Deb and Di’s Fabulous, Frenzied, French “Non, we’re not sisters…” Tour

by Debra Chappell

View From the Left Bank (Paris):

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Mood Reading:  ZZZ’s (have been sleeping okay considering it’s been a week–but I’m still experiencing occasional wakefulness at 2 am.  I’m hoping the added pounds aren’t as stubborn as the jet lag!)

*Note: This is the first in what could be several installments.  

I promise it won’t be your dry, average, Fodor-esque travel log – Rick Steve has seemingly cornered that market in Biblical proportions. But what his thoroughly researched travel guide lacks, we have made up for via this uniquely ‘blonde’ IMG_5190perspective of two otherwise demure (ahem) middle aged females blazing the continent with hairdryers, curling irons, an extensive array of requisite electrical converters, roller bags the weight of VW bugs,  carry-on’s the size of a small ottomans, and every cosmetic and beauty potion known to man in tow. If IMG_5189you’re looking for the no fuss, wash and wear, low maintenance guide to international travel, you’re definitely on the wrong page. This is the mega watt, hair vs humidity, “of-course-we-can-cram-it-all-in you-can-sleep-when-you’re-dead” version of FRANCE ON 100 EUROS A DAY (as long as we can hit the ATM 3 more times before sundown and the bank doesn’t freeze our account….)

Having recently returned from a two week, entirely decadent girl’s trip to France, it has taken me a bit longer this time to get back into reality and the tedium of my normal daily routine. The dog wants walking, the dirty socks seem to be multiplying on the laundry room floor and there are groceries to buy, dishes to wash and a grossly dysfunctional government to get up and running again after two weeks of pointless shutdown. But I am determined not to hand over the last vestiges of my glorious French experience or succumb to the mundane rituals of my daily life without a darn good rigorous fight , so…in and effort to savor the last of any Parisienne flavor, I’ve taken to donning flamboyant, colorful scarves over my bathrobe in the morning, and making French IMG_5393pressed coffee to be sipped not from tawdry oversized coffee mugs boasting “#1 Realtor”, but in entirely civilized wide brimmed, white cups with saucers, with frothy foam on top and a delicate flaky chocolate croissant on the side.  Well, okay, maybe not the croissant part…I think yesterday it was the stale toasted heel of the last loaf of multi-grain, but never mind, I am not one to be deterred.  I’m still singing out ‘bonjour madame’ and ‘merci beaucoup’ in a lilting lyrical voice at every opportunity and listening to Edith Piaf on my ipod.  If only the phone would stop ringing and the UPS guy would leave me alone, I might even get away with my reverie pretending I’m still strolling Rue de Rivoli and will stop in the afternoon for a glass ofCIMG0581 champagne or Kir in a sidewalk café somewhere.  But then the spin cycle on the washer machine starts thumping it’s unbalanced cha cha cha and I’m brought abruptly once again into the harsh reality of my suburban life – realizing the best I’m gonna do for today at least, is a café Misto at the Starbucks drive-through on the way to the dry cleaners.  But at least I still have Edith for company….

When my friend Diane and I decided a two week trip to Paris, Loire Valley and Provence was in order, you might have thought that our thoughts would first turn to the over-whelming array of sights to be seen and places to go…ah yes, the Eiffel Tower, IMG_5101Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre, Champs Elysee and Chenonceau and wine and olive oil tasting, and lavender fields for starters.  But NON, mon amie, vous areiz tort! (No sirree my friend! You would be wrong!)  That is not the way theeze blondes think. First and foremost, first order of the day, first on the to be decided itinerary…before any airline reservations can be made and before nary a foot tour booked is the absolute recognition and acceptance that “OMG!!!  we’ve got to go out and buy new underwear!!!” followed by the requisite trip to Victoria’s Secret because every female knows, you can’t travel with your gal pals in just any ol’ Fruit of the Loom. It’s a secret andV363814 universal fear among women of every socio-economical status that each of us will be judged for decades to come by our ratty, ol’ dingy panties and stretched out, thread bare Playtex!! So once that hurdle was out of the way, and the animal print briefs and new nighties duly purchased, we got down to business in short order.  We got together once a week for weeks on end ahead of time for wine, gossip, strategy and trip planning, which was 2/3rds the wine and gossip part with a railway schedule thrown in during the last 15 minutes.  We decided early on this was going to be an easy, care free, travel light “throw in a pair of jeans, a few shirts and some moisturizer” type excursion and call it good.

Mais non! (Translation: You’re friggin’ kiddin’ me right?)

By the time we arrived at Reno International Airport (I always get a kick out of that name – as if flights to New Mexico constitute “International”) for our departure, we had two over-stuffed rolling IMG_5033trunks of wardrobe choices to cover any and every social event, from hiking the entire Luberon mountain range in Provence to dinner at the Ritz during fashion week in Paris. We both agreed that it’s not important that we actually wear everything we pack, the important thing was to have the choice and options (Lesson #2 under “Blonde Reasoning for the Uninitiated.) So schlep we did, to our window seat (for Di) and aisle seat (for Deb), both accommodating our respective leg lengths. Di had enough room to stuff her quarter-ton carry on under the seat in front of her and use it as a foot rest – and I had room to stretch my legs into the aisle in spite of the bulldog flight attendant with the surly demeanor who kept running over them with her concession trolley. So it was we set off on our Frenzied French adventure with our only worry being an unplanned delay inIMG_4883 the mostly Mormon Salt Lake City airport without any access to our favorite alcoholic beverages.  Turns out we needn’t have fretted – the airport there had a very nice wine bar and our connection was on time, we barely finished our Sauvignon Blanc and had time to answer the first of the same inquiry that dogged us throughout our entire holiday…”are you two sisters?” and our favorite (if not completely irrational version of same, considering the good head difference in our height) “are you two twins?” before we were boarded again and off in the friendly skies headed toward what could be dubbed the blonde version of Moulin Rouge Revisited.

To be continued.