Saturday, February 12, 2011

Back to Paris

Actually this thread is about when I left Paris last February after my first "real trip" to Europe with stops in Italy to ski and in Paris to meet old friends and maybe meet a new one. And finishing a break from the past after a year of living on my own. I almost didn't go. That's fate.

Nothing ever turns out as one plans although the skiing and company were great and I plan to return in 10 days if I can negotiate the TGV schedules. But the trip to Paris changed me on so many levels that it will take years to figure it out entirely. Old friends were met and lost, new friends stayed friends I think and the newest friend became my best friend.

So I head back to Paris in a few days but I can remember the last days from a year ago, the travel home and arriving back at home. All this while I pack to go back.

The alarm rings early at 6am to make the direct flight to Atlanta and I awake alone and still fuzzy from the night before having closed the local bistro. No one is at the Metro station at Commerce and the RER out to Charles de Gaulle emerges from the underground in the dark but the first light of dawn is coming.

The Airport is shiny and new but the great deals at Duty Free are not alluring. The meal on Air France is miles above Delta with free flowing wine and spirits and a selection of 40 movies on my own TV screen which I can pause at will. And tracking the flight path as it passes the city I was born in and a recent Summer retreat is captivating, and ironic.

I arrive home with some new toys but the house is very quiet in the evening sun. Very quiet. As I process the last three weeks, not consciously, what emerges is a desire to travel and to share that wonder, and so in four days I will head back to Paris to share that compelling need to walk foreign streets, relax in new bistros, pick through flea markets and wine bins, walk some vineyards and watch the sun come up in the morning. And share a laugh or two.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Moving Quickly Backwards

As we get older we often look backwards while still putting one foot in front of the other as we enjoy new experiences and places to visit. We re-connect with old school friends and we cherish our family history and collect souvenirs, and photos. Mostly photos, if we are lucky enough to find them.

So on my trip last Summer to Copenhagen to visit family and walk through the old 'homestead', I collected many pictures of my cousins and my Grandparents, whom I never really knew. My Grandmother I saw maybe 10 times in my life and my Grandfather died in the 30s or 40s so I never laid eyes on the Baron.

They met at The Homestead in Virginia as he was looking for a wealthy American and had a Title, and she was looking for...well, who knows as she was just 18 and probably did what her parents suggested. Her family had come down from a farm near Columbus Ohio during the Civil War and had stayed in Cincinnati during its heyday and done well as a Federal Judge and working for a small soap company that went public.

So they were wed in a high society event at the Cincinnati Country Club in the 20s but after two kids and a few years living in Denmark where my Father and his brother were born, they separated and the reasons are lost to history but like today there are always two sides to every story. He drank and she cheated or she drank and he cheated. Or neither. Just like today, relationships are complicated. He died in a taxi accident in New York City and she spent the rest of her life moving around the country with a few years in Cincinnati until dying on her farm in Maryland.

So last summer I headed to my father's homeland and was greeted warmly by Danish cousins and we visited Rosenholm near Aarhus after a few hours of driving and a ferry ride from Copenhagen. The place is sort of a private museum and beautiful on a warm August day but I would hate to have to pay the heating bills in Winter. Of course, it would be a snap to shut down a few wings to save heat as indoor plumbing was not part of the original plans back in the 1500s,

I learned that back in the days the owners were quite a party crowd and during one party they threw thousands of glasses in the moat as this was some sort of custom back then, and the Queen and King would come to visit for the weekend primarily to hunt, but the Rosenkrantz's got tired of him taking the best stags so in his room they put in a 6 foot bed. He was 6 foot 2.

And when one of the daughters refused to take the hand of several knights in marriage after many years and then fell in love with a local boy who was not from the aristocracy, her father grew enraged, invited the boy over under the pretense of granting his daughters wish and knighting the poor boy. When the boy knelt down to be knighted the father drew a sword and cut off his head. The daughter was unconsolable and when she died was cemented in the wall of the castle. Xrays prove there is a skeleton in the wall, and there is a ghost in the place. My Father saw it when he spent the night back in the 40s.

So we all have some baggage and have stories to tell and now I know it's in my blood to travel and throw glasses in the moat and can relate to relationship changes, and can understand while I love Cincinnati as a hometown, I feel very at home in Europe.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Findlay Market -- Cincinnati

While my friends are walking to the farmers market under the Metro tracks on Rue de Grenelle, I am driving to the other side of the tracks to Cincinnati's only covered market at Findlay in the Over the Rhine area. In many ways we are worlds apart, yet more markets are popping up in local neighborhoods during the warmer months here in Cincinnati while in Paris the 70 plus markets run year-round and shopping in the rain and snow and dragging your daily rations back home is a time honored tradition. That's why scarfs are not a fashion statement but a necessity.

However, Findlay Market has much to offer and is a treasure to be supported. And as it is a small community one can ask your friend the waffle maker which seafood vendor is the best and so you walk over there and then chat up the vendor and tell her of your new way to cook mussels in a teapot, and as you leave she thanks you for the tip. Very French, yet in America. Not sure you can find that at Kroger these days. That's the difference. Some people like to know the people they buy their food from.

So with the idea that I needed materials to pre-game I loaded up on mussels, scallops, baguettes and bacon and headed home to start the festivities we call the Super Bowl. Maybe one day we will catch up with Paris and have dozens of year-round markets and a bistro on every corner, and maybe one day you can board a high-speed train in Cincinnati and be in Chicago in 3 hours. Right!

Pass the chips and salsa and get me another Bud from the 'fridge.