Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Oman...and Paris

Next year I move on to another post, Lahore, Pakistan.  I'm excited about the challenges and changes I will face.  I decided that before I headed back to Texas for my home leave and training (and then onward to Pakistan) I would make a short trip Paris.  I invited my daughter to meet me there, but she was unable to get away, so I flew off for a solo 5 day vacation in the City of Lights.

I had a blast!  I must have walked 25 miles in 5 days!  I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and drank in the gorgeous views from all sides...Paris is even more beautiful from above!  The very wide boulevards and beautiful buildings were amazing.  It was a cold and cloudy day but as the clouds blew by, openings were created and I was able to get some great pictures.  Since it was not that great of a day weatherwise, it wasn't crowded and moving around was really easy.  Our tour guide was a Canadian girl who knew every bit of information about the Tower and about Gustave Eiffel.  Spending the extra few dollars to get a guided tour was worth every penney. I would have never learned what I did just by wandering around on my own.

Another place I visited a couple of times was L'Arc de Triomphe.  What a gorgeous giant monument! The monument is covered with the names of the soldiers, dates and there is even an eternal flame and burial of a French soldier, sort of like our tomb of the unknown soldier we have in DC.
Up close, you can see the intricate details of the sculptures all over the's just amazing.  I also decided to walk up the 284 steps to the very top observation deck...and made it!  Once again, the view was spectacular!  There are 12 very wide boulevards that lead into the Arc, sort of like spokes of a wheel.  You can see forever from the top and really appreciate the layout of the city. Just another example of extreme beauty in Paris.

No trip to Paris would be considered complete without a trip to the Louvre.  I'm not a real art afficionado, but I was totally blown away by the beauty at the Louvre.  The sculptures were absolutely gorgeous (Venus de Milo, among many others) and the paintings were unbelievable.  I was not impressed by the Mona Lisa, even though her eyes did follow me when I walked around her.  There are so many other more beautiful works of art than her and I just don't get all the hoopla over that one painting. 

Another side trip I invested in was the Hop On-Hop Off bus tour.  I bought a 2 day ticket and the 4 different routes made it possible to see almost the entire city.  You could get off where you wanted and about 30 minutes later, another yellow and blue bus would come along and you got back on.  One of the many stops was Notre Dame.  Once again, I saw that the pictures I  have seen of this place all my life just don't do it justice.  There is so much beauty incorporated on the front of Notre Dame...I just wish I had a guide to tell me what everything was...what story they were telling. I suppose I could google Notre Dame and get all the details.  The inside was gorgeous with tall, tall ceilings and beautiful brickwork on them.  The stained glass "rose" windows are plentiful.  The feeling of history and reverence that you get when inside a place such as Notre Dame is very being in the middle of a historical moment.

During my wanderings in Paris, I found lots of shops to explore.  But my favorites were the bakeries.  The baguettes and beignets (especially the chocolate filled ones) and croissants were delicious.  And I had some of the best french onion soup, french fries and cheeses ever!  All in all, I had a great time!

When I told some people I was going to Paris by myself, I got odd looks.  The most romantic city in the world and you're going by yourself???  You bet!  I decided several years ago to 'just do it' and denying myself something merely because I would do it alone was certainly not reason enough to not 'do it.'   And when I tell my friends about my adventures, I know they wish they were me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Next Assignment Is...

I can finally write about where I'm headed after I leave Muscat, Oman.  I haven't been able to post it here because I hadn't told my 96 year old father.  How to tell him where I was headed was something I thought long and hard about.  I've known for over a month I was going to Lahore, Pakistan but wasn't sure how to tell him.  Many of my friends here said just tell him some you're going to some other country and he won't worry about you.  But lying to my Dad just was not the route I wanted to go.  So I sent an email and was honest about it and he knows and he supports me!

Of all places in Pakistan, Lahore is the safest.  The timing is perfect as I race toward my June 30, 2014 retirement date, and the current OMS there said she likes it so much she is extending for another year.  That spoke volumes to me and helped me make the decision to pursue the position there, which is, once again, in security. 

I am now in the process of completing the mountain of paperwork, making decisions about everything and trying to figure out just what I will take with me. I won't take anything with me that I wouldn't be OK with walking away from should there be an ordered departure (evacuation).  Just what will I miss the most?  Probably all the GORGEOUS silk carpets I've bought here in Oman!  Oh well...2 years flies by so quickly, I'll be reunited with them before I know it.

Life is, indeed, an adventure.  Mine continues and hopefully, I will have some very interesting stories to tell about my time in Pakistan. The tour is for 1 year but I intend to request it to be 2 years. That way I don't have to worry about finding a 1 year assignment in June 2013.  I have had such a wonderful time in Oman, it will be hard to leave.  This is a gorgeous country and the people are wonderful. Right now, it's winter and the temperature is in the 70s, cooling off to the 60s at night. 

Tonight I fly off to enjoy a week in Paris, France!  I invited my daughter to meet me there but unfortunately, she can't. So me and my camera will just have to have fun by ourselves!  I've been watching the weather reports and it's cold and there's a chance of snow tomorrow!  It's been over 4 years since I experienced any cold weather, so I had to go find some cold weather shoes. I am now set!  I can't wait...Christmas in the City of Lights!