Paris (2018)

Oh Gay Paree! City of exceptional culture and refinement! Compulsively I signed up for an Expedia 3 day package to Paris 6 weeks in advance of departure. I went alone and was determined to see the renowned Klimt and Hundertwasser show at the Atelier des Lumieres, an all multi-media show with projections and music in a vacuous space. I just could not resist. How wonderful it was-only 45 minutes to an hour for the full presentation which included more than just Klimt. I sat for three rounds before leaving. But I also checked out the cafe/bar that was attached to the Klimt venue. Inside there was another multi-media show of bubbling paint pigments projected on the walls. Meditative and mesmerizing and very French! I sat with a cocktail in hand soaking it all in. The room was full and everyone was seated unlike the Klimt show where the crowd moved around in a huge open space taking in the entirety of the show. Surprisingly in the bar people’s conversations did not distract and I felt very much a part of a French art scene. Also on my list was a trip to other sites I missed when I journeyed to Paris in 2002. That included a visit to the Pompidou, a night at the Paris Opera, dining at a special restaurant recommended by a friend, and the Pere Lachaise cemetery. Traveling alone would not be my preference but I found myself very free to see what I wanted to see and got around with little complication. However I know now that you don’t just hail a taxi in Paris, you look for a queue and wait in line like in Barcelona otherwise you walk and walk and walk and wonder why taxis pass you by and point ahead. Live and learn!

Paris, France (2002)

The summer of 2002 my mother, my 10 year old son and I traveled to England and then crossed undersea via the ‘Chunnel’ to France. We visited Paris for a week staying in the St. Germaine district near Luxembourg Gardens. My heart’s desire was to take in the Louvre but besides visiting that renowned museum I fell in love with the Musee d’Orsay. Also a must see is the Rodin Museum, which was his home and studio. In the surrounding gardens you will find many of his famous works including the Burghers of Calais, a favorite of mine. We passed up the Pompidou but took our time relaxing in the plaza area spread out before it. Dining out for us was light. We did go for a few outdoor cafe meals. I ordered escargot and managed to flick the little snail from it’s shell along with a burst of butter and chives which ended up on my mother’s blouse. We had a good laugh at that time as well as the French people sitting near us. Silly Americans! However often we preferred to buy crepes from a street vendor and eat them on route to our hotel where we would crack open a bottle of wine, slice cheese and bread to suffice for the evening. Down the street from us was a historic small restaurant called Polidor on Rue Monsieur de Prince. It was a most authentic dining experience. They had a Turkish toilet in their watercloset which we found very charming! Other notes: we visited Versailles, Sacre Coeur and I took my son to Euro Disney for a day. One fun memory from Paris is the encounter we had with a grand Gay Parade that extended forever down St. Germaine. My 10 year old son’s reaction was quite charming being alarmed at the sight of grown men ‘dancing in their underwear’ on top of a float.

Portugal (2019)

The tour was a Mayflower cruise down the Douro River. We arrived in Lisbon, got a quick tour and stopped two places on our way to Porto to board our ship. I arrived early to explore Lisbon on my own with a few other friends. I LOVED Lisbon! Old world, low key compared to other large European cities, and friendly people. The food was great everywhere. I took one day trip out to Sintra with a stop at Cascais, and Cabo da Roca, the most western point in Europe. Back in Lisbon I spent time in Alfama, an arts district with scenic lookouts onto the Tagus river. Lori and I had a wonderful meal our first night in Alfama at Farol de Santa Luzia. Later we took a backstreet food and wine tour arranged through Viator that was a highlight since our guide, Tiago, was extraordinary. We visited the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (home to outstanding examples of the blue tile work Portugal is known for) and dropped in on a Banksy show. Shopping near the Praca do Comercio and site seeing the traditional favorites like the Discoveries Memorial, Belem Tower, etc. – check! And that was just the ‘pre-trip’! On the bus to Porto we stopped at Fatima, a religious destination for Catholics, and at Coimbra, home to a famous university. That evening we dined aboard our ship and the hospitality could not have been better. The cruise ships on the Douro are small and can only hold 100 or so guests. Food was great. Scenery was great. Excursions on land included stops at Lamego, Salamanca, Pinhao, Pacheco Winery, and Museu e Parque Arqueologico do Vale do Coa. Side note: if one can do a cruise choose one that will take you on shore and bus you to Salamanca, Spain. It is charming old world and very historic. Back on ship: I enjoyed the experience of passing through a lock and viewing the vineyards from the top deck as we leisurely cruised. I could only spend a short time in Porto before our departure but I did see the spectacular tile work within the train station of Sao Bento and took a tour boat on the river to pass under each of the 7 bridges that cross from Porto to Gaia before the river spills out to the Atlantic Ocean. On the Gaia side of the river we spent time at a winery specializing in Port. So guess what I brought home with me? Oh, and don’t forget to bring back tins of sardines or anchovies. The Portuguese specialize in canned fish!