Category: Travel

Eight and Six and Family Vacation

September 17, 2013

(I know I’ve been gone a while.  Apologies.  I’ve got a long post below for you to read.  I quickly want to announce that I have new classes listed on my the site – go to the “classes” tab or just click here.  Some really good things coming your way!)

Three years ago, I wrote a post called Five and Three in an effort to try and capture the sweetness of my children.  Also to tell the story of why I have two of them.  The year after that, I wrote a post called First Grade and Pre-K.  Last year, I intended to write something called Seven and Five or Second Grade and Kindergarten, but I just never did.  I now feel this call to write about them.  I know I always do around their birthdays and I know I’ve written quite a bit about Graham, and I know they appear frequently on my Slice of Life posts.  I guess I feel this sweet sweet age that they are now, Eight and Six – or really Eight-and-Three-Quarters and Six-and-a-Half – is fleeting.  I watch them grow and mature practically before my eyes.  These kids (kids!) are really mine?  Where did the babies go?

(First Slurpees!)

We’ve been living in Oakland for a year now (!) and my boys have just started their second year at our sweet school – third and first grades.  They have adjusted to our new life amazingly well.  They love the sunshine and have made some nice friends.  Our community is so friendly and we love being able to just drive home from somewhere and pull over to buy lemonade from a schoolmate’s stand.  They spent the summer in camps and swimming at the community pool.  They have gone from being sort of confident in the water to really being able to swim in the space of the summer.  We traveled a bit, to Delaware with Randy’s family and to Seattle to visit mine (more on that in a minute).  On both of those trips they were terrific travelers.  We had long delays and long car rides and they took it all in stride.  I can put them in a strange bed and they will just pass out without anxiety or nightmares.

(First day of school.)

How to describe who these boys are right now?  I think six and eight is a bit magical.  People often smile at me when I walk down the street with them.  I know they are cute boys but I also think this age exudes sweetness and yet they are far from babies.  They are old enough to be a bit independent but young enough to still need their mommy.  And they still call me mommy.  They remember (most of the time) to pull their lunch boxes (Spider Man and Batman) out of their backpacks (ditto), but I still need to pack those lunch boxes.  They listen to me when I tell them they don’t get a treat if they don’t finish their fruit.  They don’t question my rules.  They are quick to say, “Sorry Mommy” if they cross a line.  They play well together, usually with the millions of Legos we seem to have acquired.  Sometimes the games involve multiple sheets of paper taped together with masking tape and require pens to be scattered across the living room floor.  Their imaginations inspire and amaze me.  I love hearing them using pretend voices.  I giggle when they play “restaurant”.

I love to kiss their necks in the morning just after they have woken up, their skin so warm and smelling so sweet.  They are still very innocent in the ways of the world and very trusting.  Also so curious.  Spencer asks me about 60 questions a day ranging from the interesting to the hilarious.  (A recent favorite – If you were having a snowball fight and one of the snowballs got hit by lightening, what would happen?)  If I answer that I don’t know, he will suggest we ask Daddy or Boppa – my dad.

With a new school year just beginning, we have high hopes for the boys.  Spencer had a magical kindergarten year – a kind teacher, nice kids, involved parents and real! big boy! school!  He was so ready.  He thrived in his classroom, got invited to all the birthday parties, and had lots of play dates.  I called him the mayor of his classroom.  He got lucky again with another nice teacher and many of the same sweet children.  I have already gotten five emails saying he has had Outstanding Behavior from his teacher so it looks like we are off to a good start.

Second grade was a tough year for Graham.  Being the new kid and being a bit different turned out to be a bad combination at that age.  Throw in a few really mean boys and a teacher who yelled a lot and it is astonishing to me that he wanted to go to school at all.  But want he did and he got three good report cards with the surprise that he is advanced in math and the non-surprise that he excels in listening, being a team player, and being kind to his classmates.  Thankfully, the mean boys were split up this year and Graham has a much nicer teacher who seems to be really on the ball and to already “get” him.  With the help of an attorney, we have been pushing the school district to provide more help for him in the areas where he needs it and hopefully it will all be in place soon.  We just never stop fighting for this boy.

A little more about our trip to Seattle.  It was actually supposed to be trip to Sun Valley to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday.  My whole family was set to meet up and stay in my parents’ time share condo but the terrible fires in Idaho kept us from doing so.  We were literally on the road, car packed up, friends in place to house- sit in Oakland, when my dad called and said the condo building was being evacuated.  I turned to Randy and asked, “Should we just go to Seattle?” and he said, “Sure!”  The boys were so ready for a road trip and so ready to see their cousins and to turn around just seemed sad.  So we tacked on an additional 400 miles to our trip and headed north and west.

Probably the most special part of the trip is that we got a chance to go to Lopez Island.  I was actually feeling a little stressed that this was going to be the first summer in 32 summers! that I wouldn’t spend a night on that island.  But with some frantic phone calls to find space to accommodate all of us, we squeezed in two nights there.  We got to visit Holly B’s and all of our favorite spots on the island, including the sweet church where we got married.  We had been planning to have a photographer take family shots in Sun Valley and Randy made some calls and somehow found us a wonderful photographer on Lopez to do the same.  We are all thrilled with the pictures he took and as soon as I can figure out how to share them, I will.  We got a picture at the more or less exact spot where we got engaged.

The sweet church.

The most beautiful beach in the world.

Madrona trees are my favorite.  They only grow in Northwest.

My dad, overwhelmed by choices at Holly B’s.

My parents.

My youngest brother Michael and Graham.  They look alike, don’t you think?

I made a decision that on road trips, long or short, we do them with no screens.  I am not *that* mom.  I let my kids watch tv and they play with our iPads after dinner.  But here is the thing.  When I was a kid, we drove to Sun Valley every winter and summer and I remember being bored but I also remember listening to my Walkman, looking out the window, napping, snacking, and just generally spacing out.  I don’t think kids get a lot of time to space out these days and I wanted to give them that chance.

As it turns out, they were busy on this trip.  The good kind of busy.  This was one of the keys.  I got lots of dot-to-dot books, coloring books, sticker books, comic books -  most of which we picked out together – and plenty of pens.  This contraption sat between them throughout the ride and they could dip into it whenever they wanted.  They also got plenty of snacks in their very own bin and they did not have to ask me whenever they wanted one.  The biggest time passer was listening to Harry Potter on CD.  Randy had read them the first one and we listened to the second one and all of us loved it.  The above photo of Graham is how he looked when we listened to it.  Just Zen.  It was a great trip.

Finally, randomly, this is a shot of us going out to celebrate our 11th anniversary.  That dress is my wedding dress.  Randy and I both been married before and had both had big weddings.  We decided to do something much smaller and more simple and I decided to wear a dress I liked, not a wedding dress.  It turned out that I fell in love with a white dress and I have worn it every anniversary since (except the pregnant and nursing years).  It doesn’t fit quite the same but it still fits!  Randy is wearing his wedding finery too.



A Slice of My Life – Bethany Beach, DE

July 10, 2013

My husband Randy’s immediate family lives in Richmond and Houston, but the entire extended family, and there are a lot of them, live in the Baltimore area.  The family is close and they see a lot of each other.  Every year, over 4th of July week, the entire crew picks up and heads to the Delaware shore for beach time, eating, drinking, and singing.  We go every other year and it is a trip I really look forward to.

On the West coast, if you tell people you are going to Delaware, they look at you funny.  Why Delaware?  For the beach, of course.  Beach to a West coaster, unless you are talking about Southern California, is a place to enjoy beauty, maybe play in the sand, perhaps dip a toe in the water on a really hot day.  East coast beaches are for lounging all day and swimming, really swimming, in the ocean.  Every time we go, I have a hard time with the sand for the first day or so.  My boys do too.  “Where is the pool?”, they want to know.  But then we all settle in, get used to sand being everywhere, and adjust to long lazy days with nothing much to do.  Every morning, Uncle Dan heads down to the beach in front of his house and sets up chairs and umbrellas and then people come and go throughout the day.  Some stay all day, some just come for happy hour beers.  It is a great vacation.

We flew Virgin America for my first time.  I’m no longer a Virgin virgin.  It was great having the convenience of screens in the seats, on demand movies and food and drink.  It was also great flying out of terminal 2 in San Francisco where there are great restaurants and even a yoga studio.  We were able to take advantage of these things because we had a three hour delay on our way out.  Then we had to circle for an hour over Washington D.C. because a tornado hit near National airport.  It was quite a trip out but the trip back was worse.

We never try and make it to the shore in one day because of things like delays and tornadoes.  We spent the night near the airport and the boys shared a bed.  When they went to sleep, they were head to head but sometime during the night this happened.

Weird to drive over two Bay bridges on opposite sides of the country within 24 hours of each other.

This is so not a West coast sky.

One of the highlights of the trip was spending time with Randy’s sisters, their husbands, and all the kids.  Cousin Charles got a big kick out of his big boy cousins.  (The frozen custard was pretty great too.)

Each time we go to Bethany, we make sure to spend at least one day at the boardwalk in Rehoboth.  It has a great area for rides that is especially good for young children.  It was bittersweet to walk by all the kiddie rides and realize that my children are much too old and big for them now.  They still get a tremendous kick out of trying to win animals.  For some reason, we had never gotten fries at Thrasher’s but we remedied that this trip.  I was disappointed.  They were greasy and not salty enough.

One of the biggest family activities is the one or two hootenannies that happen each week.  Many of the family members are musical, so singing and playing guitar is a big part of their lives.  I sing and play the guitar, I used to perform in coffee houses, but I almost never sing or play anymore.  Each visit, I am coerced to play for everyone so I spend some time practicing so I don’t make a fool out of myself.  The boys were captivated when I played.  (Note to self: play more often.)  Spencer thought he might perform a song of his own but decided he wouldn’t sing.  He would play the guitar only and it would be “jazz”.  In the end, he opted to play with the cousins instead.

Graham, on the other hand, performed a song of his own writing, music and lyrics, on both hootenanny nights.  I was proud to bursting and he brought the house down.

At the 4th of July parade.  Yes, you can see up my dress but I promise that is a bathing suit underneath.

You know.

This was home for a week.  So many of the houses along the shore are huge like this, built for multiple generations to be able to stay in one house and that is exactly what we had.  15 of us slept comfortably!

On our way back to D.C., we always stop in Annapolis to visit Randy’s alma mater.  We walk around the beautiful campus, stop in a few buildings, then hit the store for Navy gear for the boys.

Our flight home was supposed to leave at 10am.  We got to the airport at 8:30am and proceeded to wait for 12 hours.  The crash in San Francisco closed down two of the runways so everything was backed up.  It was one of those, “are we ever going to get home?” days.  We have been lucky with flying and had never been severely delayed so I wasn’t sure how the boys would do.  It turns out they are expert travelers and were amazingly flexible with our weird airport day.

Lots of walks up and down the terminal, new books, comic books, coloring books, treats, a surprisingly small amount of screen time, and they were true troopers.  We finally got on the plane, took off, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  And then I realized we still had a 5½ hour flight and a drive back across the Bay to Oakland to get through.  We got home at 1am which was 4am our time.  Still, I will never take landing safely for granted, especially at SFO.

Finally, I like to let you know what I am reading.  This is the current book.  I had high hopes.  Let the Great World Spin is on my top ten list of all time.  This book is beautifully written.  I have to stop and slow down and just marvel at the sentences and images sometimes.  But I’m not captivated by the story.  I admire it.  I can’t say I like it.  I have a lot of other great-sounding books waiting in the wings though.

 

 



A Slice of My Life – Kauai Edition

April 23, 2013

Last week, that week of utter craziness in Boston and Waco and unbelievable disappointment in our government, I was in Hawaii.  Kauai to be exact.  We heard the news about the bombings because a friend who came with us on our trip happened to be watching the news as she ran on the treadmill.  We were six hours behind the East coast and, it felt, a million miles away from all the bad things that were happening.  Kauai was actually a great place to be in a time of fear and uncertainty.  We didn’t have to shield our kids from the news because they were in the water from morning until evening.  And truthfully, whenever the tv was on, it was tuned to the Disney channel or Cartoon Network.  I relied on Facebook and the New York Times on my phone for updates and I felt utterly sick at times that I was sitting by the pool with a Mai Tai and watching my kids splash around while people were recuperating from unimaginable injuries in hospitals and others were imprisoned in their homes while a manhunt went on.  But what can I do?  I was on vacation, on an island in the middle of the Pacific, while some really bad shit went down in our country.  Does that mean I shouldn’t tell you about our trip?  I don’t think so.  So here we go.

This was our family’s fourth trip to Kauai.  Our first time Spencer had just turned a year and Graham was three.  I remember, viscerally, the stress of traveling that far with children that young.  My kids actually did great, I was the one who was a mess.  In general, I am not a high stress worrying kind of person.  But traveling across time zones on long flights with my children when they were young was hard for me.  It is so different now, at ages eight and six.  They pretty much entertained themselves, with the help of a combination of iPad, Leap Pad, and DVD players, and all the snacks that I don’t usually let them eat (think those white crackers with spreadable cheese), for the duration of the five hour flight.  We left Oakland early in the morning and arrived, thanks to a three hour time difference, around 9:30 in the morning.  That left us with a bonus day of sun and swimming.  Above is where I parked myself for the first three days of the trip.

If you have been to Kauai, you know the weather is not a sure bet.  Our first time there, we had six hours of sun in seven days.  (You should click on that link if for no other reason than to see my kids at ages two and four – impossibly cute if I do say so myself.)  After that trip, we decided it would be a good idea to tack on a couple of days in Poipu at the beginning of the trip.  Poipu (which the boys thought was the funniest word ever) is on the sunny side of the island and it is nice to know that, if nothing else, we will get a few days of sun.  The Sheraton has a terrific pool and the beach is just steps away.

The view from our room in Poipu, setting up for the luau.  We contemplated going but realized that there was almost nothing for the boys and me to eat (the vegetarians in the family), so we opted to just watch from our balcony.

The boys liked the pretty girls “shaking their booties”.  All righty then.

Several examples of island style.  My dress is from that cool boutique in Oakland.

It wasn’t all sun and swimming and fruity beverages.  After three days in Poipu, we headed north and west to Princeville.  We stopped on the way for lunch in Kapa’a at a restaurant where we have eaten before.  Randy ordered fish tacos as he usually does when he has the opportunity.  About five minutes after finishing his lunch, he got a really bad headache.  Then his face turned bright red.  I suggested we turn around and head for the hospital near the airport.  He told me that he wanted to press on and we’d see how he felt.  This is something that Randy sometimes does, he won’t admit that something is wrong until it is dire.  Is this a guy thing?  Not only would he not turn around but he insisted on driving.  As we got on the road, I saw a sign for an urgent care just out of Kapa’a and made him make the turn.  It turns out they have an ER, thankfully.  In just a few minutes after checking in, his whole body turned bright red.  In order not to scare the boys or have them tear up the waiting room, we went back into town to get shave ice, more on that treat later, and waited for the call to come get him.  It turns out that Randy got scromboid poisoning, something that can affect certain kinds of fish if they are not refrigerated properly.  The redness was basically one huge hive that covered him in a histamine response.  It is amazing what the body can do when faced with an invader.  After some IV benadryl, his color was back to normal and away we went.  Needless to say, I drove the rest of the way.  Later in the trip, Randy got a bad cold and was hit by a car while riding his bike.  Again we were lucky and he was all right.

Princeville.  The only downside to our time share is that is not on the beach, although the pool is terrific.  We are just a few miles from Hanalei Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, and we are up the hill from a lovely St. Regis, where we have beach privileges.

Not too shabby.  We have to bring our own towels so we are recognized as the riff raff and we are NOT allowed in their pool.  We are allowed to order $15 cocktails however.

I’ve lived most of my life on the West Coast and right near the water.  The water has mostly been a Sound and is most recently a Bay.  Being in Hawaii and looking out on the Pacific Ocean is awe-inspiring.

I read three books.  Two are not really worth mentioning (all right, I read The Night Circus after hearing great things about it and all I thought was meh).  This one though.  Wow.  I’m kind of a fiction snob and was prepared not to like it or just to think of it as a beach read.  It was a beach read in that is has a great plot, but I also found it moving and very well written.  I half expected it to fall apart at the end as so many books that start well do (helllloooo Gone Girl), but the end was just as great as the rest.  Pick it up!

Every single day we had shave ice.  That is not a misprint.  In Hawaii it is shave (no “d”) ice and it is nothing like a sno-cone.  The ice truly is shaved from a huge block so it melts on the tongue like ice cream, and there is no crunching or pool of syrup left in your cup when you are done.  At first we got one for the boys to share (they are large) but Randy and kept dipping our spoons into it.  Then we got each of the boys their own but Randy and I kept dipping our spoons into it.  Finally, the boys each got their own and Randy and I got one to share.  Such good stuff.

Those rainy days I was telling you about.  It was still in the 70′s so it did not stop the boys from swimming.

Or me from drinking.

The annual boys in Aloha shirts in Randy’s arms photo.  (Here is the one from last time.)  I warned him that after poisoning, a bad cold, and a collision between his bike and a car that he did not need a hernia on top of everything.  Maybe next time the boys will pick him up.



Slice of My Life – A Month in France

July 17, 2012

Hello Friends.  I have missed writing my slice of life posts.  I have missed sharing the silly little photos (and some not so silly) that represent my week.  I thought about just picking up where I left off, ignoring, for the moment, that I just spent a month in France.  But last week consisted of a 10½ hour flight back from Paris, jet lag, coming back to a house that I dearly love and that now seems palatial, and going through this house, room by room, purging us of excess stuff that we have accumulated in 5½ years.  And then an impromptu trip to Lopez Island.  It has already been a week of relief (so nice to be home), sadness (how can we leave this city and that island?), and being overwhelmed (will we find a house in Oakland? are we doing the right thing? will the moving part of the move ever be over?).  In other words, not a week to share in photos.

So, I’ll share my month is France instead.  To make it a little simpler for myself, these are all photos I took with my phone.  If you follow me on Instagram (I’m @danatreat), you might have already seen some of these.

In case you didn’t read this post, we stayed three weeks in a lovely town called Cagnes-sur-Mer.  We found our place using VRBO.  It’s the one with the red flowers.

This was the view from the tiny deck off the third floor.  (Yes, three floors, but each one had two small rooms.)

Cagnes-sur-Mer really consists of three parts and we lived in Haut de Cagnes, or high up on the hill.  There were four or five restaurants up there with a beautiful courtyard and a boule court over to one side.  The view was spectacular.  We tried a Vietnamese place (fair) and ate several times at a pizza place (good).  The boys could come sit for a few bites and then run around.  It was ideal.

Our days on the Côte d’Azur went one of two ways.  We either did a beach day in our town or we piled into the car for an adventure.  Either way, each morning the boys and I would walk down our steep hill to one of the two bakeries we liked best.  (There were at least five others in our little town.)  I would buy the days’ first baguette and they would get a treat.  Sometimes we would walk back up the hill and sometimes we would wait for the little bus to take us back up.

(This photo is actually taken at the little stop across the street from our place.)

Beach days included slathering on lots of sunscreen and then loading up our bag for the half hour walk to the beach.  It was HOT, especially the second two of the three weeks we were there.  But the breeze at the beach was lovely and the temperature of the water was perfect.  The boys would spend hours looking for sea glass, playing games with rocks and sticks, and playing in the waves.

The snack shack at my childhood neighborhood pool had things like Fudgesicles and bad frozen pizza.  This guy had crèpes, delicious paninis, freshly made salads, and amazing granitas.  When they were going to get their “drink” became a point of obsession on beach days.

Orange was their favorite.

If it was an adventure day, we walked down to the town parking lot and loaded up in our rental Peugot.  We always brought Veronique – the France friendly GPS sister to our American Veronica in our car at home.  Veronique made driving and finding our way around about as un-stressful as driving around an unfamiliar, and very crowded, region can be.  We would pick a place we wanted to visit and let her guide us there.  Mountain towns, beach towns, large cities, small villages – we saw a lot.

Vence was one of the first places we visited and it remains one of our favorite towns.  This was the only cloudy day in three weeks.

I mentioned this in my last post but this is the Matisse chapel.  No photos were allowed inside.  It is magical there.

Windy back roads and the view of Nice from on high.  Our poor boys walked with us all the way up on a very hot day but we rewarded them with this.

I had never seen a carousel as pretty as this one.

We spent a day gaping at the beauty and wealth in Monaco.  They have a terrific aquarium there but honestly, I don’t feel a need to go back.

Probably my favorite thing we did was drive to St. Raphaël and then catch a ferry to St. Tropez.  St. Tropez is on a peninsula so it is difficult to access by car.  We knew it would be ritzy and it was but it was also small and charming and very beautiful.  It was over 100ºF that day but ducking in and out of gorgeous (and blissfully air conditioned) shops made it bearable.  As did ice cream.

The ferry back.

We went to so many sweet towns.  This one was on our way to Cap Ferrat – Villefranche sur Mer.  We ate over-priced pizza and just stared at the view.

We saw a lot of art on our trip.  Matisse is prevalent throughout small towns along the Côte d’Azur and there is a particularly lovely museum in Nice.  There was a Renoir museum in our town and we loved the Chagall mueseum, also in Nice.  I had a poster of this painting on my wall throughout college, so seeing it in person was a real treat.

The boys were relatively patient on our adventures.  Not that there wasn’t complaining.  We had to keep reminding ourselves that they are 7 and 5 years old and wandering through mountain towns in search of table linens is not really what they wanted to be doing.  So in addition to the beach days, we did two days at water parks – Aqualand and Aquasplash.  If you ask the boys, this was their favorite thing we did in France.

I just have to include this photo of Spencer.  This was our view of him for much of this vacation.  Long board shorts and just a peek of butt crack.  No matter how many times we pulled up his bathing suit, this was how it looked.

On many days, the walk back up the hill, or the ride up in a hot and crowded bus, was just too much to face.  So we would pause in the town square and enjoy a  beer (or an apple juice).

After three weeks, our time in southern France came to an end.  We celebrated our last night by getting dressed up and eating dinner at our favorite place on the top of the hill.

And then we went to Paris.

Where we rode the ferris wheel in the Tuileries.

Which is right next to the Louvre.

We went to Euro Disney – the boys’ first trip to a Disneyland park.

We went to the Musée d’Orsay where the boys lasted a full two hours before staging a full-on protest.

We ate felafel.  For an hour after lunch, Graham kept exclaiming, “That was SO GOOD!”  I was a proud mama.  Even Spencer said, “I tried that brown thing and it tasted good.”

This was our view from the living room window.

And this was the last picture I took before we slept our last night in France.



From France, With Love

June 22, 2012

On Monday, June 11th, our little family woke up at the usual time. We ate breakfast and finished putting toothbrushes, stuffed animals, medications, snacks, and all manner of necessary things in our suitcases and backpacks. A lovely friend who is staying in our house while we are gone, came to get keys, information about garbage and mail, and where to get coffee and all manner of Tangletown things (that is the name of our neighborhood). And then, before we could really wrap our brains around it, we were off the airport for the long day and night of travel to France.

I realize that loving food and loving France is kind of cliche. There are a lot of Francophiles in the world. But France has been an important part of my life for much of my life, so I’d like to talk about France and what it has meant to me in my almost 42 years. I went for the first time when I was just under a year old. My parents tell the story of packing a full suitcase full of Pampers, because they were unavailable in Europe in 1971, and also of me making lots of noise in museums and eating tons of French fries. They went on to take me to numerous other countries over the course of a 3 week trip when you really could do Europe on $10/day, and I remember none of it.

The next time I went, I was 16 years old, on a bike with a group from my high school, three months riding along country roads, sleeping in tents, eating more bread and chocolate than I ever thought possible, and really truly, learning the language and also learning to love the French. We rode through the castles in the Loire Valley; the apple orchards of Normandy; startled goats off treacherous roads in Corsica (and had two solid weeks of sunshine); had snow-capped mountains as our constant companions through the Alps,; and tried to remember why it was that we chose the region of Auvergne, in the Massif Central mountains, until we came upon the Gorge du Tarn – a place so wild and beautiful that we frequently had to get off our bikes to just stare.

My next visit was when I was a junior in college and spent a semester in Paris. I decided that, in order to make the most of my 5 months and to learn the most Franch possible, I should live with a French person. My college teamed me up with a woman doctor who, for reasons unknown to me, was so depressed that she never left the apartment, had a dog named Ginger who would shit in the hallways, and who would give one sole dinner party the whole time I was there, telling me I had to stay in my room while the guests were there, and then would leave every single dish and platter in the kitchen for weeks so that, when I came in from class, I would have to cover my face with my shirt so the stench of rotting food wouldn’t make me sick. It is a true testament to the wonders of Paris, its beauty and the amazing food, that I left after that semester vowing to someday return.

Somehow, it took another 12 years for the next visit to France. Randy and I did a quick two nights in Paris on the tail end of our honeymoon in Spain. I was coming off some terrible bug that made me grateful that you can buy antibiotics over the counter in Europe. We made our way to a horrible hotel in the Latin quarter and ate the foil pouch of peanuts available in our room for dinner. That was about all my stomach could handle. But the next day, while Randy went to a business meeting, I walked the streets and eventually found myself in a brasserie, trying out my once quite-good but now-rusty French, and ordering a sandwich that had thin slices of hard-boiled egg, mayonnaise, tomato, and lettuce, on the perfect half of a baguette. I could not believe how good it tasted.

Soon after we were married, Randy and I moved to London for a year, and I went to France no fewer than 4 times that year. The last time was as we were getting ready to move back to the States. We flew to Paris, rented a car, and took our time driving down to Provence, with stops in the Loire Valley, Lyon, and my beloved and still-as-magnificent-as-I-remembered Gorge du Tarn, before meeting up with friends at a villa on a hillside covered with lavender. I was 22 weeks pregnant with Graham. I had felt his first kick sitting and waiting for our luggage in the Charles de Gaul airport. I brought a maternity bathing suit which I used daily at the pool onsite, and one cookbook, Patricia Wells’ The Provence Cookbook, and from that lovely book, I made dinners for a group of 8 every night. We all took the train back to Paris after our magical week and the group watched Llance Armstrong win his 6th Tour de France at the Arc de Triomphe on, or maybe the day before, my birthday. Randy went with me to an art gallery on the Ile St. Louis where my mom and I had seen some amazing paintings on a trip to Paris earlier than spring and, without me  knowing about it, he bought me a painting and had it shipped home. It is my favorite painting in our house, to date.

The next time I went to France, I was the mother of two, and getting ready to celebrate my 40th birthday. It was a seven year dream to go to Paris and buy copper pots and while I did buy a most beautiful copper double boiler (which I have only used a handful of times because it is so beautiful), I also got to go to Cannes on the Cote d’Azur – a region, in all my time spent in France, that I had never visited.

(Our beautiful street for 3 weeks.)

And here I am again. 3 weeks in Cagnes-sur-Mer. A small town between Cannes and Nice. Small enough that it is easy to find our way around, large enough that almost everything we need is here in our town. Including a beach. We have been here a little over a week and have already done day trips to Nice and Antibes, the hill towns of Vence and Grasse, as well as a day at the water park known as Aqualand, in addition to plenty of time spent at our town’s somewhat rocky but still totally acceptable, beach. We visited the small chapel that Matisse was commissioned to create the murals and stained glass for – a chapel I remember studying for my term paper on Matisee in senior year art history, and when my little family and I walked inside, I immediately started to cry. Seeing such works of beauty in person, when you never thought you would actually see them, can be very overwhelming.

The Cote d’Azur is warm. Hot even. Our little place is sweet and, um, little. We are almost at the top of a hill of such epic proportions that we usually opt into taking the free shuttle (the Navette) to it each day. I have been cooking dinner almost every night. It’s not so much that I am inspired by the produce, which – truly – I am not, but that it is relaxing for us to be at home and not trying to figure out whether the boys should eat pizza or pasta for the umpteenth time. At home, we vegetarians can make sure we are getting nourished. It’s not that bad for me – I am happy with salads, but my kids, especially Spencer, are having a harder time. My little kitchen has two burners and I am putting them to work, mostly making simple, but delicious, things. Polenta with cream and Comte cheese stirred into it and topped with homemade ratatouille, omelettes with sautéed mushrooms and radicchio, lots of salad, curried couscous with Le Puy lentils and chickpeas, tagliatelle with goat cheese, oil cured olives, and basil. Nothing fancy but all delicious, made even more so by the fact that we are depleted by the sun and by all the beauty we are seeing each day.

We still hope to see St. Tropez and Monaco. We need to check out the chateau at the top of our extremely steep hill because the town’s Renoir exhibit is temporarily housed there. We might get on a train for a day trip. We might not. We might go to a relatively nearby town in Italy for the Saturday market. We might not. We are going to eat a lot more pizza and a LOT more bread. Spencer has decided that he likes goat cheese and pizza with olives on it and that is more than I could have hoped for him. Graham ate most of a cheese crepe without being too sure about it and I am proud of him for that. They have already been on a 100 year old carousel and, if you asked them, them are hoping for more beach time, more carousels, and more ice cream.

Randy and I have had time to process all that awaits us when we return home. I have already freaked out a couple of times. Being far from home can sometimes make me crave home – stability and things that are known instead of unknown. We will return to Seattle and a brief lull of calm before jumping into a full blown move and throwing our comfortable worlds into chaos. There has been some second guessing, some tears, and finally, the very real thought that this move is the best thing for us at this time. How do you reconcile feelings of caution? When do you say ok, I am just feeling anxious about this big change and when do you say, this is too much for me? That question is what kept me awake for the first 5 nights we were here. Ultimately, I am choosing to move beyond the doubt and celebrate the positive. A friend asked us, as we were trying to make the decision about whether or not to move to San Francisco, if we would regret it someday if we did NOT move. I have come back to that question time and time again. When we were trying to decide whether or not to move to London, I was having a hard time with that decision. Now, looking back 9 years later, there has never been a moment when I have thought, “Wow, we should never have moved to London.” I get it – this is different, kids and schools and jobs and buying and selling homes and 3+ years vs. 1 year makes it all different. But I can’t help but think that if we don’t go, we will both regret it.

We have another week and a half in Cagnes-sur-Mer and then we head to the Nice airport and fly to Paris. We will have six nights there. I hope to do another Cote d’Azur post before we leave. I am having a heck of a time uploading photos so I’m sorry there aren’t more in this post. If you are on Instagram, I am @danatreat and I post photos each day. A bientot!



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