Wednesday, October 7, 2015

quick Hello from Rome!

Super busy here with family. Wonderful! Will tell you more later but I'm mostly collapsing into sleep when we get back to our hotel room (more on that later. I did a stellar job picking this one. Very good value at our budget).

We had pre-booked a visit to the Borghese Gallery yesterday, so had a few hours on our own. And thinking ahead to tonight's opera, I imagined choosing one of these Azzedine Alaia dresses, part of a marvellous exposition, Couture/Sculpture. Some very witty pairings of dress to context. Again, more to follow. Sumptuous stuff. The gallery overwhelms, as does Rome itself, of course. Bernini, Caravaggio, ceilings full of libidinous satyrs, the lingering whispers of centuries-old dinner parties....

Where Pauline might have deigned to put clothes on, if she'd been offered this stunning column of pearl-grey and cream...
Better run. We're meeting my daughter soon for a market expedition.
Ci veddiamo presto (if that doesn't mean "see you soon" we may have been embarrassing ourselves with the young fellow who sees us off from the hotel each morning ... ciao!


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Leaving Bordeaux, Assessing Travel Wardrobe

Last day here, which means that everything we've been wearing for the last month has somehow to squeeze back into our carry-ons. The Eagle Creek packing cubes we bought for this trip, at Sue's recommendation, are a huge reassurance to me that this will work. I tend to get anxious about whether I'll be able to zip the case up again, but the cubes do some solid compression and organization work.

I'll be wearing this blazer again tomorrow, and the boyfriend jeans; always wear bulky items for the flight if possible. The blazer has been a great piece to have along as an extra layer here, as yesterday when I wore it over my grey J Crew sweatshirt and black J Brand jeans (which have been a stellar staple)

I'm not sure how much, or whether, I'll post this coming week, although I'll certainly be Instagramming. Our son, daughter-in-law, and their baby girl are in Rome as well, staying with our daughter, son-in-love, and their little girl. Blogging might just have to wait....

But I thought before I pack up, I might share some photos of What I Wore to show you how well the "Seven Weeks, One Carry-On" project is going. Remember, we have a washing machine here, and the weather has been warm for most of our trip, although it's been dipping down into the low teens, Celsius, lately, and we've had a few heavy rainfalls.


I know you've seen these pics in our Paris hotel room mirror before, but I'm trying to show multiple uses of a piece, as here with the JCrew graphic navy-white shirt (a cotton-silk blend as light as cotton lawn.

Since we have a washing machine and the weather's been such that clothes dry quickly, I've been able to wear white quite a bit. My Gap jeans, above and below (with a favourite black Vince sweater, tissue weight merino, aworn with one of the three scarves I brought) and a white linen J Crew top, below, worn with a pair of floral khakis my daughter handed down to me when she had to edit her closet for her move to Rome. These pants (Joe Fresh, probably the least expensive pants I own) have been amazing for travel. Brilliant weight, enough give that I've cycled for hours in them, and they do not show dirt. Brilliant!

You've probably noticed another item that's doing yeoman duty: my black Vince moccasins. I do sometimes wear the nude Vince pointed-toe d'Orsay flats for a dressier look, but we walk through the park waily, and the gravel paths are tough on shoes...

This navy J Crew (I know, I know, they seem to have become a mainstay for me lately) merino sweater, with a swingy silhouette, has been a really useful piece as well. Part of their Spring line year before last, it's a good transitional weight, so if the temp isn't going above 23 or 24, it's not too hot, and it helps take the chill off on those days that don't go above 19. Left, above, I wore it with my wild-card piece, a jean-cut skirt in a light cotton print. I haven't worn this much the last year or two, and it may not come home with me, but it offered a bit of variety, and it might get another outing. Pairs okay with my white t-shirt and even better with the long-ish black Vince sweater.

We've even managed to get a little bit dressy for dinners or jazz nights. I also wore that gold lamé dress with my blazer and a scarf for the opera, same black ankle boots, nude sheer stockings. My navy Vince dress has also gone out for dinner, but was apparently too shy for a photo.

Another wild card, this (yes, J Crew) tank top plays well under my Bompard cardi to add some variety to a neutral capsule. It goes well under the blazer as well and is sharp with the white jeans

Not sure yet what I'll wear for this morning's concert at the Grand Théâtre, but I'd better go sort that out soon!

As I say, I'm not sure when/if I'll be blogging from Rome, but meanwhile, perhaps you'll find something worth reading or looking at in these Bordeaux posts. I'm surprised how much I managed to write and photograph here (and I must warn you, I have posts galore to write and to polish up and to finish when I get back home)...... I will continue to read your comments and do my best to reply, but I know you'll understand if I spend most of my time with family for the next week or so. Do follow along on Instagram--if you don't want to add another platform to your Social Media roster, you can have a peek at my latest IG posts at the top of the column on the right.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Five Bordeaux Things Friday

I haven't done one of these posts in a while, and they're rather a good way of organizing the random. And it's our last Friday here in Bordeaux. Let's count. . . 


They've just changed the windows in both the Petrusse stores here to feature charming woodland scenes. I love these little wild boar piglets. Also love the beautiful colours and textures of the stoles and scarves, but even more, I think, I'm happy with this photo's captured reflection of one of Bordeaux's central streets, leading to the Grand Théâtre and the Place de la Comédie. You might even be able to spot a certain curly-haired photographer...


I did manage to finish a watercolour sketch on a postcard blank I'd brought with me. I sent if off to Nola yesterday with a message on the back that she'll be able to read all by herself. It's quite charming to have an epistolary relationship with a grandchild, and I want to do my part. I'd also like her to see that it can be worthwhile to do a few things you're not particularly good at but take some pleasure in. Drawing and painting, in my case...

3. Verdi's Don Carlo at Bordeaux's new auditorium. We were disappointed when we learned the opera wasn't in the delightfully ornate Grand Théâtre where we saw Mozart's Magic Flute a few years ago. But the auditorium is elegant in its own way, not least for the surprising contrast between its modest sidewalk frontage and the way the space opens inside. Very contemporary and quite spare with good sight lines from every seat, as far as we could tell (depending how the possibilities of "in the round" are deployed). And the legroom! Pater was in heaven, as we'd somehow landed seats in a row used to pass through, the extra space a happy trade-off for the mild annoyance of traffic. (In the Grand Théâtre we once had seats in Paradis, and it wasn't!).
As for the opera itself, we'd seen it in Vancouver last year. This production was very spare, set-wise, completely reliant on projected video, a trend that is becoming increasingly entrenched, and obviously a help to constrained budgets. Lush as some of the projected images were, we both wished for a bit more. Costumes were satisfying, and the singing and orchestral performances were brilliant. The opera itself is unwieldy and I appreciated the cuts made --still a good 3 1/2 hours--and what is with that ending?! I could say more about the whole evening (the style, elegant and creative and sophisticated) but then we'd have to stop at Three Things Friday and then where's the alliteration?


Random Running Routes pay off (see how alliteration felt itself under threat there and took action?). That's how I found what may be my favourite example of Street Art yet! The whimsy!


And then there are these boots. Having managed not to buy any shoes since last September (other than my running shoes, which I don't count), having focused on window-shopping only, using the limited capacity of my carry-on case to bolster my retail resistance, I somehow found myself inside a shop with this pair of boots on my feet. Fit very well, I might add. 
I said, as I agreed to try the shoes on, that I wouldn't leave the shop with them that day, needing to "reflechisse," and I didn't. But I did text a photo to a sister, a daughter, and a daughter-in-law asking opinions. Turns out each of them is a shoe-shopping enabler. What about you? What would you have advised if I'd texted you. The boots are by Atelier Voisin, a French brand with a solid reputation for quality. Hurry, let me know what you think. I only have two more shopping days in Bordeaux!

Once again, thank you for reading and I look forward to your comments. Happy Vendredi!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

And the Un-Planned, the Un-Planning, of Travel

I had imagined I'd find more time during our month in Bordeaux for writing longer, more thoughtful posts, essays almost, in which I worked to sort out some thinking around my transition into retirement, some ideas about longterm marriage, as I've known it, more analysis of my experience traveling solo vs. traveling as a couple. Whether naïvely or idealistically, in fact, I'd imagined myself setting up some patterns for my first year of retirement. Yes, although this is a 7-week trip with my husband, involving four cities, two countries, numerous accommodations, a predictable change of routine, I'd thought I might solidify my wish to write more seriously in my retirement, locking myself up with my iPad for hours each day while, you know, all of Bordeaux or Paris or Rome beckoned just outside....

Instead, each post seems merely to recount, to offer a catalogue or litany of sights seen, foods eaten, roads pedalled.

I'd also hoped to sketch each day, although I brought only my tiny travel case of paints, watercolours in small hard pans, and a very modest assortment of brushes, a 5x7 Moleskine sketchbook. The Moleskine's thirsty, lusciously textured pages are still nearly empty, though, and I'm glad I left behind the other supplies I'd considered bringing. I couldn't bear the reproach...

Nor are we accomplishing some of the smaller travel goals we'd entertained for this trip. We'd talked about making at least one swoop, by train, to another city where we would probably stay for a night or two. Bilbao was top of the list, but we'd also tossed around the idea of Lyon or Tour, or, closer to home, Arcachon or St. Emilion. A bit impatient with our tardy planning, we phoned and emailed a few places last week, hoping to bike to somewhere 50-70 kilometres away, stay overnight so that we could bike the area a bit, then pedal back again, no day too onerous, but still a satisfying trek overall. Too late. Dommage. Everyone was booked, not surprising considering the excitement of the vendanges right now, in the middle of wine country as we are.

I'm inclined to be rather annoyed with us about this failure, the failure to act, much earlier, to turn an idea into a plan, and bring the plan to fruition. Actually, to be honest, I'd prefer to be completely annoyed with him because, you know, deflecting blame, if immature, can sometimes be temporarily satisfying,...

And I must thank my husband for his stabilizing wisdom here. It's mostly he who finds and points out the compensatory "however"....

However, as that wise man points out, this trip was not meant to be work. It's good to plan and to have goals, but these 7 weeks away from home were meant to launch my retirement, to ease my way into a time of our life that will increasingly be spent together. I'm still working out the balance between my introvert self's desire for time completely alone, preferably in a space of my own, and my very good fortune in having a compatible and accommodating partner. The last few days have seen me a bit fretful, anxious, sometimes even melancholy, evaluating how we've used this time, as we prepare to leave for Rome next week. There, I'll have even less solitude, happily trading it for days with babies and their moms and dads.

Part of me will probably continue to pine for those quiet mornings in a sunny room just off a charming cobbled street that people walk along with their baguettes. In the imaginary mornings I pine for, I'll complete entire drafts of essays, chapters of a memoir, a thought-piece post on travel in "the third age." Finishing my morning's writing, I'll run or cycle or take a yoga class, with or without my wise husband. After a nap or some reading time, there'll be time for sketching, either at home or at some nearby picturesque site. Of course, I'll also have my good camera with me as well in this alternate fantasy trip, so instead of sketching, perhaps a photographer's stroll before dinner. (I left my Nikon DSLR behind this visit, in deference to our carry-on-only policy, and I've only missed it once or twice. But then really missed it, those times.)

In the real world, here at the breakfast table we are so fortunate to sit at in Bordeaux, my pining and slight melancholia have launched a long conversation with the one who knows me so very well. He listens to me swerve wildly from frustration over not writing enough to - quelle surprise! - existential angst and a dissertation on the banality of this nevertheless often glorious pathway of life. Not only listens, he even nods occasionally, and, finally, admits that he's felt some of the edginess himself lately. And he relates completely to my concern about making the most of these next/last decades, having had a head start on retirement, his own having begun five years ago.
And while I'm not completely reconciled (because really, who could one ever be? It's a jolly old frustrating puzzle this life-old age-death continuum, no?), I swallow the last of my tea feeling much better about our travel-planning. I'd almost forgotten that one of the unspoken but understood goals of these long periods away together is the insistent daily contact with very few distractions. Walking together for so many kilometres, conversation evolves organically, and there is time to process without impatience. There's time, also, for the restlessness to arise, for grievances to be remembered and either aired and worked through or examined quietly and relinquished.

There's time to catch up with each other, to extend what Lisa says in a recent post. Time to work out those little knots and to remember why kindness is important. Time to think about what routines might be changed back home and which ones we can't wait to get back to. Time to wonder why we didn't plan as well as we might have and to decide how, if we want to, to improve that for our next trip.

And, funnily enough, as I realize how important the "wasted" time is to a regenerated coupledom, I see that I have something I want to write about. And my guy tells me that if I'm really serious about wanting to write, I need to start doing it instead of making excuses (yes! Even if he's the excuse!). Three hours a day, he suggests. Would that be so hard? We'll see. Big commitments and declarations are not only somewhat frightening, but I'm not sure they're wise in the uncharted territory of retirement.

But here are a few hours for today, for what they're worth. And I finished a watercolour as well. Perhaps I'll show you that next post. . .

I'm thinking I might try to get together a longer post once a week until the end of our trip, and keep my other posts mainly photo-based. We'll see how it goes, but I hope that might suit. Meanwhile, your comments are very welcome. Do you have a tough time with transitions as well? And/or do you bump into conflicted feelings even on a trip you're enjoying? Do you find it tough to balance your goals and needs and schedule with those of others? Do you ever want to smack yourself for feeling melancholic and fretful in the midst of such crazy good fortune? (No? Just me, then...) Oh, all kinds of questions I could ask you, connected to this post, but I think I'll just wait to see what you have to say. . .

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Have a Seat? colours of Bordeaux

Not managing to organize many words here, although I'm working on a more sustained post. But I'm collecting some charming images here and there, storing up creative sparks, I hope, for slower days back home. While I plan to have a more thoughtful post up tomorrow (travel and retirement and goals and acceptance, you know, just a few little things), here is some eye candy to occupy you while we're taking in a Wine Workshop en français followed by a night at the opera. And if you're looking for more words, my daughter has another post up about ex-pat life in Rome. Cute baby pics. Awkward/funny cultural challenges.

I have a few series of photographs organized. Today's is a collection of the sidewalk tables and chairs that are ubiquitous here. So many delightful colour combinations, variations on a theme...


And a glimpse of the well-garbed man in my life...

To be honest, the Mondrian-inspired set above was actually for sale at a local vintage shop, rather than in service at a restaurant, but I couldn't leave it out. How mid-century perfect is it!?


I suspect that Pater would be quite willing to tell you about "the ones that got away" because he managed to walk so quickly and determinedly past that I reluctantly left my camera in my bag.... But doesn't this make a good start? I'd love to come back here with my good camera and photograph a series of these sets, although then I'd need either an invisibility cloak or much less self-consciousness. The phone-camera combo is a boon to overcoming shyness. Who, me? Why, I'm just checking my messages, looking at my Google Map directions, texting my daughter....

So, just a quick tour today. Hope you enjoyed the colours, and hope your Tuesday is off to a good start. Thanks for reading! I never take that for granted....








Sunday, September 27, 2015

Nana Window Shops Bordeaux

We had a great day yesterday--our friend Lesley picked us up about 11 and drove us into the Médoc to ogle the chateaux. At several of the vineyards, we could see workers getting organized to begin harvesting the heavy purple tumbles of fruit that decorated the rows of green. . . We stopped at a ginguette by the Garonne for lunch in warm September sunshine, and then had the added treat of watching paddle-boarders ride the tidal bore -- the equinox high tide pushed heavily silted water far down the estuary and along the river almost down to Bordeaux. Impressive, although it had almost petered out by the time it reached Macau, our vantage point, Still, it was fun to cluster on the bank with the French families who had gathered to watch their paddlers, our presence at just the right time for this natural phenomenon pure Serendipity.

We got home at 6, happy to have picked up the makings of dinner at market in the morning. Luckily, Paul had energy to put it together and carry it over to the couch where I was watching Candice Renoir on Netflix, because Saturday's 60-kilometre ride to La Sauve had definitely caught up with me. Caught up with me and smacked me around a bit, judging by the sudden and obliterating fatigue. I enjoyed our countryside drive with Lesley so much that I must have kept pushing the exhaustion back into its box, but Boom! It will no longer ignored.

So today's an easy day here, a catch-up day (did you read Lisa's lovely post Saturday. She's all caught up for now, what a feeling!). A slowing right down to zero day.

But I have some photos I've been saving up, ones I took when I had a solo morning of window-shopping last week. I loved meandering on my own, but I did rather wish for someone to ooh and ah with, especially when I found a cluster of children's wear stores. The French do children's wear so beautifully, and, of course, they do magical window displays as well. Put those two together and there's something exponential that happens to the cuteness.

Here, I'll show you what I mean:

Eiffel Towers and party dresses at Tartine et Chocolate

And back-to-school at Petit Bateau

And these wonderful Window Art windows at Catimini

THat little dog, right?!

Even the very cool L'Ile Bleu with its super-expensive skater shoes and very chill pants and wonderful street-skater-casual-cool sweaters, even they had a corner of their window for the cutest baby gear in an aesthetic to match the moms and dads who ride their skateboards alongside the stroller-pushing or baby-wearing parent. ...

And they're not the only shop window sporting leopard spots for little ones' shoes. Bon Ton (below) has some on offer as well....

And theses sophisticated colour mixes for the grade-school set...

And oh, oh, the pretty. . .

I'm keeping that carry-on-only policy of mine firmly in mind, as immunization against coming home with bags of budget-busting delight that will be outgrown before blinking, but it's been such fun to have company as I ooh and ah. I hope you enjoyed as well.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Less Random, Ample Serendipity, More Cycling and Marketing near Bordeaux

While the cycling trip I described last post was "planned" in about two minutes, five minutes before it began, halfway through the day, our most recent Cycling-Marché combo drew on a plan that was simply waiting for a sunny Wednesday. Mercredi,  you see, is market day in Créon, a charming town along the very pleasant Roger Lapébie cycling route. We've cycled to this market each of our last two visits, and one of the pleasures of coming back to a place you've already explored is that you can repeat those activities that made you happiest. Some travellers make the most of their time by doing something different with every precious day away from home, but we love the layers of experience that add a patina to certain places and activities we share.
Here's a link to a wobbly video I made as we rode the trail, trying to hold my iPhone steady. I've never tried adding a YouTube video in BlogGo, so I'll cross my fingers you'll see this. If it doesn't work, imagine a tunnel of dappled shade between blue skies full of sunshine and a wide asphalt pathway:
For example, we've seen this vendor's chickens before (according to the stall's signs, these birds have lived free-range lives, laid free-range eggs, eaten organic food; now, their happy days of freedom are clearly nearing an end), but I've never seen a class of little ones admiring them excitedly as part of a school field trip.

We've seen gorgeous vegetable displays before (and were served by the same young woman on previous visits), but we've never been here when artichokes were so wonderfully flamboyant (and succulent! We've had one each for dinner three nights this week and they're astonishingly good!) 
nor ever seen the pumpkins all robustly round and richly orange -- and much more manageable than our large jack-o-lantern variety. We really should ask one of the vendors for a suggestion or two about how to prepare these. 
Since Paul was going to be wearing our purchases home in his backpack (25 kilometres), we left them behind, but some of those tomatoes ended up in a yummy pasta sauce chez nous...
Some firsts for us at the Créon market this year included live eels
And the opportunity to have wickerwork and woven-straw chair seats repaired.

This fellow was very agreeable when I asked if I could take photos, as were all the vendors. Overall, the market has a very relaxed, friendly vibe, right until the last truck is broken down after an impressive scrub-down, and then magically folded into a road-worthy unit and driven home. 
Every year, as we sit eating our crèpes and watching workers pack away unsold fish, throw away leftover ice, and scrub and hose down the traveling poissonerie's display counter, we marvel at how much work it must take to be ready to set up again in another town's market square the next day. 

Meanwhile we have only to eat our savoury crêpes (mine's filled with boudin noir and caramel iced apples, so good!) drink our cider, and then contentedly pedal back home. . .Past scenes like this...

Do you get the impression that I'm beginning to relax into retirement? You might be right....

So, to continue answering Lynn's question about how we plan our days when traveling (particularly when fortunate enough to be hanging around one place for a while), this post describes the execution of one of the readymade plans we tend to have in our pocket, ready to be carried out when circumstances are right. Another of those got crossed off the list the other day when we needed something to do during a rainy afternoon last week after lunch downtown--perfect conditions for viewing a nearby exposition I'd wanted to see of the 19th-century work of photographer Felix Arnaudin. 
Do you recognize the strategy? Do you have a similar pocketful of readymade but adaptable plans when travelling, or do you prefer a more defined schedule?
And speaking of plans, what's on your agenda for the weekend? 





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