I have another (new) blog…

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If anyone is interested, I started another blog in March of this year. I just uploaded my third post tonight!

If you like what you’ve read here and are interested in reading more of my writing, please check out Looking Glass Letters

Hope to see you there!

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We’re back! (briefly…)

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Mark had a conference in Grenoble this week, and had to be in Dublin last week, so rather than fly home in between he stayed in Europe in between commitments… and since our anniversary fell on the weekend in between ALSO, it only made sense that I join him on his travels… so here we are!

We’re staying in a little one-bedroom apartment near where we lived the last time, just two blocks away. It’s nice to already be familiar with the city and not have to learn where things are and (more importantly) how to get to them!

I had planned to use the time this week while Mark was at his conference to write and post both on this blog and on a new one I’m starting, and to do homework for a Certificate in Positive Psychology (CiPP) course I’m taking… only my plans needed to be adjusted when our car was broken into while we were in Ireland and my laptop and purse were stolen. I know they are just things, and they can be replaced, and no one was hurt… and I know in the scope of things, this is small. And I’m getting there; I really am. But when we got back on Saturday afternoon after taking a lovely walk (on our 28th anniversary!) to a tea house in the Killarney National Park and saw our back driver window smashed in and my purse and laptop gone… I felt awful. Like I didn’t want to go anywhere anymore because it’s safer to stay at home. Like how dare someone take things that don’t belong to them, things that were locked up and hidden from view… MY things. Like of all my material possessions, I think I can honestly say that my computer is quite possibly the thing that means the most to me.

And then I think… okay, so what is the lesson in this for me? What do I still need to learn? Have I been putting too much emphasis on material things? I don’t think of myself as a material person, and yet, when I look at our house and how many things I have because of their sentimental value to me (as opposed to their monetary value), I realize I have quite a few material possessions… things I don’t really need, but that have sentimental value to me. And if my most valued possession was taken from me, and I survived… well, perhaps, I could survive with a few less of the other material possessions I have. Many of them are Mom’s things that I haven’t yet found homes for, because it means getting rid of some of my things to make room for Mom’s things… or perhaps I would like Abby to have some of the kitchen items that were Mom’s… but what if Abby doesn’t really CARE if she has them or not? What if I’m the only one who really cares…

I think of myself more as an experience person, and one who has empathy as well (is it empathetic or empathic?? I’ve heard them both and don’t know when to use them, or if they’re interchangeable or what…), sometimes extreme empathy. Like nine years ago, after our dog got hit by a car and we had to put her down… two weeks later, driving to work on a very slushy, icy day, going about 4 mph so I could stop if necessary, seeing the dog on the side of the road, thinking it’s good I’m going so slow so I can stop, starting to slow down so I can stop, seeing the dog dart in front of me, not being able to stop… not knowing if I hit the dog or just scared it ‘cuz it kept running (I did; the corner panel on the car was gone…), and stopping at the nearest house to tell them what had happened. I was near tears and feeling awful and they were appreciative that I stopped. They called later that day to say their dog was fine, and they thanked me for stopping and telling them… Like that. I already felt bad for the person who hit our dog… did I really need to experience hitting a dog, so I would know what it felt like to be in their shoes?? Apparently…

My point is that there’s something I needed to learn from this happening. Maybe it is to be less materialistic. Or maybe I needed to take my mind off of coming back to Grenoble, which is where I was when my mom had her stroke and where I came back to after she died. Or maybe it was something that someone ELSE needed to learn, someone I had interacted with after the fact. Like the woman at the Killarney National Park who said, “I leave my computer covered, on my back seat, all the time…” or the person who actually STOLE my stuff. In my computer bag were my notes from my CiPP course and my gratitude journal, and what if that person read them and realized there is goodness in life if you look close enough for it, that we all have things to be thankful for (yeah, (s)he has things to be thankful for, alright… MY STUFF!)? Maybe it’s a long-shot… but maybe it isn’t! I’d like to think things that were important to me didn’t just get thrown in the trash…

Observations about Grenoble, Part Deux:

  • 34 degrees C is really HOT, especially after being in cool, rainy Ireland where we needed to buy sweaters and rain gear just to stay warm and dry.
  • Things have changed AND things have stayed the same. I had no idea I would be back here just a year after leaving. The little Italian restaurant that we could see from our apartment is still there, although it has a new name. One of the Lebanese restaurants we ate at has moved to our street. The woman in the little organic store below our old apartment cut her hair; in fact, when I commented about it to her she looked closer at me and said, “I remember you! Raspberry jam and chestnut spread!” Many of the vendors at the market are still there; some showed signs of recognition when they saw us the first day, even asking questions of us the second day.
  • We only had two desserts from Jack Julliard down the street, the Tendance (pistachio that looked like a green apple) and the Caprice (white cake with a bit if raspberry and cream). They were both still yummy, but maybe not AS yummy as I remember. I think this is typical; we remember things to be better than they really were! Perhaps we’re just eating better these days, healthier, and sweet things just aren’t as appealing to us this year… except for…
  • The apricot croissants at Pauline’s are STILL just as yummy as they were a year ago! And the cute little blonde woman is still there, and she recognized us, too!
  • I still don’t understand French; not a lick. AND I was successful in buying our train tickets from Grenoble to Montreux, Switzerland. We’ll leave on Sunday, June 23 (or 23 June as they say it here).
  • When I hiked to the Bastille Thursday I had no fear; none… except for maybe of the men with guns. Apparently, it was “army celebration day” at the Bastille, and there were men and women in full uniforms carrying machine guns and knives. I had to chuckle, when I saw a class of maybe 3rd graders doing a ropes course, and one of the things they did was zip-line over the heads of the soldiers who were in formation. But when I said I had no fear, I was referring to the heights; no fear what-so-ever. I could look over any edge anywhere and I was fine. This was huge for me, if you remember my posts on heights last year… I think last year with Mom dying while we lived here, I was just feeling more fragile than I’d ever been. I’m think I’m just stronger now, in many different ways. This is just one of them.
  • The little round tower on the hike to the Bastille is blue this year, like a periwinkle. Last year it was red.
  • I enjoyed the Musée Dauphinois as much this year as last, especially the video that showed how the Alps people made bread once a year.
  • Some of the street graffiti is the same as last year; some has changed. I took pictures of the new ones that I saw (I will upload some when I get home, because in spite of my best-laid plans, I no longer have my computer with me here…).
  • We hiked up to the Bastille this morning; Mark hadn’t been up there yet. I just love that hike, and am happy to have made it up there a second time. It’s possible we will be heading up there tomorrow morning before we leave, but that is still to be determined.
  • The rotisserie chicken from the Saturday market was still just as good and chickeny as we remember! We had our traditional Saturday lunch: rotisserie chicken and potatoes from the woman with the yellow truck, salad, cranberry sesame bread, green olives, and fresh strawberries, all from the market! And we ate lunch while listening to the Midnight in Paris soundtrack, something we did most Saturdays last spring when we lived here. We thought about all the people who came to visit us during that time, especially those who had shared that same Saturday meal with us! It was a great re-enactment memory.
  • Stracciatella (aka chocolate chip, although the actual definition according to Wikipedia is something like vanilla ice cream with chocolate shavings “… analogous to chocolate chip ice cream in North America though the chocolate is intended to be less chunky and more integrated with the gelato”) ice cream is still yummy. Before today, we’d only had it at Amorino, on the Black Blob. Today we had it at the other place, Punto Gusto, near the Viva la France! fountain, which seems to be only open during the day (except on weekends). The verdict is: we like the ice cream from Punto Gusto, where we were today, but the cone (cornet) from the other place better. Figures!

Last night we ate dinner outside (it was a great day, according to how I rate a good day… we ate outside! It was a good day for Mark, too, because he got a nap!) at one of the many Italian pizzerias on the other side of the river, Paradiso Pizzeria. At the restaurant next to us, a band of young 20-somethings were setting up. Mark (jokingly) said, “We’re in for a real treat!” They played two songs, and we thought, “Mehh,” and we continued eating. When we finished, they were ready for their second set. That’s when things started to get interesting! They had a bass player, drummer, lead guitar, violinist (who we didn’t really hardly hear until we moved closer, and even then, we didn’t hear much of him), and a female lead singer, who also played electric/acoustic guitar. Since we didn’t know the band’s name, Mark decided to dub them this band don’t suck. And they didn’t! They were actually quite good. My favorite song they played was from the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, I Want You. I wish I had recorded some of that one. Mark’s favorite was Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. That’s when he decided he not only liked the band, he loved the band! We saw a variety of people there, watching and listening. My favorite was the two-year-old with the AC/DC t-shirt. It still makes me chuckle to think of her! As we were walking home, we realized there were bands set up outside all over the city. Some had crowds around them, some, not so much; turns out, for good reason. Mark decided that we heard the best band of all the bands we walked by on the way home last night, probably about 12 total.

So tonight’s our last night in Grenoble. We had dinner at home with food we’d bought from the market the last couple of days. My new favorite dessert is from a little place near the Viva la France! fountain. When Brooke, Chelsea, and Amy visited us last year, Brooke had gotten a strawberry tart from this place, a place that I don’t even know the name! We split one of those tonight (my new second-favorite dessert!), along with a raspberry tart that had a layer of raspberry under the custard and a topping of what looked like meringue but wasn’t stiff like meringue. Whatever it was, it was GOOD!

Who knows when we’ll make it to Grenoble again? I had no idea that visiting here this year was in the plan, just a year and a week after we left last year and headed to Italy; it just worked out that way. Tomorrow we’ll head to Montreux, Switzerland, since Mark has a day of meetings in Lausanne, on the north shore of Lake Geneva. We’re looking forward to visiting cities we’ve never been to before, and taking the train through Geneva, where we visited last year with Laura and Ryan and toured the United Nations.

It was fun to visit Grenoble as a former resident this time, as someone who is familiar with the city, and where things were familiar and didn’t take getting used to. We didn’t even need a map! It felt like visiting a good friend that we hadn’t seen in a long time, and we both enjoyed our time back here. ‘Bye, Grenoble… we’ll miss you! Till we meet again…

Further afield – Chamonix

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When Ariane and Ben came to visit in April – two days after we got back from MN – we rented a car and drove to Chamonix. This was a really fun and challenging day all rolled into one! I think I waited to write this post to let it settle and not bare so much of my soul. You got enough of that with the story of skiing at Chamrousse…

We picked up the car and headed up the highway. I’m giggling remembering that even with five of us in the car (Mark, Ben, Ariane, Abby, and me) we STILL had some driving challenges. We used the iPad for its GPS, but the car didn’t have an outlet that would charge it, so we had to be careful not to suck the life out of it at the beginning of the day. So we got on the highway, heading north towards Chambery. I’m actually laughing out loud now remember this, because even though we saw the sign for Chamonix, we didn’t see the sign for the road number of the highway we were looking for…. so we kept going right by and ended up having to turn around when we realized we needed to follow the signs to the towns, not the road numbers. This happened not once, but twice! It made me feel better about the day I rented a car by myself and was challenged by the drive alone, with no help in either figuring out the iPad OR in where I was going! It wasn’t just me (YIPEE)!! IT WAS FRANCE!! (haha; just kidding… kind of.)

Driving through the mountains is indescribable, and pictures just don’t do it justice. Photos don’t capture the depth that is there, all around you. Mark and I remembered driving to the Canadian Rockies for our honeymoon a lifetime ago, and how we got all excited when we saw the mountains in the distance, thinking we’d be there in an hour…. and it took us all day to reach them. Not only that, these mountains are so big, so vast… I felt very insignificant every time we drove through them during our time in Europe. Looking back, there was a nervous energy that hit me every time we were in the mountains. I’m not sure I can describe what, exactly, it was, but definitely some anxiety was attached to being in the mountains. Like not being in complete control of what happens while driving in the mountains. It was unsettling each time, and I didn’t even realize this was happening until I got home to the States and thought about the feelings I had experienced there. There was definitely a mountain anxiety feeling. New type of tea, anyone?!

Driving towards Chamonix

It took us less than two hours to reach Chamonix; maybe about two hours with our driving right by the sign to where we were going. The first thing we did was eat lunch. We found the place that Ariane had found in her Gluten Free France book, which was interesting, since it was an Italian place. It was very good; we all were pleased with what we ordered. Ben got a calzone and it looked massive on the plate set in front of him…. and it filled him up! (This doesn’t always happen with Ben….)

After lunch, we walked to the téléphérique. Now, if you remember, I had a tough time when we were skiing at Chamrousse, feeling like my fear of heights had gotten worse. Let me tell you, that was NOTHING compared to this!

In Chamonix, the téléphérique is in two parts. The first part brings you up to another platform. If this had been all it was, I would have been fine, really. I even said, “That wasn’t so bad!” Then I looked UP. The next téléphérique went up to the top of Aiguille du Midi, and it seemed to go straight up. I thought, “Do I really want to do this?” followed by “I CAN DO THIS!… but do I have to?!” So after a snow boarder took our picture (I was just going to be taking the cable car to the top; THEY were going to be sliding down the mountain on skis and snowboards! No thank you…. I’m good!) we boarded the next phase.

At the mid-level platform (in red: “You are here”)

At the mid-level platform. I was doing great here!

When leaving the platform, you realize you can’t even see Chamonix, the cute little village where we had just eaten lunch.

Are we there yet?

Let’s just say that I’m pretty sure that that’s the most scared I’ve ever been in my life. Even more scared than riding around Nairobi in a van near the bus station there. Even more scared than rappelling off the high school gym roof at a school I used to go to but in which I was no longer enrolled (funny story; one that would NEVER happen now days! We moved when I was in 4th grade, but we would go back to our old town and visit once or twice a year, usually going so we could spend a day or two at school before the weekend so we could see more people that way. Well, when I was a freshman in high school, we went to visit, and my class was culminating their PE unit on climbing with a rappel off the high school gym roof. The teacher asked me if I wanted to do it, too. This was with no previous training, no knowledge of anything, really…. not to mention, not having lived in that town for five years, and no signed parental permission form. Could you see that happening now?! Me, neither.). Even more scared than giving birth – without drugs! – four times (by the way, times 2, 3 and 4 are way more scary than the first time, because the first time you didn’t know what to expect. The rest, you do…)

All those other times I was scared, I didn’t cry. No, this was more comparable to boarding that plane alone after my mom had her stroke, hoping that she would still be alive when I got there. Like that time, this time…. I cried. And not tears of joy. I am not proud that I got to this point, but now I can laugh about it, or at least accept that it is what it is. Remember what I told my kids when they asked me why I laugh on roller coasters? “I laugh so I don’t cry…” Hahaha, I wish I’d remembered that in Chamonix! But nope, there were the tears. And not tears of joy, oh no. These were… Tears… of… Sheer… Terror. It was scary. We were going what felt like straight up at the end, which lasted for half the trip! Once we got to the top, I had to sit down with no view of anything. And honestly, this was the first time I had ever felt actually light-headed because of the altitude (Mark and I, since then, have looked up what the altitude was in Kenya when we hiked Mt. Longanaut, because we had a tough time breathing there, too…. but we had just chalked that up to respiratory illness and pollution. Wrong. That was pretty high altitude, too…)

Anyway, the others explored at the top. Abby, Mark, and Ben all got some great photos (the ones in this post taken outside at the top were taken by Mark. Notice there are none of me out there….). I found my way to some inner stairs where I wouldn’t have to look out any windows. Eventually, Mark brought me to a bench, where I actually had to walk outside and across the landing, and then, ultimately… I found the gift shop, which was completely enclosed and I was fine there!

At your own risk.

The adventurous ones…

Abby! Get away from there! You might fall! (or, alternatively, “You go, Girl!”)

The top of Aguille du Midi

Snow shoers at the top. No thanks… I’m good.

Amazingly, I was able to look out on the way back down. There is something to be said about getting used to an experience gradually. I might even be able to do this again sometime…. but whether or not I want to is another story altogether…

When we got home that night, Mark and I did what any other normal people would do who just survived a terrifying ordeal: we spent some time googling Scariest téléphériques or cable cars. Here’s a site we found called The Scariest Cable Car Rides on Earth. I love the first sentence on that page: “One person’s thrill is another person’s horror, especially when it comes to heights.” (NO KIDDING!) If you scroll to pages four and five, you’ll find out about the one in Chamonix; otherwise, you can read this sentence from page 4 (although the better photo is on page 5): “The téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi is a cable car to a mountain by the same name in the Mont Blanc Massif of the French Alps. This ride will make the heart of even the staunchest cable car lover beat faster as the 1955 construction still holds the title of and world’s highest vertical ascent cable car, covering a height gap of more than 2,800 m from 1,035 m to 3,842 m.”

There! I feel better now! This is THE cable car of all cable cars! And I did it! Later, on the two or three other cable cars we took while living in Europe, I remember thinking, “I have been to the top of the mountain! Compared to Aiguille du Midi, this one (whichever one it happened to be) is nothing… piece of cake! I can do this… Because, after all, I’VE BEEN TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN!!”

When we were driving back to Paris after being in Italy for the month of June, we drove through the Mount Blanc tunnel and right by Chamonix. Mark asked me if I wanted to go up the téléphérique again, and my response was, “No thanks! I’m good….”

Further afield – San Gimignano, Italy

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Funny… I started this post simply so I could remember the music I heard on our drive yesterday…. today I found links for what we heard, so you could enjoy them, too (if you’re into that kind of thing!).

Mark and I drove to San Gimignano yesterday, a beautiful walled medieval town with lots of towers that the noble families had built centuries ago while trying to outdo each other. We took a slow drive there through the gorgeous Tuscan countryside, while listening to Italian radio. Surprisingly, this Italian radio station was great! We heard Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 followed by the first movement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade… perfect music for driving through an idyllic setting! We finished the set with some brass choir music, including a trombone choir song (Lassus Trombone) that Mark was surprised to hear me hum along to (and that I didn’t even know the name of until I was trying to figure out what it was and FOUND IT!!) and a Leroy Anderson song, Bugler’s Holiday (love the double and triple-tonguing…). LOVED IT! Such a perfect morning. It made me realize how much I love music in any experience; thanks, Mom. The Scheherazade piece brought me back to my youth, when I had a 45-record and small read-along book with beautiful illustrations of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves (remember? “Turn the page at the sound of the beep”…. except for this one, it was a wind chime. That violin solo still brings me back to the rich illustrations of that book. And of course, I was playing it on the portable green record player, probably behind the green chair while Lynn and Larry were in school!). If you don’t know who Leroy Anderson is, you would recognize at least one of his songs: Sleigh Ride (Mark and I discovered many years ago [while we were dating!] that this one is a fun one to whistle in two-part harmony!). I used to play a game with my students (kind of like musical chairs but without chairs) using the Best of Leroy Anderson CD, which I listened to growing up (of course!).

When I was watching the different Beethoven performances to figure out which link to share, I chose the Leonard Bernstein one (conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker) because I could have followed him as a conductor if I was in his band or orchestra. Watching him experience the music would have had me doing back flips for him if he asked me to! His nods, smirks, smiles, looks of encouragement, eyebrow raises, head nods, eye contact to every member of the orchestra, and obvious pleasure when something was done well is a sight to behold; and really fun to see from the front (I miss seeing a conductor’s face; as an audience member only these days, I only see their backs…!). It even allowed me to ignore the fact that I didn’t see a single woman in this orchestra; certainly none of the horn players were women! Some of the other conductors I checked out I couldn’t even see (much less feel!) the beat. Take a look sometime; so many different conductors and styles out there….

Back to Tuscany… San Gimignano, while touristy, wasn’t overwhelming like Siena had been. ‘Course, it was about 10 degrees cooler and two hours earlier in the day, so that helped, too. We took our time driving there (thank goodness! With such great music to listen to who needs to be in a hurry….)

Here are some pictures from our morning. Maybe you can look at them while listening to Beethoven’s Fifth… although if you’re anything like me, you will have trouble doing anything but watch Leonard Bernstein at his finest…

Approaching San Gimignano

View of the Tuscan hills from San Gimignano

Rooftops in San Gimignano

Another view from San Gimignano

Of the 72 towers built, only 12 or 14 remain in San Gimignano

Doorway view in San Gimignano

One of the many archways in San Gimignano

San Gimignano

Part of the wall surrounding San Gimignano

Further afield – Stresa, Italy

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Last week Mark had a conference in Stresa, which is located on Lake Maggiore in the Piedmont region of Italy. Beautiful lake, beautiful town, beautiful location. We left Grenoble on Saturday morning, June 9. Because we had been living in Grenoble (city), I booked us a place out in the country just north of Turin (Torino). We loved it! The room was a little one-room apartment in a country home, with vineyards and castles nearby, and sporting a nice FIRM bed. I slept better that one night than I had in months. We awoke Sunday morning to the sounds of cuckoo birds cuckooing (neither of us had ever heard them in real life, other than in cuckoo clocks… which sound exactly like the real thing!), mourning doves cooing, church bells ringing, tweetie birds tweeting, and a dog barking… a natural symphony! Sadly, we left our last bit of Comte cheese and raspberry jam we had bought in Grenoble in the refrigerator there (sniff)…

Mark compared the hotel room where we stayed in Stresa to a dorm room… with a million dollar view! In fact, I told Mark that if I had a million dollars for every time he made that comment, I’d be a billionaire (actually, he didn’t say it a thousand times… but I would be a rich woman regardless!).

Our million dollar view in full daylight. The building you see is the public ferry boat landing

My favorite shot from our hotel room. Early morning sunrise. I never got tired of looking at this! (it really was a million dollar view)

Stresa was a playground for the rich many years ago. Ernest Hemingway stayed at the Grand Hotel just down the road from us (we both wondered…. how did he, as a writer, have enough money to live such an extravagant life? Wasn’t he a starving artist? And it’s not like he was at a conference and had his lodging paid for…. hmmmm…..). Apparently, Lake Como has taken over as the playground for the rich and famous. We didn’t see anyone famous in Stresa, but we did see a lot of tourists on Lake Maggiore, from young families to groups of retired people on bus tours, and we heard a lot of different languages, too. I was surprised to not see anyone swimming in the lake. We saw people fishing, and taking the public ferries to the Borromean Islands (as well as smaller boats for hire taking groups there), but no private boat owners out enjoying the water, either fishing or water skiing or anything of the sort. No canoes or kayaks, either, which was surprising. We did see one sailboat (docked), but a very different lake experience than what we’re used to in Minnesota.

Hydrangea on the lake walk in Stresa

We saw a statue of a sailboat in Stresa!

I took the ferry to three of the four islands near Stresa: Isola Madre, Superiore (or Pescatore – which means fish) Isola, and Isola Bella – which truly was Bella. Isola Madre and Isola Bella had palaces and gardens that I could (and did) tour. They were both beautiful, and each had their own character. My plan was to stop on Superiore Isola for a fish lunch outside, but the day I was out and about on the boats was very overcast and chilly; I ended up finding a lovely pizzeria and spent an hour and a half warming up inside! Later in the afternoon, the sun came out and warmed me up. I haven’t been cold since.

Isola Bella from the shore

I had never seen a white peacock before, and this guy showed off just for me

Isola Bella from the lake walk in Stresa

One evening the conference organizers planned an outing to a third Borromeo Castle, this one across the lake in Angera. It was up on a hill (as opposed to being on an island) and had a gorgeous view, but the castle itself didn’t enthrall me as much as the other two did; perhaps it was the furnishings (or lack thereof) that didn’t enthrall me. Afterwards, we went to dinner with the group and it was fun for me to meet people from all over the world Mark has worked and interacted with for the past four years. Now I can put names with many of the faces!

I also did a lot of walking around the town and up in the hills of the area. One morning, I walked to the nearby town of Baveno. The walk along the lakefront is absolutely spectacular; the walk from the cable car station to Baveno, not so much. There weren’t any sidewalks and it was a busy road, and no lakefront walk like in Stresa, so on my return trip I went up hill and found an alternative way back to Stresa. For a while, I wasn’t sure I was going the correct way; “correct” only meaning one that would bring me back to Stresa. At one point I came across a couple who asked me for directions to Mattarone, which is at the top of the hill/mountain where the cable car goes. I had no idea, being that I hadn’t come from that area, but I helped them as much as I could and they confirmed that I was indeed heading towards Stresa. Later in the week, they biked past us while we were on the lake promenade, and I asked them if they ever found their way to Mattarone. They didn’t recognize me until I described the encounter we had had, because I was dressed in street clothes and not running clothes and my hair was down and not pulled back. They told me that they had made it to the half-way point (Alpino), but that to go to Mattarone would have been an additional 19km walk along a road! They stopped in Alpino. Later that morning, we ran into them a third time at the market in Stresa and I asked them where they were from. We had a lovely little chat about Hamburg, their hometown, and where we’ve been in Germany.

Our self-portrait in front of the statue taking a self-portrait (what we really needed is someone taking a photo of us taking our self-portrait in front of the statue taking the self-portrait…)

The day we left, Friday, June 15 – our 27th anniversary! – we took the funivia up the mountain. We took one cable car to Alpino, where we got into a second cable car to Mattarone, where we took a chair lift to the top! I am still working on the post about Chamonix (and Geneva), but you will see that this is a theme in our travels here…

When we were on the second cable car, there was a young 20-something woman who was knelt down so she wouldn’t have to look out the window. Mark and I both thought, “Look! There’s someone more afraid than (Lori is) I am!” … actually, I haven’t been afraid since Chamonix. I figure, “I’ve been to the top of the mountain (literally – and figuratively) and survived to talk about it, so everything else pales in comparison as far as heights are concerned!

Finding art everywhere

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A few weeks ago when I was out for a run, I saw this image at a crosswalk:

How nice to include the dog!

I was thinking, “Well, can I still cross the street if I don’t have a dog (or a child with me, for that matter…)?”

Last week, when I saw the same image at the crosswalk, I had to snap another shot. I thought: either one dog-walker had quite a sense of humor…. or some dog had quite a sense of humor…. or else someone was just oblivious to the perfect sense of placement exhibited by their dog. Regardless, it got a laugh out of me.

Yes, that IS what you think it is (even if you can’t see it very well)… Remember! Be careful where you step!

A few more non-traditional art shots (just fyi… I plan to share another post with more street art at some point. Perhaps when I get home):

Clever yet simple

Love the flower

I didn’t see this tile for months. It’s on a corner at the Black Blob. Now we use it as a meeting place

You can definitely see the face in this column here… but how does the tongue (under the dark chin) fit in with the rest?! Mark grabbed this shot. It’s kinda like impressionism, where you don’t see the image up close but it’s easy to see from further away…

More for me to remember passing this on Thiers every day than anything else!

Such detailed graffiti! This was near the train station

Art & Mode (I felt a little like a stalker taking this one, with Mark egging me on! But she was dressed so fashionably, carrying a suitcase that looked like a portfolio, and it wasn’t till later that we noticed the sign above her head…)

Marche´ de l’Estacade

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The little market by our flat has been a highlight for us since we started our adventure. I realized I haven’t shared many photos of it here yet, and thought it deserves its own post.

I saved this post on March 10; it was going to be one of the posts I worked on at the end of that month. Most of the photos I’ve taken at our market were taken in the cold winter months. Even then, vendors abounded on the weekend! And people were there to buy their wares. As the calendar pages flipped by to warmer months, without a doubt, there are now more and more people at the market. I still consider it my primary source of entertainment, as well as my primary source of human, non-family interaction. Having been here for many months, the vendors definitely recognize me, all of us, even though I cannot communicate very well with them. It’s still nice to see a friendly, familiar face; one that acknowledges that they know who I am and are happy to see me again.

Remember when I said I had the urge to share with complete strangers what I had gone through with my mom? Well, this week I did share it. I shared it with the young man who sells milk at the market. He kinda reminds me of my cousin’s son, Phil, in looks. I think I shared it with him because when I came back in the middle of April, after being away for three weeks, he looked genuinely happy – and surprised – to see me. Anyway, I knew I could never figure out how to tell him what I wanted to tell him, so I opened up google translate and I wrote (typed) in English what I wanted to say, and had it translated into French. I told him why we were here, that he’s actually met (or at least seen/talked to) all three of my daughters, and their husbands (of the two that are married), he hasn’t met my son, his wife, or their baby, and why I was gone for three weeks in March and April. It felt good to be sharing information other than a “bonjour!” with someone. When he finished reading my hand-written letter (we don’t have a printer here), he indicated that he understood. Then I asked him a question, only when he answered me, I had no idea what his answer was, as is per normal. There was another customer there who happened to be witnessing the question part of this interaction. She asked if I speak English, and then offered to translate for me. I said, “Oh, yes, thank you!” So I asked her to ask him what the tattoo on his arm said. She asked him, he answered in French, and then she said to me, “He says it’s in Latin.” I said, “Yes, but what does it MEAN?!” She again asked him, in French, and he gave a long, elaborate answer as to what it means (or so I thought). She turned to me and said, “He says he doesn’t tell anyone what it means, and that by not sharing it, that’s how he keeps the meaning close to his heart.” I started to laugh, looked at him, and said, “And here I just poured my heart out to you…!” I laughed as I was walking away, and then as I walked through the middle of the stands, the tears started to sting my eyes. What I had mistaken as real human interaction had just been niceties. I have no non-family interactions here. I have no connections here, not even no *real* connections; just flat-out no connections. I was silly to think that I did. Maybe I just hoped that I did. And yet, that one interaction with the milk man and the translator made it easier for me to leave here somehow. I will miss the market, and the weekly Saturday chicken meal with cranberry sesamé bread, and I will miss the vendors with the twinkles in their eyes who smile at me and say, “bonjour!” But I long for family and friends who know me and choose to spend time with me – people I can actually understand and can interact with! – AND WITH WHOM I DON’T REQUIRE A TRANSLATOR!! – and I’m missing that quite a bit these days.

So why do I feel the need to share so much private information about myself with people I don’t know? Not many other people do! Am I always like this? Or is it living in a place where I cannot speak the language? Or is it because my mom just died? Or am I just missing my family and friends?? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! I do think it’s at least partly because I have time on my hands and no one to talk to. And not just because there’s no one to talk to, but because even if there was someone to talk to, I wouldn’t be able to understand them, anyway!

Actually, I was just talking to my sister the other day about this very thing. Believe it or not, I don’t share my feelings face to face much with people; not even my family. I do on occasion, but I am much more comfortable listening to what others have to say than sharing what’s on my mind (at least, this is how I’m feeling at this moment. Things could change by tomorrow!). And yet, where writing is concerned, I have NO PROBLEM sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings… and I don’t even (usually!) mind when people read them! That’s the strange part. It’s like there’s a disconnect that the words I’m typing are actually being read by people out there, by you. At my mom’s funeral, there were a couple of times where someone commented about something to me, and I remember being taken aback, thinking, “HOW did you know that?!” And then I remembered, “Oh, yearh…. I WROTE about that…. and you (obviously) read it! What did you expect, Lor?!” It’s a strange realization, because when I’m writing, I’m not thinking about the consequences of what I’m writing about. I share things that I find interesting or novel or compelling or funny or sad… or whatever. I’m not thinking at all about what the reader is getting from me. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but it’s not even in my stream of consciousness. And then once I’ve written whatever it is I’ve written down, it’s like I flush it from my memory. POOF! Gone. I think that’s why I found writing on the CaringBridge site when my mom was dying so cathartic.

It’s funny; Mark has been writing more recently, too. He’s always been interested in story-telling. He told the most fantastic stories to our kids when they were little, and they always wanted him to write them down. But there was never enough time to do all the things he wanted to do, so his writing got put on the back burner. It’s one of the things that he was really looking forward to doing on this sabbatical; to do a little story writing, in addition to all the science writing he normally does. He’s a great writer! I want him to finish his stories so he/I can share them with others!

I like to think that my keeping a blog has influenced him somehow to spend the time writing that he is, but I doubt that that’s the reason for it. He had every intention of writing while here. It’s funny, though, how different our styles are. It reminds me of the movie we just watched this week. Has anyone seen Tamara Drewe? I guess it’s based on a comic strip that was then turned into a graphic novel. The original story is based on a Thomas Hardy novel, Far From the Madding Crowd. It’s not a great movie, but it’s entertaining and worth watching. One of the first scenes is in an English farmhouse that’s a writer’s retreat. And each of the writers is working on whatever it is they’re working on. One is an expert on Thomas Hardy (interesting twist!), and he sounds like the professor that he is (haha, sorry, Mark… and all my other professor friends! I’m just sayin’… the word professor means a person who professes. And the first definition of profess means to lay claim to; often insincerely… that’s what he was like!). One writer self-publishes online and her language is atrocious. One is a romance novelist, and one is a crime novelist; I’m sure there were others, too, but those are the ones I remember. It’s so funny to see the different portrayals of writers from all walks of life and their very different styles! … kinda like us, hey, Mark?!

Anyway, here are the photos from the market near our apartment. Enjoy!

One week left

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It’s hard to believe we leave Grenoble one week from today! Mark left for Korea earlier this morning; he’ll be back late on Wednesday. He’ll wrap up at work on Thursday and Friday and then we’ll head out on Saturday.

Here’s our itinerary for the rest of our trip (so far).

June 10-15 – Mark has a conference in Stresa, Italy, on Lake Maggiore. I’ll tag along. I’m not so sure that Stresa is a good name for a town. I want to relaxa, not stresa! Goodness knows I’ve had a bunch of that…. both, actually. I’m getting ready to go home, although that’s going to be weird, too. I feel like this has been a mid-life practice retirement. I love it on one hand… yet I feel out of sorts on the other. It feels very decadent and self-indulgent on one hand, and yet, because we chose to have our kids when we were so young, I’ve never really experienced the self-reflection that most people in their 20s experience (although that’s been a huge part of my time here). I love being alone, and yet I miss family and friends and feel very far away. It’s like point/counter-point!

June 16-23 – we’re staying just outside of Firenze (Florence), in a Machiavelli Castle. Not just a Machiavelli Castle or a Machiavelli-like Castle, but THE Machiavelli Castle! This one was a splurge. We want to explore Florence and Siena that week, and perhaps Lucca… but mostly we want to be in the country after living in the city for this spring. The apartment has bikes for us to borrow… something that I have been meaning to do in Grenoble… but haven’t yet.

June 23-26 – we’re staying at a B & B in Umbria, near Assisi. We’ve never been to Umbria before, and thought it would be fun to explore there, too.

June 28 – our tickets for the Verdi opera Aida arrived yesterday! It’s at the Arena di Verona. Here’s the thing: I don’t even like opera! However, when Ariane and I went to Venice for her 16 trip, we took the train to Verona and I was blown away by the Arena there. It’s the third largest of the Roman arenas (behind the Colosseum in Rome and one in Capua, just north of Naples) and is mostly intact. When Ariane and I visited it, we both thought it would be cool to see an opera there. I never thought I would be around during the opera season, however, and just this week started looking into the possibility of going since we’ll be in Italy at the beginning of the season. The choices I had during the time frame we have available were Verdi’s Aida, which is what the opera season at Arena di Verona began with back in 1913; 100 years ago! (I don’t remember how long it had not been used for anything between when it was completed in 30 A.D. and 1913… if I find out, I’ll let you know.) OR Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Mozart has never been shown at the Arena di Verona before, so that would have been cool, too…. but Aida looks/sounds like such a spectacle – and really, Verdi opera? In Italy?! at an outdoor, intact Roman arena?! – that I decided that’s what we would see. Mark came home one day this week and said, “You’re listening to opera! You don’t even like opera.” I like it better today than I did at the beginning of the week. Is that proof that exposure to something can lead to enjoyment of that something? Well, I wouldn’t go THAT far…. yet!

July 1-4 – Paris. This will be the first time Mark and I will be in Paris together! He’s been there a couple of times for a short visit on his way to or from somewhere else, and I’ve been there with Hannah on her 16 trip and just recently in March with some of our company. It will be fun to explore Paris together. Neither of us have been to the Montmatre area before, or gone to Sacré Coeur, either, so those are both on our list. The rest will depend on the heat and what’s open and what we feel like doing.

We still have a few days to play with in there (9, 15, 27, 29-30), so that will give us some flexibility, too.

I just watched a TED Talk (don’t remember who it was, or even what he was talking about!), and the guy was talking about how people in the London subway station are much more patient and content when they have to wait 7 minutes for a train that they KNOW is coming in 7 minutes than they are if they have to wait 4 minutes for a train that they DON’T know when it is arriving. The guy said that inserting the electronic billboards made travelors more patient than anything else they’ve ever done (to improve the customer experience) in the past. Mark and I were talking about that this morning while walking to the train station. That fear of the unknown is HUGE for people, isn’t it? This is what I dealt with more than anything when I did the Elderhostel trips I did; heck, it’s even true in being a parent. Group members (or kids) wanted to know How long will the drive take? and Will there be a bathroom there when we arrived? and How cold is it going to be? and Is it going to rain? and Should we bring an umbrella? and Will we like it there? I’m this way, too; I think it’s human nature to be this way! In places that I’ve worked, the happiest I’ve ever been is when I’ve known what the expectations are and what steps we would take to reach them. The most unhappy I’ve been is when upper management knows what’s coming but they either haven’t bothered to share it with the rest of us or don’t think it’s necessary to do so. People like to know! We like to know what’s in our control, as well as what’s not… and that which isn’t in our control we’re (usually? Okay, often) okay with as long as we know what to expect.

This reminds me of a story (of COURSE it does!) from my first Elderhostel trip to Iceland. We were in Akureyri, a coastal town in Northern Iceland, and the plan was for the group to go out on a whale watch boat very near the Arctic Circle. (Did you know Akureyri is the fourth largest municipality in Iceland… with a population of about 17,800? Still blows my mind…) It was an optional trip, and people were deciding what to do. They were asking me questions about it (this was also MY first trip to Iceland, and I by no means had all the answers! But I tried…) Questions like Is it a big boat? and Will we be warm enough? and Is it worth it? and even Will we see whales?

Here’s how I answered them finally, after thinking about it for a while: “I’ve never been on a whale watch in Iceland before, but I HAVE been on whale watches in New England before – many times! – and here’s what I know from those trips (notice I established what I know from personal experience…. but that it wasn’t personal experience in Iceland! Perhaps that was my first mistake…): The boats that I’ve been on are quite large; they have two decks. They look like a ferry or a little cruise ship. The top deck is completely outside, with benches across for everyone to sit on, but you can go inside on the lower deck and still see, so if it gets too cold (or sunny, or rainy) on the upper deck you can go down below to warm up. We are brought to a whale feeding area and I’ve never NOT seen whales; it’s actually very cool! I’ve never been disappointed. Again, I’ve never been on a whale watch in Iceland before, but if you’ve never done it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.” I tried to answer their questions without having the knowledge that they needed. Here’s what happened.

Everyone decided to come along, even those who weren’t planning to go when we began this group meeting (I can be quite persuasive, I guess!). When we got to the boat, the first difference was that it was an old refurbished fishing boat. The one deck, aka top deck, was quite low to the water, with only one crow’s nest that I didn’t think anyone over the age of 70 was going to climb (this age didn’t, however, include Maria, the site coordinator, Gugga, the bus driver, or me….). The boat was run on diesel and had the distinct stench of diesel the entire time. In addition to that, it was extremely cold (did I mention we were almost to the Arctic Circle?!) and the water was quite choppy… so the choice was to stay on the low-to-the-water, difficult-to-see-anything upper (and only) deck, where it was cold and you were getting sprayed by Arctic Circle water OR go down below to where it’s under the surface, there are no windows, you are REALLY smelling diesel, and you feel like you’re going to throw-up. GREAT CHOICES!!! AND on the entire trip (about 4 hours) we saw two (COUNT THEM! 2!) minke whales. For those of you who don’t know your whales, minke whales are one of the smallest species of whales; about the size of a large dolphin (or 2-3x the size or so of the familiar bottlenose dolphin, which averages about 8 feet in length). The whales that we usually see off the coast of New England are humpback or right whales; some as large as 90 feet and easy to see from quite a distance. Well, this wasn’t exactly what I had thought it would be!

I stayed up above as long as I could stand it, but had made sure all the orange rain coats went to the members of the group, since we were getting sprayed by the cold Arctic Circle water and I was getting cold. When I couldn’t feel my feet any longer, I went down below to warm up. I nearly threw-up; the smell of diesel was just too much in that enclosed space. When I went back up to breathe again (haha, kinda like the whales we were there to see!), I approached the sound of chanting. As I got closer and closer, I realized it was MY group that was chanting, and what they were chanting was, “BRING US BACK! BRING US BACK!” They’d had enough. They were cold and disappointed that they hadn’t seen much of anything. I felt horrible. It was my pep talk, after all, that encouraged everyone to come along! So I did what any good group leader (or teacher. or parent.) would do when the troops were about to riot (or start a mutiny if we want to use boat lingo): I started to sing. Pretty soon everyone on the boat was singing old standards like Shine On Harvest Moon and I See the Moon and Good Night, Irene and You Are My Sunshine and Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo and Buffalo Gals Won’t Ya Come Out Tonight and others; I wish I knew more! I was never so thankful that my adviser in college insisted that all of us music ed. majors learn “standards that everybody should know” (his words)….. which happened to be from the 40s and 50s (or before!). You should know I finished college in the 80s, so this was quite laughable at the time… but the singing did the trick, and folks got their minds off how miserable and cold and wet they were and instead got their minds occupied on singing the good ol’ songs… and everyone ended up having a good – and memorable – time! (whew!)

Springtime

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I was really looking forward to springtime in Grenoble, so when I was away for three weeks in late March/early April, I was afraid I would miss it completely. There were still some blooms when I got back, but most of them were past peak. I’m grateful I was able to experience springtime in Grenoble (and a few other places as well).

All the pictures here (actually, on every post of the blog) are ones I took unless I credit them to either Mark or Abby (or their rightful owner). I hope I’ve remembered to credit them on other posts as well!

When Mark and I went to Spain, my first trip abroad (June of 2001), we discovered that we liked to have a little friendly competition (who, US? competitive?!) that we called our postcard competition. We would designate whatever it was we wanted to photograph and then shoot, one right after the other. Sometimes it was obvious that Mark won; sometimes it was obvious I won. Mostly we just had fun taking the same shot and eying it from two completely different perspectives; thus two completely different shots! Looking back now, we (mostly!) don’t even remember who took what shot… except for a few obvious ones. For example, there was a shot that was in Santillana del Mar, and it was of the walled, medieval city. I have an old push-cart in mine; Mark didn’t even notice the cart!. It’s fun to see the differences like that. Keeps life interesting.

If you click on one of the images below, you’ll bring up the slideshow. Enjoy!

Movie Week

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Last week was MOVIE WEEK! for us in Grenoble. Prior to last week, I had seen four movies since we’ve been here: one at Le Club (A Dangerous Method) with Abby, two at La Nef (The Hunger Games and We Bought a Zoo) with Mark and Abby, respectively, and one at Pathé (The Descendents) with Mark. These theaters have Version Originale (VO), which means the movie is in its original version with French subtitles added. This is a good thing, since I understand English very well and French, not so much. But with subtitles I’m learning more! Or at least reinforcing words I do know, like tous (all), avec (with), et tu (and you)…. you know, stuff like that. Meaningless stuff like that that doesn’t help to advance a conversation, it just helps me focus on the words I do know… and miss tous the rest. My favorite was super (great)!

I love turning the corner and seeing Le Club at the end of this street!

One thing to note of French cinemas: there are no concession stands. At least not in the smaller venues. People can openly bring in food and drink. Or at least, I think they can. There were people waiting to go in to the theater that were holding water bottles. Once inside, I heard people opening bags of candy, but I don’t know if they smuggled them in or not.

Last week, during MOVIE WEEK! here is what we saw, all at Le Club: Dark Shadows, On the Road, and Moonrise Kingdom. We also went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at La Nef. Dark Shadows I saw alone, the others I saw with Mark. One I wish I hadn’t seen at all, but the rest I loved.

When Abby and I went to see A Dangerous Method, during the previews the sound was off. It sounded like we were underwater, listening to someone’s nightmare. I thought it was no big deal, since it was just the previews and they would get it right for the movie. Wrong. When the movie started, there was Kiera Knightly, voice slowed down to sound like a 78 record being played at 44 speed, all slow and low, not matching up with either the fact that she’s a woman nor the speed of the action happening. Now, if I were French (or even if I understood French), this might not bother me, since I would have the subtitles to rely on. However, the subtitles did nothing for me…. and now I can’t understand the spoken language, either, because it’s at a pitch and tempo that makes no sense to me. So I went to the ticket counter and indicated (both with English words and with tugging at my ears while shaking my head), that something was off with the sound. Abby, who had just moments before begged me not to leave my seat and embarrass her (that’s not exactly what she said, but that’s what I inferred from her action… although she did beg me not to leave my seat) thanked me for whatever I did to make the sound work properly. (“HEY GUYS! The window’s open! C’mon, let’s make a break for it….” You know from my last post what I’m watching out the window right now.) Overall, an interesting movie, albeit disturbing (the director directed Dangerous Liaisons, which had a similar theme)… and I have to say I was actually impressed with Kiera Knightly in this one. I have never been able to say that before (sorry, fans…. I am not).

When Mark and I went to see The Descendents, we had another unusual experience (is it just us?? Or is it French cinemas?? Or a combination?). Right during a very dramatic part of the movie, an alarm went off, followed by a voice coming over a loudspeaker (in French, of course). Now, since we don’t speak the language, neither Mark nor I understood – at all – what was being said (although if we had to guess, we would have guessed that they were asking us to leave the theater). We were sitting in the front row of the theater because we arrived just before the movie began, so we looked around the theater – of which, I might add, every single seat was occupied – and no one moved. It’s like the announcement hadn’t even happened. Had we imagined it? Alarm again, except this time, the announcement that came over the loudspeaker was in English (I KNOW THAT!): “Ladies and Gentlemen, please exit the theater as quickly and as quietly as possible”… We looked around again, and this time we saw 3-4 guys stand up. One of them said something – in French – which we took to mean that they would go check it out, since no one else moved. A short time later they came back and said something – in French – which got a little laugh (very little. The French aren’t very demonstrative, at least not at the movies, we’ve noticed… not like sitting at Mama Mia and singing along with everyone in the theater to Dancing Queen, like we did at home…), and to which everyone stayed in their seats. We guessed they said something like “false alarm.”

The fact that Mark and I were in the very front row because we got there late reminded me that when Mom and I were visiting Larry in Hong Kong, we thought we would go see a movie there. The one we were planning to see was Avatar (I still have not seen it. Can you tell we didn’t go in Hong Kong? It was sold out for the entire week we were there.). One thing Larry told us about movie theaters in Hong Kong is that, just like at a concert, you purchase the actual seat where you’ll be sitting; it’s not General Admission. At first, Larry didn’t think he would like it, but then he went once. And he didn’t have to show up 30 minutes early to get in line for a good seat. He just had to show up at the time listed because he already had his ticket for *his* seat. BRILLIANT! That’s all it took – just once – for him to be hooked! I bet it’s tough being back in the States, hey, Lar?

Experience number three was with Abby at We Bought a Zoo. Fun movie! My story at this movie has nothing to do with the actual movie (see it! Although it is predictable in a lot of ways, it is based on a true story and it also has some great lines that I would like to remember… but I won’t post them here to ruin it for you…), the story here is just with the experience before the movie. When we were waiting to go in, there was a couple there who said something in French to us, only we didn’t know what they were saying because (you got it) I don’t speak French. Maybe it was because they don’t speak French, either, that we (or at least Abby) didn’t understand them! I used my standard “Je ne comprende pas,” and they began speaking English. It turns out that they are from Massachusetts (Arlington) and he is on a sabbatical from Northeastern’s Math Department, and his wife took a leave of absence from her job to join him (sound familiar?). They arrived in March and were going to be here till the end of May, after which time they were going to Italy for a couple of weeks prior to heading home. It was fun to talk with them and compare experiences. They told me which street they live on, only I don’t know the names of any of the streets here, or at least not the REAL names of streets. They pulled out their map and showed me where they’re staying, and where they had stayed the first month they were here. She has been spending her time painting, which sounds like it has been delightful for her. She and I exchanged email addresses and planned to have tea one day in between our company visits… which we did. It was nice to be able to speak in English with someone experiencing the city much like I am.

Nothing of note to tell about Hunger Games, except we thought that for the most part they captured the book pretty well for a two-hour movie. I thought the cornucopia could have been cooler than it was; it seemed to lack imagination, but other than that, nothing to talk about here. I just didn’t want you to think that I had unintentionally skipped it.

Now on to MOVIE WEEK! I had wanted to see Dark Shadows since I started to see the movie posters for it the past couple of months. I couldn’t convince Mark to join me, since he hadn’t watch the soap opera as I had growing up. It’s a Tim Burton movie, and actually had some funny moments in it (I especially liked Barnabus’ reaction to McDonald’s). I think Mark would have enjoyed it as the light and entertaining movie that it was.

I let Mark pick the next movie and that was my first mistake. The second mistake was that I went with him to see it. He wanted to see On the Road. He had read the Jack Kerouac book that the movie was based on and had wanted to see how they did the movie. The only redeeming factor that I could find was that we actually watched it on the same day it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival (May 23rd); it hasn’t come out in the States yet. It’s probably a movie that the critics will love; I tend to not like movies that the critics rave about (think: Chariots of Fire, Unforgiven, and Out of Africa…). But because On the Road isn’t out in the States yet, and wasn’t out anywhere, actually, I didn’t have any reviews to go on (or to disagree with). So I went. Mark says I was seething during the movie. I don’t think I was seething, but I wasn’t happy. Nothing happens! *Not* nothing good happens, just NOTHING HAPPENS. If you’ve read the book, maybe you’d be interested. Mark is glad he saw it, even though he cannot say that he *liked* it. I dunno… read the book maybe. Or not. Or see the movie if you want, but just know that I didn’t like it. Kristin Stewart (Mary Lou) has a very flat affect and the main characters (Sal and Dean) didn’t draw me to them. In fact, during one scene towards the end of the movie I remember thinking that I wish Dean would just die! Then I could go home. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but that’s what I was thinking.

Which brings me to Moonrise Kingdom. Another one from Cannes; in fact, it opened the festival on May 16th (we saw it on the 25th). What a quirky, fun movie! Like Little Miss Sunshine quirky. Campy, funny, great music (GREAT MUSIC!)… I LOVED this movie! Just don’t watch the trailer. They give too much away in the trailer (why do they DO that?). I had seen the trailer, Mark hadn’t, and I was glad he hadn’t. When we came home, we watched the trailer (isn’t that how everyone watches trailers??) and he agreed that it gave too much away. Forgive me if I’ve written about this already (or perhaps I wrote about it on my mom’s CaringBridge site…), but it reminded me of my first memory, or at least my first vivid memory: I was about 4-years-old and I was hiding behind the green chair in our living room with a portable record player. Lynn and Larry were at school, so I had the house to myself (I liked it even then!). I kept playing over and over and over again the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. This movie brought me back to behind that green chair as a 4-year-old. Here’s these kids, playing records on their little portable record player. Theirs was battery operated; mine was plugged in. Theirs was blue; mine was green. And instead of listening to Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus over and over again, they were listening to the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Leonard Bernstein. Boom. I’m right back there, behind that green chair. In fact, while I’m writing this post, I’m listening to the Hallelujah Chorus. Still gives me chills.

Now for the other memory with that movie: we walked to Le Club, which is a whole five blocks or so from our apartment. It was a warm, sunny day when we arrived at the movie (around 5). When we got out of the movie, it was raining. Hard. And because it had been sunny when we arrived, we didn’t have umbrellas with us (we didn’t think we needed our insurance because there hadn’t been a cloud in the sky! Have you ever noticed that if you bring an umbrella you never get rained on? But if you don’t bring it, you do? Thus the reason we call it our insurance…). So we waited until it seemed to start clearing and started to walk home. Only then it REALLY started to rain! And thunder and lightning! The video I took captured the rain better than the still shots… only I haven’t uploaded them anywhere, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Our neighbors waiting out the storm, who had their insurance… guess it didn’t work out so well for them. Hmmm……

This is the lovely house, just to the left of Le Club, that Mark told all our company we put an offer on. The day we got caught in the rain he said, “If we had bought that house, we’d be home by now!”

When we got back and watched the trailer, we also read up about the movie, too. The director was the same one who had done Fantastic Mr. Fox a few years ago. We had seen this in the theater one Thanksgiving when Dan and Cara (who were engaged) and Hannah and Seth (who were newlyweds) were home, so 2009. Anyway, that movie didn’t do anything for me. So I was surprised this was the same director.

And this brings us to our final movie of MOVIE WEEK! In France, this movie is known as Indian Palace, but in the States it’s known as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. FUN movie! I laughed, I cried, I tried to remember a bunch of great lines because it was so well-written. I tried not to think of my mom (impossible), I thought, “Mom would have loved this movie…” and I didn’t want it to end. When we came back to watch that trailer, we both thought that (although they did include some of the funniest parts of the movie) the trailer didn’t give away the entire story like some other movies’ trailers (think Moonrise Kingdom) do. Good writing, good ensemble cast… but don’t take MY word for it! Go see for yourself.