Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Here At Last!

Bon soir!

We are FINALLY in Paris and of course it was an adventure from the very beginning! Shortly after 1 PM on our bus ride to JFK airport Monday - at mile marker 41.6 right before the Parsippany, NJ exit on Route 80 to be exact - our bus blew a tire. We still had some distance to go to reach the airport, had no idea what the traffic would be like, and time was ticking. After multiple phone calls (apparently one of which was directly to the Big Guy, because lo and behold, there happened to be a spare bus 6 miles from mile marker 41.6 right before the Parsippany, NJ exit on Rte. 80!). So, with a minor panic attack on Bill's part, and the help of Joe S., Sean B., Weston P., Sherry, Mimi, and me (okay, I didn't physically lift many bags, but my calming aura outside the bus offered a sense of soothing to Bill's nervous soul - and yeah, you can stop laughing now) we were able to transfer busses in a reasonable amount of time.

Then came the fun part. Joe, the NYC native bus driver realized he had to get us to JFK no later than 3. It was nearly 2 and we had 1.5 hours to go to reach our destination. Although I spent most of the ride doing the one-eyed lean (you know the one-eyed lean...when you are afraid to look with both eyes but are also too frightened to close both eyes, so you close one then try to lean the driver toward the direction in which you want him or her to go so that you don't get crushed - or in this case, crush somebody else!) To Joe's credit, he made that hour and a half trip in less than an hour and talked so much that he literally only came up for air 3 times. Joe summed up our ride best when he spoke over the bus loud speaker in his thick New York accent, "Kids, don' try 'dis at home - an' don' tell yah drivahs ed teachah ee-dah."

Once in the airport, it was smooth sailing. Everyone did great on their flights over and most got to sit next to a friend...except poor Liz P. who was stuck sitting by Bill and me (she was an awesome sport, though!) We all got 2-4 hours of sleep on the plane - they fed us constantly, and while normally that isn't a complaint of mine, it felt like every time I'd fall asleep, the flight attendent would ask me what I wanted to eat or drink!

We arrived in Frankfurt at some ungodly hour (5:30 AM for us...11:30 PM for you folks) and we all decided to use our 30 minute layover to freshen up. I went in search of a waterfountain so that those of us who needed to take meds for the next leg of the flight would be able to. I finally found a sturdy German woman attendent and asked, "Ist der eine wasser....fountain?" (I had no idea how to say fountain in German) and she looked at me like I was speaking Chinese. I tried in English, "Uh, water fountain? to take medicine??" She looked right at me and said, "If you vant vater go to za bassroom and get it aht of da zink." Good day to her...

We finally got to Paris unscathed and our group leader Pascal met us there. We got on the bus and he told us a lot of stuff I don't know because any time I was cogniscent it was to either close my gaping mouth or wipe the drool that was coming out of it. I was beat...at so was everyone else. But we hit the ground running and saw some pretty amazing stuff today. The students had their first taste of French baguettes, pastries, and many bought fresh fruit at the open markets for lunch. We ate in the shade of some trees in the Louis XIII park in the center of the Place des Vosges. We went to Victor Hugo's home and then all walked to the Musee Carnivalet, which holds the history of Paris. Any parents reading this will be glad to know that Bill and I were very impressed with their knowledge/memory of many things pertaining to European History.

It was pretty hot by then, so many of us opted to get a cool drink and sit in the shade until it was time to meet Pascal for dinner. He took us to what appeared to be a pizza place called Flam. However, Flam is from the Alsace-Lorraine region and is a very thin crust with a yogurt/sour cream mixture, herbs, and bacon and onion baked in an open hearth. It was delicious. Pascal wanted us to do some more walking, but considering we were all in the same clothes for the past 36+ hours, sweating profusely, and only getting a few hours of sleep, we ALL opted for hotel, showers, and bed!

Tomorrow, we leave bright and early for a bus guided tour of Paris. We will see the Invalides (my homeboy Napoleon I is buried there!) and many other cool sites. We're all well and are looking forward to a good night's sleep and our next adventure!! A bientôt!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Countdown to Paris

It has been nearly a year since I was in Paris. A great deal has happened over the past 365 days - some good (my husband bought me a sweet Mini-Cooper for my 40th birthday), and some not so good (it was my 40th birthday!) Despite the highs and the lows, one thing has remained constant; the longing in my heart to be back in Paris.

Despite the fact that I barely speak any French (and the little I attempt to speak is - to the French - the equivalent of nails down a chalkboard), and have no known ancestry that even remotely links me to France, I am completely and hopelessly consumed by it. I love everything about Paris - the architecture, the history, the food, the way of life, the people, even the Metro.
I cannot learn enough about its history, politics, and culture. I listen to French music just to hear the language and watch French movies in hopes of getting a glimpse of some familiar Parisian landmark.

Luckily, I won't have to wait much longer to return...my husband Bill, his parents, his sister Mimi, my friend Sherry, and 33 of Bill's and my students will embark on our 2009 European adventure in a mere four days. Yes, the countdown is on! We will spend 11 days traveling through Paris, Normandy, and Munich. And since it was such a big hit last summer, I will lug around my computer so that I can entertain you with our daily escapades on this blog. I will do my best to add photos and maybe even video (if I am tech savvy enough to figure it out!)

I am so grateful to share the Paris I know with my family and students who will accompany me and hope that you will be able to vicariously travel with us through this blog.
I hope you will follow along and leave your comments as we go...no matter how amazing our trip is, words from home are always a welcome thing!