Mauritius…C’est Merveilleux

I haven’t written in my blog in a YEAR! It was a memorable one…I got married.

Dawn and Doug's wedding-61

I went to Paris twice, once for my wedding shower which was totally surreal,

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(Me and my Muriels in the Luxembourg Gardens…awww!!)

again in October which was short but sweet.

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I went back to Hawai`i, kind of a working honeymoon, which included a return to the awesome Ha`ena as well as a visit to a live volcano on the Big Island.

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(whew we are HOT!)

I feel remiss in my blogging. So I am making up for it (hopefully, for anyone who cares to read my silly little ramblings) by trying to recount my recent girls’ trip to paradise aka Mauritius, hon.

Backstory, my PPBFF Candace left me and Baltimore behind in August of 2016 to follow her college-age dream of joining the Peace Corps. She’s in Botswana, and although I feared that I wouldn’t see her for two and a half years, I have actually had the privilege to spend some quality time…first in PARIS where she surprised me by coming to my awesome shower, combat boots and backpack in tow. 🙂 And then again in Baltimore.

But I wanted to spend some time with her in her part of the world.  Hmmm, where to go with just a week off?  I thought about Capetown, then Durban…Mozambique…but when Candace mentioned that she knew of some PCV’s (Peace Corps Volunteers) who had gone to Mauritius and had loved it,  Mr. Google convinced me that THIS was the place I wanted to see. So despite never having been to Africa,  Mauritius won my travel roulette, especially when I discovered how cheap it was to stay there. (And for those of you wondering where in the hell is Mauritius, that’s ok, I really wasn’t sure either. It’s an island located about 1,000 miles off the east coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, past Madagascar. In other words, very far from the US!)

I found our lovely apartment on HomeAway, what a bargain!!

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A whopping $39 per night for  two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and a beautiful porch

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where we spent many contented hours drinking coffee and wine, having dinner and chatting away. The landlord was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and his beautiful wife cooked for us 3 nights! Fish and chicken curry (which was THE best food we had the entire time) and Nargisi Kofta, or meatballs stuffed with eggs. And fresh mangoes couertsy of our German neighbors…heavenly.

But of course the star of the show in Trou Aux Biches is the BEACH. We packed our beach bag every morning and walked the lazy five minutes  through town

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to the public beach,

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We spent many many many hours floating in the turquoise water. People the Indian ocean rocks! So peaceful and relaxing.

We used our privilege to snag some deluxe beach chairs courtesy of the Trou Aux Biches resort (that cost almost 10 times more than our sweet abode), until we got kicked off by some Germans. Oh Well….

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We walked the powdery sand in search of street food like mines frites from Pierre’s Noodles, $2.00 of deliciousness

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And Jus de Friuts Frais (sic)

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We also splurged on a lunch in Grand Baie, fresh seafood and margaritas for margarita day! All served with a killer view

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We had steaks and wine from South Africa too, and fresh shrimp curry and Mauritian rum…mmm

We did alter our beach food drink routine to venture into Port Louis for a day, We went to the covered market hoping to find some handcrafted Mauritian art but instead found lots of cheap goods from China. But we made up for it with some really delicious biryani and soup.

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Port Louis was hot and a bit crowded

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So we were happy to have ventured out but so glad to return to our slice of paradise

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We were blessed to have had the opportunity to experience a Hindu festival while we were there. Maha Shivaratri, the festival of Shiva, where thousands of pilgrims walk from all corners of  Mauritius to a sacred lake at Grand Bassin. We walked to the local temple and were allowed to watch some of the preparation ceremonies.

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While I’m sure there are some conflicts and issues amongst the population, from what I could see and what I read all of us could take some lessons on embracing multiculturalism and religious harmony from the Mauritians.  There are no indigenous peoples on Mauritius, just descendants of the slaves who were brought to work the sugar plantations and the people who brought them. (UGH colonialism!) Mauritius was a French colony then the Brits took over, but I read that the French stipulated that French had to remain the official language. Of course I couldn’t understand very much, except when I eavesdropped on some French tourist. Anyway, all that to say that I found the people to be very welcoming and kind, and was happy to see the temples and mosques and churches side by side in the sun.

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We learned some island insider facts from a dear friend of a dear friend of mine who has lived on Mauritius for many years! We met when my friend introduced us in college. It was nice to reconnect and visit her in her lovely home, I neglected to take pictures but merci Lee!!

Sigh. The trip was WAY too short. I miss the warm ocean breezes, the lazy days spent chatting about everything under the sun, the people, the food, and oh my, the sunsets…

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And I especially miss my dear Candace…bisous ma cherie, merci for hanging out with me in paradise. On to our next adventure!!  xoxoxo

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Such a Short Strange Trip It’s Been…Or, How I Was On My Way to Paris and Landed in Hawaii (Metaphorically Speaking)

Whew! It’s been a long time since I posted in this blog. And the events of the past year prove the age-old adage that a LOT can happen in 12 months. Sometimes you coast along in life, the years blending into one another, and then WHAM! You’re hit with life altering changes, all happening in a matter of a few short months. But as someone who is near and dear to my heart these days likes to say, “ain’t that what livin’s all about?” And I answer, as I always do, mais oui.

I left off last January, in Paris, communing with my women. There have been two trips to you know where since then: one last May that was pretty much like the one in January (only warmer),

How I feel in Paris, after my jump master Nancy

How I feel in Paris, after my jump master Nancy

full of time spent with ma best guuurl

Me and ma guuuurl xo

Me and ma guuuurl xo

and my other dear ones in Paris:

Picnic with some fellow hounds...bliss

Picnic with some fellow hounds…bliss

bahn mi lunches in secret gardens, long late night chats over tranches and wine,

It wasn't blue crab but thanks to the smuggled Old Bay it was close enough...

It wasn’t blue crab but thanks to the smuggled Old Bay it was close enough…

crab cake dinners, staying up to greet the dawn, vegemite for breakies, new faces

My favorite bartender in all of Paris. Miss you Salim!

My favorite bartender in all of Paris. Miss you Salim!

and sweet familiar ones.

well, it's the Queen's leg and not her face, but you get my drift...

well, it’s the Queen’s leg and not her face, but you get my drift…

Time spent wandering my streets and filling my soul.

always my picture

sigh, ma belleville

sigh, ma belleville

That lovely, bittersweet trip made me more determined to try to find a way to call Paris home, permanently. I came back full of plots and homework on how to possibly go about it, given to me by one of the ex-pat dear ones (who has since moved even further afield). Yes, I was bound and determined to find a way to move to Paris, sooner rather than later. Nothing was gonna keep me from living my dream!

And of course as these things happen, the universe took me in another direction…one I wasn’t looking for, for sure. And of course in retrospect I am so glad that I opened my ears long enough to hear what the universe was telling me. I didn’t plan on getting into a relationship. Was NOT looking for one. But there must have been some magical Hawaiian spirit calling my name, as one found me.

Me and HB

Me and HB

And it soon became apparent (to me and to pretty much everyone who came in contact with the two of us) that this relationship was meant to be. It has evolved organically. And I didn’t feel like I made a decision to not move to Paris. It just no longer seemed like an option. And that was ok. More than ok.

We had a fine summer. I learned to lash together and to sail a traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoe! (in the Chesapeake Bay, Middle River no less!).

me and the canoe

me and the canoe

there she is in full sail

there she is in full sail

We even swamped once (that’s a tale worthy of its own post). Summer became Fall, which turned to Winter. I moved myself and my things into his lovely apartment in the trees in Mt Washington, And in December, over Christmas, I took him to Paris (trip number 2). thanks to the generosity of some of my above-mentioned dear ones who graciously loaned us their fabulous apartment for a week.

now there are 2

now there are 2

He's digging the vin chaud

He’s digging the vin chaud

carnavalet selfie!

carnavalet selfie!

sigh

sigh

And so, here we are. I’ve learned many things from my Hawaii Boy (as my friends and I used to refer to him, and I still do when it fits). I look forward to learning a whole lot more. He’s one of the sweetest people I know. He brings out the best in me, he encourages me, he loves me and he cares for me. He makes me laugh. We iron out whatever differences and conflicts arise, asap, and get right back on with our sweet life. We’re in the process of buying a sweet house, not in Paris or Hawaii but home, right here in Baltimore City, hon. I am content.

I hope that my dear friends continue to walk the journey with me, as I asked in a previous post. I hope that my story has the intended consequence of helping anyone who cares to read it. Helping in the sense of pointing out just how serendipitous life can be, how important it is to plan, and to have dreams, but how equally important it is to keep an ear out to what the universe it saying.  And I hope that this new year marks a new chapter for everyone in my life, past, present and future. I want nothing but peace and happiness for everyone I know and love.

I’m still scheming on how I can travel and make the most of my life now while I figure out how to retire…just not sure where that will be. Maybe still France, or maybe Hawaii, or maybe I just might stay in my hometown, who knows? I just know that I will do my best to enjoy the ride.

Oui Audrey, Paris is Always a Good Idea…

So, yeah, I went to Paris, again. This time I really needed it. I needed to recharge my batteries, as trite as that sounds. I needed to be in my favorite place, that foreign city that feels like home to me, and I needed to have my soul soothed and I needed to be alone and to think and just to be. And Paris, being her fabulous beautiful difficult wonderful self, said ok, come on home baby, I am here, waiting for you.

And so I cashed in my remaining AA FF miles and I went, and was welcomed into my lovely little cocoon in the 11th arr…thank you Denise for your positive review because it was just perfect. And cheap! I miss this view…

my view

This trip was not a sightseeing mission. I went to one, count em one, museum…and I am not apologizing for it. And even then, I had issues. It was a fabulous exhibit at the Carnavalet (the Museum of the city of Paris, free) called (en francais) Roman d’un Garde-Robe: Le chic d’une Parisienne de la Belle Epoque aux années 30, which loosely translated means the novel of a wardrobe: one Parisian’s fashion from the 1900’s to the 30’s.  It contained the dresses, hats and accessories of a trend setting Parisian who helped launch 2 major French fashion houses, which of course appealed to my fashion loving side. So I enjoyed it very much from that aspect.

Some fashions in the exhibit, which was all in French, so I also practiced...

Some fashions in the exhibit, which was all in French, so I also practiced…

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But, as I reflected later, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after as I couldn’t help but wonder about all the workers who sewed those sequins and toiled to make those dresses and hats. I really wanted to see their pictures, and read their stories. I thought about them all afternoon. I guess you can take the girl outta CEPR, but you can’t take the CEPR outa the girl (See here to understand)

And so what did I do in Paris if I didn’t go sightseeing or museum hopping? I communed with my women. I was uplifted and inspired. I laughed and I listened and I was listened to. I am so very fortunate beyond words to have the deep good fortune to have so many good friends who have the deep good fortune to call Paris home, and how lucky I was to spend time with them, along with some fellow visitors who have also become my friends. I needed them and they came through, each and every one, French and American, Australian/New Zealander all Parisian by birth or by spirit. Un grand merci et beaucoup de bisous a Roniece, Nancy, Jane, Kathryn, Sue, Mez, Sylvia, Margarita et Axelle. I so enjoyed seeing you, and drinking with you and laughing out loud with you and breaking bread with you and walking and shopping and talking talking talking. Je vous embrasse. Toujours…

Some of my women...my Muriels...mes tres cheres...xoxo

Some of my women…my Muriels…mes tres cheres…xoxo

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I also wandered, I was lucky to have been spared the polar vortex freeze that has gripped the East coast of the US. Some rain (ah but Paris in the rain is still beautiful), so I was able to wander around and look at the known and not so known places that call to my soul. I spent a great afternoon in Montmarte…I always like to climb to Sacre Coeur and gaze out out upon “my” city and hold her in my hand. I was fortunate to have chosen the weekend of the Fete de Saint Jacques…only in France could you stumble upon a scallop festival.

a walk through Montmarte

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DSC00069 DSC00082A nice young man from India and I took turns taking one another’s pictures

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I made my way through my adopted hoods, the 11th and the 20th – Republique, Oberkampf, Menilmontant. Belleville, Pere Lachaise, Gambetta – with no agenda, just taking it all in. I was green with envy at the markets, one literally right outside my front door. I sure love visiting Roniece in her lovely slice of heaven in the 5th, as she calls it. It is nice, I like it, but it isn’t home. I gravitate to the quartiers listed above, not sure why, just feels like home to me, like me.

My Paris

My Paris

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My apartment building on Blvd Richard Lenoir

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The markets!

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Menilmontant, my favorite hood. Met A at Lou Pascalou, one of my favorite spots in Paris, and ended the night here. We spoke French all night. She is very patient…

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I walked to Rue Sainte Marthe, in the 10th, on the  fringes of my hoods.

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And back to Oberkampf, and a goodbye shot from the second floor of L’EstaminetIMG_0939

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My moment of serendipity came as I was waiting for the metro after my lunch with Kathryn.

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(This is the view from the Pont Mirabeau bridge. It makes me think of you K!)

Anyway, I was in the metro station waiting for the next train, looking at the metro map to pass the time, when an old man started talking to me in French and asking me if I knew who the Gallieni metro stop was named after. I said no, and he proceeded to tell me the story of Gallieni, how he was a general who “saved Paris from the Germans”. When I told him I didn’t know that, he asked me where I was from, and when I told him the US, well, his face lit up and he proceeded to regale me with tales of the Americans who rescued him during WWII. The train came and we sat together and I heard all about his trip to the US and about how much he loved Americans, he thinks we’re so friendly, with our “open faces”. He told me that his name was Jacques, that he was 84 (I think I got that right), As he got off the metro, he told me that he was happy to have met me. He shook my hand and told me that my French is very good. I smiled all the way down line 10.

All wasn’t fun and games as I also worked hard, very hard, to improve my French. Days and years of slogging through classes and reading silly French novels and listening to French on my IPod on the MARC train as the DC Suburbs pass by have left me with decent comprehension skills. But my verbal skills are sadly lacking, so I took a workshop at the Alliance and spent more relaxed evening at a bar at a Franglish event. I would definitely recommend it: For 12e you get a drink and an hour and a half of conversation with 5 native French speakers. It was tiring, but inspiring, and everyone there was super nice…tres sympa ! I am gonna master this language even if it takes me the rest of my life to do so.

And so, another January in Paris…feeling as always grateful that I am able to go back again, and again. And I will be back…Roniece, save me a seat at LPC. And tell Pierre (another dapper 80-something Frenchman who charmed me) that I said bonjour.

La Reine !

And in the meantime, I will spend time with my dear girlfriends on this side of the Atlantic. Candace, Liz, Tamara, Chris, Claudia, Elaine (and on the phone and on facebook, Maureen (my Boo2), and Jo, and Sara and Vickie and all of the rest of my dear Muriels, those great women all around the world, who lift me up every day)…and my mom, and Jordan. My family.

A new year, and a new life. Full of hope and joy and peace and remorse and melancholy, all at the same time.

C’est la vie, n’est ce pas ?

Back to Paris, with a Mission(oni)

So, I find myself about to go off to Paris…again.  Feeling (as they say on the facebook) blessed. Thank you United Frequent Flier program!!! Thank you for this opportunity to go back to the city that I love most of all, and thank you CEPR for giving me the vacation (not to mention the salary) to be able to take this most needed break, right in the middle of the government shut down. And thank you furlough boy (aka my husband) for understanding that I need to visit my favorite place on the planet whenever possible. Especially this trip, which is a celebration in the true sense of the word.

Because I am going to Paris to celebrate the 15th birthday of my second favorite girl in the world, my niece Zoe. For anyone happening upon my blog for the first time, or for my friends who don’t know, my sister lives in Hamburg, Germany with my niece, the most fabulous Zoe Gissou Niederhauser.  I traveled to Germany a few days after her birth, and ever since that time she has held a special place in my heart.

Here we are, looking at Project Runway I'm sure

Here we are, looking at Project Runway I’m sure…oh, or the bad ass honey badger… that’s  us http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r7wHMg5Yjg

Both she and my sister have been through A LOT (capital letters!). After my sister’s separation and divorce from my German brother-in-law she has waged many heroic custody battles with the German government. Losing some very important ones. So important that she made the difficult decision to come to the US and stay, with Zoe – believe me my people when I tell you that she was acting in the best interest of her child – only to be forced to return to Germany under a curse of bad timing and worse luck. But as I always say, and as is so relevant in this case, Karma is a BITCH and even though they both had to go through hell and they went back to Germany and Zoe was forced to return to live with her father, the gods (esses) put things right, and she gained the awesome strength to do what few 13 year olds would do, she ran in the cover of the night to her momma. Who won the right to house her child where her child wants to live, with her momma in Hamburg. All I got to say to that is Namaste, mother f*ckers.

And, as an aside, said child is one really talented fashion designer, and in this as in many other ways she takes after her most favorite Aunt Dawn, as I used to want to be a designer as well, having spent countless hours in my room designing the most awesome gowns fit for the likes of Cher, my hopes dashed only due to my complete and utter lack of sewing skills. But Zoe? She has her whole life ahead of her. She may be the most awesome fashion designer, or who  knows what? All I know is that whatever she puts her mind to, she will succeed. She is one of two angels in my life, the other being my daughter Jordan, who also has overcome many obstacles in her life. Girls, you are my heroes.

mes trios filles

mes deux filles

As are you , ma soeur. I won’t even go into your story, how you have always been my hero as well, facing life with a situation that many would have used as an excuse, but not you. So be proud!  I love you.

Me my mama and my sister

Me my mama and my sister

And so, I look forward to taking them to Paris – to sharing my favorite place with some of my favorite people, and that also means my people who live in Paris or who will be visiting when I’m there. I will end this post as I began, feeling blessed.

A très bientôt Paris !!

Le BĂ©arn et Le Pays Basque…Better Late than Never (J’Espère!)

I am very late in writing this post. Computer issues (blank screen on my new laptop = 4 weeks working from a borrowed laptop, argh!). Work, lots of work…whew, I hope that all this work pays off in donations to CEPR. Family visits, summer, anyway, no time til now to write and reflect on our June vacation to the Basque country. Which is maybe a good thing, as things have settled down and shifted and the most important moments, the stand out highlights, have had time to float to the top of my memory.

So here they are, my random reflections in no particular order…it’s long (lots of pictures though!) I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have had reliving it:

We flew into Bilbao, Spain and spent the first night in San Sebastian. San Sebastian was a nice surprise. A revelation, I like some place that is NOT in France :).  We found San Sebastian to be a lovely town, big enough to be interesting and full of good restaurants and bars and beautiful, and small enough to take it all in.

san sebastian street

harbor

plaza

beach

evening in San Se

old town street

The only downside was the language, I am spoiled by Jim’s fluent and my not-so-fluent-yet-somewhat-passing French.  We know the polite Spanish basics but found our lack of fluency frustrating when trying to navigate the tapas scene…because what a scene it is. We finally figured out how to belly up to the Tapas bars. So delicious, and cheap compared to pricier France. 

jambon !!!

We loved the tapas so much that we came back to spend another (nicer weather-wise) day.

La Cepa, yum

the best anchovies ever

beautiful tapas

Jim

We also went to Hondaribbia, a smaller town across the bay from Hendaye, France. (This is Hendaye):

market in Hendaye

We took the ferry, which took about 10-15 minutes, max.

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And then we were in Spain again:

Hondarribia

Spain/France/Spain/France…or as they say around these parts, Basque Country…

"Tourist Remember: You are neither in Spain nor in France.  You

Gora Euskadi Askatuta !

It was a great little fishing village with great little fish…

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lunch in Hondirribia

fresh!

The take away? Jim wants to come back to this part of the world, and he gonna start learnin some Español

After our first night in Spain we headed to Monein, a small town in the BĂ©arn region of France, at the foothills of the Pyrenees.

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We went there in search of Jurançon. What is a Jurançon, you ask? Well, just about some of the most delicious, unique white wine on the planet. And really hard to find here in the US.

me and the Jurancon

We spent our days driving through the vineyards,

vineyards and mountains

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lost in the fields

visiting little touristed but charming villages like Abos

abos

and Navarrenx

Navarranx

bridge to navarranx

navarranx

and Orloron Sainte-Marie. It was chilly and damp, but it didn’t dampen our spirits one bit…

Orloron

a river runs through it

We stayed in a wonderful bed and breakfast in Monein called Entre Vignobles et Vergers  (between vineyards and orchards). The proprietor had had an unfortunate accident and was in the hospital, so he left one of his tenants in charge, the intrepid Daniele, who didn’t speak a word of English and who took a liking to us, the “nice” Americans as we came to be known thanks to Daniele, who was born in Marseille and still had a wicked accent. Daniele took very good care of us, making us a wonderful breakfast with homemade jam every day and greeting us at cocktail hour with a bottle of  Jurançon in hand. She reminded me of my Aunt Val (except that Aunt Val would have been drinking a natty bo)

Daniele et moi

And thanks to Daniele we know everything about all of the casinos in France, including one in Pau, the largest town in the region and a very nice one at that.

Pau casino!

Beautiful and friendly…and good food. We ate at a wonderful restaurant called Les Papilles Insolites, where we had a fabulous lunch

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and were introduced to another great wine of the neighboring region, Madiran.

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Oh so much wine, so little time.

which way to the wine

So besides the wine…let me see, what else?  Oh yeah, we spent a memorable evening at the Fête de la Musique in the town of Jurançon, where we went looking for a village feast and found, well, bad food and a 6 euro (and not bad!) bottle of wine,

yum!

and a memorable evening listening to a quite good French rockabilly band…

good band

followed by a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band…

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well, you had to have been there to fully appreciate it.  Special!

We bid a fond farewell to Daniele and Jurançon (with a case in the car) and drove back into the Basque country. We stayed in a village called Ciboure, on the Atlantic coast, next to a somewhat bigger town called Saint Jean de Luz. And wouldn’t you know it, they too were having a fête, the Fête De La St Jean. Oh don’t you hate when that happens?

We spent a fun time partying Basque style.fete IMG_0666

band in basque

After all that FĂŞte-ing we took it easy. The weather finally turned and it was glorious. We walked and sat on the beach and walked along the coast into Ciboure and then to Saint Jean de Luz.

Soccoa

soccoa beach

Ciboure

St Jean de Luz

st jean de luz

We ate bounty from the sea.

yum

soupe de poissons

We drove into the Basque countryside, looking for another impossible to find wine, Irouléguy, wonderful inexpensive reds and whites.

I think we found it

We drove into Les Aldudes, heaven on earth.

so beautiful

We bought a bottle and some of the most heavenly cheese, a sheep’s cheese called Ossau-Iraty…oh my, in this part of the world they eat it with cherry confiture…more heaven.

yum!

We feasted.

cheers

Merci les moutons !!! xo

moutons

One evening found ourselves in the middle of a small village called Hasparren, for the cours des vaches. Or, in English, a sort of crazy spectacle that involves drunk people being chased around a ring by cows with horns. An acquired taste, I think…

vaches

On the other hand, we also spent an evening in a little more glitzy Biarritz,

Biarritz

dining on yet more bounty from the sea. This whole trip made me mourn the lack of fresh fish here, in BALTIMORE.,,in caps because we live by the sea and I don’t understand why we can’t have THIS:

fish!!

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And, now, I’m left with memories of yummy food and wine and nice friendly people, including a group of singers at a neighboring table in a restaurant in Ciboure, who spontaneously broke out into a lovely Basque folk song. After, I told them “Je veux ĂŞtre Basque !” And, it’s true.

I remember the beautiful scenery

sea scene

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and driving around and getting lost, and having a picnic with the wild horses

Jim and the wild horse

And driving through the mountains, listening to Manu Chao…

Merci, le Béarn et le pays Basque. Je t’aime, toujours.  On reviendra

Addendum: Forgot to mention that we got a bonus night in Brussels, courtesy of Brussels Air, who informed us when we arrived in Brussels from Bilboa that our scheduled flight to Dulles had already left…ok, when in Brussels you must drink beer, so we headed off to our favorite part of town

(an old picture from when we were there in 2010)

(an old picture from when we were there in 2010)

for some seafood and some Belgian brew…merci Brussels Air !

Pays Basque, Here We Come

So I was preparing our itinerary for our imminent trip to the Basque country and I thought I’d check in to this blog, my escape blog, where I post about my incredibly lucky travel-life. I am blessed, hallelujah.

So here’s the plan, I hope that you follow along and I really hope that my pictures are halfway as good as these.

We start in San Sebastian Spain

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We are most excited for the pinxtos, or tapas…

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After eating ourselves silly in Spain, it’s off to a little side trip to a little visited by my fellow countrymen and women part of France, the BĂ©arn,

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And the reason? See that town called  Jurançon? They make some of our favorite white wine in the whole wide world.

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So we’re going to walk and hike and relax and drink wine and take in this view (Below is the actual view from our b and b)

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And we’re going to explore the vicinity

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As we make our way from  Jurançon to the coast, This is Basque country…

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We will most definitely stop by Espelette, home of the infamous pepper

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On our way to our seaside home for a week, Ciboure.

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Ciboure Street

so lovely. Right next door to the equally lovely St Jean de Luz

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Where we plan to eat lots of the sea’s bounty

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and hopefully have some nice beach weather

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And there will be a festival happening when we’re there. Don’t you hate when that happens?

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And we may explore the vicinity. My landlord lives here:

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And we may check out Bayonne

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And Biarritz

biarritz-city

And who knows? I return to where I started. Feeling blessed, and wishing I could take everyone I love along. xo

Where I Try to Talk Myself Out of Missing Paris…

I probably shouldn’t be writing this post because I’m in the middle of a big ole missing-Paris big time funk. Post-Paris Depression, or PPD as my merry band of fellow Paris addicts calls it. (how’s your PPD? Oh really bad this time, how bout you?) Even after I had to “sleep” in the basement of Charles de Gaulle, on THIS

CDG hell

next to some guy who snored louder than a jet-plane engine – yes, even after that recent nasty experience, I still yearn for my favorite city.  I got it real bad.

Big sigh. I miss it all, the cafes

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and the markets

marche d;aligre

and the art

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and the light

montmarte light

and the bridges

bridge of sighs

and the bars

La FELINE

and the food

jacques melac

and the wine

and my friends

me and Queen Murielle

me and Loic, drinking wine

(and me drinking wine with my friends)

and the lifestyle – the life. I know, I know, I’ve waxed (hopefully just a teeny tiny bit eloquently) about what made me fall in love with Paris in the previous pages of my blog. So what’s a Paris lovin girl to do when she’s not there? It’s SO hard. Especially in cold, gray Februrary. Oh I know it was cold and gray when I was in Paris, but, hello, I was in PARIS! It’s totally different! SIGH.

Hmmm, maybe I can think of the things I’m not that crazy about! Yeah, maybe that will work. Perhaps if I pretend that I am on my cozy little cot in CDG, it might all come back to me…

I’m thinking! zzzzzzz

OK, there was this one time when I was in a shop in the Marais, and I asked the salesclerk, in French: “Cette robe, c’est combien ?” POINTING to the article of clothing that was hanging on the wall. Now, I know that my French accent needs some work, but I’ve managed to make myself understood in similar situations just fine, merci. Of course that was before encountering THE rudest salesclerk in all of Paris, who turned to me and said in the snootiest voice I’ve ever heard: “I’m going to speak to you in English because I didn’t understand your French”. Whooooeee. I was floored, and too bad I didn’t think of the perfect comeback (which was suggested to me by a French woman, which made it even better): “Et je vais vous parler en français parce que je n’ai pas compris votre anglais ” (And I’m going to speak to you in French because I didn’t understand your English”)

Touché!  Hell yeah!

But, that is really the only in-your-face-rude experience I’ve ever had. Some coldness from time to time, but most of the time people have been warm and forgiving of my struggles with their beautiful language. AAAHH, focus sister, you’re supposed to be thinking of the negative. OK – it can be frustrating and tiring, navigating the language. I wonder if I’ll ever get to the point where I’m not frustrated because I can’t express myself in the language of my city. I wonder. And who knows?

What else? Hmm. OK, I admit to missing the take-out coffee. I HATE Starbucks and everything it stands for, but sometimes I DO want it to go. That can be frustrating, having to sit and sit when I want to GO.

Starbucks takes over!

And if I think about it, there’s something about the uniquely American habit of chatting it up with strangers that I might possibly miss if I lived in Paris. It’s taken me a while to learn that nuance. In America, you most likely wouldn’t smile and give a big good day to the clerk at the 7-11, and they most likely wouldn’t look up from their tabloid to wish you a good day, with feeling. I like that about France. I like it that you say bonjour or bonsoir when you enter a shop, and bonne journée or bonne soirée when you leave, whether you buy something or not. Even in rental apartment buildings, people ALWAYS greet you when they pass by, because you have a defined relationship. I’ve become accustomed to that, and in the true meaning of that word, become ac”customed”, and it’s a custom I really appreciate.

But I wonder if I’d miss the easy way that we Americans have with strangers? We can strike up a friendly conversation anywhere, with anyone, and not give it any mind. We can become your best friend in 10 minutes! I know that it’s different in France, that people definitely keep to themselves more. Someone once remarked to me that in general, we Americans make lots of friends very quickly and easily, but a lot of it is on the surface. Whereas the French, in general, only make friends with a few, but the friendships tend to be deeper, in a way. Hmmm. Lots to ponder on that one.

I think it might take me just a few more trips to Paris to figure it all out, if I’m lucky. Because try as I might to dissuade myself from feeling so, even with everything, I still miss it, my most favorite place in the world. Paris,

je t’aime, the good, and the mauvaise…

 

me heart paris