Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas is over

'Spotted dick', a steamed pudding, an English dish
Carving the turkey

My sister, Dawn and her husband, Paul

Sophie and Edward

My parents, both in their 80's and 3 of my 4 brothers

Nieces and nephews, fooling around with the stuff that came out of the Christmas crackers.
We had a lovely time, I had people sleeping on my floor, my couch, my guest bedroom, can't believe I had so many people squeezed into my little house. Dawn and her gang left for New Jersey this morning and Philip went home to Toronto. It's been 16 years since he was last in the USA. It was really lovely having him join us this year. Now I'm left alone to tackle the laundry.
In the next few days I have to finalize my travel plans for 2008. The nieces and I are spending Easter in Italy. The nephews live in New Jersey, they don't get to travel with me. My sister is upset sometimes but I tell her she needs to move to the West coast.
Happy New Year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Christmas

See you after Christmas. Have a great Christmas. I know I will.

Pretty places

Annecy is so pretty, the photos doesn't do it justice at all (maybe the camera share some of the blame). Whatever it is, pictures can only do so much, there's nothing like being there. I guess that's why I actually travel to these places instead of just being an armchair traveler. Lake Annecy is immense, lovely and clean. In summer, cruise boats take people out into the lake. It was late October when we were there. All the boats were moored and all boating activity seized... except for an instructor taking a class of 10 years old canoeing. Every little kid paddles his or her canoe, some were faster than others, some were struggling. It was fun to watch, we were cheering them on.
Every nook offered a pretty vignette and a photographic opportunity. I'd love to go back and paint. Better yet I can keep on traveling to look at more pretty places in the world.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Annecy, France

The reason for being in Lyon was so I can go to Annecy. I had wanted to see the North East of France the previous year but couldn't. Annecy is so pretty, colorful, every building is painted in a muted shade of pastel color- pink, lilac, apple green, and yellow. The water from Lake Annecy flows into canals that surround the buildings, it's like Venice, except the water is sparkling, clear and clean. The lake is the largest fresh water lake in France and the water is ultra clean. It is like Paradise, unreal, I wonder what's is like to live in such a pretty place. I have met people, Americans who's fallen in love with the place they vacationed in and have decided to live in these places only to find it a trap. First, they don't have the language skills, next they don't have a marketable skill, so they end up flipping burgers in paradise. I've met these kind of people. So I'm only wondering aloud about living in these places. I like to visit, I don't want to stuck there, one cannot eat pretty. A market was in full swing and we bought some fruit from an old lady and Sophie decided to give her more money than she asked for. Sophie is a pastor's daughter and that is how she is. The old lady probably has more money than us. We were short changed all the time in Europe and she decides to give away money.
We took the bus to Annecy from Part Dieu, took 2 hours but the train brought us back past some old, quaint and deserted villages. Even in the fading light, we could see another part of the lake, the train conductor alerted us to the fact that we'll be passing the lake, so nice of him. It was very late when we reached Part Dieu in Lyon. Part Dieu and the metro, while initially baffling us, became our close friend.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Notre Dam cathedral, Lyon

There's Sophie at the entrance to the cathedral. The whole sits on top of a hill and the view of Lyon is spectacular.

Lyon- old Lyon

Roman ruins

Notre Dam church

St Jean

streets of old Lyon

the river Saone

Lyon has a very pretty old quarter, cute art galleries, restaurants and pastry shops galore. The very beautiful and immense Notre Dam cathedral is at the top of a steep hill and visible from everywhere in Lyon. The river, Saone is one of two rivers that cut into the city.
We walked the old quarter the whole morning and took pictures. We hiked up to see the Roman ruins, large and deserted. The cathedral is very impressive, of white marble throughout, the interior is green and gold and very royal. The basement is as large, this place is so immense and so beautiful. In the old quarter, there's another old church, St Jean, it is older, I think it's Romanesque.
We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant, imagine eating Chinese in Lyon. The lady who works there was from Cambodia and could speak Cantonese and French.
Lyon is a very civil place, very dignified, bordering on boring.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


All the books in 'Books I'm reading now' that I said are by Henry Miller are actually by Henry James. I've never read Henry Miller. I thank 'anonymous' for pointing this out to me.

Paris, again

We arrived in Paris on a lovely and cold day. Terminal 2 at Charles de Gaulle airport is wonderful, there's the RER train that zips you into Paris and the most wonderful is the TGV that speeds ou to all corners of France. I had already bought our tickets online from RailEurope before I left. I found out recently that RailEurope is actually owned by French rail people, SNCF. They mailed me the tickets. We took the TGV to Lyon from Paris Charles de Gaulle and in 2 hours we arrived at Part Dieu, the main train station in Lyon. We were in a daze, with people everywhere. I knew we need to take the metro to Place Bellecour where our hotel is. We went down to the metro but couldn't find a map, it showed only one direction, Charpennes. I have no clue where Charpennes is, so we went back to the information booth at Part Dieu and the nice lade said, change at Saxe-Gambetta. We went back down to the metro to figure out how to use the archaic ticket dispensing machines, finally figured it out and off we went. Phew! We were on our way, that's the beauty of independent travel. One cannot be afraid of asking for help. I'm used to asking for help, I've been trained to, being an independent traveler all my life.
We were to use Part Dieu many times more while in Lyon and subsequent visits were a lot less intimidating. I remember going to the little police station and saying, 'We're lost, can you help us?' The cute French policeman pointed us to 'Accueil'.
We stayed at Place Bellecour, on Victor Hugo, a street with a lot of cute shops which we didn't have money for. A 'Ricksteves' recommendation. There was this restaurant round the corner where we had our first meal in the famed gastronomic capital of France. Next morning it was 'petit dejeuner' in France.
The initial plan was just to stay in Paris for a few days since we're going through Paris but it ballooned into a whole week because there are places in Provence that I desperately want to visit. The boss said, ok and there we were, starting the week in Lyon.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Books I'm reading now

Every other blogger seems to be doing a section on books they're currently reading. Let me do mine,
1) Miss Daisy Miller by Henry Miller.
I read 'Portrait of a lady' by Henry Miller and is intrigued by this author. So I decided on Miss Daisy Miller. I like stories on strong women. I also like reading about Americans in Europe. Both these two novels have these two elements in them. Although I've not read 'On wings of a dove', I've seen the movie. It's about a group of people scheming to get the money of a sick and dying American heiress in Europe.
2) A time of gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
The excerpt reads, 'In 1933 the author was 18, expelled from school he left England and travel on foot, up the Rhine, down the Danube and on to Constantinople'. He traveled mostly through Germany. I have trouble with this book because I've never been to Germany or Austria and am lost because I am not familiar with the geography. I need to visit Germany and reread this book.
3) Black lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West.
This is a very thick book and I will not rush through it. It is about the author's travels through Yugoslavia. Her style is easier to read than Patrick Fermor. There's a lot of Slavic history which I'm not familiar with but wants to know more.
4) Marco Polo by Laurence Bergreen.
While traveling through Sicily, some one left a historical novel on Genghis Khan. I regret I forgot the title but it was very intriguing. Marco Polo went to China and interacted with Kublai Khan and gives an insights on Mongol culture.
These books just arrived from Amazon and I vowed to read them slowly, not rush through them, savor every morsel of information.

Getting ready

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The wreaths are hung up and the tree is trimmed. I reuse the ornaments every year, only splurging on a real tree each year. I've been polishing a huge treasure trove of hotel silver I bought at the Santa Monica flea market, they're so pretty. Some are ending up as gifts. Pastor Billy will approve, it's a very homemade Christmas, no boxy gifts from Best Buy. There's a week left and the flea market will be on for one more time Dec 23 before Christmas.
Even with being busy, there is always time for petit dejeuner.