Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Own Personal Seinfeld Moment

The other day, La Belette Rouge posted about the probability of her getting to fly Business Class on her flight to Paris in July. In tribute to her post, I would like to tell you my experience of a trans-Atlantic flight on Business Class.

The year was 2005, the plane was an Airbus long haul craft operated by Lufthansa, the destination was Rome. The origin was somewhere on the West Coast. We were a family of four, traveling with a so-called Friend. :)

We invited Friend to come with us on this trip, as she usually traveled with us, and she happily discovered that she had enough miles to fly Business Class.

When we got to the airport, she tried to convince the gal at the counter to upgrade our family, so we could be with her in luxury. The lady said sure. But it would cost us dearly. $850. Per person! Each way.

As we boarded the flight, said our goodbye's to Friend and parted ways, she assured us she would come back and check on us. Incidentally, we were in the 2nd row behind The Curtain, which separated the classy people from the sardines (us). That meant that we were literally just a few steps away from Friend, with The Curtain being a one-way prison door to be used only by Biz Class who wanted to come see how bad it was back here and laugh at Family of Four having a nightmare flight. (No, she did not laugh, really).
But I was impressed with Lufthansa. They were efficient, clean and the seats weren't as bad as the hellish flight to Paris on Air Canada a few years before. (LBR described our flight exactly in her post). Lufthansa fed us well, we had good movies, and it was so far the best long haul flight we'd had.

Six hours into the flight, Friend decided to get out of her cocoon and come check on us. She made the 9 steps trek down into the belly of the beast (Coach) and with a smile asked how our dinner was. I raved about the Greek Pasta for dinner, we said the seats were not bad, and "by the way, I thought you were coming to check on us like 5 hours ago?" She smiled and said she had been busy with dinner. "So what did you have for dinner?" I asked.

She hesitated. Then she said, " crab." Snow crab?! I said, disgusted, because I love snow crab!
Then she said, "Well, that was the starter. Then I had...." and she proceeded to tell me all the courses presented, and "did I mention they dressed my table with linens and china?" Thank you, dear Friend, for mentioning that as well. I really hated my arm-rest tray that had a coffee ring from the previous flight still on it. I could have used that linen table cloth.

Then she said, "I have a present for you." And she handed me a pair of long, blue, thick Lufthansa socks. I asked where they came from and she said, "Oh, in my goody-bag I got when I boarded. I thought you might need them back here." Goody bag??? I snatched them from her and promptly stuck my lower class feet into them and decided that I was definitely made for Biz Class.
I needed to take some meds and could not get the flight attendant's attention to ask for some water, to Friend said she'd go get me some from her section. She popped back through The Curtain with a glass of water for me. A GLASS, a real glass. I began to laugh and said, "We're gonna get busted for being caught with this!"

After I gulped it down, she took it and said, "Ok, I'll go back to my seat now, but I'll make sure and send you back some of the warm, fresh baked cookies when they're ready."

Well, we never got them (I think she passed out in her cocoon seat) and when we landed in Frankfurt we made our way through customs and to our gate to wait the 2 hours until the connecting flight to Rome was ready for boarding. We sat down on uncomfortable (efficient)German airport chairs, feeling like death because of the flight and the fact that our bodies were screaming out "It's 2am!", when Friend announces with a look of guilt upon her face, "Um, could you watch my stuff, I'm gonna go into The Lounge." What is THE LOUNGE? I knew nothing of a so-called Lounge, other than where we were supposed to lounge, and we were already there.

"Well, they have a Business Class lounge for those flying in Biz Class. Do you want me to get you some coffee in there?"

I think that at that point, I decided that we never should have invited Friend on the trip at all, and how could she ditch us for The Lounge, after just having 12 hours of pure luxury?!
She came back about an hour later bearing gifts for the kids. She brought gummy bears and cookies. Then she handed me her boarding pass and said, "They didn't check my ID at all. Take this and go inside! I left early so you could go!" She was so excited for me to go in, but I was terrified. What if they caught me? Would I get arrested by the Airport Police and be deported without my family?
I walked to the inconspicuous door that led to The Lounge. When I opened the door, there was a marble floor and seated at the desk was a lady with perfect makeup and a French Twist. I showed her the pass and she smiled and pointed the way. I opened the huge double doors and as I entered The Lounge, I swear I heard a choir singing "Ahhhhhhhhhhh!" It was fabulous! It was all leather! There was a cookie buffet and espresso machines and a bar! There was a sign pointing the way to the showers! Whaaaa?!

I got a cappuccino, and sat down in one of the leather chairs that instantly began to massage my poor, sore, Coach Class bum.

But I could not fully relax. I felt out of place. I was ragged from 12 hours of coach, and I couldn't help feeling completely guilty sitting in luxury while Hubby and kids were out in the torture chamber, heads bobbing violently because the body was on Pacific Standard Time.

I think I lasted all of 8 minutes. I walked out, cursing rich people and diligent Mileage Plus hoarders who didn't make the mistake of prematurely cashing in their miles for a coach class ticket to Cabo.
I got a taste of Business Class. It's something I can't forget now. It's something that I will dwell on the entire flight this coming spring, when we are squished in like sardines, with no warm cookies to console us and no eye-masks so we can at least try to go to a Happy Place in our minds and shut out the annoying seat-neighbors.

I will, however, accrue miles on this flight and then have enough to go to Hawaii. Coach Class.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

European Weekend

We had quite the European week! It started off with a trip to Redbox to rent Mr. Bean's Holiday. If you haven't seen this, it's about Mr. Bean going to France. I was intrigued by it when I saw the previews last summer. The line that stuck in my head was, "France is finally getting what it deserves!"

While we laughed at a few parts (oysters on the half shell...been there, almost vomited into a linen napkin), I was much more annoyed than anything. I guess I'm just more of a Clouseau fan.

Then my friend arrived from Toulouse and we made Mexican food, Chocolate Chip Cookies and had micro brew; things she cannot get over there. The kids gorged themselves on the Kinder Maxis she brought, and I was heureuse to receive a brand spanking new box of Poulain 1848--a gift sent from a mutual friend in Toulouse. Oh yes, I also got a box of Bonne Maman Framboise Tartelettes!

We went out of town to take her to the airport and spend the weekend in the city. We went to a new favorite restaurant of ours. No, it's not French, it's German! This is our third time there and I just have to get the same thing each time. It's a chicken schnitzel (I previously thought a schnitzel was a hot dog bought from triangular shaped building--you SoCal people know what I'm talkin' about!) with grilled sliced portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, all covered in a scrumptious garlicky sauce. Washed down with my new favorite beer in the world, Spaten Optimator on draft. We topped dinner off with a dozen Krispy Kremes. The things you do for friends abroad ;)

Sunday we passed by a new Ikea. Now, call me oblivious, but I never knew what this store was before 2 days ago. Yes, yes, I knew it was a Swedish furniture store, and I've been on . But I did not know what the actual shopping experience was like. I think my life changed on Sunday!

We needed some bar stools, so we decided to pop in. Looking back, I guess "Popping in" Ikea is probably something that's never been done before. Our "popping in" lasted over 2 hours. As we passed through the portal (aka front doors), we saw we were to ascend to the upper floor via The Escalator, ushered in by arrows pointing the way, assuring us that upstairs was the only place to start.
When I got to the top, and looked around, at first glance it reminded me of a store we frequented in Toulouse, Midica. Ikea is like Midica on steroids. Ok, Midica is a low-budget rip off of Ikea.
To make a long story short, we had a blast looking at all the reasonably priced stuff, and we found our bar stools, a bargain at less than $20! We got a battery powered milk frother for $1.99, just because it was so cute. We bought the Ikea coffee, and as I spit it out in revolt this morning, realized why it was only $2.49. The frother works though.

But the most amazing part to me, (besides the shopping carts that look like walkers for the elderly, which is what prompted me to yell at the eldest child when I thought she stole a poor old lady's only means of standing upright) was that there was a restaurant that actually served good looking food at good prices! We had to try.

It was hilarious to be sitting in a furniture store eating a mozzarella/basil/tomato salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil that were on the table as regular condiments. In a furniture store! Oh yes, and I chose a table that made me think of blogger friend My Inner French Girl. Our table was against the huge wall photo of Stockholm!

I think it was a nice weekend. :)

So are you a Chief Inspector Clouseau Fan, or a Mr. Bean Fan?

Monday, December 17, 2007


With several family members and friends moving to/going to/coming back from Hawaii, and having nasty gray, rainy, cold days here....and talking to friends in France who are having the same weather as us......I said to Hubby yesterday, "Why the heck are we going to France for a month, and not Tahiti???????!!!!!!!" I'll take Hawaii for a month as well, since I've never actually been to Tahiti and I love Hawaii.

I feel out of love with France right now and am longing to go someplace warm and tropical. And someplace where the dollar actually has some value. I long to be back on the beach, soaking up that warm, healing Hawaiian sun. I long for a Maui Sunset. I need a Mai Tai from Aloha Mixed Plate, garnished with a purple orchid. I want to eat pineapple until my mouth gets raw. I want to hear waves lapping against the shore. I want to be tan.

So, my dear readers, does anyone want to make me feel better for choosing to spend a month in a climate the same as mine here, spending way too much money just to buy groceries because our dollar is worth nothing now, and paying $7 gallon for essence (gasoline)?! It's only $3.98 right now on the Islands.

Wahhhhhhhhhh. I know.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I got tagged by the LBR to do a Four by Four Meme. Et voila...

What four things did you love most about living in France?

  1. I LOVED the outdoor markets. The produce is so gorgeous and 9 times out of 10 tastes even better than it looks! I also love that fact that if I wanted (never did) I could buy a live chicken in a cage and then kill it myself for dinner. No thanks. But I appreciate that the offer is there!
  2. I loved the rituals of the meals. Always aperitif first, (drinks, olives, chips, nuts, etc) then the meal (my favorite part is the cheese course and dessert!) and then coffees after. ALWAYS.
  3. I loved the countryside when the sunflowers were in full bloom. Ahhhhh.....
  4. I loved the tradition of taking a coffee break (or beer break) in a cafe and just drinking in France.

What four most memorable jobs you have had?

  1. My very first job was at a little "French" restaurant, in a little strip mall, in our little town. It had the ambiance of an office with some tables dressed in linens. I don't think the owners had ever been to France, though they did own a local vineyard. I was 16 and I was hired as a dishwasher because I was too young to serve alcohol. One night, the owner/cook got furious that his ugly tomato garnish came back in the kitchen untouched (the meal itself eaten) and he freaked out and put it on the next plate going out! I quit that night.
  2. My second job moved up a few notches. McDo! I actually learned a great work ethic there that I kept for my future jobs.
  3. As a 'tween, my friend and I needed some cash, so we spent all day long in the hot sun picking strawberries at the local farm. We thought for sure we had hit the jackpot and earned perhapas hundreds. We got about $1.49 each.
  4. I still dream about 20's era job....I'm filing and filing my night a manicurist!

Four quirky things about the way I eat (and drink)

  1. I don't know if this qualifies for quirky, but I absolutely cannot NOT have a sweet (preferably chocolate) and coffee after a meal! Is this what happens when we get older? Or is this a side effect of living in France?
  2. I don't eat this anymore, but as a kid/teen/young adult I created this sandwich and ate it all the time: Peanut butter, mozzerella cheese and Cheetos. Don't think I can do this nowadays.
  3. I love pancakes with syrup, but I cannot pour the syrup all over the pancakes. I have to pour a bit on each bite, so the pancakes don't get soggy.
  4. I wipe my fingers off with each bite of pizza. I use like 90 napkins per pizza-eating session. Seems a lot more than everyone else, when I look at the pile of used napkins.

What are your four favorite foods?

  1. Chocolate
  2. Pastries
  3. Pasta
  4. Cheese

Four recipes you cook all the time?

  1. Goat Cheese Rosemary Tart (Emeril)
  2. Various Pasta Dishes
  3. Peanut Butter and Butter Sandwiches
  4. Cranberry Spinach Salad

Four people who I'd like to participate in this Même?

  1. Hidden Zipper
  2. French for Awhile
  3. Chronques des Appalaches
  4. Florida to France

Friday, December 7, 2007

You're A Corker!

As I read La Belette Rouge's list of what she was going to buy in a Paris Pharmacie, it made me think of what I went into the pharmacie for two years ago, the last time I was in Paris. LBR's list was so exotic, chic and trés interesting. I never really spent much time looking at products in them, because I was always there for a specific item, or to talk to the pharmacist about an ailment. One thing in France that is cool, is that you can give the pharmacist your symptoms and they can prescribe you a medicament on the spot.

Which brings us back to the last pharmacie we went to in Paris. We had been to Italy the previous week and arrived in Paris for a two day stay to visit my friend, who I'll call S. Before we met up with her, my hubby reluctantly summoned me for major help. He only had to say one word, bouchon, for me to know that I was going to have to do some embarrassing translating.

Bouchon is a longstanding joke with us, thanks to S. She was visiting us in the States when she pulled out some medicine once and told me she had to take it because she didn't want a bouchon. Bouchon means cork. You figure it out.

As I moaned and groaned about asking the pharmacist for the proper tire-bouchon magic pill, Hubby says, "And don't you dare say it's for me!" Suuuuuure, sweetie-pie. I told him not to worry, I'd take care of it.

So I'm now in the position of being in the most glamorous city in the world, asking for the most unglamorous of items. Pas chic. I walked up to the counter where there was a young, pretty pharmacist ready to help. I told her quietly what I was looking for. She started asking me all these questions that needed detailed answers and, red-faced, I betrayed my husbands honor and blurted out "Oh Madame, I don't have this problem. It's my husband over there (hiding behind the Band-Aids) who has the issue and needs the pills....but he doesn't want you to know. But don't worry, he doesn't speak French!" She looked at me, understanding, and I knew what she was thinking...she thought I was a really crotte-y wife.

So, I guess I got paybacks for that, because a few days later when we were in Toulouse, as my husband and kids rode a carousel in the park, I sort of jogged over towards it to grab the video camera from my Hubby and I tripped on the power cord of the carousel....and in the most nerdy, geeky and un-chic way, fell right onto all fours in front of my family, my friends and the French lady who sneered and rolled her eyes as if I had no right to trip in front of her. She must have had a bouchon.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hey Rach, Can I have My Job Back?

Everyone who knows me in real life can attest to the fact that I have always wanted Rachael Ray's $40 a Day job, and let me emphasize it was well before her TV personality existed. And I wouldn't use lame-o words either, to make you hate me hoping I would eat some bad escargot on the Paris episode!
In my circle of friends and acquaintances, I am known for being the Unpaid Travel Agent. I have people calling me and asking for help with trips and even though it takes a lot of time, I just love it!
I even tried to make some money at it, and failed. Before I was HTML savvy, a relative made a "travel advice" website for me. But I just couldn't figure out how I would charge people for advice that I thought should be helpful and budget conscious. Then I, embarrassingly, got roped into a "Become a Travel Agent from Home" scheme that I am only divulging to you all because I remain anonymous. (Funny that the company fell through just days after they received my $69. )
I also wrote for when it was just a baby. And that is where I actually did make money! I made exactly $440.06 total from writing travel reviews. I even used my I'm-a-paid-travel-reviewer clout one time on an airline when they refused to change our seat assignment so my then 3-year old daughter wasn't sitting 40 rows behind me next to a stranger.

I made homemade destination packets for friends going to Hawaii, and they actually used them and said it really made their trip! Recently I helped a dear friend's sister (who I only know through e-mail) with her first trip to Paris. I got the nicest thank-you and I really do feel there is more happiness in giving, especially when it involves travel.

I'm no longer wishing to make money with travel advice, that was just an early-Internet-Days dream. I moved on to Ebay and found myself a little niche there back then. But speaking of Epinions, I haven't been back to that site in years to write anything. So, inspired by speaking about it in this post, I opened up my account, and after plugging in 100 different passwords I possibly could have used back in 1999, I finally found the winning number.

I have been reading my stuff and I have a mixture of feelings about it. Now that I am writing again, I find that I wrote about many of the same feelings and experiences that I have here. Some of the phrases are the same, some are how I wanted to portray it 8 years ago but didn't have the articulation that I do now (not that I am articulate, just more-so than back then.) I have the same sense of humor, the same pet-peeves and the same passions, only maybe more balanced nowadays.

And so back to Rachael, I still believe she stole my job idea. And you would have liked me! I would never have tried to force you to say "EVOO" and I still would have taken you to Paris, sure, but I would also take you to lesser-known places that I fell in love with and that is where I'd make you a nice comfy spot to watch and dream and you would quickly fall in love with those places too....

And so, with that in mind, let me leave you with a YouTube video I found of Carcassonne. It is hours from Paris, but the charm of this Cité leaves the City of Lights in the my Epinion anyway.