Posts tagged ‘travel’

Some other beginning’s end

After a two-and-a-half hour march across Paris from the Latin Quarter to Pont de Grenelle, just south of the Eiffel Tower, I was absolutely exhausted. It was our last night in Paris, and DH wanted to see the replica of the Statue of Liberty that stands on the tip of a small island in the Seine. But after six days of walking around the City of Lights, my back and feet were relieved to plop down on a rail by the quay as he took some nice dusky pictures of the stature.

I idly pulled my smartphone out of my purse; we weren’t paying for cell or data coverage here, so I was relying on wireless internet during our trip to connect with the world back home. Our apartment rental came with free access to a city-wide wifi network, but it was a long shot that there would be a wifi hotspot here. However, I was in luck. I connected and proceeded to download something like twenty emails, mostly junk mail and advertisements. However, one message caught my eye.

It was an email automatically generated from the same automated online system I had used nearly two months before to apply to one of the jobs for which I had interviewed in August. Evidently it was news of some kind about my application. I opened it and quickly scrolled through; after many uninformative and irrelevant words I saw the ones that mattered: “You were not selected for this position.”

Halfway through our European trip was not the time to fret about life-altering decisions and revelations. After a few minutes of absorbing the news, I stood up, dusted myself off, and walked to the nearest metro stop. I thought about jobs I might apply for when we got home; we pondered the possibility of living on one income for the foreseeable future. We settled the matter in our minds and proceeded to enjoy the second half of our European trip.

One week later, after 11 hours on a trans-Atlantic flight from Rome to Charlotte, NC, I eagerly turned my phone on to access domestic cellular and data for the first time since we left. I knew my parents would want to know we were back in the states, especially since they were picking us up at the airport when we made it back to Denver. However, what download to my phone was not a voice mail from a friend or family member, but one from the very same job that, one week earlier, I was told I did not get.

All I can figure is that there was some strange goof in the automated system. The voice mail, from that very same morning while I was in the air over the Atlantic, was from a real, honest-to-goodness human being offering me the job. So, with American soil under our feet for a mere two minutes, all of our resolutions and Plan B’s were completely erased and all of a sudden I was faced with a monumental life decision.

It was too late to respond that day, which was just fine. I still had customs and immigration, another flight, and the drive home to process what was even going on. When I called back the next morning–exhausted, jet-lagged, fighting a cold–she reiterated what she stated in the voice mail and gave me until the end of the following day to make my decision.

It may seem like a short turn-around, but in reality there wasn’t that much more to think about. All the time I was applying for the job, talking to them over the phone, going there in person to interview, I was formulating the answer to the question “what if.” All the time I was waiting for their decision I was determining what I would say if they offered. I knew what my answer was going to be. I didn’t need the time to decide, only to find the courage to accept the truth of my decision in my heart.

I know it sounds ridiculous that I could know I made the right choice, know that I had peace about the choice, yet still sob into DH’s shoulder for a long time after I returned her call to let her know my decision. I knew it was the right choice, but the repercussions of it were so significant. I knew I was grieving for what I’d be leaving behind; I was terrified for the new that was to come; I was unsure of all we’d now have to do to get there.

But I knew that I was taking the job and that we were moving to Washington, DC.

After the end of the fiber, a journey I started eight years ago was now complete and another beginning.


Closing time…every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.


There and back again

Long time no blog. Sorry for the lack of posting in the last few weeks, but I do have a good excuse. I’m sure you won’t fault me for it.

In order to celebrate my completion of graduate school and achievement of my PhD, DH volunteered to take me on a very nice trip. We spent a lot of time figuring out where we wanted to go and when we would be able to go there. There has been a lot going on with finishing up my work and interviewing for jobs and this and that; however, we decided that if we waited for “just the right time” to go somewhere, we’d never end up going, because there just is never the perfect time. So we decided to go ahead and just book a trip and let the rest of everything going on happen around it.

There are many attractive and interesting destinations around the world, and we considered many different possibilities. However, in the end I decided that if I got to go anywhere, I wanted to go to Paris. I took so many years of French in high school and college and even excelled at it, and, though I’m quite rusty now, I’ve always had a desire to go to France and experience the culture about which I had learned for so long. Plus, traveling to an international destination was one of the biggest items on our 101-in-1001 lists, and we got to check that off!

Since we were planning to get the most out of this opportunity to cross the pond, we decided to take two entire weeks to travel over there. While I could happily spend two weeks in Paris, we decided to actually see some other sights while we were over there. We ultimately decided on a multi-city itinerary, connecting the cities by train.

We started off with six nights in Paris, where we rented an apartment just south of Gare du Nord and Montmartre. We purchased a Paris Museum Pass for six days. I very highly recommend this pass, which gives you entry into most of Paris’ main attractions (Eiffel Tower being the main exception) for two, four, or six consecutive days. You skip the ticket line just about everywhere and go directly in, saving significant time (though you will often have to stand in a security line regardless; can’t bypass that!). It also gave us entrance to a few sights we wouldn’t have thought to do before, plus, to be perfectly honest, we used it a couple of times for entrance to museums so we could use the facilities. However, these were at least educational and edifying potty breaks. 😉 I also highly recommend a good travel guide; I used the one by Rick Steves for both Paris and Rome and found it to be invaluable for suggestions on beating crowds, saving Euros, and walking about town.

With six days, we did pretty much everything we wanted to do in the city with a little time to be relaxed about it. However, that doesn’t mean we didn’t walk probably ten or fifteen miles every single day! My feet and back were complaining a bit, but we saw a lot of the town on foot. We did make strategic use of the Metro and suburban train system, too. Paris is really great about that. We covered all the big sites: the Louvre, Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame (including climbing the towers), Arc de Triomphe, a walking tour of Montmartre, the Orsay Museum, and more. We also discovered a number of smaller gems thanks to the Museum Pass and the travel guide.

Paris was probably my favorite destination, though I certainly enjoyed our other stops, too. I certainly hope to go back again one day! I’d also love to explore more of France outside the city.

My favorite view of Notre Dame….I like big buttresses and I cannot lie.

Eiffel Tower by night…and I did go all the way to the top!

One of the many ornate bridges across the Seine.

After our stint in Paris, we caught a train to Zurich. We overnighted there before a train through the Alps over Gotthard Pass into northern Italy, but we enjoyed our time walking around the old town and feeding swans and ducks by the lake. We also purchased lots of chocolate, though we were a bit disappointed to not find any actual chocolatiers in town. We had really wanted to do fondue while we were there, but despite lots of research and investigation, we just couldn’t come up with a plan to work for our one evening there. Plus, it’s not really fondue season just yet.

Old town Zurich on the Limmat River.


Our scenic train trip through the Alps was an intentional destination in our itinerary, and it was really awesome to see, even if just through a train window. That unfortunately didn’t make for very nice pictures to show you.

After a train switch in Milan, we headed to Venice for two days. Venice is such an interesting city; while there are some interesting sights there, like the Doge’s Palace and San Marco’s Basilica, Venice itself is the most interesting sight. Our experience there was particularly “interesting” because of our lodging. The landlady at the bed and breakfast didn’t speak any English (her husband did, but he was evidently out of town), and for some reason this destination was fraught with a handful of small hiccups. However, after much gesturing and nodding, everything turned out just fine; we had a nice place to stay, and made it to our final destination without further incident.

A typical canal in Venice.

After that, we topped off our trip with four days in Rome. We rented a nice apartment literally steps from the Vatican Wall and museum entrance. In the Eternal City, we invested in a Roma Pass, which gave us two free entrances to sights, but we found it to be worth it particularly for the metro and bus pass. By this point we were exhausted from walking across three countries (four if you count the Vatican), and we used every opportunity to ride the metro there. I can’t count how many times we transferred at Termini station. But otherwise, Rome was very walkable, maybe even moreso than Paris.

The Colosseum

Rome is such an old and interesting city. We saw ancient sights and “modern” Baroque buildings literally side-by-side. We also were very excited to have the unique opportunity to see the Vatican Museum on Friday evening. They open late on Fridays a few months out of the year, so we reserved our spot ahead of time and completely beat the enormous lines that we saw every single day there. We also went to St. Peter’s Basilica and climbed to the top of the dome, which was a bit claustrophobic and nerve-wracking but worth the effort. And the church itself is just enormous beyond description.

View from the very top of the cupola of St. Peter’s.

Admiring the dome of the Pantheon

We flew home from Rome after 14 days of traveling. All in all, it seemed like a pretty good division of time between cities, though we’d like to actually see more of Switzerland another time. We also enjoyed the experience of train travel, though arranging four separate tickets did get a bit tricky on the front end. But the time I invested in carefully planning our itinerary, travel, and lodging seemed to pay off with few, minor hiccups along the way.

We got back on Tuesday night, and we were absolutely exhausted! We pretty much walked everywhere, with modest support from metro and buses. DH came home a little sick, and I’m still a little tired and having a hard time not waking up too early. But it was still a lot of fun. My parents came to house sit and watch the dog for us, which was great. They enjoyed a mini-vacation away from home, and we didn’t have to worry about our pup getting lonely or in trouble. I think it worked out well for everyone.

So now we’d just trying to get back to normal, though “normal” is not a word that is really describing our life at the moment. If our two-week trip to Europe was big, then what happened when we got back was totally epic. I’ll have to tell you all about that next time.

P.S. A special thanks to my followers who are travel bloggers and francophiles whose adventures inspired me on my trip! Bon voyage!

I can almost taste it

One thing that helps keep me going is thinking of all the fantastic things I will get to do once all of this is over! I will technically still be working after I defend (my appointment ends in June, I believe), but I don’t intend to do anything too complicated because I definitely need a break! It’s so close now, I can almost taste it all…I am so ready.

First of all, I’m finally going to start cooking again. I do still cook as much as I can, but I’m relying heavily on simple, quick-fix meals in my repertoire that I don’t have to think too much about, or ones that DH knows how to cook, as he does a lot of the meal prep for dinner most days. Unfortunately, most of these meals get repetitive and don’t feature as many veggies as I’d prefer to prepare for us. It takes quite a bit of time to be creative and find new recipes that incorporate a variety of foods to keep things exciting. Once you get them down, they become part of the repertoire, but it’s a slow process for me. Plus, with spring and summer coming, new foods and cooking methods abound! Out with the endless soups and casseroles, in with grilled veggies and fresh fruit. Yum, yum!

Related to food, I also plan to tend a veggie garden again this year. The weather is unseasonably nice for March (usually our snowiest month), and while I don’t want to rush things as there’s always a chance for snow through May, it’s already time to get the garden beds ready. Once I am done, I’ll have time to plant veggies, sow in rotation for continuing harvests through the season, and water (or plan some sort of drip system, which I’m very motivated to do this year). I already have some lettuce coming up in a planter, too! I’m super excited for gardening and plan to enjoy it when I’m done.

I also plan to exercise! I am sick of sitting at this desk in this chair for hours on end. I am not the world’s fittest person anyway, but I do try to get out and do some cardio and strength training every week. That’s gone down the tubes the last month, but I will get back into it when my time frees up. With the weather getting nice, I have grandiose plans of becoming a runner, too (I’ve tried at different times, but I always get off track and never can climb back on). Then more strength training and flexibility and stretching. I know I’m so out of shape right now that it’s going to hurt to get started again, but I’m determined!

There are also a ton of craft and home projects I want to get back into, most of which are on my 101 in 1001 list. The top priority is painting most of the trim and baseboards in the house. I’ve been putting this off for three years, ever since we repainted the walls and thought we might get new carpet and didn’t want newly-painted trim to get banged up. I was a little sloppy with the trim thinking it would get done soon…oops. I just bought the paint last weekend, so I am ready to jump on it. My second project will be making a home inventory.This involves going room to room and cataloging what you own and all its value, essentially what it would cost to replace if your whole house burned down or you got robbed. Your normal home owner’s insurance policy covers some percentage of your home value to go toward personal effects, but you typically have absolutely no idea how much it would actually cost to replace everything, especially if you’ve got nice clothes, fancy electronics, expensive instruments, professional tools and the like. We initially wanted to do this out of curiosity, but it is really practical to know in case you need to adjust your insurance coverage, and better to do it now than after your house burns down or blows away. You can’t just assume it will never happen to you.

I am also determined to finish knitting this one blanket I started over a year ago. Maybe closer to two. It’s knit in individual squares that are then seamed together at the end, and I’ve just been so slow finishing it. It’s bright and colorful and just interesting enough without being too complicated; I have no idea why I haven’t gotten into it. I have had exactly 0 % knitting motivation recently, but I intend to get the darned thing done now.

I also want to get out and about! We’d like to take a trip this summer, but we’re just playing that by ear. Even if we don’t go anywhere big, I’m still ready to get out of the house and go explore Colorado or surrounding areas.

Since I still don’t have a plan (i.e. job) after I finish, I really don’t know how the whole summer is going to play out. Are we going to have to move and sell the house? Will we stay here a few more months, or few more years? So I do have to keep that on the radar. However, I think most of my plans I can do regardless of other circumstances. I’m just so darned ready to get some semblance of a real life back. I’d say it can’t come fast enough, but I still have a lot to do in the meantime!!