Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Macaroons, Pranks and Belly Laughs in Paris

Well, the cat is out of the bag and I can finally blog about it.  And the timing was perfect, too!  You see, just last week, my school had a public slideshow of our trip to Europe, putting together dozens upon dozens of pictures the 41 kids and 6 chaperones had taken during the adventure.  It was the first time we had all been in the same room since we returned and the whole reunion just brought back so many fond memories, and a few belly laughs, too!

The topic of this post is macaroons and the person at the center of the story is my friend Joanne.  You remember Joanne, don't you?  She's the one who's wheel came off her luggage when we first left Amsterdam (check out Joanne's Broken Wheel).  As I mentioned in that post, Joanne is such a sweet person who also happens to be a little on the naive side sometimes, and she had us laughing and smiling all the way through Europe because of it.

Before I begin the story, I need to share two coinciding sub-stories at work here.  The first was macaroons.  Now like me before the trip, you may think that macaroons are those toasted coconut cookies that we have here in the United States.  I'm not a fan of the coconut, so when I first heard someone say they had to get macaroons, I thought to myself, blech, that is until then I saw them.

Macaroons in France are not what I had thought they were at all.  No, instead of those icky brown toasted coconut thingys, macaroons are actually Oreo-type looking cookies, creamy filling and all, that come in a wide assortment of delectable sounding flavors, like chocolate, hazelnut, key lime, coffee, etc.  Well, throughout our first 24-plus hours in France, many of my fellow travelers had partaken in the fantastically delicious confections.  I eventually even bought myself an assortment of six of them earlier while shopping at the Champs Elysees.  Joanne hadn't yet, but she wanted some...bad!

Now Joanne, like me, loves to shop, and whenever we had free time the two of us were always spacing out in our minds how many minutes we'd have to make the most of our shopping.  From what happened the previous Saturday in Amsterdam, we both knew that free time was precious, and in the backs of our minds, we worried that we would never have the time to get our shopping groove on before having to move on with the group to the next destination.  Joanne's strong desire to get herself some macaroons had become feverish, and that second day in Paris, during our time at the Louvre, she finally bought a little package of the precious cookies.

The second sub-story was the scene.  It was a busy Paris on a Monday afternoon.  The grounds of the Louvre were bustling with people, tourists, vendors, and the like, and our meeting spot after the museum was the mini-Arc de Triomphe on the grounds of the museum.  Ivan had previously warned us all of pickpockets, which are common throughout Europe.  Since I live in New York and I'd traveled through Europe before, I was already keenly aware of this and as such kept my guard.  Not so much so Joanne...

It was meeting time, and as I approached the group, Joanne was yelling to me...

John, I bought macaroons.

Aw, the smile on her face was precious.  She was so happy as she waved the little blue, tubular-shaped carton of macaroons for me to see.

Aw, congratulations Joanne!  You finally got them.  (I'd already finished mine by then, and I was hoping to score one or two of hers later on...)

For the next ten minutes as the whole group gathered little by little, she and I drifted from group to group chatting as we waited for the remaining stragglers to arrive.  It was about that time that I heard Joanne call my name again...

Oh my God John, I just got pickpocketed!  My macaroons are gone!

She lifted up her little blue bag to show me.  Sure enough, it was empty.  Wow, I thought, why the hell would someone steal macaroons?

I can't believe it!  Right outta my bag!  She was clearly in shock and a little angry, too.

As she was telling me this,, I could see way off behind her, laughing hysterically, were Kristen, Steve and Ivan.  I shot them a curious glance and as we began our walk to the next place, Kristen filled me in.  Ivan had taken the macaroons from Joanne's bag.  It was too easy.  Before you knew it, the other chaperones were in on the secret and gave knowing smirks to one another, laughing hysterically in our heads every time Joanne would bring it up.

Oh my God!  I still can't believe it.  


The next morning we were all on a train headed to Zurich.  It was a long ride of about four-plus hours, so all of us chaperones got comfy towards the end of our car, taking up adjoining compartments of four seats.  Then, not long into the ride, Joanne left her seat to go to the bathroom. Ivan took out the macaroons, grinning from ear to ear.  God, it was so hard to contain our laughter as he put them into her carry-on, and even harder as she came back to take her seat.

Someone, I don't remember who, said something to Joanne to make her look into her bag as we all watched out of the corners of our eyes.  I had my camera ready...

Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God!  Her eyes bulged.

What?  Someone asked.  She pulled out the macaroons from the bag and held them up.

Oh my God!  What the...?

By then it was okay to laugh, only what we were actually laughing at was not what she thought we were laughing at.  The real cat still hadn't been let out of the bag.

Later on that night, at our hotel in Switzerland, my room was going to be the gathering place for the chaperones.  Audrey, Joanne and I were the only ones there at first.  Joanne brought the macaroons to share, and almost as soon as she got to my room, she remembered something she had forgotten in her room and left, the macaroons lying on my bed.  I gave Audrey a knowing smirk as I emptied the precious cookies into another bag, leaving the container empty, but alas, this time Joanne was immediately on to my trick and it wasn't nearly as fun.

Throughout the rest of the trip, and even once we were back in America, we all joked and laughed about Ivan's trick on Joanne.  Then came the slideshow last week, just about the right time I was at that part of the trip, too.  As we sat in the dark, looking at all of the pictures and reliving the memories, I leaned over and asked Ivan if he'd ever told Joanne the truth.  He hadn't.  And so, once the slideshow finished, he finally fessed up.

One last fit of uproarious laughter pervaded our group as Joanne screamed (and laughed) and hit us all with her pocketbook.  To this day and for many more to come, the thought of Ivan's joke and those macaroons will provide us all with chuckles and smiles.

Check out the rest of my posts on this year's Europe trip and stay tuned for more...

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