Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January, so far

Happy New Year!

I know, I'm very late.  The Christmas post extravaganza took most of my energy, so now I can give you a quick account of our January thus far. 

We got back from Paris on Dec. 29th so we celebrated New Years Eve at home.  Benjamin went to sleep at his normal time, around 8pm.  Thomas played a video game and I read until close to midnight, when I brought out the sparkling apple juice.  Pretty delicious.  After that I went to bed and Thomas stayed up til the wee hours.  Welcome, 2013!

I started back to Arabic class, but Laura dropped it because she's very busy and needed to let it go.  So now it's just me, as Emily is still at home enjoying her new baby girl.  I hope they can find someone else to get in the class, it's awkward with just me.  I know it's a great opportunity to have one-on-one language lessons, but my instructor is pretty scattered most of the time and honestly, I don't study.  So, that might impact how prepared I feel at class.  We did start the alphabet today, so hopefully I can master that and then feel more confident.  Fingers crossed.

It's been a little sad to not be in Western Europe, I miss the good, soft sandwich bread and the abundance of pastry places.  I'm sure I could find equally unhealthy sources of bread-y food here, but since I'm in the car whenever I go somewhere, it's not like I'd just happen upon it while ambling around.  And I'm not using up anywhere near the number of calories, so it's a good thing there aren't amazing sweets everywhere.  I think I gained about ten pounds while we were on vacation.  Totally worth it, though.

The biggest surprise/excitement of the new year was all the rain we got a couple weeks ago, and then the snow last weekend.  It was nuts, after my class and lunch with Thomas on Wednesday I had him drive me home so he could take the car back to work, so I wouldn't have to pack Benjamin up to pick him up later on.  While we were walking to the car it was just blowing snow everywhere and felt a lot like living in Virginia again.  Very odd.  And it just kept coming for a couple days.  It was fun to walk around and talk with Benjamin about the snow crunching under our boots. 



Making tracks in fresh snow.

After the storm, it became sunny again and it's been in the 50s this week.  Not warm, but the snow has all melted.  I'm glad to have the sunny skies back, and to not be afraid to drive anywhere.  There were a crazy number of accidents within a 24-hour period, due to the storm and people being idiots.  Just yesterday I was stopped at a light behind a small-ish sedan with three little kids and a woman in the back, the kids were just hopping around, not buckled in, definitely not in age-appropriate child seats.  It makes me so angry.  I mean, don't you care about the lives of these children?  Ugh.  American rage moment.

That's it so far, just back to normal, eating lunch at the embassy and hanging out.  I'll post again once exciting stuff has happened!  This will be the year of seeing things in Jordan, or at least that's my hope.  I've been trying to drink more water but that's not really a resolution.  And I'm attempting to just drink one caffeinated beverage a day.  We'll see how that goes. 

I hope 2013 is off to a great start for all of you!

-Rachel

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Christmas in Paris Part 4

Last one!

Thursday we took a bus to the metro and then to the Louvre.  We walked along the Tuileries Gardens and just made it to the museum when it started raining.  We went to the McDonald's inside for lunch, and it was packed.  (In our defense, evidently the French love McDo, as they call it, so it was part of acting "local".)  Trevor and Priscilla gave us tickets that skip you to the front of the line, which was a huge deal, since the line was super long. 













We knew that with Benjamin creeping up on naptime we wouldn't have a lot of time to linger, so we made straight for the Mona Lisa.  Naturally the crowd around it was substantial, so Thomas snapped a picture and we moved on.  There's so much to see, and it's such a gigantic place, you'd need a solid week to give it serious attention.  We went through just one wing, and didn't stand and pay serious attention to the vast majority of the art.  We saw a good bit in about two hours, considering it is extremely unfriendly to strollers.  (Tons of stairs, sporadic and unhelpful elevators.) 







The crowd in front of the Mona Lisa.




The Wedding at Cana by Veronese.

No idea who is pointing.







Winged Victory






Benjamin is asleep, I'm taking in all the art.



 




This guy has the most intense expression.  He creeps me out.






We met up with Priscilla and Trevor and walked back to Notre Dame, but the line to get inside was crazy long and standing outside in cold drizzle appealed to no one, so we moved on.  We walked along the Seine and passed some bridges.  One has lots of locks on it, people write their initials with their beloved's and supposedly that signifies their unending love.  They get removed from time to time, but then crop up again. 









We passed the Pompidou Center, but had neither time nor energy for another museum.  We headed back to Valerie's apartment and ate yummy Christmas leftovers and watched "Persuasion", another of Trevor's presents.  I love anything Austen, and sitting down after a long day of marching felt glorious.

Friday was more relaxed, Trevor drove us to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a town about 20 minutes away by car.  We went through lots of tunnels to get there, which was the highlight of the trip for Ben.  We walked through a nice park and up to the Ch√Ęteau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which is older than Versailles.  After checking out the bookshop, we walked downtown.  If I could live there, I would, it's lovely and much less hectic than Paris.  

We walked through a toy store and a central open-air market.  We bought some pastries and camped out at a coffee shop for a bit.  Priscilla ordered me a pain Suisse, which was a revelation.  It's one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten.  I need to return to France just for that.  Fully gorged on sugar and coffee, we went back home and rested.  That night we went to an Italian restaurant near Valerie's place, La Romanelle, for our last night in France.  Afterward Thomas and Trevor went to see "The Hobbit" in 3D, while Priscilla and I hung out at Valerie's.



Entering the park.  My hair is out of control.

Benjamin was excited to meet some goats.

Pretty park.

 
 

Formal garden.

Favorite picture, ever.

Priscilla, Trevor, Thomas and Benjamin.

Priscilla and Trevor in front of the gate where they got engaged.  Awww!

The Ch√Ęteau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

The day we left, Saturday, we were able to relax a little.  We walked to Priscilla and Trevor's for breakfast and they surprised us with more delicious pastries (pain Suisse again!) and we chatted for a while.  We went back to the apartment and started packing.  Valerie's apartment really made the trip amazing, it was so great to have space to stretch out in, and be able to put Benjamin in the other bedroom.  She also let us use her washer, although I'm very spoiled with having a dryer, the stiffness of the line-dried clothes was startling.  And she didn't have a TV, which is shocking for such screen-loving people as Thomas and I are, but we did very well.  (We watched movies on the computer screen that Trevor brought over.)  

Trevor and Priscilla drove us to the airport Saturday afternoon, dropped us off about 2:45 for our 4:50pm flight back to Amman.  Checking in was smooth and we found a nice lounge area to wait in until we started boarding.  There was another family with a toddler boy sitting nearby, so he and Benjamin shared trucks and played a little.  We got the bulkhead row, which was amazing with Ben, I sat by the window and Thomas sat in the middle.  Benjamin really enjoyed looking out the window and seeing lights and clouds.  I had all his snacks ready, and his water bottle.  I forgot completely about the pressure thing, so flipped the top again and soaked myself.  Oh well, we had a good laugh.  Benjamin didn't fuss too much on the plane, even though we got back about 9:30pm Paris time, 11:30pm Amman time.  He fell asleep in the car on the ride home and went down again quickly in his crib.

We had such a great time, it was a really fun vacation.  It was awesome to be in Europe again and to see France for the first time.  It was especially great to hang out with Priscilla and Trevor every day and have them lead us around.  I think it might be tricky to do it without knowing the language but of course it could be done.  Traveling with a toddler though, I'm really grateful we had them to lead the way.  We did a lot of walking, much more than I've done in recent memory.  Since Amman is such a car-focused city it was a big change.  But Benjamin loved the different modes of transportation and still says "metro" and "train".  It's sad to leave behind the good, soft sandwich bread, but it's also nice to be home and back in the old routine again. 

We are so grateful to Priscilla and Trevor for putting up with us!  And to Valerie for allowing us the use of her lovely home.  Hopefully we can visit again before we leave Amman.

Thanks for reading!

-Rachel