I think the last time I was in France for Easter was in 2000, yup 18 years ago. I was still in school for my MBA and it so happened that France is where we were for Easter during my Marketing in the European Union class. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. This time around, Easter in France was very family-centered where we spent a couple days catching up with Richard’s parents and his brother’s young family. The few days with family is definitely worth it now that the girls’ cousins are a tiny bit older. I’m so eager for them to make memories to last a lifetime.
We also took advantage of the less popular tourist season to visit Versailles, which is only an hour and half away from Normandy. The girls were in awe of everything, not having seen anything like Versailles before. The visit was also timely as Chiara just finished learning about the history of Versailles with her French tutor, Aurore.
Spring has definitely started when we were France. There were a few cold days in the beginning of our vacation but it was about 80 degrees the day we headed back to the US. It was a short visit but traveling with the girls has gotten so much easier now that they are older. I wonder if we can pull off frequent but short visits like that to France more often in the future…
I would not have have been exposed to Beacon, NY, if not for my sister who got married there a few years ago. About an hour drive from the city as well as Northern New Jersey, Beacon is fun little town that resembles Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens Brooklyn before it became heavily populated by hipsters (no offense, but I happen to have lived in Brooklyn before the millennial invasion, just saying). An artsy bohemian town where you cannot find big box store chains, Beacon is also where the Dia Art Foundation‘s suburban outpost, Dia:Beacon can be found.
Located in an old Nabisco packaging factory, Dia:Beacon has about 160,000 square feet of exhibition space, which is ideal for a lot of large-scale art installations by artists such as Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Richard Serra. I thought it would be a drag to take the girls here since they have limited tolerance for art museums these days but they actually enjoyed their visit perhaps because the space isn’t really your typical museum. After spending a few hours at Dia, I highly recommend walking around Beacon’s town center, which features tons of unique little shops and restaurants that you won’t find elsewhere.
I’m sorry that I’ve stayed away from this space the past several months. 2017 was a challenging year, fraught with personal loss, life transitions and so much negativity in our political environment. I spent most of the time away from here focusing on re-centering my family, counting my blessings while still going about the day-to-day. Honestly, I did not think I was going to go back to blogging. What transpired in the past few months, the struggles and the eventual death of a family friend’s son, made me feel that what I was writing about was so trivial in relation to the sadness and despair around me.
And yet, the past few weeks, I felt an inner tug that was pulling me back here, to write and take photos once more, to feel the joy in the small things and find the beauty in the everyday. I guess I also miss making personal connections here as well as making myself accountable to make the most of my life, to be present in the moment and not to get lost in the dark pathways of my past. So here I am, again, back to blogging, maybe not posting as often as before but still around.
I want to share some photos below of our holiday trip to celebrate Richard’s milestone birthday in St. Lucia. There so much about this Caribbean island that reminds me of my birthplace, the Philippines — the cuisine, the beautiful water that surrounds the island, the fruits, the topography, the vegetation. I love the St. Lucians’ easygoing friendliness and hospitality but what I truly enjoyed is the mixture of British/French culture along with that of the local island. As my oldest daughter Chiara says, “St. Lucia, I’ll be back.”
St. Lucian landmark, the Pitons
La Soufriere volcano
And just like that, summer 2017 is over. Every summer feels more poignant now that the girls are older. These days, it seems that I’m always counting how many more years I’ve got with them before they leave the coop. This way of thinking may be a bit harsh and melodramatic but it’s my way of of facing the sad truth — that the remaining time I have with my daughters is brief and I should make the most of now.
The girls started school this week, both of them at the end of a milestone — grade school and middle school. But before we headed back to the rhythm of things and harsh realities, we spent Labor Day weekend in Mystic, Connecticut. To those of you who are familiar with Mystic, the photos here will be familiar with scenes of ships, boats and Mystic Aquarium.
Hope you’re having a great week!
An old Viking ship
Place of worship
Charles Morgan, a true whaling ship that sailed from 1841-1921. Actually got to go inside this vessel!
One of my favorite towns near us in Normandy is Honfleur, a place I’ve written about quite often on this space. Its early association with artists like Claude Monet, Eugene Boudin and Erik Satie continue to this day as the town carries on the tradition of featuring innovative artists in its galleries and lively musicians on its streets. A few Saturdays ago, the town hosted “La Nuit des Artistes” or Artists’ Night where all sort of performances, most at no charge, were available to the public. There were gospel choir singing, opera on one of the main courtyards, pantomiming as well as sculptures and artwork in plein air. I think there’s no better way than an event like this to make art less intimidating and more accessible to everyone — young and old, novice and experienced alike. The more access we all have to art, the more it will be a part of our daily lives. Do you agree? Wish we have more events like this one in the US…
We recently spent a week in Formentera, Spain. Not as popular as its flashy island sister, Ibiza, the island of Formentera has been some sort of creative haven since the sixties and seventies. The island had been refuge for Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell at different points in their artistic lives and architect Philippe Starck has a house near Cap de Barbaria.
The thing that I love most about Formentera is its rugged beauty that refuses over commercialization. You won’t see hotel or retail chains on the island. Most of the shops and restaurants that we went to have that artisanal feel that’s rare in most summer beach destinations.
Here are some highlights of our vacation….
Hippie Market at El Pilar de Mola
View from the Blue Bar
Lighthouse from Cap de Barbaria, southernmost part of island where Africa isn’t too far away
Church in Sant Francesc, one of the main towns
Some of the things we did that I recommend doing while in Formentera…
- Seeing sunset at Sa Sequi restaurant, one of the best views on the island
- Eating at the hippie chic Blue Bar where the food is yummy and the view is amazing
- Renting a boat and going to Illa Espalmador, only accessible by boat and has the clearest water I’ve ever seen
- Going to Platja Migjorn for the beach and Illetes for the scene
- Seeing the lighthouse in Cap de Barbaria and hippie market in El Pilar de la Mola
- Shopping in Sant Francesc’s town center
We’re slowly settling back to our house in Normandy. It’s funny how things have gotten easier over the years as we develop our habits and ways in going about our time here. After 14 years, we now know where to go for mundane things we take for granted at home in the US like where to get the best produce, bread, pastries and even simple things (think nails and paint) to mend the house. The good thing about settling in fast is the we’re also able to enjoy all the great things that Normandy offers.
One of the first things we did when we got here is visit the city of Le Havre, which is celebrating its 500th year. Imagine that…500 years! Much has happened in the city’s history but one of the most critical ones is the devastation Le Havre encountered during World War II. There’s much hype about the movie Dunkirk right now and its role during the war but Le Havre is also another French town that played a major role during that period. It took architect Auguste Perret’s great modernist vision post-war to develop what the city is today. Le Havre indeed feels like no other French city with all its modern buildings and architecture. I used to hate its utilitarian sort of feel but it’s only through learning Perret’s vision vis-a-vis the city’s history that I learned to appreciate this place.
Most of the art installations below were created for the city’s milestone anniversary…
MuMa Le Havre
Street Art by Vincent Ganivet
Le Volcan designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1982
Art at St. Joseph church designed by Chiharu Shihota that symbolizes spiritual awakening
Work by Lang/Baumann to resemble doors that open to the sea
Last weekend, we visited Philadelphia, my old hometown where I spent critical years that still play a huge role in who I am today. I love sharing memories of the city with the girls even though I’m sure most of my comments went to deaf ears. I feel that I have a renewed appreciation for the city. Though much has changed in the areas I visited in Center City and Rittenhouse Square, I always love the fact that Philly is so much more manageable and less intimidating than cities like New York, Paris or Chicago.
We spent the afternoon visiting the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, which currently has an exhibit on my favorite artist of the moment, Robert Motherwell. PAFA is the oldest art museum and art school in the United States.
I can’t tell you the last time we were in the US for July Fourth weekend since the girls were born. We usually pack up and leave for France as soon as school wraps up. But times are changing and the girls wanted to do a few summer camps here in July so we postponed our vacation a bit later till the end of the month.
It’s great to be in the US this holiday. I must say it was a little sad and felt a bit disloyal to celebrate Independence Day in Europe when this holiday calls for all things American. So I was glad to have spent the weekend a bit in the Catskills/Woodstock/Hudson/Phoenicia/Saugerties area and be home in time to see my sister’s new house and go to a friend’s barbecue party.
Beach Plum Farm, a market/farm/restaurant venue, was one of our stops in Cape May a few weeks ago. Yes, I know it’s a bit glammed-up for a farm but I still love seeing the gardens, looking at the local produce and just hanging out by the fire pit area. Most importantly, I love how the farm harkens back to Jersey’s agricultural days.
Beach Plum Farm was founded by Curtis Bashaw, who also owns Congress Hall and the Virginia Hotel. The farm also supplies local produce to these establishments as well as other Cape May eateries. If you’re visiting Cape May this summer, make sure to check out Beach Plum Farm!