Friday, December 6, 2013

More Travel Adventures in Paris

Well, just when we thought our wild travel adventures in Paris where over for this trip we discovered Murphy had other plans.  In essence he put us in the middle of one of the largest traffic jams I’ve ever seen on the Place de la Concorde.

It started innocently enough.  We took a bus to a designer boutique in Places des Vosges where Sherry had seen a purse she liked.  Then it was to another bus, which runs straight down Rue de Rivoli to Concorde.  Our goal this time was to stop at Angelina’s to pick up a Christmas present.  Both of these trips went off without the slightest hint of what was to come.

After Angelina’s the plan was to have lunch at Restaurant Voltaire.  This required crossing the Seine which should be easy enough.  However, this is where the Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries are located so there are fewer bridges.  Our best bet was to finish walking towards Concord and catch the bus from there.  Incidentally, this is the same bus we took home on Thursday.

Our first sign of trouble occurred as we walked by the Hotel Le Meurice.  There were lots of police and black sedans indicating that some dignitary would be traveling soon by motorcade.  This is not a big deal since dignitaries stay there all the time.

Then we arrive at Place de la Concorde.  What a frigging mess it was!!!  There were cars trying to go every direction and police every where desperately trying to direct traffic. Soon, the reason for all this chaos became crystal clear as motorcade after motorcade after motorcade made their way around the traffic circle heading towards the Presidential Palace.

When we get to the bus stop you can see they are not letting buses in to that area.  So, we walk to another stop that is also blocked. Finally, we walk across the Seine because traffic was going nowhere while police motorcycles with full sirens blaring seemed to be everywhere.

Across the river we managed to flag down a taxi.  When we told where we wanted to go he just kind of laughed and told us good luck with that!  The traffic in Concorde was impacting traffic in all directions for miles so he felt confident that no driver would try and take us through that mess.

So, we caught another bus for home, moving away from Concorde, and ate at another bistro we know that has great food. Once seated, I realized that it had taken us nearly 2-hours to get from Angelina’s to our table by the window at Bistro Relais Odeon.

Once we were back at the apartment I did some surfing on the web and discovered the cause of it all.  The headline reads - French President François Hollande on Friday hosts nearly 40 African leaders at a Paris summit on peace and security. Yep, that’ll do it.

It was not the way we planned the day to go but in the end we had a great meal in Paris so I’m not complaining.  It’s just another example of being willing to roll with the punches in the City of Light.

AU revoir!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Misadventures in Paris – Part II

This is the continuation of Misadventures in Paris – Part I.

You may remember that the concert was the Four Seasons by Vivaldi.  We did some quick searching on the web and discover this concert lasts about 45 minutes.  So, we choose to have dinner afterwards.  I mean this is Paris after all and finding someplace to eat dinner at 9:30 on a Saturday would not be a problem.  We even had a plan.  After the concert, we would hit the closest brasserie and have French onion soup with a side of fries and some nice red wine.

As we rush through the front door, we saw something about the Ave Maria on the poster. That’s odd.  Our tickets only mention the Four Seasons.  This is what we are discussing as the musicians take the stage.

However, this is a little bewildering as well.  You see, there are clearly 4 chairs and 4 music stands set up but 5 musicians and a woman in a formal gown come onto the stage.   As they reach the center, 4 musicians take their places and the other musician and the woman keep walking and disappear into the shadows.

Finally, the music starts and it’s lovely.  But it’s not the Four Seasons.   After three songs, the woman comes out and performs the Ave Maria in full operatic soprano.  To be honest, I am not a fan of this style but we both love the Ave Maria (we played it at our wedding) so it’s all good.

However, after the Ave Maria she performed another song.  Then another and another.  After 5 long songs, she took her final bow and the last musician came on stage.  At last we get the Four Seasons started and it was absolutely beautiful.

Well, the first three seasons were good.  We left before the fourth since it’s now after 10:00 and we are starving and it was time to implement the last part of the plan.

We head out the front door and beeline for the closest brasserie.  As soon as we sit down we have a feeling we choose badly.  We were right.  Our soup had no flavor at all.  It was mostly broth with a few onions thrown in for good measure.  The only true flavor came from the burnt cheese on top.  And the fries.  They were very greasy and had obviously been frozen.

After spending a lot of money for pretty piss-poor food we found the closest Metro, bought new one-way tickets and headed home. On the way we passed Rue de Buci and the Café de Paris, which is one of our favorite local restaurants.

We sat down and promptly order an assortment of desserts.  They were exquisite and did a fine job finishing off a tiring evening with a wonderful flourish.

There you have it.  Challenging transportation, unadvertised changes to the concert, and horrible food can be found in Paris. The trick is to simply proclaim c’est la vie and roll with the punches until it finally gets better. And that usually starts with dessert.

Au revoir!

P.S. I was looking at the bus map today and discovered that the 24 bus we were waiting for actually does not come down that street so we were waiting for a bus that would never come.  I have no idea why the number 24 bus logo appeared on the stop along with the 21, 69, 72 and 81.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Misadventures in Paris – Part I

You don’t have to hang out with Sherry and I very long to discover we love Paris.  We’re happy to regale you with story after story of the great times and adventures we’ve shared in the City of Light.  But, before you get the misimpression we only see Paris through rose-colored glasses I can tell you that we’ve had a few misadventures as well.

Last night was one of those misadventures.

It all started around 6:00 pm when I posting on FB that we were in the motel where Oscar Wilde died on the day of his death – November 30th.  Suddenly Sherry remembered we had tickets to a concert that night to hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at L'église de la Madeleine, which is one of the many beautiful churches in Paris.

No worries since the concert started at 8:30.  At 7:30 we catch the 95 bus near the apartment.  From there we’ll change to the 72 bus and finally the 24 bus. We settle in for the short ride, which takes us right in front of the Louvre and that’s where it starts to go a little sideways on us.

We got to enjoy the view of the Louvre much longer than intended because traffic was a mess.  We are finally off the bus and ready for the next leg when we realize it’s nearly 8:00 already.  So, we ditch the buses for the metro and that’s when our plan really took a turn for the worse.

Earlier that day we purchased full-day Metro tickets, which work on the buses as well.  However, I bent both tickets so now they had a crease and could not be read.  Merde!!! Back up to the buses, which normally don’t require you to show your ticket even though legally you’re supposed to.

We get to the bus stop and receive a pleasant surprise.  The 24 bus stops here and that means we can skip the 72 bus all together to save a little time.  And with that we feel like we’re back on track.

As we stand there waiting we see a bus approach.  It’s a 72 (of course it is).  Should we board it? Nope, we’ll wait for the 24.  Then comes a string of buses that’s almost comical. A 69, 81, 72, 69, 21, 81 and 21. Every bus that passes that is not a 24 raises our stress levels just a bit because at this point we are running out of time.

Time for a new plan.  At 8:20 we’re climbing into a taxi after finally giving up on the bus.  Of course now the taxi is stuck in heavy Saturday night traffic.  Still, he did a great job of navigating his way through town and we handed our tickets to the young man at the door at precisely 8:30.  Three minutes later, the chamber quartet walks onto the stage and the concert began.

However, this is not the end of the evening’s misadventures so stay tuned for part 2 to see how the night unfolds.

Au revoir!

Saturday, November 23, 2013


The next travel adventure for Sherry and I starts on Thanksgiving.  While, most Americans are stuffing themselves with turkey and other great holiday fare, we’ll be stuffing ourselves into seats 12K and 12L on Air France flight AF083.  Destination – Paris!!!

Eifel TowerWe love vacationing in Europe in general and we travel there as often as possible (which really means as often as we can afford it). However, it seems that we frequently end up back in Paris.  As a result, we’ve gotten to know the city pretty well.  Particularly the 6th arrondissement where we like to stay.

Of course, at this point many of our friends and work colleagues know about the trip.  The reactions we get from people when they hear we’re going to Paris, especially if it’s a new acquaintance who doesn’t know our history, is usually the same.  It’s usually something like – “I would love to go to Paris one day.”

Cafe SceneWhat happens next really intrigues me as they begin to daydream about the City of Lights.  They’ll talk about seeing the Eifel Tower or other famous sites.  They’ll talk about art and culture and food. They’ll longingly daydream about sipping wine at sunny cafes as the city begins to seep into every corner of their being.  And, they talk about all of this like Paris is on the moon.

For some reason this cracks me up.  I understand if you can’t afford the trip.  While it’s not as expensive as people think, it can be a little pricey.  But other excuses such as I don’t speak the language, the flight’s too long, I don’t have the time, etc., are just that – excuses!

So, is there a moral to this story.  Perhaps a little one.  Why spend time dreaming about an adventure when you can simply go have one.  If you want to go to Paris, or London or Tokyo or Bora Bora or wherever, quit dreaming about it and go.  If you do, you’ll discover the memories are much better than the dreams.

Au revoir!

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Beauty of Rain

What is it about rain?  People seem to love it or hate it.  While some romanticize the notion of laying in bed on a Sunday morning and listening to it rain others complain about ruined plans and getting wet. I can honestly say I’m in the first group.  I love the rain.

While there are many ways to enjoy rain, one of my favorites is to simply sit at a small table with a cup of coffee and enjoy the peace and serenity that comes with a gentle rain. It doesn’t matter if the table is in my kitchen or at the Café de la Mairie in Paris. I am also just as content with a glass of wine or a deep rich cup of hot chocolate.

We have some great state parks near my house and I absolutely love hiking or running through them on a rainy day.  To begin with, there are a lot less people so it’s easy to lose yourself in the beauty of nature. I seem to be more in touch with the world around me in ways that are difficult to articulate.  I enjoy riding my bike in the rain and feeling like a kid again much like I did last Saturday (read Feeling like a child for more on that adventure). 

I adore Paris in the rain.  I don’t what it is but something about the rain really brings out the essence of that beautiful city for me.  Whether it’s sitting in a café or strolling hand in hand down the Boulevard Saint-Germain with Sherry, I have this overwhelming feeling of being content. 

Sherry and I are going back to Paris this November and one of the plans is to hire a professional photographer do take some outdoor portraits.  Since you never know what the weather has in store that time of year we are preparing for both blue skies with sunshine and grey skies with rain.  Personally, I hoping for rain.

Au revoir!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Brunch at La Valencia Hotel

Sherry and I decided we needed a spring time get away this year.  As we were trying to figure out where to go, the perfect solution presented itself.  Sherry was attending a conference in San Diego in the days leading up to Easter so we decided to spend 4 days in La Jolla.  Our plan was simple.  It was to be 4-days of relaxing, eating, drinking and (for me) writing.

IMG_0818Fortunately, we realized this was Easter weekend very early in our plans.  This meant we were able to look the perfect spot for our Easter Sunday Brunch.  After some extensive web searching we choose the brunch offered at La Valencia Hotel where in addition to excellent food we were promised lovely views of the Pacific Ocean.  A few clicks later and our reservations are set.

We left the house we rented on a gorgeous Easter morning and took the short 10-minute walk to La Valencia.  As we arrived you could see all of the buffet stations set up in the open court yard. We checked in a little early but our table was ready and we were shown to our seats.

IMG_0820We were lucky enough to sit outside where we could fully enjoy the brochure-worthy view.  We were awaken from our trance when our server mentioned that the brunch price included bottomless mimosas. After that it was “game on” as we headed to the buffet stations.

IMG_0823I won’t try and recount all of the foods they offered but it was a beautiful selection of breakfast and lunch items.  Nor will I trouble you with everything I tasted. I will tell you that it was all truly fabulous.  Of course, we saved plenty of room for dessert, which offered selections that were both creative and delicious.

IMG_0824After spending about 2-hours eating and drinking, it was time to head out for more adventures.  We walked down to La Jolla Cove and watched the sea lions play and frolic in a crystal clear ocean.  Then, we shopped our way back to the house were we spent the afternoon reading and relaxing.  It was a wonderful way to spend Easter. 

It was one of those days you wish you could relive again and again.

IMG_0821Well, it just so happens that the conference Sherry attended is already booked for the week before Easter next year. So, somewhere between the mimosas and bunny tails (one of the desserts) we decided to come back.  I’ll be happy to let you know how is was the second time around.  Until then . . .

Au revoir!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Flashback of Love

This Saturday, I headed out for my usual morning ride. As a meandered my way down to the ride start in Petaluma, I rode past the Church of the Oaks in Cotati.  It just looked so perfect that I had to stop and take a picture.  That also gave me a moment to reminisce about how this lifelong story began.

You see, Sherry and I were married in the Church of the Oaks. Well, at least that’s were our California wedding ceremony occurred.  The first ceremony was in Stateline, Nevada.  Allow me to elaborate.

Sherry and I were already engaged, and living together, when we decided to elope to Nevada one night in August.  The plan was to use the increase in my housing allowance (I was in the Coast Guard at the time) to pay for the “real” wedding, which was scheduled for the following June. So, we piled into our Suzuki Samurai and headed for Nevada.

That first ceremony is actually a story onto itself. Let me just say we were married at Love’s Wedding Chapel by a guy who could be best described as more animatron than human.  I don’t think he could talk and move his head at the same time. The whole thing was so surreal that I clearly remember everything about that day.

IMG_0796Fast-forward to a short 9-months later and you have our second ceremony at the Church of the Oaks.  There were only 3 people who knew this was the second wedding because they attended the first ceremony in Stateline.  That’s because we didn’t tell anyone about eloping.  Not even the minister (or Sherry’s mother for that matter).  We actually have 2 marriage licenses. One from Nevada and one from California.

Of course, we did tell everyone eventually and they all thought it was a lovely and charming story.

What a wonderful way to start our lives together. It also makes for a great story, which is still unfolding to this day. After 27 years together it’s pretty awesome that our love of live, and each other, will continue to add chapters to our story for many years to come.  

Au revoir!