Category Archives: Travel Discoveries

Wandering around Paris

Okay, this one isn't from today - My friend Tammy took it 2 weeks ago, quoting a photo Russ took of me in exactly the same spot a year ago January.  Awwwww.  The man in Spain liked it.  :-D

Galleries Lafayette - I noticed 8 Chinese women taking the same picture.  Here it is.

Galleries Lafayette – Some people’s prototype of  Paris.

Today has spit rain, rained during sunshine and sparkled brilliantly blue with white clouds.  And I spent 6 and a half hours walking in it (minus 20 minutes to eat felafels and 20 minutes to sit in St. Eustache church of the gothic gloriosity.  Even with stopping and trying to find my favorite sunscreen (made in Paris, advertised in France, but not for sale here, at least in the 5 stores I tried), my little trek google mapped  as 12+ miles.  Thought you might like some pics.

I started at home in the 15th arrondissement and started my fruitless search for my sunscreen.  They didn’t have any in the Sephora in my neighborhood, so I went to the Galleries Lafayette, the Very Fancy Parisian department store by the Paris Opera house.  They didn’t have my sunscreen either.

I was leaving the store and almost stumbled over 8 women friends giggling and whipping out their iPhones to take pictures over my left shoulder.  I couldn’t get my iPad out quickly enough to get the photo of THEM, but here’s what they were photographing.  Vogue-readers’ True Paris!

I wandered through southern Montmartre, then further north toward Sacre Coeur.

The basilica of Sacre Coeur on this high spot of Paris, the hill of Montmartre.

The basilica of Sacre Coeur on this high spot of Paris, the hill of Montmartre.

I’m wasn’t doing so many tourist attractions like this one (Sacre Coeur, Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which is beautiful, but which I spent quite a bit of time in a couple of weeks ago.  It’s also a wicked climb up what seem like 40 flights of stone steps.  I just got to the bottom, looked up and smiled at it.  You don’t need to conquer the same mountain four times.  That can be merely derivative.




Saint-Gervaise.  Tryna and I visited last week, but just walked by yesterday – it houses the 1975 order Communities of Jerusalem.  It’s an absolutely beautiful church very near the Louvre on the north bank of the river.

Today, I wandered and window shopped (for me, that’s not clothes, it’s my art forms:  food and churches and people).  I wandered north and east, looking.  Not talking, just listening to conversations going on around me, and taking in the feel of this part of the city.  Paris’ sections are wildly different.  I’ve spent time in many of the neighborhoods this trip.  I take classes in some, walk through others, go to others in search of something.  Wow.  I just compiled the list of the arrondissements in which I’ve been in the last month:  1st, 2nd, 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th 14th, 15th (where I live), 16th, 18th and 20th.

Lots of people – residents, writers about Paris and foreigners living here – say that Parisians don’t know other areas of the city.  They don’t even know their OWN neighborhood.  I’m starting to buy it.  I’ve asked 10-20 people for a street name which turns out to be within 3 blocks of their business or where they’re walking with a grocery trolley. They don’t know where it is.  And this has happened 5 or 6 times. On the days when the iPad’s goofy, I now just wander until I get there, or enjoy the charm of having 20 interrogative and very polite conversations to work on my French.

The first class at L’Ecole Lenotre should have been simple.  The web site gave the address with no map.  But how hard can it be to find 10 Ave. de la Champs Elysee?  I still gave myself half an hour to get lost.  I was only 15 minutes late because #10 is not between 8 and 12 Ave. de la Champs Elysee.  It’s 4 blocks to the southeast of there, tucked back into a park.  Go figure.  THAT was a day for adrenaline.  I ended up going back to two of the most helpful and thin people (who didn’t know where Lenotre was EITHER, but were very nice) and giving them the very elegant tartes aux chocolate avec canelle that I made during the class.

But, like I said, yesterday had no stress.  I didn’t have to find ANYTHING.  I wasn’t going to a new school under time pressure.   I just wandered, and thought that if I ended up near Les Halles, the site of the old food market of Paris, I’d buy some pectin NH (the strong, professional pectin for clear fruit tops of tartes) and maybe stop at Dehellerin, Julia Child’s and my favorite cooking store with its old-hardware-store feel, and see if they’d gotten in another set of square stainless nesting cutters.  Do you have any IDEA what it is for a Type A like me to just wander around?  That’s why I’m documenting it – it’s my first day of aimlessness in two months over here.  We won’t talk about the decades before that.

This was pretty much my scenery for an hour:


These aren't pastries, they are made from sea food - salmon terrines and little crab things (the green ones next to far right looked just like little crabs in pink shells.  Beautiful!

These aren’t pastries, they are made from sea food – salmon terrines and little crab things.  The green ones next to far right looked just like little crabs in pink shells. Aren’t they fun?


Then I found myself in Les Halles.  And I stopped and got a taboule salad and some felafel’s at a Libanese restaurant.  I fell in love with felafels that my friend Tammy and I shared one a couple of weeks ago in the Jewish Quarter (I’d only had bad Indianapolis felafels before, but these turned me right around.  They were EXQUISITE.)  IMG_0807I looked them up on line and discovered that the original felafels are middle eastern and made from fava beans, but have become really popular fast food in Jerusalem.  However, many Jews have an enzyme deficiency of G6PD, so fava beans can precipitate a life-threatening reaction.  So in Jerusalem felafels are made with chickpeas.  I decided not just to go back to the place Tammy took me, where I’d fallen in love with the things, but to eat my first fava bean felafels and do a taste comparison.  This is, after all, an educational cooking sabbatical.   I can’t just eat what I KNOW I love.  I have to Branch Out.  But, as a reward for open-mindedness, Jerusalem won anyway.  Hands down.  I liked the mint in the taboule, but I never need to eat another fava bean.

Slightly grubby, but friendly Les Halles felafel place.  Great people walking by.

Slightly grubby, but friendly Les Halles felafel place. Great people walking byI liked the mint in the taboule, but I never need to eat another fava bean.

Then I drifted about, trying to find Dehellerin’s, where I’d been a couple of times before, but parts of Paris are like the shifting staircases and disappearing rooms at Hogwarts – they move about.  So, instead of looking at tarte rings or little tiny boat molds,  a beautiful gothic church emerged from the drizzle.  As I opened the door, a young French couple came out and asked me what church it was.  I told them I had absolutely no idea.  I found out from about 40 signs inside.  It was St. Eustache.  It was gorgeous and peaceful.  I sat there for about 20 minutes, then as I was leaving, I noticed three engraved panels of the pastor’s list.  US churches often have a room with portraits of their pastors, often going all the way back to 1912 or even 1840.  St. Eustache didn’t have portraits of their priests, but they had all the names and dates.  Okay, RCA buddies in the Hudson Valley, this outdoes even your 350 years, eh?

Sitting in St. Eustache

Sitting in St. Eustache, Les Halles

Ste. Eustache's pastor's list (the first third).

Ste. Eustache’s pastor’s list (the first third). You should be able to enlarge and read it.

I finally pried myself away, crossed the street, right into the evasive Dehellerin’s.  There seems to be some sort of metaphor buried in there.

No more square cutters, but I did pick out exactly the tiny tarte molds that I’ll get before I leave.

And on the way home, I walked by the Communities of Jerusalem’s church, St. Gervaise, by the Louvre, by the two islands in the Seine, Ile St. Louis and Ile de la Cite. I walked across the Pont Neuf, the “New Bridge,” that is actually now the oldest bridge in Paris, started in 1578.  I limped home in my bad shoes for another 4 miles because I walked up and down through St. Germain des Pres (Hemingway territory), Rue de Bac, south, then west toward Invalides.  I looked left from the sidewalk and saw Rodin’s Burghers of Calais.

Rodin's Burghers of Calais in the garden of the Paris Rodin museum.

Rodin’s Burghers of Calais in the garden of the Paris Rodin museum.

Right there.  Just by the sidewalk.  Another casting is in London by Parliament.  It’s one of my favorite sculptures – the story comes from a 14th century battle of the 100 year war.  The English King Edward III agreed to lift a year-long siege of the French city of Calais, if six of its leading citizens would surrender themselves to be executed and appear with nooses around their necks and the keys to the city to hand to the English.  That’s the moment of the sculpture.  The English were so impressed by the courage and self-sacrifice that they later freed them.

The dome des Invalides & Napoleon's tomb.

The dome des Invalides & Napoleon’s tomb.

And onward, with the Dome des Invalides in sight (the old military hospital that is now a military museum, with Napoleon’s tomb just under the dome.  I was limping like one of Napoleon’s soldiers on the retreat from Moscow at this point (darned shoes!), but I found the above-ground train at Grenelle, walked parallel to it forever to the corner with the MacDonalds and the Monoprix (the supermarket), turned left at Commerce, bought a bit of pate forestier (with mushrooms) and ½ a farmer’s chicken for dinner with the arugula I already had.

Tired and sated.  It was a very, very nice day.

Oh, to be in England, now that spring is here

A very Londonish bus.  By a very Londonish building near Euston Square.

Such a London bus. And a very London building near Euston Square.

I’m in a very Browningish mood.  I went to London for 24 hours last Thursday.  I love London.  I love England.  I wish I could have stayed longer, but there you have it.  I have an unusual eye condition that occasionally demands very quick treatment (a shot in the eye, so the less said the better for those of us who are squeamish.  The bright side of it is that I can determine with authority whether any given situation is, or is not, better than a sharp stick in the eye.)  The two French doctors who are experts in it were unavailable for a week, so one of the great London doctors at Moorfields Eye Hospital, near Euston Square and the University of London, moved heaven and earth to fit me into his schedule.  Gratitude to those guys and their wonderful staff doesn’t begin to express my feelings.

French countryside flashing by at 200 mph, trying to be sunny.

French countryside flashing by at 200 mph, trying to be sunny.

So I abandoned my dear friend and houseguest Tryna and hopped on the fast train (the “Chunnel” [=Channel Tunnel] train) that runs from Paris Gare du Nord straight to London St. Pancras Station, adjacent to Kings Cross Station where the Hogwarts Express leaves from Platform 9 ¾.  The train’s sleek, new, fast (only 2.5 hours from Paris into the heart of London), and well organized.  It leaves and arrives on time.  British customs officials scan passports in Paris, so that you just get off the train when you get to London and head straight to wherever you’re going.

St. Pancras Station.  Trains to left, Fortnum & Mason down hall to right

St. Pancras Station. Trains to left, Fortnum & Mason down hall to right

I was surprised at how much I loved hearing English spoken, hearing all sorts of English accents.  I’ve been in France, doing so much language and culture and cooking immersion that I didn’t realize what a let-my-hair-down relief it would be to hear English.  I arrived two hours before my appointment, so I got pounds from a bank machine and headed straight to Fortnum & Mason’s.  They shipped me 20-40 green tins of tea for years, so I have an emotional attachment to them, and the tins, in which I still keep quarters and old washers and screws and things.

My Fortnum & Mason lunch - Darjeeling and Welsh Rarebit.  Lovely heart-shaped tomato, eh?

My Fortnum & Mason lunch – Darjeeling and Welsh Rarebit. Lovely heart-shaped tomato, eh?

F&M was the one place I knew where I could get great, fresh, loose tea before good internet distributors appeared on the scene.  I moved between Earl Gray/Lapsang Souchang stages to Royal Blend, to Darjeelings and Orange Pekoes.  My pots-of-tea a day habit continued with the focus and taste specificity of my current baguette obsession until I got Russ a Nespresso machine with those little pods of exquisite coffees with which you can make perfect cappuccinos and lattes and espressos.  Within a week of getting that stupid machine, I’d gone over to the dark side.  Daily breakfast switched from tea (with the huge pot in a cozy carried to my desk to sustain work-drive) to a remembrance of the favorite breakfasts of my life – hour and a half long conversations in my Spanish dorm over cafe con leche, pistolas (Spanish baguette equivalents) and very young Manchego sheep’s cheese.    So you see why I have to make the best baguettes I can?  Breakfast.

But after spending 20 hours on the phone trying to get international specialist medical treatment lined up, with more phones that In can tell you that DON’T have answering machines OR secretaries, long conversations with high speed French with the exquisitely polite wrong person, I was feeling a little regressed.  Tea and the-most-English-thing-I-could-imagine-to-eat felt like comfort food.  It wasn’t good Welsh rarebit – wildly over salted – but that was part of its charm and authenticity.  It was so ENGLISH.  And the tea was PERFECT.  And it was served graciously.  On silver.  And everything was so CLEAN.  The male waiters wore tails.  Sherlock Holmes and Amelia Peabody and Dorothy Sayers and Elizabeth Barrett were just around the corner.  I know it.

After a lovely interval, I went to the hospital and was well cared for.  The doctor and his assistant were very kind.  And oh, did that doctor know what he was doing.  He was brilliant.  I had a glimpse of the National Health System (Britain’s basic care available to all), and also the private system, since I was a private patient.  They were both extraordinary – the same doctors and treatments were available to everyone at this internationally-known eye hospital.  I waited for my angiogram in the NHS waiting room, which was more densely populated with patients with the international flavor of the new Britain – lots of languages, a huge range of people from what seemed to be widely divergent backgrounds.   One elderly, slightly demented man navigated his rolling walker over my foot as he looked for his ride home.  Being my usual officious self, I took him over to the right desk and asked the receptionist if he could explain the taxi situation to the gentleman.  The guy sighed and said, “I already have.  Four times.”  We grinned at each other and he started in on explanation #5.  It was organized, it was good care, it reminded me of a US city downtown emergency room – lots going on, and a busy staff that was doing a good job.  My doctor told me that they give 50 shots a day for macular degeneration.  That’s a huge number.  They’re falling behind, because of the aging population, so they’re putting in another surgical injection room.

I love that the pirate waiting room has the OLD portrait of the Queen.  How nice.

I love that the private waiting room has the OLD portrait of the Queen. How nice.

The private waiting rooms were different.  They were rather plain, but with very well-dressed people with Oxbridge accents.  English men actually carry black umbrellas and look like they’ve emerged from Central Casting.  A nurse came in and murmured, “Sir Robert Something?”  A 20 year old stood, grinned, slung his backpack on his shoulder and followed her out.  Queen Elizabeth oversaw goings-on in my second waiting room.  I was comforted by the thought.  I also had a fascinating conversation with a witty, older couple.  The wife had a nasty complication from a glaucoma surgery the week before.  They visited America the first time during the Bicentennial and toured the White House.  The tour guide gestured to vestiges of fire damage from British troops burning the building in 1812.  The couple formally apologized to the group for British rudeness.  I told them the story about Dolley Madison serving 24 for dinner, but having to race off to save George Washington’s portrait and a bunch of state documents before the Brits arrived.  The officers ate the dinner, drank the wines, THEN torched the place.  My new friends mentioned as how their forebears were rude, but not stupid.  “It’s called foraging,” explained the account husband.

So after all the hospital things were done, I went back to my Travelodge (179 pounds a night – the hotel, not me).  It had been the only thing available, and, as two Australian guests told me when I asked them if THEY had a phone or a hair dryer in their room, “No.  No phones or hair dryers, but now they do give us the little bottle of soap that you can also use on your hair.  It’s rather basic.”  But anyway, that evening I wandered happily around Euston Square in search of the perfect English Dinner before I came back to France.  I was NOT looking for tinned peas, so I found an Indian restaurant.  It was pretty bad, but what a nice evening.  My beloved who is hiking across the north of Spain on the Camino of Santiago de Compostela, called as I was ordering my Chicken Tikka Masala.  I overheard conversations in French, some Indian language, and three English accents.  I paid my bill and the waiters raced off around the corner.  I was pinned like a butterfly against the wall by a huge 1930’s mahogany veneered table and two massive wooden chairs.  Four beefy, middle-aged guys with Alfred Doolittle accents had just sat down at the table next to me.  There was about four inches of clearance between tables.  I couldn’t crawl under because of all those table legs.

So, I asked the guys if they’d have any interest in rescuing me.  Two of them leaped to their feet, one saying, “Yes, of course, because we are English gennlemen.”  And they freed me.  I assured them that I had wanted to be rescued by English gentlemen for the better part of my life and thanked them very much.  They introduced themselves, invited me to a second dinner.  Who would have ever thought it would be such a great day?

Paris. I’m here.


DSCN4630“Paris” means two things.  At least.  In French, it’s the word for the plural of “gamble/wager/bet.” And it’s the name of the most photographed city in the world, the city that’s a roll of the dice, a life wager, a challenge.  So says essayist David Downie.


Felicia’s the little blonde figure in black to the left of the large black door, hidden in plants. This is my Where’s Waldo photographic technique.

Life itself feels like enough of a wild, glorious, fragile, blessed, beautiful, terrifying gamble that being in this gorgeous city fits.  I’ve been here not quite a week.  I feel at home.  My lovely little apartment in the 15th arrondissement has tiny balconies on the street and french windows from the bedroom that overlook the courtyard.  Every morning I open the curtains, the french doors and the metal shutters for the day.

This morning Felicia, “la guardienne” (the building caretaker) from Galicia in NW Spain was watering courtyard plants.  I opened the windows, waved and whispered “Felicia!  Buenos dias!”  down from the third (European second) floor.  She grinned and waved, “Hola, Marta!”  We speak in Spanish always and it feel like home.  Her Spanish is beautiful – just like my best Spanish friend Maite Ramos’ at the Univ. of Madrid – Gallegas are always the most friendly and comfortable.  And after struggling to understand Pablo’s Uruguayan Spanish for my three weeks in Lyon, talking with Felicia is a delight.  She is very proud of her 25 year old granddaughter who has been a doctor for two years, and of her father, who was such a presence in their village in Spain that they’re are going to put up a statue of him.  I took her some different kinds of terrines that I made at the Cordon Bleu the other night.  She’s a dear.  We’re wearing sister outfits today – black pants and sweaters and hot pink scarves.  Well, it is Paris.

photo 4 copyOld guys play boules (French version of Italian bacci) in the parks.  There were four or five matches going the other day when I walked past la Tour Eiffel.  5-6 men playing in each, with  spectators and concomitant commentary.  It’s all oddly reminiscent of my past.  Okay, we DID play bocci in our hallway when I was little (“Keep it on the RUG, kids!”), but this reminds me of going to London for the first time when I was in law school.  I’d spent my life to that point reading Sherlock Holmes, Dorothy Sayers, Thomas Costain, English history and Dickens.  Grandmother Reese had me reciting not only the English kings and queens from Ethelred the Unready to Elizabeth II, but also factoids about the War of the Roses by the time I was 10.  London felt familiar when I saw it for the first time, even though I’d only seen the Trafalgar lions in my imagination.  I kept a weather eye out for cockney pickpockets, Sairy Gamp rounding the corner, or Holmes striding through fog, pretending to be blind.

on the way back from last night's wine and food pairing class at the Cordon Bleu.

on the way back from last night’s wine and food pairing class at the Cordon Bleu.

In Paris now, I’m unconsciously looking for Desiree Clary, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant and Gene Kelly, Porthos and D’Artagnon, Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough.  I haven’t seen them yet, but their friends make appearances.  These people are so French.  I bought two 100 gram slices of cheese on Saturday after prolonged discussion about which would be perfect.  This was 2 hours after my train hit the station.   (It’s Lent.  Confession time.  First purchases:  a little Chanel makeup, a baguette and cheese.  Mais, bien sur.  [But of course.])  Result of consultation:  a wildly ripe goat cheese covered with cinders and a very young Spanish sheep cheese from the Pyranees.  Both were exquisite.  I returned yesterday, to be greeted with, “Ahhhh, bonjour, madam !  And did you like the sheep’s cheese ?”

Random cafe.  Our wedding dinner was at Bistro Zinc in Chicago, so I whipped out the iPad to send this photo to my beloved.

Random cafe. Our wedding dinner was at Bistro Zinc in Chicago, so I whipped out the iPad to send this photo to my beloved.

I assured him that he was my hero and that I was in need of MORE of the sheep’s cheese because I couldn’t possibly exist longer without further enjoying its flavor.

My first class at L’Ecole Alain Ducasse was interesting.  I arrived early on Tuesday and watched everyone walk into the courtyard.  Skinny pants, fancy handbags and stiletto boots or 4″ suede heels with jeans.  EVERYONE, men and women, wore a snappily-knotted scarf.  “Cooking?” I thought.  “These people are cooking dressed like this?”  Well, as it turned out, most of these visions weren’t going into the cooking school – there were other offices in the building.  In the class, a 35 year old French woman played at Parisienne restraint for the first couple of hours – pouty eye rolls, one shoulder shrugs, moues (nothing I learned in MY high school).  She avoided eye contact with the older French guy, the attractive young Brazilian woman who sounded just like Penelope Cruz, and me, sparkling only for the chef.  This not being my first day at the rodeo, I knew not to negotiate with terrorists (if you do, they win) and translated for the Brasilian woman who spoke no French.  The three of us had a great time making glorious fish soup with “rouget” – a beautiful, small red mediterranean fish, seared then roasted leg of lamb with jus and about 6 kinds of

After 3 hours and the  first glass of wine, French girl asked what nationality I was (I’d given my name as “Marte.”)  I asked what they thought and the guessing game began.  She glanced lingeringly at my feet and said, “Dutch?”  (I don’t think she knows about accents, but the Dutch are the Europeans who laugh in public and probably wear hideous shoes.)

Here's the fish (rouget) soup, with a base of chicken stock, piment de Espelette, fish stock, topped with olives, basil, vinegar and olive oil.

Here’s the fish (rouget) soup, with a base of chicken stock, piment de Espelette, fish stock, topped with olives, basil, vinegar and olive oil.

Other guesses were English and “you’re not Spanish, are you?”  Okay so I’m not letting down the team.  It may be the high point of my international life.  Moral:  wear black with a scarf.  Go to friendly Lyon first for three weeks to learn to mince a shallot into 5-molecule-thick cubes.  Christine (faux name) ended up giving me directions to three cooking supply stores by Les Halles and writing them into my iPad herself.  Everyone happy.

So, one more story.  I was meeting my friend Erica from Lyon (and Hong Kong) at Les Halles, the spot where the huge Parisian food market used to be.  The old market is now a shopping center, at that moment filled with 537 French teenage girls lined up for an open-call modeling competition for Elle magazine.  Riot police in full gear stood by to quell disturbances.

I rode to the top of the metro station escalator to wait for Erica.  A middle-aged man sat on a bench right at the tip of the elevator, wordlessly extending his right hand.  He wore a lampshade on his head.  It was white with gold trim and tassels.  He also wore bright orange tennis shoes.  Then another man strode across the plaza toward him, talking in a delighted voice.  Lampshade man jumped up, arm extended.  The two men shook hands like bankers,  They bowed slightly to each other, exclaiming graciously “Je suis ravi de vous voir” (“I am ravished with delight to see you”) and that it had been too long.  The first man, in the tennis shoes, raised his lampshade and tipped it like a bowler, then extended his hand hospitably toward the bench to his left.  They chatted amiably, the original man’s hand extended to people exiting the subway escalator.lampshade

Moments later, a fancily dressed, middle-aged woman in black came up the escalator, smoking.  I’m not sure whether or not she was a hooker, but the possibility exists.   (This, I suspect, is another area of weakness in my Preparation For Life by the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.  Cornelia Otis Skinner mentioned the same gap in her Baldwin education in the early 1920s.*)  The woman in black caught my eye, raised an eyebrow, smiled slightly, pulled two cigarettes out of the pack in her purse, then handed one each to the two seated men.  “Ahhhh, madam.  Vous est ravissante!”

Toto, we’re not in Bryn Mawr anymore.

*Our Hearts Were Young and Gay

statue of liberty




I’m here. I love it! And some travel epiphanies.

It’s Wednesday and I’ve had three days of Institut Paul Bocuse cooking school classes, which are extraordinary.  The school is fabulous, so if anyone’s interested, this couldn’t be a more staggering opportunity.  I’m loving it.  I’ll write about it next, with photos.  And I’m having French and Spanish conversations and they’re going well.  Languages swirl around meGerman,Dutch, Spanish, French, smatterings of Chinese and English.  People have been amazingly kind.  Lyon is a fascinating and beautiful city, and these are some of the kindest people I’ve met.  And at the school, the most amazing cooks.  I’ll write about that with photos next time.

But, let me just get in writing some things that may help those of you who are coming to France/Europe this year:

1.  I didn’t have jet lag, and I almost always do.   I did something differently this time and the composite really worked.  I have never hit the ground running so smoothly.  I left St. Louis at 9 am. arrived in Paris Saturday morning at 6:15 a.m., ran and caught a fast train to Lyon at 6:59, arrived in Lyon at 9, took a shower and dropped off my bags at the apartment-hotel and went to a 12:30 luncheon downtown at the Place Bellecour Paul Bocuse teaching restaurant (LOVELY1) with my new classmates.  Didn’t go to sleep until 10 Saturday night and slept 13 hours and have been great ever since.  This is a first.  So here’s what I did:

a.  For the four days before the fight, I got up each day an hour earlier than the day before to try to cut down on the physiological jet lag from a 7 hour time change.  The morning of the flight, I got up at 2:30 or so.  I’d read about this before but never had the discipline to do it.  This week I had a cold and woke up early anyway, so I just used the general misery to bootstrap myself into good jet lag practices and I think it worked.

b.  On the flight – no caffeine, wine or carbonated drinks.  I did have tea with the breakfast when I woke up 1 hour before the flight ended, but didn’t do my normal coffee.  I hydrated like crazy all day and drank about ½ liter of water an hour and walked around (guess where?)  I always book an aisle seat, what can I say?

c.  I got the early meal – all courses served at once and went to sleep an hour and a half after the flight started instead of doing the long meal and a movie.  I got 2-3 hours of quite decent sleep a d a couple other hours of interrupted dozing.

d.  I took No Jet Lag homeopathic pills (these things really work – with arnica).  You take one every two hours.  Get them at or

Okay, that’s all I know, but I probably walked 5 mies Saturday, had a wonderful time at the lunch, drank loads more water, didn’t have any of that swimmy-headed feeling of disorientation I’ve had with jet lag before, and one long, fabulous sleep the next night did it.  Voila!

2.  Credit cards:  I very carefully got an upgraded American Express and a Visa (the Bank of America traveler’s card) because neither of them that charge the normal 3% “foreign transaction fee” for converting from dollars to euros and because they have the “chip” that European credit card merchants now need. I also got the sleeves that keep the credit card information from being pirated from your card while you’re sitting in a public place (I don’t ask, I just put the sleeves on the cards when Russ gave them to me,)  The cards are a great idea.  They really DON’T charge you for the dollar to euro conversion.  And the cards work fine in restaurants although there’s often some discussion of American cards and you just have to assure people that they will work and they just have to run them through.  They work.  In shop and restaurants.

However, the cards DON’T work in either ATM machines or to get metro/bus tickets.  Those automated machines demand a pin code that isn’t our American system in the cards with the chips.  I understand we’re going to go to it within a year or two, but it will require a conversion of all the credit card machines in the US (at least that’s what I have been told)  So for now, just know that you CAN’T use these cards at ATMs or for for public transport tickets.  So BRING YOUR bank debit card.  It WILL work with your regular bank passcode.  At least in Lyon, you have to have change in coins (NOT paper euros) to get tickets, so be prepared to (a) get a bunch of cash or (b) ask a friend to hare the metro tickets on his/her card).  This was the biggest challenge of the first day, when I was sorting through a handful of old Euros I’d brought from home, breathing on them, rubbing them on my sleeve to read the faint 20 or 50  or 1 or 2.  It was definitely not cool.  Finally,  I started chucking change into the machines and saw that it does the math for you and hands you a ticket when you’ve done enough.  So that’s good.

3.  TGV, train reservations and changing trains.  Moral of the story:  Don’t necessarily follow the rules, butt your way in, smile and ask very politely for help.  You can get rescued from the system by very sweet people who are there ostensibly to enforce it.  THIS was an interesting example of a dynamic I’ve seen 4 types in the last 5 days.  I had a reservation for the TGV (the fast French Train from Paris to Lyon).  I bought it online before I left from the only American option (I think – the Eurail people).  Totally easy, digital, print your own, reserved seat, etc.    However, my plane got i early and since I had a lunch in Lyon at 12:30, I REALLY wanted to get there as early as possible so I could drop my bag at the hotel and get a shower before the big lunch with all my unknown new buddies.  I stood in official change-your-ticket line and waited for 20 minutes as the queue moved at a glacial pace toward the two agents.  At 6:55, with another 20 minutes of waiting inevitable in this line, I gave up on good citizenship and ducked under the barriers. I bolted for Quai 4, where the monitor said another train with Marseille as a destination was waiting to depart at 6:59.  I ran for it, dragging my huge suitcase (see number 4), rushed up to the conductor as whistles were blowing, he referred me to the man standing beside him.  I showed him my ticket, explained that I’d LOVE to get there early and he waved me aboard with a shrug and a smile, tole me I’d have to pay a “supplement,” settled me into the lower level car and we pulled away.  I said “merci beaucoup.”  The ticket-taking man saw my incorrect ticket, which I honorably mentioned, and he shrugged, smiled and waved away the supplement as a mere bagatelle.

4  Phones, WiFI, etc.  Aargh…  I’m only half-way through this one.  On Saturday I went to the Orange store (a chain) I got a cheap (10 euro!) phone with texting (very basic.  They called it “classic,” accent-on-the-last-syllable, not “bon march,” which means cheap.  I thought this was a brilliant bit of salespersonship and told the nerdy phone guy that in French, with that European right hand-sign that looks like you’re shaking water off your hand sideways, but means, “whew!  that’s really something,” and he grinned modestly). So I’m on a $20 euro a month plan for infinite phone calls in France.  I told him I also needed phone call outside the US.  Somehow it didn’t get added.

I can’t add it to the plan without going back to the stone because I have an American credit card WITH chip and WITHOUT the pin, so it doesn’t work on the web site.  I’ll go back later when I’m not cooking 10-12 hours a day.

AND speaking of SIM cards for internet connection, they’re necessary.  I’m tethered to a cable as we speak and am SO grateful I brought my iMac Pro with old technology.  My new iPad with the drop-proof and waterproof case (don’t get one) won’t let me put in the new SIM card that would run it.  You’re SUPPOSED to be able to take this thing off, but 7 people, including my cooking buddy Erica, the brilliant executive who’s in charge of Cisco in China and three guys at the Orange store couldn’t get it opened.  I tried chewing it off with my teeth, but stopped after a while because I really don’t want to be able to do an entry here on French dentistry.

So there are little bits of issues, but I’m trusting that on Saturday, when I’m out of school and have time to go back to the Orange technical center with the technicians, that we’ll get this all straightened out.

5.  Looking like a tourist.  If you want to look like a tourist of any stripe, carry your camera.  If you want to blend, wear black and buy a baguette and carry it around all afternoon.  I’m not kidding.  It works and it cost a euro..

So I’m here and life is fabulous and I’m loving it.  I’ll tell you about the school next.  With photos.  It’s AMAZING!