5 Things I’m Grateful For

Coming back to the routine of reality after a long vacation filled with new and exciting things every day can be difficult. I’m back at work and have already fallen into my old patterns. The last few weeks seem like a wonderful dream I’ve just woken from. I honestly can’t believe I was in Dublin just last week. Since those days are merely a concoction of my subconscious, I decided to put together a list of things inhabiting reality that I’m grateful for:

1. A Reliable Coffee Source (and Reliable WC)

I truly don’t think the caffeine affects me the way it affects other people. I certainly don’t need it to kickstart my day. However, drinking coffee every day has simply become a habit. A habit that was broken on vacation. There was a coffee maker in our apartment in Paris, but actually going to a market for grounds and then making it every morning seemed like a precious waste of time and money. That isn’t to say I never stepped into the nearest cafĂ© and ordered a cup. 🙂

In Dublin, the people we stayed with had one of those French pressers and once again, I was feeding my habit. It was nice. Until about an hour later when we were on a bus out to the countryside and my bladder was yelling at me for that one cup I had. By the time we reached our destination, I would generally be sniffing out the nearest loo.

2. Clean Clothes (I.E. Not Scaring Off Other People By the Mere Smell of Me)

In our Paris flat, we had a washer/dryer combo. Not two machines stacked on top of one another. One machine to wash and dry. I had really never seen such a machine. Do they exist in the States?? No doubt, but they would be more common in larger cities. Regardless, the directions were in French, and as you can imagine, confusion ensued. Caity was at the flat two days before I arrived and she hadn’t figured it out. Surely, if we put our not unintelligent minds together, we could get it working. Not so. We washed a towel three times. On our last day there, we (sort of) had it figured out, but it was too late to actually wash clothes. This hurt Caity more than I; I had only been there for a few days while Caity’s been abroad for months. Who knows what the washing situation was like in Morocco.

Regardless, I wasn’t as keen on the washing yet and by the time I was, I was due on an airplane home. By the time we reached Dublin, I had begun to recycle shirts. This was after I had already started recycling socks. I think that was the worst. Trying to stuff my feet in stinky old socks that had seen a lot of walking the last few days was pretty gross. Thank God I had plenty of underwear. I scooped out every piece of article I owned and stuffed it in my suitcase. I was just fine on that front. Next time, I will bring more socks. They’re gold, and helpful for wrapping small breakable presents in.

3. Comfort Food

This is the text my brother received the minute I landed in the States: “Will you make sure I have spaghetti and Prego???” I am a lady who enjoys her carbs and spaghetti is my favorite meal. I like it pretty plain, too. Just noodles and Prego sauce. Sure, I could have gone to any Italian restaurant overseas and ordered a big dish. However, I am not that boring on vacation! I feel being elsewhere, and especially in Paris, one has to try the typical delicacies of that particular region. So I had cheese. Lots of cheese, and I do not typically do cheese. And Whiskey in Ireland. God, did I try that whiskey… Didn’t finish it, though, but I did try it!

4. The Long Shower

I am someone who enjoys a long shower. I will just stand under the showerhead, not doing anything other than enjoying the heat. I am also someone who is ready to get going first thing in the morning while on vacation. There is so much to see and do and not enough time in the day! Being clean is important, but I cannot enjoy this necessity when it eats into the time I want to spend doing things. Sleep also becomes a hated need. First thing Caity asked me when I arrived in Paris was if I wanted to shower or nap. I responded with a firm, “NEITHER.” We walked instead and went to Notre Dame. By the time I could no longer push through the jet lag (dinner – the wine may have been a mistake… no, that’s crazy), I was starting to smell and I’d been up over thirty hours. I slept pretty well that night.

5. All the People I Left Behind

I am not one for sentimentality or expressing the deeper feelings, but I am grateful to every single person in my life… from my family to my friends to my coworkers, it’ nice to come back to a place where I’m known and missed and appreciated. It was really great to see my family for dinner and story time. I didn’t even resent the baby (much) when she drew attention away from me. 🙂

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General Observations of Paris

 

The Apartment and
General Observation of Paris

Like most European cities, Paris is a hot mess. There does
not appear to be any thought given into the construction of the city, save for
the Arc de Triumph, in which all roads lead. To any American, forget the
familiar grid pattern and alphabetical layout. Paris is a hodgepodge of
glorious chaos. In this, knowing landmarks is an easier way to get around than
following street names. At least it was for me. I always knew the Pantheon and
the Jardin de Luxembourg was home. It can be difficult to find which road you
are on; the names are on the sides of building, if you’re lucky. Roads and
buildings have sprung up next to the oldest parts of the ancient city, breaking
streets off and creating many a narrow alleyway. Fortunately, the Eiffel Tower
is always looming in the sky to mark where east is. By the end of my trip, I
always knew which way the apartment was.

Given European predilection for packing it in, the apartment
I stayed in was about the size of a moderate hotel room. Standing at the
doorway, I could see most of the flat. Immediately upon entering, I turn left
to enter the bedroom, which housed the most comfortable bed I’ve stayed in
while traveling, and a beautiful wardrobe in a small lovely non-working
fireplace. Continuing through the bedroom, I exit another door on the right
into the dining/living room. To the left is a bay window that overlooks the
alleyway and other apartment buildings. There is a round table in the middle of
the room and a sofa pushed against the far wall. With these two items taking up
most of the room, I have to turn sideways into to exit the other door that
leads me back to the entryway in which I started.

To the left is the kitchen. My brother and sister-in-law
would appreciated their small kitchen just a bit better after seeing this one.
The icebox took up half the far wall. Right next to it was the dishwasher
(about half the size of an average American one) with a small microwave perched
on top. The sink took up the corner between the dishwasher and the flat top
stove. Right next to the stove was a washer/dryer combo. Not too separate machines,
but one unit that washes, then dries and something we never did figure out.
Caity absolutely REFUSED to ask our hosts how to work the machine, even when
they emailed asking how everything was going!

Once again, we are back to the door leading the entryway.
Immediately on the right is the bathroom. The shower was fun to operate. There
were three handles and three water jets. One handle turned it on. Another operated
the temperature. The final handle controlled the jets. Turn it one way and
water shot straight down (the one I preferred), another way had water shoot
from three separate jets horizontally (this one scared me; it was very forceful
and quite literally, in your face), and the last way you could turn it pushed
the water towards and hand held controller for those hard to reach areas.
Showering was fun.

Random Observations I had While Walking Everywhere (and We
Did Walk Everywhere):

      
1.
Never not once did I hear a catcall. Yes, we
were mostly around the tourist areas in Paris; the inner circle, if you will.
Yet, even venturing to side streets for some sort of hidden gem, I still heard
nothing from any man. No honking, no whistling, nothing. At home, I cannot read
in the park without getting honked at.

      
2.
I have not seen any man’s boxers since coming to
Paris. I doubt any Frenchman would be caught dead wearing their trousers past
their butts. Everyone dresses to impress in Paris. I appreciate it.

      
3.
The Eiffel Tower is everywhere. It is Big
Brother, always watching. Only it sparkles.

      
4.
I rarely saw a dog on a leash (lead to Europeans).
Not that there weren’t any, but it does not appear to be mandatory.

      
5.
Paris has tons of hidden passages. I could be
walking down any narrow, suffocating street and suddenly come across an area
full of fancy cafes or boutiques. Or bookstores. So many lovely bookstores.

      
6.
As a European city, the streets and sidewalks
are very narrow. It was hard for my Midwestern/Northern American self to handle
being so close to building, cars, and other people while walking. Even in New
York, with as many packed in buildings, the streets are wider.

      
7.
There is a café on every corner.

      
8.
There is a pharmecie on every corner. I loved
the pharmacies. They flashed green all the time with what Americans would call
a typical medical sign (a cross).

      
9.
Every single building is old and beautiful.

  
10.
There are no skyscrapers, except for one small
section on the outskirts of the city. Everything else is virtual the same
height; which explains why you can see the Eifel Tower from pretty much
anywhere.

I head over to Dublin today,
making this our last day in Paris. We spent our last evening at a beautiful
restaurant called Le Petite Cour. Great food, great wine, great service; just
the perfect ending to this week. For this early afternoon before our flight, we
are getting wine and sandwiches and going to have a picnic before the Eiffel
Tower. We will also finally walk through the Luxembourg Gardens. We only ever
walked past it every single day.

There is so much to see and do in
Paris. I have a list with as many thing to do on my return trip (which, as yet,
does not exist) as I do of the things I got to. I feel to accurately do it
justice, I need to wait to blog until I come home. Every night, by the time I
reached home, I was dead exhausted and the most I could do was make some notes
before passing out!

Still to come… The Louvre, The Arc
de Triumph, Versailles, Food, Wine Tasting, Les Catacombs, the Eiffel Tower,
Notre Dame, Saint Chappelle, Conciergie, Palais de Justices….

Disclaimer – I’m actually posting
this from the airport as it was the next availability with the wifi, haha.
Picnic at the Tower was fantastic! I drank wine before noon! Haha, on to
Dublin.

In which I get to Paris and something immediately goes wrong…

My arrival in the City of Lights was without complication, save for one thing. I got through customs just fine and on the train with no fuss. Though, it is daunting to hear a language I don’t speak constantly floating about around me. No, it was not until I left the stop and did not see Caity that I started to feel out of sorts.

The plan was to contact her once I’d gotten on the train from the airport so she knew when to meet me at the train stop. Only, I arrived and my WiFi and International Data package was not working. I was livid. Technology is truly amazing; there are charger stations at airports and I saw tons of people scanning their airplane tickets instead of handing a paper copy to the attendant. Amazing. So when technology doesn’t work, it is a shit storm. I cannot even appreciate that I’m in Paris because I can’t contact the person I’m meeting and my GPS doesn’t work.

But I remain calm. I figure even though Caity does not technically “know” I’m on the way, I know she’s been tracking my plane and will have known when I landed and therefore have deduced when to go meet me. I hop off the train and head up into the city. The Luxembourg Gardens were to my left and Latin Quarter to my right. I walked up and down between the two Luxembourg train exits a couple times, looking for Caity. Didn’t see her. Figured I was SOL with meeting up with her, so I start looking for the apartment.

Lesson 1: Even though technology is great, sometimes it is for shit, so always have backup plans.

Fortunately, I did know the address of the apartment and I do have a physical map to search for said address. Unfortunately, I could not seem to find any street names….. ??? I saw plenty of signs that read “Museum of such and such this way” and “The Louvre this way” and the “The Eiffel Tower is this way” etc etc. Hmmm…. I walked up and down the street for about 20 minutes, judging by the names of the shops, I’m in the right place…. maybe….

So I’m walking and walking, pulling my gigantic suitcase behind me with my map in hand and bewildered expression on my face. Fucking tourists, eh?

Finally, a nice French gentlemen, who speaks not a word of English, ends up helping me out. I point out on the map where I’m trying to go and somehow indicate I know not one street around me. He points up and says, “Regarde! Regarde!”

Lesson 2: Street names are on buildings. I must look up. Interesting.

From there it was easy. I found the apartment building no problem, and snuck into the lobby as someone left. Then, I waited. About 20 minutes after, I hear a jingle at the door and it’s Caity. I yank the door open, scaring the bajeezezs out of her.

“Bonjour!” I say. We laugh, we hug, we exchange a “where the hell you’ve been”, and head up to the apartment to stow my crap so that I may start to enjoy my first night in Paris.

Coming up… The Apartment, Walking in Paris, The Louvre, Notre Dame, the Locks Bridge, CafĂ©s, Wine