Friday, April 29, 2011

Mi vergogno / I am totally embarrassed
K: Today it took me about half an hour to take T on  what should have been a 5 block walk to our friends' house for lunch. I  got utterly lost. T and I had to go to her friend's favorite gelateria to coax out the proper directions from the people who work there. They asked if our friends were German and then asked if they were not nice people (really?!!) and if neither of these were the case then they had no idea who I was talking about. But then they did know and we were only three blocks off.

Today was also the day that I made four embarrassing phone calls to this dermatologist's secretary.  The first time I rudely told her scusa instead of mi scusi or prego? or non ho sentito bene because I got flustered.  The second time I had phone troubles and had to call her back.  The third time went better, but she told me I would have to call back at 2 PM which was, you guessed it, just exactly when I was wondering around lost without my cell phone.  When I did call back two hours later, I was told that it was too late and that the doctor wouldn't be back until Saturday and when I tried to leave my phone number for the doctor  I had to put her off while I yelled at T because she wasn't paying attention to me as I was begging her to tell me my own cell phone number.

Tell me that these things happen to you. Lie to me, if you have to. 

T's post: First of all, Mom, the exact dialogue was:

Mom: Blahblahblah-dermatologist-blahblah.. T is it 689592?
Me: Huh? No, wait what? Huh..
Mom: 689592. You know. Is that the end of my phone number?
Me: Ummm........... Yeah.
Mom: You just made me look crazy!
Me: *realizes Mom doesn't know her own phone number, laughing hysterically rolling on the floor*
Mom: Couldn't you help me out this once?
Me: Still laughing.....

To my defense today was not a great day. Let me show the dialogue between my (crazy, looks like Ru Paul on a bad day) Spanish teacher and my deskmate:
Deskmate to me: Is this your white-out?
Me: Yes.
Spanish teacher to deskmate: You shouldn't be talking!
Deskmate: I was just---
Spanish Teacher: Especially not to someone with problems!
Random Kid: How much did you get on your last test T?
Me: 9 1/2 (out of 10).
Random Kid: (sarcastically) Yes teacher, she has problems.

(We're learning ordinal numbers in Spanish)
ST: How do you say sixth in Spanish?
Me: Sexto
****entire class starts laughing*****

And with that my day was ruined......

F: I went to my Italian class with chocolate on my shirt... But it was just a little bit, and since it was on my shoulder, it's too high up for anyone to notice--in the end not so embarrassing.

Actually the class was kind of nice. It was the last one for the Spring, and there were only five of us and we all went out for coffee with the teacher after class.

K: Show off!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making the inevitable catty comparisons
We read a blog before we left about an American woman who moves to the French countryside with her three kids and her husband and then goes to Italy for a vacation.  She makes a list of comparisons, and at first I thought it would be fun to read.  Then she went on to make a bunch of comparisons to make her feel good about her choice. I found them to be completely obnoxious and I disagreed with her view of Italy entirely.  Nevertheless, the urge to compare is overwhelming. 

It was so good to be in a big city for the week and to have food that was not Italian, but was still super duper delicious. I love Italian food, but being vegetarians who eat what is seasonal, we tend to eat the same things with the same spices over and over again. We definitely were all dying for Thai and Japanese and Indian food.  Also French pastries do kick other pastries butts. Still, If we had been cooking for ourselves the seasonal veggies would have been the same and the same quality. Italian coffee is better. Period. Punto e basta.

It was great to have what all three of us agreed was some truly satisfying sense of anonymity that you get from being bumped into and/or ignored completely in a big city.  It is nice not to have to worry that the same person you get mad at for stepping on your new shoes will turn out to be the principal of the high school or your banker or your good friend's father or something.  Compared with New York, I much prefer the architecture and sheer beauty of Paris.  It was really tough going with our elementary knowledge of French, though.  I mean we knew enough to differentiate  ourselves from the annoying, mostly American, tourists who have this entitled attitude about not needing to even try to be polite or make an effort beyond the gates of the English language. Therefore, people were a lot nicer than the stereotyped, mythically arrogant characters that I had been dreading.  I thought most everyone we met was really either fun, funny, cool or sweet. The customer service needs help, but that is life without commissions, no matter where you go.

I did get really wigged out by the amount of effort the French women put into their appearances and started to feel like if I made superficial goals the entire purpose of my life, I still could never measure up.  Those are the prettiest, thinnest, most pulled together women I have ever seen -- and this not news to them.  And I really worked hard on packing well and wearing my best stuff and getting my hair blown out professionally before we left and wearing not the most sensible shoes. Those Parisian women that are heterosexual have a sexiness that is a little bit more oriented towards impressing other women, whereas the Italian heterosexual sexiness could not give a rat's ass about what other women think. (As far as being gay in a predominantly Catholic country, that is just a brave, hard thing to do and I am sad that is the case. But Paris definitely has an obviously out and proud population, which was a positive thing to see. It also felt better to be in a city that was more racially diverse. Of course now we are comparing a giant French city with a tiny Italian one.) Neither group of women, Parisian or Lucchese, would ever walk around in sneakers (unless they were Converse and color coordinated) without a really good reason. Neither group does without a hair dryer. My hair is fried, by the way.

In the end, it was very satisfying to come home -- I said it, home -- to Lucca. Lucca is much cleaner.  Our house, thank goodness is also much cleaner.  It feels much, much safer. There are not people sleeping on the streets which hurts me when I see it, always has, always will, and there is much less begging and obvious poverty.  I missed the Italian language that I love very much and want so much to become natural for me. (F kept saying due instead of deux to confused French ticket agents and waiters every time we needed two of anything. It was really funny by the end of the trip). T may in the end venture out on her own and decide she wants a bigger city type life when she is in her 20s, but I like to think that when she comes back to visit us, it will give her pleasure, and fond memories, and she will find us. Still here. In. Lucca.

MJ, + A, L &C for real, we hope you visit us.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tiny french neon helicopters
Last night, after our encore at Villa Papillon Thai restaurant, we did not go home. Even though the Tour Eiffel is a tourist trap, it is worth the wait. The thousands of people on line are kept entertained with search lights, light shows and a steady stream of tiny glowing helicopters launched skyward by a legion of souvenir hawkers.

We had online tickets so we didn't have to wait in the mile-long line but got to squeeze in the rickety, old elevator along with the loud-mouthed Americans going on about how expensive the cheeseburgers and cokes are over heeeeere in France. Even T instinctively began speaking Italian to distinguish herself from them.

Once on the viewing platform, though, were mesmerized by the glowing lights on the Seine and the gleaming churches and distant monuments. We didn't get home until midnight, and our feet were worn through to the bones. It was a magical night.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

This morning we had an Easter egg chocolate scavenger hunt at our My address in Paris rental apartment.

Our (really there was no cleaning job done except for the linens- gross) duplex with the perfect location looks like this:

Just kidding. . .

Today we took our achey-breaky selves to the Louvre and saw this:

And then this:

And we plan to suck up to T's art professor who is having them study Hellenistic art by showing him these:

And then we saw Rembrandt's representations of Christ that were so breathtakingly relateable and full of big questions that I will never forget them. But no photography was allowed. Sorry about that.

But because we are us, we also had to try our first Macrons. They needed to be shared according to T's ingenious system by which we each take one bite of either the passion fruit, lemon, or "infinite" chocolate and save the centers for whomever liked it best. I got the lemon center. Yay!

And then we found the street the French named after us:

And above is T's Elvis impression. Take our word for it; it was outstanding.
 Champs of Champs Elysee
Thank you T for realizing that we had tracked dust and something worse on my boots from the grimy march to the Obilesk all throughout the Dolce & Gabbana store before the sales people did!

Thank you nice sales lady who turned away when we were unable to refrain from taking one allowed and a few other forbidden photos and who recognized the inner fashionista in T.

Thank you kind salesman who gave T the Valentino catalogs.

Thanks F for being the most patient male person on planet earth and carrying the bags and figuring out the Metro stops.

Late afternoon we had a picnic in the 16th and shopped at the discount vintage stores (and I cried tears of consignment vintage joy).

Random things

Hey it's T! I shall be writing a post about random things which I shall title Random Things.
I'm super creative!

Random Thing 1: interrogations. Otherwise known as oral exams. Let me compare it to the dream where you forget to wear pants. But worse. They happen about (literally) 11 times a week here. One can -solemnly- offer themselves to go voluntarily. If no one does that, then the teacher reads the names of kids who aren't interrogated often. Somehow my name is on that list every single TIME! Grr.. Or you can giustificare. Which I *think* is the same as saying "I'm really devoted to this class even if I got an F on the test just please don't interrogate me!!!!!!"

Random Thing 2: Not to brag or anything, but I'm better than my parents at cursing/dicendo le parolacce in Italian. In English, they far outdo me, and, in fact, they owe me 13 euro for the shoot-I-just-cursed jar. Well, I guess if they went to an Italian public middle school they would be as good as I am. But anyway here's a tutorial:
cazzo -a male part. Just throw it casually into conversation. Ex: What the (male part) are you doing?
Figlio di puttana -son of a puppy dog who gets around. Copy my classmate and say this to your teacher. Just kidding -- really that story doesn't end well! Vaffanculo -a curse word for how babies are conceived. Merda -comes from French. Be careful not to step in it.

A day in the life of a (not really) Italian pre-teen!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My new French lover

It's official. I have a new French lover and its name is Almond Croissant.

Real life conversation (with enhancements):

T: Mom, are you going to abandon us for ... for that?

F: (looks stricken)

K: No, of course not, honey.
(Extremely long dramatic pause)

(Still pausing.)

But I might take off for a very long weekend. . .

 The pink panther
The first thing you must know is that the pastry pigs were filled with booze soaked fruit cake of the very best kind.

The next thing is that at the Indian restaurant tonight T wanted to play yet another round of "do you like the name. . . "
T: Do you guys like the name Harper?
K: No. It reminds me of harpoon which reminds me of whales and them getting killed tragically.
T: You, dad? Do you like the name Harper?
F: Nope. It makes me think about Harper from Wizards of Waverly Place.
T: Neither of you even think of Harper Lee? Not even for a second?
K&F: Nope.
T: Oy. You guys are a lost cause.

Apparently being in France is really giving us amazing language skills as we have all three of us started speaking like Inspector Clouseau.
K: T, will you come put away your purple boot? It is in front of the stairs. Somebody is going to get killed on it.
T: Oooh non I wouldn't want to endahhnger anyone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

 Last night we had the best Thai food that I've ever had in my life at Villa Papillon. And that is saying a lot as there is no shortage of Thai restaurants or cold beer filled summer nights that I have spent in front of a steaming bowl of vegetarian pad thai. The vegetable buns that were called crepes melted under the tongue, as French food likes to do, and sang to the tune of sweet, salty, spicy dipping sauce and three fast moving forks.

Today we walked a half marathon through le Marais and the left bank to the pantheon. A gold hearted man who looked just like Mr. Bean waked several blocks out of his way to show us how to get to our lunch destination chez Paul. We dined on a petit cheese plate that was the perfect combination of hard (sounded like-- cotelle) cheese, soft cambert, pungent Chevre, and creamy i-think-it- was butter.

The legume lasagna was so good that while T was photographing it she said, "I am eating this stuff right this minute and my mouth is still watering."

We also had white asparagus that was so regal that her highness tasted of earthly travels to a beautiful underworld where mysterious glories grow into food for the extremely fortunate. We had to fare la scarpetta and use extra bread to mop up the sauce which made our waiter chuckle.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

 Word to the wise
Word to the wise: if you want to go all the way up Notre Dame to see the breathtaking view from the top you have to go outside and to the right of the building and wait on an enormous line that is quite different from the enormous line that you wait on smack dab in front to enter the breathtakingly beautiful church where today a choir was singing. And so we did not climb up to the top to see the view, which we can assure you would probably have been spectacular.

To make up for it, we shopped our little fashion loving hearts out and T has a slamming straw fedora and sparkly lavender trench coat to prove it!

Okay, you got me, I have some fabulous black satin pajamas.

As far as being vegetarian goes, we first were served some fried eggs with a big lot of ham underneath it and then a grilled cheese with a big lot of ham underneath it. The waiter was very cute about it though. The eye opener about traveling with a growing T is that --after eating a chocolate croissant, a half. . .

. . .baguette, a grilled cheese sandwich, a plate of french fries and lemonade, raspberries and strawberries and a giant double scoop ice cream cone --she described having been starved today. And that was all within five hours!