Cali – Part III

beach-wedding

Here at home, Seth and I have a routine of waking up early on Sunday mornings to volunteer with the children’s ministry at our local church. But during our California trip in mid-October, Seth and I found ourselves without a church home for Sunday morning.

Seth’s friends had planned their wedding for 4PM on Sunday afternoon, so Seth and I agreed we would spend Sunday morning reading the bible together in a coffee shop in lieu of going to some random church out in Cali. We had just nailed down a time of 8AM for driving to the coffee shop when Seth got a text from the groom.

The groom evidently wanted to go to breakfast with a bunch of people at 9AM the morning of his wedding day. No problem. Seth and I bumped our coffee date to 7AM. Then Seth’s friend Steve invited us to go biking along the beach at 11AM. We agreed to join him as well. So, as of Saturday night, our plans for Sunday were:

  • 7AM – Read the bible at a coffee shop
  • 9AM – Breakfast with the groom and friends
  • 11AM – Bike ride along the beach with Steve
  • 1PM – Head back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the wedding
  • 4PM – Wedding ceremony

And Sunday morning started perfectly. When the day dawned, Seth and I were already enjoying a quiet morning together reading one of the gospels. We asked questions of one another and dug into some bible commentaries to gain a deeper understanding of our selected reading passage. And Seth, who is not a coffee drinker, loved his coffee shop blueberry smoothie because – unlike the smoothie from Cali Day 1 – this one was chock full of sugar additives. We were both content and satisfied. For me, it was one of the best parts of the whole trip.

But then the rest of the world woke up for the day. Around 8:45AM when we prepared to leave the coffee shop, Seth got a text from the bridal party saying breakfast was pushed back to 10AM because the brothers of the bride were running late. So at 10AM, Seth and I rolled into IHOP only to discover that no one in the wedding party of fourteen people had bothered to make reservations for a Sunday morning breakfast at IHOP.

IHOP had an hour-long wait, so we all drove 15 minutes to another restaurant with only a 20 minute wait and finally got our “breakfast” around 11AM. I ended up being the only woman in the group (all the wives had been invited to a spa day), so I got stuck on the end next to the two brothers of the bride.

After two hours of entertaining the aspiring screenwriters, I escaped the man brunch, and Seth suggested a quick walk along the beach rather than trying to squeeze in a bike ride with Steve before the wedding. Then an hour before the ceremony, I found out the wedding was going to be on the beach itself and that footwear was discouraged. So I slipped out of my black heels and went barefoot in my cocktail dress. Oh yeah. I’m rocking this whole spontaneity thing. 

The wedding ceremony was fine – I knew no one; had never met the bride or groom prior to this day – and the reception started out pretty standard: drinks and appetizers while we waited for the bridal party to finish photos. Seth and I stood around making small talk for about an hour before the bridal party showed up and we were all seated for dinner.

Over dinner was more small talk (with strangers for me; college friends for Seth). Then the cake cutting and more small talk. Then the first dance; everyone dancing; more small talk.

Around 10PM I started to fade. My body was saying it was 12 midnight from my home time zone, I’d hiked for 6 hours the day prior, and I’d woken up at 6AM that morning to do a morning devotional with my beau. Besides that, my introverted self was emotionally exhausted from the six straight hours of making small talk with strangers. People I didn’t know. People I’d never see again. People with whom I did not share any common interests or even the same life stage.

I was so miserable by 10:30PM that I excused myself to go to the bathroom and just sat down in a stall in the women’s bathroom even though I didn’t need to go. I just needed some alone time – some time away from the loud music and crowded reception hall and clusters of strangers asking me the same surface-level questions over and over again.

When I re-emerged at 10:45PM, one of Seth’s more distasteful acquaintances (who’d shown me a photo of an erection an hour earlier) came up to me and said loudly, “Why are you so quiet?!” My automatic response was to crinkle my nose in distaste and ask sourly, “Why are you so loud?”

Seth immediately pulled me aside and asked what was wrong. “I’m fine,” I told him. And I would be fine. I could buck up and stick it out. We’d flown all the way to California for this wedding, and I didn’t want to be the reason we left the reception early.

“We can go if you want,” Seth told me, trying to be considerate. But I knew he didn’t want to leave, so I told him we could stay as long as he wanted.

“Are you tired?” he asked me, trying to understand. He’s a man and, sweet man that he is, he sensed a problem and just couldn’t stop himself from trying to fix it.

“I’m not physically tired,” I explained, “But I’m emotionally exhausted. It’s been seven straight hours of making small talk with strangers, and that is draining for me.”

Just then, someone came up to talk to Seth, so I snuck away to a corner to read articles on my phone. I was past the point of caring if I seemed anti-social.

Fifteen minutes later, the wedding planner announced that the bride and groom weren’t planning to do a formal exit, so we were free to leave at any time. Seth and I were out the door in minutes – I think mostly because he was conscious of my mental and emotional state. We didn’t speak before bed other than to agree to set our alarms for 4AM in order to catch our 7AM LA flight an hour’s drive away.

At the airport in the morning, Seth and I hashed out the tension from the prior evening. After getting through security and sitting at our gate, Seth commented, “You seemed really irritable last night, and I don’t understand why you behaved that way. Honestly, I’m pretty concerned by your behavior. You seemed miserable. I mean, are we even compatible?”

“Are you breaking up with me?” I asked candidly.

“No,” he said slowly; cautiously. “I just – well,  I want to be with someone who enjoys parties like I do; who values people like I do.”

“Seth. I was pleasant and sociable for the first five hours. I do enjoy parties, and I do value people. But I think it’s understandable that seven hours of making small talk with strangers is emotionally draining.”

“No. No, it’s not understandable. I had a great time last night until you started getting so grumpy.”

“I wasn’t grumpy. I was reserved,” I told him. He didn’t seem to understand, so I tried to give an example he – in all his extroversion – could relate to. “Remember yesterday morning when we were at the coffee shop reading together?”

“Yeah…”

“I could have done that all day,” I told him. “I LOVE that kind of thing. But how would you have felt around hour 7 of sitting at a quiet coffee shop?”

Seth’s eyes grew wide in horror. “I would have wanted to die.”

I nodded emphatically. “Yes! And that’s how the wedding reception felt for me after seven hours of small talk.”

Seth looked thoughtful. “So… Do we exhaust each other?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, the things I enjoy seem to drain you. And vice versa. Are we just not good for each other?” He looked sad.

I chose my words carefully. “I think introverts and extroverts make great couples. They are able to complement one another in ways that like pairs cannot. I like that you get me out of my shell, and hopefully you appreciate that I help you settle down and be still from time to time.”

“I don’t want us to break up,” he said quietly.

“I don’t want us to break up, either,” I echoed softly.

“I want to try to make it work,” he told me.

“I do, too,” I responded. “And I think we can,” I added encouragingly. “I mean, think about how much friction we used to have about planning versus flexibility. And I think we’ve done great with that this trip! We just had to find a way to compromise; a way of working that fit our relationship. And I think we can do that for our introversion/extroversion conflict, too.” I paused. “I’m willing to try if you are.”

“Yeah,” Seth finally smiled. “I want to make it work.”

He took my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Our flight had started boarding. It was time to go home.

Seth pulled me up, and we walked to our gate hand-in-hand. We had some work ahead of us – some compromise and conflict resolution – but we both recognized that the best things in life are worth fighting for.

Authentically Aurora

Cali – Part II

mt-baldy

Although Seth and I had flown to California for one of his friend’s weddings, we’d decided to make an extended weekend trip out of it, and Seth was most excited about the opportunity to climb Mt. Baldy – one of the top three most challenging hikes in California according to SoCal Hiker.

Though naturally gifted in a number of areas, athleticism is not one of my strengths, so I’d spent much of the week leading up to the trip worrying about how I was going to keep up with Seth on the mountain.

We’d agreed to hike Mt. Baldy on Day Two of our trip, so that first night in California (staying in the shady Knight’s Inn, as you may recall), Seth asked me what time I wanted to start hiking in the morning.

“I thought we could leave here around 8,” I told him, proud of myself for suggesting such an early time.

“Oh…” Seth’s face fell. “Yeah, I guess we can sleep in if you want.”

My eyes widened. “Sleep in?! What time are you planning to be up?”

“I wake up about 4:30,” he told me. But he quickly suggested we “sleep in” and leave at 8. After all (he acknowledged), it had been a long day of travel. So the next morning, we each packed up our suitcases, threw them in the back of our rented Jeep, and drove into the foothills of the Angeles National Forest.

For the first time that trip, Seth’s lack of planning came in handy (from my perspective at least). We couldn’t find the trail head for Mt. Baldy/Mt. San Antonio, much less the Adventure Center where we were supposed to be able to get maps and parking passes for the hike. We eventually had to pull to the side of the road and ask a stranger for directions, and his guidance led us to a Visitor’s Center that – according to the posted sign – was supposed to be open but was closed.

At this vacant Visitor’s Center nestled into the treeline of the quaint mountain town, we ran into two different men who were each looking to buy Adventure Passes in preparation for their planned hikes up Icehouse Canyon – a hike I’d had my eye on weeks earlier as one that was more scenic and less strenuous than Mt. Baldy. Fortunately, these two male hikers told the very same thing to Seth, who seemed more willing to take hiking advice from fellow adventurers than from his over-planning, athletically-challenged girlfriend.

The hiker dudes were able to direct us to the Icehouse Canyon trailhead so, unable to find where to go to hike Mt. Baldy, Seth suggested we just hike Icehouse Canyon instead. I enthusiastically agreed.

It turned out to be a beautiful hike and a perfect day. The temperature stayed in the 60s and 70s most of the hike, even as we rose in elevation. We made several new acquaintences along the way, and Seth was excited and impressed when I spotted some mule deer on the trail. I had packed some protein bars, so we ate those for lunch around hour three of our six-hour hike. At some point, we lost the trail and ended up hiking up a dry creek bed, but we almost had more fun that way, walking off the beaten path in the most literal sense of the phrase.

The hike was just about the right length and intensity for me, and I think Seth really enjoyed being the trail leader, displaying his masculinity and helping me up when we had to do some serious bouldering in the creek bed to continue along the “trail”.

After our hike, we drove in the direction of the wedding location for later that weekend, and we stopped at a Motel 6 where we could again get two cheap, separate rooms. The Motel 6 was much cleaner than the Knight’s Inn, but unfortunately it was also very minimalistic – as in, there was no shampoo or conditioner; just a bar of soap.

I hadn’t packed many toiletries because, when I travel, I tend to stay in establishments with those nice little travel-sized shampoos and lotions. So when I raised to Seth that my room didn’t have shampoo, he told me to sit tight and – unbeknownst to me – drove to a nearby dollar store to buy me some dollar store shampoo. What a gentleman. It’s the little things in life that make a girl feel cherished.

That night I’d planned for us to go to a fancy steak dinner. In a rare moment of recognition at the office, some of my work got noticed, and I was told to charge up to $150 on my corporate credit card by way of appreciation, so I researched and found a 5-star steakhouse in California where I could treat Seth to a nice night out. He doesn’t let me pay for much (not even the flight or my hotel rooms), so I was glad to be able to contribute financially for once.

Saddle Peak Lodge was formerly an old hunting cabin that the owners converted into a gorgeous wedding venue nestled into the forest. It is a rustic but expansive log cabin with heads of deer and elk and bison all along the walls, but – rustic as it is – it also has a romantic elegance to it as well, with twinkle lights draped through the trees and chandeliers hanging from the ceilings.

After exploring the expansive grounds, Seth and I enjoyed a delicious meal of wild game as well as a complimentary dessert in celebration of our 6-month anniversary. After what felt like a fairy tale evening, I concluded that life is indeed very good.

Authentically Aurora

Cali – Part I

overhead-bins

Seth and I have very different travel styles. Granted, I’ve traveled the world, and he still doesn’t see any reason to ever leave our state, so differences in travel styles were inevitable. But I am of the opinion one should, you know, pre-book hotel rooms and rental cars. And maybe think about transport to the airport sooner than the night before departure. And possibly pack one’s bags sooner than six hours before a 7AM flight.

Nevertheless, we survived the 4:30AM drive to the airport and landed safely in LA. When we hit the runway, Seth advised me that he takes a while to deplane, so he encouraged me to grab my bag and go on ahead. Confused but opting not to ask any questions, I got off the plane and waited in the terminal near our gate. One minute went by… then two… then five… just when I started to get concerned, Seth appeared in the gate door and made his way to me, duffel bag in tow.

“What happened…?” I started to ask, but Seth put his hand on my back and ushered me forward. Only after we were a safe distance away did he explain.

“I knew I should never come to California. California is already letting me know I don’t belong here.” My conservative, old-fashioned cowboy sighed, half-laughing, and went on, “I don’t like to push ahead of people – older ladies or moms with kids – so I tend to wait a while in my aisle on the plane while I let other people get off. When there was finally a gap, and I felt like I had time to get my bag and deplane, I stuck my hand in the overhead bin without looking and grabbed what I thought was the handle of my bag.”

I nodded, wondering where this was going, and he continued, “It turned out it wasn’t my bag. It must have been some woman’s bag that she hadn’t zipped all the way shut, because when I pulled on the handle, a laptop fell out of the bag and landed on the head of the person in front of me -”

I gasped, and he nodded, adding, “It gets worse. Then – then! – tampons started raining down on everyone. This woman’s bag was full of tampons!”

I was laughing now as Seth continued the story. “I started shoveling tampons back into this bag as fast as I could, not looking up to make sure I didn’t make eye contact with whoever’s bag it was. It was so bad. California is rejecting me already, and we just landed.”

Still smiling, Seth and I made our way outside to where the rental car shuttles would pick us up and take us to our choice of offsite rental car company location. Seth was confused as to why all of the rental car options did not have kiosks right next to each other in the airport itself. He’d wanted to book in person so he could walk up and down the aisle and price check each one. That’s what online booking is for, honey.

I had in fact looked online and found that either Fox Rent-a-Car or E-Z Advantage were the cheapest options, and I made the mistake of mentioning that to Seth. I say it was a mistake because, once Seth knew those were the cheapest options, he was determined to stay and wait for one of their shuttles. Unfortunately, since they are cheap options, their shuttles only came once per hour instead of every five minutes.

After waiting for about half an hour, Seth and I finally agreed to get on a shuttle headed for one of the more mainstream rental car companies. The total bill came to a little over $300 instead of the $200 it would have been had we booked in advance online. Lesson learned. 

The whole trip was a lesson in compromise for both of us. As our first major trip together, I had to die to my natural tendency to plan and be in control, opting instead to take on the mindset of spontaneity and flexibility for Seth. Meanwhile, Seth was slowly realizing that life is a lot easier when you tap into the planning strengths of your more organized partner. We both actively tried to be considerate of the other, and the result was the best weekend we’ve had as it relates to dominance and control.

Seth had specifically told me ahead of time that he wanted to spend time in the mountains, not the beach, but that first day we landed, he suddenly wanted to check out the LA beaches. Thankful I’d thrown a swimsuit into my suitcase last-minute, I sighed and chunked my nature hiking itinerary, and we went to the beach instead of the forested walk to a waterfall I’d planned. We drove up Highway 1, found ourselves in Malibu and actually ended up having a great time walking the shoreline and looking for shells before Seth bravely dove into the frigid water in search of some time in the surf.

As that first day wore on, Seth continued to jokingly find examples of why he didn’t belong in California. When he fought his way out from the shoreline to a sandbar, one of the surfers out there asked if he was drunk. Apparently no one without a wet suit and surfboard attempts to wade out so deep. Later when we got smoothies, Seth made a face at his first sip. “This is the worst smoothie I’ve ever had!” I tried it and laughed. “That’s because it’s an all-fruit smoothie with no added sugar.” He shook his head in distaste and ranted in a teasing voice, “Why would anyone ever make such a disgusting smoothie? And sell it to unsuspecting customers?! California is the worst.”

That night, we stopped at the exact La Quinta I’d looked up online weeks before, but they only had one room left at the $99 rate. Granted, the room had two queen-sized beds, but – determined to sleep in separate bedrooms and maintain our commitment to physical purity – Seth declined the room, and we drove on to a sketchy Knight’s Inn that hadn’t been updated (or cleaned) since about 1969.

The large man in line ahead of us at the registration desk (if it could be called that) was trying to book a room by paying in cash only, but when the clerk refused, the man took his wad of cash and left. Between the rapist vans in the parking lot and the tattered, moth-eaten draperies behind the counter, I was ready to bolt, but the Knight’s Inn had two separate rooms for $75 each, so there we stayed.

Seth later acknowledged that we should have booked the La Quinta in advance. And booked the rental car in advance. And thought through more of the trip logistics. I appreciated his admission, and I acknowledged that we did make some great memories and have some fun adventures when I let go of my plans and just lived in the moment. Overall, this trip was a good lesson in compromise, valuing one another’s strengths and actively seeking the good of the other person in the relationship.

Authentically Aurora

Sunshine Blogger Award

sunshine-blogger-award

Some of my favorite days are the cool, blustery days where the golden rays of sun shine down and warm your chilled hands and face even as you snuggle under a cozy, oversized sweatshirt. Serendipitously, I recently learned that there is a word for this phenomenon: apricity – the warmth of the sun on a cold day.

I like that word. Apricity. And it’s what I want to be to the world: the warmth of the sun on a cold day. The warmth of the Son on a proverbially cold day. That’s what Jesus came to be – light in the darkness; warmth to the cold. Neither dark nor cold actually exist; they are the absence of light and heat respectively, and Jesus came to freely give all He had to those who had none. Apricity – the warmth of the sun on a cold day. 

Little Sunshine over at Sunshine Ave recently nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award (an aptly-named award for a blog so named)!  Evidently…

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to “bloggers who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.

…something I aim to do both on this blog and in everyday life! I am honored to have been nominated for this award and gladly accept! Thank you, Little Sunshine, for the nomination!

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you
  2. Answer the questions from the person who has nominated you
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers for this award
  4. Write the same amount of questions for the bloggers you have nominated
  5. Notify the bloggers you nominated

Rule #1? Check!

Rule #2? Here we go…

Little Sunshine posed the following 10 questions for me to answer:

  1. What is your biggest dream?
    • This question makes me think of Rapunzel in “Tangled”. rapunzel-dream
    • I’ve had a lot of dreams over the years, and I’ve been blessed to see most of them come true. I used to dream of somewhat superficial things – visiting all 7 continents, releasing an original album on iTunes – but now I consider those more of life goals. A dream is something precious and intimate, interwoven into your heart. And these days, my dream is more like a vision – to be a wife and mother, full of life and joy, radiating light into the world and growing more and more into the godly woman I’ve been uniquely created to be.
  2. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
    • As mentioned in #1, I’ve had a goal for a while of visiting all 7 continents. I’ve been to about 30 countries and 5 continents, all of them wonderful experiences, and a year ago, I would have definitely said that I most want to visit Australia and New Zealand. But Seth is an American through and through; a homebody of a patriot, and we are taking a trip to California later this month, which is about as foreign a trip as this cowboy wants to take. And after imagining exploring California with Seth, there’s no place I’d rather be.
  3. Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?introverting-coffee-book
    • Introvert. Definitely. This surprises most people when they first hear it – mostly because I’m a pretty social, outgoing introvert – but my perfect day involves curling up in a quiet little nook with a latte and good book… or finding a secluded park where I can walk and think and listen to music on my earbuds… or staying home to clean and organize my apartment… or sitting alone in the silence to work on my latest art project. Mmm. Perfection.
  4. Is what you’re doing now what you always wanted to do growing up?
    • Yep. When I was in 2nd grade, I decided that I wanted to go to West Point and be an engineer. But what we want as sweet, innocent, idealistic 8-year-olds is not always aligned with reality, so although I am living the dream of having an engineering degree and working at a major oil company in Corporate America, I have discovered that the composite of the bureaucracy, politicking, process nazis and inauthenticity of my current workplace comprise something akin to my personal hell. Which is why I am changing careers to teaching… where I can spread my cynicism wisdom to the next generation.
  5. Do you usually follow your heart or your head?
    • My head. Sometimes going with your gut is a great option for quick decisions, but for any decision that allows for more than a few seconds to go with your first instinct, I have found that emotions are subject to the whim and fancy of the day and may not hold up longer-term. I prefer thinking through the logic of various options, examining my intentions, considering the ripple effect of whichever choice I make, and of course consulting God in prayer.
  6. What are you most thankful for? by-grace-through-faith
    • That while I was still a sinner, Christ did for me. Even though I am undeserving of being rescued from my sinfulness and total depravity, Jesus willingly took on the punishment I deserve (through his death and resurrection) so that I could be brought into a right relationship with God. Nothing compares with that – no family relationships, no dating relationships, no job or financial success… Without God’s love and mercy and grace, I would be like the walking dead.
  7. What’s on your bucket list this year?
    • Finishing my teaching certification. And maybe getting my CHL.
  8. What’s your favorite food ever?chocolate-is-a-girls-best-friend
    • Peanut butter. Or chocolate. Let’s go with chocolate covered almonds as a fair compromise. 😀
  9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
    • “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:36-40
  10. Which of the places you’ve traveled to inspired you the most, and why?
    • My favorite trip I’ve ever taken was to Germany at Christmastime with my family, but the place I’ve visited that most inspired me would have to be South Sudan, mostly because that trip helped to right my perspective on so many things in life. We are profoundly blessed.

Alright! Hopefully you all now feel like you know a bit more about me! Here are my nominees (I liked Little Sunshine’s questions, so answer these same questions if you choose to accept)!

  1. MyLittlePieceofQuiet
  2. Salvageable
  3. InsanityBytes
  4. MrsSpike
  5. BlissfulBritt
  6. SingleStrides
  7. INFJRamblings
  8. MySweetJesusBlog
  9. BeautyBeyondBones
  10. TheRoseQuartz
  11. Captainsspeech

Authentically “Sunshiny” Aurora

Paris – Day 6

IMG_6896.jpgKnowing that most Parisian museums are closed on Mondays, I saved the islands and cathedrals for my last full day in Paris, wanting to make the most of my time in the city.

To finish off the trip right, Rachel and I decided to splurge on breakfast at the prestigious Cafe de Flore on Boulevard Saint-Germain during our last day. I ordered the Quiche Lorainne with my cafe creme, and it was definitely the best quiche I’ve ever had! The light, flaky crust was just the right texture against the creamy and flavorful egg-and-cheese filling. I was thoroughly impressed.

IMG_6654.jpgThe waiters at Cafe de Flore were resplendent in black vests and bow ties, so we sat for a while in the quaint atmosphere, sipping our lattes and looking out the glass walls at the pedestrians passing by outside. I sat and sketched while Rachel read a book; then I helped a couple from Portugal decipher the French menu when they caught my eye and smiled apologetically, looking sheepish.

Once we felt it was time to relinquish our table, Rachel and I took the Metro to Notre-Dame on Ile de la Cite. Coming up on the North side of the cathedral where visitors enter was disappointing. I expected to see the rounded spire and flying buttresses, but instead we saw the two boxy towers of what I had always considered the back side of Notre-Dame. We waited in line in the rain, and once inside, I felt much better because the inside was just as beautiful as I’d imagined.

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The Rose windows were especially breathtaking, but I was frustrated to see signs everywhere instructing visitors to pay in order to light and candle and pray. I realize that Notre-Dame is now a tourist attraction that expects to take in funding, but it made me think of Matthew 21 when Jesus says, “You have turned my Father’s house into a den of thieves!” It also made me thankful for John 4:23 and 1 Cor. 3:16. We don’t have to worship God at any particular place; we are called to worship in Spirit and in Truth!

IMG_6802.jpgBack outside in the rain, I took Rachel around the quiet, unfrequented South side of Notre-Dame and was rewarded with a stunning, unobstructed view of rose gardens encircling the majestic flying buttresses around the nave of the cathedral. This was where I wanted to spend my time – away from the crowds and in the presence of great beauty, both natural and man made. I took in a deep breath, savoring the moment and literally stopping to smell the roses. It was magnificent and moving; a memory I will cherish.

The rain really starting coming down as we walked the length of the island to Sainte-Chapelle, and we passed a man whistling “Singing in the Rain”. The familiar tune and his carefree vocalization made my heart happy. Twenty minutes later, I stepped inside the lesser-known chapel of Ile de la Cite, and it took my breath away.

Rich colors dominated the surprisingly low ceiling, and this close, the detail work and structural patterns of the vaulting were more readily admired. A narrow spiral staircase took us to an upper floor where the king used to worship, and it was probably the coolest cathedral I have ever been in (significant, since I’ve visited St. Paul’s in Rome, St. Patrick in NYC, Westminister in London, Washington National Cathedral in DC, St. Michael’s in Brussels and more).

IMG_6861.jpgStained glass windows dominated the room, reaching nearly floor to ceiling and telling the story of the bible bottom-to-top as one moved clockwise around the room. It felt simultaneously secluded and awe-inspiring; majestic and intimate, just like the One intended to be worshiped.

Leaving the island, Rachel and I went to the highly-ranked Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore but quickly left, disappointed. All the books were brand new and in English, and patrons stood elbow-to-elbow at the shelves.

Decided to spend the rest of our evening on Ile Saint-Louis, we settled at La Chaumiere, where I ordered a Nutella crepe with my cappuccino. Rachel was generally embarrassed of me when I talked to people around us, but in this instance, it paid off for her because we were seated next to a foursome from her hometown – remarkable because it’s a basically unknown small town of just six thousand people.

IMG_6911.jpgWhen the foursome left, Rachel got out her book, and I continued my sketching and journaling. The waiter kept trying to flirt with us, and when I got up to go to the bathroom, he wrapped me unexpectedly in a hug with the other waiters looking on and laughing. I figured if he could be that bold, I could, too, so when I got to the top of the stairs from the bathroom and he grabbed me for another hug, I disentangled myself from him, asked if he could read English; then handed him my bible where I’d bookmarked John. I asked him to commit to reading it, and he said he would, but God only knows if he will. I’m praying that if he doesn’t, my bible will end up in the hands of someone who will!

Rachel and I moved on to Creperie la Sarrasin et la Froment, where I got a framboise (strawberry) crepe and socialized with the genuinely friendly owner, a refugee from Iraq. It was a slow evening, perfect for my last night in Paris. Coffee, crepes and good company? A girl can’t ask for much more.

Authentically Aurora