The Curious Incident of the Egg Cream at Nighttime: A Children’s Culinary Nightmare in Paris

diamond eiffel

What could be more wonderful than a day climbing the Eiffel Tower, followed by a Seine boat ride and then a lovely meal on the river while viewing the tower and waiting for it to sparkle in the night? Ice cream folks. Good old fashioned American ice cream. This, of course, is according to my three extremely American children as we discovered one night in April in Paris.

It was a day of temperate splendor with cherry blossoms in bloom, a spring breeze kissing our faces as we climbed the tower and road the boat. We experienced sheer joy right up until dessert. With three kids on the go all day in a foreign land with no naps, this is a miracle. Surely, they would relish a delicious French meal of what I like to call Le Grilled Cheese, or as the French call it croque monsieur, followed by a dessert of crème brulee. But no, my tykes had tired of crème brulee, something that I would probably lick off the French ground if required it is so delicious. They wanted ice cream, and they wanted it bad. It had been on their mind ALL DAY, and I had made the mistake of promising my son the best ice cream in the world because everything tasted best in France.

Our waiter was so pleased with our reaction to the delicious meal and wine selection up until this point. Everything was presented with care, even to our baguette crusted children (Seriously, it took a week to rid them of all the crumbs after we returned to American soil.) and the all-knowing French smirk, a smirk of superiority as merited by their ability to make excellent nourriture. Nothing could have prepared Monsieur Mon Dieu! for our children’s reaction to the “ice cream” that he brought them.

When the pure white dessert dishes were placed before the kids, in it sat a molded, taupe substance with cinnamon sprinkled on top. Zavier was the first to exclaim that it was not ice cream…not ice cream at all. Monsieur Mon Dieu! replied, “But of course, egg cream.” Zavier persisted, “This is not ice cream,” and the Ginger shook her head forcibly in agreement. Our waiter shooshed and swayed, horrified at the horror. He had to set the record straight, so he mustered his best anglais and said, “This is egg cream, you want, it’s delicious.” Zavier said, “Why would anyone try to give us this when we asked for ice cream?” Our international trade relations and friendship with France stood on the edge of doom in this moment as my son’s unflinching eyes made the otherwise stoic waiter flinch.

Zavier’s eyes then welled with tears. I drank the rest of my husband’s wine after finishing mine during the discourse up until this point. Luci went under the table, and Bella rolled her eyes after trying the egg cream in a show of maturity. It was clear, we were not leaving the table out of fear that we would personally hurt our waiter, so the three adults at the table polished off the egg cream while the children cried, crawled and lamented the very existence of egg cream. Damn, it was good. Really good. I wondered how I could produce children that did not like egg cream, the very cream of eggs. They liked Cadbury Cream Eggs, how could they not like this?!?

Seeing my children’s unrequited love for ice cream nearly broke my heart, but that just made me want to keep eating more egg cream to feel better. The only thing that saved us at the moment of this culinary apocalypse was the Eiffel Tower light show beginning. The children ran out of our restaurant and witnessed a beauty that they would remember for a lifetime. The tears stopped and all discussions of the imposter ice cream ceased. We tipped the waiter well to save America’s relationship with France.

On the way back to the apartment, the kids leveraged our guilt to acquire an overpriced laser pointer from a street vendor. It was a glorious day and night in Paris.

 

Day 117 of 365: Like The Force, Once You Have Paris, It is Strong in You

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Photo:  My husband and children sailing a boat in the fountain at Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

I still owe all of you lovelies the rest of my daily travel logs from Paris. The trip kicked into high gear, and all I wanted to do was immerse in the experience with my family while drinking wine and eating fresh baguettes. The stories are safely stored in a fabulous notebook from Shakespeare and Company in my writer’s satchel. Over the next couple of weeks, they will unfold here. However, I decided that I would like to start with the end. We are home, and Paris changed us. It is in us like The Force now. This family will never be the same after returning, and here are the Top 5 reasons why starting from the bottom of course. 

5. The Slow Food Culture:

This may not come as a big surprise, but the food, bread, and desserts are delicious in Paris. Ingredients are bought fresh in small volumes from specialists like butchers and bakers and cheese shops. The French cook slow, eat slow, and savor the mealtime moments as much as the food. I had hot chocolate that was thick with fresh cream, strawberries that were sweet without hormones, and a rotisserie chicken that I watched roast in the boucherie across the street from our apartment window. I was like a stranger in a strange land when I did venture into Monoprix, the French equivalent of a grocery store but tiny like everything else there including the people wrapped in their skinny pants, but I tried to keep it to staple items from there and focus my shopping efforts at the independent markets. 

Don’t get me started about the boulangerie below us with its smell of fresh baked goods every morning. I want slow food forever as I now like to call it. I want to try and break out of the supermarket clusterfuge. We are working towards it since coming back and making progress. For example, the kids insist that I pack them fresh French style sandwiches every morning. It is time we spend together in the morning rush that makes it worthwhile beyond the freshness of the food.

4. The French Style:

I will point out that Converse sneakers of all forms and Burberry scarves are popular in Paris at the moment, but beyond trends, here is what I noticed. Everyone, including children, have a little style flair. The clothes do not look uncomfortable or unfit for daily life, which is often synonymous with fashion. Women wear kitten heels while riding bikes, which gave me pause, but they seemed just fine. The French explore color, intriguing accessories, unique cuts, and fabulous shoes while not trading off easy wear. Based on the size of their washer/dryer combos if they are lucky enough to have one in their home, my guess is that they have to get some mileage out of their wardrobes, or they are forever in damp clothes. It also looks like they invest in high value pieces for their wardrobe basics and keep them in good condition. Even my kids are paying more attention to how they are put together since coming back, and that is okay. It is okay to care how you look and have an individual style stamp. Nobody looked exactly the same. And on one last note, women had fresh, natural faces with maybe a pop of color, and they looked gorgeous, fine lines and all!

3. A Calm Politeness:

I would like to share that we did not experience a moment of rudeness in Paris. There were a few really direct people along the way, but considering the moments, it was okay. I used the language as much as possible, and I coached the kids to use French pleasantries. This was received well. But my favorite part in partaking of and witnessing verbal exchanges is that everyone said hello, thank you and goodbye when they were engaging others. It was not necessarily effervescent or accompanied with giant, toothy smiles, but it was consistent and calm. I felt welcome, and I felt safe. It is not that hard to deploy the hello-thank you-goodbye trilogy in our everyday lives. It seems to breed civility in an otherwise busy and direct city.    

2. Rampant Support of Cultural Exploration:

France is full of history, jaw dropping architecture and art. Paris is the epicenter of this making it an important tourist destination. I decided that it was vital to go a little deeper into the culture and explore what it was like for a citizen. I purchased tickets to see an indie rock duo, Catfish, as well as set aside time to explore bookstores like Shakespeare and Company with the family. Shakespeare and Company caters to English speakers, but acts as a gateway to connect book lovers from across the world. I participated in a three hour podcast reading of King Lear there with people from all over the world that was a highlight of the trip. I also ventured into independent French bookstores and art galleries as much as possible along the way. There is a vibe of support and love for new developments in art, music and writing that is palpable as well as great space like cafes, studios, stores and parks to let the artist inside breathe and design. The writer in me has been recharged. Paris has retained and perhaps enhanced its culture through the years. This makes it a great city of the world and a lesson to other cities as they develop or revive.

On another random note, even the apartment buildings were mostly beautiful. They were often old with evidence of multiple renovations. Our apartment was no exception, but here is the interesting part. In more modern cities, sometimes we are too quick to dispense with the old and build the new. In Paris, they keep the old and upgrade it without losing the original charm. And they put extra touches in such as green plants and flowers and art on the tiny balconies. Just be careful that during the morning plant watering time that you are not on the inner edge of the sidewalk. You may experience unanticipated rain.

1. The Work Play Balance:

Set aside the beauty and historical culture of Paris for a moment. I’ll talk more about the monuments and the museums in my daily travel log posts. My family loved everything we saw, but what was more important to us was one aspect of the experience, the different life balance we witnessed and allowed ourselves to experience while there.

Let’s first talk about the elephant in the room. While we were there, talk of a law that prevented employers from sending e-mails to their French employees after 6pm was circulating. The Guardian wrote an article about it that the French took offence to according to their news media. There has always been an undercurrent that the French are lazy. We did not witness laziness. We saw balance. People were focused on each other versus constantly being attached to their devices and stressing over the next place that they needed to be. There was rampant verbal communication and plentiful laughter. There was affection in public. Even if you are not a fan of public display, the typical edge of a big city was lessened for me when I saw people stealing every moment that they could. And my family was no exception. For the first time in a long time, we were totally focused on each other. We slowed down and savored each other more than any prior vacation. We came home more connected and interested in engaging each other through opportunities that do not involve devices. This was the best part of Paris, and one that we for sure have carried home.

I know we will go back to France at some point, and I would love to do more writing in Paris as it was totally inspirational. For now, we brought back Paris with us in our hearts and minds. It has slowed us down, and we are eating better, fresher food at a table together more often than not. I’d like to say that I don’t need my devices, but I look at them less, and my family loves it. We all take more moments during the day to reflect and connect. We are more stylish, and we are creating and/or appreciating all forms of art and making everyday life a more creative and interesting experience. And guess what? Our productivity has not decreased. Our happiness has increased. Paris has its own “Force,” and it is strong within this geeky family that chose to have a full immersion adventure there this April. More to come!

 

  

Day 2 in Paris: We’re Off to See the Tower, the Wonderful Tour d’Eiffel

I will admit that Day 2 started out a little later than intended as we readjusted our bodies to the six–hour time shift, but a little café and pain au chocolat did the trick to fuel us up. Before we ventured out for the day, I convinced my daughter to check out the Sunday vibe in our neighborhood. We loved what we saw. Friends and family walked the streets with bags of food, bread, wine and flowers talking and laughing as if on their way to a day of good meals and company. Mostly everything was closed down, and there was stillness around us. Occasionally, church bells would ring or a child would cry, but there was no sense of urgency to anything. I had to slow my steps down several times to match the rhythm of the day.

Some of my favorite sights included a woman in kitten heels riding a bike with her child in seat on the back. She looked stylish in pants and a boat neck tee with a little scarf around her neck. I always look like a crazy red bird after doing the same, and I have not tried the heel thing, but I am tempted. I also saw a man washing his car with a watering can. It reminds me that I have not seen anything close to a car wash here. I wonder if people here write crazy things in car dust, especially with the aggressive parallel parking that seems to involve love taps to other tiny cars.

After the Sunday stroll, we decided that it was a perfect day to acquire Metro passes and follow the trail to the Eiffel Tower, the 125 year-old beauty that interjects the Paris skyline with its majesty. We were slowed down a little by a preview of the Montparnasse Cemetery. We intend to go back after sampling its serene yet stunning resting places. Parisians know how to put their loved ones to rest!

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Photo:  Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris

When we arrived at the Metro, Dave figured out that a multi-day zone 1-3 pass was the best for our itinerary over the next four days. The children were excited to see mass transit in action for the first time, and the we found the stations to be well-marked and easy to use. We amused fellow passengers with our brood, especially when Luci and Zavier started to dance to accordion music on the first leg of our journey. We made sure to give the performer some Euros!

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Photo:  Luci and Dave on the Paris Metro

Nothing prepares you–no picture, no video, no description can do it justice–for walking around a corner and up to the majesty of the iconic Paris structure. I would not say the Eiffel Tower is the most beautiful thing in Paris (maybe at night!), but it is stunning in its size, the intricate design that keeps it standing, and the level of activity that surrounds it including people strolling through the Champs de Mars towards the Hotel des Invalides or along the Seine just across the street. It was the perfect place to take photos of my Luci in her Madeline costume, another French treasure.

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Photo:  Luci as Madeline near the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Perhaps one of my favorite yet most terrifying moments so far on this trip was walking up the stairs to the first level of the tower. You are walking inside the metal skeleton of the tower, but if you look down, you still see the ground! I’m afraid of heights and my children falling from them, so my imagination ran wild, and my son also took pause at the ascent. However, there is no better way to see Paris then from the tower.

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Photo:  Paris view from the Eiffel Tower

My son would no longer ascend after the first level, so we bid the family au revoir, and I took him down to play underneath the tower. He really liked it from that vantage point, plus it gave us time to stroll along the Seine, see street performers and scope out boat rides for later. Personally, I could have watched street vendors making Nutella crepes all day long, but I had no Euros as they were at the top of the tower, so we moved along.

When everyone came down, they had the stories and the pictures to prove the claims of a staggering view from the top of the tower. That was good enough for me as I enjoyed time watching my son engage the locals with horrible but adorable French. It was time for a boat ride.

We chose the Bateaux one hour cruise as we were all starting to get a little hungry and the kids a little restless. It was perfect for us. While I think the tower provides the most amazing view of Paris in totality, I think the boat ride provides the best view of the individual treasures such as the Louvre and Notre Dame. It also gives you a view of the day to day life along the Seine, from couples strolling and making out, to people walking dogs, to groups of friends sitting and waving to the passing boats from the banks. I almost wanted to jump off and join them, but figured we would do that same walk soon. Parisians know how to make use of their natural and cultural amenities. C’est magnifique.

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Photo:  Notre Dame from the Bateaux

When we were done, it was getting close to dark, and we were all willing to eat at a bistro and wait for the night show of the tower despite being tired. It was the worth the wait. To watch the giant tower with dancing lights like diamonds electrify the night sky of Paris is a sight that should not be missed in a lifetime. It was at 9pm the night of the second day that I declared the Eiffel Tower to be the most beautiful thing in Paris at night!

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Photos:  The dancing lights of the Eiffel Tower

We were on a high walking back to the Metro after the light show, which we saw for a second time an hour later, so Dave could not help but stop to negotiate with a street vendor for a jacked up laser pointer that had many green dots and could reach a long distance. The kids fell in love with the light sticks, chasing the many points of lights as the vendors tempted their excited minds and hearts. While getting three kids to agree on a timeshare of the ridiculously priced pointer was no fun, watching them laugh and dance with their new toy on the way home was worth it. I occasionally glanced at Dave with a mixture or frustration and great love, but in Paris, love wins!

To the City of Light, a title I now understand fully, merci beaucoup for an amazing Day 2!

Day 1 in Paris: In Praise of Fresh Nourriture and Slowness

 

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Photo:  The Medici Fountain at the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

After a seven hour flight from Toronto to Paris that ended with a beautiful window view of the beaches of Normandy and the patchwork fields of rural France, we landed tired but too excited to care. I used my very basic French to secure a taxi to our apartment where Stephanie, the apartment manager, graciously greeted us. It was love at first “Allo!” for the apartment, the neighborhood and Stephanie for being so gracious after our long travels.

While I am not sure how old this apartment is because it has been completely renovated, including an American sized tub in the bathroom, a rare treat in Paris, it still has the etched ceilings, moldings and the street charms of an old building in what is considered to be a true residential versus tourist section of Paris known as Montparnasse. I have not quite figured out the combination microwave (aka science oven) and stove and the tiny washer/dryer all in one that would be crushed by our typical laundry load, but this apartment is charming and spacious for Paris. I have also not figured out the toilet in a closet adjacent to the bathroom, but I love the large windows that open up to a pleasant street view of Parisian life, markets and the sound of laughter of small children.

After we settled in, it did not take long to find a need for dollar to Euros conversion so that we could enjoy the boulangerie and patisserie (bread and desserts) below us and the boucherie (meat) across the street. If you like the smell of fresh baked baguettes, then you should be staying with us. Having a bread and dessert shop attached to our apartment building is going to be a waistline deal breaker (plus the butcher carries a wine selection, too), and we don’t care at the moment because it is worth walking it off.

We had a dejeuner (lunch) that included a rotisserie chicken, baguette, and a brie and tomato sandwich washed down with wine. We can actually watch the chicken roasting from a bedroom window. The shop owners were friendly and amused by our large presence as were the residents. Dave and I had a woman laughing “with us” in line as we practiced French. Listening to Dave say “bonjour” amuses me as well. I think he confuses the “bon” part with saying “Bon Jovi.” If you are used to credit cards for everything, get over it. Small shops like good old-fashioned currency transactions here.

Since it was a sunny and nearly cloudless day, reaching the low 70s, we decided to hug our apartment goodbye and leave it for a decent walk to the Jardin du Luxembourg. On an interesting note, we randomly found a Detroit t-shirt in a store window as we walked, and Dave reminded that our great city was once called the Paris of the Midwest. We took a side trip through a market street and enjoyed the smell of fresh cut flowers, a snack of gelato, and purchased some perfectly red strawberries to place in our picnic basket as we continued to make our way to the park.  Diversions are so easy here for every Rue du Whatever holds a new wonder.

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Photo:  The palace at the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

The Luxembourg Gardens is expansive. You could probably spend days exploring it or playing in its giant playground (I was tempted), but we chose to focus on the palace and Medici fountain in its center. For a few Euros, you can rent a wooden sailboat nearly the size of Luci on an honor return system to sail in the fountain. You chase your sailboat from edge to edge of the large fountain and sail it again by pushing it out with a stick. The kids amused onlookers with their loudly spoken English, brightly colored American brand clothes and the fact that there were three of them. I’m pretty sure have a preference for one child, maybe two, but Luci did such a good job charming people, who knows? At one point people were asking to snap her picture or took contraband pictures in passing as she shoved strawberries into her mouth.   It was perfectly peaceful even though there were hundreds of people with us, and here is why.

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Photo:  Luci enjoying fresh market strawberries

There was barely anyone on their cell phone as they enjoyed the day in the park. People were talking and laughing, eating and drinking, and being one with the day and each other. Nobody was in a hurry except to the bathroom that you had a pay one Euro to use which just amused me and made me toy with new phrases like pay to play, only different. It was the first time in a long time where we had nothing to do besides getting lost in the day. I recommend it to anyone feeling pulled in many directions. It seems to be a way of life here that I admire. Imagine if we just did this on the weekends!

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Photo:  Luci, Bella and Zavier sailing wooden boats at Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

When we returned to the apartment exhausted from our trip over and the day, we still needed to get some basic food, so Bella and I ventured out with a rolling bag to the Monoprix. If one of our American supermarkets birthed a tiny baby, it would be a Monoprix. Apparently, people only shop the Monoprix day by day to get fill in basics. In fact, you have to pay to use a cart that could be swallowed whole by a Meijer cart.

Bella and I each grabbed a plastic rolling cart that was free, but I felt like we were breaking rules as people watched us bumble our way through the odd selections of everything like a ginormous cucumber and milk that was half cream half milk. We made the people behind us in the tightly packed checkout line laugh because we bought croissants at the marche versus the boulangerie. Since mostly everything is closed Sunday, I thought of them as our backup croissants that were probably still better than stateside. However, to avoid having an imaginary neon sign above our heads flashing “Americans at large,” I think we will stick to the boulangerie and one rolling basket from now on because the checkout counters were tiny. No wonder the French are so svelte.

As a general observation for the day, people live to eat well and be together here. They like everything small and fresh, which is probably why they like Luci so well. They stop to let you cross the street, although I doubt their ridiculously tiny cars could do much harm. And, they will tolerate and perhaps enjoy the American invasion that has just occurred with my family. I will close with a Zavierism. Z said, “The cars are tiny, but the bread is large. Who would do that?” The French, of course.

 

 

 

Day 93 of 356: ‘Twas the Night Before Paris

Ooh la la!

Tonight, after months of planning, plotting, dreaming, scheming, geeking, gawking and yes, freaking packing…this family of FIVE and their Jenny (best babysitter ever) are getting ready to leave for Paris in the morning.  I plan to share this National Lampoon’s Paris Vacation:  Rogers’ Edition with you as much as you want through this blog.  And, I will be working on a book complete with pictures currently titled Two Geeks, Three Kids and Their Jenny in Paris: A 10 Day Adventure in the City of Light when I return.

But I would be remiss in not sharing a preview of what is to come day by day as it stands now.  I engaged the whole crew in looking at books, viewing virtual tours online and having dinnertime discussions to arrive at our dream itinerary.  While we still have a few tricks up our sleeve, and days may shift, as Doctor Who says…Allons-y!

An apartment in Montparnasse, Arrondissement 14 of Paris (there are 20 total) will be our base camp from which we depart each day.  Our itinerary, built on visitacity.com, has base camp to create a map to and between all of our desired places to go and things to do.

Day 1:

  • The Creepy Catacombs:  This is where six million–yes, 6M–dead people “live” below the streets of Pairs.  My son asked if the bones still had people on them.  I hope not.  Bring out your dead!  I’m not dead yet.
  • Luxembourg Gardens:  Zavier is most excited about sailing a wooden boat in a pond at this large and luxurious gardens and park with a palace at the center.
  • Pere Lachaise Cemetery:  Yes, we are visiting more dead people including Jim Morrison and my literary hero and familiar, Oscar Wilde.

Day 2:

  • Louvre Museum:  Sundays are free fun days at the Louvre.  We are going to try to get Mona Lisa to show some teeth, and we shall taunt the Venus de Milo.
  • Angelina’s:  Apparently, there is hot chocolate so thick and delicious at this café that people have been known to lose themselves for days upon drinking it.  Well, not really, but it is super good from all reports.
  • Exploring the neighborhood around the museum with no agenda!

Day 3:

  • Rodin Museum:  This is actually a garden filled with Rodin’s statues.  His statues are so good, I want to climb one and hug it.  It would be a free ticket to the attraction known as Paris Jail.  I have always dreamed of being an international incident!
  • Hotel des Invalides:  This is a complex of buildings and grounds containing French military history.  Louis the 14th built it…go figure.
  • Eiffel Tower:  I have threatened to hang the children from this like Christmas ornaments if they misbehave.  We are going all the way to the top!  We might try to see it at night as well close up as it gets a jazzy and sparkly.
  • Champ de Mars:  This is a big grassy area by the tower in which we will make our children run all their demons out.

Day 4:

  • Orsay Museum:  This is a former train station that was converted into an art museum and is known for the best collection of the Impressionists in the world.  We are binding the children’s sticky kid hands together.
  • Seine River Cruise:  After a morning in the museum, we will treat the group to a cruise up and down the Seine River.  It is a great way to see the whole shebang along the city’s watery artery (say that five times fast).
  • Tuileries Gardens:  We are just going to sit here, breathe, and eat Nutella crepes sold by street vendors.
  • Place de la Concorde:  This is one of the most famous squares of Paris with a kick arse fountain.  I’m going to dare the children to jump in it.

Day 5:

  • Place des Vosges:  This is the oldest and most beautiful squares of Paris.  Victor Hugo lived in a hotel near the square for almost 15 years as a fact for my fellow lit buffs.
  • Notre Dame:  BIG A** CHURCH WITH GOBLINS.  Oh yeah, nuff said.
  • Shakespeare and Company:  This bookstore has been around forever catering to Americans in Paris including the likes of Hemingway.  We are actually going there for a children’s hour.  This is the Left Bank area of France, just across the river from Notre Dame.
  • Nouveau Casino:  Mommy and Daddy are taking a night out to see a French indie rock duo called Catfish.  The female lead singer has a delta blues set of pipes.

Day 6:

  • Orangerie Museum:  Want to see an entire wall of Monet’s water lilies?  Yeah, me too.  Boom, done!
  • Champs Elysees:  This is one of the most well-known avenues of the world.  Between cafes and world famous stores that I will tie my children to lampposts before going in, this is the place to stroll and pretend to be tres riche.
  • Arc de Triomphe:  This is the end of the avenue.  Napoleon built it.  Go figure.  You can get a great cross-section view of Paris from up and inside it.  I’ve been warned to go underground to get to it instead of trying to cross the avenue.

Day 7:

  • Giverny:  Monet lived here.  It is outside of Paris, full of lovely gardens and water lilies and bridges.  Picnic lunch anyone?
  • Versailles:  This palace is off the hook.   Any palace built by a sassy lady with a giant ego would be.  I hear besides the gold laden ostentatiousness of the inside, the gardens and dancing water fountains will make our day.  Again, this is outside of Paris, so there may be a fun train ride involved in this day.

Day 8:

  • Normandy:  Yes, this is the place where we became American Saviors (Dave’s words which I have asked him not to repeat on the ground).  We are renting a car, and my sister is praying for our safety.  We will get to see some of rural and coastal France in this bound to be Epic Journey.

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  • Science Museum:  This science museum is expansive and beautiful and known as one of the best in the world.
  • Parc de la Villete:  This park has art, gardens, rides, playgrounds, jazz hands etc.  It is highly recommended for kids.  We may have to squeeze it in another day if we do take the day trip to Normandy.

Day 9:

  • Montparnasse Cemetery:  I want to pay my respects to the poets, playwrights, authors and philosophers buried here.  It is considered a very peaceful walk on a nice day because everyone is dead.
  • Sacre Coeur Basilica:  Set on a hill where rides await the kids at the bottom, this holy place complete with lovely mosaics is the place to reflect on our safe return to the states.
  • Pantheon:  Who wouldn’t want to see the place with Greek columns where Victor Hugo, Emil Zola and Marie Curie rest?

In addition to all of the goodness above, we plan to do a guided walk of the city at one point.  While the planning and preparing has been overwhelming at times, I will never regret what I have learned about this great city of the world.  I look forward to sharing the trip through my family’s window.  Au revoir!  A bientot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 88 of 365: T Minus Sept Jours Until Touchdown in Paris

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Ginger’s First Cosplay:  Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (Costume by AGH Custom Costumes on Etsy)

When you have waited many years (let’s call it 20) to make a dream come true, the final countdown feels like waiting for a Klingon attack in deep space.  It is exhilarating, but you are scared that something will derail you from final victory in making that dream come true.  I have never been a patient person, but that it what I am working on this week as I pack my family for Paris and make the final plans for what we will do while there. My inner geek has gone into warp speed while my husband (let’s call him Scotty) says “I just can’t do it Captain” to some of my jump in the deep end while dragging three kids around a major European city.

Along the way, I have found some great resources that I want to share.  Because of my deep-rooted instinct to learn at every opportunity and find digital and print tools for every challenge, I have come across some really cool things that have made planning for the dream enjoyable.  Here is a list of my Top 5:

  1. Rick Steves’ Paris: This print guide to Paris is the best. Why?  Not only does it give you the travel guide details, Rick also walks you through a game plan for everything.  You have options, and he gives you the reasons why you would choose different options.  There is both the practical and the magical in this guide.  It had a nice flow to it, so I almost read it cover to cover like a novel.
  1. The Little Bookroom Guide to Paris: Did I mention that we are batpoop crazy and taking three kids 10 and under to Paris?  This book helped us understand the nuances of doing this. We don’t have to avoid fully engaging with the city and its sights just because we have kids. We just have to tweak how we lay out our days to be kid friendly.  For example, we learned to make use of the green spaces that are plentiful to give the kids a break to run out their demons or nap or both.  Cranky kids are a Death Star to family vacations.
  1. Vistiacity.com:  This handy site provides itinerary building for major cities around the world.  It factors in distance and total time spent in the city to provide you with a base itinerary, then you can customize by adding and removing attractions or putting specific addresses in for things they do not have covered like a store that you want to visit or the place where you are staying.  Each day of the itinerary also has a time and direction for each activity as well as a map that includes everything you are doing for the day and the best manner in which to travel in between.  It also gives additional information on things to visit or activities in which to engage to help you make choices as well as links to tickets etc.  Using this tool was freaking fun.
  1. Duolingo App:  So I took some solid French classes back in the day and kept up at least reading the language into my adult years.  However, speaking it was never my strong skill. I sound like a nasally Midwestern attempting to be fancy for these parts.  I am using the Duolingo app on my iPhone to get up to speed with basics. I am a strong proponent for attempting the language of the place that you are going at least for the basics. Now I will tell you that sometimes I don’t know why Duolingo is teaching me to say things like “Je suis riche” (I am rich.), because I am not going to walk around the streets of Paris saying it making myself a giant American target for Gypsies like “Holla, I’m a stupid rich American.”  I will roll with it though as well as the Google translate app for when I get stuck.
  1. Google:  I know, duh.  However, let me tell you how I used it for my planning.  It helped me with interesting discoveries.  From using street view to walk the neighborhood around the apartment where we are staying to Googling things like “Paris for literature buffs,” I found incredible tips and hidden gems like Oscar Wilde’s grave that have shaped an enhanced visit and deeper understanding of where we are going.  Go smart or go home is my new motto.  There is still plenty of room for random adventure, but we have a base camp and plan to fall back on.

I will share our final itinerary on my blog over the next couple of days.  We fly out Friday 4/4, and I will be letting you in on the dream and pictures as much as possible on this blog if you desire.  You know that le shite is going to get real with three children in the huge City of Light, but this geek would not trade an epic quest for anything.

On a final note, I have learned more patience by fully immersing myself in the planning of this trip.  It has made the time pass with meaning.  In addition, I discovered a woman on Etsy (Cindy at AGH Custom Costumes, beautiful job!) that makes Madeline costumes.  I’m doing a photo shoot of my four year old ginger in Paris as my key souvenir. Ginger cosplay!!!!!  It does not get any better!

Day 65: Saying Goodbye to My Wookie Guinness

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I’m pretty sure that Guinness came to me from a puppy mill even though there was talk of American Kennel Association papers or other such nonsense.  While I was talking to the girl desperately trying to sell him to me, he dumped my purse, chewed the strap off of it, and ate some of my favorite lipstick.  His giant paws then slapped at me as this Golden Retriever puppy made Wookie sounds, and I handed my credit card over to the girl.  I had always wanted a Golden Wookie, and he entered my life at the perfect time.

Nearly 13 years ago when Guinness came into my life, I had taken an unexpected and sad turn.  Actually, I was also angry too.  I went from a vibrant and successful woman to somebody who was struggling to get up from the couch.  I was on my own for the moment, and the only thing I could think to do was fill my life with something stat.  From Day One, Guinness was the most loyal and wildest companion that I had ever known.  Guinness was to me like Chewbacca was to Han.

I’m not going to lie.  I still wanted to stay on the couch even after I brought Guinness home, but he would not let me.  He ran through the house with toilet paper; peed on the carpet as I watched from my sadness perch; dragged my workout clothes from the laundry and chewed them up; and found his barely used leash tucked in a corner and smacked my head with it.  At one point I was sleeping, and he chewed some of my hair off and drank the rest of my wine from a poorly placed glass.  It was time to get up and take my Wookie for a walk and live my life again.

So walk we did, even though he would sit down halfway through the walk when he decided he was done, and I would have to negotiate for hours to get him home.  I took him everywhere, and I focused on teaching him some manners, an impossible task.  If I cried, he licked my face, and I found new determination to fix my life.  I graduated with my MBA, made new friends, and fixed the things that were broken.  My life was full again, and it was all because of this ridiculous ball of fur that did not bark but made rumbling Wookie noises all day long. 

Guinness was there when my first baby was born over a year later.  He was there when two more were born.  I gave him less focus and love as I adjusted to motherhood, but he never left my side.  He was gentle to my babies, and he looked on as if he understood what I needed to do.  He was accepting of other furry creatures as they entered our household too.  His loyalty played out in the form of acceptance, and he settled down and into our hearts.  And as my babies grew, they fell deeply in love with this gentle, lazy giant that did not mind being crawled over, slept on or chased relentlessly.

So on Day 65, nearly 13 years later from when I purchased my Wookie, I knew that I had to show the greatest act of loyalty to Guinness despite the fact that my heart was breaking into a million pieces.  My incredibly loyal husband who also held great love for this Wookie, had taken the helm while I was out of town trying to do everything he could to get our pup back to a place of health, but there was no turning back of the freaking clock.  We had to accept that it was time for the last trip to the vet.  Sitting in an exam room with my daughter and me, Guinness made one last Wookie grumble, his face in my hands with the sweetest look from the sweetest dog ever.  He exited my life with more quietly than he entered it, but I’m sure he did so because he knew that was the best for me and the family.  He always knew what was best for us.

Over these wonderful years, I came to realize that Wookie dogs are forever companions.  They leave a unique mark on our life because of their fierce loyalty.  They don’t give up on us, and we should never give up on them even when it means facing a decision to end their suffering.  If I close my eyes now, I see Guinness running around on a field of toilet paper, wearing a garbage lid on his head as we often found him, and making loud and glorious Wookie sounds.  He was not just important to me.  This family has lost a dear member, and he will always be a part of our fabric through memories that endure time.  My Goodness, My Guinness!  You were awesome.

Day 49-?: On Jazz, Writing, Broken Planes, And My Free Geeky Spirit

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I’m not even sure what day that I am into this year.  I only know we parted ways on Day 49 for a bit.  And here I sit in the belly of Detroit Metro Airport, two hours delayed on a business flight to Vegas.  Why?  A bird flew into our plane wing, died, froze on the wing (FU Polar Vortex), and took a piece of the wing off with its carcass when maintenance tried to clean it off.  We are awaiting the word of a Boeing official as to whether we can fly without said piece.  Well played Dodo Bird, well played.  I don’t care though, because in these recent days, I have discovered that I am a geeky adventurer, a human Starship Enterprise.

It goes something like this.  Just last week (or so ago), I found myself in the Big Easy during Mardi Gras, conducting business while soaking up jazz, licking the powdered sugar off beignets, and stuffing knowledge about my industry into an expandable noggin.  I was tired, but I danced to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band with a Korean delegation.  I’m pretty sure that they took video, and that I am a YouTube sensation.  I threw beads at someone that tried to sing me the Star Wars Theme after I challenged them to do so (Ha ha, I’m tricky).  It could have just been a normal trip, but I let my heart and mind stay open 24/7 like a convenience store at the end of the universe, and now I geek jazz more than I did before, and I know way more than I did before. 

When I came home, I was able to squeeze in work for the Lansing Relay to Life, my precious writing group, Capital City Writers Association, and most importantly some fun with my beautiful family.  I’m living out of a laundry room and suitcase.  Our Christmas tree is still up sans ornaments, and I’m trying to build an agenda for our upcoming Paris trip, but hells bells, I’m loving every minute of it.  And now, I’m boarding a plane singing Take These Broken Wings to go spend a week in Vegas with hundreds of people that I really like.  

Like the Double Rainbow, what does all of this mean?  I don’t know precisely.  What I do know is that geeks have a built in sense of adventure waiting to be tapped.  We are learning and experience time bombs waiting to blow up along the space time continuum, boldly going where people may have gone before, but we are going to go again and do it better.  While right now I’d probably prefer to travel on the TARDIS versus this broken plane, when they call me to board, I will.  Want to join 

Days 43-48: How a Jedi Knight Handles the Polar Vortex

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Even though I attempted to smuggle sunbeams from San Juan, Puerto Rico in my freckles, I was quickly thwarted upon landing at DTW by a snice storm (def.=mostly ice with a little snow thrown in to hide the ice below).  My freckles froze and fell off of my face as I walked what seemed a mile in frigid temperatures with luggage to find my car…frozen like a Skywalker popsicle on Hoth. 

I admit it.  There was a moment where I wanted to curl up in a fetal position and cry “Noooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  But then I remembered that I was a Jedi Knight from the Midwest.  What does that have to do with the price of snow in Sochi?  Stay with me here.

While good Jedi Knights might have solid physical skills, an excellent Jedi Knight masters the power of the mind.  I could not change the weather, but I could focus my mind on positive thoughts to help me cope such as the memory of sand between my toes and surf crashing against my legs during a beach run in San Juan.  I could also focus on the unique beauty of winter such as snowflakes drifting slowly to the ground sparkling as they land and sunshine appearing on cold days cutting through the chill and kissing my face.  A Jedi owns their thoughts and does not let darknes take over unless they want to be Vader’s b*otch.  I am owning mine.  I am forming a Rebel Alliance against negativity.     

Yes, I know.  We are still being impacted by a Death Star that does not blow up our planet but rather freezes it over.  I have images of the Emperor in a parka.  Those are kind of funny.  I should make a new meme.  I digress.  What I am trying to say is that we can all own our thoughts and Jedi mind trick the awfulness of this Polar Vortex and our sour moods away.  May The Force Be With You.   

Still struggling?  Just look at this.  Focus, Jedi, focus on this special San Juan rainbow.

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Days 28-42: I Fell into a Black Hole and It Was Fun

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So I had the best of intentions when I decided to blog every day of 2014 about my geeky self-improvement efforts, but stepping out of a great Day 27, I tripped into an Event Horizon.  Scary right?  No, not really, because the first place I landed was in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

San Juan is this amazing explosion of color, culture, art, sand, and surf.  The Puerto Rican people are passionate about everything, including being friendly to visitors.  San Juan reminded me of a tropical Detroit because even though there are issues like unemployment, the residents are committed to building a better future while preserving the history and spirit that make them great. 

While in San Juan, I met the leaders of the Commonwealth to conduct business; abused my camera to snap every photo that I could while traveling to meetings; ran the length of the impressive Castillo that guarded the jaw dropping coast of San Juan; made friends with people that smile easy; and discovered a beer like no other…Medalla.  And don’t let me forget to share my love for the tree frogs that are known as coqui for the sound they make all night long.  In fact, the USDA thought I loved them enough to steal some, and they searched my luggage only to find stuffed coqui that made the lovely noise when squeezed.  Everything gets squeezed in my luggage.  I have spatial relation deficiency.  Anyways, they let me come home and I stole sunbeams in my freckles in an attempt to melt the evil and insidious Polar Vortex into oblivion like Super Gidget.  I epic failed, but let’s move on.

Even though I ultimately returned from San Juan, I was still in a mental Black Hole.  Life has been happening so fast over the last 14 days it is hard to keep up (especially with a daily blog!), but here is the thing, the very good thing.  I have been having tremendous fun by simply letting life bring me everything it can even if I can’t always share it.  It is Day 42 of 365, and I feel like I found the answer to life, the universe and everything: 42.  Just kidding. 

The answer is that you have to fully immerse in each adventure and challenge that life gives you.  From San Juan to family and friend time, big work projects, writing, serving on the board of Capital City Writers, working on Relay for Life, helping launch the Great American Fish Rodeo, and running something called Finish the Damn Book for which I have Puerto Rican sized passion, this is the answer.  I am living, breathing and loving this vast universe of opportunity even when I struggle a little because life is not perfect.  However, this can’t really be called a Black Hole.  It is a Light Hole, and when I peer out of it from the other side, I see only the good.  On Day 42, I say bring me Day 43.