connect!

no sleep till paris.


My six hours in London quickly came to an end, despite my sleep deprivation, that at first had the day dragging on. My first few hours into my excursion, I was starting to doubt this decision as my exhaustion was coming in large waves, pulsing through my body. Two double lattes later and a soggy egg sandwich, I forced myself out to conquer a gorgeous day in an equally gorgeous city.

Preparing myself for the day trip, I had made prior arrangements to drop my suitcases off at our friend Julien's office off the Green Park tube stop. Julien was Aurelien's best man or as the French call them, witnesses (which is the same thing despite its sterile translation in English). He echoed the warmth he shared with us on our wedding, sending me off with maps, thumbs up, and organizing a mid-day lunch date together. Thanks to him, he was able to free up the 30 pounds that I had been carting around, allowing me to wander, explore and drink Pimms in peace. 

Afternoon Pimms.
Look at this juiciness!
I admit, I wanted more than one...

Two coffees only provided a false-sense of alertness, and had to limit myself to low-energy activities. For example, Top Shop was too exciting for me after only two hours of sleep; the pounding music, loud colors (even if it was adorable pastel mohair sweaters!), and smashing into English teenagers proved to be way too strenuous. I thought I was going to faint. So shopping was out. Way out. Who knows what I would have bought under these conditions. Booty shorts for sure.

Although this top here would have been cute, if it wasn't cropped.



After lunch with Julien at a pub (at my insistence), a walk through Camden Town, and a trip to the Amy Winehouse exhibit at the Jewish Museum, my day in London was sadly coming to an end. For what felt like an endless day ahead of me at 9 am, really slipped away without even realizing it.

Amy Winehouse exhibit
"Tears Dry On Their Own" Dress

To answer why I haven't been flitting back and forth between London and Paris with such ease these past four years -- aside from the cost, as my modest salary and pricey London isn't exactly a match made in paradise -- the real reason was the strict immigration officers I had heard rumors about. On this trip, I had the pleasure of experiencing what I had only heard about in expat tales.

In Heathrow that morning, I was asked to present my French carte de séjour, that foolishly on my part, I had left in an envelope in my checked bag. Because I had not been in the UK for over five years, he admitted me while warning me to have it prepared to present to the officers at the St. Pancras railway station later that day. Deal! Can you imagine if he sent me back to America? Oy vey.

Cutting off my Winehouse tour short, I booked it back to Julien's office to go through my suitcase in search of my French resident card. Because his small office was having a full-staff meeting I quietly slipped out, and on the sidewalk in this super chic neighborhood of Westminster planned to dig through my suitcase in search of the missing document. There on Davies Street, bent over, and much to my absolute horror, I discovered that Aurélien and I had switched suitcases at JFK. He, had my carte de séjour.

For the first time in years I have a concrete piece of documentation allowing to me reside in France; no longer an invisible tourist visa; not a flimsy student visa; but a sparkling new document that allows me to work full time and to create a life in France...and I didn't have it. It was en route to Paris.

A classic me move.

Since I had nothing to prove that I lived in Paris, with reluctance I told the French officer that I was coming to France for vacation. I so desperately wanted to explain my situation but knew that would over-complicate things, risking denial into the country. As he flipped through pages upon pages of Charles de Gaulle stamps, two expired student visas, and two expired temporary carte de sejours, understandably, as my passport looks pretty shady, he had some questions. He wanted to know where I currently reside, how long I was staying in France, why I was coming to France in the first place, and what was in my suitcase. Each answer didn't seem to satisfy him as his thumb fanned through my passport and his left eyebrow remained propped up, surely for effect.

Sneaking in a stronger American accent to sound extra "vacation-y", I answered more of his questions before he landed on my most recent student visa. He looked at it and with his fingers counted how many months it had been since it was expired to see if I was even eligible to re-enter. I was sweating at this point.

Thankfully I had made the cut-off date, he grabbed his stamp and slammed it down on my passport. I sat in the waiting lounge shaking. How could I have been so unprepared? I really don't know what the absolute worst case scenario would have been, deportation back to the States for a few months? Or would I have been allowed to stay in London, have Aurel send my resident card overnight and try again the next day? All of the options would have cost money and time, and I was truly thankful that he let me in. I will never leave the house without my resident card!

After a lovely Euro Star trip (the small upgrade to the middle class really is so worth it!), I was in Paris where I could finally sleep! I catapulted myself into bed for a 16 hour sleep, and have been suffering major jetlag. Although I am nursing a schedule of waking up at 3 pm, going to bed at 4 am, and feeling overall disoriented and foggy, I have to say, it's good to be back in Paris. Who else is ready for la rentrée?

What was going on this time last year?

guess who's calling?




As we bid farewell to summer, which for many of us rewarded us with some much-needed time off, minty cocktails, and endless days, I am currently en route back to the City of Light...with one small detour.

Ladies and gents, as the illustration suggests, I write to you from London! And I couldn't be happier to be here! It's been years since I have been to this great city and being here now only a few hours I find myself asking, why don't I hop over from France more often? It seems silly at this point not to.

There is one catch to my sudden London calling: I only have six hours here! Six hours? What gives? It was a decision that my mother and I jointly gave birth to yesterday morning as we looked at the oversold flights going to CDG from JFK.

The thing is, this time of year almost always poses a problem for me, the perpetual stand-by passenger who uses my mom's family passes to travel. With the flights from JFK to CDG brimming with Parisians shuffling back home in time for la rentrée (it still gives me butterflies that that now includes me!) meant that my chances of flying out this week were grim. With Aurel safely on an a prepaid, full-fare Air France flight, instead of testing my luck with laborious days begging to get on a flight, and with time not on my side as I start work soon, I decided to hop on a red-eye to Heathrow. (And yes, I totally thought of Hugh Grant, and too got that sneaky feeling that love was, actually all around when I exited through the sliding doors.)

I got in a 7:30 this morning and my train back to Paris departs tonight; I'm wiped out, I feel greasy and my eyes hurt but I'm in London. So to wrap up yet another wonderful summer season, I welcome this one-day adventure in one of Europe's most celebrated cities!

Oh, and I have one question for you, my English readers, and be honest with me here, do you guys think our American accents sound as cool as we think your English accents sound? I keep talking to people and no one seems terribly impressed with my...hmm, yeah, I think I just answered my own question.

underage drinking.

Me. 
Los Angeles. 2002

California could not have been a better destination for our Franco-American honeymoon. While we could have seen more of what the state has to offer by doing the drive up the coast, checking out wine country, and stopping off in Santa Barbara, I'm glad that I was able to show Aurélien at least the beginner's tour to California by starting him off easy with LA and a 50 minute flight up to San Francisco.

One thing about California that I had forgotten all about since I moved back to the east coast in 2006 was the pride that the two cities have, almost to the degree of a playful rivalry. When merely mentioning that we had started the first leg of our honeymoon in Los Angeles to San Francisco locals who must have assumed it was my first trip out to California, we were almost always met with an immediate knee-jerk response that the two cities were absolutely nothing alike, with an almost exhale of relief. When telling friends, and acquaintances we had met along the away, that we were heading up to San Francisco, residents of LA responded with a blank and somewhat confused, "Wait, but why?"

Aside from the undeniable differences of geography, inhabitants, culture and style that divides the two major Californian cities, there was one detail, albeit slight, that made our stay in the City by the Bay more enjoyable than the City of Angels.

So I'm not sure what new laws have been enforced in LA, but I was constantly carded for alcohol, to the point of obscenity. The first few times, sure, I was flattered, but it wasn't until the incident at a bar in Pasadena where I had to present my passport to the same bartender with every round, plus random spot checks, that it was starting to get obnoxious. Between glasses of wine it would seem unlikely that I had acquired a false ID, and even more unlikely and much to the dismay of the city of eternal youth, that I would become 15 years younger. When I asked the bartender why the need to take such strict measures, while coquettishly adding that my Clarisonic must be doing its job of keeping me so refreshingly youthful, he swiftly cut me off mid-sentence to inform me that anyone who looks under 60 years old gets carded at the bar.

Diss.

I guess all the girls go in for the cutesy joke that I really did think was original and sort of funny.

So on our way to our friend Sti's Hollywood Hills pool party, the final Sunday in LA, Aurel was going on a street art hunt in Hollywood and dropped me off at the nearby kitchy, health-food supermarket chain that is similar to Whole Foods but with a much more reasonable price point (no names) somewhere on Santa Monica Boulevard (no exact neighborhoods). The plan was to pick up treats to nosh and sip on poolside and to meet up at the Coffee Bean in 30 minutes. 

Easy enough.

Enjoying my shopping experience, I danced down the aisles picking up items that I could never find so effortlessly in Paris. In my basket laid two pre-made salads, a packet of turkey dogs, flax seed tortilla chips, pico de gallo, a six-pack of gluten-free beers (hey, when in LA, right?) and a bottle of Prosecco charmingly called "Macaron". Pure shopper's delight.



At the check-out, I loaded up our pool treats on the counter, and ready for action, went to reach for my passport...yet, it wasn't in the bag I had on me. During the "bag switch" I failed to throw it in, only bringing my wallet which I assumed would be sufficient. I was confident that my temporary license, an expired New York State license, my Social Security card, my crows feet and laugh lines, and my very first California driver's license that I keep in my wallet when I want a good laugh over my spray tanned skin in the photo, was more than enough. You would think so, right?

Wanting to stay honest, I informed our cheerful, 20-something cashier "Jackie" that the hard copy of the license was expired but had enough government documentation to prove my identity and age.

Well. Jackie had to confirm with her manager if she could accept this.

Watching her from the check-out as I was now holding up the line, she went up into a manager's booth to explain my "situation". The fella, most likely close to my age if not exact looked carefully over my documents where his body language communicated that what I had offered was unacceptable. He looked at me, the Sunday morning hooligan who was trying to pull a fast one on him by purchasing Prosecco and edamame salads, and shook his head in what I interpreted as sheer disappointment. 

Surely I am out of touch with what "the kids" are doing these days, but trying scam a health market on a Sunday morning with sparkling wine seems a bit off to me. Furthermore, and might I add the most obvious point, I haven't looked like a teenager since 1998 -- when I was actually one! It reminds of one of the lines in the film High Fidelity where John Cusack's character Rob catches the teen punks shoplifting Serge Gainsbourg records and asks, "You guys slamming to Joni Mitchell now?"

Anyway, so the manager comes over and coolly hands me back my official government documents to announce that "the house will not be accepting them" and that they will be removing the booze from my selections. 

I know I have adult acne and chubby cheeks but come on, I clearly look over 21!

Then, for the most annoying part of the scene: the manager put his hand on Jackie's shoulder and with a nod and exasperated sigh says, "Thank you so much for looking out. I'm glad you were able to catch this sort of thing."

First off, she didn't "catch" anything. It was moi who foolishly presented the documents, complete with what I thought was a rational explanation.

And two, she what, caught a (soon to be!!) 32-year-old woman trying to by wine for a pool party?

What. A. Hero. Allow me to insert the slow clap.

The saga ended with my groceries set aside in a basket, standing next to the manager's booth and calling Aurélien to come pick me up immediately, and to pay for the groceries.

In San Francisco we weren't asked once to present our ID which now has me wondering: was the severe ID checking just an LA thing or did people in SF think we look over 60? Who knows, but I do know, I sure as hell don't look like the petite in the above photo. Cheers to aging with pride. And thank you to the city of LA for making me feel illegally young.

3x5: to the eastside.


Although we were staying in the more central part of town by The Farmer's Market, a trip to LA wouldn't be complete without giving Aurelien a mini-tour of where I spent my early 20s. I mean, I talk about it enough, might as well give the guy some visuals, right?

My first year in Tinseltown, because I was living with a roommate, was able to afford an apartment in the safe, clean, and accessible West Hollywood. Sadly, once she moved back to New York, I could no longer stay...and so I packed my bags and headed to the Eastside. I'd like to say that I was "movin' on up" but back in those days Silver Lake wasn't quite what it is now; it would take years after I moved out for it to be the hipster enclave with soaring rents, yoga moms, and dudes with well-manicured beards sporting fitted t-shirts sipping on designer coffee at Intelligentsia.

Back in 2002, it was getting there, but not quite. So the trade off for hearing the occasional gunshot on Hoover Street, my neighbors getting attacked at night, street parking (which in LA is unheard of), and being far away from many of my friends who were all doing the beach thing in Venice, I had a 695/month spacious, hardwood floor studio, with a walk-in closet that lead to my bathroom (yes, like Carrie), a terrace looking out onto the building's private community garden that was nurtured by our building manager -- someone whom I now call Aunt Terri -- and was bursting with flowers, seasonal vegetables and fruit.

I've enjoyed sharing this part of my life with him because in Paris, I feel a bit disconnected to these formative years. As I cultivate my life in France, years in LA are slowly fading, so it was nice to awaken some old memories with a stroll through the Silver Lake...



El Conquistador.   
The best place to get a margarita on the Eastside.
Sadly, this 50 year old staple will be closing down for good on December 22, so those of you who will be out in LA, 
I do recommend stopping in...

How could you not want to have a drink in this fiesta-like atmosphere? We stopped in for one margarita and left having two.

The more urban side of Sunset Boulevard that we're not used to seeing.



Being broke during what seems like my entire 20s, 
El 7 Mares did a good job of not reminding me. 
Fresh fish tacos that came with slices of lime fit into my budget
while getting in my weekly Omegas...even if they were fried.



The 99 cents store 
(a real one, none of this 98 cents "and up" business)
was a frequent locale for dinner when I didn't want to lose my parking spot (or didn't want to pay for gas) 
by going to Trader Joe's.
 I told you, I was broke. 


The view down to Sunset from my former street, Sanborn Avenue

...and then we got a parking ticket for 68 bucks.
To make it a real experience, I uselessly chased down the parking official as he was taking evil pleasure in issuing out more tickets to unsuspecting victims.
His explanation made total sense. 
And I walked away. Feeling defeated.
That was perhaps one memory I didn't exactly want to revisit.

We then drove past a filming of some sort.
We're guessing that this will be a soda commercial.
What do you guys think? 

we interrupt this honeymoon...



...with a trip to the DMV.

Yes, that's right. While soaking up the sun, cruising down the boulevards in our bitchin' Hyundai Accent, and Aurélien relishing in his very first star sighting*, we had to stop at the Hollywood DMV.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter may know, I recently tried to reinstate my New York driver's license only to learn, that because I had let it expire for more than two years I would have to take my road and written test all over again, as well as reapply for a learner's permit. Kicking myself for being so negligent to such an important document, I took a deep breath and called up the driving school located near my mother's house to schedule my driving lessons before the honeymoon. When explaining my situation via a Skype phone call from Paris to the driving school's operator, my request was met with an evil laugh.

I really hate when that happens.

The man who went by the name Tony, explained that classes were booked up until September because August is their busiest seasons to conduct driving tests. Being old and out of touch now, I was confused. Why would August be so busy, especially with "everyone" being on vacation? I really have been in Paris too long. Just because Paris is a ghost town, it doesn't mean the rest of the world is on vacation. Tony explained that I was competing with high school seniors trying to get their licenses before the school year starts in September and that classes have been booked for months now.

Great.

I had accepted the fact that I would not be driving in California and brushed up on my directive skills in French, as I would be the annoying passenger seat driver during our trip. I wasn't thrilled about the arrangement but there was nothing more we could do; it was the consequence for letting my New York license expire.

After Aurélien almost got us into a fatal accident on Sunset on our first day as he slammed on the breaks thinking it was the clutch, we needed a Plan B. Fast. And then I realized something....my California license may not be expired. I didn't have a recent copy of it because my wallet had been stolen a few years back and never ordered a duplicate because I wasn't physically in the state.

Now being in California, it was worth checking out even if my request got denied...so we interrupted honeymoon bliss for a trip to the Hollywood DMV.

We arrived at what we thought was bright and early at 10 am. (Again, insert evil laugh) At the counter, I explained why I was there and before I could even finish my "story", an application was slammed down before me and was shooed off to the nearby counter to fill it out. 

Moments later, I arrived back at the same window -- still bushy-tailed and happy that I was getting so much attention immediately -- and handed in my application with a part of me hoping that they had a stock copy of my license in "the back", and we would be on our way to continue Los Angeles sight-seeing. 

While the woman was actually very helpful and friendly, she handed me a ticket and told me to wait until my number was called. My number was 220. In the waiting room of about a hundred other hopefuls who were all beautifully bored; processed blondes and redheads slicked on pout-enhancing lip gloss; guys with their bronzed muscles and sleeve tattoos taking stretch breaks before going back to their riveting game of Jewels Saga on their phones; locals engaging conversations about the CBS/Time Warner drama that seems to be all the talk in LA; the occasional pampered Hollywood dog trotted his way through the waiting room, we looked up at the electronic number display board to find that they were only at number 95.

If Aurélien was going to brush up his English (especially his numbers as they were being shouted out painfully every five minutes), a DMV in Los Angeles county was certainly the right place to be.

So I may have been in France too long but there was one scene that struck me as a little bizarre.

There were two applicants waiting with the rest of us; only this couple was not in the seats where we all were in, they were making themselves at home at the eye examination station. You know, the little black light box you have to lean into to recite the letters. At the station, one had his feet up on the table while his lady friend was leaning over in her snakeskin-printed pale blue yoga pants exposing her thong. They both were noshing on relish-drenched hotdogs from the vendor cleverly parked directly across the street from the building, while animatedly watching YouTube videos on their phones directly in front of a sign that read: NO CELL PHONES.

I think what intrigued me more than them using the eye station as their home for the afternoon, was the fact that they weren't asked by anyone to at least lower their voices. Once again, maybe I have been in France too long because that would certainly not fly over there. Living as a foreigner in a bureaucratic system that could deny my visa if I chew gum during my appointment or if I use the imparfait when it's clearly a passé composé moment, I guess I am hyper aware not to draw any attention to myself in these kinds of situations.

My shock quickly wore off, as the duo did managed to keep us all entertained with their loud commentary, allowing us also to enjoy their videos by extension. What else did any of us have to do? With my number thankfully called only three and a half hours later, we left with my temporary license in hand, claiming the keys to our badass rental car, we cruised down Hollywood boulevard to get a much-deserved, shaken cocktail at the legendary Frolic Room.

*Aurélien's first and only sighting later that day in Silver Lake was Beck! Both being pretty big fans, this was the perfect sighting. We both looked at each other with wide eyes, and when out of sight of this iconic musician, we did our happy shuffle. When recounting this jewel of a sighting to our 22 year old bartender that night at a local bar, she said, "Wait, I think I've heard of him. What's his song again?" 

I didn't think I could be more shocked than the hotdog folks at the DMV. Guess I was wrong...

3x5: hurray for hollywood!



The sun must be impairing my thinking because I never want to go back to Paris! California is once again enticing me with her juice bars, coffee shops that offer almond milk, small talk with complete strangers, smiles, bright-colored fashion, 60s architecture, and those palm trees. 

I kid, I kid, Paris is my new home that I absolutely adore but I would be lying if I didn't feel like I am cheating on her a bit as I relish each day in the Golden State.

Here are my next batch of postcards from the City of Angels...


We stayed at the fantastically kitch Farmer's Daughter hotel on Fairfax across the street from LA's Farmer's Market. I picked the hotel for the location, reasonable rates, irresistibly charming decor, excellent reviews, and out of my own curiosity. You see, I had stayed at this hotel back in the early 2000s (during my way more coquine days -- oh mon dieu), back when it was a rundown rock n' roll motel with flickering fluorescent lighting, staff that resembled the janitor in the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video and the hotel guests were a revolving door of up-and-coming bands on tour as opening acts as well as suspected ladies of the night. 

To observe the more adventurous days of my youth, I did what any cheesy chick would do: I bought the t-shirt. At a yard sale years after my wild weekend, a woman was selling a t-shirt with the hotel's former logo on a faded yellow shirt, the same color as the nicotine stained walls of their hotel rooms. I couldn't resist passing up the two bucks for the memorabilia.

Fast forward 13 years later, the hotel has been fully renovated, redesigned into a full service boutique hotel and caters to tourists, honeymooners and industry professionals. It was truly the perfect choice for our Hollywood lodging. 

Thinking I was cool, the first day we arrived, I went wearing the hotel t-shirt. Okay. That's worse than going to the concert wearing the band's shirt. Way worse. Especially since several guests had asked me questions and me, not understanding why, and coming across as the world's worst employees as I blew off their requests. And the hotel staff thought I was either making fun of them or trying to get free stuff. I will forever be that corny girl trying to join in on the fun.

The shirt got shoved back into my suitcase not to be taken out until we leave California. 

One touch I appreciated walking through the lobby was
the central air gently wafted out gardenia scents. 
A vast improvement to what the hotel smelled like before.

The hotel restaurant Tart...

...that served as our nightcap spot, working our way down their
creative cocktail menu.


It wouldn't be a trip to Hollywood 
if I didn't stop at my old job, The 101 Coffee Shop.
I can say it now that it's years later but I really was one of
the worst servers. I pretty much sucked.
It was no wonder I only got the 6am shifts...

It was nice to see that nothing has changed at one of Hollywood's favorite greasy spoons and even saw some of the old regulars.
I got my usual iced soy latte and a tossed Greek salad...

...that apparently got a makeover.
It's now Kalefornia because it's everywhere.
Even at diners.
I love this state.



              And then I took Aurélien to mecca.
Amoeba Records on Sunset.
He stood in shock for about five minutes.

Then one day during our trip, 
he got all French on me and asked if it was possible
to get a French baguette anywhere in LA.
Laughing off this impractical request, I reminded him that we were in Hollywood and that they hadn't imported bread since
Jennifer Aniston went on the Zone Diet in 1999.

I then stood corrected.


And then....this happened...


I found her when I was not even looking. Olympia!

Seeing my enthusiasm as I snapped photos of Olympia's star like a possessed fan, a woman who was wearing a name tag that read the name Bobbie popped out of a nearby door and told me to step into her office. She had something to show me. Usually I would never follow a stranger under these pretenses, but rationally thinking, who would lure someone into their death lair using Olympia Dukakis as bate? So I followed..

Good thing I trusted Bobbie because this is what she wanted to show me...

I'm not the only one proud of Olympia's star!
I was so bummed I missed what was clearly a celebration!
Look how happy Olympia looks!
Good for you, girl.

We had the quintessential Hollywood afternoon lounging with good friends Brett and Sti at her Melrose Place complex with tons of juicy neighbor gossip and a pool to encourage it.
Just as we were getting the total dish on the guy in Apartment 102 who left the grill on all night, 
this came creeping out behind the grotto.

This is Aspen.
He bought his skull mask on Hollywood and Cahuenga.
He is 12.
And he is making a movie.
Of course he is and of course I asked.

You know I just had to, right?
I had to go in for the money shot.
And almost getting hit by a car for it.

3x5: here we are now, entertain us.


We made it, miraculously without a hitch (something my stand-by way of traveling seldom guarantees)! We interrupt this Paris program to bring you to lovely and sunny Los Angeles! I know many of you read this blog for snippets of daily life in the City of Light but I do hope you will check in while I share fun bits, a series of 3x5 postcards, starting with our arrival in Hollywood.

So I totally forgot how fun this place is! We've only been here a few days and I find myself amused and amazed by how quirky everything is. I can't believe that there was a time in my life when this was just the norm. 

Aurélien so far has had two celeb sightings...and they have been French. So doesn't count. We're hoping for a real American sighting...we're holding out for something big! Since LA has proven to have a somewhat large French population, there goes my childish game of playing the "Penis Game" and screaming other profanities in French, relishing over the fact that no one understands. People will understand so I guess I have to save this game for Long Island...

Here are some of our first impressions of the town...I'm loving Aurel's reaction to all of this.

For an additional 35 bucks, our server will read us a poem
...and hug us.
This is not at all a joke.

This totally trumps Mind Your Own Beeswax.

Five different flavors of toothpicks?
Why not?

My friends from last summer followed me to LA!
Hey, guys!

For those of you who are on Instagram, please feel to follow my adventures as I will be updating more regularly there.

airplane!



Every summer when I leave for the States, flying stand-by, I declare that it is for the last time. Summer travel out of Europe is a bit hairy for paying passengers, so for me, the low man on the totem pole, it is a total nightmare.

Arriving at Charles de Gaulle, the check-in line was about 100 customers deep but was moving somewhat steadily. During my wait, I did however notice the terminal now has two PCs and printers! The computers were mostly being utilized by passengers who had forgotten to register for their ESTA in order to authorize entry into the United States, but one man who gave no impression whatsoever to be catching a flight took it to the next level. He took up one of the machines to watch Russian YouTube videos of stock auto races. The other passengers looked less than thrilled when he paid for additional fifteen minutes. Me on the other hand was envious of the extra time he appeared to have. The buffer time I allocated myself with was stolen at on the peripherique due to an accident, and we sat in standstill gridlock 20 minutes.


With my non-assigned boarding pass, much to my horror, I arrived at customs with a line that snaked around 14 times. The clock on my phone was moving faster than the actual line and with only 30 minutes to get to my gate, I had to think fast and act smart. Taking a risk, I left the line to speak to one of the airport personnel to explain that my flight would close soon and to ask there was a line for passengers whose flights were soon departing. Just as I arrived, I saw her shoo away a man who was barking at her a request to cut the line because his flight was also about to talk off. She was so not having any of it. Merde.

Having no other choice since I had already abandoned my place on the line, I approached the woman anyway. Pulling out the big guns with all sorts of polite French tenses and sentences, and also not expecting much, I calmly explained my case. I knew that I was most likely not even going to get onto the oversold flight, but I wanted to at least try. The guard listened, looked at my boarding pass that read NO SEAT and had me follow her, explaining that it would be at the discretion of the customs officer. She walked me to one of the counters and proceeded to explain to the unamused officer. Without so much a facial expression, he extended his arm out for my passport, stamped it and wished me good luck getting on the flight. That was not at all expected. I think I said merci about ten times before they both shooed me away. I guess I was overdoing it, but I was sincerely grateful. Not being a full paying customer or even an actual airline employee, I have zero clout in an airport. So on the rare occasion when someone is actually nice to me, I tend to go into shock.

Now I was on countdown. Breezing through security, I situated myself in a corner to prepare myself for the hustle I was about embark on. I traded out my kitten heels for flat espadrilles, stuffed my cardigan in my bag, tied my hair up in a high ponytail, and pressed play on my internal soundtrack; that English Beat song that is that  climactic final scene of Ferris Beuller's Day Off where he is racing his parents home by running through the backyards. That song is my official "beat the clock" jam and I have to say, it adds a little adventure to what would otherwise be a stressful situation. 

With my roller board in tow, I hauled ass through the terminal; weaving in and out of other passengers practically hopping over their suitcases, children wandering away from their parents served as unexpected mini obstacles, taking a moment to frown when passing at La Durée, sad that I didn't have time to pick up some macaroons, and then breezing past duty free even more sad that I wasn't going to get bring home some booze. 

I was at gate 59 and had to get to 31. So this race for time continued on for some time...

I arrived at the gate with fifteen minutes before take-off, which in air travel time for an international flight is the very last minute, and I swear the Gods were looking down on me because guess what I heard as I was arriving? My name being announced over the intercom by the gate agent. Rumor at the terminal was that a connecting flight was cancelled, which had freed up 25 seats.

The flight serviced 35 kids who were part of a teen missionary group from Utah, and I was stuffed between four of them. I enjoyed eavesdropping on their adventures and their interactions, especially when they referred to me as the lady drinking the wine, as if I couldn't hear. For some reason them calling me this made them laugh uncontrollably and you know what, I understood why. I remember being a teen and being so easily amused, where almost anything could get me laughing, especially if I thought I was getting one over some lady drinking wine alone. Or maybe I had something in my teeth. I am known for red wine mouth. Either way, they had a good laugh at my expense and I didn't care because I had my wine and Robin Thicke. (Side note: So are you guys loving "Blurred Lines"? For me, it officially replaced "Get Lucky". Just sayin'.)

So, who wasn't exactly impressed with the teen missionaries was a French teenager sitting directly behind me who also was sandwiched between them. In a crisp white button-down, a cardigan tied over his shoulders and perfectly sculpted eyebrows, he tolerated co-existing with his American counterparts. Several times during the flight my seat would jerk forward and would look back to find them passing cookies and scrapbooks, and at one point, to poke and insult each other over the French teen while pushing forward my seat. The French teen practiced his most impressive huffs and puffs while reluctantly succumbing to the cookie pass.

And then, they started to sing. All of them. Albeit gently and softly, I immediately whipped my head around to get first reactions of the French teen. 

He. looked. horrified. 

Watching too extreme cultures respond to each other was the best in-flight entertainment, as I kept leaning forward to get reaction shots. Maybe I still am easily amused... 

Believe it or not, it was one of the easier trips back to New York during high season, and walking through JFK and seeing the big sign that read WELCOME TO NEW YORK...I believed it! Damn, it feels good to be back, now get me to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts.