December 7, 2013

27 > 22

We should have done this a long time ago.

Right after graduation, we should have tossed caution to the wind, laughed at our silly sports jobs, smiled at our nonexistent bank accounts, and flown to Europe together.

THEN (Santa Monica) and NOW (Paris)
Why didn't we?

We were way too serious for 22-year-olds. I was getting married and starting my camp directing job. Amanda was moving across the entire country and starting her intense college coaching gig. There was "no time" to take that epic American road trip we had talked about for three years, let alone pay for airplanes to take us over an ocean to another continent!

But I'm really glad we got to be in Paris 5 1/2 years after graduation. There were no panic attacks from getting lost, we didn't miss out on anything important, and instead of "finding ourselves" (as most post-grad trips aim to do), we were able to enjoy being ourselves to the fullest as the best friends that we used to be, we've become, and will always be.

Shamelessly copying their vantage point.
We went all over Paris! We enjoyed the yummy treats at the Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées, strolled through Notre Dame, twisted between the crooked streets in Le Marais, marched around Montmartre, and sipped our Angelina's cocoa most happily. We have such a rhythm with visiting friends now that we have the obvious "hits," then we move to the more seasonally and personally tailored adventures. Amanda and Marc got to experience the overwhelming Salon des Vins (literally over 1,000 vineyards present their wines in booths in the huge convention center). Amanda bravely tackled the Louvre and Versailles on her own (we reserve the right to pass on these massive tourist destinations).

The best two moments were our Thanksgiving dinner with our French friends, and the entire Monday spent wandering through every corner of Paris together. The family I babysat for last year graciously invited Marc and me - which then became plus Amanda, and plus Amy - to celebrate Thanksgiving at their Parisian flat this year. We were so wrapped up in the greatness of the idea that when reality set in, all we could do was laugh.

False reality: We've had Thanksgiving dinner every year our entire lives, of course we can show them how great it is! There will be tons of food, smiles, and happiness!

True reality: "Can you make pie?" "No. Do you know how to make stuffing?" "I think it comes in a box?" "Okay, hopefully Amanda and Amy know more than we do."

Marc and I created a do-able menu that was functional for France and blended with the traditional American fare. He made his family's always very tasty fried cauliflower, and I made mashed potatoes for more than two people for the first time in my life. My extra special Thanksgiving assignment in the past? Place cards. Don't hate on my sweet handwriting skills.

Stephane and baby cheering on
Stephanie's duck carving.
But despite our shortcomings and setbacks as American young adults, the four of us were able to proudly showcase one of our American holidays to our great French friends - who thankfully provided the delicious duck for the main dish! You can read more about "what happened to the pies" on Amy's blog here.

The good news is we really did end up with tons of food (some good, some interesting), smiles and laughs (little 3-year-old Liam loves having company, so he kept singing about putting his friends in the toilet, washing machine, and trash can), and happiness (especially after Amy was able to lull the baby to sleep with her magical powers). Stephane and Stephanie are such great friends to have because they appreciate speaking English with us and continuing the dialogue on the differences between French and American cultures.

Raclette is AWESOME.
On my full Monday off from volleyball, we made a large half-circle around Paris. We started in the Left Bank, making our way through the streets to Rue Mouffetard for lunch. We found a quaint French cuisine restaurant where we had so much raclette and chocolate fondue that we couldn't even finish all of it. Next door we stumbled into a cute boutique and bought matching sweaters. It's allowed, and actually encouraged, when you live thousands of miles away from each other.

We took a short peek at the Roman amphitheater before hopping onto the metro to head up to L'Opéra Garnier. I kept telling Amanda that I hoped the stage would be closed to tourists for rehearsals because then we could sneak upstairs and watch, as Tanya discovered a few years back. The supervisors in the opera house are few and far between, but we were kept from sliding through the staircase door by lazy tourists taking breaks on the lush red velvet benches. We patiently explored the other parts of the opera's halls before checking one last time - and we were in the clear! Note to remember: it's not the next floor, or the one after, it's the 3rd floor from the door where there is a double swing door entrance to the seats. We breathlessly and silently enjoyed some ballet for about 30 minutes before the director ended rehearsal. This is the best way to see the Parisian ballet - like spies. (Honestly, that's the best way to do anything.)

After our high-class mission, we made our way to a patisserie called Dalloyau, which I still cannot pronounce. Dall-o-yow? Doll-o-yo? We learned of this exquisite place during our neighbor's wine and cheese party a few weeks back. One of their friends is a part of the Dalloyau dynasty, and he brought the most beautiful desserts to the party, so I just had to check it out. The Dalloyau patisserie is actually very famous in France because it was the chosen patisserie for the royal family (yes, like Louis XIV). Dalloyau invented the "Opera cake," which is a must-have for chocolate and coffee lovers. I found My Macaron: coconut and chocolate cappings with caramel filling: perfect.

We finished our beautiful day at my favorite Eiffel Tower area along the Seine, across the Bir-Hakeim bridge. We had the whole bridge to ourselves this time, and the bank was deserted like normal. The sunset could not have been more perfect, and we watched the Eiffel Tower begin to glow at dusk while we waited for the hourly sparkle.

While, yes, we could have done this a long time ago, I am much happier we did it now. 27 looks way better on us than 22 did, for sure.