Posts tagged “Travel

Summer Hours

Posted on July 9, 2014

Photo: Paige Bowers

Photo: Paige Bowers

This blog has had a major case of summer hours for the past two months. It’s partly because of travel, partly because of work and partly because of the usual sweep of family life when school is out of session. Since I last posted, I went to South Florida and (among other things) learned how to cook Greek food, sat in a near-deafening bar in my hometown and watched Miss USA contestants wage karaoke war, and ventured deep into the heart of Texas to discover a treasure trove of European historical manuscripts. I’ve sampled microbrews with my mother in a Northern Virginia RV park (Seriously), bought matching French National Soccer team jerseys with my daughter (oh, la tristesse), and done a fair amount of home improvement projects in this old house, which we moved into a little more than a year ago now.

This list is by means a comprehensive rundown of the past few months. But it does paint a picture, no?

Finally, there is the garden, which is producing plenty of tasty treats. One of the most exciting: Butternut squash, which is pictured above. I tried to grow these in my last garden, but an unexpected frost wiped out all of my plants. This year, I was determined to make sure that didn’t happen. So far…knock wood.

More dispatches to come.

Monday Reader: 5/5/2014

Posted on May 5, 2014

Photo: Paige Bowers

Photo: Paige Bowers

My husband sent me to Paris for my 40th birthday. When I tell people about it, they say “Oh that must have been so romantic for you two.” They look either disappointed or surprised when I say “Oh, I went alone. And it was really beyond perfect.” And that’s nothing against him, because my husband is beyond perfect. But because of his perfection, he understands that I really like going to Paris by myself. There’s nothing better than setting your own schedule, following your own interests, getting lost — and then found — in that beautiful city.

I posted the above picture because it reminded me of the last full day of this particular trip. I had spent the day walking through the rain, stopping here and there to pick up a few things I could bring back home with me to the States. I ducked into this cafe at the end of my walk to dry off and have a drink. But as I sat there and really settled in, I lost myself in watching all the people walk through or past this front door. It was pretty fun, holding court at that spot and (I’ll admit) eavesdropping on the people around me and watching them come and go. When I asked for the bill, the waiter brought me newspapers and another drink. I told him he misunderstood me. He said that no, he really didn’t. “You look like you’re enjoying yourself. Stay longer,” he told me.

He was right. So I did.

And that afternoon was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given, right up there with my daughter, this wonderful birthday jaunt and so much more.

That’s why I enjoyed Stephanie Rosenbloom’s “Solo in Paris” article in yesterday’s Sunday New York Times Travel section. My husband likes to joke about the way I take a lot of pictures of the green park chairs in the Jardin du Luxembourg (“You really like those chairs, don’t you?” he smirks), so it was nice to see that Rosenbloom’s story featured them too. And there were great touches throughout the piece about lingering over cold, briny oysters and white wine, and spending a luxe evening at the Palais Garnier. More than anything, she captured the feeling you get after staying in Paris for an extended period of time:

Could I bring back with me the feeling that I had cultivated here?

At my feet, two men with a wheelbarrow were tending to the tulips. I saw a shadow of myself on the dirt path, and of the buds on delicate branches above me, on the verge of opening. I looked down at my oxfords, covered in a fine layer of dust.

Whether it’s dust on your shoes or (for me) yellowed chestnut tree leaves tucked into the pages of a journal, it’s the little things that make a solo trip to the City of Light a must and why I’ll book another one the first chance I get.

I’ll end on this note, another one of those special Paris moments I’ve had while wandering around last year:

How To Say “Sale” in French

Posted on October 11, 2012


I’ve never been a recreational shopper. I’d call myself more of a kamikaze shopper. I go in with a purpose, strike, then get out. When I was in France earlier this year conducting master’s thesis research, I arrived just in time for seasonal sales. So I was willing to relax my usual mercenary technique to engage in a little bit of what the French call “faire du leche-vitrines,” or window shopping. The French term translates literally as “window licking,” which I think is kind of cute in all its Gallic weirdness.

So imagine that you are licking windows and tempted to buy something you see, but your budget is limited. If a shop window says “soldes,” then walk in and poke around. But say “Bonjour” to the shopkeeper before you get down to business. Otherwise, you’re just being rude and, well, American.

“Soldes” means “sales”  and they are a girl’s best friend, especially in a gorgeous boutique like Sandro (pictured above).

But here are three other variations on “soldes” that are worth noting. There are…supersoldes1. Super Soldes and Soldes Massifs — This is the one-two punch of soldesmanship. It says the sale you are about to witness is above and beyond the scope of sales you’ve seen today. It is superheroic. It is epic. You should walk through the door, say “Bonjour” and partake. You won’t be sorry.

destockage2. Destockage Massif — The “everything must go” of France, with prices so low, you can afford that extra bottle of Sancerre! ‘Tis a pity that Jacques Genin didn’t offer a “destockage massif” of its renowned caramels…

festivaldelachemise3. Festival de la Chemise — Not a mere sale, this is a destockage massif that celebrates the humble shirt. We need more shirt festivals. We really do. They’re an underappreciated piece of clothing.