Snow-mageddon, Part Deux

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March 12, 2013
OK, still no Emee. She got on a train this morning at 6am and is now stuck in Belgium. The worst part is that we have no contact and it is snowing chiens et chats. Its so dark outside and everything has been cancelled. There are no trains, no planes, no tours, no anything today. I think we’ll just wait in the room and see what happens with Emeera.

We’ve decided to have a bite in the hotel restaurant. I was secretly hoping for an opportunity to dine in a 2 Michelin star restaurant. I just didn’t think it would be because of snow! I have the special of the day, beef bourguigion, nice and warm and cozy. It is preceeded by a chevre cheese salad. The chevre with fresh herbs is hidden in a thin pocket of crunchy dough. Mom had a crazy good pumpkin and mushroom soup that was so unusual. It was a beautiful experience that was hard to enjoy, we were so worried about Emee. Paris is under a white blanket. We spoke to George and we are planning for dinner at his house if we find my daughter. Fingers crossed!

Its 3 pm and I am on my way to the bus station; I just couldn’t sit there anymore. I am walking out the door, when the front desk calls asking if they could send Emee up. I haven’t been this relieved since I lost her at the Coronado Mall!!

So, everyone in their place, it’s to George’s we go for dinner. He, graciously, comes to pick us up in a LITTLE rental car. These are so cool, (did I mention LITTLE) electric cars that you can rent from your I Phone. Its a great car but, unfortunately, it wasn’t equipped with snow shoes. George, however, is a certified Chicago driver and had no problem with the ice.

His apartment was “tres charment” but not as charming as his beautiful wife, Dominique and his awesome chou chou Cybile. They were so hospitable and we had a great dinner, great conversation and the warmth that only comes with eating with family . We even got to witness magic, performed with great mastery by “The Astounding Cybile” and her trusty assistant Msr Le Assistant! She is such a firecracker, she looks alot like her Grandma. I am sure her Grandma is thrilled that Georgy got one just like him. I only hope she grows up to be half the person her father is. Even if his politics are a little…off.

The ride home is even more excitin,g as the snow hasn’t even slowed down. I bet there was 3 new inches on the car when we came out. But, as always, God was smiling and got us to the hotel and George home to his beautiful family, all in their prespective pieces.

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Walking in the Rain or Snow

Monday, March 11, 2013 Paris
This morning, I get the things I was waiting for; a Cafe Au Lait and croissant, awesome. Cafe Rivoli did not disappoint and its just around the corner from the hotel and across from the Tuileries, so I also get my first peek at the Louvre!

Its cold and wet and yet I drag my poor mom across the street to the Louvre. No better time…
Even with the threatening grey sky and the bracing cold wind, the Louvre is breathtaking! We go directly to the Pyramid and get in line. Rick Steves would be so disappointed that a reader of his guide books would wait in line for a ticket, but what the heck. We are in the Louvre, in Paris, I can wait a bit! And it was worth every second! We decided to see the Italian and French painters and the Egyptian Exhibition. We say hello to some of our ancient uncles and see Leonardo de Vinci, Rembrandt, and Bottecelli’s masterpieces. Why am I always so moved when I look into the eyes of a Rennaisance face? I had been to the Louvre before, but I never really appreciated the actual building. So beautiful, and over the top. The home of the Kings of France, the home of the most incredible treasures of the world, the home of few elevators and lots of stairs.

This is a good place for me to get a little scmultzy and express some gratitude. I am so grateful for my increasingly better health. I walked today, probably more than I walked in the last year. I am here with my awesome Mom, appreciating things while standing, not sitting in a chair. Thank you, dear God. And thank you my guardian angel–Daddy.

OK, enough of that, I am in the Louvre and I have the energy of a bunny with new batteries…until the 3rd staircase. Mom and I both peter-out at the same time and we decide to go to the hotel and wait for Emee. She should have been at the train station at 3pm. After we get her, we will meet George, my sweet cousin, for dinner. I can’t wait for either.

Well, after many false starts, it seems the snow has delayed my girl’s arrival. She is safetly tucked into a little hotel in Amsterdam, fully equipped with the greatest amenity ever…English TV!

So, Em being delayed, we call Georgie and we go out to dinner! At the restaurant, the atmosphere is serene, the food is great, especially George’s fries, which I frequently steal, but the company is the best part of the meal. It’s so great to spend time with the man George has become. He is handsome, sweet, and very charming! I have missed him so much, as I miss all my cousins scattered all over the world! How can we let the time flow by for so long without feeling the draw and the familiarity of blood. We have an especially strong bond, my dear cousins, somehow we need to remember!

We say goodnight, (Wait, I must let you know that the grocery tour is still on. We stopped at a small market for snacks and George pointed us in the direction of some yummy cookies. So fun!) We say au revoir, but in true Mady-Eid style, we have a great political debate! At the end we agree to disagree and promise not to speak about politics again. There is nothing better than a spirited debate among friends! We part making plans for tomorrow night at George’s house. We will get to meet his wife and my new cousin. A bientôt mes amis.

Ou est Paris?

We are in PARIS! the train station is really a little overwhelming. Signs everywhere, signs that say the same thing but point in opposite directions. Sorry no pics of the train station, we were just hanging on to our purses and bags ( did I say we packed too much?) and hoping for the best! So here we are, standing in this vast, crowded space, clutching our belongings and looking a little like “the Country Mice”, when an angel appeared to us. He comes over to us and we are positive he is a pick-pocket or a serial killer, but he is just a cabbie. He doesn’t try to get our business, he just quietly says, in English, “Don’t pay more than 15 euro for a taxi”. Weird, right? We thank him as we clutch our purses even tighter. Defensive purse holding should be an Olympic sport.

Anyway, we make our way to one of 10 billion taxi areas and sure enough big guy in a big car starts to take our suitcases. We are happy to be rid of them, but then I ask comme bien? As soon as he hears we are headed for the Marriott Place Vendome, he says”70 euros” 70 euros? mom said”no way”! And then we told him what our angel said. I’ve never seen anyone pull 4 suitcases out of a car, faster. He dismissed us and we proceeded to find a line of people waiting for taxis. I don’t mind lines, and this one saved us 60 euros! Now we are armed with scam awareness, when some other guy tries to solicit 10 euros from us for loading our bags. Mom wasn’t having it and told him, in French, where to go. The lesson du jour? If you are staying in a ritzy place… keep it quiet. We had a pleasant ride with an Algerian Taxi driver, who gave us more info on handling our transports.

The hotel, bear with me, my usual vocabulary of superlatives just won’t due, Holy Hotel, Batman! The room is beautiful, so chic. We were upgraded to a room with a larger bed and 3 strong young men made our bags disappear. i can’t believe we are here! As we walk into the room we see these awesome floor to ceiling windows with demi balconies that open to the street. The room is a rich caramel colour that is just yummy. The bed is so inviting, but we are in Paris, and we are hungry, imagine that. The doorman suggests a restaurant around the corner, Le Consigliatore. We thought Italian, but we were happy to find it had both French and Italian. Mom finally, had her first, of many, escargots and I had carpaccio with lots of glorious bread!

As we walk back to the hotel we allow ourselves to feel Paris, the heartbeat, the excitement, the expectation. Having nothing to encumber us, we have a lightness to our step, even though we are exhausted. Interesting.. the sky is darkening, snow maybe? (Sorry, I couldn’t help a little foreshadowing.)

Our big bed is, indeed, comfy and I keep the window open all night, to “shimit the howa’, you know?

Oh, the Weather Outside is…

Sunday March 10th
From Groningen-Paris
First the local train to Amsterdam. Did I ever mention that Mom hates trains? Did I also mention that we way over packed? I blame the airline. They said we could both bring two bags but they failed to mention that lugging four bags isn’t a good idea for an old lady and a gimp.
We have a casualty from the blizzard in Iceland. Hal, don’t kill me but your suitcase bit the snow. A moment of silence, please, for a true warrior who died in the service of its people. All three zippers broke after we tried to fix the side that was crushed in the snow. It had a very decent burial, we said prayers and wished it a very fond adieu. So sorry!

Amsterdam to Paris
Now this is more like it. The highspeed train is more of what we anticipated. The whole train thing got a lot better, we had cozy seats and the country side was astounding. The flatness of Holland gave way to the rolling hills of Belgium where it started to… snow. And the rolling hills of Belgium gave way to the suburbs of a huge city… Paris! Remember the snow I talked about in Belgium? It followed us. Mom says it’s the same storm from Iceland and it is tracking our every move.That’s OK, a lot of people see Paris in the spring, We’ll see Paris in the snow.

We Slept ’til 1PM!

H1060007We slept ’til 1Pm! I think jet-lag and plum exhaustion won out. Em and I decided to take a walk to find a place to buy tickets for the train tomorrow. It’s so cold! Everything was closed so we decided to walk through the market to her school. First we stopped at St. Jospeh’s church to light a candle and say a prayer for our Gidge.

Groningen has me totally enchanted; tiny doors with teeny knobs, row upon row of homes with their windows open to the world. The occupants living life together, it seemed, with us on the street. SHOPS. Shops for cheese, just cheese, tons of cheese, (I love cheese). We picked a pink peppercorn and red pepper young Gouda to bring to Mom and we picked (oops, I almost let the cat out of the bag) another one for someone we love at home. We tasted and tasted cheese.

We finally got to peruse the market. I could have spent all day, but as we slept all day they were just closing down. We still got to smell the fish fry and sample some sausages (Yum) and get totally soaked. Did I mention it’s cold? As it was starting to snow, we bought some hand crocheted scarves and wrapped up. Best buy yet!

Emee’s school… it’s hard to explain the joy that I have as a mom that my daughter is attending school in a 14th century court house. As you approach, the narrow street opens on a medieval courtyard, an imposing citadel, the university’s main building has stood for centuries. The brick work is intricate. Buildings have multiple colours placed in intricate patterns; chevrons, stripes, mosaic-like patterns. Wood shutters and bars of steel surround a huge wooden door that lead us to Em’s faculty. So sad that we can’t step inside this amazing building.

By now Em and I are freezing! And we stop at the News Cafe, a “coffee shoppe” for hot chocolate and a contact high. I have to admit, I felt at this point, that we were on a grand adventure.

Holland-days

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March 7th

Our first day in Groningen! We are off to search for groceries for tomorrow’s hafli (party). We need lamb and leban and bread etc. Emee was so excited to show us the grocery store and truthfully – IT WAS AWESOME! We bought snacks for the room and some stuff for tomorrow and that took us three hours. I think I’m going to start a new travel craze, not the run of the mill foodie trips, but grocery tours. I could have spent all day checking out the cheeses, reading Dutch labels, and of course drooling.

Lunch was also AWESOME! In the grocery a group teaches mentally handicapped young people the art of food service. They were gracious and the food was great. I had MEATBALLS!

Back to the shopping, we bought pre-seasoned, pre-cut shwarma meat for the arish and crossed our fingers that it would work. Believe it or not that was our whole day- in the grocery store.

March 8th

Folkingstraat
Serious Mensif shopping today! We went to Le Souk. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, an Arabic store is an Arabic store. The smell of zataar, cumin and hawajib, the taste of green and black olives (yes I stole a few), the sound of sm’ullahs and y’ullahs are all the same. However, we learned that not all waraq is the same.

Lunch was Mom’s favourite so far, at Huis de Boers. Her cream of mushroom soup was rich, meaty, and mushroomy. Campbell soup-NOT! Next, off to search for lamb. Em says it’s on this street close to Le Souk. Then I found a market, a real honest to goodness market. I have seen a lot of markets in my day but these displays made Pike’s Place Market look like a mom and pop corner store. I wanted to look more but Mom pulled me out. After all, it was raining and cold and we were searching for lamb. We think, in the states, that we are so spoiled by our lives of convenience. Need lamb… go to Costco or Safeway where you can also pick up car oil and a new bathing suit. Here, the lamb store has only lamb. Clean, shiny, white tile walls, a display case that ran from one end to the other, filled with beautifully cut LAMB – young, spring, old, and mutton. Em said the smell reminded her of Gidg cutting lamb on Saturday morning and putting fresh slices into warm pita. Heaven is a lamb store.

Mensif Night! Groceries purchased, Mom, Em, and I made dinner. Mensif, waraq, baked chicken, and vegetables. Our first Mensif since Daddy died. So bitter sweet. But we thought about him and laughed and told stories and made things the way he would have liked- i.e. we kept the fat on the ribs. I cut lamb with a six dollar Ikea knife, we drank water from a communal jug, we borrowed pots from everyone, roasted chicken in a small toaster oven, but at 7pm we put out a fabulous spread! We even made a veggie option for our Aussie friend, Gina.

Emee’s friends came, each with their own plate, fork, and cup. They brought beer and wine and their open hearts. Such a great group! Thank you to Tancredi, Bart, Maryia, Franka, Eunice, Carsten, Marco, Thomas, Emilia, Gina, Lucie, Octavio, and all of Winscho (sorry I couldn’t remember all your names) for showing us such a good time. Your parents would be proud. Grandma said this was one of the great days in her life. Thank you.

Throw Momma from the Train!

Too much Luggage or too little EmeeMomma did not like her first taste of rail travel! It could be that we packed too much or that the trains were too small or it could be that the person who threw themselves on to the train track earlier in the day messed up our schedule, but more than likely we packed too much!

Amsterdam to Groningen
The landscape is beautiful, reminiscent of Ontario, flat and fertile. Windmills everywhere, some are the big modern version, but we did see some of the more romantic sailed-mills. It’s foggy and cold but after our very long day we are tired but so happy to find the cute room that Emee appointed beautifully. Either the beds were very comfortable or we were very exhausted.

March 5, 2013 Ok, We Suck at This!

Mom and I swore to each other, over fish and chips at Seattle Airport, that we would do this blog thing. We WOULD take pictures- we wouldn’t forget- we promised!

This entry was supposed to be about the incredible service we had on Icelandic Airlines, how great the stewardess’ were, how accomodating they were to my “issues”. We decided to take their pictures with mom. We had it planned! So at the end of the flight we got up… and left. Here’s the pic.

See we suck at this.
Well, everyone has a hard time when starting something new, right? So we forgave ourselves. Until, when trying to document the Reykjavik to Amsterdam trip… Snow-mageddon! Snow bizzard in Iceland. Whoda thought? Its misleading to say ‘blizzard’ because ‘blizzard’ implies that the snow is coming down, not parallel to the ground. Before taking off again, they had to de-ice the plane. Its a little scary to watch the de-icing machine get stuck in the snow! It was entertaining, though, to watch the baggage handlers shovel our luggage out from under a snow drift. Freshly de-iced, we were cruising down the frozen runway. Imagine the wind buffetting the plane back and forth, imagine seeing only white, imagine Mom crossing and recrossing herself, saying every prayer possible, imagine….well, you have to imagine because I packed the camera and Mom’s phone was dead. The pilot eventually saw the error of his ways and took us back to the terminal.
They fed us, smoked lamb sandwich for me, “chips” for Mom. She thought they were potato chips, they were actually Haddock chips (imagine that look on Mom’s face). We were upgraded, business class rocks! We finally arrived in Amsterdam, only 5 hours late. My favourite part of the entire day was seeing my beautiful girl’s face; Mom’s favourite part…landing!

What do 5 star hotels and 1 star trains and 1/2 star dorms have in common?

No free WIFI! Sorry everyone for not posting sooner, but the whole internet thing had me baffled!
We arrived today at the gite and (spoiler alert!) OMG and WOW. So now we have a great, free, and fast connection. Momma said no chateaus or castles or cheese until I enter all of the posts! We have had an awesome time and I can’t wait to share. I will date everything for 2 reasons; 1, to keep entries chronological and 2, to remind everyone how many days it is to my birthday. (3 if your counting).
So hang on you’ve got a lot of reading to do!

our French evolution…..

Why?

Our Poppa left us 6 mos ago and we found that such a huge loss left us feeling untethered. We miss him so much. We needed a diversion, so we started to research Mom’s lineage as a way to keep us busy. Mom has always been “all in” when it comes to Dad’s side of the Family Tree. She learned the language, cooked the food, taught us the traditions and  made us proud to be Arabs. And we are proud of all our father gave us.

Now its Mom’s turn.

Oh Boy, what we found!  Our lineage is not what we thought. We are from the southwest of France; a beautiful area in the valley of the Loire River. We are Poitou, descended from Gaillic Picts (Picton to Pictou), from an area the Phoenicians settled, from the same peoples as Charles Martel and Charlemagne. We have traced ourselves back to our thirteenth great grandfather, Francois Maupetit dit Poitvin, a master tailor. We are descendents of one of the first colonists of Montreal, Pierre, who fought the Iroquois Indians. And, though we didn’t need to be told that we are special, we are.

So,  we come back to …Why? Mom wants to travel now. Its what she wants to fill her life with. It is so important to her and so, to us. We wanted to go to Holland to see Emee. We first thought we would go to Jordan but I couldn’t face it. So, what better than to go walk in the footsteps of our French evolution….

Three weeks and three generations in Europe. We will try to take you on our trip with us. I will post here as often as I can and hopefully there will be some great pictures to accompany. I am really trying to lower expectations but it should be fun to see if I can manipulate this tech! Any way, we will miss  one and all!

And we’re off!