For those of you who have been on pins and needles over the past two weeks, wondering how my Jacksonville show went, it was terrific. My best show so far! I wanted to post about it right after it happened, but I had a cartoon to make followed by a week in Paris, and I didn't have time to add blogging into the mix. But it will happen after this Paris series is over.
So! Paris! How about that?
Jeff and I (mostly Jeff) planned this trip for almost a year. He used his internet-fu to find a modern, inexpensive apartment and credit card frequent flyer mileage-fu to ensure that our flights were free. A former project manager, Jeff figured out a daily plan of action designed to pair places we wanted to visit with nearby, incredible food. I was happy to let him take over because (a) he does it so well, and (b) preparing for two one-person shows in nine months was kind of overwhelming for me. Jeff has helpful travel advice that he will either dispense throughout my posts or write as a stand-alone guest blog. He was sick during the last third of our trip, and he still is, and right now he wants to curl up on the couch and watch Lonesome Dove, and who can blame him?
Both of us had visited Paris before with other people. Jeff was in the process of breaking up with his person, and I had broken up with my person many months before the trip, but tickets had already been purchased, and how often does one get the opportunity to see Paris, anyway? Jeff spent a cold, drizzly week in November walking around by himself during a Metro strike, and I endured blasts of record June heat sandwiched between dutiful visits to every art museum in the city, plus the most important churches and a side-trip to Chartres. All that slogging around meant nonstop McDonald's haute cuisine eaten on the run for me, so I left with no real idea of what French food could truly be, and Jeff's person...let's just say she was a lot more disciplined than some bloggers you might know.
This time Jeff and I employed a two-pronged plan of attack for Paris. Prong one: romance. Prong two: pleasure. Notice how neither prong involves crying, sweating, angst, boredom, fast food, forced marches, shivering, ennui, disgust, or resentment--I'm telling you, it's hard to have a good vacation with any of those in the mix.
So this time if it was mind-crushingly educational and we had already seen it, we usually skipped it. If someplace fun was a drag years ago, we aimed to right that wrong. Our rose-colored glasses were still firmly on, thank you very much, and we were set to have some damned fun in Paris for a change.
My parents, Melissa, and Jeff's folks kindly offered to watch Bun, Pache, and Q while we were away. Mom and Dad did most of the heavy lifting in that regard as they fed, watered, and medicated the cats for five days. I'm so thankful for everyone's help--I don't think I could have boarded Bun at the vet's with a clear conscience. The cats were happy to see us when we returned home last night, and as I type this, Bun is sleeping at my side. We missed them every day we were gone.
Here we are, all smiles and energy at the very beginning of our trip. We flew out of the Champaign airport to O'Hare at around noon last Friday, and from there we traveled to Paris, arriving on Saturday morning.
We packed lightly: Jeff had a backpack and I had a smallish wheeled carry-on and a medium-ish purse. In fact, we packed so lightly that airport officials gave us looks of disbelief on two separate occasions. A Frenchman called us James Bond and Mata Hari--that's right, we pack like spies. I managed to cram four black dresses, extra shoes, and a second coat in my carry on, and I pruned my toiletries down to the bare essentials (tampons had to be included because of course they did).
The eight-hour flight to Paris was tough for me. Jeff fell asleep almost immediately after our kinda-supper. He chose the chicken, and I chose the pasta, but I should have chosen the chicken. A couple of hours later I started to get some low-level "what if it's food poisoning?" feelings. You know the ones. They're sweaty and you feel trapped in your window seat because your darling husband is sound asleep beside you and you can't concentrate on your book and your Kindle's little video game (Bubble Buster, five stars) is making you seasick and you start to think about the best way to throw up in an airplane bathroom and how horrifying that would be and the plane is dark now except for the movie and ugh if it's food poisoning that means you'll be violently ill four or five times before it's all over...what's your only option?
Mind control. Meditation. Go to your happy place and breathe and count. Failing that, watch what's playing on the entertainment screen way over there to your left and try to understand the plot without the aid of your headphones. The movie is a Pixar-wannabe animated feature called Rio and it seems to be about a blue parrot, and there's all kinds of rapid-cut flying sequences involving thousands of birds spiraling down into jungle vortexes and singing a lot...
...and best not to watch that anymore so let's meditate. Or maybe watch the moon move across the sky. Spend a couple of hours doing that before you feel like maybe you are out of the food poisoning woods.
We arrived without incident in Paris not too long after sunrise. Charles de Gaulle Airport was alive with a writhing mass of people hell-bent on spending Easter somewhere other than Paris. The intimidatingly long lines gave us no hope for an easy departure a week later, and is it just me or has CDG changed from the futuristic, roomy playground made famous by U2's Beautiful Day video (total dick move at 1:14)...
...to a baggage-ridden, concrete hellscape from which there is no escape?
Luckily, we found the right train that would speed us toward our apartment in the 5th arrondissement, a.k.a. the Latin Quarter. I was wearing the coat I wore in Spain--based on weather forecasts (highs in the 50s, lows in the 40s), light wool seemed like my best bet. Except it was red, and every "what to wear in Paris" website suggested that dark neutrals were the way to go. A couple seemed to think that red was borderline acceptable, but one should be prepared to stand out (indeed, this was the case). A few days before we left, I floated the idea of going rogue/rouge on Facebook and received 48 "likes," but by then my mind was already made up. I was wearing red.
Exact shade: effyou red.
We emerged from the appropriate Metro station and boom, we were in Paris, Luxembourg Gardens area. We grabbed an Eric Kayser baguette, rolled our spy luggage down long streets and through a medium-sized open market where some Italian guys applauded my coat, going, "Bella, red!" Ahh, affirmation.
Our apartment was at the top of a building that housed a library on its ground floor. After huffing and puffing our way up 100 spiral steps--Jeff counted--we arrived on time to meet Isabelle, our landlady. Hip, friendly, and speaking impeccable English, she showed us around the tiny but modern and cleverly designed studio apartment (approximately 16 square meters). It included a living area with a pull-out bed, a wee kitchenette, and a bathroom. New appliances. The apartment was spotless and just what we were looking for. A link to it is here. If any of you are interested in renting this space, let me know, and I will pass your info on to Isabelle. You can rent it directly from her if you like.
Everything had a function, and there was no wasted space. Free wi-fi! The ceiling slanted sharply down near the windows, which were flung open to reveal this view to the left...
...and this view to the right.
We were happy, exhausted, and ready to explore Paris.
To be continued!