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Sunday, August 30, 2015


     A few more European scenes captured by my Canon:

Window, Antoni Gaudi's house, Barcelona


                                                     Water Taxi, Venice

Sculpture, Nantes

          Park in Barcelona
 From one teacher to another, Venice

 Stairway to our flat, Rome.
                                       Spaghetti Cake, Rome

 Masks, dollar store, Venice
 Detail, Window shutter, Venice

Lebron Sprite, Venice


                                             Cute priests calendar,  Rome
 Floor, Palacio Grimaldi, Venice

 Poster, Canal St. Martin, Paris

 The old and the new.  Waiting in line, The Louvre, Paris

Life can be difficult.  Sculpture, Paris.


                             They never stop waving (in the sun, solar powered) Paris.



Saturday, August 29, 2015


       Last month we ate fantastic food, toured a phantom's palace, and marveled at a 900-foot woman dancing in a sea of  fireworks.  Francesca and I spent four days in Paris.  
It was our European adventure's perfect ending which began on Bastille Day. The celebration of France's independence started with its annual military parade on the Champs Elysee. They say almost a million spectators were there waving flags, taking special pride in their county recently stung by the Charlie Hebdo tragedy.
     Franesca and Brigitte with their new friend, Lt. Claude.

We found a shaded spot and listened for the parade approaching in the distance. Minutes later there was a deep chant, the song of marching soldiers. When the first group passed to loud applause we enjoyed the men and women in spiffy uniforms.  

Military jets and helicopters were having their own parade in the sky. 


 A number of tanks clattered by on the patterned brick streets. Many more soldiers marched past representing the army, air corp, navy, French Foreign Legion and even The Bearded Woodsmen Brigade.


    No, I don't know their real name but these fuzzy-faced men had snazzy aprons and carried axes proudly.  It's probably the group I'd be in had I pursued a French military career.


When the parade ended we returned to our Canal St. Martin apartment to take long naps.  

With five locks on our door we never felt a need to call security 

    After an early dinner we made out way to the Big Affair, a half-million people gathering on the endless lawn south of the Eiffel Tower.
    The large expanse under the tower had been transformed into a stage complete with the Paris Philharmonic, a large chorus and prominent singers. And sing they did, for two hours ending with the French national anthem, "La  Marseillaise". When everyone stood, loud and proud, it was chilling, like the French ex-patriots belting it out in Rick's Cafe (in the movie "Casablanca"). 

    When our voices died down the fireworks lit up.  For a half-hour
we marveled at twelve fiery pieces, a mix of pyrotechnics, music, and light.  
    It was high (1200-foot) art, colors, shapes and sounds with none of the loud explosions that we're so use to.
   The tower itself was the star. Loaded with 50,000 fireworks, with each composition they would shoot out, swirl, and dance to the music.  
     The fire created temporary smoke screens and lights were projected on them.  The inside of the tower had its own moving light component.  It was incredible art the likes of which I may never see again. Here's a link that will give you a taste:

   It was the first time in time in twelve years that fireworks exploded from the tower itself.  Her silhouette seemed to dance when the sky was lit behind her then, in a moment of orchestrated darkness, the slender tower would sparkle its 5,000 bright, tiny lights.

     Miami, why can't you do something as tasteful and elegant? As I write this my city is still considering a 633-foot tower covered with huge TV ads, 24/7.   How deep can you sink, South Florida?


     Why can't we have our own  Ferris wheel?  From the top the one in the Jardin des Tuileries we could see all of Paris.  
Such a thrill!  Amsterdam and London have them too.
     What a shame that we don't have the spunk to build one on Biscayne Bay.  Anything is better than the stupid Giant Clothespin planned for Bayfront Park.   Greed trumps class most of the time in my home town.


The next day we toured the Paris Opera House where the Phantom lurked 140 years ago. Thankfully, the 8000 lb. chandelier that he sent crashing into the audience is in great shape now. 
Sixty years ago artist Marc Chagall painted the mural above it.

The opera house gift shop sold all of the essentials... jewelry, top hats, cloaks, and those darling $300 toad purses.  

They are made from the very same buffo toads that are all over South Florida.  Think of all the money waiting to be made in your own backyard!


   The iridescent change purses were only $250

   In the Louvre I took pictures of people posing with art. 


I guess their photos say, "I was there!"   


I was too but you'll have to take my word for it.  


      Here is a special moment, a guard trying to block my unfocused camera from taking a photo of the Mona Fan Club.  He told me, "You can take a picture of Mona Lisa but not the people looking at her".  
He said nothing about me photographing his hand.

 After many days on the road it was time to do our laundry.  We headed home where we could do it for free.
Next stop, California.


                                                       Costume, Paris Opera House



PS:  My neighbor, Andy Neale, just wrote to tell me the "bearded woodsmen" are actually "Sappers", French combat engineers.  Sapper comes from the French word sapear, "to entrench".

Monday, August 24, 2015


     You might have heard that the bathrooms in Europe are small.  Well, "small" is too big a word to describe closets with plumbing.  The good news is that the toilets are the same as what you are used to. Unfortunately they are crammed into tiny vestibules that try your contortion skills.

    Consider the first one we encountered on this summer's expedition. It came with our hotel room in Rennes, France. Like many of the bathrooms we encountered, it was hard to cram a guy my size on to the seat.  When I would lean forward to stand up my head would hit the wall. 

      One alternative was to sit sideways and I gave this a try in a similar bathroom
when my summer beard 
was longer. 

 This particular bathroom at least had toilet paper you could reach.

     It was not visible in many sitting situations.  To grab some you had to reach somewhere behind and grope around. It was reminiscent of swatting a mosquito on your back.  
 In the old days land was cheap. You could build a bathroom big enough to let your guests have leg room. The odd thing was the water stored over you head.  When you yanked a chain it rushed down  sounding like an angry waterfall.
        Two toilets in Josselyn, France

 This place had big windows too. This one let the sun shine in and let the neighbors see what you were up to.

In Barcelona, our Air B&B apartment was shaped like a slice of pizza.  The bathroom and the bedroom were one,  no curtain or door separated them.   Convenient as well, you could roll out of bed and into the tub.

      Our room in Rome had two toilets.  Because they shared common leg space we didn't try using both at the same time.

     In France they frown on urinating in public.  You see these "Don't Pee Here" posters all over the place.


    To alleviate the problem they place plastic urinals on sidewalks that invite you to "Whiz here, show off your junk, and add your initials".

Thankfully, our Paris apartment had its own bathroom (with a door!).  What was great about this last place on our tiny bathroom tour, was the phone booth-size shower was so close I could sit on the throne and wash my feet at the same time.
    The toilet paper, who knows?  I think it was in the kitchen.

Friday, August 21, 2015



     The Coconut Grove Grapevine, Tom Falco's daily blog on what's happening in the Grove, let us know two days ago that the City of Miami had ordered Scott Wessel to close his restaurant, "Scotty's Landing" in sixty days.

      Everyone in Miami knows the story, how our city commissioner, Marc Sarnoff, conspired with his developer friends to orchestrate this move, one that would turn "Scotty's" and the boat storage facility next to it, into a mall. 

Screen%20Shot%202013-06-19%20at%205.47.30%20PM.jpg Rendering of the mall

     It came to a vote two years ago. The people of Coconut Grove  voted against it.  Unfortunately, when the city-wide votes were counted Sarnoff & company came out ahead.

     What a shock.  We were losing Scotty's -a cherished Coconut Grove icon- and the boatyard next to it.

      Yesterday, the Grapevine printed a bizarre retraction saying in effect, "We were wrong. Scotty's owner (Scott) is being ordered to leave so the mall owners can run his facility for a year.  During that time they will build a Shula's Steakhouse next to Scotty's where the Charthouse is now".                              Scott Wessel                                                                                                   
     The story continues. When Shula's-On-the Bay is completed, they will tear down Scotty's Landing and build some other glitzy restaurant (#2) on the water on Scotty's site (the left side of the rendering above).

     When they've finished #2 they will build restaurant #3, a fish sandwich place away from the water where the boat racks now are. They will call this laughably, "Scotty's Landing".


   But it won't be a "landing" (it's away from the water) and it won't be the Scotty's we've loved. It will be a spankin' new Shula's subsidiary fifty-feet west of the boat launch pit that's always filled with floating garbage.

   It will be Mark Sarnoff and his wealthy friends throwing us a bone as they say, "Here. Chew  this in the back ally. We've own the waterfront now".

      If this makes you angry you should be. Coconut Grove is getting its own version of Bayside, downtown Miami's unpopular waterfront mall.  It's the Sarnoff version of what the Grove should be.
     Coconut Grove is losing an important part of its past. We will no longer have a casual, charming restaurant with an amazing view of Biscayne Bay. 
    A year from now you will won't be able to nurse a beer as you watch boats pass by.  If you're at the "new Scotty's", you'll be watching tourists head for Shula's Steakhouse, that modern monstrosity between you and the bay.