Friday, July 31, 2009

Joyeux Anniversaire!


To My Sweet Friend...


This weekend is Ruth’s birthday...from The Beautiful Life...link on my sidebar.  She is an awesome friend in blogland, but I actually know her in real life.  She encouraged me to start my blog, and it’s been really fun. She also loves all things French.  I noticed her at church one day, with a beautiful purse, that said, "Paris." Our friendship began then and there.


Here’s a little piece of Paris just for you Ruth. These shots were taken at Laduree’s on the Champs-Elysées.  Pardon the reflections, but it does show a little bit more of Paris!





So sorry, but I haven't figured out yet why some of my pics come out larger than others. Sometimes, you can click on a pic to get a closer view, and sometimes you can't.  Bear with me!  I know these are almost too small to enjoy!



Just so no one thinks I think I’m “all that”...Scott and I have passed Laduree’s countless times.  We went in only once, and it was so packed, we left. Sometimes it takes such nerve to walk in a new place in Paris, when you aren’t sure of the 'procedure'. 


What’s the deal?  There’s a long, long, incredible glass case full of the most wonderful pastries.  It looks like a 'to go' line, but then, I remember seeing Samantha Brown (Travel channel) sitting and eating at a table.  I think I also remember seeing Paula Deen (Food Network) walking around, with her Laduree pastries, on the street.  Oh, the feeling of being left out of a secret club!


Can you get your stuff and go?  

Do you order from the case and sit down and wait?  

Do you sit down and wait for a menu and eat at a table?  


These are the burning questions in my mind...

 

I told you Scott and I were like the blind leading the blind. If someone will fill me in, I will visit Laduree’s in Sept. and blog about it...


                                      every. last. detail!


Next Blog..."Number four" riddle solved.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

French Soil at Last

We’ve Arrived!


My mind was swirling. Part nerves, part jet lag, and part just plain old fashioned FEAR, (there’s that ugly word again). We had just landed at Charles de Gualle airport. This was it! We were on French soil.


The weeks leading up to this moment seemed far, far, off in the distance. At first it seemed this day would never come, and now it was here, and I did not feel ready. Riding around in my car with my CD’s, I felt quite confident in my French speaking skills. Now, my mouth was so dry, I couldn’t form a french sentence if I tried.  



In this photo, Scott and I are about to board our flight.  Notice how well rested we look.  I only wish I had a

 picture of how we looked at 7am Paris time, the next morning.  It was not pretty.  


Now I must explain. At this point, Scott only brought me to Paris to humor me, (and make me shut-up).  Every detail of this trip had been planned by me, completely winging it. I made a good show of being a Paris expert, but in my heart I knew better. As we exited the plane, the list in my mind was long and confusing...find customs, get bags, get euros, find a taxi, etc.  Scott takes the lead in our lives in America, now it was my turn.


We followed the crowd and things were going pretty well.  The first thing I noticed, was that none of the signs were in English. For some reason, this surprised me, and continued to for the rest of our trip.

Secondly, everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing.  I felt like Scott and I were floating around whichever way we were pulled.  


Bags...check.  Customs...check.  Now we needed some money.  I had read over and over that it’s best to exchange money in France, that American airports charge too much. Scott thought we should get some in Philidelphia, I insisted we wait.  So here we were, walking around the airport, penniless.  The money-exchange places weren’t open yet.  We needed to find an ATM.  We searched and searched.  Nothing!


As Scott gave me the evil eye, I had visions of having to spend our entire vacation in the airport.  Without euro, no cab.  I realized I was going to have to ask... a French person!  Just the thought intimidated me to no end.  I noticed a woman at a rental car desk.  As I walked over to her, I felt like I was walking the plank.  From all my research, I knew to greet her properly, in french.  But as I walked toward her, I felt like a fraud.  One word, and she would know.  So, I just looked at her and said very timidly, 


“Cash machine?” 


 She yawned.  I asked again.  She rolled her eyes. I guess she realized I wasn’t leaving, and she said, as if in pain, “Number four.”  


That was it...number four. As I walked back over to Scott, I was about to cry. 


What did number four mean? 


The woman wasn’t rude, not exactly.  I knew the “rules” and I ignored them.  Mental note to self...always start with a greeting; when in France, do as the French; they can smell timidity a mile away. For the rest of the trip, I followed the rules carefully, and it was like a magic key.  It opened the door to everything!  People began to bend over backwards to make us happy.  At the heart of it, I found the French very shy, but very happy to help. 


Have you figured out yet, what number four means?  ;-)


 

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dreams Are Made to be Followed

Naysayers :(


Paris has taught me many things about life, love, and dreams. One thing I never expected to encounter before going there on my first trip, were naysayers.  These are people that suck the air out of your balloon, before you’ve even had time to tie it off.


As friends and family heard about our impending trip, we heard all sorts of comments.  Let me list a few:


  • Why in the world would you want to go there?
  • The French are so rude.
  • It’s way too expensive.
  • You are crazy, go to Italy.  Italy is so much better.
  • Paris is dirty.
  • Don’t order beef, or you will get horsemeat.


Why did people want to squash my dream, before I even put head to pillow?  It was maddening!


My favorite was a well-meaning guy at church.  He told me this long, drawn-out story about a friend that just returned from Paris.  His friend had his wife and kids with him, and each day, it costs him $700 to feed a family of four!  



Would I never experience Parisian cuisine??

Even on rare occasions when you could find it, 'to go'?





That night, my head was a calculator.  If we spent only half that, our trip would be over in about 3 days!  I planned to pack peanut-butter crackers, so we could make it. 


Once it was all said and done, we went anyway.  If there’s one thing I want to get across to my friends in blogland, is do not let others talk you out of your dreams.  I have nothing against Italy, and I may go someday, but it was not “my” dream.  Be true to yourself.  I honestly feel God planted the dream in my heart, because of the profound impact it had on both Scott and I.  Could this have happened in Asia? Africa? Australia? 


Maybe...but I doubt it.  


Paris is Paris, that's all there is to it.  It is full of magic, mystery, and mystique.  In my next post, we’ll at least get on the airplane, I promise!  


Oh, by the way...at some point I will be giving money-saving travel tips.  It can be done for way less than you think.  And no, we never had to rely on peanut-butter crackers!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Paris Wins!


Same Day...Later that Evening


 I had my entire strategy planned.  I would feed Scott a wonderful dinner, and then explain to him that I just HAD to go to Paris.  This plan fell apart however, because I never got to the kitchen.  I was so busy reading, planning, and dreaming, that the time flew.  When I heard the garage open later that evening, my heart skipped a beat.  


This was it...


I was poised on the couch with my laptop, when he came in.  I was going to play it cool, let him change clothes and unwind, before the big presentation.  He walked in to say hi, briefcase still in hand, and with one look at my face, he KNEW something was up.  He smiled, and laughed nervously.


”What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” I said.

“Listen, I’ve known you long enough to know when you’re up to something. What is it?”


Okay. Call me crazy, (it’s been done before) but it was like I had an out of body experience.  I immediately broke into tears.  This was not part of the plan, tears have never moved my husband.  He just stared at me with mouth open, as I blubbered my way through.  I probably went on for about 5 minutes explaining my reasoning, airfare, apartment rental, etc, when he just looked at me very deadpan, and said, 

“Cancel the cruise, and book it.”


It was as simple as that.


Once Scott makes a decision, he moves very quickly. Once I make a decision, I second guess myself. Within a few minutes, he was processing flights on the Internet.  I began to panic.  Yes, I wanted to go, but now things were moving at lightening speed.  Fear began to rear it’s ugly head.


Within 2 days, we had the flights booked, an apartment rented, and deposits made.  How strange to see “Moulin Rouge” show up on my Visa bill.  That was the actual name of the transaction used to pay for the apartment.   The name of the area we chose to stay in is called Montmartre. 

Honestly, we chose that area because it was cheaper than others.  We had absolutely no idea what we were in for. This was a classic case of 'the blind leading the blind'. 



{Note: The last time I had chosen lodging off the Internet, it was a disaster.  I chose a hotel in Puerto Rico, from a 2x2 in. photo online. That night, as we leisurely ate dinner downstairs, our room was robbed of all our suitcases. Obviously, my track record wasn't very good...}




                                             

                                                    




Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Paris, Italy, or the Caribbean?

Dateline...Spring, 2006

It all began with one simple question from my husband.


“Don’t you think we should commemorate our 25th anniversary in a special way? How about a trip somewhere?”


Immediately, I said, “Yes, Paris!”

To which he immediately replied, “No, Italy,”


...and it went on from there. We talked and talked, and it eventually turned into an argument. Who argues about celebrating a long and happy marriage? We do! On and on it went. After much research and “peace talks,” we came to a decision. A Caribbean cruise. It was cheap, easy, and we could catch the boat about 15 minutes from home.


Deep down inside, I was SO disappointed in myself. I had dreamed of seeing the Eiffel Tower since I was a little girl. I knew Scott would take me if I really insisted, but truly, it was my fear that stopped the dream in its tracks. At this point in my life, "fear of the unknown" was my constant companion. I feared the language barrier, the money exchange, the expense, and the not-so-good reputation of the French.


A few months went by, and my oldest daughter and her husband came over to the house. They had an announcement...they were going to have a baby! Shock is not a strong enough word for my reaction. I blindly crossed the room to hug and congratulate them, but my mind was swirling. It's not that I wasn't thrilled, but my life did flash before my eyes. In bed that night, instead of picturing myself welcoming my new precious grandchild into the world all I was thinking was, “You are old. You are going to die soon. If you don’t go to Paris now, you never will.”


Two days later, I went to see "The Devil Wears Prada." I cried all through the last part, which was filmed all over Paris. Crying in a comedy? Who does that?


I had to get a grip on myself!


The next day, is what I call, ‘The Turning Point.’ I dropped my youngest at school, drove to the bookstore, and bought a Paris travel book. I poured over it for hours, and surfed the Internet. With pencil and calculator in hand, I priced the trip out on a sheet of paper. I had the plan, now all I had to do was convince my husband.


How did he react???? Stay tuned...


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Paris or Disney, They Both Make Me Smile




Okay...I’ve awakened from my Parisian dreamworld, and I thought I’d tell you a little bit about myself.

Here’s a pic of the whole family.  We obviously have a good time together.  We live about an hour from the Happiest Place on Earth, which we visit often.  That's me, bottom left, wearing a Paris t-shirt, of course!


Life was good, but got better a few years ago, when my husband Scott and I traveled to Paris for our 25th wedding anniversary.  It was our first trip overseas, and at the time, we had no idea how much it would change us.  Our outlook changed, our marriage changed, everything changed! 


Oh...did I mention it all changed for the better?  


We’ve returned once a year since, and I drive friends and family crazy talking about Paris, so this blog will be an outlet for me.  So far we’ve been three times, and each and every trip had it’s own feel, adventures, discoveries, and moments that took my breath away.  I will take you ALL over Paris, and on an unexpected train trip to the south of France (oh, the faux pas were numerous).  I will also write of other things, but hopefully, always with a certain amount of “je ne sais quois.”  


We are not wealthy people, I do not want to leave that impression...but for some reason we feel compelled to return again and again to the city we love.  Can’t explain it...don’t even want to try.  It’s just a curve ball that life threw at us and we’re going with it!  We’ve also learned you can do Paris much cheaper than imagined...but more on that later.


By the way...we leave again for France in 52 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes, but who’s counting? ;) 


Monday, July 20, 2009

Somewhere in Between~


       I'm on an airplane, circling, circling, circling; the repetitiveness of the movement, mind-numbing.  The plane never seems to be going anywhere.  I peer out the thick window, and as if I'm looking through the long lens of a telescope, I see a woman below on planet Earth.  She is busy going about her day, doing laundry, cleaning house, checking email, running errands.  She laughs, she cries, she's bored, she's excited.  All human emotions are observed as I watch her.  She seems quite happy, and appears to have all she could ever want, and more.  As I'm about to look away, something catches my attention.  I see a dreamy, faraway look in her eyes that I hadn't noticed before.  I wonder…what is she thinking? Why the absentminded smile on her face?  With one last look, I'm startled with recognition…it's me!  It's a dream. I'm on the plane, and on the earth at the same time.  Three hundred and fifty days a year, I feel like I'm aboard a plane, circling over my life, in a holding pattern.   It's not that my life is uneventful, or unimportant, but sometimes the predictability of it, lacks a sense of wonder and surprise.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot recapture the patina, the stunning beauty, the graceful elegance, of a city I love far, far away.  As the last page is torn out of my date book, it's September again.  At just the right moment, the plane banks gradually into a turn, flying through a puffy cloud.  I look over at my seatmate, the love of my life.  We smile and clink our glasses of French champagne together.  Finally, the plane is heading east, to the city we love, to the city we've been aching to return to…Paris, France.



       


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