Sunday, October 31, 2004

We’re headed down to Lise and Richard’s in a little while for some chat and wine. If I don’t see them tonight or tomorrow, it’ll be mid-December before we all have a chance to catch up. We love them and I am pretty sure they love us right back. Lise told me that Richard said it was going to be “devastating” when we move to the States next year. Wow. It made me feel good to hear that we will be missed. That is very sweet. I get a huge kick out of him. He’s completely genial, charming, and easy to be around. And everyone knows how I feel about Lise. She’s wonderful, pure and simple.

They are dog sitting a friend’s cocker spaniel puppy, who apparently is a real hellion, especially when compared to Henry, king of all dogs. Anyway, this dog has been up baying in the middle of the night the past few nights and won’t sleep alone….Should be interesting to see how he and H get along. Henry is a doll. The other night Liz was here with her dog, Louie, who is a Chihuahua and much more aggressive than Henry. He was nipping and goading Henry, but he just wasn’t bothered in the least. I know I ramble on about him constantly, but his docility is really amazing. He is the dog I have always longed for and I cannot believe how fortunate I am to have been paired with him! I always wonder about his other life and how he came to be lost on a country road with no tags or collar. The guy who found him went to all the shelters and police stations in the area and no one reported him missing. Someone had taken good care of him and had taken the time to teach him tricks…Sad, but I couldn’t give him up now if you paid me a million dollars.

We had Lisa, Steve, Vikki and Gary over for dinner last night. The girls are vegetarians so I made a vegetarian chili, which seemed to please everyone. The real showstopper was dessert – sticky toffee pudding. It was pure sin. Scrummy! We had a lot of laughs as usual. They were telling me English and Irish slang words for private parts. It’s always good to be enlightened…

Have I mentioned about how nervous this election is making me? I am literally losing sleep. What is wrong with half my country that they cannot see through this half wit charlatan?

Lily, Halloween, 2004 - 10 years old

Jack, Halloween, 2004 - 8 years old

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

This was in a gossip piece from today’s New York Post:

Chef and author Anthony Bourdain stirred up controversy at a Gourmet magazine-sponsored discussion on Thursday night at the Museum of Television & Radio. "The restaurant industry would collapse without the Mexicans andCentral Americans who came to this country with no skills at all. That's what I hate about the James Beard Awards - you look out at the audience and you've never seen so many white people in one place since George Wallace ran for president," Bourdain told a stunned audience.

Ya gotta love the guy. It is spot on. Once had dinner at his restaurant, Les Halles, with a gang of folks. Big, loud, crowded, and reasonably priced brasserie. If you are a foodie, you have got to read his Kitchen Confidential, great stuff!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

John Kerry and Bill Clinton, Love Park, Philadelphia, PA
Bill Clinton campaigned for John Kerry in Philadelphia yesterday, an event I definitely would have attended if only I’d been home. I used to chase Bill allover Center City when he visited during his presidency. One time on Locust Street we locked eyes. All I can say is that he has magnetism unlike anyone in whose presence I have been before or since. Someone I know who saw him yesterday said it was like going to see a rock star.

Here’s an interesting article from the BBC about the Clinton Effect.

Vikki and Alan, Chinese Tower

Chinese Tower, October 2004
We had a great time at the Chinese Tower on Sunday afternoon. Everyone seemed to be in a great mood, knowing that the pleasant warm weather is definitely waning, and wanting to enjoy as much of it as possible. We found Paul in a really sunny spot and were joined by Pete, Alan and Vikki. Everyone seemed very buoyant including those around us. It was one of those low pressure good times. Jen was missing because she was feeling lousy and some of the others were more interested in watching the Southampton game than in soaking up the last strong rays of the year.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

It’s Indian summer here in Munich, which makes me think of home. But lately everything is making me think of home.

It’s been a great weekend so far and my sides are hurting from laughing so much, always a good indicator to me of just how much fun I’ve had. Friday night, a bunch of us went to the Pappenheim for beers. I like the friendly atmosphere in there. I sat next to Andy for a long time as he regaled me with stories of Stuart as a kid. Really funny stuff. I miss Stu and Allison by the way. They brought a lot to the table, mostly laughter. Paul came too and so did Alan, which was really nice. They were telling me stories of getting naked --- at Oktoberfests past --- and of certain parties comparing penis size. It was a hoot and led to a really raunchy discussion of sex that can only happen at two in the morning when you are feeling no pain.

Yesterday was another spectacular day and we went to the Auer Dult, a big market and fair in Au. It was fun looking at the antiques and all the old fashioned rides. Paul and Lise met us for a bit and we ate some food and people watched. Came back home for a few hours before heading out to the Wirtshaus zum Alten Kreuz on Falkenstrasse to meet Lise and Richard and Graham and his new friend Martin, who we all liked very much. We love going in that bar. The woman who runs it is incredibly friendly and remembers Henry by name when we go in there about once a month. Another really fun night. We have a nice relationship with Lise and Richard, very easy and filled with laughter, but we have serious conversations too. And I adore Graham. He is very sweet, funny and genuinely kind.

Now we have just gotten a text from Pete who wants us to meet up at the Chinese Tower, for probably one of the last beer garden days of the year. I am inclined to say yes, but Chris looks like he is suffering a bit.

Friday, October 22, 2004

100 Things About Me

1. I am a first born…hard to tell, huh?
2. Chris is the best thing to ever happen to me. I am still pinching myself.
3. Reading keeps me sane.
4. I am the happiest when surrounded by my friends and family breaking bread and drinking wine.
5. I believe in love at first sight.
6. I love to go junking and flea marketing.
7. I knit continental style.
8. I have met Bruce Springsteen.
9. I took the SAT’s for a friend of mine.
10. I sometimes bite my nails.
11. Rome is my favorite city.
12. I am an insomniac.
13. I love coffee.
14. My sister Lisa can drive me crazy, and I her, but I love her.
15. I collect vintage handbags.
16. I once had the same job for 13 years and for what it’s worth, really loved it.
17. I am punctual.
18. I am frightened by death.
19. I love pizza.
20. I once hated my boss so much that I used to plot her demise. I let go of that by the way.
21. I love my dog, Henry.
22. I love when it snows.
23. I miss my friends from the coffee shop at home.
24. I hate George Bush.
25. My mom and my sister Gina are the people I look up to the most.
26. I once rescued a cat who was pregnant and she ended up having 5 kittens.
27. I am a good cook.
28. I have had three VW Beetles, two old models and one new.
29. I have witnessed the birth of a child.
30. I wear a lot of black clothes.
31. I think Hugh Grant is sexy.
32. Tom Bags makes me laugh more than anyone alive.
33. The first adult book I read was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.
34. I have taken anti-depressants and been in therapy.
35. I loved an Egyptian, but I never walked like one.
36. My favorite perfume is Angel by Thierry Mugler.
37. I love the Oktoberfest!
38. Once, my friend John MacMinn told me I was “Hollywood Fine!”
39. I often give money to panhandlers.
40. I love kids, but am not having them.
41. I am addicted to food magazines.
42. I love Eastenders.
43. I have loved and lost.
44. The Barnes Foundation is my favorite museum in the world
45. My porn name is Mixie Linden.
46. I am sick of getting my period.
47. I can’t dance.
48. I enjoy a good cocktail every here and again.
49. I can draw.
50. I am working on improving myself.
51. I love rare meat.
52. I had to wear plaid culottes and a blue blazer in high school.
53. My comprehension of Italian, both written and spoken, is fairly good. I have a hard time speaking it.
54. I am terrified of flying.
55. I love the ocean.
56. My father’s death is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I still miss him and it has been twelve years.
57. Eggplant makes my throat itch.
58. I drive slowly and carefully.
59. Autumn and Winter are my favorite seasons.
60. My eyes suck.
61. I love beer.
62. I enjoy gardening.
63. I hate cleaning.
64. When I love people, I tell them. Often.
65. I have skinny dipped in my family’s pool and in the ocean.
66. I dye my hair.
67. I love real Christmas trees.
68. I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
69. I love my collection of paintings, art pottery and photographs all of which are in storage.
70. I love coffee.
71. I can rattle off almost anyone’s phone number I have ever known.
72. I have made my own pasta.
73. I have never missed a vote.
74. I loved my old neighbors and their kids.
75. I have pissed myself laughing.
76. Nelson Mandela is a hero.
77. I don’t ever plan on having plastic surgery.
78. My team won at Quizzo a record amount of weeks in a row.
79. I hated the movie Titantic.
80. I have been quoted in a restaurant review.
81. I love to wheel and deal at the flea market.
82. I love foie gras.
83. I enjoy sitting a round a table with my pals picking through crabs and drinking beer.
84. I have a friend whose first name is Evans.
85. I got fired once (by the bitch whose demise I was plotting) and was escorted out of the building by security. Getting fired had nothing to do with the plot!
86. I break a lot of glasses.
87. I am in a fantasy football league.
88. I like sex.
89. I enjoy the website Toytown Munich.
90. My friend Erich is a genius.
91. I am terrified of spiders.
92. I like Garrison Keillor, even though I know he is corny.
93. I like Martha Stewart and I don’t care what she did.
94. I can cry at the drop of a hat.
95. I couldn’t live too long without National Public Radio.
96. The happiest day of my life was when my niece Lily was born.
97. My eyes are hazel.
98. I have had stitches above my left eye two separate times.
99. For years I thought I hated bananas.
100. Math makes me sick.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I am involved in this fantasy football league with Planty, Bev, Gary, this guy Cal, Chris, Richard and Lise and I am the only American in the group which makes for some good jabs from the Brits. I am in fifth place and ahead of Chris, Lise and Richard which makes me happy. I don’t care if I win but I do want to be ahead of Gary and Planty, but that will take some sort of miracle. Gary is like a walking encyclopedia of sport and knows every little nuance. Planty is just downright obsessed and I must beat him. Must. It’s a laugh and something for us all to banter about on e-mail and at our stammtisch which Planty organizes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

October 20, 2004

Just returned from a few days in Bolzano, which is a great mix of Tyrolean and Italian. I met Lee and Helen, who I absolutely adore, and when I first saw them in the hotel lobby, I started crying. What a big fucking baby. I felt and I must’ve looked like an idiot. It just felt so good to see folks with ties to Haddonfield and home in general.

We spent our time together wandering, eating, drinking and talking about everything from therapy to the upcoming election. When I first met them at coffee, I assumed they were very conservative because they are older and well off, but as time passed I realized that my original impression was completely off the mark. They told me they don’t advertise their political views in Haddonfield too much because they assumed that everyone was Republican. Everyone I know, except for the Burmasters and Tom Bullock, is voting Democrat. But I think I am just traveling in those circles. The people with the really big money on King’s Highway, Warwick Road and Chews Landing Road are probably all conservative Republicans and don’t mix with the likes of me. Jack has a ton of money but he’s very liberal and very Democrat. I think most folks in Haddonfield are socially liberal. When Diane and Marilyn were suing the State of New Jersey for the right to marry, virtually everyone I know supported them. Either that, or they were afraid to voice their dissent to me. Anyway, I did not mean to digress there. We really had a good old time chatting it up. They were so nice – wouldn’t let me buy any of my food and drinks the whole time we were together. I am really happy I took the opportunity to hook up with them.

Read Jason’s new book on the train ride back. He is the editor of an anthology called “Best American Travel Writing 2004” which is published by Houghton Mifflin and actually sells quite well. He goes through a ridiculous amount of travel writing and gathers one hundred pieces from which the guest editor, who is normally a well known writer in the genre, picks twenty. It’s a good gig for him and gives him a cushion for his other writing and reviews. When I met Jason, I had heard a bit about about him from Pam and Christina Di Sanzo, and I had it in my head that he was going to be this stodgy, snobby guy. Dead wrong again. We hit it off immediately and found three dozen subjects on which we agreed completely. Both of us can be wicked as hell and we both love to drink. I always say that his job as food reviewer for Philadelphia Magazine was the best year of my life. When his wife couldn’t go, or was sick of dining out, I’d get the call and come running. I think he chose me because I, a) was terminally single, and could answer his call at the drop of a hat, and, b) always had a black dress ready to roll for any occasion. Once the three of us went out and that was fun. He’s married to a great gal, who is also a writer, and he is father to a beautiful boy. Another baby is on the way right now. I thoroughly enjoyed being his companion on those nights when I was pressed into service. And I loved seeing my pithy comments on food on the pages of the magazine, I must admit. One of our better nights out was when he was doing a piece on Philadelphia’s best hamburger. We ate and drank ourselves senseless. I couldn’t look at beef for a month, but it was a hoot. He keeps threatening to visit and I sincerely hope he does. I want him to get to know Chris better as I am hoping we spend a bit more time with them when we return for good.

Oh, and I did buy the Sunday Times in the Hauptbahnhof on the way down to Bolzano. It was 15 euros and I was sighing over it so contentedly, it felt like porn.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

our kitchen, note the half size fridge....

New York Times Endorses Kerry

I was really pleased to see that the Times formally endorsed John Kerry this morning. The editorial was harshly critical of Bush and "enthusiastically" endorsed Kerry. It's worth a look.

I miss my Sunday Times and plan to splash out tomorrow morning on my way down to Bolzano and spend 15 euros on it at the International Press in the Hauptbahnhof. Four hours on a train with the best newspaper in the world. It just doesn't get any better.

October 17, 2004

Yesterday was thumping hangover day. I went to Jen's knowing that I was going to tie one on and boy did I. I have no idea what motivated me to drink two cosmopolitans and many glasses of wine. I paid the price yesterday. The dinner party was a lot of fun. The food was wonderful. Everyone was in good form, especially Gary Jones, who I like more and more every time I am in his company. Bev is great too, but she was ailing with her back problems. Lise and Richard are always good fun. Ros was there, looking stupendous. So were Joanna and Joao, with whom I had a great conversation about food and cooking. I also had a few giggles with Paul about his drunken "I pathetic" texts a few weeks ago!

I somehow got out of bed at eleven and wandered over to Wordsworth on Schellingstrasse with Liz. I bought a bunch of travel books which were on sale as well as Jason's new book , which I was absolutely thrilled to find! I couldn't help but tell the guy behind the counter that Jason is a friend. He said the book had just arrived in the store and was surprised that I asked for it.

Quiet day otherwise. Chris made a great soup for us. He is a very good cook and chooses recipes which I would never choose, but which always are tasty.

I did speak to Joanna for a long time on the telephone. I miss her so much and we had a good cry together. She was feeling a little blue and I totally empathize with her sorrow. We laughed too, which we always do. I love Joanna. She is in a league of her own.

Tomorrow I am going down to Bolzano for a few days to spend with Lee and Helen, really terrific people from Haddonfield, who are touring Italy at the moment.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Start of Ramadan

Ramadan starts today and I cannot help but think about A. I have gotten over all of the sadness and anger which haunted me, and can finally see him in a more realistic light. Truth is, it was a difficult situation and I should never have allowed myself to become so enamoured of him. It was the strangest thing. From the minute I spoke to him on the telephone, a few years before we came face to face, I knew he was going to be very significant in my life, but had no idea that it was going to be years of heartbreak. At the time, I thought fate brought us together. Can you imagine how silly I was to believe that! I was 38 at the time, not some kid, there’s no excuse for being all wide eyed.

Letting go of him was easy once I really decided it needed to be done. The problem was that after ten or twelve breakups, whenever we broke up it seemed like a joke. The last time we broke up was with a whimper and not a bang. He wasn’t being supportive of me when I was having a difficult time in my life and I just woke up to the reality that he could and would never be what I needed in a partner.

For all his faults, I loved him. I don’t love him anymore though. Now he just makes me sad. He’s truly happy for me, which both makes me feel good and want to cry. I can’t explain it. I know he loved me, but it wasn’t enough. What I have now is enough.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

October 13, 2004

Yesterday Liz took a mental health day and we spent some time together drinking coffee and shooting the breeze. I still am utterly floored at my connection to Liz through the Coburns and the fact that she lives right around the corner. It's a small world. I like Liz. She's nice, smart and funny. She's got a bit of a sarcastic streak, which I do too, and appreciate very much. It was great to just hang out during the daytime with someone. I miss that. Today I met Carmen for a quick latte on Leopoldstrasse and that was pleasant too. Carmen is full of energy and really easy to be around. I feel very relaxed in her company.

Jen is having a bunch of folks over on Friday night and I promised to help, which will be nice. As I have said before, I miss entertaining. The most people we can have for dinner here, including ourselves, is six. That, and the fact that our fridge is ridiculously small, makes it tough to entertain on a larger scale. I am used to having twelve people around the table, eating, laughing, drinking. I miss that too. But I will have that again when I return to Jersey.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Homesick Blues

We have another year to go here before we go back to the States, but for some insane reason I have begun trolling through the real estate web pages, which is stupid considering that I have fallen in love with three houses only to see them sold out from under us! Ha!

For some reason, I am ready to go back home now. I am a little lonely during the day and miss the routine and social interaction that work brings. I also feel odd taking so much materially from Chris, something which he assures me is NOT a problem. It’s just a problem for me I suppose.

I am very happy with Chris and our relationship. It’s healthy and strong and growing. We enjoy being together, have meaningful conversations as well as silly banter. He makes me laugh and not take myself so seriously. It is just very hard to be away from everyone and everything. I was queen bee in Haddonfield. A big fish in a very small pond. Here I am a tadpole in an ocean. I’m secure enough to be able to accept that, yet I miss the constant stream of visitors to my place, the phone calls, drinks and dinners out with the gang, Sunday meals with my family and all sorts of stuff. I so lucky to have acquired so many friends through Chris, Jen and Lise, yet I miss the friends at home. Joanna, John, Steve, Peggy, John, Tom, Gina, John, Lynne, Bob, Jason, the morning coffee crew, Jane, Catherine, Nancy, Cheryl, John, Lee, Helen, Andy, Craig, Evans, Laurel, Christina…I could go on and on.

Oh well, one more year. Let me grab another Augustiner and make the most of it.

Monday, October 11, 2004

October 11, 2004

Very productive day. Chris was off as he had an exam to take so I headed downtown to do errands. I headed to the travel bureau in the Hauptbahnhof to make arrangements to go to Bolzano next week, and to inquire about tickets from Rome to Naples next month. The folks who work there are amazingly efficient. I always end up with the same gal who gives great service, not something you see often in Germany. So both trips are fairly sorted, just have to get the final OK from the American contingent. Also mailed my absentee ballot. Let's pray for Kerry.

Christopher Reeve died. Very sad. I thought he was amazing, a real role model, and a real life superman.

Nice dinner on the go tonight. A lovely marinated pork tenderloin served with an orange curry reduction. Smelled great as I cooked it so it ought to be tasty. The cooler weather is really making me want to cook. Chris is happy….

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Dreary Sunday

Too much wine last night. I thought Richard and Planty were the only people coming over to watch the match and was absolutely stunned when Vikki and Martina turned up! It ended up being a lot of laughs and there is a photograph of Richard in my short silk robe….don’t ask…very funny! Our apartment looked like a cyclone hit it when I got up this morning, beer and wine bottles everywhere....

England won 2-0, by the way, which helped fuel all the merriment.

Cooked a fabulous beef stew today with red wine. It was falling apart tender, yum. Served it over a bed of egg noodles with a nice crisp salad. Perfect fare for this dreary day.

It’s John and Steve’s mutual birthday today so I phoned them. Steve is 32, all grown up! John is 44, right behind me. It was good to talk to both of them. I miss them a lot.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Ready to Strangle....

Chris just told me thirty minutes ago that he is having friends over…in thirty minutes…to watch the big England Wales football match. I have nothing to serve these people and the apartment looks like a tornado hit it. This sort of stuff drives me wild because I love to be prepared and have the house looking good and have some nice food to put out…Men!

And the whole thing will be capped off by Henry farting. Looks like it will be a fun night. Not.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Craving Jersey Food

I am craving a cheesesteak like nobody’s business but have at least six more weeks till I can get one. I also want a good hoagie, a few of them actually. One from Brianna’s and one from Carmen’s. I want a hamburger cooked on my sister’s charcoal grill. You cannot get a decent hamburger here. Every time someone says they have a good place to get a burger, I get all hopeful. But it is false optimism, because these frisbees they call burgers are a joke, and I am note even sure they are beef…..

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Bette Davis as Margo Channing

All About Eve

I watched ALL ABOUT EVE yesterday on Sky Movies and believe it or not, it was the first time I had ever seen it. It is utterly brilliant with great bitchy dialogue and a fantastic plot. Bette Davis is amazing as Margo Channing, the great stage actress, and Anne Baxter plays the scheming understudy, Eve Harrington, to perfection. Marilyn Monroe as Miss Caswell steals every scene she is in. Well worth the two hours I spent on the couch watching it!

And it has the best line in movie history:

“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

A Really Good Easy Pasta

Thanks to Amanda Hesser, who printed this is the New York Times Magazine. This is a delicious meal whipped up in fifteen minutes or less. Add a nice salad and a half decent bottle of wine and you're in business...

Bavette Cacio e pepe or Linguini with 2 cheeses

Sea Salt or Kosher
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino-Romano cheese
1/2 pound of DeCecco linguini fini (or similar dried imported) DeCecco is best, IMHO
2 TBS unsalted butter, chilled (Buy Plugra or similar imported butter)
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS very coarse, freshly ground black pepper.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Sprinkle in enough salt so that it tastes seasoned. Meanwhile, grate and mix the cheeses together. When the water boils, add the linguini and cook it for teh specified time on teh package, stirring occasionally. Near the end of cooking, scoop out about 1/2 cup of cooking water and reserve.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Drop in the butter, oil and 1/2 TBS pepper and stir with tongs, lifting and folding the pasta together. Add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the pot and place it over medium-high heat. Cook for a minute, stirring to emulsify the sauce, add more of the reserved liquid if required. Test a noodle to see if it's done. It should still be firm in the center, though not as stiff as licorice. Remove from the heat and sprinkle half the cheese over the pasta. Blend once more and then divide the pasta among the plates passing the rest ofthe cheese and the pepper at the table.

On the Needles Now - Justine's Poncho

On the Needles Right Now - Harry Potter Scarf

On the Needles Right now, Folly Sweater by Jillian Moreno

Back to the Real World

Back to Munich, cooking for us again, laundry and responsibilities. Some guy screamed at me yesterday afternoon because I left Henry tied up outside a shop for five minutes and he was barking.I cannot get my head around the fact that these people can be (but aren’t always) so confrontational about every little thing. I have been getting acclimated to life here, and have been enjoying my interactions with people, but the cheek of this guy to actually scream at me at such a small offense really bothered me. I ignored him and refused to become engaged in a battle over something so small, yet it threw me. I used to leave him tied up in front of CVS on Kings Highway in Haddonfield all the time and the big wimp inevitably would bark anxiously. However, in Jersey when I came out, someone would be petting him, and calming him down. Not one person ever took me to task. I love my life here and I love Munich, but I miss home, and I really missed it yesterday when this guy’s arrogance really took the wind out of my sails. I suppose what bothers me the most is that they seem to have no problem correcting what they consider to be the slightest infraction of the “rules” which they seem to make up according to whim. There is very little of the live-and-let-live attitude here and I miss that.

My absentee ballot arrived today, has been filled out (guess who I voted for?) and is ready for mailing. I miss all the election drama, though if I am to believe the BBC, Kerry appears to be closing the gap…

Chris left this morning for a few days of work in Zagreb, Croatia. I’m okay when he travels and in fact try to make the most of it and enjoy it.
In two weeks, I hope to meet Lee and Helen for a day and night in Bolzano, Italy and am looking quite forward to it as I like them both very much. In early November, we are meeting some of my Jersey gang for ten days in Italy. I cannot wait. A shot of Joanna, Tom and John, their friends Bill and Vincent, combined with me, Chris, Jen and Paul should bring a load of laughs and misadventures. Shortly thereafter, Chris and I will be in the States for Thanksgiving. Chris will be there for a week, and I will be there for two.

Jen and Me in Full Fest Kit

Paris Roundup

Paris Roundup

Last Tuesday night, Chris and I flew to Paris so that he could work Wednesday through Friday. His office is a bit out of the center of town, but sweetheart that Chris is; he arranged a hotel in St. Germain des Pres so that I would be in a more central location! It had been a few years since my last visit to Paris so I spent a bit of time reacquainting myself with her many charms and remembering trips I had taken there in the past, in particular one with my sisters and another with one of my best friends, John Joyce. The first day I just wandered all over the place, through the Jardin du Luxembourg, down through the very chic 7th arrondissement ending up at the Rodin Museum The museum and the garden surrounding it are both really lovely. That evening we took a cab out to the Beaubourg Marais section of the city to a restaurant called Ambassade D’Auvergne (22, rue due Grenier Saint Lazare, phone: 01 42 72 31 22), recommended to us by a French couple we met recently named Bertrand and Catherine. Charming, warm and inviting, this restaurant specializes in cooking from the Auvergne region of France, hearty and rib sticking good stuff! The speciality of the house is called aligot, which is mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and a stringy cheese. The waiter makes a big show of stretching it as he serves directly from the copper pot. A little corny but cute. For starters we each had a warm lentil salad which had been pan fried in duck fat and served with sautéed lardoons and shallots. Bliss. Afterwards, we had the best chocolate mousse on the planet!

I spent Thursday in the Louvre, really taking an in depth look at the Italian and Spanish paintings in the Denon Wing. The Louvre, which is normally one of the most touristed spots in Paris, second only to the Eiffel Tower, is “enjoying” a resurgence in popularity currently, due to Dan Brown’s thriller The Da Vinci Code, a large part of which is set in the Denon Wing. I won’t go into all the reasons I think the book is a bit far fetched as that has been done to death by the media. I do find it really funny that people are taking it as gospel when it is riddled with inconsistencies. But having said that, it is a good yarn, nothing more and nothing less. After killing my feet in the Louvre, I wandered through the department stores on Boulevard Haussman. I also went into a little boutique specializing in dog clothing, yes, you heard me right, dog clothing. I had a good laugh as I looked at the price tags! Astronomical!

That evening we went to a place called La Fontaine de Mars (129, rue St. Dominque, phone 01 47 05 11 13)which I had been to several years ago while the trip with my sisters, Lisa and Gina. In the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, this is a charming bistro with red tablecloths, wood and lace curtains, and a very warm welcome from the owner. We got seated at a great table outside next to the fountain. We both had foie gras with a poached pear for a starter. Amazing. Next Chris had roasted lamb, which was cooked to pink perfection and I had rabbit in a mustard sauce which was lovely as well. Afterwards, I had Ile Flottant (Floating Island) which is something I will never forget! We had two bottles of Cahors, a lovely country red wine. It was another really nice dinner.

The next day I thought my feet were going to fall off so I indulged in a new pair of shoes which helped me get through the rest of the trip. I went to Picasso Museum in the Marais neighborhood and thoroughly enjoyed it. They had examples of his work from every period, and there were extensive explanations in both French and English. There were also some amazing pieces from other painters from Picasso’s personal collection. The Museum is in an old mansion, which is spectacular in its own right, but totally over the top with the collection. Afterwards, I grabbed a baguette sandwich and sat in Place des Vosges and people watched for a few hours, before heading back to the hotel, by way of Ile St., Louis.

That evening, we went to a restaurant called A la Biche Au Bois (45 avenue Ledru-Rollin, phone 01 43 43 34 38) in the Bastille area, which is hopping with brasseries, restaurants and cafes! This place was one of our favorites, as well as one of the least expensive. The vibe was good, and fun, and everyone was really warm. I had a great starter of hare terrine (rabbit, again!) and coq au vin served in a very familiar Le Creuset crock. Chris had a deer stew which also was fabulous. Then we had several pieces of cheese followed by dessert. Normally, I would not eat so much, but it was all included in the price, so….. We both had Calvados with our dessert, which Chris hated!

The next day was Chris’ first that he did have to work. We grabbed a pastry and a coffee and then headed for the Musee D’Orsay, where all the great Impressionist works are housed in a converted railway station. I had been there twice before, yet still thoroughly enjoyed our visit as did Chris. It’s my second favorite museum in the world, right behind the Barnes Foundation. Afterwards, we went to Les Invalides, which is the home of Napoleon’s Tomb and a military museum. I stayed out as I had been there before, but Chris really enjoyed it. Afterwards, we grabbed a quick sandwich and a coffee, and headed for the Jardins du Luxembourg to watch the locals play boule. We took a quick dive into Eglise St. Sulpice, also popularized by The Da Vinci Code, and a lovely, lovely church. We were quite stunned to see a written statement about the book, stating that is totally flawed and not to be taken as fact. I guess they got sick of telling people!

That night we headed for a charming place called Le Tire-Bouchon, which means corkscrew in French (62, rue des Entrepreneurs, phone 01 40 59 09 27). This place had a tasting menu and taste we did. It was upscale dining at a rather low price. We both had crab soup enhanced by this eggroll type thing filled with incredibly flavorful wood mushrooms. Fabulous. Next came sauteed red snapper on a bed of pureed beans, with a tomato confit. Afterwards we had a fig and calvados sorbet which was out of this world followed by a boneless breast of chicken rolled up and stuffed with breading and herbs, but not like any chicken I have ever tasted before, served on a piece of polenta, covered with a delectable sauce. With dinner we had a nice inexpensive Minervois, which the owner seemed both floored at and delighted when I ordered. I had a cheese plate and Chris ate the dessert. At the very end of the evening, the chef, who seemed like a kid but in truth was thirty three (I must be getting really old if thirty three seems young…), came out and chatted to those remaining diners. It was a nice gesture and we had a wonderful time there.

Sunday was our last day and we spent it wandering through Pere Lachaise, the cemetery where so many famous people are buried. The most popular spot in the cemetery is Jim Morrison’s grave, but I was more excited by those of Oscar Wilde, Frederic Chopin, Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf as well as the shared tomb of the tragic lovers, Heloise and Abelard. Oscar Wilde’s tomb was the most interesting in that it was decorated with a male nude, missing a most important appendage, which apparently had infuriated the caretaker of Pere Lachaise so much that he took a hammer to it and kept it on his desk as a paperweight. Hmm….. It was a really wonderful afternoon just strolling along. It was a very peaceful spot. I love graveyards and always seek them out on my travels. Best one of all though has got to be the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, where Keats and Shelley are buried with many of their countrymen traveling through Rome at the time of their deaths. If you ever go to Rome and need a break from the constant thump of the city, this is the place where you can find peace and serenity. Ooops, I didn’t mean to digress. We spent the rest of Sunday wandering through Notre Dame, getting a crepe and an ice cream on the street and returned to Munich on the latest plane possible. It was wonderful and it was great to share it with Chris, who sees the world through similar eyes. I also want to say that given our current aggression in Iraq, I was afraid that I might encounter some anti-American sentiment in France, but in truth the people I encountered could not have been any more charming, friendly and willing to help. It was a marked antithesis to those in America who were branding the French as cowards and renaming French fries as “freedom” fries simply because they didn’t go along with W’s war.

Oktoberfest Fun

The first thing I have to talk about is the Oktoberfest and how much fun it is! You folks really ought to consider timing a visit here next September as it is absolutely worth it! I swore up and down that I wasn’t going to enjoy it, that I thought it would be sophomoric and inane. It is both of those things, and a blast to boot. It helped that Jen and I got into the spirit of things and bought dirndls in the second hand vintage shop. It is de rigueur to wear traditional Bavarian dress and when I saw how extremely attractive and sexy it looked on both the women and the men (Lederhosen, Giddyup!), I knew I had to get me some. The big problem was finding it for an affordable price. New these outfits can cost 1,000 euros…lots of dosh. So, the second hand route was definitely the way to go. 20 euros later I had a really cool dress to which I added sexy country socks paired with a nice pair of boots I had which matched perfectly, a pretty edelweiss necklace, and a borrowed handbag from Jen which worked perfectly. I think our friends were absolutely stunned when they saw us. Our friend Gary’s jaw just dropped…it was really funny!

Last Monday, we took a tour of the fest given by a really neat German woman who reminded me and Jen of our Italian teacher in Jersey, Christina Di Sanzo, in that she was passionate and energetic about her subject matter in a most infectious way. This woman had actually done her doctoral thesis here at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich on the psychology of the Oktoberfest, or the Weis’n, as it is referred to with much affection by the locals. We walked the grounds for two hours as she told us about its history, and about its similarities to other ethnic celebrations, such as Bacchanalian orgies/Dionsyian festivals, in ancient times as well as modern revels such as harvest festivals, Greek festivals, in which folks drink a lot of alcohol, dance, sing, flirt and in general, lose their inhibitions. We really enjoyed the tour and I must say I have to admire Brigitte, who seemed to be an Oktoberfest celebrity in her own right, for having the moxy to write her dissertation on this event! Afterwards we went around to several of the tents with some of the other folks who had also taken the tour. It was fun and Jen and I ended up hanging out for hours with some 19 year old English kid who ended up taking a nap in a bush outside of his apartment after all the imbibing! The fest was mind numbingly fun but I am really glad I let my guard down and enjoyed it so much.