Category: Uncategorized

August is not the best time to visit Paris. This I know, but with two students in the family, both with summer jobs and vastly differing school start dates, it was the only time for us to make the pilgrimage to Spain. I also find it hard to schlep all the way to Europe and NOT visit France. So a few days in Paris to visit a close friend was a must. It was predictably hot, smelly and chock full o’ tourists. My friend asked what I wanted to do. I have all my favorite haunts, and I try to explore a few new spots each time I visit, but I said I really wanted to swim in public pools. I had read about some Art Deco renovations, and she was game. It was scorching hot, so it also was a really great midday pause between touring and a late afternoon siesta.

Jenny — my American in Paris bff — had researched a few pools and we settled on Piscine Pailleron, in the19th, an arrondissement I didn’t know that well. She chose this pool because it was hosting a public art exhibit called ‘Museum of the Moon’, an installation by Luke Jerram. The sculpture was suspended above the pool and I got to take a few pictures before the guard came to tell me photos were not allowed — NOT to respect bathers’ privacy, but some nonsense about historical buildings. We swam for about half an hour, comically maneuvering amidst the less than orderly crowd. We chuckled, because the French notion of lap swimming is hazardous — something we are both very familiar with. As she said, ‘you have an amalgam of folks of different cultures and varying degrees of body/ space awareness’. Suffice to say that there was not one lap without a collision or perhaps a kid cannon balling on my head; all part of the experience. I also got reprimanded for wearing my teva sandals, which I had brought precisely to use in water situations. I get that they don’t want street shoes in the pool area, but the fact that everyone was barefoot kinda freaked me out. They make you shamble through a couple inches of disinfectant, which seemed ineffective, but hey, I was a visitor to this fabulous city and was so happy to get into water after a 12 hour flight and 17 hour journey. I always try to swim or submerge in water after a long flight with a big time change, so this was a terrific way to start our epic trip.

The way the light sparkled through the windows and swimming under the giant moon sculpture was really magical. The showers were quite feeble and I didn’t want to linger barefoot, but all in all it was a great cooling off and sensory experience. Jam packed on a hot day, I got to people watch preening teens, struggling aged swimmers and local families.

A few days later — the heat had still not broken — my husband and youngest son had joined me. They were jetlagged, so I proposed another swim to Jenny. This time, early morning, at a different pool nearby. We walked to Piscine Amiraux (Pool of Admirals) early on a sleepy August Sunday morning, the familiar Paris smells filling the air. It was before 8am, so the oppressive heat was still bearable. We assumed we would only encounter diehard swimmers at this hour, but being a public bath, there were many in line who perhaps didn’t have showers at home. Once again, the no shoes policy piqued my subtle yet bothersome fear of foot fungus or worse. This time we got our own little cabinets to change that lined the pool deck in three stories. Visions of Esther Williams or some kind of Indie movie danced in my head. I’m not quite sure why I find this all so enchanting, but once more, the cool water and the light bouncing off the recently renovated roof and ceiling, charmed me in a deep way. Again, the lane etiquette was amusing, and this time a few Anglo-Saxons seemed to share our difficulties. Another diverse neighborhood, I took a moment to watch an adult swim class in a far lane and admired the French commitment to a socialized life. Imperfect perhaps, but the crowd mix was heartening. The instructor, a barrel chested classically French guy, seemed to be using a pole to drag a reluctant student. I marveled and giggled at the very un-American scene. At my local pool, the guard blows the whistle if a kid runs, and the lifeguards take their jobs very seriously. At the first pool there was a huge neon sign that said Poseidon. Curious, I asked the guard– who had chastised me for my tevas and taking pics — wondering if it was some code term for the pool. He explained it was an underwater sensory system that detects if someone sinks to the bottom, a sort of e-lifeguard. I’m not sure that excuses the laissez-faire attitude of pool safety, but it was interesting.

Freshly bathed, my core cooled down and with a spring in my step (there is nothing like a pre-breakfast swim) we headed out for the day. I only had a few days in Paris this time, but had I stayed longer, I would have tried to hit another pool. If you are at all interested in swimming in Paris, I highly recommend it as an antidote for jetlag, a window into Parisian life, a chance to appreciate some pretty cool under-the-radar architecture and public works and a chance to get a little exercise, even though you do walk miles and miles when visiting Paris.

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College tours and visiting family and friends brought us to the East Coast in steamy summertime, a dose of the dog days of summer for my children of the fog.

New York City was our first stop, to visit my mom and show the kids more of my childhood haunts. Urban campus tours, museums, a day at Coney Island, a New York Yankees game, Citibikes jaunts and a touristy trek to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; all really just interludes between pizza slices for my teen boys.

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When I’m sitting in traffic, driving the carpool or taking out the mulch I dig deep and try recall the joyous and cleansing feeling I had spending five days in the snowy wilderness of the High Sierra. Between Christmas and New Year’s, my family joined another for a winter adventure that I replay often in my head; it really was just what the doctor ordered.

This is the first year in a long while the snow has been this deep and this good. The drought in California has taken a toll, and although hardly the most important problem caused by low, or no precipitation, the lack of snow has been hard for winter sports enthusiasts.

Thanks to Global Warming and/or El Nino, this year is different! The weather report seemed perfect. Clear skies for travel days, fresh snow upon arrival and one day of flurries. We packed our backpacks, pre-cooked our beef stew, waxed our cross country skis and prayed our old car could manage the mountainous trip.

It was cold, maybe 10-15 degrees when we arrived. The kids donned snowshoes, my husband I the skis and we tried to balance the weight in our packs. Our friend pulled the sled with much of the food. In the summer you can drive in to the house but in the winter the journey is part of the adventure. It’s only about a mile but you feel you’ve really earned it! Continue reading »

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When I lived in London during the downtrodden Thatcher era, the local pub was a sanctuary, a respite from the cold, foggy, dismal daily life, a life I now look back at fondly. I’m not much of a beer drinker, I much prefer wine, but who wouldn’t love the cozy warmth, the expected smoky haze and the watering hole atmosphere? Sure, it was more of a guys’ scene, I remember the blokes I lived with counting their pints, squeezing in a fifth one before last call, as I nursed my shandy: a disgusting combo of beer and “lemonade” (British 7-Up). They used to stagger home, while I fretted about who would make it without face-planting into a neighbor’s yard. OK, so the scene did get old after the novelty wore off, but I never tired of the yummy pub-grub and the feeling of camaraderie. Continue reading »

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Getting around Paris is fun. The metro is so easy to figure out, on time and goes nearly everywhere. In summer it can be hot and a bit stinky, but it’s almost a game using the maps or a Plan de Paris (a little book that has every neighborhood and metro stop, every street and bus line cross referenced and easy to find if you have your eye-glasses handy) to map out your trip. When I was a student in Paris I loved to jump on the metro, pick a random stop and then get out and explore. It’s pretty hard to get lost with a Plan de Paris, and I suggest all visitors buy one upon arrival.

Once you’ve traveled by metro it’s also great to get above ground. One of my favorite things to do is take the bus… any bus. Continue reading »

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