Tag Archives: travel experience

An autumn love story

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On a warm autumn day, in a town on the Mediterranean, I let my kid choose where she wanted to have lunch. Her choice led us to a place were locals go. Tables next to each other. Waiters saluting clients with a non-chalance of old friends. This kind of place.

We were given a table in the middle of the room and soon enough a couple was sat next to us.

She was beaming with elegance, her hair just out of a hairdresser. White blouse, dark skirt. Let’s call her Mathilde. He was dressed as if in a hurry. A hurry to see her, I thought. Let’s call him Henry. They both seemed to have been born in the middle of last century.

They ordered the plat du jour and wine. Henry immediately became chatty with the lady at the table next to him and told her the story of his life in 5 minutes: he is retired, daughter lives in another country, he and the lady having lunch with him is not his wife and they just “see each other”. He would be good on Twitter, I thought, with such a talent for conciseness.

The lady at the next table offered them her unfinished bottle of wine. I also wanted to offer something, in exchange for more stories. I offered them our untouched basket of bread. They accepted it with the joy of 5 year olds on Christmas eve.

As we switched our attention to our plates, their dialogue unfolded:

– Oh, darling, your back hurts you again?, Henry asked with a compassion level 100, as she tried to find a comfortable posture in her chair.

– Oh, it’s fine, Mathilde tried to reassure him.

– Well, you know the remedy. You come to my place. You undress. I give you a massage on your back, his hands demonstrating circular movements, as if around her delicate shoulders.

Mathilde blushed and directed his eyes with her green eyes to my daughter, as if saying: « Shsh, there are kids around ». Henry’s blue eyes responded: “Well, sooner or later, she will find out. What’s there to hide?!”

– Well, you felt good after our last time…, his sweet smile enveloping her.

We left the place with the feeling of having watched a good movie from the 50s. Their illuminated faces – a lovely memory of an autumn love story. Ageless. Priceless.

P.S. I remembered this story in the times of this pandemic… I truly hope they are well and their love continues to brighten their days.

“The salt path” by Raynor Winn

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That’s some tale. I “walked” for miles and miles on the English coast line with this amazing couple – Moth and Ray. The reading made me straighten my back, lower my shoulders and relearn acceptance.

This couple in their 50s lost their home, family business and all income and walked into their next stage with their 8 kg each backpacks. On top of that, Moth was diagnosed with some incurable disease… . They endure, overcome, cry, despair, get up, and move on.

I read some of the reviews after I read the book. Some saw it as a diary, others as a coast guide and national geographic type of writing. Some focused on the homeliness side of the story only. Others on the iterations… It has it, indeed, a little bit of each. As with any reading, we will find there only what we have inside already…

My favourite quote from the book: “A new season had crept into me, a softer season of acceptance.”

“A year in Provence” by Peter Mayle

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12 months of life in Provence told by an Englishman who relocated there with his wife and two dogs. They moved to slow down. Slowly they learned that “slow-down” has a meaning of its own in Provence. “Normalement” is a measure of time, making each deadline nothing but a dream. The Mayles learned it through endless repairs of the house and the maintaining of the farm.

The pace of the book is superb, as Mayle takes the reader through local traditions of hunting, goat races, wine and oil making, to neighbours interactions and most gourmet pauses outside the regular touristic circuits.

I live in France and after reading the book I realised how diverse the country is. Rural and urban mind-sets live on different timescales and values chains. Yet, with a great deal of sense of humour mixed with a bottle of good wine, one can make it alright, as Meyers show us. I now officially make the chapter on December my Christmas day reading. It is beyond funny and entertaining. “Appy Christmas” and “Bonne Annee!”

Thank you Bucharest, Riga and Vilnius

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Thank you Bucharest, Riga and Vilnius

for showing me how different yet similar we are in living our values. We tend to use our differences to put a distance between ourselves. Sometimes, still, we learn to accept our differences as ways to complement and build each other.

In cultures where the value of big words overshadows their meaning, small gestures come to rescue to mean the world.

In places where the mind must absolutely know the exact number or budget, the storyteller will give meaning to both big and small numbers.

In cultures, which knew command and control, a creative mind will find a new way to give birth to chocolate molecules.

Preferences to do things behind the scene will meet the preacher of transparency with “just try it in the open, even if you fail, and you’ll see that it does not hurt”.

A disastrous service will end-up on a positive note, as it was met with kindness and acceptance of the fact that a waiter is also a human and who knows what she has to deal with outside her work.

Our knowledge of cultures will try to attribute the above behaviours to humans from certain countries and/or nationalities. Please do not do that. Attitudes and behaviours have no passports and do not stay confined within borders.

Next time you are in an environment your brain stereotypes about (which is normal, as the brain thinks in categories), just ask it to take a break and inhale the diversity in all its splendor. And if you absolutely must, call me naive. I do not mind.

“I am naive” Molecules Chocolate made in Lithuania, by Domantas Uzpali.

Bucharest, Catedrala Neamului/Nation’s Cathedral, seen from Marriott Hotel.

Riga, flags and church.

“I am naive” Molecules Chocolate made in Lithuania, by Domantas Uzpali.

Thank you Chisinau

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Thank you Chisinau

for my dearest people who make me feel at home, regardless of the time which passed since our last encounter. You know who you are.

for my first eight-pairs-of-hands-baking experience with orphan girls in the care of Diaconia and a chance to share with them a baking atmosphere I had with my grandmother.

for my daughter’s enthusiasm and support: “Mom, you were such a pro, juggling the parallel teams at baking!”.

for Diaconia’s wonderful team of people whose dedication I admire from the bottom of my heart. Check them out at http://www.diaconia.md.

for allowing young musicians to express themselves under the street lights in Stefan cel Mare park:

for the betterment if your zoo. We can be critical of many things we saw there, yet we choose to appreciate how much it evolved since its establishment 40 years ago

for my school, which celebrated 50 year recently. It was a moment of joy to retrace my steps to and from the school, with my daughter this time around.

for a great number of professionals I met and who do the best they can and aspire to do better, regardless of the circumstances. You know who you are.

and, last but not least, for your splendid autumn colours which stand to remind us of the unique beauty of nature this time of the year.

Thank you Brussels

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I was on a 4 hour train ride.

– How are you, Madam? It’s ok, not too long?, asked the conductor, as we approached our destination.

– Thank you, it is just right. And how are you? You are the one working all these hours. I am only giving a massage to the seat 🙂

– Oh, thank you very much for asking, a big smile lighting up his face. I adore it. It’s the best job in the world! When all goes well.

– I wish you that it continues to stay well, in all its ways.

– Thank you very much, Madam. A pleasure to see you again on our trains.

A one minute dialogue with a thousand riches in it. People find meaning in serving others. People are opening up when asked with autheticity how was their day/duty trip/behind-the-cashier day. A grateful customer can give meaning to someone’s work. Be kind.

Coffee mug courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott – my kind of coffee fortune telling.

Merci Monaco

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for such a wonderful immersion into Dali’s artistic journey at Grimaldi Forum

for the wonders of jewelry making by Chaumet

for the new turtles nursery for Samy and Avril at the Oceanographic Museum, which we always enjoy visiting

for our first visit to the zoo, which only got 3/10 from my kid, who knows everything about how enclosures should look like and she is serious about it. Some enclosures are beautiful nonetheless. The zoo is home to 250 animals and all of them were donated, which makes it unique

for the return of the unhindered view on the Casino in all its green splendor

for the best tarte au chocolat at Costa. The lady there also vows to the excellency of chocolate éclaire. Something to try next time 🙂

for an excuisite chocolate ice cream by Marcolini, enjoyed in a true schoolgirl spirit on the stairs of the Opera. It brought back a dear childhood rebelion memory: to eat ice cream in the middle of winter and on the stairs of the bus station

for the discovery of Gaia, an ode to Greek cuisine in the heart of Monaco. I loved the food’s magic power to take you to the Hellen land and then bring you back to Cote d’Azur. We enjoyed the watermelon and feta salad, the cheese pie with truffles and the fish in salt crust. Wine lovers will find there a fine selection of Greek and French wines (to the extent I can judge). Service is personalised and well syncronised on a very busy night

for an amazing view from Le Meridien, which was very generous with us and exceeded our expectations

for the mind-blowing taste of Munegu – a cake born from a blend of panettone and fougasse – from Mada One by Marcel Ravin, to share and enjoy with the loved ones upon return

Merci Obernai

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for such a warm welcome on my bday with my family

for the fun in water

for your blend of tradition and excellency in hospitality

for a picture perfect design with nature at its center

and last and not least, for decadent desserts and … the coffee which took me by surprise – it was hot! A first in France 🙂