The Dijon portion of my trip was a mix of déja vu, emotion, excitement and relaxation. It also ended with me frantically trying to find a reason to stay longer (typical behavior).
So I applied to wine school. I’m serious! It really wasn’t that insane of an idea because I had wanted to apply last year as well. So on one of my last days, I pulled an all-nighter to write my CV (resumé) and lettre de motivation in French (not something you should do on jetlag). I sent all of the necessary information into the school the day before I left for Paris because one of the deadlines was that afternoon. Unfortunately, my paperwork arrived just a tad too late and now I have to wait until September 1st for the decision of my acceptance. On verra bien…
So with wine school in the back of my head and my heart yearning to stay poolside with the munchkins, I unwillingly got back on a train and headed to Paris for a few days of me, myself and I. I had the keys to my friend’s apartment (she and her fiancé were already in Hungary preparing for their wedding day) so it really felt like I was living a Parisian life for those few days. I walked down random streets, made my way through Montmarte (my favorite area) and even went to a museum exhibit (I’ll tell you about that later). I ended my France portion of the trip with a Fourth of July dinner with friends, Tony and Florian. The next morning I woke up and left Paris to take my flight to Budapest for the wedding. Of course, as I will soon describe to you, nothing is ever easy when I travel…
This has always been a favorite place of mine. My first trip to Paris, I stayed in a hotel near Centre Pompidou.
in the 18th
Always have to make a stop at Shakespeare and Co bookstore near Notre Dame!
Lazy 4th of July afternoon at les Jardins des Tuileries
On arriving to Dijon, and after trying to salvage a double-purchased train ticket, I headed straight to my favorite little Café Dijonais: Bistro Quentin. When I lived in France, my friends and I always called it “le café rouge” due to its red awning. This time around, the red awning was still there but the eclectic interior had changed a bit. None the less, my friend Suzanna and I felt right at home as we enjoyed our afternoon drinks on the terrace. After catching up with Suzanna, we took a stroll around centre ville. I love Dijon. It is a small city but has a lot to offer as far as shopping, museums and of course food and wine. It is in Burgundy after all 🙂
I wanted to spend time with Suzanna but also knew that Létizia and the kids were in Dijon for the afternoon. I was so excited to see the kids, especially the twins because they had gotten so much bigger in the past year. We planned to meet on the street; I always feel silly when I do that because it’s so movie-like to watch someone come your way. After getting over the shock of the twins walking and talking, we spent the afternoon shopping and I took over my role of “big sister”/”au pair” tout de suite. Létizia and I both mentioned later how it had felt like no time had passed.
I spent that night clubbing with Suzanna and the next few days afterward were for relaxation and memory-making in my small village with my second family.
I left NYC and decided to take a new form of public transportation to Newark airport. I always seem to do this: hurdle a task at the worst moment. Taking the PATH to the NJ Transit train to the airport shuttle was the cheapest way but also the most exhausting. Two words: stairs and suitcase. I got to the subway with little to no issue. When I got to the PATH stop things began getting complicated. I walked in the wrong direction five times, each time included a batch of stairs and a new bruise on my leg. Only once did someone ask me for help and I clearly needed it (The day I left was the day that began the heat wave…I was a sweaty mess.) I couldn’t seem to find the PATH so I exited the station completely (again with the stairs) and found it across the street. Once I made it to the train I realized that I could have skipped the last batch of stairs if I had walked under a passage in the metro area…Lesson learned. So I rode the PATH train to the end of one line, got off and crossed the platform to board another PATH line which took me to Newark Penn Station. Here the train took me to the airport where I got off, went up the
stairs escalator and took the airport tram to my terminal. The second part was all easy and clearly marked. A long trip but if you have the time and money is a factor (total was around $9), I recommend it (maybe with less luggage).
When I arrived at Charles de Gaulle I felt like I was in a crazy dream (I had moments of déja vu for much of my visit). As I walked to the baggage claim I could remember doing the same thing a year before. I had been so nervous! This time, I was not nervous at all; I felt at home! After a short appel to “my family” in Dijon telling them I had arrived, I took the RER into Paris’ city center. After I found a bathroom (I had forgotten about paying for public toilets in France), I lugged my suitcase through Les Halles only to realize that I had arrived in France for Les Soldes!! To avoid buying anything I parked myself by the Seine and read my book until I heard from my friend Orsi who was getting off work early. When she called, I left my little spot under the bridge and again lugged my bag around the cobblestone streets in sweltering heat. We caught up quickly at a café and then headed back to her apartment in the 18th district of Paris. On arrival at her beautiful apartment, I was greeted by a spiral staircase. (OH MON DIEU!) Orsi lived on the last floor…eight or nine twisting flights up. If you have ever been to France, you may realize the kind of stairs I’m talking about. (By the way this was not my only encounter with these stairs and my large suitcase on this trip) Despite all of this, it felt great to be with Orsi, speak French and be back in such an amazing city. Once Tibo (her husband) got off work, we took bikes down from the 18th to meet up with friends and watch the UEFA soccer games. (You all know how much I love those Vélibs and soccer).
The next morning I was supposed to take the train to Dijon, my real home away from home. I decided to buy my ticket online so that I wouldn’t rush around in la gare. Of course, my luck, as I typed in my credit card number into the system, the computer went bonkers and I was told the transaction hadn’t gone through. So I grabbed my things and quickly
left the apartment stumbled down the spiral staircase. I got to the station, bought a ticket and got on my way. Only later did I finally connect my phone to wifi and realized the mistake I had made. There in my inbox was the confirmation e-mail for my SNCF ticket. MERDE! The transaction did in fact go through back at the apartment, which meant that I had bought two tickets for no reason. I tried pleading for a refund but was told that the only thing I was able to do was write a letter to SNCF. So very French and so very ineffective! I still haven’t heard from them…
I am slowly coming up for air after a whirl wind of insanity. That is not to say that the whirlwind is over, but I am currently treading water in this crazy city. Treading is better than feeling like a rock is tied to your ankle at the bottom of the ocean (i.e. drowning).
New York has so much to offer. You can do anything and be anyone you want. Moving to France last year helped me discover myself as a person after I had been defined as a student-athlete for the better part of my life. It was fairly easy to listen to myself more clearly in a small village in a foreign country. The challenge now is keeping that person with me in the NYC madness. I came here with a goal and it has changed and evolved with my months here. This evolution is good and productive but also stressful and confusing. I remember feeling lost a few months ago when I knew my apartment had to change, I was switching jobs and I was not sure where any of it was going. This was right before leaving for a trip to France. An escape from reality that I haven’t even had the chance to tell you all about yet. Let’s begin there…