Once Was Lost, But Now …

And there it was, in all its glory. What a day!

Speaking of Paris, I’ve slowly been working on filling in my archives on that trip we made back in 2006. (Work—and life—seems to get in the way of this project, as much as I love it.) And when I posted this one—about our initial little difficulty finding our way out of Terminal 1—on Facebook, a friend of mine remarked that she’d had a similar experience.

I sail into … a mass of unhappy people trying to understand how to take the train into the center of Paris. North American credit cards don’t read in the ticket kiosks and the change machine is not working. And the ticket kiosk takes cash but only exact change. One pauvre l’homme mans a solitary window for two hundred people.

Is this like child birth, the sweaty, grubby, peevish part of a trip that you always forget upon arriving home? Finally I’m on the RER train, surrounded not by urbane French citoyens but equally sweaty Canadian and British tourists who look too large and open-faced for their surroundings.

Yes! She had the same experience as we did! I couldn’t use my credit card either! What a relief to know it wasn’t just us.

You can read my friend’s article here. She’s a wonderful writer and has many travel tales to tell at her blog Solo Travel.

Where Did You Go in 2015?

Some of you may still have a little bit of holiday vacation left … You may well be taking the tree down or getting ready to start work or school on Monday. But maybe, just maybe, you’ve got a little time to curl up with a good #longread and your travel dreams.

If so, I wanted to be sure you didn’t miss the New York Times’s recap of “The Most Popular Travel Destination Stories of 2015.” Here they are:

• Paris: A $1,000 Day in Paris for $100
A Paris concierge’s idea of the perfect day on the town—but our reporter organizes a similar day at a tenth of the price. And you know how I feel about Paris. Let’s go!

• Lake Michigan: A Tour of Lake Michigan, My Inland Sea
Striking topography, time-worn communities and the reassuring permanence of an unchanging lake. My mother grew up in Chicago and regularly swam the lake; I’ve had this trip in mind for a long time!

• Tucson, Arizona: In Tucson, an Unsung Architectural Oasis
One of the city’s better-kept secrets is how often you can find significant examples of mid-twentieth-century architecture. I’ve been to south Arizon a few times in recent years, but never Tucson—and I have friends there! Need to put this on my list.

• Rome, Italy: When in Rome, Learn to Cook Italian
If you go to Rome to dine, you’re getting only a taste of Italian culture. For a 
full immersion, you’ve got to make some pasta and traditional sauces yourself. A good friend of mine lives in Rome, and I often read Facebook posts (and see photos) about the cooking! OK, I’m game!

• Montana, Wyoming and Idaho: A Rookie’s Road Trip
A car-averse traveler finds freedom in the driver’s seat, covering 700 miles and three states over three days. I think Ann Patchett did this in a Winnebago and made it sound fun. This article does too.

• Yorkshire, England: Where Dracula Was Born, and It’s Not Transylvania
Bram Stoker found inspiration for his famous Gothic villain in an unlikely place—a sunny seaside Yorkshire village. It’s been more than a decade since I was anywhere in England; I’d love to go again!

• Puerto Rico: The Many Faces of Puerto Rico
Gallery openings, vibrant restaurants, hotel development, and preserved examples of the old way of life play well together in Puerto Rico. From my side of the States, this would be a relatively inexpensive “exotic” vacation. Hmmm …

• Tuscany and Puglia, Italy: Italy’s Treasured Olive Oil, at the Source
In Tuscany and Puglia, making olive oil is a lifestyle, one threatened by bad weather and a killer bacteria. Food is my favorite souvenir!

• LA to Mexico: On a Gay Cruise, Just One of the Guys
A cruise that conjures up the thumpa-thumpa club scene does more than you’d think: it creates a worry-free space where being gay is the norm. This isn’t my demographic, but it might be yours. 🙂

• 6 Places in Africa: Into Africa—Vacation Ideas
The Times asked current and former NYT international news correspondents, who have collectively spent 25 years reporting in Africa, to tell what to do in the regions they’ve covered.

• Italy, Yet Again: A Honeymoon Through Italy
The reporter says: “We danced at midnight in Venice, motored through Tuscany and made memories. Just as newlyweds should.” I had a three-week honeymoon myself this year … but who says you have to be on a honeymoon to take this trip?

So there you have it—eleven fabulous stories to whet your appetite for travel! Where did you go in 2015? Where will you go in 2016?

Lunch in Paris

I just finished reading a book I thoroughly enjoyed—Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard. It’s a little bit romance, a little bit travelogue, a little bit foodie … in other words, tailor-made for me. The American Bard (mid-twenties) met a Frenchman (also mid-twenties) at an academic conference in London, which led, eventually, to that fateful lunch in Paris.

Lunch in Paris

Toward the end of the book, Bard describes a New Year’s Eve dinner at the home of some of her French family; her parents flew in from New York for the occasion. The host had cooked sixteen separate dishes (because there were sixteen guests).

We sat down at eight p.m. and didn’t get up from the table until four thirty in the morning, except for a brief pause at midnight for champagne. It was the most spectacular meal I’ve ever eaten. Like the triumphal procession in Act II of Aida, after the spear carriers come the chariots, after the chariots the cavalry, after the cavalry the dancing girls. And just when you think the stage can’t hold another thing, they bring out the elephants.

To start, there were small salads—the thinnest slivers of red and yellow pepper, slow roasted and glistening with olive oil, and the simplest blend of carrots and golden onions, heady with the smell of cumin.

Then came the fish, its sauce simmered with saffron and tomatoes, thickened with ground almonds. I served myself the merest spoonful or two. “Elle est stratégique.” Affif winked with approval. “She knows what’s coming.” I wanted to savor every bite, even if it was a small one, nothing blurred by the rebellion of a tired palate. I plucked a toothpick out of an oblong white calamari. It was stuffed with rice and peppers, a curly violet-tipped tentacle poking out here and there.

I looked around the table. … I had been working so hard these past few years to figure out what France was about—how it operates, what makes it tick. In fact, most of what was important to the French was around this table: close family, old friends, and fabulous food. I knew I would never entirely leave my New York self behind—never stop wanting, never stop striving—but I also had my place here, among these people.*

The book has two or three recipes at the end of each chapter, and lots of interesting observations from an American, loved by a Frenchman, trying to assimilate and be accepted. If you like this type of book, I think you’ll be delighted by Lunch in Paris.

It turns out there is a Lunch in Paris website, which includes a blog with recipes and luscious photos. (Sadly, not updated in a while, but it seems Bard and her husband opened an ice cream company. They’ve been busy.) Also since the first book, they’ve moved to Provence and started a family. You can see more about this on the Facebook page. (Scaramouche has a Facebook page too.) Here I learned Bard has a new book due in April 2015: Picnic in Provence. I’m looking forward to it.

* Transcribed by me from pages 296–286 of the hardcover edition of Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes (Little, Brown, 2010).

Christmas in Paris

I couldn’t resist posting this, which a friend passed on to me with the comment, “How I wish this were my dilemma—what’s open in Paris this week?

Holiday alert! The vast majority of Paris restaurants will be closed from before Christmas until after the New Year …

I’m the sort of gal who likes her cozy little family traditions on holidays. But I’m also the sort of gal who isn’t afraid to, say, fly to England for Christmas (because that’s when Jesse would be able to go). On that very trip, we also visited France (though not Paris), so we got a taste of small-town France at Christmas too. I’ve also spent a Christmas at Tybee Island, Georgia, with the whole family in a beach house, one in Honolulu, Hawaii, in the late ’60s (oh, there’s a post for you!), and a Christmas in Phoenix a couple years ago with my son, who had a lot of gigs and couldn’t leave town.*

So if you’re the sort of person who might be planning a special holiday trip to Paris, you’ll want to read up here. The website is called Paris by Mouth, and features—you will have guessed—Paris restaurants, wine bars, bakeries and pastry shops, wine shops, chocolate and candy shops, ice cream shops, craft cocktails, craft beer shops, craft beer bars, “decent coffee” (their term!), and specialty shops. In Paris. Did I say that already? 🙂

I’ve added it to my blogroll, just in case you need to refer back. I hear April in Paris is nice too. 🙂

* It was interesting to add that all up, I think. I wouldn’t have guessed I’d spent even four Christmases away from home. How about you? Have you ever had a destination Christmas? Tell me about it in the comments!

Not by appointment do we meet Delight …

I’m still adding posts from recent and not-so-recent trips, but those things take time—writing, gathering photos. It takes at least an hour just to upload one once it’s been written and edited … and a gal’s gotta work sometime.

So in the meantime I wanted to leave you with something interesting to look at—photos from a new book from American photographer Mark Steinmetz, who resides in Athens, Georgia. About this project, the photographer says,

“My mother was French (my father was Dutch) and I speak the language fairly well and love their photographic tradition so it made sense that I would introduce myself to Europe through France. The earliest of the photographs in the book were made in the mid-1980s when I was in my early twenties. I would sublet my apartment and go to Paris where I would stay with old friends of my mother’s. They would put me up and feed me so it was wonderful—I could go out and photograph all day.”

Have a look! Time magazine has seventeen photos here. And here’s a little blurb from his publisher.

* Or Joy; They heed not our expectancy. But round some corner of the streets of life they of a sudden greet us with a smile. —Gerald Massey (1828–1907)

I Love Paris in the Springtime

6 May 1889 – 2013

One hundred twenty-four years ago today, the Eiffel Tower officially opened to the public at the Exposition Universelle—that is, the World’s Fair—in Paris. It was a wonder then, and it still is—the most recognized landmark in the world.

It was the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair.

It was the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair. If you wanted in, you walked under this.

The French weren’t crazy about it at first; they didn’t like what it did to the skyline.

You really can’t miss it. This was taken from atop the Arc de Triomphe.

You really can’t miss it. This was taken from atop the Arc de Triomphe.

But even though it was intended to be dismantled after twenty years when ownership reverted to the City of Paris, it was allowed to remain. And look at it now: I love this panoramic view of the city taken from/near Notre Dame. Scroll across; you’ll see it. (Or go to the official site; it’s got some nice panoramas too.)

• Designed and built by Gustave Eiffel’s engineering firm at a cost of $1.5 million (under budget!).

• Made of wrought iron; originally painted red. (It hasn’t always been brown!)

• 986 feet tall; at the time, the tallest building in the world.

• Cost of construction was recouped by ticket sales in a year.

• The tower is repainted every 7 years; this requires 60 tons of paint and about 18 months.

Happy birthday to the Eiffel Tower! One of these days I’ll be back, darling, and we’ll celebrate then. 🙂

We walked, mapless, from the Arc de Triomphe to le Tour Eiffel. There it is, honey!

We walked, mapless, from the Arc de Triomphe to le Tour Eiffel. There it is, honey!