We make a living at what we get. We make a life by what we give.

By | Europe 2008, Travel | No Comments

The Train

We had to rise very early to catch the train yesterday. I was so sad to leave Paris. I had really fallen in love, but as C said, “the reason I’m not sad to leave Paris is because I’m going to Italy!” We rode 1st class, which was special and although we were kinda bummed to travel with the stuffy old people, it was nice to have the space. We brought a picnic lunch, with bottle of wine. I read for a while and wrote in and decorated my journal (just wait until you see it!). We drank the whole of the wine. It was only noon. The countryside was absolutely beautiful. Cynthia needed to get my attention for each passing scene: the lake with the most picturesque fishing boat, the fog in the green hills, the tiny French village and the Alps. It’s still so surreal. By the time we reached the longest tunnel in the world, the language changed and now the few words I’d learned in Paris were no longer very useful.

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Welcome to Milano

When we arrived it was raining. I saved .80£ by deciding to wait to pee. Our host was only a few blocks away. We could skip past the umbrella salesmen because we’d already invested in Paris. Cynthia rushed ahead reading street signs while I hobbled along with 3 bags and an umbrella. I’m lucky to have her. I know that it’s a shame that it’s raining here… but I guess it’s better for it too be raining in Milan than to be raining in Florence (notice how I speak in broken English now. I’m a chameleon when it comes to accents and things, I wish the words came through osmosis like this). It might be raining in Florence, I don’t know… but it’s okay, because I’m not going there. 2008-06-16 07.50.16
Our host, Carlo, is totally confused about why I came all of the way to Italy and will only see Milan. But I know that we made the right decision. Milan and Germany have nothing on Florence’s art and beauty or Tuscany’s food, but it’s the culture in Berlin that I’m most interested in. If I could do it all, I would, but I only have so much time and have to get my priorities strait. I’m realy excited about Berlin.  Anyway, people familiar with Italy don’t think that Milano is very interesting, but I have to say, I’m impressed, regardless.

Our CS Host

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Our host flat is so perfectly located within walking and tramway distance from everything worth doing in Milan. When we arrived at Carlo’s flat, he was waiting for us with hot tea. He’s a man of style in every way. We couldn’t have asked for a better host. We were given a key so that we can “free in and out”, a comfortable bed with clean sheets and some time for a nap (something that is much needed after a bottle of wine at noon on a train).  Two hours later I awoke to Carlo’s flatmate coming home from his day with groceries. Within a half hour we were sitting down to apertivo, something that is not taken lightly in Milan. We enjoyed spec, fromage blanc, bread sticks, olives and the most superb Italian wine while we decided on where to go for dinner. 2008-06-16 14.11.24
Cynthia and I were keen on pizza, I mean look where we are! and of course, gelatto after. Our wish came true and we had the best Pizza of our lives.We weren’t so lucky with the Gelatto, because it was Monday and nothing was still open at Midnight, how odd! JK 🙂

I convinced Carlo to agree to wake up early and run with me. I have only had walking exercise since I’ve been here and thought it would be nice to move my body in a new way. The rain convinced me to stay in bed until 10 instead. We stretched and shared biscuts with Carlo.

Carlo Rizzante
2008-06-16 13.06.17He’s a freelance graphic designer, like me. He’s 35 like me… but I’m a few days older. He’s very very kind and sweet, but somewhat sad it seems. Or maybe it’s those great big Italian eyes(?). No, actually, he is a little sad. He is sick of Itally altogether and wants to move to San Francisco. He explains that the prime minister here (Berlesconi?) is a crook. “So is our president!”, Cynthia and I exclaim, but Carlo says that this is different. “Bush is a crook, but he looks like a nice man!” Berlesconi (or whatever) was a crook before he was elected. He was waiting for 12 trials at the time. Since elected he changed the law so that he was only waiting for 4 and since then has postponed them for so long that he doesn’t even have to worry about them anymore.
The obvious question is “why then do people elect him?” To this, Carlo answers “I don’t know!” Carlo really wants to get out of here. His additional complaints include, the assembly at his appartment complex where he owns his flat and their unwillingness to pay in to make improvements, the other citizens here and their senseless accusations of others when they themselves and so obviously guilty and then there’s his work.
He’s been waiting for 9 months to get paid for  work that is now completed. He’s only been given 20% and only after 90 days. He’s paid money out for this work… but it doesn’t matter. I’m excited because I feel like I can help with this, I’ve been advising colleagues on how to write a better contract for years, right? He says, “no, we can not have a contract in Italy.” What? No contact? It’s crazy, I agree. But they have their choice on who to hire and if you insist that they sign a contract, you are not the designer for them. I argue that the contract is good for everyone… “but they don’t understand this!”, Carlo exclaims in frustration. 2008-06-17 03.30.26Oh and one more thing that totally sucks: Once he did a huge job for someone, worked weekends, etc. and didn’t get paid at all. Sure, same same, happened to me too, of course… but here’s the rub, he has to pay taxes with the invoice, not the payment. So it costs him money to work for those assholes. Arrgh. Poor Carlo. It might be hard in San Francisco, but it’s worth it.

So, Carlo and I agree. He might be too nice for this country.

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Our day in the City

C and I headed out to soak up a few hours of the city today. We had an agenda of Duomo (the church), Panerotto (a special kind of Pizza) at Luini, Gelatto and shoe shopping for me. Roberta, another couch surfer that joined us for dinner last night, conferred with me about my NEED for Italian shoes. “It’s a basic need”, she agreed. So basic that maybe I should find two pair! But as luck would have it, nothing was perfect enough to justify the cost. I’ll need something more than these Keen for the dance scene in Berlin, which is coming so soon, but not from Itally, not in the one day we have here.

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On the way downtown, Carlo joined us for a trip to help us at the Poste on the way. We waited 15 minutes to ask a question at the Poste, which demonstrated Carlo’s excessive niceness, in a real life situation in this city. He is very considerate, which doesn’t really seem to count for much here, but I’m sure it counts for something in the higher sense of the concept of self. The rain made me want to just head back to the flat and catch up on my blogs, but Carlo said that I must see Duomo and the city.

2008-06-17 04.58.47The closer we got to Duomo, the more tourists we saw. I grabbed a coffee, just before we rounded the corner where Duomo became visible. OMG. Totally overwhelmingly beautiful! If this building and this place is nothing compared to Florence, maybe it’s better that I’m here. Add a little shot of espresso and my heart is ready to explode at the beauty of these massive, old buildings built with more passion than I can even imagine possible. To see this building in the distance (and the city is designed so that all of the other buildings frame your view of it) is absolutely unreal. Is it OZ?

Italian Style
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I saw more style in Paris, I think…. but maybe it’s all of the tourists that I avoided in Paris and saw here that throw the average for me. What I did notice in this city, the Fashion Capitol of Italy, is how dressy people can be when they are just casual. I saw a waitress at the little corner cafe in a silk black blouse with puffy sleeves and with a bow in her hair. She looked awesome. If I owned something like that in Denver, I’d worry that I would never get the opportunity to wear it. “Italian men in suits are HOT,” Cynthia said. “Not all of them… but that one is… and that one… oh and…. uh yeah, whoa”. The men here are not all eyes and grabby, the way that I was warned, but I do have a special talent (read: blonde hair, long body and generally flirtatious attitude) for holding their glance for a few moments. MMMMmmm mmm.

This is what we’ve been waiting for. Tonight is the night. Carlo will join the CouchSurfing people outside for beer, where they will be able to hear a little bit of the music and enjoy the company of other Radiohead fans who couldn’t afford a ticket, or didn’t get theirs in time. We will join some other couch surfers and CS hosts inside. Yes, it’s still raining on and off. But I seriously couldn’t care less. It’s not cold and rain goes perfectly with melancholy music. I’ll tell you all about it soon!

Ciao Bella!

Remembering Paris: Part 1

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I left Paris yesterday morning and haven’t blogged for two days. It’s almost impossible to keep up with this, in the limited time I have to sit and type. It feels worth it though. Writing this blog and making art is like cupping my hands to catch the rain. You can’t really hold the experience, but you can enjoy it for a little longer and a little bit more deeply.

The Louvre

I finally went to the Louvre! I woke up early after my crazy Pont dez Arts night, and managed to spend 3 hours there. I was alone in public… so freeing, somehow. It’s just me and my thoughts. No one to share them with, no one to behave around, no one to keep me from blowing with the wind of my own curiosity, which is totally unpredictable. But also, no one to help me to navigate. I’m not the best navigator, or maybe I just don’t like to do it(?). 2008-06-14 04.13.03
Which way to the Mona Lisa?

I only had so much time at the Louvre and I follow Gerard’s advise when he said “Maybe you only see Italian paintings”. It took me an hour to find them. Maybe that’s because I found the restaurants first, and the coffee. Still I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was about to see. I took a deep breath and waited for my first impression to hit me. I’d see these shapes and colors before, between cat naps on the desk in art school. I was more awake for modern art, by then I’d decided to take my education more seriously. It’s a shame how much was wasted on it when it was too soon. I was more interested in drinking beer and playing pool at that time. By the time Modern Art came around I had learned to do both: education and bar going.

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First impression: These paintings are so old! They are the first °real° paintings (sorry cave people). The painters of the 15th Century don’t seem to have a grasp close and far away as it relates to the size of peoples’ heads. I wonder if it bothered the artist. “Damn, I made that guy’s head too small!” or was it more like “something is not quite right, I’m not sure what it is”… and then his wife says, “but Simone, you are too hard on yourself. It’s beautiful!” 2008-06-14 05.16.28He would have no idea that 150 years later Boticelli would have it sussed. These old paintings remind me of student’s work, in that they are all effort and disproportion, but with more sophistication and arrogance in them, because they are the very best of their time.

2008-06-14 05.30.17I feel like I can tell the difference between a painting done from a photo, from life, or from memory. Photo references were not an option of the time, so I think that this one of Jesus, was from life. It makes me wonder who got to pose as Jesus “You be Jesus”. Did they go as far as to put a crown of thorns on his head? Something tells me they didn’t. That would be sacrilege.

Oh, the Mona Lisa! I only got so close because of the crowd, but between you and me, she looked at me. I couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking. As so many others have. I get it. I get the hype. It’s worth it. As much as people warned me not to be surprise about how small she is, I was.

I wander into a room behind the Mona Lisa and suddenly, it’s like, “who crashed the party?”. French Paintings. I decided to come back for this later… and I do and they are great.

2008-06-14 05.29.25<–This is my next Burning Man costume.

Before I leave I find myself viewing the Art of Africa, Asia/Oceania and the Americas. Wow. People from Micronesia seem to have had a serious sense of humor.

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I didn’t have much time for the stone sculptures on my way out, but I had to capture this one where it looked like the guy was taking a photo of himself.

2008-06-14 06.55.02I learned later that it would take 4 months of non-stop art viewing to see everything in the Louvre if you only spent 2 seconds viewing each masterpiece to see it all. I think that I might have to come back someday.

After Louvre

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After the Louvre, I met up with Cynthia and Joao. We went for a stroll in the 6th (Luxenbourg neighborhood) where there are many galleries… but my feet hurt and I was completely saturated with art and just needed a break. We went for gelatto, my first in Europe and I was uplifted by it’s beauty, flavor, richness and sugar! Ahhh. C and J wanted to buy some art at the gallery down the street, so I waited at a nearby cafe with an espresso, but it only takes so long to have an 2008-06-14 09.44.24
espresso, so I left the table to someone else and waited in the street… for an hour! Finally I start asking around to figure out which way my friends headed. When I found them, they were having a very difficult time.

It was probably the most beautiful day in Paris on my whole trip and my good spirit but my feet were failing me. Once C and J decided to cut their losses and leave the den of the most negative and crazy human being in all of Paris (this old gallery owner that they were simply trying to buy art from), Joao took over to ensure that we (C and I) didn’t have dual melt downs. His plan included wine and relaxing at the Luxenbourg gardens. We walked 10 minutes, fast, and when we arrived the gardens were closed for something, I don’t know what! I collapsed on a wall and posed as a drunken chick for a 2008-06-14 13.13.02few moments while I gathered my wits. We tried to rent bikes from these automatic bike rental things that are all over the town, but our cards were rejected. About 20 minutes later we were at Pont Neuf on the “Island of Paris” below, enjoying art, drinking wine, smoking a splif and meeting the locals. Heaven! Saved.

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I drank a lot of wine in Paris. Europe makes it seem less than a miracle that Jesus turned water to wine, because it’s only 2 Euros more!

Big Dinner Night

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That night we enjoyed our one full-on Paris dinner experience. We arrived in a Taxi, my feet were thankful and spent 2 hours eating and drinking. I had Carspaccio with Gratin and Salad… and we shared one bottle of the cheapest red wine on your list. Cynthia and Joao’s meals were less good. Of course, we had coffee afterward.  It’s tough to keep track of the time when the sun is still up at 10pm! This was the night I posted my last two blogs. I got to sleep at 6:30 am.

To be continued….. Final day in Paris at the Centre Pompidou. It’s time for Apertivo and more wine now!


Point Zero

By | Europe 2008, Travel | No Comments

WARNING: The following is a spontaneous adventure which 
contains no famous art or architecture and isn’t for the weak hearted or those that like to think I’m safe.

Wine, Gifts and Sing Alongs

I was late for the Couch Surfing picnic yesterday evening (not your fault). I left our pad at 8pm, already one hour late. I still had shopping to do. I tried to move on instinct since C and I have been to the grocery near here a couple of times already. I really should pay more attention, ’cause I didn’t find it. If you could watch a GPS map of where I’ve been, you’d DSCN0146think that I was practicing some weird territorial marking ritual, as I’ve developed a habit of passing my target destination a few times before finally seeing it right there in front of me. I picked up a cheap bottle of French wine (gotta watch those Euros!), some Fromage Chevre and some pain (it doesn’t hurt, it’s just bread). I dropped myself down into the Metro and had another go at it—why not! (this would become my motto for the night).
I carefully navigated my way to the Louvre Rivoli station and made my way down to the park below the Pont Neuf.
Despite the many small groups of picnicers there, I found no Couch Surfers. What the hell, I was only 2 hours late! Since I didn’t know what they would look like (you can never really tell from internet photos), I had to do a lot of asking. An excuse to talk to strangers is always better than “Bonjour. I’m Denise (deneeeza) from the US of A and have wine and bread and cheese and no one to enjoy it with”. That’s when I met Antoine and the magic began.

Antoine wanted to know what couch surfing was and then left his group to make it his mission to help me find my peeps. It wasn’t long before we realized there were no peeps to find. Turns out, his group was not his group, so he was free. He handed me his mostly finished Heiniken for a swig and I asked if he would join me for some wine. He was waiting for his girlfriend to get off work at the grocery store and meet him, but he had some time to kill until then. We headed to the Pont des Art (pondezarre) and found a spot to sit. This is the bridge I told you about in my first post, where all types of people meet at sunset. After sunset, the range of types gets a little narrower. If I were a 20 something Parisian, I would never get to bed in time for work the next day.

We borrowed a wine opener. I had a glass with me that I’d borrowed from the apartment. We borrowed a
knife for the cheese and he borrowed a phone to call his girl to let her know where to find us. We started sharing stories. He told me of a special sensitivity that nature had given him. For this he is medicated, but luckily, not all of the intensity of his experience is dampened. I can imagine that the level of stimulation he feels in every sight, sound, taste, touch and smell can be a bit much to handle, but to me, I find this trait to be a gift to anyone in his presence. He’s beautiful. With the confidence wine can give one, I told him so and I told him that he doesn’t have to worry. People will always love him.

2008-06-13 13.41.27As I get to know Antoine I like him more and more. He’s bright, kind and beautiful. He reminds me of an old love of mine that I hitched around the US with when I was 20 and he was the same age then, as Antoine is now. There was so much life in him. The thing that reminded me of Fish the most was his philosophy, which didn’t take very long for me to discover.

Rosane arrived and was very hungry “ungry, not angry,” she said… although maybe a little angry, I thought. We broke bread together and were fast friends. When we finished the wine, the bridge was crowded. It was clear that Antoine didn’t have much in the way of funds, so I offered to whip on over to the grocery to pick up another bottle. He said that red wine doesn’t sit well with him. DSCN0152I asked him what he liked. Vodka. “I can get a bottle!” I said. That’s when he said, “why do you want to go an buy someseen? It’s far, and there are so many people ere that are appy to share.” So we stood up, walked a few feet and landed on someone else’s party. Sure enough, they were more than happy to share. More wine for me and some Vodka for Antoine and Rosane.

They were wonderful. Amongst them, there was a guy with a guitar and we sang. “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here?” … it was on that line that we all discovered my natural ability to sing these American Lyrics with the perfect American accent. This went over huge.

I talked to a Russian guy that told me that he thought Parisians were terrible. “What do you mean?” I asked. He said “They are so unclear.”

DSCN0154Our new friends were finishing up and so we said goodbye and moved on down the bridge. Antoine said, “you choose this time.” I scanned the groups for good temperament, liquor and guitars.

So, what’s Antoine’s philosophy, you ask? Everything he has, someone gave to him and if you need anything, at all, he will unselfishly give it to you, if he can and if he likes you, he’ll go out of his way to get you what you need. He’d probably give you the shirt off of his back even if he himself were chilly.

DSCN0160We sang. We drank. Antoine easily made many friends, including women. Rosane was now angry. Again with my wine wisdom, I explained that I didn’t think she could stop Antoine from sharing himself with many, but the question is, does he love you enough? If he does, you’re psyched and if he doesn’t, leave him, don’t hesitate. Life is short. This settled her down for a little while. Not long after came the screaming and arm swinging and running away. Antoine bolted after her. I wish it could have been a better goodbye for us. But he had his priorities strait.
I was left amongs the lingering party people, making conversation, making friends. Something happens at this hour. No one wants to go home alone. Although I had no intention of accompanying anyone that night, I can see how Jack could have gotten a different idea. Not only Parisians are unclear you know…. but at the right moment I made my intentions apparent and I split. No hard feelings.

The Metro does not run at 3am. Earlier that day, Gerard and I had walked here. It took a while and there were lots of stops along the way, but we did it, so I knew it could be done. I wasn’t too concerned that I had no guide. I had a map! Besides, there were people everywhere. People having fun, like me. So I walked and stopped every few minutes to say and ask “Bon Nui! Bastille?” When people learn that you can’t speak French, they try English, or maybe it’s when people see that you are obviously American, they try English. I think most just like to practice their languages. The late night people of the city were my guides and I found my way to Bastille.

I could hear my bed calling my aching legs and feet. This is when I met Killian, from Ireland. He was a bit strange and also drunk. He had a typical Irish look. He was a young Doctor, visiting for a conference. He wanted to buy me a drink, but I just wanted to go home, and the bars were closing anyway. He had the funniest accent and sing songy tone. “Where you going then?” I should have known better (don’t laugh!), but I let him point me in what he was sure was the right direction and walk with me for a bit. I knew which street I wanted to be on. I wanted to take it directly from the round about with the golden angel in the middle, the way I had many times already, but KIillian assured me that the street we were on, lead to my street. Once the two streets merged, I waved Killian off. “Can I have a kiss then? Ooooo. OK. Alright then, good night. I went back to moving solo.

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I was on the right street, but unfortunately I had already gone too far. It sucks to turn back just before you get to the place you are looking for, so I went just a little further. I got out my map and decided that I should turn around. I walked 5 minutes and thought that maybe I’d passed it or something, so I turned around again. I was right here… but I was totally lost. I was exhausted. It was 4:30 in the morning… like it is right now.

Out of nowhere came David, the Israeli. He rushed into an embrace picking me up and swinging me around, as if we were old friends. He was so joyful to have finally found me, sure that I would not be able to resist his adorable self (where are all of these guys coming from and what’s gotten into everyone? Are the things you hear about Paris true? Is this the form it takes?). I told him that he was mistaken, that he should leave me alone. “But, why? OH, but you are so beautiful!” I didn’t even consider asking him for directions. I left him, saying “goodbye, David! Nice to meet you!” and  headed directly toward some locals  that were chatting across the way. “Seel Bu Play!!!!!” I asked them to look at my map and tell me how to get home. DSCN0260
I don’t know if they did this on purpose, but they sent me in the completely wrong direction. I was starting to feel defeated. I leaned myself up against a street sign and considered a nap, when this woman pulled up and rescued me. She was the sweetest angel I’ve ever witnessed. In case you’ve never seen an angel before, go out really late and get yourself stranded somewhere. If you’ve got my kind of luck, they come. She studied the map for 20 minutes or so, driving this way and that and finally drove me to my street, in her little car and wished me well. When I woke up 4 hours later it was time to go to the Louvre.

My next post will be about art and will contain many pictures. Stay tuned. I have to sleep for a couple of hours… zzz kiss kiss zzzzzz

Getting Deeper

By | Europe 2008, Travel | No Comments

DSCN0074After spending waaaaay too much time at the internet cafe yesterday, I went out and had some real life experiences to come back and share. Blogging is fun. I feel like I have this new purpose as a rouge reporter without an editor and with my own private distribution list. It really deepens my experience. I want you to enjoy.

Change of plans

Check out how serendipitous life can be… Cynthia’s new love monkey, Joao (pronounced Jo-Wow) was to arrive today (Friday) and we were supposed to get together with her friend who lives here, named Heather, for some kind of social time. Cynthia hasn’t seen Joao for 2 weeks. They are new lovers. Making plans with your girlfriends for the night your hot, new Portugese lover arrives to be with you? Is she HIGH? I had to make an executive decision. “I’m going out without you on Friday. I’m leaving you two alone that night” I said. That’s tonight, which is like now, so I can’t talk long, I’ve got things to do and people to see!

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Thursday (last)night: happy hour with a surprise ending

Cynthia called Heather to see if she could get together Thursday night instead. Heather is an American who lives here and has just completed her book, Naughty Paris. Heather had plans already but asked if we’d like to join her. She’s friends with a guy that rents out night clubs in the early evening, for an event called “after job”. The clubs are in Paris’ big fashion district (if you want to know the name, look it up, cause that’s what I’d have to do… French goes in one ear and out the other for me. It’s difficult. So we get all dolled up and hit the streets to go shake it up with some French Yuppies at 3 clubs, getting comped entry and free champagne at each one. I was kind of excited for my first Paris club experience, but then immediately after arriving, very disappointed. These are the early-evening, young, ametures —mind you— but still the music should be OK. DSCN0070Not so. It was old and everyone would sing along and wave their arms around… I’m really not going to knock it too much, cause you know, they were having fun… and that’s what counts, right? I’ve noticed bad music here before this one experience, but this one sealed  it for me. When asked later, Cynthia concurred. But, I don’t get it. Why?

White Dining in the Streets

As we’re watching the 20somethings in their work clothes get up get up and get down on the dance floor, Heather’s phone. It’s the owner  of the club calling, to tell us that it’s happening on the street. We push our way up to the steamy windows behind the DJ booth and make a little see through spot to look down onto the street. It’s hard to tell, but there seems to be a ton of people dressed in white gathering below. We decide to head down for a closer look. Behold the “white picnic”
I feel so lucky to have witnessed this once a year event. There were an estimated 2,000 people all dressed in white from elegant formal wear, to polar bear costumes, to white Marie Antoinette wigs, to chef’s clothing all dining on the street. People bring their own food, drinks, tables and chairs and line this major street with a banquet of turkey, sushi, spaghetti, you name it. Everyone was having the time of their lives! Every time a tour bus would drive by they would stand up and wave their napkins in the air, yelling and laughing. There was a live band in a big 18 DSCN0090
wheeler with an open side, driving by slowly and stopping at each section of diners for a couple of tunes and then moving along. “Sweet Home Alabama”. “It’s Raining Men”. “Etc”.

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More New Love

As the three of us wander around snapping photos we’re pointing out different costumes and characters to one another. Heather noticed this cutie in a chef’s uniform and before we knew it, he was hanging out with us and flirting. He had a British accent and was absolutely adorable. I seem to have been witness to history in the making… I mean look at them! See what I mean about getting close? I’m so close that I can touch it, smell it, feel it a little… no, pitty, I can’t taste it.

2008-06-11 08.22.44On my own: Friday the 13th

Cynthia headed to the Shakespeare festival/conference today and left me to enjoy the Louvre on my own. At the crack of dawn, she got ready to go. I pressed a pillow firmly over my head, trying my best to sleep in. When I peeled it off, it was 10am. Shit! I only had until 2pm before I had to meet back up with C on the Pont des Art. I didn’t think that I really had enough time to give the Louvre the attention it deserved… so I changed my plans. I threw on some clothes and hobbled out onto the streets. My blisters hurt the most in the morning before the pain has its numbing effect. I didn’t want to wander too far, ’cause I thought I might get lost… it’s scary, OK? nor did I have a clue about where I’d want to go. Plus, a stupid mishap the night before on the Metro that consumed 4 tickets in one pass, had me avoiding this mode of transport. Cynthia said that it was OK, ’cause everyone has a little freak out at some point on trips like this. I love Cynthia.

DSCN0099DSCN0100I got out my map and started walking, tracing my way with a pen as I went. That way, if all else failed, I could crawl back to the appartment. It was kind of ridiculous to be looking down at the map the whole time in this silly charade, but it actually served me well. Looking like a lost tourist, enticed one of those loney old Parisian men that preys on female foreigners. I know, you’re thinking “OH NO”… but really Gerard saved the day.

DSCN0108It was splendid having a local to hang out with and not have to worry about the map anymore. He showed me all kinds of beautiful places that Cynthia and I hadn’t made it to yet, as well as other spots that I might have never seen as long as I live. Gerard’s (jerraar’s) English was very good. He was patient and helpful as I struggled to speak my few French words, he shared stories and asked questions for mine, he pointed out famous places and shared the history, he bought me un cafe. He was a sweetheart. We hoofed it the whole time. Of course, he held my hand a bit and wanted to see me again, but I explained that I was a free spirit and would not have time until he comes to visit Colorado.

I deflected a hungry kiss just once. Once is OK. You can’t knock a guy for trying. We were the perfect match for a few hours of good company.

He said goodbye at the Pont de Neuf, as he couldn’t bare for our goodbye to linger any longer. I smiled all of the way to the next bridge.

DSCN0257Expecting Joao

I met with Cynthia at 14:00. We had 2.5 hours before we needed to be at the train station to pick up Joao. We had lunch. Un Crépe Complete (my first and it was the cheese bomb… oh ho hooo). Then we stopped at a cafe and ordered wine, instead of coffee, to help to manage C’s “OMG, I can’t believe that I’ll see him so soon!” jitters. We made our way to the train station where we checked the boards for his train arrival location (getting ready to do a lot of this), DSCN0134C made a sign (totally unnecessary) and I practiced reciting numbers in French to help her survive the wait.

I videoed (not mine) as they reunited. So sweet. They have a hotel for the night and I’m again on my own.

Off to picnic with the couch surfers now.
Love! I carry you with me in my mind’s pocket.

Paris Days 1-3 : First Blog Post Ever

By | Europe 2008, Travel | 3 Comments

I’m in Paris. I arrived here at 8:30am on June 10th. It’s my first time in Europe and I will be travling to Milan, Cologne, Berlin and Amsterdam over the next 17 days, as I’ve already been here for three. It’s awesome. My friend Cynthia Morris is my gracious tour guide. She’s making sure that I’m not subjected to the God-Awful tourist sesspools. We’re staying in an apartment in Bastille, the 11th (did I say that right?).

2008-06-10 08.50.381st: Parisians
Parisians are not assholes. They are very nice people.

2nd: The Women
The women here dress themselves well. There are so many unique expressions of fashion and they seem to do it so effortlessly. If there’s one thing that I’d like to take home with me (besides everything that I see in the store windows), it’s the grace that I see in older women… luckily I have some time to practice this! It’s such a beautiful thing and a relief to see how easily it’s done. They take wonderful care of themselves, dress well and let nature take over from there. There’s no thick makeup or scars from surgery. They wear elegant dresses and dangly jewels despite their lack of estrogen. This is what a woman looks like and it’s exquisite. Old and young, they turn my head.

3rd: The language
I made absolutely no effort to learn the language before I headed out here. As some of you know, I had a lot going on. When my friend Laurel called me on Monday morning to let me know that she was on her way over to take me to the airport, she said something and I needed to ask “what?” 2 times before she explained that she was saying “Good Morning” in French. That’s when I knew then that I was in trouble!

Luckily, Cynthia speaks French fluently and I’ve sort of depended on it. It’s wild to hear this whole other personality come out in her when she switches modes. She goes from this low, matter-of-fact, History Channel narration voice, to this sing songy playful voice that always has some French person smiling and laughing. I think she’s talking about me! JK.

C, spent hours at the train office dealing with this reservation thing that we had no idea that we had to deal with until two days ago. We thought our EuroRail pass was our ticket to EuroFreedom… not so much. Better to find out now than at 8am on Monday with all of our shtuff! I was nodding off in the waiting area trying to read body language and determine how screwed we were, when I announced that I was going to zip out for some coffee. It wasn’t until I was a block away that I realized that I was on my own. Ordering the coffee was easy. “Bonjour. Cafe?” I got lucky when the only question was “Petite ou Grande?”. I felt like I should have won a prize for knowing the answer. Then when he brought me my coffee I said “please” in French. I was so friggin’ embarrassed, I blushed and he got all flustered like he brought me the wrong thing, but we worked it out and I’ve since put it behind me. Today I ordered a Baguette at the market without any mishaps. Gold Star please!

2008-06-11 08.22.444th: The Metro
Cynthia was rushing through the subway and had to keep calling back to me… you’d think I was taking a stroll through Disney Land or something. Maybe the Metro wouldn’t be as cool if I lived in New York, but not even New York has half naked chicks rubbed down in oil on billboard ads or amplified Mariachi players or elevators and walkways that move at the speed of light.
2008-06-13 09.07.23I accidentally lost my focus on the back of Cynthia’s head (which holds a lot of very valuable information, including where we live) for a second and she was gone. People were rushing through some gate that looked like a one time opportunity and I looked around frantically and I swear, I almost yelled “MOMMY!” just before she snatched me up and saved my life. Later that day C only had one ticket and we were late… and there was no ticket sales at that station, so we went through together. I’m sure that wasn’t supposed to be broadcast here, but wow, that felt like some kind of magical initiation. Oh, and last night/this morning we were deep in the subway when it closed for the night and when we came up, gates were closed and we had to wander around the maze of tunnels to find a way out. Yay!

5th: Art

First of all, everything here is art. I don’t think it means to be, it just is… to me. It’s like I’m on some crazy drug that makes everything interesting. I have yet to go to the Louvre. I plan to check that out tomorrow, if I can, but that’s only if I have time after the Largest Modern Art Collection in all of Europe.

2008-06-15 05.40.28Yesterday, we went to the Picasso museum. I cried. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so moved by art (talk to me after we see the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam). How bizarre it is that the first impression that I had of this artist, as it was passed down to me was “anyone could do that.” I kept playing that song from the Repo Man soundtrack over in my head “Pablo Picasso was an Asshole”. So what if he was! Why should such an amazing artist be bothered by something as uncreative as being a nice person? Go ahead, break my heart.

Cynthia shared with me her thoughts on how wonderful it is that he gave himself so much permission to play with different concepts, colors, styles and mediums. Totally true, but he also never seemed to stop working and studying. This was a man that took his play very seriously… I think this might be my own motto.

My Favorites: Two Bathers, Man with a Straw Hat and an Ice Cream Cone, The Goat (sculpture).

Dd_0236th: Romance
This is supposed to be the city of romance, but I haven’t seen too much (in the person to person sense). It’s a big city, so people
are generally in a hurry. But I did see a lip lock on display at the park, which was fun. Also, I get to hear about Cynthia’s new Portugese romance a few times… per hour. She thinks I’m sick of it, but I’m not. I like to get as close as I can to this romance thing without falling in. The Universe seems to be doing it’s part to help me in this endeavor and I’m thankful.

2008-06-11 05.36.37
7th: Food

Bread, Cheese, Fruit Torte, French Wine, Croisant, Rougella, Monaco…. and Fallafel!

The day I got here Cynthia dragged me across town to the Jewish district for a Fallafel, but when we got there, the place was closed. 2008-06-11 05.11.48Some random Jewish holiday, which I’m sure isn’t so random to Jewish people. I saw a guy with a Fallafel and said “look, there’s a Fallafel!”, but “no, it’s not the same,” she explained. She was so upset! Perhaps it’s that time of the month, I thought… but the very next day (yesterday) she took me back and I totally got it. I got the best Falafel I’ve ever had in my entire life AND I got why she was pouting so. Wholey Fallafel Sandwich! This thing contained roasted eggplant, shredded beats, pickled cabbage and who knows what else, because it was gone in under 2 minutes. L’AS du FALLAFEL is famous. Funny, they use their wallspace to advertise their relationship with Lenny Kravitz, through owner-with-celebrity photos. OH, Crazy Paris Fact: The line outside the takeout window stretches past 3 store fronts when there are seats inside. Why? because it costs more to eat inside! And for places with a patio, it costs more to eat on it.

IMG_3983 8th: Party People
Cynthia arranged a Picnic on the Bridge over the Siene, last night. She advertised on the Paris Group on The bridge is the most popular hangout that I’ve seen so far. There were couples having dates and groups of teens and young professionals… all drinking wine. Try that in Denver! I carried around a sign that said C.S. on it in order to find these strangers, which was enough fun and then met 3 locals, 2 Portugese peeps and one 18 year old girl from Miami that sings opera. You’ll hear more about CS as this journey moves on.

9th: Clothes
I have been drooling over the fashion here. No one who lives here has any excuse not to look like a hipster, if they have a hip bone in their body. The guy at the post office today looked like some kind of a rock star. I hadn’t bought anything (Money Money Money) until I was freezing today and got a cheap little jacket at the market. Cheap, but still cool. Says something French on the back about Destruction. Novel. Love it. Next, I need new shoes. The balooning blisters on my heals have me walking on my toes. Can’t have that.

That’s all she wrote. If you read it all, you must really like me.