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Bottoms up…

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Shame on me for not posting most of February and all of March.  Work and life have been busy (I know you’re tired of hearing that excuse, but it’s true).  We’ve whooped it up around Belgium and Paris with friends who were visiting, we’ve gone to a few wine tastings and lots of dinners and local outings.

Same old, same old … but never dull!  Even a trip to the flower market could turn into bubbly on the curb — especially when the sun is out!

The Grand Place is all decked out for Easter, including a big ferris wheel, which I’d like to post pics of, but I’m sure it’ll be down before I get to it.  We’re leaving on Saturday for our big trip to Asia.  I’m really excited about it.  We begin in Beijing where we’ll see the Great Wall and Forbidden City, then we’re off to South Korea where we’ll whoop it up with Jordan and Wilbur and watch a Korean baseball game, imbibe at a Korean BBQ, do a DMZ tour and check out Seoul, then it’s off to Shanghai and then Hong Kong.  Every stop except Beijing includes fun time with friends, some of whom I haven’t seen since moving away from the UAE.  So, a busy, good time will be had.

Another thing I’m excited about is it’s Spring!  Days are blessedly longer and work is winding down (I’m already planning away for next year).  When we return from Spring Break, we have Game of Thrones parties, more friends visiting, weekend trips, Dou Dou fest (before that the Beer Fest!), more dinners and plenty of Grand Place adventures to look forward to.  And then it’s time to fly back to the states for the summer where I’ll get to swim with the grand baby, my kids and friends.  Let the warm days of fun begin!

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And while I like this picture: Adieu to the long dark days of winter.  LOL Winter is NOT coming here  — until November.

Let there be snow!

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Guess who got her first snow day?  Whoop whoop!  Badger and I joined friends for breakfast, then we walked the park and had fun watching the kids pummel each other with snowballs, came home, cleaned, sipped tea with Chris, and totally just enjoyed being alive and home on a cold, wet winter day.

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It’s so beautiful, especially early morning.  Now, that the day is almost over it’s slush and dirt snow.

Lol, that said, the dog isn’t a fan of the cold.  To get his perspective click on his pic below. img_7746.jpg

As usual, I’ve been busy with work and fun.  Before Kyle and Kendra flew back to Arizona we got to see the Niki de Saint Phalle exhibit at the museum across the street from me and the weirdest performance (think fantasy characters on acid) at the Collegial.  Both were a lovely way to end our time together, and I was melancholic when they left.  I so miss spending regular time with my babies.  I love this life of mine, but, well, you know, I want both worlds together.

Last weekend I spent in Amsterdam playing with friends.  I finally got to visit the Moco museum, which I’ve been wanting to tour forever.  I highly recommend.

Sorry, turns out I didn’t snap too many pics, but here are few Amstie goodies for you. Never a dull time there!

We also had our own Yellow Jacket protest here in Mons.  Laura and I were walking Cupcake and Badger and ran right into their parade.  We brought our dogs home to avoid the noise, and the protesters ended up walking right under my window.  No violence, just noise.

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It’s an interesting time to be aging.  So much anger and disappointment among many.  There’s a lot to be angry about.  I hope/pray/dance/beg/whatever it takes for my species to figure its shit out.  We have oh so much to be thankful for and in love with; may we remember that before we destroy it all.  {this is what happens when I have a day off to also sip tea and reflect]

My man is in the states, returning here March 1.  I’m not going to lie:  I LOVE having time alone (don’t worry I also miss him and love our time together too).  He’s catching up with friends and family while getting some of his stuff taken care of.  He finally got to meet Kaylene’s baby, and never has he looked sexier to me than in this pic right here…

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Torin says, “Badger you’ve got competition.  I’ve got him wrapped too!”

Next week I’ll be at The Hague all week watching some of our students play out their roles in Model United Nations.  It ought to be a great thing to witness — if teenagers only knew how much hope they feed me.  Keep it up, kids.

Well, it’s getting dark and drafty in my apartment.  Time to up the heat, light the candles, pour a hot bath and settle back into work-night mode.  Before I know it, it’ll be time for summer vacation again, and I’ll be back to cackling with my kids and friends.

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Here’s to our crazy pool time together, which will be here in a few blinks!

um, p.s., Snow Gods:  I’m totally good if you want to give us another Snow Day.  The pool can wait for that.

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve bubbly on Brussel’s Grand Place

This time next week Kyle and Kendra will be back in Arizona, Joe will be on a plane headed to Arizona (for a two month visit), and I will be busy at work.  BUT, that’s next week.  This week I’m still on holiday getting all snuggly with part of my family.

We’ve been busy living it up.  We’ve done weekends in Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne and Brussels, along with showing off Mons and Brugge — including lots of good cheer with friends.

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We’ve imbibed in a lot of goodness!  And, the obligatory tourist shots!

We also got to witness a little bit of the Yellow Jacket ruckus in Paris.  Our tour guide was more a fan of the protests than telling us interesting bits about the city, but it’s all good since it’s now part of our story.

The city was way less crowded than normal, and we saw the remnants of the violence that erupted prior to our visit, but we were lucky that no projectiles or fires took off where we were — just people chanting and parading for their something better.

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We also got to celebrate Lorayne’s birthday sipping champagne at the top of the Eiffel tower, so our story is always more full of happiness than its antonym.

On New Year’s Eve we joined the party at the Atomium, which was fun until, well, it wasn’t, but that too turned out okay.

The aerial dancers, music and fireworks show was amazing — and free to enter!  But, the trip home was insane.  I love Belgium, and I get it has its kinks, but promising free public transportation after midnight (in Brussels) and then not planning on crowd control eeze a problame!  

We got to the Tram station only to find a swarm of people like us trying to figure out where the damn line to get into the station was — instead it was just a mosh pit of hats and scarves pushing our way forward only to learn that the corner of the crowd we were in was ‘closed.’  Wtf did that even mean?  Long story short we have no idea what was going on inside the tram station, only that our asses weren’t getting in.  So, Kyle took over  the GPS and we began the alleged 1.5 hour walk to our hotel.  The goal was to hail a cab or jump on a bus or try out another metro station along the way.  LOL, but every bus that passed us was so packed with people their faces were literally squished against the windows.  They would have flipped us the bird — since we laughed at the insanity of it — but they were too packed in to be able to lift their hands.  I wasn’t handling the whole thing very well and was really pissed, but then it started raining, and I just gave in to it because what can you do?  Walk in, hopefully, the right direction, while packed taxis and busses pass you by — until Kyle managed to hail us our miracle cab.  

So, we brought in 2019 with amazing fireworks, a bit of a “wtf do we do now” panic, then relief thanks to a stranger, and then, finally, oh thank God we’re home.  That pretty much sums up our years, doesn’t it?

It’s all good because our story will always move forward, and that’s a great thing.  Cheers to all of you and all that the new year will bring us!

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And Auf Wiedersehen to the holiday season — we’ll catch you again in 11 months!

Mons living…

Me right now dancing around the airport because I’m finally en route to meet my grandson Torin the Terrible!  Cannot flipping wait.

Work has been busy, busy, busy, but now I have my week off, all is well.  I survived Homecoming week.

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I’m the accidental junior sponsor this year, which meant overseeing a lunch, Homecoming nominations, the votes, and the big dance.  It was a lot of work, but thanks to some awesome parents and kids it all went off without a hitch.

Things have been busy in Mons as well.  The leaves are turning and the temps are finally cooling down.  Just last week we were still in the 70s.  Our backyard is all confused.  The rose bush is still budding while the tree and ivy are turning color.

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Pic not of my backyard, but of the ivy in a nearby park.

Mons is also gearing up for its 100th anniversary of the WW1 armistice.  This poor city got hit hard during both world wars, and they take the ending of both wars seriously.  The Grand Place has been rehearsing bits and pieces of its amazing light show that premiered last night.  It’s the story of a young soldier and how the war affected Mons.  It will air twice a night through Nov 11, and it’s quite moving.  I’ll try to do a better job of portraying it again.  For now here’s a few shots

 

The spot lights from our park and apartment are also pretty cool.  Looks like we’re being invaded by aliens.

There’s plenty more I can share, but I’ve got to head on over to my gate and wait to board plane one of Oma’s wild ride to Torin.  Next up?  Baby pics!

It’s been a minute…

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We haven’t fallen into an abyss; we’ve just been busy, busy, busy.  Before I fill you in on what we’ve been up to, let me photo blast you the latest addition to my family who is born on 8/18/18.  He’s been raising hell and breaking hearts since the minute he became my daughter’s son.  I get to hold the little cutie on October 27th.  I cannot wait!

 

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This child has no idea how much we’re all going to spoil him.  Oh I soooo hope he and his parents can come visit this summer — oh and when he’s a little older, Christmas!  Europe is so magical around Christmas time.  Okay, it’s always magical, but uber lit in December.

Tickets are booked for Kyle and his girlfriend to visit during Christmas, so I’m also excited about that.

We’ve been busy with visitors actually.  In August we had too much fun with Jordan, in September Joe’s friend Brian came for a week and those two had a great time touring Normandy, and then last week my friend Marna popped in for a few days.

 

Showing off Belgium to visiting friends:  beer, waffles, Brugge, outdoor markets, Mons Tanks in Town and the Belfry.

We’ve also been whooping it up with our friends in Belgium as well.  There’s just so much going on this time of year.  We checked out the flower carpet in Brussels, had too many laughs doing a pub crawl in Brussels, had quite a few Grand Place days, and were mesmerised at the Fire Symphonie in Viller’s Abbaye.  Baroque music and acts in the abby ruins, lit up only by candles and fire.  It was truly amazing.  I hope they do it again next year.

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LOL my crazy peeps tailgating before the big event.  My pictures don’t do the symphony justice.  The musicians, the dancers, the fire acrobatics, lol and the horse act all on a brisk night amidst the ruins of our past.  Villers Abbey is one of my favorite places to go near Brussels.  We’re signing up for more of their experiences!

 

A bizarre in Germany, the shopping street in Mons and the flower carpet in Brussels.

There’s so much more to share, but I can’t think of it all.  Living in Belgium is such a treat for us.  I know there will come a day when we have to leave here, but for now we’re inhaling it all as much as we can.  There’s pretty much a festival or some sort of fun event going on every weekend until after Christmas.  Then we’ll have the dark, cold days of January and February to snuggle up at home, and then before you know it Spring kicks in, and we’re back outdoors whooping it up.

Work has been super busy, so this weekend we decided to just chill in Mons, and lo and behold there was a pumpkin festival…

 

Camembert with pumpkin and flowers, and those birds and flowers are carved squash and pumpkins!  Yum yum.

 

While sitting at our favourite cafe pub Excelsior, this happened! I wish I could tell you who the fur men shaking bells were, but all I know is when they finished performing the masks came off, fur stayed on, and they found their spot in the Grand Place and drank beer with the rest of us.  This is Mons:  Past and Present; Paganism and Christianity all meld together and enjoy a good beer when the sun is out (which has been quite a lot actually)!

I’m slammed at work the next few weeks, and then I’m off to visit the grand baby, but I’ll try to post more frequently again.  And, Badger is ticked at me for not putting the woof in his blog, so I’ll work on that soon as well.  Until then Happy Autumn!

Red Devils…

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So, we’ve been having fun with World Cup fever.  We watched Belgium’s first two games at the Grand Place in Mons, and yeah it was fun.  Last night’s game we watched in Germany.  We also got to hang our heads during Germany’s last game.  I always root for Germany because hello?  my relatives would never forgive me if I didn’t.  A girl does not tempt her fate amongst blood members of her tribe.  So, I was really excited to get to watch Germany IN Germany, but, well, you guys know how all that went.  Perhaps I am not my mother’s land good luck charm.

On the bright side of things I no longer have to stress over who I’d root for in a Germany vs Belgium game, and the colors are the same, so it’s all good (leave it to this blonde to not concern herself with their order).  We head back to Belgium Sunday, so we’ll be back at the Grand Place to watch Belgium, hopefully, win again.

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Bringing sexy to the colors!

I’d post more pics, but my phone charger died, so no uploading photos today.  It’s all good I’ll post more on our visit to Mini’s other part of the world before we take off again next week.

Until then we’re doing a lot of this…

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regardless of who is playing, or if even there’s a game going on.

And, this is what the Grand Place looks and sounds like after a big event is over.

Badger is still digging it all too, although he can’t seem to find a girlfriend.  Check out his woes here.

Bon Ducasse….

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It’s all quiet in Mons now —- well as quiet as this city can be.  It sure does love to throw a party.

Sooooo we experienced and survived our first Ducasse, aka the Doudou festival.  I took a gazillion photos and video, but my wifi here sucks — irritatingly so!  Uploading pics takes forever, and for some reason doing it on WordPress is even more of a pain.  So, you’ll only get a few snapshots of the big event.  It’s a weeklong series of surprises that lead up to the big celebration on Trinity Sunday.  It’s a celebration of the people of Mons from yesteryear and today, and they take great pride in it.

Long story short:  It includes relics from their patron saint Waudru (a woman thank you very much), her husband’s relics, religious relics from all over the area, a golden chariot, avoiding the plague, King George and the slaying of a dragon.  It’s ancient tradition melded with the city’s ever-evolving modern history.  There are sacred church ceremonies, bands, parades, rituals on top of rituals (with their own song!), and people chanting and practicing to push that golden chariot up a steep hill (because if it doesn’t make it up the hill in one try the plague might return).  Think Mardi Gras meets, well, macrame dragons.

It’s an 800 plus-year oral tradition that combines a people’s pride with their love of drinking.  It’s only been interrupted twice — once during one of the World Wars (the other war years they did a quick blessing and run with the chariot sans parades and parties) and once during the French Revolution.

It’s also insane.

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The Friday night that kicked off the festivities had bands and porta bars everywhere.  There wasn’t an alleyway free of people.  Thousands of people choked the Grand Place — luckily all were in good spirits!

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This crowd is for the kid’s dragon, which is slain (by children) exactly a week after King George slays his beast.  It’s a mini Doudou that trains the young for their part in the adult procession later on in life.

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Kids parading a baby dragon.

King George preparing for battle of the big dragon.  Sorry but I couldn’t get my pic of big dragon to upload.

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Just a taste of all that we saw.  Seriously, to my friends who would love to witness this first hand, book your airfare now.  Doudou 2019 happens in June.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  It’s loud, it’s sometimes dangerous (too many people), it’s chaos, and it’s beautiful church ceremonies, parade processions, costumes, music, etc. etc. — plus come on there’s dragons and beer too!

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If you’re brave — or are lucky enough to have a crazy neighbour brave enough to fight the crowds — you might even get a hair off the dragon to wear for good luck.

P.S. Badger was at Lorayne’s during the main weekend because of the crowds, but he took part in it during the week.  Here’s his take on it https://badgerdoesbelgium.wordpress.com

Catching up…

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Helloooooo it’s been awhile.  I’ve been busy having fun and readjusting to life with my man and dog, and now I’m on a two-week spring break.  And Spring is in the air.  Temps are rising, birds are singing and flowers are blooming.  It’s a beautiful time to be in Belgium.   Joe, Badger and I rented an adorable cabin in the Ardennes.

Joe is napping off a cold, while I take the time to blast you with some pics and updates.

First off my daughter is now in her 5th month of pregnancy, and my first grandchild is bouncing around in there, already letting us know he or she is going to grab life by the reins and ride it for all its worth.  So far the little bugger has a pierre hat and booties and a little dragon (Mons loves dragons) hoodie.  I’m having fun shopping for the little ball of energy.

Easter was great since we had 10 friends over for dinner and games.  We were too busy feasting and laughing to take pics, but I’ve got this one of a basket of goodies a friend brought over.

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and lol this one our neighbour and friend took of a whole other Peter Cottontail bouncing down our street handing out condoms.

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Michelle visited for a few days, and as always we had a great time.  We ate at great restaurants, toured Mons, went to the Cantillon brewery in Brussels, ate, drank, laughed:  our usual.

Mons has so many gems.  I can’t wait to show them off to those of you planning to visit!

Badger has been having a blast since he gets to go just about everywhere with us.  Yesterday that dog was able to get on a cable car and ride up to the citadel in Dinant.  He’s having so much fun he started his own blog, which will tell you all about his Dinant day (when he gets time to paw the keyboard).

Click on happy Badger pic (in our backyard at cabin) to see his view of the world.  Lol on Badger Does Belgium.

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Joe is coming back to life, so gotta get ready for our second day of hiking and exploring.

 

I’m sure I’ll tell you all about the magic we get to discover along the way, and I’ll post more about the cabin and Dinant later — both are well worth a visit!

When a rainy day gives you closures, you make belly-pleasing adventures

Yesterday Belgium celebrated the name of my street — okay, not the street or its name (Onze Novembre), but the date since it commemorates the day WW1 ended on paper.

Most stores are closed on Sunday, so a friend and I planned a shopping day for Saturday. We had it all planned out, meet for breakfast, hit Ikea (yes I AM a glutton for punishment), the mall, other household stores, etc., etc.  It was going to be our apartment decorating day.  What we found was locked doors and Ferme signs all over the big-chain establishments.

Belgium takes its memorials serious, so employers take heed.  Who wants to shop on a day off anyway?  I wasn’t happy about this at first, but we strolled on down to a cafe I assumed would be open since it caters to English-speaking folk (although of course they’ve got the French down pat too).  Hahaha a coffee house named after Texas and run by a southern man, who I’m assuming is from Texas.  I love going to local places, and, for the most part, I’m all about imbibing in the local flavour and saving my Americanisms for when I’m home, but this weekend I needed to have my first cup of coffee where I didn’t need to point and pantomime, and it was awesomeness.

Turns out a lot of privately owned places were open.  The Belgium bakery two or three doors up from the Texas place was also open, and I’ve been told that place is wonderful too (so it’s on my list).  When we finished eating, we stopped into what we thought was a wine shop to learn it sells only beers.  The owner is a lovely woman who works hard to find the right beer for you.  We ended up spending quite a bit of time there and got some Christmas shopping done.  If you’re ever in Mons, stop by Cave a Biere on Rue d’ Havre (a street that juts off the Grand Place, Infotel hotel is on it — everything else I mentioned is there too).  Something tells me I’ll be a regular at this little speciality shop/bar.

The Fromagerie was also open, so heck yeah Mama bought some specialty cheeses.  I love that I live in a place that has stores dedicated solely to cheese — with bakeries to boot.  My two biggest weaknesses (well besides wine) have their own stores!

The Grand Place was loaded up with carnival rides and games for kids, so despite the rain everything smelled like roasting sugary goodness, which makes you hungry no matter how much you already have in your belly, so we ate again at a little place off some other road. That one wasn’t as great as our other stops, but we still had a good time.

We even got lost and ended up at the park near the Belfry, which has beautiful views of the city.  I purposefully have not gone to any of Mons’ main attractions, The Belfry being one of them, because I’m saving touring those with Joe when he arrives.  But woo hoo there are so many hidden gems in this city that I get to discover.

Soooo, my rainy Saturday didn’t earn the cube shelves I want for my living room, but it turned out way, way, way better.  Later on today, I go to another friend’s house for curry pumpkin soup and more goodies — yeah, I know my buddha belly is never going away.

As for all the other stuff going on:  my furniture did arrive last week (woo hoo), my cable/Internet did not (boo hoo), my car still looks great parked waiting for its tags, it’s getting chilly and I’m loving winter fashion, work is still great, my apartment is coming along (will post pics when I’m finished decorating), oh and I got to visit my relatives in Germany last week.  I LOVE that all I have to do to travel is walk to train station, get to airport, land and then hop on a train again — it’s so, so easy.  LOL although, lugging a suitcase up the cobblestone hill that leads to my place is a bit of a cardio workout.

So all is well, and my weekends are booking up with all sorts of holiday festivities, and then before you know it I’ll be home baking cookies and sipping bevies with my kids, Joe and Arizona friends.  This year is flying by!

p.s. my crappy old phone (it’s a 3 in its series) has been annoying me forever.  It’s insane, I know, but I’m wasting my hard-earned euros and buying the iPhone X soon —— soooooooooooo, better pics will be posting in the near future.

 

 


 

 

Foie gras and Paris!

It’s been a great, much-needed weekend of food, wine, laughs, new friends and new experiences.  Just up the street (a 5 minute walk if I’m wearing shoes I need to carefully navigate on cobblestone) from my place is this adorable little place called Osmose.  It seats only 12 people at a time.  Your waiter is the chef and owner. Two of my new friends, now neighbours, made reservations for Friday night and were kind enough to invite me to join — and thanks to them this will be a go-to place every time I have guests in from out of town.

They suggested I just go with what the owner says to try, which meant me eating things I never really saw myself liking.  The entree (appetiser) of the night was foie gras, but he also had an alternative scallops dish for those of us who aren’t fans of the foie.  I got those, but Beth Ann said to heck with it and gave the goose liver pate a try, so I tasted a smudge and it really was delicious.  The main dish was duck — again not a fave of mine, unless it’s the crispy Asian kind — but I went with it.  OMG I didn’t know poultry could be served medium rare, and I didn’t know a bird could taste like steak.  It was an amazing meal with little surprises here and there, fantastic wine, and fun times getting to know the owner, chef a little bit.  Our reservations began at 6:30; I didn’t roll down the hill back to my place until midnight.

Way too early Saturday morning I had to drag my carcass out of bed to rush to work.  For 25 euros all of the staff at the international schools on base had an opportunity to hop on a day-trip bus to Paris.  In a little over three hours, I could spend the day eating, drinking, etc. in PARIS.  I crawled into that bus with absolutely no idea of what I was going to do, or whom I was going to do it with — other than I was getting out of town for a day and walking the streets of Paris.

A group of new friends lured me into their day by saying they were starting off with champagne at a cafe — win!  It’s amazing how quickly a wine hangover and not enough sleep disappears when you’re sipping bubbly on the street.

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Then we had lunch at Le Procope, the oldest restaurant in Paris.  It’s where the male (thinking women not yet welcome at that time) revolutionaries, philosophers, artists, writers, etc.  met and some of its guests included Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson — just to name a few.  Love that I’m teaching American History and some of the historical figures I’ve made my kids remember sipped and burped right at the same place as I did in Paris.  I wonder if they too marvelled at the creme brûlée,

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Ignore the wine stains on table (we had a few) and inhale the goodness of this giant brûlée.  I should’ve known it was going to be huge when they gave me a soup spoon to eat it with.

Anyone else think of Beauty and the Beast here?  I know I’m a terrible teacher since I should be pointing out all the historical amazingness of this place, and I did take it all in, but you aint got time for my geeky side.  Just know I loved being here touching the banister so many great minds have leaned on — while wondering what their women counterparts were doing elsewhere.

After lunch it was walk, walk, walk on over to Notre Dame and then the Picasso museum.

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It’s funny how the Picasso experience haunts me.  While in the museum I was mostly just hot and tired and thinking to myself “dude, why so much dick in your work?”  A funny side note:  one of the middle school teachers asked us if we saw the penis on the face of his famous painting The Dream.  We all did, and she was amazed because for years she’s been having her 8th graders do a replica of this and never noticed the phallus until someone pointed it out to her today.  Oh Picasso see what you’ve made good women do!

Unknown-1 It’s all I see, plus the naughtiness I think she’s up to.

I honestly don’t get a lot of his work, and as a woman I find the portraits of the women he loved disturbing, BUT some of his paintings pulled me in and stuck with me.  His sculptures not so much. The black and white sketches made me want to understand this world of his, but then again I’m thinking the whole point is I’m not supposed to understand.  I can’t tell you why his paintings keep coming back to me because … lol like his art I don’t exactly understand it … but his work haunts me.  Some of it I found funny and some of it scared me.  So, I’m glad I went because now I’ve taken an interest in getting to know what the Internets have to say about him, and for whatever reason it makes me think.

On this trip I did not get to go to all the other museums I want to visit, but that’s okay because it’s just a short train trip away, and some of my new friends said they’d totally do an art weekend with me.  I’m a very happy girl!

I’m also procrastinating because instead of walking to the market like I had planned today, I’ve told myself I’m putting together another Ikea thing — my version of Picasso hell minus any sexual play — and I’m here typing to all of you looking at that damn box waiting for me to open.

Okay, gotta go do this thing.  Hope you all have had as lovely a weekend as I have.  It feels good to have gotten away from the stress of moving and working!

 

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