Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Marking History

21 January 2009

Our London break is over as we arrived in Paris yesterday to begin the next stage of the adventure. My biggest fear was that we wouldn’t be allowed on the train with all of our baggage, especially my aforementioned “dead body duffel.” The Eurostar people didn’t even blink twice about that, and I later learned why as I watched people getting off the train with more baggage than a pack of covered-wagon settlers. Talk about looking like Oakies! But, I digress. While the security staff didn’t mind my disgustingly large bag, they did take offense to one of Jon’s suitcases- the one with his knives inside. Now these knives are wrapped in a towel and covered from one end to the other with brown packing tape. It is going to take a laser beam to unwrap the damn things! However, Jon was made to empty out his entire suitcase (thank God there weren’t any dirty undies in there- just chef coats and chef pants and chef shoes and chef gear- do you see the theme?) and then they ran all the contents through the security conveyor separately. They still weren’t convinced that he is a chef though, so they demanded proof (the entire suitcase full of chef supplies was not enough, obviously). So, Jon showed them his acceptance letter into cooking school. They shrugged their shoulders and let us through. Annoying, but at least they were WAY nicer than the TSA!

Other than that, the London stage of the train ride was a piece of cake. So easy, in fact, that I was nervous. I knew that Donovan’s Law could be lurking around any corner. And indeed it was—we got to Paris at 5:15 PM. There were absolutely no luggage carts to be found in the ENTIRE GARE DU NORD. They did have ones chained to rails at measured intervals, however, I’m sure as some sort of sick joke the station staff like to play on tired and haggard tourists. It took fifteen minutes to get our bags from the train platform to the main part of the station, and this only happened because I begged one of the staff to help us. I then wandered around the entire station a second time giving a better search for the driver of the car I ordered to pick us up. No dice. I have a cell phone. The company has my number. No missed calls. So, I call them. Turned out that the guy waited a few minutes for us, and when we didn’t come out with the rest of the crowd from the train, he left! No call, no text message, nothing! The dispatcher told us he could get another driver to us in 20 minutes- keep in mind we had already been milling about with our HUGE bags for 30 minutes at this point. No thanks. We decided to take our chances in the taxi line, instead. Luckily, we found a cab willing to take our bags and us on the second try. We actually totally cut off these kids with three carts full of luggage, but they were slow on the up-take, and I was over it. You snooze, you loose, children. Grrrr!

So, we’re in the cab. I’m sad because all I really cared about in all the inaugural festivities was the swearing in and Obama’s speech. It was 6 pm at this point and the cabbie had the coverage playing on the radio. Now comes a moment I will probably remember for the rest of my life. We’re speeding through the dusk-darkened streets of Paris. Brick walls on both sides. Suddenly we pass into a huge open space. On our left is the Louvre. On our right is the Eiffel Tower- all lit up and lights flashing to mark the hour- a bit of sunset left in the sky beyond it. On the radio, Barack Obama is being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. It was history in the making- not just national history, but my personal history as well. The moment took my breath away. Thinking of it still does.

And the rest is history- we get to the hotel. A sour-faced madame at the desk greets my request of a porter or a cart to help with our baggage with a smirk and the reply, “We don’t have anything like that. Not in a two-star hotel.” Hah! We wrangle the bags up to our room ourselves. Run out to grab a bite to eat. Find a Scottish Bar with CNN blaring coverage of the Inaugural Parade. There we spend the rest of the evening, drinking pints of Carlsberg and making friends. Yes, our first night in Paris, and we made friends. There is Olivier- a very nice Parisian of our age. There’s Ariana- an American girl who cut out early because she “has a French lover, and if you know anything about French lovers, they do not like to be kept waiting” (I am not making this up. The girl actually said this.). And J.P., a Red Bull swilling (straight up with no Vodka), Brit who offered Jon a job!! He’s a chef at some little Bistro over in the 11th. When he found out why we’re here, he asked Jon if he wanted to come work at the restaurant. We’re going up there in a bit to check it out and see if J.P. is legit or just a drunken promiser of meaningful employment. I hope it’s the former.

That’s about it. We scouted out some banks today and explored our new neighborhood. We move into our apartment tomorrow at noon! So excited! I have to go now though. There’s a glass of wine and a slab of cheese with my name on it, and if you know anything about my belly, it does not like to be kept waiting. Ciao!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"I Was Overserved," Quoth the Sage.

7 January 2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! Is it already seven days in? Well, I’ve had quite a two-week stretch! From moving out of the house to Christmas to flying overseas to New Year’s madness, it’s all a blur! I’ll do my best, however, to recount the highlights for your reading pleasure. And that’s all it will be today, I’m afraid. Those of you who are imagination challenged (i.e. you need books with pictures in them in order to truly enjoy yourselves), you’re S.O.L.—we don’t have a card reader on the camera right now. So, you’ll have to wait until we move to Paris.

Moving, Holidays, and Other Things That Require Heavy Drinking

Get me a Jack and Ginger, stat!!!! The move went surprisingly well, aside from my craziness including crying at a moment’s notice and/or randomly throwing things at any moving target (thank God my dear doggies had already been sent to their vacation homes). Our house is now empty (*sniff, sniff*) and the contents therein lie buried within huge wooden crates somewhere inside a warehouse on Phillips Avenue. Somehow Jon and I managed to cram our clothing and personal items into six suitcases (four large, two small) and got ourselves to the Houstons for Christmas Eve. That’s when all of the work was done- literally at like 5 pm which is unfortunate because I needed a drink at like midnight, three days earlier. But, the celebrations with both the Houstons and the Donovans were lovely- a well-needed respite from the insanity that had become my life.

What Do You Mean I Have To Pay Extra For Heavy Bags?

Thank God I didn’t have to ask that question! Jon and I were the James Bond of packers and managed to get my HUGE “dead body” duffel bag under 50 pounds. In fact, we kept all of our checked baggage under the required limit. So, aside from almost dying (twice) on the Turnpike and almost coming to fisticuffs with a member of a heavily decorated Latino man in a Cutlass whom Jon cut off at the airport (the guy literally stopped in speeding traffic and waited for us to merge next to him- terrifying), we got to our gate rather easily. That being said, I must say that scenes of any number of the Lampoon’s Vacation movies kept flashing before my eyes during this entire leg of the adventure: “Look kids, Big Ben. Parliament,” sounded as we drove round and round the Miami Airport trying to figure out where to turn in the rental car, and of course that scene in Christmas Vacation where Clark plays chicken with the rednecks and Ellen just shakes her head and scoots down in the seat to hide was called to mind as Jon engaged Tony Montana, jr. on the roadway. You see, I like to find humor in everything, even near death experiences.

“I Was Overserved Last Night.”

Arrival in London. Cold. Jon and I collected Jamie and Steve and away we all went to Paris for the New Year. Thanks to Jamie’s exceptional train ticket purchasing skills, we were able to travel Leisure Class on the Eurostar which meant we got to sit in a fancy coach, have unlimited champagne and wine, and eat a three-course meal all for less money than riding with the other plebeians in steerage. Thus the party began then and there, and it continued as soon as we arrived in Paris. After throwing our bags down at the hotel, we somehow managed to stumble upon a street in the Latin Quarter that was teeming with bars and clubs, including one where we were seated down three flights of stairs in a basement full of squirming and drunk teenagers. Jon did not like that one, but they did play Britney Spear’s “Womanizer,” Jamie’s current dance obsession. Another bar, and my personal favorite, was called The Latin Corner, a self-labeled “crazy bar for sexy night.” This highly upstanding establishment was a dark den of hedonism, complete with attractive waiters walking around in their skivvies offering to give shots to ladies while gyrating and rubbing up against them. One had to pay 20 Euro for that privilege, so we just watched. The rest of the night is a bit of a haze, but it did end with Jon walking half-dressed through our hotel and Steve passing out until noon. To this egregious waste of valuable site-seeing time, he had only one comment, “I was overserved last night.” Well said, my friend. Well said.

The rest of the trip progressed pretty much in similar fashion- fun and foggy. Certain events stand out from the fog, however. Standing under the Eiffel Tower as the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Eve, meeting up with Mandy and Jeremy in Amsterdam, hanging out with Leah and Tim at Leah’s favorite canal bar, and the COLD, cold, cold air in Holland are amongst them. I’d like to forget the stomach virus Jamie and I came down with, resulting in one lost day of the trip for each of us. I could also do without that visit to the Casa Rossa (NEVER go there). All in all, however, it was a great trip spent with our great friends who continue to shine in my eyes as my ass is currently parked on their couch where it will remain until we move to Paris in two weeks. Now, I have to go- my liver’s hurting just thinking about this stuff. Ouch!

In Other News... I finally have the website Phil and Pia got us for Christmas up and running. It's bare-bones right now, but my plan is to link these two pages together so that everyone can keep up with all our goings-on. The website will have pictures of our trips, a calendar of who's coming when, updates on Jon's progress in school, etc. Please check it out: