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Saturday, November 22, 2014

CoCA OPEN STUDIOS TODAY 10-5 33 artists in 21 locations on the SanMateo County Coast

 Special overstock sale--50% off retail this weekend!

 We have 4 artists at our, textiles, painted handcrafted mirrors, assemblage & collage, and sparkling sun catchers.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


1.  The Parisians are much friendlier and speak more and better English than they were 25 years ago.
2.  The food tastes as good as it looks.
3.  The French hygiene has also improved in the last 25 years and being on the Metro during rush hour is the perfect way to verify this.
4.  Many many people smoke, especially young people.
5.  I still can't afford to buy anything at Galleries Lafayette (well, let's say I won't pay this for a purse, regardless of my finances).

This adorable outfit is a mere 155 Eu, about $212.  Perfect for the 12 month old in your life.
6.  Paris has the most breath-taking architecture and
7.  You can see its gorgeous Opera building from a roof top terrace at the Galleries Lafayette along with stunning views of the Eiffel tower and most of Paris!

 People come and hang out, take off their shoes, relax, enjoy the view and then go back in and shop some more!
8.  If you screw up and miss your exit in the Metro or think you belong on a different line, you can spend a long time walking from one area to another and even walk to another stop all underground without even knowing where you want to be is above you.
9.  The biggest crime is still pickpockets and not just in the Metro.  Girls walk around Montmartre and other areas with clipboards pretending to be deaf and try to get unsuspecting tourists to read their paperwork while they lift their wallets and phones.  Sometimes (on other days in other locations), the same girls change tactics and ask if they speak English and try to involve them in conversations.
10.  The French have a great sense of style

Even the cats.

I'm hoping everyone who reads this blog and has been to Paris will add a comment below with their own #10...or more.

Friday, September 19, 2014

TRES PETIT, not me, the apartment.

 We have been in Paris for 4 nights.  Our Air B&B apartment is tiny, but in a great area.  It's fun to be in a neighborhood with the sights and sounds of real Parisian living.  Our apartment is up 4 flights; after 4 days, I can almost do the whole thing without the leg cramps or getting as winded.  In such good shape....
Straight up
At the end of our block, there is a busy lively street with many restaurants and shops.  We bought breakfast foods there the first day--at the cheese shop, bread shop, and grocery store.  We also had our first snack in a brasserie.  I have to say we seem to be among the oldest people on this street, especially around 5:00 when hundreds sit and drink outside in every eatery on the block.  It's great for people-watching from both angles.
 One day we went to the Musee D'Orsay, which is known for having the largest exhibit of the Impressionist painters.  It's in an old train station converted into quite a building that goes on and on and up and up.  We had to decide what parts we really wanted to see because we could have spent days there.  I admit to getting overwhelmed and cranky in museums if I have to spend more than a couple of hours there.
 Afterwards, we took the Metro to the Jewish section of the city for lunch.  We didn't know where to eat, though Matthew had a book that guided us to a street with many places.  We had just decided to do falafels when we spotted Chez Marianne.  And since this trip has been partly about family, my sister's name seemed to be a significant sign, though the picture on the menu has no resemblance to my sister!
  We shared a plate with selected items, including chopped chicken liver, which I haven't had in awhile...delicious!  Pastrami, brisket, something called 'brick' which was like filo stuffed with meat, eggplant in sauce, and an artichoke dish.

Our bill from a lunch at a cafe...that's Euros, of course, so about $55 in US.  

My favorite shot of the tower Eiffel from our hop on/off bus.  We chose not to climb up....
Last night we had dinner at what the guide book said was the best crepe place in the city.  We hadn't made reservations, so they said we could eat in the shop,which is next door.  It's a large cabinet with 6 chairs around it and no place for your legs...oh, and instead of chairs, we sat on wooden crates.  I should have gotten a picture of that!  We might have been out-casted to the hinterlands, but it was much cooler in there than in the two rooms in the restaurant.  Paris is having a heat wave, so I just sweat my way around.  Oh damn, complaining again....
Anyway, we ended up really enjoying our little area for dinner.  We talked to a couple across from us who are from Hong Kong--very cute young couple who have been touring Europe about the same time as we.  Then they left and another woman, French, came in and joined us.  She told us many things about the shop and the food...eats there often.  Then another woman came in and she was from New Jersey working for Eileen Fisher and there for the Paris fashion week.  She's originally from Croatia, and comes to Paris often for work.  We ended up having a great meal and sharing even better conversation with people from all over. 
 Matthew had a Provencale galette with ham, eggs, onions, and cheese;  I had the Nordic--smoked salmon with creme fraiche.  They were so good, we had to share a dessert crepe of berries and ice cream.  What can I say?  Fabulous!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


One thing about being in and out of 7 hotels and suitcases for less than 2 weeks, I don't have time to write often, nor the desire. I prefer staying in one location for 5-7 days and traveling out from there. Since you really only have one full day anywhere, you walk your ass off (oh, if only that was true) trying to see everything, which causes blisters and exhaustion. My body has rebelled in not-so-subtle ways, which I needn't explain. I am less than thrilled by this trip and have silently vowed not to travel like this again. Apparently my complaining hasn't been just in my head since I heard about it recently. I've never been known for subtlety.
What can I say about Brussels and Bruges? I felt like I was in the movie “If This is Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium.” We took the train, which was good from Germany, but the domestic shorter trip was a little difficult only because the seats have no place for luggage, so we had to find places in the back of a car and stash our bags nearby. Matthew hurt his shoulder a month before we left town and storing my bag overhead, even though it's only a carry-on, has made his injury worse. He's also had to carry it upstairs because it's still too heavy for me to lug.
We had a lovely hotel in Brussels, which had a great location that was awesome for walking to the Grand Place and other nearby places to see. The Grand Place is alive at night with restaurants and people who head there to sit outside and people watch. Lots of young people...and everyone smokes!

The first night, we found our way, after help from a handsome young Frenchman, to the Grand Place for dinner.
We'd been researching on Trip Advisor and trying to find a great eatery because I'd been told Brussels has the best foody places in all Europe. But everything on TA seemed too far or needed reservations, so we just wandered into a spot that looked good. I had ribs and Matthew had a Leffe, a famous beer and whatever meat dish. We both thoroughly enjoyed our dinners, and when we got back to our room, checked our choice out on Trip Advisor and it was #1,920 out of 2,360..or something close to that. We had to least we enjoyed it.
We did our usual, which was to take the Hop On, Hop Off bus to see the city and decide which parts we wanted to return to, if time allowed. Or sometimes we hopped off and stayed awhile and of course had no time to return anywhere.
We were there 2 nights, then headed for another 2 in Bruges. We walked from the train station over the cobblestones to our hotel, which was more unique. No elevator, and fortunately the proprietor hauls everyone's luggage up the steep, narrow stairs himself. The room was adequate, and since I couldn't figure out the difference between the room prices, we decided to splurge with the most expensive of the first type...which turned out to mean it had an extra bed. At least I finally had a place for my luggage. It was close to everything, though Bruges isn't very big, so that's pretty common. I will say it is by far the most picturesque town I've ever seen. It's surrounded by a canal with large trees and swans and the buildings are beautiful.

We were sent off to a restaurant nearby for lunch, and I ordered steak tartare. Now if my parents or sister were alive, they would understand, but the rest of the people in my life might be grossed out by now...unless you have no idea what that is. It's raw meat with seasoning. This one was finely ground and served with a delicious salad. I loved it!
When I was growing up, my dad would occasionally make steak tartare using the best ground beef, onions, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. He would mix it by hand, and we would eat it on sourdough bread. It was a great treat, especially since Dad didn't do much in the kitchen.

So now we're in Paris, which I need more time to write about than I have now. But I did want to say I had steak tartare here last night for dinner, which was more like how my dad prepared it...and they served it with Lea and Perrins Worcestershire as a condiment!!! Of course, I added some, a la Walter.

Friday, September 12, 2014

  What surprised me was how many people young and old smoke.  They all walk around with cigarettes and then drop their butts and grind them out on the ground.  One guy was puffing madly before getting onto the tram, but then another guy got on at a stop and as he got into our car, blew his smoke into the air.  Pee-u!
  I remember how the women in Paris do not make eye contact or smile at strangers.  In Germany, they don't either.  Well, they do look at you, but they just look with a dour expression and don't smile.  I tend to smile at people, so had to stop or I looked a little silly....or American.
  In most countries, if you walk into a store or are in a restaurant and say hello, they immediately switch to English acknowledging you probably don't know their language.  In Germany, they just stare at you or ask you something in German, to which you then must reply that you don't speak their language.  Then you politely ask if they speak English and they always say, "A little."
We had breakfast in the train station both mornings--they had "fast food" that was pretty good!
Okay, one anecdote that was probably only funny to me.  Every time we ate, even inside a restaurant, in Munich, Fussen, and Rothenberg, we had a fly buzzing us.  I named him Walter after my father and told Matthew he was following us.  Once we were in Darmstadt, I noticed we had no fly and Matthew said, "Well, your dad said he'd never step foot in Darmstadt again."   Yeah, maybe you had to be there...

More train station food.

  We took this tram stop hoping to find the castle (or Mel Brooks) but after walking around awhile, saw neither, so gave up.
 Went for an afternoon beer across from our hotel in Darmstadt, and I ordered a little nosh....which turned out to be this huge platter of meats and cheeses.  Every bite reminded me of my dad who loved this kind of food.  A fitting ending to our meals here since it turned out to be dinner!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dad Was Wrong

The week seems slow because we've done so much in such a short time. I feel like I've already been gone a month instead of just 8 days.
Fussen is within a short distance of two old castles. They're actually not as old as most because King Ludwig II rebuilt Hohenschwangau (somewhere in that word is the operative word 'swan' which appears everywhere in many forms) and also started building Neueschwantstein in the late 19th century. He was the uncle of King Ludwig I, whose brother was declared insane so could not become king after he died, so Ludwig II got the job. But while he was building his new castle, at age 41, he was also declared insane and shortly thereafter, both he and his shrink were mysteriously found dead floating in the lake. He never married and had broken off an early engagement, so no heirs. He was also very good friends with the composer Richard Wagner (Vogner) and had a special bedroom just for him. In the new castle, he was creating rooms from Wagner's music. No pictures were allowed inside, but I did get a few outside. We walked up and down hills to see both castles, even though a bus got us within 20 min. walking distance. Can I say here that I had already gotten a blister on my toe and by now was in pain. I decided to add that for all my friends who read this and are jealous of everything I'm seeing....that now you know I'm seeing it through sore feet.

We left Fussen after 2 nights and headed to Rothenberg. Unfortunately it took 5 hours to get there rather than 3 like we thought, so it was a long day in the car with someone refusing to stop for directions to make sure we were headed in the right direction. Fortunately, Matthew has a great sense of direction, plus can read a map very well; whereas I can barely SEE the damned thing!
Must make that ophthalmologist appt. as soon as I get home.
Rothenberg is a medieval town with a wonderful old wall surrounding it with a walkway above and around the perimeter to see the town. Our hotel was within the walls, so an easy walk to everything there....unless it's all on cobblestones and your feet already hurt. :-)

We were only here for one night, but made the most of it. It really is a great walking town with many shops and eateries. It's very crowded with tourists during the day, but calms down in the evenings when the day-trippers leave. We had a fabulous dinner in a lovely quaint restaurant.
 I had spaetzle with cheese with a mixed salad that had every kind of German salad in it, including potato, cabbage, carrot, and topped with fresh greens.  Matthew had sauerbrauten, something my dad would have loved.

On our way home, we saw a ceramic piece we both loved in a window, but didn't make a note of where we were or what street we were on, so couldn't find it the next day, even though we searched. We did find a little something for my almost 6-month old grandniece Maddie, of course.
Random photos:
Grapes growing along the side wall of a home.

Thought we'd driven into Hungary by mistake....

And now we are in Darmstadt for our last two nights in Germany. We arrived on my mother's birthday, coincidentally. Truly a family day for me. This is where my father lived before coming to San Francisco. I felt emotional coming felt weird to drive into a town I'd heard of all my life, but had been told very little other than don't go there.

Our hotel is right next to the train station,which is a beautiful old building. It's a new hotel,which didn't thrill us with the location. And we were a little put off by the staff person who wasn't helpful. She told us to use the car elevator to park our car, which costs 15 EU a day. Weird driving into an elevator, which takes you just to the back of the hotel.
We spent the first night figuring out what to do here, where to go,and what was the best place for schnitzel. The tram station is right outside, which made life easy. The tram is fabulous and takes you all over the city. We found our way—yeah, not me with no sense of direction—and made our way around, then to dinner and back. The tram is fun, though on our first ride, we didn't know how to get off and the door wouldn't open, so we ran to another door that was open to get off. After that, we watched and learned...and saw a button to push.

 Today we did the family exploration. We headed downtown to the information center and asked about finding family history. I brought some papers of my grandfather's written in German that were sent to him in San Francisco. I have no idea what they say, other than his old and new name – the old being Schellenberg – and his birth date, plus place of birth and I think work-related information. They sent us across the way to another building, then they sent us to a third place a few blocks away that is like the hall of records. They told us they couldn't help either but to go to the Etadt Arkiv where old records are kept. They also gave us the name Herr Kniep.

We walked over to a beautiful building, which turned out to be a museum now. The woman turned us away, but we didn't understand her, and a young man also standing there explained in English that the museum was closed to the public and was holding some private party for the media. We realized we were in the wrong building and said we were going next door, so he asked and realized why I was there. He let us know he hated what the Nazis did and that he hoped we could also see the Germany of today while we're here because they no longer think like that. Then, as we stood on the steps outside, he gave us the most interesting history lesson.
Darmstadt in the 1930s was a stronghold of Nazism. Over 50% of the people here voted for the Nazis, and it was the first city to ban Jews owning businesses. No wonder my grandparents sent their only child to live with a relative in a foreign country!
  On Sept. 11, 1944—70 years ago tomorrow!-- the town was fire bombed by the allies and everything burned to the ground. Darmstadt and Dresden were both demolished. My guess is my dad's family home burned then too. They used a new technique that dropped the bombs straight down, then the fire exploded upwards. He said they've never forgotten the day, though we won't see any signs about it tomorrow. But he also said the US helped provide for restoration after the war, which the Germans have never forgotten. We thanked him for spending his time talking to us, then we off in search of Herr Kniep.
He seemed a little suspicious of us at first, and doubted he could find anything, but he left us for 15 min. or so and returned with a paper showing my grandparent's names, when and where they bought a house in Darmstadt in 1923 with their son Walter, aged 7.

 They he went to find more and returned with two bound books which turned out to be businesses from 1924 and 1927. He found Bernard Schellenberg who sold building materials, including steel, to builders and his home address. He checked and said it was no longer standing, which we already knew. But he also told us the name of the street had changed and handed us the new address. He pointed us in the direction of where the memorials are for the two synagogues that were lost during the war, so we headed there. One was Orthodox and the other more guess is Dad had his bar mitzvah at the reform, but we visited both. They're now other buildings, one a new medical center.

We then made our way to the tram and found the street where my dad's house was. The area is mostly apartment houses, except his number. That was a new building going up with a huge crane above it and blocked by a wire fence. We couldn't tell what it would be...maybe another apartment house. But still, I got to stand right where my father and grandparents lived from 1923 to 1935 or so. What a feeling and what a great day of discovering a little more about my ancestry.