About Town… Massages and Straps.

Don’t get too excited about the title.   They are two separate subjects.

I am trying to catch up with my various pearls of wisdom…. Well, merely observations…   And I have rearranged the order of posts – the Thalys event was most important.   Just now I hit the POST button for Thalys and leaned back in the chair, wondering, what will I do now – 6 hours before I meet someone for dinner.

Oh yeah.  I have to plan the trip to Croatia and to Ireland – to give me time outside Schengen and extend my time in France.  I can’t believe it, but after making 6 hotel and 8 train and 1 ferry arrangements, I am planned out!  So a short break for lunch and back at it.

Back to the title… Straps.

I bought two more purses but the straps were too long.  So I needed additional holes.  Sound familiar?  I think I mentioned this before- I liked the first bag so much I bought two more.  The neighborhood guy took care of it – the transaction was entirely in French but it was costly – 7.50 per hole.  New bags needed the same investment.  Yet… it’s August.  And of course, he was closed.  So I found another cordonierre over by Notre Dame.  Again, in French!  But he charged me only 5 euros for both bags.  Yup, Neuilly-sur-Seine is a bit pricey.

Massage.  I am a regular massage customer – started having massages in Visalia more than 15 years ago.  When I moved to Sacramento, it took visits to probably 8 massage therapists until I found the marvelous Kim Bidwell.  So here in Paris, I have hesitated.  It’s been 5 months since I have had a massage.  Finally, I searched.  Trip Advisor is a great resource.  Found Michel the stylist there.  And found Leah the massage therapist.  Well, I found Massage Concepts.  And I was assigned Leah.  Of course, she’s French.  But she lived in Santa Barbara for several years and….. yes…..  she received her massage training in Ojai.

It was a great massage.  I will be going back in late September (too much going on to work in another appointment before then).  After the massage, I had a dinner with a CE.  We spoke English the entire time.  I was way too tired to handle French.  But it was a great tired – super relaxed.

House cleaning.  I hired a cleaner to come in and do a deep cleaning and wash the floors.  It was worth every penny.  Sometimes you just have to get help.

And now I am working on stocking up for my next visitor.  The Marche is much smaller in August – even the vendors take the month off.   LB comes from Oakland on the 28.  Lots of plans, including London by way of Calais, Dover (white cliffs anyone?), Brighton and Bath.  Then as soon as she returns to California, my niece arrives for a week in London and then we return to Paris on the Eurostar.

It’s going to be a very busy September!

And a couple interesting signs….
I2015-08-21 10.14.47n Maintenon I actually walked the Santiago de Compostela trail for a short distance.

2015-08-21 16.47.45And near me, there’s a nice building with a little plaque that says Water on All Floors.  Wow.
Really?  I guess there was a time that was special.

Last week we had a great dinner at the Drug Store Steak House on the Champs Elysees.  Ya. Really.  Strange name. But the store reminds me of the famous drug store in Beverly Hills… Schwabs!  It was an incredible meal.
2015-08-18 21.25.21The building is quite modern and they decorate with lights.  A friend told me there used to be a beautiful classic building there but it burned down in an intense conflagration (some folks died) several years ago and was replaced with this.

Favorite Chateau

I love this place!  Chateau Maintenon.  It’s on the way to Chartres, just past Versailles.  It was the home of Madame de Maintenon – the secret but legal wife of Louis XIV for those of you who are history buffs.  Why did this one capture me?  Partly the size.  It’s so incredibly beautiful but manageable.  Versailles just overwhelms you.  Also the fact that the family actually worked on the restoration themselves and created a foundation and eventually turned it over to the French government.  That’s love for their home.

2015-08-21 11.05.12 The gardens were designed by La Notre – the famous gardener who also set out the Versailles gardens.  Did you see A Little Chaos?  In France it was called Le Jardins de Roi.  With Kate Winslett?  Historically inaccurate and accurate.  I am sure the story of the gardens themselves was true; I seriously doubt there was a female gardener at that time.  But it’s a gorgeous testament to the gardens.  So the gardens at Maintenon were originally designed by La Notre, but the current gardens are in the style of.  When your chateau is your ancestral home, you think more about your own comfort rather than preserving what granddad did.  2015-08-21 11.04.31Or grandmere, or actually, grand tante in this case.  (Madame de Maintenon left her chateau to a niece.)

It’s an easy trip from Montparnasse Gare and then less than a mile walk through the town to get to the Chateau.

In the far distance, you can see the aquaduct that Louis XIV started to bring water to Versailles.  Never finished…

Of Trains, Terrorists, and Travel

By now you have heard all about the terrorist attempt on the Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris.  The man got on the train in Brussels, I believe.  I have been on that train twice – returning from visits to the Netherlands.  Thalys is a high speed train company that is jointly owned by the rail companies of France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany.  It’s a nice train and gets you places in a flash.

But it’s also like all the other trains in Europe.  You walk into the station and get on the train (except in France where you had best ‘composter’ your ticket – time stamp it in the yellow machine before boarding).  Find your seat and sit down for the ride.  You are told to watch your bags – there is nowhere to check them.  Most fit on the overhead bin and if not, there are usually a couple shelves for luggage near the doors.

That system works.  Yup.  Certainly there is risk and now maybe this act will increase the risk as others may decide to be copycats.  But what can they do?  Right now you routinely see the army walking through the major train stations in groups of 4 or more, carrying their machine guns – but not keeping folks off the trains.  Yet really there is no reason to secure the major stations – in 20 minutes or less, that train will start stopping at small local stations.  To secure every train station in Europe would be a massive undertaking.  Maybe train marshals, like the air marshals, will be the answer.

At a soiree last night, we expats toasted the three Americans! We are all so proud to share their nationality.  On FB  Marcos Breton from the Sacramento Bee posted: Two of the Americans hailed for preventing a “blood bath” on a Paris-bound train were from Sacramento – Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler. Sadler is a Sacramento State student. Along with another friend, they overpowered a heavily armed terrorist and held him until authorities arrived. The French government lauded their bravery in preventing a massacre. Well done, lads

A FB reader commented on his post: I find it funny how no one would care about this story if these two guys were any other nationality. Because it’s only important when it happens to Americans, apparently.

Another reader commented on her comment: Untrue! Actually, it’s usually the opposite stance. But thanks for being the hater! I like how the French would probably have stood around and gotten shot or run. What they’re good at usually! Great job guys!

On another FB post, a French friend posted an article in French about the attack.  A French guy made this comment:  Et pendant ce temps lá, les psychologues français essaient d’expliquer avec compassion pourquoi personne ne bouge quand une personne se fait agresser dans le train…. Lafayette tu es bien loin…chapeau bas pour ces hommes

Which basically says…  And since then, the French psychologists have tried  to explain, with compassion, why no one else moved when the attacker started to act.  Lafayette, you are so far away. Or Lafayette, you are missed!  Hats off to those guys.

All this raises so many questions about the various cultural approaches of all European nationalities.  I may have posted before a quote from A Best Little Chocolate Shop in Paris, a fun novel: … but she couldn’t have looked more French had she been wearing a beret, a small twirled mustache, and a Breton shirt and been carrying a chain of onions around her neck while riding a bicycle and surrendering a war.

Such a confusing country – pretty much giving in without a fight, establishing the Vichy government but then with many brave men and women stepping up to the challenges with the Resistance movement – without which the Allies probably could not have invaded.

On the Thalys, there were two others that assisted – a Brit in his 70s I believe, who helped truss up the attacker.  And a French man who is mentioned in a few articles as having done something at the very beginning to stop the guy.  The Frenchman has not been named.  The other 4 have all received medals already!

I like to believe that had there been 3 Frenchman from any of their military branches, they would have done the same thing.

My expat friends and I are all proud to share our Amercian nationality with them. I am happy that Americans foiled the attempt.  But really, living here in Paris, I would have been delighted if it was a Martian.  That people acted so quickly and were successful at stopping the potential carnage is a blessing.  Anyone who did so would be a hero in my book.  It’s just a little icing on the cake that I can say they were Americans. They lived up to the image of John Wayne and took matters into their own hands.

I have been warmly received by the French during my stay here – but at the back of my mind there remains that little stereotype about ugly Americans.

And then there’s the Donald.   Paul Thomas from the New Zealand Herald wrote recently: “Donald Trump is everything the world despises about America: casual racism, crass materialism, relentless self-aggrandizement, vulgarity on an epic scale.  The fact that so many Republicans are comfortable with the thought of this monumentally unqualified man in the Oval Office shows how warped the Party has become.”

Enough US politics.

I will be taking the Eurostar back from London on September 20 and they do have security and have had for a while.  The biggest issue for Eurostar is the immigrants who have been either blocking the Chunnel or trying to get through it to England. The migrant camps are supposed to be quite large around Calais. There was a bit of violence at the beginning of August but it seems to have quieted down. Since I am traveling by train to Calais to take the ferry to Dover in a week or two, I will let you know first hand. We take the train from Paris to the TGV (Tres Grande Vitesse – Very High Speed train) station which is near the Chunnel and then must taxi, Uber, or walk to the Ferry port.  In early August, some disgruntled ex-Ferry workers had set fire to tires to block the port.  That seemed to be a separate issue from the immigrants.

On y va!  (Let’s go!)  All this because LB wants to see the White Cliffs of Dover!

Still so proud of those young men.