La reine des ronds-points

For my non-franco-phone audience, that means “Queen of the round-abouts.” Who is this queen, you ask? She is me, and I am she. (Sandy, let me know which is grammatically preferable.)

It all started back in Paris, where Vic and I decided that, since we’re not crossing any borders, we didn’t need our passports. Wrong! We safely and quickly arrived in Avignon from Paris via a three-hour TGV ride (in first class! Oddly less expensive than second), only to discover at the car rental that a passport is required for non-French drivers, despite the fact that my reservation clearly stated an identity card OR passport would be required. Thankfully, we were able to convince the attendant to accept our driver’s licenses and student ID (me)/open water diver card (Vic) as corroborating evidence of our identity. Obstacle number 1 conquered!

Obstacle number 2, while still at the car rental place, was the fact that, despite my request to have a diesel and an automatic, we had neither. Vic is not able to drive stick-shift, and diesel is less expensive and gets better mileage. In fact, if we were to change to an automatic, the charge would be double. We conceded defeat and accepted the stick shift vehicle.

Fun fact: the French LOVE round-abouts. I am not French. I do not love round-abouts. On the way from Avignon to our hotel in St. Remy de Provence, I must have driven through at least 20 round-abouts, with a lovely British woman’s voice on the GPS guiding me. I’ve heard that it’s particularly enjoyable to listen to the directions in French, but think it’s rather wiser to stick to my native language for directions.

And so it is that, while in Provence, I am la reine des ronds-points, doing all the driving and all the talking for both of us. Vic has declared himself our pack mule, good for nothing except carrying heavy things.

Safely in Provence

Just a very quick update for all of you back home who have been eagerly waiting to here from us. We arrived safely in Provence yesterday, but there will be several funny stories to tell later when we have more time.

For now, we’re off to Arles to see lots of old Roman stuff.

La baguette de tradition française

Today is a major blog-update day. I turned in my two papers today, so all I have left to do is study for a four-hour exam that covers every class I’ve taken over the past year. Nothing major. Anyway…

After the 14th of July, which evidently only we anglophones call Bastille Day, many Parisians begin their summer vacations. Accordingly, many shops close. Our local boulangerie (which actually is a chain) closed on July 20. Of course, it is not possible to live without bread, so we had to find another place. And boy, did we. Read the rest of this entry »

Tour de France

Growing up in Austin, Texas, you couldn’t help but know about the Tour de France. In fact, while I was in school it might have been more appropriately named the Tour de Lance. For seven years in a row, our hometown hero conquered professional cycling’s most prestigious race. After a three year retirement from racing, Lance came back and took to the road one more time.

Riding for the Astana team, he found himself paired with the world’s top rider, Alberto Contidor. After a brief battle for top position, Lance conceded and took up a support role, helping Contidor to win the yellow jersey.

I arrived at the Arc de Triomphe around 10:30am in preparation for the big finale along the Champs Elysées. I hoped to arrive early enough to get a good spot and simply camp out until the riders arrived later that afternoon. Crowds were already starting to gather, and many had come prepared with lawn chairs and coolers full of food. I, on the other hand, had only two apples to tide me over until it was over.

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French Music Videos

At least in our apartment, there’s very little French television available in English, so Beth and I have been watching a whole lot of music videos lately. I thought I’d share a few of our favorites since most Americans would never be exposed to them.

Show Ce SoirBisso Na Bisso

The fun summer song of the year.

Meme Pas FatigueMagic System

The chorus says: “No we’re not tired, because tonight we’re going dancing.”

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Hotel des Invalides, St. Germain, and the Jardin du Luxembourg

On Saturday, I did another of my “mega walks” combining four different walking tours into one long expedition. Beth need to spent some time finishing her papers for school, so it was another good opportunity for me to get out and see the city. Luckily, the weather cooperated, and it was a great day for a walk.

I took the metro to Alma Marceau and took a small detour north to Place d’Iena hoping to see the Panthéon Bouddhiste that I had missed during my first walk to the Eiffel Tower. I discovered, however, that it’s actually part of the Musée Guimet and that I’d have to buy a ticket to get inside.

Making a u-turn, I walked back down to Place de L’Alma and saw the Flamme de la Liberté. It’s a full-size replica of the top of the torch held by the Statue of Liberty in New York City. It was given to Paris by the International Herald Tribune in 1989 in recognition of the paper’s centennial anniversary. The short wall that you can see behind it looks over an underpass for Avenue de New York, which is where Princess Diana was killed in a fatal car accident in 1997. The flame has now become an unofficial monument to her as well.

Flamme de la Liberté

Flamme de la Liberté

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This was probably the “worst” walking tour I’ve done yet. It wasn’t necessarily “bad,” it just wasn’t very pretty or exciting.

I took the train from our apartment to the Pyrénées metro station which is a bit further north than us. According to the description of the walking tour, the Park de Belleville is twenty-six feet higher than Sacre Coeur (which is supposed to mean that you can see more, I guess). The card also says, however, that you have to “look over the ugly buildings in the foreground” to really enjoy the view.

Rainy Day Skyline from Pyrénées

Rainy Day Skyline from Park de Belleville

The Eiffel Tower from Pyrénées

The Eiffel Tower from Park de Belleville

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Fourth Anniversary

Yesterday, July 23, was Beth and my fourth anniversary. Unfortunately, I spoiled our celebration plans by “over indulging” the night before. Beth did get her wish to spend the whole day with me, but she spent it with me laid up in bed seriously hungover.

We haven’t always had the best of luck with our anniversaries. Beth got sick during our honeymoon, and we both got sick on our first anniversary. But part of our vows were to stick together “in sickness and in health” and we’ve definitely lived up to the sickness part.

In all seriousness, the four years I’ve spent married to Beth (and the 4.5 years we dated) have been the best years of my life. (No offense mom and dad.) We’re still only 27 years old, so there are lots of years left to live. If they’re all as good as the first four, I’ll consider myself the luckiest man on earth.

Mapping Our Adventures

Spent a few minutes today on Google Maps and starting marking the paths I’ve taken on my walking tours and where we live. I’ll add more specifics as I go along. Unfortunately, I don’t have all my notes with me at the moment.

View Paris in a larger map

Best Ice Cream in the World

Berthillon. Period. End of Discussion.

It’s been made locally in Paris since 1954 and can be found at several restaurants and cafes. I doubt they export it to America, but I guarantee you that it will be worth the cost of a plane ticket to Paris.

This ice cream will change your life.

The World's Best Ice Cream

The World's Best Ice Cream