April – Scenes from Paris

April – Scenes from Paris

We just spent two weeks in France, what an amazing place! Paris is my favorite city and it felt like returning to an old friend. Renting an apartment makes you feel like a native and early spring is the perfect time to go, the city is less crowded and Parisians friendlier.

I don’t intend to write a guide book on Paris (or Normandy where we spent the second week), you will find an abundance on the market. Here are some snapshots of our week, mostly food oriented although we did a lot of walking to justify the indulgence.

Dinner at EXOFFIER at 18 rue de l’exposition, where the chef has cooked for two of our past presidents.

And is famous for his souffles.

The confectionary shops were full of Easter goodies.

Easter Bunny

And other wonderful temptations!

All manner of macaroons

Another memorable evening at Les Bouquinistes at 53 Quai des Grands Augustins.

We were too busy enjoying the food to get more pictures.

The weather could not have been better, it was perfect for strolling and sitting in cafes. My idea of a perfect Paris vacation has to include plenty both.

Italian was on the menu at Gusto Italia, 11 Rue Amelie which was just around the corner. Even French pizza has a fanciful touch.

Cheese pizza – fish shaped crust

heart shaped pizza

If you get to Paris, I recommend the restaurants listed. And, Uber will deliver the pizza on a scooter if you feel like staying in.

September – I Love Goats

September – I Love Goats

I think goats are just the cutest animals, and I absolutely love their cheese. I cannot imagine many foods that goat cheese would not improve.

Last month (that’s why this post is labeled September) I attended the Mendocino Apple Fair in Boonville, CA. It’s not the county fair and because of that, feels much more intimate. It’s a good sized fair and includes wonderful dog trials, a contest of sheep herding and dog training skills. If are a dog lover and get a chance to see border collies herd sheep, take advantage. I tried to get a video but we were sitting too far back in the stands.

The Mendocino County Master Gardeners always participate by setting up a horticultural display, part of a yearly contest. It’s a wonderful gardening team event and I was happy to help, although my back was not the same for a few days. The theme was salsa and fiesta, and we took 2nd place.

Master Gardener

Master Gardener

And here are the goats, just a few pictures of the wonderful variety of goats at the fair.

My source of local goat’s cheese, Penny Royal Farmstead, had a presence. They make the most amazing cheese, one of my favorites is a fresh one called Laychee. It’s wonderful on pasta or roast vegetables, instead of butter on a baked potato or crisp toast…on anything really.

Happy Pennyroyal goat

Happy Penny Royal goat

June – Travels on the Northern California Coast

June – Travels on the Northern California Coast

Summer is almost here, yeah! I’ve had my warm weather beach experience in Key West, now it’s time for the cooler one on California’s northern coast. Remember Mark Twain said that the coldest winter he ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco? Well, it’s true. The warm central valley on the other side of the hills sucks in the coastal fog, our built in air conditioning. Visitors come from the hot weather center of the state to enjoy the cooler summer near the coast.

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I thought you might enjoy a few pictures of the beach nearest our cabin (my second kitchen) in Fort Bragg, CA. “Seaside Beach” should probably be called “Sand Dollar Beach” for all the sand dollars that wash up on the shore.

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Well behaved dogs are allowed off-leash, the perfect place for a romp.

On the way to the beach!

On the way to the beach!

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Whale Rock Seaside Beach

Whale Rock Seaside Beach

At low tide you can see the passageways through Whale Rock. They are now filled in with sand from winter storms, by summer you will be able to walk through.

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Sand dollars gathered over the last couple of years decorate the railing of our cabin.

IMG_3262If you get a chance, visit the northern California coast around Mendocino and Fort Bragg this summer. There are festivals almost every weekend.

May Travels – Key West part 2

May Travels – Key West part 2

Ernest Hemingway wrote many of his novels in Key West. His habit was to write from 6 am (not matter how wild the night before) and wrote 500 words a day. He would walk to his writing studio over a bridge that went from the balcony outside his bedroom. This is a snap shot of his studio, although other sources have said that he preferred writing standing up at a bookcase in a corner of his bedroom. The bookcase was not to be seen.

Hemingway studio

Hemingway writing studio

Touring his home is a wonderful way to make the writer come alive. The tour leaders have some very entertaining stories about the “goings-on” in the house.

Another tour worth taking is of the Audubon House. The house and gardens have been restored as a step back in time to the world of a wealthy maritime pilot and salvager, Captain John Huling. He built the house in the 1840’s as a residence for his family, members of whom lived there for more than a century. It was the first house restored in Key West starting in about 1958 and sparked the Key West restoration movement.

Visit the house and it’s furnishings to see how a wealthy family lived in the era when frequent shipwrecks on the offshore reef created a flourishing ship wrecking industry. It is called the Audubon house because it was originally thought that Audubon himself stayed there while visiting to work on the 22 local birds represented in his book “Birds of North America”. The rumor turned out to be untrue although Audubon’s painting of the white-crowned pigeon features a Geiger tree like the one found in the home’s front yard. The gardens themselves are worth a visit with many rare and unusual tropical plants.

Lobster Claw

Heliconia – Lobster Claw

New fronds of the Flame Thrower Palm are bright red, turning to green in a few days.

Flame Palm

Flame Thrower Palm

The beach on the other side of the island is gloreous, but without much shade on a hot day.

Higgs Beach

Higgs Beach

A sunset cruise should be a requirement.

Sunset Cruise

Sunset Cruise

Sunset

Sunset

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There is lots more to do including snorkling, visiting old forts and historical sites. Key West was the only southern city to remain in Union hands during the Civil War.

And lastly, no visit to Key West is complete without Key Lime Pie. This one voted the best on the Island, Mile High Key Lime Pie at Blue Heaven.

Mile High Key Lime Pie

Mile High Key Lime Pie

Mile High Key Lime Pie - going

Mile High Key Lime Pie

Mile High Key Lime Pie

Mile High Key Lime Pie

On our way back home to Northern California.

Silver Airways

Silver Airways

Thank you for visiting.

May Travels – Images of Key West

May Travels – Images of Key West

Welcome to Key West

Welcome to Key West

 

In many ways Key West feels like another country. It is only 90 miles from Cuba and has a distinct Caribbean feel to it. The original settlers were Spanish, and it has that element as well. Finally, the party atmosphere on some streets reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Music is everywhere, this time more “Jimmy Buffett” style. Key West has a rich history, it’s been home to famous writers (Hemingway), adventurers, and pirates. At one time it was the richest per capita place in the US due to the successful salvage operations. They estimated at least one ship wreck a week, or at least a ship that had to be towed off the reefs for the outrageous price of 50% of the cargo. It was a very lucrative business.

The island is only 4 miles long by 2 miles wide, easily navigated by bicycle. We found lots to do from beach relaxing, exploring ruins, nature conservatories, botanical gardens, sunset cruises, fishing, snorkeling, exploring art galleries, restaurant hoping, and people watching. Duval Street definitely has a party atmosphere.

The hope is that travel restrictions between the US and Cuba are loosened. If that happens it is anticipated that ferry service could start between the Keys and Havana later this year.

Here are a few pictures from our Key West Adventure.

One of our most interesting visits was to the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. Now, I’ve been to butterfly conservatories before. But never have I seen the variety and number of butterflies I saw in Key West. Here are some examples.

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

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There was even a pair of lovesick flamingos in full plumage.

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And the food, excellent seafood in settings that are not much more than shacks. Most everywhere is very informal, shorts, sandals and T-shirts.

Chickens have the run of the place and the roosters will wake you at all hours, not just dawn. They are protected and navigate the crowded streets freely, a line of chicks in tow.

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Other wildlife includes the 50 cats at the Hemingway House, all with at least one extra toe.

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They all have names of famous actors and actresses, I believe this one is Spencer Tracy.