Shanghai >> Paris

Standing tall: Forbidden City, Beijing

19 hours of travel later on Swiss Air and Shanghai's strikingly modern skyline, lack of central heating, street vendors and toothsome dumplings already feel like something out of a dream. Back to familiar Paris, immediately faced with a callous start to 2012.

I intended to come back full force this week with a new Franco File Friday feature but less than 10 hours after we returned from China, I learned that my grandfather, aged 92, passed away. Loss is never easy to digest but having landed in Paris on Wednesday, emboldened to tackle the new year with gusto, the impact of the news was even more violent.

This is the painful reality of living abroad - I can't console my family in person and they can't console me. Fortunately, I'm not alone and I'm grateful that my husband was able to meet him this summer at our Philadelphia wedding reception. I will be thinking of him and my family this weekend, wishing I could be there to reminisce and properly eulogize the strong, confident man who always told me to eat my broccoli and wear slippers indoors.

I'll also be sorting through my photos from China this weekend (so so many) and will be back next weeek with my thoughts and a new Franco File Friday. Thanks for your understanding, friends.
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