Saturday, December 07, 2013

At long last, Paris... of my absolute favorite places on our big old Earth. We've been itching to get there on this European experience, and we finally made it. Twice.

The last time I was there was in 1997 when I was on my 25 days long backpacking Euro-trip.  That time, before I made it to Paris, I spent a week in Nice at a French language home-stay with the Figliuzzi family (including Lulu the Dachshund).  Mrs. Figliuzzi tutored me in French for 3 hours a day, and the rest of the time was mine to kick around the Cote D'Azure.

I hadn't had any formal French in almost 15 years before showing up at her house, and after a dismal 40/100 score on my assessment, she had her work cut out. Still, immersion is the best teacher, and I made enough improvement that I was able to take care of all the essentials (la Biere, la Baguette, le Bathroom) without much problem. I even had a local reply to me in French, so that was money well spent. But I digress...

Last month, we went twice, once on a "date" (having left Isabella with my cousin in Belgium), and again over the Thanksgiving weekend (having the traditional Thanksgiving Pizza) and trying to hit some of the sites found in the Madeline stories that Isabella loves.  We covered a fair bit of the city among the two trips, and even had the chance to link up with Ginny, one of our friends from our days in Japan.

The past 15 years has been good for Paris...nary a single deposit of dog leavings was seen (a true hazard in the 90s).  The streets were clean, the service in restaurants pleasant, and the only thing that made it slightly unpleasant was running into a group of quintessentially "ugly Americans" at the ice skating rink. Otherwise, it was amazing. The practice I got working with the French Hospital in Kabul, as well as some self-paced study paid off, and we again survived.  I'm making an admission here...I'm a proud, lover of France and all things French (well, a lot of things, anyway; le Socialism...not so much). They are "freedom fries" no longer!

We drove in for the first trip, an interesting endeavor, but took the train for Thanksgiving, much more enjoyable.  Lots less traffic when you take the train, although we had to stop for about two hours because someone decided to jump in front of a train (not ours) a bit farther up the track. We chilled out at the Meuse Station (literally, since it was about 35 degrees and foggy).

We finally got into town, grabbed our Thanksgiving Pizza, and then settled in for a bit of rest before tackling the town.  Since Isabella was the main focus of this trip, and she loves bike taxis, we took several rides around town in them.  While not as cheap as the hop-on/hop-off bus, it was a good way to get around while able to see a lot around you at a reasonable pace.  And, in rush hour, they were both cheaper and faster than a taxi.  With a 5 year old who was about at the end of her rope after a tough day of Christmas Markets, ice skating, and bungee-slingshot-trampolining, that was a good thing. 

The first time we went, we visited the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, a great little place that was the haunt of literary greats like Hemingway and Fitzgerald.  We liked it so much, we went back, and Isabella loved it as much as we did.  She got to see and work on an actual typewriter, and got lost in all the nooks of books.  Right next to the Notre Dame Cathedral, it should be on all book lovers' bucket list.

Had a willing model and a great place to shoot her as well...

Managed to get out to La Defence early one morning to grab some Eiffel Tower photos.  Nice cloudy, it was a great chance to get some moody photos...

All in all, both trips were fantastic with far too many photos to post properly here in one go.  I'll be presenting a few of the other keepers in the next few posts.

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