i know i haven’t been very good about keeping up on this blog. august was hectic because that’s the month that the entire country of france goes on holiday. we went to the south of france and the cote d’azur. we started off by going to see family in the Alps in a little town the size of belvidere, ne called rossillon. from there, we went to Mont Blanc in the alps which is also called Chamonix, like the youth hostel my mom works at. after that we camped for three long weeks with my fiance’s parents. we saw the palais des papes in avignon which sounded like the tower of babel because everyone was talking so loud in the sanctum. we went for a drive in Marseilles where i finally got to see the Mediterranean sea, which was as blue as i dreamed it would be. we spent an afternoon in Cannes which is totally overrated. everyone there looks like they are posing for a fashion shoot. Aix en Provence was very cute and luckily had an english bookstore where i got a student’s discount because the girl thought i was one. i guess i look young! camping was a huge trial for me, but i got a reprieve when we went to stay in Grasse for a couple of days. that’s the city that makes the perfume. we took the opportunity to drive through the country side, and on Napoleon’s road which he took when he was coming back from his exile on Elbe. my favorite city was Nice. i think i like it because it’s laid out like an american city with grand avenues. we went to the flower market and walked along the promenade d’anglais so named because in the 19th century the english would come to Nice during the summers and walk by the sea. our last day we spent in Monaco where we saw the changing of the guards, and i bought a silly sailor’s hat. we also drove along the grand prix route. when we returned to camping, we spent an evening at the symphony for a debussy recital which was pleasant. by the time our month was up, i was so ready to return to berck. it was like 90° the whole time we were down south, and coming back to the english channel seaside was something of a relief. now it’s back to wedding planning and my newly discovered hobby, cross stitch. next month, i will have been here a year. my blogs may get fewer and farther between, but i’ll try to write from time to time if anything exciting happens. i’ve seen more of france in 11 months than most frenchmen see in their lifetime. a bientot and bisous!
the morning we left for paris, guillaume had to drag me off the couch because i didn’t sleep the night before. naturally, i was incredibly cranky but as we neared paris i brightened up a bit. you see, somehow being in a city changed my feelings of culture shock. metropolitan areas all have the same vibe in that there are people and cars and activity. even though the brands are different, the hustle and bustle can be extremely comforting to a city rat like me. we stayed at a friends’ apartment and took the metro everyday to all the places i’ve read about from the art history textbooks to hemingway. our first night, we went to the sacre coeur to see the skyline at night. this church is on one of the highest hills in paris, and was a huge problem with the working class of paris when it was built because of the sheer scale and money put into it. so, being working class heroes, we sat on the steps of the church and listened to the clash while drinking wine. then we walked around montmarte and ventured through the red light district to moulin rouge. these few things were enough to make me adore paris, but the next day we had a picnic in luxembourg gardens, and ambled through until we happened to stumble on the lilas, which is the cafe hemingway wrote in during his expatriate days. it was unexpected and i have to say i was overcome. coincidentally, i was reading a moveable feast that morning. all of guillaume’s friends live near to or in paris, so we went to see the young parisians that night. one thing i should’ve learned before i jetsetted off to france was how to speak the language but pantomime is a valuable tool, and so is wine. one thing everyone in the world understands is a toast. and if you ever want to make friends, sing rock and roll or get them to sing the la marsailles. it’s a crowd pleaser. we went to the notre dame which was cool. a little boy ran up to me and started asking me in french what the name of the church was, and guigui was a doll, explaining to the little tyke that it was called notre dame and that i was american. i think he was asking his mom and she pointed to me and said ask that nice young lady. just me and the little boy’s luck. i was out of books so we found a big bookstore that had english titles, then went to shakespeare and co., where i was a little starstruck so we just browsed. again, hemingway. we went and put our metro tickets on serge gainsbourg’s tomb, respectfully talked by jean-paul satre‘s grave, then made the pilgrimage to jim morrison’s grave. i smoked a marlboro and left the graffitti ‘vini,vidi,vici’. we did go to louvre. i saw all of the stuff you are supposed to: la jacombe or as we like to say, mona lisa, the winged nike or victory, and the venus de milo. we looked at all the paintings from the french revolution and the coolest part of the whole museum is the foundation of the medievel castle they found while excavating for the pyramid they built for the modern wing. guillaume made me hysterical while we were walking through by humming the darth vadar theme from star wars. we went to another small museum with an incredibly cool exhibition on the working class of paris during the 19th century. it was a highlight of our trip. you know they call brassknuckles points americains? apt. i have seen so much stuff, i can’t remember it all. i forgot the camera. oh, versailles. the opulence of this palace is pretty thought-provoking. my main comment about it is that if i had marched from the slums of paris to the palace at versailles, i wouldn’t be angry, i’d just be tired, and maybe hungry. puts the french revolution into perspective. marie antoinette didn’t say let them eat cake. she said give them my pain au chocolat. silly girl. after that, a few of us rented a house in champagne for a few days. beautiful country. the owner of the house owned a vineyard so we went and toured it and his cave, but i didn’t learn a thing since, again, i don’t speak french. we did go to the moet caves where dom perignon is bottled, and held up our poor tour guide by laughing the entire time. we were like the bad kids on the school field trip, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves even if the rest of the tour didn’t. on our way back to berck we went to the reims cathedral which is the first real world war damage i’ve seen. they’ve reconstructed most of it, but you can still see where nazi germans’ bombs hit. the thing that occurs to me with the old architecture is that my entire life i’ve never seen anything older than 200 years. 1000 year old church? it’s incredible to think of it from any point of view. but all people love gargoyles. the french kids i was with loved them and then i heard an american say oh look, the gargoyles are awesome! we then felt the need to translate i love the gargoyles into every language we collectively knew. german was my favorite because i envisioned a young hitler youth saying to his friends, but wait, the church has awesome gargoyles, maybe we shouldn’t bomb it. i have now driven in europe, too. we worked it out, and the highway speed limit in france is 100mph. sorry family, but it was a lot of fun. honestly, the metro at rush hour is more dangerous. and we did get to witness a few bomb scares, though no strikes. c’est la vie!
my mom got my ticket after much frustration on her part. her paycheck didn’t come in so she had to borrow money, then put it on a card to buy my ticket online. then she could only afford a one way ticket. so i am at the mercy of my friends to send me back when the time comes! but i’m sure it will all work out. anyway, i leave tuesday october 11th at ten pm. i have one hour to changeover at heathrow, so i am very nervous about the flight being on time. i’ll be in paris in the early afternoon, and we are going to see the eiffel tower and some other things then drive back to berck because my friend has work at 11 the next morning. i already packed my suitcase and backpack. that’s how excited i am. i mean, i have a week to go and i’m already packed. i just want everything to go smoothly. i have always been one of those people who are super-prepared for any thing. i wasn’t able to sleep in high school unless my clothes were laid out over the chair where i could see them. i finished delta of venus, and was blushing the entire time. i’ve been around the block, but her descriptions of sex are very detailed. now i am on to a moveable feast, and i really am enjoying it. i think i will take it with me so we can go to some of the places he mentions in it. i have already been asked to christmas dinner at guigui’s parents who live near paris. he says his dad speaks english well and it will be funny watching his mom try to speak it. i will, of course, try to speak french to her though out of politeness. i really am out of my mind with excitement. i packed only my very best clothes so that i feel chic, and my mom gave me her chanel number 5. this is going to be such a new experience. i’ve seen all but 13 of the united states, and i’ve been to niagra falls on the canadian side, but never across on ocean. my flight is at night so hopefully i will sleep. it’s just amazing that i have this opportunity. life and love are waiting for me. i leave on the hunter’s full moon. i hope that brings good luck. i have worries about lost baggage and not catching my connection. but other than that, i feel really comfortable with the idea of being in a foreign country with no resources other than my friends. what’s the worst that could happen? i’ve seen enough tragedy that nothing will be able to spoil my good time. i’m going to be a brave little bohemian and take each day as it comes. no agenda, no plans. just life. nine days and i get a chance to be who i really want to be. away from this dirty city and these downtrodden people. away from the memories on every corner. i get to make new ones in new cities, new corners. who could ask for anything more?
my mom and i went and bought books for my trip. i got a culture shock edition for france which i read all of last night. she insisted i get a moveable feast by hemingway since it is like the quintessential expatriate french novel. i also got delta of venus by anais nin since she is a french author, and a close friend claimed i would love her(he thinks he is henry miller). that girl has a dirty mouth! it’s good though, i must admit. as of friday i will know when and where i get into paris, and i am so excited i can’t even sleep. i think all day of red wine and baguettes, cheese and the louvre. we probably won’t spend that much time in paris other than to do the touristy things like see the eiffel tower and jim morrison’s grave. the town i will be living in is in the north, right on the english channel. evidently it is only a three hour train ride from paris to london via the metro that runs under the english channel. i am going to make the most of this trip in case it is my only chance at europe! i have friends in germany we will see, and brugge is on my list after watching the colin farrel movie in brugge which is destined to become a cult classic. and of course the netherlands. i am a florist so the dutch have a special place in my heart. too bad the tulips won’t be in bloom. i learned a lot from the culture book, and i think i am going to fit in well with the french sensibilities. i’m sure my language will improve after a few weeks, but more than anything i am looking at this as a new lease on life. tragedy has been around every corner, and i think this is the universe’s way of telling me it’s ok, everything will be fine now. i know this so far hasn’t been a travelogue but it will be. i just thought a diary while preparing would be interesting to start with. i have my host gifts already packaged, my passport in a safe place, and have washed all my clothes. leaving philadelphia is going to be a great change. i’ve left before(and am not a native)but this time it feels different. i will still be win, but i will be an adult win travelling europe with eager yet experienced eyes. i can see the beach in my mind in the town of berck-sur-mer. walking along the channel, imagining a world i will no longer be a part of. a world where i leave a deceased husband, abusive boyfriends, and streets i cannot walk down without some sort of shell shock. i know i must return, but perhaps i will come back a new person who isn’t as haunted and who’s skeletons don’t feel like dancing any longer. i am alive again for the first time in years. my soul is awakened to what the meaning of life might be. the little prince tattooed on my shoulder is guiding my way. and as he says, “if you love a rose that lives on a star, it is sweet to look at the sky at night.” well i love a flower who lives on a star, and he is telling me to blossom. the time has come to put away my thorns, and cultivate my dreams.
i get my ticket on friday. i’ll be staying in france for three months, discovering food and art, love and life. throughout my stay and during my travels, i want to keep everyone informed of my experiences as i see the world. i’ve seen the entire united states, but i’ve never crossed an ocean. so here it goes! bon voyage…