Monthly Archives: October 2010

Paris. Day 20. 21. 22.

On Day 20 I frantically pushed Sarah and Tristan out the door (sorry guys) in the direction of their hotel in anticipation for my next set of visitors: Kate and Dinah. Kate and Dinah are two of the most genuine, hilariously comedic, down to earth, and witty individuals I have had the chance to know. I met K & D during my time at University of Washington Medical Center, and they are most definitely some of the hardest working and dedicated nurses I have EVER met. Despite working NIGHTS and having not only one, but TWO nursing jobs each, these two gals just keep going and going. I swear these two have more energy than those magnificent Budweiser Clydesdales in those endearing Christmas commercials (clearly my mind is perseverating on those good ol’ American traditions).

One thing I love most about hanging out with Kate and Dinah is there is never a shortage of laughter. I am always, always, always laughing out loud with these two, and Day 20 was nothing different. We hooted, giggled and joked our way over the bridges of the Seine, through the twists and turns of alley ways while shopping, and while gazing up at the most perfect sunset as it cast itself against exquisite French architecture. Our biggest laugh came when Kate looked up at the sky and said in her sweet little voice “ah looks like we are gonna get a nice day.” She followed this immediately with “oops I hope I didn’t just jinx us.” It wasn’t but 20 seconds after I darted a crotchety look in her direction that the rain began to fall.

We quickly ducked into a little café across from Notre Dame called Café Panis. Although this café doesn’t serve the greatest French onion soup, they have decent frites and some kick ass hot chocolate (best I’ve had so far). Over our warm and oh so tasty cups of liquid heaven, I got to know Kate and Dinah a whole lot better. They told me about their years of travel nursing. They told me about their families and their past relationships (including their best dating horror stories…geez, can men be totally clueless sometimes!). They told me about their future plans. I told them about mine. They told me how excited they were to be in Paris…and the list went on and on. Our entire conversation was one of those moments in time where friendships are nourished and warm memories are made.

The highlight of our evening was Mr. Croque-Monsieur. Yes, my sandwich has been given a title because he deserves to be credited for the masterpiece that he is. Ironically, despite my obsession with all things Parisian since the age of 14, I have NEVER had the guts to try a croque-monsieur. Yes. I know. I am horrified to admit this fact. I adore grilled cheese sandwiches, but I have always been suspicious of that little slice of ham, so delicately placed between those two slices of bread and glob of cheese. What was it about that piece of ham? I’ll never know. But for whatever reason on this particular night, I conquered my fear of the croque-monsieur. And OMG. All those years that I had failed to have a taste of that buttery, cheesy, crispy goodness slapped me directly across my face. This thing was totally amazing. So amazing in fact, that we actually promised the waiter we would be back the next night…and we were!

After the three of us got over the shock of that sandwich we skipped across the street for gelato. I had secretly hoped that Dinah and Kate wouldn’t see the delightful little gelato place with its “rose” shaped serving style. But they did. Crap. This was my (count it out loud) 5th visit to this place in the last 5 nights, and as my tummy cheered “G-E-L-A-T-O! G-E-L-A-T-O,” the words “Je voudrais un petit cornet avec Amarena, si’l vous plait” slipped from my mouth; I’d done it again. Before I knew it I was indulging in the most perfectly spun gelato this side of the Seine. Oh how tasty it was! Kate and Dinah totally agreed, as we slurped our way back towards the apartment to settle in for the evening.

A shot of my most favorite bridge in Paris.

Kate and Dinah are here!

The French have such an appreciation for the details. Looks at how perfectly placed that chocolate is in that oh so adorable glass! And the canary yellow milk pitcher?! Come on!

A shout out to all our nursing buddies back home ; )

Kate and her new BFF Nicolas. After calling Kate “charming,” giving me a sweet deal on an adorable little wicker bag, and requesting I send him this pic on “Facebook,” this guy quickly became my favorite Parisian thus far.

M. Croque Monsieur and his friend Mademoiselle Salade. What a perfect pair they make!

Yesterday, Day 21 Kate and Dinah headed out to Versailles while I stayed back home to have some chill time to myself. I lounged in bed unknowingly for 3 hours before lazily changing into my running garb. I’ve been trying my best to keep up with my “I pretend I have a workout routine, but really I jog once every 4 days to make myself feel better” routine during my time in Europe and have failed miserably on most days. I’ve done a short jog here or there, supplemented by café au laits, crepes avec Nutella, excessive amounts of gelato, and cheese that’s left my bowels in knots for days. Not so good. Oops.

Running in Paris is a far cry from running in Seattle. At home I can’t even get out of my driveway without tripping over at least three not only runners, but perfectly toned gazelle like triathletes, galloping along as if it’s: no big deal. Here in Paris, running is clearly not in fashion. In my 2+ weeks of being here I’ve seen just one woman actually out running for the intent of exercise, and she looked as American as I. Honestly, the looks I’m delivered as I step outside the big red doors of my apartment in all my gear, are anything but understanding. I’ve received some of the most peculiar glances from Parisians as if to say “Humph. Stupid American. Running? Running is for the weak. Here have a latte. Or even better, here, have a smoke.” And then I envision them spitting in my direction. You know. Like the movies.

But, really I don’t get it. Everyday that I run, I gaze at these beautiful, model-thin Parisians who appear to have what American’s would consider “horrible lifestyle habits”:  no gyms, no diets, no running shoes, no nothing. Instead olive oil up the wazoo, carbs until there’s not tomorrow, pastries that cause instant need for dental work, and clouds of smoke so thick you need goggles to swim through them. There has to be some French secret that needs to be shared with the rest of us…really! How is it that a country fueled by croissants and cancer sticks doesn’t seem to have any weight issues?? It’s unfathomable. It’s gotta be all that walking…hmmm…

Lucky for me on this particular run I got lost. Not just a teeny bit lost. A lotta bit lost. And it was stellar. Despite the hypoglycemia, blurry vision and shaking hands (clearly in my time of lounging around the apartment I forgot to eat breakfast OR lunch before my run) I had a grand ol’ time. As I dodged the velos, voitures, autobuses, pietons, and crusty French glares I took in every bit of Paris. Swearing up and down that these days would go down in my record books as “the best days ever” I beamed with pure and utter happiness. These are the days to remember. And I hope I do.

Today was velo day! This morning (bright and early: 9:45 am to be exact  – I know super early huh?) the 5 of us all hopped on the funkiest bikes I have ever seen and pedaled our way around Paris. It was a total blast learning the nitty-gritty historical details that most definitely come along with a city this great. The funny thing was we spent 3 out of the 4 hours of the tour in my neighborhood!! This ultimately solidified the fact that the 4th arrondissement is the coolest, hippest, and trendiest part of Paris (minus Montmartre of course!)… Cool right?!! I just loved seeing Kate, Dinah, Sarah and Tristan take in all the sights, while “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” over the mushy details that were being fed to us on a silver platter. The weather despite being cool, was also dry and perfect for the bike tour.

The best moment of my day came when I saw French Parenting 101: Boy kicks pigeon, Mom kicks boy. The end. I shot a glance towards my group, HOPING, PRAYING, and WILLING that someone else just witnessed what I did. I caught Kate’s eye and we both immediately blurted out “DID YOU JUST SEE THAT?!” We burst into hysterical laughter. Those 3 seconds of Parisian action were priceless. PRICELESS. (Okay on a side note, I do not condone the kicking of children, but this mother gave a gentle nudge as if to say “hey, if you don’t like being kicked in the rear end, neither does that poor innocent bird!”).

This evening we headed to Laduree on the Champs Elysees for some much anticipated macaroons! Poor Sarah had been dying to try one of these delectable little gems, but I made her wait until tonight to sample the best macaroons in all of Paris. AND it was well worth the wait I tell you! My only other experience with a macaroon prior to this occasion, was at a McDonalds (I know, gross right?) in Paris last year, which I nibbled in disgust. It was HORRENDOUS. I swore up and down that I would NEVER try one of those pastel colored pastries ever again. But tonight was utterly fabulous. Those macaroons eloquently sang their song, amidst our warm tea, hot chocolate, and cappuccino.

With our sweet tooth at bay, we headed towards St. Michel for pasta and parmesan cheese. We then hobbled our way out of the restaurant fully satisfied with overstuffed bellies. As I gave Sarah and Tristan their final Paris hug goodbye, I pondered the inevitable end to my own trip. Still weeks away, I already feel a pang of sadness knowing I will have to one day leave this place. Hopefully a weekend in Provence will help to slow things down a bit…we shall see.

Moi avec mon velo.

The brown house in the middle is the oldest home left standing in Paris.

Maison de Victor Hugo. Where he wrote much of Les Miserables.

Canal St-Martin.

View of Il Saint-Louis from the left bank.

Cobblestone.

Lunch from a street vendor who was not too thrilled about me snapping this shot.

Forums des Halles.

Musee National d’Art Moderne in Centre Pompidou. All of the uncessary stuff like stairs and plumbing are on the outside of the building to make more room for art of course!

Sarah and her much anticipated macaroons.

Cupcake perfection at Laduree’s.

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Paris. Day 18. 19.

On Day 18 Mother Nature had her way with us. It was bitter cold. Then it rained. Then the wind came out to play. Then the clouds split apart. And the sun peeked through. But only for a moment. Then the sun was gone. Then it got colder. MUCH colder. Then in a flash: lightening. And thunder. A rolling thunder so loud it reminded me of those spring afternoons back home in Colorado (oh how I miss thunder!). And then RAIN. Not little sweet Cupcake Royal sprinkles. But cats and dogs rain. Rain that fell harder than I had seen. Maybe ever. We were drenched. Soaked through. And it was…tres bien!!

When weather waxes and wanes like this during times of travel, it makes it VERY difficult to set the day’s agenda. We didn’t know whether to spend the day getting lost in a museum, or shopping the current fashions, or sitting at a local cafe sipping hot chocolate and lattes. Despite it being an “indoor” sort of day, we grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed off to a local market in Republique called Marche au Enfants Rouges.

Unfortunately, due to the “winter-ish” weather conditions, many of the vendors were closing early. BUT we still got a chance to take in the smells of fresh cooked European fare (definitely one of the most aromatic markets I have EVER been too!), and absorb the bright vibrant colors of the fresh produce, expertly cut florals, and incredibly delicate cream and chocolate filled pastries. After exiting the market, we continued to explore Republique by window shopping, scanning stands and stands of postcards, and whimpering about the cold. Okay, so it was Sarah and I doing most of the whimpering, but Tristan did mention more than once that “a scarf might be kind of nice.” Cleary the man was cold.

As we rounded a corner, I jumped up and down and squealed with excitement, as I gazed at my very first pumpkins of the fall season. I had no idea how attached I was to American traditions, quite particularly those oh so cozy fall traditions. Those curry colored pumpkins quite literally made my day! I jokingly requested that Tristan carry one away for me and haul it around for the rest of day (the little secret was I was NOT joking – I wanted, no I NEEDED one of those pumpkins), but my begging and pleading failed miserably. I made a mental note of where the pumpkins were located, with plans to return later in the week. One of those little beauties WILL find its way to my dining table. That I promise you.

After Republique, I directed us towards the area of Belleville to catch a glimpse of Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise (cimetiere = cemetery). Now, I am well aware that a cemetery doesn’t sound like the most appealing or expected sightseeing experience, but this was something different. As we wandered through the winding cobblestone streets, and climbed the uneven stone steps, up and up and up, we were in total awe. I imagined myself as a character in David Bowe’s 1980’s The Labyrinth, as I snapped photos of moss-covered headstones and brushed my fingers across meticulously chiseled stone walls. It was as if we were stuck in a storybook maze in the quest for something fantastic. In this case it was Jim Morrison, not a baby brother (you’d have to see the movie), but it was a quest nonetheless : )

The pictures of this majestic place really speak for themselves. Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise is dark, but perfectly iridescent; eery, but also incredibly warm and comforting; it’s full of the cracks and whittled stone, but also speckled with buds of new life and greenery. It was one of those places that you just feel honored to be given the opportunity to witness.

After hours of wandering Pere Lachaise, we stopped into a fantastically welcoming cafe to thaw out and drink yummy chocolate chauds. After warming our hands AND bellies, we headed back toward Le Marais and shopped for the rest of the afternoon. We picked up souvenirs and warm weather accessories, sprinted home in the rain and then tucked in for the night.

Bottles and bottles of vino at the market.

S & T outside Marche des Enfants Rouges.

One of the many beautiful buildings in the area of Republique.

Aren’t those the most fabulous pumpkins you’ve ever seen!?!

Quintessential Paris.

Le Metro.

Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise.

A prime example of the vibrancy of the colors…these on a rusted door.

After hours and hours of searching we found his resting place. And so did 50 of the other peeps crowded around.

My symbol for warmth!

Today, on day 19 the rain came down again, but this time during our visit to the area of Montmartre.

I LOVE Montmartre. I love the dangerously uneven cobblestone paths that you can wander over aimlessly for hours and hours. I love the “I now know I’m REALLY out of shape” staircases that look as though they are leading you straight to those perfectly puffy clouds high in the sky. I love the graffiti soaked walls, that almost seem to be a distinct and purposeful aspect of the buildings, roofs, and chimneys. I love that some of my most favorite artists (Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, and Picasso) lived in Montmartre while they created some of their most famous masterpieces. I love the bountiful supply of cafes, patisseries, and boulangeries. I love Place du Tertre where local artists put their pencils to paper and create superlative portraits of any tourist willing to pay the price. I love Basilique du Sacre-Couer and its distinctive bell that makes the ground shake below you as it swings back and forth to celebrate the hour. I love how the Red Light District makes you cringe, but also secretly wish that you were brave enough to explore Musee de l’Erotisme. I love the grandness of Moulin Rouge’s red windmill as it sits in an advantageous position above decades of cabaret history. I simply LOVE Montmarte.

Despite being in one of my most favorite areas of Paris today, I did miss something. Boy, oh boy, did I miss my husband today. I don’t know if it was seeing the incredibly beautiful picturesque streets of Montmartre again which we once strolled during our honeymoon, or the drops of rain that reminded me of home in Seattle, or the creepy French guy who aggressively hit on me while I was waiting for Sarah and Tristan to be done viewing the dome in the Sacre-Coeur. Whatever it was I was, I was reminded of him today. Constantly. I miss his voice, his warmth (it would have been so nice to stick my freezing, ice cold hands on his bare back today), his smile, his laugh, and most of all his love. Not having Adam by my side has definitely been the most challenging aspect of this trip. I wish everyday that I’m here that he could have come along on this journey with me, but I know that my time alone and away, will make our marriage that much stronger in the years to come. I miss you Adam.

The most famous cabaret of all.

Chomping down on the largest slice of cheesecake I’ve ever seen!

Montmartre. Mont means “hill”.

A wall of “love” in a random garden.

The most fantastic vintage vest I have EVER seen hanging in a boutique window. The building behind is reflecting off the glass. Gorgeous!

The overcast skies with little sunbreaks made for the most unbelievable lighting.

One of the many artists hard at work in Place du Tertre underneath the monstrous Sacre-Coeur.

The Basilique du Sacre-Coeur.

The view of Paris down below, as we waited out the rain under the trees.

My favorite shot of the day. There was this BEAUTIFUL amber colored building off to the right of the Sacre-Coeur. I just couldn’t stop looking in its direction.

A view of the basilica from the gardens down below.

French shutters. One of the most splendid things ever created.

Heading out of Montmartre.

After days and days of staring at this magical carousel strategically placed in the square in front of Hotel De Ville near my apartment, I just had to share a couple pics…isn’t it fantastic!?!

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Paris. Day 15. 16. 17.

First and foremost I thought I should take a moment to address the concerns I’ve received from family and friends related to the protests and demonstrations happening all throughout France. I have not purposely omitted details of the protests from my blog. It has just, well…not really been something to “write” home about.

Yes, there are protests, and from what I read on the internet, escalated riots have taken place in some cities throughout the region. I will admit that I did walk right through the middle of a protest down the street earlier this week, but I barely even noticed…really! If it wasn’t for a few police officers and some frustrated drivers, I would not have known anything was even happening. The protest was actually a bunch of high school aged kiddos chanting, holding signs, and blocking rush hour traffic for about 5 mins. That was it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Despite continued news reports in the U.S., I still see bright-eyed, bushy-tailed tourists capturing photo memories to add to their scrapbooks back home, and Parisians spending lazy afternoons at the local café, sipping teeny espresso’s, and smoking like chimneys. I have yet to see “alarm” on any of the faces around me. It appears that things such as this are, well, normal.

Please know that if I ever, even for a moment, felt threatened or concerned for my safety I would be on the first flight home. I would also be dragging whomever was here visiting me at the moment right along with me. Call me crazy but I’m actually thrilled to be here during a time when Parisians are passionately standing up for what they believe in against their government. I feel that things like this only help to enrich my own personal experience: I am seeing what living/being/breathing in France is REALLY all about.

P.S. Sarah wanted me to mention that the most upsetting thing out here thus far, is that her hair straightener is not working…

Okay, now for the good stuff!

Sarah and Tristan are here! Yipee! Despite carrying a hefty load of suitcases, they found their way to me with minimal difficulty. After much encouragement from me to “take a nap” or “rest for a bit,” I was denied. We quickly headed out the door to do a bit of exploring before nightfall. I showed them around my neighborhood, pointing up and down, left and right, as I excitedly overloaded their brains with tidbits about Paris. I was immediately impressed with Tristan’s eagerness to learn about the culture, and his continued attempts to speak French to the locals. I was equally impressed by Sarah’s unwavering efforts to snap photos of EVERYTHING from trash cans, to pigeons, to the Nutella bottle at the local creperie.

Regardless of being quite cold, we walked along the Seine, gazed up at Notre Dame,  peeked around the Latin Quarter, and ate a yummy meal in St. Michele. During dinner, Sarah and I shared a ½ litre of wine, while we all chatted about Sarah and Tristan’s recent honeymoon, the current status of friends and family, and what was to come in the future. It was nice to have family around after being alone for 2 weeks, and such an honor for me to see Paris through the eyes of newcomers.

Can you find Sarah and Tristan in the crowd?

The amazingly gorgeous insides of Notre Dame.

Sister love in Paris.

Sarah and Tristan ordering their very first crepe!

Out on the town.

Sarah’s 1st experience with French pastries. Yum. Yum. And Yum.

After only 12 hours of sleep (wink, wink!), we traveled by metro the next morning to the Arc De Triomphe and the Champs Elysees. We laughed at the cars going round and round the Arc and all stood in awe as each car nearly missed the other.

We trotted along the Champs Elysees gazing at all of the store fronts and fancy cars. Eager to see the insides of the massive Louis Vuitton store on the Champs, we stood in line (yes, you heard me correctly – we stood in line for what had to have been 30+ minutes). Despite my lack of patience, and utter shock around the store’s admittance procedures, it ended up being well worth our wait. This was not a store, but more like an actual museum in and of itself. There were ancient trunks, books and books of fashion history, and the most immaculate, stunningly gorgeous fashions, shoes, watches, wallets, bags and belts. It was quite a sight to see.

We continued our way down the Champs Elysees in the afternoon sunlight, stopping in Maison du Chocolate (a chocolate lovers must according to all the guide books) for a sweet treat. Sarah and I gushed over our pick: a white chocolate ganache and coconut filled dark chocolate triangle of yumminess…imagine it as the most super swanky Almond Joy you’ve ever had…pure heaven. We swore up and down that we would most definitely be coming back for more…

Our fashion quest was completed with one final stop in Chanel, where I drooled over all the CC logo necklaces, and Tristan sampled the latest men’s fragrances. We ended up giving Tristan a hard time over his choice of cologne, as we gagged on it for the rest of the afternoon.

We eventually made our way to the Eiffel Tower where we snapped shots of each other and pinched ourselves for being in the presence of such a magnificent monument (I don’t think I’ll ever get over the surreal feeling of seeing that dang thing)! We then meandered our way back to the apartment, ending the evening with dinner at home complete with a French baguette (of course) and wine (a no brainer), a quick trip out for gelato, and a movie before bed.

***I should mention as well, that on this particular day I had what I would call a “cliffhanger moment” on the metro on our way home. I courageously reached out to grab a woman who had lost her balance and was about to topple over the poor man standing behind her. Sarah and Tristan attempted to convince me that my feat was “nothing special,” but only I saw the fear in her eyes and knew that my efforts were quite impressive and worth noting ; )

A morning breakfast of French yummies aka SUGAR.

Blogging.

One of the many near misses.

Gorg.

Paris beauty.

Waiting in line for Louis. Tristan looks “oh so thrilled” doesn’t he?

This one speaks for itself.

Today, I sent Sarah and Tristan off alone to visit museums and shop, while I stayed back at the apartment to job search, blog, and ponder the future. Have I mentioned yet that there is a WHOLE channel here all about fashion?! And it’s in ENGLISH! It’s so great to peek over at the runway shows while I reflect on my time here and sit in the calm, and quite of my apartment. This very modest little thing I am calling my “home away from home” is one of the greatest blessings of this trip. My little kitchen, my shower with hot water, and the big beautiful windows that span across the entire west wall make me just simply smile. I love Paris.

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Paris. Day 13. 14.

Day 13 has been different than all the rest. Today I felt nothing like a tourist. With my typical morning run to the Louvre (yeah I know, don’t you feel sorry for me?), yoga stretches in Jardin des Tuileries, a croissant on the way home, a trip to the post office, a dry cleaning drop off, a sweep of the apartment in anticipation of visitors, fresh cut flowers in vases around my Parisian apartment, another afternoon of coffee & reading, and a bit of grocery shopping, I felt like, well: a local. And it felt GOOOOD.

Every day that I’m here I feel more familiar and accustomed to my surroundings and what perfect timing it is! On Wednesday my sister Sarah and brother-in-law Tristan will be here to visit Paris for the first time and I can’t wait for their arrival! I have already pinpointed and mapped out all the places I must show them. Hopefully the weather cooperates, and they head home with suitcases full of fond memories and a new found love for Paris.

Today, Day 14 I have put quite a bit of consideration into the fact that I am morphing into a full fledged carbohydrate. I’m not sure what form I’m taking yet (a croissant or crepe) but I’ll keep ya’ll posted. This all became quite clear this morning on my typical boulangerie (bakery) run. I went into complete and utter panic when the boulangerie I usually frequent was closed. “Oh know!” I thought. “Where am I gonna get my fix now?!” Frantic, and drenched by the torrential downpour, I was able to sniff out another location, and within 10 minutes I was happily back in my apartment drowning my buttery deliciousness with strawberry jam, cheese and turkey slices (yeah weird right?? It’s my new thing). Crisis averted!

The rest of my day was spent sleeping, window shopping, and day dreaming (yes, it was a VERY tough day). After a much needed inspirational talk from my dear friend Emma last night, I began an official “to do” list for my possible future business venture. Not brave enough to consider myself a full fledged entrepreneur yet, I will keep the details on the down low, but will mention that I’m most certainly anticipating, and considering , BIG life changes & career direction when I return home in a few weeks. I can feel it all bubbling inside me…eeeeeeeee! – That’s the sound I make when I’m excited, contemplative, anxious, and exhilarated all at once.

In the meantime, Bienvenue à Paris Sarah and Tristan!! I can’t wait to greet you with a big, warm hug when you arrive tomorrow morning!

The Louvre in all its glory.

It was a picture perfect fall day.

Views like these make it just a tad easier to get up for that run in the morning : )

Smaller than the more famous Arc De Triomphe, this Arc De Triomphe du Carrousel is absolutely stunning with its ornate pink pillars and soliders. It stands in front of the Jardin des Tuileries across from the Louvre.

Jardin des Tuileries. Can you seek the Arc in the distance? So beautiful!

One of the many sculptures in the gardens. This one had a little bird perched on top.

A perfectly serene moment. Basking in the sun and taking in the garden views.

Who could resist fall, when it can look like this?!

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Paris. Day 10. 11. 12.

I will always remember Day 10. Day 10 was the day I began talking to myself. While aimlessly wandering the streets of Ile St-Louis I noticed that I was literally conversing with myself…out loud! The loneliness that I had felt creeping in over the past couple of days was officially full blown, and I was coping with it by engaging in conversation with none other than: moi. Embarrassed to admit it, the “feel sorry for yourself” kind of whimper that you get after being alone for a while was the exact feeling I was beginning to have.  The only thing keeping this impending loneliness at bay, was my self imposed conversation, and the scrumptious caramel ice cream I had just retrieved from a local vendor (Ile (island) St-Louis is synonymous with Berthillon ice cream seen as only the best ice cream by Parisians and tourists alike).

After taking a few licks of my yummy treat, I proceeded to spill it down the front of my new coat and all over my camera.  In immediate response to the spill, I heard myself saying aloud “Oops. Oh Jenn. How did you get so clumsy?” This was then followed by a giggle and an expression of pure shock as I replied to myself “Oh my lord, are you actually talking to yourself?” then the response, “Oui, you are talking to yourself.” Yikes.

I pressed on, window shopping along the narrow streets of the island and continuing in my conversation. I came across the most amazing biscuit store that gave me one of those “déjà vu” sorts of feelings… I had smelt this smell before. It was a mix of Christmas treats, a winter blizzard in Colorado, family, and a warm supper all mixed in one…it was splendid, and the warm smell brought the biggest smile to my face…not so lonely anymore I might add : )

After my ice cream relief, I spent the rest of my afternoon walking all over town looking for a bookstore called Shakespeare and Co. that Adam and I had had trouble finding during our last visit to Paris. Desperate, and quite determined to find the bookstore this time around, I walked for over an hour round and round the streets of the Latin Quarter and St-Germain Des Pres. As my frustration grew, and my tummy began to grumble, I also began to feel that all too familiar feeling of: sickness…yuck!

One thing I have noticed most while being in Paris is that EVERYONE appears to have a nasty cold. Runny noses, coughing without mouths covered (a nurse’s biggest pet peeve), flushed faces, and sneezes are all too prevalent everywhere I look. As I felt my body begin to ache, a nagging headache coming on, and my nose starting to run, I rushed into a little café across from Notre Dame and ordered French onion soup and a bowl of frites as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the soup and potatoes did little to relieve my feeling of malaise, so I headed home for the day to tuck myself into bed.

Hotel De Ville. A 2 block walk from my apartment.

My caramel ice cream cone with Ile St-Louis in the background on the left.

The incredibly yummy smelling biscuit place.

J’adore Dior : )

Cafe De Flore…an insanely pricey cafe in St-Germain des Pres.

Shakespeare and Co. I finally found it! It had been right where I had started looking for it hours earlier..it was hidden behind these massive bushes…damn bushes!

Livres.

There were French and English books crammed in every nook and cranny.

My afternoon dose of soup d’ oignon and frites.

I woke 13 hours later feeling anything but cheery and energized.  I spent my morning blowing my nose and crying to my husband about how I felt tired, sick, and worrisome about what would face me when I returned home: no job, no clue of what to do next, and a nagging fear that my bank account was quickly slipping between my fingers.  In typical Adam fashion, I was listened to, given puppy dog eyes, a sympathetic expression, and reminded that Paris was “not a time to worry about the future,” but instead a time to enjoy the present and RELAX. Duh! What the heck was my problem?! Realizing that I was being absolutely absurd, I pulled myself together and once again hit the blustery streets of Paris (by the way have I mentioned that it is incredibly chilly here!!!)

With the goal to explore a real Parisian market, I hopped on the metro and took a 25 minute ride to Porte de Clignancourt. My guide book, as well as a quick Google search made me aware that Marche (Market) aux Puces de St-Ouen was the largest flea market in all of Europe, and I couldn’t wait to see it for myself! Unfortunately as the train got closer and closer to my destination, I became more and more aware that this was NOT the sort of excursion ideal for a woman traveling alone. All of the little hairs on my arms began to rise and every cell in my body came to attention. Crowds of people lingered around me, pushing and shoving aggressively as I moved out to the street.  I walked briskly gripping my bags against my body as I was bombarded by men frantically selling everything from rip off Louis Vuitton to corn on the cob on hot coals in shopping carts.

I could hear every voice of my loved ones screaming at me to “Go back! Go back!” As I felt the first drop of rain hit my nose, I turned on my heels and immediately (and quite quickly) scurried right back to where I came from. On my ride back towards my apartment in Le Marais, I had a mix of feelings; mostly disappointment AND relief. I was disappointed that I wasn’t brave enough to face the market alone, but also proud of myself for listening to my instincts and turning around. I am well aware that there are areas of Paris that aren’t “safe” and I am not naive enough to think that I should wander ALL over the outskirts of Paris alone. Feeling a bit chewed up and spit out by Paris that day, I headed for more ice cream realizing how much better it had made me feel the day prior.

Despite some incredibly frustrating moments in Paris: getting lost searching for suggested sights from my guidebook, spending 4 euros on a crepe that was un-edible, being unable to rent a bike with my metro pass despite being told I could do so, not knowing how to turn on the heat in my apartment, and being ridiculed for my poor pronunciation, there have also been many, many moments that remind me of why I came here in the first place and moments that have made me fall even more in love with Paris. Like the man playing his accordion as I crossed one of my favorite bridges over the Seine, or the humongous St. Bernard who peed all over a moped today and reminded of my doggie at home, or the smell of fresh baguettes as their removed from the oven and placed in their crisp bags, or the shades of grays, blacks, and navy’s that are skillfully worn by the beautiful Parisian men and women scattered all over this city.

On one of my walks this weekend, I fell upon a paper store called: Papier +. Papier + is this simple, stunningly gorgeous little boutique filled with the most exquisite paper you have ever seen. They had brightly colored, perfectly bound journals in all shapes and sizes, stacks of envelopes, and endless containers of think round colored pencils, all of which ignited those creative juices inside me that I lust for day in and day out. I ran my hands over the delicate paper and imagined what it might be like to one day own my own little paper boutique, or run my own wedding planning business. I left the store on a high, excited to continue on my quest towards a new future.   

The window display of Papier +. I knew it was a match made in heaven when I saw the navy and yellow!

Ahhhhhh…..

They had these adorable fat, round colored pencils…I would have died to have every color.

Just brilliance.

Today, Sunday, determined to relax and enjoy some of the many books I lugged out here, I spent about an hour or so at the local market in Bastille and then made plans to sit at a café to read for a few hours. Marche Bastille was FAR cry from the market the day before, this one being more like the cute and quaint ones back home in Seattle. There was fresh produce, meats of all sorts, scrumptious cheeses, and a crowd far less displeasing than the last. Since my hands quickly turned to ice cubes from the cold, windy weather, I stayed only long enough to snap a few photos, buy some bananas and catch a glimpse of Place de la Bastille.

I spent the next 4 hours of my Sunday in some amazingly warm café called…………Starbucks. Okay, so I finally caved. I’d spent the last 12 days avoiding Starbucks like the plague downright determined to avoid anything “American,” but I just couldn’t take it anymore. Knowing I could get a venti decaf mocha for the same price of a teeny tiny little café au lait at a French café across the street became all too enticing; I was also eager for the taste of Seattle. It doesn’t help that the Starbucks is 3 doors away from my apartment and was bustling with French conversation AND was SUPER warm too!!! I ordered my mocha, nestled into a big comfy chair, propped my feet up and read for the next 4 hours straight (definitely not something allowed in a café, where sitting on a single cup of coffee for more than an hour is seen as excessive without ordering more). It was the best 4 hours of my trip thus far…no joke. I took momentary pauses to peek outside and see the gorgeous Parisians pass and once again said a special thank you to all of the things that got me to this place. A place where I could read a book all about entrepreneurship, sip on a warm cup of joe and dream big…real big.

Place de la Bastille.

Marche Bastille.

Yummy!!! Cheese!!!

The French don’t mess around.

Poisson.

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Paris. Day 7. 8. 9.

For a girl who tends to use the word “stress” in every other sentence, has been described as a “worrywart” not only by her mother, but by herself & many others, quadruple checks the front door to make sure it’s locked before bed, believes that both of her last names (Elliott and Blake) are cursed with bad luck including undue physical harm, and has little faith in something actually happening that is supposed to happen, I cannot understand where this sudden surge of optimism, tranquility, slow and steady breathing, and down right cheer is coming from. There is only one answer: Paris. 

It has been 1 year, 1 month, 6 days, 3 hours, 26 minutes, and 5 seconds since the last time I was in Paris, and every second of that time has been a second too long. I remember being so devastated when poor Adam accidentally got us stuck at a hotel near Charles De Gaulle airport (remember that bad luck thing I was mentioning?) on the last night of our honeymoon (a night that was supposed to be spent in Paris) and wondering if I would ever make it back to the city I had fallen so in love with…the City of Lights.

Well, never in my “right” mind did I EVER think that I would be here now, this soon. No way did I think that I would actually do something like this…well, for myself. After days, really months of soul-searching, aggressive resistance to a mind that most often takes a realistic approach to life, MANY coaching sessions from dear friends and colleagues (Apple, Barb, Emma – you guys deserve a trophy the size of Texas for the amount of hours you invested in this decision), and the tears with my husband and my family, I made the decision to come back to Paris.

Now, one might be thinking: “Why would this decision be so hard? Just do it.” Hmph – not so easy for a gal like me. You see, that’s not how this mind works. From my earliest memories my mind functions in the most peculiar and downright frustrating ways. A thought such as “I should drop my entire life, take every dime I have saved (including my nest egg for a down payment on a house) and up and go to Europe for 6+ weeks” is hastily gobbled up by: “Don’t be insane girl! A decision like that is SO selfish! Something like that is just not in YOUR stars. You are married. You have bills – BIG nasty school loan bills. You have a career that needs to, NO must be continued”….the list goes on and on…

For me this is all quite unsettling…living with a mind that is always doubting, always challenging, always questioning itself…it’s downright EXHAUSTING. At the same time, I pride myself in knowing there is something else that I have: insight. There is not a single day that goes by that I do not internally face who I am and what I am. I cry when I want to cry, I laugh (really loudly) when I want to laugh, and I stomp my feet in desperation when I want to – these things, although not the most attractive aspects of who I am, are things I’m proud to know that I can turn off and on when I feel like it. This insight is what made it so challenging to get to Paris, BUT I am aware that this insight is why I am here…I knew in my heart and my gut, that if I did NOT do this for myself, I would NEVER forgive myself.

So long story short. Here I am. In Paris. And every pang of doubt and agony that I rode on to get here was damn well worth it. I have a love for this city that makes me ache inside. The smells, the sights, the sounds, the lights, the way the city morphs into something completely different as the moon rises…it’s all spectacular…all of it. Paris is the love of my life – second to my husband and B-Bug of course : )

Everywhere I look I am in awe of the beauty of this city. Every crevice, every stone, every speck of water on the Seine, every turn of the light atop the Tour Eiffel makes me giggle with glee from the inside out.

I arrived in Paris without a hiccup, not one. I left London quite nervous about whether I would actually make it into the heart of Paris due to a “rolling transportation strike” that had begun the evening before my arrival. I was warned on the Eurostar train, that I may not be able to use the RER/Metro trains at all, and should plan to find another form of transportation. Attempting to be hopeful, I didn’t let the announcement rattle my nerves, but instead insisted on waiting until I arrived to see for myself…wow that doesn’t sound like me at all!

After disembarking from the Eurostar, I hauled my bags down to the metro entrance and waited for my turn to buy a ticket. There wasn’t a person in the area that didn’t have the same dreaded look upon their face wondering the same thing as I – “What in the heck am I gonna do if this train isn’t going? I can’t even speak French.”

Lucky enough I was able to purchase a metro ticket with my broken French, and then cautiously head for the B train. Yep, no B train to be had, but the D train came rolling in after only a few minutes wait, and I was sent on my way towards Le Marais.

Stepping out of the metro for the first time gave me a rush like never before. Every cell in my body happily danced to the magnetism of the city and I sighed the biggest sigh imaginable. I was here! In Paris! Now, if I can just find the apartment services…ah! A map! A glance at the map, a right turn, then a left, then another right and voila! Found it no problem! Not one wrong turn!

An hour or so later I was in my apartment and settling in. The apartment looks just as it did in all of the pictures (phew!) and is actually quite larger than I expected. The pesky bank drafts that I spent 10 days retrieving at home were gladly accepted from the apartment service and their offer to provide additional towels and linens upon my request was such a relief.

As I searched through the apartment I realized that this was as close as it gets to really living in Paris. No toilet paper, no paper towels, no travel size shampoo or body wash…nada. Knowing I needed to make a b-line for the supermarket, I allowed myself to do only one thing next. I ran, no I actually sprinted towards the Seine River to capture that first glimpse…and ha! There it was! The Eiffel Tower! I stood there as the world swirled around me and took it in. I cried, I laughed, I jumped up and down! I fist pumped the air! I did everything in my power to tell everyone in the world that I made it!

After pinching myself only a half dozen times, I turned back towards Notre Dame, and headed to a little creperie that Adam and I frequented during our stay last year. Funny enough, I had my first REAL interaction with a Parisian. As I excitedly requested: “Je voudrais une crepe avec chocolate et des frites” the crepe guy abruptly (and not so sweetly) corrected my pronunciation of french fries on the spot: “No. When you are in Paris you say “free-t” not “free-tzzz” Do you understand?” Ah….Paris. How I love you so.

I ended my afternoon with a trip to the supermarche. I spent what had to have been 2 hours scanning the aisles, comparing this product to that product, turning things upside down and backwards, opening and closing my french dictionary…it was pure bliss. After grabbing 40 Euros of supplies and treats to stock my little fridge, I was again ill received by the woman at the checkout stand (clearly coming to France during low season and not being fluent in French is bad taste….oops.) Refusing to allow ANYONE to damper my trip, I skipped back to the apartment, dropped off my goodies, and headed out for dinner in the Latin Quarter.

My second day in Paris was enchanting. Camera in hand, I snapped shots of the areas surrounding Notre Dame (which is literally a 2/12 minute walk from my apartment!), the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc De Triomphe. Unfortunately the metro lines were down here and there, so attempting to navigate my way through the city was quite an interesting feat.

I dined on French onion soup and a cafe au lait, I sat beneath the Eiffel Tower and let the sunshine warm my face, I walked the bridges across the Seine many times over, I looked for ankle boots and a new coat (it’s quite chilly here) in St. Michele, I stopped at a boulangerie/patisserie for a chocolate crepe and a french baguette for dinner, and I finished the day with a large glass of wine and homemade pasta. The day was simply magnificent.

Day 3 in Paris = le jour de repos (the day of rest). After a solid week of non-stop sight-seeing, I am using today as a “recharge my batteries” type of day. I was lucky enough to spend an hour on Skype with my husband this morning (isn’t Skype amazing?!) and have plans to take a book to the cafe across the street and read for the rest of the afternoon. That is it.

Tomorrow I’m back to sight-seeing, this time by le velo (bike) as the weather permits…jusque la…

A few moments walk from my apartment: Notre Dame.

Another view of beautiful Notre Dame.

Locks of love above the Seine.

Vendors along the river.

The streets of St. Michele. A great place to grab a bite to eat, although I’m told it is the most tourist filled area in Paris…I would agree.

A fantastic paper store I found near the apartment…except its wholesale. They only allow local business owners into the shop : ( Fun to glue my face to the window though.

Can you see it???

There it is!!!

La Tour Eiffel.

The sun peeking through.

A quite cafe in the afternoon.

The Arc De Triomphe.

One of the many boutiques along the Champs Elysees…oh Yves Saint Laurent…maybe someday.

The sun, The Seine, and the Tower. If you look closely there is a reflection off my camera in a red, white and red stripe…almost looks like the French flag…crazy right?! 

Sunset.

Night fall is the best time in Paris. Just look at the moon!

The glowing Seine River.

The view on my walk back at night.

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London. Day 5. 6.

Jet lag sure hit me hard this trip…yowza! I decided to sleep in on Day 5 to attempt to get myself back on track before heading to Paris, and boy did I seem to need it! I slept til’ about 1pm and then decided to set only 2 things on my agenda for the day instead of my normal 12.

After lazily taking a shower I hopped on the tube towards Wimbledon. Yep! Wimbledon! Ever since I was little, one of my favorite things to do with my Dad is watch tennis – especially the Wimbledon Championships. I remember the days of McEnroe, Sampras, Graf, and Agassi (my all time favs) and enjoy watching tennis to this day…although I can’t stand Federer…blah! Unfortunately, I now seem to just scream and shout during a match – ask my husband who has already banned me from our future children’s sporting events… 

I lucked out with an incredibly beautiful day to explore the area of Wimbledon, although all of my days here in London have been fantastic as far as weather goes. Lee, Ben, and John all agreed the other morning at breakfast that “young people” my age “don’t even know Fahrenheit anymore”…so I figured I would follow suit, and announce that it has been a gorgeous 20-22 degrees Celsius for the majority of my days here, and I couldn’t be happier!

Reflecting back on my afternoon in Wimbledon I had SUCH a great time. The area itself is especially cute and quite, and the 2 mile walk to the Wimbledon Tennis Museum and Centre Court was just perfect. The leaves were falling, the sun was shining (even to the point that I had to remove all of my usual layers…ahhh), and the history that resonated in the area gave me the goosies. I’m not the biggest art buff, so this sports museum was just up my ally…I ate it up. What I found to be most fascinating was that I literally felt like my Pop was along for the entire ride…I can’t wait to get home and show you pics Dad!

I left Wimbledon feeling refreshed and ready to conquer London. I dropped off into Hyde Park to finish the afternoon with a little stroll and I was so glad I did. Watching all the adorable ducks and swans in the Serpentine against the orange and pink sunset was so refreshing. Not being sure where to head for dinner, I decided to ask a local street vendor while purchasing some postcards. I had read in one of the London morning papers that fish and chips were “out” as the national food and curry was “in”. Yeah, curry! I was sent in the direction of Bayswater and told that there was a fantastic Indian Restaurant with “the best curry in town.”

OMG. Yes, yes this WAS the BEST CURRY EVER! Although the service was awful (I was warned), the food was indescribable; it was just magnificent. I ate what had to be 3 servings or more of the scrumptious garlic nan, vegetable curry and pulao rice….YUMMY! YUMMY! YUMMY! The frightening walk back to the tube alone in the dark was totally worth it (sorry Adam and Lars – I survived it though)!

Decades of tennis balls.

Boo. Hiss.

It was so neat to see the brackets up from this summer’s championship.

My reflection off the glass as I snapped a shot of the seats around Centre Court at Wimbledon.

The Serpentine River at sunset.

The Rose Garden in Hyde Park.

Hyde Park.

I woke up the next day and my first thought (no joke) was “I want MORE curry!” Dang, it was just that good. Instead of investing more time in Indian delicacies, I set out for one last day of sightseeing. I began the day with a trip to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. It was quite bizarre knowing that many of the famous royal beheadings happened behind those walls, including Henry VIII’s two wives…yick. The Tower Bridge was quite astonishing, and seemed just massive against the River Thames floating underneath.

I followed my Tower excursion with a visit to Soho, Trafalgar Square and The National Gallery. I loved all the hustle and bustle of Soho, and Trafalgar Square was just littered with locals and tourists alike, all munching on their lunches and feeding the pigeons. It was beautiful to see Big Ben in the distance, and I couldn’t help but pop a squat and take in all that the square had to offer. I also decided to venture into the National Gallery directly behind me (a free, YES FREE!!!! art museum) and was SOOOOOO glad I did. I got to see the works of some of my most favorite artists including Van Gogh (the Sunflowers, and the Chair), Monet (a few of his water lilies), Renoir, and also Degas. With the National Gallery being my only visit to an art museum during my stay in London, I’m convinced that my visit was that much more special and significant.

Not wanting to be late for the theatre. I rushed back to my room and changed into a mini and boots. I ate a scrumptious Italian dinner in Victoria before heading in to Victoria Palace Theatre for the 7:30pm showing of Billy Elliot. I felt incredibly special to get the opportunity to fulfill one of my dreams of seeing a real live play in London, and was over the moon when the show began with a burst of singing, dancing, bright costume and décor.

 The next 3 hours of my life were indescribable. Not knowing what Billy Elliot was about before I went, I was blindsided by the intense amount of emotion I felt during the show. I wept (yes, I cried my eyes out) during the majority of show, realizing that THIS show, yes, THIS show, was exactly what I had been needing. This show was the exact something I needed to inspire me to conquer my fears, and follow my heart and my passions. A twelve year old fictional character named Billy Elliot made me feel like I could “fly” and resist the urge to do “what everyone else is doing” but instead follow a dream, my dream.

The show was undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life. Being alone in a dark, crowded theater, I was able to really let go, and actualize all of my past experiences that brought me to where I am today. I reflected on all of the people, experiences, disappointments, failures, successes, and triumphs that made me who I am today. I imbedded every ounce of inspiration that the show had to offer into my soul, and I was literally rocked to my core. I thanked my lucky stars as I left the theatre and hit the dark streets of London, knowing that whoever, or whatever, sent me in the direction of that play (a play and plot that I knew nothing about prior to viewing it) was pushing me along my path…the path of my heart…

Tomorrow I’m on to Paris where things are sure to become a bit more luxurious, but also a bit more nerve-racking. Despite 6+ years of French language studies, including 2 years in college, I can barely speak a of lick of French – my brain just never seemed to want to learn a second language…go figure. We shall see how this goes! Bonjour Paris! Au revoir London!

P.S. No pics of my night out at the theatre. Left my camera back in my room because I thought I wouldn’t want to fuss with it. So no Billy pics : (

The Tower of London.

St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Trafalgar Square, with Big Ben in the background.

The National Gallery.

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