Monday, December 31, 2012


"Not all those who wander are lost."
~ JRR Tolkien

Ten years ago, Mike and I spent a few days in Paris at the end of a trip to Ireland to celebrate our 25th anniversary.  We stayed in a hotel that we discovered was near a metro station, across from a French McDonald's, within walking distance of the Opera, the Lourve, and the Arc d'Triomphe, and a block from the St. Lazare train station upon which we stumbled after getting lost our last morning there.  Three days is not long enough to get to know a city, especially a city like Paris. We saw some sights, ate some great pastries, shopped a bit, and were home before the foam on our cappuccinos broke down.  

Fast forward ten years. In planning our time in Paris for this trip, I was looking at flats and homes instead of hotels because we wanted convenient – and affordable – accommodations.  A few years ago, I discovered that the city is divided into 20 arrondissements although I wasn't quite  sure what exactly the delineations were and why I should care.  I'm sure you're dying to know what I found out.  ;-)

In late 1795, city officials divided Paris into 12 municipal/administrative districts. Fifty years later, Napolean III added more land to the city, and in 1860 the original arrondissements were reconfigured and the new land included to form the current 20 arrondissements.  The arrondissements form a spiral from the center of Paris with the first one being north of the Seine.  See the map above.

I know. I know. Boring stuff.  But knowing the districts is important because location is everything . . . especially when you don't really know a city, don't have a car, and want to "live" local even for just a week. You don't want to live so far away that you have to take a bus or taxi everywhere.  If you get tired while walking around, you want to be able to take a quick break in the comfort of your room. You want to be able to walk downstairs and get a latte and croissant or crepe. Location is key, advised a French friend of mine telling me to try to find a place in arrondissements 1-9.

At times I feel like it took forever, but I finally found and booked a flat in the 4th Arrondissement.  The street our flat is on starts at the Seine and ends somewhere near the area Victor Hugo roamed in his time (which is neither here nor there).  In an 18th Century building, the flat is small, comfortable (according to reviewers), and looks out on the rooftops of Paris.  The rooftops of Paris.

Okay.  I can deal with the rooftop view.  "Up in the atmosphere. . . Up where the air is clear . . .*"  What I just discovered (from a newly written review) is that the flat is on the sixth floor (seventh in America), and there is no lift. . . no elevator. . . no one to pick me up and carry me up those steps.

I'm heading to the gym now . . .

Next time:  Marais Me

* From "Let's Go Fly a Kite" (Mary Poppins)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Three Months Out

"Getting there is half the fun."
~ Unknown

As of today, we're three months away from leaving for our next European adventure.  Ninety days.  It seems so far away  until I realize I've been planning this trip for more than seven months . . . Two hundred and ten days.  It makes the ninety seem like tomorrow in some ways.

My original idea was to spend six months living in Italy. The expense got in the way of that idea, so I agreed that maybe three months was okay.  Much discussion (and someone's election to the HOA board) later, we're down to a little over two months.

"MY GOD!" a friend recently exclaimed. "You're going to be there for nine weeks?"

"I know," I replied, "It's not as long as I wanted, but what can I do?"

I don't consider most of this trip a vacation (at least for me).  My plan from the beginning was to *live* in Sulmona, Italy for the entire time we were there.  I want to live where my grandmother grew up, experience life in Abruzzo, learn to speak Italian more fluently. AND, darn it, I want to write every single day and finish my book. Mike, however, is a bit more concerned about getting bored and thought we should move around a bit. So, we decided to move around a bit.

I'm not complaining.  I get frustrated, and I get quiet and consider throwing the computer through the window.  When things resolve themselves, I'm happy and grateful that I didn't destroy my laptop.   ;-)

At any rate, with three months to go, our main itinerary is set (The stars mark the spots.), all lodging is booked, and I've redeemed my frequent flyer miles so we can get there and home. I'm still working on train reservations, but the European train companies don't open reservations until they're 90 days out, so I'll be working on those through February.

A huge sign of relief escapes, and I'm looking forward to figuring out the relatively small things – making my journal and figuring out what to pack, for example. Pieces of cake.  Pieces of cake.  ;-)

Next time: What the heck is an arrondissement, and why should I care?