Friday, April 27, 2012


Hello to my readers!  It has truly been a long period of convalescence but most of all a long period without being mobile and able to return to Ma France!

The good news is that I have had my fourth and final surgery (I hope) and it seems as if I now have a bit more motion in my previously fractured right ankle.  We are celebrating by booking a Fall vacation to Paris.  We will, of course, travel by TGV to visit friends in Lourmarin as well as Dijon, but mostly we'll be enjoying the city we love the most, Paris!

So standby readers and be sure to check this blog after September 11, 2012 for another great trip to France!  One of my readers, Lille France, has indicated she too will be in Paris and we'll set a time to meet up for lunch or an apèro!  

See you in Paris!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Being French in Hawaii!

Dear Readers:  I'm now in my eleventh month of recovery from that horrible fall I took in Dijon last August 20.  It's an anniversary I do wish I didn't have to face, but I can say with certainty that today I am much better than I was a year ago next month!

Thanks to my own initiative and a drive to get back into my French travels, I sought out and found a physical therapist whom I believe to be sainted!  Ryan has a doctorate degree from Portland and this young man has taken me from wheelchair confinement four and a half months ago to walking without any sort of assistance.  Currently we meet twice weekly and he works out the kinks and puts me through a rigorous aquatic therapy.  This latter treatment has meant improvement in my gait and I'm now walking for longer periods with less of a "hitch" in my stride.  Ryan is getting married in just four weeks, and I'm currently spending time in my thinking mode trying to find just the perfect gift for this soon-to-be married couple.  I owe him so much.

We are currently planning a return to Paris next fall (that is 2012) and by then I should be fully healed and ready to spend hours each day and night walking the historic avenues of this fabulous city on the Seine.  We'll rent an apartment and stay from two to three months.  I should have a lot of posting to do then!  We will take the train to Dijon to see our dear friends the Blondeaus and also from there we will take the train to Aix en Provence where we'll hire a car and drive to Lourmarin to see our dear friend and artist, Lilian Marco and hopefully the Bennets of Canada will be visiting their villa.  Until then, I'll be day dreaming about all the wonderful vistas, historical sites and delicious foods of Paris and beyond.  By the way, I must say that Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" (for all you francophiles) is a must see!  We've seen it twice now.  The opening sequence is about a three minute take of walks through Paris.  Fabulous!

When we last visited our friends in Paris, they invited us to their apartment to enjoy a meal with them and their parents.  The meal was a well-known french/swiss meal called raclette.  We were so inspired by this meal and the conversations it inspired, we immediately found a website (Williams Sonoma in the U.S.) where we could purchase the raclette grill.  If you want to get the history or see a picture of a raclette:

Our raclette is like the one pictured.  It has eight small nonstick pans as well as a grill top, if you wish to heat up and/or grill foods.  A nice rectangle of raclette cheese (a special extra creamy cheese that is buttery and delicious and melts superbly) is placed into a small pan and put under the heating element.  When the cheese is fully melted and begins to brown a bit around the edge, it's ready to serve.  I prepare trays of rolled cold meats such as ham, prosciutto and salami, small boiled potatoes, and grilled vegetables--however, you can use any type of food you enjoy and then smother it with this delicious cheese.  Also served are the tiny french pickles and onions and for the pre-dinner hors de oeuvres, I generally buy a nice terrine or some rich duck paté it with some french bread and some radishes with butter.  Very french indeed!  We also go to our sommelier and order french white and red wines and a nice cremant or champagne.

We hosted our first party last year and our guests have been asking when the next will be.  Since we are both so terribly homesick for France and our friends there, and because our friend April has returned from her two-year nanny stint with a french family in Paris, we've decided that on July 30, we will host such a party in April's honor.  She is missing her french family, friends and Paris, so she's very excited to attend.  We'll have slightly more than our eight small pans will accommodate, but we will manage.  We'll take a few pictures and I'll post them.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Returning to good health and France

It's been seven (count them) long months since that unfortunate day when I fell down some rather antiquated strangely-configured steps at Galleria La Fayette in Dijon, France.  I'd like to say that time has passed by quickly, but then journalistic ethics would forbid me since there's not the slightest bit of truth in it.  As a general rule, time does pass quickly but only when one has good health and mobility.  I truly do miss driving and independence.

Through my own tenacity and determination, I have graduated from wheel chair, lift and place walker, and now the cane (except on rare occasions) and am donning an adorable pair of Naturalizer black Mary Ann flats (I can wear them with this smallish-designed air cast that I currently wear for ankle stability as I relearn walking).  To me, progress has been tedious but worth every second of time I spend in therapy three times a week and the additional therapy I do at home.  I'm able to go shopping for an hour or so now and we have moved back into the master suite on our second floor (when you live on a hill here in Hawaii, your bedrooms are downstairs and living areas up).  We have a three story homes so that we can enjoy the Pacific ocean view from all rooms of the house, and I am now able to move up and down the stairs.  Until recently I hadn't even seen our completed third level as it was under construction at the time of my fall.  It was such a thrill to see if finished!

A good sign of my progress and recovery is my current desire to begin planning for a September 2012 trip to Paris and Provence.  I'm very excited about this as we were unable to complete our plans that were already laid at the time I fell.  The day of my fall we had just rented a car and stopped at the famous Dijon chocolatier's place (he had returned the day before from his August vacation) and purchased two beautiful kilos of fabulous chocolates to take to our friend and artist, Liliane Marco, in Lourmarin where we had planned to spend the weekend.  We will return to pick up where we left off and our friend is as excited as we are!

When we go to Lourmarin we'll stay at a wonderful Bed & Breakfast owned by a English/Italian couple.  Les Olivettes is a beautiful reburbished country home (mas, for those who know that that is) sitting in the middle of an old well-maintained and productive olive grove (hence the name).  Our host couple have done an excellent job in dividing the home into small apartments and they are wonderful hosts.  We stayed in the apartment known as Le Voltaire and we intend to rent the same apartment on this coming trip.  We've already made contact and need only send a ten percent deposit to hold the apartment for us.  Okay, for those of you who don't know, a mas (pronounced "ma") is a large two story rectangular sort of barn and in earlier times the French resided upstairs while their farm animals occupied the lower level.  It was very efficient, truly in line with the way the French do things.  Subsequently, people began buying these old buildings and remodeling them into homes, and, I might add, very nice homes.

Now back to Lourmarin:  Le Voltaire, where we've stayed previously, has an outer sitting room on the mezzanine of the second floor above the common living room.  There is a small table and a love seat and adjacent to that there is a double door opening out onto a terrace with a small table and chairs (perfect for afternoon apéro hour).  In addition, the apartment has a full bath and a large comfortable bedroom, a small kitchenette and small living room with a television and two chairs.  Each morning our hosts deliver a basket full of fresh baked breads, croissants, fresh berries and jams, to our doorstep!  The patisserie is only a few meters across the street and down into the quaint village of Lourmarin, so the bread is still warm upon delivery.  We love going into the sitting room after we make coffee and reading the online news from home while we enjoy the fresh bakery.  It's a delightful way to start the day and we nearly always have enough bread to create fresh sandwiches to take along with us during our outings as we explore regions of the Luberon.

Not far from our apartment there in Lourmarin, on our last visit, we found a Hyper-U grocery store well-stocked with organic vegetables, meats, fruits, wine and cheeses.  Since in France you must supply your own grocery bags, we have bags we bought in Paris and they are lightweight and easy to pack, so we carry the bags along on our trips, taking them to the open air markets and grocery stores.  By the way, you can't use a grocery cart unless you deposit one euro into the slot to release the cart, so always keep a euro in the ashtray of your car or your coat or pants pocket.  This is a very efficient method of insuring that you responsibly return the cart to the cart return area as unless you do so you cannot get a refund of your euro.

I'll note here that before we leave Honolulu, I pour over my french cook books or french websites, writing down new recipes to try in whatever region we visit.  So with a particular recipe in mind, we  purchase the local special ingredients and I prepare something elegant for us to enjoy by moonlight on the lovely terrace.  If what I am making is too extravagant for our small kitchen, we use the fully stocked common kitchen just down stairs at Les Olivettes.  By the way, just below our apartment (on both sides) there are trickling fountains surrounded by beautiful blooming and fragrant flower beds, making it a lovely sight.  The sound of the water at night is so peaceful, making our evenings even more romantic.

If dining in isn't to our liking, I pull out a sweater and we walk the few meters into the village.  There we have found fabulous restaurants; our favorite being the creperie.  Reservations are a must and it fills early every day while local people (and tourists) file in to visit and enjoy apéros.   They serve the most delicious crepes.  The restaurant owner lives in Loumarin and everyone entering the restaurant seems to be her friend.  She's a beautiful hard working woman who commands excellence and is divorced from a man who owns another wonderful upscale restaurant tucked away on a small side street and known mostly to local people.  We dined there with Liliane and the food was deliciously Proveçal and the service and wine selections superior.

Enjoying an apértif during late afternoon is pure art in France.  Friends and families gather around small tables that dot the sidewalks adjacent to cafes and chat for hours while enjoying a crisp cold rosé or crémant along with a plate of local paté and artisan bread or a piping hot platter filled with crisp-on-the-outside-and-soft-on-the-inside pomme frites (french fries).  It's a wonderful experience, and one we savor as all-too-busy Americans.

We enjoy making Lourmarin our home base, not only because we have friends there but because it is so convenient for exploring other villages and towns of the Luberon.  With fresh markets on different days throughout the region, it is fun to rise early to explore the markets and regions and to also pick up some wonderful food and wine for a picnic along the route.  If you've never purchased a rotisserie chicken in France, you've just not lived--especially with herbs from Provence. Amazing.

As you can see, we are ready to return.  Memories are flooding me and I can taste, smell and hear the joys of this region.  I am, however, equally as happy to spend some time in the much more populated north: Paris.  There is nothing quite like dining in a small five-table restaurant on food that is so succulent, fresh and tasty that you don't want the meal to end--except you can't eat another bite because the servings are so generous--and then walking out into the crisp night air and strolling around the Eiffel Tour bathed in light or along the Seine where you can hear the distant sound of music emanating from a street musician's instrument.  Once in a while it is even possible (especially during warm summer nights) to encounter lovers who stop to dance at an improvised dance floor with live or recorded music along the Seine.  It's rather amazing to pause and watch the excellent dancers or to join in and enjoy it as well.  In France people don't judge you at all.  In fact, they never ask you what you do for a living when you meet.  They don't care what your profession is, they just want to know you as a person.  I find this so refreshing.  Even though we are older than our french friends, they treat us the same as they do their peers.  They don't care about your age.  I love the way they refuse to judge people in the selection of friends.  It's very refreshing.

We look forward to visiting our favorite restaurants, walking through our favorite arrondissements and enjoying the beautiful museums along the way.  Ah, Paris.  She is a jewel, a thing of beauty to be admired.

So, stay tuned as I begin my trip arrangements and I'll share important information with you.  Also, during July of this year, since I can't travel for a long distance due to needed therapy, we will visit the craggy Northern California coast at a place called Sea Ranch.  I'll be sure to blog and provide information on this beautiful place.  We rent a home on the bluffs overlooking the ocean, spend hours walking on trails and (if I can) play a bit of golf.  We also drive on up the coast to Mendocino, a breathtaking drive.  Also, this coming weekend we're taking a short trip to Northstar Ski Resort in Tahoe, as well as a short visit with friends and family in Sacramento.  I'll try to post some pictures and blog a bit there too.  In this afternoon's e-mail from our friends, we hear there is a fresh snow dump and that it is to snow all week.  Although I can't ski on this trip, our son and his children will.  It should be a fun trip.

Have a wonderful summer and think about coming to Hawaii.  It's a great place to visit.

Aloha, Lennie

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dreaming of France

Aloha readers and welcome back.

As you  know, I've been on the mend now for five months (tomorrow), with lots of writing and thinking time available to me between doctor visits and therapy.

This morning I drifted back to Paris as I sipped my morning cup of (yes, you guessed it) french roast coffee.

During our last long Paris visit (Fall of 09), we made it a practice to walk daily customarily to the grocery store each morning (in the french tradition of planning meals daily since a walk is necessary any way just to pick up one's daily bread).  In good weather, we would postpone the store visit and instead walk to the metro to catch a ride to see an exhibition at a museum or simply stroll the Seine enjoying the palate of fall color.

One afternoon, we enjoyed a visit to the musée du quai Branley where they had the most interesting Mayan and South American art exhibition, as well as a huge world-wide amateur photographic exhibition.   (You should know that visiting Paris in October/November means you'll be treated to the most wonderful art and other exhibitions at the Grande Palais, Petite Palais, and all the other myriad of museums in Paris.)  We spent so much time reading and learning all about ancient civilizations of South America and the photographic displays, that we forgot to have lunch.  It was about 4 p.m. by the time we finished and we were hungry.  We walked by several bistros and it was obviously the onset of the daily apéro gathering as sidewalk cafés--despite the crisp cold weather--were shrouded in billowy cigarette smoke rising from small circular tables of French amis huddled together in a din of conversation with hands clasped around tall glasses of Stella Artois (sort of like having a Bud in America).

We were too hungry to join the crowds for drinks, so we continued wandering and trying to figure out what is was that we wanted.  "I know!"  I said, smiling broadly in anticipation.  "Let's go have those tender little morsels of steamed mussels at Le Suffren!"  Returning the smile and delighted at the thought on this blustery day, Doug steered us to the nearest metro, quickly studied the map and before long we were climbing the steps of La Motte Picquet - Grenelle metro, not far from the restaurant.

This was not our first visit.  On another trip, we had also enjoyed the food at this restaurant.  The place is very Parisian and far enough from the Tour de Eiffel that it's not too touristy, serving mainly local apartment dwellers.  The hostess is friendly and the wait staff professional and friendly as well.  They also have a good and reasonably priced wine list, but their house wine is also delicious.

We opted for a bottle of Sancerre from the Loire region,  a crisp but dry white wine and ordered a dozen oysters on the half shell to start.  The oysters are brought in daily from the Atlantic and they are sweet, plumb and deliciously served with a light champagne sauce.  After quickly slurping down these delightful morsels, we ordered two small buckets of steamed mussels.  They serve mussels with a piping hot heaping plate of pomme frites, soft and fluffy on the interior and crisp on the exterior (how do they do that?).  The mussels nearly melt in your mouth, so tender and clearly recently caught.  There must be something about the cold Atlantic waters that makes them stand above the mussels we get here in the U.S. where mussels more clearly resemble rubber bands than tender morsels!

The most wonderful aspect of french dining out is the unspoken rule that when reservations are made at a restaurant the table is yours for the night.  That is, the waiter never ever brings the bill until you specifically ask for it: "L'addition, s'il vous plait," and then its not delivered right away.  It is perfectly acceptable and absolutely commanded that a customer to have an enjoyable dining experience, including the ability to simply sit back and visit after a meal without the waiter pacing the floor to move you out so that the table can be filled with someone else.  We think this has a lot to do with the fact that in America we're moved out of a table because the race is on to get as many tipping patrons as possible to sit at a given table in a given night, hence more money to the server.

Needless to say, the long slow pace of dining means there is always room for a bite of cheese to finish off that remaining piece of doughy/crisp baguette still parked at the side of your plate.  We selected a pungent small round of goat cheese and a soft ripe cow brie, followed by a shared caramel apple tartine with a dollop of creamy french vanilla ice cream.  Finally, after two hours of savoring this moment, we settled back for a bit before our final delight: a noisette (a shot of espresso in a tiny cup with a splash of hot milk).

With the metro just a few steps from the restaurant, we wrapped our woolen scarves up around our necks, buttoned up our over coats and strolled gently to the station where we caught another car to our cute two-bedroom apartment situate within the confines of the 15e neighborhood not far from rue de Commerce.  Just another delightful day, during a month's stay in Paris.

So, if you are ever in Paris and find yourself near the Grenelle metro stop, just keep walking toward Ecole Militaire and on the corner at 84 rue de Suffren you'll find a nice dining experience awaits you.

Next time I'll let you in on three more dining experiences, all within the 15e, all very small restaurants, but all amazingly delicious.

By the way, therapy is going well and I've graduated from a wheel chair, to a lift and place walker and now to a cane.  I can even walk around my kitchen (I just can't give up cooking) without a cane, always with my ortho boot in place, of course.

I may even share a quiche recipe given to me by my dear french amie, Liliane.  She was born in Lorraine, so she really knows how.  As she says, real quiche does not have cheese, only jambone!

Abientôt, Lennie

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An Update For my Readers

Aloha and Happy Holidays.

It is now three months and eleven days post injury and believe it or not I'm still non weight bearing!  The substandard care I received in France, and especially putting me through two surgeries within two days of one another, resulted in a condition called "reflex sympathy dystrophy," a condition resulting in a need for much longer periods of therapy and retraining.

I'm currently working with a personal trainer and she's having a more positive outcome on my recovery than the physical therapist from my health plan who gave me simple exercises that I can do on my own.  My trainer has me on machines that are rebuilding my leg, stomach and back muscles from sitting for so long, as well as stretching to get that right ankle mobile again.

The bad news is that my doctor has adjusted my recovery period from six months to one year and possible two.

I remain in good spirits and am working hard with the goal in mind of rising from this wheelchair.

I hope to be blogging on some vacation spots this time next year, so stay tuned!

Aloha and Mele Kalikimaka!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Update on my fall in Dijon

Aloha.  Some of my readers have asked for an update on my progress since the fateful day I fell while entering the Galleries La Fayette in Dijon, France.

It has been a long recovery already.  Not that I'm counting, but to be exact:  69 days!

The third surgery, which occurred the day following my return to Hawaii, has been a long recovery.  I still am swollen and numb in my right foot and have very limited motion, but am assured by my physician that it looks "very good," actually.  He said that there was a lot of scar tissue and that it will take a lot of physical therapy but that I should be back to normal range within a year.  If I were to think in terms of the time frame for recovery, I think I would go mad.  Instead, I've devised a different methodology:  I measure my progress instead of time.  When my cast was removed nine days ago and I was told it would be another six weeks before I'm able to begin physical therapy to strengthen my leg muscles in preparation for learning to walk again, I could not wiggle my toes or move my foot in an upward or downward flexion.  Currently, I can flex my toes up and down approximately an inch and can move my foot up and down with ankle flexion about two inches.  This is huge.  I figure that if I can accomplish this in just nine days, if I continue to use my ankle/wrist weights and exercise daily, by the time the six weeks is up I will have accelerated my recovery!

I think mental outlook is as important to recovery as the healing process alone.  So, rest assured, my desire to be upright and packing my trusty suitcase for another adventure in France is all the motivation I need.  I'm thinking perhaps Bordeaux region?  Maybe Brittany?  Perhaps the north, near Lille?  Who knows?  I'm reading a lot (since I have a great deal of time on my hands currently) about personal accounts of the french resistance (there are some amazing biographical accounts out there on book shelves, with diary entries that are worth the read), and would like to venture to some of the places mentioned.

So, keep in touch.  Who knows, maybe we'll all be back in France sooner than within a year?  Happy Holidays and Aloha, Lennie

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Final Post on France For A While

Hello readers.  I've finally, one-month post injury, forced myself to write an account of my trip to Dijon and how I wound up in the hospital.  It is posted at my other blog: and I hope you'll take a moment to read it.  If anything, it may help you prepare for your pending or planned trip.

We're not planning a return to France for at least a year, perhaps even two.  So my next blog entries will be about Hawaii and the mainland.  We hope you'll continue to enjoy reading this vacation blog spot, and refer your friends to it.  We've had some wonderful trips into Europe and certainly look forward to more in the future.  For the time being, it's time for rest and rehabilitation.

Aloha, Lennie