Armchair Travel Blog

Adventures from Paris onwards circa 2012

Month: June, 2012

Italian Adventures: When Space-time turned inside out

My dear readers:

It has come to my attention (ahem) that since the last time I updated this blog was an astounding eleven(ish) days ago. There is very good reason for that, and if you are one for Fall Out Boy titles, than surely you know that I have been in Italy. And now I am back into the folds of Budapest city life.

My parents left early this morning – 4 am early – and I am already missing them extremely. So in a sense this recap this blog post if both for myself, and for them.

I wish them a safe journey home, and that it is not nearly as hot in Washington as it was in Italy.

During my stay in Paris I had forgotten what it was like to have a full and crazy household; noise, clutter, and wait times for the shower. Needless to say the extreme rush of relief and love that I felt upon seeing their eyes for the first time after such a time was an intense one. So even though we were cramped in a large-by-European-standards car and nerves at time ran high, I wouldn’t would have wanted it any other way. My parents arrival too signaled the beginning of what would mark an incredible Italian journey. It too will probably come to be one of the last times that we travel as a family – or at least with my parents shouldering the sole financial burden. We made sure to take over 10 gigs worth of pictures to mark the event.

Here you will only find a snippet of  photographs what we saw and experienced. It would be insane to try and showcase them all on this blog, but if you ask I will be happy to sit with you and go through the step-by-step photos of all the places we visited.

(Even though I may have had my fill of Italian pizza, but never gelato)

In a word: wonderful.

Whistle-stop is was indeed and wish we would have had more than 10 days worth of visiting time because we would visit places such as Sorrento and Rome and the Amalfi coast, never wanting to leave.

We drove through Croatia and Slovenia – us finding the latter in much better condition and roads and better graffiti – my new project which I’ll explain in a bit – even though my brother in what I hope was a joking matter swore up and down that the women were better in Croatia. (We didn’t see any women in Croatia) My mother being the only one without an EU passport had to get stamped in the countries, and we didn’t and so as a result she looks much better traveled, even though I can say with certainty we too were there, even if my passport remains blank. (One of the joys of travelling within Europe as a citizen, it is akin to moving between states back at home)

My newfound project being that of the places I will henceforth visit, I want to document the various types of graffiti and street art of the cities. I think that it’s a wonderful way to get a feel for the type of city and certainly no two styles are the same. I know that this is not a new notion – and indeed I am looking for special tags instead of the usual scribble – but I feel that when I look back it will remind me in a special way of the feel of a city. In the pictures that will be uploaded following this post you will see some of my favorites. (My favorite might be the Slovenian one, which you know when you see it)

We being first times tourists had to stop at all the big name cities – but we also took a detour here and there – Zagreb and Ljubljana notwithstanding) Counting them now it was Zagreb, Ljubljana, Venice, Sorrento, Rome, Assisi, Napoli, Pompeii, Pisa, Florence, Bologna, Siena, Amalfi. Some we spent a few hours in, some over night.

In Assisi for example, we almost ended up sleeping in the fields with only the stars as our blankets – perfectly fine as it was 25 degrees at 11 o’clock at night – but my dad has gotten sunstroke or something and we found what was arguably the best hotel in all of Assisi, and even for the duration of the trip. High up in the mountains with a view that any impressionist painter would be hard pressed to copy.

Italy is as hot and sunny as it gets, with the sky a clear blue that one only finds in little children’s eyes. It is also completely overrun with tourists. The worst for myself being Venice, where so dense is the crowd that you can barely breathe, much less turn around, being forced through channels with thousands of others. We often opted to spend the hours of high heat on the vaporetto (the public ‘bus’) Lido was by far my favorite island, a resort town in a resort town. But to watch the gondoliers sing in their classic striped shirts, tan as could be was a beautiful sight in and of itself.

However, outside of Venice, everyone was as wonderful sweet as everyone claims the Italians to be. It might be the weather or it might be the insane quality of the milk there, but the more south that one ventures into Italy, the warmer and more receptive people are. They may not speak the most perfect English – but my mother seemed to be able to hold her own.

And the gelato! If I’ve ever eaten myself silly, it might have had to have been at gelato. it falls in line with my belief that the milk in Italy might be the best in the world – certainly the best I’ve drank to date – with the fresh fruit flavors of lemon, melon, peach, mango is unparalleled. With the high heat pushing 37 in some cities, the gelato melting even within the coolers, we were happy to lap it up twice or more a day. (Which is only the sort of thing one allows themselves to do when on vacation.)

We sunned ourselves on the Amalfi coast, and got excellent jumping pictures from a little bit of a ledge althourhg my brother the monkey man climed higher than any of the girls dared.

There was more pasta and pizza than I would ever care for to eat again in such a small time, and the Roman waters from the  fountains foundin the plazas ran clean and cold. Wonderful to think that they are stil working after so many hundreds of years.

Huge roman sculptures and statues towers well over head over a relentless sun that would burn memories into our skin, angry red. It would probably be later this that would give my dad a fever in the summer heat.

On Why Budapest Is Not Paris

But that is not to say that it is a bad thing at all.

We’ve landed in Budapest, and I have forgotten everything Hungarian except a spare few words here and there.

Strike whatever preconceived notions I may have had about understanding Hungarian. Because while I can pick out a few words I am still from fluent.

A girl can dream.

I sort of love that it is as obtuse a language as it gets.

That and how everyone looks and ~dresses so different from anything in Paris. It almost feels like a flashback to the 90s. People dress here more like they don’t care and the Eastern European Women’s Hair is as red as ever. A Fashion Statement that never picked up anywhere outside of Eastern Europe. Coming arguably from the most fashion forward and trendy place on the planet, it’s quite a shock to see people with their acid-washed jeans and bejeweled shirts and dresses in prints that one doesn’t find easily anymore.

People here look different and are more homogenous as a people. There are so many sex shops, I’m starting to believe it’s all a money laundering business. People here walk freely with their tattoos showing, all up and down calves, backs, arms. Today at the grocery store, there was a man blue from the neck down. And no one bats an eyelash. I tried not to stare too hard.

Paris is most decidedly not like this. (I miss Paris)

In a way, I know less about what and how I am to deal with Budapest than with Paris. There are more accents over words and they are many letters looped together to make words like antidisestablishmentarianism look small. I know that hopefully maybe the language will come back to me, as I did at one point speak it. I worry that I may start to forget my French, so in addition to searching for English books to pass the time – I fear with almost no internet and TV there will be a lot of reading – good for the intellectual in me – I will also start to look for simple French books so as not to forget it.

Imagine putting in all that hard work only to forget it. I will not allow this to happen to me.

(It’s easy to forget how easy languages can blur together and how words are forgotten)

They speak very good English here mostly, and I’ve been able to get what I need with relative ease. (The halfsies internet we have notwithstanding)

I was cornered today as we walked along the Sziget by an old man waiting for the bus, and as he spoke to me in Hungarian I was pleased to learn that I could talk about inane things such as the weather and what were the best places across the pool along the Sziget.

There is a music festival here in August; it is the biggest one in Europe and I hope that I will get to see/hear/volunteer at it. Because hello, massive street party and I cannot wait for the incredible line up of artists.

Non-sequiter: Philippe sent me such a sweet email today, and my heart swells with love for him, and I wish him forever all the warmest thoughts and I hope he sees this knowing that I read the email and smiled like a fool.

I prefer the Euro to the Hungarian Forint, as there are decidedly 3 more zeros tacked onto every transaction than there needs to be. Christina and Michael don’t seem to have too much trouble with it – and yes I know that its subtract 2 zeros and divide by two, but really WHY.

Euros are easy and simply and I like all the colors – all very good reasons I know – why Hungary needs to get with the Euro program. Dinner is always a complicated affair because I have no idea how to break things up.

(I’ve forgotten how American money looks)

It’s also a little bit unnerving – or something to get used to perhaps – that everything from the smallest transactions have such big numbers and I just wonder why. #FirstWorldProblems at it’s finest, but if I haven’t made it abundantly clear by now, math was never my strongest suit in school.

I like that there are no stupid pennies though. Everything is in denominations of 5. Lose a forint, gain a forint and have way too many coins jingling in your pockets, but no pennies to ever worry about. (This they got right)

Food here is different, with less vegetables and fruit, or at least the corner stores that I’ve visited, and so eating at home will be interesting. But when you see some of the delicious Hungarian food – heavy as it may be – you kind of come to the conclusion that the food here can be good too. Perhaps too good, but I know I am craving vegetables over more stew.

Goulash most definitely ranks top though.

Setting up the apartment has proven to be a bit of a hassle, and there are still many things to do, especially with three people living in the apartment full time now. (My brother landed this evening)

There are still lightbulbs to change, pilot lights to re-set (it went out last night and I wasn’t keen on an Ice Shower this morning), pillows to buy, and food to stock the fridge with.

Ad infinitum it feels like, sometimes.

We’ve only about a week here before we’re off to Italy, yet I would have the house looking lived-in and comfortable before hand.

This means that we have to figure out the washing machine, the household chores, and managing the money situation.

Going to ice bars and name sake restaurants are fun with Michael of course, and I wouldn’t change it, yet these are not conducive to la vie quotidian.

The zoo however, might be worth it.

(I still find zebras absolutely hilarious)

Sadly, Michael leaves back to Paris tomorrow, and then he’s off to New York come later the summer, so I am glad for our time together here, even if it may mean simply sitting in a room together playing Yahtzee.

And I do hope the swelling in his hand goes down, but that the story is as bad-ass as he can muster (and not that he jammed it tripping as he ran across the street)

I’m still not sure why my throat/tonsil swells up at night and makes it hard to talk. It’s perfectly fine in the morning.

It could be an exhaustion thing. Walking/being out of the house 12 hrs a day might do that to a person.

Still I a glad they don’t smoke with such recurring frequency as in Paris.

Although my tonsil seems to hate something in the air.

Merci Paree

So ladies and gentlemen:

Tonight concludes my six months in Paris. And what a trip is has been. I’m sure countless of words and ink has been spilled over the wonders and mysteries of Paris, and I too am no different. I look forward to coming back, as if on baited breath, before I’ve even left.

My bags are packed and are waiting by the door – the hours are winding down. 

Sleep will not come easy tonight, and tomorrow I will inhale as much burnt coffee that I may need to ensure that I get to my terminal safely and on board with everything.

Phillipe too has his heart breaking, for it was decided this morning that he would accompany us as far as he could because he wanted to see us off.

In some ways I think my – our – depature will hurt him more than us.

Regardless he is a lifelong friend, and we have promised to keep in touch with email.

(I will forever carry his cookbook with me)

Who knows what the future will bring and what stories await to unfold, but I can only look back on these past months with fondness, and tell everyone that they really need to visit Paris at least once.

While now I need to put my French on hold, and brush back up with my Hungarian – indeed its been about ten years since I last was, and with significantly less media coverage then – I am also excited for what comes.

American Friends

Every time someone from my past life (or should I say other life?) lands in Paris I cannot help but start to wonder how it is that this city has changed me, and how it has shaped who I am today. Budapest offers only more experiences but when 1, 2, 3, 4 people from my other life back stateside show up in the city, my heart aches with longing.

I know we are not the people we were 6 moths ago. Many of us have graduated, preparing to start graduate school, enter to work force, some even getting married. My time in Paris has been a dream, a time of self fulfillment and adventure and I know it is as much tattooed on my skin as in every heartbeat.

I cannot help but wonder what changes my time here has brought, both pronounced and then the subtle ones. I know my hair is longer, wilder than ever with the city, but what do people from home see in the crinkles of my eyes and corners of my mouth? Is my laugh different, or my stride? Do they sense that something has shifted? Or has nothing changed at all?

Now is a time of great and sudden unexpected change back home, and I am content to spend it not-quite-taking-refuge in Europe. 

They are reminders that life too goes on, and somehow we stay the same. They provide snapshots of what I have been missing and I more than willingly prefer to hear them talk about their time in the past six months than anything I could say about myself.

Micheal still in his flip-flops, Kelsey hair red as ever, Christina and her love of Japan.

We are the same, but we are also different.

They too have their own stories to tell, and I wish that I could be in two places at once. I am not the person I left behind – for the better I hope – and who I am here, is not who I am at home. 

I ache for the familiarity of home, and yet find myself startled at the somewhat ‘intrusiveness’ of their being in Paris, as if she were my secret alone.

They allow me to speak in a fluid Maryland English and talk trivialities and commonalities, shared histories, and new adventures, and I sometimes catch myself laughing because we’re in Paris, and how do you explain or begin to describe that feeling?

It’s quite a rush, terrifying and exhilarating, but I’ve been pleased to see that no matter how we may or may not have shifted and changed, we’re still stuck like glue together, bound even more firmly in a way Paris can bring; in addition to our past histories.

Now we’ll always have Paris.

And somehow I find there is nothing greater than that.

Allergies suck.

My friend flies in already 30 minutes ago for the first time in Paris and I feel like I’ve an Elephant on my chest. Good timing to get the seasonal allergies I know, and even better to rub my nose raw with so much nose blowing. For the moment however, I am content to sit with Phillipe and watch the Australian-Wales rugby match with Ray Charles pumping softly through the speaker.

How fast these last months have flown by – indicative perhaps of what it means to have a good time.

Currently I am waiting to digest all the luncheon – hard work – and wait for the inevitable phone call.

I’ve started to pack my bags, and it’ll be interesting to see how I can make fit fencing clothes, skillets, and other assortment of clothes into my suitcase.

It doesn’t mean that I’m ready to leave yet.

Still with all this rain, even getting out of the house to make our little jog was hard enough when you’ve barely half a nostril to breathe through.

(I wouldn’t trade it for the world)

Australia has a semi-comfortable lead over Wales and the world spins madly on.

On Belgian Waffles, Beer, and Chocolate

And on the kindness of French people and how the Gardens of Versailles are something else.

Or: Why I shouldn’t title blog posts.

So by this point I am assuming that you have seen the blog photos and eagerly anticipate any and all stories that come with it.

Basically what I mean to say that I really, really, really hate early wake up calls.

But guess what.

There are still two to three more early wake  up calls, the soonest of which being this coming Monday when I have to say and wave my final goodbyes to Paris and start the next chapter of my Eurotrip life and consequently of this blog.

But for now, let us start with Belgium. Or specifically the two-day trip my sister and I took to visit Bruges and Bruxelles. And yes it is Bruxelles, and not Brussels, because maybe I have been here for too long. (or not long enough, as the case may be)

Travelling by train really is the best way to travel, and there is nothing that can compare. The longer that I stay here and the more travel that I do via train, the more I come to appreciate it. Absolutely quiet smooth fast and fine, it makes me sad that trains are not more popular state side. So we slept a little on the train, myself engrossed in this fantastic book – which I highly recommend you all to read called The Night Circus. Trains leave and arrive promptly on time, and there is no headache to get through customs or security. While I’m no fan of being in confined spaces by many people for prolonged periods of time, trains are about as accommodating as one can get.

Bruges – made more famous among American tourists by the 2008 Colin Farrell film In Bruges – is as much a gingerbread cookie house paradise as it is The Venice of The North.

While yes, the air does smell a little different there – I’m not sure why at all – once it settles in your nose, it’s not so bad. Christina was absolutely amazed by the amount of bicycles they have in Bruges, but I told her that it’s nothing. She needs to see Amsterdam.  But we did almost get run over once or twice by bicyclists.

We were lucky, the sun decided to come out and play bringing the weather up to a warm 25 degrees and sunny, perfect to spend the day taking hundreds of pictures and lolligagging between plazas looking at bad postcard designs and simply taking the sun as we enjoyed our Belgian chocolates. (Which are not as hideously overpriced as they would make you believe)

Christina had never been in a hostel before, so when I told her that A) she needed to bring a towel and B) we would be sharing the room with 6 other strangers, she looked a little aghast and grossed out. She quickly got over it however when I showed her our hip new accommodations. Hostels are for the youth, and while yes they can be a little out of the comfort zone for some, it provided a place to hang out and be in a different environment.

Bruges is a Dutch speaking place, and Bruxelles French. While they both speak English, and I was happy to try my hand at French (they spoke back to me in French! Success!), I find that Dutch makes this adorable-English like language and I want to learn how to speak it eventually, even if they do throw in 5 vowels next to each other.

Being first-timers to both cities we had to do the most touristy terrible things, and that meant buying the chocolates and the beers and anything in between. Both Bruges and Bruxelles have enough to do to keep a person occupied for a day easily, but I wouldn’t dare suggest that anything beyond 2 days would keep a person riveted.

(Not like, say, Paris, but I may be biased on this particular subject)

Bruxelles was raining, but that doesn’t much surprise me, as Paris rains every day. It was wise to bring a raincoat, however. And of course we had to see the Manneken Pis, because if anything makes Bruxelles famous, it has to be that. So when you see the crowd of Asian tourists with cameras out, you know you’ve made it.

By contrast Bruxelles is mostly ugly to Bruges, but it is bigger and a more lived-in city (it is the capital of the EU) than Bruges. However when the light hits the trees (trees in a city, imagine that) there is a certain charm to it. Bruxelles however, possibly is more expensive than Paris, and that in and of itself is a hard pill to swallow. I’m not sure where or how the money comes in, or how the ordinary Joe lives his life, but I never saw graffiti in Bruges, and only in the skate park we happened to stumble upon in Belgium.

Bruxelles is quite an artsy city, and there was a thriving artist lifestyle, bohemian in some sense, running right along the bureaucrats. It’s a strange juxtaposition.

Bruges supposedly doesn’t like tourists, but I found that to be a lie. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we weren’t French. I didn’t sleep much the evening we spent in Bruges, many people coming and going at all hours of the night makes it difficult for sleep – but that might be the charm of a hostel and the energy one only has in their 20s to be able to function the next day. I would say that a stuffy head makes it a little harder, but two heads are better than one and we managed to leave with everything we arrived with.

The chocolate was delicious, and even though I didn’t get the chance to try a Belgian beer in Belgium (I had caught the sniffles – something I am still dealing with, and with such good timing too) as I had a stuffy head, I’m pleased to say that I have had a fair share of the more famous ones. (I like Belgian White’s okay?) We did take plenty of pictures of them though. And any hour seems to be fair game to enjoy some of the world-famous Belgian beer.

Overall, I would say that Bruges is more beautiful, but Bruxelles is filled with more life. I read somewhere that in Bruges, tourists significantly outstrip the local population, and while interesting to meet people, feels a little more particle board and glitter. The people everywhere are tall and super polite, to the point of  “please thank you enjoy your meal, please” and I in turn try to do good-by them.

Bruges has many horse carriages, and you can always hear the clip clopping of the horses shoes as they walk down the wide allies of Bruges. Bruxelles significantly more cars, but because this is Paris everyone walks everywhere. And neither city is so bit that you cannot fairly easily navigate it.

We made friends here and there, stumbled upon old men playing Pétanque, smoking cigars, and watched them for the better part of an hour and learned the rules of the game. (Quite simple, really) Christina tried to get on a skateboard in Bruxelles and amidst the flailing stayed still long enough for a picture while I was doubled over in laughter.

We got lost with the maps, and asked directions only to find out that North on the map is not North at all, and up is down. Makes sense. The days are long, as the sun rises at 6 am and doesn’t set until close to/past 10 pm, and the days were spent in the street taking us where ever we felt we needed to go, amidst the sea of tourist destinations.

It was raining and then cold, then sunny and warm, and when we were tired we took a respite inside a hard-searched for cafe – clearly not Paris with cafes on every corner – looking at where we had walked in zigzag patterns and looking for the reccomended Chinese place.

We ate fries with mayo and the potatos were perfect.

And then it was Thursday and we were back in France with aching shoulders from lugging backpacks on our backs all day and it was my final fencing practice.

Thursdays are always quieter than Tuesdays, but we had a fine crew of about 10 people, and somewhere halfway between practice they all call me over, standing in a semi-circle and Renee speaks slowly enough for me to understand him with only about a 15 second delay – an improvement from not at all – and they are presenting me with a signed shirt from nearly everyone in the club and the president comes and kisses me twice on the cheeks pressing the shirt into my hands.

i am framing this thing I felt like hugging them all. I know that there is this weird double-standard of touching   – bises are perfectly acceptable for example, but otherwise please don’t get into my   personal space except when we’re crammed into the metro – but I really felt like hugging them all.

Goodbyes are sad and hard, and so Phillipe spent the practice taking pictures best as he could, of the people so that I wouldn’t forget them.

As if I could.

They have been some of the nicest and gentlest folk, accepting and warm, and while I’ve the bruises to show that I am indeed NOT an epee fencer, it really touched me that they would offer something as simple and honest as a signed shirt with a promise that I would always be welcome and to please come back soon. I know I didn’t have any gift to return to them, and as I struggled to hold myself back from hugging them and tripping over my tongue to express my gratitude, I am glad I gave my time when it was needed or asked for.

I only hope they know how special my time with them has been to me.

They didn’t have to become my friends, they didn’t have to let me join their club (and at such a discount too) but they did, easily and warmly, and I looked forward to spending my 2 nights a week working myself to the bruises and aching muscles just to spend 2 hours a practice with these people.

I also like to think my epee fencing has improved.

Tomorrow I promise to write more on the last few days of Paris; we went to Versailles today and my good friend flies in tomorrow – as it will be some of the last Paris posts for this blog.

However, it is 1 45 am and I too even need sleep from time to time.

That and we start the packing process tomorrow.

How sad I will be to leave Paris, I am already planning my return.

Brussels:

Mr. Sun

I can’t believe that it’s July and instead of the hot drawn out muggy weather days that mark the best days of the summer in Washington D.C, it’s a fresh 16 degrees and rainy. And rainy. And more rain.

While I was lucky enough to catch one day of sun in Brugges this past week, I am afraid that what precious little time I have in Paris will be spent indoors and or trying to out run the inevitable rain. While wet socks normally don’t bother, I laugh because it is insane to believe that here we are, in the middle of the year with what should be the hottest weather and you can barely tell the difference between this and January.

I don’t think that the sun has serioulsy peeked it’s head out for more than a week’s worth of time in the last 2 months. The days are long, as it doesn’t get dark until almost 10pm, but I wonder where Mr. Golden Sun has run off to.

(Perhaps he ran away with the spoon)

Belgium pictures and reflections coming to a screen near you.

T-Minus 7 days

(and counting)

My time in Paris is winding down, and the weather as cloudy as it can be, has brought some fantastically sunny days spending it on the road, and the weekend was frightfully busy between the fencing competition and the roller blading.

Of course because I honestly can’t fence epee well to save my life – despite what Phillipe may tell you otherwise – I thought it would be a good send-off to the fencing club and to cap my time in Paris with the local fencing competition that the club was having this Saturday.

Under normal circumstances – this one being no different – I wouldn’t have a whiff’s chance of winning, but it provided a good opportunity to take the week to train for it as well as a goof exercise in how to properly rejuvenate the body between fencing as well as nutrition needs.

It also gave Phillipe a chance to get back into his old coach/trainer ways and I handed over the steering wheel to him – so to speak.

We woke up early to go for a bit of a light jog, just to stretch the legs and feel out any kinks or knots in the back, and at 9am the park is quiet and the grass is still sprinkled with dew. After a good stretching, I was allowed to drink as much as I wanted up until half an hour before lunch.

Lunch was a fantastic affair: Consisting of carrots and tomato salad with olive oil and citrus juice, followed by a steak hashe, followed by basmati rice and cheese, finished with a banana and grapes. My belly was happy and after a good meme (see: siesta), I was ready to take on some serious competition.

Fencing started at 2pm and ended for me around 6pm. 4 hours of fencing – not straight through – is enough to tucker the best of them out. It certainly reminded me of my college competition days but with decidedly more sleep and less 4am wake up calls.

It was a group competition with pools and a direct elimination afterwards. There were about 5 different clubs present with at least one team of three, sometimes more. (Rueil had 3 teams). Myself not being the strongest epee fencer, I did apologize for the ~high-stakes game we were playing but not going to get too far in. For me it was more about the photos anyways. They (Laurent and Stephen) didn’t seem to mind too much.

Sweaty doesn’t begin to cover how hot it was. It was like taking a shower all over again, but when we were eliminated from the DE’s I was able to take a wonderous hot shower and scrub the day’s worries and sweat away. Happily munching on a banana I was able to cheer on my team. (We didn’t win)

Still I started to say my good-byes, sad as they are, and said that one day soon I would return to Paris and to be sure to look everyone up again and maybe even try again with epee (Sabre all the way).

If the abuse to my body on Saturday was not enough Sunday brings about the roller blading and it was Christina’s first go at it. I’m certain she underestimated the 20km route, but she was able to finish, blistering feet and all. (Phillipe, bless his soul, ended up pulling Christina for much of the way and many of the uphills and clutching screaming for dear life on the downhills) I was able to stay abreast of the pack, and given the fencing on Saturday I was pleased at my quick recovery.

(I am feeling it today however)

I may not be the strongest skater, nor the fastest, but it felt good to be running with the leader and on the giant closed off boulevards, when the sprint suddenly springs forth, the feeling of wind in your hair arms pumping and heart thrumming against your breast bone is almost unmatched.

Christina had fun waving and hi-5ing the tourists as they took our photos and Phillipe was carrying her along. All in all I’m glad that she came, as it was a good workout for her, and something that remains unique to Paris. She’s also very proud of her accomplishment. I had fun roller blading.

Dinner brought crepes, and I’m pleased to say that the batter was my best batch to date.

Today my sister wants to go the Louvre – but we’ll see if she can get out of bed today. I would suggest she does, for because while I’ve done and seen what I needed/wanted to see in Paris, we are running up against the clock. But I think that the roller blading winded her more than she thought. Maybe it’s time to get the trumpet out…

Today with a little luck, the Louvre for Christina.

And tomorrow Belgium!

I look forward to sea food, fries, chocolate, and beer.

Mostly the chocolate though.

Rueil-Malmaison Epee Fencing Competition