Covid-19: France and the U.S.

These are trying, troubled times, especially in the United States where Covid -19 seems out of control. As an American living in France, I found the  article, “Do Americans Understand How Badly They’re Doing,”  which appeared in The Atlantic on July 5, pathetically pertinent.  The author of the article, Thomas Williams Chatterton, is an American who … Continue reading “Covid-19: France and the U.S.”

We were happy when our neighborhood park reopened,  These ancient olive trees are magnificent,

These are trying, troubled times, especially in the United States where Covid -19 seems out of control. As an American living in France, I found the  article, “Do Americans Understand How Badly They’re Doing,”  which appeared in The Atlantic on July 5, pathetically pertinent.  The author of the article, Thomas Williams Chatterton, is an American who lives in France.

Williams relates his experience of returning with his family to Paris after having spent the lockdown, “one of the world’s most aggressive quarantines,” in a rural village. Paris was bustling, minus tourists but with lots of locals enjoying their new freedom. This worried him.  Many seemed indifferent to the discipline that was required– masks, social distancing.

Restaurants in France have reopened,  Above, Beaulieu-sur-Mer

 “I couldn’t shake the feeling that France was also opening up recklessly early. But I was wrong to worry. As Donald Trump’s America continues to shatter records for daily infections, France, like most other developed nations and even some undeveloped ones, seems to have beat back the virus,” he wrote. He cited Texas, Florida, and Arizona where the virus appears out of control. He wrote of a tweet by musician Rosanne Cash stating that her daughter had been called a “liberal pussy!” in Nashville for wearing a mask to buy groceries.

‘That insult succinctly conveys the crux of the problem. American leadership has politicized the pandemic instead of trying to fight it. I see no preparedness, no coordinated top-down leadership of the sort we’ve enjoyed in Europe. I see only empty posturing, the sad spectacle of the president refusing to wear a mask, just to own the libs. What an astonishing self-inflicted wound,” he wrote.

Chatterton also wrote of the EU travel ban on visitors from the U.S.and other hot-spot nations.  “The EU believes that the United States is no better than Russia and Brazil—autocrat-run public-health disasters—and that American tourists would pose a dire threat to the hard-won stability our lockdown has earned us. So much for the myth that the American political system and way of life are a model for the world.”

Enjoying the Mediterranean — before the crowds.

Chatterton worries about his parents in the U.S., in their ’70s and ’80s  and “at the mercy of a society that is failing extravagantly to protect them… from a tough and dangerous foe that many other societies have wrestled into submission.” — Thomas Chatterton Williams, author of “Self Portrait in Black and White”


I too am worried — about friends and family in the U.S., about the state of the country where I was born.  The virus  is not the only woe plaguing the U.S. The world watched in horror as George Floyd was despicably murdered. We have witnessed police brutality, raw racism. Gun violence is increasing. The country is being torn apart with hatred, lies, dangerous conspiracies – plus the virus. It’s all hard to fanthom. Yet, despite all the gloom, on one front I remain optimistic.  At last it seems to be sinking in. Black Lives do Matter. More and more are waking up to the reality, the cruelty and injustice of systemic racism in the country. Change will be slow, but it’s underway. That gives me hope.


I feel guilty writing about our lives in France now. With the exception of masks and social distancing,  all seems normal. Maybe too normal. As we see hot spots emerging in places where all was under control — Australia, for example — I have to worry and wonder about the dangers that may lie ahead.  It is especially troubling when I see large groups of maskless folk. Nonetheless, since our strict lockdown ended on May 11, we have enjoyed returning to beloved Italy to see a friend and shop. We have been to restaurants, but always dining outside. We visited friend Karen in Beaulieu- sur -Mer and walked along the coast together.

Sainte Agnes

We explored Sainte Agnes, a nearby hillside town. I have been to the beach, but it is crowded and chaotic. We are lucky. Our apartment building has a beautiful pool – crowd free. I’d prefer to swim in the Med, but the pool is serene, soothing and safe. We are fortunate to be here.

No crowds at the pool.

img_7918_compressedPlease, wherever you are, wear a mask. Social Distance. Stay home if possible. Read. The following two articles, both recommended by friend Trina who has survived lockdown in Italy, are enlightening. They are part of the New York Times 1619 Project which examines the legacy of slavery in America.

 You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument

If you want to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation.

On the topic of slavery and racism, two brilliant novels I can recommend, both by Colson Whitehead: “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys.”

This following Washington Post article is heartbreaking, tragic, and yet another example of the inhumanity of DT : “Clint Lorance had been in charge of his platoon for only three days when he ordered his men to kill three Afghans stopped on a dirt road. A second-degree murder conviction and pardon followed. Today, Lorance is hailed as a hero by President Trump. His troops have suffered a very different fate.”

Scroll down for some happy scenes.  And, feel free to add your thoughts.  See Leave a Reply below, then scroll to bottom. Comments welcome. If not a talesndtravel follower, sign up, upper right.  Your address is kept private, not shared,

Sunrise on the Mediterranean.

Along the coast
Karen, Bob and Cindy on the beach in Camporoso. — our first outing to Italy after lockdown ended.


Loosening the Lockdown in Southern France

Social distancing — on the shore, in the water..

In the United States folks are celebrating the long Memorial Day weekend. In France, it’s a long holiday weekend, too. Thursday was a religious holiday, the Ascension, celebrated 40 days after Easter when Christians believe the body of Christ ascended into heaven.  Many take Friday off as well and enjoy a four-day break at the beginning of summer.

Menton beach on Ascension Thursday,

This year they can’t venture far – only 100 kilometers from home. But, that’s better than just one kilometer which is what it was up until May 11 when the Covid lockdown restrictions began to ease. Stores have opened.  It is mandatory to  wear masks on public transportation and in shops, offices and places of worship which opened this weekend. Primary schools have reopened. However, these eased restrictions apply to green zones only – where we are. Parts of northern France are in a red zone where the virus still rages. There strict restrictions still prevail.

Chinese mask for me.  Gov’t issue mask for Bob,.

Citizens were issued two free masks. I am sure our freebies will stop all germs, but they may suffocate us. They are large and made of two layers of unbleached muslin. One set of strings loops above the ear.  The other ties behind the head. I wore it once, but I could not get it untied. I have never been a whiz at knots, and had obviously overdone it.  I had a mask around my neck until I got home and cut if off.

Filippo sports the Chinese mask.

We are still waiting for masks sent from the U.S. Friend Bev, a talented seamstress, sent some at least two months ago. My sister-in-law made masks, too, and sent us some. My step -daughter sent some. None have arrived. I assume it is because there are few planes flying between France and the U.S. Not to worry. You can now buy masks here, although that was not the case prior to May 11 when none were available. And, I ordered some which arrived in my mailbox two weeks ago. They appear to be Chinese..a label in Chinese. We can get Chinese masks but none from the U.S. ???

Boule is back.

Now that we have some freedom, social distancing is supposed to be de rigeur at all times when out. As I observed, that is not always the case. The French, especially here in the south, are obsessed with the game of boule. The boulodrome near us has reopened to record numbers. All seem to be overjoyed to be back at their favorite pastime and not worried about social distancing.

Beach where I swam last Wednesday — almost deserted.

Beaches – it’s up to local mayors to decide to open or not. I was thrilled to learn the beach closest to us had opened, but only for walks and swimming. No lounging and sunbathing. OK by me. So, on Wednesday I ventured down the big hill to the Mediterranean, placed a folded up towel on the edge of the water, put on my beach shoes (ours is a pebble beach, not sand) and took the plunge. Cold. Water temperature was 17º C, about 63º F. It did not matter. I felt invigorated, revived, elated.

Our favorite spot.  Sit on the wall and enjoy a snack. Umbrellas offer shade.

I had the beach almost to myself that day.  There were very few swimmers. Some kids splashed at water’s edge watched over by parents sitting on the shore.

I loved the water and the solitude. It is no longer that way. The holiday brought more to the beach, but no sunbathers and all observing social distancing. It was also a welcome surprise to find the kiosks near the water open for business, selling drinks, snacks, sandwiches, even burgers. However, no tables and chairs.  Find a wall or bench to sit on. We did just that at our “happy place,” our favorite kiosk above a rocky shore with a view I cherish – the sea with the Maritime Alps in the background.

Bob at our happy place.  Later he had a Flipper burger (salmon).  Yes, we were happy.

On Thursday, the holiday, we drove to nearby Menton and its beach. There were lots more people on this beach, as well as many sauntering along the beach promenade. There was only one entrance to the beach, and it was controlled by police. I did see a few sunbathers stretched out on beach towels, but only a few.

Police at Menton beach,

We have been taking longer walks. I estimate 97 percent of people outdoors are without masks (us included). Masks are only required indoors. However, I was a bit surprised yesterday when I went to our neighborhood mini-supermarket. Several customers were not wearing masks. The cashier did not wear a mask. As this is a small store, social distancing is impossible. I proceeded  to the butcher shop. It is tiny. Only three customers are admitted at a time. Yet, the staff behind the counter did not wear masks. Another customer was also mask-less. However, walking home I spotted a foursome sitting on a bench – all wearing masks.IMG_7804

What is happening in France is probably no different than what is happening in the U.S. and elsewhere as the new normal – masks and social distancing – takes hold. Not all obey. But, at least here there are no armed protesters.

Hopefully more freedom is around the corner. Restaurants are slated to open on June 2. Most restaurants around here have sizable outdoor areas, but it will be interesting to see how they cope with social distancing. We hope we will be able to travel for more than the 100 kilometer limit. We hope the border with neighbor Italy will open on June 15 as predicted. We miss Italy where we love to shop and soak in the joyous ambiance.

Mostly we hope that Covid cases and deaths will continue to decline, that the new freedoms will not reverse this trend, and that all will obey the restrictions and guidelines to keep us all safe.

Beautiful view.  Beautiful water.


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Simba refused to wear a mask. Her sister, Oprah, went into hiding,

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Oman’s Mighty Mountains

IMG_6620The view was breathtaking. Wisps of clouds drifted in a gigantic canyon sliced through walls of jagged rock. We had paid extra for this room with a view at Oman’s Al Jabal Al Akhdar resort. It was worth the expense. During our three-day stay at this mountain retreat, I was seduced by the dramatic, ever-changing view. I took far too many photos

IMG_7019Oman’s mountains are not like mountains I have known. These craggy, rugged walls of rock in all shades of brown are intimidating. No wonder they are popular with extreme adventure seekers.


Our resort offers “the ultimate Jabal Activity Wall: Use your hands and a series of strategically placed metal steps to trace your way along the vertical rock face before navigating jagged rock formations, ladders and vertical stairs. Below a vast canyon plunges to 1,000 meters at its deepest point, providing you with a front row seat as you soak in the peaceful silence.” At the end of the climb, you zip line, “fly through the air for the ultimate adrenaline rush.”

Maybe, only maybe, back in my much younger, wild and crazy days, I would have attempted this challenge. During our January visit, I was happy to soak in the peaceful silence from our room’s balcony. Just pondering that canyon gave me an adrenaline rush.

Native plants and herbs surround the resort buildings,

The Al Jabal Al Akhdar perched at above 2,000 meters in the Al Hajar mountain range is supposedly the second highest elevation resort in Arabia. In addition to the above IMG_6670adventure, all types of mountain hikes are available in the area. Most were beyond us. However, we did set out on a hike rated “easy,” only to turn back after about an hour. The trails, like the surroundings, are rocky. There are sections of steps, uneven, sometimes broken. We stopped at a clearing for photos. Two women with a guide were there. One of the women, far younger and no doubt fitter than I, fell. This made me nervous, nonetheless we continued on a bit until we came to a fairly steep descent which led to a dry creek bed – more rocks of all sizes. The trail on the other side climbed to an ancient village. We decided the view of the village from afar was enough.


The hike did offer more outstanding views of distant mountainside villages and terraced slopes. Jabal Akhdar is known as “Green Mountain.” Native trees and herbs once thrived in lofty orchards there thanks to the falaj irrigation system, rivulets coming from a stone cistern at the top of the mountain. Climate change has meant much less rain during the past ten years. Many of the terraces are barren of crops. Instead of pears walnuts, apricots, peaches, plums, figs, and apples, farmers are now planting olive trees which require much less water. A pipeline carrying desalinated seawater up the mountains is beginning to allow farmers to cultivate the terraces with other crops once again.


I planned our trip so that we could be in the mountains on a Friday and attend the weekly goat market in Nizwa, Oman’s old capital. It was wonderful, although there seemed to be as many tourists with cameras as farmers selling goats.


The vendors touted the merits of their beasts. Prospective buyers checked out the animals and did some serious price negotiating. Everyone took photos. The goats, many gorgeous varieties and mothers with babies, were irresistible. IMG_6734

Guide/driver Lotfi led us to Nizwa’s souk where we learned all about dates. Some 250 varieties of date palm are cultivated in Oman, and at least 12 different kinds of dates. We tasted several.

The ginger and cinnamon dates were my favorites.

Handmade Omani daggers are the de rigueur Oman souvenir, but not for us. At a shop in the souk, I found some interesting old silver jewelry – not from Oman, but Afghanistan. – my souvenir.

Date palms thrive in Oman,

From the mid 8th to the mid 12th century, Nizwa served intermittently as the country’s capital for a succession of Imams. The Nizwa fort, a citadel of monumental proportions, provided a safe haven in dangerous times. Dark and narrow passageways lead to the citadel. During a visit, we learned about the ingenuous traps to catch invaders off guard. Planks were placed on stairs over deep, gaping pits, many filled with hot oil. When the intruder alarm was sounded, the planks were removed.

Nizwa Fort

Salim was our trusty driver for our thrilling off-road adventure from the mountains to the coast. He negotiated narrow, rutted, dirt roads on the edges of vast precipices in the midst of jaw-dropping scenery. I kept wanting him to stop so I could take more photos. It was too risky. Occasionally an oncoming vehicle approached. This was another adrenaline rush. It looked impossible, but Salim skillfully maneuvered the Toyota 4WD and kept us from plunging off the edge.

IMG_7078During the long drive, we talked – about his life, family, job and more. He taught me lots about the way of life in Oman and Islam. (see previous post, “Introducing Awesome Oman” ) The religion has been given a bad rap in many parts of the world.  I gained respect and a better understanding of Islam thanks to Salim.

Salim and Bob

Our Oman trip began and ended at the beach.  I’ll write about that soon, as well as the capital city, Muscat.  Stay tuned.  If not a Tales and Travel follower, please sign up, upper right.  Your address is kept private and never shared.

I added a new recipe for Today’s Taste:  Smashed Carrots with Feta and Mint. See Today’s Taste 

Keep scrolling for more photos.



Infinity pool at Al Jabal.  The viewing platform marks Diana’s Point where the Princess of Wales and Prince Charles spent six hours on a day trip in 1986.






During a refreshment stop with Lotfi, we followed his recommendation and tried a refreshing drink: lemon juice with lots of mint and crushed ice. I will make a batch soon. Delicious




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Oman: Luxury in the Desert


Bob and I were lucky. In January, just before the onslaught of the wicked virus in Europe, we ventured to Oman (see a previous post “Introducing Awesome Oman”). Our excursions to the desert and mountains were exceptional. It’s time to stop dwelling on disease and relive those adventures.


Sand. Sand. More sand. Slopes and dunes and wide, flat expanses. After stopping in a tiny town to let air out of the tires, driver Mustafa navigated mile after mile through this landscape. At first he followed tracks. The tracks ended. He charged on. I was incredulous. He had no GPS. How did he know where to go? There was little difference between one dune and another.

He knew. In the midst of this vast emptiness we spotted two other vehicles. We had arrived at our “camp,” a short but strenuous hike to the other side of a dune. Climbing a dune is more challenging than climbing through deep snow in ski boots.

The camp was something out of a glitzy travel magazine – luxury deep in the Wahiba Sands desert.

Bedroom tent, left, and bathroom tent.

Our tent bedroom featured a double bed, night stands, and generator-powered lamps. IMG_6378Next to the bedroom tent was our private bathroom tent. This was five-star glamping.

We were the only guests in the camp with a cook, the camp manager and his assistant to look after us. Shortly after arrival we were invited to the “sunset lounge.” Another short hike up a dune, and voila, a comfy couch for   watching the spectacular show of colors in the sky as the sun descended into distant sands. It was surreal.

Sunset lounge

Dinner was served in the dining /living room area, not really a tent, but a canvas roof sheltering more couches, artisanal objects– ceramics, glass vases filled with sand – pillows, carpet. I doubt many Bedouin chieftains had living quarters like these.

We dined on a melange of seven different “meze” (Middle Eastern appetizers), including an outstanding eggplant concoction. I asked Egyptian chef Mahmoud for the recipe.

IMG_6367No camp is complete without a campfire. Without the sun, it was cool.  The desert fire’s warmth felt good. And, somehow it felt strange to be in this isolated ambience with all these remarkable amenities.

When the fire was put to bed, the desert night was eerie, mystical.  Total blackness, except for the sky crowded with vibrant stars. Silence. The generator was off. We were alone. The staff  left to spend the night in a town.   They gave us a flashlight.

Living room /Dining room

Desert outings are a popular Oman tourist attraction. Many camps accommodate numerous guests. We had the deluxe version. Camp manager, Wael, an Egyptian, told us our camp was assembled just for us, and would be disassembled after our departure.

Desert breakfast

“It’s a huge logistic work. Dismantle every item, then do it all over.” It would be set up in a different remote location for the next guests, he said.  It is all very impressive, and it had been expensive, nonetheless we felt guilty.

Wael, and many working in Oman’s tourist industry, come from other counties for job opportunities. He was working in the tourist industry in his native Egypt, but left five years ago when  the tourist industry there collapsed. Laarnie, a single mother from the Philippines, left her 7-year-old daughter behind with her mother for a job in Oman.


En route to the camp, we had passed camels, some in pens, some freely roaming. Wael explained. “They are trained for races here,” he said. “The number of camels one owns is still a sign of wealth in Oman.”

There are camel races in Oman, but Omanis prefer to sell their camels to owners in Qatar and the Emirates where the stakes in camel races are higher, he said. In those countries, Omanis can sell champion camels for as much as $100,000.

Wael went on to explain that real human jockeys no longer ride the camels. “It’s too dangerous.” Remote controlled robots are the jockeys of today.

Camp staff: Laarnie from the Philippines, Wael and Mahmoud, both Egyptians.

Our over-the-top escapade was desert for tourists. But, at our age we are beyond roughing it in a genuine Bedouin camp.  I am not sure such camps exist. Only five percent of Oman’s Bedouins live a nomadic life. They rarely ride camels, but drive cars.  They live in houses, not tents. However, they preserve their culture and they lead lives closely connected to their history and nature. Many work in the tourist industry.  We met a Bedouin family selling handmade souvenirs from their home on our way out of the desert.

Bedouin souvenirs

The desert experience, including  being pampered, was  definitely amazing.  From the desert we proceeded to the mountains for more adventure. Don’t miss the next post.

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I had intended to include Mahmoud’s eggplant as the featured recipe in Today’s Taste. I followed his recipe, but my version was a disaster. It tasted nothing like his. Instead, I will include a tasty Indian dish I tried recently, Egg Curry — great way to use those colored Easter eggs.  Indian cuisine is popular in Oman. This is a vegetarian recipe dedicated to my blog guru David, a vegetarian. See Today’s Taste.





Life Under Lockdown in Southern France

BREAKING NEWS: We found TP (toilet paper for those not familiar with this American acronym)

I had thought it was only Americans who hoarded this now-craved commodity. However, last week on our first authorized shopping outing to a nearby mini supermarket, none to be had. We had just 1 ½ rolls left. The store had no paper towels nor paper napkins, either – just in case one wanted to improvise. Merde! This was serious.IMG_7550

Eureka. Yesterday we disobeyed rules and went to a larger supermarket, not within our authorized roaming territory. The treasure was found. Two shelves and more loaded down with the precious product. I did not want to be greedy, but I did put two packages in my cart (one of 6 rolls and one of 12). I also took advantage of the supplies of paper towels and paper napkins….just in case this lockdown drags on and on.

We were doubly lucky. Fortunately we encountered no police control. Otherwise we would likely have been sent back to our neighborhood to shop. No doubt that mini supermarket has supplies now, but it is small. Last week it was a hotbed of contagion. Too many shoppers. Too little space. People wearing masks and gloves but much too close to one another. I was a nervous wreck.

IMG_7548There was crowd control at the store yesterday, so I could shop without popping a Xanax. We waited in a long line for almost a half hour before being allowed in. Not many shoppers wore masks, including us. There are’t enough for medical personnel, much less ordinary folk. Pharmacies are also out of hand sanitizer.

Today (March 24) is day #11 for us, but, following recommendations for our age group (old), we began with self-quarantine three days before the national lockdown. Those first few days we enjoyed a walk along the Med, coffee on the terrace of an outdoor cafe, people and seagull watching along the beach promenade. Of course, we made sure not to get close to anyone.

Our favorite coastal walk is now off limits.

Those were the days. Now all shops and restaurants are closed. We are only permitted to leave our abode for one of five reasons: travel to work; travel to purchase necessities (grocery stores and pharmacies are open); travel for health reasons (doctor); travel for serious family reasons, to assist the elderly, care for children, and finally, for brief periods of physical activity near your home. We must fill out a form with name, address and birth date, then check one of the above. The form must be with us when we leave our nest. If you do not have it with you, or are out of bounds according to the restrictions, you can be fined (135 euros/$147).

No problem with social distancing on this neighborhood path.

The restrictions are getting tighter. This morning I learned that outdoor physical activity is now limited to within a one kilometer radius of your home, and only once per day. Outdoor fruit and vegetable markets, which had been permitted to stay open, are now closed, too

We have been taking short walks almost daily. Our neighborhood is one of huge

The neighborhood park is closed.

mansions at the ritzy end and apartment buildings like ours at the other end. No problem with social distancing. We always see a few joggers, one or two dog walkers, and two or three folks out for a stroll like us. Those beautiful and soothing beach walks are out –more than one kilometer away. Not a big deal since the beach promenade is closed, as is our lovely neighborhood park.

We have the exercise bike. I can pedal and listen to Italian lessons. Who knows when my Italian and exercise classes will resume? We have learned that the lockdown will not end after two weeks. My friend Karen, a passionate dancer, can no longer attend dances . For exercise she is jumping instead. She ordered a type of trampoline for her large terrace/balcony.

Karen’s rebounder.

Karen is also cleaning cabinets, closets, drawers – a worthwhile endeavor. It’s on my list. I must get motivated.

Since I like to cook, I had decided this was a time to try many of those recipes I had stashed away. Some are labor intensive. Alas, now I have time. Unfortunately, last week’s undertakings were underwhelming. Perhaps best to switch tracks, which is what friend Betty suggested on Facebook:

“Maybe in this stressful time you should cook favorite or comfort meals and save experimentation to when disappointment won’t be magnified. That said, I never had an underwhelming meal in your home!” Thank you Betty.

A candlelight dinner on the first evening of lockdown.  We were not thrilled with  The Washington Post recipe,”Fragrant pesto broth gives this flaky white fish rustic elegance,” The only elegance we found was the candles.

So, back to my tried and true recipes (I have many). Check under the Recipe column, upper right, for some favorites. Last night I resurrected this one: Chicken, Red Pepper, and Green Bean Stir Fry.  Good and easy. See Today’s Taste.

I have to get my mind off this virus crisis and get back to Awesome Oman. I have more to write. Coming Soon.

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We are in this together. We will overcome.

Below some photos of our neighborhood:

Our street.  Not our house.

Our building.  Our apartment is on the fourth floor, right corner behind the tree.  We have a balcony on the other side with a gorgeous view of the Med which is very therapeutic.

View of Alps Maritimes from a walk.