Monday, January 15, 2018

A EUROPEAN HOLIDAY 2017-18 TRIP TIPS

WHAT WE'VE LEARNED ON THIS TRIP
LEE
1. No matter how much you think you're going to need a suitcase full of a different outfit for each day of travel by day three you're going to be tired of opening and repacking your suitcase. Yesterday's outfit begins to look just fine for another go-around. I ended up wearing the same shirt for the last four days of our vacation and no one complained or seemed to notice
2. Always have your daughter wrap her cosmetics and toiletries in sealed plastic bags unless you want your clothes to smell of lilac and rose.
3. European air travel demands very strict weight and size limits on your luggage. Buy a travel scale and weigh everything before you get to the airport and end up having to repack all of your bags in the middle of the check-in area redistributing personal garments so the weight on every piece of luggage manages to register under the weight limits designated by the airlines.
4. Never find yourself with five checked bags, three carry-ons along with three personal items that barely fit under the seat in front of you when you're only three travelers. It's just not right.
5. At a spa, if you're unsure of the protocol or dress code just ask. It saves on the embarrassment of having put your thong on backwards.
6. When out searching for a restaurant pick one where the locals are seated. If a restaurant is located in front of a major tourist attraction or it has a hawker outside trying to lure you in, run in the opposite direction.
7. Designate a meal planner each day where you haven't set up a reservation in advance. There's nothing more frustrating than having the inability to come to a consensus on what and where to eat. If you don't you'll all get frustrated and end up with room service or worse a silent dinner with three angry people.
8. In a foreign country always ask first "Do you speak English?before you just start babbling away. It makes them more comfortable and willing to help and you might even get some great tips on the best place to buy wine even in your own backyard.
9. Never be afraid to mingle. Getting to know the locals, your hotel staff or your fellow travelers is one of the best rewards of visiting places you've never been before. You may even get a cocktail whipped up in your honor and named after you.
10. Make friends that will last a lifetime!

















EMMY
1. You should always take a strong umbrella anywhere you go in Holland
2. Leave the navigation to a millennial (that would be me), especially in our case where Papa and Daddy tend to end up going in the opposite direction of the one we're supposed to be going when confronted with walking directions on the GPS.
3. You never have enough underwear. Laundromats take too long and deduct travel time. Sending your personal garments out is way too costly. Wash them in the sink and then use the room hairdryer or heated towel bar if where you're staying has one to get them dry enough to wear a second time, or in Papa's case ask for an iron and end up in the breakfast room ironing my underwear in front of the rest of the guests at our hotel.















RICK
1. Tuscany, especially Buonconvento and Armena are just as beautiful in winter as in summer.
2. Savour...really savour every single moment.
3. Take some time to go off on your own to explore or have a latte without the rest of the family. "Me Time" can be just as important as together time on a long holiday.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A EUROPEAN HOLIDAY 2017-18 VOL. 16

THE TOURISTY PART AND A FAREWELL
Our holiday had finally come to an end. On a last wish and a prayer we'd hoped to get into the Christian Dior exhibit thinking that if we got up early enough we could maybe score a place in line that wouldn't have the six hour wait we were looking at on the day before. Sunday was to be our last day and the last day of the exhibit. Light doesn't seem to peek over the horizon in Paris until after eight in the morning and that Sunday morning neither the sun nor us were willing to wake up. The sun hid behind its blanket of clouds and the rain came at the windows of our room in gentle waves erasing the thought of getting up and standing in a line in the damp darkness. An umbrella might keep our heads dry but our feet and legs would be soaked and chilled. We all huddled in that morning and didn't get out until after noon. Having abandoned the idea of going to the Dior exhibit we decided on the Louvre, it would be indoors and dry.
There were still lines for the Louvre but they were quick. Because it was Sunday the entrance to the museum was free; free meaning it was crowded with other tourists trying to avoid a cold and wet winter day.
When we got there we decided to avoid the obvious, Mona would have to wait, instead we decided to stroll through the courtyards of the Louvre where Roman, Greek and European sculpture were shown.
Being as visual as I am it's hard to not see a photograph wanting to be taken by every sculpture we passed.
It was as if each one beckoned to be photographed against the stunning backdrop of the Louvre. I obliged.

To top off that last evening we went to the Eiffel Tower.  During the evenings right on the hour, the tower becomes a light show with flashing lights that burst for five minutes and then are gone like a bolt of lightning.
And now so are we.


Monday, January 8, 2018

A EUROPEAN HOLIDAY 2017-18 VOL. 16

PARIS, CITY OF LIGHTS, DESIGN, FOOD AND FASHION
CITY OF LIGHTS
The Holiday lights of the city are set to dim tonight.
The needleless pine trees of Christmas have begun to show up on the sidewalks of Paris' famous streets but Paris is still a city whose brightness shines through even on the grayest of days.
New lights have been added to the city since our last trip compensating for the way winter can make things seem a bit dimmer.
Even the French skies chipped in for some amazing winter sunsets casting a hue of pastels over the ancient bricks and stones of the city. I think we've all become a little travel weary. The zippers on our suitcases are in peril of bursting. We're ready to return to a place where clean clothes aren't a luxury, where the refrigerator is where we go for dinner, and "Will and Grace" is on TV at nine o'clock on Thursday evenings.
But I'll turn on the lights of Paris one more time before we leave.

CITY OF DESIGN
I have a romantic relationship with the Art Nouveau period in architecture. Fortunately for all of us, this period in architecture coincided with the development of Paris' metro system and an architect, Hector Guimard. The entrances he created are unmistakable and totally Parisian.
Everyone wants to board Paris' carousel of design making Paris one of the most elegant cities in the world.
Even a simple puppet shop draws you in with its whimsy and joy of just being a part of a little side street in Paris.
Paris can also travel from the whimsical to the formal
and have the two touch shoulders in a Paris of complementary approaches to design.
Once again nothing is too lowly to acquire an importance due to its design if not its function.
Window guards become more than a means of keeping its tenants safe but they're the accessory that completes an architectural ensemble.
Color is celebrated in bright hues in wild splashes of primary pigments brushed on with precision
or left to weather in exquisite patinas of layer after layer of washed and rubbed paint
Then again it explodes as a riot of playfulness so enthusiastic you'd have to be Scrooge to not fall back into a childhood filled with candy colors.
CITY OF FASHION
Paris is fashion. Whether it's in the clothes the Parisians wear walking down the streets or in the accessories they carry there's a look of sophistication you won't find anywhere else in the world.
Even a tailor's little shop tucked in on a side street with little foot traffic other than the people who live nearby is dressed in perfect fitted window appeal.
Attention is given to their smallest of details. Where else can you find an entire store devoted to watch bands, walls of them in the most popular leathers, fabrics and exotic skins? Our regret is we didn't have any of our antique timepieces with us and they won't sell you a band if they can't fit it exactly to the precise width of your watches' side frames
We couldn't resist walking into MarceletMarcel in the Jewish sector of the Marais, our favorite area to troll for fashion in Paris.
It's where we met the vivacious owner, designer and lifelong resident of the Marais. Some people have a panache and salesmanship that gives them the ability to sell shampoo to a bald man. She had all that and the most stylish men's clothes to back it up. We did not get back out unscathed or as thick in the wallet as when we came in.
Not even children were immune to the fashion bug with shop after shop displaying handmade and one-of-a-kind items you could only purchase in Paris.
Everywhere you looked, every boutique
and every window you passed displayed fashion way beyond the inventiveness of even my dear New York.
CITY OF FOOD
If Paris is nothing else it is food. From the neighborhood pizzeria
to the more established and elegant cafes of the Place des Vosges.
The food sometimes simple as in these Eggs Benedict
or more sophisticated as in this poached pear in a sauce of Roquefort cheese and chorizos where the pear has been expertly splayed and cored leaving only the soft sweet fruit to drizzle down your chin.
We went back to a few old favorites. At Au Pied de Cochon, an all-night restaurant formerly serving a working class clientele who toiled at the food markets that used to surround it
they still serve their famous onion soup alongside a $200 plate of seafood accompanied by a $400 magnum of wine. We settled for the soup and cappuccino.
Specialty shops abound on every street offering biscuits wrapped in cellophane and
ice cream in a cornucopia of flavors both exotic and traditional piled into sweet waffle cones.
The more famous stores like the Mariage Freres that has been in business since 1854 selling teas has now expanded to several locations around the city. Their expert staff will blend specifically for you your own tea blend from the hundreds of varieties they stock in beautiful black tins that line the walls of their shop.
There are shops where pastries displayed on marble countertops with crystal chandeliers hanging overhead are an art.
We even had one dinner where the hostess was this diminutive Yorkie that followed you to your table to make sure you enjoyed your meal.
But the last thing we did before our final closing of our luggage was to pack on as many calories as we could find before our return to a month of salads and sprouts.