Paris Spontaneously

Once upon a time I visited Paris rather spontaneously which was not at all in keeping with my obsessive planning nature. And while I don’t necessarily recommend this approach (unless it is the only way you can get there) it worked for me!

It happened like this.

We were planning our first trip to Europe where my husband would be attending a conference for a few days. We would be gone for two weeks,  the first to be split between Reading and London. The second would remain open. Maybe we would spend more time in England.  Perhaps travel to Scotland?  Of course I really wanted to see Paris (doesn’t everyone?) but my husband wasn’t so sure.

Still I hoped. Near the end of our first week there I begin to use my persuasive reasoning skills in earnest on my defenseless husband.  Paris is so close, I say. Shouldn’t we take advantage while we’re here?  We may never come back. And there’s Normandy!  We could visit the D-Day Beaches!  How about that? (Yes, I pulled the world war two card on my history buff husband, as I figure it may be my only hope for getting across the channel.)

He’s concerned about the language. Don’t worry I say. I know a little French. (A long, long time ago I had taken two years to satisfy college entrance requirements. I still remember how to say such useful expressions as, ‘May I sharpen my pencil?”)

It was October, not peak travel season, so I assumed it would be fine. There was the Eurostar train under the English Channel direct to Paris in 2 hours. Although no hotel arrangements had been made, I did have a few leads from friends. And I read and carried portions of Rick Steves travel book on France.  (All part of my secret planning. How hard could it be?)

The Normandy strategy worked.  We would travel to Paris by train, spend a few days, then take the train to Caen, rent a car and explore the area.

We check out of our hotel and walk to the Waterloo Station to take the Eurostar to Paris.  Walk up, buy tickets. Only Business Class is available.  (“That will be one arm and one leg, please.”)  Okaaaay. We are committed and pay the price.  (I won’t tell you how much.  It’s still embarrassing.)

We have a comfortable ride over and can smell the sea as we cross under the channel.

And we’re in France!

And then the strangest thing happened.  We exit the train and proceed to street level and we are in a foreign country and they really do speak another language and we really do not have reservations and what on earth are we doing here?  At least that’s what I sense emanating from my husband and I am right there with him. Except.  It was my idea. I know the language, remember?  So after a brief encounter with a con artist who would love to help us out at the cash machine (um, no thank you) we head to hotel referral #1 near the Louvre and inquire about the rates.  500 Euros is the answer.  It was then I knew we were in trouble.

Hotel referral #2 is on the Left Bank and we take a cab and learn quickly that French cab drivers are not the most patient human beings in the world (at least this one wasn’t) and also have a predetermined amount they expect for their tip and we apparently don’t know what that is (who takes a cab in Seattle?) and well, it’s awkward and slightly unpleasant. Fortunately we don’t understand what he’s saying (well we got the general idea.)

Thankfully Hotel #2 is quaint and clean and lovely and better yet, only 100 Euros a night.  And they have a room available!. Oh joy!

So we relax and settle in for the most amazing few days in the beautiful City of Lights.

“Parlez-vous Anglais?”  I say over and over again and every time the kind response is in English. The red bus is our way around town and we see all the sights one must see in Paris, including this one.  (Sorry about the picture quality but hey, it’s mine and proof I was really there.)

And now I can finally say, “we’ll always have Paris.”

And to think this was my ticket in.

Okay, that’s all I have time for. Thanks for following along!

~  Susanne

Good Morning!

Oh, yes it was. I had to be up and out the door earlier this morning and was rewarded by this sunrise.

~ Susanne

California Dreamin’ on a Winter’s Day

As winter is in full swing here in the Northwest, I am in a California Dreamin’ kind of mood and remembering a special trip taken to the lesser known east side of the Golden State (at least to me) a few years ago.

Being from Seattle, I had been to Southern California many times, traveled up and down the Coast, seen the Redwoods, and left my heart in San Francisco. What I hadn’t seen prior to this trip was Death Valley (the lowest point in North America) nor the other side of the Sierra Nevada, including Mt. Whitney (the tallest mountain in the contiguous U.S.)

We started our road trip from the south after a few days of childs’ play at the happiest place on earth – weird maybe, but I still love Disneyland –  to return through Death Valley.  It was in the month of May so the area was not yet completely intolerable due to the heat.

So. Death Valley.   It’s just what I thought it would look like and incredibly HOT!  (No surprise there.)

We basically just drove through the park.  Seriously, what would make you want to leave your air conditioned car for a furnace of 100 plus degree temperatures?  The people who really want to hike here do not come in May (the smart people I guess you could say.)  And warnings abounded for staying on the roads and carrying plenty of water with you. Okay, we did do a short walk on a simple trail and got our fix. And we stopped at the visitor center as we always do in the national parks.

But I have to say honestly that the best part of Death Valley was leaving it for the most amazing highway I had never heard of – US Route 395.  Oh, what a find!  395 puts the ROAD in Road Trip!  The highway climbs through broad, expansive, mountain country, crossing several mountain passes, the highest of which is Conway Summit at 8,143 feet. And you will have the road all to yourselves!

Our first major stop was at Lone Pine, a small western town and nearby Alabama Hills, which sits under the shadow of Mt. Whitney, and turns out to be the premier spot for filming Hollywood Westerns.  (John Wayne filmed 13 movies in Lone Pine and was well known in town.)

dsc02662-2

One can travel the lonely road towards the Sierras into the strange rock formations of the Alabama Hills where over 400 movies have been made.   The first one filmed on location in Lone Pine was The Roundup in 1920, starring Fatty Arbunkle (I love that name) and it was followed by hundreds more including, The Lone Ranger, Rawhide, High Sierra, North to Alaska, How the West Was Won, Gunga Din, Hopalong Cassidy, and Around the World in 80 Days.

Now I’m pretty sure I’m looking at Mt Whitney somewhere in this picture (correct me if I’m wrong) and it was very impressive.  However.  I still like my local Mt. Rainier better.  Though Whitney is taller it doesn’t stand out as much since it’s surrounded by many similar peaks, whereas Mt. Rainier stands alone. (Feel free to take that with many grains of salt; I am after all from Rainier country and slightly jealous that Whitney is a mere 95 feet taller: 14,505 vs 14,410.)

The next major point of interest was the strange and salty Mono Lake, which is ringed by interesting formations of calcium carbonate (known as “tufta”.)

095

I picked up this postcard so you can see those weird formations more clearly. (Travel tip: I always buy postcards as cheap souvenir bookmarks.)

dsc02677-2

Before moving up the road I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can head west at Mono Lake and enter the wonderful land of Yosemite from its lesser traveled eastside via Tioga Pass (which we did on a later trip and have the picture below to prove it – the back side of Half Dome.)

049

Well time is running out so our last stop off US 395 will be Bodie, California, the most authentic, well preserved ghost town in the country and the largest of its kind. Bodie thrived after gold was discovered in 1859 and by 1880 10,000 people were living there.  Now a state historic park, you can wander under the hot sun on its lonely hills (you will long for shade but find none) among the 200 or so abandoned structures frozen in time.  (This is the real deal so don’t expect a Knott’s Berry Farm or Calico Ghost Town type of experience .)

101

059

Do you feel the heat yet?  Well, hopefully this little journey has made you forget for awhile the rain and cold and ice and snow wherever you are. Thanks for coming along for a little California Dreamin’.

~  Susanne

Tiger the (teenage) Senior Cat

This is Tiger and as you know I am the senior cat in residence.

I shall turn 9 this spring in human years (not to be confused with the 9 lives of which I am on # 3) which makes me eligible for cat discounts. The point is, I’m starting to realize I am no longer young and this is increasingly apparent as I watch the junior cat on the premises, aka, Benji.  I can’t fail to notice how fast he is, how instantly he appears by my side when nanoseconds before he was across the yard in the bush.

I have observed his frantic chasing of the squirrels, yea, his tumbling round and round with them, until they escape and scramble up the tree.  (I have never attempted such a feat, though I have been known to give chase.)

The boy is limber to be sure.  I fear my back would break if I attempted to sleep in this pose.

20170101_143936-2

On one hand I’m supposed to be training him to adulthood, to get him to mind the feline norms of the domesticated cat. To settle down upon command.  To respond quickly to the human ‘No!’  On the other hand I rather envy the boy. He gets away with crazy and blames it on youth.

And the thing is, (though I can’t let on), I feel the same as he inside. I want to fly.

20170105_215117

Which makes me wonder:  when do your insides catch up with your outsides? Or do they ever?

It remains to be seen. For now, I think I shall shed the senior label, as that’s all it really is.

In my dreams I am still just the teenage Tiger.

babytiger

~ the Tiger

Daily Prompt: Unseen ~ by Benji

This is Benji and everyday is fun when you’re outside and unseen.  My favorite spot is on the perch Bob made for me.  It’s best when it’s sunny and dry but it even works nice in the rain because the branches overhead provide me shelter.  (Boy, they thought of everything!)

From my perch I can see people outside the fence walking by but they can’t see me.  I hear their talk and I hear their laughter and I know their secrets. Even their dogs don’t know I am watching them.  Nor do the small ones who live in the ivy.  I can detect the tiniest rustle of the leaves and I know their faintest movements. When they leave their cover I am ready to chase the little hole diggers.

When I am tired  I come inside and dream of tomorrow.

dsc02341

I am a most happy kitty.

~ Benji

via Daily Prompt: Unseen

Tree and Sky at Sunset

I don’t know what it is but lately the sunsets have seemed otherworldly and I find myself running out into the cold to capture those few minutes when gold and pink swirl against blue and gray all framed by evergreen shadows.  Tonight was such a night.

dsc02590-2

~ Susanne

Cat Overtures

The room was cozy and warm and Tiger was sleeping on the bed alone.  I’m tired too and decide to join for a nap.

A few minutes later here comes Benji.

“Still room,” he thought to himself.  “Perhaps if I’m really quiet he won’t notice.”

Tiger’s ears betray his annoyance but Benji settles in nearby anyway.

“Surely he’s ready to be my friend,” he thought to himself.

I watch the little drama unfold, a smile in my heart.  I am rooting for both of them.

“Good boy, Tiger,” I say. “It’s okay.”

Benji keeps his head down in submission while Tiger signals acceptance.

And then?   Well, this lovely scene lasts maybe five minutes until Benji looks up at Tiger, which is apparently forbidden.  And this seems to remind Tiger that he was there first and why does that boy persist in following him everywhere?  A short growl, some batting of the air and he’s gone.

“I want outside,”  Tiger says.

Sigh.

I praise Benji for trying.

“He can’t help it, Benji,” I say.  “He’s an old grouch.”

I love these 2 boys and can’t wait till they love each other.

~  Still waiting,  Susanne, Tiger and Benji.

Hiking at Nolte State Park…

One thing I love about living in the Pacific Northwest is the proximity to the woods and many trails.  Today we went to Nolte State Park and hiked around Deep Lake.  Okay walked, not hiked. The well maintained and level loop trail was only a mile and a quarter in length but included all the usual moss covered trees, old growth Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar one expects on a hike in the Northwest.  The cold, fresh forest air is bound to cure whatever ails you. So much to enjoy for so little effort didn’t quite seem fair.

Though not technically the rain forest I’m not sure I can tell the difference.  Size maybe?  Anyway this was closer.

The lake itself was frozen solid and stones thrown and bouncing across its surface echoed throughout the park.

dsc02562

When our hands were as cold as the icy lake, we headed back to the car, and crossed the one lane bridge over the Green River Gorge, stopping to view the river far below.

Then on to the Historic Bakery in Black Diamond where we enjoyed this view of Mt. Rainier outside our window, along with our sandwiches.

20170106_145143222

A simple and satisfying day.

~ Susanne

Seattle’s Best Kept Secret – Kubota Garden

Today is sunny, the sky a heavy blue, the temperature a frigid 26 degrees;  a great day to visit Seattle’s relatively unknown Kubota Garden.

Kubota Garden was the dream of master landscaper, Fujitaro Kubota who wanted to display the beauty of the Northwest in a Japanese style. Mr. Kubota, who immigrated to America in 1907, acquired the land to build his garden in 1927.

It was already a designated historical landmark when the City of Seattle purchased it from the Kubota family in 1987. According to the City’s website, “The Gardens are a spectacular setting of hills and valleys, interlaced with streams, waterfalls, ponds, bridges, and rock out-croppings with a rich array of plant material.”

Indeed. We wander alone through the park, save for one friendly walker who wishes us a happy new year, savoring the quiet and beauty of the trees and ponds and bridges and even the boulders left from the last glacier 12,000 years ago.

My favorite spot is Heart Bridge crossing Mapes Creek, which feeds many ponds in the area.

There are many other ponds in the park, this one frozen over….

After our short, invigorating walk we head to the car but not without one more picture for the road…

Then on to the nearby bookstore where over lattes, hot chocolate and pastries we plan our return this spring to see the garden in bloom and in color .

Happy New Year!  🙂

~ Susanne

Hopeful: Reflections from Tiger on my lives so far…

This is Tiger and I have something to say as 2016 is coming to a close and I am in a reflective mood.  One human year is quite long for cats and this one was not easy for me.  When it started out I was still missing my big brother Shadow and at the end of the year I’m still adjusting to my new ‘shadow’,  Benji. (Believe me, that boy is hard to shake!)

Still I am hopeful. The cat life consists of many closings and new beginnings and I am ready to bid farewell to life number three and embrace number four.  We cats are lucky that way.

tiger1216-2

Now I don’t want to bore you too much but before moving on I’d like to take a look back at lives one, two and three.  See the handsome boy below?  Yep, that’s me near the beginning!   (You see Benji?  I was young once too!  Whatever you are doing I have already done!  Whatever you think you know, I have known already!!)

And here’s me and Shadow  (still life number one), our “indoor” period, long before Bob and Sue brought us home.  It wasn’t perfect but we didn’t know it and we had each other and that was enough.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

That life was longer than most and consisted mainly of playing in our small apartment, chittering out the window at the birds and squirrels that taunted us (all the time wishing we could join them) and sleeping a lot.

Until it came to a screeching halt when for reasons known only to her, our mistress evicted us from the premises and sent us off to jail!  For what offense we did not know. (Really, who can understand humans?)  They called the place a cat hotel (yes, really), with no in and out privileges you might say.  We lived there with Keeper longer than the other cats who came and went.  No, it wasn’t the greatest but it was certainly better than living under a bridge or something.   In retrospect (and ONLY in retrospect) I see it was a blessing in disguise (very heavily disguised, granted.)  For after all, if we hadn’t gone there, we never would have found Bob and Sue, who brought us to our best home ever and into life number three!  (Oh, how ready we were to bid number two goodbye!)

It was here that Shadow and I learned the thrill of the hunt and the great outdoors.  How to hide in the bush and listen for the small ones.  How to spring into action at the best time.  How to drink from the bird baths and flowing fountains.  How to taunt the squirrels as they once taunted us.  And how to sprint through the woods and then rest  contented among the dampness of the leaves and ferns. Paradise, really.

Boys Outside

And when it was clear that Shadow’s time was up, it was in those woods that he made his final resting place.  Goodbye my brother.

And now there is Benji.  The boy who will drive me to new heights of ingenuity for I will certainly need all my strength and wisdom to deal with him, to train him to become a proper adult feline and not a shame to our species.  I must lead by example and at the time of my choosing initiate him into all the secrets of the outdoor kingdom. There is time for he is still young.

dsc02403-2

So now it is time to move on and into the new year and life number four.

tigermoredec16-2

I am ready.  And hopeful.

 ~ From the Tiger

via Daily Prompt: Hopeful

%d bloggers like this: