Sunday, June 29, 2014


I can't quite believe that my nomadic life is coming to an end.  Whether that end is temporary or permanent is yet to be seen.  My last four days were in the great city of Paris, and this is the perfect place to put the cap on my incredible journey.

I spent the first night here with my Bangkok friend Dolly, and we enjoyed a long walk through the Bastille neighborhood before having our farewell dinner together.  

Dolly left the next day and now I'm staying in my friend Caroline's apartment in androissment 8, which is a great location, close to almost all the "must sees".  

My young Parisian friends are treating me like royalty again.  Natalie and Caroline are the kindest, most gracious and hospitable young women you could ever meet.  Caroline filled her cupboard and refrigerator with all kinds of goodies for my breakfast and snacking pleasure, so much appreciated.  Saturday, I had lunch with Natalie and Caroline at their favorite Lebanese restaurant where I enjoyed the best food of this kind that I've ever had.  Then Caroline took me to a wonderful little museum in her neighborhood, the Museè Nissim De Camondo, a mansion that was donated to the French government by a wealthy Jewish banker, along with an amazing collection of 18th century furniture and objets d'art.  Every room in the mansion is decorated harmoniously with beautiful furniture, tapestries, carpets, paintings, clocks, vases, etc. etc.  It takes a while to take it all in.  

Here's an example of one of the sumptously decorated rooms.

Look at this beautiful carpet...the colors are still very vivid.

There was a "dish room" where I saw the most incredible set of china.  Each piece had different birds hand painted on it and there were at least 100 different pieces.

It's an unusual museum and best of all, it wasn't crowded.  That evening we had a fabulous dinner at Maison de la Truffe, where I had a wonderful risotto topped with shavings of black truffle and some truffle-filled brie cheese with arugula salad.  I'm so lucky to have fellow "foodies" as friends and Caroline surprised me with this special dinner because she knows I love my truffles.

On Sunday, I went to the Museé Marmottan, which has the largest collection of Monet paintings in the world, many of which were donated to that museum by his last surviving relative.  I was stunned by a room filled with huge canvases, the size of which I don't recall seeing before.  Many were his studies of water lillies.

I've always liked Monet's water lillies, but this painting is now among my favorites.  It was in Monet's first exhibition in Paris, and its name, "Impression: Sunrise" was coined to describe this new art movement.

There was a room devoted to Monet's crayon drawings and caricatures done when he was 17 and 18 years old.  Who would think his style would evolve as it did from this beginning?

The line to get into the museum was long because there was also a wonderful special exhibit of 100 paintings from private collections, all from the great impressionists, and I felt lucky to view this wonderful art that is seldom by the public eye.  I loved this Renoir.

Part 2, my very last day, to come when I receive some photos I need from Natalie.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


There's not a lot to do in Annecy, France, but it's a charmer.  There's a beautiful lake here with Alps as a backdrop, and lots of swans gracing water so clear that you can see the lake bed.

There's a canal that runs into and out of the lake through the picturesque old part of town.

I got out early this morning to explore before the streets got crowded and enjoyed a quiet walk along the entire length of the canal.  Come walk along with me.

Walk across one of the several foot bridges crossing the canal and through the old stone tunnels to the street running parallel to the canal where there are shops and restaurants galore waiting for tourists with euros to burn in their pockets.

I'd rather watch the swans!

Monday, June 23, 2014


For the last week my friend Dolly (from Bangkok) and I have been exploring the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.  Dolly studied French in a small town in this area and can still speak and understand the language, which is great, because I'm totally lost when it comes to communicating in this country.  I'm nervous about even trying to pronounce words in French, because they don't articulate many of the letters, especially at the end of words.  Why put the letters there if you're not going to use them?  In Italian and Spanish, you pronouce all the letters, for the most part, so you don't sound like an idiot as much of the time.  It was great to relax and just let Dolly do our communicating.  I reciprocated by doing all the cooking.

I think my favorite side trip was a day in Arles, where you can take a Van Gogh tour and see some of the sites he painted there.  There were 10 sites where you could view a reproduction of a painting and see the similarities and differences between then (1888-89) and now.  In some cases, the site was barely recognizable, like The Yellow House....then:


And in other cases, the scene was quite similar, as in The Garden at the Hospital in Arles:

Dolly and I are posing by one of Van Gogh's starry night paintings.

We saw a lot of artists in this park, some of whom seemed to be trying to emulate Van Gogh's style.

One of the sites was near the arena, and we had the best lunch of the week in a cafe there.  I wasn't sure what I was ordering, but this is a tartinette.  It's a toasted rectamgle of bread with tomato sauce, mushrooms and cheese topped with a fried egg.  Of course, there were a variety of toppings available.  Yummy.

It was fun to walk around this charming city in search of the 10 sites.  We found eight before heading east to see the lavender fields.  It's early in the season for lavender, but it was supposed to be in bloom at the lower levels of the region where it grows.  We stopped at an Office of Tourism at the beginning of "the lavender road" and picked up a map to guide us.  I have wanted to see these fields of beautiful lavender for a long time, and I was excited about driving through this area.  After miles of driving, this is the only lavender we saw along the road.

It was a very small field and I would have missed it, but Dolly's sharp eye caught a glimpse as we whizzed by.

The road took us to a hilltop town where we spotted a few small fields of lavender, which are at the left center, but we couldn't see how to get to them.  

It looked to us as if grapes were now the crop along this particular stretch of "the lavender road", and I wish the Office of Tourism would update their maps to save travelers like us from great disappointment.

On another day we visited the medieval city of Carcassone, which is on almost every list of "must see" sites in France.  It's pretty impressive from a distance.

But when you get inside, its streets are lined with tourist shops.  It would be better to go there after the shops close to get a better feel for what the old town might have been like.  We also drove on this day to Castelnaudary, the home of the famous French country dish, cassoulet.  The restaurant I had selected was, very unfortunately, closed for vacation, so we just asked around and were referred to a hotel restaurant.  The cassoulet was a real disappointment to both of us, but we ate some and went on our merry way.  Things don't always turn out as you hope they will.  It looks better than it tasted.  On second thought, it doesn't even look that good!

We drove to the seaside town of Sete on another day where we had lunch at a restaurant on the canal.

On our walk about town after lunch, we passed by this fishing boat where a horde of sea gulls were competing for the fishermen's discards from their morning catch.

On yet another day, we spent a few hours in Aigues-Mortes, the city from which the crusaders left several times.  There were some really nice shops there, and I finally replaced the reading glasses I gave to my friend Kadek in Bali.  This knight was modelling a pair of sunglasses.

On other days we went to local farmer's markets in town and nearby, walked or rode the tram around Montpellier, or just relaxed in our lovely apartment where we enjoyed this patio.

It was a lovely week with great weather and fantastic company.  Dolly and I are good travel mates.  We'll meet up again in Paris later this week.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


I spent a week in one of my favorite places in Italy with my friend Maggie from Sydney.  Maggie is renting an apartment in Lucca for two months and invited me to stay with her, so I happily accepted her invitation.  Lucca is one of those smaller Italian cities where the enjoyment comes from just being there.  It's probably known best for the wall that surrounds it, which winds around the old part of the city for 4 kilometers.

There's a broad walkway where people do just that, as well as bicycle and rollerblade, and there are park benches and picnic tables where you can enjoy relaxing or picnicking under the shade of the trees.

Maggie's apartment is outside the city walls, and it took us about 20 minutes to reach our entry point which was right near the Duomo on the other side of the wsll.

It was really hot in Lucca when I was there last week....92° to 95° every we would go out to the market or shopping or just walking on the wall or around town in the morning and go back to the apartment by 1 or 2 in the afternoon and then go out again in the evening when it cooled down...just like the natives, except they all seemed to stay up later than we did.  I didn't take a lot of photos here, but here are some highlights.

This is the Bascilica of San Frediano.  Lucca has about 100 churches.

Here's what a lot of people comes to see....the Guinigi Tower where you can climb up 230 stairs and walk around the garden at the top.  

Here's a view of it from the wall.

We went shopping one day and I thought this display of tools and gears made of chocolate was picture worthy.

This is the aquaduct near Maggie's apartment.

Her apartment was one of eight in a renovated farm stayed very cool on the ground floor and I was grateful for that.

Her street was very pleasant to walk.

We went to Pisa on the train and saw the famous Leaning Tower.

Pisa is a pretty city with lots of shopping opportunities, and the Arno runs through it.

Here's Maggie making some kind of statement about life, I think.

Maggie really likes to shop, and her enthusiasm is contagious.

We had a very relaxing week together...going to the local markets, shopping, enjoying two concerts, Puccini and Mozart, and eating delicious Italian food.  And I'm sure Maggie is going to enjoy Lucca (a relief to me since I recommended it to her) as well as exploring other cities and villages in the beautiful province of Tuscany.