November 1, 2014

Act 2: Symphony and Sport

Saturday morning brought in Marc from La Fère, and my uncle and aunt in from London. Mike and Daphne were traveling with their church group from Tulsa, Oklahoma, so Daphne understandably opted to stick with the tour itinerary. Mike chose to go along with whatever Marc and I thought sounded good: food.

Jardin des Tuileries.
After checking into our hotel rooms, we walked our way south to Place de la Concorde to take in the 360-degree view of most of Paris. We paused for refreshments in the Jardin des Tuileries before heading over to Angelina's for a late brunch/lunch.

Hey, Eiffel Tower and Obelisk! Oh, and Mike and Marc!
Family is always an interesting dynamic. I don't write about this ever because my honesty can be too direct to some and yet my principles insist on telling the whole truth (remember, once upon a time, I was going to be a journalist). There are a lot of histories and stories, all based on real facts and strong opinions and deep feelings. These ideas and circumstances all contribute to what our relationships look like in the present and what they will eventually become. As the younger generation tier in a family, we don't have any guarantees that our connections with our adult relatives will grow up with us and end up awesome. I'm very grateful that my relationship with my Uncle Mike thrives in a place where we can celebrate what we have in common: good food, good places, and good people.

Meet my Uncle Mike.
I've gone to Angelina's several times before, and have always watched the tantalizing meals pass by...but not this time! Uncle Mike got the 4-course brunch, Marc ordered a delicious omelet, and I enjoyed an avocado heavy salad...and the hot chocolate, of course!

You know it's a great salad when...
you can't see the lettuce.
In the evening, we made our way to the Bastille neighborhood to eat crêpes and go to the symphony at the modern opera house. I don't really identify as a "symphony person," but I was really into reading along the German lyrics to the Schönberg piece during the first half of the concert. The soprano was singing German, the program had the German next to the translated French, and I was processing as quickly as I could into English.

Place de la Bastille in the autumn sunset.
What did I gather? The song was absolutely terrifying, and then tragic. First, the singer was lost in the dark and thought someone or something was trying to attack or take her. Second, she found out this "person/thing" was really her lover, but he's dying and she couldn't do anything to save him. And finally, she realized that he was actually in love with another woman and never felt the same depth of emotion that the singer did for him.

No bad seat in the Opera Bastille!
I think most of the audience was simply appreciating the orchestra, the animated conductor, and the talented singer. I was certainly impressed as well, but my wide-eyed expressions went from afraid to sad to hopeless as I read what was literally happening. By the end of the 40-minute song, I was mentally exhausted from all the translating, and still reeling from the intense emotional journey. Maybe that's why the audience just listens for musical enjoyment....

The reason this week(end) in Paris worked out so well was because my team had a match in the southeastern suburb of Paris in Villejuif. Marc and I had already planned on being here, then when Mike and Daphne told us they'd be in town the exact same weekend - we knew it was meant to be! (Even more so than the random evening in London!)

View from one of my wanders: the rooftop terrace of Le Printemps store.
It was such an incredible highlight to have my uncle and aunt at my volleyball game! A few of my friends, Marc's Simpson basketball team, and my cousin (Mike & Daphne's son, James) had been the only "people from our first lives" to see why we are really here in Europe. It meant so much to me that they were willing to take a chunk out of their vacation to come cheer my team on.

Hey KBFs (Kid Best Friends who are now mostly adults)!
I miss running with these two!
As if having Marc, Mike, and Daphne there wasn't enough, two of my former teammates at La Rochette, the La Rochette club secretary (Jean-Marie was basically the go-to guy for my two years in Melun), Amy the American and her French boyfriend, and the new setter at La Rochette and her husband even came! We were the away team, and we had a full fan section shouting, "Allez! La Fère!" While we were playing, I was sure the French people were saying "Allez," and that my Oklahoma uncle was chanting in his southern accent, "La Fère!" BUT as it turns out, Jean-Marie, ever the ham, was enjoying practicing his American accent while Mike was shouting "Allez!" If you don't believe me, listen for yourself!

We did not win the match. My friends on the Villejuif team (namely, Erika the American and Dorit the Estonian who graciously let me crash at their apartment whenever I tutor in Paris) beat us 3-1. Not that I like losing, but having so many wonderful friends and family there really made it the secondary thing of the day. It was a beautiful mix of family from forever, best friends from France, and American expat volleyballers who have become like family here. Losing a volleyball game is one thing, but I was the winner in so many other ways that it didn't matter.

Les Amies Américaines: Swags, Amy, & Erika!
We're good at volleyball, but better at having fun!
The prelude was Act 1: Paris Sets the Stage.
The finish is Act 3: The Palais Finale.