Thursday Jan 12 2017
“Paris in winter?’
Yes, as you know, Paris in winter doesn’t really do sunny skies. Although we did experience one welcome morning with partly cloudy for a couple of hours. Typically, damp or drizzle or mist or light rain or just damp. Layer for all possibilities and, if you can, look currently stylish.
We have been on the go almost all day, every day. We got a Metro pass in December with our picture on it. It can be loaded for 7 days of unlimited rides on all trains and buses but it can only loaded for Monday to Monday. Meg is the Metro genius; I just follow and look for the signs.
Based on recommendations, we had reservations for food at two upscale establishments and visited three museums and a couple of markets and MANY streets. Louis Vuitton Museum, European Museum for Photography, the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation Museum. Lunch at Aux Lyonaise and dinner at L’Atelier.
Louis Vuitton Foundation is a Frank Gehry architecture building and had a major exhibition of master painter works that were in a russian collector’s collection; Picasso, Matisse, and MANYMANY more. Being the only museum open on Monday it was CROWDED. They do not have the infrastructure to handle those crowds. We waited on line for 90 minutes to buy tickets. TIP: do not go on Monday without a per-purchased ticket. GO for the earliest time they open in AM. Be prepared to look through crowds at the paintings. Enjoy the interior architecture; it reminded me of the Star Wars Death Star
Tuesday’s lunch; hearty three course Lyonaise luncheon by Alan Ducasse (David got the reservations for us). Great food, done well, and presented well. Fotos later of the fare that included the charcuterie, my Pork Belly and super mashed potato and Meg’s quenelle (fish mousse). A super clementine tian with pistachio ice cream for me and cheese for Meg to finish. Meg noticed that there were very few women in the restaurant. Actually only about 10% and they were accompanied. I guess it is businessman’s power lunch spot.
A frustrating afternoon ensued. We metroed to BOTH photography museums in very different parts of the city only to find them both closed!! Cartier-Bresson was supposed to be open on Tuesday but they were NOT as the website said. Later we found out that it was to be an evening Opening Reception for the new exhibit of his work for a famous book that was translated into English as “The Decisive Moment”. The European Photography Foundation Museum was not open as well. Meg looked for the famous ice cream store in the Marais. We found it but it was closed with the ice cream only available at cafes for a dear price. Across the Seine in the drizzle we walked. Shakespeare and Company for English books? Nope could not find it. Walked past the hotel that Jane and Nancy and we stayed at in a few years ago. The through the streets to a rush hour metro and back to the hotel TOO FULL from lunch we didn’t need dinner! We just relaxed with some tea.
Wednesday was the opposite at the photography museums. The European opening time was 11A and we were there. Some very provocative stuff from people that I was not too familiar with. I had heard of Harry Callahan but did not know his stimulating work. The Serrano work was related to homeless of NYC and later Brussels. Powerful when in print but disheartening when seen in public on the streets of Paris etc. An interesting Nixon collection of 24 prints of four sisters from spanning the decades from young to middle age.
We talked photography with a Toronto photographer/professor and later met him again in another part of the city at Cartier-Bresson in the afternoon. He had also been unsuccessful in visiting in the afternoon. While viewing the exhibition, I was approached by a young man with a video camera and microphone. He asked if I would be able to do an English interview about the new exhibit and Cartier-Bresson for Belgium TV!!! “Sure.” He had questions and I answered knowledgeably (fortunately). He had filmed my/us before in the exhibit before he asked and then more filming after. Very interesting; it reminded me of us being extras in a tiny movie in Lowell but this time I had a speaking role!
Back to home/hotel ”Astotel 34B” dress for dinner. Meg changed her trousers for black leggings and dress. I put on a different shirt under my standard sweater. Off we went in the drizzle for a 6:30P reservation (by David) at Joel Rubichon’s L’Atelier. I understand that the 6:30 time is done mostly by tourists. Serious diners do not go until after 8P . Old folks like me need time to digest some before I go to bed at 10P.
Interesting concept restaurant inspired by the fusion of Spanish tapas and French cuisine. We sat on high bar chairs at the fancy viewing bar looking into the open kitchen. One could talk food with your near neighbors. I could see how they make the famous mashed potatoes that taste soo gooood. Food is $mall plate$ to main entree$. We ordered small and medium sized plates from light to hearty for sharing. A start of carpaccio of sea breen LOVELY; light, thin slices in a citrus “broth” and a traditional ceviche to share for comparison. Chestnut soup with three kinds of “bacon”. Switch from white wine to red for the heavier food to come. Then burger sliders with foie gras and frites, (David’s favorite). To finish we had two mains that we shared; breast of pigeon!! with foie gras wrapped in a savoy cabbage leaf, and marrow on toast. Meg really did not like the medium rare pigeon’s texture so I had to eat hers. We both finished up with the marrow on toast. Interesting and filling.
Dessert time. Meg had four sorbets one of which was a basil sorbet. Yummy. I asked the “waiter” for help; “The Pear”, he said. “OK”. Amazing; a “standing pear” on a bed of pear sauce (like apple sauce) but wait! The pear was hard-solid; No hollow! The exterior was a thin sugar shell that had been molded and was filled with pear sorbet and pear sauce and some raisins. FULL after 2 hours of fine dining. It did lighten my wallet a little.
Drizzle as we walked back to the Metro. The light beam from Eiffel swung across the sky behind some restaurants and wet winter streets. Drizzle when we walked back to the hotel.
The 34B is the best hotel we’ve used in a long while. A three star MODERN comfortable well appointed with a fine buffet breakfast in a large open room. Each gets their own two cup pot of tea or coffee. “More?” Snacks and beverages are available all day and evening. We had some hot tea before retiring to our room. People use the room as a meeting space, work space, and relaxing space all day.
OKay. Repack time and get ready to head back home. We’ve been on the road a month. Time to get back to “work”. I have to prepare for a show next Wednesday at Pinkham Notch Camp. I am sure there is a ton of mail and end of the year things waiting. I wonder how winter in Andover looks. Oh well…..
“travel light and wear a smile.”
Sunday Jan 8, 2017
Free wifi at the Malta International Airport ;~}
Sweet. BUT. This is a COLD January for Malta. Mid 40s with gale winds and occasional 5 minutes of hail or driven rain. In bed, the wind howls over the roof top and past open courtyards. Ghosts of old and ancient wars are awake and prowling.
Friday was a museum day. The ferries between Sliema and Valletta were shut down Thursday AM as the seas even in the inner harbor were to rough. It is suspected they wont be running until Monday AM. All the boats in the harbor were anchored out in the middle, away from the docks and retaining walls. Local buses were packed and as a result warm.
The Archeology Museum is closest to the bus terminal so that was the goal in the AM. Malta isn’t prepared for winter weather. “It only lasts a month. Maybe more this year.” In side the museum we only unzipped the jacket layers. It was still cold but at least no wind. Interestingly Malta was first settled from “Sicily” 7000 years ago by agricultural megalithic peoples. Stone burial structures older than Stonehenge and Pyramids are found here. These people disappeared after 2500 years; drought?
4500 years ago permanent people (Bronze Age) arrived and the islands have been inhabited since. Because of location it has been fought over often. Famously the christians and muslims sieged in the 1500s. WWII saw massive bombings by axis forces. There is a War Museum that we spent cold time in in the afternoon echoed this history from a military viewpoint. Winds whipped thru exposed corridors and a short hail fusillade hit.
Saturday we took buses to the southeast to Marsaxlokk. More sheltered but still a hard bite even in the spots of sun that occasionally light the harbor and the colored boats. A working fish harbor. It was far to rough to go out so there was a lot of fixing work; hulls and nets.
We found a recommended local eatery. “Ask for the fish of the day not a specific one. They’ll bring out the new fish just brought in and you choose what you want.” Yupe! Sea bass, Sea bream, Red mullet, and another one. We choose to have the bream and mullet mixed. Yummy with roasted potatoes and vegetables and Maltese chardonnay.
Sunday AM we finished visit with walk about the local harbor and local savory pastry for eating; spinach-olive-tuna is especially nice. The bus to airport was PACKED. Now we await the direct flight to Paris on Air Malta. Well that was nice; there is a piano near where we are waiting for the plane gate to be announced. Every once in awhile a traveler sits at it and plays a short “concert” to the appreciative applause of the other travelers.
“travel light and wear a smile.”
Friday, Jan 6 2017
Hi, they speak English here.
Malta IS a hidden jewel in the Mediterranean. English is the official and common language but Maltese is the one locals use with each other. The country is made of 7 small island with Malta being the largest at about 900 square kilometers, the second largest is Gozo at 25 sq km. It is not very expensive. Food and architecture is a fusion of Maltese, Italian and other Mediterranean influences. It looks and feels very different from any place we’ve been before and yet it is very comfortable and inviting and visually stimulating. Few Americans are here because it requires at least one plane change for a long travel day. For us, it is a can-go-back-to place. Gran Canaria was a nice been-there-did-that place.
We spent Thursday on Gozo. An hour by local bus #212 from Sliema to the ferry. HopOnHopOff bus for the little island; not our usual choice of transport but it was a good compromise for Gozo. The time between HopOff and HopOn stops is about 45 minutes. I could have used an hour but then the next bus would have been another half hour later. It WAS 50F AND Gale windy on Thursday; hanging about extra-time waiting for bus was NOT in the cards. We wore ALL our layers of clothes that we had planned for returning to January Boston. We did NOT sit on the top of the double decker bus very much.
Most exciting was at the Azur Window at the northwest corner of Gozo. This is an arch somewhat like Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. But it is exposed to the winds from the north across the open sea. Salt spray and gale slashing winds and crashing waves onto jagged limestone rocks. My glasses were useless in a minute. I kept the camera lenses for the most part protected. I shot downwind whenever possible. We found out today, Friday, that 6 tourists who got too close, were washed off the rocks just before dark. They were saved and hospital repaired.!!.
Another exposed coastal stop was Marsalforn, Here the waves were being funneled into the bay and crashing onto and over the retaining walls at the harbor edge. Restaurants were gathering outdoor chairs and tables, tying down flapping awnings and exposed/loose walls. Small fishing boats were being loaded onto trailers and taken away. On the edge of the harbor, piles of wave tossed seaweed strewn the road and swirling water washed through the street. I will try to attach a 2 second video I took of this.
Local bus travel is interesting as usual. We have a 12 ride pass that we share. Getting on a bus at the origin/start of a trip is fine; you get a seat. We are staying in a simple guesthouse near the harbor where the buses originate. Soon many tourists from fancier digs up the route get on. Seats are now scarce. Soon there are no seats and people have to stand as the bus winds its way.
On the way back we might not be the fortunate sitters. More savvy bus riders know where to stand and get on early. Returning from the Gozo ferry, Meg got the last seat…beside a baby stroller. The owner stood while her husband sat with the little boy. After awhile some locals got off near where I stood. I got a seat beside Meg and the lady got the seat behind with her husband and 9 month old baby. El Ambassador Pequeno introduced us all to each other. They are Argentinians, living in Scotland, on vacation in Malta. We shared some stories of travel with little one, and other things. Like Tristan, El Pequeno Filippe, was intrigued with my beard, and my simple Espanyol.
Today, Friday, was tough weather; 47F, gale winds, spits of heavy rain, a few minutes of small hail. Museum Day in Valletta! But the winds had curtailed the ferry across the harbor. Bus #15 to Valletta. But the museums and houses were not really heated. “We have only one month of winter so its not worth doing too much.” said our guest house host.
Archaeology and history of the island group (over 7,000 years). Cold, we needed warm food INDOORS. A few places were filled, others asked if we had reservations. “Friday business lunch time is very busy.” OK found one with an open table for two. We shared a mushroom soup with marrow, then each had calamari in chili cream sauce spaghetti (again spaghetti?) with a glass of red French Rhone wine; 37 euros for two. Meg wanted clams linguini but the clams were all gone.
The war museum detailed extensively, in unheated rooms perched on the gale winded sea cliffs, the war history of Malta. the 15th century; Knights of St John vs the Ottoman Turks (christians vs muslims). Wars between French and English. World War I and especially II Cold and dark we found the last two seats on the bus home. The bus windows fogged immediately with the pack of sitting and standing commuters. Good thing we are the end of the line since we couldn’t see the landmarks.
“travel light and wear a smile.” Jack
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
“Say WHAT! Malta? 2017?”
“Well, Yeah, Malta. Sliema, Malta; across the harbor from Valleta, the capital.”
Christmas weekend in Nice we had some cool weather and clouds. But in the afternoon, the clouds gapped at the horizon and partly broke overhead. Some amazing sunset colors appeared along the Cote d’Azur. I think I sent them last week.
Bagnols was nice after Nice. We had a fine time with David, Alice and the two grandsons, Tristan and Gabriel. Gabriel was in the depths of bronchitis and unhappy when we arrived at lunch time. He had seen the doctor in the morning but Tristan was in good spirits.
We had time to tour some small hill towns and wineries, drove some narrow curvy roads, ate some yummy home made food and drank some excellent local beverages. We were in bed by 10P every night including New Year’s eve. Weather was fine with frost in the AM and mid 50s by late afternoon.
“Oh yeah.” Last summer while waiting for a plane from Newcastle to Nice, we had talked to an English couple who were heading to Malta for their 15th time. Having never been to Malta, it seemed like a good idea to fit it in when we planned this trip. So here we are, in a Sliema guest house at 30 euro a night, across the harbor by water taxi from Valleta.
Malta is a mix of many Mediterranean influences; Sicilian (90 minutes away by ferry), English, Continental, North African and Turkish. Approaching Valleta by ferry it visually reminded both of us a little of Istanbul but with church steeples and domes not the mosques. Buildings are of sandstone; tan/yellow/beige, three to five stories tall, and tight packed along narrow one way hill streets. Buildings all have narrow balconies over the street. They reminded us of Spanish colonial balconies in the Americas and the Jewish quarter of Marrekech. We spent the day walking, photographing, touring. Many visitors were about even though the week after New Years is not a busy time.
Malta is famous for the Knights of Malta = the Knights of St John from the time of the crusades. It is famous for the bombings it received in WWII. Now it is famous as the Hidden Jewel of the Mediterranean. Visitors from Europe and the Far East (China and japan) are everywhere. We haven’t seen evidence of many Americans. (are they “traveling as Canadians” like during Bush’s presidency?)
A story; I needed to have a watch band replaced. In Bagnols, David had given me a nice older Skagen analog watch to replace a digital one I had broken in the summer. I wore it a couple of days and broke band. On a whim, I stopped in one Valleta shop that did watch repairs he said it needed a special band because of the design. He gave me a fancy watch address. We went there but they said that they didn’t service that brand anymore and gave us another address. The third address said he carried the brand but “did not do repairs”. He thought a minute, checked his watch, “He’s open.” He gave us the name and location of someone who should be able to help. Yupe! I found and got in line behind four other customers. They all had watches and/or clocks that needed batteries or ??
The tiny shop had a hundred clocks on the wall, all different kinds and all with the same CURRENT time! My turn. He looked and went to a special box with leather bands; “not a metal one for this watch.” Three black ones to choose from; choice made, he took a tool and cut the band to fit the watch, new springs, cleaned and done, 13 euros!! Now I don’t have to guess time or ask Meg for it.
Food here is a mix of culture. With so many europeans about, and Sicily so near, it is not hard to find familiar food. Maltese have their own influence in this fusion. Arrival night, Tuesday, I had a super octopus spaghetti with olives and capers. Meg had fish soup and salad.. And we split a pint of Carlsberg beer. Last night after touring Valleta I had rabbit spaghetti. Meg had a Maltese ftira (yes that is how pizza is spelled); pizza with anchovies and olives. This time we each had a pint of local beer, Cisk. For lunch today, we each had asparagus soup with truffle and an interesting new dish for us; fried rabbit livers with a raisin wild mushroom ragout.
Octopus was twice cooked, once to partly cook it and the second to mix it into a garlic, olive oil, caper sauce with a little tomato. Then the pasta was added to finish it. Rich, filling and wonderful. And then added to the AND FILLING! The rabbit is cooked in both/water/gravy sauce and finished with the pasta. Mine was the front quarter of the rabbit, judging from the clavicle and long leg bone. The fried livers were delicious; surprisingly large, rich in a caper-raisin-rabbit jus.
Rabbit was introduced to this small island for the European nobles to hunt. Locals were prohibited from hunting them. Some rabbits got away and you what they did. Now rabbit is a national dish.
Tomorrow, Thursday, we’ll use local buses and a ferry to visit a small island, Gozo off the NW coast of malta. It will be cool with wind. Locals are saying that this is late February weather for our visit, low 50s. Yes, we are layering to stay warm and no outdoor dining for us or a lot of other people as well.
“Travel light and wear a smile.”
Monday Dec 26
A Christmas weekend in Nice; Lovely. We are a few blocks away from the Promenade Ingles and the beach. Too anyone to be in the water, but everyone is out walking and using new roller blades and scooters and radio cars and … There is a dedicated two lane bike section and very wide walking, jogging promenade beside the roadway for cars and buses. Busy place. And to think this is where the truck massacre took place 6 months ago on Bastile Day.
Friday, 24th the open air market had flowers in addition to the foods, fruits, vegetables etc. Open markets are marvelous things to experience and to shop in. As a traveler, they say a lot about the culture and I prefer his to supermarkets. The variety and convenience is lacking but the vitality and immediacy is great. Dinner on Christmas Eve was of local choices. Daube (beef stew) is very tender long cooked beef with carrots in a rich gravy. It is served with some kind of pasta!! Mine came with gnocci and Meg had it on Monday with ravioli that resembled tortellini. Meg had stuffed vegetables. Very nice with a local red wine. Dessert was crème marron, a mousse of chestnuts!, with a whipped crème topping. It was so rich we needed coffee to end.
Christmas day we walked the promenade in the morning with many others. Meg posed with a bunch of jogging Santas. New roller blades on kids wearing color coordinated kneepads and helmets, pink scooters, Santa hats on many. As usual, there were a handful of men with their fishing poles deployed on the beach.
We were dressed for dinner. Reservations at a fine restaurant for 12:30. Good thing as they turned a walk-in couple away who didn’t have reservation. We didn’t leave until 3P! Attached is a composite 6 shot photo of dinner. BOY WERE WE STUFFED. Some noteworthy items; foie gras, smoked salmon, beef wellington, and much more.
Back to the hotel a few blocks away to change into warmer less formal togs for Promenade walking. In Italy this late afternoon walk is a “Passeggiata”; look good, see and be seen, stroll in the lovely scene. We walked the distance around to the old port, where Meg recalls singing patriotic songs at the lighthouse on July 4th four decades ago with a college friend. On the way back the sun was setting just below a cloud deck that had persisted most of the day. AN amazing saturated color sunset happened.
Monday, our last full day here we spent a few hours in the Marc Chagal museum. He was a prolific vibrant non-realist painter. Afternoon saw us walking in the open market again. Monday is flea market day. Some real cheap stuff but also a table of very old cameras; $200 for one that looked like the camera that my mother gave me 55 years ago!! I photographed the table but did not buy. More walking and then another sunset of vibrance.
Now the repacking is done. Tomorrow, we go to airport to rent a car and head to Bagnols- en-Foret for a week with the Hong Kong Holmes family. ;~} After New Years they head back to HK and we return to airport, leave the car and head to Malta.
Hola et Bonjour,
We used the last day in Gran Canaria closer to home. Downtown Puerto Tico to get stamps to send postcards to dos nietos in Hong Kong. This village is larger than our neighborhood of Playa Amadores. Vacation condos are carved chocker-block into the barrancas walls, all the way to the top. If there is a “next time” to Gran Canaria, we will definitely stay in the north where the locals live.
Arguinegiun was a working fishing village with some tourist condos away from the rocky beaches. Interesting local pleasant grittiness here. But still too many condos. Further afield we went uphill and away from the coast to a “preserved” village; Aguemas. Oops here. The “business model” was to preserve the old look of Gran Canaria but in the process it became sterile!! After noon is quiet time and few people are about except for a few tourists. Tiendas were cerrado until 3P; siesta. A few restaurants/cafes were open but all had the same menu in four languages. I did shoot some and probably got a couple of OK ones but I felt it was a movie set waiting for the actors.
Dinner was at the upscale AQUI restaurant in one of the beach resorts in Playa Amadores. They had seven starters and seven mains along with some nice inexpensive house wine by the glass. We had a lovely tasty olive salad with shaved parmesan after a nice squash soup amuse bouche that you drank from a translucent cone. Meg had sea bass with a spanish risotto and I had filet of beef with a spanish ratatouile. A three scoop ice cream set finished it off. Lovely and tasty.
OK back home and REPACK for the next leg. Some fitting had to be done to include some almond cookies from Tejeda. Alarm set for 5:45A. Finish the last of the spanish wine, 5E for a bottle that would have been three times that at home. Gran Canaria is VERY affordable. If you just want playa with others it is a top choice. Only down is the long flight with a connection in Spain, or England or some northern European place!!; no direct flights from US. For those like us, who really don’t do beaches, the north of the island would be best.
Third leg; Norwegian Air – Gran Canaria to Nice goes through Copenhagen!!!. A book and notebook writing time, perhaps some doze time as well. Bring a picnic because like most flights now, food is NOT free and could be just hot or cold sandwiches. CPH airport is a fine place to spend a two layover. At a NICE restaurant, we each had a fine glass of wine, I had roast duck with squash puree and kale. Meg had her favorite scandanavian open-faced tiny-shrimp “sandwich”. From order to leave 45 minutes.
A taxi from Nice airport to the city and an Ibis Styles hotel again. We have a loyalty card for Accor Hotels of which Ibis is one. We’ll call Nice home for four days ;~}. We have Christmas Day reservations for a lovely bistro and who knows what else for tasties!
Joyeuses Fetes and TahhTah
Thursday Dec 21, 2016
“So! Where and What?”
“In the car and about the island.. We finally stopped at the beach Playa Amadores where our home is located.”
Gran Canaria is a small circular island that is about 6000ft altitude in the center; 3D shape like a volcano. Barrancos, steep ravines, start very narrow as run-offs from the rains on the peak. The steepen and widen as they descend to the ocean. Between these barranco outlets, there are sandy playas in the south (tourist resort country) and high headlands, especially in the north. Most of the locals live in the north near Las Palmas.
Roads to the interior are carved in terraces that wind along the steep barranco walls. Speeds are slow as the road, which is well surfaced, twists and climbs/descends. There are a few turn outs where less familiar drivers might pull over and let the cars behind go past.
We have spent most of the time exploring the interior; San Lucia, San Bartholme, Tejeda and Roque Nublo. Tejeda is high up, 5000 ft, and a beautiful town carved into the barranco wall facing south. White painted stucco with red tile roofs. Flat cobbles for street pavement. Here they make the famous almond delights noted across Spain and Europe. We can vouch that they are tasty!
Roque Nublo is a thumb of basalt that was a throat of lava in the ancient volcano. Softer rock eroded leaving Nublo pointing to the sky. This iconic symbol can be seen from many place on the shore. In an art museum in Galdor on the north coast, there was a tablo nativity scene set in Gran Canaria with Roque Nublo high in the background.
Galdor was one of the home villages of the Indigenous. It seems that they originated in North Africa and were of Berber descent. Who brought them and their animals here is unknown. There is no record of tales/legends of water travel and they had no maritime connection when the Spanish arrived.
The Spanish conquered the island in the mid 1400s. Reducing the population from 20,000 or so to les than 3000. Sugar cane industry was started. It used all the wood and the aquifers on the island in 150 years, then the industry collapsed. A new industry was cochinella beetles off the cacti. This is a natural red coloring still used in foods. The islands became the jumping off place for trans-Atlantic voyages. Columbus stopped here for all four of his voyages. Today, tomatoes, bananas, and other crops are grown for European markets.
Tourists bring a lot of cash. Different islands have been favored by different countries. GC is favored by Scandanavians, especially Norwegian. Twice in conversation with locals (one waiter and one maitre’d) we were told that we were the second Americans in recent memory. One couple from Indiana four years ago! And one from Philadelphia today! Plane connections to GC are not easy for Americans.
GC is an easy going, warm feeling place. They are very tolerant of our “Spanish” and let us try to speak it and they will reply in Spanish until you can go no further. In France and Italy, as soon as they here your accent they will try to switch to English.
For us, upon return we will book a “self-catering” place in the north. I don’t like the barranco walls terraced in condos/resorts. Playa Amadores isn’t anywhere as bad as claustrophobic! Maspalomas and Playa Ingles. BUT I came to experience Gran Canaria not vacation Norway. I know that sounds awful but “it is as it is”.
Thursday is our last day on GC. We’ll try to find some fishing villages were told about. Experience a gourmet upscale last GC meal. Repack for a morning flight to Nice for Xmas weekend before Bagnols on the 27th.
Sunday Dec 18 2016,
Gran Canaria belongs to Spain and sits just off the African coast. We are ensconced in Puerto Rica at Playa Amadores in a times share. Folks from northern Europe are the guests; they thought we were English. We are the only North Americans.
The resort, like all the others built in the past few years, is terraced into the steep walls of the barancas where the headlands meet the Atlantic. Roads thread their way up, around, down, twist the curves of the walls of the canyons. Narrow. 2nd and 3rd gear manual driving 40 km/hr maximum speed. The few main highways are 5th gear and are 100 km/hr.
We arrived from Paris via Brussels on Brussels Airlines; a budget airline under the Air France alliance. We left the hotel on Saturday at 5:30A. Landed at Las Palmas 6 hours later with a 1 hour change planes in Brussels. The plane to Brussels was very mixed race and age. The plane to Gran Canaria was mostly northern European and a lot of families with children. The same at all the car rental booths in the airport. The road from the airport was a highway with many tunnels though mountain flanks. The south of the island is dry, temperatures in the 60s and partly cloudy. It gets its winds over the oceean from Africa and the Sahara. No real trees, a lot of cactus and scrub vegetation. AND a lot of resorts near the coast for northern Europeans.
After a leisurly breakfast, laundry etc, we drove west the then north along GC 200. This is windy, mountain driving along the coastal headlands. Puerto Mogan, Mogan, and hamlets beyond until Punta de La Aldea beyond San Nicolas, a fishing hamlet far from the resorts. The mountain road was “cerrado”, closed to the north. La Aldea harbor was nice to photograph.
Hungry, we stopped there after shooting a bit at the non descript “Restaurant Paco”. No outdoor seating with waiters carrying drinks like a block away. There were patrons inside at tables. Everyone ‘ a dozen party and a foursome and a couple of ladies; there were locals. The owner informed us of the menu choices and was surprised that Meg was from Boston and spoke English, more surprised that she knew of and wanted Los Pimentos de Padron with her Sopa de Marisco. In Spanish ( ;~}) I ordered La Sopa y Croquettes Pescado. He delivered it through the ordering window to the lady in the kitchen.
In a bit it all arrived. Later the peppers and the croquets came. The prices had seemed like tapas prices but the dishes were meals. Excellent.
All dishes served, he retrieved his guitar from under the kitchen ordering window. Tuned it up, had one of the patrons adjust the guitar strap, did a few trills with his fingers, and approached the dozen table. “Feliz cumple ano” he sang and everyone in the restaurant joined in. A young lady in the corner blushed and then laughed. He proceeded to sing a few more songs and also stopped at all the occupied tables before returning to the birthday girl for a couple more songs. Much cheering and singing and clapping. Lovely.
Back in the car, it was an hour of mountain driving near sunset to get home to Playa Amadores in Puerto Rico. Good thing I didn’t have cerveza or vino for dinner.
First leg; IcelandAir to Paris for a couple of days. WE left BOS Wednesday PM, changed plane in Reykjvik , landed in Paris, and ensconced at an Ibis Styles hotel at the airport. This one has a planetary/StarWars theme. for decor. Interesting.
RER into the city takes a few a half hour but is quite convenient. We spent time in the Galeries Lafayette. Some very expensive name goods for sale. I could replace my old broken watch with a name for between 150 and 750E but I could just wait. The terrace has some vistas and the street store windows are paper creations with fantastic moving pieces. Attached are two quick images with minimal post-processing.
A couple of short days in the City of Light.in December. Kind of Christmassy but not crazy. The first leg of the journey was with Iceland Air. An offer of $430 round trip BOS-CDG came last May and it was grabbed for a month travel. WE knew we were going to visit with David Alice Tristan and Gabriel in Bagnols after christmas until New Years. So we filled in other times; Canary Islands, Nice, Malta, and more Paris at the end. The other planes were done by Airtreks because of the difficulty of scheduling. VERY INTERSTING legs for these connections.
The Ibis Styles hotel at the airport was very convenient to the terminals. We needed that because of the very early flight on Saturday to Canary Islands. It was a crowded hour commute by metro into the city. But Meg knew how, where, and when. Even getting a discount pass that requires a passport picture laminated into it. It is rechargeable like a Charlie Card in Boston, or an Octopus in Hong Kong.
Night in the city with the lights and the crowds and the not too cold temperatures. Nice! Eiffel from the terrace at the Galerias Lafayette. The spot-light beam on Eiffel Tower swung about the sky. Galerias’ decorated store windows were themed in white paper constructions, animated, creative. Kids of all ages were enthralled.
Friday, we walked about the Marais area doing some street photography. At 1P Meg had an rendezvous with a Camino friend. He is a business grad student in Paris from Univ South Carolina. We had a nice leisurely lunch and conversation before he had to get back to school for a party. He returns home to Columbia, SC for a holiday break.
We worked our way to the Champs Elysee for the Christmas Fair and the LIGHTS and the crowds and the … Back in July 2005! we were on the street was for Lance Armstrong’s retirement “win” of the Tour de France. I have fotos of it and of Meg in front of the Thai Embassy gates. NOW that place is an Abercrombie and Fitch!!! Walk up the tree lined path, into the courtyard in back, through the black and gold gilt painted door and into the store. Ornate dark wood and A&F stuff all over. An roofed open center of the building is four floors high with what would have been offices and rooms opening to the balcony that looks down into the former courtyard WOOW. An English speaking employee inside didn’t know anything about an embassy. He thought it had been a movie theater before A&F opened there 4 years ago.
The street is traffic filled, the sidewalk is jammed, a lot of energy. The cross walks lights stop the traffic for the crowd to cross. We stopped in the center to photograph up to the Arch and down to the Ferris wheel. Traffic began again with us and a few others on the center island. Then the light changed to let us complete the cross.
Around the corner and all the way down to Eiffel we walked, like we had done11½ years ago. Eiffel now has a security check at the entrance. This night the tower was closed due to a “social action” (strike) but you could walk around inside the barriers and fences after security. Been there done that. We took the RER back to Gare Nord and our train back home to repack for the next leg.
“Travel light and wear a smile.”
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