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The Spain/Costa Brava One-Day Road Trip

May 1st, 2016 · No Comments · France, Spain, tourism, Travel


A advantage of living in the south of France is that you are never far from the north of Spain.

From the Beziers area, one can reach the border in about 90 minutes. Another half hour or so puts you near Girona as well as the Costa Brava vacation sites.

Which is a nice place to visit on May Day, a month or so ahead of the crush of tourists, particularly British and Dutch tourists, who will descend on the still-off-season and sleepy stretch of shore.

This was the situation:

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Illuminating Maps of France

April 30th, 2016 · No Comments · France

Everyone loves maps, don’t they?

OK, not quite everyone. We discovered, in six-plus years of living in the UAE, that Emiratis often own no maps and do not know how to read them. No, really. They will describe movements by landmarks.

I digress.

We came across this batch of French maps, informational stuff, and they are fun to look at.

Topics addressed? Borders, languages/dialects, wolves, ancient tribal homes, Roman roads …

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The ‘Vardy Asterisk’ with a Leicester City Title

April 29th, 2016 · No Comments · English Premier League, Football, soccer

Leicester City FC can secure an astonishing Premier League championship this weekend, with a victory at Manchester United. And if not then, by winning one of its final two matches.

English media have been doing celebratory Leicester stories (like this one and this one and this one), and even the New York Times has discovered the previously feckless east Midlands club.

As underdog success stories go, this one is hard to top. Leicester was “propping up the table” (as the British would say) midway through last season and seemed sure to be relegated, before engineering an escape with a strong finish. Still, Leicester was a 5,000-to-1 long shot in some betting establishments this season, which didn’t seem ridiculous — they would need a season of excellence to outstrip traditional powers like Chelsea and United, and they have never won the top flight nor an FA Cup, nor played in the Champions League.

And here they are.

Sports fans, in general, ought to be happy, at such an outrageous story. And most of the time, I am.

And then I think of Jamie Vardy *.

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NFL’s Dolphins and a Worst-Case Draft Night

April 28th, 2016 · No Comments · College football, Football, Los Angeles Rams, NFL

Well, this is the sort of nightmare scenario for NFL teams who inevitably say: “We did our homework.”

Not talking about the Los Angeles Rams here. They needed a quarterback and they took Jared Goff of Cal with the first pick in the draft — the safer (and perhaps duller) choice between Goff and the Division I-AA standout QB Carson Wentz, who went second to the Philadelphia Eagles.

No, we are looking at the pick the Miami Dolphins made with the 13th selection, Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil. A player the Dolphins say they had vetted thoroughly but also a guy they say they never thought would be available when they picked.

So, what are the flashing red lights of the Tunsil choice?

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We’ll Always Have the Newspaper in Paris … Oh, Wait

April 27th, 2016 · 1 Comment · France, Journalism, Newspapers, Paris, Sports Journalism

It was the ultimate career fantasy for a certain fraction of American journalists.

At some time in their careers they wanted to live in Paris and work for the International Herald Tribune.

They had read it during their travels in Europe and it became a sort of newspaper of record for their vacations, fondly remembered for world news from an American point of view, as well as the stocks page, comic strips and baseball standings.

The newspaper exerted a mental and emotional tug on those Americans who read it, and especially so with U.S.-based journalists.

It was the newspaper Ernest Hemingway and The Lost Generation read in cafes or on travels to Spain. It was the American newspaper voice on the other side of the Atlantic, avidly read by European government ministers, interested in “the American perspective”.

It also brought a sort of cachet to its readers. “Oh, yes, I saw that story in the Herald Tribune.”

Those travelers happily, greedily bought it, often stopping at numerous news stands until they found a copy, then reading it from front to back while resting up from a day of sightseeing.

Some U.S. journalists made the big jump to the IHT, and spent decades there. I worked in the Paris newsroom in the summer of 2001 as an 11-week temp in a high-standards newsroom, and I can remember my last day in Paris that year, sitting on a bench near Invalides as the August sun inched toward the horizon.

The Paris Herald newspaper was founded in 1887 and was the European edition of the New York Herald. For the next 125 years it and its successors loomed large as The Goal for U.S. journalists with wanderlust.

That all is going to end this year.

The incremental demise of the International Herald Tribune, as it was known from 1967 and into 2013, will reach its perhaps logical conclusion in October, when the New York Times closes its Paris-based newsroom.

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Chris Paul, the Clippers and What Might Have Been with the Lakers

April 26th, 2016 · No Comments · Basketball, Clippers, Kobe, Lakers, NBA

How Clippers is this?

Ten hours after learning yesterday that Stephen Curry, leading man of the Golden State Warriors, will be out for two weeks, setting up the possibility of the Clippers being able to beat a weakened Warriors team in the second round of the NBA playoffs …

Chris Paul suffers a broken right hand, repaired during surgery today, the morning after Blake Griffin also left the Monday defeat versus Portland with a recurrence of the quad injury that cost him most of the regular season — and today is declared out for the rest of the season.

And the Los Angeles Clippers go from “potential Western Conference finalists” to “dead, dead, dead here and now” without their two best players, both finished off in the same game Monday night.

Which could lead us off in the direction of the sad history of the Clippers, and whether they are cursed, etc. … but instead has me thinking about how different Chris Paul’s career might have been had not the NBA voided the deal for the star point guard that the Lakers made ahead of the lockout-delayed 2011-12 season.

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The Caves ‘de Clamouse’ of the Herault River

April 25th, 2016 · No Comments · France, tourism



France appears to be a world-leader in caves.

It has world-famous caves (Lascaux, and the Paleolithic paintings), it has deep caves, it has gigantic caves, it has long caves. It has lists of caves that do not appear to be remotely complete.

It has so many caves that some of them close to population centers appear not to be included on the above list.

One of them, the Grotte de Clamouse, is barely 30 minutes from where we are staying, in the Languedoc, but is well worth seeing. Particularly if you come from places where holes in the ground are usually dug, not scoured out by nature … and you have a couple of young visitors with you.

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My Primary Non-American News Source: The Guardian

April 24th, 2016 · 1 Comment · English Premier League, Football, Journalism, soccer, Sports Journalism

As an American living across the pond, having a secondary news source to, say, the New York Times, is pretty much essential.

If for no other reason than to keep track of the English Premier League — which may be the one sports competition we covered in Abu Dhabi that I will remain interested in, long-term.

It also is handy if the source in question retains journalism standards of some significance, and also is authoritative.

Which has led me to … The Guardian.

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The Unexpected ‘Grand Canyon’ of the Neighborhood

April 23rd, 2016 · No Comments · France, Travel


France has lots of exotic landscapes. People from outside the country tend to think of the mostly flat region, around Paris, when they think of France geography. Because that is what they have seen.

Or maybe the hilly fields of Normandy.

But a sprawling mass of land in the center of the country, known as the Massif Central, has lots of dramatic up-and-down scenery.

Even this part of southern France, generally thought to be made up almost entirely of rollings hills, right on down to the sea, has surprising terrain.

We discovered that, anew, when we stumbled over what we are going to call the Grand Canyon of the Languedoc.

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The 9-3-2-6-2-5 Triple Play

April 22nd, 2016 · 1 Comment · Baseball

Many baseball people like to say “the triple is the most exciting play in the game.” I prefer the triple play.

Seven hundred and three triple plays have been recorded in the history of the game, going back to 1876, and the 703rd was turned tonight in Chicago by the White Sox against the Texas Rangers.

This triple play was unprecedented, in one regard.

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