Where did I leave off again? Oh yes, FRANCE! Hee hee, haw haw.
We boarded a smallish plane in the early morning and after one hour, arrived in Marseilles. I was truly pumped about our 2-day stay in Marseilles as we were able to stay with family and get the true “French” experience. We met Madee and Terry at the airport and after many kisses (one per cheek), we all climbed into a 9 passenger van that they had rented for our stay. Madee and Terry live just outside of Marseilles in the country side and their house and surroundings were so pretty. Their home was built in the 1700’s and still had that old-world feel to it. I felt like I was Meg Ryan in “French Kiss”. Except I didn’t pull my jeans up past my belly button. I thought about it, but didn’t.
After we had worked out which room everyone was staying in, we were treated to lunch. But first…apéritifs! Drinks were dispensed before every meal and came highly encouraged. Mostly it was Pastis, which is an anise flavored liqueur. I love me some licorice so Pastis definitely suited me. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I downed two glasses of Pastis which Terry mixed with a little water and served on the rocks (which in France means you get 2 teensy little ice cubes). For lunch we were served a cold salad consisting of peas, tuna, tomatoes, cheese and obviously delicious french bread. We sipped chilled rose and talked about the flowers and herbs Terry grows in his garden. Thyme, rosemary, lavender but also exotic herbs like verbena. Megan and I were literally pinching ourselves. “Is this happening? Are we really in this 17th century home just eating bread?” Oui.
After lunch, in typical French fashion we were served an array of cheeses. I decided to try all three of the cheeses, even the one that smelled like someone’s armpit after a marathon mixed with hot, sour garbage. At the time, the cheese tasted good and I was proud of myself for being so French. However, 30 minutes later we all quickly discovered how much of a brick it sat in our tummies. I couldn’t stop tasting it and I won’t lie, it didn’t taste like Skittles.
After lunch we headed to a neighboring town to do a little walking and sightseeing. Nan, Megan and I were dying to go in the cute little shops, but when you’re with a little French-man who is claiming he will “send you to Chateau d’If” if you go in one more shop, you cease and desist.
We visited a cathedral which contained the very first indoor baptismal pool.
And I made up with Terry.
We couldn’t spent too much time out sightseeing because Terry and Madee had a special French dinner waiting to be prepared back at their house. We started with Pastis, no surprise there. This is when I became known as the lush of the group, as I accepted refills from Terry. He told me that, “I was his new daughter,” and it made me happy although my Dad was giving me the evil-don’t-be-a-crazy-american-girl-eye.
For dinner, we had duck breast, pearl onions sauteed with curry, and sauteed mushrooms. Also duh, bread. The duck breasts were huge (they were like mutant monster ducks I swear) and were prepared very rare. While Nan and I enjoy a good pink steak, Meg and Gare both prefer their meats well…burnt. Having the duck was an eye opening experience for all of us.
After dinner Madee asked us if we’d like to take a “little walk” around the neighborhood. I jumped at the opportunity, having drunk a good amount of wine and everyone else decided to partake as well. It was an interesting stroll. First of all, it was almost 11 pm at night and what Madee considered to be a little walk, turned into a never-ending hike for people like Nan.We also saw a dead snake in the road. So. Gross.
After our 40 minute walk, we arrived home and Terry had decided it was time to break out his private reserve of self-infused liqueurs. The bottles reminded me of those beakers you see in high-school biology classes, with tarantulas, tape worms and frogs floating lifelessly in formaldehyde. I was told the various bottles contained, a pepper from his garden, a vanilla bean and various herbs. Terry poured me a sizable amount from the pepper bottle and upon one sniff, I knew this stuff was liquid fire. I ended up trying a small sip of the one from the vanilla bean bottle and just as I thought, liquid fire. Don’t know about you, but the LAST thing I want to do before bed is take shots of pepper infused alcohol. While I tried my best to be his “new found daughter” I found myself longing for the good ol’ American tradition of ice cream, hot chocolate or in my case – a bowl of Lucky Charms before bed.
The next day we woke up and had a conservative breakfast of jam and bread and coffee. Then it was off to sight-see! Having only consumed about a half-cup of coffee I was jonesing for some caffeine. The slight hangover from the night before didn’t help either :).
We visited a different cathedral, absolutely beautiful.
One of Marseilles bucket-list items was to go see the Chateau d’If, the prison in the Count of Monte Cristo. But according to our hosts, the ferry was expensive and the tour, lame. I made sure to get tons of pictures of it from the top of the cathedral instead.
Then we were driven up to this look-out point which literally, took my breath away.
We drove to an old hospital/cathedral.
At about 11 o’clock, my tummy was grumbling so I busted out the Clif Bar I had stashed in my purse and decided this was perfect to tide me over until we had lunch. Hours went by, we saw and walked and pointed and gushed. But no food. I kept thinking that they had a little cafe they were planning on bringing us to but I was wrong. At about 6:30 we drove home in silence, the Americans all delirious with hunger but not wanting to be rude and ask that we quickly pull through McDonalds. We were told that our dinner reservation was at about 8 o’clock and Meg, Becca and I sat up in our room scraping together whatever remnants of food we had in our bags to piece together a small meal.
You know that book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat”? The book outlines easy to implement every-day changes Americans can make to lose and weight and achieve that svelte French frame. I now realize the real secret, French women don’t eat all day and that’s why they don’t get fat. Bam! Maybe I should write a book, eh?
Everyone was obviously, psyched for dinner. The three of us were secretly hoping it wasn’t some restaurant that only served bleeding duck. We ended up at an amazing restaurant that had everything our American hearts desired, pizza, burgers, pasta etc. We also noticed as we came in that the portions were humungous. Another point for the Americans!
We also got to meet one of Terry and Madee’s daughters, Claire and her brand-new hubbie Benoit. Neither of them spoke a lick of English but we got by. I ordered pizza and a Coke Light and was literally in heaven.
The next day we had to leave Marseilles in the early morning to catch our train to PARIS! My Dad ended up booking us four, first class seats on a speed train that goes from Marseilles to Paris in about 3 hours. Boarding the train, I truly felt like Hermione Granger. It was just wonderful inside and our seats sat two and two across from one another, with a table in between. The seats were plush and the leg-room was plentiful. The train was quiet and as we settled in, I was literally squealing with delight. It was just so cool.
We arrived in Paris in what seemed like minutes and immediately made our way to the T.I station (tourist information) to purchase all-museum passes again. Megan had smartly purchased the Rick Steves Paris book so we knew to do this right away. That Rick Steves knows his stuff.
We immediately jumped into a cab and gave him the directions to the apartment we had rented. The drive was quick, only about 10 minutes. We had printed off the instructions the owner gave us as well as a bunch of pictures of the place. When we arrived, we were instructed to punch in a 4 digit code to gain access to the foyer. We entered the number and the door opened easily. The next step was to look inside her mailbox (that would be open, not locked) for the key to the apartment. We opened up the mailbox and reached inside to find…nothing, save for a pile of junk mail. Megan started to panic a little as she had done the large portion of communicating with the owner. We determined we must call her in order to figure out where the key was. We shuffled through the pages we had printed with all the information for the apartment, like amenities, garbage etc. But no phone number.
Panic set in further when we realized our phones weren’t working and neither is the internet. My new iPhone (purchased right after the trip to Vegas) had been turned off the whole trip so far and I decided it was time to whip out the big guns. I powered up my phone and dialed Bryan back in Jackson. No county code, just plain ol’ 1 + area code. He answered on the second ring.
After Bryan had successfully logged into my Mom’s email account, he quickly found the owner’s number and read it off. We hung up and immediately dialed the owner. The number was a New Hampshire area code. “Great!” I thought. She doesn’t even live in Paris.
Ring, ring. No answer.
I left a message clearly stating our situation and asked her to please call back ASAP. Meanwhile, we were sitting in the apartment vestibule with all our luggage, completely trapped. Gary was silent, obviously frustrated with the situation. Megan was on the verge of tears. Nan was trying to stay positive. I was praying that this chick would return my call and that this was all just some mix-up with the key.
After about an hour of waiting, I decided to call again. This time a younger girl answered. When I asked for the owner Sylvie, she informed me that she was out. I politely informed her that this was an emergency and asked if Sylvie had a cell. The girl understood and gave me her cell.
I called the cell phone and a woman answered in a thick french accent. I tell Sylive what happened and she insisted the key must be there. She was on the highway and said she would call me back. Fine. Minutes later I received a text from her, telling me that the key is in an unmarked envelope that would look like mail. We hurry back to the apartment and look through the stack of junk mail to find…nothing. I let her know that there was no such envelope and she then told us to open everything. We ripped through each piece of mail, discovering bills and coupon booklets but no key.
After 15 more minutes of back and forth texting, Sylive called again to explain yet again how strange this is. I understood that this was a strange circumstance but I also understood that I wanted to get my bags upstairs so we could actually start to see Paris!
At this point, about 2 hours had passed. She called back again to inform us that her friend was going to come let us in to the apartment but she wouldn’t be there for an hour. Ok. We were still in the cold, marble floored vestibule and then it has started to rain.
My Dad decided he’d hold down the fort and Megan, my mom and I go get groceries for the apartment, since it had a kitchen. We strolled around, purchasing milk, coffee, yogurt, cereal and of course, a baguette. After the hour passed, we made our way back to the apartment to find Sylvie’s friend had arrived.
Wheeeeee! We’re in!
We shlepped all 4 suitcases, backpacks, camera bags and groceries to the 4th floor and waited while Sylive’s friend struggled with the key. After another moment of panic thinking she had brought the wrong key, the door clicked open.
We barreled inside only to discover…there were already people staying in the apartment!! Suitcases, clothes and laptop computers littered the floor of the quaint apartment. My Dad collapsed on the couch in shear exhaustion, anger and frustration. Megan ran back down the stairs with tears in her eyes. Nan just stood there trying to decide what to do. I immediately began getting our stuff back down the 4 flights, because obviously this apartment was booked for the night.
The friend immediately called Sylvie and spoke in rapid French. After a few minutes of confusion, the friend informed us that Sylvie would call the apartment phone to sort out the mess. Another 20 minutes passed and the call came through on my cell phone (because it wasn’t costing me $15 a minute, oh wait, yes it was) and I immediately handed the phone to my Dad. He could deal with this, but not me.
A twenty minute conversation transpired, all the while Meg had lost it and I was hoisting 50 lb. bags down tiny steps with a baguette tucked under my arm. All in a days work. As my Dad made his way back down the stair case, he let us know that the apartment had been double booked. Apparently Sylvie’s son had mistakenly thought the apartment was available for the 5-day stint we had reserved it for and had rented it to friends of his. Awesome.
As we drug our suitcases around the beautiful streets of the Marais district, I had also lost hope. My dreams of the quaint, cozy Parisian apartment had been crushed under a stupid scheduling conflict. We tried our luck at a couple of two and three star hotels, but seeing as how it was past 7 pm (even though we had arrived at 3) many were booked.
We stumbled upon Hotel Turenne, not far from where the apartment was and luckily they had 2 rooms available. Each room was a bit expensive at 215 euro per night, per room but we didn’t care. We wanted a roof over our heads, wifi and alcohol. That was it.
We checked into our respective rooms and luckily I had stowed a nearly full bottle of Stoli in my suitcase from Spain. We drank warm vodka + lemonades (even Nan) and nibbled stale baguette. We had bought my Dad a gyro from a Greek restaurant hours previous and by this time it was a cold hunk of meat with limp fries on the side. Delish!
Sylvie called back later that evening to inform us that she was paying for our night at the hotel and giving us a full refund of our deposit. She offered sincere apologies telling us “she couldn’t image what hell the day had been for us” and offered 2 free nights at her apartment should any of us return to Paris.
After all was said and done, she was very apologetic, generous and had made right in our books. We were sad to have lost half a day in Paris, but glad to have found a place to stay on such short notice.
The next day was the beginning of our Paris adventure!!
I’ll save that for next time but I thought I’d let you in on the big news.
Bryan and I are moving to Seattle!! We are planning on September but it could be earlier or later.
Why leave beautiful Jackson Hole you ask?
As much as we love it here (especially Bryan), it is simply no longer the right place for many reasons:
- Bryan is going for a job in investments and Jackson doesn’t exactly have millions of openings in that field. Too bad he wasn’t a wrangler!
- I will be looking for a new job in marketing, social media and many other sectors as well.
- We want to be closer to family.
- The winters are too long, cold and long for my taste. Plus I’m not nor will I ever be a die-hard skier.
- Housing is mucho dinero here.
- The town is a too small for my tastes.
- If homegirl Holly makes her way back to the NW, I’ll have all my besties nearby again!
- Bryan’s pals are there as well and we miss them too!
- We want to be closer to family…did I mention that already?
We are beyond excited to take this step. I’m a little scared about things like finding a job, a place to live and adjusting to big-city life but hey, it’s just another adventure right?