The Adventures of a 12 pound Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) going to Paris.


Tom & Maxine like to travel. Blogging helps us create a record of the trips, and share with friends and family...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Two Pictures Plus A Success Story

The flower arrangement picture on this entry is simply from a shop I passed while out walking. This florist is one of many that I've seen with very nice arrangements in their windows.

The other picture is of Cassie ready for sleep in the 'bedroom' we have created for her in our bedroom closet. She needed a place to huddle into that was her own. When we get ready to go out she tends to head off there to take a nap.

As for the success story, today we took Cassie to lunch. The restaurant, Les Editeurs, is 2 blocks from our apartment. When we got there the hostess didn't blink at all as we walked in with Cassie, who laid quietly on the floor under our feet for the entire meal.

Since we've gotten to Paris we've taken Cassie to cafes and various outdoor activities. She's met innumerable French dogs and had many French people comment on her (although we are now starting to think that the older man who called her 'adorable' in French the day we got here may have been a plant by the French Tourist Office to make us feel welcome...). Up until now she has never been a full Parisian dog who simply walked into a restaurant and hung out while her owners had a meal.

Thanks again to Lori, our trainer in Los Angeles!!!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's A Dog's City + Other Things Going On

First off, I wanted to point out that, as I predicted, I've cut back a lot on dog-in-Paris stories as Maxine & I have begun to do things here.

However, Paris really is a dog's city! Some places we've seen many dogs in France:
1. At the grocery store... in line... waiting to pay
2. Eating the same vegetable soup as everyone else at the table (the bowl was put on the floor!)
3. Under the table at a one star restaurant.
4. On the metro (subway)
5. At the Farmer's market checking out the produce for sale.
6. At a cafe
7. Shopping -- various stores.

As I've briefly noted before, we have had many more conversations with people here as a result of our dog being with us. Most recently we were out at the end of the evening with Cassie and ran into another couple taking their dog out for a last walk as well. The two dogs stopped to check each other out. We owners joked about it, then went on our way. This sort of exchange hadn't happened in any other trip we've had to France -- Cassie is an excuse to talk to people.

As to other things going on, the pictures on this blog entry are from the Musee des Art et Metiers (these specific pictures are from the portion of the museum that is in a decommissioned church). It is a museum of 'things' related to engineering, electronics, flying, robotics, printing presses, photography -- sort of a progression of man's mastery of the world. As a museum it isn't one of the central ones, not the Louvre, not one with Monet's or Picasso's or Rodin sculptures, if you find it interesting to see how many has progressed, this museum had some very classic pieces of that history.

A few examples: a Cray computer, an early printing press, a maritime compass & navigation tools, a movie projector from the Lumiere brothers (Edison era movie makers!), a voltaic pile (an early battery), a calculator invented by Pascal (who was a philosopher, but clearly a practical person too), early measuring equipment... OK, I'll stop now. Here's the link. If you like this sort of stuff, the museum is great!

Some oddly derivative things I've seen while here. First, they are advertising "Cabaret, the Broadway Musical". That just seems like a circuitous routing. A musical about Germany popularized in New York now being shown in Paris. My second derivative item is this. There's a big Disney animation exhibit at a museum here. (Supposedly Sleeping Beauty's castle is based on a French castle.) So, a French castle popularized by a company in California being exhibited now here in Paris.

This past week I've also been enjoying the slightly cooler weather (meaning it is cool enough to wear a long sleeve shirt -- it has been warm here). This has also given me a chance to hang out in some parks. There are many, but the past 2 days I've spent some time in one about 10 minutes from here. In all it is about 2 acres in size, very groomed, benches, some late roses, etc. It has been both a good quiet place as well as a popular place for people to eat a sandwich for lunch. One of the things I'm starting to enjoy more and more about Paris is the scale. Yes, it's a big city with more noise than I'd like. But, there are all sorts of little outposts of quiet, of green, of beautiful buildings, of stores with interesting things in the windows. In terms of interesting things in windows, the chocolate shops have started to put out displays of fall chocolates. I haven't tried any yet but will tomorrow! I'm not sure what makes fall chocolate different other than that they make chocolate leaves and chocolate nuts (nuts fabricated out of chocolate), but we'll see.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Maxine Turns 50

Maxine turned 50 today and we celebrated by going to what is literally the best restaurant in France ( ) -- Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire. It was quite an experience. The food was off the charts! In the lunch menu they served us 25-30 different items including, for example, 4 different preparations of tomato. At the end of the meal, along with coffee (after about 6 other deserts) they served 2 different chocolates. The service was great, the wines impressive, and each of the flavors very unique.

When Mr. Gagnaire came by the table after the meal, I managed to tell him we were celebrating Maxine's 5th birthday (my bad French), but once we cleared up that I meant 50th, he wished her a "Bon anniversaire".

(From Patricia Wells', "Food Lover's Guide to Paris" website): "There is no chef more creative than Pierre Gagnaire is: I love dining in this cozy, grown-up, grey and white dining room, savoring Gagnaire’s thoughtful fare. It’s never the same, but I’ve been wowed by everything from tiny clams fried in polenta and set on a bed of mushroom purée; an unusual serving of grated coconut paired with bits of cauliflower and a celery root purée. Who else could make us collage with pleasure over a single fat raspberry rolled in sugar?"

Happy Birthday Maxine!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Food Stores, Oranges, Small World, Etc.

First off, food... It really is an obsession here. (OK, we're feeding into that obsession by some of the things we're doing while we're here, but it is very accessible...). Specialty food choices are everywhere. Bakeries, chocolate & pastry shops, coffee shops, cheese stores -- everywhere! But, there also happens to be one particular area where a lot of the very good stores have ended up locating, called Place Madelaine. I went there the other day to check out the following stores:
* La Maison de Miel -- sells only honey and honey products
* La Maison de la Truffe -- same for truffles
* La Boutique Maille -- same for mustard
and, if you want a more general purpose 'grocery' store, Madelaine has two choices:
* Fauchon and Hediard -- both are to grocery stores as Beverly Hills is to Detroit

Second topic for this particular blog, transportation. We continue to marvel at the usefulness of our "Carte Orange" (see, I wasn't going to talk about food when I mentioned Oranges in the subject of this blog). For roughly $70/month we can travel anywhere within Paris, on either the subway (Metro) or the very extensive bus system. When we left LA it was costing about $60 to fill up my car with a tank of gas, so this seems like a bargain. We'd recommend either the weekly or monthly Carte Orange to anyone coming to the city. The alternative at the other end of the system, buying a single trip ticket for $1.70 (needing to spend $3.40 for a roundtrip) makes you think twice before you go somewhere. With the Carte Orange, you can hop on the Metro and go cross town to check out another chocolate store...

Third topic, small world instances. We went to Rosh Hashanah services Friday night. The rabbi came over to welcome us as visitors. We mentioned that we were from LA and he asked where in LA -- it turned out that he'd lived in Studio City (the next town over from us) for a while when he was studying. In another small world instance, we've twice run into people we knew from other circumstances. In one case, on the Metro we bumped into someone we knew. In the other, we were at a cafe and ran into someone we knew.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Coffee, Versailles, Speaking French, People in Tents

On Wednesday I went to a coffee shop as part of the MeetTheParisians program (we had previously been to a cheese shop through this program -- a prior blog entry). The guy at this coffee store is a second generation coffee roaster/retailer. His father opened the store (at this location, with this coffee roasting machine) 60+ years ago -- his father retired from the business 6 months ago at age 97.

I've had other coffee that I've enjoyed. I'm not even sure that this is the 'best' tasting coffee I've ever had. But, I have never been more pleased to drink coffee that someone has made for me! By 'made' I mean that the beans were selected from a burlap bag at my feet, they were roasted in a 60 year old machine 10 feet from where I was standing, and brewed on the spot. I enjoyed the taste, I could taste a depth of flavor that I don't ordinarily notice in coffee, and I respect the idea that someone would be spending their work life getting good at coffee, something that is so ubiquitous.

On Thursday Maxine & I went to Versailles. It's very famous so I won't add anything by writing about it. The one particular thing though which struck us was this. We went to Versailles before, in 1985. At that time the guy who sold the tickets could speak only French and we had to enlist the help of a passer-by to communicate. This time the ticket person (a different one obviously) was happy to joke with us in English. We've really noticed a strong move towards speaking English. People are definitely pleased when you speak French to them, but it is also the case that just about everyone we've met (retail and otherwise) can speak more English than we can speak French (and, we put what seemed to us like a pretty good effort into improving our French language skills before we got here!)

Finally, a contrast we've noticed between Los Angeles and Paris. In LA it is very easy to be insulated from the rest of the city. You get in your car and you drive from your PointA to the Point B you are headed towards. You might see some economic diversity, but in LA, not very much. However, here in Paris we've seen many people living in tents (mostly along the Seine River). This paragraph is not a comment on poverty in France versus the US, or about how economic diversity (OK, the poor) are treated in other places. All I'm looking to do is to observe that, at least for me, seeing people in such bad circumstances matters in a different way -- you know they exist differently if you pass them by than if you read about them...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Some Photos

Maxine, Charlotte & Lisa with Monet in the background...
The steel drum concert at the Luxembourg Gardens...
Another view of the Luxembourg Gardens...
Does Disney know that Quasimodo is from Paris???

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Less Structured Day

This photo -- Cassie & me at the Eiffel Tower. On Saturdays we need to leave the apartment for a few hours. We've found a dog-friendly park near the American Library and Eiffel Tower!

Maxine & I feel incredibly lucky to be able to spend time in Paris in this way. We don't have to rush from sight to sight and can instead soak up the city in a different way.

This afternoon was a study in contrasts for me. I had lunch at McDonalds. Then I listened for 2 hours to a 25 piece steel drum band from Trinidad -- the singing was in English. The concert was in the Luxembourg gardens (200? years old) and introduced in French. Just a very relaxed way to spend some time. One of our goals for this trip is to have felt like we'd moved to Paris for a short time. I guess this is it?

We've also repeatedly been pleased to discover how many friends are also passing through Paris during our 2 months. We've been attending various ex-pat and other orientation events and have met a half-dozen or more people that we're in touch with/planning to get together with. But, it is certainly pleasant to see old friends:
* J, who Tom went to grammar through high school with - in from a business trip to Geneva.
* D, who Maxine went to high school with -- coming next month for the cooking class in Provence.
* R & K -- friends from Long Beach on their way back from Florence -- we may see them at the airport during their layover.
* J & L -- Tom's ex-boss from years ago -- on their way to ?Provence.
* D -- worked for Tom 5 years ago

Some Random Notes:
1. Throughout Paris the hard side garbage pails have been replaced with metal frames holding plastic bags. Sad...
2. The police outside the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre are carrying very serious looking rifles. Also sad....
3. I saw a police man stop an 8 year old boy for riding his bicycle too fast through the park and cutting off an older lady. That I like!
4. The weather has started to turn a bit cooler. We're switching from t-shirts (all we had for this unexpectedly warm weather) to long sleeve shirts. Others are wearing jackets, scarves, and down vests -- we don't understand this at all, and we're the Californians!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

An Artist, A Cheese Seller, and A Church, and Other Stuff

We finally went to Eglise St. Sulpice -- the church that is the early focal point of The DaVinci Code. From the front door of our apartment building to the front door of the church is about 200 steps. We've been by there at least 50 times with Cassie! (I'd been inside on a previous trip to Paris). In our wandering around the church we came upon the brass line (about 200 feet long) marking the winter equinox that is referred to in the book/movie. One thing off our checklist!

Today we also went to an art exhibit. One of my friends from Viking Office Products days put me in touch with a friend of hers who lives here in Paris. A friend of hers was exhibiting at an art show. I imagine that we were the only Americans at this exhibit which was in a more residential very nice area of Paris, the 12th arrondissment.

My point about being the only Americans -- our apartment is in the 6th arrondissment and you cannot walk down the street without hearing someone speaking English. It is very easy to get by in this area speaking only English if that's what works for you.

We also went to learn a bit about cheese today. I hate to push this too much with superlatives, but it really was a fantastic thing to do. We've been to cheese tastings in LA, but this was at a new level! The city of Paris runs a program called "Meet the Parisians",, and as Maxine put it, they are doing an terrific job recruiting Parisian participants.

There are tons of cheese stores in the city -- within a five minute walk I'd guess we have 10 stores that beat anything we can get to in LA. We went to the store for this class, "La Fromagerie De Paris" ('the cheese store of Paris'), without any particular expectations. It was something to do, a bit of a trek (30 minutes by metro) to get there, ... It turns out that the owner, Eric LeFebvre was the Parisian we would be meeting. He's a winner of the "Meilleur Ouvrier de France" for Cheese (basically this makes him one of the maybe 10(?) best informed cheese people in the country! This was beyond great! We spent about 1 1/2 hours there, learned about cheese, about what it took to win the MOF (he was quite modest and I had to ask him to tell us), went into the store's 'cave', and tasted 5 very different cheeses. If you enjoy cheese even just a little bit, this was a great thing to do; we're planning on going to more of these Meet The Parisians activities, and would heartily recommend them to anyone else...

Other things today:
1. When Eric was handing out the cheese samples I was the only one who could identify that the Roquefort was actually from goat milk rather than cow.
2. There's a Thai festival across from St. Sulpice that we went to briefly.
3. We ran into someone we knew on the Metro last night -- the odds against that are off the charts.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Cassie at the Louvre (she didn't go in...)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Deyrolle -- The Taxidermist #2, Cassie Getting Nervous

Deyrolle -- The Taxidermist #1

In Adam Gopnik's book he talks about taking his young son to Deyrolle. We were wandering neighborhoods the other day and found the store. Here's the link to their website, along with some photos I took:

Good Stuff & Bad Stuff -- Chocolate Report #1

One of my 'projects' on this trip is to research chocolate stores. Really, I'm only doing this as a research project, but, it is an important one. Maxine & I met working for M&M/Mars and this is simply a continuation of that work.

Okay, so I like to eat chocolate. My first research trip was to a nearby store called "chocolates of Bayonne". I don't think they were talking about Bayonne, New Jersey, but I did notice that they are somewhat of a chain store with branches in numerous places.

So, my first real chocolate research was to a store called "Denise Acabo/A L'Etoile D'Or". Her store is, because of metro connections, about 20 minutes from our apartment and near the Moulin Rouge. Here's what Patricia Wells says about this store in her book, "Food Lover's Guide To Paris", "How does a chocolate-lover visit Paris and yet manage to sample all the best homemade chocolates from all over France?... reach the charming old-fashioned storefront of Denise Acabo. She's round and pig-tailed, with an obvious passion for chocolate. Show a little interest and, no questions asked, she'll take you on..."

When I got there (a very tiny! store) I managed (or mangled), the phrase, "I understand that you have the best chocolate store in Paris and since I like chocolate, I am here to visit". She agreed with me and was, as Patricia Wells says, very welcoming. She told me that she'd just gotten back from a swimming vacation (I'll guess that she did other things as well, but my French is limited) and that all her chocolates were fresh. I spent about 20 minutes in the store, learning about different producers, products, regions, etc. In the end I bought a 3 day supply (!) including handmade marshmellow, handmade caramels, and about 20 pieces of chocolate. When I left I told her that I was here for 2 months and would be back!!!

... As to the "bad stuff" I refer to in this blog's title, here it is. Denise's store is about 2 blocks from the Moulin Rouge (Maxine & I think the movie is very good) and I was at the corner trying to place in my mind where the various camera angles/view points were. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a small car buzz by (someone I'd read referred to the small cars as being powered by blowdryers for engines). Just around the corner from me I heard a sound like three or four 2 liter plastic soda bottles being crunched together at ones, then a gasp from a number of people. I went around the corner, the little car had managed to hit a woman hard enough that she broke the windshield, and was now laying on the street. In the 10 minutes I was there she did not move her body, a young frenchman put his jacket over her and knealt on the ground talking to her until the ambulances arrived. It took 5 people to move her onto the stretcher. I don't know how she is -- I only know that it looked very sad. Without trying to be too profound in this tragedy, I guess the lessons are to be careful as a pedestrian because cars are more powerful than people, and, as a driver not to rush too much.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Great Day

After nearly 2 weeks, I have finally embraced being in Paris!

OK, I've known all along I was in Paris. But, we've beeen pretty focused on making sure we're here in a way that at least somewhat resembles living here. So, rather than visiting many museums we've been checking out bread stores, restaurants, grocery stores, how the Metro works, etc... So, we haven't spent much time at all yet doing the things that are singularly 'Parisian' in the sense of a visitor.

Today, I stopped by the American Library in Paris ( I've gotten a library card and needed to return some books. The library is in a great neighborhood over by the Eiffel Tower. So, after I picked up my books I walked the 2 blocks over to the Eiffel Tower's park grounds. There were hundreds of people in the park, and quite a few more at the base of the tower.

What I chose to do was to find a bench in the shade (it has been in the 80's and maybe low 90's here!) and read one of my books. From where I was laying on the bench I could see the base of 2 of the legs of the tower and (let's call it) the thigh of one of the legs of the tower. That was it, for 45 minutes. After I stirred from my book I started walking towards the Tower. Everyone has seen it, either in pictures, a movie, or in person. I can't really add much at all to the description of it, so I'll just say that as I came close to it, the feeling became more majestic.

Yes, I can see that I'm in Paris! The weather is great! The parks are pleasant, and the Tower is the Tower.

P.S. Unlike the Luxembourg Gardens (very near our apartment) where dogs aren't very welcome, they seem to be quite welcome at the Eiffel Tower parks. So, at some point Cassie will get to go there -- and I'll put up on this blog a picture of Cassie in front of the definitive Parisian sight!!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Politeness In A Large City

Just a couple vignettes about Paris.

Recall from a prior post that we'd taken Cassie to a nearby cafe, where she'd met and befriended our waiter? (Actually, what she really did was amuse our waiter with her valiant efforts to defend her space when he came to our table!). We went back again a few nights later. The waiter has in some small way adopted us. When we arrived he shook hands with both of us -- and again when we left he did the same. I don't think I've ever otherwise shaken hands with my waiter before.

The weather here has been stunningly good. I imagine that the Parisians are a bit surprised -- everything we've read says that September is fall weather. We've seen more than a few days in the 80's. With such good weather, there have been very many people on the streets. What I'm used to, from living in New Jersey and Los Angeles, is that when there are crowds of people you occasionally brush shoulders as you pass them by. Sometimes it's more than a brush, you collide shoulder to shoulder. I've discovered that I've developed an instinctive reaction to brace for the collision. It has never happened here. Somehow with all of the people moving by, they manage to do it without the collisions. I'm not sure I'm describing this well enough. Maybe I'm being too generous of the Parisians (I'm sure that at some point I will collide with someone). Maybe I'm just being cautious in what I write because shoulders colliding happen to me more than to others???

Next blog -- pictures from the taxidermist!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

St. Sulpice Church

We are staying down the street from St. Sulpice (the picture placed in this blog entry), which we've read is larger than Notre Dame. We haven't had a chance to go inside yet, despite having been at the front door at least 20 times.

What is St. Sulpice? If you've read or seen Da Vinci code, it's the church at the start of the book/movie where Paul Bettany (in the movie)/Silas (the character) digs up the stones inside the church to find what he hopes is 'the secret' (I won't say more).

Anyway, we're staying just down the street, which means people walking by all the time. Cassie has taken to looking both ways when she leaves the apartment to make sure no one is coming at that moment.

Blvd. Raspail Food Market

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Sense of Place

It's a bit of a trick -- and I hope I'm managing it reasonably well -- to straddle the line between writing a journal of my experiences, and writing something interesting in a more general sense, about our trip. Here's a continuation, on the theme of a sense of place (but, maybe I'm holding myself to too high a standard?). Anyway....

We've managed to find a great outdoor food market, on Blvd. Raspail! The one nearer to us, rue Buci, seems to be experiencing the economic transformation that this entire area has seen. In other words, prices have run up so much that it's hard to make a living selling olives or peppers or stuffed chickens in the area. That's just life -- it always struck me that in (US) malls the Mrs. Fields stores had more people paying for things than anywhere else! Anyway, the one on Raspail 'meets or exceeds our expectations'! We've discovered that it is as easy to find great food for $10 as it is for $100. Both have their benefits (for one, the $10 meal is eaten at home). But having the alternatives makes it easier to conceive of being here for 2 months.

It's Saturday morning right now. We've been in the apartment for exactly one week. The jet lag is long gone. We've figured out how to do the dance of moving around in a small apartment and not bumping into each other. We know (now) where to buy great food. We have train passes. We've found a place for Cassie to hang out. We have a cafe that welcomes her. What don't we (tom) have yet? A great chocolate place...

On other vacations I've made it a project to test out the various chocolate alternatives. They seem especially prevalent here in France and also in Belgium (something to do with speaking French?) Yesterday we realized that we've been here much too long not to have bought any chocolate. We took care of that. But, it was good and not great chocolate. Our research will need to continue!

Yesterday we concluded our local bakery research. We went to Poilane, which has at various times been written up as 'the greatest baker/bakery' in Paris (he died a couple years ago). Our bread research was a bit more limited than I envision our chocolate research being. We've tested 3 bakeries. Within the range from our apartment to Poilane I'd have to guess that there are 100 bakeries. So, researching 3 isn't much. The ones we've gone to are, first of all, the 2 closest. The corner bakery and the next nearest. The next nearest is Gerard Mulot, which, conveniently, is another one of those 'best of Paris' bakeries (we feel like we're in a good neighborhood). The corner bakery has the benefit of being perhaps 50 paces from the front door and friendly in a local way. Mulot is maybe 150 paces and the sign on the door is in French, English and Japanese... Poilane has become something of a corporation after all the reviews they've received. Probably a bit too much attention, and not worth the distance to walk. SO, we're making Mulot our local bakery.

Why did I bother with that prior paragraph??? Simply, bread products here are just different. Maybe each area of the world has it's food expertise (and some have more than one). But, I'm thinking of Portland, Oregon, where the beer is unlike anywhere else. Here, the bread beats out any other bread (the LA stuff from La Brea Bakery, is pretty good, but not as good -- and yes, they've gone corporate too!)

Cassie is staring out the window of the living room right now. You might be able to see from the picture that the window starts around 12inches from the floor. So, even at her small size, she can look down the 6 floors to the street. She appears to be endlessly fascinated by the people, cars, etc. moving by. It is more than she's ever seen.

While I'm on the subject of Cassie: two nights ago we went to the cafe for a late beer. Our waiter was quite the stern looking young frenchman, very professional, keeping an eye on 40 tables quite well. He was the sort of guy who could put a bottle down on your table, open it, pour it, and continue to balance a tray with 6 other open beverage classes in his other hand -- all while standing with great posture. We had Cassie underfoot, but we were being very careful because we didn't want her barking at this stern/french/waiter. Unfortunately, she did after he made a surprise pirouette in front of her. (He didn't have the sort of demeanor that led you to think he would do a pirouette, but it fit with his efficiency and professionalism). When he did it, she began barking at him. It turned out to be a good thing -- he was very very amused that this little dog was there and had the courage to bark! For the rest of the evening he kept coming by to talk to her. We told him that she was from Los Angeles, Maxine had to explain to him that Cassie didn't speak French, etc. At the end of the evening he asked Cassie's name -- just to make this even more obvious, he didn't ask our names, just hers.

Washington Mutual Bank

Just a very short rant!

We've tried our ATM cards (6 cards, for 3 different bank accounts at Washington Mutual) at 5 different French banks (roughly 10 branches in total).

Nothing works. We cannot get money out.

I've spent over one hour on the phone back to the US with WAMU (washington mutual) in 8 phone calls (luckily free calls since I'm using Skype). They cannot help us. They simply do not know what is wrong.

I won't waste any more of your reading time by going into more details.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Early Impressions -- First Week

In Paris, by far the most typical way to get around (outside of walking) is to take the metro. I don't know what single use tickets cost, roughly 1euro. On a prior trip we'd learned about a 'carnet' which is a slightly cheaper solution -- a bundle of 10 single use tickets. In our research for this trip we read about a "Carte Orange" -- a monthly metro/bus pass. On day 2 we headed over to our local metro stop (Mabillon) and attempted to buy them (having packed passport size photos we'd had taken before we left the US). For reasons that are not yet clear to us, but that I'm sure we will encounter again, the ticket purchasing machine at Mabillon did not take Mastercard. In an encouragingly productive conversation (in French, which is what was encouraging given our efforts to learn to speak it), we were told that the St. Germain station, the next one over, could take Mastercard. So, we've got our Carte Orange(s) now and feel even more settled into being here!

After our positive experience with our first purchase (we're trying to manage our expectations here and recognize even the small successes), we used our transportation capabilities to head over to the Louvre (...the place where they filmed the first 20 minutes of The Da Vinci Code...). A LARGE museum (OK, an understatement...), we managed to view 4 of the 41 items at the museum that they are most proud of. We didn't make it to the Mona Lisa, but certainly plan that for a future excursion. My purpose in mentioning this excursion is to give some sense of just how extensive the Louvre collection is, that in the scheme of things, their collection is significant enough that a significant item is at the level of the Mona Lisa.

As I continue to write entries for this blog I expect less and less about the dog and more about what we're doing, seeing, how we're getting by, all of that. But for now as we spend a good portion of our time adapting, a key component is the dog. So, with indulgence, a few early impressions that relate to us being in Paris with Cassie.

At the Luxembourg Gardens (a very large park 10 minutes walk from our apartment): We come up to 2 older women (60's-70's) standing and talking while their dogs interact. Cassie walks up to them and at the moment our dog makes contact with their dogs we hear "Bonjour". If the dogs interact, so do the people.

11PM, a last trip outside for the night: A young woman walking her dog and the dog marches up to Cassie. She comments on her "baby" and we tell her that Cassie is 7 years old. A dozen other dogs with owners out one last time for the night. In several cases, young couples on benches while their dogs wander nearby.

At a cafe: We settle into an open-air cafe across from Luxembourg Gardens for coffee (the jet lag is still generating problems!). Cassie settles in under the table. It feels pretty protected -- she is against one wall. the table shields her from above, my legs are in front of her. We realize that this table, while providing some protection, is at a busy intersection. We do some population sampling and come to the conclusion that roughly 30 people pass directly in front of us each minute! So, in the hour we spend at the cafe, Cassie has seen 1800 people -- more, we estimate, that she has seen in the rest of her life! She handles it fine and, as we leave, the waiter acknowledges it by saying "petit bon chien" (good little dog). We feel incredibly validated -- our work with Lori has been successful!

When we think of these and other dog-based interactions we've been having it is clear that the vast majority of our interactions with French people have been precipitated by our dog. We'd read that this was likely to be the case (and maybe this is just self-validation), but it seems to be happening.

Our next hurdle, taking the dog into a restaurant for lunch!

Travel Day -- Part 2

I'd mentioned that we kept Cassie in her bag on the floor of the plane near our feet. That seemed to work out fine. Originally we'd had in mind things we'd seen other people do (on one or two occasions) -- taking their dogs out of their bags, etc. But, it just seemed unfair to hold out the hope of escape knowing that there were so many hours to go.

A side benefit of this discretion was the complete surprise of our fellow passengers as we disembarked. Everyone around was surprised to see me holding a bag with a dog in it. This was, to us, an accomplishment. In our pre-Lori days we had a great deal of fear that she would bark her way through the flight. In fact, we deliberately did not take Ambien on the flight (the very effective sleeping pill) because we wanted to be able to deal with it if Cassie became a problem on the plane.

The trip from the airport to the apartment was uneventful. After a quick settling in, we took Cassie for a walk (remember the 12 hours in the Sherpa bag!) The 6th is a very multicultural neighborhood with more than one or two English language conversation snippets to hear as you walk down the streets. Yet, what made the troubles of bringing our dog start to make sense was the comment from the elderly French man we passed, who paused when he saw her to say "adorable" (it sounds a lot more evocative with a French accent). Later still, we passed a young couple. As we came up towards them I could hear the guy saying "petit Lassie" -- he reached down to pet her and all went fine. We were feeling welcome in our new temporary home -- our dog was welcome.

Jet lag is troublesome!!! Asleep by 7 or 8PM after eating a prepared foods dinner from the local grocery store. Awake again at 2AM, etc. throughout the night

In this string of largely good and positive experiences, we have unpacked and are settling in for the duration!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Travel Day

This morning we woke up at 4AM in order to make our flight! We'd been trying to build up to it and had over the past few days been rising at 4:30, but, aside from some people I know who get up that early because they work in the financial markets (in LA, but dealing with NY time zones), it is difficult to think of another reason for getting up so early. I suspect that some number of us (myself included) used to think that 4AM was an at least occasional bedtime.

Anyway, sob story aside, we got up early!

We'd enlisted our friend Lori Peikoff's help one more time to take us to the airport. The theory here was that while we'd done a dog training session with Cassie at LAX before this was the real thing and we needed help! Check in went fine. From the standpoint of United Airlines and Cassie (the dog!), the thing that took the most time was their verifying what her 'ticket' was going to cost (being anal-retentive, we already knew).

By the way, it doesn't make any sense to us that we had to pay a fare for our dog to travel, in something the size of a gym bag, underneath the seat in front of us....

LAX-Chicago (ORD). Perfectly fine. 4 hours on the plane. We planned for 4 hours on the ground in Chicago for Cassie to 'go outside'. Not clear any other way to take care of what was necessary.... That too worked fine. I have a friend who lives in Chicago, who travels a lot!, who gave us directions on how to get to grassy spots... enough on this...

Chicago-Charles de Gaulle (CDG-Paris). 8 1/4 hour flight plus roughly 2 hours on either side for poor Cassie in the bag. That also worked surprisingly fine! The doggie drugs worked better than expected. On occasion during the flight when it got particularly turbulent or flight attendants were hanging around, we would open her bag and put a hand on her to reassure her. More than anything, I think we were disturbing her when we did so. She seemed resigned to being in the bag, not really happy or unhappy (how Zen!), and welcome of the attention when it surfaced.

(part 2 coming -- arriving at CDG and our first ((very)) jet lagged day)

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