Valentine by default

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There they were.

Under the sink.

A whole box of them minding their own business. But I wasn’t.

I had gone out with her and mutual friends the night before, not planning to have a slumber party. There was only one issue, that night before was February 13th. We had two beers at her place before going to the bar and having a few more. One thing led to another and before the clock struck one she was passed out on her couch as her dog scowled at me.

Not having much experience with comatose women, I wasn’t sure what to do. Was she faking it? Did she legitimately pass out from 4 beers in a night? Was her dog interested in taking things to the next level?

So, I did what anyone would. I texted a few friends asking for advice. The think tank was split between my options.

I could have left and gone about my blissfully lonely life. That would have meant leaving her in an unlocked apartment in the city.

Or, I could have stayed the night. I hadn’t packed my jammies or sleepover essentials like contact solution. This is the plight of the myopic. Plus, I’m notoriously bad at sleeping in other people’s homes.

Should I stay or should I go?

With her slumped in the middle of the couch, there wasn’t enough room for us both to pass out there. That left only one other place to sleep. Her bed. I can’t say I’ve slept in many women’s beds, but when I did, they weren’t in them.

I put a blanket over her and turned off the tv before retiring to her bedroom. The drinks started their assault on my digestive system. I may not like sleeping at people’s places, but my bowels sure fancy foreign toilets. At this point, I was sitting on her toilet questioning my life choices. I reached for toilet paper and discovered there were four squares left, one of which was coated in glue. This is when I reached over to the sink vanity in search of another roll. Had I left, I wouldn’t have seen what was under the sink.

On the outside of the large pink box was a picture and the text “First Response Pregnancy Test.” Realizing I couldn’t wipe my ass with those, I found a roll of TP.

My paranoid mind started to wander. Why would you need the economy box? The next 10 minutes were excruciating. What had I gotten myself into? How did I end up here?

Then, I looked down at the stick and saw that I was not pregnant.

With the ebullience of a man finding out he’s not the father on Maury, I got into her bed with her dog and fell asleep.

I woke up early the next morning and ran to the grocery. Selfishly, I was hungry and she didn’t have food. I grabbed a pack of bagels and two roses. One for her and one for her unborn. Returning to her apartment, she had woken up and changed into pajamas. I gave her the flowers, we had a bagel and I wished her a happy Valentine’s Day before I went on my way.

A Day with Monet

window, monet, jardin, giverny

As the rain falls this morning in Chicago, it is difficult to believe that seven days ago I was looking out the hotel window at the mist making everything it touched glisten in Paris.

Wednesday was supposed to be the best day weather-wise during our stint in Paris. The plan was to seize the good weather day and visit Giverny, the home and jardin of Claude Monet.

We landed in Paris on Monday and were greeted not with a warm accolade, but with a gray, drizzly day. The next day was more of the same with temperatures in the low 60s.

The forecast promised Wednesday being warmer and sunnier until Tuesday night when the fickle European winds shifted. We discussed visiting Giverny another day, but opted to go anyway.

Giverny is an hour to the northwest of Paris. There are regional trains that make the voyage. You are supposed to buy the tickets in advance versus on board. I say supposed to because we purchased ours, which are reasonably expensive (about 30 euros RT), got on board only to never have the tickets checked. This was the third time we had purchased train tickets which went unchecked.

Tip: Use train time as nap time. Make sure to set an alarm for when you should be arriving.

The train stops in Vernon. From there you exit and can take a shuttle bus (4 euros each way), rent a bike or walk an hour. It was raining and we were light on time, so we paid the 8 euros for the RT bus. If it had been nicer we may have walked. The bus winds its way through the streets and over a bridge before burping out the tourists. The parking lot was filled with other tourist buses. Beyond the parking lot is a lush open field. There are paths toward the house and an Impressionist museum.

Meandering through old homes and quaint tourist shops, we found our way to the main attraction. We purchased the Paris Museum Pass, but discovered Monet’s house and garden are not included in the list of venues. To the back of the line we went. Admission is 9-10 euros. You can buy tickets in advance and save yourself time waiting in line.

Once through the gift shop you enter the garden. THE jardin. It takes a few moments to realize you are in Monet’s garden. You see some pretty flowers. The garden is a large grid, with rows and rows of vibrant blues, greens, purples, yellows, reds. Every color you could put on a painter’s palette. As I walked deeper into the flowers and trellises, I began to appreciate and accept the magnitude of where I was.

Starting and stalling to avoid photoboming someone else’s photo, I made my way toward the lily pond. You go through a tunnel and come up steps to see the pond replete with water lilies.

I slowly panned right to left, taking it all in. I was in Monet’s paintings. THIS is what he looked at and painted countless times. The rain started to increase, creating ripples in the pond, blurring the previous crispness of the leaves and lilies. The visitors opened their multi-colored umbrellas, which now resembled the array of flowers that preceded the pond.

We lingered here for a while absorbing the serenity of the water garden., listening to the sound of the frogs. For the past week and a half we had been running around from museum to ancient site. We had taken time to relax and enjoy each of the previous cities, but for me, the garden was an oasis to recharge. We sat for a bit on a bench that was kept dry by the overhanging tree.

Eventually we slowly strolled our way back to the tunnel, through the garden and into Monet’s house. A man at the door gave us a plastic bag for our lightly dripping umbrella and told us “no pictures.”

To the left of the entrance is a room of paintings, then Monet’s studio with large, open windows looking out on the garden. I still can’t fully fathom that I was standing in the room where Monet painted impressionist masterpieces, revered to be one of the masters of art.

His bedroom is upstairs, directly over his studio. It also has large windows that look out onto the garden. The house isn’t that large. It’s no Versailles. Back down the stairs and through the kitchen before exiting. Naturally, I snapped a pic of the kitchen on our way out. I wonder if Monet would’ve liked my cooking. Or if Monet was a cook.

The gift shop has an array of Monet offerings, everything from books to bobble heads to prints and calendars.

We found our way back to the shuttle bus, then train station and Paris. Our next stop was Musée de l’Orangerie. This is covered by the Paris Museum Pass and is home to “Les Nymphéas.” These are amazing and I highly recommend this 1-2 itinerary if you are interested in impressionism.

We started the day seeing the flowers and garden that inspired Monet. Then followed it up with seeing his panoramic lily paintings housed at l’Orangerie.

As I look out the window to my backyard, I don’t see a vast, colorful garden or a water lily pond like Monet’s. Instead I see a patch of pale green grass that stands a little taller because the lawn mower ran out of gas last night. But if I close my eyes, the sound of the light rain takes me back to that rainy day in Giverny with Monet.