Sunday, May 31, 2015

Arriving in Paris

One city is very much like another city, the only difference can be found in places in Asia where the pollution controls are less severe and you arrive at your hotel with burning eyes and a sore throat and a film of dirt on everything.  Paris was certainly not like that.  Rare in smells of diesel or gas fumes, clear air and navigating traffic that seemed manageable.  (I have a theory on this which I will share in another post.)  As you can see below, leaving the airport was a fairly smooth event.

My first glimpses of the city were from our bus as we headed to our boat anchored on the Seine.  We were lucky to get a front seat so that I could snap away in my jet-lagged mode.

No recession visible in all this bustling construction!  Looked like a convention of cranes.  The new architecture of Paris was both ugly and lovely depending on your style.  The French are not afraid to try anything and everything and it is usually loved or hated, but rarely ignored.  I will try to remember to show some of the more interesting buildings.

While I kept my eyes peeled for the Eiffel Tower, wondering how large it would appear, the Arc de Triumph was the first landmark we actually reached.  And, as you can see from above, the traffic in the center of the city became much more congested but always seemed to be moving.  Twenty percent of the population lives in the Paris region.

We finally arrived at are our ship which was moored among lots of other boats of all shapes and sizes.  Rivers still play a major role in France and 24 exceed 180 miles in length.   We found, to our joy, we were a short walking distance to the Eiffel Tower which you can see competing for attention with the lamp post on the right!  Since we were staying here the first two nights, that meant at least one visit to the big structure.  More about that in the next post.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Terra Firma

Back and almost among the living.
Got up at 4:00 A.M. Avignon, France time, luggage outside the cabin by 5:00 and off the ship and onto the shuttle bus by 6:00.
Arrived at Marseille airport at 7:30.
Air France plane left at 10:45 AM.
Arrived at Amsterdam for our KLM transfer at 1:30 and they finally left around 2:15.
Our landing had been delayed one hour by a nasty storm cell that we flew around.  We were in one of those JUMBO airplanes that only the physicists/engineers in their wisdom allow to fly.

Huge lines as we went through passport control in the U.S.East Coast, IAD.  Huge lines as we went through baggage claim.  Huge lines as we went through customs.  I have never seen IAD so packed!  It was 11:00 P.M. our time now (although something like 5:00 P.M. U.S. time).

Arrived at daughter's house an hour later to pick up car and she fixed us a wonderful salmon and asparagus dinner. As good as anything we had in France! Digested a bit watching the grands attempt tennis in the nearby parking lot, then got home last night at around 3:00 PM our time ...up almost 24 hours and not much sleep on the plane, the sun was bright as we chased it.  But we survived.

And, in spite of meeting wonderful people, being waited on hand and foot, spending great times with my sister and her husband, and seeing a country in all its historic and artistic glory, I am so glad to be home!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Faded Photographs

My final pre-written post that gets "published" while I am still on my trip.  I should not write that because it does take the steam out of this post.  "There she is drinking French wine (for which she has no palate) in some place along the Rhone which has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world while I am reading her tripe about memories on her blog!"

The other day I was looking for a photo of my husband in his late twenties for a guest to prove that hubby had been going bald way back in graduate school, even though they did not remember him that way.  This is the real reason for old that you can embarrass the family.  I finally found our wedding album.  This album was put together by me who had not a dollar of money for a professional photographer and thus it was filled with photos from my husband's best friend, who was the designated photo person.  Therefore, there are no photos in the church!  Just photos of us leaving and the reception after.

BUT the real concern I just discovered was that 44 years of time had faded these photos and they looked older than me!  I was so sad, because I have been leaning on my brother to digitize all the photos he has of my family to keep them safe and available.  Those photos are not fading much because they are black and white and printed with more durable chemicals.  My color photos in the wedding album, on the other hand, are truly sad as the chemicals are breaking down.

Guess I have a big digitizing project (I have a scanner) to work on through the summer between the three weeks of grand-children visits when I return from France!  Any and all advice is welcome on old photo work.

(Here is the historic post about that wedding time if you joined my blog in these later years and have nothing else to do today.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Tropical Season

I am currently away on a trip in Europe as all of my blog fans know.  Who knows what weather I am experiencingas this was pre-written.  I left the U.S. during concerns of long drought that have impacted how people shower,  how people garden, how  farmers grow say nothing of how factories may have to change the way they do business in California... which is facing the result of years of severe drought.  During the same week friends of mine were faced with huge rains flooding dry river beds and closing roads followed by 6 to 12 inches of snowfall in Colorado!  In the middle of the country entire neighborhoods and infrastructures were damaged by huge hail and terrifying tornadoes for days, not just one storm front, and there were deaths.  Here in my neck of the woods we hunkered down for the remnants of a tropical storm that had come ashore south of us, but got no significant weather as I packed.  (And this is just in my country!)

So, I repeat, who knows what weather I may be facing on my river cruise?

This is called global climate change---which is really warming.  You know how weather seems more moderate (less cold or less hot) nearer the ocean?  That is because the ocean takes up the heat of a warm season and hangs on to it as you enter fall.  This means those coastal folks have a slower change than the middle of the country where it gets very hot or very cold overnight.  Well, corals are dying, ocean animals are dying, and energy release is greater because our ocean has taken up all the heat from the surface of the earth that it can stand and it now has to release it back into the atmosphere in the form of those el Nino events which create dramatic storms.

Some Congressmen make fun of climate change by showing how ice cubes melt in a glass of water with no overflow (i.e. ocean rise) when all the ice melts, therefore how can the ocean rise?  Even if this very stupid analogy were accurate, it does not explain how the entire planet will change when all the "ice" melts and the cold goes away.  And glaciers are melting and each month is warmer than the last.  But this is happening at a very "slow" paces and not like a disaster movie, so most Americans do not believe it.

Trophic levels (food webs) at the lowest end are breaking down as temperatures change.  Grab a knit shawl and take scissors and cut through the edges in places and wear it every day and wash it every evening and you will see how fast it unravels.  This is what is happening to our food chain.  Huge holes are appearing which are threatening life of all kinds as their food disappears.  (Not just due to climate change, but add in a few toxins/chemicals/hormones and you have a stew of amazing deathly proportion.)

The lands of the haves and have nots are going to be even more defined in the decades ahead and the anger of various groups (religious/political) as they try to survive probably means greater wars (local/global).  I apologize for not doing enough on my part to advocate for a better world for my grandchildren.  Recycling, using less power, using fewer resources was hardly enough.  Taking large carbon footprint trips is certainly not helping.

And, oddly enough I thought the challenges were going to be because of overpopulation by mankind years ago, which is no longer the case !!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Some Days

Some days Many days I wish we had a dog.  There have been at least six dogs in my lifetime  Pepper, Donie, Christmas Dog, Makai, Kane, Buster--a wide variety of names.  All of them were unique in personality and spirit, purebreds or not.  I have cried at every loss as dogs do become members of the family.

On the day that we visited a farm, I see this big, hairy, galumphy, dedicated, muddy pawed animal in the photo above and cannot resist calling him over for a good ear scratch.  This is a working dog, but even he is not above a visit from an admirer. 

I forget all the hair, dust, slobber and sand that they bring into the house.  I forget the body scratching in the middle of the night that jangles the tags that wake me up.  I forget almost tripping over them on my way to the bathroom in the dark.  I forget the water spills from the water dish next to the kitchen counter that appear in a line across the floor and the bits of stray kibble under the cabinets.  I forget the endless hours of puppy raising that one must go through at the very beginning...almost.

We travel way too much to have a dog (no neighbors we know well enough to help) (currently in France now).  

There is a new wrench in the canine discussion...ticks.  Our ticks in these woods carry all three of the major diseases.  Both of my neighbors have gotten the two least known illnesses and many years ago I had a meet-up with Lyme, the third and most well known.   There is now a new tick borne illness in some Southern states that is more lethal than all three above and that has killed some people!  

I do wonder if we will ever get a sad.  For now it is going to be relegated to these farm visits, I guess.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


My mom when she was still in her teens!  Wonder what she was thinking when this photo was taken back in 1939.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Getting Out of the Jungle Alive

Hubby got an email from an old college roommate a while back, someone he had not seen or communicated with for over 50 years!  The roommate had lived with him and some other college friends for only one semester.  Hubby needed someone to help with rent and after meeting him at the local laundry place and finding he (lets us call him Rodney) needed a place to stay, invited him to join them.

Hubby is super friendly and rarely thinks to the future results of certain decisions.  The reason that Rodney had no place to stay became immediately evident in that he was demanding, annoying, insecure and needy.  Hubby and the other roommates spent most of the semester dodging him, although knowing my husband, he was probably very kind and helpful at times.  At the end of the year Rodney went back to his home town to finish college and went on to get his PhD in entomology.

On this week Rodney was delivering some insect specimens to the city museum and wanted to stop by on a free day to visit us.  I suggested to hubby that we eat out so that I could disappear on the boardwalk if I found the meet-up too intense or annoying.

Rodney arrived, a short and chunky man, wearing glasses, a white mustache and a healthy head of white hair.  Within minutes of inviting Rodney to sit on our deck and putting out some cold Thai tea he began to pour out his life-story.  Explaining that during his time at university he was in a terrible mental state.  He explained that he had been abused as a child, his father demanding he become a concert pianist and he wanting to play basketball instead (which he explained he did very well in spite of his height), being depressed throughout most of his life, getting married twice, divorced once, estranged from his biological son, but very close to his step-son and two grandchildren, having faced death last year during surgery contracting a hospital infection and being put in a 6 week coma, going through years of mental therapy and still belonging to an international therapy group, becoming a world-renown insect expert on a specific group of insects and now facing retirement.

This was all before we went out to lunch!   During lunch he talked about his work (really somewhat fascinating since I like science), his hatred of state bureaucracies and his feeling we are leaving our children a world in a disastrous state with the extinction of species every year.  He did give us time to talk every once in a while.

Upon getting home and completing a short tour of the yard and riverside and some photo taking, it still took a couple of hours to get him out the door, into his car and on the way back to his hotel.  I printed out a scan of a map, since he was a bit of a Luddite when it came to phone GPS help and had gotten lost on the way down.  (He seemed to find that when he stopped to ask for directions on the trip down, everyone working at the quick stop stores seemed to have difficulty getting pants on correctly each day, therefore having no clue how to get around the area...his interpretation.)

I knew a young man in high school who might have been much like Rodney, although a different personality, painfully shy and physically unattractive.  He was a very odd duck, but well accepted in our small town which was somewhat like a big farm family.  When he went on to college, he committed suicide his first year as I am sure he faced extreme loneliness if not worse.  I remember thinking about him for years later and this visit brought up that memory, reminding me that the world turns for us all and we never know how important, positive or negative, the energy we might contribute to someone's life.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Is She Never Happy?

I have nothing important to post... and by writing that, I am assuming most of my prior posts had something important to reveal... not.

I am wrapping up things here at the house, making lists of things to do such as: stopping mail, finishing leftovers, soaking plants, turning off the thermostat, going through travel documents, and just in general hoping I have got everything written down before beginning to pack.

Regrets, suddenly, I have a few.  My garden is now in its swollen prepubescent stage just a week before erupting in stunning beauty.  Iris, clematis, rhododendrons, achillea, peonies and roses are all forming the most pulsating buds of potential pulchritude and I will miss them!  They will be waning when I return.  Yes, other plants will be beginning to show off their beauty, but the first spring blossoms are always the best.

Birds have found nesting boxes and are sitting on eggs and will be busy feeding the littles ones upon my return.  It will take me some days to figure out which box has tenants and sit and watch.

This is the month perfect for canoeing and boating as the weather is not so warm that one wants an umbrella when sitting in a boat.

Thus I have resolved never to do this for weeks during the month of May.   It will be summer travel or fall travel or perhaps even winter travel.  But April and May have to be enshrined for gardeners.

(Yes, I will be photographing pictures of French blossoms so your lack of sympathy is understood.)

Friday, May 01, 2015

Contrast and Maybe a Little Whiplash

Baltimore Harbor, March 2015

Ellen wrote a great post about the difference between poverty or oppression and poverty AND oppression all stimulated by the current issues in one of my favorite love/hate cities, Baltimore.  While I knew this, I must admit I never really thought about it as carefully as I should have.  But to jerk me around and muddy the clarity, this little incident below happened yesterday.

I was shopping for clothes for my upcoming France trip.  I still flinch when I write something like this as it seems like bragging.  Anyway, I wanted some dressier slacks or jeans and after hitting Bloomingdale's where the jeans started at $160.00 I moved on to another store.  I could have afforded these, but I would have been sick with regret every time I put them on.

I next went to Lord and Taylor for some type of cruise-wear and prices were pretty much the same, so I put out $60 for some diaphanous top that will both hide my fat waist and be cool on warmer afternoons.  Almost everything I looked at and much of what I bought was made in another country, but I managed to find a couple of pairs of Capri pants and another top.

While waiting to check out, hubby sat on a bench behind and against some dresses working his email on his phone.  There was a well-dressed 40-something black woman sitting next to him.  She was talking in a clear but not loud voice to the register clerk (the one I was waiting for as well) about how she was a "very busy" person and needed to get her tailored items and could NOT wait any longer.  The clerk (also dark-skinned but with an accent from the middle-East) was explaining that she worked in cosmetics and did not know where the clothing clerk was or where tailored items were kept for pick-up.  She said she would call the manager and headed back to the counter.

"I just don't have time for this, I am a Doctor."  The black woman called after her.

I stood waiting until the floor manager was summoned by phone and then the clerk proceeded to check out my items.  While this was being done, the store manager, also black, came up and was directed to the lady who once again, looking up from her phone, explained how precious her time was.  He hurried off to find her items.

After a somewhat convoluted process (the more expensive stores have the worst check-out procedures as there is some stupid security tag on every item) I got my items paid for and turned back to hubby.

The black Doctor smiled at me and once again apologized (to us this time) for being so demanding, but her time was precious.  I commiserated and then added something about how there were too few store clerks and the check-out process was too complicated.  I explained we lived an hour and a half away and tried to complete all our shopping on those rare afternoons two or three times a year.

As I gathered up the bags at my husband's feet and hubby shut down his phone, the Doctor proceeded to ask where we were from and we told her and she said she 'loved' that area and then mentioned the suburb outside the city where she lived and dropped the name of the hospital where she practiced medicine.  "I am a Doctor."

This all took an even weirder turn when she told us it was much better shopping at Nordstrom because they gave you 'points' that you could apply to purchases, or on your bill, or online shopping.  She felt it was much better to buy from them and then proceeded to show us an email she just got from Nordstrom where she had purchased some black HIGH heels recently and wanted to know if they had them in red.  The store sent a picture of the red shoes but explained they were .5 inches shorter and as she showed us the picture comparing the two types of HIGH heels she proceeded to explain that by spending $1,000 on this first pair and another $1,000 on the second pair she would get $100 in points to apply to her account!  I bit my tongue, smiled and wished her luck.  (The only things I own at that price point are appliances.)

She wished us a safe drive back home as we also wished her in turn.

(What goes around, comes around...or I have no idea what I am trying to say in writing this post.  But to prove that it is far more complicated than we can every is an article from another African-American doctor.)