Monday, July 9, 2012

Passport to Paris: Day 4

July 4th,

Happy independence day! Although I have to say it didn't feel much like the 4th being in a different country. I slept in until almost 10am this morning due to the dang blast shields, those would be dangerous for me to have at home! I quickly got ready for the day and we were off. We went to the local market, leader price, and got food to take with us on a picnic. Then we caught the metro into the city. On Wednesday my Aunt Mandy and cousin Amelie go into Paris to the American Library for story time. The ALP is located about a block away from the Eiffel Tower. There are a lot of parks and grassy areas around the tower so we went to one of those playgrounds to have out picnic lunch. Picnicking is VERY popular in France. It was pretty cool to look up from my sandwich and see the Eiffel Tower. That doesn't happen everyday! Since it was a BEAUTIFUL day I decided I needed some more pictures of the tower on such a perfect day. They sky was so pretty!

After our picnic we headed over to the Library.  We got there a little late and the group was talking about famous building in Paris and in the United States. Then they read a story about the statue of liberty, which was of course a gift from the French that was made in Paris. It was fun to have a little patriotism in my day and a lot of the kids were dressed in red, white and blue. After the library we went out in search of a place that sold the Paris "Museum Pass." With some help from a nice little French lady we were able to find a stand that sold them. It was pleasantly surprised when I looked across the street to see the street "Rue Cler." Cynda and Ben where just in Paris and they told me one of the things I had to do was walk down "Rue Cler." Also my "Pocket to Paris" Rick Steve's guide book had a whole walking tour of the street. It was filled with markets and cheese shops, crepe stands and boulangeries (french word for Bakery.) It was really cute. I got a strawberry jam crepe and my heart melted, so delicious! It was fun to walk down but no different than a lot of the streets in Creteil where my Aunt lives. 

After out walk we headed back to Creteil. We went to the grocery on the way back to the apartment so I could grab stuff to make dinner for everyone. I got a rotisserie chicken, which are sooo much better in France, from the butcher and I even ordered it in French!! GO ME! Then I got al the things I needed to make bowtie pesto, tomato, motz. pasta for dinner. I spend the next hour working in her tiny kitchen. The only counter space she has is where the drying rack goes, so you have to use the stove top as a prep area until you start making things on the stove- then you are out of space. It was a lesson in well thought out cooking. 

The good news was everyone enjoyed my pasta dish. After doing the dished I made some calls home to  my family and Mike to see how their 4th of July was going. It was weird to have them just be starting their day when I was just about to end mine. I guess six hour time differences will do that. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Passport to Paris: Days 1-3

July 1st,

Today began for me at 3:35am when we had to wake up to get ready to catch our flights. Mikes shuttle to the airport came to pick him up at 4:20 then mine came at 4:25. I was really sad to say goodbye to him and also really nervous to fly to Paris on my own. The shuttle got me to the airport very early, so early I had to wait 20 minutes to even check in. Once I made it through security I had to wait for over an hour to find out where my gate was. It was an interesting was of doing things, especially since all I wanted to do was sleep but since I wasn't at my gate I didn't want to chance it. Finally I was on the flight headed to Paris. 

Once I landed in Paris I followed the crowd. I was a bit taken aback when I walked past three armed solders carrying riffles in their hands. I got my passport stamped then waited 30 minutes for my luggage to come. I was about to go ask if they lost it, but tried to wait it out as long as I could since I didn't speak French and was nervous about not being understood. I called my Aunt and let them know I was in town safely and to look for me in about 45 min. As I went out into the arrivals area I searched the crowd for the driver holding the sign with my name. When I spotted him and let him know I was Kristin Jenson I was surprised that he didn't say a word to me but took my small car on bag and started walking quickly through the crowd. He reminded me A LOT of Puck from Glee, only the french versions.

As we drove towards Cretiel he was going 90 kilometers an hour (I have no idea what that translates to in miles but it felt fast.) He was also texting with a phone in one hand and dialing a number with the phone in his other hand. Then he was talking while messing with the GPS, while driving fast, weaving in and out of traffic and scaring the crap out of me. I was stating to wonder if I would make it to Cretiel safely and wondered how many tourist die in car accidents while driving with a "car service" driver. Finally we arrived. It was perfect timing as the minute I stepped out of the car I heard my uncle yelling my name through a window near by. I had been the most nervous about finding their apartment building and seeing them when I got there so I was relieved that he had seen me and knew I was there.

My Aunt and 5 year old cousin found me and I was so happy to see them. They took me inside their place and gave me the grand tour. I was surprised that the toilet was in its own room with a small sink and the tub and another sink were in a separate room. After putting my things down we walked to the grocery store to get a few things before they closed (they close at 1pm on Sunday.) We came home and had lunch then we walked over to what they call the Old City. We went to a butcher shop and a bakery to grab more things for dinner. We let Amelie play on a near by playground and chatted for a while. It is amazing that there are so many parks and playgrounds around here. So wonderful for kids!

We took a bus back to the apartment so I had my first experience with that. Once we got back they had another couple arrive that would be staying with them for a little over a week as well. They were pretty jet lagged so we spent the rest of the night visiting and eating some delicious chicken, baguettes and cheese. It was so amazing to have a home cooked meal after eating out for so many days in a row!

July 2nd,

The windows in the apartment all have what they call blast shields. They are like metal blinds that you lower over your whole window. When they are down it makes your whole room pitch black. Needless to say with a pitch black room I slept in pretty late. We lounged around the house for a good while. We went to the mall here in Cretiel. IT IS HUGE. I was so lost and turn around there. They had their sales going on so it was especially crowded. We went to a walmart like store called Carrfore inside the mall and got some more groceries.  We walked home and had lunch then waited for my cousin to get out of school. We went to pick her up at 4:20 then took her to the lake by their apartment and let her feed the birds, ducks, swans and pigions. I have never seen so many birds in one place at a time. They basically attacked her for he bread. She was really cute, when she was crowded by all the birds she ran away from them and her response was "it's sure getting busy down there." After we fed the birds we walked to two and a half miles around the lake. It was a beautiful walk with a lot of great places to picnic and play at. We stopped at one and it was really big for a playground but the equipment was different than what we have in the states, much more climbing toys/building than I would like as a parent. After our walk the other couple made up fajitas for dinner and we spent the rest of the night resting and relaxing. 

June 3rd,

Today we all woke up early and took the metro into Paris. It was only a 25 minute ride to the Notra Dame stop. We got out of the metro at a place called Hotel De Ville. I'm not sure what that is, but I was told it was famous, so I took a picture. :)

Then we headed to the Norta Dame cathedral. It made me think of the Hunchback of Notra Dame. It was fun to see and walk through, but to be honest I have seen a lot of cool churches/cathedrals in the past few weeks so I wasn't blown away by the inside. What I was the most impressed with was the architecture. It was really impressive all the statues that were carved into the archways. So impressive!! 

Joan of Arc statue

After that we walked towards the Louvre. It was a beautiful walk and I really enjoyed all the beautiful buildings, flowers and walking by the river.

I was so happy to walk past this bridge. I have seen it in a lot of pictures and was really wishing I have a lock to add to it. I'm not 100% sure of what the story is with it, but I think Lovers come and put their names on lock then lock them to the bridge then when they come back they try to find their lock? At any rate I think it is pretty awesome!

Then we walked to the Louvre. It was closed which was perfect because it made it less crowded to get pictures. The only bummer was that the sky was so cloudy over it that it looked gray and gloomy when it was really a beautiful day :( 

We walked thought a lovely park before catching the metro to the Arc de Triomphe.

(another statue of ceaser...)

After seeing the Arc we got on the metro and rode it to the Eiffel tower area. On the metro we enjoyed a little live entertainment from so of the other passengers. My aunt told me that was pretty common for people to get on a play then expect money from the other passengers. She was right. I saw this a lot more and usually it was the accordion and another instrument. Good ol' Parisians and their accordions.

I was so happy to see the Eiffel tower but was sad to learn one of the lifts was broken and it would be a long, long wait to ride to the top... maybe next time. 

After that it was time to head back so we could pick Amelie up from school, which was perfect because after doing so much sight seeing and walking I  could only handle it in small doses. I am sooo tired of walking all day long, I was happy to spend the rest of the night relaxing at home. 

The English Countryside: Day 3

June 30th

Today we got to sleep in!! It was glorious! We went down for breakfast at 9. Kay and Steve has a lovely arrangements of fruits, yogurts, cereal and juices set out for us. That was just for starters. Then they cooked us a "Traditional English" breakfast. That would be eggs, sausage, ham, mushrooms, black pudding and toast. It was delicious! Best breakfast of the whole trip. I think we will stick with B&B's in the future. We chatted with them for a good while, it was nice to feel more like a house guest verses a client at a hotel. After breakfast we took our time getting ready and didn't head our till after noon. 

Driving came much more naturally today and neither one of us was very stressed while in the car. We drove 20 minutes to Stonehenge. 

It was a neat place to visit with a nice audio guide. The wind was SOOOO strong. You can tell when looking at our pictures that my dress was sticking to me the wind was blowing so strong. The stones are in the middle of the country and not surrounded by any building. It was beautiful! We were sad the wind made it a little colder than we wanted so we didn't stay longer than an hour. Then it was back on the road to drop off our rental car. 

(I love this picture except for the fact I look pregnant. I promise it is just the way my body is bent and the way the wind blew my clothes.)

Most of the drive was on a motor way. We drove for about 2 hours and found a good roadside rest area that had a ton of food places inside. There was a bridge over the freeway to connect one rest area to another so you could walk across and try the food on the other side. We thought that was pretty cool. After lunch we got back on the road only to realize we were basically almost to the airport where we were dropping off the car. Our GPS had the wrong address in it so we had to quickly revise our trip and luckily didn't miss any major turns in the process. 

We found a gas station to fill up our tank with diesel fuel, that was new. Mike had to go inside and ask how to use the machine because it was a little tricky and then he had to use the car key to open the gas tank (good idea to keep people from siphoning it out of your tank.) We put about half a tank of gas in the car and paid 25 pounds. That is like 35-40 USD!! I don't think I will complain about gas prices as much anymore. After we filled up we dropped the car off, scratch free, and got a taxi to our hotel.

The hotel room is nice in this hotel. Very big with a shower and a couch! We were anxious just to spend a night vegging in front of the TV and enjoying each other company. We watched a little tennis (Roddick loose) before we wnt down to get some dinner at the pub. Food is so expensive here once you convert the pound to the dollar. I am anxious to pay american prices again!!! After dinner we spent the rest of the night watching the Murray v Baghdats match. What a little tennis fan Mike has turned me into! I really loved all the time we were able to spend together on this trip. Mike was saying that we have spent more time together in the past 10 days than we have in the past 6 months... it is probably true. 

I am sad to be saying goodbye to Mike tomorrow. We aren't even able to take the same shuttle to the airport since we are going to different terminals. I am excited to go on to Paris but really nervous to do it all on my own. I am crossing my fingers and praying that all goes well and I make in to my Aunt's safe and sound!