Sacré bleu! Canalboat Part Deux

Aine fighting off a fever on the train to Agen

Aine fighting off a fever on the train to Agen

Here was the plan, simple and elegant, designed by veteran travellers- Sarah, the kids and I would arrive in Paris at 6:30AM and sort out transportation to Agen, France, while Adrian’s plane comes in at 10:00.  Adrian Vibers me once he’s landed, we rendezvous at the train station, and we’re off to Agen where we meet my parents who guide us to the canalboat for a week excursion.  Wine, cheese, and salty, cured meats on deck while we coast through locks and canals of southwest France?  Mais oui!  Here’s what really happened- both kids were running fevers (Áine threw up on Sarah in flight), Adrian’s plane arrived an hour late, the internet was not working in Charles de Gaulle Airport for Viber, the annual French strikes stopped the trains to Agen and every transportation alternative was different and undecipherable depending on who you ask.  Zut alors!  Here was the solution- I procured directions to another Parisian train station, power-walked the airport to scour for Adrian (only to find him headed my way), scooped up the family and headed to a minibus that whisked us to Gare Montparnasse, hoping to catch a train there.  And here, mes amis, is the coup de grâce- we made it to Montparnasse at 12:20, racing for a 12:25 boarding and were informed that the train was full and we would not be allowed on.  So with a wink from the conductor, we rammed our oversized luggage onto a train we were 70% sure was going to Agen and hopped in without tickets. Soon, we were speeding south through the French countryside.  My parents never heard from us that day, so it was with fleeting hope they waited at the Agen station for the last Paris train to arrive, from which we disembarked, disheveled and exhausted, but intact and ready for a glass of wine.   Continue reading

Signs of a New Year

Warning– Some things in this post are unapologetically inappropriate, dirty and in poor taste.  (Enticing, isn’t it?)

In honor of the upcoming new year, I humbly present to you a collection of signs, advertisements, and billboards during our time overseas.

I was told by an anonymous source (that rhymes with Barah) to provide instructions for any anonymous readers (uh…) who may be unaccustomed to the picture format.  Click on the top left picture, then once its loaded, click on the right arrow at the right of the picture.  Then you can click through all the photos.  Happy New Year, folks!

Our Own Tour de France

Almost all of my experiences abroad have been in Third World countries, so I’ve always been a little intimidated by European travel.  It seemed so organized and sterile, and I felt like developing countries would be much more forgiving of a bumbling traveler than some chic, stiff European city.  My two brief skirmishes were years ago- a day in Hampton Court, England on my way to a 2 year position as a Parks and Wildlife Officer in Malawi, Africa (I ate plate, chips, and peas and drank cider) and on another layover occasion, a day in Amsterdam (which doesn’t really count because I don’t remember anything). Continue reading

A Visit to America via France

Cian didn't even make it on the taxi ride to the airport in Jakarta.

Cian didn’t even make it on the taxi ride to the airport in Jakarta.

Our last day of school was Friday, June 13 and it ended in a whirlwind of grades to complete, events to attend and goodbyes to endure, as all school years do.  Adding to that the sorting and packing as we prepare to return to the States after two weeks in France for summer break gave me no time to write about the last month’s experiences.

We arrived in Paris today after a 12½ hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this morning.  From the airport we took a bus to the 12th arrondissement of Paris, close to the famous Gare de Lyon train station, where we will spend a couple days in a rented apartment before heading (as long as the train strike is over) to Carcasonne in southern France.  We’re meeting my parents (known to the kids as John Deere Mimi and John Deere Pa, named by a younger Cian as they own a riding lawn mower) and sister for a week houseboat cruise on the Canal du Midi, then fly to America from Toulouse.  We return earlier than expected to Jakarta, August 3, so I can run new teacher orientation as Upper School Liaison next year (lingo for grades 6-12 vice-principal while still teaching), taking over for Adrian who is moving to the American School of Lagos.  More on this and the rest of the end of the year to follow.

A view of our very Parisian cafe where we had lunch.

A view of our very Parisian cafe where we had lunch.

Paris is beautiful and the streets and architecture are exactly as you would picture them, but this tropical family is stunned by how cool the temperature is for June: 70ºF if the sun hits you right while today’s forecast for Jakarta is 89ºF no matter where you’re standing.  We had to return to the apartment to find warmer clothes as the kids were crying that they were freezing (secretly, so was I).  We walked around the neighborhood a bit before dropping into a cafe to enjoy escargot, fondue with a baguette and various cured meats, wine and other delicacies we can’t find in Indonesia (I’ve already mentioned Indonesian “cheese” and a bottle of cheaper wine, say Jacob’s Creek, starts at $22 on a good day in Jakarta).  The kids, despite doing well on the trip over, finally gave into jet lag and travel exhaustion, so back to the apartment for sleep.

Our oh-so-French breakfast at a patisserie around the corner from our apartment.

Our oh-so-French breakfast at a patisserie around the corner from our apartment.

I will be back here at the end of the month to regale you on the end of the year’s events and rest of our trip in France, so stay tuned in a few weeks!