Tag Archives: Paris

T is for Toilet


by Lillian Csernica on April 23, 2016

 

Sooner or later when traveling one must take a break from all the fun and excitement to find a restroom.  For me this has led to some of the stranger and more interesting bits of information I’ve picked up along the way.

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Convention hotel bathrooms:

Pat and I have stayed in a variety of hotels over the years, from the random Motel 6 to the Hilton.  We have experienced many varieties of plumbing.  Being writers, we’ve compiled a list of questions and observations to do with this particular topic.

Why would any interior designer put the toilet facing the mirrors in the bathroom?  Only the most narcissistic person really wants to see him- or herself at that moment!

There’s one hotel where the doors slide together in a manner similar to Japanese fusuma.  They meet in the middle, leaving a narrow but perceptible gap.  The frames are heavy wood, so when they roll on their tracks, there’s considerable noise.  Not a happy thing in the middle of the night.

I’ve already mentioned the mind-boggling goofiness of putting the light switch outside the actual bathroom itself.

In the older hotels and motels, ancient plumbing is often temperamental.  If they can give me an iron in the closet, it would be nice to have a plunger in the bathroom.  Then maybe I wouldn’t have to go looking for one after midnight, which can lead to all kinds of trouble!

Airport restrooms:

Haneda airport has to cater to a wide variety of nationalities and religions.  I’ve never seen a bathroom stall with so many accommodations, several of which I could not identify.

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Japan — During Nippon 2007, Pat and I spent some time at the main hotel in the Pan Pacifico Convention Center.  We later discovered the restroom was divided into the side for the Japanese ladies:

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And the side for Western ladies and Japanese mothers with small children.  More buttons than we knew what to do with!

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Generally speaking, there are no paper towels in Japanese restrooms unless it’s a site that also caters to Western guests.  Japanese ladies often carry cloth handkerchiefs with them.

Paris — When I spent the weekend in Paris with the Dutch bus tour, I had a room to myself in the hotel where we all stayed.  This might sound ideal, but it wasn’t.  The bathroom left me perplexed.  Having never before encountered a bidet, I had no idea what it was.  It did not look like a toilet, I could see it did not function like a toilet, so I was left to wonder where exactly the actual toilet might be.

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Not until the next day did I finally ask somebody for help.  The solution to the mystery?  I could not find the “water closet” in particular because when my hotel room door opened it concealed the door to the little closet that held nothing but the toilet itself.

I’m positive some French architect did that on purpose just to make foreign tourists look silly.

My advice: Always carry toilet paper, a packet of sanitary wipes, a packet of tissues, etc.   Sooner or later you’ll be very glad you did.  What’s more, you may be able to bring aid and comfort to a fellow traveler!

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Filed under Blog challenges, Conventions, Fiction, frustration, history, Humor, Japan, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, research, travel, Writing

P is for Plenty


by Lillian Csernica on April 19, 2016

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Japan —  Plenty of koi.

 

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The Netherlands — Plenty of tulips

 

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Las Vegas, NV — Plenty of neon

 

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Paris, France — Plenty of cafes

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Ensenada, Mexico — Plenty of beer

 

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Seattle, WA — Plenty of coffee

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Filed under Blog challenges, Conventions, Family, Food, Goals, history, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, nature, research, romance, travel, Writing

M is for Money


by Lillian Csernica on April 15th, 2016

Here in the U.S. today is the deadline for turning in our income tax forms.  Money is a subject very much on most people’s minds.  This can be stressful.  To honor the occasion, here are some highlights from my travels when money was the crucial element.

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One Halloween my friend Don suggested we go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The theater was in Newport Beach, CA, about twenty minutes from my house, where all the rich people lived down by the water.  This may not sound like I traveled far at all, but I assure you, this was a walk on the wild side into terra incognita.  I’d never seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I’d heard about it, of course, as all teenagers had in my high school days.

Don said if we showed up in costume, we’d get in for free.  I went as a voodoo priestess and Don dressed up as a zombie.  Zombies weren’t all the rage in those days, so this costume was pretty bizarre.  When we got to the box office, we discovered costumes made no difference to the ticket price.  Neither of us had any cash on us, and we were too old to go trick-or-treating, so our night was about to go down in flames.

A woman sitting inside the lobby stood up, walked over to us, and slapped a ten dollar bill down on the counter.  “You’re in,” she said.  We thanked her up one side and down the other, then hurried in to find seats just as the house lights went down.  The forbidden fruit was all mine, thanks to that generous stranger.

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On the night Pat and I arrived in Kyoto, we were both hungry and exhausted.  The bus from the Osaka Airport delivered us to the Kyoto Station.  It’s one of the five most expensive buildings in the world.  As a transportation hub and a shopping complex, it’s practically a city unto itself.  We found a store that sold take-out food.  Pat trusted me to identify what was in the deli-style racks and cold cases.  I picked out some attractive items and got into the checkout line.  When the cashier told me the total, I could manage the paper money, but the coins defeated me.  There were tired commuters queuing up behind me, so I held out a handful of change with a sheepish, “Tasukete, kudasai,” which is the formal polite way of saying, “HELP!”

The next and larger problem was the way Japanese do not handle money directly.  When you buy something, the cashier puts a little tray down in front of you and you put the money on that.  The cashier then picks up the tray and puts the money into the cash drawer.  I don’t know if this is a Shinto thing or what.  This particular cashier took pity on me and everybody in line behind me.  She picked out the right coins, gave me my receipt, and sent me on my way.

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In an earlier post I mentioned the weekend bus tour I took to Paris while I spent that summer in the Netherlands. The people on the bus with me were mainly retired folks or middle-aged teachers. I was always the last person to get on the bus because I sat in the tour guide seat right up front beside the driver. This put me in the perfect position to lend a hand when some of the older members of the tour needed help with that first step up into the bus.  Since I was on my own, I brought out the parental instinct in everybody.

What does all this have to do with money?

Just before our tour of the Louvre, our bus driver collected everybody’s twelve francs entry fee.  Then our French tour guide showed up.  Slim, glamorous, pushy, and condescending, she took one look at me and we both knew we’d never be friends.  She demanded the entry fee from me.  I told her I’d already paid.  She got very patient in a way that clearly implied I was trying to weasel out of paying my fair share.  The Dutch ladies came to my rescue.  One of them said to me, “You are my daughter.  You are seventeen years old.”  I had no idea what was up with that.  I started to explain that I was actually eighteen.  She shook her head and spoke in the voice of a career teacher, saying, “If you are under eighteen you do not pay.  Come with us.”  She and the other ladies formed up around me and marched me past the tour guide, giving her looks that should have set her false eyelashes on fire!

Customs sign on a Georgian building

On my way back into the country from the Netherlands, my flight had to land in Seattle as its first point of entry.  We all had to go through Customs.  That was simple enough, but then we sat there in the airport lounge wondering what was holding up our departure to Los Angeles.  My name was called over the public address system.  Just my first name.  That was strange.  I presented myself at the appropriate desk.  A Customs official took me to an office where another teenage girl from my flight was looking seriously freaked out. Her eyes were red and her makeup all smeared from crying.  She begged me to help her.  I was the only person on the plane she’d talked to, so mine was the only name she knew to call for help.  She’d made some mistake filling out her Customs forms.   They wanted her to pay them twenty dollars or they wouldn’t let her continue on into the country.  I had the money on me, thank God, so the officials were satisfied and we all got to fly on to LAX.  The poor girl couldn’t stop thanking me and apologizing. When we got off the plane, I was quite relieved to see her mother there to meet her.  (My boyfriend was waiting for me, but that’s another story.)

That unknown lady stepped up and paid my way into the movies.  Those Dutch ladies stepped up and protected me when I needed help.  I’m glad I had a chance to pass on the kindness and help that girl get home safe and sound.

love-money

 

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Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, charity, classics, Family, family tradition, Food, frustration, Halloween, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, memoirs, parenting, perspective, research, travel, worry, Writing

E is for Ensemble


by Lillian Csernica on April 5, 2015

 

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Time now for some haute chocolate!  While edible undies are really nothing more than Fruit Roll-Ups, this magnificent outfit is made for the fashionista gourmet!

 

 

And because Le Salon du Chocolat is just way too cool, I have to add this picture for E Day:

From http://www.dogonews.com, 9/27/2009:

“Commuters rushing to catch their trains at London’s St. Pancras International Station were in for a treat that made most of them drool – A 12-ft high replica of the famous Parisian landmark – The Eiffel Tower.

The intricately carved model made entirely out of milk chocolate, was erected by gourmet British chocolate make Thorntons, to promote their new ‘Continental’ line of chocolates which include flavors like gingerbread and hazelnut.”

If you could make your own clothing out of chocolate, what would you make?  Where would you wear it?

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Birthday Celebrations, Part Two


by Lillian Csernica on December 29, 2013

Today’s actual partying has included a bento box lunch at my second favorite sushi emporium.  My #1 favorite is closed until New Year‘s.  Chris speculated that the staff was at home pounding mochi, which is entirely possible.  He told me this fascinating fact: pounding mochi for the New Year’s rice cakes is a really big deal in sumo stables.  I can see those large gentlemen being good at it, as strong as they are.   We had a good time at lunch, watching this little tiny Asian girl in her party dress give our server a workout trying to maneuver around the little girl while serving our bento boxes.  The music playing over the PA system was some strange langorous pop music.  Granted, listening to taiko while you’re trying to eat isn’t always that relaxing, but some shamisen and shakuhachi would have been nice.

After lunch we happened to spot a new chocolate shop across the parking lot, Ashby Confections.  This place was amazing.  One of the chocolates on display is made with Ghost chili.  If you’re not familiar with the world of chilis, let’s just say this is the absolute top of the mountain, King/Emperor/God of chilis.  Makes habaneros look like bell peppers.  For you endorphin junkies out there, this might make for quite a culinary adventure.  Me, I chose a Caramel Apple Truffle make with apple brandy the confectioner brought back from Paris.  If all this sounds worth investigating, and believe me, it is, you can see more of the delights available at www.ashbyconfections.com.

There is a rock shop along Highway 9 that I’ve pointed out to Chris more than once.  He suggested we visit it, because now that we’d had some chocolate, nothing would make me happier than buying a new rock.  This sounds silly, but more than once in the days when the depression was still crushing my spirit Chris would take me out and we’d hunt up a shop that sold semiprecious stones.  That’s how I got my labradorite heart, big enough to fit in the palm of my hand.

Mountain Spirit is one of those places where you just know the Buddhist, yoga, Hindu, and New Age folks like to shop.  Plenty of statues of Kwan Yin and Ganesh, prayer flags. and whatever incense was burning.  It’s a nice place with something for every age range.  I had been in there once before, but not on a serious mission of acquisition.  I explored the place, mentally checking off every rock I already had, i.e. amethyst and malachite and lapis lazuli and tiger iron and even Pakistani agate.  Much to my delight, I found a splendid specimen of kyanite.  It was available in obelisk form, which did a lot to show off the color variations and crystalline structure.  Even better was the “raw” specimen that bared the blue/gray crystals in their native matrix.  Had to have it.  The really sweet young lady who runs the shop showed me the listing for kyanite in her book on the meanings of stones.  That information harmonized well with the goals on my immediate horizon for the New Year, so all the better.  Now I just have to find a good display stand.

Kyanite from mineralatlas.com

 

Now here I sit, having just completed my Amazon Author Page.  Got a rejection slip today, but hey, that’s still progress, right?  Ad astra, baby!

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Filed under birthday, chocolate, Depression, Family, Humor, romance, Small business, Writing

J is for Joie de vivre


by Lillian Csernica on April 10, 2013

Yes, that is indeed French for “joy of living.” The English definition of the phrase is most often rendered as hearty or carefree enjoyment of life. Sounds pretty good, right?

To be a writer is to be driven by some inner compulsion to render one’s thoughts and ideas into words. Most of the writers I’ve known well have been what might be termed “broken people.” Many of us write because we’re trying to make something stop hurting. Or perhaps we’re trying to prevent others from suffering the hurts we’ve endured. This is a noble task. Messy, painful, an uphill struggle at times. After all that effort, we might reach only a handful of people with the message we’re driven to send.

You know what many of us need to do? Lighten up.

That sounds frivolous, doesn’t it? Oh no, we tell ourselves, we have serious work to accomplish. Time lost is never regained. Nose to the grindstone! While there’s something to be said for the Puritan Work Ethic, even the Puritans had some fun every once in a while.

I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I am low serotonin. Going back on both sides of my family one can read the patterns of depression and alcoholism and divorce. I have bad days when I can’t write. I have, however, learned how to get past that horrible conviction that I will never write another worthwhile word again. The solution is simple.

Go play with your cat. Go blow bubbles. Go sit in the sunshine. Go look at the stars. Be Here Now. Be fully present, fully mindful, in full possession of whatever inspires in you the joie de vivre waiting within every moment. Better yet, when you have happy moments, WRITE THEM DOWN! Write down what gives you a lift, what drives back the shadows, what floods your weary mind and heart with all the wondrous colors of life.

My writing teacher, Andy Couturier, gave me a brilliant piece of advice. One night after class I was all excited over the progress I was making on my current novel. I was happy, really happy! Andy suggested I write down how I got to that place of happiness. Life is full of ups and downs. Some time another bad day would hit, and I’d need to find the longitude and latitude of happiness once again. A few months later one of my best friends died suddenly. I still miss her every day, but now the grief does not cripple me and stop me from writing.

Joie de vivre. The joy of living. Breathe it in. Let it soak into your every cell. Then return to your writing radiant with the pure energy of being alive.

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Filed under Blog challenges, Depression, Fiction, Writing