I’m going to what feels like the Mean Girl of cities in a couple of weeks.
You know the one.
She’s all Chanel and couture and linen and lipstick. They speak fancy French there, not the regular, old, Canadian kind (and even my Canadian French is pretty patchy and rusty).
I lived in Europe with my family as a teen and then in my early and later 20s, on my own. But, somehow, I never got to Paris.
London and York and Cornwall, I love. Hamburg and Heidelberg, too.
But Paris, is a big old question mark for me.
Or, is it actually a REAL PLACE with garbage trucks, and people wearing pajamas in public, and bad cooks?
My parents went to Paris for a holiday when we lived in England, but for some reason, they didn’t take their teenagers with them. Who knows why?
I was too broke when I lived close by to get there, and my friends lived in Germany. So, I just kept flying over Paris, as if she didn’t matter one hoot.
Take that, mean girl!
But now, my German friends are living in Paris, in the ninth arrondissement. I think that means near ALLLLLL the Pain au Chocolat (one of the main reasons I’m even going to Paris), right?
And, I am slightly intimidated.
According to Canadian/US versions of Paris, I am prepared to feel inferior on a number of levels including my weight, my fashion sense (lack thereof), not to mention my (quelle horreur) love of patterned fabric.
French chic? Mais, non. Just call me “flabby, shabby chic”.
I am not sleek or sophisticated. I am much more inclined to the chubby and cheerful.
But, so is Ina Garten and she supposedly loves Paris, right? So did Julia Child and she was tall and awkward.
Vives les Tall and Awkward!
With a side of Still Too Many Shoes for My Suitcase.
Practical Man disliked Paris when he was there so he’s glad to be sitting this one out. Mind you, he dislikes ALL cities so he’s not really a neutral opinion. Instead, I am travelling with my sweet sister-in-law Roadrunner, who speaks Northern Ontario French as her first language at home. She’s never been to Europe. In fact, this is her first trans-Atlantic flight. Although she is fluent in the language, I’ve heard that Parisians can be quite cutting when it comes to The Canadian Form of French. My also fluent father was once asked in Paris where he learned his French and when he told them Canada, they said, “c’est domage (that’s too bad)”.
I do love me some vintage, flea markets, and sparkly lights. Someplace called The City of Lights seems to be a good city for that sort of tra-la-la.
Anyhoo, if you’ve been there, here are the questions I have about going to Paris:
- I expect there to be accordions playing in the background as we stroll around. But, should I be prepared with some Charles Aznavour on my playlist, just in case?
- Is there a “how not to overpack” Pinterest board for people who are not Marie Kondo or wearing exclusively Lululemon?
- If I can’t get rid of my vertigo before I leave and end up getting arrested because I’m wobbling down the streets like I’m intoxicated, will they bring me the French version of Bread and Water (baguette and Perrier) in jail?
- Is black the only colour people wear? What if I look more like “Widowed Nonna from a Godfather movie” than “Audrey Hepburn” in black?
- Where can I rent a Betsy bicycle or a moped so I can ride along the Seine with a baguette sticking out of the basket, humming La Vie en Rose?
- Is it wrong to have a pain au chocolat EVERY morning while I’m there? Wait, don’t answer that.
- Will my brain actually turn into a pretzel if I try to speak German (with our host family), Paris French (let’s face it, that won’t be possible), Canadian French (only slightly more possible), Bad French (definitely possible), and English (please direct me to the nearest pain au chocolat?) in one holiday?
- How many beautiful buildings can you drool on before they kick you out of the country?
- Ditto for Boulangerie, Patisserie and other “erie” windows?
It’s like a first date with someone way out of your league.
Or, as they say in Paris…
[nonchalant and chic expression full of fabulous cheekbones].
I have developed a new problem, recently.
I’m coveting cupolas.
Worshipping weather vanes.
I went to Vermont, you see.
“Verdant Vermont”, as Practical Man and I called it as we ooh’d and aah’d our way through the Spring countryside rolling hills.
We have been there before but this time, we noticed that it was very green.
We’re pretty sure this isn’t how “verdant” is pronounced but for this trip, we decided we should make it rhyme with “Vermont”.
Verdant Vermont, get it?
They are probably going to want to adopt it as a slogan, of course.
“Visit us in Verdant Vermont.”
We amuse ourselves easily, yes sirree.
That’s how you get to 20 years of wedded bliss, dontcha know.
All the verdant was probably on account of the torrential rain the day and night before. During the storm, we were very cozy in our vintage Boler travel trailer, alone in the campground. I am reading my way through my vintage Nancy Drew collection so I was deeply embroiled in The Mystery of the Bungalow (and wondering how one canoes wearing a dress) while I listened to the lovely sound of rain on the Boler roof.
A 13-foot trailer seems so luxurious after a lifetime of camping in tents and when it’s pouring sheets of rain outside.
Maybe the other campers didn’t have a vintage Nancy Drew book to antagonize and entertain them because they had all left. Even the ones in giant motor homes with big-screen TVs and walk-in closets. It seems that the first sign of inclement weather causes those campers to run home to a different big-screen TV and walk-in closet.
That’s okay because it means more ice cream for me.
The morning after the storm, I ate Ben and Jerry’s at 10:00 am, tra-la-la.
There was a factory and it was cultural experience so I had two scoops: fudge brownie something and chocolate peanut-butter something else.
I’ve never had Ben and Jerry’s ice cream before.
I might need to try it again to make sure I like it.
Then, we went to the chocolate factory nearby.
Perhaps you can see why I love Vermont.
So much tra-la-la!
We followed the windy roads and hunted for the covered bridges that were on the map.
We went up the super fun, seasonal road to Smuggler’s Notch and marvelled at the giant boulders all around that had been chucked down the mountain, probably by some demi-god having a temper tantrum.
And, I fell in love with all the houses.
I think there is a Vermont rule: no ugly houses allowed.
The Pinterest addict in me approves.
I also fell in love with the cupolas.
Ones with vents.
Ones with weather vanes.
I want one.
My kingdom for a cupola!
We have two sets of louvered doors in one of our (cupola-less) outbuildings, so now, I have dreams and plans for an upcycled cupola of our very own.
Practical Man is on the case. So far, he’s going along with putting a cupola on the workshop building.
That’s how you get to 20 years of wedded bliss, dontcha know.
But, I’m not sure I’m allowed to go back to Vermont.
As a teenager, I prepared for spending 3 months on student exchange in Germany the way most teenagers would: I didn’t bother with practical lingo like
“Can you please tell me the time?”
“Which way to the main train station?”
I was a teenager and since practical lingo seemed to assume that I would always be late or lost, I scoffed.
Instead, I learned the most important words first.
That is, the yummy words.
Case in point: I easily memorized words like
- Laugenbroetchen (pretzel bun)
- Schwarzwaelderkirschtorte (Black Forest cake) and
- Schlagsahne (whipped cream)
But, I struggled when it came to words like
- ??? (pickled herring)
- ??? (liverwurst) and
- ??? (blood sausage).
I maintain that I am vocabulary-impaired through no fault of my own. My great-great grandfather immigrated to Canada from Germany and opened a bakery. My paternal grandfather spent his childhood twirling pretzels in the family bakery in Kitchener, Ontario–a skill he could still demonstrate decades later with our Play Doh.
Yep, gluten and sugar both flow in my veins (and pool somewhere around my chin, mid-section and bottom).
Luckily, there are more remnants from our familial bakery past than the scapegoats of rubenesque, middle-aged descendants. We have a few artifacts and a fair number of pictures, most of which have been compiled into a book by my father and aunt.
There’s a recipe for approximately 200 pounds of cake, in case I want to invite 1000 of my dearest over for a ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ extravaganza.
Wait, I think I’m on to something there…
Cake festivals aside, I have been meaning to install a sort of Bardon Bakery homage in our kitchen for some time now. It was provoked by the gift of tea towels with one of the Bardon Bakery advertising images, which a friend had screen-printed for my sister, parents and I.
I started to gather some of my favourite of the photos and artifacts from the bakery book to display:
Then of course, I went to IKEA (as you do).
I got a Swedish, red frame to put the German -Canadian bakery photo in.
I’m sure my great-great grandfather would approve.
So, a lovely display of Bardon Bakery nostalgia is finally on the walls near the table. If only I had some
- Laugenbroetchen (pretzel buns)
- Schwarzwaelderkirschtorte (Black Forest cake) or
- Schlagsahne (whipped cream)
I could have a lovely Kaffeeklatsch (afternoon coffee chat) as is the German tradition, right here in my own kitchen.
Of course, since I don’t like coffee, my Kaffeeklatsch-es have always been less Kaffee and more Kuchen…so really, a Kuchenklatsch (afternoon cake chat) or Torteklatsch (afternoon GOOD CAKE–the kind with whipped cream, mousse-and-other-delectable-goodies-inside–chat).
But, since I don’t have any Kuchen or (drat) Torte, we may have to dip into the extremely large care package of German goodies that we received recently from a friend in Lahr:
Choco Crossies (chocolate crispies), Ritter Sport Voll-Nuss (chocolate hazelnut Ritter bars), Lebkuchen (chocolate ginger cookie doo-dahs), Gummibaerchen (gummy bears)…
For some reason, I know ALL these words in German.
Still have no idea how to say
??? (Boiled Beef Tongue).
The plan was to drive over hill and dale (and try not to eat everything we’d purchased at a wonderful/alarming place called The Cheese Barn before we got to our destination) to see the magnificent rhododendrons in bloom in the Smoky Mountains.
Instead, I fell in love with a Texaco.
I didn’t expect it, but we stumbled upon it in a little town called Lebanon, OH. If you haven’t been there, I recommend their historic downtown. Very vintage-y vibe with lots of place to spend any cash that happens to be burning in your pocket (see how vintage I am? I still use real money!)
But, I was too busy swooning to spend much cash. Like, a Harry Connick sort of vintage-y swoon. Yep, busy, swooning over my Texaco.
It was beautiful, with its white brick facade and original porcelain red lettering. It was a perfect match for the fleet of vintage vehicles bouncing around inside my head.
And did I mention, it was available? Currently a swingin’ single building, just waiting for me to sweep it off its feet!
Be still my beating heart. I’ve always dreamed of living in a place called Lebanon in a Texaco station.
Okay, maybe not. But it seemed like a great idea that day.
All it needed was a vintage soda shop next door and I would have been all set.