Matt-ers Of The Heart: Chapter 2

Matters of the Heart: A fictionalized tale of a truly concerning romantic phenomenon.

By Cakey Hankerson

Chapter 2: Close Call with a Matt-a Hari?

When people introduce themselves and find out my name is Annie, they usually associate me directly with that cute little gingery orphan girl, sprinkled with freckles, who has never-ending pep and vim. Just in case you grew up under a rock and don’t know this story, Annie is basically the American dream, going from stubbornly optimistic orphan girl to billionaire tycoon’s adopted daughter during the Great Depression. While not ginger, not an orphan, not freckled, and living a life completely devoid of my own personal Daddy Warbucks, I guess I manage a decent representation of that plucky American spirit that so enchants foreigners.  Which might be the reason why my travels abroad wound up liberally sprinkled with bizarre encounters with foreign men. Thankfully, I am a smart girl, most of the time. Situation upon situation, I managed to sneak through, side-stepping most awkwardness with ease. From Guillaume (who followed me around) to Étienne (who asked me to pretend to be his late night study partner, I’m still not sure exactly all that that entailed) to Paul (who had a bizarre obsession with trying to grab me by the waist), I managed to evade all advances without mishap. It really just figures that my one and only stupid-girl traveler moment involved the Matt-a Hari.

It seems like a long time ago that my much-relied-upon sources at Wikipedia taught me about the Mata Hari. After a vague reference from my (required attendance) College symposium speaker one fine day during my freshmen year, I did what any inquisitive college student would do, and I googled it. Which is why I am familiar with the violent story of the beautifully scandalous Dutch exotic dancer who was accused of being a spy in France during World War Two, and subsequently executed mercilessly by firing squad. Quite a brutal story, really.  My own Matt-a Hari story didn’t end with a firing squad (Merci, Dieu), but the point is that it very nearly could have.

I was living in southern France, in a town called Thollon most of the year I studied abroad, but it was on a week’s excursion to Paris that Matt Deux came on the scene.  Called Mathieu by fellow francophone friends, this forward garcon entered the scene of my life with all the panache of a courtesan and no small amount of suspect behavior either.

It was a perfect night, almost balmy, and most decidedly the best kind of night to be visiting Paris.  It was the kind of night when you feel naturally beautiful, like you’ve been transformed into a well-groomed, raven-haired beauty and you’re the protagonist in a story that will someday become a popular romantic movie. (One with a happy ending and a decided lack of cancer or heartbreak.) It was a night when every color was more vivid, every light glimmered with magic, and the whole world had that happy feeling that makes you want to organize a flash-mob, just so you can dance your heart out in the streets. If you have ever been to Paris, you know precisely what I mean, and if you have not had the pleasure, well, you should probably find out first-hand.  These are the best kind of nights, and they become even more perfect when flavored with a heady dose of nostalgia.

I felt untouchable, invincible; nothing could dim the sparkle of my magical French evening as I flitted from the hotel to a nearby restaurant in a lacey peach-pink sundress. A day of whirling between sculptures and monuments, browsing consignment shops and soaking in the beautiful cadence of native French speakers had left me a little too pink to be called sun-kissed, and ravenous. Thankfully, the restaurant was quite close! Audrey, an old friend of my parents, was in town on business for the day, and since she barely managed bonjour, she’d asked me along for moral and linguistic support.

Audrey is a quirky, daring, pipsqueak of a woman. That year she was 54 . . . going on 21, and it was her first trip to Paris, too. Like I said, Audrey barely knew a word in French, but tried to compensate by smiling liberally at everyone, which is decidedly un-French. Either the smiles were more flirtatious than we knew or we really had become raven-haired beauties, because we were greeted with a glass of champagne and a whole host of servers, delighted to see to our every need. As soon as we were seated, my would-be-courtesan arrived promptly beside me.

Matt Deux, our waiter, was tall, tan, blonde, and decidedly French. By “decidedly French” I mean unbelievably forward. Oh it started out innocent enough . . . but after plying us with wine and more free champagne for the next few hours, he realized that Audrey spoke no French, and before you knew it, this sultry French Matt-a Hari was watching me eat crème brûlée and murmuring that he wished he could have been my dessert. Quite scandalous, if you ask me. Unfortunately, the champagne (added to the fact that we were in Paris) transformed the entire situation into what felt like another scene in that romantic movie I mentioned earlier. I smiled shyly, but it must have come off as coy, because Matt Deux just amped up the effort.  When I got up to find the toilettes, he swooped.

This was the part where things got sketchy and Annie should’ve gotten savvy . . . but didn’t. Matt Deux just whispered that he wanted to show me something, something special. I figured Hey; we’re in a public place, right? Nothing crazy’s going to happen. Then he pulled me out of the restaurant and over to the tall shadowy building next door.

To give me some credit, I must’ve pulled back and looked a little sketched out at this point, because he said something along the lines of “Don’t be afraid!” as he pocketed the key and tugged me through the now-open doorway and into the pitch-black entryway. For a moment, I felt exceptionally nervous . . . was my romantic classic turning into some kind of nightmare horror flick? As scenes from the movie Taken chased through my mind, we walked through what I can only assume was the lobby, since it was too dark to actually tell. A moment later, Matt Deux was crowding me into the world’s smallest elevator, where he solicitously (read: sketchily) left his hand on the small of my back, stroking it slowly, likely thinking something a lot like bow chicka wow wow!

As the elevator reached the 7th floor, it slowed.  This was it, I was either about to get some serious moves put on me, or I was really in trouble. Thankfully, Matt Deux was no axe-murderer. He ushered me to the window where he pointed out the sparkling well-lit view of the Sacré-Coeur that glimmered white in the night. Then he put his arms around me and, judging by the way he was murmuring French-nothings and kissing my neck, Matt Deux thought he was about to get at least a little lucky. Lots of girls probably would have gone for it, but I am not one of those girls.

It’s funny, I actually thought about it. While he was trying to convince me that I should do “what felt right” (a.k.a. make out, at the very least), I had this moment of detached logical processing – like a cartoon where everything freezes for a second so the protagonist can monologue. My little conscience-angel and I had a speedy internal heart-to-heart and I decided that Matt Deux was not the mec for me. After a little evasive maneuvering (he had to kiss my forehead and cheek a lot), I told him I really had to get back to my friend. While definitely disappointed, Matt Deux had not given up all hope. He was doing a good impression of that espionage-driven courtesan I named him after – keeping his eyes on the prize . . . but instead of government information, the prize was me. Before we left the creepy building, he squeezed the promise of a date out of me for the next evening. I was to meet him at the restaurant at seven for a night out on the town.

In the light of the following day, as the sketch-factor ramped up, and the realization that attending this little soirée would probably constitute a second mistake with a man named matt, I did the only thing I could do.  The date plans got the proverbial firing squad, and I stood the poor guy up. I almost felt bad, but then I remembered that he was either trying to kidnap me to sell on the sex-slave market, or he was just some horny sketch-ball who wanted some. So, I congratulated myself on my narrow escape and called it a day.

In the end, the whole silly interlude wound up feeling like an adventure, actually.  But then, that’s probably because it was Paris, and my first trip to Paris was nothing if not cinematically ideal. It’s strange, there’s something about Paris where you can recall only perfection after you’ve left.  Even my Matt-a Hari adventure has become just another anecdotal facet on the glittering face of Exploring Paris.

Paris is Always A Good Idea

I have spent a month of my life in Paris.

That’s like, one 300th of my life. I think. (Math was never my strong point.) Now, this might sound like a big or small percentage to you, but a month is quite a bit of time to be a tourist in one city, even one so scintillating as Paris!  My month of visits were not consecutive, actually. Instead, I have been to Paris three times, each time with people who had never before experienced La Ville Lumière. . . quite a lot of tourism took place, and  each time I discovered different facets of the glittering Jewel that Paris truly is among the dross of urban metropolitan meccas across the continents! Although I will never claim or pretend to know all the delights of Paris, I will share with you a few things that, in my humble opinion, you should not miss if you are planning to visit!

#1: The Café

When your feet first touch down in Paris, the first order of business (after settling into whatever temporary shelter you plan on!)  – depending on when you get there – is to find some cheapy place to snag a bite to eat. (Airplane food just never cuts it!) This is not too hard, as long as you don’t expect a five-star culinary masterpiece for the price of 5 euro! Find a little nook with a lovely view and just quietly camp out . . . maybe sit in a cafe for a half hour, simply because you’re in Paris and you just should. . .

#2: The Musée Rodin

Then, when you’re as re-charged as your jet-lag allows, you should pack up your bag and wander off in the direction of Le Musée Rodin on the Rue de Varennes, but only if you want a gorgeous indoor-outdoor breathtaking fine art and sculpture experience. Hopefully you are not taking your trip too too  soon because it actually is closed for renovations until April 3rd. . . but it’s my favorite museum in Paris, and quite possibly the whole world. So, it is worth the wait. Many people go to Paris to see Le Louvre, which is monstrously large and – truthfully- quite overwhelming! Le Musée Rodin has an utterly different feel, an underlying tranquility; the small sculpture-laden château is nowhere near as overwhelming as the Louvre! Although the Louvre houses thousands upon thousands of treasures worth-seeing (which are very cool if you don’t mind feeling a little dazed and in shock at all the stuff to see!), Le Musée Rodin is like a breath of fresh air! You walk through the little gate and feel like you’ve stepped back into the time of Rodin himself. Your feet will crunch on the white stones that scatter the path leading up to Rodin’s past home. If you’re lucky, the rose bushes that fill the gardens will be in full bloom and your first view of Le Penseur (The Thinker) will be framed with a riotous array of petals, rendering the serious statue’s expression closer to a calm contemplative thought rather than a mental state of turmoil.
Most people only know Rodin’s Thinker, or at least know it best of all his work, but it is just the tiniest tip of the most incredibly exquisite ice-berg I have ever encountered. When you walk inside, you will see the most delicate and provocative sculptures you can imagine.

#3:Le Centre Pompidou

After viewing your fill of Rodin masterpieces, if it’s not late in the day and you still have time, I’d assess my mood. If I wanted to do some cool walking/exploring/shopping and see some awesome street performers and such I would head to the big square in front of the Centre Pompidou and chill there for a while. It’s honestly not a museum I would bother going into unless you’re obsessed with modern weird art, but there’s usually a lot of fun going on outside! I’d probably watch the street performers until I got bored and then I would go walk around le Marais district, which is pretty nearby and wonderfully full of cute cafés, patisseries, bakeries and both expensive and consignment shops. It’s a nice outdoor place to walk about and you see so much in Paris just by walking around.

#4:Les Catacombes

If you have time, descending into the Catacombs are ridiculously cool, but if it was my only day visiting Paris, I’m not sure I would make the catacombs the main event. Lots of stairs are involved and it’s a little bit depressy if you start to reflect alot on the plaques, but it’s a fascinating experience if you want to do something a little morbid!

#5: Dinner

After this part, I’d probably be hungry for dinner from all the walking, so I’d find a place to eat. You have a couple options at this point. Now if you’re in the Marais, doing Paris on-the-cheap, and you like falafel (not something you usually associate with France, I know) there are two places that are pretty much insanely famous to go to for falafel. They are right across the street from eachother (the more famous one is called L’As du Falafel).
This is not a convenient sit-down place but you can get food to go, so if you want a “real” restaurant and a chance to get off your feet, I’d go elsewhere. Actually, usually I’m not much of a one for recommendations, but if you want the classic French “steak-frites” which is delicious (although I think a little far away from this area, you might have to hop a metro), it’s called Le Sévero. They legitimately ONLY serve steak-frites and the menu price is fixed (I think around 19 euro) but they give you a lot of tasty food and they have good wine and desserts if you want to spend a little more… and it’s a nice place to sit and listen to street musicians and relax and eat.
If I remember, it’s pretty near a metro stop (not to mention it’s right by wherea whole bunch of famous people used to hang – Sartre, Hemingway and Picasso to name a few)

#6: Dessert

Okay, I know I’m talking about food a lot, but it IS unfortunately very possible- and even easy- to go to Paris and not eat well, so I think that’s something I want to give you an escape from if possible, I promise I’ll get back to the actual things-to-do soon! So, now it is crucial that you get dessert =D=D, especially if you stayed in le marais for dinner, which doesn’t appeal to people who are tired from walking, but would probably be more convenient of a segue into the next things you want to do, since it’s very central.
If you are in Le Marais, you should totally walk south towards the Seine, which will take you right to the bridge over to Ile St. Louis. It’s the perfect stop-over for famous ice cream at Berthillon (Which is worth it – if you’re gonna do it, don’t go to a substitute that “sells berthillon icecream”, go for the real deal!)

#7: Notre Dame de Paris

After that keep walking through Ile St. Louis and you can walk right onto the Ile de France to see Notre Dame. It’s gorgeous and wonderful to walk through and see the rose window and such… sometimes you catch beautiful music too… but honestly, it’s not really worth going up the towers, unless you want to see the gargoyles much closer. I mean, it’s cool, but not the coolest thing in Paris to climb (which I’ll get to, don’t worry)!

#8: Les Bateaux-Mouches

So, now, you should totally walk back accross the seine from Notre dame (I don’t really recommend going over the bridge to the southern side because you’re immediately in tourist mecca for a while at that point -and I mean, the least-legit, most unlikeable parts of tourist mecca). Now if you are at this point as the sun is starting to set, you are in LUCK/have planned admirably, because one of the BEST things to do in Paris (particularly if it’s your first trip) is to take a bateau-mouche trip on the seine. Typically, you go down right next to the Seine (there are big signs and it’s not far from Notre Dame) and hop a boat, they leave about every 15 minutes and they cost about 8 euro and they are super touristy, but they also let you go all the way up and down the seine and see everything in a really laid-back, enjoyable way. Ride on top if you do this. I don’t know why you would ride inside, actually.
 Now the reason why it’s ideal to do this at sunset or dusk (although I’ve done it in the day too and it’s nice then as well) is that , at this point, you’re gonna be wiped and might want to sit and enjoy Paris a little. BUT , more imporantly, it is gorgeous to watch the sun set on the Seine and see the Paris lights come on. REALLY gorgeous.

#9: The Ballet at L’Opéra Garner

Now, another evening option, if you want to do something more culturally heavy, would involve a little pre-planning, but is highly worth-it! If you have any inclination to go to a “show” of sorts, I would pack my best day-to-evening sundress rather than scrubby jeans for this day. Then, when you get to Paris/around 11 in the morning,go to the Opera Garnier ticketing booth (all the way around the left hand side of the opera, if you’re facing the front of the building) and get the last-minute tickets for whatever ballet/opera/show is playing.
I’d recommend the ballets. I’ve seen two. Tickets can be as cheap as 8-10 euro if you don’t mind craning your neck, and you can get some for like 30-45 euro that are actually pretty good. . . the first time I went to Paris, seeing the ballet was my absolute favorite thing I did.
If you do this, be sure to soak in all the beauty.
The Opera Garnier is STUNNING; you feel like you’ve stepped into an old movie set when you’re in a red velvet opera box. The interior is exceedingly glittery and over-the-top opulent, so be sure to explore it a little while you’re inside.
During intermission, you should also go out on the balcony and look out at Rue de l’Opera at night . . . while surreptitiously looking at all the snazzy people who dress to the nines for opera, which is also worth seeing!

#10: Tall Monuments

There are two monuments in Paris that are wondrous for very similar and different reasons!

La Tour Eiffel

First, there’s the Eiffel Tower. People told me it was overrated. They were wrong. IF you go, I recommend going at night.  Make sure you get to see the tower sparkle; the lighting of it is insane and every 15 min or half hour the whole thing twinkles and its impossible to capture on a camera or film, you just have to see it in real life! I love the Eiffel tower and, in my opinion, it’s TOTALLY not overrated. Going up to the top, however, is overrated. It’s just not that exciting to see the Paris skyline from that angle. . . it is exceedingly tiny and doesn’t have a whole lot of things you know to look for, especially without the Eiffel Tower being prominent on the skyline to distinguish the fact that you’re in Paris! It is great to go underneath, sometimes choirs sing underneath, which adds another dimension to the loveliness. Very magical to see! It is however a teeny bit hard to get to.
It’s a decent walk from the center of town, although it never seemed like it would be before I set out. Unfortunately, there is also only one metro stop near La Tour Eiffel, and it’s a little distance from the Champs de Mars. Also important to note: it stops running kind of early and you’ll want to make sure you get the last train back to wherever you are staying, unless you feel 100% comfortable walking the poorly-lit way back. down the Seine.  Ultimately this is all your call and if you are not one to like the eiffel tower in general, just pass on it, you’ll definitely see it from the boat and/or on the skyline a lot.

L’arc de Triomphe

Second, and maybe alternatively, one really cool place to go and NOT to miss climbing up is the Arc de Triomphe. It’s in a cool neighbourhood (ritzy and sometimes expensive with the champs elysees) and the Georges V metrostop is really close to it. If you do this, you can see the famous street the champs elysees, you can go on the underground pass to the arc, you’ll see where the famous tour de france pictures all happen and you’ll see the tomb of the unknown soldier underneath the arch. . . and all of this before you go up to the top, which does cost some money but is HIGHLY cool if you feel like climbing something for a good view. The Arc is equidistant from the eiffel tower and the sacre coeur (the white cathedral up on the hill in montmartre, which is not something you’ll probably have time to climb all the way to and is prettier from far away than from close up!). You can also see the huge awkward square of La Défense, if you want to, but it’s not glaring if you don’t like it.=D The top of the Arc de Triomphe is less crowded than a lot of touristy draws and has one of the best views in Paris, in my humble opinion. .. definitely my favorite view.

*Dessert

So, a final place I must mention, which is going to be food-related (sorry), is Ladurée, a bakery that’s been on Rue Royale since 1862.
It’s somewhat expensive and fancy and pretty fabulous; like the Tiffany’s of Patisseries (probably not a place I’d go to for a meal/any extended period of time if I only had one day in Paris…), but the one thing that is super famous from Ladurée and totally worth trying if you feel like getting a Parisian treat, are the macarons.
They’re obscenely good. Eating a vanilla bean macaron, or maybe a caramel one, might be how I would like to die.
They’re better than chocolate. Which is a big deal. They’re beautiful too, which sounds weird, but is true!

Summary of The Best Possible Day in Paris

Morning/Afternoon:

  • arrive, grab something to eat and some coffee while the city wakes up
  • mosey to the Musée Rodin and see all of the gorgeous sculptures, inside and outside
  • hop a metro to the Opéra Garnier, where you can buy tickets to the ballet, if that’s in your evening agenda
  • since Rue Royale isn’t far, I’d probably get macarons at this point!
  • head over to the Centre Pompidou
  • explore a little on the way (probably stumble onto some cool monuments or stop and see the Louvre pyramids if you overshoot! If it’s rainy out, I might even sub a trip to the Louvre in for the Pompidou experience!)
  • See if there are any cool street musicians or performers about in Pompidou
  • walk to le Marais, exploring on the way (there’s le Tour St. Jacques and other interesting spots all along the way)
  • grab some yummy falafel at L’As du Falafal as a very late lunch/early dinner
  • walk south towards Ile St. Louis (you’ll see a bunch of state buildings on the way)
  • get Berthillon ice cream and eat it while you walk over Pont St. Louis to Notre Dame.

Night time:

EITHER

  • Do a walk-through of Notre Dame de Paris
  • walk back north towards the bateaux-mouches stations and take a boat trip as the sun sets.
  • disembark and either grab a taxi to the Eiffel Tower or head to the Champs Elysées (if you take the metro to Georges V, you’ll still have a chance to walk a bit to see the Arc)

OR

  • head back towards the Palais Garnier (Rue de l’Opéra) and maybe clean myself up a bit.
  • watch a gorgeous ballet/opera and explore the palais during intermission
  • post-opera, either grab a taxi to the eiffel tower or head to the Champs Elysées (if you take the metro to Georges V, you’ll still have a chance to walk a bit to see the Arc)

End the Evening:

  • Seeing the Eiffel Tower or seeing and climbing the Arc de Triomphe, but no matter which you choose, enjoy the view
  • if you’re at the Arc, maybe grab a glass (or 3) of red wine at a Champs Elysées bistro (touristy, but acceptable) before going back to where you’re staying and totally crashing from exhaustion!
So, I utterly lack the ability to be succinct.=D I did narrow it down a lot, believe it or not, but feel free to ignore whatever of it you’d like! Above all, have fun! It was Audrey Hepburn who said that Paris is always a good idea, and Hemingway who called the magical city of lights a “moveable feast” . . . so dig in with vigor, friends!

Bon voyage!

The Unplanned Bucket List. . .

I love lists.

Actually, I love the gratification of crossing something OFF a list. In fact, I have been guilty of making a list of “Things to do today” halfway through the day just so I can write down the things I’ve already done and cross them off immediately. Don’t judge;  you’ve probably done it too.

Sometimes, though, life just hands you experiences that are things you never anticipated . . . and if we’re 100% honest, you might never have chosen to experience willingly. Humorously enough, AFTER they’re over, they usually become the best stories/memories and you find yourself saying ” Well, I can now cross fill-in-the-blank-crazy-experience off my bucket-list. . . after I add it!”. I believe they call this serendipity in some circles. I just call it hysterical. So, in honor of item number one, which happened exactly one year ago, here we go. . .

My Top Five Experiences Added to (but immediately crossed out on) my Bucket List:

(There has to be a better name, any ideas?)

#1: Paris, NY

or

“Being stuck in a Jehovah’s Witness Parking Lot with my Best Friend during a Complete White-out”

We never knew what hit us. One moment we were listening to Jim Dale read us The Deathly Hallows and then, the next, WHAM, we couldn’t see a blessed thing. We went from being swept away by the unbelievable storytelling skill, to being almost literally swept away by a crazy snowstorm. Driving from Boston to our hometown in New York was only supposed to take 6 hours. . . but on that fateful day, the six hour stretch . . . stretched. We left bright and early, ready to be home at noon.  It wasn’t until 15 hours had passed, five of which we spent giggling and crying in a Jehovah’s witness church parking lot (while cars careened off the road dangerously nearby), that Kat and I rolled defeatedly into my driveway. I will never forget sitting in the breath-fogged car laughing in near hysteria while Kat (tears of worry still tucked in the corner of each eye) wrote cries for help to Edward Cullen on the windshield.

Stranded in the snowy wasteland sans access to any much-wished-for restrooms, we probably could’ve worked at identifying with the Israelites a little more. As we ran out of snacks and gas started to run low(er), we got our own bread from heaven in the form of a miraculous Wonder-bread Truck. Driven by our need to potty, with equal parts faith and desperation, we took our lives in hand and haltingly followed the polka-dotted truck out of that desolate and drifty lot in Paris, New York. It was as we drove away slowly that we laughingly realized that, despite our snowed out Saturday plans, we would always have Paris. Somehow that made it all better.

#2: Winky

or

“Going out to buy pants and coming home with an awkward flat-faced kitten”

I have this major minor obsession with going shopping at Marshalls. One day, in dire need of slacks to wear to work, I talked my reluctant roommate into a trip to Marshalls, luring her with the chance to see puppies (this was a few months before her dog Winifred entered our lives/apartment) at the nearby pet store. I obligingly trudged into the pet store with her and, spotting a kitten in a much-pierced store attendant’s arms near the back, I moseyed over to check out the bundle of joy, leaving my starry-eyed puppy-lovin roomy to her own devices. As I neared the tortoiseshell little bundle of kitten, her eyes lifted to mine. I could feel the earth tilt on its axis and I finally understood what people say about love at first sight. Maybe it was just the person that pushed by me to get to the puggles, but I still knew Winky was the cat for me. She’s awkward. Have you ever read Kathy Hoopman’s book All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome? Well, mine does too. In spades. I love her. Feel free to judge me. I walked into the Mall looking for pants and I walked out with Winky. . . and a couple of dresses.

Over a year later, and I still don’t regret it. I’m embarrassingly in love with my awkward cat.

#3: The Paris Lights

or

“Seeing a beautiful view of the Sacré Coeur while being nuzzled by a frenchman who I thought might be kidnapping me”

I am not going to go into oodles of detail on this one. Suffice it to say: Last time I was in Paris, I struck up a good conversation with Julien, who then decided to get a little . . . romantic. With a few extreme nudges from my travel companion and a little temporary insanity, I went with him into an random apartment building, where I immediately began having second thoughts. With growing trepidation, we squeezed into the worlds smallest elevator and went up . . . and up and up and up . . . to the seventh floor of Building X. We walked down a poorly lit hall and Julien whispered into my ears that this view of Paris was just for us . . . pure romance. Also like a scene from a criminal minds intro. . . you know, the one where the girl ends up being slaughtered and Julien is really a serial killer? Suffice it to say, after leaving Building X and evading Juliens amorous embraces, I decided that I would heed my own advice from that moment forward when it comes to the romantic advances of foreign men.

But at the same time. Put it on the bucket list, then check it off friends. Right???

#4: Living out Disney at Singing Beach

or

“Being drenched by a Wave while nerdily re-enacting a scene from Ariel”

This is pathetically self-explanatory. All I have to add is (a) that it was an incredibly well-timed wave, (b) that my roommate saw coming and did NOT see fit to warn me about . . . and (c) that lots of people saw and were laughing. It doesn’t matter. My Live-a-Real-life-Ariel-Moment was added and subtracted to (and from) my bucket list that day.

#5: Princess Costumes

or

“Unintentionally being a key element in someone else’s scavenger hunt”

Believe it or not, I don’t actually try to have these things happen to me. . . they just do. Now, in this case, I was dressed as a princess for a good reason! Well, a reasonable reason. I was going to a “Princess Party” . . . for a guy I know named Andrew. But a princess party, nonetheless. It should also be noted that I was NOT the most outlandishly dressed princess at said party and notable among the attendees was a girl dressed as a full-fledged UNICORN. But I digress. Wearing this garb, I took a few friends on a quick snack-run to the nearby grocery store and waited outside while they ran in (flouncy petticoats get warm and I was wearing a pink plastic coat that made me entirely too overheated!). No sooner had my friends gone in than I man in a limousine pulled up and 12 women with pink baseball caps jetted out of the doors spewing words like BACHELORETTE PARTY, SCAVENGER HUNT and CAN’T BELIEVE WE FOUND YOU, WE NEED A PRINCESS!!! Suffice it to say, somewhere out there, probably coloring a few facebook albums, there are pictures of me in full princess getup. Boo. Yeah.

Mooning over Macarons: Macarooning?

Have you ever tried a macaron?

Don’t confuse these with the Macarooooooon. That would be like confusing a cloud with a birds nest; like an Hermes scarf with a Forever 21 bandanna.

I am going to attempt to use the meager provisions of vocabulary to describe to you the beauty of the macaron . . . but I have to tell you that I’m not sure I can do them justice. Actually, today, I asked my dear friend Katie (pictured below with a treasured box of macarons) how she might describe them for our students. She said that it was like two clouds, wrapped gently around a unicorn horn. Too abstract? Like experiencing a wonder of the world? Even that might not be doing it justice. . . eating a macaron is like sending your taste-buds to frolic in fields of butterflies and daisies while simultaneously informing them that they have just won a million dollars. Eating a macaron is like reading Harry Potter for the first time.

Maybe you don’t believe me, but you really can trust me. I have a well-developed sweet tooth. I thought I knew desserts. I thought I had tasted scrumptious, but on my second trip to Paris, when I stepped over the threshold into the Confectionary Lap off Luxury named Laduree (or as I like to refer to it, Heaven), my concept of delicious was redefined. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can compare with the vanilla bean macaron. I can’t think of an eating experience that can even come close.

Tragically, these decadent little pillows of flavorful ambrosia are not readily available OR simple to make. I have yet to succeed in anything close to a duplicate and I am starting to think that, in order to maintain my dream standard for sheer food perfection I might have to start flying over to Paris on a bi-weekly basis. You know, on my teaching salary.

I refuse to believe, however, that there is no other way. I have now spent several hours reading David Lebowitz, Stella Parks, and “Ms. Humble” from notsohumblepie.com and I feel (somewhat) ready to ROCK. Any specialists out there want to weigh in? I’ll let you know when I discover the secrets of the Magicaron.