April 17, 2009

CARES Strap

Posted in Air France, Samwich, travel at 4:59 am by Michael

This was our first trip with Samwich using a CARES Strap (http://kidsflysafe.com/) instead of a car seat on the plane.

Most of the time we’ve used a “Sit-N-Stroll” (http://www.strollerdepot.com/items/sit-n-stroll/) which is a convertible car seat/stroller that can sometimes even be rolled right down the aisle. Its super convenient when you have a rental car on the other side.

We didn’t want to take the Sit-N-Stroll this time because we weren’t going to have a car for most of the time we were gone, making it a bunch of dead weight. In addition our experience with France is that it’s not super stroller friendly (curbs, cobblestones, narrow sidewalks).

Additionally, Air France planes (transcon A330’s) have extra-wide armrests that do not completely fold up – this makes it hard to put a carseat in.

The last time we red-eye’d to Boston, Samwich ended up out of his carseat, laying across Anh and I anyway – in that case, the carseat was a detriment, as that was space that he couldn’t use.

For this trip, we had the flight to Paris, and then a flight from Paris to Marseille.

We were able to use it effectively on all the legs, although on the return from Marseille to Paris the flight crew questioned us a bunch, and the FAA stamp didn’t carry weight, since it was France. In the end, they were ok w/it.

Samwich was way more comfortable, and sleeping worked out much better him. On the Paris-Seattle legs, the seat configuration was 2-4-2, and we had window-aisle-aisle, with Samwich on the window, with Anh next to him. On the Paris-Marseille legs, it was 3-3 – so we had three across and chose to put him in the middle. This was a benefit over the carseat, which needs to go on the window, or in a two-aisle plane (2-4-2, 2-3-2, or 3-5-3) has to be in a middle-middle seat.

The only challenge is that the shoulder straps tended to pull the lap belt “up” – so it was a little high. Because there is no “between the legs” strap, he could slide forward too. This isn’t a big deal in an airplane crash, since airplanes typically aren’t rear-ended, but you need to stay vigilant to make sure that he’s properly positioned in turbulence. We fixed this a bit by having him sit on a pillow, which seemed to work pretty well. (Although I’m not sure that’s “approved”).

In the end it wasn’t perfect, but it was better than the alternative, and certainly reduced the lugging weight.

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March 27, 2009

Favorite Search Terms of the Day

Posted in goooofy stuff, Samwich at 3:52 am by Michael

“give me back my samwich songs”

M() is the #1 search hit for this on Google! I have *arrived*….

Ha!

“trangender best way to get rid of a bear”

I didn’t know that trans-people had different methods to get rid of bears. This will require more investigation.

No kidding. Who searches for this stuff?

March 23, 2009

Samwich and the iPhone

Posted in life, Samwich at 8:04 am by Michael

The Object of His Affection

The Object of His Affection

Lots of our friends have iPhones. Samwich remembers which ones do, and tends to see them, give big smooches, and then go for the phone. He’s a “Bubblewrap” addict.

Last week, after absconding with our friend Angie’s phone, he demonstrated that he not only loved the games, but was able to navigate (back, and the direct flick motion).

Anh gave me this look like:

“Are you going to deny our son any longer?”

We talked about it, and decided to get a family iPod Touch, and load educational apps on it.

I went to the local Apple store to get it, feeling genuinely sheepish, given my overall attitude on buying “local” (i.e., Microsoft stuff).

I walked in, and was greeted by a super perky Apple greeter.

“Hey, can I help you.” (I loved the casual “Hey” – very Cupertino).

“Yes, I’d like to buy an iPod Touch, 32 gb please.”

“Ok, all of our experts are busy, but one should free up in ten minutes or so.”

DAMMIT! I don’t want to hang in this place any longer than necessary.

“I don’t need help. I just want to buy one. Can I do that?”

“Yes, but I can’t do it. You need to wait. What’s your name, and I’ll get you on our list.”

DOUBLE DAMMIT!

“Um……. Megan?”

“Ok, well, just enjoy the store, and we’ll call you as soon as someone can help you.”

Enjoy the store…. Yeah, like a million pins poking me…..

I was able to acquire the goods, and called Anh:

“I have the package.”

I brought it home, set it up, copied over a bunch of content, and got a few apps for Samwich.

He loves them, and he can really use it.

Technically, it’s a beautiful device, no doubt.

Samwich gets the direct connection of touching stuff on the screen and a result. The touch effect is so much more learnable than the indirect model that the keyboard/mouse/pen combo on other devices.

I hope he lets me borrow it sometimes.

September 12, 2008

Samwich Rates the iPhone

Posted in family, Samwich at 9:37 pm by Michael

My son, the traitor.

Samwich has a very simple rating scheme for things.

Things that you can eat are rated either:

– Ah! (with mouth open): Translation: “Give me more, now. Didn’t you hear me? I said now.” Things in this category include M&Ms (yes, we are bad parents), fried rice and sushi.

– No! (shaking head): Translation: “This stuff is foul. Are you trying to kill me with this crap?”. If not obeyed, this expression will be followed with the self-evident “Ptoey!” with the accompanying ejection of said objectionable material.

Non-edible things that are cool are rated “Whoa!”, generally with his lips pursed into an “O” shape, and sometimes accompanied with a point at the “Whoa” rated thing.

Things that have been rated “Whoa!” before include airplanes, dogs, Elmo, car wheels, and digger-like machines. The maximum “Whoa!” rating ever received was three. For Elmo.

Until today.

Sitting on the airplane, waiting to go back to Seattle from the Out & Equal conference (more on that in another post), Anh was showing him the latest Conde Nast Traveler, looking for “Whoa!” things.

He flipped to the back cover, which has an iPhone ad – showing the face, with the “desktop” icons visible (just about life size).

Samwich sees this and goes “This is Whoa!”, and starts pointing to it, trying to press the buttons. Now, the fact that he strung the phrase “This is” on the front of the rating gives it even more weight (little dude is only 18 months old now, so three words is pretty good).

He proceeds to rate this 13 “Whoa!”’s, a new record.

To add insult to injury, he starts to kiss and slobber all over it.

Samwich, iPhone, get a room!

Anh says “Looks like mommy needs an iPhone….” Giggling.

Maybe we’ll just laminate the back of the magazine and call it done.

April 12, 2008

Samwich in Disney: Fun or Not?

Posted in family, Samwich, travel at 8:10 am by Michael

In summary – yes, Samwich has had fun….

Monday we spent the day in the Magic Kingdom. The first ride we brought him on was “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”. We basically brought him on every ride that he was allowed go to on that didn’t have a height limitation (because he would get ejected like some sort of slobbering projectile if not properly restrained). We were in the park from basically 930am till 1030pm (right after the fireworks). Not once, except for during the fireworks did he get scared – and there, he just jumped for the first “bang”, but then he was ok.

One of the things that he surprisingly loved were the Disney strollers. Because of their shape, he was able to sit up most of the time, and he looked like the little king, viewing his domain. From the back, all I could see sometime were his little hands flapping outside the walls of the stroller. It was hilarious!

Now, I had thought that watching him Monday that he was just tolerating the rides. He had this expression on his face like “Yeah, whatever, I’m the Samwich”. He only got excited really when playing with his brother and sister (below…)… until Wednesday.

We walked around the corner, and he saw the Dumbo Flying Elephants doing their never-ending circle. He pointed, and did his greeting: “Hi There!”, and started yapping excitedly at them. You would have thought they were made of grapes or chocolate or something… he was INTO it. As the week went on, his love of all things spinning increased.

Toward the end of the week, when he saw the fireworks, he was captivated. He’d sit there, quietly, just staring at the bursts, listening to the music. I’m not sure he’ll ever remember it, but I will.

He did totally fine in the heat (high 80’s) – we just sunblock him up, are careful (not too careful) with direct sunlight for long, keep him hydrated with water and milk (Foogo thermos/straw cup), let him walk and find things for him to do (like the little play areas – he’s into those!), and it’s all good!

March 22, 2008

Dancing with Samwich

Posted in life, Samwich at 7:02 am by Michael

Anh and Samwich were going out of town to visit family for a few days. Wednesday night, before they left, Anh had gone out, and I was taking care of Samwich. He’s been a bit of a bear lately (don’t blame the bear!). He can walk, he can climb up stuff (stairs, chairs, you name it), he tries to jump, and generally, just in motion the whole time.

At the pediatrician’s recommendation (the common one), we’ve limited his bottle and milk intake to once a day for the bottle (in the morning), and only 4-8oz of milk (either whole or formula) per day. This is to change him over from getting calories by drinking to calories through food, and to help change his food mix as a result.

Well, it’s working. The little dude is an eating machine. Since he never started on a pacifier either, the bottle for him became a calming/soothing mechanism – especially in the hour before bed, and in the morning (we kept the morning for now).

A month ago, if he was cranky at 7pm or so (an hour before bedtime), we’d give him a bottle, he’d drink it, play with it, get kind of relaxed, and then we’d get him in his nighttime outfit, read some books, and he’d do great.

Now, without the bottle, soothing the Samwich is a little harder. We didn’t want to just replace the bottle w/the sippy cup either, since that kind of defeats the whole purpose…

Anyway, after playing with him, reading to him, cuddling him, well, he was still the bear-shaped child.

I had to bring out the heavy weapons.

Feist.

I put the CD in, turned up the volume, selected his song (“1234”), picked him up, snuggled him in tight, and started to sway to the music, singing along to the song, quietly in his ear.

1234 tell me that you love me more

He loves that part. Immediately, he calms down, hugs me hard, and really starts to relax. We get to the chorus.

Ohhh uh oh you’re changing your heart
Ohhh uh oh you know who you are

Now he’s really relaxed, and we are gently swaying in our living room lit by the lights of Seattle.

We get to the chorus again:

Ohhh uh oh you’re changing your heart
Ohhh uh oh you know who you are

He starts singing the “Ohhs”… I thought was going to melt.

I hit repeat on the CD player, and we did the song a couple of more times, swaying along, singing together.

It was a moment.

March 16, 2008

Homecoming

Posted in family, food, Samwich, transgender, travel at 11:44 pm by Michael

Saturday morning Anh, Samwich and I drove down to Rhode Island to visit my mom. It was Samwich’s birthday, and we hadn’t seen my mom in a while – good opportunity!

We usually don’t get a car when we are just in Boston, so Step 1 was to actually get a car. I usually rent from Avis, because I have a Preferred number with them (you can get this easily from them), and it makes the rental process easier. They have your license and credit card information on file, so it’s quick, and you get a bit of a discount. I haven’t yet updated my ID information with them yet, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. I didn’t even rent the car with my Preferred info, and just did it online without it. When I got to the desk to get the car, I gave the agent my license and credit card, and when he swiped it, it automatically came up with my Preferred number. Turns out that Avis uses your credit card number as your long term ID number. Changing my name with them was trivial as a result.

On the way down to RI, we stopped at Dunkin’ and got Samwich his first donut (it was his birthday after all). Loved it… but he loved smashing it more. Samwich is in food-smashing mode for most soft foods these days – bananas, bread, you name it. I think he’s looking for the treasure inside. Denied! He does eat the smashed bits too. (Not to go too far down the Samwich eating habits path, but Damn Samwich! Are you part penguin? Just about anything he puts in his mouth, he takes a bite of, then takes it out, looks at it, and then decides if its worthy to go back in or not. Sometimes he just sucks the essential juices out, like the salt-monster on Star Trek, and spits out the effluent.)

The last time my mom saw me in person was November 30th, the day after FFS. This is what I looked like:

Postop 24

In talking to her since then, she’s had a hard time getting that image out of her head, because there hasn’t been a live one to replace it. Yes, she’s seen pictures, video, and even the ABC stuff last week, but that’s just not the same.

Luckily, I was able to give her a new image… (sorry, we didn’t take a lot of pictures of me… this is the only one)

March 16, 2008

My sisters were both there when we arrived, as well as my niece and great-niece. I hadn’t seen any of them since November either.

When we arrived, it even smelled like home. They had put a turkey in to roast and my old(est) sister had made a cake/cupcakes. Smell is such a personal, deeply emotional sense. To me at least, a remembered smell can bring me back more quickly than any other sense.

I could see the relief on my mom’s face almost right away. She hugged me, then came back to hug me again a few minutes later.

We had a great lunch, Samwich loved his birthday cupcake, and spent the afternoon just relaxing. It was nice to be home.

My mom was/is still struggling with the name/pronoun thing. I don’t think for a second it’s because she isn’t respectful or understanding – but as *my mom* she has such a pattern of interaction with me, its hard to break. At one point, she said she was just going to call me “Michael Megan” so I couldn’t tell when she screwed up. Got to love the hardscrabble Yankee pragmatism.

That night, at about eight, I went downstairs, and noticed a good-sized water leak in the ceiling. Looked all around (up and downstairs), but we couldn’t find the source of it. I can fix a lot of things, but plumbing – that’s one thing that I’m not good at – clueless sums it up.

My mom is blessed with awesome neighbors, and she called across the street to ask for some help. Glenn helps my mom out a lot – he shovels her out, will help with house maintenance, and he and his wife both have been a real source of support for my mom since my dad passed away.

He came over – we (well, he swung the hammer) tore out the waterlogged ceiling, and saw that the leak was coming from behind the wall. We went upstairs, tore out some more wall behind the bathroom sink, and discovered that the joint on the hot water line was leaking. We then spent the next two hours repairing it (well, I held the flashlight, and did general helper 3 rd class duties). I love watching someone work who really knows what they are doing – doesn’t matter what they are doing. Watching my old(est) sister make bread is amazing – she used to be a baker in another life – always something to learn.

Glenn hadn’t seen me since last summer. You know what? If he was different in any way, I couldn’t tell. We were just getting the job at hand done – at 10pm at night on a Saturday. Glenn is a police officer in Pawtucket, and he’s one big, strong, tough dude. He’s awesome. Thanks Glenn.

After cleaning up the big mess we had made by tearing out a ceiling and a wall, we went to bed.

When we got up this morning, Ma suggested that we all go out to breakfast at her favorite neighborhood joint – Oatley’s. Rhode Island, even though it’s wedged between Boston and New York can be both very urban, but surprisingly rural. Just five minutes from my mom’s house is a huge turf farm. The vibe of her town is east-coast rural. Lots of stone walls as you drive around, not made for the look, but out of necessity from clearing the land.

My mom and dad used to go to Oatley’s five or six days a week before he passed away. She goes less now, but is still a regular, and pretty well known there.

We had our breakfast, Samwich did his penguin-eating, and as we were leaving (and I was across the room paying), one of the waitresses who knows my mom well came over and was chatting with them. Just as I walked over, she had to run, but my mom said to me “Well, I’m sorry that she didn’t get to say hi to my youngest daughter!”

After we finished up, we stopped by the cemetery to visit my dad’s gravesite, and to leave a ceramic bird at his site. This was harder for me than I thought it was going to be. Samwich hadn’t been there before, and as we were driving up, Sheila said “Samwich, are you going to say hi to Pa?” Samwich never met my dad, and my dad never knew that Samwich was coming. Anh was only a few weeks pregnant (we knew) when my dad passed, and it didn’t seem like a good time to tell him. (Long story).

As we were walking up to the site, Anh said “What’s that rumble? Is that Pa rolling over?”. Just some context here… we all in the fam have talked a lot about how my dad would have dealt with his only son coming out to him. This was on *all* of our minds as we walked up, and Anh, because of the way she is (fabulous) felt like the ice needed to get broken. Ma said “Well, I think he would have said ‘Are you happy? If so, that’s all I care about.’ Then he would have said ‘Jesus F#!$’ing Christ! What next?’ “

We all laughed…. That’s the way my dad was. I got a little misty just thinking more about it – thinking about how I was never able to talk to him about this.

Well Pa, I’m happy. We are happy… Your kids and your grandkids all love you.

We drove back home, for lunch had some pizza and a meatball grinder from Fillipou’s Pizza (401-294-4767 – on Ten Rod Road in North Kingstown – the BEST!), and then headed to the airport. Ma as she always does was a little teary and sad to see us go, but we’ll be together again soon (next month!)

It was a good homecoming – another “First” down…

March 14, 2008

I’m Back

Posted in Boston, family, food, Identification, Samwich, transgender at 7:38 pm by Michael

Well, not really, still in Boston.

Anh, Samwich and I went to Boston on Tuesday night on the redeye, and I worked here all week.

Honestly, after all the buzz from last week, I needed a bit of a blog-break. But, here we are, it’s Friday, it’s the weekend, and I’ve got some stuff to say. Here goes.

Commenters and Supporters – Thank You!

I sincerely appreciate the comments that people have posted, and the mails that have been sent – both with support and also questions. It’s all good, and it means a lot to me! Thank you.

JetBlue – Please don’t go out of Business!

As I’ve written about at length, we love JetBlue. Between lots of legroom, DirecTV on board, friendly crews, new planes, great website, good customer support, and reasonable and understandable pricing – by far is our favorite domestic airline.

Last couple flights though – scary – probably only 25% full. Now, for a redeye, this isn’t the worst thing in the world – for the passengers. But, you have to question in this day and age, how long empty flights can keep flying. Maybe it’s the season, or the day of week we fly (Tuesday), but I’m a little scared that the reliable redeye will go bye-bye.

Boston Cannoli Fest V2

Wednesday night we did a little cannoli-comparo. I’ve been a big fan of Bova’s for a very long time. The others in the big-three in Boston are Modern Pastry, and Mike’s.

We tried Mike’s and Bova’s again – side by side. (Large ricotta, plain (no nuts of chocolate chips). Yes, I realize that Italian cannoli are made from marscapone generally, but in the US is more likely sweet ricotta based – lots of discussion on that in this space back in early January).

I believe that we have a new winner – by far – Mike’s. The filling was lighter, and the crust thinner and crispier. The Bova’s entry was too thick – both the crust and the filling. The ratio here matters, and Mike’s was better.

Good Italian

Try Pomodoro on Hanover Street in the North End. The menu is small, but the food was in general very good. The chicken carbonara pasta and the veal with carmelized balsamic served with green onion risotto were both tasty and unique. Hallmark of a great Italian place – the simple things are fantastic. We had the fried calamari appetizer to start – it was light, crisp, hot, sweet, not chewy, and came with a (big) side of tomato sauce – which was light and perfect.

“Are you a man?”

Anh and I went to Filene’s Basement to check out jeans and some shirts, both for me and for her. There wasn’t a ton, but we picked out some stuff, and went to the dressing room. I was carrying Samwich in the baby carrier, and Anh had most of the clothes (I had a few). At the basement, you have to check in at the dressing room and get a number tag for the number of items that you bring in. As I was going through this process w/the attendant, she said to me:

“Are you a man?”

“No.”

“Are you?”

“No, do you want to see my ID?”

Pause, still not giving me the number tag.

“No, really, do you want to see my ID?”

“No, that’s ok, go ahead.”

She was not convinced. I tried on some stuff, liked some, didn’t like others, and while I was, I was thinking about how to handle it – ignore it? Talk to her? Talk to the manager?

I decided to just take by bargains and run, and not say anything. I’m not sure if I didn’t have a “F” on my license what I would have said. It would have been harder.

It brings up the fundamental question of what it means to be male or female in general, in a public situation like this. Who is being protected? For what reason?

I’m still not sure what I think about this. Maybe tomorrow I will… Maybe not. Maybe I never will.

“I saw you on Nightline”

After dinner, we were taking the T (Red Line) from South Station to Kendall Square. We love the T, and really wish that Seattle had public transport like that. It was just about 9pm, and the train wasn’t too full. Just after we had gotten on, I noticed that there was a guy, probably a little older than us, with lots of facial piercings. He was looking at us pretty closely. As the train stopped, he looked at us, and said:

“I saw you on Nightline!”

Me and Anh almost at the same time said:

“Yes you did!”

He said: “Well, good for you!”

I almost asked him “What did you think?” or “How did you recognize us?” but I was afraid in many ways to break the barrier of anonymity that seems to exist in public places like this. Yes, he did reach out to us, but I wasn’t sure what to do except for smile and say thanks….

I looked at Anh and said (quietly) “I never expected that!” Anh said “Me too!”

Neither of us were freaked out – just a little surprised…

He got off one stop before us, and said the following to us as he got off:

“I wish you both the best of luck and may god bless you.”

I’ll take it that he was supportive from both the words and the tone, and I give him a ton of credit for reaching out to us, and I think we probably could have done more to reach back.

I honestly never thought that we would get recognized on the street, especially so far away from home.

Happy Birthday Samwich

Samwich is One. Congratulations Samwich! Thank you Anh for being such an amazing mom.

February 21, 2008

Paris – Good Food!

Posted in food, Paris, Samwich, travel at 3:00 pm by Michael

Good food for us doesn’t mean expensive – sometimes the best stuff is the cheapest (In N Out Burger for one).

Paris does have its share of street food – and a special version of it – since the vendors aren’t actually “on the street” – but have open portals to the street. Crepes, bakeries and the roasted chestnut vendors come to mind.

The crepes, as I mentioned before, are very fun, and extremely varied – from straight up dessert (chocolate, Nutella, fruits, sugar). Virtually every street that we walked down had some local creperie. Try it!

As for bread and croissants, we found Eric Keyser to be the best (http://www.maison-kayser.com/uk/boulangeries.html).

There were three meals that we had on this trip that were really special. (I did my best w/the links – all of these places don’t have their own websites, and some are in French.)

Part of the reason for much of this specialness was that we are mid-black truffle season. Many if not most of these places had some sort of special w/black truffles. This isn’t US black truffles where you get a sliver, you get a TON… totally different experience.

Au Bon Accueil (with Samwich)
http://www.resto.fr/uk/Ile-de-France/Paris/restaurant.cfm?restaurant=3167

Au Bon Accueil

We got there right as they opened (no reservation), and they squeezed us in, which was super nice. We even got a half-booth table which worked out very well for us w/the Samwich.

For starters we had a mushroom risotto (about four kinds of mushrooms), a quasi-mashed potato w/black truffles, with a soft boiled egg on top (with truffles, naturally), accompanied with perfect baby greens with shaved parmesan and truffles.

For the mains, I got a steak, which I think was a filet (this was the weakest thing that we had) w/mushrooms. Anh got this amazing chicken, which was spreckled with truffles, and served with pan-fried gnocchi and hearts of palm, topped with a champagne foam.

Au Bon Accueil

The mains were served with a perfect, buttery potato puree. Amazing!

For dessert, we had a roasted pineapple with apple crumble. It was like a deconstructed pineapple upside down cake. No dessert is complete w/o some sort of chocolate, so we had a chocolate Grenache as well. Both were outstanding.

La Regulade
http://www.frommers.com/destinations/paris/D41441.html (not with Samwich)

This was a local (Marie-Pierre) recommendation. Its small, out of the way, and you should get a reservation. She went with us, and helped with the ordering.

To start with, along with bread (typical), they serve a homemade meat pate, as well as pickles and onions – all of which were awesome.

We also got the charcuterie plate, which was Basque in origin, and they serve uniquely – they just give you the whole sausages to slice off what you want. All varieties here from salami-like to a blood sausage, to a crispy pig-fat… yum!

La Regulade

We had two kinds of scallops (served on the shell, the real shell) – with truffles and without. I’ve never had scallops with truffles before, and well, it was amazing.

La Regulade

For the main, we had fresh fois gras, braised beef cheeks and braised pork breast. The beef cheeks and pork breast were good – not great, and we’ve had better. The fois though, was amazing. According to Marie-Pierre, fois doesn’t hold for long, so when you get fois most of the time, its either partially or fully cooked. Fresh fois is rare, and a special treat, so we got it.

La Regulade

Wow. I’m not a fois fan generally (just too fatty for me), but this was light, crispy and just plain amazing). If you like or don’t like fois, if you see “fresh”, and its really fresh, get it. By looking around the restaurant, you could see what an occasion it was – nearly half of all the plates coming out were this.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (with Samwich)
http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/france/paris/entity_153570.html

These guys got points right off the bat from us because they had high-chairs, said they loved kids (and really did), and even though we had reservations for two, gave us three spots, in the corner, so it would be easier to manage Samwich.

This is one of our favorite places in Las Vegas (at the MGM), and honestly, this was even better… I thought it might be, well, about the same, a little better – but it was just better, all the way around.

The floorplan is very interesting – you sit at a bar, surrounding the kitchen, able to watch the preparation of everything.

Joel Robuchon

Their menu has both small plates, and larger plates, to give you the opportunity to try more stuff (try as much as you can!)

The first thing that was brought out was a quasi-mashed potato w/truffle shavings and bits. It’s hard to describe this… but it had texture, taste, and just an amazing look to it. Samwich *loved* the drippings from this, as well as the potato bits. Me too!

Joel Robuchon

We also got a charcuterie plate, which was served with a tomato bruschetta. I’m a big bruschetta fan, but this was amazing – spicy, salty, and tasty tomatoes, in February!

They next brought out the spaghetti, which we had order for Samwich, just with tomato sauce. Far from a throwaway dish, this was again perfect – texture, seasoning – right down to the whole marinated olives served on the side.

We also had a chestnut veloute, served w/floating fois gras. Again, the fois was amazing, and not being a fois fan, this is saying something.

Next was a lobster ravioli, topped with a cream and truffle reduction. The lobster was perfect, and wow… amazing combinations.

Joel Robuchon

We finished with a small pork chop (super small!), which was served w/the trademark potato puree Robuchon. Fabulous end to a fabulous meal – and this ended up being our last big meal of this trip….

Paris Travel Summary (Details to Follow!)

Posted in food, Paris, Samwich, transgender, travel at 12:16 am by Michael

Eiffel in the Trees

Our overall approach to Paris was to try to do it on foot as much as possible. Our fallback was the Metro (subway), which is very good here. I was imagining thoughtful strolls down wide boulevards and narrow streets, with the sound of classic French music lofting through the air, with the smells of baguettes and croissants not far behind.

Um, Paris is a big, modern city. Big.

We have walked a lot (primary mode of transport), which has been *fantastic* for learning our way around. We’ve gotten to see little small things that we’d miss if underground – smaller shops, architecture, small gardens and just people living their daily lives. I wouldn’t trade these things or change our approach at all.

We also had the fortune of having one of our friends refer us to her sister in law who is a Parisienne, who had dinner with us on Monday and Wednesday. We asked her to pick the places, and at the restaurants, we left the ordering to her and the waiter/sommelier. This was an awesome way to experience dining in the city. We were super fortunate that Marie-Pierre knows food, wine, and the local dining scene. She was amazing.

But yes, all of this goodness of foot travel comes at a cost. We have this independent, squirming, heavy (25 lbs+), brilliant, inquisitive little being that travels with us. We call him the Samwich. He needed to be carried – everywhere. Again, we used the Baby Ergo carrier, which I’ve written about before – its awesome – can be used as a front or backpack. Well, you dummies, why not use a stroller? Well, Paris, like Rome and most of Europe isn’t exactly stroller friendly. The streets can be narrow or crowded (or both), with lots of cobblestones, curbs, steps. The only people using strollers that didn’t look like they were about to go insane were those using the big-wheeled jogging strollers.

Because of the carry issue, my legs and feet (and Anh’s too) feel like we’ve done a long week of hiking (because we have!). This is not a complaint at all – but a tradeoff – see more, walk more, but your range is limited.

The other kid issue that we have had is around finding reasonable open spaces for Samwich to play. He now walks, but in that Frankenstein, crazy car (car that moves forward till it bumps into something, then turns briefly and repeats), uncommandable way. Our hotel room is small, as you would expect in a European city, and this being winter (Wednesday it rained as well), the outside parks aren’t always the best choices. We found that the best place to let him roam reasonably was in the Louvre. Its so big that he can walk around, but also the crowds are dispersed, and you can find a room w/o a lot of people so he doesn’t bug someone.

One little annoying thing that he discovered this week is the concept of an echo, and where said echo can be used to great effect. The parent in me both cringed an applauded this mini-science breakthrough. He’s Brilliant! He’s Annoying! He’s both! Walk into a big room – e.g. Pantheon, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, and he starts echo-locating like a bat, except audible. Yes, very audible. “BAH!” Samwich, “Shhh….” “BAH!”. He’d get a big grin on his face, as he realized the ability to control his surroundings, but wow, it was annoying. We moved on from these places quickly. (Or in the case of the Pantheon, he found stairs to go up and down and up and down – that was his other major discovery of the week – Stairs. The subtitle for this whole vacation has been “Stairs – who KNEW how cool they were!”)

Oh the food – we’ve had *great food* (more on that later), but as in most major cities, there’s a lot of not-great food, and without a lot of research, and trust-able sources, its hard to find the gems within the non-gems.

A couple of Samwich related eating items for reference. First off, high chairs or boosters – we only saw them one time all week – the café at the Musee D’Orsay. I almost took a picture of them – there were five, all different, all bedraggled. Every single other place we went to – and these were not just high-end shi shi places – nothing. He sat on one of our laps. This was made more complex by the fact that given his developmental stage (reaches for everything and “Can’t control… fists of death!”) (oh, and that nice hot coffee felt SUPER good in my lap Sunday – love and kisses Samwich!) a large two foot diameter “Zone of Destruction” must be cleared in front of him or unintended merriment will in fact, ensue. The tables in general are also very very small. This means that when the waiters come with the food – they see this nice big open space to put it in, and Anh and I quickly would have to do the big shuffle to move plates before Samwich did. Lastly, on the Samwich front, no kids menus… we just gave him our food, and this was fine (he eats all kinds of foods at this point).

This is noted in virtually all of the guidebooks, but I’ll reiterate here. There are a number of types of restaurants in Paris. There are cafés, which are mostly coffee/snack/drinking places. There’s an interesting phenomenon here, as these places have both inside an outside seating. The outside seating is *packed* – even in the winter, in the rain, no matter. Inside seating – empty. Why? Recently passed indoor smoking ban. The outside tables aren’t covered, even if they are under cover, with the sides having plastic walls, and only the front open. As a result, the sidewalk cafés are very busy, and full of people enjoying their Galoises. These are NOT food places…

There are chains, brasseries, counter service places, etc.

There are the ever-present creperies – which do have very yummy crepes, made on demand (don’t even try the premade ones…). Great for a snack. We also saw a lot of gyro stands, advertised as “Grec’ or “Turkic” samwiches. These looked, as you would imagine, of varying quality.

Bistros or (Bistrot en Francais) are more food oriented, and the variety here is amazing. We went to one  (La Regalade) Wednesday night with Marie Pierre and it was *fantastic*.

Then there are the “Chef” or “Gastromic” restaurants. We went to one, again with Marie-Pierre on Monday (Pierre Gagnaires’s, 6 rue Balzac 75008), and it was an experience (more later).

Even if you go to a counter service restaurant – a carafe of wine with lunch is enjoyable (if you like wine!). It’s a great way to find less expensive wines, and to try them out. Virtually every table will have one on them – even businesspeople at lunch!

Which bring us to the lovely state of the euro v. the dollar. Euros are expensive. Paris is expensive. Expect to pay New York city prices (in euros) for virtually everything. Then add 40% for the exchange rate, and viola! No money left!

On the language side, Anh and I both can speak some French, so we can at least be polite. However, we get “read” as English speakers instantly, and generally get replies in English – not because the people are rude, but because they are being helpful. Sometimes though, we start in French, and ask what we think is a simple question, the answer to which that we can understand, but then get blown away by a wave of French that we have no hope of understanding.

We try very hard to be polite in French, and start that way out of politeness. Compared to Italy, where we found people to speak less English than even Japan or China, Paris has been amazingly language-friendly for English speakers.

That’s the short summary… I’ll fill in some more details shortly.

Oh, and the whole trans thing – it’s a total non-issue here. I still get “Mademoiselled” here most of the time, and the Crappy Look Counter hasn’t budged. If you are polite, people are polite back!

Today is our last full day in the city, and we have one more nice meal planned – L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon, which looks virtually identical to his place in Las Vegas at the MGM (which we love), so I’ll report on that when we are done! (plus detailed day-by-day info about what we did…)

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