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Edgar Allan Poe on Beauty…

There is no exquisite beauty…without some strangeness in the proportion.

…..Edgar Allan Poe

I am sitting in the lobby of the Harmony Hotel in Addis Ababa, enjoying a cup of ‘spreeze’, a delicious mix of tea and coffee. I think it is my new favorite drink. I’ve been in Addis Ababa since Wednesday, having spent my first two days in Ethiopia working I’m Adama, which is located in the Rift Valley. Perhaps because I came to Ethiopia not as a tourist, but as someone with a tightly packed schedule of meetings with business leaders, foreign and local ministers and expats learning to navigate Ethiopian business relationships, I’ve had a slightly different experience when compared with people who come for other reasons, or perhaps not. I wanted to like Ethiopia, and I’ve come away in love. My timing was right, and there is something to be said for arriving at a destination when you are supposed to. My trip, delayed by a week, put me right in the middle of the AGOA2013 conference, which brings together world leaders to think about the future of the entire continent.

From the Mountaintop to the Valley…

I’ve read that we can move mountains with our minds. That the winds can change direction with only our thoughts to guide their new journey. That old men can live forever and children can tell the future, unclouded by the angst we put ourselves through as adults.

And I’ve heard that people can change the world.

I’m into my 2nd day in Adama, Ethiopia and I am amazed by everyone I meet and everything I see. I am humbled by how a place can be so welcoming to a stranger. Or maybe it’s that from the moment I landed, no one has treated me like a stranger. You miss feeling welcomed in New York because everyone is so hurried, but here, people take time to ask how you are, and wait for an answer.

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Tell the world, I’m coming home.

(I wrote these last three posts from CDG, still asleep, still feeling the rush of coup de foudre that I always feel in Paris…)

And then it was time to go home. Again.

I am at the airport, waiting for my flight home. So many people got me here to Paris. But one, in particular, deserves thanks. So, thank you. It is absolutely true that this trip would not have happened without you.

Everything about this trip has been to different, and yet the same as always.

I met new friends, and reconnected with old ones. I met ex-pats from all over the world. They all say the same thing: Paris called to them because she is in her blood. The fact is, she is in mine as well.

Since coming to Paris three years ago I have found a new kind of happiness. It’s the kind built not on making demands or trying to create things out of nothing, but a happiness born out of a rise in self-love and self-esteem. I can’t say it enough but the thing I want for A is that she will always know that wherever she believes her dreams can be realized, that is where she should go.

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Le Progres…The Future of Paris Is Now

I met my wonderful friend, Fatma, for dinner on Saturday night. I can’t explain how much I love her and how our friendship feels like we have known each other for all of our lives.

We met in Montmarte, where else?  We had the good fortune of getting the last seat at Le Progres, a restaurant that has always been packed when I visit Paris,

We sat down and, over a bottle of wine and a delicious meal, talked about our lives over the past year, Like me, Fatma spent her birthday on her own, in the middle of changing her life. I love that she doesn’t realize her strength or her beauty, but everyone around her notices. She has the heart of a warrior, and the instincts of a mother lion. That we have become friends is only surprising because of how random our connection was.

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Le Baillene…The Whale Lives On…

Where our Morton Salt Girl takes a vacation.

Yes, this title has little to do with anything other than I was fascinated by the sal de la mer of France. The mascot is a giant blue whale and when I tried to explain to my dinner host on Friday night that we have a a little girl with an umbrella he looked at me like I had just told him I had hidden away the treasures of Constantinople in my purse.

They get a whale. They do not get a girl with an umbrella.

When we last posted (we, me, I, whatever), I was on my way to Montmarte to meet my new friend for dinner. What he hadn’t exactly said is that he would be cooking. In France, I have been invited to so many homes for so many dinners that it makes me long for the 1970s when all of the houses in my neighborhood were open at all hours for food, games and candy.

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It’s 3 a.m. I Must Be Hungry

I tried to write this on Wednesday night. You know, live blogging and all that. I didn’t get to send it because right when I hit ‘post’ my Internet crashed and down went the story, never to be heard from again. I wrote about the Louvre and meeting my new friend for a drink.

I wrote about walking to the Marais area of Paris, which is where many of the Jewish and Gay families live.  Do you capitalize the word ‘gay’? I don’t know but I like the look of it.

We drank for a couple of hours and talked about travel and wanderlust and families. By the time we realized it was time for food, it was after midnight. Unlike NYC, Paris doesn’t always stay open for random food attacks. When that happens you have two choices: home cooking or, as I experienced last night, making do with a two-liter of Coke Light from a gas station.

When in doubt go with the home cooking.

And here is where I extoll the virtues of Paris, yet again. Instead of starving, new and old friends came together and found out that a can of tuna, homemade pasta sauce and fresh vegetables makes a most fantastic meal.  Since my first trip here three years ago, I have been invited into the homes of strangers, yet they aren’t strangers, they’ve become friends and I think that they are what makes me love this place so much.

As a little girl, I was always the “new kid” in schools so I had to learn to adapt.  I found that it was always easiest to adapt when I was just being myself. As an adult, that belief still gets me through most, if not all, of the things life sends my way each day.

When traveling, do you find that you stay to your usual routine or do you step out of your comfort zone and say ‘oui’ to new things?

Never Make Eye Contact…Never Look Up

The thing I remember about my first week living in New York was the constant reminders I got from my then-husband to stop making eye contact with strangers and to never look up at the tall buildings.

Twenty years later and I still forget these rules. All the time. I make eye contact. A lot. And I am still surprised when people grunt back at me after I say hello. It’s the part of New York I hope to never get used to.

I love that when I am in Paris, people not only make eye contact, they often say hello then ask me where I am from and what I am doing with my time here. I love that when I am here, I can look up without strange looks.

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The Louvre: A Live Blogging Event

Day two of the ‘Bubbles takes Paris’ tour continues.  Or, as it is known by those in the know…The ‘Paris has taken Bubbles’ tour.  Day one was spent sleeping the daylight away, so I will write about my night later.

Right now I am at the Louvre, one of my favorite places in the the world. It won’t matter how many times I come here, I will always find something new to see.

Before I bought my ticket, a sweet woman asked me to take a picture of her in that classic “I am taller than the pyramid” pose. Six shots later and we had a winner.

The Louvre closes at 9:45 tonight so I have just over three hours to find new loves. Every time I come here I search for Cupid and then The Lovers. It seems like I am always on the hunt for new examples of love. Thankfully, they are everywhere in this beautiful city.

I will find something special for all of my friends. Something I think they would enjoy, some new art to embrace. So many of them don’t realize I wouldn’t be here without them. So I don’t tell them, but I take them with me on my travels that way I never feel alone.

Paris in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….

I just popped a bottle of Schlumberger Gold because I feel like many of my days this year will need to be filled with bubbles and a hint of nectarine.

And I’ve packed for Paris because I leave in hours, not days.

Okay, there’s more, but it all seems to surreal now. For two decades I said, to anyone who would listen, that I wanted to visit Paris. The more I traveled to other places, the more I wanted to see this city that seemed to be the one place that I couldn’t get to for some reason.

Three years ago I traveled to Paris without a plan. If I had thought about a plan, I wouldn’t have gone. I would have told myself I was insane. I didn’t speak French, I didn’t know anyone and I had never been to a foreign country without my employer being a buffer and helping me set an itinerary.

What happened was magic. I fell in love. I fell in love with a city and her people. But mostly, I fell in love with myself.

I had missed ‘The One’ so much on that trip and like a child, I had hoped that maybe, just for a few hours, I would have seen him. That wasn’t meant to be our story. Not then.

Tonight, on the eve of my third trip to Paris, I am amazed at who I am today versus who I was on that first trip. Paris still awes me. I don’t know how people there go to work with so much history and so much passion in the air. But maybe that isn’t mine to know. Maybe, for a girl from San Diego who had a dream of one day living in New York, then dared to dream just a little bit bigger, maybe Paris is just what I imagine she is: A home for those who, before finding her, wandered.

From New York City, With Love.

As a non-native New Yorker, I had an image in my head of what it would be like to live here and none of it managed to match the actual awe of moving here at 20.

I was such a kid when I got here.  I had never seen buildings so big, or people who moved so fast. I’d never had such delicious pizza or so many types of ices from street corner vendors.  And I had never seen so many people live in one space. And I loved everything about this place from the hurried strides to the lack of eye contact to the funny smells in summer and the snow storms in winter.

I loved getting on the subway and getting lost, or not. And I embraced everything I could, as quickly as possible. I wanted to be a New Yorker, but without giving up my San Diegan accent (rnje not orenj, sound it out, you’ll see what I mean).

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