Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Proper Pint

Au revoir Paris, Cheerio London! Maybe it’s a new place, maybe its home sickness- we already like London more than we thought. My dear friend Tomsey once said, “London is a lot like this place.” He was referring to our neck of the woods- and he was right. First of all, they speak ENGLISH- a much prettier form- but understandable. Second, it’s RAINING. Yes, I’m a little happy to see rain. Third, PUBS & BEER. And when I say beer, I mean a REAL beer. In France, they would give you little 25 cl glasses full of warm, gross beer. If you are unaware what size that is, IT’S SMALL. (By the way, yes we did have good wine in France, but it was so hot and sometimes, you just want a cold beer- am I right or am I right?)

Dave, this one’s for you..

Tonight we found a little pub on the corner, complete with Irish bartender- accent and all. The boys loved it. It was probably the first time we had a real meal this whole trip- and half the price. That’s actually not saying much because our money here is worth even less than in France. But this is what we mean: When in Normandy, on the coast, Shawn ordered fish and chips. You may or may not know that Shawn always gets fish and chips. He was looking forward to having some good fish and chips on the coast. Imagine the disappointment when his food arrived- two Gordon’s Fisherman fish sticks! He also ordered chicken skewers and got Dino Nuggets. Billy had a similar experience when he ordered sausage and got two Oscar Meyer wieners. Well, this time, we got the real thing. Surprising, but so far, London has been better for food than Paris- at least for us. Who would have thought it?
Yay beer!
Tea and crumpets anyone? Our flat is bigger than our houses! Thanks Aunt Joan!
View from our flat....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Renaissance- Tour de Chenauceau

In the town of Amboise, there is a big outdoor market on Sunday mornings. They have all kinds of things- food, clothes, bedding, etc. Bret tried to have an Anthony Bourdain moment by buying some local fish-which Billy says was expensive carp. He also bought ham that turned out to be chicken.

Since we are in the middle of castle country, we decided to see the castle of Chenauceau. Us kiddos rented bikes to ride and the old folks took a pricey taxi. While waiting on the street for the bike shop to re-open, we saw the only homeless person in the town! This brings us to the Quote du Jour: Jessica says to Emily, “See, even the bums here are more stylish than American bums!” And its true- he had slim fit, dark wash jeans and European tennis shoes. Even his beard was better looking than the usual. Bret described his style as “derelict” but I have a hunch he was dressing this way before Zoolander.


The bike path to Chenauceau takes us through the town of Amboise- passing by Leonardo DaVinci’s house. It was a nice day for a bike ride. However, the castle was about an hour ride each way (26 km total) and we had to have the bikes back at a certain time, so it didn’t leave much time to stop for pictures. Once again, this is a part of our trip that was just like in a movie. The French countryside is pretty. We were smiling like idiots. The downside is that when you are riding a bike really fast down a hill, bugs will hit you in the face- so just don’t open your mouth! Oh, and PS: Everyone told me to put the distance in kilometers so it would sound like we rode longer than we did. I don’t even think we knew how long it was until we figured it out later! (And neither will you hehe)

We saw the castle. It’s a lot smaller than the pictures make it look. There was also some restoration going on so the scaffolding kinda kills the ambiance. That being said, it was really neat to see a real castle in France. I kept thinking how crazy it was that people actually lived like this!

After all the biking, we were starving. For our last meal in France, we had all our goods from the market that day. This included rabbit that Shawn bought. It tastes like chicken, but Emily couldn’t eat it. Many of you know she calls Shawn “Bunny” – so because of this she couldn’t eat an actual bunny. I did think it was strange that it kept looking at me with it’s charred eyeball- almost like it was saying, “Don’t eat me you evil person! I’m just a bunny wabbit!” I should have felt worse since I had a pet bunny when I was a kid- but it would bite me and pee on me. So, I didn’t feel bad about it.

This place we rented has silly hats for people to wear for fun. The owners like the guests to send them pictures- so we had a Mad-Hatter’s dinner. I didn’t know this when we booked the place, but something tells me, they would love Le Shed!

All in all, it was a good last day in France. We are sad to leave, but will be glad to move on to a place that we understand a bit more-somewhere closer to home. It was such an ordeal to pack my stuff up again- I’m wondering how in the world are we going to get our stuff home on the plane? I guess we will cross that bridge when we get to the airport, and they tell us we can’t take anything home. We are on the Eurostar right now- and I’m thinking it’s a miracle no one has had a moment on the train like in French Kiss, “LACTOSE INTOLERANCE!” See you chaps in London!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Dark Ages

I think the time has come where the trip feels a little long. It's been nearly 2 weeks since leaving home and I think we (except Mom) are getting a bit cranky. No big deal, nothing we can't handle, just an observation. We left Honfluer reluctanly to drive back to Paris on Wendseday to return the rental cars and get on the soonest train to our next destination (Amboise) by 3:48 in the afternoon. The trains for the most part are fine except that it's so humid here right now. I've literally been sweating for the last week and a half. On top of that as you all know the Frenchys are stinky! I'm sick of getting the wiffs of B.O. everywhere we go. But its cooled off a tad here in Amboise which is a 2 hour train ride southwest of Paris. Ever seen Robin Hood or any movie with medevil times in it? That's Amboise.

Castle designed by Da Vinci himself


Da Vinci's last residence before his death in 1519
Full of huge castles and great winerys. Sitting in the heart of the Loire Valley the grapes have very strong tastes. I dont know what that means I read it in a book. Our townhouse is very charming. Three floors with kitchen and dining room so we took full advatage of it and cooked in last night Friday.

We had pasta with salad and lots of wine. It was delightful.
Today we are feeling a bit under the weather because stupid Shawn got us all sick. So we are struggling to get going. We all love your comments and miss you all. We also are avoiding talking about Phoenix for obvious reasons. I know I'm not as interesting as Jessica but too bad I'm bored. -B Mac

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Cat's Meow...

So the plan was to get up early and be on to our next destination. Instead, we took our time. We walked along Rue Cler, got breakfast, and watched the street vendors open up for the day.
Rue Cler market
Bret was a little concerned that we should be leaving early, but he didn’t know why he felt like that- maybe just a little anxious. Around 11, we went to check out and the boys went to get our car. Over a half an hour later, the boys returned- no car. Bret was so upset with himself. Apparently, they gave away our car because we didn’t show up in time. The people at the car rental company we not helpful at all, and they didn’t have any cars under $500 each- and we needed two cars. Thank goodness, we were able to find a better place closer to rent from. It was a small company owned by a nice Italian family. The two cars we got ended up being cheaper than the one we had reserved in the first place.

While Bret and Shawn were getting the cars, we were overstaying our welcome at our hotel. By this time we had been sitting in the entry for a couple hours, and the concierge named Bernard asked us to leave after lunch. Needless to say, we were even more worried the more the time passed that we would be kicked out on the streets in the hot weather. Well apparently there was a misunderstanding and once we paid for our rooms and told him about our car, he totally changed. He had us move into the beautiful courtyard (way better than the front room). We got beers and sandwiches and listened to music- they played The Girl from Ipanema in french. Billy fell asleep sitting upright, and they brought lounge chairs for us to sleep in. It was wonderful- but it was the calm before the storm..
Billy the bag-watcher. Homeless and car-less!
Around 3 or so, the boys finally returned from getting our cars. You could tell they were a little on edge, but we knew driving in Paris wasn’t going to be a scenic drive on Sunday afternoon. Bret & I, and Billy & Teri were in one car with the directions- and Shawn and Emily following us. Within 2 streets, we lost Shawn. We then proceeded to drive around Paris for 30 more minutes, getting even more lost. We drove back to the hotel to call Shawn. As we pulled back up to the hotel, the same concierge starts laughing at us and asked us if we forgot to pay the bill. We are now waiting for Shawn to return- and as you can imagine, things are a little tense in our car. We are all trying to stay calm and not totally freak out. I turned my head away just to calm down, and right then an older man walks by my window and totally farts a really loud fart. He didn’t even care, he just kept going! Let’s just say it broke the tension.

Driving out of Paris was a little hectic, especially when the GPS is telling you to go the wrong way. Nevertheless, we made it to Honfleur. It’s a port town in Normandy and it’s AWESOME. Way more than we expected- we instantly wished we had more time. Our perfect little bed and breakfast didn’t have rooms available for us for one more day, otherwise we would have stayed. Dare I say- it’s everything you think France will be plus more. Emily and I roamed the town while the others saw the D-Day beaches and the museum.
Dinner on the harbor at night
The street where we stayed.

This was our spiral staircase up to our bedroom. It is barely wide enough to get our carry-on bags thru. I can only imagine what the Livengood's trip was like in places like these with 6 people and large luggage. The woman told us we don't need alcohol if we have to walk up these stairs. There was no railing- just a rope tied to the top from the bottom to hold onto.
The courtyard at our B&B

Photo shoot on the water (By the way- carousels are all over France- what's the deal?)

Even models need to eat! You can get beer and walk around in France- it's awesome.
Boys at the D-Day beaches...had to represent P-Town!
Eating in is alot cheaper than eating out- our 23 Euro dinner for 6! (including wine)
By the way, the wine for the most part is good. Just ask the locals what they like and its usually good and cheaper. During this dinner, Teri said the Quote du Jour- Out of no where she says, " I was thinking about this cat....and this cat- it doesn't know it's in France.." Way to go Teri! She's ahead on the quotes.
Typical, but the pictures don’t do it justice, and it’s got something about it that Paris lacks. We all agree, we would love to come back here!

It's Not Personal...It's Just the Longest Blog Entry Ever!

After breakfast Monday, we checked out and tried to ship our one garment bag home. After finding out it would be 300 euros – which is like a million dollars because our money is worth NOTHING here- we left to check in at our next hotel. This one is closer to the Eiffel Tower and was very French, with a cute courtyard.

The concierge told us to take the bus to the Louvre, and told us how much it would be. Turns out he was way off. Bret, Jessica, Billy, and Teri scrambled on the bus to get the right change, but Shawn and Emily didn’t have enough and they missed the bus.

While the 4 of us were outside the Louvre waiting for the 2 others to catch up, a brother approached Billy and Bret because they were also wearing their badges. He had 2 extra tickets he accidentally bought and gave them to the guys. Just another example of how Jehovah will take care of us if we just obey him- in large things and small.

Once we got into the Louvre, we were in yet another line, and a girl from England saw Bret’s badge and asked about it. He told her he was a Jehovah’s Witness and was here for a convention. She was a bit puzzled for a moment, and then said to the woman that was with her, “Oh, hey they are the ones that came to our door.” Then she turned to us and said, “You guys know everything about the Bible, right? I’d like to know more about the Bible.” We almost thought someone was playing a joke on us. When we checked in for the convention, we were given a packet of French invitations to the convention and the “Would you like to know the Truth?” brochures. Of course the one person that is really sincere in asking us what we were doing here speaks English and all we have is French literature! Jessica gave her the brochure anyway, and showed her the back to fill out for a Bible Teach book. The girl asked how much it was, and we told her it was free. She was really impressed by that and said she would definitely send in the request.
These things happened all because we were wearing our badges- even after the convention. In such a large, foreign place we could have felt alone and unsafe. But since we saw brothers and sisters EVERYWHERE (literally), it was really nice. You see a badge and you instantly know you have something in common with that person. This time, the worldly people noticed that they were the minority- surrounded by witnesses. It makes me think what it would be like if we wore badges everywhere...

The Louvre can be done in 2 hours- you just have to not care to see anything! We didn’t have a lot of time, so we made a beeline to the Mona Lisa. Imagine being at a concert, and you are on the floor trying to get through the hot, stinky crowd. A few whiffs of B.O. and there you are up at the front of the stage. Only, instead of your favorite band, there is some little, weird lady smirking at you. You stare back for a few minutes while people are leaning on you, breathing down your neck, and then you get the heck out of there. That’s how I describe seeing the Mona Lisa.

Where's Mona?

She looks different up close...

We then went to see some things on a do-it-yourself Bible tour. If we got lost, we would just follow the convention badges. The highlight was the Moabite stone, that has Jehovah’s name on it. Very cool. This was of course where all the witnesses were- it was a little crowd and not as stinky as the Mona Lisa. The Louvre is a feat in itself. Every room is so ornate, and it goes on forever. It’s definitely a must see if you have time- just don’t go during busy season.

Witness mosh pit..

Next, we made our way to the Montmarte area to see the Sacre Couer and grab some lunch. A brother we met at the convention ran out when he saw us wandering the street. We went into the café he was at with some friends and ate. Oh and by the way- Dave, the term “ESB” and “IPA” don’t exist in Paris. The beer is watery at best. Hopefully it will be better in London.
One of the girls we met at the café is from New Zealand (she knows Leif!), but has lived in Paris for the past 6 years. She proceeded to tell us about the difference between the French and the rest of the world. This brings us to the Quote du Jour, “The French don’t care about you-they don’t care about anybody. It’s just not personal…they just don’t care. It’s quite liberating actually.” You could say this was our “Ah-ha moment” a la Oprah-style.

Sacre Couer..

The bees here are CRAZY. I have never had to swat so many bees in my life. They are everywhere and they are evil. They have been in my hair, in my face on my glasses- even in the porto-potty at the convention. One in particular wouldn’t leave me alone, and I almost had to run out of the porto-potty with my dress up around my waist and my underwear at my feet. It was the fastest bathroom break ever! I thought it was a miracle no one has been stung yet. Well, today at the café, Teri got stung. Every bee that came around after got smashed into the window behind us thanks to Bret’s shoe. Hitting things onto the glass probably added to the stupid loud tourist reputation that we have!

We walked around the area for a bit. Then we split up- Bret and I went to meet with my Aunt and Uncle at the Champs-Elysees. The others stayed longer to see more of the area, including the Moulin Rouge, then met up. Paris is expensive in general, but the Champs-Elysees is a very expensive part of town. All the designer shops and fancy restaurants are there. I was soooo thirsty, so I ordered water in the lobby while waiting for everyone. Turns out it was 7 Euros, which is like a 9 dollar bottle of water. This was just a foreshadow of the things to come…

My Aunt and Uncle live in London right now. They are letting us stay in their flat when we go, and we had to meet up and get the keys and directions. They just happened to be in Paris when we were so it worked out. We went to a cool bar for drinks- this place was really nice and also spendy. Emily ordered a half-n-half martini that came in –not a martini glass- but a beer pint glass. Turns out, all the vodka drinks that were made were accidentally made with black licorice vodka. Unless you really love licorice, they were disgusting. After, having the waiter-who spoke no English-smell the drink, he remade all the drinks. Which brings us to the new drink he made- a vodka gin and tonic. It had an interesting taste to say the least. She didn’t know the vocabulary to object in French to the drink (again), nor to dispute the 19 Euro price tag. Do the math…Ouch! With that being said, it was nice to hang out with family and it was a small price to pay for having a free place to stay in London!

Drinking our money one drink!

My aunt, uncle, and cousins....they say hi!

We wrapped up the longest day of our lives, by seeing the Arc de Triomphe. We were so tired, and poor by then that we didn’t want to pay and wait in line to walk up to the top. Nevertheless, it was cool to see and a good way to wrap up seeing Paris.

The guys at the Arc de Triumph

The Best Breakfast Yet

Monday morning it was time for one last breakfast with our brothers and sisters. We got to visit more with our bus captain Pete and his wife Deborah. They are in the circuit work in a rural part of North Carolina. One night,5 years ago, Pete was eating and his food wouldn’t go down his throat. The doctor told him he had esophageal cancer. With the painful surgery and chemo, he had a 5% chance of surviving. Those who do survive, end up dying of malnutrition because the pain of eating is too much to bear. Despite this, Pete had no doubt that he was going to be in that 5% who live. The organization gave him 2 months off to take care of his health, otherwise he would be taken out of the circuit work.

With a positive mind, and reliance on Jehovah, he was back in 2 months. His doctor said it’s a miracle that he is alive and in the good condition he is all because of his positive mindset. He says focusing on the ministry and the congregation is the reason he’s still alive and continues as a circuit overseer. He still continues to be in pain, but you would never know it. We had no idea up until now. He’s always cracking jokes (funny ones at that) and smiling. We will miss seeing him and his wife every morning.
Here's Pete doing the bus captain thing- sorry I don't have a better picture!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Last Day :(

As usual, the last day always comes before you know it. We were determined to talk to as many people as we could so we could get rid of the rest of our awesome magnets and bookmarks that no one wants. We can't hand them out back at home, because that would be weird :)

A sign from our Polish brothers and sisters

Brother Lett of the Governing Body gave a surprise special talk during lunch entitled, "More are with you than against you." He talked about how we may have the whole world against us, but we have our brothers & sisters, the faithful and discreet slave, the angels, Jesus, and Jehovah on our side. Even though it was a short talk, it was so encouraging! He traveled around to all the different groups to deliver this talk during lunch and we were the first group. It's very heartwarming to think he sacrificed his lunchtime to encourage us all.
The rest of the lunch we had planned to visit the other groups, but there were so many visiting the english that there was no way we could make it before the drama. It was the first time Bret and I got to see the whole entire drama. It was interesting to see all the differences.
Star and Esther- Here's our scene!

After the drama, there were alot of people crying outside the facility. We also got to meet the sister that was the voice of Brittany (the girl that Laura played in our drama). She just so happens to be married to Tim Blaisedell. He says hi mom and dad!

The last talk of the day, Brother Lett said, “The Faithful and Discreet Slave has started making plans for next year’s 3 day convention. But, one of these days, the next convention will be in the New System.” He went on to say, although we do not know the day or the hour, if this convention is the last one in Satan’s system, it was a fitting one.
Total attendance at this convention: 59,598
Total attendance in France: 161,560
Missionaries that came back to France: 311
Baptised at our convention in Paris: 330
Baptised in all of France: 917

We sang 2 songs, and then Brother Lett gave the prayer from which the Quote du Jour comes from: “Please, Jehovah, help us not to be losers.”

We then sang 5 more songs after the prayer. Earlier that day, they made an announcement not to do the wave or rhythmic clapping after the session because it didn’t have a place in Jehovah’s house. There was one sister walking/dancing her way down the aisles waving her hands in the air with a scarf. People were videotaping all the singing. Even though we weren’t together with the other groups, it was still moving. We just hoped we didn’t sing Life Without End at Last- because everyone would totally lose it!

After the session, people were saying their goodbyes. A brother and sister approached me and asked if I was from anywhere else besides Oregon. I told them my maiden name, and that I have family in Hawaii. They are Brother and Sister Ockert – he is a C.O. in Hawaii, and had just visited my grandma along another brother we know back there. It was nice to know she was being looked after when we can’t be there. This was especially amazing since I had just been thinking about my Grandma that day. Jehovah always knows what you need at the time you need it.

This was just one example of us meeting people ALL OVER THE WORLD that know people back home. It really is quite amazing. It has been so encouraging to us. I personally have not talked to so many circuit overseers in my life. I am usually very scared of them! I hope I don’t sound braggy- its such a great experience that you want to share it with everyone. The only thing missing was all our family and friends back home. (Awe) The French sisters were singing songs as we all were leaving. Everyone saying goodbye- very bittersweet. If you have a chance to go- GO! Even if you can just go for the actual convention. It’s not cheap, but it’s well worth it. Jehovah won’t let you down. We all agreed if there is another international, we want to be there again. No regrets.