What is CHOOP?

CHOOP is not GOOP. CHOOP is the antithesis of GOOP.

GOOP is a night at a hotel no one can afford. GOOP is accessorising with Chopard. GOOP is using tuna steaks for tuna sandwiches. GOOP is emailing Deepak Chopra for a tea leaf interpretation whenever your daughter has a bad dream.

In other words, GOOP is what Gwynnie would do.

CHOOP on the other hand is what we did. CHOOP became our mission and we endeavoured to do Europe in the CHOOPiest way possible. CH is for Chav. CH is for Chinese. CHOOP is the ultimate low classy guide to Paris and France.

At any of the Firmdale establishments – we were at the Haymarket and then the Charlotte Street Hotel, two boutique hotels so charming and so adorable you will never want to leave. Not exactly Best Western but in London terms it’s actually not bad. Besides, you’re only getting one room and splitting it three ways, right? Because they will happily roll a cot out for you and a slumber party CHOOPy styles every night with the girls is more fun anyway.

Don’t however be fooled by the lobby Honour Bar and assume that it’ll be cheaper than the mini bar in your room just because it’s self serve. If you’re going to be honest and write down everything you take, it really starts adding up. The Honour Bar is GOOP. Tesco on the other hand is CHOOP. Soda, lemon, snackies, and Grey Goose without the shock of seeing it showing up on your bill almost 50 pounds later.

Another great feature about the Firmdales? They use Miller Harris products in perfectly sized dispensers. The ultimate in CHOOPness is to take the shampoo and the body wash for future purposes. These are the ones you won’t find at Walmart – they don’t look like Tupperware and will last until you come back. Rachel Weisz would be proud.

Don’t be afraid to spill cranberry juice, or olive juice (as Duana did our last night after busting open a container full of olives we brought home from Carluccio’s to go along with the buffalo mozzarella that has spoiled us for buffalo mozzarella forever in North America) because they’ll come up the next morning and clean the carpets.

Finally… the Haymarket and the Charlotte Street are all about the design and refreshingly enough it’s not an imitation Pottery Barn. Beautiful wallpaper, wainscoting, upholstery, distressed vanity tables, whimsical little touches like these striped pencils in the lobby: orange at the Charlotte, purple at the Haymarket.

Make it CHOOPy by grabbing a handful, like Michelle, for a similar display at home. Yes… we’re pilfering pencils now. But they let you. And they’ll look so cute in your den. And what was the ultimate objective?

Gwyneth would never.

What’s for lunch?

Mother Mash
, baby.

Can you imagine? A restaurant devoted to mashed potatoes? Mashed potatoes as your main course?

Oh sweet goddess of carbohydrates…yes, it exists. In almost every permutation possible. Mash and cheese. Mash and chives. Plain mash, curry mash, peas mash, corn mash, Irish mash, and of course… gravy! A lake of gravy sitting at the bottom of a shallow bowl!

All this for less than 10 pounds a plate.


It doesn’t get better.

And remember. Gwyneth would never.

What’s for dinner?

The Tate Modern on Friday night. 7th floor restaurant offers a great view and a set menu for 16 pounds that includes a main and a dessert and coffee/tea. We broke our martini glasses there by sweeping them accidentally onto the floor. It was so CHOOP.

It’s also so CHOOP to go for 9:30pm if you don’t mind missing out on the lamb, not only because it’s not quite as busy, but because when it’s time to leave, security is extra crusty, to the point where they’ll actually escort you to the loo and put you on a urination timer by banging on the door when you haven’t pee’d quickly enough for their liking.

Still…the personal service was amusing. And when the hateful security man escorted us out along that concrete Tate ramp we couldn’t help but skip to the door, Duana dancing in her heels like a 10 year old, the spirit carrying us across the Millennium Bridge and towards McDonald’s, where we stopped for fries before heading home. Because the long walk totally depleted dinner. CHOOP loves fries.

While in Paris, if you can scrounge up enough money, have lunch at Maison de la Truffe and make sure Cyril the cutie gives you the Truffle 101. La Maison is the authority on truffles and did you know that white truffles (at least the ones acknowledged by the French) can only be found in Piedmont, Italy? And that the annual yield is unpredictable? This explains the cost.

CHOOP it up by having your photo taken with a white truffle sitting on your palm. I’m the CHOOPy asshole who had to pose with one after finding out that this little guy cost $1,200 euros! Euros! For a little fungus!

Would Gwyneth pose with a fungus? Please.

Grab a baguette from Paul on the Champs Elysees for 3 euros and a coffee to go – super CHOOPy as no one drinks coffee to go in Paris, coffee must be enjoyed in a civilised manner, sitting down, looking all French and pouty and hot – and head across the Pont Alexandre III with your food in a plastic bag, wearing trainers, eliciting horrified glances from locals who’ve never and will never own a pair of Asics in their lives, to say nothing of the indignity of walking around swinging a plastic bag from your wrist. Michelle said, upon reviewing her photo album, that I actually looked like a bum.

In my defence, I owed my vagabond style to the lovely folks at Air Canada, who managed to lose my luggage until a few hours before I was to leave Paris. As such, having packed my gym gear, I was determined to wear it at least once so that the energy it took to bring it would not have been spent for naught. How’s that for CHOOP? Only CHOOPy people economise on packing efforts. But seriously, doesn’t it piss you off when you pack something you don’t use? Makes me crazy.

Spend too much time on your last day at Topshop and on Regent Street salivating over designer wallpaper you can’t afford at Habitat that you arrive to the National Portrait Gallery too late, only to find that the Annie Leibovitz exhibit is sold out for the day. Boo.

Gwyneth would never choose shopping over culture.

How do CHOOPs make up for their mistake? Check out the free section of the gallery instead, including the infamous David movie – Beckham “sleeping” shirtless, supposedly exhausted after a grueling match, his hair perfectly rounded over his head, just you watching Becks in his most intimate moments.

Note that he happens to be stylishly accessorised during slumber with foundation perfectly applied. But note even more the reaction of all the women in front of you, mesmerised from the visual crack high the portrait offers … because the installation actually allows you/them to believe it’s you/them he’s facing on that bed.

At a certain point it gets embarrassing. Even for a CHOOP. But see how long you can last. Besides, Gwyneth would never allow herself to join a group arousal session, especially not under the guise of being arty.

Have fun CHOOPing. And remember, there’s no shame in being CHOOPy. CHOOP > GOOP.

This is for Duana and Michelle, beloved partners in CHOOP, and to the memories of a once in a lifetime.