Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Island and the Desert

The Paris area is known as the "Ile-de-France" ... the island of France. Originally, it probably just referred to the literal island in the Seine currently known as Ile-de-Cité. But now the phrase serves to distinguish the Paris area from the rest of France - colloquially known as "the desert."

But anyone who has been to the French countryside knows that it's no desert. Parts of it are stunningly beautiful. We rented a car today and drove out to Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley. Here are a few shots of it.

You definitely need more French language skills out there than you do in Paris. But it's worth it. Paris is dense, urban, and fast-paced. It can seem rude and cold. But a place like Chambord is refreshingly slow and friendly. Balance.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Moment of Pride

This is a photo of me and my granddaughter, Sydney. It was taken in our hotel room in Venice last week. She is exceptionally beautiful.

Not pictured here are her mom, Savannah, and her Dad, Kevin. But you can chase those down on Facebook.

Savannah and Kevin have done a great job shifting into the parent role over the last 6-plus months. And Sydney hit that perfect storm last week: teething, diaper rash, and too hot. They powered through it - sleep deprivation and all.

Anyway, all this to say that I am really proud of Vanna and Kevin. And I love that little girl!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sacré Coeur

Today's adventure: Sacré Coeur. It was an adventure because it was 27˚ C (about 86˚ F) and there was a very large Hummer-like pram involved. But there was also a picnic lunch with some Vouvray involved. So it ended well. Here are 4 of the 5 weary travellers:

There's also a tradition at Sacré Coeur for musicians to set up on the steps, open the case, and perform for change. I've seen many of them - this guy had an exceptional voice. Because of the setting, these dudes always do covers. But I keep hoping I'll be surprised someday by some quality singer / songwriter stuff.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Southern Europe

I've spent about half of the last week in Southern Europe. We would generally include Spain, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Greece, etc in that category. In my case, it was Italy (for leisure) and Spain (for business).

From a business perspective, it's easy to have one's attention continually drawn toward the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Nordics, France, Belgium, and Germany. And, in fact, even though all of Europe is in my portfolio, I've spent most of my time with that handful of countries. But there is something highly compelling about Southern Europe.

Sometimes I wonder if it's like a time machine for Americans. Those countries: Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece were all exceptional political, economic, and military powers at one time. They are lovely places today but, at this point in history, it would be a stretch to call them "powers" along any of those dimensions. They are past their days of world leadership. Still, they're fine. They have rich cultures and histories. The people are wonderful. Their economies aren't world beaters but, generally speaking, they do OK.

Are these countries instructive for what a post-exceptional USA looks like? And if so, is that a problem?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spring in Dublin

... so many varieties of grey to appreciate. The buildings, the sky ... all of it just screams out "Springtime!"

That photo is the view from my hotel room in downtown Dublin. And the truth is, Ireland is my favorite Anglo country in Europe. I generally really like visiting -- although I was a little low on motivation when it came time to board the flight this morning. But that's probably due to the flat-full of family I left behind: Lolly, Vanna, Kevin, and Sydney.

But then as soon as I get in an Irish taxi I remember how much I like it here. Irish cab drivers are a special breed. No matter how young or old, they possess depths of irony, sarcasm, and cynicism beyond even the hippest hipsters in the Mission. And they can carry on about, well, anything! That might sound tedious but I always enjoy those rides in from the airport.

Scott recently reminded me that, due to some heretofore undisclosed hanky-panky, we are actually Irish and not the British, Scottish mutts we'd always been told. Maybe that's where the connection comes from. Or maybe it's the Guinness - and it's true: it does taste better in Dublin.

In any event, visual variety notwhithstanding, I like Irleand!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Trocadéro, cloves, etc

Good morning boys and girls. Here are a few shots from last night - Lolly and I took a brief métro ride to the Trocadéro neighboorhood for a glass of wine before heading back to Montparnasse to "our" café for another one (and a clove).

There's a statue of Marechal Foch in the center of la Place duTrocadéro and the light was kind of interesting soooo ... He wanted a much more strict arrangement with Germany after WWI and expressed his dissatisfaction with the actual result by saying, "this is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years." He was right - give or take a few years.

And this sculpture is across the street with the inscription: "A La Gloire de l'armeee francaise 1914-1918." (to the glory of the French army). It's a Paul Landowski work - we were both struck by its similarity to the big sculpture on Mao's Mausoleum in Tiananmen Square ... whatever that means.