Sunday, August 28, 2011

Baguette Vending Machine


Only in France, people, only in France. We just had to test this machine out to see if the bread was any good. It was actually quite tasty although it was delivered to us hot (and we all know baguettes taste best when they are piping hot). We still prefer bread from EK but in a pinch, it'll do. If this guy was smart, he'd put these in cities all over France.

Friday, August 19, 2011

We love Paris in August


Each summer we take our vacation in July to ensure that we are around the entire month of August because we LOVE Paris in August. And do you know why? Because all the Parisians are GONE! They flee the city starting around the last week of July and don't return until the very last week of August and let me tell you, it is AWESOME! Parking is easy to find and there are loads of smiling, happy people on the m├ętro (those would be the tourists). But my absolute favorite part of Paris in August has to be the silence. It is so quiet on Sunday morning as we walk to the park that the only sound we hear is the chirping of the birds in the trees. It's almost like living in a ghost town. Paris takes on a whole new beauty when experienced in the silence of August. Although, this post would not be complete without mentioning the signs. It is tradition to put up a sign in your shop window informing the general public the dates you are closed. Most of them are handwritten and small. Some are so small in fact that you have to get within inches of the glass to read them. I'm fascinated by the fact that, most of the time, the French live in the 21st century like the rest of us. But when it comes to vacation, they live in 1955 when you would close your business for an entire month.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Faking out the Swiss Guard


For the Assumption Day holiday, Dear Hubby and I decided to take off for an adults only quickie trip to Rome. I faxed the Vatican offices several months before our trip in an effort to secure tickets to tour the famed Vatican Gardens but never heard back from them. When we headed into Vatican City this morning I decided I was getting in those gardens one way or another. Armed with the original fax I marched right up to the Swiss guards that were blocking the entrance to the Vatican offices. “Buongiorno, Signora,” they said to me in heavily Italian accented English, “how can we help you?” My first instinct, in any foreign country, is to speak the only foreign language I know: French. So, I started explaining to the Swiss guards how I sent my request months ago and never heard back but I thought I should still be allowed into the office to see if tickets were waiting there for me. Both of them looked at me dumfounded, as IF they had NO idea what I was saying. How could this be? since Switzerland is known the world over for having not one, but THREE national languages: French, Italian and German. Well, these Swiss guards must have been from the Italian only section of the country because they did not appear to speak or understand a word of French. I then decided to use this fact to my advantage. As Dear Hubby stood silently by, I berated these guys non-stop in French, pointing at and waving my fax (which was also in French) in front of their faces until they finally gave up trying to communicate with me and simply waved us inside the gates! I felt like Lois Lane in the second Superman movie. The one where she distracts the gendarme with her French phrase book and then slips right into the crime scene undetected. Unfortunately, for me the folks that worked inside the Vatican offices were not nearly as monolingual as the guards. They had several French speaking Italians working there who quickly ascertained we had neither tickets nor clearance to be where we were, and promptly kicked our asses back out into St. Peter’s Square. So, the moral of the story is if you are ever stopped by the Swiss guard in Vatican City speak French, it may not save you completely, but it should buy you some time to formulate a plan.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Flying the French Skies


Our return trip to Paris was much more pleasant, due mainly to the fact that we flew Air France. Of course, we had to go through the American security molestation exercise but once on board it was like entering a different world. The crew was very pleasant and respectful (and they were all Parisians! Imagine that! Parisians besting Americans on manners, I never thought I'd see that day). No one tried to restrict passenger movement on the plane (except during takeoff and landing, of course) and upon hearing my daughter's frantic pleas of 'pee pee, pee pee!' the person waiting to use the lavatory in front of us insisted we go in front of them. Add to this the fact that the food was good and plentiful and a bottle of FREE wine came standard with every meal, well I can safely say we'll never fly home on any other carrier. Merci, Air France!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Flying the Unfriendly Skies


So, it's been three years since I took an international flight to the US and boy, what a difference three years makes. Not only have passengers gotten ruder, but the flight crews have, too. Case in point: Our recent trip home. We flew on an American owned and operated air carrier whose name I won't divulge. Let's just call them Detinu Airlines. Anyways, after waiting for an hour to use the restroom (because you are not allowed to form a line to use the can)and never finding an opening I finally ventured out of my seat with my four year old while the 'fasten seatbelt' sign was illuminated. As we approached the vacant lavatory, a female flight attendant got right in my face, effectively blocking our entrance to the bathroom and said, "Ma'am the fasten seatbelt sign is on. You need to return to your seat!" I very calmly informed her that my four year old had been waiting an HOUR for the on board lavatories, ANY on board lavatory, to be vacant and we had no luck. Every time we tried to make a break for an empty bathroom, someone else go there before us, thus my daughter's bladder was near the breaking point. "Well," said the nasty flight attendant, "you are risking serious injury by being out of your seats." This comment not only scared my child, but sent me over the edge. "Look," I said, "either she goes in the potty or she goes in her seat, your choice." At this point, the Nasty flight attendant, moved out of our way and sat back in her jump seat (all the while muttering nasty comments under her breath to the other rude flight attendants seated next to her). Seriously, is THIS what air travel has come to? I am willing to comply with all the new and ridiculous rules of air travel, but where oh where has common sense gone? Frisking my four year old? Trying to keep passengers prisoner in their seats for a TEN hour flight? And what about those Air Marshalls that were supposed to be on every flight over three hours long? Aren't they there to keep everyone safe? Surely with them onboard there is no reason to restrict passenger movement? It is too bad that safety comes at the expense of common sense.