Tag Archives: travel

From Prescott to Paris: 6 Tips for Conquering Travel Fiascos

My mom and I  were supposed to arrive in Paris at about 5:00 p.m. on August 16th. Well, in case you haven’t guessed yet, things did not go as planned. We didn’t get to Paris until almost 10:00 a.m. on the 17th. That means it took us 40 hours to get from Prescott to Paris. And that doesn’t even include the three hours it took us to get from Charles de Gaulle to our hotel. I should’ve walked.

These 40 hours did not pass smoothly. First, our flight from Phoenix to Dallas was delayed an hour. No problem. But then, once we arrived in Dallas Fort Worth we discovered that our flight to London was  also “delayed,” as the American Airlines agent said. “Delayed,” for 12 hours. This so called delay meant that my mom and I had to rebook our flight from London to Paris and cancel our hotel reservation for that night. American Airlines would be giving us a place to sleep, along with two free meals.

We hopped on a shuttle with all of the other London bound travelers and headed to the hotel. We were relieved by the prospect of sleep, but our relief turned quickly to bafflement. When we pulled up at the hotel we saw that all of the guests were standing outside in their pajamas and a firetruck was parked near the entrance. There had been a fire. Of course! we thought. Of course. It wasn’t long until I started laughing, laughing at the absurdity of it all. I chuckled along with the cartoonish voice of the emergency alarm, mimicking the warning until I had it memorized.

My mom and I caught a mere two hours of sleep that night. Our flight to Heathrow left at 7:30 that morning. The next night, at a hotel in London, we slept for about 3 hours.

If arriving in Paris had meant the end of it all, then this would be an ordinary scenario. But no. Our journey was far from over. Once we landed in Paris, we still had to get from Charles de Gaulle to the sixth arrondissement, which requires a train ride and a metro ride. This meant lugging not only ourselves through the underground, but my classical guitar, one backpack (stuffed to capacity), my mom’s carry-on bag and my two suitcases, both of which are the size of mortally obese 8 year olds. When we began this voyage, getting through the metro with all of this seemed manageable. WRONG. Paris has zero ramps. Zero drinking fountains. Zero elevators and/or conveniently placed escalators. We dragged, rolled, tugged and kicked all of our luggage up and down every stair, through every tunnel, between every ticket booth. By the time we clamored to the street we were soaked in sweat and heaving, thirsty and starved.

And that brings me to…

Savannah’s 6 tips for conquering travel fiascos:

  1. Accept your situation and have faith. When you’re stranded at an airport it is hard to be positive, but try to look for a bright spot– it’s better to have a flyable plane than to crash in the middle of the ocean. My best friend told me to think of it this way: “In accordance with the conservation of misfortune, you used a lot of your own quota of misery on the trip over, and as a result the rest of your stay will be much nicer!”
  2. Make friends with your fellow travelers. Perhaps the only pleasure I enjoyed during this mess was getting to know the people I met along the way– Louise from Aberdeen, Michelle from Florida, that Italian guy. We became a cohort of sorts, and we kept each other going.
  3. Give yourself some time to rest.  My impulse was to power through to the end, to stick it out and suck it up. But your body and your mind needs to recuperate, so give yourself time to rest when you can. Nap, stop and sit a while, eat.
  4. Enjoy where your are, whether you planned to be there or not. My mom and I didn’t get stuck anywhere at the right time to get out of the airport and visit, but if you have half a day or so until you’re back in the air, get out and explore a little bit. Go to a pub, stroll through the streets, have a meal. Why not?
  5. Take pictures; you’ll laugh later. Looking back, I really wish I’d taken more pictures of this experience, albeit mostly miserable. I love the picture I took of the firetruck and the sound I recorded to go with it!
  6. Do some drugs. Meaning buy an over-the-counter medicine like Tylenol or Advil that will soothe your aching bones and help you sleep on the plane. Traveling across time zones and sandwiching into airplanes can make it hard to rest.

Bon voyage! I hope you have more luck than we did!

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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9 Things I’m Going to Miss about Home (other than home itself)

As my departure for Paris approaches (three days!), I’ve found the most common question my friends and family are asking me is, “Are you excited?!” This is, of course, the most logical question to ask a girl who is moving to Paris, France. It is not, however, what I find myself thinking about as I’m throwing my life into one of two jumbo suitcases or embracing one of my best friends during our final goodbye. In fact, as my count down to take off dwindles, I’m making mental notes of everything I’m going miss about my home and my life here. This doesn’t mean I’m not excited. My excitement just isn’t my top priority right now.

So here’s my list.

 9 Things I’m Going to Miss about Home (other than home itself):

  1. My sister: This little lady and I have become super close this summer! Living without her will not be easy, but I know we’ll make it.
  2. My best friends (particularly this guy, my BFF): I’ve been spending a lot of time with my closest friends during my last few days here. I am so grateful for everything we’ve given each other, and I can’t wait to continue these relationships, regardless of the distance and time that will separate us.
  3. My books: Some of the most difficult moments in packing have come when I’m sitting in front of my bookshelf, looking up at all of my invaluable literature and realizing that I can’t take it all with me. I know, I know, they’re just books. But…but…they’re my books!
  4. The starry night sky: My hometown is breathtaking at night. In the woods, the sky is clear and kazillions of stars sparkle against the ink-like sky. Every time I leave Prescott for a larger city this is what I miss most– looking to the heavens late at night and seeing the entire universe laid out before my eyes.
  5. Cicadas: I know this is weird, but at the end of the summer the cicadas start to come out, humming like engines from tree to tree. I associate this sound with my childhood, the coming of fall and the familiarity of home. I know I will find them in Europe, but there is something about this sound, this time and this place that can’t be replicated.
  6. MEXICAN FOOD: True Mexican food can only be found in the Borderlands. I’ve been doing everything I can to make sure I eat as much of it as possible before I leave.
  7. Driving through the mountains, windows down, music up, day or night: Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
  8. A full sized kitchen: My kitchen in my new apartment is going to be minuscule. I don’t even have an oven. This makes me sad because I love to cook and prepare my food. But of all the cities in the world to be without a legitimate kitchen, Paris might be the best.
  9. The desert: This landscape is another aspect of the Southwest that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else. I will miss its towering cacti and watercolor sunsets dearly, but I know it will be here when I return.

The un-pictured # 10 here is obviously my family, particularly my parents. I couldn’t have dreamt up a better mother and father, and I have them to thank for giving me the love I needed to bring me to this next chapter in my life. It isn’t enough to say that I’ll miss them. Those words don’t even come close.

What do you miss most when you leave home?

A bientôt,

Savannah

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Regard sur l’avenir

As I write this from behind the wide, towering windows of the local library, gazing out across the Cottonwood trees and the weary, shingled rooftops, it is July 16, nearly five o’clock. In exactly one month from this moment I will set foot in Paris, where I’ll spend the next 11 months living and learning. One month and I’ll say goodbye to this sleepy town, to my family, my friends, the desert. One month, and everything changes. No matter how many times I write those words, they never manifest within my consciousness. The reality of my future is far from real, even further from tangible. But that won’t stop this month from turning into weeks, the weeks to days, the days to hours until, finally, I’m at the airport. If this were any other adventure, I’d grin till my cheeks hurt as the plane lifted from the runway and shot into the sky. But this time, I think it’ll be my stomach hurting, clenching, burning as I fly away. I’m scared shitless, really. And I’m having a hard time laughing about it.

Let me fill you in: I’ll be spending this next academic year studying in Paris at Sciences Po, an institute of political science, where all of my classes will be taught in French. Now that’s immersion. I’ll be living alone for the first time in my life, in a studio on the seventh floor of an elevator-less apartment building in the sixth district. It’s a good neighborhood. A ten minute walk to my university. I have a little balcony overlooking  the city. I’m sure it will be an enchanting view, a nice place to sip my coffee in the morning, read, maybe even write. My shower is inside the studio, but the toilet is out in the hall, shared between myself and another tenant. My sister thinks my neighbor will be a foxy young Frenchman, and we will fall in love. If so, I hope there’s a romantic place to get espresso around the corner. I’ve always wanted to fall in love in a coffee shop.

Doesn’t all of this sound so picturesque? Think of all the wonderful things I’m going to see and do! The people I’ll meet, the knowledge I’ll gain. The food! What an experience. Even more exciting is the fact that once I’m in Paris, I’ll be a stranger to everyone I meet. I’ll have no reputation, no predetermined identity. I’ll have the opportunity to be exactly who I’ve always wanted to be, and no one will know the difference.

But–

I’m still scared shitless. As in I wake up every morning with a python coiled around my chest…figuratively. I go through the day with my heart in my mouth, blocking my windpipe. I’m gasping for air, for assurance, for anything that will take this fear away. But it never leaves. I just keep praying I’ll wake up one day to find that the python has slithered away and been replaced by something fluffy and warm, a Koala bear perhaps.

Anyway. My year in Paris means a year of blogging about my year in Paris! Lucky you! I’m hoping to create a few more regular features that will be designed to capture my Parisian experience, and I’d like to get your input. What would you like to read about regarding my year in France? Food? Fashion? Tourism? Tell me in the comments below so I can get a few ideas.

In the meantime, I’m going off the grid for about 10 days. I’m taking a family trip up to Northern Idaho to see my relatives and I’ve decided to leave the laptop behind. I will, however, take plenty of photos and (hopefully) do some blog-worthy writing. I think being disconnected will rejuvenate my spirit and help center my thoughts and intentions. It will certainly stave off my inevitable transformation from human to robot a little while longer.

Till my return, I wish you a week and a half of happiness and creativity– untethered.

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

PS– Don’t forget to let me know what you’d like to read about concerning my year in Paris! I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

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First Impressions: Tubac

I wrote this piece for one of my journalism classes. I could only scratch the surface of the issues here, and I’d like to follow up with more stories that explore the ideas I encountered on my trip. Until then, enjoy, and please, as always, tell me what you think! 

***

Tubac, Ariz. is a catalyst for reinvention, a kernel of creativity, an oasis in the midst of chaos.

Nestled in the desert just 45 minutes south of Tucson, it attracts artists, retirees, tourists and small-business owners from around the world who keep its small community of about 1,200 thriving year-round.

In the summer, fauna and flora paint the surrounding landscape green and pepper it with yellow blossoms. The sun is relentless, but the dusty pink earth keeps the town cool. Shop-owners, neighbors and visitors mingle in the shade between galleries and boutiques. Ceramic pots, larger-than life sculptures and trickling fountains decorate the streets.

However, this laid-back historic town lies within the Sonoran desert, which, according to some, is becoming more and more like the Wild West everyday.

“In certain places it’s nice and peaceful and lovely,” said Zack Taylor, vice chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, “but in other places it’s lawless.”

Taylor, who retired from his position as a U.S. Border Patrol Supervisor in 2003, said while those in Tubac keep an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude, illegal activity thrives just beyond their community.

That is why he supported a bill proposed by Rep. Peggy Judd that would have required the Department of Homeland Security to disseminate safety warnings about illegal activity it deemed potentially dangerous to the public.

“What we see on TV, we see in our own backyards,” Judd said. “People say nothing is happening, but things really are.”

Fearing Judd’s bill would deter tourists and hurt businesses, the residents of Tubac and other border towns voiced their dissent, and the bill was dropped.

“Everybody recognizes that that bill was an absolutely foolish thing to do,” said Shaw Kinsley, director of the Tubac Presidio State Park and president of the Tubac Historical Society. “This area is perfectly safe, and, in fact, the area across the border is as well.”

While Judd’s bill died, the conversation surrounding security and illegal activity in Southern Arizona is fresh as ever. As a native Arizonan who’d never traveled south of Tucson, I decided the best way to weed through the controversy would be to find out for myself what the region has to offer.

A day-trip to Tubac gave me only a taste of Southern Arizona living, but it was just enough to feed my curiosity.

All About Lifestyle

Most businesses in Tubac don’t open their doors until 10:30 or 11:00, so arrive a little ahead of lunch-time with an appetite.

Before your meal, head over to the K. Newby Galleries and Sculpture Garden on the south side of the village, past Tubac Road. In the garden, which features sculptures of all kinds, I found elegant copper figures, a cartoonish dairy cow peering over a blue metallic horse and kinetic pinwheels that stood together like groves of trees.

A path leads to the gallery, where you’re likely to meet Leroy Doyle, one of the “old-timers.” Doyle came to Tubac in 1989 to be an abstract artist only to fall in love with the other side of art– retail. He’s been working at the K. Newby Gallery for 23 years.

“Tubac’s got to embrace you, you can’t embrace it,” he told me.

For Doyle, Tubac is about a lifestyle.

“I like everything about it,” he said. “I like meeting the same people everyday at the post office. I like going out to dinner and knowing people sitting in the dining room.”

From the gallery, walk over to Shelby’s Bistro for Southwest flavor and a diverse menu of salads, wraps, pizzas and burgers. If you’re in the mood for salad, try the “Wine Country,” $11.99. For a heartier, spicier lunch, try the “Tequila-Lime Chicken Wrap,” also $11.99.

Make sure to save room for dessert. While exploring the plaza next door, Mercado de Baca, I stumbled upon The Chile Pepper Coffee Cup. This cafe is home to the “Iced Choffee,” a Tubac original. It’s a glass of cooled Mexican hot chocolate and frozen coffee cubes topped with whipped cream, $3.50.

See Some, Shop Some

For a dose of history, visit the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, the first state park in Arizona. It exists to maintain the ruins of the San Ignacio de Tubac, a Spanish Presidio that was established in 1752. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for youth 7 to 13 and free for kids 6 and under.

Fashionistas will enjoy Jane’s Attic, a thrift shop where both vintage and contemporary styles fill the racks. All of the merchandise comes from Tubac residents, according to Jane Lowder, the shop’s owner.

Lowder moved to Tubac from the Bay Area,  leaving a career in finance behind. She didn’t know what she would do when she settled in the village, but she soon discovered it needed a retail boutique.

“I just decided I was tired of the rat race,” Lowder said. “So I thought, what the heck I’ll throw in the towel and see what happens.”

Outside of her shop, my newly purchased purse and jacket in a bag by my side, I asked her how she perceived Tubac’s relationship with Mexico and the border.

“I think we both feel that we need each other,” she replied. “It’s a relationship that I think really needs to be helped somehow.”

Meet the Artist

From Jane’s Attic, walk across the street and pay a visit to Purcell Galleries, where you might even meet the artist himself.

When I stepped through the door, Roy Purcell, the man behind the famous murals of Chloride, Ariz., sat painting golden cactus blossoms. Vibrant images of nature burst from the wall behind him. In the next room hung etchings of mythological goddesses, said to be the largest etchings in the world.

Purcell left a 35-year career in Las Vegas to “reinvent” in Tubac. He’s always been drawn to nature and the Sonoran desert never bores him.

“I came for the beauty,” he told me. “I wanted a place to put roots and further develop my career.”

As I began to explain to Purcell why I had come to Tubac in the first place, his director, Brent Land chimed in.

“Are you talking about the travel warning bill?” he asked. Land lives in Tubac proper and served on the town’s chamber of commerce.

“As a merchant, I think that really hurts us,” he said. “That bill would’ve made us a ghost town.”

Heading Home

If you plan to stay for dinner, try the Italian Peasants Pizzeria, next to Tubac Market. Every person I spoke to recommended it. You’ll find everything from New York Knish, $4.99, to a 10 oz. Peasant Burger, $10.99, to Shrimp Scampi, $19.99.

Remember that you’ll have to pass through a Border Patrol checkpoint on your way north. The checkpoint was south of Tubac until the government moved it further up I-19 several years ago.

As I approached the uniformed officers and the frantic drug dogs, I remembered my conversation with Lowder:

“It’s scary for a lot of people who aren’t living with it,” she told me. “You know, we’re living with it everyday now so we don’t even think about it anymore.”

“What are you living with?” I asked.

“We’re living with the reality that we have a checkpoint north of us, that anytime we travel north we’re going to have to go through this checkpoint and answer questions. ‘Are you a U.S. citizen? Where are you going?’”

When I pulled up next to the Border Patrol officer, who still wore impenetrable, black glasses despite the setting sun, I rolled down my window, waiting for questions. Yet all he said was, “How you doin’, ma’am.” I replied, then he waved me through.

On the other side of the line, I recalled Lowder’s voice once again:

“Why do they believe me if I say I’m a U.S. citizen? And why do they not believe other people?”

 

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