Parlez-vous français? Non…

I have four days to cram as much French vocabulary into my brain as possible. I’m headed to France Sunday morning for one of the most seminal adventures of my 20s. It’s the wannabe backpacking trip that I should have taken back in college. But, I have no regrets. I’m going now as a mature, young woman—with a disposable income.

Cali-girl took French in college so A-M and I be relying on her to help us interact with the locals—especially in the Loire, where I’ve heard there are few people who are fluent in English. I’ve been listening to my handy Berlitz playaway audiobook (super-impressed that the technology has moved us beyond language tapes) during the slowperiods at work and at home before bed. It has helped me learn a few of the basic phrases I’ll need to know to get by. But still, there is so much to learn and understand.

I always dreamed that I would raise my children in a multi-lingual home where Spanish, French, and English were spoken. I’ve basically failed at become fluent in Spanish despite the classes I’ve taken and the resource I had for 8 years (Floyd). So maybe I should give French a try?

As of today, I’m adding that to my bucket list, right next to becoming fluent in Spanish. It really is a beautiful and useful language, and I think the best way for me to learn the language is through as many visits to France as possible.


Holiday in France

I am becoming increasingly excited that I will be in France in a mere two weeks! I spent the weekend making purchases for my trip. The key and most expensive purchases were a digital camera (welcome to the 21st century, Hippo!), and a pair of cute walking shoes.

I am most proud that I have culled my packing list to the essentials. And I am determined to not panic the night before my departure and end up bringing every item in my closet. I have items that I can mix-and-match and easily hand wash and dry. If all else fails, I will go shopping. I am hoping to acquire a few new items anyway.

Speaking of budgets, I haven’t really figured out a budget for my trip. That is a little dangerous, but I think my frugal nature will ensure that I don’t go overboard. And thankfully, I have a “rainy-day fund” that was originally created for international travel, though it is now my mid-term savings account. I don’t anticipate spending a lot of cash on souvenirs and at touristy sites. I mainly want to spend my cash on food—mostly bread and fruit—specifically fruit tarts and other fruit pastries. Dear me, I have given myself the green light to gain 10 pounds in the pursuit of the perfect fruit tart. The last time I was in Paris, I went a little crazy every morning and evening at the pastry shop near our hotel. I can recall buying 3 tarts during one trip. My mother asked, “Hippo, do you really need all three? You just ate dinner and it is late.” I ate everything that night before bed.

We decided to spend most of our time in Paris, with a short trip to Blois and then Tours to see a few chateaux and experience life outside of the “big city”. According to the travel guides, the Loire Valley is perfectly situated for bike rides so we anticipate renting bikes to ride to the chateaux, with beautiful baguettes and bottles of wine sticking out of the bike baskets. My friends love wine so I’m sure a wine tour will be a possibility while in the Loire as well.

As for Paris, while my friends are visiting the spots I don’t care to visit (the top of the Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Louvre, and Musee d’Orsay), I am determined to check out a few spots that I missed on my last visit. Namely, Montmartre, Musee de Rodin, and lots of lazy hours picnicking and reading in the Jardin des Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg, and Champs du Mars. I also want to check out the faux beach and the evening dancing along the Seine.

I am hoping that we are able to have a quick meal with Organica on our first day. She’ll be leaving Paris (after spending a month in France—so jealous!) on the same day that we arrive. I also plan on spending the first day with my college roommate who offered to take a short holiday to Paris so that we can see each other.

Over the weekend, I watched The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, and borrowed two French novels to read during my trip, The Count of Monte Cristo and Madame Bovary. Les Miserable would have been a great addition but it is too large to lug around in my bag. Maybe next time?

All that is left now is to learn more French phrases, review my packing list, and step-up my visits to the gym in preparation for the culinary adventure (of butter, chocolate, wine, and cheese) that awaits me in France.


Slow Dancing

I guess I should give you a detailed update on my two dates/meetings this week. But instead I want to talk about the lost art form that is slow dancing to beautiful ballads.

Maybe I keep my radio on top 40 too much but I’m really missing ballads these days. In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard a really good love song since I was a child. In those days, my mother kept a constant loop of Luther Vandross songs and my father was all about Phyllis Hyman. And of course, my father always played from his record collection Saturday mornings. I can recall many mornings of eating grits and bacon to background music provided by The Dells, The Platters, or Nancy Wilson.

I’d imagine that there are still good, new love songs out there, and that they just don't infiltrate all the club and dance songs that dominate the stations I listen to. That’s why you’ll see me tuning my radio to the Quiet Storm when I’m doing dishes in the evening—just like my mom and dad did when I was a kid. And oddly, the same songs that dominated the mix back then are still played. Which makes me think that there really isn’t much new out there.

And that brings me to the fact that I’ve been very interested in slow dancing. Whenever I listen to Sinatra or Ella, I imagine myself wearing a pretty dress and heels and gently swaying to the music, my eyes locked with those of a cute guy. That is a far cry from the bumping and grinding that goes on at all the bars and clubs in DC. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy booty shaking as much as any other 20-something girl. But now that I’m older, I long for the formality and the greater connection one can get through slow dancing. I think the last time I slow danced (with a person and not my stuffed hippo…) was with Floyd. We danced to Selena. It was very romantic. And I would take that over any other night of gyrating to Outkast, Ludacris, or anything else we danced to in those days.

A-M tells me that I need to get connected with the DC Hand Dancing clubs, and perhaps, the classes at Glen Echo.

I know that this all makes me sound like a crazy old lady. I’m only recently realizing how old fashioned and traditional I really am. Maybe it comes with age or maybe it's that this is my “authentic self.” Regardless, I am in search of some modern ballads for some wholesome slowdancing. I guess I should work on securing a dance partner first. As I know from experience, there is always a shortage of males at dancing classes.

On that note, I bombed my meeting with J. I went into it seeing it as an informational interview/networking opportunity—that was my cover and what I told myself so that I wouldn't get nervous and act weird. Unfortunately, I never directed our meeting into more social territory, and our hour-long chat barely left the realm of the professional. And I left with a new professional contact and not a date. But I'm still somewhat hopeful. My date today with O from Okcupid went okay, but I sense that I merely made a new friend. He is really nice but we'll see how things go on the next date, assuming he calls.

Thankfully, I am not discouraged (just frustrated). I look forward to going on more dates in the hopes that I'll someday, finally get it right and hit the jackpot.



I have two “meetings” lined up for this week. Yes, I called it a meeting not a date. Well, one is a date while the other is sort of a mini-date veiled as a professional/networking meeting. On Saturday, I’m meeting a guy I met on OKCupid, O, and on Thursday, I’m meeting a guy that I met at a party two weeks ago, J.

I don’t know how I managed it but I somehow got the courage to email J today. I really like him. He is smart and funny, and he seems to be interested in the same progressive politics as me. He works on the Hill, and though he is shorter than I’d like, I found myself drawn to him that night. And I don’t think it was just the alcohol. At least I hope not. I ran into him over the weekend, and I was nothing but awkward. Thankfully, I was convinced to take the initiative and drop him a line. He emailed me back and now we are set for coffee on Thursday so that I can “learn more about his job.” I just want to find out if we can click over coffee as we did over martinis.

In the case of O, I’m letting him take the lead. He brought up meeting in-person last week and we finally agreed to a time and place for a face to face. We’ve had a number of long email exchanges during the past few weeks on topics like our careers, families, childhood, and dreams for the future. Who knows if we will get along in-person. I hope we do but chemistry can be a funny thing. And that is why I insisted that we not go to a restaurant like he suggested. It is so much easier to slip out quickly after ordering coffee than if you ordered an appetizer and entrée.

It shows you how traditional I am that I was very resistant to emailing J at first. I feel very strongly, like Patty, that a man should lead in the pursuit. That’s why I only emailed O after he contacted me with something more than a random line about my appearance. And that is why I waited for O to suggest that we meet in person. But in the case of J, I was so much an awkward wallflower during our last meeting that I felt the need to contact him. I knew that I didn’t give clear signals and that he wasn’t the type to take a chance and contact me anyway. My hope is that now he realizes that I am interested and that the ball is in his court. It seems like a silly cat and mouse game, and I’ve only just begun to try and understand it.

I am looking forward to both of my meetings with girlish glee. I feel exhilarated and powerfully female. Both meetings are exactly what I need to give me a much-needed ego boost when it comes to guys.

On a similar note, I had dinner with my ex tonight. It was awkward at times but enjoyable. I’m very glad that we are trying to transition from lovers/bffs to just friends. Despite all that has passed, he remains someone that I admire, love, and respect as a friend and as my past love. He is no longer my future. And that is okay.