Americans in Paris

“Nat, it’s Jen. You’re going to love this – I just got off the phone with Dee-Dee. She and Marcy lost their passports.”

“Both of them?”


“Oh, that’s just great.”

“I know. Dee thinks hers was in the pocket of a vest she gave away to the Goodwill a few months ago.”

“You know, I was pretty sure that one of them would lose their passports while we were in Paris, but I really didn’t think that both of them would lose them before we even left the country.”

“They found them!”

“Where were they?”

“Dee-Dee’s was inside a purse on the floor of her closet, covered in clothes that had fallen off the hanger. Marcy’s was in a purse hanging in some rusty lockers at work.”

“Of course.”

Dee and her sister Marcy had already made it through security and purchased neck pillows by the time Natasha and I got to the airport, which instantly calmed my fears and cleared my mind of the image of them stuck in traffic behind an overturned semi and missing our flight. Nat and I decided to break rank and upgrade to Economy Plus, and it was the best decision of my life. Never before has five inches brought me such intense pleasure. (Yes, that’s what she said.)

Dee-Dee and Marcy played cribbage. I read 30 pages of Murder in the Marais before switching to mindless in-flight movies. Natasha studied the history of the Burgundy region. Eight hours later, we landed at Charles de Gaulle airport. After going up and down the same elevator three times to try to find where we could pick up a taxi, we finally made our way to the apartment we had rented on Ile St. Louis.

Even in my jet-lagged state, I couldn’t control the squeals of joy when we opened the door to what would be our home for the next five days. There were antiques everywhere, a tiny troll bed under the staircase to the loft, a four-foot deep bathtub, an entire wall of Paris guidebooks, and most importantly, a bottle of wine and four glasses waiting for us.


That first day is a bit of a blur to me. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a bit anal when it comes to vacation planning, so I had highlighted on a map all the places each of us mentioned wanting to see while we were in Paris. Then I plotted out the best path to get to each location in order to optimize our time. That morning, we must have walked for seven hours straight, less the time it took to drink a delicious café crème near the Tuileries.


By the time we wandered back into the apartment, I was in a bit of a haze.

“You can’t sleep, Jenny. You must not sleep! It will mess up everything!”

“But… I just need a catnap. Can’t I have 30 minutes? We’ve been up for over 24 hours.”

“Okay, but set your alarm.”

An hour later, we had every intention of grabbing a quick dinner and call it an early evening. Little did we know that authentic French cassoulet is like the fountain of youth.


Suddenly, we all had caught our second wind and after polishing off the bottle of wine at the restaurant, we decided to find a neighborhood bar where we could all play rummy. Fortunately, such a location quickly presented itself, and we immediately ordered a round of pastis and kir royales. Then came more kir royales, several gins and tonics, and two very large glasses of Four Roses whisky.

Everything gets a little fuzzy for me after the first whisky, but I remember trying to buy the waiter a drink, and he almost ran away from me. Then I (lovingly) tried to choke Natasha. Then the waiter came back for a photo. Then it was Wednesday.


On Wednesday, we put our comfortable shoes back on and hit the streets once again. We had lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens, where I spent many a long afternoon as a student many, many years ago.



We went shopping, took photos, felt Parisian, but really, everything we did was a prelude to dinner. Marcy is a chef, so we wanted to really splurge one night on a gourmet dinner, and Joël Robuchon was more than happy to oblige. We each ordered the eight-course tasting menu, and three and a half hours later very reluctantly left the restaurant that delivered one of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve ever had.

And best of all, we paid for it in Euros, which isn’t real money at all. Right? It’s not real, right? I mean, it’s all multi-colored and different sizes… TELL ME THAT WAS PLAY MONEY!

Oh god, what have I done?

notre dame

We actually did make it an early night on Wednesday because we had to get up at the crack of dawn to catch our 6:58am train to Dijon. We were spending the day on a wine tour of Burgundy, and wanted to get there as early as possible. As we wandered into the Gare de Lyon, I saw hordes of people standing around the signs, waiting for their train times to be announced. Still groggy from the combination of sleep deprivation, jet lag and foie gras, I didn’t catch all the specifics of the announcement that came over the loudspeaker.

“Guys. They just said something about a fire.”


“Don’t know. I missed that part. But there’s a fire, and they’re sorry, and we need to wait for more information.”

I looked up at the sign and saw several departures were now flashing “30 minute delay” messages. Eventually, the 30 minute delay on a few departures turned into “Unspecified delay” on every departure.

Once we got on our train, the conductor came on to tell us that we’d be delayed by about an hour. I stepped into the vestibule to call our guide to give him a heads up, and by the time I got back, all three of my companions were asleep.

When the train finally took off, I saw that the fire that had delayed us was on a construction site near the tracks. Giant flames were shooting out of a hole in the ground, as bulldozers tried to fill the hole with dirt.

We met the winemaker Philippe at our first tour, and our guide Simon warned us ahead of time that he was a shameless flirt. By the end of the tour, he had proposed marriage to at least two of us, and was caught in some compromising photos with Dee-Dee. But he opened up a bottle of 1970 Pinot Noir in honor of Natasha’s birthday, so how could we refuse him?


The next tour involved several dogs, a cat, and lots more wine.




The third tour involved lots of wine. No dogs or cats that I can recall, but we did get an offer to help out in the vineyards next year at harvest.



On our way back to the train station, Simon brought us into a vineyard that had already been harvested for the season. There were still some grapes on the vines, so he broke his number one rule and stole a tiny bunch for us. While I was busy taking photos, I later learned that [name withheld] was spitting out the precious Pinot Noir seeds into a Trident White blister pack so that she could smuggle them back into the States and start her own vineyard.


Friday was a day filled with nostalgia for me, since I briefly abandoned the girls and wandered over to see the dorm where I lived when I studied here. It is now a home for the elderly, but I could still see the statue of Joan of Arc standing in the courtyard.


Then, I made my way, with fingers crossed, to the Palais de Tokyo in hopes that they still had a photobooth there. Of course, they did, and it was wonderful and full of graffiti and even though I only got one strip to turn out before I saw eager tapping toes of some young French kids waiting their turn, it will remain one of my favorite photobooth experiences ever.


Next, I headed out to meet up with Dee-Dee and Natasha at the Fragonard perfume museum. We took a brief tour of the museum and learned that at some point in history, French people all got rabies and became afraid of water, which is why they chose to bathe with perfume instead. I might have made up the rabies part, but the rest is all true.

At the end of the tour, they kindly drop you off in the Fragonard store, where the guide lets you sample all their perfumes. We had a different perfume on each wrist, two on the forearms, one on the elbow, and a few on the back of each hand. Collectively, Dee, Nat and I were wearing 16 different perfumes.

We couldn’t keep any of the scents straight.

“Is that Ile d’Amour or Eau Fantasque on my elbow?”

“I can’t tell! I think it’s Etoile. Or maybe Belle du Jour.”

On the metro on the way back home, I kept noticing people looking around, trying to figure out why the train suddenly smelled like a whorehouse. They were repulsed yet irresistibly drawn toward us.

Fortunately, we were able to wash off most of the perfume in time for our dinner with Dee and Marcy’s dad, who happened to be in Europe on business that same week. We had another delicious multi-course dinner that involved a lot of cheese and wine. After the 100th photo, Dee’s dad confiscated our cameras because we kept getting dirty looks from the other patrons.


Not content to end our evening there, we said goodnight to Dee’s dad and headed off in search of another bar. We stumbled onto what seemed to be an ex-pat bar in the Marais, and started up another round of rummy. I’m not sure if it was the overwhelming heat in that bar, or the second glass of pastis, or the creepy drunk American mother-daughter duo at the table next to us (“Your great grandma LOVED sex! Let me tell you…”), but I needed to call it a night.

By Saturday, we were up for a pretty mellow day. Natasha and I spent the morning shopping at a local flea market. Dee-Dee and Marcy spent the morning frantically running up and down the aisles at a local flea market looking for Natasha and me, probably passing us at least a dozen times before finally seeing us.

We did some more shopping, walked through the market, ate some more cheese, drank some more wine and sadly started to pack our bags for our early flight the next day.


All in all, an amazing five nights in what is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And now, I am working on building up my back muscles so that I can earn my keep when I abandon my job here and move to Beaune just in time for the next Pinot harvest.



[Palais de Tokyo, Paris]

Home again, home again.

I’m still adjusting to life without delicious fruit tarts and crusty French bread and tiny little coffees, so let me just say for now that the most important word I learned on this trip was “Fotoautomat.”

Much more later!



Au revoir, mes amis!

Comment dit-on, “bail bondsman” en français?

I’m asking because my friends Natasha, Dee-Dee, Dee’s sister Marcy and I are all heading off to Paris this week for our first ever international vacation together. I anticipate lots of delicious food, excellent wine, mispronounced French, poor clothing choices, overpacked suitcases, sore feet and quite likely, a visit to the American Consulate at some point to seek asylum.

I’m actually hopeful that the fact that both Dee-Dee and Marcy lost their passports this weekend (and later found) will mean that they got it out of their systems and won’t lose them while we’re in Paris. To be on the safe side, Natasha and I are going to make them wear those touristy neck bags under their clothing.

Assuming all goes well, I’ll be back next week with stories and photos. Or assuming all goes REALLY well, I will never come back because I will have been offered an apprenticeship at a vineyard in Burgundy.

À bientôt!

Loves me not

loves me not

Good thing I own a lot of hats

What I said: “I’m trying to grow it out, so I want to keep the length, but it needs to be shaped a bit.”

What she said: “Sounds great! But your hair is really dense, so I’m going to thin it out a bit and give you more structure.”

What she meant: “I’m going to give you a mullet.”

It looked all right when I left the salon, a little shaggier than I had expected, but it was fine. What I learned, however, is that without a $5,000 futuristic hair dryer and an assistant named Rosie who gently pulled my hair down while diffusing it, the home-version of my hairdo would look like Carol Brady with a perm.

I see a lot of headbands in my future…