Tag Archives | Provence

Monday Listicles: Places I Love

These lists have become odd echoes of my life these days: what I miss, yin yang, and now places I love…We’re living in a new place–a place I don’t yet love. There’s potential here–the gulf is beautiful, the gardens are lovely–but nothing has yet worked itself into my imagination.  So thank you, Stasha and Saretta (who chose this week’s topic) for helping me list through my life!

Herewith, a list. What places do YOU love?

1 .Mackinac Island, Michigan: the Shangri-la where I spent all my growing-up summers, roaming the woods with gangs of cousins. No cars are allowed on the island, which makes it a magical place to be young. I spent so much time there that even now I can conjure up the exact feel of the warm porch floorboards beneath my toes, the smell of wet cedar trees after a rain, and the unbelievable tingle that comes with swimming in the icy clear water. It’s also the place where Husband and I got married, thirteen years ago today.

the view from the front porch on a hazy day

2. A book. I’ve lived in books my entire life and I swear to god that one of the reasons I feel so displaced these days has more to do with reading on an ipad than with living in the Middle East. I like pages, dammit! Sorry, Husband, your wife remains firmly analog (except where her iphone is concerned).

3. The back deck of my mother’s house in Indiana. Okay, Indiana wouldn’t be a state I’d ever choose to live, but Mom’s back deck sits over a little creek that burbles through the woods and when we visit in the summers, the deck is a quiet oasis where we sit and talk for hours and hours (or until the wine runs out, whichever comes first).

4. My kids’ imaginations: Snow White, space marauder, archer, Jedi, knight… their inexhaustible creativity reminds me that we don’t (always) have to accept the limitations of the here-and-now. Liam as Snow White. He’s about 4 in this picture– if he knew you’d seen it, he’d have to kill you.

Caleb as a French knight (the helmet came from his aunt & uncle, via France).

5. The beach. Pretty much any beach, actually. It’s the constant presence of “beach” here that makes Husband hope I will soon fall in love with Abu Dhabi: after all, there are the Gulf beaches, right outside my window.  And, he argues, what’s the desert but a big ol’ beach in search of some ocean?

6. Kayaking on the Hudson River in New York: when I’m on the river looking back at the city, I can’t hear the noise of the traffic.  The buildings rise out of the water like miracles and I get a little rush of “wow! look where I live!”

7.  Provence. Is that a cliché? I mean, who doesn’t love Provence? Can I love it even though I only speak faux-French (and that, badly)? The tiny little villages clinging to the hilltops; the fields of sunflowers and lavender, the olive groves? The whole countryside is designed to seduce–I never wanted to leave.

8. London’s Hyde Park. I loved wandering in Hyde Park when we were in London last month. In Central Park it’s almost impossible to forget that you’re in the middle of a huge city—the tips of the skyscrapers poke into almost every leafy corner. But Hyde Park, you can wander away from the city and actually imagine yourself sprawled in a country meadow.

9. The New York Public Library at 42nd Street: the big one, with the lions.  I love the fact that my book requests funnel to the underground stacks through pneumatic tubes; I love that I can find pretty much any newspaper or magazine every published in its real or digital catalogs; I love looking at the amazing diversity of people clustered around the reading tables, each person lost in her own universe but all of us gathered together in the beautiful reading rooms.

10. Barnegat Light, Long Beach Island, New Jersey: Yes, “down the shore.” A non honky-tonk beach town, with huge white beaches, twisted pine trees, and the ethos of just about any beach town: slow down, ease up, flip flops are fine.

Continue Reading · on August 29, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Monday Listicle, NYC, Travel

We’ll Always Have Paris. Sort Of

So we went to Paris for two days before going on to Provence, where we were having a family reunion and celebrating my mother’s seventieth twenty-ninth birthday.  Two full days to revel in the city of light, stroll the tiny cobbled streets, marvel at the enduring romance of a river spanned by bridges, discover sweet little cafes tucked into quiet courtyards, sip chilled rose on the tiny balcony of our apartment and watch the sunset over the Paris rooftops.

Oh. Wait. That would be a two-day Paris vacation with my Husband, or by myself.

Actually? We were on a two-day family trip to Paris.

The last time we were in Paris, Liam was still in a stroller and Caleb wasn’t even the proverbial gleam in our eyes. Maybe because now, in comparison, both boys seem more grownup, Husband and I forgot that family trip is not a vacation (thanks to Cousin Sarah for pointing it out to me).  Thus Day One of our trip was filled not only with cold wet weather (more Novemberish than Julyish) but tag-team whining of the first order. If there were a Olympic whining event, my kids would definitely medal.

In a kind of French version of the Bataan death march (their version) we trudged from Notre Dame to Musee Cluny, to Musee D’Orsay.  It rained. It was cold. Caleb was, variously: hungry, bored, thirsty, persecuted by his brother, TIRED.  Liam wanted to know the French word for pretty much everything , which was charming for the first vingt minutes et puis tres aggravating because then he whined in French: je suis faim, je suis froid, je suis fatiguee, je suis HATE MY BROTHER.  (Yes, like Caliban, in The Tempest: we taught him the language and he learned how to curse).


You know where we ended up? The carnival. Yep. Missed the Louvre—why would you go see the glass pyramid at the Louvre when you could ride the Pirates of the Caribbean for three euros a pop? Well, actually, in this picture you can see one end of one wing of the Louvre, just behind the tall arm of the Ferris Wheel.

Double sigh.

Day Two, Husband and I threw our Paris desires out the window.  Husband and Liam left early to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, while Caleb, Grandma, and I meandered more slowly to the Tower, where Caleb (who insists he dislikes heights) rode the carousel and ate soft-serve ice cream. I tried not to be disgusted by the fact that the ice cream came from a dispenser that had been, a few short minutes before, crawling with bees.
After the Eiffel Tower, le batobus: the aquatic equivalent of a double-decker tour bus. We went from boat to lunch (pizza, of course) to the courtyard of the Louvre, to the boat, to Les Invalides (armor! guns! swords! Napoleon’s huge tomb!), to the metro and home.  Ice cream and small souvenirs were applied at judicious intervals in a way that never would have happened at home.  We are now the proud owners of a small blue Eiffel Tower, any number of commemorative “gold” coins, two small notepads, and a small plastic horse-and-knight.  Plus post cards.

But the boys went to sleep that night saying that they loved Paris, so maybe it was cheap at the price.

I guess Rick and Ilsa were right: we’ll always have Paris…and one day we’ll come back for an actual vacation.

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Continue Reading · on July 24, 2011 in Children, Travel

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