Thursday, June 10, 2010

Only in Paris

Thursday June 10, 2010 - Only in Paris

Well thanks to a suggestion from my clever blog-minded father, over the past few months I have written down specific experiences limited to the "only happen in Paris category". The following is what popped into my mind, the good and the bad and the ugly; it's all here from my year abroad. Enjoy!

Only in Paris...

1. Do I eat a whole box of ice cream bars in half an hour flat.
2. Do I get a chance to go on a pilgrimage to Chartres.
3. Does carrying an awkward heavy box I received in the mail on the Metro make me smile.
4. Am I not surprised when I see the Eiffel Tower any more.
5. Do I look for lost tourists to give them the right directions.
6. Do I see French people give tourists wrong directions.
7. Do I pray that an old person or pregnant lady won't get on the Metro when I'm exhausted and have a seat...And then when one does enter, I gladly give them my seat with a smile because it's the right thing to do and that always feels better than sitting.
8. Do I get an elbow in the ribs for walking on the "wrong side" of a Metro tunnel.
9. Does cigarette smoke not faze me any more.
10. Does seeing a kid who looks 12 smoking not faze me any more.
11. Do I get the immense pleasure of seeing my French students progress over the course of the year.
12. Do I get to prove stereotypes wrong.
13. Do I get to walk to church along the Seine.
14. Do I carry my pepper spray in my hand in my pocket while walking alone at night.
15. Am I used to the scent of the Metro. Eww.
16. Do I not buy paper towels, soda, juice, salt, gum, or nail polish because I can live without them.
17. Do I buy Nutella, ice cream, pastries, chocolate, cookie dough, and wrinkle cream because I cannot live without them.
18. Do I get to go to the airport to pick up my loved ones!
19. Do I have to go to the airport to say good bye to my loved ones.
20. Do I get to have picnics on the Champ de Mars with my friends to eat French bread, wine, and cheese whenever I want.
21. Do I realize how lucky I am to have Christian friends and family.
22. Do I appreciate real deodorant.
23. Have I been too painfully cold to leave my apartment.
24. Have I ever gotten attacked by bed bugs. Eww.
25. Am I constantly trying to tell time in another time zone.
26. Do I skip bronzer in January because it's not even worth it.
27. Does one of my friends get their phone or wallet stolen every weekend.
28. Do I see the buffest moms on the planet carrying strollers full of children up and down Metro stairs.
29. Do I have a chance to miss hugs.
30. Do I know exactly where to find the best
cheeseburgers, cupcakes, ice cream, and pancakes.
31. Do I think of opening my own frozen yogurt shop.
32. Do babies speak French.
33. Do dogs remain perfectly behaved without a leash.
34. Must I choose between washing my hair or shaving my legs before the hot water runs out.
35. Does the key to my apartment look like a key to a castle.
36. Am I not in a car for months at a time.
37. Am I absolutely exhausted just from grocery shopping.
38. Does a real dinner last for hours.
39. Do I think in blog-form.
40. Does my form of transportation go on strike.
41. Does my roommate's French boyfriend use my toothbrush.
42. Is wine cheaper than a bottle of water at a restaurant.
43. Have I made amazing friends from all over the world.
44. Do I see men and women of all ages run across enormous intersections in their business clothes to catch the bus. Hilarious.
45. Do I give myself high cholesterol. True and not hilarious.
46. Do cashiers ask you if you have exact change and scowl if you don't. Sorry, that's, like, kinda your job.
47. Do I get to walk 3 minutes to a gorgeous park to read in the sunshine.
48. Is it normal to see 200 roller bladers take over the streets.
49. Do I see so many women with the body I had at age 11.
50. Do I get to take an art history course that meets at a different museum each week.
51. Do I write this blog instead of studying for my art history final.
52. Do I walk, um, everywhere.
53. Do I have to call my friends/family from home twice if they missed my first call less they become an emotional wreck.
54. Can I sleep till 2pm. Easily.
55. Do I never smile at strangers.
56. Does skipping doing my hair in the morning just means I look more French that day.
57. Is it okay to have hairy arms.
58. Are my bank, my grocery stores, my laundry mat, my boulangerie, and my favorite cafes all within walking distance from my apartment.
59. Are rules not rules and customer service not customer service.

60. Only in Paris, do I sit here the night before flying home for good and strangely feel like I'm about to be released from prison.

Bonsoir Paris...Good morning L.A.!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Irwins in France

April 24-May 2, 2010 - My parents' visit!

Hmmm, this is slightly overwhelming to try to summarize...
Well due to the volcano, my parents' arrival was delayed a week, so we simply did the trip in the reverse order: one week in the "country" and one week in the "city". (though we did squeeze in one day in Paris at the very beginning!) See, I told you this was overwhelming!
Because I like my guests to suffer, I make them take the Metro with all of their luggage. No, not really, it's just a lot cheaper.
Here are my parents, Faith and Scot, in front of the Opera Garnier where the Roissybus (airport bus) dropped us off. You'll notice they have a few bags. I asked them to bring an extra suitcase or two for me to send my winter clothes home with them.
Instead, they brought 4 full suitcases and 2 full carry-ons. But, boy, was I happy to see them anyways!!

For their first day in Paris, we walked the Champs de Mars and went to the Eiffel

Then, a river boat cruise on the Seine.

Notre Dame. Fact: Sunny Paris is so much prettier than gray Paris.

Day 2: We went back to CDG airport to pick up the rental car and start our journey to Normandy where we stayed in this beautiful chateau recommended to me by one of my co-workers at the french high school I worked at.

It had bunnies. My mom was happy. Smitten, even. Look at those baby bunny toes!! Okay, okay I was smitten too.

Upon arrival, we drove into the small town nearest our chateau and there was a bike race going on...this is for you Doug:

Dinner in Bayeux: The, eh hem, French meal schedule (and schedule in general for that matter) took some getting used to...
No, Dad, we can't eat it's only 5 o'clock.
No, Dad, we can't eat it's only 11am.
No, Dad, we can't eat it's 3pm.
Dad, we better hurry and eat because "France" closes in an hour.
No, Dad, it's closed. It's Sunday.
No, Dad, it's closed. It's Monday...
Or: It should be open, but it says 'closed'...No, I don't know why. It just says 'closed'...No, it doesn't make any sense...I'm not hungry anymore.

Where was I? Oh yes, dinner in Bayeux. We had yummy pesto pasta with salmon! Man, was it nice to eat real food again!!
This is the view from an old German fort right in the middle of the town. The whole town was destroyed during the war and was then rebuilt.

The next day, we headed to the Normandy D-Day beaches. We were lucky enough to be walking up towards Point du Hoc just when a sort of ceremony beginning. It turned out it was a group of U.S. veterans from Texas who were travelling throughout France in honor of Victory in Europe (V-E) day. They invited us to sit and attend the ceremony; how fortunate we are to have had such brave men fighting for us!

Next, we drove to Omaha Beach where we found lots of seashells! And, we were SO lucky to have blue skies in Normandy...that rarely happens!

On to the American Ceremtery and Museum: This is a fantastic WWII museum; very well done and educational. I really enjoyed getting to go again with my parents.

The following day, we headed to Mont St Michel, the famous monastery built in the 8th century, that was once only accessible if you raced the tides that rise and fall 50ft!

The happy little tourist family!

This sign is warning us to move our car before 6:30pm because the tide will raise (rise?) and cover the parking lot!

This place was so fascinating! Not quite the quiet escape that the monks were searching for any more... it is very full of tourists, but with
Rick Steves' help, we found the least touristy route to the top.

Driving along the country roads (in a Ford!!).

Mom in the safety of the back seat (no atlases, GPS, directions, iPods, or French road signs to read). She looks relieved to me...

Chateau du Balleroy, now owned by the Forbes' family:
Beautiful grounds, ugly hot air balloon paintings, and incredible molding. I love molding. NOT to be confused with moldy cheese. That I do not like.
The chateau was built as a kind of illusion; it appears a lot larger from the road, but it is actually only one room deep!

Um, where was this??? St. Malo I think! It was a very fun little town, an old fortified city, that you can now walk on top of the walls that surround the small coastal village.
Wait is this St. Malo? Now, I'm all confused, but the point is we are on a boat that we never got to ride on due to the very efficient French work ethic and customer service and yes, I am aiming for all the French stereotypes right now because I was exhausted and they were making my job as tour guide much more difficult than necessary! So there.
Notice my "you have got to be kidding me" head tilt?
I feel much better about this.

Moving along...*Sighhh* Flowers!!!
On our way back to Paris, we went to Monet's Garden in Giverny. We got there early to beat the crowds and wandered through the gardens and the lily ponds. The flowers were in full bloom; I don't think there is a better time to visit!

Dogwood flowers for Grandma D:

There were so many HUGE tulips!!

On Claude Monet's front porch. How cool is that?!

Their ice cream cones matched their shirts! Too cute!

Traffic in Paris.
This is why my wise father decided to rent the car at the airport ouside of the city. Good idea, Dad!

Back in Paris...the oldest tree:

Shakespeare and Co.

Hmm, he looks familiar...

We climbed to the top of the Arc du Triomphe after lunch on the Champs Elysees.

The 284 step spiral staircase...this blurry photo is quite fitting! There were some really neat interactive museum displays inside the arc near the top.
Did I just say 'neat'? Please, ignore that.

The view was AMAZING! It was rainy and cold while we were up there, but it was so worth it! I thought the view was better than the Eiffel Tower, plus less crowded and cheaper!

My mom and heights are not friends. It's about her only enemy. And even still, she is smiling.

Thanks to my Dad for wearing shorts and being tough, we waited a few moments longer for the rain to lighten and we got to see this:
Literally, 360* of double rainbow! It was incredible!

Later, we did the Louvre. "Did the Louvre". It makes it sound so easy! I showed them many of the pieces I studied in my art history class and rattled off all the knowledge I had gained. :)
Though my Mom is the art teacher, my Dad is the perfectionist. Therefore, no room was passed, no sculpture un-looked, and no painting un-translated. (All of the titles and descriptions are in French; therefore, it was my duty to translate. Thanks, France.)

This is one of my favorites, "Les Trois Graces" by Pradier:

All week, I was trying to either talk my parents out of going to Versailles, or at least, going without me. It's not that Versailles isn't amazing, it's just that I found it to be completely over-run with tourists to the point where you don't even know you were in the Hall of Mirrors until you are exiting...
So, Thursday night as we were deciding what to do the following day, my Dad said how about Brussels?
...Hopped on the internet, was utterly confused by the French website, parents went to bed, and woke up with tickets to Brussels! I am kind of wonderful..
These pictures might look familiar...

This is wrong, so wrong. Those of you who know or have at least met my father will agree that he is the last person to need a megaphone, let alone a humongous one.
.Which is exactly why we had to take a picture!
And, he does look a bit too comfortable up there...

Luckily, the peeing boy had the decency to get dressed for my parents' visit. They decided he looks more like a gardener holding a hose. Mmhmm.

He's famous! Check out this advertisement in the train station:

Somehow I managed not to get any pictures of waffles or chocolate on this trip! (Maybe I was busy stuffing my face).

My Mom and I were in love with this group! We gave them money. And, then bought their CD.

Back in Paris on Saturday morning, we went to La Duree to have a high-class tea time for Mother's Day. It was delicious! I highly recommend la religieuse a la rose. Thanks for spoiling us Dad! :)

The Arc du Triomphe with the French flag on V-E Day:

One of the last stops was the Opera Garnier. It was so luxurious and beautiful! Marble and gold e-v-e-r-ywhere!

Last dinner together on Rue Cler:

My Dad wore pants!!!!

They do zip off at the knees, but let's give'm a little credit.

This is only a quick overview of some things we did! I know my parents took over 800 if you are interested in the long version, contact my parents to set up a viewing. My blog/I can't handle that amount of data.
I am the luckiest girl in the world. Completely convinced. I am so thrilled that my parents came; I still can barely believe it! We had an amazing time and I am so thankful for them and their visit.
One more thing: my Dad was in France.
AKA where all the French people live. Ha.
Miracles do exist.