Category Archives: France

Who are you?

Yeah, you. My reader. It’s been more than 7 years, 2 domains and a divorce since DelSo was born. Over the years I’ve shared a lot of my life and self here, in print. You, as a reader, have come to know me on some level from my words. What makes you return here (assuming you’re not new around these parts) and read what I write? Let me remind you of some of what I’ve related to you in the hope that you might feel inclined to share with me – who you are, reader? Why are you here?

There have been so many miles – more plane rides than I could have ever imagined, along with  runs and races and road trips. I’ve  explored cities with my boys and my girlfriends and solo. My feet have run in a half dozen different countries and probably about the same number of states.

My home has evolved from a house with two full-time parents to one of three part-time children. There have been physical improvements, rooms repurposed and painted, new rugs and furniture rearranged. It feels different. After a refinance or two, I know it’s mine.

I’ve written about books I’ve read and movies and concerts I’ve seen. Increasingly, politics and my dismay with our current leadership have been topics I’ve felt compelled to write about.

My children and the challenges of being a parent frequently provide fodder for posts. While the joys outweigh the frustrations, parenthood remains a roller coaster ride that keeps me on the edge of my seat with a scream threatening to escape. It’s a heart racing ride.

Sometimes I cook or bake and post recipes and photos of the fruits of my labors. Food and wine are a big part of my life and I’ve happily shared my experiences with you.  Oh – and there’s that wine bar that I own.

There have been times when I wrote with sadness or anger, but I think I mostly write from a place of understanding and acceptance. Balance and moderation are woven throughout much of what I write.

Health and wellness have been covered and the miracle of menopause has been mentioned.  The heartbreak of addiction and the threat of cancer have been present. I’ve learned to ski and have found bliss in pigeon pose in a room heated to 100+ degrees.

It’s all here – my life.  Not perfect, not necessarily what I ever imagined it to be, but a life that I feel grateful for in a city that I have come to love.

Will you tell me why you visit my life?

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Escaping with Breaking Bad

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Isn’t it pretty to think so?

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time or are acquainted with me in real life, you know I don’t watch a lot of television. I just don’t have time for sitting around, especially during the academic year, and really only justify indulging myself with a couple of hours of viewing when I’ve got a basket or two of laundry to fold. Except for last week, that is.

Last week I took solace in the ugliness of methamphetamine and drug cartels and the harsh desert landscape of America’s southwest. I fled our world of black people dying at the hands of police and police officers dying by the guns of black citizens. I successfully ran away from a truck filled with hatred at a time when dozens failed to make the very same escape. I avoided the ugly rhetoric of politics, complete with bigotry and racism and ignorance, by immersing myself in a society devoid of political parties. I chose, for more hours than I’d like to admit, to reside in a place that somehow, perhaps because of its very distance from my own personal reality, seemed safer than the world that I find myself currently living in.

Years after most Breaking Bad aficionados, I watched the series finale. Loose ends were tied up, comeuppance was dealt out, closure was achieved. It was satisfying.   I’m going to miss it.

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Filed under Europe, France, musings, Observations, politics, television, Uncategorized

Holidaze 2015

Despite having sent out 95 holiday cards, I still feel as if the holidays passed by without nearly enough time for me to make contact with all of the people I had hoped. Shit, I guess I can say the same thing about the entire year. Sometimes I think that TIME is the ultimate 4-letter word.

As I was running yesterday, I started inventorying the year, thinking of places I’ve been, thoughts which have stuck with me and little things which have brought great satisfaction. It was a very full year.

• Taking on the restaurant has been a life changing endeavor. I’m learning so much – about the responsibilities of running a business, how to ask for help when I need it, time management and what my own priorities are.
• Although I am spending less time just hanging out with my guys, it feels like we are actually seeing more of each other. What I mean is, I’m not merely Mom anymore and my sons are no longer just children. We’re each viewing facets of one another that may not have previously been revealed – they’ve become more independent and are developing an understanding about who I am as a business owner and hospitality professional. It’s pretty damn cool.
• I bought a new raincoat, kind of an anorak, prior to my France trip in April that was exactly what I wanted at far less than I expected to pay. That doesn’t happen often.
• The cold doesn’t really bother me, but I need sunshine.
• As far as that France trip goes, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it. Seeing the beaches of Normandy and the sights of Paris with my oldest son was an unforgettable experience.
• Speaking of beaches, our two weeks on Lieutenant’s Island in Wellfeet were memorable in numerous ways. I was so lucky to spend 2 weeks with my favorite fellas, something I don’t expect to be able to do again for quite some time.
• I saw so much great music in 2015! Highlights were Jack White, Robert Plant (2x!), The Black Keys, Alabama Shakes and Government Mule’s amazing Dark Side set. It’s going to be hard for 2016 to rise above that lineup.
• Getting to my hometown, not once but twice, in 2015 was a real treat. Celebrating a 35 year class reunion and an afternoon spent on a paddleboard on the lake were both fun times.
• I ran a half marathon!
• Miraculously enough, I scored the perfect skinny jeans, like the raincoat, they came from Gap. Online shopping has become the norm for me and when I receive an item that actually fits perfectly, it’s kind of like hitting the jackpot.
• I made my way to NYC a few times, mixing it up by traveling with a special friend, my girlfriends and family. It remains my favorite city in the world.
• Closing out 2015 by spending 4 days with my most fun friends in Nashville was the perfect punctuation to a year filled with new experiences, challenges and accomplishments.
• I can’t wait to see where 2016 takes me. Hope you’ll come along for the ride!

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Filed under Boys, Cape Cod, concerts, Europe, Events, Exercise, family, France, friends, holidays, Music, Nashville, NYC, Observations, Random, running, travel, vacation

Accepting death by living

imageHow many moments have you had in your life when you thought to yourself, “If I die right now, I’m ok with it.” One? A dozen? Somewhere in between? I hope you’ve had at least one because it is one of life’s most liberating and unforgettable moments.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had quite few, it seems, as I sit here gathering the memories. Those times I’ve had a complete sense of contentment generally involved being outdoors, probably divided equally between being alone and being with someone I loved. They’re sweet memories I cherish.

The recent events in Paris, a city I visited this past spring, have me thinking about life and living it. There’s no denying it, we exist in a world in which we could lose our life in an unexpected, never imagined, instant. Poof. Boom. Crash.

When I think about the human beings who died Friday night, my ultimate consolation is the thought that at least the now dead were living when they were killed by terrorists. They were dancing and nodding their heads to music, they were eating a meal and, perhaps, having a cocktail, they were cheering from the stands at soccer match on a Friday evening . They were living.

That’s all we can do.

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Filed under Europe, France, News, Observations

Sleeping around – France

In my 25+ years of traveling around Europe, I’ve slept in quite a variety of places. My very first trip back in 1988 provided me with both my most crude and my most refined accommodations; specifically the floor of a ferry crossing the North Sea and the lovely hotel in London where my friends and I were ultimately put up after our flight home was overbooked. The bathtub from that semi-posh place remains a luxurious memory of what was a very low-budget trip.

Since that time, I’ve stayed in an array of places – bed and breakfasts, a botel (a hotel on a boat), pensions, dormitories, a villa, apartments, small boutique hotels and larger chains. I’ve never had a single dreadful experience. After hearing a number of things about Airbandb, I decided to give their service a shot. I was not disappointed.

63d77637_originalMy Paris needs were kind of specific (3 beds, 2 bathrooms, near the Metro and with wifi), but not unreasonable. I wasn’t particular about which arrondissement we were in, but parking would be a bonus since I had family driving from Germany to join us. Here’s the apartment we ended up selecting for our stay. The area was reminiscent of the London Docklands or Battery Park City in Manhattan – not in the middle of everything, yet easily accessible. The flat was super modern, yet warm and the bathrooms were spacious and clean. It was a bit pricy (we paid a total of $616 for 3 nights), but when divided by two, it was a downright deal, particularly when you factor in the secure and free parking.

Selecting an apartment in Normandy was a challenge because I really didn’t know where to stay – coast? City? Country?9a9bea81_original I ultimately made the decision to stay in Bayeux because it had survived WW II relatively unscathed and there was a train station. The apartment I chose was a wonderful blend of old world charm and modern amenities in a central location. There were 2 bedrooms, a loft with a large bed and skylights, a washing machine, a contemporary kitchen and numerous small terraces. There was only one bathroom, but the WC and bathroom were separate facilities. Again, we had a parking space for my Uncle’s car and were able to easily walk to bistros, shops and historic sites. The total for our stay was $372, again divided by two.

We spent our last two nights in Paris at a hotel. I booked the rooms in advance using Hotwire and spent a total of $396, my share being $198. Our hotel, The Mercure, was in a super convenient spot near a train station and numerous Metro stops. The neighborhood was lively with no lack of venues for entertainment, eating or drinking. Our 4th floor room was generously sized and had a table and chairs as well as a small fridge. My son was very impressed with the speakers throughout the room (including in the WC) which prevented him from missing a moment of the BBC station he enjoyed in the morning. Personally, I loved the large window overlooking the busy street and our ability to walk to the Eiffel Tower. It was exactly what I was seeking at a more than reasonable price.

For 8 nights, $600 seems like a bargain amount to spend on accommodations.  Airbandb  delivered on their promise and I’ve already begun browsing their site for a potential place to stay next year when I go away with my middle son. His pick? Portugal and Spain. Tips, anyone?

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Filed under Europe, France, Recommendations, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

My Paris reading list

As I considered what reading material to bring along prior to my recent trip, I reflected on books I had read in the past which related to Paris. The first title that came to mind was Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, which has been a favorite for more than twenty years. The romanticism of that era (the 1920s) never fails to grab me and I was really happy to have reread that particular book just last year.

On a related note, The Paris Wife tells the same tale that Hemingway shares albeit from the perspective of his first wife, Hadley. The feminine point of view, expressed in a historical fiction narrative, is heartbreakingly enlightening and well worth reading.

Going way back in years, the Jim Morrison biography, No One Here Gets Out Alive, provided the perfect inspiration for a visit to the cemetery where Mr. Mojo is spending his eternity. The fulfillment of a teenage promise to myself was well realized on Easter morning as my son and I tramped around the beautiful Cimetière du Père Lachaise, map in hand, searching for the Lizard King.

For this trip, however, I wanted something I had not yet read. Doing a quick keyword search in the library catalog (using Paris and fiction) I came up with a number of options including Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Painted Girls. Published in 2013, this historical fiction novel was the perfect choice for my trip and I really enjoyed the author’s blend of fact and fiction.

Edgar Degas – Little Dancer Aged Fourteen

Set in the later part of the 19th century, this story tells the tale of three impoverished sisters living with their widowed mother, a neglectful absinthe addict. With limited prospects, the eldest daughter, an outspoken and fierce protector of her younger siblings, attempts to keep her family together through any means possible. She becomes involved with Emile, a young man recognized by all others but herself as a thug. The middle daughter, a hardworking and literate 14 year-old, pursues an opportunity to dance in the Paris Opera where she catches the eye of Edgar Degas who hires her to pose for him in his studio. The youngest daughter, who possesses a true calling to dance, eventually achieves success in the dance world, but her path has been paved by the efforts and exertions of both of her sisters providing her with the least difficult life of the three.

All of the characters are based upon real people and the author has cleverly woven together two different stories into one rich tapestry of life in Paris during the 1870s. Buchanan paints a rich picture of poverty, society, justice and family and I completely enjoyed this novel. C’est bon!

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Filed under Books, Europe, favorites, France

Getting around – Paris

When I’m in a new city, I like to walk as much as possible. In my mind, it makes it easier for me get my bearings and it helps me to see as much as possible of a new place. That being said, our Paris accommodations weren’t as central as they might have been and we needed to rely upon public transportation to get where we wanted to be. Fortunately, Paris has some excellent options.

We arrived in the early afternoon after traveling for nearly 14 hours. I was a bit foggy from the Valium I had taken and I simply wanted to get to our Airbandb* in the Boulogne- Billancourt neighborhood. Prior to flying, I had downloaded the Uber app and gotten a 50 euro (about $54) estimate for the ride. It was a bit of an indulgence, but ultimately was a good value for the nearly one-hour, door to door ride. After collecting our luggage, I opened the app and let Uber know we were ready to be picked up.  Within minutes our car had arrived and we were on our way. It was my first Uber experience and it was positive.

For our remaining days in Paris we relied upon the excellent Metro. We (read Liam, my remarkable adept subway map reader) quickly figured out the system – locate your starting and your ultimate destination. Determine the direction you need to take the train by looking at the last stop in both directions on a particular line, i.e our line, the 9, has end points of Pont de Sevre and Mairie de Montreuil. To go into the city center we went to the platform labeled the latter. There are maps posted and readily available in the stations and, once on the train, all of the cars had maps of the line. The newer train cars have maps with lights to indicate which stop will be next. Easy – and cheap. Tickets are euro 1.80 individually or sold in packs of 10 for about 14 euro. Two of the days we intended to do a lot of exploring so we bought a 2-day pass for less than $10 a person per day.

When it came to time to leave Paris and return to the airport, we were departing from a different, more central location, the Montparnasse neighborhood. We were  much more experienced with getting around, so, instead of a cab ride we went with a combination of Metro and RER trains. While the Metro covers zones 1 and 2 of the city, the RER includes all five zones and it is the way to go if you’re heading to more suburban areas or to either of the airports. We had a couple of extra Metro tickets on hand, so we elected to take the 6 from Gare Montparnasse a couple of stops to Denfert Rochereau where we bought  tickets to Charles de Gaulle at a price of $10 euro each (approximately $11). It was super simple and maybe one day traveling to JFK will be as seamless.

A couple of additional points – the trains are clean and run frequently. I don’t think we ever waited more than 4 minutes on any platform. There are clocks indicating when the next train is expected to arrive and they are amazingly accurate. Also, some of the stations are absolutely beautiful with tile mosaics and other eye appealing design features. I was more than a little obsessed with the street level light and sign indicators. A couple of my favorites are below.

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*More about my Airbandb (excellent!) in a future post

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Filed under Europe, France, Recommendations, travel