It only cost a couple dollars to fill up my convertible VW and together with girlfriends, we set out for too many reckless adventures in High School. Sweet sixteen and tasting freedom from being chauffeured around and tabs being closely kept was easy in the ultra-conservative Orange County where I grew up. The path was well paved and with two more years of high school and college to follow, the world seemed perfectly in order. We foolishly thought we were invincible.
Elderly people on the news for milestone birthdays usually recount the things they would change, and I wonder at the end of it all what I would want different. In college, I took a Greek mythology course, I recall that there are just 7 basic plots to a story and that the rest are just a spin on the originals. One very popular one that pops up time and time again, is the adult going back to do it all again. Or switch bodies and whatever.
Despite my complaints, I couldn’t change things. I am madly in love with my husband and am clear that if I took a different road it would not end the same. If I was required to take a crack at changing a few things, I have a short list that could be altered. I am happy where my life has lead me but every now and then I want to be that ignorant kid, and throw caution to the wind. Maybe France was one of those not so well thought through decisions, but it is will make for interesting stories later in life.
Until you break a bone or loose a loved one, you don’t know what it is like. No safety net or exist strategy. Like being sweet sixteen again and convinced that all will be well. I spent the first part of my school vacation doing a lot of “must’s.” Chez Pierre, family get together, Shopping and so forth. I was bound and determined to be 16 and pursue my adventure for the last week.
The universe answered swiftly with “The Grippe,” an epidemic that has hit Paris and is in the news daily. Basically, I got sick. It happens, and with my immune system comprised from the Bell’s Palsy, and the daily use of public transportation, it had to happen. Despite the illness, I forced myself to continue as though I was fine.
I did stay home one day, I decided to paint the last of the walls needing attention in the bedroom. The wall heater proved a challenge and the many rest breaks needed to nurse the fatigue proved to take the whole day. The result is so wonderful, I felt like a queen in bed trying to watch a movie in bed that night, although distracted by the wonderful new colors surrounding me.
The bedroom is the closest room to be complete still needing a few things to make it perfect. The fact that we use a table next to the dresser to support the TV is a bit odd and unappealing and the fresh paint makes the old tattered and discolored curtains stand out. Rome wasn’t built in a day and this old apartment certainly isn’t going to be California anytime soon.
My Hard work was rewarded with our first trip. I though before I came that taking the train would be fun and easy. I didn’t realize that it is fast and efficient and terribly expensive. Generally, your required to buy a lower fare in advance like a plane ticket and it can’t be changed. This is a bit inconvenient. So just hopping on and heading into London isn’t as easy as hoped. It is a good 200 plus dollars to get there and back, if you’re lucky.
There is an Uber like program that is very popular here called Blah Blah Car. You enter your desired pick up location and the destination you want to go to and the options appear on your phone or computer in regards to the type of car, the cost and time. The drivers ratings also appear and sats about them so that you can stick with a preferred gender if it makes you more comfortable and it is at about ¼ of the cost. We decided to go to Champagne. The Train would be at a minimum 40 euros per person per trip. That’s 80 round trip and 160 for a couple. With Blah Blah Car, we paid 10-12 per person per trip, making it the a 40 euro round trip to go have some champagne.
Since we decided to go at the lat minute, we didn’t arrange for any wine tastings, but we just wanted to scout it out and at the cost of the transportation that was easy. We got there very early, sat in a Paul’s, which is like a Starbucks version of a doughnut house, serving coffee and some of the best pastries you can find for a large chain. After warming up, we headed out to explore.
Notre Dame is a very common name for a church in France. The one in Paris is not the only one. This one proved to be impressive, especially since most of the kings of France were crowned here. There is a beautiful statue of Joan of Arc in the front since it is where Charles VII was crowned with her help. A successful first pouting with promise of returns and plenty of places on the list to see next time around.
The vacation was ending too quickly and suddenly my phone begun to act like we were in California. I was getting text messages? My school mates requested time with me and I felt like my New Year wishes were granted. I made plans to visit Disneyland with The Fitzgerald’s on what proved to be the coldest day we have had to date.
Azer and I went to see the Richard Avedon photography show at the BnF. Every time I go to another new museum I am rewarded in learning a new area that offers me more insight into the city. This time I found food trucks. Each day Paris becomes more of a San Francisco for me and I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that even here they still want a grilled cheese sandwich.
On my last Saturday, I managed to see a children’s film in French and wander new streets I had not yet discovered. Claude boasts to family that I know the city better than his mom, the person in the family that has been here the longest. I am sure he is right, and the wandering has paid off. The city is slightly smaller than San Francisco, although the population is more than double. Being constructed in the shape of a snail shell, it spirals around making it very confusing, and you can easily turn town a couple streets and be lost in a mess of homes no were close to cafes and excitement.
Whenever I find a new street with shops I wish I had money for, I make a mental note to come back. If I knew then what I do now, so many choices would be different. Of course, without having made all those mistakes, I wouldn’t know Paris as well as I do and I continue to seek out places to share with loved ones when they come to visit.
The last of my days off I decided to stay home and watch movies and rest. It was a fun day and it may have been the thing that finally got my cold under control. Although, I admit the coughs still lingers like they always do.
Happily, I returned to school and to my delight Olivier walked into the room. He quickly extinguished my excitement explaining our teacher was ill, and he was just filling in. I was happy to be with my friends again and nervous to meet the other 7 new students although I had met one before the time they tried to move me to the new class.
By the third day of class our new teacher regained her strength and was throwing us to the lions introducing a new tense for us to master. I had arrived early that day to meet with Azer for coffee before class and I had some time to prep and felt well prepared when the subject was brought up. That was the last time I felt prepared and have struggled ever since.
I ended our first week back with a school sponsored private tour of the Tour Jean-sans-Peur to see La Mode du Moyen Âge exhibtion before class. The tour was wonderful and again, I found a new area to explore more in the future. After the tour, I went to my chicken guy at the farmer’s market in front of school, where he happily wished me a good New Year and packed my order without even asking what I wanted. I sat happily on a bench eating my rotisserie chicken and again met Azer to study before class.
Azer is not in the same class as she had to go back to Turkey, but we still see each other a lot and Antonia’s last day was Thursday. She has started a new job and switched to a 3 day a week program in the afternoon’s, worried that work and school will be too hard. She was the last of my classmates that I started with in September.
I clung to Maeve and Juan Marcos feeling the loss. The two of them came into my class months ago, but were not in the original A1class. Now with loads of new people, I have sunk to the bottom in regards to my performance. Thankfully they are a talkative bunch and I have taken the roll of Dabin and only offer an answer when called upon.
I recall feeling this way in the past and know that some days are better than others. I am sure that next week will have more challenges and all I can do is hold on and try to I keep up. I remember Pia telling us that you need to digest the new information and I decided to text her. She immediately answered and asked if I was ok. I told her yes, and plan to visit her Monday after class.
The weekend came at the right time. Feeling fully frustrated and defeated, I decided to engage in a hunt for new drapes for the bedroom. I want to take advantage of one of 2 annual national sales taking place. The government will fine your business if you do not comply to the mandatory sales and I have a list of things I still want or need for the house.
There will be 5 more weeks of school before I finish. Not like being 16 again and knowing the path ahead and choosing to travers it with a youthful freedom. I may not be as fearlessly understanding consequences, but I’ll try to see the adventure in each day, including raising my hand when I’m not sure of the answer. Thirty years of experience has taught me to pick myself up and try again, and so I will.