Thankful in Paris
November 26, 2009
Paris, FranceInterested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you!
After a few wonderful pre-Thanksgiving days
with our daughter and grandchildren, we said goodbye to each other at Dulles airport: the three of them home to Orlando, and us to Paris.
We'll be sharing an apartment in the lively Marais area of town with Jill. We've enjoyed lots of wonderful places with her - Prague, Amalfi, Orvieto (she's joined us on several Music and Markets Tours) - and lots of visits in the south of France, but this is our first time together in Paris.
She arrived yesterday and what a pleasure it is to see her smiling
face as we enter the apartment. We found this place on VRBO, where we also rent our house, La Belle Cour
, and it's a gem - spacious, comfortable and prettily decorated. Christiana, who handles the rental of this and several other apartments nearby, has told us this one's called Lighthouse. We're not sure why - maybe because it's decorated in pale colors? - but we really like it!
We have a few errands to run today and tomorrow, and the first is to drop off some things we've brought with us to a dear friend who lives beside the Eiffel Tower. We're thankful for the blue skies and lack of rain - the forecast was for rain every day we'll be here.
Then a quick walk past the gilded dome of Invalides on our way to other friends for lunch - a lovely couple of hours of conversation and a delicious meal - and finally a nap to start making up for the couple of hours sleep we had on the flight last night.
What really got us thinking about coming to Paris again this Thanksgiving (well we don't need much impetus - any excuse will do!) was that our good friends Suzanne and Clay would be here. We stop by their apartment (just a few minutes from ours) and walk together to the restuarant. As we get nearer Clay and Suzanne say " Oh, are we going to Chez Janou?"
"Yes, our landlady, Christiana, recommended it - do you know it?"
"We ate lunch here today!"
But they don't mind trying another dish tonight, so we enter the cheery south of France ambiance and they remember Suzanne well - oh yes, they tease, you're the one that ate a whole bowl of chocolate mousse for dessert!
Everything we choose is delicious - from my spinach salad
to Kirk's roasted seabass
And that chocolate mousse was so good that Clay and Suzanne ordered it again
- and shared it with all of us!
On the way out we're called over to the bar and offered a digestif. This one's new to us - a yummy canteloupe liqueur - we'll have to pick up a bottle next time we're in the south.
We're not far from one of Paris's loveliest squares, the Place de Vosges, so we stroll over, through the evocative arcades,
and gaze at the elegant facades of the ancient town- houses.
Shops and neighborhoods are already decorating for the holidays
and the town hall of the third arron- dissement (the area of Paris where we're staying) wishes us all happy holidays. Thank you very much - we're glad to be here!
A Washington Holiday Weekend
November 22, 2009
Washington DCInterested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you
The family's in town, and we're enjoying the last few glimpses of fall together as we start our Thanksgiving celebration.
One of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world is right here in Washington DC - our National Cathedral
. With its exquisite stained glass, such as this brilliant Creation window, and its intricately carved towers, facade, and interior, it's truly a national treasure.
We've visited several times through the years, for Christmas concerts, family workshops (craft your own stained glass! sculpt your own gargoyle!), or garden visits, but this is the first time we've gone to a Sunday worship service.
The carillon peals out Crown Him with many Crowns as we walk to the entrance, and as the service begins we learn that this is the final Sunday of the church year, The Feast of the Reign of Christ.
From beginning to end the celebration is a memorable reminder
of how much we have to be thankful for - our freedom of religion, the joy of gathering with other believers, the pleasure of listening to stirringly beautiful music (that thundering organ!), and the pure delight of appreciating the sights and sounds of worship with our precious family.
The cathedral is a lovingly cared-for place - we enjoy seeing the warm colors of fall decor - a beautiful contrast to the pure white stone.
The celebration continues with a lunchtime feast at CoCo Sala
. A Chocolate Lounge and Boutique,
it's been on our "gotta-go" list for a while, and what fun to try it out with the grandkids!
After we order, we watch the chocolatiers at work in the atelier, getting hungrier by the minute.
Everything we taste is fabulous - from Connor's S'mores French toast to my Cheese Soufflé and Cassidy's breakfast Panini.
And then there are the desserts - which are absolutely as delicious as they look! We're already planning our next visit...
Monday is the opening day of Dicken's Christmas Carol
at the newly restored Ford's Theater
. The last time we went our kids were 10 and 12, and that's how old Cassidy and Connor are now - it's been a long time!
Michael Baron's production of the 150 year old tale is superb - a delightful, music-filled celebration, with exquisite costumes and fun interaction with the audience from the beginning - an orange-seller walks by us, calling out her wares.
From young to old, we're all enthralled and leave the historic theater with smiles on our faces, discussing which of the three ghosts we liked the most, how beautiful the music and sets were, and what fun it is to see this in a place that's such a part of our country's history.
So many special things to do right here at home - our Thanksgiving celebration has started for sure!
Evening and Morning in England
Saturday - Sunday, Nov. 14-15, 2009
Bath & Tetbury, UKInterested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you
The evening fun continues as we walk from the Abbey to the Pump Room where dinner is served.
We're seated at a table full of fascinating people. As Kirk talks with the gentleman beside him, who, after retiring from the British Navy captained the Q-E 2 across the Atlantic for several years, I am delighted with tales of ten years of directing the Mozartfest from the gentleman beside me - Martin Smith. He'll be turning over the post to Sir David Bell, of the Financial Times Group
, as this year's festival ends.
Martin met his American wife, Elise, when they were both at Stanford. After several years in London, they moved to Oxford, where they established the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment
, of Oxford University.
Martin tells me of a small but stellar music festival, the Tetbury Music Festival
, which they've founded near their home - four days of concerts (with artists such as Steven Isserlis
, The Sixteen
(whom we've just heard), and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
) in the historic parish church, taking place in early October. Oh how tempting! Shall we go next year??Don Foster, Bath's MP
(Member of Parliament) is across the table from us, beside Elise, and he's been encouraging our table through the evening to bid for the items soon to be auctioned to benefit the Mozartfest, and fill out the raffle envelopes. His rousing auction gets the whole room involved...lots of fun and for such a worthy cause.
Elise starts to tell me more about their Tetbury festival, and hands me a map she's been drawing on a raffle envelope, urging us to come see them before we fly out tomorrow. "You can get to Heathrow in about an hour and a half from us..."
Well, why not?
We make it to bed around midnight, and when we get up just before 9 on Sunday we're pleasantly surprised to open the curtains to a bright sunny day - perfect for a
drive in the country!
In about 45 minutes we arrive at the Smith's estate in Long Newnton - a gorgeous old country home, parts of which date from the 1600's.
Last night as I listened to Martin's stories, I jokingly asked what he did in his spare time - it didn't sound like he had any!
His quick response was "I ride" - and as we get out of the car, there he is,
ready to take advantage of the unexpectedly beautiful weather.
Elise describes the layers of the past in their lovely home, and we talk about the pleasure of living
in history... one of the things that draws Kirk and me across the ocean so frequently!
The gardens are exquisite, with formal plantings of box and high hedges of trees defining different areas.
Was there an emu on the ark? That's Noah, in the background, arm around a friendly emu. And in front, a hearty porcellino reminds us of Florence - a rather more amiable looking one here.
Martin mentioned conducting as we chatted last night, and as we look at the music room, what fun it is to hear the story of how this captain of enterprise had his wish of conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment come true. He did such a good job of it that first time, with no notice at all since it was a surprise to him, that he's now a regular with the baton, and has conducted Handel's Messiah several times.
Kirk is intrigued with a beautiful montage of Isaiah 9:6, one of the most familiar choruses - recounting Jesus as the Child who was born, the Son who was given - which their daughter made for Martin.
The music room is frequently the site of small concerts, and has me hoping that we'll be at one someday!
All of the festival concerts are held at St. Mary's Church, piercing the skies with its soaring steeple.
Elise tells the tale of a former Highgrove resident who funded the reconstruction of the steeple in the 1800's, with the agreement that the trees would be continually managed between the church and Highgrove so that the residents could always see the steeple. I'm sure the current resident, Prince Charles (who's also the Patron of the Tetbury Festival), appreciates the view.
Melodies from the organ loft drift through the elegantly simple interior, restored as much as possible to the original Georgian plan. Graham Kean, co-director of the festival with Elise, is teaching an organ lesson today.
There has been some recent interest, prompted by Dan Brown's books, in the stained glass window of the Last Supper, which has Mary Magadalene leaning on Jesus shoulder...hmmm....
That soaring steeple,
adorned with leering gargoyles,
points our way to the airport as we say goodbye.
What a weekend to remember!
An Evening to Remember in Bath
Saturday, November 14, 2009 Bath, EnglandInterested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you
Are we really doing this? Flying to London Friday eve and home Sunday just for a concert? Yes - and believe it or not, it was worth it!
United got us smoothly and safely from Dulles to Heathrow, both of us managing to sleep a few hours. We try not to think of the fact that it's midnight, our time, as we pick up the rental car and get on the M4 to Bath. A quick stop for a cup of coffee at Costa helps convince us that it's morning.
The forecast has been for rain and more rain, and we drive through bands of showers on our way west. Is that a bit of blue I see up there? Each glimpse of sky between the clouds is cause for celebration. Even in the rain the lush green hills, dotted with sheep or cows and crisscrossed with drystone fences, are beautiful.
Exiting the motorway, we're on a two lane road to Bath, and we know we're not in Virginia anymore...not just because we're driving on the left, but also because of the town names. There's Nimlet, and Cold Ashton, and a little farther away Chipping Sodbury and Wotton-under-Edge. Intriguing stone hamlets that just call out for a pause...but we've only got time for Bath today.
After a nap at our hotel on the edge of town, we dodge the spitting raindrops and find a spot for lunch. We've heard of Moon and Sixpence
before - it's a cozy place to get warm and dry, and we sit by the big windows, listening to Michael Bublé
croon "Irresponsible" and watching the bustle of shoppers while we enjoy lunch. My mushroom risotto is superb - as good as any I've had in Italy. Defi
nitely a place to include on our Music and Markets Bath
tour - hope we'll have people with us next year!
Kirk goes back to the hotel to work online, and I join the Saturday shoppers, ducking into shop after shop to avoid the showers and check out the fall and winter clothes.
The gusts of wind threaten to topple a fruit vendor's shelter, but everyone seems to take the weather in stride. I think they're used to the rapid changes - first wind and rain, then a quarter hour or so of crisp autumn, then more rain. I'll keep my umbrella handy as the locals do.
Another quick nap, and we're ready for the evening's events - the reason we came!
It's the 19th Season of Bath's Mozartfest
, and this evening's opening reception, preceding a concert in the Abbey,
takes place on the terrace over- looking the ancient Roman Baths
Entering through the magnificent Victorian Reception Hall, aglitter with chandeliers, we find our friend Jackie, one of the festival directors. Welcoming us warmly, she introduces us to another American who is also on the board. Betty has lived in England for decades, and is also involved with a harpsichord festival in the Tuscan village of Montisi. We keep hearing about this festival - will have to check it out!
We enjoy meeting other music lovers, most of whom are from nearby. Ann-Marie, proprietor of the Fine Cheese Company
, shares stories of her recent visit to the Auvergne in France...tracing the origin of delicious Salers cheese
. One of the raffle prizes tonight is a hamper full of stellar tastes from her shop - I wonder if we could take that home on the plane tomorrow???
Tonight's concert, celebrating the 250th anniversary of Handel's death, is in the glorious Bath Abbey, a few steps away.
This is the final performance of the thirtieth anniversary 2009 Choral Pilgrimage of the renowned The Sixteen
Jackie has put us in the very front row and we are enveloped in the glorious sounds of Handel's coronation anthems, composed in 1727 for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline.
High above us are the intricate arches,
and in front of us the period instruments of the orchestra.
The final number is from the Messiah - Worthy is the Lamb.
A fitting finale in this holy place.
A Weekend in the Country
Oct. 31, 2009
Pennsylvania Dutch CountryInterested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you
Three or four hours north of metropolitan
DC is a different world, barn- dotted country- side with covered bridges, foreign language, and exotic (?!) foods.
We join the hordes departing for the weekend and crawl north, and by the time we arrive at our destination it's dark. We're joining other founding members of Slow Travel Tours
for our first face-to-face meeting. Others have arrived at the Daub's beautiful home near Hamburg, Pennsylvania earlier...coming from Tennessee, South Carolina, and Virginia.
Kathy Wood, of European Experiences
has been the driving force to get us together as a tour consortium, and after multiple emails (as well initiating this tour group, she attended and recommended the language school in Aix where Kirk studied in January) we are so glad to meet and thank her in person.
Smatters of conversation about favorite places in Italy and France accompany the delicious dinner of Trofie al Pesto
(twisted short pasta with potatoes, green beans and pesto - a Ligurian specialty) that Barbara Daub has prepared.
The original part of the Daub's home is a three story log cabin, set right beside a stream and across the street from a river. They've incorporated a stone wall of the old spring house into the spacious addition they designed.
Most of us are staying in a nearby hotel, and Kirk and I plan some morning photo time on the way back to the Daubs so that we can see the beautiful places we passed last night. We drive through a sturdy red covered bridge from the 1800's and onto Dreibelbis Station Road.
Last night when we arrived and opened our car door we were delighted to hear rushing water... and crossed a stone bridge over a lively stream and waterfall to enter the house.
Now we can see how lovely it is...with inviting outdoor spaces planned by Barbara Daub, a landscape designer.
And there's the old cabin tucked beside the new part of the house - what a charmer!
Inside and out - a perfect place to gather, with plenty of room to meet and plan the future of our little group thanks to our gracious hosts, the Daubs.
Bill Steiner, of Adventures in Italy
, has agreed to moderate the meeting, and we're so pleased with all that's accomplished in a day.
And as we listen to what the others do, all of us want to go on each other's tours! Each of us plan small group tours that really immerse our clients in a place, rather than flitting from one city to another - that's the idea of Slow Travel. We got to know each other initially through reading each other's posts on Slow Travel Talk
, a terrific place to get answers and information about this kind of travel. Kirk and I have benefited from many of the hotel, vacation rental, and restaurant recommendations on the site.
Bryan and Valerie, of Panorama Italy
, have recently moved back from Italy to the DC area - not far from us - so we look forward to seeing them again and sharing more tales of Italy.
Matthew, an artist, and Barbara have been taking groups to Italy for several years with their company, Arts Sojourn
We convince him to show us his studio, which takes up the top floor (each floor is one room) of the old log cabin. Soon we're ooohing and aaahing at his visions of Italy - each one more beautiful and evocative than the one before.
The Daubs have reserved a big table for us at the corner restaurant in their village
and we all enjoy
looking at the intricate wall paintings -
delicate designs and sprightly country figures -
as we try some Pennsylvania Dutch specialties:
corn fritters, apple fritters, pickled beets, scrapple (cornmeal mush and leftover bits of pork and ? shaped into a loaf,sliced into rectangles, and fried), mashed potatoes mixed with stuffing...and a big selection of housemade pies for dessert. They don't have a lite menu here ;)
A few of us decide to try one more local hangout for Sunday breakfast before making our way home. It's the Hamburg Diner, known for good and hearty breakfasts. Kirk's too-big-for-the-plate pancakes and my homemade cinnamon pecan bun are yummy and we enjoy the local color (youse want coffee? youse ready to order?)
complete with tunes from a vintage juke box.
We stay off of the expressway and wind through the countryside for the first part of our return trip, hoping to spot a few more decorative Hex signs.
The clouds move on, and the sun ushers us back home to Virginia.