A Quick Blog

Before going off to a fancy high tea with a friend at Le Bristol – one of the classiest hotels in Paris.  Tea for two will be 85 euros.  So I only had a light breakfast and skipped lunch.

An aside re food… the one thing I really enjoy is the quintessential breakfast sandwich.  Egg, bacon, cheese between a muffin, two pieces of bread, or interestingly enough – a croissant.  I have only seen this once here – at a coffee shop – and yes it was more a coffee shop than a café.  In Brest.

It’s a bittersweet time – saying good bye to friends with no absolute return date.  But I suspect there will be more FaceTiming going on when I get back to the US this time.  The French still don’t know how to do a good goodbye.  Just the bises on the cheeks and a bientot.  That means ‘see you soon’ as opposed to au revoir which is more a hard ‘goodbye.’  I am not even suggesting an American hug.  It made them all so uncomfortable last time.  If they come to visit me in the US, then we will have to hug!

I made a postcard for my sister who is in the SNF (and doing very well!) and I wanted to put a photo of the Eiffel Tower on it.  I was amazed at how far I had to go back in my photos on my iPhone to find one.  That’s my go to spot.  It’s on the list for these last days.

Yes.  Last days.  8 wake ups.  Things to do every day – people to see, restaurants to try, museums to catch up with- until next Sunday.  Then the real packing begins and the real cleaning begins.  I hope the vacuum cleaner can suck up those mammoth dust bunnies!

I made a major faux pas at the restaurant yesterday!  Major!  I guess I am anticipating the return too much and the American in me slipped out.  My conversation partner has suddenly become a great source for restaurants – this after we went to the same place many times for its convenience.  We both were tired of it and I suggested he find a place.  Wow.  Great suggestions.  But back to lunch.  We were seated. Looked at the menus.  Ordered.  But kept the wine menu.  So the waiter returns with the bread, the water bottle and then takes the wine menu before he puts down the bread and water.  And suddenly he has trouble managing it all – tries to put the menu in one hand, then can’t get a hold of the bottle, can’t get the bread basket, tried to fold the menu under his arm, that doesn’t work either… so of course, my American helpfulness comes out and I reach for  the menu to hold it while he gets the bread and the water on the table.  Oh my. Non!

Non  Non  Non  Non  Non  Non  Non  Non

And NON.

You should have seen his face.  I think I offended all his sensibilities.  I cringed.  My French friend looked at me as if to say ‘what the hell are you thinking!’  I think I embarrassed him too!

So I mumbled something in the way of an apology and said I was an American.  Didn’t say stupid or uncouth American.  That was already obvious.

I didn’t make it any better at the end of the meal.  I asked for tea.  And for milk for my tea.  And he asked if I wanted it hot or cold.  Did I mention this earlier?  Had the same question at another café.  It’s such a British question.  Hot or cold milk is important.  And the order in which you do this is also a debatable question – does the milk go in the cup before the tea or does the tea go in first.

Like I care?  But I had forgotten that earlier faux pas with milk – and I just looked at him in confusion and said I didn’t care.  Not the right response which I realized at the time.  I think he was used to me at that point –he just said maybe a mixture.

The milk was hot.

My French friend said there was “something” going on between the waiter and me.  I have no clue what that meant.  Clearly, the waiter was about 25 years my junior.  If he meant attraction, my radar wasn’t working.  I do think the poor guy felt sorry for the etiquette-challenged American.  Perhaps I amused him.

Regardless, the meal was delicious.  I had the traditional French onion soup and chuck roast with puree of carrot and parsnips.  I am not a foodie.  But I must say that this year my tastes have changed.  I am appreciating the fine food more and more.  The French have a burger on the menu more than ever – but these burgers are not the greasy spoon of the US.  And even when I took my friends to the Hard Rock Café, I ordered the pulled chicken, not a burger.  And coming home, In N Out burger may not be my first stop.  However, Round Table may be up there on the list – the French pizzas are not the same.  Even though I read that the French eat more pizzas than anyone in the world.  Who knew?

Sorry.  I guess this didn’t turn out to be a quick blog after all…

Heading for the Stable

(Written December 24) You all know about the “rental” horses that go out for the day and are a bit sluggish and seem fatigued.  Until the rider turns them back towards the barn.  Then they perk up and head home eagerly for their dinner.

Sort of but not quite.  I am now three weeks out.  California is in sight.  At the oddest times, I find myself thinking longingly of clothes dryers, dishwashers, or my stainless steel pots and pans.  The most frequent is the clothes dryer.  I am creative in finding ways to drape wet clothes about the apartment but oh for a dryer!

This year I have decided to take everything back home or store it with a friend.  A family member has medical problems – see previous blog – and I am not sure I will be back in April.  So better safe than sorry.  But that creates an automatic headache.  Stuffing nine months of living into two suitcases?  No.  It’s more like 18 months since I left things from last time – so I gave in and bought another suitcase.  It holds 120L of stuff.  A test run showed that the clothes I just dropped in without good packing were only 33 pounds –  my max is  50.  Of course, the third suitcase will cost me $200.  Better than shipping.

And I am also shipping – but by La Poste and US Mail.  I can send back “American Goods Returning” with no duty implications.  Otherwise, I can only send $200 worth of goods to myself on any one day and $100 in gifts on any one day.  Yup.  It gets complicated.

So my apartment is a mess.  Both literally and figuratively.  Or maybe that’s not right.  Maybe literally in two senses: not clean and everything scattered around.  Sacks full of things for shipping – I pack them in the sack so that I can weigh everything.  And sacks for packing in the suitcases – those are in the bedroom with the three suitcases.  And I haven’t dusted or vacuumed in several weeks.  (Remember the dust bunny blog?  They are back!)  I was too busy then I started the packing process and it seems too much work to clean around everything.  And I am only here 3 more weeks… I can do the final cleaning at the same time!  Well, we’ll see.  I am not sure I will be able to stand so many dust bunnies…

Time of the year for classic videos.  I enjoyed the annual showing of White Christmas last night, with my “Chocolat Chaud Viennois” Hot chocolate with whipped cream!  Sometime soon I will also watch A Christmas Story.  And a French friend introduced me to a new old classic.  It’s called Dinner for One.  You can search it on You Tube.  It was made in 1963 for German TV in English starring a British comic and apparently it has become a holiday classic in – of all places – Norway!  I just watched this morning – short and hysterical!

The horror of the Berlin attack at their Marche has made its way into France.  Many more police and soldiers out and about.  They have really never gone away after last November, but now we are back to the same level as last Christmas.  And there are still repercussions – several marches in Paris did not open this year and Notre Dame does not have the annual Christmas Tree again this year.  I am happy I got a chance to see it in 2009.

I walk through the marches or down the sidewalks and window shop.  I see some beautiful things I would like to purchase but NO.  I have hit my duty limit.  You can bring back $800 to the US.  Anything over will cost you duty.  It’s not a lot.  Last year I declared $1,200.  And was ready to pay the approximately $23.07 dollars.  But after consulting the computer and his calculator for a long time, the customs agent simply waved me through.  $800 is a generous figure when you visit for 2 or 3 weeks.  It hampers your spending when you are here 9 months.  If I stayed here over a year as a “resident,” I would get a break and not have to declare everything.  But no.


Hardest time to be here

(Written in around December 18) Nope, not Christmas.  Not the holidays.  When a loved one has surgery or has a stroke.  And I am dealing with both right now.   Relatives.  The surgery went well and I was able to face time today.  What a difference technology makes!  The relative who suffered a stroke is doing better and better.  But again, Face Time makes such a difference.  It’s one thing to hear someone – sounding tired, slurring, lack of energy… but to see them.  And to be able to see the improvement.  My return plans were already set for January 11.  My other relatives and the doc said don’t change your plans.  You are doing all you would be doing here – face timing.  She’s in the hospital.  You wouldn’t be doing more if you were here.  I investigated coming back early – almost three times as much cost.  Is that right?  Two times more than what it was.  This is after they waived the change fees.  Why?  Because it’s holiday time!  So I stay here, getting ready to come back and doing all the administrative stuff (I am the power of attorney) on line or phone.

That makes for interesting days – I have things already planned here in France that require getting up early and then I come home and converse with California until 1 am (four  in the afternoon in CA).  But it is amazing at what can be done with a computer, the internet and a Skype California number.  Pretty much everything I would be doing there.

At least I know I will be going back soon.  Not sure now when I will come back to France.  I was set to return for the same schedule – getting a visa in January for April.  Now… I will cancel that appointment and see what happens.  Which means I am packing differently.  Won’t be leaving much here other than my printer and scale.  And will take them to a friend’s house.  I don’t know if I will come back to this particular apartment.  She has to be able to rent it.  Can’t count on it.  Hey.  Have you seen the exchange rate?  The euro is almost the same as a dollar.   Means my deposit of 1750 will return to me at 1400…  I loved the lower rate but this deposit thing is not in my favor. Oh well.