by Luke Barr from his book Provence 1970
“Cooking and eating in a foreign country may be the surest, truest way to its soul”
by Luke Barr from his book Provence 1970
Julia and Paul Child built their Provence home on the Beck and Fischbaker estate called Le Mas Veiux outside the little town of Plascassier, a half hour drive from Cannes. The five acre property has an eighteenth century farmhouse called Bramafan that Simon Beck and her husband remodeled and lived in. Simone Beck was Julia’s close friend (they called each other sisters) and co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In 1965 the Child's leased the land and built their modest house in an old potato batch of the estate. They called it La Pitchoune, the little thing. The deal between the Becks and the Childs was made with a handshake, a house built on friendship. La Pitchoune would revert back to the estate once Julia and Paul Child were done with it and that is exactly what happened. The house was returned to the estate in 1992 and later sold. La Pitchoune is now available for rent to the public by the new owner.
The Child's spent many happy years (three decades) at La Peetch, as they nicknamed La Pitchoune. They entertained legends like James Beard and M.F.K. Fischer. Julia Child and Simone Beck worked on the second volume of the Art of French Cooking.
After arriving at La Pichoune I met our group of 9 women, three of them professional cooks. Our tour guide Barbie Aknin and her friend Deb greeted us with hors d’oeuvres and a glass of rosé, the first of many to come.
We took a tour of La Pitchoune and the adjacent house Mas Bramafam. The current owner has turned it into a modern house with a large kitchen and dining area. Both houses were to be our home for the next week.
Before we go on let me tell you a little bit about our tour guide Barbie Aknin owner of Community Cuisine. She was the best tour guide I have ever had. When we arrived there was a folder on our bed with all the information we needed, including recipes. Barbie has the perfect personality for a tour guide. She is calm, organized, and nonjudgemental and a talented cook. I felt well taken care of the entire time I was with her. I hope that in the future I can take another trip with her. Another very important person on this trip was our driver Fouad. He took special care of me because of my ankle . Whenever I needed a hand he was there without asking, a true gentleman with a kind soul. His knowledge of the area is vast . He and Barbie made the perfect team. Like I said before, my goal is to go back and have him as a tour guide. As you know my blog is for my personal enjoyment and I don’t monetize it. All opinions are my own.
Barbie had prepared Daube de Boeuf with polenta for our first dinner served with vegetables and a salad.
Under the guidance of Barbie, we prepared a delicious picnic called Pan Bagnet for our Sunday lunch. For the rest of the week we were encouraged to help and ask questions or just sit by the fire and have a glass of wine. She hired a young woman to help with the dishes. Throughout the week Barbie invited us to participate in formal cooking lessons. I learned a great deal and hope to post some of her wonderful recipes.
The following day, Sunday, we went to the Cannes farmer’s market which was amazing. Julia and her friends had come here often. I bought a jar of truffles and Barbie bought produce for the week. All the vendors were very friendly and we got to taste everything.
After the market we took a boat to the island of Saint-Honorat, a mile off shore from Cannnes. Since the fifth century the island has been home to a community of monks. The 21 monks still living there are cultivating eight hectares of grapes from which they make wine. It was a day filled with beautiful things to explore, good food, and making new friends.
Monday was spent sightseeing and shopping in Nice. Barbie wanted us to explore the Cours Saleya, a market in the old town of Nice. It is a beautiful flower and fruit market from Tuesday to Sunday and an antique/flea market on Monday. We were free to choose to do whatever we wanted to do.
Three of us went with Fouad, who gave us a fascinating tour of the old narrow cobblestone streets. The four of us had a wonderful lunch and afterwards admired the antiques at the market before we went home for another delightful dinner with our group.
On Tuesday we visited Grasse to tour the Fragonard Perfumery . We had a nice tour of the facility learning how perfume was made now and in the past. People that mix the perfumes have a job which is called the nose. What a job! Perfume is made by extracting substances from plants . There are different methods of extractions.
After the visit to Grasse we visited Frederik and Isabelle. Frederik raises heritage pigs in a wild nature setting. It was a wonderful visit for a farm girl like me. Frederik and Isabellle treated us to a lunch in their home.
There are so many beautiful villages in Provence to visit. We saw several of them during our week's stay. On Wednesday we went to Saint-Paul de Vence, a walled medieval scenic town set on top of a hill with magnificent views and hilly cobblestone streets. Marc Chagall has his final resting place here. From St-Paul de Vence Fouad drove us to Touretttes-sur-Loup, a hilltop medieval authentic village with spectacular views.
We had a tour of the Confiseries Florian in Touretttes-sur-Loup. They manufacture some fantastic candied fruit, crystallized flowers, and different sorts of candy. It's wonderful to watch them produce these delicacies. I wonder, did Julia and Paul ever come in to buy some of their goodies.
To all my foodie friends, how many times have you dreamed of helping a famous chef prepare a meal in his kitchen. My dream finely materialized when our group prepared lunch with Chef Alain Llorca at his Michelin starred restaurant. This beautiful restaurant and hotel sit on a mountain overlooking Saint-Paul de Vence. We had a fabulous lunch on their terrace. Alain and his wife Virginia and brother Jean-Micheal created an establishment that offers the best of the region. In the morning we watched and helped Alain cook a mediterranean fish terrine that was served later for lunch. I was in culinary heaven and couldn't have been happier even though I received a troubling text telling me that my flights home had been canceled. .
On Friday, we visited the farmer’s market at Valbonne. That night we had our last dinner at Julia’s house, what a treat, what a beautiful vacation.
We all said “good bye” on Saturday and Faoud picked four of us up to give us his special tour, called “The best of the French Riviera Tour “. What a great last day. I can highly recommend this tour for anybody visiting the area. I just hope that I can come back one of these days. Two days later everything was shut down because of the Corona virus.
I made it home, even though my flights were changed three times, one of them on Sunday morning, two hours before I was supposed to leave. I caught one the last flights to Frankfurt and then on to San Fransisco. After getting home I quarantined myself for two weeks. There are so many more memories and photos I would like to share about this wonderful trip but I need to publish this post. I will post more photos on Instagram. I hope you are all safe and healthy coping and getting used to our new way of life. Virtual hugs to all of you.
This will be a two part post about my trip to France. Part one will be about my stay in Nice and part two about staying at La Pitchoune, Julia Child’s vacation home in Provence.
I signed up for this cooking class sometime in January dealing with the aftermath of my broken ankle. By then I knew I could do it. It was the perfect motivation to push myself with exercise and physical therapy. On March 3rd my husband dropped me off at the San Francisco airport and I was on my way. Flying comes naturally to me, I have done it so many times in the past. I changed planes in Frankfurt and landed in Nice as the sun was setting over the Alps. I fell in love with the city and area before I even landed. I was picked up by the most wonderful driver and tour guide ever. I hope to come back to this beautiful area and Fouad from France Azur Excursion will be my guide.
I spent two days by myself in Nice . There are times when I like solo traveling . This was one of them. As a woman of a certain age I was treated kindly by the staff in my hotel, the Le Meridian. There was a cook in the morning that made a perfect omelet, the receptionist recommended some great restaurants and her sense of humor was delightful. The server in the rooftop restaurant entertained me since I was the only customer.
Nice is the capital of the Côte d’Azur and is located on the French Rivera with a seaside promenade called the Promenade des Anglais. This promenade stretches for miles and defines the city. My hotel was on the promenade and near the old town with its open air markets, tiny boutiques, and incredible restaurants . I loved exploring this part of the city and had an opportunity to do it again a week later with my group.
My first day was a rainy day and I decided to go the Matisse Museum. The Matisse museum documents the various stages of the artist’s development. I especially enjoyed the sculptures. Unfortunately, I couldn’t explore the surrounding gardens and the park. I took the bus back to Nice and had lunch at Armand Crespo’s latest restaurant called Peixes. This restaurant specializes in fresh local fish turned into mouth-watering ceviches, tartare and Japanese-style takakis. It has a no nonsense young vibe, my kind of place. I had the fish of the day with coconut foam , tom yum, and vegetable spaghetti. It was divine.
The second day I bought a ticket for the ‘hop on hop off’ bus. This is a great way to see any city. After touring the city I visited the Chagall Museum. Many artists including Chagall were enchanted by Nice’s beauty and lived there for years. In the Chagall Museum you will find the largest public collection of his work. This museum was designed with the the cooperation of the artist himself. The museum’s core is a series of large paintings illustrating the first two chapters of the bible. I very much enjoyed looking at these colorful paintings.
On my walk home I had made reservation at La Meranda , a tiny small restaurant that serves only 20 people is run by Dominique Le Stanc, formerly the chef at Negresso, a two-star Michelin restaurant. This unusual restaurant doesn’t have a phone. You have to drop in to make reservations and sit close together on small uncomfortable stools. The menu is on the blackboard and reflects local rustic dishes. I had a delicious salad and the daube of beef was very good. Don’t expect elegance or a charming restaurant but the food is outstanding and the price its right. A real experience, it reminded me of of sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen on a bench being served a tasty soup that filled my tummy and soul.
When I returned to Nice the following week with my group Foud took some of us on a walk through the tiny cobblestone streets where I hadn’t been before. He also took us to a restaurant where I had the most delicious duck confit ( that and onion soup is a must when I am in France.)
I enjoyed exploring Nice and hope that one day I can return and explore more of this gorgeous town on the Mediterranean .
Stay tuned for part two where I had the best week ever at Julia Child’s summer house La Pitchoune.
Budapest is the capitol of Hungary and Hungary's most populous city. It is a city that has been influenced by many cultures throughout history, most prevalent is the Austrian influence from the 19th century when Hungary was part of the Austrian Habsburg Empire.
Budapest consists of two parts—Buda and Pest. The Danube River divides the medieval streets and Roman ruins of Buda from the 19th century boulevards of Pest. Many bridges connect the hilly Buda with the flat Pest. The most famous and first bridge ever built was the 19th century Chain Bridge. It was the first bridge to link Buda with Pest.
In 1987, Budapest was added to the Unesco World Heritage list for the cultural and architectural significance of the banks of the Danube—the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue.
You will find some great architecture in Budapest, especially the Art Nouveau style. Unfortunately, we only had two days to explore the city before I fell and broke my ankle.
We arrived by train from Vienna on a Friday, a pleasant 2 ½ hour train ride. That night, we attended a concert in the St. Stephan's Basilica, the largest church in Hungary. It was a wonderful introduction to Budapest. This church was dedicated to the first King of Hungary.
The next day, we took the Castle Hill funicular up to the castle. It offers a great view while riding up. The funicular links the Adam Clark Square and the Chain Bridge.
The castle built on Castle Hill was meant to protect the city from the Tartars and Mongols. It was destroyed many times. Today, the Castle Hill area houses the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest City Museum.
On Saturday, after exploring Budapest on a warm and sunny day, we had a wonderful lunch on an outside patio at Dunacorso, a restaurant that has been in existence for over one hundred years. We enjoyed the food and the ambiance with a view of the Danube.
After being released from the hospital, I was well taken care of and nurtured by the Ritz Charlton of Budapest. The concierge was wonderful and so was the rest of the staff. I could not have survived this ordeal without them. The Ritz has a great spa with a swimming pool. The restaurant had a wonderful goulash soup that I had two times. It was the staff of the Ritz who saved us when I broke my ankle. I cannot thank them enough.
The aloha spirit can still be found on the busy yet beautiful island of Maui in the Pacific Ocean. The light, the sun, and turquoise color of the ocean all add to the beauty of this island. It was a pleasure to share this trip with my niece and her husband.
On this trip we rented a condo located near Kaanapali, which we had booked last August. It has a nice beach, which is important to me because I love splashing in the water, although I’m a lousy swimmer. I love to snorkel and look at the colorful fish and turtles. To me, snorkeling is a moving mediation in water.
On the first day, we gave our kids (as we refer to them) a feel for the island with its fabulous scenery on different parts of the Island. Our first quick stop was Paia, a historic plantation town near the beach. We had a good cup of coffee while checking out all the cute little stores.
Then we went along the coast to look at places to go kite surfing, a hobby of my niece’s husband.
We continued upcountry to Makawao, where we had lunch at the Hali’imalie General Store, a must-do for me when I am in Maui. Our guests were not disappointed with their meal either. My niece and I had the fish tacos, which we decided were the best fish tacos on the Island. The fresh fish of the day was served on grilled taro tortillas with mole sauce and tropical salsa. My niece’s husband had the Kalua pork enchilada pie, which I highly recommend.
I always enjoy my visit to the town of Makawao, with its mix of eclectic stores and buildings dating back from the cowboy era. Makawao has a feel of the past and old Hawaii that I enjoy.
On the way back, we visited the Iao Valley State Park with Iao Needle. It had been years since my last visit and it wasn’t too crowded with buses or visitors.
Food was more of an afterthought on this trip, as we prepared several dinners in our condo. I seared some fresh tuna and served it with an Asian salad. The kids made us pizza.
We did have a nice meal during happy hour at the Monkey Pod Kitchen in Kaanapali. We were lucky to be seated outside with a great view of the sunset. The Mai Tais were the best.
Another day we drove through Kihei and Wailea, showing them our favorite beaches at Makena and the Kanahena Natural Area Reserve, which is an amazing peaceful spot on this busy Island. It’s where you can see the where lava flowed from the Haleakala volcano.
The kids had a lot of fun driving around the island, hiking and going kite surfing. My husband, an ardent football fan, had to watch the playoffs while I enjoyed the beach and a good book. Life was very good. The highlight of the trip was hiking the Kapalua Coastal Trail on West Maui on a day with a high surf.
The time went by fast and before we knew it, we were back on the crowded airplane returning to San Fransisco. Read about my previous trip to Maui here. Note however, that Chef Sheldon Simeon of the former Migrant restaurant at the Marriott’s in Wailea has moved to Wailuku. He opened a new restaurant called the Tin Roof in Kahului, but I have not eaten there yet. The Marriott Hotel now has a new restaurant called The Humble Market Kitchen by Roy Yamaguchi, who became famous with Roy’s restaurants. I can't wait to return to this beautiful Island.
“Discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
by Marcel Proust
One of my husband’s hobbies is checking out reasonably priced flights and hotels. I am the lucky recipient of the great deals he finds, for which I am very thankful. One evening while sitting at his computer, he asked if I wanted to go to Singapore. For a short window of time United Airlines had affordable business class tickets and he found a luxury hotel for a competitive price. Bingo! Before I knew it, we had booked a vacation to Singapore. Maybe it had something to do with my one-day layover in Singapore en route to Bali in 1992 or watching the recent movie Crazy Rich Asians.
Anyway, I asked myself several times what the heck was I doing to embark on a 16-hour trans-Pacific flight and why Singapore. I was questioning my very sanity. But in the end, I am so glad I did because we had a great time and enjoyed the many cultural layers of ethnicity. Singapore is much more than the sum of its numerous attractions. Singapore is a wealthy city state in southeast Asia, adjacent to Malaysia. Different ethnic and religious groups live together in harmony and peace and seem genuinely happy to be where they are. The country is known for its transition from a third-world country to a first-world country in a single generation. It places highly in the key social indicators concerning education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety and housing. When it comes to safety, we never once felt that we were in any kind of danger. I have never seen a cleaner subway than in Singapore. And you can use the restrooms, which has not been the case in any other country I have been to including the USA. I’d rather pee in my pants then go into a restroom in the subway in New York, Frankfurt or Paris. I realize that Singapore is a flawed democracy, with harsh sentences and limited free speech. Maybe I am just naive because I am not familiar with the nuances of the culture. But I liked what I saw and enjoyed this friendly city with its happy and helpful people.
Our outbound flight was pleasant because we went nonstop from San Francisco to Singapore. United’s new Polaris class is fine, and adequately comfortable as I could turn my seat into a small bed where I could stretch out with two pillows and two blankets. Since we flew at night, I was able to sleep for six hours and watched three movies. I loved Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Our return flight was turbulent and not as comfortable. The new 787 Boeing airplanes are sleek airplanes, and the air circulation system seems to have been improved. However, everything seems to get smaller to add more seats. I miss the old 747 jumbo jets.
We arrived at 6 am, and after checking into our lovely hotel, walked to the Botanical Garden. The 184-acre garden opened in 1859 by the Agri-horticultural Society and was an important center to cultivate plants, especially the rubber tree. I could spend days there to enjoy the tranquility of this lush tropical garden. The garden is free to enter and became a Unesco World Heritage site in 2015. There are 10,000 different species of flora can be found in the garden.
The orchid garden is in the forefront of Orchid Studies and has been a pioneer in the cultivation of hybrids. Visiting heads of state and celebrities have orchids named after them.
This is the orchid named after Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. She is one of my favorite politicians at the moment.
There are several different restaurants located in the park. The corner house is a one-star Michelin restaurant. There are two other restaurants in the garden that are more casual. I didn’t eat in either, but I enjoyed a wonderful cup of ginger tea. It was the best I ever had, made with ginger from the garden.
And then there are the Gardens by the Bay, spanning 250 acres of reclaimed land. It has a fantastic futuristic design that would take days to explore. It is an enormous botanical garden, located right by the waterfront of Marina Bay, consisting of three parts: Bay South Garden, Bay Central Garden, and Bay East Garden. Like most tourists, we concentrated on the Bay South Garden with the Super Trees, Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome
The Cloud Forest Dome is absolutely amazing. It has the world’s tallest indoor 35-meter waterfall which descends through a mist-filled, temperature-controlled cloud walk and treetop walk. Both my husband and I were taken by this marvel of engineering and plant life that ranges from tropical highlands to ferns and hidden floral gems with an abundance of orchids. It is a jungle built on concrete that makes you feel like you are in an alien and surreal world.
Next to the Cloud Garden is the Flower Dome. It is the largest glass greenhouse in the world. Here you will find plants from the Mediterranean and semi-arid subtropical region. We took a little break in the California Garden and felt at home.
There is so much more to see and experience in this uniquely designed outdoor space.
We also decided to visit the ArtScience Museum which had an interesting light exhibit. I am interested in that because my niece is an architect in light design.
And then there is Singapore’s iconic hotel called Marina Sands with the world’s largest infinity pool on the roof, a casino with shopping and eating until you drop. We decided to visit the rooftop bar and had a Singapore Sling while enjoying the view, although we were not allowed in the pool since we were not guests of the hotel. I was going to go to the Raffles Hotel for my Singapore Sling, but unfortunately it was closed for renovations
Our hotel, the Saint Regis, felt like an old-fashioned luxury retreat in a very busy world. I was always happy when the doorman greeted me with a smile. I know I could relax, go for a swim after being immersed in the humid climate of Singapore. Almost every afternoon, I treated myself to a wonderful hazelnut dessert and at night we had a drink at the Astor Bar admiring the original Picassos on the walls. What a life! Oh, and let’s not forget the breakfast, with an astonishing variety of international dishes that made it difficult to choose. Every morning, I ate my fill.
On a late Sunday morning, we decided to take the local bus to Kampong Glam, an area with an eclectic blend of history, culture and a trendy lifestyle scene. It is a vibrant district, one of Singapore’s oldest urban neighborhoods. “Glam” is a local term for glamorous and “Kampong” derives from the Malayan word kampong which means “compound.” It’s a buzzing neighborhood with locals and tourists alike. The streets are lined with generations-old heritage stores, independent boutiques and craft shops. There are many local culinary delights to discover in this area, unfortunately I didn’t try any. Haji Street is the in most popular street visited by tourists. This is the only street where graffiti is allowed and you will find the trendiest boutiques and shops. We also liked the surrounding area, which I thought was more authentic. It was so interesting to observe the local culture here with its diverse lifestyle.
Singapore is a paradise for foodies. People are obsessed with their food and have a strong opinion on where and what to eat. I concentrated on the local food, even though they have everything else. It would take months to write about eating in Singapore. Each culture has their own specialties and for most of the population, they are affordable due to the Hawker Centers in town.These food stalls are true melting pots where you can share good, affordable Chinese, Indian, or Malayan food in one place. It is here where Singaporeans from across income levels and ethnicities gather to eat with dedicated purpose. Everyone has their own opinion on where to get the best chicken rice, chili crab, or other ethnic dishes. You will find pages and pages of recommendations.
I followed the advice of a New York Times article and ate at the Hawker Chan, a Chinese eatery in Chinatown. It was awarded a Michelin star in 2016, and I don’t know why. The chicken rice was very good, but the place had no resemblance to any Michelin-starred restaurant I have ever been to. Michelin stars are earned based on food, service, and ambience, at least that what I thought. Somebody, please explain this to me. I had a delicious Banh Mi sandwich in another stall at a different Hawker Center, which I thought was just as good.
We also enjoyed a great Chinese meal in the huge Marina Sands complex during a torrential downpour.
Unfortunately, because of the humidity and tropical climate, I could not eat a lot. I saw some fantastic food that I wanted to try, but it I didn’t have the necessary appetite to do so. Everybody recommended to try the chili or pepper crab, a specialty of Singapore. My husband and I shared one outdoors overlooking the Singapore River. It was delicious, as we picked out the live crab that was imported from Alaska.
One early afternoon we took a 45-minute boat tour on the Singapore River which was pleasant.
Was Singapore worth the trip? You bet it was. It was an interesting experience with many choices and lots to see. I travel because it gives me the opportunity to observe another culture and enjoy watching people. It makes me more humble and I hope gives me more understanding. I always learn something new. And I love mingling with the locals and in water falls on hot humid days.
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.” Thomas Jefferson
Paris is all about walking and finding new treasures. There is so much to see and learn. I enjoyed reading The Most Beautiful Walk in The World by John Baxter, an Australian who used to give historic walking tours. It is a wonderful book, even if you don’t go to Paris.
But my trip was almost over before it had begun. We had taken a taxi from the airport to the hotel. The taxi happened to be a mini-van, and as I got out, I twisted one foot on the cobblestone. As I was falling down, the taxi driver scooped me up like a bird and saved me from injury. I’m glad I had given him a good tip. From then on, I wore tennis shoes instead of sandals. Traveling isn’t for the faint of heart, but the kindness of strangers can make it easier.
On my last night in Paris, I was strolling through the small streets of Saint Germaine back to my hotel and I felt like I was in a Woody Allen movie. People were sitting outside enjoying the warm summer night, and the store windows were full of beautiful tasteful displays. I didn’t want this to be my last night in Paris. I wanted to stay just a little bit longer listening to the saxophone player, keeping this feeling of serene beauty and ambience of the City of Lights.
It had been hot the four days we were in Paris, but not as hot as in previous visits. And our hotel had air conditioning, which made all the difference in the world. Our hotel was in the middle of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris. This Bohemian part of Paris used to be home to many artists and intellectuals. It is so easy to get off the beaten track and end up in hidden lanes admiring 17th-century architecture. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you end up in a charming secret passage and don’t want to leave, or continue to the Latin Quarter or Notre Dame. There is always something that makes me feel like I belong there.
Our hotel was right around the corner from the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is being restored at this time. There are many famous cafés within walking distance, so you can pretend to be Hemingway, Jean Paul Sartre or Simone de Beauvoir sipping a pastîs, an anise-flavored drink which is also one of my favorites.
Our four days went by so fast. On a hot Saturday morning, we decided to visit the Musée Jaquemart-André. This hidden gem of a museum is a treasure, located on the boulevard Haussmann. It is home to a huge collection of art, furnishings and sculptures collected by banking heir, Edouard André, and his artist wife, Nélie Jaquemart. During their lifetime, they transformed this beautiful mansion into a museum housing their extensive art collection. We enjoyed the visit very much as we didn’t have to fight the enormous crowds at the D’Orsay or the Louvre. But I regret not having tea at the café.
We also signed up for the Opéra Garnier tour, which was over-crowded and too hot. But nevertheless, I got to set foot into this beautiful building. Maybe one day, I will get to see a performance. It’s a stunningly beautiful building and I recommend the tour.
Do to the heat, we preferred our restaurants to have outdoor seating, since most places don’t have air conditioning.
Years ago, we ate with a young friend at Le Procope, a legendary restaurant in the 6th arrondissement open since 1686. We decided to revisit this restaurant and had a delightful lunch. But it was hot and had no air conditioning— but neither did Thomas Jefferson when he ate here over 200 years ago.
We also had another delightful lunch with friends from the States at Le Grand Colbert, which everybody loved for the fantastic food — and air conditioning. The architecture and design of this place is as great as the food and ambiance. Click here to read more about the Grand Colbert on a previous post.
We left on a Sunday morning on a train to Zürich and and returned to Paris the following week to catch our flight back to San Francisco the next day. When we arrived at the train station from Zürich, we had our last meal at the LeTrain Bleu, an iconic restaurant in the Gare de Lyon. The restaurant is decorated in a sumptuous art nouveau style. The food is excellent and the surroundings are spectacular—and authentically French. If you go, have the Rum Baba for dessert.
I hope I get another opportunity to visit Paris again, and enjoy it as much as I did this time. Click on the buttons below and read about my other trips to Paris.
Aloha and welcome (e komo mai) to the Island of Oahu. Most people stay in Wakiki when they visit Oahu, known for its legendary beautiful beaches, high-rise buildings and endless shops. Waikiki is the playground of the Pacific. What I like about Wakiki is that you can explore it by foot or take THE BUS, a great public transportation system. If you are over 65, take your Medicare card and you can ride the bus for $1. Hawaiian people are friendly and will always help you find the right bus. Think of Waikiki as a giant shopping mall where you can go in every store and try on whatever you want. But if you don’t want to shop, there are gorgeous beaches where you can avoid the shopping frenzy and watch a classic sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
Sometimes, within just a few steps, you are transported back in time 100 years. Two of those places on the strip of Wakiki are the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Moana Surfrider. Both have modern towers attached, but in both hotels there is an older, original part. The Royal Hawaiian is hidden between high-rise towers, but I find it to be an oasis of old-time charm. Walking through the lobby and outside grounds is a must for me every time I am in Wakiki. I have stayed in the old rooms several times and enjoyed it tremendously. Their bar on the beach is a favorite spot to have a mai tai and to watch the sunset. When you stay at the hotel, you are greeted with their famous banana bread (get the recipe here). You can buy it now at their coffee shop.
At the Moana Surfrider Hotel , you can sit in a rocking chair and watch the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. Go upstairs in the lobby and look at photos of the old Hawaii.
We have driven around the Island several times and stayed in different hotels on different sides of the island. During this last visit we decided to relax and stay put, go swimming every day, and eat good food.
I love to go for early morning walks, leaving Waikiki and going into residential areas. I admire the old houses with their interesting doors. I might take a yoga or tai chi class on the lawn of the park.
Oahu is home to a diverse population which put their stamp on the architecture, food and way of living. Whenever I visit the islands, I enjoy watching the hula dance which is being performed by old and young everywhere. This classic Hawaiian dance is being taught to young children, who perform it often and very beautifully. It always brings me joy and I like to dance it myself when I am alone. The hula is a Polynesian form of story telling, brought to Hawaii by a woman named La'ila'i in the 6th century. It takes a lot of love and commitment to master it.
Let's go back to the beach where I swim in the warm, clear blue Pacific Ocean every day. I don't go in far, because I am not a good swimmer. No one teaches you how to swim when you grow up on a farm in northern Germany. But I do like floating and having the waves caress me. I feel safe, and it is such a pleasurable experience.
For our first dinner we choose The Eating House, a restaurant by Roy Yamaguchi, who pioneered bringing local Hawaiian food to the local restaurants. I often eat at his other restaurant called Roy's in Honolulu. At the Eating House I had a Royal Hawaiian cocktail which was the best one on this trip.
Iron Chef Morimoto has two new restaurants in Waikiki. We ate at the casual Momosan Waikiki on the patio. It has wonderful small plates like tetsunabe pork gyoza with a ginger scallion sauce that is flambeed with sake at your table. My duck confit small bites were out of this world. My husband had the noodle dish that they are known for. They also have pig ears on their menu, but I decided to pass on that one in spite of good reviews. You can also order take-out and have it at the beach.
I used to have lunch at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room in the Ala Moana Shopping center, but it is now closed. Instead, I had a wonderful and reasonably priced dim sum at the Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant on the 3rd level of the shopping center. I enjoyed every bite and didn't need to eat again the entire day. The waiting lines are long since locals eat here.
Marukame Udon is a well-loved casual place where they make their own noodles. It is my friends, Susan and Jim's, favorite place. There are always very long lines and people absolutely rave about this place.
There is so much more to Honolulu, like downtown Chinatown, which is a treasure for foodies. For me, it is more interesting than San Francisco. I have taken some food tours on previous visits, but not this time. There is the Bishop Museum which is a museum of history and science. On previous visits we went to the Doris Duke Shangri La home and enjoyed the tour. The Queen's Iolani Palace is steeped in Hawaiian history and is worthy of a visit. I have not yet been to the Honolulu opera but have heard it is fantastic.
This was my happy place this time—the infinity pool at the Sheraton Wakiki.
Here is a photo of me five years ago and another one of me now. Still happy.
Mahola and I hope to visit again. Aloha.
I will always love Paris even though every time I return it seems to get a little bit noisier with more tourists. But that is just the way it is. So, it is important to stay away from the masses by finding passages or side streets that are less traveled.
We walk and walk and walk , in-between we take a break on a bench or in a cafe , resting and watching the people.
It was still August when we arrived and many of our favorite restaurants were closed but we discovered some new places and had some wonderful meals. We had our first dinner at
Le Grand Colbert where the oysters were great. It was a pleasant evening with a satisfying meal. We slept well on our first night. This is the place were the the mesmerizing birthday cake scene in “Something Gotta Give” was filmed
The next day we had dinner at the old Brasserie Le Dome Cafe in Montparnasse. This is a fish restaurant and I understand their Sole Meunier is outstanding but we shared a plate of fruits of the ocean ( plateau fruits de mer) with a nice bottle of muscatel. .
Near Le Halles is E. Dehillerin, my favorite kitchen store, a heaven for foodies. You want a mandolin specifically for slicing truffles, they have it. Whenever I am in Paris I have to go to this iconic store where Julia Child bought her copper pots. They have everything and more and they will ship. I still use my crepe pan I bought twenty years ago.
Another night we ate at La Fontane De Mars which is a retro style bistro with an old fashion ambiance. The cuisine is traditionally bistro style food . The menu is vast with daily menus on the blackboard. I especially enjoyed my Floating Island Dessert ( Ile Flottante) . President Obama and his wife dined here.
On a hot Sunday we took the RER to Versailles and enjoyed the beautiful gardens. Here we had a nice lunch just outside the garden
After returning from Burgundy we spent the last day of our trip in Paris . Dropping our rental car off at the airport was not an easy task but we managed. We took the RER into Paris and did some shopping at Lafayette, they have a wonderful food section. I bought some herbs and tea for my friends at home and some food to take back to our hotel at the airport to have a picnic in our room while we were getting ready for an early departure. While downtown Paris we ate lunch at an outside cafe and did some more shopping at Ladurée, an upscale bakery specializing in macarons which my girlfriend in Santa Cruz had requested.
The Burgundy is region of France world-renowned for its outstanding wine and food. It is the end of the rainbow for people who appreciate food and wine. This works out splendidly for my husband and me, as he loves great wine and I love great food. For many years, when I would visit my parents and family in Germany, my father would give us his car and we did a week or two exploring Europe. On an early trip, we stumbled upon the Château Bellecroix and stayed in their smallest room in the turret, lugging our suitcases up the stairs and smuggling in wine bought in a store. Living in a real chateau is such a great experience. It was fun and still is today, although now we prefer the ground floor. From this quiet and tranquil place, we visited all the great wineries and fantastic restaurants. By the way, this place is for sale.
My husband loves Chassagne Montrachet, where he shows me the Grand Cru vineyards . As good as the wines are, they have equally good restaurants. While my husband drooled over the wine, I asked the sales girl for recommendations of some good places to eat. She pointed out a cute little outdoor restaurant called La Cabone, which is run by the same woman who also owns a new restaurant called Ed.Em. I didn't eat in either one and wish I had, because we went on to visit Beaune and had a very bad meal. After being disappointed, I ended up in a nice patisserie with a great piece of a hazelnut chocolate dessert and an espresso. .
For the next two days, we relaxed at the Bellecroix and decided to have dinner on Friday night and a Sunday lunch at two totally different restaurants. In early years, the Bellecroix offered a great dinner. My husband proclaims they had the best foie gras, which the cook made himself. Unfortunately, the Bellecroix had closed its restaurant in January and the owner recommended a place in Rully, a nearby village. This place offers French country cooking at its best. My husband and I both loved our meal. Don’t expect anything fancy (because it isn’t), but boy is it good. I had snail raviolis served in a creamy cheese sauce. Both of our main courses were delicious with a great sauce and I had a delicious crème brûlée .
If you want a three-star spectacular and very expensive experience, make a reservation at the Maison Lameloise in Chagny. It will cost you a sack of gold, but you will experience French food and culture at its best. I can only describe it as a sensual sensation with flavors exploding in your mouth, an art form unto itself. It's not so much about the meat or the fish, but what it comes with it—the work and creativity that the chef puts into every single little detail. It is a culinary experience one never forgets in the hallowed temple of French cuisine.
The Sunday market in Chagny is large and a lot of fun. It sells live feathered animals of all sizes.
On this trip, we visited Dijon for the first time. Dijon is the capital of Burgundy and right away mustard pops into our minds. But Dijon is about so much more than just mustard. This quaint town in the northeast of France has a rich cultural heritage, with beautiful vineyards surrounding it—one of four official French cities of gastronomy. We stayed in a cute modern hotel called Vertigo. The staff was super helpful and friendly and the rooms were high-tech. We stayed for two days and never got into the car.
The first night we ate at the restaurant, bistro DZ’envies, a trendy restaurant with a canteen feel where chef, David Zuddas, will satisfy your culinary desires. And you don't need to dress up. We sat outside next to the Les Halles of Dijon’s market and enjoyed a remarkable meal.
The second night we ate at L’Oiseau Des Ducs, a restaurant with a Michelin star. This is part of the Bernard L’Oiseau chain and lives up to its reputation. Here we had the menu dégustion. When you order this menu, you get to sample small portions of the chef’s signature dishes. The food was wonderful with subtle flavors.
I hope I have the chance to visit this beautiful region of France again.
My recent trip to New York was a very special trip. The Cabrillo Symphonic and Youth Choirs performed at Carnegie Hall. My girlfriend, Diane sings in the chorus. It's not every day that I get to watch a friend perform at Carnegie Hall, I had to go and I am so glad I did. The chorus performed the New York premiere of a beautiful piece written by the composer Erik Ešenvalds called “The Long Road,” part of his masterpiece, “Sunset in my Hand: Ancient Voices of the Wild Pacific Coast.” It was a touching and memorable experience for all involved.
My solo trip unfolded without any hiccups, other than the moment when I almost lost my wallet in a taxi. When you take a taxi in New York make sure you ask for a receipt as you enter the taxi. This way you can track down your driver in case you leave something behind.
I took the red-eye special from San Francisco and arrived in NYC early Saturday morning. Upon checking in my hotel stored my luggage and after a large cup of coffee I was ready to go. My girlfriend’s sister and her daughter took me along that day. This was good because I was super tired and not always able to function properly. We got half-price tickets at the TKTS on Time Square for a matinee and saw “A Doll’s House: Part 2” by Lucas Hnath. The play picks up after Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House" concludes. Even though I nodded off just a little bit in the beginning, eventually it got my full attention. What I liked about this play is that nobody was stereotyped as good or bad, although everybody was right and everybody was wrong.
I also saw “Little Foxes” by Lillian Hellman with Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon (from “Sex in the City”), and Richard Thomas, who was John John in “The Waltons” TV series from years ago. The acting in this play was superb. Another play I thoroughly enjoyed was "Present Laughter" starring Kevin Kline.
I saw “The Little Foxes“ by myself. After getting my program autographed by the actors I had a wonderful light Japanese meal at Natsumi around the corner from the theater. The edamame dumplings were outstanding.
The first night I had a charred octopus appetizer puttanesca-style with fingerling potatoes and a bell pepper vinaigrette at Bonoit Bistro near my hotel. Food was not the focus of this trip. We ate twice at the Brooklyn Diner because it stays open late and is near Carnegie Hall. I enjoyed their BLT crab burger and Kugel noodle
I enjoyed wandering around Central Park, eating a hot dog , and appreciating New York City. On my last day my friends and I spent the day at the Metropolitan Museum.
Even though I had planned to go the MoMa, I didn't make time for it, but I did have a refreshing drink and appetizer at Moderner, a great restaurant next to the MoMa. Altogether, it was a wonderful trip and I am glad I decided to go. Read more about New York on my other post from last year.