A couple of years ago I made this list of things I love about my nation — the United States of America — and it is all still true. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe celebration of Independence Day. Maybe make your own list. I’d love to see it.
I love that we have three co-equal branches of government.
I love that criticizing leadership, elected officials, and policies we disagree with is an act of patriotism. America was born in rebellion!
I love Election Nights. I’ll take Super Tuesday results over a Super Bowl any day.
I love the Bill of Rights and the fundamental freedoms–religion, speech, press, assembly, personal protection, and trial by jury.
I love that we can amend our Constitution to correct wrongs, like slavery.
I love all of those Lincoln/Kennedy comparisons.
I love that spot in Michigan where I can look south and be looking at Canada.
I love that the French helped us beat the Brits, and then we repaid the favor by kicking the Nazi’s out of France.
I love the ideals of our Founding Fathers–equality, opportunity, fairness under the law, and liberty.
I love that we chose English as our language, because English is so messed up and thus is more fun to play with.
I love that Texas history is pretty much American history.
I love the Southwest–desert, cactus, dry, and beautiful.
I love Puget Sound.
I love the sugar white beaches of Destin.
I love the unique characteristic of each region of the nation, that New Yorkers and Idahoans share the same love of country and national destiny, but not the same culture.
I love how we are an amalgamation of so many different peoples–Germans, French, Mexican, Irish, Iranian, Native American, Polynesian, and so many other rich heritages that add to this unique experience of being American.
I love the classic movies of Hollywood–Casablanca, Red River, North by Northwest, Bullitt, and Mars Attacks.
I love Hamburgers with mustard, onions, tomatoes and French fries doused in ketchup washed down with a cherry Coke.
I love American cars and blue jeans.
I love the American Flag. It has an intrinsic beauty beyond the sum of its parts.
I love baseball at the diamond on a hot day.
Speaking of baseball, I love that our national anthem is practically unsingable–because who wants an easy national anthem!
The last forty days of summer have been a blur — but oh so much fun. Let’s start with the beginning of August. At the hottest and driest part of the Central Texas summer, we went to children’s camp. I have included both videos I made. One is the typical camp style video with the theme song for camp, “Aint That Funky Now” playing over it.
The one below it, well, those are my bonus reel. So, it is what it is. You will notice a lot of shoe tying and bunkhouse shenanigans. We spend a lot of time tying shoes at children’s camp. Tons. Of. Time.
I also read Texas.
For reals. I read the entire 1200 or so page tome by Michener. I bought it a while back at a great bookstore in Kerrville. It has been on my TBR for man years, though. Quick Review: The first seven hundred pages were nice, entertaining, and fun. Then it fell apart into stereotypes and tropes. He spent almost two-hundred pages on high school football. I could understand fifty, but . . . for crying out loud.
I can’t say I recommend the book, but it is one of those required reading kind of things for people who love writing, reading, and Texas history. It reminded me of a phrase I learned in college: mega kakon esti mega biblion. It is Ancient Greek and translated it says, “a big book is a big bad thing.” I tend to agree. Michener could have used a brutal editor.
The last two weeks I’ve been on vacation, and Mrs. Greenbean and I hit three of the state parks nearby: Enchanted Rock, Colorado Bend, and Pedernales Falls. We love to go on hikes, and these were refreshing for my soul and for my heart. Pedernales Falls is an easier hike, but the trails are not as well marked. We may or may not have gotten lost. Colorado Bend was rugged and the most difficult hike we’ve done here. However, the trip down to Gorman Falls was worth it. The last video is me imitating my good friend John Duncan, who among his many talents is being able to give a weather forecast from anywhere at the drop of a hat. This my weather forecast from Enchanted Rock’s summit.
And now, for some observations and pics. Per my usual, I have broken these down into categories.
I was expecting French people to be rude, given all I’d read and heard. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We found the French delightful, conversational, fun, jovial, and good-humored. The only rude people we encountered were tourists from other countries–and I’m taking to you rude American woman who cut in line with your two loud-mouth children at Notre Dame.
Also, the French are a well-put-together group of people. They dress well, carry themselves well, love uniforms, and are incredibly fit. The only overweight people we saw were . . . tourists.
But . . . the French smoke. A lot. We were unable to get away from the noxious fumes of cigarette smoke. It seemed specifically bad in restaurants. No one was smoking indoors, but it was summer and windows were open and sidewalk cafes and . . . fumes!
Most everyone spoke English. We never had a problem communicating.
My new favorite cheese is camembert. Love that stuff. They serve it after the meal to cleanse the palate. Yum.
Oh, and crepes. I had a honey crepe in front of the weird obelisk at Concorde. The guy who made it was funny and wore a little hat.
Duck confit. I had it twice. The ducks on the lake better watch out, because I might just have to try and make that at home.
Baguettes. Every. Meal.
The coffee was good, but they don’t give you a lot of it.
I ate the snails, but wasn’t specifically enamored with them. They tasted earthy to me, like some varieties of uncooked mushrooms.
Perhaps my favorite was the macarons. I especially liked the pistachio.
The Eiffel Tower is really tall. Four hundred feet taller than my beloved Space Needle and five hundred feet taller than the Washington Monument. Of all the things we saw, it was the hardest to navigate the lines, waiting, and the top. It was so crowded at the top that it wasn’t as enjoyable as you’d expect.
We did the Louvre in one day, and we saw all the floors and all the exhibits. All. The. Things. The big time exhibits were nice, like the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, but the Egyptian exhibit and the paintings on the top floor (where no one else was) were some of my favorites.
We visited Notre Dame, but my favorite was Sacra Coeur in Monmarte. I actually had a genuine spiritual experience there. It was nice, and unexpected.
We skipped Versailles.
It took a while, but we eventually conquered The Metro. I think I’m as much an expert on the Metro right now as a tourist from another country can be.
The Louvre is monumental, but the D’Orsay is more enjoyable because its size is manageable.
One of the highlights of our trip was watching the new Mission Impossible film, most of which was filmed in Paris, in Paris! That was way cool. The best part was the commercial before the movie started for a doctor who specialized in lice removal.
I thought Delta provided great service getting there and back. Charles De Gaulle Airport is easy to navigate.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Latin District and the night time boat ride on the Seine. Both were extremely pleasant.
We’d been told that going in August would be a drag because people would be gone and the shops would be closed. We didn’t experience that at all. Everything was open and the weather was perfect.
On the plane ride home I read a great book, Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, A Martyr In Mao’s China. I’ll probably blog about it tomorrow.
The French way of having supper late, like around nine at night agrees with me.
The picnic we had by the fountain under the Eiffel Tower will stay with me as one of the sweetest memories with my family.