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The Climb to Sacre-Coeur Basilica

August 28th, 2014 · No Comments · France, Paris, tourism, Travel


It’s not exactly Everest, but it is a hike from the bottom of Butte Chaumont to the top, where the Sacre-Coeur Basilica was built.

Most tourists, including this one, tend to believe Sacre-Coeur is old. Like Notre Dame. But it is not. Notre Dame was begun in 1163 and completed in 1345.

Sacre-Coeur was started in 1875 and finished in 1914.

Why, then, is Sacre-Couer so famous?

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A Paris Bachelor Pad

August 27th, 2014 · No Comments · Paris, tourism, Travel


Sometimes we forget how much our living space says about us.

Our furniture. Our appliances. The art on the walls and the knick-knacks on the tables. The size of our television.

What is present, in our digs, and what is absent.

And I can say, without hesitation, that our home in France this week is a fairly extreme example of a Paris bachelor pad.

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Landon Donovan and a Potentially Awkward U.S. Farewell

August 26th, 2014 · No Comments · Brazil 2014, Football, Landon Donovan, soccer, World Cup

Two reactions, in quick succession, upon hearing today that Landon Donovan will play a farewell match with the U.S. national soccer team, in October.

1. It’s nice that they are giving him a chance to say goodbye.

2. Gosh, the whole thing could be awkward.

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Life in the 18th

August 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Paris, tourism, Travel

All the time spent in Paris … and it is hard to recall more than one day spent in the 18th arrondissement.

A visit to Sacre-Coeur. A very long time ago.

However, we are staying a week in the 18th this time around, and it’s not quite like the areas of Paris with which we are familiar.

To wit:

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The Eiffel Tower Miracle Party

August 24th, 2014 · No Comments · France, Paris, tourism, Travel


In some ways, it was a well-planned fete.

A concept years in the making. Guest list resolved. Date and time chosen months ahead. Place identified.

Champ de Mars, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Near the dirt allee named Thomy-Thierry.

The trouble with that?

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Very Quiet Neighbors

August 23rd, 2014 · No Comments · Paris, tourism, Travel

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In 1975, during a roundtrip tour of the U.S. — from sea to shining sea (to shining sea) — my brother and I pulled into Gettysburg late one evening. We found a motel that seemed tidy and inexpensive enough, and were soon asleep in our ground-floor room.

When we woke the next morning, one of us pulled aside the curtain hanging over a sliding back door … and saw that the National Cemetery at Gettysburg began about five yards away. Which sorta creeped us out.

Nearly 40 years later, four of us have moved into a room on the sixth floor of a building in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, and directly across the street from us, commanding the view from the four windows that face west, is the Montmarte Cemetery.

Which still kinda creeps me out.

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Our Home in San Gimignano

August 22nd, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Italy, Rome, tourism, Travel

We were going to Italy, from Abu Dhabi, to celebrate a significant birthday, and it seemed a perfect occasion to invite some of those near and dear to us to a sort of moveable feast. In Italy.

It began in Florence, moved to Siena for Il Palio and since Saturday night has continued at Villa La Porticciola, a few yards outside the San Gimignano city limits — but with wonderful views (over green hills) of the hilltop city and its famous towers.

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The Future of Italy

August 21st, 2014 · No Comments · Italy, tourism, Travel, UAE

We have been joined in San Gimignano by an Italian couple and their two young children.

After a dinner (barbecued sausages and a half-dozen skewers of meat and peppers) and some very nice wine our visitors brought us, we sat down in the living room to talk about life in the UAE … and it soon turned to life in Italy.

The question, “Where is Italy going?” launched a discussion that carried into the wee hours of the morning.

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Mosquito Post

August 20th, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The fly in the ointment of your dream vacation to Tuscany?


Or as the Italians say, onomatapoetically, it would seem, the zanzara.

(Hear it? Buzzzzz.)

Summer, not surprisingly, is the high season for mosquitoes here, and mosquitoes in Tuscany are particularly infamous.

(A google search for “Tuscany” … “mosquitoes” yields 101,000 hits.)

One blogger wrote:

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The Three-Hour Hike to … Where?

August 19th, 2014 · No Comments · Italy, tourism, Travel

Three of us decided to take a walk through the rolling countryside surrounding San Gimignano.

The area practically calls out for a hike. Lots of up and down, but most of it not really intense, and it generally stays off paved roads — in favor of dirt tracks or rutted secondary roads leading into dense woods or between neatly cultivated vines.

We used as a reference the 2006 edition of Walking in Tuscany by Gillian Price, who laid out an itinerary that would take us to “marvelously desolate” castle ruins inside the Castelvecchio Nature Reserve. And who doesn’t like “marvelously desolate” caste ruins?

We certainly walked long enough to get where we thought we were going. But we never did get there, wherever it was, and we can imagine only two explanations.

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