Cubicle Death #18

trump supporter

How Co-Worker #3 spent her holiday break.

Everybody has returned to the office after the holiday break.  I miss the quiet solitude, shopping on Amazon and doing whatever the fuck I want to do.  It’s been great not having Co-Worker #3’s loud ass annoying voice piercing my ear drums.

Yesterday, Big Big Boss called to say that she would return on Tuesday, citing that she had broken her arm over the holiday break.  She would not say what happened to her.  Sometimes when a woman has an injury like that and refuses to explain what happen, you might think domestic abuse.  Except, Big Big Boss probably wouldn’t allow anybody to abuse her, but you never know.

broken arm

Brackium Emendo!

She came to work this morning with a big purple cast on her right arm.  Because she’s the Big Big Boss everyone is fawning over her.  “Oooh, what happened?”  “Are you okay?”  She finally admits that she broke her arm riding a hoverboard.

She said she bought two for her grandchildren and she just loved them so much she bought one for herself.  She said she spent the entire holiday break riding it and wouldn’t stop even when it started to rain and snow.  When it got too icy outside to ride it, she brought it in the house and started riding around on her hardwood floors.  The batteries just randomly died and it threw her off into a piece of furniture.


My boss wouldn’t wear skinny jeans, but you get the idea

I didn’t even know what to say to her because she is the Big Big Boss and I don’t want to get fired, so I just asked if she was okay.  I find it unfathomable that a woman of her caliber would be riding a hoverboard on her own damn hardwood floors.  This is a woman who is at the top of her professional game.  She runs a multimillion dollar program and is in charge of hundreds of employees.  She comes to work everyday in bomb ass suits, and she is incredibly intelligent and business savvy.

But yet, she was riding a hoverboard…in…her…house.

Trip Report: Inca Trail (Day 4)


We were informed that we would have to get up at 330 to start the short hike to Machu Picchu. They tell you it’s so you can reach the Sun Gate at dawn. It’s actually so the porters can get on the first train. The trail will not open before dawn. Ruben told us the trail used to be open at all hours but there were too many injuries. The terrain is not easy; I could not imagine trying to fumble around on some rain-slicked rocks with just a stupid headlamp. There are a few steep drop-offs and as of this writing, one section of the trail is severely damaged due to a mudslide. The go-around requires a rickety bridge that you’d typically find on your way to meeting a mystical Shaolin monk somewhere. It doesn’t make any sense to have a group of people traipsing about in the dark like that. I don’t know how litigious Peru is, but you know some American would find a way to sue the pants off any tour company that didn’t take proper precautions.  So, you get up at an awful hour only to go down to the bottom of the hill and rest there for 1.5 hours awaiting the opening of the trail.

I had such poor sleep and my fat overworked body was failing me. Frankly, I was quite glad of the opportunity to go back to sleep, but there’s always some asshole who doesn’t respect that it’s quiet time. Almost every hiker out there pulled out their poncho and laid down for a little rest, except this one guy.

on that stuff

Smokin’ that la-la-la-la

This little shit had a 2000-watt headlamp on that he was shining in people’s faces. He was talking to some guy who did not actually appear interested in the conversation. He kept his 2000-watt headlamp glowing while he chattered away with someone who did not appear to be interested. He happens to see this bottle a few feet away from me and 47, and he comes up to us.

“Hey, is this your agua de florida?” he said, motioning to a bottle in Ruben’s pack.

First, of all, he reminded me of Shaggy from Scooby Doo. He talked like a surfer but with an accent. It was soon obvious that he was high as shit. 47 tried to ask him where he was from.

Her: Where you from?

Him: You know, countries. They’re such bullshit. Like, do we even have to have borders. People should be able to go wherever they want to go.

Me: ………………. What the?

Him: Yeah, the concept is so 1800s.

Her: So, where are you from?

Him: Well, I’m from Poland but I have a passport from the UK and I’m going to get one from the US, and then………………………..


He asked us again about the agua de florida.

Me to AK: Tell your fucked up brother go somewhere.

AK to me: That’s not my brother. That’s your fucking brother.

AK to him: We’re not sure what it is, but I think you could just Google it.

Him: Nah, man, I don’t trust Google. I don’t Google. Google watches me. It knows what I’m doing and it shows me stuff that I want to see. It knows what I want.

Me: ……………… what the……

Call me crazy but don’t you want Google to show you want you want? Ruben eventually explained that agua de florida is medicinal for people who get altitude sickness. You don’t drink it; you make the sick person sniff it. I think this dude wanted to drink it to see if it would get him even more messed up than he already was.

Thankfully the trail opened and the guy went off to find his own group. That is when I noticed he was wearing pants similar to what firefighters wear when they are actually fighting fires. In fact, I’m certain they were.

Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu in the background.

Started from the bottom, now I’m here

Now that you are at the end of the hike, you really want to hurry it up. I scurried along as fast as I could. Occasionally you catch a glimpse or two of the Sun Gate, but it’s really too far away to see it properly. It does something to you, to see the finish line but you’re not quite there yet.

This last little bit is more up and down. It’s very dewy, so, of course, the trail is slick. We are not the only ones at the end of our endurance. More and more hikers are holding up the rear with us. At some point we caught up to Katie who was having a difficult time. During the downhill on Day 2, she had injured her hip. Under normal circumstances, she would have rested and been okay, but since this event requires consecutive days of physical activity she had done more damage by trying to keep up with her husband and the rest of the forerunners.

Now this bitch is crying and is on obvious pain. No stranger to double-rucking, 47 offered to carry her pack to ease her burden. Katie declined. We asked if there was any way we could help her. She said no, and I think really she wanted her husband to be with her. She seemed incredibly clingy, and it’s obvious she’s one of these chicks that needs her husband right there with her at all times. Since she did not want our help, bye, Felicia.

Just part of the trail.

A normal person can reach Inti Punku (Sun Gate) in just under two hours. We got there in maybe 2.5 hours. Again, the terrain is very slippery. There is more up and down. The final killer is what I call Stairs of Death: a set of stairs with a very sharp incline. My hiking poles were useless. I ended up passing them off to 47 and I crawled on my hands up the steps. Did I mention that I’m scared of heights? I dared not glance down or even around me for fear of being paralysed by that very fear. I stared only at the steps and put one hand in front of another, one foot in front of the other until I got to the top.

Totally worth every moment of agony. The view is breathtaking. At this point, you can now catch a glimpse of Machu Picchu. Now you begin to feel a sense of accomplishment. You are now reminded this is why you’re doing all of this. You could have easily taken the train in relative comfort with a pisco sour in hand, but no, you’re made of stronger stuff and you wanted an adventure.


Ruben proved to be quite enthusiastic in his class on the ruin. The first thing he wanted to impart to us is that Hiram Bingham did not discover Machu Picchu. The local population already knew it was there. I would wager they didn’t know anybody was looking for it, and if they did, they probably did not care. I personally believe that you cannot discover something that already exists to someone else. I guess it’s like the whole Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, but there were already approximately 2.1 million people living on the land. I’ve read a few papers on the subject, and most of them clearly state that Bingham asked the locals if there were any ruins around. There were farmers actually farming on some of the terraces.

These are the men who uncovered Machu Picchu.

Peru credits these men as the true discoverers

Maybe we can say that Bingham was the first outsider to see the ruins. Although there is a controversy that maybe even that is not the truth. Apparently, on two different occasions some Germans may have plundered the site before Bingham even showed up.

At any rate, Machu Picchu is quite a fascinating place that makes the entire four day hike worth it. I always marvel at these ancient things that were built without modern machinery and technology. The Inca also did not really utilize the wheel as other primitive cultures did. My guess is that the wheel would have been utterly useless on the terrain, with its steep grades and intense vegetation. I think it is unknown precisely how they moved the rocks around. There is a wild theory that aliens may have built the place.

We spent nearly three hours touring the ruins, which doesn’t seem like a whole lot of time in the grand scheme of things. After Ruben’s discussion, I wanted to stay longer but the truth is the exhaustion finally caught up with me. Also, the weather cleared up significantly and it was now quite hot and sunny. I advise being prepared for anything because when we first entered, it was raining and within a matter of seconds the sun came out and the temperature rose.

So, remember the whole tipping fiasco? Remember I said Martin cited socialism for wanting to tip Ruben and the others all the same? Well, near the end of the tour of Machu Picchu, Martin pulled us aside and said that he wanted to tip Ruben a little something extra.

“He’s put in a lot of hard work, and it’s obvious that he is really passionate about his job,” Martin said.

47 and I just looked at each other. In the wee hours of the morning when they were packing up, I slipped Señors Condor and Alfredo a little something extra because I felt they deserved it. I had to do it hastily because after Night 3, you don’t see the porters anymore. 47 and I already had plans to give another tip to Ruben at the end of the Machu Picchu tour, and I just found it hysterical that Martin realized the error of his ways. I’m really good for diming people out, but I decided not to and just went along with it.

All of us got together for coffee, beer and snacks in the little café at the bottom of the hill. We arranged to meet each other in Aguas Calientes at a specified time. 47 and I didn’t really want to but we would have looked assholes if we said, “No, we never want to see any of you again.”

Jammin' in Aguas Calientes

Rockin’ out in Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes is a quaint town completely overrun by tourism. There are dozens of restaurants packed in the streets, catering to every size pocketbook. We met up at Hot Springs restaurant, because this was the location of our duffle bags the porters had been carrying. The food isn’t anything to write home about but it’s not the worst you’ll ever eat. I had a decent pizza and several glasses of wine.

Now that physical discomfort was behind us, everyone was cordial and pleasant. The two married couples had booked a hotel in AC, so they were fresh while the rest of us were still bedraggled. We laughed and joked for several hours, whilst waiting for the train back to Cusco. Ruben was with us and it did make for a great way to pass the time.

The train ride back to Cusco is the final test of your patience and endurance. Seriously, it’s got to be at least three hours long. I did not find the seats to be particularly comfortable, plus, you’re still stank and dirty from the hike (and so is everyone else). I fell asleep several times, only to wake up like, “I’m still on this fucking train?”

We were none the worse for wear by the time we arrived to our hotel. I took the world’s longest shower when we got into our room. Then we ordered a bottle of wine, got trashed in the hotel room whilst asking ourselves, “what the fuck did we just do?” and then we lived happily ever after.


Trip Report: Inca Trail (Day 3)

Intipata Ruben told us that as far as distance goes, Day 3 is the killer. Day 1 and 2, we’re walking about 10 kilometers. Day 3 we walk 16. He told us that it would not be the brutal uphill climb of Day 2, but there would be a lot of up and down and lots and LOTS of steps.

47 decided to walk with me. She said her knees were bothering her and she wanted to take it slower. We let the rest of the group set off on their breakneck pace, while we lollygagged somewhere in the back. Actually, with her walking with me I did end up picking up the pace a bit. I also didn’t take as many sympathy breaks.

Day 3 brought rain. I opted for a poncho, but I wish I had had a rain coat. The poncho was hot. Rain does not equate cold. A poncho is essentially a plastic bag trapping the heat inside. Also, ponchos are made for tall people. I truly felt like a Hobbit in an Elven cloak, only my poncho did not have all the magical properties of the Elves. Untitled Basically, you are in the clouds here. It is actually magnificent because you can touch the clouds. Not really, but hopefully you understand what I’m saying. As you start to descend, the clouds are beyond reach, leaving this mystical feel about the place. Ruben stopped us several times to discuss key features. There were some Inca sites and a lake. He showed us the weaving techniques the Incas used on the grasses.

He was accurate (of course) that were was a lot of up and down, a ton of steps and uneven terrain. There’s nothing for it but to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. The rain was a non-issue. I ended up using the poncho to cover up my daypack. It was not a drenching rain and I had plenty of dry clothes so I did not care if I got a little bit wet. My feet stayed dry, and really, that’s what’s important.

If 47 had not been with me, I seriously would have given up. I was just so tired. I kept tripping over rocks. I stubbed my toe a hundred times. I rolled my ankle 1000 times. I was too hot, then I was too cold. It was always something, but when we started out together we kept up a steady stream of chatter. We just talked for hours up and down the mountain. We both decided that our next adventures would be luxurious. That is a joke between us because the only time we come together is during some horrific conditions.

When we stopped for lunch Katie and Chris are still mad at each other. Gina and Martin are holding hands. Sam and Jessica seem normal. 47 and I just laugh because we really hoped to meet some new friends. It just didn’t work out that way. Gina suggested they clear out the lunch table so they could do yoga.

If this bitch says yoga one more time….

Sun terraces Day 3 is a really long day. We did the best we could but I am not sure that I can say that I enjoyed it. It was more like enduring, just doing what you have to do to get through it. For the better part of the day, there aren’t even any good views to lift your spirits because it’s really cloudy and then sections of the trail are heavily buffeted by foliage. The rocks were slick because of the moisture and I never got proper footing. Every five seconds I was tripping over something. I just wanted to stop walking. Really, I was miserable. By the time I made camp that night I just wanted for it to be over. “It is over,” 47 said. we have to do is wake up really early and after about two hours we would be at Machu Picchu. I remember thinking there had better be some gold left in the ruins to make it all worth it. Untitled

The third campsite was my least favourite. The sleeping area was downhill from the food area. After all that up and down, I don’t want to climb up some steps for my food. Then the tents were on this incline. It was uncomfortable. It was also a lot warmer and wetter at this campsite.

The evening at the campsite was very weird. First, I was too tired to participate in afternoon tea but Ruben said Señor Alfredo had a treat for us. I was like, “Unless it’s booze…” Of course, it wasn’t. It was popcorn (ugh) and some kind of fried banana thing. The banana thing was pretty good but I didn’t eat too much because sometimes my face swells after eating bananas.

The surprise was a cake. And by cake, I do mean an actual cake. A two layered cake with buttercream frosting and real fruit decoration. I don’t even understand how this man did this. I believe they were carrying some kind of oven, like an EZ Bake oven, or some shit. I do not know any other way to make a cake except in an oven. The only other thing I can think is maybe they had a cast iron pan over a fire. An experienced person would know how to gauge how much heat to give it to bake, but now that I’m writing this I’m going to discount that idea because open fires were not allowed. I give up. I have no idea how they made a goddamn cake on a mountain.

We took a bunch of pictures with the porters, the chef and the cake. Ruben also talked to us about tipping the Quechua for their hard work. AK and I believed Wayki Treks had really done an outstanding job and that we should tip well. As far as Wayki Treks is concerned, there is absolutely nothing to complain about. We both observed other tour groups on the trail. We agreed there were some that appeared just as good as Wayki, but there were a few we noted that were clearly very feeble.

When we arrived at the campsite for Day 3, we saw that there was one tour group that did not have their tents set up yet. A few of their hikers had arrived but were waiting for their stuff. We saw one group have to continue hiking on the brutal Day 2 because their tour company did not have permission to camp at the second campsite, making for an even longer day. Ruben was knowledgeable and extremely informative. Wayki Treks is awesome because it’s indigenous owned and the porters appear to be treated properly. We did see other porters from other companies getting yelled at. Maybe they had done something wrong, but I feel like adults should not be yelled at like toddlers, no matter what.

47 and I were quite pleased and were prepared to tip generously. The other members of our group did not feel the same way. Rich people kill me with how much money they spent on shit and all the amazing things they do, but then when it comes time to paying people what they are worth suddenly they are broke and they don’t give a fuck. The married couples did not come out and actually say they did not want to tip well. It was just their attitude. Then Martin went on this shit about, “I’m a socialist, and everybody should get paid the same.” What?  How does that even make sense?

feliciaNot sure why he felt the need to bring up his political leanings, but clearly he did not do his research. The thing about the tipping was very specific. There was an order of precedence: the guide, an assistant guide (if any), the cook, the head porter, followed by the rest of the porters. Whatever we believe in from our native countries does not matter.

Usually I like to argue when I feel that people are wrong, but for whatever reason I did not say anything. Now that I’m home, I’m ashamed of myself because if you know me at all well, I never let a perceived injustice slip past me.

The rest of the group did not seem to care one way or another. It was like nobody wanted to argue about it, so we went along with this stupid idea to give the porters an equal tip. Then I felt like the tip was miserly. I think they thought the same thing.

Martin ended up being the appointed spokesperson for the group. During the final good-byes at the end of the night, he said to them, “It is our wish the money be distributed equally.”

When Ruben translated Martin’s words into Quechua, I was watching Señor Alfredo. I don’t think he was pleased with what transpired. He and Señor Condor have done the Inca Trail over 400 times. Some of the younger guys had a lot less ticks on their belt. Señor Condor ran up the mountain carrying a sack of eggs in his right hand. Señor Alfredo made pizza and a CAKE, for heaven’s sake. It wasn’t right.

Later, 47 and I agreed that we should do the right thing and tip them separately.

Just part of the trail.

Trip Report: Inca Trail (Day 2)


I promise you, nothing is more amazing than waking up to a rooster’s crow. I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible. If you think roosters only crow at daybreak, you are sadly mistaken. A rooster took up position right outside our tent around 2AM and cockadoodle-doo’d like clockwork until 5AM when the Quechua came to bring us our coca tea. They also brought a small tub of hot water so we could wash our faces. That’s a nice touch.



I’m here to tell you that coca tea is the wrong answer. I am not a fan of tea at all. I tolerate green tea when ill, but other than that I have not found a single tea that I can drink. Coca tea smells like weed, and then I was concerned that it would make me fail a piss test. I know someone who knows all the ins and outs of drug testing, and he told me not to take the risk. Well, you ain’t got to worry about it because that shit was terrible.

Daybreak in the Andes is something you will never forget. You are surrounded on all sides by the mountains. There is a slight mist, like something out of a film. The sun winks at you from behind a mountain peak. It’s all so intriguing. There is something out there, and you don’t know what it is but you’re about to set off on an amazing expedition to find out.

Ruben reminded us how difficult this day would be. He advised us not to try to overdo it. You don’t have to worry about me overdoing anything. Slow and steady wins the race. Ruben pointed out to us exactly where we would be going: Dead Woman’s Pass.



That could be me.


Dead Woman’s Pass is 13828 feet above sea level

Forward, march! One step at a time, like a Hobbit bound for Mordor, I took off. Within seconds I was behind everyone. That first upward climb was not a joke. I was gasping for breath and had to take a break already. Geez. You really are going straight up, and then it’s not just packed earth. It’s the rocks. It’s the stairs. Inca, why do you like stairs so much? I would have been in favour of some sort of primitive lift.

One step at a time.

Such beautiful scenery though. The first part is through a jungle-like forest. I saw interesting birds and curious insects. Something that Ruben told us really helped me. “Instead of looking up at how far you have to go, look back to see how far you have come.”

I had to stop often, and I would look back. I was rewarded with amazing views. This gave me motivation to keep going. There were many times when I thought to myself, “Why are you here! You could be at the spa, three glasses deep in some champagne.”

Don’t give up.

I made it to the first rest area and I was pleased to find that I was not significantly behind everyone. This location is also the last place you can buy stuff. Be prepared for the serious upcharge. An almond Snickers bar set me back 10 soles. Basically, that is the same price you’d pay at a movie theater for a candy bar.

Untitled Phase II: The Climb

This is where it really gets serious. I’m so glad that I took the time to buy proper footwear. I usually do hikes in my military boots, but I was advised against this. A week before the trip, I went to REI and tried on about eight different pair of boots. I was just so happy that my feet were not a major issue on this trek. Thank you, REI guy, even though I couldn’t afford your expensive boots and had to buy them on Amazon for $100 cheaper. (Seriously, my boots were $170 at REI, but only $93 on Amazon!)

For me, the climb was slow and arduous. The altitude didn’t bother me at all. I just don’t have the aerobic capacity to move at the same pace as everyone else. I also bonked. If you do any long distance running, you know what that means. You have depleted your calories and have no more energy. I was STARVING. This is where I make my only true complaint: breakfast.

Look, I’m a fat American girl, and I need a fat American girl breakfast. These dainty European breakfasts do not work for me. For breakfast I was given some granola (what the fuck is granola… ugh), watery porridge and precisely one pancake. There was fruit and toast, but I did not feel satiated. Where are the eggs?! Delicious non-pork sausages and bacon? I am not the type of girl who has a toast and a coffee for breakfast. Okay, granted, that might be why I’m fat but seriously, I needs to eat!

I think the worse part of the climb is that last little 15 minutes where you can see and hear everybody who got to the summit before you, but you’re not there yet. It’s like one more step, and then one more step, and then ONE MORE STEP and you finally get there. The view is absolutely amazing. This is a great place to stop and contemplate how far you’ve come.


Smilin’ like I did something!

I felt rather proud of myself at that point. All reports stated the upward climb was the worst part of the whole trek. Reaching the summit meant the worst was behind me. It’s all downhill from here, right?


Phase III: The Downhill

You would think the downhill would be easy. I’m here to tell you that it is not. I was smart enough to take an Ibuprofen before I began the downhill. The last time I did a serious downhill like this was Koko Head in Hawaii. I don’t really have knee issues, but when I finished Koko Head my knees were sore. I ain’t no doctor, but I do know how to take care of my own body.

The knees weren’t the issue for me; it was the feet. Literally, every ounce of my body weight, plus my day pack slammed down into my feet with each step down. And there were so many steps. It seems like it would be easy, and maybe for many it was easy. Martin said it took him 30 minutes to come down. He ran the whole way.

“I like running downhill,” he said with a little laugh.

Whatever, bitch.

For me, this was the absolute worst part of the whole trek. The uneven terrain with the stairs was jarring. I felt like my teeth were coming out of my head. Under my breath, I cursed every person that passed me. I was particularly vile to the Quechua who flew down the mountain with fleet feet and 100 pound packs, that weren’t even packs but haphazard sacks full of crap. Some of those dudes were in well-worn sandals.

I was my loneliest on the downhill. I am not a person who generally experiences such feelings as loneliness and despair. I am very comfortable with myself and there are times when I can go days without talking to anyone. I am okay with that. I have never been the type who needs to be surrounded by people and stuff, but coming down the mountain I felt like the only human on the planet. I felt like the only person in the world who had ever suffered. I am ashamed to admit this sort of self-pity. I just really wanted to quit. I spent an hour wondering how to quit. There didn’t seem to be anybody behind me, and all my fellow hikers were probably already at the camp. Then I was thinking I might have to climb back up to quit, and then that meant coming down the other side. Oh, no. Just, no. At some point I reckoned that I was at that cruel point where it’s easier to keep going than to quit.

What do you do then? Well, for me, I relied on my faith. I won’t get all preachy but when the going gets tough, you just got to pray a little and exalt in whatever you believe in. How best to exalt? Why, through song, of course.


…. or whatever

I was in the choir from sixth grade until I failed out of college. I had a fair voice back then; nowadays, not so much, but if you’re out there by yourself, who’s to hear you? Being a person who absolutely adores all things Christmas, I decided to go with carols. All the best ones are prayerful so I busted out with every Christmas carol I could think of. Being in a choir during Christmastime affords you mystical knowledge that laypersons don’t have access to. Like, there are three verses to “O Holy Night,” three verses to “Joy the World,” SIX verses to “The First Noel.” A choir singer even knows such obscure carols like “In the Bleak Midwinter,” “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” and “Good Christian Men Rejoice.” Spanish, French, Latin, English, that Welsh one I couldn’t remember all the lyrics to, whatever… I belted out every carol I could think of as something to do to keep me going.

I never realized Ruben was behind me. Just as I was almost to the camp, he popped up out of nowhere and scared the crap out of me. I guess he’d been listening to my solo recital the whole time, every sad, flat note of it, gasping for breath when I tried to hit the Mariah Carey version of O Holy Night. Geez.


He said he would carry my day pack but I refused. The day pack did not bother me, and it wounded my pride a little. I can’t be seen as a person who can’t carry her own crap (even though I did hire a Quechua to carry the other stuff). When he saw I wouldn’t budge on that, he instead asked me about what I’d been singing. I told him Christmas carols and this sparked a discussion on Christmas traditions.

Ruben said that Christmas was a sad time in the Andes because of the economic state of the families. City kids get new bikes, new soccer balls and new clothes but Andes children don’t usually get much, if anything at all. Families also don’t have money to waste on a fancy dinner. This bothered me significantly because it is the same everywhere. People with money can afford to “celebrate,” while the people without have to make do with whatever they have, which is, of course, not what the Season is supposed to be about.

I thought it would be a great idea to donate bikes and soccer balls to the porters’ village but I did not know how to go about doing this. Plus, you never know how different cultures react to what you consider charity. I don’t want to be seen as the rich American girl who can save everybody with money. And I think their problems are greater than a soccer ball. I’m just not smart enough to figure out stuff like this. I don’t really know what makes a difference, but I thought about it the rest of the trip.

I was very pleased with myself when I made it to the second campsite. Whatever despair I had been feeling had fled me somewhere during the seventh verse of “We Three Kings of Orient Are” (there are 10 total, you know). The discussion with Ruben helped to distract me that final half hour to the campsite. It is amazing what you can do when you stop wallowing in your own self-pity and think about others.


She hasn’t even been to Patagonia.  What a loser.

That night at supper, we began to reveal our true colours to one another. Gina scoffed at 47 and I because we bought our stuff from Amazon. She said it was a bad company that put mom-and-pop places out of business. She was even more horrified to find that I had items purchased from Wal-Mart. My mom worked at Wal-Mart for 17 years. I don’t need some skank to tell me what a bad company it is. I already know.

The two married couples bragged about how much money they spent at their local outdoor store. They wore brand new everything. Jessica said they spent $3000 just in preparation for the trip. The only money I spent was for proper boots and the day pack. I hiked in jogging leggings I bought from Wal-Mart and long sleeved Old Navy t-shirts, the ones you get three for $10. My Darth Vader tuque came from Big Lots. 47 and I began to get annoyed with their comments. It almost seemed like high school where people make fun of you because you don’t have cool clothes.

nagging wife

Actual footage of their argument

It also became clear that Chris and Katie were not happy. They argued under their breath. She was upset that he kept leaving her and he was annoyed that she wasn’t walking fast enough. Apparently, this was his dream trip and she was just there to support him. She also complained about everything. She was like, “Oh, there’s too much food.”  What?  No, there is never too much food.  Okay?  I thought she was stank to the Quechua. She demanded that someone escort her to “the proper toilets.” We had this shitty camp toilet.  It was bad but it wasn’t that bad but I guess she wouldn’t use it.  She asked Ruben to tell one of the Quechua to show her how to get the bathrooms in the campgrounds because it was very dark out. She had this whiny little voice, “I just feel like, cuz it’s so dark…”

Bitch, didn’t they tell you to bring a headlamp or flashlight?

Ruben told her the men were eating their own suppers. I mean, after running up and down a damn mountain all day and fixing us food and carrying all our crap and putting up our tents and doing everything for us, can they eat too? He ended up escorting her since she was on the verge of a breakdown.

When 47 and I retired to our tents, we tried to make light of the day. We started cracking jokes and then we played the “What If” game, like: “What if we did this hike with our boss from the second deployment?” or “What if we did this hike with the one chick everybody hated from the first deployment?” It became quite hysterical for us because we were like, “What if we did this hike with our mothers?” but Chris and Katie told us to shut up. Well, actually, Chris said in this snotty voice, “Can you guys please be quiet? We’re trying to sleep.”

Okay, it was like 730 in the evening. You shut up! 47 said that it was probably Katie complaining again.


Trip Report: Inca Trail (Day 1)


Andes farmland on the way to Ollaytatambo

We spent three days partying in Lima before arriving in Cusco. Truth be told, a good idea would have been to cut out one of those partying days to come to Cusco earlier. An even better idea would have been to come to Cusco first and did the partying afterward. This would have been better for us physically. All that drinking…. Oy.

The way we did it, we only had 1.5 days to adjust to the altitude. I did not have any significant issues, just slight fatigue, but 47 had trouble breathing. She also had a nuisance headache. Our hotel was awesome but we were on the third floor.  Even with just backpacks I felt like we were climbing mountains. We would come up to the room and collapse into bed like we’d just been on a marathon.

Arriving earlier would have given us more time to explore Cusco. We just did not do the place justice. Because 47 was feeling poorly, she stayed in the room while I went out. I was a history major and a religious studies minor, so I could have spent a lifetime combing through the churches and museums dedicated to faithful nuns and priests. We just didn’t give ourselves enough time.

The day before the hike began, we met with our tour guide Ruben at the Wayki Trek office. We also met with two of our fellow hikers: Gina, a Peace Corps volunteer from Eastern Europe and Martin, a graphic designer on sabbatical from some French territory.


I think it’s the Urubamba River

Ruben did a great job of outlining everything that would happen during the trek. Truthfully, I had been having serious misgivings about the whole thing. 47 and I made these plans eight months ago when we were deployed and doing two-a-days at the gym. Everything I had been reading stated that a hiker should be physically fit. I am anything but. Ruben kept going on about how Day 2 was the challenge day but he had never had a client that quit or couldn’t make it. Buoyed by this, I told myself everything would be just fine.

The next morning, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. It’s cold out and my bed is warm; why should I go on a 26 mile hike anywhere? I am a person that can sometimes be blasé about money—which is stupid, because I don’t actually have money to throw away like that. I was thinking to myself, “Who cares about the couple hundred dollars I spent on this trip? I’m sleepy.” Eventually we did get up and get going.

We were the first to be picked up. Then we stopped to pick up two married couples: Sam and Jessica, and Chris and Katie. Gina and Martin opted for the Wayki Experience, so we had to drive out to the porters’ village to pick them up. Once we had everybody we started out for Ollaytatambo.

Hikers getting ready in Ollaytatambo

Hikers getting ready for the trek

After leaving Ollaytatambo, we headed down what can only be described as a Road of Death to the Kilometer 82. Seriously, I’ve been in quite a few foreign countries and driven on some hair-raising roads but this road… it’s like a one lane dirt road and our driver must have thought it was the Indy 500 because he was blazing and then we had to scoot off the edge of the road near the river so another blazing fast truck could pass.

We made it safe enough but maybe that’s an experience I would not care to repeat. At Kilometer 82, we prepared for the hike. Ruben introduced us to the porters, which he kindly asked us to refer to them as Quechua. There were a total of 13, and we couldn’t remember their names except Señor Condor, the senior porter and Señor Alfredo, the head cook.

“Well, I’ll remember Señor Alfredo, because he’s the cook and that’s the most important person because he knows where the food is,” said 47. My thoughts exactly.

My hike was almost over before it even began. It was very windy that day and my entrance paper almost blew into the river. Thankfully someone and their hiking pole saved it from blowing in.

Fresh as a daisy at the start

It’s now or never!

After you take a dozen pictures under the Camino de Inca sign and clear all the formalities, the hike begins.

Right away, I saw this was maybe not a good idea. My friends don’t talk to me into drugs or illegal activities. My friends talk me into feats of physical abilities that are quite beyond my capacity. Three years ago, my so-called friends talked me into doing the Bataan Death March. It was a terrible idea. My friends also talked me into doing a marathon. Also a bad idea, but I have completed two more since. I’m sorry to say the Inca Trail was MY idea.

That first little incline into the trail and I was like, “What are you doing!!” Five minutes later we saw a British woman COMING BACK. The trail is one way, folks, so obviously she was quitting not even fifteen minutes into a four day hike. She said, “Stomach bug.”

Yeah, okay, if that’s what you want to tell yourself.

Within thirty minutes it was clear that I was the weakest person in the group. 47, with her freakishly long legs, is a strapping Polish-Irish girl who can balls her way through anything physical. She Crossfits, so you know, physical torture is a national pastime for such people. Gina and Martin had done such hikes as Patagonia and some wilderness experience in Nepal. Jessica was an Olympian, for heaven’s sake. Seriously, she said she competed in the Olympics and holds several national records in her sport.

The first day was not specifically horrible. I just realized that I should have been in better shape. The up-hills were the worst. It wasn’t the altitude; it just going up that was so bothersome. I’m only 5’1 and my stubby little legs just can’t eat up the terrain like that.

I am so glad that we hired a Quechua to carry our extra gear. So, here’s how that was almost a fatal mistake. When we booked everything we did not initially hire an extra porter. For some reason, I thought I did but I never did. In the months leading up to the hike, I kept having these nagging little feelings like I forgot something. Two weeks before the hike began I was like, “YOU DIDN’T HIRE A PORTER!! IT’S TOO LATE!” I will never delude myself into thinking that I could carry my own shit. I immediately emailed Wayki Treks. I was so scared because I started reading other TA reports about how they wanted a porter at the last minute but couldn’t because the porters are under the same guidelines as the hikers—having to get clearance to enter the trail, same as everybody. In the hour it took for Wayki Treks to respond to my email, I sweated my whole life away. But thankfully, they were able to accommodate us.


That road less travelled

That first day was a little warm, but not uncomfortable. It did not rain at all. I arrived last to the campsite, but I wasn’t horribly far behind everyone. No one made me feel like a loser for being in the back, and it wasn’t that big a deal. Seriously, the slow walking gave me ample opportunity to take in the scenery. Isn’t that the reason you’re out there, to enjoy nature at its finest?

I have never been camping before—at least, camping that wasn’t military, and it was a good experience for me. It is something that I would definitely do again. The other hikers laughed at me because they decided that this was not camping, when someone pitches your tent and cooks for you. They all started going into stories about trying to set up tents in the middle of a storm and then having to cook when you’re starving, and blah blah blah. You know what, that’s awesome you do those things, but it doesn’t sound fun to me. There’s shit that a person MUST do (like work, take care of their kids, etc), and there are things that a person WANTS to do. Things you WANT to do are usually fun. Setting up a tent in rainstorm doesn’t sound like fun, but if that’s what you like to do, more power to you!

This seemed to set the tone for the rest of our trip. Gina and Martin started going into all these awesome, rugged experiences they had. Actually, it was really annoying. It’s one thing to talk about an awesome trip you went on; it’s quite another to brag about it and then lord it around like you’re the shit. It was also super obvious they hooked up, even though they just met. Hey, more power to them. Wish I could have had a holiday boo.

It also became apparent the type of money the two married couples had. They met each other at the wedding of a mutual friend. Chris and Katie had been on a riverboat cruise on the Zambezi. I think Sam and Jessica went diving with great white sharks, or some shit. Basically, they went on all these trips that sounded horribly expensive.

47 and I seemed to be the only regular working class people without a wealth of exotic experiences, but you know how I don’t really give a fuck. When Gina, Jessica and Katie started up a yoga session before dinner, that is when I realized that I was on some other hipster planet. Yes, I know some yoga moves. I got an app for that, but they seemed to take it way too seriously. Me and 47 were like… whatever.

Señor Alfredo was not playing games.

Food was pretty good

The one thing I worried about was the food. If it’s not soy sauce, teriyaki sauce or drowned in some kind of spicy chile I don’t really want it. The food wasn’t bad at all. Señor Alfredo really surprised me. I mean, they’re cooking shit in a tent, with what? I don’t even know. I tried to peek in one time to see how they did it but there were like 10 dudes in the tent and I couldn’t really see. They do feed you a lot.

Gina, who claimed to have gone on all these amazing expeditions, freaked out about the water. I guess she felt like she was gonna get diphtheria, or something.  She insisted on buying bottled water and dragging it around everywhere she went. She carried it and didn’t complain, so that’s her issue. First, the water is coming out of a pipe from an actual glacier. It don’t get no purer than that. Then they boil it. Problem solved. I was worried about the taste, but it tastes like the same crap you get out of an Evian bottle (actually better, Evian water is gross). You won’t get salmonella dysentery, I promise. It’s not even a real thing anyway.


An Inca ruin, one of many you see on the trail

Sam bought a bottle of pisco from the locals that live around the campsite. I have to say that Sam really helped to liven our sad little crew. He had a great sense of humour and cracked jokes the whole time. It’s really great to have someone like that whose spirits can never be dampened. His wife, Jessica, was also pleasant. Chris and Katie, not so much. In fact, I don’t even know how these two couples are friends. Katie was a straight up bitch. I feel sorry for dudes who have clingy ass wives. He seemed like he could have been cool but his wife was uptight and annoying. 47 and I predicted their marriage wouldn’t last long. Petty, I know, but whatever.

Anyway, I thought the camp was nice. Yeah, so what it’s not real camping, but as Katie said, “This is my standard.” 47 and I shared a tent, which they claimed was for three people. If they had shoved a third person in that tent they would have been shoved right back out. Two people, yes; three people, hell no. We had a dining tent where we ate our meals, and a tent with a toilet in it. It’s not the best toilet, but it’s better than fumbling around in the bushes or trying to look for the campground toilets in the dark. I thought the whole setup was decent.


Where the earth meets the sky

Operation: GTFO (Day 215)

Post Paris Depression

I'm not in Paris anymore.

I’m not in Paris anymore.

I’ve been back from leave for about 14 days now.  A commenter on Trip Advisor asked me how I was getting along with my “post-Paris depression.”  I think that is the exact disease from which I’m suffering.  With a little bit of I don’t give a shit-itis.  This is precisely what happened to me during the last deployment when I came back from R&R—my ability to care about anything went from 0 to -15.  I would say that I’m sitting at a solid -20.

Of course it did not help that my battle buddy went on leave the day I got back.  I swear to God, I never thought it humanly possible to miss somebody so much, and we ain’t family or in love!  It’s just sitting in this office for a week straight with these two lunatics just really wore on my nerves.  It’s lucky they do have conversation or I would have committed suicide.  It’s just that they have a lot of issues.  Sometimes I feel like I’m having a conversation with a schizophrenic and/or my grandfather.

I suffered through a set of meetings where I realized that I don’t actually like any of these people.  No, let me take that back.  I’ve known since jump I didn’t like these people.  I think I realized how intensely I don’t like these people.  I remarked to Higher that I found it amazing his ability to deal with all these personalities.  I find it taxing to work with people I consider to be idiots.  He has loads more experience than I do, and maybe one day when I grow up I’ll learn how to function in a society full of buffoons.

The face you make when someone asks you to sit in on yet another meeting.

The face you make when someone asks you to sit in on yet another meeting.

In the last meeting, they thought I was taking notes.  Instead I was planning my post-deployment leave.  Thanks to PDRMA, I might get a week extra of leave.  An initial calculation puts me at 22 days.  I don’t believe anything until it’s in writing, so I’m going to assume I only have two weeks left.  I’m going to take a whirlwind tour of France and the UK.  I want to visit the Champagne region because I never got around to it during my initial leave.  Then I’m going to Paris again, then on to London for a week.

I already plotted out my entire itinerary based on 14 days.  I’m flying Space A into Ramstein and out of Mildenhall.  The only thing I really need are the dates.  Since there’s no way of actually knowing when the fuck I will be paroled from this misery, I will just have to wing it.  I figure I will have a better idea once I actually get on a plane.  Last time it only took me 2.5 days to escape Fort Hood.  It might be last minute and more expensive, but it is better than nothing.

It’s just giving me something to look forward.  For whatever reason going home is not enough of a motivator.  Maybe because there isn’t anything back there waiting for me, and I feel like it would be more of the same old-same old.  Really, I’m on the verge of just quitting everything and becoming one of these Bohemians that work their way around the world doing whatever the fuck they want.

I don't see what's wrong with this lifestyle.

I don’t see what’s wrong with this lifestyle.

I am going to take a page from my battle’s book and backpack—not in the traditional sense, though.  I’m too old for that.  But I might stay in a hostel in Paris because it’ll be so last minute, but when I get to London I’m doing my luxury route.  I’ll consider Scotland if I end up having these 20 days these people claim I’ll have.

Based on an arbitrary calculation I think I have nine more Sundays left.  I think this is the best way to think of it.  Higher said, “We have four paychecks left.”  Who the fuck wants to count dwindling paychecks?  Yeah, almost all of us are going back to jobs so it’s not like we won’t be getting paid ever again, but I can’t be like, “Four paychecks till I stop getting double paychecks.”  Someone else tried to count in hours.  Someone said, “Yeah, I did the calculation and it’s like 2100 more hours.”  I don’t know how accurate the calculation is but seriously, do you really want to count two-thousand, one-hundred, fifty-six hours, nineteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds?  Uh.  Nope.

Forget counting days too.  If I go with the rough estimate of nine weeks, then that’s like 63 days.  That’s still too much.  Nine Sundays sounds more reasonable and it doesn’t seem like a long time.

Trip Report: Paris, France (Day 9)

From the Tour Montparnasse

From the Tour Montparnasse

On my last day in Paris, I woke up very early so as not to waste a single minute of it. I honestly thought about going to Versailles as a day trip but the more I looked into it the more I knew that I wanted to wait for my return trip. I think coming in winter is great for seeing the sights without excessive crowds, but I can only imagine how splendid this city is in full bloom. I think Versailles as a whole might be better in spring.

Instead, I opted for Tour Montparnasse. I said before I wasn’t really big on going to the top of things but I saw pictures online that it has a glass enclosure. They don’t just let you walk around willy-nilly up there. I think it’s about 55 stories or so, and I have to admit that it was pretty amazing.

Not your average commute.

Not your average commute.

First, I went to Galaries Lafayette at the Commerce Centre. It’s far less manic here, so if you want to do your high-end shopping I would suggest this one rather than the one near Opera Garnier. It doesn’t have the same wide selection but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if all you really want to do is shop.

I bought myself that perfume I wanted, but unfortunately the Chanel counter at this location does not have jewellery. I was not able to get my friend the earrings she wanted. Chanel has been selling earrings for a hundred years.  They’ll still be there in May when I come back.

It costs 15E to get to the top of Tour Montparnasse. It really is a bit of tourist trap. When you first come off the elevator they take your picture in front of a green panel. This is so you can have a “photo” of you directly in front of the Eiffel Tower or some other location. I tried to opt out of this but they said, “It’s no obligation.”  I gave them my ‘black people don’t smile’ look and they did not bother me again.

I walked around in the enclosed area for a second or two. There’s a café and a gift shop, but they had half of it closed off for a private event. So I went up to the 59th level, the part where you can go outdoors.

I still think the view from Sacre Coeur is the best, but the Tour Montparnasse is a close second. Because it’s so high up you can really get a very wide view of the entire city and its outer lying areas. It’s sunny today so I think it’s pretty spectacular. As someone told me there were not that many tourists at all. I think perhaps a total of eight of us were on top. One guy had a really fancy camera; it looked like a movie camera. I’m sure it cost into the thousands, and I bet his photos were really good. Whatever. I’m happy with my iPhone photos.

I left just in time because a huge group of about 200 Chinese tourists showed up. There was even more downstairs waiting to come up in the elevators. When I went outside I saw five tour buses pulling off. I bet the private event was for them.

After Tour Montparnasse, I decided to have one last crepe. I used Yelp to find a nearby creperie and it came back with a little street that was full of creperies. None of them opened until noon, so I sat on the steps of a church, reading reviews for 20 minutes. I think this is one of my happiest moments in Paris.

It’s sunny and very peaceful. I can people watch and I really don’t have a care in the world. Sure, I have a little bit of sadness that in just 24 hours I would have to go back to my life but to even have an opportunity to travel at all is simply amazing. I have so many friends who have never left their home towns. I have even more friends that really want to go places but they feel confined by their lives. I think I am lucky that I lived outside the US in my youth. It helped give me an appreciation for other cultures. My sister and I look back on those years living in Japan and count it as some of the best years of our lives.

From the Trocadero at night

From the Trocadero at night

I think I am also blessed that I can even afford to go someplace. These days, people are just trying to make a living. More people are concerned about feeding their children and putting them through college, then going on an excursion to a foreign country. I don’t usually get on a soap box but I will put in a plug for a worldly education. It can significantly enhance their worldview.

At any rate, I chose Le Petite Josselin because the Josselin Creperie was closed for some reason. Josselin Creperie had the best reviews, but La Petite came in a close second. It was extremely crowded inside. I know the French don’t mind being so closely seated but I was uncomfortable. I’m not a small person and I felt like I couldn’t fit into the area the server wanted me to sit. Usually I don’t like to sit with my back to the door, but there was no way I could slide into that bench between the tables.  I felt like my ass was gonna be in somebody’s soup.

It was very warm in there so I hurried up and ordered a Martiniquaise. Coconut ice cream, chocolate, and Grand Marnier. The Grand Marnier is not overpowering, but I don’t really taste the coconut ice cream too much. Still, I think it’s very good.

Now I have to make a decision on the best crepe ever, but I felt like I could not. This street had about 10 creperies on it. I feel that I would be negligent if I made a decision without tasting their crepes as well. I have decided to table the research until it can be continued on my return trip. But for now, I think Ar Poul Gwen is number one, the Bayeux crepe is number two and Le Petite Josselin will be number three.

Now, time for some souvenir shopping. I’m not really big on souvenirs. I would never purchase an “I heart Paris” T-shirt, or a junky old coffee mug. But I do collect snow globes, so that tells you a lot. I really wanted something for my sister and my nephews but I didn’t have a whole lot of room in my bags and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take the time to mail something from France. Instead, I bought some scarves for myself and one for my battle buddy. Also, I couldn’t resist the sales so I bought a pair of boots. How fortuitous that I should be in Paris during the semi-annual sales.

I wondered if France had any big box stores like Wal-Mart or Target. I found a store called BHV in the Marais. BHV is like a Home Depot, Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond rolled all into one. It’s actually a little bit ridiculous, but so much fancier than those individual stores. This BHV has seven stories full of mid-range items. Some reviewers state the prices are expensive but it looks like middle class prices to me. I think it would be the difference of shopping in Walmart vs. Target.

For my battle buddy I also bought her some nuts from le pistacherie. She loves pistachios and cashews and I thought the gift baskets in the window were really pretty.

Seriously, it's the butter and garlic.  I'd eat them again.

Seriously, it’s the butter and garlic. I’d eat them again.

You know what is the most difficult thing to overcome when travelling to another country? It’s not the language or the customs of other people. It’s the metric system! Even though I grew up in Japan where the metric system is used, I still have significant issues. It was like I lived in two worlds, never fully grasping either system. I am also a poor judge of measurement. I say things like, “My apartment is very small. It’s about 50 square feet.” I don’t say it as an exaggeration; I genuinely believe a person can live in a 50 square foot apartment. Or I’ll say something like, “You can walk there very easily. It’s about half a mile,” and it turns out the distance was closer to five miles. Don’t get me started on meters!

When I went into le pistacherie I thought about just buying one of the gift baskets, but the case where you can buy by the gram had so many different varieties. I knew my battle would appreciate cheese-crusted cashew nuts and lemon-flavoured almonds, but how much do I buy? So, what’s sad is my only understanding of the metric system has to do with drugs. I used to work law enforcement, and I knew that a few grams are a night in jail but kilos will get you sent up.

So do I order a few grams of nuts or a kilo of nuts?

Luckily, the kind lady really assisted me. Through some wild gesticulation I was able to show her how much of each I wanted. When I told her it was a gift for a friend, she thoughtfully packaged the nuts so beautifully. You just don’t get that kind of assistance at a big box store in the US.

I spent another hour or so wandering around the Marais before heading back to the apartment to start packing. I did have one last church concert lined up and I also wanted to dine out again. This time I wanted to try l’escargots. I have never had them before.

I asked for recommendations on TA, and someone came back with Chez Denise. I decided against Chez Denise because the menu seemed a little more than I could handle. I read something about pork knuckles and bone marrow and it intimidated me. I’m not sure where I stand on French food. I am discovering now how “French food” is a very broad term. I don’t know the regions just yet, so I don’t know what each region specializes in. Then, of course, you have all the contemporary and fusion places so it’s hard to tell.

Ultimate in Parisian shopping.

Ultimate in Parisian shopping.

What I say I don’t like is that some of the food can be quite bland. I know this is because I was raised on spicy food drowned in garlic and chiles. If it’s not burning my lips off then it’s not hot enough. French food does not have these attributes. I’m not the American that grew up on pot roasts, potatoes and casserole dishes, so some of the French food is really a leap for me. On the other hand, I absolutely adore seafood and everything I’ve eaten on that score has been delectable. Having said all that, I did not have a bad meal at all. I think the best thing I ate was oxtails and scallops. I could have done without the beet juice dish at Jules Verne.

Instead of Chez Denise, I went to L’escargot Montorgueil (spelling). It was hardly a block away from the apartment. I told the server that I had never had escargots before and please recommend the best version. They had different options and I really couldn’t tell what the difference would be. He chose for me the traditional garlic, butter and parsley.

Before I went on an escargot escapade, I watched several YouTube videos on how to eat “the slippery little suckers.” Anyone who has ever seen Pretty Woman, remembers the scene where Julia Roberts flings a snail into the air. I did not want to be That Guy, flying snails all over the place.

After the videos I felt confident I would be able to eat them without making a fool of myself. When they arrived, I looked down at the plate skeptically. It really is six snails nestled into a plate specifically designed for them. The shells are turned upward to hold the garlic, butter and parsley concoction like a little bowl.

I picked up the tongs and the little fork I was given and began to dig in. I pushed the fork way down into the shell like the video said so but all I could pull out were parsley flakes. I started to wonder if that’s all it was, just some garlic juice with butter and parsley. There was nothing to chew. In the video the guy had meat on his fork. I thought, well, maybe this one doesn’t have any, like sometimes when you get a bad oyster or a crab with very little meat. I was disappointed so I picked up a second snail and tried again.


I was able to pull out the meat, but now I actually have to eat it. I decided there was nothing for it but to pop it into my mouth, so I did.

La Madeleine Eglise.  I thought it was a museum.  It's a church.

La Madeleine Eglise. I thought it was a museum. It’s a church.

It reminded me of a very strong portabella mushroom. It was a little bit chewy but otherwise it tasted perfectly fine. I think the actual taste comes from whatever garnish they put on it. I think the snail itself doesn’t taste like much. Before eating the snails I thought they would be slimy, but I discovered they aren’t at all. I would definitely eat them again. I had a glass of Beaujolais blanc. The waiter suggested it would go well with the escargots. He was right.

I still had quite a bit of time before my concert so I went to the Trocadero again to see the Eiffel Tower one last time. It is evening time now, so it is lit up and I think it looks even better than it does during the day. There are actually more people out here than there was that first day I came.

I stayed up there admiring it until it was time for my concert.

Afterward, I attended my final church concert. It was a playing of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at La Madeleine Eglise. Yet another beautiful evening of music in another beautiful church. A string quartet opened up with a familiar song, but I couldn’t remember the name. Then they went into Pachelbel’s Canon in D. That damn song again.

A rail thin singer came out for a selection of songs, including Ave Maria. Frankly, I did not think she was that good. Her voice was not big enough for the church and the strings overpowered her. While technically proficient, she lacked warmth and I was glad when her set was over.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a piece of music that a lot of people know but may not know the name. It is a Baroque violin concerto for the solo violin and quartet. You’ve heard “Summer” a thousand times. I know I have, and I never get tired of it. I wanted to learn how to play the violin based off that piece alone. My parents didn’t want to suffer the screeching, scratching of a new violinist so they never put me in lessons.

They really played quite well, but it wasn’t the Four Seasons that did it for me. They played two encores. The first one I didn’t know but the last one was Camille Saint-Saens’ Le Cygne. This is truly a haunting piece of music, and hearing it in this church….it gave me a chill. The song is basically about a dying swan and is based on the notion that swans are mute their whole lives until they are about to die. Upon death, they sing a most beautiful song that makes you weep when you hear it.

I thought it was almost symbolic to end the evening on that song.

This is pretty much my version of Paris.

This is pretty much my version of Paris.