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Archive for July, 2015

Last Sunday, mon ange and I accompanied his brother and mother on a hike to La Chapelle Hermone, which is a tiny little chapel located on the top of (I’m not sure whether to call it) a hill or mountain that is part of the Alps. It’s not like the mountain you picture in your head with the snow and dangerous peaks to traverse but still a steep climb with trees, etc. I didn’t have enough room in my suitcase to pack my hiking/climbing gear with me when I came to France, so I made do with jeans, a tank top, and button-down shirt that I kept open. At least I had good shoes for the climb. We drove to the starting point, and as I was looking out the window, I felt like I was entering a forest realm of a fairy tale. There were even some times that I was inspired to write a piece of short prose, but I have a bad habit of procrastinating and/or starting a story that I never finish.

It’s not a secret that I’m wanting to lose weight and get in shape. After only three weeks here, I can already tell a difference in my body and energy. I have a Fitbit, and while it was difficult to obtain the goal of 10,000 steps back in the U.S. where I lived, I have now reached that goal 7 times here in France. C had the good idea to increase my goal to 12,000 steps after I’ve reached 10,000 steps 10 times. That means I’ll have to kick my rear into gear even more. The secret to reaching the desired amount is to go walking and exploring for a couple hours. I didn’t reach 10,000 steps when we climbed to the chapel, but it was a more intense workout than usual. We packed water for hydration, and I had to stop and drink every so often. We picked a day that wasn’t too terribly hot, and when we were hiking in the trees, the shade created a nice coolness.

When we were close to the summit, we discovered a series of crosses dedicated to the Stations of the Cross for Christ’s passion. I had never read each station in French before, and as I climbed, I meditated on what Jesus went through. I might have been out of breath and sore from all the climbing, but it was nothing compared to what He experienced. As I reached the top, I felt a wave of relief wash over me and took in the view with awe. I can’t remember exactly how high up we were, but on one side we could see the towns and Lac Léman and on the other, more of the Alps stretched out before us. It was amazing.

We sat down to eat our picnic of ham and cheese baguette sandwiches and nectarines at the steps of the chapel. At first we didn’t realize that it was the entrance, but when people approached to enter it we made room so they could get by. After eating, I wanted to go inside as well. On the wall just in the entry, there was a large plaque with names of people that contributed financially to the Stations of the Cross. One of the sets of names was Mary and Joseph Thomas. I thought that was interesting. Oh, and by the way, they were installed in 1840. The chapel itself was older. I can’t get over how old and historic the monuments that I come across are! The entryway to the rest of the chapel was barred in order to preserve it, but you could still peek inside and read a prayer. C encouraged me to sing something because the acoustics were great. So I sang an improvised version of O Magnum Mysterium without lyrics. In one of the corners, there was a little area of tealight candles. I lit one in memory of my Grandma that passed away this March. She would have loved coming there.

~*~

Yesterday was Bastille Day, which is the French national holiday equivalent to the 4th of July in the United States. They aren’t as crazy as Americans are with flags everywhere and all the national pride, but they do have a little celebration. We went to Evian for dinner and to watch the fireworks later in the evening when the sun went down. And if you recognize the name Evian, that’s because it’s where the bottled water is manufactured. I know you’ve seen water bottles with the name on it in your local grocery store or gas station. Well, each and every bottle came from the center here in France that’s in the town right next to where I live! We had several hours to wait between dinner and fireworks, so we explored the shops and walked along the lake. There were tents set up selling everything from churros to cotton candy (fun fact: it’s called La barbe à papa).

When there was an hour and a half before the fireworks would begin, we claimed our spot to sit and watch them. Other people had been staking out a place even longer before us. We chose to sit on some large rocks around the edge of the lake. All the lights around port extinguished when it was time for the display to begin. We oohed and ahhed at the bright fireworks. To be honest, there isn’t much difference between American and French fireworks, but I do appreciate the reflection against the water here in Thonon. Getting back home was a bit of a nightmare. Luckily, he has a scooter, so we were able to weave through the engorged traffic to get home. But 30 minutes or more of sitting on the not-so-comfortable part of the scooter tends to turn your bum numb. I was very glad to reach our apartment at the end of the evening.

And so ends the latest installment of my adventures in France….

Bisous!

2175

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I’m losing track of time while I’m here in France. These past two weeks have gone by so quickly, and sometimes I forget what day of the week it is. It’s hard to believe that I’m living my dream, but here I am.

This past Tuesday we went to Paris to visit the U.S. Embassy so that I could get a document notarized that is one of the required papers for our upcoming marriage. This particular document doesn’t exist in America but is necessary in France, so naturally the only place to obtain it would be the capital. It’s been quite a process getting all of this paperwork together. I suppose having all of these hoops to jump through helps insure that you really do want to get married in the first place. I’ve never been married before, nor have I PACS’d (a French civil union that enables both people to have certain benefits in their co-habitation). So naturally I have to have a signed sworn statement in document form that I am single. I suppose it makes sense to have that, but going to Paris isn’t a simple and cheap little trip.

It was a 6-hour ride, and we were squished in the backseat with another person. I took naps when I could, but I also enjoyed looking at the countryside. French countryside at times looks similar to the Midwest countryside, but there are a lot more forests and trees. There were lots of farms and quaint little villages. Cows look different here in France. Also, it’s perfectly normal to be driving along and suddenly, out of nowhere, you see a castle in the mountains. I love it! We also drove under and through hills and mountains. It was really cool to just look out the window and see what passes by.

We were dropped off in the middle of the city with just our backpacks. The real adventure began in figuring out where we were and how to get to our hotel. We walked and walked and occasionally asked for directions until we got to the correct metro station. As a tip, you shouldn’t ride on the metro if you’re claustrophobic. It gets really cramped and crowded. After several stops, we reached the Gare du Nord and made our way to the surface.

Our hotel was in the 10th arrondissement, and it was actually in a good central location to get to places. Of course, it started raining as we were trying to find it. We finally reached Hotel Picardy, and sighed in relief. At the front desk, we checked in and got our key. The elevator was tiny, but three people could fit in it, provided you didn’t really have luggage. We reached our room at the end of the hall and opened the door to find a quaint little room. It looked nice enough for the price and location. Then we opened the door to the bathroom and found that there wasn’t a shower curtain, nor was the showerhead able to stay fixed on the wall. Oh, and if you wanted to take a bath, there wasn’t a plug. So! We would have to get creative later on.

My appointment at the U.S. Embassy wasn’t until the next day, so we had the evening to do a bit of exploring. Last year, mon ange was in Paris for the Japan Expo. He bought a lock, carved our names on it, and left it on a fence in Montmartre by the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Our mission was to find the lock and bring it back home with us. We set out on our quest. We saw the basilica at the top of a hill. In order to get there, we had to climb about 250 steps. That was quite a workout! As we were walking along looking for the lock, we heard a young man singing an aria at the base of the steps of the basilica. He had a box where people could leave money, and there was quite a crowd gathered around him. He was good, especially to an untrained ear. C urged me to go up next to him after he had finished and start singing myself. I was too self-conscious and didn’t feel comfortable. Plus, I hadn’t had a chance to warm up. He said I was better then the young man, but I just didn’t want to do it. We moved along, but part of me wonders what would have happened if I had actually gotten up the courage to sing in front of those people… We reached the spot where he remembered putting the lock, only to find that the fencing where he had attached it was no longer there. It was gone! He was disappointed, but I assured him that it wasn’t the end of the world. We can always get a new lock and put it somewhere here in Thonon.

We headed back to our hotel, and when we finally reached our room I was ready to attempt to take a bath. Mon ange made a makeshift plug for the bathtub which actually worked. He’s creative and handy like that. Oh, that was an extremely soothing bath! We had to get up somewhat early the next morning, so we headed to bed.

The next morning, we packed up and checked out of the hotel, making our way to The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which is basically the fanciest street in Paris. The American Embassy is also in the 8th arrondissement, so we figured that we could walk around and look at the shops while we waited for my appointment at 2pm. Picture all the fancy brand names that come to mind, and they were all there along that avenue. They’re huge stores with fancy displays that do their best to tempt you to come inside and buy something. They had Tiffany and Co., Yves Saint-Laurent, Abercrombie and Fitch, the Disney store, and so many more. We went into Zara and each bought a shirt as a memory of Paris that we can practically use. We also got some magnets, one for our fridge, and some others for our parents.

After several hours, it was time to make our way to the U.S. Embassy for my appointment. Just outside, there were guards stationed to make sure that everyone wanting to go to the embassy had good intentions (aka no terrorists). There was quite a line already, and I was early. I told a security officer that I had an appointment, and showed my passport. He presented it to someone and said that I could go straight on through. I didn’t even have to stand and wait in line. I suppose being an American has its perks sometimes. I left my phone and Fitbit bracelet with security and went into the building with my paper I needed notarized. When I got inside, I took a number and waited. I was 914. After they called me, I gave them the document and was told to go to the window to make the payment. It cost me $50 for them to officially sign and notarize a piece of paper. I personally thought that’s a ridiculous amount of money, but what else could I have done? Nothing, really. I waited for my name to be called yet again. This time, I raised my right hand and swore that everything on that document was true. I signed it, and then I was done. All that waiting and money spent for a trip to Paris just to sign a piece of paper saying that I’m single and have never been married. But hey, at least it’s over and done with! There aren’t much more things I have to do before I can get married. It’s exciting! Now that we achieved our main goal, all that was left was to waste a little more time before meeting our ride to begin our journey back home. We walked to the Eiffel Tower, and I took many pictures along the way.

Paris really is a fascinating city. You hear so many different languages of all the different nationalities visiting France’s capital. It’s easy to get lost with all of the complicated web of roads. People can be rude, but it’s normal. It’s a crowded place full of people trying to get somewhere. They’ll walk across the street without caring that traffic could be approaching. They’ll push their way through the crowds. And they don’t look very happy either. Then again, people that smile a lot are seen as potentially having a screw loose. There is quite a lot of trash everywhere, and parts of the city don’t smell pleasant. But despite all of that, it’s so full of history and life. C doesn’t like Paris, but I do. It’s a complicated place, and if you want to visit, make sure not to expect a fairy-tale that so many films paint in your mind. It’s not somewhere you can just spend two days like we did. Maybe a week at least to hit the main tourist attractions and also discover secret treasures. I definitely would recommend a trip to the City of Light and Love.

Until next time!

Bisous!

At The Avenue des Champs-Élysées

At The Avenue des Champs-Élysées

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Happy Friday!

This past week, we’ve been experiencing record heat here in France, and it doesn’t appear to be getting any cooler any time sooner. As someone who has been raised on having air-conditioning readily available in every house and establishment, I’m experiencing a bit of difficulty adjusting to a life where having air-conditioning is a rarity. Apartments don’t have it, and every few homes do. Here in the Haute-Savoie region, only about two months of the year are very hot. The rest are rainy, dry, and cooler. I bought a fan to circulate air in our apartment, and it’s a life-saver. My skin is naturally oily, which is annoying. I put on foundation every day in an effort to reduce having a constantly shiny face, but I also find myself constantly wiping my face with a paper towel. Hopefully I’ll get used to this soon. On the bright side of all of this unbearable heat, it’s not as humid as back in Saint Louis. A dry heat is much preferable.

A few days ago, we went to Amphion to see where mon ange grew up. It’s a lovely little suburb that’s nice, quiet, and peaceful. We visited his father’s old house and left his scooter there to go walking around the neighborhood and beyond. As we walked, he told me little stories about all the trouble he would get into with the neighborhood boys. It appears my fiancé had a bit of a bad boy reputation. Don’t worry, though. He shaped up to be quite a fine citizen.

From his old house, you can actually walk to several beaches at the edge of Lac Léman. It’s absolutely beautiful there! The water is so blue and clear! There were a lot of people sunbathing, reading, swimming, playing, and having fun. It made me want to jump into the water too. Walking along the path and observing everyone was fun. It’s interesting to hear all the French being spoken. Once I even picked up what sounded like British English being spoken by a visiting tourist. It’s strange hearing English here. I’m getting so accustomed to French being the primary language. Sometimes I actually struggle to find English words! Fortunately, C has a few friends that do speak English that I can keep up my mother tongue. I have a strong suspicion that when I return to the U.S. after these three months I will have a bit of an accent. When I spend a lot of time surrounded by a foreign language or dialect, I’m like a chameleon, mimicking the accent. We’ll have to wait and see.

We spent yesterday re-designing the layout of our apartment. Now it’s looking much better. There’s a bit more open space to move around. Our cats felt a bit disoriented having all of their old places to hang out taken away, but they appear to be adjusting well. They’ve found some new places to hide and lay around.

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, also known as U.S.A.’s Independence Day. To celebrate, we’re organizing a little party and BBQ at a park by the lake where we can cook burgers, play music, swim, and have fun. It’s also a good way for me to meet new friends. I’m looking forward to it!

And now it’s time for me to get on with my day and do something productive. It’s already almost 4pm here, so I’m not sure how productive we’ll actually be today. I think it’ll be a lazy day in an effort to stay cool.

Have a good weekend!

Bisous!

La vie est belle

La vie est belle

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