Category Archives: travel

Letting Out the Rope

Someone very wise once told me that parenting is like having a very long rope. That as our kids grow up, we let out the rope a little bit at a time. We might have to pull it in a little bit, but we never completely let go. As the parents to an only child, J and I have held onto the rope pretty tightly, but we’re finally starting to ease up, and let go-a little bit.

Ten years ago, J and I took H skiing for the first time. She was in first grade, and up until that point, we were afraid she was not going to be athletic at all. Sure, she played soccer, but that was just an excuse to get together with her friends and most of the time, she had no idea what she was doing. Once, she got her foot caught in the soccer goal netting while playing goalie (in between looking for four leaf clovers). I remember the first time she played when the weather warmed up, and she ran to me afterwards, saying, “Mommy, I don’t like to sweat!”

It was a few years before she realized that she DID like to sweat, and even more years before she became a human punching bag on the basketball court, so we were afraid that she might not like skiing. J hadn’t been able to ski for several years, due to his avascular necrosis in his hip (a long story, two hip surgeries and years of rehab). So we took a babysitter with us, in case H got cold, or didn’t like ski school, so that we could ski uninterrupted. We went to Beaver Creek, which has one of the best ski schools (if not the best) in the country. We bought lessons for H and the babysitter as well, along with lift tickets for all four of us for the week. The first day, I was more nervous than H, who only said, “I hope I meet a friend in ski school.”

Luckily, she did meet a friend, and even more luckily, she LOVED skiing! We told her she had to do at least level 7 in ski school (the black diamond club) before she could learn to snowboard, because we were afraid that if she started snowboarding she’d never learn to ski. Fast forward to today, she’s in 10th grade and even though all her friends were going to the beach for spring break she wouldn’t think of not going skiing. She’s already focusing on colleges in Colorado so she can ski on the weekends.

Snow skiing is the one sport we can all do together. J is a beautiful skier, since he grew up skiing up North. I started later in life, and until I was a senior in high school had only skied in Gatlinburg, TN, so I really didn’t have nearly as much experience as J did. Luckily, even though I don’t have the form or the beauty of his technique, I can hang with him. The first year we took H, we started a tradition of picking her up from ski school riding up the lift to the bunny slope to take one last ride down together. As the years went by, H became a great skier, and we were able to spend whole days on the mountain together. You couldn’t erase the smile on my face.

Skiing is by far my favorite vacation. I love getting up, making breakfast, and jumping on the lift to spend entire days together. We’re physically active, outdoors in the most beautiful mountain setting, laughing and joking, and most of all spending a whole week together, just the three of us. I also love the evenings…the après ski scene…bonfires, live music, and wonderful restaurants and great wine for dinner.

When H “graduated” from ski school, we thought about taking a friend with us, but at that point, she didn’t have any close friends who skied at her level. None of us wanted to sacrifice time on the blue and black runs to ski with a beginner, so unless we met another family there, it was just the three of us. We’ve always felt pretty lucky that she wanted to spend that much time with her parents. At first, J would start skiing, H would follow, and I would stand there and watch for a minute or two, just happy and loving the sight of the two of them zig-zagging down the hill. Then I would take up the rear.

Now, J starts, then H flies by him, and has to wait at the bottom for the two of us. She’s an amazing skier, and doesn’t have the “Oh, my God, I’m going to kill myself” feeling that we do. So it was inevitable, that she would get tired of skiing with us. It might have something to do with the cute lift operators, but this year, for the first time, she would start skiing with us, and after a few runs, ask if she could head off by herself. As J and I spent most afternoons skiing together, just the two of us, it was almost like old times. Almost…but in the back of my mind I never really relaxed, until she would let herself in the door around 4 or 4:30, red-faced and eager to talk about all the double black diamonds she’d tackled by herself, and the people she met on the lifts.  Being close to a ski mountain is one of the key goals  she has at this point for where she wants to go to college.

We’re letting the rope out more and more these days, and even though I know we’re pretty overprotective, I’m still anxious every minute she’s away from me. She’s driving by herself to more and more locations-school, volunteering, sporting events, social occasions, and although my life is a little bit easier now that I’m not the taxi driver I once was, anxiety now takes its place. The sweetest sound in the world is the “beep-beep” of the door opening when she comes home. Now I understand why my Mom always tells me to drive carefully, even now, at 49 years old. We can let go, but we can’t stop worrying.

Spring is in the Air…First proposal done by blog?

Yes, I know, I haven’t posted anything in a long time.

Basically, it’s just all the normal, every day mom stuff.  Went to New York for a bar mitzvah.

Can I just say, it was kind of OVER THE TOP!!  But other than the zillions of dollars they spent on the extravaganza, it was actually very sweet.  And kind of sad.  We were there for my husband’s cousin…it was his son who had the bar mitzvah.  J’s aunt (cousins’s stepmother), boycotted.  Said she wouldn’t come.  Couldn’t be bothered.  So very sad for the little boy, because all his other grandparents on his dad’s side are dead.  There is a point in the ceremony that the bar mitzvah’s parents come up to make their speeches, and their parents (the grandparents) join them.  The mom came up with her mom and dad, and J’s cousin came up, all by himself.  I was so choked up.  She missed such an incredible experience, that she will never get back.  Her loss.

Then, spring break in Snowmass.  This is our 8th year to ski over spring break, and the first year that we’ve been to Colorado for a week with NO NEW SNOW!  It actually wasn’t bad.  Snowmass is so big and so high that we were able to find tons of good conditions, although by our last day it was obvious that they really needed more snow.  Luckily, I heard they just got a foot.  The good thing about the weather was it was not super cold, so we didn’t have to wear 3 or 4 layers.  We had lunch in the village on St. Patrick’s day and were entertained by some very self-confident young ladies, who didn’t wear any layers at all!  I think the green liquid they were slamming down before getting up on the table helped their self confidence.

I love Snowmass. It’s a big mountain, with lots of single black diamond runs (I’m not so good on the double diamonds). We love skiing bumps, and there were bumps all over the place…good, well definied, soft bumps. (Or mobiles, as H used to call them). Plus, Snowmass is right down the road from Aspen, the coolest mountain town in Colorado. Aspen is a real town, now like Beaver Creek, which we love, but was built all at the same time and has no real character. The shopping and the restaurants in Aspen are fantastic.

Skiing together as a family is my favorite thing to do.  It is the ONLY sport that all three of us do together.  J and H are beautiful skiiers.  I will try anything, but I don’t look so good doing it.  But it’s so much fun when we start at the top of the mountain, J goes first, then H, and I bring up the rear with a huge smile on my face.  I don’t know how much longer H will be happy doing spring break with just her parents.  But while it lasts, it’s pretty great.

Now we’re fixin (yes, I’m from the South) to go to Dallas for a friend’s 50th birthday.  Wow.  My friends are turning 50.  How did that happen?

I’ll write something really good soon, I promise.  In the meantime, check this out.  Maybe the first proposal done by blog!  Awwww……

15th Birthday Trip

I just realized it’s been two weeks without a post.   Last weekend we took H and two of her friends to Florida to my in-law’s for Labor Day weekend.   It’s actually a repeat of last year, when H decided she’d rather do this than have a big party.  She had so much fun she decided to do it again.  Makes it much easier on the parental units.  All we have to do is cough up the money for plane tickets and a couple of dinners.  They pretty much entertain themselves.  Well, it doesn’t hurt that Grandma and Papa live in a community with golf, tennis, swimming, beach club, and most important (when you’re 14 and 15) GOLF CARTS.  Combine two golf carts with three teenagers and a closed golf course, and it’s like their own private amusement park.  The only thing missing…boys.  At least in this community, there were no boys under retirement age, so it was very relaxing for J and I.  Something tells me when these girls start driving real cars and want more social interaction, this trip might not hold as much interest for them.  But for now, we enjoyed the weekend.

Since I don’t have permission to post the beautiful faces of these girls, here’s a non-identifying photo of them taking a golf lesson. 

And here’s the image I see in my head when I look at H’s face:


How much is a private plane?

This week is the last week of the summer for us. H starts her new school next week, as a high school freshman. (OMG! How did that happen?) We’re in North Carolina at our little lake house, eking out the last few days before we have to go home to sticky hot, humid Nashville. Seriously, if summer is supposed to be OVER, why do we still have a month (or two) of blistering temperatures in the Middle Tennessee valley, the steam bath of the South? North Carolina has been so incredibly beautiful these last few days that the thought of going back home just rips out our hearts. It’s funny, we built our “dream home” in Nashville and moved in a little over a year ago. It’s a great house, with a wonderful kitchen that I love, lots of storage, and his and her closets (which, if you know me and my tendency to be a little messy, is the saving grace of our marriage). Our house in North Carolina is half the size of our Nashville house, has a tiny kitchen with a tiny island, only one closet in the master, and one vanity that we share (another mess), but we never want to leave here. Just sitting outside on the balcony, watching the sunset over the lake, and feeling the soft warm (NOT HOT) air, is like a drug. It makes everything else feel unimportant.

Our dog, Rosie, becomes a mountain dog when she’s here. She hikes with us, covering two to three times as much area, because she runs ahead, and back, then down to the water, and back up, and I swear, I can tell she’s smiling.

I love the hiking, too. There are a zillion waterfalls in this area…at least four within this community and over 30 within a few miles. Today we saw wild raspberries, and J’s cousin and aunt ate a ton of them. Hopefully they weren’t poisonous.

We also saw a TON of butterflies today, and I’m thinking maybe it’s mating season, because they were just piling on top of each other and didn’t move, even when the dog went over to sniff around them.

This summer, after H had three weeks of summer basketball at the beginning of the break, we spent three weeks here. Home for a little while, and back here for the last week. It’s the first time we were able to stay for more than a long weekend in the eight years we’ve been coming. It’s a private lake at the top of a mountain (at 4500 feet) in a very small community-very secluded. No shopping, no theaters, not even a grocery store within 30 minutes. So we wondered if we’d get bored, or anxious, being so far away from a city. The answer is a resounding NO!. We have golf, tennis, boating, fishing, hiking, biking, canoeing, swimming, and just relaxing, so now we are frantically trying to carve out as many four day weekends as we can, so we can come back. High school and basketball are kind of cramping that plan, at least for the next few months. It’s a six hour drive, so it’s too far to come for regular weekends.

I need a jet.

French people don’t get fat…seriously

Just got back from a wonderful trip to Paris and Barcelona, and I’m surrounded by laundry, suitcases that need to be unpacked, phone calls that need to be made or returned, office that needs to be cleaned, and mail that needs to be sorted. Combine all that with the fact that I’ve been home about 24 hours and it’s 4:30 a.m. in Barcelona, and I can barely type a legible sentence, so I’m going to do a proper post or two about the trip later. I just want to mention the one thing that struck me when I got home-the fact that the only fat people we saw in those two cities were tourists. Seriously, we noticed it a few days after we got to Paris, so we started trying to find French or Spanish people who were fat. Sure, there were a few soft bodies, maybe a couple of bellies, but nothing like the obesity that you see here everywhere you go. It can’t be because they eat low carb, or low sugar, or low fat, or eliminate alcohol, because that stuff is everywhere. From the chocolate croissants at breakfast, the basket of bread that appears at every table whether you order it or not, the unbelievable butter and cheese in Paris, the fat-laden sausages in Barcelona, and the wine that flows freely from mid-day on, you don’t see any signs of French or Spanish people doing any sort of Oprah-endorsed cleanse.

This morning, J and I did the thing I HATE to do. We weighed ourselves and neither one of us gained any weight on this trip. And let me tell you…we ate. Boy, did we eat. Jambon et fromage with frites at lunch,

Ice cream for dessert…

Lots of Spanish Ham in Barcelona…

Many tapas…which we thought were supposed to be tiny so we ordered too many of them at first…

and more wine that I want to admit to. But we walked all over the place, and we never ate between meals because we just didn’t have time. We were pretty religious about fitting in a workout every day, but still felt like we’d eaten so much more than usual that we had to have put on a few lbs. Even if we had, it would have been worth it! But so far, we’re good.

In my opinion, I think it’s two things. More movement and portion control. No super-sized plates of anything. They walk everywhere. But they enjoy life, and good food. Real food.

Maybe they’re onto something.

Don’t be a rude American in Paris

I was browsing the airport gift shop in Orly a few years ago, trying to find something so that I could spend my remaining francs before returning home, and a man, obviously in a hurry, plopped down a case of cigarettes on the checkout counter. As the young woman behind the counter rang up the purchase, he reached into his pockets and dumped a pile of coins on the counter, and said (in English), “There must be enough here to pay for this. Just take out what you need.” The girl looked at him, obviously, not quite understanding. He had a pile of coins that were essentially worth pennies, and he expected her to count them up for him. As she tried to help him, and attempted to explain in very broken English that he didn’t have nearly enough to pay for the cigarettes, he became more and more angry. His English became more offensive (hopefully the young woman didn’t understand the meaning of all the words he was using), she became more flustered, and I tiptoed out of the store before she realized I, too, was American and thought we all acted like that.

We are twelve days away from our trip to Paris and Barcelona, so I’m reading up on the essential tips for travelers so that we don’t offend the lovely Parisians and Barcelonians while we’re there. The first time we visited Paris, I was horrified at the behavior of a few of my fellow Americans, so I’m determined to at least try to be polite and not offensive. As I’ve mentioned before, we have never felt that the French were “rude”. You just have to remember that we’re guests in their country, and we shouldn’t assume that they all speak English. Sure, there is a “big city attitude” in Paris, as there is in New York City, but you can’t take that personally, nor should you characterize an entire city or nation just based on the actions of a few. Even though my husband didn’t speak a word of French, and my knowledge of the language was limited to a couple of years of high school French, we memorized a few phrases that were like magic…When we used them, were were greeted with smiles and assistance, for the most part. Sure, some of the Parisians spoke excellent English, and some not so good, but by not assuming that they spoke at all, we were able to enjoy and appreciate one of our favorite cities in the world!

It’s kind of a chicken or egg situation…are the French rude because Americans are rude first?  Regardless, it helps to avoid a few behaviors that tend to annoy them.   I found a great website, Secrets of Paris, and found a great listing of some  “French No-No’s” that make you look like a rude foreigner.  

  • Not greeting the shopkeeper. In France, you must ALWAYS greet the shopkeeper, and ALWAYS say goodbye, even if you don’t buy anything. Not just “Bonjour”, but “Bonjour Madame/Monsieur”, and “Merci, au revoir Madame/Monsieur”.  The French will not tolerate rude behavior in order to make a sale.
  • Not asking questions politely. Don’t just go up to a French person and just blurt out your question, especially if you don’t ask it in French. At the very least, you can say “Excusez-moi, Madame/Monsieur”, or even better, “Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur, excusez-moi de vous deranger, mais j’ai un question/problem.” (Excuse me for bothering you, but I have a question or problem).  Or the one phrase that my husband has memorized and delivers perfectly…”Je suis desole’, parlez-vous anglais?”  (I am sorry, do you speak English?)
  • Talking Loudly. The French are very discreet; conversations are meant to be heard only by the people in them, not everyone else in the Metro or restaurant.  (I wish this was an American expectation as well).
  • Touching things you shouldn’t touch.  In some boutiques, or fruit stands, etc., it is frowned upon to handle the merchandise without asking.  The only way to know is to watch what others do, or ask.
  •  Putting your hands on your lap while eating.  Americans are taught to keep our hands in our laps while eating, but in France that is considered rude.  “What are your hands doing down there?” they ask suspiciously (especially if someone of the opposite sex is seated next to you).  Hands rest on the table.  No elbows, though!
  • Inappropriate Attire.  Of course, the French are very fashionable people, expecially Parisians.  It isn’t always about being fashionable, though, it’s about being “proper”.   No hats or bared shoulders when sightseeing in churches, or attending services or a concert.  

And the four basic phrases of etiquette are:

  • S’il vous plaitPlease
  • Bonjour/Bonsoir, Madame/MonsieurHello/Good Evening, Madame/Sir
  • Merci, au revoir, Madame/MonsieurThank you, goodbye, Madame/Sir
  • Excusez-moi de vous deranger, Madame/MonsieurExcuse me for bothering you, Madame/Sir

Insider’s tips for Museums in Paris

Since we’re planning a trip to Paris this summer I’ve been trolling the blogs to research insiders tips. We’ve done all the guidebook, touristy museums and things, but I’m looking for some other tips. Found a great blog…EyePreferParis…which is written by a former New Yorker living in Paris. The following is his post about museums, which I tried to make a link to but was unable to figure it out (haven’t had my advanced blogging lessons yet), so here it is in it’s entirety.

April 07, 2008
Best of EPP:Ten Insider Tips for Paris Museums & Monuments

Visiting Paris museums and monuments are the things you most want to do here. However, they can be crowded, overwhelming, and expensive. Here are 10 insider tips to make it smooth,efficient, and sometimes cheaper.

1. Go at Night
Some of the larger museums are open at night.
• The Louvre- Wednesday & Friday till 10PM( but they start chasing you out by 9:30PM)
• D’Orsay- Thursday till 9:45
• Quai de Branly- Thursday till 9:30PM
• Palais de Tokio- 11:30PM every night except Monday

2. Go Early
The Louvre opens at 9AM, so be an early bird and catch the Mona Lisa first

3. Buy Advance Tickets or a Museum Pass
You can buy advanced tickets in person or on the internet for most museums, monuments, and exhibits at Fnac

Museum Pass-If you plan on going to at least 2 museums a day, than a pass is a no-brainer and you cut through the lines.
Passes are good at over 50 museums & monuments in Paris & surrounding areas.
2 day Pass- 30 euros
4 Day Pass-45 euros
6 day Pass-60 euros
Available at most museums
Click here for official site

You can also order in advance and have passes delivered to your home or hotel for an additional cost.

4.Fast Louvre Tickets
Inside the Carrousel de Louvre (the shopping mall in the Louvre) there is a Tabac that sells tickets.Closed on Tuesdays.

5.Metro Stop for the Louvre
The metro stop is Palais Royal-Musee de Louvre off the 1 & 9 lines, not the Louvre-Rivoli stop.

6.Free Admission
Many Paris museums are free on the first Sunday of the month.

7. Small Museums with Free Admission
Some of the best Paris museums are small gems with free admission.
Click here for list-

8.Fastest Entry to Eiffel Tower
The fastest way to get into the Eiffel Tower and bypass the lines, is to make reservations at Altitude 95 restaurant on the first floor.
• Call Altitude 95 @ 01 45 55 20 04 and make reservations as far in advance as possible .Ask for window seats. Average price per meal :50 euros per person.
• When you arrive, go to kiosk on the left between the legs of the tower, when you are facing the front.

9. Guided Tours of Louvre, D’Orsay, & Versailles
The most informative and efficient way to see The Louvre, D’Orsay, & Versailles is to go on a private or group tour.

Group Tours Given by the Museum
Louvre- Tours are in English and last 90 minutes.
Times: 11AM, 2PM, & 3:45PM everyday except Sundays & Tuesdays.
Cost: 5 euros in addition to entry fee.

Musee D’Orsay- Tours are in English and last 90 minutes.
Times: 11:30AM &2:30PM everyday except Monday.
Cost: 7.50 euros in addition to entry fee.

Versailles- Tours of private rooms are in English and last 90 minutes.
Times: 11AM, 1PM, 2PM, & 3:45PM everyday.
Cost: 7.50 euros in addition to entry fee.

I highly advise tours with a private guide and can recommend some excellent, very experienced ones. Email me and I will send you their information.

10. Best View of Paris-Bell Tower at Notre Dame
Climb 250 steps up the bell tower and see where Quasimodo rang those bells. Most experts and historians say this is the best view of Paris, showing mostly the older part of the city.

I’m adding this to my other favorite Paris blogs: Pollyvousfrancais, the Paris Blog, and La Belle Saison

Ilegal Cell Phones

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, H is in Washington DC this week on a school trip.

A couple of weeks ago we had the obligatory parent/student/teacher meeting outlining all the rules of the road for the kids. Personally, I don’t know how the five 8th grade teachers can muster up the energy to supervise 80+ 8th graders for five whole days. I shudder to think of it.

We were told they had to give up their cell phones every day and wouldn’t get them until they returned to the hotel every night after dinner. So I was pleasantly surprised to get a few texts from her yesterday, from the Smithsonian, the Holocaust museum, the lawn between the Washington and Jefferson memorial. We felt like we were experiencing the trip with her, and thought the teachers must have relaxed a bit on the cell phone ban.

Got a phone call from her this morning. She won’t be able to contact us at all today.

The teacher caught her using her cell phone yesterday.

I love North Carolina Mountains!!!

We’re in the mountains this week since H is in DC on a school trip. I love the off-season. Nobody is here, so it’s easy to get reservations and the traffic is almost non-existent. The lake is so beautiful, it’s crystal clear and the sun makes it look like sparkling diamonds. Rosie (our black lab who needs to lose weight due to arthritis at the young age of 3), was so excited, and even though the weather is pretty cold (snow last night), she jumped in the lake and swam like crazy. We bought new chaise lounges for the deck and watched the sun set and listened to … nothing, really. Some ducks and the sound of the wind chimes on the deck.

I miss my daughter. I wish she was with us, but she is having a great time with her class in DC. This place is so perfect, it makes missing her a little bit easier.