What Should I Get for My Birthday?

(2017-06-18 Paris) What Should I Get for My Birthday? by Comtesse Margaux

dimanche le 18 juin 2017


Stayed in office till 7:00AM, mostly watching videos. Then ubered home and slept till 4PM. Then back to the office, where I spent from 5:30pm to 7:00AM the next day (not working) while Albert-Claude worked. I spent the day searching for a proper bed for our new home in Fontainebleau. We’re getting the keys on Tuesday. It’s surprisingly hard finding a new but antique-style French bed in France. I did find something though — a company based in Haywards Heath of all places. Albert-Claude used to pass by that showroom every day, what coincidence.

Emailed Dad “Happy Fathers Day” since it’s today, but he beat me to it with a message on Skype first, saying “Happy Fathers Day” then a boy emoticon. I guess he wanted to hear from me today. Mom sent a birthday cake emoticon at midnight, and before that at 6:49PM she wrote “It’s June 18 now” and before that “Hi, your birthday is coming up… How are you? Can you talk?” I just wrote back right now, asking if she did the embroidery kit I sent her.

Three days until my birthday! Albert was going to get me a pony, he found a yearling. Then he asked what I wanted. What should I ask for?

The Day We Got the Secret Newspaper Message

(2017-06-17 Paris) The Day We Got the Secret Newspaper Message by Comtesse Margaux

samedi le 17 juin 2017


Slept around 6am-ish (jet lag) so we woke up late. Albert-Claude went to do our laundry at the lavarie while I waited at our place on rue de l’Université, watching cartoons and shopping online for unicorn onesies and Hello Kitty stuff. I stumbled upon a YouTube video about the sad (fake) unicorn movement in London. Then Albert-Claude left again after a nap to by us food. By then it was 9:15pm and he had to walk to the farther store. Then we ubered to the office, where I had a long wash. I felt really clean, especially after the airport. The I began backing up and organizing my files to OneDrive. After a few hours of that (I still have 2,000 files left to do) I subscribed for one month to News in Slow French.

Before the wash, it occurred to us that they never scanned our passports when we entered France — this means on record, we never boarded the flight to Paris that we checked in to. This is after we found a big envelope on our desk at the office today, sent via registered mail with no return address. Enclosed was merely a copy of Les Echos dated mardi 30 mai 2017. It was postmarked on “06-06-17” with postage “002,84” euros. No one pays that in France to send a mere newspaper, so we knew it was a message from someone. Something happened on 30 mai that affects us. We found in the newspaper an article on Venezuela, titled “Au Venezuela, toujours pas de porte de sortie à la crise” with subtitles — “Depuis deux mois, l’opposition ne désarme pas”, and “Le belan des manifestations est très lourd: près de 60 morts.” 

(2017-06-17 Paris) The Day We Got the Secret Newspaper Message, Cover by Comtesse Margaux.jpg(2017-06-17 Paris) The Day We Got the Secret Newspaper Message, Article by Comtesse Margaux

Back in France via ACK and JFK

vendredi le 16 juin 2017


We landed in CDG today from JFK at 6:45AM. Albert-Claude was nervous something would happen to me at border control — since all they have to do is scan my passport and see that I’ve overstayed in France for a few months last time. I wasn’t bothered; I was playing. In the end, all was fine. At border control this time were three women who checked everyone thoroughly (women border officers always do) and one man who Albert noticed wasn’t checking. Albert told me to try to get in his line, and I did so right away. But there were two lines alternating, so I almost got the woman next to him, but lucked out. Albert waited 2-3 minutes and then slipped to the other line too. Albert looked at his watch, to show the cameras he’s casual and pressed for time. He got the male border officer, too. He let Albert straight through, and didn’t scan his passport either. We got our bag quickly and walked to the airport Sheraton so we could call an Uber. We forget that even at the Sheraton there’s no option to get picked up there specifically, so we asked concierge for a taxi instead. I found a long black wallet in the back of the cab, and thinking it was the driver’s, left it in his armrest. Then a few minutes after leaving, he saw it and asked if it was ours. The driver opened it to see what was inside and found an e-ticket, departing that same day from CDG to PTY (Panama City) via AMS (Amsterdam). We would have been more concerned, as there were also three Costa Rica passports inside (one of a man, his girlfriend, and the third likely a second passport for the girlfriend) but Albert could see from the photos that they were clearly drug addicts. And with an itinerary like that, they were likely doing some petty smuggling. But our driver was so freaked out that he couldn’t focus on the road. He let us out early so he could head back to the airport to try to find them so they won’t miss their flight. We called an Uber home.

It was so awesome seeing Sir Percy (our bunny) after many weeks (it only seemed like many weeks — we were actually gone just twelve days!)  Percy was absolutely fine, plenty of water and hay left. We had planned to leave the house again at 1PM to Fontainebleau. This way, we could visit our immobilier in person and get the keys to our new place on Saturday instead of Tuesday, three days early. But we never made it. We had a very long sleep, and spent most of the day in bed recovering.

Percy was so happy to have us home. He just sat there, unmoving, while I pet him. It was clear he felt we were dirty though — he kept cleaning himself thoroughly every time we picked him up. Then late in the night we took him out on his leash. Albert quickly taught him to run forward (like a horse, all you need to do is lightly tap his bum) and even turn. After all this time, he’s finally learned to go while leashed. He used to just get dragged!

We’re in Boston!

samedi le 3 juin 2017


We’re in Boston! We had a long day of travel — barely slept the night before, leaving the office at 3AM after packing all our stored things and moving into rue de l’Université. Then we had a few hours to sleep before departing for the airport at 9:30AM.

We got all our VAT refunds — Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Galeries Lafayette — and now we know the drill. There’s basically no boarding pass required most times, but worst case, purchase a cheap ticket to Ukraine or something. Also, it’s worth it to pay the 1€ fast track fee to get to the front of the line at the Travelex counter. Be sure to ask for euros rather than getting your VAT refund foreign currency. If we had done so we would not have lost 50€ for no reason at all.

As for our flight from Paris to Boston, today was a reminder to always always check-in online — there were long, long lines snaking all around but we got to the very front at bag drop because we were checked in already, and only needed to drop off our bags.

We first flew three hours to Reykjavik next to a Chinese dude in his 30s working in film distribution. He was in France for Cannes Film Festival. He opened up the conversation by bragging about the $15M budget for an animation film to try and get some attention, after getting my attention by commenting on my embroidery, “That’s nice… looks like it will take lots of time and patience.” Albert-Claude was sleeping so as not to be rude I talked to the guy (but while sewing, I merely put my Ramayana audiobook away). He first asked what I did, and when I replied “fashion designer” he replied “I can tell.” Maybe because I was wearing a long floral sea green shirt dress. Albert-Claude said the guy’s eyes bulged when he saw my Louis Vuitton trunk. The guy told me about his animation studio’s new film, a modern Cinderella remake, so then I woke up Albert-Claude to see the trailer. We told him we wanted to remake Ramayana. “Storyboard it first,” was his advice. He thought that would be a good way to “pitch to studios” but unbeknownst to him we would never need to pitch to studios.

At our connection in Reykjavic, this fat-ish Icelandic blonde working the Schengen desk was not nice at all, giving me a hard time. It seemed to her, based on my passport stamps, that I had overstayed in the EU. Her colleague next to her even seemed to think she was too much when she asked him his opinion. After a nerve-racking few minutes, she let me go, but she wasn’t happy about it. She acted as if she was freeing a criminal.

The six hours to Boston we spent mostly sleeping, next to some weirdo who sang to himself. Close to landing, he also commented on my sewing, “It’s very nice,” and I found out that he is French and flew from Paris, too. He asked where we lived, and I said 7ème. He lives in the 3ème, and he’s in Boston to visit his brother who is graduating.

Albert-Claude was antsy close to landing about going through immigration. But in the end, all the guy asked him was if he was traveling with anyone (this CBP officer could see on his computer that he was in fact traveling with someone) and Albert-Claude saw this so he said “Yes.” He also asked if he is staying in Boston or visiting other cities? His eyes widened when Albert-Claude said he “May visit Nantucket,” thinking it’s too much for someone holding a passport like his to go to Nantucket. He asked what is the nature of Albert’s business in France? “Digital marketing.” This CBP officer even wrote the date he can stay in the U.S. until, which is sometime in December 2018.

As for me, she saw my Louis Vuitton while I was in line, along with all the other CBP officers. Perhaps this was why she merely asked where I live. “New York,” I said. She asked what brought me to Boston. “Just visiting,” I said. “Bring anything back?” she asked. A resounding “Nope,” was my reply. And that was it with her questions. “Have a nice day,” she strained. I don’t think she’s used to being so nice. She asked others what they did, how long they were gone, why they went…

We had landed in Boston 40 minutes ahead of schedule, but we were kept waiting inside the plane for an hour after landing. We found out later that our flight was checked thoroughly for baggage — someone suspicious was on board. It was clear to Albert-Claude that my big Rimowa was opened and tested for drugs. This is why our entire flight’s bags kept showing on and off the carrousel computer. Everyone walked back and forth, wondering what is happening with their bags.

Albert-Claude thinks had I landed in NYC instead of Boston, 50%+ chance I would have been stopped. We came to Boston because of nature. We were upgraded at the W Boston, to an extremely large but unclean room. It hadn’t been properly maintained since the room was newly built 10 years ago.

We were starving, having not eaten all day and were looking forward to a great dinner. We ended up having terrible shabu, and we both got sick. So we got back to the hotel and slept it all off.

Back to rue de l’Université

(2017-06-02 Paris) 22-55 Back to rue de L'Universite by Comtesse Margaux

vendredi le 2 juin 2017


I’ve managed to find time in the office to write ce soir. We’re flying to Boston tomorrow at noon, and there’s too many duty-free tax receipts to sort out (and some shopping) so we will have to be at Charles de Gaulle early.

Today we got the keys back to the apartment where we saw each other again a year and six months ago, when everything all began. We brought over Percy from the hotel to pick up the keys at 13h00, and it was strange that everything was as we left it. No one had really resided in it at all in the year since we moved to London. Percy laid in the corner where Albert-Claude used to sleep and slept right away. We planned to leave after dropping things off, but we ended up staying as long as we could, until before the banks were to close. I took a nap on the fresh sheets while he worked via 3G since we don’t wifi there until the 8th. It rained and thundered, cooling down the hot Paris late afternoon. Freshly planted roses — white, red, and pink — were outside our window. They were newly planted when we moved out last year and hadn’t bloomed. Even Albert-Claude’s bag of coins was left untouched. This place changed his life twice; and I was a completely different person when I moved out than when I first arrived. There’s still very good energy there.

I’m excited to board the flight to Boston via Reykjavik. Can’t wait to be back in the US — it’s been six months, which is too long.

On Learning Two Languages at Once

jeudi le 1 juin 2017

Rueil-Malmaison, France

Today I bought a French/Spanish dictionary.

Since I have a bit of a foundation in both languages, I thought this might be a good way to fill in the gaps of words I still don’t know. I’m determined to become fluent in both languages; French because I’ve always been a Francophile and I spend so much time in France, and Spanish because it’s the most spoken language along with English and Mandarin Chinese (both of which I’m already fluent in). Other languages I’d like to learn someday are Sanskrit, Japanese, and Latin (in that order).

Since a person can think in two languages at the same time, perhaps it’s more prudent to learn two languages at the same time too. Especially these two, because they are both Latin-based. To be self-taught in these two languages, I’d need to first acquire a breadth of vocabulary; then hear the languages every day (a good resource I’ve found for this is News in Slow French/Spanish); then make flashcards of verb conjugations, and lastly trudge through the grammar. But when broken down in this way, it doesn’t seem as daunting a task.

Plus, it’s much less boring learning two languages versus one. I’ve already made a bit of a game of it since this afternoon, thinking of a word such as “tree” as I was walking through the park with my micro-dictionary in hand, and looking up “arbre” to find “árbol”. Same thing with “voiture”/”coche”, and “chat”/”gato”. It’s fun.

It’s my “Frespañol” Challenge. Starting today, I’ll be aiming to get from beginner to A2 in the CEFR for both languages, and I’ll keep everyone updated on the progress each week.

In other news, after spending four months in France, almost all of 2017, I’ve finally booked our first flight out of here — to Boston, day after tomorrow. We have never spent four months in one country in recent memory, nor will we likely ever do so again for a long time. We are travelers.

Being in France for this long this time was made worse by the fact that we’d only intended to stay a week, tops — this is more our travel style — and thus only packed for a week. It was easy enough for us to stock up on everything we needed in Paris, it’s our second home after all. But it was all just so completely unexpected.

So flight booked, check. Hotel booked, check. We just have to drop off Sir Percy (our 7-month old white Netherland dwarf lapinou) in our 211 apartment in Paris 7ème (the whole reason for our delay) and we’re off.

How We Got Engaged

mercredi 31 mai 2017

Hôtel Whistler
Gare du Nord

I’m writing this the day after, because yesterday I stayed in at the hotel all day and didn’t write. I didn’t do a thing all day, I just spent it waiting for Albert-Claude to come home. This is how it is when we are apart. He spent the day in the office, since we are planning on a long trip where we may be unreachable for several days.

I did spend some time earlier in the day planning our wedding, while in bed in this new hotel across Gare du Nord (one of the worst parts of Paris, I know) but the hotel still has the new hotel smell and has a charming train theme throughout. Our wedding was supposed to take place June 1 (which is the date on which I am writing this now), and that’s the date that our parents and everything thought we’d be getting married on. But we knew, as the date got nearer, it would be a big bother if we stuck to this wedding date.

We set our wedding date a few months ago, on Thursday March 2, and Albert-Claude gave me a beautiful Cotteville 40 Louis Vuitton trunk that I carry as a day trunk whenever I need to bring my laptop or sewing around the city. We’d inquired about it at the Champs-Elysees store a few days prior, and they said the only one available in France is at the avenue Montaigne location. This meant it was likely it was the only one in the world, as they’ve discontinued that model and France has everything compared to the rest of the world.

We got engaged while having a deep discussion in bed at our hotel in Paris, and after that we went straight to avenue Montaigne to purchase the trunk. In the old days, engagement presents weren’t diamond rings, but something that both could use together in their new life together every day — a house, a horse, all very practical items. The most classic gift was a suitcase, and often the future bride would then use it to pack her trousseau. As time went on, engagement gifts got smaller and smaller, to jewelry such as necklaces, and now rings. Engagement presents were never jewelry before. So it was serendipitous that the only thing I really wanted around the time we got engaged was also the most classic engagement present of all.

Since it was Fashion Week, and we arrived 30 minutes before store closing (usually a no-no in France) I was worried we wouldn’t get it on the eve of our engagement. But not only was it there, it was displayed on the top shelf in the middle of the store. It was as though they displayed it front and center just for us. And we had excellent (non-French) service by an Irishman so excited to sell us the trunk he pulled out all the other rare trunks in the store to see if we were interested. He even brought out the special made-to-order catalog, asked us repeatedly if we wanted champagne, and invited us to the upcoming store event. And he never even knew it was an engagement present. As we were there for one thing only. Instead of the usual customers that browse the whole store, we walked in, saw the trunk, asked to see it, and said we’d take it. Something that had been barely touched for the three years it sat in that store on that shelf, because no one even asked to see it.

With trunk in hand wrapped in a giant saffron-colored Louis Vuitton shopping bag (previously brown until they changed it a few months ago) we walked to Champs-Elysees, past the flagship store. Someone tried to steal it, but we saw them coming a mile away and was able to position ourselves so that they couldn’t.

We were shown to seats but didn’t like the Joel Robuchon restaurant on France’s most famous street, so we went instead to Thomieux, five minutes walk to our old apartment in 7ème, where we met. Albert-Claude handed me the trunk formally using his right hand, and I accepted with my right hand. All eyes were on the trunk at the restaurant that night.

Our dearest friends Sophie and Jacques got engaged in a similarly romantic way. They grew up together, and both had a passion for fencing. They would challenge each other and make bets. One day, Jacques bet Sophie that whoever was the winner would get to make the other do whatever they want, as long as it wasn’t unpleasant. Jacques beat Sophie, and that’s when he asked her to marry him. He asked her in that way because although they’d loved each other as children, and he knew she’d say yes, he didn’t even want to imagine a “no.” After he asked, Sophie cried for a long time.

After I had a notion in the morning about getting married in St. Tropez, after a lunch in Monaco via yacht, I found an underwater chapel in Bora Bora. At first, Albert-Claude scoffed at my idea, saying “that’s so fake,” but when I explained it is not a building underwater with windows, but merely a wooden frame with a scuba-diving priest, he was blown away. He almost cried. I knew this was the way Albert-Claude would want to get married. Since water is the first element, what vows we say underwater are very strong vows. Because you rely on the other person underwater, and you are in a world where you have to be aware at all times of each other, and since water is the strongest element, saying vows under water is the strongest vow and truly comes from the heart. So we just have to make it happen.

Albert-Claude was able to feel how I felt all day waiting for him, so he told me that he vows from this day on never to go to the office again; he will work fully remotely from now on. He’s always worked 90% remotely, but from now on that will become 100%. I was so happy.

Yesterday (Tuesday) when our dinner arrived, and I asked the question I always ask when food comes, “Do you want to watch something?” Albert-Claude asked where I got this habit from. I had no idea. Sophie would always go over her writing on the day (she wrote each day, about each day) with Jacques before dinner and the topic would spill over into dinner. Their dinner table conversation weren’t random topics, her writing is where they would come from. They could often spend all of dinner discussing a single topic.

And then we ended the night with hammam again , just like the nights before.

Until tomorrow,

Margaux Sophie Catherine