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Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

Can I parallel park? Bien sur!

June 8, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the most interesting things about driving in Paris is the parking.  It is hard to find places to park on the street.  You can usually find a parking garage, (“un parking” in French) but what fun is it to pay a bunch to park?  No, the challenge was to circle the block for an open spot. It is cheaper (or free) and you get to hone your parallel parking skills.

Now, here in the good old US of A, many spots are marked out for you.  Whether you have a big car or a small one, you get the same size spot.  Not so in Paris.  If you can fit your car in the spot, you can park there (one of the reasons that Smart cars are so popular…you can park them anywhere).  So, your parallel parking skills are really put to the test.  But on the flip side,  you can be aggressive in your parking.  What?  That doesn’t make sense!   Oh yes it does.  You can totally bump into the cars in front and in back of you.  So the spot only needs to be a few inches bigger than your car in order to fit into it. 

One time I had to take a friend to pay a bill at a hospital.  I saw a spot and told him I would wait for him there.  This was going to be tight, but I managed to park in a tiny spot, on a hill no less.  While I was sitting there playing games on my lame cell phone, I felt the whole car rocking and shaking.  I looked around to see what hit me when I realized that it was just a car parking behind me.  It felt like bumper cars, but that is just how they park!

Most Friday nights, my wife and I would drive in from the suburbs to our pastor’s apartment a few blocks from Trocadero for a Bible study.  This is when the fun would begin.  We drove two different station wagons while we were in France, first an Opel Brake and then a Volvo V40.  Both of them were small by American standards, but in Paris, they felt like trying to park a Humvee!   Our plan was to circle the block (or about four of them) and find a spot to park.  Then the fun ensued!

I would determine that our car would fit into the spot, then I would begin my 15 point parking process.  Now, if you have plenty of room, you can parallel park with a three point process (which would have been nice to be able to do on my driving test, but that is a completely different story).  But when you are trying to get in a spot with much less than a foot on either side, you can’t do it in a few moves.  In order to maximize every inch, it is acceptable to touch the bumpers on the cars on either side.  This allows you to get into much smaller spaces than you could ever imagine.  It is a fun challenge!

I came back with the ability to parallel park like a pro.  But, often I lament to Jen that I really miss my bumper car parallel parking.  But I try to be good and not touch anyone’s bumper.  Look at me, not being aggressive.  (If you haven’t read my blog about driving in Paris, check it out here.)

It is possible to be too aggressive.  Here is not how you park in Paris (at the end, listen to the people who are watching yell at the guy).

Drive defensively? No way!

June 2, 2011 2 comments

When I took drivers ed in 1985, one of the big things that they teach you is to drive defensively.  Now, for a teenage boy, this goes against your very nature.  I couldn’t wait to get my license so that I could drive our Chevelle, and drive it fast.  It is a wonder that I didn’t get into serious accidents or even get a ticket, but I didn’t.  Over the years, I have had to learn to slow down and look for all the bad drivers that tend to want to cut me off or run into me.  Driving defensively is a smart way to drive…in the USA.

But, in Paris?  No way.  You let your inner NASCAR driver out and go nuts! (Which is one of the reasons that Jen didn’t want to drive in France.)  If you wanted to get anywhere, you have to learn to drive super aggressively.  Case in point, I was the first youth pastor at our church that didn’t total a car while driving in France.  I will have to be honest, I absolutely loved driving this way.  You cut people off, honk your horn (a lot!), and look for the smallest opening to fly into.

One of my favorite things that I loved to do in Paris was drive through the Etoile. Everyone knows l’Arc de Triomphe.  The roundabout that encircles it is called l’Etoile.  Here, twelve (yes 12!) roads come into one giant circle…that has NO LANES!

A bit of crazy traffic in the Etoile.

When we first moved to Paris and drove around, we would often end up places where we weren’t quite sure how to get back to the western suburbs where we lived.  But, in Paris, finding the Etoile was easy.  I could find my way home from the Etoile, so for a long time, every time we went into Paris, we would drive through the Etoile.

Now, there are two basic rules to these big roundabouts.  Use your horn as much as you can and whoever is to your right has priority.  So, the people coming into these big roundabouts can cut you off and you can’t do anything but honk.  So, I loved entering the roundabouts…fly in and they have to avoid you.  But, the tricky thing is getting out of them.  Those darn drivers coming in have the right of way, so you have to figure out a way around them.  That is where you channel your inner Frogger and try not to die.  But, if you are aggressive enough, you won’t get stuck in the roundabout for too long.

Whenever we had friends come and visit us, I would try to drive through the Etoile with them right at the start of their visit.  Once they saw that we could survive that craziness, they relaxed on the rest of their trip.  The rest of the crazy driving that they saw didn’t seem to bother them as much.  They were often amazed that 1) I would be even willing to try and drive around in it, and 2) that I loved it so much.  Plus there was the added bonus of a bigger, more confusing roundabout just down from the Etoile that we would drive through and after going through the Etoile we would get to drive down the Champs Elysees.

One of the hardest things about moving back to the US was toning down my driving.  I once again had to go back to driving defensively.  Jen had to remind me often that I couldn’t use my horn so much.  I had to learn again how to not purposefully cut people off. And I also don’t have any big huge roundabouts to have fun in.

Categories: Driving, Paris Tags: , , , ,

Meet the Princess

May 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Ah, my princess.  She was born in Paris, France while Jen and I were living there.  Now, I will admit that I am a proud Papa and maybe just a bit biased, but she is beautiful and smart (smarter than I am).  And yes, I know that when she gets older I will have to beat off the boys with a big stick.

Princess likes the things that most five year old girls like.  But she also likes cars, balls, and dragons.  On any given day, she way want to play tea party or fairies.  We had to ban her from watching Lion King because she always wants to be a lion afterwards and we couldn’t have her continually attacking her sister and brother.  I think maybe she just traded that game for playing dragons.

Princess has been in kindergarten this year and is the youngest in the class.  She amazes me at how quickly she learns.  She is reading now and can add and subtract as well.  I love my Princess and hope to tell some fun stories about her.

Our first day in France

May 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Traveling from the west coast of the US to France is no short trip.  Jen and I had to be up early for the drive to the airport.  After flying across the US and catching our second flight, we didn’t arrive in Paris until the next morning.  I am always envious of people who can sleep on a plane, but I rarely get anything more than a few fitful minutes of rest.

After being picked up at the airport and taken to our apartment in the western suburbs of Paris, we went with some of the staff from the church for lunch at a local cafe.  At this point, I am pretty tired and my goal is just to stay awake.   But a nice lunch sounds good, so we as we walk through our town I am just happy that I am going to get to eat.

After sitting down at our table, I look down at my menu.  I was fairly confident that I would find something on there that I will recognize and like to eat, even though I didn’t really know any French at this point.  It was mostly sandwiches, so I thought I could figure it out.  Boy was I wrong.  I looked over the menu multiple times to try and figure out something to eat.  But there was not one thing that I could recognize.  There wasn’t a word on there that made any sense to my tired brain.

One thing you should know about Jen is that she loves to take her time poring over a menu to decide what she is going to eat.  So, as much as I needed help, she was concentrating on figuring out what she wanted to eat.  The other people at lunch with us were in a conversation and didn’t notice my plight.  So here I am, tired and hungry, at a cafe, and I think I might starve.

Eventually I pester Jen enough for her to decide to help me out and we find something that I will eat.  As I am sitting there, I come to the realization how much I like to eat, especially at restaurants.   On the walk home, I tell Jen that the French lessons need to start soon and I want to learn every food related term that I can.  I am happy to report that in a short time I could not only figure out a menu, but I could order (in my horribly accented French) for myself.  If nothing else, I wouldn’t starve while we lived in France, which was good for me.

Categories: Paris Tags: , , , , ,

Who am I?

May 29, 2011 1 comment

PabcoHello and welcome to my blog.

Here is a little introduction to who I am, starting with my family.  I have a wonderful wife (Jen), a five year old daughter who was born in Paris (Princess), a three year old daughter (who loves to eat, go barefoot, and is cute…Hobbit), and my year and half old son (Little Man).  We currently live in Tacoma, Wash. where I am looking for a job.

A little background from me. My name is Paul and I was raised in what I refer to as God’s country, Spokane, Wash.  I went to the same small school from first grade through high school. I then went to college at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Ore.  (which then changed to Multnomah Bible College and now is Multnomah University).  After working for the school for a couple years after graduating, I started my first ministry job which only lasted for 5 months (more on that later).  I ended up in Spokane until 2000 when I moved to Olympia, Wash.  It was there that I met Jen and after getting married, we eventually moved to Paris for three years (yes, that Paris in France).  We moved to Tacoma in 2006 and have been here since.

I love my family, God, the Mariners, the Seahawks, and telling stories.  Since I worked with youth since I graduated high school, I had many opportunities to create some great stories and to share great stories.  One of the things which I hope to do through this blog is share some of my experiences and small adventures.

Paris? Really? You really want to move to France now?

May 28, 2011 Leave a comment

It is 2003.  The United States has declared war on Iraq.  France has declined to help.  French Fries?  No way…they are Freedom Fries!  Nobody seems to like the French.  So, when Jen and I tell our friends and family that we are talking with a church in Paris, they think we are crazy.

And yes…maybe we were crazy.  I had been teaching at a Christian school, but was not enjoying the experience.  Most of my students weren’t opening up to me the way that I was used to.  Maybe they were too afraid of getting into trouble with the administration if they shared what they were dealing with me.  I knew that I couldn’t stay.

Jen and I had interviewed at two different churches.  When one said no, we were really down.  It seemed like such a great church and opportunity.  When the second said no, we were relieved.   The interview that we had with them was one of the strangest experiences that I had gone through.  (read the blog here)

Jen had a job as a receptionist and had permission to surf the web during down times.  I asked her to search for any schools, seminaries or other websites that listed ministry positions.  She came across a guy’s website where he listed international youth ministry positions.  She found a position in Paris at a church that had the same name as the church we were attending.  She emailed it to me so we could laugh that there was a church in Paris with the same name as our church.

To her surprise, I said that we should send them my résumé and see what they say.  Now, you must know that my Jen has a French degree, studied in France, and absolutely loves Paris and France.  (A note to all those guys out there…score some major points with your wife and move them to their dream city.  They will love you even more!)  After some emails and calls, we ended up packing up our stuff, storing most of it in our good friends’ garage, and moving to Paris.

Our friends and family did think that we were crazy.  But, it was the best, and hardest, three years of our lives.  Interestingly enough, many of the French people we met wondered why Americans weren’t visiting Paris like they used to.  When we told them that it was because France didn’t support the war, they were confused.  They didn’t see why that would keep people away from Paris.  ”Don’t they still love Paris?”  A definite difference in how Americans and the French approach life.