Blogging Paris

 

Staying in Montmartre, situated in the shadow of Sacre’ Coeur Basilica- boasting the highest point in Paris, I began to settle into the experience that I associate with springtime in the City of Lights.
 The weather was changeable, gentle rain appropriately blurring me into one of those iconic landscapes that we associate with gay Paree.  Walking can be slippery on those old bricks, better suited to slowly strolling and window shopping, methinks!
 And when the sun emerged, startling new blooms were the reward, already lining the window sills, gardens and street-side cafes’.
 The streets are steep, making climbing difficult without a trusty cane or walking stick.  Rather than railing at  the need for support, I have decided that it makes a sexy accessory-often getting me a seat on the metro! People are nice like that.
  Have Cane; Am Able!
Why oh why do I love Paris?
  • Activity.  Everywhere people seem engaged.  They are out and about- even on a Monday night–talking, drinking coffee, sipping wine.  There is activity that makes television seem foreign, irrelevant and irreverent.
  • Cross cultures.  So many people with a sense of having enough time.  Diversity is inspiring and heady.
  • Cafes and outdoor venues, where I am welcome to stay awhile, blogging my heart’s content.
  • Shopping is a way of life-daily trips to the market makes the evening meal fresher. And it feels more wholesome to consume what you buy in a timely manner.
AirBnB worked for us again!
We loved that little studio, tucked into a building hundreds of years old.
Thank goodness for the ascensor (elevator) tiny but mighty and quaint.  T
he manager, Melina, from Venice, was the perfect hostess, speaking fluent English from her New York upbringing.
Through conversation we learned that she has a rental in Venus–and we just put that on our Bucket List!

Madrid: 1st time around

OMG—thanks to Ellioto, who has a 6-month fellowship to Universidad San Carlos III de Madrid, I’m here–in Madrid, Spain.   He’s living on the top floor of university-housing, so we are definitely living with the students, so to speak.

Coming from a college town, I probably felt more at ease with college students than they do with me. English is not so much a second language with the locals as it is for the students who have helped us more than once–otherwise, I would still be trying to figure out those coin washers at the laundromat!

Arriving on St. Patrick’s Day, my Irish soul felt the luck of amazing weather, fresh and clear, luring my jet-lagged self out into the day. This weekend the temps are in the 70’s, though it’s a bit early and not yet consistent. With nary a cloud marring the baby-blue, an occasional jet streaks stripes above me. The breeze gentles my spirit as I settle into this exotic land.

There are date palms trees here, the result of Madrid’s moderate climate. Birds harken in song and across the lush green lawn, groups of college kids dot the grass, their guitars plucking Spanish rhythms as they sing aloud. It’s hypnotic and I could not sit still as I acclimated to the Spanish thrum.

Others practiced gymnastic flips, on high and low bars, offering me a show. Boom boxes revved-up their moves, while their incomprehensible chatter reminded me that I am the foreigner here. And so, they posed and showed off as I snapped a few shots.

Similar to Oxford’s crosswalk-law, cars stop for pedestrians and no one seems rude or irritated. Thus, I vowed to return home with a more agreeable attitude.

There are not as many bicycles as in other European cities that we have visited, but there are bike paths, parks with fountains and playgrounds located every few blocks where families with dogs, complete the wholesome scene. Grandparents in tow, the children seem mellow and happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And what of Spanish food, you ask? It is not as spicy as Mexican; local cheese is delish; Paella is a staple and the wine is less expensive than bottled water however, I will never get used to having fried anchovies served up with my beer!

Madrid, Spain

I am visiting Ellioto who is here in Madrid at Universidad de San Carlos III on a fellowship, living in university housing. Coming from a college town, I probably feel more at ease with the students than they do with me. English is not so much a second language with the locals as it is for the students who have helped us more than once; otherwise, I would still be trying to figure out those coin washers at the laundromat.

Arriving on St. Patrick’s Day, my Irish soul felt the luck of amazing weather, fresh and clear, luring my jet-lagged self out into the day. This weekend the temps are in the 70’s, though it’s a bit early and not yet consistent. With nary a cloud marring the blue, an occasional jet streaks stripes above me. The breeze gentles my spirit as I settle into this exotic land,

There are date palms trees here, the result of Madrid’s moderate climate. Birds harken in song and across the lush green lawn, groups of college kids dot the grass, their guitars plucking Spanish rhythms as they sing aloud. It’s hypnotic and I cannot sit still as I acclimate to the Spanish thrum.

Others practice gymnastic flips, on high and low bars offering me a show. Boom boxes rev up their moves, while their incomprehensible chatter reminds me that I am the foreigner here. And so, they pose and show off as I snap a few shots.

Similar to Oxford’s crosswalk law, cars stop for pedestrians and no one seems rude or irritated. I’m going back home with a more agreeable attitude.

There are not as many bicycles as in other European cities that we have visited, but there are bike paths, parks with fountains and playgrounds every few blocks where families with dogs complete the wholesome scene. Grandparents in tow, the children seem mellow and happy.

And what of Spanish food, you ask? It is not as spicy as Mexican; local cheese is delish;
Paella is a staple and the wine is less expensive than bottled water!

Disability Rant in London; Kindness after all

Kindness Abroad

OMG!… whose idea was it to bring all this luggage on the planes, trains and tubes (subways) to get to our destination? What a gigantic hassle it can be! And even if you have paid due diligence by looking up which metro stops have lifts (elevators), there is no guarantee they will be working.

Ellioto has a fondness for using the metro whenever possible and I must admit that there is satisfaction in finding affordable ways to blend in with the locals. Personally, I would opt for hailing a taxi when Uber lets us down –which unfortunately, can happen, particularly when you don’t have an international phone handy.

But every time that we have taken public transportation, I have been heart-warmed by the kindness of others– no matter the country, men and women, young and old…

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Blogging London

I can easily imagine spending more time in London Town. Traipsing the boroughs and exploring London’s underbelly via the tube, lends a familiarity with an intimate view of what it’s like to live there.

I am assured by those more familiar with London that the tube is usually dependable and user-friendly. But if you’re traveling there in the near future, beware of extensive line-maintenance closings and spontaneous rerouting–quite a challenge for the novice.

*Disability Warning: escalators and elevators (lifts) may be out-of-order, which can be a real hassle. Luckily, wonderful people saw my dilemma and grabbed our suitcases and carried them up the steep and numerous stairs which made all the difference! (Bless you all!)

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Copenhagen, Day 2 out and about by myself

Copenhagen has a great metro system– clean, economical, and simple to use. It runs 24 hours (!) and is handicap accessible–great news after losing my walking stick somewhere in London’s Heathrow Airport, during our plane change! I felt quite comfortable exploring on my own, equipped with my trusty traveling apps, Translator and Converter– both free, on my iPhone.

Malmö Sweden, Day 2

When in Sweden
Go to the Spa…

Riberborgs Kallbadhus (bathhouse) is a spa that is built on a long wooden wharf, extending from the lush green shore of Malmö, overlooking the Nordic North Sea. It’s a popular spot, offering massages, benches for relaxing and there’s a nice cafe’ where you could easily spend the day, taking a break from daily life.

I am no stranger to saunas, appreciating the health benefits of releasing toxins with heat and sealing off pores with cold water or air. I have experienced the purge of Native American sweat lodges, saunas in the north woods of Maine and Northern Italy as well as the Roman baths in Budapest and the ancient healing mineral pools of Turkey. But each culture has its own customs and protocol, so I didn’t know what to expect.

Men and women have segregated areas and a common area as well– although I didn’t observe much mingling there. Perhaps that had to do with the sign stating that clothing is NOT permitted, although strategically placed towels were acceptable but not used much when the temps hovered between 176′ and 194′ F , depending on whether you were in the sauna with one wood fired stove or two. So I peeled off my bathing suit and got with the program, which brought a smile or two.

Each sauna has a large picture window with the seascape and sky to soften your focus. The hotter I got, the more meditative I felt. Clouds became figures dancing above the seductively rhythmical waves. Rivulets of sweat reduced us all to the level of reaching our limits as human beings. It was humbling and no one said a word.

The real deal is to alternate with a dip in that cold salty sea water at 61’F– which I did not do!
It was enough for me to take a break in the cool of the air, waiting until my lobster red skin returned to 98′. But I was shamed by a woman who looked to be an octogenarian who only used the hottest room and took her dips without comment.

Maybe that’s why the Swedes have the reputation of being both hearty and stoic!

Copenhagen, Day 3

Day 3 in Copenhagen

Shallow wooden boats gently glide the time-worn, narrow canals, offering an intimate view of the brightly painted buildings satisfyingly quaint to the tourists’ eye. 17th century Europe is written all over the facade of buildings in the Nyhavn district of downtown Copenhagen.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the Copenhagen Street Food on Papirøen (Paper Island)! Food vendors of all imaginable types are located in a huge warehouse where each tries to out do the other with creative stalls and fabulous food! Organic is everywhere and flavor is not an empty boast.

Even more impressive was the atmosphere. Outdoor fires, beer gardens and boats drifting around us, made it easy to take a load off and sit awhile.

Next: we’re going to Sweden!

Malmö, Sweden

Sweden and Copenhagen’s
Oresund Bridge
Malmo (pronounced, Malme), Sweden, is just over the bridge from Copenhagen– so we thought, “Why not?”
Little did I realize just how significant the Oresund Bridge was and how recently it had been built–only 20 years ago–because the issues seem insurmountable.A little Geography: Denmark and Sweden are separated by the Øresund Strait, one of three Danish Straits that connect the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, making it one of the busiest waterways in the world.The engineering is crazy/amazing, even by my layperson standards and deserves viewing for deeper understanding: