Monday, June 29, 2015

Once in a lifetime moments

Where was I? Oh yes, Giverny and the French Open. Please forgive the interruption.

After leaving Mont Saint-Michel, we headed back through the French countryside towards Paris. We returned our rental car and found our hotel. By the time we made it to the hotel, though, it was dark and late. Dinner was calling, but it was too late to sit down. So we perused the streets surrounding our hotel until we came to a New York-style pizzeria that sold NY pizza by the slice. NY pizza in Paris? I know. It sounds somewhat, sacrilegious, right? But hey, when you're hungry and tired, just about anything will do. We decided to forgo the traditional French food we were looking for and scarfed down a slice and a soda...and can I just say fill your own soda and get as many refills as you want?! Were we still in Europe? And truthfully, the pizza was good...really good. I don't think it was just because we were famished...

The next day the Coles and I went our separate ways as they went to do the "Paris thing" while I hopped on a train bound for the small town of Giverny, best known as "the town where Claude Money painted". As I've said before, I had a list of "must-dos and must-sees" while I was living in Europe. Visiting the place where Monet created so many of his masterpieces was ranked incredibly high on that list. As such, I was like a kid anticipating their first visit to Disneyland I was so excited. I managed to get myself on the right train, then the right bus, and finally, found myself just outside of the entrance to Monet's property. Deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths. I'd purchased my ticket before I left Rome and I was so thankful that I did because there was a quite a line. I'd anticipated the crowds and tried to get to Giverny early and I'm so thankful I did. When you enter the property you do so through the gift shop (of course you do....insert eye roll here), but then you walk through a door that leads outside and you find yourself surrounded by an explosion of color and the aroma of a ridiculous amount of flowers: brilliant pink tulips, bright yellow irises, Christmas roses, crocuses. Your senses are overwhelmed as you try to take in the vast array of floral life while your imagination is overrun by the visions of Monet sitting before his easel, palette in one hand, brush in the other as he meticulously and perfectly brings his garden to life on canvas. Really, there are no words to adequately describe the garden.
And that's not all. Just there, in front of you and to the right stands Monet's house. Seen so often in many of his paintings, his house looms before you and you can see in your minds eye his family coming through the doors. You can wander through its rooms, decorated as they may have been while Monet lived there. As you make your way through the rooms,  you catch glimpses and new angles of the garden outside as light filters in and changes the way you see the garden depending on where you're standing. It's truly sensory overload. From the house, you wander along the gravel paths until...just go through a small tunnel, climb a small set of stairs, and there you are...standing alongside a pond covered in lily pads, water lilies, while the branches of weeping willows seem to cascade towards the water. You continue to make your way along the gravel path until, oh my. There it is. The famous green color peeks out at you and as you continue to walk closer you see it...the famous green Japanese bridge covered with wisteria. So iconic and so beautiful.  I could have spent hours just sitting on a bench along the pond and stared. Oh wait. That's exactly what I did...

It would seem that my time at Giverny was one of the highlights of my trip to Paris and while it was, it was only one of those once in a lifetime moments. The second came the next day when I went to Roland Garros for the....FRENCH OPEN!!
Another one of my goals while in Europe was to attend at least one of the major tennis tournaments, Wimbledon or the French Open. And since I was an idiot and didn't go to Wimbledon the year before, the French Open it was! And besides that, I'd already toured the grounds of Wimbledon and rented a court where they play the Australian Open, so naturally I had to go to Roland Garros. It just so happened that the weekend I was going to be in Paris was the first weekend of play in the French about timing! So, I purchased my one day grounds pass and made my way out to the tournament location. 
Getting off of the metro, I followed the yellow tennis ball stickers on the ground to my entrance. The atmosphere approaching Roland Garros was electric. There was a sense of anticipation as play was just beginning all over the grounds. My ticket allowed me to watch any match on any court, except for Centre court and Courts 1 and 2. I was more than ok with that...I just wanted to watch some clay court action. I didn't much care who I saw play to be honest. So, I found some matches that sounded interesting and camped out. It was so much fun!!! I love watching tennis on clay...the game is so much more interesting as the clay changes the way the ball is played. In between the matches that I wanted to watch, I wandered and watched the people. Such a vast array of people! There were those who you know knew how to play and those who didn't, but just wanted to watch the world's best. There were those who wanted to see good tennis and those who just wanted to be seen. Then, there was the entertainment.... It was great fun watching this band play while the crowd around them danced or listened. Such a great atmosphere. Though, I did become distracted because I noticed crowds gathering at courts where there weren't any matches scheduled...hmm...what's this? And as I'm constantly curious, I followed to check it out and found...

Yeah, no big deal. It's just Serena Williams warming up. I've seen Serena play in Rome, but I was closer this time and holy cow. I've said it before and I'll say it again..that woman is built! I've never seen a woman built so powerfully before. It's staggering. And seeing her hit...I doubt I could keep  my racket in my hand if I even managed to get a piece of the ball..that's how hard she hit it. After Serena finished up, I found myself wandering once more...and yet again, I came across a group gathering at a court that wasn't supposed to be in use. experience tells me that someone is practicing. I managed to make my way through the crowd and came to the top of the stairs, went up on my tip toes, and almost fell over. There he was. Novak Djokovic. The number one player in the world. I found myself gasping for breath once more. I've seen Roger Federer play, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, but I'd yet to see Djokovic or Nadal. And while I want to see Nadal...Djokovic is the biggest thing in men's tennis right now, so to see him in blown. He was wrapping up his practice session and with that, I noticed a crowd gathering at the bottom of the stairs near the entrance to the court. Was it possible that these people were waiting to see "Djoker" leave the court? Ummm...duh, yes. Let's join them and see what happens, I thought. There I stood for a good 10 minutes and just when I was about to give up, the crowd surged forward and I realized that Djokovic was indeed coming towards me. I fumbled through my purse looking for a pen and something for him to write on. The only thing I could find was the program, so I pulled it out of my purse and as I looked up...there he was right in front of me. I thrust the pen and program out and he took it! Novak Djokovic took my pen and program and SIGNED it. BEST.MOMENT.of the DAY!
Even now I have to pinch myself because it doesn't seem real. My time in Paris that last time was incredible and in some ways, life altering. The things that I saw and the things that I did left an indelible mark on my heart and my life. I've been told that the things that I have done in my life are things that most people only dream of. I know this. I do and I am so grateful for everything that I was able to experience. Ugh...I already miss it so much. And so I'll just have to revisit those places and experiences through pictures and posts like this. 
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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Better late than never

Hello once again blogosphere!

I've been back in the good ol' U.S. of A. for a month now. A month without un cafe latte freddo. A month without gelato. A month without spaghetti all'amatriciana. A month without speaking la bella lingua. Or we could look at it this way, a month without ambulance sirens every ten seconds. A month without dirty looks from cashiers because you don't have the correct change. A month without...well, fill in the blank. So, yes a month. And with that month has come time to reflect. What have I learned? Well, I need to update my blog! I was recently prompted to update my blog and get on with the rest of my posts...I'm talking about you CAR, thanks for the encouragement. ;)

So, all that to say...stay tuned. I'm gonna see this thing through; I promise. There's so much to catch up on, but I will do it. Look out for Paris, Ireland, Istanbul, Germany, and Scotland. Look for more Rome adventures and my reflections on leaving the city that is so imbedded in my heart that even now there's a dull ache.

Quando sono partita da Roma, non ho potuto dire arrivederci, invece ho detto: a la prossima. Ci vediamo a ho lasciato un parte del mio cuore.  E tornerĂ² nel futuro per recuperarlo.

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