Category Archives: France

History?

Terrace view

I mentioned that we had visited a number of historical sights during our July trip beginning with our excursion to Dachau. In Salzburg we took the funicular up to the ancient (700s!) Hohensalzburg fortress which was pretty interesting. The walk from the funicular stop to the very top of the hill was a good leg stretcher softened by a terraced cafe with a phenomenal view and a tasty local wine (gruner veltliner) cold and by the glass.

View from the cannon.

Liam and I split at the entrance to the fortress and went off on our casual, self guided tours. There was an animated presentation which provided an entertaining introduction to visitors, but I wasn’t there to take notes, I just wanted to walk around and take it in. I’d like to think I’m more an absorber than a consumer when it comes to travel. After about an hour of poking around in a mostly disoriented fashion, Liam and I met up and walked back down the hill to explore other parts of the city.

We planned a visit for the following day to the Salzburg Museum which had an exhibit about the rise of nationalism and Austria’s involvement with the Nazi party in the lead up to WWII. Liam and I thought that was a timely topic, so went to check it out. The exhibit was, as you might imagine, very dark. The items displayed told a story of complacency and resignation more than culpability and it bummed me out. Like I said, quietly dark. I couldn’t help but feel like our country is so fractured that we’re susceptible to the same thing these days. Dark.

Traveling in Europe, as an American, has always been an interesting experience. I’ve generally found that young people (those less than 14 or 15) were always very taken by Americans, loving our individuality and style, while those in the 20s and 30s looked upon us more as simple, irresponsible children. In my recent trips to Europe as a 50+ year old woman, the attention has once again morphed and it feels like I’m now being considered as someone who just might have something interesting to say. Maybe.Sitting in Charles de Gaulle airport, I didn’t feel interesting at all when the television displayed the president of the United States along with his tweet claiming himself as everyone’s “favorite president.” Mon dieu! His tweets make me long for the days of a maximum of 140 characters. The number of lies and exaggerations he fits into a single tweet are, as of yet, the only examples I’ve seen of his exceptionalism.

It’s a weird thing when you realize that you don’t have the words in English, much less French, to express how concerned you are about the direction in which your country is going or how much a display in an museum spooked you.

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Listen

Some people find it odd that “my” library is at the end of the wing where the music department has some of their classrooms. When the air conditioning is on we close the doors, but for much of the year sounds from the band room make their way to my desk and I love it. Wednesday afternoons the jazz band plays and it’s my favorite day of the week to listen. Our teachers are so good at what they do – exposing students to music, cultivating their talents, inspiring their efforts. It truly never ceases to amaze me.

This time of year, our students are working hard to prepare for various concerts and performances and the song selections include graduation favorites such as Pomp and Circumstance, a tune that never fails to make me feel nostalgic. Hearing this song is an audible reminder that the school year is almost over, that it’s time to mark both an ending and a beginning, and it is music to my ears.

The clear delineation of the calendar is one the greatest perks of teaching for me. I’m the kind of person who appreciates a new academic year, a new semester, a new quarter, a new week and a new day because each of these milestones comes with an opportunity to start anew. I’ve always loved flipping a calendar to an entirely new month of days and a brand new notebook never failed to inspire me to attempt to do my best work. There’s always a fresh beginning for which to look forward, something different coming our way.

In the past couple of days two people whom I’ve admired and been inspired by, found themselves unable to survive the thought of another day of living. They were in a place so dark and so sad that they couldn’t see that the next day, or even the very next moment, provided another chance to start again.

As we get ready to witness the commencement of another class of students and send them off to their next life chapter, I worry that we’re creating a culture where music and books aren’t thought to belong together, but success, depression and suicide are. What are we teaching these kids? When do they get to connect – with one another and not the WiFi network? We have dozens of devices designed to facilitate conversation but no one’s really communicating.

We need to slow it down and start listening better. This is a health crisis and we can do better. Listen.

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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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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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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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