Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween in Olympia

With five of our grandchildren...

Olympia: I'talia with Three Grandchildren

Kids get to assemble their own pizzas - cute idea.

Jace wanted Mac and Cheese instead,

Monday, October 26, 2015

Soup Dumplings Special at Sehome Road

We learned to love Xiaolongbao, often called soup dumplings, some years ago at Mr. Chu's in Coral Gables, Florida, thanks to Tom, Ellyn, and Haley.

They apparently originated in the Jiangnan region of China, where we're going to be visiting next month as we spend several days in Hangzhou, a big city a couple of hours from Shanghai.

Xiaolong translates as "steaming baskets" and Bao is a version of "bun." We've dined on steaming basket buns at Din Tai Fung, the Taiwan-based chain in several countries, as well as in a Hong Kong branch of another large international chain, Crystal Jade. We've even visited the Bellevue, Washington branch of Din Tai Fung.

We recorded our visit to a Taiwan branch of Din Tai Fung here and our Crystal Jade repeat visit in Hong Kong here. We've also enjoyed great soup dumplings at little independent joints, including one just up the road in Richmond, B.C.,  R&H Chinese Food in the Lansdowne Mall.

Simply put, we love Xiaolongbao.

It's not that surprising that Kathy finally decided to learn for herself if she could make them. She bought some ingredients and then spent a labor-intensive Sunday afternoon assembling them.

The results were good. Now if only we can entice a couple of grandchildren into helping assemble them...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Staten Island somewhere below shortly after 7:00 a.m...

The Cascades below and then the final approach to SEA...

Good Morning, Newark

The Hampton Inn we stayed in last night was fine. We walked through a parking lot to the Renaissance next door and enjoyed a light dinner of shared appetizers in their highly rated restaurant before going to bed at 8:00 p.m. One crab cake each was plenty - tasty!

We slept well until we woke up - in Brian's case about 1:30 a.m.

We caught the 4:30 a.m. shuttle.

There was no TSA Pre-Check line but we were graciously issued a piece of paper that gave us "expedited" screening, meaning we got to stand in line for five minutes watching an employee put multiple boxes of donuts and a birthday cake through the X-Ray belt. 

Kathy then got a "random" alert as she walked through the metal detector, and consequently received a light morning massage. Then they had to check our Italian cheeses, but there was no hassle. 

Even with all this, we've been sitting at the gate since 5:10 a.m., enjoying the relative peace and quiet.

We're scheduled to fly at 7:00 a.m. and land in Seattle about 10:00 a.m. We've been upgraded to First so it should be a fairly pleasant five hours.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Open Skies Lounge at Orly Ouest

We got the last two seats on the 10-passenger Hilton Shuttle and made our way to the Open Skies check-in counter without difficulty.

Once finished there, we stood in a long dismal exit / security queue (in fact there were two) for a couple of minutes until we realized there was a priority line right at the front for Open Skies "Biz Bed."

Security was efficient and painless (about as easy as TSA Pre-Check but without any "barkers").

We are now seated in the Open Skies Lounge, just a right turn and down the stairs (or elevator) from the security checkpoint exit.

We have fond memories of sitting in this lounge with our Avery this past summer, awaiting the same flight. 

In addition, any place that offers this champagne is all right by us.

At revoir, France!

One Last Croissant

As we head from the Hilton to Orly Ouest and our flight home...

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Les Chiens

On the TGV...

All Aboard

When we arrived at Menton Garavan station eight days ago at 10:00 p.m., we noticed a group of at least 10 police officers hanging around in a group.

This morning when we arrived at 8:00 a.m., there was a similar group of 10. One of them joked with Kathy when her rollaboard started going in a different direction.

Sitting on a bench being guarded were four reasonably well dressed young men.

When we boarded our train, which originated in Ventimiglia, the police walked through the train on its first stop in France, clearly looking for "migrants." They directed at least five more men off the train. That's quite a "haul" before 9 on a Sunday morning.

It is definitely a problem. As for us, we boarded the TGV at Menton and have just pulled out of the Monte Carlo station on our way to Paris.

We're sitting in a TGV First Class car that seems a little older than the iTGV car we rode in on the way here, but still quite nice.

A Final Glimpse of Mona Lisa

Our apartment building in Menton is named Mona Lisa.

We caught one last glimpse of it as we rode by on the two-minute ride from Menton Garavan to Menton, where we're about to board a TGV to Paris Gare de Lyon.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Down by the Station

Menton: L'O a la Bouche

Three leisurely blocks from our apartment sits this little family-run establishment.

We ate lunch here a few days ago, and tonight we capped off our last day in Menton with a simple steak et frites.

We also enjoyed the antics of the house dog who went around the tables politely begging and a guest poodle, sitting up proudly in its own chair and barking its dissatisfaction at such vulgar behavior.

A Walk After Lunch

We had to get some exercise after yet another substantial meal and took advantage of the glorious weather to walk a thousand steps or so down the sentiers from the top of Roquebrune to the train station, and from there along the sentier that stretches from Menton to at least as far as Monaco.

The maps list the walk as a little over four miles, but the many steps along the way guaranteed us a healthy amount of exercise by the time we got back to our little appartement.

Now it's time to sweep and get everything shipshape for the next tenants, since we'll leave here about 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning to catch our train to Paris, where we overnight before flying back to Newark Monday.

Roquebrune: Lunch at Les deux Frères

We don't want to give the wrong impression - we spend a lot of time walking around as well as dining.

It was fun to return here so soon after our visit in January. We took the exciting bus ride up and will now walk down the sentiers back to Menton.