Summers in Maine….

Photos aren’t posted yet, but the kids made the 12ish-hour trip up to Maine yesterday. They’ll visit for four or five days, then make a stop to see a longtime friend in Rhode Island on the way back. Granddaughter is old enough now to really understand and remember the visits. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Dustin spent at least a month every summer in Maine, often longer. While we were there each Christmas as well, either for, or right after Christmas, summertime is very different. There are, of course, the masses of tourists to cope with as Grandpa swore each summer he would stay tucked away, “on the farm”, until after Labor Day. Taking Dustin on special excursions did make for the exception to his rule, although since was also still working, it would often be Gram and Dustin going somewhere as they “made memories”. It was important for him to embrace that part of his heritage and since my daughter-in-law is one of the few in her family to move away from Mane, granddaughter has deep roots there. The cottage on the lake makes for a perfect setting, except I’m sure even in August, the water temperature will be cool. Naturally there is the spot where they make a fire underneath star-filled night skies.

Blueberries in all shapes and forms, handmade ice cream, maple candies, and lobster for the adults are givens. I’m not sure if granddaughter has developed a taste for seafood beyond fish sticks, but there will be plenty of fried haddock nuggets. August can bring black flies as a nuisance, so here’s hoping it might be a mild year for them. I’ve probably forgotten some special culinary treat, and will no doubt see photos soon on Facebook as they make the different rounds to see family and friends. Perhaps Mother Nature will be kind and keep the weather sunny for them.



Summer Showers…..

The line of, “April showers bring May flowers”, is true in certain climates. Here is South Florida, however, the summer months are the rainy season which not surprisingly, coincides with the five-month hurricane season. In general, the clouds  build in the afternoon and send drenching rain for a relatively short burst. The sun then comes out and you have the steam room effect. Of course, the pattern can change. The surest way of this occurring is to make plans based on the normal pattern. Or to have a requirement to head out that you can’t possibly reschedule. Last week, I was caught three times. Granted, we all have umbrellas in our cars and periodically buy new umbrellas to replace the ones we’ve left in various restaurants, etc. The thing is, though, when there is a driving rain, you really can’t open the umbrella in the car. You have to open the door a little way, thrust the umbrella out to open it and try to position it to where you can almost stay dry. The rain has now come into the car and soaked the part of your arm holding the umbrella. The odds are water is totally pooled in a certain number of spots, plus the umbrella is probably not large enough to protect your feet anyway. That means wet legs and feet. If you manage to catch rain going back into the car, the same applies as you can’t get inside with an open umbrella. The simple fact is, you’re going to get wet to some degree and it’s another aspect of living in South Florida you might as well adapt to. From what I have been told, living in Seattle is similar except it’s rainy for much of the year. I did also experience that in London when I was initially puzzled as to why there were umbrella sales on the sidewalk when it was sunny. It only took a few hours to understand and appreciate their presence.

Comfort Food…..

I’ve posted a number of times about Hubby and I cooking together as it’s something we really enjoy. I have my specialties and he has his (aside from grilling which is his domain). There are other times we experiment with recipes, although not as often as we probably should. It’s simply easier most times to make things we’re already familiar with. We also don’t generally prepare the classic meals of our upbringing since neither of us grew up with adventuresome cooking available. Granted, Hubby does still prefer his green beans cooked for at least an hour with a ham hock (we don’t have the can of bacon grease that sits on the stove) and don’t think of putting sugar anywhere near the cornbread. There is one local home cooking restaurant – Farmers’ Market – where I always opt for the kind of food I did grow up with. When they have it, my favorite is chopped steak covered in onions and gravy. That wasn’t one of their specials today so I decided to try their fried chicken. It was an excellent choice and while I do enjoy either Popeyes or KFC, this was truly reminiscent of home. Very lightly breaded and fried in hot enough oil to keep it from being greasy. I did have to wait a few minutes though as they had literally pulled the chicken directly from the fryer and I had no intention of eating it with a knife and fork. Since I do have to watch my carbs, I ordered sides of green beans and corn with the intent of bringing the corn home. Their portions are large enough so I had plenty anyway. I’ve never had dessert there, but suspect they probably make good pies. The only thing I find “off” is while they are one of the few places that serve catfish – they don’t have hush puppies. I’ve never quite understood that and the one time my friend asked about it, the young man admitted he didn’t know why they don’t serve them. Another of those mysteries in life.

Days Zipping Past….

It’s obviously been hectic or I would have posted. It’s a combination of things as it often is. There’s no actual let-up until Friday which will make it approximately two months of pretty much non-stop activity. Not that I will have spare time, but rather tasks will be spread out a bit more. Anyway, in the course of having a friend visit, I took her to Everglades City. We hadn’t been for quite some time and unfortunately our favorite place for lunch was closed since it was a Sunday and the other place was closed apparently for good. It looks as if it sustained some damage and was perhaps not re-opened. The assumption is back during Hurricane Irma, but who knows. We popped into the Island Cafe, an old-fashioned kind of place with an ice cream shop in the back part, which is separate from the main dining room. There was a lot of fried food, to include gator nuggets that we passed on. The food was good though, the service friendly, and the ice cream was excellent. We did stop at the famous Clyde Butcher Gallery on the way back and alligators were bellowing even though there weren’t any in the parking lot this time.

The fence is finally finished and if the freezer repair guy has ordered the correct parts, that will be taken care of Friday. Fortunately, it still functions well enough to not impact the refrigerator and we got everything moved to the one in the garage. It’s a filter issue apparently designed so it takes a repairman to get to it. He pulled all the drawers out and in truth, they did need to be cleaned, so I suppose that’s a good thing. That task simply hasn’t been at the top of my priority list. Ah well, so it goes.

Catching Up and Photos….

Back when we planned the Paris trip, several events which are now jammed into June were not on the calendar. That does make it a bit tricky to try and fit everything in whether in prep before departing or for the rest of the month. And of course, the repair of our fence which was supposed to occurred the end of March is just getting started today. What a mess that will be. However, since we haven’t been able to do anything about re-landscaping the back yard, once this is done it should last a very long time. Yes, that comes with an assumption that Mother Nature doesn’t tear through and we all know that possibility very much exists.

I do finally have some photos to post. I’m skipping the Eiffel Tower one as everyone knows it. The “Thinker” at the Rodin Museum is almost as well known, but the roses are lovely. The dome of the Galleries Lafayette is truly breath-taking and the Water Lily Garden at Giverny is wonderful. You may have already seen these on Facebook.

It is a trip we will both long remember. Who knows if we’ll take grandchildren some day? And if we do, who knows what all will have changed?

One angle The Water Lily Pond in Monet Gardens

Outside the Rodin Museum

Partial View of the Dome Galleries Lafayette

Home Again…..

We had no delays in getting home although with a morning flight, we also didn’t winding up sleeping on the nine hour trip to Miami. We watched a lot of movies. “Mary Queen of Scots” is very well done if you haven’t seen it and “Bohemian Rhapsody” did bring back memories of those days. Even though  we haven’t yet signed up with Uber or Lyfte, a friend did recommend a young man who does a driving service. He was very polite, a nice car, reasonable rates and communicated well as we made our way through the process. And speaking of process; Hubby and I have Global Entry, but Sis doesn’t. MIA has installed a lot of kiosks for passport scanning as another expedited way of getting through Passport Control. It works well and there is no charge. There is also a Mobile App you can download for those who prefer that type of approach.

Sis is here until I/we take her to the airport mid-afternoon tomorrow so we will do a couple of local things we didn’t have a chance to do when she came in. As much as I’d like to run her down to Key Largo or Islamorada, doing so on any weekend, and especially Father’s Day weekend, is not happening. We had enough traffic in Paris. We might go to La Playa at Bayfront Park for lunch tomorrow – we haven’t been since it re-opened and it isn’t likely to be as crowded as all the “regular” places for Father’s Day.

Okay, I do still have things to catch up on and will parcel them out, knowing the upcoming week will be definitely super busy. This is one of those months when all three boards I sit on have their monthly meeting in the same week.


Paris Trip, Day 7……..

The weather report for this morning didn’t really match what we woke up to although I had already scratched the idea of going to Montmarte. As it turns out, taxis are more difficult to find than expected as they don’t have taxi stands at all the major attractions. Since Hubby and I usually take the Metro/RER (light internal rail), I simply never paid much attention to taxis. I was very concerned that we could get to Montmarte, but have difficulty in getting back and that is one place for sure access to the Metro is a long and mostly lengthy climb. (Not precisely uphill both ways, but not easy no matter which direction).

Anyway, since Sis is a great Monet lover, we went to L’Orangerie Museum in the Jardin de Tuilleries with the idea of strolling through the garden later. The Museum itself is small compared to others, yet it is impressive. The two rooms with the eight massive panels of Monet’s Water Lilies are indeed something to see. Done in the latter part of his life when he was struggling with eyesight, they “track” the hours from sunrise to sunset, not in any chronological sense, but in the play of light. Having now visited Giverny and seen the gardens and water lily pond in their natural light, it’s easy to see how he was inspired. How he managed the extraordinary blending of colors and form is another matter altogether. In fact, the pieces were not placed on public display until a few months after his death. He no doubt has been around in spirit as people have absorbed this very special work. Much of the rest of the museum houses an amazing collection from Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume, men who contributed immeasurably to the art world in the patronage of Picasso, Matisse, etc., In gifting 145 pieces to the museum, there are also a large number of Renoir and Cezanne, so it crosses the decades. A special exhibit on display was August Macke and Franz Marc, German artists who became friends and were part of the post-Impressionist, avante-garde group who brought us “contemporary” leading into “modern” art.

As we exited the museum, wandering in the garden didn’t seem to be a good idea and in managing to snag a taxi, we also experienced a traffic jam which of course is part of Paris life. Thus ends our museum trek for the trip.

Paris Trip, Day 6….

The weather did turn although the rain held off until we were inside Musee D’Orsay and broke a couple more times as we made it to lunch after and were unsuccessful in finding a cab until we took the RER to Les Invalides where we picked one up. But first, the museum. The Musee D’Orsay was built as an impressive train station for the 1900 World’s Fair. There was also a lovely hotel and incredibly ornate grand reception hall. It was ultimately turned into a museum in the late 1970s and is quite large. It is where the main Impressionist exhibit is up on the fifth floor. There are others on display also, but by the time you finish the fifth floor you generally need a break. Many other periods of arts are shown, lots of sculpture and periodic special exhibits. Sis took plenty of photos and of course it was special interest to see Monet paintings of Giverny since we were there yesterday. The Reniors are always a sight and Pissaro is featured among others. We did get a bit of a late start because Sis was extra tired from yesterday’s adventure and we decided not to roam in the rest of the museum.

We went to the nearby café for a light lunch and it was very tight quarters. Fortunately, the place was only about two-thirds full. Sis had what was basically a chef’s salad and I had the vegetable soup as I had not done so yet. As we make our way through some of the French “musts”, she had tarte tartin for dessert and hot chocolate since the rain had also dropped the temperature. It had been a long time since she had hot chocolate made from scratch.

Even though it will be my third (her second) time to go to the Alsace restaurant close to here for dinner, the hotel had a fairly limited menu and we dined here last night. There is an Italian place where we had lunch the other day, but Sis isn’t enthused with that idea, so we’ll play tomorrow night by ear. It will be our final night for dinner and I may ask the hotel staff.



Paris Trip, Day 5…..

Okay, today’s excursion to Giverny was the one absolute no matter what else we did. This was also the only thing planned I have never done. Interestingly, the “day trip” is actually only 1.5 hours on-site and with the crowds. It isn’t really enough time to do the gardens and the house. However, Sis has a couple of books with all the rooms of the house and I didn’t really care so we were fine. The Monet Gardens are open April through I think it’s October which means the 600,000 annual visitors are crammed into the space of months. Everyone is “funneled”, although “tunneled” is a more accurate term as you go through a tunnel from the parking lot/public areas and emerge into the gardens. You walk along defined paths and split multiple ways, all of which ultimately lead you to the gift shop which was a studio. By the way, the prices are actually quite reasonable in the shop. No, I didn’t buy anything.

So, Giverny is 45 miles from Paris, just as you cross into Normandy. With traffic it’s 1.5-2 hours time. Our driver, a pleasant young man quite experienced in both maneuvering dicey Paris traffic and the area, explained there are numerous B&Bs in Giverny and if you want to truly enjoy it, he suggests you book well enough in advance to stay 1-2 nights there to share in the small village and get into the gardens before the throngs arrive. I can see this as a possibility, especially for a photographer who needs morning light and fewer than hundreds of people at a time.

Anyway, it was lovely, I will leave a good review with Trip Advisor and I did get some good photos I will later post. Sis loved it. We had planned to have dinner at the hotel and did so. Last night (or rather this morning) was a terrible bout of insomnia, so I am really dragging. More tomorrow.

Paris Trip, Day 4….

There are certain things I had told Sis we would do that sounded okay to her, but she didn’t understand exactly what they were and today was one of them. For those who already know the Galleries Lafayette, bear with me; for those who don’t, you can share the surprise. Opened in 1912, it has a magnificent domed structure with marvelous interiors of glass, beautiful décor and in adding modernizations, they have maintained their line-up of all the major names in shopping as well as added trendy new ones. You flip the pages of Vogue or any fashion magazine and in all likelihood, every ad you see will have a place in Galleries Lafayette. Since we are staying on Champs Elysees, we certainly have now had access to any of the high-end shopping we might wish to do. Not that we do that, but the opportunity is available between the two places. We did not do the gourmet store; that might have been too difficult to resist. Sis did find some mascara she’d been looking for and there was some indulgence in presents for grandchildren. It’s not as if I need anything for myself.

We had quite a late lunch at an Italian place close the hotel and we’ll go the Alsace restaurant tonight. I’ve held off so far on my steak au poivre and suspect it will be tomorrow. Yesterday was really hard on walking for Sis and today was much better. Tomorrow is the day trip to Giverny which will be a first for me as well. It’s a min-bus though rather than the big tour bus so I have hope of a manageable group instead of a big crowd. The weather has improved and we of course have high hopes for tomorrow. I haven’t looked at the forecast as I don’t want to possibly jinx things.