Paris 2.0 Itinerary and Map

March 14, 2014

13:30, April 5, 2014 — Depart Seattle, WA
6:45, April 6, 2014 — Arrive  in Reykjavik, Iceland
7:40, April 8, 2014 — Depart in Reykjavik, Iceland
13:05, April 8, 2014 — Arrive in Paris, France; Depart for Tours, France
April 13, 2014 — Depart Tours for Paris
April 20, 2014 — Depart Paris for Nice
April 24, 2014 — Depart Nice for Vaison–la-Romaine
April 26, 2014 — Depart Vaison-la-Romaine for Châteauneuf du Pape
April 27, 2014 — Depart Châteauneuf du Pape for Paris
14:15, April 28, 2014 — Depart Paris for Seattle
17:00, April 28, 2012 — Arrive (via Reykjavik) in Seattle

Google Map:
I will try to update this google map so that you can see all of the places where we stay and eat.

In the Mirror, Darkly (Mirror and Shadow Photos)
Seattle: Day 1
Iceland: Day 1; Day 2; Day 3
Tours: Day 1; Day 2; Day 3
Day 4; Day 5; Day 6
Paris: Day 1; Day 2; Day 3; Day 4; Day 5; Day 6; Day 7; Day 8
Nice: Day 1; Day 2


One Day in Champagne

April 20, 2014

The man from Dallas was actually born in Minnesota, so I asked him, “Cowboys or Vikings?” “Vikings,” he replied. I liked him already. I assumed he was an oil man because at one point he asked out loud what time it was in Abu Dhabi (it was 5:00 p.m.) His second/third/(?) wife was from Finland and has been living in Paris for the past 10 years. She clutched a Louis Vuitton (which is owned by the same company that owns Moët & Chandon) bag. The man from Dallas spoke about splitting time between Dallas and Paris. Between love and work.

In the bathroom at Moët & Chandon, Takoashi, the woman from Japan traveling alone, asked Alex if I was Japanese. No such luck. She told Alex that she was in France for two weeks. The first week she was in the French Alps visiting friends. And now, she was in Paris. Last year, Takoashi also came to France (alone) and took a tour in Champagne. At the end of our tour in Champagne, I could see why one would want to travel across the world alone annually for these bubbles.

Aunt Paula, the loud, older, obnoxious Californian, infantilized Takoashi. When hearing her name for the first time, Paula decided to shorten it to “Taco.” Aunt Paula knew enough French and knowledge about Champagne to show off that knowledge to Amanda (our Tour guide) but also lacked a significant portion of knowledge that sometimes when she would ask a question, her question would simply not make any sense or did not apply. The second/third/(?) wife of the man from Dallas could hardly restrain her eye rolls when Aunt Paula became the official spokesperson of the United States of America.

Aunt Paula’s niece Erin, a curly haired blonde from Hollywood, came on the tour as well. Erin is a social worker and complained that the sun in California can be too oppressive. She explained how her brother covered his car windows with cardboard because it was too much for him to handle.

Throw in a hairy bearded Asian fundraiser and a tenured-track professor at a small Jesuit college and you have quite the motley tour group.

There are more than 6,000 Champagne producers in the region and when you compare that to the 700 wineries in Washington and it is hard to comprehend. A committee in Champagne dictates every detail of the Champagne process. From the window when growers can pick their grapes to the minimum amount of time the Champagnes have to be aged in bottle. This level of bureaucratic control is ironic considering Champagne was created on accident by a monk.

A few years ago I helped a board member at my last job clean out her mother’s wine cellar after she passed away (she was 100 years old). She wanted me to see if there were any wines that would be valuable to donate to our annual auction. The wine rack was filled with 1950s Champagnes, old Washington Rieslings, and 1960s California Cabs. However, as I pulled out each of the dusty bottles, most of them had leaked and were severely oxidized. They were completely ruined.

Amanda and several of the boutique Champagne producers told us that unless the Champagne is from a particular year (vintage), it is best not to age them. That they are designed to be enjoyed now. My mind raced back to that dusty wine cellar, with those bottles waiting for a special occasion that never came.

With 6,000 Champagne producers it is easy to find incredible bottle of Champagne for the same price of a forgettable bottle of wine at Trader Joes. There was never any pressure to buy from each of the producers that we visited in Champagne but we were more than happy to load up.

While the man from Dallas and I engaged in a showdown over the last piece of foie gras, Aunt Paula continued with her running commentary on French/American cultural differences. I won the showdown and the Champagne helped make Aunt Paula’s inane comments bearable. By the time we left the final Champagne house of the day, even Alex and Erin engaged in good conversations despite being complete opposites. Behold the power of Champagne.

The man from Dallas and his second/third/(?) wife left on the first train out of Reims. The rest of us were scheduled on the 7:15, two hours later. As Alex and I walked through the old section of Reims we spotted Aunt Paula and Erin sitting in their hotel lobby. I told her not to look but to keep walking. A little while later we boarded the train with our four bottles of Champagne. I can’t wait to open them.


Four Americans From Seattle

April 13, 2014

When we settled into the van, I asked Marcus and Andrea, the two other Americans on our tour where they were from, they responded, “Seattle.” Alex and I smiled. Of course. We then started talking about which neighborhoods we live in (they technically live in Issaquah but are moving to Renton), then the conversation moved to work. Marcus is an adjunct music professor at Seattle University, the same university where Alex works.

It would be one thing if they both worked at UW (the largest employer in Seattle) but Seattle University is a college of 8,500 students.

Marcus and Andrea were classic Seattleites. Highly educated and slightly neurotic with an air of awkwardness. When our tour guide asked if any of us had dietary restrictions, Andrea responded that she didn’t eat beef. And she continued to feel bad about it every time her restriction was mentioned. Anytime Andrea was anxious, like when she thought she lost her camera and then found it again, she made a joke that she was, “just testing us.” Marcus wore these small wire rimmed glasses that when the sun peeked out from the clouds, he put on larger wire rimmed sunglasses over his glasses.

They both reminded me of home.

When the tour was over I handed them my business card and suggested lunch. Marcus and Andrea went on to catch a train back to Paris and we walked back to our hotel.


Icelandic Delay Part Deux

April 11, 2014

By the time we reached the correct ticket counter in Gare du Montparnasse we had been in full panic mode for hours. At that point, despite our best efforts to make our train to Tours, we had resigned ourselves that we would be taking the next train, which was an hour later.

It was 19:16 and our train had supposedly left two minutes before.

See, right before we went bed in our last night in Iceland, I checked into our flight. And in red text I see that we have a three hour delay. No problem, our connecting flight to Paris must have been delayed wherever it was coming from. I went cancel our train ticket and rebook for three hours later. We had specifically paid full price to get a refundable ticket that could be changed even two hours after the departure.

However, since I booked the ticket on my debit card, and I had used that debit card at Target between December 1 and December 15 of last year, my bank had then issued me a new debit card and canceled my card, therefore preventing any refund to be applied to that card.

In the morning to catch our flight to Paris, as we were heading down the elevator, we read a sign taped to the mirrored wall. The three hour delay was due to an airport strike. The workers demanded more money.

We foolishly thought that with this three hour work stoppage, everything would simply be pushed back three hours. That our 7:40 flight to Paris would simply leave at 10:40.

In hindsight, completely foolish.

At the terminal, delay on top of delay. And adding to my anger level, calling out of Iceland proved to be an impossible task (for reasons still unknown, we couldn’t call SNCF no matter how we dialed) and the pay phone I found was disconnected (we were still seeing if there was someway to get our 50€ refunded or applied to another train ticket).

As the lines grew, print and TV media interviewed unhappy travelers. And at precisely at 9:00 a.m., the conveyor belt to load our luggage started to move. When we finally made it through security it was 10:00. The board listed our flight still leaving at 10:30.

We make it to our gate. The woman at the counter tells the man in front of us that it should be 10 or 15 minutes more. Then an hour. Then she tells us not to even wait at the gate.

Our plane leaves finally leaves Iceland at noon (delayed 5.5 hours). Our flight leaves 2.5 hours later that we planned even after the delay. That long buffer that we had built in to get from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Gare du Montparnasse was erased completely.

We land in Paris and it is 16:40. Our luggage is supposed to be delivered at 17:03. At 17:15 my bag finally comes (it was one of the last bags delivered).

We run to the shuttle. Alex asks me if we should grab cash at the ATM in the International terminal. I tell her that the fees will be higher and that we should wait until we get to the train station (a mistake in hindsight).

We get to the train station in CDG and of course, there is no ATM. Alex asks a man where the closest one is and he says Terminal Three, five minute walk away.

We run into a hotel. No ATM. I tell Alex to wait with the bags and I will run to Terminal Three.

Terminal Three is a 5 minute run away. Not a 5 minute minute walk. I get cash. I run by police with automatic machine guns. I run by police searching an abandoned bag. I keep on running.

The ticket machines to Paris only take coins. So we now need change. Alex takes a 20€ and begs for change at the counter. I ask a man where the change machine is located. He turns to the counter where Alex got change and tells me that you can simply buy a ticket. With cash. And probably with an American credit card. Frantic mode is in full effect.

We get the ticket and run downstairs. After debating if the train in front of us was indeed the right train to Paris, we decide to hop on as the doors are closing. I keep the doors open and Alex runs on. I barely make it with my arm still attached.

It is now 18:00. Our train to Tours leaves at 19:16.

We start running through Les Halles.

We run to catch the 4. I run over a woman’s foot, she scolds me in French. Her words fade the farther I run from here. We cut in front of people. We run in circles. We run up escalators. We run up stairs. We run down stairs. We run from Information Booth to police officer. We run past creepy people. We run past tourists. We run past workers. We run during rush hour, in the busiest station in Paris. We run to the stop. And the stop is not there. We run to a ticket booth and the woman tells us where to go. She gives us a subway map. It turns out the subway map from my last trip is out of date. They added another stop in the last two years. The machine doesn’t take our ticket. We run around some more.

If you could track our running in Les Halles, it would look like a psychotic Family Circle cartoon.

We get off the 4 with 30 minutes left.

The subway station is far, far from the train station. We run up more stairs. And we run through tunnels. We cut left. We cut right. Cutting off more people. More scoldings. We singlehandedly cause four international incidents.

Gare du Montparnasse is huge. And when we get there, we have no idea where to go. We don’t even have our tickets. We run to a ticket booth. I ask the woman if she speaks English. She nods yes. We tell her we are going to Tours and I show her our confirmation number. She points upstairs. We run up more stairs.

We run to the upper level of the train station and Alex has found a woman in a random booth that says she can print our tickets. I give her our confirmation number and she asks me if my ‘j’ is a ‘g’ and I say no. She shakes her head and points across the hall. We run across the hall.

We finally get into the right line. The line for immediate departures. There are four people in front of us. And they all seemingly have complex problems. It is two minutes past our train’s departure when get to the counter. I ask him if he speaks English and he shakes his head no (he seemed to take glee in indicating that). Alex and I figured that we would be working with him to rebook our train. Instead he takes our confirmation number, prints our tickets, and puts up 6 fingers and says, “Six, now.” And we are confused. He again holds up his fingers and says, “Six. Now.”

We run across the hall again. We hear the train powering up. We run into the first open door. Two women run on behind us. Then three more men. And seconds later the train doors close. And we finally stop running.

We would later find out (after we walked/pushed through 15 train cars to our seats) that our hotel in Tours almost gave away our room (they tried Alex’s credit card and it was declined because she booked the hotel with the same card she used at Target). But we called from the train. And they told us that they would wait for us.

The man at our hotel suggests a great place for dinner. And we stroll hand and hand to dinner.

We eat. We drink.

We stroll back our hotel.

There is an energy on the street. It is vibrant. It is alive.

Welcome to France.



April 6, 2014

It is hard not to compare every aspect of this trip to Iceland/France with my last trip to Iceland/France. Large institutions like airports don’t change very much in two years. Coming up the escalator into the S-Gates in SeaTac, I spied the power outlet and row of chairs I utilized to pass the three hour delay due to the broken plane from my last trip. The seats were just as empty today as it was two years ago.

But my life these past two years haven’t been static like that row of dusty airport chairs. New job. New apartment. Alex and I have gone from measuring our relationship length from the number of dates we went on, to now counting the number of years we have been together.

Two years ago, the beers and the food were on the house on our flight to Iceland. A small benefit for the three-hour purgatory I suffered in the sun soaked window waiting for our new plane to arrive. This time, I paid 1000 Icelandic Krona for the same underwhelming ham and cheese sandwich (I remembered it being better; does food taste better when it is unexpectedly free?).

I emailed Fatima a few weeks ago and asked her first, if she remembered me and second, to see if she would be traveling near any of the places Alex and I would be. Fatima did remember me. But she wasn’t going to be near us.

Three hours into our flight, a flight attendant tapped the shoulder of the man sitting next to the window in our row. She asked him if he was traveling alone. He nodded yes. She asked him if he would like to move up into Saga Class (where I was upgraded into on my unexpected detour flight to Frankfurt two years ago) to give us all a little more room. His movie was still playing while he shimmied out of our row with all of his stuff.

According to the map we are currently over the western shore of Greenland. Less than two hours before we touch down. When we land in Iceland, I will be 32. I have never turned a year older on a plane. But then again these last two years have been filled with unexpected new experiences. Why not add another one?


What I Have Learned This Past Year

January 1, 2014

Last year as a result of this annual reflection, Chris, my old college roommate, emailed me and said we should grab lunch. For whatever reason (life, time, distance), I hardly saw him after my sophomore year when I left Morrison Hall and got an apartment of my own. It had been a decade since we had last seen each other.

It is easy to summarize a year in your life when only hitting the highlights. Alex and I moved in together after dating for almost a year. I started a new job at the Pacific Science Center. And somewhere along the way, we decided to go to France in 2014 for a month. That’s the 2013 highlight reel.

And apparently, it is even easier to summarize a decade of your life. So easy in fact that I had explained the highlights of the past 10 years to Chris before our burgers had even arrived. But that is the tragedy and the beauty of everyday life. The majority of life happens between the highlights. Or perhaps said better with that old adage, “life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”

Alex and I had been talking about moving in together for months before she saw the listing on Craigslist. We were excited to get the new apartment, but part of me was sad to leave the Roxborough — even if she was old, tired, and rundown. That place had been my home for more than six years. I had a longer tenure there than any place I lived since I was a 12 years old. Because Alex and I only moved a block away, I walk by the Roxborough constantly. It’s like running into an ex-girlfriend. The good times flash before your eyes, and almost as quickly, you are reminded of the reasons why you left. And every time I walk by, I look up into my old windows and try to spy on the person who now calls my old place home.

Musings about dating have transformed into musings about Miles. Ever since moving into our new place Miles has mysteriously developed a new hatred of the sound of the shower turning on. He now charges into the bathroom with his teeth flared and starts batting and biting until he draws blood. Another adventure happened during the summer when he escaped out onto the deck almost jumped down into Capitol Hill, never to be heard from again. Fortunately, Alex whisked him up before he disappeared for good.

This past year was filled many memorable moments. Traore, Yedlin, Johnson. The bounty of an oyster CSA box. Walla Walla wine tasting. For country (I’m under that flag… somewhere). Dressing up. Cards Against Humanity. Bremerton birthday weekend. Concerts. Mora’s and their chocolate peanut butter ice cream. A Sounders tailgate on a warm Seattle summer afternoon. An amazing anniversary dinner. Silly work events. Sometimes a memorable moment is a kid at your holiday party projectile vomiting all over your refrigerator and kitchen. Let’s just say our kitchen was never cleaner afterward.

On some level, it is understood that when you leave a job, you leave your colleagues behind. But I didn’t truly understand that until Becky was no longer in my day-to-day life. I worked with her and eventually we came to share a tiny office for 4.5 years. Too many lunches, coffees, dating stories and laughs to count. She was my confidant, my friend and I find myself missing her. At my new job, I have two work wives. We have lunches, coffees, and talk about our relationships. If at the end of my tenure here, if I have a relationship with them half as strong as my friendship with Becky was, I will consider myself very fortunate.

I will remember this past year for holidays on Bainbridge. Spaghetti in Allyn. For a wedding I helped plan. For dinners at Hitchcock, Rione XIII, Green Leaf, and Kate’s. Endless soccer conversations and prognostications at Full Pull. Endless soccer conversations and prognostications at Fuel. Endless soccer conversations and prognostications at CenturyLink. A cabin on the coast. Summer walks to get our CSA box. Candy on the 4th of July. A broken desk. The State Fair. Board meetings in Pioneer Square. Wine parties and wine pouring. Bald eagle float trips and early morning breakfasts.

One summer morning Alex and I were heading to Bainbridge and were killing time at the Seattle Ferry Terminal. I was short .25 cents for a newspaper and asked Alex if she had a quarter. She shook her head. Out of nowhere a man comes up to me and hands me a quarter. On Christmas Eve I find myself in the same ferry terminal killing time. This time having the correct amount of change I acquire a Seattle Times. While reading the sports section and with the rest of my paper to my left, a woman comes up to me (without saying a word) and picks up my newspaper (much to my surprise) and starts reading it. She hands to other half to her husband.

In some ways by February of this past year I had felt that I completely reinvented my life. New job, new apartment, new work neighborhood (and with it new stores, coffee shops, and restaurants to try), new colleagues, and moving in with my lady and her cat. And those highlights were some of my favorite moments of this past year. But the majority of my laughs, unique moments, and interesting conversations happened while I was standing in line for a movie, or walking to the store, or driving across town, or over dinner before a play at the Seattle Rep or simply, while killing time in the Ferry Terminal, having my newspaper stolen. May no one projectile vomit in your kitchen and may your 2014 highlight reel be a great one. Happy New Year!


P.S., the links throughout are not ads but you can click on them!


Seattle To Paris (via Iceland)

October 23, 2013

Seattle To Paris (via Iceland)

Last night Alex and I bought tickets for a return trip to France. Alex came up with the new hashtag for the trip: #eatpraywhine.

This time, I will have a purposeful stop in Iceland.


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