The World Weeps

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Words fail to convey the horror and sadness.  Thinking of your recent trip to Paris, I wonder if you might have more photos to share.”

I received this email today from my friend Bev in Chicago. I had not planned on posting these photos. They are not great. But, they do convey a bit of the beauty, the grandeur and majesty of this gothic treasure. Like so many around the world, I watched in disbelief as this precious edifice was engulfed in flames. It was frightening to see how fast and furiously the fire wreaked destruction on Paris’ iconic monument.

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Bob and I were fortunate to visit Notre Dame just a few weeks ago. To me, Notre Dame is Paris: old, beautiful, elegant with a rich historic past. Way back to my student days in France and my first visit to Paris, it was this cathedral which mesmerized me. I was awestruck by the astonishing gothic architecture, the mystifying ambience inside the church.

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I have been to Paris many times over the years. I always make it a point to at least walk by and around Notre Dame. When lines are not too long, I go inside where I am always overwhelmed, inspired, soothed.

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A French TV commentator said, “Notre Dame will never be the same.” Perhaps not, but fortunately the structure has survived. It will be saved. French President Emmanuel Macron has promised that Notre Dame will be rebuilt. Millions in donations are pouring in for the costly restoration.

Vive la France. Vive Notre Dame

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Celebrate Easter and Notre Dame’s survival (a miracle so much survived)   with this delicious lamb recipe (above right).  Happy Easter.

Paris Visit: Random thoughts

 

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We visited my very favorite city last week. It was basically a business trip to see an American/French lawyer on wills – very important.

The trip got off to a rocky start. I lost my iPhone. I realized the loss while still in the airport, before boarding our RER train to Paris. Panic of course. On the train I had the bright idea to call the phone. I was shocked. Someone answered – lost and found at terminal 2D. They had my phone. It would have been too time consuming and complicated to reverse course and go back to the airport. I would have to wait to recover it two days later en route back home.

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Day 1: no sun

We would have to do Paris without an iPhone, without GPS, without the phone camera. But, at least the phone lived, and I had my Olympus.

From the airport, the RER took us directly to Châtelet, very near where I had booked an airbnb apartment. Châtelet is a major transportation hub in the city. For me, it’s the dreaded metro stop where you too often need to change lines and walk for kilometers underground. Since our visit was short, just 2 ½ days, I was determined not to spend half the time in those depressing underground passages: A Paris visit without the metro. I almost succeeded. We did take the metro once to see a movie, “The Green Book,” which we loved.

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Pompidou Center

We walked and walked, the very best way to experience Paris. The first day of our visit was gray and grim, but the sun came out on day 2. At popular attractions, such as Louvre and at the Pompidou Center, there were long lines. However, there were no lines at Notre Dame, which I had not entered in years, nor at La Chapelle. Notre Dame was dark and intriguing. I tired capturing the mystical ambience with the Olympus, but I fear my limited skills were not up to the task.

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Interior Notre Dame

On the short walk to our apartment, we passed a frequent shopping stop from bygone days: E. Dehillerin. In my younger days, inspired by Julia Child, I was heavy into gourmet cooking. Over the years I spent big bucks on shiny copper pots purchased there. They graced the kitchen walls in our house, but had to go when we moved. I was very pleased that their new owner, the professional chef who purchased our house, will put them to good use.

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Some folks go to Paris to buy chic clothes.  I spent my money here on pots and pans.

The old world interior of the 19thcentury store with wooden plank floors and tall, tall open shelves filled to the brim with all manner of kitchen paraphernalia is still the same. The neighborhood, which used to be on the rundown side, is now upmarket spiffy.

But, so is much of Paris – far different than the way I remember the city on my very first visit, long, long ago as a student. That’s another story…

A more recent change: E-scooters everywhere. There are rental depots throughout the city. We felt safer on foot.

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The phone…Fortunately we allowed extra time for the rescue task on the way home. There was no lost and found in terminal 2D. We were directed to Easy Jet customer service in terminal 2D – not easy to find. They had had the phone, but since it was not claimed within 24 hours it had been sent to terminal 2A. I think we walked more in Charles de Gaulle airport than all of Paris. Once we finally reached 2A, we had to find the right place. Another challenge. But, we conquered. The iPhone is home with me.

It is good to have, of course.  But, you can survive without the phone, without GPS. Remember maps?  I used mine in Paris.

Although I was not lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young woman, I did visit. It has stayed with me.  Yes, it is a “moveable feast.”

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Lunch in Paris with former Stars and Stripes colleague Leonard Hill, right, and Claudine (not in photo, sorry Claudine)is a Paris must and always fun.

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Family Fun in the USA

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Sailing in San Diego Bay with members of my family, from left: Tom, Joan, Steve, Yoshie and Dave.  Capt. Charley at the helm.

First stop, Winchester, Virginia. Stepson Rob and grandsons Samuel and Lang live outside the city in a lovely country location below the ridge of Big Schloss Mountain, part of the Appalachian chain. Their house, which we had not seen, is spacious and tastefully decorated by Rob – with a few treasures from Germany donated by his father.

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Samuel, Rob, Bob and Lang at the bridge.

Rob drove us around the picturesque area with stops at the Muse Winery Swinging bridge on the Shenandoah River and a visit to the Woodstock Brew House in the town of Woodstock,  Va. The artisanal beer was a treat, as was another German favorite,

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Swinging bridge on the Shenandoah River


sauerbraten at a German restaurant 
in nearby Harrisonburg

On the way home from dinner we passed a Krispy Kreme donut store. They were excited. The red light was on. ?? We learned this means donuts are coming off a conveyor belt to be doused with glaze. Purchase them fresh and warm and enjoy on the spot. “You will love these,” they insisted. The boys had more than one each…   Bob and I failed to share their love of Krispy Kreme. We’ll take croissants, merci.  But, good to know about that red light. And, the German dinner was wunderbar.

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Virginia home of Rob, Samuel and Lang

Bob spent several days with Rob and the boys, then flew on to Ohio for a reunion with six of his seven brothers and sisters, as well as many nieces and nephews. They had a belated b’day celebration for Bob, 80 last October.  I flew west to San Diego for a reunion with some of my family.

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Bob, far right, with his brother John and sisters, from left,  Susan, Judy, Kathy and Sandra.  Missing: brothers George and Tim.

My brrother Tom, who now lives in San Francisco, wanted a reunion in San Diego where he had worked for several years. Brother Steve and sister-in-law Yoshie came from Boulder. Nephew David and his mother Joan came from Kentucky. Missing was brother Dave, Joan’s husband and David’s father, who had work commitments and could not join the fun.

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San Diego from the sailboat

Tom was our guide. He made sure we visited famed Balboa Park, his beloved Coronado, downtown landmarks and more. Thanks to nephew David, who combined business with pleasure, we were fullsizeoutput_14fcchauffeured in style. His rental car was upgraded to a gleaming, cherry red Cadillac. A tight squeeze, but we all piled in for a scenic ride up the coast to La Jolla where we took lots of photos of seals.

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Dave and the Caddy.

More seal photo opps awaited on our sailboat adventure with Captain Charley in the San Diego Bay. We enjoyed superb views of the city skyline, sailed past the Naval Base, and, in addition to seals, watched dolphins training to detect mines. All beautiful, fun and relaxing, until Joan realized her Iphone was missing — not to be found on board. It obviously had disappeared overboard. Although the phone was insured,  most of the photos had not been backed up.  Lesson learned: back up all. 

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I went  overboard with seal photos — too many.  But, I like this one.

Balboa Park, San Diego’s “cultural heart” with 17 museums, gardens, the city’s famous Zoo, plus stunning Spanish-Renaissance architecture, is impressive. Tom recommended a visit to the Botanical Building with more than 2,100 permanent plants, including collections of tropical plants and orchids. Alas, it was closed for cleaning. Instead we went to the Japanese Friendship Garden.

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Japanese Friendship Garden, Balboa Park

Yoshie, who is Japanese, enlightened us on many aspects of this marvelougarden with its streams and pools where vibrantly colored Koi (Japanese carp) swim.PFZfUgbsSI29iZgMpO3x4w

My favorite part of the San Diego visit was the Ocean Beach street fair. It is a regular happening, we learned, a feast for foodies with a range of international culinary treats: Mexican burritos, Chinese steamed buns, paella, lobster rolls, tangy East African specials, pizza – even crème brulee. Plus – lively music — and  dancing in the street. Tom and I joined the dancers.

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Joan went for pizza. This is one slice of a monster.

We ended California family fun at the beach in Coronado watching the sun set with a Margarita in hand. All agreed. We should have these reunions more often.  

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Dancing at the fair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scroll down for more of the family photo album.

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And the winner of the best San Diego sunset photo, brother Steve who shot the scene with a Panasonic Lumix LX100.  “I love this little camera,” says the photographer.
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In Ohio:  Bob’s niece Tammy and husband John.

 

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In California: The “boys”:  My brother Tom, nephew Dave and brother Steve.
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In California: The”girls”: sisters-in-law Yoshie ,Joan…and me
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In Ohio;  Bob’s niece Kim, husband Alan and nephew Jim.

Coming soon:  Rajasthan, the best of India, and then, Costa Rica, which followed this US trip.  If not a talesandtravel follower, sign up, upper right.  Your address is kept private and never shared.

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In Ohio:  foreground, Bob’s nephew John and wife Cindy.

A new taste — trout for fish lovers.  See recipe, click on photo above right,

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2018: Milestones and more (Egypt)

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View from our apartment.
It was a year of monumental change for us. We sold our lovely home in the Luberon hills of Provence in record time (2 days), did some serious downsizing and moved to an apartment on the French Riviera. Emptying that house of at least 75% of the contents at flea markets, online sales and more was a demanding challenge. So was finding a new roost. But, we did it all and here we are. The apartment is spacious with a to-die-for view of the Med and mountains. At night, it is magic. Life is less complicated. We are closer to commerce. And, a beach where I look forward to Med swims when the weather warms. And Italy, just 20 minutes away where we love to shop. Benissimo!

Four mainly outdoor cats accompanied us. We could not abandon them. Pets are a

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My feline family.
lifetime commitment, not to be tossed out if inconvenient. That, too, has been challenging, but now we are down to three felines. My precious boy Adam was peacefully euthanized on 1 Dec. (age 14, cancer). We miss him. He was special.

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Bob and Adam. Filippo in rear.

Not monumental, but a milestone. I am now a French citizen — and an EU citizen. (lots of paperwork, perseverance and patience) I will not relinquish my American passport, but have dual citizenship. Vive la France!

Before the stress of the move preparation, we had two wonderful trips in 2018, Egypt and India. See previous posts for more: Drifting Up- and Down-the Nile, Apr 2018; India’s Big Cats, June 2018; Alok and Ankita’s Wedding, Jul. 2018.

Part II of our Egypt adventure was a beach holiday following the Nile cruise. Interesting.

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Pool, one of several, at our hotel. Gardeners work hard to maintain the lush greenery in the midst of the desert (see below).
I booked an all-inclusive package at a French travel agency and expected we would be at a mainly French hotel. Surprise. Instead of speaking French, I needed my German. Ninety percent of the hotel guests were German. The huge hotel (505 rooms) was sold to a German company in 2017, I learned.

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Desert surrounds Hurghada.
Hurghada on the Red Sea is a popular beach vacation destination. Until the 2015 crash of a Russian passenger jet brought down by a bomb over the Sinai, Russians were the primary clientele. No longer, and due to this and other terrorist incidents in Egypt,

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Red Sea beach near Hurghada
international travel took a hit. Those intrepid Germans were the first to return, but last year many others followed. Tourism was bouncing back. However, the recent attack on a tour bus near the Gaza pyramids will not help which is tragic. Egypt needs tourists. We felt very safe during our travels.

Our hotel was not in Hurghada, but on a section of beach about 45 minutes  from the town.    Large hotel after large hotel, all with mainly German guests, line the shore. Deutschland can be bleak with too little sun as we know from the many years we lived there. It is no surprise that Germans are known to seek the sun on holiday.

Having had a cancerous bump (basal cell carcinoma) removed from my nose, I try to avoid those tanning rays. I was surprised. Most hotel guests had no fears of the sun. They bake, hour after hour. Some of the tans outdid those old Coppertone ads.

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The perfect tan can be hazardous.
What to do if you don’t want to broil all day? There are organized beach games, a variety of excursions, scuba diving. On a previous trip to Dubai, we had done a desert tour. During our cruise, we visited the sights of Luxor. No need to repeat those. I signed up for a snorkel trip with the intention of moving on to scuba. But, the snorkeling was not that exciting. I feared a beginner’s scuba trip would be about the same. I passed.

We also passed on a visit to Hurghada since we had heard it did not offer much – mainly more hotels. We did take a taxi to a shopping center which was much like a shopping center anywhere, but had a genuine Egyptian restaurant.

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Hotel beach.
That was a plus. One day we went for a long walk along the beach, the hotel strip, assuming we would come to a restaurant for lunch. Nothing. All the restaurants are part of hotels, for hotel guests only.

There is no shortage of food on these all inclusive package tours. Copious buffets are offered three times per day. All kinds of food. It is astonishing how much some folks put away, plate after plate. Snacks are available between meals. Beverages, including wine, beer and cocktails, are also included. Caipirinha were popular at the bar in the middle of the swimming pool

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Alcoholic drinks included in the package price. Caipirinha — cocktail of choice at pool bar.
Our hotel had two main restaurants, a huge hall with a terrace and a large outdoor beach restaurant. And, a courtyard with specialty restaurants (Chinese, Italian, Burger etc.) which you could book ahead for dinner. We tried them all. Overall the food was not bad, but not great. Our shopping center lunch was our favorite. It seemed like real Egypt.

I talked to a couple from Niedersachsen, Germany, on their fifth winter visit to Hurghada. “It’s reasonable. It’s warm. We are happy here.” So are thousands of other tourists who fill the 175 hotels in Hurghada which provide jobs for some 200,000. Average salary is about 70 euro per month.

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Hurghada, called a “touristic hotspot” by one publication, is booming with more hotels under construction. For the sun and sea and all you can eat, it’s a deal. But, we much preferred our week on the Nile to our week on the Red Sea.

Words of wisdom for 2019 from my hero and inspiration, the late Anthony Bourdain:

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”

We will get off that couch and begin 2019 with adventure:  the US then Costa Rica.

fullsizeoutput_11f6Happy New Year.  Happy Trails to all.

At last, a new recipe. Broccoli Parmesan Gratin is worth a try — even if broccoli is not on your favorites list.  See top right.

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Seasons greetings to friends and talesandtravel followers. We will celebrate quietly in our new home, an apartment in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on France’s Cote d’Azur where it does not seem very Christmasy. That is OK. We do not miss freezing cold temps. However, a bit of snow on those trees would be a welcome holiday touch. At … Continue reading “HAPPY HOLIDAYS”

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A Christmas light spectacle viewed from our apartment — year round.

Seasons greetings to friends and talesandtravel followers. We will celebrate quietly in our new home, an apartment in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on France’s Cote d’Azur where it does not seem very Christmasy. That is OK. We do not miss freezing cold temps. However, a bit of snow on those trees would be a welcome holiday touch.

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Stuttgart, once our home, has a wonderful Christmas market.

At this time of year we do miss German Christmases, the very best. We were fortunate to live and work in Germany for many years and relished the festive atmosphere during the entire Advent season with those captivating Christmas markets.

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Monaco Christmas market is lacking.

It seems Christmas markets have become popular the world over. Unfortunately we have found most are but pathetic imitations of those German markets with Gluhwein, the aromas of cinnamon and cloves and grilled sausages, glittering glass baubles, twinkling lights, tasteful décor, Christmas carols. There is a delightful spirit, a childlike wonder, that imbues German holiday markets.

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Tribute to New Orleans at Monaco Christmas market: Mississippi river boat.

Last week we decided to investigate the Christmas market in Monaco, just next door to Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. I had heard the theme was New Orleans. A Creole beauty who hailed from New Orleans, Princess Alice, was not the only American princess who made her mark in Monaco, I learned. Alice lived in Monaco in the late 19thcentury and is credited with developing the principality as a cultural hotspot.

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New Orleans fish and chips? How about Jambalaya?

Interesting, and certainly upscale Monaco would have a sensational Christmas market…  Sadly, it did not. There were a few stands selling gift items, some rides for kids, and food, lots of food, everything from Hungarian and Dutch specials to French favorites such as cassoulet and escargots.  No Creole cuisine.  Not much festive ambience.  A skating rink did add a  wintry touch.fullsizeoutput_d76

For another pre-holiday activity we joined the British Association of Menton, a city straddling the Italian border on the other side of our town, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.  Menton is known for lush gardens where exotic plants flourish thanks to its subtropical microclimate. The garden at Val Rahmeh which we toured is one of many tucked away on terraced hillsides above the Mediterranean.

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Val Rahmeh

A retired gardener led us through the shady lanes past fountains, ponds, dense foliage and colorful blossoms.  He told us about Miss Maybud Campbell, a rich, eccentric English woman who was the last private owner.  A woman after my heart– Maybud had 14 cats.  The gardens are now owned by the French Museum of Natural History.

Since this was a British activity, we ended the tour with mulled wine, mince pies and Christmas carols. At last, genuine Christmas spirit.

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Lots of photo opps at Val Rahmeh.
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Hard to believe it is December with all this gorgeous greenery.

I have been neglecting recipes.  I will add one soon, and a post about finding sun on the beach in  Egypt.  Don’t miss out.  If not a talesandtravel follower, sign up, upper right.  Your email address is not shared.  It is safe. Trust me.

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Merry Christmas to all!

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