I met a dancer once. The fittest person I’ve ever met in my life. Part of her job and livelihood meant staying fit and keeping in the best shape she possibly could. As a basic American girl who has long been exposed to the false narrative that beautiful boils down to skinnier…plain and simple, I wanted to know some of her secrets. And she gave me advice I’ll never forget.
She didn’t tell me what all the diet plans and fitness routines will tell you…move more, eat less. No, instead she told me she goes to bed every night with a hunger in her belly. I think about that advice a lot.
I don’t think she meant “don’t eat before bed” like a lot of fitness gurus will tell you, although it’s good advice. I don’t think she meant “stop eating after a certain time at night” or “no midnight snacks” which is also advice you’ll read about on fitness blogs and in health magazines. So maybe that’s all decent advice for staying fit or losing weight. But that’s not what she meant.
Even though she was talking about a biological need like “hunger” I think she meant something far more emotional and philosophical than the act of eating or not eating. Think about times when you have been well and truly fed. I mean full to the bottom of your heels.
Picture a Thanksgiving day…maybe it’s the evening and you’ve just had all the things at the holiday buffet. The turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the brussels sprouts, the salad, the bread, the cranberry sauce, the pie…all of it. You know the feeling I’m coming to next…it’s not just being content. It’s being absolutely stuffed. You feel lethargic. You feel lazy. Maybe you lie around for the rest of the night in a state of light coma with the rest of your clan.
We’ve all been there. And it’s not even a bad experience on occasions like Thanksgiving. Holidays are meant to be treated with a little looser fist, giving yourself more grace and allowing yourself an extra helping of Granny’s apple pie, after all Granny may not be around to make it much longer. So eat that pie!
But still, it’s not even the physical act of being hungry that she was talking about. When you’re hungry, truly hungry, you have something to fight for. There is a primal instinct inside of us when we have a basic need like hunger that comes out. Some cave person imperative that we didn’t even know we had. And this is what she meant.
When this dancer friend told me she goes to bed with a hunger in her belly every night, she meant that she keeps that instinct alive. She doesn’t kill it off with complacency and comfort and a full Thanksgiving stomach. She doesn’t appease the dragon inside of her giving it what it wants till it goes to sleep and stops breathing fire. No, she keeps the dragon hungry so the dragon has something to fight for. Something to live for.
I believe this is the best health advice I’ve ever gotten in my life. And there have been seasons in my life when I’ve followed this advice to the letter. I’ve never been as fit or as healthy as I was during the times when I actively went to bed with a hunger in my belly every single night. I had a poorly fed dragon in my belly and that was motivation to get out for a run every single morning. It was motivation to pursue dreams like starting my own blog or a side hustle or a web series. Those are times in my life that I can look back on and see that the hunger was there in my belly and it made me better.
I wish I could tap into that every single day for ever and ever. There are people who do a good job of going to bed with a hunger in their belly more nights than they go to bed with a well fed dragon in there. There are people who are paid to keep the hunger in their belly and that is a powerful motivator, for sure. There are people, like my dancer friend, who have taught themselves that there is no other way to live than to have the hunger in their belly.
This doesn’t mean that the people with a hunger in their belly are all skinny and perfectly fit and walking around with the flawless bodies on the planet or the most perfect lives. Not even my dancer friend is free of flaws. We are all human. And we all have to be ok with that!
But, for my dancer friend, her hunger translated into fitness and physical movement, which led to a very physically fit body. For others that can translate into health and fitness of a different kind. Healthy careers, healthy parenting, healthy relationships, healthy whatever. There are all kinds of ways the hungry dragon in your belly can motivate you and make you want to get up and fight for something bigger every single day.
Lately, my dragon has been overfed…he’s fat and he’s lazy and he sits around all day dreaming of things he’ll never actually do unless something changes.
Well, dragon…little buddy…I feel a change in the wind, says I and I think it’s time to stop feeding you so many times a day.
A couple weeks ago, I heard the story of the talents, from the Bible. A story I’ve heard countless times in the past. But for some reason, this time…it hit me differently than it had before. Perhaps you’ve heard this story…
A master gives each of his 3 servants a number of talents. The first man is given 5 talents. The second man is given 2 talents and the third man is given 1 talent. They each take them and later on the master comes back to get an accounting from the 3 men…he comes to settle debts. The first man returns with the 5 original talents given and has doubled his talents. He took what was given and used it to the fullest. Full stop! This is where it hit me.
Every other time I’ve heard this parable, I’ve focused on the 1 talent man who brought back only the 1 talent he was originally given. He’d buried it out of fear and therefore had nothing to show for the master’s investment, but the initial 1 talent. The parable is about faith over fear. The parable is about living out the best life you can with the talents you’ve been given! But for some reason it’s this five talent man that got me trippin’. The speaker asked if we’d ever known a 5 talent person. He asked if we felt we were a 5 talent person. And I had to answer…no. I’m not a 5 talent person. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have many talents, maybe even 5 talents to speak of. It means that I often choose to watch 3 episodes of Seinfeld over pursuing my dreams. It means that I may put something in my calendar that I really want to do, but when the day comes to do it, sometimes I chicken out.
For a very sad example: One time I went to a party in New York. There were going to be “people” there. Important “people”…”people” that I could meet and network with. That party had the potential to be a banner moment. I got dressed up…took a cab to the location…paid the cab driver…walked to the door of the restaurant…looked inside at the all the “people” and turned around and went home. Hating myself every minute I didn’t turn back around and use those talents to the fullest. This is one example, but there are countless times when I’ve buried my talents.
I want to be a 5 talent person. The speaker who was telling this whole story talked about meeting Billy Graham, a 5 talent man. No matter what you think of Billy Graham…the man used what was given to him. He spent his life using his talents. And when the speaker met Billy Graham, he knew he was in the presence of a 5 talent man. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t days when Billy Graham walked to the window of the party, looked inside and turned around. Every single one of us have days like that, no matter how many talents we have or how successful we are at using them to the fullest.
But the days you let fear win cannot outweigh the days you kick fear’s ass to the curb.
I want to be a 5 talent person. I want someone to meet me one day and say…”Damn, she’s 5 talent!”
So…how do I do that? How can I become a 5 talent person?
It’s that time again! The fog of the holidays has finally lifted (the older I get the longer it lingers.) The weather has been turning warmer and warmer down here in Florida and it’s time to gear up for a brand new fitness series!!
Themed fitness series have been the best thing for me in regards to getting on track with my personal health and fitness. From my #AvengerinTraining series to my #PrincessBootCamp, each one has motivated me beyond just meal plans and fitness routines. These are opportunities to break bad habits, discover new things and make real, lasting lifestyle changes. Even if you only take away 1 or 2 things from each series, that builds up to a really good life. And as my friend Renita always says, #babystepstogreatness.
With Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War on the horizon, I thought I’d start with the franchise that motivates me more than any other franchise out there. Do I think I could be a superhero one day? Yes! Do I think I have some work to do before I achieve superhero status? You betcha. But I don’t like to recycle fitness plans. The thing that worked for me 4 years ago with #AvengerinTraining won’t work for me now. My life is different. My schedule is different. And my body is older. So I have to move at a pace that works for today’s me, not yesterday’s me.
But like my #AvengerinTraining series, I wanted to use Marvel as my inspo. So I came up with a series based on the Infinity Stones. Which have been peppered throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe for years, if you’ve been watching closely. The stones are the McGuffins that Thanos himself has been seeking since The Avengers hit movie theaters in 2012. They are all powerful gemstones that are tied to all the power in the universe. Each one has a different property and purpose, but when they are all combined in the Infinity Gauntlet, they grant the user…
With that in mind, I devised a 7 week series. 1 week for each of the 6 Infinity Stones (Space, Reality, Power, Mind, Time and Soul Stones) and a 7th week for the full Infinity Gauntlet!
Stay tuned for a full week by week breakdown, starting with Week 1: The Space Stone.
But here’s a little tip if you want to dive into a new fitness series, or anything really…put your money where your dreams are! I’m starting each week by purchasing all my fitness classes up front and creating my schedule right off the bat. That way, I have no excuses. The money has been put aside, the classes have been purchased and it’s just up to me to do the things I say I want to do. So…stay tuned!!
One day, shortly after the beginning of the new year, my friend Cristina from Your Personal Producer and I were on G-chat as we normally are, sharing our dreams for 2018. She was in a funk and I was in a post-Paris high! 2017 had seen some serious ups and downs for both of us and we didn’t want 2018 to end up being the same old song and dance. You know…dream big at the beginning of the year, start off strong and lose it somewhere around mid-April.
In a moment of honesty, she blurted out: (paraphrasing) “I wish I could just get away. Go on a retreat and get my thoughts in order for 2018.”
And I said “Let’s do that!”
The funny thing is, it’s usually me who dreams beyond my reach and usually she steps in to tell me: “That’s possible.” But on this day our roles were reversed and soon our dreaming turned into a game plan!
She threw out a concept, I took it and threw things back at her and an actionable plan formed not only in our minds and on our proverbial cocktail napkins, but also on a shared Google Drive folder that would soon become an actionable itinerary for the retreat of our dreams.
We started off with the dream of a beachy, intimate retreat filled with instagrammable drinks paired with vision board creations. Photo sessions paired with content calendars. Adorable products from bakeries like P is for Pie and brands like band.o to inspire our own creative juices. It all came together like the stories you hear of visionaries in restaurants spit balling ideas and then…one day, we have Twitter. Or in a parent’s garage and all of a sudden…Apple is born.
In fact, Cristina and I have this thing that happens to us when we really get going on an idea on G-chat. One of us will type out an idea and hit send only to find the other person has thought of almost the exact same thing as well. Leading to a lot of “GET OUT OF MY HEAD” and “HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?”
In moments like these, we are so like-minded that our dreams and visions become transcendent. Like somehow God is planting ideas in both our heads and because He had the good sense to make us friends, He’s smiling at His handiwork when we, humble creations that we are, realize how our ideas fit together just as they are meant to!
So fast forward through all of our pre-planning and big dreaming to the retreat itself.
Road Trip Reunion:
Cristina flew in early Tuesday morning. We didn’t want to skip a beat or miss precious time enacting our respective visions. I grocery shopped and product sourced ahead of time with a handy shared shopping list on the G-Drive (the thing that helps us get all things done.)
The drive to Madeira Beach is about 2 hours from Orlando, so we had plenty of time to get our thoughts in order and make some plans ahead of our scheduled time of making plans. Plus, we had a chance to get important friend catch-up time in there as well, which is vital to a partnership like ours! We strive very hard to strike a balance between best friends forever and business partners. And that comes with equal helpings of dream casting and venting about elements of our everyday life.
Werk Werk Werk:
Once we reached our destination, we were in for a penny, in for a pound. We wasted no time unpacking the car, setting up our rooms and our work spaces, making our first round of drinks and getting our hair into sensible work pony-tails. We had a quick lunch on the beach of Publix subs, because Publix subs are the be all and end all of sandwiches for any home grown Florida girl (and we both are!)
Next, we set about our goal setting. With the help of some materials Cristina brought along, we began to ask really tough questions about our goals. What we wanted to achieve in life? What was stopping us? What did we allow in our lives that caused road blocks we may not even be aware of yet? What emotional juggernauts did we each have to work on and overcome in the coming year to make space for big dreams? So…no big deal. Just the extremely big, life-altering questions of the every day life, right?
Following that, we set to the task of vision boarding. Cristina’s board was and all-encompassing snap shot of the life she wants to create for herself. A sensible 11×17″ format that would fit nicely in her carry on and be easy to take home with her.
My vision board…well, you know I don’t do anything the “normal” way. Mine turned into more of what I like to call, a vision journal. Each page representing a different aspect of my personality that I wanted to highlight or work on or change altogether. (more to come on vision journaling!)
Sunsets are Non-negotiable:
After getting a whole lot of WERK done, we made a rule about Pairings Retreat…Sunsets are non-negotiable!! So we walked out to the beach (which was mere steps away from the front door of our beach cottage) and watched as the day sank into nighttime. Sunsets are the best way to end a day, IMHO. They remind you that there is beauty waiting at the end of whatever you just went through. And they reminded us to consider that the world has so much to offer.
Winner, Winner, Pesto Dinner:
When pairing up with a Forever Friend and future business partner, it’s nice to combine skills. Some of which I have, some of which she has and some of which we share. But making a delicious Pesto Chicken Pasta for dinner…that’s all Cristina!
Throughout our day we were cognizant of the moments when we wanted to hunker down and get through our list, as well as making room for moments when we needed a little R&R to refresh us for the hard stuff. Pairings Retreat quickly became about so much more than scheduling blog posts and creating actionable plans for our future. It was only the end of day one and already we both had the feeling that we had stumbled upon something really special.
Second Verse, Better than the First:
We awoke at a reasonable hour in the morning on Day 2. Actually, I got up a little earlier to go sit on the beach and watch the day break. Breakfast was mimosas and bagels from Brooklyn Water Bagel, a local place in Winter Park and a favorite place of mine (shop small!!!)
We analyzed our schedule for the day over breakfast and made some adjustments. We wanted to have more time for photo sessions and wanted to take advantage of the weather in the morning. Being flexible in the midst of a set schedule became really important for us. We had things to accomplish, but we also wanted to be free to move with the day as we needed to.
Snap My Picture:
Cristina has gotten very good at taking my picture. From our days of working on my web series in New York to her constantly being my photographer for fitness series and fashion posts. Me…I’m not as good at it. But this was a chance to stretch myself. I’m usually the one in front of the camera, because I like to be there. She’s usually behind it, for the same reason. But Pairings Retreat is about challenging yourself. Creating what you need. And learning that the walls you have to climb are only as tall as you let them be. Learn to climb and you don’t have a wall problem anymore, do you!
We continued to bump things around and change our schedule as our needs dictated for the day. Lunch became a working lunch. We put the finishing touches on our vision boards and started in on our writing session. Whatever that meant for each of us. We are both bloggers, but I took that time to continue filing out my questionnaire about my future, which became addictive and illuminating. I didn’t realize some of the things that were coming up in my answers and it allowed me a perspective on my future that I had not considered yet.
Who among us isn’t energized by a treat? The mere mention of a cupcake in the vicinity and I perk right up! Prior to the trip, I had procured a couple special treats for us. Pies from P is for Pie, cupcakes from Small Cakes Cupcakery and extra large Hershey’s chocolate bars for each of us (milk chocolate for Cristina and dark chocolate for me.) We had a drink pairing for each portion of our day and delectable meals lined up around every corner.
We didn’t over eat. We didn’t get drunk or binge on sweets to the point of sugar comas, but we did enjoyed our time together to the fullest and took time to treat ourselves as we worked hard and got our check lists done! This is now a founding principle of Pairings Retreat. TREAT YOURSELF!!
Bring Me that Horizon:
As I mentioned before…sunsets are non-negotiable at Pairings and we took the chance to get another photo session in before the sun took it’s bow for our last night on retreat.
On the Town:
To add a big, shiny bow to our fabulous and very productive 2-day retreat, we went out to dinner Wednesday night. We couldn’t believe we had only started the morning before. We had gotten so much done!
There’s something about fresh seafood on the porch of a beach town restaurant that is especially rejuvenating. We had more fruity drinks and more delicious desserts. And we talked about how we wanted to expand our idea for Pairings. What if we offered this experience to more bloggers who were looking for what we had found here?
To the Future:
It’s funny. After a certain age, things like camp and sleep overs and getaways become hard to come by because of life circumstance or frowned upon because of age. 30-something women don’t have slumber parties anymore. Adults don’t go away to sleep over camp. We grown-ups have it all figured out, after all. But I call shenanigans!!
We need to get away sometimes. We need to recharge our batteries away from the people who spend the most time using our batteries up. We need time with other creatives to spark our own adventures and dreams. That is exactly what Pairings became for us.
And even better, that is what Pairings can be for you too!!
If that sounds like just what you’re looking for, then…Stay tuned!
I was posting my Paris recap blog posts very regularly for a while there. But for some reason when I went to post the blog about the last day of my grand adventure, something held me back. I couldn’t hit “Publish.”
What it boils down to is this…I didn’t want the trip the be over! I wanted to savor it for as long as I could. I wanted to hold on to each moment for ever and ever! But let’s face it, I’ve been back in Florida for almost 2 months. The trip has ended. That’s just a fact! But just because the physical trip itself is, in fact, over, doesn’t mean I have to lose the spirit of Paris. It’s something I now take with me every day. That experience changed me or at least I hope it did.
I don’t want to be the girl that returns to life as usual. I want to be the girl that constantly thinks “where to next?”
So…here it is! My last post about my adventure in Paris. Day 7. Because, even though the journal has been shared, just because this chapter has been written, doesn’t mean there isn’t more to my story!! After all…that’s how books work, right? Chapter by chapter.
Travel Journal Continued…
“This is it, my last morning in Paris. I’m breakfasting in Montmarte before the shops open. I found a café, at the base of Sacre-Coeur…they’ve never heard of a mimosa. But were willing to make one for me this morning. I’m pretty sure I just changed their lives for the better!! And I made my mark on Paris.
After this trip, I’m even more convinced that fully exploring one city at a time is the way to go. I have no desire to race from country to country. I like taking my time and becoming engrossed in the culture of the places I’m going. I want to let it effect me. 7 days isn’t even close to enough time to get to know Paris…I need more! But it will have to do for now. It’s been an excellent sampling and I know in my heart…I will be back!
This trip has been everything I could have dreamed it would be and more…so much more! I am relieved that I ended up coming on my own. Not that company would not have been welcome. But I feel like this time by myself, this time apart has given me perspective. And perspective is a beautiful gift going into a brand new year. I have high hopes for 2018.
It’s time to say goodbye to Paris. I’m on the train to the airport and I just don’t want to go. It’s as simple as that. This trip has changed me. I hope I can hold on to the person I rediscovered over here. She’s pretty great! And until next time, I’ll always have…Paris!! Because, much like New York City, once you let her under your skin….she stays there forever!”
And now for some outtakes from my camera roll. Photos that would normally never see the light of day because I’m picky when it comes to pictures, but I kinda want to share because of how purely me they are. Enjoy:
“It’s my last full day in Paris. I’ll have some time in the morning tomorrow before I have to get to the airport, but this is it. And I just don’t want to leave! Forever may not be long enough for me and Paris and 7 days certainly hasn’t been.
I’m sure I miss home on some level, but right now it’s really deep, deep down. That familiar feeling of knowing I could be ok on my own for the rest of my life creeps in in moments like this. I’m sure it isn’t true. But today, it feels a little bit true.
I’m back at the Eiffel Tower this morning. I wanted to see her in the daylight too! It’s funny, this whole area from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc du Triomphe felt so much farther apart on New Year’s Eve. Goes to show you what a difference proper footwear can make!!
The Eiffel Tower is absolutely magical (there’s that word again) in the daytime too! I could just sit and stare at her all day long, all over again! I opted not to go up her. The line is really long and I want to save some things for when I return one day (and I will return one day!)
Instead of going up the Eiffel Tower, I think I’m going to go up the Arc du Triomphe instead. After all, I’d rather see Eiffel in my bird’s eye view!
From the top of the Arc du Triomphe…WOW, what a view! Highly recommended! Of course, it was sunny before I went up, rainy when I got to the top and perfectly sunny when I got back down to the bottom. It was like a time machine…an entirely different day was waiting for me at the top.
The Arc is also a sight I’m glad I’m seeing in the light of day, with the blue skies flanking it and the sun shining brightly. I’m glad I came back for both Eiffel and the Arc in the daytime!
And now lunch.
A rather late lunch. I don’t know why I keep waiting till I’m faint with hunger to actually eat. I think I’m just so eager to soak it all in that eating occurs to me later than my stomach would prefer.
For lunch…Ravioli des Fromage…extra Fromage! And Vin Rouge (don’t forget my one rule!!)
I’ve been eating only 1 or 2 meals a day and I actually have enjoyed this practice. I don’t feel weighed down by heavy breads and cheeses as I’m touring the city and walking my ass off (LITERALLY.) If I need an extra snack here and there, pain du chocolat and macarons do the trick nicely! But saving real meals for nicer sit down places, where I can really delve into their menus and order food, wine and dessert has been delightful. And monetarily, it’s working for me too!
I stopped at Ladurée for macarons, macarons, more macarons and a freaking magical cheesecake. I’m taking them all to go and will save them for later.
Ok…I LOVE Montmarte Village!! So many little shops! This was a suggestion from a friend back home (thanks Shirley!) and boy does she know me well! This is my place! In fact, I daresay, this is actually my favorite place in all of Paris!
Bonus…I got to see the Moulin Rouge. And yes…I sang as I approached it! I couldn’t help myself!! I would have loved to take in a show at La Moulin, but I think I’ll add that to the growing list of ‘Next Time I’m Here.’
I spent hours just walking up and down these cobble stone streets tonight. And it’s settled! I’m coming back here tomorrow. My flight doesn’t leave till 4:30pm. I already asked and the hotel is able to hold my bags for me, leaving the morning wide open for more shopping and exploring. Plus Sacré-Coeur deserves to be seen in daylight just like Eiffel and Arc!! (Like they’re all people and those are their names. But that’s sort of how I feel about these monuments. Like they are living, breathing parts of Paris. With names and feelings and everything! Friends that soon I’ll have to leave behind.)
I really haven’t had the chance or taken the chance to do much shopping in Paris till today. I’ve been single-minded in my purpose and today in Montmarte I was actually able to think of people back home and get some treats for them. But I know there are more treasures to be found when I come back tomorrow!
And for now, I’m heading back to little room 105 to eat my desserts and survey all the treasures I’ve bought today.
“Before coming to Paris, I was starting to feel, or rather have felt for a while, like I lost my adaptability, my spontaneity. Things are so routine at home for me most days. And sometimes often times, I’ve found myself stuck in my ways. And I greatly dislike that feeling. I also think…that’s not the real me!!
Life is what comes at you. And what you make of each moment. I’ve felt like I haven’t made very much of what I’ve been given. I’ve taken a lot for granted. Maybe I’ve rolled with the punches, but I’ve whined about being punched in the first place.
But along comes Paris and ‘Hello, old girl!’I got lost on my first day. I found myself wandering in circles around the Paris Opera House and all of a sudden where I was going didn’t matter, cause look where I was! And hey, I saw more of the city that way, then I did from knowing exactly where I was going and making it there in one piece. Sure my pinkie toes are still busted from New Year’s Eve, but along comes over the counter Paris Advil and we’re back in business.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I guess what I’m trying to say is, my will is stronger over here, in a place I’ve never been, in a country where I don’t speak the language, when I’m on my own and lost, than it is when I’m comfortable and settled and home. Over here adaptability is my middle name. Over here I am Nomad, I am Wanderer, I am giving directions to lost Canadian tourists.
Hello, familiar feeling of being capable as H-E-Double Hockey Sticks!! I am much more capable than I give myself credit for in my every day life.
But…this is the challenge. To bring this spirit home with me. I need to find this version of me in my own backyard. I need to keep all this in my mind’s eye and in my heart’s memory and recall it every single day. I need to draw on this strength of character. And I don’t have to wonder if it’s there…I KNOW IT IS!
I know that the every day life needs to be tended to. Bills need to be paid, routines upheld, commitments fulfilled. But, oh yeah…Life is a grand adventure. I was starting to forget that or maybe I even made it all the way to ‘forgot.’
At the same time that I know I have a life back home worth living…I also know that I could be happy living life on the run.”
Interjection: All this existential life searching happened while I waited in a 3 hour line to get into the Palace of Versailles. It was cold and rainy and the line was discouraging at first. But then I put my headphones in, listened to The Greatest Showman and started writing and all of a sudden I was walking through the doors of the Palace!
“WOW! Versailles is the epitome of French to me. Walking through these palatial hall, I can’t imagine anyone, even a King, living here. One could get lost simply trying to find the closet.
What I can imagine, are the kinds of royal parties that must have been held here and in the gardens outside.
This was worth every freezing cold minute I spent standing in line this morning. I would love to come back and see these gardens in the Spring (I’ve added that to my to do list for when I return, and I will return!)
I opted not to have the audio guides as I walked through the Palace today. I’m sure they are illuminating. I’m sure they add a lot to the history and understanding of this place. But I have enjoyed using my own imagination and thoughts as I’ve wandered through these rooms.
Another banner day! Will Paris ever cease to amaze me? Probably not!!
I ended my Versailles day with dinner AND dessert crepes. Can you have too many crepes…the answer is no! Trust me! And a side of Rosé Cider.
“It’s officially 2018. My word for this year is BRIGHT and I think I’m off to a really great start!
I’m off to “L’endroit le plus heureux sur terre.” Which according to Google translate mean, “the happiest place on Earth.”
Oh, hey! Bonus! All the subways and trains are free on New Year’s Eve and most of New Year’s Day too. What a lovely New Year’s gift! Thanks Paris!
I’m eternally grateful that today and tomorrow include lengthy train rides in my schedule. My feet are in dire need of a rest after last night. Plus, I always did like train rides out of big cities and then back again. I used to love the train rides I’d take up to Bedford in New York. There’s something so soothing about watching the world fly by you.
I debated about including Disneyland Paris in my itinerary. Should I…shouldn’t I? Is it really how I want to spend one of my precious days in Paris? But the answer kept coming back as a resounding…YES!!! After all, this trip isn’t about the Eiffel Tower (though she was just what I needed last night.) It’s not even really about Paris itself (thought she is a dream I want to live in always.) This trip is about me! Letting go of things. Discovering new things. And ultimately…being incandescently happy for as long as humanly possible.
My rose gold ears…the coveted ears of the year, come from @michelleashleyhoughton and @desirae_jae on Instagram. I won them from those beautiful Instagram ladies and they added extra magic sparkle to my day!! Thanks ladies!!
And may I just say…as I walk up Main Street and see that big, bright, pink castle waiting for me….this was the best decision for today!!
You guys!!! This place is amazing! They have Sleeping Beauty’s Castle instead of Cinderella’s and…IT’S PINK!!! Could there be anything more lovely about today?!!
What I loving about Disneyland Paris are the similarities and differences between this park and Disney World back home. The park retains that familiar Disney flavor, but it also has it’s own spice to offer. Plus…I have a new FAVORITE RIDE OF ALL TIME. Hyperspace Mountain. It’s Space Mountain, but with Star Wars (and without the crick in the neck when you get off.)
Couldn’t leave without getting a pic with little Annie!
One thing that is different here is their “Haunted Mansion.” In Paris they have “Phantom Manor.” Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue…”Phantom Manor.” You can’t help but say it with an accent. Or maybe that’s just me!
I picked the perfect day to go to the park because #1: Everything in Paris is closed on New Year’s Day…says so in my guide book. And #2: This is the grossest, soggiest, most dreary day. And because I’m at the happy place, the rain and the cold…they just don’t bother me at all!
I’ve also discovered a new life goal to add to my list…make it to every single Disney park in the WHOLE WORLD!!! A lofty goal to be sure! But in 2018, I’m already going to be seeing 3 different Disney’s in one year. Obviously Disneyland Paris, Disney World back home, AND…Disneyland California in June with my friends Erin and Cristina! I love how a plan comes together!!
Disneyland Paris has 2 parks to experience. And since this is my big trip…why skimp now! I bought a park hopper and it has been TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!
Ok, something I’ve discovered over here. The meals are amazing! In Paris, they believe in a balanced meal. So every meal comes with a side salad or veggies, a dessert and a drink. And it’s more affordable than I would have imagined a complete and balanced meal at Disney to be.
I couldn’t resist a meet and greet with Mickey Mouse. Even though I meet and greet him all the time back in Orlando. Doesn’t matter! Every time you meet Mickey Mouse, it’s like being a kid all over again!
And guys…Mickey LOVED my bright green hair! How cute is that!
I miss the big hat that used to be at MGM (Hollywood Studios) back in the day. But look what Paris has…
The day just got better and better as it passed by. The weather went from dreary to almost sunny, back to dreary, then there was a break around sundown and the evening was perfection.
I wandered back and forth between parks, doing as many rides as I could, watching both fireworks shows and just generally being the very happiest version of myself!
Best thing about going to Disney alone…delicious Mickey-shaped cakes for ONE!!
First fireworks show of the night was at Studios…
And then it was back over to the pink castle for their fireworks show!!
It was fantastic, stupendous, majestic, unforgettable, just what I needed…what’s the word…oh yeah…MAGICAL!”
“Today, it is simply perfect outside. A little bit on the windy side, but the skies are blue and the sun is shining. It’s Louvre day.
I find the Louvre to be rather overwhelming. My cousin Sterling did recommend a book she let me borrow that has the whole contents mapped out and well explained. But I preferred to just wander my way through this time around. When I return one day, (and I absolutely will return one day!) I’ll bring that book and make a concerted effort to seek out all the art, artifacts, antiquities, etc. that most intrigue me and hunt them down. A Louvre scavenger hunt…that’s what I’ll do next time!
Part of feeling a little “Meh” at the sight of the Mona Lisa stems purely from my overwhelming reaction to Monet’s Waterlillies. In comparison, I just have to say…the Mona Lisa didn’t do it for me. It’s not her fault that Monet so completely stole my heart the previous day!! But the response of the crowd…and boy, do the crowds respond to her, that made it very interesting to watch. People fought their way to the front of the line…just to find out that yes…she really does live there.
Throughout my Paris adventures…you’ll see plenty of photos taken by someone else. More on that later. But a quick note…some people get it right (pictured below) and some people don’t know what they’re doing. Hedge your bets and ask lots of different people. If you keep trying, eventually you’ll get one you like!
Look…I’m not shy about taking selfies! Especially when I’m by myself. Yep…I want a picture of myself in this magical place. And yep…I can probably do it better than a stranger passing by. So, yep…I’m taking selfies!!
I got a little Pain du Chocolat before leaving the museum and in line I met a charming man from Turkey who was an artist and was immediately drawn to me because of my bright hair. We chatted over our tea and Pain. He drew me a picture on his business card and requested that we stay in touch.
Next stop: Notre Dame. I walked over there and as I did, the skies continued to open and the day grew brighter and more picturesque!!
I had a mind to attend morning mass at Notre Dame today, since it’s Sunday, but I’m glad I skipped it. Catholicism really is not for me and listening to just a sliver of their afternoon service left me with the sense that sleeping in was the right choice for me today!
The Cathedral is as breathtaking as one could imagine. Outside it towers above you, tall and majestic. The inside is equally as gorgeous. Though I wondered to myself ‘how do people attend church in places like this?’
It feels too grand and monumental compared to my church at home. It seems too much of a landmark to be able to actually worship here. But perhaps that is putting a constraint on God that does not exist. He is as present here in this massive behemoth as he is in the most intimate chapels. So perhaps it’s merely me that can’t seem to connect to His spirit here. That’s not God’s fault at all!
While I was here, I added an extra stop on my pilgrimage (which you will hear more about in the next post.) I lit a candle for my Gran, who just passed away in August. And I lit one for Wally, my dear friend who was taken away, just months ago. I lit one for me and I lit one for the people dearest to both of them. And it was very powerful!
I stopped for some lunch right next to Notre Dame. I had my first glass of New Year’s Eve champagne!!
My waiter is quite the charmer and wanted to take a picture with me. I’m not sure if the maitre’d meant to take a selfie or just didn’t know how the camera worked, but this is the souvenir I went home with that day:
On my way to Saint Chapelle, I stumbled upon Pont Neuf…aka: one of the many (now that it’s so popular) Love Bridges…aka: the purpose of my emotional pilgrimage. Luckily, I thought to put my family’s ribbons in my purse this morning, just in case. I had no idea when I was going to find it, but here it is.
My pilgrimage was completed on New Year’s Eve. How perfect is that. But more on that later!!
Next stop: Saint Chapelle, a recommendation from my cousin, Sterling and her husband, Wesley. They preferred it to Notre Dame. And I have to say I agree, as far as the interior is concerned. There was a significant amount of construction happening around the exterior and the pure majesty of Notre Dame’s exterior is truly hard to beat.
But Saint Chapelle sure gave it the college try!
But the interior makes think of a line from the song ‘Maria’ in West Side Story: ‘…say it loud and there’s music playing, say it soft and it’s almost like praying.’
That is the best way I can accurately describe the differences in the 2 churches. Just blocks from one another. One is big and bold and makes you think of bright, loud music. The other is a whisper when you step inside. It’s intimate and close and I could just imagine…when you find God inside Saint Chapelle, He’s sitting on a bench. He looks up…sees you and He nods, beckoning you to come over and join Him. You tiptoe, as not to upset the quiet you find there. You take a seat and He speaks so softly and…’it’s almost like praying.’
After Saint Chapelle, I trekked it back to my little room at Libertel Gare du Nord Suede…Room 105 for a nap and a costume change. It was New Year’s Eve after all. And I had a date with a Tower…
Today was rather exhausting and I took a longer nap than planned, something that is becoming a habit over here. I rallied pretty quickly and changed clothes. It was finally time to break out my pretty, flowery dress and pointy-toed shoes. I don’t have that much walking planned for tonight, so they should serve me well. (I’ll do a whole blog about my Paris wardrobe…don’t worry!)
I have a date with a tall, sparkly tower named Eiffel and she will not be kept waiting.
I MEAN….anything I was dreaming of absolutely pales in comparison to how she shines! I’m so glad I saved her for tonight…on New Year’s Eve.
She and I will start the night off right. I’m trying to remember if I felt this way about Times Square when I first saw it, or the Statue of Liberty. I think I felt really close to this when I saw Niagara Falls for the first time. I am small and the world is so big. These wonders have been here long before I came around and will remain long after I’m gone. Generations have stood here and had their breath taken away…just like me right now.
Legacy is something that I have thought a lot about this year. What we bring into this world…what we leave behind. Do we leave it just as we found it? Or do we make our mark and change what we see for the better? The Eiffel Tower has me thinking more and more about Legacy. What is mine? I did not anticipate these to be the thoughts running through my head. But here they are, just the same.
Every hour, on the hour, she sparkles like a diamond. I stayed for 2 hours and watched her sparkly night show twice.
At the base of her, there was a little market with such things as mulled wine (Vin Chaud) and pretzels. Crepes and hot chocolate. Seeing as I had big plans to eat a fancy dinner somewhere later, I opted just for the hot wine.
I found a perch to drink my wine and watch my Tower (for tonight, she shines just for me!) I considered staying for a 3rd sparkly showing, that would make 3 hours of Eiffel Tower gazing, but leave it to some sleazy man to come and try to borrow a piece of my perfect night. I let him talk to me for a little while. He spoke no English and seemed harmless enough. I was surrounded by people and in no real danger. But he just kept talking and weaseling and when he Skyped a friend of his to show off the “Très Jolie American” he’d found…and when that friend texted him ‘She sleep white you?’ I was officially done. He showed me the text and I LAUGHED IN HIS FACE, to be quite honest with you!
Allow me the briefest moment to rant…This brassy, assy Frenchman merely called me beautiful. Is that all it takes these days? It’s the most basic thing you can do for a women, call her beautiful! Women are beautiful…this is simple fact! You don’t get props or sex for having eyes. AMIRIGHT?!!
Side Note: It has taken me years to feel like I deserved more than a sloppy compliment from a stranger or anyone else for that matter. And there’s no turning back now!!
Moving on…These shoes were a mistake for New Year’s Eve. While the soles of my feet are holding up just fine, it’s the pinky toes that are suffering the worst of it. This is what happens when you don’t plan for all contingencies. Such as, going off schedule and deciding to take in the New Year’s Eve shindig at the Champs Elysées. That was not part of my plan! In fact, it definitely was not originally on my master list, I just added it moments before diverging from my well thought out and perfectly formed original plan…which included the Eiffel Tower, a fancy dinner and then my warm, comfy bed.
As I wait for the big show to start (the posters said it began at 21h, only 30 minutes to go) I can’t help but laugh. Because in the 8 and a half years I lived in New York City, I never once stepped foot in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Wouldn’t be caught dead there, is more accurate. But I guess…when in Rome Paris.
As I wait for the big show to start (it did not start at 21h like the posters said it would) I am reminded why I never had an interest in Times Square, or any other event with 8 billion people in attendance, on New Year’s Eve.
As I wait for the big show to start (apparently it does not start at 21h 30 either…time is coming and going so slowly now) I have a very short Asian woman tucked in at my arm pit…and though I try moving around to dislodge her, she will not be deterred. There is a swarthy Frenchman right in front of my vaping with what smells like cotton candy.
I’m never eating cotton candy again!
As I wait for the big show to start (it has to be soon…right? It has to be soon! RIGHT??!!) I can’t help but be thankful that my toes are frozen, because that is helping with the pain. These shoes were a perfectly fine choice for what I originally planned. But as we all know now…I did not follow the plan. I went off script…off book…off the map. And now I am close to no longer owning pinkie toes. Though, it is the least useful of the toes…so I do suppose it could be much, much worse!
As I wait for the big show to…….IT’S STARTING!!!!!!!!!!!
Sometimes we do things because we feel obligated, we think we should be doing one thing when all we want is another thing altogether. There was no one around for me to disappoint. If I hadn’t gone to the Champs Elysées and had settled for my beloved sparkly tower to end the night, no one would have known the difference. But sometimes the person we are worried most about disappointing is ourselves. There was a younger, more outgoing (if you can imagine), bolder, more fascinating, more personable, more energetic me once. And perhaps it’s my younger, 20 something-self I was trying to keep up with.
Yes…it was the first and the last time I will ever do a big city shindig on New Year’s Eve. But I’m glad I did it, after all. It’s Paris. It’s New Year’s Eve. It’s the Champs Elysées and the Arc du Triomphe. It’s days after my 35th birthday. It simply had to happen! And, if I’m continuing to be honest with myself (and why stop now) that 20 year old really knew how to coordinate a night!”