Je dors plus la nuit

By   August 12, 2009

Why do the effects of jet lag always feel so much worse in Europe?
Whenever I’m in the US, I go to bed really early and wake up around 5 AM.
When I get back to France, I go to bed at 5 AM and it sucks.

Le retour en France

By   August 9, 2009

I arrived back in France at 6 AM Saturday morning, a full hour ahead of schedule. I guess the pilot flew really fast? I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I did not have to pay $50 for my second checked bag, though I still don’t know why. The kiosk screen at check-in clearly said I could only have one bag free, but when I entered 2, it still said free, so that was awesome. In addition to the shorter than expected flight, I got to watch both Wolverine and Star Trek in English and the food was not terrible. Not having to go through passport control and security again at every connection was also quite nice. I miss flying within the US.

Obviously I cannot sleep now as it is 4 AM here. I can never sleep on planes, or in cars, or anywhere that isn’t my bed for that matter, so now I feel exhausted and awake at the same time. I hate how almost all flights to Europe are overnight flights. What a horrible idea. I lounged around for most of the day because I felt like a zombie, and I keep having this weird muscle cramp in my leg. I suppose I should try to sleep during the night so I can get back on a regular schedule. But playing with my new desktop computer and eating chocolate mousse sounded like a better idea.

Washington, D.C.

By   August 6, 2009

I finally saw the nation’s capital on Monday. I had been wanting to see D.C. for a very long time and since we were going to be close by (well, close enough) after the wedding, I talked my parents into stopping for the day. So for eight hours we wandered around the Mall and Arlington Cemetery, taking picture after picture and learning about the history of the presidents from our Tourmobile guides.

Here are just a few photos. I will upload the rest to a photo album on my Travel Photos page when I get back to France.

Lincoln Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Vietnam War Veterans Memorial

WWII Memorial

Washington Monument

White House

Capitol Building

Arlington Cemetery

View of D.C. from Arlington House

I will definitely go back to D.C. someday. I could spend days in the Smithsonian museums, and I love that they are free. I’ve always liked American history, and especially military history, and there is so much to learn and experience in that city. And I’m glad we were in Lexington before Arlington since Robert E. Lee had a strong presence in both places and I knew exactly what the guides were talking about. But I had no idea he (technically, his wife’s family) had owned Arlington House before the Civil War.

I gave all of my history books to my brother (along with the bookcase since there were so many) when I moved to France, but now I feel like reading up on the Civil War again. I know David has a few history books, but reading them in French just isn’t the same.

The Wedding

By   August 5, 2009

Congratulations to my big sister Jamie and my new brother-in-law Josh! They got married August 1st in Lexington. The weather was great for that one day, as it rained every day before and after. Here’s the bridal party. The adorable flower girls are Josh’s nieces.

I was a bridesmaid and I also had to carry Josh’s ring, which I found out the day before and which made me very paranoid. I was so afraid I would drop it! But don’t worry, I’m not that clumsy. The ceremony was perfect, and actually, I can’t think of anything that went wrong the entire weekend. Of course since Josh’s family and friends had never met me or seen me, they all commented on how Jamie and I look so much alike. Apparently EVERYONE thinks we practically look like twins (this annoyed me to no end in high school when her friends constantly confused us) but I just don’t see it. Sometimes I don’t think we look like we’re related at all.

During the reception, I successfully avoided being shoved on the dance floor for the bouquet toss because I am NOT in any way single, thank you very much. I wish the US had something comparable to PACSing because I’m not sure how to describe it properly so people understand that it is almost marriage. The Best Man speech was by far the most hilarious speech I have ever heard. I wish I would have thought to record it, but sadly I don’t think anyone did.

But I think the best part of the night was the photo booth. For anyone planning a wedding, this is an awesome idea. Guests take funny pictures of themselves and paste them into a scrapbook for the bride and groom to keep. All of us bridesmaids decided to take individual photos (which is hard since you only have 5 seconds between shots) and then shove all 5 heads into the last frame. Et voilà, a Brady Bunch type photo:

Then later Liz and I had a bit too much fun playing with the props:

As well as the numerous stuffed animals throughout the Inn:

Ah, great memories. After the wedding, we drove over to the coast where Jamie & Josh live so we could see their new house which has a nice inground pool that the dog adores. Can you say jealous? I wish David & I could live in a big house someday with a pool and backyard, but I know that will probably never happen in France. Anyway, we spent Monday in D.C. – my first time in the nation’s capital! – and then drove straight back to Michigan, arriving at 6 AM Tuesday. I’ve barely gotten any sleep this past week, and I’ve only got two full days left here before I head back to France. I’ll post the D.C. pictures soon, but for now it’s bedtime.

Lexington & Stuffed Animals

By   August 2, 2009

I am still in Virginia! My sister got married last night in Lexington, but before that we spent Thursday & Friday exploring the town. We saw Robert E. Lee’s crypt and where his horse, Traveller, is buried at Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington & Lee University. Then we saw Stonewall Jackson’s house and garden, his grave (and statue) at the cemetery named after him, and his horse, Little Sorrel, who is not buried, but stuffed and standing in the Virginia Military Institute Museum.

We checked into the House Mountain Inn on Friday. The bridal party and family members all stayed there, and the reception was also held there on Saturday night. It’s just a modest, little inn located in the mountains.

It has a nice view of the yard and mountain, with many trails for hiking and horse riding. All 9 rooms either have a hot tub or jacuzzi tub. And apparently Tom Cruise stayed there while filming War of the Worlds a few years ago.

And inside the inn, there are many animal friends to play with. Or just pet since they don’t move.

I don’t have any wedding pictures on my camera, so they’ll have to wait until Tuesday night when we get back home. I am thoroughly enjoying my time in Virginia though. I love hearing pretty Southern accents everywhere and even though the weather isn’t always sunny, it’s still rather warm. The Confederate flags still make me feel uneasy, but that’s mostly because when I see them in Michigan it usually means that person is racist. At least around here it just means that person loves the south and is proud to be a southerner. (Or that’s what I’d like to believe it always means.)

We are at my sister’s house in Virginia Beach for today, and then we should be in D.C. all day tomorrow. The drive to Lexington took 11.5 hours, but I’m hoping the drive from D.C. will be slightly shorter. I’m so glad we didn’t have to fly here, but I am also really sick of sitting in a car!

On the Road to Virginia and D.C.

By   July 28, 2009

We are leaving very early tomorrow morning for Virginia, for my sister’s wedding this weekend. It will probably take us about 12 hours to drive there, which I am really excited about. I just hope they actually have summer-like weather down there. There are a lot of Civil War monuments/museums in the area so that should be interesting, and then we’re stopping in D.C. on the way home.

I have to say I’m getting a little sick of America already and want to be back in France. That’s mostly because I miss David like crazy though, and I’m tired of hearing people complain about EVERYTHING. I know the economy is bad, but is complaining really going to change anything? It could just be Michiganders since we have the worst economy in the country, but somehow I think all Americans complain just as much.

I know, I know. I complain a lot about France on my blog. I admit I’m a huge complainer. But Americans really don’t have much to complain about (except for the health care thing…) because everyday life in the US is still amazing and easy and inexpensive and efficient and convenient in spite of the recession. Americans earn so much money and pay so few taxes compared to the rest of the world. Nowhere else can you have a large house and yard with several cars, TVs, computers, and cell phones and you can actually buy things that you can’t really afford because of credit cards. Everything is amazing, and yet no one is happy. You should be grateful that you have the choice to do what you want in life because the government doesn’t control it for you.

That being said, I still don’t want to live in the US again. Not until there are major changes, which unfortunately I don’t truly believe will ever happen. There are tons of things I could complain about regarding the US (see “I don’t miss” in the right column), but I won’t go on and on about them. Those are simply the reasons why I am glad to not be living in the US and I suppose this trip has reminded me of all of them. Sure, I am always jealous of the high salaries and 24 hour stores and variety of foods available and constantly frustrated with the French government’s insistence that I have no say in how I get to live my life. But for now, France is the better option and mostly because of the health care.

I miss my socialist country that takes care of all the people regardless of how much or how little money they earn. I like the idea that no matter what happens in life – illness, accident, unemployment – I will be taken care of by the government and I won’t be financially ruined. I am scared to death that something bad will happen to my friends and family who don’t have health insurance in the US. So I hate the French government for controlling my life, but I also love it for always taking care of me, even though I’m just a “temporary resident.”

I’m hoping seeing another part of the US will rid me of some of this negativity. Hopefully the South isn’t as sad as the Midwest. (For the non-Americans, Virginia really is considered part of the south even though it’s not really in the south. Just ask any Virginian.) I still love my country even if I don’t want to live here, but perhaps it’s just Michigan that gets me down. I certainly have been seeing too many abandoned houses around here and downtown Flint always manages to depress me. So Virginia and D.C. please cheer me up.

And you all know that I’ll be complaining about France as soon as I get back there in August and saying that I wish I could be in the US again. Gotta love being an expat who can’t stop living between two cultures. In the end, I do think France barely wins out. Until I visit Canada again.

Does Michigan not have summer anymore?

By   July 25, 2009

I am freezing here. I don’t think it’s gotten above 80 degrees once this past week. And it’s been raining almost everyday.

Where is summer??? I was looking forward to boating on the lakes and lying in the hammock. I even bought two new swimsuits that I obviously cannot use right now. I miss real Michigan summers with heat waves in the 90s and awesome thunderstorms at night.

At least Chambéry has plenty of days in the 90s, but we don’t have a boat or a bazillion lakes all over the place there. I love the heat, but it’s more of a nuisance when I can’t go swimming and I’m stuck in a tiny apartment all day.

I am home.

By   July 22, 2009

After a rough weekend – delayed flight, massive headache, throwing up – I’m starting to get over the jetlag and adjust to life in the US again. I’ve eaten too many donuts, which may or may not have played a part in the puking this weekend, bought a ton of cheap stuff at Walmart (I know, I’m sorry), went to the dentist, got my hair cut, fixed computers and ordered dad a new one that I will get to play with soon. Luckily my bridesmaid dress and shoes fit almost perfectly, so I think I’m ready for the wedding even though we don’t leave for Virginia until the 29th.

Here are just 3 of the many, many reasons why I’m glad to be home:

Doggies! Brandy and Shadow are not allowed in the kitchen while we’re eating and it makes them sad.

So good and yet so bad.

BIG back yard.

It feels good to not be rushed or ruled by someone else’s schedule. I can go shopping and get something to eat 24 hours a day. Everything is open during lunch. People don’t care if I don’t eat at exactly noon and if I want to eat dinner by 5:30pm. I’m not forced to waste 2 hours sitting around during meals. The buildings and roads are so big. There are wide open spaces full of green grass and there is absolutely no noise at night (NO scooters!!!) I feel much more relaxed here, but that’s mostly because I’m out in the country and not in a city.

Of course, I do miss France a little (and David a lot!). Paying $169 for that dentist appointment because I don’t have insurance in the US sure makes me appreciate French healthcare. And it’s also the little things like having shutters on the windows to completely block out the light and tax already being included in the prices in stores that makes me wish there was a country that had just the best of both cultures and none of the bad.

I can’t really decide which I like more, the US or France. I’m sure I could come up with a million reasons for and against each country, but I suppose it will always be skewed since I’ve lived in the US longer than France and it’s what I know best. But I hated the US before I moved to France and thought I would never want to move back. Now I’m not so sure. Then again, it could just be the nostalgia and homesickness that blinds me to the reasons why I wanted to leave in the first place. A three week visit is not the same as actually living and working here again.

Those reasons will have to come later because I’m going outside to play in the yard with Brandy!

Back to the USA

By   July 17, 2009

I go back to the US tomorrow for 3 weeks. I’m so excited, but dreading the long day of traveling on three different flights. I need to get up in 6 hours to start getting ready though, so maybe I should go to bed now. Next post will be from Michigan!

A plus !

Why I hate Delta, reason #743

By   July 15, 2009

It’s probably no secret that I absolutely abhor flying. Normally it’s random people in the airport who drive me insane because they are too stupid to not wear a belt or put coins and keys in their pockets when they KNOW they will be going through a metal detector. And don’t even get me started on people who don’t know they have to take their laptops out of their carry-ons. TSA’s liquid ban also makes me want to punch the person who thought that would somehow make us all safer. But what I hate most is how the airlines treat you like crap – and the airline that has always been the worst is Delta.

It’s bad enough they bought out my beloved Northwest (best airline ever. period. RIP.) and left me stranded in Kentucky with a $50 hotel fee a few summers ago, but now I have to fly with them again in order to go home for my sister’s wedding. Even buying the ticket was a nightmare since their website sucks and my ticket was confirmed, but yet not actually approved. I tried getting help from their online chat, but was instructed to call a number that didn’t work. I tried two other customer service numbers that got me nowhere or simply hung up on me. Finally my mom had to call them from Michigan! Not only that, they tacked on a $20 fee to the overall price and did not explain why.

Then today I discover that Delta is now the first major US airline* to start charging a fee for the 2nd checked bag on an international flight, for tickets bought on or after May 23 with travel on or after July 1st. Oh lucky me, I bought my ticket June 1st! So I get to pay an extra $50 when I come back to France in August because there is no way all of my American goodies are going to fit in one suitcase.

If only sea travel weren’t so much more expensive and longer than air travel…

*Unfortunately, Northwest is also charging this fee since they are now technically Delta. Stupid merger. At least the other SkyTeam partners haven’t started charging yet though.