Return… and Noel…

As I am sure I have said, I have a reservation on Delta to go back to Sac on January 10.

I am experiencing the usual weird twist of emotion.  Sad to leave but suddenly certain desires, longings actually are springing forth…  My dishwasher.  My tumbling clothes dryer.  My bed! My big condo versus the tiny 400 sq feet here.

Funny.  I am not on this third return thinking of In N Out burger.  I am not thinking of any American food actually, except to turn my nose up a bit.  Ruth Chris would have been top on my list except I discovered Portuguese beef (I failed to mention in my comments about Portugal how wonderful every meal was!  The steak was excellent!)  and I found a great steak house in Paris that I mentioned two months ago.   Heavens! I am not becoming a foodie am I?  No, I doubt it.  But my palette has changed.

I was born in January.  Janus has two heads, one looking back, one looking forward.  I am definitely turned towards 2018.  Yet, there are still days in 2017.  And I must fill them!  Every last exposition must be attended!  Every day trip possible must be taken!

And packing must be considered.  Now after I have sent back books before, I have discovered a cheap rate for books to the US.  Not a fast delivery and no tracking (oh please God) but cheap for 10 pounds of books – only $15.   So books have gone.  Now how to fill these other boxes to keep my declarable items under $800 when I fly back – I can send back $200 per day with no duty charged.

And fit in my French friends for conversation and fun.

And spare me time to just relax so I don’t drop over with exhaustion.

And blog.  Of course.

Sorry to inundate you with blogs today.  But I came back early from the Poste after the books and had the choice of blogging or two museums before a conversation.  It was cold out there.  I decided to stay in.  And of course, with multiple blogs, I left out of the Noel blog what’s happening this weekend.

Two of my favorite chateaus, Maintenon and Vaux-le-Vicomte, are getting all decorated for Christmas.  Visiting Maintenon on Saturday and Vaux on Sunday with an American friend who is leaving next week.  Our last fling.  These are beautiful places during the year, I expect them to be spectacular for Christmas.

Now a quick bite for lunch and off to speak French!

All Things Noel

December officially marks the beginning of the Christmas season for me. I know it starts in the US on Halloween…  And actually it really starts here in French in mid November when some of the Christmas Markets (marches du Noel) open.  That doesn’t bother me here.  Without Thanksgiving, there is no arbitrary date to consider – shame on that store or town or whatever for putting up decorations before Thanksgiving!  Here, the decorations start of go up mid November and start ot be lit up in the last week.  My neighborhood street lights were on two days ago.

No Marche on the Champs Elysees this year.  Big controversy with city hall.  The producer is sometimes or allegedly referred to as a crook… or crooked… or involved with questionable activities.  The City of Paris was looking for a way out I heard.  They did not renew his contract for this year.  He of course had his workers strike and block roads in to Paris.  And finally went to court but the court ruled that he was past the time he could have contested the contract.  So.  No market.  One of the Paris concerns was the quality of goods.  We don’t want things sold that are made in China, sniffed a Parisian bureaucrat.  Hey.  A  lot of folk like walking up and down on a frosty evening lit up by Christmas lights looking at some crappy stuff and some very nice things, with our cup of hot red spiced wine in our mitted hands while listening to American Christmas Carols.  Even me.

So this year I must content myself with the various other marches in town.  Noel is losing some glamor as I have been to these markets now for the  third year.  But I have plans for day trips to Amiens, Reims, and Metz to enjoy those cathedrals and marches.  And I know that I must get to the Gare de l’Est in mid December to buy some anise cookies at the Marche de l’Alsace.  Those are Christmas cookies my grandmother used to make.  German, actually, but Alsace has a history of being French, then German, then French…

Tonight I am attending a concert at the church St Germain des Pres – the Messiah.  While at UCSC my freshman class took a week of world civ class to sing the entire Messiah.  The prof brought in the music professor.  It was an incredible experience.   And the Parisian Choral Society is singing it later in December.  Going too.  And I have a Gregorian Chant program on the calendar at the end of the month in Notre Dame.  And a very American Sing-along for Christmas Carols next week Saturday at the American Church in Paris.


Around Town- Work, Lingerie, Navigo, and Snow

Why so much work?  It’s Christmas!  It’s Tourist Season!  Yet there are walls around the Arc de Triomph, the Eiffel tower, many fountains along the Champs Elysees.  And even the two escalators at my metro stop.  Really?  The last one irritates me.  The two up escalators (for each direction of the metro) are being renovated.  Out of commission until the 6 of February.  Really?  They couldn’t have worked on one at a time?  And I am being loose with the term “worked on.”  They started the “work” last Monday.  Have I seen anyone do anything?  Even a body present in the general vicinity with a hammer or in work clothes?  Nope.  Nary a soul.  Except that the walls are up and you can’t access it.    So French.

They turned the water off in my building on Tuesday from 9 am to 3 pm.  Fortunately my French has improved enough for me to understand the sign.  Fear strikes my heart when I come home to see a paper taped to the front door.  What special notice is waiting for me?  But no worries.  Just made sure I was out and about during the day.

Italian lingerie?  I always thought it was French that was the big deal.  But in the past two weeks I keep seeing stores advertising Italian Lingerie.  Looks much like the French lingerie I have seen in store windows for years.


Yes, last night at 8:14 pm I checked the Weather App to see how cold it was and saw an alert – snow at 8:15.  I ran to the window and right on cue, the snow began to fall.  And it snowed for a good half hour or more.  The cars on the street had roofs covered in white.  The flakes were big and well, flakey.   I took many pictures and vids.  And got chilled by the many times I opened the window to drink it in.  I love snow.  Must be the growing up in Minnesota.

I was here in 2010 January and it snowed as my taxi took me to CDG for my departure.  In 2008 it was more a sleet storm while in Pere Lachaise cemetery.  No snow today, but high of 39.  Brrrrr.

And last observation, where do I put my Navigo bus pass after using it on the bus?  Most of the time, it ends up in my right front pants pocket.  But sometimes it’s in my coat pocket.  Once in my bag.  I get on the bus, use it, say Bon Jour to the bus driver so that he or she knows I acknowledge his or her existence as a good French person would, and then slip the Navigo…. Somewhere.  So when I sit down on a chair I have a frantic pat pat all over until I find it.  The putting away of the Navigo is so totally unconscious.  Weird.


Recovering from Travel

Back to Paris from a week in Portugal.  And entirely woofed.  We went by plane – train takes too long. So I got to travel on Transavia, a low cost airline run by KLM and Air France.  I took that same carrier to Maroc in early November.  It reminds me of PSA… (Pacific Southwest Airlines which morphed in Southwest.  In the early years when I took it from San Jose (Santa Cruz UCSC) to Burbank (home)).  Not the nicest waiting areas but it was fine.  More so because on all trips I bought the extra leg room for 8 euros more.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Portugal.  But I definitely preferred Porto to Lisbon.  It’s a smaller town, the river is not as wide, the tiles on the houses are beautiful.  Lisbon is larger, more spread out, less atmosphere.  The language was a challenge.  I don’t speak Portuguese or Spanish.  But the sound of Portuguese made me think of Hungarian or Polish or something Slavic.  However, I am no expert!  Wikipedia says: Portuguese is essentially the result of an organic evolution of Vulgar Latin with some influences from other languages, namely the native Gallaecian language spoken prior to the Roman domination.

OK fine.  I couldn’t understand it and it was more difficult for me to guess at the meaning of the written word than Spanish or Italian.  Fortunately, many spoke English.  I missed Maroc where I could speak French with the people.

We took a side trip from Lisbon to Sintra.  No, that is NOT Sinatra as one friend thought, reading it quickly.  It’s a small town in the mountains that has two major palaces.  One started in the 1300s, the other in the 1800s (built around a monastery).  And a Moorish castle that we only saw from afar.  Why Moorish?  Just sounds weird to me….  Like I will be there four-ish.   Well, I think of American… an…  and French from France.  But I guess we use English from England.  OK.  Moorish doesn’t sound so weird after all.

We took the famous Tram 28 in Lisbon – like a cable car in SF but without cables, instead electric wires.  My friend wanted to.  Since I had planned much of the trip, I deferred to her.  She could manage Saturday.  For some reason, she thought there was no need to go early since it was a Saturday.  Even though the guidebook said go early to avoid the tourist lines.  Why she didn’t think of Saturday as a tourist day I will never know.  Me? I am thinking weekend visitors…  So 90 minutes later we are still in line for the Tram that holds only 20 people per stop.  We were at the beginning of the line.  Cars were intermittent….  Like none for 20 minutes, then 4, then none for 15 mins then one then none for 30 minutes, etc.  When I got there, I counted – we were 165th in line.  Do the math.  There were many cars ahead of us.  But we waited.  And after 80 minutes I refused to give up.  After investing that time, dammit I was going to ride in the Tram.

Finally.  And we ended up going on the same streets as the small Hop On Hop Off bus had taken us two days earlier.  Shrug.

HOHO, you say?  Yup.  I always take those on the first day in a new city (except Marrakech as buses didn’t run through the old town).  It’s a very good way to get a sense of the city and what you want to go back to see.  I rarely do the hopping off.

The full trip was 3 nights in Porto and 3 in Lisbon.  We left on Sunday midday and returned home about 11 on Saturday night.  My brain was full of experience.

One exciting thing – I have decided to work Moroccan/Portuguese tiling into my bathroom and backyard remodeling!

And now I can cross off Portugal as a country visited.  This means I have visited all the countries in Europe excluding eastern Europe.  And excluding the principality of Andorra.  It has a weird status so I am not counting it as a country. I have been to Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Monaco.