About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sick Boy, Day 2

Its a sunny but chilly morning in Vedano. Yesterday hit 80 degrees. Today it is supposed to be 75 degrees.

Brandon is no longer running a fever. He's still a bit sluggish, so we will keep him home one more day.

I didn't sleep very well at all last night. Why am I not sleeping well lately? I wake up several times a night, tossing and turning. I think its time to seriously think about giving up or cutting back on my Coca Cola consumption. I have always enjoyed it, but my consumption has gone way up since we moved to Italy. That can't be all that good for me.

I had a frustrating Italian lesson this morning. I had trouble focusing and concentrating. Don't know why, but it didn't go that well. We ended up playing the Italian card game Scopa for the last half hour. We even bet 1 euro each on the game.

Brandon is feeling much better this afternoon, so he had his Italian lesson as scheduled. Since Rosella has been teaching us Italian card games, Brandon wanted to teach her a game. He chose Sorry. Its a fun game, but it can take forever!

Brandon is reading my blog. It's humbling when my 8 year old is finding my English and Italian spelling mistakes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sick Boy

Brandon is home from school today. He is running a low fever, about 100.5. He wasn't feeling all that well yesterday when I picked him up from school. At least he's only missing a half day. School gets out at 1:15 today. It's not even October yet and he's already missed 3 days of school - 2 for Paris and 1 for sickness.

Its a hazy and humid morning in Vedano. We've been lucky to have so much sun. I hope it continues for many weeks to come.

View from our balcony.

My new dwarf lemon tree. It will eventually double in size. Lemons will be ripe in November.

We spent much of the day watching movies and TV.

I made homemade minestrone soup for dinner this evening. It turned out pretty good. We had some nice Italian bread and red wine with it. Brandon didn't eat much and we are not forcing him to eat at this point.

Brandon is feeling fairly good, but he is not 100% yet. No school for him tomorrow.

Sunny day in Vedano

Katrina walked Brandon to school this morning. I went for a bike ride.

I've keep finding myself riding the same somewhat challenging route every time I ride. Today I followed the same route about halfway, then turned right down a side road that I have seen other cyclists go down. The first part was narrow, but safe. Then I realized that I had turned into hill country. Lots of climbing on narrow curvy roads, through little Italian towns. Very cool! Unfortunately, I made another right turn that would lead me in the general direction of Monza. While scenic, the road was terrible...very, very bumpy. I found myself heading down into a narrow valley (I think it was the river Lambro?). Very beautiful! Of course, what goes down must go back up. I spotted a sign that said 10km to Monza and followed it, up a switchback road that led me back to my original route. Overall, it was a scenic ride and good to get off of the 'path most comfortable'. My legs still got a descent workout with all the hills, even though the mileage was lower. I like exploring. I love all the little towns. Each one seems to have its own charm. I still need to ride to Como again and make it up the mountain to Brunate, or over the other mountain to Switzerland. How cool is that! To say, "Oh, I just rode to Switzerland this morning."

I had my Italian lesson this morning and it went pretty well. Still working on verbs, but I'm getting better.

I also worked on some reservations for Katrina. When her sister is here in November they will be spending a night in Verona. I am also working on cooking lessons in Verrena. Laurie and I may take a cooking class if I can work it out.

Brandon had an ok lesson this afternoon. He was very tired after school and his stomach was bothering him a bit. He seems better this evening.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A New Week

Monday morning. Time to begin another week.

We got Brandon ready and I rode with him to school today, then took off on a bike ride towards Como. Rode to my usual minimum turnaround point - 40km. I haven't been as consistent lately. Last week I only rode once and it was a short ride. I'm planning to ride again tomorrow morning before Italian class.

Woohoo...my Fantasy Football team, the Slomanators, won this weekend. I beat Katrina's cousin and am now 1-1.

I walked over to Vedano this morning to buy some cash (exhange rate is 1.45), mail some letters and pay for some lunch vouchers at school.

My afternoon was full of household tasks: laundry, sweeping and mopping the floor, trash and recycling, and general picking up around the house.

I am continually amazed at how many people have cleaning ladies. Most, if not all, of the moms at school have cleaning ladies. Most that I know do not work. And when I say we don't have one, they tell me why we need one. I already have more time that most people, even after all the weekly chores and errands. How hard is it to clean the house? I really think it is an Italian cultural issue, but I am not sure.

I made meatballs with gravy and asparagus for dinner - with red wine, of course.

We played a few round of Scopa this evening. Scopa is an Italian card game that our Italian instructor recently taught us.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I have a headache this morning. I've been sleeping ok, but not well.

Katrina and Brandon slept in a bit. I was up at 7:30. We are having a lazy morning at home. Katrina is doing some painting. Brandon is playing and scattering his toys all over the house.

This is week two of Fantasy Football. Katrina and I are playing in the family league again this year. It will be interesting since we are 9 hours ahead, so most Sunday games take place on Sunday evening or in the middle of then night for us. We even persuaded Mike to join the league...and we all lost last week. Any given Sunday...

The rest of my day: took a nap, watched TV, play Boom Blox, ate...I think that's it.

24 Week Gelati Count: 119
24 Week Wine Bottle Count: 22

Friday, September 25, 2009


Its Saturday morning and we are being lazy...well, sort of. I just watched a WWII movie. Brandon is playing on Google Earth. Katrina has been working on her laptop most of the morning, trying to get caught up with work.

We walked over to the comune in downtown Vedano this morning to complete more immigration paperwork. We had to apply for residence in Vedano a couple of months ago, and now that we have our Italian residency cards, we had to show them to complete the process. There always seems to be another step to the immigration process.

Before heading back home we wandered through the Saturday street market in Vedano. We ended up buying some lemon cookies and a roasted chicken. The chicken was for lunch and was very tasty.

This afternoon Brandon and I dropped Katrina off at the art store in Monza. She was going to walk home. Brandon and I went to the toy store to look at Lego sets, then to Bicimania to look at bikes. We looked at Italian and American road bikes ranging from e899 to e13,999. Believe it or not, the expensive one was an American bike...Trek.

This evening we walked across the street for some gelato. It was a nice relaxing day. Tomorrow I will go for a bike ride.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Its Friday. Katrina did not sleep very well last night. I slept pretty well, other than being woken up several times by Stevie the cat. Katrina is busy, busy at work and has a lot on her mind. I'm doing all I can to let her relax when she is home.

We had a 10am meeting with Olga at the police station this morning. For those who don't remember, Olga is our relocation expert. Back in August we met at the police station for the formal application of our residency here in Italy. This morning we were issued our residency cards, after being finger printed one more time - this time all fingers and palms. Our cards are very high tech and fancy with several holigrams and a micro chip. We are good through February 2011, so we will eventually have to work on an extension of a few months. We'll deal with that later. We are official residents of Italy, at least for the next 1 1/2 years.

We dropped Brandon off at school (he had to be with us at the police station), then I took Katrina to work. On the way home I stopped at IKEA for a few things we needed and ended up having meatballs for lunch while I was there.

I also bought a small lemon tree from a roadside vendor. We have two large concrete pots on our balcony that have been sitting empty. I know I wanted a small tree of some sort, so why not a lemon tree. It should get plenty of sun where I placed it. I ended up planting it in the smaller of the two large pots. The bigger one will be kept empty until spring when we plan to plant some cherry tomatoes. Oh, I also bought a cactus at IKEA. My green thumb that I had with plants in the US must not have followed me here. I have killed 3 out of 6 plants I have purchased here, so I thought I would try a cactus.

Brandon and I walked over to Gelateria Jody with Hugo, Amelie and Hugo's Mom, Sheila (pronounced Shayla). We all enjoyed some cool treats, then the kids played while Sheila and I shared experience of living in Italy. Her family has only been here for a year.

This evening Brandon and I met Mike and Katrina at Mexicali for dinner. Ahhhh, Mexican food. Its not quite like home, but it sure tastes good. I even had a Mexican beer.

No Italian Lessons Today

Its another beautiful day in Vedano. I think the high is supposed to be somewhere in the high 70's.

Rosella, out Italian instructor, was almost an hour late before Katrina noticed an email from Berlitz telling us she is sick. Italian lessons are good for us, but its nice to have another morning free.

I think I'll go get a much overdue haircut. I needed one in late August and now its almost the end of September. Wow, the end of September. Where have the last 5 months gone? I fear that two years will be up before we realize it or are ready for it.

I walked into downtown Vedano for a haircut and had to wait about 30 min for my turn. Its so much easier to get my hair cut now. The barber knows how I like it and we can chat in simple Italian. There always seems to be a customer who speaks a little English and wants to chat. Today there were two. One man had lived in the US for a short while. He currently lives in Vedano and is a chiropracter in Monza. The other man, Marco, is a college student who has traveled extensively in Europe and the US. We chatted about Italy, places to visit, the US, food and sports....a little bit in Italian and a little bit in English.

Katrina was very tired and feeling like she may be getting sick. She's had a very busy week. We are all looking forward to a weekend at home.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bank Overdraft??!!

Katrina had an early morning meeting today, so I got up and took Brandon to school today. We rode our bikes so that I could hit the road straight from school. I was going to do a nice long ride today, but my bike is having a wheel issue, so my ride was cut short. I will need to get my back wheel to a bike shop tomorrow and see if they can fix it.

The rest of my day was spent doing laundry and fixing an issue with our Italian bank account. We don't keep much in it to begin with. Just enough to auto pay our phone, TV and electric bills. Unfortunately, I checked our balance this morning and we were overdrawn by e77! I checked the transactions and noticed a large sum of money withdrawn last Thursday. Well, first off, I called Katrina to make sure I was aware of all our bills. She was surprised as well.

This afternoon I went to the bank armed with copies of our account transactions and my Italian dictionary. I managed to get an employee who spoke a very little bit of English. Between his little English, my little bit of Italian and my dictionary we determined that something was wrong. He actually had to search through a box of transaction papers from last Thursday (even though all records are on the computer) to find out that the teller entered the wrong account number by an even 100. It was for a paycheck to an employee. We don't have any employees!! They fixed the problem and credited the transaction fee and overdraft fee. As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, the amount of paperwork to do 'official' transactions in Italy is absolutely amazing. Marco (the employee helping me) had to print 11 different pages to fix the problem, then had to stamp and date each one. I got 2 of those 11 copies. The rest were stapled and sealed with an official gold seal.

Anyway, I felt good about solving the issue. I can get things done in Italian if I really have to!

Brandon had Aikido after school today. He seems to really be enjoying it.

I made Orecchiette con Broccoletti di Rape e Mandorle - pasta with brocolli rabe and almonds - for dinner, along with red wine and olives.

Back in the Routine

It's back to our normal routine today. We had a great weekend in Paris. Paris! It's sometimes hard to believe that we just popped over there for the weekend. Life in Italy is continually amazing.

I went grocery shopping at Auchan while Katrina had her morning Italian lesson. My lesson followed hers with most of the time spent on verbs.

The rest of the day was spent sweeping, cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry and working on my blog.

Brandon had his Italian class after school today. He is doing so well. During part of the class I joined in and we played an Italian card game.

I realized that as of this past Friday, the 18th, Brandon and I have been in Italy for 5 months. Many of my days are becoming more 'normal' to me, but they each and every day still seems to bring new interest and joy for being able to live in Italy. We are lucky and we realize that.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sacre'-Coeur...Home to Italy

It's our last morning in Paris. We got a great start with breakfast at the neighborhood bakery we love so much.

Today we are carrying all of our luggage. Katrina has her camera bag. Brandon has his loaded backpack. I have a fully loaded backpack and one of our small suitcases...thankfully it has wheels.

After breakfast we caught the Metro to Montmarte district. It is located on Paris' highest hilltop (420ft). This area is rich with history: monks grew and stomped grapes here in the 1200's, farmers ground grain with windmills in the 1600's, gypsum was mined in the 1700's, and artists took over the area in the 1900's.

The Sacre'-Coeur is a 5 domed, Roman-Byzantine basilica that crowns this hilly area. It took 44 years to build and was completed in 1919. It is built on 83 piers because the hillside is honeycombed with gypsum mines.


Brandon and I stayed outside the basiica while Katrina checked out the interior. I didn't feel like toting a suitcase inside. From the steps of the basilica visitors have a great view of Paris.

Next, we walked a few blocks down the street to the place du Terte. Its a little plaza filled with artists selling and actually painting as you watch. There are some really talented artists there. Katrina really enjoyed checking out all the displays and watching them at work. Her artistic side was in a good place.

After a snack of french fries and a Nutella crepe, we worked our way down the hill towards the Pigalle, stopping to admire the architecture along the way. We found a house that Van Gogh lived in, quite by accident.

The Pigalle is Paris' red light district, the infamous 'Pig Alley.' Its an interesting area full of topless bars, the Museum of Erotic Art, pickpockets, and the famous Moulin Rouge. This famous establishment has become more touristy than anything. They say buses line the streets at night with tour groups visiting the place that made the Cancan famous. They pay a steep price, with admission to the show starting at 120 euros. Next door, a 150 euro bottle of champagne comes with a friend to share it with. Yes, its an interesting area, and very different from the red light district of Amsterdam.

After taking a short break on a bench near the Moulin Rouge, we decided to walk through to the nearest RER station. It was quite a few blocks away, but we always enjoy checking out the local neighborhoods.

At the station we had another interesting event take place. While in line to buy RER train tickets to the airport we noticed armed military looking police had begun to stop people from entering the corridor on our left. Within 10 minutes, the ticket booth closed and no one to enter the platform. We didn't know what to do? The RER was our transportation to the airport. We decided to go back up to the main level and figure something out. The RER corridors at the other end of the station were open and functioning normally, so we bought tickets and hopped on a train to the airport. We never did find out what happened to cause the shutdown.

Our flight back to Milan was fairly quick and uneventful. We called the Jetpark shuttle and they whisked us back to our car. We were home in a little over an hour, including stopping to pickup some dinner.

My overall impressions of Paris:

Beautiful city with amazing monuments, museums, palaces and churches. The architecture is very interesting as well. The Eiffel Tower was amazing and the Orsay Museum is my favorite. Our hotel was very clean and nice. The bakery on the corner was awesome and L'Encrier for dinner was superb.

The city seems a bit dirtier than others we have visited. There seemed to be the smell of urine on many streets, especially side streets. I don't know if the presence of so many heavily armed police made me feel more secure or more nervous. The demonstration at the Bastille was pretty intense.

After this trip, here are my top 5 European destinations:

1. Murren, Switzerland
2. Venice, Italy
3. Bled, Slovenia
4. Munich, Germany
5. Verona, Italy

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Muse'e d'Orsay and the Champs-Elyse'es

Once again we woke up to a chilly morning in Paris. I guess I am having a hard time accepting that fall is here. I love the cooler weather, but I want summer to last a bit longer.

We visited our favorite bakery again this morning. So many tasty treats and not very expensive at all. We've been averaging 5 - 7 euro total for breakfast.

Our first plan for the day was to visit the Muse'e d'Orsay. We had to take the Metro to get there. Katrina and Brandon are good at figuring out where we needed to go and which train to catch.

Our train arrives.

Two happy guys on the Metro.

The Muse'e d'Orsay displays art from the 1800's to 1914, basically picking up where the Louvre leaves off. The Orsay is all about Impressionism. The Orsay displays works by Edouard Manet, Monet, Renoir, Edgar Degas, van Gogh, and Gauguin.

Of course, our first stop was in the book store to find a childrens guide for Brandon. He led us on a tour of some of the most important works in the museum. Each time he spotted one, he would read aloud and tell us all about it. He even had other visitors listening in occasionally.

This was my favorite museum so far, out of all we have visited in 5 months. I loved the works of art and how they were arranged. I loved the architecture of the building and how it was modernized in keeping with its architectural heritage. It only helped that the museum is located inside an old, very large railway station.

Beautiful clock over the entrance to the museum.

The Fifer by Edouard Manet 1866

I don't know what this piece is called, but to me it is: A Boy and His Dog. Every boy needs a good and faithful friend.

The Dance by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux 1869

The Angelus by Jean-Francois Millet 1858-59

Poppies by Claude Monet 1873

The Luncheon on the Grass by Edouard Manet 1863

We walked through most, if not all of the museum in a few hours. Near the end Brandon got a little bored so he found a bench in each viewing area and read one of his books. We took a break at a cafe on the top floor of the museum to rest our feet and recharge.

Beautiful...and the Monet is nice to look at as well.

Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1876

Women Ironing by Edgar Degas 1884-86

The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte 1875

Apples and Oranges by Paul Cezanne 1895-1900

The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise by Vincent Van Gogh 1890

Taking a break.

The Orsay makes its home in an old railway station.

Polar Bear by Francois Pompon 1922-27

These were some of the most important works at the Orsay. There are hundreds and hundreds of other works of art. What an amazing museum.

Musee d'Orsay

After leaving the Orsay, we headed across the river to find the Champs-Elysees. The first sight of it was the Place de la Concorde, the city's largest square. The Tour de France bicycle race ends here, as do all parades of any significance. For more a few hundred years it has been the place to cruise, whether in carriage or sports car. It was also here that the guillotine took thousands of lives including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Back then it was called the place de la Revolution.

View of the Eiffel Tower

Place de la Concorde

The street is very busy and full of high end boutiques, auto dealers showing off futuristic concept cars, and famous cafe's and restaurants. We found it to be much like a high end shopping mall, but outside. Not being big shoppers, we were not all that impressed. To me, the most interesting aspect of the street is its history as the finish for the Tour de France. Watch next July as Lance and team RadioShack lead the Tour down this famous street.

We walked all the way up the hill from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. Napolean had this Arc commissioned to commemorate his victory at the battle of Austerlitz. This is the biggest triumphal arch anywhere, at 165ft tall and 130 wide. 12 streets converge on the place. Visitors can go to the top of the arch if they are willing to climb 284 spiral stair steps.

Arc de Triomphe

We climbed to the top and enjoyed the views. Today was a bit hazy, but the views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower were still magnificent. Inside the tower are displays about its history.


It was a bit hazy today, but we could still see pretty well.

View from the middle of the Champs-Elysees

We were getting a bit hot and tired and needed a break. We planned to take a late afternoon river cruise on the Seine. The boat docks are located on the river at the base of the Eiffel tower, so Brandon was excited. He wanted to go back and look at the tower again. We decided to walk. The tower is massive, therefore it looks closer than it really is. We walked for a good 20 - 25 minutes before we reached the river and tower.

Back at the Eiffel Tower

Once at the river, we decided to cool off with some granite. I had cola. Brandon had lemon and Katrina had raspberry. Katrina made the best choice.

We bought our boat tickets and were off after a short wait. Our river cruise was on a Bateaux Parisiens tour boat. It was a nice break for our feet and interesting to get a view of the city from the river. On the other hand, its also hard to see a lot of things because the river is down low and the banks are high walls.

The audio guide said that this bridge was a gift to France from Russia.

Views of the Eiffel Tower from the River Seine

Notre Dame

Parisiens and tourists enjoying the riverfront.

Our river cruise was a one hour roundtrip ride. After returning to the boat docks, we made our way across the street to the Eiffel Tower to check it out one last time. The plaza was very crowded with tourists. As was the case on Friday, there were several military police with automatic weapons wandering the plaza. As we were leaving the plaza we noticed several blue police vans arrive with many policemen in full riot gear. We didn't stick around to see what that was all about. We've already had that excitement for the evening.

We started walking to the Metro stop and accidently ran across a bus heading to the Bastille, so we decided to give it a try. Transit tickets are good for the Metro, RER trains and the city buses. It turned out to be a good choice. It was a quick crosstown ride with only a few stops.

We exited at the Bastille (no demonstrations going on today)and started looking for a place to eat dinner. We found Yaki, a great little Japanese place. Katrina and I had some great rolls and skewers of chicken, beef and fish. Brandon had some miso soup and pot stickers. On the way back to the hotel we stopped for some gelati.

It was another great day in Paris. Our feet are very tired this evening, our last night in Paris.

23 Week Gelati Count: 116
23 Week Wine Bottle Count: 21

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Louvre and Pepper Spray

We woke up to a chilly morning in Paris. Brandon and Katrina actually put on an outer layer.

We had breakfast at the bakery down the street. What a fantastic and dangerous place. I'm glad we don't have a bakery like this in our neighborhood or I would be in trouble. Brandon and I had chocolate brioches. I also had a mini quiche tart. Katrina had a mini tart and a croissant.

After breakfast we walked to the Bastille to catch the Metro. Katrina stopped to take a few more pictures of the Bastille in the morning light. Other than the early morning traffic, the area was pretty quiet and peaceful. This would change later in the day.


Our plan was to follow the Rick Steve's historic walking tour.

We caught the Metro and headed to Notre Dame. Notre Dame is a 700 year old cathedral packed with history and tourists.

It sits on an island in the middle of the River Seine. We wandered around the plaza taking pictures and reading about the church, before entering to get a look at the interior. I found the interior to be very dark. Visitors can climb the tower of Notre Dame, but we chose to skip this due to the very long lines.

Notre Dame

Almost all of the churches in Europe have beautiful stained glass.

After exiting Notre Dame, we wandered through the archaeological crypt under the plaza of Notre Dame.

The backside of Notre Dame.

We walked around to the back of the cathedral to take a few more pictures, then crossed the bridge to the Isle St. Louis. This is yet another island, smaller in size, filled with restaurants, boutiques and famous sorbet shops. This island wasn't developed until the 18th century. Before that is was a swamp. We strolled the streets and checked out a few shops, before making our way back across the bridge and heading into the Latin Quarter.

Crossing the bridge to the Isle St. Louis.

This quarter is famous for its bohemian character. This was part of Europe's leading university district in the Middle Ages - home of Sorbonne University. IN those days, Latin was the language of higher education, thus the Latin Quarter. This area is filled with bookshops, eateries, cafe's, street singers and jazz clubs.

We wandered through a street market.

Another view of the River Seine.

Our next point of interest was Sainte-Chapelle. It is a gothic cathedral of glass that was speedily built between 1242 an 1248. Notre Dame took 200 years to build. We chose not to go in due to the long lines. This was the second line we skipped today!

Next door to Sainte-Chapelle is the Palais de Justice. Across the street is the Flower Market and the Prefecture de Police. They were showing off their vintage police cars and a fire engine on the plaza. The Prefecture de Police is where Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame used to work. We also walked through the flower market before heading to the Louvre.

This stretch of lower highway along the River Siene is closed by the city of Paris in the summertime. They call it the Paris Plage (beach). It is a newly developed faux beach, constructed in the summer along a two mile stretch of the rivers right bank. They truck in potted palm trees, hammocks, lounge chairs, and 2000 tons of sand. They also setup climbing walls, a swimming pool, trampolines, beach vollyball, badminton and frisbee areas.

We had to cross the river and walk several blocks before arriving at the Louvre. Of course, a long walk demanded that we have ice cream.

Muse'e du Louvre is Europe's oldest, biggest and greatest museum. It is home to the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Greek and Roman statues, Michaelangelo statues and paintings of from the greatest artists of the Renaissance to Romantic period.

The Louvre.

We immediately found the book shop and looked for a guidebook for children. As we have learned from past museum visits, this keeps Brandon fairly interested and engaged. He sometimes acts as a tour guide, telling us all about what we are seeing or what we should see.

Brandon and his guidebook.

The Louvre is huge. To really see everything in the museum, you would need to break it into sections and spend several days. I know Katrina would love that opportunity. I find I am about halfway between Katrina and Brandon on the 'interest scale'. Brandon likes to find what he's looking for, admire and move on. I like to pause, look and study, but keep moving at a little slower pace. I think Katrina would like much more time to study and enjoy the paintings. It's nice that they allow photos as long as no flash is used.

The Seated Scribe ca 2600-2350 BC

A world-famous smile...and the Mona Lisa is nice too!

So much to see...

After we hit all the highlights of the Louvre, we walked along the river to peruse the vendor booths while making our way to the nearest Metro stop.

View along the River Seine.

Remember how I mentioned how peaceful the Bastille area was this morning. It's amazing how things can change in a matter of several hours...

The Metro was jam packed with people. Most were going, well, who knows where they were going, but most were not going to the Bastille. I've never felt so crowded before. Imagine those TV shows or movies where you see people cramming themselves into the subway. This was one of those times.

We exited at the Bastille to find that the underground hallways were packed with people from other Metros, most of them college age or younger. As we neared the exit stairway, the passages became so congested that people were barely moving. Katrina grabbed Brandon's hand and slowly pushed her way through the crowd and up the stairs. I kept right behind them, trying to protect them from behind if the crowd started pushing. Thankfully, everyone seemed to be fairly orderly.

Relieved that we made it up the stairway without incident, we momentarily relaxed and realized that we were not out of the crowds just yet. The entire Bastille area was filled with people. As I mentioned, mostly college age and younger. Katrina noticed that the street we came up on was blocked by several blue police vans. We didn't think much of it at first. I thought it was some sort of holiday, festival or rally, so I took my camera out and took a couple pictures of the scene.

When we became more aware that this was more of an unruly crowd than we realized, we started making a beeline for the street our hotel is on. To get to our street we had to walk around the front of the opera house. As we were doing this I began to notice people tossing wine and beer bottles down the stairs and at people on the sidewalk. Time to really get moving. We continued on around the main stairway leading to the opera house. I noticed that the stairs were full of people, many drinking. Then I noticed two guys helping a third guy down the stairs. He looked like he had been drinking heavily and had also been in a fight or beaten up. He was shirtless, heavily bruised and battered, and unable to stand on his own.

My only real thoughts were of getting Katrina and Brandon out of there. We hurried along, but had to detour into the street when a crowd of people came our way. Most of them were coughing, crying and generally upset. We noticed policemen in riot gear one or two people down and trying to clear out the area around the bus stop. I realized that pepper spray had been used. Another person came stumbling by with a bloody face. This was serious.

We skirted around the police, hoping they would notice that we were trying to get out of the area. At this time I still had my camera in my hand, but was holding it down so as not to attract attention. I flipped it on and tried to take some discreet pictures of the scene. I got a couple which is amazing considering how fast we were walking and the fact that I was taking pictures without aiming.

We made it to our street and within a 100 yards everything seemed normal again. This we when I first realized that my eyes and nose were burning from the pepper spray. Brandon complained about his throat. I think Katrina felt it in her throat as well. Thank goodness we missed the actual spray by a minute or two. I'm also happy we made it through without incident.

My heart was racing. I could tell we were all a bit anxious. We would hear sirens the rest of the evening and late into the night.

Now that we were safe and in the neighborhood of our hotel, we continued on to the restaurant, L'Encrier, for dinner. Its a small little place with amazing French food. Katrina and I both had a nice steak with pepper sauce, potatoes, and zuchini. We also had an appetizer of bread slices with an olive patte. Of course, dinne was not complete without some red wine. Brandon had a salad and some of our potatoes. Neither of us speaks French. Its funny how translations can be lost or mixed up sometimes. Brandon ordered a salad because there was nothing else on the menu he liked. When our steaks came, he like the potatoes. Katrina tried her best to ask for a small plate so we could share our potatoes with him. Instead, we got a large plate full of potatoes. We laughed and they end up not even charging us for them.

Dinner at L'Encrier

We had a short walk back to the hotel room. It was an interesting day of landmarks, museums and pepper spray.