Thursday, December 5, 2019

Full of Grace

20 inches of soft powdery snow. Personally I love the snow and the hygge feeling it provides.

It reminds me to be grateful for a home, heat, a snowblower and still having the physical strength to operate it. Numerous times.

My mailbox is under there, somewhere

Last month our handyman went to winterize the pipes at our lake house and found this.

Amazingly, there is no structural damage except for a small overhang. The real loss is that it was one of two trees that supported my hammock.

A successful blood donation. I always give in honor of a friend who fought a rare cancer and had been turned away twice for transfusions because of a lack of blood supply. During my past two attempts my vein closed up before completing the full pint donation and I thought I would have to give up the practice. That was making me feel old. But with the help of a great Red Cross phlebotomist, I am back in the blood letting game.

A friend who will stay at our house and care for our furbabies while we are in Florida over the xmas break. Good reliable people are getting harder to find and knowing our home and pets are in excellent, loving hands will provide for an anxiety free vacation.

December 5th. Commemorating the birthdays of both Walt Disney and my father - gone now but still two of the most influential men in my life. Actually, the only men in my life : )

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Part 4 - MontMartre

We needed to head back to Paris for our return flight so decided to spend our last days in MontMartre, a quaint neighborhood built on a hill with spectacular views of the city. We hauled ourselves up the never ending steps of the Sacre Coeur to take in the view,

Rode the Carrousel de Saint-Pierre there

Wandered the cobblestone streets,

Ate more french fries

Saw interesting street art

and the Wall of Love

where “I love you” is written in over 300 languages.  Yep, the world needs more of this.

We stumbled upon the Moulin Rouge

And ended the day with more macarons

We had one day left but had already checked off all the things that we had wanted to do, see and eat. We thought about going into the Louvre as everyone had said “how can you go to Paris and not see the Louvre?” so we googled “how many Van Goghs are in the Louvre?”



Apparently they moved their French impressionists collection to the Musee D'Orsay, a gorgeous Beaux Arts building, which has 27 Van Goghs!  How did we miss this when we did our travel planning? We bought tickets for the next day and were not disappointed!

Van Gogh has two full rooms which we saw first but then spent the good part of the day in awe of the collection.

It was the cherry on top of an already perfect trip.   Beautiful architecture, croissants, Nutella crepes, macarons,  Disney in French, a terrifying, death defying bike ride, walking in the footsteps of Van Gogh, driving around Provence, a Mediterranean boat cruise, stunning art, and riding 6 carousels including my first double decker.  Best of all was 10 days making memories with my youngest daughter.

Then came the long flight home - but with the perk of an empty seat between us so we could stretch out a little, plus Cate Blanchette’s latest movie “Where’d You Go Bernadette”, which I had missed in the theater, was an airplane offering. I obviously live a charmed life.

Totally exhausted, Peachie and I parted in Boston and both got home safe and sound.

Two days later I got a text:

Want to go kayaking in Alaska?

Oh dear god . . .

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Part 3 - Marseille and Arles

Wanting to see a little more of France, we left Paris on a bullet train to Marseille, a 500 mile trip that took only 3 hours. The train was fast, smooth and comfortable and I enjoyed watching the landscape change from the city to the fields of Provence, dotted with the occasional chateau.

Arriving in Marseille, we settled into our hotel at the Old Port.

This was the view out our balcony. I’m not sure why so many cities have added these Ferris wheels.

We wandered around the port, 

and found and rode another carousel.

The following day Peachie had us signed up for a 3 hour bike tour of the Calanques National Park. It will be easy she said. We will have electric bikes she said. It was absolutely terrifying.

We started out learning how to operate the electric bike. There were 3 modes - “off” for when you wanted to pedal unassisted, “touring” for when you wanted a gentle assist, and “turbo” for climbing steep hills. And then we started out of the city, riding with cars whizzing past us a foot away. When we reached the park we began to climb. The bike paths were steep and narrow and rocky and rutted. I was constantly in “turbo” mode which would kick in as soon as the pedal moved and the bike would lurch forward, skidding on the gravelly surface and often almost sending me off the path and down a ragged cliff.

I was always at the back of the pack (and to be fair, I had at least 30 years on the rest of our group) but I managed to chug along, scared to death, although there was no other alternative than to go forward.

But the payoff was spectacular

After stopping at numerous spots to take in the glorious views, we had to cycle back down.

I had to stop numerous times to stop myself from skidding or hitting large outcroppings but I finally made it with only minor bruises to my legs and major bruises to my ego as the rest of the group had to wait for me at the bottom.

I happily turned in my bike, grateful to be alive, and we wandered across the road where I had seen a beach. We had a lovely lunch at a picnic table in the sand while waiting for my heart rate to return to normal and then we waded through the waters of the Mediterranean,enjoying the fabulous weather.

The following day we rented a car and drove to Arles. As a huge Van Gogh fan this was first on my France bucket list. With the exception of cars, the city is much like it would have been in Van Gogh’s time.

We stopped and picked up a brochure for a self guided walking tour of some places he made famous in his paintings.

Hospital in Arles

This turned out to be the best stop, as others were difficult to find or the landscape had so changed as to be difficult to see the similarities, but still it was amazing to be in the same places where he had painted so many masterpieces.

Afterward we decided that since we had the rental car until 8 pm, we would drive to Cassis, a town east of Marseille that the gelato man had told us about, to take the recommended boat tour. Cassis is another French Riviera town in the Calanque region and a boat was a far easier way to see the unique limestone formations than that suicidal bike ride.

The waters of the Mediterranean are a stunning deep, deep turquoise.

Afterward we walked around the harbor and found a place to eat some savory ham and cheese crepes and then realized it was Halloween. All the businesses had bowls of unwrapped! candy (marshmallows and licorice bits) out for the kids

Sadly, a ts much as I would have liked to sit here all night, we had to return the car and get ready for our return trip to Paris.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Part 2 - Paris

We landed in Paris at 5:30 a.m. their time (11:30pm our time). The airport was near empty and we breezed through customs. Our hotel room check in wasn’t until 3:00 but we took a cab there hoping to store our luggage before heading out to explore. But lucky us, our room was ready when we arrived and they let us check-in at 6:30 am!  We decided to take advantage of that and grabbed a quick 1 hour nap,  then out for the first of many croissant and cafe au lait breakfasts.

Peachie and I had both made lists of the things we wanted to see, eat, and shop for but neither of us were particularly interested in spending too much time waiting in lines at the typical tourist attractions. And so we started walking along the Seine to see what we could see.

First we came across La Cathedrale Notre-Dame which made me cry. I, like many, watched the April fire on the news, but seeing the damage in person was heartbreaking. I can’t even imagine how it must have felt to the French who identity so closely with it.

Right across the street was the first stop on my list, the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, a great new and used book shop where aspiring writers are allowed to sleep in beds located among the bookshelves. I purchased a copy of my favorite book “Le Petit Prince” and received the traditional shop stamp on the inside cover.  This was the only souvenir I wanted.

Continuing along the Seine we found the Locks of Love bridge. However, due to the weight of all the locks people left, the bridge was beginning to fail and the city removed them and put a barrier along the railings so no more could be left. Still, lovers find a way.

We strolled through the grounds of the Louvre, mostly to see the I M Pei entrance pyramid,

and stopped to have crepes at the Jardin de Tuileries.

We passed this interesting "live" building

and walked around the Tour d’Eiffel which was much more imposing than I had expected.

But the main attraction I had come to see, and ride, was the carousel which was the first one I had ever seen that went clockwise, so that the horses were mounted from the left. Apparently this is much more traditional in Europe.

By this time (2 am by our body clock) we headed back to our quaint hotel, had a lovely meal around the corner, and collapsed into bed.  Later we also discovered that France did Daylight's Savings time a week earlier than in the States and so our jetlag, and watches, were further screwed up.

French fries were served at almost every meal and wine was often cheaper than water.

The next morning was spent wandering around the neighborhood. When I travel I am always very interested in how the locals live so we explored supermarkets and pharmacies and discovered quaint residential streets.

Then my daughter treated me to a very fancy lunch at Le Train Bleu at the Gare de Lyon.

I don’t know about where you live but my train station does not look like this 

Afterward we went to the high end shops around the Champs d’Élysée and I sat while Peachie browsed ridiculously priced purses and shoes and people walked around offering me champagne or fancy water and petites chocolats.

Wall art made with the red soles of Louboutin shoes. 

Afterward we decided we should go see the Tour d'Eiffel at night and it did not disappoint.

The following day we boarded a train and headed to Disneyland Paris.

It is much smaller than DisneyWorld, more comparable to DisneyLand. We found some of the attractions much better - the Haunted House scarier, Pirates of the Caribbean more detailed (and in French) and Its a Small World included a much larger US section.

But overall we found the food terrible and the magical experience lacking. Still, the highlight was a new Ratatouille ride which was awesome and will be coming to Epcot next summer.