Monday, July 18, 2005

The thing is, we're home.

It's July 17, and I have no business having waited so long to tell you that the thing is, we're home. We returned safe and sound on June 29 to our house in Abilene, to our comfy beds, pillows, and cats, delighted to be back but sad, sad, sad to have left France. We were so glad to be home that we immediately left again for close to a week -- this time to the LeCroy 4th of July festivities in Dallas! By the next Wednesday, when we had once again returned to our house, I was so deluged in mail, work, phone calls, and stuff-I-hadn't-taken-care-of-because-I-was-playing-hooky-in-Europe, I never posted any more blog entries. So, I will attempt to post our last few days there, a wonderful week of serving at a soup kitchen in Lille, and then you won't hear from me except monthly or so -- and thus this blog will die, having served its purpose.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Language Difficulties


So, Ken and I were driving (OK, he was driving, but at least I was awake!) from Avignon to Lille (a really long haul), and we saw this sign on the superhighway that said (in all caps)
(translation: next exit, 3 castles, closed to crocodiles).
Hmmm, we wondered… why are these chateaux closed to crocodiles? And is this really a big problem in France? And what’s up with this anti-croc species-ism? Are hippos allowed in castles? We thought and thought about this sign for close to a hundred kilometers, when, all of a sudden, Ken had a revelation and solved the mysterious sign: its correct translation was “CROCODILE FARM (FERME)” (which happened to be located near three gorgeous castles!

So, this translation error demonstrates the problems with language that one can experience overseas. Here’s another one for you: Amy, one of the students with Yann and Rita, is a bright girl who also speaks decent French; yet, when she arrived to her host family’s house and discovered that they had a cute rabbit (LAPIN), which she wanted to see and pet right away, freaked out her family who thought she really wanted to inspect the bread (LE PAIN) she would be eating while there!

And these are problems we had in French, a language we know. (BTW, there were some successes as well; Ken even preached a great sermon in French in Lille the last Sunday we were in Europe!)
You should have heard the amazing conversation I-who-don’t-know-any-Italian had booking our hotel room over the phone with an “I-don’t-know-any-English” woman. Ken and I drove (OK, he drove, but I was awake yet again) to Orvieto by faith and not by sight or confirmed reservation. When we arrived, both she and I were delighted

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.

Lou Clement with Katie and Krista

Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
I tried to rotate this picture, but I am blogging from Red River New Mexico and I do not have my photo shop program with me sorry. Just turn your computer monitor sideways!

Training in Lille

Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
We’ve joined up with Yann and Rita Opsitch and four ACU undergrads to participate in an ecumenical outreach program in Lille, France for our final week here. Here’s what we’ve learned so far: most French people are very suspicious of organized religion and are (rightly, in my opinion) disgusted by the disunity they see in its many sects and factions, all touting correctness. This project on which we’ve embarked combines the efforts of many churches, Catholics and Protestants together working simply to show unity and to serve the people of Lille (in this case; the project occurs in several other cities as well). We serve free food to hundreds and hundreds of Lilleputians (I must find out what people from Lille are really called!), and, while of course we will answer any questions about Christianity any people might have, we are not here to pull a “bait and switch” on them, but rather to encourage a feeling of goodwill toward the churches here and Christianity in general. Katie and Krista are very happy with their assignment; they’ve been tasked to kitchen duty, preparing six hundred or so “barbecue sandwiches” per day (but they’re nothing like Harold’s, believe you me), cutting tomatoes, slicing baguettes, washing and preparing lettuce, etc. They like this job because (a) they’re good cooks, (b) they’ve already made some friends in the kitchens, (c) they’re together, and (d) they (mostly) don’t have to speak French (convenient, since they only know the following words and phrases: bread and cheese, yes and no, hello and goodbye, cat, turtle, otter, and duck, my name is…, I don’t know how to speak French, and apple juice). We think that Ken and I will be trading off with the students between kitchen duty and meet-n-greet with folks. Now to see if it all goes according to plan…
(more on this effort later)


Arrivederci, Italy! We’ve had a wonderful time here in Italy. There’s so much more to see and do, but I’m glad that we’ve stayed put and just “been” in Breme. Grazie to the Willits family. We’re so thankful for your wonderful home. And we know we’ll be back, because we threw our coins into the Trevi fountain. Which reminds me of superstitions – we have learned of a few new ones on our trek. Ken learned two in Russia: first, if for example you forgot something back at your house and you returned to get it, you would definitely look in a mirror before leaving. Or how about this one? You never hear whistling at all; it’s considered in very poor taste. Why? Because if you whistle, I will lose some money (or vice versa).

Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.

Mont St. Michel

Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
Dear Abbey
Neither Ken nor I had ever visited the unbelievable abbey of Mont St. Michel. I am happy to report that we have corrected this oversight now, and it was well worth the effort (and it took a bit of fortitude, since we’re tired and it’s kind of far away in the region where Brittany and Normandy intersect, around 5 hours drive from Lille). I hope that Gayla, webmistress extraordinaire, will be able to show you a picture of this place somewhere in the vicinity of this blog entry, because it’s awesome, not in the way we overuse the word awesome for a fun pair of shoes or a friends’ garage band playing, but in its real sense, inspiring awe and questions, not the least of which is how did these folks ever build this fort in the first place? Mont St. Michel is the ONLY place in France never to have fallen to invasion. And no wonder: anyone trying to overtake Mont St. Michel would have only a brief period of time in which to do his business per day. The abbey is spectacular, rightly called “Le Merveille” [The Marvel]; its church, scriptorium, and refectory in particular were most impressive to Ken and me. We went over around 10:30 this morning when the tide was low, and we left the island again around 5:00 P.M. before high tide rolled in again. We couldn’t resist returning again for night-time views; my pictures, which I just finished downloading, are pretty spectacular if I do say so myself. Of course, it’s just as Katie said, “Mom, if you just had a cheapie disposable camera and you aimed it roughly in the direction of Mont St. Michel, you could not only get into photography school, but the folks there would think you were brilliant. There are no bad shots.” She’s right. We stayed in the town of Mont St. Michel for a mere 69.50 euros, in a nice two-story hotel suite; compare that to staying on the island for around 300.00 euros per night! Ken and I used a little of those savings, however, and took over an hour selecting my souvenir of this trip to Europe, a small-to-medium-sized tapestry wall hanging and a little pillow replicated from one from the William the Conqueror days. I think it will look great in our living room. It reminded us of the other tapestry (even smaller) we bought when we were newlyweds 21 years ago and visited the France section of the World’s Fair in New Orleans, so that was fun too.
Mont St. Michel is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited in my life. I am so thankful we took the time to come here; I simply cannot recommend it strongly enough to anyone considering a trip to France.

Clement Family

Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
The Clements are well named
In Lille, we are staying with a family whose last name is Clement. This word means the same in both French and English, agreeable or pleasant. Pascale, Xavier, Quentin, and Lou are all terrific people, the kind of folks we would be friends with if we only lived close to one another—or even on the same continent. Their friends are fun and “tres simpa,” people with whom we enjoy spending time. One night, we all ate dinner together with some friends of theirs. Everybody at the table was/is a teacher, and the evening was filled with laughter. Lou and Krista had fun making the dessert, a delicious tarte made with cherries that they picked from the tree in the yard; Lou made a copy of the recipe, and we plan to make it when we return home. We made them a Tex-Mex meal (as best as we could using ingredients we could find here), and they exposed us to an even-better-place-than-Paul’s for pastries (although Paul can’t be beaten for the breads and mille-feuilles*). We also have internet service** and a fully-functional washer and dryer*** here, so we’re living rather high on the hog here. Their daughter Lou is 13, a perfect fit in the “Tween” world in which our girls live. Pascale teaches English, and she speaks perfectly as you might well imagine. Ken and I try out sentences that end up sounding like Tarzan trying to speak French (“we going to some dinner that night”), and she says sentences like “Furthermore, when I saw your now ex-President Clinton at the tennis match in Paris, he was surrounded by an entire entourage of bodyguards” (a semi-verbatim example). She came and worked hard with us two of the days we did the soup kitchen ministry. We have enjoyed her company so much, and we’re hoping for a visit from her and/or her family in the next couple of years!

means a thousand leaves, and it is a pastry with a fabulously smooth cream and perfectly baked leaves of a pastry dough similar to that used in baklava. Fortunately, if I understood the baker correctly, there are no calories in this concoction, so I’ve eaten as much of it as possible.
**internet service
Thus, you can read this blog, although their .fr internet service doesn’t come with the “my-friend-Gayla-does-all-the-computer-work” program, so it’s a bit sluggish.
***washer and dryer
I have found, however, that European washers and dryers don’t work the same way as ours do in the U.S. The most astonishing feature here is an incredible ability to shrink clothing; mine, for instance, which fit very well a month ago when we left, are now at least two sizes too small. This technology could be put to good use if America were able to harness it, minimizing large pimples or rats for instance. I’ll think about some other interesting applications while I eat this mille-feuilles.

Nice wasn't so Nice

Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
CAUTION: Falling People
Written and Exaggerated by Katie Cukrowski

Today we went to a topless beach on the French Riviera. The first thing we did was explore the shore. We saw a huge jellyfish and many smaller ones before adventuring to some mini cliffs. Krista saw a crab and, just as she was going to look at it, a huge wave hit the rock she was standing on, causing it to be extremely slippery. Suddenly she had slipped and was crashing down into the water below. During the descent, she bounced off three boulders before smashing into the rocky sea. I was still at the top looking helplessly at what I thought was my sister’s death. Struggling to reach her, I ended up getting stuck, postponing my hero attempt and rescue mission. After awhile, Krista reached me, and we went onto the rocky shore, seeing to both the broken toe that was turning greener by the minute and her thigh with its huge scrapes and gashes. In the end, she got bandaged up and is OK!

(a follow-up note from Karen two days later: Krista’s toe was not broken, but it’s true that she banged it up something fierce. And her thigh scrape reminds me of when my cousin Lisa fell down the Alps when we were 15 and touring Europe. Remember, Lisa? Ow.)

Pater Familiae

Rome was beautiful; it’s breathtaking to be somewhere where so many places pre-date Christianity. We stayed in the heart of Rome, close to the Piazza Republique and accessible to everything. Ken’s Father’s Day present was getting to spend the whole day with the girls, since I got separated from them and didn’t meet back up until 5:30 at our car/hotel. It was the first time we didn’t have a planned place to meet if anyone became separated from the others (yes, Tara, I know you told us to have one!). What happened was this: even though we left pretty early for the Vatican museum line, it was still over a kilometer long (yes, you read that right!), so I left to send off my corrections to a book I edited while at the monastery and to send my blog update and pictures. By the time I returned (I had major problems sending my documents), K3 were in the museum, so I hung out at the exit, talked the guards into letting me in the back to find my family, missed them anyway, went to St. Peter’s, missed them again, missed their call to my cell phone, and…and…and… you get the point. Anyway, at 3:30, I gave up and went book browsing. Ken’s, Katie’s, and Krista’s day had gone similarly, filled with near misses as well. They had a great day anyway. We met up back at the car, and were we ever glad to see one another! I was delighted that the girls have such a great dad, so I wasn’t worried about them, just missed seeing part of Rome with them all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Am I Still Driving?

Ken relaxing at the Abbey!

Swiss Alps

Swiss Alps
Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
We drove right by this on our way to Italy!


Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
Here is another view of the Coliseum, but it is not as good, because Krista or Katie aren't in it!

Wine Cellar

Wine Cellar
Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
This looks like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but it was in our Abby!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

All Roads Lead to Rome!

June 12, 2005
All Roads Lead to Rome
Actually, the autostrada leads to Rome, and that’s about it. Our experiences with Italy’s high-speed tollways have been mixed; they’re fast, but they’re expensive; they’re hard to find and hard to pay for unless you have a magic pass that only people who speak Italian seem to have, but the alternative is to go down quaint roads that occasionally have, no kidding, horse and carts on them. Plus, our standard Renault Megane station wagon doesn’t accelerate quite as rapidly as the Alfa Romeos we’ve seen flying by at what Ken estimates to be 135 mph. Yikes.
In Rome, we’ve taken a break from driving and have first, taken a tour of the major places and second, walked everywhere (with the occasional taxi or metro ride thrown in). It’s been lovely.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
There are castles everywhere, this one's next to our bread store in Breme, Italy.


Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
This is in Lyon, France, where a medieval times shindig was going on.


Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
The view from our hotel in Umbria (just south of Tuscany).


Florence, Italy
The tackiest souvenirs I won't be buying include the boxers that are sold everywhere with Michaelangelo's David's genitalia superimposed in strategic places and the myriad tacky Mona Lisa stuff. So all of you back home waiting for me to bring these to you will just have to be disappointed or take your own trip.

Orvieto, Italy

Orvieto Italy
Originally uploaded by whitneyherrington.
Umbria Rocks
Orvieto, Italy may be the coolest town I’ve ever stayed in in my life. Our wonderful hotel was on 2,000-year-old streets built by Roman soldiers when they weren’t in battle. What’s even cooler about this place is the whole town is on a huge piece of volcanic rock, and it definitely is “a city built on a hill cannot be hid.” There are scores of caves up everywhere as well, and the whole feel is, well, Roman. But unlike the look-but-don’t-touch Rome, this city is vibrant and very alive in 2005.


Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.
11 June 2006
You say tomato, I say pomodoro…
I love that, even in Europe, I still get to shower every day.
I’m impressed with how often I’m right about where to go or who painted what.
I’ve noticed that the bells at the abbey that ring every half-hour are quaint, even relaxing.
I enjoy taking lots of pictures of my kids on vacation.
We’re having a great vacation.

Katie & Krista
I love that, since I’m in Europe, I don’t have to shower every day.
I’ve noticed how often my Mom’s wrong about where to go or who painted what.
The bells at the abbey that ring every half-hour, as if once an hour weren’t enough, are annoying.
Here I am on vacation, and my mom keeps pestering me to take my picture.
We’re having a great vacation.

Pizza in Pisa
In a word, yum.

Palace of Versailles

Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.
In the gardens at the Palace of Versailles.

Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.
Inside the Roman Coliseum.

Life of Jesus

Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.
Picking out various scenes from the Life of Jesus in Florence.


Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.
Krista and, oh yes, the Coliseum


Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.
A blast from my past - rice fields - but this time in Northern Italy.


Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.
One of the many fountains in Rome (this one's actually at St. Peter's Basillica in Vatican City).

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bathing Beauties

Originally uploaded by K4Cukrowski.
Here are two bathing beauties at the ocean in Genova, Italy


Originally uploaded by K4Cukrowski.
Trying out for a scene in Hitchcock's The Birds.

Good Food

Good Food
Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.
We're still trying to find some bad food - but so far, no luck. Guess we'll have to double our efforts...

Krista, the Pigeon Girl of Venice

Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.


10 June 2005
Cell Phone Catch-22
My cell phone did not work one single second in Paris. Yet it works 100% of the time in a stone abbey, built more than one thousand years ago, in a town so small it’s not on the map we use to get around, in the middle of rice fields and vineyards in nowhere, Italy. Go figure…

Here’s the problem I needed solved: I couldn’t use my Visa card, because apparently the company thought that it was stolen and being used by a band of souvenir-shopping hooligans in Europe. So I had to call them to tell them it was I who was on a hitherto-never-before-seen-spending-spree, but I couldn’t use actual Euros to make the call from a pay phone, only a Visa card. But I couldn’t use my Visa card to call the Visa people… hmm-m....


Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.
Ahhh Venice!
9 June 2005
We went to Venice today, and it looked exactly like, well, Venice. We had a wonderful time on the water, walking the streets, crossing over to Murano to see the fabulous hand-blown glass, and eating fresh, good food around every 2 1/2 hours! I flat-out love this place—the alleys, the people, the sights and smells, the lack of cars, the fact that water is all around everywhere. Again, I find that I was born in the wrong place and time…
Venice=where I’m supposed to live


Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.
The sun setting on another great day in Europe!
Wish you all were here!

daVinci, daSchminci

8 June 2005
This place, the home for years of Brad and Estel Willits who have graciously offered it to us, is wonderful. It’s huge, it has electricity and water, and (here comes the good part) it’s completely deserted and away from everything. I wish we could stay here at least another month. Our week and a half total Italy time will pass before we can blink, especially when you figure in our “side trips” to Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome. The most surprising geographical feature is that there are hundreds of rice fields around here, something I haven’t seen in abundance since I lived in the Philippines. We’re in the North (we went through the Alps to get here), around an hour from Milano, and obviously there must be a great deal of rain, although we haven’t experienced any yet. We took a quick trip to Milan to see da Vinci’s Last Supper, but there was a—get this—two week wait to get in, so we left, saying in our best Sour Grapes way that “it’s been falling apart since right after he painted it, and all the restorations have taken their toll, anyway.” So naturally, we drowned our sorrows in food: first, really spectacular gelato on a street where we could window-shop the Milan fashion scene; and second, four delicious pizzas at a cool, way-out-in-the-woods bistro. Two other highlights were a really bad bottle of wine and the girls’ first look at a prostitute, who strutted around in a skirt so short in the back that one could see that, poor thing, she must have been too poor to buy underwear. We left both behind us and came home to the abbey, where we feel home. Breme=good; Milan=bust.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Notre Dame Cathedral

OK People that are actually keeping up with this blog. Karen sent me the pics to upload and I saved them on my computer as random names! oops! She then sent me a list of captions with the numbers of the pics, well I no longer have the number of the pics and I have never been anywhere so I basically know nothing, and I think this is Notre Dame, but if it is not just keep those comments to yourself! No you can tell me, cuz I really need to know. Luv ya all Gayla
Gqylq; I hqve q comment for you; qnd thqtùs thqnk you so much! we're bqck in Frqnce (on q frustrqting French keyboqrd obviouysly= qnd i hqve qccess to the internet for the ti,e being; qnd youùre doing q greqt job1 iù, so thqnkful thqt zeùre qble to keep up this zqy fro, so fqr qzqy becquse you tqke the ti,e to be our personql webmistress1 Qnd thqtùs not qll )) you solve proble,s qt our house; you feed our cqts qnd turtles; you solve ,y overseqs phone qnd credit cqrd proble,s; qnd zell; everything1 iù, very fortunqte to nqve q zonderful friend like you: Thqnks qnd I love you! Kqren

Too much Information!

7 June 2005
Bathing Beauty
Continuing in the category of more information than you wanted to know about me, I seldom take baths. Don’t get me wrong; I like them, but they simply take too long, so showers win by default. Tonight, in the little town of Breme, in an 1100-year-old Italian monastery, I took one of life’s great baths. The windows were open; the water was hot; and I had the time. Ahhhh….

Katie is looking very European!

Too Much Stuff

6 June 2005
L’Enfer, c’est l’UTI
We believe that we have traveled fairly light on this trip. We only have one suitcase and one daypack each. And yet we are so spoiled, especially me. I have several items that require electricity with me: my laptop, my cell phone (which has yet to work), and the battery chargers (yes, plural) for the two digital cameras we have in tow. I considered these things necessities, but that’s not all: what about all the medicines I brought? My dailies include Zoloft (fodder for a whole ‘nuther blog entry), which makes me sleepy; thus I require another pill to keep me awake, and 3 different meds because my allergies are so bad right now. But let’s add a bladder infection to the mix, shall we? Fortunately, Kenny and Tara sent us with a huge number of anti-this and anti-that’s, so I was on an antibiotic within hours of the onset. We have other things with us that make our life on the road mighty comfortable: we have 100% deet to keep away the mosquitoes, which abound here in Breme, Italy, once evening begins to roll around; we have a rental car to facilitate our travels; we have toilet paper on a handy little roll. I look around and I see people who are living peaceful lives with very little. Contrast Madame Ria back in France, who has a wonderful home and is thankful for a washing machine (but I think, hmmm, no dryer); nobody, but nobody has a dishwasher; I’m frustrated by my lack of internet access (we did stay in an ultra-modern, tres chic, hotel in Lyon, but I had no time to figure out how to use the internet there since we were busy with the French Cukrowskis, and the next day we used up a couple of hours finding UPS to send home 4 boxes of souvenirs and other stuff [again, how spoiled are we?]). OK, end of sermon about stuff…But what about taking time to get to know people? When we arrived in Breme, a nice old man walked us to the Willits’ house, then to Giovanni’s to get the key (but he wasn’t home), and then to Flaviano’s, who was home. In this small town, everybody knows everybody; the old man was out in the piazza visiting with some other men (both young and old) when we found him in the first place (side note: I did notice that everywhere we go, men are gathered chatting, smoking, and hanging out, but the women aren’t. Perhaps they’re home watching soap operas and eating bon-bons, but I suspect they’re hanging up the clothes, watching the children, and cooking and cleaning). My point still begs to be made, however; we are so very busy in our lives in the U.S., rushing from place to place and from one event to another. I am committing myself to at least a somewhat simpler lifestyle upon our return home. And that’s my lesson from my urinary tract infection.

Krista's Toast

Krista's Toast
Originally uploaded by Gayla Herrington's Photos.
Cheers on Krista's birthday in the French way (yes, it's non-alcoholic, puh-lease!)

Monday, June 13, 2005

French Cukrowskis

Originally uploaded by K4Cukrowski.

More Cukrowskis!

5 June 2005
Apparently all Cukrowskis are really nice people! We had an unusual day today, leaving Paris (actually Vaux sur Seine and the wonderful Cummings), we drove (OK, Ken drove) to Lyon to meet Celine, Georges, and Claudia Cukrowski, whom we met via the internet and e-mail. In February, Celine, who is almost exactly our Katie’s age, sent an e-mail saying “I Googled Cukrowski on the internet and you came up. Cukrowski is not a common name in France, either. I wonder if we’re related.” After having communicated off and on for the next couple of months, we have now met face to face! We chatted while walking around town, climbed over 1,000 steps up to a church and a breathtaking view, shared a delicious late meal together at a nice French restaurant in the old part of Lyon (that included frogs’ legs, which were delicious, no kidding), and all in all, enjoyed one another’s company. Ken and Georges have shared the Polish documents they have with one another and have discovered that their people come from nearby towns. Georges is now continuing the search through the church baptismal records, etc. to go back further. However, as he said, “Ken, if it turns out that we’re not related, it makes no difference to me!”

Smooching in Venice

Originally uploaded by K4Cukrowski.

Krista's Birthday

Ken has arrived, and all is right with the world.

4 June 2005
Krista Lynn Cukrowski was born 12 years ago today in New Haven, Connecticut. She weighed in at 7 lbs. 11 oz. Today she is becoming a wonderful young Christian woman, 5’4”, 101 pounds of fun, a smart, interesting person to be around and talk with. Today she celebrated her birthday in Paris, France, sleeping in late, visiting the Arc de Triomphe, the Opera House, and the Eiffel Tower, eating baguettes with garlic “bour-snap” (boursin cheese that Katie and Krista have re-named), and picking up her dad at the Charles de Gaulle airport. Pretty cool birthday, eh?!!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Ahhh, France

Originally uploaded by K4Cukrowski.

This is the view from our window in Vaux sur Seine. This little town is peaceful and beautiful -- and yet close to the train to Paris:

Katie at the Palais Royale

Originally uploaded by K4Cukrowski.

Friday, June 03, 2005


3 June 2005

If it's true that we are what we eat, then I am a baguette.

The Night that Wouldn't End

2 June 2005

The Night That Wouldn’t End

I have a new theory about Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Maybe he wasn’t actually in prison for nearly twenty years; maybe it only seemed that long. At least that would properly characterize Krista’s feelings about our experience in trying to get home one night from Paris to our place in Vaux Sur Seine. We experienced some of Paris by night, not a lot, but enough to miss the last direct train from our metro station, St. Lazare. After checking with a young man who had to be Katie’s age but who was inexplicably working the night shift at the station’s information booth, we took his suggestion of Train 13 (its number was a dead giveaway, and yet we didn’t get it), the “direct” train (though we knew we had missed the last direct run). After waiting for it for a long time, we boarded and were surprised when shortly thereafter it stopped and didn’t start again. So we got off. And we waited for another train. And then we waited some more. And then the man who will forever be known as “the nice gray-haired man” told us correctly where to go, and we waited some more…and some more… and then we took the correct train to yet another station, the only place we could catch a bus home… and we waited for the bus…and it was really cold now as it was way past midnight… and then the bus came, and it was very comfortable, and my children slept, and it took us home safe and sound, tired and thankful.

Making Out in Paris

1 June 2005

Making Out in Paris

Since Ken isn’t with me until Saturday, I must participate vicariously in the “Paris is for lovers” aura that permeates this city. Maybe the girls’ and my favorite spot is a little park just at the Eiffel-tower end (but far from there) of the Isle de la Cité. We sat there for close to two hours, I think, talking and resting, eating our snack of (what else?) bread and cheese, and watching people. We loved one little boy, just barely walking, who maybe burned more calories than I burn in a month by toddling across the width of the portion of the island he owned for a time, maybe twenty feet total, complete with gargantuan hills of around six inches and a dazzling mix of textures for his new-found feet. And we were frankly amazed at the couple who, standing the whole time, hands appropriately on one another’s backs and shoulders, were French-kissing when we arrived and who were French-kissing when we left. And we thought we were making out pretty well in Paris…

Le Musee D'Orsay

30 May 2005

Le Musee D'Orsay

When my family visited Paris when I was twelve years old and fifteen years old, we did not visit le Musée D’Orsay; I now know that we made a mistake. Having now visited it with almost-twelve and thirteen-and-a-half-year-old girls who adored this museum, I wish my siblings and I could have experienced this museum back in the 1970s. C’est vraiment magnifique. An old train station (think Grand Central converted into a stunning museum), it has mostly works from around the mid-1800s to around 1920, an art period that my children like very much and a style that is recognizably Paris. There was an incredible special temporary exhibit on the neo-impressionists, entire rooms filled with the works of Van Gogh, Degas, Sisley, Manet, Monet, etc. We played “I Spy” throughout the museum, finding unusual things like cats or mummies in paintings. Katie picked three sculptures as definitively “the best,” and I may have to agree with her choices. Her first two were of a weeping child and a different child being kissed by an angel. Her final choice is unusual for her:

horrified by all things immodest, she (unlike her mother) would never select a nude, but even she found one called “Le Cycliste” gorgeous and perfect. Just wait until she sees the David in a week or so.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

You otter be here with us!

Originally uploaded by K4Cukrowski.
Down by the Seine in Vaux sur Seine, we saw our first otter, une loutre.

K2 on the Pont Neuf

Originally uploaded by K4Cukrowski.
K2 on the Pont Neuf before catching the Bateaux Mouches for a scinc tour of Paris on the Seine.

Krista at the Palais Royal

Originally uploaded by K4Cukrowski.

Katie and Krista

Originally uploaded by K4Cukrowski.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

We're in Paris!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Katie, Krista, and Karen have sat around the Toronto airport for around six hours this afternoon, and you know what? There are worse things. Let’s play the “direct comparisons to U.S.” game, shall we? This morning in DFW, the lines were long, and I honestly can’t think of anything that was actually running efficiently. We arrived in Canada, where the clean, efficient, gorgeous airport struck my children full in the face. They’re so used to inefficiency that they actually find organization disorienting and noticeable. Or how about the rude Dallas check-in employee who barked rudely at the Korean lady in front of us in line? Contrast the multi-cultural Toronto, where the first few minutes after landing, we had already talked to a Filipina woman and a Bulgarian woman (we made a sale for Thom’s book, KING’S RANSOM,; the woman was impressed that we could converse about King Boris and the Bulgarian Jews during WWII). We played on these moving sidewalks forever. Canada has been a blast, but we are ready to get on the plane to Paris!!!!!!

Sunday, May 29, 2005
L’enfer, c’est les autres
Church in Paris was a wonderful experience for me—and an exercise in patience for the girls. After having slept pretty well, but for too short of a time, on the plane, we were feeling fairly well adjusted to the time change when Alexandre Cumming, Yann and Rita Opsitch’s friend, picked us up at the airport. We were only a little bit late for church, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how diverse the crowd gathered there was. About half the church is African, maybe 1/4 of the folks are white French people, and the other 1/4 are a wide variety of ex-Americans, Belgians, and visitors (a guy from Houston is working in Paris for a month, etc.). The singing was very good, and the communion service was as good as those at Minter Lane, which is the highest compliment I can pay. The man, originally from somewhere in French-speaking Africa, who spoke about communion gave a clear, thoughtful, 3-point sermon about the value and purpose of participating communally in God’s plan, and I understood nearly every word out of his mouth. Clear=good. Then followed three other folks who prayed over the bread, the wine (which I was surprised to see was unfermented grape juice), and the offering, of which I understood little (one guy might well have been speaking wookiee). We sang some more, and then the one who was preaching got up and spoke for far too long (and thus begins the slanderous, probably libelous portion of my blog for today, so don’t take anything I say seriously, since this man is probably the nicest, best person in the world). Anyway, his words were far less distinct and far too fast, and, as I began to tire of struggling to understand French and as I became drowzy, he began to take on a sinister appearance. Not clear =creepy bad guy. Here was a person who could have starred in pretty much every French film as the businessman who smiles at every one, laughs at his own jokes (I certainly didn’t, since I didn’t understand them, but I noticed that nobody else laughed either), but who secretly has a collection of little boys in his basement. The end of the sermon couldn’t come quickly enough for me!

Ria is Alexandre’s mother, and she is wonderful. The consummate hostess, she anticipates one’s needs before one ever could get around to having any. Katie and Krista were blown away by the house at Vaux sur Seine. It’s a four-story house; the girls’ favorite parts are the low-ceilinged attic that houses the toys and bedmats of Ria’s grandchildren and the lush garden, with its cherry, apple, apricot, and hazelnut trees that provide a restful outdoor eating experience. She feeds us, packs us lunches, and tries to give my girls money for souvenirs. We try to stop her, but she says, “Would you like to be here in this big house always alone? Me neither! I’m glad for your company.” How kind.

Foreign Language Jokes
Ria comes originally from The Hague, Netherlands (I incorrectly originally posted that she was from Belgium -- my apologies, Madame Ria!), and she has some accented words that are different from the French I learned in school (perhaps my experiences will form another blog someday). I have learned from her several alternate pronunciations of things that L’Ecole Francais wouldn’t like, but that I like very much; one such expression is her version of moi, aussi (me, too); Ria says MO-shee. She pronounces most v sounds with an f; thus, she says “faire la FEH-selle” for faire la vaiselle (wash the dishes). When she first moved here, she offended many people, she said, by saying “vous this” and “vous that”; but her pronunciation of FOO caused people to think she was always going around calling everyone crazy or fou. Which reminds me of a joke Ken told me last week from Russia, his “only joke in Russian,” he pointed out. It took him 45 minutes to log onto the computer to check e-mail, it took 10 minutes between every “click” to do anything, and he kept getting cut off from me on the telephone. When he mentioned these things to the students, they understood immediately, of course, the infrastructural problems that Russia has; they quipped, “Yes, we call it the inter-nyet!” 

Katie and the Place de la Concorde
There’s a sight gag in the movie French Kiss that has Meg Ryan continually missing seeing the Eiffel, even though it’s right there. For Katie, the scene would need to be modified to the Place de la Concorde. Tomorrow I will try my best for Katie to see its monuments. She slept in Alex’s car as he and his mother toured us around briefly on our way out to Vaux Sur Seine. Thus, she missed L’arc de triomphe, l’obelisque, the place where the guillotine was set up, and all the other cool things around there. Then, the next day, when we saw the Obelisque, etc. from the Bateaux Mouches, the touring boats that run up and down the Seine, even though Katie only fell asleep for five or ten minutes, she missed that part of Paris again!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Karen Ken and Katie Krista off to Paris, France

Hey gang we are going on an excursion. Follow along here and we will tell you all about it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

We're going to Europe

Katie, Krista, and Karen leave Friday morning, May 27, for Dallas to spend the night (or what there will be of it!) at Kenny & Tara's before we have to be at the airport 4:30 A.M. Saturday. And then we're off to Paris! We'll keep you posted on this blog as to our whereabouts and our doings and goings-on. A bientot.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

We're going to Europe

K4 is going to Europe! Stay tuned for the exciting (OK, to us!) news as we spend a month in France and Italy this summer!