Nothing signifies the arrival of spring in the District of Columbia quite like the blooming of the cherry blossom trees. Having returned to Virginia on Wednesday, we took the Metro orange line into the District to the Smithsonian Station.
From there it was short walk to the Tidal Basin and the Cherry Tree Festival complete with blooms and petal showers! This is the final weekend, but visiting during the week it was un-crowded and in FULL BLOOM!
The first cherry trees were a gift from the Mayor Yuko Ozaki of Tokyo City to the city of Washington, DC. The Mayor donated the first trees to enhance the growing friendship between the US and Japan. Of the original trees only a few remain but a lot more that have been added over time around the Basin providing LOTS of color and blossoms.
Occasionally there were showers of blossoms as the breeze picked up and moved the petals around.
While the overall target date for the Cherry Blossom Festival is set each year, when they actually bloom is anyone’s guess. We were incredibly lucky to return to Virginia and have the opportunity to see these flowers in full bloom – rain is expected on Monday and I expect that will wash away any that remain.
We walked completely around the Tidal Basin, passed the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial before returning to the Metro for our train home. All in all we completed a 4-mile walk!
Ok, it’s been a while but we finally got to a really good restaurant here in Los Angeles.
Providence has been a local hot spot since it opened some 10 years ago and the number one restaurant in town for a number of years (slipped to #2 just this year). We had made a reservation for Friday, the only day of the week they have a lunch serving, to continue the celebration of Jessie’s birthday. Arriving at our appointed time (noon) we entered a dimly lit, with no real windows seating area and a color scheme that can best described as stormy, we took our seats and looked around (non of our party had been here previously). Adorning the walls and ceilings were fish nets (made from paper I think) hanging from the ceiling with barnacles going up the walls and soft glass panels on either side giving the lighting scheme and settled in.
We of course started of with a glass of wine – there is an extensive wine list, many different things available by the glass, and reviewed the dining options. There was various individual items we could have had but well felt the seasonal tasting menu (four course) would meet our needs nicely.
While the corkage fee was high (50 bucks!) we choose to open the bottle of 2006 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir Louise I had brought for our enjoyment.
The entire experience was wonderful from first to last. This is really a high-end seafood restaurant and they certainly lived up to this reputation. After a very pleasurable 3 hours (about the right time for a really good meal) we left and headed home.
Forty years ago, we moved from Bethlehem Pennsylvania to Alhambra California. Since that time, we have left the state many times but never for as long as this past “gap year adventure”. We are now back in Alhambra, staying with some friends, and enjoying the sunshine, warm breezes and generally beautiful weather. This is a really nice change from the 20’s, 30’s and 40s we have had since about Mid December.
We flew from our east coast base, Springfield VA, into Los Angeles March 14th. We left Springfield where the high was low 40’s and we arrived in Los Angeles where the low was upper 40’s. What a difference 3,000 miles makes! Since coming to LA we have been taking care of medical appointments for general health, knees, eyes, teeth, etc.,
visiting our wine – we have a storage locker in Glendale where a LOT of wine is resting waiting for us to open a bottle or dozens –
going to restaurants we have enjoyed in the past, visiting with friends we have missed and in general relaxing and having an enjoyable time.
We arrived in town soon enough to visit with winemakers Denise and Kirk of WesMar Wines
from Sebastopol in the Russian River area wine region. This included having a lovely dinner at Bacchus Kitchen and catching up. The following day was the Family Wine Makers Tasting, which we attended. The dinner was the highlight – the tasting the following day not so much. The tasting featured some 80 or more different wineries but nothing that really stood out as being special – with the except of WesMar of course.
Several years ago, we discovered that our Doctor, Garry, had theatre tickets the same night as we did – and we would try and coordinate getting together prior to the play to have dinner. Thus started a friendship outside of the doctor – patient relationship that continued once he retired (3 years ago) and we had the joy of hooking up with him this trip! He travels more than we do – he was heading to Madagascar when we connected a year ago, since then he has been to Columbia (the country of) and several exotic places. He is an avid “birder” and both track’s them in his logbook and also takes wonderful pictures of many.
One of Janeen’s things she has missed the most is visiting and volunteering at the Huntington Library and Gardens. For the last 5 or 6 years she has been a docent in the Herb Garden and has loved the experience. She has already visited once since we got back but will be going a couple more times in the next week or so.
So, while there are not a lot of pictures to share, we are continuing our adventure. In a couple of weeks, we fly back to Virginia where we will stick around for a couple of weeks to celebrate birthdays of Terri and Jason and then head back to Illinois to visit with Janeen’s dad. After that the current plan is to head SOUTH towards Georgia! Only time will tell what actually happens, but stay tuned, more adventures to report on as we move along.
Over the last several weeks we were in Macomb Illinois primarily working to get Janeen’s dad into a good living arrangement. For the last 10 years he has been living in a Senior Independent Living place that allowed him to do things on his own and they provided meals and various room services (laundry, cleaning etc). However, after experiencing a couple of falls in the last 6 months a higher level of care was needed. So, much of our time was getting him situated into the ‘right’ spot which has levels of assisted living. The more active and independent you are the less they have to provide support. Right now, Harold needs added assistance and they can provide it. As his strength improves he can be more independent but still have resources available if he needs them.
After getting him situated we were able to celebrate his 101st birthday. Friends and family shared the time with him.
Once we got Harold all situated it was time for us to return to Virginia to see our granddaughter, and pack for our upcoming trip to California! Next Wednesday, the 14th we fly into LAX and stay with friends for 4 weeks. Visiting close friends we have missed over the last 9 months (it has been since late June of last year when we were last in Los Angeles) , visit various doctors and make sure we are still OK to continue this traveling adventure appointments, eating at some of our favorite restaurants, visiting the Huntington Library and Gardens and of course collecting several cases of wine to bring back with us from our storage spot in Glendale.
We are still in Macomb Illinois. Macomb is a city and the county seat of McDonogh County, Illinois. It has a classic 19th century Courthouse on The Square, and a Carnegie Library that has been expanded using the
original architecture design. Situated in western Illinois, southwest of Galesburg the city is about 75 miles southwest of Peoria and 77 miles south of the Quad Cities. It is also about equidistant west from Peoria and Springfield. A special census held in 2014 placed the city’s population at 21,516. Macomb is the home of Western Illinois University “Leathernecks” the mascot bulldog and purple and gold decorate the town. There are also at least seven senior accommodations, some like Everly House (where we are staying) are Independent Senior Living, and others like Wesley Village Independent Living through assisted living and nursing/rehabilitation.
One of the things we have now remembered, living in SNOW isn’t the most fun. We left eastern Pennsylvania some 40 years ago and have not really even visited SNOW since that time.
We were in Macomb maybe a day or two and 3 inches of snow arrived followed by COLD…Most days not getting above freezing. We are now in a warm spell, high of 40! Snow can be really beautiful but damn, it’s COLD and WET.
Janeen’s Dad spent thirteen days at a Rehab facility where he was to get some rehab after a fall. This was NOT a good spot and after almost 2 weeks, Janeen got him admitted to the Hospital. Now in a different assisted place he is starting rehab again hoping to improve his overall condition. None of this is easy for a man who is going to be 101 on March 5th. Getting old is NOT for the faint of heart that’s for sure.
During the day, while Janeen is assisting her dad, David gets to explore the city of Macomb – and have coffee at the one ‘coffee shop’ in town.
Upside, they have good coffee and free Wi-Fi and is connected to a wine shop right next door!
This weekend is the Western Illinois University Jazz festival – while the title seems great it is really a showcase for high school and college groups no names of note participate (damn). Not likely we will make it there as the Lees of Virginia, Terri, Katie Beth, and Jason will be arriving for a Presidents Day weekend visit to see Grandpa Harold and it will be nice to have them here for a few days.
So, looking forward, still trying to figure out a time in March to get to Los Angeles and now booked for a weekend at Thomas Jefferson’s place, Monticello in June. It seems the friend who is getting married in September is a Jefferson relative and they have a “decedents” weekend and he has invited us to join him. His wedding, which I thought was going to be in Las Vegas in September, is actually going to be in Santa Barbara so we will be there in September. After ta visit to LA in March our hope is to begin touring along the east coast – hitting all those places we have read about over the years but have never visited – Savannah, Charleston, and other spots in the “south” and head North ultimately visiting in Bethlehem PA, NYC, Boston and getting up to Canada to Prince Edward Island. December will find us flying to Paris for Christmas and New Years with the Lees’ of Virginia to share the holidays with Ryan and Chris (again).
Still not sure if we will continue to rent our home in Alhambra or have it available should we want to stop all of this travel. So stay tuned as we move along this journey.
Thus begins the USA return adventure. The Wandering Lees basked in the family love in Springfield, Virginia and went about establishing the bi-coastal identity. No more searching out a laundry mat, a reservation for a bed, or a Metro pass.
Our Mercedes Blu was reunited with us at Mercedes of Arlington, shiny clean and ready for her first US checkup. We are not enthralled with the voice of the GyPSy, but she works. However, the touch pad application did not. So, MercyBlu had to go in for a check up after Eduardo diagnosed her needs. She gets a free bath each visit.
Janeen found her color fix for her hair, and a new coat of “wet” (Katie’s description) for her nails. David found a podiatrist to treat his plantar faciitis (now has a bedtime boot) Janeen signed up with Curves of Falls Church, David began classes at Gold’s Gym . We reconnected with Linda & Bob of Falls Church and Peggy & Mario of Maryland
The Virginia Lees decided to begin adoption negotiations for the white Prius that was fostered with them while D& J went to Europe. GPa & GMa are now card-carrying daycare pickup agents at Cody Daycare near Pentagon (Katie likes the reading light option in MercyBlu near her car seat).
We were intending to leave for Macomb, Illinois on February 7, but a January 26 call from Macomb Hospital put us on the road Saturday 27. Harold, Janeen’s dad, is recovering in assisted living from infection from an infected tooth and weakness caused by his COPE cough. We are staying at Dad’s home, Everly House, and visiting him daily to help him meet his goal of being mobile enough to return home. This included bundling him into MercyBlu on Tuesday 30th and transporting him to the oral surgeon appointment to get the offending tooth removed, then transporting him back to his bed at the assisted living facility, Heartland. His next-door neighbor, Bill, at Everly House has been recuperating since November at Heartland, and serendipitously, they are roommates at Heartland. We have set aside February to help Dad meet his goal, if possible, of returning to Everly for his 101 birthday on March 5.
Beyond that we are wide open with the only thing on our calendar a wedding in Las Vegas in September. There are some thoughts about flying to the West Coast and visiting friends, drinking some of our wine in storage there and making various doctor appointments but as yet that is still in the planning stages waiting for Harold’s recovery to be confirmed.
After the New Year, we relaxed and just enjoyed being together. On Tuesday, the 2nd, Claudia left to return to Morro Bay and we continued to enjoy the apartment. While there are LOTS of things left to do in Paris, we took in only a few more sites during our last week.
One morning, we decided to take in The Pantheon.
This is located in the Latin Quarter and was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve (patron saint of Paris) but later became a tribute to the secular as well as religious leaders of Paris after the Revolution.
In the Crypt are the remains of Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Louis Braille and a number of other significant people. It is a very large marble building and COLD inside. No heat to the place (big surprise) and it retained the cold long after it started to warm up outside. A lot of interesting French history depicted in murals on the walls and in the various displays throughout the building. French schoolchildren encounter these murals in their history books.
After the Pantheon, we headed out to visit the Arènes de Lutèce. This is the most important ruin from the Gallo-Roman era in Paris. Lying in what is now the Latin Quarter, this amphitheater originally could seat 15,000 people and was used to present gladiatorial combats. Constructed in the 1st century AD, much of the original structure has been destroyed with the exception of some of the terraces, cubbyholes situated beneath the lower terraces and some other structures remain.
For lunch Ryan took us to a Fondue spot not far away where we enjoyed a lovely lunch. I don’t recall when I have had fondue and it was a neat way to enjoy some mushrooms with cheese and a trio of meats (chicken, beef and duck we cooked in the boiling oil).
During last couple of days, we ventured out to the cheese shop of Laurent Dubois – considered to be one of the best chesemongers in Paris. He holds the highest designation for a cheesemonger and affineur in France. The shop had a strong selection of aged cheeses and small producers from around the country. Below the shop, in caves, he ages a few cheeses well beyond what others might but seems to have the ability to know when to release them. We picked up a few nice selections including a Mont D’ Or. This is only produced during the months between October and February and I have learned to bake it with garlic and wine ; delicious on a fresh baguette. When I said I was taking it with me on my flight the next day the vacuum sealed it! Wish I had done that with several other cheeses to bring back.
We also visited the music box store (again) – Avanti la Musica is a small shop jammed to the rafters and beyond with music boxes, interesting toys and fine gifts.
On Monday we four trekked out to Charles de Gaulle airports and Janeen and I boarded our flight back to the US of A .
We landed safely in Virginia and are now settled in with our son, Jason, daughter-in-law, Terri and grand daughter for a while. Not sure when the next post will happen so check back every so often to find out as we have a LOT more travelling to do before we settle down.
The decision on what to do for New Years Eve was actually quite difficult and easy at the same time. Paris – lots of different places we could have gone, parities, fancy dining, and restaurants with fantastic views abound. However, we decided to return to Le Réminet and booked a table for the 7:30. This place, which we have already been to on this trip and reported earlier, is only a few steps from Norte-Dame and Ile Saint Louis. This place is a semi-gastromic bistro with chic seating serving gourmet meals in a candlelit-vaulted room.
Just a few steps away from the restaurant is a cute music box store we stopped into prior to going into the restaurant. Avanti la Musica was filled with different music boxes and beautiful toys. Claudia picked out a lovely little gift for herself and we all enjoyed the place.
Chris and Claudia in a little shop by the Restaurant that had LOTS of music boxes and interesting toys.
Now for the main event of the evening.
Le Réminet is really a small place with maybe 30 seats and we had the table of honor (being the biggest party) at the round table in the corner of the place. Over the course of the next FIVE HOURS we were served a delightful dinner of maybe 8 courses. I did get a little carried away and ordered four bottles of wines during the evening.
At midnight we all rang in the New Year with Bonne Année and had a moment with the Chef to thank him for a lovely evening.
December 28th – three days after Christmas and 3 days before the New Year starts and we found ourselves taking a tour of the Paris Opera House.
The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It’s called Palais Garnier in recognition of the opulence created by the architect, Charles Garnier. Historically known as the Opéra de Paris or simply the Opéra it is the primary home of the Paris Opera and it’s associated ballet until the Opera moved into a new building Opéra Bastille in 1989. The Palais Garnier has been called one of the most famous opera houses in the world and is the setting for the novel The Phantom of the Opera and the subsequent plan by the same name.
The interior of the building is filled with gold leaf, statues, decorative ceilings, huge entrance stairs and lots of other stuff that will impress the visitor. Our audio guide tour was well worth the cost and very informative.
We have been in several opera houses during our various adventures (Budapest, Venice and Prague over the last few years) and this is one of the most impressive ones we have seen.
After our tour it was time for lunch and we went to the Dome at the Galeries Lafayette.
Of course, while we were there, we did stop and look at the decorations on the inside of the building and particularly the fancy ceiling. Always an treat to visit and take a gander at beautiful art.
The Dome Restaurant is exactly that – plastic domes on the roof of the building. While there we of course had to take several pictures of the buildings around us. Lunch was actually quite good – given there really isn’t a kitchen on the roof and the hot stuff came from down stairs – a lovely way to spend the afternoon as the rain passed by.
After lunch we headed back to the apartment to rest up for the next adventure.
We have been in a lot of churches over the course of our travels but nothing equals Sainte Chapelle with its stain glass displays of Biblical stories. Built at the direction of King Louis IX over the course of seven years, it was and completed then consecrated on April 26, 1248. Built to hold the King’s collection of holy relics from the Crusades, it has become a must see destination for anyone visiting Paris. The Crown of Thorns, however, is now at Notre-Dame.
Located not far from the Cathedral of Notre-Dame it was originally part of the King’s Palace, it was originally intended to house the relics acquired by King Louis IX he acquired including fragments of the True Cross, the Holy Lance and the Crown of Thorns. The Church is divided into two levels –
a lower level was a place of worship for the Palace Staff and others while the
upper level that is truly monumental and sumptuously decorated with stain glass was for the King and Regent Queen. Around the upper level are among the finest of their type in the world, are the great stained glass windows.
When you first walk in, on the lower level, you see the structure of the building, some stain glass above the lower walls and a statue of Saint Louis. Along one side are souvenir stands and some commentary but nothing really dramatic. However, after navigating the spiral stairs (that were originally for the servants as the King entered at the upper level) you get to the main event. Fifteen huge mid-13th century windows fill the nave and apse while a large rose window with flamboyant tracery dominates the western wall. There are 1,113 stained glass windows! Much of the chapel, as it appears today, is a re-creation, although nearly two-thirds of the windows are authentic.
The Audio guide takes you though most of the windows, the sculpture and other features of the room. We spent the better part of a couple of hours going over the place – listening to the audio guide, reading the information and generally taking it all in. Each stain glass widow tells a story – most from the bible but a couple about King Louis and his life. All in all it is really an impressive place – almost overwhelming with the beauty.
After we finished up with Saint-Chapelle we went next door to the Conciergerie.
Formally part of the palace it became a prison, a revolutionary court and Marie Antoinette’s prison until her trial and execution. The upper floors of the building now house various courtrooms and government offices while the basement has representative rooms showing the cells that were used and information about the revolution and the Reign of Terror.
After finishing up here we headed out for lunch across the Seine river at L’Epi Dupin. This was a recommendation from a friend in LA, Randy, and it was not a disappointment at all.
Ryan acquired the chef’s cookbook. We chose to have the tasting menu and three bottles of wine!
After enjoying our lunch, we took the bus to the Eiffel Tower arriving early evening (6ish or so).
Janeen and I headed back to the apartment while Ryan, Chris and Claudia waited in line for tickets to go up the tower to the second level of observation.