Justine Lorelle

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The vacation posts continue! If you’re already over it, never you worry — this is the last one.

The title of this post should technically be “How to: Spend 12 hours in an airport (without losing your mind), but that seemed like kind of a long title for a blog post. Anywho.

As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, our return flight included a 12-hour layover in the Moscow airport. I’m not sure what it is about me, international flights, and ridiculously long layovers, but apparently it’s my thing. And when you throw a little Russian into the mix, things only get more interesting.

All I can say is that the flights we booked were about $400 cheaper than everything else we looked at. Yes, we were aware of the long layover when we booked, but at the time we thought we could maybe turn it into a day-trip into Moscow. Fast-forward a few months later when we realized that you need a visa to enter and exit the city, a tedious (and kind of expensive) process we ultimately decided to skip.

What that meant is that we were now faced with an almost half-day stay in the airport. Clearly, something would need to be done.

Fortunately, my bizarre life is your gain! Here are my four tips for surviving a (really) long layover.

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1. Master the art of sleeping in an airport.
Airports are a notoriously difficult place to catch some shut-eye. It doesn’t help that pretty much every single bench has immovable metal arm rests between the seats, making it impossible to stretch out comfortably. We actually saw one family who had brought some sort of fold-up air mattress to counteract this — effective, but possibly overkill. And there was no way I could fit something like that in my carry-on.

Since we had arrived at the airport around 3 a.m., we started by grabbing a bit of breakfast and surveying the lay of the land. In our quick lap around the airport, Diana and I determined the two best techniques for sleeping on an airport bench. The first is the Upright Fetal Position, demonstrated by me above. You need two seats and a pillow. The second is the Origami Technique. We actually stole this idea from a few other passengers. It helps if you have three seats. All you have to do is hinge your body around the first arm rest and slide your feet through the second. It also helps to put your bag between your knees so there’s less pressure on your hip. We both slept for about four hours with these techniques. (Joey genteelly guarded us and then slept at a table later.)

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2. Spend a thousand dollars on snacks.
Obviously I’m kidding. The above receipt is in rubles. But now is definitely the time to treat yourself a bit. Spring for the large bottle of water (international flights are drying, yo), get a few snacks, and try to pretend like this is still part of your vacation.

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3. Eat real food.
Airport sushi might sound a little suspect, but stick with me on this one. Airplane food is never going to be anything to write home about, so you have to take advantage of real restaurants in the airport before you go. Eating something besides prepacked nuts and candy will help you feel like a human being — even if you’ve been in a terminal for over six hours. The Moscow airport has an actual sushi restaurant, so we made use of that before boarding.

4. Wash your face.
It sounds simple, but the face wipes that Diana packed were practically a Godsend. Napping on an off combined with dry airplanes turns my face into an oil slick, and it’s hard to feel comfortable if you feel gross. Pack face wash and a toothbrush and toothpaste and make good use of them both off and on the plane.

At the end of the day, the time we spent in the airport wasn’t that bad. We landed tired, but not feeling like total zombies. Hopefully these tips can help some of you get through any heinous layovers you have in your future.

Anyone else have tips I forgot?

Ok, so Monday we covered the marathon. Now it’s time to talk about the more fun (and less sweaty) portions of my trip. Like the wine. And the architecture. And the wine.

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{1} We arrived in Paris around 11:00 a.m. Our luggage hadn’t made our connecting flight, so we headed to our apartment expecting it to be delivered between 3 and 8 p.m. (Because that’s what the airport told us.) We booked our apartment through Vacation in Paris, which I highly recommend. Our 2-bedroom apartment also had a living room and kitchen (plus a washer/dryer), which was not only plenty of room but also made it possible for us to have a few meals at home. There’s just something a million times more enjoyable about relaxing in a real living room than in a depressing tiny hotel room. This was our actual rental if anyone is looking for a place to stay near Paris.

Joey’s and Diana’s bags (mine was still MIA) didn’t end up arriving until about 10:30 p.m., so we had to cancel our dinner reservation. Instead, we grocery shopped and snacked on cheese and wine at the apartment. Di and I also picked up our race packets from the expo (and may have grabbed a celebratory glass of champagne).

{2} The Paris Marathon offered a 5K “Breakfast” Run the morning before the marathon. I’m putting breakfast in quotes because it was literally bananas and bottles of water, but it was nice to take an easy jog through the streets of Paris.

{3} That night, we had dinner at La Gauloise, a charming, very French restaurant where we consumed as many carbs as possible for the impending race. That included what can only be described as the best chocolate mousse I’ve ever had. EVER. Seriously, if you go here and do not order the mousse, you have done your mouth a disservice it should never forgive you for.

{5} Race day. After the run, we headed back to the hotel to rest up and shower before going out for the evening. We broke tradition and had Italian for dinner at a place called Fuxia, which I’ve sinced learned is actually a chain. The food was SO GOOD, and I’m not just saying that because I had just burned 2,500 calories. Plus, the staff was extremely nice, which can be kind of rare in Paris.

{6} For me, the real vacation didn’t start until the marathon ended. For the first time in over three months, my whole life didn’t revolve around my running schedule. It was pretty freeing. We had been pretty sure we would be sore the day after (we were right), so we had booked an hour-long cruise on the Seine with Vedettes du Pont Neuf to see a few landmarks without having to stand up. The cruises feature a student tour guide who describes the surroundings in both French and English, and you’re allowed to bring drinks and snacks aboard. (We may have brought a bottle of champagne.)(I imagine you’re picking up on the theme of the trip by now.)

{7} After the boat ride, we grabbed lunch at a cafe along the river before hitting up a few shops (I still didn’t have my bag, so I needed underwear, yo) and doing some more sightseeing. Dinner was at Au Pied de Fouet, an 8-table restaurant that literally defines hole-in-the-wall. It has been in business for over 150 years without changing much (they’ve added a bathroom in the last ten years), at it’s about as French as it gets.

{8} The original plan for Tuesday was to hit up a market in the morning, visit Monet’s home and gardens during the day, and then cook dinner at home that night. Finding the market took a bit longer than expected, though, and by the time we’d returned home and eaten lunch, we were kind of pooped. Instead, we pushed the Monet visit to Friday.

But can we just talk about this market for a minute? If you go to Paris any time in the near future, I strongly suggesting visiting. It was probably my best impression of the French the entire time. Not only was all the food we purchased incredibly fresh and delicious, but every single person we came in contact with was extremely kind. (It helps that Diana speaks really great French, but locals were even nice to me with my not-at-all perfect Français.)

Bonus: My luggage arrived that night. Yay!

{9} Wednesday was wine tour day. We started the day bright and early at a cafe where we met our all-day wine tour group. Paris Wine Day Tours take a group of up to eight people to tour a local market, vineyard, and chateau in France’s wine regions Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Coteaux du Giennois. The tour guide picks everyone up in a van around 7:30 a.m., and it takes about an hour to get to the first stop. At the market, we were able to sample a few local treats like goat cheese and chocolate truffles. In other words, everything I love to eat. {10} After that, we visited a family-owned wine estate, Domaine de Villargeau. There we sampled about five different wines and learned about how French wine is made. We brought home three bottles, so, what I’m saying is, we liked it. {11} Next, we toured what was probably the most picturesque village in all of France. Seriously, I’m pretty sure the song “Belle” was written about this town. We also got to see a few stunning vistas of the French countryside. {12} Finally, we toured a family-owned chateau and garden. I may or may not want to live in a castle now.

{13} Thursday was our anniversary. We slept in a bit, then wandered to a park Diana had discovered online called Bois de Boulogne. And, you guys? I’m still not entirely convinced this park wasn’t a dream we all had simultaneously — it was that perfect. The weather was beyond gorgeous, there was grass to stretch out on, there was a pond with ducks and geese, and everyone in the park had super friendly, well-trained dogs they let just wander over to you so you could pet them for a while. Diana went for a stroll and accidentally found a cafe about two minutes from where we were picnicking that served rosé and gelato. (Her exact words when she came back were, “I don’t even know if I can say these words out loud, but do you see those orange chairs over there?” My response: “Diana, I know it’s my anniversary, but you didn’t have to get me every single thing I like.”)

{14} After the park, Diana went to grab a drink with some friends she had in the area while Joey and I got ready for dinner. We made a quick pit stop at Pont de l’Archevêché, which is famous for couples locking locks onto it’s sides and then throwing the keys into the Seine to symbolize the eternity of their love. It was a tradition I hadn’t known about when we visited Paris on our honeymoon, so I was happy to check off this bucket list item on this trip.

{15} Next was dinner at Ciel de Paris, which sits on the 65th floor of one of the tallest buildings in Paris and provides a panoramic view of the entire city. If you go, try to make your reservation as far in advance as you can so you can request a table near the window. We had a spectacular sunset and were there when the Eiffel Tour light show began.

{16} On Friday, Joey and I finally visited Monet’s house and garden, something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a little girl. It was, in a word, spectacular. Giverny is so beautiful, I completely understand why Monet spotted it out a train window and had to live there. The gardens themselves are one of the most colorful things I’ve ever seen, and the house is adorable — most of the rooms are done all in one color, giving the feeling of being inside a doll house. Basically, Monet had good taste.

After that, it was time to head to the airport for an overnight flight to Moscow, our layover. (I know…it was weird.) We actually ended up spending about 12 hours there, but that’s a story for another post. We finally got back to New York on Saturday.

All in all, it was a great trip. The weather, food, and experiences were incredible. I’m not sure when the next time I’ll visit Paris will be (there are too many other locations on my list to visit), but it was definitely a fantastic way to celebrate our third anniversary.

 

A big part of my brain is still having trouble processing that the marathon is over. Heck, most of my brain still can’t quite wrap my mind around what my body did.

Before I get into what went down, if have to preface the story with one thing: I’m not totally thrilled with my results. (Downer of a preface, huh?) Let’s Tarantino that statement and get into what happened.

I promise there will be a post all about Paris this week, but for now all you need to know is that my luggage didn’t arrive until day four of our trip.

Admittedly, this upset me more than it should have. Fortunately, I had packed almost all of my running things in my carry-on, but I was missing my snacks and a few other details. Thanks to Diana, I was able to start the race with everything I truly needed, but I still felt a little off.

The morning of the race was gorgeous. Before noon, it was sunny and 65 degrees, which was lovely but also not conditions I was used to running in after our horrendous winter. What I’m saying is, I sweat a lot more than normal. And, for whatever reason, the marathon only had water stations every five miles or so, and I felt more dehydrated than I usually do.

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Also, without getting too gross, I started having a few stomach issues around mile eight. That’s when things fell apart for me a little. I had to walk a few times, and it wasn’t until a Powerade station around the midpoint of the race that I stopped feeling quite so depleted.

And the port-o-potties on the race? The people who used then before me were animals. I have never seen such revolting toilets in my life. (Okay, sorry, that’s gross.)(POOP EVERYWHERE. HUMAN FECES.)

Anyway.

My mile 16, things started to hurt. I was so frustrated because my two 20-mile runs had gone so well, and now I was facing the reality of plodding along for another ten miles in serious discomfort. But really, there was nothing else to do but plod along.

So I kept at it.

To their credit, the people who came out to watch were very kind. They would chant out your name (it was on my bib) and encourage you to keep going. So that helped.

In the end, my time was about four and a half hours, a half hour longer than what I was (quietly) hoping for.

There has never been a girl more happy to be sitting down.

There has never been a girl more happy to be sitting down.

Part of me wants to try again this fall on another course, just because I know I could do better. Part of me never, ever wants to do that again.

One thing I don’t think enough people emphasize when we talk about running marathons: It hurts. By mile 22, I swear I thought my feet were going to crack in half. At mile 24, if there had been a way for me to cheat to just make it end, I honestly can’t say I wouldn’t have done it. When I finally crossed the finish line, I burst into tears and couldn’t get it together for about 10 minutes. (The poor women handing out the t-shirts looked deeply concerned.) My legs (and back and obliques) burned for the rest of the night, and I couldn’t walk down stairs normally for about five days.

So the experience was less fun than I think I was expecting. But who knows — the human body can’t remember pain, so maybe I’ll feel up to it in another few months. (Maybe.)

After everything, I’m trying not to beat myself up about not having the best run ever. At the end of the day, I still ran a marathon, something I’m not sure I totally believed I could do until the second half of my training. The actual race, as well as the entire training process, has made me realize that my body is capable of so much more than I usually give it credit for. Another thing people don’t emphasize enough when we talk about running marathons? It’s a huge confidence boost.

Thanks so much to everyone who cheered me along during this whole process, especially my lovely running partner and darling husband who were there to (literally) support me at the end. I love you all.

Di and me

Di and me

I’m in my last week of tapering before the marathon, which has been the perfect excuse to try a few new cross training classes with my ClassPass. This week, I was finally able to get into a class I’ve been eyeing for a couple of months, The Fhitting Room.

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The Gym
Space: The space is small, with a compact lobby, two bathrooms, lockers, and a single room for workouts (they classes are capped at 16, but only six people were in my class). There are no showers.
Cleanliness: Very clean. The instructors re-rack all of your equipment along the way so you never have to stop working out to put away a kettle bell or something.
Attitude: Great! The instructors babied me a bit in the beginning of the class, which is a pet peeve of mine (just because I’ve never been here doesn’t mean I’ve never worked out before), but after I’d proven that I could do more pushups than the other girls, they treated me like part of the team.

The Workout
Difficulty (Out of 10, 1 being “could do it in my sleep” and 10 being “omg I can’t walk”): 8/9. Fhitting Room offers high intensity training (HIT) classes where you do the same move for 30 seconds to a minute, rest for 15 seconds, and then repeat or move in a circuit. There is very little rest time, so you pack a lot of workout into a short amount of time. My class combined a series of rowing, pushups on the TRX, squats on a Bosu ball, burpees, kettle bell swings, plié squats, and arm raises along with cardio moves like mountain climbers and jumping jacks. It’s intense, and you work out just about every part of your body.
Experience: Really good! I felt challenged, but not like the moves were impossible (the way I feel when I’m staring down monkey bars or something), and I definitely worked to fatigue with every set.
Afterburn (how I felt the next day): My shoulders and bum are really sore, but I know I’ve been neglected strength moves while training. This class has inspired me to be more diligent about it once the marathon is over.

Final grade: A+! I’m definitely planning to do this one again.

Anyone wanna come with me?

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First, thank you for all the kind words so many of you sent me after reading this post. I didn’t write it in a cheap attempt to get compliments (I swear, I really am over it now), but it was still nice to realize how far that support system I mentioned reaches. You’re all wonderful.

Now, let’s talk about something frivolous, shall we?

As you may know (from the 8 million times I mention it), I’m taking a little trip this week. To Paris. The primary purpose is to run my first full marathon, but the rest of the week will be dedicated to enjoying France. (Life is such a trial sometimes, isn’t it?)

I started packing last night, and then I thought, you know what I haven’t done in a while? Written a “what to wear” post. Heaven forbid this blog goes legit and only posts about feelings, right?

Here are three variations of outfits I’ve put together for three of the activities I’m most looking forward to on our trip. You know, just in case anyone out there is looking for a little Parisian inspiration.

First, a general sight-seeing uniform:

Paris Sightseeing

Next up, what I plan to wear whilst touring Monet’s gardens:

Touring Monet's Garden

And finally, my ensemble for our all-day wine tour:

French Wine Country

I’m hoping to contain my overpacking instincts by sticking to a simple color palette — only black, white, navy, and pink/coral are making the cut. Anyone else have good tips to avoid overpacking for long-ish trips?

I can’t even begin to express how excited I am for this trip! I’ll be back in a week with (hopefully) tons of great photos and stories to share. À bientôt!

Obviously I couldn’t blog about this right when it happened, but I thought it would be fun to share an anecdote from my job hunting experience.

All in all, I probably went in about 9-10 interviews this time around. Many of those were at the same places — I actually made it to the third round of interviews at two different companies. (Though I didn’t get either of those jobs.)

One of those third-rounders was probably the worst interview I’ve ever been on.

The company was one that organizes sporting events (like dodgeball and softball games) for adults in the city to network and meet new people. I had already survived an initial meeting with their HR recruiter; it went well and we both seemed to get along. A good sign, in my book.

The second round, I was required to write an entire 3-month social media strategy, including a step-by-step list of the first three things I would do if I got the job.

Pause for a second (Zack Morris-style).

Can we just discuss how messed up that is? I mean, my ability to create a social strategy and help a brand define their digital voice is what I do for a living. That is my intellectual property. It’s what, you know, I get paid for.

And now I was forced to basically hand it over with zero promise of a return. (And since you already know I didn’t get this job, I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you this company ended up with my entire strategy, step-by-step tactics, and sample social posts. And I ended up with…well, you’ll see.)

The second interview went okay. The two guys I met with we’re a tiny bit bro-y, but nice enough. They kept up their poker faces the entire time, and, to be perfectly honest, I felt a little but judged for wearing heels and curling my hair. It could have been in my head, but it wasn’t in my head that this was not a girlie-girl setting.

Regardless, I thought I handled myself well. I was prepared for all of their questions, and my strategy even preemptively answered most of them. I felt I came across as capable, organized, and enthusiastic.

About a day later, I had an email setting up my final interview with the CEO and founder of the company. I assumed the second interview must have gone well.

When I arrived for my final interview, I was quickly ushered into a conference room with the CEO. He was an unassuming man from Long Island in his fifties, barely taller than me. He had a teasing sense of humor that I couldn’t quite get a handle on because it was a little, well, condescending.

I turned to face him, and he lifted a piece of paper that I assume had the questions he wanted to ask me on the side facing him. What he didn’t realize was that the side facing me had some writing on it too.

Notes. About me.

I know it was about me because it said Justine LoMonaco at the top.

And under that it said:

Not that into sports
Not funny or creative

There have only been a few moments in my life that I would describe as punches to the gut. This was one of them.

(Obviously, I’m talking about the second sentence. Anyone who knows me knows I make no pretenses about having a passion for sports.)(And this.)(And this.)(AND THIS.)

Let me be clear: I have no delusions that I’m the funniest or smartest person out there. But these are two specific adjectives that people use to describe me all the time. I mean, I’m a classic late-bloomer — sense of humor and personality carried me for years, folks. I work with people who literally will not schedule a brainstorming session unless I can attend. Funniness and creativity are just not things I am insecure about.

And then…suddenly everything changed.

I’m one of those people that if you really want to push my buttons, accuse of something that is just patently untrue. It’s like my brain can’t even process what you’re saying and I become simultaneously dumber and less eloquent. My cerebrum is all, “Wait…you mean…but the-what? SKY IS GREEN AND GRASS IS BLUE AND NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.”

Obviously, this is not a good mental state to be in for, oh, let’s say a job interview.

Suddenly I found myself incapable of coming up with a single intelligent thing to say. I was trying to be funnier, which everyone knows rarely works out. And, honestly, I was on the brink of tears for most of the half hour.

The interview wrapped up quickly (clearly I hadn’t impressed), and I hesitated for just a second, wondering if I should address these two accusations against me. In the end, I said nothing (though I did stand up for myself a bit in my “thank you” email). If I had known I wouldn’t get the job anyway, I would have been bolder. Hindsight, amiright?

Instead I shuffled dejectedly to the subway, still fighting back tears, and called my friend to unload what had happened. When I got home and started telling Joey about it, I broke down.

Remember when I wrote this? That was right around the time I found out I didn’t get that job. (Or the other job that I had made it to the third round of interviews for.) I was so frustrated, and my confidence was at a low. Now I was confronted with the possibility that maybe I was just stuck where I was — and not funny or creative on top of it.

That’s a lot for anyone to take.

But wait! This isn’t a sad story. Because, in the end, I realized that I probably didn’t want to work with people who don’t share my sense of humor anyway. I don’t want to work for people who judge me the moment I walk in. I don’t want to work for hypocritical people who claim their business model supports one thing while their actions prove they don’t.

And the job I ended up getting? I’m a million times more excited for it than I was for the other one anyway.

So things work out how they’re supposed to. And the experience also showed me what a great support system I have when I can’t pick myself back up right away. Ironically, when I got my new job, they told me the people I had interviewed loved how “funny and creative” I was. As if that coffin needed one more nail, right?

Anyone else have a job interview story to top mine? Leave it in a comment so we can commiserate together (and laugh about how, in the end, it was their loss).