Purse Panda in Paris, the End (For Now)

To anyone following the adventures of Purse Panda in Paris (click here to get up to speed), his Parisian life continued pretty much where the last post left off:

Picnicking on the Seine:

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Drinking wine with friends at Salon

 

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(Sometimes to excess – THIS is how I found Purse Panda one morning! SAD!)

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He had to dry out for a few days. Just coffee for you Purse Panda!

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But when he was not eating and drinking to excess, he continued to enjoy the beauty that is Paris. Purse Panda’s love for Paris grew stronger by the day. He loves fountains as you know, especially this one at the Jardin du Luxembourg:

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And this one at the Louvre:
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Purse Panda loves the Louvre.

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And the Tuilleries,
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And Notre Dame,

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And Monet’s water lilies at the Musee de l’orangerie,

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And Sacre Coeur,

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And of course…

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Purse Panda’s favorite day was a visit to the Jardin des Plantes.  The flowers were so beautiful!

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But the highlight of Purse Panda’s trip was this sign he spotted:

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His peeps!

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Oui! Purse Panda found his tribe in Paris.

As did I…

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Purse Panda is home now, a little jet lagged but happy to be reunited with his entire family.

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He will never forget this trip, and the people he met and loved along the way.  He’ll always have Paris in his heart. He’s a bit sad to not be there, but he knows he’ll be back…

 

 

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Purse Panda in Paris Part One

I didn’t set off on my French adventure alone…I have a secret traveling companion. When I was packing for my trip my husband Doug said, “You need to take a creature with you” (no not him!!!), referring to a stuffed animal memento that would remind me of home. After some consideration I chose the travel ready Purse Panda.

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This is Purse Panda chilling in my friend Jo’s Parisian apartment on our first night in Paris!

Purse Panda was a gift to Doug from his son Holden. We hadn’t been dating all that long when we took Holden to the National Zoo on what happened to be Father’s Day. I told Doug that Holden and I would be back and we found a gift shop where I told Holden that he could pick out a gift as a surprise for Doug. The 6-years-old-at-the-time Holden chose Purse Panda. I must say, it was a perfect choice!

So Purse Panda hopped into my Paris-bound suitcase and away we went, first as you know to Nice, where he checked out the French girls on the beach

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and had a nice break by a fountain (Purse Panda loves French fountains, as you will see. I haven’t figured out why.)

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Purse Panda loved the ice-cold Margarita’s we shared on Cinco de Mayo, in the old town

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Purse Panda also enjoyed the trip up in the hills above Nice to the beautiful village of Vence, where Matisse designed a chapel. We hiked to the chapel but it was closed. Purse Panda enjoyed the views nonetheless.

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He also admired this Matisse sculpture.

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And of course this fountain.

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As much as Purse Panda loved Nice,

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Paris is his true passion. He is so happy to be here! He especially loves the Eiffel Tower,

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most especially when it sparkles.

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He also really enjoyed the Jardin du Luxembourg, resting his tired paws with my niece, checking out the crowds and of course, the fountain.

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But what Purse Panda really AIMES the most about Paris is hanging out with and eating and drinking with the Parisian people. Purse Panda is quite the partier it turns out. He adored the gang at the Eurovision party, and the feeling was tres mutual (even though he did NOT understand the rules!)

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Purse Panda enjoys meeting new friends and seeing dear familiar ones.

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He loves nothing more than sitting in the sun, sharing some rose,

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or looking out at the rooftops of Paris from a friend’s apartment.

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He is grateful that I brought him along, and tomorrow he will be reunited with his rightful owner. He is looking forward to more Parisian adventures. Until then, au revoir from Purse Panda in Paris!

My Amazing Five Weeks in France, Partie Un

I’m here in Nice in my sweet apartment (here is my building, it really IS sweet, n’est ce pas?)

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and my street:
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I’m resting my brain after a long day of French classes yesterday. Today is a holiday here (more on that below) so I have the good fortune to have enjoyed a day off already! Because it is HARD to learn a language at my age my people. I mean REALLY learn it, enough so that you can have an easy conversation. It seems that I have forgotten everything. Imagine being 5 years old, THAT is what I felt like trying to express myself yesterday.

But I am getting ahead of myself! I arrived here in Nice after having spent the night in Paris with my dearest Canadian BFF Jo (I call her ma beatch, what can I say, THAT is how much Je l’aime, despite not being able to understand one f’ing word of her fluent yet foreign to me Québécois French), in her perfect apartment in the 9th that I talked her into renting (yes I take complete credit) for her well-earned, totally deserved year in Paris. Everyone who decides to continue reading my blog after this post will get to know her very well in future posts, so I will get on with my ponderings about Nice and my school.

My apartment is a beautiful 10-15 minute walk

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from Idiom: le spécialiste des cours pour adultes. AKA my school (in this awesome building!)

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I love it. As I said above, it is HARD! But everyone is super nice (I will refrain from making any further nice/Nice jokes). AND I am the ONLY American in the school right now. Actually, only one of two English speakers (the other Anglaise is a beautiful elderly lady from Dundee, Scotland.) Everyone else is Swiss (predominately) and German.

I spent a grueling hour taking a French test so that they could make sure that I was in the correct class and was placed in a group (B2!!!) with said Swiss, said Scot, and a German, all female of varying ages and super, well, nice (sorry). As were the instructors (toutes les femmes et super sympa aussi). After the sessions ended they had a welcome party and everyone was invited for a traditional  Niçoise spread and flowing rosé. In the middle of the afternoon. Ahhhh, France! 😊

In between working HARD on my French I have just taken in all the wonder that is Nice. This is the 4th time I’ve had the privilege to spend time here (blessed BE) and it still enchants. It’s so colorful, vibrant, alive…it feels happy. Nice is a feast for the senses, and I am beyond grateful, made-me-cry grateful, that I have this opportunity to indulge one more time. I walk around humbled, taking in the beauty. It really has taken my breath away at times, and brought me to tears.

I went running this morning, along the prommanade anglais.  I was so exhilarated to be here that I didn’t even hate running…

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Then I wandered my way toward the Old Town, marching along with my people on the way. It was a manifestation in honor of 1 May. Workers of the World, Unite! I talked solidarity in my broke ass French with a few of my union brothers and sisters. They tolerated me. 🙂 I don’t care, I was uplifted!

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I was pretty hungry and smack in the middle of bad pizza land but I stumbled across this gem of a place:

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There weren’t many people there when I entered so I was worried, but it soon filled up and I was REALLY glad that I chose it. I had the special, ” Saint-pierre aux cèpes”,  which translates as John Dory (a white fish) in a creamy sauce. OMG, the fish was so fresh, and that sauce was SO delicious! Of course I had to have some rosé to accompany my meal. 20 euros total, including a chick pea salad and a small bite of Pissaliediere (kind of like pizza) to start, on the house. Amazing…

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Fully sated I walked through the Old Town to the market, the Cours Saleya. It was bustling and full of flower stalls selling lily of the valley bouquets in honor of May Day.

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I took the long way around

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stopping to laugh at this seagull who was giving all the other birds a piece of his/her mind!

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back to the seaside where I had a rest.

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then I wandered back through the winding narrow streets of the Old Town toward my hood. I happened upon this beautiful park, and decided to sit again. It was such a beautiful sight, all the families and people out enjoying the day off!

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I sat and thought about being here alone. I really hate dining by myself. I truly am an extrovert, I get energy from talking and being around other people. So that’s been a bit hard for me. I know my fellow solo woman warrior travelers, I know you are shaking your heads at me right now, saying but you’ve only been alone for 2 DAYS! HAHAHA! I’m sorry, I can’t help it, I need people! But I’ve also realized since I’ve been here that being somewhere alone also makes you so much more aware of your surroundings, and more attuned to the world around you. It’s been great hearing all the different languages as I walk the streets.  I smelled the most wonderful orange blossoms walking through that park. I’m looking around more. I’m seeing that it’s a good thing for me to shut my mouth and just be in the moment for a change. I’m changing.

(To prove my point, I overheard a man say: “ahhh, c’est belle, la fontaine” when I was walking away from here:  🙂

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OF course that also means that I have lots of talking stored up, so I look forward to previously mentioned beatch joining me here on Thursday (haha look out Jo I am gonna talk your ear off!). If I behave myself and am capable of waking in time to make my 8AM vocabulary class, my last day of school will be Friday, and Jo and I will, weather permitting, have beaucoup de sun-filled Cote d’Azur adventures ahead of before returning to Paris for part deux of my journey. I hope you will come along!

Until then, I bid you all a fond adieu de Nice. A la prochaine, hons…

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Five Weeks in France. O-M-G!

Here I sit, in my home in Baltimore, pondering how I have the great good fortune to be leaving in exactly one week for a five week adventure in France.  I really can’t believe it, still.

I’ll be immersed in French classes here for the first week,

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(Nice IS Nice!)

followed by some Nice fun in the sun with my Canadian BFF Jo who is living in Paris for a YEAR! But don’t be a hater, I am sleeping on her couch a few nights. And she deserves it.

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Then it’s off to Paris for the rest of the time.

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I am so very grateful to my bosses and colleagues at the Center for Economic and Policy Research for allowing me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (don’t worry I promise to  check my email to make sure we don’t miss any donations!!). I can also scout out office space for CEPR-Paris!

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I am grateful for my dear friends in Paris. I look forward to many wine-filled evenings of laughter and love and light. And cheese, and croissants, and all the rest of the glorious food. And thanks to my Fitness guru Linda I hopefully will be able to indulge freely. She gave me some killer workouts to take along.  Montmarte Stairmaster class anyone?

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But most of all, I am grateful to my husband Doug, for the patience, understanding and unconditional love that he has shown me in supporting my trip. I look forward to his visit to Paris! Dougie, you totally rock.  Je t’aime baby.

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I also look forward to my dear friends and family who will be visiting while I’m there. Some are Paris virgins, and I look forward to showing them my town. Look out Paris, Baltimore will soon be in the MAISON!

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I’m also planning on some side trips, one to Strasbourg to visit my friend Anne who lives there (train strike willing),

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And (hopefully) to Berlin to see my sister! (Lufthansa willing)
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I hope to use my time to reflect. I’m turning 60 in September (60 is the new 40 my lovelies), and I want to take a deep breath, and just be, in the city I love, a place that feeds my soul.

I plan to share some of my thoughts and adventures (and pictures!) here, if anyone is interested in coming along on my ride. You are most welcome.  Paris and I look forward to having you join us.

Bises mes chers… à bientôt !

Mauritius…C’est Merveilleux

I haven’t written in my blog in a YEAR! It was a memorable one…I got married.

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I went to Paris twice, once for my wedding shower which was totally surreal,

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(Me and my Muriels in the Luxembourg Gardens…awww!!)

again in October which was short but sweet.

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I went back to Hawai`i, kind of a working honeymoon, which included a return to the awesome Ha`ena as well as a visit to a live volcano on the Big Island.

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(whew we are HOT!)

I feel remiss in my blogging. So I am making up for it (hopefully, for anyone who cares to read my silly little ramblings) by trying to recount my recent girls’ trip to paradise aka Mauritius, hon.

Backstory, my PPBFF Candace left me and Baltimore behind in August of 2016 to follow her college-age dream of joining the Peace Corps. She’s in Botswana, and although I feared that I wouldn’t see her for two and a half years, I have actually had the privilege to spend some quality time…first in PARIS where she surprised me by coming to my awesome shower, combat boots and backpack in tow. 🙂 And then again in Baltimore.

But I wanted to spend some time with her in her part of the world.  Hmmm, where to go with just a week off?  I thought about Capetown, then Durban…Mozambique…but when Candace mentioned that she knew of some PCV’s (Peace Corps Volunteers) who had gone to Mauritius and had loved it,  Mr. Google convinced me that THIS was the place I wanted to see. So despite never having been to Africa,  Mauritius won my travel roulette, especially when I discovered how cheap it was to stay there. (And for those of you wondering where in the hell is Mauritius, that’s ok, I really wasn’t sure either. It’s an island located about 1,000 miles off the east coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, past Madagascar. In other words, very far from the US!)

I found our lovely apartment on HomeAway, what a bargain!!

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A whopping $39 per night for  two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and a beautiful porch

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where we spent many contented hours drinking coffee and wine, having dinner and chatting away. The landlord was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and his beautiful wife cooked for us 3 nights! Fish and chicken curry (which was THE best food we had the entire time) and Nargisi Kofta, or meatballs stuffed with eggs. And fresh mangoes couertsy of our German neighbors…heavenly.

But of course the star of the show in Trou Aux Biches is the BEACH. We packed our beach bag every morning and walked the lazy five minutes  through town

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to the public beach,

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We spent many many many hours floating in the turquoise water. People the Indian ocean rocks! So peaceful and relaxing.

We used our privilege to snag some deluxe beach chairs courtesy of the Trou Aux Biches resort (that cost almost 10 times more than our sweet abode), until we got kicked off by some Germans. Oh Well….

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We walked the powdery sand in search of street food like mines frites from Pierre’s Noodles, $2.00 of deliciousness

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And Jus de Friuts Frais (sic)

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We also splurged on a lunch in Grand Baie, fresh seafood and margaritas for margarita day! All served with a killer view

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We had steaks and wine from South Africa too, and fresh shrimp curry and Mauritian rum…mmm

We did alter our beach food drink routine to venture into Port Louis for a day, We went to the covered market hoping to find some handcrafted Mauritian art but instead found lots of cheap goods from China. But we made up for it with some really delicious biryani and soup.

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Port Louis was hot and a bit crowded

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So we were happy to have ventured out but so glad to return to our slice of paradise

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We were blessed to have had the opportunity to experience a Hindu festival while we were there. Maha Shivaratri, the festival of Shiva, where thousands of pilgrims walk from all corners of  Mauritius to a sacred lake at Grand Bassin. We walked to the local temple and were allowed to watch some of the preparation ceremonies.

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While I’m sure there are some conflicts and issues amongst the population, from what I could see and what I read all of us could take some lessons on embracing multiculturalism and religious harmony from the Mauritians.  There are no indigenous peoples on Mauritius, just descendants of the slaves who were brought to work the sugar plantations and the people who brought them. (UGH colonialism!) Mauritius was a French colony then the Brits took over, but I read that the French stipulated that French had to remain the official language. Of course I couldn’t understand very much, except when I eavesdropped on some French tourist. Anyway, all that to say that I found the people to be very welcoming and kind, and was happy to see the temples and mosques and churches side by side in the sun.

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We learned some island insider facts from a dear friend of a dear friend of mine who has lived on Mauritius for many years! We met when my friend introduced us in college. It was nice to reconnect and visit her in her lovely home, I neglected to take pictures but merci Lee!!

Sigh. The trip was WAY too short. I miss the warm ocean breezes, the lazy days spent chatting about everything under the sun, the people, the food, and oh my, the sunsets…

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And I especially miss my dear Candace…bisous ma cherie, merci for hanging out with me in paradise. On to our next adventure!!  xoxoxo

Such a Short Strange Trip It’s Been…Or, How I Was On My Way to Paris and Landed in Hawaii (Metaphorically Speaking)

Whew! It’s been a long time since I posted in this blog. And the events of the past year prove the age-old adage that a LOT can happen in 12 months. Sometimes you coast along in life, the years blending into one another, and then WHAM! You’re hit with life altering changes, all happening in a matter of a few short months. But as someone who is near and dear to my heart these days likes to say, “ain’t that what livin’s all about?” And I answer, as I always do, mais oui.

I left off last January, in Paris, communing with my women. There have been two trips to you know where since then: one last May that was pretty much like the one in January (only warmer),

How I feel in Paris, after my jump master Nancy

How I feel in Paris, after my jump master Nancy

full of time spent with ma best guuurl

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Me and ma guuuurl xo

and my other dear ones in Paris:

Picnic with some fellow hounds...bliss

Picnic with some fellow hounds…bliss

bahn mi lunches in secret gardens, long late night chats over tranches and wine,

It wasn't blue crab but thanks to the smuggled Old Bay it was close enough...

It wasn’t blue crab but thanks to the smuggled Old Bay it was close enough…

crab cake dinners, staying up to greet the dawn, vegemite for breakies, new faces

My favorite bartender in all of Paris. Miss you Salim!

My favorite bartender in all of Paris. Miss you Salim!

and sweet familiar ones.

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well, it’s the Queen’s leg and not her face, but you get my drift…

Time spent wandering my streets and filling my soul.

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sigh, ma belleville

sigh, ma belleville

That lovely, bittersweet trip made me more determined to try to find a way to call Paris home, permanently. I came back full of plots and homework on how to possibly go about it, given to me by one of the ex-pat dear ones (who has since moved even further afield). Yes, I was bound and determined to find a way to move to Paris, sooner rather than later. Nothing was gonna keep me from living my dream!

And of course as these things happen, the universe took me in another direction…one I wasn’t looking for, for sure. And of course in retrospect I am so glad that I opened my ears long enough to hear what the universe was telling me. I didn’t plan on getting into a relationship. Was NOT looking for one. But there must have been some magical Hawaiian spirit calling my name, as one found me.

Me and HB

Me and HB

And it soon became apparent (to me and to pretty much everyone who came in contact with the two of us) that this relationship was meant to be. It has evolved organically. And I didn’t feel like I made a decision to not move to Paris. It just no longer seemed like an option. And that was ok. More than ok.

We had a fine summer. I learned to lash together and to sail a traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoe! (in the Chesapeake Bay, Middle River no less!).

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me and the canoe

there she is in full sail

there she is in full sail

We even swamped once (that’s a tale worthy of its own post). Summer became Fall, which turned to Winter. I moved myself and my things into his lovely apartment in the trees in Mt Washington, And in December, over Christmas, I took him to Paris (trip number 2). thanks to the generosity of some of my above-mentioned dear ones who graciously loaned us their fabulous apartment for a week.

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now there are 2

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He’s digging the vin chaud

carnavalet selfie!

carnavalet selfie!

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And so, here we are. I’ve learned many things from my Hawaii Boy (as my friends and I used to refer to him, and I still do when it fits). I look forward to learning a whole lot more. He’s one of the sweetest people I know. He brings out the best in me, he encourages me, he loves me and he cares for me. He makes me laugh. We iron out whatever differences and conflicts arise, asap, and get right back on with our sweet life. We’re in the process of buying a sweet house, not in Paris or Hawaii but home, right here in Baltimore City, hon. I am content.

I hope that my dear friends continue to walk the journey with me, as I asked in a previous post. I hope that my story has the intended consequence of helping anyone who cares to read it. Helping in the sense of pointing out just how serendipitous life can be, how important it is to plan, and to have dreams, but how equally important it is to keep an ear out to what the universe it saying.  And I hope that this new year marks a new chapter for everyone in my life, past, present and future. I want nothing but peace and happiness for everyone I know and love.

I’m still scheming on how I can travel and make the most of my life now while I figure out how to retire…just not sure where that will be. Maybe still France, or maybe Hawaii, or maybe I just might stay in my hometown, who knows? I just know that I will do my best to enjoy the ride.

Oui Audrey, Paris is Always a Good Idea…

So, yeah, I went to Paris, again. This time I really needed it. I needed to recharge my batteries, as trite as that sounds. I needed to be in my favorite place, that foreign city that feels like home to me, and I needed to have my soul soothed and I needed to be alone and to think and just to be. And Paris, being her fabulous beautiful difficult wonderful self, said ok, come on home baby, I am here, waiting for you.

And so I cashed in my remaining AA FF miles and I went, and was welcomed into my lovely little cocoon in the 11th arr…thank you Denise for your positive review because it was just perfect. And cheap! I miss this view…

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This trip was not a sightseeing mission. I went to one, count em one, museum…and I am not apologizing for it. And even then, I had issues. It was a fabulous exhibit at the Carnavalet (the Museum of the city of Paris, free) called (en francais) Roman d’un Garde-Robe: Le chic d’une Parisienne de la Belle Epoque aux années 30, which loosely translated means the novel of a wardrobe: one Parisian’s fashion from the 1900’s to the 30’s.  It contained the dresses, hats and accessories of a trend setting Parisian who helped launch 2 major French fashion houses, which of course appealed to my fashion loving side. So I enjoyed it very much from that aspect.

Some fashions in the exhibit, which was all in French, so I also practiced...

Some fashions in the exhibit, which was all in French, so I also practiced…

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But, as I reflected later, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after as I couldn’t help but wonder about all the workers who sewed those sequins and toiled to make those dresses and hats. I really wanted to see their pictures, and read their stories. I thought about them all afternoon. I guess you can take the girl outta CEPR, but you can’t take the CEPR outa the girl (See here to understand)

And so what did I do in Paris if I didn’t go sightseeing or museum hopping? I communed with my women. I was uplifted and inspired. I laughed and I listened and I was listened to. I am so very fortunate beyond words to have the deep good fortune to have so many good friends who have the deep good fortune to call Paris home, and how lucky I was to spend time with them, along with some fellow visitors who have also become my friends. I needed them and they came through, each and every one, French and American, Australian/New Zealander all Parisian by birth or by spirit. Un grand merci et beaucoup de bisous a Roniece, Nancy, Jane, Kathryn, Sue, Mez, Sylvia, Margarita et Axelle. I so enjoyed seeing you, and drinking with you and laughing out loud with you and breaking bread with you and walking and shopping and talking talking talking. Je vous embrasse. Toujours…

Some of my women...my Muriels...mes tres cheres...xoxo

Some of my women…my Muriels…mes tres cheres…xoxo

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I also wandered, I was lucky to have been spared the polar vortex freeze that has gripped the East coast of the US. Some rain (ah but Paris in the rain is still beautiful), so I was able to wander around and look at the known and not so known places that call to my soul. I spent a great afternoon in Montmarte…I always like to climb to Sacre Coeur and gaze out out upon “my” city and hold her in my hand. I was fortunate to have chosen the weekend of the Fete de Saint Jacques…only in France could you stumble upon a scallop festival.

a walk through Montmarte

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DSC00069 DSC00082A nice young man from India and I took turns taking one another’s pictures

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I made my way through my adopted hoods, the 11th and the 20th – Republique, Oberkampf, Menilmontant. Belleville, Pere Lachaise, Gambetta – with no agenda, just taking it all in. I was green with envy at the markets, one literally right outside my front door. I sure love visiting Roniece in her lovely slice of heaven in the 5th, as she calls it. It is nice, I like it, but it isn’t home. I gravitate to the quartiers listed above, not sure why, just feels like home to me, like me.

My Paris

My Paris

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My apartment building on Blvd Richard Lenoir

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The markets!

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Menilmontant, my favorite hood. Met A at Lou Pascalou, one of my favorite spots in Paris, and ended the night here. We spoke French all night. She is very patient…

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I walked to Rue Sainte Marthe, in the 10th, on the  fringes of my hoods.

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And back to Oberkampf, and a goodbye shot from the second floor of L’EstaminetIMG_0939

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My moment of serendipity came as I was waiting for the metro after my lunch with Kathryn.

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(This is the view from the Pont Mirabeau bridge. It makes me think of you K!)

Anyway, I was in the metro station waiting for the next train, looking at the metro map to pass the time, when an old man started talking to me in French and asking me if I knew who the Gallieni metro stop was named after. I said no, and he proceeded to tell me the story of Gallieni, how he was a general who “saved Paris from the Germans”. When I told him I didn’t know that, he asked me where I was from, and when I told him the US, well, his face lit up and he proceeded to regale me with tales of the Americans who rescued him during WWII. The train came and we sat together and I heard all about his trip to the US and about how much he loved Americans, he thinks we’re so friendly, with our “open faces”. He told me that his name was Jacques, that he was 84 (I think I got that right), As he got off the metro, he told me that he was happy to have met me. He shook my hand and told me that my French is very good. I smiled all the way down line 10.

All wasn’t fun and games as I also worked hard, very hard, to improve my French. Days and years of slogging through classes and reading silly French novels and listening to French on my IPod on the MARC train as the DC Suburbs pass by have left me with decent comprehension skills. But my verbal skills are sadly lacking, so I took a workshop at the Alliance and spent more relaxed evening at a bar at a Franglish event. I would definitely recommend it: For 12e you get a drink and an hour and a half of conversation with 5 native French speakers. It was tiring, but inspiring, and everyone there was super nice…tres sympa ! I am gonna master this language even if it takes me the rest of my life to do so.

And so, another January in Paris…feeling as always grateful that I am able to go back again, and again. And I will be back…Roniece, save me a seat at LPC. And tell Pierre (another dapper 80-something Frenchman who charmed me) that I said bonjour.

La Reine !

And in the meantime, I will spend time with my dear girlfriends on this side of the Atlantic. Candace, Liz, Tamara, Chris, Claudia, Elaine (and on the phone and on facebook, Maureen (my Boo2), and Jo, and Sara and Vickie and all of the rest of my dear Muriels, those great women all around the world, who lift me up every day)…and my mom, and Jordan. My family.

A new year, and a new life. Full of hope and joy and peace and remorse and melancholy, all at the same time.

C’est la vie, n’est ce pas ?