Sunday, March 7, 2010

Exodus (Epilogue Part 2)

Our plan for the morning was ill-conceived from the start: “We’ve got PLENTY of time… another croissant, a second cup of coffee, sure, why not… let’s try and wade through the French newspapers – that’s always a speedy chore.”

Finally off to l’Aeroport Paris-Roissy Charles De Gaulle. Wow… this place is big. There’s like, three separate airports here. Which one do we go to? Well, since we spent last night logged in at the hotel confirming our flights, locating the proper terminal and planning out where one finds a gas station and how one returns a rental car, we’ve got it all figured out. Wait, we drank a bottle of wine and went to sleep? Wow, we’re in trouble.

After at least two laps around the entire CDG complex with nary a filling station in sight, we finally pulled the family truckster into a *tiny* parking area outside what appeared to be the departures desk. Now the challenge – getting everything into the hands of the airline employees. I quickly commandeered a luggage cart but while hurrying back to the van was stopped by a man in a blue warm-up jacket, who seemed to be telling me that the cart belonged to him but that he would gladly carry my bags for me for a mere 5 euro. I chuckled and thought, “this guy’s going to get a good tip if he gets this all in.” Upon seeing our beast of overburden, he called for backup. Once we were properly inserted in the “passengers needing special assistance line, “ Blue Coat turned to me and demanded 90 Euro. 5 euro per bag. Wow, woops. I’m going to have to hit you back after I find an ATM. Right now, I need to go return the car or I’m going to miss this flight.

I managed to find the correct garage and I could see the signs indicating the spots in which one is to park one’s rental car. I could see them. Right there… right, past, the, barricades. No matter which aisle I drove down, there were the empty spots, beckoning me on the other side of very solid looking barriers. After managing to dash the wrong way through an open gate before it swung closed, I parked the car, left a massive wad of wind-shredded blue tarp, duct tape, and twine in back of van and sprinted to the rental return counter back in the terminal whereupon I encountered a wholly disinterested desk attendant engaged with a wholly exercised British man who was quite upset about something.

Meanwhile, I’d left Amy in conversation with the ticket agent to negotiate the 10 pieces of luggage, 8 carry-ons, 2 car seats and a stroller, the cost of the overweight pieces and the extra pieces. Good thing the kids were perfectly well behaved. Yeah, right. They’re like dogs – they sense fear. In the end it was a big smile, an “I was told this” with proof in writing, a huge MERCI BEAUCOUP, a manager that took pity on them and who crossed off one exorbitantly high priced bag and said “I’m only going to charge you this (re-writing) put the rest to the kids college accounts.” Clearly, things were going better for her than for me.

The Brit having finally resolved himself to accept that the French counterman was genetically incapable of enlightenment regarding whatever it was that had him so exercised, I stepped forward, announced my intention to return the van, provided the general location within the garage in which I had left it, and was promptly handed a printed receipt and sent on my way. I stood dumbfounded for a nanosecond before dashing away to rescue my family.

I returned to see Amy with strollered cherubs, carry-on items, and an official-looking CDG employee (the aforementioned charitable manager) standing just outside the corridor to the departure gates… none of them looking particularly patient or calm. “We’re all set,” Amy told me, “let’s go!” Apparently, we were to be rushed to the gate, our luggage already theoretically en route to the belly of the plane. I stepped in line, thanked the manager for what I could only assume was some massive bending of standard operating procedure, slung two carry-ons over my shoulder and plowed ahead. As we were about to pass through an initial security check to access the gate areas, my old friend the Blue Coat came up to me, again demanding his 90 euros. I turned to Amy and promptly threw her to the wolves with a “you haven’t paid them!?” I turned back to Blue Coat pulled out all the money I had in my pocket, handed it to him and, looking him directly in the eye, said, “it’s all I have. I’m sorry. Thank you” and I put out my hand. Something clicked in him… be it the look in my eye, the circus of an entourage that I was leading, or the memory of some hopeless situation he may have found himself in with his own family because he shook my hand, and said, “okay. Bon voyage.” And with that last example of the French proving their miserable stereotype backwards, we were off, up the escalator and to the gate. It would all be smooth sailing from here, for sure.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Homeward Bound

As I sit at my desk and juggle documents, emails, and (worse) a schedule packed with hockey class, ballet lessons, and sundry other of life’s mundane everyday treasures, it occurs to me that, indeed, this weekend will mark the one year anniversary of our return from France. My immediate thought is “a perfect excuse to uncork one of the bottles of wine we brought back and pair it with a full-on gourmet French meal!” Quickly, though, a nagging, nervous, “haven’t done your homework” feeling swept into the pit of my stomach. As the adrenaline sat bitter on my tongue, I knew what had to be done.


It’s with great shame that I acknowledge that we never finished the story of our return trip, not to mention having neglected this space since September. I’m sure that you, loyal readers, assumed that everything went so perfectly smooth that there really was nothing to tell. No comic asides or outrageous anecdotes to recount. No ridiculous situations in which we found ourselves through a combination of fate, foolishness, and naiveté. But I jest, bien sûr. You’ve been reading along with us long enough to know that there was no way we were going to pull this off without more absurd episodes, missteps, misfortunes, and of course beautiful misery.

So it is with this teaser that I commit to complete our story and present it here over the weekend, in marking one year since our return. Whether this will re-invigorate regular contributions to our poor, neglected blog, I can’t promise, though I do hope we can get back to making quasi-regular entries. And if you want to see that happen, feel free to nag us about it… peer pressure certainly helps!

Until the story continues…

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Miles from Nowhere

So we boldly took a 2 and almost 4 year old camping this past weekend for the long weekend. We went to one of our “pre-kid” favorite camping spots – Acadia National Park, Maine (if you have never been there, go! It is gorgeous). There was A LOT of pre-planning and fore-thought in order to make this long weekend a success. It sure did not hurt that we were going with 3 of our close friends and that they had 2 kids Ellie & Cole’s age. The kids had a blast running around, playing on the huge rocks, hiking and just being in nature. Also, it helped that the people on the site next to us had an only child who was very outgoing!

All in all, things went very well. No one got burned in the fire pit, no one got eaten by bears and there were only a few falls (mostly by kids other than ours). We bought a new family tent -- anyone who has been on "guy camping weekend" knows we needed one. The tent has 2 rooms (a zip up divider – kids on one side, us on the other.) They went to bed like angels because if you tire them out enough during the day and they will be begging to go to bed. The mornings were another story. They tended to wake up very early. Lance and I threw books, toys, stickers, anything in their general direction to try to keep them quiet. One of the mornings, after the fact, I remember hearing Ellie say "I'm going to cut your hair." Now, mind you, I was half asleep and I just assumed that they were pretend playing so I sort of dozed back off again...UNTIL I felt a tugging on my own hair. Immediately my eyes were wide open. Apparently the two of them had gotten into my travel toiletries kit and had found not only the eyeliner, the deodorant, the Chapstick, the band-aids, but also the travel nail clippers and mini scissors. When Ellie said “I’m going to cut your hair” she really meant it. I found a one inch piece of hair dangling from Cole’s forehead. Good thing it was not in that prominent a place. And apparently I was about to be her next victim, had I not woken my lazy butt up.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dream the Impossible Dream

So it is 10:21 p.m and I am just taking stock in this day. It is the last Saturday in August before I start school. I should have been on the beach today or relaxing at a spa but instead I never left the house. This day has sucked. It was in the low 60s all day. It rained all day (sometimes down poured) -- thanks Hurricane Danny and the Nor’easter it brought with it. I wore pants and a long sleeve shirt all day. But most importantly today I spent the entire day watching TV. I spent the day watching Senator Kennedy's memorial and funeral. I feel as though I have been in a fog all day. I never knew him, of course, but the services were so very poignant and moving. What an amazing man, what a powerful family. Clearly I know that not everyone in the US was as enthralled as I -- being in Boston this week, one has had little chance to escape it. But as a tribute – thank you Senator Kennedy for dedicating your life to serving the underprivileged and underrepresented. You were truly an amazing man and you gave up so much of yourself, and your family life, for public service.

Monday, June 29, 2009


It’s Monday. The second Monday at my new job. Actually, it’s really the first “Monday” because the first day of work doesn’t really count, does it? And what has this muggy, wet Monday morning wrought? Allow me to share.

I should have taken note when shortly before midnight last night, the power went out. Things seemed generally lacking ill omen this morning, notwithstanding the myriad displays blinking “12:00” at me like so many groggy Monday eyes just passing the minutes until that first cup of coffee.

My mind focused intensely a bit later when I thought for a brief moment I may need to duck behind the dashboard in hopes that the engine would block any stray bullets from either the Cambridge or the Somerville Officer who, in a triumph of municipal cooperation, had surrounded a white sedan not 100 feet in front of me and were approaching with sidearms drawn.

Having survived the commute unriddled, I walked into our building – our beautiful, brand-new, “green” certified building and was greeted by hastily printed, hand-highlighted signs at the elevators and (it turns out) throughout the building declaring:


I would find walls drilled open and work crews running fans and dehumidifiers in an attempt to remediate the damage from what was apparently a burst water pipe. And yes, the same spelling error was made in all of the signs.

In the midst of the cleanup crews, I was greeted by an unyielding security pad that refused to unlock the doors despite repeated and enthusiastic waving of my “Temp” badge security card. I’m hopeful that, after a week here, someone might figure out how to get me my permanent card.

To cap off this glorious morning, I overcooked my instant oatmeal in the microwave and, while cleaning up that mess, realized that I’d left my lunch in the fridge at home.

This all before 9:30.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I Fought the Law

In the spirit of the French version of the blog (i.e., "the random stuff that happens to us in our life") this blog is a taste of our city living, our Davis Square life. This blog is about trash and the escapades that one can have with trash. As mentioned in our France blog (a long time ago) we had problems with the trash in our village. Although there were only 5 families in our hamlet, someone in the hamlet could not understand the concept of putting the trash in the dumpster and closing the lid - hence critters had a field day (rather big critters from the looks of things... big, French critters). One day Team Davis did a clean up - I could not stand it any longer.

Fast Forward to the city life version. We have the same problem with critters in Somerville, except these ones are little and have rodent-like qualities... all of them, actually... they are rodents. The problem is generally at the other end of the city but, understandably, the City of Somerville impossed an ordinance that required everyone to put their trash bags in a barrel on the street so that critters could not rip open the bags and maintain the food chain. Normally, Lance does the trash but one day I decided I would pitch in (Lance was at a job interview and I thought it would be a nice gesture). I pulled out the recycling bin and put the lone garbage bag on the street. It was kind of amazing that we only had one bag and I thought "Why bother pulling the barrel out when I can just plunk down the bag?" Lance came home and this was the exchange:

LD" "Thanks, honey but you know we need to put it in the barrel, right?"

AD: "No we don't. It will be fine."

LD: "There's a city ordinance, we can get a ticket."

AD (with all the CONFIDENCE IN THE WORLD): "What? That's ridiculous. How are they going to give us a ticket? (scoff)!"

To be honesy with you, it was sheer laziness. I just did not want to drag out the barrel and I thought I was RIGHT. So you can guess what happens next - I ate crow pie. I thought I was home free when I came home and there was not ticket in the mailbox. "See? it's fine." I confidentally proclaimed. Then, a few days later, a ticket arrived in the mail. Damn them!

I boldly appealled the ticket. So, today was the hearing at 5:30. I dragged the two kids with toys, snacks and drinks in tow for the sympathy vote. We arrived to a room full of people and signed in. We were #18. Seriously - there are this many people appealing trash tickets??????? So I embarked on feeding and entertaining the kids. I took notice of the "Man/Not Man" person sitting near us. If you know Lance and I, you know we play "Man/Not Man?" whenever appropriate. So the kid factor comes into play and we ended up getting called about 4 people before we should have as the kids were getting antsy in the stroller and the guy hearing office took pity on us. I go in to the hearing room and explained the situation. They had a photo of our trash on that day (thanks iPhone) sitting there, sans barrel. After hearing my story; that we thought we were doing a favor for my unemployed husband, the hearing officer clearly insisted that that garbage bag must not have been ours. When I had that confused moment and look on my face, he insisted even more. So he declared we were all clear. Oh city living.

So I guess these trash problems digressed a bit but came back together in the end. Both were problems that had critters at the root and both were the result of lazy people. At least in this case, there was a lesson learned.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Can't Find My Way Home (Epilogue Part 1)

[What follows is the first installment of a long-overdue account of our exhausting, emotional, stress-filled, ridiculous journey home from France. More to follow...]

It was Spring in Provence, or at least the change of seasons was threatening. Harbingers sprung with every turn -- almond trees, once lost ugly skeletons randomly interrupting the brown winter viewscape, donned delicate white flowers and announced themselves as more than a crooked eyesore. Geckos skittered about the rocks in the courtyard, soaking every degree of sun into their cold scaly skin. And flowers. Flowers bloomed -- white crocus and beautiful purple iris, paying no mind to the calendar that still said "Février." Rows of what would soon be asparagus were covered in fresh plastic to capture the warmth and Vignerons raced against time to finish their winter pruning before the new season's vines burst from the noble old trunks. All of it seemed to say, "wait... don't leave yet, it's just getting good!"

Yet global financial crises, recession, depression, oppresion, the economic realities of our time, paid no mind to the seasonal benchmarks of a past age. It was time to come home.

Our adventure began on a Thursday morning, many days and even weeks of box and bag packing, weighing, shifting, and sealing having been spent. We drove to the airport south of Nimes, where we would collect our rented minivan. Having asked our friend Amy to speak with the rental company to ensure that we could pick up the car earlier than our 11:00 reservation provided (oh yes, we're open at 9:00, we were assured), we arrived at the terminal to find... nothing. No one. A giant, empty, polished tile ghost town with a sign at the car rental desk that said, "back at 11:15." Ah, the French.

Once we had van in hand we faced the dauting task of cramming all of our belongings into it. Now mind you, we came over with a full load and we also shipped three boxes to France. That's not to mention everything we'd bought there. We knew we were facing extra fees for our checked "bags" at the airline counter but first we somehow had to get it all to Paris. To this day, I'm still not certain how it really all fit but it did, and we have pictures to prove it.

Amy came over to help watch the kids (and bring coffee, tea, and snacks for the road, one last time earning her wings as our personal angel). She was particularly concerned with the highly uncertain manner in which we'd affixed the bike box to the roof (there being no roof rack) and ran home to get more rope and tie-down straps. Even after adding those, we were all a bit leary so she made us promise to stop at Mr. Bricolage for bungy cords, which we did, and thankfully so -- they did the trick. I could not see any mirror other than the driver's side and if I took a sharp right turn I had a suitcase in my lap but other than that it was perfectly safe.

So we said tearful goodbyes to Amy and Evelyne, took a few last pictures and, like a modern-day European Clampett family, we were off... on one of the most miserable drives of my life. Paris is a LONG way from the South of France, even if you aren't in an overloaded minivan with a giant wind-block tenuously strapped to the roof and two displeased toddlers in the back (with a wife wedged in bewteen them). It was white-knuckly driving the entire seven-plus hour journey, while rain threatened at any moment to turn the over-stuffed cardboard bike box into pulp and leave us with little hope of getting all of its varied contents home. But we drove. And drove and drove. Sometime around 11 PM (or 23H for those keeping European Time), we finally checked wearily into the Suitehotel CDG Paris Nord Deux.

We were pleasantly surprised by the room, though the promised and pre-reserved crib was nowhere to be found. After stealing it, with the assistance of the night clerk, from another room, we settled the kids into their beds, pulled the Asian-style divider that qualified the room for "Suite" status, then cracked open the bottle of wine we'd brought for the occasion (after another trip to the nightclerk for a corkscrew and a quick stop at the lobby computer to post an entry to this blog) and raised one last glass to our French adventure, though it was far from over, as the morning would soon prove....