Monday, November 21, 2011

Reunionize Me Captain! Paris Part One

I would like to begin my re-telling of my Paris adventures with a joke that I made up in 3rd grade.

Set up: (a little bit of background so that you understand how wonderfully clever this is for a 3rd grader)

My class was in French class and our teacher wasn't yet there. So we are nicely sitting in the circle in this little room and someone asked, "Where did the French teacher go?"

Me: "She went out to take a breath of French air."

BAM. That's how funny winners are.

BAM. That's the air I was breathing all weekend. But for real. It was spectacular. I loved it.

So we'll start from the real beginning now. I packed all of my needed things for the weekend and made my way to the airport, full of excitement and the sense of adventure. Just like a little kid. The funny part of that is that I was going to meet up with a friend of mine I hadn't seen since the year after the birth of that beautiful joke you read above. That's a long time ago. And I couldn't believe that it was really and truly actually happening. So I get on the train to go to the airport. Watch this guy ask everyone in the train if it was going to the airport, then watched him get off at the wrong stop (unfortunate). Get there. Go through security (no they didn't search me), get to my gate, and sit down and relax for a bit. I grabbed a bottle of water and when I noticed people starting to line up in front of the gate, I thought, hey, that's not a terrible idea, I'll jump in line.

Bad. We're waiting there for about 15 minutes (still on time) when suddenly, right as we were supposed to start boarding, there was an announcement over the loud speaker that said that our flight had spontaneously changed gates. So everyone who had been waiting in line sprints down the hallway toward this other gate. I'm not even kidding. Literally running down the hallway, dodging past other travelers and magazine stands to get to the other gate. I get there like everyone else, a little winded, but totally wired for sound. And we wait. And wait. And wait. And by this point, I'm thinking, wow, that sandwich place looks really good right now. I'm hungry, but I ran all the way here, and of course the minute I get out of line, we'll start boarding. Instead I watched the two girls who were wearing I Puffi sweatshirts (awesome).  Although that was a fascinating past-time, it was still another 20 minutes before we actually boarded. Which eventually made the plane late by that 20 minutes. Boo.

None the less, I made it to Paris and began my search for the mysterious Orlybus. The only major problem with that is that I don't read or speak French past the extreme basics. We're talking the kinds of things the colorful puppets say slowly in the teach-your-baby-French videos.  That kind of basic. So after a brief search, I found the bus tickets right by the bus and got on. And other than the interesting choice of music (I didn't realize that the French would like Gloria Gaynor so much) I decided that regardless of my lack of language proficiency, "I Will Survive". (Get it? that was great). I get off at Denfert-Rochereau and there they were. Juliette and her mom. Perfect.

We hugged and it was just so strange to see someone who I used to be such good friends with. Crazy, but really fun. We then jumped on a series of trains to get to Juliette's grandmother's apartment. From about this moment on we began the necessary catching up. This involved everything from where are they now discussions to all of those nifty cultural differences that we discovered.

By the time we made it the apartment we were warmly greeted by her grandmother (she's so sweet, seriously) (s) and I was shown around the place. Couple of things: 1) It's huge!  I thought that our apartment in the center of Rome was big, this is about a 5 minuted walk from the Eiffel Tower and it's probably twice the size of ours. 2) The bathroom is split over two rooms. Let me explain. In one room there is a shower and a sink, and down the hall (like a ways down the hall) there is the toilet and another sink. Fascinating? Yes. But everything about it was just so cozy and fun. It reminded me a lot of my cousin Bev and Don's (except the bathroom(s) wasn't (weren't) tiger themed.  It was just that home feel with the piano in the corner and the old school chairs and the table cloth, it was lovely.

So we settled in, talked for a bit, and then sat down to a wonderful homemade dinner.  Now the thing about Italy is that they LOVE to eat. And I don't take this lightly, they love the act of eating, of sitting down and enjoying every bit, every sip of wine, the conversation, the food, the atmosphere, everything. The French are a oui bit different. There is distinct point to the meal. There is still that love of food, but it's not about the experience, it's about having dinner. (This is such an abstract and random thing to describe to you, I'm doing my best, promise) For example, this three course meal would have 3 very different reaction in the US, Italy, and France.

Family dinner, everyone is talking and kidding around. Kind of like Thanksgiving (I'm going to be craving turkey later this week) where the family gets together and talks about everything.  I don't know about you, but my Thanksgiving dinners have people eating for just about an hour-an hour and a half then everyone watches football and waits for someone to cut into the pie.

A 3 hour affair where there are at least 2 bottles of wine and everything is savored with the utmost deliberateness. There is probably some crazy storytelling and lots of hand waving.

It felt like any regular family sit down dinner. Not the kind where the whole crew is involved, just the immediate family.  You eat, you talk, you talk about the day-in three courses, but faster than the Italians would have.

We had this turkey with mushrooms and gravy with rice for the first course, a simple salad with an oil and vinegar dressing for course numero dos, and fruit and yogurt for the last one. It was wonderful to have a home cooked meal that I didn't have to cook.

Then, The Pezron family and I went out to see the Eiffel Tower by night. Magical? Oh ya you betcha!  It was so incredible! Not only is it just a stunning piece of architecture (no one can argue that) but to see it lit up by night is just magical. I'm totally impressed. But the crowning jewel was when we went all the way up to the top. That's right, get out your Bucket List counters, because this is on there: Top of the Eiffel Tower by night. CHECK. You can literally see the entire city from up there. And all of the other monuments are so well lit that you can identify them and practically plan your next day based on what you see. And that's awesome.

After taking tons of pictures (I promise I'll get on that asap) we walked back home and pretty much immediately went to sleep. Successful day? Of course. And I couldn't ask for a better reunion. Especially when there are basically two more days of magic to cover.

But that report will probably have to happen tomorrow, I'm still recovering.

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