Why this blog?

To understand why this blog was created and where it got its name, start here

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Paris by night

The tango dancing that you saw in yesterday's post is located just steps away from Notre Dame. I know it's a cliché, but no matter how many times I see this sight, it still takes my breath away.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tango on the Seine

Every evening in the summer (weather permitting) people gather on the left bank of the Seine to dance. Last Saturday night Patrice and I decided to check it out.

The weather was perfect for picnics and dancing. We discovered that several kinds of dances are represented from salsa to tango to traditional folk dances. Dancing is free and open to all ages and all levels of expertise.

No, we didn't join in. We just watched and took pictures. Maybe next time.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Swimming in Paris

Summer finally came to Paris - and stayed for exactly five days. Blue skies arrived last Sunday when we went to Paris Plages. On Monday we went swimming in one of Paris' uncovered swimming pools.

Temperatures climbed into the high 80s and people started complaining about the heat as very few buildings have air conditioning. Then, on Friday, the clouds came back. Today it's cloudy with highs in the low 70s F. But, hey, I'm not complaining. It could be much worse when I see weather conditions around the world.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Paris beach

Can you believe that we just visited some fabulous beaches on the Atlantic coast and didn't even walk on the beach or dip our toes in the ocean? Crazy. So now we've returned to Paris and what did we do yesterday? We went to "Paris Plages." It's Paris' version of vacation beaches for those who can't leave the city. They close off a stretch of road along the Seine and truck in tons of sand. They install a few umbrellas and deck chairs and call it a beach. The "beach" is much smaller this year than last - but we still managed to find a place to catch some rays and play a game of chess.
There are plenty of games and animation for kids.
And of course lots of buckets and shovels for building sand castles
There's even a shower so that you can cool off when you get too hot.
But no swimming. So today we're going to try out one of the many swimming pools in Paris.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

La Rhune

One of the main tourist attractions in the Basque country is the Rhune, a Basque sacred mountain that rises 3000 feet above the surrounding countryside and gives a 360 degree view of the Pyrenees mountains and the Atlantic coast from Biarritz all the way south to San Sebastian. We took the Petit Train - a cog railway - to the top.

The climb to the top of the mountain is steep - as much as 25% grade in some sections.
The mountain is inhabited by pottok a semi-feral breed of pony native to the Pyrenees of the Basque country. We also saw some impressive birds of prey but they are much harder to photograph.
 Time to say goodbye to the Pyrenees and the ocean - it's time to return to the city. Sigh.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


On Sunday we decided to head south along the coast into Spain to have a picnic. Gerard and Flo rode their motorcycle and we did our best to try and keep up with them.
It's easy to find Flo in a crowd

And her bright red hair makes it easy to identify her on the back of the motorcycle
Destination: San Sebastian

St. Jean de Luz

Having grown up in the land-locked Rocky Mountains, I am always thrilled by the sight of the ocean. Our trip to the Basque country included visits to Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Biarritiz. It's high season on the beach. Hard to find a place to put your blanket.

Patrice and Flo

Elaine - wishing she had her swimsuit
Sunset St. Jean de Luz

Fireworks for the 14th of July - St. Jean de Luz

Thursday, July 19, 2012


We've just returned from a visit to Ustaritz, a village in the Basque country where Patrice's daughter, Florence, lives with her Basque husband, Gerard Iturria. Ustaritz is in the southwest corner of France in the Pyrenees mountains - just a few minutes from the Spanish border, and about 15 km  from the Atlantic ocean.

Gerard's grandfather went to live with an uncle in California as a boy in 1912 following the deaths of most of his family during the great influenza epidemic. He worked as a shepherd and returned 20 years later,  purchased land, married, and had several children. Here is a picture of the home built by Gerard and his father:

The house is on top of a hill with an extraordinary view of the surrounding mountains. Gerard mows the field with an ancient tractor.

On Friday evening we participated in the local festival which included lots of food, lots of wine, and lots of singing traditional basque songs.
The language is ancient, unintelligible, and unspellable. Here are a few verses from one of the best known songs:

Hegoak ebaki banizkio
Neuria izango zen
Ez zuen alde egingo

Bainan horrela
Ez zen gehiago
xoria izango

Want to listen for yourself? Click here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Weekend in Normandy

We've just returned from a weekend in Normandy at my friend Odette's house. On Saturday afternoon, we visited the ruins of an XI century benedictine abbey in Saint-Evroult-Notre-Dame-du-Bois.
It rained all day on Saturday. Who would believe that we'd need to build a fire to keep warm in July?
The sun finally came out on Sunday afternoon when we visited Honfleur, a picturesque port on the estuary of the Seine. We ate a traditional dinner of mussels and dreamed of sailing away.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Paris in July

More rain in July, temperatures in the low 70s. Is summer ever going to arrive?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Paris Writers Workshop

I signed up for the Paris Writers Workshop for inspiration, encouragement, and for technical tips on the craft of writing and publishing. Morning sessions were led by Writer-in-Residence: Mimi Schwartz, author of five books and Professor Emerita in Writing at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey. Afternoon sessions included panel discussions ranging from the Secrets of Getting Published to the latest trends in self-publishing and e-Books. 

I have been working on a writing project for a couple of years now. Not just blog posts; something more substantial. The blog has been a warmup, a sandbox to play and to try on the sobriquet of "writer." However, it's relatively easy to scribble down 250 words as I tell stories about my daily life. Even easier if I substitute photos for the proverbial 1000 words. But it requires much more discipline to come up with a manuscript of 80,000 well-chosen, tightly-edited words. I have a plot sketched out on paper, but to bring it alive and to people it with living, breathing characters that you can see and hear is much harder.

How do you put the reader inside a location where they've never been? How can you transform sights and sounds and smells so that the reader can hear the voices in your head, mixing logic and fantasy?

I was thrilled to receive a positive response from an agent during the workshop.
"Call me as soon as it's finished," she said.

80,000 words.