Saturday, March 2, 2013

Look for me during Pet Week!

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. I guess the holidays and day job have kept me busier than I realized. Well, I’m about to come out of hiding for a short time, to support a great cause and do something I really love: talk about my cats.

This week is Pet Week, where a group of bloggers are hosting guest blogs to help out Paws with a Cause, a group that trains Assistance Dogs nationally for people with disabilities and provides lifetime team support which encourages independence. (I copied that line from their site, since they said it better than I could.)  I may be a cat person, but they’re doing great work for both dogs and people. Help them out if you can! As someone with vision issues, I’m grateful there are organizations like this out there to help if the worst ever happens. (Knock on wood that it doesn’t.)

On March 7, I will have a guest blog over at Bitten By Paranormal Romance. They’re a great blog about – you guessed it – paranormal romances. And I’m not just saying that because they gave Destined a 5-star review. (Though I can’t deny it helps. :D) My guest blog will be about my four cats and how they came to live with us. Here’s a photo as a little teaser (and to show how adorable they are).

How can you resist those cute little things?

I’ll post here again with a link to my guest blog on the 7th, but in the meantime, go check out the other guests this week, and follow the links to some of the other blogs hosting Pet Week. It’s for a good cause, and really, can anyone have too many stories about cute animals?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Spirit Day

While I'm not part of the official Authors Against Bullying event that's going on today, I still wanted to post something on the subject, because I think it’s an important problem that doesn’t get as much attention as it should.

I'm lucky enough that I was never really bullied in school. Teased, sure. I think most kids are at one point or another. And I was a good candidate for teasing, as I was never part of the popular crowd (nor did I want to be: I had nothing in common with them and many were your typical “mean girls”). I was shy and quiet and awkward, with glasses and a frizzy perm and not the greatest fashion sense (even for the 80s). And I was smart, which is always the kiss of death when you’re a kid. But I was okay with my lot in school, because I had friends and no one bothered me too much.

Except on the bus. I lived close enough to grade school to walk, so middle school was my first experience being bussed to and from school. I was excited at first because it meant no more walking in the snow. Unfortunately, there were a couple of boys on that particular bus that decided I was a perfect target with my introverted demeanor and nerdy appearance. I don’t remember much about what they did, though for the most part I think it was generally verbal taunting more than anything physical. But one incident will always stand out in my mind.

On one particular day in seventh grade, the boys were sitting behind me and the bigger one (it’s always the bigger one, isn’t it?) decided it would be funny to pull my hair. So he leaned over the back of my seat and began to tug out my hair one strand at a time. It hurt, but I tried to ignore him because that’s what they always say to do when someone is bothering you. After a few minutes, however, something in me snapped and I spun around, yelled “stop it!” and smacked him across the face, hard enough to leave a red mark.

It takes a lot to get me really mad. I’m generally an even-tempered sort of person, and even when I do get angry, I tend to bottle it up inside and keep it to myself. I still don’t know what it was about that day that made me snap, but it’s the first and only time I can remember actually hitting someone. I know violence is never the answer, and it’s not something I would ever suggest anyone else use to solve their problems, but in that particular situation I can’t deny it felt pretty damn good.

Until the bus driver stopped and got up to face us. I was all ready to be in trouble, braced for a lecture or punishment. I don’t remember exactly what she said anymore, but she surprised me by not yelling at me. Oh, I think there was some sort of half-hearted “we shouldn’t hit people” in there, but what I remember most is that she essentially told the boy, “You asked for it, dumbass.” Except without the dumbass part. That part was understood.

Those boys never bothered me again.

Okay, so maybe my story isn’t the best example of how to deal with a bully, but for a painfully shy girl who never spoke up for herself, it was a big thing for me. I shocked myself almost as much as I shocked the brat that was tormenting me. (I probably shouldn’t still feel glee at that memory, but I’m only human.) If there’s any moral to my story it’s that once I finally stood up to the bully, he left me alone. Not so much because I hurt him: I was way too weak for my little slap to do more than sting for a second. Maybe I embarrassed him, or maybe I let him know that I wasn’t going to put up with his treatment of me any longer. Maybe he stopped because the bus driver was watching him more closely from then on. Whatever the reason, he stopped and I didn’t dread those bus rides any longer.

By the time high school rolled around, my family had moved to Florida, I got contacts, dumped the perm and was lucky enough that the 90s didn’t have much in the way of fashion. Concert t-shirts, jeans and flannel shirts were all you needed to be stylin’ back then. No one on my high school bus bothered me and the only people that teased me were my fellow band geek friends. All in all, I was pretty lucky.

For a post with a much better moral than mine, go check out Rachel Caine's about the role innocent bystanders play in bullying that I think makes an important point.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kitchen is done!

As mentioned in the last blog post I wrote, my spare time lately has been filled with a big kitchen reno my family has been doing. Interior design is a hobby of mine, so I had a lot of fun with this. Once upon a time, I considered trying to become a pro designer, even started an at-home course for it, but eventually realized that I only really enjoy interior design when I’m doing my own interior, to my own taste. :) So hobby it is.

After months of work (mostly on weekends, so it’s been stretched out), we have DIYed ourselves a pretty nice-looking kitchen for about 1/10 the cost of those renos you see on HGTV all the time. In other words, instead of spending $30,000 – $50,000, we did everything for between $3000-$4000. Not too shabby. Granted, we saved a big chunk of money by not getting new appliances, but our current appliances work just fine. I love HGTV, but after a while it gets tiring to watch show after show talking about how every kitchen HAS TO HAVE granite counters and stainless steel appliances. Sorry, but that’s just silly. Your kitchen can look nice without them. Sure stainless would look nice with what we’ve done, but it’s not worth the added expense just to be more matchy.

Some before-and-after shots, because photography is another hobby and I couldn’t resist snapping a lot of photos. (click each for a bigger view)


For those interested, here’s what we did:

New paint on the walls and ceiling. (After scraping off the horrific popcorn. I’m not sure we’ll ever attempt THAT again.) That alone made a big difference, given the dark green we used to have on the walls. Replacing the florescent light fixture wasn’t an option, since it was recessed into the ceiling, so we tweaked it a little by adding moulding around the edges and recessing the plastic light panels some. An inexpensive change, but it looks a lot nicer and makes the ceiling feel a little taller somehow. This is a closer view of it:

Cabinets: The biggest project. We couldn’t afford to replace them, so we refaced them instead. First, we removed the row of uppers over the sink to open the room a little more and clear the view into the living room. We have so many cabinets, we were able to rearrange all our junk into the others with no problem. (We have 39 cabinets total, and that’s after removing the 8 uppers.) The next step was getting rid of those awful wood strips/handles. They were attached with screws and a little glue, so not too hard to get off, but we had to replace them with something because without them, not all the doors covered the entire opening of the cabinets behind them. So we went to Home Depot and found some strips of wood that were nearly the perfect height/depth to match up, cut the lengths to size and screwed them in. There’s a slight line where they meet, but it’s not very obvious unless you look for it, and it was a hell of a lot cheaper than new custom cabinet doors would have been! After that, we primed everything (the doors aren’t wood, but a laminate-covered board), then painted them a dark brown. We’ll probably end up getting some kind of sealer to paint over it though, because we’ve noticed even with the super-sticky primer, the paint chips and scratches pretty easily. New hardware completed the updated look, and the whole thing cost just under $200!

Counters: This was the biggest expense. There isn’t really anything you can do to a laminate counter to make it look better other than replace it. Granite and Quartz are nice, but too pricey, so we found a good sale at Lowe’s on a Formica Solid Surface counter that would update the room without breaking the bank. It’s a nice stone feel, with much less upkeep than granite (no sealing, and if you scratch it, it can be sanded down like new). It looks pretty sharp with the dark cabinets. We chose the Crema Terrazzo color. Here is a closer image of it:

We didn’t have a backsplash before, and it was something I really wanted, so we spent some time comparing what was available. We finally decided on a mosaic pattern we liked and headed off to Home Depot to buy it, but once we got there with our paint swatch from the cabinets and compared the two, it turned out the colors didn’t go together as well as we expected. Luckily, there was another mosaic in stock that ended up being a perfect match. Not only did the browns go well, but there were little stainless steel tiles mixed in that matched nicely to our new cabinet hardware. Here’s a link to the pattern.

Our old kitchen floor was a gray ceramic tile that, at the time the house was built, was probably a premium add-on. It was nice, but over time we’ve gotten pretty sick of it. For one, it’s so hard (I think the builders glued it right to the concrete subfloor rather than lay any kind of barrier underneath to cushion it) that anything you drop shatters on impact. And for another, due to that lack of barrier, as the house has settled over the years, cracks have started to form in it. Between that and general chipping from use, it was looking pretty crappy. Also, gray wasn’t going to go with our new color scheme, so a new floor was needed. Problem was, we didn’t want more hard tile (or the work that would go into removing the current tile), so we found a different kind of flooring at a local surplus store that works really well with our new design. It’s essentially a laminate wood – the kind where the planks lock together and float over a thin foam under… thing. But instead of a wood face, it was designed to look like tiles. You can’t really tell it’s not tile until you walk on it. The real test will be the next time we drop something. By getting this kind of floor, we were able to install it right on top of the tile. Much less work, and with no grouting to deal with, it’ll probably be easier to clean.

So that’s our new kitchen. Now that the work is done, maybe I can get back to editing that damn book…

Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

A year ago this week, I published DESTINED. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already!

Technically, August 24 was the official Amazon publish date, but I didn’t “go public” with the book until a few days later. I wanted my mother to be the first to see it, as a birthday gift, so August 29th was when I finally came out to the world as a self-published author. Admittedly, I planned to have more books published by now, but the process takes some time, and my next book needs a lot of editing and polishing before it’s ready to go out in the world. And while I’d love to say that day is near, it will probably be at least a few months (possibly more) before I publish again. My goal is to have the next book available in time for the holiday season. Here’s hoping I make it.

My excuse for being so behind is pretty much this: I’m slow. I’m a perfectionist, which slows me down even in the best of situations, but I’m also a procrastinator and easily distracted. These last few months, there have been outside distractions keeping me from finishing my edits, and the book has more or less been collecting dust while I tended to them. I’ve gotten things settled so that there’s really only one major distraction left, and one that should only keep me occupied on the weekends. But it’s a big one.

We’re renovating our kitchen. It’s a lot of fun, and long overdue, but it’s time-consuming and a lot of work. I’d say we’re nearly halfway done at this point. We’ve taken down some upper cabinets that were blocking the view and closing off the space, scraped the awful 1980s popcorn off the ceiling and repainted the walls. The new countertop is ordered (they’re coming to measure for it later today) and we’ve got a basic plan in place for sprucing up the dated cabinet doors. We have too many cabinets to replace them completely given our small budget, be we’re going to do a little refacing to make them more modern, then paint them and add hardware.

Here is the “before” shot. Pardon the mess. (Click to see a bigger version)

As you can see, we have a very 80s/early 90s kitchen design right now. At the time, it was a great thing: our house was built as a model home, with all the fancy upgrades. These European-style cabinets were all the rage then, as well as the mauve carpet that we’ve slowly replaced with wood floors (or newer, not-mauve carpet). The entire house was done in mauve and gray, something I loved at the time because I was a teenage girl and pink was pretty. As we revamp room by room, it’s slowly changing to a more neutral (okay, brown) color scheme. For all we know, in 10 years people will look at at it and go “wow, this house is so 2010s.” But for now, we like it.

This is a before/after of our formal living room, which we redecorated a few years back. Click for bigger, or go here for another view of the finished design.

I also redid my bathroom, bedroom and walk-in closet, but photos of that don’t’ show the results as well. I love interior design. There was a time I thought about trying to do it professionally, but I eventually realized that I only truly enjoy it when I’m designing something to my own taste. I’m not sure I’d be able to design other people’s spaces; not unless they liked the exact same things I like. As it is, I have a hard enough time convincing the rest of my family to do what I want. ;)

Anyway, that’s my explanation for being so absent lately, and for not having the next book out as soon as I’d promised. And now that this blog post is done, I’m going to go do some of that editing I’ve been talking about!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This is why we can’t have nice things

Photo credit: Stewart via Flickr Creative Commons
There’s been a bit of craziness going on this week in the world of writers and book bloggers, and the fallout makes me sad. As usual, a few people behave badly and it ruins things for the rest of us. It’s frustrating, but I can’t be too angry about it because the reactions are, in my opinion, completely justified.

For those who haven’t been following it, there’s been a lot of drama over on GoodReads the last week or so regarding authors, reviews and book bloggers. I love GoodReads, and have always enjoyed the community there, but this is the Internet, after all. Drama was bound to happen one way or another. It’s the nature of the beast.

This particular drama stemmed from reviewers being attacked by authors who couldn’t handle critical reviews of their books. Many of these authors were indies, or self-published, but some were traditionally published as well. It blew up, as things online tend to do, and people started to “bully” these authors, which blew up even more as everything got completely out of hand and another group of people formed with the aim to stop these “bullies,” and by doing so basically became bullies themselves. (Here’s an article that explains it better than I can: As a result, many book bloggers have decided to change their policies and no longer accept review requests from self-published authors, in an effort to protect themselves from future crazies.

As a self-published author myself, this is sad news. However, given the impetus for the policy changes, I can’t really fault them. Too many authors lately have been acting like children: attacking bloggers for giving honest reviews, pouting when they don’t review their books immediately, threatening to find their personal information and expose them. Grown-ups should not behave this way. Not only is it unprofessional, but that is not how you treat another human being. The Internet has stripped away our manners. People feel like they can say and do whatever they want online because they’re not faced with the people they’re talking to. Well, those are still people, and your mother raised you better than that. Don’t even get me started on how people behave when discussing politics. I may completely avoid the Internet in September and October!

But this post isn’t about politics. It’s about authors and book bloggers and how recent events have changed that dynamic.

I love book bloggers. Without them, I would have very few sales outside of my family and friends. And while I love that those family and friends enjoyed my book and posted good reviews about it, it’s the impartial reviews from bloggers and other readers that helps sell a book, even if those reviews aren’t all 5 stars. So I’m grateful to the critical reviewers just as much as to those who loved the book and gave it heaps of praise. (I still prefer the praise, of course. Who wouldn’t?) Having those less-than-glowing reviews help give my book credibility. As a reader, if I see a book with only a few reviews, and all of them 4 or 5 stars, my first instinct is to write it off because they’re probably all written by the author’s friends. So when I got my first 3-star review, I was actually kind of excited. I even have a couple of 2-stars now, though no 1-stars yet (knock on wood). As long as my overall rating is good, I feel like the variety of reviews gives my book a legitimacy that will hopefully attract more readers. The more reviews and exposure I get, the better, and book bloggers are essential for that because I’m terrible at promoting myself.

However, I don’t feel that book bloggers are my personal marketing tools, or that they have any obligation to me as the writer of a book they’ve been given to review. Book bloggers have lives outside of their blog. They have jobs and families like the rest of us, and can’t always read 24 hours a day. I can’t even imagine the sheer number of review requests some of them get, or the size of their TBR piles. Hell, my TBR pile is huge, and those are only the books that I bought or checked out from the library to read for fun. Imagine having that on top of piles of books you’ve been sent to read by publishers and authors. I read pretty fast (I’ve already read 65 books this year), and I think I would be overwhelmed with all of that staring me down day after day. Then to have to write a thoughtful, informative and entertaining review for each one? I wouldn’t be able to do it. And because I know I couldn’t do it, I have immense respect for those who do. Which is why I would never, in a million years, attack them for sharing their opinion or whine at them for not reviewing my book fast enough (or at all) after sending them a copy. I’ve sent out a lot of review requests in the months (nearly a year now!) since I released DESTINED, and while most bloggers were interested enough to ask for the ePub or Kindle file, not all have gotten around to reviewing it. I’m all right with that. I understood at the time I sent the requests that they have long lists of books to read, and that mine would most likely end up at the bottom of said list. My being self-published probably doesn’t help bump me up either, but again, I accept that. I’m happy they were interested enough to say yes, and that’s enough for me. If they ever get time to read it and decide to write a review, that’s icing on the cake. It doesn’t cost me anything to send that ePub or Kindle file, after all. And if they read it and don’t like it, and therefore decide against writing a review, I accept that as well. Most bloggers are very clear in their review policy that they may not review every book they read, or read every book they are given. Why is this concept so hard to grasp?

I will NEVER comment to a review on GoodReads or Amazon or any other book review site, good or bad. I will comment to a blogged review if it’s one I personally requested only to say thank you, unless the blogger or another commenter asks a specific question of me. If a reviewer mentions something in a review that I disagree with, I will keep it to myself. I’ve had reviewers—not bloggers, just general reader reviews— get character names wrong, mention things that didn’t actually happen (or question things that did happen, but that they seem to have missed), or criticize particular choices I made in the plot or pacing. Sometimes I agree with these criticisms, while other times I admit there is a temptation to reply and defend myself, especially if a critical point is based on something the reader missed or misunderstood. But I won’t do that because I don’t believe it’s my place to reply to reviews in that manner. GoodReads and other review sites are there for readers to share their opinions, not for authors to soothe their egos. If you’re going to be an author, you have to develop a thick skin about reviews. Not everyone is going to love your baby, no matter how amazing you think it is. Just like there will always be people who love something that others think is pure crap. That’s the great thing about books: there’s something out there for everyone.

So while I’m disappointed that there will be fewer book bloggers out there willing to read my next release (if I ever finish editing the damn thing), I don’t blame them for needing to change their policies. Self-publishing is a wonderful thing, but it’s a double-edged sword. It’s fabulous because anyone can publish a book, but at the same time… anyone can publish a book. Not everyone that publishes is ready for what comes next. Once you hit that “publish” button and send your book out into the world, you also give up control over what happens to it. You’ve done your part, now it’s time for readers to do theirs: read it and, if so moved, discuss it with other readers. Take any criticism that comes along (silently) and use it to make your next book better. That’s what I’m doing. All I can do now is hope that, by the time I release my next book, some of this drama has died down and bloggers will be more open to accepting self-published books again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A short Titanic Tuesday post

I know, it's been forever since I've blogged. It's no secret I'm not very good at keeping up with this, so I apologize again.

Last weekend, we took a short vacation to visit some family up in the Blue Ridge mountains, and along the way made a stop to see the traveling Titanic Exhibit. This is probably the 4th or 5th time I’ve been to one of them, but it never gets old for me, even though I’m no longer using the excuse of book research to attend them. The exhibitions are always changing around the artifacts, so every time there’s something new on display. This one was a little smaller than others I’ve seen, but still interesting. Unlike some I’ve been to, there was no tour guide, so you wandered the exhibit rooms at your own speed.

The reason I’m writing about it is because at the end, I had a moment of life imitating art that I had to share. Those of you who have read Destined will get the significance. When you enter the exhibit,  you are given a “boarding pass” with information about a passenger that sailed on the Titanic. At the end, you can match your name up with the list of survivors & victims to find out if your person lived. A little morbid, but it’s a nice way to make the exhibit more interactive and personal, because you can’t help to want to root for your passenger to survive. My family got all First Class passengers (boarding at Cherbourg), so we were hopeful. My passenger was Leila Meyer, who was traveling to New York with her husband, banker Edgar Meyer, to attend the funeral of her father, Andrew Saks. Yes, that Saks: founder of Saks Department Stores. Despite that claim to fame, I hadn’t heard of her before this, so I didn’t know what her fate would be. I also didn’t know the other two passengers we were given, Helen Ostby and Emil Brandeis. If only our passengers were in Second Class, I might have known them better!

Leila Meyer survived, but her husband did not. Their two-year-old daughter had not been traveling with them, so she was safe at home. Between the inheritance from Leila’s father’s estate ($100,000 plus) and nearly twice that from her husband’s, she was pretty much set financially. She remarried and died at the age of 71, never speaking publicly about the disaster.

Helen Ostby was traveling with her father on a research trip for his jewelry business. They’d been in Europe and North Africa, and were returning home to Rhode Island. She survived and spoke later about the voyage, recalling the luxury of the ship and lack of panic as everyone went up on deck after striking the iceberg. They all went up on deck to the boats right away, but her father returned to his cabin to get warmer clothes. Helen never saw him again. Also of interest is her account of the sinking, which made no mention of the ship breaking in two:

There had been no panic. But at the very end, we could see and hear that the people on board were realizing there was no place to go. As the ship began to stand on end, we heard a big rumbling, rattling noise as if everything was being torn from its moorings inside the ship. All of a sudden that stopped, and she stood on end very quietly for a minute, then went down like an arrow.

We thought that, being a First Class passenger, Emil Brandeis had a better chance at survival, but unfortunately, he did not make it. Brandeis was the son of Jonas Brandeis, founder of the Brandeis Department Store, and was returning home early from a vacation to visit family in Europe. There is no mention of why he changed his plans: perhaps in order to sail on the famous new luxury liner?

As we were studying the list, I overheard a couple next to us talking to one of the exhibit employees. He was stationed there to answer questions and help people find their passengers, and had just asked them if they were having trouble with theirs. I couldn’t resist eavesdropping, partly to see if I would recognize the names, and partly to check up on the employee’s knowledge. One had a member of the Allison family, and he immediately launched into the story of how nearly the entire family perished because they stayed on board to search for their infant son, Trevor, unaware that their nurse, Alice Cleaver, had already gotten him onto a lifeboat. It’s one of the sadder stories in First Class, as their young daughter, Loraine, was the only child in First or Second Class that was not saved. I have to give the exhibit employee credit for knowing his stuff, but what caught my attention most was the passenger in question. For those who have read Destined, you might recognize that the Allison family was used there as well, in a very similar situation to mine. It was a little creepy, to be honest. Of all the passengers those people could have had, what were the chances they’d have one of the Allisons?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The last Paris blog, I promise!

Not that it’s any surprise (to me, at least), but it took me more blogs than intended to cover my week in Paris. Between my tendency towards long-windedness and the number of photographs I took, cramming it all into one or two posts would have been too much. So thank you for sticking with me, and I promise this one is it! After this it will be back to the usual (and probably infrequent, because I’m terrible at blogging regularly) book/writing posts.

The last two days of my trip were relatively uneventful. The weather took a nasty, cold turn, which kept me indoors more and made it hard to get decent photos. The first of the last days (Tuesday), was not only cold (in the 40s) but rainy and windy. A triple threat of unpleasantness, let me tell you. Because of that, the majority of my Tuesday was spent—I’m almost ashamed to admit this—in a mall. A Paris mall, but still a mall. I did get a little tourism in there before and after the mall, though.

First order of the day, however, was a little sleeping in. I had to get up early the day before for my Giverny excursion, so I treated myself to a little laziness, knowing the forecast wasn’t good, and slept until around 10am or so. Then I puttered around, taking my time getting ready and out the door. Finally, I was out and on my way to the Saint Denis Basilica, a big old church on the northern edge of the city. Actually, it might even be in a suburb, but it’s close enough to be on the main metro line, and was easy to get to. Unfortunately, it was still cold and windy outside, so I hurried to the church from the stop rather than linger at one of the big street markets set up nearby.

I just realized I never posted a photo of my apartment. The bed is over by the TV in the back. Excuse the mess. I was in the middle of packing to go home when I took this. :) There are better photos on their AirBnB page.

The Basilique de Saint Denis

Despite this being my third trip to Paris, and despite all the reading and research I did to prepare for the second trip, I had never heard of this church before. What makes it so interesting (because Paris has a metric ton of churches, and after a while they all start to blur together) is that this particular church holds the tombs of nearly every French king all the way back to around the 7th or 8th century. Including, to my surprise, the tombs of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Though it's not really their entire bodies there, but a few remains that were dug up in 1815 and moved there. According to Wikipedia, they were originally buried in a mass grave in the Madeline churchyard, so there's no telling if what was moved to Saint Denis was really their remains or now. Their tombs are in a darker section of the church, with very low lighting, so I was unable to get a photograph without using flash. For all I knew, flash photography was allowed, but I don't like to use the flash in churches, so I refrained. The rest of the tombs were better lit, but still dark enough that most of my photos were blurry. I did mange one decent one, with my camera phone of all things.

The photo below is how most of the tombs looked: multiple bodies grouped together under one slab, with statues on top. Each grouping was labeled with the names and dates of whoever was there, in addition to some extra information in French about their rule. The grouping below was of particular interest to me because some of the tombs belong to my own ancestors. One branch of my family tree can be traced back to Charlemagne, and within that branch are a bunch of European rulers: some from England, some from Scotland, one from Italy, and a couple from France. I went to Saint Denis hoping that they might be there, and they were! In this group of tombs is Robert II (972-1031), his wife Constance (986-1032) and their son Henry I (1008-1060). Another of my ancestors, Charlemagne's father, Pepin le Bref (the Short) is also there, but I didn't get a good photo of his tomb. Supposedly he's the one who built the original church that sat where Saint Denis is today. Also, Robert II's father, Hugh Capet, is supposed to be at Saint Denis, but I don't remember seeing his tomb anywhere. There were so many, it's very possible I missed it.

I spent a good amount of time in the church, partly because I was reading every name to look for ancestors, and partly because I knew it was nasty outside and was avoiding going back out into it. But eventually I had to, and found it had rained while I was inside. It was still misting a bit, and even colder and windier than before, so I hurried off to the metro station, pausing once when a Japanese couple stopped me to ask for directions to Sacre Coeur. Poor things, they were seriously lost, but I was able to tell them what metro station to go to, and I think they understood me well enough.

It was at this point I decided I needed to find something indoors to do. I still hadn’t gotten any souvenir shopping done, so I headed for Forum des Halles, an underground shopping mall that sounded promising.  It was huge, and busy, but most importantly, the stores were heated. Ahhh, heat. I struck out on the shopping front, sadly, even though the stores were more in my budget. I just couldn’t find anything I liked, which became a trend during my week there, and I ended up coming home mostly empty-handed. It made packing easier, but I felt like a shopping failure. A week in Paris, one of the world’s shopping capitals, and I couldn’t find anything to buy! What a shame.

The only other thing I did that day (I spent quite a few hours in Les Halles) was metro over to the Pantheon, another big old stone church I’d never gotten around to visiting before. It’s not used as a church today, but rather as a really huge mausoleum. Rather than royalty, the French citizens buried here are regular, but famous, citizens. Some of the more widely-known are Marie & Peter Curie, Louis Braille, Voltaire and Victor Hugo. Like Saint Denis, their tombs were in dark places not easily photographed without a flash, so I only have very blurry pictures.

The Pantheon

Foucault's Pendulum, in the main area of the Pantheon. They were renovating inside, so it was hard to avoid the construction stuff.

Unlike Les Halles, the Pantheon was not heated. It was pretty cold and drafty inside, so I didn’t linger too long. I wanted to go to a restaurant for dinner, but my plans were once again foiled, this time by lack of wifi with which to look up where to go. Frustrated, I gave up and went back to my apartment to warm up, stopping by a supermarket along the way to get something to cook. I ended up with bread and soup for my meal, but the soup was hot and yummy, and I didn’t burn down the apartment with the hot plate, so I considered it a successful dinner. Actually, I did try to go to a restaurant that night. There was a highly-reviewed place just a block from my apartment that I’d never noticed before, and their website claimed they served dinner starting at 6:30, but when I went over there (at 6:30), they were closed and even though I could see shadows inside (the windows were heavily tinted), my presence outside was either unnoticed or ignored, because no one ever came to open up. It was too cold to hang around on the street, so after waiting five minutes or so, I gave up and went to the supermarket instead.

On my last day in Paris, I did nothing but try to shop. Try being the key word there. I went over to the Louvre area again after reading that there are a lot of souvenir places along the Rue de Rivoli, and walked down the street for a while. Unfortunately, the souvenirs shops there sell the exact same crap as the ones in Montmartre, so I had already seen it all. No luck there. I popped by the Palais Royal to sit for a little while. There was a café near there I wanted to visit for lunch, but I changed my mind when I saw how many people were smoking outside (and it was still cold). I probably could have eaten indoors, but I wasn’t that hungry yet, so I wandered some more, ended up back at the Louvre, and went down into the Carrousel du Louvre shopping center, which is adjacent to the Louvre, underneath the Arc du Carrousel. Sadly, this was another designer mall with prices out of my budget, but it was warm and had a food court. I had my worst meal here, incidentally. Really nasty, half-cold lasagna for €9. I should have gone back to the café.

I had time for one last shopping trip, and after a little research, found that the area not far from my apartment, République, was supposed to have a lot of stores. So I headed that way, wandered around, finally found something for a couple of people (but not nearly everyone I wanted to get souvenirs for), and called it a night. I had to get back to the apartment and start packing.

For the most part, I saw everything I wanted to see on this trip. I never got to the Chateau du Vincennes, or took an excursion to Fontainebleau, but I need something to do the next time, right? Oh, there was one other place I managed to visit:

5 Rue des Pyramides

So what building is that? Well, according to the Contract Ticket List, 5 Rue des Pyramides in Paris, France is the address Henriette Yrois listed as her last place of residence before boarding the Titanic. I have no idea which apartment would have been hers, or if it was even any of those windows, but that’s the general building at #5. One of those may have been her home. When I knew I was going to Paris, I couldn’t resist tracking down her apartment.

If you’d like to see more of my pictures, you can look at them all at my Flickr Paris album. I didn’t post every one on the blog, and the first half of that album is from my previous trip, so there are a lot more photos over there.

Thanks for sticking with me while I recount my trip. It really was a fantastic vacation, despite the sometimes crappy weather. The cough I brought home hasn’t quite left me, so that particular souvenir just keeps on giving, but otherwise I’m fully recovered and back to life as usual. And already wondering where I should go next. I’m aiming for Italy next year!