Grammy-O and Papa John (Michael’s parents, Olga and John) visited us in October. Olga arrived on the Sunday just before Michael headed off to the states for a Sakai conference at Virginia Tech. She stayed with us and Shannon really welcomed the help–something Grammy-O is well known for doing in Berkeley. In any case, we asked Olga to write something up for the blog (be warned, if you visit us you’ll be expected to write!). The rest of this is from Grammy-O:
In 2007 when asked if I wanted to join Michael, Shannon, Jack and Daphne on a three week trip to France, I jumped at the chance.
My last visit was in 1959, when I traveled throughout Europe with a high school friend. Our journey began in London and we spent 3-5 days in 9 cities, with many side trips, ending up in Greece for about a month to visit many relatives.
Thus, after 48 years I returned, only this time having an opportunity to visit the Loire Valley and southern France, as well as Paris. The opportunity to explore and “live” in the countryside, visit with friends and explore was exciting and fun!
John, Jackie and Harvey joined us in Paris. We loved “walking” the city, seeing the gardens, visiting museums and, of course, sampling the local cuisine extensively, especially the great cheeses, wines and “sweets.” We vowed we would return so that we would have time to visit the Louvre as well as other museums we could not fit in. (As a side note when I was in Paris in 1959 Helen and I could never find the right door that was open to enter the Louvre as each day we were told that a different entrance was open. The famous Pyramid was not yet installed.)
Near the end of our visit to Paris, John and I also traveled to Normandy and were emotionally moved visiting this vast memorial to our fallen heroes. We each chose a different row to walk along, however, I was not able to walk further than one gravesite, as the date of the fallen hero was my birthday (June 9, 3 days after D-Day).
Little did I expect to return so quickly to Paris in November of 2008. I was excited to return and have the opportunity to be with everyone once again. Only this time, as Michael stated in an email, that the steps to the walk-up apartment were not as daunting as he had thought! However, 92 steps up is daunting! However, it did wonders for my physical conditioning! I actually miss the exercise!
When John arrived, we moved to a studio apartment on rue Mouffetard located near the Place de la Contrescarpe (a very lively student gathering place) in the Latin Quarter with lots of small shops, patisseries, meat and fish markets.
Walking everywhere to museums, shops, farmers market, and patisseries became the daily routine. On occasion we did use the Metro, a convenient and efficient transportation system.
We were within walking distance of the Sorbonne, the Pantheon, Notre Dame, Musee de Sculpture en Plein Air, Musee de L’Histoire of France and the Musee Cluny (medieval). We visited them all.
Even though the weather was cold and rainy (reminded me of Ohio in November) we never stopped our daily routine of steps, shopping, eating, enjoying the wine, playing games, and visiting!
John and I finally made it to the Louvre. We spent about 5 hours trying to see some of the 30,000 famous and some not so famous, but still awesome, treasures.
We especially enjoyed the Musee D’Orsay (somewhat smaller than the Louvre), the Opera, revisiting Notre Dame, and the Lafayette shopping center where John and I got separated in the “food market.” It took us about 25 minutes to find each other. Yes, it is of ample size! Not to be outdone, the toy store in the Lafayette also covered a large area (I think larger than any Toys ‘r Us store). The Christmas tree reminded John and I of the Sterling Lindner tree in Cleveland many years ago.
Thanksgiving with family and friends was special. Michael ordered a turkey from a local meat market. We checked many grocery stores for canned pumpkin to no avail. So, at the farmers market Michael selected a portion of a pumpkin. I roasted the pumpkin and made a deep-dish pie with the usual “pumpkin” pie spices. I do not think I will ever use canned pumpkin again. Now, if only I can find this pumpkin in the states. I was able to find a picture and description on the internet:
French name is “Musquee de Provence.” The fruits are flattened like a cheese but each rib makes a deep convolution. The Fairytale Pumpkin is a very unique eating and ornamental pumpkin. It’s thick but tender, and the deep orange flesh is very flavored, sweet , thick, and firm. It is 115 to 125 day pumpkin and takes a long time to turn to it’s cheese color. The distinctive coach-like shape and warm russet color make it perfect for fall decorating too. This pumpkin is usually used for baking. Cut it into pieces and bake in the oven. Available September to November.
We all traveled by train to Versailles. Revisiting the magnificent structure was very interesting especially the art by Jeff Koons. The Hall of Mirrors chandeliers and mirrors still boggle the mind.
Our trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower was worth getting very cold as it was a clear, sunny, windy day, and the view was amazing!
An other cold, windy day in Paris we all took the Metro to the Basilique Sacré-Coeur. Shannon and John walked up and down the 500 steps. The rest of us took the tram. The architecture is so very different from all the other churches visited in Paris. I had lost a small treasure from my Mother, so Jack and Daphne encouraged me to pray to the saint of “lots items.” So far no “luck.”
One of our experiences at a restaurant was when I ordered what I thought was a veal chop. The waitress stated most emphatically, “No! No! You do not want to order that. You will not like that.” She then explained that the dish was veal brain and “other parts!” The fish was outstanding as was the chocolate dessert! John’s scallops and sauce were amazing, along with the wine!
Visiting the Jardin des Plantes and the Musee of Nationale D’Histoire was very interesting and fun with our experienced guides, Jack and Daphne.
Whenever we picked up Jack and Daphne from school, the toy store was a necessary stop as well as getting a snack along the way! Jack and Daphne knew all the special places to stop for a snack. We did not discourage them in the least. After all, we needed our energy to walk up the 92 steps.
I grew fond of the Palmiers (made with puff pastry). I have been making them frequently. Though not as large as those found in the patisseries, they are just as tasty and so easy to make! I plan to tackle making Macarons, and hope I can make them as well as Michael made them on his first try! Will keep you posted!
Needless to say, we loved being with Michael, Shannon, Jack and Daphne. We enjoyed meeting their new friends and celebrating “special” occasions.
Hopefully, I will be traveling again to Paris, then on to Istanbul and Greece. The cousins by the dozens are eager for us to be in Greece for the Greek Easter holiday.
Au revoir, The Big “O”