France 2013 – The Journey Begins

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The trip to the airport was uneventful. Our friend Bill drove us to Toronto so we didn’t need to park our car. Nice beginning.

It was strange to not have a boarding pass prior to arriving at the airport. It took a minute to figure out how the kiosk worked but it was as simple as inserting my passport into the machine. These new fangled things are quite marvelous. Just as I experienced success a very nice man helped finish the job.

Next, as we were getting our bags tagged we were offered a one day pass into the Air France Club and leaped at the opportunity. We arrived earlier for this flight than I have ever experienced before. Even after going through the international security process we had nearly three hours to board.

20130716-073054.jpgThere was tap beer, self serve which satisfied a few in our group. There was a fully stocked bar, soft drinks and even a cappuccino machine.

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Little sandwiches and a small salad bar took the edge off very well. Best of all there were comfortable cushiony chairs all along the bank of windows overlooking the international runway at the Toronto airport.

We’re going to France!

We decided to save the business class fare and spend that money on things we will not be able to fit into our luggage on our way home. But, it’s a full plane. Will we regret that decision?

I sat in a middle seat next to my hubby who had the window. I’m not sure we slept much but I do know we had great service and decent food. Eating on a plane, remember? It seems like such a luxury these days. The meal included wine, if requested, and of course we did. We ate a chicken in red wine sauce with noodles. If on land I would say “meh” but up there I would say “yeah!”

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There was a TV screen, like JetBlue, but not with live stream.

It’s been a few hours now and getting used to French being the primary language is still a challenge to my ear. We are landing soon. All of the planning and anticipation is over and this real life adventure is underway.

Postscript:

Things I’m glad I packed:

Two Little Umbrellas

Sunscreen

Large scarf

Light rain jacket

Band-aids

Benedryl

Electric converters

Quick recharge tube – camera died a few times so the quick charge was indespensible

Things I packed and did not need:

Bug spray – needed it a few times but glad I did not wear it all of the time

Clothing detergent (small packets of Woolite) and clothesline (packed just right and had a few things laundered on the boat)

Things I either forgot or did not bring enough of:

Forgot my make-up. Fortunately there was a Sephora right next to my hotel on the Champs-Elysees

Needed more toothpaste – interesting trying to figure out what I needed in French

Next up: July 3 – First day in Paris

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The Glamour of Traveling

When I had the honor of singing the US and Canadian national anthems at Toronto’s Skydome (before Rogers amassed their billions for the naming rights) I met a woman who was to throw the first pitch. Prior to the game all of the pre game folks rehearse according to a carefully prepared and timed script.

She had to go to the mound…or many feet in front of the mound and practice throwing to the catcher. Wow, that’s hard. I was impressed she got it even near the plate. She said she had been throwing the ball to her husband for weeks to practice.

When it was my turn to practice they cued my tape and I (shudder, yes, I lip synced) sang the anthems with all my heart into a dead mic. Easy peazy lemon squeezy.

This whole process blew first pitch woman’s mind. “Wow, you sounded great! Where do you sing? Are you famous?”

“Um…I sing most often in church and I am decidedly not famous.” But, she was not buying it one bit. Not famous? Not possible. She kept at it. “How often do you sing the national anthem?” At that point I had sung for the Sabres a few times and sang at what is now Progressive Field in Cleveland for the Indians.

Of course I was famous, or so she believed. When she gushed again she declared my life must be so glamorous. By then I didn’t have the heart to tell her differently since she already didn’t believe me. Even today, whenever I clean my bathroom I think of first pitch lady and the glamour of my life.

Travel is glamorous. Traveling is not.

I write this from a hotel room in North Carolina at about 12:30 AM. A ten and a half hour journey took nearly fifteen hours today.

Apparently God picked Florida up by the Keys and shook it like a rug, flicking everyone without a Florida zip code back to the northern state where they belonged. I’m convinced that the only people left are the senior citizens and the food service folks who serve them their early bird specials.

It took 3 1/2 hours to drive through South Carolina and those that were not in their cars in post holiday gridlock were eating at the Cracker Barrel. No lie, my mom and I had to wait 20 minutes for a table at 9 PM. Thank God they have biscuits. And sweet tea. And grits.

But the trip was worth everything we experienced today because my family was mostly together last weekend (missing a nephew and family who stayed back home and a niece who was traveling through Italy).

Cousins got to make new memories, siblings and parents played Monopoly and 500 Rummy and I got to cook.

My sister and I prepared our annual seafood feast on Good Friday. The kids actually look forward to it and I don’t think we disappointed anyone. It is a hefty investment but worth the expense and time. We really kept it simple this year with only one hot side (my orzo with roasted grape tomatoes) and a “nice” salad. Our cousin brought a really cool bread bowl and cupcakes. We had a great evening.

20130414-203607.jpgHere is a quick trick for grilled shrimp: marinate them with the shells on with lemon, lots of garlic and good olive oil. Get your grill screaming hot. Instead of just one skewer, use two to create some stability. Cook each side for only a few minutes until just pink.

One of the highlights of my trip was dinner at the Chart House in Fort Lauderdale. The dinner was as good as the view. There are many of these restaurants across the country. Each one has a view of the water. My favorite is in Dana Point, California. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend it. It will be a special dinner so be prepared for a pricey a la carte menu.

From Thursday through Monday we had nine people living in a two bedroom condo. Close! But I wouldn’t trade the joy on my mother’s face when she saw an entire pew filled with her family on Easter Sunday.

No, traveling is not glamorous, but well worth the effort knowing we once again made memories of a lifetime.

Have a yummy day!

Beyonce – I’d Listen To You Sing the Phone Book!

Dear Beyonce,

Beyonce VMA Red Carpet

Beyonce VMA Red Carpet (Photo credit: mp3waxx.com)

Sorry to get a gushy but I think you’re divine. I mean, really? Your voice gives me the chills, you seem like a very nice woman and you are beyond gorgeous.

This “lip-syncing” controversy is really stupid.

Anderson Cooper did a fabulous segment on Anderson Cooper 360 last night that not only made me smile, I actually talked to the TV like he and his viewers could hear me. “As far as I’m concerned, it is Beyonce’s world and we are just living in it.” “Francis Scott Key himself would send her a fruit basket.”

“Talk to me after you’ve gotten on a stage in of the President of the United States (just Ralph Wilson, the owner of the Buffalo Bill)   hundreds of thousands of people (75,000 here) to sing the National Anthem in 40 degree weather (20 degrees here). Until then that particular bomb is bursting in air on the RidicuList.”

A. It was her beautiful voice.

B. She was singing her heart out, even if the mic was dead. You cannot fake that throat movement without actually making the sound. I “sang” the US and Canadian National Anthems at the Rogers Centre in Toronto years ago to my own taped voice. The game presentation folks would not leave the many perils of singing live to chance. Did I sing at Skydome? You betcha. Did people hear my voice singing the anthems? You betcha again.

C. Why leave the conditions to chance? Would you prefer the exceedingly talented Christina Aguilera’s FAIL at the 2011 Super Bowl?

Beyonce – you could sing the phone book and I would listen forever.

Your friend,

Jude