30 October 2011

Quarante à Paris - Part Deux

Paris for my birthday weekend, thanks to a lovely husband who excels at 'The Grand Romantic Gesture.'

Aren't they both terribly handsome? 

What I like about Paris is, you can be walking around and think to yourself, "I know I've been in Notre Dame before, but I really can't remember what it looks like."

And then you can just pop in for like five minutes, remind yourself of its Gothic glory, take a few artsy shots...

...and then manipulate those shots on your iPhone while sitting in dappled sunlight at a nearby cafe drinking a lovely coffee.  And when the waiter asks a question in French and the only words you catch are "password" and "WEEFEE" - say yes. Better yet, say oui.  Because in Paris, Wi-Fi is pronounced WEEFEE.  Which is another reason I love Paris.  WEEFEE is much more fun to say than Wi-Fi.  Right?  Say if with me a few times ... WEEFEE ... WEEFEE ...WEEFEE!!

So you sip and manipulate and WEEFEE while also watching Parisian life stroll by in this little square.  And these guys are sitting in front of you in their slim suits, smoking endless cigarettes and knocking back espressos, speaking rapid and unintelligible French, just looking and sounding incredibly GALLIC which charms you to no end because you are a bit of a Francophile.  They couldn't be more French if they were wearing berets, eating garlicky snails and marching around with baguettes under their arms.  There is nothing extraordinary about them, but they are woven into the fabric of this tableau that you are enjoying with your cafe au lait, and you love them for that.

And you know the Seine is just a few blocks away, spanned by an amazing array of bridges, one of which you recently crossed because you were wandering inside Notre Dame a short while ago.  Bridges running the gamut from gilded over-the-top grandeur to simply functional, and each one captures your imagination for a different reason.  As does almost everything else in Paris. Don't you just love a river running through the middle of a city?

And Paris excels at making the Seine personable and approachable - which is another thing to love about her.

But I guess you get the point.  I love Paris and will never stop finding reasons to do so, nor do I want to.  Maybe I should tell you a little bit more about our trip?

Let's start with our bff's for the weekend, Matt & Elodie.  Maybe you remember them from Bangladesh? Anyway, they drove up from Lyons to help us celebrate.  Wasn't that sweet?  And aren't they adorable?

Chris and I tried to match their adorableness - but I'm not sure we made it.  They set the bar pretty high, these kids.  We started at Le Fumoir, a restaurant near the Louvre, for drinks and nibbles.

We met friends, we strolled, we saw cool doors.

We enjoyed the Paris vibe in Passage Molière, a charming, quiet little alley somewhere between the 1st and 3rd arrondissements.  Home to The House of Poetry, a few shops and a marvelous place to sit, 

enjoy wine, 

take more artsy photos, 

enjoy more wine, 

gorge nibble on meats and stinky cheeses 

and make fun of Matt's choice of footwear. 

There was also dancing at a West African bar, an Irish pub, some metro rides, a torturous late night taxi search as well as a fruitless quest for still more food. But to be honest both the photos and my memories get a little blurry after the footwear so that's the image I'll leave you with. A long day, a late night, new friends, a lot of fun and we still have two more full days to enjoy in Paris. So stay tuned, we still have dead rock stars to meet.


23 October 2011

Quarante à Paris

Who's got the best husband in the world?  Moi!  That's who.

My husband Christian, a man of many fine qualities, has never been known as a good keeper of surprises.  For example, at 11am on December 13th, 1994, he purchased a ring with the intention of proposing to me twelve days later, on Christmas morning.  By 9pm on the night of December 13th we were engaged.  Come to think of it, in twenty years, we have not once woken up on Christmas morning to an unwrapped present under the tree.

Once we made it to December 24th, but that was a fluke.

So the man gets big props for planning and executing a birthday trip that remained a surprise until the moment of departure, when the lady at the airport check-in desk asked "What's your destination today?" and he answered "Paris."  At which point there was much jumping up and down and joyful squealing on my part.

For weeks he's been leaving fake leads and false clues.  Notes saying "cancel donkey ride" and "book balloon trip" casually left on the table.  Learn to Speak Spanish books lying around.  Computer screens have been left open to "Grand Canyon Tour"  and "Bahamian Cruise Line" pages.  Each day he asked me if the Nevada tourism board had returned his call or if we'd gotten anything from Costa Rican Jungle Tours in the mail.

He nearly broke one Saturday afternoon over Mexican food and margaritas, "Tell me now if you know because I am dying to talk about it."  But keep the secret he did and I have to say I enjoyed the buildup almost as much as the surprise itself.  And his patience paid off - I had no time to fret about travel plans and was walking on cloud nine the whole weekend.  We're still operating under the "he can do no wrong" policy.

But enough about him...let's talk about Paris!!

Chris and I usually travel as cheaply as possible, which includes staying at hostels.  But when you turn 40 you deserve a little something special.

Which meant this charming boutique hotel.  The tony Hôtel L'Addresse.  Ooh la la!  Our room was a chocolaty little gem on the top floor, known as the Chocolate Satin Room.  Sigh.

Small by some standards, spacious by Paris's.  And look!  Luxe bathrobes on the bed! And a window we could fling open wide to look out over rooftops!  And what else could we see out that window?

The Eiffel Tower!  Sure, just the tip, but with something so beautiful, the tip is enough.

Especially when you could see the tip all lit up and sparkling every hour.  Hôtel L'Addresse is in Paris's swanky 17th arrondissement (or district) just down the street from....

The Arc de Triomphe!  BAM!  Just like that, within minutes of arriving at our home for the weekend, we've seen and mentally hugged two of Paris's icons.  Let's get moving!

The 17th (and neighboring 8th with its Champs Elysee) arrondissements are lovely, genteel neighborhoods for strolling.

And even nicer, there was a Metro stop just around the corner, on a main line, for easy access to the rest of the city.  Much like New York, Paris is a city that never runs out of faces and personalities to show you. So stay tuned for Quarante a Paris - Part Deux in which our heroine meets an international man of mystery, a smart French woman with a big heart, three tipsy Musketeers and a dead rock star.


09 October 2011

Vienna and Zurich

One bad thing about living in Houston (as opposed to New York) is that I can't fly direct to Vienna....boooooo connecting flights!

Looking down at Austria....Hallo Osterreich!

To start the trip, I flew from Houston to Amsterdam...then from Amsterdam to Vienna....ahhhhh home!

I didn't waste anytime getting back into the groove either. Richi picked me up at the airport, we hung out at his house (my home away from home in Vienna), then we went out to Schloss Neugabaude.

Schloss Neugabaude is a mid-16th century imperial hunting lodge/castle within walking distance to Richi and Anita's house. Kelly and I have been there many times with R and A....there is a great beer garden and good food!

Richi and I had some chicken, potato salad, cabbage and beer....we caught up and discussed our plans for the weekend. A great first night in Vienna.

...did I mention September is also the Sturm season? Oh yes....young wine, rapidly fermenting giving it a slight carbonation.......yummy. Nothing goes better with hearty, rich or savory food like a cool mug of Sturm!

Over the weekend, I had National Team camp, got to see a lot of old friends and, as expected, I spent a good bit of time at the pub of friends Gary and Inge.

On Sunday night, I hopped the overnight train for stop #2.... Zurich!

Its been a year or more since I have visited cousin Michael, Gabi and the kids, so I was looking forward to this leg of my trip.

As everyone knows, they are no fun and very, very boring.

I spent 3 days with the Swiss Haltigans enjoying every minute of their company. I always enjoy sitting and chatting with Michael and Gabi....and eating all the good things coming out of their kitchen.

...and of course, playing with the kids...holy cuteness with their little swiss accents.

Michael and I got to spend a lot of time together which was nice.

Goodbye Zurich and Swiss Haltigans...hope to see you soon!

Next up were two countries I had never been to! Stay tuned.