Archive for the ‘Events’ Category
All good things must come to an end
Departing Sancerre on Friday came too quickly, and only my excitement about seeing my daughter Caroline, offset my disappointment in leaving this amazing little town. The incredible landscape of Sancerre, set high on a hill, looked like the setting from Beauty and the Beast. I kept expecting Belle to stroll thru the streets singing! Each morning I took a different route to class, turning up and down angled roads, getting happily lost on most days, only to discover the most direct route on my last day.
My quirky apartment with the low antique beams, and my warm hosts, Philippe and Giselle, encouraged me speak French during our homemade breakfast together, made my stay feel very welcoming. The rigorous classes at Coeur de France threw me back into conjugating verbs again, but more importantly, allowed us to work on our fluency in small class settings and outdoor excursions. The improvement in my French over these 5 days was one plus, another was making new friends from around the world!
Life is too short
Spending my last weekend in Paris with Caroline was a last minute plan, and totally worth the extra 2 days! One evening with her Georgetown friends at a street-side cafe where the rose flowed along with the laughs. And the second night dinner with 2 Tulane friends at Chez Janou sharing an enormous bowl of their famous mousse au chocolat, and then taking in the midnight views from the rooftop of the BHV. The sparkling lights from the Eiffel Tower during “nuit blanche”, an annual celebration where Paris stays up ALL NIGHT, created a memorable atmosphere. Neither able or willing to stay up all night with the partying Parisians, Caroline and I were ready to make the most of a full Sunday together. Not the ideal weather, but the hike up Montmartre gave her a gorgeous view of Sacre Coeur and a cozy brunch spot with amazing crepes!
Shop ’til you drop
Renewed energy (and the desire to get out of the rain) motivated us to explore the inside of the BHV. Two attentive assistants at Maje were able to whip me in and out of options until we found the right pieces needed for a photo shoot immediately upon my return. This impending deadline was the perfect excuse to have my fashion-oriented daughter supervising this wardrobe make-over.
Caroline, of course, found herself happily exploring the wide selection of amazing accessories from native French designers of Chanel, Givenchy, and Hermes!
I was sad to pack up on Monday morning after sending Caroline on an early flight back to Madrid. I had some quiet time to reflect on the previous 17 days and how this might impact my future. This trip was 100% out of my comfort zone when I planned it, 200% by the time I departed, and 1000 times better than I ever expected. Fumbling to communicate in a foreign language, lugging heavy suitcases thru tiny streets and curved stairs (yes, I over packed!), navigating flights, taxis, trains and the metro system, and feeling relaxed when eating alone, were all completely new to me. When I realized that I was enjoying these challenges, and found myself looking for the next opportunity to explore something new, I knew I had accomplished the goal I set for myself. I can honestly say that I’m proud of myself, and that is not something I say lightly.
The wonderful part of ending a trip like this is returning to my family and friends. I knew that my grandson, Christian, was eagerly awaiting a snuggle and a present.
It may be hard to call a day “perfect” when it’s only Day 2. But keeping expectations at a realistic level, it was pretty darn good.
My body let me sleep a full 13 hours from 8 pm to 9 am, so technically I’m already on Paris time. A quick espresso gave the necessary boost to hike to the Parthenon. (It should have been closer, but I walked the wrong way!)
I liked my classmate instantly, Olivia, a young producer from Vancouver. Our first class was drawing, so I could wear nice pants and my Vince leather jacket without fear of ruining them. (Caroline will be displeased with the sneakers, but comfort comes first.) The scarf around my neck, a travel gift from Molly, helped the morning chill, but I still should have worn my gloves and wool sweater! It’s amazing that Paris’ mornings are much colder than NY this time of year.
With white fingers no longer capable of holding the pencil, I moved from the tall shadows of the Parthenon columns to a sunny spot for a clear view of an architecturally challenging building. The drawings didn’t improve, but the circulation did! When my solo classmate went off to meet fellow travelers, my teacher recommended lunch at a great Italian spot around the corner to warm our hands and our insides. Plat du jour included clams, plus a pasta with white fish and zucchini, followed by a cafe au lait to start the afternoon program.
Walking off lunch:
As the only tour participant, Nicolas and Florient (art teacher and tour guide, respectively) customized the tour to my interests. Only 13,000 steps but we covered some amazing ground: hidden side streets, little known historical facts, and even archaeological treasures! Who would expect an underground parking garage to include the original Paris city wall?
5 pm ended our tour and coincided perfectly with happy hour on Blvd St Germain des Pres. With side by side seats facing the busy street in a sidewalk cafe, we laughed that this is not a typical NYC scene. But neither is the Provence rose for 3 euros! A few quiet moments to capture the thoughts of the day, and then turn on my Google maps on to find my way home.
Tomorrow I paint at the Luxembourg Gardens. This should be fun (and messy!) But I’ll have some time to clean up before our evening at Montmartre. An0ther busy day in PARIS (paradise!)
Thanks for reading and following– I’m feeling very lucky. Jennifer
It feels like 24 hours since I was sitting in JFK working on my laptop before my flight. The clock confirmed it was 4:30 pm on Saturday, and now it’s 4:30 pm on Sunday, but a couple of big factors had changed.
I thought that traveling 6 time zones, forgoing a night of sleep upright in coach, and having to wander the streets for 8 hours alone before I could access my AirBNB, would be my first stumbling block. In reality, the flight landed an hour early (so I actually had a full 9 hours to wander) and I truly didn’t sleep a wink in my airplane seat. Slight panic started rising at the baggage carousel at 6:30 am. I asked a few people for suggestions, including a mid-30’s group of travelers for Fashion Week, but they’d never faced this particular challenge. I didn’t have the guts to approach Kurt Russell and ask his advice. (He looked pretty incognito wearing jeans and a scruffy backpack, but it was definitely him.)
It’s not fraud!
To add to the dismay and frustration, after notifying both credit card companies that I was departing for France, only to be assured there would be no problem with my cards, BOTH my Visa and Platinum Am Ex cards were denied for my Uber ride. I’ve never in my life been grateful for PayPal, but at least they processed the charge. Hailing a taxi was the back up plan, but typing the destination and knowing the cost are much easier than relying on unpracticed French and unfamiliar bills and coins.
Once my 2 suitcases were stashed at a City Locker location near my AirBNB, the first views of Paris at this hour where calming. The roads and sidewalks were almost empty, with only the movement and drum beat of the crew teams practicing on the Seine. Choosing the cutest awning and chairs, as well as the desired street-side view, I enjoyed my first cafe and croissant, and plotted out the next 7.5 hours. Choosing between group Qigong instruction in the park, or a walking tour of literary and artistic history in Paris, I went for the option requiring less balance. The 20’s and 30’s came alive as our 2-person tour led by MIT-educated, Olga, guided us along the same steps as Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Matisse, and others from this creative era. 2.5 hours flew by enjoyably with only minor mists of rain and I found myself ready to download The Movable Feast on my Kindle and re-watch Midnight in Paris with Owen Wilson.
When It Rains, It Pours:
By the time the rain really started to pour, my feet were objecting as loudly as my stomach. Getting settled into my room was getting critical or the rain drops might have turned into tears. The 2-stop Uber request was trickier but when the driver saw the size of the larger suitcase in comparison to my height, he understood why I couldn’t walk the remaining 7 blocks. When he let me off at the wrong end of the one way street, I tried to act confident that I could maneuver the 2 bags along the cobblestones to the front door. The entry code worked on the first try (which was NOT the experience at City Locker), but this only served to quickly reveal the tiny and steep steps that lay ahead. I could barely get in the front door with my big bag so I had no choice but to block the entire hallway while I attempted to carry my wheeled carry-on and shoulder bag to the second floor. Did you know that the French don’t give the ground floor a number? 3 flights up really narrow, steep and winding stairs; I’m sure the sound of baggage wheels smacking against the risers, and a few multilingual curses, was no surprise to the other residents.
A Glass of Rose to End the Day:
The apartment is so awesome my misgivings slowly dissipated and I’m soon ready to head back out for groceries, as soon as I’ve got enough phone charge to keep me from getting lost. After a few attempts to find a gourmet market with fresh cheese and bread, I decided that a served meal and glass of wine was a fitting reward for this extra long day. And here I sit—aaahhh! “Le dejeuner special du jour”: salad, salmon and potatoes and a glass of rose. Deliciously doused in butter, as only the French can do, I felt the need to check the number of steps I walked today, before deciding on dessert. Almost 21,000 steps… that works.
Now if I can just stay awake until 8 pm tonite to get on a normal time zone for painting tomorrow at 10 am.
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Mother’s Day: My Favorite Day
As a crazy busy, full time working Mom (and recent Grandma), I really look forward to Mother’s Day. The idea that the day is all about “me” is a relaxing thought. The latter is often unrealistic, but, nonetheless, I’m always optimistic. My wishlist for the day has always been pretty basic: a cup of coffee in bed, accompanied by a child-made breakfast, which can range from a bowl of cereal to a plate of cookies, and of course, a homemade card. Ideally, this is also a day where everyone is nice to me and each other.
As I read this fun article from Houzz (while sitting at my desk at 7:30 am on a tired Monday after a busy Sunday), I wondered if I dare raise my expectations to a more ambitious Mother’s Day. I am reminded of what we did for my Mom as kids, which started with “watery eggs and burnt toast”, according to her recollections, and included planting the outdoor flower pots. She was not critical of our color selections and was thrilled to save her nails from the dirt. This idea greatly appeals to me since I am never in possession of a decent pair of gardening gloves.
Ideas for a Great Mother’s Day
The other ideas, like helping set up technology, re-organizing a closet and even just relinquishing control of the remote—these made me laugh and might actually make it onto this year’s wishlist.
My oldest son could easily clean up the files on my home laptop and make sure it is syncing with the office computers. Meanwhile, my second son could make sure the Sonos music system is working on the wireless speakers outside so I can enjoy a sunny day in a lounge chair. My fashionable daughter would do a fabulous (and ruthless) job weeding out everything in my closet that she hopes to never see me wear again! My youngest son, who is my biggest helper on a daily basis, would not be horrified at the idea of collecting the “bombs” left by our dog around the yard.
Nothing ruins Mother’s Day more quickly than Mom “stepping in it.” And perhaps the baby (19 months and into EVERYTHING) would agree to not remove the batteries from the remote and then hide it. Or maybe we just hide the remote from him.
The perfect ending to the day would be a family dinner. Take out, leftovers, or a gourmet creation by my talented husband—it’s all the same to me, as long as I see smiles of those who make me grateful to be a Mother.