Friday, November 27, 2009

Headed back to the reality of now.

We're in Colorado getting ready to leave for the journey to Texas now. By the time we get home we will have been gone for 3 and a half weeks. That feels like a long time. It has been a wonderful trip in so many ways, I don't think I've been able to absorb it all yet. I'm ready for home though, ready to be in our own space, preparing and eating our own food, getting into our regular routine, settling in to have a baby, and sleeping in my own bed. Our friends and the people we work with in Houston have been missing from our lives in a big way and time hasn't been our own. The road to Houston has some unique challenges for us this time but though part of me is dreading it, another part of me is looking forward to the adventure. I'm working on my attitude, that will go a long way in making this trek a positive experience. Bitterness does not a good travel companion make.

I have more to share from our time in France though the daily updates are pretty much complete. Once I sort through the thousand pictures we took I'll pick a few to put up and I'm thinking about making a video, maybe. But those things will have to wait a bit, first priority is getting the family home, we should be back in Houston on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

France, Day 14

Day 14, Sunday.
Change of plans- the last day.

We had planned to attend worship at the church Jeremy grew up in, hit the grocery store there in town and pack but since our day had been completely derailed on Saturday we decided to return to Paris. The only thing on the agenda? Shopping. The day before had been warm and perfectly beautiful, Sunday ushered in a cold, wet and very windy day. Of course it did, we planned to be walking and shopping, not sitting around over coffee chatting with friends and sharing meals. We’re brave tourists though and it was time for bargain hunting. The promise of warm crepes motivating us we pressed on to find the rows of competing souvenir shops and stocked up on postcards, tiny Eiffel Towers, prints, coasters, t-shirts, pencils and Christmas ornaments. It was freezing and it took all day but it was nice to just be the two of us. Walking hand in hand or huddled together against the wind and rain we gradually added to our bundles, checking off our list as we went. This was first day I really felt like I was in the third trimester with my first experience this pregnancy with sciatic nerve pain and the feeling of a bowling ball sitting on my pelvic bone, I was grateful we could take our time and this was the end of the trip rather than the beginning. As the day wore on I became aware of my pregnant waddle and the feeling that my tail bone was getting bruised from the inside. I took every opportunity to sit and when we got our crepes to warm up I huddled up with mine soaking in the warmth and the rest. We saw Notre Dame for the last time this trip, the Sein looking stormy and grey, the equivilant of the supreme court, the mayor’s office and a few other favorite spots. Even though what we really wanted was to stay here, not as tourists but to live with our family, we both felt ready to go. Nearly every time I saw a little girl I felt on the verge of tears missing my girls so much and though the beauty of Paris can’t really be diminished it also couldn’t replace the ache I felt for my children. And so it was with a sigh we said farewell to this city we feel so burdened for and at home in to head home where 4 little girls who are the highest calling in our lives at this time wait for us. I can’t wait to see and hold them. Au revoir Paris, we will return soon, God willing.

France, Day 13- part 2

Day 13, Sunday- Part 1
The Return to Paris
This brings us to Starbucks in the area near Notre Dame, a charming area obviously very trendy and popular with shoppers. It was very crowded and picturesque. We walked down cobble stone streets with our friends after meeting them outside the appointed meeting place looking for some place maybe a little less crowded. Eventually we landed at a Starbucks and found a seat. I thought I’d have some time to write and get caught up on a few things but Philip’s wife Cynthia showed up and though she is French they all switched to English and I was able to participate in the conversation. We heard about the various families and other recent histories. Wanting to be sure I got to the yarn store that wasn’t too far from where we were I decided to leave them to go shopping but was concerned about the language so Cynthia kindly offered to go with me. Having time just the two of us to walk to the shop was great, I learned about her heart and current project starting a non-profit organization to help support parents. Unlike the States where there are parenting support groups, loads of books on parenting, information readily available on child development, France seems to have a parenting support and information void. Cynthia explained some of the common parenting problems and the effect it is having on the schools and society in general. She talked about the huge need for parenting education and her burden to help do something about that. It was amazing to hear her heart and passion in loving French families and we talked about how when our family is here we would love to be a part of something similar. Though Cynthia and I have very different backgrounds I felt like I was talking to my sister (well, I was!) and it was so thrilling to hear from her what God has laid on her heart. I am praying we get to work together.

The yarn shop... may have to be another post altogether. Oh my word. It isn’t just a yarn shop but they have some beautiful yarn along with buttons, beads, trims, ribbons, fabrics, etc. I picked out some beautiful baby alpaca blue yarn for a scarflet for Jeremy’s mom, several buttons for various projects most of which are for the baby, some trim to match some buttons for a dress for V, and the most brave purchase: a book of knitting patterns in French. I spent some time with one of the shop ladies figuring out the different French terms and what they could be in English, together we got most of it figured out and she thought I could find a lot of them online. After reading through the directions and being pretty sure I understood them well enough to make it a worth while purchase I decided that knitting may be just the thing to push me in my French. So I took the plunge and now own a $25 book chuck full of French patterns. So help me.

The guys met us at the shop at which point I declared I was hungry and needed real food so Philip and Cynthia led the way to an Italian place where we joined by Cynthia’s sister Delphine. The food was delicious and I was grateful for a meal without meat finally. The conversation flowed in French and English with lots of laughter and passionate discussions of various topics. As wine, pasta and pizza were enjoyed I was overwhelmed by how beautiful this was. No subject was off the table, we enthusiastically discussed marriage, dating, children, faith, science, medicine, and food. When an intense conversation broke out between Delphine and Sylvain first about marriage and then the Gospel and was flowing too fast for me to follow in French Cynthia started translating for me. It was beautiful. Again, time just flew by and we had to go if we were going to be able to catch the last direct train out of the city. All six of us walked to the train station to go our different ways but couldn’t part so easily, instead talking in the station for another 30 minutes. The three former high school friends were saying their goodbyes in French and Cynthia, Delphine (a doctor, by the way) and I talked in English. They told me how the time is right, the time is now, things are changing in France and the need for God is huge. They asked me to share with Americans that France needs God desperately and that for the first time they can see an openness and movement towards God. As they spoke, the passion and ache they hold for their country was clear, they said that Jeremy and I couldn’t get there with our family soon enough again pressing that the time is now and the need is overwhelming. They recounted stories of the hunger they have seen and the movement they have sensed. We finally parted ways and headed out of the city. No, we never got around to shopping, the souvenirs for family and friends weren’t in hand and we didn’t have a final date in Paris but we knew this day unfolded exactly as it was meant to be. Meeting with missionaries was wonderful and encouraging but somehow, spending the day with French friends, both those following Christ and those not spoke loudly and fanned the flames under our rears about coming to serve in France. We can not delay, we can’t be idol any longer, the time is now and we can’t sit on God’s call any longer. Our dear friends, our brothers and sisters in France are overwhelmed and tired and there is still much work to do, we will go and share the burden and encourage them. While we feel ready to go home, to see our children, we also feel sad to leave.

France, Day 13 part 1

Day 13, Saturday.
Return to Paris.
After leaving the city a few days ago we get to return today. The plan is for us to meet with a missionary family in Paris, hit an open air Paris market, do some souvenir shopping for friends and family, meet up with some friends of Jeremy from his high school days, grab some crepes and a few of our other favorite French delicacies before we leave and maybe a date in Paris, just the two of us.

I can’t believe it, I’m in Starbucks again. Jeremy’s friend wanted to meet in a Starbucks so here we are. It is fun listening to them jabber away in French. Both friends speak English but I’ve released the three of them from having to include me so they can speak freely about whatever French teenage boys now grown up would want to speak of. Saves me from having to feign interest in everything they reminisce about. I’ll write instead.

Note to self, don’t start writing a blog post for the day until the majority of the day’s activities are done. This day was nothing like we anticipated. We started our time in the city with a stop at a little cafe for some breakfast since I couldn’t eat the breakfast offered by our hosts due to my teeth. The cafe we selected had free wi-fi for an hour if you bought something so we ordered and hopped on in order to check e-mail and catch up on blog posts. So, cafe au lait, pain au chocolat, and orange juice in front of us we attempted to multi-task eating, figuring out our day and FaceBooking/e-mailing/blogging at the same time. An hour shot there to do all those things we headed to the metro only to discover a ridiculous line just to buy tickets and opted to walk to the next station and see if we would find a shorter line there to buy tickets. That did work except by that point I needed a bathroom and since the toilette was out at the cafe we got breakfast in we were looking for another one. Now, in France there are sometimes (often) public restrooms that you can pay to use. I refuse to use them. I mean, I could pee every 20 minutes, it seems like a system deliberately set about to take advantage of pregnant women and small children. However, I got desperate enough that I caved this time, much to my horror. I’ll write more about that experience in another post because, yes, it does deserve to be expounded upon. Anyway, we eventually got on the metro but by the time we got to the shopping area a friend had told us would have the best prices due to the number of souvenir shops we had barely a half an hour before we had to head to some other missionaries home for a lunch meeting and the market we thought we were going to was on Sundays, not Saturdays. Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we got off we were met with a busy open Paris market. Figures. We didn’t have time to shop and had to move quickly to get to our lunch appointment. It was great fun to see all the bustling activity of a typical Paris Saturday with families shopping, market vendors calling out to passers-by, dogs waiting for their owners outside of the butcher/bakery/and community shops, and shop owners or workers taking a smoking break on the sidewalk with their store windows and doors thrown open to entice shoppers in. I loved it. The noise, the chaos, the dogs (not their contributions to the sidewalk, however), the smells, and the children everywhere. I wanted so bad to have my reusable shopping bags and large bag on wheels just to join in and get my groceries for the week. We made it to our friends’ apartment and immediately felt at home there too. Al and Nicole have been for many years now, meeting on French soil, getting married and having children. They are with International Teams as well and work with La Fonderie with Steve and Mikkie Thrall. They have 3 sweet children and we were blessed to get to meet them all. We learned a lot about having a family in Paris and they were very encouraging regarding learning how to live in the city with a large family. It was a wonderful lunch Nicole made for us and the time passed far too quickly. They shared about some of the work they are doing, Nicole talked about the English club she ran just that morning with neighborhood children, Al talked about their work with the arts and technology and the kids showed us just by their infectious personalities what an impact they must be having on their friends at school. We talked about possible collaborations, we have gave them some of our background and the vision we have from God and our burden for Paris. They were supportive and voiced that the time is right, the need is great. We can’t get there soon enough. Before we knew it we were out of time, our plans for shopping before meeting with two of Jeremy’s high school friends were shot and we had to hurry to make it to the appointed meeting place on time. Contact information exchanged with Al and Nicole we were on our way out the door after feeling like we had just gotten there.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

France, Day 12

Day 12, Friday
Taking it Easy and Birthday love!
Having returned to our hosts Inge and Meinhart via the TGV again, we spent Friday taking it easy, doing laundry, and sleeping in. I am sore all over from my fall, my knees are more banged up than I realized but my face looks better than expected even though my teeth and face still hurt. The weather is kind to us, more mild than it had been earlier and no rain so we decide to finish walking around the castle grounds Jeremy grew up on. I marveled the entire time at just how incredibly fantastical it all is. I pretended to live in places like that and he actually did. It was awesome. We explored what we could of the castle which wasn’t open, even jumping a low wall to sneak into the cellar and pear through back windows. Yes, I know, I fell flat on my face the day before just walking across the street, how could I even entertain the thought of jumping even a low wall (4 feet maybe?) at 7 and a half months pregnant. Have you noticed the title of the blog? There’s a reason for that you know. I did just fine too, jumping over and climbing back up. Walking through the grounds Jeremy pointed out various points of memories or what had changed over the years. Soaking it all in, I couldn’t help thinking about how the girls would love this and some day we will bring them here with a picnic and enjoy the grounds together as a family. Though it is sad that the chateau isn’t being utilized for the amazing building it is, it is beautiful to see that so many people in the community love and use the grounds. There were children playing all around, games of soccer and tag and couples both young and old strolling the gravel path. I took pictures of everything from trees to the castle to the stream and natural fairy houses to show the girls. Magical and I am kind of glad that this enchanted place doesn’t have a sign barring the public from enjoying it. Jeremy has written a post to share later about our explorations of the grounds and we’ll share that here later.

Eleven years ago today I became a mother for the first time. Which coincides nicely with Ophélia’s 11th birthday. I’m missing the girls like crazy and wondering how I could have been stupid enough to think I’d be ok not being with her on the actual day for her birthday. We called her from the castle grounds adn wished her a happy birthday. She squealed on the phone, it made me feel better to hear how excited she was to hear from us on her day even though we had talked with them just the day before. My big girl, she’s just amazing. We talked as Jeremy and I walked around the castle grounds and then Lamorlaye a little bit. It was so good to hear that even though she missed us she was doing well and looking forward to our return. I was surprised there were no tears, well, other than my own. I cry every birthday though, happy/sad tears that I don’t let the girls see. I’m so proud of Ophélia. Happy Birthday my first born!

France, Day 11- The Fall or "How I broke my tooth in France.

Day 11, Thursday.
The Fall.
I don’t like to let one negative experience ruin a whole day. It just seems like admitting defeat to circumstances to do so. However, today was craptastic. Only one thing really but that one thing was a real doosey. The day started fine, we got ready, had a fun breakfast with our hosts and then took off with Leroy to see more of the town, stop by their church, check out an arts festival and group, and visit the open air market. There was more planned for the day, that was just for starters. Fun, right? Right, or it should have been but I had to go and fall flat on my face in the middle of the street after getting off the bus which kind of, sort of, really ruined it all. Ugh. This is my second fall this trip, excuse me but WTH? Though graceful would never apply to me I’m not usually THIS clumsy, good grief. I feel a little bit better knowing Jeremy tripped in the same spot just seconds before me but I didn’t see that and he didn’t get to warn me before he found me making out with the pavement. Oh yes, I’m the American that can’t seem to stay on her feet. The thing is, the streets and sidewalks of France are paved with obstacles. I’m not making excuses, but between the doggie landmines and the random old door step, extra curb, uneven pavements it is amazing that anyone manages to walk without incident. Maybe they are just better at hiding it than I am. Or it comes with being French, you instinctively know how to navigate the treacherous terrain without smelling like shit or injuring yourself. I do not have this skill. And so it is that I found myself surprised by a very small curb in the middle of the road (or so it seemed to me) and trying to take a bite out of the street. Only it took a bite out of me breaking one of my front teeth (I felt part of it shatter when I hit), cracking the one next to it and possibly the one next to that and shearing off the enamel of all three. Oddly enough, even though I felt my face hit, the only other visible signs that I have on my face is the fat upper lip and the torn up and bruised lower lip, both of which aren’t that bad. All the bones and muscles on the right side of my face hurt but I have no swelling or bruising as of yet. There were some very nice people that helped us and after sitting for a bit somewhere I told Leroy and Jeremy I could handle the market. I did too, I handled it just fine. Pretty much in a daze and I’m pretty sure I didn’t really experience the whole thing since I kind of just followed along, adhered to Jeremy for fear of another mishap that would render me toothless or black and blue. Any other time I would have wanted to pick up some neat and unusual things particularly since this market was very middle eastern in nature (I could have bought all the women in my life a Muslim head covering in a wide variety of colors and fabrics) and had just the most unusual conglomeration of items in one general location. But having just smashed face-first into cold blacktop I didn’t really appreciate the event. This just means I’ll have to go back someday. Marking it on the calendar now. We skipped our other planned events and went home for lunch and to let me rest before the dentist appointment Debbie had managed to secure for me that afternoon.

France, Day 10- Lille

Day 10, Wednesday.
I take pictures of pastry cabinets. Now, I know what you’re thinking but before you go and judge my issues, which are plentiful, let me explain. We’re in France. Pastry displays are works of art. In fact, the pastries themselves are works of art. Almost too good to take a bite out of or mar with a fork but only almost. Once you have destroyed one you look forward to the next and relish with great delight the destruction of something so beautiful only because the taste is even more brilliant. This is why I take pictures of pastry cabinets, they are too pretty not to and I know that each little beauty contained within in bursts with untold flavors extraordinaire. Can you blame me for taking pictures? But why am I admitting this here? Because I think I may have seen the most beautiful pastry display window and photographed it today. With my iPhone camera because my regular camera and I are still fighting and it won by having the battery die on me and no replacement on hand. This image of confectionary perfection is located where Jeremy and I are staying now, Lille, a large city north of Paris.
We left for Lille in the morning taking the TGV which is a very fast train that if I had to guess the initials stand for “To Go Vite” but that would be Frenglish and I highly doubt they would use Frenglish for the official name of a train. I’ll have to ask Jeremy what it stands for. Suffice it to say it is a fast train, we went 138 miles in an hour between Paris and Lille. In Lille we were greeted by the lady in the green jacket AKA: Debbie Zumack. She is married to Leroy Zumack and together they have been with GEM France for 24 years or something like that. I forgot how long exactly. Most of that time they were in or around Paris until they felt led to the Lille area 5 years ago. We were there to meet them, learn about the ministry in Lille, consider the possibility that we spend some time in Lille ourselves, etc. It was all wonderful and Leroy and Debbie took great care of us and showed us the city in all it’s independent regal beauty. They made sure that our first meal there featured traditional northern France fare which is a bit different from the central and southern parts of the country. For one thing, they really like beer here and lots of it. For many of the recipes they have the market on you really just substitute beer for wine and boom, it’s food from the north region. They really like fries here too, loads of them, in fact, they like fries so much they have “frites” stands much like hot dog stands in New York or Chicago or Taco stands in Houston. For lunch I had Mussels (don’t lecture me about a pregnant lady eating mussels, ok?) and Jeremy had Carbonara which is beef cooked in, wait for it, wait for it... Beer! Seriously tender beef. The side “vegetable” for both of us? Les frites. Which of course means Jeremy went all the way to France to get steak and potatoes. From Texas no less. The food was really good, we enjoyed our meals a lot. Then the Zumacks took us around to old Lille and showed us around. We had coffee at a little local shop that overlooked much of the old town and it was a little humbling to think that I was sitting in a building built in the 1600’s. I’m sure my hosts thought it was really endearing of me when I compared it to Disney World. Hey, what’s an American girl to do?! They had called another member of the GEM France team to come join us for coffee so we met Gary, a ministry worker doing campus ministry in the area and serving in a church. It was great to hear from all of them what is going on in Lille with the various ministries both connected to GEM and independent or with other organizations.
Then it happened, after checking e-mail and sending an expense report in, etc. Debbie led us around Old Lille telling us fascinating historical stories ripe with details and punctuated with fascinating tidbits regarding the era and area. While she guided our tour she led us to a yarn store. A beautiful yarn store housed in a 16th century building. More than just yarn, actually, they had all kinds of textiles to encourage creativity. So colorful it looked like a candy shop. One wall featured a rainbow of pulled-taffy-like yarns hanging from hooks. All different fibers including wool, cashmere, cotton, linen, and more. Hanging above them were pieces of clothing hand knit from the yarns as samples of the goodness one could create with the candy-looking yarn. The opposite wall showcased rows of old fashioned candy shop jars housing beads of all shapes, sizes, materials and textures grouped by rainbow order in a dazzling colorful display. It was like the Care Bears had been here and shot their magical bellies off at will turning every day ordinariness into sparkling rainbows of enchantment. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Gushing like a band nerd and willing my French to be better than it actually is I took to petting yarn, fingering buttons, eyeing up potential patterns, playing in beads, stroking ribbons, and even trying to convince myself I could decipher knitting patterns in French. The baby things they had knit up were my biggest downfall. I didn’t want to buy them, I wanted to buy the pattern book, all the yarn and all the little notions to make them all myself. Reality wouldn’t catch up with me until after we left the store but thankfully budgetary constraints prevented my foolhardiness from getting the best of me and I left with only one skein of yarn in grey baby alpaca to make a cowl with. The baby didn’t need all those clothes and I don’t have the time to make them. Yes, a cowl really is necessary in Houston though. Something really good that did come out of it though was me realizing that I could really use my knitting here, I’m pretty sure I’d be motivated in regards to the language if knitting was involved. Getting around and daily life, meh, ok, I can figure it out but knitting? Must work on the language for that. Leaving the yarn store with pictures we snuck on our phones (they didn’t want us to take pictures inside, I don’t get it) we conversed our way through the ancient cobble stone streets allowing ourselves to linger over store windows until we got to the pastry shop I mentioned earlier. Yes, we took pictures. I marveled over the tiniest mini-tarts we’ve ever seen yet with incredible detail and decorations. All of us ooh’d and ah’d at the cookies with more details to them than any grocery store cake I’ve ever seen in the states and the candies, cakes, tortes, etc. had all four of us debating which looked the best. Debbie made a decision in that moment, we had to have some. Did I tell you I think she and I are long lost bosom buddies? She drug me kicking and screaming inside the shop (does skipping count as kicking and screaming at my age?) and picked out two small tortes each with a macaroon on top. One raspberry and one chocolate and she got two of each. A word about macaroons in France: wow. I thought I didn’t like macaroons. I do. A lot. I don’t want to share them either. I even like the green ones. So these 4 beautiful tortes (or are they tarts?) are packaged up and go home with us where we have pizza and tortes. Doesn’t that sound totally perfect! It was, really, it was. The only unfortunate aspect of the evening was the parking ticket they got which I’m still confused as to why they did and feel so bad that they got on showing us around and buying us pastries. That should never happen.
After a brief phone conversation with the girls who were far too busy getting ready to explore caves to talk to mommy and daddy, we watched a French movie: Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis. So freaking good, we laughed a lot. I think I heard Leroy and Debbie say there is going to be a remake of this film in America but if you can, watch the French version even if you have to read subtitles, it is hilarious. Besides, you don’t want to miss out on the rare French film experience that actually has a happy ending.

France, Day 9- The Eiffel Tower!

Day 9, Tuesday.
Eiffel Tower day!
I had my heart set on eating crepes under the Eiffel Tower, seriously, we did the day before at Notre Dame and it couldn’t get more French than crepes under the Eiffel Tower, right? Well, if had wanted a hot dog, a hamburger, cotton candy or just about any other very American carnival food choice it would have been easy. Couldn’t find crepes under the tower. We are in France people! No crepes under the Eiffel Tower? That is just wrong. The little place that had crepes across the street wasn’t cutting it either. If I was going to pay 4 euros for crepes then it was going to be in the right place, seriously. Stupid cotton candy. I wanted to get the girls each a little Eiffel Tower, for obvious reasons, parents can’t go home from Paris without cheap little Eiffel Towers. We found a good price but figured we could wait and get them later however we never found them again at that price and that style and I couldn’t face walking up the stairs again to go get them. If we had wanted Eiffel Tower key chains, however, there was no shortage. First we had Team Africa selling key chains: “For you, 1 Euro, no? 3 for 1 Euro? 5? 5 for 1 Euro!” Jeremy: “10 for 1 Euro!” Took them by surprise and they would laugh telling us no, no way. It turns out that was more effective than “non, merci” a thousand times over. These guys were pushy. Then there was Team India just down a little from Team Africa selling the same key chains, not as pushy, not as many bargains either and Jeremy didn’t get to try his line on them so not as fun. Team Africa had split up and the second part of the team was directly under the Tower, where we looked up the skirt as Jeremy said. Have you noticed an emerging trend with Jeremy’s dirty mind in France? “I see London, I see France I can see your underpants!” Funny guy, funny, funny guy. Anyway, it was rather entertaining to watch Team Africa work really hard to sell us junk that we now weren’t buying on principle, they kept turning down Jeremy’s offer. Any time they thought police or an inspector were coming their way they started running away. It was a game really, the police would go “boo!” and the illegal vendors would run then come back, laughing and ready to go again. Giant game of cat and mouse all under the skirt of the Eiffel Tower. Didn’t see that one coming. The tower, I guess I should say something about the Tower. It is beautiful. Like a giant lacework of metal jutting up into the air. We, of course, snapped a shot of Jeremy and I kissing in front of the phallic lace-work structure, how else could we say we’ve really been in Paris? Opting to save going up to view Paris from her observation decks for when the girls are with us, the Eiffel Tower will have to wait to be graced with Martin-Webers on her platforms once we live here. Honestly, I think the girls will enjoy the experience far more than I will so it makes sense to save it for a time when they can be with us. Though I found the Eiffel Tower completely enchanting and like the official rubber stamp that I’m really in Paris I just wasn’t in love with it. We took off for lunch.
Leaving the hotel we used a different metro stop than we had before, Abbesses was the name of the stop. Many of the stops have a unique fingerprint related to the area it is located in, this one had a million steps. I don’t know if there are actually a million but we stopped half way down just because we were laughing at all the stairs we had taken and stopped again before we reached the bottom to catch our breath, I mean, laugh. The walls were wallpapered in large photo prints of the area probably from the 70’s judging by the quality and colors. It was fun but seemed a bit much, seriously, I could walk all those steps and end up somewhere other than a stinky metro stop. When we came back from seeing the Eiffel Tower we opted for the elevator ride up, I was pretty sure the steps would kill me. And that is how I rode the biggest elevator I have ever been on in my life. Who knew I’d get to have that experience while in Paris also?
We ate at a charming little place called le Coquelicot, I had veggie soup that was really carrot soup and a salad and Jeremy had a croque monsieur (that he willingly shared with me, soooooooooooooooo delectable!), salad and then we had discount pastries with a giant bowl of hot chocolate after the waitress heard us observing that the price for to-go pastries was much cheaper than to sit and eat the same thing. She was a GREAT waitress and got a great tip as a result.
Following lunch it was time to say “au revoir” to Montmartre. I was sad to leave, in the short time we were there it felt so where we were supposed to be that it was difficult to walk away. Still, we grabbed our bags and headed out of Paris to our hosts in Coye-la-Forêt. We needed to do so e-mails and such so we hung out at Lamorlaye’s McDonald’s again. I really have been to McDonald’s in France more than I have in years in the states. If I let myself think about it that is so depressing. We closed the evening with dinner and French/English/German conversation with Inge and Meinhart.

Friday, November 20, 2009

France, Day 8

Day 8, Monday.
Can’t believe we’ve been in France for a complete week, most of it in Paris. This feels so surreal. And no, I haven’t actually been to see the Eiffel Tower yet. I figure it isn’t going anywhere, right? After a killer charlie horse last night I’m sore in that calf (oh yes, the joys of pregnancy!) and not sure how much walking I’m up to for the day but I can’t exactly sit around on my arse doing nothing when I’m in Paris. We’ll just have to take it slow and I’ll suffer for the cause. I’m a martyr for France, isn’t that sweet?

Since our hotel doesn’t have wi-fi and we can’t find anywhere with easy access to free wi-fi we go to Steve and Pete’s hotel to use theirs while they do some shopping. Taking it slow. The e-mails are overwhelming and I start to realize that I’m not going to get caught up until we’re back in the states. I’ve also realized that I’m addicted to the internet. The computer and I are attached at the hip. How in the world am I supposed to live without being able to check e-mails and FaceBook 1000 times a day and no, I’m pretty sure that isn’t an exaggeration. Go ahead and tell me to get a life, I’m in Paris. After attempting to get caught up with some e-mails etc. Pete and Steve came back from their odd must-have trip to the taxidermist. It was at this point I questioned our friendship. I felt better about it after they took me to the website and I must admit it was pretty cool looking though I still find it pretty creepy to have stuffed, dead animals hanging from the walls. The insect collection looks extensive though, Ophélia would enjoy that. Watch it end up on our must-visit list when she’s here. *sigh*
Enjoyed our last meal with Pete and Steve at another French bistro (I had veggie soup, finally, more vegetables though really it was all carrots) before saying our goodbyes as they headed back to London. We dreamed about the next time we’d get to see each other in Paris and bid our farewell’s with the traditional French kisses on the cheek. Mwah, mwah.

Notre Dame time! We took it slow, my feet, ankles and legs were sore. Beautiful but sad again wondering where the sacredness of the space had gone. I think I like Le Sacre Coeur better though even though it was awe inspiring to take in the site of so much history and beauty. I kept looking for Quasimodo but alas, he never appeared. We walked through the inside and were blown away by a fantastic organ piece being played, very dark, a tonal, and loud. Jeremy didn’t find it too worshipful but since I found little about the place to actually be worshipful I really reveled in the awesome sound. After escaping, er, uh, I mean exiting the church we had a little promenade across the street to find the fabled French crepes shops surrounding Notre Dame. Finding a vendor just down the street a little (thus a few euros cheaper) we ordered our fresh crepe. Jeremy got Nutella and I got Grand Marnier. OMG! These things were TDF. And if you don’t understand that, you don’t text or IM enough. They were almost too hot to eat but it was so cold we managed to warm our hands and stuff our face at the same time. Talent I tell you. In the shadow of Notre Dame we warmed up with alcohol laced crepes and looked very dignified doing so I’m sure. HA! The plan was to sit in a little park behind Notre Dame and enjoy our crepes while taking in the church from a different angle but I only had about two bites left by the time we crossed the street to the park. Stuffed our face may have been the nice way to explain how I ate my crepes, it was more like inhale. The back of the church is beautiful, maybe even more so than the front. Jeremy said he likes Notre Dame from the rear better. Ah yes, I’ll let you ponder the appropriateness of him saying he like “Our Lady’s behind better.” Turns out the little park actually had free wi-fi so we hoped on and did a bit of e-mail checking but the cold was so driving that we had to leave and get more crepes. Yes, it was necessary.

Back to hotel, talking and praying along the way about God’s will for us here. At the hotel we discussed our impressions so far and the shared urgency we have that we get here soon. Tonight we were supposed to walk around the area and pray but my feet and ankles are acting like those of a woman in her third trimester so I stay in to blog, read, and write the girls with my feet up. Jeremy goes out to film some footage of the area and will be back to share that and some couscous from across the street with me. Completely exhausted I fell asleep before he was even back but woke up to eat a little lamb, veggies, and couscous. Delicious.

France, Day 7

Day 7, Sunday.
Attended a worship gathering at Un Coeur Pour Paris worship gathering that meets at La Fonderie. It was such a blessing to worship with this little community, Jeremy and I were so grateful we had the opportunity to be with them. I recognized several of the songs translated from English to French and made it about 10 minutes into the message before I felt my brain cells were completely fried from the effort required to understand. Then I picked up my knitting hoping I wasn’t too rude knitting during the message but since I do it at home all the time and it was the only chance I stood of staying awake I took the risk and knit away. Good thing too, the message was quite long and staying awake was a challenge even with knitting. La Fonderie had a new art show hanging in the space, very impressed with the quality of the artist and enjoyed getting to spend a little time before each piece following the message. Beautiful work that required you to think about each image and appreciate not only the artistic talent but also the thought he put into challenging our perspective. This little France Mission church is full of wonderful people, pastor, missionaries and congregation members and we received a very warm welcome. I was surprised to be one of three pregnant women in the congregation, I had probably only seen two other pregnant women in the entire week before while in Paris! The worship leader, anther missionary couple and several of the local congregation members as well as the pastor were excited to hear what we feel called to in the Paris area and confirmed over and over again the great need.
Following worship we headed back to the hotel and met Steve and Pete for a walking tour of Montmartre. Having left the church late we didn’t have time for lunch and thought we would stop along the way for a sandwich but instead grabbed some fresh blackberries from a little local grocery. Darn it, I like blackberries better in Paris too. Good grief. The walking tour we took was one I’m pretty sure Steve and Pete had done before and we absolutely loved it. Instead of feeling like we were visiting one tourist attraction after another it just felt like we were meandering through a neighborhood and would happen to notice a sign here or there indicating that Picasso had lived there or Toulouse leTrec hung out in this little place or Dali had a Montmartre studio right here, etc. I absolutely loved it. The neighborhood was a delightful mix and still very active in the arts but with families and small business here and there. We drooled over a building we’d love to live in and only after declaring that we hoped some day that would be home did we notice a plaque sharing that Hector Berlioz had lived there. I took that as a sign that we indeed should live there some day. Our walking tour led us to Le Sacre Coeur via the back where it didn’t appear to be infested with tourists but plenty of locals. Just down a little bit from where we were approaching le Sacre Coeur we spotted a neighborhood game of boule going on and stopped to watch for a bit. Jeremy and I mused over the possibility of getting a set to take home, how we would do that and where we would play. We should probably just move here, that seems less complicated. There was a park directly behind Le Sacre Coeur with some beautiful graffiti, kids playing, a Sunday School program for children going on (loved it! Could totally see our girls a part of the things they were doing too), some boys kicking a soccer ball around, pigeons and other normal, every day activities. We rested for a bit and then headed around to the front of the church where the throngs of tourists gathered. My camera started having issues, not sure why but I had difficulty capturing some of the beautiful detail of the architecture which was both frustrating and freeing as I was able to just soak it all in after muttering a few curses. The building is truly beautiful. Made out of limestone it gleams white when cleaned but it looks like it has been a while since it received a good cleaning and I think I may like it better a little dirty. The deep contrast between the crevices and the smooth stone gives the artistic detail eye popping attention. Looking over Paris from the top of the hill standing in front of the church was quieting, well, for us anyway. There were plenty of people not quieted at all and several street performers competing for our attention but we soaked in it anyway to the tune of a very poor English rendition of
We walked through Le Sacre Coeur. Having visited Westminster Chapel before I kind of knew what to expect as far as a church as a tourist attraction but it was still difficult for me. Mass was about to begin and yet there were thousands of people walking around the roped off chairs, paying to light candles, buying books of photographs, sneaking pictures, and ogling sculptures and art while talking loudly to their companions. Bad tourist that I am I wanted to demand for everyone to remember that we were in a sacred space and even if they didn’t give a hoot about the worship service beginning they still needed to be respectful of where they were. I couldn’t stand it. Sure, there were some beautiful pieces of sacred art and moving artifacts and sculptures but I felt so uncomfortable that I couldn’t wait to leave.
Jeremy and I finished the tour alone, Pete and Steve went to take in a piano recital they had seen advertised. Artists row was fun, there were some very Bed, Bath and Beyond style paintings to choose from, some obvious famous painter knock-offs to snatch up and a small handful of true original artists. The row of caricature artists were a lot of fun and several of them tried to lure us over so they could sketch Jeremy. With his face, how could they not?! Once back to the hotel I took a nap and Jeremy watched some French TV before we met back up with Steve and Pete for a great dinner with a waiter that insisted on calling Jeremy Mon. President and Pete Mon. Ambassador. I had creme brulee for dessert, mmmmmm. It is better in Paris too. That night was a better sleep than the night before.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

France, day 6

Day 6, Saturday.
Came back into Paris Saturday but got a late start, didn’t get into town until close to noon. Dropped our stuff at our hotel, walked around the area briefly. We were staying in the 18th, in Montmart. On one hand it was just amazing to be there, thinking of the rich history of artists, authors, musicians in the area felt like we were treading on precious ground. Not holy ground for sure though, the area is a venerable sex pit. Jeremy and I visited the outside of Le Moulin Rouge and read about the history there- reminded me of Vegas really. Actually, it was far classier than the majority of the establishments in the area and though it wouldn’t be my thing it looks like it is just a vegas style show, or at least, that is what it is now. The prices of the tickets and, well, a lack of interest excluded us from learning more on a first hand experience. As the excitement of the history of the area wore off we really began to see what it is now and probably what it has been for a very long time. Exploring more and more around the area we grew increasingly grieved by the hold the sex industry has on the area and I finally found myself on the side of the street crying. Moved to tears by how these women involved in the sex industry are missing so much by believing that the best way for them to make a living is to sell themselves for the pleasures of others. What worth do they see in themselves? If not right now, how about years later when their bodies will fail them as sources of income? Nobody pretends that this is love, nobody needs to but the chasm of disconnect between sharing one’s body with another person and true intimacy has a lasting effect. I wanted so desperately to tell them that they are worth more than that. These are somebody’s sisters, somebody’s daughters and my heart aches for them all. I have no idea how this fits into our desire to be artists and ministers in Paris but somehow I feel we are supposed to reach out to the hurt here. Yeah, don’t exactly know what that means yet.

We headed from the 18th to the 20th to met Steve at Pere lachaise but it was closed due to high winds. This is another area we love and would be a great neighborhood for our family. We sat and shared coffee and crepes at a cafe to wait out the wind and rain but ended up deciding to give up on seeing Pere Lachaise for now. Oscar Wilde will just have to wait. He, and so many others, aren’t going anywhere anyway.
So we decided to go ahead and split up to get ready for dinner to celebrate Steve’s birthday. What an amazing meal. Steve and Pete had made reservations at Violon D'Ingres and the food was blow me over amazing. The food here in France deserves it’s own post, in fact, just about every meal deserves it’s own post but I doubt that will happen so I’ll share in as brief of detail as possible the wonders of this meal. Pumpkin Soup for starters for me with pieces of some kind of soft cheese, roasted chestnuts, crumbles of croutons and greens. That could have been my whole meal and I would have been happy. Instead, they brought me some duck that was... the best duck I have ever tasted in my life. Ever. Yeah, lame description but I really don’t know how to describe it except to add that there was this caramel-like sauce that just made the most perfectly roasted duck I’ve ever eaten even better. I’m not making this up. Oh, I left out the bread and puff cheese pastries before the soup even, those were amazing too. To finish I had a souffle dessert that they dressed in a salted caramel sauce that was unlike anything I’ve ever had. I kind of go into la-la land just thinking about that meal. Delicious. Walking back to metro after dinner we saw the Eiffel Tower in full sparkle glory. Now I understand why they have those tacky little Eiffel Towers with glitter or sparkly stones all over, it actually does look like that at night.
When we got back to our metro stop and the red windmill was turning and the night life bustling. It felt less charming though the streets up a bit from the main drag were also busy with all the shops open including grocers, fromagarie, etc. That made me want to stop and buy food to cook our own meal except that I could barely walk, I was so full from dinner. The hotel was clean but a little shabby though for the price we weren’t surprised. It seemed quiet but we had an odd night anyway, very hot and the noise kept Jeremy up though I slept through everything but being hot and having tummy issues.

I'm still behind, blog posts for the last few days are in progress, I'll post them when I can!

Monday, November 16, 2009

France, days 3, 4, and 5.

We miss the girls. Even with being super busy and on the go everything seems strangely quiet. I miss their perspective on things, their fascination with the little pieces of life I often don’t have time to notice. Don’t miss the whining so much though. I’m so grateful they are some place safe and sound and enjoying their time with Jeremy’s mom. They are certainly having more fun with Grandma than they would be with us going to meetings and loads of walking around.

Internet access has been touch and go and when we have had the chance to get on the e-mail load alone is enough to absorb our time and I haven’t sent e-mails I need to send, catch up FaceBook or blog. So sorry. Recap time. The sad thing is I’m writing this at Starbucks. Granted, it is Starbucks across the street from the Moulin Rouge but Starbucks all the same. Unlike the McDonald’s we have been to, Starbucks has done next to nothing to French-a-fy. It looks and acts exactly the same as the chain in America. With one exception, the internet isn’t free here like back home. Oh, and the drinks are more expensive. We won’t be back at Starbucks this side of the Atlantic.

So the recap...

Day 3, Wednesday.
Met with Charles Cross, our GEM Field Director in France for an update on things currently on the field here and to explore various options for us. He provided some direction for our time here and put us in touch with more people and organizations we could potentially partner with. It was a great meeting and concluded with Crepes in Chantilly. It was neat to find ourselves eating in the creperie Jeremy grew up going to, he told stories about eating banana splits the size of his head there and other fond memories of the area. Following our fantastic and very filling lunch we returned to our host home and got ready to head back into Paris to meet with a couple that had been with GEM but recently left to go independent. This other missionary couple live in the 20th and gave us a warm welcome. We could tell instantly that we loved their neighborhood. Removed from the tourist aspects of Paris and full of a variety of ages and stages of life we delighted in seeing many families out and about. Learning about the work they have been doing, their perspective on missions in France and their encouragement that we get there as soon as possible was both challenging and uplifting. I have a feeling we have made some very good friends in this couple. Our day ended late with us taking the train back out of the city around 11pm.

Day 4, Thursday.
After a busy few days we needed to just lay low. We were exhausted, our feet and legs hurt from all the walking and my head was swimming from trying to communicate in French. So Thursday we slept in, visited with our hosts more and took it easy. We headed into Lamorlaye, where Jeremy grew up and I saw the castle grounds he grew up on in person, walking through the park and viewing the backyard and play area from his childhood. He took me along the route to his elementary school and shared stories of bike rides, friends and adventures from that time. It was enchanting, he grew up in a fairy tale town. Even the streets are pretty, the shutters unique and the latches on the doors and windows full of character. A far cry from the homogenized neighborhood I was accustomed to. Backed up to the castle grounds was the village Catholic Church. As most Sacred structures here, this building was beautiful and you could tell it was a pretty active congregation unlike many of the ones we’d seen in Paris. We slipped in for a bit and quieted our hearts in the worship space. The art work was beautiful, I love how the Catholic Church displays The Stations of The Cross all year long through beautiful windows or other artistic expression in the worship space. We paused before a memorial to all the children of Lamorlaye that did not survive WWI. This country, like so many other European countries, is very aware of it’s painful past. After some time in the church and going by his school he took me to the tiny Protestant church his family was a part of. Tiny might be too big to describe it. It is a charming little chapel building but we couldn’t go inside. After hearing more stories from his childhood and the church, we made our way into the town center and hit the Post Office, a supermarket, a bookstore and looked around with more stories from Jeremy’s childhood including where he had his first beer with a friend. We walked to the outskirts of the town to find the McDonald’s and spend a bit of time on the internet before dinner with our hosts. That evening I finally finished my red cloche as we enjoyed the delightful company of Inge and Meinhart before bed.

Day 5, Friday.
The quiet pace of the day before gave way to another hectic day spread out between Paris and Chantilly. Our first appointment of the day was coffee with our dear friend Steve Innes and meeting his partner Pete Smith for the first time. We had dreamed 14 years ago of hanging out together in Paris and here we were finally doing it! Steve introduced Jeremy and I 14 years ago at Moody Bible Institute where we were all students. It just so happened that we would be here in Paris over Steve’s birthday and as he and Pete live just outside of London now they decided to join us fulfilling our college dream, celebrating Steve’s birthday and introducing us to Pete all in one fell swoop. We met them at the Alexander Dumas stop and had croissant and coffee and catching up. This had been a long time in the making and was perfectly wonderful.

We didn’t have too much time with Steve and Pete though (no worries, we had lots of time coming up in the next few days) and took off to a meeting with Steve and Mikkie Thrall, missionaries with International Teams and the director of La Fonderie an arts ministry center in the heart of Paris. After lunch with the couple they took us back to the La Fonderie space which hosts a gallery, music concerts, poetry and theatrical events, and shares the space with a small church. Hearing about the amazing things they are doing and feeling like we met old and dear friends we were greatly inspired. I hope God has it for us to work together in the future, our hearts share so much in common. They were encouraging regarding Jeremy pursuing his French citizenship (Steve said it was a “no brainer, get it.”) as two of their children have as adults and found it to be beneficial. They also had some valuable insight on our moving here with a family. As we shared some of what we feel called to do they responded with even more encouragement. Every aspect of our time with them, which flew by far too quickly, was exciting.

Following our meeting with the Thralls we worked our way back to the metro along the Seine River and stopped at a few market stands along the way. It was a charming stroll (we gave ourselves a little time to get back so we weren’t so rushed) and we picked out a few French Philosophy books for Steve’s birthday and a couple of French books for the girls. We enjoyed talking with the vendors and artists set up along the way and they told us delightful tales of various artists, authors, and dignitaries that have passed before. Returning to the metro and eventually the train station we ended up with the after work crowds headed to Chantilly for dinner with Charles and Amy Cross and their children. Amy made a traditional French dinner for us with a large salad (YAY! I was missing veggies in a big way!) and we loved spending time with their children. Yes, it did make us miss ours but their 4 sweet kids were so much fun it helped ease the ache of being away from our girls for so long. That and they were just so entertaining we couldn’t spend time feeling sorry for ourselves. After the kids were in bed and settled we had a very special time in conversation with Charles and Amy and were able to ask more questions, consider various aspects of living in France and discuss the possible adjustments and options for our girls. This was a little more overwhelming for me than Jeremy seeing as he has lived it there was a lot he already knew. I think over all it was good for all of us, for them to here from Jeremy, a grown MK and for me to process some of the differences facing us with rearing children in France. We left exhausted, challenged and excited all over again.

Days 6 and 7 are coming! I'm way behind, finding it hard to find time to keep up with writing. Pictures too will eventually make it onto the blog. For now you can find some on my Facebook for sure.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vive la France!

I have a first to add to the list from the other day:
Meet up with a friend in Paris for coffee
Meet up with a friend in Paris for dinner.
Can I just say, those two are my favorite firsts from yesterday? I can’t tell you how much I love that.

Meinhart has estimated that I walked at least 6km Tuesday. Oh yeah, these Docs were made for walkin’ and that’s just what I’ll do... Paris, yesterday these Doc Martin’s got to walk all over you. Bum-ba-dum, bum-ba-dum, bum-ba-dum, bum-ba-dum... Start walkin’ Docs. I am so sore. Probably not just from walking, I’m sure it has a little bit to do with my fall out of McDonald’s yesterday. I missed a step and crashed onto the side walk with a very unlady like “umph” and a thud. On the Champs-Elysées. In front of loads of people. Not sure what they were looking at, they were French people going into McDonald’s! That’s kind of embarrassing too I’d think. When asked if I was ok I responded in French that I was. Bad enough to be the pregnant lady that fell out of McDonald’s, would only be worse if I was the American pregnant lady that fell out of McDonad’s on the Champs-Elysées. Jeremy was very amused at me passing myself off as French in that moment.

So I’ve discovered something about myself. Though I kissed my husband in front of the Arche de Triomphe, meandered down the Champs-Elysées, visited the opera house (and cried), hit a few touristy shops, smiled like a fool every time I saw the Effiel Tower, strolled along the Seine arm in arm with Jeremy like a romantic sap (at least I didn’t start singing and dancing pretending I was in An American in Paris though the thought did cross my mind), etc. ad nauseum Tuesday, I realized something pretty early on. I was having a hard time with it all. Not the people, not the language, not the Metro, not the walking, not even the obvious scam attempt we encountered but rather the idea that this somehow was Paris. Seeing the sights is beautiful but in the end it just isn’t my thing. Here it is, you ready? I really didn’t care about any of it. Well, ok, I did care about the Eiffel Tower because that was evidence that I was really in Paris and I cared about the Opera House because once upon a time I thought the first time I’d see it would be because I was singing there but those two things aside, I simply wasn’t awed by the sights. Don’t get me wrong, it is all beautiful and the French have a lot of history and beauty in their capitol to be proud of but for me, it isn’t why I’m here. I want to experience this amazing city and the country she belongs to for her people, not her food, architecture, and cute little shops. My favorite moment was when we were led off the beaten path by Jeremy’s childhood friend, Sylvian, and ended up in an amazing little joint for dinner. By the time we were leaving there was a line outside to get in, all locals, all real, normal people. The food was delicious, the noise comforting and the company obviously not there to make a euro off of us. Refreshing. It was then that I really felt like we were starting to see the city. Like the glimpses we caught in the Metro early that morning. Jeremy’s superb French makes it easier for us to blend in which helps us get a taste of the people beyond being American tourists. The thing is, I want to see the part of France that isn’t on the post cards. I want to understand the people not just the history and architecture. And I want to love them, know them, to share life with them. Obviously, doing that in just two weeks is going to be difficult but that’s why we’re here, to make plans for coming back to stay and do just that. We have no desire to “save” them or anyone else, couldn’t do that even if we wanted to but rather a desire to love and encourage them. A heart to share life with them and encourage dialogue about faith and the “what if there is more?” question. Because, like looking at fantastic buildings and monuments doesn’t really mean one has experienced Paris, living life with never asking or wondering about those questions and having safe places to discuss them, isn’t really living at all. That’s why we’re here, that’s why we want to return. Life. Vive la France!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

France, day 2.

I’m at McDonald’s. Seriously. I don’t go to McDonald’s in the states but take me to Paris on the Champs-Elysées and shortly after breakfast with a friend, a stroll, money change and some touristy moments (every couple visiting France needs a photo kissing in front of the Arche de Triomphe!) we began looking for one. Not for the elegant dinning experience but rather the free internet. That said, French McDonalds kick American McDonald’s butt. I ate flan. The coffee is basically espresso. Strike that, it is espresso. I’m looking at the espresso machine now. They have a pastry case. That’s not why we came here but it turns out to be a plus. Internet, espresso and French pastries. At McDonald’s. Huh?

I could give you all kinds of details as to our trip but that would be boring. We drove to Colorado. The van broke down. We had to leave the van in Amarillo, TX at a Nissan dealer and rent another vehicle to make the last 8 hours. Fun. Got to Monument safe and sound, helped the girls settle in, and repacked for France. Drove to the airport, boarded a plane, flew to Chicago, waited, boarded another plane, watched a movie, ate some dinner, fell asleep, woke up, landed, got off the plane, found our luggage, and left the airport. See, boring. Maybe it is just how I’m telling it. Maybe it is that we’re now in France and everything before now seems boring. Maybe I just have better things to tell you about. Though I think you would be very entertained with this little tid-bit: when I got off the 7.5 hour flight from Chicago to Paris I walked off the plane on giant pillar ankles and sausage feet. This morning I found my ankle bones surprisingly intact, I thought perhaps I wouldn’t see them for a good long while yet. So back to those more interesting matters I wanted to tell you.

Like how I’m in love. With a place. A place where lots of people really DO wear berets. I thought maybe it was a caricature but no, they like those hats here, a lot. I want about 10 of them now, nearly snatched one off another woman’s head this morning and high tailed it out of there. I could have out run her, I’m wearing Doc Martin’s and she was in high-healed boots but the fact that we were in the Metro would have made it complicated to say nothing about the belly that sticks out in front of me causing an embarrassing waddle and the maternity jeans that insist on falling down. But it was a great beret made from a thick, chunky yarn with cables and bobbles. Must find a pattern. The hats aren’t the only thing I love: the people, the architecture, the food, the smells (eh, not the urine smell in the metro so much), the sights, the grocery store, the houses, the apartments, the language, everything. Ok, the cold is a bigger adjustment than I was prepared for but I’m dealing fairly well. And yes, I even like McDonald’s here. The flan was good. There’s another amazing beret! They are everywhere. I’m currently knitting myself a red, cashmerino cloche but let me tell you, the beret is seriously moving up on my list of things to knit for myself soon. Jeremy needs one too. And the girls. By the way, I even loved the grocery store our lovely hosts took us to yesterday which is the same one Jeremy grew up with as a kid. They don't believe in using the heat in the store though so we froze our rears off. Someone should let them know that actually keeping a place physically comfortable tends to help people stay there longer thus spend more. At least, for Americans.

We are staying with a charming couple outside of Paris and they are treating us like royalty. They are so sweet and hospitable, we’ve just had a lovely time with them. Their names are Inge and Meinhart (can you find a better name? I think not.) and they are from Germany but have been in France for a long time. Patient and more than a little encouraging they put up with my poor French and more often than not try to speak English so I don’t feel left out. Inge’s English kicks my French’s butt. Jeremy was tricky though, I’m certain he knew that bringing me here would make me want to try to speak French. Back home it is frustrating and I feel like an idiot every time I try. Even around his family it just seems like a pathetic and idiotic attempt to communicate but here, being American, I’m already considered pathetic and idiotic so there is no image to protect. I may as well try. Evidently, my trying to speak their language makes this idiotic American less pathetic. That just makes them even more charming. I understand fairly well, more so today than yesterday when I was tired and couldn’t focus on anything, English or French. I wish I could just open up my brain and poor the language in, wake up tomorrow and speak as confidently as I would in English. Who hasn’t wished that, particularly when it comes to the French language.

The toilet paper here is amazing. When I first reached for it I noticed that it was thicker, perforated in larger sections and beautifully soft. Yes, I observe these distinctions. McDonald’s has pain au chocolat and rivals La Madeline back home and the toilet paper is more plush. What exactly isn’t to love? Other than the prices but more on that later in my French novel. Back to the TP: so I wonder as I pull off some, are you supposed to use just one section? Am I going to use too much? Then it hits me: Of course I am, I’m American. I grab slightly less than my normal amount. It was too much. Oh well, next time I’ll use less. Today I still haven’t found the perfect amount however, I have found that McDonald’s France uses the same crappy TP as McDonald’s USA and most truck stops back home too, actually. The toilets are lacking toilet seats in public restrooms too. I guess not everything is more plush. Whatever.

Same day- later. Lost internet service at McDonald’s. The response when we asked about it? “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.” Or something like that but in French. French, at McDonald’s. I can’t get over how strange that is. Maybe an American company but the attitude was still totally French.

Today’s firsts:
Took the train into Paris
Took the metro
Walked under Paris trying to figure out the metro
Walked down Champs-Elysées
Saw the Arche de Triomphe
Saw la tour Effeil
Ate my first truly French croissant, which does taste better by the way
Ate pastries at McDonald’s in France
Ate chocolates from a Parisian chocolaterie
Saw the French Opera House- cried.
Walked along the Seine River.
Had my picture taken with a French man (no, Jeremy doesn’t count)
Totally wiped out walking out of McDonald’s on the Champs-Elysées
Ate lunch on a park bench in front of le Petit Palais.
Shopped in a baby boutique on rue de La Madeline (no, we didn’t buy anything)
Knit on a French train
Knit in a French café
Tried on clothes in a French store
Got told I wasn’t fat, just pregnant but after the baby I would be fat. Charmant.
Visited a French piano store and determined we could afford to buy a used piano when we live here.
Kissed Jeremy in Paris
French kissed Jeremy in Paris.
Walked all day this pregnancy
Saw a bunch of other touristy things
Bought and ate roasted chestnuts from a street vendor- SO COOL!

The day is coming to a close, the sky is darkening and I’m trying not to think about how we may not get to talk to the girls today. Jeremy and I will be looking for a little bistro or cafe for dinner, we have to get to a less ritzy part of town to find dinning that won’t cause us to go broke. I’m looking forward to my first date with my husband in Paris. Our internet access is spotty, we have to use free access in cafes and McDonald’s as we find it. I have loads of pictures to share (I’ll just pick a few) and hope to hop online a bit tomorrow to fill you in on more.