Paris Day 3: Getting in the Groove

walkaboutOur last planned day of acclimation involved the equivalent of an Australian “walkabout”. No planned outings, just whatever came up. So, we had an opportunity to tryout Clay’s new toy, a camera. This was also an opportunity to be a good wife and not complain about the purchase of an expensive camera that I knew would be used a few times and then get tossed aside for the convenience of a cell phone camera… but I digress.

Walked to the Notre Dame cathedral so Clay could take pictures of the buttresses. While there, I stumbled on a tour guide speaking English and explaining the cathedral to a crowd of folks. I asked one of the tourists about how to get on the tour and she explained that it was free! Being a firm believer in  opportunities knock, I had to track down Clay so we could join.

Thanks to the miracle of cell phones,  I was able to join the tour and give Clay directions for catching up with us. What an incredible tour!

The guide was a thespian doing this gig between roles! Naturally, the tour ended in a café where we had the “opportunity” to buy more tours, which we actually did.

The tour was great! He took us to

  • Saint Michel Fountain
  • Notre Dame de Paris
  • Tuileries Gardens
  • Assemblée Nationale
  • The Louvre
  • Palais Royal
  • View of the Grand & Petit Palais
  • Haussmann’s Paris
  • Incredible views of Eiffel Tower
  • Latin Quarter
  • Pont Neuf
  • Place de la Concorde


Walked 7 miles….. Nap time again….

Paris Day 2: Working the Plan!

IMG_4332Awoke in Clay’s bucket-list city on the second day of our trip.  He’s been dreaming of visiting Paris for over 20 years. So, following our mantra of “do it while we can”, we decided to do Paris for his 70th birthday.

Now we get to test our “plan” to systematically see Paris without exhausting ourselves. So, our plan was to take the Hop on Hop off bus (HonHof), but Travelocity got it all wrong. We went to the address provided by them to pick up our tickets, but it was an apartment building with a buzzer system. Being in a foreign country, we weren’t sure if this was how they do things in Paris, so we decided to enact part 2 of Clays dream, which was to visit as many sidewalk cafes as possible. We selected a café within eyesite of the HonHof door so we could see if anyone opened it.

After waiting 20 minutes, we decided not to let no stinkin bad directions disrupt our “plan” so we began working on Plan B. We could try the next address provided by Travelocity but remembering the “fool me once…” saying, we nixed that idea. Thanks to Google, we were able to find a HonHof bus stop where we hopped on, traded our voucher for tickets, and began our tour of Paris…. Okay the Plan is working!

Originally, we planned on staying on the bus and just sightsee, but when we reached the Military Museum of the Army of France (Les Invalides), my bladder suggested that we should stop. This was my first opportunity to learn about the culture of toilettes in France which translates to “no tickie… no laundry”. In other words, you must pay to use toilets. In this case, we would have to purchase a ticket to the museum to access the toilettes ☹ A little ingenuity got us around the ticket problem….

After our HonHoff tour, we returned to our incredibly beautiful boutique hotel room where art decorated the ceiling and every wall!

Recharged after our afternoon nap, we started looking for evening entertainment and remembered the jazz club, Chez Papa. Naturally they were all booked up on a Saturday evening, but since it was so close we decided to take a chance and drop by.

A lady met us at the door (maybe owner?) and naturally she told us all seats were reserved. Not sure why (maybe it was the grey hair or the American accent), but she decided to seat us at a table by the front door which was far from music. She told us she could move us if someone cancelled. Being a skeptical American, I didn’t believe her, but was happy she seated us. Later in the evening, she actually moved us up front!

Hubby is very adventurous and he ordered Escargot (snails). I am not as adventurous, but I tasted them and they were actually good!

The club reminded us of Blues Alley, a jazz club in Washington DC. Chez Papa is intimate with seats within 1 foot of performers. The club is small (maybe seats 50) and has an upstairs half balcony overlooking the performance space. The night we were there, they had a 3-piece combo that played straight up old school jazz.

Chez Papa Is magical! If you like jazz, this is a place you must visit.

Great ending to our second day in Paris

Chez Papa


Paris Day 1: The Best Laid Plans

Blog - Seine

Maturity primarily means that the mature person has made mistakes from the low of 0 (no big deal and laughable) to a high of 10 (a story that we will tell in our rocking chair). Since we (hubby and I) count ourselves among the mature, we developed a loose plan for our Paris visit beginning with our “goto site”, Tripadvisor. Tripadvisor is where all mature people post their experiences, plans, advice and questions so others can learn.

Tripadvisor taught us to underplan because we would not be able to do all that we wanted, and we took that advice seriously. Additionally, we built time into our schedule so we could rest. This resulted in having three anchor activities…. the Louvre, Versailles and Notre Dame around which we built everything else.

Day one was our acclimation day when we allowed ourselves to begin adjusting to the 8-hour time difference. The only plan for the day was ticket purchases and strolling. It was a good thing we hadn’t planned anything because we laid down for a nap and disappeared into LaLa Land.

When we awoke, my cellphone said 10pm, but that was clearly incorrect because we could see that it was light outside. Apparently we were more tired than we knew and had slept through the night. Then our concern was that we would miss breakfast that was scheduled to end at 11am. I quickly dressed and went downstairs to grab breakfast and something for hubby.

When I reached the reception area, I confirmed with the attendant that breakfast went until 11am and went to the lower level for the buffet. When I reached the breakfast room there was not only no buffet but no people! Now I’m wondering what’s going on and go back to the desk clerk to explain that breakfast was in fact NOT being served!

He looked at me quizzically and explained that breakfast began at 7am and lasted until 11am. At this point, it began to dawn on me that something weird was going on and I asked him for the current time. He responded that it was 10:45pm. Oy Vey…. The time on my cellphone was correct after all!!! We hadn’t really slept through the night. We were fooled because it is still light outside at 10pm in Paris.

No one on Tripadvisor had mentioned that sunset is around 10pm in mid-June, with twilight lasting almost until 11pm. So hubby and I undressed and got back into bed 😊

Stay tuned……



G’Dad and G’Ma

Our grandkids would be embarrassed. G’Dad and I are constantly fumbling in the dark for a solution that is readily available through the Google. Yes, I said “the Google”. Youngest G’son laughed when I first used that term. It’s kinda like Trump when he refers to “the Blacks”. I am frequently referring to “the Google” which I think is appropriate because it is both a noun and a verb.

By way of background, G’dad and I work hard to keep up with technology, but it is impossible. He started out as a database specialist (i.e., data mining) and I was a computer programmer (i.e., systems engineer). Keeping up is not only hard for us but for others. Like the dog chasing the truck down the street, we’ll never catch up, but we have lots of company.

This morning I found myself lamenting that I no longer have a clock radio (an old fashioned combination of clock and radio used to wake people up for work.) so I can listen to NPR when I wake up. Oops, I forgot that I can get Podcasts.  Duh! That’s another thing…. They keep renaming things. A podcast is just a series of recordings so why don’t they just call them recordings. Like Aps are just “applications” that used to be called programs. And the one that tops them all is movie versus film versus video. Oy vey!

But I digress. This whole streaming thing is wonderful. Not only can I get NPR podcasts, but I can get just about anything that has been filmed, recorded or spoken for many years back. We used to lament having 800 channels of junk, but now we have streaming with Youtube,  Empire, Game of Thrones, Billions, and all my favorite tv shows that I missed. That’s the upside. The downside is that I now spend too much time bingeing on series/movies/films.

Oh well…. Have to get back to season one of Billions.


Ignorance is Bliss

Colson Whitehead, Author Underground Railroad


Being born in the semi-south (northern Virginia) and raised during the 50ties, I had a brush with segregation. I use the term brush because when compared to my more southern counterparts, my life was a piece of cake. I recall that I could not try on hats at the local Woodrow and Lothrop department store. I could not go to the movie theater one block from my house, and could not eat in local restaurants. Nor could I attend local swimming pools, skating rinks, and schools and neighborhoods were segregated. These were just a few of the many things that were part of my life in the semi-south. It was easy to view these things as “the way life is”. Then 40 years later my education about the system of slavery began.

My mis-education about the system of segregation and slavery was based upon the minute information disclosed during elementary school history class which was buttressed by the sanitized movies about the wonderful lives of slaves (aka Gone with the Wind). Even Bill O’Reilly said slaves at the white house were “well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.” Whitehead’s book, Underground Railroad, turned my thinking about the institution of slavery upside down and inside out.

I read Whiteheads’s book during an intersection of events. First, was a couples vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, which I learned was ground zero for the slave industry. The second event was the receipt of a Smithsonian magazine titled Black in America prompted by the opening of the  African American Museum. The third occurred because I was desperately looking for a good book to read, which led me to the New York Times book review where The Underground Railroad was listed. Finally, I joined a book club and naturally the book being read this month is The Underground Railroad.

I probably would have overlooked any one of these events and filed it away under miscellaneous knowledge soon to be forgotten. It was the convergence of the four events that has thrown me into a tailspin.

While visiting Charleston, I was able to view the history of the major center of the slave slave-posterindustry from a purely business perspective. How well organized it was with great record keeping systems.. At one point, there were 40 different auction businesses housing brokers with jail cells for the “enslaved Africans.” It was in Charleston that I learned the term “enslaved Africans” as the correct new terminology that acknowledges the humanity of people considered property. The auction houses were the terminus for a network of slave catchers, slave thieves, and brokers ranging across the southern states. When someone needed money they would simply sell some of their “property” through this network. Viewing this from a business perspective allowed me to ignore the emotional impact of selling children away from their parents and wives from their husbands.

When I returned home from Charleston, the Smithsonian magazine was there to continue my education. It was filled with stories from the new African American museum which addressed the contributions of Enslaved Africans to the development of the United States. It described the migration of enslaved Americans after the 13th Amendment was passed (12/6/1865) and the effects of that migration. Then when I picked up the Underground Railroad all the emotions began to flow as I read of the degradation, beatings, hangings, maiming, rape, and psychological damage inflicted upon my ancestors. His book is based upon “slave” oral histories captured by the Library of Congress wrapped in incredible creative writing skills.  The “business perspective” barrier that I had erected came crashing down around my ankles.

Now I am faced with book club where I will be the only brown skinned person in the room. This should be interesting.

I believe

Image result for spirituality

While taking a tour of Charleston, South Carolina, the tour guide asked everyone where they were from, and I said Alexandria, Virginia. Since he was very familiar with the area churches, he asked “what church do you belong to?” Everything he had said up to that point made it clear that he was a a devout church goer and choir member. I knew I had to come up with a name or he would launch into a stream of questions about my beliefs, and a tour bus was not the place where I wanted to have this discussion.

Fortunately, he knew the area I was from and added more specificity to his question. “Do you belong to Alfred Street Baptist”. To which I quickly answered “yes”.

Now, this was not the first time I had encountered a scenario like this. The first time was at a Baptist women’s retreat. My best friend, Maryland, was always asking me to attend functions at her church. So, I finally said yes. We broke up into groups, and started chatting among ourselves. Then came “the question” “what church do you belong to.” Without thinking, I said “I don’t belong to a church”. You would have thought I had admitted to being an alien. The earth stopped spinning. Conversations stopped in mid-sentence, and all eyes were on me. The answer is complicated. How could I explain to them that I didn’t believe in one of the basic tenets of their religion…. The bible. How could I explain my spirituality versus their religiosity.

I chickened out. I said that my husband and I visit churches, but hadn’t picked one. Fortunately, that was an excuse they could understand, and  the world started spinning again.

I’m going to have to work on my answer. I want to be able to answer with conviction. I want to admit that I believe in the connectedness of all mankind, which exceeds the bounds of religions. My wussiness is my major character flaw. Next time, I will stand up and witness!

Stay tuned


ut news desk

“Staged at UT Studio”

You know you’re important when you walk into a room or step up on a podium and heads turn. You know you’re important when people go out of their way to acknowledge you and cater to you. You know you’re important when people come to you for advice and guidance. So what happens when all that stops? Does that mean you are no longer important?

Is that why people un-retire or never retire (i.e., Phelps, Letterman, Ali)? I’ve seen people who hang on to vestiges of themselves and it is not pretty. You see them at receptions where it is obvious that their time is past. People are polite to them, ask how they’ve been and then move away as if they didn’t exist. I could join Boards and committees, but I will not be a vestige. I will not waste time trying to hang on. But, what do I do with the business knowledge accumulated over the last 40 years. Be a consultant…  been there, done that. Be an educator…. Been there, done that. Or… move on.

Of course, what is really important is definition of oneself apart from definition by others. Now that I think about it…. I’ve actually played many “important” parts over the years…. Mother, congressional fellow, grandmother, sister, professor, boss, wife, association executive, and other roles that I can’t even remember.

How wonderful it is to be able to define myself once again.

Stay tuned