When is a turtle more than a turtle?

turtle_sunset

The other day, I carried a turtle all around Paris.  I have become that person.  Years ago when we lived in Africa, a friend from the embassy told me the story of an American lady living in Africa who wanted to return to the US, but she also wanted to travel with a turtle in her pocket.  Because you can’t always have your cake and eat it too, the turtle was denied at the plane.  Hysterics ensued, the lady refused to give up said turtle, and embassy authorities were called in to mediate.  I don’t remember the end of the story, but I am picturing the two: lady and her turtle, sitting happily together somewhere in the middle of Africa watching a sunset and drinking a Tusker beer.  At that time, I didn’t really get it.  Now I am wiser. This was not lost on me the other day as I paraded from taxi, to metro, and finally on foot with a small turtle tucked into my backpack– all the while nursing a terrific hangover that under different circumstances would have kept me in bed most of the day.

Back to the beginning:  My son was given a turtle.  I told him I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.  Dad said he would handle the turtle during upcoming summer break and move to a new apartment.  Dad traveled, Dad forgot. Seventeen year old son in tears.  Mom caved.  Mom gets the turtle.  Those are the basics of how I ended up with Squirt in my backpack.At the time, perhaps because of hangover, I didn’t not really pause to think why my son was crying over a turtle that he had for about 6 months.  What I didn’t see at the time, was that the turtle was a gift from a friend, it was a tie to the previous school year and all that happened, including the death of a friend’s mom a week prior.  What I didn’t see was that 17 is still young and still boiling with emotions.  I didn’t see that giving up the turtle meant moving on.  I see that more clearly now.

After agreeing to figure out the turtle situation (nooo, I don’t mean flush him down the toilet) I helped my son empty the stinking (literally) tank, pack it up, and put Squirt safely in a plastic case for transport.  My first stop was to drop off some things for storage.  With no firm plan and only 24 hours left in Paris to figure out Squirtgate 2016, I dropped the very large and unwieldy aquarium on the side of the road as a free give away.  Travelling lighter now, I considered my options.

My first and favorite plan was to find a Chinese restaurant with a fish tank and quietly slip Squirt into the tank while I distracted the waiter with questions about vegan dim sum.  I was actually plotting out how to do this… I could actually, in my mind’s eye, envision myself with a large menu distracting the waiter, flipping pages, dropping something, then slipping Squirt to his new home.  I mean if you visualize something, it can happen, right.  At least that is what they say.

Option two: drop Squirt off at the lake in the park and let nature take its course.  A bit harsh, but then he may provide a swan or fish some extra protein.  Or he might live happily ever after, who am I to say?
At the time – I didn’t know there was an option three – give him to BFF in Paris and let her figure this out.  I love this plan and I didn’t even have to visualize it!  What I love even more, is that after 12 moves in 22 years – I can say I have a BFF in Paris!.  How did I ever get so lucky?  Being a nomad is emotionally exhausting.  (Is this what my son was feeling, too?)  I have been graced with amazing friendships over the years – people I can count on all over the world. People who I can leave a turtle with.

As I may have mentioned, I had a hangover and so did BFF.  Some friends and I had an impromptu reunion the night before and one glass of rosé led to another, one cigarette turned into another, one conversation turned into another, one Justin Beiber song turned into another, and around 2:30a.m., BFF and I were staggering home.  (She says I made her walk, I say we couldn’t find a taxi.)  So, by the time I got the turtle the next day, I decided I needed a five minute break before taking Squirt to his final resting place, err I mean home.  I stop into BFF’s house and proudly announce: “Guess what I have in my backpack?!  A TURTLE!!”

Right on cue, her son says: “I want a turtle!”  (Even though they are moving in a few weeks and they may be the crazy Americans with a turtle in their pocket on a plane.  I have to think that because of hangover, BFF’s reasoning powers were a little slow.)  Squirt had just received a call from the governor and had a few weeks of reprieve to safely swim in his tank!!

Oh, but … I had left his tank on the side of the road several blocks (which felt like miles) away.  Squirt safely with boy, I trudge down the block to see if the tank is still there.  Praise the lord – no one decided they needed an aquarium in the 30 minutes it was left there.  I carry the glass tank back to BFF’s house, and set ‘er up. Squirt has never looked so happy.  Actually, I couldn’t tell.  He’s a turtle.  But I sure felt relieved and so did my son.

Now, I am feeling deeply indebted to BFF – but then I remember a time months ago when I gave her my Teva sandals to wear while I strolled on the feces covered streets of Paris barefoot, carrying her Louboutins, because she couldn’t walk another step in heels .  The balance might not exactly be even, but who’s keeping track?  That is what friends are for, right?

P.S.  I sent a sneak peak of this story to BFF to give her a morning giggle.  She promptly wrote back: “Not to go all dark on you, but can you read this at the after party at my wake.”  Please note she didn’t ask me to give the eulogy, but I guess after party will do.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Mrs. Misadventures – The next installment

jimmy
Her shoes
Keen
My shoes

*Real shoes have been changed to protect the identity of the owner.  And beware, if you are my friend, and you do something I find funny, I may tell everyone about it!

Remember my friend with the Vera Bradley bag at the Dune de Pilat?  The very very large Vera Bradley bag I had to help her lug straight up the biggest and steepest sand dune in Europe??? Well, here is chapter two of the Mrs. Misadventures:
The other weekend we both attended a very fun farewell party in honor of a dear friend. A bit of wine consumed.  There was lots of dancing.  Most ladies liberated themselves of their high heels so there could be more dancing.  Me – ever the practical one – had worn my very favorite and very broken-in Keen sandals under a long skirt – because I had to rush from a dinner party to the farewell party.  Of course I walked the mile from my house to the dinner party and then another mile to the farewell party- who needs a taxi or metro when you have comfy shoes?
Well – lets just say by the end of the night my friend could not bear to put back on her gorgeous heels and started walking out of our friend’s apartment barefoot.  For heavens sake – my dog poops on these streets! I could not let her go barefoot – or heaven forbid call an UBER.  So, guess who ended up wearing the sandals?  And guess who ended up in the high heels?  We were quite a sight – me in her heels two sizes too big, and her in my sandals, two sizes too small.  I think the whole neighborhood heard us laughing and clicking and clacking down the road.
In anycase, we made it back safe and sound, ready for the next adventure.  And I am holding her heels hostage until she learns how to pack light for out next trip.

Mrs. Misadventures – La Grande Dune du Pilat and St. Emilion

La  Grande Dune du Pilat
La Grande Dune du Pilat

 

Collages2
La Terrasse Rouge – La Table du Château La Dominique. I loved the red gravel terrace which mimicked walking on grapes and called to mind the gravel paths of yesteryear.

 

St2
Scenes of St. Emilion

 

This past weekend a friend and I went to the Bordeaux region and it made me realize why my kids don’t want to travel with me any more.  I sometimes come up with ambitious ideas that are super fun but can be, let’s say, a bit overwhelming.  They think adventure is code word for “crazy.”  So – I had to find a friend to join me on my next adventure, La Grande Dune du Pilat and St. Emilion.  It started off great: arrived early to the train, settled into our seats, chatting about the weekend ahead – meals to be eaten, wine to drink, wine to buy, more food to eat, etc.   The ticket lady comes around – and low and behold, I have forgotten to bring my discount card, so we both have to pay an additional fare on the train – a minor annoyance, but nothing can bring us down.

We roll happily along for another hour or so until I hear a disturbance near the door as new passengers board.  I look to see an older gentleman struggling with his old, overweight cocker spaniel trying to drag him up the steep stairs and onto the train before the doors close.  I rush to help and make fast friends with a very old and very stinky cocker spaniel who proceeds to stare at me with his rheumy eyes for the rest of the trip.  Knowing that this older fellow will have trouble getting the dog off of the train, I volunteer to carry my new best friend off the train. Now I am feeling good about myself – I have done my good deed for the day.  Surely this is a good omen.

We descend in the town of Arcachon for our several hour visit to the La Grand Dune du Pilat before proceeding to St. Emilion.  There were no cabs to take us to the dune – but luckily there was a bus that went directly there! Hurrah!  Well, 30 enormous Dutch men had the same exact idea so my friend and I were stuffed like sausages onto a hot, small bus to make the 30 minute journey to the dunes.  That is when her motion sickness really started to kick in – but by gosh, she wasn’t going to let it stop her.  Oh- in the rush of all of this, we forgot to leave our luggage in the train lockers and instead are carting it around with us.  We’re strong – no problem.  Until we see the dune. The  tallest dune in Europe – which we will now be climbing with our weekend luggage – 110m meters high, straight up, in sand.  Not ones to shy away from a challenge , or take the stairs, we start our slow ascent. This is our Everest – except hot, sandy, and no sherpas.  We toy with the idea of paying someone, anyone, to carry our bags. There was just no way we were going to leave that large Vera Bradley bag at the bottom.  Small kids cheered us on as they whizzed past.  We huffed and puffed our way to the top and  I swear we could have happily stayed at the top of the dune overnight – but we had a schedule!

After our major accomplishment – we paused for some photos and a quick rest,  then off we went – over the other side of the dune to hopefully find the restaurant were we planned lunch.  Again, with our luggage but without a clear idea of where we are actually going, but certain there is no way we are going to walk up another dune.  Since there is no obvious (or authorized way) path to exit on the other side of the dune – we hike through some scrub brushes and climb through a broken fence and finally make our way to the road and luckily find the very posh hotel/restaurant.  The hotel is a spectacular.  We trudge in with our luggage, our outfits and hair slightly worse for the climb, the sweat, and the ocean breezes.  We hope to fit in at this lovely Philippe Starck designed terrace and have a refreshing drink and meal before heading back to the train station .  We get there too late for lunch service and instead order the only available cold snacks from the bar.  We order a pâté and saucisson – and that is exactly what we got.  A saucisson on a plate and a CAN of pâté,  Served IN the CAN.  If only my cocker spaniel friend was still with me – this was his kind of treat.  Poor friend, still suffering from motion sickness decides the pâté might help – it didn’t.  Please note, do not eat pâté from a can if you have a stomach ache.  It doesn’t won’t make you feel less queasy.

Snack finished – we forge ahead to get back on the bus for the train station – now everything is going like clock-work.  No more large Dutch men, no dogs to carry, refreshing snack eaten.  Until the bus is 20 minutes late.  Now we are cutting it close -but there is still a chance we can make our next train. We are thrilled when the bus arrives and we get the last two places.  Hurray again!  We are quickly making our way towards the station, when and old lady waves down the bus and proceeds to yell at the driver about being late and full.  The nice young driver promises to come back for her in five minutes.  Of course we think this is an expression (pardon our poor understanding of French) and he really means another bus will pass by in a five minutes.  Well, it was not an expression.  At the next stop, he drops off a couple of passengers, then proceeds to turn around and go back for the lady – all the while my friend was pointing to her watch and gesturing loudly about missed trains.  The driver is oblivious to her concerns.  He will not be deterred.  Well, I guess he was doing his good deed of the day.  We picked up old lady – she was happy – we continue to train station – and have missed our train by a good 10 minutes. There is a later train – so we jump on it and have a small layover in the town of Bordeaux.

While in Bordeaux, the wine capital, we decide to stop at the “Terminus” – an aptly named bar just outside the station- to have a  nerve calming glass of wine.  No wine menu needed here – white, red,or rose.  I order the rose, which I am sure was a mix of leftover red and white from last night’s service.  So much for the wine capital.   Finally, finally, we make our connection and get to the hotel in St. Emilion- tired, sick, and maybe a touch cranky.  The hotel is lovely, but apparently, when we reserved bikes a month ago, they forgot to write it down and have since given our bikes away to other guests.  We throw a slight fit and they kindly promise us a complimentary taxi for our Chateau visit the next day.  A look of relief washes over their faces when we go to our room.

A look of horror crosses their faces when I showed up at the desk at 7am the next morning.  They thought the were rid of us demanding Americans but I was determined to get sick friend some medicine, so I needed to find a pharmacy on a Sunday, in a small town in France. We still had chateaus to visit and more wine to drink.  They did get rid of us for the day – but we called them numerous times with restaurant changes, shifting plans, and general questions.  I like to think we helped them improve their English skills.  Needless to say, it was a trip we will never forget!  For your next adventure, call me and I will give you some tips for seamless trouble free travel.

Post Vacation Bliss/Blues

After returning from a peaceful week in Southern France, where the sun drenches everything including your soul, it is time to regroup back in Paris.  Not too many words today, just quiet reflection on spending time with family and feeling blessed.

 

Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France
Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France

 

Nice, France
Nice, France

 

 

Nice, France
Nice, France

 

 

Cours Saleya, Nice, France
Cours Saleya, Nice, France

 

Cours Saleya, Nice, France
Cours Saleya, Nice, France

 

Sun drenched Nice, France
Sun drenched Nice, France

 

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat, France
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat, France

 

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat, France
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat, France

 

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat, France
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat, France

 

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat, France
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat, France

Macaroons the American way, comfort and coconut

IMG_1350
Coconut dark chocolate macaroons

 

 

IMG_1351
I get the macaroons on a plate to take a picture and some teen was already grabbing one.

 

 

IMG_1352
And one for me. I need it.

 

Today I am making macaroons, of the American coconut variety, for my older son who graduates high school in two months.  I have been telling everyone around me I won’t be one of those parents crying at the graduation ceremony; instead you may find me doing cartwheels across the football field.  But the closer we get, the more weepy I feel.   I see a Facebook post about Senior year coming to a close or a reminder about caps and gowns and the tears start flowing.   I might not be able to wear mascara for the next two months.

Yesterday, I saw a video someone posted on Facebook of seals being released into the sea.  And I cried.  Those little guys awkwardly flopping/hopping across the sand to somehow miraculously dive smoothly into the ocean.   They were hit by a few waves but kept going until they hit their stride.  Isn’t that just how our young adults are?  Awkwardly flopping towards adulthood and as much as we want to help them and push them along their way, they will find their stride all on their own.  Setbacks will come, waves will hit them, but they will swim merrily into adulthood whether we are ready or not.

If this batch of macaroons is a bit salty today, sorry.  I think I shed an extra tear or two making them.

 

* recipe from David Lebovitz  http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2005/06/an-american-mac-1/

Chocolate cake cure-all

IMG_1276

IMG_1277
     It is Saturday as I write this and I just realized that on Tuesday I have book group and I have not even started the book.  We are reading Still Alice (about an accomplished professor diagnosed with Alzheimer’s)- so on the bright side, I can say I read it, but can’t remember anything, and hopefully garner some sympathy.
     Speaking of forgetting – it is a very very good thing to sometimes have a bad (or selective) memory.  It can make life a bit easier.  It works great when you need to forget about the moped driver who almost ran you over or the diet you are supposed to be on – not so great when you have to go to the store to pick up the cocoa powder you forgot, twice.  Which brings me to chocolate cake, that also makes life easier.
     Today is baking therapy and everything seems right in the world if you have a homemade chocolate cake in front of you and some appreciative teenagers to share it with.  My recipe is from the “Add A Pinch’ website http://addapinch.com/cooking/the-best-chocolate-cake-recipe-ever/, and I have to agree, if it is not the best, it sure is up there.
     P.S.  I ate that whole piece of cake right after I took the picture.  What diet??  I don’t remember any diet?!

Bloopers vs. highlights – how do you see yourself?

IMG_1197

Funny how things look different from another person’s perspective.  At any given time, I feel like a mess.  I have a million things constantly going through my mind. Some things are minor, like who is going to take out the trash.  And some are major:  what am I doing with my life; I put my foot in my mouth (again); why didn’t I do A instead of B and then everything would have been perfect; what am I going to do in the next 10 years to make my mark in this world; and are my kids going to be okay??  I usually have no answers, but I keep plodding ahead putting one foot in front of the other and hoping it will all come together.  At least the trash always gets taken out.  And yet, I think from the outside, I look relatively put together.  I was thinking about this today after someone complimented me and my first reaction was to dismiss the kind words, and secondly to beat myself up and say it wasn’t anything special.  Then it reminded me of something I heard while back  “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”  I find it is so true for me, and perhaps for others too: judging ourselves too harshly and failing to give ourselves credit where due.   It seems so easy to be generous with others and look at their positives, and so easy to focus on our own negatives.  Anyway – just a thought for today if you find yourself turning down a compliment or looking harshly at one of your bloopers  – just remember – everyone else is looking at your highlight reel – and you should too!