Saturday, April 24, 2010

Susie returns to Providence; Paris breathes easy

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon in Boston; a few intermittent showers but otherwise sun and warm temps greeted me as I pulled into the central parking garage at Logan Airport. Susie's flight was on time, she whisked through passport control, and a few minutes later she grabbed her bags off the carousel and headed out the door into the waiting area of Terminal E -- where I was waiting.

She was tickled to be out in the open air again after sitting inside a narrow metal tube for the better part of the day.

After a short ten-minute walk up and out of the terminal, across the pedestrian bridge into the garage, down six levels and onto I-90 heading east. We exited at I-93 south and joined much of the entire population of greater Boston heading out of the city. The traffic arteriosclerosis notwithstanding, we were back in Providence by 6pm. Once the bags were in the condo, the Cremant was opened, glasses filled and toasts all around to her safe return home – at last!

After an early dinner and some unpacking, Susie showered to get the volcanic ash off her, and soon hit the proverbial hay.

A pretty good day indeed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Susie goes to Giverny today and Providence on Friday

Well, the latest news is hardly news, I'm afraid. Chaos still seems to reign over the skies in much of Europe. Hopes rise and fall hourly as to when the tens of thousands of travelers wandering around airports from London to Krakow will wend their way home.

The good news for us is that Susie is booked on a KLM flight out of Paris this Friday mid-morning, connecting in Amsterdam for Boston. She arrives in Beantown a little before 4 in the afternoon local time. None too soon for my money.

Even though she was scheduled to leave Paris today she made good use of the wonderful weather (for a change) and the extra time and headed off to Giverny to check out Monet's world-famous gardens.

Half of the trip was free, due mainly to the overwhelmed French railway bureaucracy and the idiotic French policy of not allowing non-French credit cards to be used in their automatic ticketing machines. The fools. (She planned to buy her ticket on board since the lines were so long and she couldn't used the machines. No one ever stopped to ask for a ticket.) The return would've been free since no one bothered to check her return ticket.

After a short bus ride from the train station to the village of Giverny she caught sight of some incredible floral colors:

I'm hoping for more details from her soon. I'll let you know as soon as I know.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Latest Travel News from Paris (a very small part of it)

The official news as of Monday morning is "Paris airports will remain closed until 8am Tuesday morning." I was informed yesterday by an Air France agent that in fact the airport would reopen at 3pm Tuesday. That would necessitate a cancellation of Susie's flight so, after some time on the phone (twice) we got Susie booked on a Friday morning KLM flight out of Paris to Boston, connecting in Amsterdam.

I had to return to the hotline -- and listen to the same music loop for another half hour just to reconfirm since we received no confirmation by email. We now have that bit of electronic data in hand. Now, like tens of thousands of other folks, we sit and wait. And, of course, the "Ash Attack" -- which is what the NYT appears to be calling this particular situation -- is by no means over. Where the "Cloud" goes and when is certainly not known to any of us.

Meanwhile, a few are focused on other things:

Outside the church of St. Germain des Pres. Naturally. (photo by Susie.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Good news from New England and unsettling news from Paris

The good news, from the Northeastern corner of the United States, at least the small world in which I live, is that Susan's Uncle Frank is back on the road to recovery. Frank suffered a severe heart attack last week and after two stents and several days in the ICU at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA, has bounced right back.

On a more somber note, a friend here in Providence is having to make the one drive we all wish we didn't have to make: the one that leads us to an old friend or family member to say that final goodbye. Godspeed to you Barbara.

And Godspeed to you, too, Uncle Frank.

May hearts lighten just a wee bit today/
anguish has its own peculiar way/

By now most of you are keenly aware of the airline chaos that has struck Northern Europe, producing a ripple effect throughout the world. The Paris airports remain closed and, we are told, will remain so through at least Monday. (photo above: Jardin du Luxembourg.)

Susie is scheduled to fly home on Tuesday but right now, it does not look as if that is going to happen. Originally, I planned to join her this Tuesday and we were both going to return in early May. Once hired full-time by Johnson & Wales University, though, I had to put that trip on hold and we rescheduled Susie's return for April 20.

While the inconvenience suffered by so many travelers is most stressful, for them and for loved ones waiting at home, no one has been hurt, and nothing catastrophic has happened. For that we should all be truly thankful. As for Susie's predicament, if one has to be stranded anywhere what better place than Paris.

Like most of Nature's ways this, too, shall pass. In its own time, not ours.

I'll post more information as I get it.

Be well and be happy. Life is short.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Holocaust remembered in Providence and Susie goes to Mulhouse

First up the French side of the update.

Last Friday Susie finished two weeks of language classes at Alliance Francais on Boulevard Raspail. Believe me, this is an altogether different breed of cat from the AF program taught in Providence. Nearly all of the students in Susie's class are struggling up the language ladder so they can attend school in Paris.

Anyway, Susie struck up a conversation with one of her classmates, a young woman from Milan who hopes to attend Le Cordon Bleu and was thrilled when she heard that Susan had gone there just several years  (a lifetime) ago.  So Susie plans to call her when she gets back from Mulhouse and they'll get together for coffee and the prospective culinary student can fire away with her questions.

Speaking of Mulhouse -- which I was -- Susie took a mid-afternoon train yesterday, Sunday, to visit her friend Misato who works in a pastry shop in Mulhouse, just south of Strasbourg. They had become fast friends when both worked together at Pascal Pineauds pastry shop on rue Monge in Paris. (photo above) I'm informed that the trip went well and Susie arrived safe, sound and refreshed. This morning Misato fixed a  breakfast of Japanese rice, fried egg, salad, orange segments and tea. Today they're off to visit Chez Jacque, where Misato works -- last evening they had a rhubarb tart from the shop that "was pretty darn good."

More to come of this take I'm sure.

As for me my week was quiet, work was good, generally better than I could hope in fact. After all, I'm doing what I like and getting paid for it. Eyes are fixed on Brittany, unless Italy can get their act together on high-speed internet access for everyone within the next two years. . .

While Susie was training east toward Alsace and Mulhouse, I headed over to the eastern side of Providence and Temple Emanu-el. Earlier in the week I had come across a story about a collection of letters that had been found in 1997 during the demolition of an old house in Amsterdam. They had written been by a young 17-year-old boy, Philip "Flip" Slier to his parents who then lived in Amsterdam, while he was in a forced labor camp in the Netherlands. His parents hid the letters in two bundles in in the attic before they were rounded up and shipped off to the death camps in the east, where they perished along with millions of others, including their son "Flip."

The letters came into the possession of a family member, Deborah Slier, who, along with her partner, Ian Shine recently published these very touching scraps of memory from the young life life long gone. During the service commemorating the loss suffered during the Holocaust, excerpts of the letters were read by students from the Holocaust Studies class at Providence College. Afterward three women read the names of all the families in Rhode Island who had lost loved ones during the Holocaust.

Inspiring, powerful and yet incredibly bittersweet in the bargain.

After the service I stepped out into the warmth of the late afternoon sunshine. While I held my memorial candle, I stood on the steps of the temple embraced by a sense of amazement of what I had just witnessed: a reaffirmation of life through remembering of loved ones long dead, gone down to the dust of time; I was in awe of  the strength of character and the depth of loss suffered. The connections to the past were vividly alive and palpable enough to almost reach out and touch those men, women and children now so very long gone.

A few minutes later I found myself in the car,  heading north up Route 146 toward Douglas, MA, and a quiet dinner with Dick and Dorothy -- delicious Chicken Marsala, rice and broccoli. Connection to family and the past, one and the same time.

A Sunday to be savored indeed.

Stay well, keep calm and have a wonderful spring/primavera!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Loneliness in Providence or Paris is still loneliness

It's more than the brownies I miss. Or the fresh apple tart. I miss this smile.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Susie's update from Paris and my update from Providence

First up, Providence.

As many of you know by now, we had a bit of rain here in RI earlier last week. (Even the French newspapers carried stories about the terrible the flooding in Rhode Island.)

It is true that living in the city of Providence has forced us to keep our eyes on the road -- literally -- since we spend most of our driving time dodging the enormous potholes, caused primarily by the incompetence of the government and the indifference of the companies creating the holes in the first place. And we have virtually no drain system to speak of, at least in the city. Over the last few decades, the folks that run things have seen fit to raise the levels of all the streets without raising street curbing or, and this is the important point, without modifying the storm drains so, in effect, they ended up covering up some drains or choking most of them.

But during this past storm we were one of the lucky ones. While we had some flooding in the city, the hardest hit folks -- and some I work with - were those who lived south of here, in Cranston and Warwick, to name just two locations that have truly suffered from the monsoons that struck here last week. Four colleagues spent several days and nights doing little else but pumping water out of their basements.

The one bright side, I suppose, is that without basements that water would have struck at the very living centers of most homes. Not a pleasant thought to be sure.

As a result of the horrible flooding – some of which still persists in the state, Johnson & Wales closed up shop yesterday, Friday – most definitely a Good Friday.

I took advantage of the time off and the incredibly splendid weather to drive north to Cambridge, MA, and spent several hours strolling the stone gardens of Mt. Auburn Cemetery. (I’ll be posting more about my visit, along with a photo slideshow at my blog on US cemeteries. Oh, that's the Mary Baker Eddy monument facing Halcyon Pond. If that name sounds familiar she founded the Christian Science movement.)

But monsoon season is over at last and so is winter. Probably one of the mildest winters in recent memory, certainly for us at any rate. And the weather has been absolutely gorgeous the past several days, as if God is trying to make amends for his bad behavior this last week.

Now, here's the latest news from Susie in Paris -- she'll be forwarding reports to me every now and then along with a few photos, all of which I'll try to post as quickly as possible.

Merci beaucoup!

Ah, Paris - what a place!  It's been an interesting week and half so far.  It took me a few days to recover from traveling and adjust to a different time zone and daily schedule.  I still miss the regularity of my days at Gracie's. But right now I am enjoying having more time to myself as I think about my future.

Last Saturday I attended a croissant class at the Champs Elysees location of Lenotre, the famed French culinary school. Named after the great chef, Gaston Lenotre, the school’s professional culinary campus is just outside of Paris. Their smaller, satellite school on the Champs Elysees houses a cafe, retail shop and kitchens for a variety of day courses.  It is really aimed at the amateur crowd, but for me it's good to have exposure to different recipes and techniques.  One can always pick up a few pearls of wisdom here and there.

In addition to myself there were 3 French, a Russian-Canadian and an Italian, all female (
photo above).  The class was in French and, while I understood the gist of what was said, I did miss some of the jokes and various nuances of the language (I'm still working on my listening skills).  Since making croissant dough is, in fact a two-day process, we performed only a few of the required steps but I came away with a new recipe to try on my own.  Voila!

This past Monday I began my two weeks of French language class at L'Alliance Francaise.  My schedule is five days a week, four hours each day, although Easter Monday is a holiday, so no class. 

My previous experiences at the school have been enjoyable and very beneficial to my personal growth. I've gradually advanced in class level since I first started studying French in 2006.  I'm gaining bit by bit in my ability to understand the spoken word, which, for me, is the hardest part.  Our class, as usual, is made up of a diverse group of students from a half dozen different countries, who are pursuing various studies, living and working in Paris, or on vacation and brushing up on their French.  Our teacher Marylise is very nice and very precise and constantly points out our various errors in pronunciation, writing or when we use the wrong verb tense.  That's how we learn, after all.

Otherwise, I've been walking a lot, visiting some of my favorite places – Mora for baking equipment, Librairie Gourmande to check out cookbooks, Detou for baking and cooking supplies, and of course the major department stores of BHV, le Bon Marche for household items. Even with the lousy weather I also make a point of strolling through two of my favorite green spaces: the Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Plantes.

I’m also baking a bit. In fact, on Thursday I made shortbread cookies and
moelleux chocolat (moist chocolate mini cakes) and passed them around class. I'm also enjoying some tasty meals out, as well as fixing light meals at the apartment.  (More about my dining next time.) In spite of the current rainy, chilly weather, it is great to be back in Paris. 

More to come!