Fox and Broom

A mom's adventures in keeping healthy, keeping her sanity, and making stuff.

Archive for the category “Travel”

Two Years Later

I am still here. Two years ago, August 25, 2016, I received the hardest news. I had breast cancer and it has spread to my bones. In a way, I was a little relieved. The pain and weakness I was experiencing was not in my imagination. On the other hand, I was furious. I am still furious.

I ended my two years with a final dose of AC chemo on Friday and I will be making some of my favorite meals before the mouth sores hit. Friday will be French bread pizzas and Saturday will be one of my favorite Indian meals, potatoes and onions on dosas.

This past year has had its ups and downs, as every year should. I was so disappointed in my hormone therapies failing and so very nervous about starting chemo. I requested the most aggressive chemo treatment I could get and I have responded pretty favorably to it. The side effects are hard: mouth sores, fatigue, low white blood cells, hemoglobin dropping. The upside has been lower cancer antigens. My CA 27.29 went from 756 in March to 137 a week ago. I have talked about the antigen count before and, while it is not a super accurate account of how cancer is progressing or regressing, big drops are positive.

I did not have any big trips, like my Paris trip last year, but I did surprise my husband with a Violent Femmes concert at the Oregon Zoo to celebrate our 20th anniversary. I also booked a yurt through AirBnB. Staying in a yurt pretty much completes the Portland, OR experience. In about a month, I will be taking my eldest son to his first concert. He has no idea what we are doing. I am very excited about it.

My oldest friend, Mandy, was able to visit me for a few days with her family. We had a blast. I took them to Maryhill Museum and the Maryhill Stonehenge monument. I loved having all of them here.

Max adores Makayla and Meg. Meg taught him all about Snapchat. That is still his favorite thing.

Sam made a new friend. He and Ryder had so much fun together.

I have also managed to get in contact with people who have become important to me. I was able to spend a couple of days with two of them and those days were wonderful. Thank you so much for coming to see me, Peg & Matt. I believe that your visit helped with my current “pretty good” blood work. The white rabbit worked for Friday. I love you both.

I took them on the B Reactor Tour.

My family and friends have helped to build me a dream deck on the front of my house. It is big enough to seat our family for dinner and will be perfect for my yearly Witches’ Tea Party.

I also made the decision to reopen my jewelry store on Etsy. I have missed creating stuff. I have a few commissions going on and I hope to eventually add in some sewing items. I have been slow about adding new pieces to my shop because I am also renovating my hobby room. It is almost finished. I just need to add shelves on the walls and get my work desk cleared off.

Our family also went camping for the first time in years. We managed to stay in North Idaho just before it got too smoky for camping.

We went to Silverwood Park while we were in Idaho.

I went to Sandpoint, ID for the first time.

I guess I have felt more normal lately than I have in a while. I am itching to go on walks again, but our area is so smoky now that even the healthiest person is at risk being outside for long. I may feel more normal, but I am in no way the healthiest person. I can go to the gym for at least the next day or so before my white blood cells tank on me. My eldest will be pleased. We have both missed working out.

This past year has been good in that I have been more physically capable to handle things. It has been hard with the treatment failures. I am still here and I am working on staying here.

Fuck you, cancer.

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Paris Part VI: Les Catacombs and Leaving

I am not sure which day this picture was taken. The name made me laugh. Extra Greek. I am guessing it was probably amazing, as it was always full. We ate dinner one night at the place next door, L’Atlas. It was tasty.

This was a Chinese restaurant that we did eat at. It was delicious, but I was still suffering from my anorexia and did not eat my whole meal. The poor waitress was really upset. I told her the meal was so good, but my body was having trouble with eating. I am not sure if she understood me. I felt pretty bad.

Now for the Catacombs.

May 25, 2017: Les Catacombs

Visiting the Catacombs was a learning experience. I underestimated the popularity of the bones placed under the city. I should have purchased advanced tickets. We wound up waiting in line for three hours. Once again, as I have mentioned in a few other posts, purchase advance tickets or “tours” of the tourist sites. The app I liked the most was Viator. Just make sure to plan out what sites you want to see before you leave as you will most likely need to print out the tickets. Most sites do not have a mobile check-in option.

Some flowers in the garden near the Catacomb entrance.

Gabriel wearing his handy dandy tourist vest.

I really like the buildings in Paris. I took a lot of pictures of homes, businesses, and Metro stations.

More flowers. We were by the garden for a very long time.

Pretty kitty. This was about two and a half hours in. We were close to the entrance

Finally. We made it in. There are a lot of stairs, then some tunnels. It was so cool in there. It felt really good after our long wait in the hot sun.

I don’t know why, but this sign made me giggle. It was for a small auditorium, but, to me, it looks like a guy surrounded by bowling balls.

The Catacombs are enormous. They have blocked off a number of other tunnels to keep people from getting lost. People still find other ways into other parts of the Catacombs and get lost. There are also a few levels. This gate is actually blocking a window looking down on a lower level. We walked under this window a little later.

The tunnels were naturally created by high ocean levels. This means that there are fossils in the walls and interesting shells have been found.

Shhh. I might have taken pictures, but I did not use a flash. I also did not pet the skulls.

Now, on to the part everyone is interested in. The bones. A little history:

This ossuary was created as place to deposit the remains of a mass grave in the Saint Innocents cemetery. The grave had started to break down and caused damage to some of the infrastructure around it.
It now houses approximately six million people from a few cemeteries. The remains were not always so organized. The bones were organized in a more visitable way in 1810 when the ossuary was renovated.
Public visits were largely limited to four tours per year. I believe they started to allow daily tours after Paris hosted the World’s Fair in 1900.

One of those closed off tunnels.

This was the only skull with teeth. It was also a slightly different color than the others.

Some of the sights we saw on our way back to our hotel.

This is something that I had also seen in Portugal in 1995. Saving the façade of the building, but putting up a more modern building behind it. I believe it allows the city to retain its classic charm without falling behind the times. Or having people fall through floors that are hundreds of years old.

I love French graffiti. Also, this little stone shack is adorable.

Our final dinner in Paris. My burger was delicious.

Our desserts were works of art. The top is some sort of ice cream with puff pastry deliciousness and the next one is a perfect crème brûlée.

May 26: Leaving Paris

 

Some pictures of the city as our taxi driver took us back to the airport.

At the airport. Even the stores in the airport have beautiful displays.

An airport art gallery.

Last selfie in Paris.

I started tearing up at this point. My Paris adventure was more than I had expected. I didn’t realize I was going to miss it, but I do.

Mount Rainier. We made it back to Seattle. We had also flown over the Tri-Cities. I was on the wrong side of the plane to get a picture of my neighborhood.

Made it home from Seattle.

Paris Part V: L’Arc de Triomphe (and some chemo stuff)

I am trying out something new today. I am writing on my blog using my tablet with an attached keyboard. This blog was actually the reason for the keyboard, but it has come in handy for emails and other things that require typing.

I am also starting this post while away from home. I am currently getting prepped to have my 4th chemotherapy.

Hi! I am wearing my Esprit shirt that I got in Paris.

And some pictures of my poisons. The red syringe is Adriamycin. The nurse pushes that in manually to make sure my blood return is good. This ensures that an IV needle hasn’t moved. I am using my port, so the needle moving is a moot point, but it is policy and I am fine with my nurses making sure the poison is going where it is supposed to go.

The top IV bag is filled with Cytotoxen. This bag will take at least an hour to empty. The bottom bag is saline.

Now on to the more fun stuff. Our visit to The Arch of Triumph.

May 24, 2017 L’Arc de Triomphe

Our day started with breakfast at Le Comptoir de l’Europe and a surprise for Gabriel.

Our friend, Jessie, is a flight attendant and was able to make time to visit us in Paris. We had not seen her in forever. It is kind of funny that it was easier to meet up with her in France than in the US. Our breakfast was so very good. I was still having issues with eating and I ate both eggs, the baguettes, and most of the other stuff put in front of me. I will forever believe that Paris healed my cancer-induced anorexia. J’adore Paris.

After breakfast, Jessie took a nap and we went off to do laundry. Our ticket for L’Arc was set for a few hours later. I tried to figure out how to ask where the laundromat was. I think my French translator has a snarky streak. See my Eiffel Tower post for another example.

As we walked to the nearest laundrette, we saw a wedding procession. I only got one good picture of a car as they came past the laundromat. They were decorated with beautiful bouquets.

We sat in a decent café across the street while our laundry washed and dried.

They sold hand-made sausages.

We had enough time to meander/get lost on our way back to the hotel. I took a few pictures of the church and some other buildings that caught my eye.

As always, there was music in the Metro tunnels. Paris really spoiled me with music playing everywhere.

The Arch is impressive. As it was meant to be. Napoleon had commissioned it after a victory and it was completed in 1836.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The view from the top was breathtaking. Gabriel and I are in agreement that we preferred this view to the one from the Eiffel Tower. However, I still enjoyed our Eiffel Tower visit.

Here is a picture of the crazy traffic in Paris.

And my favorite picture of Gabriel and me.

There was a display of various parts of statues that were not used on the outside of the Arc once it was completed. My favorite is Alexander the Great. I think he looks offended. I also like his little head dragon.

I guess I was looking sickly that day. The guard checking us in had us use the lift rather than the stairs. Honestly, I was grateful. We had a lot of walking planned for the day. I did take the spiral stairs down. I was dizzy by the time I got to the bottom. I wasn’t the only one. More than a few people had to stop partway to get their bearings.

When we got to the bottom, we discovered a memorial service was starting. We stayed for a bit, but we felt it was something personal and did not want to intrude.

Something that I haven’t really mentioned was the military presence in Paris. It was unnerving at first, but I got used to seeing these young men.

We wandered along Champs-Elysees and window shopped all the stores from which we couldn’t afford a tissue. We also paid our respects at the memorial to the three officers who were killed on April 20, 2017.

We meandered around the area and found a café. The waiter was a grumpy old man. I liked him. He did soften up to us after a crazy woman from Brazil sat down near us. We were not as demanding or as nuts as she was. When we paid up, he very sternly reminded us that he did not want a tip.

A note on tipping:

I am not sure about other countries, but in France, it is considered an insult to leave a tip. The wait staff are paid very well and do not need extra money to make a livable wage. Mind blowing.

We also had dinner near the Champs-Elysees. I really enjoyed my food, but the wait staff were not so friendly and refused our cards. Luckily, we had enough Euros between the three of us to pay for dinner.

We walked back to our hotel rather than take the Metro. I took pictures of shoes because I really love shoes.

And this old taxi.

And, finally, this is some artwork that we saw almost everyday. It is in a busy square that has a Metro, train station, grocery store, and mall. During the day, it is always filled with people and food carts.

It was a good day.

Paris Part IV: La Tour Eiffel

If you go to Paris, you almost have to visit the iconic building that is used to symbolize not just the city, but the country of France. For the big tourist attractions, such as The Eiffel Tower, I highly recommend purchasing tour guide tickets well ahead of time. I used Viator to look up events and tickets. With a tour guide for the Eiffel Tower, you get around the crowd and head right on up.

May 23, 2017

We started our day with the most amazing pastries and, of course, caffe. My pastry was a flaky, delicate, almond thing. It just kind of melts in your mouth. I wish I had taken a picture of what it is called. I still fondly think of this pastry. Gabriel had an eclair and something that seemed to be a doughnut cupcake.

Gabriel had injured himself the day before. Which I am sure will surprise anyone who knows him. He is allergic to band aids, so we usually use gauze and medical tape for his wounds. We stopped at the pharmacy on our way to the metro to see about getting tape and gauze. We tried to explain to the cashier what we were looking for and she was very confused. She also seemed slightly offended. In the end, she found an amazing solution for Gabriel. It is a sort of band aid spray called Urgo. It was exactly what he needed. I also figured out why the cashier seemed a little offended. The word “tape” is a little different in French.

Our transit to the Eiffel Tower was a double-decker. I thought this was pretty neat. The seats were very comfortable and it was mostly empty.

We arrived a few hours early for our tour, so we decided to explore a little. We walked across the river and wandered around an area that had some pretty little shady parks and seemed to be the home to foreign embassies. 

I can not express how hard it was for me to get up these stairs. But I did it.

I find Paris graffiti beautiful.

Athena in a park.

We had a snack at the Paris Museum of Modern Art. The outside eating area was beautiful.

This was right next to the Museum of Modern Art. I believe it was part of the Palais de Tokyo.

Chichis. Which are sort of like churros.

Now we are back at the Tower. We are waiting outside for our tour (not realizing the tour starts about two blocks away). While we were waiting, some scammers tried to engage us. We pretended not to understand, but they would not leave us alone. I found out after we walked away (when I realized our meeting spot was elsewhere) that someone had attempted to get into my backpack. I had tied up it pretty good and am glad that I did so.

This is our very kind and sweet guide.

The lifts are almost like a really crowded, slow roller coaster.

When we got to the second level, the guide gave us a brief history on the Tower and explained the different colors the Tower had been. It has been repainted every 7 years. There are discussions going on now about what color the next one will be.

We went around the second level and took a few pictures.

It was incredibly crowded. We went up to the top level and took more pictures. I love the “secret office” of Monsieur Eiffel. The champagne bar was also a fun touch.

The buildings were so small at this height that Paris almost looked like a model of a city.

 

After our visit to la tour Eiffel, we meandered back towards our hotel. If I recall correctly, our trip back was not nearly as comfortable. It was the end of the work day and all the trains and metros were packed. I almost did not get off at our stop; I was crushed against a pole.

We ended the day eating something amazing and I had my new favorite drink.

Paris Part III: Churches and Walking

On Monday, May 22, we spent the day mostly walking. My mother wanted me to go to La Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Medaille Miraculeuse on Rue du Bac. So, we decided to make this day a more leisurely day and walk around Paris. We took the Metro to an area near Rue du Bac. It was obviously not a usual tourist spot. No big shops. Not many people.

We did come across a sock/stocking (la chaussette) shop. I bought a pair of beautiful socks and a pair of tights. They were knitted with amazing designs and colors. I am pretty sure the shop was Boutique Gerard.

We made it to the chapel. We only took one picture while in there. It was a very pretty chapel and we had arrived just as a mass was starting. I was given a shawl to cover my shoulders as my dress had spaghetti straps. This chapel has some interesting history. It is where the miraculous medal comes from that many Catholics wear. St. Catherine had visions of this medal and she was able to have them created. They are now found worldwide.

After the mass, we meandered around some the back streets on a path that led towards Notre Dame. We ate at a wonderful little pub, saw some charming stores, and officers on horseback. One of them posed for me.

The Bon Marche we had in our town was never so grand as this and did not have an armed guard at the door. We did not go in here.

Dinosaur graffiti. *love*

A centaur weapon creature.

A restaurant with a lot of vines.

After walking along the smaller streets, our first view of Notre Dame was a little awe-inspiring. Gabriel had been a little reluctant to visit the Cathedral, but he was glad that I had dragged him to it. It was much more impressive than he had imagined it to be.

Experiencing this beautiful building is something that needs to be done in person. I can post as many pictures as I please, but the artistry is somewhat lost in the pictures. I did my best:

After exploring Notre Dame, we wandered around the area before heading back to our hotel. We listened to a talented violinist and allowed a street vendor to talk us into having our caricatures drawn.

 

Paris Part II: Le Louvre

I took most of my 700 pictures at Le Louvre. I have had a lot of trouble deciding how many and which ones to share. I love art museums and The Louvre has a special place in my heart. It not only displays artworks, but it is itself a work of art. We spent three days of our trip exploring the museum and we still didn’t see everything. So, this post is mostly just going to be a ton of pictures.

Day 1: Saturday May 20

We took a lot of time browsing through Greek statues and le Pavillon de l’Horloge.

 

Day 2: Sunday May 21

Sundays seem to be a day filled with music in Paris. There is always music, but there was a lot more music on Sunday than on the other days. We kept the window open in our hotel room while we slept and we were woken up by piano music. Music echoed throughout the Metro halls as we made our way to the museum. Once we got to le Louvre, there was a huge group of people dancing in a courtyard across from the museum. We bought crepes at a vendor and watched them dance. I got some pictures of them from one of the Louvre windows on the second floor.

This photo was taken a couple of hours after we had first seen them. There were about three times as many people when we had first gotten to this area.

There were also mimes at the Louvre when we got there. Fucking clowns.

The caffè was delicious, then we started on our second day.

Our third day at the Louvre was a few days after the first two. I decided to just put our Louvre visits on one post.

Day 3: Thursday May 25

A couple of days before, I had surprised Gabriel with a secret meetup with an old friend. Jessica had been to Paris many times, but had never gone to the Louvre. Or L’Arc de Triomphe. Or many other very touristy places. We had a lot of fun dragging her around with us.

Music on the Metro.

A young artist sketching. It made my heart happy to see this boy so involved in his artwork.

Probably my favorite selfie.

MySpace-style picture with an extremely antique mirror.

I have an obsession with teapots. I love them.

Marie Antoinette surrounded herself with very strange things. This dog was one of the items she kept in her rooms.

Obligatory viewing of the Mona Lisa.

 

These pictures were among my favorites. It was really difficult to figure out which ones to use. I have taken my time in going through them. It makes me happy to revisit this trip. I may have extended this blog post just because I really have enjoyed looking through these pictures over and over.

Paris Part I

Excited for our second honeymoon.

This is really just about our flight and arrival in Paris. Our trip took about 14 hours altogether. We had a quick flight to Seattle, then a layover for somewhere around four hours. The flight from Seattle to Paris was about 9.5 hours.

When we arrived in Seattle, we were just too exhausted to do much more than just sit and eat a small breakfast. Then we sat some more. An exciting beginning, I know.

Our flight was finally ready for boarding, so I put on my awesome face mask. My white blood cells had been so low the week before this trip, that my oncologist had me get two shots of Neulasta to get my WBC up to a more normal range. Or at least out of the very dangerous range I was in. My count went down due to a new treatment I had started. I will probably write about that in another post.

Anyway, my new mask is quite pretty. It does get warm, but it does not fog up my glasses like the paper ones do. It has an N99 rating, which means it should keep out 99% of contaminants. For those who are curious, it is a Cambridge Mask Company in the Austen style.

The Austen by Cambridge Masks

Side note: medical masks make people nervous on airplanes. Or at least a lot of people give you strange looks. Whatever. I am not getting your dirty germs today, bitches!

Our flight was 9 1/2 hours of sleeplessness. We did try to sleep, but the sick baby two rows behind and to the side of us was super miserable and let everyone know it. The poor guy had a terrible cough (I was super thankful for my mask) and he just cried for the entire flight. Which also caused all of babies in our area to wail for the entire flight. So no sleeping.

We were not near a window seat, but I did get a few outside pictures of Mount Rainier.

Otherwise, I had a selection of shows and movies to view. Which I didn’t. I spent my time playing silly games and reading The MagiciansI got up a few times to walk around. I watched our trip as we advanced over Canada, then Greenland, skimming past Iceland, going over Scotland and England, to finally arrive in Paris.

It was a relief to get off of the plane. However, our journey was not done yet. We took the train to a Metro station, the Metro to a stop near our hotel, then we walked with our suitcases to Hotel ATN. We got turned around while trying to find the correct Metro. We looked like obvious tourists, but a young man took pity on us and helped us find the one that would take us where we needed to go.

We were greeted at the hotel by cute statues and a really nice woman. The nice woman told us we could not check in yet. It was about 11 am and we needed to wait until at least 2 pm.

So, we wandered around and had lunch. We still aren’t sure what Gabriel had. It was mislabeled as Quiche. It was some sort of ham and grilled cheese sandwich with more cheese fried on the outside. I was still having a few issues with nausea, so I just had strawberries. While we were wandering around, I admired the buildings. Even the fast food places are fancy.

I had my first taste of all the random Paris art that can be found everywhere. The artwork became one of my favorite things about walking around Paris while we were there.

After a few hours, we went back to our hotel and checked in. The rooms are very chic and adorable. Our window looked down into a small square. I had images of women who might have washed and dried their laundry in this square with children running and playing around them. Everything is so old that this could be a possibility of the area’s past.

The ceiling

The courtyard.

We pretty much crashed after getting our luggage into the room. We did wake up a few hours later to eat dinner at the little bistro at the end of our block, Le Comptoire de l’Europe. It became our favorite place to eat. I always ate almost everything that was served to me. It was one of the first places that had me actually enjoying food again.

We went back to sleep after dinner. We had some big adventures planned for the morning.

The Gift

It all started on Christmas. Well, maybe before that. For me, it started on Christmas Eve at my in-laws. We had gone over to celebrate, have dinner, and exchange gifts. I was given a beautiful, small, gold box. The bow was perfect. Bobi really does the most wonderful bows on gifts. I like to use her bows as decorations on my tree. It means I get new decorations every year.

I opened the box and the first thing I see is a small card that says “I love Paris.” I started tearing up. I had an idea as to what might be under that card. It was two small airline tickets. My in-laws had given me their airline mileage to be able to visit Paris with my husband. I ugly cried.

I have wanted to travel to France with Gabriel for forever. I kept trying to save up for this trip, but, well, life happens. Along with the kindness of the tickets, both sets of in-laws made out a schedule for keeping my boys. We ultimately decided to go in May as the June flights were double the mileage cost (and double to triple the hotel costs). We also received a surprise gift of travel money from Gabriel’s coworkers. If any of them are reading this, thank you so very much. The money covered our hotel expenses and allowed us to buy gifts for the boys and enjoy the Parisian food and sights.

I spent five months working on DuoLingo to learn French or at least enough to get by. Turns out that I didn’t use it as much as I really kind of wanted to. I did use it a little and it was fun to be able to communicate a little better. I also understood someone who was talking about my mispronunciation of a place. I butchered Montmartre. I knew it and I practiced saying it while at breakfast. The woman across from us said something in French to her friend that basically translated to, “She needs to learn to speak correctly.” Yes, I know I do. Which I was trying to do. It amused me that I was able to pick up on what she was saying. I guess I had learned more than I thought I had.

I also ordered two months of News In Slow French. I’m actually considering just subscribing to that for a year. Or more. It has a lot more international news than my local news media outlets give me.

My trip was huge and I want to document as much as I can, so I am writing a separate post for each day with lots of pictures. I won’t be able to actually post all of them. I took over 700 pictures. A good number of photos will be in each post.

 

Baby J’s First Plane Ride

So, I am at the airport, waiting for our flight. With my smallest guy. My two older ones are staying with my in-laws while we are gone. For which I am indescribably thankful. If any of you have had the pleasure of traveling with children… you will understand.

My husband and I don’t take a lot of vacations. So, when his work decided to send him to Boston for training, we jumped at the chance for a fun trip together. We were not able to afford tickets for the whole family, so were super pleased that the grandparents agreed to take the older guys. Baby J is still breastfeeding and he is a free flyer.

Now, just because a kid flies for free does not mean easy travel. So, this will be an experiment of sorts. It will be Baby J’s first really big trip. He could be an easy traveler, like big brother Sammi. Or he could be a screamer, like big brother Sol.

Random Information

There is a town in Pennsylvania called Centralia that has essentially become a ghost town due to an underground fire in it’s coal mines. This fire has been burning for 40 years and could continue to keep burning for something like a 100 more…. Most of the townsfolk left, but there are still a few people who refused any sort of government compensation and stayed…. I guess they decided living with burning earth and toxic fumes would be the noble thing to do??

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