l’Orangerie and I cried big fat tears of joy. We ate macarons for breakfast at Ladureé and ate fries and drank wine at the Cafe des 2 Moulins (otherwise known as the Amelie cafe) and Bev cried big fat tears of joy.
Notice a theme? Joy. And I lived it and felt it and am so incredibly thankful for it. Thank you to Eurostar for planning an epic trip. I also don’t know how you managed to choose the funnest group of folks to travel with but you did. Thanks.
Here’s the run down of most of the places we went. The highlights for sure:
Portobello Garden Italian Cafe
R. Garcia & Sons (The UK’s best Spanish grocery)
Fabrique Swedish Bakery
Books for Cooks
The Spice Shop (London’s tiniest, most fragrant shop!)
La Cave a Fromage (cheese & wine)
Caroline Hope – Cooking Instructor
Great Northern Hotel (LOVED this place)
Ace Hotel London
Secret Food Tours
Museé de L’Orangerie
Café des 2 Moulins
The Latin Quarter – just go, all of it is lovely.
*This trip was sponsored by Eurostar but the photos and gushing words are all mine.
Radish Tartine with Pea Butter and Lime
2 to 3 tablespoons pea butter (recipe below)
3 to 4 radishes, thinly shaved
1/4 cup radish sprouts (optional)
1/4 cup pea sprouts (optional)
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
a few mint leaves, roughly torn
thick cut bread, toasted (crispy on the outside with a soft interior)
For the tartine:
Slather the toasted bread with a good bit of the butter. Top with the thinly shaved radishes then the sprouts and mint. Finish with lime zest and flake salt and a light drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy right away.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, blanched until tender
1/2 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon (or more) sea salt
Process everything in a food processor for at least a few minutes. You want to get the peas as smooth as possible.
For the best texture pass the butter through a fine mesh sieve.
Taste and add more salt if you’d like.
Store the pea butter in the fridge for up to one week.