Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

What a lovely afternoon.
First one bird. With sparkling wine, of course!

And then another. With mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing, gravy, brussel spouts, yeast rolls, and cranberry. Not to forget a side of Smithfield ham. Hard to get more traditional.

Best of all were the good friends: Jim and Veti, Cher and Steve. Always good to sit down and break bread with people you love!

Makes a person thankful!

A10 Day Trip Back to Mexico

First morning back it was cold. And foggy! We couldn't see beyond the arroyo edge. It was as if the entire Parras Valley and the mountain range beyond had disappeared.

On Friday, we went to Torreón, but were unable to complete the visa renewal because one of our papers was incorrectly worded.

Back at Perote, we spent the weekend in the winery. By late Monday, most of the wine had been racked.

My big job on Monday was to see to the incorrect paper. That took about five minutes. I spent most of the day enjoying the garden

On Tuesday, we went back to Torreón. Getting the visa renewal application on file went very quickly, but there was not enough time to complete the application for our permiso para salir y regressar. I faced a huge crowd at the bank and when I returned to the immigration office, it was already closed. Not willing to face the ride back to Parras knowing we would have to return the following day, we opted to stay in Torreón that night. Without a chane of clothes, toothbrush or hairbrush, we made a pretty sorry lot the next morning. However, my tale of woe must have made an impression because the officer was able to process our permiso in an hour and a half instead of the usual three day minimum. Our decision to spend the night actually saved us two trips! 

The rest of the week we enjoyed almost perfect weather.

Omar came on Thursday and really spiffed things up. We got a couple of new items in the cactus garden. A tree to replace the sotol that died and a viejito cactus.

The aloe was showing off.

Pecan trees were turning gold

Pomegranates hung in the trees lonely and already ravaged by the birds

Stanley made himself busy cutting firewood

We had some good meals on the grill

And Solo Vino and I had some good walks.

His devotion to me is one of life's great mysteries. After being away for months at a time, my return is always cause for celebration and he stays close by until I leave again. If I am in the front of the house, he is on the front patio; if I am in the back of the house, he is on the back porch; if I am outside, he is never more than a few feet away. When we leave the house to visit friends, he always assumes he is invited, and because he is so lovable and well behaved he generally is on the guest list. He deserves a much more stay-at-home family, but I am grateful for his devotion. 

The vineyard tried to match the gold of the pecan trees, but the vines just looked tired.

The garden was teaming with flittering goldfinches.

And butterflies were everywhere.

Oranges are taking their good old easy time getting ripe.

Tumble weeds are collecting.

One afternoon we had monarchs in the garden.

Everyday the trees were more golden.

The bodega got new doors while we were there.

Lots of interesting insects . . , some of them were quite lovey dovey.

Both the insect and the spider look pregnant to me. Oh, goody!

Our time in Mexico was marred by the terrible news of missing students and their awful deaths. So much corruption. So much sadness. Not nearly enough will to change!
The LA times had an excellent article.

On Friday afternoon a bee stung me. More on that later.

I spent the Saturday with Estela. We went around town delivering certtificates of participation to all the artists who participated in the Alianza Art Contest last August. We were also able to make contact with some key artists who seem very interested in coordinating a gallery. I have my fingers crossed. Meanwhile, I cannot thank Estela enough for all she has done to promote art in the community. Muchas gracias, mi amiga!

When we got back to the house, Yoyo, Tencha and their daughter Annai were there . . . already sampling the white Zinfandel Annai taught us how to make last summer. What a great way to wind up a visit back to Mexico.

On Sunday, I accomplished three things. I sneezed all day, we finished racking the wine, and I managed to ready the house for our absense again. Putting all that together was very interesting.

We left on Mondday morning just as the sun was coming up.

I assume Sunday's sneezing fit was a prelude to what followed. On Monday's bus ride, I developed a raging rash that itched like crazy. First thing Tuesday morning, I was on the phone asking for an appointment to see the doctor. He prescribed a steroid and Benadryl cream. I wouldn't say it has worked like magic, but thankfully I am much better. I have some choice names for the bee that got me. Most of them are unprintable.

We will be here in south Texas for a couple of months. We've already had several meals with friends and Stanley is making the garden here look beautiful. I'm not surprised. He always does.

Please keep Mexico in your thoughts and prayers. My Mexican friends are facing some difficult decisions and there seems to be no Pancho Villa on the horizon.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 4-5 Flight Time

Up early to beat the metro traffic.

Our air bus is ready and waiting!

All aboard!

Back in Washington DC, we managed baggage collection, immigration, customs, a bus ride, and a metro trip all in a semi conscious state. Once we checked into the hotel, we perked up long enough to share a hamburger. First one of those I'd had in a long time!

Next morning, we enjoyed the colorful foliage outside our window

And a view of the Capitol building. What's with the shrouding? First the Panthéon and now the US Capitol?

By 5:00 we would land in San Antonio in the middle of a pouring rain storm. A few hours later after a hero's welcome and a delicious dinner, we would fall into a deep12 hour sleep. 

This trip is in the books. Time to start dreaming up a new one!

November 3 - Last day in Paris

We awoke to dreary skies, chilly winds and ominous weather forecasts, but with the Panthéon still on our list of places to visit we couldn't very well stay in the apartment.

Breakfast, then a stroll through our neighborhood park. 

This was our fourth trip through the park, and we were seeing this for the first time. The park was dedicated to the 87 children from this neighborhood who died at Auschwitz. These children had all attended the same nursery school. They were between one and six years of age. I almost wish I hadn't seen this. I don't need any more reminders of the terrible side of war! 

Off to see the Panthéon. I hadn't realized that the building started its life as a church, but it makes perfect sense. It wasn't fully given over to secular use until the burial of Victor Hugo in 1885.

If imposing larger than life marble sculpture is your thing, the Panthéon has you covered. Impressive!

Of course, I had to visit the crypt.

The second inscription is hard to read. It is for Alexandre Dumas.

The tomb of Rousseau.

Back outside, the skies were getting seriously dark.

We darted into a little cafe for lunch as it started to drizzle. I had the French onion soup and Stanley had green lentils. When it was all said and done we had shared both plates about 50-50. Finished off the meal with a scrumptious raspberry tart. 

Back to the metro between showers. By the time we got to the apartment it was raining in earnest. Talk about perfect timing. There was no excuse for procrastination. We got busy with the business of wrapping up our trip. Packing. Clearing out the apartment. Making a list for the customs people. Cleaning out the fridge and creating a last supper. By the time we got finished we were ready for an iTunes movie and an early night.

November 2 - Paris

We were a little slow on Sunday morning. Saturday's activities had taken a real toll. Besides that, we had an opportunity to experience the paper thin walls of urban apartment life. Perhaps the audio erotica in the background influenced our itinerary for the day.

Rue de Pigalle 

And Moulin Rouge

The tree studded boulevard was a total surprise.

Along with the classy architecture. The bottom floors might be pure sleaze, but the buildings are beautiful.

Shop after shop after shop of sex toys, costumes, movies, books, and related paraphernalia. Now this is what we expected!

Location, location, location! We all know those are the three most important words in real estate, but the juxtaposition of McDonalds and a XXX movie theater was a bit of a jolt.

I was expecting to see some interesting people on the street, but this guy was about the most colorful of the lot. (No, it isn't a mime.) Stanley thought our timing was to blame for the bland pedestrian group, but I reminded him that Bourbon Street in New Orleans runs 24/7. 

Back on the metro to Rue Cler. A very different street lined with cafes and shops of a very different sort.  

Most of the shops were closed, but you could still buy fresh fruits and vegetables. God forbid that any French cook would have to make a salad with yesterday's lettuce. 

And that brings me to something I have learned about myself. As much as I like to cook and eat, I don't pay nearly enough attention to the quality of food as I should. 

Where does it come from? How was it grown? When and how was it harvested? How was it transported? How long has it been in the market? What measures have been taken to help maintain freshness? These are questions the French cook asks every day and the answers are reflected in the beautifully presented delicious meals they prepare. I loved the food in France!

We have been aware of this attention to food in Italy, Croatia and Greece, but the French take it to a whole new level. 

We stopped for a snack and a beverage.

Darn good! As evidenced by the remains!

A short walk from Rue Cler brought us to the far end of Champs de Mars with the Eiffel Tower standing guard at the other end. 

The wind was having a high old time chasing leaves, tugging on scarves, dropping ice cubes down collars, and sending the day's litter flying! But some of us were transfixed. What a sight!

École Militaire stood behind us, many of its buildings abandonded. Don't you know those walls could tell a story or two?

Walking back to the metto station, I got this look at Napoleon's Tomb. A visit there will have to wait for another time.

Back at the apartment, we watched the sunset reflection from our window seat dining nook.