Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Champagne region

Top photo: outside our chateau. Our room is in the turret closest to you.

Middle photo: view from our room. Note the moat.

Bottom photo: we bought 6 bottles at Lecomte, Pere et Fils.

Sacre Bleu!

From Place Dalida, you can climb the hill up to Sacre Couer. Or as I like to call it, the Sugar Cube Church.
And once you have reached the church, I encourage you to climb the stairs inside the church to capture the stunning views of Paris below. This is the view from the top down on the artists square of Momantre.

Champers!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bob soir, Edith!

Marche au Puces

Today we went to the Marche au Puces which translates to the market of
the fleas. Yep, the original flea market, so named because the clothes
you would buy there would inevitably give you fleas. Color me dubious
that I will really enjoy this.

But I've never been before and we had a few articles with trusted
reccomendations, so off we went.

Hmmmm, how to describe? Approach from metro stop: Tijuana. First
section of the market we found: Santee Alley downtown L.A. (part Canal
Street NYC). Then we consulted our maps and articles better and veered
off into a labirynth of stacked high, may be good, may be bad, most
certain I can't tell, wow-oh-wow, filled stall after stall after stall.

After about 2 hours, we all had high hopes of finding that one unique
special treasure that, though certain we would personaly pay to much
for, still would seem like a bargain to us. For Richard it was a
silver tureen with an amazing array of sculpted seafood decorating the
ornate lid. Price:€23,000. Lyle went decidedly smaller at the same
shop and coveted a pepper mill that had a delicate sculpture of little
woman on top of it. Price:€290.

Christine and I were decidedly more centered on art. I selected what I
thought was a stunning painting of a cliché parisean street scene with
Sacre Couer rising behind the buildings. The shop keeper eagerly told
me all about the artist, the scene, and why the value was the price it
was... I guess. Because he told me all in French. And all I heard was
"Sacre Couer... blah blah blah... Artiste... blah blah blah...
€2000... blah blah blah..."

Christine had her heart attatched to a stunning designer jacket that
she would neither try on, nor ask the price of. Judging from the
surrounding Galiano hip-high lavender croc boots and exquisite Chanel
handbags (I even examined an Hermes vintage silkn scarf for €260) she
may have been wise to walk away without knowing it was a perfect fit.
In the end she is the only person who actually made the only purchase
of the day collecting a beautiful print for €40 which they told her
not to roll. So she carried that awkward parcel with her for the rest
of the day. She's quite the trouper!

We did see the small cafe tucked into the end where legend has it,
Edith Piaf was discovered singing for her supper standing atop a table.

We paused for a very quick bite at a tragic snack shack and had
amazing sandwiches of pate with cornichons, ham and cheese, and a
croque mousier. Everyone had a sandwich and a beverage for €27 total.
That's around what we'd been spending per person for dinner each night.

We hit a few more stalls in another market (I think there are over 9
HUGE full markets, one after the other after the other) and finally my
brain could take in no more! Ok, except I am still obsessed about
that Hermes orange steamer trunk that would look amazing in my dining
room.

We left the fleas behind and took the metro to Gare Du Nord (train
station North). We walked outside and gazed up at the architecture and
soaked in its beauty. The we walked to Gare D'Est (train station
East). Lyle finaly explained that the name has nothing to do with the
location in the city, but rather which directions the departing trains
will go. OH! I'd always wondered why they were so close, yet named
for being futher away.

We sat and had a coffee in a very cliché Paris sidewalk cafe. Today
was sunny and a nice day to people watch. After, we wander/walked to
the Paris Opera. Another stunning, can't miss, prime Paris building.

As luck (or terrific plotting on my part) would have it, that also
placed us at the Galleries Lafayette. Paris's giant department store.
With 4 floors of menswear taking up a full city block, and half of it
on sale, the hour we'd given ouselves was never going to be enough. I
did a quick tour (12 minutes per floor, 2 minutes for escalator time
to change floors, and a smidge extra for fondeling a belt or jacket
here and there). I will go back when I have fresher feet, a sharper
mind and not so heavy a coat to carry!

La Place Dalida

If on any given Saturday night you can walk into any gay bar in America and see a drag queen performing a song by Madonna, then the equivilant in France would be Dalida! As many have told me in the past, "Dalida was Madonna, BEFORE there was a Madonna." J'adore Dalida.

Sadly, On May 3, 1987 Dalida died as a result of an drug overdose. She left a note that read, "Life has become unbearable ... Forgive me."

However her music and her legacy live on. Here is one of my personal favorites:

Pate sandwich + Orangina = BLISS

Sunday, March 29, 2009

No Phantom here

This photo has graced my phone wallpaper for a month. I adore the newness of the clean and shiny top of the Opera House. Notice the details of the faces below as well? Amazing.

I swear I don't do it on purpose!

Today Lyle requested that we "get lost" in the city. Since i had
somehow broken Christine's knee the day before, she and Richard were
going to take in some sights in a less active manner.

Now technically we can't really get lost because we have our iPhones
with the built in google maps and gps. But the idea was to go off on a
wander, see something interesting "over there", follow that hunch
until something "that a-way", and wander, wander, wander...

So we did. We started at Republique around 11 and launched up the hill
into the 19th arrondisment. We walked through a weekend food mart
along the street and continued up to where Edith Piaf was born.

We turned somewhere at the top of Belleville after I paused and played
Lyle the song from the animated movie Triplettes Du Belleville. We
wound up in a park that was full of the locals out for their weekend
jog, stroll, dog walk or children's play outing. Hither and dither we
went until I announced, "I did not fly all the way to Paris to wear my
Gucci scarf on a nature hike!".

We left the park and found a bakery that was on Lyle's list. C'est
formidable!

It was about 1:30 and we decided that we should take a look on the
google map and see how far we were from home and which direction to
wander next. But first, oh look a big farmers market!

After that we did check the map. How the hell did we get so far
away?! And so we turned around and started back... Then we saw a
monumental arch in the middle of the boulevard down the road to the
right. At the arch it was Lyle's turn to make an announcement, "I need
to sit down right now and have a Perrier!". So we did.

After a refreshing beverage we started for home again. I offered to
take the Metro, but Lyle said he was fine and besides, it wasn't much
further.

By 3:30 we were home. Lyle has a blister on his right foot and one if
his left toes is bleeding. It's not my fault. He asked to go out on a
wander. I wanted to go shopping. I offered to take the Metro. He
wanted to carry on. Now, I am ready to go again and he wants to place
his feet in the minibar.

Don't vacation with me. Apparently I'm a bad person.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I win again

Today we walked our feet (and asses) off. We began the plotting over a
petite dejeuner. I proposed a tour of Montmartre and it was agreed upon.

We took the Metro to the Moulin Rouge and yes, I made Lyle, Richard
and Christine pose with their legs kicking high.

After that we hiked high up the hill through the streets of the
neighborhood, filled with the locals doing their food shopping. Stinky
cheese, fresh seafood, butcher shops, chocolatiers and patiseries
abounded. Just for my father, I snapped a photo of snails available in
mounds by the pound (fine Kilo, but there's no rhyme in that) just
like shrimp.

We continued up to Place Dalida and on to Sacre Couer. Even after the
forced hike, we all still had the ability to climb to the top of the
Sacre Couer dome. It is my favorite view of Paris and it gave me
immense pleasure to share it.

We left Sacre Couer with the plan to go to the flea market. We walked
down the hill to catch the Metro and go three stops to the market.
Just seeing the mass of people around that stop had us all pause and
reconsider our plan. We all agreed that we were not up to that kind of
mosh pit crowd surfing and digging through stalls and bins of junk
while carefully monitoring our wallets and cameras warding off
potential pick pockets.

So we went to St Germain Des Pres. Bonjour Louis Vuitton! In this
vastly different neighborhood we found ourselves caught in the rain
and ducked into a bistro for a bite. Fois gras ravioli, turren du
canard, steak with fois gras on top and a duck breast sauteed in
mushrooms and cherries were some of our dishes. See how I worked that
little pun in? We ducked in to eat duck, duck, goose and goose!

A little more rain landed on us and at this point we split into pairs.
Richard and Christine headed for home while Lyle and I just wandered.
Christine's knee was starting to bother her and in a perverse way this
validated that I was making sure she was seeing EVERYTHING. My brother
has a saying, "you may work out, you may train for weeks, but nothing,
NOTHING, prepares you for a vacation with Jim." I'm not saying I take
joy in breaking my tour partners, I'm just saying they won't go home
sorry they missed something.

Lyle and I went through the Jadin du Luxembourg and headed towards the
Sorbonne. We saw the Sorbonne off a side street but were distracted by
the Pantheon (oddly, things we'd never come across previously). We
wandered more, passing a piece of the ancient city wall that was still
standing, 8' wide and most impressive. We headed home by way of the
Isle St Louis.

Last night, Lyle woke up and said he'd had a nightmare. I asked if in
his nightmare he'd gone to Paris and on his first day he didn't even
have a pastry? Because I'd had the same dream... no wait, that
actually happened to me!

On the Isle St Louis I rectified that situation and got my first
pastry of the trip. I came home a happy man!

A thing of beauty

L'Opera

This sculpture is on the side of the Opera house.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Millefeuile!

My favorite pastry shop is at 40 Rue St Louis, Martin Marcel! If you happen to be in Paris this week, just wait for me in front. I will by either early in the morning, or late in the afternoon. Or both.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bonjour!

This blogger is on a holiday! I'm pretty certain you can guess where...

In advance of my departure, I have selected a few of my favorite photos that I have taken in Paris.

Today's photo was taken from the top of Notre Dame looking out over the Seine (did you know that if you fall into the river you are considered "In-Seine"?). This woud have been teh view for the hunchback of Notre Dame. It took me four trips to Paris to finaly have a dary where the eather was good enough to hike up this high.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Do you believe in Happy Endings?

Long ago when we bought our first Range Rover, I was up late watching television and stumbled across a Range Rover infomercial. As I shared with Lyle the next day, apart from telling how great it would be to own a Range Rover, this infomercial also showed me that people who drive Range Rovers are better than everyone else. In it, there is a very attractive couple getting dressed in formal attire. The cameras follow them as they collect their things and get into their Range Rover. They drive our into traffic and it is POURING rain. In the middle of the street, in the rain, is a lost dog. Traffic is roaring past it and it stands shivering in the headlights of the Range Rover. The husband looks at the wife in her evening gown, she looks at him in his tuxedo, they both look down at their tickets to the ballet, and the wife shrugs as if to say, "It's just the ballet," and the next picture is of the husband in his tuxedo carrying the dog into the Range Rover.

I cried when I told Lyle about the commercial. I also told him it proved that we had chosen the right car because CLEARLY we are better people than everyone else. We are the kind of people who would stop and help a defenseless dog in a rain storm, tuxedo be damned!

Fast forward 8 years and Lyle is out rollerblading with Lola Saturday morning. A random black dog decides to follow them. And follow them. And follow them. Through major intersections, through traffic. All the way to our house. No tags. No collar.

We catch him and put him in the yard and now have to keep our dogs from going in the yard and finding an uninvited guest. Oh Saturday, you are shaping up to be very interesting.

Lyle takes Cooper out rollerblading and I offer the stray some food. He didn't scarf it down, he didn't even seem very interested. Okay, random pet escapee. Couldn't have gotten far. The one thing he has managed to do is roll through some fertilizer. I get out some baby wipes in the hopes of cleaning him up, and it mostly releases the scent of manure without really removing any evidence. I name him Stinky.

By the time Lyle gets home I have already photographed Stinky and created a Found Dog Flyer.We get our dogs settled in, hook up Stinky and take 25 flyers with clear packing tape back out to the streets. We canvass the neighborhood back to where Lyle first discovered him. No one knows him. He keeps pulling south, so we think he must have come from South. We cover about 15 blocks then turn around and head towards home. I check in with google maps on my phone and find a nearby dog grooming location. And may I just give a huge THANK YOU to The Dog House on Third Street. They refused payment for him and just asked that we make a donation somewhere to help other lost dogs who wouldn't be lucky enough to find us.
We take Stinky in for a bath. We have decided he is going to go to the vet to see if he has a microchip in him and there is no way that much manure is getting in my car.

We leave him at the groomer for his spa treatment. Returning home I scan Craigslist for lost dog ads and place a found dog ad. Lyle checks in with Petfinder.com. Nothing on either site.

Stinky is ready to be picked up and as we are binging him out to the Range Rover I gasp, "Oh my god! We've become the commercial!" But is doesn't give me much joy because I am very concerned as to why someone isn't out wander the streets shouting, "STINKY! STIIIIIIIIIINKY!!!!!!!!" and searching for such an amazingly sweet dog.

We get him checked for the microchip and he has one! But the last owner was registered in 2003, so we are not too hopeful. The vet office tracks down a phone number, calls it and leaves a message. That's it. We're done. Now what?

We come home, and decide that Stinky can't stay outside as he will just get stinky again.

We go into the house and prepare. Guest room bed gets a cover sheet over the bed, bowl of water and a few toys. All cords get tucked away. Then we get out two doggie gates and stack them one upon another. This guest room has a powder room pass through from the kitchen. This powder room will become the vapor lock for entry and exit.

Our dogs get locked in the back bedroom. Stinky get's put into his cell (better than what Martha Stewart had I'm guessing) and then our dogs are let out to discover what is behind gate number 2. There is a lot of barking. Then treats are offered. All is quiet. Until treats are done, then there is more barking, whining, growling... massive migraine approaches on the horizon and oh, did I forget to mention that we had an anniversary party to attend at 6 pm? And Lyle had a haircut appointment at 2? And the oven repair man came at 2:30? FULL. DAY.

It all sorts itself out, and at 6 pm, by the miracle of Vicodan (for my unbelievable headache) we are ready to leave the house. Stinky ensconced in his guest suite with the door closed just in case the gates failed.

We leave the party early just in case there was trouble at home and when we get home the answering machine has a message from Stinky's owner! The chip worked!!!

I'm so excited and Lyle speaks to the woman and finds out Stinky's real name is Digger. Perhaps this is how he came to be free? And I am super happy that he is going home to his mom. Then Lyle hangs up and comes to fill me in on the details.

It was her dog. But she and her husband have split up and he got the dog. She lives in a apartment and cant' have a dog. He lives outside at her husband's house. That's probably how he got out. He likes to run. He once disappeared for two years and was found later out in Chatsworth (about 20 miles from home) and this time he had gone about 3 miles from up near Hollywood and Vine (North, not South of us. He had been leading us astray all that time.). And she had called her husband and got no answer so she was planning on just going by and putting Digger back in through the gate to the yard.

Now i was sad. This fabulous friendly little dog was not going home to his mom. She arrived 15 minutes later. Digger was happy to see her even though she said she hadn't seen him on over a year. She looked very tired and very unhappy. Sort of exhausted. Since she didn't know for certain if she could get Digger back into his yard, I offered to let her stay overnight int eh guest room with him. You see I was already in love and didn't want to let him go.

She offered us money for taking care of him, we refused and she just put it on the table and walked away from it. I followed her out to her car and Lyle came out to say goodbye to Digger. We gave her the money back and told her to make a donation or buy digger a dog house. Just to take care of him and make him happy, and more importantly to make herself happy. I didn't say it out loud, but she looked like she could use some happy.

They left, we went inside and I broke down and cried. It was a very unsatisfying happy ending.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Aloha can also mean goodbye

The signature color of the Mauna Kea resort is a bright orange.
Any questions why I love this hotel?

The sister hotel to the Hapuna Beach Prince is the Mauna Kea Hotel. It was founded by Laurance S. Rockefeller, in 1965 and had been a very modern chic retro experience. Our last visit was a few weeks after an earthquake, and though the hotel was open, a few areas did sustain some impressive damage. They are now reopen after a $150 million repair and renovation and thankfully have updated the property without ruining the original look, feel and charm.

This visit to Hawaii coincided with Lyle's birthday. As such we decided to attend the beach side seafood buffet at the Mauna Kea.
It was a stellar view at sunset.

Having only a few days in Hawaii, we made the most of it. Sunning, swimming, driving in a convertible. You can't tell from the photos, but I SWEAR I had on sunscreen!
The food matches my shorts!

Lyle puts up with me.

I'm on FIRE!

But all good things must come to an end. On Sunday we checked out of our hotel and made our way to the Four Seasons Hotel. We seem to be making a habit of this for our last night. The restaurant is virtually on the beach and the final serenade of the surf at night is a fitting farewell.

They also do a good dessert send off.

Macadamia Nut S'More.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The spirit of Aloha

In the spirit of relaxing and doing nothing while in Hawaii, we made plans to visit some friends that also live on the Big Island. On the opposite side of the island. Let me state at the beginning that they offered to come to us but we wanted to go to them. See, the opposite side of the island is a lush tropical paradise that hosts rain nearly every day. We prefer the lunar scorched landscape with sun. From our hotel to their house could have been a brisk hour and half drive over the northern end of the island. But no, I had a GRAND PLAN that we should drive around the Southern end!

The first time we came to the Big Island you could not drive all the way around the southern end due to lava flow. We had gone to the Southern Most Tip (and taken a photo or two, you know how I can be), but then we had to drive back through Kona to our hotel. This time, we'd circle the Island. I mean, how long could that take?


We began at the yellow circle on the left. We followed the orange line down the left hand side and then all the way around the southern tip to Pahoa. We did a tour of the area, and after dinner we drove home via the purple line up the right hand side and across the top of the map. 5 and half hours to get there, an hour and half to get back. It rained all the way home in the dark.

After we passed Kona, we realized that this was not going to be a speed racer trip. We called our friends and told them to go ahead and have lunch without us because we weren't going to make that. This was at 11, we had left our hotel at 9 (after having macadamia nut waffles), we had only made it to about Ho'okena, still on the west side of the island.

But we had decided to treat it like a vacation and we stopped and looked at the view, stopped and grabbed a sandwich to split, stopped and bought fabric (some coated for outdoor table clothes, some Hawaiian print quilting fabric for my sister), we stopped and had coffee.

The view from Ho'okena area.

The coffee plants up close that are in the foreground of the picture above this.

Sometime around 2:30 we made it to our friends. In nothing short of a miracle, the weather was sunny and not raining. They gave us a grand tour, wait, make that A GRAND TOUR of their home, their neighborhood, the beach, the coast, the ice cream shop, the state park...

The coast is all made of lava and the surf was fairly fierce. But check out that color.

This is the tree canopy over the road into the state park area. At many points it goes down to one lane.

We arrived with the top down on the car. We kept the top down as we began our tour. When the rain came, we kept the top down. Our friends kept saying, "It won't last long." and it didn't.

Without telling us, they guided us into a parking lot surrounded by large plants. They told us there was something special around the corner. We were made to back into our parking spot for "fast escape". What, or where, were we?
The exit point of the lava from active volcano Mauna Loa.

This park only opens at night. People bring their flashlights and chairs, hike in, settle down and wait for the dramatic sights of red hot lava hitting the ocean, which if we had the patience to wait for, the shoes to walk in and our of the lava park with, or the flashlights to find out way out after dark, our photos could have looked like this:

But we didn't. And, even though they sold shoes, chairs and flashlights in the makeshift village on your way in, we opted to leave before dark.

For perspective, click on the above image and look over there on the right. That tiny little speck of dark is a helicopter giving a tour.

After a great meal with great friends it was time to head home. Lyle had done all the driving over during the day and I had planned on driving home that night. But it started to rain, the windshield had some bad smear all over it and I could see very well and slowed down for all those twisting windy curves. Lyle wanted to get home faster, made me pull over and drove us home in the rain.
He wasn't too "steamed".

(don't you just pity Lyle? Aren't you glad you don't vacation with me?)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Aloha means Welcome

Recently (okay in early February), we went to Hawaii. After 12 days of working in Las Vegas we really were looking for an opportunity to stop the world and unwind. We chose to return to the Hapuna Beach Prince on the Big Island because we've been there before and we've done everything we can think of. We go there to be bored.
Our room was on the left. Ocean front for sight and especially at night, sound.

We knew we'd been there before, but we were surprised to find out after asking the front desk, that this was our fifth stay! Our first trip was in 1997. We seem to average every other year. As a frequent guest, we were pleased to accept a complimentary upgrade to an ocean front suite. The room was huge and almost embarrassing for just the two of us, but my favorite part, two bathrooms and a much larger closet! Yes, 4 days in Hawaii and we brought 3 suitcases.

A sign that will give you pause. Note the water in the background.

A sign to welcome you back to the top of the hill. Note the trees in the background.

We had a rental car and after going snorkeling the first day, we decided to drive the 40 minutes to Hawi. Lyle had a mission. There is the Kohala Coffee Mill that serves Hawaiian coffee and Macadamian nut ice cream. His mission was to repeat his triumphant discovery of combining the coffee and the ice cream together for a taste treat he (obviously) had to repeat!


Over Lyle's shoulder, bags of locally grown coffee. We bought 4.

As we were lying around the pool one day Lyle said, "Oh my god, I think that's a whale..." And I replied without opening my eyes, "Ha, ha, ha very funny. How fat is he?" Then I heard all sorts of commotion and thought maybe this man was seriously fat AND trying to get into the pool at which point I sat up and was STUNNED to see a sight much like this in the ocean in front of our hotel:
Of course I didn't have my camera. I was at the pool! So we spent the rest of our vacation taking seriously bad photos like this one trying to capture what we had missed that first day.
This was the best one.

On the bright side, it took up many hours just sitting around on the beach.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Listen up!



I got this from Chandra's blog.

How to create the hottest new band (and bypass American Idol).

1 - Go to "wikipedia." Hit “random”
or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to "Random quotations"
or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Who wore it better?

Photos came out yesterday showing Madonna and her current beau, Jesus Luz out and about in Manhattan in the snow. (via Just Jared)
For the record, Carolyn and I invented that photo two weeks ago in Chicago.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

Our yard is home to a wide variety of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom species.

How many can you spot in this photo?
Yellow - small brown birds (technical term)
Red - turtle doves
Purple - squirrel
Blue - Bluebird (of happiness?)
When the Bluebird arrived in our yard I was certain it was a Bluejay and I was determined to drive it away. I would go outside, yell and throw things at it. Then Lyle's mother corrected me that it didn't have the sharp feathers on it's head and that it was a Bluebird. I confessed my trying to drive it away and she told me that perhaps that was why I was unhappy. I was driving away the Bluebird of Happiness!

Due to consistent raccoon issues we have had a wire fence around our pond. Yet the pond was quite disturbed a few days ago. "How?" Lyle asked, "How in the hell did those damn raccoons get in? The fence is perfectly fine. There's no way they could get over it without making a mess!"

Then on the weekend, the answer arrived from the sky:
So now we have green string criss-crossing the top of the fence as well.

Our wild kingdom is definitely propped up by the welfare system we have put in place to feed the birds. On purpose we got a "small bird" feeder that has small holes to discourage larger birds (the crows live in the front yard). And then there is the squirrel(s). We keep moving the feeder to make it hard to access and yet....
There he (or she) is performing some amazing yoga poses, digging in with his paw and scooping the seeds out. Pretty impressive.

Then there is the whole "circle of life" aspect you never anticipate when you begin to attract wildlife to your little corner of the world...

The obvious predator:

And the very large surprise: