Patrice and Richard’s 2017 Experience

Oh, what a year we had! Have you heard about our travels? (Observe us below at a Maori “Living Village” in New Zealand. I think we need to work on the challenge of lowering our eyebrows while sticking our tongues out.)

FullSizeRender (69).jpg In June Richard retired from full-time work, and we spent a crazy month emptying the house, selling it just before we left for our loooong trip around the world. On July 16th, we were off!

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July 17 – Ireland

PMF windy Ireland.jpg We started in Dublin, and then went up to County Donegal where Patrice met three new Irish second cousins. See her at right, standing in the field where her maternal grandfather was born—and yes, there was a cottage there back in the day. We saw the glorious Ring of Kerry, drove on the “wrong” side of the road, and felt right at home in this gorgeous country.

August 2 – Scotland

It’s been our dream to sing at the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, and this year we finally did it, giving a cabaret performance and leading a worship service the next weekend, both at St. Mark’s Unitarian Church. The city was packed with excitement, performers, and attendees for the 75th Fringe Festival. After Edinburgh, we went north to the tiny town of Leslie, in Insch. We stayed in the Leslie Room at Leslie Castle, and we weren’t the only Leslies there! Our visit included an impromptu concert for the owner—the daughter of the Baron of Leslie—in the Baronial Hall.

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August 20 – England

We zipped down to London and saw the fabulous “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” with Audra McDonald… and we got a chance to meet her outside the stage door. An amazing talent, and very gracious to her fans.

FullSizeRender (77).jpgAugust 23 – France

We flew Paris for Patrice’s birthday at the end of August. Highlights of France included mouth-watering crepes, the rental of a snazzy black Jaguar (not our choice—it was probably the last car they had left), and a visit to a charming medieval town where we stayed with Facebook friends who offered a cottage to us sight unseen. Another friend-of-a-friend in Paris showed us around and took us to a fascinating open-air market with delicious Moroccan food. Throughout this trip, we managed to connect with kind, never-before-met friends who generously shared their towns, their homes, and often their yummy cooking. Thank you—you know who you are!

September 1 – Belgium

Our brief stop in Brussels featured a jam-packed beer festival set smack in the middle of the Grand Place, and Belgian waffles that had to be seen to be believed.

Sept. 4 – The Netherlands

In Amsterdam Patrice connected with a law school chum and friends from Connecticut, while Kathleen joined us from California. Loved the city, the incredible art, and the charm, but found the streets full of bikes difficult to navigate.

Sept. 11 – Germany

Kathleen continued to Berlin, where we took a long walking tour ending up at the Holocaust Memorial. We had just been to see the Ann Frank House in Amsterdam, and the next day we toured the Jewish Museum. Powerful and meaningful, yet full of disturbing truths.

Sept. 19 – Austria

Next up was Vienna where we got a fabulous personal tour of the Wiener Staatsoper from our friend Speedo, a rising international opera star. In contrast to her visit years ago as a student (while living on bread and cheese and staying in youth hostels) Patrice wanted to spring for tickets for both the Vienna Choirboys and the Lipizzaner Stallions. Absolutely worth it.

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Sept. 26 – Italy

Florence and Rome. What else needs to be said? We spent hours and got sore feet walking around the Uffizi Gallery, and we adored our Airbnb view of the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio. A highlight was a trip to a farm in the Tuscan countryside, where we made pasta by hand and enjoyed a concert featuring a soprano diva and harpist—and then stepped in ourselves to sing a duet!

Oct. 10 – Thailand

Then for something completely different, we went to Thailand. Loved the food and the people and had trouble with the heat and the humidity. Our trip up to Chiang Mai to visit an elephant rescue park was phenomenal. A very different world.

FullSizeRender (63).jpgOct. 16 – Vietnam

More heat and humidity, delicious food, and lovely people. We went to Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). The traffic and the hordes of motorcyclists were somewhat scary. We visited the War Remembrance Museum, a sobering experience for Americans, despite the fact that 90% of the Vietnamese are too young to remember the war. We sang for our Airbnb hosts in Hoi An to thank them and their neighbors, tailors who made us cool custom clothing.

Oct. 31 – Singapore

The orderliness of Singapore was in startling contrast to Vietnam. We were there only a couple of nights, but we were impressed with this city-state, one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Nov. 2 – Australia

Australia is a gorgeous country that is so big that we could visit only a small part of it. We rented a car and made our way to Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne, and then had a grand time at a friend’s sheep farm in the wilds of Victoria. Along the way we saw kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras, and assorted other creatures—including little penguins on parade—and had an altogether excellent experience down under.

Nov. 21 – New Zealand

New Zealand was one of our favorite places on the whole trip. Miles and miles of beauty, clean water, and friendly people. Plus Hobbits! We adored it. It’s not cheap to live there, but it would be high on our list of spots to settle in, if only it weren’t so far from our kids.

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Dec. 4 – Tahiti

At the end of our journey, we spent two weeks in glorious French Polynesia, visiting Moorea, Bora Bora, and Papeete on the main island of Tahiti Nui. It doesn’t get any lovelier than this paradise in the middle of the Pacific. And Patrice got a chance to dance with the locals.

FullSizeRender (76).jpgDec. 21 – California

We spent Christmas with Kathleen in Los Angeles, where we were thrilled to jump in with her local UU choir for their Christmas Eve service. It was amazing to be back in the U.S. Water you can drink. People who not only speak English but pronounce it the way we do. Money that doesn’t make you feel like an idiot as you puzzle over the coins in your hand when trying to pay the guy at the 7-Eleven!

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After Los Angeles, we visited Richard’s sister Joan in Oakland. It was great to have time to be with her and see her current digs. We then went on to…

Dec. 30 – Oregon

… where we are checking out Portland for three months. Seems very cool so far (and not, fortunately, as freezing as New England right now).

April, 2018 – Connecticut

We plan to be in the Hartford area from about mid-April through October. We will catch up with friends, decide where we want to visit/live next, and celebrate a family wedding—Derek and Lindsey are getting married!

Here’s wishing all of you a fabulous 2018.

Watch this space for news from us next year… living who knows where?

Patrice and Richard

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What Now???

So last night I was eating some baklava for dessert when c-r-u-n-c-h .. a tooth popped out.  Ack! This is a side of my mouth where another tooth has vacated in recent years, and a bit of a surprise.  And it happens to be the right side of my mouth.  If you were paying attention, you will remember that it is my right ear that has been giving me trouble.  I mean, is it a coincidence that this is the same side of my head that currently hears about 10% of what it once did?  Or is the right side of my body taking off on a vacation? Stay tuned.

This is my way of dealing with this latest example of things falling apart on this old frame.  What is one to make of it?

In a way, losing teeth is just a matter of parts wearing out.  Teeth are the closest to a purely mechanical part that we have on our bodies.  But like tummy aches and fevers, that affect our appetite, bad teeth affect our ability to eat.  This little setback makes me realize how much I enjoy eating.  Virginia Woolf summed up my feelings on the subject when she said “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, unless one has dined well.”  I mean, this is serious!

My favorite food quote is from the sci-fi writer Douglas Adams:  “The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch?’”

Today we ate at a wonderful, hidden watering hole in Edinburgh:  the Tea Room at Edinburgh Castle.  The Castle is a vast, slanty stone structure which offers visitors far too much surface to clamber over, in my opinion.  But there is a little door on the site of the castle that one can walk through and suddenly find oneself comfortable and level, and more important, find oneself a lovely meal.

We entered, gave our names to a receptionist, who then thanked us and told us to return in 15 minutes, which we did.  We were seated, and then told by a server that unfortunately, none of the food items could be ordered, due to a delay in the kitchen.  We were, however, free to order any drinks or desserts, so we ordered a pear-ginger-apple cake and elderberry-lemon tea for Patrice, and Edinburgh Castle Ale and and a double chocolate cake for Richard.

So here’s where the tooth problem comes in:  I had to very carefully confine my chewing to the left side of my mouth.  This is a little like taking a nice walk but having to do it as part of a sack race, with your right leg tied to some stranger walking alongside you.  “It’s a nice day for a walk, … er, say, would you mind keeping up?” With the current state of my dental situation as of right now, biting down on that side gives me the equivalent of a jolt of electricity, combined with the sensation of a Vice Grips around my jaw.  Ouch!   But, you see, I like to eat and there is all this delicious stuff to eat.

It turns out the  ban on ordering entrees was temporary, for the server then told us to go ahead and order, which we did.  Ordinarily, when we dine, Patrice and I share a dessert, ordering it with two spoons, and I just have a coffee.  The temporary ban caused us to order more food than usual, and I broke with my usual practice of not ordering alcohol before 6:00 p.m. It was all so much food.  But we survived.  The irony was the limited equipment I had to enjoy it.

After lunch, we crawled home to our flat, and I headed to a dentist appointment a few minutes away. Tomorrow I will have some work done on the tooth, so I can at least attempt to eat without pain.