We took our first trip to Europe at Christmas in 1991, particularly because traveling on Christmas Day used to be rare and the Business Class cabins were mostly empty. In full disclosure, we were also skipping out on the usual family drama and all of the holiday hustle and bustle. There is something to be said for coming home to no holiday decorations and a clean start to the new year.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but one day was all we had to shoot the iconic sights and find the best restaurants. Fortunately I have been to Rome a few times before and know the historic center reasonably well so I knew exactly where I wanted to be to get the photos I wanted. The unfortunate thing is that one never knows when the monument or cathedral you want to shoot is going to be covered in scaffolding and being restored or cleaned. (more…)
Our trip to Italy was not only spontaneous but off the beaten path for the most part. Some destinations (see Part I) earn a big check mark once we have seen them and others, like Paris and Amsterdam, we return to again and again. (more…)
After a seven year absence from a visit to what is arguably the most beautiful landscapes in the world, it was decided that the birthday trip would be to Italy. Not the same old Italy that first time visitors and guide books direct travelers to, mind you, but something completely off the tourist grid. (more…)
Twenty Years in Paris – Part V
Call me a softie, a romantic at heart, or perhaps at the point in my life when I have crested the hill and begun what I hope to be a very elegant and gradual descent down the other side. Don’t get me wrong, I still love scuba diving, James Bond movies and the occasional leap off the top of a 2,000 foot tall mountain with nothing but a hang glider silently soaring over the beaches of Rio de Janiero. But sometime after my 40th birthday I noticed my priorities were shifting.
The obsession for the latest clothes, cars and cache has given way to experiencing life to the fullest every day. Life’s lessons learned have been punctuated by just how short life actually is. (more…)
Twenty Years in Paris – Part IV
Let’s face it. If you have been to Paris and liked it enough to return for another visit, you undoubtedly know the two biggest draws to the city. The visual eye candy comprised of amazing monuments, spectacular churches, ancient architecture, gardens, fountains, the River Seine and the cobblestone streets is reason enough for repeat visits to the crown jewel of Europe. The other reason is, of course, the food!
Clearly, the French can sculpt a statue, paint a canvas and design world class buildings. They can also create the most amazing, mouth-watering food I have ever seen anywhere. (more…)
Twenty Years in Paris – Part III
We arrived in Paris at the Gare du Norde train station and took a taxi to the Marriott Champs-Elysees where we discovered our room was not yet ready even though it was 4:00 p.m. and check-in was at 3:00. We asked if another room was available and after a few minutes of feverishly pounding his computer’s keyboard and making phone calls, the front desk clerk was able to change our room so we could unpack and get ready for dinner. Knowing that we were celebrating our 20th anniversary, the hotel manager kindly sent a celebratory cheese plate and bottle of white wine for our enjoyment. Abandoning all dietary common sense during our trip, we dove right in.
After such an elaborate appetizer, we had to think twice about heading out for dinner. Well, not really! We knew what was in store for us and finished dressing for dinner. This night’s destination was a small, left bank restaurant serving classic Parisian dishes. (more…)
Twenty Years in Paris – Part II
Amsterdam is as charming and picturesque in September as it is in spring or summer. The canals and narrow houses lining them glow beautifully in the Autumn sun or after the evening lights appear, which happens as early as 5:00 p.m. in the fall season. Regardless of the time of year Amsterdam never fails to provide its visitors with plenty of eye candy and a magical experience not soon forgotten.
Twenty Years of Paris – Part I
Working the system using a combined 55+ years of travel experience, the best option for free Business Class seats on our 20th anniversary trip to Europe for the dates we needed turned out to be via Washington, D.C. So our trip began with a flight from Atlanta to D.C. where we would make our connection to Amsterdam on a KLM flight.
Taking full advantage of our passionate belief that the journey IS the trip, we booked a morning flight to DC so we could enjoy the day in our nation’s capital. (more…)
The cool fall of rain swept the tourists from the streets as we left our hotel and walked to dinner that evening. There is something utterly romantic about rainfall at night. The sound of moving water. The shine of the pavement reflecting nearby street lights. The cool dampness that draws a couple to huddle together as they walk, sharing an umbrella. The misty glow of the twilight sky.
Walking through centuries old streets in the historic city center, we found our way to our restaurant and shook off the rain as best we could. (more…)
I am interrupting my weekly blog post to comment on something unique that happened to me yesterday. My blog is hosted by a website called WordPress. Each day they choose a few blog posts to feature on their home page in a section called “Freshly Pressed.” Yesterday, my post 5 Days in Paris: Love Locks was chosen to be featured. After just a few months of blogging, I was Freshly Pressed!
The morning started with my receiving a few comments on this post, which was 2 weeks old. My new Wednesday morning post had just been published so I thought it odd that people were commenting on an older post and not the brand new one. A few minutes later, when I received a couple more comments, I knew something was up. After thinking about where this publicity could be coming from, I checked the WordPress home page and sure enough, there it was!
I had no idea what a ride I was in for. Every time someone clicks the “Like” button at the end of each post, I get an email telling me that someone “liked” my post. I also get an email each time someone leaves a comment. Almost as fast as I read each email, new ones appeared in my in-box. They were coming from all around the world and the comments were so complimentary and flattering. A few of them really touched me.
Being from German and Irish heritage, I grew up with a lot of meat and potatoes. And onions. Melt a stick of butter, throw in some onions, and cook any meat. Repeat the process with sliced potatoes and a green salad, and that’s what I call dinner.
As is typical with most classic European dishes, it all began with the basic ingredients the average family could afford. In this case the subject is veal, (more…)
Of all the holidays, Christmas has always been my favorite, mostly because of the gift of giving. Sure I love to receive gifts, but the truly rewarding part of exchanging gifts is giving to others. There is nothing more satisfying then seeing the joy a gift has brought to the person I have given it to.
I am so fortunate to experience the same sense of satisfaction and sharing when I introduce someone to one of my favorite places. Since I adore Paris, (more…)
It took me nearly 20 trips to Paris to venture off the beaten tourist path and explore other photo opportunities the city has to offer. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t previously discovered this bridge, but crossing the Seine from Ile Saint-Louis to Rive Gauche, I found something I have never before seen. The entire fencing along the bridge was covered in padlocks and colorful streamers. Upon closer inspection, most of the padlocks had names, initials or other writing on them.
Like the colorful pairs of lace-tied sneakers thrown over power lines in some cities, these locks formed a latticework of color and texture spanning (more…)
The fame of Boeuf Bourguignon was resurrected recently by the movie “Julie and Julia.” A staple of Julia Child’s cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” Boeuf Bourguignon (or Beef Burgundy) is a very old dish that begins with the basic products the average French household could afford at the time. An inexpensive cut of beef is slowly cooked in table wine until it is tender enough to eat.
Over time, the dish evolved to become what many consider to be the basis of French comfort food. Mushrooms sauteed in butter, onions simmered in butter, a carrot, garlic and herbs. And let’s not forget (more…)
Groceries in Paris
Any good cook or self-respecting foodie knows that great food starts with the freshest ingredients. Most Parisians don’t own a car, don’t drive to the grocery once a week, and don’t purchase prepared, frozen foods. Paris is a very pedestrian city where one walks, bicycles or takes public transport to and from work. They pass numerous shops during their daily commute and have access to fresh produce, fish, meat and baked goods for every meal.
Not only do they have smaller waistlines, consume more wine and have fewer heart attacks than Americans, they demand higher quality products from their local grocery stores. One stop inside (more…)
The Best Chocolate Éclair in Paris!
One of my first stops on every arrival in Paris is at a local Patisserie for a chocolate éclair. The pastry is firm to the touch but soft and buttery inside. They come in two varieties, Mocha and Chocolate. The creamy center that fills your mouth with every bite is the real treat and varies widely from bakery to bakery.
Of course, there is much debate over who makes the best chocolate éclair in Paris. There are many formal and informal contests every year to pick the year’s “best”. On this trip I headed directly to Stohrer (51 rue Montorgueil) which is always ranked in the year’s top 3. One step inside the shop and I had severe sensory overload! Something in the back of my brain started flashing WARNING!, DANGER!, WARNING! It was just my first day in town. How was I going to pace myself over the course of this trip? OK, I’m in Paris! I can diet when I get home.
Decisions, decisions. Chocolate or Mocha? Mocha or Chocolate? And what about all the rest of the food porn that was so brilliantly on display behind spotless glass? Everything looked so amazing (more…)