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Travel Journal France 2006

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These are my notes from my trip to France in March 2006.

Vendredi 17 Mars 2006

19:44 The plane is on the way to the runway. Fosters and a shot of Gray Goose at the airport, and very tired, as I got up at 04:00. It was very nice being accompanied by Misty whilst at the airport. It was very sweet of her to spend time with us. Randell and I get along swimmingly so far… he is experienced with foreign travel, so I won’t have to worry about him. Takeoff in a few seconds. Don’t tell anyone, but takeoff scares the socks off me every time… after that I’m fine. I’m grateful to my coworker Kevin for letting me borrow his digital camera. I will probably take hundreds of pictures. I am so looking forward to this trip… it is a nice break from la vie quotidienne… it is a chance to see many of my dear French speaking friends, all of whom I miss… It is a chance to speak a language I love for a week… (takeoff now!) It is a way to get to know Randell better… a chance to once again enjoy one of the world’s great cities, and an opportunity to be lost in an anacrhonistic walled city that I read a story about as a child. The sad thing is that this is only nine days, and then it is over, and that time will pass so very quickly.

The information on the monitors of this plane is in English and Dutch, as this plane is destined for Amsterdam. I don’t read of speak Dutch, so I find the non-English portions to be completely unintelligible. We will land around ten in the morning, have a brief wait, then catch a quick flight to Paris where the smiling faces of Julien and Caroline Prempain will be there to greet us. It has been so long. Instead of carrying CDs around with me, I have purchased an mp3/wma player… my entire CD library is on this little device, so I can listen to a wonderful assortment of music. The first album selected for this trip = Metric’s Live It Out. Rock.

Samedi 18 Mars 2006

09:09 Thinks to Randell’s drugs, I was able to sleep a bit during the flight, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Alcohol is no longer complimentary on international flights, which was a complete and utter disappointment. We are surely beginning the initial descent toward the European continent, but only the tops of the clouds are visible. Randell is sleeping. Must be nice. I started reading Fantasyland, the book I borrowed from Shaw, and it’s already a great read. What can I say, I like sabrmetrics.

Today is going to be a very busy day, which is a good thing. I am sure that by the time it is over, I will feel like collapsing into a heap.

I have put the mp3 player on a random shuffle play… currently playing is “Amazed”, by The Offspring. The cabin monitors say that we are over the East Coast of England, between Nottingham and Norwich. These are the good moments… overflowing with anticipation, eager expectation, and hopes. “Snail”, from the album Gish… under-produced and somewhat raw, but at the same time, a completely anthemic piece of rock and roll… “when you wake up you’re awake / throwing all your love away”… at least, that’s what I think Billy is wailing… he goes on to sing about flowers.

Many things to remember to get shortly after arrival… a trip to the ATM is needed so that this trip will be properly funded… need the Carte Orange hebdomadaire for the Métro, a télécarte to call home, and TGV tickets to Toulouse. Speaking of home, Craig Houston’s “The Sour That You Speak” is playing… after this song ends, I’ll manually select “Descend” by Feeder, as that is a very appropriate song for our current activity.

10:37 Amsterdam. Huge airport. Missed flight to Paris, have been re-booked on the flight leaving at 11:15. Ran through the sprawling airport trying to get to the gate on time… that is a good way to wake up.

10:51 Still waiting. So very tired. Not so much sleepy right now, just suffering from pure physical fatigue. All of this must be forgotten upon arrival… the fatigue will be pushed aside, and we will go go go.

13:56 Cauchemar. Our luggage is still in The Netherlands and we are in Paris very late. In a cab on the way to town. Things can only improve from here. The limite de vitesse is 110, and we are zipping along at about 122.

17:07 I tell myself that this will get better. At Nicolas R’s place. He stepped out for a couple of minutes, so Randell and I are discussing how completely not-according-to-plan things have gone. Stella is sick, so we don’t get to spend time with her today. Our luggage might not get to us for awhile, and this puts the trip to Toulouse in jeopardy. My friends have been great as I knew they would be, but I think our stress over the situation is showing. Nicolas is going to make us a little something to eat…that’s awful nice of him. First, a paté of meat from the Basque country and a salad of some sort… it will feature tomatoes… tomatoes, white asparagus, corn… there is a dressing made mostly of olive oil… salad, baguette, paté. After eating Randell and I will wander around town. I say the prayer, and we begin to eat.

00:23 Dimanche As far as the first day in the country goes, this has been the worst. Our clothes have this offensive odor because we have been wearing them and sweating in them so long. There is a meeting tomorrow (technically later today) at 10:00, and we won’t go because we smell funky, and our suits are in our luggage, which is probably still in The Netherlands. This makes us very sad. I miss my friends here in my adopted congregation and I wanted to see them… Randell wanted to meet people and make friends, and he is now cheated out of a chance to do that. The Dutch have really ruined our trip to this point.

Nicolas has bent over backwards to make us feel at home. After the meal we had eaten, he drove us downtown (refusing to let us take the Métro) so we could walk around. We walked from Place de l’Etoile all the way to Opéra, then South through the Quartier Latin. It was a lot of walking. We are all very tired. Chui naze. Randell’s back is hurting him. As tired as I am, I fear I still won’t sleep well. The alarm is going off at 08:00. I will do my daily Bible reading (in French instead of English for the duration of this trip), and then I will try to go to sleep.

Dimanche 19 Mars 2006

12:30 We are alone at Nicolas’ place. He will be returning from the meeting within the next half hour probably, at which time we will likely leave and walk around. Thankfully we don’t have to smell nice or be presentable to do that. The camera battery is getting low, and I can’t change it because the device I bought to convert European electrical current into American electrical current is in my luggage. Grumble. Need to make some phone calls today. First, I’d like to call Arnaud and tell him we aren’t coming to Paxar tomorrow. I’d also like to call Danielle (left her a message yesterday) and explain the situation to her.

How strange it is that having an event-filled journey to Europe is making this trip rather uneventful… the walk around town last night was brisk and energy consuming and a good way to enjoy the night lights of one of the world’s great cities. Nicolas showed us the American embassy and pointed to where Chirac’s house is.

14:53 In a small café (Café Leffe)/ brasserie in the Montparnasse area… paid dearly for the TGV ticket to Toulouse. Also bought the Carte Orange for €15.70. Taking a small break before we head back… dinner tonight at 19:30 at Nicolas’ place. It seems that the Dutch have found our luggage, and are delivering it today. I left Danielle a message telling her when we would arrive in Toulouse. There are so many people I want to see and so little time with which to see them.

There are three beautiful françaises right behind us, agreeable music playing, a match de football on TV, and the sounds of a lively group of francophones surrounding us. This is Paris. Leffe Roosa, a darker beer from Belgium, is the next on tap for me. We each order the 50 cl size.

19:12 Chez Nicolas. Stella and Elvire were here when we arrived, but Elvire had to go. We will be seeing her tomorrow. Our luggage has arrived, and now each of us has showered, effectively removing the layers of funk. Nicolas was making a tarte aux fruits avec des bananes et des pommes. Now there is bacon cooking with onions… he is making a tartiflette, probably because I expressed my love for Savoyard cuisine earlier. Nice piano music in the background. We bought the baguettes as our contribution to dinner. The camera battery is charging. There will be many pictures taken tonight. It feels good to finally be clean.

20:19 Mylove est arrivée. Henri est arrivé. On met les trucs sur le table. On boit le vin Cuvée Mathilde, qui vient d’Andeche, que Nicolas dit se trouve en departement 07. The wine is very sweet, and very good, a good aperitif. (It is a white wine.) This evening’s cheese is Roblechon, and it doesn’t smell very good, but I’m sure it tastes great.

21:00 Salad and tartiflette are served, and there is a rosé wine now, Cuvée Maguedonne…

21:21 Frederic et Elisée sont arrivés.

21:40 Lots of laughter, great food, an all around wonderful time, and this is the reason I keep coming back.

23:44 It feels better today. Dinner was wonderful, conversation was better. After the guests had all gone, I talked at length with Nicolas about languages and travel… I should more properly say “we” talked. Earlier in the day when Nico came home from the meeting, we talked about French politics. He explained quite a bit (between today and yesterday) about the taxation and the government here. I am still speaking English with Randell because it is the easiest with him, but my French is getting a workout with everyone else. I am looking forward to tomorrow. I need to call Heidi and Arnaud and Lydia and try to hammer out what is going on the rest of the week. Lots of good pictures came out of tonight’s activity, and I hope for more tomorrow and the days that follow. We will stay out of Nico’s way tomorrow morning, and after he leaves for work, we will go about our normal morning business. Upon further reflection, I wish tonight didn’t have to come to an end, as it was a wonderful evening. I have handed out all of the gifts I brought for people here, and ony wish I had brought more stuff. Next time. Maintenant, il faut que je fasse ma lecture quotidienne de la Bible et après je vais dormir.

Lundi 20 Mars 2006

09:15 Randell is washing the dishes from last night. We are up and dressed and will shortly go downhill into the heart of Issy-Les-Moulineaux. I will call Arnaud to see if we are still going to Paxar.

13:27 At La Favorite resto in Fontenay-Sur-Bois with the coworkers… from left Michel, Virgile, R, Stephane (quoting), Cristèle, and Arnaud. Pizza Espagnol for lunch (preceded by a kir) with chorizo, mushrooms, and a cooked oeuf… profitéroles for dessert.

22:50 Great day today. Arnaud gave us a complete tour of the office. I got a chance to see what my coworkers do here… I met quite a few of them. Randell wasn’t all that interested in the plant tour, but it was something to do. Arnaud treated us to lunch at an Italian restaurant there in Fontenay-Sur-Bois.

After we got back to town, we kind of wandered around a bit, strolling by the Center Pompidou, and meandering aimlessly through Forum Des Halles. The book study was tonight, and I got to see some old and new faces. I met a Russian brother named Slava, so I used all twenty Russian words I know with him. He’s been in Paris for six years… I didn’t pick up the Russian accent in his French, but maybe I wasn’t listening hard enough. This is a time when I wished I had studied Russian a little harder, and I am now a bit more motivated to get back into it. (I wrote Slava’s name in my journal in Cyrillic… he was impressed.) Met a nice kid named Angelo… he is 18… he aksed me, “est-ce que tu joues?” I assumed he meant basketball, so I said that I did play au basket… this resulted in a big grin… he said he was sure I played, because I’m tall. He playes too, naturally.

Nicolas wanted to go to bed early, but as usual, we ended up talking for an hour. I almost wish I had a sound recording device so I could remember all of the good conversation. I am cooking dinner for us on Thursday night. I’m going to make my vodka cream pasta as best as I can with the ingredients I can find. I hope it turns out ok. I felt bad asking him to set the alarm for 06:00 tomorrow, but we have a train to catch and we can’t be late. On that note, I need to stop writing and do my Bible reading and go to bed. I haven’t writen nearly as much as I would like, but that will change tomorrow, as I have a five hour train ride ahead of me.

Oh, one more thing… I feel privileged to have been able to sign the Livre d’Or for the Coquins tonight. Alain and Monique are celebrating 40 years of marriage… they don’t look old enough to have been married that long. They’re a very sweet couple, lively personalities, and I will always cherish the memory of having dinner at their place in October 2004. Done, il faut que j’aille.

Mardi 21 Mars 2006

07:00 Gare Montparnasse. Up at 06:00 and out of the apartment by 06:17. Tried not to make much noise so as not to wake Nico, but some of that is unavoidable. Tried calling Misty (would have been 00:30 in Ohio), but Verizon’s little recored message said I couldn’t connect. Stopped at a café in the Gare to get a little breakfast, which is important considering our next meal is likely to be dinner. Got through town before the morning rush, which is a good thing. Breakfast consists of pain, trois petits trucs viennoisieurs, du café, jus d’orange, du beurre, et confiture d’apricot. Pas mal ça.

08:00 On the train waiting for departure, listening to “Hello” from Oasis’ second album. Five hours later, we’ll be in Toulouse. Time to start writing the postcards.

09:37 I thought this was a non-stop trip, but we have stopped at a place called Futuroscope. I’ll have to do research on it later, but it looked like there is an amusement park here… and we’re rolling again. Listening to Toadies… “when you’re gone, you’re still a part of me.” Now I have queued up all three Elbow albums.

10:23 Tired from sleep deprivation, but I refuse to yield to the fatigue until night has fallen. A sad song is playing… “and my sister buzzes through the room leaving perfume in the air / and that’s what triggered this / I come back here from time to time / I shelter here som days.” I look out the windows at the French countryside. Farmland. Trees. Quaint, picturesque, sleepy villages with one church, no tourists, and these are places where time is not the same as it is for us… these sights leave me nostalgic for something I have never known, a life I have never lead.

10:58 Still listening to Elbow, but will soon switch to Placebo. We are passing through a town with a pretty good sized river and a very interesting big church. I wonder if that was the Loire?

Last night after the book study Lydia made fun of us a little bit… some good-natured needling… she started talking to us with a very exaggerated American accent to her French… I played along by doing the same for a few sentences. I wish we were going to be here longer because I would like to spend more time with her, and I think Randell would enjoy getting to know her.

11:15 Stopping in Bordeaux. Pretty good-sized city from the look of things out the window. Just crossed a big river. Stopped at the station, joined by a couple of French women and a young German couple.

12:00 “I know you love the song but not the singer…”

12:26 Yet another stop, but if I understand the conductor’s announcement correctly, this one was unplanned. “The only thing you can rely on is that you can’t rely on anything…” I like thise lyric almost as much as this other one from the same song, “don’t forget to be the way you are.” Moving again.

12:59 J’ai acheté un peu de vin dans la voiture quatorze…Il y a du soleil dehors, et maintenant je me sens très bien… c’est bien vrai, le vin fait réjouir le coeur de l’homme. J’écout à l’Oasis… “maybe I just wanna fly / wanna live I don’t wanna die / maybe I just wanna breathe / maybe I just don’t believe / maybe you’re the same as me / we see things I’ll never see / you and I are gonna live forever.”

It’s a long trip, but each minute brings me closer to the smiling face of a dear friend. J’ai envie de danser, mais je pense que c’est le vin qui a produit cet effet… voilà.

15:50 A quick strop at a brasserie for a beer and a Croque Monsieur. Il n’y a pas des oeufs ici, donc on ne peut pas avoir une Croque Madame. La bière c’est Grimberger, de Belgique. Danielle was waiting for us at the quai, but we missed her when we arrived. I called her mobile from outside the station, and voilà, there she was. We brought our train tickets to Carcassonne, and Danielle bought us a pass for the one Métro line in town. We went to her place… her roomie is very sick, in fact, she can’t walk on her own. Danielle showed us the main trag in town, gave us her spare mobile phone, and turned us loose. She is taking her roomie to the doctor, and will call to meet us later. She has a boyfriend now, his name is Mohammed, and he’s from Lebanon. He speaks Arabic, English, and some Persian in addition to French. She showed me his picture, he’s a really good-looking guy. She is very happy to see us, and I’m thrilled to see her, too… she’s a good friend. The Croque Monsieur is very good, as usual, as is the beer.

I am trying Pastis like Dale suggested, but I am trying the 45. The bartenders here tell me that the difference is slight, so I will try the 45 and try the 51 later… then I can compare. The bartenders speak a little English… one more than the other, but they’re both cool. I take their picture, and we shoot the breeze a little bit. We’ve been here 27 minutes.

16:32 Randell just bought me a shot of Jameson. I hope I can walk when we get out of here. The girl to our left is cute.

16:49 Danielle called. Her roomie has gone to the hospital. So we get to hang out a little longer and wait for another call. Of all the times for this to happen, it has to be while we are here. The worst thing is that there is nothing I can do to help.

17:40 Called Misty, and although it was a brief conversation, it was nice. We turned down a side street and found a nice pedestrian square, sun-drenched, and complete with a girl riding a unicycle. According to the sign, this is called square Jean Calas, but I can’t find it on the pocket map that Danielle gave me.

I ask the waiter, and it’s called Place Saint Georges. We get Pelforth, the dark French beer. I am worried about Danielle’s friend, but we can only wait. This is a busy little pedestrian square, and the cool thing is that we found it quite by accident. It will be cooler when the sun dips below the buildings across the square, but for now it is quite pleasant. I like the sounds of several random conversations of complete strangers, all banter in French, and after a quick glance, I am unable to identify any other Americans nearby.

18:20 Still at Place Saint George, still no word from Danielle.

19:45 Chez Filomène and Jean-Luc. Avec aussi Esther, Danielle, and it is time for an aperitif. I have chosen a port. There is also vodka, whisky, et jus d’orange available. The Port is very sweet. It is from Portugal.

20:27 C’est l’heure selon Jean-Luc. First dish is a goat cheese / spinach concoction invented by Filomène’s sister, and it doesn’t have a name. On boit le vin du pays, a rouge from Bordeaux. After that, a salad made of endives in a dressing made mostly of basalmic vinegar. The main course is agneau avec pommes de terre served with pasta… the pasta is mostly for Danielle, as she is vegetarian, but I think everyone will be eating it. Ah, la France, on mange bien.

21:05 Jean-Phillipe est arrivé. C’est le frère d’Esther.

22:10 On va manger le désert, s’appelle Charlotte.

22:41 Great time with the Bossards, who are the couple we are staying with here in Toulouse. Filomène Bossard is originally from Cape Verde, and she speaks Portuguese and a little English in addition to French. Jean-Luc has travelled in the USA many years ago (Mexico too), and knows lots of English words, though he can’t really put sentences together. I like them, they are wonderful. Filomène is going to iron our clothes tomorrow. I told her that I wanted to do it, but she won’t let me. That’s the kind of hospitality we’re up against. I feel almost overwhelmed with kindness, and I wish so much that the folks here could come visit us in the States so that we can begin to repay them. I am so happy that Danielle has decided to come to the States, and I will do everything I can to make her trip as easy as possible. Dinner conversation was wonderful as usual, and some good pictures resulted. Learned a lot about the company here... Esther comes from a family of ten children, and is of Polish, Russian and French descent, and has a relative who is Peruvian.

So tomorrow, we need to be up at 06:00 again, as the train to Carcassonne leaves at 07:44. Tomorrow is likely to be another good day… and the bad thing is that after tomorrow, the trip is half over.

Mercredi 22 Mars 2006

06:51 Up, showered, shaved, and ready to go. Jean-Luc is going to drive us to the train station.

11:00 Le train de ce matain était changé, et nous allons à Carcassonne maintenant quelques heures plus tard. On a vu le commencement d’une manifestation à Toulouse. The manifestations are taking place in all the big cities in France, at least in the ones with universities. C’est à cause du CPE, qui veut dire Contract Premier Emploi. The thing is that a recent law has been passed for people under 26 years old… they can be fired from their first employment contract for any reason whatsoever, and that wasn’t the case before… so the kids in France are going bananas, and are taking to the streets in protest. Good times. We are rolling finally on our way to Carcassonne. Danielle tells me that Toulouse is called “la ville rose.” It is overcast outside, and it very well might rain… I hope it doesn’t.

13:21 Carcassonne. Wonderfully medieval. At l’Ostal, a resto inside the walls. I have ordered a salad with nuts and the cassoulet with duck and sausage. Ranell and I are splitting the 75 cl pichet of vin rouge.

Ugly Kid Joe’s “Everything About You” is playing in the restaurant… hilarious. After that, “Backwater” by the Meat Puppets.

14:00 The cassoulet was incredible, and I’m stuffed. The duck was crispy on the outside, the sauce was a bit spicey due to copious amounts of black pepper, and the pork was excellent, even though I don’t even like pork.

19:30 At the hall. New names and faces, there is no better place.

22:25 The meeting was great, everyone was wonderful, and I wish I could stay longer. At Esther’s place, having a white port to start off with. Romain is a really smart 10 year old. I really like him… will be trying to help him out with his English.

Excerpt from a note added by Danielle

Merci beaucoup à toi d’être mon ami et d’être venu me voir à Toulouse. La fidélité est une très grande qualité. J’espère te visiter bientôt, et que tout se fera bien en Octobre. Tu n’as pas fait cadeau à Misty, ce n’est pas bien!!! Encore un grand merci. Bisous.

Excerpt from a note added by Esther

Mike parle beaucoup avec Jean-Phillippe ou “fifi” et nous, on se “sirote” un apéritif. Je suis très heureuse d’accueillir des “américains” dans ma petite maison, car c’est pas tous les jours qu’on a des “américains” chez soi!! C’est dommage qu’il pleuve mais ma maison est emplie de soleil et de chaleur!! Mike “le souvenir est une fleur qui ne veut pas mourir”. Je suis sure que l’on va bien manger et bien boire et que l’on va passer une super soirée!! Dommage qu’il ne reste que si peu de temps… vive l’amérique et les américains!

Dinner has begun. A whole plate of crevettes and lettuce with lemons, it looks fantastice. There is foie gras, and I am told that we must have a white wine called Sauternes with it. The plate with the crevettes is a salad, it also has shredded carrots, corn, and lemon. Main course is a vegetable/cheese mixture served with veal, and the wine has been changed to a red Bordeaux.

Recipe for the main course follows.

  1. courgettes
  2. aubergines, cury

Fromage de chèvre



Baies roses

Eplucher ou couper les courgettes. Les mettres en rondelle au fond d’un plat. Eplucher les aubergines. Les mettre en rondelle sur les courgettes. Couper en rendelles le fromage de chèvre, les mettre sur les courgettes. Faire en couche de courgettes, une couche d’aubergines, et une couche de fromage de chèvre. Dans une poèlle, faire revenir de l’oignon avec de l’huile d’olive. Y ajouter de la sauce tomate et y mettre 2 morceaux de (?). Y ajouter la canelle, le paprika, le cury et les baies roses. Mettre la sauce tomates sur les légumes et faire chauffer 45/50 min pour thermostat ¾.

Régalez vous!!

01:08 Jeudi Back in the room, and I have to write before I go to bed. Filomène gave us the key to the building, the key to the apartmnt, and the security code to the complex. She knew we’d get back late. I had the hardest time typing the code to get into the complex. I accidentally buzzed one of their neighbors. Thankfully there was no response… I either woke them up and they ignored it, or they didn’t hear it. Upon getting to the top floor of the building, I immediately went to the wrong door… good times. After finally finding the right door, we’re in and ready to get some sleep. Filomène is going to shake us loose at seven, and we’ll have company on the way to the Gare. Danielle is going to go to the Gare as well to see us off.

Too many new names and faces tonight to remember them all, but that is why there are pictures and postcards and email. Françoise is a stunning young lady, at least six fee tall and around 22 or 23 years old, as she said she was 4 years removed from the bac. Randell got a picture with her, and it’s on my camera, but I didn’t take any of her, and I only got to talk to her five minutes. Her friend Odessa was also very pretty and very sweet. No pictures of her, and I didn’t get either address.

Met two people named Laurent, only one of which I have an address for, but both of which I have pictures of. Sat next to Rachel at the meeting, she’s probably 12, and very sweet. Her mom is Géraldine, and she has learned Spanish.

Talked at length with Damaris, who is from Mexcio City, the good old D.F. She married a French man, and, since she also converses very well in English, is trilingual… and they’re the same three languages I speak. I talked to her at length.

It was hard to talk to people, because four or five people were trying to talk to me at once, and I was really trying to accommodate them all. Danielle’s friend Sara is very nice… can’t remember her daughter’s name. One sister talked to me and said her husband loves the United States and would have been thrilled to talk to an American, but he was sick, so he wasn’t there.

The Magnier family was very nice. This was the other Laurent. I forget his wife’s name. Their daughter’s name is Pauline, she is fourteen, and very bright.

All told, about 30 names flew by me tonight, and there was lots of smiling, handshaking, and question answering. It was as if we were interactive zoo exhibits… they very rarely get foreign visitors in Toulouse, and Danielle said that the people in this part of the country normally don’t travel (it’s a culture thing), so many of them may never have talked to an American before. Most everyone tried out their English on us, but they were relieved that we speak French.

Dinner with Jean-Phillippe and Esther after, and I’ve already touched on that. The veggie dish main course really was terriffic, and I had Esther write the recipe for me. I hope I can find the proper spices and make it taste even half as good. J-P drove us home, and we sang songs in the car on the way back… the ones where I knew some of the words in French, I joined in… the ones where I didn’t, I sang with him in English.

Our brothers and sisters here have really gone out of their way to make us feel at home. I really can’t begin to express my appreciation. I don’t have a good enough handle on the French language to properly express it to them. J-P and I talked about this at length tonight… we talked about how nobody else would really understand how we can travel halfway across the world to a place we’ve never been, stay with strangers, and feel completely at home, welcome, safe, and protected. It is based on a shared set of principles, which is something that runs deeper than a system of beliefs… these people are my family, and the ones that I had a chance to actually talk to are now friends for life. They know that if they come to the States, we will treat them the same way because loving each other is the right thing to do.

I wish we could stay here longer. People were disappointed tonight when we told them we were leaving tomorrow. It’s back to Paris, and back to people I’ve known for several years now. These people are my friends, and I’ve just added more.

A busy day, very full. I loved Carcassonne and all the varied cuisine I discovered there and in Toulouse. I am looking forward to really getting to know Romain… he was full of questions about the United States, and about my other travels in France. He’s never been to Paris. The marvelous walls of Carcassonne are only an hour away and he’s never been. (Danielle was obviously very correct about the propensity of people in this region to not travel. She’s from the big city, so it was a bit of a culture shock for her to move here.) He followed me around at times, and would talk to me so fast due to his excitement that I had to keep asking him to slow down and enunciate because French isn’t my first language. He’s very bright, and really wants to learn English. He’ll probably tell all the kids at school tomorrow that he has American friends now, as Randell and I both gave him our contact information.

Above all, it was nice to see Danielle. We’re in our 6th year of friendship, and I really appreciate having gotten to know her. She is selfless and decent and sweet and funny and intelligent and beautiful. It will be hard to say goodbye tomorrow. I hope she makes it to the USA later this year, and am looking forward to introducing her to my friends and to Misty.

End of day. The next four days are completely filled with activity, and there is no way we will finish everything we need to finish. I should have taken more video on this trip.

Jeudi 23 Mars 2006

09:20 Le train vient de partir. Filomène et Danielle nous ont accompagnées à la gare, à la voie, et jusqu’à la voiture. C’étaientt très gentilles. Je suis triste puisqu’il faut que j’aille, mais c’était bon passer de temps avec ma chère amie, et maintenant j’ai des nouveaux amis permanents, les Bossard.

Going to be a very long day today… and I still have to call the Prempains.

11:04 Studied for the meeting Sunday. I want some wine, but it’s not noon yet… maybe I’ll fudge and get some at 11:30… after all, it’s after noon in Warsaw. Listening to the Free All Angels album from Ash… I’ll hit my favorite songs, then pick something else.

11:26 Stopped in Bordeaux. “I have a seven day link / I have to stop and to think”. On to Buckra. “A shot of gin with my similac.”

12:28 Now I have the red wine. “I wish you only knew how good it is to see you…” sing it, Dave. “I cannot be without you / matter of fact / I’m on your back / If you walk out on me I’m walking after you.”

My mp3 player is down to about 1/3 battery power left. I’ll have to plug it in tonight chez Nicolas.

The Dandy Warhols make good train music.

Stuff I forgot to mention earlier. Jean-Luc is working on a project that has something to do with GPS. He explained it to me in detail and at length in the car on the way home from the Gare on Wednesday… and by “it”, I mean complex stuff on exactly how GPS works, when the idea was conceived, and how Europe is working with the USA to use the thing. Jean-Luc is very funny, and it’s a complete riot to watch the interaction between him and his wife.

Jean-Philippe plays guitar and used to be in a band, so our respective loves for music is something we have in common.

We never did meet Danielle’s roomie… all I know is that she’s Indian and even smaller than Danielle. I don’t know the metric stuff as well as I should, but from what I was told, I gather that she is under five fee tall and around ninety pounds.

Speaking of small people, there was a little person at the meeting last night of the Toulouse East Congregation, but I didn’t get the chance to meet him. One older sister stopped trying to talk to me upon learning that I am American, as she told me “je ne comprends pas les américains”… Maybe she thought that we couldn’t speak in French, who knows? I have good reasons to come back to Toulouse someday, and I earnestly hope that I will be able to do so. “You are the last high.”

Switch to Fiona’s Extraordinary Machine album.

Lots of people have been asking why Misty isn’t with me on this trip. That pretty much settles it, I have to bring her next time I come to France.

15:54 In the Métro, on the way to town to get stuff done. There are more manifestations in Paris today, and this is causing bad traffic problems, delays on some of the Métro lines, and has even caused the closing of the Assemblée Nationale station. Maybe we’ll unwittingly get up close and personal with the social unrest. Good times.

17:15 At l’As du Fallafel. One day pass has been bought. We’ll do that tomorrow. Might be able to actually get to bed early tomorrow.

00:15 Vendredi Up late again talking to Nicolas. I really wish we could record these conversations. Up at seven tomorrow and off to Versailles and various museums. The trip is rapidly coming to a close. This isn’t really good, but it’s life. I called Misty today and it was very nice to hear her voice. It will be even nicer to see her on Monday. Randell and I have been trying to convince Nicolas to come visit us in the States. He doesn’t currently have a passport, but I think we have adequately convinced him that we will take care of him when he comes over.

Vendredi 23 Mars 2006

07:19 We’ll be out before eight, and we’ll try to be at Versailles when the castle opens. It’s going to be a very busy day. We’re going to squeeze the history and culture together into today. The skies over Paris are gray again today, but that’s no big deal because it’s still Paris. I charged my mp3 player for three hours last night, so it should be good to go for the rest of our time here. I will probably have to charge the camera battery again tonight. I already miss Danielle, Jean-Luc, and Filomène.

13:13 Morning at Versailles. Then at Musée d’Orsay. Now at Léon for moules frites. Ran into a Russian lady and her teenage daughter… was almost going to talk to them, then decided against it. I’m still quite unimpressed by Impressionism. After lunch we’ll do the Louvre, then maybe the Arc de Triomphe, Musée Rodin, and/or Centre Pompidou… We’ll see. The little newspaper they give you on the Métro talked quite a bit about all the manifestations. Apparently between 220,000 and 450,000 people participated all over France, with violence breaking out in Paris, Rennes, and Marseilles.

It has been rainy on and off today. Basically anytime we have been outside, it has been raining. Naturally now that we are seated on the première étage of a restaurant, the sun is shining.

20:00 Back home. Dead tired. Going to bed early. Nicolas is at the meting… we’re not going, as we attended this meeting Wednesday in Toulouse. It’ll be nice to make an attempt to get some sleep.

Samedi 24 Mars 2006

17:42 Service this morning. Lunch with the Vaquiers… Jean-Loup, Monique, Tiffany. Marianne was there, it was nice to see her again. Lunch consisted of a great salad with red and white beans, cucumber, and some other stuff all with a nice dressing… also a coconut pork dish served with rice… it was incredible… dessert was a chocolate tarte. Afterwards, we went out with Stella and Mylove, and we are now in a café near Odéon. I might not have enough time to get the laundry done, but I’ll try.

00:55 Dimanche On a déjà avancé toutes les montres ici. Tonight was nice. I really enjoyed spending time with Stella and Mylove, even though our walk around the Quartier Africain would have been better if it hadn’t been pouring down rain the entire time. We came home and I made dinner… it is, after all, my go-to recipe in time of need. I had to make it a little differently here… there isn’t any chicken broth anywhere, so I used a bouillon cube instead (put it in right after the vodka reduced), and added two glasses of water. The vodka was a brand I had not seen before, but it was pretty good quality… I know this because I tasted it… Nicolas had it lying around his freezer. I couldn’t find… they don’t seem to have heavy whipping cream here in liquid form, so I had to use two heaping spoonfulls of crème fraîche, which to me, tastes a lot like sour cream. All in all, it turned out ok, if not exactly like how I make it at home. Nicolas wants the recipe, so I will try to figure out how to explain it all in French and write it out.

Stella and Mylove left about 15 minutes ago, and I can hear the wind howling something fierce outside. I hope they are ok, I think I remember them saying that it is a twenty-five minute walk home.

There was much laughter and lots of joking… Stella told one about the Portuguese and E.T. , one that I’ll try to remember. An altogether wonderful evening, and as usual, I wish I could record these events for my pleasure. I have taken my share of video here, but I wish I had taken more in Toulouse. Tomorrow is likely to be a very good day as well… but sadly, it’s our last full day here. I love my friends here and I don’t want to leave them. Sometimes I ask myself if I would feel the same if I saw them all every day instead of once a year… after all, they see the side of me that is always in a good mood, because I’m on vacatoin. They don’t see the nasty side, and they don’t see the part of me that even I can’t stand. I think about my friends back home and wonder if I would appreciate them more only seeing them once a year. With some people, that would be enough. There are people back home that I haven’t seen in a year or longer, some I haven’t seen in several years. Time passes, and bonds don’t stay as strong as they once were.

Stella and Mylove asked me to talk about Misty tonight… they asked for details on how we met and how I came to love her, and stuff like that. Somehow I think our relationship is very complicated… it isn’t as perfect as it could be, but nobody should expect perfection. It is as I told Stella, I know lots of beautiful women, both here and at home, and at this point I prefer Misty. I’ve seen my share of drop-dead gorgeous women on this trip, as France is full of head-turning, traffic-stopping, beauty… and I prefer Misty. Lots of people have asked why she didn’t come along, and in some ways, I wish she had. She doesn’t share the same interests as me, but if I asked her to read something in order to better understand a certain place or monument, she’d probably read it. I am amazed that she continues to put up with me, as she could certainly find someone better, and I’m glad she understands me.

This leads to an exchange Randell and I had while on the way out of Versailles. He asked some question about something, and I said that it was in a book that I read. I also told him that it would be a good idea if he read it… I got a Phil flashback… they’re good friends, but I’m not about to tell them something that they can learn for themselves. I tried to explain to Randell that it’s silly for me to read something then explain it all to him… I’m not paid to be a tour guide. I reasoned that if I could learn something on my own, then he could certainly do the same, above all when I gave him a book to read with the explanation.

In other matters his French has greatly improved just from being here a week. Mine too. Nicolas said that he has noticed that I am understanding and talking better than I did when we arrived. It would be good for Randell to come here by himself sometime. I’ve been here four times alone, and didn’t have anyone to explain a lot of things to me… at least not anyone from my culture. I depended on books and the observation of the natives… and when I had a question, I asked it the best I could in French, and listened as best I could to the response. But we’re different… he’s not as interested in history and culture as I am, but that’s ok. If everyone were the same, it would be a boring world. Sometimes I think it’s better to travel alone, but if my life continues down the path it is headed, I won’t be single the next time I come to France, and that would present a whole different set of stuff to think about.

Saw Joel and Laurence’s baby today. (That wind is absolutely brutal.) She’s very cute… looks like her dad. They’re such a sweet couple.

I miss Misty. I can’t wait to see her when I get home.

Dimanche 26 Mars 2006

13:20 On est arrivé à la fête.

18:30 Taking a short break before going back to the party… changing clothes and all. It’s very much like a wedding, with professional entertainment (Laurence played violin, and a couple of young guys played bassoon and piano), a Bréton dance, singing, and general good times. Angelo has taken a liking to me, mostly because I’m tall and play basketball. I met a lady named Maria, she is from Spain, so we talked in Spanish. I met Tabitha, who in addition to being very beautiful, speaks most excellent English. The Ranvier kids are growing up fast and turning into little adults.

00:05 Lundi And just like that, it’s all over. Tomorrow (or later today) we will say good bye to Nicolas, who was so good to us, then we will pack our bags, lock the outside gate behind us, put the key in the mailbox, and begin to leave Paris. I hate leaving because I really love these people… but I am looking forward to hugging Misty as soon as I get off the plane. Found out today that Nico is seeing Florence, a beautiful young lady who I met back in 2000, so that’s a good thing. I hope it works out. I really wish I could stay longer, but I can’t, life must go on. And if you’re going to end your trip, it might as well end with the fantastic party that we went to tonight… good food and drink, sketch comedy, a professional musician and a tap-dance, lots of smiles, lots of laughs, and a few new friends. I met a young Korean girl named Chae-Yeon, whos name I never did say right, but she is too sweet to get angry. She’s probably twelve or thirteen, but already is fluent in French and Korean, conversant in English, and is learning Spanish. Met Fred’s kids, and they take after him. It was good to see Thierry again. Really, it was good to see everyone again… so many names, but some of them are Antoine, Isabelle, L’andry, Isaac, Sophia, Jean and Hélène, Aurélie, Alain and Monique, Michel, Marianne, Origine, and Louis. I keep telling myself I will return. I also learned tonight that my French parents are going to the south of France where it is warm to spend the rest of their retirement years. They will leave in June or July 2007.

So to bed… and to the sad dreams of leaving a place I love… but at least there is someone waiting for me.

Lundi 27 Mars 2006

12:16 but 05:16 back home…

Very early, as boarding starts at 13:40. At a café by the gate with a sandwich and 50 cl of Affligem. Stella showed up this morning with goodbye cards for us from Mylove. That was very sweet. She also accompanied us on the long walk to the taxi stand by the Métro station, which was also very sweet. Like everyone else here, I will miss her. Somebody made a dish with goat last night at the party. It was pretty awesome. One of the Koreans there brought an Asian noodle salad, and that was good as well. Learned a couple of little line dances that they do here that resemble the elctric slide. Last night I talked to people from Africa, the Antilles, Korea, Sri Lanka, Spain, Ukraine, and Portugal, all in French… of course, I spoke Spanish with the Spaniard.

Created by donetrawk
Last modified 2006-04-06 04:52 PM
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