Fake it ’til you make it!

Pain au Chocolat

Pain au Chocolat

We’ve all heard the expression “Fake it ’til you make it!” and that’s what I intend to do – live like I’m living in France, until I can make the move.

For me, the French/European lifestyle is all about working to live, and not living to work.  Taking time to enjoy life’s pleasures. Being an artist. A writer. Dining outside. 

Parisian Cafe

Parisian Cafe

When I’m in Europe, I take the train to visit different cities. I walk more. I eat bread (*gasp*). Spend hours, sometimes entire days in Museums AND Cafés. Drink Champagne. Enjoy Crêpes and Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissants)  – a lot! So why not do this now?

Nutella and Banana Crepe

Before I leave for my French Adventure, I plan on doing the following things right here in the Good Ole U.S.of A.:

1. Take the train to another State (perhaps Denverto visit my bestie Heidi; or Chicagoto visit my brother; or just maybe travel to a city I’ve never visited).
2. Finish my novel.
3. Relax in the park with a loaf of French bread, a bottle of wine and a good book.
4. Start drawing /painting again.
5. Enjoy the local museums and galleries.
6. Dine outside as much as possible.
7. Host a French Dinner & Movie Night –  complete with French music, a French film, Champagne, Hors d’oeuvres and Crêpes!
8. Speak French daily.
9. Cook French cuisine.
10. Sit in a local coffee-house for hours and people watch.

I better get started tout de suite!

This post is also posted in my new blog: The France Project 

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I have a dream

The France Project ~ Dreaming My Dreams in French!

I have a dream.

I’ve had this dream for quite some time now.

My dream is to live in France for a minimum of 6 months, but would prefer a year if I can swing it.

I’ve had a love affair with France ever since the first time I visited, back in 1996. I’ve been back a few times and each time I love it all the more.  I enjoy the people, relish the culture and feel more artistic when I’m there.

I have set a goal: Move to France by March 2013.

This may seem like a long time off, but I think it’s realistic. There is a few things I need to do to prepare for the move.

First, I need to brush up on my French. (Hello Rosetta Stone!)

Second, I need to figure out how to finance this 6 month to 1 year sabbatical. (PayPal donations?!? – LOL)

Third, research and work out the details of the move, i.e., extended stay visa, a place to live, part-time work, etc., etc.

Fourth, put my belongings in storage and get on the plane!

I’m sure I will add to this list along the way, as I learn more about making an International move, but for now it’s a starting point. If you have any experiences you’d like to share, suggestions or advice, I’d love to hear (read) it.  I will be documenting my journey as I prepare for and embark upon this new adventure; for all the details and updates, please see my new blog The France Project at: http://thefranceproject.wordpress.com/

Until next time, Merci and au revoir !

Midnight In Paris – Just What the Doctor Ordered

Theatrical release poster

Yesterday afternoon my sister and I met up to see Woody Allen’s latest film. I hadn’t even seen a trailer, but a friend who knows of my love affair with Paris recommended the film. I only had to hear the name “Midnight in Paris” to know there was no doubt I’d see this movie – even though I’m not usually a huge Woody Allen fan.

For me, the movie was exactly what I needed on a hot summer’s afternoon. It’s a charming story about a Hollywood screenwriter, aspiring to publish his first novel, all the while wishing he lived in another time and place – the Golden Age in Paris.

This whimsical story had everything I loved; it was set in Paris, it brought to life some of my favorite writers, artists and musicians, and many scenes take place in the 1920’s.

I audibly sighed as the cinematographer highlighted one Paris attraction after the next; laughed aloud at many of the witty lines; and cringed at the negative dialogue of the supporting characters who weren’t so intrigued with Paris.  Like the main character Gil, I also love Paris at night, with all the monuments lit up perfectly, with the special glow that only Paris has. It’s quite apparent that Woody Allen has a love affair with Paris, too.

This movie premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival in May, and stars Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni and Adrien Brody. I just found out that the part of Cole Porter was played by French actor Yves Heck, but the voice and piano we hear are actually Conal Fowkes, with the Woody Allen Band. (http://www.davisfowkes.com/)  It was wonderful to hear the sounds of Cole Porter, with such delightful songs as You Do Something To Me, Let’s Do It and You’ve Got That Thing.

I think Tom Long of the Detroit News said it perfectly in his review: “Midnight in Paris is a loving embrace of the city, of art and of life itself.”

I give it 5 Red Stilettos!

Traveling Solo

I love to travel. I enjoy experiencing different cultures and meeting new people. For the most part, I’ve traveled with family or friends, and I truly enjoy sharing the experience with them. However, there have been occasions when I really needed a vacation but the timing just didn’t work with other people’s schedule or finances.

This left me with two options; wait for a friend to be able to go with me, or head out on my own. From time to time I’ve opted to fly solo. Sure, at first I was a bit nervous, but once I got going, I found the experience quite liberating; I’ve even made a few new friends along the way.

If you ever find yourself about to embark on a solo adventure, here are a few tips on making the most of traveling alone.

1. Speak the language. If traveling out of the country by yourself you might want to choose a country where you speak the language. This will help eliminate some of the culture shock.

On my first truly solo trip out of the country, I chose the UK because its an English-speaking country, and I wanted to make things as easy on myself as possible.

2. Know where you are going. Make hotel reservations in advance and at a hotel that is easily accessible, i.e., near a train station or other public transportation. Map out your transportation in advance, so you do not feel completely out of sorts upon arrival.

I made my hotel reservations for the first few nights at the Paddington Hilton Hotel because there are trains directly from the airport to the hotel (the Hilton actually sits right on top of the Paddington Train Station); also from this station I could get to most of the London attractions via the Tube.

3. Safety First. Before you depart for your trip leave a photocopy of your passport and itinerary, along with a list of your Travelers Cheques serial numbers with a family member or close friend.

While traveling, always be aware of your surroundings and if anything or anyone makes you feel ill at ease immediately walk into a store or restaurant and strike up a conversation with the shopkeeper until the issue has passed. If you feel you are in real danger, ask the shopkeeper to phone the police. For more tips on travel safety, visit the Travel.State.Gov website at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1747.html

In addition, touch base with love ones back home via email or a phone call on a regular basis; this will help them feel more comfortable with your travels, and assure them that you are safe.

4. Always carry some cash. Be financially prepared by stopping at the bank or a currency exchange shop prior to leaving for your trip. Plan to have something comparable to US$100 in the local currency for your arrival and any incidentals that you may incur before you make it to your hotel. It’s also a good idea to use Travelers Cheques when traveling aboard as they are insured in case they are lost or stolen. Once you are settled into your hotel, you can exchange some of your Travelers Cheques for more local currency. You may also use your ATM at various kiosks around the city and pull out local currency as you need it. Be sure to advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling aboard, so there are no issues using your cards.

5. Stay connected. Temporarily change your cell phone to an international plan or purchase a prepaid local cell phone when you arrive and email your new phone number to friends and family. There are cyber cafes in most large cities, and these are usually very economical to use. I’ve been in some cyber cafes where computer use was complimentary if you purchased a drink or pastry. Email makes it very easy to stay in touch with the people back home while you are away.

6. Plan out the first few days in advance. It makes traveling solo a little less daunting if you know what you would like to see, and how you will get to those destinations. Most travel guidebooks have maps of the area and include public transportation schedules and maps. Use a highlighter pen and map out your journey.

7. Take a guided city tour. Taking a guided city tour, especially on one of those hop on/hop off tour buses, is a great way to familiarize yourself with the city before heading off on my own.

8. Don’t dine alone. I find that if I sit at the restaurant counter or a community table instead of taking a table by myself that I meet new people and end up having a lot of fun. I have met locals as well as people who are on holiday. The other important part in this is – don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and start a conversation with others sitting at the table. People are generally friendly in these situations, and you might even get some great “locals” tips and recommendations.

In addition, if you frequent a cafe or restaurant near your hotel a few times while in town, you are sure to meet some of the same people again and again. You can strike up a conversation and soon you may have a few new friends.

9. Leave some space in your itinerary for options. I find that once I have met some locals or people who have been traveling, and I ask for their recommendations on must see attractions or locations, that there are some great things to see or do that I didn’t know about or plan for. So I leave a couple of days in my itinerary unplanned, so that I can fit in these treasures.

10. Friends of Friends. Before you leave for your trip, ask your family and friends if they know anyone who lives in the cities where you will traveling; and if so, ask if they will make an introduction via email or telephone. Many times these friends of friends will welcome you to their city by sharing a meal with you or taking you sightseeing one afternoon. They may even introduce you to other locals while you are visiting. Don’t wear out your welcome by asking for too much of their time; and be sure to return the hospitality by inviting them to visit you in your city.

11. Take lots of pictures! You will want to document your trip by taking photographs of the sights you see and the people you meet along the way. After returning home, follow-up with the people you met on your journey by sending them a note or email and include a few snapshots from the trip that has both you and the other person in the shot.

When traveling alone it’s nice if your camera has a timer, that way you can prop it up on something, aim it at the scene you are trying to capture, set the timer and have enough time so that you can be in the shot. Of course, you can also ask a bystander if they would take the picture with your camera so you can be in the photo.

Here are a few shots I took while in London, Oxford and Bath, England – traveling alone.

Me in Oxford.

Children playing at Hyde Park, London.

Snap shot of me with my new friend Kelly.
We met at the lunch counter at the Hard Rock Cafe in London on my first day in town.
Then kept in touch throughout my trip, and even after returning home to the US.

Taxi Driver in Paddington, London.

Flower shop on the Pulteney Bridge in Bath, England.

Street musician in Oxford, England.

People enjoying coffee at a Cafe in Oxford, England.