Seattle Weekend

This past weekend Jodi and I spent three days enjoying Seattle. We stayed at the Vintage Park Hotel which is just a block away from the Fifth Avenue Theater.

Cinderella is the current production. We gave some thought to getting tickets, but neither of us was all that excited to see it, and at $129 a ticket it didn't seem worth it.

On Sunday evening we went over the bridge to Bellevue Botanical Garden to see there Christmas light display. It was unlike any other that I have ever seen. The video gives a small sample of the display.

We also spent a good portion of Monday at Habitude Day Spa. Jodi had a facial, while I had a manicure and a pedicure. Until you have had these, don't scoff.

Dinner at Tulio's in the hotel was exemplary as usual. I had swordfish and it was splendid. Jodi had a pumpkin squash dish that was bland to my taste, but she loved it.

All in all this was a nice Christmas present to ourselves.

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Prettiest Square in Paris?

Recently, I stumbled across a blog called The author, Robin, writes exclusively about France and Italy. While perusing her blog, I found a post that she entitled " The Prettiest Square in Paris". She goes onto describe it, along with pictures. Now, not having been to this square, I can't really say whether it is the prettiest or not, but, as I was reading this I wished I was back and could be relaxing in Place Dauphine near the Pont Neuf, the first bridge built on the Seine. Looking forward to our next visit to France in general, and Paris specifically. À bientôt Arnie

Traveling on the TGV

Traveling Across France on the Train à Grande Vitesse 6:45 in the morning and we are comfortably situated onboard the TGV (Tay-jay-vay). Sitting on this train is more like being on an airplane than a train in that the seats are very similar with trays that fold down from the backs and so forth. No seat belts that I can see though. We have our iPads out working on trip itineraries and looking forward to the experience of traveling at 200 plus miles an hour. We'll let you know if it is everything that it is cracked up to be.

TGV - Train Grand Vitesse
7:45 - The greatest surprise that I have had so far this trip has been the large expanses of France that are sparsely populated. Most of the places we have been before were more heavily populated with much shorter distances between villages. Trough this portion of central France we have passed through dense forest land and extensive farm land, but few villages can be seen. I think one of the things we appreciate most when we are over here is that there are real live towns with city centers and people walking and riding bikes while taking care of daily chores, and that stores are located in the neighborhoods so that you don't have to get into your car and drive everywhere, and as a result people seem to have a greater sense of community.

8:15 - We must now be in what I can only think to describe as France's breadbasket. Vast tracts of open farmland of corn, wheat, and so on with church spires peaking over many of the knolls announcing the location of another tiny village with its own boulangerie (bread shop), fromagerie (cheese shop), and boucherie (butcher). And, most likely, a little cafe on the corner with a few small tables and colorful umbrellas. Tres jolie! We said we would let you know whether it is everything that is cracked up to be. Well, it most certainly is. The train doesn't reach the speed of flying, but when you factor in how much easier it is to get to and from the station and on and off the train, along with the scenery make this a super way to travel on the continent. Tell me again why this doesn't work for us in the U.S.?

Waiting on the Train

Just waitin’ for that train so we can get goin’ again. And, here it is.

Palais Rohan in the rain in Strasbourg

Palais Rohan, Strasbourg, France
Today was a lovely rainy day. After the heat, the rain has been a welcome relief. The cooler temperatures put spring back into our step. The rain also gave the narrow streets a more authentic feel. It has been a good day, but we are looking forward to the next phase of our trip that takes us to the northwestern parts of Normandy on the English Channel and to Brittany. Should be a lot of fun. And, we shouldn’t have to worry about excessive heat as the weather is typically very much like Seattle, wet and cool.

Gare de Strasbourg

This is the view off the balcony of our hotel room in Strasbourg. The big bubble shaped building across the park is Gare de Strasbourg, the train station. We will be hopping over there early tomorrow morning to catch the train to Paris and on to Normandy.

Strasbourg Cathedral

The cathedral here in Strasbourg is one of the most impressive that I have ever seen. I’m afraid the pictures that we post will not do it justice.

Chez Leslie, Colmar, France

Just a few shots of our lovely room at Chez Leslie. The room as beautiful balcony over looking one of the squares in a quiet residential neighborhood. It is owned and run by Leslie Collins/Pivard, a transplanted American that has been living here for 16 plus years.
We have had some very interesting discussions about the differences between the French social structure and our almost non-existent one. She is very passionate when she discusses the overwhelming benefits of, for example, health care here versus the U.S. She couldn’t get over how so many in the States are opposed to quality health care for all.
But, I have let my political views take me off topic once again, much to Jodi’s dismay. Sorry, honey. Sometimes, I just can’t help myself.

Rue de Poissonerie and Rue de Tanneurs, Colmar, France

As I was reviewing our pictures this morning, and marveling at the beauty of this place, I remembered something Jodi and I heard while passing a tour group. This section of town, now called Le Petite Venise, little Venice, has streets named Rue de Poissonerie and Rue de Tanneurs, Street of Fisherman and Street of Tanners. The guide was discussing how the tanners worked with the hides describing the process of soaking the hides in urine. The better off people had a pot to piss in, those less fortunate didn’t hence the saying, “piss poor”. Don’t know if that’s true or not. Makes a nice story for the tourists though. My thought though, was the god awful stench that must have permeated every facet of life hear. The urine, the tanning process, the fish, the muck, and all of it running into this pretty little canals and streams. Gives the beauty now a great deal of perspective.

Drawbridge in Alsace

This is a really interesting example of a bridge tower that at one time had a draw bridge. One of the things that makes traveling to Europe so fascinating is to be able to almost put yourself into the 1200's.

Last day in Colmar

Today was our last day in Colmar. Tomorrow we move on to Strasbourg. We’ll only be there one and a half days, as we are there to catch the TGV, France’s super fast rail system, to get us over to Normandy and eventually Paris.
Today was stiflingly hot. Hotter than Yakima right now by almost twenty degrees. 94 degrees is just about too much when your out traipsing around. We managed to survive it pretty well though with a couple of new straw hats and plenty of cold drinks and sorbet under the umbrellas.
We really love the Alsace region of France. Yesterday, as we were visiting one of the smaller villages, we came across two older ladies speaking Alsation, a dialect of German that seems to have French influences.
The picture is another of the section of Colmar called Le Petite Venise.
Le Petit Venise, Colmar, France
This photo is also in the Petite Venice section of Colmar. I just love the colors and way the rising sun's light filtered just enough to give added interest to the photo. And then of course, there's Jo's great smile. You think she might be enjoying herself just a bit?

Early morning in Le Petit Venise, Colmar, France

An early morning shot of Le Petit Venise in Colmar, France.

Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg

Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg
Today was a fabulous day. After having a surprisingly delightful breakfast with a husband and wife from Texas, who are also staying at this bed and breakfast, the day was spend driving along the Route du Vin here in the Alsace. This part of France is best known for it's astounding white wines. Jodi and I stopped at just about every town on the route soaking up the ambiance and history of each. While in a village named Ribeauville, we notice several castles on the nearby hill sides. This one, Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg, was originally built in the twelve century, but restoration was begun when the Germans controlled this part of France. As the day progressed, we visited Riquewihr, Kaysersberg, and Eguisheim, as well. In each of these villages, we found our perfect new home. Now that I think of it, we say that about almost every new town or village visit.

Nose to Nose

Jo and this French rooster going nose to nose in their debate over the best way to prepare coq au vin. For some reason the rooster didn't think there was a best way. Go figure.

Tartine Italienne

Tartine Italienne - Copa (similar to prociutto), Parmesan, roquette, greens, and sun-dried tomatoes. Delicieux! Tres delicieux! Oh, and let’s not for get the always necessary Biere Pression. Just a cool refreshing beer on tap.

This trips theme may just become a journal on the wonderful food available here.


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