How to do Paris with your tween

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When my 11-year-old daughter and I decided we would go to Paris, it was largely a reaction to our visit to India, which is not an easy place for inexperienced American travelers, one of whom was under the age of 10 at the time.

Securing our visas alone was quite the adventure and that was before we’d ever left Nashville. Getting to the Taj Mahal? Holy wow. THAT was the most difficult travel experience I imagine I’ll ever have.

So upon our return to the US after that trip (and really, I don’t mean to slag on India; we’re both very grateful to have had that experience), 9-year-old Lily asked if we could go … somewhere different than India … the next time we left the country.

Two years later, Paris it would be.
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Paris, Day 2: Bad With Maps

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Paris with my 11-year-old daughter, Lily. Our second morning, jetlagged and confused, but figuring things out.

We are back in our room after leaving at 6 am to take a tour of castles in the French countryside. We didn’t make it. We missed our bus by 5 minutes even though we left an hour and 15 minutes early.

I just couldn’t figure out the subway and got lost too many times to get there in time. So we will do castles tomorrow. Lily was great while I had my tearful meltdown. It is raining and cold, and this kind of day is better suited to museums and hot chocolate anyway, she said.

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How not to feel (too) guilty about taking Trader Joe’s on a camping trip

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The guitar case-induced injury sustained during Saturday night’s impromptu dance party appears to be in the getting-uglier-before-it-gets-better phase.

It’s about a two-inch (or inch-and-a-half… however long a guitar case snap typically is) slice across the top of my left knee, surrounded on all sides by a bruised knot.

I don’t know if this will heal before Thursday, when my calendar says I am to dress in cocktail attire and hang out with Prince Edward.

And I don’t know what I more enjoy discussing: My guitar case injury, or my date with Prince Edward.

That may be a polite embellishment (including the identification of this event as a “date”, which in fact it is a work engagement), but allow me to begin with the guitar injury.

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Timeless places wash away petty worries

A theory on places where there aren’t a lot of people:

In such places, there is less static separating the present from other points in time.

And because those places lack the clutter of development and the noise of people’s daily busyness, they aren’t as anchoring to the present, harried moment.

They are good places to disconnect and reflect, allowing us to remember we are occupying but a small moment in the history of this world. Whatever is weighing on us right that second is truly irrelevant in the grand scheme.

Here are a small handful of such escapes.

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This was not a mound of algae

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Things I saw when I walked along the beach this morning: a retired couple collecting shells, an old lady with a metal detector, two handsome men fishing, baby poop, a sand crab, and a whole bunch of seaweed-looking sea slugs.

I was walking alone with a cup of coffee while my friends slept late in our rented condo.

With my empty mug, I scooped up one of the sea slugs (once I realized they were animals…and breathing…not mounds of vegetation swept in by the tide), and carried it back to the group. We named it Marty and I texted a photo to my daughter in Tennessee, whom I miss a great deal and won’t see for several more days, and we exchanged a conversation about how gross and weird and cool it is.

This is Day Four of a lovely, overdue vacation.

Work had been incredibly busy lately, and before we left was very nearly closer to exhausting than rewarding. My weekends were verging on the same, with plans and hobbies beginning to feel like obligations instead of pleasure or relaxation.

Like so many things, a good vacation is about timing.

I was thinking as I walked past the baby poop this morning that if I just kept walking for long enough, I’d come across something interesting and not disgusting.

Say what you will about an animal with “slug” in its name, but Marty works for me.

Life happens when it’s supposed to happen. We see things when we’re looking for them. We’ve just got to hold on, keep walking.

The best way to see the Taj Mahal

You can’t go all the way to India and not visit the Taj Mahal.

That was our thinking when we planned an excursion from Bangalore in Southern India to Agra in the north.

But in ways, it is easier to get from Nashville, Tenn., to the other side of the world. (And that’s saying something.)

Our journey involved planes, trains and automobiles – plus rickshaws and camels. It featured scam artists, 100-degree heat, lost luggage, groping and leering. People (my mother) panicked. Other people (me) cried.

By the end, I had two thoughts. One: I want all my friends who think I’m a princess to see if they can handle what my family experienced. Two: I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

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My daughter and I: Where we’ve gone together

Lily and me outside a 14th c mosque in old Delhi

We measured Lily the day before we left Nashville for Bangalore.

We measured her against the living room wall at my former in-laws’ house, where we gathered for Fathers Day with my parents, my ex-husband and his parents, his brother and brother’s wife, and her father.

Our family is complicated, and our Lily is five feet tall.

During our trip to India, she bloomed. Continue reading

Shopping in India and the nature of flirting

The peacock is the national bird of India.

That makes sense. India, like the bird, is colorful and demonstrative, flamboyant and proud.

I learned this today from Farhat Jan, who sold me a lovely ceramic bowl with an inlaid peacock motif. He works at Cottage Industries Exposition in Mysore, which is a great place to buy textiles and other handicrafts.

The quality and selection are very nice, there is no pressure to buy, and Farhat and jeweler Tariq have excellent taste. They will also totally flatter and spoil a lady, bringing her as many cups of chai tea and engaging in as many odd conversations as she pleases.

During my two hours or so in his store, Farhat and I discussed everything from yoga and American running clothes to my daughter’s fascination with the Hindu god Ganesha (the “Elephant God”).

Tariq and I, meanwhile, spoke of American women’s propensity to overthink relationships.

“Do I want to be with him? Do I love him? Do I want to marry him? In India, it’s the other way around,” he said.

I found myself flirting.

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