November 5, 2013

Double the Friends, Double the Fun

We have had the really cool opportunity to share our gorgeous Paris with several of our friends this fall season. I was lucky enough to spend a little bit more time than normal with two of them: my best friend, Tanya, and my cousin, James.


(Jenn), Tanya, Christy, (& Amanda) = Cuatro!
Tanya came out our very first year in France, and we kind of did everything imaginable during those 3 weeks. So when she wanted to jet over here for a mere 6 days of shopping insanity, the other goal was to give her some new Parisian experiences as well.

You can read from Tanya's perspective on her blog entry, I love Paris in the fall....

We hit the ground running at the Marché aux Puces in Saint-Ouen, north of town. This is the oldest flea market in Paris, and full of all kinds of treasures, oddities, and interesting people. Tanya was able to capitalize on some excellent merchandise, and we enjoyed an unusually delicious lunch at the café in the middle of the market.

We really wanted to take advantage of the "Nuit Blanche," but it ended up being on Saturday night before my Sunday match. Instead, we went to our neighbor's costume birthday party. The theme was "before and after," which ended up being a really difficult theme to dress up for! We based our last minute decision on the available clothes in our closets. Tanya and I are about as perfect as Angelina Jolie as Marc is as Brad Pitt (Tanya was Lara Croft, and Marc and I were Mr. & Mrs. Smith). Reference my Instagram account for the photo!

My favorite part of Tanya's week with us was the awesome Eiffel Tower vantage point that we stumbled upon. We walked along the river and found ourselves totally alone with the Eiffel in full view. Jumping Photo Shoot, GO!

While we were in London with my uncle, aunt, and cousin James, we got to talking about how James could easily come for a visit. So that he did!

James had been to Paris before with his family when he was younger, so the sights weren't really the draw for him this time around. We went all over the place! We got on new trams, metro lines, and walked around entire arrondissements (neighborhoods) that I had never bothered to visit before. And we did most of it in the rain!

My club also happened to be having a real French dinner evening, and we three Americans got to be a part of a crazy French board game, a 7 (or 8?) course meal, and a whole lot of laughter and good times with my team and friends.

James was a fun visitor to have because he literally blended into our lives. Another one of our mutual friends, Cate, lives in the center of Paris, and he would go back and forth between our flats like it was no big thing. I think the Navigo pass really helps with that attitude!

I had three main highlights during James' trip.

1) Walking along the Canal Saint-Martin

Coat credit: Tanya. Photo credit: James.
I have wanted to do this stroll for a year or two now, and we were blessed with a beautiful sunny day, and no crowds. The canal has wide pathways along each side, and arching foot bridges across it. We ate with the self-proclaimed hipsters at Chez Prune. And we were cool.

2) Salon du Chocolat

Macaron rainbows.
We kind of forced this onto James - he doesn't like chocolate - but we just had to go! Cate, James, my American pal Amy, and I hit the convention center and then the aroma hit us! I wanted to Insta-scent it via my iPod. Amy and I thought we were so clever when we finally found a company giving out free samples, and we both just took a morsel without even thinking. The taste was VERY strange and we gave the guy the look of, "What kind of awful flavor is this?" He replied, "Cannibis." Let's just say that's not a mistake we will ever be making again. EVER.

We were able to cleanse our palettes the rest of the time with way better options, but I don't think I will go back to the event in the future. Why not? While it was a good alternative this year to trick-or-treating on Halloween, there were so many freaking KIDS EVERYWHERE that it really took the fun out of it for me. It felt like Disneyland on the weekend - no thanks. The highlight of this activity was just being with my friends, accidentally eating disgusting marijuana-flavored chocolate, and seeing all the beautiful desserts!

3) Volleyball Practice
Most of my friends who do come to visit are my former volleyball teammates anyway, but James didn't come to my volleyball playing practice, he came to the boys volleyball practice that I coach! Since it was the vacation still, I didn't have a lot of boys at either practice, but that meant that James got to play the whole time! The coolest part of it for me was how my 13-year-old boys decided James was the most awesome person ever, and were actually chanting his name the entire practice. He became "one of the boys" during both practices, and I couldn't have asked for a better volleyball guest. I think my players like me more now because James is related to me.

Me. Tower. Cousin. YES.
I don't know how many miles we walked together, but the enjoyment was more in the talking than in the walking. I feel like I finally had the chance to get to know my cousin on an adult-to-adult basis, without the throng of family members all around.

I believe it is so important to actually take the time to talk about "real stuff" with relatives and create friendships instead of just being related. I know not all relatives are meant to be friends (personality clashes, differences in convictions, distance, whatever), but isn't it fantastic when it can, and then does, happen?!

I heard a quote a long time ago, "Fate chooses our relatives, but we choose our friends." Tanya is my friend who has become a relative, and James is my relative who has become a friend.

Forget "Fate;" I'm glad I can choose both.