Merry Christmas

“Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard or too sad when you’ve got a Christmas tree in the living room” — Nora Roberts

Christmas cat Simba and our tree.

With or without a Christmas tree, may your holiday season be filled with joy, love, laughter – and delicious food.

Scroll down for a few festive photos.

My balcony garden
Our view of nearby Menton and its blue Christmas lights.
A Russian Santa on skis, one of my holiday treasures. Note the blackbird on his head.
After the pre-Christmas rain.
Filippo, one of my three Christmas cats. Fortunately they have not tried to climb my precious tree.

Happy 2021. It will be better. We have hope. We have vaccines. We will not have Trump — at least not as president. Rejoice. We can be very, very happy.

More to come soon — including a report on my recent back surgery — it’s good.

If not a Tales and Travel follower, please sign up here. Don’t miss future posts.

Cat’s Meow in Monaco

They were not impressed, excited, nor interested. Stretched out in their large cages, they did what cats do best: Sleep. The 145 cats entered in the first international cat show of Monaco were quite content to catnap through their two days of glory. That’s how cats spend some 15 hours per day, even as many as 20 hours – snoozing. No need to let a cat show interrupt your beauty slumber.

When it was their turn to be in the spotlight, on the stage to be examined from tail to ears, they were tolerant, seemingly bored. No doubt many of these champions and would-be champions had been down this road before.

Such is the life of fancy cats. I love cats. I have three, but mine are your basic alley-cat variety – all rescues. Nonetheless when I learned of the cat show in nearby Monaco, I convinced hubby (not as enamored of felines as I am) to join me to check out the cats.

Enormous cats. Hairless cats. Long-haired cats. Cats of all colors. Thirty-nine different breeds to admire. I had no idea there were so many kinds of kitties, but I learned that The International Cat Association (TICA) recognizes 71 standardized breeds.

The favorite, most popular breed is the Maine Coon. These cats are big – huge. I was smitten with Pegase de Nikko Coon, a big boy who weighs in at 10 kilos (22 pounds). His proud owner, Christiane Phily, touted that he was still growing. His grandfather weighed 14 kilos (30 pounds), she told me. She has 20 of these giant felines known for their pleasant personality. “They are very impressive. They look wild, but they have an adorable character,” she said. Her starting price for a Maine Coon, about 1,000 euros ($1,170).

Pegase de Nikko Coon, a 22 pound, Black Silver Blackened Tabby Maine Coon.

Years ago, when seeking a replacement for my beloved Buddy, a large and affectionate black cat, I decided after all my years of owning rescue cats, I was entitled to upgrade to a genuine pedigreed pet. I wanted a Maine Coon. Husband Bob, who is more than indulgent of my passion for cats, agreed to drive to a breeder some 3 hours away. I had wanted a male, but there was only one young male for sale. He was pretty, but he cowered in the back of the cage, not exhibiting the extrovert personality of the breed. Price tag was 600 euros.

I thought long and hard. I pictured all those pitiful, homeless cats in shelters. I could rescue one for a small donation. Did I really want to spend 600 euros on a cat? This one did not convince me. We drove home catless. The next day I went to the local shelter and came home with not one, but two tiny kittens – my girls Simba and Oprah. Sisters (twins), they almost look like mini Maine Coons.

No pedigree, but adorable and cute: Kittens Simba and Oprah.

In addition to cats coming from all over France for a chance at fame, the cat show included exhibits of haute gamme cat food, “adapted to the carnivorous diet of cats” (I came home with some free samples), cat toys, trees, beds. One exhibitor offered information on animal communication by telepathy. She claims to communicate with pets and transmit their messages to owners. She also offers courses in “animal communication and magnetism.” If you wanted a portrait of your cat, another offered animal aquarelles.

A flyer for a new breed. Pictured is a female now in heat who was not at the show, but should be having kittens next year. I want one..

I had hoped to take some quality cat photos, but this was beyond my skills. The viewing wall of the cat cages was a sheet of reflective vinyl. The lighting was tricky. The backgrounds were dreadful. When not sleeping (boring photos), the cats were in motion.

It was easy to see the cats behind the vinyl wall of the cage, but not ideal for photos.

I tried. Below are some classy cats, plus my not-so-classy cats.

Pharron of Chanel’s Land, a Scottish Straight.
Simba, one of mine
My boy Filippo
Oprah, sister of Simba.
Bob more than indulges my passion for cats.

If not a Tales and Travel follower, click here to sign up. Your address is kept private, not shared. I promise. It’s safe.

See Today’s Taste for a winning pasta recipe featuring egpplant, one of my favorites.

Please comment.  Click below then scroll down to Leave a Reply at bottom and add your thoughts.

Sam’s Saga

It’s a feline fairytale come true,  a rags to riches story. From life as a stray cat wandering in the alleys of Cereste, a Provencal village in the Luberon, to that of a pampered pet in a posh apartment in Paris.  And, not just any apartment.  Sam’s new home is with the famed pianist and conductor Philippe Entremont and his wife.

There must be millions of homeless cats in France. How did this husky gray tomcat get so lucky?

The saga began last December when I decided to adopt Sam. Friends Marten and Jessica had been feeding him, but they have four other cats.  Sam was especially friendly and affectionate, however he was becoming a nuisance, fighting with their cats.  They needed to find a home for him.

I was in mourning at the loss of Buddy, my big black male cat, whom I had to have euthanized due to cancer.  Sam seemed to be the answer to cure my sorrow. He was a delight with people, loved to be petted, purred loudly. But, he quickly decided he must be king.  He made life hell for my two female cats.  This would not work.   I called friends, sent emails, put up posters.  I was determined to find him a home.  All to no avail.  Some friends, including cat experts, said the kindest thing would be to have him euthanized.  I could not bring myself to take this step.  Since he had been surviving as a street cat in Cereste for years, a town where kind souls do feed strays, I took him back to the village with great remorse and feelings of guilt.

Sam was born under a lucky star.  Along came Anne to the rescue. Shortly after his return to the streets, this kind English woman arrived to spend the winter in the apartment upstairs from Marten and Jessica. Anne and her friend Martine came to Cereste from Ireland with their dogs and horses.  They have been spending the winter training for a 500 kilometer charity ride on horseback across France to raise money for the Program for Assistance Dogs for Families of Children with Autism.

Anne took to Sam, who was hanging around and hungry.  He soon moved in with her and her canines: Fionn, a huge lab/Rottweiler cross, and Roxy, a lab/retriever mix.  Sam detests cats, but dogs are his pals.  All became friends, even sleeping together.  When Anne walked the dogs, Sam would follow.

But, Sam’s time was running out.  Anne would soon be starting her horse trek, then return home to Ireland where she has two cats – no hope for Sam there. Once again I started the search.  Friend David, a photographer with expert computer skills, made beautiful professional posters with Sam’s photo which I distributed to numerous vet offices and shops in the area.  Again no response.

I also told my friend Jude Reitman about my plight with Sam.    Jude is an award winning journalist and author – and devoted animal rescuer – who has been living part time in France.  She put me in touch with Amelia Tarzi, a lawyer born in Afghanistan who gave up law to work as an interpreter, the latter allowing her more time for her passion:  animal rescue.

Amelia has lived in the states and Switzerland, but is now at home in Paris.  However, she spends as much time as possible at an animal shelter in central France, DPA-Refuge de Thiernay,

I sent photos of Sam to Amelia who soon announced that she had found a home for the fortunate feline — but it was in Paris, some 610 kilometers away.  A friend of Amelia’s is a friend of Mme. Entremont,  wife of the noted musician Philippe Entremont.  She had just lost a cat.  The friend quickly put her in touch with animal rescuer  Amelia who sent photos of many cats needing homes to Mme. Entremont.  She zeroed in on Sam because he looked like the cat she had just lost.

How to get Sam to Paris?  Amelia said she would pick him up at the TGV train station in Aix en Provence en route back to Paris after a job in Nice.

Sam needed to be vaccinated, micro-chipped and tested for disease before departing for the City of Lights.  The first attempt to cage him for the trip to the vet failed. (See Anne’s blog at the above address for more on this fiasco.)  The next morning Anne succeeded, and I took Sam to  the vet where he was a prince, a surprise to all.  Then, husband Bob (a dog person and a saint to put up with my cat capers),  drove me and caged Sam to the train station, more than a hour away.  This normally very vocal cat was amazingly subdued during the journey.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Amelia met us in the train station café, and soon street cat Sam was on his way to a new life in high-class surroundings.  Released from his cage in the Paris apartment, he ran to hide behind a bookcase.  During the night he emerged and, according to Amelia, got the shock of his life when he walked across the keys of his esteemed owner’s piano.  He’s adjusting to life with the upper crust, and Mme. Entremont is “thrilled” with her pet rescued from Provence, says Amelia.

Jude Reitman has recently started a company, La Bedouine, specializing in skin care products handmade by Berber women in Essaouira, Morocco.  She has moved back to her home in North Carolina where she is active in finding homes for abandoned dogs.