France is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I loved it!
I just read the book, Essentialism with the theme “less but better”. That’s not quite yet my mantra, so there are two versions. Pick your poison, Long or Short or Both. Below that are more details that can’t exist only in list form.
France Top 10 – Long Version
(Bad Writer/Nonessentialist/Doomed Product Manager)
10. Books – Ben Franklin Biography, The Essentialist, Story of Philosophy, Lincoln: Team of Rivals
9. Movies – Saving Private Ryan, Amelie, Schindler’s List, ER Season 2
8. Emilie’s Cookies – Fight Club (Everything Bagel with a BLT, Cream Cheese, Ham & Cheese, Bakery Porn (pictures of female bakers molesting desserts on the walls – fully clothed though)
7. Travel – Walking Everywhere, Economy Upgrade like 1st Class, Long Train Rides, Convenience of Metro, Hotel Upgrades
6. Views – Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Pompidou, Arc de Trimphe, Sacre Coeur, Mediterranean, Nice Hotel, Catacombs, Notre Dame and Seine River at Night
5. Food – Duck, Butter, Cheese, Espresso, Pasta, Bread, Simple Ingredients, Chocolate Souffle, Man-Sized Pepper Shaker like an SNL skit, Berthillion Ice Cream
4. Menton – Lemon, Paella, Hotel, Beach, Small Town-Feel, Pizza, Olive Oil
3. Culture – Slow-Paced, Connected, Quiet, Long Meals, Mindfulness, Louvre, Orsay, Monet’s Lillies, Street Performers, “Frosties” – I can explain in person, Music Everywhere, Monaco Monk Imposter/Founder
2. Parasailing – View, No Fear of Heights, Exhilarating Take-off, Flying, Dropping like a Superhero
1. Bria – Planner, Walking Partner, Food Connoisseur, Adventurer, Conversationalist
Honorable Mention – free tea at hotels, Sebastien the Host at the pink restaurant, Mediterranean only not better than the Jersey shore with no sand on the beach, Cow Gods at the Pompidou, dogs everywhere, grumpy cat on the Nice train, people watching, Capoeira street performer jumping over fire, finding 99% dark chocolate, tea stores like drug stores, the chicken restaurant…
France Top 10 – Short Version
(Better Writer/Essentialist/Perfectly Imperfect Product Manager)
10. Ben Franklin Biography
9. Saving Private Ryan
8. Emilie’s Cookies Fight Club (Sandwich)
7. Walking in Paris
5. Pizza, Olive Oil, Duck, Paella, Chocolate Souffle, Espresso (Anyone who knows how much I eat understands that I’m a horrendous Food Product Manager, but this could have been one meal in France…seriously…ask Bria.)
4. Menton Lemons
3. Connected, Slow-Paced Culture
1. Bria the Conversationalist
My Awesome Wife
Bria is awesome! She booked a fantastic trip. I’m a self-confessed goal collector, meaning that I’ll schedule 10 things to do each day and 5 places in 10 days to check-off all the things I want to do. My wife knows this. I was outlawed from planning anything in advance, which was a smart move by her. She planned 4 days in Paris, 3 days in Menton, 3 days in Nice, and 1 final day in Paris. Perfect planning. Paris was a whirlwind of walking, culture, food and activity for 4 days. We needed a break. Menton, a small relaxing town on the Riviera, was it. We picked up the pace in Nice for 3 days with a mix of beach and more activity. We finished what we started in Paris.
Plus my wife is allergic to mold, which we found out years ago after many more year of trials and tribulations, when I finally cooked her an omelette with moldy mushrooms. Her health maladies now known, I can forever bask in the glory and praise from cooking a moldy omelette and ending the search for her mysterious disease. The rewards for that discovery paid back doubly when we entered our original hotel room five blocks off the beach in Nice. Despite the hotel’s sold-out status, it was only cursorily cleaned leaving the dirt and grime Robert Irvine wipes off the table at every other table on Restaurant Impossible. I’m blind to such microbes, but my wife’s spider-senses detected them immediately before we sat down. She booked another hotel for the same price on the beach. I talked the grimy hotel manager out of charging us for their moldy room due to Bria’s affliction and off we went. Our new hotel upgraded us from the city-view, bargain basement-priced room to a beach view on the top floor for the same price. Did I mention we won the plane tickets for this trip in a $20 raffle? Winning!
What I enjoyed most was having lots of time to talk with Bria. The adventure was better with a “partner-in-crime”.
Parasailing is ubiquitous on the Mediterranean in Nice. We had to do it. Didn’t we? We did until I read about the dangers of parasailing right before we put on our bathing suits. My wife thought I’d be deterred by my fear of heights, particularly after our 5th story hotel view kept sending me into mild vertigo. Nope! My fear of crashing into a pier is much stronger. We made the trip out to the beach and when I saw that there was no pier, I felt relief. Instead, I focused on the rope. Are the strands fraying? Are the knots tight? Are we about to die? Nope! Death did not fist-bump our hand on this day. Instead, you feel borderline weightlessness, a brief taste of the Mediterranean touching down three times in the ocean by a skilled French boatman, and a sense of ecstasy and relief at the final view dropping straight down in front of the beach from above our hotel.
I loved the culture. There’s so much I don’t understand, but I manically enjoyed the slow, deliberate pace of walking, eating, and conversing in a connected way all-the-time. Food, people, life is much more enjoyable this way. I’m keeping this way of life for as long as I can. More dinners at the dinner table. More lunches with nothing, but eating and maybe, just maybe a book. More reading before breakfast.
You don’t know it. I didn’t know it. Luckily, my wife found it. Menton. What a place. It offers neither the culture of Paris nor the flash of Nice. It’s an old-world town with simple pleasures…an affordable beach, local shops, magnificent food. The hotel greets you with fresh-squeezed lemonade upon arrival, the perfect start from “the lemon capital of the world”. On the beach for lunch, you discover that there’s another part to a scallop that us non-seabound Americans don’t experience. Fresh scallops have twice the protein! Menton sits on the border of Italy and only joined France when a tax was imposed on lemon exports (“Sacrilege!”). The people made the bandwagon play for France over Italy during another Napoleon’s expansion period. And so, you get the best of Italy too with pizza that puts Pica’s to shame and olive oil that’s off the charts.
Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la Mort – “Stop! Here lies the Empire of Death” (Sounds like fun…why not proceed?)
The Catacombs are a spiritual experience as the thousands of skulls and bones stacked head-height remind you that you too will soon be just a pile of calcium decay. You walk for an hour underground and this is only 1/800 of the underground tunnels in France. They like their tunnels, apparently much more than the tall buildings they can’t build because of all the tunnels. Like a fighting brain-surgeon I inspected the skulls to see that “Yes. The forehead bone is much thicker than the rest of the skull proving that it’s better to lead with your forehead when fighting than any other part of your head, but not without your hands. Always keep your hands up! Especially, when fighting skeleton-zombies in one-way underground tunnels in Paris. Run!”
I like espressos, but not coffee. That is all.
Long Train Rides
Can we get better public transportation in the US? Please! We watched Saving Private Ryan with the backdrop of the fields of scenery from the movie passing us in the distance. I finished the bulk of a Ben Franklin biography, started one on Abraham Lincoln, and read Essentialism mostly on the train. This beats driving or flying. Also, they had a chocolate mousse for lunch with four ingredients: chocolate, cream, eggs, sugar. Where can you find food with so few ingredients on public transportation or anywhere else in the US?
Besides simple food and better public transport, one more trait we can use in the US is more Ben Franklin-style compromise. He was in France for the duration of my trip…at least I was reading the France portion of his biography most of the time we were there. When he finally returned at the Philadelphia Convention he said, “Declarations of a fixed opinion, and of determined resolution never to change it, neither enlighten nor convince us. Positiveness and warmth on one side, naturally beget their like on the other.” When that didn’t work in forming the Constitution with no combined House and Senate yet designed to balance the power between small and large states and ferocious debate continuing, Franklin went with, “When a broad table is to be made, and the edges of the plank do not fit, the artist takes a little from both, and makes a good joint. In like manner here, both sides must part with some of their demands.” Jackpot! Constitution formed. States power balanced. World superpower birthed.
Can we compromise a little on climate change, healthcare, guns, taxes?
This is not a movie…it’s a sandwich…the most glorious breakfast sandwich ever created. And it’s made by pornographer bakers. Okay, they’re not really pornographers, but there are borderline-lewd images of women thoroughly enjoying baked treats, while generally fully clothed (except for the one with the bagel-bra) on the walls of Emilie’s Cookies in Nice. These ladies don’t just make cookies. How can you make a BLT better? The ‘Fight Club’ is a BLT on an everything bagel with cream cheese on top plus ham & cheese on the bottom. Family, this is coming to a breakfast near you…soon. Parfait!
I must apologize for the length of this blog. If I had more time, I would make it shorter.