I don’t want to go back. Really. I have had a fabulous time. My French skills have grown immensely. I have survived and actually thrived in 400 square feet, three floors up and no microwave and no dryer.
I’ve learned how to be a good European. I continue be asked for directions from French and others as I walk through Paris. I know the bus system and I know the metro system. I know how to get around.
I survived the attacks of 13 November. Of course, as I write that, I know it had little real effect on me compared to the victims and their families. Visiting La Republique and Bataclan was a sobering experience.
Paris will survive too. Yet at this time, the tourists seem to be absent still. Saturday night I went to a concert at the Eglise St-Louis En l’ile. Choir and
orchestra performing parts of The Messiah. (Special thank you to Jasper Rose of UCSC who had the freshman class spend a week singing The Messiah so I have a great appreciation for it!) (But the French did NOT stand for the Alleluia chorus. It was so weird! At the end they did an encore of that song and a singer asked the audience to stand so it made it all well.) Ile St Louis is a popular place but the restaurants were not full. The concert was not full. And as we walked back to the metro through the Marais area, the restaurants and cafes on the way were pretty empty. On a Saturday!
Sunday I did major packing. Major. I have decided to get it all packed and live out of a suitcase for the last week. If I don’t do it like this, I will just be worrying in the back of my mind every day. One bag is fully packed – and a little extra room just in case. The other large suitcase has the clothes draped over it. The carryons have things tossed in for final packing in 7 days. Three bags sit by the door to be carried to the donation center. I discovered the donation bin about 6 blocks from me. I will fit that in somehow.
Moving to France, I expected to go through a transition and adjustment period – figuring out the differences and how to manage.
I didn’t expect something similar going back to the States. I mean, it’s just the US normal. Right?
So I am in the elevator at the hotel in Strasbourg. And there are the usual choices. 0-1-2-3-4-5-6
In Europe, the main ground floor is 0. Our US second floor is their first floor. So when I got on the elevator to go down to the lobby, I should have hit 0. Like I have done for the past 9 months. But for the first time in 9 months, I hit ONE.
Like I was already back in the States.
And at dinner yesterday I ordered a small salad. All good. With the dressing that comes with it. No choice of course, it’s France. And as I ate the delicious salad with the tasty dressing, I thought oh I can have a choice in a week or so. I can order ranch on the side if I want.
Where did that come from?
My friend today suggested I am like the horse going back to the stable – suddenly trotting quickly. Well, maybe. Except it’s my subconscious that is speeding up my return. And I even think in some deep recess of my mind there are some little men who will be taking an extended vacation – the ones whose job it is to translate. They are thinking OMG we can speak ENGLISH.
And I like speaking French. Or so I thought. This is getting too schizophrenic
After my packing efforts, I rewarded myself with a trip to the Eiffel Tower. From there, bus 72 to the Concord and a bit of a walk through the Marche de Noel. I did serious shopping here about 3 weeks ago when it opened. And it was practically empty then. Not so Sunday night. Maybe tourists like the Marches? Or maybe these are Parisiens who are out with kids and strollers on a Sunday night before Christmas? It was packed with people! Glad for the vendors – it’s been dismal so far.
And now a word about Strasbourg and Colmar, since we are talking about Christmas Markets. Strasbourg is the granddaddy of all Christmas markets. Theirs started in 1570 and they bill themselves as the Capitol of Christmas. Rightly so. There are about 8 markets scattered throughout the town. Good marketing – it keeps your senses from being overwhelmed. Better for making more purchases. I however, with packing in the forefront of my mind, did not purchase. Oh, ok, I did, but it was edible. I couldn’t resist the bag of Anise cookies – just like my grandmother used to make. Miam Miam, as the French say. Yum!
Strasbourg is also a city of half-timbered houses. And the seat of the European parliament. Which is why they are also on high alert and as a result, some of the special activities were canceled this year. It was still a delight to wander the streets to see the lighting displays. I changed my tickets for Colmar for Thursday so that I would be there in the evening too to see their noel illuminations. Smart idea. Colmar is a smaller city with the old town more compact. I couldn’t say which I liked more. But I give Strasbourg points as they had a market located directly across from the train station. You were immediately involved in their markets.
And a last Christmas Market at La Defense near me. With Pere Noel!
Four goodbyes down. Three more to go. Tough saying goodbye even though I know I will be back and we will pick up where we left off. Fortunately, in three cases, the metro or bus appeared and so the long goodbye was cut short.