May 25, 2015 – Paris

So, we started our day off at a market that I asked the concierge about to find a marker and a lock.  Being that today was a “free day”, their Pentecost, she wasn’t sure what was open.  Ernie and I walked down to the market to no avail.  Then I found a souvenir shop that had a marker (which i could “borrow for 2 minutes”) and locks.  I wanted the marker for two things – one, for the lock and two, for Jim Morrison’s grave.  That’s right.  Ernie agreed to go to Le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise!

However, first things first.  We borrowed the marker to write “Steph & Ernie” and “2015” on a lock engraved with “Paris” and a heart on it.  Then we crossed the bridge that we were on yesterday and locked it on somewhere around the middle. (There were quite a few other Stephanies on there too.)  I kept the keys as a memento to remind me of it.  (Only after we got back home did I see that Paris was taking down all of the locks from the different bridges for safety reasons.  We got it there just in time and I have pictures to prove it.)

Love Lock on the Passerelle de Solférino

Love Lock on the Passerelle de Solférino

From there, we traveled by metro to Père-Lachaise.  I saw a flower shop and since Ernie didn’t want me to desecrate a grave – which I had no marker to do so anyway – I bought a beautiful silk rose to place on his grave site.  We made a mistake though and walked up a hill in a park that we had no clue it had nothing (that I could tell) to do with the cemetery.

After getting out of there, we saw a sign pointing to the entry to Père-Lachaise.  The place is huge, with worn-down and moss-covered monuments and markers.  And each section was numbered in an odd way – at least to me, it was.  I got the idea of the arrondissements of Paris being numbered in a spiral pattern, but I couldn’t figure this one out.  After some well-intentioned but aimless walking, we finally came upon Jim Morrison’s grave.  And it was blocked off.  Dammit!  And they must have cleaned it up too because at the few moments I looked at and took pictures of it, I hardly saw any graffiti like I did in pictures years ago.  So I asked the man next to me (who happened to be American) “How the hell am I going to get this (the flower) over there?”  He laughed and said he didn’t know.  So I decided to launch it like a large dart.  It landed on the grave and rolled off next to it.  The guy said “Nice shot!”

Jim Morrison's Grave with my flower

Jim Morrison’s Grave with my flower

Then I went about, taking pictures quickly to get out of everyone’s way.  Only seemed fair.  Then, Ernie and I set off to go sit down for a minute.  As I sat there, I realized I didn’t get artistic mode shots, nor did I get rocks for Marci and me (bonus one for her).  So, I went back to the business at hand.  Did that, went back to Ernie and we were off.  Except for a quick bathroom stop – no paper of any kind in there…boo.  Off to manger!

We found a place – I believe it was called Restaurant Obododo – with seating outside.  This seems to be a big thing in Paris, seating outside of nearly every place that we saw.  A plus for me because I could smoke right there at the table (Thanks for putting up with that, Ern).  The food was great.  Unfortunately, we’re not well-versed in mLs when it comes to wine, so we each ordered what we thought were medium glasses of wine.  Nope.  We each had our own bottle!  Needless to say, we were both a bit tipsy after that.  Time to walk it off.

We headed over to Voltaire Circle (?), then Bastille, took pictures and kept going.

I found a store with some nice scarves in it and we went and checked it out.  I ended up with a sparkly coral one for about €15.  Brilliant.  Then we found a little toy boutique and got the girls some interesting puzzles.

Ernie wanted to visit Notre-Dame Cathedral so we took the Metro to get us their quickly. (My feet weren’t getting any better.)  Little did he or I know that our walk out after the ride would take us past L’Occitane en Provence.  I, naturally, had to stop and get something.

Unfortunately, at some point, the handle on the children’s bag broke, so I found a souvenir shop with small but useful totes.  Snatched one up, put everything from both stores in there and set off to Notre-Dame.

This place, from the outside, looks marvelous.  We took quite a few pictures from different sides of the building and the statue of St. John Paul II (my favorite pope, even though I’m not religious).  The queues were too long, like the Eiffel Tower, so we skipped the inside and went in search of bathrooms (damn you, large carafe of wine…).

After a quick respite on a bench, we took a walk back to our hotel to unload and regroup.  The reason we walked so far?  Ernie couldn’t find a nearby Metro.  While he was looking for on on his phone, I saw a bike with a basket of Pomeranians in it.  It was a must for me to have my picture taken with at least one of them.  So I did.  Cute little basket of lovely furriness.

Since he couldn’t find the Metro, we decided to walk by the Seine.  We followed that the majority of the way and went back up, with hopes of finding a stall for drinks (again, damn you, wine).  After what seemed like forever – Musée d’Orsay seemed like a mile long – we finally made it back to our room to figure out the next plan.  I ended up napping while looking at the Christian Louboutin website.  Got back up around 6:30 and hurried to get ready for some sightseeing and dinner.  I know we were in the 6th arrondissement but can’t remember the name of the town we were in.  Did a little walking and found a “tourist trap” restaurant and were seated right away.  We stayed for quite a while, eating and drinking and people-watching.  When we were done, I was ready to go back to the hotel.  After what took forever (again), we found our Metro station and headed back.

Ernie headed up to the room for a minute and I sat downstairs by the bar until he came back.  We did a shot of Jack and called it a night.  These days, so far, have been daunting with all the walking we’re doing.  At least for today, I really didn’t get homesick!  Bonus!

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May 23, 2015 – London, Part II

Thankfully, we got an early enough start this morning, because of the fact that I seemed to be on my “normal” schedule now of getting up in the middle of the night.  Can’t remember if I mentioned this earlier or not, but I actually fell back asleep while trying to write again.  Oh, well.  I caught up.  Ernie woke me up so I just hopped out of bed and did my thing.

First stop of the day – Abbey Road!  And yes, I crossed it.  Multiple times.  I even wrote my initials and a peace sign on the wall outside of Abbey Road Studios.  I almost cried – I was in Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven!  Ernie let me spend a little bit of time there and endured taking pictures of my many crossings to get it just right.

From there, we went in search of Baker Street for two reasons. One was to see 221b Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes).  Never found it but found the museum and I wasn’t interested in waiting in line at the time.  The second reason was to go to the Beatles Store, which ended up being just steps away from the museum.  And, of course, I bought a bunch of stuff for myself!  (Well, Ernie did, technically.)

Afterward, we went on to find the British Museum.  We didn’t see all of the exhibits but it was fascinating nonetheless.  Stopped at the gift shop for some stuff for the in-laws and Marci.  (By the way, Marci wanted a rock from each city.  I got one near Abbey Road that I thought I lost, but found it in my purse.)

After our quick walk-through, we hailed a cab to Harrod’s.  Yay!  We rode in a black cab!  Another thing off my list.  Anyway, being in there was as depressing as going to Bond Street.  It was Ernie’s turn this time, but I got a little myself.  We did end up dining in The Champagne Room (or Bar; can’t remember the exact name).  Ernie wanted or expected the food to be terrible.  We sipped away at our champagne until the food came.  Absolutely delicious!  He got some chicken dish and loved it.  I got a crab cake and I only wished I had gotten one or two more.  Superb.

We quickly left Harrod’s after lunch to avoid more disappointment but it was too early to call it a day.  I had to set foot in a McDonald’s – only to use the bathroom.  No American chain fast food for us!  We’re in a place to try new and hopefully extraordinary things, me especially since I’m so damn picky.

We looked at a map at one point and decided that we weren’t too far from Kensington Palace.  And Ernie was willing to go!  So we hailed another black cab (!) and set off for it.  The grounds around it were beautiful.  When we got closer, we realized we could go into part of the house, so we did an impromptu tour.  It was lovely, but man, did I wish to run into Duchess Kate!  Ha!  I, of course, did some shopping at the gift shop and we started to make our way back to the hotel.  As we were walking toward the next Tube stop, Ernie wanted to eat.  We ended up at this place – I think it was called Zizzi – and had dinner.  The food was pretty good there – dipping oils and bread, calamari – yum!  That was it after that, except for a stop in a chintzy little store for souvenirs.  We made our way back to the hotel and started packing for the next leg of our trip – Paris!

So (almost) packed and ready to go, I started to write about our day before my words became illegible and I fell asleep

4;00 am came around and it was time to get up and get going.  Did my usual – smoke, coffee, shower, more coffee, another smoke, etc.  My anxiety was starting to rise about going to Paris and I didn’t realize it right away to nip it in the bud.  We had our breakfast after Ernie got up and showered, finished packing and went for a stroll down to Westminster to kill some time.  We came back, grabbed our bags, checked out and we went off in another black cab for our next adventure…

May 23, 2015 – London

So I drifted off earlier and forgot what I was going to say.  Still can’t remember.  It’s almost 3 am here so I’m finally adapting to the time change.  Seriously, I get up at random hours of the night at home and stay up.  Never been diagnosed with insomnia or anything like that though.  Anyway, nothing like having a hot cup of instant coffee 2 hours before you planned to get up.  Par for the course.  So, let me see if I can jog my memory about yesterday some more. (I said that if I publish this later, that I would fix it, but I probably won’t.  Just a warning.)

Actually, I’m trying to remember two days ago.  More walking, more sightseeing and some pictures.  Going through those pics, I didn’t take a lot except for the Changing of the Guard.  Interesting and we can say that we saw it in real time.  But it kinda took a while.  Standing in one place is tiring (I don’t know how the hell they do that), so there were a couple of times I almost nodded off (yes, while standing) and became dizzy and thought I would take a header down the marble steps of the Queen Victoria Memorial.  Ernie kept a good grip on me though, so I made it out okay.  Afterward, we walked through St. James Park, which was quite beautiful.

I think we came back to the hotel for a short time and then we set off for Bond Street.  Now, I knew in my head that all of the designer places were going to be expensive, some even extremely so.  I didn’t really take any pictures there.  I was too enthralled with all of the names – Chanel, Dior, Van Cleef and Arpels, Prada….Christ, they have a four-floor Victoria’s Secret, with one floor being a lounge (I guess for the guys.  Dunno.)!  I saw some very beautiful things that I so wanted, including this fabulous purse at Chanel.  One of the employees informed me, very kindly, that it cost over £4,000 and I only hoped that my eyes did not betray my mouth at that moment.  We left there and went to Alexander McQueen. There was a small floral 3-D purse that was over £1400.  It had matching shoes too!  I was in shopper’s heaven and hell.

I stopped going into some stores because it was plain depressing.  But we did stop at Tiffany’s and Ernie bought me a pair of sunglasses.  Not sure if they were the exact kind I wanted years ago, but I love them and finally got a pair.  We stopped in Coach (more in our price range) and I found this pretty mini bag that I had wanted earlier, but as I perused the store some more, Ern in tow, I looked at others – each bag getting cheaper, but I convinced myself not to get one.  I think Ernie was in my head at the time as well.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a fabulous shopping trip (except for Tiffany’s), because I knew these shops would be expensive, but I got a rude awakening each time I went into a store.  There are still plans to go into Christian Louboutin in Paris, but we’ll see how that goes.  Not getting my hopes up again.

We stopped at this pub on a side street and I had some fish and chips and he had some kind of steak and ale pie.  It wasn’t bad and I got another thing checked off my list of places to experience – an English pub.  I don’t remember doing much after that – a little more walking and the Tube.  We came back to the room early, ordered room service and crashed.

As for yesterday, I already said that we went to Westminster Abbey.  Did some souvenir shopping at their store and off we went on foot to places unknown.  Took the Tube to a station closer to the Tower Bridge and crossed that twice.  We took a walk by the River Thames (where I made a joke about being back at home) and just kept walking and taking everything in.  Oh, yeah – before we went across the bridge, we stopped at the Tower of London shop and I bought a few trinkets.  While I was shopping, Ernie was sitting around waiting and got shat upon by a bird.  Quite amusing, at least to me.  Then, after we crossed the river a couple of times, we went back to walking aimlessly around the city.  Ernie wanted to go to Fleet Street but  he didn’t realize how far that actually was, so that never happened.

By now, everyone was on their way home from work and the pubs were crawling with people.  So much so, that they spilled out onto the sidewalks, where they just stood and drank.  It was just something I wasn’t really used to seeing.  It amazed me.  We were going to join in, but I was getting a bit cranky by then, so we headed back to the hotel to regroup.

We ended up having dinner at the Caxton again (which we did when we first arrived at the hotel).  I got dressed up, which was the wrong thing to do because my feet were swollen from the walking and I wedged them into platform heels.  The pain was astounding.  Anyway, we sat in the lounge area, instead of the bar, this time, which was really nice and sort of romantic because it was just quaint and dimly lit.  After days of prodding Ernie to do a shot, he relented and we had some Jameson’s.  Cheers!

Once we were done, I sent him off to get some Cokes, which was stupid, because he was buzzing and ended up down by the river.  (I wondered why it took him so long when there was a store right down the street.).  And that was about it for the last few days.  Will I keep up with the walking when I get back home?  Probably not.  But it’s not so bad doing it here since there is just so much to see.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I had mistaken the Houses of Parliament (aka The Palace of Westminster) for Westminster Abbey.  Ernie got a good laugh out of that one.

This place is just so crazy-busy but Ernie’s being a trooper, even though I think these people (any and/or all) are annoying to him.  I could be wrong.  I guess we both had our own great expectations on different things.

Well, since I fell asleep again a few hours ago when I picked up writing again, it’s time for me to go get ready.  I’m hoping the rain holds out, but with my luck, it’ll be a downpour through most of the day.  I have to get to Abbey Road, dammit!  I have to cross that street!  Although, after much thinking, I’m going to leave my shoes on like 3 of the Beatles did, have a smoke in one hand like Paul, wear a black coat like Ringo, wear jeans like George and have a pair of (sun)glasses on like John.  Here’s to hoping all goes well on my “big” photo shoot and that I don’t get run over…

Wait, forgot to mention the car crash we saw outside of Northall Restaurant (which was absolutely divine – and I never use that word).  All you heard was CRUNCH! and then the one driver jumped out, yelling god knows what.  The things you see, oh, the places you’ll go….

May 22, 2015 – London

(For some reason, I skipped writing on 5/21.  I think I was too tired.)

Okay, now that I got that out of my system…I got hit with hard news over Facebook that my brother had to put one of his beloved dogs down.  It was, quite simply, unsettling.  Losing your furry best friend is hard to do, especially when you’re the one making the decision to do so.  All of the postings from Jay and Kelly just broke my heart.  But what can I do 3,000+ miles away but offer some kind words and hope that they creep in a bit?  Losing dogs are tough, but seeing them suffer, no matter how much they “smile”, is even harder.  So I say, rest in peace, Bella, and go run around with J.R. and Bubba.

Across the pond, we had a wonderful day, besides the fact that I slept until 8:30 (unheard of for me).  I needed it, I guess.  I had the most thrilling experience in Westminster Abbey (even though I couldn’t take a fucking picture in there to save my life).  It was absolutely breathtaking and I only wished my mom could’ve been there to experience it as well.  So much history.  So many tombs.  So many thoughts and remembrances of watching the wedding of Kate and Will in the wee hours of the morning.

Even though I’m not a practicing Catholic (although raised as one), I decided to light a candle and write a prayer for my family that they would see better days ahead.  Don’t get me wrong – this trip, so far, has been an absolutely wonderful experience.  But my family – both sides – have been through some awful shit since the new year rang in.  To all of my family members, both gone and those not ready to move on – I’m grateful for all of you.

Back to the trip, I guess.  So, Westminster was phenomenal.  We did a lot of walking today including to and fro on the Tower Bridge (aka London Bridge).  Just realized earlier that my phone can count miles walked.  Have to do that tomorrow.  We had a superb lunch at Northall.  Fan-fucking-tastic.  After (or was it before?). we crossed back over…and now I forget what I was going to say.  Oh, piss it.

May 19, 2015 – Departure

Apparently, I was more tired than interested in finishing my thoughts this morning.  Well, I’m finally on the first flight and handled most of the taxiing and ascent pretty well (okay, I grabbed the arm rests.  Don’t judge.)  The flight is okay so far.  Valium, Xanax and a double whiskey sours (spaced out over time) helped me out to get my butt on this plane.  (Jesus H on a stick, it’s hard to write legibly while flying.  Or falling asleep for that matter.)

Keeping an eye on the flight tracker on my personal screen (40 minutes until JFK).  I’m not really planning on writing too much on the flight to Heathrow.  I’m either drinking or sleeping.  (Seriously, this is fucking hard to write while on here.)  Maybe, I’ll just end here now and pick up later.  This is too ridiculous for me.  Let’s just hope I’m as calm as I am now for the other two flights on this trip…

May 20, 2014 – London

Where to begin?  Even though our flight to London was delayed, we still made pretty good time getting here.  So much so, that we walked almost 12 miles today (yes, I counted.  Or rather, my phone did.)  I’m pretty fucking beat.  Yet, I’m too wired to go to bed.  I plan on getting up at 5:00 am (it’s 11:00 pm now), have breakfast at 7:30 and hopefully be out the door shortly after.

I took down a couple reminder notes throughout the day, but right now, I’m having trouble thinking about that stuff.  About the problems and frustrations Ernie was having, getting us Oyster cards for the Underground.  Or the feelings and irritations over my navigation skills (or lack thereof) in trying to find a particular restaurant.  I’m in a different country that’s going through random places of renovations, making it even harder.  (I have this problem at home too.  Why would that be different here?)  Or seeing Buckingham Palace up close.  Or about, for once in my life, not feeling homesick.  The very beginning of the walking we will be putting ourselves through over the next 7 days in 2 different cities.  Trying to take pictures without looking like a tourist but you’re damn well still going to stick out like a sore thumb anyway, or however that saying goes.  These are just some of the things running through my head simultaneously now.

We had a great first day in London.  Aside from some bad emotional moments, it was good.  Life was good.

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Now is where we come to why I’m not writing about my day here in great detail.  It has to do with my former future nephew-in-law (got that one?  Give it a minute to sink in.), whom I just unfriended and blocked (finally) on Facebook.  I’m not chronicling my vacation on FB in real time for safety reasons, but I’m still going to check my phone for notifications.  I’m half off the grid.  So, I go to check it tonight and I have 6 of them.  To tell you the truth, I can’t remember what the first one was, but I think it had something to do with our girls.  The other 5 were from him, liking months-to-years old posts that I was tagged in.  (There is a whole saga behind this that I’m not even getting into.  Boo and hiss all you want, I’m keeping it lean.)  I don’t know or understand how my niece is enduring all of this , because it’s straight up pissing me off now.  I felt bad for him, concerned for his well-being.  I mean, I still don’t want anything happening to him, but fucking let it go already.  You’re stalking now.  And harassing my family.  I don’t want to hear the sob stories anymore.  It’s enough!  You’re 28 years old.  Wake up and do something with yourself instead of becoming “that” guy.

I was on the phone with my mom about this a little while ago and she yelled at me.  It was well-intentioned because she doesn’t want this to ruin my grand vacation.  But, for the love of God, it’s 11:45 pm here, I’m drinking coffee and writing about the little fucktard, instead of my experiences today.  There.  I said it.  Ernie wouldn’t be happy with me but I can’t keep biting my tongue.  I wanted to message this boy earlier, but I got scolded, if you will, so I didn’t do it.  However, this is my journal (well, now it’s my blog) and I don’t give a shit.  Christ, look at how much room its taken up already!

What I need to do is just take my meds and go to bed.  But, for one, I told myself I would write about my day before doing so and two, I’m just furious.  I guess I just needed to get it out.

Anyway, my ultimate goal when I get back is to tell my vacation story through a photo book.  Now, I got random thoughts going through my head and it’s making me sad and a wee bit homesick.  So much for what I said earlier in the post.  I hate that feeling, the homesickness part.  It ruins my vacation a little.  but apparently not as much as this kid is doing right now.  And I’m letting him. I’m already worried enough about my family, whether I’m there or here.  I feel spent now.  I think I’m going to run outside real quick and finally go to bed.  New day, new beginnings (and possibly couture shopping too!).  I’m out. **drops mic**

May 19, 2015 – Early Morning of Departure

So, we’re 15 hours away from the first leg of our European trip and I’ve been awake since 11:30 pm.  Part of me being up so early is because of Ernie batting me for snoring.  As per my usual these days, I thought it was somewhere around 2:00 am and decided to get out of bed.  Ernie asked where I was going – I told him I’d be right back and just then, I heard the little one crying.  I went outside for a moment and when I came back in, he was getting some milk ready for her.  I tried to lay down and go back to sleep, but it just wasn’t happening.  I ended up doing my usual anyway – come out to the couch and watch some TV while waiting out her crying.  That backfired, so I went and got her out of bed.

Now, mind you, she never napped yesterday, so one would think she would sleep like…well…a baby.  Nope.  As soon as she came downstairs, she took off like it was 8:00 am.  She played for a while, ripped my glasses off of my face several times and I was getting extremely, exhaustively frustrated.  By this time, Ernie was awake again (if he ever really got back to sleep) and started picking out and ironing more clothes for vacation.  Once she snatched my glasses again, he swooped in, picked her up and took her to bed.

The crying had finally stopped but I set my alarm for 4:00 am, plus have already had at least 3 cups of coffee, so sleeping really isn’t in the picture now.  I’ve already taken Valium this morning since I had a mild panic attack yesterday and I don’t need another one right now.  I’m so nervous about this flight and being homesick that it’s eating away at me.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m excited for this adventure, but my anxiety runs deep.  I couldn’t even read my guidebooks last night because I didn’t want to chance another attack.  I need to take a shower and get ready soon, so I can finish my packing and make sure I have everything I use everyday.  Yes, I know there are stores there, but I want to be as prepared as possible.  I wonder if I took and hour and a 1/2 (scribble, scribble)….Oops.  Well, I’m dozing off and I just need a little….

(Yes, this is exactly how I ended it that early morning.)

Bonjour!

So, I know I haven’t written in a while, but I plan on posting a lot very soon.  My husband and I went away to Europe for 8 days and I wrote all about the trip in journals.  I know it’s not what I normally write about but instead of rehashing the stories to everyone, what I want to do is just post once so everyone can learn of our experiences.  I’m also – **keeping fingers crossed** – having a collaborator on this special project: my other half.  I think it would be a real treat to have his side of the trip as well.  I have it worked out in my head on how to do it.  If he doesn’t go for it, then so be it.  I will still be posting soon, so expect a lot of stories from me and hopefully him as well.  Until then, au revoir!

I Want To Believe

Actually, it’s more than a want.  I actually believe.  I believe in something.  I’m not religious (even though I was brought up Catholic), so it’s kinda hard for me to justify this belief.  It just is.

One night, a couple of weeks ago, I was on my front step.  I was looking at a light across the street on my neighbor’s steps.  I had just seen a picture of my sister’s tattoo, in memory of my dad.  I said – out loud – “You don’t like that, do you, dad?”  The light went out immediately and then came back on.  I sat and stared hard at this light for a couple of minutes.  It was just unbelievable to me.  I went inside and told my husband.  He just looked at me, like he normally does, and that was that.

Then, last week, I was out there again.  And there was the light.  Again.  I’ve seen it many times since that night.   I don’t really remember seeing it before that night, actually, but after that, I’ve seen it almost every time I looked over there.  So I decided to give it a go.  I asked quietly “Are you there, dad?” and stared, trying not to blink.  A couple seconds ticked away.  A car came past, blocking my view for a second.  Then, it went out, coming back on a second later.  My mind justified the delay by thinking “Well, my dad knew the car was coming and wanted to wait for it to pass so I wouldn’t miss him ‘answering’ back.”  It seemed rational.

I came back in and told my husband about it.  He looked at me, a little disparagingly this time, nodded and started playing FIFA ’15.  I went off to bed, but texted my mom about it before I went to sleep.  She told me to be happy about it and I sent back that I was.  I am.  Truly.

Yesterday, I saw my neighbor and asked her what kind of lights she used to illuminate her steps.  She proceeded to show me that they were solar lights (with a back-up battery, I think).  We talked for a few minutes, but I didn’t go into why I was asking about them.  She’ll know now, of course, if she reads my blog, but she already knows I’m crazy.

Solar lights don’t go out and come back on, do they?  They would just stay out.  If it does have a battery back-up, then maybe that would be the case.  But it seems so much more than coincidental.  I’m slightly unsure, but for the most part, I do believe in the afterlife.  And I’ll keep asking that beacon questions from time to time, no matter how nuts everyone thinks I am, because I just love to bug the shit out of my dad…