Spectacular view of Paris from the roof deck outside our breakfast area

I went back and looked and we wrote 11 blog posts from Paris during the nearly six years we were nomads, and then I added a 12th in 2019 when I came here with Mark’s dad. I guess that tells you something about how we feel about the City of Light. In fact, as I was walking (and walking and walking) around the city the last few days I realized that to a significant degree Paris really is my Happy Place, the place I feel most comfortable, most complete. I just love the feel of the city, the scale, the climate, and of course the food.

We had four full days after a late afternoon arrival from Saint-Tropez. The train ride was uneventful (that’s good) but we were surprised at how God-awful the food choices were on a four-hour-plus trip. We made the journey on Mark’s birthday, checked into our hotel, explored just a little, then went to a fabulous meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. To be honest we’re both sort of tired of the Michelin experience: the first few courses are exciting but then they just keep coming and coming and coming. At some point your mind just glazes over whatever fabulousness you’ve just experienced. Now, to be certain, it was a great meal. After that, though, we were really eager to have our future meals at more relaxed Parisian bistros.

Jim with a glass of rosé and classic bowtie for Mark’s birthday

The one specific agenda items we had on our itinerary was the Pompidou Center, the city’s modern art museum. In part that’s because it’s a great museum, but the particular attraction was an exhibit of Shirley Jaffe’s work, an American who moved to Paris around 1950 and spent most of the next 65 years there. What was notable about that change is that she started as an abstract expressionist and just as the whole art world was moving from Paris to New York, she moved from New York (where she got her degree from the Cooper Union, just across the street from us!) to Paris. And what made it even more interesting for us is that we actually have one of her pieces on the wall in our dining room. I have to say, it was a great opportunity to see the amazing body of work she left as well as the transition from abstract expressionism (that everyone was doing) to a decidedly idiosyncratic geometric style and to see just where our piece fit into her life.

Three of Shirley Jaffe’s paintings. The one we have is from this exact period, though I have to admit I like these better…

Otherwise? A lot of it was about food where breakfasts continued to be simply overwhelming, as we were staying at the sister property of the place we stayed at Saint-Tropez. Beyond that every single meal was just this amazing collection of great restaurants. I don’t know if I’d forgotten how amazing the food is here or if I’d somehow started to take it for granted but after something approaching four years since our last visit, we were impressed.

A crazy-good dish at GrandCoeur, practically bursting with spring flavors

And otherwise our four days were spent walking, walking, and more walking as I tried to experience all the parks I love and the neighborhoods we enjoy. It was sort of a Greatest Hits visit but that took a lot of energy. In fact, over the four full days I averaged over 14 miles a day around the city. And just for the record even that level of activity doesn’t begin to compensate for the croissants and deserts and breads and Negronis. We both have a bit of work to do when we get back to New York to work those pounds off.

Every morning there were these to tempt us. And then more breads and more sweets and waffles and pancakes if you wanted them!

Oh, and one final note: France is over COVID. Down in Saint-Tropez we essentially saw no masks. On the train ride up to Paris Mark estimated that maybe one person in 20 was masked and around the city it was measurably less than that. Every now and then you’d see someone in an indoor space wearing a mask but it was pretty rare. The good news is that we both tested negative the day before returning to the states – a negative test is required for flying into the U.S. – so we made it home.

And one even final-er note. We have a fair amount of travel queued up for the rest of the summer. Eight weeks from late June to late August in Slovenia, Croatia, Norway, and Sweden and then two weeks in Bavaria for Oktoberfest and general sight-seeing. So as we settle into four weeks in NYC there’s all that to look forward to!

Todd & Susan are friends from New York, though I originally met Todd in Minneapolis in the 1970s. Here we are celebrating Susan’s birthday – just three days after Mark’s – at the rooftop bar at our hotel.
You can never have too many pictures of the bridges of Paris, right?
Part of the Greatest Hits tour included Parc Monceau, always one of my favorites. This colonnade was added in the late 18th century to make it look ancient and classical.
Mark at Rimal, a favorite Lebanese restaurant near Parc Monceau where we pretty much always have lunch when we’re in Paris
Another morning another park, this one Garden of the Palais Royale. With little green men.
The Garden of the Palais Royale. The morning was surprisingly grey and cold but later that day the weather turned perfect.
No trip to Paris would be complete without at least one afternoon in the Luxembourg Garden
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, way up in the 19th arrondissement, is another must-see on the Greatest Hits tour. While a large and beautiful park today, it has something of a colorful past. For some 500 years it was the place where the bodies of hanged criminals were displayed. Later it was the place where horse carcasses were dumped, making it one of the most malodorous places in the city. Today, though, I love it.
The Place des Vosges, yet another must-visit park
This is me being artistic. It’s the dome from the Bourse de Commerce, once the Paris stock exchange and now an art museum.
The primary exhibit at the Bourse was of Charles Ray, an American sculptor. His work runs a gamut from this ethereal Jesus to … pornographic.
Mark with another of Charles Ray’s sculptures
An octopus and potato appetizer at Mumi, a tiny little restaurant that wasn’t available for dinner, so we had lunch there
The birthday people drinking some of the best Negronis ever made. Note that while it’s bright outside it was about 9:00 PM at this point.
Mark at Parcelles, one of an unbelievable number of great restaurants in Paris. The meal was great but there was one down side: a really, really loud American woman who you can see just over Mark’s left shoulder. When she and her partner left the entire restaurant just felt calm. Finally.
The view up the Pont Neuf and across the Seine from our room
We booked our flight home for the early afternoon so we could enjoy one last morning in Paris. Then a couple weeks before the trip the airline canceled that flight and put us on a morning flight, so we would have to leave the hotel by 7:00 AM. I got up at 6:15 to shower and pack and saw an email that due to mechanical issues the outbound flight from Newark had been delayed and so our departure was delayed by about three hours. Suddenly we had that last morning, which I leapt at to do one last early walk along the Seine.
Our first lunch in Saint-Tropez was heaven

And just like that – we’re traveling and (maybe) writing again. Our first year in New York – 2019 – was all about getting the condo project started and settling in. Then that COVID thing hit and we didn’t do a lot of traveling. We did some, though – three trips to Mexico, one to Greece – and we feel as though the memories are mostly lost. And since to this day we love looking at the blog to remind ourselves of places we’ve been and things we’ve done (and food we’ve eaten) we thought “Maybe we should revive the blog for our new travels.” So we’ll see.

OK then, here we are in France, sitting on a very comfortable train from St. Raphael to Paris. We spent five days in Saint-Tropez, on the French Riviera. Once upon a time of course Saint-Tropez was perhaps the number one jet-set destination in the world. Though I was here on a day trip from Toulon in 1975 when I was in the Navy, Mark had never been here. And after a 47-year hiatus I figured it was time for me to try it again.

This is what we loved in Saint-Tropez, and the Mediterranean in general: the restaurant-filled cobblestoned streets in a perfect climate. (Empty) churches always nearby, everybody relaxed and happy. Or at least they sure seem happy; we always are!

It’s worth noting that Saint-Tropez is not easy to get to. The closest airport is Nice, a three-hour drive away and the closest train station was in St. Raphael, nearly and hour-and-a-half away. Now, some people make the commute from Nice easier by hiring a helicopter but that just seemed a little too much for us.

Once you’re in Saint-Tropez what is there? Most important is that the famous beaches aren’t in the town; they’re a few miles outside town, so not something you just hop off to too easily when you don’t have your own car. And in fact we only went there once and the experience was pretty dismal. The beach itself was nothing special – we’ve experienced vastly better Mediterranean beaches in Greece, Croatia, Italy … lots of places. And the water was just full of what seemed like tons of seaweed washing up on shore. Not something you wanted to wade through to get to open swimming. So the beach was disappointing.

This picture doesn’t do justice to the tons of seaweed that lined the beach. You can see, though, the color of the water; hardly the Mediterranean blue we love in other places.

Of course, you’re reminded that these aren’t American beaches. At one point I walked up the beach to see if there was anything nicer, less seaweed-infested than the section we were on. The answer was yes, sort of, but even then there was more than you’d want. To get there, though, I walked through one section where I was probably the youngest person on the beach and definitely the only one wearing a stitch of clothing. Oh my. Don’t worry though: no photos!. Oh, and one more reminder that you’re not in Kansas? We had lunch at a really nice beach restaurant/club recommended by a friend – definitely the best experience at the beach. And as we waited for our Uber to bring us back to the hotel another couple was getting dropped off. In a Rolls Royce. Yikes!

Mark at Club 55. The beach sucked but the lunch almost made up for it.

So the beach was disappointing. The village itself, though, was charming. Beautiful old narrow, cobblestoned streets. Great little restaurants spilling out onto those beautiful streets. Pretty much every high-end fashion store imaginable and many more not-so-high-end. The town was surprisingly quiet; our guess was that late May is still pre-season. For us it was perfect: not too crowded, not too hot.

Absent a fabulous beach, then, our hotel had a small private “beach” on the Gulf of Saint-Tropez where we could read and nap. And where I could get expert medical care. You see, on Day 3 I went for a morning run and managed to trip on the pavement and scrape the hell out of my knee. Nothing serious, just bloody. When the beach attendant saw hit he sprang to action cleaning it and bandaging it and all that. Very nice really.

Our humble resort in Saint-Tropez. It was on the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, a few miles from the world-famous beaches.

Other than that our Saint-Tropez experience was largely about the food, and that was a big success. The day would start with an almost insane breakfast at the hotel: more breads and croissants and pain au chocolates than you’ve ever imagined, and that’s before you get to any eggs and sausage and all that. Really fabulous. And fattening.

The bread cart at breakfast was not exactly conducive to a low-carb diet. And that didn’t include the croissants and pain au chocolat that they brought automatically every day.

And then – with just about perfect weather and the smell of jasmine everywhere – we would walk into town for lunch, stop at some amazing street-side restaurant, go back to the hotel, nap and read, walk back into town for another perfect little French restaurant. It was all really quite civilized. And, totally worth noting, Saint-Tropez at least (I won’t speak for the rest of France yet) is totally over COVID. Not until our last dinner did we see a single person wearing a mask, and that was just a single person. Now admittedly, except for inside our room I’m sure that 95 percent of the time we were outdoors, since all the restaurants serve outdoors. But now, here on the train, same thing: not a mask to be seen. I’ll admit, I’m OK with that.

We did have one day that constituted real tourism. After breakfast we walked into town and went to the local art museum to see an exhibit of Paul Signac’s work, a post-impressionist who spent many summers in Saint-Tropez. Then we took an Uber up to an old hill town outside Saint-Tropez, and finally walked down to a Michelin-recommended (though not Michelin-starred) restaurant where we sat at the edge of a vineyard having a perfect lunch. So great to be back in Europe!

The view from Gassin down to the Gulf of Saint-Tropez

Except for Greece last summer – which is really it’s own thing, particularly on the islands – this was our first experience in Europe since 2018 and it felt sooo good to be back. The narrow streets, the old buildings, the local churches. Watching the waitress shoo away German tourists who wanted to just sit and have a drink at a restaurant (restaurants are for food; bars are for drinking). Seeing lots of people sitting at their lunch and dinner tables smoking. There’s lots to love in Europe.

Now, a few more hours on the train and then into Paris. Yay!

There are yachts in Saint-Tropez. LOTS of yachts in Saint-Tropez!

Lunch at La Verdoyante, the vineyard-adjacent restaurant down the hill from Gassin. You can’t see it but on my right shoulder is the stain of bird shit on my very nice, new white shirt…

The perfect steak tartare

Another dinner, another glass of rosé

Lunch in Saint-Tropez. The steak tartare was distinctly sub-par, but the setting made up for it.

Jim has a Negroni and a new colorful shirt. Both make him happy!

Charming street scene in Saint-Tropez

Rosés at Club 55

The wine bucket from Club 55 – our fabulous lunch spot at the far-less-than-fabulous Saint-Tropez beach – shows that the club was founded in 1955. Same as me!

A quiet street at sunset in Saint-Tropez

OK, this isn’t actually from France. The night before we left, though, we saw La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera. Quite the sendoff for our first trip to France in almost four years!

The view from our apartment is stunning every day, but maybe even more than usual as the leaves start to change

October has been a very busy month. You already know that Jim spent a week in Paris with my dad. And soon after that we spent a week in Barbados. The rest of the month we enjoyed mostly glorious (and some really crappy) fall weather here in New York.

This was also the month that saw the most visitors we’ve had yet. Plus construction began in earnest on our condominium. And we started to dabble more seriously than ever in art and music.

But let’s start with the fact that autumn in New York is wonderful. The cooling weather facilitates those long walks we love to do (when it’s not windy and rainy). The turning leaves are beautiful (like everywhere else I suppose). I’m pretty sure this is my favorite time to be here.

Even in the rain, the city can be so beautiful under fall colors

A jazz quartet livens up Washington Square Park on a glorious fall day

But nonetheless we did schedule a week away in mid-October, the week when we celebrate Jim’s birthday and our anniversary. We wanted to go someplace new and fun, and an obvious choice was Barbados. We could fly there direct and at convenient times. Plus it’s a country we’ve never been to. And if we hadn’t gone there this month, there was a threat that we wouldn’t make it to a single new country in 2019 — for the first time in 20 years.

So we booked a nice hotel on a beautiful beach and spent a week doing just about nothing — at least as long as you count sitting on the beach, reading, taking a swim, and eating as nothing. OK, I did make myself work out at the hotel gym every other day. But other than that, it was all about nothing.

This is the very spot between our room and the beach where most of the nothing took place

We’d occasionally get out of the beach chairs to cool off in the water

A view of the beach from our favorite lunch spot

Celebrating Jim’s birthday

Celebrating our anniversary — 32 years

With the exception of Barbados, we haven’t been planning to travel much at all as the construction on our condo finally got under way this month. A week of demolition cleared out the space and revealed some unexpected new challenges. Our architects quickly dreamed up solutions and redrew the plans. And then the construction team measured and measured and started building walls. We are thrilled to watch our new home finally starting to take shape!

As the walls begin to rise, we now turn our attention to finishing details. We’ve already ordered appliances, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, flooring and tile. Now we’re turning to furniture, rugs, wall treatments, and art. It seems like the decision making never ends.

One of the last shots after demolition and before the actual construction began

Walls, glorious walls going up!

Unlike the last time we renovated, lasers now help make sure everything is level and in the exact right place

We meet every Monday to go over plans and make adjustments as needed. I’m reviewing drawings here with Naiky from the architectural team, Cesar the general contractor, and Alberto the project lead.

Our lead architect, Mitch, helps us make final selections of which slabs of stone and tile to use at a big warehouse in New Jersey. This very sheet of porcelain will become our kitchen counters.

Moving slabs of marble around so we can pick the perfect ones for our powder room sink and floor

As I mentioned, October was the busiest month yet for out-of-town visitors. We were rarely alone this month.

While Jim was in Paris I enjoyed a dinner and theater date with our friend Nina from Chicago

We had a wonderful weekend visit from our friends Jennifer and Bill (right) from St. Paul. Minnesota. We were joined one fun night by Natalia, left, who used to be my personal trainer.

Forty years ago, Shideh was my pen pal in Iran. We’ve enjoyed visiting her and her husband Lars in Sweden a few times, but this was the first time we ever met up in the US. It was great fun showing the condo to Shideh, who is an amazing architect.

We hosted dinner at our place for Shideh and Lars, along with my college friend Mary Beth

On the other side of the table…me with Lars and Sven

We also had a fun visit with James, who I worked with very closely for several years at NGP VAN. James now teaches journalism at the University of Missouri, and it was great to catch up. Hope next time he’ll bring Molly and his two cute daughters.

The visit by Shideh and Lars was especially timely as we start to think about buying art for our condo, which has a variety of spaces just begging for beautiful things. The four of us spent a long day touring the most important galleries in Chelsea, something of a global epicenter for acquiring art. On my own, I find this world pretty intimidating. But Lars, who happens to be one of the world’s leading art critics, really helped demystify some of it. It’s less intimidating in these galleries when the owners and artists all come running to welcome Lars into their spaces.

Shideh and Jim give perspective to this giant sculpture or whatever you’d call this

When you are wondering why this piece of masonite with white paint slapped on it is listed for $1.5 million, it’s great to hear Lars explain the important role that painter Robert Ryman played in the development of 20th century art. Genuinely super interesting, though we decided to keep looking.

This was one small piece of an amazing exhibit of paintings, video installations, and sculpture from the French artist Laurent Grasso. When the gallery owner heard that Lars was there, he soon introduced us to the artist himself for a personal tour of the show.

And that takes us to music. Over the last six months we have contemplated the prospect of acquiring a piano for our new condo — even though neither of us knows anything at all about playing. But the more we learn about pianos and piano culture, the more captivated we’ve become. And in October we took a big leap forward with the plan, as we both decided to start taking lessons right away. It’s useless to take lessons if you can’t practice, so we acquired a nice Yamaha keyboard to get us through the next six months of lessons.

We are fortunate that our friend Gena has agreed to take us on as her students. Gena is a spectacular pianist, teacher, and lover of music. She also teaches our friend Mary Beth’s son Luca, who is an incredibly gifted player. I had my first lesson at Gena’s house in Harlem on October 31. I think this is going to be an important part of my post-career life here in New York. It feels like a whole new world is about to open before us!

There it is, our new Yamaha keyboard that is opening up a new and exciting world to us

And speaking of music, we saw Tina: The Tina Turner Musical in previews on Broadway. What a show!