Off to Iceland, Unmoored and Rootless

After months of anticipation and preparation, I found myself anxious and excited to meet my classmates at school and carpool to Toronto for our flight. Arriving at our gate, five hours of driving behind us, five hours of flying ahead of us, I started to get to know my classmates. Work was already far from my mind. My youngest child was in safe hands. I felt a rare sense of freedom…I was unmoored and ready to grow. Arriving in Reykjavik at 6:22 a.m. (2:22 a.m. back home), we piled into two vans and took off for our hostel. I never got to do a year or even a semester abroad when I was in engineering school. Now was my chance to experience life abroad as a student.

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After settling in to the hostel, with strict instructions not to nap, we changed into many layers of clothing, piled back into the vans, and drove halfway back to the airport. We were at our first site. Our mission was to observe. I pulled out my waterproof field-book and a mechanical pencil and looked around. The landscape was alien…so alien that filmmakers often use it as a backdrop in movies that take place on Mars and other extra-terrestrial places.

I sketched the outcrop in front of me…I saw a dark band of basalt heaved up over red rock. I moved closer and looked at the rocks. I was clueless. I looked aroIMG_2185und and saw that classmates were climbing up the rocks. I took a deep breath and started climbing. I mostly looked at my feet…the way was steep and the footing unstable. I nervously climbed higher and higher. A new classmate reached out a hand to steady me. I accepted, feeling part grateful and part pitifu
l. Eventually, I could look back and see a circular depression…a volcano crater! Or so I thought…

One thing that I needed to learn was how to be safe. I flashed back to the first time I was in Colorado taking skiing lessons. Three times on one downhill run, I almost died. I was out of control. After the third time, I finally internalized the lesson
that it did not matter how slowly I descended the mountain as long as I was in control. I thought of that often every day I was in Iceland.

Rootless ConesMeanwhile, some of my classmates had wandered much farther afield. The landscape was full of many similar structures and they were off in the distance examining them. I continued to observe. I wrote a lot of random things in my notebook. I did not feel very scientific…I couldn’t organize my observations or my thoughts. Eventually we gathered and our professor gave us some insight into the site. It turned out that we were observing a cluster of rootless cones.

Even though I’d been up for over 32 hours, I felt energized. I couldn’t believe that I was in Iceland. I had eleven more days of traveling with my class, holing up in the hostel at night, working with my two undergraduate teammates by day, exploring volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, and everything else that I could absorb along the way.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and what an amazing journey it is!

My Addiction to Office Supplies Goes Outdoors

New school supplies still make me happy. When I started college as an engineer, I graduated from loose leaf paper and spiral notebooks to logbooks. I learned that a scientist has to use a bound book so that evidence is documented in a tamper-proof way. I liked that. Ok, I loved that! Then, I discovered logbooks with page numbers and graph paper pages. Ah, heaven. Soon I justified buying a scale instead of a plain ruler and next thing you know I had a few French curves and a lot of colored pencils to my name.

Now, as I prepare for my journey to Iceland (sounds awfully adventurous!) I was instructed to buy a geological field book. This notebook, my professor explained, would be turned in for grading at the end of the course. It needs to have accurate drawings (uh oh) and be kept in chronological order documenting all of the sites we visit. The date, GPS coordinates, and observed weather must be recorded along with geological observations.

I ordered my notebook online. I learned that there are many profession-specific field books. They are rain-proof, as long as you use a pencil or a waterproof pen. I scoped out the proper notebook and added two mechanical pencils, one red and one black. I wanted blue and maybe even green and yellow, but they didn’t offer anything but black and red. I also found a cover to keep the notebook and pencils together.Geologic Fieldbook

Looking at this notebook, the epitome of all scientific notebooks, I think about why I am so drawn to it. The empty notebook is a new beginning, the blank pages waiting to be filled with new experiences. Back in college, I began each new semester as an adventure and a challenge. It was tough going and as I progressed through the years, I started to count down the remaining semesters at each new start. Better to just enjoy the journey, tough as it may be.

My new notebook has a table of contents. I like the orderliness of this. Life is chaotic, but with this notebook, this one aspect of my life will be chronicled in an orderly way. Built into the back of the book are twenty pages of reference materials. These aren’t the random references that some notebooks capture, but information very specific to geology. When I am out in the field, with no internet, this will be my only reference. It’s nice to know that most of the basics are already at hand. Before I leave, I will add references of my own, particularly a map of Iceland.

Opening up the notebook, I find that each left-hand page is a blank table and each right hand page is graph paper. I wonder if my observations will fit neatly into this format. I doubt it, but this is where I need to be flexible. Hidden in the back of the notebook, I find a treasure…a scale! It’s flat and waterproof with an arrow and a big N. In the field, I can set it next to a geologic feature and point it north. Then when I take a photo of the feature, I will know its exact size and orientation.

It’s often said that planning a vacation is more fun than the actual trip. I hope that they are equally pleasurable, but I do know that I am enjoying the preparations for my next adventure. I have my precious notebook and I intend to follow up with my professor to get it back after he grades it. I am already making plans to take his fieldwork class next year…Cypress or Puerto Rico.

Who knew that a passion for notebooks could mesh with my newly unleased passion for adventure! Find the Joy in the Journey…What’s your next adventure?

 

Thanks For Gold Elite Status–Mi Tocaya

Early in my career, I tried to learn Spanish. I got pretty confused with French words, which I hadn’t realized I’d known, popping into my head instead of the Spanish as I tried to converse with a classmate…she had the same trouble with Italian. Oddly, we were having quite a conversation with full comprehension until the instructor overheard us and got annoyed.

I learned the rudiments of Spanish and still remember some of it more than 20 years later. One word that I learned from my Columbian instructor, which I found so novel that I’ve saved it in the back of my brain for just such a time as this, is tocayo…tocaya for the feminine. It is a word that is used to indicate that another person shares your first name.

For years now, I’ve lived a half-mile away from a woman with not only my same first name, but also my same last name. I’ve gotten her mail, gotten her vote (she got mine, not to worry), and been confused for her at the bank, pharmacy, and even doctor’s office. Once, the electric company combined our accounts thereby putting my Social Security number on her account. I met her one time at the polls where we were standing next to each other in line. I’ve not seen her since, although we go to the same church and obviously shop in a lot of the same places.

Altogether it has been something of an annoyance to have this particular tocaya. The other day, however, I got Gold Elite status at Marriott. It seems that she forgot her rewards number and when she called to find out what it was, she was given mine. I called Marriott a couple of years ago when I started to get e-mail reminders of “my” upcoming stays. Other than securing my account with a PIN and removing my credit card information, there was nothing else they could suggest. They did not offer to call the other Laura and inform her of the mistake.image

Meanwhile, she does quite a bit of traveling and all of her rewards points flow into my account where they are automatically converted to frequent flier miles. And now I’m Gold Elite. I feel like planning a trip to take advantage of the perks of Gold Elite, whatever they may be. Upon investigation, the perks are room upgrade, lounge access, and internet upgrade. There are a few others that are probably not useful to me like discounted long-distance and fax.

As you can see from the photo, this perk only lasts until the end of the year, so I need to plan fast! Alas, my problem is my child…not a problem child, just that I am tied to home lately. I used to travel for business, where I would inevitably stay at a Marriott property since it is a preferred provider to my company. I used to be Gold Elite on a regular basis…not any more. Now, I have a 14 year old daughter and no back-up plan for child, or shall I say, teenager care. I don’t mind asking if she can spend a night or two at a friend’s, but when I travel I like to go far and wide and stay a week or two.

I’d love to return to Quito or Dublin, or (oh yes!) Paris…but if I have to wait a few years while my daughter grows up, so be it. I can dream in the meanwhile.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the pleasure in dreaming!

Hometown Tourist

Recently I was asked to recommend some places to visit on a winter weekend in Detroit. The visitors were from Europe and would likely never have the opportunity to return. My mind swirled with ideas, so many wonderful things to do, see, and experience here! Too many…I needed to narrow it down to what could be done in a single weekend. I asked for specific interests, and music and museums came to the forefront. That and interesting places to walk around and take photos.

I know that the “ruin porn” of our city has international recognition, so I didn’t mention it as it seemed unnecessary. I also wanted to find more positive things to recommend…and so I did. In the process, I learned a lot about myself. I was able to recommend places that I have been to many times, or at least once or twice…but I found myself recommending “must see’s” that I have personally never seen.

I tried to narrow down even more to places that are particularly unique to Detroit, not just to America. I recommended many museums, but Motown Museum was at the top of my list. I’ve never been there. I mentioned this to a local friend who exclaimed that she’d just been there and it was incredible. I have now started a list of hometown tourist things to do. It does seem common for people not to visit the places in their own town that others travel from all over to see. I never saw myself in that light until now.

I’ve seen all of our professional sports teams play. I’ve seen some of the local college teams play. I’ve been to the really big museums and to the zoo. I’ve eaten at a lot of nice restaurants in the city. I’ve been to the public library (had to pay $10 as I don’t live in the city) to research my house. I’ve even been to all the TEDxDetroit events. But there is so much more I’ve not done.

So, I shot off a list and we agreed to meet up on Saturday night. I racked my brain for where we should meet, and one place rose to the top…Cliff Bell’s. It is an old-fashioned supper club where live jazz soothes your soul while you sip a fine wine or a perfect cocktail before eating a superbly prepared meal. It’s not the best place for conversation, due to the noise level, but that was a small price to pay for sharing this gem, restored to it’s original decor.

My visitors had spent some (unfortunately frigid) hours walking around Belle Isle. This was the very week when the state took over the care of the island under a lease agreement and turned it into a state park. Many improvements are on the way, but I did recommend two places that I particularly love...the aquarium and the conservatory. The aquarium, designed by Albert Kahn, has few fish at the moment, having been shut down during the downturn in the economy. A non-profit organization has poured love, money, and care into the aquarium since then, winning grants to make much needed repairs. Even so, the building is absolutely unique and there are no words to describe the incredible interior. It is shaped like a cross with vaulted ceilings covered in small, green tiles. Even pictures don’t do it justice, so I was pleased to hear that they had gone to see it in person.

We enjoyed our dinner, talking about all the other things they could see on a Sunday. The Diego Rivera mural at the DIA is one, such a unique piece of history. The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History has the largest collection of any such museum and has the most beautiful indoor space in all of Detroit inside it’s dome. The Henry Ford Museum is the country’s greatest history attraction, containing artifacts from all facets of American life. All of these wonderful places, I have been. So now to start a list of places I’ve not visited and must find time to do so:

  • Motown Museum
  • Arab American National Museum
  • The Heidelberg Project
  • Shinola
  • Good Girls Go To Paris

And the list goes on…

Find the Joy in the Journey…you don’t have to look far from home!

My Rare Weekend Getaway

I had such a lovely weekend in St. Louis and I’d like to figure out how to have more, small, getaways. I got up on Sunday morning after my reunion and checked out of my room. I drove over to my older daughter’s dorm and picked up my daughters for breakfast. We couldn’t think of where to go, so I pulled up my Yelp* app on my cell phone and quickly found a place we all wanted to go to, Crepes in the Central West End. Breakfast was delicious and the conversation was priceless as I listened to how the girls had spent their Saturday evening.

The night before, they had hopped on the MetroLink and gone to the Galleria. Only after they got there did my daughter remember that there was a curfew for anyone under 17. So, instead of wasting the trip, they went to the Cheesecake Factory. Now, I think this may have been the plan all along. Although I’ve had the opportunity (mostly not taken) to eat there often, whether in St. Louis or Chicago, back home in Detroit the very first one just opened and friends have told me they’ve arrived and been told there was a four hour wait! So, my older daughter’s cheesecake craving satisfied, they headed back to the dorm. The evening got more low-key after that, but apparently involved a lot of coloring.

After breakfast, it was time to drop my older daughter off at her dorm and get to the airport. She’s coming home in two weeks for Fall Break, so hugs but no tears this time around. At the airport, my younger daughter declared she was “starving”…a product of being 13 I guess. After a $9 (yes, $9!!!) sandwich, we flew home. Next up was a volleyball game to round out the weekend.

Finally home for the evening, I unpacked and did laundry. There is always so much to do and so little time to do it. I thought about running, but didn’t. I didn’t find time on Monday to run either; we had confirmation class to attend. So, I started wondering, how can I fit all of my life into my life? How can I get in a weekend trip now and then without falling behind in everything?

That is my challenge going forward. I find it almost impossible to believe that I found the time over the last three months to train for a half-marathon…but I did it. Everything is about prioritization. So, as the days get shorter I have much less time to run. If I make it a priority, however, I can get in more running than otherwise. So, my younger daughter may have to walk to sports practices and religion classes that are at our church, just two blocks away, if it gives me my only opportunity to run outside after work.

I want to do a lot of other things too, but running is something that I can only do at certain times of the day…primarily right after work these days. Everything else, reading and writing in particular, can really be done night or day, so they have to be fit in after the running.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg…as I focus on reading, writing, and running, basic housekeeping is taking a back seat…how then can I afford to just take off for a weekend? I don’t know the answer to that yet, but it is definitely a quest worth pursuing!

Find the Joy in the Journey…making an actual journey makes it that much more joyful!

 

Two Days in Cologne

Having arrived safely in Cologne, I confidently exited my train and strode through the station like I owned it! This was my third trip to Cologne in the last three and a half years and on the first of those I flashed back 15 years to my prior visit…happily surprised to find that I remembered the central part of town by foot pretty well. So, I pulled my rolling bag along behind me and entered Dom City…the plaza outside the Cologne Cathedral (Köln Dom).

I walked out of the plaza a block and turned to my right. I expected to see my hotel, the Hyatt…instead I saw the Hilton. Oh dear! I’d mixed up these sister hotels! Now I wasn’t sure at all where my hotel was except that the travel agent had chosen the Hyatt for its proximity to the train station, so it couldn’t be too far away. I saw a little green train-mobile and a lady tour guide. I figured she knew where things were, especially nearby, but my inquiry left her baffled.

Fortunately, there is a little tourist information center nearby and a man with perfect English told me to walk around the Dom and walk over the bridge and my hotel would be visible. No one ever spoke truer words! Walking across the bridge, I was thrown back into two experiences…

Love Locks in Cologne

Love Locks in Cologne

The last time I took the train from Frankfurt to Cologne, I noticed all the padlocks on the fence over the Rhine. Someone told me it was a pledge of love to place a lock there. Then, just days earlier, I’d seen these “love locks” all over some of the bridges over the Seine in Paris. The locks typically have the lovers’ names written or engraved on them. These photos are from the bridge in Cologne.

I spent the next two days at the office. For such a short visit, I hadn’t made any social plans so I ate solo. The first night I ate at my hotel but it turned out to be way too expensive (a tiny plate of a la carte pasta was 22 Euros!) so the second night I went out.

First I went to the train station to buy my ticket to Frankfurt. It took me awhile to find the ticket office but I was determined not to attempt buying my ticket from a kiosk after my experience the day before.  Then I headed toward the riverfront hoping to find a Thai place I’d been to before. It had been recommended by a colleague who had lived in Thailand as the best Thai food she had found outside of Thailand. Here is a view from my seat in the restaurant’s bier garten.

Karibik Thai Restaurant

Karibik Thai Restaurant

I got up very early the next morning, having to skip the very nice hotel buffet breakfast, and checked out. At least I tried to check out. The manager refused to give me a receipt saying that my company would be invoiced electronically. I tried to explain that I needed the receipt for my expense report, but he was unrelenting. Very odd.

I grabbed a cab to the train station and soon enough was on the train. Getting off at the Frankfurt airport, I was back on somewhat familiar ground. Even so, I had to ask the helpful information man which terminal I needed to go to as the signage, although in German and in English, was surprisingly unhelpful.

At the duty free shop I bought my girls some German chocolates, Ritter Sport bars and Bueno Kinder bars. I’m not sure it’s really cheaper to buy them there than back home, but I wanted to surprise them with a little something for behaving so well while I was away.

Find the Joy in the Journey…may your journey take you, at times, far away from home and back again!

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles—Traveling in France and Germany

I enjoyed my week in Europe and especially enjoyed traveling throughout France to find myself in the middle of a rural area inside a big factory to see how they make the things my company needs. Frankly, France is not a low-cost manufacturing country, but it was interesting to see a couple of manufacturing innovations that I, a 24 year veteran of manufacturing tours, had not seen before.

After three days of business, I had a weekend in France to myself. I met up with a dear friend and threw myself into the whirl of the social scene. I wrote about my struggles and regrets about not speaking French in Five Days in France—Language Lessons.

Traveling around France, I was always a passenger. I’d flown into Paris and then met up with a French colleague who did the navigating and driving for the first two days. After that, we had all pre-purchased roundtrip train tickets between Paris and Poitiers. This was harder than it should have been. My travel agent clearly preferred that I buy my train tickets on my own once I arrived. I was on a tight schedule and needed to be on the same trains as my colleagues, so the travel agent was forced to do what she is paid to do…handle the problems that arose in buying my tickets. Fortunately for me, she found success the second time around.

When it was time for me to get to Cologne, however, I was on my own both literally and figuratively. The agent hadn’t helped with my train tickets, but I thought I could handle it on my own anyway. What I hadn’t thought about was that I’d always bought my tickets in the airport in Frankfurt…This time, I flew from Paris to Cologne and the small airport did not sport a ticket office for the trains.

I managed the flight from Paris to Cologne with ease. By this time, I knew well the part of Charles de Gaulle that I inhabited…2F where I flew in from the US and which abutted the train station, and 2G where regional flights started and ended.

When I arrived at the Cologne/Bonn airport in Germany, I followed the signs for the train which brought me to a stand of ticket kiosks. Confronted with an array of choices, I started by choosing to proceed in English. Unfortunately, the names of destinations stayed stubbornly in German including my destination of Köln Hbh (Cologne Train Station). I guessed this was where I wanted to go and proceeded to buy the ticket. Then it asked me which tariff to pay…I was clueless and chose the first of two. 2.7€ later, I had my little, paper ticket.

The scrap of a ticket had 1b on it as the only direction. I saw signs for  tracks 1-2 and 3-4, so headed for 1-2. In the elevator down, I asked an elderly couple if I were on the right track. They didn’t know. I got to the tracks and decided that since the Germans were ultra-precise, I’d get on the train which arrived at precisely 11:44. Two trains arrived at that exact moment going opposite directions!

I chose to get on the train that everyone else got on and prayed it was correct. As it stopped along the way I looked for any clues that I was traveling in the right direction. Each stop mentioned Köln, so I assumed I was heading into the city rather than away. Finally, with relief, I heard the main train station called and gathered my things. At that moment, the elderly man from the airport peaked around at me and told me that this was my station. I was so touched that although I’d lost track of him, he had been looking out for me all along!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and don’t be afraid to journey alone!

Five Days in France—Vive la Différence

As I went through my brief stay in France, I couldn’t help but notice the differences and similarities compared to home in the US. We travel, in part, to find and cherish those differences, and also to better appreciate our own lives when we find something just too far out of our comfort zone.

In France, there were many smokers, or so it seemed to me. They didn’t smoke inside, instead they smoked their last puffs before entering a building or huddled outside temporarily before returning inside. Where I live, there is no smoking inside so you’d think I’d find this normal. It’s not though. Back home many people used the change in the law to spur themselves to quit and I rarely see a smoker back home. Many people smoked on the streets of Paris and casually spun their butts onto the pavement when they finished. The infamous litter of Paris was nowhere to be found, except in the cigarette butts and used Metro tickets which were liberally scattered across Paris. I found it to be an otherwise clean city, without the trash and warn-down globs of chewing gum found in many US cities.

I saw more roundabouts than I ever dreamed possible in France. I grew up near a few in rural Ohio, but never thought of them as a French staple. Apparently they keep the traffic speed in check, as was explained to me while I was there…but I know they keep the traffic flowing, creating continuous movement without traffic lights.

The high-speed trains are widely used to travel from city to city quickly and efficiently. Some expressed surprise that a country as advanced as the US doesn’t have any and is struggling to get any started. Upon further discussion, however, the same problems the US faces in implementing them were obstacles in France as well…but with the vastly longer distances required in the US, the problems and costs are magnified in the US.

I saw many water closets (WC’s) in France…given the British origins of the term, I was surprised. I’ve never seen one in England but saw them randomly in France, including at a friend’s apartment and at the Radison Blu hotel at the Charles de Gaulle airport. On the one hand, it is a convenience for people sharing a space to be able to separate the toilet from the shower or tub. On the other hand, it often means there’s no access to the sink to wash your hands when it is most desirable to do so. Speaking of which, I saw more people than I care to think about leaving the ladies toilets without even a nod to the sink….and one woman who walked out of a squat-toilet and headed directly for the hand dryer.

On a more positive note, there is the cheese. Ah, the cheese. It is an entire course of the meal! I’m not sure my waistline has made it intact through these five days, but my palate is enormously pleased! I wish I knew the names and origins of these cheeses, but perhaps I am better off not knowing. Likely I’d not be able to find them back home much less afford them. I sat on a train next to a man who works for a company which makes artisan cheese-making equipment; but only the kind for soft cheeses. It is a niche market, he confessed. He was back home from South Africa for a weekend then off to Wisconsin…

I found myself welcomed warmly wherever I went, whether by a business colleague, an inn keeper, or a friend of a friend. Yet many people I met socially, confessed that it was very difficult to make friends in certain parts of the country or if you were new to an area. This was the theme of a series of conversations, conversations where the seeds of friendship were being sewn.

What I learned about France is that I want to spend months there learning the language, I want to spend weeks exploring Paris, and I want to spend a lifetime visiting friends, new and old, and soaking up everything through every one of my senses.

Find the Joy in the Journey…I don’t know if mine starts or ends in France, but I know it travels through it!

Five Days in France–Language Lessons

The last five days I haven’t stayed in one place for more than a day, and often less than that, but I’ve spent it all in France. It has been part business and part pleasure and all amazing. I haven’t stepped on a scale since I’ve been here and I also haven’t exercised except for walking. I will face the consequences when I return home, but in the meanwhile I have enjoyed some lovely meals made more lovely by the company I’ve been fortunate enough to have kept.

Many (many) years ago, I chose French as my language to study in high school. At the time, French was considered the international language of business and, I believe, was spoken by more people than any other language except maybe English. That isn’t true today, but I am still drawn to the language out of love of my first, albeit not too successful, foray into foreign languages.

Sixteen years ago, I went to France on business for a day and a half. As I sat in a cafe in Toulouse, I soaked up the sounds of the language and knew that if I could only stay for three months, even one month, the language would be mine. Sadly, I’ve not had that experience and as much as I talk (and write) about studying French, I’ve not done so. Never has that been more of a regret than in the last five days. I vow to do better!

In business, it is not actually necessary to speak French because now English is the international language of business and I’ve got that language down pat. These last two days, however, I threw myself into the social world and found myself floundering to come up with even the most basic of sentences. I hear the words, I even understand some very small part of some of the conversation, but I am in no way able to get along in a social situation without at least one “translator” or a few people who speak English. I have found that many French people who claim only “bad” English, speak rather well in English…far, far better than I can hobble along in French. Each day that I’ve been here, however, I’ve found my vocabulary returning…but not the grammar.

Not surprisingly, I remember the words for food most easily. Ordering in a restaurant is not too bad, but once I start speaking French, I get stuck and have to switch to English all too soon. I’ve found that if I start out in French, even with as benign an expression as bonjour, I get a stream of French back…so I am careful to say “hello” when I really need to ask a question, like how to find my hotel.

When I started this 50 by 50 I think I listed learning French as one of my goals…then I flip-flopped with Spanish so many times that now I’m not sure…and haven’t learned either. What I have learned is that Spanish would be more helpful for my job (although all my Mexican colleagues speak English, so it would mostly be out of courtesy), but that my heart is and always has been set on learning French. Why have I fought it for so long? Why have I ignored it for so long? Good questions.

I am at a point in my life when I need to follow my heart more and more and let logic be damned.

Find the Joy in the Journey…don’t over analyze what is written on your heart!

“Ce Mec”—or, “That Guy” in France

My colleague, Len, and I are on the road again, this time in France. I wrote a story about him called, Don’t Be “That Guy” last year when we were in Mexico. He got a kick out of it, and even though I ended by saying one should never be “that guy” more than once, I figure this time he can be “ce mec”…the French version.

We had a whirlwind few days in France, landing in Paris at 8 a.m. completely exhausted. We had a one and a half hour drive to the hotel and had to be at the plant early the next morning. We decided to stay in Paris for the rest of the day since we would have nothing to do at our destination. It took us an hour and a half through rush hour traffic to get to the city center, but in the end it was worth it. Along with another colleague, fortunately a Frenchman, we managed to see many sights. An April day in Paris could easily have been cold and rainy, but instead the weather was perfect…warm and sunny.

We got day passes for Le Metro and then went down to the Seine to take a boat tour on the Bateaux-Mouche (fly boat, supposedly named this for the many eyes a fly has and the many good spots on the boat where you can see the sights. We saw many, many sights…everything that can be seen on the Seine. An hour and a half later when we got off, however, Len had quite a sunburn.

We ate lunch at a bistro out on the sidewalk, of course! We walked all over the place including through the Tuileries Gardens, around the Arch de Triomphe, and around Sacré Coeur. By this time, I had determined that my injured calf must be healing well (of course, three triple-doses of Motrin a day helped), but walking around in the wrong shoes I had developed painful blisters on one foot. After dinner at a small restaurant, we finally headed to the hotel. I had had a small taste of Paris, and I wanted more. Someday…

In the meantime I had tours to take, walking on cement floors with blistered feet. I was a drag, slowing everyone down. I had become “cette fille”! Throughout it all, Len had enjoyed practicing his French and using his favorite expressions liberally. His two favorites were bon chance (good luck) and c’est magnifique (that’s magnificent). I mostly said things in French like, thank you, good day, yes I have breakfast, a fork please, I don’t speak French, and red wine please.

When the visit was over, we drove back to Paris and got on a train to Poitiers. Arriving around 7 p.m. at our hotel, we soon went out for dinner. We had a lovely dinner at a place known for its beef, then looked around for the night life. Two Americans and a Frenchman ended up at a Canadian bar. I guess this is a quiet town and only the expats stay out on a Thursday night!

Friday morning, another plant tour and more limping on blistered feet by me. At the end, Len told the management that the tour had been très magnifique! As we left he called out, bonjour, bonne chance, bonne journée! We all cracked up at his enthusiasm and how a Renoir was très magnifique, but a plant tour was decidedly not. The cab driver was probably trying not to roll his eyes. That’s when I asked our French colleague how to say “that guy” in French. Ce mec!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself!