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Posted by on Apr 19, 2017 in Family and friends, Travel | 0 comments

A Quick Pause

A Quick Pause

With the girls going to two school systems with different vacation weeks, our Spring Break was pretty much limited to five days.  And so with that limited time, we decided for a quick getaway in Miami even though we already had spent Spring Break there two years ago.  At least with Miami, we did not have to worry about connecting flights, time change or unpredictable weather.  Sunny days, entertainment and good food are pretty much guaranteed.

I wish I can say we did all these novel things while in Miami. The reality was that we wanted to enjoy every minute of sitting by the pool and the beach and really not doing much of anything.  Our sole outing, apart from eating out, was going to the Perez Art Museum while my biggest accomplishment was finishing two books.

As short as this vacation was, I still feel recharged from putting a quick break from the usual routine.  How was your Spring Break?

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Posted by on Jan 11, 2017 in Art, France, Travel | 0 comments

Centre Pompidou Again and Again

Centre Pompidou Again and Again

We spent the last day of 2016 at the Centre Pompidou, our go-to place for art exhibits whenever we’re in Paris.  In recent years, the exhibits at the Pompidou, from Lichtenstein to Klee, have all been so comprehensive, fascinating and unique.  The artists featured at this place, unlike those at other top museums in Paris, are often fresh, modern and slightly provocative — totally my cup of tea.

I guess I am not alone in my love for the Pompidou.  According to a recent newspaper article in France, the museum had a 9% increase in attendance in 2016, when most Paris venues were empty due to terrorist fears. During the same period, other more traditional Parisian museums like the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay lost 15% and 13% respectively of visitors.

But enough of the facts, right?  The exhibits we saw, Cy Twombly and Rene Magritte, were quite delightlful.  The temperature in Paris that morning was below 30 degrees Fahrenheit and the line in front of the museum was quite long and moved at an annoyingly snail’s pace.  Despite the harsh elements, we stayed in line because it was our last day in Paris and we knew that we won’t get another shot at seeing these two great exhibits together again.

Twombly and Magritte are such different artists.  Twombly’s free flowing, almost anarchic style is a stark contrast to Magritte’s methodical and philosophical approach to art.  Just look at the images below…

Cy Twombly

Rene Magritte

The funny thing about these two particular exhibits is that my admiration for these two artists were reversed after seeing their works closer and more extensively.  I was not a  Magritte fan before the show but I came away from it utterly impressed with the precision and thought the artist put into every single one of his works.   On the other hand, Twombly, left me a little flat with his carefree style and oversized canvases.  I supposed Twombly’s works just did not move me  or fascinate me the same way Magritte’s art did.

 

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Posted by on Jan 4, 2017 in France, Travel | 0 comments

Normandy For A Week

Normandy For A Week

Happy New Year! Hope that you had a wonderful holiday season spent doing things you love with people near and dear to your heart. We spent about 10 days in France, most of it in my happy place, Normandy. It’s always a little different to see a place you love at a different time of the year. There’s always fear that the said place would not live up to your vision of it, especially as the harsh elements of winter take toll on its natural beauty.  Given that we see Normandy mostly in July and August, I tend to associate it with verdant green landscapes, at their peak and in full glory in the summer.

I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed with Normandy in the week we were there. We were blessed with decent weather, no rain and only bitter cold temperatures at the end, so surely my views here are completely biased, right? In all seriousness though, seeing the light in Normandy, the way the sun shines at different hours of the day, makes me understand why so many Impressionists painters did their work here. There is something soft and romantic about the way the sun illuminates different Norman pastures and landmarks.

Spending time in Normandy and Paris twice this year also makes me look forward to the time when the girls will be in college or even older when I can spend unrestricted amount of time here. There’s something about these corners of France that gives me comfort and feel like home to me. Does that make sense? Do you feel that one part of yourself belong to a place you don’t currently call home? I do, I feel that a part of my soul stays in France whenever I head back home to America.

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Posted by on Dec 26, 2016 in Family and friends, France, Travel | 0 comments

Week 52/52

Week 52/52

Life lately in 2016

The last week of 2016 is here!  What a crazy year it has been with all the ups and downs in our everyday lives.  As many variables and unknowns face us in 2017, I know one thing we’ll always have is the love of family and friends.   I plan to hold  on to those whom I cherish a little bit more in the new year and minimize any negative presence in my life.   Life is just too short to bother with the trivial and unnecessary. The death of loved ones in the last few years along with those of singers and artists who were such a part of my childhood are simple reminders how fleeting our time on Earth is.

I am not sure yet what I want to do with the blog in the next year.  A part of me wants to stop blogging with my girls getting older and the pull for them to live their own lives become stronger.  Another possibility is that I continue writing in this space but focusing more on my own personal narrative (and less of theirs), knowing how much writing fulfills my soul.  It’s doable but challenging given how much of my self-definition revolves around motherhood.  Yet another option is to just focus on Instagram and let my photos there do the talking.   An easier option but a bit limited as a communication outlet.    What to do, what to do?

I want to share some photos from our Christmas in France at my in-laws this year.  We have not spent Christmas here for five years so our visit was definitely long overdue.  The girls have little cousins here now too so there is a stronger need to come to France for all of them to start building some memories and bond even just for a few days.

Have a great week!!!

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Posted by on Nov 15, 2016 in Family and friends, Travel | 0 comments

Week 46/52

Week 46/52

Life Lately in 2016

I don’t remember an election where so many family members and friends voted differently. A divisive campaign it was, with an America that has come undone.  It’s a major blow for people like me who lean Democratic and cannot look past the hateful speech spewed during the Presidential election.  Like everyone else, I’m asking, “what now?”

Well, life still has to go on. We need to go about our daily business and celebrate life’s milestones. Going to a wedding outside Los Angeles this weekend sure helped as I was able to reset and focus on the simple pleasures and rituals in life.

But I am not going to lie about the road ahead, which will be bumpy and often not easy.  And while I yearn to  shut everything off, I know I cannot be completely still.   I will try to stay positive and keep an open mind about the changes ahead but I must also stay informed with all the cabinet appointments and potential policy changes and take action when necessary.

Chin up everyone!  There’s much work to be done…

untitled-35-of-119 Laguna Beach 

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untitled-24-of-119 Smallest Cathedral in world

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Posted by on Sep 8, 2016 in Travel | 0 comments

Weekend in Montreal

Weekend in Montreal

Montreal, cool Montreal, it’s where we spent Labor Day weekend.  I just love how this city just mixes so many elements together and come out with its unique city vibe.  You can see it in the way the city residents go back and forth between English and French, the modern design pretty ubiquitous downtown juxtaposed against old Montreal, the foodie scene  that’s vibrant and diverse.  If it weren’t so cold in the winter, Montreal definitely would have been a serious contender as a city to live in during my 20s.  But that was another lifetime…

So, I thought I’d share some of places and restaurants we visited and loved.

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  • Old Montreal – It’s fun to visit this lively section of town with its lively markets and restaurants.  Must-sees are the city hall as well as Chateau Ramezay, a UNESCO-classified former governor residence, and the garden behind the residence.

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  • Boutique de Metiers d’art du Quebec 20, rue Saint Paul Ouest – Great store for souvenirs as well as crafts made by local artisans.  Ines ended up getting a cute stuffed animal from here.
  • Lunch a Porter 355, rue Saint Paul Ouest – A great shop that’s all about lunch, from bento boxes and thermoses to lunch bags.  The design of most products are strongly influenced by modern Japanese design.  Lucky for us, they also have an online shop that sells most of the items from the store.
  • Le Cartet 106, rue McGill – A great brunch place with a grocery store in the front that sells delicious pastries and local delicacies like foie gras with maple syrup.

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  • Brasserie T 142, rue Jeanne Mance – A moderately priced restaurant with a French menu that’s situated by the Contemporary Art Museum.  It prides itself in using fresh Quebecois ingredients.  Try the escargots, osso buck and sea bream on the menu.

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  • Jean Drapeau Park – Situated on Ile St-Helene, the park is a wonderful urban oasis that hosted the 1967 World Expo.  Remnants of the expo, such as a giant sculpture by Alexander Calder and the Montreal Biosphere, are part of the park’s allure.  Take the ferry back if you’re heading back to old Montreal — it’s  a great way to appreciate Montreal’s waterfront and skyline.

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  • Jardin Nelson 407, place Jacques-Cartier – Appropriately named, the restaurant looks like a floral garden from the outside.  This immense restaurant that seats about 400 has good food and live music on Sunday mornings.   The food is delicious — I had the fresh salmon salad with rice vermicelli, an ideal summer dish with its light flavor.
  • Deville Dinerbar 1425 Stanley – This place is a must for anyone who loves to eat and indulge bit.  Everything we tried from this place was delicious with portions more than enough for two to three people to share.  Try the Korean tacos, poutine (Montreal specialty), the burgers, shakes, beignet and pain perdu.  Make sure you wear loose clothing as you’ll probably gain a pound or two after a meal here.

Hope this post helpful.  Montreal, I hope to see you someday soon…

 

 

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Posted by on Aug 11, 2016 in Travel | 0 comments

Doing Amsterdam In Four Days

Doing Amsterdam In Four Days

It’s crazy to think that we were able to see so much of Amsterdam in a four days. I think it’s the fact that the city was easy to navigate and everything was relatively close that we were able to see all the places we wanted to check out. Plus, the Dutch are also very helpful and friendly and pretty fluent in English that everything just came easy.

I want to share some of highlights of our trip — what we did, where we ate, what to eat, and how we got around.   I’m sorry that this post is a bit long but I hope it helps some of you who are thinking of going to Amsterdam in the near future.

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Things to Do:

Amsterdam is teeming with museums and historical sights. Here are some of our faves:

* Koninklijk Palace – Built in 1648, this old town hall is still sometimes used by the Dutch royal family. The grandeur of this place is symbolic of the civic pride the Dutch felt after winning the 80 Years War against Spain.

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* The Dam – Right by the Palace, the Dam is the town’s main square that’s bustling with tourists and street entertainers, much like Times Square in NYC.

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* Van Gogh Museum – A must-see especially since Van Gogh is one of Amsterdam’s most well-known artists. There are lots of facts on Van Gogh here — his life, his passions, obsessions, illness and family.  My fave was reading his correspondence with his brother, Theo.

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* Rijksmuseum – A majestic museum with its impressive architecture.  It  has a wonderful collection of Dutch art.  The only down side for me personally was not seeing my favorite Vermeer works here though there were lots of Rembrandts to offset Vermeer’s absence.  A museum guard told me that some of Vermeer’s popular works are at The Hague.  Oh well…

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* Museum Van Loon – It’s a great museum to visit if you want to see how the rich families in Amsterdam lived in the 17th century. More on this on a future post.

* Westerkerk – It is Amsterdam’s most impressive and largest church.  It’s also where Rembrandt is buried.

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* Anne Frank’s House – A very sad part of Amsterdam’s history but I consider it a must-see. Chiara is supposed to read the Diary of Anne Frank next year for school so I thought it would be interesting for her to see where Anne wrote her journal.

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* Canal Cruise – The best way to see Amsterdam.

Where to Eat

A sampling of restaurants we tried, mostly in the Western Canal Ring…

* De Vergulde Gaper – Good pub-type food with some Indonesian influence from the Netherlands colonial days.

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* Lieve – Our favorite! This Belgian restaurant has three tasting menus with wine pairings for adults. We chose the slightly indulgent and delicious Mrs. Bubbles menu that the girls loved. The table setting was decorated with pearls as napkins holders and candles in martini glasses — just the kind of girly decor my Ines loves.

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* Seasons – A trendy but unpretentious restaurant that specializes in the freshest ingredients of the seasons. We also got to hang out with the owner’s dog during dinner — a great antidote to missing Brady.

* Pancake Bakery – For indulgent savory and sweet pancakes. The portions are enormous so I highly recommend sharing.

What to Eat:

We pretty much had great food the whole time we were in Amsterdam. The restaurant options were so diverse ranging from South American to Thai. I do recommend indulging in two of my favorite Dutch treats: poffertjes (Dutch mini-pancakes) and stroopwafel (Dutch waffles).

poffertjes

Getting Around:

I think the best way to get around is by walking around and discovering the different neighborhoods. You do have to be very vigilant while walking as there are bikes everywhere and most bikers do not follow street rules. We were there the last week of the Dutch school year and it was amazing to see parents take their kids to school on their bikes with no helmets or other protective gear we’re used to in the US. Taking the tram and taxis are also other options if you feel like you can’t walk anymore.

Hope this post is helpful.  Amsterdam, even for just four days, was so much fun that I would definitely go back in a heartbeat!

edamcheese

swayingsisters  Buildings are called “Swaying or Drunk Sisters” because of the way the different houses tilt in their own merry directions

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Posted by on Aug 1, 2016 in Family and friends, France, Travel | 0 comments

Week 31/52

Week 31/52

Weekly snapshots of family life in 2016

We are now back in the US, much to my mother’s relief.  While we were in France last month, she begged me frequently to go back to the US.  According to her, my girls will be much safer back in the suburbs of Northern New Jersey.   But are they really though?  I feel like there’s a certain amount of unpredictability as to when and where the next catastrophe will occur.  And while the US is a relatively safe country, reading about police violence and the Republican and Democratic conventions while overseas can make one think that our great country isn’t a safe haven either.

The thing is despite the Paris and Nice attacks, along with the Normandy killing last week, life still goes on in France.  The same way we all tried to carry on after 9/11 here in the US.  Yes, we were all impacted and hurt, and life is forever changed but we tried not to give up our basic rights that we enjoy in the free society we live in.  The same is true for France.  Most of the friends and family I talked to mentioned how wary and a bit more suspicious they are when out in public places but they still go on with the usual in their daily lives.

We plan to go back to France soon, maybe for the holidays.  My mother is not too happy about it but France is where our “other half” lives.

Have a great week!

lastbloom1 The last flower from our garden this summer

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eiffeltower View from Centre Pompidou

leshalles Newly redone Forum des Halles shopping center in Paris

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Posted by on Jul 25, 2016 in Family and friends, France, Travel | 0 comments

Week 30/52

Week 30/52

Weekly snapshots of family life in 2016

Our stay here in France is winding down.  We are leaving Normandy today to spend a couple of days in Paris. It’s always bittersweet, this part of the trip. I’m looking forward to going back home but I’m always sad to leave France because I think there’s always something essential we leave behind when we go back to the US. I cannot necessarily pinpoint as to what it is — maybe we’re more carefree, maybe we just spend more time together as a family away from daily distractions and demands when we’re here? But whatever it is, I always leave Normandy feeling a little bit more clearer about where I stand in life and what my values are, just a tad bit surer in my footing.  Perhaps all vacations do that, maybe distancing yourself from the everyday gives you better perspective to see things for what they are.

Some photos of what we’ve been up to the last week…

…Our last visit to the beach in Deauville where it reached 95 degrees, rare for this part of France.

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…Long overdue visit to pianist Erik Satie’s house in Honfleur. Satie was born 150 years ago yet the music he composed and played remain modern and fresh today.

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…Just walking around Honfleur and admiring this quaint town.

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…Going to a horse race in Deauville where both girls won on horses they placed their bets on.

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Hope you had a lovely weekend!

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Posted by on Jul 18, 2016 in Family and friends, France, Travel | 0 comments

Week 29/52

Week 29/52

Weekly snapshots of family life in 2016

We’re still in France.  It has been a rollercoaster of a week.  There was the high from being in Amsterdam and being reminded of how tolerance and diversity can work and the thrill of France going to the Euro Cup finals, which lifted the country’s spirit albeit for a short while.  Personally, I was happy to not play tourist at our house here, simply going to places we’ve known and just soaking in the beauty and history of everything.

Then, the carnage in Nice happened.  We were at my in-laws, getting ready for a family reunion that tends to take place around Bastille Day.  After watching the fireworks from the backyard, we got ready for bed.  Richard checked his phone one last time before retiring for the night and saw the news.  At the time, the news media reported only 20 dead. We knew that things will be bad whatever the final death count is. France, once again, has suffered another terrorist attack.

It’s exhausting to see what’s happening in France right now and read news from around the world, especially at home in the US where police killings are becoming more rampant. The world is on edge with another breaking news just moments away. The negativity that permeates our everyday lives is simply toxic and has reached alarming levels.

Something has got to change. I cannot control all the global stuff happening but I know that I want to go on — to live, to love, to experience and to travel. There’s a new world order we need to abide by. We can’t be as trusting as before, we need to be more vigilant, we need to take certain precautions. But we all still need to go on.

I came across these words by Anne Frank from our visit to our house a few weeks ago that’s helping me get by…

I know what I want,
I have a goal,
I have opinions,
a religion
and love.

— Anne Frank, April 11, 1944

Have a great week!

hotairballoon Hot air balloons behind our house

etretat Beautiful Etretat cliff

trouvillesunset Surreal Trouville sunset

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cousins.2 Cousin love

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