Please also visit my Miami blog, ¿Qué Pasa, Miami?. Gracias.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Confessions of a Europhile in Thirteen Volumes: VOLUME III

A French Noël

My North American friends headed home for the holidays as I made my way to the countryside for a traditional French Christmas dinner with Elodie and her family, who were incredibly hospitable throughout my séjour.

Guests included Elodie’s sister, three married couples, seven children, and an American girl wearing impossibly high heals. (C’est moi!) As soon as the loud, obnoxious cousin entered the door – and we know it’s not a family affair without a loud, obnoxious cousin – he announced grandiosely that smoking indoors mustn’t be prohibited on this holy of days, which got me thinking ... What would Jesus do?

Theological ponderings aside, I spent the evening eating turkey, wondering how many years the cloud of toxic smoke would shave off my life, and trying not to be disturbed by the three-year-old son of the loud, obnoxious cousin expertly holding a (thankfully unlit) cigarette between his index and middle finger and pretending to inhale and exhale.

I also played with the children (read: allowed a ten-year-old artiste to use my face as her personal canvas).

After the kids had opened their gifts at midnight and we had finished our feasting, I was off to bed. On Christmas morning, Elodie swore to never invite the loud, obnoxious cousin over for Christmas again. We cleaned up, ate leftovers, and watched two films: one, a hilarious French Christmas flick form the 1970s; the other, an incredibly depressing Italian movie about a castrated operatic singer. (Fun!) Christmas cheer was restored when my cousin called from her house in Miami to announce she was having a baby! She won’t be letting the little one play with any cigarettes.

I spent another night at Elodie’s before heading back to Angers to pack up for my next world-travel adventure. Details to come in Confessions of a Europhile in Thirteen Volumes: VOLUME IV.

Monday, March 8, 2010

OCD Attack

Do you experience most of your light bulb moments while taking a shower? I do. Well, as I allowed the steaming water to awaken my brain yesterday, I came upon a shocking realization regarding my blog profile. In it, I explain why I suffer from Incessant Travel Disorder. Apparently, I also suffer from Illogical Acronym Letters Disorder. While writing my profile, my thought process must have gone something like this:

I should say that traveling is a compulsive thing for me, almost like a disorder. I could even give it, like, an "official" name. Incessant Travel Disorder! Ooo, that totally sounds like a real medical thing. I'll give it an acronym to make it extra "medicalish": Incessant Travel Disorder (INS).

Quoi? Upon recognizing my mistake, I almost collapsed in the shower. My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder freaked out about my Incessant Travel Disorder being incorrectly acronymed. (Is that a verb?)

I would give myself a pass if I had absentmindedly used the first three letters of the first word, but that would make the acronym INC, not INS. Where did the "S" come from? Was it "S" for syndrome? "S" for symptom? "S" for stupid? Well, in any case, I have now corrected the gross error. I suffer from ITD. ITD!

"Confessions of a Europhile in Thirteen Volumes: Volume III" coming soon.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Confessions of a Europhile in Thirteen Volumes: VOLUME II

Miami Girl Freezes, Then Thaws Out

The rest of November is now a haze of teaching French teenagers about the American Civil Rights Movement, strolling about Angers, visiting Becca in Nantes, and eating at crêperies. Come December, the Christmas spirit was in the air. Early in the month, I took a quick trip to Madrid for the weekend to visit my dad, who hops across the pond every so often. Little did I know that France was preparing a winter smackdown for me.

In truth, only about one week felt unbearable; coincidentally, it was the same week that Moira, my friend and “compinche,” came to visit. We spent our days either braving the cold – it would not keeps us from our crêpes, damn it – or caving in – cheese, bread, wine, and dubbed episodes of The Nanny would do.

Then on Saturday – hyperbole alert – a miraculous thing happened! The weather warmed just as we headed to Paris, where we visited my favorite crêpe stand, the Rodin Museum, the Louvre bookstore, Galeries Lafayette, a fondue restaurant, and the Champs Elysées. The Louvre and the Champs Elysées are of course must-sees for anyone traveling to Paris for the first (or second, or third) time; I could blog endlessly about them. Instead, I'd like to focus on the lesser celebrated sites Moira and I visited that day: the Rodin Museum and Galeries Lafayette.

What is now the Musée Rodin is an early eighteenth-century mansion that was once a hotel. Artists like Auguste Rodin and Henri Matisse rented rooms there, which they used as art storage or studio spaces. Rodin saved the building from demolition by offering his art to the state under the condition that the mansion would become a museum. And so it did. I love visiting the building and its accompanying gardens, and I never tire of photographing Rodin's sculptures, which are some of my favorites anywhere.

From the sublime to the commercial. Galeries Lafayette's ten stories of fashionable clothes, accessories, perfumes, and furnishings can keep a girl occupied for HOURS. Shopping is not what draws me to the Galeries, though. The department store is a gorgeous building featuring a glass and steel dome and Art Nouveau staircases, and the giant Christmas tree it shows off every December renders it that much more magnifique.

Paris is the kind of big city you want to be in at Christmastime; it’s the European New York of Christmas, I always say. (Huh?) To make up for this lack of eloquence, I give you two Parisian icons:

As you can see, Moira and I made the best of our one day in Paris. We said farewell the next morning, at which time I had to settle for watching dubbed episodes of The Nanny on my own.