Next Year in Budapest

…and Vienna, and of course Paris.

Finally I can see my way clear to getting on an international flight. Whew. April 2015, I am outta here for three weeks. First call will be Budpest for four days, then a train to Vienna for a four-day stop, and then on to France for the remainder. I know, I know. On the one hand, I think I should explore other places. On the other hand — France!

Having said that, I’m going to take some pages from Ina Caro’s From Paris to the Past, and get out of the city at least a few times. If I’m going to be there for about ten days, I have time!

Until then, I have to attempt to save my vacation time, which is difficult, given my hellish current work assignment, which is wreaking havoc on both my mental and physical health; and also my money, which is difficult because what with the crappy work situation, retail therapy beckons. But I have to simply bear down, grit my teeth, and do it.






Parisian Transit Geekery

Recently I was asked to describe a place where I feel content, happy, peaceful. Being the weirdo that I am, I said:

Riding Line 2 of the Paris metro from the terminus at Nation. I have often made this journey when I am in Paris and want to sit down in the A/C, daydream, and people-watch. I go to the terminus so I can get one of the single seats on a waiting empty train. I love the hot-metal-and-good-perfume scent of the metro; I love the deep warning sound for the closing doors; I love the open windows on non-air-conditioned trains. I sit and enjoy a flood of relief up from my feet; my muscles relax and my always-overheated self cools down. The rocking of the train and the rumbling tranquilizes me. (I almost fell asleep once — that never happens in public.) Pulling into each station I have a feeling of happiness and excitement as each name is announced over the PA.  The eastern stations on Line 2, particularly, are fraught with history and there is always the sense that adventure could await outside. (Yes, I know some of Line 2’s neighborhoods aren’t the best; I stayed in one. It was fine.) Then the sound goes, the doors close, and the train rumbles off into the dark tunnel, while I settle back in my seat, comfortable and content, joyful to be back in Paris and happily speeding under its streets.

This is perhaps not what the person who asked was quite expecting.

Rush hour, line 2, September 28, 2013

Rush hour, line 2, September 28, 2012

Taken from my single seat on the left, across from a girl about ten years old, who solemnly pulled out a book and read.

Must. Get. Back. To. Paris. Next. Year.

ETA: “I have often… when I’m in Paris” probably sounds snotty, and/or like I’m there every season or something. I wish. But although I have not been there that often, I have done this ride more than once on the last two trips. It’s a great way to chill out for awhile, literally and figuratively, and all for one metro ticket. Also — and this not just on Line 2 — it’s cool to hear how complicated station names are pronounced, like my very favorite, Barbès-Rochechouart.

LA Pictures

Here we go, finally!


Getty view

View from the Getty

Getty view #2

Also this

getty naturalist sketches

I love tulips enough to photograph this even with the spider in it

getty prayerbook

I love illumined prayerbooks

Getty nativity

And religious art

Getty sumptuous bed

It’s gorgeous, but I don’t think I could sleep comfortably in it. (Besides, I’m too tall.)

Getty Van Gogh

It’s like being in Amsterdam!

Getty Winterhalter

Or Paris! (This is by Winterhalter, who painted my favorite painting, which hangs in the Musée d’Orsay.) I am no expert on anything, but I almost ran across the room because I was sure it was by him.

(Link to favorite painting.)

Getty parquet

Gorgeous parquet

Getty microscope

Microscope: less powerful, more beautiful.

St Catherine of Siena

This I knew from the cover of a biography of St. Catherine of Siena. Sorry it’s a bit crooked.

The next day, we went to the Getty Villa in Malibu.

Getty Villa garden

I could live with this.

Getty Villa view

Nice, no?

Getty Villa

The portico of the building where A and I waited for our tour.

Unfortunately, the exhibit we went to see (Greek art in Sicily) didn’t allow photographs, and we didn’t spend a lot of time in the rest of the collection. I missed taking pictures of some of the other things we did, partially because it seems weird to be a tourist in your own state, and partially because I forgot.

It’s true, though, that if you use your phone rather than a separate camera, you’re so much less conspicuous! These were from my camera proper though, hence my lollygagging in getting them up!

Whirlwind to LA

Two weeks before I went to PDX to binge on books, I went to LA to stay with a friend from college. I needed to get out of town, out of the house, out of my rut and routine.

It was awesome (pics to follow tomorrow, most likely). I flew from SFO to Burbank early Saturday morning. A picked me up and we dropped my stuff off at her lovely book-and-art-filled home. Then we went to have brunch, because I’d been up for way too many hours without breakfast, after which we went to the Getty Center. It was hot outside and lovely inside; we wandered and then had dinner at the cafe. That night, we went to the Farmer’s Market for a decadent dessert; I want to go back during the day when more of the shops are open, but the store filled with French items was open and I got the Opinel knife I’d been wanting. Then we wandered around The Grove, which is essentially a small Disneyland for adults (or shoppers of most any age).

After going back to her house and talking for awhile, we hit the sack, and got up the next day to go to the Getty Villa, which was having an exhibition of Greek art in Sicily. First, we stopped at A’s Beverly Hills office so I could print my boarding pass, which engendered two feelings in me: Wow, that I should have a friend who has a great job in a place like this and Wow, my office is absolutely nothing whatsoever like this.

After the museum and lunch, we got my stuff and she dropped me off at the airport early, as she had a work event to attend that night. Burbank is such a tiny airport that from the time I presented my ID and ticket to the first TSA guy to the time I was putting my shoes back on on the other side, no one but me went through security. Once through, there was a corner turned into a kind of kiosk for aspirin and magazines and the like; a bathroom; a Peets; and a bar. That was all. I read and had iced tea and sat and mused.

Though I was very happy to go to the museums and to go back down to LA for the first time in over ten years, I went mostly to get away in the psychological/emotional sense. It was perfect for that.

A is about as different from me as you can get in many ways — all of them good. She’s a happy extrovert — she truly likes people in general although she is very opinionated and probably even more liberal than I am.  She does not suffer fools but she is gracious and friendly and as long as the fool is not evil she doesn’t get too bent out of shape. She is not prone to serious depression. She’s a lawyer, though she  works in the entertainment industry not practicing law; she is also the nicest lawyer I’ve ever met and possibly the most unpretentious one in the state of California. (I do have other lawyer friends who are great people, but she’s just completely the antithesis of what you’d think “attorney in LA” would be like.) Whereas I have kneejerk “throw up my boundaries/defenses” reactions, she has “oh, this person may be interesting” reactions. She probably doesn’t get irritated when people in an empty bathroom choose the stall next to hers like I do. (I’ve been known to sigh semi-audibly, “Really? With all these stalls open?”) She chatted up one of the Villa security guards who told us stories about how J. Paul is buried on the property and one of his wives comes and leaves flowers on his grave every year. Had I been alone I’d have just smiled at the guy and walked on. That sort of thing. She’s stayed in touch with a huge number of people we went to college with — close touch, so she will travel across the country to a birthday party or other event to see some of them, and is privy to the everyday workings of their lives, rather than just their Facebook statuses. I have not done that. I am FB friends with several Mills alumnae, but A is the first one I’ve seen in many years. And I live one freeway exit from Mills.

Damn, there was another point I wanted to make, but the heat/carpool commuting during the BART strike/getting to work at 6:30 AM/etc. has apparently taken its toll and it’s completely slipped my mind.

Anyway, being with her made a certain problem that has been nagging me, depressing me, and making me cry, sort of dissolve away, at least for the weekend. Since she’s from my college past, it was also a reminder of a happy time when I was young and full of potential — and when I was surrounded by women who were passionate about ideas and full of confidence. We hadn’t been beaten down yet, and A still isn’t. Since I’ve been home I’ve tried to channel my inner A sometimes, and while it takes effort on my curmudgeonly, introverted, homebody bookworm part, it often turns out well. It was definitely good medicine for a tired spirit, in any case! I will never be quite like her, but copying some of her happy traits can only be a good thing.

Some Travel, Shared Backwards

Two weeks ago I went to LA; this last Thursday and Friday I went to Portland. I will recount LA second. Portland was a quick birthday trip to a) buy books at Powell’s and b) see some knitting friends and knit with them at their LYS.

My hotel was AMAZING. Thank you, free night!

That's some headboard, eh?

That’s some headboard, eh?

...and the sitting area.

…and the sitting area.

This was some couch. Also comfy.

This was some couch. Also comfy.

This isn't a kitchenette, it's a kitchen.

This isn’t a kitchenette, it’s a kitchen.

...with a Keurig, just like home.

…with a Keurig, just like home.


Kitchen/desk/mondo TV

I got in around 11, dropped my stuff off at the amazing hotel, and jumped into the streetcar to Powell’s. Ah, bliss.

Walking into nirvana:

Deep breath!

Deep breath!


Everything you see here, except the stuff facing you at the end, is knitting books. Just knitting books.

If it ain't here, they didn't publish it, methinks.

If it ain’t here, they didn’t publish it, methinks.

Part of the ceiling of the blue (literature) room:

I spent a lot of time in this room.

I spent a lot of time in this room.

And clearly they are used to tourists:

No need to hit the cambio!

No need to hit the cambio!


I spent a few hours and a bunch of money there and then went back, checked into the hotel, quaffed some coffee and a Luna bar (“why do I have a headache? Oh…I had a bagel at SFO this morning and nothing since!”) and then met some fibery friends for dinner at a brewpub. I had cider, being a non-beer-girl, and some fantastic salmon. Then we went to Pearl Fiber Arts, where I was welcomed into the Thursday night wine-and-knitting group. I also bought some pretties.


My friends dropped me at my hotel; I luxuriated in the suite. I wished I could stay a few nights! There was no tub, which was the only drawback (I had a handicapped-accessible suite) but the doubleheaded showerheads at either end of the shower made up for it.

I packed:

What do YOU put in YOUR suitace?

What do YOU put in YOUR suitace?

There was also this pretty book for my great-niece:

Blue horse!

Blue horse!

Next day, back to Powell’s, where I had this conversation with the cashier:

Me: (Explained I was up for my birthday)

She: Thirtieth?

Me: Oh, you’re so cute! Forty-six.

She: You look good!


Went and had lunch at a brewpub a couple of blocks away, where I had gone with a friend in 2009 when I was last in Portland. More ciders!

Local-ish cider. Yum.

Local-ish cider. Yum.

I had two. I reckon that if every Friday lunch had a couple of ciders, life would be much nicer.

There’s a sign to the bathrooms that points and says, “Over here.” When you turn in the direction of the pointer, you see:

Well, that's what they said!

Well, that’s what they said!

And you also get to see beer in progress on your way:



Outside, there are fleurs:



I hopped the streetcar back to the hotel, got a taxi, and went to hang at PDX for awhile. Bought a couple more books at Powell’s at PDX (last gasp!) and then got on the flight. Where the Indian guy in the middle was hitting up the girl by the window, even though she told him she was thirteen and going into eighth grade. I ended up buying beef jerky for her because she only had cash and they only took debit or credit cards (she paid me, of course). Got in a half hour early, my sister came and got me, and I didn’t leave the house for the next thirty-six hours. I’ve already finished one of the books I bought (Catilin Moran’s How to be a Woman) and am working on a couple more.

Back to work tomorrow. Alas!



Although I can’t truly travel this year (or probably next), I am going to fly to Portland on my birthday, go to Powell’s, spend the night, and turn around and come home the next day. I don’t even have time to meet up with the people I know up there — it’s just a quickie solo overnight book run, basically. The reasoning behind this madness is: I need to fly every 23 months (I think) to keep my Flying Blue frequent flyer miles, so if I fly to Portland on Delta it pushes out my 23 months again; right now my last flight was in September. I also had to use up one of my earned free nights on before it expired. And finally, I have not been to Powell’s (ALL BOW DOWN PLEASE) since 2009, and that’s just too long. How can one resist a block-sized bookstore with no sales tax?!

Also, it’s always fun to stay in a hotel. I can watch TV, which I can’t here, and I won’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to feed Alexander, and I enjoy being alone in a city not my own, even for just a few hours.

Speaking of Alexander — I threw him out of the bedroom yesterday morning and shut the door. I dozed off. A few minutes later I woke up with an open door and a cat. I need to lock the door next time. Or go sleep in a hotel in the next state.



Ah, That’s Better — Now for Some Miscellanea

It’s grey and cool out; I am sitting in the living room having a cup of coffee and a glass of a spiced cognac-based liqueur that caught my eye at Trader Joe’s the other day. They’re both tasty and I feel my will to live returning with the fog.

I am, however, a little concerned about my inattention/eyesight from something that happened after work. I went by Target and I saw a 6-quart slow cooker on sale for $18. Only as I was in the process of paying for it did I notice it’s got a football field motif all the way around it.

Oh hell no. I would cringe and be irritated every time I saw it. I imagine that’s why it was on clearance — nobody else wanted a dumb green thing in their kitchen either.

But how did I not notice that?


Apparently my sensitive-teeth issue is not tooth-related after all– or maybe some of it is. But not the I-would-pull-all-my-teeth-if-it-would-make-the-pain-stop festival of screaming nerves. That often happens after I’ve been through the trans-Bay tube and it happened to a lesser extent after being on the Paris metro; eating or drinking will sometimes set it off but not usually as badly. I have had the vague thought that it might be sinus-related, a dental analogue to your ears popping. Lo, the hygienist and the dentist on Wednesday both said: See an ENT. So that’s on my to-do list.

Also on the to-do list: Go all the way across the street and mail a package to France (because it wouldn’t have been easier to mail it while I was, oh, say, in France); vacuum; bake some pumpkin bread to use up the plain yogurt in my fridge; clear up the clutter round here, and then on Sunday go look at condos.

Ye gods and little fishes. I can’t believe I’m to go look at places to buy, especially since I was so adamant about not doing so. My misgivings are still there (any repair is on my dime, on my time, and due to my own organizing; I am not even the slightest bit handy; I am single; will I have to work full-time for the rest of my life because of this?) but I think the benefits outweigh the risks at this point. Especially since in my current situation I have to arrange for all repairs and whatnot myself anyway, so the luxury of calling the apartment manager and saying, “This is broken. Can you have the handyman fix it?” is over for me.

Also there may be three bedrooms! And there will definitely be two bathrooms! AND A NICE KITCHEN! Because the kitchen is the dealbreaker. If I don’t love the kitchen, I don’t care how nice the rest of the place is, I’m not buying it.

So there’s that. I am just steeling myself for 12-18 months of searching.

On another note, I’m daydreaming about my next solo trip, which might not be til 2014. The bright side to that delay is that I have plenty of time to plan and anticipate (and build my travel fund back up). I want to go to Vienna for a few days and then fly to Lyon. From Lyon I’ll either rent a car or suss out the trains to go to Avignon and Arles, and then take the train up to Paris to finish (of course).  My original thought was Budapest – Vienna – Paris, but I’m not sure I want to do three countries in two-ish weeks again, and I have wanted to wander around the south of France for some time now. I guess it’s a good thing I’ve got awhile to ponder!

I know people at work who will say, “What? Paris again?!” But seriously. It’s a large and ancient city — you could spend years there and not exhaust the possibilities. I’ve only been there three times for about a month altogether. (Wait, that sounds wrong — of course I’m grateful to have been there at all! But it’s not like I’ve come close to seeing or experiencing everything I’d like to, and many things require return visits. I can’t believe I didn’t go to the Louvre or the Orsay this time!)

So yeah, Paris again. Besides, with my frequent-flier plan I’d be flying into and out of either Paris or Amsterdam anyway, so…

And lastly I am gearing up to try NaNoWriMo again this year. I tried about five years ago but I was absolutely not in the right place to make it very far. I’ve had a dilemma for some time about writing — I don’t really enjoy most American literature. Yet, of course, that is what I’d write, being an American and all. I had/have a plot that involves the north of France — the reason I went to Lille last year — but I am stymied by a fierce internal editor over that. I’m not French, even by descent, and so the editor is telling me I cannot possibly write a book about French people set in France, and that if I did and anyone ever read it, I’d be torn limb from limb. I have been negotiating with the editor, asking if it’s okay if I just write the thing and then decide if I’m feeling brave and/or suicidal, but we have not reached a tentative agreement yet.

Therefore I am taking a cue from the aforementioned-very-strange Amélie Nothomb and appropriating my own life directly for something. I have a little brainstorming map going and things I want to use almost unchanged and some things will go off on a wild tangent. There is a (non-fictionalized, American) memoir out there that I very much dislike and I must be wary of making part of this story sound like hers. Anyway, if I can just get the editrix to shut up for thirty days, we’ll see.

Perhaps she’d like some cognac?

Sunday Night This and That

I may have mentioned before (about a hundred times) how much I hate Sunday nights. It was a nice weekend and everything is okay, but I am really down and kind of anxious. Ah well.

The gal with the awesome nails of the other day? Good Lord, look at this. Also, apropos of her blog and blogs she links to — how I wish I were a lighthearted, happy, bubbly person. I am, sometimes, but not in the way some people are. I suppose I’m too old for blue hair and wacky clothes (not that that was ever my style anyway) but I long to feel that buoyant.

I did, however, get my nails done today with a friend and my toenails are now sparkly dark purple and my fingernails, which cannot take much in the way of color because of their short, peeling state, have a very understated clear/sparkle on them. Color is cheerful!

My landord/BIL raised my rent today more than the local rent control allows (four times as much*), but because they gave me a break when I moved in and because I intend to buy someplace and leave them, I feel I cannot say, “Uh, dude, that’s against the law.” Also, I am disinclined to start a family row so soon before the holidays in any case. So there’s that.

It’s been lovely and autumnal here this weekend but they are predicting 80s for the end of the week. Canada, can you send some cool weather thisaway, please? I am such a transitional seasons person. I have what is probably a rare order of favorite seasons: spring, fall, winter, summer. Also, fall has a good run of holidays — Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving — that segue nicely into the winter holidays Christmas, New Year’s, MLK and President’s Day. I realize not everyone gets all of those, but you’ve still got the big ones!

I got the Streetwise maps I ordered for various cities I am interested in seeing, and have been looking them over. I remember as a kid being entranced by the globe that dots were places and people were living in them! Now I look at city maps and imagine how that’s just someone’s route to school or work. Neat.

Now I think I will have some dinner and a bath and try to cheer the hell up. Cheering-up advice?

*Upon review of this fiscal year’s allowable increase, he actually only increased it 2.57 times as much as he should have. My bad.

Selection of Amsterdam Pics

Aren’t I handsome?

Stairwell at the Rijksmuseum. Yes, I’m the weirdo taking pictures of the buildings instead of the artwork.

Yes. Yes it does.

My first anti-American demonstration.