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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Stress? Holiday fun!

Okay I admit it; I had some pre-Christmas stress.
The week before Christmas we had to deliver a finished proof of concept to a client for Monday. Monday evening we decided that I should fly to Chicago the next day to present our findings. Yes it was all a bit unexpected. Then, because I would be there anyway I invited myself to visit my friends in Kansas City. Except they were busy and it all became a bit unmanageable. So I changed my flight to spend the weekend in NYC. Okay this was now a workable solution.
Upon arriving back home in Paris Monday morning I realized I had a bout 2 days to get caught up on end of year work before welcoming my friend Gina arriving Friday morning. Uh oh. I was so not ready. I hadn't done my shopping. I had no food. I had no plans. What to do?
Wing it. This is becoming a tradition. Is it fair to say that anything you do often enough becomes a tradition?
Sure enough Gina is here and we are having such a good time. Christmas Eve we were invited to a local bar where the workers from surrounding business gathered and shared foor, wine and laughter.
Christmas Eve at Le Chene Rouge with Christophe
Christmas Day we attempted a walk through the Jardin de Luxembourg. However within a few minutes of entering, the gendarmes were blowing loud whistles shouting "Fermeture, Fermeture"! Of course none of the tourists understood what was expected of them, so eventually the park was emptied of all French speaking people, leaving everyone else wandering around wondering what they had missed.

As we were walking to our next stop a nice man stopped us and pointed out a man leaning against a bulding. He expressed concern that the man had been pushing against the building for some minutes already and did we think he needed help? I commented that the man in question sappeared to be stretching his calves before a run. "Oh" said our new friend very seriously, "I thought he was trying to move the building".Yup he was a funny one.
Kir at Le Petit Chalet
After a few stops for refreshments we found ourselves at Le Petit Chalet admiring the architecture, the ambience, the waiter who brought us a bottle of wine. I sent the first wine back and said quietly to Gina "Too young". She questioned me at first, thinking I met the waiter. Finally we agreed that a more mature wine was the priority. 

At some point however this wine lead us to question our knowledge of Paris. So we drew a map. Yes it was a straight line from point A to point B but one can never be too careful!

Monday was 15, sunny and too warm for our jackets. My favorite moment of the day was a rest in a lounge chair at Jardin des Tuileries with the sun on our faces.

What have I learned so far? If you are worried about how to spend your time be sure you have at least one good friend around, and then see what life has in store for you. It might be better than you could have planned.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011 All that in one year?

What an exciting year it has been!
Spent a few days before Christmas in KC visiting good friends

Gina and I  spent Christmas zip lining and various other fun activities 

Flew to Kansas City in order to ring in the New Year with my KC friends. Very fun! 

Me at The Coliseum

During the same month I  managed a weekend in Rome where I made a new friend from Chicago

Champs Elysee

and mid-month viewed the Champs Elysees from the Big Wheel (I would call it a ferris wheel) at Place de la Concorde. Beautiful with all the  lights along the avenue.

My March highlights included a trip to NYC with Kristi. She is such good fun, and I am proud to say I wore her out. First time ever! 
I also spent a week in Connecticut, saw my friends Beth, Richard, Julie,  Marc and Eldon.

 I went to Tel Aviv for work, and then Barcelona with Stephanie. That was a rather busy exciting month now that I look back on it.

Rue Mouffetard

April brought a much needed visit from my friends Lynn and Lisa. 

I left them temporarily for a trip to Rome to visit Annie
Annie at The Vatican
Neapolitan in Rome

and then work, but caught up with them again for a weekend in Florence. The custom made leather jackets we talked ourselves into in Florence was an over the top extravagance.

My May travels included Chicago, where I saw my friend Andy, 

Brighton for work, 

and then I was off to Cabo San Lucas with Angie. That trip ranks as one of my very best vacations ever.

In June I went to Budapest, 

but more importantly I met Janice, a fellow Canadian and now friend who I plan to see much more often in 2012.

July was all France, starting with a work trip to St Cyr sur Mer

then Bastille Day with Janice and Alison, 

and finally THE TOUR DE FRANCE with Julie, Alison and Janice (but missing Kathleen and Chuck this year).

In August I started my blog (thanks if you are still reading!), fell in love with Berlin, 

made new friends Eric and Diane, and also had such a good visit to Nova Scotia with Mom, Renee and Angie. I managed to see Barb, Karen and Rick, Gloria, Malcom and Fern, Lois and unfortunately missed seeing everyone else.

Starting the month of September  I stopped over in NYC and met up with Kathleen, Gina, Lynn and Evonne for a very very fun weekend. Sex and the City lives on. 

Asia de Cuba
I also made it to the Czech Republic for work, Vienna for an afternoon, 
made new friends Karen and Nona, and cheered Julie on as she swam the Seine!

October was Sri Lanka with Alison (Incredible!)
Our Hikkaduwa home

Mount Sigirya

 and Budapest with Alex, Julie and Alison.

Buda Castle
November brought Cirque de Soleil with Stephanie
She had the coolest outfit
and another trip to Berlin (we are lovers after all).
It was all about the Gluhwein
And a non-trip to Madrid as evidenced by the lack of pics...

Best dessert ever, translated
something like
"If pigs could fly"
or "pigs on angel wings"?
Football Stadium
Home to Real Madrid

December will wrap the year nicely with a trip to Chicago and New York,

Tree at Rockefeller
 a visit from Gina, and finally ending with New Year's Eve in Berlin with Gina, Ian and hopefully Sina.
Of course I have forgotten some events and misplaced some photos, but all in all I feel like it has been a wonderful year of adventure, family and friends. Thank you to everyone who played a part.
Where do I live again? I might forget if it was anywhere but Paris!

Friday, December 16, 2011

How (not) to get noticed in NYC

I just walked up 5th Avenue with a big grin on my face.
Oh yes I did.
And I was humming "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas".
You know what the best part is? No one noticed. 
There is a reason this is notable: when I first moved to Kansas City I felt like I was from outer space. I felt different. I felt like anything I did was magnified a thousand times. Maybe that was because I moved there from New York. In New York if you stood on a table and danced naked most people would have seen something equally exciting the night before. It is hard to get noticed. Even if you are grinning and humming at the same time.
I was grinning because I had only recently recovered from a case of the giggles. 
This all happened because my boss asked me to buy something for him at Hollisters. It is the first time in my life I have lined up to enter a store. Luckily we were entertained, by 2 twenty somethings in skimpy swimsuits acting as greeters. (Now that I think about it they did get noticed). I finally entered the store and I swear to God every person there came up to me and said " Hey, what's up?".  I think I even asked myself once or twice. The first time I was too surprised to respond, and anyway assumed they were talking to someone younger and cooler. The tenth time I started to giggle. Pretty much uncontrollably giggle. In the midst of this dark store jam-packed with shoppers and surrounded by blaring music you had to shout over, with all walls covered in live video of surfers in California, all the cute young sales people were asking me "What's up?"
Most fun I have had today. Maybe the glass of wine that accompanied my $16 burger at lunch helped my sense of humor. Maybe the over the top Christmas decorations, window displays, Christmas music, and stores full of shoppers looking for a deal but buying anyway struck me as a bit over the top. But I giggled uncontrollably at Hollisters and grinned all the way up 5th Avenue.
I love New York.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It was as if I was never there.

Did you ever almost visit a city? I have at least twice.

I once went to Madrid. Well kind of. I landed at Madrid airport, stayed at a hotel with a Madrid address and had dinner at a Madrid restaurant. I am sure I was in Madrid because when we showed up for dinner at 9 no one was there - yet. By 10:30 the place was hopping.
What else? I saw a football stadium, some would say THE FOOTBALL STADIUM.
And that's all. 
So I haven't done Madrid at all really.

Similarly, I flew to Chicago this week, arrived at midnight, stayed in a hotel, went to an all day client meeting, slept in a hotel and flew out.
If Chicago were a lady she would never speak to me again. I would not dare treat New York that way! But Chicago is okay with my non-visit I expect. Probably didn't even notice I was almost there.

Tripping up Tripit

I think I may have confused TRIPIT. You know, the app that keeps track of all your travel for you. It also posts my trips on LinkedIn and Facebook so I can connect with friends and family who might be in the same area.
Well this week TRIPIT thinks I am in Barcelona. And Chicago. And Kansas City. And New York.
And I almost was in all of them. Somehow I managed to accept a meeting in Barcelona and decline a meeting in Chicago. The meeting in Barcelona was cancelled so I accepted the meeting in Chicago. I also thought of visiting my friends in Kansas City, so I added that on. But my Kansas City friends were busy so I cancelled that trip. Then I booked a weekend in New York instead. Confused?
TRIPIT is too!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

FREE is not free

I am not sure I can write this yet. It is an unfinished story. A story about the craziness of life, when it could be so simple.
It all started in early October. My landlady explained to me that there was an old land line still connected in my apartment that was redundant. If I didn't mind she would like to have it disconnected. I didn't mind. I never use the land line anyway.
One Sunday a week or so later my Internet stopped working. That was okay - it happens some times. Later that evening I called FREE, the provider,( to whom calls are paid for by the minute by the way), and asked them what the problem was. They told me my France Telecom line had been disconnected, and since everything else was connected to that line, I would no longer have phone, cable or Internet.
No way.
My landlady, assuming that my poor understanding of French was causing a big misunderstanding, called them herself. And called me back, incredulous. There had been a mistake - two mistakes actually. First of all FREE should not have connected the new phone, cable and Internet to the old France Telecom line. Second, they should not have disconnected my services along with the old phone line.
But they would correct the problem in 3 business days so who cares really?
Or 10 business days.
Or 3 weeks.
Fast forward to mid December. It has been 8 weeks. I have since managed to use the personal hot spot in my mobile phone connected to my laptop to achieve dial-up speed, and sometimes am able to borrow my neighbor's Internet (don't tell him). Sometimes nothing works. Internet-free.
FREE continues to  reassure me. They tell me to be patient, and that of course they will correct the problem as soon as possible.
In the meantime I decided to switch providers. But, and here is the rub, until FREE does what they need to (not really sure what that is since I am obviously quite disconnected already) no one else can connect me!
The icing on the cake? I was selected to participate in a FREE customer satisfaction survey. Can you guess what I said!
Recently someone I met on business travel told me he would give up a hot shower as long as he had wireless in his hotel room. Not me. Much as I miss my wireless, can you imagine if I had spent the past 2 months shower - free?

Living in Paris ain't all that. It's more!

I have been reflecting a bit. Thinking about my time so far in Paris and how much I love it here. Paris has been invigorating, scary, exciting, challenging, and wonderful. I look younger - hell maybe I AM younger, and my happiness quotient is sky high.

What is so great about it you might ask? Well actually if you have been to visit me already, you don't need to ask. You might have had your happiness quotient raised while you were here. But just in case you are still wondering, here goes:

  • Paris is globally beautiful, the people, the clothes, the scarves, the boots, the parks, the buildings, the windows, the doors, the curbs - well you get the picture. 
  • There are 5 bakeries, 3 butchers, 4 cheese shops, 4 wine stores, 3 markets (4 on Sundays!), all within 2 blocks in every direction from my apartment. Oh and more cafes, bistros and restaurants than I can count. And several creperies. So on days I need a boost to my happiness quotient, I get one by walking through my neighborhood.

  • On Sundays a group of singers, musicians and dancers gathers a block away on rue Mouffetard to entertain us. And entertain themselves.

  • When I walk up the street everyone smiles and speaks to me - some call me by name! Just like home!
  • There is a feeling of living without a safety net. Mostly because I don't know who to call if there is trouble. Like when I locked myself out of my apartment and the locksmith I called tried to open my door with a radiograph. He told me that special tools are only used in Hollywood movies. He may be right, but that damn radiograph did nothing.
  • Wine is cheaper than Coke. I can go without coke for a long time if there is wine.
  • Food tastes like food. And I think there is still some nutrition in it. My mother once told me that there is more nutrition in the Styrofoam container than in the McDonald's hamburger!
  • Words spoken in French sound good. You will want to make love or drink wine - or drink wine and make love while listening.
  • Europe is an hour away in almost any direction. Well the rest of Europe I mean.
  • It is impossible to be bored. I bet you can't be bored here. Go on - try it!

 I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Yes of course I miss my friends and family, and yes sometimes I wish I had a jacuzzi or even a bathtub. But I have already created those memories.  Here in Paris I am working on tomorrow's memories.