Forgive the reflective digression

On this erev Yom Kippur (for those who do not know, it is the Jewish Day of Atonement), I want to take a moment out of reveling in our travels to remind myself how lucky I am. Has the road always been easy? Of course not. Am I all the things I imagined I’d become. Again, no. But I also wouldn’t have dared believe I would be in a position to be sitting in an AirB&B in the middle of nowhere France visiting with my best high school friend. And having a husband who wanted to be along for the ride. To travel. To explore. To (try to) learn a new language. To have great family and friends I know will always be there for me. And to have found a wonderful man to share it all with (I am assuming she is talking about me…Dear readers please feel free to send in your opinions).

Below are a couple of photos from our morning walk. Life is tough.

Is life perfect? No. Are there dreams I haven’t fulfilled? Yes. Do I miss the people who are gone? Absolutely. They have all left me with something and I aspire to live my best life in their honor. I don’t always succeed, but these days I find myself marveling at the wonder of all that is around me. Yes, I worked to get here, no doubt. As I write this (Sept. 14), my son is celebrating his birthday seven time zones away. Do I have a twang of sadness about that? Of course. But as it should be, I am much more melancholy about it than he is. Did I spend my 26th birthday with my mother? I am sure I did not.

So, I will reflect. I will try to be the best I can be and I won’t succeed, but I will keep trying. I will look out the window and understand that not everyone gets to see a medieval church whose magnificent domed ceiling makes one feel small and that getting in the car and taking a weekend trip to Belgium just to say “fuckin’ Bruges” because you thought the movie was funny, is an extraordinary way to live for a blue-collar woman from Queens.

I will reach, fall short, waste time playing on my phone and beat myself up about it. I will fall short in so many ways (at least in my eyes), but I will remember what a new friend said to me recently and I will try to radiate positive energy and be a magnet for attracting good people into my life.

I’m old enough to have sloughed off a lot of the anger and learned to appreciate what’s in front of me. My motto these days is: Experience over objects, not that I was ever the most materialistic person in the world, but I was in Paris for a month and all I bought besides food (and wine!) were two fridge magnets.

Enough of the sanctimonious navel-gazing (although I do mean it all).

Here’s a reality check:

It’s tough when:

  • you’re living and working remotely in a one-bedroom apartment with crappy WiFi,
  • something goes wrong and you don’t speak the language well enough to get help
  • nothing is open on Sunday or Monday or between noon and 2 pm
  • (your wife seems to think a 15,000 mile hike up and down the side of a HUGE mountain is fun)

But every time we start whining about one of these things, one of us looks at the other and says, “We’re in France and then we’re going to Istanbul and Nice and Barcelona and Fes!” and the whining stops.

Here’s hoping for continued growth, learning and self-awareness in the coming year.

All up in Armes

We are staying in Clamecy, but we are here because of my dear high school friend, Suzanne. She does not live in Clamecy, but next door in Armes. We drove there a few times, but today we first walked (it is about 3 miles but it is up hill in the driving snow both ways!) and then I rode a bike over. There’s a beautifully peaceful trail along the Nivernais Canal.

My friend and I took a dunk in the Yonne River. (Well, she took a dunk, I stood up to my waist. I don’t like cold water or anything else cold.) My friend told me she asked the mayor of Armes if it was OK to swim and she said that she swims there all the time, so now my friend does too. There’s a house right at the edge of the river, with a spring bubbling up from almost right in front. They are using the place as a vacation home. Maybe things are like that somewhere in the U.S., but nowhere I have ever lived. (You grew up in Queens! There was no nature anywhere near you). The new owners recently bought the house and told my friend that they were welcome to hang out and even borrow their kayaks. Again, such a different experience. Letting people you don’t know use your stuff when you’re not around? Has that happened to you?

The village of Armes (like everywhere around here) is old. Don’t ask me how old, but pretty ancien. But more than it being old, nothing really changes. In fact, Suzanne showed me the lavoir, or washhouse for you English speakers, which is just spring-fed spot with an indoor and outdoor spot to scrub your clothes. According to Suzanne, there was a serious hierarchy where older women (of course the women get to do the laundry) got the cleaner water and the younger women were relegated to what was essentially dirty clothes backwash. Also interesting that the building has a simply amazing security system: a piece of string tied around a nail. Anyone can get in. The building and the mucky, algae-laden water are just waiting for a teenage prankster or graffiti artist. (Where is Banksy when you need him?).

Clockwise from top left: The view of Collégiale Saint-Martin de Clamecy from the bike path, inside the lavoir, an Armes home, the Yonne is great for a dip, outside the lavoir.

The boat (and motorcycle) made it through the locks.

The lock system on the canal is another throwback we noted. Houseboats and other recreational water vehicles cruise on the canal, which has a system of locks – hand-cranked locks. On our morning walk, we saw a couple docked in a little kind of passing lane waiting for the lock master (lock smith?) to crank the lock open and let the water level even out. They shrugged at us on our way out and gave us the universal thumbs up sign on the way back when they had finally passed through. July and August are peak cruising times, but there were still a few other boaters enjoying the 30-degree weather. The canal is shallow and we could see the bottom churning up as the boats went by. If we had been walking a little faster, we might have overtaken them.

I know this was not Steven’s first choice of a place to hang out for a month, so I want to give him props for (mostly) being a trooper. The older I get, the more I realize that your people are more important than anything. Having a whole month with my best friend in high school and her wife is priceless. I am a lucky woman!

Last hurrahs in Paris

Today we waved au revoir to Paris, but we do have some other” Paris adventures to catch you up on. We managed to squeeze out two more museums, a dead person bingo part 4 and dinner out. Plus, I finally had what I would consider a French meal, with my new friend Linn, who is Norwegian and Filipino.

Sunday, we had petit dejeuner (I just like saying that). Steven had un croissant avec café au lait and I had un café allongé avec des pain au chocolat because I had to. Next, on the recommendation of the lovely French couple we met last week, we went to the Hôtel de la Marine, which is not a hotel but did house the French Navy. The building has been restored to its former glory – if you think it’s glorious that Marie Antoinette’s death warrant was signed there. It is beautiful. There are also four different audio tours you can choose. We tried to choose two different ones, but both ended up with “Traveling through Time.” No complaints from either of us. We both enjoyed it (except for the fact that the maid was named Susan). Pictures below.

Next, we finally had crêpes. Yes! And they were delicious. We were in on the outskirts of Latin Quarter restaurant row. I suspect all the crêpe places would have been equally delicious, but ours wasn’t on a street mobbed with tourists. I had a veggie (surprise) and Steven had chicken, mushrooms, crème fraiche and cheese.

Finally, on to our last dead person bingo: the Pantheon. These very famous French people are lined up neatly in crypts along a hallway with alcoves housing several each. We didn’t even need a map to find anyone since their names are conveniently posted on the wall outside each alcove. So, we saw the real Alexandre Dumas, along with Marie and Pierre Curie, Voltaire, Emile Zola, Louis Braille, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Victor Hugo (my new hero since we kept bumping into his memory wherever we went).

We thought that was it for being tourists, but then we realized we hadn’t been to the Musée de la Contrafaçon (Museum of Counterfeits) just down the road from us, so on Monday we walked over there and learned all about how to spot a fake. Steven and I always have interesting conversations. This time we agreed that if you really think a “Game Child” is the same as a “Game Boy,” that’s on you.

Our real last Parisian day was Tuesday and I made the most of it. After working in the morning, I headed out to a lovely two-hour lunch with a woman I met in my class. It was the first time I ate in a French brasserie and ate French cuisine. I had melon gazpacho and a yummy salad with a glass of Chablis. Even better than the food was the conversation. Thanks, Linn! À bientôt. Then, Steven and I went out for our last night’s dinner and had Italian food. Can’t go wrong with pasta and limoncello sorbet!

A hearty thanks to Paul and Oona for letting us live the Parisian life for a month in their apartment.

And now … Clamecy.

Paris From On High

First I’d like to mention a personal achievement. You probably know that I have been “learning” French. Well. today I had a “mon petit test.” I was very nervous, which is unusual for me. The test didn’t really affect me in any way. I just hate failing! Soooo, it’s over now and I can say that I think I did fairly well! No, I still cannot speak very much French, but I have a start. Yay!

OK, so on to the events of the week so far. Sunday, we took in another view of the city, this time from the Terrace at Galeries Lafayette. It’s really a high-end department store that has an excellent marketing tool: A beautiful rooftop terrace. C’est gratuit (that means it is free), but you do have to walk through the trop cher merchandise to get there (oh by the way, I am afraid of heights, so I stayed as far from the edge as I could and spent the entire time looking down at my phone so didn’t losing my mind. Also, the barriers at the edge – are glass – EEEEEEEEEEEEK!).

We walked from there to 59, rue de Rivoli, which used to be a serious art’s squat when the area was downtrodden. Since then, the city bought it and rents spaces out to artists on the cheap. C’est gratuit aussi and if we weren’t “unhoused,” which I guess is the new PC term for homeless (we are not homeless…we are nomadic), we probably would have bought a few paintings (or at least one).

On the way between the two, we stumbled upon one of Paris’s covered passages, Galerie Vivienne. It reminded me a bit of some of Chicago’s underground walkways, but it was fun to walk around in because it was pretty much empty. Get ready for another photo montage (but there’s more text, so read on!). Yes, it was that kind of day. Everything was très, très, très photogenic.

So far we have managed not to eat any French food (besides pain au chocolat, des baguettes et fromage) and Sunday was no different. So what kind of food did we have, you ask? Belgian, of course! We went for the good beer at un resto nommé Au Trappiste. Good beer, good food and we met a very smart Danish guy (retired economics professor and now works for the OECD) for excellent conversation. Of course, he spoke excellent English.

I don’t know, maybe I am just a starry-eyed tourist. Maybe Paris was pleasantly empty (it’s starting to refill now that August is coming to a close). Maybe I just love it here, but everything has been wonderful and every time we go for a promenade, we come across a beautiful building or park, something unusual or another place we file away for our next visit. There are more photos, but I don’t want to overload your visual cortex right now. (Plus I may have a down week and need some random shots.)

Oh, BTW: we got fooled by the old bait-and-switch. The Alexandre Dumas we saw at Montmartre was not THE Alexandre Dumas. It was his son. So guess what? We’re off to the Panthéon for one more round of dead person bingo. FYI: Josephine Baker will be transferred from Monaco. As in the U.S., racial tensions are high and this is one attempt to lower the temperature. She will be the first black woman interred there.

Oo la la! l’espagnol est facile, le français est difficile or

… how I sort of had a conversation with my French teacher + the day’s adventure

Another week down. Oo la la! I think the subtitle of the Paris portion of the trip has to be “a baguette and a bottle of wine a day make for happy temporary Parisians.” We are in this weird hybrid world. We don’t really live here, but we’re not really tourists (although, as you will see, we did another touristy thing today). Definitely not complaining at all, just musing on the temporary life. So far, it’s pretty great being homeless (or nomadic if you prefer). Anyway, I think, like New York, Paris is a city one could live in for a lifetime and still find surprises to revel in. Of course, Paris would be better if I could … speak French!

Gratuitous pic of Paris, because.

With only 7 classes left in le cours de français, I have moments where I think, “Hey I don’t totally suck at this” and others where I think, “Now I know how my special ed kids feel!” That brings me to the title of this post. My teacher, Laurance, and I had a “conversion” in which I sort of in French said that I always imagined learning Spanish, not French, to which she offered the encouraging words: “L’espagnol est facile, le français est difficile.” Yeah, no kidding! I did stumble through a short conversation with her and that gave me hope that if I keep going, I may not sound like a total idiot some day.

The good news is I am definitely beginning to hear actual words within the lovely French sounds. Yesterday I watched episode two of “Dix Pour Cent” which translates to 10 percent, but is called “Call My Agent” in the States. While I pretty much had NO IDEA what was going on, at least I could tell they were saying words. Progress!

By this time next week, I will have taken a “petit test” that will be “très facil” according to Laurence, our excellent teacher. Of course, it also lasts one and a half hours. OK.

Today the whole class went out to lunch at le Jardin du Luxembourg (while her darling husband was at home slaving over a hot computer and watching just a couple episodes of “Better Call Saul” on Netflix), which is pretty much around the corner from the Alliance. I am so lucky (in so many ways), one of them is that the class really gelled and we all get along really well. I hope we will keep in touch and meet in other fabulous spots somewhere in the world.

After lunch, Steven and I headed over to the Catacombs. If you get lucky and get up early, you can get same-day tickets for half price. Regular price is 30€, which didn’t seem worth it to us.

We were right. It’s definitely worth going to once in your life, but it’s much better at 14€. The amount of bones piled up can really get you thinking if you’re in a melancholic mood (Interestingly, the bones were all moved from other cemeteries during the 18th and 19th centuries. The bones are from the 14th-18th centuries) . In general, it’s overwhelming but interesting and takes about an hour to walk through. The website says to dress warmly because it’s cold down those 131 steps into the former quarry so I wore a sweatshirt and brought a jacket. I ended up rolling up my sleeves. If I’m not cold, you won’t be! Maybe you’re thinking, well, it’s August. True. But it was 20 degrees (68 degrees F) today. So you probably don’t need to bundle up.

The antichrist?

Steven thinks the apology at right, which was written on the bathroom wall at the catacombs, was penned by a French person about Emmanuel Macron. I mean, our dental hygienist (in Maryland) did explain to me that he was the antichrist. Something about Emmanuel meaning G-d is with us but Macron meaning he who values power over love. To be honest, I mostly stopped listening after the word antichrist, but I think that was the gist. I say it’s an American apology that’s been there since the president who shall remain nameless. What do you think?

Was it supposed to rain?

If you know anything about me you know I spent a fair amount of time complaining about the weather forecast. When you get minute-by-minute updates, but they change every minute, it’s frustrating. Just tell me you’re not sure and I’ll prepare.

The trusty umbrella: Never leave home without it.

Well, it’s worse here! Saturday, we checked the forecast: No rain. We went out: It started pouring. We sat in a cafe drinking a cafe and then bought umbrellas. It stopped raining. Sunday: No rain. We went out. It rained, but it really was a five-minute drizzle. Everyone around us pulled out umbrellas or plastic-baggy-type rain gear. We got wet. Not a big deal. It’s not just me: One of my classmates noticed the lack of accuracy in the weather forecasts, too. He says a 30% chance of rain is a guarantee of getting wet, but a 90% chance = sunshine. From now I, have raincoat, will travel.

The picture on the right was taken as we waited for falafel from the L’as du Fallafel, the place that has the best falafel in Paris, according to Jacob Getto. Steven didn’t even have falafel. Instead, he went for the shawarma, which he declared delicious, if no better than Libanais back in Chicago. I had the falafel. It’s worth the 20-minute wait, but I would say it’s more because of the fixings in the pita that just the falafel itself. Roasted eggplant, yum! Add to the greatness of the experience by getting it to go and sitting on a park bench eating and pigeon-watching. BTW, they take your order and your money before you get to the food window. You get a ticket with your order on it, but the British woman in front of us (who had been there several times before) was suspicious that she wouldn’t get her food. Evidence that the Brits and the French are still locked in an eternal pissing match. One more piece of evidence on that front: My French teacher, Laurence, was trying to get us to understand une carafe d’eau was tap water without speaking English. When the light came on and we all got it, she carefully explained that the tap water in France is fine to drink, but definitely don’t drink it in Great Britain.

You’ll notice that one person in the photo at right is wearing a mask and the other is not. There’s no outdoor mask mandate, but everyone must wear one inside and if you want to go to a museum, restaurant or any other indoor public gathering spot, you must show your proof of vaccination. France has a QR-coded carte sanitaire, but has not yet decided how to extend that to non-EU citizens. Steven called the US Embassy and they gave the verbal response of a shrug (the most helpful people were a couple of pharmacists in the 11th, but were unable to get us into the system which issues cards). They, too, are waiting for guidance. Pas de problème. Our hand-printed CDC cards do just fine. (We have successfully used them at museums and restaurants.)

La pizza de Ober Mamma

Yesterday, we went to lunch with a classmate of mine and her petit ami (apparently that means boyfriend). Wow, we have friends! They are fellow homeless folks, or as she puts it, nomads, which she says sounds better. Either way, they are Americans living and working in Paris for a few months while they figure out how to get a handle on the crazy housing market, which is their business, too. We had a normal Parisian lunch of 2.5 hours and 2 bottles of wine (and then we all went home to work). Guess what type of food we ate? I’ll give you a hint. Check out the picture on the left. It ain’t New York pizza, but you won’t catch me complaining (except about the weather forecast).

In case you’re wondering how my French is coming along, très bien! At least I can now pick out the individual words (most of the time) from sentences that used to sound like a string of sounds. I can also ask scintillating questions such as “Quelle est tu nationalite?” and “Où habites-tu?” In case you are wondering the answers: Je suis americaine et habite à Paris pour août. Below you will find gratiutous picture of Paris, because … well, just because. The first two are the view from my classroom. The second row has a shot of our morning walk to school, a street view and the pigeons who watched us eat lunch. Finally, a sky view taken in the Marais.

À quoi je pensais?

Coucou! No, that doesn’t mean I’m cuckoo (although you will realize that I am soon enough). It’s a casual way of saying hi in French, for all you mono-linguists. OK, so I learned that yesterday. I have been in French class for three days. After the first day I realized the teacher was amazing and I was, yes, cuckoo. My brain hurt and I told la professeur (yes Unckie, they say la professeur for female professors in France). She said, “Yes, this is normal.” OK. I still showed up for Day 2. See, cuckoo. BTW: That was the last English I have heard her speak.

Day 2. Here is what I learned:

I love the view from my classroom!

Really? I am with the cabbie on this. It seems just a little weird. Charming? Maybe. Frustrating? A little. I think I am getting the hang of it, but I was so intent on practicing my counting on the stairs that I walked past our floor in the apartment building and then had no idea where I was. Of course, the Parisians see no reason to use apartment numbers. Deuxième étage à gauche, oui. No problem. Psst, the second floor is really the third floor in the U.S. since the ground floor is floor 0. And the Alliance Française building has a “supérieur premier étage,” which is a second first floor between the deuxième étage and the premier étage. As one of my classmates says, “You just have to let it wash over you and understand that you are a dummy.” Le vérité.

Really, it’s very exciting, fun and challenging. I am one of the oldsters in the class, which I expected, but everyone is friendly, adventurous and mostly they all speak English. The view from the building is incredible and Steven and I have been walking the 5 km there, so at least we are getting some exercise. It’s tough walking by the Tour Eiffel and Invalides every morning but someone’s got to do it.

In case you think it’s all wine and baguettes, we are still working. So after a morning of trying to understand and speak a language in which I had two sentences (Pardon, no parle pas français et Je ne sais pas) before this week, I head home on the Metro with my travel companion Antonia, a nun who speaks four languages already and lives right nearby, I sit down at the computer and do work that I get paid for. Then, I do homework and try to memorize vocabulary, pronunciation and where the accents go. No wonder I can’t answer the store clerk when she asks if I will be paying for my wine with a credit card!

I am looking forward to a weekend of exploring and a break from homework. No wonder the kids complained every day about it! Every time the teacher draws a little maison on the SmartBoard, I cringe.All in all, it’s all I hoped for and more. I am a firm believer in doing. And oolala, I am doing!

The adventure begins! or …

I am going to have to step up my wardrobe when we move here

Tuesday evening we got on a plane to Charles de Gaulle. Only 2 1/2 hours after we were supposed to take off, we actually left the ground. No big deal, since we had to wait to check into our hotel anyway, but boy am I tired of sitting on planes that aren’t moving!

Now that my whining is out of the way … we’re in Paris! We spent a night in a lovely hotel (Hôtel Bradford-Élysées), which I would recommend. They still give you free water (in the U.S. a hotel bottle of water always seems to be $4, really?) and cute little things like a sewing kit. Plus, the bed was comfortable (Steven would have slept on a log he was so exhausted), and we could see Paris from our fifth floor room. We took a nap at the hotel (I took a nap Steven SLEPT) and then prepared for our next adventure: Meeting the people whose apartment where I sit now typing. We met Paul and his daughter, Oona, so they could show us everything we need to know. (Most important: Try not to set off the alarm!)

The two of them were amazing and helped us get SIM cards and Metro cards for the month. I am trying to speak French, but it is not going very well. I wish thought bubbles came out of people’s mouths so I could read what they are saying.

After we said goodbye to them, we realized we hadn’t eaten at all and were not up for a fancy meal or a long walk. We ended up at an outdoor cafe a couple of blocks away for dinner. I picked one, but somehow we ended up at different one because there was a cafe on all four corners. Cie la vie! (Dinner was very nice, we sat outside and tourtured the waiter by trying to speack french. I ordered a glass of wine and had to count on my fingers to figure out how to say which size I wanted (25cl). After dinner, we went back to the hotel and I fell asleep for the next 11 hours!)

Today, we went to a cafe for coffee and it came with the most delicious little pastry!

After coffee, we hauled our suitcases (I mean we allowed the Uber driver to get our suitcases in and out of the car) over to Paul’s and then took a short 4.4 km walk to meet my wonderful high school friend for lunch, wandered some more and took the Metro back here. It is a work day, after all.

Eating Our Way Through Evanston

What happens when you go home after a year of COVID in a new state whose cuisine doesn’t exactly excite (if you could go get it anyway?) Foodganza!

Map of Evanston, IL

Here’s a rundown of the restaurants we hit. Not all in Evanston, but pretty close. It’s been a whirlwind, so I may have them out of order, but you’ll never know 🙂

Libanais: Lebanese (well, duh!). Delicious and sorely lacking in Edgewater, MD. You really can’t go wrong here and the pastries are YUM (hence the 4 extra pounds on my belly).

Ovo Frito: I love breakfast out. Steven does not (just not my thing). This place is great because they have a wide range of veggie breakfasts with a Mexican slant and lunch, too.

Union Pizza: Good cocktails, food that’s not all pizza and a great place for friends to meet and catch up. Also, fronts Space, a music venue that is scheduling shows again!

Dave’s New Kitchen: We call this place Little Dave’s because he used to have a bigger space. Red-checked tablecloth Italian. If you look at the website, you will see that they are closed for Passover and Easter weekend. Hmmm.

Grilling at my brother’s: No website here, just relaxing with family.

Taco Diablo: The first time I went here, I was on the Blue Horse Tavern side of the adjoining space BUT the Blue Horse Tavern menu wasn’t available. The kitchen cooks Taco Diablo and Lulu‘s (which is the space where the tavern is now) menu, so I had tacos. Then, I was there again with my brother and his family. Can’t go wrong with tacos and margaritas, but I would have ordered Lulu’s if I had known I’d be back at Taco Diablo a few days later.

NaKorn: High-end Thai. So, yes, they have pad Thai, but expect a somewhat more gourmet version in a fancier setting. Also, pretty, flowered drinks (with or without alcohol).

Kanela Breakfast Club: This is a small Chicago chain of deliciously sweet and savory breakfasts. We walked from Evanston to the Andersonville site (6 miles! and still we did not walk enough to offset the high sugar and carb-loaded food that we ordered – it was fabulous!), so give us props for at least trying to balance the eating with some exercise.

Bar Roma: We got our hair cut and then went to dinner with our hairdresser, Charlotte. Fancy Italian. Yum.

El Carrito: Bills itself as Mexican street food. I’d call it a taqueria. Either way, good, fresh tacos and burritos and a pretty wide variety of meats and veggies to go in them. I do appreciate a veggie burrito that is not just rice and beans, but includes fresh veggies! (The mole fries seemed like a good choice at the time.)

Ravinia Brewing Company: Yes, more tacos. It just worked out that way, but the food is secondary to the people in all of these instances, so it’s fine with me.

Cara Mio: This is our last night’s dinner. Italian again! Steven is looking forward to the baked ziti with chicken parm on top if it. No wonder we’re gaining weight!

We complete promise to eat only salad for the entire month of July. And to run and do yoga. Right, Steven? (umm…sure??)

Here are few observations:

  • Service is still wacky as restaurants try to staff up and figure out how many diners to expect.
  • Mask-wearing has mostly fallen by the wayside fo (r diners, but not for staff.
  • QR code menus are probably here to stay. That’s fine with me. Easier to change, nobody spills on them and no awkward handing back and forth of giant books or laminated pages.
  • I missed eating out, but I will be happy to eat my own cooking when we get back to Maryland. (Me too. I like a good dinner out, but after 10 days of only eating out, and especially eating only at places that we really like, it will be good to have a few lighter home cooked meals.)
  • I now remember why I don’t want to live here: I shouldn’t have to wear pants on the first day of summer! (It was so cold that I needed a jacket last night; wish I had brought one.)

From here, we fly to Houston to see my middle brother and his family. I bet it will be a little warmer there.

Kickoff to Travel Season

We mentioned that we were going to New York for Steven’s 40th (plus 20) birthday. Well, things didn’t turn out exactly the way we planned, but do they ever?

We took the long way to New York, via Mechanicsburg, PA, because my amazing, wonderful mother-in-law (OMG! She is such a suck up!) was in Maryland for Steven’s family birthday dinner. We were excited she was able to make it and didn’t mind the extra leg at all.

Now, let’s get to the weather. Memorial Day weekend? It was more like Thanksgiving weekend. Rain, drizzle, damp, cold and guess who forgot her raincoat. Sigh. When we are in NY, we tend to wander. Overprepared Steven had two warm jackets (and a raincoat that he gallantly gave to his wife), so I borrowed one and we braved the weather.

We stayed in Chinatown at Hotel 50 Bowery (I will leave the hotel review for another day) at the base of the Manhattan Bridge, so Friday night we ate at Shanghai Asian Cuisine. You have to have soup dumplings at least once or Steven does since they are meat-filled. Like most restaurants in Chinatown, don’t expect fancy, but do expect delicious, plentiful food. We were not disappointed. Everyone in Chinatown is still wearing masks. Restaurants have set up outdoor booths in the street (yes in the street, which if you know anything about Chinatown, you know are barely wide enough for cars as it is), some conveniently covered, and they take your temperature before you sit. There is plexiglass, plastic or a shower curtain between every table.

After dinner, we went to the Basement, which bills itself as a carnival-themed speakeasy, but was really just a bar with a nice atmosphere and delicious cocktails. We definitely skewed the age curve (most people were younger than my clothes). No temperature-taking, no separations between tables, just masks while walking around.

Saturday we wandered to REI to rectify my lack of rainwear. As luck would have it, they were having their annual sale. Rain jacket 30% off. Perfect. Steven got a couple of shirts and we may have purchased a stuffed bear for a certain small someone. Next, pizza for lunch, of course, followed by more wandering. That night, we had a wonderful Italian dinner with Uncle David and Aunt Marcella, who are always gracious when we are in town. We always enjoy the evening with them.

Citi Field. We will get there some day

Sunday, we hit another Chinatown spot for lunch, Deluxe Green Bo. Steven’s favorite part was that when we checked our temperatures, the results were spoken in an Australian accent. Afer lunch we went to the Guggenheim. Maybe we are old and cranky (and we were soaked because it was still raining), but they had an exhibit that was basically a long podcast, which we felt we didn’t have to shlep up- and crosstown to hear. We did mostly enjoy it, however. It’s just a pleasure to be able to go to a museum at all (masks required). All day we checked and rechecked the weather because we had tickets to the Mets-Braves game. Neither of us have never been to Citifield. I know, crazy, right! Alas, it wasn’t to be. We had pretty much decided not to go since it was cold and rainy, but at least we lucked out in that the game was postponed so we didn’t waste money on the tickets. Instead, we had a birthday dinner for Steven at The Warren in the West Village. The food and drink were spot-on. It’s clear that restaurants are still trying to adjust to people being able to go out as the service was a bit slow, but we were enjoying ourselves and in no hurry. I would recommend it. (Best part…the dessert arrived before the hostess could arrange for a candle, so she brought the candle separately lit it and held it while I blew it out.)

Happily for Steven, Monday’s weather was beautiful. Sadly for me, that meant I had to go to a Yankees game. I know I am biased, but the stadium did not impress and the food was typical 1970s stadium fare. Boooooo! BTW, the Yankees lost to Tampa 3-1 and I wore my Mets hat the whole time. Steven took the loss in stride as always. What a good sport. The game was over by 4 and we hit the road for the 3 1/2 hour uneventful drive home.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention: On Friday, I got an email from my friend (the one who got us thinking about our crazy adventures by telling us it was cheap to live in Burgundy) saying that she has a friend who needs an apartment-sitter for August in Paris. Um, YES! So, instead of leaving for France on August 30, we are leaving on July 27 and spending a month in the 16th arrondissement and environs. Paris nous voilà!

I will leave the verdict on the birthday weekend up to Steven, but I think it was a smashing success! (I absolutely agree, especially since I did not have to endure the Mets game!)