Monday, July 16, 2012

The End of Another Chapter in Life

(written on June 29, 2012) Well, it is hard to believe that almost two years have passed since Jill and I embarked on the Paris adventure.  Today, the physical connection to Paris comes to an end.  It's hard to believe at this point that we really did it. The adventure had all the gut wrenching emotions - anxiety of leaving our family, friends and home - sadness/concern when Gram died and Donna, Mom & Dad become very sick - loneliness when Jill was in the States - yearning to be at the Lake House - emptiness of missing holidays, birthdays and special moments with friends and family - fear of Fatima when we stumbled in at 2AM (not 3!)...  But I wouldn't change it for the world. As the saying goes - nothing ventured, nothing gained (besides the extra weight I put on)... I will always treasure the time Jill and I spent together - the wonderful world we discovered together - Paris friends - picnics- the secret places we found together - the family and friend visits (Bryan, Matt, Kaitlyn, Alison, Kyrstin, Bob & Joan, Jean, Maggie, Kelley, John & Sue, brother Dennis) - Madrid, Rome, Galway, London, Brussels, Bordeaux, Istanbul, Athens (more Hydra, Pyros and Aegnea), Barcelona, Prades, Bologna and Casablanca - "our boat" for wine and the wonderful Mother's Day lunch with the kids - Jill's technology transformation - yummo food - seeing old friends in Paris (Kevin, Johnny Mac and Susanne). Professionally it was a success.  I learned how to work with many different cultures, religions and the French.  I saw Alstom's technology at it's best - I road in the cab of our newest high speed trains at 300+ kph, saw tramway tracks being laid in Algeria, visited customers who were pleased with us and saw us enter new markets in Romania.  The time there also made me realize I'm ready to try a new line of work, leaving HR for a chance to run a factory. I'm often asked what I'll miss.  Of course there will be plenty and some I won't recognize for some time to come, but in no particular order -- access to all the cheeses (especially chèvre), excellent French wine for under $10, walking & finding a unique place, the view from "Passy" bridge, out for a beer with Mark, Jon, Adam & Alan, pizza with an egg on it, duck (canard), the markets, frois gras and dinner with Gary. What I won't miss -- metro to/from work, Fatima shishing us, taxi rides to/from the airport, dog crap on the sidewalk, dirtiness of Paris streets, being confused by the language, mass in French and, most important, time spent away from Jill, kids, family and friends. I went to Paris with 3 personal goals - 1/ learn about wines, 2/ learn French cheeses and 3/ learn French language.  Two out of 3 is not bad. My French is still very sloppy. So I close this chapter of my life and for that matter this blog.  Just like the other chapters before it I believe it has transformed me into a better person.

Monday, March 26, 2012

An American Women in France -- post by Kelley

Bonjour ! That’s all the french I remember.... lol.

Well I must say that I had the most fantastic time, Thanks very much to both Mark and Jill. And my husband for letting me go. It was a short 8 days, but so much was accomplished. I didn’t imagine I could of seen and done as much as we fit in. The flight over was ok, and they even let me bring my own alcohol on the plane with me ,,,as long as it was under the liquid limit. So I enjoyed my rum and coke, movies, food and sleep over the long haul. I was even greeted with cameras and microphones when I got off the plane,,, for sure they were expecting my arrival , was I really the only american woman  to have ever crossed the ocean and land in France ? Oh well,,, my dreams were only shattered a little. I had a good 40 minutes to ponder if my ride was going to show up ! HA HA 

I was tired,, and the apartment was spinning a little, but after a short rest were on the road !  A nice little walk to see the Eiffel tower. Yes, its huge. The buildings are all so pretty, very old yet elegant looking. Not like walking in downtown Spencerport. But sort of the same with my friend back by my side on our ventures.

Over the course of the week, Mark had wowed me with all his restaurants,, I tried so many new things to eat. We wont mention the 5 lbs. I gained. Some of my awesome foods included, snails, sea bass, duck, lamb, french spaggetti(yummo), sushi, quiche, bread, cheeses, quail eggs,  and the best olives I have ever had. Not to mention, the hot chocolate ! Notice how I didn’t mention wine ? Well I saved the best for last. I loved the wine.

We went on a really nice wine tour, and I learned a lot. Very informative on the wine region, and how to make champagne. I even found a red that I enjoy.  After that, we went to Moulin
Rouge, (feerie) the actual show. It was fantastic. By then , the wine was really , really good ! LOL The day after, we went to Montmarte and shopped around the street artists, and I actually found a canvass art work that reminded me of the show the night before. I just love it. The church was really something as well. We also visited Notre Dame, walked around beautiful gardens, and had cute lunches in side street cafes. ( with wine )

The stores were very cool too, even very smelly. In a good way. I think Abercrombie and Fitch pumps there cologne out into the street and entrance way. I liked the smell though  Jill almost needed oxygen to recover. It was a bit overtaking. Just to enter the building you got to have your picture taken with a young frenchman ! There is very cool bookstores, Public markets, cemetaries, antiques shops, zoos all to visit.

On one day, Jill and I took a train to Versailles, a really awesome place. We got to visit the king and queens palace and gardens. It was a real treat to walk threw there, so many beautiful rooms. Then we had lunch in the palace, followed by a wonderful stroll in the gardens (which of course had a little shack selling wine and treats way out in trails). I restrained and ordered water and a toblerone ! Miss Kelley cannot return being an alcoholic !  Already it was hard not to serve wine with the macaroni and cheese to my babies!

I also got to see where Princess Diana died, the tunnel looks just like it did on tv. When we drove threw it in a taxi, I actually looked behind me just incase to see if anyone was following or chasing us. ( you know, the whole first American woman traveling alone to France thing again !!!) my little fantasy for 8 days... ha ha 

I almost even found a really nice huge gold band on the side of a street. But a woman picked it up before me and tried to hand it to me. She thought it was mine,,,, next thing I know, my elbow is in a death grip, my arm is being twisted BY JILL and shes yelling at me,,,, NO, NO, NO,,,,,keep moving. Some kind of a French scam she said,,,, darn it ! My growing stardom
fantasy fell short that day, ha ha.

But all in all,,, I miss being there with my friends. Having coffee every morning with Jill again was the best, cant wait till they get home! Thanks for such a wonderful experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

January 2012 -- a posting by Jill

Now it is February 2012...January 2012 has gone by so fast! I think back and January is almost a blur, it will be hard to remember all that has happened in the first month of the year!

I had very mixed emotions upon returning to Paris. I enjoyed my six weeks home SO much! There is something so comforting and right about returning to the place that is home-your family, friends, neighborhood and village. It just feels good!

Anyway, Mark and I with Kate in tow flew to Paris January 4th. We arrived early morning on the 5th and had about a day and a half before we flew to Madrid to take Kate to her study abroad adventure. She was excited but nervous and I tried really hard not to show or express how I was feeling...although I am terrible about suppressing my emotions so I probably wasn't very effective!

We were leaving our baby in a strange country, but as our day in Madrid unfolded and we settled Kate into her apartment, I realized how much like her father she really is...fearless!!! From schooling in NYC to studying abroad, Kate just goes for it!!! She doesn't bog herself down with what could go wrong, but with what could go right!!! She is confident enough to realize she can deal with "stuff" when it happens, not if it happens-just like Mark! I guess she comforts herself with the knowledge that Daddy will be there to pick her up when she falls, but she is strong enough to continue on with bandaged knees...I am proud of my baby girl (young woman)!

Mark and I spent two days and one night in Madrid. We were back in Paris for two days and then we were off to Italy. Mark had to spend one day in Savigliano and one day in Bologna. We arrived in Savigliano late Wednesday night. Upon arriving we have a call from the HSBC fraud department! It seems someone had compromised our U.S. account and was using our debit card! Thank God HSBC was on top of things and called us the same day charges were made-payments were stopped immediately!!! That taken care of, we had to find something to eat. It was 11pm and the hotel restaurant was closed. We weren't close enough to walk to the city center to an open pizzeria so the bartender went into the kitchen and made us a ham and brie cheese sandwich on toasted white bread. It was delicious with a glass of a nice Italian red wine!!!

Thursday night we traveled to Bologna, a three hour drive. One of Mark's HR staff, Raffaella, drove us. Again we arrived late...we had reservations for dinner at a restaurant near our hotel. The restaurant owner kept his establishment open late just to serve us dinner!!! The dinner was definitely worth the wait! I had an eggplant roll stuffed with pasta and cheese-very good!

After Mark finished work on Friday we had the entire weekend to explore and enjoy Bologna (I think of Oscar Meyer every time I write that!). I looked up a couple fun facts about is home to the oldest University in the Western world. The University of Bologna was founded in 1088! In terms of quality of life in Italy Bologna ranks as one of the top cities! Bolognese sauce, a meat based pasta sauce is a culinary tradition in Bologna.

Mark and I had a great time exploring Bologna. The architecture was beautiful and the food was great! I however spent the weekend sniffling, blowing and coughing my way around the city. The weather was damp and bone chilling cold... It was still fun! A couple comments about the food...we have not had good bread in any of the cities we have visited in Italy! Why is Italian bread so delicious in the U.S. but in Italy we find no "Italian" bread as we know it? Another thing I've come to understand about the food, it was all very good-nothing surprising in favors, just plain old good Italian food! Then I realized what makes a food yummo (a term I stole from Rachel Ray)! When your mouth is experiencing an explosion of unexpected delicious flavor-it is the unexpected flavor explosion that makes a food yummo...just my opinion!


It was nice returning home on Sunday night. I was exhausted and sick and had four days to recuperate before leaving for Casablanca, Morocco!

I will not assume that everyone knows Morocco is located in North Africa as I know of two people who were unaware!!! Anyway, Mark and I arrived in Casablanca Friday evening. An Alstom driver picks us up from the airport and drives us to our hotel on the beach! The drive was very interesting. We passed by many small farms, small markets and people riding bicycles. You would see entire families riding on these very small motorized bikes! A child would be in front of Dad who was driving, Mom would be hanging on to Dad and a small baby would be slung around the Momma's back! Of course there were no helmets...a different way of life! As we approached the city, traffic was horrible and the drive turned frightening! Oh my God it was the worst ride of my life! But we survived and made it to the hotel just after sunset! The hotel was beautiful and very Moroccan in color and design. We had a great room over looking a beautiful garden and the Atlantic Ocean. The weather was fantastic...mid 60s and very little wind! Perfect! We had a nice meal in a traditional Moroccan restaurant. The chef was supposedly the best chef in Morocco-I don't know, maybe! We discovered a very delicious local red wine and enjoyed a bottle with our first meal in Casablanca. Dinner started with a fish soup that was, yes I will say it...yummo! The unexpected flavor was the oyster in a half shell in the middle of the bowl soup! Tres bien! Then we had a lamb tangine and couscous. Tangine is a cooking method in a clay flat bottom pot with a funnel shaped lid that is used in the oven or grill. The evening ended with a belly dancer!!! How fun was that...

We woke early Saturday morning and took a long walk on the beach. It was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine and very little wind! The beach was full of men, young and old, playing soccer!  They were everywhere and we were constantly dodging the players as they would run and kick the ball all around us! We headed back to the hotel to shower and start the day. We thought we would walk to the grand Mosque, The King Hassan ll. We walked about an hour or so and still only saw it from a distance! we taxied back to the hotel, had a great lunch of grilled fish then sat on the terrace, in the sun, skyping family and friends! Dinner that night was at a restaurant on the water that was recommended by Mark's boss. It was a French restaurant, the atmosphere and foods were fantastic!

Sunday we had to move inland. Mark had to prepare for work on Monday! Inland Casablanca was very different from the beach! The city was not gorgeous by any means! It was under much construction and was very dirty. It was sort of intimidating with all the Muslim garbed men and woman. As we walked to the Medina, the fortressed old city full of shops and such was a little unnerving. It was very crowded and people were bumping into us...I just held on to Mark's hand as tight as I could and tried to enjoy the experience of a new culture, one that was so very different from our own! We had a late lunch at an outdoor restaurant and again had very delicious tangine, this time beef!  We also had a traditional Moroccan dessert and tea! While we were eating the call for prayer went out! Prayer towers are located all around the city and at certain times of day chanting starts, over loud speakers, calling Muslims to prayer. That was very interesting!


Monday night Mark, I and his team went on a short bus tour! We went back to the mosque that Mark and I tried to walk to but never made it! The King Hassan ll Mosque is beautiful! While we were watching the sun set and admiring the structure and enormousness of the mosque, the call to prayer went started. All the men went in one door( seemed like the main door), took their shoes off, went inside and knelt on the hard marble floor for prayer. The women entered a smaller side door...not sure where they went! After the mosque we went to the medina, the shopping area inside the walled in ancient city! We were told to leave our purses on the bus because of the pick pocketers and thieves (thought of Alladin)!

Rick's Cafe was next! For those of you who have seen the movie Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman know of Rick's Cafe, the American style restaurant in Casablanca. We had a very nice dinner and the evening was enjoyable! Home on Tuesday...YEAH!

The month ended with a visit from Kate!! She may have needed her Mom and Dad...We had a great time enjoying Paris and visiting with each other!:)

That was January in a nutshell! I will let you know what February revoir!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Maggie's Paris Experience -- a blog by Maggie

Let me start off by saying that  I have amazing friends and am GREATFUL to them for this opportunity.
Having a 3 hour layover in Newark wasn’t so bad since my gate was between  the ladies room and an Irish Pub.  Upon arrival in Paris I tried using a payphone to call & tell Jill I was on my way but couldn’t figure it out!! I showed the cabbie my paper with the address and off we went.  We pulled up in front of the apartment, or what I was hoping was their place and I was looking around when the window’s of an apartment opened and I saw my friends!  So very cool.   We hit the road, going to a spot for me to see the Eiffel Tower ~~~ WOW as all I thought.  What a sight and we were blocks away.  Me being the bad tourist I left my camera at the apartment, AKA why there are no pictures  posted on face book!  After lunch at an outdoor café we went to Arc‘d Trumpih.  It was a little crowded in the stairwell but we managed   & the view we got ~~~ amazing.  By this time we needed a rest, ok a glass of French wine.  We headed down Champs Élysées and had a drink, or two.  I can say we did savor those drinks since they cost a pretty euro. We realized it was a long way from Union Street ~ So amazing to be drinking with my friends in Paris.  We walked along the river and again past the Eiffel Tower ( I never got sick of seeing it from different views)  That night we had dinner at Gary’s (La Petite Tour) and I was happy to finally meet their new friend.  I could not read the menu and had to rely on Jill & Mark ~ they did not mislead me.
On Thursday we went to Disney Paris, much to Jill’s dismay!  We took the train, right to Disney’s gate. I can say Disney is Disney but it was an experience.  It was a full day doing both parks but we survived.  The parks look the same as in Florida, especially Main Street but the castle is very different and some of the attractions are not there (I did miss the Country Bear Jamboree).  The train trip home was an experience in itself.  Without thinking we left at 5pm and hit rush hour traffic.  Needless to say it was not pleasant, it was HOT, CROWDED, & the train has no AC!  We had to stop a few times and just sit and wait to let other trains go.  I thought we’d never get back to the apartment.  After having a drink we went to an Italian Restaurant(yes in Paris).  After dinner we walked to see the Eiffel Tower at night.  We had drinks, caught up and waited to see the tower twinkle, When the lights went out for the night was a good time for us to go!  Actually before that would have been a good time but ~~~~~
We decided that Friday would be a good day to take it easy.  After breakfast we walked around the neighborhood and went to the grocery store, in the mall!!!  After wandering a little more we stopped for crepes ~~ Nutella ~ it was great & I could go for one now!  When Mark got home we ventured out for our evening ~ Notre Dame & a pub crawl (odd combo I know but it worked)  When we got to Notre Dame it was closed for the evening but I stood in awe admiring the outside and gardens.  When we crossed the bridge we stumbled upon a Food & Wine festival so of course we had to stop & check it out.  We ate, drank & listened to an oompah-pah band.  We then moved on to an Irish Pub where I felt obligated to take the glass I was drinking from (who knows why) The music was good but we had pubs to see, beer to drink and food to eat (ok so I had to have dinner, before I took any more glasses! Didn‘t work since we went to a another pub & I had to have the ½ pint glass I asked to buy and the bartender told me I could have it! We had dinner at an outdoor café that had wonderful Beef Burgundy.  
Mark went to the bakery and got us croissants for breakfast and off we went.  Jill & Mark know the underground way into the Louve so there was no waiting in line.  Again another WOW moment for me.  The place is huge.   Of course we wanted to see the Mona Lisa and headed that way first.  Finally seeing her in person was something else, but to be honest I thought the picture would be bigger and I was disappointed that  it’s kept behind glass & you have to stay behind ropes about 3 feet away, There is so much to see we had a hard time deciding what wing to visit. We left the museum and walked thru the gardens to an outdoor café for a beverage and rest.  Or next stop would be Montmartre, an artist community high atop a hill overlooking the city.  I know I keep using the word amazing but it covers so many things I did and saw.  
Sacre Coeur is a beautiful church, and the view from the front steps is awesome.  While sitting relaxing I watched the place across the street making crepes.  I became intrigued with an egg & cheese crepe.  After dinner the weather had started turning and we had to buy tourist umbrellas!  We decided to walk down the hill and then on thru Moulin Rouge.  We played it safe & kept in the walkway in the middle of the street.
Sunday we went to church @ Notre Dame (ok the one by Jill & Mark’s not the famous one)  Mass was the same so it was not all that hard to follow along  Watching the children wander during mass was different.  We walked to breakfast and I had a crepe with egg & cheese, not as good as a Nutella one but good just the same.  Mark had pizza with an egg so of course I had to try.  We went to the Market to get dinner, deciding to eat at home and watch the Bills game. Back to the day ~~~ went to Notre Dame to see the inside ~ another awesome moment. We walked home via the Eiffel Tower.  This was my first time being right at the tower and it was just amazing.  Standing under the Eiffel Tower was such a cool moment in my life. After having a drink on the river and looked at the tower more it was game time. The evening was capped off with a Bills win.
A word of advice for any trip, don’t save something you want to do for the last day ~~~  We started the day by taking a cab to the Harley Davidson shop, that Tom wanted me to visit.  I found the location before I left home and had directions. The down side was that I did not pay attention to the store hours and once the cab pulled away we realized the store was closed on MondayL I do have pictures for him and hoping that within the next year Jill & Mark will want to visit the Bastille area on a day besides Sunday or Monday.  We took the metro to the Eiffel Tower, being quite proud of ourselves for buying our tickets from a machine with no help.  It was so crowded they closed the top of the tower!!!!! After waiting for an hour we went to the mid level and honed in on an American Tour group, we followed them around and learned a few things.  It was quite amazing and could actually pick things out in Jill’s neighborhood.  We decided to walk down the stairs, the exercise was good for me.  Sadness was setting in because we had to go home and pack and that meant my trip was winding down.  After dinner we called it an early night since it would be a long day of traveling on Tuesday.  
Mark & Jill were leaving for Greece Tuesday morning so we cab’d to the airport together.  It was fun being at the airport as it was coming to life and watching all the people, which I did after I took a couple hour nap.  Not sure I was much company to Jeannie & didn’t do much to calm her flying nerves.  It was nice to see our rides waiting for us in Rochester ~~~ it was especially nice for me because Billy & Joannie had just flown in for a weeks visit.
Paris is an amazing city and I’m a lucky person for the opportunity I had.  I highly recommend anyone visiting Jill & Mark.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Another new adventure -- Brussels, Belgium (a blog from Jill)

Another new adventure...early Thursday morning high speed train ride to Brussels,Belgium. I was very excited! I really enjoy traveling by train, especially a high speed train!!! And since it is Mark's line of work, it is important to support the train and metro business! There is no hassle traveling by can pack what you like and carry anything on the train with no worries! You arrive 20 minutes before departure, find your very comfortable seat, get settled and relax while speeding through the French country side-what could be better than that? One hour and 20 minutes later, we arrived in Brussels. We walked through the train station, out the door, crossed the street and there was our hotel-how convenient!

Historically Brussels, the capital of Belgium, was a Dutch speaking country. But over the 19th and 20th centuries Brussels became increasingly French speaking. Most people of Brussels are French speaking today, but both languages are evident. The street signs, menus and such are written in both languages. I must say I was very fascinated by the Dutch language. It was fun to listen to and I couldn't help but think about my Dutch ancestors! At one point of our trip, Mark and I tired, wet, cold and exhausted from traipsing around the city found a very beautiful large cathedral(Cathedrales Bruxellensis SS Michaelis et Gudulae). We went inside to look around and as luck would have it, mass was beginning. Being wet, cold and good Catholics we decided to stay and participate in the mass of this beautiful church. We took our seats, got out of our wet coats and settled in...a very young Priest started to speak and much to our surprise he spoke Dutch!!! We are very used to listening to mass in French, but this was our first mass in Flemish. I was thoroughly engrossed in listening to the homily, the Priest seemed so joyful in his presentation...he spoke and sang so nicely-only wish we could have understood what he was saying!!! It was a pleasure to attend this mass and shake the Priests hand when it was over...a very memorable experience!!!

Brussels City is quickly becoming one of the top 5 destination cities to visit in Europe. Katie was just telling how she learned about it in one of her classes this semester! Mark and I found it fun and interesting...the architecture was very similar to what we see everyday in Paris, but you could see many, many Dutch influences. The Grand Place or Grote Market (in Dutch) is a beautiful old city square. Traditionally the Grand Place was a market place were people came to sell and buy food. Now, beautiful old buildings stand in its place...the Maison de Roi or King's House, the Hotel de Ville or town hall with it's gothic tower is often mistaken as a church or castle! I can attest to this-Mark and I both thought it was a church!

In a narrow alleyway not far from the Grand Place is the Mannekin Pis or peeing boy fountain. I was surprised to find the peeing boy to be so small, only about 1 1/2 feet tall. So much was made of it being such a huge tourist attraction, I thought it would be much larger!!! It was still fun to see. We just happened to notice a bar kitty corner to the statue called the Mannekin Tavern. We stopped and enjoyed a very fine Belgium beer. I believe I tried a local beer made by the Tappist was a Belgium blonde beer. I found I really enjoyed the blonde beers. The fruity beers were very popular-SWEET and fruity! They were good in very small doses! Of course, around the corner were several waffle stands...We had to try the waffles! Yummmmm...the waffle had banana, strawberries, whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate!

The food was very good too! What I read and found to be true is that the food is very French in style with the larger serving sizes of Germany. Our first meal in Belgium was at a restaurant that cooked all it's meat on an open wood fire. As you walk in the door of the restaurant, the meat was cooking on the wood fire grill, juices were dripping and smelling delicious! Mark and I were hooked...the place was busy, but they had a table for two. I ordered the lamb chops with garlic, cheese potatoes and vegetables. Mark ordered an Argentinian beef filet and baked potato. We agreed dinner was delicious!!! Too much of everything though, we couldn't eat it all:(

There aren't many foods that are traditionally Belgium...waffles, beer, chocolate and mussels with fries! Mark really enjoyed the mussels! The come to the table in a small cast iron pot and they were cooked perfectly-he had a hard time finishing them but he gave it a good effort!

Saturday,the only full day we had to sight-see was very rainy! The rain and damp just seeped through our bones, but we made the most of it and enjoyed ourselves. We were prepared for the weather with raincoats, umbrellas, and rain boots and managed to do a full day of walking, touring and shopping!!! Our stay in Brussels was great, the train home was relaxing and best of all we arrived in Paris safely and on time!

We spent this past Saturday in Paris and had a very nice day. We started the day with coffee and breakfast at home. Went to Inno for groceries...had to carry large, very heavy bags home. We had a quick lunch and took the JILL train to Le Jardin des Plantes-a very beautiful garden of flowers, small trees and even a few vegetables. We found the zoo(menagerie), a labyrinth to a lovely gazebo at the top of a hill. We walked and watched the children having so much fun crawling through the bushes of the maze and we sat and enjoyed the view when we reached the top!

We continued on our journey to Rue de Moufftard, a fun street full of little shops, brasseries, restaurants and bars. We continued our wanderings past l'eglise St. Genevieve, the Pantheon to le Jardin de Luxembourge. From there we walked to the latin district and had dinner at Le Latin-one of our favorite, consistently good, inexpensive restaurants! We took the RER home. It was an enjoyable, long day in Paris!!! We have to start traveling outside the city of Paris to other areas of France(Normandy, Champagne or Provence). Maybe this weekend...So far Fall has been beautiful-cool, crisp beautiful sunny days!!!

Tot ziens("toht zeens")! See you later in Dutch:)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Visit to Paris -- Post by Jean

My trip to Paris: I had no idea really what to expect. I didn't really get a chance to think about the trip until about 2 weeks prior to going. Then.....I couldn't stop thinking about it. I practiced my French at work. I must say i think i impressed them....or was that i annoyed them. By this time i was not nervous about the flight at all. I may have used up all my nerves over the summer. The flights were great.  So I did take alot of pictures and yes i journaled every night.
So..First i want to say thanks to Jill and Mark for making this trip truely an experience i will cherish. I loved it and didn't take a minute for granted.
The first day: Really no plan- but it was amazing. I got to see the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. You would have thought it would have been a horrible day because just as we got to the Tower it began to down pour. Hopped a boat on the Siene river. Got off at the Notre Dame stopped and had drinks on a little restaurant/bar boat until it cleared up.We had a wonderful view of Notre Dame. The thing that really stood out on this day was it was 9/11. We ended up walking through the Latin District and went to a couple bars...nice. We were at a Canadian Pub and the football games were on....couldn't get buffalo but they began to play taps for 9/11. The very, very noisey bar suddenly started to become quiet slowly until there was complete silence. The silence lasted until the announcer came back on. It brought chills.........And the no plan thing...there never was a plan and if there was a slight plan it made Mark very uneasy. The no plan thing allowed us to really experince Paris not just see it. So Mark kudos to the no plan plan.
Day 2: Me and Jill spent the day going to the market. Had lunch.. I went on a limb and ordered the American salad...i know.....pretty risky..I got to see the whole neighborhood it was great. And the grocery store..and the parks. All the nannies with the kids. Jill and Mark made dinner ...then a walk to Le Passy( Local Pub) very nice and Mark's friends (the bar tender) and well.... all the workers.They made me feel very welcome. Walked to the Eiffel Tower at night. It was lit up and sparkling.... just amazing and beyond words. We sat by the Siene river and had a drink looking at the Eiffel Tower....really.really.....couldn't believe my eyes!! 
Day 3: Went to the mueseum d'orsay. Me and Jill took a taxi. I think we took some one elses as we were in line to get into the museum and Mark called stating the taxi service wants to know where we are because they are outside the apartment waiting for us.....ooopps.Loved the museum although I realized how little i remembered about my art history. But i soaked up every detail and was thoroughly in my element.  So we walked back.I had to pee bad.....i knew we had to go towards the Eiffel tower. That is all i knew but seeing it made me realize relief was out there.......Suggestion..have a toilet some where along the Siene or do as the Parisiene"s do... just go!!!!Oh yeah i ran into a Simba puppy.He started to run the other way then i talked to him and he came running to me. It was like in slow motion.....and jumped on me and licked that point i asked the gentleman walking him if i could pet him.......Me and Jill stopped at LePassy and had a feet hurt..we had too!
Day 4: Maggie arrived...I was looking out Jill's French window's and i saw this lady looking up at the windows. I was wondering what she was looking at......then realized it was Maggie. Magie was great she would do this little clap every time she saw something made me smile. We went to Tracodora (sp?) sorry Jill and Mark,had lunch.Maggie saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time. (CLAP) We walked to the arc of triumph (CLAP)...amazing. The views,...see pictures. I tried to walk up the stairs so not to disappoint Bryan. Well the earth began to spin,air thickened and my only thought was i had to get out of there...why you ask. It is a narrow,winding staircase that has no nothing. I began to work my way down....I think i knocked down a couple people...and then an elevator........stairing me straight in the face..up i went!!!We walked down
Ohhhhh that famous street...all the expensive stores are was a really pretty walk,went past the Grand Palace........just amazing. We had to stop and have a feet hurt....Then we met up with Mark and went to Gary's for dinner. Great way to end the night.
Day 5: DisneyLand Paris----the colors were awesome. Kids you have to go. Rides are the same but very different. The train takes you right there. Loved it...and Jill was a great sport. I think maybe,maybe even really enjoyed it...Maybe ...Had dinner at Dino's a quaint italian restaurant --the pizza was yum...but kind of an emotional night. We went and had drinks in Tracadora and at one point the Eiffel Tower disappeared....Funny story. Jill thought she ordered a water but the waiter brought her a glass of wine. I said to Jill. ".Don't worry it happened to Jesus too."...........well we thought it was funny.
Day 6: Experienced my first Crepe (CLAP)...delicious....with nutella...Had a relatively easy morning...went to the mall. i ordered a cappucina..well i thought i did...i spoke my French and put in the order. I was very proud of myself but he then asked me something.. i have no idea what so i said Qui....I am not sure what i said yes too and then this
  cup of foam arrived....with a splash of coffee on the bottom...I am sure he had no idea i was from the states! Waited for Mark and took the subway to Notre Dame...ran into a festival. Great time....had a couple drinks. Then went to an Irish Pub and listened to a musician. We thought he was great so bought his CD...well i listened to it the other day. It had to be the atmoshere..........Notre Dame is beyond amazing. I must say i teared up when i went inside.
Day 7: Went to the Louvre via train. The train goes right under the Louvre. Loved it......Loved it....The building and cielings alone are amazing......the art work what can i say. It was a dream come true. Then took a taxi to Mt. Marc--church on the hill (CLAP) oh what a view....... ate at a quaint restaurant and sat next to a couple from Scottland. And when i say next to... i am using that loosely as you pretty much sit with them..tiny,tiny places. We had a great conversation.... Oh and Mark he talks to all the taxi drivers. He ask were they are from and because he has been all over he is able to talk to them about their home land. I loved listening to them.
Day 8: Went to church...I again teared up and was extremely entertained by the children there... They play in the confessional, run around so funny and so different. The services exactly like an American service with the exception it was in French. I was able to follow along....Truely enjoyed it.Went to the outside market,stopped at a pub--my feet hurt . Had some more French beer...nice.Went to the Eiffel Tower and had a drink by the Siene River. Then went back to watch the Bills win and eat the market goodies.
Day 9: Maggie,Jill and myself were on a mission to find the Harley Davidson Store. By subway...Jill and Maggie navigated and I followed. WE found it...caught the right subway,got off at the right spot was closed...closed no........felt really bad....I think Maggie still clapped that little clap though....By this time my ankles were the size of a softball...extremely painful. Brought me to tears on a couple of occasions.throughout the trip....but i wouldn't have changed a thing....I experienced Paris ...the language,the people, the sights and the history. I saw the little things as well as the attractions. I looked at every door, every garden, every building. As i said earlier..much earlier i didn't take anything for granted. I know how lucky i was to experince a new culture...It was amazing!!If you are on the fence about going don't be.....Oh yeah and i met Fatima.....I loved her too..a little intimidating maybe but when you drop a whole can of beer on the floor and a glass table might complain...Maggie(CLAP) Jill and Mark thanks......for a great experience.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Another Life! --- blog from Jill

Back to Paris...another world, another life!!! So glad Jean came back with us and Maggie followed shortly after! It is always fun to share our Paris adventure with family and friends. We had a great time visiting all the usual tourist attractions and even some not so usual...just experiencing Parisienne life! Maggie would clap with delight every time she saw something wonderful and Jean quietly snapped picture after beautiful picture! We truly enjoyed experiencing Paris through their eyes...all eyes are welcome!
I planned on writing about Athens, Greece but I had an interesting experience at Monoprix this morning! Monoprix is a small Walmart so to speak. It has a little bit of everything from clothes to groceries and I went to pick up a couple of small items. The lines were long and there was a woman who wanted to "cut" the line. I don't know why, I couldn't understand her reason, but I could figure out it upset everyone else in line...all these dramatic French women, speaking at the same time with a very hostile attitude and presence!!! What to do...My natural inclination would be to let her go in front of me, but I was afraid everyone would gang up on me! I wouldn't be able to defend myself except with "Je parle anglais"or "Je ne comprend pas," so when the lady stood in front of me, I gently tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to the back of the line. She spoke to me, I said "Je ne comprend pas" and she went further back. I must say I was a little bothered by this whole event, but in the end I felt like I had assimilated a little into the French culture...I fit in:) Even though I would have been more than happy to give her a place in line!

Everyone knows Greece is really struggling economically right now and of course the government and citizens see things very differently! The citizens peacefully protest or strike at whim and we were able to witness both these events! On Thursday of our visit all taxis, metros and buses were on strike and Sunday, the air traffic controllers went on strike. I'm still not sure how we were able to fly home with no one watching the skies, but we arrived in Paris safely with only a couple hours of delay!!!

We did witness a very large public protest at the Parliament building one evening. A large number of people were gathered in the square and were speaking loudly over a public address system. I was nervous because there was a large police presence and I couldn't understand a word they were was all Greek to me(ha-ha)! Everyone participating or simply observing where calm and well-behaved, so we continued on our journey...

The first night of our stay in Athens was spent with the Alstom team-Mark's peers and boss!  We had a great time visiting the New Acropolis Museum and seeing the Acropolis and Parthenon! Simply amazing...beautiful in daylight and incredible views at night! Built high on a hill, you can view these amazing sites from almost everywhere in the city! After the museum we traveled by bus to a restaurant on the water in Pirreus-one of Europe's largest seaports. It was dark so we weren't able to witness the beauty of the area, but the restaurant on the water had beautiful evening views with the boats and lights. Mother nature also provided us with a spectacular thunderstorm! My first meal in Greece was nothing short of amazing!  We started with calamari, eggplant dip and a boiled salad. Oh and some sort of little fish that were too "fishy" for my taste. All else was very good. Boiled salad is a typical salad or so I assumed because I saw it on several menus...some sort of boiled greens, served cold with crudités and cheese. Dinner was a pasta and lobster plate served with chunks of lobster and a fresh tomato sauce...delicious! Fresh fruit platters were an incredible ending to this delightful meal.
The second night Mark and I walked around Athens and found our way to Plaka, the ancient city of Athens. It was beautiful with the views of the Acropolis and Parthenon. The sidewalks/roads are made of marble and everything else of stone!!!  On recommendation from one of Mark's co-workers we found a restaurant called Stroffi's and had another great meal! We  had Greek salad, eggplant dip and stuffed grape leaves as starters and had goat and potatoes cooked in parchment paper to share for dinner. The eggplant dip was amazing and the Greek salad was beyond amazing...chunks of
tomato, cucumber, green pepper and sliced red onion, kalamata olives, a thick slice of feta cheese, a sprinkle of dried oregano and drizzle of virgin olive oil all served with delicious bread, not pita-yummo(sorry Kyrstin)! Mark really enjoyed the grape leaves-reminded him of his childhood growing in the Lebanese neighborhood! The goat was good, a little gamey-I guess it was what I expected goat to taste like! After dinner, a spot opened up on the roof and we were able to have expresso under the open sky with views of the Acropolis! How fun...


The fresh herb basil is everywhere in small pots on restaurant tables, in large planters on the street-all different shapes, sizes and types of beautiful, fragrant lovely basil! Mark and I love the smell of basil-it awakens the senses and just makes you feel alive!

The weather was spectacular! It was very warm (85 to 95 degrees), no humidity with a slight breeze off the water!!! Perfect! The architecture was mostly modern in style with only a few old buildings in traditional style left and the "new" art, graffiti was often times unsightly and not artistic at all!  The beauty of the mountains, endless blue skis and incredible blue of the water is what you enjoy and remember about Athens!

My favorite place of all was the Greek Island of Hydra!!! We took a 12 hour boat cruise on Saturday and visited three islands-Hydra, Poros and Aegina! All wonderful islands, but Hydra was our favorite. It was built on the side of a hill right off the beautiful crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean. I can't even explain the gorgeousness of this place! You have to boat to the island and the donkey is the traditional mode of transportation...the roads are not large enough for cars to travel on! It is like walking into the past, one hundred years ago! Spectacular!!! We would love to go back and spend a few days on this island...if unable, it was a joy to experience if only for a couple of hours!

Brussels, Belgium is our next trip. We leave Thursday and are traveling by high speed train! Mark has been there once, but it rained torrentially his entire visit. We are hoping for better weather :) I do have some research to do...all I know about Belgium is that it has very good fruity beers and fantastic chocolate! My favorites...

Yasou or ahdeeoh!!! Goodbye in Greek ;)