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Friday, August 24, 2007

The last of the last

I can’t hide it any longer--- I am now back in the States in home-sweet-home Atlanta!!!!!!  Thankfully the flight adventures coming home were non-existent compared to the chaos on the way over. (whew!) Lyon to London – just dandy, even if they saw metal in my bags, yet couldn’t locate it, let me walk through with my shoes on, and finally just said whatever and have a great flight…
I had some time to kill in the London-Heathrow airport, so I strolled through the Duty Free shops.  They were offering full-size drink samples – you should have seen the line for martinis at 8:45 in the morning (yes, I was in line…).  On the flight from London to New York, my dinner options consisted of “Butt of Chicken” or “Lamb Cottage Pie”.  I was so torn… 
Once I landed in NYC, the marvel of Customs and Immigration was before me - Customs took my chicken sandwich and grapes, wouldn’t even let me step outside the barriers to consume it, but curiously missed the ridiculously strong French cheese smell dispersing through the air from my luggage.  I guess we all have our tendencies to see (and smell) what we want to or expect?...  And apparently (and fortunately!) I don’t look or smell like cheese.

As much as I have enjoyed writing to everyone, it is time to wrap-it up; my ramblings can only continue for so long!  I've had so many magnificent days and nights this summer that I hope to never forget.    Thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to take you on this journey with me; I hope very much that you have enjoyed seeing a summer in France through my eyes.  I appreciated every letter, email and note I received – thank you all mille fois!

To end, I offer you:

A few things I learned this summer…

  • It is not advisable to buy 8 pounds of green peppers in one week at the market, particularly when they are to be consumed by only one person during that week.
  • It is difficult to eat 8 pounds of green peppers in one week and continue to like them after the first 3 days.
  • Constantly switching between American and French keyboards is a pain in the butt for the fingertips and the mind.
  • No matter how many times I use a hand-held shower head, and of course without shower curtains b/c they are not the norm in Europe, I will inevitably flood the floor… Every.  Single.  Night.
  • A flooded floor takes approximately 3 days to dry, unassisted.  Turning on the bathroom radiator and shutting the door reduces the time to only 1 day.
  • Butter is appropriate to add to anything edible.
  • “Happy hour” translates the same in all languages.
  • Drinking too much at a bar happens occasionally.  Leaving a bar at 3am is fine.  Hopping on a rented bicycle at 3am after leaving the bar is fine too. Riding on the handlebars of a bike at 3am after leaving a bar and having drank too much is… not a good idea unless you want to crash!
  • Don’t eat yogurt for breakfast.
  • Don’t rely on businesses, TV shows or newspapers to continue to operate during the summer months, especially August.  Europeans take vacation for months on end, and literally just close their doors.  I went through 3 morning talk shows and 2 newspapers in just 2.5 months!  Show is off the air, filled by home shopping channels instead, and newspapers aren’t in print for all of July, or August, or both!  Even the bar 500 feet from my apartment closed for 1.5 months. Finally I settled on watching the Berenstain Bears while eating breakfast in the morning.
  • A person can indeed survive without a cell phone or home phone for 2.5 months.  Helps to have internet access to maintain sanity, however…

I could go on and on…  some of these require no explanation whatsoever.  Others, well, it depends on how well I know you… ;)

It has been my pleasure...Jessie

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Banging down the doors

While in France, I began a (small) photo obsession doors and windows.  I know, kind of strange, right?  Well you should have seen all the variety and age - I just couldn't help it!  Some neighborhoods had lots of doors with spikes above the door, some with lots of criss-crossed metal doors, and some ornately decorated wood doors.  I just couldn't get enough.  Some I really couldn't take pictures of however, as I would be practically in the dusk/dark.

You see, Lyon is famous for "Traboules", which are like short-cuts through buildings.  These originated back in the day when Lyon was a major silk producer.  The silk makers had to transport their delicate silks all over the city, sometimes in questionable weather.  These building shortcuts, which number in the hundreds, usually are narrow with high ceilings to accomodate the silk looms, and often stretch several city blocks.  Then another one would be just across a narrow street, and you can 'traboule' the several areas of old Lyon.  The entrances to these traboules look like just a standard door, so nowadays you need a guide or a map to find them (rarely locked).  As sometimes I didn't want to be total tourist with map outstretched, I would just walk around the old city, randomly pushing on doors.  You'd think I was crazy, but I was successful about one out of every four pushes!!

More info (in english):

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Between the mountains and the sea

Imagine summer weekends alternating between humidity, mountains, cold, snow, heat, rain, desert and the beach.  That has been my last couple weekends in France … simply wonderful extremes!One week ago my buddies Avid, David and I rented a car and headed for the Mediterranean , making stops in the large port city of Marseilles and the small harbor town of Cassis.
Postcard perfect: Port de Cassis

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Tour, a Tower and lots of Crêpes


It is curious to go back to a place you haven’t been in several years, and have memories meet you at nearly every turn.  Paris holds 1 year of memories plus countless vacations, and thankfully I continue to make new bonds with every visit.  This 2.5 day weekend I was a tourist to the fullest extent, snapping oodles of pictures and buying random paraphernalia from street vendors!
One of my two American friends in Lyon went with me to Paris to meet an old coworker (from Atlanta) and his wife there, the two of which currently live in DublinIreland.  We strolled, laughed loudly, got lost, drank wine sans cups, took a boat cruise, ate lots of cheese, picnicked on boats, met weird (very weird) people, jumped fences, saved a lost 3 year old boy during the Tour (so scary), slept occasionally, got rained on, hugged, and finally had to depart. It was perfect, wonderful and memorable, and more than I anticipated.

Pictures – A quick itinerary in case you want to skip around:
*Bateaux-Mouches boat tour along the Seine river, including not uncorking (smuggled) bottles of wine until we had safely launched from the dock. Fantastic Paris views
*Eiffel Tower, Tower, Tower!…
*A bunch of random stuff.  If you’ve seen the movie Ratatouille, then you may slightly recognize the most famous bridge in Paris, Pont Alexandre III, which is where the rat and boy forge their friendship.  Snapped pix of a just-married husband and bride taking pix on this bridge too. (look for lots of gold, wide sidewalks and big street lamps)

*The TOUR de FRANCE!  This event was the only event on Sunday’s calendar, and we arrived there almost 5 hours before the cyclists were scheduled to ride in.  First the parade / caravan comes through about 2 hours before, then the cyclists come through to do 8 laps around the Champs-Elysées at near-mach speed.  We started off with pretty darn good seats, standing on top of a subway (aka metro) exit, but once the cyclists came through the cops quit being so watch-guard-anal and we hopped a fence and were nearly on the street.  During one lap the hundreds of them came so close that I could have stuck my arm out and clothes-lined the leaders.  Alas I suppressed my WWE thoughts and stuck to taking pictures and gasping instead…

*Finally the last group of pictures is of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  You all have been reading about my boring cathedral thoughts for weeks now, but this is “the” cathedral that I compare all the others too.  It is gorgeous inside and out.  I have never had a visit to Paris that did not include Notre Dame.  I also went there regularly when living in Paris in awe, to see the Crown of Thorns (only Good Fridays), and just soak up history.  The sheer quantities of stain glass windows throughout, as well as the massive size of the two rose windows, transport you to another place.  The exterior and its enormous flying buttresses and deceptive gargoyles give you strange architectural reflections of a time gone by.  My pictures do no justice whatsoever.

These big city pictures are a definite diversion from the French Alps that I sent last week.  Just wait until you see the mountains and Mediterranean pictures from last weekend in Marseilles and Cassis!  I hope you will enjoy the diversity, as I have immensely.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A little slice of heaven---

Bonjour à tous!

Two weeks ago my boss and her husband picked me up early one Sunday for an entire day adventure in the French Alps, the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice – the biggest glacier in the world apparently), the summit of Mont Blanc, which is Europe’s highest peak, and to Lake Annecy.  The views were absolutely beyond belief.  I had to pinch myself a time or two.  What a magnificent Sunday!

I got very snap-happy and took a ton of pictures of the Alps.  I took pictures from the car on the way there, a ton while sitting at a great café while we all drank wine to warm ourselves up (it was freezing up there, like 38°F),  while hanging out of the mountain train that took us up, while hiking in the Alps, more from the car on our way to Annecy, then beautiful sunset pictures near our outdoor dinner sitting on Lake  Annecy!  (WHEW!)  Some might look duplicative, but you understand I’m sure!  Link below---

I have rented a car for 2 of my friends and me to drive to Marseilles tonight/this weekend.  I am scared for the other drivers on the road when this American gets behind the wheel… ha!  Here I come French soap, Mediterranean, French Riviera and fish, fish, fish!  I’ve heard you can buy freshly made soap in 40kg bars??  At least I’ll be clean.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Random thoughts from France

Lyon has two rivers that run through it, the Saone and the Rhone.  They have recently converted the riverside of the Rhone from driving roads to strictly pedestrian, biking and barge dining.  Particularly on these quays of the Rhone river, I often like to go for a run or stroll.  Absolute spectacular views and tranquility.  To stay healthy I like typically like to run, row and lift weights; however the French like to apply “creams” to maintain or lose weight.  The looks and scrutiny I get when running give me the impression that they (the French, that is) think I am completely off my rocker.  The other day I got caught in a rainstorm during my run home.  This was no little shower my friends, this was a downright raining-cats-and-dogs storm.  I looked like a drenched French Poodle when I finally got home, curly hair gone mad.  Everyone I ran by on the street, timidly tucked under store canopies and staring at me, thought I had equally gone mad.  Running? And in the rain???  I couldn’t have shouted “Foreigner!” loud enough!

Lyon is sandwiched between two fashion capitals of the world, Paris and Milan, but you’d never know it based on some of the very interesting styles.  I have seen some zany fashion choices in the worst sense (or maybe I am just completely out-of-style –– very good chance).  Women are fond of putting on pants and shirt (great!), then just throw on a dress on top of that and sometimes a big belt.  Men, well you need to envision pants that are way too short, way too tight and pulled up entirely too high. Voila, now you’ve got the idea.  Business meetings?  Men should don a nice pinstripe suit, then add and a plaid shirt or polka-dot tie.  Or both.  I am confused every day, but figure that I must give the population the same baffling sentiments regarding my manner of dress!

Another note on that dressing thing…  If you are a French man that likes to exercise, apparently you only have two choices for shorts: super short or spandex (thankfully not combined!).  I thought mainly rowers and cyclists wear contraire!  The French men seem to have an overwhelming preference for the latter, spandex, whether it be for jogging, stretching, weightlifting, cycling, anything!  Very different.

For out of town business trips we frequently take the train.  I see a lot of cows in the countryside, and they are all the same.  Big white bodies with black hineys.  I have decided that these cows must be the dairy cows, as this country consumes an enormous amount of cheese, yogurts and cream desserts.  I have taken to this quotidian just fine... yum.

I went to Paris last weekend to see the end of the Tour de France and all the beauty of the City of Lights and Love.  Beautiful as always, and I was met with so many memories in many locations from when I lived there.  I took so many pictures that I completely filled up my camera memory card!  I’m working on sifting for you all!  The Tour may have been tainted by many testosterone-filled cyclists and media report this year, but it still held grand allure for the city and tourists.  Seeing those cyclists zoom by at 40+ mph was amazing!

Not much time left in France – the clock is ticking…  If you have any special France souvenir requests, the time is NOW!  The wine is great, and if you request a bottle I will happily buy it!  However please note, wine is *heavy* to carry back and I am *always thirsty*.  :)

Cheers and hugs to all!  Send over requests or forever eat stale bread!