Archive for June 30th, 2006

The Thinker

Getting Continental

One week from now, my family and I will be in Paris. I am not sure what we will be doing there one week from now, but we should be there. Yeah, I know about the Eiffel Tower. In addition, I have heard of the Louvre. Moreover, I will definitely check out the Cathedral at Notre Dame, along with as many cathedrals as I can. (I have this thing for old gothic churches and cathedrals. Unfortunately, my wife and daughter do not.) Aside from hearing that the French have a reputation for hiring snooty waiters and open contempt for those like me who cannot speak French, I might as well be heading to the Moon. It is hard to know how to prepare properly for what will be an alien experience.

Still, I am hopeful. Perhaps I have concentrated too much on the negatives, and not on the positives of Paris. Josseline from my covenant group is French, and she assures me that Paris is a charming city that I will fall in love with. That is fine with me. I would like to fall in love. Since I am married, it is better to fall in love with a city than with another woman anyhow. For the eight days or so that we are there, I will do my best to turn off my inner Washingtonian and adapt to Paris time. Aside from the six-hour time change, I will also try to avoid trying to see how many different museums and cathedrals we can take in during a single day. I come from a city where every minute is rigorously metered. Time is money in Washington. Spending an extra half hour at a Parisian café just taking in the ambience sounds wonderful.

Unlike my last two vacations where the computer came with us, during this one the computer stays at home. A blogging vacation, at least for me, is an oxymoron. I cannot fully enjoy a vacation if I am regularly streaming my thoughts about it back to the Internet. So Occam’s Razor fans will have to accept my absence from July 5th until at least July 15th. I do hope to bring a notebook (the paper kind) to remember key points. Moreover, I expect that I will regurgitate a lot of this vacation for your amusement or annoyance later in July. Along with my notebook, we will bring our new Canon Powershot digital camera and the 1GB memory cartridge we purchased for it. That is big enough for 500 or more photographs. Perhaps I will risk recording a brief movie with the camera, and posting it to the blog. I have never posted a video on my blog before.

I hope getting there and back is half the fun. We saved a few bucks by flying through Iceland, so perhaps we will catch a spectacular view of an Icelandic fiord from our 757. To tell the truth, Iceland sounds more my kind of vacation than France. I am impressed with Mother Nature, and in general, the wilder the country feels the higher the better.

I was hoping to have our first European vacation in England. At least there, I can sort of speak the native language. My sister Doris however informs me that Paris is much better. She asserts that not only is it less expensive but the English never developed taste buds. Of course, the French are renowned for their food. Since they seem to live to ripe old ages despite the tobacco, fat, cholesterol and large volumes of wine they consume, maybe I will appreciate the Parisian diet. I am concerned about my daughter though, whose taste is very American and who does not believe in vegetables. I expect she will live on croissants while we are there.

While red eye flights are probably the best way to travel east, I cannot say that I look forward to it. There is no sleeping on them, even in business class. Coming back from Hawaii, the best I could do was try to sit quietly for a few hours with my eyes closed. I never came close to falling asleep. Perhaps this is just as well, for the classic way to adjust to jet lag going east is to forget about getting any sleep and stay up until the sun sets in your destination. The only problem with that approach is staying awake until nightfall. I have received mixed advice about using Melatonin as a sleep aid. My experience with sizeable jet lag, as I discussed elsewhere, is that most tactics fail. Since the time shift is six hours, and the body can seem to adjust about three hours a day, I figure it will take two days to get on Parisian time. Thankfully, it is summer time and the days are very long that far north. In addition, I am the morning person of the family anyhow, so it should prove less stressful for me.

Why are we going to Paris? Simply because we have a 16 year old daughter with four years of French who is enamored with all things French. She has hopes of studying overseas, and France is her preferred destination. While she has gotten more realistic about her plans (I am not sure how many years of tuition we can afford at American University in Paris with a tuition rate of 30,000 euros a year), seeing France in person will at least give her a reality check. If truth were told, I am hoping she returns not too enamored. Quebec is a lot closer and likely less expensive too.

So I have been thumbing through our Frommer’s book on Paris trying to get prepared. While I am sure I will stand out as an American tourist regardless, I am considering their advice to blend in by perhaps being dressier. Perhaps I should avoid the blue jeans and sneakers and wear pants and shoes instead. The guide warns us to watch for pickpockets and to try to not get too upset by all the prostitutes. In Europe, prostitution just does not have the stigma it has here in the states.

Then there is all the mystery and logistics of international travel. We have had our passports since January, but there are many issues related to reservations and money. Will our credit cards work overseas? It looks like they should, but Visa will insist on tacking on a 1% fee every time we use it. Do we need to have some cash in Euros before we arrive? It seems to be a good idea, so we will change out a few hundred dollars at the foreign exchange office at BWI before the flight. Is it a good idea to register with the State Department? I do not know, but we did it anyhow. Do I need a foreign phrasebook? Apparently not, since we will have our French speaking daughter with us. This is good, because with my luck I will get one of those phrase books parodied on Monty Python: “If I told you that you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”

In truth, I need a vacation. Paris will more than do. I need to get away from the office, because it is hard not to carry the office with me on vacation. The very day we leave, I have to brief our Associated Director on a project on which I am involved. Fortunately, we have an evening flight. I make my living as an information technology web site manager. As such, half of my brain is always focused one to six months in the future. It is a challenge to get all my ducks lined up in a row so I can enjoy my vacation. I am hoping with a complete change of scenery that I really can forget about my job and all the responsibility that comes with it.

So okay Paris. I will let down my guard. I am ready to fall in love with you. I will be easy.

 

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