April 28, 2016

snapshots of france

As you may recall, I didn't go into my French adventure with the best attitude. (You can refresh your memory here.) Still, because I wanted to change my perspective, and because I've always regretted not taking notes on the other trips I've been on in my life, I resolved to keep a travel journal. Every day, I jotted down a few thoughts—sometimes just bullet points—to help me remember what stood out during the day. But, so as not to bore myself—or you, gentle readers—I had a self-imposed word count limit. Here you have it.

The beautiful photo my buzzed self wanted
to share with the world mid-flight.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Two hours into the flight and I'm pretty toasted (free wine!!!!). I'm at the point in my boozing journey in which I like to sing. Stupid no karaoke on planes. Instead of singing, I watched Joy and teared up at the end. (Could be the wine.) My in-flight WiFi isn't working, which is sad. How else am I supposed to share the magical photo I took of Canada??? I want to read my book but people are turning the lights off. Quitters. I need to pee but didn't want to use the plane's bathroom if possible. But three glasses of wine in, the idea doesn't seem so bad after all.

Update: It was terrible. Plane toilets are the worst.

Now to read then watch Mockingjay Part 2 till I sleep. Oh, JLaw. I know everyone says this, but I truly think we could be best friends. Call me?

Btdubs three glasses of wine seems to be my threshold. (Though I should probably stick to two in the future.) Thank goodness they just came around with water bottles. I need to hydrate.

On a more serious note... The women in front of me are well into retirement and headed to Paris on a girls' trip. They're so excited and sweet and germaphobic. (They scrubbed down their seats and seatbelts with sanitary wipes before they settled in for the flight.) It gives me hope for future French adventures, preferably in Paris. Maybe it won't be young, dashing Pierre showing me crepes, but older, wiser Henri giving me croissants.

International flights are better than domestic. Think about it.

***

Worth the flight across the Atlantic.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
  • No sleep on plane
  • I sobered up and rehydrated well before landing, score
  • Long line at customs
  • Airplane broke our checked baggage
  • I don't think we lost anything
  • No, didn't lose anything, nothing broken
  • We missed the train to Nantes
  • We're going to repair the bag and grab a snack while we wait
  • Ate my first croissant and pain au choclat; divine
  • My co-worker fixed the bag; she says it looks like Frankenstein, I think it's beautiful (and it works)
  • Nearly passed out at airport during the four-hour wait for the next train
  • Angrily read November 7 on the train (my second book of this trip so far); angry not because of the train (which was fine, given my exhaustion), but because one of the characters did something I'm not sure I can forgive (reader problems)
  • I forgave him
  • Arrived in Nantes after six, checked into airport, took a walk around the neighboring chatteau, delicious dinner before passing out in the sofa bed that came with the room

***

The chatteau next door.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Today, I learned the difference between went to say "bonjour" and "bonsoir." (The switch happens right at five, apparently.) Someone corrected me. After she left the booth, I turned to my partner in crime and said, "I feel like a big asshole right now. Foot," I pointed to my lips, "mouth." We had a good laugh. I'm maybe still a little delirious from lack of sleep.

It was a good first day at our booth. We handed out all of our 500 buttons within the first two hours. I also developed a deep and passionate crush on one of the security guards who walked past our booth every half hour or so. Each time we'd share a nod and a "bonjour." Then I'd look away before my eyes could betray the extent of my feelings. Be still my heart.

At the end of the day, anxious to take the tram back to our hotel, we were delayed. A large protest in the city center had shut down transportation. Everyone assured us it was normal, and we ultimately found our way back. Later we learned it was actually kind of a serious ordeal involving teargas. Note to self: play this down to parents until I'm back home.

I continue to find myself distracted by "shiny objects." And by shiny objects, I of course mean handsome French men, who seem so fit yet stylish.

"Before today," I said to my friend over dinner, "I never thought of Frenchmen, aside from how they might fit into my search for baked goods. But now..." Then I trailed off and became distracted by another handsome man walking by the restaurant, wearing a scarf. "I suppose it would be ill-fated like Romeo and Juliet. We don't speak the same language, we're from two different worlds. We're forced to admire one another in silence... Wait." My eyes grew wide. "That's Love Actually. Oh my God. He's Jamie. And I'm Aurelia. I've always loved that name."

I really need to get some sleep. I have no filter.

By the time I reached the hotel for the night, I knew I had a bit of a problem. I keep falling in love with half of the men I see. I never knew I had a thing for Frenchmen. Maybe it's a result of years of working in a primarily female environment? This day alone, I fell for a businessman in a smart suit on the hotel elevator on our way down to breakfast, another on his way to work on the tram, a security guard at the expo, two men dining across the room at the restaurant, a man in a scarf walking by the restaurant, and—just a few minutes ago—a man drilling a hole into the middle of the street (he was on a construction crew, so it was his job).

It's like I'm back in high school.

***

Another day, another castle selfie.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I couldn't sleep last night.

I fell asleep shortly after we returned to the hotel after dinner, which was actually pretty late; dinners here take at least two hours. But then I woke up at one and didn't fall back into a decent sleep until after four.

To make up for how bad I feel, I wore my favorite outfit that I'd packed. It's a new ruffled black shirt and a polka-dot blazer (another new purchase). I did my hair up nicely, plastered on some red lipstick, and tried not to fixate on the ever-growing bags under my eyes.

A man in a fabulously embroidered shirt came over to our booth. As I said hello, in English, he told me he and his partner were checking me out on the tram. They mused, "That is a beautiful French woman." I assured him I have never felt more complimented. "I'm not hitting on you, but I'm gay so you can trust me." Believe me, I do. And I'm thrilled.

My look paid off, and I'll float on this compliment the rest of the trip.

This evening, I developed a new story idea. I already had it in my head before I left for France, but it came together during dinner with my co-worker's help. Traveling does wonders for the imagination.

Also did a lot of men watching during dinner. Ooh la la! I'm so gross with my boy craziness right now. And so immature. I'm about to be thirty for crying out loud. So much for being a strong, sensible, independent woman.

***

Friday night was date night in France. Even for these
ducks, who found their way to the castle.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Today I learned the only phrase I'll ever need to know: "Je suis trop belle por ca." That's French for "I'm too pretty for that," which is my favorite thing to say when I don't want to do something. (But then I usually do it, because it has to be done, and that's what I do. I get things done.)

I'm going to get that tattooed across my middle finger.

I grow more and more tired every day, yet I'm somehow managing to stay perky. Almost everyone who passes our booth gets a friendly, "bonjour" before I refer them to some phrases penned in French, because the only thing I know how to say in French is that I'm too pretty for that, which doesn't seem to apply in this situation.

It was a great day making a couple of new friends capped off by a three-course dinner of crepes. I highly recommend a three-course crepe meal to everyone.

I'm feeling confident and badass navigating my way around the city and running this booth. I can't even say how good it is to feel so in control and on point.

***

Taking a walk through Jardin des Plantes.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

My admirer from the tram and his lovely partner had coffee with us and we rode the tram in together. At the end of the ride, he suggested we collaborate on a book. I was a little "well..." But not even fifteen minutes later, I was already imagining a story. It's also based on one I've been toying with, but now it's better. Perhaps this could be a real thing.

Have I mentioned how good travel is for my imagination?

A little tot stopped by the booth near the end of our stint. He stomped in with his little red boots, big blue eyes, and mischievous little boy smile. He stayed there waving and smiling at me for a couple of minutes. His mother darted me apologetic looks, but it was one of the sweetest little moments of this trip. Me saying "bonjour, comment allez-vous?" and him breaking smile after smile with a wave. Language isn't always a barrier. Not when a smile will do.

I spent 42 Euros on a scarf. I'm normally so cheap that it kind of gave me heart palpitations. But it's a unique handmaid silk scarf that is tres belle. And it's my gift to myself to forever commemorate my trip to France. I hope to return someday with more time for fun, but who knows if I will? Either way, sometimes you have to treat yourself.

On our way out of town, we visited Jardin des Plantes, which was closer than we realized (across the street from the train station). What a nice finale. It was a good trip.

***

Sunday, April 24, 2016

I still can't sleep. I'm lying awake in bed at the airport hotel. It's well after two, and I know I need to be up and ready to go first thing so we can make our flight back home.

I'll be headed back to reality soon. It's a mixed bag. I'm still running on a bit of an OMG-we-did-a-great-job-this-week high, but I can't wait to snuggle with my kittens and get a full night of sleep. I also realize this week—as crazy and busy as it was—was better than I imagined. I'm not talking about the delicious crepes, croissants, and other delicacies I ate—though they were amazing. It was mostly wonderful because I felt so competent, so in control. I troubleshooted, I made contacts, I encouraged others, I dreamed for myself. I'm happy. Tired, but happy.

What happens when I get home? How long does the afterglow last? Can I keep my little fear demons at bay? Can I take control of situations and make them work? I suppose I proved to myself that yes, I can. I just have to figure out how, and it won't be easy. But I need to stop worrying about that now. Right now, I want to bask in the belief that I am wonderful and anything and everything is possible. That I am tres magnifique.

***

I'm back in Lincoln, and it's strange that it's late afternoon on the same day I left France, rather than early the next morning. Flying internationally is the closest I'll ever come to time travel. Yet another perk of going out to see the world.

The kittens are happy I'm back. I'm happy I'm back. I want to sleep for forever, but I also want to tell everyone everything while it's all fresh in my mind. But I'll have to go to bed eventually. Probably sooner than I think. My freshly laundered sheets are calling to me, like a siren.

While I wait for dinner to be delivered—I need to buy groceries in the morning—I unpack my suitcase and sort my laundry. After removing my new scarf, and being reminded of just how beautiful it is, I've decided the price was worth it. All of this was worth it.


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2 comments:

  1. This was delightful! I felt like I was there with you. And your joy came through loud and clear in this entry. I'm glad the change of scenery awakened your creativity and your positive spirit. Here's hoping you can find ways to recreate those same emotions at home (with more sleep). ;) Thanks for sharing your journey!

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  2. What an awesome post! :) I'm so glad you had a great trip and took lots of notes and pictures. Those croissants look amazing... I think I've just added "croissants in France" to my bucket list!

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