Monday, November 23, 2009

The Inlaws Visit Episode Two: There’s No ‘H’ in Winery

This is the second of several Blog Posts which will document the recent visit of Abbey’s parents: Due to the traumatizing and irritating nature of many of the events that transpired during their visit their names have been changed to protect the innocent. Abbey’s name was not changed as she knew good and well what she was getting herself into when she said “Yes” when I asked for her delicate hand in marriage (her “yes” was immediately followed by “this is weird!!”). Abbey’s parents came to visit, and this is their story.

We are now roughly twelve hours into the visit of Garcon and Centieme – the former being Abbey’s father and the latter her mother, for those who were confused – and exhaustion ruled the evening. Tucked into our beds, we were all blissfully oblivious to the fact that we would not be getting the proper amount of sleep in order to catch our taxi the following morning. After four years of post-college education, I have forfeited the ability to sleep past 8 or 9 AM, so I woke up around 7. Centieme and Garcon were slightly slower to rise as was Abbey – she was feeling slightly worse than the day before, her sore throat had progressed to an unrelenting cough and headache which did not make for a pleasant night’s sleep. Regardless, I woke up, showered, and went downstairs to make coffee for everyone only to find out that while the Marriot provides each room with ground coffee and a coffee maker, coffee filters were nowhere to be found. I therefore curled up on the couch for twenty minutes or so with Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth” and enjoyed some violent description of the process of decolonization while the remainder of the family showered, shaved, bided, etc.

Centieme was the first to join me on the ground floor of the villa and, fortuitously, had packed a bag with coffee filters! If only this were to be the largest hurdle we would overcome on this rainy Saturday. The coffee brewed, Garcon descended the stairs, followed shortly thereafter by Abbey…followed shortly thereafter by an overzealous taxi driver who had arrived 15 minutes early. Garcon chugged his coffee, Abbey scrambled to locate her scarves, and I…walked outside with Centieme and waited by the Cab. I then realized I had neglected to turn the coffee pot off. After remedying this situation, I joined the family in the Taxi van and we were off. Until we politely requested that the driver return us to our villa as we had forgotten the address and directions to the winery that Garcon had arranged for us to tour that afternoon outside of Epernay (in the Champagne region of France). I couldn’t tell if this change of events irked the driver or if he was simply being French. Regardless, Garcon ran into the villa, located the folder with the information, and we were on our way.

We arrived at the train station (which was in Paris…for the record, we had caught a taxi and a train and a metro into Paris in order to catch another train that would take us two hours East of Paris, passing the Marriot on the way). By divine providence we decided to Abbey should buy a heavier sweater because the temperature had dropped below anything we had yet experienced in France…it was wintry and drizzling. Garcon and I enjoyed some coffee as we awaited our train…which was…get ready for a surprise…delayed. It was only delayed 15 minutes, though, and we would surely reach the winery with ample time before our 1 PM tour. After boarding the train, Abbey and I talked, Garcon slept, and Centieme knitted. Two hours later, we arrived at Epernay. The train ride – though delayed – would turn out to be one of the more efficient modes of transportation experienced during this visit.

After arriving in Epernay, we usurped the place of a group of Asians in the taxi cab line (using the “confused American” look I have perfected while walking the streets of Paris) and were in a van on our way to the winery. We arrived at the winery 40 minutes ahead of our 1 PM tour time. It was cold. It was rainy. It was beautiful scenery. Abbey bundled up as her and Centieme stood in the entranceway to the winery – nobody was there yet, but there was at least a roof over their heads. Garcon and I separately explored the winery’s exterior. I wandered up and down the hillside to look at…dead grape vines while Garcon peered in windows and pretended not to be growing more irate by the minute. 1:00 PM came…and went…as did 1:15 and 1:30. I continued to take pictures of dead grapes, Abbey and Centieme stayed huddled together for warmth, and Garcon stopped pretending not to be annoyed culminating in leading the charge back into town towards the one boulangerie that we saw on our way in that was open…which was now closed…[expletive]…we kept walking…we found a bar. Abbey used her newly charged cell phone to call a taxi and in the 15 minutes between our arrival at the bar and the taxi’s arrival to pick us up, Centieme, Garcon, and I took out our frustration on a bottle of champagne and shared our adventure with the highly hospitable owners of the establishment. We finished the bottle and the conversation in time to wait a few minutes for the taxi. I was feeling the champagne (something about drinking champagne in Champagne enhanced the effects of the alcohol), Garcon was smiling, and Centieme was – and I quote – “three sheets.” The rest of the day was actually quite fun – we enjoyed a stellar lunch at a local eatery in Epernay, wandered the city – exploring markets and boulangeries and caf├ęs as we strolled – and caught our train back to the Marriot after purchasing some cold medicine at a pharmacie for Abbey. We arrived back at Disneyland and decided – what the hell, why not go to one of the overpriced restaurants in Disneyland for dinner…HA!

After ruling out planet Hollywood and…I don’t know, Mickey’s Rip-off Buffet, we settled on a steakhouse…quite Parisian, I know, but we all thought soup would be good for Abbey’s mysterious illness which - suprisingly - had not improved after standing in the cold rain for almost two hours. We were seated and perused the menu. It was apparently bring 17 of your favorite 0-7 year olds to dinner night because the place was running rampant with screaming children. Even if the “American Cheeseburger” was worth 27 Euros (I wish I was kidding) and the 25 Euro “Carrot and Coriander Soup” cured all illnesses, the ambience was completely ruined by these miniature human beings. We left our table, took some pictures in Disneyland to prove we were there, bought some wine, pizza, and soup (for the now much sicker than earlier Abbey) and retired to the villa for the evening. So ended Day 1.5-2.5 of the Inlaws visit...we'll call it day two.

Afterword: in the winery owner's defense, they have contacted Garcon and felt terrible about not being at the tour, additionally, they have since sent a "sorry we didn't show up for the tour" gift and neither Abbey, nor Garcon, nor Penny, nor I hold any sort of grudge against these fine folks and will all happily continue to drink their wine

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Inlaws Visit Episode One: Revenge of the Baggage

The next several Blog Posts will document the recent visit of Abbey’s parents: Due to the traumatizing and irritating nature of many of the events that transpired during their visit their names have been changed to protect the innocent. Abbey’s name was not changed as she knew good and well what she was getting herself into when she said “Yes” when I asked for her delicate hand in marriage (her “yes” was immediately followed by “this is weird!!”). Abbey’s parents came to visit, and this is their story.

I paid closer attention to the passing of each minute in my Friday afternoon Egypt class. By no means was my distraction due to my not being absolutely enthralled with the professor’s latest brilliant lecture. Rather, I watched each second tick by because upon returning to our apartment, I would be greeted by our first family visitors: Abbey’s Parents. This trip had been on the calendar since Abbey and I were residing in her parent’s guest room and it was difficult to believe that it had finally arrived. When I came home it was silent. Abbey had gone off with her mother, Centieme, to…I’m not entirely sure where they went, but Abbey’s father, Garcon, was in the apartment alone…in a country where he didn’t speak the language and 66.66% of the people he knew here had abandoned him. Fortunately, I arrived in time to explain that I too had many times fallen victim to sitting alone in an apartment where the television speaks only French. Centieme and Abbey arrived shortly thereafter and we were off on adventure #1: Operation Snacktime.

We made our way to Butte aux Cailles to go to a delicious creperie which – perhaps foreshadowing the rest of the weekend – was closed. Unfazed, we stopped at a small boulangerie for baguette pizzas which were absolutely delicious. After purchasing enough food to make dinner, we returned to our humble abode, gathered our belongings and began the trek to Centieme and Garcon’s villa at the Euro-Disney Marriot. This, dear readers, is where our story truly begins.

Abbey and I planned to stay at Centieme and Garcon’s villa for Friday and Saturday night as Garcon had arranged for a private tour of a winery outside of Epernay on Saturday afternoon. Abbey had developed a slight cough accompanied by a mild throatache, but we had a few days of rest and relaxation ahead of us – surely the rest would allow Abbey’s immune system to successfully dispose of the attack on her well-being. Abbey packed up two purses worth of clothes and toiletries and I filled one large purse with clothing and books and one small purse with my wallet, metro card, keys, and change (all meticulously organized, mind you). Centieme and Garcon each had two medium sized suitcases and Centieme had one purse. We descended eight floors from our apartment (God only knows how many total trips we made in order to move ourselves and all of the luggage from floor 8 to floor 0). After walking the eighth of a mile or so to the Metro stop, we boarded the metro…it was roughly 5:30PM.

Centieme and Garcon were on roughly hour 18 of travel and still going strong – I was and still am quite proud of their perseverance. After twenty minutes of standing armpit to shoulder with 157 of our closest French co-passengers, we unloaded all of our bags and tried to figure out which long, dark, urine-smelling hallway led from metro 6 to RER A. We made it. At some point, Abbey heard an announcement regarding the fact that the RER A would be preturbed on Monday. This announcement was quickly dismissed. Carrying a total of 10 purses/suitcases/bags full of groceries. We were on the train. It was fairly crowded. There were no empty seats when we boarded the RER so all of our luggage was stacked against the wall. As seats opened up, Garcon and I encouraged Abbey and Centieme to have a seat while we stood and watched the luggage like the scholars and gentlemen we are. When another seat opened up, I encouraged Garcon to take it while I watched the luggage. He did. Two stops (roughly 25 minutes) later, I realized that this was no wall that we had propped the luggage against, it was a door and it was going to open momentarily. I played jumbo-speed-jenga (a game I invented then and there, copyright pending) with our luggage to keep it from falling out of the car. Success. I broke a sweat. I took of my jacket. Abbey coughed. We got to our final destination. Neither my nor Abbey’s metro card worked. You see, when travelling VIA RER, one must scan their card in order to both enter and leave the station. I may or may not have run through the turnstiles behind Centieme in order to avoid being stuck in the station, but Abbey was too honest to attempt such a deceitful act. Fortuitously there was a young gentleman who was slightly inebriated with a beer in one hand and a metro card-containing-wallet in the other who – I jest you not – handed his wallet to Abbey to let her in. He must not have been French. From here, we carried all of our luggage to the larger-than-expected bus station to find bus #34 to Centieme and Garcon’s villa. We found the bus. Once again, not wanting to just rush on with the crowd of non-paying imbeciles, Abbey stopped to pay the bus driver for our tickets.

When Abbey and I stopped to pay for our tickets, a young gentleman exclaimed “while we are young please!” Standing right beside him, I looked him in the eye (after noticing that he was shorter and skinnier than I am) and – as politely as I could muster – informed him that his exclamatory remark reminded me of behavior that I most closely associate with a mule. He proceeded to tell me that he spoke English (though I don’t know where he got the impression my name was Richard as he called me a common nickname for one whose name is Richard) after which I congratulated him on this grand linguistic achievement and he quickly made his way to the back of the bus. It was now 9:00 PM and I was tired, sweaty, hungry, and annoyed with this English-speaking young man and make no apologies for my less-than-pastoral response to his less-than-polite demand for a speedy boarding. He debarked the bus after 15-20 minutes and made sure to stare at me as he walked away…because only extremely tough, intimidating characters stare someone down through the windowpane of a bus that is driving away. But I digress. At the next stop the bus driver turned and informed us that this was the Marriot stop. I would have sworn under oath that she was lying. Exiting the bus I saw no buildings. I saw a road. Apparently this road led to the Marriot.

A fifteen minute walk later, Abbey, Centieme, Garcon, and I found ourselves at the welcome desk of the Marriot. 10 Minutes later we found ourselves in their villa. We ate dinner and shared our individual experiences of the roughly four hour commute between Paris and the Marriot. At some point, one of us pointed out that this trek would be made five or six more times. It was subsequently stated that the next few times no luggage would be involved. Abbey took some medicine and went to bed. She still didn’t feel great, but figured a night of rest would do the trick. Centieme and Garcon went to bed shortly thereafter. Finally I went to bed in order to get some sleep before the 7AM wake up call that would ensure that all four of us would be on the 8:15AM taxi to the bus station to go on the aforementioned winery tour.

So ended day ½. Tune in next time for The Inlaws Visit Episode Two: The Winery.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Recent Blogging Hiatus

I did not blog this week. I apologize. In order to remedy this, I offer the following:

A recurring conversation with myself:
Myself: "did anyone else see that?"
Myself: "I don't think so"
Myself: "I need to blog about that!"
Myself: "My words will never do this situation justice"

A Conversation Today between Abbey and I:
Abbey: "don't take a video of that man, it's rude"
Me: "This is too funny for me to worry about being polite."

The result of these conversations:

Your Welcome