And Awaaay We Go or How to Avoid Home Construction

Hi friends and family,

Finally, a travel blog! We've been on the road for about a week, but it's been mostly busy schedules, work and 5 hours sleep a night, jet lag, different emergencies, so no time or energy to pound the keyboard.

We wouldn't normally choose to travel to Europe, especially Northern Europe, in the middle of winter, but the opportunity came up to meet Chuck Close in Belgium to do some weaving/filming, while at the same time we are having major work done on our house, so it wasn't too hard to convince us to go.

First stop was Palm Springs, where Deborah Oropallo is having a show, and where the gallery, Melissa Morgan, was also showing a number of Magnolia tapestries. The Palm Springs Museum of Art has a Deborah Oropallo tapestry and is pondering acquiring another major tapestry. The Museum's collectors group had a wonderful holiday dinner at the gallery. Dining at a long table, surrounded by tapestries, gave the banquet a festive, quasi-medieval feel. Don and Deborah were invited down to give a short talk. As well as Deborah, Stephen Nash was there, now director of the Palm Springs Museum, so some old friends.

Oropallo pieces seen in foreground and on side walls; Chuck Close tapestry on the other side of banquet table. More tapestries to either side of Chuck.

Left after the feast and drove to LAX, in preparation for a 6:30 am flight to NY (which as you can imagine means getting up at 4:30 am). Short layover in NY, while we waited for our Open Skies flight to Paris. This is a relatively new all business class airline, which I was excited to take. We had just settled into the Open Skies lounge when Don checked his messages. One of our credit card companies had called; apparently one of our major credit cards had been compromised. Someone had managed to get our card information and was using it fraudulently. Fortunately, for us, they weren't too bright, as the first thing they did was buy some porn, which sent up a red flag. The credit card company had to cancel our card and FedEx another one to the Belgian mill. Fortunately, we had brought some other cards.

For those who were curious, the Open Skies flight was very nice, very comfortable, especially after we figured out how to adjust the complicated seats. Here is Don enjoying his seat. Open Skies prices are much more reasonable than a regular business class seat.

Seats recline way back, but not totally flat. There is a small section with seat beds, but they were sold out. Food and drink is better than decent.

And here is a shot of our house construction. As you can imagine, a lot of both dirt and concrete dust, which permeates the entire house. This is a picture of our downstairs. Our construction crew refers to it as The Pit of Despair. They've been digging down there for weeks, along with pouring new foundations. There will be three huge loads of concrete altogether, in three separate pours. Our daughter, Marisha, is staying behind and supervising. What a trooper. She is also our architect on the project; she's in the midst of the masters program in architecture at Berkeley. What a grind that is; talk about the pit of despair.

We spent our first few jet-lagged days staggering around Paris. Beautiful, but cold weather; snow on the ground. Staying right around the corner from Rue St. Andre des Arts, Allard's, Malongo (our favorite coffee place in Paris) and a Mariages Freres. Brilliant location, but a teeny apartment. However, it had a comfortable bed and plenty of hot water, so no complaints. 

Louvre at night, which happened around 5:00 pm.

The food section: Taking a tip from What the Wild Things Ate by restauranteur Michael Wild, David and Jill Wild (available thru the Magnolia Editions web site under Books and Publications and also from Blurb), we chose a restaurant near the Louvre, La Regalade Saint Honore. We were helped in this choice by our sister-in-law Karen. Thank God we had given her a copy of What the Wild Things Ate as our copy didn't make it into our suitcase and we were able to email Karen, who kindly sent us all relevant Parisian restaurants. Following is for our foodie friends, who have actually complained that our more recent travel blogs did not have enough food content.

La Regalade starts everyone off with a paté - I think it was duck, pickles in a little jar, and baguettes. Great with our Bordeaux.

Don's appetizer: calamari cut into thin slices so that it resembled noodles, with pieces of bacon and croutons, over a black squid ink risotto. Delicious. Can't see much of Don, but enough to see that he's smiling.

My appetizer: scallops poached in a fabulous sauce also with chunks of bacon and croutons with parmesan. Also delish, but I think Don's was more inventive and maybe a bit more scrumptious.

Pork belly with a crispy finish on lentils. This won rave reviews from a food blogger. I think Don thought it was a bit heavy with all his other food.

My main course: Sea bass on baby potatoes. Flawless. 

And for some reason I neglected to take pictures of the desserts, which were a pear and apple crumble for Don; and a pot de creme with passion fruit purée for me. They actually gave me two, and I had to give one to the table next to us. A couple of Parisians having a business lunch, who didn't look the least bit overweight, but managed to eat all their courses. La Regalade also gave us madeleines at the end of the meal, which nobody seemed to eat. We took ours "home" and had them with next morning's coffee. 

Had a conversation with the waitresses about California food and produce. We have quite a reputation; they were sufficiently awed, especially for Parisians. Told them that Michael Wild of Baywolf recommended La Regalade to us. One waitress seemed to have heard of it.

On to Belgium.

Much love,

Era and Don