Final picture post from France!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We’re back in the Land of AZ.

We landed in Phoenix late on Saturday night after a weird layover in Washington D.C.; the power had gone out in the terminals at the Washington-Dulles airport. We waited on the plane until a bus came to take us to the main terminal… and by “us,” I mean not just everyone on our flight, but everyone on ALL the incoming flights… and from there, all of the connecting flights were delayed, also due to the ripple effect of the power outage. In the end, though, we were only two hours late getting home. Not bad!

So believe it or not, that was my sixth trip to Paris – seven if you count the Paris part of last week’s agenda as two separate trips (we stayed in the same hotel in Montmartre before and after the Côte d’Azur) – and I still haven’t visited Jim Morrison. It was my decision. At the last minute, I suggested skipping it because we had very little time, and I didn’t want to go to le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise just to see one grave. I would have wanted to also visit the likes of Chopin, Victor Hugo, Edith Piaf, etc., and for that we would need a good half-day, at least. But we’ll be back, and it’s really kind of funny… my Extreme First-World Problem is still my Extreme First-World Problem.

Since we didn’t go to le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, we were able to take our time moseying around Montmartre, where we were staying. It was the perfect way to spend the day. We had some errands to run, and it was great to just be relaxed and enjoy our favorite quartier in Paris without rushing around. (Montmartre is actually one of my favorite neighborhoods in the entire world.) We also got to enjoy having dinner with a friend of mine who lives there, and that was delightful.

Overall, our week in France was the opposite of relaxing, as we were generally crazy busy up until that last day in Paris. We averaged zero to three hours of sleep per night, and by the end, we were seeing double from sleep deprivation. But it was hella fun. Great times with family and friends!

One thing that struck us, though, was how the mood in France has grown even darker in the short time we’ve been gone… dark as in ominous, kind of, and spooky. The general feeling in the country is different than when we lived there, and we haven’t even been gone for two years. We saw a trio of heavily armed soldiers stalking the picturesque little streets of Vieux Nice, for instance… a surreal sight, and one I never would have imagined there before. We noticed police officers standing expectantly with their police dogs in the Metro stations in Paris. When we lived in France, I never saw police officers at all… just the random gendarmerie… now, they’re everywhere, their presence presumably connected to the “Je Suis Charlie” signs we also saw posted widely from Paris to Nice. And there are the new ebola information/warning posters prominently displayed at Charles de Gaulle airport.

On a lighter note, I’ll share another smattering of pics from our last days there….

From la Côte d’Azur:

 

A street in Châteauneuf de Grasse.

A street in Châteauneuf de Grasse.

 

Our favorite boulangerie in Nice. BEST PAN BAGNAT IN TOWN, hands-down.

Our favorite boulangerie in Nice. BEST PAN BAGNAT IN TOWN, hands-down.

 

Some of the bread inside the best boulangerie in Nice.

Some of the bread inside the best boulangerie in Nice.

 

An artist's gallery in le Vieux Nice.

An artist’s gallery in le Vieux Nice.

 

Socca - a traditional food in Nice.

Socca – a traditional food in Nice.

 

With friends at the Big Ben pub in Nice.

With friends at the Big Ben pub in Nice.

 

We had lunch with Callaghan's Grandparents and Dad in le Port de St. Laurent du Var.

We had lunch with Callaghan’s Grandparents and Dad in le Port de St. Laurent du Var.

 

And from Paris:

 

One of hundreds of  cafés...

One of hundreds of cafés…

 

Pointing the way to le Sacré-Coeur - my second-favorite monument (after la Tour Eiffel)

Pointing the way to le Sacré-Coeur – my second-favorite monument (after la Tour Eiffel)

 

Le Sacré-Coeur. Beautiful Roman-Byzantyne architecture on the hill of Montmartre.

Le Sacré-Coeur. Beautiful Roman-Byzantyne architecture on the hill of Montmartre.

 

Bronze sculpture on le Sacré-Coeur.

Bronze sculpture on le Sacré-Coeur.

 

Gargoyle on le Sacré-Coeur.

Gargoyle on le Sacré-Coeur.

 

More gargoyles on le Sacré-Coeur...

More gargoyles on le Sacré-Coeur…

 

View of Paris from the hill of Montmartre.

View of Paris from the hill of Montmartre.

 

Parisian street art like this is becoming more and more common. Love it!

Parisian street art like this is becoming more and more common. Love it!

 

Walking in Montmartre...

Walking in Montmartre…

 

French flag at the Metro station on Boulevard Barbès.

French flag at the Metro station on Boulevard Barbès.

 

Hot chocolate at café la Virgule in Montmartre.

Hot chocolate at café la Virgule in Montmartre.

 

And here’s a selection of some of our pastry indulgences (!!):

 

Galette des Rois... actually, a "Pithivier," according to Callaghan. The traditional King's Cakes are this, but thinner... quite different from the King Cakes Americans have at Mardi Gras.

Galette des Rois… actually, a “Pithivier,” according to Callaghan. The traditional King’s Cakes are this, but thinner… quite different from the King Cakes Americans have at Mardi Gras.

 

Une Madeleine au Nutella at the SNCF (train) station.

Une Madeleine au Nutella at the SNCF (train) station.

 

Tarte au citron

Tarte au citron

 

Chouquettes

Chouquettes

 

And then we went home. I took a picture of the signage that greeted us at baggage claim. Welcome to Phoenix!

 

It was 77 degrees when we landed at 10:20pm Saturday night... and it's going to be 90 today!

It was 77 degrees when we landed at 10:20pm Saturday night… and it’s going to be 90 today!

 

Happy Tuesday, All! =)

Greetings from France! I’ve got some pictures.

We spent the last two days in Paris doing what we always do in Paris – running around the city, dragging our luggage up and down the Metro stairs, racing through the stations (with and without luggage), jumping walls and running again to just barely leap onto waiting trains. It occurred to me, as I was jumping a wall after Callaghan in the Metro two nights ago, that Parkour was invented by a French guy. Perhaps he was inspired by similar action-intense negotiations of the Metro stations, running after trains in Paris!

We love Paris, and we had a great time visiting with relatives and friends. Plus, it was beautiful and sunny on one of the days, so for the first time, I got to see Paris in the sun against a blue sky. It was fabulous.

Now we’re on the French Riviera, visiting more friends and Callaghan’s immediate family. (He was born in Paris, but grew up down here.) This morning we caught an early TGV to Cannes, and the five-hour train ride gave me an opportunity to sleep a little as well as to resize some pics for today’s post.

Here’s a smattering of random images from the last two days:

 

Glacière is a stop on the Metro. We thought it was funny to see the sign next to a ski ad ("Glacière" translates to "ice chest.")

Glacière is a stop on the Metro. We thought it was funny to see the sign next to a ski ad (“Glacière” translates to “ice chest.”)

 

Another pic from the Metro. Not even France is safe from the 50 Shades.

Another pic from the Metro. Not even France is safe from the 50 Shades.

 

The view from our hotel window.

The view from our hotel window.

 

...and a nearby abandoned shoe.

…and a nearby abandoned shoe.

 

Here's an interesting little new car: a Smart Car-looking, single person electric Renault.

Here’s an interesting little new car: a Smart Car-looking, single person electric Renault.

 

A random storefront that caught my eye...

A random storefront that caught my eye…

 

Back in the Metro! An ad for an architecture exhibition.

Back in the Metro! An ad for an architecture exhibition.

 

In our usual selfie pose. We're on the train again, en route to visit relatives.

In our usual selfie pose. We’re on the train again, en route to visit relatives.

 

Our queen! Long live La Tour Eiffel!

Our queen! Long live La Tour Eiffel!

 

Back at the Metro - but this pic is to show that it'd been a sunny day!

Back at the Metro – but this pic is to show that it’d been a sunny day!

 

Poster ad - again, in a Metro station - for a street artist exhibit at the Espace Dali.

Poster ad – again, in a Metro station – for a street artist exhibit at the Espace Dali.

 

Paris graffiti, with love.

Paris graffiti, with love.

 

Charlie Hebdo at the news stand, still going strong!

Charlie Hebdo at the news stand, still going strong!

 

This sweet little girl was on our train to Cannes this morning. Her Mommy said I could take her picture. I love French Bulldogs.

This sweet little girl was on our train to Cannes this morning. Her Mommy said I could take her picture. I love French Bulldogs.

 

Notice the absence of Jim Morrison’s grave. That would be because we still haven’t gone, as circumstances didn’t allow for it… but we’re heading back to Paris on Friday, and you know we’re going to Parkour our way to that cemetery the minute we get off the train.

Also not pictured is the group of police officers standing around expectantly in one of the Metro stations, an incongruous sight compared to what I’m used to here. I’ve never seen the cops just hanging around like that in France before. I wanted to snap a picture, but I didn’t think they’d appreciate it, so I held back.

I hope you’re having a great week!

La Tour Eiffel, she is everywhere.

It seems that I started noticing the Eiffel Tower printed on clothing and other things right when we moved back to Arizona last November. That’s when I became aware of the trend, anyway… the Eiffel Tower could have been a popular motif in apparel and home décor fashion for much longer.

At first, I was charmed to happen upon the occasional Eiffel Tower, because the Eiffel Tower is one of my favorite things about France. It’s actually my favorite monument of the monuments I’ve seen in the world, as you may recall me mentioning before. Hence, I own more than a few Eiffel Tower-emblazoned things, myself. A sleeveless t-shirt here. A light sweater there. A French friend gave me a small photo of the Eiffel Tower in a white frame (from the store – I chose it)! A small ring holder in the shape of the Eiffel Tower sits on the dresser. The first Eiffel Tower in my collection, the drawing that Callaghan bought for me when we were there one day (at the Eiffel Tower), hangs in our living room, and of course, there’s the token Eiffel Tower magnet on the refrigerator. And that’s just a sampling of examples. There are more.

So, I started seeing Eiffel Towers plastered all over tarnation last November, but in the almost-year since we’ve been back in AZ? Instead of trailing off into the oblivion that follows a robust trend, the Eiffel Tower not only pressed forward, but it exploded into a frenzy of mass marketing. It’s everywhere, on everything, all over the place… especially, it seems, in the kind of discount stores we favor, such as Target, Marshall’s/T.J. Maxx and Ross. There’s no shortage of Eiffel Towers in these places. If you want it in your house or on your person, you may have it, and for very good prices. The quantities and varieties of Eiffel Towers migrating to the United States from China are staggering.

When I brought this up the other day, Callaghan said, “Yeah. I’m trying to get away from there, and the Eiffel Tower is running after me.”

Here, enjoy some random Eiffel Tower store sightings:

 

The Eiffel Tower on hat boxes.

The Eiffel Tower on hat boxes.

 

 

The Eiffel Tower on canvas.

The Eiffel Tower on canvas.

 

 

The Eiffel Tower on a hook board.

The Eiffel Tower on a hook board.

 

 

The Eiffel Tower on bathroom accessories.

The Eiffel Tower on bathroom accessories.

 

 

The Eiffel Tower on a knit top.

The Eiffel Tower on a knit top.

 

 

And, while we're at it, let's not forget the fleur de lys (more ubiquitous now than ever, as well).

And, while we’re at it, let’s not forget the fleur de lys (more ubiquitous now than ever, as well).

 

I’m not sure if it’s the Eiffel Tower, specifically, or the city of Paris itself that’s all the rage right now. The Eiffel Tower has become synonymous with Paris, so it could be either. And honestly, I don’t mind that Eiffel Towers jump into my face every time I turn around. I could be ambushed by worse things, for sure.

So I’m not complaining here… I’m more nonplussed than anything, and maybe I feel just a little bit like the plethora of Eiffel Towers cheapens the experience of her somehow. It’s like seeing your lover’s face depicted, suddenly, on clothing worn by other people. Poor Eiffel Tower! If monuments were songs, she’d be the most over-played one by a mile. Being everywhere takes the edge off her splendor; it’s hard to be one-of-a-kind and de rigueur at the same time.

On his part, Callaghan is in disgust. He loves the Eiffel Tower as much as I do, and he likes all of our Eiffel Towers, but he rolls his eyes at the herds of Eiffel Towers roaming through stores.

 

The Eiffel Tower on a shopping bag.

The Eiffel Tower on a shopping bag.

Well aren’t I just the Fashionista’s Fashionista.

Two things that always attract me when I’m browsing through retail clothing racks:

1). Anything gray.

2). Anything featuring the Eiffel Tower.

(Which is actually an appropriate combination, considering that I’ve never seen Paris when it wasn’t cold, gray and raining… even in June.)

But I mean, I love the color gray, as you likely already know if you’ve been reading here for a while. Gray is to me what sparkly things are to my inner four-year-old, and the Eiffel Tower is my all-time favorite monument… so when the Eiffel Tower lights up and gets on with her sparklicious self late at night, my inner four-year-old and I float away on an invisible carpet woven of delight-bordering-on-euphoria. Many a time I’ve waited, shivering, on a chair at an outdoor café under the black Paris night sky, warming my icy hands on a cup of hot chocolate while staring at the Eiffel Tower. When she finally starts sparkling, it feels like she’s sparkling just for me, because I’d been staring at her so hard. (Speaking of hot chocolate, if you ever visit the Louvre, I recommend that you go upstairs to the Café Richelieu and treat yourself to a cup on the lovely terrace overlooking the pyramid. The hot chocolate at the Café Richelieu is decadence redefined.)

“Yeah, and I know why,” Callaghan said when we were talking about my Eiffel Tower obsession love. This was last week.

“Why?” I wanted to know what he thought he knew about me.

“It’s obvious! The Eiffel Tower is a phallic symbol.” He looked pleased with himself as he said it.

But his words gave me pause.

“Um… the Eiffel Tower is a girl,” I said. La Tour Eiffel.” Was I really pointing this out to my French husband?

I’d never seen the Eiffel Tower as phallic, or otherwise male in any respect. She’s a she. She’s elegant and strong and magnificent, and if I come across an article of clothing depicting her, I’ll usually at least contemplate buying it if it’s in the realm of possibility.

So when Chantal was visiting from France (she left on Saturday) for a couple of weeks and we went browsing through Ross one day, it wasn’t surprising that I walked out with another Eiffel Tower shirt, thus prompting the Eiffel Tower conversation with Callaghan, who was ever so surprised when I got home and showed him my purchase. I reasoned that I didn’t yet have a sleeveless Eiffel Tower t-shirt, so it made sense to get this one. Plus, it was all of $6.99 (who doesn’t love Ross), and the graphic is in shades of gray. Triple win!

On Wednesday evening, I came home from work, threw the Eiffel Tower shirt on over a sports bra and shorts and headed out to Boot Camp class at the gym. Because the Eiffel Tower – who is a girl – kicks ass.

Here’s the Eiffel Tower waiting for class to start:

 

At Boot Camp class with the Eiffel Tower.

At Boot Camp class with the Eiffel Tower.

 

Later, I snapped some pics wearing the shirt with a couple of different attitudes, because this particular Eiffel Tower asks for it. Also, it’s been months since my last silly “picture of me in a t-shirt” post (inside joke), so why not go ahead and derp my way through a couple with the Eiffel Tower?

 

The Eiffel Tower, "And your point is?" style.

The Eiffel Tower, “And your point is?” style.

 

The Eiffel Tower, '80's Billy Idol style.

The Eiffel Tower, ’80’s Billy Idol style.

 

Happy Friday, all! =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – April Favorites

Today is the second of May, and this is my first post of the month, so that brings us to – already – April Favorites!

I was hard-pressed to think of new “little things” from April that I didn’t already love in March. The Body Combat class at the gym, for instance, has been my Number One Favorite Thing of Probably the Whole Year So Far, but I already talked about that in March. I could add that I’ve been enjoying the Boot Camp class, as well, but not to the same degree. There are only eight things on this list… but they were things that I really loved, and still love.

So let’s dig in, hmm?

1). Mad Men, season seven (T.V.)

 

mad-men-5

 

It’s back! It’s back with its fabulous ‘60’s-‘70’s hair and make-up, interiors and furniture, costumes and cultural ambience, and its thoroughness in capturing every detail of the era in every scene. The writing. The acting! Mad Men is a sharp and exquisitely rendered period piece that’s just a pleasure to behold. But oh, that Don. Don, Don, Don. What is going to happen to Don? Things are supposed to be groovy for everyone, but they’re just not… so far, anyway.

I was happy to hear that they cut this final season into two parts, as they did with Breaking Bad, because I don’t want it to end.

 

2). Bob’s Burgers, season three (T.V.)

 

Bob’s-Burgers-Season-3-500x500

 

The first two seasons of this show brought enough amusement and sporadic laughter to keep us watching. Plus, we enjoyed the characters and found their predicaments to be interesting, in general. HOWEVER, season three? Season three turned out to be one long moment of outright hilarity. It’s like the writers said, Fine! This time we’re going to let it all hang out! I mean, some of the situations are beyond bizarre and just out there, and any attempt at restraining the off-color humor went out the window. There’s nothing subtle about season three, and there’s no longer any use in pretending that Bob’s Burgers is a kids’ show just because it’s a cartoon.

I think a part of it is that Tina hit puberty.

 

3). Ice water with lemon/club soda with lime

 

Club soda with lime. I crave it!

Club soda with lime. I crave it!

 

This one might seem strange for a “favorites” list, but lately, I can’t get enough icy-cold water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and club soda with ice and a wedge of lime when we go out at night. Now that I’ve gotten back into the swing of my life here and returned to my former habits, other beverages hold no interest. Nothing is more refreshing to me, and I’m glad, because icy citrus water is super healthy and costs very little. In fact, when we go out, it’s usually free. I don’t think I’ve ever been charged for water in Arizona, and bartenders almost always give me the club soda gratis because it’s assumed that I’m the Designated Driver. That’s been my experience, anyway.

 

4). Oysterband’s Diamonds on the Water

 

 

I discovered this new Oysterband release on Spotify literally the day after a new friend asked me what musicians/bands I’m currently enjoying! Diamonds on the Water has been my music of choice since then. I especially love “A River Runs,” “Palace of Memory,” “Spirit of Dust” and “No Ordinary Girl.” Good English folk sounds going on here. Love it!

 

5). A t-shirt from Nice, a gift from a friend visiting from France.

 

Sparkly Nice t-shirt from Chantal!

Sparkly Nice t-shirt from Chantal!

 

Of course, the average non-French person looking at this shirt (with nothing on it to indicate a geographical point of reference) is just going to see the English adjective “nice” spelled out across my chest. Nice! Haha! But I love it, anyway. It’s black. It sparkles. It matches my black Paris baseball cap with its blingy red heart and my beloved sparkly Eiffel Tower. Don’t worry… I wouldn’t wear the two at the same time.

 

6). Ezekiel 4:9 bread

 

Ezekiel 4:9. Best. Toast. Ever.

Ezekiel 4:9. Best. Toast. Ever.

 

Here’s an old favorite! Once I get started on this bread, I never want any other kind, especially since Ezekiel 4:9 makes the most wonderful, crunchy toast that is amazing with Earth Balance. This bread is named for the bible verse that reads: “Take also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils and millet, and spelt and put them in one vessel…” (Ezekiel 4:9) And that turned out to be a pretty good recipe, in my opinion.

 

7). Physician’s Formula Magic Mosaic Multi-Colored Custom Bronzer (in Light)

 

What's this? A bronzer I actually really like! (by Physician's Formula)

What’s this? A bronzer I actually really like! (by Physician’s Formula)

 

Here’s my cosmetic pick for the month. I used to shy away from bronzers, but I started using this one recently just to brighten things up a bit… and I actually like it a lot! The range of bronze shades in the compact makes it versatile, and it’s just a really pretty way to add a touch of a glow to your skin (without too much shimmer).

 

8). Afternoon green tea

 

Trader Joe's Organic Green Tea

Trader Joe’s Organic Green Tea

 

I find Trader Joe’s Organic Green Tea to be a dependable pick as far as green teas go, but frankly, any green tea would do it for me these days. Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon.

One of life’s pleasant little routines. =)

Happy Friday, Everyone!

Confession: My Extreme First-World Problem

I woke up this morning and spent a good ten minutes processing the dream I’d had. It involved the revelation that Callaghan and I are geniuses via the supernatural elderly woman who transformed herself into a giant, fiery flower waving to and fro in our direction on a cold, cindery street corner, city unknown. Later, in the back room of a small shop, it was revealed that she was eastern European, but she’d resided in Quebec the last half of her life, so she was technically a Québécoise with a Slavic accent. Once we found out that she’d lived in Quebec, the dream language switched to Quebec French embellished with the beautiful, curly linguistic mood of Hungary or Romania or wherever it was she’d originally called home. But the shop – their family business – projected such a powerful Old World vibe, I felt like we were back in Europe as we sat drinking tea with the woman and her grown son.

It was her son who explained that when his mother transformed into a giant flower made of flames (we could just see her face in the center of it, her mouth opening and closing rhythmically in a mysterious mantra-like communication we couldn’t hear nor fathom in any other way) and waved herself in our direction from the street corner, we were able to see her because we were geniuses. “Only geniuses can see her when she transforms,” was how he put it. It wasn’t the first time we’d seen her, either. Earlier in the dream, she’d appeared on another street in the same city, also transformed, but differently, intoning the same unintelligible sounds at us, trying to tell us something, the same thing, words that were never deciphered. We just understood that they comprised a warning of some kind.

We were not pleased to learn that we were geniuses, because the price of that “gift” was this wraith-like figure in the shape of a flower on fire chanting ominously about what we assumed would be our ultimate demise… something horrific, for sure. Better to be dumb and happy, we thought. Ignorance is bliss.

There was a lot more to the dream, but I’ll leave it at that because the dream was not what I wanted to talk about today.

Ahem.

Today, I wanted to make a confession. A humorous little piece about “extreme first-world problems” recently surfaced on my Facebook feed, which got me thinking… what would be my own most extreme first-world problem? The answer came easily, as it’s something I’ve been lamenting for a while now.

Let me preface this by saying that I tend to think we should be allowed to kvetch a little when life’s inconveniences snag the flowing fabric of our day without feeling guilty because OH MY GOD THAT’S A FIRST-WORLD PROBLEM, but there is a line, as with everything. There’s always a line. It’s the extreme first-world problems that should warrant our guilt, and I certainly feel guilty about mine.

Are you ready?

My most extreme first-world problem is this: I’ve been to Paris five times, but somehow, inexplicably, I’ve never visited Jim Morrison’s grave.

 

Stock photo of Jim Morrison's grave. Not mine. WOE IS ME.

Stock photo of Jim Morrison’s grave. Not mine. WOE IS ME.

 

This is a ridiculous complaint by anyone’s standards, so I think it qualifies as extreme. I mean, try to tell me it does not put some of the extreme first-world problems cited in that article to shame. I’m not proud of this, but it is what it is. What kind of an American am I to have been to Paris five times and failed to EVER visit Jim Morrison’s grave?

To balance things out here, I must say that I’m grateful for every one of my many visits to my beloved Eiffel Tower, and I never take her for granted.

I’m sure as hell going straight to Jim Morrison’s grave the next time I land in Paris, though.