Paris – Day 2

IMG_5639.jpgRachel and I started our second day in Paris with a mid-morning brunch at Le Tourville near Ecole Militaire. I ordered a Croque Monsieur and cafe au lait; then watched people hurrying through the morning rain from the safety of my covered awning.

While Rachel made use of the cafe’s Wi-fi connection, I met a nice German couple from Stuttgart and also made friends with our waiter, Leandre. He taught me some new phrases (“C’est bon”) and invited us to join him that evening at Hobo Club discotek.

Due to the EuroCup, Champs de Mars was closed to the public, but we were able to at least walk by, and in the process, we also passed right by the base of the Eiffel Tower. Circling back to Ecole Militaire, we found Rue Cler and enjoyed its Open Air Market despite the drizzling rain. Rachel bought raspberries, I got blueberries, and we strolled in the rain eating our bite-sized fruit.

IMG_5672.jpgAround the corner, we stumbled upon LeNotre. The little bakery specialized in macaroons, and although I have never liked macaroons in the US, I decided to try some, and they were the best macaroons I’ve ever had! Throughout the rest of the trip, Rachel and I ate a lot of macaroons, but no one – not even the famous Laduree – came close to LeNotre’s macaroons: soft and flavorful with just the right amount of chewiness.

While eating my strawberry hibiscus and dark chocolate macaroons, I accompanied Rachel to a bookstore where she bought a children’s book in French for her nephew. She has decided to buy him a book in every country she visits. He won’t be able to read them, but she thinks someday he will appreciate having a collection of children’s books in other languages. Time will tell.

In the afternoon, we made our way to Rue du Commerce, a street of boutiques where the locals shop. I got a really cute coral pencil skirt with scalloped edging. Afterward in the Metro, we got stuck behind a Polish football fan whose RATP card wouldn’t work, so Rachel gave him one of hers.

IMG_5743.jpg“Where you from?” he asked us, wondering at the kindness of strangers. When we told him America, he invited us for beers and to join them in watching the soccer match. I told him we were on our way to a cafe instead. “Cafe?! No, no no,” he said to me. “Cafe bad. Beer good!” the boisterous Polski declared with a grin before running off with his friends singing a song in Polish at the top of his lungs.

Back at Rue Cler (quickly becoming one of our favorite hideaways), Rachel and I each ordered cafe au lait and split a scrumptious raspberry tart at Le Petit Cler. Although the maitre d’ was outrageously rude, the food was delicious, and we made a lot of new friends:

  • 3 British soccer fans took a liking to us and poured us some champagne when I joked that, “obviously,” I was pulling for Britain in the EuroCup.
  • 2 Welsh guys in their 40s, one of whom (Garreth) took a liking to me and had a great, long conversation about politics (e.g. effect of the legal drinking age of 21 in the US and decline of the pub scene in Britain) as well as religion. Garreth just started reading his childhood bible about two months ago and invited us to the Half Penny Pub when he left. We got invited for drinks by nearly everyone we met!
  • 2 young, fashionable women were seated next to us at Le Petit Cler, and when I heard one of them speak, I picked up her American accent. Daria, as she soon introduced herself, turned out to be from my hometown, and she’d met Agathe – her French companion – when they both attended Fashion School in London.

IMG_5755.jpgRachel and I hit it off so well with Daria and Agathe that we all walked down the block to Cafe Central where Agathe insisted we all try the famous Berthillon gelato. I ordered the nut flavor, and it was delicious (similar to Nutella)! After we all exchanged contact information (yay for new friends!), we said good night (“bonne nuit”).

Our Metro line 6 skipped over our Passy stop, so Rachel and I got off at Trocadero and walked through the picturesque Palais de Chaillot – lit up at night – to get home to our shared full-sized bed and porta-shower at the top of our seven flights of stairs. I found that our temporary “home sweet home” made my actual home all the sweeter. C’est bon.

Authentically Aurora

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Noise Pollution

boseThis morning I came to the realization that the time has come for me to acquire a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and have them permanently affixed to my head.

People are always surprised when I reveal that I’m a morning person. “But you’re so antisocial in the mornings,” they tell me.

Yes. That is because the still and the quiet of the morning is the reason I am a morning person. I live for the gentle, golden rays of dawn; the peacefulness of an early-morning drive, and the sleepy, pre-caffinated silence of my coworkers.

I love to wake while the world sleeps, to dress in the silent darkness and enjoy the few minutes of the day where I can believe that the world is vast and ripe for the picking; that life is a grand adventure and my potential is endless.

Then other people wake up and start polluting my world with their noise. While I sit at a stoplight, smile on my face, enjoying the soft blackness around me, some punk pulls up in a beat-up Caddy with blown-out speakers, blasting my delicate ears with sounds both musically and lyrically offensive.

The mood is ruined, but I quickly pull away as the light turns green and continue on my way to the office. Once there, I stop in the kitchen for my morning green tea. A rotund woman seated nearby is oblivious to my entrance, as she is fairly sucking face with her breakfast muffin, smacking loudly and licking her large lips with gusto.

My eye has not started twitching yet, so maybe my few remaining minutes of solitude can be salvaged. I walk back to my desk – formerly an office; now an open cubicle concept – and my very aggressive, very German manager is already on the phone with a vendor. Her laut, wütend tone carries through the open space. I have a front-row seat to her impassioned concerto, as I sit a mere three feet away.

I finally concede to myself that my morning is over. I brace myself for the continued influx of unwanted noise and human interaction. I didn’t get to recharge my energy sources today, but tomorrow is another day.

And maybe by tomorrow, my Bose headphones will have come in.

Authentically Aurora

The OJ Observer

Mediterranean faces

Ridiculously attractive through I am, even I have a hard time understanding how in the world I get hit on everywhere I go, including places like the gas station and grocery store. Some days, like yesterday, I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse.

I went grocery shopping after work last night to pick up some ingredients for sugar cookies. I planned to bake some as a surprise for a friend who is a new mom. While picking out what flavor of Greek yogurt I want to eat for breakfast every morning next week, I felt someone watching me. I glanced behind me and saw a man in a white dress shirt and black slacks observing me from his position near the orange juice.

I moved on to the milk section of the store and, when I turned around to put my selected carton in my grocery cart, I bumped into someone. “Excuse me,” I said, looking up. It was the OJ Observer. I smiled politely and continued on my way.

After picking out my chosen brand of butter, I saw the man start to approach me. I figured he must be the store manager or something, so I prepared to tell him that yes, I was finding everything that I needed (it’s true; their chocolate banana yogurt is stupendous). Instead, when he opened his mouth, the words that came out were, “Are you Middle Eastern?”

I get that a lot. I’m actually almost full-blooded German, but when I was in Italy, all the locals thought I was Italian. In Greece, everyone came up to me and started speaking Greek, thinking that I was the translator for my group of fellow Americans. I swear, it’s the nose. I’ve got a honker of a nose.

Based on his accent and dark features, the OJ Observer was clearly Middle Eastern himself, so I wasn’t surprised when he told me, “I’m Lebanese. You look like you are from my country.” He then proceeded to ask if we could “be friends.” Friends… riiiight.

I tilted my head to the side and said coyly, “Could I ask you a personal question? What religion would you consider yourself?”

Instead of answering, he smiled and asked me, “What religion do you consider yourself?” Hm, smarter than I gave him credit for.

After I told him that I was a Christian, he told me, “My parents are Muslim, but I am an atheist.”

I explained that we could be friends, but I only date fellow Christians. His tone instantly changed from sweet and obliging to aggressive and angry. “You don’t even know me. Why would you already decide not to date me, just because I am an atheist?!”

I gently told him that everything I do in this life, I try to do to bring God glory. “I will love God more than I love my husband, and I believe that even my marriage is intended to equip me to better serve God than I could in singleness, so it’s important that my husband shares that vision.”

The OJ Observer looked curious and thoughtful. “You seem very passionate about your faith. I would like to hear more about this God you serve.”

I’m doubtful that he really wants to hear more about Jesus, but I agreed to meet him at a public, well-lit coffee shop next week to talk about “this God [I] serve.” An opportunity to share my faith came up, so I’m taking it. But I’m also asking my parents for a DNA test this Christmas.

Authentically Aurora