Pink Trash Travels

Birthday Number Deux

Today I celebrated my second birthday in France. Of course, it wasn’t my own. Mine was just a few weeks ago. And at my age, you don’t need any extras. Rather, we commemorated our friend Stephan’s special day – or Bonne Anniversaire as the French say.

Instead of going out to a smoky restaurant filled with “unattractive rats,” Stephan opted for a more quiet and intimate evening at Chez Chris and Dave. So with Chris out of town, I began to prepare for the evening.

We all know I don’t like to cook. And what I do throw together in the kitchen has more elements of white trash then French flair. But I thought the evening would be a good chance to share some Kansas delicacies (or at least a few my mom loved to prepare): meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn, rolls and for dessert a chocolate Betty Crocker chocolate fudge sheet cake with milk chocolate icing (and fake blowout birthday candles).

I began prepping around 2 p.m. (after my first and only visit to the gym). From there, I hopped on the metro and headed to the 8th arrondisement for one stop shopping at Monceur Fleurs (for a table setting), Monoprix (for trimmings) and Picard (for frozen necessities). Thank God for my newly purchased wheely cart. Without it, I would have found myself being weighed down with bags of potatoes and pounds of meat.

Once I returned home at 4, I cleaned (Alise doesn’t come until Saturday so a touch-up was in order). I peeled. I poked. Four hours later (and after Chris’ arrival from Germany), I found myself ready for guests to arrive.

Xavier and the birthday boy came around 9. Lorenzo, because of prior work engagements, arrived closer to 10 – just in time for dinner (which is still considered early by Paris standards). So by the light of 14 Pottery Barn votive candles and the wintery sounds of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas (iTunes shuffle selection), we dined and discussed everything from imported dinner rolls to interesting sex fetishes. What could be better?

In the end, I think everyone enjoyed the evening. For me, it was yet another reason to appreciate Paris. Sure, there are world-renowned museums. But for me, nights at home with good friends trump Picasso or Cezanne anytime.

Wimbledon in July!

Chris sent me a note last night asking if I'd rather go to the semi-finals or finals of Wimbledon in July. "Finals!" I quickly replied. So, we're going to the championship July 9th. Life is crazy. Last year we were watching Wimbledon at our cottage in Saugatuck. And this year, we'll be seeing the ball bounce back and forth in person - alongside the queen! Well, maybe not the queen but at least a duchess or two.

Spring Has Sprung

Winter in Paris has been unusually cold this year. But today, the inevitable happened: spring finally sprung in Paris. It was 65 degrees. It may have been cloudy. It may have been drizzling. But I didn't care. It was warm enough for me to pull out the A & F cargos. Once we returned home, I quickly settled into my "weekend wear."

Then came Maddie's walk. Last year, I would have changed clothes. I wouldn't have wanted people to gawk at the silly American in shorts, in spring, in Paris This year, I don't care. My casual American style fits my just fine. And I wanted to enjoy the spring air on my bare legs. And it's not as though my lower half is a blinding shade of white. My Miami tan is still going strong. So why not show it off?

And in regards to the photo, blame that on Chris. I was hoping for an action shot. What I got was a blurred one with my head cut-off. And Maddie's eyes? She's overheating with all that hair. Where's the paparazzi when you need them?

Safe and Sound

Today's explosion at a Chemistry French school will most likely headline news tonight as well as make the front page of numerous papers across America tomorrow. This, combined with other protesting stories over the past week, could possibly lead you to believe Paris is once again burning. Know this: it's not.

Sure, you see remnants of charred articles scattered throughout the city (though most in close proximity to schools such as La Sorbonne). And various protests happen on a daily basis. But other than that, life goes on. You can shop. You can dine. You can sightsee.

So there's no need to worry. We're safe and sound. And if you're planning to visit Paris anytime soon, you'll be fine as well. Now, if only we could do something about the weather. It's unusually cold for Paris. Chris and I apparently brought Chicago's weather with us when we moved. They can have it back.

You Asked for It!

Back by popular demand: comments! You can once again leave comments on individual posts. I had removed them for asthetic reasons as well as the fact that spam had crept into the system. But since loyal readers like Michelle Bloom from Wichita have asked for it's return, I thought, "why not?" So comment away!

The Outcome...

For starters, according to the doctor's examination, I'm not going to have a heart attack anytime soon. Now that I know I'm safe, we're celebrating tonight by fixing a Taco Bell kit from the States. Since I can't run for the border, a box dinner is the next best thing.

As for the doctor's visit, well, it was as though I went to her home. I sat in her living room. I read a few magazines from December. Once she called me back, we sat and discussed my problems. She then exited, washed her hands, and returned to examine me with my shirt off on a table behind a movable wall. There were no nurses (that I could see). There was barely any equipment (that I could see). It was strange. From what I gathered, you visit the doctor for a consultation. Afterwards, if further examination is required (x-rays, etc.), she "forwards" you onto a specialist. I could have gone to the American Hospital (which probably would have been a bit more like we're accustomed to in the States), but two people recommended her to Chris. Besides, this way I have something to write home about, right?

My First Doctor's Visit

Over the past week, since arriving back in Paris, I've had some mild yet consistent chest pains. Thinking this might have SOMETHING to do with our visit to Miami, I thought I should wait a week before seeing a doctor. After all, I had worked out literally everyday for almost four weeks with intense training the last week before our departure. So, I've waited. And, as a result, I've stressed about "what could be." In approximately two hours, I'll hopefully know more - not only about my condition but what it's like to visit a physician in Paris. YIKES!

New - Vlog on PTT

New to Pink Trash Travels - videos! To view, simply click on the image above or CLICK HERE. The first captures student riots outside our flat today. Apparently, students from across France are protesting new regulations for hiring young professionals. I've come to the conculsion the French like to protest. Today, I've witnessed three. And even more amazing is the fact that the police support their cause by allowing them to demonstrate on the streets of Paris. Whatever floats their boat I suppose.

Look for new videos on the 1st and 15th of each month. It's a commitment, but what better way to show you how it is to live in France. Besides, since Hollywood seems to turn it's head to my talents, I'll make my own pathway to fame and fortune!

Winter Party in Miami

I always have a bit of hesitation when planning a return trip to a vacation destination. There’s the fear that it won’t live up to the previous year. With Miami’s Winter Party being a highlight of 2005, I was afraid this year’s event would pale in comparison. Would everyone decide to go? Would the weather cooperate? Would eating French food ruin my abs? Fortunately, Winter Party 2006 once again proved to be an amazing weekend with close friends, pounding music, incredible weather, impressive eye candy and missed romps through Walgreen’s.

The majority of us stayed at the Clinton Hotel on Washington. It wasn’t our first choice, but booking late pushes you to select what’s available. The lobby smelled like urinal cakes. The concierge/bellman was loud. The gym comprised of a universal machine nestled in an adjoining building’s attic. But in the end, it served its purpose – providing clean and comfortable sleeping quarters in between the pool and beach parties. On Sunday, Chris and I transferred to the Victor Hotel for a bit of quiet after the storm. The Parisian designed hotel by Hyatt is more in line with what we prefer. The rooms were elegant. The service was impeccable. And you have to appreciate the classiness of being able to view the Oscars outside, under the stars, with a cool ocean breeze on your face as you watch in enjoyment as Dolly struts her stuff on stage. Now, if only the Academy voters would have finally recognized her for her contribution to feature films. Don’t’ they remember 9 to 5 and Small Talk?

And though the parties themselves were great (especially Sunday’s beach party), the true reason to travel thousands of miles to these events is to spend time with close friends. That’s exactly why we didn’t go to Thailand as originally planned. I needed my time with the boys. This way, if the DJ is horrible, the weather is bad, and other elements don’t suffice, it truly doesn’t matter. Memories are made on the dancefloor (“not interested”), while eating on Lincoln Road (“Let me tell you a tale of a salad”), at Mike Stake’s house (the lemon who’s fate was sealed by my clumsiness), and at the liquor store (riding an ice cart).

It was a special weekend. As many say, Miami never seems to disappoint. But what about next year? I’m already counting the days.

Shots on the fly always capture the essence of the subject. With Dave and Paddy, they're both happy and bring much joy to our lives. No, really, they do!

The poor, poor lemon whose time had come to fall from the tree and join a few granules of sugar for a swim in an 8 oz. glass of water.

Whether it was the "salad" or "bloody wall" story, nobody apparently wanted to hear Robert's tales. "I don't want to hear that!"

Jason Walker performed at the beach party. You'd think it was a large black woman if you weren't tall enough to see him. And considering he's only about five feet tall, most at the event swear Pepper Mashay was in the "house."

Sharing a Chicken Burrito, Beef Chimichanga and Cheese Enchilada with our new Parisian friends Dimitri and Bruno at El Rancho Grande off Lincoln Road. It was so good, Chris and I returned the following night for round two of Mexican food.

Dear Diary

I'm feeling much better since Friday. My homesickness has subsided and I'm back into the groove of things in Paris. With a little help from my Parisian friends, especially Lorenzo, I realized life may be challenging in France, but easy is boring.

I start French class again tomorrow. I've missed about five days. I need to get back to devoting at least two hours a day to learning French. Now, if I could only stop watching American TV at night. I can honestly say that will NEVER happen. I love My Name Is Earl, American Idol, Boston Legal, Charmed...

I'm somewhat tired from last night. I wasn't planning on going out, but Lorenzo and Alex had people over for drinks with the eventual destination being Queen on the Champs Elysee. Even though I was in my pajamas, I quickly changed and headed out the door at 1:30 a.m. excited not only to see the boys, but to hear DJ Abel from the states. We arrived at Queen around 3 a.m. The crowd was interesting - a bit scary. The music was exceptional. I stood to the side watching Abel spin. I don't know how all the equipment operates, but I'm sure excited to one day learn and experience it for myself.

Around 5 a.m., I was cooked. My 35 minute walk home was a little painful. It's cold in Paris - unusually cold. Which irritates me when I see the weather in Chicago is a balmy 65 degrees. Of course the year we move, they have one of the warmest winters on record with Paris having one of the coldest. I'm ready for spring.

Now, maybe I'll take a nap. Chris is lying down before he bakes cookies. He makes the best chocolate chip cookies. I need to share the with everyone since I've tasted the cookies in Paris and they're not good. Dry. Very dry.

Back from Miami!

Yesterday, we arrived back in Paris from our week long stay in Miami. Honestly, it was hard to leave. Not only because of the perfect, sunny weather but because of our friends and the delicious Chinese food at Sum Yum Gai. Our stay in Miami made me realize how much I miss everything in America. Paris may be wonderful, but I'm truly an American boy from the Midwest who misses everything the states has to offer - my friends, my language, my stores, my food and everything in between.

And of course, when we returned yesterday, we found out that our power had been turned off for 36 hours. Anne Charlotte, our dog-sitter, was unable to stay with the animals a few days. The good news is that her mom, Mina, has been so helpful in solving the many problems we've encountered with our flat. Apparently, the electric company "accidentally" turned off our electricity rather than our neighbors. So not only have they "flipped the switch" on our gas in the past few months, they've now added electricity to the growing list of mistakes. Both Mina and our relocation service are trying to determine the cause as well as for the electric company to compensate us for the loss of food in our freezer. Not that there's much room for frozen goods in our ice box, but it's the point of the matter they're trying to drive home to the incompetent French electric company.

So with Miami a fond memory, our thoughts now turn to Morocco in April and a return to the states in May for McDonald's convention in Orlando. And with Spring on the horizon, comes the arrival of an onslaught of guests from America. I can only wonder if this will calm my senses to return home or further enhance my desire to once again find myself shopping every weekend at Costco.

Check back next week for pics from Miami as well as a brief summarization of our interrogation from the German police in Frankfurt for not declaring two cartons of cigarettes!

Around the Rue - Discovering the Quirks of Paris

Get Ready, Set, Shop - Unlike in America where there’s a red, white or blue sale every weekend, the government in Paris France, regulates “Soldes” to twice a year – once in January and the other in July. Beginning after the new-year and lasting for six weeks, you can find couture fashions with deep discounts ranging from 30% - 50% within the first week and up to 70% the final week in late February.

Determined by the Minister of France to “favor the rapid depletion of the stock,” the sale can end at any time but cannot exceed the constraints set by law. So contemplaters beware. The lack of decisive behavior could leave you clinging to Bjork’s current or future fashion disasters.

Not to say France has discounts outside the official sale time periods. Merchants can offer “promotions” that are unrestricted. Markdowns are advertised and must detail start and end dates. In addition, the items with a price-cut must be supplied at the advertised price even if the items are out-of-stock – something most shoppers don’t’ know. But the majority of these items are either everyday necessities or pieces with limited appeal. Discounted XX anyone?

So combined with inexpensive airfare, alluring hotel and package deals, traveling to Paris, France in winter may be just what you’re looking for after an uneventful holiday season filled with reindeer ties and purple pot holders. Sure, the weather may be a bit cold. But the deals you’ll find are sure to keep you warm and fuzzy on the inside.