Monday, May 30, 2016

A Paris Birthday, Ooo La La

This year was a double big birthday for me. It is a significant number and my birthday fell on Mother's Day.

I had planned for several years to take daughter BSB scuba diving in Palau but sweet little LW arrived and my plans changed.

The next plan was to take grandson BSJ and granddaughter ML to Paris and Rome. It sounded like a great idea – take my 2 older grandchildren to Paris and Rome for MY birthday. It could be a very significant experience for them and we could bond even more.

This photo was taken last Christmas when Grandpa DM came to Florida.  This is ML and BSJ with him.
And, again plans changed when BSJ had some stomach surgery.  He is doing fine now but his doctor would not let him travel.

The tickets and the accomodations were already purchased so Hubby D said he would go and we invited a couple of ML's friends (JB and EF) and off to Europe we flew.

What started out as a bonding experience for myself and my grandchildren turned into a trip to give 3 young people a taste of Europe.  A great trip but not what I had first envisioned.

Hubby D and I decided to arrive in Paris the night before the 3 young people. It was a great decision.  We biked the Seine and had dinner at Le Grand Colbert site of the last scene in one of our favorite movies, Something’s Got To Give. It was fantastic. It might have been the best meal of the trip.

Side comment from the wife of an engineer (me).  The infrastructure in Paris and Rome is aging. It is even more run down than the United States. We often talk in the States about our bridges that need renovating but in Paris and Rome everything seems to be on the verge of breaking.

Our day in Paris was amazing. If we had stopped right then I could have said it was one of my best birthdays ever.

This was the table where they filmed for the movie. It looked the same as in the movie.
We really enjoyed our alone time and didn't even mind getting up really early the next morning to head out on the train to Charles de Gaulle airport to meet the kids.  They arrived on time and we were waiting for them at the gate.

Our accommodations in Paris and Rome were secured through AirBnB.  I am not going to elaborate but on the next trip we will probably not use AirBnB.  It is just not for us.  The kids loved the accommodations.
Here is the door to our flat. It was in a great neighborhood with restaurants and stores.
Awe yes, French wine on our little balcony! Fantastic!!!!
In Paris our flat had a small balcony overlooking a quiet street just a couple of blocks from the Seine River. The location was perfect. After getting the kids settled, our group started the afternoon with a chocolate and pastry tour late in the day. At sunset we toured the Eiffel Tower.

The trip was off to a fantastic start.

Our tour started with a real artist who also makes over the top delicious chocolate.

He crafts animals out of chocolate and then turns the sculpture into metal. I could not resist photographing these penguins that were originally made of chocolate.

Did I say "sugar high"? It was delicious.
Then off to the Eiffel Tower where we had to buy warm hats because it was COLD!
This is looking up inside the structure from the ground.
Later JB and I walked to a vantage point for some long shots of the tower. 
Eating crepes in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower with your Grandfather --  Ooo La La.

The next day we toured the city and had a great time.
In Paris we traveled by metro most of the time.
I am not sure the girls were impressed with French Impressionist painter Claude Monet.

JB pointed out this sculpture in the Lourve. It looks like she is taking a selfie. This is my selfie of an ancient selfie. 
Yes, that is the Mona Lisa. "Underwhelming" was the word for this.

These are the crown jewels. The girls picked out the sapphires as their favorites.

Another interesting experience in Paris was an educational wine tasting at La Cave in the O Chateau Wine BarThe O Château residence has known many names: Hôtel du Vin, Hôtel Dupin… and now O Château!

The building, built in the mid 17th century, number 68 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau has a strong presence in French literary history. Not only is it located on a street named after one of the most important French thinkers and writers of the time, but throughout its lifetime, it has welcomed many others through its doors.

The wine bar offers wine experiences of all kinds. The tasting room in this historic setting harkens back to bygone days, with stone walls, vaulted archways and a cozy wine cellar atmosphere.

An interactive area offered a chance to learn about the history and mechanics of wine.
You could experience the smells and tastes that lead to good wine.
In this area you could try your hand at putting hot red wax on the cork of a wine bottle.  ML did not realize the hole on the right was filled with hot wax. Thinking it was a bottle holder, she inserted the wrong end of the bottle in the hot wax.  LOL
And, finally you could taste the different varieties.
Our last dinner in Paris was at Brasserie Lipp.  Many years ago we visited Paris with friends BM and TM. They had lived there for 2 years so they knew all the great places.  One of the restaurants we went to with them was Brasserie Lipp. For years I kept a small chocolate from there in a bowl in my bedroom. I thought of that wonderful trip to Paris every time I saw the chocolate.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I was very surprised that the same maitre 'd was there.  I asked if he remember BM and he exclaimed, "Of course, Madame B. How is she?" And, he told me to tell her, "Patrice sends kisses." Then he placed us at exactly the same table as we had when we visited years ago. It was priceless!

After several days in Paris, we traveled on to Rome. Our very short flight on AirFrance was fine except that because we were flying economy we could not reserve seats. I found this very stressful. However Hubby D helped set up the seats so ML and I could sit together. This was wonderful.

ML and I spent the hour and half talking about everything, -- college, professors, her internship coming up, life in Oklahoma, her life goals and of course our relationship. There were even a few tears as we shared with each other how special this time was together.

As I write this my eyes are tearing up again. When you can really connect with your granddaughter in a way that shows to you how special she is and what a wonderful person she is becoming, it is something that touches you so deep, you have to cry. That one short conversation was probably worth the entire trip. (Thank you, ML from the bottom of my heart.) I even cried again when I proofed this blog.

Paris was wonderful and experiencing it through the eyes of these 3 young people made it more meaningful. Hopefully we will all return many times for more memories.  I think a trip to Paris should become my birthday tradition.  (hint, hint to D)

Next blog -- ROME!


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Happy Trails to You Until We Meet Again

I am showing my Oklahoma background -- Roy Rogers and Dale Evans used to sing this song years and years ago. Do you remember the tune? It is very catchy.

Happy trails to you until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smiling until then.
Happy trails to you
'til we meet

This is a very sad but also happy time.  My good friend and partner in many of my adventures over the past two years, DW is headed back to the United States. Their flight departed Bahrain at 11 PM (23 for you military types) last night. They should be laying over in Germany as I publish this blog.

DW and her husband, SW have been a big part of many of these blogs.  They even live right across the hall from us in the building where our flat is located.

Many a night we have ended up in their flat or with them in our flat, enjoying cocktails, dinner and cigars out on the deck. More times than I can count, we have shared dinner on the spare of the moment or shared the charcoal grill to make delicious meats that remind us of home.

SW has finished his assignment in Bahrain and is headed back to Houston, Texas so DW is on her way back to the United States.

Their official departure date is not until later in May but their youngest daughter graduates from college so they are off early to go and celebrate a new chapter in their family life.

To say I will miss DW is by far a very, very BIG under statement.  I will miss her so much it actually really does hurt.
This photo was taken at the Ritz.  DW enjoyed the Ritz and took advantage of many great activities there.
When I found out that they would be heading back home, I started working on a book to give DW. The book contains memories of Bahrain and all of her adventures here as well as the many trips we have taken together throughout the Middle East.

I loved pulling all the memories together. I even reached out to friends of hers for additional photos that I would not have.  The book represents memories from friends representing 15 countries.

Some friends are still here in Bahrain and some friends have already gone to other far-flung parts of the world.  We all worked together to make this fun record of DW’s adventure in the Middle East.

To celebrate SW’s great strides in the ME, Hubby D threw him a big farewell party. It was fantastic and a real celebration of SW's achievements and many friendships formed here.

There were numerous coffees, luncheons and announcements at the AWA meetings wishing DW safe travels and more future memories. We will all miss her very much.

A special party at the Ambassador's Residence could not have come at a better time.  For us, it was a great way to send DW back to the United States in American style.

Craft Group made a special shovel for DW.
Sad? Yes, but happy to have experienced it all.

Even the bunnies in Bahrain will miss DW.
A few final walks at the Ritz yielded some new shadows and flowers.

My perspective on nature has changed because of DW. THANK YOU!

Finally as the day approached for DW to put her suitcase on the conveyer at the airport, we had one final party together with many of our AWA friends.

DW – don’t forget us (not that you could, LOL).  We will miss you and you will always be in our hearts and minds.

Every time I see a plant that I do not know the name of or experience a new restaurant, I will have memories of you.  Your response was always, “Oh, let’s do it.”

Every time I see a camel or feel the hot wind whip by, you will be in my thoughts. You never let the heat get you down; you carried water and said it was better than the cold.

Each time I pick out an outfit to wear to an AWA meeting, I will think, “What would DW wear?  How would she accessorize this?” You never found a scarf that wasn’t “just lovely.”

Each time I see a stray or lost animal, I will feel guilty for not taking care of them because I know you would have. Everywhere we went you found someone or something to take care of.

Every time I have a difficulty I think I cannot overcome, I will remember you and your optimistic outlook on even the hardest problems. “It is what it is.”
Even the bunnies in Bahrain will miss DW.

Some of the Rasafa staff stayed late last night to help load up DW and SW.  Here we are with the elevator completely full of suite cases.
They packed the taxi to the top.
The last view of the tail lights on the taxi.  Elvis (oh, I mean DW) has left the building.

Dearest sweet DW,

Thanks for sharing this great adventure in Bahrain with me. Our friendship has made this experience more than just fun.

You helped me take the challenges that come along with being an expat and change them into rewarding memories filled with rich life experiences.

Thank you so much. May your adventure continue with many, many more great memories.  And, may we meet again soon (and often).