Monday, March 30, 2009

Ma Soeur, Mon Coeur “my sister, my heart”

(Attention: This blog entry comes with a warning to break up the reading…I’m not kidding…it’s long. Maybe go day by day and take a break for a café au lait or a siesta!)

I walked home Tuesday night with a skip in my step and a smile on my face because the next morning, I would wake up and take the RER to meet Annie at the airport. I got there right on time, and grabbed a coffee to wait outside of arrivals. There is probably no better place to watch people in the airport than at arrivals. One girl paced around and every time the nearly translucent door would open her head would shoot up and crane to see who was exiting. I believe she was waiting for the same plane as me, so I never saw who she was waiting for, I can only imagine…

Another girl waited with an elderly couple. She was waiting for her family to arrive, and when they showed up she was all smiles and hugging and making introductions and taking pictures with her sister. I believe she is studying abroad and her family is in France to visit her. The elderly couple is her homestay family and they don’t speak any English, so she can impress her family by translating back and forth between her American family and sa famille Francais. The story is a familiar one for me. There was a couple in their forties who hugged and kissed each other with such emotion as I can only hope to share one day in my marriage.

Anne had no trouble finding her way to baggage claim and out to me! Poor Annie wasn’t feeling too great after the long plane ride, so after excited hugs, we found our way to the RER station (read: Caltrain) and wound our way into the city. One of the metro stops that I frequent is accessed by the Champs Elysee and it has an escalator which brings you up to the street with an awesome view of the Arc de Triomphe (probably my favorite monument in Paris). I love taking an escalator out of a metro station. It’s a little pleasure, but the wind hits you and you can gather your impression of Paris life slowly as you ascend to street level. It’s majestic and also one of those simple pleasures in life, which I try not to take for granted.

Anne and I went on a brief tour to see the Eiffel Tower from the Champ de Mars (the stretch of lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower), as well as check out my old haunts near the American University of Paris in the Seventh district, before walking home by the Seine. I dropped Anne off at home so that she could rest and went to work with the kids. That night, we walked to Trocadero to see the Eiffel Tower at night. The Troc (as it was so lovingly referred to by my friends and me during our studies abroad) has by far the best view of the Eiffel Tower at night. The Champ de Mars may claim everyone’s wonder during the day, but by night, there is no better place to be in Paris than The Trocadero. As cliché as it may be, when the Eiffel Tower sparkles (which it does on the hour, every evening) it is awe-inspiring.

Wednesday, Annie and I went to the street market by my house to get supplies for spaghetti sauce, which we would make the next day. This provided me the perfect excuse to push myself past my comfort zone and order everything from cheese, to meat, to veggies, to spices. It really wasn’t that difficult and the one dude whom I didn’t understand, nor did he have the patience to explain, merely lost our business and the next vendor was very helpful! I mean really, how difficult is it to hand me a basket and say fill. Not very. Anyway, once that was all finished, I went off to hang out with the Fromonts and Anne sauntered through Paris toute seule. My day turned out to be rather exhausting as Max taught me a new game called 1-2-3 Maison de Magic (House of Magic), in which I was the cat and he was the mouse. I’m sure you can imagine how that game plays out, and why I spent the better part of an hour chasing and being chased by a little boy on a bike. But it was fun, Max learned how to say House of Magic in English (or he wasn’t safe from the cat) and I’ve never seen him laugh so much.

That evening, Annie and I went to the Bastille to see it lit up at night and ate a rather expensive French meal. (Well my meal of Duck ravioli topped with foie gras was French, Anne ordered a burger haha!).

Thursday took us to the Louvre to soak up all sorts of French art and culture. We spent about 4 and a half hours (and 4 Euro on a coke because we happened to sit down instead of taking our food away – I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m slightly peeved at this). Anyway, the Louvre was really very enjoyable. The sculpture is very impressive and the paintings are among the most famous in the world. I’m constantly amazed at how long these paintings have lasted. I doubt if Leonardo da Vinci would ever have imagined that his Mona Lisa would have lasted for so many years, or been seen by so many people. Many of those paintings were created for private collections. Among the favorites were Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and the Wedding Feast at Cana (this painting is enormous and there are the most random additions which I would never have thought about in reading this famous Bible story, i.e. a cat on the table – sure why not?)

Thursday evening we enjoyed yummy pasta chez moi, and watched The Bourne Identity on my computer. They filmed many of the scenes in Paris and Matt Damon is just great to look at ;-)

Friday, we reserved for Versailles, and I am so happy to have been able to go back with Annie. I had been twice when I was studying here, but there was so much I had never seen before! I must admit that I much prefer seeing the smaller extensions rather than the grandeur of the main chateau (although this really must be seen and appreciated first). The Chateau is immense and the history that surrounds you is just incredible to experience. My favorite thing to do in Paris is imagine how it looked hundreds of years ago, and it’s really not difficult to do at Versailles because everything has been so well kept and restored in it’s original fashion. After touring the Chateau and the Dauphin’s Apartments (which I had never seen), we walked out to the Petit Trianon (basically a mini chateau), which was originally built for Louis XIV (or XV)’s official mistress, though she never got to live there because she died before it was finished. It was later gifted to Marie Antoinette who made it her own, and who spent most of her time there with friends, in retreat from palace life. She also built a Hamlet of little farm houses behind the Petit Trianon. It is a beautiful walk to the Hamlets and they have been preserved in such peacefulness, that you feel like you are walking into a storybook once you find them. Anne and I enjoyed this part of Versailles IMMENSELY! That’s it for Versailles, we were tired so we took the little trolly back to the main chateau and headed home.

In an effort to relieve the many activities we reserved for Anne’s last day, we stopped by the Eiffel Tower on the way home and made our way up for a great view of the city. You know how people always say “I can see my house from here!” when they are up really high and looking out over a beautiful view…I actually can! It was quite a revelation. After we took the stairs (which take longer than they look) back down to the ground, Anne got to try her first Chocolate, Banana, and Chantilly crepe. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! I’ll try to get a picture up of this perfection soon, though I’ve reached my limit on Flickr for the month, so I may have to wait a few days. Needless to say it was great. After dinner, we decided that Anne should experience the wonder of the lack of an open container law in Paris, so we bought a bottle of wine and went to the Arc de Triomphe for a night cap. The Arc de Triomphe is MASSIVE. It is by far my favorite monument in Paris (Though, I admit that others are my favorite for other reasons – Sacre Coeur is my favorite Church, Trocadero is my favorite view of the Eiffel Tower, the Eiffel Tower is THE symbol of Paris so in that way I do not love the steel is made from as much as what it represents—I digress).

I am still amazed at the amount of activities we packed into Saturday. Our day began near the Trocadero at quiet restaurant with Café au Laits, orange juice and baguettes (for a time, we were the only customers). We moved along, ahead of schedule, to the Luxembourg gardens (my favorite gardens in Paris ;-) hehe, see how I get around the distinction). After a stroll along the path, noting the adorable little children playing with boats in the fountain, the honey bee collectors, the large play structure and the Statue of Liberty…wait, what?) we continued along the sixth quarter past La Sorbonne, the Musée de Cluny, famous for the ancient bath house relics, and the Latin Quarter, to Notre Dame – talk about ancient. We paused for lunch so that Anne could try a Parisian dish called a Croque Monsieur (basically a ham and cheese sandwich, but so totally different than your average ham and cheese sandwich). Next we went to Sainte-Chappelle, where three walls are covered by stained class windows and it’s impossible to take a bad picture, because even the blurry ones come out artistic. Our promenade to the Musee D’Orsay after Sainte Chappelle somehow landed us in the middle of a hail storm, so we stopped under an artists overhang but basically got drenched. It came rather out of the blue, lasted just long enough for us to get to the museum, and then stopped. It was so bizarre, but it’s an experience I had not yet been through in Paris, so I’ll take it with a smile on my face  At the D’Orsay, we spent most of our time going through the Impressionist paintings on the fifth floor. There is just something about Monet, Van Gogh and Rembrandt that gets me. It’s something with the softness of the painting I think, that puts me immediately at ease. Then I dragged Anne around trying to find a sculpture of Ophelia, which was totally not worth it, but we found it in the end thanks to a helpful man at the Info desk.

After the D’Orsay, and a rather long trek up ten flights of winding stairs to get out of the Abesses Metro station, we paused for a café and stopped into this adorable shop Michelle recommended called Pylones. It was the vibrant colors that first attracted us, and then of course we were on a mission to find something with a frog on it for Annie and this shop had so many options we had to check them all out! Sacre Coeur, and the weather, waited for us to arrive, and it was the entire splendor I have ever witnessed. We toured through the church, and then walked through the artists square in Montmartre…which was overtaken by extensions of the surrounding restaurants for dining al fresco (this is not a French word, so pardon my spelling)! We chose a lovely restaurant called La Boheme and had a delicious meal complete with Chocolate Mousse and Fromage Blanc (basically cheese the texture of soup doused in sugar…it’s quite wonderful). The night ended with a drink at a pub/club in the Latin Quarter and a taxi ride home.

Sunday morning was something out of a movie, a dramedy most likely. Anne had packed the night before so we didn’t feel at all rushed to get out of the house. I had planned our trip so that we would get to the Airport 2 hours before her plane would take off, so we thought as long as we left by 10 we’d be fine. Our first hiccup came at the metro station where the machine mysteriously would not accept Anne’s ticket. So we had to go upstairs to buy another one, as well as our RER passes to Charles de Gaulle. When we got to the RER station, I was showing Anne how to tell if the train is yours or not and we noticed that all of a sudden it was 11:30. Now that’s strange because we definitely had not been traveling for an hour and a half, so why would the computer at the RER station be wrong, those things are never wrong. Why else would the clock be an hour later during Spring time than your watch and…lightbulb! It’s Daylight Savings and we have literally sprung forward. Crap. We remain calm and get on our RER (a taxi at this point might take longer, since it was a bullet train straight to the airport). The ride to the airport was accompanied by a jolly accordion player, who seemed to tap into and feed off of our anxiousness. My heart rate increased and so his song picked up tempo…or maybe it was vice versa, either way I felt like I was trapped in a bad 3 Stooges movie. We raced through the terminals (of which I am now a master), and when we reached the Continental check in, not only had Anne missed the hour cut-off for International flights, but every check in counter had been closed up and put away. The (one) man at the ticket desk was helping another girl who had missed the same flight, most likely for the same reason. She had to pay $250 to change her flight and stay in Paris for another night. When we got to the counter he originally said Anne would have to pay for a completely ticket (which probably goes for about a thousand dollars if your lucky). Then he said he would waive that and just make her pay the $250 to change her flight, but that she would have to stay another day in Paris. For some reason he softened by our story and found a flight which had been delayed since the early morning due to mechanical problems with the plane. It was no promise, but he said that if the flight wasn’t cancelled she could be on it. So he took down my number and we waited.

First at McDonalds

then walking up and down the terminal,

then in a seat where I dozed on Annie’s shoulder, only to be awakened abruptly by the ring of my telephone and “Things are looking up!” from the man on the other side of my receiver. In a haze and whirlwind Anne suddenly had a ticket, a promise that she would see the States by sundown and we said a quick goodbye before she headed through security. At this point, I know that she made it to New Jersey, where she most likely had to stay in a hotel over night before taking a flight early Monday morning. There was a flicker of hope that she would make a red eye back to San Francisco, but the chances were minimal at best. This is very unfortunate for Anne, because she can’t seem to make it back from Europe without having to spend an unexpected night in an airport hotel (Due to plane delays, she and Dave had to spend a night in Frankfurt Germany on their way back from their honeymoon). In any event, she should be home safe by now and as much of a pain as it was, it was so much more wonderful to have had her here this past week. I talked her ear off the first night she was here, because she was the first person I had talked to in three weeks where there wasn’t a delay, language barrier or awkwardness of meeting new people. LoL!

I can’t even say that it’s back to reality for me, because how can I ever describe this experience as reality? Nope, I guess I’ll go to sleep and remain in this clever dream in which I find myself and say a prayer to thank God for every moment of this experience.

Thanks for reading this one, it was rather long and I hope you took it in parts. If you've got some more internet in you, I added a few pictures of Anne's stay to my Flickr account. Unfortunately, there is a limit to the amount I can add per month, so the rest will be added once April hits:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The weekend

It was another lovely weekend here in Paris. The sun was shining and I tried to take advantage as much as possible. I went down to the farmers market Saturday morning and extended myself slightly more than last time, by buying bananas, strawberries, oranges and apples. It's no meat and fish purchases, but it's baby steps. By June I might even be able to ask for nuts and little sugar honey snacks! I also bought some flowers to brighten up the apartment! After shopping a bit I went to babysit for the day and it was just me and the littlest tike Alexis (who is one and a half and such a happy baby!) and me for awhile so we went to a sand dune at Palais Royale and played before coming home for a bath. Then I had dinner with all three kids and read them Alice and Wonderland (that story is so derranged, I didn't even know how to begin to translate it for them!) When the parents got home I met up with some of my international friends (which I will refer to as the Science Po crew as that is the school they all study at). Lots of fun and a long day, but a very good day :) Sunday I took it slow, did some laundry and went up to the Sacre Coeur and Montmartre (which I have decided will be the next place I live in Paris). I LOVE this spot. There are so many diverse people, especially on a sunny Sunday afternoon, because like the Luxembourg gardens, it is a nice place to sit outside and enjoy the weather. Also, everything closes down on SUndays, so you have to do activities at public areas.

Now, I'm all set and waiting for Annie to arrive!! She is en route to Texas as I type and I will meet her at Charles de Gaulle at 10am tomorrow! The weather is supposed to be only party cloudy so hopefully there wont be any delays. I'm so excited for her visit!!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Happy St. Patty's Day to all!

I hope you wore your green yesterday :) Mine was a poor showing of green earrings and green in my scarf, but it was all I could do on a last minute notice! My friend Madeline got me in touch with a high school friend of hers who is in a master's program here in Paris. He studied abroad here for a year during undergrad and, like me, couldn't get enough of Paris, so he moved back! He invited me to celebrate St. Patty's Day at Kitty O'Sheas, a pub near La Grande Opera. The French don't really celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, but this Irish pub in particular played Irish music...sorry no jig from me this time...and gave out Guinness t-shirts and clover top hats! It was packed!
I was with quite an international crowd of Americans, French, British, and yes...Irish students. I was laughing with one of the Americans that it figures that my first night on the town back in Paris, I would be surrounded by other Americans and everyone would be speaking English! It was lots of fun and a nice alteration to my routine. The hat is pretty funny, I'll have to save it for next year's celebration of my heritage ;-)
The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous! Sunny all day with temperatures just low enough that you should have your arms covered but thats it. It reminds me of good San Francisco weather. Stupidly, I only brought heavy coats, so I guess I might have to make a stop at Les Halles (the mall) and make my first Parisian fashion purchase! I've been holding out, as it's like an addiction, once you begin buying French clothes, there it no telling when you might stop!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Today went to the Franklin Roosevelt metro station on the Champs Elysee to buy a Navigo pass. This allows me to use the metro and the bus in Paris without having to deal with those mangy tickets. I'm pretty excited because it gives me more freedom to push out past my little neighborhood and explore further throughout Paris without having to worry if I have enough tickets to get back (while saving a certain amount to get to my internship and the Fromonts etc). Its great! Plus, it's automatic so I basically just have to plop my purse down on the machine and it let's me go through. This is an added benefit because I usually stuff my purse to the brim so it saves me having to search through my purse, spending precious moments that might cause me to miss my metro.

That's all for today! Anne will be here exactly a week from today...woot woot!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday in paradise, oh, I mean Paris!

Today was a beautiful day in Paris! It was probably in the upper fifties and sunny! I went to the Luxembourg gardens to read my book, (along with a third of the population of Paris). It is such a beautiful garden with immense history. It was originally build to be a widows palace for Marie (I think) de Medici, before she had a falling out with her son and was banished from Paris. Then it was a jail during the revolutionary and now it it houses the Senate. After two hours of lounging in the sun I took a stroll through Paris, centering myself with the Isle de la Cite and Notre Dame. In a few hours I saw the Hotel Dieu (a famous hospital of Paris), La Sainte Chappelle, the Latin Quarter, the Cluny Museum, and La name a few. I walked through what I thought was a farmers market, but turned out to be a market selling pets and pet necesities (rabbits, birds, cages food etc). I stopped at a bookstore which was selling novels for 50 centimes (I bought Gossip girls and Philadelphia en francais). Ate a ham and cheese crepe, watched a French Hip Hop group do a performance in the street and then, instead of locating my bus stop, I walked home along the Seine. My feet are killing me, but it was totally worth it! All in all, a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Tomorrow I have to be at ICOM bright and early so it's off to bed for me! Wish me luck tomorrow!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Days are so much longer when you wake up at 6am!

im still a little off on my time but Ive decided it's really a good thing. This morning I woke up at 6 and couldnt go back to sleep, so I went downstairs and called Anne from the phone booth (or cabine en français). Then I went for a run by the Eiffel Tower, made myself a big breakfast and by that time it was only nine in the morning. I ran errands at the Monoprix (read: Target) and stopped into the Farmers market, which may seem like a usual task, but when there is a language barrier it really is not. In the end I settled on a box of raspberries, which tasted delicious! Trying to buy meat was just too difficult for today, LoL! This evening I babysat the two little boys (Maxime and Alexis) and have a little time so I thought I might try to tackle this keyboard yet again!

I met with Lysa and my internship is all set up. I will work on Mondays and Thursdays helping to edit the newsletter and answer emails, which I believe will turn into a difficult task as it's an international organization so they will be coming in all languages. Lysa seems unphased at my not nowing Spanish even though we will print the newsletter in English French and Spanish. I guess it will be a crash course for me! It will definitely be a challenge but Im already excited to begin and find my niche at ICOM. Its supposedly only run by 15 people or so, which means that they can use whatever help I can bring to the table and so far everyone I have met have been very nice and helpful.

Oh, so this might be an important piece of information... the phone number I wrote in the last blog is incorrect, or rather missing a number. It is 06 20 13 55 31. And I believe if you are calling from a number outside of France it is 33 62 01 35 531. For reference 33 is the French country code. As you can see, Im learning as I go. Keep your fingers crossed that I can get internet access from my apartment, as it will make skyping much easier. I did find a starbucks with WIFI access, so it would be just like home! But some conversations are not meant for the barrista to hear.

In case I cant get internet access for awhile, Monday starts the week count down until Annie arrives, and Im so excited!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Arrived at last1

Internet is touch and go here in my little french apartment, so Im using the computer at the Fromont household which has a different keyboard so please excuse the odd spellings. I also donùt have a lot of time, but I wanted to write to say that I msde it to Paris and its as I remember it and yet completely different! I love my apartment and neighborhood. I have been spending time getting to know the Fromont kids (who are absolutely adorable) Unfortunately I havent done a lot of sight seeing yet because in ;y off time, I sleep since the jetlag is really taking its toll. I do see the Eiffel Tower everyday though which is always a welcome sight! Today I left early for work so I had some time to walk around around the Louvre pyramids. Mita, the Fromonts nanny, and I were just talking about how lucky these kids are to grow up in the midst of so much history! I got a French tele^hone set up this afternoon and my number is 06 20 13 553. Add 33 to the beginning and drop the 0 for calls from the US. I took pictures of my apartment and Ill upload them as soon as I can!

Love to all!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Googbye, my friends

Thank you all for your wonderful wishes and words of encouragement. I downloaded and set up my skype account. My account name is jzappelli. Once I get settled I'll charge it up and use it to keep in touch. Otherwise, (as far as I'm aware) everything's all settled! I'm going to try to get some sleep, since I have to leave the house at 5am tomorrow, and I'll write again from the other side of the Atlantic!

Au Revoir!

Friday, March 6, 2009

All packed up

For once in my life, I am actually packed for a trip over 48 hours in advance. Ok for all of you who know what a procrastinator I am, breath. I know this is shocking information, but it will probably save me a panic attack Sunday night, so it's worth it. I still have to pack the toiletries, but I couldn't get around that, so there you have it.

You will also notice to the right of this blog, that I now have an address in Paris. I received an email from Sylvie Fromont (that's the mom of the family I will be working for) and she answered a few of the questions I had while packing, one of which was, "What will my address be?" I originally thought I would be living in their apartment complex in the center of town, but I have come to find out that I will be living in the 16th district, which is in the west of the city, near the Trocadero and the Arc de Triomphe. Also, I have a view of the Eiffel Tower...HOLLA! So I'm pretty excited! Her sister's family and her grandmother also live in my apartment complex, in different apartments on separate floors. I think it'll be nice to have my own space but know that there are people close by in case anything happens.

So that's the sitch. Three more days!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The unabridged story of how my trip to Paris came about

Back in December, Peter, the President at The Tech, was kind enough to send my resume (Cirriculum Vitae en Francais) to a few of his acquaintances in Europe, to see if anyone might be interested in hiring me. His friend at the International Council of Museums in Paris was interested in hiring me for a communications intern to help with the quarterly newsletter for the organization but the position would be unpaid so I had to look for other employment to sustain myself while I would be abroad. Peter then introduced me to the Lucie, marketing director of the San Jose Jazz (they shared our office building). Lucie grew up in Paris and got me in touch with her friends, The Fromonts, to be a part time nanny/English teacher for their children. There is an extra apartment available in their complex, owned by their family, that they will let me use in exchange for my part-time work. Everything was coming together nicely, I had an internship, a place to stay and the opportunity to live in France!

Then I found out that ICOM hired a new General Director, who wanted to cut down on the number of interns hired, so as to refocus the group. Lysa was unable to get my internship approved. I decided I would still go to Paris, because my arangement with the Fromonts is a wonderful opportunity, and it leaves my days open to babysit for other families or just explore Paris! So, I readjusted the amount of time will stay in Paris to accommodate the strict Visa regulations and bought my ticket!

With one week to go, I have been studying my French grammar, getting affairs (such as insurance etc) in order for my travels, and packing (which will begin anytime now).

This morning, I received an email from Lysa that my internship has been approved, and she would like to meet with me as soon as I get settled into Paris. So, the world is right again! I will meet with Lysa, hopefully WOW her with my marketing expertise, and get really great experience with an international museum organization. I'm so intrigued...and excited because this will also be a fun way to meet people while I am abroad.

Ok, that's the post for today. Now I'm off to run a few errands and then I will take out my luggage and begin the packing process.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My inspiration

I thought I would share two quotations that have been a source of inspiration for me in readying for my trip to Paris. The first is from the movie Paris Je T'aime (which means literally, Paris, I love you) and the second I received in a note from my Aunt, who has been a constant support in my trying to find a way to get back to Paris.

"Sitting there, alone in a foreign country,
far from my job and everyone I know, a feeling came over me.
It was like remembering something I'd never known before
or had always been waiting for, but I didn't know what.
Maybe it was something I'd forgotten or something I've been missing all my life.
All I can say is that I felt, at the same time, joy and sadness.
But not too much sadness, because I felt alive.

Yes, alive.

That was the moment I fell in love with Paris.
And I felt Paris fall in love with me." - Paris, Je t'aime

"If you know you're interested in something,
don't let imaginary boundaries or preconceptions prevent you from pursuing it.
The truth is, you can blur the lines as much as you want.
In fact, if you do, you'll probably find yourself more successful
than if you'd always done what was expected of you." - Unknown

Now I just have to pack!