Friday, June 26, 2009

Playing Hard in Pink Shoes

I'm way behind, yo. We've been to Cinque Terre, now we're in Rome. We fly back to Paris tomorrow and then home to Boston the day after that.

I've gotta say, we've had a lovely lovely trip, but we're SO glad to be heading home.

Here's my advice: if you make it to Italy, the place to go is Cinque Terre. It was probably our favorite place throughout the whole trip. It's an area along the Northern coast, a series of five colorful little fishing villages. We went swimming in the Ligurian sea (which is very very salty, it seems to me), ate the best food of the trip (bruschetta, foccacia, pesto, pine nut gelato, chili pepper herb tea, etc), took a boat to a few other towns, lounged on the beach in fancy beach chairs and read books. A man walked down the beach carrying a big basket full of huge tropical leaves and chunks of fresh coconut shouting, "Coco, bella coco!" Oh how I loved that man. And each little town had a few friendly kitties lounging in the sun. It felt like a team of experts had designed the happiest place in the world for a Deja and a Sam. We were in love with each other and with that place.

Anyway, that's a very brief and sorry excuse for all the lovely days that have been in between my last post and now, but it's late and the Internet ticketh, and I still need to pack for Paris. But here are a few pictures.

The shoes.

Dang. And all I have time for are the shoes. I have more stories to tell. When my Internet isn't attached to a clock and a credit card, I will tell them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I may have bought a pair of pink Italian leather shoes.

Okay, I did.

Okay, I bought three pairs--one hip, pink (ish), pretty, heeled item (you'll see, once I'm back to real Internet access); one pair of shockingly comfy blue sandals that Sam had a crush on; one pair of more conservative, lovely deja-esque mary jane-ish dark brown ones. We were in that store for about ten years, Sam trying to convince me to get all three, me squealing at the impracticality of it all, but not being able to put any of them back. And the Italian woman who runs the place mounting in irritation. In the end, they were a steal--much less than I would have paid in the states. And they'll make perfect school shoes. Plus, I'm in love them. It was the kind of purchase you take out of the bag and box as soon as you get home, even though it's too rainy for leather shoes, but you just have to look at them again, to hold them and snuggle them to your face.

One other happy thing before we do laundry: We ate dinner at a little place overlooking the Arno, and while we ate our ribolitta (sp?) and salad, a little river otter came swimming up to us. He got out on the beach and groomed himself, cleaned between his toes and smoothed his fur. He reminded us of a kitty. I asked the waitress about him and she said he was a cross between a mouse and beaver, only she didn't know the English word for beaver so she held two fingers up to her mouth like long teeth. We loved the mouse-beaver.

Tomorrow, we head here, Cinque Terre. Italy is fine by me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Catching David

So I got sick. Real sick. I'm feeling better enough now to be out and about, but yesterday I slept and slept. I'm pretty sure I was feverish and my throat closed and ached; my nose hated me. Sam spent the morning tracking down vitamin C and orange juice in little Italian pharmacies where they luckily understood the phrase "wife sick" and were willing to help.

I finished reading Poisonwood Bible (which I adored until the last 100 pages or so) and read all of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (which I absolutely did enjoy--quick and delightful, if full of some unrealisticly lovely dialogue). I can also recommend The Cellist of Sarajevo, mostly. I found it to be rather, slightly, oh, dramatically written? May I say that when it was about such a terrible event? I think I can. I was in a swoon for it for many many pages, but then it seemed the characters thought thoughts that were too similar, ultimately too simple or something. Nevermind. I'll do a goodreads for each of them soon. All I meant to say is that I read all day, which was nice.

Back to Italy. We're in Italy, but yesterday I wouldn't have known it if the OJ carton wasn't in Italian. When I tried to go out in the afternoon, it only took about thirty seconds before I felt dizzy and terrible and whined for Sam to take me home, which he did. We ventured out again after dark, when it wasn't so hot, and I'm happy to report that I did sort of fall in love. We stayed away from the city center, found this lovely dark restaurant with a red velvet couch-thing and kind waiters and we ate simple, tasty food. I had some spaghetti object with thyme and lemon, Sam had the spaghetti object with an incredible, classic tomatoes and herbs sauce, then we split a grilled vegetable plate with some sort of smoky cheese on the side. And we may have ordered a dark chocolate souffle with bitter orange sauce, maybe, which I might have taken tiny bites of, despite my stuffed nose. As I said, the day had cooled off and there weren't so many drunk teens with cleavage and/or tight jeans. We strolled along, in love, talking about romantic things like ... budgets and grocery shopping. It was pleasant indeed.

Today the heat wave seems to have broken. I'm sitting at the Internet cafe which overlooks the Arno. The back door is open so I feel a delightful breeze. My nose is stuffed slightly and my throat feels ick-ish, but I'm confident I don't have the Pig Sick, which we looked up all the symptoms for yesterday, of course.

One more thing. In my feverish haze, I kept feeling stupid for my last post, which I also wrote in a feverish haze. What was I thinking saying David was a sexy beast? What am I, 12 years old? Yes, sort of, anyway. What really happened when I saw David is that from behind it looked like he was participating in a trust exercise with me, like he'd get the nerve up to fall back into my arms any second. And I would catch the leggy teenager in my arms, under his strong shoulders, and he would sigh the sigh of 500 years, stand, ruffle my hair with his enormous hand, and stride off. The female busts in the other room would sputter jealously.

And that is what I really thought of David.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I Have Seen the Clothes of the Future, and I am afraid

Okay, so much to say, but the clock's a'ticking at the old Internet Train Cafe, and so I must be brief.

-David is one sexy beast.

-Uffizi Gallery gives you the history of art in under 2 hours, but by the end you want to kill yourself.

-Pizza is yummy, even without cheese.

-I bought a black leather purse, thinking I would be practical because I don't have one, then remembered I DOOOO have one. I should have bought the pink one after all.

-Lemon gelato. Pistachio gelato. Coconut gelato. Chocolate gelato. Minty chocolate gelato.

-Sam stepped in a big pile of crap. I tried to say, lookout lookout! But he didn't know what to look out for. Next time, we have a code word.

-I have a fierce cold and sore throat. I blame this on the gelato.

-Italian people hate me. I can't speak Italian, so they either look at me like I'm a moron or ignore me. It's depressing.

-The truth: we wish we could say we were enjoying Florence more. It is damn crowded and damn hot and sometimes it smells like sewage, and the locals seriously seem so irritated with tourists. Not that I can blame them. We're doing our best to fall in love, but both of us are getting ill and it's making it hard. Tomorrow we have absolutely nothing on the schedule. That will help, we hope.

Any tips on what to do when you're weary of travel?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Safe in Italy

Florence, to be precise. It's magic. But we don't have internet at our place this time, so posts will probably be sparse.

Here's what I think so far:

*It's a bit warm here. What I mean to say: Good golly it's hot.

*There are people on little scooters (mopeds? vespas?) everywhere. And not just hip young teenagers, but middle-aged men and women, business people in suits, and the young folk.

*I just ate a pizza at a place called MaMMaMia. Among more traditional veggie toppings, it had thinly sliced zuchinni and carrots (!) on it. Sam was afraid of the carrots but they came out all roasty and sweet. Yummmmmm.

*Time for gelato. Caio.

P.S. Thank you for sweet comments on my last post. I was afraid to say it. You made me glad I did.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Kid, Bad Kid

A few notes on London.

Last night we had dinner at Wagamama with John, Karla, and Chris Bennion. (John was/is my mentor professor at BYU/life.) It was lovely to see them. I don't even know how to say how lovely it was. Sam made John laugh. That was what I hoped would happen. And it made me happy. I talked with Karla as we walked up to Kensington Gardens to see a performance of Peter Pan. They built this special venue for it that consisted of a big cone-shaped white tent, with a theater in-the-round inside. I can't say it was stellar acting, but I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It's hard to explain this part, but they did stuff with projecting up on the top of the tent, so when Wendy, Peter, Tink and crew took off to fly to Neverland, not only were they were really suspended in the air, but it looked like they were flying over London--THE London, with parks and the National Gallery and St Paul's, etc. I couldn't catch my breath during that part; I felt like I would weep; I felt like a little kid. A very happy little kid with some of my dearest friends in the world.

Speaking of little kid, there was an exhibit at the Tate Modern that made me giggle. It was just a plain room with an enormous table and set of four chairs in it. Can you picture that? (I was this close to getting a picture when a security guard scolded me.) It was sort of like when we were all very small children and we could walk under the table, but we weren't very small children. We were adults with car payments and aching feet and complicated relationships and allergies and friends who died too young and everything else grown-uppy, walking around in this room where an everyday object positively dwarfed us again. It was wonderful. Almost everyone who wandered in smiled. And that is when I love the art: when it arrests us, knocks us silly, makes us see something we haven't really seen in a long time.

None of this is in chronological order, so now is as good a time as any to show you this de-licious butternut squash "burger" I had. Check out that avocado. The thing is, for the most part I find vegetarian fare so much more interesting than meat. Could a regular old chicken sandwich hold a candle to this beast? No sir.

Here's Sam walking away from the Tate on the Millennium Bridge, towards St. Paul's Cathedral. This, this bridge between two of my favorite places, is perhaps my favorite spot in all of London.

What else should I tell you? Oh, we went to Portabello Road market on Saturday because we didn't feel like going far. I expected both of us to hate it because it's crazy-crowded and hot, but we actually enjoyed ourselves. We found the perfect gift for my friend who graduated med school, and bought a couple little matted old photographs. One was of children being evacuated from London during WWII. They look, for the most part, like they have no idea what's going on. They all have nametags in case they get lost, and pretty little boxes tied with string that look like they have strawberry tarts in them. Turns out, according to the man who sold us the photo, those pretty boxes have gas masks in them. He would know, since he lived through the war, since he was a kid that got evacuated, too. That was part of why we bought the picture, because he was so kind and interesting.

I've re-learned something here: people like to talk, and I like to talk to them. I'm so afraid of people, even people I know. But I'm especially afraid of strangers. On Friday we stopped at the laundromat so Sam could drop off a few shirts. He had to run back to the flat to get one he forgot, and I stayed behind to put stain-remover on the others. While he was gone, I was alone with the lady running the place, a serious-seeming older woman. After a few minutes, I said, simply, "How are you?" It was so easy! And she answered! And we had a nice chat. And when I said we were on our way to Florence next week, she said, "That's my name! Florence." And I liked her.

One other thing we got at Portabello. I'm not sure it will make any sense, and my picture won't do it justice, but we're so excited about it. It's a set of printing press letters. Well, not a true set, because it's pulled from a bunch of different sets, so it's in all different fonts and it looks super cool. A lot of the letters are slightly red or orange or green because they were used to print posters. Can you tell at all what it is? Probably not. Come to my house and I will show you. We're pleased with it anyway. The perfect writerly souvenir.

One more something to tell you. It's personal and kind of long, by way of warning.

For one reason and another (getting home late from the show, Sam's phone ringing at 1 a.m., a 1:30 snacktime involving toast and strawberry jam, looking at apartments for next year on craigslist, etc), we didn't sleep much last night. So when the alarm went off at 7:30 to make it to 9 a.m. church across town, it wasn't hard to decide I would shoot for the single's ward at 1. Sam woke up craving a full English breakfast, so I took a quick shower and met him at a greasy spoon on Queensway. I was sitting there, watching the white bread of my toast turn to glue from the bean-sauce (I ordered beans on toast), thinking about Sundays, about how it feels like it's been a long time since I had a really quiet, peaceful one, the kind we Mormons are supposed to aim for. I was feeling bad about it, feeling like I should have bought breakfast stuff Sam was interested in so we could eat at home today, wondering what it means to "keep the sabbath day holy" when I'm married to someone who doesn't believe what I believe, when I'm traveling, etc. At home I try hard and do fine for the most part, but out here, how do I balance the need to spend time with my husband and the need to worship? I'm crummy at it now, still figuring it out. I don't know any other Mormons married to Catholics, so there don't seem to be any guidebooks for me. I'm making this up as I go along.

Anyway, so off we dashed to church. Sam planned to sit in a little cafe and write while I went in for Sacrament meeting, then we'd hit some free museums. Only, the church website had the times wrong. I got there a half hour into the Spanish branch meeting, and about two hours away from the YSA meeting. I was devastated, surprisingly so. I called Sam and told him come back, and when he got there I was weeping, my lower lip pouted out, close to sobbing. I stood there on a corner of Exhibition Road, saying over and over again, "I'm a bad kid." I said, "I think God thinks I'm a bad kid." This is my biggest fear: that God doesn't like me, that lately He finds me to be a lazy, worthless, whiny thing. I thought I blew it, that it wasn't fair to make Sam wait another 3 hours to do what we had planned, that I should have just got up and made it to the dang 9 a.m. meeting.

Sam, bless his heart, held me. "Deja," he said, "You need the sacrament. You need to be fed." (We've been talking about the metaphor of "spiritual food" lately--how apt it is.) He held my shoulders and looked right at me: "You're not a bad kid. This has nothing to do with you being a bad kid. You just need to take the sacrament. We'll wait as long as we need to so you can." And so we did.

And so I did. And so I felt much better. It turned out to be one of the most peaceful, lovely days we've had so far.

I talked to John and Karla last night about marriage as an institution, how odd it can be, how it's such a blend of the sacred and the profane.

That moment, right there on the corner of Exhibition Road, that was the sacred part.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tiny Orange Trees

Short Post Today. We heard that taking the bus might take hours and hours, so we opted to stay around here. Here being the same neighborhood as the BYU London Centre, near Kensington Gardens. I know and love this area already, so I really adored showing Sam my favorite places: Embassy Row, the Round Pond in Hyde Park, Bayswater and Queensway and Whiteley's, etc. It was low-key. We read books and strolled about, and, and, the highlight: Eating a light lunch at the Orangery Restaurant at Kensington Palace. I'm pretty sure this is the most beautiful place I've ever eaten a meal. It's at least in the top ten.

When you walk in, it looks like this. Those are small orange trees on each side, and a display of all of their lovely sweets.

We started off with tea. This is what our table looked like. Isn't it perfect? We had our own mini orange tree. (Although ours didn't have any oranges. bummer.) It made me feel princessy. I ordered the Tulsi Mint tea, which I've never had, but it was incredible. It had aloe vera in it or something? Odd, but scrumptious.

Here's what the whole place looks like.

And Sam, after I asked if he was going to do something Britishy for the camera. "Yes," he said, and did this. Oh, that man.

London feels safe to me, feels like home. I have memories of being here when I was young and lonely, wandering around by myself and missing home and trying to be happy. And layered over the top of that are happier memories with dear friends. And now I have these with Sam. If you would have told the younger Deja that someday I would be back here under these circumstances, I don't think I would have believed it.

Sitting in that Orangery though, I missed my family. My sisters and mom, specifically. Maybe it was because they're the only part of my life that hasn't been here with me. Maybe it was just because I was taking the pictures with them in mind, knowing they would like to see. But I just longed to be sitting at the table with them, sipping tea. Maybe some day ...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bonjouree, Paree

On a brisk walk this morning, in one last attempt to find something special (your ideas were brilliant/funny, by the way.) before we trained away from Paris, I saw a little old lady walking her dog. And her dog was holding an umbrella in its mouth. It was scheduled to rain today, so this brilliant lady must have trained her dog to hold her essentials.

I wished for a dog like that as we waddled through the streets with all our stuff, heading for the metro. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but I found myself thinking what I always think when I have to carry my own junk: what IS all this junk? I begin to regret packing specific items, like my stack of ten (!?) books, a skirt I haven't had occasion to wear yet, my pair of black shoes, etc.

But we got here, to London, sigh of contentment. The train was speedy and it felt decadent to sit for so long on our behinds. I tried to read, but promptly fell asleep. Sam dithered about writing, worried he couldn't write, then wrote.

Turns out there's a subway-workers strike right now, so what should have been a quick hop and skip on the tube turned into waiting for a taxi in an enormous line, then sitting in traffic because everyone had to take taxis. Darn strikers.

But then, oh then, we got to our little place in the same neighborhood as the BYU Center, near Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. The place is small and we have to climb 4,000 stairs to get to it, but it's quiet and sweet and we've moved our clothes into a tall cabinet by the bed. Well, the few clothes that don't reek. As I type this, Sam is hauling all the clothes that do reek to a laundry mat, bless his soul.

We had dinner at this Lebanese place I went to hmmm, six years ago? seven? and have dreamed of ever since. It was the first time I had ever had Lebanese food and since we were young and American and didn't know what to order, they brought us out this enormous spread and it was one of the single-most wonderful dining experiences of my life. I had wondered if Sam and I could track that place down while we were here, and today, without trying, we stumbled across it and I wiled my way into going there and then pouted until we got a similar big spread with mostly vegetarian dishes. I tell you, it was nearly as good as I remembered. Love it when that happens.

That's it for now, folks. Wasn't a very eventful day. Tomorrow we'll figure out the bus system (yippee!) to go to the Tate Modern and St. Paul's. I can't think of a lovelier day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Amateur Musings on the French Language

Today, the Catacombs. I must say I wasn't sure I would like them, and Sam kept offering to go alone, but I went. And, I didn't much like them. Maybe it was just that my tummy hurt (too many raspberry tartlets? nah ... couldn't be.), or that it was cold down there. Or maybe it because we walked through the aesthetically arranged bones of millions of Parisians in the damp darkness? Look at them. Creepy, no?

Sam, on the other hand, was in his element. His favorite holiday is Halloween; he loves zombie and Dracula stories, etc. He commandeered my camera and we went very very slowly so he could take a picture of just about everything. He was a happy happy man. And he got some good pictures.

Overall, today was sluggish. I think we both sort of hit a wall. We love Paris; we want to stay forever. And yet, we don't. Walking around, I started to notice how tired tourists look. Traveling is taxing. Not that we're aching for home. Not yet. We're just looking forward to London where we speak the language and where I know my way around and can direct us. As we climbed another set of stairs in the metro, Sam confessed he was looking forward to our train to London tomorrow, simply so he can sit for a few hours. And I had been thinking the same thing.

Anyway, we did manage to go here, to the d'Orsay. We liked it, but not quite as well as the Louvre. It was probably our sluggy attitudes. That, and the absurd crowds in the Impressionism rooms. (It's so weird to see the way digital and phone cameras have changed museums. Now no one even looks at the paintings themselves, they look at them through their cell phones.) But the building (a converted train station) is incredibly beautiful.

A few words on the French language:

I love it. Never thought I would. I learned Spanish in school. When I took a French Reading course a few summers ago, I never learned to speak it (only read it--sort of), and after the course ended I immediately forgot EVERYTHING I learned. But here, walking the streets, I overhear conversations and feel my mouth aching to move like that. Sometimes it tries, and Sam says "What?", and I have to admit that I was just saying the name of our street out loud again (Rue St. Jacques, Rue St. Jacques). I witnessed this terrible verbal fight between two women on the metro (one had smashed the others thigh with a fold-down seat) and I was dying to be the one saying, "Madam! Whifsgdfjgekhlelhkajgkfjh!" When I hear a child speaking French? A cute one wearing a hat? It is very very difficult to not lure the child away with candy and chain it to my suitcase.

My two favorite words are as follows: sortie, bijoux. Sortie just means exit. We see it dozens of times in every metro station, and I never miss a chance to say it quietly to myself. Sortie, I say, sortie. And I feel like I'm being sorted out of the building.

And bijoux just means jewelry. As best I can tell, it's pronounced be-jew, with a j sound like in my name. I want to name a cat Bijoux. I want my name to be Bijoux. I want to say bijoux every day for the rest of my life.

And another thing. People here actually say this stuff that I didn't think anyone said in earnest. At a restaurant, when the waiter brings our meals, he says, "Bon appetit!" and he means it because he really speaks French and that's what they say in France. When we're at a bakery (boulangerie) and the lady finishes gathering our baguettes and croissants, she sets them on the counter, and she says, "Voila!" Is that not soooo cool?

And for Gavin. They actually don't say "wee" very much here for "oui." They pronounce it "way." I hear people walking down the street saying "way way way." Not quite as funny, but I'm sure you can think of another pun for it, yes?

Anyway, so I want to speak French. And I don't. Even when I say the stuff I've picked up over the last week, they can tell I'm American and just reply to my butchered French in English. It saddens me.

One more thing. A question. What would you buy as a souvenir if you were in Europe for a month? So far I've bought just little things: a scarf, a few pairs of earrings, a bracelet, etc. But I really don't want to fritter away a bunch of money on little tiny things. I just feel so stuck about what to splurge on. I need help. I was walking home today, looking for something to fall in love with, and I decided there are at least three schools of thought on why/what to buy: 1. something unique, something you couldn't get back home. 2. something useful, something you may find at home but you'd use/see it every day and remember your adventure. and 3. something indulgent, something you'd never buy for yourself back home but you will in vacation mode.

So, which category of somethings is your favorite? What have you bought and been glad to have? What have you bought and been disappointed with later? What would you get if you were here and money was no object? (Not that it's no object for me, but we're just playing.) What should I get? Heeelllppppp!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Holding Umbrellas Aloft

A very rainy day in Paris.

We were damp and cold. A bad day to wear sandals, which I bravely donned after looking at, which said it was going to be sunny as could be today. Imagine my horror when I emerged from the metro to a downpour. I no longer trust those guys for international weather.

Still, that didn't keep us from ...

Sacre Couer.

Or even from climbing the 300 steps to the dome so we could see this:

And this:

See? Damp, but pleased (at least I am--Sam was concentrating on taking the picture.) on top of the dome.

And it may have been perfect weather to see l'Orangerie's Monets.

They're in these bright, gorgeous, oval-shaped rooms. This should give you a sense. I took this one at the tail-end of Sam doing a dance. He prefers dancing to smiling in pictures.

Sam risked his life to stand in the rain, in the middle of the Champs Elysees, and take this picture. I was taking one from much further away, and he grabbed my camera and insisted on getting me a better one. Gallant man. Can you see the Arc de Triomphe at the end there? It's huge up close, much bigger than I imagined.

It also wasn't too rainy to have dinner on the tiny Saint-Louis island, in the middle of the Seine. I didn't get a picture, but it was pretty there, even in the rain. We had the famous Berthillon ice cream for dessert. I didn't even know it was famous until we got here, but now that I've had it, it's famous in my tummy. Sam had the pistachio, which I must say was better than my chocolate, as good as my chocolate was.

And that was the very rainy day in Paris. Lovely, but tiring. My theory is that rain makes traveling more exhausting because you have to always be stepping carefully and hunching your shoulders and dashing across intersections and holding umbrellas aloft. Now we're home, in warm clothes, cozied up with our laptops and a down comforter. One more day in Paris and then on to London.

Thanks for your comments on these little traveling posts, friends. You've been so kind.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bands of Colored Light OR Substantial Piles of Crap--Take Your Pick

We went to mass at Notre Dame today. On our way there, coming out of the metro station, there was a big line of cars, tons of police, very excited people lining the street. Obama, of course. We arrived just in time to see him drive by. People in France loooovvvveee Obama. Love him. They find out you're American and they want to discuss. And while I don't loathe him, and I confess I did vote for him, I'm increasingly disturbed by the hero-worship I see with this guy. Anyway, I must say that to be so close to the president, and by accident, was sort of cool for about ten seconds. Sam was mostly just worried we'd be late for mass.

Mass was lovely. Different than LDS services, but lovely. I liked the movement, the interaction, the call and answer, the music, the incense, the gorgeous, gorgeous setting (see below). Sam was moved, felt connected to it. And I like to see him feel connected to it.

Afterwards, and after a brilliant lunch in a vegetarian place near Notre Dame, we went here, to Saint Chapelle. Sitting in the church, we talked about our faith(s) in God, what it meant that they were different, how they were similar, etc. It was a lovely, quiet, peaceful, hopeful conversation. The whole church is basically stained glass, and as clouds passed outside, the light inside changed from glowing to muted and back to glowing. We watched bands of colored light move on the stone windowsills as we whispered in each other's ears.

After a failed attempt at going to the catacombs, we decided to dash to the Louvre after all. We had no expectations, just thought we'd check it out. And we loved it. Loved. It. It was free day, so it was crazy-crowded, but it didn't seem to matter. Sam fell hard for several pieces. I was too busy squealing over old favorites from my art history book, and man oh man were there a lot of them to squeal over. We bought about four million postcards and plan to buy dollar store frames and put them all over the house.

Here's an odd thing. For all the loveliness of the day, the theme in Paris appears to have been defecation. We kept smelling urine and feces, over and over and over again. In the trains, on the street, in the churches, in museums. The only bad part about mass was that these British teenage boys in front of us smelled so badly of urine that I thought I would pass out. Wow, it was bad. Aside from the smell, I must have seen at least three substantial piles of crap--literally--on the street. Why so much ick, I ask? Was it us? Gosh, I hope not. We certainly didn't make the piles on the street.

Anyway, so we're in the Louvre, and we figure that since we're in a gallery close to Mona Lisa, we might as well stop by and see her, say hello. And we're going into her gallery, and we pass, again, a very very bad stink. And Sam says, earnestly, "The people are pooping their pants and not leaving. Why don't they go home when they poop their pants?" Does that seem funny? Maybe it doesn't seem as funny as it was, and generally I'm not into the potty humor, but it was seriously just the weirdest day smell-wise, and I couldn't stop laughing. So there I was, in front of Mona trying to pay my respects with about 400 other people snapping her picture with their iphones, and I'm giggling about a feces joke. It was very silly.

Here is a picture of me in front of the Louvre. It was a rainy, yet sunny day.

We walked back up to the Latin Quarter where I had a very strange, but very tasty vegetable pate and an apricot tart.

This was the day. Walking and laughing and talking with Sam. In truth, we had kind of a rough time adjusting to being here. A bit of jetlag, probably. And just not being on the same schedule because I got here a day early. So we were a bit cranky with each other for a few days. Today, it seems to have clicked. I love this city, especially when it's been raining just a little, so it looks like this.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sam and Deja at the Ballet

Pre-ballet, we went to dinner at a place that decorated with pots and silverware. Think of my fork bracelet. Is this not the perfect place for a Deja? Check out the light fixture above our table. Those are spoons.

Right when you walk in, there's a big tower of copper pots that twists like a DNA helix up to the ceiling. It was just gorgeous. I'd like to do that in my kitchen some day. But don't copper pots cost a couple hundred bucks a piece?

Here is the ballet building. Man oh man was it pretty.

It was even prettier on the inside. I don't think I've ever been somewhere so opulent.

And the ceiling. Loved the ceiling. It was Chagall, and I love me the Chagall.

And us, before we went in. Aren't we pretty, too? This reminds me of a picture we took before going to the Mobile, Mississippi ballet just after we started "hanging out." I'd post it as contrast, but the chubbiness I've acquired would make me weep, and I really want to keep feeling like I'm kind of pretty here.

A word on the preformance itself: wow. I forget how much I love to watch dance. This preformance had strains of modern dance it, and it was just incredible to watch the crisp, graceful shapes they made with their bodies. And their bodies were so strong and beautiful. The ballet itself was written as a series of tableaus, or relatively short numbers, each of them gorgeous, each of them with a small strange or lovely story. Seriously, wow.

After the ballet we went up the Eiffel tower. I know it's become sort of a cheesy tourist trap, but I have a crush on that place. I like to see it when we're around the city. I like it all lit up. Apparently, according to our cab driver, Obama's girls were up there just before us. So we're cool. Obama himself must have been giving a speech nearby because there were dozens of cop cars and we could see thousands of people at an event when we were up above. The pictures I took of the view aren't that great, but here's one from below.

After the tower, we stopped at a little cafe because Sam was starving. By this point it was after midnight, so it was really really weird when hundreds of roller blading people came cruising down the street. First there were just a few cops on bikes, then a few cops on rollerblades (with guns!), then a few guys in yellow shirts, then, literally, hundreds of people on skates, listening to Ricky Martin and rocking out. You just don't see something like that every day. They stopped for a while at the light and then carried on, rocking and skating away. Here's a lousy picture of them. I just couldn't get one to work--too dark, but this will give you a sense.

And since I can't leave you with such a lame picture, I give you one more. A piece outside the city museum of modern art. We weren't deeply impressed with the collection at this place. (We hear there's a much better one.) This could have been my favorite work of art. After we went through the museum, we sat on the patio with water and cookies, with the Eiffel Tower in sight, and talked about how much we like each other. That, really, was my favorite.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cool Ex-Pat Cats

I did take pictures but they just seemed boring because no one was in them. My mother taught me that pictures without people in them are boring. So here are some boring pictures.

But first, a picture with a cat in it. This is Sprout's nightly ritual. She's scarce for most of the day and then, when it's time for bed, she comes and flirts with Sam and purrs like a racecar. She loves him. Who can blame her? He's the one who rescued her and her kittens from the rain. I caught their lovefest on my camera before we left town.

Okay, I'm not kidding about the skinny people eating pastries. It's really quite incredible. They're everywhere. I should get a picture. Maybe tomorrow ...

You know what else I should have taken a picture of? This in-cred-i-ble chocolate crepe with chocolate sauce and chocolate powder and whipped cream and happiness on the side. I'm SURE it was vegan. (You try pretending to be vegan when you can't talk and you walk six hours a day and there are patisseries and creperies every three feet. I think I'm a person that puts things on hold when in foriegn countries.) I remembered this about European desserts: they're darn good. And they're darn good because they don't pour sugar in them. They just aren't anywhere near as sweet as American desserts. What is wrong with us, anyway? That kind of thing in the states would have given me a headache in two seconds flat. When I finished it, and I did finish it, I felt a wee sugary, but mostly just pleased.

Okay. A few pictures.

Here's one at the Luxumborg Gardens of a big gold head.

Here's one of the fountain I mentioned with the sailboats. I had a crush on the kid in the foreground in the hat. He was playing in the dirt and wearing stylish linen pants and I wished to take him home. Both of these pictures at the gardens sort of suck because I didn't want to move to take them. I had intended to read and take lots of pictures, but mostly I just stared slack-jawed. That's what happens when you spend the night on an airplane. Anyway, you can kind of see the sailboats.

The Iron Lady.

I found this group being photographed in front of the tower. I don't have any idea what they are, but I like the big fluffy red plumes coming out of their hats.

One more of ET. I'm so bad at those pictures you take of yourself by holding out your arm and pointed the camera at your head. So I tried to just take one of my hand, to prove I was there. Except it ended up just being two of my fingers. I give you, my fingers. I kind of like how it turned out, actually.

And then, sometime later. Sam arrived, as I said. Trouble was, he wasn't that into talking because he only got an hour of sleep--sort of like how I was yesterday. But we did have a lovely walk up to Notre Dame. Here's a shot of Sam taking a picture of it.

We stopped in just long enough for me to remember how much I like cathedrals because they're so tall and stony. It doesn't matter how many tourists are shoving around in there, there's so much space between the tops of their heads and the ribs of the ceiling that it still feels sacred. We're heading there for mass in the morning, followed by the catacombs.

One more stop: Shakespeare and Co bookstore, which has been around for a couple hundred years and was a hangout for cool ex-pat cats like Hemingway, Pound, Fitzy, Eliot, Stein. It was charming inside, with a little stone wishing well full of pennies and mountains of books. But were too zombie-esque to really look at them.

So then I got grumpy/insecure/weepy, but I don't have a picture of that. And I think mostly I'm still jet-laggy. So it's time for a sleep.

Paris is Crawling with Very Skinny People Eating Pastries

Hello from France.

I'm sitting on the couch of our little holiday apartment (and I mean little as in cute AND very small.). The windows are open and I can hear cars and motorcycles, dogs barking, people speaking French. I'm waiting for Sam to arrive. His plane should have landed, so it won't be long now. I will be glad to have someone to talk to, someone to kiss on the steps of little churches, someone to speak French on my behalf. I've done okay communicating; it's just exhausting and sort of scary.

I've walked A LOT since I got here. Today I walked for four hours. I could have taken the metro but I wanted to see things and now the city makes some sense. I got lost a few times, but what does lost matter when you're in Paris?

I remembered that travel--particularly when you're alone and in a country where you don't speak the language--boils you down to your essential elements. I am feet, eyes, and stomach. I walk, see stuff, and eat when I'm hungry. It's strange to have my mouth closed for so many hours of the day.

And now I shall report a series of small events/observations:

*We flew Icelandair, which I'm a fan of. The stewardesses were tall blondes with hats and ruffley white cravats. The airport in Iceland was small and stylish--dark hardwood floors, strange grey angles, big windows, and tinkling techno-ish music piped over the loudspeaker. I could live there.

*Sam arranged for someone associated with the apartment rental company to pick me up. They were half an hour late, so I was standing by all the people holding signs, craning my neck to see if any of the signs said my name, worrying I was in the wrong place. Finally, I saw a man holding a sign that said "Sami Ruddick." Surely this was a confusion of Sam's name, but Sami also happens to be the name of Sam's ex-girlfriend. (I know, Sam and Sami.) For a moment when I saw the sign, I wondered if I had hallucinated this whole thing: perhaps Sam had married Sami and I was just a crazy stalker trying to crash their honeymoon. I worried the two of us (Sami and I) would arrive at this man at the same time and my lovely bubble would be burst. Luckily, this was not so.

*Yesterday afternoon I walked to Luxemburg Gardens and ate lunch in a green metal chair. It was sunny yesterday, so the garden was full of people. Little kids set toy sailboats out on a fountain, then chased them around and poked them with long wooden sticks.

*After my walk, I was so tired my eyes hurt, so tired I wanted to cry, so tired I accidently put face wash on my toothbrush, and went to bed at 6:30.

*Today, under the Eiffel tower, I saw a group of preschoolers on a field trip, wearing little hats and backpacks, shouting in French, and chasing one another. One little boy had a clear backpack full of small baguettes. I don't know why I loved that little boy and his baguette backpack so much.

*I got accused of hating Africa when I wouldn't sign some petition some man shoved at me. That was odd.

*I read in my guidebook that sometimes people will try to pickpocket you by pretending to find a piece of jewelry on the ground just as you get close. I remembered this AFTER a girl on the path found a gold wedding band and made a big deal about it. I said maybe it belonged to a man walking just ahead of us, and kept going. Then I remembered the scam part and double-checked the presence of my wallet and camera about four hundred times. I have them. I watched other girls do this to tourists several more times, but they didn't seem to pickpocket. I don't get it.

That's it for now, folks. Sam should be here any minute. I hope he'll be willing to talk. I want to speak English.

Monday, June 1, 2009

News of a Happy Sort

Remember the car trouble? It was supposed to cost 1000 smackers to repair. I paid 50 bucks.

Special thanks to my father, who, every time I called to give him the scoop said, "Noooooo." He figured out the part should be covered under the Federal Emissions warranty, whatever that means. He's a brilliant, usefully-cynical man.

And special thanks to the garage, who charged me NOTHING for the hours they spent ordering and installing a part, battling with the Toyota dealership on my behalf, etc. I will be bringing them donuts in the morning.

And, on a non-car note, I've been saving a gift certificate Sam's mom gave me for Christmas for, well, since Christmas. This is odd behavior for me. Usually those things burn a hole in my pocket. I just felt a need to hold onto it for something special. Today it occurred to me buy a pretty dress for the Paris ballet. And so I did. A pretty black and white one with shiny silver shoes (see below). What do I need besides shiny silver shoes? Nothing. Nothing at all. So thanks to the mother-in-law, too.

I fly away tomorrow. I feel like a princess. A very lucky (spoiled?) princess.