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….

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!

A final full day in Paris

How to spend one last day in Paris before moving back to America? For us it meant finally getting out to Versailles.

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This view is just a sliver of the huge palace.

That’s right; it took us the whole year to actually get out to the grandest château of them all. We toured the main château, enjoyed the gardens and fountains and went boating on the long, narrow pond before taking in the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon–two smaller residences that are impressive in their own right.

During our final days we have some family visiting, and so we’re taking in some of the big Paris sights again (or for the first time on this trip, like Versailles): The Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. The Louvre and the Orsay. The Tour de France. The next few days we’ll be traveling a bit before we say goodbye to France for good on Sunday.

Like any big change or move, it feels strange now that it’s finally here. We’ve already got a lot packed up and done plenty of throwing stuff out and giving things away. We’re trying to get through everything in the cupboards and the fridge, but there are plenty of products that seemed like a good idea at the time that we haven’t even touched. C’est la vie.

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So: just a few more days. And then a whole new adventure begins: a voyage home… to a new home. More about that to come.

Here we go: let the goodbyes begin

The best part of living in Paris? Without a doubt, it’s the people we’ve met and the friends we’ve made. The hardest thing about leaving Paris? Leaving those friends behind.

Our year in Paris has been a wonderful time of making new  friends: classmates and parents from the girls’ school, people I’ve met playing in a band, and especially those we’ve met through our church, Trinity International.

Yesterday was our last Sunday worshiping there.

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After our last service at Trinity, with our friends, Paco and Leslie.

And not only was it our last Sunday, I also got to preach the message. I hadn’t preached since we moved to Paris (other than giving a brief devotional at a missionary retreat in the south of France last fall), but it went well and I even got a few laughs from my jokes—and if I can get my teenagers to laugh, they couldn’t have been too corny.

(Just a brief aside on preaching in an international context: this was my first time having to prepare for a congregation that had a considerable number of people who don’t speak English as their first language. It meant getting my message ready further in advance than normal so that the French translator could prepare. It meant thinking through the language and idioms I use that might be a bit tricky to translate or that could be confusing to some people—because some might be listening who don’t speak English as their first language but don’t speak French either! All in all, it was a great experience.)

From the first, we were warmly welcomed when we found Trinity last fall. Right away we met other expats as well as French people in addition to people from every continent (well, except for Antarctica).

Obviously, simply being in Paris is a wonderful thing, but it’s even better when it means making new friends to meet for dinner, or coffee, or a picnic. It’s meant getting together for game nights, going for a hike, or having a friend to go to a museum with. The girls have enjoyed the youth activities, we’ve done a treasure hunt that took us all over Paris, and even got to go see the Pentatonix with another family. We were welcomed into friends’ homes for Easter dinner and barbecues and pizza night.

Who knew we’d meet such a great group of avid gamers? Terra Mystica, Blood Rage, Code Names, Dead Men Tell No Tales… We had no shortage of good times gaming.

Creative Nights at the church’s Genesis Center were a hit with the girls. I save my creative energies for writing and music, but I always had fun talking it up with other people.

Food–one of my favorite things…

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…and something that definitely brings people together.

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The fall retreat.

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Carolyn and me singing at Music Night.

Finding Trinity turned out to be another great opportunity for music. With only a year here, there was no time to waste waiting around; after feeling so welcomed, I quickly asked about getting involved in the music. Soon enough I was getting chances to play bass and even serve as one of the worship leaders.

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Most of our songs were in English, but I’m going to miss worshiping in French!

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Thank you for such a wonderful year, Trinity. We’re going to miss you.

 

Bastille Day

More tragedy in France. This time in Nice.

Though we visited that beautiful city a few months ago, we were in Paris for the celebration of la fête nationale–or le quatorze juillet, as I heard most people here call it–or Bastille Day as we call it in English.

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Just before the show.

Security was tight. As we crossed the Bir-Hakeim bridge from our neighborhood to get to the Eiffel Tower side, we stopped with many others and considered watching from there. That is, until a solid line of police started sweeping everyone off the bridge. So we proceeded on to one of the entrances to the Champ de Mars, the huge park below the tower. For the past month it’s been the site of a huge fan zone for the Euro 2016 football championship and it’s been outfitted with no shortage of security: fences and checkpoints and streets blocked off and lots and lots of guards with guns.

We got to the first security checkpoint and we even managed to find a reasonably short line. Merideth and the girls got through without incident, but I had the bag with a bottle of wine. Sorry, the guard said, no alcohol. I couldn’t believe it. This is France–everyone brings their bottle of wine to the park! I’d even read an article that very day that recommended a bottle per person when picnicking in the park on Bastille Day–three bottles per person if you were going to be there all day! And we just had one between the two of us. Oh well. So we all trooped out of the security zone and regrouped.

The short version is I stopped fuming about the dumb security rules, we talked to another guard, learned the problem wasn’t the alcohol but the glass bottle, Merideth bought a bottle of water, we guzzled the water, transferred the wine, got back in line, and got through. But this time a different guard confiscated a couple of dinner forks from our bag and made me throw them away (sorry, landlord). We also had to unscrew and throw away the bottle caps from our water and soda. At last, we were in.

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Carolyn thought the antics with getting wine into the park were pretty hilarious. I felt like some college kid trying to sneak booze into a football game.

Not quite. After this came another round of security. The first was just bag check; now we had to go through pat down. We got through fine, even though the guy who patted me down felt the corkscrew in my pocket. I was sure it would be another casualty, but he motioned me on and I didn’t argue.

Inside the perimeter, the place was already swarming. We got there around 7pm and the orchestra wasn’t on until after 9 and the fireworks wouldn’t be till 11. We found a spot off to one side where it wasn’t as crowded and even managed to find some friends from our church already set up nearby.

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This was before it got really crowded.

Our picnic was great: we played cards, enjoyed our Mediterranean take-out, talked with our friends, and the fireworks turned out to be perhaps the most spectacular feu d’artifice I’ve ever witnessed.

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If pictures are worth a thousand words, well, then I’d need a few hundred thousand to describe the many and varied fireworks that exploded all around the Eiffel Tower and were even shot from it throughout the night–and all coordinated to music.

All in all, we had a wonderful night in Paris. That said, it’s truly heartbreaking and disturbing and flat out terrible that the celebrations in Nice were marred by yet another act of terrorism. But the sad truth is that even with all of our security, we can’t prevent every awful thing from happening. No amount of confiscating forks and bottle caps and making sure no glass bottles are in sight will prevent a determined terrorist from driving a truck through a crowd of people celebrating.

Some ask: how long will we have to keep living like this? When will it stop? Well, have you looked at history? Has there ever been an era free from violence? I don’t believe we can enact enough security measures to prevent any bad thing from ever happening again–and I wouldn’t want to live in the world that tries such a thing. Nor do I think arming citizens to the teeth will make things better.

Personally, I don’t know how people have hope in this world for violence and terrorism and war to actually, truly, permanently end. It’s all been a part of our world as long as people have been a part of the world. Does that mean we’re without hope? I don’t think so.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

That’s the only hope I have.