Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Positively the Last Vacation Pictures (Maybe)
I was going to leave the vacation stuff behind, but then Deni said she was born in Verdun France. How often do you meet someone who was born in Verdun? (Okay, technically, I've never met Deni, but I know her. You blog. You know how it is.) So here is a little bit of Verdun:

This is one of the war memorials in town. This one is at the end of the main street. Here is how things looked from the top of this memorial:

This is the river that runs through town. Although it was freezing, there were still teams of scullers.

This memorial, which dates back to World War I, is at the entrance to a small charming park sandwiched between the river and the town. One of the things we found in the park (in addition to the cat on a leash -- I still can't get over that!) was a sequoia tree which was donated to them by California in 1976. Sequoia trees in northern France. Oh sure. Well, look at the results:

And here is the view through the city gates and down the main street:

Gosh, if I'd only known I'd be showing someone her birthplace, I would have taken a lot more pictures!

posted at 1:24 PM
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Sunday, January 25, 2009
The End of the Trip
There was an Arctic front moving through Europe while we were there. As we left Prague to drive back to Paris and our flight home, we saw scenery like this:

We stopped in Germany to get gas and decided to have some lunch. We found the most amazing place, all glassed in and full of plants.

The service was a little slow, but the food and the atmosphere were delightful. That's the good part about the way we travel, with no real plans and no reservations -- we can take whatever presents itself and enjoy it.

We stopped that night in Verdun France, site of some very bloody battles in both World Wars. This was Friday night, but there were no restaurants open! We finally found one on the edge of town called Buffalo Grill, where I had a hamburger, French fries (pommes frites) and a mini bottle of Burgundy, which was the local wine. This was not at all what I expected to be eating in France, but this restaurant seems to be a big hit with the locals. Or maybe that's just because everyone else closes on Friday night, so they get all the business.

Verdun is a lovely very old city with the original city gates still standing. We walked around a bit, checked out the memorials, and spotted a woman walking both her dog and her cat on leashes. I wanted to take a picture but by the time we got close enough, the cat was , um, busy in the bushes, and I didn't want to startle it with the flash.

We ended up that night in Chantilly -- and, no, I couldn't find any lace. But what they had, in addition to a huge castle,

were lots of small shops. In fact, as we strolled down the street, we passed, in order, a butcher and a baker (but we never did see a candlestick maker.) Chantilly is a small town, but they had three chocolatiers. I chose the right one, because the owner spoke excellent English and was obviously enjoying his conversation with Texans. He even followed us out into the street to wish us a happy new year. This is so different from the reception we have gotten in the past. Europeans seem to like Americans again.

My favorite shop in Chantilly was the fruit and vegetable one. I couldn't even buy anything, as I was leaving the next day and couldn't take it on the plane, but I had a serious case of Shop Envy. Damn, that fruit looked good!

I had to content myself with profiteroles instead:

And finally, just for Guppy, I give you ... potato chips!

Okay, this whole post has turned into an ode to food. I think I must be hungry.

posted at 1:55 AM
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Monday, January 19, 2009
Helpless Little Kitten or Spawn of Satan?
Sometimes Yoda looks like this:

I have tried in vain to get a picture of his Evil Twin, who puts his ears back and bites and scratches and races around the house attacking things. But here is a "results" picture:

This looked a lot worse on Saturday, so I went out and bought him $44 worth of toys. Actually, about $38 worth of toys plus some clippers to trim those razor-sharp claws just a little. One of the toys, four fuzzy little balls of different colors, was a big hit but turned his paws and chin bright pink. Unfotunately, I didn't think to take a picture, and, anyway, I'm not sure I'd want to humiliate him publicly like that. But pink was very popular with him.

This is essentially a feather boa attached to a wand. The moment I walked in the house and opened the bag Yoda was in my lap trying to get to the feathers. He chases it, he leaps for it, he bites it, he claws it ... and it is getting smaller by the moment.

When this is completely gone, I will go to the craft store and buy a long feather boa for him. It makes a mess, but it's easy to clean, and at this stage of his development, that's the best I can hope for.

Spoil a cat? Moi? Don't be silly!

posted at 9:07 AM
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Thursday, January 15, 2009
The Mystery
I was driving through Louisiana and was out in a big stretch of nothing betwwen Morgan City and Houma when all my electronic equipment stopped working. My GPS started telling me to turn where there weren't even any roads, much less any need to turn. The buttons on my Palm Pilot would not work. My cell phone had no signal. I was in a panic, wondering how I was going to get through my trip without those 3 essentials. But when I got to Houma, everything started functioning again.

If I had just thought to look up, I'm sure I would have seen the space ship hovering overhead, jamming all the electronics.

(So you think you have a better explanation?)

posted at 5:22 AM
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Thursday, January 08, 2009
More Prague

I believe that in the Czech language, adding "y" to the end of a word means "sold here" or "This is the place". So I assume that this sign indicated the merchandise sold within, and not the quality of the goods and services. But I had to have a picture of it, anyway!

This was a little town called Plzen (pronounced Pilsen -- the secret to pronouncing words with nothing but consonants is to stick a vowel, usually an "i", in there somewhere). The town is about an hour west of Prague and half an hour east of the German border. So there may be truth to their claim that they invented Pilsner beer. I was in a store buying postcards while the Professor waited outside, only to discover when I came out that I had just missed the Clydesdale-drawn sleigh with 8 beer kegs on it, making the day's deliveries to the bars. I could see the back of it; I tried running after it so I could get a picture, but they were too fast for me.

The frozen bushes were kind enough to hold still while I got a shot of them.

This was the view from our hotel window. The long white building is a tiny part of the massive Prague castle and the spires directly behind it are St. Vitus. Here is what things looked like up on the hill.

One of the most charming things about Prague was the abundance of nativity scenes, almost all of them very simple and handmade from straw or wood.

If you look carefully, you will see that Mary is anatomically correct. I was so charmed by the straw ornaments, especially the angels, that I saw in a kiosk. I was going to buy some for me and for my SIL of Czech descent. But it was early, I knew I would find them all over the city, I didn't want to carry them around all day ... you can guess the rest of the story. I didn't buy them and I never saw another stall selling them. We deliberately went back on New Year's Day, but they didn't open. So I guess that means I have to take another trip to Prague!

posted at 8:15 AM
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Monday, January 05, 2009
A Very Dobre Trip
Happy New Year! I guess I'm a little late, but we just got back from Prague last night. And what a wonderful, beautiful, delightful ... um, and COLD ... place it is!

A river runs through town, the Elbe, I believe. At the top of the highest hill is the most massive castle complex I have ever seen. It includes several churches, one of them being St. Vitus.

I have pictures that show off the church better, but this one is special to me. We had just attended a concert in a basillica in this same castle complex -- an unheated basillica, I might add -- and when we came outside, St. Vitus seemed to be glowing. It was one of the loveliest things I ever saw, and I'm just sorry my camera can't capture the enchantment. Oh, and the concert? -- Have you ever seen an orchestra dressed in coats and hats and gloves? We were pretty doggone cold, too, but the music was wonderful.

When I first told my mother I was going to Prague, she said I couldn't go because I don't own a fur hat. I replied that if I needed one, I couldn't think of a better place to buy it. Can you say "first purchase?" And the scarf was second.

The thermometer had the temperature hovering right around 0 degrees C, which is 32 degrees F, so it shouldn't have been so bone chilling. But my ears would freeze without the hat, my hands would freeze without gloves, and I noticed there were no bare-headed people to be seen. For some reason, the Czech cold goes right through you.

We succumbed to the charms of a little old lady -- not that much older than I am, now that I think about, but at the time she seemed very old -- and bought tickets to the Czech National Ballet performance of The Nutcracker. Seeing the theater was worth the price of admission. It's one of those old, ornate, gold-leafed and carved theaters with a huge chandelier hanging from a frescoed ceiling. This version of The Nutcracker was certainly not the one I am used to. The first act was set in the village square and Herr Drosselmeyer was a mean stingy landlord who was throwing everyone out in the streets for non-payment of rent. Clara's mother bought the nutcracker, Clara did a dance that looked like amatuer night at the strip joint, and Drosselmeyer tore the nutcracker to pieces for absolutely no reason. Then Drosselmeyer went to bed and the devil appeared with several wraiths to prance and torment him. The costuming was heavy on the S&M and the devil swished off the stage. Then somehow the Nutcracker reappeared and became a prince and Clara transformed into the ... Sugar Plum Fairy? we think ...and the Snow Queen came from somewhere but all she ever did was wave her wand and the Snowflakes danced without snow. And then Clara went off on a sled -- yes, the kind you slide on -- pulled by the Prince and with a BABY on her lap, which got huge applause, but we had no clue how the baby got in there. Act two was full of more S&M costuming and the dances went beyond suggestive. It all ended with Drosselmeyer waking up Christmas morning a changed man and giving all his money away. It was very much Scrooge meets The Nutcracker in drag. It was inventive and creative, especially in the way they changed the music around, but being used to the sweet innocent version, all I could think was that I certainly would not take a child to that one.

New Year's Eve we watched fireworks from the top of the castle hill. They were being shot off all over town and it was simply incredible to see. The ones being shot from the river were like our fireworks finales, just a constant stream, that went on for about 20 minutes. I learned how to say Happy New Year in Czech, but that was a few bottles of wine ago... I managed quite well with yes, no, good, please and thank you, plus a whole lot of pantomime.

I have many more tales to bore you with, but they will have to wait.

posted at 6:15 AM
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Mitey Mite

Texas, United States

I am older than dirt, but I still feel pretty young & some call me the Energizer Bunny. I share a house with the Professor & 3 cats. Between us we have 5 grown children, all of whom are productive members of society (!), and 10 grandchildren. I have a job I love, a little money for the 1st time in my life, and so many more things I want to do than I will ever have time for.

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