16 April 2012

Travel stories

I'm back in the States! I came home to BAGS upon BAGS of Mini Eggs AND a homemade apple pie, courtesy of my award-winning husband.

Great American Food. Yes.
This past trip to Ouagadougou and Paris was great - not only for what I got to do, but also for the people I got to meet, spend time with, and this even applies to some total strangers. I really feel like our lives are made richer more so by WHO we have in them than by WHAT we do.

On my way back to the hotel

This was my first time being in Ouaga on my own for part of the trip; normally I am there with a co-worker who has MUCH more experience in the country and I just let him do the thinking, talking, and action. This was a great opportunity to see what I could do on my own - I got things accomplished, managed to get points across in French without much misunderstanding, and got myself around the city no problem, thanks to my very competent driver. I was a little worried after my co-worker left that I would basically be just going to work and then just coming back to the hotel and eating dinner there and then reading my book and really having nothing more to talk to than the four walls of my hotel room. Fortunately, there were some other Americans staying in the hotel who saved me from boredom and solitary dinners. It made the trip much more fun and enjoyable to have others to chat with.

Pool. Helpful in the hot weather.

Paris was fantastic. Chelsea and I didn't set foot in a museum, opting instead to eat and drink our way through the city. We stopped in any open air markets we saw, consuming fresh strawberries, cheese, apples, crepes. We made multiple food runs to various boulangeries for baguettes, croissants, and pain au chocolats. We managed to snag a table, completely by chance, at a very yummy restaurant in the Marais on Saturday night - the food was incredible (topped off by a sugar and butter crepe, with melted salted caramel sauce poured on top). By the time I left this morning, I felt like I needed to be rolled out of the city. To be fair, we did EARN all that food, walking around the city for two days straight. But what made the trip memorable was just spending time with Chelsea, she's one of the most brilliant, down-to-earth people I know and it really didn't matter what we did, as long as it was with her, it was fun.
We met up with fellow triathlete and cupcake lover Kate O for hot chocolates one of the evenings - Kate and I both live in Virginia, but I've seen her more often when we are both outside the east coast time zone. She introduced us to an amazing sweets shop and I came close to eating my weight in meringues. True story.


Would you like to hear a small-world story? On Sunday we had lunch with one of Chelsea's friends from high school. They were in Paris with friends of theirs who were visiting them from the States. The friends of friends also lived in Arlington and as we sat down to eat, the husband looked at me and asked - "do you run?" When I answered in the affirmative, he asked, "did you run the half marathon in DC last month?" I said yes again and he asked, "Do you remember the guy you ran with during the last two miles of the race before leaving him in the dust 1/2 a mile from the finish line?" Turns out, it was him! We have about six finish line photos together as we chatted after crossing the line - we ended up talking for about 10 minutes after the race and I remember him mentioning he and his wife were going to Paris in April to visit friends. And so we met again in the Jardin de Tuilleries.

Just a little excited to see the Eiffel Tower. Just a little.

And my last short story about my trip, another illustration of how complete strangers can end up making your journey that much better. This morning the Charles de Gaulle Airport was a vrai bordel (French for chaotic mess). Someone left a suitcase unattended and there were many men with large machine guns standing between me and my check-in gate. Minutes ticked by, and even though I had arrived at CDG with PLENTY of time to spare (and for those of you who know me, you KNOW this was a major effort on my part), I watched time quickly creep closer and closer to my boarding time and I still hadn't been able to get to my gate, get my boarding pass, or check my bag. Some of the airport personnel were trying to assuage the passenger anxiety of those unable to get to their gates. One man in particular went above-and-beyond, eventually finding us a roundabout way to get to the check-in gate through the parking area. I saw him later as I was on my mad dash to the passport line, with only 20 minutes to go until boarding. He saw me, pulled me aside and brought me up to the front of the line, saying that I had been running around enough that morning and he wanted to help me out. Thanks to him, I made my flight. I'm going to do my best to pay it forward.

Tomorrow marks my return to serious training after a bit of a hiatus. I haven't checked the schedule, but I'm hoping, hoping, hoping it involves the pool! Extra motivation - a certificate and letter arrived in the mail while I was gone, notifying me that I received USA Triathlon Honor Mention and I'm now qualified for the Age Group National race in August up in Vermont! Today just kept getting better and better.

Final random thought. I watched The Descendants on the plane today. In the final scene of that movie, George Clooney's character and his two daughters join each other on the couch, sharing a blanket and ice cream while watching tv. No words were really said as the screen faded to black, but that scene captured the epitome of what's important in life. You can travel near and far, visit exotic places, do big and important things, but what really matters is if you have people in your life to curl up on the couch with at the end of the day. And THAT will make today complete.


GoBigGreen said...

From both me and my couch potato, ice cream eating, cookie eating husband we cant say how much we agree with your last comment:) I feel so grateful to have met you and even tho i swear at you when i eat those eggs now:) kidding! I am glad you are home safe and sound. What a fun time you had!!! I am sure miss Jen is thinking that too as she scripts some painful torture for you.
PS congrats on the HM, AA soon!!!

The Miller Family said...

What a fun trip!!!! Glad you had a good time, saw Kate and made new friends..

More importantly though...I am really excited about your stash of mini eggs ;)

Chelsea said...

This trip was SOMUCHFUN!! However, even though I miss you like crazy, if I see you at 9, I kill you!

ADC said...

Hey, that sounds like an awesome trip. Glad you arrived home safely.

Caroline said...

Julia - it was so great to get to know you at camp, I've been reading your blog for quite some time now and you and Rich are an inspiration in so many ways. Sorry I introduced you to Mini Eggs, they are DANGEROUS! I'm looking forward to some torture from Jen, I've missed her workouts!

Stacey - I am bringing you Mini Eggs next time I see you. No lie. Hope things are fantastic with you!!

Chelsea - there is nobody I would've rather run around Paris with than you! Perfectly fantastic vacation! I missed you the moment I left :(

Angelina - having you there for hot chocolate with Kate would've made the trip complete! But I am glad Shaun had an awesome race. And sending you GOOD VIBES for an amazing upcoming race weekend!!!

Katie said...

the picture of you in front of the eiffel tower is adorable!