Monday, May 26, 2014

Events from April 2013 to May 2014

As I noted in my previous blog, my silence in 2013 did not mean nothing was happening.

May 2013
Roussillon and 100 years:  In early May, I was invited to celebrate 100 years of wine-making by Domaine Sol-Payre in Elne, France.  This family-owned winery is now in its fifth generation.  I also visited the legendary vineyard of La Petite Siberie, owned by Domaine Clos des Fees.  Here are pictures from the trip.

Spain and Morocco: Family friend Laura Austin, now a world-class Googler in Califorinia, is also a fun traveling companion, especially when Spanish is required.  She spent a year studying in Madrid, but took the time to learn the best places to see in other parts of Spain.  She wanted to go to Morocco (who doesn't; I'm in!), so we traded: she would be my guide and interpreter in Spain, and I would do the same for her in Morocco (they speak French there).  We traveled by plane, train, bus, and ferry (from Spain to Morocco).  Here are pictures of this adventure.

June 2013
My younger brother David and his family visited in June, as part of a greater European romp they were enjoying.  I served them the best Chez Mark had to offer: Beef Tenderloin Chez Mark, Paella, and the accompanying host of cheeses, salads, and wines.  We had a "lock-in" of sorts, but also went out to see Paris at night.

Josh and Kayleigh, my nephew (David's younger son) and his wife Kayleigh visited for an evening dinner at Chez Mark.  I cooked the beef tenderloin and red wine sauce, along with salad, cheeses, and dessert.  We enjoyed a wine called Selenae, 2001 vintage (middle row, far right).  This is the premium wine from Domaine Ferrer-Ribiere.  It was a fun time, and I am grateful they could fit me into their schedule.

August 2013
A long-time work colleague and friend came to Paris on a business trip.  She immediately wanted to go Giverny, the site of Monet's gardens.  She contacted me, and I set it up (she actually pointed me to the websites to make the reservations).  This is a trip I would not have made, simply because I was unaware Giverny could be reached so easily.  It is easy to see the inspiration for his paintings, even in these pictures.

November 2013
I mentioned the trip to Marrakesh in the blog, and will post the links for photos here again: Marrakesh, Atlas Mountains.

Texas schools are off for the week of Thanksgiving, and I asked Pam to come over so we could do some sightseeing together, knowing my days here were numbered.  One week was not going to be enough, so I persuaded her to stay for two weeks.  Her principal was kind enough to give her permission, and she only lost two days of pay.  Still, it made for a great time together, and worth every extra penny.

During the week of Thanksgiving, we traveled north and west of Paris to Mont Saint Michel and Normandy's D-Day beaches of Omaha (American) and Gold (British).

December 2013
Pam's visit continued into the first week of December, and the reason I wanted her to stay longer: December 1st signaled the opening of the Christmas market in Strasbourg, a city which has celebrated each Christmas full stop for 500 years.  Strasbourg is the self-proclaimed "Capital of Christmas", and no one argues.  We had a great time in the very German part of France.  We stayed at Hotel Rohan, just off the main square, a hotel with 30+ uniquely decorated rooms.  Everything was walking distance for us, and it was a great way to open the Christmas season.  We shared a very memorable time during Pam's extended stay.

February 2014
Jack Schaffner and I finally got to romp France together.  We first hit Normandy and the D-Day beaches.  We took our time to savor the places where men fell, and also the American cemetery.  Much to the surprise of many reading this, we did not see the museums.  After a night back in Paris, and dinner at an Alsatian restaurant called Chez Jenny (Jack's ancestors came from Alsace), we headed south, to Northern Catalonia, also known as Roussillon, in France.  In Roussillon, we enjoyed both wine tastings and hiking, and driving about the countryside at-large.

My sister-in-law and niece came for a stay after Jack's visit.  Brenda and Abby were here earlier (see June 2013 above), but both felt like they needed a trip to Paris and a stay at "Chez Mark" so, as my niece Abby put it, "we can see all the things the boys didn't let us see this summer".  They indeed did just that, with only two overlaps in 11 places visited.  We had many wonderful evenings together, including a visit to the Eiffel Tower at night.

Catalina and Claudiu Stanean came for a visit, two of the young people who translated for us during our many mission trips to Romania.  I have known both since their earliest teen years, and now they are married with two lovely children.  It was a sweet reunion, and I was so glad to share in their Paris adventure.

May 2014
I made three trips in May: UK, Sud de France, and Romania -- all to visit friends, and pick up a wine barrel.  I got to see the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete version of the Bible in Greek at the British Library and try to read from its 4th century pages.  Sud de France gave me an opportunity to visit one of our favorite winemakers and bring back a barrel for use in the wine room of our new house.  The trip to Romania was a sweet time with friends with a twist and a break -- to my ankle.  I hobbled back to Paris to prep for my move home; very bad timing.  It took nothing away from the times shared with people I cherish there.