May it be Your will, G‑d, our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that You should lead us in peace and direct our steps in peace, and guide us in peace, and support us in peace, and cause us to reach our destination in life, joy, and peace (If one intends to return immediately, one adds: and return us in peace). Save us from every enemy and ambush, from robbers and wild beasts on the trip, and from all kinds of punishments that rage and come to the world. May You confer blessing upon the work of our hands and grant me grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us, and bestow upon us abundant kindness and hearken to the voice of our prayer, for You hear the prayers of all. Blessed are You G‑d, who hearkens to prayer.Telfilat Haderech, The Traveler’s Prayer in English, translation from chabad.org (my dear friend, Emet, left this voice message for me in Hebrew years ago–I listen to it every time I travel)
If you’ve known me for a while, you’ve heard about my desire to do a fashion, food, football and faith tour of Europe. Challenge (mini-challenge) accepted. Here’s how these F words and more made it into this trip…
I felt like I had just fallen asleep when my alarm went off at 4:15am. I had packed and repacked, took a shower and laid out my clothes the night before so all I had to do in the morning was dress and brush my teeth. I wasn’t even going to put my contacts in because I knew I’d try to sleep again on the first leg. Isaiah arrived at 4:25am and sent a text asking if I was awake just a few minutes before he unlocked and opened the front door. We loaded up the car and headed to the airport in a silent drive as I’m sure we were both still asleep. As he approached the Southwest drop off point, I recognized the people who were parked at the curb. Shannon and Teresa, my travel companions, had also arrived. Isaiah unloaded my bags, gave me a hug and asked me to send him text updates throughout the next day and a half of my travel.
DAY 1 & 2 – SEPTEMBER 20-21, 2023 – FLIGHTS
If anyone is Christmas shopping for me, I’m a size window seat in plane tickets.
Then it hit me, right there at the airport on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, we were on our way to Paris for my latest Ms. Adventure for Paris Fashion Week. The excitement fed my adrenaline and it made me so happy to see that Shannon and Teresa were just as excited. We checked our bags at the counter and worked our way through security. It seemed like half of Albuquerque had also decided to travel on this morning, as the lines were the longest I had seen in quite sometime. We got settled and talked about the adventure ahead of us when Shannon pulled out little travel bags for each of us filled with face masks, lip balm, hand sanitizer, motion sickness patches, hand bag hooks and hat holders….such incredibly thoughtful things that set the mood to the entire trip.
Our Southwest flight would take us to Dallas for our connection to LaGuardia in NYC. We got on the plane and took what became our customary selfie, it’s what we would do throughout our travels. We had a short layover before boarding the next leg to NYC. We arrived just before 3:00pm and our international flight was departing from JFK, which with traffic could be a car ride anywhere from a 45 minute to 1.5 hours depending on the traffic, so we grabbed fries from Shake Shake (the best burger and fries joint there is…In-n-Out fans, come at me bro!), grabbed our bags and ordered an Uber. I wish we had time to grab lunch in the city or see anything more than Manhattan skyline from the traffic we experienced going from the Flushing neighborhood of Queens to the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens (and there was a lot). We checked in with more photos and packing adjustments.
We got to our gate and had a proper meal from Shake Shack. We had a little bit of time so we checked email, talked about the upcoming days and just rested. As we started to board, I could feel the excitement rising even more. After grinning ear-to-ear, as I saw Shannon and Teresa in their seats, I took mine. The captain announced all the details as the on plane safety video went into effect. I was ready for take off but our plane was not. It felt like we did a couple of laps around JFK before we finally took to the air. I started a conversation with my seat mate (I always grab a window seat for red-eye flights so I can try some sort of contorted sleep). He asked what I was going to Paris for. I explained I was participating in Paris Fashion Week. I could see the wheels turning in his head. I do not have the stereotypical look of a fashion designer. I was wearing my jogger jumpsuit, a NYC sweatshirt, and my Adidas (I know you’re singing Run DMC right now) with glasses and hair in a bun but I was also dressed this way because this was also my red-eye sleeping attire . As he asked questions on what it took to show in Paris fashion week, I explained all my accomplishments from NYC to London to major magazines like Vogue and Elle and how I received an invitation from this particular production company. I continued the conversation and asked about his travels, after we landed in Paris he was continuing on to Berlin for what I had read just hours earlier is a marathon that draws close to 50,000 participants. It was a great conversation about accomplishing goals. Dinner service started and then I attempted to wind down and hopefully get a little sleep. Sadly, I’m not one of those travelers that can fall asleep in any setting. I did get an hour or two until the pilot announced that we were on our descent. EEK we had arrived! We gathered our on board luggage and headed off the plane to a eerily empty gate. We walked for a while before we to border patrol and got our stamp for France (on my last European Ms. Adventures, I only received a stamp in France as England had gone to biometric scanning for passports). We gathered the rest of our luggage and hailed a taxi to Noisy-Le-Grand, our home away from home (and home base) for the next two weeks.
I was nervous about being in Paris. If you recall the last time I went, I was afraid that I’d have cigarettes flicked into my hair because I didn’t speak French. Since 2019, I’ve been learning the language off and on through Duolingo and watching as many French sitcoms and movies to get a better feel for the language. I definitely didn’t have a comprehensive vocabulary, but did know a few helpful phrases. When we checked in, I asked, in French, if the front desk attendant spoke English when she obliged, we got checked in and she informed me that our room wasn’t quite ready yet, but they could hold our bags while we went out for breakfast. Luckily, the front desk mentioned there was a mall just across the street…less than a 15 minute walk away. The mall, Les Arcades Centre Commercial, included a grocery store (it reminded me of my youth, going to Juarez supermarkets with each area carved out like shops within a marketplace–produce, cheese, bakery, meat, wines, etc), post office, florist, wine shop, lots of fabulous clothing shops and American favorites like Starbucks, McDonalds, H&M and Zara. However, we were seduced by Paul’s and their delectable case-line filled with pastries like Tarte de Pommes, Beignets, Croissant and Pain au Chocolate, which is what I settled on, plus a Cafe au Lait. I WAS IN HEAVEN!! After exploring a bit, jet lag set in and we settled into our room and talked about our plans for the next couple of days: Friday–Palais du Versailles and Saturday–Les Puces flea market.
DAY 3 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2023 – FRENCH ROYALTY (YOU SO FANCY)
Queens twirl in palaces…that’s all.
The weather was cool and a little dreary with spots of rain, but it looked like the afternoon would be clearing up. So based on the weather, we decided to get tickets for 13:30 (it’s military hours in Europe, so not only did we have to translate to PM hours but when we were talking to folks back home we had to remember we were 8 hours ahead–yes, it got confusing at times). I had predetermined a few of my looks for this trip. I had come across a pink tulle skirt at work and I thought I could make it more edgy with a muscle tee (avec shoulder pads) and kicks. When going to a palace one must twirl in a “coquette style” pink skirt. So we headed out to Versailles.
Somethings to know about Paris: 1) traffic is horrendous and 2) there is graffiti everywhere. Most of the time our Uber drivers avoided Paris proper but still it seemed like we were always stuck in traffic. We arrived to the grandeur that is know as Palais du Versailles. It drizzling and we had to get in line for our time slot, which was long, but moved rather quickly. The palace or Chateau was celebrating 400 years and had recently renovated Petit Trianon, or Marie Antoinette’s villa away from court life. I was so excited to see this and the Hall of Mirrors. We chatted with students in front of us and Americans behind us. Knowing me, you know I like to stay behind the scenes not drawing much attention to myself, but our new friends asked what brought us to Paris and Shannon, who is such an incredible cheerleader for her friends, brought up the fact that I was showing for Paris Fashion Week and Teresa was walking for me. Again, that imposter syndrome set in I just blushed in gratitude.
The palace was incredible with room-after-room of extravagance and beauty and the view of the gardens from each window was breathtaking, but the Hall of Mirrors stopped me in my tracks. It was grand and lavish and so many important world events have taken place in this room. It was one of the reasons I wanted to visit and it was well worth it. We worked our way through the military halls and other museum spaces until we came to the end and were quite famished, luckily Angelina was on the premises and we settled for a late lunch. I learned early on that wine is cheaper than water in Europe. And, it’s gooood stuff. After we ate, we decided to walk the grounds. We started out but the gardens alone seemed like it went on forever (according, to the Versailles website the palace, gardens, buildings, park and Trianon are 800 hectares or 2,000 acres).
Shannon made the right decision for us to jump on the train to get the most out of the gardens and park. As we were riding, the driver talked about certain areas that were closing. I overheard that the stop we were currently at was the Petit Trianon, or Marie Antoinette’s apartment home. I hoped off and quickly ran through the beautiful space with brightly decorated rooms filled with champagne, billiards tables, busts of the queen, even commode rooms decorated regally, and of course they had a staged “cake”. Besides the Hall of Mirrors, this was my other MUST SEE and I’m so happy I did. Friday, I’m in love…with Versailles.
DAY 4 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2023 – FLEAMARKETS AND FLOORS OF FASHION
I may work in fashion but I’m a thrifter at heart.
When I decided to do a 10-hour trip to Paris in 2019, I reached out to two friends whom have family in France Sofi and Jamie, They gave me great tips to fill my hours, so when I returned I asked Jamie again about a place she has lovingly posted about over the years, the Paris flea market or Marche aux Puces. We took another Uber to Saint Ouen just north of the 18th arrondissement. We were dropped off under a bridge filled with parked cars and for a half moment I thought we were walking in China Town, NYC. The first few rows of vendors were the type I think of going to flea markets: faux luxury brand goods, electronics, and household items, but the deeper and deeper we walked the more wonderful it became. Antique shops. Shop owners sitting al fresco at their bistro tables with lunch and wine ready to make a deal to the patrons walking by. Beautiful secret gardens and historic finds like WWII badges and early 1900’s French made ceramics. I travel with my mini Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Jude retablos and I found the perfect St. Michael the Archangel to add. We visited this sublime vintage Chanel store. It was quite lovely to see all the jewelry, bags and clothing by the house of Coco as well as the other designers contained with in.
We had our own lovely lunch al fresco. We started with dessert–a fig tart that was divine then moved on to wonderful French dishes and of course wine (it was Rose all day, pretty much everyday for me). Shannon had found a beautiful quilted Chanel bag at another vintage shop earlier in the day when she decided she must have it so we went back and it was fun to see her so giddy about her purchase. We continued on to a quaint antique shop and the shop keeper asked what brought us to Paris and Shannon talked about our upcoming days. The shop keeper shared some great ideas to continue the fashion momentum like the Musee D’orsay, Palais de Tokoyo, Musee de la Mode and Musee Yves Saint Laurent. They all sounded amazing. It would be a matter of fitting them in on our few days with nothing planned. Next, I wanted to take Shannon and Teresa to Galleries Lafayette Haussmann. Which was my introduction to Paris in 2019 and the place I got my bearings. The rooftop provides an incredible 360 view of Paris.
Of course it was quite crowded for a Saturday afternoon and my friends got a little distracted by the luxury shops: Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, etc on the first floor, then again on the eighth floor when they spied all the fun souvenirs they could take home, but I finally got them to the rooftop and the breathtaking view of Paris. On September 11, 2019, I arrived alone to the rooftop and shared a little video that I had made it to Paris, so of course I had to do something similar. We took a few photos and then made our way back down. It was a shopping mecca and once again Shannon was drawn to Chanel. The gals bought lots of goodies. I left with my favorite, macarons from Pierre Herme. For dinner, we settled for a local chain, Hippopotamus, known for their steak options. Shannon was thinking aloud about this option, “STEAK DE CHEVAL CLASSIQUE”. Immediately, I was glad for my Duolingo and asked her if she wanted to eat horse. She cringed and said, “no” and I was glad I didn’t have to witness that. I don’t recall what she ordered, but I chose the salmon. We returned to the hotel and packed for Rome and Nice.
DAY 5 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2023 – FOUNTAINS & FOOD
Life is short, do all the things.
When we got back to the hotel, Teresa and Shannon wanted to wash some clothes for the next leg and after packing and repacking, I don’t think they crashed until after 1am. I am a light packer, planning to take only my backpack for the next 4 days. Our flight out of Orly to Roma Fiumicino was departing at 7:10am so we caught an Uber at 5am. We checked into our gate and grabbed a bite to eat and coffee and as we were sitting there I realized that the flight attendants that were waiting to board “our gate” were wearing Portugal uniforms, when I looked up to see that the gate had changed. We rushed over to our new gate just in time to board. The two hour flight got us into Rome a little after 9:00am as we deplaned, we looked to go through customs to get our passport stamped. No such luck but as we stopped and looked a man asked if he could assist us. We explained our situation and he mentioned since we traveled from France we were traveling through the European Union and wouldn’t need to go through customs. At the same time another man approached us and asked if we needed a taxi, as Teresa and I started talking to him, another man approached and started taking pictures of her. That freaked us all out. The first man gave us some more advice. He said to only accept rides with the white taxis and go to the official taxi line outside. It was great way to wake us up and prepare for the time in Rome. As we drove, from the airport into the city the landscape went from fields and farms to a city filled with ancient ruins and newer buildings. Cars were parked every where…in the medians on the side walks, like Paris, the vehicles were much smaller than the US. And also like Paris, graffiti was everywhere.
I had been communicating with the hotel over the course of the last few weeks through WhatsApp. The hotel and suites, Little Queen Suite, only has an attendant from 8am to 1pm, so I made sure to let them know when we landed and were on our way. We arrived at our non-descript hotel (really, it was a large door with a buzzer and no sign overhead). I was a little nervous about what I had booked. As we walked inside, we came across the smallest elevator I had ever seen. The three of us could squeeze in there like sardines, but there would be no way luggage would fit, so I opted to take the stairs since Teresa and Shannon had small roller bags. We checked in with Marta. She mentioned that the room was being cleaned and would be ready in about an hour and suggested we grab a bite to eat. We left our bags there and headed out across the Torre del Papito piazza dei Calcarari we found a little pizza shop. The nice thing about being in Italy is that Italian is close to Spanish. Teresa is fluent in Spanish and Shannon and I know enough to get by. We settled on Arancini (heavenly fried rice and cheese balls), zucchini pizza and wine/Aperol Spritz (because when in Rome).
“Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat. Pray. Love.
Sitting there it hit me, “Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.” As I looked at the ruins around us it got a little heavy as I thought about the beginnings of Hopeless + Cause Atelier and I remembered after I delivered Jennifer her first look for Diner en Blanc how I went home and watched, “Eat. Pray. Love.” and how this line impacted me. And as I watched it again, how the word “Tutti” (Italian for everybody) came to play in those that I’ve been blessed by supporting me and those I have been able to bring along for the ride. This would be the first time I would cry on this trip, not of sadness but instead deep gratitude knowing I was meant to be there in that moment with my friends. It was still early in the day and we had received a map from Marta. Realizing that the Pantheon was less than a 10 minute walk, from there the Trevi Fountain was another 6 minute walk and less than 10 minutes was the Spanish Steps. We went back to the hotel. Our room was lovely, but the view, breathtaking. There were three of us throughout our travels so the rooms were typically a queen bed and a twin or sofa bed. Since I move so much in my sleep, I told them I’d take the later. The thing about this room is that the shower area was open with glass walls. I didn’t understand how anyone in a room that accommodates more than two people (so more than just your lover) could take a shower as it was, so we made a make shift wall out of towels for privacy. A very European addition in the water closet was a bidet. I had seen them before but hadn’t stayed in the room that had that option (and for my 50 new things goal this year, I made sure to use it). We freshened up and set out on our walking adventure. Sadly, the day before Shannon did something to hurt her knee and we were in the walking capital with thousands of stairs, but she was a trooper through it all.
It was the first Sunday of autumn and the streets were bustling with people. The weather was warmer that we had planned for. We had heard from friends and family about pickpocketing so we made sure to keep our wallets close (I wore a crossbody where the bag laid across my chest). I plugged in our destination in Google Maps and put an earbud to guide us. We arrived at the Pantheon in sheer awe. The building is thousands of years old and the magnitude of the columns and dome was incredible to believe that humans built it without modern tools, and as the YouTube link, contained within, states has been copied throughout the world through the Neo-classical style.
Unfortunately, the line was so long that we opted to move on to the next wonder. However we could feel the heat and with all the shops and restaurants, I suggested we get gelato. Now before this trip. I had no idea there were differences between the gelato in Italy. Teresa educated us on what she learned from TikTok (#fakegelato). Authentic gelato comes in metal tins to keep the right temperature and aren’t piled in mounds. Also, the colors are natural. It was funny to see us pop into the shops to see if they were authentic or not. We decided we’d find one after Fontana di Trevi. But there is so much to see along every street, we popped into Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola, and was amazed by this 17th century Roman Catholic Church featuring trompe l’oeil ceilings (deceiving the eye–or illusionistic ceiling) & frescoes depicting St Ignatius.
We arrived with the crowds to Fontana di Trevi. Again, the incredible beauty of this man made water feature. According to Trevi Fountain Facts, “The legend holds that a coin thrown into the fountain will ensure a return to Rome. This tradition also dates back to the ancient Romans who often threw coins in water to make the gods of water favor their journey or help them get back home safely. Throw in a second coin if you’re seeking love – or even a third for wedding bells!” (https://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/art-culture/9-surprising-facts-trevi-fountain-rome). As we worked our way through the crowds, we made it to the edge to toss in our own coins. I stopped at one–LOL! After a few more photos, we worked our way out but not before we were stopped by street vendors trying to sell electronics and selfie sticks. Shannon haggled with one and got one at a good price. Though out this time, Teresa jumped back on TikTok to find an authentic gelato shop, The Gelatist, and it was on the way to the Spanish Steps. We stopped in and each got our favorite flavor. I opted for Tiramisu. I could eat gelato every day and not feel bad because I knew I’d be walking it off. As we got back on track, we stumbled upon a Sephora, realizing early on I had forgotten my signature red lipstick, I asked if we could pop in.
We made it to the Piazza di Spanga. All around us was so much to see: the Spanish Embassy, in front of us Fontana della Baracia, to the left all the luxury brands you could imagine, and to the right the Spanish Steps. There were people, people, people everywhere. I had read weeks before that you couldn’t sit on the steps, let alone stop and stand on them without the police asking you to move or citing you. Maybe they gave breaks on Sunday? Because there were people sitting and standing everywhere. Shannon’s knee was not playing nice, so she stayed at the fountain as Teresa and I walked up all 135 of them, pausing at each of the three terraces (referenced to the holy trinity) and going into Santissima Trinità dei Monti. Another beautiful and awe inspiring church. I have to admit when we got to the top I wanted to throw my fist up in the air like Rocky, but I refrained.
When we left the church we looked down to see if we could find Shannon before we made our descent. As we got to the bottom, we decided to head back to the hotel. We were all tired so we thought it would be nice to relax for a bit before we headed out. We figured out we had access to Netflix so I opted to start MILF. It’s a French story about three best friends who go to the French Rivera (une petite coquine). After a little rest, we decided to have dinner at Pasta e Vino Osteria. There was one right out side our hotel with the front door man selling the menu but there was no outdoor seating so we went to the one that was on the other corner of the street (they were literally less than 100 meters away from each other). We were sold by the hand made pasta being made in the front window and the prices. We started with Burrata (which became a must at each meal through out our Ms. Adventures) and wine and then each of us ordered a different dish to share family style. I have to admit I LOVE PASTA and BREAD, but after doing Keto for a few years I have found that I can no longer eat it because it does not love me. This was not the case in Europe. It’s freshly made and I feel like there is less genetically modified wheat used. The food was amazing and the service was exceptional, but I think that’s because our waiter was in love with Teresa. We went back to the room to finish watching MILF fully content.
DAY 6 – MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2023 – FAITH & FASCINATION
Say a little prayer for me.
I could write a series of books on all the history we saw on this day, but this is a blog and I don’t want to loose you, so instead I hope to inspire you…so here I go.
As Shannon got ready for the day, Teresa and I went to the cafe around the corner to get espressos and pastries. The neighborhood was already buzzing. We had a scheduled tour of the Vatican and according to google maps, it was a 23 minute walk. As we got half way through Shannon suggested we take the bus or catch a cab. We got an Uber and glad we did as the route was over the River Tiber and the Vatican sits atop a hill (and we still had more that 16,000 steps ahead of us). We were dropped off at the steps of the entrance. It was filled with vendors selling scarves and other items. Dress code for the Vatican required modest dress with arms covered and if wearing a dress or skirt, midi-length and no shorts. I had brought my cardigan but it was already warm so I haggled with the vendor for a beautiful floral scarf. We were a little early for our scheduled time so we walked around and found a cute shop filled with Italian trendy fashion. We shopped for a bit and were able to hold our packages there until after our tour.
We got to our meeting site and met our tour guide, Jag. There were a dozen of us in the English-speaking group, but it was fun that not all of us were Americans. I thought the Vatican was big but I definitely underestimated the size and how much beauty was contained with. As I’ve been telling friends about this trip, I say we visited Paris, Rome, Nice, Monte Carlo and Reims, but I forgot that the Vatican is a city-state and the smallest country in the world…but oh so worldly.
We walked through the square and before we walked into the museums, our tour guide first talked about the history and the story behind the Sistine Chapel. Again, there were crowds (according to what we were told, there are nearly 30,000 visitors daily). As we walked through I was in awe of the juxtaposition of Egyptian and Roman influence against center of Catholic leadership. There were beautiful sculptures, tapestries, paintings and of course the ceilings. The ceiling frescos amazed me because I couldn’t fathom how they were painted. It’s not like Michelangelo could paint Adam take a step back to see the proportion to God and easily make the edits…from a 66′ ceiling. I was like a kid waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and while the museums were breath taking, I was SO excited when our tour guide said the next room was the Sistine Chapel. We were told there was no speaking (holy space) or taking photos (flash could damage the paintings) while we were in there or we could be escorted out by security or even worse, banned.
Our tour guide may or may not have shared a way to take photos and I may or may not have got a few (you’ll have to judge for yourself in the video). We moved onto St. Peter’s Basilica. Again, I was moved by the massive yet beautiful church. As we walked around, we found that a rosary was going to be said while we were there. What a blessing! We joined in the Italian prayer. It was followed by mass, but because we had a scheduled a twilight tour of Rome. We headed out. But first, a quick shopping stop. The gals found all kinds of good things. I grabbed a few postcards and rosaries but it was so beautiful out, I grabbed a gelato and enjoyed all the traffic in the St. Peter’s Square.
We walked back to OVS, the fashion shop, to pick up our purchases and grabbed an Uber back to the hotel where we quickly freshened up and went to Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia, our meeting spot for the next tour. We met under the balcony in which Mussolini gave many of his famous speeches. Our tour guide greeted us and there was a dozen people in our group. We walked across the street to Piazza del Campidoglio which was designed by Michelangelo. As we walked up the Cordanta through the towering twin statues of Castor and Pollux. I started geek-ing out. While I am a Catholic by faith, I’m a total Greek and Roman Mythology history nerd. We continued through as our tour guide gave us the incredible history of the area. We reached the back side and paused at the Capitoline Wolf and we heard the story of the founding of Rome. The sculpture is of a she-wolf suckling twins Romulus and Remus and like any good Roman story there is a power grab, murder and intercession by gods.
As we walked down the cobblestone path, we were met by one of the over 2,500 nasone (or Roman drinking fountains) with with cool, clean water straight from the aqueducts. After watching our tour guide quench his thirst, I decided to add drinking from a nasoni to my 50 new things to try this year. Once I got a drink, I caught up with the group to arrive at Mamertine Prison. This is where St. Paul and St. Peter were said to be incarcerated in Rome. It was a somber experience. A stop me in my tracks view of the Forum was right around the corner. The Roman Forum, aka ancient city center, was incredible to witness as I took photos, I also took mental notes to learn more about this area when I returned home.
We continued walking along the historic Monti neighborhood. Currently, it is considered a hipster area, however in ancient times it was the seedy, red-light district of Rome, and I did see some of those moments when a fellow tour participant almost tripped over a dead rat as we began our ascent up the the Borgia Stairs. According to legend, “they lead from Via Cavour to Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains). The stairs pass under an ancient building associated with the notorious Borgia family (in particular, Vannozza dei Cattanei, the mistress of Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia, and the mother of several of his children, including Cesare and Lucrezia). Legend has it that this was the site of the ancient Vicus Sceleratus (evil street) where Tullia ran her chariot over the body of her father, King Servius Tullius, in 509 B.C.E. Years later, Juan Borgia was assassinated here after leaving the Borgia property, perhaps by his own brother, Cesare. Despite association with these violent events, the staircase is very pretty, with ivy draping down from the building.(https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187791-d11864837-r478680963-Scalinata_dei_Borgia-Rome_Lazio.html)”.
It wasn’t an easy feat and by this time we had walked 18,000 steps. I know Shannon was feeling it but I’m sure she had the same reaction as me when we reached the top and saw the Coliseum. OMGEEE the incredible magnitude and beauty of this graphically haunting place. We descended the hill and arrived front an center of this world’s wonder. It was glorious at night. Our tour ended there and I highly recommend the twilight tour vs. a daytime tour. It is less crowded and hauntingly beautiful. After some confusion about Uber pick up spots, we finally got our ride for a late dinner date at Harry’s Bar. We arrived around 10:30pm and it was quiet. I thought maybe we were shutting the place down, but once we took our seats it seems we drew energy in and within minutes it was bustling. It was a lavish dinner before we headed back to our hotel. Our Uber driver got stopped randomly by the police…kind of scary but we got back to the hotel to pack for our next leg.
DAY 7 – TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2023 – FATE
Life’s a beach.
After a very late night, I still don’t think we’ve acclimated to our European time zone, Shannon and I slept in. Teresa was determined to go to mass and have the rosaries purchased the day before blessed. She came back to the room around 8am. I was up by this time and the two of us headed out to do some souvenir shopping. We headed to a religious shop that caters to priests. We stocked up on rosaries and other gifts. Teresa gifted me this beautiful sacred heart ornament. We grabbed pastries and coffee and brought it back to the room before packing up and heading to the airport. We left Rome about 11:00 am and arrived in Nice, France about 1:00 pm. As we stepped off the plane, I knew we arrived in a coastal paradise. We grabbed a cab and road along the Promenade des Anglais. The blue sky and blue waters went on as far as the eye could see only dotted by boats. We arrived at our hotel, La Villa Nice Promenade, and checked in. Josie and Jocelyn arrived earlier in the day and were on the beach taking it all in. We only had a couple of hours, at most, before we had to catch the train to Monte Carlo. Teresa and I decided to take a little walk to get the feel for our neighborhood and to see the beach.
We walked along the Promenade de Anglais and Teresa was inspired. She shared with me that her dad had gone parasailing on his honeymoon with her mom in Acapulco, Mexico. In that moment, she decided had to do that while we were there. We didn’t have time that evening so the next morning she made her reservation. We continued on and walked into Hotel Negresco. My friend, Rachel, who visits Nice often, suggested we walk through the hotel because of the amassed collection of artwork and the elegance of the building from the early 19th century. It was one of the many suggestions she provided for our visit (I just wish we had more time). Sadly, we weren’t allowed further than the lobby since we weren’t staying at the hotel. There was a hotel bar but we decided we’d come back when Shannon was able to join us. We continued down the road pass several shops and eateries. I even found a tattoo shop, but we didn’t have time for me to inquire about a mastectomy tattoo. We landed at Gelato D’Amore Nice and had a lovely conversation with the owner who was one of the few people we encountered in Europe that knew New Mexico was part of the United States and not part of Mexico. We got some gelato for ourselves and Shannon and headed back to the hotel.
We started to get ready for the evening and I had texted Josie we’d meet her and Jocelyn in the lobby. Shannon and Teresa were still getting ready when I decided to head down to meet them. As they finally came down, we ordered an Uber to get to train station. We arrived just minutes before our train was to depart so we ran through the train station and luckily got on before the train took off. Thirty minutes later we arrived in Monaco. The terrain of Monte Carlo is rugged and hilly, so upon departing the train station we heading to the casino. It was a 12-minute walk descending the hill side. While normally it wouldn’t be much of a walk, but everyone, except me, were wearing heels. We walked through the Casino Garden and the luxury shops were surrounding us. I knew high rollers lived here. We had a problem. We were probably about a 100 yards from the Casino, but there was a line to get in. It was close to 7:00 pm and Uber is not permitted in Monte Carlo so we tried to order taxis with no luck, so we were going to have to walk to La Mome for our 7:30 pm reservation. I made the reservation before we left Paris and had to guarantee it with a credit card. Late or no-show reservations would incur a 50 euros per person charge, so unfortunately we didn’t go into the casino and started our trek to the restaurant which according to Google Maps was a 23-minute walk with a steep decline and switch back. As we walked, I took in the view and imagined Grace Kelly driving down these sloping roads.
Google maps showed the path heading down hill and then switching back to the entrance but just a few minutes into our walk, I saw people in front of us duck into a space and as I looked over I saw it was the menu for our restaurant. The directions were pointing us to the entrance of the hotel that the restaurant was on the top floor of. I could feel a collective YAY as we walked into the restaurant. We were about 15 minutes early, but the hostess sat us with the incredible view of the bay in front of us.
Dinner was wonderful and the views were amazing (both the water and the waiters). We wrapped up just in time to figure out how to head back to the train. We stopped at the hostess station to see if they could help with a taxi. The hostess couldn’t assist us, so she suggested we go down stairs to the hotel front desk. We arrived and I walked up to ask for assistance. The agent informed us that the trains were on strike. We were dumbfounded and asked what do you mean? We just came in on the train. I asked if we could get a taxi back, there were 5 of us, so we’d need a van. He said he could help but couldn’t guarantee an arrival time for the taxi. It could take 10 minutes or it could take 2 hours, it just depends when the few taxis that work the area would be available. Lucky for us, a van arrived about 15 minutes later.
We jumped in when the valet asked if two young men who also needed to get back to Nice could join us. We had room and welcomed them in. We chatted on they way back the two of them were from NYC, one a corporate attorney and the other a corporate auditor. Shannon was intrigued to hear all the places to go when she and Teresa continue on to New York after Europe. We arrived outside our hotel about a half hour later. The two offered to pay for the trip it was 150 euros. The kindness of strangers.
DAY 8 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2023 – FLOWER MARKET & FLYING
Of anything about this trip I wish there was more of, I wish had more time in Nice.
We got up and ready for the day and Teresa made her reservation for the parasailing adventure. I suggested we spend the morning at Marche aux Fleurs Cours Saleya. It was a lively farmers market filled with flowers, plants, baked goods (the most incredible macarons and langostino tails–sweet pastry that looks like a lobster tail filled with flavored cream, OMGEE delicious), olives and oils, cheeses, meats, soaps and other gifts. It was a great place to get wonderful souvenirs at great prices.
The late summer sun was bight and cheery, but even though we sampled a few goodies from the market we were famished for lunch. With most of the restaurants touting fresh produce and ingredients from the market. As we walked along, I found the perfect restaurant (it was like someone was guiding me). It was another incredible meal. We decided that we’d walk along the shops to do some more souvenir shopping and so Teresa could find a bathing suit. I bought a hat and pair of slides because I was roasting and could walk along the beach and put my feet in the water (I actually tried on a suit but then decided that no one wants to see that). We walked out to find Fontaine du Soleil and as we were about to get an Uber I noticed an ATM so I told the gals I was going to get some more euros. I set my pin and began the process of withdrawling money and the screen timed out to an error message in French. I left not thinking anything more that the machine was down until two days later I was charged $171 (for the 150 euros I did not get–yeah, that’s a story for another day).
We arrived at the take off spot for Teresa. She changed and got light instructions of what to expect. Shannon stayed in the shade. I walked over to the water and sat on the edge putting my feet in the cool, clear water and I was in heaven. I smiled from ear-to-ear as I watched her take off and soar through out the sky. I know she was loving following her father’s footsteps. Her ride through the sky lasted approximately 20 minutes before she plunged into the water. We gathered our things and headed back to the hotel. We didn’t have enough time to really do much else so we got drinks from the bar and some nosh. Josie and Jocelyn came down for their scheduled car, they had spent time at the casinos. Like I said, I wish I had more time in Nice. I would have liked to explore more and actually spend more time on the beach (although I did get tan after the 45 minutes out there. LOL). We arrived back in Paris later that evening.
DAY 9 – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2023 – FALL… IN LOVE
Nothing more romantic than a Seine River cruise with four of your friends.
Thursday was a catch up work day. It was filled with washing clothes, catching up on emails, completing tasks and binge watching Emily in Paris. Shannon hadn’t watched the series before so it was fun watching it through her eyes. We had a scheduled dinner cruise on the Seine that evening. So once again we got dolled up and headed into Paris, after a little mis-navigation and some fast running we made it to the boat for a front row view of the banks of the Seine. We enjoyed a very French meal with wine and 1980’s American music. The views were spectacular and the weather was quite warm for late September. After dinner we moved outdoors and watched the beauty of the lights from the Eiffel Tower and caught the Statue of Liberty (yes, Paris has one as well).
Once we returned to dock the boat, we found that the Eiffel Tower was a 15-minute walk so we headed that way. The streets leading to the tower were filled with vendors selling key chains and blinking miniature Eiffel Towers. We stocked up and headed through security and on to the base. It was late and the Tour de Eiffel was closing soon, so we only went up to the second floor and took a bird’s eye view of the area before we had to head down again. We left the park and got into our Uber back to the hotel. As we were sitting in our room we had to figure out travel arrangement for Reims, France the next day. After our issue with the trains in Monte Carlo we opted not to go that route but an Uber was going to be $200 one way after much consideration, we thought we should rent a car, so Teresa reserved one. We decided she and I would walk over in the morning to get it.
DAY 10 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2023 – FEMINITE (WOMEN RULE THE WORLD)
You got me poppin’ champagne.
We got up early and headed out to the car rental shop. It was a 15 minute walk and we had to get to Reims by 11:00am for our tour. As we arrived, we found that no one working could speak English and our French was limited. One of the agents could speak Portuguese and Teresa had a limited understanding of it, so they tried but then landed on using Google Translate. It took us a while to process the car because they wanted to put a 2,000 euros hold (which was returned once the car was returned). Luckily, Josie came to rescue and put it on her card. We got in the car and ran back by the hotel to pick up Shannon and hit the road. Now there is crazy traffic and roundabouts everywhere in Noisy-Le-Grand but once we hit the highway it was smooth sailing beyond the occasional tolls. The countryside was picturesque dotted with fields of crops and chateaus. We all voted Teresa to drive and I was her co-pilot. We arrived at Maison Veuve Cliquot within minutes of our appointment. YAY us!
We met with our tour guide, Clementine, and the descended into the belly of the champagne cellars and learned all about the history of the house and especially The Widow Cliquot (Veuve Cliquot) who was the driving force behind the champagne industry.
Madame Cliquot innovative ways of turning the bottles removed sediment from the champagne bottles and her blend changed the murky champagne to a clear liquid we drink today. Becoming a widow at the age of 27 years old, she led the company until her death at 89. She was a bad ass! The tour concluded with a tasting. It was fabulous and of course the rose was my favorite. We got a few suggestions for lunch and headed into town. We went to a bistro with French favorites like, coq au vin. We headed back to Noisy-Le-Grand and dropped off the car.
DAY 11 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2023 – FOOTBALL (AND MAJOR FAN-GIRL)
Into the Theater of Dreams…
Football or as you, Americans, call it, soccer, was ruined for me for a hot second. I brought my family into the realm of this sport as I had grown up around it. I was the one to take PTO to watch World Cup games and for decades, Manchester United has been my team. The last time I visited the UK, in 2019, I looked to see if I could make a quick escape to watch them play, but at the time the only time I could see them while I was there coincided with the day I was showing in London Fashion Week, so when I saw that they were playing at Old Trafford on September 30th, I mentioned it to Shannon and Josie. Shannon kept pushing so when I confirmed that there was no PFW obligations, I said let’s do it (this was just days before our departure to Europe). I’m so glad she pushed me, this was definitely a highlight of this trip. We had a mid-morning departure from CDG but when we arrived we found that our flight was delayed.
As I pulled up our tickets, I saw an email from the booking agent that said, “Please do not be concerned by the names on your ticket, each ticket is assigned to an individual or business name at the start of each season which cannot be changed. However, if you are asked by a steward where you obtained the ticket, it’s best to say they were given to you by a FRIEND FREE OF CHARGE. because the seller of your tickets that you bought the tickets from has enabled you to use his tickets for this event. Please do not contact the club directly regarding your ticket as this will result in your ticket becoming void.” I thought, “OH, FUCK” what did I buy. I jumped on the booking agent’s chat and asked that question. The agent responded that I shouldn’t have a problem. So I said a Hail Mary and asked God to let us in.
This trip was a same day fly-in, fly-out. We literally were there just for the game. So when we arrived in Manchester (sadly, no UK stamp) we hailed an English cab and headed toward Old Trafford. It was Teresa’s birthday, so we mentioned it to our cabbie and he played some fun birthday related tunes in her honor. As we arrived, we could see and hear the crowds readying themselves for the game. We popped out of the cab and hit the souvenir stands (I knew Isaiah was going to be mad that I went without him, so I made sure to get him a game day scarf). As we packed up with souvenirs, our driver had mentioned the Christian Ronaldo mural at one of the pubs, so I asked the gals if we could make our way there for some Instagram-able moments (LOL). I did take a photo with the legend, well, at least his mural. It’s England, so of course it was cloudy with one hundred percent of rain, but it was heavenly. We headed over to get the most delicious fish-n-chips. As we indulged, we took our surroundings in before heading in.
I was nervous but we had no problem accessing the building. Thank you, God! We were early so we did a little walk about to take it all in and grabbed a drink before taking our seats. Based on the prices for the tickets we got, I thought for sure we were going to be in the nose bleed section in the 74,000 seat stadium, but we were 6 rows behind the goal. THEY WERE INCREDIBLE!!! We watched the teams practice, the Red Devil come onto the field, and then the teams line up before the game started. When we took our seats there was a landscape of red (for all the open seats) and when the game began I could not see one open. We cheered ManU on like it was our home team and bummed when Crystal Palace got one pass the goalie. We left 15 minutes before the game ended to make sure we missed the crowds and made it to the airport in time. We found another English cab and made our way back to the airport. While we made it back in time, we hit the duty free shops. I was looking for drop earrings to add to my liquid metal dress rope ties and the gals were looking for souvenirs. Teresa had been collecting chocolates for her mom from each of the cities we visited and Shannon was looking for fun gifts to take home. We thought we had excess time only to find out that we needed to rush to our gate. This flight we had to walk out onto the tarmac and then climb the stairs to our seats, Shannon cussed a just little bit. We arrived back in Paris just after 8pm. Now it was time to prepare for PARIS FASHION WEEK.
By the time we got back to the hotel, I decided I wanted to edit one of my dresses. I had originally wanted create a cut out in the liquid metal mini dress but since my niece was wearing it for the hometown preview, I didn’t feel comfortable making it that sexy. So when I returned to the hotel I grabbed a bowel and my sewing kit (I opted not to bring my sewing machine) and copped a squat to sew, I also found some fun crystal drop earrings that I sew into the rope detail. Shannon and Teresa asked if I wanted to go out for dinner but I figured I needed all the time possible so they were thoughtful enough to bring me back some soup. Josie and Jocelyn stopped by to be outfitting in Hopeless + Cause Atelier for the show. Got them set, finished the edit and went to bed in order to be ready for the next day.
DAY 12 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2023 – FASHION (F*CKIN PARIS FASHION WEEK) & FRIENDS
This is it. This is what you came for.
I can’t say I slept well that night. I think it finally hit me that I was participating in Paris Fashion Week and at once it was overwhelming. I mentioned feeling imposter syndrome, but it finally hit me. I am here and I deserve to be and there are so many at home that supported this incredible opportunity, so the excitement set in.
The show producers said we needed to be at the venue, Les Salons Hoche, by 8:30 am, so I figured we’d leave at 8:00 am since the traffic should be lighter early on a Sunday morning. Teresa, who was modeling for me, had to be there at the same time and I was grateful when Shannon said she join us so she could help me backstage. After the beautiful morning drive we arrived at the venue and checked in backstage we grabbed our table talked to the model coordinator and set up shop. We found Sofi a few minutes later. She had arrived two days before but this is was the first time we saw each other so after a big hug we talked runway.
The models started to trickle in and I would start outfitting them accordingly. Just a few days before, I heard from Carmen, the third model friend I was bringing with me, notified me that she hadn’t received her updated passport and was not going to make it. I sent a message to the model coordinator to find me a replacement, so as they made the rounds they updated my casting list with the models that didn’t make it and I mentioned again that I needed another model added to my line up. They obliged and I had one added just a hour before the show. During this time, Shannon jumped into action steaming the garments that had been in my bag while I was doing the outfitting. Just a few hours before the models were to take the runway, we found out there was only one person there to do hair and a dozen there to do make-up. Shannon was in disbelief with the chaos. This is not my first rodeo so it didn’t affect me as much, there is only one production company, Fashion X, out of Austin that is completely organized. Luckily, Shannon and I brought our hair tools because we had planned to get ready there. The models took them over and got ready near our station.
As I always do, I looked over to appreciate the other designers and their creations. Paris is all about Haute Couture and Avant Gard designs and they were present in this show. My design aesthetic is simple beautiful designs with unexpected elements. They are more sustainable in the way that I don’t overuse material to get my creation across. It’s social wear with a social conscience. A half an hour before the show started, the coordinator asked for all models to take the runway for a run through. Shannon and I took seats at the end of the runway and I suggested that she, Josie and Jocelyn sit there so they’d have the entire view of the runway. Shannon was going to live stream the show on Facebook for anyone who happened to be up at 6:00 am local time.
After the dress rehearsal, it was time to line up the designers. We were third on deck. I asked Teresa to open and Sofi to close. All the models were lined up when I realized I was missing a model, I grabbed as staff member to find her. She had beautifully full hair with curl and was trying to get the hair person to tame it. They were trying to send out the models when I put a halt to it until she could get dressed. It changed my line-up a bit, but everyone was set and sashaying down the runway. At the end the models lined up along the edges, like they did in the Albuquerque show and I was planning just to step out, wave and go back in, but because Shannon, Josie and Jocelyn were at the end I couldn’t see them so I curtseyed and walked out. As soon as I saw them, I was like the Cheshire Cat with a ridiculous smile from ear-to-ear.
It always seems like it takes years to get to the show and it’s done in an instant. But boy, does it feel powerful to achieve dreams. Riding on the high, we decided to go for a bite to eat. We walked around the 8th arrondissement to find one with patio seating. We grabbed tables and started talking. We had a glass of wine to celebrate friends, travel and living life (and grandmas). Sofi talked about getting to Paris and I cried the second time this trip. It made me so happy to have her there and for her to feel good about being there. We ate drank and laughed the night away. We walked Sofi back to her hotel as she stayed near the venue. She showed us the park she wanted to do the photo shoot in and she pointed out a neon sign that made me smile because I knew my angels were with me.
We got an Uber from there and headed back to Noisy-Le-Grand. It was a good day, and I can honestly say I slept well that evening.
DAY 13 – MONDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2023 – FANTASY
Make the most of every opportunity.
Josie and Jocelyn were heading back to the US so I met them downstairs in the hotel about 11:00 am. We had decided to do a photo shoot in Parc Monceau. We spent most of the morning working binge watching and washing clothes. We had two days left. We decided to take the metro into Paris and that was an adventure in itself getting to the right trains, but we did it. We met Sofi at her hotel. She and Teresa changed and we walked over to the park. Sofi is an incredible photographer but because I also wanted her to model we all took turns playing the photographer.
The purpose of this shoot was, well when in Paris you got to take some fabulous editorial photos that will be submitted for publishing. It was golden hour so and the park was filled with nannies and kids, older couples, younger couples and lots of people but we were able to carve out the space we needed with the gorgeous backdrop.
After the gals changed, we walked to a bistro for dinner and more conversation about our trip. We then headed back to the hotel via the Metro and Sofi left the next morning.
DAY 14 – TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2023 – FAMILY (30 YEARS LAPSE)
This day was 30 years in the making.
There were two things I told Shannon and Teresa I had to do: 1) Paris Fashion Week on Sunday, October 1st and 2) I had to visit La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre on Wednesday, October 3rd.
In May when my friend, Tony, died, I pulled out a box from the shed that contained old yearbooks and photo albums. Two of those photo albums were filled with photos from my mom’s trip to Europe. When my grandma died the following month, the kids came over for brunch and Cati asked if she could look at them and I said, “of course” as she was going through the pages, I stopped her on the page that contained a Mass Missal and I got chills as I read the date, October 3, 1993. When I realized I’d be in Paris on that date, I knew I had to go.
Now that we figured out the Metro I figured out how early we’d have to leave so we could make Mass. However, Shannon wanted to stop by the post office in Les Arcades Centre Commercial to find out how much it would cost to ship back some of her purchases to New Mexico. We then headed on the Metro into Paris. While we were sitting there Teresa was reading headline with her earbuds in and screams out there’s an Outbreak. Shannon and I looked her, eyes wide open and I think shushed her. She didn’t realize she was talking loud. When she took out her earbuds, she told us about the bed bug outbreak in Paris (this is something I would hear about daily from then on out until I returned home–luckily we didn’t bring any unwanted visitors home with us). We arrived at the Montmartre exit and the view from the bottom of the hill was incredible.
As we reached the steps, I asked Teresa to take a photo of me with the program and as I stood there, a flood of emotion hit me. I was at the place my mom was 30 years ago. After I pulled myself together, Shannon and I took the tram up and Teresa walked the steps. I got in the very long line to go in the church, while Teresa and Shannon were taking photos. Thinking it was going to take a long time to go in, I sent them a text letting them know. It moved much quicker than I thought and I got inside before they responded. Sadly, but luckily, I came in at the end of the service but I got to witness some angelic voices of the nuns singing. After mass ended, I went on to explore the basilica until I reached the front pews, then I went in to pray. I felt at peace and extreme gratitude wash over me. As I looked over, I saw printed missals so I grabbed one to take home with me. I then saw Shannon and Teresa and we continued on. We grabbed lunch then shopped for souvenirs and the heaven opened up for about 15 minutes of heavy rain.
After it cleared up we decided to head over to the Louvre Museum. We didn’t have time to go in as it was closing soon by we took photos outside and then headed over the garden. It had changed so much since I was there four years before. Teresa had promised to get yarn for a friend so we headed over to these quant shops found in an alley before heading back to the hotel.
DAY 15 – WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2024 – FREAKIN DELTA
Wednesday we woke early to head to the airport for our 11:00 am flight back to New York. I checked my phone and found a text message from the airlines, Delta, stating the flight had been delayed to 2:00 pm, which meant that the previous arrival time of 2:00 pm EST was now changed to 4:30 pm. We talked about what we should do and decided that we should still get to the airport early just in case the delay was shortened. We couldn’t get a large Uber, while there was only 3 of us our luggage wouldn’t fit in a smaller vehicle, so I took one and Shannon and Teresa took another. Because of morning traffic, I arrived at Charles de Gaulle about 45 minutes later. During the commute, I was texting Delta customer service to find out my options because I was flying back to Albuquerque that evening. My time between flights went from 6 hours to 3 and a half hours. I wouldn’t think much about it except that I was coming in from one terminal having to go through customs, get my bags, go to another terminal, go through security and get to the corresponding gate. I remained positive and checked-in my bag and proceeded through security. I arrived earlier than the gals who had to process their tax credits and Shannon was looking for another suitcase for her goodies.
I walked through the duty free areas and did a little shopping that I could pack in my carry on bag. I found that Veuve Cliquot was about $30 cheaper than in the states so I bought a bottle and some other treats. Then I passed the fragrance section and was stopped in my tracks. I looked at the yellow and white striped bottle and had to walk in to smell the signature scent of my mom…Giorgio of Beverly Hills. I remember being in high school and at one point I think she experienced olfactory fatigue because she couldn’t smell the scent but boy, I could. LOL! Smelling the tester I was immediately transported back in time.
I moved on to Paul’s for my last Pain du Chocolate and lunch. I gave them the meal ticket provided by Delta as an apology for the delay (dear Delta, a 15 euro pass is not enough of an apologize for the inconvenience…I’m just a little bitter, but you’ll find out why). Hours passed and our gate changed twice. As we were sitting there ready to board, the departure time changed to 2:30pm. I couldn’t help to notice that the crew was sitting with us, our plane wasn’t even at the gate. We started to board about 2:45 pm. I finally got to my seat after 3:00 pm. My seat mate was from NYC and returning from a food and wine tour of Italy (maybe next time?!?). I settled in and prayed that I made it in enough time to make my flight (Shannon and Teresa were staying a few days in NYC). We arrived in NYC after 5:00pm. I jumped off the plane waving good by to Teresa and Shannon, as I ran down the gate to get to customs, only to find the longest line ever. Then I saw a note to download the customs app for quicker processing. I did just that and jumped the line went through the corridor to another serpentine line. I made friends with the people near me as we were all flabbergasted by the non-moving line. The TSA agent mentioned that one line was moving quicker than the other, but I think he was playing a game with the travelers because when we moved to the other line it remained stagnant. I had made acquaintances with a couple when I told then of my desire to make my flight in time. The boyfriend and I stayed in the line while the girlfriend moved to the other one. She moved through through her line quicker so we popped out and joined her, when I found Teresa ahead of us. She and Shannon had downloaded the app and got into the global entry line instead of listening to the agent. I joined her and we got through in another 15 minutes. It was now after 6:30 pm and I had to get my checked bag and get to terminal 5.
By this time, our bags were no longer on the carousel but instead piled in between them. It was like searching for a needle in a haystack. Again, I lost Teresa and Shannon. Assuming they found their bags, I called Teresa to see where. She directed me and within 5 minutes, I found my bag went to the information desk and asked how I get to the air train to terminal 5. After a 15 minute, run/walk I jumped on the train and a few minutes later got off at the terminal. I descended the escalator and decided I was going to check both bags so I could make it easier to get through security since I didn’t have time to repack after my champagne purchase. I got to the bag check and was sweating profusely. I had been wearing my black NYC sweatshirt. I took it off to find I had black fuzz all over me…I’m sure I looked like I had the bubonic plague. I checked my bags and paid an additional $60 to check the 2nd bag and headed to security. Luckily, the line wasn’t as long as I was expecting. I got through and it was 7:15 pm. I walked up to the gate, just before they started boarding. I was excited to see that the arrival time listed was going to be earlier than originally scheduled. Yay! Something going my way on this return flight. I had already been up for 20 hours and I was ready to be home (funny the last trip I was up for over 36 hours but it was also filled with fun in NYC). As we were ready for take off, the captain came on over the speakers to say there was an issue with the air conditioner and maintenance had been called. Let’s just say we didn’t arrive earlier than expected. After, I got my bag and met Isaiah outside baggage claim to was after midnight. I had been up for 24 hours and was going to work the next day (dumb me scheduled an appointment for a new client…who ended up being a no show).
I’ve been asked over and over about my favorite parts or moments of this trip and it was so life enhancing, but here are a few of my favorite moments:
- walking in my mom steps 30 years ago to the day
- experiencing this trip with friends (thank you Shannon, Teresa, Josie, Jocelyn & Sofi)
- participating in Paris Fashion week (truly grateful for all who helped me achieve this)
- watching ManUtd in Old Trafford after riding in an English Cab and noshing on fish and chips
- walking in awe and reflection of the work and craftmanship of our ancestors
- sitting on the beach with my feet in the clear cool water watching my friend check off something from her bucket list
- twirling in a palace
- Paul’s pain du chocolate
- praying, reflecting and meditating in so many beautiful places
- moments when I knew my angels were with me (Bistro Jennifer, Giorgio of Beverly Hills in the airport)
I recently watched “Eat. Pray. Love.” for the billionth time. This time something new resonated with me, the line, “we must always be prepared for endless waves of transformation.” I have found this through my travels, the people I have met in these Ms. Adventures and loved ones who’ve taken this journey with me, and this all is possible because of Hopeless + Cause Atelier. Thank you Shannon, Josie, Sofi, Teresa and Jocelyn.
Next stop, Milan Fashion Week. Who’s in?
With light and love,
Dara Sophia Romero
PS here is the photos and video from the trip (there’s a LOT)