Wednesday, June 24, 2009

And Someone's Been Sleeping in My Bed.

After posting from the bathtub, where I was trying to pass my insomnia time without waking the children, I came back out in to the room, hoping to slip in bed for a 6:20 AM nap... no such luck. Max and Maria are stretched out, back to back and crosswise across our double bed. Alex is in a single and Geoff and William are upstairs each enjoying their own beds. I am sitting here with the lap top perched on the mini-fridge... greatly sloped because of the uneven floor.

I do not speak French. Badly... I mean my unFrench ability is really bad. It is humbling. It makes me feel actually stoopid. I think it is extra frustrating because I can manage some Spanish and I always thought in time I could learn Hawaiian, but no matter how I try, French baffles me. Why do they insist on using so many letters they are never going to pronounce?! It seems so wasteful, so frivolous. Such wanton and liberal sprinklings of unspoken consonants.

I try. I read the phrase book. I listen and practice, but when I am face to face with a Frenchman and asking about the one week metro pass, it becomes an out of body experience, and my spirit watches from my own shoulder and says, “You are babbling. Say something. Dear, that was Spanish in a bad French accent... that does not count.” I try again and the man behind the counter winces. Was he sympathetic or have I managed to confirm all of his beliefs about American tourists? I am so confident, in spite of all contrary evidence, that I should be able to communicate in this vaguely familiar Romance language that I blurt another nonsensical inquiry...

S'il vous plait. Parlez-vous anglais? Mooah soy un Amercain ignorante y quiero comer pronto. Merci.” Then I smile. Then I pantomime a family of six buying metro passes, with a discount s'il vous plai, and eating dinner, then I say “Pardon. Tres bon. Mele kalikimaka. Then I grin and try to look confident, yet humble, and smart... in spite of all contrary evidence. We may starve.

Alex in Asia gave us some great tips in her comment, and we went straightaway to practicing the very useful: Sorry. I am an @ss phrase she suggests we employ, but it feels kind of redundant admitting we are sorry and need to be excused for being a bother. It seems so obvious we merit excusing. Now I regret more than ever that we forgot to pack the Obama stickers Phil sent us. Every time I try to communicate and I get the look, I could whip out an Obama sticker and say “I voted for this guy,” as though to say, “Aloha, I am smarter than you think. Please find us food and the stop for the Batobus. Merci.”

Remind me and maybe someday I will tell you about the time in Avignon when I translated French for a Frenchman. It was a whole other level of me being stoopid that cracks me up every time I think of it.

Oh man. They're still hogging my bed.

Coming Soon!

Our first morning in Paris is beginning slowly. I have been awake since 4 AM, and it 8 AM now. Still no stirring from Alex, Max or Maria. Still no peep from the upstairs crew either. It's just me and the construction crew outside the window... I am getting a lot of local color and sensory stimulation jack-hammered in to my morning. Bonjour!

On our walk to the hotel we went passed a marche... a stall market, very traditional, like the kind I know in Mexico. But where? We followed Geoff dragging luggage and we moved at a pretty quick pace, zig-zagging from Rue to Rue. I already checked the map, but it does not show up. I am just thinking of breakfast. I could buy bread and fruit, maybe some formage, more water.

Today we have tickets for the “Hop on-Hop off” boat that serves as a kind of water bus on the Seine. It travels from the Eiffel Tower, around the two Iles, passed the Louvre, and as the name implies, we can get on and off through the whole day. I thought it would be a pretty and fun way to get an overview of the heart of Paris. Looking forward to this. I think we may try the Notre Dame tour today too. Alex and I have been talking about climbing the 387 steps up the north tower for the views of Paris and more gargoyles. I think a tea at Angelina's would make a wonderful break. Tomorrow the Louvre, maybe the Eiffel Tower. Alex wants to go to the Flea Market, Marche aux Puces, on Saturday. Maria wants a single scoop from Maison Berthillon, on the Ile St. Louis. any every day! William's camera needs fresh batteries... he's got the shutterbug, like his mama!

And still ahead, we are going to Brussels, then the Netherlands. I am making the most of the big cities and all the amazing sights and opportunities, but I am really, really looking forward to our mellow little rented cabin in the Holland countryside. We found a very family receptive place, where rented bicycles await us, where there will be swimming and walks in the woods. I imagine we will relax and have time to process all the newness and wonder we have been absorbing. And rest we should, because we have a whirlwind kind of tour of Germany, then Switzerland, and a night in Avignon before we arrive in Barcelona.

Another thing, about Saturday in Paris... we leave that day for our drive to Belgium, and we will just miss Laura Jane... *sad face.* She's traveling from her home in Australia and arrives in Paris the day we leave. It would have been so amazing to meet face to face. We are so close! We'll try to warm the place up for her, so her visit will be extra grand and memorable.

Speaking of missing friends, I think it's Karen's night hosting MNO. Hopefully, I will be asleep when it 6:30 PST, but when it is dinner time here I will raise my glass to toast my dear friends. Anne, you let them know I am thinking of them... tell them we are moving here and starting an urban chicken farm, that we can see the Eiffel Tower from the barn!


  1. It's so nice to read about your European adventures, you should really write a book or a travelling guide, very funny!
    I wish you and your family a lot of sunshine, and if this can comfort you: in Holland people speak very good English (although they have a strange accent sometimes).

  2. So much fun, seeing the world through your eyes! Did you wish the ticket agent "Merry Christmas" in Hawaiian? Love it! How could he resist that and your smile!
    I also love that you pulled out the Obama sticker. When I go to Europe I will remember to bring mine. I love to shock our neighbors here in Kentucky with mine... such is life in a "red" state!

  3. A quick visit to the Tour Montparnasse is worth every minute - it's an office block with a top floor open to the public (when I went it was about 3 Euros each-less for kids) - a very fast lift takes you to the top where you have a 360 degree view of Paris - wonderful!Three's also a small cafe. I like it best at sunset as the pale stone buildings of Paris turn a lovely shade of pink.

  4. Very cute picture :D

  5. Wonderful but if you want to watch something really amazing
    go to
    or to
    there are some really funny spot!!!

  6. I love travelling! Great blog!

  7. I traveled through Europe 2 summers ago by train. It was a wonderful experience - thrilling, healing, interesting, enlightening. Your blog is great fun, and i hope you enjoy the whole trip immensely.

  8. So fun to be able to experience Europe through your eyes. Love the photos... beautiful cathedral! Looking forward to more pics. Enjoy a croissant for me ;-) You're in our prayers.
    Love, Junie

  9. just the kind of blog I love... holidays in odd countries !!
    Nothing odd to me about Paris but I always love to find out how people see us. Rude, that's a general feeling for travellers who only see the touristic path but I do hope you will be lucky !
    As for food, I can see your daughter spotted Berthillon (nice catch), make sure you go to Ladurée as well to eat great macarons. There are several in Paris but I recommend the one next to Saint Germain des Prés. That way you'll see where Sartre, Simone de beauvoir, Boris Vian... all gathered decades ago.
    For a nice view of Paris, I too would recommend the Tour Montparnasse rather than the Eiffel Tower (far too crowded, you'll cue for hours) and Notre Dame.
    What else ? Make sure you get lost and you'll find great things... maybe you'll end up in the Art Nouveau public toilets next to la Madeleine !!
    Enjoy your stay.

  10. Just stumbled across your blog. Enjoying it and it reminded me of this.
    Perhaps it will help with any homesickness although I can't imagine having enough energy in your situation to HAVE homesickness.

  11. I concur with your comments on the French lanquage; it is extravagant in its deployment of unused letters and could be made far more efficient.

    The only language with more surplus letters is Polish but at least some effort is put into squeezing them out somewhere along the line.

    But if you really want a challenge, try Welsh...

  12. Oh, and as for French. My two big issues are, it requires my mouth to move in ways it is unable to accomplish, and the numbering system above the number 60. What's up with that?

  13. O.K., my ridiculous french improved a little (per my friends who speak better, not my travels, so this is an opinion you may wish to throw to the wind) when I started practically gagging myself with my own tongue when pronouncing "r" sounds. It at least kills the spanish r rolling. Maybe this will help??? Have a great time!

  14. Natalie
    You are hilarious!- I love your blog. Je ne comprende pas votre francais mais tout c'est tres drole. I hope this requires a dictionary- or at last a google translation...which might not work as I'm not entirely sure that I didn't make it up. On another note I wanted to know if its possible to subscribe to/follow your blog?

  15. Bonjour! Certainment, au'jourdui est MNO, la nuit ouvert les MOMS. That's enuf French for me. We'll be eating Mexican food, don't be jealous. Yo, what arrondisement are you in? My friend (and Olivier's) Caroline, lives in the 19th.

  16. Great blog and let me tell you that you have a beautiful and wonderful daughter!

  17. This was a very interesting read. I'll be coming back for more!

  18. sorry about spamming, but PLEASE don't remove.

    if anyone comments my blog, I promise I'll post a real, not spam comment on yours!!!

    Thank You :)

  19. pais BRAZIL
    your very beautiful family. It interressant see how you live differently here, I'm from Brazil and agent almost do not see pictures of people from foreign. His family is very beautiful parabens!

  20. Natalie, you are a complete wuss. There was AT LEAST 3 square centimeteres available across those pillows for you to laze about on!

    That program sounds pretty busy for folks who aren't up yet! But I imagine you are by now (OMG, the SAME timezone as me)

    I too recommend the Tour MOntparnasse, less Qs, cheaper. But the Tour Eiffel is unmissable and takes your breath away - even at ground level. I can't wait to get back there on Sunday.

    Do you read Belgian Waffle? She is in Brussels - if you really couldn't resist a blogmeet...she has two young boys...

    You'll love Holland. They have a thing for frites (fries). Very pretty place. Glad I went.

  21. The MNO moms say HI!!!! Karen didn't make enough food. We were all starving when we left her house. JK!

  22. Your posting made me laugh as I recalled my first days in France. After a dinner party in Paris (all in French) a Frenchman asked me if my French had been improved by the evening. I replied: "Yes, it's going to rain tomorrow" (so proud to be using the future). My husband jumped and answered correctly for me. His reply was: NO.
    I'm fluent now and you can be too. Don't give up.

  23. Congratulations on being nominated for Blog of Note. This is an interesting trip you're taking. Enjoy.

  24. Oh my gosh! You and your blog crack me up!! I found you through blogs of note... but I stayed for the chickens. ;) I even forwarded your blog to my friend who is also a chicken lady!

    Have a great vacation!

  25. Evening, nice restaurant in Paris. Maitre 'd says, "Bon soir," spouse replies, "Buenos noches." Gentleman says, in English, "Wrong language, Ma'am."

    I cannot wrap my mouth around the language. But the food! Oui.

  26. France sounds like a magnificent country. I myself am learning to parle au francais (speak in french), but they do not teach us anything useful. I enjoy your blog title though, it is tres (very) cute.
    Thank you for making someone rit (laugh) today : ].


  27. Hey Natalie - look at all the comments! Wow. Someone thinks this lil blog of yours is pretty darn cool.

    Anyhow, I stopped by to tell you that my new favorite saying is "Aloha. I am smarter than you think." I almost choked on my dinner when I read that paragraph!

    I love hearing about your trip. I hope you guys are having the time of your lives.

  28. Your musing about trying to learn and speak French are hilarious. I will definitely have to spend more time combing through your blog. You write some good stuff.


  29. Oh Natalie, how fun to find you on Blogs of Note. Have a wonderful trip. Been to England twice but not been to France yet. I'll see it through you this time.

  30. French isn't as hard as you think. I thought the same thing, how all the extra letters looked absolutely ridiculous, but now going onto my second year in the class... it's really not bad at all. The extra letters start to make sense !

    And remember... they say oui oui ! How great is that?

    Now excuse me while I go take a wicked YES.

    : ) -Darion

  31. Wow, what an adventure! Found your blog by accident but I am definitely staying. Love your stories, pics and the chickens. Hope you have better luck with the sleeping arrangements!

  32. J'adore France! I'm so jealous you are there!

    As for the language barrier, boy do I ever understand. All of my friends speak Spanish. I'm the only one studying French. When friends get intoxicated and start speaking 2nd languages, I bring them water, a trash can, and leave them to it for the night! There is nothing further I can do!

    I'm about to feel the exact same way you do soon... I'm leaving for Turkey to study abroad in 2 weeks!

    Enjoy your travels!

    Shawna's Study Abroad

  33. I love yours pictures and your description of your time in paris..
    I am laughing at you sittingin the bathtub at 4am posting. That is the kind of thing I'd do!

  34. oh my! i stumbled upon your blog randomly (and loved it), but after looking at your profile pic, i think you may be friends with... erica? hinton? anyway, your family is beautiful, and your writing is wonderful. (and i'm a fellow chicken owner too!)

  35. haha , i like your blog , I am from Malaysia..a poor english student (English baffles me)sad.. When i read ur blog , i can gain many fresh word .. and like the trip!Nice scenic! Most funny part is you are going speak with frenchman..keep it on ..

  36. I have enough trouble travelling with a boy-friend & dog. You have a family to chase after. The pictures are lovey, often times funny... the portrait of ice-scream smeared faces is a gem... and the detatiled diary of your is almost too much to absorb. Go!


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