Wednesday, March 25, 2009


This week has been pretty much insane. There are many crazy things that are going on and need to be figured out. It felt strange not blogging yesterday. Almost like I was committing a sin. A blogging sin possibly. I use this as my outlet to the world I know and love. A way to daily connect to people at home, to let them know what is happening in my daily world. It is my hope, that those at home, can feel they are living the French experience with me. It also helps in avoiding forgetting great stories or repeating the same story in several emails a day.

So faithful readers - today is another day in France with many hectic things going on. To explain would it all take too long to write about, and it is not settled enough yet, to come on a conclusion- but when it is finished, you will be the firsts to know.

Till then here is a picture of a cute bench that to me looks very French- take a break, sit, and rest for a while. I'll be back in a moment!

*note* this picture was taken from another bloggers page who I enjoy: Hidden in France

Monday, March 23, 2009


This weekend all I wanted to do was be lazy. However, there is a guilt that sweeps over you when you just want to veg out, watch movies and be lazy when you live in a foreign country. So after a long internal debate I decided it was time to hop on the metro and head into town. The weekend was good and later I will share my weekend excursions but what I really want to share today is the most amazing news that has happened to me since arriving to Paris. This morning while heading out to go to French lessons I decided to check my mail. I have been waiting 3 months for my garage clicker and before asking once again- I thought I should check to see if it was in my mailbox.

When I opened my mailbox to my surprise, I had a letter from home! I immediately recognized the hand writing of my friend Brigitte! I started laughing out of joy to have a letter from my friend. I stood there for a moment trying to decide if I should open it now, or wait till later, when I could sit and savor whatever was in my envelope of surprise. I decided curiosity would prevail, rather than patience and I wanted to see what my friend sent me. I was so excited I quickly opened the envelope to find an adorable picture of Brigitte and Mike’s engagement! I cheered out of joy that she was now sending out her engagement announcements, and smiled that she thought to send one to me across the Atlantic.

After adoring the picture of her engagement ,I pulled out the extra sheet of paper and immediately started jumping up and down and shouting out of joy. The conservative French walking by must have thought I was crazy. But I didn’t care. I was so excited and overwhelmed with love and joy at what the extra page had said. “Katie, will you be a bridesmaid in our wedding!?”

WHAT?!?! I was asked to be a Bridesmaid!?!?!?! Shocked in disbelief, yet filled with such utter joy I was unable to contain my shouts of excitement and tears of joy all at the same time. I am so excited to be there the day that Brigitte and Mike take their marriage vows. I have had so much fun communicating with Brigitte about all the wedding details. Whenever I walk the streets of Paris and see something that resembles a wedding I think of her and all the excitement and fun details she gets to plan. I am so honored that she would ask me to be a part of this!

After calming myself down. I quickly ran to my car- and put on Britney’s “Toxic” to jam out in honor of my invitation, and celebration of Brigitte's big day. During the 45 minute drive to French lessons I would occasionally burst out in joyous screams, once again overwhelmed.

This weekend I was a bit homesick and missing all my friends and family back at home. This came at the perfect time. It made me happy knowing that I am still thought of at home, and that I can still be a part of great moments of celebration all the way from Paris. I have been smiling all day long- my cheecks are killing me. But I cannot stop myself from smiling at how excited I am, and how loved I feel.

Brigitte- I can’t wait to be a bridesmaid in your wedding! EEEK!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Je Parle Anglais

When moving to a new country I highly recommend learning the language. Thankfully speaking English and moving to France it has been relatively easy. When someone doesn’t speak English there is someone close by who is able to either help you, or translate. Yet, I could not imagine what it would be like coming to France if I spoke Cantonese or some other foreign language that is not as commonly known as English.

There are many times when I am standing in line at the store where a person near me will start speaking to me. Before I can get out the words, “Je parle Anglais” (I speak English), They have placed me in what seems to be, a full blown conversation. The person will continue to speak, give me advice, and talk about the happenings of what is going on; without me saying a single word. I like to think I have perfected the act of being an expressionist. I have come to react to what they are saying based upon the tone of their voice and movements while they speak. I will smile when they seem to be speaking of something pleasant. I will look to where they point. I will shake my head in disapproval if they seem to be upset about something. And my favorite one to do, is to laugh when they laugh. At the end of our interaction together I will say Au revoir, Bonne Journee, or some other departure axiom – to be able to leave, without them knowing, I was 100% clueless to the conversation we just held. I may have an idea what they were talking about- but I have no idea what was being said.

I am working on a solution to this problem. I have a fantastic French Tutor, name Catherine. Catherine is a much more legitimate tutor than the previous tutor I found on Craig’s list prior to moving to France. I once blogged about Soleil when I first started lessons with him, however, eventually it became apparent, that I needed to stop taking lessons with him. I think it was when his wife got a restraining order against him. Maybe.

This sketchy tutor became even more of a mystery after I arrived to Paris. I was having dinner with my friend Alex and told her about my tutor named Soleil (meaning Sun in English). She told me this name had to be fake because, “no one would ever name their child ‘The Sun’ it’s unheard of. It would be like naming them ‘Cupcake,’ you just don’t do that.” After hearing Alex’s opinion of Soleil I went back to my e-mails with Soleil and realized his last name was Parler. Parler in French means to speak. I am now convinced I do not know the real name of my first French tutor. but I do know that when his name is translated means : “Sun To Speak”- maybe it’s an analogy or something.

For those who will never let me live down the experience with “The Speaking Sun” I would like you to know how wonderful Catherine is. To start with, rather than meeting at the Wal-greens parking lot, Catherine has an adorable classroom where we meet. In my class there are two other students. Gwyn- who also works with me, and another lady named Cher who is from Singapore. We meet on Mondays and Fridays for two hours, and are sent away with several hours of homework to keep us occupied throughout the week. When we arrive to class Cathrine always has tea or coffee waiting for us, and this morning Cher brought in some delicious puff pastries called: Chouquettes. It was my first time having a Chouquette but it will not be the last! These Chouquettes are quite amazing.

The cute classroom Catherine has set up, in bottom of her home.

In order from Left to Right: Gwyn, Catherine, Cher.

The Delicious Chouquettes! Yum!

Until I am fluent, be assured I have the essential sayings for survival stored in my head. There are a few French lines that I have remembered quiet well and strangely easier than others. First and most importantly, my restaurant French is really good. I can order food! Classic I know. But it really is a survival tool, I can practice my greetings, and numbers, and all sorts of valuable skills all the while enjoying a cafĂ© au lait. And second is a phrase that I have learned from my, “French Phrase a day” calendar my friend Cynthia gave me for Christmas. This phrase is, “Embrassez-Moi” meaning “Kiss me!” Whenever I joke about this in French class Catherine gives me a lecture of how I must be careful who I say these things to, “because French men will take it all too seriously.“ Only for me to reply, “Then I am finally learning to speak the right language.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Green Grass Grows All Around

You know those moments in life when you have a problem but everything just keeps going around and around in a circle but you can’t get to the solution because the problem you have is impossible to achieve unless the problem wasn’t there in the first place? I am not sure if that makes sense- so I am going to resort to using an example from a song I learned in Elementary school. When I was in third grade and we would sing this song all the time. The song is called: “The Green Grass Grows All Around”

There was a tree
(There was a tree)

All in the woods
(All in the woods)

The prettiest tree
(The prettiest tree)

That you ever did see
(That you ever did see)

I am now going to skip about 12 lines of the song and go straight to the end –

The germ on the bug,
And the bug on the feather,
And the feather on the wing,
And the wing on the bird,
And the bird in the egg,
And the egg in the nest,
And the nest on the branch,
And the branch on the limb,
And the limb on the tree,
And the tree in a hole,
And the hole in the ground
And the green grass grows all around, all around
The green grass grows all around.

Yes, the green grass grows all around, all around
The green grass grows all around!

Now you may be asking yourself what that has to do with me and the problem I am having- well let me tell you. I have no form of communication other than when I am in the office where I work. If I ever want to call someone I have to drive back to my office late at night to make a phone call when those in Southern California are awake and not at work- which generally is only appropriate on weekends. Also, If I want or need to use the internet- need to go to work. At home (California) this would be an easy solution- go get a connection from a local company. Well living in a France it is not quite so simple. So for your enjoyment I have created my own version of the Green Grass Grow All Around – called: "Her Visa is Far Far Away"

There was a Girl
(There was a girl)

Who lived far away
(Who lived far away)

She couldn’t make calls
(She couldn’t make calls)

This is her story today
(This is her story today)

She Can’t make calls cause she needs a bank account
She doesn’t have a bank account because she needs to get a carte de Jour
She can’t get a Carte de Jour till she get’s her visa
To get her visa she needs to go to London
To get her visa to London she must contact the Consulate in Los Angeles
To contact the Los Angeles Visa Consulate she must call between 2:00- 4:00 Pacific Time
To call California between 2:00 and 4:00 Pacific time would be calling between 10:00 p.m and 12:00 a.m. Paris time.
To make a call at 10:00 p.m or 12:00 am she would need a phone in her apartment to:
Call the Los Angeles Visa Consulate to
Get her visa to London
Go to London and get her visa
Her visa will give her the Carte je Jour to
Get the bank account she needs
To make the phone call to
get her visa in the first place.
And around and around the issue goes.
She couldn’t make calls because her visa is far far away. She couldn’t make calls cause her visa is far far away.

There was a girl
(there was a girl)

Who lived far far away
(Who lived far far away)

She couldn’t make calls
(She couldn’t make calls)

This is her story today
(This is her story today)

Yes- she couldn’t make calls cause her visa is far far away.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Get Krump

Now I know it seems like every day I go out and I end up doing some new strange activity. But I just cannot stand to sit around and watch T.V. every night and this is one way I have found to be social and around people, without necessarily needing to speak the entire time. And limited speaking is VERY important when you don't speak the language. However, through listening I am able to learn more of the language and begin to interact with French people.

When I lived in San Diego I used to take hip hop dance classes at a center called, “Culture Shock.” Though it was a commute from Vista to Old Town to me it was completely worth it on Monday's, Wednesday's, and sometimes Saturday's to drive down and take these classes. I did this for about a year before I had to start support raising and time no longer permitted. I really missed my dance classes. So once I arrived in Paris I hit the internet and searched for Paris Dance Classes, where I found a studio here called, “Deepside.”

Now at Culture Shock there were three levels of dancers- Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced. I would be comfortable enough to take a Beginners or Intermediate courses but never gained enough confidence to attempt the advance class. There were many great instructors at Culture shock though by far my favorite was the Wednesday night class by Sherman Shoate. His style of dance was easy to follow, inventive choreography, and he was so good it was fun to watch and follow him move so easily around the dance floor. I would leave each class wishing I could dance forever. Should you ever be interested, Sherman’s class fill up quickly -but is at 6:30 on Wednesday nights. This is a picture of Sherman- I promise you would never have to do this move in his beginners class.

Taking these dance classes I really gained an appreciation of the collaboration and inspiration all the dancers have among one another. The friendships and relationships that dancing created among them. Even just taking a few classes a week there is a feeling of unity created when you move together with a large group of people to the same beats, moves, and sounds that make you feel like you are a part of something- something good.

Because I was more familiar with hip hop classes I figured this would be a much better fit and come more naturally than say flag football or roller derby 2009, and I was not about to try to play rugby! I showed up to the studio about 20 minutes early to ensure I was in the right spot, have time to change and figure out the way the system works here. On their website rather than Beginner, Intermediate, or Advance- their classes are based upon style. There were options such as: House dance, Dancehall, Pop and Lock or New Style Hip hop. I knew not to go for the Pop and Lock class but thought one of the other three classes would be okay.

I signed up for New Style Hip Hop. I should have googled what that meant- but I got to learn hands (and feet) on what that meant. New Style Hip Hop could more correctly be called: Krunking. Just the idea of me doing Krunk dance makes me laugh. For those who do not know what Krunk is, the best I can describe it, would be extremely large out of control and contorted motions that come together in a crazy ghetto mess. It’s all over the place but at the same time you have to must be in charge of the motions you make. The larger the movement the better. It is very large and expressive and requires high energy throughout the choreography. I had once again found myself in foreign territory.

This is a video to show you an example of Krumping from my favorite T.V. show, “So You Think You Can Dance”- these were my two favorite people, Twitch and Kerington. In the the intro part of this video sweet innocent Kherinton is completely out of her element where Twitch is given the opportunity to do what he does best. I am like Kherington- unsure what exactly is going on, but I’ll make the best mess out of myself I can, to get my Krump on.

My Instructor of the night was really wonderful. She would keep the energy high, she critiqued movements that needed to be adjusted, and she would continually ask if people had questions. Because dance is expressive I was able to understand what to do and what she was saying without actually knowing the language. I am actually getting to the point where I can understand but not necessarily respond. Each time after the instructor was finished explaining to the class, she would point to another girl in the class, snap, and tell her to translate. It became quite a humorous routine. I am officially the girl who is unable to hide in the back of a classroom.

The best part of the night was on the way home – at the metro station another girl who was in the class came over and started talking to me. She also spoke English and was new to taking the class as well. She was 24 and is going to California this summer. We talked for a while and I was so excited to have someone my age around to talk to. For that reason alone I will be sure to go back to Krump class- maybe I’ll find a bit more craziness inside of me. For those who already think I am crazy- this could be scary!

Watch out here comes Krumping Katie!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Perfect Sunday

The Spring is arriving in Paris. And I couldn't be more excited. The last three days have been absolutely beautiful and I have immensely enjoyed basking in the Sun. I actually even went running twice yesterday once in the morning and again at night just to have more time in the sunshine! It is wonderful. Sunday was the first great day of sunshine and it also happens to be the day of my local market. I thought it would be a good day to go out and take pictures of my town and be out in the city all day. I have posted some pictures of the days excursions.

First I went to my local Market where outside there are many vendors who sell cheap purses, shoes, and anything else you would find at a local bazaar. Then there is a building similar to what you would find in DC at the Eastern Market if you are familiar with that area. Inside this building is where you buy local meat, produce, cheese and breads. It was loud, a large variety of smells, and inviting to come and explore. I was able to buy a weeks worth of- apples, oranges, bananas, zucchini, and carrots for 3 Euros! I was so excited, I couldn't believe the deal I was getting.
Inside the Market.
This is the cheese lady selling to a French man.

After making my purchases I walked up to take a picture of the river and the road that leads from the Market back to my apartment. I love the look of this street and on Sunday I was able to stop and look around a few of the cute shops. One had cute items for your home, and another was all for sewing; with lots of buttons, string, and fabrics.
This is the view of the Seine River from a bridge.

My cute little road.

Then after a morning in my town- I quickly decided a beautiful day is not to be wasted inside. I headed straight for Paris convinced it was a perfect day to see the Eiffel Tower. It was indeed. The sky could not be any more blue and the sun could not shine any brighter. It was a day where people were putting down the tops to their convertibles, people were running in the open park, and heavy coats were not necessary to wear for the first time in months. It was bliss!
My first picture in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Down the street from the Eiffel tower there is a road that has many cafe's and great shops where many upper class Parisians go to buy their food. On this road their is a store called Oliver's. This store sells the most amazing Olive Oil's. Rachel Ray would not be able to contain her EVOO's in here. They had many different flavors and you could try them all. They would pair them for you with their Balsamic Vinegars. Their Balsamics were even better. Some were aged 30 years, which made them like a syrup. They were sweet and exquisite. I did buy one of the Oil's- it is a lemon infused flavor. I am very excited to use it- but I am sure I will be back to buy more from their variety of options which include: Lime, Mandarin, Basil, Red Chili Pepper, Mint and Black Truffle.

After drinking Oil- it was time for some real food. We had lunch in a local cafe where everyone was sitting outside and basking in the sun. After church we went and pick up my new couch! I was so excited to have a couch guests can now sleep on! What a relief- especially since I have someone coming in two weeks. Then we headed for church. This was the first Sunday that after church it was still light out! I love that they days are getting longer. I love that the days are getting warmer. I love that the trees are starting to turn into colors of life. I love that Spring is starting to come to Paris! It's about time!

Monday, March 16, 2009


On Friday nights in Paris at the Montpanasse metro station there is a gathering of 500-1,000 roller-bladers. They meet at 10:00 p.m. and then skate the streets of Paris until 1:00 a.m. The distance is 30 km or 18.6 miles all the while getting to see the sights and hear the sounds of the fresh Paris life.

I was first introduced to the idea of Pari-roller the first week I arrived in Paris. I was reading through one of the Paris-travel books I have and under the sports section they briefly describe this event. I thought it sounded absolutely magical. Just imagine skating the city of lights. I could feel the cool breeze, strolling along the Seine River, being part of a large group, all going through an experience of seeing the city in a three hour tour. It sounded absolutely ideal.

My only concern about actually doing the skating event, were the cobblestones. I was afraid of what would happen when attempting to roller blade over hundreds or thousands of miniature stones in the pavement. I know that when people drive over highway lane dividers I am always awakened from a peaceful passenger nap. Thus I couldn’t imagine going over them with 4 small rubber wheels strapped to each foot.

After discovering this thrilling way to see Paris at night- I was determined to find someone who would partner up with me and take to the streets of Paris by skates. Most people I would mention this to would think I was crazy. Others would say they would… but since it’s from 10:00 to 1:00 am- didn’t sound so appealing, or some other sort of excuse to bypass this event. Then, last week when I was at bible study, I found someone who had actually done it before! I was so excited I started spattering out one question after the next . Wanting to glean all I could from his experience. Then someone else in the group mentioned that his wife was planning on going the next week. I was now even more excited. This was my grand opportunity! I could barely contain my excitement- no I didn’t contain it - I let it all out!

As time passed I never was able to speak to Connie about going to Pari-roller. The following week she didn’t make it to the bible study (when I was planning on asking her) and so I didn’t think I would be able to go any longer. After searching through emails I have received from my bible study group, I found Connie’s email address and asked her if she was still planning on going to skate on Friday. After three days I didn’t hear anything back. I completely crossed out the possibility of going. On Fridays I come into work late because I have French lessons in the morning- when I made it into the office around 2:00, waiting in my inbox was an email from Connie! She was going to skate this week and wanted me to come! I was ecstatic! Three months of waiting to skate the streets of Paris and tonight was the night! Only one problem remained- I needed skates.

When I got off work I quickly rushed to the sports store and found a pair of great blades on sale half price. There was only one size left and they perfectly fit me. It reminded me of being 15 again when my Best Friend Kendal and I walked into Chick’s sporting goods and there were only two pair of rollerblades left and they were in our sizes and called K2. We decided instantly they were meant for us because we were Kendal and Katie = K2. We quickly drove home and skated hours around her neighborhood in our skates. Every day after school we would ride up and down Douglas, through her boyfriend’s neighborhood, and sometimes down at the beach. We were always laughing, feeling free, and having fun skating to our hearts content nothing could stop us when on our skates. Putting on this pair of blades I smiled and knew I was going to take to the streets like I did when I was 15.

While figuring out how to get to Montparnasse I realized I needed to drive into Paris rather than taking the metro. Because I would be skating until 1:00 am and the last metro that headed back to my town would be at 11:30 p.m. The only other option would be to catch a bus at 1:30 a.m. and to me- that was not an option. So I got in my car and drove into Paris. My GPS took me to a Montparnasse parking structure. I had an hour before the skating started so I thought I would go and look for the rendezvous point. I knew I was in the right area but that I was not in the right spot.

I started walking up this hill and could see signs pointing towards Montparnasse. After walking from the structure for about 10 minutes I knew there were some people walking behind me and that I should ask them if I was headed in the right direction. When I turned around I saw what I could have never expected- and was taken away by the magnificent sight I stumbled upon. When I had turned around I was standing in a clear view to see the Eiffel Tower Sparkling! I was completely speechless, and 100% giddy at the same time. I was frozen in a moment of time and couldn’t take my eyes off of the beauty I was a witness of. I have waited to see the tower sparkle, and have actually avoided going to the Eiffel tower to tour around in wanting to have a distinctive Eiffel Tower moment, not just one where I would go and see it and snap photos alone. I was planning on going when my friend who comes to visit in two weeks. Then without even realizing the Eiffel tower had been behind me this entire walk, I was now in the perfect spot of the city to watch the tower sparkle! I had my Eiffel Tower moment. This was going to be a great night indeed.

(This picture does no justice to what this actually looks like- but it's a start)

I eventually moved my car closer to the train station, walked across the metro station and saw someone on skates. I knew to follow them because they must be headed to where I needed to be. I quickly ran to follow them and as I turned the corner I could hear U2’s song, “Beautiful Day” playing over loud speakers. I knew I had arrived at the right spot. Now I needed to find Connie and put on my skates – we would be leaving in five minutes. After putting on my skates I called Connie and we were able to meet up. We were both doing this for the first time and were extremely excited. Another friend Carl was supposed to meet up but started to feel sick and decided he would meet up with us at the half way point. We quickly snapped a picture to remember our evening when whistles began to blow, signaling it was the start of the skate.

(Connie and I at the start of the night.)

When first entering the streets of Paris I was giddy with delight, filled with the romantic ideal of skating on the streets of Paris. Traffic would stop for us and nothing would get in our way. Tonight the weather was perfect, we were with people who carried mini music players, and some even dressed up in costumes. Tonight Paris was ours for the taking. Connie and I both had great attitudes about the adventure that lie ahead and big smiles on our faces. We cheered in our excitement and braced the pavement with all the other skaters as we headed into our journey. To me, nothing could be better at this point and time. This was going to be a beautiful night, full of magic, mystery, and enchantment.

After about twenty minutes of skating- reality hit. This was going to be hard work! Man oh man is skating the streets of Paris hard work. The streets of Paris I was so excited to see- quickly became a reality. I had three hours of observing the pavement of Paris. I had to Watch the skaters in front of me, ensuring their stability, watch out for cracks in the road, speed bumps, or the dreaded cobblestones. However, I quickly became aware of a new and even more challenging fear than cobblestones…HILLS! Paris quickly became a city filled with many ups and downs of hills- one after the other. This is something I had not come to notice while on foot, car, or metro.

The way Pari-roller works, is that there are staff and French Police that help monitor the event. These people skate in the front, back, and sides of the skating caravan. Some will skate ahead and block off the traffic to make sure the entire group will make it through the intersections and roundabouts without the force of people or cars. But to do this you must also keep the skating group consolidated. There is a car that follows in the back of the group to keep the convoy moving forward and staff members who yell, “Aller! Aller! Aller!” Meaning, “Go! Go! Go!” This is an especially common phrase used when charging up the crazy hills in Paris. After a large hill or after about 20 minutes of skating the group would stop to unite and re-gather everyone into one group- this would help avoid being too spread out. (during this time I would shimmy my way to the front, to avoid falling behind when reaching a hill.) If you were unable to keep up the pace or were seen as an unsafe skater you would be asked to leave for the safety of other skaters.

(This is a group shot while waiting to start skating again.)

When talking with Connie on Friday about doing Pari-roller I told her my fear of the cobblestones. She gave me the following advice: “I think there are some cobblestones, but if we cross them you can just pretend you dance across them like a Dog on hot cement.” I started cracking up! The only thing funnier than her advice, would be the picture of me attempting to cross the cobblestones without falling. I would see the cobblestones and just hold my breath in attempts of creating greater stability, tighten my core, and then with all my focus and effort, attempt to cross the area with stones. This would then become increasingly more difficult as the night wore on and my leg muscles became fatigued. To best describe what it is like skating on Cobblestones would be to say, it’s like having an Earthquake in your brain. Everything is just bouncing around and you can’t really see but you know you have to keep moving forward to get it to stop. Until then everything will rattle around while you seek to find balance, stability and safety.

The hills we climbed varied in length and degree of difficulty. Some were easy but others seemed to have no finishing point. You would keep climbing up and up and up, turn a corner and have to continue to climb. When you are trudging up hill, it… is… endless. About half way through the course and on the fifth hill of the evening there was a 12 year old kid who would quickly skate through the crowd. He whipped passed me, and then quickly cutting right cut in front of another skater in front of me who wobbled, and hesitated which caused me to trip over my skates and fall onto my left knee. I was down and was prepared to be like a person in the center of a bull run quickly trammpled down by all those coming up from behind. I quickly popped up, with people moving around me, and asking if I was okay. I was fine and mostly concerned that I didn’t rip or tear my jeans. All was well and I continued on my way.

After two hours of skating we made it to the half way point. Only half way. This I couldn’t believe. I was so unsure if I would be able to make it the rest of the course. But I could not quit now. One, I would have no idea how to get back. But Secondly, if I made it this far, there was no turning back. Who cared if I ran out of water, that my muscles were tired, that my fingers were swollen and I couldn’t get off my rings, this was now about finishing what I started. I was determined and nothing was going to stop me.

(This is our course map. The Blue signifies the first half and the red the second half of the night.)

After the fastest 10 minute break of my life, we restarted the route and were headed towards the finishing half of the itinerary. My able determination, made during the break, found another hurdle when we were faced with the 300 foot climb immediately after the break. I was huffing and puffing my way up that dreaded hill with men yelling Faster! Faster! Push! Push in French to those of us in the back of the group. The top seemed never ending, I didn’t think my legs could push me up any more, I could see the gap growing larger between insanely resilient skaters and weary, tired- me. When suddenly a God send came and one of the people in the back of the group began to assist me up the hill! Now I cannot imagine the strength of this man. He not only skated himself up the hill with ease, but helped push my exhausted, weary, fatigued body up to the top of this hill. I swear he was an angel. If it were not for him, I would probably still be trying to make it to the top of that hill.

One benefit to uphills was going down hill. This was so much fun. Those were the moments you could relax, feel the wind, catch your breath and look up to enjoy all of your surroundings. This is also where stupid skaters would fall, and you had to watch out for them. They would attempt to do some really cool trick to impress their friends and end up rolling down the rest of the hill while those of us behind them threw our arms up to warn others and skate around the man down.

My favorite moments of skating around Paris would be very simple moments throughout the night. When we would enter tunnels, all the skaters would begin to whistle, scream and yell making joyous echoing noises like we were all children again. Occasionally we would pass people who would be stopped and they begin to cheer our parade of skaters on. My favorite roller cheerleaders was a group of friends who were standing on their apartment’s balcony, cheering loudly as all the skaters went by. Another great highlight was being in tourist pictures! All the tourists would whip out their cameras to capture the unique moment of seeing hundreds of skaters pass by. I would always smile and get really excited when I would see this, and then wave for the camera. But my absolute favorite moment would be when we would reach a freshly paved road! It would be like skating on ice and made the route seem effortless in comparison to the rest of the roads.

Eventually we made it to the end! We had conquered all 28 kilometers (18 miles). We had climbed every hill (9 hills). We had completed all three hours of rollerblading through the city of Paris. We were exhausted! The feeling of taking off my skates was a type of liberation I had never felt before. I could only imagine what a fresh shower, a gallon of cold water, and bed would feel like.

(Connie and I at the end of the night)

Once rested, and everyone began to clear out of the park, I offered Carl and Connie a ride home. This was so they wouldn’t have to take the metro and walk home. We entered the metro station and I told them I was parked on the other side. However, this is not where I entered and I didn’t recognized where we were. We walked up and down stairs, looked at maps and I was still unsure. When walking down one path Carl said, “Katie, you are officially an American in Paris.” I laughed and replied, “Even better, I’m from California!” We finally went back to where I started from and traced back my steps to find my car. Sat down and heaved a sigh of satisfaction that we were headed home and we had completed our night.

My Romantic idea had quickly subsided during the skating, but after completing the course I could look back and be excited that I didn’t give up, I didn’t quit, and I made it to the end. Going into Pari-roller I may not have realized all the stamina, endurance, and level of difficulty the course would have been, but I am proud of myself for finishing and finishing well. It really was a unique experience and something that I will never forget. There were many difficult moments but the excitement felt at the beginning for the adventure ahead, and the reward of satisfaction for finishing subsides the difficulties I faced.

Will I do it again? Of Course!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nutty Brussels

Well after painting a picture of Brugge- I have decided to do a quick, quirky and fun tour of Brussels or what I saw of Brussels. When first arriving it was wet and cold. Our Hostel was supposed to be near the Grand square and after 2 hours of walking we found our hostel. They told us to come back at four. When we arrived back at four they said that we needed to walk back to the grand square (a 10 minute walk) and we will find our room on one of the side streets. It was right there all along.

The chocolate in Belgium is amazing, but even better are the Belgium waffles with chocolate on them!

If that isn't enough food yet then go for some french fries. French fries actually came from Belgium not France. They are quite delicious. One thing I have found interesting, is that Europeans tend to eat their french fries with mayonnaise rather than ketchup. Now I will admit to loving Ranch with my fair share of fries (it's the best) but there is just something about eating fries with mayonnaise that makes me think you are just asking to die.

In Brussels, one of the most popular points of interest is the Peeing boy. Throughout the year local towns people will make miniature outfits for the boy with a strategically placed hole to ensure he is still able to do his thing. I am not sure how this statue came about - there were various reasons but it's cute and funny and thus you take a picture.

Everyday I was in Brussels this cute man came out and sang a variety of songs. He reminded me of my friend Scott back at home so I would often sit near a cafe where I could listen to him play. However- I was able to quickly learn his routine set- he sticks to about a variety of 5-8 songs. I suppose it is a touristy area and he doesn't expect people to be around to catch on.

On Sunday I stopped by the open market and couldn't resist taking plenty of pictures of the beautiful Tulips.

Of course you can't go to Belgium without having some of their delicious chocolates.(yes I am talking about chocolate again!) These truffles were quite amazing. I am still enjoying the ones I bought for home. There were many different varieties and the smell alone of all this chocolate was enough- but they are way more fun to eat and savor.

I really enjoyed Belgium. It really was a lot of fun. I took a few pictures you might think are dumb, but you won't cause you are my chum. I ate so much I can now feel it on my bum. But I don't really care cause everything in Belgium was Yum!


From Paris you can catch a three hour train that will take you to Brussels, Belgium. From here you can transfer to a one hour train ride that will drop you off in a quaint town known as Brugge. When exiting the metro you are initially greeted with thousands of bikes lined up and stored awaiting to be taken away on a days adventure.

If you continue to walk forward and cross the street you will meet a dirt path that follows a beautiful running stream. On this path there are two lanes. It is not for coming and going pedestrian traffic, but rather pedestrian versus bicycling traffic.

Continue to follow this peaceful path for ten minutes and you will come upon a cobblestone street where the main form of transportation is horse and carriage or bicycle. The stores that line the side walks vary from chocolate stores that you can smell before you even approach the actual store to many lace and tapestry shops. Many people are coming and going moving around in this picturesque town.

In one corner you will find an old nuns commune that in the spring turns into a fresh garden. There is a lot of open space and benches to sit and watch the swans as they linger throughout the day.

It is in this small corner of town where you can also catch a horse and carriage ride if you would like. And one of the shops here rents out bikes. If you grab a bike and ride for an hour you can reach the beaches of Belgium.

In the afternoon, if you are no longer able to resist the sweet smell of chocolates, I recommend heading over to Bar Choc.

This Divine find, is a bit hidden but well worth digging up. It is a Chocolate Bar. Enough said. They serve a variety of 5o different types of hot chocolate. The only thing more difficult than finding the place to indulge, is the task of deciding which one you will try. Will you have the White chocolate, the Hazelnut, or the PauPaua (the three pictured below)? I went with the PauPaua which was described in the menu as- the hot chocolate for those who really know how to enjoy life. This chocolate was very rich and 60% cocoa. But it was delicious and the whip cream was indescribable.

Inside the setting is modern and fun. There are large pictures of chocolate which then in several languages give a Mythbusters version of chocolate myths. To Bar Choc, chocolate can do no wrong. It does not give you cavities, it does not make you fat, and it doesn't make you break out. But, it is an aphrodisiac.

After consuming something quite so delicious you may feel the need to repent. Walk down the street and you will come to a catholic cathedral where you will be able to find the Madonna and child. This is Michael Angelo's one statue that is not in Italy.

All throughout the town after walking down tiny streets you will stumble upon a large open square with buildings detailed beyond exquisite belief. In these squares you will find tourists snapping pictures, children playing games, people playing music, and vendors selling their products.

At the end of the day you will walk back to the path you first entered and take an hour train ride back to Brussels, but as you leave you will remember all the beauty you had seen while visiting this cute and quite town called Brugge.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Baby Couture

I have my first French social event this weekend and I am very excited. I am going to a baby shower of someone I have yet to have met. But I was invited by the a girl who is throwing the party. I am not in the position to decline thus I will be crashing this Mother To Be's (MTB)baby shower.

In excitement of attending the baby shower of someone I don't know, I thought it would be best to ensure I showed up to the shower with cute outfits to lavish upon the new mother to be.

I went to the baby store and I had a reaction I did not quite think was possible in a baby store. I started to become angry. Yes- Angry. Is it possible to become angry in a baby store you might ask? I can now tell you- yes.

The prices of this store were insane! I think Baby's-R-Us can run high in price but that is nothing compared to the break your bank for a stroller type of store this was. And the thing was... it wasn't even that cute.

It would be the simple things that were just insanely priced. For example, A bib. Yes one bib would cost you 10 Euros. That would be equivalent to like 12 U.S. dollars. While scavenging the store looking for something to buy, I heard a baby crying and thought, "this baby is crying because he realizes his college education is going to be spent on a single bottle."

I did see a few cute outfits and even thought of getting something for my friend Nicole's baby Madison. Then I looked at the price tag and realized I didn't have an extra 50 euros to spend on an outfit to be worn once or twice before Madison would outgrown the outfit, if she didn't out grow it by the time it shipped to the U.S.
The outfit pictured below- yes it is cute but it is not 30 Euros cute!

The last baby shower I attended I bought the MTB a bouncing seat with cute pink flowers she registered for at Babys-R-US. This cost me about 30 dollars. My friend Tiffany bought at this store, called Aubert, and it cost her 80 Euros! That is just craziness. The sad part for Tiffany is, she found out the MTB already has the bouncer and when trying to return the seat with reciept in hand- they only give store credit!

What made me so sad, is I went into this store with the intentions of buying fun things for a mother whom I had yet to meet. And I left feeling lame that I could only buy one outfit. I know's it's the thought that counts but seriously... have you ever given someone, one Onesie?

One Onesie- 18 Euros
One Baby bouncer- 80 Euros
One child music box- 40 Euros
Shoping for baby stuff in the U.S= PRICELESS!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


When I was a kid, everyday after school I would race home to watch repeat episodes of "Saved by the Bell." I loved this show! I clearly remember only one commercial from this time and it was a commercial for Viper Car Alarms. A lady would leave her car and a sketch burglar would be walking up to a car and as he was pulling out his crow bar to bust open the car a viper snake would come hissing out to scare the burglar away. I know I would go running in the opposite direction. The Viper succeeded in keeping away any car thiefs. You can see this commercial by clicking HERE. Be sure to select the option for the Viper commercial.

Flash forward 9 years and I landed my first real job as a credit associate at Directed Electronics where we actually manufactured and sold VIPER CAR ALARMS! I always found it hilarious that I worked for the one commercial that I clearly remember while watching my afternoon dose of Zach Morris.

While working at Directed I learned about a resourceful idea of a remote start car alarm. The idea that you could start your car from over 2 miles away. I am blogging today of how Ingenious the idea is to have a remote start car alarm and why you too should have one.

When I lived in BEAUTIFUL, WARM, SUNNY, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA I did not realize how important this device really was. I would at times joke that the greatest need for a remote start in So. Cal was to cool off your car. I will now admit I am the one being laughed at. I believed in our products but was naive to the need in my own life. Every morning I walk out to my car, and this is what I come to find:

I must then turn on my car, blast the defrosters and then proceed to pull out my ice scraper. Yes! I Katie Hickey own an Ice Scraper. Just let that idea sink in for a little bit...

I tell people (well those who speak English) all the time about the Ingeniousness of the remote start. I think of DEI every time I pull out my ice scraper. And I am here to tell you that if you live in a cold location you NEED to own one of these devices. It is not what I would consider a "luxury." No, no, no it is much more than that it is what I would consider a necessity. Just dream of a life where you can enter your car and it would be warm. A car where you would no longer need to keep a spare pair of gloves because your steering wheel is freezing cold. A car where your windows were defrosted when you walked up to leave for the morning and you could smile knowing that your ice scraper has been laid to rest. Just think of all the beauty, freedom, and joy this could ad to your life. To experience this freedom click here.

You could then no longer have to look like this:

And maybe... just maybe... you could feel they way everyone gets to feel everyday in Southern California when they walk out to their automatically defrosted warm cars.

Just imagine all the possibilities!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Extreme Home Makeover Paris Flat Edition!

Hi I’m Ty Pennington and we have come out to Paris, France to help Katie Hickey put together the shell she was given as an apartment and turn it into a livable place for the time she will be living in Francee. Everything in this transformation can be found at Ikea, on, or your garage. So come on team- LET’S GO! (play pumped up music here and loud applause)

First we will start with her bedroom. When we showed up the carpet was all stained and dirty. After a week it was changed out, once again blue, but now it is fresh and clean! The wardrobe is a build it yourself piece, found at Ikea, while the dresser also from Ikea came from the discounted scratch and dent room. No longer is Katie camping out on the couches of other families working at Lifeagape. She now has her own bed to sleep in! To bring in some color to the room, we found a fun painting at the Montmartre where all the artists gather in Paris and placed that along the wall of her bed.

Next we will move to her living /dining room. The table and rug help keep the apartment a young, fresh and fun feeling, with vibrant colors to give you the sense of Katie. There is still a lot of open room available in this apartment and I am sure she will continue to add to this use of space. Her couch was donated but originally comes from Azerbaijan. The pictures on her wall are pictures of the Paris area so you don’t forget where you are when you come to visit. (note: you thinks you should come and visit!)

Her entertainment system is pretty limited. She receives 4 channels and they are all in French and DVD’s are watched on her laptop. Not to worry- she realizes she lives in Europe and thus… should not be at home watching TV! Under the window you will find a very easy to match, expandable and economical book shelf. What we did here was simply place the books strategically on the floor. It works great! What's best is that it doesn't distract from the view she has from her apartments window.

(the view is much better in person than on film- another reason you should come visit.)

And now… (dramatic sound effects please!) THE KITCHEN! Ah yes the kitchen that has taken 7 hours in Ikea to plan, two weekends of putting pieces together, a weekend of then placement and hanging (note we didn’t have our usual team of 300 people this was done by a team of 3) but allas it is complete! Katie is no longer using her window ceil as a means to keep her milk cold- she has a real FRIDGE! Her cabinets are finally hung and she can actually cook a meal on her stove!

(on wall opposite fridge and stove)

Now Let's go to Katie and see and hear what she has to say about this successful expereince.
AHHHH. Oh My goodness!!! Words just can't express what an experience this has been for me. All the endless trips to Ikea, hours scouring over deals on craiglist, and the blisters from building everything! Snif snif I just can't help but cry I am so overwhelemed! This has truely been an unforgettable experience! I am just so happy I am speechless.

Ty: Well folks that says it all! Thanks for joining us on this special Paris addition. Be sure to come back next week when we go back to states and help a struggling family of 12, where the oldest son's job, is the only income the family has to live on. See you next week!