...Bonjour Clermont-Ferrand

We left Phoenix at 5 in the morning and headed to Atlanta where we were catching our flight to Paris. We arrived at the airport with five bags, two carry-ons, my purse and Cornel's laptop bag. We had carefully weighed our bags at my parent's house (stand on the scale and then pick up the suitcase to see if it is within 50 lbs.) We weren't sure if I would be able to check in 3 bags or two, so it was unsure if I would have all my things with me. Luckily, I was able to check in 3 and they were all under 50 lbs.

After a long layover in Atlanta we finally got to board the plane. We noticed that everyone had boarded but we were not taking off. The pilot told us that they had to fix a brake pad and we would be on our way. We had our own personal screens so we began to watch a movie. About half way through the movie (yes 1/2 way) we realized we still weren't moving. The pilot got on the speaker a few minutes later...

"We apologize for the delay but there is a passenger in Business Class whose seat won't recline. We've called maintenance and we should be on our way shortly."

Okay, so it's not bad enough that the seats are already 100 times more comfortable, roomy, you get a nicer meal and personalized service; you still find the time to complain that your seat won't recline and make the rest of us wait!!

Since we only had a two hour layover in Paris and we where now over an hour delayed (in coach seats nonetheless), we knew there was very little hope that we would make our connection to Clermont. We finally took off, and ten minutes later the movie we had been watching was over!

The flight was uneventful, and we landed in Paris at 7:30 in the morning, when our flight was supposed to be boarding. The flight attendant got on the speaker and told us she knew most of us had missed our connections, but if we go the counter, they would do their best to book us on the next available flight, which we knew was eight hours away!!

We get off the plane and then complete chaos!! Cornel goes and talks to one of the Air France gate agents who tells us if we run we still might make it since they just started boarding. OK - for those of you who have been to the Paris airport, you know that this feat is nearly impossible. We would have to go through customs, go to the other end of the airport (about 1/2 a mile on foot), go back through security, and to our gate - yes all this in 10 minutes! Ha, all this while being on a six hour jet lag and having just gotten off a plane you were on for 9 hours! With all of these obstacles you would have thought we just would have stood in line to rebook or go and rent a car and drive the four hours home, but NO! We are not quitters!

While all of this is going on with the gate agent, I get approached by a very rude Amercian lady accusing me of taking her carry-on!! Excuse me?? When I told her I was sure it was mine, she said someone took her carry-on and it looked exactly like mine! Seriously??? Since she was not giving up and I was about to sprint my life away, I opened up the front pocked and showed her the contents: all of my wedding stuff! Before she started claiming that she was the one getting married, I quickly zipped up the bag and started running!

We get to customs and surprisingly there is no one there they check my passport and within 2 minutes we are again on our way!

Time left: 8 minutes

We start running through the moving platforsm down flights of stairs and running over anyone in our way! I felt like my lung was going to collapse, I was holding my carry-on tight for fear of the american lady and I really had to go to the bathroom! I wonder if this is what people go through on the Amazing Race; and if so, I would be no good at it! Just when I was about give up, we arrived at our terminal.

Time Left: 2 minutes

Security at airports always fascinates me. First, unless you are living under a rock; you know you are not allowed to carry liquids unless they fit in a ziploc bag, so yes that 32 ounce bottle of water is not going to fly.

Second, there are signs everywhere telling you that you will need to remove your shoes and take out your laptop (and if for some reason you can't read, the signs have pretty pictures depecting what you are supposed to do)!

Lastly, if you know you are going throug a metal detector why do you think that the fistful of change; your keys and your belt would not set it off??

So needless to say, the line at security was long and going by very slow because people just could not get it together! Frantic as we begin the countdown and Cornel approaches the security agent and quickly explains our situation; and she lets us go to the front of the line. Now for this, I give the French Airport System kudos because this would NEVER happen in the States.

We get to the gate at 5 minutes to 8 ( for a flight that departs at 8:15) and there is still a line to board! Finally, I can catch my breath! Luckily for us; French time runs a little late! We get on the bus (buses take you to your planes) and we wait on the bus for about 10 minutes until they get the plane ready. Finally at about 8:15 (departure time) we boarded the plane - we were finally on our way home!

When we arrived in Clermont, it is was no surprise that we arrived without luggage. By that point we were so exhausted that it didn't matter, we were just so grateful to be home!

We took a taxi home and arrived just a little after 11 a.m., and I said hello to my new home. Here is a picture of our apartment!

And Cornel waiting for me to stop taking pictures so he can tell me the access code. The funny thing is; that he knows I can't even remember the code to my ATM card, so why would he assume I can remember the access code to get in the building?!

But after the access code lesson was over; we were finally able to go upstairs!

I had a key from my other trips, but this is the first time I was opening the door to OUR apartment; not his apartment! It was very exciting!

And all I can say, is that I am going to marry a wonderful man because when we entered, I found this:
and of course in Romanian:
He had put this all together before he even left for the states! I was so surprised and of course, I cried!! After I was a bit more composed, I started settling in to the apartment: that's the kitchen behind me.
And of course getting re-acquainted with Pupici the bear.

Since Cornel had been gone for two weeks, we had no food at home and we were starving, so we headed out to lunch and then to the grocery store. I also got to ride in our new car! The infamous Qashqai, and she is beautiful!

And we were on our way!

and here is a picture of my cute neighborhood...

and check out these tiny little traffic lights!

I have settled in for the most part. I have already blown up my flat iron (220 volts is high) and had to buy a new one!
And now let me give you my intercultural tidbit of the day: in France preservatives means condoms, so when asking for food without preservatives rest assured that 99.9% of food is condom free, instead ask for food without conservatives and you will get less strange looks!

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Goodbye Phoenix...

I know that I have said goodbye to Phoenix many many times before. It is strange to visit the town you called home for eight years and everytime I go back I remeber how much I loved living there: the weather, the people, the landscape, etc. I could go on for hours.
This time I got to show Cornel a very small piece of one of my favorite cities in the U.S. He had been there before, but I only got to show him a small part of Tempe and Scottsdale. Since our flight left at 5 a.m. out of Phoenix; we decided that we would spend the night and take the time to see do a little more sightseeing; this time I showed him downtown.
I never really spent much time Downtown; other than working there for a year and the occassional sporting event or concert, so it was hard to figure out what to show Cornel.
I have always loved the Arizona Center. I love the reflection pool and garden and there are shops/restaurants and it is smack in the middle of downtown. The first thing we did was walk the gardens.

This was not only just a tour for Cornel but for my mom as well, since she had never seen downtown. She had driven Cornel and I to Phoenix and was nice enough to take us to the airport at 4 in the morning.

We were pretty hungry after the drive and the walking, so we decided to have dinner at the Arizona Center overlooking the gardens and fountains. It was a great way to say goodbye to my mom and to eat some great food.

After dinner we were completely stuffed and decided that we had to walk off the food. So we did a walking tour of Phoenix.

And I got to live out my life-long ambitions of becoming a ballerina! Even Cornel got in on the dancing!

After some dancing we continued the tour of Dowtown and walked to the US Airways Center or as I like to call it, America West Arena... and Chase Field, or again as I like to call it Bank One Ballpark!

No matter where I am in the world I know that I am a Arizona girl at heart and I will always have a special place in my heart for Phoenix. Who knows, maybe someday life's journey will lead Cornel and I back to the States and back to Arizona, until then I will enjoy the trips back and seeing it all from a tourist's eye.

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The journey begins

Welcome to my blog, where I hope to post about my life on the other side of the Atlantic. Where to begin? Now that I have arrived in Clermont and have somewhat settled in, I can write about the journey that led me here.

The Pre-Departure
In true procrastinating fashion, I pretty much did nothing until the week before I had to move out of my apartment. Overwhelmed and with too much stuff; Nate, Brent and Leilanie came up to help me get things out of my house. Since everyone arrived on Friday evening, we decided that a night out on the town was exactly what we needed before a day of heavy lifting.

Saturday morning the boys rented a truck to help me get some things to goodwill and take some of the things I couldn't bring with me. Once the truck was packed, the boys headed back to Atlanta and Leilanie and i setted in for a girls day before I had to pick Cornel up at the airport.

Even though the boys made a huge dent, Cornel and I still had a lot to do and only a week to do it in, all while working. Needless to say we (I) were very stressed! We were able to somehow get it all done and fit all of my belongings into five suitcases and one carry on - and what is even more surprising is that we were able to fit it all into my car to begin our cross country journey.

Day 0.5
Miles traveled: 0
States visited: South Carolina
Once the car was packed up early Saturday afternoon; we headed to the first stop on the trip - Atlanta. It was Brent's birthday weekend, and I couldn't imagine leaving the country without having one last night with my friends.
The emotions crossing into Georgia were bittersweet. I was excited to begin the next chapter in my life, but I realized as we crossed the state line that I would not be back to South Carolina; at least not as the same person I had once been.

The night in Atlanta was so much fun. Brent's friends Susan and Fred were visiting from Ohio and we stayed in and had game night.

And while I was there to say goodbye to my friends, I also saw it as an opportunity to say goodbye to he TV the boys so graciously took off my hands (and yes Nate is wearing a onesy)

Day 1
Miles traveled: 150
States visited: South Carolina; Georgia

The next morning was so sad. We got ready, packed up the car again and got ready to head out, but not before watching an episode of High School Reunion. Before we left Nate gave us a "cross country survival kit", which had a travel pillow, white chocolate chip chocolate cookies (Cornel's favorites), CD's for that long haul through Texas and two bottles of energy boosts in case we got a little tired.

As soon as we had to say goodbye, I started bawling my eyes out! I was so sad to leave and to say goodbye! We would no longer have drinks for charity or silver skillet breakfasts, I might stat to cry again - so I'll just post the pics.

We headed out; and crossed into Alabama within an hour or so; and it wasn't long before the survival kit made it's first contribution:

For any of you that are attempting this trip, be warned that the entire state of Alabama is under construction and the roads are miserable, so make sure your tires are properly inflated and that you have a lot of patience, or in our case cookies!

We crossed into Mississippi and made our first stop for gas and lunch.

After a quicklunch we rushed through Mississippi and were very excited to see the Mississippi River (the first time for me) and of course crossing into Louisiana at the other end of the river: (please forgive all the dead bugs on the windshield)

We got through most of Louisiana and decided to stop and gas up in Shreveport, getting off the exit on I-20 was the scariest experience. I have been to some scary gas stations in my life, but the ones in Shreveport were by far the scariest. We drove to at least three different ones until we found one that didn't look so scary. We found one that had 7 police cars in the parking lot, obviously there had been some sort of incident; but does lightning really strike twice? We figured a gas station with armed officers was our best bet, still I locked the doors when Cornel went out to pump gas; a girl can never be too sure. Little did we know that this would not be our last run-in with the law.

After the Shreveport gas station, we headed into Texas: the land of George W., cows and really not much else.

Shortly after crossing Texas we pulled into Longview; where we settled in for the night. Longview is also the home to one of my best friends from high school, Casney. I hadn't seen her in about five years so it was nice to see each other! Casney and her husbqnd Charles called it an early night and we did too, we had to get up early and drive through the wonderful state of Texas!!

Day 2
Miles traveled: 811 miles
States visited: South Carolina; Georgia; Alabama; Mississippi; Louisiana; Texas

After breakfast, we hit the road again, and everyone had been right! Once we got out of Dallas; there was nothing; a few country towns every once in a while but they were few and far between!

Driving through west Texas is really quite a conundrum, you are in the middle of nowhere; so you drink plent of liquids should you be stuck out in the desert somewhere; however you are in the middle of desert where there are no bathrooms. If you are shy and don't want to go in front of an audience of cactii; bugs; animals and the occassional trukcer - stay away from the liquids!

I have to admit that in my boredom I went stir crazy and took many pictures of the vast nothingness that is Texas..below is a small montage of West Texas...

We were nearly out of Texas, only an hour from El Paso, and 90 miles to the New Mexico border; when all of a sudden we see the flashing red lights of the Highway Patrol behind us...we got pulled over for going 88 mph in an 80 zone (I honestly believe it was because of my SC plates; but we'll never know). After about 10 minutes the officer issued Cornel a warning (I think because he had a French driver's liscense) and we were on our way. We had planned on stopping in El Paso; but decided to stick it out until New Mexico.

We settled in Las Cruces for the night.

Day 3
Miles traveled: 1,615
States Visited: South Carolina; Georgia; Alabama; Mississippi; Louisiana; Texas; New Mexico
Number of traffic citations: 1

While reading the book at the hotel we realized that we were very close to White Sands, New Mexico and decided to go and see it since we were only 2 hours fro, Arizona, so after breakfast we headed out.

Having lived next to the state of New Mexico for practically my entire life, I never truly appreiciated its beauty.

And it is truly a,azing how out of a vast desert the white sands begin to appear:

We arrived at White Sands National Monument and could not have asked for a better day!

After a few hours at whitesands, we decided to drive the final 200 miles to Arizona...

This was truly a once in a lifetime experience, if only because I don't think that I am insan enough to try it twice. I was so grateful to have Cornel on the trip with me and I think it brought us closer together. I'm glad that I had the chance to say goodbye to the greatest friends a girl can have; and now I look forward to them coming to visit on this side of the Atlantic!

The final stats for the trip...
Number of days: 3
Total miles traveled: 1,828 (not counting the 120 mile roundtrip detour to White Sands)
Number of States Visited: 8
Number of traffic citations: 1

All in all - it was a great trip!

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