Planning for Flaine France

It’s been a few weeks since I have written on my lovely blog. A lot has been going on in my life that has consumed my every thought. I had been working two jobs, trying to transition out of one of them. I had been at my Irish pub for nearly four years and some of my coworkers there had become like family. I never knew how emotional I would get to leave a job that I knew I wanted out of. Now I’m tackling a new project. It is a brewery in Evanston, Illinimageimageois. This is just outside the northern city limits of Chicago. The brew pub is gorgeous and exciting and new, but a little messy to say the least. Every moment over the last month has been working and I have been missing out on my writing. I have been asked by Wayne’s sister’s fiancé to be her maid of honor, and I love planning so I have gone full speed into planning that. It was Gianna’s 6th birthday. Then it was my moms birthday. And to top off all of these thoughts, I was trying to plan a trip for Wayne and myself to go to Flaine, France.

When planning originally for this trip, the cheapest flight to southern France/Geneva was to fly to Zurich with a layover in Istanbul. So it became a matter of getting from Zurich to Geneva to Flaine. It is a ski trip, and if there is anything that it learned from our Japan ski trip, it was that having all of our bags and snow gear while trying to track down our hotel was extremely frustrating, especially after being tired from the airplane travel. SO, I found a hotel close to the airport AND they had an airport shuttle pick up! Finding the pick up was not hard at all, as the airport employee at Zurich had said, “we are not New York! We walk. It is meters away.” Although it was good to ask because we only had two chances left to get the shuttle that total night.

I had to plan to get to Flaine by 5:00 so we could get our key to our humble residence in the mountains or else we would be sleeping together in Wayne’s army bag in the snow. I found that buying the Swiss Travel Pass for each of us would save us some money on trains, free on trams, and it was a free pass to museums. So after purchasing the pass (which were sent to our place in Chicago) I found the safest timing of a train to catch to Geneva airport. Once I bought the pass and the train ticket, I had what time I needed for a shuttle pick up to Flaine. I already booked our Flaine accommodation with our ski passes for the week, so then all I had to do was find a way up the mountain, which proved to be a bit more challenging when trying to save money and not speaking French. Then there was the way back. I had the train ticket, but I needed a place to stay and a way to get back to the airport. I found a historical hotel that was discounted with the Swiss travel pass and it is the middle of old town Zurich! I am very excited to see it.

None of this was very easy when changing jobs and all the exciting personal events happening in my life. I didn’t even pack until hours before our cab picked us up to go to the airport! This is unheard of for me! I usually am packed a week beforehand. I just wanted to this trip to last us emotionally for awhile. It would probably be a while we would go on anything like this again. We need to start to work on making a home for our future and perhaps with Wayne’s girls more realistic. Traveling for me over the years has been based heavily on my credit cards and great a credit background, so I would like to be rid of any debt from over the years. Who knows what the future will hold for us, but I have to live my life to the fullest that I can. So I decided we would spontaneously take this trip now. Who wants to spend life waiting? Which is what I was doing.

I am on the train on our way to Geneva now, and looking at all of the snimageow covered fields and towns flying past me. Making our way with the snowboard gear from the hotel to a tram through the Zurich station onto the Geneva train was a little hectic. But we stopped in a World of Beer shop and then got some breakfast of chocolate croissant, hot chocolate, chocolate muffin (when in Switzerland right?)…and a hot dog. We only have a couple more obstacles to go through before actually getting to the mountain and then be set for the week. I would like to see Geneva more and have time there, but having the snowboard makes it a little bit harder.

Note: the Swiss are wonderfully nice and understanding. I needed to validate our rail pass before using it, which I knew already. But we arrived late at night into Switzerland and the train office was closed when we went to find it, and then it was closed in the morning too. When the train came I just thought that I would explain. I made sure we wrote the dates and signed the passes first. But when the conductor came around he was quick to point out two problems. One we had stumbled into first class when we were assigned to be in second on our rail pass, and two without the validation they were supposed to fine us and take the passes. He said to be careful in our future travels and I thanked him over and over. It would’ve been better to buy the 4 CH tickets and not take the risk.

Do you Know Turkey Law?

A little over a month ago, my mom’s very good friend and her husband went on a trip to Turkey. They are a very well traveled couple and even went with a travel group of people on this trip. They have been to Europe several times and both have very social and aware personalities. This all goes to show that you can never be too prepared.

I say over and over again to friends and relatives and readers to research your trip. For example, I was a little nervous going to Cairo by myself in 2011, so I specifically researched female traveler safety tips. I read blogs, travel sites, and national travel guides. Somewhere I read to cover my head no matter what and to wear headphones not plugged into anything. If I had headphones in and I was being harassed, the predator was more likely to dismiss me ignoring them on the account that I could not hear them. So why not plug them in? Well, because it would inhibit my awareness of my surroundings. Little advice like this is crucial. So I decided to write to my readers about my mom’s dear friend.

The second or third week of this November, they were on their last day in Turkey and heading home. They stopped at the market to look for some more souvenirs to bring home. Her husband found a decorative knife and bought it for himself to bring home. They packed up their bags and headed to the airport. He did not put the knife in the carry on but in his checked bag to be safe. While at the gate, they called him over and asked if he had papers for the knife in his luggage. He replied that he did not and they asked him to wait. He knew it might take awhile so he told his wife and friends to go on ahead and he would take the next flight.

When my mom’s friend got home to America, she came to find out that her husband was arrested at the airport after she left and was put into prison. It is against a Turkey Law to remove antiquities from the country, and the knife was enough of an antique to cause problems. They had no idea. They thought it was just your average souvenir. He stayed in prison for about 2-3 weeks, after they had countless Turkish and American lawyers, the embassy, the consulate, and several politicians involved. He had to stay in Turkey for a hearing and put under house arrest. Thankfully he is now home for the holidays with his family, but it is quite scary what happened to him.

Research, research, research!

Christmas Without a Tree?

My mother married this extremely funny and sweet man named Max when I just turned 5 years old. They sadly divorced 2 years later, but were still quite in love. I was too young to know or see the sadness my mother felt when he would often visit or when we would visit him. For ten years, they would visit one another between San Francisco and Chicago. For ten years, he would call on every birthday and holiday. It was not until late in high school when I finally felt and saw the hurt too. I grew to be a bitter teenager about him. Max passed away a few years ago from being ill. Today, I am more aware of love and relationships and people, and after having to cope with Max’s death without closure, I feel like I would never replace those unique 12 years with him in my life.

We were visiting San Francisco again, but this time is was Christmas. Dad (Max) was not as prepared as I think Mom would have like him to have been. There was no tree. What was Christmas without a tree? My mother was one for tradition and improvisation. She is wonderful about refusing to be “without.” I am not sure where they came from, maybe Dad had them stored away, but she somehow got her hands on some Green Christmas Lights and some scotch tape. She then molded the strand of lights into the form of a Christmas tree on the mirror door of the closet. She stood back and looked at it…”There!” she exclaimed. She was pretty proud of herself. Tree accomplished. Dad looked at her and smiled and perhaps only I caught his glance of admiration. Perhaps he was embarrassed that he did not have a tree.

It is funny. I do not remember any of the gifts I received this Christmas. I don’t remember the exact year either. I remember what the apartment looked like and I remember that tree made of Christmas lights. In the morning the tape had started to peel off the mirror and I got up and rubbed it back on before my mom saw. There are plenty of different types of families out there. My Dad/Max was not there for very many. But, I remember them all. It was the only times I felt like my mom and my little family was attempting to become more full.

Madison, WI
Mom and I ice skating in Madison, Wisconsin