Movie time again

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Paris is a fantastic city if you like cinema. You can catch all the big new American movies here (in English with French subtitles) along with plenty of classics you’d be hard pressed to find playing in the theater anywhere in the States. Last night I took in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon from 1975.

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Lots of Kubrick offerings at La Filmothèque in the Latin Quarter right now.

I’m by no means a Kubrick junkie, but the best thing about his films is seeing them on the big screen. And for nine euros, why not? His movies are all epics, so at three hours, I was getting some good entertainment bang-for-the-euro (hmm, that doesn’t have quite the ring I was going for…). Especially compared to the mediocre cappuccino I had the other day that set me back 6€70–ugh!

La Filmothèque turned out to be a shoebox of a theater; perhaps 80 seats or so and a screen smaller than what you get at the multiplex. But it didn’t matter. It was a classic film, in English, on the screen, playing for a room full of cinephiles.

On Friday, Ridley Scott’s Alien will be screened at multiple theaters. Seriously: eight different theaters will be showing it! A tempting opportunity. Especially since I somehow missed it on the big screen when it originally came out. (Oh, that’s right, I was seven at the time.)

Cat sitting in Paris

When we spent a year in Paris, we missed our cat so much that we had to go to one of the cat cafés to get our feline fix. Now I’m cat-sitting for someone who’s traveling and I get plenty of time with a cat who absolutely is queen of the apartment.

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This lovely lady needed someone to look after her, I needed a place to stay: it’s a win-win. And it’s close to this nice view:

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And not far from l’Eclair, a place I enjoyed writing at a few times last year, and visited again this morning for my petit déjeuner and another pass through the hardcopy of one of my chapters. It’s one I proofed recently, but I still managed to discover a continuity error with the previous chapter. It’s amazing (and frustrating) how those crop up!

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Now: back to it.

Paris in spring

Last year, spring in Paris was a dreary affair: rain, rain, and more rain, clouds, rain, flooding, more rain… you get the idea.

(I wrote about last year here.) But this year we’re seeing the sun and blue sky… and cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms like we’ve never seen anywhere else in our lives.

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Strolling by the white cherry blossoms… but cherry blossom nirvana was still yet to come.

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On our way to the epicenter of pink cherry blossoms.

We met up with some friends who suggested a trip to Parc de Sceaux south of Paris, a park I’d never even heard of. (Paris has dozens of parks, so that’s not like a huge shock or anything.) When we were first making plans to get together, I figured we’d just meet for dinner and hang out; I’m so glad we took advantage of the beautiful weather and the chance to see the trees dripping with blossoms.

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Parc de Sceaux isn’t just cherry blossoms; there are big lawns–lawns that you can even walk on (not something to take for granted in Paris), as well as a fountain and huge reflecting pools.

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Once again, we could’ve never planned this on our own or likely ever found out about this park from a typical guidebook. It definitely pays to have friends in the know!

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Carolyn, cherry blossom princess

 

This city is… old

Nothing like buying tea from an establishment that’s been in business longer than your country has been a country.

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Since 1692? Yeah, they’ve been at this for a while.

We also had to wait for a military processional while trying to cross the street this morning.

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And took another stroll by Notre Dame…

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All in all, another great day.

Sights new and old

Just outside the Palais Royale is one of my favorite metro stops:

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One of the best parts about getting to know a place is finding things like that: the special places you love, not just the places that make the lists in a guide book. Just across the street from the Palais Royale is a Corsican restaurant we’ve loved since we found it in 2009 (after the Tour de France): Casa Luna. It’s another place that doesn’t make anyone’s top ten list of must-sees in Paris, but we go there every time we’re here.

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(This was last year when we went there with friends; no pictures from today’s visit.)

But even through we could fill this week with hitting all the places we love and have enjoyed before, we’re making time for new places as well. Today we went to a small museum that’s currently featuring the urban artwork of Invader, something Evelyn was excited to see. (I wrote about tracking down his work around Paris here.) And we also finally got to the Paris aquarium–which is only a short walk from where we lived when we lived here, but we never got to it.

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Evelyn liked the arch of streaming water that we passed through on the way into the aquarium. It was a great time–lots of sharks and seahorses, jellyfish and rays, huge lobsters bullying each other, and all kinds of fish we’d never seen before. We were there for a good two hours.

Then off to Bercy Park–another place we love–and now back to our apartment. Tomorrow: catching up with more friends. Goodnight!

Return to Paris

Bonjour, Paris! It’s our first return since moving back to the States. And what a welcome we got:

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Such a gorgeous day to walk around town, taking in some favorite places, like Luxembourg Gardens, the Left Bank, Île de la Cité, and the Marais.

It was especially welcome after so many days in Seattle that have looked more or less like this:

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Blah.

But even better than seeing the beauty of Paris was getting to catch up with some friends at our church that we attended during our year here. And looking forward to getting together with some more throughout the week. But for now, everyone is jet-lagged and ready to crash….

Today’s sign that we’re back in America

Tomorrow it will be a month since we got back in the States after a year in France. We’ve been plenty busy getting re-acclimated to life in the USA and so far we haven’t had too much reverse culture-shock. And yet, it still can be hard to believe that we’re actually, really, truly back here to stay. But now I know for sure:

Yesterday the girls started back at their old schools. They saw old friends and had classes with far more students than any of their classes at the International School of Paris. And then they came home with piles of paperwork for us to sign. (That’s right, France does not have a monopoly on bureaucracy.)

Last night our waiter greeted us with a smile and said, “Hi, my name’s Jason and I’ll be taking care of you tonight.” Such a sentence has never been uttered in France.

And today I bought 48 rolls of toilet paper in one package from Costco. Yes, we are so back now.

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A very American minivan loaded up with good things from Costco.

More phone fun

We’re back in the USA, getting settled, and figuring out how to live here again. So far it’s been smooth enough. I pretty much remember how to find my way around in the car, although I keep looking for street signs and stoplights in the wrong places. And I’ve enjoyed drinking big American coffees and enjoying salsa that has an actual kick. Although our first baguette, from our favorite bakery here, did not measure up to what we’d grown accustomed to in Paris. No surprise there.

One of the biggest challenges when we went to France was dealing with the business of everyday life in a foreign language. Like dealing with unfamiliar appliances, a landlord that didn’t speak much English, going to the doctor, and figuring out phone service.

Oh yeah, phones–I thought getting phone service set up in France was hard. Well, let me say, if I’d had to go through there what I just went through here… I’d have been stuck with smoke signals.

It all started out so easily this morning: stop in at the Verizon store. Speak English with the nice guy working there. Explain our situation: we need to get two phones added to our account for our girls. We already owned the phones–they had been using them in France–now we just need to get new Verizon SIM cards and get them added to our account.

First phone? No problem. Ah, this is so much easier than waiting in line forever at the Orange store in Paris and muddling through the process in minimal French!

Then the next phone. Hmm. It’s taking longer. The SIM card is in, the phone recognizes it. But there’s a problem. The phone has been flagged on the lost/stolen list! What?

Merideth had bought the phone from one of those place that repairs cell phones and sells refurbished ones. She bought it last fall in Seattle (while the rest of us were in France) after it became clear that one of the girls’ phones was pretty well worthless. We’d gotten it working with some difficulty (yeah, here’s another link to that bizarre experience), but ultimately it got working just fine.

The Verizon guy tried his best, talking to multiple people up the food chain, but nothing could be done; I needed to go to the place we bought it from and solve the issue there. Thankfully, it was only a few blocks away. And finally, after three separate trips there, another trip to a Verizon store and about an hour on the phone with Verizon customer service, we got it handled. Oh, and it also meant we did have to trade the phone in to the store for a new one.

As far as we can tell, the phone must have been reported lost or stolen after we bought it and got it set up in France. Crazy. And getting it all handled definitely took more time than I would have ever guessed–but at least it’s working. And at least I didn’t have to deal with this in French!

Across the Atlantic

Today is already the last day of our cruise. (Pardon me: the Queen Mary 2 is actually an ocean liner, not a cruise ship, and we’re on a crossing not a cruise—or so I’ve been told by some other passengers.)

It’s been a year of firsts in so many ways, and so why not one more? This is the first time I’ve ever been away from dry land for so long. Unlike a typical cruise, a crossing like this doesn’t have any port days, just day after day on the endless ocean, the horizon a flat, blue line line in every direction. Each day at noon the captain announces where the nearest land is, usually some speck of rock and dirt miles and miles away that I’ve never heard of. There’s been little to interrupt the watery view; it was a few days before we even spied another ship, and then only in the far distance. Once we spotted a passing freighter. Luckily, we’ve been in the right place at the right time on two occasions to see big groups of passing dolphins arcing out of the water.

A few nights ago, a tremendous storm woke us at three in the morning when the glassware on the counter in our room all started clattering over. By then we were used to the continuous rocking of the ship, but now it was leaning decidedly in one direction. While we got things picked up and secured, we heard the sound of more things falling over coming from other cabins. The feeling of leaning continually toward one side was eerie. The next day the captain informed us that the nearly hundred knot winds from the storm had caught the starboard side of the ship like a sail and pushed us into a five degree tilt to port. Of course, the girls had slept through the whole thing.

The people you meet on board

Traveling means meeting people from all over and this has been no exception. Our first day, we met a pleasant couple from a London suburb while we were in the long line to get boarded. And even with thousands of people aboard, we’ve managed to run into them numerous times. Then there’s the thoroughly bronzed guy who looks like he lives his life on the pool deck. And he just might—he told me he’s done this crossing alone upwards of thirty times. We met a family from the UK who always travels to America this way because the wife doesn’t like to fly. And it’s been impossible to miss the large group of Mennonites in their traditional garb, with bonnets for the women and decidedly old-school hairstyles and Abe Lincoln beards for the men.

Let’s eat… and eat and eat and eat

If you want to pad your waistline, there’s no better way to do it than aboard a cruise ship. I can certainly see how people get on board, start eating… and never stop. A variety of restaurants serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you can always get second breakfast or elevensies at the buffet. There’s a pub-style place with good fish and chips, a French restaurant, and a place just for dessert. Each afternoon white-gloved waiters serve tea in Queen’s Room with all of the usual accoutrements. And just in case you don’t feel like following the dress code (I’ve never dressed up this much for dinner in my entire life), room service is available twenty-four hours a day.

Entertainment

Without any port calls, Merideth was a bit concerned that life aboard ship might get a little dull. And while this ship doesn’t have all of the amenities that some do (like rock climbing walls and waterslides), there’s always something going on: there are no shortage of fitness classes, shows, concerts, dancing, lectures, watercolor classes, and more. Last night we enjoyed a great magic show and today we went to a throughly entertaining one-act version of Pride and Prejudice that had us all laughing. We’ve had plenty of time to read, watch the Olympics, and play some throwback board games like Trivial Pursuit and Clue and Monopoly (which is just as brutal as you remember). And spending time at the pool is always a good idea. But there’s no doubt: this ship and this itinerary definitely appeals to an older set. There aren’t a whole lot of other kids aboard, but plenty of people who don’t have a lot of hair left. Sometimes I feel like I somehow ended up at a weeklong AARP retreat.

Worship at sea

On Sunday we attended the ecumenical worship service led by the captain. It consisted of readings, prayers and hymns. We sang a number of hymns, including “Be Thou My Vision” and “How Great Thou Art,” which the Captain described as “a typical American hymn—long and loud.” One of the officers read the passage from 1 Kings about Solomon asking the Lord for wisdom, and one of the entertainment directors read the passage from Luke in which Jesus tells a parable about an arrogant Pharisee (whose prayer is full of pride) and a humble tax collector (who pleads to God for mercy). The Captain read “the sailor’s version” of the 23rd Psalm, which begins, “The Lord is my pilot…” And being a British ship, the prayers included blessings on the queen.

One last night

This afternoon we’re getting packed up once again, and tonight we have our last dinner on the ship. We also get one more night with an extra hour of sleep, which will be quite welcome since we plan to get up around 5 a.m. to see the Statue of Liberty as we arrive in New York in the morning. It’s a bit hard to believe: tomorrow the girls and I will see America for the first time in over a year.