Family Vagabonding » Europe http://familyvagabonding.com Family Travel Blog Mon, 09 Sep 2013 23:53:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6 On Re-Entry . . . Back in the USA http://familyvagabonding.com/on-re-entry-back-in-the-usa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=on-re-entry-back-in-the-usa http://familyvagabonding.com/on-re-entry-back-in-the-usa/#comments Sat, 03 Aug 2013 13:14:01 +0000 Powell Berger http://familyvagabonding.com/?p=1193 I made coffee this morning. A whole friggin’ pot.
It’s hot; it’s strong, and I’m completely caffeinated.
I’m not sitting in a Parisian cafe with a tiny little espresso cup.
I didn’t make it in that crazy gravity-defying-espresso-pot that required YouTube tutorials to use.
I’m not stirring it with a tiny little spoon reminiscent of tiny little spoons from Florida parties in the 1980s.
I’m drinking it black from a huge mug that says Bald Head Island, plucked from a cabinet of mugs from other uniquely American destinations.
I just refilled the mug. For the third time.

It’s loud. Everything and everybody is loud.
The Jetson-bus that transports passengers from the plane to the terminal at Washington Dulles was loud. (And for the love of god, can they not dig a tunnel and connect the airport like every other airport and get rid of those ridiculous buses that last seemed cool in 1983?)
The immigration line was loud. And long and slow, but I was tired, so maybe it was just like every other immigration line.

People are oddly friendly. Well, maybe.
The line at Hertz Gold was long (and loud) but not as long as the regular line at Hertz. Those poor souls are still there.
The woman smiled as she assumed I wanted all their extra insurance and rolled her eyes when I declined, then smiled again as she assumed I wanted to get a larger car for $7/day more and rolled her eyes and sighed when I didn’t.
The woman who let us through the gate after confirming I was, in fact, licensed to drive a car in the USA asked “How you doin’ today?” and Emmi was reminded immediately of our Versailles host, who’d opined that the question always seemed nosey to her. We laughed, answered her — our official American Welcome Wagon — and told her to have a great weekend.

The highways are huge and loud and the cars are huge and loud and for a moment I thought I’d forgotten how to drive on these roads. But like riding a bike, for better or worse, I remembered.

Our iphones work without roaming and we can pull email and use the apps and text and call and check Facebook without incurring a national debt.

Netflix works. Enough said.

There’s a washer and dryer that make sense to us, and a refrigerator larger than some Parisian apartments, and ice in every glass.

We speak exactly one language between the three of us. Everyone here speaks that exact same language.

It’s our flag flying around the monuments and on top of buildings and in the parks.

We are home.

And with my mug refilled (for the 4th time, now), I’m looking at fares and options and miles and figuring out how early in June we should return next year so we can actually see and do all the things we want to see and do in Paris before my writing month begins and we do it all over again.

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Paris Moments http://familyvagabonding.com/paris-moments/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=paris-moments http://familyvagabonding.com/paris-moments/#comments Sun, 21 Jul 2013 20:41:25 +0000 Powell Berger http://familyvagabonding.com/?p=1156 Three summers in Paris now, and it’s starting to feel like home. Maybe not home, exactly, but a place where, just maybe, we belong. It’s the little things — the moments that are uniquely Paris — that root me here.

We missed the Fireworks last year, but not for lack of trying. Our friend had a viewing spot in mind, and we ran through the cobblestone streets of the left bank to get there. We heard the fireworks kick off, and we ran faster. We got to that perfect spot on the bridge over the Seine, with the Eiffel Tower in the distance, just as the smoke of the finale began to clear. It was not to happen again. We took the Metro this year. And left early. Pay-off.

Fireworks after the Fireworks, Bastille Day 2013

* * * * * *

I watched as a young man sat sipping wine at a cafe while writing music. Like, seriously writing music. He had a blank scoresheet and a stash of sharpened pencils and he carefully drew each note. He drew each note on the musically lined scoresheet, gently swaying his head back and forth as he drew. I write, and the words form in my head and then the keyboard to the page, and I get that. But this young man was creating music with simple pencils and a blank scoresheet. I am quite certain it was magic.

* * * * * *

A new resident moved into the apartment below us.  We know because his stuff — huge, gorgeous pieces or art, crates of Evian, massive, antique chairs and tables and lamps — appears each night at his door as he hauls each piece up the two flights of stairs. Alone. He’s moving in at night and on weekends, no movers, just him. We ran into him on the steps, sweating through his pinstriped business shirt, sleeves rolled up, trying to hoist a bookcase up the stairs. Austin picked up one end and helped hoist it up the stairs. A few days later, from our favorite Italian place across the street, we watched him step onto his Haussmann balcony andtip his bottled Evian into each of the  balcony’s twelve potted trees. He made two passes, carefully watering and checking each tree, depleting the bottles of Evian he’d hoisted up two flights of stairs just days earlier.

 

*******

We often stand waiting at the doors of the little Italian spot across the street when they open at 7:30PM; sometimes they open early, just for us.  We call it our kitchen. We sit at our same table, half inside/half outside, where the leg of the chair might slip off the floor and onto the sidewalk, ensuring a tumble.  The staff  remembers our favorite dishes, the ravioli with blue cheese and nuts, the jambon tortellini, the four cheese pasta. The chef, the waitress and the waiter/manager always smile and wave and say “bonjour!” when we walk by during the day, like old friends. We notice, though, that other patrons sometimes get fresh grated parmesan on their pasta. They don’t request it; the waiter just offers, swoops in and grates, and disappears again. Or occasionally a brown bag of what appears to be warm, fresh bread, delicate grease markings on the bag, just drops on their tables, and maybe even replenished when depleted. We do not get those things. We’re in, but not that in. Last night, we sat at our regular table and ordered our favorite dishes and made small talk with the waitress. It was like every other night. Then she swooped by and dropped the little brown bag of warm fresh bread on our table.

* * * * * * *

I order vin blanc at Cafe Universel on Monday nights at our readings.  It’s the least expensive; it’s cold; and I can usually order it in French without stumbling. Azu, the owner, speaks very little English, but it doesn’t matter. His bartending knows no translation boundaries. Yet still, I want to do it right, especially with him. I’ve ordered vin blanc every Monday night of every July for the last three years from Azu. “Bonjour!” we both say, then he leans in to hear. I order, he nods, then plunges a wine glass into an ice vat to chill it, fills the glass with a respectable aligote, and slides it across the bar to me.  He smiles. I say “Merci,” He nods, smiles again, and slips the tab on the bar near me, knowing I’ll see it and pay before leaving. This week, I order, he plunges the glass into the ice, fills it, slides it across the bar, and smiles. “Merci,” I say. But no tab appears. Perhaps he forgot.  I order another glass later, and again, same dance, no tab. “Magnifique photographe,” he says to me and smiles. It takes a minute, but I get it.  Last year, I  got a shot of Azu and his wife, behind the bar. Another friend shared it with them. I never thought about it again.  But Azu did.  The wine, an expression of appreciation. “Merci beaucoup, Azu.”

Cafe Universel, Paris

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Uniquely Paris — The Fireman Balls on Bastille Day http://familyvagabonding.com/uniquely-paris-the-firemens-balls-on-bastille-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uniquely-paris-the-firemens-balls-on-bastille-day http://familyvagabonding.com/uniquely-paris-the-firemens-balls-on-bastille-day/#comments Sun, 14 Jul 2013 13:37:20 +0000 Powell Berger http://familyvagabonding.com/?p=1145 Fireman's Ball -- Bastille Day Paris -- Port Royal 13eme

13eme Port Royal Fireman's Ball, Paris 2013

Among the many things uniquely Parisian  . . .  the Firemen’s Balls over the Bastille Day holiday.  The Firemen of Paris– who work out daily in Luxembourg Gardens to an audience of jogging, swooning admirers — open their Fire Houses and host raucous, music pounding, dance throbbing parties for anyone willing to drop a few euro in the bucket on the way in. Consider us willing. Us, and our fellow writers and classmates from the Paris American Creative Writing Program, our home away from home every July.

It’s our second time to stop by the Fire House on Port Royal, just around the corner from our temporary home.  We know it’s close because we can hear the music pounding well into the evening. We sipped champagne (well, I did anyway) and danced and mingled until the wall of people was too crushing and our ears too deaf to endure any more fun.  Simply put, it was fabulous.  Maybe not quite as fabulous as the croissants.  Then again, maybe it was.

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One Turned Right — A Sheep Stampede http://familyvagabonding.com/one-turned-right-a-sheep-stampede/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-turned-right-a-sheep-stampede http://familyvagabonding.com/one-turned-right-a-sheep-stampede/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 14:59:42 +0000 Powell Berger http://familyvagabonding.com/?p=1133 It was faint at first, and indistinguishable.  I’d already heard the pheasants making racket earlier, so perhaps it was them again. But this was different, guttural, and a lot of it, and it was getting closer. It takes a lot to get me out from under the plush covers of my castle bed, but this other-worldly noise did just that.

My upstairs bedroom window overlooks the entry gate, the main road just past the gate, and across the road, a lane up towards pastures and rolling hills and all that.   There’s never anyone, or anything, out there.  Just the occasional cars on the road and the mail truck every morning. It’s quiet and remote and perfectly Scotland-lovely.  Except today.

Scotland

The Scene of the Stampede

Across the road and on the lane that leads to all things rolling and lovely were hundreds — and I mean hundreds — of sheep stampeding and ba’ahing and doing whatever sheep do when they make a wrong turn.  They over-flowed the lane, trampling the grasses on either side, and stretched back up the lane as far as I could see. And they were stampeding towards the main road and the world beyond as though their lives depended on it.

I grabbed clothes and ran downstairs, out the gate and into the road. It was only then that I realized a few critical facts:  (1) I was the only human in sight and hundreds of thundering sheep were running towards me;  (2) I’d left the front door open, so in just a few moments, those hundreds of thundering sheep could be in my adopted castle; and  (3) thundering sheep aren’t cute and cuddly; they are terrifying.  I leaned against the wall surrounding the property and hoped for the best.

Perhaps the sheep found me equally terrifying, because when they had to choose between my castle and me or the main road, they thundered onto the main road and took off for parts unknown.  Sheep really do run in a wall-to-wall herd, filling every inch of space with their bodies and their hooves and their snorts and ba-ahs. It was a moving carpet of sheep, coming down the lane, onto the main road and off on a wild and woolly adventure.

The occasional cars appeared, and stopped. Sheep herds in the roads aren’t uncommon here, so they probably weren’t as shocked as I was. But they did seem to understand that no responsible human was anywhere in sight, so they chose to stay in the safety of their vehicles, rather than join me standing in the middle of the road, watching this thundering herd trample anything in its way.

The responsible humans could be heard trailing the sheep, screaming commands at them. The sheep weren’t listening. It was clear even to me, the American, that things weren’t going as planned. For these two men, who seemed to have been having a perfectly normal morning until something went askew, things were not going well. Even through their thick Scottish brogue, I knew those words weren’t meant for polite company, or even polite sheep.

But these were human men and a couple hundred wild sheep. The humans would eventually prevail. One skirted around the fields and got in front of the herd, effectively cutting it off at the pass,  while the second guy barked at the three sheepdogs who obediently corralled the sheep into submission.  Or at least stopped the stampede. There they stood, several hundred sheep in the middle of the main road, having just come thundering down the hill, past my castle and me.

They looked cute and cuddly again.  Until the men started yelling at them again and the dogs started barking and snapping and the thundering herd turned to go back from whence they came.  Straight towards me standing in the middle of the road. Once again, I took cover by the wall and hoped for the best.

Those three little dogs, 2 men and one truck worked like magic. Particularly the dogs. They barked and snapped and got the sheep to turn back up the lane at exactly the right moment, and when a few strayed, the dogs brought them back, yapping and lunging at them and forcing their compliance. The dogs seemed to love it. The sheep had gotten their joy ride, so they obeyed.

“Well you don’t see that everyday,” the man in the truck said to me as he finally got the last few strays to head back up the lane. “We were just moving them from one field to another, like we do all the time, when one of them decided to turn right. And before we knew it . . . ” He trailed off and shook his head.

Later in the day, I wandered up the lane, to see where they’d come from, and perhaps where they’d ended up.  Sure enough, on one side of the road was an open gate and empty field, sheep wool still clinging to the gate and brush along the sides.   Up the road to the left, another field, gate closed, with a few hundred sheep contentedly ba’ahing and grazing and napping.  Most were laying down. They were rather tired, I figured.

“One turned right,” the man had told me. I got it now. Rather than going left and to the safety of the next field, one obstinate buggah turned right, and the rest of the otherwise mild-mannered herd turned suddenly crazed and followed him.

It’s like the Tea-Party. One turned right and it became a thundering, frightening herd running towards something, but no one knew quite what. If only a few wily sheepdogs snapping at their heels could solve that problem too.

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Dinner Amongst Friends in Paris http://familyvagabonding.com/dinner-amongst-friends-in-paris/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dinner-amongst-friends-in-paris http://familyvagabonding.com/dinner-amongst-friends-in-paris/#comments Sun, 23 Jun 2013 16:52:11 +0000 Powell Berger http://familyvagabonding.com/?p=1107 Last year, while in Paris for the Paris American Academy Creative Writing Program, we heard about Jim Haynes’ weekly Sunday dinner.  NPR did a piece on it a couple of years back, and a student shared it with the rest of us.

An ex-pat American hosts dinner for as many as 100+ strangers weekly in his Paris apartment? Seriously? We were hooked.

 

 

This piece, from TRAVELATI,  tells our story of joining Jim for dinner last year.

A Paris Dinner Amongst Friends, TRAVELATI, June 2013

 

Any yep, we’re already confirmed for our return visit this year.

 

(click here for story.)

 

 

 

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Castle Magic http://familyvagabonding.com/castle-magic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=castle-magic http://familyvagabonding.com/castle-magic/#comments Wed, 19 Jun 2013 11:11:31 +0000 Powell Berger http://familyvagabonding.com/?p=1056 Kailua, our little beach town in Hawaii, is the sweat pants of female fashion. Seriously, if you are living aloha there, you’re either sweaty, sandy or sopping wet most of the time anyway, and should you try to wear make-up, it slides off your face sometime before noon.

Okay, of course there are exceptions to this – goddesses who look perfect every single day – and we worship those women. But mostly, after a while, most women just quit trying. Maybe it’s because we live by the beach, where natural beauty is extraordinary, so we are lulled into believing our natural beauty is all we need, and the thought of blow drying our hair in our equally natural non-air-conditioned homes, dripping sweat immediately after our shower, seems oddly masochistic. Or maybe we just get lazy.

For the longest time, my new year’s resolutions included one to dry my hair completely.  Like, til it was dry. Another girlfriend and I did it in solidarity.  We’d text each other every morning we succeeded in our quest.  The texting ended before Valentines.  We never spoke of it again.  Now, when I’m home, I mostly use my hair dryer to dry my t-shirt after spot-treating it for some stain, so I can wear it one more day.

Another girlfriend, already naturally beautiful anyway, came back from LA once and started wearing make-up, drying her hair, and looking simply stunning every day.  I asked her about it.  “Honey, we just gotta try harder,” she told me. “I saw it in LA. We’ve given up.”  She was right of course, and she looked particularly stunning in her renewed efforts.  Last time I saw her, her hair was pulled up on top of her head, partially wet, her skin glowed without make-up, and her old t-shirt and shorts looked terrific.  But like I said, she’s naturally beautiful anyway.

I’m thinking about this, you see, because we’ve been trekking thru Italy, where even little kids wear sweaters over their shoulders and everyone has designer something. And they actually glow. Beautifully. (I chose to leave my toe shoes safely packed the entire time we were in the country, saving my kids from the mortification of traveling with me.)  I still didn’t dry my hair or wear make-up of course, but I noticed the beauty of others, and felt a bit guilty about my au naturel  lifestyle.

Now we’re in Scotland. Living in a castle. A castle with a name, even.  Dollerbeg Lodge, it’s called. It says that right on the stone pillars you drive through to enter the grounds.  (Yeah, I know. Google that and you don’t really find images of it, but I don’t care. That’s the address to which mail is delivered, and I’m reveling in a castle with a name actually etched in stone, so I’m going with it.)

And here’s the best part.  The Lady’s Dressing Room is in the Turret of the castle.  The Turret!

Yes, the room is round and cushy and plush, with a little window looking out over the gated entrance, with a couple of watchful spiders weaving their webs in the windows.  There’s a dressing table, a comfy chair, a big, beautiful mirror, plugs for the dryer and flat iron, and room on the dressing table for my meager make-up supply.

Yes, I do travel with make-up; I just never actually use it.  Contacts too, but glasses seem so much easier. Until today.

It’s a dressing room in a Turret, for gods sake. In a Scottish castle, with a name. If ever a girl’s to feel like a girl and do the girly thing, that’s the place.  Right?

That’s what I thought too. And so I did.

I took a long, luscious hot shower, in the beautiful bathroom with the claw foot tub and the heated tile floor. (You knew it had a claw foot tub, didn’t you, because it’s part of the castle requirements – turret and claw foot tub mandatory; moat optional.) The bathroom scale looming in the corner momentarily challenged my fairy tale. I stepped on it, warily, but was relieved by the low battery warning, a clear sign my fairy godmother had readied the home before my arrival.  I thanked her quietly.

The various moisturizer samples I’ve been lugging around the world were retrieved from the bottom of my toiletries kit and lathered on. It felt heavenly. Bathed, weighed and moisturized, I gathered all my hair products and make up and brushes and retreated to the Turret.

And it was glorious.  I took my time, like a little girl with make up for the first time, which was a good thing since I’m not terribly skilled at actually applying the stuff. I dried my hair, actually using my brush and even a bit of oil that’s supposed to do something special to my hair. Or at least that’s what I think it’s for. I forget.  Then the flat iron, smoothing out those kinks and curls and waves til my hair looked, well, stunning.  (I’m typing this with one hand while the other hand keeps fingering my hair to be sure I didn’t make this up.)

Lastly, the make-up – foundation, eye shadow and liner, even lipstick.  And of course, the contacts.  I had to go through a few pair to find some that hadn’t expired, but I wasn’t to be deterred.

My teenagers simply stared when I descended the staircase, trying to act like I look like this every day. Perhaps it took them a moment to realize I was their mother, the one with toe shoes and stained t-shirts. Or maybe they were concerned she’d been snatched away, and this odd-looking blow-dried creature had been left in her place.  And perhaps that’s exactly what had happened.

Collarbeg Castle, ScotlandIn a castle with a turret, anything is possible.

 

 

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Views From A Paris Window http://familyvagabonding.com/views-from-a-paris-window/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=views-from-a-paris-window http://familyvagabonding.com/views-from-a-paris-window/#comments Sun, 17 Jul 2011 14:38:40 +0000 Powell Berger http://familyvagabonding.com/?p=988 Blvd St Michel, ParisThere’s no Eiffel Tower from my window; no Arc de Triomphe, cobblestone street, or art deco Metro entrance.  Rue Mouffetard Market –  with madame proprietor of La Fontaine aux Vins who now greets me by name, the boulangerie clerk who’s still not forgiven my 50 euro faux pas, the rows of vendors with fruits and vegetables, shellfish and whole fish and filets, and smelly, creamy, hard and moldy cheeses – is just beyond my slightly neglected courtyard and heavy, creaky double doors (brass knobs in the middle, of course, obliterating any chance of graceful entry).  From the map, I see that the Jardin des Plantes (botanical garden) is just around the next block and the Siene a bit beyond that.

But none of these Parisian treasures can I see from my flat’s tall, sweeping windows, the scrolled ironwork keeping me safely ensconced within as I gaze out over the neighborhood.

My window onto Paris is instead, filtered through a canopy of young trees, a border of sorts it seems, between my cozy enclave and the sprawling 1970’s high-rise just beyond the pigeons and the limbs and the sprouting leaves. It’s jarring to think of architectural abominations in Paris. Surely these formal, refined French skipped that entire era, turning the other cheek with a harrumph as they ordered another coffee.   Apparently not, unfortunately, since from my window the evidence looms, all dozen floors or so of identical balconies, metal-framed sliding glass doors, concrete pillars, and a flat industrial roof, presumably scattered with lounge chairs and potted plants to give it intimacy. No overflowing flower boxes, scrolling ironwork or imposing knobs-in-the-middle wood doors to be found.

View notwithstanding, I’m captivated by my window, and find myself transfixed there, with coffee in the morning, wine in the evening, or an occasional spread of fruit and cheeses midday. It’s the ever-changing landscape – not in views but in melody – that draws me back day after day.

It’s the extended family in the flat below, just out of sight, gathering on weekends and holidays, glasses clinking as laughter and conversation flows in beautifully fluid French, none of which I understand, who capture my imagination. They are artists and writers and teachers, I imagine, setting the cadence and the tone of the unfolding scene before me.

It’s the brilliant music, wafting from the buildings beyond, that compels me to throw open the windows and pour a bit more wine. Haunting a capella strains of the Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America echoed through the late night air on July 4th, just another ordinary night in Paris.  The concert pianist (or at least my imagination makes it so) practices each evening, just as the sun sets in the late evening sky.  The operatic tenor hones his favorite piece late some afternoons, while the streets below buzz as families scurry home for the evening.

It’s the clashing and booming of fireworks for Bastille Day – and the days leading into it, as well as those thereafter, just for good measure – that remind me I’m a guest in someone else’s neighborhood. It’s their neighborhood bistro that revs up most evenings, the cheering and jeering and laughter wafting up through my open curtains late into the night. The beeping trash trucks, wailing ambulances, firetrucks and police cars that wander through only occasionally, shattering the still cadence with their urgency.

I visit my friends in St Sulpice, on Blvd St. Germaine, and on Ile de Cite and envy their urban energy. The street scene, the rows of cafes, dozens and dozens of chairs all spilling out onto the sidewalks, the eclectic buzz of the French and the tourists jockeying for position, the international mélange of noise and people and customs. “I’ll find a place near here next time I’m in Paris,” I think.

Then I slip down the steps under the art deco signs and into the tunnels, past the street art and streetlights and onto the train, heading home, back to the neighborhood. The cadence slows, and an elderly woman exits with me, chatting comfortably in French as we cross the street together, me trying not to let on I don’t understand. She smiles and waves slightly as we part company at the next corner. My small flashlight guides me through my darkened courtyard and up the stairs, the only sound my footsteps tiptoeing past neighbors’ doors as I settle in for the night.

The sun rises and the quiet, predictable patter again fills my window, the artists and teachers gathering below, the random left-over fireworks echoing in the distance on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning.

“Today we rest,” my neighbor tells me as we pass in the courtyard.

My neighbor, I realize.

I’ll continue to relish the visits with those friends and celebrate the noisy, chaotic buzz of life lived large along the banks of the Siene in trendy, fashionable Paris.   I’ll soak up every minute of it.

And then I’ll come home to my neighborhood.

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Paris in July http://familyvagabonding.com/paris-in-july/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=paris-in-july http://familyvagabonding.com/paris-in-july/#comments Mon, 04 Jul 2011 13:57:02 +0000 Powell Berger http://familyvagabonding.com/?p=980 Paris American AcademyYou’d think as much as I’ve traveled, a month in Paris as a writing student would come easy. OK. Maybe not the student or writing parts; that still has me worried. But a seasoned traveler morphing into Parisian life for a month, I should be able to do that, right?

Three days into it, here’s what I’ve discovered.

(By the way, sorry. Having sworn I’d never do top ten lists when I started this blog, I’m breaking that oath.)

  • Despite my initial impression, “Solde” is not a group of St Germaine boutiques  offering beautiful and diverse Parisian goods. The deals and bargains, however, are amazing.
  • The Metro stop Jussieu is only convenient if, after 45 minutes of purposeful wandering from the exit, you find yourself somewhere other than the opposing exit.
  • Bonjour, merci, si vous plait, and au revoir, if used strategically, can be sufficient vocabulary to successfully negotiate a rudimentary retail transaction.  Until the sales clerk tells you the price. In French.
  • There is no quantity of French vocabulary to successfully negotiate an early morning croissant transaction when your smallest currency is a 50 euro. Just deal with it; you will be admonished. In perfect English.
  • My hips are too wide for most tiny cafe chairs. The croissants are not likely to help.
  • No matter how hard I try to pronounce street names and Metro stops, I’m wrong. And there’s typically someone nearby to point that out.
  • Wine really does go with everything, even eggs. (So do frites, but they are like crack. Not even once.)
  • Okay. Maybe once.
  • When people stop me on the street and ask for directions, in French, I can’t offer a whit of assistance. But I’m thrilled they think I can.

But most of all,

  • There is no greater privilege than to study writing in Paris in July.

 

I’m already scheming to figure out how to get back next year. Maybe by then, I can speak a bit of French.

 

 

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HEADING HOME . . . And Not Wanting it to End. http://familyvagabonding.com/heading-home-and-not-wanting-it-to-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=heading-home-and-not-wanting-it-to-end http://familyvagabonding.com/heading-home-and-not-wanting-it-to-end/#comments Sun, 30 May 2010 22:26:02 +0000 Powell Berger http://www.familyvagabonding.com/?p=501 Munich airport, terminal one.  It’s early, cold, and pouring rain under an overcast and bleary sky.  Somehow fitting, it seems.  After two glorious months galavanting across Europe, we’re headed home.  Dusseldorf.  LA. And finally,  Honolulu.

No one’s saying much.  Rather quiet bunch.  All thinking the same – yet different — thoughts.  For me, it’s a time to reflect, ponder.  What are the “take-aways” from the experience?  After all the trains, cabs, buses, museums, ferries, funiculars, sights and subways,  how’ve we changed?  What goes home with us, becomes part of our fabric?

We’re travelers.  Unique, marching to the beat we’ve found to fit.  I marvel at the confident gait and stride these young vagabonders have cultivated.  Ipods, passports, paperbacks slung over their shoulder, they find their corner of the terminal the way their friends settle into their living room.

For Columbus and me, the business beckons. Payables, receivables, clients, marketing problem-solving.  We’ve been plugged in from afar – technology is an amazing thing – but it’s time to be back “in the office” actually touching it up close and personal.   And it’s summer – paddle season, sleep-away camps, hanging out with friends, summer programs . . . a whole sub culture to potentially get the kids plugged into, bringing order, purpose, and over-scheduling to the time traditionally reserved (at least in my day) for doing nothing at all.   We’ll find our way, I’m sure, but in our own time.  At the moment, all that activity feels like organized chaos (or “cha-chos” as Sacagawea calls it).  We’ll ease back in, one day at a time, until we find our step.  Reconnect with friends.  Weave the fibers of the experiences into our own fabrics.  Unpack.  Pay some bills. Do some writing.  It’s a clean slate, summer, and a chance to fill the palate as we want.  Don’t rush.  Get it right.

Then we’ll be off again to another part of the globe, our little family exploring the planet one place at a time.

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Finding Our Juju in Italy http://familyvagabonding.com/finding-our-juju-in-italy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=finding-our-juju-in-italy http://familyvagabonding.com/finding-our-juju-in-italy/#comments Mon, 10 May 2010 18:15:04 +0000 Powell Berger http://www.familyvagabonding.com/?p=479 It’s probably the gelato.  Or the romantic language.  Or perhaps it’s simply the sheer silliness of the national stubbornness, particularly when it makes the least sense.  Somehow, we believe we might have been Italian in another life.  Never mind the freckles, fair skin and red hair.  It just feels like we belong here.  Not at first, of course.  Home isn’t always home right away.  But it happens.   It’s Italian we keep defaulting to, forgetting it’s not the language of Croatia, or Greece, or Turkey, or that we really don’t know Italian in the first place.NAPLES ITALY

We flex our vagabonding muscles in Italy. It’s where we exhale, eat well, devour gelato, and kick back.  We revel in the confusion.  We laugh at ourselves and the awkwardness of global travel.  We find our spirit, our juju, alive and well and looking for adventure.

When befuddled shipmates almost stumbled onto a train bound to Pisa instead of Rome, Dundee jumped in, gently guiding them to the correct platform.  When a wheelchair-bound passenger had trouble making it across the tracks, it was Sacagawea and Dundee who nudged fellow passengers to help the guy hoist his chair (and himself) into the train as the heavy doors clanked closed.   I watch and learn, sheepishly recalling how many times I’ve stood silent in similar moments.

Making our way from Naples to Pompei by train and bus,  it’s clear we’re being followed.   A heavy-set Hispanic kid — early 20’s in baggy jeans, t-shirt and hip white sneakers, new and expensive — kept a steady pace, far enough back to not engage, but always just there, all the same.  We got off the bus at the wrong stop, so did he.  We crossed the street unnecessarily – and crossed back – so did he. I checked my money belt, confirming it was secure, and pulled the kids a bit closer.

We asked directions, and he stopped, loitering aimlessly until we moved on..  He shuffled when he walked, head down, as though trying to hide, be absorbed by the sidewalk.  His soulful brown eyes darted away, but always kept us in sight.

“Excuse me,” I said, suddenly turning to face him.  He jumped back, surprised.  “Do you know the best way to get to the train station for Pompeii?”

“No,” he replied sheepishly, staring at his shuffling feet.  I let the silence hang, staring at him.   “It’s my first time here and I don’t know how to get there.  I only have a few hours before I have to be back onboard, and want to see it, Pompeii.  I’m following you, hoping you’ll lead the way.”

POMPEII SCAVIAt least I got part of it right.   Hispanic, from Guatemala.   A shy kid, determined to see the world.   We reminded him of his family back home,  he said.  Thought he’d just tag along.  My money belt, quite safe, seemed we’d picked up another kid for the day.  A global “play date” of sorts, a new buddy for Dundee (and the rest of us.)  And together, we found Pompeii.

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