31 August 2007

Another Good Day

Still no new socks, but the day was good anyway. I don't think I'll ever be able to wear red socks again.
Today I had four things on my list (I write a list of places to go with directions to get there so that I don't have to carry around a guide book and look like a tourist), and I saw three of them.
First I went to la Maison Victor Hugo (Victor Hugo's House), which was really neat. I like some of Hugo's poetry, but most of what he wrote is much too long for me to have the perseverance to read yet. Although, seeing the first editions of some of his books, I think we get off easy now. The first edition of Les Misérables was in three volumes, each the size of a very large hardcover dictionary. Before going, I knew very little about the place except that it was free and that you could see Hugo's desk where he wrote standing up, and the museum did live up to that description. It wasn't fascinating, but it was an interesting way to spend 20 minutes (small museum). I was struck by a few things though.
- Based on the portraits hung all over the place, Hugo's rather unusually shaped nose ran in the family on his father's side.
- He wasn't a bad artist: there were several of his sketches displayed.
- He wrote the libretto of an opera (my opinion of the great author rose when I discovered this connection to music).
- I like his taste in furniture.
- And, like in lots of castles, there is no way to get to most of the rooms except by going through other rooms. I don't really understand this design, since it would be quite awkward to have to walk through someone's bedroom to get to your own, but I've seen it all over the place. Hugo's apartment was virtually L-shaped, so there is only one room you can get to from the entrance, the rest are all lined up so you have to go through to get beyond. You have to walk through every single room in the place to get to the office.
- I didn't notice a bathroom anywhere. I wonder if you get to pass it if everyone is evacuated via one of the emergency exits, those are the only closed doors.
Here are two pictures, one of the exterior of the house, and one of his office/bedroom with the crazy standing desk.

There was a whole room of pictures of Hugo's funeral, which was absolutely ridiculous. More than the population of Paris showed up, there was a gigantic long parade to the Panthéon where he was put to rest, and the media wrote about nothing but Hugo and the funeral for weeks surrounding his death. One thing that struck me was a poster displayed in the funeral room, which advertises the sale of "tickets" to the funeral, specifically, the rental of 60 places on the Boulevard St-Germain, on the second floor (In European language, the first, i.e. the floor above the ground floor). Pretty interesting.

After that museum, I went to the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal on Rue du Bac. It's a chapel dedicated to St. Catherine Labouré, who had several visions of the Virgin Mary. A lot of miracles have been associated with the medal. Fifty years or so after her death, her body was being relocated when it was discovered to be incorrupt: it hadn't decayed at all, she looked as if she was just sleeping. Scientists don't bother trying to explain incorrupt bodies. That was about seventy years ago, and now her body is kept in a glass case in the chapel for visitors to see and pray by. No preservatives, no special tricks.
I found the chapel around 12:50 (to my surprise, since I didn't have directions), but there was a Mass going on and the entire place closes at 1:00. I stayed for only a few minutes, but I expect that I will go back in December with my parents when they come to visit.

My third excursion of the day was to the Parc Monceau, which I chose because it's free and has Roman ruins. There are single columns all over the park, and one corner has the remains of what I think was a temple. I wish they would put up signs explaining what things were! Here is a picture of the possible temple ruins:

Other highlights were some old stone stairs surrounded by trees and flowers, a huge tree with a knobbly trunk and interesting leaves, and some tall, thin pyramids. I wish I knew what they were for, and where they came from!
Here are the pictures:

There's also a café in the park that has fairly reasonably priced food, including the best crêpes I've found so far! I can't see a Nutella and bananas crêpe being lunch, so I usually go for ham and cheese, even though I'm not a huge ham fan and don't like a huge amount of cheese. This place, however, had a bunch of kinds I hadn't seen, including my choice, chèvre (goat cheese) and tomatoes. I got the fixed price menu, which included a drink (Orangina) and dessert (flan). It was delicious, and eating a wonderful lunch in a beautiful park on a gorgeous day is about the most peaceful thing you can do.

On my way back to the apartment, I stopped to buy nail polish remover (guess where I packed mine?). The pharmacy guy was very helpful, and actually funny too. When he showed me where it was, he asked if I had a prescription. After I paid he advised me not to drink it all at once. I suspect his job gets rather lonely and boring. It was a fun French conversation though!

After lunch in a park, the next most peaceful thing is a nap when you're totally exhausted, which is what I did after going to the park. It was the kind of nap that feels like a full night's sleep squished into one hour, which I think proves I'm not totally adjusted to the time zone yet. I was tired enough that I managed to convince myself it was Thursday, so I came pretty close to missing the concert I'd decided to go to. Here's a translation of the description in the Pariscope:
"Hildegarde de Bingen, or the Divine feminine: With Catherine Bravislavsky, voice and dulcimer and Joseph Rowe, lute and percussion. This series of concerts is the beautiful presentation of classical chants and texts of the famous Benedictine abbess of the 12th century, known for her gifts as a composer, visionary, doctor and philosopher."
It was in a tiny little theatre, which probably could seat forty. There were fifteen people in the audience, so it was a very intimate concert.
The music was really neat. Lots of "extinct" instruments, as I like to call them, and some really interesting chants. De Bingen used a lot of trills and malismas (trills are little quick vocal twirls, and malismas are long stretches of melody all on one syllable-- imagine it taking 30 seconds to sing the word Amen. Things like that). In between the songs they read or recited texts written by or about de Bingen. She was a prophetess, and a lot of her writings were particularly powerful because they were dictated to her in Latin, which she had never studied. I was interested to hear that she used the informal version of "you" when writing to the king and the Pope, since I'm currently reading a French translation of Pride and Prejudice, where everybody uses the formal "you" with everyone else. It seems logical that language has become less formal over the years, but perhaps French has done the opposite.
After the concert, the performers came out to chat (I just said that the concert was fascinating and thanked them) and something rather adorable happened. A middle-aged couple was there, and they explained that they had met at the percussionist's concert three years ago in Spain! So they were excited to come to this concert. I think that's sweet.

Tomorrow's plans include (as always) calling the airport again and asking for my bag back, and then a museum, a big store (recommended by my guide book), perhaps a movie, and another concert. I really should go to sleep now, but it's the middle of the afternoon in the States and therefore I'm wide awake.

30 August 2007

Historical Paris

Today I went to two places that had been on my list. First was Notre Dame (which means "Our Lady"), the giant cathedral that took two centuries to build and a couple centuries to rebuild as well, since at the time Victor Hugo wrote his book about the place, it was in horrible disrepair and needed everything from new windows to a good scrubbing to heads for the statues. It's an imposing structure:

Part of its imposingness is the fact that there are always huge crowds of tourists around, so I have to give up on any hope of passing for a French person, or at least a Canadian.

Here is a picture of the archway over the center doors, which is covered in relief statues.

I didn't spend a long time inside, but I did pay a couple Euros to visit the treasury, which was quite interesting. It houses a lot of Church artifacts (medals, chalices, paintings, vestments, and so on) that the Cathedral has acquired over the years. However, it's surprising that in a church that has been around for about 800 years, the majority of the items in the treasury are from the 1800s or later, with just a handful from the 17th and 18th centuries. I overheard a man explaining to his kids that, during the revolution, the people didn't only revolt against the government. They revolted against all sources of power, including the Church, and they destroyed most of its property, though it had historic value. I had known about the Church's losses during the Revolution (most of the statues on the outside of Notre Dame, old Testament figures in the "Gallery of Kings," were beheaded during the Revolution, assumed to be French kings. The statues have since been restored, and their heads are in the Museum of the Middle Ages) but I hadn't realized how complete the losses had been.

I decided that, since the weather was beautiful and I had a good book to read, I wouldn't mind standing in line for an hour in order to climb 400 stairs to the towers. There's a great view, it feels like a great accomplishment because you get so winded, you can see all of Paris, and there are GARGOYLES! They make it worth it: there are plenty of other places with a great view and a long climb, like the Panthéon, which is free this Sunday. But Notre Dame is where the gargoyles are, so Notre Dame is where I went! Here are some pictures of Paris viewed from above. A general view, one that shows the Eiffel Tower pretty well (I have no idea what the gold dome is on top of), one that shows Sacré Coeur, the white church on a hill, a picture I took of myself, and some of the amazing gargoyles.

After Notre Dame, I got a crêpe and walked. In Paris, you can pick a direction, walk for half a mile or less, and you'll reach a metro stop. Much to my own astonishment, I got to the metro and through some winding streets to the Musée Carnavalet with no mishaps! I didn't even have to turn around once, which is a record, I think. I decided to go to this museum partially because it has a lot of stuff relating to the history of Paris, but mostly because it's free :) Some parts were not so interesting, but some were very cool. I particularly liked a room that was full of signs from old businesses. In the 1600s and 1700s, enough of the population was illiterate that signs were intricate sculptures, carved signs, or metal shapes to indicate the service or the name of the place. For example, Aux Tours Argents was a silver-tone metal tower, A Tête Noire was a painted sculpture of a black man's head, and so on. A pair of giant scissors were the sign for a barber shop. Here is a picture of some of the signs:

One thing that sparked my curiosity, however, was that all of the names of the restaurants and shops started with à, au, or aux, the forms of the preposition "to/at." So instead of a restaurant being called "The Castle" it would be called "At the Castle." If anyone reading this knows why that would be, I'd appreciate an explanation. It's certainly a linguistic feature of French that has died, since I haven't seen modern restaurants named in that way.

That room also had pieces of old stained glass windows, set into white glass windows. Some of the fragments were very small, like a single sheep, and some were portrait-sized. Here are some of my favorites. The detail is amazing.

Most of the rest of the museum consists of recreated rooms from various castles under various rulers, with original furnishings and lots of portraits. Interesting, but only to look at in a cursory way. I did like the hallways with paintings of Paris over the years, where you can see exactly how the city has grown. In an out of the way corner, though, I found a display case that had... Marie Antoinette's shoes. She's not one of my favorite historical figures or anything, but it was interesting to see her shoes. I'd estimate them to be about size 4, and they look dreadfully uncomfortable.

One thing I love about Paris is that you stumble upon wonderful places with very little effort. At the end of the street the museum is on I found St. Paul's Cathedral, which was interesting. It was nicer than Notre Dame in one particular way: there were more people praying inside than snapping photos. I did both. It feels more like a church than a museum, unlike Notre Dame.
Here is a picture of the exterior.

On my way up the street towards a metro station, I passed a fruit stand with some nice looking figs. I bought five, and figs reminded me of prosciutto, which reminded me of cheese, which reminded me of milk, which reminded me of bananas, which reminded me (for reasons unknown) of ramen. That became my shopping list, and from that I'll compose my dinner. I feel perfectly peaceful, and today was a great day.
La vie est belle.

29 August 2007

A day of much frustration

I'm not over jetlag, so in order to get up at 8:00 this morning, I set an alarm clock on my computer. See, I have this nice beeping alarm clock that doesn't depend on my computer being in a good mood, but it's packed in the delayed (I won't call it lost) suitcase.

So I woke up at 10:30. I had some orange juice for breakfast and got out the door by 11:15, heading to the airport.

[Background: See, yesterday evening had some adventures. I went to a phone and internet place to call the number the airport gave me, since according to the internet they have my bag but are waiting for me to contact them to arrange delivery. The number didn't work, and the guy who was helping me try to get it to work suggested that I just go to the airport. I came back to the apartment, e-mailed my parents, and then we embarked on the adventure that was talking to a North American toll-free number from France over Skype, through my dad. They were able to give me a different number, so I went back to the phone and internet place to try it. No one answered. I knew that getting to the airport and finding the baggage services place would take longer than I had before the thing closed, so I gave up and watched a movie.]

Now picture the airport. There are three terminals. For some reason, Terminal 3 is in between Terminal 2. The three terminals are quite far apart, so you have to take a tram thingie to get to another one. Terminal 2 is divided into six "halls," 2A-2F, each one the size of what a sensible airport calls a terminal. For some reason, the halls aren't in alphabetical order. The train arrives in the middle of Terminal 2. Got your bearings? Good, because I didn't.

I picked a direction and walked until I found an information booth, where a helpful man told me that Air Canada was all the way on the other side of T2, in 2A. He pointed out how I should get there. Even with the escalators and moving walkways to speed up the journey, it was a 15 minute walk.
At another information booth, I learned that I would have to get a special ticket thingie from the Air Canada ticket selling people (aren't I eloquent?) in order to go backwards through customs to the arrivals area. That was easy enough, and the customs guy was sympathetic.

So, without a huge amount of difficulty and only a moderate amount of frustration, I arrived at the familiar lost baggage counter of Air Canada. The lady looked my bag up and confirmed that it had been found. She called the Land of Lost Luggage (my liberal translation) and described my bag. The guy down there couldn't find it, so once she had studied the photo in my camera, she went and looked herself. No luck. However, she did know some information that I didn't: it was United that had started the problem, by not putting the bag on my first flight. Therefore it came into Paris on a United flight. And it therefore should be with the United lost luggage, since obviously they hadn't forwarded it on to Air Canada yet. I could either wait for tomorrow and call, or, if I had free time, I could go to T1 and talk with United. I had time.

Another 15 minutes and a few questions to the wonderful information people, and I had found the shuttle/tram to the other terminals. It's an eight minute ride, and luckily at T1 there are more information booths, so it didn't take too long for me to find the United ticket counter. That woman directed me upstairs, but they said that I needed a little ticket like I had gotten from Air Canada. So I went back, and she decided to call and tell them to shove it (actually, she just said that that was a silly rule, and she would tell them to let me in; however, the sentiment was about the same). The man on the other end talked to me (in an interesting mixture of French and English) and told me that just that morning the bag had started its journey over to Air Canada. However, since the terminals were so far apart and since the journey was so indirect, the average bag making that trip did it in 3-6 hours, if all went fast and smoothly. He had my file reference number and everything, and said that he himself had seen the bag go, so I trust him. So I went back to Air Canada at T2.

On the way to the ticket selling people, I stopped and ate lunch at McDonald's, and took advantage of the full magical emotional healing powers of ketchup. This time, I asked the ticket selling lady to call the baggage service and tell them that United had sent the bag, and ask if it had by chance arrived. If not, I would be willing to hang around in a café and read until it did. However, the bag hadn't arrived, and for the rest of the day they only had one person on staff, so there was no one to venture into the luggage no-man's land to look for the bag. She said that my best bet would be to call back tomorrow in the middle of the morning (Oh no, without an alarm clock?? I thought) and they should, by then, have the bag and be able to arrange delivery.

Another walk across T2, another $10 train ticket (I plan to write an angry letter to United telling them how horrible their system is and demanding at the very least, reimbursement for the hassles I've endured and the discomfort of not having any more socks, or better, enough frequent flyer miles to come back to Paris and regain the two days I've spent (so far) dealing with their inefficient system), and I set off back to Paris.

My other errand for the day was to go buy a train ticket to Angers, where I'll be studying. My landlord there said that she could pick me up if I arrive in the morning, so I got (with very very little frustration) a ticket for 10am Monday, which means that I'll want to leave my Paris apartment around 8:30. I can't believe I only have about 4 days left, less if I consider that tomorrow morning and possibly part of the afternoon will be spent attempting to get my socks (and the rest of my clothes, but honestly they're not as highly desired) delivered.

After I got my ticket, I decided to go see a movie, and saw Les Simpson: le film (original title, according to the Pariscope where I got the schedule: "The Simpsons: the movies"). It was interesting to notice what the French people laughed at. There were of course laughs at the slapstick, and at all of the physical humor in general. I think that all of the political jokes, which were heartily laughed at when I saw the movie in America, went right over everyone's heads, since there was no reaction whatsoever. Some jokes didn't translate wonderfully, and some would only be recognized as jokes by people who have seen a huge amount of the series, so it's understandable that people wouldn't laugh. However, I was glad to see that, unlike the Russians, the French understand sarcasm!

Now I'm going to make dinner, which is ramen and nectarines from the supermarket. To drink, Evian, which is surprisingly the least expensive bottled water. Then I'll do another load of sink laundry.
Tomorrow afternoon I promise I'll be a good tourist and see interesting things and take pictures of them.
Until then,
I pray you, sirs and madams, to accept the assurances of my most distinguished salutations,
Kel Miller
[that's typical of how French formal letters end, and I think it sounds ridiculous in English]

28 August 2007


I didn't take many photos, but I have a few that turned out well. Here they are!
This is the Hôtel de Ville. I ate breakfast in the square, and it was a fun view.

I got a book so that I'll have something to do when I'm sitting in the metro or a park, and I started to read it in the Jardin de Luxembourg. There are a lot of flowers, and near where I was sitting there were some birds on the flowers. I knew that some birds were pollinators, but I never saw any in America!

This is the Palais de Luxembourg and more of the gardens.

I went on a tour of the Jardin des Plantes, which is kind of like a botanical garden along with gardens of medicinal plants, a garden of all the species of grass found in France, and things like that. There are also large museums (the kind used by researchers, not the kind most tourists like to look around in) and a zoo. France was home to the pioneers of a lot of branches of science, including paleontology and zoology. This is a picture of a fossilized cedar, which is now known to be 35 million years old. It was found at a time when the common belief was that the earth was 4,000 years old, so the fact that it was a huge old tree that was fossilized was perplexing to scientists.

Another interesting thing I learned (the tour was very interesting, it was all about the evolution of science and how it created the Jardin des Plantes) was about the zoo. When it was created, no one really knew what kind of habitats to put the wild animals in, or what to feed them. It was more of a weekend hobby than a real scientific venture first, and a lot of the animals died at the beginning-- partially because they were only fed when the scientists had free time.
At the time the zoo was created, some people believed that, if wild animals were given the means to be civilized, they would be. So they were given homes, clothing, and other things to give them the chance to chose a civilized life. They didn't. But in this picture, you can see one of the old log cabins built for some four-legged animals I couldn't recognize.

Tomorrow's agenda (hopefully) includes getting my suitcase...

A collection of amusing moments and horrible moments

Well, everything went fine for both of the flights. My ears pop a lot on airplanes (they pop on escalators, so airplanes are horrible) so I went through a lot of gum. I read 3/4 of the seventh Harry Potter book, and noticed a lot that I had missed the first time. The first flight was a short one to Montreal, and they didn't give us any food. So when I arrived in Canada, after turning my ridiculous customs form (How long will you be in Canada? 0 days. Are you bringing personal effects to Canada? No, not really.) to the officer, who spoke a weird variety of English that involved ending lots of sentences with "eh," and after being told by the boarding-pass-inspector-dude that I would enjoy Paris, I searched for lunch.

The great thing about the Montreal airport is that it has a lot of restaurants. The horrible thing? They're ALL on the arrivals side. Which I couldn't get to. Which meant that my consumable items options were snack foods at the newstands, liquor at the duty-free stores, or the café. The one café. I spent slightly more than 10 Canadian dollars, which turns out to be almost the same as 10 American dollars, for a green salad ("Are you sure you want the Caesar salad? It costs twice as much, and the only difference is you get dry chicken on it," said the salad-making guy) and a can of soda. The cool part about all of this is, unless you ask to speak English, everybody assumes you'd like to speak French. It is so much fun to be in a place where so many people speak French.

So I had 6 hours in the Montreal airport, which I occupied by using the ridiculously expensive wireless internet (9 dollars for a day) as much as possible to feel more justified about paying for it. I walked around a bit whenever I started getting sleepy, and for the most part it was an enjoyable enough layover.

Then the adventures started! The flight to Paris is about six hours long. I was sitting next to a Parisian guy my age named Xavier, who was going home after spending a month in western Canada with very distant cousins-- relatives of his grandfather, who was the one to emigrate. I obviously still have an accent when I speak French (more intonation than pronunciation) and he assumed I was Canadian until I said otherwise. He seemed very surprised that someone could speak French as well as I do just having studied it at schools in countries where French isn't an official language. After eating a very mediocre dinner, I tried to sleep. See, I was smart and I decided that, in order to ensure I sleep on the flight, I shouldn't sleep much at home the night before. I was running on about four hours of sleep, and after a full day of travel, I should be able to sleep. Wrong. I slept an hour at most, which I can calculate because after ten minutes of attempting to be comfortable enough to sleep, I would look at my watch. There's one hour-long gap where I didn't know what time it was.

After an hour of ears popping for the descent, we arrived in Paris!! Passport control was very fast, no questions asked, all they did was stamp my visa. The crowds around the baggage claim area were enormous, because our flight got out there right when another's baggage was coming out, so there were twice as many people as there should have been in that space. Finally the Air Canada bags came out. My backpack was there, my rolling suitcase was not. I managed to stay amazingly calm, but finally had to admit that it wasn't going to come around. So I had to have a conversation in French that I had never anticipated having: the "You've lost one of my bags" conversation. I'm proud that I did so well in French, but I was (and am) very worried about the bag. See, I had one large rolling suitcase and one medium-sized backpack to do all my packing in. Because of weight restrictions, I packed all the heavy stuff and about 2 days worth of clothes in the backpack, and the light things (clothes, shoes, an alarm clock, my traveling purse, and another paperback) in the rolling suitcase. This means that, in the event I don't get my big suitcase back, I have almost no clothing, and no socks. Today will be my third day in a row wearing the same pair of socks, unless I can find someplace to buy sandals. Mine are in the other bag. Yesterday I wore a sleeveless shirt, and I saved the one with sleeves for today. Hopefully I'll have the bag back today, since my razor's in the other bag and sleeveless isn't going to be a good option anymore!

I had to walk across the entire airport to get to the trains, carrying my nice backpack and my evil, distributes-weight-badly carryon messenger bag. The plan had been to put my carry-on in the rolling suitcase and then be perfectly comfortable no matter how far I had to walk. Now, thanks to all the walking with my bags yesterday, I actually have a bruise on one shoulder, and I still have that feeling of a phantom shoulder bag. So here's the sequence of events that prompted walking twice as much as I wanted to.
- I navigated the metro just fine, and arrived at the apartment (I've rented a vacation apartment for the week) on time. I was supposed to be met with the keys by the landlord's friend, since she's in Rome at the moment. No one was there. After walking up and down the street a couple of times, I knocked on the door of the restaurant next door, explained my problem, and got the guy to let me in. The mailbox said that I needed the first floor (which in American language is the second) on the left. Number 9. Except that none of the doors had numbers. I knocked on one of the doors, and there was no answer. There are five doors on the floor. Two had no answer. One was an ancient Chinese lady who spoke no French. One was an ancient French lady who didn't know anyone else on the floor. One was a very very short young Asian lady who said that she didn't know, but she suggested I knock on the other doors. I sat on the stairs and read Harry Potter for a while, then gave up and decided to go to the apartment rental agency to have them call the landlord.
- So I had to walk back to the metro, walk up and down more stairs (plus the machine wouldn't read my card, so I had to use my meagre change to buy a single ticket, as I couldn't yet buy a weekly) and find the agency. Good thing I packed the directions in my carry-on!
- Finally I found the agency. My agent called the landlord and left a message, and then she went on her overdue lunch break and I left my bags there (my shoulders felt wonderful for a moment) and went to an internet café I'd passed so that I could let my parents know I was alive. I had half an hour, it was about 2pm, so I walked around looking for a crêpe place that had a savory crêpe without eggs. I ended up wandering for the whole half hour.
- When I got back to the agency, the agent said that the guy supposed to meet me would be there in half an hour, he had been mistaken and thought he was supposed to come today instead of yesterday. So I put my bags back on and walked back to the metro, took the metro back, and walked to the apartment. He was there and gave me the key and all was well. [Note: he was also surprised when I said that I was not Canadian, which made me feel good. It seems I can pass for someone who speaks French natively, even if it is "inferior" French.]
That's where the walking ends. I relaxed in the apartment for a while, took a shower, e-mailed home, checked the status of my bag (still searching) online, and then set off. I took the metro to near Notre Dame to buy a Pariscope (a little magazine that lists all the concerts, plays, movies, art exhibitions, and everything else in the city happening that week, which costs about 50 cents) and look for dinner. The weird thing was, I was incredibly hungry, but had no desire to eat. I was thirsty, but not in the mood to drink anything I saw. I was very tired, but too awake to go back and sleep yet. I walked for more than an hour before I finally just went into a little shop and bought a bottle of juice. I went back to the apartment, drank half the bottle of juice, checked my e-mail, picked out a sheet and blanket, and went to sleep at 8pm.

So now we come to today, and things start looking up. I woke up a few times during the night, and got up for good at 8am. The status of my bag is now "Item found, awaiting confirmation" which makes me feel very relieved. I only have one blister. The weather's beautiful. After I take a shower, I'll go to the grocery store and hopefully I'll be able to buy a pay phone card there, so I can call the airport when the bag is here and tell them what time to bring it.

Sorry that was so detailed! If all goes well, I'll have a good chunk of time to explore today, and then I'll take pictures.

26 August 2007

Goodbye, America!!

Today was a mellow, relaxing day. I watched a movie and read two books, we went to church and got Chinese food for dinner, and now there rests only a couple games of cards and a load of laundry before my final night's sleep in my own bed. I'm packed except for those last minute things I can't pack until the last day (like my alarm clock and contact case) which is good since tomorrow I'll be waking up at 5:30 and I'm sure I wouldn't have enough brain function to find anything, if I needed to.

I'm less worried about myself than about how my parents will survive without me to explain everything in the house high-tech enough to have a plug.

So in a bit more than 24 hours (which is confusing because of the time change) I'll be in France... wow.

19 August 2007

A week to go!

I'm honestly not nervous, and that's ok. I have started to pack, which is always fun. I'm a compulsive organizer, so figuring out how to fit all of my toiletries into two clear plastic boxes, while watching Superman Returns, is in my opinion almost the ideal way to spend an afternoon. Ice cream could have improved it slightly. I actually really enjoy packing. There are a couple really important things to do (like call United to change my return ticket to a date I actually want to come home on and go to the bank) but essentially I'm down to the relaxing things, like eating Campbell's chicken noodle soup one last time and sleeping in and seeing everybody one last time.

Another exciting development is that my parents will be coming to visit for Christmas and New Year's! I'll have to skip two days of school, but all in all we will be in Paris for 8 days and London for 5. I'm thrilled, Dad's contemplative, Mom's terrified, it'll work out great. Plane tickets, London hotel reservations, and preliminary plans for renting a vacation apartment in Paris are done.

So exactly one week from now, I'll probably be packing last minute things, or settling down to sleep in my own bed for one last time. Then morning will come and I'll go.

13 August 2007

Two Weeks Left, and Let the Compulsvie Planning Begin

Two weeks left. My last week at work. Last time I'll get to see several of my friends. Last few days of miserable Chicago summers.

1) Worrying (tone: mopey)
Almost constantly I play out little "what if" situations in my head. If I'm about to call someone or tell someone something, I plan out what I'll say and anticipate their answers. In a card game I'll know what the possible effects of playing each of my cards are. Even if I'm baking I recite the next four actions in my head before doing anything.
All of this subconscious planning (some of it is conscious, of course) means that I have absolutely NOTHING left to be nervous about. "What happens happens" is my motto so I have no worries. Which means that I don't feel ready to go, because I don't think I'm in the right emotional state yet. Which is the only thing that worries me.

2) Paris (tone: cheerful)
I've gone through my France guidebook and highlighted all of the sights and museums and places in Paris that are free, especially ones which have occasional free days, several of which occur during my week in Paris. I figure that I've already seen most of the sights that cost money, so I'll be as cheap as possible! Some highlights that I'm looking forward to:
- vespers at Notre Dame
- Roman ruins at Parc Monceau
- Musée Carnavalet, which covers the history of Paris
- Victor Hugo's house (I like a few of his poems, but his work in general was depressing. However, it's free!)
- Musée de Cluny! (my favorite place in Paris, it's the Museum of the Middle Ages and it's in a castle)
- Jardin des Plantes (the gardens are free and the zoo is cheap)
- the Panthéon (which offers a panorama of the city, and has tours in French, and is free the first Sunday of the month)
- Église St-Sulpice (Saint-Saëns played the organ there, and there's a free tour)
- Musée Rodin (it's worth four euros)
- Bibliothèque Nationale de France (cool architecture, a huge garden, and unlimited internet)
- Fondation Taylor (an organization that gives prizes for art and exhibits it)
- Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (hills, cliffs with caves, a Roman temple... the gibbet hasn't been there since the Middle Ages)
I'm excited about all that! I might (depending on my mood) even splurge and go to Disneyland. I plan to go sometime during the year, since I've never been in America.

3) Cooking (tone: lip-smacking)
I made bagels! And they turned out surprisingly well. The recipe needs some tweaking, but I'll post it once I think it's perfect.

If you have any suggestions of cheap things to see or do in Paris, please comment!

04 August 2007

22 Days

I leave in 22 days, and I still don't think I really believe that I'm going. So I'm doing to start counting down, in an attempt to shove some sense into myself.

4 more Sundays at church (with an amazing choir I've joined)
2 more weeks (8 days) at work
6 more babysitting jobs, minimum
1 more movie (The Simpsons) to go see, minimum
2 more ice cream coupons to use
1 more Sushi outing
40 more miles of biking left (minimum) before I'm walking around Paris instead
3 more Headlines segments on Leno
4 more loads of laundry
1 more haircut
1 eye doctor appointment
22 more movies to watch in French, to bolster my language (1 per day)
6 more pages of "Taylor the Latte Boy" to arrange (for a cappella)
6-7 more gallons of milk (I drink a lot of milk)
7 more trips to the library, approximately
2 more days at the pool (while babysitting)
2 more shopping days at Woodfield, though I don't need to buy anything
1 more card party, hopefully
20 more dinners with my parents (approximately)

That worked a little, my departure seems closer to 22 days away. A couple minutes ago, it felt like a lifetime.